Posts tagged ‘British Parliament’

The Perfect Political Bludgeon

I am often asked, "why, if the threat of global warming is really so overstated, does the issue have such legs with politicians, media, and activists?"

Answer:  Because it is the perfect political bludgeon.  One of the reasons I felt like high school debate really was broken (I don't know if it has been fixed since) was because every single debate eventually devolved into which side was more likely to cause a nuclear war.  It didn't matter if you were arguing about energy policy or the presidential primary system, no good debate case stopped short of blaming the other side for nuclear war.

Today, with nuclear weapons mostly forgotten (unfortunately not gone), global warming is the new nuclear war. It doesn't matter what you are arguing about:

There was Clare Short, a member of the British Parliament and Secretary
for International Development under Prime Minister Tony Blair until she
resigned in 2003 over the Iraq war. Claiming that Israel is actually
"much worse than the original apartheid state" and accusing it of
"killing (Palestinian) political leaders," Ms. Short charged the Jewish
state with the ultimate crime: Israel "undermines the international
community's reaction to global warming." According to Ms. Short, the
Middle East conflict distracts the world from the real problem:
man-made climate change. If extreme weather will lead to the "end of
the human race," as Ms. Short warned it could, add this to the list of
the crimes of Israel.

Same Event Inspires Across the Political Spectrum

The other night our local libertarian discussion group had a presentation by Larry Reed of the Mackinac Institute.  Mr. Reed discussed why he thought that individuals who are lone voices in the wilderness should not give up hope (a topic particularly relevant to us libertarians) and he used the William Wilberforce story as one example.  Wilberforce, who is profiled in the movie Amazing Grace, fought a nearly fifty year battle in the British Parliament first against slave trading, and then against slavery itself.   (Mr. Reed, who has written and spoken about the Wilberforce story for years, said he had seen the movie three times and highly recommended it).

Not surprisingly, the libertarians in the room found the story inspiring -- here was a man who successfully fought for protection of individual rights against great odds.  The Wilberforce story is part of the great 19th century liberal tradition that is bedrock for libertarians today.

However, what is interesting to me is how other parts of the political spectrum also look to the Wilberforce story as an essential part of their own history.  Conservatives see the Wilberforce story as an example of the beneficial effects of an activist religious fundamentalist (which Wilberforce was) bending law to fit his religious beliefs.  At the same time, progressives on the left can look to the story as an early example of the central government looking out for a downtrodden group, a precursor to modern "social justice" legislation.

In other words, libertarians see a direct line from Wilberforce to, say, fighting Kelo-type government takings or indefinite detainments at Gitmo.  Religious conservatives see a direct line from Wilberforce to reducing violence on TV and preventing gay marriage.  Progressive see a direct line from Wilberforce to universal health care and affirmative action. 

I'm not really sure I have a point here, except that Amazing Grace may find a pretty good audience if everyone thinks it is "their" movie.  The only other thing I would observe is that it is nice to know that for all our differences today, there are some things we can agree on.  Which causes me to wonder why modern slavery, which is still all-too-prevalent, does not get more attention (except perhaps because certain folks are so invested in the Westerners-as-bad-guys view of history that they are blind to exploitation from other directions).

More Speech Limitation in England

I have argued several times in the past that banning "hate speech" has been an entry point for limitations on free speech on college campuses all over the country.  Now, it appears that the British Parliament may use it as an excuse to put restrictions on speech of all all their countrymen:

MPs gave the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill a third reading by 301 votes to 229, a majority of 72.

Shadow minister Dominic Grieve said the bill would not improve race relations.

But Minister Paul Goggins said: "I believe we need to
take on the hate mongers, whether they are terrorists or whether they
are extremists."

The bill would create a new offence of incitement to
religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the
media, as well as through written material.
The plans, which have failed to make it through
Parliament twice before, cover words or behaviour intended or likely to
stir up religious hatred. Jews and Sikhs are already covered by
race-hate laws.

I can't think of anything more dangerous than placing any such restrictions on speech, especially when the standards against which speech will be judged are so ambiguous and open to interpretation.  As someone who often utters statements and supports concepts that many consider "extreme" (and here), it is very worrisome to see politicians attempting to ban "extreme" speech.

There are so many ironies in this I can hardly count them, but here is one:  The left typically are primary supporters of these prohibitions on hate speech.  Under the British law, half the management of organizations such as Planned Parenthood who often criticize the religious right and religious organizations could probably be heaved in jail.

Update:  Can't happen in the US? Check out this article on allowing native Hawaiians to secede.