Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 135
16th April 2005

Free Trade v Fair Trade:
A Debate Organised by Christian Aid
St Margaret’s Church, Westminster
The Evening of Friday 15th April 2005
12:15am – 1:15 am
A Speech Together with Introduction and Brief Commentary
by Sean Gabb

Introduction

I took a telephone call about a week ago from a young man called Leo Bryant. He worked for Christian Aid, he said, and was organising a joint conference with Oxfam on world poverty. Would I like to sit on the panel and debate the issue? The provisional title of the debate was “Free Trade v Fair Trade”. Would I speak for free trade? I should normally have said yes at once. The conference was to be in St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, and would draw an audience of around 700. I had long been scandalised by the socialist takeover of English Christianity, and this would be the closest I might ever get to addressing one of my sermons to a real congregation.

The problem was the timing. The whole event was set for Friday evening, and my debate was to be after midnight. I thought of having to wander round Central London with nowhere to go between the closing of my university and the beginning of the debate, and was inclined to turn Mr Bryant down. But he offered me a bed for the night, and urged on me the size of the audience. So I agreed.

As it happened, Central London was just as cold and lonely as I had expected. But there I finally sat last night, about 20 feet in front of the altar in St Margaret’s. Beside me was Alex Singleton from the Globalisation Institute. Beside him was Alan Beattie of The Financial Times, who would chair the meeting. Beyond sat Martin Khor from Third World Network and Prosper Heoyi from Oxfam. Before me was the large audience I had been promised. They were a fragment of a vast procession that had streamed all evening through Westminster, waving banners and candles and singing the rather feeble stuff that has since the 1960s passed for religious music.

Not all was grim, though. I had some friends there. David Carr, David Goldstone, Paul Coulam and a few others had braved cold and boredom to be there. More would have come, but were appalled by the timing of the event.

We began with Alex Singleton. He put the case for free trade in its most orthodox form. Trade benefitted both parties, he said. It was not an act of charity for us to open our markets to poor countries, but obvious self-interest. As for the poor countries themselves, those that had liberalised their domestic economies and opened up to foreign trade and investment had enjoyed the best growth rates over the past few decades. It was all true and all very well said.

I had expected to speak at the end of the debate. I had agreed with Mr Singleton that he should use the first five minutes to put the case for, and that I should use the next to last five minutes. However, Mr Beattie turned to me and asked me to go next. This was a nuisance. I had been settling into a gentle doze in preparation for the fair traders, and I think it was amusingly plain to the audience how I unprepared I was for immediate action. However, I had written and largely memorised a speech, and I delivered this, cutting where necessary to fit it into the time available. 

Though I was praised afterwards, I know that I am a poor speaker for short occasions. I am not frightened by large audiences. I can speak clearly and grammatically. Give me 40 minutes to outline a case, and I can do a fine job. I am, after all, a lecturer. But I do not shine when it comes to the short speech. So it was last night. I had been awake for nearly 20 hours. I had given four lectures during the day. was half asleep. I found my eyes wandering to my text. If praise was due at all, it was for the content of what I was saying, not for my manner of saying it. Yet the speech was a good one. I can write well.

These reservations being made, here is what I said::

The Speech

If you think that I came here tonight to defend multinational corporations and the international government institutions, you have chosen the wrong person. These are dishonest. They are corrupt. They are incompetent. They have blood on their hands.

But do not suppose for a moment that the world trading order as it actually exists is liberal or more than incidentally connected with free markets. A free market is a place where individuals and groups of individuals come together to transact voluntary exchanges without any backing of government force. To call the actually existing order liberal – or “neo-liberal” – is as taxonomically accurate as calling the old Soviet Communist Party syndicalist. That order is based on tariffs, subsidies and a web of other often invisible regulations. The international institutions are a projection of Western states. The multinational corporations are creatures of these states. They shelter behind the privilege of limited liability. They get their political friends to cartelise markets, and do favours in return.

This is not market liberalism. It is a fraud played on us all by our ruling classes – these being those politicians, bureaucrats, educators, lawyers and media and business people who derive wealth, power and status from an enlarged and activist state.

But this being said, the fair trade solution is easily worse than the problem.  The ruling classes in any country never have at heart the best interests of their subjects. But in the West, we can just about afford corporatism. We still have some heritage of market liberalism. Our ruling classes are to some degree restrained in their predations. That is not so in poor countries. The ruling classes there are naked kleptocracies. All that keeps them from utterly starving their unfortunate subjects is their own idleness and incompetence. The fair trade talk may well be of “import substitution” or “rational planning” or “picking local winners”. The reality will be to turn poor countries into sealed territories ruled by the law of the jungle – a jungle in which only the well-connected will survive. Presented in the lilting, caring tones of “helping the poor”, what we have is nothing more than the old Nazi policy of autarky.

Let me give one example of how fair trade works in practice. On the 1st January this year, import taxes were raised in Kenya and in several other African countries on second hand clothing from the West. The stated purpose of this was to give local textile manufacturers the chance to grow big enough to face foreign competition. Of course, the textile interests will never be able to face open competition. Infant industries never grow up. Protect them, and prices rise. Money that would otherwise be saved and invested is spent on paying the higher prices. Money that would otherwise be spent on other goods is spent on paying the higher prices. The country gains a sector in which it may have no comparative advantage—or in which it might have a comparative advantage only in less well-connected hands. Those sectors in which there might be a comparative advantage suffer. But the lucky capitalists who are protected make big profits, and their friends in government collect the usual gifts. And the people at the bottom? Norman Nyaga, a Kenyan Member of Parliament can answer here. Writing in The Kenya Times last month, he accused the Government of deliberately rigging the textile market in favour of some foreign investors. He said the effect would be to damage the livelihood of 10 million Kenyans who work in the second hand clothing sector, and to lower the incomes still further of the 56 per cent of Kenyans who live below the official poverty line and who must buy second hand clothes or go without.

I do not support the present system of world trade. But give me a straight choice between this and the economics of the jungle that is fair trade, and I will choose the present system. Global corporatism may be unfair. But it does at least allow some wealth to be created. It does allow at least some rational economic calculation. Fair trade simply gives even more power to politicians and bureaucrats and favoured business interests in poor countries—that is, to the very people and interests that made and have kept these countries poor.

If you really want to improve the lives of the poorest, forget all this “kumbaya socialism”—which is a cocktail of bad economics and bad theology, held together by self-righteous candle-waving. Either settle for what we have —which, unfair as it is, delivers something—or campaign for a system of real voluntary exchange. Fair trade can never be fair. But free trade can be free.

Commentary

Had I been giving a lecture rather than a brief speech, I could usefully have elaborated on some of my points. I have written at length elsewhere about the political and economic implications of the Christian faith, and so will not repeat myself here. But I grow increasingly convinced that allowing the creation of joint stock limited liability corporations was one of the greatest legislative mistakes of the 19th century. Their existence is based on a separation of ownership from control. The owners are released from all responsibility. The controllers form a separate class of corporate bureaucrats little different in outlook from civil servants. The usual psychology operates. They will commit immoral acts for their organisations they might not consider committing for themselves. The owners will assent. The legal privileges and unlimited lifespan of these corporations let them grow to enormous size and wealth. The opportunities exist for highly effective immorality. Collectively, they become part of the state apparatus, and work to destroy true, unregulated enterprise.

These corporations could not exist in any natural economic order. I have heard other libertarians argue that they might emerge without legal privilege on some loose contractual basis. But I do not agree. The shareholders would still be liable in tort, and that alone would deter them from any involvement with a business that they did not personally control. As for the utilitarian argument, that large undertakings need large companies, I also disagree. So long as it showed an acceptable return on investment, there is no project too big to be taken on by clusters of sole traders and partnerships. No doubt, things like the Channel Tunnel would not have been built – but I fail to see how not having that would have made the world a poorer place. Even if some highly valuable projects might not be undertaken, their lack would be compensated by the greater general innovation to be expected in an order of small, unregulated firms.

Indeed, the matter of what to do about the corporations is more interesting to me than world poverty. As I said in my speech, people in places like black Africa are poor because they have maniacally corrupt and oppressive governments. They would do better even with the most cartelised global corporatism than left in the clutches of their own rulers. And that is it. But how can this corporatism be replaced by a system of voluntary exchange between legally responsible small firms? I think I have a few answers here, but will give these at another time.

Outside the church, I bumped into the personal assistant for one of the Conservative leaders. The usual sort of well-dressed, well-connected young man on the make who appeals to such people, he insisted I might have brought a few people over to my side had my speech been less “abrasive”. I replied by noting how eight years of being soft and gentle had got his Party nowhere. I also pointed out that five minutes speaking time is best given up to blunt expression, when what is expressed is probably new to the audience. I know that a few mouths had fallen open at my dismissal of “self-righteous candle waving”. But that effect was my intention. I wanted the audience to go away with a few memorable phrases. These might eventually provoke a chain of thought in the hearer’s mind, or be passed on in conversation to someone else more receptive.

There are times when arguments can be won by moderate expression and compromise. But this was not such a time. It was not even a time for argument. An hour chopped into little blocks of comments from the panel and questions from the audience does not allow for argument in any meaningful sense. As said, it was a time for blunt expression.

I wish I had been able to stay longer and have some real arguments, but I could now feel great waves of tiredness sweeping over me. So I went off to bed. The audience remained in the church, singing responses in a language unknown to me and set to music that might have been more suited to lullabies for an idiot child. The rest of the procession had taken to resolute candle waving, and had moved down Whitehall to Downing Street, where hopes were expressed of waking up Tony Blair. A pity, I thought at the time, the Salvation Army had not sent a few of its brass bands to join in the parade.

