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August 23, 2005

No, I Won’t Grow Up.

No, not my cry of support for Peter Pan, rather my response to Gandalf.

The Times and Tim Worstall aren't lefties, but are showing one of the nastier sides of the modern Brit character - somebody must be blamed for every accident. (I think this attitude is a recent infection from the EU).

But accidents happen all the time, particularly when people have to make split-second life-or-death judgment calls when mentally and physically stressed. And they're nobody's fault!

Blaming people for every accident makes the world less safe, because rather then avoid future accidents (which they cannot), people move away from tasks that risk accidents. For example, in the business world of Customer Support, when management penalizes support engineers for customer problems, support quality plummets. Because the engineers learn that supporting customers is painful, and take the easiest avoidance which is to flee from customer support!

So, the Times and TW should grow up, support the families of all the 53 dead, and stop distracting the people fighting to keep us safe.

The shooting of de Menezes was not an accident. It was a deliberate action....we just don’t know quite yet who made that deliberation.

Here’s what really worries me. Over the years we’ve had a number of people trying to kill random members of the public. Anarchists, the IRA (several times) and now (in Alex Harrowell’s delightful phrase) the Continuity Taleban. I’m sure there are others we can add to the list. I have no doubt that in the future there will be similar other groups who wish and attempt to do the same. It’s a sad part of life.

I am much more worried about the ability of the State to kill people without being upbraided for it. To say, "It was just an accident" makes the next one more likely. Perhaps I am paranoid on the subject....I live in a country which only 31 years ago was a fascist dictatorship....that dictatorship being the one that Amnesty International was first founded to protest against.

I spent 7 years in immediately post Soviet Russia...I was there before Gorby fell and people would not say anything in any way controversial indoors, we would mime and walk in the park. I’ve walked round a corner to have an AK-47 brandished (and aimed) at me by a youth who wanted to restore that system. I’ve talked to, worked with for years, people who were on both sides of the Gulag, people who went there and people who sent people there.

Yes, perhaps I am paranoid on this subject but I take as the great lesson of the 20th century that it is the State that is not your friend, it is the State, when allowed to get out of hand, that is the greatest threat to your health, safety, continued liberty and yes, even your life.

When we have a Government that not just wishes to but is actively passing the laws that make us all helots, abolishing Habeus Corpus, trial by jury, wishes to brand us all with an ID to permit us to move around the streets..the Civil Contingencies Act which entirely abolishes the rule of law....do you really think I am a touch sensitive for getting worried? And you ask me to just gloss over the shooting of an innocent man?

Nope, sorry, if being adult means that I cannot, should not, insist on holding those who rule over us to account for their actions then I am with Peter Pan and I refuse to grow up.

August 23, 2005 in The Blogger Himself | Permalink


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» Brit Cops & Bloggers from Depleted Uranium
Tim Worstall responded robustly to my post on the witch-hunt against London's police chief. The Typepad Comment system is broken, so I've posted my Comment on his post below. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 23, 2005 10:45:49 PM

» de Menenzes once again from JacobsRoom.net
Back from a nasty bout of illness, I note that my old friend Gandalf and fellow-libertarian Tim Worstall are having a right old bust-up. Gandalf is in favour of continued support of the actions of the policemen who shot Jean Charles de Menenzes - fri... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 24, 2005 7:15:47 PM


Tony Martin's "accident" got him time in jail.

Whilst I accept that I could be wrong, every thing that I have read about this incident shout INCOMPETENT at me. If killing someone out of incompetence is not worth a resignation what is? Cold blooded murder?

Posted by: EU Serf | Aug 23, 2005 4:07:16 PM

I am beginning to seriously wonder about the Macpherson report. It was seen at the time as a victory of the race relations industry, but maybe the Met cleverly dodged a bullet there. Turning something into an argument about racism is a good way of making sure nothing happens, as the debate becomes too toxic for serious politicians to handle.

If Macpherson had identified "institutional stupidity" as the problem, however, more heads might have rolled.

Really, it's still too early to say. We want an inquiry, and presumably a court case of some kind, and I am reasonably confident we'll get one, and the facts should come out.

Posted by: Andrew McGuinness | Aug 23, 2005 4:57:59 PM

Accidents can happen. But you don't just shrug and say 'it was an accident'. You attempt to prevent it happening again.

And not by putting up a big plaque in all metro stations saying, if non-uniformed people holding guns run at you yelling loudly and crossly in a language you don't speak very well, don't run.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Aug 23, 2005 5:15:02 PM

when allowed to get out of hand

Imagining that Hitler, Stalin etc would have been fine and dandy rulers if only their foolish predecessors had not passed laws enabling their crimes seems a slightly more bizarre proposition every time I hear it implied by someone otherwise sensible.

Surely, it would be rather more accurate to say that the problem stemmed from the preceding democratic governments failing to act sufficiently vigorously against those attempting to overthrow them. The contrast with Britain, and, in particular, France, is acute.

If Hitler had been in jail on charges of incitement to terrorism, propagation of racial hatred, treason and conspiracy to overthrow the state, he would hardly have been in a position to impose his tyranny on anyone except the cockroaches in his cell.


Posted by: soru | Aug 23, 2005 8:40:05 PM

Good post, Tim.

Soru. WTF are you talking about? "Imagining that Hitler, Stalin etc would have been fine and dandy rulers if only their foolish predecessors ... Surely, it would be rather more accurate to say that the problem stemmed from the preceding democratic governments failing to act sufficiently vigorously against those attempting to overthrow them."

In Stalin's case, what "preceding democratic government"? BTW, where do you think Hitler found the time to write "Mein Kampf"?

Posted by: Backword Dave | Aug 23, 2005 11:49:40 PM

Yes, Gandalf's inability to understand much - especially the British people - is the reason why I no longer bother with his blog.

Posted by: Peter Spence D. | Aug 24, 2005 9:41:19 AM

In Stalin's case, what "preceding democratic government"?


The Kerensky regime failed as a government, not as a democracy. Both types of failures are possible, but the former is far more catastrophic.


Tim adds: Where are you putting Lenin in all this? He was between Kerensky and Stalin.

Posted by: soru | Aug 24, 2005 11:50:09 AM

As far as I remember it, the only time in which the vehemence of the state's response to terrorism played a part in Hitler's rise to power was the Reichstag fire, and I'm not at all sure that this supports soru's analogy

Posted by: dsquared | Aug 24, 2005 12:07:41 PM

The reichstag fire is the flip side of the coin, admittedly. I suspect that incident is the source of the whole 'opposing terrorism means sacrificing democracy' idea.

But that was only true because there was already a terrorist in power. Hitler wanted to get rid of democracy, and that was the most reasonable-sounding excuse. If it hadn't been that, it'd have been something else.

If he had tried the equivalent of the Munich beer hall putsch in the UK or France, Hitler would probably have still been in jail in 1965 or so.

It was the actions of sympathetic judges, who believed in the 'nation' and 'rule of law', traditional authority, and distrusted mere democracy, who let him out, and later prevented prosecution of his supporters when they engaged in political violence.

See Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich for details.



Posted by: soru | Aug 24, 2005 1:43:01 PM

Gandalf, If I lose control of my car and plough into you as you stand on the pavement, that's an accident.
If I see you standing there and convince myself you're the person who strangled my mother and run you down, only to discover later that it was a case of mistaken identity, that is not an accident. It is a mistake, there is a difference. Pregnancies are often mistakes, seldom accidents. Getting drunk and calling your boss a twat is a mistake but it's not an accident. Geddit?
This killing was a mistake but it was deliberate. It didn't happen accidentally.

Posted by: Mike Power | Aug 24, 2005 2:38:36 PM

If any of us had done what that policeman did, whether or not under the mistaken apprehension that we were killing a terrorist or not, the courts would decide if we were guilty of murder. This is not a matter for a complaints commission and "disciplinary proceedings", it is a matter for the courts of law. Be you never so high, the law is (or should be) above you.

Posted by: Tom Paine | Aug 24, 2005 7:23:09 PM