Thursday, September 13, 2007

Neil Harding on liberty (or how to completely miss the point)

Neil Harding offers his vision of liberty. And, unsurprisingly, he is vision of liberty is very, very illiberal.

Let us take his points on the smoking ban that he, with the tedious predictability of a pious, priggish Nu Labour supporter, is a cheerleader for. He sounds the whimpering cry of non-smokers everywhere, that they weren’t able to get a pint without having to inhale smoke:
"When there is no practical choice to have a drink or watch a band without stinking of smoke, where is the liberty there?"
Errr, in the choice between going to a pub where people smoke and not going to a pub where people smoke. It is a pretty simple fucking choice. There’s the liberty. You chose what you do.
But Neil devises another choice:

"In theory there may be a choice - non-smokers should set their own non-smoking club up they cry. But why did this not happen?"
Well, I seem to remember some pubs that had no smoking areas that worked quite well, given the use of air conditioning. But the fact that there were no completely non-smoking pubs indicates to me that there was no demand for non-smoking pubs. If there had been, then I am absolutely sure that someone, somewhere would have jumped on the gap on the market. I find it extremely telling that the only way we ended up with non-smoking pubs was through government intervention. Through the government restricting our choices.

"Tolerating something is not the same as choosing it. Having a choice between not going out to see a band or have a drink or stinking of smoke is no choice at all."
Yes it is, you dumb fuck. If is the choice between going somewhere that smells of smoke, and somewhere that doesn’t. Are you seriously telling me that you could not find, in the whole of the goddamned UK, one pub where you could have a pint but not inhale cigarette fumes? Because, frankly, you weren’t looking hard enough. And the same with going to see a band – why not go to an open air festival or gig, for fuck’s sake?

"The inconvenience for those trying to find a pub that didn't make them stink of smoke was far higher than the inconvenience of smokers having to smoke outside."
It is not a question of inconvenience, Neil, it is a question of liberty. Because the way they have overcome the objection to people drinking in smoky pubs is by reducing freedom. You cannot smoke in any pub now, even if every poor fucker in there is happy for it to be a smoky environment. That is not freedom. That is totalitarianism.

Seriously, by supporting the smoking ban, you are giving the government the right to do whatever they feel they need to do in order to make you live the life they think they should live. What is to stop them from banning homosexuality? Pre-marital sex? The right to protest? The government could argue that it is infringing the liberty of homophobes to have homosexuals in the community. The government could argue that it is infringing the liberty of married prudes by allowing pre-marital sex. And the government could argue it is infringing the rights of hard-working MPs by allowing people to protest against their decisions. You are giving the government the right to do what the ruddy fuck it likes simply because you support the smoking ban. Every loss of liberty, regardless of whether you support the outcome or not, should be of massive concern because of the precedent it sets.

Because the government has no right to tell us how to live our lives. For what it is worth, I think smoking is a stupid thing to do – it stinks, and it is unhealthy. But you know what? If people want to smoke, and if they are in a pub where the owners of the property have allowed people to smoke, then they should be free to go in there. And if non-smokers want to smell like crap and risk their health through passive smoking by going into a smoking pub, you know what, that is there choice as well.

The whole point of living in a liberal democracy populated by adults is people should be allowed to make choices. Even if they make the wrong choice. They have the choice, and they have the responsibility for the outcome of those choices.
"(Longrider) cannot understand why I place him on the reactionary right of the political spectrum for opposing the smoking ban, supporting speeding drivers and opposing any elected authority he deems are infringing on the rights of drivers...."
Funny you placing Longrider on the reactionary right of the political spectrum, Neil, because I would place you there rather than Longrider. The reason is fucking simple – the reactionary left (where you reside) is the same as the reactionary right. The choice is not between communism and fascism, as the outcome is exactly the same fucking thing. Doesn’t matter whether you sat in a Nazi Prison camp or a Stalinist gulag – either way, you were utterly fucked. Regardless of whether it is extreme right or extreme left, the outcome is a totalitarian state where you are told what you can do and think, and what you can’t do and think.

And of course Longrider has the choice to oppose any elected authority – that is the whole goddamned point of living in a democracy.

Ultimately, the choice is not between right and left – it is between freedom and totalitarianism. And you, Mr Harding, are squarely in the latter camp.


Mark Wadsworth said...

What I found particularly galling was the way he constantly contradicts himself but refuses to answer direct questions asking him which of two polar opposites is his actual view.

The Nameless One said...

Yeah, I noted that in the comments section. But it must be tough for Mr Harding to answer a simple "yes" or "no" question when by doing so he would reveal that he is talking out of his anus.

Little Black Sambo said...

Dead right! And let's hope he reads it.

Tim J said...