And that is it. A fuller account would mention the grotesque nonsense uttered by the other speakers. They had obviously never opened an economics textbook in their lives. Nor had most of the audience that so warmly applauded their nonsense. But I cannot be bothered to record any of what was said on the other side. There will be a DVD of the whole event, and this will speak for itself. 

On balance, it was worth attending. I waved the flag for the Libertarian Alliance. I handed out several dozen business cards. I might be invited to speak at other events where I can outline my objections in more detail to the heresies of theological socialism. Together with Mr Singleton, I might even have started a few trains of thought in unknown minds.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment

published on the Internet
Issue Number 47
22nd January 2001

How to Destroy the Enemy Class:
A Manifesto for the Right
Sean Gabb

The purpose of this manifesto is to discuss how England might be taken over and indefinitely held by the political right.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment

published on the Internet
Issue Number 65
8th April 2002

Paris in the Springtime with a Fistful of Euros:
A Record of the Libertarian International Spring Convention,
Paris, 5-8th April 2002
Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 110
25th August 2003

"Nej till Euron"
Fighting the Evil Empire in Another Province
by Sean Gabb

Adlon Hotel, Stockholm, Monday 25th August 2003

With Mrs Gabb, I am in Sweden for two reasons. The first is to address the summer conference of one of the main libertarian movements in Scandinavia. The second is to help strengthen the no campaign in the closing stages of the Swedish referendum on the Euro. It was my intention to write a long account of the things seen and done during this past week, together with observations on the Swedish people and their architecture and language. But I am presently short of time, and the glare of the television lights has dimmed all else but the events they illuminated. I will write at more length when back in England. For the moment, though, I will concentrate on the second reason for my visit.

Late last year, the Swedish Prime Minister—some vain creature whose name escapes me, but who likes to get himself photographed in company with Tony Blair—decided to try pushing his country into the Euro. He announced a referendum, and doubtless imagined that a year of campaigning would so wear out everyone else that he would have his way in the end. Sadly for him, though most of the parties and media and most of the Swedish establishment in general were in favour of giving up the Crown, the Swedish people have so far shown unwilling. With three weeks to go before the vote, the opinion polls continue to report strong opposition. The yes campaign seems to have more money and a better co-ordination of effort than the diverse coalition of movements against joining. But truth and greater commitment have so far been decisive.

Not surprisingly, the campaigners for a yes vote have descended from vague generalities—peace in Europe, more investment and jobs in Sweden, and so forth—to specific falsehoods. The claim at present is that Sweden cannot escape the Euro, since just about every country in Europe either is a member already or is about to become one. Even Britain, they insist, will join within the next few years. This being so, Sweden has no choice.

It was with these claims in mind that one of the more vigorous groups campaigning against the Euro—Medborgare Mot EMU, which is Citizens Against Economic and Monetary Union—decided to bring over some British Eurosceptics to explain that Britain was in fact very unlikely ever to join. This group is led by Margit Gennser, a former Conservative Member of Parliament in Sweden, and has Erik Lakomaa as its Campaigns Director. Together, they chose to invite me, Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, and Bernard Connolly, former civil servant with the European Commission and author of The Rotten Heart of Europe. We made our presentations this morning at the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, before an audience of bankers and politicians and virtually all the main Swedish media.

We began at 10:00 am. After a brief introduction by Professor Kurt Wickman, who was chairing the meeting, Madsen Pirie went first. What I like most about listening to Madsen is that beneath the entertaining surface of what he says is a logical structure of argument that lets whatever he says be reconstructed from memory days or even months after the event. I first noticed this at a conference in 1988, when I was able to sit down two days after he had introduced us to the concepts of an internal market and diversity of funding in the National Health Service—dull stuff now, but exciting when explained by one of the people who had just helped think of it—and write three pages without a single note. Today was no exception. Madsen began thus:

I was first in Sweden 35 years ago. While I was here, you changed from driving on the left of the road to driving on the right. I well remember the endless confusion during the weekend of the change—the traffic jams, the young men and women with their yellow jackets and flags, and the general excitement of the change.

In retrospect, all Sweden got was to put itself at a disadvantage in a car market that still includes, Britain, Japan, India, and various other important places. I am here again during what may be a process of change, and I can tell you this with pretty near certainty—whatever you may decide in the next few weeks, British driving will continue to be on the left and its politics on the right.

He now moved to explaining the "five tests" set by Gordon Brown—that is, the political device for ruling out British membership of the Euro until it could be shown not to be bad for the economy. This had not been shown. He dwelt on the considerable differences between the British and European financial economies. For example, 70 per cent of British families owned their homes. 80 per cent of mortgages were advanced under variable rate agreements—that is, payments rose and fell with changes in the lending rate set by the bank of England. This was often very unlike the rest of Europe, where people either rented or bought on fixed rate mortgages. In Europe, a change of interest rates could take 18 months to have an effect on consumer spending. In Britain, the change was almost immediate. This made the activities of whoever is in charge of monetary policy far more important in Britain that elsewhere.

Again, he said, the British economy was far more open and flexible than those on the Continent. Even after six years of Gordon Brown, Britain remained by European standards a country of low taxes and light regulation. This had allowed the country to attract up to 40 per cent of all direct inward investment to the European Union as a whole. "In terms of geography" he said, "Britain is just off the coast of Europe. In economic terms, it is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic—half way between Europe and America." Nothing that might seriously damage these facts could be considered.

From this, Madsen passed to the political consequences of joining the Euro—how it would increase the regulatory pressures from Brussels. He concluded:

At the moment, let me assure you, there is an 80 per cent probability that Britain will not join the Euro. If you vote no to the Euro next month, that probability will rise to 100 per cent. Voting no will not leave you isolated in Europe.

Madsen spoke for about 15 minutes, which was just right for the audience. I saw two campaigners for the Euro looking concerned as they discussed his speech. Next, I spoke. For those who are interested, a recording of my speech will soon be somewhere on the Internet. For those who cannot wait, or do not care to endure my loud, flat voice, what I said went roughly as follows:

Dr Pirie has explained very convincingly the reasons why, on both micro and macroeconomic grounds, Britain will not join the Euro. I will now explain why, on political grounds, this will not happen.

You can never under-estimate the vanity and stupidity of politicians—look, for example, at your own Prime Minister. However, what politicians usually want above all is a quiet life. It is perfectly obvious that trying to get Britain into the Euro will give no one in government anything but trouble.

As in Sweden, there must be a referendum before Britain can join the Euro. The first difficulty with this will be the question. This will inevitably cause an argument. No matter how fair the questions seems to one side, the other will claim bias. Probably, the matter will end up in court, and there is no certainty of what the Judges will rule. The politicians may well find themselves going into a referendum with a question not of their choosing.

Then there is the matter of funding. The State will give money to both sides, but this will be greatly supplemented by wealthy activists. The result will be a disadvantage for one side. This might also end in court.

Though the Government might win all cases brought against it, the mere fact of being taken to court would make many of the electors suspect they were being tricked—and this would incline them to vote against joining even if they could think of no other reason.

Then there is the matter of public opinion. For years now, there has been an overwhelming majority against joining the Euro. No campaign is likely to change this. Most likely, the Government would lose. In theory, it could stay in office having lost a referendum. But the moral damage would be immense, and it might destroy the Government.

Even assuming a victory, there would be trouble. In the first place, the opponents of entry would not just go away. They would make loud accusations of cheating. Many would turn out to even louder street demonstrations. Some might even start campaigns of civil resistance. In the second, whatever government took us into the Euro would be made to accept the full blame for the next recession. At present, we all know there will be a recession, but no one seems much inclined to blame Gordon Brown. After all, the Conservatives won elections in 1983 and 1992 as the country was bottoming out in very deep recessions. They lost an election in 1997 about half way through one of the most spectacular booms in British history. Since Margaret Thatcher retaught us our economics, we have learnt to regard politics and economics as largely separate matters. In the Euro, we would blame the politicians for any recession. They took us in, we would insist. The Euro caused the recession, we would assert. We would crucify them.

So what is in it for the Government? The answer is nothing. Tony Blair might look for some reward in Europe—the Presidency, perhaps—but what about Gordon Brown and Jack Straw and David Blunkett, and all the others who would expect to stay behind and live with any resulting mess?

One should never say never. But assuming some understanding of their self-interest, the various members of the British Government have no reason to lift a finger to get the country into the Euro. It will not happen.

Now, I was warned before giving this speech that—to quote John Cleese—I should not mention the War. I do not think I have. But if I have, I do not think you noticed.

I put in this rather odd final point because some other British Eurosceptics had recently visited and had given credibility to the yes campaign by insisting that the European Union was exactly the same as the Europe intended by the German National Socialists. It seems that most Swedes know the scripts of Fawlty Towers by heart, and we decided to throw in the reference so we could head off the usual boring questions about paranoid xenophobia and whatever. It got a big laugh and a round of applause.

Next came Bernard Connolly. He spoke at much greater length - nearly an hour—and concentrated on the details of which he was a master and Madsen and I were not. He spelt out the corruption and incompetence at the heart of European decision making, giving examples of how economic decisions are made for political ends, and how these are made to work no matter at what cost to productive and allocative efficiency. It was a speech worth hearing, but was too long and involved for me to retain the full threads.

Then there was questioning from the floor, but this produced nothing new and is not something I feel any duty to report.

I will not report the comments I received. But I know I did a good job. I looked smart in my suit. I spoke clearly and fluently. I conformed closely to the Madsen Pirie school of public speaking - "stand up, speak up, shut up". I also handled a long interview for the television rather well. I had been willing to bet money that no one in the Swedish media would have bothered to find our who I was. But the researchers had been set to work, and I faced a polite grilling about the Candidlist, about the Libertarian Alliance, and about my reasons for not wanting laws against drinking and driving. I answered all questions honestly and dully—that is, I killed any story that might have been under construction. My experience is that straight answers are always the best. This was no exception.

