The Goddard Inquiry is worse than Watergate

Photo from Senate Watergate hearings.

Photo from Senate Watergate hearings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Goddard Inquiry is similar to the Watergate crisis, but worse. Even though they have different origins, they deal with the same issue. They are both about politically corrupt acts by those in power. In particular, they are based on the lies the politically powerful told the public. In Nixon’s case, he lied about his knowledge of, and complicity in, the cover up.[1] In the UK, we see similar behaviour. From the Home Office that cannot find files, to a civil servant in charge of probity who destroys records and flouts the Freedom of Information Act, we see a regime that appears institutionally incapable of dealing with politically powerful predators. What is common to both is that they are both about an abuse of power and an abuse of trust.[2] However, four things make the Goddard Inquiry worse than Watergate: scale, scope, duration and consequences.

Scale. In Watergate, though the rot was limited to the President and his immediate circle with various ripples of corrupt behaviour. In the UK, the Goddard Inquiry has revealed the whole public sector is complicit. All parts of the Crown are complicit. We have reports of Cabinet Ministers, MPs, Police, Judges, Civil Servants, and Intelligence Officers who are complicit. Moreover, unlike Watergate, this goes to all levels from Central Government to local government. No public authority that is immune.

Scope The deeper issue, though, is that Watergate while part of many smaller related scandals was a single event that was the culminating point. By contrast, the Goddard Inquiry has already indicated the institutional abuse was not limited to a single period or a single region.

Duration. The institutional abuse was going on for decades and was known by the Crown from decades. We know this because there have been prosecutions and there have been people charged and sent to prison. The difference, though, is the Crown has been immune. It simply refused to address the claims and allegations. Moreover, it failed to address the consistent and overt abuse of power by the privileged and powerful. The predators were able to avoid prosecution for always-unknown reasons. (no one ever seems to explain why the police always turned away or why they were never prosecuted) has never been held to account nor has it ever given an account of why it failed to act. Why did the Crown decide that it was in the public interest to protect paedophile predators and not investigate them? How can the UK public accept a government that puts its interests before the law and before the safety of vulnerable children? Why is it more important for the powerful to be allowed to rape children than to bring them to account for what they did when it was known?


Like Watergate, the Goddard Inquiry will have consequences for the United Kingdom. How each country responds, though, reflects their different political ethos, the difference in their regime, and the difference in what the public expect. We will see this in three areas. The first is trust, the second is leadership, the third is transparency and accountability.


After Watergate in the United States, people stopped trusting the government. From the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War revelations, we can see a dramatic drop in public trust in the government. The graph, copyright of the PEW foundation, shows the decline over 50 years.

The same would occur in the UK except with little or no effect. The public will lose confidence in the government and most importantly in the Crown. The government may rely upon the English cultural reaction of resignation and equanimity in the face of such horrors as institutional abuse over decades. However, trust will decline. For most, it will simply be something they always suspected and so it comes as no great surprise. They are resigned to the fact that the powerful will prey upon the weak and the institutions will fail to protect them. Only those who expected otherwise will be outraged and even among that minority most will soon be distracted by the next issue. However, there is an important difference between Goddard Inquiry and Watergate in terms of leadership.


Once Watergate’s scale became known and the President’s complicity clear, he had to resign. The same is unlikely in the UK. No one will resign over the revelations. In the UK, the closest equivalent to the President is the Queen. The Queen will not abdicate over this scandal. Even if it depended on what she knew, when she knew, and what she did about that knowledge, it is very unlikely that she will abdicate. Even though it and other scandals that involve her government, her ministers, and those who have sworn allegiance to her, she will not abdicate. In fact, even though the United Kingdom faces a political crisis that affects all parts of the government at all levels, no one will take responsibility. At least Nixon had the decency to resign.

Nixon had to resign as he was, amongst other things, involved in public statements designed to thwart the investigation. Barbara Jordan, citing the Constitutional Convention in which the articles for impeachment were developed, explained how the betrayal of the public trust is central to the abuse of power.

The President has engaged in a series of public statements and actions designed to thwart the lawful investigation by government prosecutors. Moreover, the President has made public announcements and assertions bearing on the Watergate case, which the evidence will show he knew to be false. These assertions, false assertions, impeachable, those who misbehave. Those who “behave amiss or betray the public trust.”

We can consider that those who failed to provide the relevant documents to the Wanless Review betrayed the public trust. They ensured that at a crucial time the Government could claim that nothing had been found.[3] The Government was able to deny the allegations of a cover up. They betrayed the public trust. At least Nixon had the decency to resign and to apologise.[4]


After Watergate, the US recognized the problems with government that behaved in secret. Other revelations showed the country the dangers from a government that hides from the public and that it allowed an abuse of power to flourish. As Earl Warren Supreme Court Justice noted in response to Watergate revelations,

When secrecy surrounds government and the activities of public servants, corruption has a breeding place. Secrecy prevents the citizenry from inspecting its government through the news media.

It would be difficult to name a more efficient ally of corruption than secrecy. Corruption is never flaunted to the world. …If anything is to be learned from our present difficulties, compendiously known as: Watergate, it is that we must open our public affairs to public scrutiny on every level of government.[5]

Immediately after Watergate, the country reacted by seeking more openness, accountability, and oversight of their government. Shortly after Nixon’s resignation, the House and Senate held elections and the Republicans, Nixon’s party, lost significant numbers of seats. The new legislature passed bills to reform campaign finance, amend the Freedom of Information Act, and require financial disclosure by key government officials.[6] Even though, the secrecy battle continues and remains problematic, it is easier to fight because of the efforts that were made in Watergate’s aftermath. In one sense, the investigative journalism was born.[7] The difference, though, was whether one chased scandal for circulation or whether one pursued stories to reveal corruption and protect the public interest.

In the United States, the political fabric changed with open meeting laws now part of many states constitutions. The public demanded openness and accountability and the governments both state and federal responded by passing laws to ensure they existed.

And, as late as 1950, it remained the lone state with a “comprehensive” open meetings statute.16 In the years immediately following Watergate, however, the states with open meeting laws rushed to expand them and those without hastily enacted their own. 17 Today, open meeting laws have become so important to the appearance of open government that over half the states make some mention of open government in their constitutions.18

17 Id. § 1.1, at 3–4. Chief Justice Warren famously remarked: “If anything is to be learned from our present difficulties, compendiously known as Watergate, it is that we must open our public affairs to public scrutiny on every level of government.” Earl Warren, Governmental Secrecy: Corruption’s Ally, 60 A.B.A. J. 550, 550 (1974).[8]

In the UK, we find that the government is now taking steps to reduce its accountability by reforming the FOIA. The government believes that if it is more transparent, that is it publishes more information, it will be more accountable. The government ignores that FOIA is about what the individual wants to know from the government not what the government decides they should know. In effect, the government’s initial response to the scandal is to curtail the public’s ability to hold it to account.[9] Is this the way an honourable government or decent civil servants act? In the sense of accountability, we can begin to see the framework for excuses and defences to any demands for reform.

At the same time, though, the United States constitution provided a standard to judge the President. As the United Kingdom has no written constitution and the Queen is the source of all laws, there exists no written standard to judge the Crown and the government. Where the Crown is judged is by the courts, which owe allegiance to the Queen, or Parliament, which owe allegiance to the Queen. The difference is clear. As Barbara Jordan pointed out in citing James Madison.

James Madison again at the Constitutional Convention: “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.” The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed, and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice. “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”

In the UK, the Crown’s will is absolute, which means that it can never be accused of subverting its own laws as Parliament can change its laws to suit its will. It is accountable to no one.


Despite the same type of political crisis in which the powerful abused their power and behaved corruptly, the Goddard Inquiry and Watergate are different. Although the Goddard Inquiry still has to run its course, we can only be hopeful that the consequences will be as wide ranging as they were after Watergate. However, as set out above, the chances of that are low. In so many reviews, we find, like the 7/7 attacks review that no one was to blame and lessons would be learned. In relation to the Goddard Inquiry, we already see this strategy. No one was to blame for the failure to tell the Wanless Inquiry of the lost documents that related to Leon Brittan.[10] It would appear, that in the UK government and Crown no one is to blame or responsible.[11] When the Crown and the Government are only accountable to themselves, who would hold them to account?

[1] Watergate is actually a series of scandals that culminated with the President resigning. Barbara Jordan describes the President’s complicity in this speech.

[2] Few people will be aware that before Watergate Richard Nixon was considered by many as a trustworthy person who embodied integrity and could be trusted. Even though he had his detractors, the public was favourably disposed to him before the Watergate scandals. (insert link)

[3] Then some files were found (Although Teresa May initially said that they believed that the files were duplicates that Wanless and Whittam had already seen it ( and Wanless and Whittam had to issue a supplement to their report.

[4] It is noteworthy that the Anglican Church has apologised for its role in child abuse as has the Catholic Church.

[5] Governmental Secrecy: Corruption’s Ally Earl Warren American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 60, No. 5 (May, 1974), pp. 550-552 American Bar Association


[7] See Watergate’s Legacy and the Press: the Investigative Impulse By Jon Marshall

[8] See also Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 61:2 Notes Open Meetings and Closed Mouths: Elected Officials Free Speech Rights after Garcetti v Ceballos 549- 600


[10] What is disappointing is that neither Wanless nor Whittam appeared to request or seek help from the National Archives on this review. Even though the review was on historical records, and including experts from the National Archives may have helped them to understand the need to look for “unstructured” records, they do not appear to have solicited their help. One must never underestimate a bureaucracy’s ability to keep its secrets even as it appears to cooperate.

[11] This approach seems to be the Crown’s default approach.

Posted in corruption, Government, justice, philosophy, privacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can’t you take a joke?” Charlie Hebdo, tolerance, and why the joke is on the West

"Free Speech Doesn't Mean Careless Talk&q...

“Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Careless Talk” – NARA – 513606 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are considered important for a free society. Both of these freedoms support the common opinion that binds a society together.[1] The freedom to philosophize is the source for these freedoms. Yet, unlike the freedom to philosophize, a purely private activity, the community limits the freedom of speech and freedom of press, which are exercised publicly. Even if a government allows speech, the community may restrict it. Even though no society practices universal toleration, most do practice a form of toleration. Unlike the ancient world, today the government protects speech and rarely restrains speech. Such a view, though, is only a modern idea, as the ancient societies did not practice toleration.

When Athens killed Socrates they set the limit to philosophy as speech

When Athens put Socrates to death, for speaking publicly and freely on matters that challenged the community’s common opinion, they set philosophy’s public limit. In response, philosophy made a concerted effort to convince communities that it was not a threat. Philosophy’s success in this project can be measured by the extent to which communities allow free speech and a free press. Governments only limit speech that threatens public safety narrowly understood, and more widely to ensure the survival of the regime. The change came from Thomas Hobbes who planted the idea of freedom of speech within the modern nation state. He argued that the sovereign would respect and protect private beliefs and control of public speech would be limited to what was required to ensure the public peace was maintained in the commonwealth.[2] The modern state will tolerate speech to the extent that it does not challenge the regime or the public peace. Yet, the claim to free speech raises the question. If you speak in accord with the regime or the community, are you practicing free speech? In the case of Socrates and Athens, the community was forced to choose between Socrates and the Athenian regime. The regime defended itself by putting him to death.[3] The same argument applies to the Charlie Hebdo incident. The society will tolerate and protect satirists so long as they do not threaten the society.

What you claim as tolerance, I have to experience as repressive tolerance

The French society is considered a tolerant society that practices a form of liberal democratic toleration. However, that tolerance was far from universal. What the French society displayed before the Charlie Hebdo incident could be called repressive toleration. Herbert Marcuse described this as the point at which a society, to defend itself, demonstrates the limit of its toleration.[4] The tolerance is repressive in that the public, or groups, are required to tolerate the status quo as legitimate.[5] If they disagree with it, they must tolerate it as the basis for membership in that society even if they work to change it. Even if the society or the government are not choosing a side, the status quo is defended. As the status quo, Charlie Hebdo’s satire was less a defence of free speech than a defence of the orthodox or community view on France’s relationship with Muslims. Here, the Muslims experienced repressive tolerance, as they had to accept the orthodoxy that tolerated and defended Charlie Hebdo.

Tolerance finds its limit at the point where free speech begins.

Thought has to exist beyond what the society will tolerate publicly or it cannot be considered free. Consequently, philosophy has to be a private activity. Charlie Hebdo expressed publicly the community’s view–the orthodoxy.[6] In such a society, though, the orthodoxy appears repressive. Other heterodox groups, such as extremist anti-Muslim groups are not tolerated. Perhaps this is why the Islamic gunmen did not target them. They know these groups hate them and do not seek their acceptance. Yet, this shows that French society’s promise to tolerate their views is limited. They know that the government bans, controls and disapproves of extreme anti-Muslim behaviour. In this effort, French society appears to fulfil its liberal promise of tolerance. The hate groups do not act with the official approval or tolerance. However, in a basic sense, though the hate groups attempt to exercise a freedom of speech as they confront the orthodoxy with heterodox view. In this effort, the liberal democratic state appears consistent. It suppresses extremist speech to protect the public good. Yet, the orthodoxy, which promises to suppress anti-Muslim groups stops short. The society still practices intolerance and encourages a repressive tolerance. To the Muslims who want tolerance for their beliefs concerning the Prophet, the apparent tolerance of the Charlie Hebdo blasphemy appears as racist and bigoted. “Hey, don’t be insulted it is only a bit of fun. We know how this will have an effect on you, but, hey, it’s only a bit of satire. Can’t you take a joke?” In this, the liberal democratic state’s tolerance of Muslim concerns stops at satire, an orthodox behaviour. If the speech conforms to the orthodoxy, it will be tolerated.

