The Free Society and Its Limits

Does the free society depend upon certain institutions and persons that it cannot create?

 

‘He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobodies.’

These misquoted lyrics from a famous Beatles’ song aptly characterize the 33 year-old Norwegian Anders Breivik who, after being found sane by his trial judges, last Friday received a 21 year prison sentence, the maximum, yet still ludicrously slight, term his country allows given how heinous were his crimes.

After receiving his sentence, Breivik was given the opportunity to comment upon it, but was abruptly cut short and the trial terminated after he began to declare his only regret was that he had not been able to kill more people.

Despite having admitted from the very start to all the killings, Breivik had pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, not, paradoxically, as the prosecution had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the trial judges, on the grounds that he was insane at the time the killings took place. Rather, he had pled not guilty on the grounds of having been forced by necessity so to act in self-defense, a war against natives of his country like he and their culture having been for years waged by its governing elite through their complicity in its steady Islamization through mass immigration of Muslims, plus the policy of deferential multiculturalism that enabled the immigrants to resist integration.

While Breivik’s attack seemed to take his countrymen by surprise, especially its lethargic and grossly under-manned police, for a long time many of us have seen butchery of this kind on the horizon, even before 9/11. In a Mises Memorial Lecture entitled ‘Nationalism and Liberalism: Friends or Foes?’ delivered at the annual Austrian Scholars Conference in March 2000, yours truly declared of the great free-market economist and champion of liberty Ludwig von Mises:

‘Mises feared a massive immigration into the liberal democracies by peoples of vastly different ethnicity, culture and outlook… [who] given the[ir] number[s]…  would be not only unassimilated but unassimilable… At present the greatest threat… comes from… “multiculturalism”… These policies lead to a fragmentation and dissolution of the civic bonds that unite… peoples… In short, the[se] policies…lead, not to the pluralist utopia which their starry-eyed proponents promise, but, more likely, to British and American equivalents of the burning streets of Sarajevo.’

[Mises had voiced these concerns about the dangers of unrestrained immigration to Europe and America of non-Europeans in several of his works. In the introduction of his 1944 book Omnipotent Government, he wrote:

‘It would be a fateful mistake to assume that a return to the policies of liberalism… could… open the way towards peaceful co-operation and of nations and… prosperity…  Take, for instance, the case of migration barriers. Unrestrictedly opening the doors of the Americas, of Australia, and of Western Europe to immigrants would today be the equivalent to opening the doors to the vanguards of the armies of Germany, Italy, and Japan.’

In his earlier magnum opus Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, first published 1928, Mises had indicated the general reason why mass immigration to the West from the underdeveloped world would be so perilously destabilizing to it by remarking:

‘In the absence of any migration barriers whatsoever vast hordes of immigrants, would… inundate Australia and America. They would come in such great numbers that it could not be possible to count on their assimilation… The present inhabitants of these favoured lands fear that some day they could be reduced to a minority in their own country and that they would then have to suffer all the horrors of national persecution… It cannot be denied that these fears are justified.’]

I am not proud of the accuracy of my prognostication, but rather deeply saddened by it.

Some might be inclined to accuse me of indulging in the very same xenophobia and hatemongering as initially had turned Breivik’s head and led to his dastardly deeds. They would argue the real threat to peace and security of countries like Norway which in recent times have undergone large-scale immigration and have been inclined to celebrate their resulting diversity, rather than minimize it, is not that posed by extremist elements emanating from their Muslim enclaves. Rather, they would claim, it is posed by people like me whose counsels of despair about these policies of theirs have only served to inspire the likes of Breivik.

One such person who might be thought to be so inclined is Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, published a day after the verdict, Lean remarked:

‘The Norwegian court’s verdict…underscores the need for society to address those who promote hatred and jabber about the evils of multiculturalism and the looming clash of civilisations. It… has real consequences and reaches the minds of rational thinkers who absorb such narratives and them to their logical conclusion… The discourse of hate must be stopped before it affects other extremists quietly waiting for an opportunity to be to be lauded as heroes.’

I would take strong exception to the suggestion of Lean’s that criticisms like mine of the policies of unrestrained immigration and multiculturalism have ultimately been responsible for Breivik’s criminal actions, and that accordingly they ‘be stopped’. So too would I to Lean’s willfully misleading assertion that, during the 17 years since the Oklahoma City bombings: ‘the likes of Breivik, Timothy McVeigh and Wade Michael Page have been responsible for the majority of terrorist incidents.’ As far as Norwegian authorities are concerned, violent Islamic extremism remains the greatest security threat to their country, and the same can be said of the British and  American authorities too. According to their annual threat assessment for 2012, it is the view of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) that:

‘Extreme Islamism will continue to represent the greatest terrorist threat to Norway in 2012…  Individuals in the extreme Islamist networks… have become more operational…  The terrorist acts of 22 July have so far not resulted in a change to the e threat from organised national extremist groups in Norway. The level of support around organised far-right extremist and anti-Islamic groups is expected to continue to be relatively low in 2012… The number of threats to Norwegian dignitaries has increased significantly following the terrorist acts of 22 July. Utterances and threats have also become more aggravated and more serious. We expect the level of threat activity and negative attention directed towards individual dignitaries to remain higher.’