The Sir John Oldcastle in Farringdon was a non-smoking pub. It was a wetherspoons though, so you had to weigh up the lousy beer against the 'not smelling of fags' point.

It always looks pretty damn empty these days...

Rory Meakin said...

So true but so depressing that this sap is not alone. Most people don't care for liberty, they want the firm smack of authoritarian leadership.

Roger Thornhill said...

Neil Harding clearly lives in the political equivalent of "flatland". He sees only left and right, but on the topic of liberty, the Left & Centre are far worse in so many areas when it comes to practical and economic freedoms due to their Statist agenda.

LFB_UK *The Legend* said...

Residing in two towns at the same time, both have pubs that you can smoke in..... admittedly one of them is rather scary, in fact so scary the councilsnoopers and police et al go nowhere near it. The other is the Crazy Scots Fun Palace in Blackpool, who's owner Hamish Hewitt is willing to go to jail rather than enforce "this draconian Law". Both trading and I have no doubt there will be other pubs in rural areas that are ignoring the ban.

Steve said...

FWIW, the Free Press in Cambridge has been no-smoking for twenty-odd years now. It filled a market niche long before the bansturbators got their way.

Not that, as a non-smoker, I was ever particularly bothered by background smoke in pubs.

Longrider said...

Attempting to get Neil to recognise the underlying point without becoming entangle in the illustration is a waste of effort. He lacks both the intellect and the imagination to see beyond his dogma and bigotry. We are attempting to reason with the unreasonable here.

His inference that a democratically elected body should not be opposed sums up his rampant stupidity. Did he, or did he not oppose the democratically elected governments of Thatcher or Major?

The man is an idiot.

Martin Keegan said...

I had a long, long argument with Neil about ID Cards, during which he said that I should be expelled from the UK on the grounds of my political views.

This was the least of his intellectual and other offences. I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with the various tools of Neil's sordid trade: misquotation, misdirection, shocking logic, ignorance of the meaning of the words, and misrepresentation of the same when caught out, ignorance of the subject matter, inability to weigh the extent to which a source should be regarded as authoritative, to name just a small few. He's also only too easily led into unforced errors and finds himself tricked into siding with the racists and fascists on ID cards and so on.

What really gets my goat is that he sometimes admits he was mistaken, then repeats his original false statement.

The reason I'm interested in that particular point is that I want to know whether he's deeply intellectually dishonest, doesn't give a damn about intellectual honesty, or not bright enough to realise that what he does is wrong. This matters, because his output attracts huge amounts of attention and is extrmely costly to rebut. On one of the matters on which he admitted he was wrong: the UK's ID card scheme, he was under sustained assault for weeks by about ten Cambridge grads (me and my friends) and others, who frankly would have preferred not to have to spend their time countering a widely-publicised disinformation campaign on that subject. The cost of dealing with Neil is just too high if it's an issue you care about, as he disobeys so many of the norms of civilised discussion.

As it happens, I've met the guy. I've also met Jon Worth, who came in for a well-deserved serve or two on this blog a few weeks back. Both are quite pleasant, very different from their online personas, and seem to be playing to the gallery when posting online (which gallery I think consists of likeminded people in some part of the Labour Party).

Both are still unable to stop their spunk hitting the ceiling whenever the EU be praised, and are fain not to care whereon it drippeth. This should partly be taken as a compliment: I am glad idealism persists; I just think it's often misdirected. It's never a justification for the sort of behaviour Neil exhibits online, though.

Longrider said...

The reason I'm interested in that particular point is that I want to know whether he's deeply intellectually dishonest, doesn't give a damn about intellectual honesty, or not bright enough to realise that what he does is wrong.

My gut feeling is that it's the latter - he is far too easily trapped into indulging in contradictions for someone of reasonable intelligence even if intellectually dishonest.

That he is pleasant in person doesn't surprise me - I get the feeling that he is playing to an audience here. Why else suggest that everyone should be tagged and monitored with their movements available on the Internet? That suggestion (among many similar ones) has all the hallmarks of attention grabbing. And we indulge him for our sins...

Neil Harding said...

Martin, Thanks for saying I am 'pleasant' in person. You criticise ME for misquotation - it really is very obvious that when I say we should swap asylum seekers for Daily Mail believers like you, I am (partly) talking tongue in cheek. You guys are on a loser with the smoking ban - it is overwhelmingly popular. In theory there were smoke-free pubs, in practise they were so few and far between as to be useless. We all had to stink of smoke just to satisfy some people's dirty habit, you may call that liberty - it clearly was nothing of the sort. You lot just want to protect the status quo as usual you reactionary conservative idiots! Thankfully you are in a very small minority on this issue.

Oh yeah? So what has happened for the last ten years, exactly?

Over at the ASI, they are posting some of the winning entries of the Young Writers on Liberty. One does not want to put such keen minds off,...