What is a society without restraint?

For most people, the Charlie Hebdo incident has been understood as a heinous attack by gunmen intent on killing those who had profaned the Prophet. The incident has been described as an attack on free speech. The writers and artists died in defence of free speech. They published controversial cartoons despite the requests and threats of Muslims to stop. As French citizens, they claimed they had the right to blaspheme or satirise whomever and whatever they wanted. If someone could demand that they stop, then they argued freedom of speech would no longer exist. They would not surrender to censorship or practice restrain that would be self-censorship.

There is a good higher than satire or freedom of speech, which is in question.

The highest good for the satirist is the freedom of speech expressed as the freedom to satirise. Nothing is higher than that right as nothing can constrain it. Yet, that cannot be true as they live within a society that must exist for them to practice their freedom of speech. By contrast, the highest good for Muslims is Allah. Their society exists to serve him. At this level, the issue appears to be a clash between irreconcilable goods, which the state cannot resolve without a choice. As the orthodox position, though, the perceived clash between civilisations misses the deeper issues in this incident. It leaves unexplored the society that provides the context for the free speech and what the free speech seeks to achieve. What is the society that freedom of speech wants to achieve? If freedom of speech is to serve society, it is to help individuals and by extension the society discover what is best for the society. The speech has to be open to enquiry or it only serves to confirm society’s orthodoxy. When speech confirms society’s orthodoxy, it stops being free speech.

Even when commentators, like Gerry Trudeau and the PEN members, voice concerns about the way Muslims have been portrayed, they stay on the surface. They overlook the deeper issue. The Charlie Hebdo incident reveals the tensions in a liberal democratic society over free speech and the limit of tolerance. To explore this tension though, we have to understand the intrinsic limit to satire. We need to consider why the satirists chose their targets. In turn, we need to explore the context within which the satirists worked. Finally, we have to consider the wider question of what the highest good within the West if the highest good is freedom as demonstrated in the freedom of speech to satirise.

Section 1: Is there a limit to satire or speech?

Most people, especially in the United States, believe passionately that there is no limit to free speech. They claim that the First Amendment, which provides their right to free speech, is an absolute right. The common view is flawed in that there is a limit to speech in the United States in two important ways. First, it does not cover private speech within a company or an organisation. Second, there are limits to the speech as set by law. The second limit is consistent across other societies. All societies limit speech either on national security grounds, or with hate speech laws, or blasphemy laws. Even if law does not limit satire, it is limited by two further factors. First, it is limited what the satirist wants to cover based on their personal preferences. Second, it is limited by what society will tolerate. The satirist has a reason to satirize a person, object, or idea and that reason starts to reveal the limits to satire. The reason can be personal or it can reflect what the society will tolerate. However, it is a limit.

Is common decency self-censorship?

The counter argument is that what the satirist’s choice is not a limit or a prohibition. The issue is whether the satire is being prohibited by a threat or a command from someone else be it a country, a person, or an organisation. Yet satirist who would target the Prophet would also avoid some topics either by personal choice or by societal pressure. At a basic level, if they are professionals, they have to sell their product so they must find a market for it. They have to cater to what the market will tolerate. In each case, the satirist has a choice of the target or topic. The Charlie Hebdo writers, for example, have not satirized their own dead. They did not find that a topic worthy of satire. Immediately one might ask how or why they would want to satirise their dead colleagues. Alternatively, they could satirise society’s repugnance at child sexual abuse. When they refrain from satirizing such topics, it shows a limit. In this case, common decency directs that these topics be avoided. Common decency allows civilisation to exist. Others might say, “Well anyone else can satirise their dead that is the nature of free speech.” And they would be right. Yet, we look everywhere for such satire and it is missing. Again, someone can say, “No one stops such satire.” Again, they would be right. Yet, the issue is why is it not chosen as a topic? What we choose reflects who we are, it reflects our context, and it reflects our society. A satirist is shaped by their society in their choices. The Charlie Hebdo satire is there to attack Islam as it cannot refute it or rebut it. Instead, it uses the tactical advantages to undermine Islam before public opinion, a public opinion that is already sympathetic to the ridicule.

Second Two: The satire reflects the orthodoxy.

When satire occurs, it occurs within a political, cultural, or societal context. In France, the topics of satire are within, not outside, the wider political orthodoxy. Consequently, the Charlie Hebdo targets reflect what the orthodoxy will tolerate as a target. They have not taken a stand against society as they have endorsed the orthodoxy’s view. Their satire is less free speech than an echo of the orthodoxy.

No so much punching down as defending the orthodoxy as free speech

Some writers have argued that Charlie Hebdo acts from a relative position of power and acceptance. Charlie Hebdo is protected by the state. They can act in the knowledge that society protects them. Some have described the satire as “punching down”. Such a view, though, misses the point. It is not punching down; it is punching with the majority. The satirists act less as a social conscience against society’s inequalities and flaws and more as a societal court jester that indulges the majority.

Their claim to challenge powerful opinions or prejudices within France simply masks the orthodoxy they serve. When they attack the Catholic Church, Israel and politicians, they echo what the society believes. In their satire, they act as the societal shock troops to assimilate these groups into French society and remind them that they serve French society and liberal democracy. Charlie Hebdo is part of the French society and they are French citizens demonstrating their targets have to conform to French societal norms.

Can the West claim to be tolerant when Muslims are second-class citizens?

By contrast, Muslims face a daily challenge of cultural survival. Society discriminates against them despite claims to tolerate them. They are strangers in a strange land. One could say they live as second-class citizens on the margins of French society. The French will point to French Muslims who have made a success in France. In that, they would be right. The opportunity does exist for some to achieve. They are the exception, though, as acceptance comes from assimilation. They must demonstrate tolerance for all that France embodies. France, as a liberal democratic society does not tolerate so much as require assimilation for acceptance. They must renounce who they are and accept the liberal identity. Such a test is to accept the Charlie Hebdo satire.

Religion’s death rattle in the face of liberalism’s onslaught?

In the same way, attacks on Catholicism and Judaism are acceptable as they reflect and exist within French society’s laicism. French Catholicism, already hollowed out by modernity, is drained of any belief comparable in intensity or seriousness to Islam. Catholicism offers no meaningful alternative to the liberal state that challenges it existentially. By contrast, Islam resists the liberal state politically and intellectually. The orthodoxy says that religion is a private matter, which drains it of public meaning and importance. On this basis, religion is tolerated as it exists under liberal democracy’s supremacy in the public domain. Islam, by contrast, struggles with modernity both within itself and within the wider international system. The international system is a liberal democratic system that encourages liberal democratic tendencies[7]. Against this background, the Taliban and ISIS are not a new jihad. They are not a new call to Allah. They are not a new prophet come to bring peace. They are the death rattle of a religion. Islam fate is the same as Christianity and Judaism. It is to be consumed by liberalism.

Satire is tolerance or is tolerance a satire?

Satire against the weak is vicious, brutal, and unnecessary. The Muslims in France are weak. They are on the defensive. They are strangers in a strange land that is increasingly inhospitable. They want to find a way to live West’s promise on their own terms of tolerance. They find the promise empty. Tolerance is only an interregnum before they are assimilated. The West, though, wants to have it both ways. It wants to be tolerant and repress those it tolerates. In this behaviour, the West no longer knows what it means to tolerate or to assimilate. The modern state replaced religion with ideology as the test for citizenship. The change allows the state to control violence used to promote or defend beliefs. If you ascribe to liberalism, you will be tolerated. Today, though, the danger is removed which means that tolerance does not keep the peace as much as impose liberalism. The tolerance has become repressive tolerance.

Charlie Hebdo exemplifies this work. Satire ridicules and suppresses that which the liberal democratic state cannot refute. Here the Ancien Regime returns with full force. The French Revolution’s promise of the rights of man evaporates as politics reasserts itself. France no longer lives to that promise. France does not believe in the rights of man. It believes in the rights of Westerners who ascribe to liberal democracy.

Third section: what kind of society does satire seek to achieve?

Liberalism and tolerance succeeded in large part because they provided an alternative argument about the best way to live. Tolerance emerged as those who wanted to promote liberalism demanded it. In turn, they promised toleration and for centuries liberalism delivered on its promise. However, as the dominant ideology, it cannot deliver the same promise. Liberalism, at its heart, is intolerant and illiberal. We see this illiberalism in Charlie Hebdo and the demands for privacy against state surveillance. Liberalism, which champions the individual over the community, finds it difficult to reconcile its principles to the increased demands from the individual. Liberalism finds it difficult to resist arguments that provide an alternative to it as the best way to live. To tolerate constraint, such as a request not to publish images of Allah, would threaten liberalism’s identity as it strikes at liberalism’s source in individual’s freedom of speech. Liberalism overcomes this by an illiberal institution, the sovereign state that would control the public domain and regulate public speech. So long as the group or idea assimilates to the dominant ideology, liberalism, the sovereign state will tolerate its entry and speech. In a sense, this is the trade-off necessary to make the nation state a success.

Another way to understand this is to consider that Liberalism became a religion. As a religion, Liberalism is jealous of any other gods that might contest the citizen’s loyalty. In this case, Allah draws people away from liberalism. Muslims, and privacy advocates, have rekindled questions the Hobbesian nation state was supposed to have answered—loyalty, legitimacy and obligation. Here we see the challenge as liberal society no longer contains a clearly agreed touchstone that creates loyalty, legitimacy or obligation. The individual, enhanced by technology, demands the state wither away so they can be free of its arbitrary constraints. The state resists this disintegration by its promise and ability to deliver individual benefits. Yet, if we are loyal only because of the sovereign state’s ability to deliver individual benefits, we lack a viable alternative to Islam’s demands on the best way to live. Islam presents the same challenge at the ideological level as it presents a rival basis for loyalty, obligation and obedience.

Do we have a good life if that life is what the majority tells us?

The issue is more than majority rule or totalitarian democracy. Instead, it is to ask what animates the West and calls for the loyalty, which was the basis for tolerance. It would appear that the West is uncertain of what society it wants to be. If we raise freedom of speech and thought to sacred objects, we confront the question of what end does such freedom serve? The Muslims have an answer to that question, as does the individual who seeks privacy to indulge their hedonism. Western Liberalism no longer provides an answer. One can argue that it is not for liberalism to provide an answer to the best way to live. Yet, if it is not for liberalism to provide that answer, what does provide that answer?

The individual vs the state an eternal debate or has technology solved it.

Even if we do not accept that liberalism has to answer that question or can simply reject what Islam has to offer, the question remains. What kind of society do we want? The highest good for the individual, as obtained through freedom of thought and freedom of speech, may not be the highest goal for a society. The tension always exists. The problem is that the increased illusion of free speech has led to a greater censorship of the public domain and greater intolerance. The state becomes a tool to be captured to enforce the intolerance and support the freedom of speech that is free to the extent it echoes the majority’s intolerance as it expresses the societal orthodoxy. The state and society become intolerant to defend freedom of speech but only to the extent the speech expresses the orthodoxy’s view. The difference, though, is that the public police public speech more severely and completely than the state. Thus, those who speak in the public domain reflect the orthodoxy and not a heterodox view.

Freedom of thought as long as you agree with us.

We can see the strength of that orthodoxy when those who question Charlie Hebdo are accused of agreeing with the attackers or blaming the victim. Commentators quickly defend the orthodoxy and attack dissent. When the orthodox writers claim, “Well, at least we are allowing you to write that and we are not killing you”, they overlook the inequality within the society. Their power to suppress heterodox views through a variety of non-violent means backed by the power of the state undermines the claim to freedom of thought. Just as Muslims do not tolerate attacks on the Prophet, the orthodoxy does not tolerate attacks on free speech. Yet the attack, through satire on Islam, suggests that France no longer has the power to tolerate challenges to its orthodoxy. Satire does not rebut the challenge. The West can no longer rebut the challenge or explain freedom’s purpose. Freedom to satire serves except to attack the orthodoxy’s targets. Philosophers act as society’s court jesters playing the fools through word games and solipsistic public posturing. If freedom of speech and the freedom to satire simply promote the orthodoxy, can the West claim to be a society that tolerates freedom of thought? Perhaps the joke is on the West except it is excused by fact that it neither understands the joke nor understands why it is laughing.

[1] Just as all societies rest upon a common opinion so to do governments. See the Federalist Paper 49.

[2] Hobbes Leviathan Book 18 In the midst of chapter 18, Hobbes lists 12 rights of the sovereign. The central right is Right 6: The sovereign is to judge what is necessary for the peace, which can include public opinion. (accessed 12 March 2014)

[3] “Socratic philosophy is a rebellion against the Sparta in Athens. The Athenians’ willingness to endure Socrates’ embarrassing cross- examinations demonstrated an openness to this enterprise. His execution revealed the limits of their remarkable indulgence. In the end, they proved unable to condone what they regarded as corruption of future citizens, since Socrates was diverting the primary allegiance of gifted youth from Athens to his philosophy (cf. Gorgias, 481 DI-C3, 513C7-DI, 526D5-527A4).” Harry Neumann SOCRATES AND THE TRAGEDY OF ATHENS Social Research, Vol. 35, No. 3 (AUTUMN 1968), pp. 426-444

[4] See Repressive Tolerance

“And such universal tolerance is possible only when no real or alleged enemy requires in the national interest the education and training of people in military violence and destruction. As long as these conditions do not prevail, the conditions of tolerance are ‘loaded’: they are determined and defined by the institutionalized inequality (which is certainly compatible with constitutional equality), i.e., by the class structure of society. In such a society, tolerance is de facto limited on the dual ground of legalized violence or suppression (police, armed forces, guards of all sorts) and of the privileged position held by the predominant interests and their ‘connections’.

