Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The limits of the State

As a footnote to the post below, to the growth of 'insidious encroachments by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding' that so constrains true liberty, I came across the words of Edmund Burke again this morning, on the limits of the State:
That the State ought to confine itself to what regards the State, or the creatures of the State, namely, the exterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy; its revenue; its military force by sea and land; the corporations that owe their existence to its fiat; in a word, to every thing that is truly and properly public, to the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public prosperity.
The creeping and suffocating mass of petty rules, regulations, licences, permissions, constraints and proscriptions enacted and enforced by what Nisbet terms 'invisible government' forms our real chains; the most proximate threat to our freedom and liberty is not the despot, but the Council prodnose, the clerk, the petty functionary. Often schooled only in one single section of one single Act of Parliament or one Statutory Instrument, these minor parasites nevertheless intrude offensively into the everyday lives of us all. As Nisbet puts it
But of far greater importance in the· realm of freedom is that invisible government created in the first instance by legislature and executive but rendered in due time largely autonomous, is often nearly impervious to the will of elected constitutional bodies. In ways too numerous even to try to list, the invisible government-composed of commissions, bureaus, and regulatory agencies of every imaginable kind-enters daily into what Tocqueville calls "the minor details of life."
It's control over the funding of this 'invisible government' that will be critical to limiting and even shrinking it; Richard North's 'Referism' at a local level can deprive the State of the means of regulating and enforcing EU law in your borough, even if it can't get us out of Europe, or stop Brussels making regulations. 

Take Trading Standards departments. These used to be consumer protection bodies, the people to whom you complained about shoddy goods or sub-standard work. These days, an army of barely-qualified lawyers on conditional fee agreements will undertake such work without involving the State at all; which is just as well, for the Trading Standards departments now have no time for the public. They're almost wholly engaged on enforcing EU and Parliamentary regulations, entrapping retailers in selling scissors to under-18s, making sure shops don't sell incandescent light bulbs or herbicides. So abolish 'em. Just get rid of them. It's do-able. 

Let's get a list together of all the useless regulatory functions carried out by our councils. An FOI request will reveal the cost, and passing the details to your local paper will give them the ammunition - that the council is closing the library, but keeping half a dozen prodnoses to spy on shops to see if they sell booze to teens. 

The legislation may require councils to enforce these petty regulations, but it doesn't prescribe the resources that must be applied. If we can get our local councils down to a single clerk responsible for enforcing the lot, we'll still be within the law. But our lives will become immeasurably better. 


BashTheMsm said...

it is simply impossible to eliminate this underwood of bureaucracies. if the flow of central overnment money reduces, they will cease delivering their "services", bringing entire sectors to a standstill.
to get rid of these low level bureaucracies entire codes will have to be eliminated or rewritten, but higher level bureaucracies will never allow this.
i think that there is no remedy, no easy fix to this central government if not a total elimination of it, or through progressively increasing secession.

James Higham said...

Let's get a list together of all the useless regulatory functions carried out by our councils.

Huge task and as has been shown, any FOI request puts the requester on the Common Purpose list to be dealt with as a troublemaker.

I've got a little list and I'm sure they'll not be missed said...

OK I'll start the ball rolling with traffic/parking wardens.

Sean O'Hare said...

Well meaning? Whatever gave you that idea?

Mike Cunningham said...


I am truly surprised at your intemperate outbursts against people who are 'only doing their jobs' when it is the 'jobs' or rather the Regulations which should be attacked. The fact that most of these people couldn't hold down a job as a street-sweeper is beside the point; I am always reminded of Parkinson's law, which stated, amongst other diamonds, that 'work expands to fill the time available for its completion'.

You mention the EU legislation regarding making sure shops do not sell incandescent light bulbs, on the truly lying premise that they are energy-intensive and so much worse for us than the friendly compact flouresecent lamps favoured by the EU crew, the vast majority of which are made in bloody China of course!

Instead of getting annoyed with the Regulations, why not make them work for you. If you care to visit my little site, you will find out how, within the very legislation which 'outlawed' the dreaded incandescent lamps, a sub-clause exists which allows as many to be bought as you can afford, and it is all perfectly legal, because it is written into the Regulations. Follow the link, and follow the link!

Anonymous said...

@ Mike Cunningham

Yours is an example of what I call "rocks and rivers". I really wish that I could lay claim to being the first to coin that expression but it was in fact, Libby Purvis in The Times.

What is meant by rocks and rivers is that when someone throws a rock into a river in order to block its path, they fail to do so. Does the river suddenly stop, wondering what to do next? No, the river simply flows round it in no time at all. Throw in another rock or another 100 rocks and the result is the same.

People are like rivers and they will always find inventive ways to flow round the legislation, or the rocks, thrown at them.

The best evidence of this that I can produce is a country called France. The worst at this game is a country called Britain. We must change the way we look at all this petty nonsense; hence, well done for your information. Got any more?

Coney Island

greg tingey said...

Until, of course, someone sells you short measure, or really dangerous food - and they will.
Then what?

Or blocks a fire exit - one of my own pet scares, incidentally .....

I agree that SOME of the "regulations" are insane, and very obviously, also, the result of lobbying by corrupt business groups. Just ask anyone who wants to buy "Non-EU-approved" seeds, for instance, or use Copper Sulphate as a fungicide .....

Woodsy42 said...

The state has limits now?

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seo greece said...

Every state has limits.