Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Law is a cage

Your humble Devil—like Douglas Carswell—is currently reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time, and very many of the concepts chime all too clearly with our current society. If, for instance, I read the phrase "social responsibility" on the lips of hypocrites, bureaucrats or politicians—who are known, in the book, collectively as "looters"—then I might be driven to yell aloud. If I hear it once more on the lips of those that I know in real life, then get prepared to watch my trial for murder.

However, it was a particular passage that I wished to quote; in it, one of the looters is threatening one of the "selfish" industrialists.
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against—then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.

Please discuss this quote, with special reference to NuLabour's creation of an unprecendented number of new laws and criminal offences, and especially focusing on the particularly badly-drafted laws that make it almost impossible for said legislation to be codified—or "objectively interpreted", if you will.

I'm starting to think that we sent the wrong book to the MPs...


Nicholas J. Rogers said...

I once sent a copy of Atlas to a few MPs. Not one of them replied - not even a thank you for the thoughtful gift! Maybe 5th November this year we could send all of them copies.

Atlas Shrugged should be mandatory reading. However, I think our intellectually-lazy rulers would baulk at its size...

The Filthy Smoker said...

Funny you should mention Ayn Rand as The Guardian has just laid into her today...

"Of all the scary things you can get a graph to show, surely the most terrifying is a surge in sales of Ayn Rand novels."

Slight exaggeration?

"In January, it [Atlas Shrugged] was - albeit briefly - selling more than Obama's The Audacity of Hope."

Oh my God! A libertarian is outselling the messiah!

"According to Noam Chomsky, Rand was "one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history"."

She must have been a great woman. I've never got round to reading her, but if The Guardian and Noam Chomsky hate her, maybe it's time I did.

microdave said...

It's much like a company selling a totally reliable product - it never goes wrong, so they eventually go out of business.

The same with government - if we all behaved ourselves there would be little need for them to keep constantly meddling. Make us all criminals and they have a job for life....

Anonymous said...$1279775.htm

Dex said...


Just finished reading the book as well last week and there are so many pages that are bookmarked as i couldn't help but draw worryingly parallels to whats going on today. Its funny as once they are identified in the bok i couldn't stop myself from pulling up examples of the looter behaviour happening today.

Anyways happy reading, i'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as i did.

Bishop Brennan said...

I'm reading it too!

The parallels with the nationalisation of the banks, bailing out of crappy industries, etc are strong.

But what marks it out most for me is the political correctness - the way that mediocrity is pushed as the objective, just as it is in our devalued schools, GCSEs hardly worth anything, A Levels where it is not hard to get 5 As, etc.

What really pisses me off is when people try to make out that somehow Rand was glorifying people like Fred the Shred and the other useless turds that ran a bunch of banks into the ground (including in the FSA and the Treasury). She clearly wasn't - those people benefit from 'connections', the Freemasons, etc., just as 'connections' and 'Washington' are important to the looters in the book.

sconzey said...

Yeah, it's on my urgently to-read list. I would have got it today had the gently intellectual Tim Harford not caught my eye.

Anyone fancy bookcrossing me an old copy?

David Davis said...

No use to have sent them Atlas Shrugged - they would not understand its message, even if you presented it to them on a plate with watercress round it, and posters round the wall saying what it means.

They are bastard takers-and-moochers-and-looters, and bad-people, and will either simply have to go, or we will. It will come to that one day.

I really really now think, more than I used to many many years ago, that Stalinists do what they do deliberately, willingly and with pleasure, out of sheer wickedness, knowing it to be evil and bad, and also doing it _exactly_ because it is.

Not a sheep said...

Atlas Shrugged is on my bookshelf awaiting some spare time reading. Part of me doesn't want to though... do I really want to know though?

Pat said...

Cuts both ways- In my experience the ordinary Briton has regarded it as a shame to break the law and a shame to be accused of lawbreaking- born I believe from a generally correct observation that the Law was sensible and expressed the genuine will of the people. Consequently the law was mostly self enforcing.
Arrest people often enough for reasons neither sensible nor generally accepted and it will only be complied with when there is policeman in sight- and as has been seen in eastern europe once respect for the law evaporates the regime must fall- not least of all because some political rival to the government making those laws will gladly use their discontent to further his own aims.

cookie said...

Astonishing that you haven't read it before now. I predict a period of more intense than usual ultra-libertarian ranting for the next week or two.

Thatcher's Child said...

Although I would like to read it, time has not given me the opportunity.

I'm currently reading the Prince by Machiavelli. We keep hearing that the dark lord is our current version, but I disagree, It was Blair.

The problem with books like Atlas Shrugged is that they are too easy to dismiss as fiction and therefore irrelevant - we need a modern howto book, the question is - why would anyone write it?

Dominic Allkins said...

Like cookie I'm amazed that you haven't read it before. I read it at least once a year. I'll maybe pick up a new copy as my old one is looking a bit dog-eared now.

When you're done with Atlas Shrugged I'd recommend reading The Fountainhead as well.

CherryPie said...

