The Bear’s lair: The sound economy of 1929

Posted by karlmagnus on Saturday, 16 October 2004 16:06.

The Bear’s Lair: The sound economy of 1929

by Martin Hutchinson

(to be published October 18 by United Press International)

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A little something about Belgium

Posted by Johan Van Vlaams on Saturday, 16 October 2004 16:01.

What does the English-speaking world really know about politics and Belgium?  If you register our existence at all, is it simply as a rather grey but worthy and pleasantly sensible little country.  Or do we, perhaps, seem so burdened by the tragedies of 20th century history and, these days, so communautaire that we automatically eschew anything more divisive than the Federal Government’s consumption of paperclips?

Or do you suspect that beneath all that we might be a nation of ten million Noel Godins – every one an exponent of the whacky, cream-filled theatre of the absurd?  Do you see a Belgium of uncontainable anarchism that laughs up its sleeve while consoling poor Bill Gates for his 1998 humiliation by Godin’s followers?  (Well, not poor Bill Gates, exactly.  I take that back.  And, in Godin’s mitigation, what else does one do in Brussels but eat cake?)

The truth, of course, is that there are two sides to Belgium, facing in entirely different directions.  But I shall come to that later.  For now, you should know that we are neither politically boring nor anarchist street comedians.  But our political masters, now that’s another matter.  Our political masters know precisely how to deliver a calculated public humiliation with perfect timing and with all the sang froid in the world.

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Claiming Rights

Posted by Guest Blogger on Saturday, 16 October 2004 12:45.

In the 16 October Spectator, Roger Scruton tells us that the new claim-based rights are in danger of depriving Britons of their old procedural-based rights as enunciated in the 1689 Bill of Rights.  In fact, perhaps the word ‘procedure’ is more important than the word ‘right’ here.  According to Scruton: “Although the Bill of Rights declared some of the rights of the British subject, it was, in doing so, merely rehearsing established procedures of the common law, and re-affirming them against recent abuses.”

From gypsy squatter parks to the right to a proper education, Scruton sees examples of the new style of rights leading to irresoluble conflicts and a murky system of law where the courts have no choice but to decide matters as they see fit.  The new rights are not so much rights as claims – claims that must be enforced on everybody else.

If we compare the history of modern Britain under the common law with that of Europe under the civilian and Napoleonic jurisdictions that have prevailed there, we will surely be impressed by the fact that the jurisdiction which has so persistently refused to define our rights has also been the most assiduous in upholding them. This is because it recognises that rights define the limits of power, and that these limits must be enforced by the citizen himself, through the procedures of justice, rather than by the state, through some all-comprehending and in the event all-authorising doctrine.

The rights that have historically protected the citizens of liberal democracies are, in general, negotiated restraints on state power.  A right that must be enforced by the exercise of state power is something else entirely.


In the beginning

Posted by Guessedworker on Thursday, 14 October 2004 16:48.

So here we are, online.  After four months of planning we have arrived at that precipitate moment.  The first post.  The one that should welcome, introduce, explicate, commend … and get the blog rolling.  The one that, like a best man’s speech, doesn’t need to say too much and doesn’t need to go on too long.  Just so that it leaves the reader with a crank-handle sense of something vital and positive having begun.

A tall order, then.

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  I’ve looked into a few of these first post offerings lately.  They are by no means all successful.  Simplicity seems to be the safest if, perhaps, most unadventurous option.  You know … just a few spare but elegant phrases that go to the heart of what it means to blog on politics and what, in addition, it will mean to blog here.  That ought not to be too challenging.

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