Friday 19 July 2024

Libertarianism, liberalism and conservatism

 A reply to JD Vance and Suella Braverman 

Trevor Watkins 18/7/2024

Suella Braverman, a UK Conservative politician, recently blamed the recent Tory election catastrophe on the Liberals. In a 2019 UnHerd article JD Vance, the US vice presidential candidate, blames libertarians for the troubles that beset America. Notably, neither apportion any blame to their brand of conservatism.  

JD Vance: “The question conservatives confront at this key moment is this: Whom do we serve?”

This question goes to the heart of the difference between libertarians and conservatives. “Whom do we serve?” is the plaintive cry of serfs, of slaves, of the defeated. Libertarians ask “What do I choose, to what do I consent, what are my limits?”.  We do not serve, unless we choose to, 

Conservatives value nation, state, community, duty, service, place, culture. 

Libertarians value the individual, consent, free markets, freedom of choice, of speech, of movement. 

Both conservatives and libertarians respect family, the rule of law, love,  motherhood and apple pie.

Our values define us, and our conflicts. If you must serve your community, you may not serve yourself. If duty defines your choice, then you have no choice. If others define your limits, then you are always limited by those others. 

Communists sacrifice everyone to the state. Conservatives sacrifice every one else to the service of the community. Libertarians see no need for sacrifice. 

Conservatives believe that individuals must be constrained by government laws to produce the public goods that they believe are necessary, and to prevent behaviours they dislike. They are willing to use politics and political power to accomplish those public goods, particularly if their tribe happens to wield that power.  They believe in the greater good, that the ends justify the means, that some must die so that others may live.

Vance gives the example of a kid who is addicted to opiods who lives in a poor neighbourhood with a dysfunctional family. He accuses libertarians of not being concerned about the public outcomes so long as social goods are produced by free individual choices. He says we can’t just blame consumer choice. We have to blame ourselves for not doing something to stop it, by which he means the state, politicians and the bureaucracy. He discounts private initiative and charity (despite private charity exceeding state interventions in the US). He discounts the proven success of free markets in almost every human endeavour in resolving problems. He discounts the mountains of evidence that state interventions are almost always costly and ineffective. He’s a politician, so he must be right.

Conservatives and liberals do not trust individuals to freely choose the best outcomes for themselves. They must be guided by their elders and betters, who just happen to be politicians. 

Will mistakes be made? Sure. Will people die? Probably. Will some people profit disproportionately relative to others? Almost certainly, But as every free market example demonstrates, the result is always better for individuals than any other.

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Reality Bites

 Like apes cowering in a cave while leopards roam outside, our very lives depend on our ability to use our senses and our intellect to correctly interpret the muffled sights, sounds and smells filtering through to us. Evolution rewards those creatures who interpret reality best with survival and reproduction, and punishes the dreamers with short, brutal lives commonly ending as food for the focused.

The best way of dealing with reality is by understanding it – by distinguishing the real from the unreal. We may choose to spend our reflective moments speculating on how things ought to be, and striving towards this desired state, but always in the context of how things actually are, if we are to survive.

This article identifies and discusses a number of realities, and catalogs a few common myths, unrealities, wishful desires sometimes presented as realities, to the detriment of those who buy into them. 



We exist in this mortal realm as structured biological organisms. We are born of women (mostly), we grow and learn, build and consume, reproduce, rot and die. There is no reliable evidence that we exist as conscious entities before we are conceived, or after we die. This brief span is all that we have, for better or for worse.

Given these realities, life ought to be precious, ought to be preserved and nurtured in all its variety. In reality, it is not. There is an abundance of life, and of death.  Life may simply be a process for improving the design of a species’ genetic structure, through trial and error,  for an as yet unexplained reason, or for no reason.

Nevertheless, without life there is no meaning, no purpose, no reality. Therefore, the continued existence of your life, your survival, is the ultimate purpose of your experience of reality.

Life ain’t fair, just, equal or kind

You may not like this reality, it may seem unfair, perhaps it ought to be different, kinder, gentler – but reality doesn’t care. In the eternal words of Ayn Rand, it is what it is, A is A.

The Stoics of Ancient Greece understood this well. Railing against the gods is a waste of precious time and energy. Dealing with the reality that chance has dealt is more sensible and more productive.