The efforts today of the three British visitors—and mine were less than a third of the whole—have tended to help the no campaign in Sweden. We have not in ourselves made a great difference. But we have helped to knock down the claims that Britain is about the join the Euro, and that Sweden ought to hurry to avoid being left out.

I would normally be dubious about getting involved in the internal politics of another country. But referenda on the Euro are a different matter. The European Union is a threat to all the peoples of Europe. In the face of this common threat, we help ourselves by helping each other. I am sure the Swedish politicians do not intend to take no for an answer in this referendum. As in Denmark and the Irish Republic, their intention, if they lose, is simply to keep holding new referenda until they get the answer they want. However, this may not work. The Euro is an economic disaster. All the promises made in its favour have come to nothing. If the Swedes vote against joining, the British will not even be asked. If Britain stays out, the whole project may begin to unravel.

The Europhiles often call people like me "narrow little nationalists". We are encouraged to visit other member states of the Europe Union, and to get involved in issues of common importance. We are told to learn that our fellow citizens of the European Union are people just like ourselves, with similar problems and similar hopes. Well, I have taken that advice—and I hope its results will not be pleasing.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 130
16th February 2005

What's Wrong With British Conservatism?
Text of a Speech Given By Sean Gabb
at The Royal Society of Arts,
Tuesday the 15th February 2005

On Tuesday the 15th February 2005, I spoke at a conference organised by the Royal Society of Arts in London. The subject was “What's Wrong With British Conservatism?.” According to the official notification of this debate:

While American conservatism is in such apparently rude health, its English cousin appears terminally ill. The British Conservative Party used to be the biggest political party in the West, but is now a shadow of its former self. What happened to the social base of the British Conservative party? Can the British Conservative Party learn any lessons from America?

The speakers were:

  • Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator;
  • Dr Irwin Stelzer, Director of Economic Policy Studies, The Hudson Institute, and editor of Neoconservatism;
  • Paul Whiteley, Professor of Government at the University of Essex;
  • Dr Sean Gabb, Director of Communications at the Libertarian Alliance.  

The Chairman of the debate was Samuel Brittan, a writer for The Financial Times and author of Against The Flow

It was a most interesting debate, and I am glad that so many of my friends were able to attend. I am obtaining a recording of the event, and will place this on the Libertarian Alliance website just as soon as I can find time for the necessary conversion and html coding. In the meantime, here is a brief record of it.

Dr Irwin Stelzer spoke from an American perspective. He said that the British Conservative Party needs to learn from the Republicans. He made several good points. But since the American Republicans are not really concerned with liberty, or with any type of conservatism relevant to the English tradition, his advice was of limited use.

Boris Johnson gave his usual good and enthusiastic performance. Though I had a rather bitter dispute with him in 2001, I have come in recent years to think more highly of him. He is easily the most interesting and clever Conservative politician in the public eye. If only he were less immediately ambitious and were willing to wait another five years or so for a chance of real power, he might look forward to a very successful career. As it is, he feels too constrained to follow the existing Party line, and this diminished the impact of what he had to say.

Paul Whiteley ran through various polling statistics that showed the Conservatives to be not entirely without hope of winning the next election. While the main opinion polls put the Government ahead, this lead vanishes once the likely turnout is considered. Labour support is melting away in much of the country, while the Conservative core vote is largely holding together. While I am not sure what sort of mandate might flow from an election won on the basis of whose vote collapses the least, I do grant that Mr Blair may be in serious electoral trouble. 

Now to my own speech. I do have a strong prejudice against reading from a prepared text. The ancients never did this – and whatever they did in the arts is a model for all eternity. There used to be rules in the House of Commons against even notes. And the soporific effect of a read speech entirely cancels the effect of the best preparation. On the other hand, I had only eight minutes for my speech, and I wanted to ensure that I made every point I had in mind. So I wrote a speech last Friday, and spent the next few days thinking about the balance and spoken emphases of the sentences. I did think to have the text in front of me as I spoke. Fortunately, I was unable to find this in my bag, and so had to speak from memory and momentary inspiration.

I shall never be a really good public speaker. My voice is too flat, and I never think to smile at an audience. But I can be effective. I spoke clearly and grammatically last night, and I said everything I wanted much as I had wanted. I may even have made the best speech. Here it is:

The central question of this debate, ladies and gentlemen, is what is wrong with British conservatism?  My answer – and I speak for many other people, both in this room and beyond – Is hardly anything at all. From Europe to tax to immigration, conservatives are beginning to set the agenda of public debate. Forget the largely mythical threat of Islamic terrorism: it is against conservatives that laws like the Civil Contingencies Act have been made. Whole stretches of popular culture – the comedian Jimmy Carr, for example, or BBC satirical programmes like Monkey Dust and Little Britain – are objectively conservative. There is now in this country a conservative movement – and I include libertarians in this movement – more passionate and more agreed in substance on what needs to be done than I can recall. All that is wrong with British conservatism is that it lacks a conservative party. The Conservative Party has been out of office now for almost eight years; and even against a Government that, for corruption and incompetence and petty tyranny and high treason and utter discredit, is unprecedented in our history, it is unlikely to win the next election – or perhaps the one after that.

The problem with the Conservative Party and its associated media is that as long as I have been alive, its function has been less to advance conservative interests than to neutralise conservative opinion. This country is ruled by the left. The left dominates the administration and the media and education. Its aim is to construct a new order in which – whatever its proposed merits—we shall have been stripped of our historic liberties and our national identity. The left continues to rule by ruthlessly destroying anyone who challenges it. Even so, it must rule a nation that, so long as it remains a nation, is strongly conservative. The solution is a Conservative Party and a Conservative media that many of us increasingly call the Quisling Right.

A Quisling Rightist is someone who calls himself a Conservative. When standing for office, he implies promises without making them. If pressed, he will make promises that he has no intention of keeping. If elected, he will make firm declarations of principle and argue over inessentials. His conservative politics are purely symbolic. Where essentials are concerned, he will do nothing to challenge the continued domination of the left. In return for this, he will be invited to the best parties, and allowed endless time in the media. When he leaves politics, he will become the Warden of an Oxford college or the Chancellor of one of the new universities. He will be allowed income and status. He will earn this by systematically betraying those who trusted him to stand up for all that they held most dear this side of the grave.

There was a time when conservatives were not able properly to discuss what, on a candid review of the past half century, is hardly worth contesting. Conservatives generally came together only within the institutional structures of the Conservative Party – a rigid, centralised organisation, as able to suppress internal dissidence as the old Communist Party. But the Internet has now brought thousands of us together in places far beyond Party control. And if we argue there over many things, we agree on many others. And what we are coming to agree most firmly is that there is no point in working for a victory at the next election of the Conservative Party.

What would happen, we ask, if, by some miracle, the Conservative were to form the next government? Our answer is that they would do nothing substantial. At the end of five years, there would have been much political excitement and much appearance that something was being done. But there would, at the end, have been still fewer of our historic liberties and still less of our national identity. The project of the left would have moved forward as if Labour had never left off ice.

Why then vote Conservative? For myself – and for most of my friends – if I must be destroyed, let me be speared in the front by someone who looks me in the eye and calls himself my enemy. Far better this than be garrotted from behind by a supposed friend.

Until recently, this line of thinking could often be checked by the approach of an election. The Conservatives are dreadful, we would say. They have broken all their promises so far. But Labour is dreadful too, and these Conservatives might this time do something half decent. But this check no longer applies. The present generation of the Quisling Right is so ineffective that it cannot even tell a straight lie. It will not win the next election. This being so, we in the conservative movement might as well vote for a party that says what we believe. That party will not win either, but at least our votes will be counted and recognised as a clear statement of opinion. What party will this be? It might be UKIP. It might be Veritas. It might be some other party yet to be formed. It will not be the Conservative Party.

Let me end where I began. The conservative movement in this country is in enviably good health. All we need to take power and dismantle the project of the left is a conservative party that is at heart conservative. All that holds us back is that we are stuck with the Quisling Right. 

I could have elaborated on these points. But I made them well enough.

Afterwards to dinner with Dr Tame, David Carr, Bruce Nichol and Paul Staines. We agreed that there was a comfort in despair. Now that the Conservatives have made it clear that they have no intention of rolling back the New Labour revolution, and now that they have ensured they cannot win the next election – as opposed to watching Labour lose it – we felt content to watch the downward course of events, while continuing to prepare for some eventual reaction. 

As said, I will in due course publish a sound file of the proceedings, and will also get copies of the various photographs taken.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 148
14th June 2006

The Inaugural Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society:
An Incidental Record
by Sean Gabb

The Property and Freedom Society was set up in August 2005 by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Its Opening Declaration reads as follows:

The Property and Freedom Society stands for an uncompromising intellectual radicalism: for justly acquired private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association—which logically implies the right to not associate with, or to "discriminate against," anyone in one's personal and business relations—and unconditional free trade. It condemns imperialism and militarism and their fomenters, and champions peace. It rejects positivism, relativism, and egalitarianism in any form, whether of "outcome" or "opportunity," and it has an outspoken distaste for politics and politicians. As such it seeks to avoid any association with the policies and proponents of interventionism, which Ludwig von Mises had identified in 1946 as the fatal flaw in the plan of the many earlier and contemporary attempts by intellectuals alarmed by the rising tide of socialism and totalitarianism to found an anti-socialist ideological movement. Mises wrote: "What these frightened intellectuals did not comprehend was that all those measures of government interference with business which they advocated are abortive...There is no middle way. Either the consumers are supreme or the government."

