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Liberty Hall

A Bertram Chandler, the aussie science fiction writer, has a reputation as a supporter of liberty second only to RAH.

A lot of this is based on his character Captain John Grimes, who welcomes people into his home with:

Come In. This is Liberty Hall; you can spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard!

Now, while this is laid back and relaxed, is it really a statement of liberty? Is spitting on someone’s mat a statement of freedom, or of contempt?

Why be rude about their cat?

Isn’t this an invitation to licence, rather than liberty?


  1. RAB says:

    Didn’t he go on to say… Don’t miss the mat and hit the cat though, if you want your nadgers intact?

  2. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.

  3. John Galt says:

    However, there is a balance between “Liberty” and “Property”.

    If you were to walk into the “House of Liberty” and set fire to it I suspect they’d be pretty annoyed, so the truth is that even in there, the right of freedom is not unfettered.

    Spitting on the mat and calling the cat a bastard may be allowed, but only because the property-holder has given license to do that. The problem is, that unless the license is clear and understood those who are unfamiliar with the house’s custom and practice may fall foul of them.

    As I’ve said before with regard to property, “My gaff, my rules. Don’t like it? There’s the door!”. Seems simple enough to me, even for the Halls of Liberty. I wonder who pays the property tax though? :-)

  4. CountingCats says:


    Problem is, in this context spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard is not a list of do’s and don’ts, it is a metaphor for do as you wish without restriction, and ‘do as you wish without restriction’ isn’t liberty.

  5. John Galt says:

    Sorry Cats, but I don’t agree. “do as you wish without restriction” is pretty much the dictionary definition of “Liberty”

    “Liberty” – the quality or state of being free:
    a : the power to do as one pleases
    b : freedom from physical restraint
    c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
    d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
    e : the power of choice

    Source: Merriam-Webster

    This is why most libertarians acknowledge that absolute freedom has to be fettered with such constraints as respect for property, the right of free contract, the non-aggression principle, etc.

    I have fought long and hard to achieve my freedom from the state and its employed busybodies, but even I accept that such constraints are fundamentals for my freedom to be meaningful.

    Absolute Liberty = unstructured Anarchy

    No doubt there are some ultra-right wing folks who describe themselves as libertarians who do define their form of libertarianism as “the power to do as one pleases”, but to my mind they are just anarchists, pure and simple.

    …and don’t get me started on the People’s Front of Judea!

  6. Julie near Chicago says:

    Merriam-Webster does not enjoy a stellar reputation among people who speak actual English. (Not a dig at you, JG. The authoritative lexicographical pickings on the Net are slim, except for getting leads. I wish I still had my folks’ 13-volume–I think–set comprising the 1933–I think–edition of the OED. What I have is the 1971 Compact OED. It’s two rather heavy volumes, with all the information contained in microdots, which makes consultation difficult though not impossible.)

    Actually I think of what I might call the “anarchists” to whom you refer as more left- than right-wing. But then, I tend to think of the left generally as having a mindset of “murder to create,” where the “create” part is a little mist-enshrouded. Maybe I do them an injustice, but that’s how it seems to me. Whatever the right-wing is, it seems to get a little less of a kick out of Smashing the State and generally cutting up rough. At least over here.

    Whereas the OL Merriam-Webster 11th Ed. gives the following def. of libertine (my boldface):

    noun \ˈli-bər-ˌtēn\

    : a person (especially a man) who leads an immoral life and is mainly interested in sexual pleasure
    Full Definition of LIBERTINE
    usually disparaging : a freethinker especially in religious matters
    : a person who is unrestrained by convention or morality; specifically : one leading a dissolute life

  7. John Galt says:

    Yes Julie, that’s fair comment, but a “libertine” is something completely different, especially when played by Johnny Depp.

  8. CountingCats says:


    Absolute Liberty = unstructured Anarchy

    Um, no.

    You confuse anarchy with chaos methinks. Anarchy is an unstable condition, order will always arise. Although, what type of order can be argued until pub closing time.

    In discussions with collectivists I have a comment, which some find difficult to comprehend. That is: The order which arises from anarchy, as opposed to the chaos which arises from planning.

  9. John Galt says:

    “You confuse anarchy with chaos methinks. Anarchy is an unstable condition, order will always arise.”

    Nope, I just don’t agree.

  10. <>

    Now here’s a thing. There’s a weird commune in a valley in the mountains a way from here. Quite a discovery, really. If you’ve ever wondered where all those hippies from the summer of love ended up, this is it. Great deal bong smoking & bad dentistry.
    Now you’d think it was absolutely anarchic but, if you spend any time there it’s generated a great deal of structure. it’s got a generally acknowledged Grand Cheese with attendant lieutenants. And endless niggling little rules about where you can do what & when.
    And that does seem to be a general principle. You can’t be a proper anarchist unless you conform to the dress code & appropriate anarchistic behavior.

  11. Tha’sodd. HTML in these comments won’t accept french quote marks (<<) Loses everything between them. Wonder why?

  12. john malpas says:

    How strange that this all turns into hair splitting and / or deep discussion.
    The saying , by the way , goes back a long way. It used to mean a causual laid back demenour was all right.
    It was a thing on a par with ‘have a nice day’ – not overly serious.
    Sp\tting was much more common in those days than now. For good reasons.

  13. Lots of good points here – about the difference between a libertarian and a libertine, and the central importance of private property.

    However, is it not possible that the man was just joking? Using a figure of speech.

    I certainly would not go spitting in his house and then say “but you said I could”.

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