Differences exist, discrimination is real

All life forms discriminate in order to survive. They discriminate in what they eat and drink, where they live, who they trust, and who they reproduce with. To stop discriminating is to invite death. Lack of discrimination is a characteristic of immaturity and insanity.

Resources are limited

We live in a finite universe of limited resources for which we compete with other living creatures.  Our quality of life is directly influenced by our ability to marshall these resources to our advantage. Man’s great achievement as a species has been to reduce the element of chance in his species’ access to critical resources, through the use of his intellect and understanding of the nature of reality. 


There is a hierarchy of power which sets the odds for most contests in our daily existence. A betting man backs the lion against the lamb, the adult against the child, the big against the small, the many against the few. The power hierarchy determines the probability of success, not the fact. Sometimes the lowly microbe beats all comers. The lone soldier with a machine gun beats the 50 huge but poorly armed barbarians. There are more lambs in the world than lions.

Nevertheless, to survive,  the reality of power, the threat it poses to the less powerful, cannot be ignored. “Successful” leaders such as Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler have understood this reality well and used it to accomplish their ends. “God is on the side of the biggest battalions”, said Napoleon.

However, the costs of sustaining raw power are huge, and invariably exhaust those who rely on power exclusively to maintain their position, but not before they may have done considerable damage.


An idea is merely a new thought, a fresh way of looking at the world. It has no physical existence, although some ideas can be implemented as artifacts. It acts in the minds of human beings exclusively, possibly causing a change in behaviour based on it’s persuasive power. The costs of sustaining and distributing a new idea can be minimal, as individuals freely pass the idea between them. For this reason, a powerful new idea is often more influential in the long run than the simple exercise of power.

An idea’s survival depends on its appeal to new and different minds. Most human minds place ongoing survival high on their list of priorities, so an idea which appears to improve the chance of survival is generally well-received. This does not mean the idea actually improves survival chances – only time and experience will reveal that. 

Human behaviour

Humans as a group behave in certain predictable, repeatable ways, as do most life forms.  An understanding of realistic human behaviour is absolutely essential to any attempts to define how humans ought to behave. 

Most humans:

  • act to further their own best interests, within the limits of their available information.
  • Act independently, within certain agreed norms
  • are social animals, preferring to live in hierarchical groups rather than alone.
  • act rationally (ie they think and reason) rather than instinctively
  • communicate reasonably effectively 

Expectations of humans that go counter to these common behaviours are likely to be frustrated. For example, expecting humans to consistently  act against their best interests in order to assist others (altruism) is a common mistake of many religions and socialist philosophies.

When humans appear to be acting to their own detriment, in the view of observers, it is generally because the information available to them is limited or wrong.

Intentions don’t count

The universe is blissfully indifferent to human intentions. It is only actions that have any currency in the world of reality. Gravity sucks, whether you meant for it to do so, or not.  Prayers, hopes, desperate longing have not been shown to influence the position of a stone by the smallest distance.

Your intentions may persuade another human to forgive a particular action, but they will not change the inevitable physical outcome of that particular action.

Things fall apart

Nothing endures. Entropy is a state of nature. In the absence of intervention, disorder increases. All undertakings will fail in time. The ultimate destination of this universe is chaos.

This long term reality is counter intuitive to the generally optimistic, short term view of most humans.  

Things can go terribly wrong

We like to believe that there is an indulgent god-like father figure who has our interests at heart and who will intervene on our behalf before things become unbearably bad. We will not be tried beyond our limits.

This is a wishful fallacy.  Nature has destroyed most life on our planet several times, through meteorite impacts, climate changes, and the like. Man himself, in his short history, has taken numerous disastrous wrong turns, and continues to do so. The golden years of the Greeks and Romans were followed by the dark and middle ages. The Chinese have periodically destroyed in a later dynasty all they accomplished in an earlier. Great sections of humanity failed to discover the wheel, or the written word.

Our reason, our intellect,  our understanding of the real world is our best guarantor of ongoing survival in this harsh, cold, empty universe.


Science is the formal study of reality. The scientific method provides a set of rules for theorizing about the nature of reality, for validating or dismissing these theories through experiment, observation and repetition, and for recording the results of these theories and experiments in a consistent manner.

Reality can be hidden, compromised(through drugs, fraud, perception), disputed, even denied.  Repeatable, reproducible, quantitative experiments help to discover reality, generally for the benefit of all mankind.