These background limitations of tolerance are normally prior to the explicit and judicial limitations as defined by the courts, custom, governments, etc. (for example, ‘clear and present danger’, threat to national security, heresy). Within the framework of such a social structure, tolerance can be safely practiced and proclaimed. It is of two kinds: (i) the passive toleration of entrenched and established attitudes and ideas even if their damaging effect on man and nature is evident, and (2) the active, official tolerance granted to the Right as well as to the Left, to movements of aggression as well as to movements of peace, to the party of hate as well as to that of humanity I call this non-partisan tolerance ‘abstract’ or ‘pure’ inasmuch as it refrains from taking sides–but in doing so it actually protects the already established machinery of discrimination.”

[5] We can also reverse this to indicate what the powerful can censor. The state may outlaw certain speech and society may impose sanctions on those who speak out contrary to what society wants. This is described in Thucydides. For the censorship which their power permits the oligarchs to impose corroborates the Athenian contention that all strive to rule wherever they can or that “might makes right” (V, 105; cf. II, 22.1 IV, 22). Harry Neumann SOCRATES AND THE TRAGEDY OF ATHENS Social Research, Vol. 35, No. 3 (AUTUMN 1968), pp. 426-444 (page 429)

[6] In 2011 Nicolas Sarkozy declared that multiculturalism had failed.


[7] See Liberal Democratic Tendencies

Posted in censorship, philosophy, privacy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is the Goddard Inquiry a threat to the Crown?

Mobbing the Tories by American Patriots in 177...

Mobbing the Tories by American Patriots in 1775-76; the Tory is about to be tarred and feathered (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The inquiry threatens the UK regime’s very fabric. What the recent Cabinet Office documents indicate is that the powerful pedophile predators were known.[1] The Crown knew about them. The police had files on them. The Home Office and the Cabinet Office had files on the allegations. In itself, this is not surprising given they have a responsibility for law enforcement within the UK. [2] Most of the names mentioned were already known or publicly suspected. Three things in particular make the inquiry a threat to the UK regime.

The government and its defenders need to prove their integrity.

First, the revelations and the inquiry undermine all official pronouncements by powerful figures that they and their cohort are beyond reproach. The defense based on authority and status has suddenly crumbled.[3] The files that confirmed what victims and survivors had claimed about the powerful predators. Those who had defended the reputation now face a reckoning. Were they deceived about the past or did they know? Either way, the claims of other powerful defenders is now in doubt. The integrity of any public person or any public statement must be taken with a grain of salt. There can be no more arguments from authority where a powerful political figure bullies the public into submission with claims of unimpeachable rectitude and integrity.[4] Not only is individual integrity in doubt, the integrity of the regime is in doubt. The best parallel to this is the Watergate crisis. In that crisis, the government lied to the American people and tried to cover it up. The President was shown to be dishonest. The arcana imperii were revealed[5] and people stopped trusting the government.[6] In response, government sought to reassure the public through open meetings laws, FOIA amendments to make it stronger, and more stringent financial reporting. As an aside the UK is in the midst of review to *restrict* the FOIA. Yes, that is correct, in the midst of a crisis of confidence that involves claims of a large scale cover up, the government has embarked on a review of FOIA to *reduce* its effectiveness.

The UK is founded in force and coercion not consent and reason.

Second, the regime is based on coercion not consent.[7] Such a regime, while it has a democratic veneer, is only in place from force of arms. No election or constitution created the Crown. Its legitimacy comes from the force of arms. Even though the coercion is now implicit rather than explicit, it is ever present.  The implicit nature of that coercion is seen in the Oaths of Office. Through the Oaths of Office, the Crown has a monopoly of force. All the Crown’s major elements, not including the civil servants, swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. The Army’s oath is the most extreme. They swear to protect the Monarch, not the state or the people, against all enemies.[8] In such an oath, the People might be a threat. If the people were to attempt to change the regime by force, the Army is duty bound to the Queen not to the people. Even in a situation where the Crown’s behavior is egregiously immoral and inhuman, the Army are bound to her not to a constitution or a higher law. Without consent, the regime has to rely on its force. If the institutions of force, the police and the military refuse to enforce the political order, the regime collapses.

The Crown only exists to promote the public good. How is protecting predators a public good?

Third, the Crown has broken its covenant with the people. The Crown is only accepted as long as it acts for the public good. In fact, its powers only exist for the public good.[9] The regime relies on an implicit social contract that the Crown protects the people. At a basic level, the Crown protects them from foreign enemies. At a more advanced level, it is to protect them from powerful predators, such as criminals, who prey on the people. The Crown through the force of arms and the laws will suppress criminals and the powerful who would prey on people. In other words, the Crown keeps the peace and ensures justice. Yet, the bargain or the contract only works if the Crown does not prey on the people. If the people, aware that the Crown knew about the powerful predators, continue to obey it? Should they obey it? What will sustain the Crown once people realize its complicity in these crimes?

No regime is stable that allows the powerful to prey on the weak and the vulnerable

History has shown that a regime will remain stable so long as the poor and weak are not exploited. The weak will not revolt or challenge the rulers if they are protected and free of abuse.[10] The regime, though, has to restrain the predatory few within the privileged. In this task, the Crown failed. It knew about and the predatory few. It did not bring them to justice. We now know that the government knew and the Crown failed to keep its bargain.[11]

The Crown exists to protect the people. When it fails to protect them why keep it?

At its root, the CSA Inquiry reveals a constitutional crisis. The regime, the Crown, has failed to protect its people. The Crown knew about the abuse and did not stop it. The same Crown, the same regime, is in power today. Unless it reforms itself, it cannot claim to have any moral legitimacy in the public’s eyes. How can anyone working for the government justify this behavior? How can any one look at a police officer or a government official knowing that the regime they work for allowed this to happen and did nothing about it for more than 30 years? What is truly frightening is that these are only the ones they have been willing to disclose. What about the other issues?

Who would obey a regime that relies on force and allows the powerful to prey on the people?

Who would obey such a regime or believe what it has to say? Over the next five years, the disclosures are going to get worse not better. The inquiry will show the public just how corrupt it is and nothing will change that fate. What happens as a result will determine the regime’s fate. You can have the soldiers, the courts, the judges, the police and the politicians, but that does not make your rule legitimate or honourable, which is what the Goddard Inquiry has begun to reveal.


[1] See for example this article that reveals the Home Office had the files and

[2] For an analysis of their search efforts see and more generally

[3] See for example Dominic Lawson’s stout defense of Leon Brittan  before the revelations of 22 July 2015

[4] One is reminded of Lord Scarman writing is almost bullying tones about anyone who would dare impugn the integrity of the senior Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers. Writing in 1981 he said

“The direction and policies of the Metropolitan Police are not racist. I totally and unequivocally reject the attack made upon the integrity and impartiality of the senior direction of the force. The criticisms lie elsewhere – in errors of judgment, in a lack of imagination and flexibility, but not in deliberate bias or prejudice”. (Para 4.62, p 64).

Found in the MacPhereson Report  Paragraph 6.8 concerning the allegation that the MPS was a racist force. Events proved Lord Scarman’s statement to be false and suggested he was either completely unaware of the police corruption, which is strange given the numerous scandals, even at that time, or he was making the statement to protect the establishment from criticism.

[5] The child abuse is some of the UK’s arcana imperii

[6] The chart shows how trust in US government declined steadily from 1968 and accelerated after Nixon’s resignation. The graph, copyright of the PEW foundation, shows the decline over 50 years.

[7] See Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Book I 2.41-46. If a regime rules without consent, it is tyrannical. The UK citizens have not consented to have the Queen as their ruler and they must accept the next ruler, as they have no choice in the matter. The people may change the party in power, but they can change neither the government nor the regime.

[8]  .“I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.”

[9] “The reason is constitutionally fundamental: the Crown’s powers exist not for its own benefit but for the public good”. See the Lecture by Stephen Sedley The Royal Prerogative Then and Now.

See also

  1. The claim that the Crown may do anything an individual may do logically involves a claim that Ministers have an unfettered discretion in doing such things. But, as Sir William Wade once pointed out (in a passage subsequently approved by the Appellate Committee106),

“The powers of public authorities are…essentially different from those of private persons… a public authority [must act] reasonably and in good faith and upon lawful and relevant grounds of public interest. Unfettered discretion is wholly inappropriate to a public authority, which possesses powers solely in order that it may use them for the public good”.

[10] Aristotle Politics 1297b “For the poor are willing to remain tranquil even when they have no share in the prerogatives, provided no one acts arrogantly towards them nor deprives them of any of their property. Yet this is not easy; for it does not always turn out that those sharing in the governing body are the refined sort.” Politics Carnes Lord Translation University of Chicago Press


Posted in censorship, privacy, public sector, republicanism, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Police Surveillance: Are the Goddard Inquiry Survivor Groups a target?

English: A photo of a traditional "blue l...

English: A photo of a traditional “blue lamp” as located outside most English police stations. This one is outside the Covent Garden Police Station of the Metropolitan Police in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 1968, the Police have used undercover tactics to infiltrate groups that posed what they considered a public order threat. Along the way, though, something went wrong. They began to put victims’ families under surveillance and infiltrate victim support groups.[1] The police behaviour follows a trend that raises questions about their role and legitimacy today.

Where is the political oversight for undercover policing of victims’ families?

Although many of these cases are alleged, with some still being investigated, there are IPCC investigation reports and news reports that confirm some of them occurred. Even though neither the reports nor the outcomes are in the public domain, their existence raises questions about the police activity. In particular, they raise questions about the way in which they decided the surveillance was necessary. The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (Aka Ellison Report) showed the police officers failed to reveal their role during trials, which suggests those convicted may have unsafe verdicts.[2] Moreover, it appears that the undercover police work on victims was a police decision. They were only accountable to themselves. No political oversight of their activity existed. The Home Office have the political oversight for the police[3], yet they were unaware of this work.[4] In light of these disclosures; surveillance of victims, lack of political oversight, and betrayal of due process, the police legitimacy is in question. Although the Metropolitan Police Service have tried to provide a bright and positive image, in recent news programmes such as The Met: Policing London[5], the reality is stark and scary. The police appear to be a law unto themselves, able to pursue anyone with impunity and without independent legal or political oversight.

Why are victims under surveillance is this the behaviour of honourable men?

The first question that emerges is why are victims under surveillance? At first glance, the answer might appear normal. They could be complicit in the crime or they could plan or instigate potential civil unrest. Often time the victims’ families want revenge or they may be part of an ongoing feud. For example, when a gang member kills a rival gang member there is likely to be a retaliatory attack or murder. The police have a public order responsibility to pre-empt and prevent these attacks to maintain public order. In this regard, such surveillance might appear normal. The police have a duty to protect the public and maintain the public order. However, who decides when a victim is a potential threat? What is the criteria for such a decision?

Are the police becoming a paramilitary force to impose order or do they enforce the law?

These questions remain unanswered. The police behaviour raises the issue of their role in society. It is time for a fundamental review of that role. Is the MPS a paramilitary force with responsibility for national security or if it is a law enforcement agency? In the former, a different set of laws apply than in the latter. Espionage is about national security and in that situation, the public safety as the fate of the society, not simply public order, is the higher law. Only when a society faces an existential threat, a threat to its survival, does public safety become the highest law. These situations are rare and exist as an exception to the normal state, which is a healthy political society at peace. By contrast, law enforcement is simply that, it enforces the law. It is not above the law because it only ensures the normal situation of lawful behaviour is sustained. Once the police engage in political espionage, and undercover policing that breaks the law and subverts due process of the law, is espionage, then they stop being law enforcement. The Crown cannot have its cake and eat it too. It cannot claim it rules by law and subvert the law. Otherwise, something else is higher than the rule of law.

Are the police an unelected political actor shaping our public lives?

When they undertake political espionage, or surveillance to gather political intelligence, the police become a political actor. As such, the immediate question has to be answered. Who has authorised that activity? Beyond the issue of who authorises surveillance, which is now covered by RIPA, is the larger question of who has directed the surveillance? Where is the political oversight of that decision? If democratically accountable ministers have not made the decision, then democracy is under threat. In effect, the police act arbitrarily and according to their operational need. The democratically elected Ministers relinquish their responsibility and the police can act as they wish. Such an approach may appear best for operational purposes, yet it undermines democracy and allows arbitrary unelected officials to decide on the targets of domestic political espionage. The police priorities determine the political priorities. It is a system open to abuse, an abuse of power, which undermines democratic legitimacy. Do we want a society where police can abuse their power with impunity and rationalise it as necessary for “public order” or “policing priorities”?

Where is the political oversight?

If the politicians direct this political intelligence gathering, where is the evidence? Where have they been accountable for it? If they don’t make that decision, who does? Is the UK political system one in which the police are a political tool for the government in power? If the police are not acting on political instruction, where is the democratic oversight and accountability? Is Parliament now an empty house where prerogative power rules without legal or political oversight? The end justifies the means only if the end is legitimate. What it appears from this historical trend and the recent reports is that the MPS and other police forces put victims under surveillance. They appear to rationalise it after the fact, as we are never told the criteria or reason for surveillance. Nor has anyone explained how victims could be a public order threat.

Are the Press part of the Police intelligence gathering system?

