Lindsay Perigo
Lindsay Perigo

Editorial: Forty Issues On

This is the 40th issue of The Free Radical since publication began in May of 1994, so I feel some satisfaction at the achievement of a minor milestone. What a way it has come since that first issue. It's much bigger now, for one thing 40 pages, advertisement-free, vs 16 back then, when one reviewer said, "Lindsay Perigo had better hope that size doesn't matter."

There were just three contributors to Issue One. I led off with an editorial explaining the magazine's philosophy & an article attacking the policies of compulsion promoted by Sir Roger Douglas in his book, Unfinished Business. "If people are forced by the state to partake of a product or service," I wrote, "even if it originates from the private sector & is dispensed more efficiently than by the state, what you have is not a free market." Six years later I still have difficulty getting that point across.

Then Deborah Coddington launched a powerful attack on the misnamed Human Rights Act in an article about Auckland rare books seller Anah Dunsheath, who had just been prevented by the Act from advertising for "an intelligent, pleasant, energetic, practical reliable lady, 40 to 50 years old, living within ten minutes of the city." Instead she had had to place an ad that didn't specify age or gender, & to process 208 replies, most of them from people she wasn't interested in employing. "Oh for the good old days," she exclaimed, "when one could say what one wanted." Deborah leads this issue with a stirring call to arms; her usual mantle of exposing bureaucratic abuse & harassment is ably assumed this time by Glenn Lamont in Havana Horror.

The third contributor was philosopher David Kelley, who asked, "May we have the word liberal back?" "The classical liberals were individualists," he wrote ... "Those of us who have kept the classical liberal faith were left without a name when the tern 'liberal' was hijacked by the social democrats & taken on a long & winding drunken joy-ride. If they've tired of the vehicle, having dented & scraped it beyond recognition, why don't they just leave it at the kerb? We still have the keys; we'll take it back ... no questions asked." A year ago I was set to leave New Zealand for a position with Kelley's Institute for Objectivist Studies, now The Objectivist Center, but for reasons I explained in A Personal Statement in Issue 36, the deal fell through.

Then there were the Hope & Horror Files, which have been a permanent fixture since, & another column from me called "Politicians' Euphemisms: The Truthful Half of the Forked Tongue." In the light of all that was to follow, they make interesting reading. Thus, for example:

"Tax avoidance: protection of one's rightful earnings from wrongful expropriation. Tax evasion: tax avoidance. Affirmative action: discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc. Black market: free market. Spending cuts: a decrease in the rate of increase in government expenditure. Civil servant: an otherwise unemployable person who is neither civil nor disposed to serve. Royal Commission: the first refuge of politicians confronted with an issue that might lose them votes. Task Force: the second refuge of politicians confronted with an issue that might lose them votes. Common good: individual bad. Compassion: theft. Democracy: the right to choose the thieves. MMP: the silliest form of democracy. Long-term, hard-core unemployed: politicians & bureaucrats." Etc.

Contrary to the predictions of its enemies, & not a few of its friends, The Free Radical is still around, 40 issues on, boasting 22 writers this issue versus the original three. I'm mighty proud of that fact. I'll be even prouder if, after 40 more issues, it has begun to have an impact ... because, though I say so myself, it is only the ideas contained herein that can save this country from the burgeoning blight of socialism.

Fertilising this blight is the overwhelming subjectivism/relativism/nihilism of our time, which claims that everything is a matter of opinion (except this opinion!) & so you may as well just take a vote on everything. As an e-mail critic wrote to me:

Your beliefs in certain selected human rights are unfounded principles. There is no absolute truth to say that you are right and everyone else is wrong. There is no empirical science to base your basic human rights upon! Who gave you these rights? God (Ayn Rand) perhaps, in a divine vision? I personally believe that some of your points about freedom or lack of it are valid. But that is only a belief, neither better nor worse than yours or anyone else's. The only way we can make a society is through a shared consensus belief that what we are doing is right. This is what a majority in democracy is about. It may not always be right according to my or your beliefs. Things that have had majority support in the past are not right according the beliefs of the majority today. But there is no absolute right or wrong in the real world, only in the world of beliefs. That's why I believe that if a democratic society functions normally, the majority of beliefs will be represented, which is fair to the largest number of voting people possible in that society. That's why it's the best system, even if it's not right.

Best? By what standard, if there's no right or wrong involved here? If Adolf Hitler's belief is neither better nor worse than mine or anyone else's, by what standard could we condemn him? By what standard can this writer say that some of my points about freedom or lack of it are "valid" if there is no criterion of validity? No absolute truth? Then how can he state that as an absolute truth?

The absolute truth that is relevant here is that human beings are, individually, creatures of thought & choice. Our societal arrangements, to be appropriate for us as human beings, must take their cue from this, leaving each of us free to think our thoughts & make our choices — but not to impose them on each other, even if we are in a majority. That would enable my critic to believe in the universal, absolute efficacy of head-counting but not to impose its results on me. He & the lousy rabble on whose behalf he claims the right to steal — and this is the true agenda of his relativism — would have to make their own arrangements voluntarily among themselves (who knows, they might even learn to enjoy it?).

Forty issues of "politics, economics & life as if freedom mattered." There'll be at least 40 more, because freedom does matter. And that's a fact. Absolutely.

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe?