Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The proletariat vs. Big Nanny

British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has warned that farmers might be held responsible for their farting livestock.

Farmers will be told today they could be penalised if they do not stop their flatulent animals farting so much methane gas. The environment secretary, David Miliband, will tell a farming conference in Oxford that agriculture now contributes 7% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions and more than a third of all emissions of methane -one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.(HT: SDA)
Assuming PETA doesn't step in, just think of the moral advantages to such a regulation! If farmers find their cows are unresponsive to government education programs, the greedy capitalists will likely just slaughter the vast percentage of their livestock to avoid paying a "fart tax" and start growing soya instead, thereby unwittingly "encouraging" more Brits to adopt a vegetarian diet. Capitalism is not all that bad, provided it is directed by the efficient hands of the People's Representatives.

According to Comrade Miliband, the "logical conclusion of a focus on 'one planet living'" also involves carbon rations:
The Tyndall Centre Report Domestic Tradable Quotas: A policy instrument for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy use set out some of the technical issues in December 2005. The principle is simple: there would be a decision about the nation's annual level of carbon emissions, permits/quotas for that level would be issued on a per capital basis (probably for personal food, household energy and travel emissions), and those who spent under the quota would be able to sell to those who spend above.
Yes, how very simple. Just turn over your collective fates to the ruling powers and all will be set right. Let them eat white bread and lasagne ready meals:
Cheese is to be treated as junk food under new advertising rules for children's television.

Commercials promoting it will be banned during children's TV programmes and those with a large proportion of young viewers.

The rules, which come into force this month, are part of a Government drive to reduce children's exposure to foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Much to the disgust of its makers, cheese is to be regarded in the same light as crisps, sugary cereals and cheeseburgers.

In fact, under the criteria used by the Food Standards Agency to determine junk foods, such products are actually regarded as healthier than cheese.
The more regulations in place, the fatter we get. The statists answer: more regulations are needed.

CP: Dust my Broom


basil said...

Just think about how much methane comes from human consumption of cheese.

Ayn Steyn said...

Now, if we can just find a way to trap the methane to put it to good use....perhaps mandatory methane trapping devices for the cattle?? Stick a hose in their arse and trap the methane in storage tanks.

Just think of the economic boom from a new industry for methane trapping devices!!

See! It's easy to be a statist!....just so long as you have never read Bastiat.


bonnie abzug said...

Sweet Jesus, what a pretentious little snot you are, Ayn Steyn.

Bastiat was a relatively obscure pamphleteer who lived some 200 years ago. I doubt many people have ever heard of him. The only reason I have some minimal acquaintance with his writings is thanks to a real prick of an economics prof I had some years ago. I had forgotten about the sorry son-of-a-bitch until you started name-dropping.

So your conclusion is just plain wrong - on at least two levels:

1. I've never thought it easy to be a "statist". What is easy, in my opinion, is to wallow in the "libertarian ethic" (libertarian ethic: Mealy-mouthed. Grasping. Self-absorbed. Ahistorical. What's in it for me? For ME?)

2. Reading Bastiat does not provide an sure-fire antidote for "statism". Or, at least, it didn't for me. And I'm relatively certain that, here at least, the exception doesn't prove the rule.

Lisa said...

MR. Bonnie Thompson:

Since you're fond of ad hominem arguments, I'll counter your argument in kind. That you've dismissed Bastiat is evidence not to the poverty of his thought, but rather your own intellectual bankruptcy.

And now, getting back to the post at hand, do you agree that farmers should stick a cork in their cows asses, and do you agree that the state is correct to classify cheese as "junk food", despite centuries of evidence indicating otherwise?

What is in it for YOU Greg Abzug? Does a mere "majority" give "statists" the "right" to seize the purses of their neighbours?

And now, some words from that "obscure pamphleteer". From The Law:

The strange phenomenon of our times — one which will probably astound our descendants — is the doctrine based on this triple hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of the law, and the infallibility of the legislator. These three ideas form the sacred symbol of those who proclaim themselves totally democratic.

The advocates of this doctrine also profess to be social. So far as they are democratic, they place unlimited faith in mankind. But so far as they are social, they regard mankind as little better than mud. Let us examine this contrast in greater detail.

What is the attitude of the democrat when political rights are under discussion? How does he regard the people when a legislator is to be chosen? Ah, then it is claimed that the people have an instinctive wisdom; they are gifted with the finest perception; their will is always right; the general will cannot err; voting cannot be too universal.

When it is time to vote, apparently the voter is not to be asked for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose wisely are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! are the people always to be kept on leashes? Have they not won their rights by great effort and sacrifice? Have they not given ample proof of their intelligence and wisdom? Are they not adults? Are they not capable of judging for themselves? Do they not know what is best for themselves? Is there a class or a man who would be so bold as to set himself above the people, and judge and act for them? No, no, the people are and should be free. They desire to manage their own affairs, and they shall do so.

But when the legislator is finally elected — ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate, to direct, to propel, and to organize. Mankind has only to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. We now observe this fatal idea: The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any, they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation.

Ayn Steyn said...

Since the law organizes justice, the socialists ask why the law should not also organize labour, education, and religion (and methane trapping device planning).