As if to bear out that assessment, Norway’s leading politicians and newspapers received last week, just days before the outcome of Breivik’s trial, a letter purporting to come from an Islamist group there named Answar al-Sunna . As well as calling for Grønland, a district of Oslo that has lately become something of a Muslim enclave, to be accorded official recognition as an autonomous Islamic state, and for the withdrawal of Norway’s forces from Afghanistan, the letter threatened violence on the scale of 9/11 unless its demands were met. The Norwegian police are reportedly taking the letter very seriously and at face value. Part of it runs:

‘We do not want to be a part of Norwegian society. And we do not consider it necessary either to move away from Norway, because we were born and grew up here. And Allah’s earth belongs to everybody. But let Grønland become ours. Bar this city quarter and let us control it the way we wish to do it. This is the best for both parts. We do not wish to live together with dirty beasts like you.

‘If Norwegian soldiers can take planes to Afghanistan, then Osama [bin Laden] and Mohammed can also take planes to Norway. Now, the government must wake up and assume responsibility, before this war spreads to Norway. Before the counterpart reacts.

‘Before Muslims take the necessary steps. Do not confuse the Muslims’ silence with weakness,. Do not profit from the Muslims’ patience. Do not force us to do something that can be avoided. This is not a threat, only the words of truth. The words of justice.’

For some time, Norway’s cosy consensual social democracy has been showing increasing signs of the stresses that invariably accompany large-scale immigration to all western societies from non-western countries, and which, in the case of Norway, according to its own official demographic projections, will render almost half the population of its capital immigrants by 2040, 70 per cent having come from beyond Europe. The country’s immigrant population as a whole is expected to jump by 2040 from its current level of 12 per cent to 24 per cent.

Less than a fortnight before Breivik’s bombing and mass shootings, a neighborhood in Oslo not far from where the bombing occurred was subject to the unprecedented torching of over fifteen cars. That city can now also boast of being home to one of Europe’s largest populations of heroin users. As one former native of the city observed after returning there last year:

‘You’re never far from somebody shooting up heroin. Consequently you find USED syringes left behind on lawns, in gutters, and in the elevators at the tube stations… I have never been to any other place where heavy drug abuse is so visible.’ 

Under the pressure of its growing diversity, Norway’s social capital is steadily eroding and, with it, the glue that has kept its populace as remarkably law-abiding and orderly as they have been until recent times. Although still nothing remotely close to America’s incarceration rate of 750 per 100,000 inhabitants, in the ten year period between 1998 and 2007, Norway’s corresponding incarceration rate increased from a mere 50 to 68, an increase of over a third. As observed by New Zealand criminologist John Pratt in an article published in the British Journal of Criminology in 2008, entitled, ‘Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess: Does Scandinavian Exceptionalism Have A Future?’:

The homogeneity of the Scandinavian countries had played an important part in reaffirming… tolerance and trust: [with] people who are similar to each other… lawbreakers… are less likely to be understood as alien others. An alien underclass has [now] begun to emerge in Norway and Sweden. Between 30 and 40 per cent of immigrants are unemployed in Sweden… [a] pattern… reflected in second-generation immigrants. Twenty-six per cent of this country’s prison population are foreign citizens. In Norway, unemployment amongst immigrants is 10 per cent, 20 per cent for those of African origins. Seventeen per cent of its prison population are foreign citizens.

With the jailing of Anders Breivik last week, the proportion of Norway’s prisoners who are immigrants has now gone down fractionally.

‘Now we won’t hear about him for quite a while. Now we can have peace and quiet.’ So remarked the mother of one of the slaughtered teenagers after Breivik’s sentence.

Sadly, we are unable to be altogether confident of that for two reasons. First, given Norway’s complacently lax penal system, Breivik could be released after serving only the minimum 9 year term that he was required to serve. While it is being widely remarked in the press that he still can, and likely will, be kept in prison even upon completing the full 21 year sentence, provided he still is judged a risk, there is reason to think it unlikely he will be. In 2004, a Norwegian who had been found guilty of murdering 25 patients in his care there was released after serving his maximum possible term of 21 years.

More importantly and immediately, unless the Norwegian authorities get a grip, Breivik will be able to continue to enjoy the facilities that have enabled him in prison continue to spew forth his dangerous ravings onto the internet, via letters to admirers and followers written courtesy of the computer and printer with which he has been provided in his three-room cell: one room for sleeping; a second serving as a gym and the third as a study.

This liberality towards Breivik is simply madness. According to his lawyers, while awaiting his verdict, Breivik spent between eight and ten hours a day working. According to a report in this week’s New Statesman:

‘When the trial was over, at the end of June, he finally… read the 600 letters he had received from around the world, most of them from right-wing extremists in Germany, Sweden, Britain and Russia. VG [a Norwegian tabloid] got hold of two letters… they were exact copies… only the names differed. In the letters, Breivik explained how he plans to keep fighting… and [to write] three books: the first about the attack, the second about his ideology and the third about the future.’

In one letter to a Russian admirer, Breivik reportedly wrote: ‘My goal is to develop a pan-European prison network consisting of European, patriotic martyrs and other politically motivated prisoners.’

Human rights are one thing, but allowing indirect access to the Internet is no way to treat a mass killer intent on fermenting a European civil war. His country has enough trouble on its hands.

David Conway is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Westminster-based social policy think-tank Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society which he joined in 2004 and where he worked full-time as a senior research fellow for five years, after leaving academia following a thirty year career teaching Philosophy at various British universities. Professor Conway's numerous publications include A Farewell to Marx; Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal; Free Market Feminism; The Rediscovery of Wisdom; In Defence of the Realm; A Nation of Immigrants? A Brief Demographic History of Britain; and Liberal Education and the National Curriculum.

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