As culturally conservative libertarians, we are convinced that the process of de-civilization has again reached a crisis point and that it is our moral and intellectual duty to once again undertake a serious effort to rebuild a free, prosperous, and moral society. It is our emphatic belief that an approach embracing intransigent political radicalism is, in the long run, the surest path to our cherished goal of a regime of totally unfettered individual liberty and private property. In thus seeking a fresh and radical new beginning, we are heeding the old but frequently forgotten advice of Friedrich Hayek's: "We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty..., which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are prepared to resist the blandishments of power and influence and who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote�..Unless we can make the philosophical foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost."

When I read it, this struck me as a fine declaration of intent. Here was a new international libertarian movement that promised not to descend into a clique of efficiency experts for the State, and not to accept the narrowing of the boundaries of debate that is the deal many libertarians strike with our politically correct masters. Even finer perhaps was that I was invited to attend and speak at the May 2006 inaugural meeting in Halicarnassus, otherwise known as Bodrum.

Except I once spent an hour on a runway in Constantinople, I had never visited Turkey, and I was interested to see the country. I was interested because, together with Athens, the Ionian coast was the cradle of our civilisation, and its ruins, I have always read, are a wonderful sight. In particular, Halicarnassus must always be of interest to the historian, as it is where Herodotus was born.

I was also interested because I grew up with a strong prejudice against the Turks. They were the leading representatives of The Other. They had nothing to do with the first explosion of Islam that took Syria, Egypt and North Africa from our civilisation. But they did, from the eleventh century, swallow up all that remained of the East Roman Empire. They took Constantinople. They took Greece. They got twice to the gates of Vienna. They were, until they declined and we progressed beyond all hope of competition, a continual standing threat to Christian Europe. Mention the Turks to me, and I tended to think of the Crusades and the siege of Constantinople, and the Battle of Lepanto, and John Sobieski. I thought of oriental despotism, and bottomless decadence, and Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. As a European, I thought, and I shuddered.

And I shuddered because the Turks were a threat not in the sense that the Mongol Hordes or the Soviet Empire were threats. They were so threatening because what they had to offer was often so very attractive. They were relaxed in matters of nationality, and they were tolerant in religion. So long as the appropriate taxes were paid and respect given, they allowed each ethnic and religious group to govern itself. That last, heroic defence of Constantinople was undercut by the unwillingness of many Orthodox Christians to pay the cost of remaining in Christendom. I am not sure if the Western powers were able in the fifteenth century to give the effectual help the Byzantine Government was so desperate to obtain. What I do know is that the price of any support was too great for the Orthodox—involving as it did submission to Rome in all matters of doctrine. It was Lucas Notaras, the last Byzantine Grand Admiral, who said "Better the Sultan's turban than the Cardinal's hat".

Under the Turks, the Greek Church remained free to continue its own doctrinal evolution. The modern Greeks tend to emphasise how they suffered under the Turks. They say nothing of how they collaborated with the Turkish invaders against the Venetian rule of Crete. Even the fairly neutered Inquisition allowed by Venice was worse than some Pacha who cared nothing either way about the Filioque. Indeed, one reason why Hungary is the only country in Central Europe that has a large number of Protestants is that it was only recovered by the Hapsburgs from Turkish rule after religious persecution had begun to go out of fashion.

What ruined Turkey was partly the Scientific Revolution and the general miracle of Western Europe, and partly the defects of oriental despotism. Given a bright, energetic Sultan in Constantinople, the wealth and power of Turkey were at once a marvel and a terror to European travellers. But there was none of the constitutional order that sustained Byzantium until the end. Let a fool or a weakling rule in Constantinople, and all security for life and property was at an end.

I knew that the Turks had made an admirable recovery after losing the Great War. They had reformed their laws to imitate the West, and had made a determined—if neither right nor wise—attempt to impose an imitation of Western manners on the people. The Turks I had known in England were generally fine people. And for all my impassioned Hellenism, I had come to despise the modern Greeks—a shifty, disreputable people, like a beggar in the street holding up their often self-inflicted sores for pity. Their constant whining about the Elgin Marbles, and more recently about the Turkish revenge for what they did to the minority in Cyprus, disgusted me. They have turned Athens into a sewer, and seem to derive much of their national income from frauds on the European Union. In London, even the kebab shops are better when run by Turks. One day, I shall consider giving up what is now the affectation of using the Greek names for Turkish places.

But Turkey was The Other. I set out on my journey there with mixed feelings that I have only partly described above.

My first impression of the Turks was decidedly good. In Heathrow, as I was disrobing and feeding my hand luggage through the scanners that are supposed to protect us from terrorism, someone stole my wallet. Since this contained £300 in cash and all my credit cards, I was more than usually agitated. The security staff muttered into their radios and looked panicky, but showed no inclination to do anything for me. It was the Turks also queuing for the flight who jumped into action. Within a minute, they had caught the thief and recovered my wallet. Left to their own justice, they might have kept the lower class Englishman who had "mistakenly" acquired my property and beaten him to jelly. Instead, they handed him to the security people, who promptly let him continue his own journey.

However, for all their supposed thoroughness, the security checks in Heathrow overlooked a certain item I had forgotten was in my camera bag. This should have been apparent to the most casual glance at the scanners. But I managed to travel with it unchallenged all the way to Constantinople. There it was discovered. As the official there pulled it from my bag with a flourish and a twirl of his moustache that reminded me of Hercule Poirot, I nearly fainted with horror. I wondered how many years I might spend in a Turkish prison. Instead, the official took the item, filled out a form, got me to sign it, and sent me on my journey to Halicarnassus with detailed instructions on how to recover my property at the airport there.

As I came through security, I was met by a young lady who had my property for me in a paper bag. She got me to sign another form, then handed it over with a reminder that I should consider packing the item in my main luggage for the journey home.

So much for all that intrusive and expensive security. The only reason, it is clear, why no one hijacks aeroplanes out of Heathrow is that no one particularly wants to.

I could mention that the Turks mislaid my main luggage in Constantinople, and I had to wait for it to come down on the next flight. But these things happen everywhere, and I was filled during my fairly short wait with about a gallon of Turkish coffee while an old man in the airport security told me stories about his grandfather, who was a private soldier on the Ottoman side in the Gallipoli disaster. The only point of difference between us there was that he thought better of Winston Churchill than I did.

The drive down to Halicarnassus took about an hour and was of great interest. Looking out of the window of the special car sent to collect me, I could see the coastal terrain of Asia Minor. I had never realised how mountainous it was, and how relatively easy it must have been for the coastal cities to defend themselves against the larger continental powers inland. Otherwise, there was Don W. Printz, a retired dermatologist and longstanding friend of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. We spent much of the next week together, and our conversations on history, economics, syphilis—he used to be an expert on sexually transmitted diseases, in which I have some academic interest—and related matters, all began on that drive through the dramatic landscape.

Except it is prettier and more relaxed, Halicarnassus looks like any other resort on the Mediterranean coast. Whatever may be their race or religion or general manners, the various nations looking out from the shores of that remarkable sea all seem to possess a similar culture. And it is a most attractive culture—or so it is to an outsider—with its wine and salads and tobacco and relaxed view of life. In this, the coastal Turks are the same as the Spaniards, the Italians and the Greeks. I am told that travelling inland, past those mountain ranges, you will find a progressively alien world. But Halicarnassus might pass for a gentler, more tasteful Hagios Nikolaos. My only reminder of being outside Europe was that I was, for the first time since 1991, in a country where I could not understand the local language.

The conference was to be held in the Hotel Karia Princess. This is owned and run by Gulcin Imre, whose doctoral thesis was on the economics of Ludwig von Mises. The hotel is a splendid place—luxurious yet welcoming. Mrs Imre is fluent in both English and German, and has a good line in intellectual conversation. And I would say this even if she had not been kind enough to buy one of my books and praise it. Her Head of Public Relations, by the way, is a Slovak. A shame Mrs Gabb was unable to attend. She would have loved every minute.

What can I say of Professor Hoppe? Some call him the greatest libertarian philosopher of our age. Others shudder at the mention of his name. Many, I have no doubt, manage both. I had read and admired his book, Democracy: The God that Failed, and many of his articles. I like his general vision of a libertarianism made compatible with the conservatism of the English world— after all, what is libertarianism but a systematisation of the English Way? I am less convinced by the philosophical rationalism he shares with von Mises and others of the Austrian tradition in social thought. I am too immersed in—or perhaps was too early corrupted by—the thought of David Hume. But I found him a charming and tolerant leader of the Property and Freedom Society. And he is, like most foreigners who learn our language, one of the few people who can speak fluent, grammatical English. With a cigarette between his fingers—and they are dirt cheap over there—he is a first class raconteur.

I am aware that I ought now to move to a detailed account of the conference. It was a good one, and I particularly enjoyed the speeches of Paul Belien and Paul Gottfried. Even the short contributions of the panellists told me much of interest about property rights in other parts of the world and about the contributions, actual and potential, of religion to the institutions of civil society. I learnt that, in spite of all I read in the newspapers, Turkey can be expected to become a more truly liberal place for the return of Islam to its politics. But the surroundings were so overpowering, and the conversations over dinner and on the various trips were so interesting, that my enduring memories of the conference have been overlaid by these other things.

I have already mentioned Dr Printz, whom I look forward to seeing again. Then there was Paul Belien, there with his wife Alexandra Colen and two of their children. Dr Belien founded the Centre for the New Europe, which was until recently run by my friend and partner in the Libertarian Alliance Tim Evans. Dr Belien is a Flemish nationalist and his wife sits in the Belgian Parliament. Just before leaving Belgium, Dr Belien was hit with a major smear by the Establishment of the country. he had written the sort of article about the right to keep and bear arms for defence that I write every year or so. Where my articles in England simply get me on the wireless and into the newspapers, this got Dr Belien into potentially serious trouble. Some youth had got a gun and gone on a killing spree, and everyone in politics and the media had decided that Dr Belien was somehow to blame. He had been forced to take the article down from his website, and was now facing the threat of criminal proceedings. I listened to the story with incredulity. I thought England had gone rotten. I was not aware that Belgium was more rotten still. With its laws against free expression, and its systematic discrimination against its most enterprising nationality, the country hardly ranks as a liberal democracy. For what little it may be worth, Dr Belien has the full support of the Libertarian Alliance in defending his right to freedom of speech.