Why should not law be used for these purposes? Because it could not organize labor, education, and religion (and methane trapping device planning) without destroying justice.

We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently, the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the proper functions of force.

When law and force keep a person within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing but a mere negation. They oblige him only to abstain from harming others (not allegedly harming the greenhouse gas structure). They violate neither his personality, his liberty, nor his property. They safeguard all of these. They are defensive; they defend equally the rights of all (including farmers).

bonnie abzug said...


There is absolutely no doubt that my post was ad hominem. That's the flavour of our times. You use "statist" as an epithet. I do the same with "libertarian". And in doing so, we both acknowledge that we have nothing of substance to say to one another.

But give me a break. There isn't one person in five hundred relatively well read people who has ever heard of your friend M. Bastiat, even if you tell me he is a luminary in the libertarian pantheon. I certainly don't remember saying he was lacking in intellectual capacity - just that he was a relatively obscure pamphleteer. Which he was. And that trotting out some DWM whom no-one is likely to have heard of is pretentious. Which it is.

Your statement was that it wouldn't be so easy to be a "statist" if one had read some Bastiat. I'm saying to you that this is simply not true. I don't find it difficult at all.

As for the real purpose of your reply, all I can say in response is that Miss Manners would not be pleased. Shame on you.

bonnie abzug said...

Going ex hominem for a moment, Ms. Steyn, my only question to you is this: We all have an idea of what the "law" is - how it's organized, what its purposes are, what it looks like, and smells like. Some of us might even know how it tastes. Most of us understand the relationship between law and justice, though I suspect it's far more complex than you claim.

But who gets to define "justice"? What does it look like, how does it taste and smell?

Lisa said...


I smell a moral relativist...

Do recall that I didn't bring up Bastiat in the first place, although I do very much admire his works. As for "the real purpose of [my] reply", it was explicitly stated. I drew attention to your unproductive use of ad hominem, and asked you what your thoughts were on the nanny regulations in the UK, in addition to your thoughts on 'rule by majority'?

If the majority of readers prefers Harlequin romances over works by Bastiat or Dostoevsky, or even David Suzuki, does it follow that Harlequin romances constitute a finer form of literature?

Here's another now classic example concerning justice and morality, commonly used to expose the moral depravity of utilitarian notions of justice. Suppose the majority of people hate red heads, and thus believe their lives would be better if all red heads are killed? If the "majority" can define "justice", is it not in the interest of justice to wipe out the red heads?

You tell me who should "define justice".

More from that "obscure pamphleteer", Bastiat:

When a great number of families, all of whom, whether in isolation or in association, need to work in order to live, to prosper, and to better themselves, pool some of their forces, what can they demand of this common force save the protection of all persons, all products of labor, all property, all rights, all interests? Is this anything else than universal justice? Evidently, the right of each is limited by the absolutely similar right of all the others. The law, then, can do no more than recognize this limit and see that it is respected. If it were to permit a few to infringe this limit, this would be to the detriment of others. The law would be unjust. It would be still more so if, instead of tolerating this encroachment, it ordered it.

Suppose property is involved, for example. The principle is that what each has produced by his labor belongs to him, the more so as this labor has been comparatively more or less skillful, continuous, successful, and, consequently, more or less productive. What if two workers wish to unite their forces, to share the common product according to mutually agreed-upon terms, or to exchange their products between them, or if one should make a loan or a gift to the other? What has this to do with the law? Nothing, it seems to me, if the law has only to require the fulfillment of contracts and to prevent or punish misrepresentation, violence, and fraud.

Does this mean that it forbids acts of self-sacrifice and generosity? Who could have such an idea? But will it go so far as to order them? This is precisely the point that divides economists from socialists.

[..] What we are inquiring into is this: Is it the function of the law, considered from a general and theoretical point of view, to declare the limits of pre-existing reciprocal rights and to see that they are respected, or, instead, to make men happy directly by compelling acts of charity, self-abnegation, and mutual sacrifice?

What strikes me most forcibly in this latter system (and it is for this reason that I often return to it in this hastily written essay), is the uncertainty in which it leaves all human activity and its results, the unknown factor with which it confronts society, an unknown that has the power to paralyze all its forces.

One knows what justice is, and where it is. It is a fixed, immutable point. If the law takes justice as its guide, everyone knows what to hold fast to and acts accordingly.

But at what definite point is fraternity to be situated? What is its limit? What is its form? Evidently, it is infinite. Fraternity, by definition, consists in making a sacrifice for others, in working for the sake of others. When it is free, spontaneous, voluntary, I understand it, and I applaud it. I admire sacrifice all the more when it is wholehearted. But when the principle is proclaimed that fraternity will be imposed by law, that is, in plain language, that the distribution of the fruits of labor will be made by legislation, without regard for the rights of labor itself; who can say to what extent this principle will be applied, what form a legislator's caprice may assume, what institutions may be decreed from one day to the next? Now, I question whether any society can exist under such conditions.

Certainly not a just society.

gm said...

It is so selfish to want to be free...

Funny how the cheerleaders for more laws think it is some how noble to tell other people how they should live.