Competition and consensus

The truth is best approached from two directions.  Competition stimulates progress, movement, advance by pitting competing parties, ideas, interests against each other, and rewarding the smartest, strongest, and luckiest. Competition ranks competitors from first to last, and favours the first at the expense of the last.

Consensus, the opposite of competition, results in discussion, delay, and ultimately destruction. Consensus ranks all competitors equally, and rewards all efforts equally. Consensus is inconsistent with human nature, and with reality.


Gods and demons

In our daily experience of life we encounter no gods or demons in any predictable, repeatable, testable fashion.  When called upon to present their credentials, they are always away on other business, temporarily out of town, not taking calls. 

Whilst there are numerous real phenomena which are equally shy about honouring appointments (supernovas, black holes, quarks), none of these phenomona are claimed to directly intervene in the everyday affairs of us mortals, to take on human forms and intentions, or to represent our interests.

Gods and demons are a part of human nature, figments of our fertile imaginations, errors in our programming.  This is their reality, inside our heads, not in the real world beyond our bony craniums.

Rights and Laws

Human rights, sometimes expressed as laws,  have no correspondence with reality.  They are an expression of how some people think the world OUGHT to be, but they have no independent reality of their own, like a stone.

Claiming a particular right is merely the expression of a wish. The universe is quite indifferent to rights or wishes expressed by the elements of the universe, they are all equally bound by the same set of physical laws which define reality.

You may believe that you ought to have a right to security, food, shelter or wings. You will actually have whatever you can find in the real world, through your own efforts, through the efforts of others, or through chance.


In nature, due to its glorious diversity, no two things are equal. No two snowflakes in all the Antarctic, no two grains of sand in the Sahara, no two humans on the planet are identical or equal. Attempting to make them so is a fool’s enterprise, worthy of King Canute. One might say that the opportunities offered to individuals OUGHT to be equal, but in reality, they never are.


There is no absolute truth, there are only competing theories with greater or lesser levels of proof.  Virtually every truth sacred to the mind of man has been shown to be flawed, incomplete or just wrong over the course of time. Mathematics itself is based on seven unprovable assumptions.

Although logically true statements can be made, (eg A is A) they are normally trite and prosaic, so low in information content as to be worthless.


Although the word “patriotism” can be defined (love of one’s fatherland), the concept itself is meaningless. The definition of the geographical space that may be considered the fatherland is subject to endless reinterpretation and change. The likelihood that one loves or even likes or even knows all the occupants of that space is vanishingly small. The idea that one agrees with and shares all the actions, ambitions and intentions of these occupants is simply laughable.

Like most “isms”, patriotism is simply a mechanism for influencing many individuals to act in a way favourable to one individual, or a small elite group.


There are only two “fair” ways of making a decision that affects individuals. The first way is for each individual to separately and independently make each decision affecting that specific individual.  The only other way is for every individual affected by the decision to be in full consensus with all other affected individuals.  Democracy, majority rule, is a crude and unfair system which allows an arbitrarily specified majority of people to impose their will on a smaller group, and to claim moral sanction while doing so.

Ought to be

Philosophy deals with how the world is, and politics deals with how the world ought to be.  Politics is easy, philosophy is hard. Everyone knows how things ought to be, hardly anyone knows or agrees how things really are.

The ultimate purpose of politics is to define the optimum system within which humans may live together in order to optimize their individual life objectives. Individuals search for differing and competing objectives in life. Obviously, any system which optimizes the objectives of some at the expense of others is not optimum for all.

How our systems ought to be is the subject of endless debate. All we can really do is define the desired outcomes from the system, such as peace, prosperity, health, and then observe which systems best deliver these outcomes over time, for all the participants.  Intentions, as mentioned above, are of little value in defining outcomes.

I believe there is ample evidence from around the world to suggest that the following set of “oughts” are worthy of serious consideration when searching for an optimum system of human governance.

Individual freedom

Ownership of one’s life

No unwanted obligations

Property rights

Self responsibility




Tuesday 18 June 2024

An analysis of the GNU statement of intent



Colour code

Meaningless fluff

Outright lies

Wishful thinking



1. South Africa has made strides since 1994 toward establishing a non­ racial, non-sexist, united and democratic society and improving the lives of all who live in it. We are building a democratic state guided by a progressive Constitution and a system of institutions that aim to translate the values of the Constitution into practice.