Then there was Paul Gottfried. His speech was a denunciation of the American conservative movement very similar in tone and content to my own of the Conservative Party. We agreed on loathing Tony Blair as a worthless and malevolent creature. Over lunch one day, he expressed a certain impatience with "victim nationalities". He mentioned as examples of these the Irish, the Greeks and Jews of East European origin. His admiration is for strong, self-confident peoples for whom past misfortunes are not the material for present obsessions. No wonder, he has little time for the modern English and Americans. He also gave me what seemed a penetrating insight into the mentality of the Jewish neoconservatives in Washington. I was wrong, he told me, in thinking that these people had any dislike of Islam. They actually felt closer in their general outlook to Moslems than to the Christian Zionists, who are the real authors of the catastrophe that is American policy in the Middle East. The latter they regarded, he said, as "stupid gentiles". Their one point of difference with the former was the existence of Israel. Let that be settled, and the serpentising televangelists might continue baying for a nuclear Armageddon followed by the Second Coming. But the flow of coherent Islamophobia would be turned off like a redundant bath tap.

Then there was Stephan Kinsella, who subjected me during a boat trip around the Ionian coast to a friendly but probing examination of what I thought about Ayn Rand and epistemology. I am not sure if he approved of all I gave in answer. Even so, the surrounding conversation was enjoyable. He was scathing about Objectivism. He noted that David Kelley is an improvement on the official movement. "But when someone has to write 15,000 words on why it is permissible to be nice to others, or to tolerate disagreement" he said, "there must be something wrong with his underlying philosophy".

Then there were all the old friends who were also there—Frank van Dunn, Christian Michel, Josef Šima, Robert Grözinger, and others. But I will not give a full list: it would be the whole conference programme. I say this even though Christian gave one of his most polished and elaborate speeches. I hope he will publish it, as I can recall only its main heads.

Nor will I say much about my own speech. It was my usual idle effort. Until five minutes before I was due to start, I had no idea how to start. Once I had started, I had little idea how to continue. As ever, despite the uncertainty, I kept up a logical flow and finished on time. What I said went down well, and I suppose it was fair enough. One of these days, I am assured, my reliance on inspiration will fail me. I shall stand up, my mouth will open, but nothing coherent will come out. Fortunately, that did not happen in Turkey.

Professor Hoppe gave the closing speech. He explained that he had started a movement that would meet every year, and that would push the libertarian movement towards the open discussion of issues presently thought too controversial to discuss. Obviously, there is the question of border control: is this another statist intervention as harmful as price control? or would the movement of peoples be so free of internal cost in a world without states as it now generally is? Then there are the revisionist histories of the Great War: even today, nearly everyone looks at the events of 1914 as if it were still 1945. Or there is Hitler's War. How monolithic was his dictatorship? How much was its more notable beastliness personal to him and a few colleagues? Would that beastliness have survived him had he lasted until about 1950? Might it have been restrained had there not been that war of attrition with Soviet Russia? Then there is so much about contemporary politics and economics and sociology and religion that is worth discussing in places where the Thought Police do not operate, or where they have other concerns.

After this, there was the boat trip already mentioned. I was told the Aegean was cold in May. But I am a strong Northerner, accustomed to walking out of my house in summer to swim in the English Channel. I threw myself bravely into the clear waters. It took only a week to recover from the sunburn. In the evening, we had the belly dancers. I have a video record of Professor Gottfried dancing along topless. I have none of me. I remained fully clothed—but, having no notes to give her,  fumbled most embarrassingly to fit £7 in change into the dancer's bra.

That is all I will say. The next conference will be in Halicarnassus next May. I hope for another invite. I enjoyed this one, and I regret not being able to visit the ruins of Ephesus or spend time in Constantinople. If you are interested in attending, or in supporting the work of the Property and Freedom Society, you should contact Professor Hoppe—and do so quickly, as the conference is already being planned.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 160
21st June 2007

The Second Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society,
Bodrum, May 2007:
A Brief Record
by Sean Gabb

When I came back last year from the inaugural meeting in Turkey of the The Property and Freedom Society, I was unable to imagine how the next could be better. Everything about that meeting—the hotel, the location, the speeches, the new friendships—was as near perfect as could be. How, then, could the next one be better? It was set for the same place, between the 24th and 28th May 2007.

The answer is that it managed to be better by being much the same, plus a little extra. The Hotel Karia Princess was as wonderful as before—and I do most strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to visit the Aegean coast of Turkey. My opinion of the Turks is, if possible, higher still than it was last year. I then compared them with the Greeks. I had yet to discover the Sicilians, about whom I cannot speak truly without risking imprisonment under the Public Order Act.

I will speak later about my impressions of Ephesus and Constantinople. But I gave my general thoughts last year on Turkey, and so will not repeat them here

I turn then to the conference proceedings. Remember that the Property and Freedom Society was set up by Hans-Hermann Hoppe for the uncompromising promotion of libertarian values—that is, a promotion that is not to be moderated by any considerations of what the ruling classes of the West consider to be appropriate. Last year, what was said was so interesting that several ordinary guests in the hotel booked their next holiday to coincide with the next meeting. I do not think they were disappointed. Let me summarise those speeches which I recorded on video or of which I took written notes.

Friday 25th May 2007

First were Richard Lynn, on "The Global Bell Curve" and Tatu Vanhanen on "IQ and the Wealth of Nations". Though these gave different speeches, both were on the same theme, and both speakers drew from the book they have written together, IQ and Global Inequality. They explained that one of the main indicators of economic success for a nation—assuming reasonably sane government—is IQ; that it is possible to construct a scatter diagram to show the stability of this relationship; that IQ is largely inherited and fully innate; that IQ is different between countries and different between the temperate and equatorial regions of our planet; and that IQ averages in the former regions may be depressed by migration from the latter.

They dismissed cultural differences between groups and social inequalities. These, they insisted, did not explain differences of income so fully or so simply as differences of IQ.

These are controversial claims, and they provoked a long discussion from the floor. At the end, Professor Hoppe made a number of points which are worth summarising;

First, these are claims about matters of fact. As such, they ought to be subject to the same reasoned discussion as any other set of evidential claims.

Second, if they are true, they have no bearing on the core values of libertarianism. Just because some groups may not be of equal average intelligence or other ability does not mean that any individual should have other than equal rights to life, liberty and property.

Third, a free society based on the division of labour has room for all levels of intelligence and other ability.

The next main speakers were Yuri Maltsev and Paul Gottfried. Professor Maltsev spoke about "The Quest for Equality and the Poverty of Nations", and showed that those nations in which equality of outcome has been most strenuously pursued are the poorest and least equal places on earth. Professor Gottfried asked "Can We Defeat the Disease of Egalitarianism?" I did not record his speech, but I did record an interview with him that is now available on the Internet. In this, he gives a characteristically radical answer.

That was the end of the first day of proceedings. We moved to a long and enjoyable dinner in the gardens of the Hotel.

Saturday 26th May 2007

The first session on Saturday included: Peter Mentzel on "The Ottoman Empire: How Sick Was the Sick Man of Europe?"; William Marina on "A Desert Without Thaw: US—Iran Relations 1944-Present"; and Hunt Tooley on "Divide, Rule, Manipulate: Western Strategies for the Middle East in the Period between the World Wars".

These were all fascinating speeches, and I wish I had recorded them on video. I learnt that the Ottoman Empire was actually dong rather well by all normal indicators until 1914, and that it managed to outlive the Tsarist Government that had coined the "Sick Man" epithet. From Professor Marina, I most recall his revelation that the Persians will, within the next generation, become a minority in Iran, and that there is, in obvious consequence, a natural basis for a settlement of all differences with the western powers.

Next came Thomas DiLorenzo on "The American Myth of Limited Constitutional Government" and Marco Bassani on "Empire or Liberty: The Anti-Federalist Alternative". These took sceptical views of American politics in the 1780s, and showed how failings in the framing of the American Constitution gradually defeated the stated purpose of the War of Independence.

Next was Paul Belien on "Secessionism in Europe". This included a trenchant attack on Scottish nationalism, which Dr Belien declared has less to do with creating an independent Scotland than with breaking up a Eurosceptical United Kingdom.

Then came I. When Professor Hoppe asked me for a title last year, I did suggest "Demography and History". I then changed my mind, and thought it would be more interesting to speak about the possibly libertarian implications of the global warming hysteria. But I found the title on the agenda when I arrived, and Mrs Gabb told me it would be rude to make changes so late in the day.

I therefore spoke about the demographic changes in the Eastern Mediterranean world of the sixth and seventh centuries—how these had been caused by a pandemic as great as the Black Death, and how they led to the collapse of ancient civilisation and the Arab conquest of Syria, Egypt and North Africa. I have uploaded the video of this speech to the Internet, and so will say no more about it.

So ended the second day of proceedings. In the evening, we all went off for dinner in the fishing village of Kadikalesi. We sat on the beach until long after sunset, eating fish and drinking various wines and spirits.

Sunday 27th May 2007

The first speaker on Sunday was Christian Michel, who is, among much else, the Director of European Affairs for the Libertarian Alliance. He spoke about "The Neuroses of Science and State". Christian speaks the best English of any Frenchman I have met. Indeed, he speaks better English than most Englishmen. And this was a characteristically polished and elliptical speech on how state control and state finance of research corrupts knowledge. I am sure the text will soon be available through the Libertarian Alliance.

