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Episode 1 — Constitutions
How does government work? Who tells government where to stop?
By popular request, and to meet the need of the times, Alex Thomson is joined by Mike Robinson and David Scott to brief dissidents on the Constitution. The podcast will be of interest to overseas listeners too but primarily explores the English and Scots Constitutions, the common law, and the British constitutional legacy.
This is not a series of history lectures. After a few initial episodes on key concepts (constitution, common law, rights, democracy, the rule of law, the nation state), we aim to go through the last thousand years of constitutional development with an eye for what has been hidden (how we have been governed in the past), then to explore how the state fits together (how we are governed now), and finally what plans there are for our future.
Episode 2 — Common Law
Why does English have the Norman French word “legal” as well as the Anglo-Saxon word “lawful”? Is the law the Crown’s or ours? Is “jury nullification” the most hazardous phrase to utter near a courthouse? Alex Thomson discusses with David Scott and Mike Robinson how the stirring phrase “the common law” has been understood down the ages, and whether the legal and political fraternity is right to hold as an article of faith that common law is the most inferior of the sources of law. Where does society’s conscience come into it? Are the Continental philosophers right to accuse English and Scots law of being unknowable because we have no single text that calls the Crown into being or criminalises theft or murder? Join us to find out why state bodies like to masquerade as The People when prosecuting; why juries are being curtailed and abolished step by step; whether it is true that a freeman can individually say he does not consent to statutes; and what it was that got former Supreme Court Justice Lord Jonathan Sumption so riled in the week when this episode was recorded that he said “I reject that claim” in a lecture to Cambridge Law Faculty.
Episode 3 — Rights
For many hyperlinks, see: https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/diss...
How come we have such different visceral reactions to the assertions “I am entitled to a house” and “I am immune in my house”, even though both entitlements and immunities are kinds of rights? Is it really a step forward that the UN has enumerated “rights” in an International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? What are the practical effects of Locke’s and Rousseau’s thought-exercise propounding that man is a blank slate? Were our rights won for us by being asserted by our forefathers against government, or are they graciously granted by government and then curtailed and withheld again by that same government with a supposedly heavy heart?
How is it that the first time the phrase “human rights” was weaponised as a slogan was by sexual proclivity activists in the Weimar Republic organising as the “Human Rights League”, a century and a half after the coining of the term by philosophers? Why can an Englishman eject an intruder from his home but a Continental must wait for the police to turn up and do it for him? Is it sheer coincidence that Article 29 of Magna Carta 1215 seems to have been subverted by the same-numbered article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the so-called Global Magna Carta? Are rights truly about “fairness” or “equity” — or is that actually a swizz?
Join us to hear why David Scott argues that the twentieth-century rights discourse has made us “part-time slaves”; how “You can’t interfere with me” has degenerated into “The government must interfere with you because of my rights”; whether we even have a right to bodily integrity any more; how statutes as apparently innocuous as the Local Government Act 1888 hive off rights from us to government; what it means when Continental judges “set aside” their national laws and constitution because of a treaty ratified by their government; and what the lawyerly trick of conflating rights with powers involves. There is no better time to be discussing these questions than in 2020.
For an example of the thinking that we politely disagree with, this recent podcast on human rights may also be of interest to our listeners as they consider our current episode: it goes into detail on the mediaeval Christian background of “natural rights” but sadly skips over immunity from theft and harm, in its haste to assert equal entitlement to positive goods — thereby tragically forming the very pretext for such theft and harm by modern governments.
Episode 4 — Democracy: The Books
For many hyperlinks, see: https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/diss...
Self-government or the consent of the governed? One or other of these assumptions about democracy must be a sham if the other is valid. Either we are ruling ourselves, or someone else is ruling us, and one or other of these has to be the preferable model.
Democracy has been elevated to the status of an object of worship in recent decades, particularly in the English-speaking countries and in the discourse of the European Union, but it is accused by some dissidents of being a god that failed. Why is it that Homo democraticus tolerates no end of blatant corruption and has no qualms about the tyranny of the 51% over the 49%, as long as he is allowed to "have his say" in tokenistic votes choosing between increasingly pre-cooked outcomes? Is an "undemocratic upper chamber" (the accusation slung at the House of Lords in recent decades) an outrage or an intentional safeguard? How does the degenerate standard of British rhetoric in the "democratic" 2020s, and the political tolerance of dissent, compare with that of forty years ago?
Last episode, we considered several aspects of - and accurate names for - the distinction between immutable personal rights (immunities) and redefinable civil or civic rights (entitlements), and concluded that there was great tyrannical power in the deliberate obfuscation of these two fundamentally different categories. We now proceed further into the mirk and engage with the thinkers who have dared to question the axiomatic goal of democracy, considering seminal works by Hoppe, Hayek, Mises et al., Ferrara, Legutko, Barnett and Orbán. Just as Episode 1, on constitutional design, inevitably "did God", so this episode will surprise some by necessarily dwelling on economics and on the capture of thought-leadership channels, the media and academia, by a swelling government. After all, it is in those circumstances that dissidence becomes necessary.
Listeners who are keeping up with our book discussions might already wish to obtain a copy of Ben Greene's pamphlet The British Constitution and the Corruption of Parliament and an incisive review of its issues on the UK Column website by "A Musing Michael"; these sources will be the focus of Episode 5, Democracy - A "British Value"? (N.B.: due to the amount of material to discuss on democracy, we are again splitting the theme into two episodes, so the introductory section of this series will now be seven episodes long).