miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Mood: Liberal)
I can't help but notice, these days, that many people do not have an understanding of what Liberalism is. Others often have their understanding altered by the USian usage of the word, which is more akin to what we in the UK would call socialism. So I asked on twitter this morning whether people would welcome a series of blog posts on the very basic tenets... And was met with a resounding yes.

Because this is me, these pieces are going to be conversational rather than academic in tone, and posted sporadically rather than to a schedule; hopefully that won't put off too many people. It's also, obviously, going to be just my take on it. Your mileage may vary. Other people may have equally valid viewpoints. And all the other stuff one puts in the standard Liberal disclaimer.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was John Stuart Mill*

I have deliberately chosen a religious form of words for that heading, because that what it felt like to me. I was in my second year of university, having studied various philosophers from the age of 15**, when I took a module called State, Self and Society. It had one set text, and that set text was this.

At the time, all I knew of JS Mill was that he had a line in the Drunken Philosophers Song***. I was at the time rather fond of Kant, but knew that a lot of philosophy could be rather dry****, so I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading On Liberty. And then I read it.

It was - still is - the closest thing to a religious experience I have ever had.

Now, for those of you who don't have the time or the inclination to read Mill and Taylor's beautifully constructed, logical and passionate prose, and want a Cliff's Notes version... Well, I feel sad for you, but I can understand. If you do get the time, sit down and read the whole thing, it's not long and it is gorgeous. But the bit we are going to concentrate on today is...

The Harm Principle

The Harm Principle, exactly as stated in On Liberty, goes like this:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
Now, rather like SEFS*****, people will quite often quote the first clause of this without bearing in mind the most important bit. In my view the pivotal part is His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant - pivotal because it leads onto the bit about the opinions of others. Many people read the first part of the harm prinicple and think that it means you can't do anything that might upset other people because you would be harming them by upsetting them; this is why the second, emphasising, sentence is so important. If you are upsetting someone else by harming yourself, they still do not have the right to force you to stop******.

This is the bedrock of Liberalism, as far as I am concerned

You should be able to do what you want, as long as you're not hurting anyone else. Nobody should be able to force you to stop doing something because they disapprove of it, or because they find it distasteful. The only reason you should be stopped from performing any action is to prevent you from harming somebody else.

There are, of course, other principles which Liberals hold dear, and which apply in many or most situations, but for me the Harm Principle is the absolute basic test that everything must pass. Thus, I am in favour of the legalisation of all drugs. I have no problem with any person having whatever relationship structures they wish to have, so long as everyone involved is fully informed and consenting. I am in favour of assisted dying, because anyone denying you your right to die at a time and place of your choosing is doing you far more harm than you are doing them by asking them to help you*******.

...And I am looking forward to having spirited discussions about those three, and any other examples people wish to come up with in the comments, because I'm a Liberal and we love to debate :)



Coming Soon (not necessarily in this order):

  • Free Speech: what it is and what it isn't
  • The Liberal approach to Education, and why Education is fundamental to Liberalism
  • Non-Conformity, and why celebrating it rather than just tolerating it matters to Liberals
  • Why Liberalism is Intrinsically feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBT+-rights, etc.
  • The Liberal Approach to the Elimination of Poverty********
  • The Rule of Law, or why Liberalism is not Anarchism
  • Bodily Autonomy and Consent: not just about sex.
  • Weatherwaxian Liberalism: "Treating People As Things" as a Root of Social Evil
  • Solving The UNIT Dating Controversy: or why Liberalism Appeals to Geeks and Why Most of Us Are Obsessed With Scifi



* And, of course, Harriet Taylor, but to go too deeply into her contributions in this post would be to go off on one tangent too many, even for me. Lets put it this way: there is a pretty solid and compelling view that Harriet did as much of the stuff Mill is credited with as he did, and was only not credited herself due to overwhelming patriarchy, patriarchy which Mill himself abhorred.
** thank you Mr Rushton for including the Ethical Theory and Practical Ethics modules in A-level RE :)
*** Clearly dear old JS was only poorly after half a pint of shandy because they'd watered his beer down with nasty lemonade.
**** especially philosophy written by English lawyers and politicians, having tried and failed many times to get through more than a page of HLA Hart's The Concept of Law without falling asleep.
***** Stronger economy, Fairer Society ENABLING EVERYONE TO GET ON IN LIFE
****** Mill and Taylor do, of course, make some exceptions for those not capable of self-determination due to mental incapacity or youth, but even then, argue that these people should be allowed to self-determine in so far as is possible within the limits of safety.
******* although of course, you only have the right to ask; the person you are asking absolutely has the right to say no, particularly under the current law where helping someone to die could result in you going to prison for murder, which is a pretty serious potential harm to yourself.
******** NB: this is different from Vlad the Impaler's approach to the elimination of poverty, which was to put all the poor people in a barn, lock the doors, and set fire to it.
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: Captain Kathryn Janeway (Feminist Heroes: Janeway)
"I think we should train the dogs to make breakfast"
"A fine idea in theory, but I fear it would not work in practise. Spike would go into the kitchen, get the butter dish to butter the toast, and hide under the dining table eating it. Roxy would spin round in small circles making Wookiee noises while the toast burnt."
"But that means one of us has to get out of bed..."
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)