Then came Edward Stringham, asking "If Anarcho-Capitalism is so Great, Why doesn't it Exist?" and Dan Stastny on "The Economics of Economics".

After this came Professor Hoppe with a long and very interesting paper on "The Origins of Private Property and the Family". This is hard to summarise. But it seeks to explain the emergence of both property and the family as responses to population growth. It is only when individuals are able to own property that new resources are created. It is only when individuals are held responsible for the maintenance of their children that population does not grow beyond the constraint of the resources presently available.

Mrs Gabb drew a number of highly conservative inferences from the speech. But as the speech has now been published in full by the Libertarian Alliance, I will not mention these now.

Then came Juliusz Jablecki, commenting on "Libertarian Strategy in the Post-Modernist Age", and Olivier Richard, making "A Note on Libertarian Strategy". Mr Jablecki spoke about the feasibility of using the language of post-modernism against the post-modernists, and this led to an entertaining argument with Paul Gottfried. Dr Richard spoke about the need to reach out to groups not currently regarded as libertarian, but who may be favourable to a reduction in state control over their lives.

And that was it for 2007. We spent the evening in the Hotel for a dinner that included belly dancing and a carpet sale.

General Reflections

The fact that these conferences are so enormously pleasant as a social experience does not blind me to their merits considered as conferences. The libertarian movement is hardly on the edge of collapse. Even with its minimal funding, the Libertarian Alliance is going though one of its more energetic periods. There are libertarian movements in almost every civilised country—and in many uncivilised countries.

But there is often a feeling of staleness about libertarian arguments. I am not dismissing our frequent concentration on economic issues. Whatever anyone may claim, we have not won the arguments on economics. We are as heavily taxed as ever—and more heavily regulated than in the 1960s and 1970s. But the nature of the statist enemy has changed in the past few decades. It has learnt to combine some degree of economic rationality with new modes of oppression and new modes of justification. I do not feel that we have, as a movement, come adequately to terms with these changes.

I believe that there is still good work to be done in building alliances with some sexual and other minorities and with many people who regard themselves as on the "left" of politics. At the same time, there is much common ground with intelligent conservatives like Paul Belien and Paul Gottfried. They are not libertarians, but they do have insights into the nature of the new order of things from which we can all benefit.

The value of the Property and Freedom Society is that it provides an institutional framework within which differences can be discussed and areas of agreement explored. The intention is that its annual meeting should become better every time. This does not necessarily mean bigger: it means better and more exclusive. Invitations should become an essential mark of acceptance to everyone who is anyone in our movement.

Therefore, I do most warmly commend the work of Professor Hoppe and of his colleagues in the Property and Freedom Society. Anyone who is interested to learn more about this work should contact Professor Hoppe directly. He is already planning the next meeting in Turkey for the May of 2008, and is looking for additional participants.

Other Activities

This year, Mrs Gabb went with me to Turkey, and she enjoyed herself as much as I did. We spent much of our free time wandering around Bodrum and looking in the shops.

We also hired a car and drove several hundred miles along the Aegean coastline, looking at Ephesus, Miletus, Magnesia, and other famous but now ruined cities of the ancient world.

Most importantly, though, we spent two days in Constantinople—the Second Rome. My new, and so far unpublished, novel is set here in the year 610. It has barbarian raids, chariot races, political intrigue, murder and civil war woven into the plot. But the place where all this happens is the great City of Constantine.

In writing the novel, I relied much on reconstructed maps of the mediaeval city and of descriptions by modern historians. I knew that the old maps were unreliable, due to more than a thousand years of continuous redevelopment. But our first walk through the City told me I needed to rewrite many parts of the novel. I had not realised the immense scale of the City within the Walls of Theodosius. It is bigger than Westminster and the City of London combined. It can take hours to cross from one side to the other.

Then there are the hills. I had somehow imagined the City as more or less flat. The centre, however, is on a plateau that rises to several hundred feet above sea level. You can look out from the windows of the Hagia Sophia Church and look down to the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. I shall have much fun rewriting the relevant parts of the novel.

The modern City is also impressive. We did all the usual sights—the Blue Mosque, the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, and so on.

Perhaps most interesting, though, was that we arrived in the City on the 29th May. After a day of walking from place to place, Mrs Gabb and I sat down in the wide space that used to contain the Hippodrome and were busy discussing where we should have dinner. At once, there was the crash of Turkish military music—the sort that Mozart was good at mimicking. We got up and pushed through the large crowd that had formed. Along the street towards us about twenty men dressed as Janissaries were marching. As they passed, the crowd let up a cheer and joined in a procession.

Someone gave me a Turkish flag and waved me into the procession. Mrs Gabb suggested that this might be one of the civil disturbances we had been warned about on the television. But everyone looked very cheerful, and I wanted to know what was happening.

We marched along until we reached a square with a stage and seating set up. The Janissaries and the band went onto the stage, and everyone else crowded into the seats or stood around.

Someone dressed very smartly got up and began a long speech in Turkish. I understood none of this, but turned to look at the banners that had been draped around the square. I read the words "Istanbul Fetih 554 yili Konseri". I know that Fetih is "victory" in many oriental languages, and that konseri must mean "concert". The "554" told me, though, what was happening. This was the 29th May. On that day in 1453, the City was taken from the Greeks.

As I am rather pro-Byzantine, I felt wicked to have taken part—even unwittingly— in a celebration of so notable a disaster. On the other hand, I was smitten with admiration for the Turks. In England, we just about manage to celebrate historical events since 1940. Anything earlier tends to be officially discouraged or ignored. Here, though, the Turks were in full patriotic glow about the fall of the Eastern Empire. And, if regrettable, it was a splendid achievement. Unlike the Crusaders, who simply burnt and looted and killed, the Turkish conquerors rebuilt the City in magnificent style and made it once again the capital of a great empire.

I did as Mrs Gabb said, and put the flag away, but we both stood listening to the concert until darkness and hunger drove us in search of food. I managed to shoot some interesting if disorganised video footage of the event.

We will go back to the City. But that will be another article.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 169
10th March 2008

A Day with UKIP
by Sean Gabb

I drove down to Exeter last Saturday the 8th March 2008, to speak at a United Kingdom Independence Party rally. If I had bothered checking in advance that the round journey would be 600 miles, I might have declined the invitation. I am glad, though, that I did not check, and that I did accept.

Imagine, if you can, a party rally, put on by one of its regional branches, and attended by several hundred decent, ordinary people. Imagine, then, being able to watch a dozen or so people called to the podium to speak fluently and with passion about what they truly think. Imagine also being able to mingle throughout with the leaders and elected representatives of that party. Imagine all this, and you have UKIP.

I watched parts of the Liberal Democrat conference on television yesterday. As with all the Regime Parties, these people talk about the need for commitment and fundamental change, and then carefully avoid saying or promising anything that might resemble either commitment or change. What I saw on Saturday with my own eyes was politics as it always used to be in England.

I last voted Conservative in 1997. Since then, I have voted UKIP whenever possible. So far, I have done this as a means of punishing the Conservatives for being so dreadful. I will now vote UKIP because I like the party and because I admire its leaders.

I will not summarise my speech, as I made a video record of it, and of the one made by Marc-Henri Glendening of the Democracy Movement. There was some coordination between us, and so our speeches are worth watching one after the other. I am never happy with filming in a room where public address equipment is in use, but the sound quality is adequate. Our speeches are available courtesy of Google Video. In time, I hope, UKIP will make its own video footage of the whole rally available on-line.

Now, though it was right to say how much I enjoyed myself last Saturday, the real purpose of this article is to confirm in writing what I did say then several times. I was approached by one very senior person in UKIP and by someone who has the ear of other senior persons, and asked if I would like to stand in the European Elections, and with a position on the party list that would give me some chance of being elected. I said no, but am not sure if my refusal was taken as more than false modesty.

There would be certain advantages in having me as a candidate. I am a clear and prolific writer. I speak reasonably well without notes. I can think on my feet. I know how to handle the media. I am not that old, nor particularly displeasing to look at. I have shown no tendency as yet to megalomania, and most of the things in my private life I would not have known are more comical than scandalous.

This being said, my answer is still no. I do not wish to stand with any party endorsement in any election that I might win. Here are my reasons.

First, I am Director of the Libertarian Alliance. This is a non-party organisation. I accept that we have had our greatest impact during the past thirty years on the youth movement of the Conservative Party, and that we now have a certain influence within UKIP. But we do have supporters in the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties. For all these parties are loathsome at the top, there is some chance of libertarian pressure from the membership. And there are still some libertarians who do not share my opinion of the European Union. It is one thing for the Director of the Libertarian Alliance to say what he thinks as an individual, but quite another for him to be a UKIP candidate.

Second, I have certain qualities that, while useful for directing the Libertarian Alliance, rule me out as a party politician. I am poor at giving and taking instructions. I am not much of a team player. I have little charm, and am easily bored with the ordinary things of life. What interests me is often seen by others as unimportant or obscure. In politics, I would be another Enoch Powell, but without the brilliance.

Third, there is the nature of my opinions. I may believe in withdrawing from the European Union, and I may be a firm patriot. But I have also spent much of the past thirty years trying as clearly and persuasively as I can to say things that most would regard as not on but considerably beyond the lunatic fringe in politics. I believe in legalising all drugs. I am not for decriminalising possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, or for diverting the enforcement budget to "education". I would make it no more illegal to buy a packet of heroin than it is now to buy a packet of tea; and I would not allow the authorities to spend a penny of our money on telling us whether and how to use it. I believe in repealing all the race relations and other hate crime laws. I would allow employers and landlords to qualify their advertisements with phrases like "niggers and faggots need not apply". I do not believe possession of child pornography should be a crime. I do not even believe it should be a crime to publish child pornography here that was made abroad by and with foreigners.