2. The 2024 national and provincial election was highly contested and, at times, divisive. The results of the election have the potential to foment further political and social fragmentation. Relatively low levels of voter turnout and registration suggest growing alienation from the political system.

3. At this historic juncture, we must act to ensure stability and peace, tackling the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, entrench our Constitutional democracy and the rule of law, and to build a South Africa for all its people.

4. The people of South Africa expect us to work together as political parties to achieve these objectives, and to usher in a new era of peace, justice and prosperity for all.

Meaningless fluff

5. lt is in this context that we, as Political Parties, that participated in the 2024 Elections and received seats in the national and provincial legislatures, pledge to cooperate through a voluntary Government of National Unity (GNU).

6. The GNU2024 shall include cooperation in both the Executive and the Legislature.

The parties reaffirm our collective commitment to the founding values of the Constitution and to the preamble to the Constitution, which reads:

"We, the people of South Africa, Recognize the injustices of our past;

Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;

Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country, and

Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic,

All South Africans are bound by the constitution. There is nothing special about this lot.


8. All parties to the GNU commit to uphold the following fundamental principles:

8.1 Respect for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights in its entirety, a united South Africa and the rule of law.

8.2 Non-racialism and non-sexism.

8.3 Social justice, redress and equity, and the alleviation of poverty.

8.4 Human dignity and the progressive realisation of socio­ economic rights.

8.5 Nation-building, social cohesion and unity in diversity.

8.6 Peace, stability and safe communities, especially for women and children.

8.7 Accountability, transparency and community participation in government.

8.8 Evidence-based policy and decision-making.

8.9 A professional, merit-based, non-partisan, developmental public service that puts people first.

8.10 lntegrity, good governance and accountable leadership.

9. All parties that form part of the GNU commit to these principles.

10. The GNU is constituted in the interest of all South Africans. This Statement of lntent will therefore be a public document to ensure accountability and foster trust between the electorate and the political parties that form part of the GNU.


11. As Parties to this GNU, we agree that the 7th administration should focus on the following priorities:

11.1 Rapid, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, the promotion of fixed capital investment and industrialization, job creation, transformation, livelihood support, land reform, infrastructure development, structural reforms and transformational change, fiscal sustainability, and the sustainable use of our national resources and endowments. Macro-economic management must support national development goals in a sustainable manner.

11.2 Creating a more just society by tackling poverty, spatial inequalities, food security and the high cost of living, providing a social safety net, improving access to and the quality of, basic services, and protecting workers' rights.

11.3 Stabilising local government, effective cooperative governance, the assignment of appropriate responsibilities to different spheres of government and review of the role of traditional leadership in the governance framework.

11.4 lnvesting in people through education, skills development and affordable quality health care.

11.5 Building state capacity and creating a professional, merit­ based, corruption-free and developmental public service. Restructuring and improving state-owned entities to meet national development goals.

11.6 Strengthening law enforcement agencies to address crime. corruption and gender-based violence, as well as strengthening national security capabilities.

11.7 Strengthening the effectiveness of Parliament in respect of its legislative and oversight functions.

11.8 Strengthening social cohesion, nation-building and democratic participation, and undertaking common programmes against racism, sexism, tribalism and other forms of intolerance.

11.9 Foreign policy based on human rights, constitutionalism, the national interest, solidarity, peaceful resolution of conflicts, to achieve the African Agenda 2063, South-South, North-South and African cooperation, multilateralism and a just, peaceful and equitable world.

12. Parties commit to an all-inclusive National Dialogue process - with parties, civil society, labour, business and other sectors - to discuss these and other critical challenges facing the nation. The National Dialogue process will seek to develop a national social compact that enables the country to meet the aspirations of the National Development Plan.

13. The parties to this GNU Statement of lntent shall, following the formation of the GNU, hold a Lekgotla (Strategy Session) develop an agreed policy agenda, which shall include policy priorities for the GNU.


14. Parties will work together in good faith and seek to build consensus on the formation of government where no party has an outright majority, on the basis of the above shared values and minimum programme, and in the interest of all South Africa's people.

15. Parties will cooperate with each other in respect of the executive and/or legislature activities to advance these shared goals.

