On Robin Hood

I suppose it should have served as a warning to my kindergarten teacher, that I did not approve the behaviour of Robin Hood. (This was “High Kindergarten,” age-equivalent to North American Grade II.) Today, I’d be at risk of a report to Children’s Aid. For I was opposed to highwaymen; a proponent of law and order; a shill for the landed and the wealthy, as it were — though it took years, and “events,” for me to fully realize that God had made me not a Whig but a Tory.

The ballads we have are from the fifteenth century — the beautiful decadence of the Late Middle Ages. The character may or may not have been an historical figure from an earlier epoch. There were actual Sheriffs of Nottingham, however, and I’m sure some of them were corrupt, for that is often the case with humans. I trust sheriffs almost as little as I trust highwaymen, though at least they don’t dress in Lincoln green. (It was once high fashion; give me shepherd’s grey.) The political subtlety in the legend is lost on most modern children: that Robin Hood, returned from the Crusades to discover that his property has been impounded, becomes an enemy of the rich, but a friend to “the people” — and loyal henchman for the King.

We might call him a Disraelian, “two nations” Conservative. It is a formula that will always appeal to the romantic: the King as champion of the People; the very top of society in alliance with the bottom against the self-interested middle-men. Our own NDP in Canada (the “Nastily Demented Party,” representing populist socialism) was, at its start, instinctively monarchist, as well as cloyingly Methodist. Or in Catholic fantasy, the Pope and the People against the high-living Bishops. Whereas I, a more traditional mediaevalist, am for a unified hierarchy: a place for everyone, and everyone in his place. (Shakespeare is on my side, incidentally; see his Histories.)

My childish disapproval of Robin Hood, however, was not from opposition to “equality,” per se. Rather I was against crime. It is not right to take things not voluntarily offered, whether by stealth, or by force. Redistribution to “the poor” does not justify the crime, but compounds it. This undermines the whole concept of Property, to the ultimate disbenefit of rich and poor alike. I note that Mr Hood also became anti-clerical, in the Protestant developments of the legend. To my mind the Merry Men were a bunch of thugs, Friar Tuck a lickspittle, and Maid Marian a ho.

I’m opposed to the “welfare state,” or as I call it, “Twisted Nanny,” not because I oppose helping the poor, but because I’m against theft and robbery. And theft is not improved by moral unctuousness, or “virtue signalling” in the progressive mode. The fact is that the State, whether or not it actually gives to the poor (and most “social spending” goes to those who control them), demands enormous taxes to pay for this dubious generosity, and invades all our lives to collect.

Robin Hood, by comparison, was limited at least to what he could obtain as a talented archer. A moral evil is not made good when imposed by massive force, hyped by incessant propaganda, or procrusteanized by sadistic auditors.

Though simple, this point is easily misrepresented. I have never been in an argument in which my opposition to the Income Tax was not depicted as heartless indifference to the supposed beneficiaries of the State’s largesse. Nor have I heard the slightest curiosity about alternative means to charitable ends, that do not involve jackboot procedures.

The poor themselves are robbed by State lotteries, by hidden taxes on all their little comforts, by regulations that drive up the cost of such necessities as food and rent. But most important, they are deprived of their innocence by being made the receivers of stolen goods.