What is even more troubling is that the press seemed ready and willing to aid the police in their surveillance work. We know from the News International and News Corp employee, the Fake Sheik would work with the MPS to arrest people he had ensnared. We also know from the Milly Dowler case that the News of the World reporters claimed they were helping the police with their enquiries when they telephoned people about Milly Dowler. When the press become part of the intelligence gathering operation, do they cease to be journalists and become police informants? Do journalists continue that role even today with an unspoken agreement? When you talk to the press, are you really talking to the police, as they will betray you as their source if they deem it necessary?

Are the police institutionally corrupt?

In all these cases, there appears to be a corrupt activity.[6] In a corrupt state, violence or the threat of violence pervades all relationships and the public discourse is used to rationalise such violence. Instead of a debate to decide whether to act and to act appropriately, what we find in a corrupt state is its acts are rationalised afterwards. The public debate is used to rationalise the often violent behaviour. Such behaviour would never be approved yet is rationalised afterwards as reputation management and damage control. When we look at the police behaviour through a political filter, we see a pattern of behaviour that should disturb any citizen in a decent society. The police appear to put victims and other parties under surveillance to protect their interests, to provide political intelligence, and then justify it as a public order issue afterwards. Is this the sign of a decent society; a legitimate police force; a government accountable to the public?

The past is prologue: troubling questions for the Goddard Inquiry

With the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse[7] (aka Goddard Inquiry) underway, a new question emerges. Have they placed the victims and survivors groups under surveillance as a potential public order threat? Have they infiltrated these groups with undercover officers? Has the MPS considered infiltrating these groups to investigate their threat to public safety? The historical trend suggest that this is a strong possibility. If we follow the historical logic the MPS appear to have used, it would indicate the victims and survivors are a potential threat to the regime and would need to be infiltrated and placed under surveillance.

The abuse of power occurs when it is unaccountable

Perhaps if the MPS explained these issues, and the senior officer decision process behind them, we would have more confidence in the police. If we had someone explain the reasons why victims’ families were under surveillance and where those reasons were tested we would be able to say we have police with integrity. Integrity exists when you are accountable for your behaviour and decisions. Integrity does not exist when you live by a code that might makes right and power excuses all behaviour. Without accountability the police become bullies with badges where policing becomes violence rationalised as necessary for public safety. All of this done without any oversight by politicians, who themselves have been under surveillance, or the public who are kept ignorant and fearful.[8]

We have a choice, justice or the strong rule the weak.

We have to believe that the police act ethically and support the democratic rights we hold dear. For the most part, this is true and the expected police behaviour is the displayed police behaviour. However, if they believe themselves immune to such expected behaviour, they are protected while citizens suffer surveillance, then it suggests we have a corrupt police force. Worse, it suggests we have a corrupt political system where the strong rule the weak so long as the public are not aware of it.

Is that what recent events have shown to be the relationship between the politics and policing in the UK? Is it time for a change?



[2]    See also the case of Mark Kennedy who as an undercover officer infiltrated environmentalist activist group and the trials against the group members collapsed. See also Bob Lambert’s interview  For the background to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, it is important to consider the Macphereson report 

What is interesting to note is the following quotation from the Scarman Report into the Brixton Disorders.

6.8 In policing terms Lord Scarman also rejected the allegation that the MPS was a racist force. He said:-

“The direction and policies of the Metropolitan Police are not racist. I totally and unequivocally reject the attack made upon the integrity and impartiality of the senior direction of the force. The criticisms lie elsewhere – in errors of judgment, in a lack of imagination and flexibility, but not in deliberate bias or prejudice”. (Para 4.62, p 64).

The quotation is deeply ironic, in the context of this post, given what we now know about the undercover policing activity which was occurring from 1968 onward. Can we still say, in hindsight, that the senior direction of the force was as impartial and full of integrity as Scarman’s bold and decisive language would have us believe?


[4] “When funding ceased in 1989, no accountability was required until the SDS closed in 2008 and no significant evidence was identified of any links to the Home Office throughout this period. Outside of the annual reviews there is very little evidence to support any Home Office knowledge of the SDS and in particular no evidence was identified of any influence in operational activities.”

[5] it is curious, but not unexpected, to see a major UK news institution The BBC do a programme on a pillar of the establishment. However, this is not surprising. The overall focus is rather light on criticism and more on presenting a positive and reassuring message of hard working police. The episodes do not explore senior officer decision making on difficult cases such as Daniel Morgan Murder, Operation Tiberius or general Internal Affairs concerns. Instead, the show focused on frontline policing issues, which provide reassurance to the public, with only a minimal focus on midlevel decision making and no analysis of senior officer decisions.

[6] Corrupt means the normal or healthy society or organization has decayed. In this case, the police force was pursuing what it considered the public interest, which was its self-interest. In the latter operations against victims’ families, the police are acting in their self-interest in a way that undermines the public interest in a police force that acts with integrity and probity. Their organizational interest had been placed before the public interest and in conflict with the public interest. The organization is not corrupt for its pursuit of its own interests; it is that those interests were illegitimate. When that occurs, the police become corrupt.


[8] On the issue of elected politicians under surveillance see:

For more on the police surveillance capacity see For a report on the review of that unit in 2010 see

Posted in corruption, public opinion, republicanism, statesmanship, surveillance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Child Sexual Abuse: A consequence of an imperial system?

The Rhodes Colossus: Caricature of Cecil John ...

The Rhodes Colossus: Caricature of Cecil John Rhodes, after he announced plans for a telegraph line and railroad from Cape Town to Cairo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The long awaited inquiry into historical child sexual abuse has started. The Goddard Inquiry (Hereafter the Inquiry) will examine the extent to which institutions and organizations in England and Wales failed to protect children from Child Sexual Abuse (hereafter CSA). After years of stories, investigations, and some convictions, the issue is finally being addressed. Although many events led up to the Inquiry, the attention from Tom Watson’s claim that a powerful paedophile ring had operated in Westminster was decisive.[1] In response, the government commissioned the Inquiry. It will investigate how public authorities failed to protect children from CSA. The approach appears thorough in what it covers. However, it is not complete. What the Inquiry lacks is work to place the public institutions and individuals, in particular the allegations of the powerful pedophile predators, into a wider social and political context. Without this context, it will fail.

Only a societal context lets us understand individual predators and institutional failures.

What the Inquiry has to do is place the abuse and the institutional failures into a historical context. The institutions acted within a wider political and societal context. The context will help us understand why they acted as they did. Without the wider context, the Inquiry will never be able to explain the institutional behavior. The institutional behavior is more than the desire to hide scandals. Instead, the institutional behavior relates to the individual behavior. The inquiry hinges on the relationship between the individual level (the victims and their abusers) and the institutional level (those which failed to protect the victims and confront the powerful). In some cases, the individual and the institutional level intersect. Abusers, enablers, and protectors often worked in institutions. How they operated and why organizations failed to deal with them is an important part of the inquiry. In some cases, individuals, through intent or incompetence, thwarted institutional attempts to investigate or punish CSA by powerful pedophile predators. Yet, these two levels only tell part of the story. Therefore, the wider story has to include the wider political context. In this case, it has to include the nature of the regime.

A regime founded on an abuse of power will perpetuate abuse.

The United Kingdom’s political regime, its imperial structure covered with a democratic veneer to maintain its authority, is the wider context. The Inquiry has to understand this context even if it will not explore it. Without this context, we cannot understand the institutional or individual behavior. The regime’s founding influences how it works.[2] In turn, the public authorities will have been shaped by the political culture that shaped their response to CSA. The public are right to be worried about the politically powerful who abused their power, position and privileges, to exploit children. To understand those powerful abusers as well as the public institutions, we have to look at the context. We have to understand that the regime gave them their power and status. We need to understand how it gave them power. At a basic level, it gave them honours and celebrated their public work.

What the abuser does to an individual, a regime does to a people. 

At its core, Child Sexual Abuse is an abuse of power.[3] The abuse comes from stark physical inequality between a man and a child.[4] The child does not and cannot consent to the violence he suffers. The man uses his power, either physical, emotional or economic to abuse the child. In many cases, the man uses his position, a power in itself, to gain access to vulnerable children. The vulnerable children, often wards of the state nominally under the Crown’s care, were in no position to resist and no one was likely to defend them. Even if someone wanted to defend them, or the child resisted, who would believe them against someone with power and position? The abuser’s status gave them power. From that power, they were able to exploit the children and bully those who might object. We see figures such as Jimmy Savile or Cyril Smith who appeared beyond the law[5] and received public honors or political office. The public honours and offices gave them status and power. In turn, t suggested that the system endorsed them. What child would say no to Jimmy and Cyril? What institution said no to them? The children and the organizations were conditioned by the regime to defer to their power, status and privileges.[6] However, we need to move beyond the individual level or the institutional level to the regime level.

The regime broadly understood is

“[T]he order, the form, which gives society its character. Regime is therefore a specific manner of life. Regime is the form of life as living together, the manner of living of society and in society, since this manner depends decisively on the predominance of human beings of a certain type, on the manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type. Regime means, the whole, which we today are in the habit of viewing primarily in a fragmentized form: regime means simultaneously the form of life of a society, its style of life, its moral taste, form of society, form of state, form of government, spirit of laws.”

A regime founded in an abuse of power will nurture that character in its elites.

All imperial systems are founded in an abuse of power. From that founding, they perpetuate an inequality as they rule. They rule by power and not consent. They are above the law as they make the laws. In this behavior, they follow the ancient law that the strong rule the weak.[7] Over time, they may take on a democratic veneer to make the regime acceptable and provide a sense of popular legitimacy. However, despite these efforts, the ruled have no say in who rules them. At all times, the rulers benefit from the inherent inequality. As Thucydides said of Imperial Athens, the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must. When a political system is founded on coercion and not consent, it influences all political relationships. For example, we know that the United Kingdom relied on slavery and the wealth it created to sustain its empire. In effect, the British Empire in its early days was a slave empire.[8] Even if a democratic veneer may gradually soften that explicit rule, it remains implicit throughout the regime so long as the Monarchy remains. We can see this continuing influence in various institutions such as the military and the schools, which shape the character of citizens where a bully culture was common and encouraged to maintain discipline. Even with the common law as a potential constraint on power, the people had no organized ability to resist as the instruments of power, the police, military, and the Crown controlled courts. The institutions that wield political and military swear an oath to the Queen. They do not swear an oath to the State or to the Crown. They do not swear an oath to Parliament, the People, or a constitution. There is no popular sovereignty. At its root, the regime remains in place through force of arms not from popular consent expressed through a democratic process. For example, the Army takes an oath to obey the Queen and no one else. Their oath is the most explicit about obedience as they swear to defend her from all enemies and they will obey all of her orders.[9] The armed forces maintain her on the throne. She does not rule by consent nor is she elected.[10] However, the issue is not with the Queen as a person, it is with what she represents and creates—the regime.

The Monarchy shapes the Crown and the Crown shapes the regime. Although the Crown no longer relies as much on the Royal Household, as it did in the past, the Household still remains a powerful actor. Consider that if the 2015 election, or any election, had led to a hung parliament, one of the Queen’s courtiers, would play an active role in the process to form a new government.[11] In that indirect role, and many others, it sets the public tone to which the great and the good aspire. Even though the Monarchy’s direct power is much reduced, it wields extensive indirect power. The various parties and events create a social network that people, especially the powerful and preeminent, aspire to attend. In the same way, the honours system, despite its reforms, remains something that shape the regime. The powerful, protected and even the humble pursue these honours with great effort. Many will deform themselves to obtain one. Although nominally in reward for public service or service to the Crown and in turn the public, they serve another purpose. The honours reflect a system that inculcates people to seek the Monarchy’s approval. The powerful minority, the elite, that schools such as Eton and Oxford educate, pursue and receive these honours. These institutions are still shaped by the regime’s founding in an abuse of power. The views on slavery influenced popular education and this would, in turn, influence the way children were raised. Especially among the elite, who were shaped by the regime, it would encourage and normalize a bully culture where power came with privileges. Even the democratic veneer does not disguise this power nor does it displace or discourage those ambitious and talented few outside the Establishment from the effort to obtain them.[12] Athens ancient law’s truth can be seen in the behavior of those who once served the public quickly become Lords and Ladies keen to exercise their power and status. Moreover, the Leveson Inquiry revealed, the tabloid media culture reinforces the general bullying culture through their own behavior of “monstering”.[13] Where we would expect the media to resist the inequality and defend the public from such predators, the tabloid media enjoyed, in particular the News of the World, being a bully and punishing those they did not like.[14]

The Crown’s power and the political inequality it perpetuates show us regime’s nature. This nature provides the context for the institutional CSA and most importantly the politically powerful paedophiles. The CSA show us just how far the strong rule the weak. Even with a democratic veneer, the inequality remains. It is a permanent feature in UK culture as no one is the Queen’s equal. The inequality is sustained by the implicit, and sometimes, explicit threat of violence that sustains the regime. Until we understand the regime and the Crown’s role, we will not understand the institutional context.

When we look at the regime, though, we face the Inquiry’s most challenging question. How will the Inquiry examine the Royal Household?[15] Despite Parliament’s claims to supremacy and sovereignty[16], as well as the Lord Chancellor’s claim that the Rule of Law exists; the Monarchy reminds us who rules.

Where power begins, the laws stop and justice disappears. The Inquiry’s success will depend on its ability to bring the Royal Household within its scope and bring the regime into focus.