16. The Government of National Unity shall be constituted in a manner that reflects genuine inclusiveness of political parties that are party to this Statement of lntent and are represented in the National Assembly broadly taking into account the number of seats parties have in the National Assembly and the need to advance the National lnterest. The President shall in constituting the Executive, take into account the electoral outcomes.

17. Whilst recognizing the President's prerogative to appoint Members of the Executive, such appointments should be done in consultation with the Leaders of the respective Parties of the Members considered for appointment.

18. The GNU shall take decisions in accordance with the established practice of consensus. Where no consensus is possible, the principle of sufficient consensus shall apply.

19. Sufficient consensus exists when;

19.1 All parties have had the opportunity to express their views;

19.2 Despite reasonable attempts to resolve disagreements, and find common ground, there is no general consensus;

19.3 Parties to the GNU representing 60% of seats in the National Assembly agree; and

19.4 Any party that disagrees has been able to formally record their objections.

20. The Parties to the GNU shall also establish dispute resolution or deadlock breaking mechanisms, in instances where sufficient consensus is not reached. Parties should raise disputes within the mechanisms created for this purpose.

21. The parties recognize established Government and Cabinet protocols in decision-making and the formulation of the budget.

22. This GNU Statement of lntent and Modalities may guide approaches to provincial government in the interests of effective, stable and responsive governance which meet the needs of the people in a province.

23. Parties to this agreement will form a GNU Consultations Council that will be responsible for Consultations and monitoring progress on the minimum programme of the Government of National Unity, and alignment of the 7th administration's programme, its resourcing and implementation mechanisms.

24. In keeping with the spirit of an inclusive GNU it is agreed that the composition shall be discussed and agreed amongst the existing parties, whenever new parties desire to be part of the GNU.

25. The parties to this Statement of lntent agree that on 14 June 2024, they will elect the national office bearers as set out in Addendum A.

26. The parties to this Statement of lntent agree that on 15 June 2024 they will elect the national office bearers as set out in Addendum B.

27. The parties to this Statement of lntent agree that when committees of Parliament are constituted, the spirit of a Parliament of National Unity shall be implemented to enable parties that are part of the GNU to be accorded leadership positions of some committees. In this regard the parties agree that the IFP shall be elected to the position of Chair of Chairs.

28. Amendments to this document must be agreed to by sufficient consensus.

Same as us all

The ANC is explicitly racial.

Meaningless fluff. The ANC  have not accomplished this in 30 years of unfettered power. The GNU won't start now with these pie-in-the-sky platitudes

I’ll believe it when I see it.  Perhaps the DA can make an impact here.

Meaningless fluff

Elegant words, fine-sounding phrases are cheap to make.
Set specific goals for specific dates, and specific consequences for those responsible.



Recipe for deadlock

How about

 “The parties will remain cloistered with minimum catering until sufficient consensus has been achieved.”

 If it works for the Vatican, it could work here. 

Monday 27 May 2024

Boundaries versus Borders

The issue of border control is somewhat contentious currently. Presidencies will be decided, elections lost, friends and families divided over this one issue.

A border is defined as “a line separating two countries,”. A boundary is defined as a line which marks the limits of an area. A border is specifically a concept attached to the nation-state. A boundary is much more flexible, but attached to the concept of property rights.

Should states restrict movement across their borders? Are individuals entitled to defend their property boundaries?


Borders are often arbitrary lines on a map, best demonstrated by many of the borders in Africa. They often cut through and divide societies, nationalities, even families. They need to be maintained, defended and enforced by the states enclosed within them, usually at great cost to the individuals in that state.

The justifications for well enforced borders seem so obvious to their advocates that they cannot conceive or tolerate an alternative. We can’t just let anyone in. We will be overwhelmed. They are not like us. They have different standards, religions, customs. They are poor so who will pay for them?

Lets deal with each of these issues:

We can’t just let anyone in

Turns out you can. The concept of a worldwide passport standard is relatively new, created in the aftermath of the First World War. Prior to that there was no consistent standard of border enforcement. A mediaeval peasant had more rights to travel freely than a modern citizen. America let millions of impoverished Europeans and others into the country in  the 1900’s with only token restrictions. Huge refugee populations moved around Europe in the aftermath of world war 2. Millions of East Germans became citizens of West Germany after the collapse of the Berlin wall. The needs of desperate individuals trumps the protection of borders.

