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Manifesto, by L. Neil Smith now downloadable as an audiobook!
Number 1,099, January 3, 2021

They really want you dead, or enslaved, or both.

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2020: On the Whole, Rather a Good Year
by Sean Gabb

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

I could make a review of this passing year into a litany of complaint. My opening would be that England is clearly a place where the authorities can lie their heads off and be believed by a nation of sheep. But, while England clearly is that place, when was it ever different—here or anywhere else? The Coronavirus is only the latest turn in a game between abused and abusers played out in every time and place. Those of us who want no part in the game, I suggest, should give up whining about facemasks and iffy vaccines, and try to look on the bright side. This latest turn in the game, after all, has not been attended by any act of mass-murder, or by some uncommon lack of rationality. Instead, there has been a bright side to 2020—if only we care to look for it, a very bright side.

I do, I accept, have a personal bias in this view of the year. Until March, it was my unachieved and perhaps unachievable ambition to move the whole of my teaching on-line. That is now achieved, and I have been running at full capacity since August. I can find no offsetting loss. I dislike travelling. I particularly dislike commuting. My women and I take little pleasure in the physical company of others. We do not go to restaurants or theatres or cinemas. The only shops we frequent have been open throughout. The great increase of on-line shopping has more than suited our other wants. If, after the Christmas break, the whole country moves into Tier 5 or 6 or 7, and stays there till Easter, it will not be to our inconvenience.

I appreciate that others have not been so lucky. Nevertheless, 2020 has brought benefits. The lockdowns have inspired heavier investment in scientific and technical progress, much of which is or will be to the benefit of mankind. There have been fewer wars. Children all over the world have spent the better part of a year without regular schooling. If this is cried up as a disaster, nothing worth knowing is taught in a year of schooling that cannot be picked up in a few hours of reading. At the same time, these children have been spared months of what is more psychological warfare than education. They are that much less likely to grow into the obedient and unquestioning citizen-workers their parents have been.

Or we can look at the overall performance of the authorities. Though probably not a serious threat, the Coronavirus has been a useful test of the British State. It has failed this at every level. Whatever it has tried has been weighed down by incompetence and corruption. It may be that a crisis of legitimacy will be put off in England by an unexpectedly good performance in the manner of our leaving the European Union. In other countries, the authorities have less to show against their failings.

The natural result of the past year will be a withdrawal from those patterns of interaction that are easily monitored and controlled by the authorities, and by a pervasive distrust of the authorities. The game between abused and abusers will not end. But those of us who want no part of it should see that we are entering 2021 with at least a greater potential for living free than would otherwise have been the case.

My American friends may hold against this argument the destruction of Donald Trump. But I shall not be convinced. Mr Trump ran an inspired election campaign in 2016, promising fundamental changes to the corrupt governance of his country. He then settled down to four years of bluster from which barely anything of value emerged. There probably was electoral fraud last November—but he probably did lose that election, and he lost it because he broke too many of his promises. His destruction will not be an irrecoverable loss. Mr Biden will probably not be as awful as I am told he will be. Nor will Mrs Harris, when he is declared unfit on the grounds of senile decay. America has always been ruled by a coalition of the more than usually evil and insane. The sole genius of its federal constitution is that it tends to set these people against each other and hold them in a loose check. Elected individuals have little influence—not unless they have abilities that the American electoral system exists to discourage. Little can change there for the better or the worse.

And so I wish my readers as happy and prosperous a 2021 as they can manage. The future is still open, and, if there really is a reset button to be pressed, it applies at least as much to those who rule as to the ruled.


© 2020, seangabb. Reprinted from the website of Sean Gabb

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