[1] Tom Watson raised the issue in parliament in 2013.  (accessed 12 April 2015) These concerns reflected issues that had been raised in the early 1980s and continued on to the Jimmy Savile case emerged.

[2] A regime founded in the belief in the divine right of kings   will inculcate a view of the relationship between rules and ruled is between superiors and inferiors. Moreover, the superiors will have divinely sanctioned rights against the inferiors. To understand this we only need to modify and paraphrase Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement on the issue. “The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor [with] a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.” On the issue of the divine right of kings in UK society consider its influence on the regime. “In the seventeenth century, the Stuart kings propagated the theory of the divine right of kings, claiming that the Sovereign was subject only to God and not to the law.”  In time this stark view was relinquished, however, the residual elements, the Royal Prerogative remains. The Prerogative exists simply because of the nature of the Royal Person.

[3] Child Sexual Abuse and Power Author(s): Stephen J. Rossetti Source: The Furrow, Vol. 46, No. 12 (Dec., 1995), pp. 684-688

[4] We have to remember that women can be abusers. In the cases brought to trial or made public the perpetrators have been mainly men and the women only played a smaller role, usually as enablers of or protectors of the male abusers.

[5] (accessed 6 April 2015) The Channel 4 programme claims that they have evidence to indicate that Special Branch had a file containing the evidence of Cyril Smith’s crimes even though he was never arrested or charged with them.


[6] See for example Cyril Smith’s bullying of the police over their investigation.

[7] According to the Ancient Athenians this was the law of nature. The strong rule the weak. (Melian Dialogue Thucydides 5.89 )

[8][8] On the history of the UK slave trade and the wealth it created see: and and

[9]“ I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.”

[10] See Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Book I 2.41-46. If a regime rules without consent it is tyrannical. The UK citizens have not consented to have the Queen as their ruler and they must accept the next ruler as they have no choice, they have no consent in the matter.

[11] See also Even if the Queen wants to stay out of the politics, she has a constitutional role, a powerful role to shape the outcome. and Moreover, the more she must be kept out politics the more it suggests her power and her indirect role. To put it directly, the 1688 revolution is far from complete and Parliament is less supreme than it would like to believe.

[12] If you have talent the regime will co-opt you with honours and bestow other advantages. In these efforts, they defuse any potential resentment and harness talent and ambition. Aristotle noted this 2500 years ago when he explain how aristocracies stay in power.

1308a Further one should see that no only some aristocracies but even some oligarchies last, not because the regimes are stable, but because those occupying the offices treat well those outside the regime as well as those in the governing body —those who do not have a share, by not acting unjustly toward them and by bring into the regime those among them who have the mark of leaders, not acting unjustly toward the ambitious by depriving them of prerogatives or toward the many with regard to profit; and themselves and those who do have a share, by treating one another in a popular spirit.”


[14] One has to wonder whether the same external bullying was occurring within the company. Consider that its then editor, Andy Coulson, was named in a tribunal case in which the News of the World had to pay out nearly £800000.  “[A] tribunal ordered the News of the World to pay Driscoll, 41, £792,736 in compensation for being the victim of “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour”   see also  If readers are interested, Mr. Coulson denies he is a bully. He claimed the Tribunal was unfair in its judgement. His witness statement can be read here:  The Tribunal judgement can be read here:   The salient paragraphs are paragraphs 106 and 116 and 130 and 141. What is particularly intriguing is that Mr. Coulson focuses on his emails and avoid discussing the culture of the management team he directed. In particular, on that issue, readers will want to read paragraphs 190.3-190.9.  As to the more subtle aspects of bullying which this incident suggests, consider this analysis For an insight into the News of the World culture, the Tribunal provides an insight with reference to the way the company responded to the claimant’s mental illness.  On this issue see paragraphs 198.1-198.4. Suffice to say the Tribunal did not find they were either sympathetic or understanding. In particular, even after the claimant’s claims were proven true which was the basis for the second disciplinary warning, they refused to accept it. (198.2)

[15] The initial oversight of the Royal Household appears to have been addressed.

[16] See Lord Neuberger speech. He explains that Parliament, which is part of the Crown, makes the laws so it is only accountable to itself not the people to whom it does not owe its allegiance. As Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury explains Parliament is only bound by its will nothing else because of its prerogative powers. (accessed 22 March 2015) See paragraphs 19-31.

Posted in corruption, Government, justice, republicanism, strategy | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Can the Goddard Inquiry succeed when civil servants hide the secrets?

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, also known as the Goddard Inquiry, has started in the UK.[1] This long overdue Inquiry will

“investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.”

For the Inquiry to succeed it has to examine the records held by public authorities that contain reference to child sexual abuse and allegations of child sexual abuse. To make sure records were available; the Home Secretary issued a moratorium on records destruction.[2] The Inquiry’s chair wrote to all public authorities to advise them about what they needed to keep and what they could destroy.

The 21st century version of arcana imperii is alive and well in the UK civil service

What the Inquiry confronts, though, is the problem of arcana imperii.[3] In all imperial systems, and the UK remains an imperial system ruled by a monarchy, arcana imperii refers to the secret knowledge that is used to gain and wield power. In ancient Rome, where Tacitus coined the term, those who were in power held it by force of arms and the access and use of hidden knowledge. The hidden knowledge was called tacenda, which means knowledge that was not to be mentioned or made public. These are things better left unsaid, implied, or inferred. In brief, knowledge about child sexual abuse would be tacenda. When it is used to wield power or influence, it becomes arcana imperii.[4]

Arbitrary power exercised by unaccountable civil servants

We know that James I used such information and understood the term to describe his rule. The King has access to secret or hidden knowledge that enables him to rule.[5] The UK civil servants continue the tradition today. They know the hidden information by which the Crown rules. Today civil servants like the “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team” exercise this power. They have a special role in the decision to award honours. They keep few records and do most of their work by telephone or in person. Even when there are emails, they are deleted from the system so that they cannot be requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Even though the emails and documents are public records, they destroy them to keep them from the public. They flout the laws about public records either to retain it or to allow access to it.

The Goddard Inquiry will stumble on the historical behaviour of civil servants who hid the secrets

If the Goddard Inquiry is going to fail and the victims of child sexual abuse, it will be because of the culture and ethos that encourages the behavior by civil servants like the “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team”.  What will surprise you, though, is that this post is responsible for the highest standards of propriety in government and civil service.

“The purpose of the role is to ensure the highest standards of propriety, integrity and governance within government.”[6]

According to the BBC article, they regularly and routinely violate the standards. All public officials are to follow the Nolan Principles. These principles are the standard by which all public officials are to be judged.[7] What we find is the central principle, principle four, is Accountability.

“Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.”

Is such behavior accountable? No. It also contravenes another principle, the fifth principle, Openness.

“Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.”

Is such behaviour open? No. When a public official destroys records, flouts the FOI law, and refuses to account for their actions, they demonstrate neither Accountability nor Openness. Why is the person responsible for the highest standards, the one who flouts them the most? They violates the standards and the laws consistently. They are unaccountable to anyone but themselves. They insult the public, pervert the law, and betray the democratic trust. Who would condone such unethical behavior? Apparently, that is how the UK government works.

Move along, there is nothing to see here

On the surface, this article and their behavior may appear a small matter, a spat between a reporter and a civil servant. It is just another government official, like Michael Gove, who does not want to be accountable. They flout a law that annoys them and they ignore the Nolan Principles. We can see the common refrain, especially from the media, “Really, we need to focus on the bad stuff like murders, terrorists and other criminals and stop harassing powerful civil servant who have no time for such petty things as FOIA or the Nolan Principles.” Perhaps, in a previous age we might have.

What happened to Civil Service integrity? The shadow that haunts the Goddard Inquiry.

With the Goddard Inquiry, we should expect that such behavior would be condemned and stopped. Can the UK continue to have a civil service with the ethos this behavior reveals and the morality of such decisions? We see the same behavior in Rotherham Council. If such behavior continues, it will undermine the Goddard Inquiry. The Inquiry requires records are kept, decisions recorded, and public officials be accountable. In particular, the Inquiry has asked for any information held by public authorities about honours.

g. Any material relating to the determination of the award of Honours to persons who are now demonstrated to have had a sexual interest in children or are suspected of having had such an interest.

The Inquiry has written to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to ask for such information.[8] Except they are unlikely to find very much. The “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team” who makes the decisions on honours deletes and destroys the records. They will have erased the public memory. Neither they nor the person involved can be held to account. By their own hand, they have ensured the victims of the historical sexual abuse will be denied evidence. They will be denied justice.

As Chris Cook writes

“We also know, via the Freedom of Information Act, that she kept no log of why, how or when she destroys documents (contrary to that guidance)”

In the 21st century, we can see the Arcana Imperii at work. We now can see the way in which hidden knowledge is used to wield power behind the scenes, influence people, thwart the public will, and flout the law. The UK public has to ask, “What kind of regime allows someone to breach public standards so consistently, so blatantly, and so often?” We would expect such behavior in regimes like Stalin’s Russia, or Mao’s China or even Hitler’s Germany, but not in the UK. Yet, here we see the same imperial behavior continues. We see a regime that tolerates and promotes behavior to avoid accountability. They are not accountable to the law or the public.[9]

A regime that puts secrets before the truth puts privilege and power before the weak and vulnerable

What we find is a regime in which secrecy comes before accountability, where the Crown comes before the children, lies before truth[10], and power decides what is right. A decent person would recoil from such behavior. Perhaps, we find a regime that attracts person of a moral character who embraces such behaviour and flourishes. What we need to know is whether civil servants will be required to testify before the Goddard Inquiry for their past behaviour? If not, why not? Does the rule of law stop at the Cabinet Office’s doorstep?




[4] ARCANUS IN TACITUS Author(s): Herbert W. Benario Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Neue Folge, 106. Bd., 4. H. (1963), pp. 356-362 J.D. Sauerländers Verlag

P360 “Here we have one of the keys to power, the ability – and the need – to conceal what is necessary from the general eye. The value of arcana is exclusively political here; what is referred to must be tacenda.”

Tacenda means things not to be mentioned or made public—things better left unsaid; tacit means “unspoken, silent” or “implied, inferred.”  (accessed 7 April 2015)

[5] For more on the term and its use, see Ernst H. Kantowicz, Mysteries of State: An Absolutist Concept and Its Late Mediaeval Origins The Harvard Theological Review Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan., 1955), pp. 65-91




[9] Contrast this behavior with J. William Leonard who worked to ensure public officials were accountable and refused to allow records that described illegal behavior such as torture to be classified to hide them. Perhaps UK civil servants could demonstrate such integrity in the face of power. For more detail on J. William Leonard’s work and how a bureaucrat with integrity can hold a government to account see especially pages 1204-1209.

[10] “When I first requested a copy of this email back in 2011, the Cabinet Office insisted that it did not exist. The advice had only been given over the telephone, I was told. It was only in the course of a legal case (involving me, when I was a reporter at the Financial Times) in 2012 that the Department for Education revealed that it existed and it had kept a copy. The DfE revealed that the Cabinet Office had told an untruth.”

Posted in censorship, corruption, FOIA, Government | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Oaths that define a political regime

English: Dutch Students had to sign an agreeme...

English: Dutch Students had to sign an agreement that would prove their loyalty to Nazi Germany. Nederlands: Studenten moesten beloven dat ze zich zouden ‘onthouden van iedere tegen het Duitse Rijk enzovoort gerichte handeling’. Deze belofte moest schriftelijk worden gedaan, door een ‘loyaliteitsverklaring’ te tekenen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All regimes have loyalty oaths for citizens and those who work for the regime. These oaths are important political symbols as they explain what the regime holds most dear. They explain clearly the basis for obedience. Such obedience is beyond simply obeying the law of the land, which is considered the basic political obligation for anyone within that community even if they are a stranger. Therefore, it would reveal much about the regime if we know what these oaths contain and compare them to oaths in other regimes. Two such regimes are the UK regime and the Nazi regime. Winston Churchill described the British Monarchy as a benign kingdom that faced the sinister Nazi tyranny of darkness. A tyrant ruled Nazi Germany, a perverted form of kingship with a defective title to rule, in contrast to the legitimate king with a valid title, who ruled the British Empire.

Title to rule or title to tyranny?

Today, the Nazi regime is a distant memory and the word tyranny is reduced to a political term that describes any regime liberal democrats dislike. Yet, tyranny, as an idea that defines a king without a valid title to rule, remains. A valid title to rule is important to encourage obedience, obligation, and loyalty. These symbols are what a regime uses to remind people of their common identity. Even public events become symbols to remind the people of their duty. The basic public symbol is a loyalty oath. The oaths set their speakers apart from the average person. It demonstrates they have a different, higher, relationship with the ruler. However, in this relationship, the oath creates an inequality within the regime between the average citizen and those bound by the oath. The oath takers become the ruler’s agent through the institutions and practices they serve.

The two regimes, the UK and Nazi Germany are different in many ways. What connects, though, is their oaths. We begin with the Nazi Germany oaths and compare them the UK oaths to understand how each sets out what they expect of the oath taker. Through the comparison, we see how tyranny and kingship relate to the rule of law and a constitutional order. Moreover, they also help us to understand how the oath, by creating a systemic inequality, can encourage political or institutional corruption. The oath takers privilege their personal relationship with the ruler over their civic loyalty to the common good.

Oaths from Nazi Germany

We start at the top as it sets the tone for the regime. Hitler saw himself as independent of the regime. He stood above it as the source of its legitimacy. He demonstrated this by not swearing an oath to the constitution, the highest law of the land. (All the oaths are taken from Franz Neumann’s book Behemoth: The structure and Practice of National Socialism London Victor Gollancz 1942, P.74)

Hitler was independent of all other institutions, so that he has not had to (and did not) swear the constitutional oath to parliament, as required by Article 42 of the constitution.