They are not like us

This is the rallying cry of fascists and racists through the ages. Ignoring the fact that everyone in the west is descended from just 22 wandering individuals in the stone age, nature itself values diversity of origin above uniformity. The reason we don’t marry our siblings and cousins is that they are TOO much like us. The whole point of travel is to meet people with different behaviours and customs, and to share ours. Uniformity is not just boring, it is genetically dangerous.

We will be overwhelmed

This has become a real fear for existing populations in the United States and Europe. Demagogues pound this drum constantly. Unscrupulous politicians and power brokers use emigration to bolster electoral support. At least 5% of any population consists of violent criminals and psychopaths, including emigrant populations. 

How do we deal with the psychopaths in our existing population. We deploy about 15% of the population to police the dangerous 5%. In a civilised society, we identify them, try them and incarcerate the guilty. Why should we stop doing that just because they are emigrants?

 Who will pay for them?

Most refugees start poor, but subsequent generations pay for themselves many times over. US statistics prove this true of many immigrant populations such as Jews, Italians, Greeks, Germans. However, if target destinations insist on giving free stuff to all and sundry, then many will take advantage of this misplaced compassion.  If target destinations give a special pass to immigrants, or suspend the rule of law, they have only themselves to blame.

The morality of movement, the ethics of emigration

I believe in freedom and justice for ALL individuals, not just the ones who think and look like me. Except for Africans, we are all emigrants. All of our ancestors constantly moved into a new territory hoping to improve their circumstances, sometimes at a cost to the current occupants. Trying to pull up the drawbridge behind you is unjust hypocrisy. It is generally futile too. Resources you could have shared with the new arrivals are now spent fighting them, to the detriment of all. 

Of course there is a profound difference between peaceful emigrants and hostile invaders. Invaders must be resisted, preferably long before they cross your borders. Throughout history nations have employed immigrant populations to help them defend their borders.

Nations that accept and incorporate migrants commonly survive and prosper. Nations that drive their populations to emigrate commonly fail. I am on the side of the individuals who are the meat in this sandwich, often through no fault of their own. Perhaps because I fear becoming an emigrant from a failing state soon…


A boundary marks the limits of physical property you legally acquire and own. It is your responsibility to define and defend your boundaries. Property defined by boundaries is the basis of the free market system, and by implication, individual freedom. It does not require state intervention, but it may be forced upon the owner, like so many other injustices. 

Disputes over property boundaries will be resolved by the systems native to that society, from negotiation to outright lawfare. The state may become involved because of its mandate for violence, but is not intrinsically necessary, as can be seen in many state-free jurisdictions.

In a truly free society, property rights will be protected by boundaries enforced by owners. Currently. borders are simply imaginary lines enclosing land claimed by a state entity.

The Cure for Crime in South Africa

The months slide into weeks and the weeks slide into days, and suddenly the reality of our election eats at the dark coast of our future. Are we facing Armageddon, or just getting poorer? Will we stumble on or descend into civil war? Will we be ruled by gangsters or by law?

The omens are not auspicious. The litany of faults and failures grows ever longer. The solutions suggested by our leaders are ever more fanciful.

Amidst this gloomy prospect I see one bright hope for the future. The Western Cape may sever itself from the rotting national corpse and embark on a new path. If successful, and if full scale civil war can be avoided or won, this southern jewel may yet serve as an example to the rest of the country, exporting practical policies to the poor politicians to their north.

This raises the key issue of what these practical policies should look like. As the DA often demonstrates, the only thing worse than incompetent government is competent government, interfering where it does not belong.

South Africa’s biggest problem is rampant crime. We are at the bottom of the world statistics in almost every category - murders, rapes, thefts, child abuse.  A new and independent Western Cape government would inherit this dreadful legacy. Would it deal with it differently? 

 A fundamental change in policing, in law enforcement, in prosecutions and imprisonment will be required. The Free Market Foundation and its Rule of Law Project have the Section 12 Initiative, which seeks to propose deep reform to criminal justice in South Africa with the aim of reducing violent crime. Ordinary South Africans can read about the initiative on

It will not be enough to appoint a man in a fancy hat and then throw untold millions his way. Tried that, didn’t work. Who will be our Javier Milei, our Nayib Bukele? Who will sweep away the cobwebs of old policies, bad practices, past mistakes. 