I like to think I can justify these opinions - plus all the others I cannot be bothered to mention or may have forgotten that I hold. But it should be clear that no party mad enough to adopt me as a candidate would get a fair hearing ever again in the media.

And so, I wish UKIP well. I wish it more than well. It is our last and our best hope in politics. I enjoyed last Saturday in Exeter. I look forward to the weekend after next at another rally in Morcambe. If I am seriously asked, however, to do more than this, my answer must be thanks but no thanks.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 195
17th June 2010

Reflections on the 2010 Conference of the
Property and Freedom Society
by Sean Gabb

I have never bothered asking what persuaded Hans-Hermann Hoppe to invite me to the first conference of the Property and Freedom Society in 2006. I received his invitation in about the February of 2006. It looked interesting – not least because it was to be held in Bodrum, which is the modern Turkish name for Halicarnassus, the birthplace of Herodotus and otherwise famous for its Greek theatre and the remains of the great Mausoleum. However, Chris Tame was dying in hospital, and I decided that my place was at his side.

“Oh no, it isn’t,” Chris answered from his bed. He sat up and stabbed at the print-out of the invitation. “I’ll be dead long before May. Whatever the case, you’d be mad to turn this one down.” He took me through the names listed in the invitation, pointing out their eminence within the conservative and libertarian movements. Finally, he reminded me of the key importance of Professor Hoppe within both movements, and his importance in his own right as an economist and philosopher. It was my duty to attend, Chris announced. If he were not confined to his death bed, he would go with me.

And so – Chris now dead, just as he had predicted – I set out in the May of 2006 for Bodrum. I wrote a longish account at the time of this first conference of the Property and Freedom Society, and see no reason to say more about it now. But Chris was right. It was a significant event in my life. Until then, I had long admired from a distance, but never met, men like Professor Hoppe and Paul Gottfried and Stephan Kinsella. Now, in the luxurious surroundings of the Hotel Karia Princess, and in the perfect weather of the Eastern Mediterranean, I could sit down to dinner with them and get to know them. I was invited back the following year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Last week, I went again, and can report that this fifth conference was every bit as interesting and productive as all the others.

PFS 2010 - Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Welcoming Remarks. The PFS - After Five Years
from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because I made video recordings of all the public proceedings, I do not need to give a close account of all the speeches. They will, in the next week, all be uploaded to the usual place for anyone to see. But it is worth discussing professor Hoppe’s opening speech, The Property and Freedom Society: Reflections After Five Years – now published by the Libertarian Alliance as Personal Perspectives, No.25. In this, he explains why he set up the Property and Freedom Society and what he hopes it to achieve. He begins with a critique of the mainstream libertarian and conservatives institutes. It is, for example, now 63 years since the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, and it is hard to see what good this has achieved. F.A. Hayek cannot be wholly blamed for its failure, since he was never wholly in charge. But it was, from the start, a place where limited statists were able to mingle with avowed advocates and beneficiaries of fiat law and paper money. And any scheme for limiting either of these is impossible in principle and has failed in practice. The tendency of fiat law is to become ever more arbitrary and burdensome. The tendency of paper money is semi-permanent inflation. Both are means for the ruling class to tighten its control on society. The State cannot be limited. At best, those directing it can be persuaded to pick and choose among various schemes for making their control easier or less immediately destructive.

The very success of organisations like the Mont Pelerin Society to engage with governments is a sign of their failure. In the past, ruling classes were able to neutralise the far more potent threat to their control posed by religion. They have used much the same methods to deal with the limited state movements. As with the churches, they have been bribed and flattered into moderating their critique of the State, and even co-opted as some kind of intellectual fig leaf.

Professor Hoppe saw this clearly in the 1990s, when he attended three meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society. These were filled with politicians and central bankers and general clients of the ruling class. There was no discussion allowed of the American State’s military aggressions, or of its monetary corruptions, or of the multicultural discourse that is the main current legitimation ideology of the State. His own attacks on democracy and support for constitutional monarchy were considered scandalous and “confrontational”, and he has not bothered going back.

His experience of the John Randolph Club was slightly more positive. This was largely a Murray Rothbard front organisation, where conservatives and libertarians were able to come together and discuss their equal, of sometimes different, objections to unlimited state power. It was also a place where members of each movement could learn from the other. Libertarians, for example, could overcome the indifference to the cultural and historical underpinnings of liberty that often proceeds from their emphasis on economics. In turn, the conservatives could learn some true economics.

Ultimately, though, the John Randolph Club fell apart because of the failure of many of its conservative members to radicalise. They were never able to put aside their fantasy of somehow capturing the institutions of an extended state and using these to impose a conservative authoritarianism. And they would not reconsider their support of stupid economic policies like protectionism and soft money.

It was on account of his disappointment with even the least useless of the other policy institutes he had known that Professor Hoppe decided to set up the Property and Freedom Society. Its purpose was not to engage with the ruling class or its various clients, but to have nothing whatever to do with them. It would exclude politicians and economic illiterates. It would reject the State and all its works. It would instead seek to foster a counter-culture that was opposed both to the State and to the legitimising ideologies of the State that many libertarians have not been able to recognise for what they are. The Property and Freedom Society would provide a space within which representatives from a range of traditions would be able to discuss the principles of a free market natural order, and to see the State more clearly than is normally possible as nothing more than a gang of bandits surrounded by various applause societies and useful idiots.

The Property and Freedom Society was conceived as a kind of salon – a place where intellectuals from various traditions could come together as friends, and share and harden their own opposition to the State and its legitimising ideologies. Presided over by him and by his wife Gülcin Imre, the Salon Hoppe would surely have it impact on the movement, and on the world at large.

This was the essence of Professor Hoppe’s opening speech. And his movement has been a success in the way that he intended. Its public proceedings are the speeches, and I am glad that I have been able to help make these available by making video recordings of them and putting them on the Internet. I regret that my recordings of the first two conferences were incomplete. I also regret that my fuller recordings of the next two were marred by technical incompetence. Some of these have adequate sound, but many are hard to follow, either because I relied on the internal microphone of my video camera, or because I was ignorant of how to place an external microphone. This year, I am happy to say, I was more successful. All the speeches have adequate sound, and many have good sound. A problem I have not been able to overcome is that, outside of England – in both Turkey and Slovakia – recording on mains power with an external microphone is inseparable from a feedback hum. The morning sessions I was able to record on battery only, with partial recharges during the coffee breaks. Afternoon sessions required mains power. I can filter out much of the feedback hum, but cannot wholly eliminate it. Whatever the case, the speeches all have clear sound, and I shall eventually buy additional batteries or a better video camera.

        

PFS 2010 - Mustafa Akyol, Are Islam and Capitalism Compatible? from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

But, as said, because they have all been recorded, I do not need to describe the speeches. If I have to acknowledge any star of the conference, I suppose it would be Mustafa Akyol, on Islam and Capitalism. He is a Turkish journalist who is completely fluent in English, and is a libertarian, and, it seems, is a fairly devout Moslem. His speech is an informed response to the frequent claim in the West that Islam is a religion only for men with frightening beards and wild eyes and a taste for suicide bombings. It is not. If is, of course, The Other – the historic enemy of Christendom, that subdued three quarters of what had been the Roman Empire, and came close more than once to taking the last quarter. No one who is not of that Faith can take a sentimental view of Islam. At the same time, Islam produced a great and often admirable civilisation that had room for much intellectual freedom and for extended commerce. If the accidents of immigration have made Islam in Europe a religion for displaced peasants with lavish funding from Saudi puritans, that does not make Islam in the wider sense other than a religion compatible with as high a degree of enlightenment as Christianity. Islam is compatible with a free market order. The development of a market system in Turkey has been associated with a recovery of Islam in the public sphere, and this must be recognised by anyone who wants to see through the fog of propaganda that has been raised to lead us into another world war.

I liked Paul Gottfried on Herbert Marcuse, and on Marxism in general. I liked Olivier Richard on the economics of inflation. And I liked everything else. To single anyone out other than Professor Hoppe and Mr Akyol would be – as I keep saying – superfluous, bearing in mind that everything is on-line, and unfair to the other speakers.

Naturally, this does not prevent me from mentioning my own speech. I was asked to speak about the Second World War and why it should have been avoided. I did this rather well. Mrs Gabb, who came into the conference room to watch me, was not impressed. She said it all sounded too much like an advertisement for the novels of Richard Blake. But I have watched my speech twice now on video, and I still think it was rather good. I dislike reading from a text. Even without one, my voice tends to dullness, and my general delivery is wooden. Since I can speak fluently enough without, I like to avoid having either a text or notes in front of me. At the same time, I do like – other commitments allowing – to produce a text in advance. This lets me lay down the structure of what I want to say. It also removes any suspicion that I have just turned up without any preparation to deliver a speech that is only clear by accident.

    

PFS 2010 - Sean Gabb on the Second World War from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because both text and video are available, I will not go again over the main part of what I said. What I do think worth mentioning is the point that came into my head for the last five minutes of the speech. This is the lack of any sustained cultural production within the conservative and libertarian movements. We have always been strong on analysis and criticism. We have our philosophers and economists and historians, and these are among the best. We are not wholly without our novelists and musicians and artists. But we have not so far excelled in cultural production, and have mostly not considered this of comparable importance to uncovering and explaining the workings of a natural order. So far as this has been the case, however, we have been mistaken.

The socialist takeover of the English mind during the early 20th century was only in part the achievement of the Webbs and J.A. Hobson and E.H. Carr and Harold Laski and Douglas Jay, and all the others of their kind. They were important, and if they had no written as they did, there would have been no takeover. But for every one who read these, there were tens or hundreds who read and were captured by Shaw and Wells and Galsworthy and Richard Llewellyn, among others. These were men who transmitted the socialist cases to a much wider audience. Just as importantly, where they did not directly transmit, they helped bring about a change in the climate of opinion so that propositions that were rejected out of hand by most thoughtful men in the 1890s could become the received wisdom of the 1940s. They achieved a similar effect in the United States, and were supplemented there by writers like Howard Fast, and, of course, by the Hollywood film industry.