What this suggests, as was confirmed by the war, was that Hitler as the Fuhrer saw himself as the source of the law. His will determined the law and the nation’s fate. Heidegger explained this in his lectures and speeches.

In the UK, a written constitution that rules over all does not exist. The Queen does not swear an oath to the law or to the constitution. As the source of the law, she is above the law.[1] Her Coronation Oath, by which she demonstrates she has assumed the throne, does not contain a promise to be ruled by the law. She does claim, perhaps for appearances, to respect the laws and voluntarily obeys them.

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I Will.

A king is considered valid if they rule over willing subjects according to the laws. Yet, this definition raises two immediate issues. First, how do we know if the subjects are willing if they have not consent to the monarch? Can a person consent to a monarch? Moreover, is such consent tacit at best given that all the organs of power, the army, police, judges, and MPs swear an oath to the Monarch? The idea that a monarch rules according to the laws raises the question of the source of the laws and who makes them. The people do not make the laws, which would be the basis of a democratic system, as the Crown’s representatives make them. Parliament is part of the Crown and the Crown rules the people. The people do not rule the Crown. A democracy where the people rule and are ruled in turn does not exist. No one rules the Queen or the Crown.

Military Oaths

The military defend the Queen from all enemies. They do not swear an oath to Parliament or to the Law. We can see similarities between the military oaths.

The Nazi oath for military

“On the day of Hindenburg’s death every member of the army had to take the following oath

“I swear this holy oath to God: that I shall give unconditional obedience to Adolph Hitler, Leader of the Reich and the people, supreme commander of the army, and that as a brave soldier, I shall be ready to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

The UK army swears the following oath to the Queen.

“I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.”[2]

The Navy do not swear an oath, as they are the Queen’s own. They exist by the Queen’s prerogative and therefore do not need to swear an oath of allegiance.[3]

Both oaths require the soldiers to swear obedience before God. The Nazi regime explicitly indicates they must risk their life for the oath, which requires unquestioned obedience to Adolph Hitler. The same personal loyalty occurs in the UK oath. There the soldiers will defend the Queen from all enemies. The Queen need but indicate the enemies and the oath indicates that they are to defend her from it. Officers and generals who will give the soldiers orders require the same oath. Parliament has no role in this process. Parliament gives no orders and commands no obedience. The law is not mentioned in either oath.

Political Oaths

Cabinet Ministers, which we can consider similar to MPs, swore the following oath.

Cabinet members have to swear as follows: “I swear that I shall be faithful and obedient to Adolph Hitler, the Leader of the German Reich and people, that I shall give my strength to the welfare of the German people, obey the laws, and conscientiously fulfil my duties, so help me God. (Statute of 16 October 1934)

The UK MPs swear an oath to the Queen. If they do not wish to swear an oath, they can make an attestation. The text of these is as follows.

“I…swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

The text of the affirmation is: – “I…do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors according to law”.

Under Hitler, the politicians agreed to obey the law and to obey Hitler. By contrast, the UK politicians agree to allegiance to the Queen according to the law. They do not make an explicit statement to obey the law. As mentioned above, there is an important difference between ruling or living according to the law and being ruled by and obeying the law.

The third area, the civil service shares some similarity to the police and judicial oaths within the UK.

The civil service oath

The German civil service had an oath of obedience. A similar oath does not appear to exist in the UK so the nearest equivalent is either the Police oath or the judicial oath. The Judiciary swears two oaths. The first is allegiance to the Queen. The second is the judicial oath.

Here is the German civil service oath.

“I swear that I shall be true and obedient to Adolph Hitler, the Leader of the German Reich and the people, that I shall obey the laws and fulfil my official duties conscientiously, so help me God”. (Section 4 of the Civil Service Act 26 January 1937.)

Even though the Queen is now limited by the law and by parliament, as prerogative power has slowly been scaled back and checked by the rule of law, it remains above or beyond the law. Moreover, prerogative power still exists. The government uses it as the Queen does not use it personally. Unlike the German system, the UK system does not invest power in one person. Instead, we see that the power has been diffused across the Monarchy, Parliament, House of Lords and the Church. In an important sense, this diffused power structure was what the UK relied on to resist Hitler’s assault. At the same time, it also showed the structural weakness to the Nazi system relying on the Fuhrer’s will and allowing no basis for succession.

The UK police oath and the judges’ oath are worth comparing.

Form of Declaration

’I………………..of……………… solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.’”[4]

Oath of allegiance for judges

“I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.”

Judicial oath

“I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

What do the Oaths tell us?

Both sets of oath swear allegiance to one person. The oath range from extreme, the military, to mild, civil servants. The UK oaths focus on allegiance while the Nazi oaths relied on obedience. Only the Nazi Civil Servants oath swears to obey the laws. In such a system, where the Fuhrer’s will makes the laws, one has to wonder if that holds any hope that the rule of law, which would restrain the Fuhrer’s will or the UK’s prerogative powers, would exist.

What is clear, though, is that the validity of the rule is in question for both. What the UK does have is the weight of tradition and the culture of obedience. Hitler tried to emulate such a culture in a perverted way. In the UK, power is diffused and continues to diffuse. The people, though, do not have a role in that process nor have they a role in the government. To the extent that power is diffused across the Crown, the UK looks less like the German system. Hitler was clearly a tyrant in his desire to central power in his person. However, the UK monarchy, as do all monarchies, has tyranny as a shadow as power seeks a focus. The Monarch may not be as active as it was in the 16th century but the prerogative can find a willing recipient in the Prime Minister. An imperial system without an active monarchy will encourage the emergency of a replacement focus for the power.

How can oaths encourage corrupt practices?

The oath creates an inequality within regime. There are those who take an oath and are the Crown’s servant and there is everyone else. Unlike the rule of law, where everyone is equal before the law, the oath of allegiance creates a space beyond the law. The person puts their allegiance to the Queen first and by extension the Crown. In the UK the Crown, through the Monarch, rules. The people are not sovereign and they do not rule. They are ruled. The oaths distinguish clearly between those groups. How this becomes a corrupt practice is in the following way.

When a Crown agent, such as a police officer or a soldier violates the law, they are held to account by the Crown. The people, through their institutions, do not hold them to account. One Crown servant, the Judge holds another Crown servant, the soldier or police officer to account. Although they are supposed to act in the public interest, the courts will be influenced by a view that the public interest coincides with the Crown’s interest. This does not mean that the Crown always wins, far from it, instead it means the system has an inherent bias when the Crown is challenged through the courts. The Crown creates the laws that set the public interest’s limits. We can consider three cases to illustrate this point. The first case is the problem of deaths in custody, the second is justice for serving soldiers and the third is prerogative power.


Since 1969, no police officer has ever been convicted of a death in custody.[5] From 1998-2010 333 people died in police custody and no one was convicted of their death.[6] 1990-2014, in all forms of custody, 1515 people have died in custody. Despite trials, no one has ever been convicted of causing those deaths despite enough evidence to bring many cases to trial. The record suggests that the Crown does not hold itself to account very well. The issue reflects police power, the physical power over a vulnerable person, (is there anyone more vulnerable than a person in restraints?) that leads to a death. However, when someone dies it is not always through an act, it can occur from a failure to act. In both cases, though, the Crown fails in its duty of care to the most vulnerable.

The oath sets the police apart from the public. They inhabit an office that is firstly loyal to the Queen. Through their status and exclusivity, they bond with other post holders. Their oath identifies them and reinforces the distance between someone inside the force and outside of it. As such, the loyalty that the oath encourages can lead the officer to place their institutional loyalty before the public.


The second issue relates to the cases where serving soldiers receive less severe sentences. In this situation, the Crown’s interest in the soldiers exceeds the public interest in justice for the victims. Although they have received a sentence, they escape a more severe sentence because of their status as Crown servants. To be sure, in all situations, the Crown will consider a person’s character and societal role when they judge them; yet, these perpetrators are set apart by their status as Crown Servants.[7] To the extent that they receive a preferential service, they stand apart and the public take a back seat.

Prerogative power.

The Crown, through its servants, can exercise prerogative power beyond the rule of law. The Queen commands the military. Although she goes to war under the advice of ministers, that prerogative right is not subject to the rule of law. However, this example is the most extreme. What we find is that Ministers exercise the prerogative power on a regular basis on less serious issues. Their position as a Crown Servant, not as a democratically elected official, provides their position to exercise prerogative power. Consider the way in which another Crown Servant, the Queen’s Private Secretary, exercises prerogative power in the case of a hung parliament.


Nazi Germany was clearly a tyranny. The UK Monarchs have done much to create a legitimate title to rule and to rule according to the laws. They sustain their rule when they protect the public, maintain the public peace, ensure the public prosperity and protect the vulnerable from those with a predatory nature. However, the prerogative powers and the Queen’s status sustain the system; Parliament and a Supreme Court have yet to replace the Monarchy. The prerogative system remains vulnerable to abuse. Even if we want to believe the Crown has less prerogative power than previously, the oaths and their institutional context remain to remind us.

Some might say that the oaths are unimportant and a relic of a bygone age. If the oaths were unimportant, why do we have them? If we do have them, they must mean something. If they mean nothing and are considered a relic, why does Parliament refuse to seat anyone who will not take the oath? Would the military, the SAS, the SBS, and the Royal Marines consider such oaths meaningless and empty words? Do these men and women consider loyalty an empty word? If they do, we should pause a moment and consider that without the oath, the difference between a soldier and a mercenary begins to disappear. Yet, we are reminded that there are ways to obtain political loyalty and obligation beyond oaths. A system based on consent is possible. The question is whether the UK is ready to change its constitutional system from an imperial one based on loyalty and obedience oaths to one based on consent and the rule of law.




[2]  (accessed 31 December 2014)

[3] (accessed 31 December 2014)

[4] section 83 Attestation of Constables



[7] and

Posted in Government, justice, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Libertarianism’s hidden shadow: Tyranny

English: Title page of the first printing of t...

English: Title page of the first printing of the Federalist Papers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most people the word libertarian makes them think of liberty. Libertarians want to ensure individual freedom. At the same time, people will seek libertarianism as opposed to tyranny. Despite the surface belief, I argue that it hides a tyrannical soul. By tyrannical soul, I mean it contains the idea of tyranny. Tyranny is understood here as the political practice of a subordinating all common goods to their own individual good. The tyrant rules the city so that it serves his interests. The tyrant is not concerned with the common good for its own sake. To the extent that he is concerned with the common good, it is for his own interests such as security. When libertarianism encourages the pursuit of individual liberty, it encourages it at the expense of the common good. In this pursuit, it discourages democratic beliefs that support the common good and encourages tyrannical beliefs that erode the common good. In this belief, libertarianism undermines the American idea.

Is libertarianism a perversion of the American idea?

America is the idea that a people could form a government by consent and intent and not through accident and fraud. The America idea is expressed through its constitution, where We, the People, created a new government. We note that the We, the people, was set against the King, an individual, who ruled them tyrannically. The Americans rejected that the individual would rule the people at the expense of common good. Instead, they created a government born of the common good and created a more perfect union. The common good succeeds to the extent that Americans can practice self-government. Self-government, though, is more than the pursuit of individual liberty, it requires that the individual participate in the public domain. For an individual to participate in the public domain, they have to sacrifice their own individual good for the common good, which is expressed in the 10th Amendment. The individual has a role in the government, which if shirked in the pursuit of individual liberty, impoverishes the public good. Far from being the threat to our liberty, government is what binds American together and makes Americans.

At seminal events, Americans have focused on the common good over their individual good. When Lincoln renewed America’s founding, he reminded us of that common good in the Gettysburg Address. He spoke of a government, of the people, by the people, and for the people. He did not talk of the individual or individual liberty. Instead, he spoke of self-government and whether men could design and consent to a government that was based on the idea of self-government. Individual liberty he explained was found in self-government that required that the individuals devote themselves to something larger and more important than their own interests. The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, refer to a res publica, a public thing that is held in common. Neither document puts individual liberty before the common good. They both are based on the idea that the common good is necessary for individual liberty.

Every Man a King destroys trust in self-government and nurtures tyranny

The American idea, as expressed by Lincoln and the Federalists, is based on an implicit trust in the government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Today, though, that trust is at a historic low corroded by an unremitting attack on government and the rule of law. The most vociferous critics have attacked the government in the name of liberty. In this attack, the critics encourage lawlessness and claim it is the only way to liberty. They forget that Americans believe that liberty develops from self-government and law abidingness that is America’s political religion. Those who attack the republic idea of government flatter the people with appeals to personal liberty. Their flattery masks tyrannical beliefs and behaviours. Throughout the ages demagogues have arisen who would flatter the people about their rights and freedoms and then impose a tyranny. America has known such demagogues who have touted individual liberty so that they could achieve their political aims. We recall Huey Long who proudly proclaimed that he would make Every Man a King. He would flatter everyone with the promise for their individual good at the expense of the common good. He promised tyranny for what is a king but a tyrant to an American in the name of liberty.

Flattery soon gives way to tyranny.

The founders feared demagogues who begin by flattery and end with tyranny.