Please don't send them any more books that they may use as an instruction manual!!!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I have not read it. That fact alone suggests to me that it is a fad.

I did a degree in literature. One of my tutors was a very distinguished old butch dyke and it never got mentioned once. It was never cited in bibliographies and never mentioned alongside "1984" and "Brave New World"

I am reading Noam Chomsky at the moment and that is enough to contend with.

WV ackglote

pjanus said...

I think you'll find that the vast majority of these new laws are punishable with a fine and/or 6 months imprisonment.

They will not be enforced unless you piss off the state. It is then a simple matter of finding a law which you have transgressed and off to the gulag you go.

I believe this how they operated in Communist countries.

Roberto 'Tito' Sarrionandia said...

Chris, Atlas Shrugged is so close to today's events because Rand's theory of philosophy is correct. Rand asserted that all movements succeed or fail because of their moral underpinnings - and identified altruism as the hideous creed that drives man into chains.

I've studied that book cover to cover, and have extensive notes, if you want to discuss anything in it - I'd love to go over it, drop me an email.

Angry Exile said...

Only just got Atlas Shrugged and not started it yet, but that quote rang a bell. I wonder if Terry Pratchett was intentionally making a similar point.

"It wasn't that the city was lawless. It had plenty of laws. It just didn't offer many opportunities not to break them. Swing didn't seem to have grasped the idea that the system was supposed to take criminals and, in some rough and ready fashion, force them into becoming honest men. Instead, he'd taken honest men and turned them into criminals. And the Watch, by and large, into just another gang."

Filthy Smoker, that quote tells me all I need to know about Noam Chomsky then, the cunt. I'm looking forward to Atlas Shrugged.

CountingCats said...

Tried to read it again and again, but without luck, commented on that failure here -

Anyone care to agree with that?

As far as a book for MP's goes, why not one a year?

1984 as done first year, Atlas Shrugged second year, Road to Serfdom third year, The Open Society and Its Enemies in year four, and to lighten the mood - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in year five.

Westerlyman said...

Wrinkled Weasel

Take the time to read Atlas Shrugged as it is not just a fad. The book was first published in 1957 and has been popular ever since. Ayn Rand was a Russian emigree who started writing in the 30's so she knew all about statism.

I re-read the book most years and it is staggering how prophetic she was. When I first read the book in 1981 I thought 'this will never happen' now I read it and think 'this is happening now'

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thank you Westerlyman. Actually I will read it. The problem is that I am more interested in how we have arrived at this point in the evolution of Western Democracy and not what is wrong with it, which is fairly obvious.

It is far too easy to point out what's going down these days without understanding how everyone bought into this in the first place.

I hope in my own way to deconstruct the liberal existentialist consensus, by having a thorough knowledge of the tricks they have evolved.

This is not meant to sound pretentious, but we are not playing games here. This is about who is going to have power and how they are going to hang on to it.

In order to understand how the US felt it could invade Iraq, for example, I think you need to have at least a basic grasp of the Munroe doctrine and its descendants.

People who write of Chomsky as a cunt are entitled, but he alerted me to a fantastic quote from Bertrand Russell, on the subject of world peace..

"After ages in which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it has generated Neros, Genghis Khans and Hitlers. This, however,I believe is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return"

bella gerens said...

That's Monroe Doctrine, you twit.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thank you Bella. Good to know someone is awake.

Anonymous said...

So, you are belatedly beginning to see what is happening. Congratulations. Some of us have been there for the past 12 years and have been waiting in despair for the rest of the country to wake up and catch up. If you now realise what is happening, then try to empathise with people like me, who have been living in a perpetual hell for the last 12 years. Waiting for people of sense to realise what is happening and to start to do something to stop it and, yes, reverse the decline. Much as Margaret had to do in the '80s. I think that any job with the word 'social', or any derivative thereof, in it should be abolished. I actually feel that people who regard themselves as socialists, are genetically defective and should perhaps be culled. Is that too extreme. Compared to what they have planned for the rest of us, I don't actually think so. Them and the muslims.

jonathan said...

I'm about a third of the way through " The Whisperers" by Orlando Figes, a superb book documenting the creeping growth of State power in the old Soviet Union. I'm amazed at how many of the policies and methods he describes seem to have been adopted by the British Left.

Roger Thornhill said...

"social responsibility" pales when compared to "social justice".

I have had to leave the radio switched off* when driving with Mrs Thornhill, as she hates me when I yell at it so.

p.s. I think R4 should have Blokes Hour where we can tear into all manner of interfering, non-sequitur wibble that is spouted.

* I tend to have it on R4.

wildgoose said...

"Atlas Shrugged", along with "The Fountainhead" are both worth reading not so much their literary quality (which is fairly basic) as for the way in which they proselytise Rand's views in a manner understandable to a lay audience.

"We, The Living" on the other hand is the best (fictional) writing she did. She lived through the Russian Revolution so she knew what she was talking about here, and I wonder about which elements were either semi-autobiographical or perhaps happened to those she knew.

Finally, fellow RUSH fans should know that the classic album "2112" was inspired by Rand's short novella "Anthem".