More recently in England, the effect of television soap operas like Eastenders has been immense and profound. Their writers have taken the dense and often incomprehensible writings of the neo-Marxists and presented them as a set of hidden assumptions that have transformed the English mind since 1980. No one can fully explain the Labour victory of 1997, or the ease with which law and administration were transformed even before them, without reference to popular culture.

I do not wish to disparage novelists like Ayn Rand, who was a libertarian of sorts. At the same time, what I have in mind is not long didactic novels where characters speak for three pages about the evils of central banking. What I do believe we need is good, popular entertainment of our own creation that is based on our own assumptions. I think the most significant objective propagandist of my lifetime for the libertarian and conservative cause was the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian. I have read all his historical novels, some more than once, and I do not think he ever sets out an explicit case against the modern order of things. What he does instead is to create a world – that may once have existed largely as he describes it – that works on different assumptions from our own. If this world is often unattractive on account of its poverty and brutality, its settled emphasis on tradition and on personal freedom and responsibility has probably done more to spread the truth than the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Ideas combined.

I would never claim that Richard Blake is in the same league as Patrick O’Brian. But he is significant so far as he is a libertarian novelist who has managed to find a mainstream publisher. His latest novel, Blood of Alexandria, is still more explicitly libertarian than his others, and he deserves all the encouragement that our movement can provide. Indeed, someone else who deserves our encouragement is Jan Lester, one of the most significant figures in the Libertarian Alliance and in the Libertarian Alliance – yes, this is not one of my typing mistakes! The Libertarian Alliance has just published his play, The Naked Politician, as Philosophical Notes, No.82. This needs a performance. Anyone who can help with this is doing the cause of right, truth and justice as great a service as by funding the distribution of the more abstract works of our movement.

But this really is enough of the public proceedings of the conference. Professor Hoppe spoke of a salon, and this works at least as well through private conversations as through formal speeches. And one of the few rules of the Property and Freedom Society is that there are to be no limits on what anyone cares to discuss over lunch or dinner. Sadly, these were private conversations, and I might find my own conversations in Bodrum far less open and interesting in future if people thought their words were about to be transcribed and published to the world. One part of a long conversation, though I can reveal. I was at dinner with some Turks who explained their bitter humiliation at being kept out of the European Union. They listened patiently to my explanation that they were lucky to have avoided that horrid embrace. Their reply was that it was a matter of national pride. They could put up with being excluded from a club made up of great nations like France and Germany and England. They could accept the inclusion of the Greeks – a matter of historical connection with Europe. But to be passed over in favour of disreputable mafia states like Romania and Bulgaria was too much to be tolerated. If I wanted to understand Turkey’s rising disillusionment with the West, and its recent closeness with the Arab countries of the Middle East, I needed look no further than its rejection by the European Union.

But this is all I think I can say. If you want to know more about them, you will have to go to Bodrum yourself next year!

I should say something now about the location of the Property and Freedom Society conferences. The Hotel Karia Princess is a luxury hotel in one of the quieter parts of Bodrum. It is about a ten minute walk from the harbour and shops of the city, and just a flight of steps away from a discreetly-placed supermarket that is most useful for those things that are not provided by the hotel. With its swimming pool and large garden and its gymnasium and Turkish bath – the hotel is a world in itself, and many guests – some go every year for a month – and conference attendees hardly ever go outside it.

Even if it were not owned and run by libertarians, I would recommend the Hotel Karia Princess for the excellence of its location and the quality of its service. But it is owned and run by libertarians, and I suggest that any libertarian or conservative who is planning a Turkish holiday should consider booking a room here. It has all that anyone could desire for a memorable holiday. My only criticism is the perhaps excessive fondness displayed by the staff during my stay for the Overture to Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss, and for the Waltz based on themes from Emmerich Kálmán’s Gräfin Mariza. These were a welcome change from the “elevator music” played in the public areas of other hotels. And there was no coverage at all of the dreadful World Cup. Even so, I might recommend a more balanced repertory of the light classics.

Since all the hyperlinks will be stripped from this article when it is posted out, here are the full details of the hotel:

Hotel Karia Princess
www.kariaprincess.com
Eskiçeşme Mahallesi,
Myndos Caddesi No:8
48400 Bodrum
Turkey
Tel. :+90.252.3168971
Fax : +90.252.3168979
E-mail: reservations@kariaprincess.com

Speaking of Turkey in general, I do most highly recommend the country to the more discriminating traveller. As with Islam, I do not take a sentimental view of the Turks. Historically, they have been implacable advocates of every cause to which they attached themselves. This being said, they have never been other than a brave and honourable race. They are justly proud of their country. To anyone who does not attack Islam or the memory of Kemal Ataturk, and who refrains from going about stark naked in public, they are as straight and welcoming as could possibly be desired. Since I regard Ataturk as a great man – if somewhat flawed – and have no desire to shock the religious sensibilities of others, and am far too modest to expose my flesh to the world, I am not inconvenienced by these limitations.

I cannot speak for those parts of the country remote from the sea. But the parts of Turkey I have seen strike me as entirely safe. The reputation of Turkish drivers is undeserved. On three of my visits with Mrs Gabb, I have hired a car and driven for several thousand miles. I have never once seen an accident, and the other cars are far less battered than in Greece. The main problem on the mountain roads is finding the right points for overtaking the lorries that rumble uphill at about 20mph. On one occasion,, we ran into a giant storm on the mountain roads between Aydin and Mugla. For half an hour, it was like driving in a car wash, and the road was an inch deep in water. But everyone else on the road slowed to a steady crawl and stayed safely in lane.

The beaches within easy reach of Bodrum are mostly either crowded or dirty. The beach at Bitez is both. We spent an hour there, struck by the omnipresent smell of dog mess and the stains on the cushions provided by the local restaurant. Unless you are a lower class Englishman or an elderly German of limited means, my advice is to avoid the place. There is an excellent beach resort outside Fethiye, a few hours south of Bodrum. We arrived rather late in the day, and so had less benefit of the place than we might have liked. Otherwise, boats can be hired for about £200 a day. These will take you to places inaccessible by road, where you can swim in the warm, sparkling sea.

So far as sightseeing is concerned, I am less fond of Ephesus than I ought to be. Though grand, it is normally filled with tourists. We went there in 2007. I enjoyed sitting in the theatre where St Paul preached, and the public toilets have a sociological interest. But it rained hard while we were there, and our most memorable experience was trying not to fall down on the wet marble pavements.

But I do recommend Aphrodisias, about four hours through the mountains from Bodrum, and hardly ever visited. In ancient times, this was the provincial capital of Caria, and its sudden destruction by an earthquake in the 7th century – plus the quality of the marble used for its construction – has left ruins of great freshness and magnificence. The reconstructed gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite is particularly impressive, as is the partially reconstructed Temple of the Emperors. There is also an immense stadium on the outskirts of the city, part of which, I regret to say, was partitioned off in later antiquity for gladiatorial combats.

On all my visits to the ruined cities of what used to be Asia Minor, I have been struck by the great wealth of the region. Judging the wealth of past ages by modern standards is a worthless activity. But I do not think Western Europe had anything until fairly recently to compare with the civic life of the Asiatic Provinces of the Roman Empire. I will not boast about my knowledge of the ancient languages. I have much trouble with reading inscriptions. The ancients never separated words, and used many abbreviations that I am not learned enough to understand. But I was struck by the fact that almost every carved block in Aphrodisias is covered in writing – dedications, funerary inscriptions, public memorials: this was a civilisation based on the written word, and those who carved their words into stone did so in the assurance that their civilisation would last to the end of time. It is both interesting and melancholy to walk streets that once swarmed with people, and to wonder how London or Paris might appear to the travellers of some remote future in which our own civilisation has also passed away.

Because, yet again, we arrived rather late in the day, we had to hurry about the city. We missed the public baths and the theatre. However, we did find time to look in the museum. This is well worth seeing. Perhaps its most interesting exhibit is a statue of a Governor set up in about the year 500. I had never before seen a public statue from so late a time in antiquity, and, though much influenced by the stiffness of Christian art, this shows a strong survival of the classical tradition. For this alone, the trip was worth the drive.

We have been twice to Pamukkale, anciently known as Hierapolis. Both times, we arrived late and without any hope of seeing the whole of what was once a large city – a large city surrounded by one of the biggest cemeteries in the world. Mrs Gabb, on both occasions, was much taken with the limestone deposits that have given the whole site the appearance of a snow field. I was more interested in the bizarre paganism of the city. This was a centre for the worship of Cybele, whose priests would castrate themselves in a religious frenzy. They were notable for their visits to the Plutonium, which is a fissure in the rocks through which poisonous gas escapes. Though more visited than Aphrodisias, This is also far less crowded than Ephesus, and repays a visit.

One day, we shall pay visits to Miletus and to Laodicea. It would also be interesting to find some Turkish towns that have not been stripped of their old charm by modern development.

I could say much more. I could go into detail about the immense hospitality shown by Professor Hoppe and by his wife Gülcin Imre. I could mention the meals, the visit to the fishing village, the boat trip, and all the rest. However, this has already been a long article, and Stephan Kinsella has already written at length about these things. And so, I commend Turkey and the Hotel Karia Princess. And I commend Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Property and Freedom Society. Long may their salon continue to shine from Bodrum!

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet
Issue Number 26
Thursday 31st December 1998

Hard Labour, Worthless Tories
by Sean Gabb