The Olympics have a long and varied history of challenging traditional definitions of “sport”. Not so long ago, Olympic purists may have cringed at the inclusion of such sports as snowboarding and curling, but as yet have held firm against the threatened encroachments of korfball, bowling, and tug-of-war.
Occasionally, concessions are made, often at the bequest of hosting countries, for so-called “demonstration sports”, such as the Wushu Tournement in Beijing in 2008. It is in this spirit, finding ourselves enthralled with the 2012 summer games in London, that it seems rather appropriate to offer a bit of well-earned recognition to notable achievement in at least one traditional (though not exclusively) British pastime.
While it tends to hide – often in plain sight – under various guises of intellectualism, the practice of Ingsoc, as best demonstrated by the likes of George Bernard Shaw along with other members of the Fabian Society, is alive and well in Old Blighty and, in this Olympic season, deserves public recognition, however, uncomfortable it tends to be with naked illumination.
Today, we here at ARL offer the gold medal in this latest round of Ingsoc Fabianism to Professor Chris Bertram of the University of Bristol for the display of unusual candor in a recent post, “Cake: On the having and eating of it“, at Crooked Timber.
Here, Prof. Bertram, takes “potshots” at his fellow socialists who seem, perhaps innappropriately constrained, by quaint notions of “the rule of law”.
“If you really want a shift in the distribution of wealth and income, if you really really want it, then realistically you’re going to have to use state power to do a bit of ex post redistribution. You’re going to have to take stuff from some people and give it to others. Doesn’t necessarily have to be that total Marxian expropriation of the expropriators: a comprehensive programme of debt cancellation would fit the bill. Life is about making choices: and you’re going to have to choose. Is it outrageous to dispossess someone of the wealth they acquired under the rules of the game; or are you going to say that substantive fairness sometimes matters more?
…You might have to duck and weave. You might have to convince property owners that you’ll only go so far and no further. But don’t kid yourselves that you can do the redistribution you want and treat the rule of law as absolute. If robbing the rich appals you, become a libertarian instead.”
To which, I can only add, “bravo Professor Bertram”, for developing the gymnastic mental skills necessary to attempt to marry Hayek (for insisting that the rule of law is necessary to a just society), Rawls (for his faith that an orderly transition to a just society might be intentionally planned), and Marx (for resorting to the tried-and-true belief that the ends justify the means) into one neat package.
Of course Bertram, as he himself concedes, intends the reader to understand, however obliquely, that the rule of law remains a necessary component of a just society…even if the rules must be changed rather drastically. This, in it’s essense, is a merely a dare for true socialists to stand up and accept the inevitable consequences of their beliefs.
While, in other writings, Bertram pays lipservice to the notion that egoistic human nature necessitates the authoritarian state, he is prototypically incapable of recognizing that the wielding of power for collectivist purposes must, necessarily crush individual desires….for all but those in power, at least. And, efficacy be damned…we’ll just have to assume that material abundance will be realized through the effective ministrations of those same corrupt authorities.
Nothing new here but exceptional candor. – HT