PSA: Twitter

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 08:57 am
miss_s_b: (Britishness: Tea)
Before anybody else asks: I haven't blocked you on twitter. I haven't blocked anybody that wasn't already blocked on twitter. I have deactivated my account. It is only temporary, don't worry. It's just that my whelm kind of went over for various reasons yesterday and I needed to shut down properly.

I've had a decent night's sleep now and I'm going to the gym and both of those things usually help my brain to sort itself out.

TTYL.

On feeling safe

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 06:19 am
miss_s_b: Kate Beckett aiming a gun (Feminist Heroes: Kate Beckett)
I have been thinking about this on and off all week, and sleeplessness is making me blog about it now. Sorry it's not the cheeriest subject for a Saturday morning...

One of the consequences of my past is that I never feel 100% safe and secure. Even in a blissful post-coital embrace with a lover, even if I trust that person with my life, there is a part of me fretting about my safety. And not only do I never feel truly safe, but I have different things that increase my meagre sense of safety to most people. So where most people feel safer at night if they have locked the doors, I feel less safe if my escape route is impeded. I understand that locking the doores at night keeps burglars out, but I don't like it. I HAVE to know where the keys are, and I don't like having interior doors shut at all, at any time.

I feel safer sleeping on the side of the bed nearest the door. If I go to a new place I have to plan how I would get out, and am anxious and jittery until I have. I need to know where the train station is and that I can get to it at all times, wherever I am; and I always need to have a travel pass, or enough money to buy a ticket to get away if I need to.

When you've had a relationship where the person you love IS the danger, even if it is only one of many relationships, it really screws with your head. And there's always a part of you wondering if it WAS your fault, and if you could make THIS lover treat you the same way.

Intellectually, of course, I know it wasn't my fault. He was just a violent person. I also know that were anybody to try to treat me that way now
1, I am physically strong enough (and have done enough self defence classes) to make sure it wouldn't be me came off worst
2, it would only happen once, then I would end the relationship.
... but that's still not enough for the creeping sense of "what if" to go away. It worms around in my heart, and makes me doubt myself and other people. In this context, allowing myself to love ANYBODY at all is counterintuitive.

I am lucky enough to have more than one person to love. There are people I would trust with not only my own life, but my daughter's. They have proved to me on countless occasions that I could feel safe with them, if only my treacherous heart would allow me to do so. They understand, and they are patient and kind, and do what they can to help when I don't feel safe at all. Allowing myself to love them is my small act of rebellion against the forcible indoctrination that if you open your heart to someone it only leads to physical and emotional pain. I WILL NOT allow myself to believe that is true in all cases, and so I prove to myself it's not by loving people as hard as I can.

This can be a bit intense if you're on the recieving end of it. All I can say is that I am grateful, hugely grateful, for the people willing to be subjected to my love.

You know who you are. Thank you.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Grateful)
So I had a really not-good day at work today. Things bothered me that shouldn't have, and other things didn't go my way for odd reasons, and the phoning gods were agin me (RIDICULOUS amounts of wrong numbers today, like seriously ridiculous). And then I got on the bus home, and there was a girl talking to someone on her phone, trying to estimate how long before she got home. I asked where she was going, and told her how long it would take; and then we got chatting.

She was smart and switched on. She was interested in politics, and she had opinions. She was passionate about what she believed in and she wanted to enthuse other young people... she really cheered me up, frankly, after all the cynicism and world-weary no-point-doing-anything stuff I hear on a regular basis.

So thank you, girl on the bus, for giving this jaded old political hack some hope on a bleak evening. I really value that, and will continue to do so, even if we never meet again.

Thank you.

About This Blog

picture of Jennie Rigg

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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Please note that any and all opinions expressed in this blog are subject to random change at whim my own, and not necessarily representative of my party, or any of the constituent parts thereof (except myself, obviously).

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