Following are the essential steps required to be implemented by a new independent Western Cape government on assuming power:

First, cut the number of criminals in half in a single stroke - stop prosecuting victimless crimes, because it's easy and lucrative. Your citizens deserve much more respect. Your police  have much more important things to do.

Second, recruit a brand new police force. You will no longer be bound by racialised legislation and special interests. Make appointments only on merit. Pay only on results. Leave the deadwood to fade away.

Third, deal with the gangs, the syndicates, the special interests.  Nayib Bukele of El Salvador provides the template for how this can be done, quickly and successfully.  Make being a gangster the most dangerous job in the Cape. Plan for resistance.  Recruit and pay for mercenaries and security professionals. Show as much pity to the gangs as they show to the populace.

Fourth, recruit  a brand new judiciary. Just as with the police, make appointments only on merit. Review the work history of every incumbent, and lose the incompetent. Link pay to successful prosecutions. Leave the deadwood to fade away.

Fifth, take a new approach to imprisonment. Release all those accused of victimless crimes, thus making space for real criminals. Turn prisons into profit centres. Privatise their management, subject to oversight.   Make prisoners literally repay their debt to society. Make prison conditions dependent on behaviour. 

Finally, make citizens your partners in the fight against crime. Encourage and support local policing initiatives, such as blockwatches, security companies, neighbourhood online security groups. Extend the power of arrest to suitably qualified private citizens.  Lessen the privileges of the legal profession to charge exorbitant fees and impose endless delays. Allow citizens to choose their own manner of dispute resolution, thorough private arbitrators, lekgotlas, juries. Trust your people.

Our problem in South Africa is that we are too law-abiding. We bend over backwards to obey the insane maze of laws, rules, regulations and directives that flow from the open sewer that is our government. We slavishly obey rules made by crooks to favour crooks, that make criminals of us all.

Let's do it differently in the independent Western Cape!


Tuesday 23 April 2024

People versus Power

Humanity is  subject to two great imperatives - the power of love, and the love of power. These are the bookends of our brief earthly existence. This essay explores the nature of power.

Power has many manifestations but  always the same motive - to ensure the will of the powerful prevails. The quest for power is the energy that drives society, but often threatens to destroy it. History is shaped by powerful men, but rarely improved by them. To navigate the treacherous waters of our existence it is important to understand the forces that shape the river in which we float.


The contest for political power is the predominant narrative in the “democratic” west, and in many semi-democratic countries elsewhere. Every 4 years or so these countries hold a hotly contested beauty contest  in which the powerless hordes cast a mostly meaningless vote. Thereafter a small number of power-hungry individuals and groups enjoy a fleeting mantle of legitimacy, until the next charade. Having once gained power, no matter how slim the majority, the winners can (and often do) behave as badly as any tyrant victorious in a war.

Taxation is state sanctioned theft. The state derives its power from taxation. Politicians derive their power from the state. 

Once in power the victors quickly claim the spoils, through corruption, special privileges, nepotism, and so forth. Regulations to favour cronies are passed. Opponents are victimised and prosecuted, Programs favouring the politicians’ particular worldview get implemented. Spending is lavish, moderation despised. And that’s just in the USA, the “home” of democracy.

Political power is wielded by politicians, one of the most despised professions. The only requirement to be a politician is an ability to lie convincingly in public. There are usually no other qualifications required. They may be judged on their record, but the harm is usually done by then.

As  P.J. O’Rourke said, giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and carkeys to teenagers.


Bureaucrats are the unelected minions of the political class, rude, arrogant and ignorant. They are as hard to eradicate as cockroaches, and as useful. Their job is to apply the reams of rules and regulations excreted by senates and parliaments. They make individual lives a misery, applying the letter of the law to minor infractions, destroying enterprise, above question and beyond recall. Almost all their jobs could be done better privately, including important ones like policing and nursing.


Ambitious individuals too intelligent for politics go into finance. The rewards are better, and the ethics less disturbing. Money is power. Everything has a price if you have the means. The power of money arises from greed rather than violence. Surprisingly, it turns out that you can bend people to your will by giving them stuff, as opposed to taking it from them, while making a profit.  While politicians provide the illusion of choice, businessmen actually offer individual consumers a choice, however constrained. And they rely on persuasion rather than force to do this, in a free market.

