Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rights & Wrongs

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.”

The London regime has invited comments on a UK Bill of Rights. But where do ‘rights’ actually come from? The official line is that they’re concessions made by government towards the governed. Politics is defined by the struggle of the latter to defend and, where possible, extend them. Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights, the Great Reform Act. Our island story places these historic documents on their pedestals not just to remind us to be grateful for what we have received but to distract attention from what we are still denied. A real self-governing community would have whatever rights it desired: the very word would probably lose all meaning.

Today, any discussion about rights has been crippled by three decades of political correctness on the one side and totalitarian liberalism on the other. Neither is helpful to an understanding of the full range of rights that can exist and can be championed politically. In fact, there is a third point of view that has been systematically marginalised.

There are broadly three kinds of rights – individual (human) rights, property rights, and community rights (constitutional rights retained in common). For the real enthusiast, human rights are something we ‘discovered’ in the 17th or 18th century, just as if they were Newton’s laws of motion. Free speech comes closest to being an objective right, since in Popperian terms the progress of knowledge is impossible if the status quo cannot be criticised. Elsewhere, there is little acceptance of the fact that rights are both asserted and resisted and that the balance of argument can fall on either side. Some ‘rights’ claimed, it is right to deny.

Individual (human) rights are those we are born with. Property rights are those that belong to property owners, who are only rarely born with their property entitlements. Yet international human rights make no distinction. The right to private property (and not just personal property) is defended as fanatically as the right to life, if not more so. Public property is not protected at all and can be, and often is, stolen to order through forced sales or legal redefinition. We have gone from Proudhon’s ‘property is theft’ to today’s ‘private property is sacred, even when (or especially when) it is held illegitimately, whereas public property, democratically managed, is to be regarded as a barbarous relic’.

We reject these dogmas because our policies run directly counter to them. Limits should be placed on how much of Wessex any one person may own. Those not resident in Wessex should have no right to own our land at all. And it is OUR land, because title to it is granted by the community and can be withdrawn by the community. Land ownership in Wessex is a privilege, not a right, to be used or else forfeited. We reject submission to universal human rights, not because we do not see value in the bundle overall, but because lurking within it are rules that constrain us from pursuing policies that are both reasonable and necessary in a just society. Universal human rights are compatible with democratic decentralism only where they reflect a genuine consensus.

Mention of collective, community rights usually brings out all the screaming banshees of liberalism to denounce them as the justification of tyranny. Really? It’s quite simple. Your village is agreed 99% to 1% that the field over there should not be developed for housing. But its owners have property rights. Planning won’t save you – it’s a stitch-up that always favours the growth junkies. You have to win, and keep winning, every time. They only have to get lucky once. So the field gets built on. Democracy?

Liberals despise democracy because it curbs their rights, especially their right to exploit environmental property for private gain. We have a wider vision, one that values the community’s right to defend itself against imposed change. Would you like to be able to know who your new neighbours are and veto them if they’re unsuitable? Why should that right be limited to those rich enough to buy the houses either side of them? Should newcomers automatically get the right to vote, before they know anything about the community they set out to transform, permanently, for the worse, before they move on to their next victim?

We have always said that Wessex is for those who care about its future, whether native or settler, but we’ve also striven to devise means to prevent its ruination by those who would turn it into a copy of the urbanised and industrialised regions they left behind. We’ve considered a tax on newcomers – but that discriminates more against the poor than against the rich. We’ve considered withholding the right to stand for election from those who’ve lived here less than, say, five years – but that discriminates against what may be much-needed ability. Withholding the right to vote for a number of years may well strike the right balance, giving time for newcomers to actually understand and appreciate the community they wish to change.

All the above is grist to the mill. Our first task, however, is to roll back the frontiers of the mental terrorism that for 30 years has told us all that our only right worth having is the right to show how little we care about anything that cannot be expressed in selfish terms. Public service is not dead – but the modes of thinking that underpin it are certainly on life-support. We now need to operate before it’s too late.

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