It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants. (Federalist 1) [1]

Today, libertarian candidates would flatter Americans by defending their rights. Yet, their claims to subscribe to the founding fathers would require him to jettison his libertarianism. The Founding Fathers understood that an individual’s good, his liberty, depends on his ability to participate in the common good. Yet, that public activity relies on the bureaucratic state. The modern individual developed with the modern state. The individual requires a bureaucratic state infrastructure to act as an individual. Instead of the family or the tribe, the individual can act freely because a bureaucracy ensures the laws and government systems provide a safe and prosperous public domain. The individual does not have to enforce their own contracts or ensure their water is safe.

The individual destroys the common good, an eternal danger reborn by Rand Paul

As Socrates pointed out, the tyrannical life for non-philosophers is one in which the common goods are subordinated to one’s own individual good.[2] To the extent that a libertarian is concerned with the common good, it is only for their own good. They fear the loss of their own good more than they value the common good. Unlike Socrates who believes that his particular or individual good is derived from the universal good, the libertarian believes that the common good must serve the individual good as it comes before the common good. By contrast, the American founding is based on the idea of a universal good by which we judge any individual good. The individual good, according to the Federalist Papers, is found within the common good. Thus, we see the idea of a people creating a union; it is not individuals, as suggested by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan.

Libertarianism undermines the virtue by which soldiers serve the common good.

Our veterans understand their liberty requires devotion to a higher, common, good beyond their own good. We honour their service because they are patriots. A patriot loves his country and sacrifices their life for it. Their sacrifice, though, is not always death it can be their time, their health, and their opportunities. They do this for something that is more important than themselves for the highest common good the country.[3] To cheapen this sacrifice by equating it with libertarianism confuses sacrifice for selfishness. The patriot loves his country enough to sacrifice himself for it just as a parent would sacrifice their life for their family. Perhaps in the Libertarian America of Ayn Rand parents are to sacrifice their children for themselves. Our private good comes before the public good.

Can we recover the public life when we are told liberty depends on privacy?

If we pursue libertarianism to its logical conclusion, we would sacrifice the common good for the individual private good. We would embrace tyranny. Such individuals would seek a political leader who would deliver on that promise. Tyranny becomes viable as citizens forget the common good. We are encouraged to pursue privacy at the expense of our ability to participate in the public domain and share the common good. We relinquish our public right to democracy for the private pleasure of liberty. Privacy and libertarianism leads us away from the res publica, the public thing. Is this liberty or slavery to surrender the public domain and pursue private pleasures?


[2] Harry Neumann, Socrates in Plato and Aristophanes: In Memory of Ludwig Edelstein (1902-1965) The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 201-214 Accessed: 22-05-2015

[3] Consider the famous saying by Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if not now, when? And if I am only for myself, what am I?”


Posted in censorship, corruption, education, Government, justice, public opinion, republicanism | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A partial response to Snowden’s Precis: Are the Rich Getting Richer?

A portrait of Karl Marx.

A portrait of Karl Marx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Snowden has written an interesting article about poverty and prosperity in the United Kingdom.[1] (The article is in the Institute of Economic Affairs Magazine EA can be found here: ) He makes an impassioned argument that the poor have gotten wealthier and their income is better relative to the average despite the recession. The argument appears strong and incontrovertible on the surface. However, we have to look closely, but not too closely, to find its flaws. Despite those who would quote his article to great effect, it does not suggest that the anti-austerity marchers are wrong to march or to protest austerity.

The basic message to understand is that Snowden promotes income and wages as improving and the austerity campaigners argue against the cuts to government programs and benefits. To put it bluntly, they are comparing apples and oranges. What we need to do is look at Mr. Snowden’s article on its own merits. To do this, we need to read it closely to understand it.

Straw men rarely make an argument.

Mr. Snowden, like those who wish to make an ideological argument, start with straw man arguments

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, said last year that Britain is a country in which ‘inequality soars’ and ‘social mobility has hit reverse’.

The Guardian tells us that Britain is ‘Europe’s sweatshop’, a country where workers put in the longest hours in the EU.

And it is a perennial lament that ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer’.

To be sure, the headlines and selected speech quotations taken out of context sound interesting and create a good straw man to knock down. Except that as headlines and quotations taken out of context, they have no basis to test. Until we provide a standard to measure the statements against, that is the statements against their own logic, we cannot assess them.

What did Frances O’Grady’s statement say? Here is the exact quotation.

This brand of conservatism is the enemy of aspiration. As inequality soars, social mobility has hit reverse.[2]

That is it. It is a throwaway line, a claptrap, without any substance. We do not know what it meant. We can read into what we want. Like most political rhetoric, it is short on substance or logic and long on emotion.

If we take the regular lament “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” at face value, it is always true relatively. If I earn a billion and you earn a billion this year, next year you earn a billion, and I earn a trillion. I am richer and you are poor than me relative to last year. Against an absolute average, we are both “richer” but my increase is larger than your increase so you are relatively poorer. It is a phrase that is empty of substance and that is filled by emotion.

Once you debunk their straw men you can provide your own

Mr. Snowden recognizes these as straw men statements and then provides his own.

Taken together, these assertions encourage a counsel of despair about the prospects of workers in the UK today, but they are all empirical claims and can be tested against the facts.

The two statements do not provide a counsel of despair. Neither the speakers nor the statements suggest despair. They may suggest unfairness; they do not counsel despair because they are rallying cries for change. The speakers want the situation to change. Despair means to give up and this is definitely not what the speakers or the statements encourage.

Make sure you mention Marx to show you are a capitalist

Mr. Snowden, like a good capitalist, has to say something bad about Marx. Why we have to invoke Marx each time we talk about inequality, I do not know. However, no discussion seems to be complete without him.

The well-worn assertion that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer echoes Karl Marx’s theory of immiseration which said that capitalists could only become richer by lowering wages, thereby reducing the living standards of workers until they had no choice but to revolt. Marx was wrong.

The idea sounds good except that the assertion does not echo Marx. Mr. Snowden has connected two ideas that are not connected. First, Marx never had a theory of immiseration. He did have a theory about revolution and he believed that as capital accumulates the worker would be worse off. This is not the same as saying, as the rich get richer the poor get poor. For it to be the same, it would have to say that as the rich get richer they make the poor get poorer by taking the money from the poor. Except that is not what Marx said. Here is what he said.

It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, 1867.[1]

Cf. Marx, Karl (2007): Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: The Process of Capitalist Production. Volume I, part 2. Cosimo Inc., pp. 708-709[3]

Second, the poor can be better off or worse off even as the rich get richer, and that is not same as saying that the capitalists only become rich by lowering wages. Again, this is not something that Marx said. Why Mr. Snowden wants to make up quotations is beyond me, but it seems a bit pointless to smear Marx with made up quotations.

Relative or Absolute poverty still means you are poor.

The straw man arguments continue.

Today, no one seriously argues that the poor are poorer than their Victorian counterparts, but some claim that they are poorer – and that there is more poverty – than twenty, thirty or forty years ago. It is not true.

I am not sure anyone has argued that the poor are poorer than in the Victorian era. The obvious infrastructural changes: universal health coverage, health and safety laws, improved access to education would disprove this statement. If it is manifestly and demonstrably wrong, why make the statement. However, Mr. Snowden finishes with the straw man arguments and moves to the statistics.

There has been a steady increase in wage rates for more than 150 years. Average earnings have risen more than four-fold since the start of the twentieth century despite two world wars and intermittent recessions.

Wages declined or stagnated in the mid-1970s, early 1990s and, above all, during the recent economic downturn: average earnings for full-time workers were 7.5 per cent lower in 2013 than they had been in 2009.

Initially (2009-11), the poorest 10 per cent – but not the poorest 2 per cent – saw a larger than average fall in wage rates, but this pattern was reversed in 2011 and 2013 when the richest decile saw their earnings fall by more than four per cent while the poorest decile saw earnings fall by less than two per cent.

Here the truth emerges but not as Mr. Snowden expected. What he wrote confirms that which he was arguing against. Initially the poor were getting poorer faster than the rich were and then they were getting poorer slower than the rich were. What this misses is that the poor were worse off than the rich were relatively and absolutely. In effect, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer relatively and absolutely.  The statistics paint a bleak picture.

Check the sources and you find the bias

The table is taken from the ONS report Equivalised¹ disposable household income, 1977-2012/13, UK (2012/13 prices²)[4]

Quintile groups of all households ranked by equivalised1 disposable income All
Bottom 2nd 3rd 4th Top holds
2006-07 11,014 17,916 24,551 34,036 63,650 30,233 0.364304 2.105315
2007-08 10,750 18,156 24,587 33,478 62,314 29,857 0.36005 2.087082
2008-09 11,021 17,835 24,344 33,558 62,355 29,823 0.369547 2.090836
2009-10 11,467 18,502 24,600 33,529 61,728 29,965 0.38268 2.060003
2010-11 11,510 18,181 24,054 33,099 61,942 29,757 0.3868 2.081594
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

The last two columns are first Bottom divided by All household and the second is Top divided by All Households.

This shows us how the poorest and the richest did relative to all households. We can see that in the change from 2011-12 to 2012-2013 the rich did get richer and the poor did get poorer relatively and absolutely.

Let’s focus on wages to avoid income

Although Mr. Snowden wants to focus on wages, this is less helpful

As painful as these pay cuts have been in recent years, it is unlikely that posterity will view them as anything more than a blip in the upward march of progress.

The bigger picture is quite clear. Since 1975, average real wages have more than doubled for full-time workers and nearly doubled for part-time workers.

Amongst the poorest decile, full-time wages rose from £3.40 to £6.67 between 1975 and 2013 (in 2013 prices) and part-time wages rose from £2.83 to £5.83.

Put another way, whilst only two per cent of full-time workers earned the minimum wage of £6.19 in 2013 45 per cent of full-time workers in 1975 earned less than £6.19 (in 2013 prices).

And, whilst 30 per cent of full-time workers earned less than £10 an hour in 2013, 85 per cent earned less than the equivalent of £10 an hour in 1975.

Wage rates do not tell the full story. Many people do not work and many workers have their incomes supplemented by benefits. If we look at household disposable incomes (i.e. income after direct taxes and benefits have been taken into account), we see a similar story of rising prosperity.

Between 1977 and 2011/12, the incomes of the poorest twenty per cent (the bottom quintile) rose by 93 per cent in real terms. Those of the top quintile rose by even more – 149 per cent – so it is true that the rich have got richer, but it is clear that the poor have also got richer.  State benefits play a major role in cushioning the poor from the impact of declining wages.

The problem with a focus on wages is that if you start in a low paying job you are likely to remain in low paying job.

There is evidence for wage persistence. If a worker begins his/her career in a low- paying job, he/she is very likely to stay in a low-paying job. Sixty per cent of the bottom ten per cent of earners in 2001/02 were among the bottom 30 per cent of earners in 2008/09. 84[5]

No matter how poor you are remember prosperity is up across the board

The argument continues to focus on rising prosperity across the board.

The post-2007 fall in earnings has been due to inflation rising at a faster rate than nominal wages, but, since benefit payments tend to be tied to inflation rather than wages, those who depend on benefits for most of their income have been protected from much of the decline in pay.

The Office for National Statistics records that average real disposable incomes fell by four per cent between 2007/08 and 2012/13 but that ‘the largest fall in incomes over this period has been for the richest fifth of households, whose disposable income has fallen by £3,300 (or 5.2 per cent) in real terms’.

By contrast, the ONS says, ‘the average income of the poorest fifth has risen by £400 (or 3.5 per cent) since 2007/08.’

This figure is chosen to avoid the follow up sentence that puts it all into context.  It is a drop of £400 from the previous year. Even though it is £400 better than 2007/8 (11,122 vs 10750) it is still £400 worse than the year before (11, 122 vs 11503). Moreover, the Top grew by £950 from 2011-12 to 2012-13 (58,109 to 59, 049) on the previous year! Thus, the rich got richer even as the poor became poorer. Why does Mr. Snowden avoid this uncomfortable truth? [6]

2007-08 10,750 18,156 24,587 33,478 62,314 29,857 0.36005 2.087082
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

He continues by trumpeting how the poor have become richer. In absolute terms, this is undeniable. However, the issue has always been relative wealth. The poor have not seen their relative share grow at all while the top have seen their share grow faster and faster.

It is inarguable that the poor have become richer in the long-term and doubtful whether they have become poorer even during the recent economic slowdown, despite incomes falling amongst every other group.

Whether measured in cash or real terms, whether looked at in terms of hourly, weekly or annual earnings, and whether taken before or after housing costs have been deducted, the last forty years have been an era of rising prosperity across the board.

Except the statistics do not support his argument. Let us compare the disposable income levels in 1977-1987. Overall things have gotten much worse, relative to the average, for the lowest group.

1977 5,966 8,606 11,386 14,852 23,288 12,821 0.46533 1.816395
1978 6,468 9,319 12,369 16,056 24,516 13,746 0.470537 1.783501
1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
1980 6,384 9,477 12,892 16,935 26,967 14,532 0.439306 1.855698
1981 6,672 9,516 12,730 16,978 27,895 14,759 0.452063 1.890033
1982 6,597 9,277 12,442 16,463 26,953 14,345 0.459881 1.878913
1983 6,640 9,449 12,704 17,007 28,290 14,818 0.448104 1.909165
1984 6,937 9,660 12,902 17,177 27,973 14,930 0.464635 1.87361
1985 6,898 9,773 13,515 18,653 30,828 15,934 0.432911 1.934731
1986 7,107 10,127 14,013 19,025 33,340 16,723 0.424984 1.993661
1987 7,151 10,428 14,772 20,425 36,765 17,908 0.399319 2.052993

From 1977 to 1986, the situation deteriorated slowly for the bottom. Then it dropped out in 1987. The ratio of bottom to all dropped from .42 to .39. It would not move greater than .39 until 2012 when it reached.4009.  By contrast, things were getting better for the top and jumped dramatically from 1985-1987. The Top went from 1.93 of Top to all households to 2.05. They have never looked back and despite some setbacks have never seen their ratio drop below 2.03.

