George Walford: Bombs and Banners

‘Ban the Bomb.’ An excellent slogan; short, direct, alliterative, unforgettable. What does it mean?

The claim of the state to a monopoly of violence has never been universally accepted and there are now many non-state groups using violence, some of them able to operate across the world. Terrorists are notoriously disinclined to do what the authorities tell them; they are unlikely to accept that any ban applies to them. For governments to deprive themselves of the bomb would be to lay society open to the risk of domination by groups willing to use it, groups not subject to the restraints accepted by even the most dictatorial governments.

The demand for banning of the bomb, and for putting an end to nuclear power stations, rests on the assumption that provided the material facilities and administrative arrangements are dismantled, that will be an end. It will not. The essential thing in atomic energy, peaceful or military, is the knowledge of how to produce it. The anti-nuclear enthusiasts will readily declare in other connections that ‘Truth is great and it shall prevail,’ and the knowledge required for the manufacture and use of atomic power stations and of nuclear bombs is a part of truth. Atomic energy has entered our world and it cannot now be expelled. To demand its abolition is to demand restriction of thought, something the banners themselves, in other connections, recognise to be impossible. But this demand is not only futile; by distracting effort and attention from the need to bring the devil safely under control it leaves us more exposed than we need be.

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DOES IT make sense to have only one Monopolies Commission?

GETTING FED up with the Tube, with its lifts that don’t work, its escalators and indicators out of order, its incomprehensible blaring from outdated Tannoy systems, its trains that are cancelled? Never mind; there are some lovely new decorations in the West End stations.

YESTERDAY’S SOLUTIONS… Michael Ignatieff reports Donald J. Olsen’s comments on the supposed egalitarianism of modern housing policy:

As he points out, it is the Twentieth-Century pattern of council estate construction which has cantoned, the poor away from the rich. It has been social-democratic good intentions as much as the market which has made the central city a middle-class preserve. (TLS 2 Jan 87)

from Ideological Commentary 26, March 1987.