Stupid people are happy to be told what to do by politicians. Smarter people spend their money to give themselves choices. The smartest people take your  money to avoid having to make choices.

It is widely agreed that the real power in the modern world resides with the banks and investment companies like Black Rock and Vanguard. National governments are beholden to these companies for re-election funding, investment, survival.  

Some billionaires use their funds to influence local politics, like George Soros. And some just seem to come from a different planet, or hope to get to one. 


Faith means not wanting to know what the truth is. Friedrich Nietzsche.


Although their power in the modern world seems to be waning, religions use their power to own both your body and your soul. For 2000 years they have been the seat of both heavenly and worldly power.  They influence the thoughts and behaviour of billions, own vast palaces and real estate, pronounce on all manner of worldly issues, sponsor wars, terrorism and genocide, while serving no obvious useful purpose. Their arrogance is exceeded only by their ignorance. Thank the gods they are optional.

Intellectuals and Professionals

The power of life and death is the ultimate power. Since the decline of tyrants, at least in our western realm, who comes closest to wielding that power nowadays? The scientific experts who proclaim the nature of our world - what we should eat, what we should know, what we should think, what medicines we take, how we travel, how we exist, what gender we should be. Never in history has this protected priestly class wielded such influence over every aspect of the daily life of the masses. These “experts” have brought us Covid, its fatal “cure”, the crazy climate myth, endless wars and their weapons, deadly foods and drinks, universal ill health, trillions in debt, and an absurd woke ideology.

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts - Richard Feynman


Military power is the most familiar deployment of power. It is also the most honest. Soldiers are very open about the fact that they expect to impose their will upon you by force. No lying words, no appeal to ideologies, no suggestion that this is for your own good. Surrender or die. They expect to be resisted. They expect to inflict harm and suffer losses. Often they are just doing the bidding of some other power broker, obeying evil orders without question, from some misplaced sense of honour and duty.  

The military are more to be pitied than prosecuted.


As Churchill remarked “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” 

They have wielded great power in history, from the crusades and witch trials, to starting the first and second world wars. In our current time they advocate and execute hugely destructive policies such as global warming, covid restrictions, animal rights, peak oil, woke policies. They leverage the other forms of power for their supposedly noble and humanitarian causes, oblivious to the harms that result. They claim political support, scientific expertise, huge funding, and armies of misguided supporters. 

“The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, and wiser people are so full of doubts” - Bertrand Russell


One of the most insidious forms of power is persuasion, because it pretends not to be a power. As with all forms of power, persuaders intend to impose their will on others, but not using physical force. Advertisers, women, “nudge“ units, peer pressure, propaganda, all use words and fear and moral posturing to herd us in a desired direction. 

Persuasion often employs appeals to morality, compassion, pity. It is often on behalf of innocent victims, rarely for direct profit. 

When power is not possible, persuasion will be employed.


No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche.

What power does an individual exercise? 

Theoretically individuals should have power over themselves, their lives, their property. They should be free to do as they wish while respecting the equal right of others to do the same. Individuals should not expect or desire power over others.

Ultimately, all power is exercised by some individuals over other individuals. How do individuals protect themselves from the power of others?

  1. By running away

  2. By joining a group for protection

  3. By becoming powerful themselves

  4. By agreeing on a contract with other individuals to define and protect their mutual rights

 It is only in the last 250 years that option 4 has arisen as a viable mechanism, in the Bill of Rights of the United States constitution. In this admirable document the terms of agreement are spelt out clearly as a series of amendments. While there are flaws, this document is the best antidote to the many powers listed above. But it is quite long, subject to endless re-interpretation, and often ignored by the power-hungry.  

It is essential that our western civilised society defines its priorities in a straightforward and simple way accessible to the masses. Is the priority safety, defense, growth, or freedom? What can be best understood and defended and implemented? I believe the number one priority must be the freedom of the individual to live life as desired. I have developed a statement of this priority that is short but powerful.  I call it the Harm-Consent Rule (HCR).

Render no harm without consent, except in self-defense

If such a rule can be agreed and enforced, all of the many power plays listed above would have no justification.  No taxation, no conscription, no corruption, no enforcement of expert opinions. 

Individuals must give their consent to anything that may harm them, or it cannot be done.

This  is how we give power to the people.

Libertarianism, liberalism and conservatism

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