Income inequality is the main issue

Mr. Snowden continues his argument and turns to, of all things, income inequality.

Is income inequality rising?

Because it is difficult to maintain the notion that the incomes of the poor have been falling in the long-term, critics of capitalism often base their argument regarding poverty around concepts such as ‘relative poverty’. However, reductions in relative poverty typically coincide with periods of general impoverishment. The official (relative) poverty line is generally understood to be 60 per cent of the median income, but this is essentially a measure of inequality and does not tell us whether or not the poor are getting poorer.

In 1979, thirteen per cent of the population was living below the relative poverty threshold. By 2005, the real disposable incomes of the poorest fifth had risen by more than fifty per cent and yet eighteen per cent of the population was now officially living in poverty.

Mr. Snowden makes a good dodge in his argument. He begins by talking about wages of poorest increasing during selected years and he then measures this against relative poverty without providing the measure for relative poverty. Even though he focuses on the 60% of median income, this does not tell us about poverty or income inequality.

Selective years paints a selective story

I find his years curious. Let’s look at them individually and then in context.

1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
2005-06 11,079 17,735 23,976 33,067 61,026 29,377 0.377132 2.077339

We see that the disposable income relative to all incomes has decreased for the poorest and increased for the top. Let’s look closer and see the context of these changes and why these years are important.

1977 5,966 8,606 11,386 14,852 23,288 12,821 0.46533 1.816395
1978 6,468 9,319 12,369 16,056 24,516 13,746 0.470537 1.783501
1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
1980 6,384 9,477 12,892 16,935 26,967 14,532 0.439306 1.855698
1981 6,672 9,516 12,730 16,978 27,895 14,759 0.452063 1.890033

When we look at the two years before and the two years after, 1979 stands out before of the changes before and after it for the bottom and the top relative to all incomes. The bottom suffered a drop both absolutely and relatively in 1980 and the top continued a steady increase relatively and absolutely.

Let’s look at 2005 in context.

2002-03 10,423 16,664 23,106 32,052 57,706 27,991 0.37237 2.061591
2003-04 10,625 17,137 23,430 31,573 59,017 28,356 0.3747 2.081288
2004-05 11,238 17,921 24,127 32,632 59,055 28,994 0.387597 2.036801
2005-06 11,079 17,735 23,976 33,067 61,026 29,377 0.377132 2.077339
2006-07 11,014 17,916 24,551 34,036 63,650 30,233 0.364304 2.105315

We see why 2005 is so important for Mr. Snowden. It is the only year in which poorest did well relative to all that is .38. It is coincidently the year the Top 2.03 was at its lowest. Why was Mr. Snowden so selective in his statistical choice?

He continues his argument looking at relative power but comparing it other countries.

In other words, raising the incomes of Britain’s poorest people by half did not prevent the official poverty rate rising by half. Just as the relative poverty rate can rise despite the poor becoming richer, so too can the relative poverty rate fall as long as the wages of the poor fall less sharply than those on median incomes. This is precisely what happened during the recent financial crisis. In 2010/11, Britain’s (relative) poverty rate fell to 16 per cent and the child poverty rate fell to 18 per cent. Both figures were the lowest they had been since the mid-1980s, despite – or rather because of – wages falling across the board. In short, the poverty rate has very little to do with how much money the poor have.

The UK’s official poverty rate in 2012 (16 per cent) was higher than that of Bangladesh (14 per cent), Azerbaijan (2 per cent) and Namibia (0 per cent). But, where would you like your children to be born?

The Gini Coefficient is not something you can eat when you are hungry

Mr. Snowden then turns to the Gini coefficient to make his point that inequality is falling after it peaked in 1990.

Not only has poverty reduced but income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient which is the standard measure of inequality, is falling too: it peaked in 1990. By 2011/12 it had dropped to 32.3, the lowest since 1986.

Contrary to popular belief, the modern peak of income inequality was twenty five years ago. There was a significant rise in the 1980s, but since then rates have been quite stable except when a weak economy brings them down. It is simply untrue to say that ‘inequality soars’ in modern Britain.

When we look at the data, we find this just does not follow what the various indicators show. Yes, the relative income inequality peaked in 1990. This was the worst year for the lowest and the best for the top. It could not get worse without serious dislocation.

1990 7,158 11,286 16,989 24,401 45,613 21,089 0.339419 2.162881

However, this misses the longer trend and the current situation especially with the focus on 2011/2012. Again, he chooses the best year to make his case and it is wrong.

2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339

The ratio of lowest to all hits it highest in 2011/12 at .4092 and the top has its, worst level since 1986 at 2.02. If we look at the next year, this all gets into context and we see the inequality gets worse. The lowest drop back to .38, marginally better than 2010/211 and decreasing from the previous year. The top get higher but worse than 2010-11 and increase on the previous year. Which one would you rather be experiencing?

2010-11 11,510 18,181 24,054 33,099 61,942 29,757 0.3868 2.081594
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

Again, we see that Mr. Snowden avoids the uncomfortable context that undermines his argument. Why?

Mr. Snowden also mentions the Gini coefficient to make his argument. He claimed that income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient had peaked in 1990 and had decreased since.

Not only has poverty reduced but income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient which is the standard measure of inequality, is falling too: it peaked in 1990. By 2011/12 it had dropped to 32.3, the lowest since 1986.

Let us look at the Gini coefficients over this period and focus on the figures he mentions.[7]

1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
27.2 26.6 27.4 28.6 29 28.6 29.1 28.4
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
30 31.6 33.2 35.1 34.4 36.8 35.6 34.7
1993/94 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01
34.8 33.8 33 34.4 34.5 35.4 35.8 35
2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09
36.2 33.8 34 32.8 33.9 34.7 34.2 34.3
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
33.2 33.7 32.3 33.2

We do find that he is correct. 1990 was the worst year. When we compare 2011/12 to all previous years, it is the best until 1986. Except, that is not the full story. When we look at next year, the figure has gotten worse and returned to the overall trend of the previous 10 years. Far from being a sign of things getting better, it is seen for the anomaly that it is. The trend only improved under Labour in 2004/05 it was 32.8 which did not require a recession unlike 2011/12.  To keep the trend downward or stable it will require a similar economic and social policy by the Conservatives to keep the Gini Coefficient trend downward rather than encouraging it upward.


Mr. Snowden continues to discuss working hours and social mobility. However, at this point, I cannot continue. His statistical choices appear to suit his ideological interests. The selective statistics are not the sign of an academic or scholarly work. It is a work of propaganda. A propaganda that many will repeat without reading the fine print. However, those who repeat it without reading the wider context will demonstrate that ideological goose-stepping is easier than research, analysis and intellectual probity.

[1] Christopher Snowden’s article in the Institute of Economic Affairs Magazine EA can be found here:




[5] See the Government report on child poverty. 2012 Measuring Child Poverty:    A consultation on better measures of child poverty p. 33


[7] The Gini Coefficients are taken from the ONS figures.

Posted in Government, justice, local government, public sector, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Queen and the rule of Law: Magna Carta’s myth

Jurist Edward Coke interpreted Magna Carta to ...

Jurist Edward Coke interpreted Magna Carta to apply not only to the protection of nobles but to all subjects of the crown equally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent Spectator article, Daniel Hannan explained that the Queen obeyed the rule of law.

“..I’m closely involved with the project—will be unveiling a large bronze statue of the Queen, symbolizing both 800 years of the Crown’s acceptance of the rule of law….”[1]

Except that is wishful thinking. At best, it is a pious fraud. The Queen is not subject to the rule of law.[2] The MPs, the Police, the Judges, and the Army take oaths to her and not to law or to Parliament. The settlement of 1688 was devil’s bargain in which the people’s representatives sold the people into bondage so they could enjoy the Crown’s privileges. Unlike Mr. Hannan, I do not find the 1688 a Glorious Revolution in the way he does.[3] Parliament became part of the Crown, allowed the arbitrary royal prerogative power to remain, and perpetuated the Crown’s arbitrary power.[4] Far from a constraint, the 1688 Bill of Rights simply expressed the Crown’s powers against the people and the promise it, and Magna Carta made, remain unfulfilled.

The Queen rules the law; the law does not rule the Queen The law does not rule the Queen. She rules herself. The Royal Prerogative remains unscathed. It has been diminished over the past 327 years, but it remains testament to the fact that the Crown is not subject to the rule of law.[5] The Queen takes no oath to obey the law nor does she take an oath to a constitution.[6]

The legal prerogative, including the principle that the Crown (or the state) can do no wrong, and that the Crown is not bound by statute save by express words or necessary implication;[7]

Rule of law does not exist if it is not complete. No one and no thing can be above or beyond the law. If it is, then the rule of law is limited. We see this clearly in the fact that only laws that specifically apply to her are enforceable. All other laws she only obeys voluntarily. She is not required to obey them in the way you or I are required.

It is Her Majesty’s Government that Make Her Majesty’s laws. What this means is that a Police Constable cannot arrest her although she voluntarily obeys the law to avoid the constitutional issues that could arise from such an attempt. Thus, we are not equal before the law. A Police Constable can arrest anyone in the UK except the Queen. The rule of law means that no one is above the law. However, it is clear by definition and by fact that the Queen is exempt from most laws. The rule of law only exists for those who are not her equal. Thus, the myth that the Crown is subject to the rule of law confuses the issue. The Queen, the Anglican Church, and Parliament, which was coopted into the Crown in 1688, are the Crown. To say that the Crown follows the rule of law elides the vital point that the Queen, the source of the laws, is not subject to the law.

Prerogative powers are arbitrary and beyond the rule of law. We can see this demonstrated in the way Government relies upon prerogative powers drawn from the Royal prerogative. These are not subject to the rule of law. The Royal Prerogative is beyond the rule of law. You will have the rule of law when the Royal Prerogative is extinguished and the Crown is subject to the will of the law. Until that day, the arbitrary power of the Crown remains.[8] It would be called a tyranny except to the extent that it rules in accordance with the law.[9] It is not an institution created by or for the people. The law, until the Crown disappears, will be an instrument of the Crown used for its purposes and only indirectly for the people or the public good. Until then, you are subject to Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Laws. She rules you. Neither the law nor Parliament rule.

Perhaps it is time to dispel Magna Carta myths and not perpetuate them especially by those who should know better.

[1] (accessed 24 May 2015)

[2]See for example     “Given the historical development of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. Acts of Parliament do not apply to The Queen in her personal capacity unless they are expressly stated to do so.” (accessed 24 May 2015)

[3] I find it a glorious revolution only to the extent it inspire the American Revolution which completed its promise and threw off the Crown’s arbitrary power and instituted the rule of law with a written constitution. In the United States, the people are sovereign. No one is above the Constitution and all take an oath to serve it and uphold it. By contrast, the UK officials take oaths to the Queen not to Parliament or the Law.

[4] (accessed 24 May 2015)

[5] Even the argument that the exercise of prerogative has to be reasonable and in accordance with the common law belies the existence of prerogative power. Prerogative power is not rule by law. It is rule beyond the law and until that gap is closed, the UK cannot claim that it follows the rule of law. (accessed 24 May 2015) Unless one wants to claim that the Royal Prerogative makes the law, in which case we return to the question of what is the law, which in turn raises the question of those laws not created by Royal Prerogative.

[6] The relevant passage from her Coronation Oath is

“Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?

And the Queen answering, I am willing.

The Archbishop shall minister these questions; and The Queen, having a book in her hands, shall answer each question severally as follows:

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I will.”

One notes that she does take an oath to obey the law. (accessed 24 May 2015)

[7] See the selection committee on Constitution 15th Report Waging War: Parliament’s role and responsibility (accessed 25 May 2015)

[8] As Lord Bingham of Cornhill expressed it so eloquently in R (On The Application of Bancoult) V Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. “The royal prerogative, according to Dicey’s famous definition (An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (8th ed, 1915, p 420)), is “the residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the Crown”. It is for the courts to inquire into whether a particular prerogative power exists or not, and, if it does exist, into its extent: Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374, 398E. Over the centuries the scope of the royal prerogative has been steadily eroded, and it cannot today be enlarged (British Broadcasting Corporation v Johns (Inspector of Taxes) [1965] Ch 32, 79E).  (Accessed 24 May 2015)

[9] As Leo Strauss argues in On Tyranny, “kingship is rule “in accordance with the laws of the cities” (p.68). However, this does not mean that ruling according to the laws is not tyrannical. Instead, we see that the Crown has been at pains to placate the populace, keep them willing subjects, and to rule in accord with the laws even though the people cannot make the laws. They live with the appearance that the Crown makes and rules according to the country’s laws.  However, the deeper issue is the validity or legitimacy of the regime. Can the Crown claim to be legitimate when it is not based on consent, not even the 1688 Act can be considered to express the consent of a constitution. In other words, a regime without consent is a tyranny and the UK regime lacks consent, even though the people may be satisfied with the appearance that the regime rules in accordance with the laws. As Xenophon’s Memorabilia 4.4.13 explains citizens who covenant with each other create the law of the community. The UK regime is not based on such a covenant and lacks the legitimacy it provides. Therein we see the continuing and ongoing struggle between the UK regime and the spirit of 1789.

Posted in corruption, justice, philosophy, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , , ,