Defenders Of The Nation State Are Not The Authoritarians Here – That Would Be The Unrepentant Globalists

One does not need to be a snarling authoritarian to reject the anti nation state, globalist worldview – and if being wary about the survival of our rights and liberties in a post-patriotic world makes one a populist then so be it

During his recent Intelligence Squared debate/discussion with Nick Clegg on the causes of the populist backlash currently roiling British, European and American politics, Jonathan Haidt makes an interesting observation:

Once you have these incredibly prosperous, peaceful, progressive societies, they people there begin to do a few things. First off, not everybody has those values. Everybody in the capital city and the university towns, they have these values. So if you look at our countries, in America we’re pretty retrograde in some ways, but if you look at our bubble places they’re just like Sweden. And that means that these people now think that, you know, nation states, they’re so arbitrary. And just imagine if there were no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Imagine if there was nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too! So this is the way the values shift, and this is what I and others are calling – the new left/right is the globalists versus the nationalists.

And so the globalist ethos is “tear down the walls, tear down the borders, nation states are arbitrary, why should my government privilege the people who happen to be born here rather than people who are much poorer elsewhere?” And so you get this globalist idea, you begin to get even a denial of patriotism, the claim – there are some pictures going around right wing media now in the United States of anti-Trump protesters holding signs that say “patriotism is racism”. So you get people acting in this globalist way, inviting immigration, spitting on the nation state, spitting on the country and people who are patriotic, and very opposed to assimilation when there is integration because that, as people on the Left in America would say that’s cultural genocide.

So you get wealthy, wonderful, successful societies that are so attractive to poor people around the world you get a flood of immigration, and they are met by the globalists who say “welcome welcome welcome, don’t assimilate because we don’t want to deny you your culture”. And this triggers an incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as authoritarianism.

Now it’s a very negative term, but there’s a lot of psychological diversity in this world; there are some people who are attracted to the Lennonist vision, the John Lennon vision and there are other people who are more parochial – I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean there are people who really care about hearth and home and God and country, and they are actually friends of order and stability, and they are friends of many good things about civic life.

But when they perceive that everybody is coming apart, that the moral world is coming apart, that’s when they get really racist, homophobic, they want to clamp down, they want to restore moral order, and if anybody here saw Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Committee that’s exactly what he said, he modelled himself after Richard Nixon’s 1968 speech, a time when cities are burning, there are riots, and Nixon came in – law and order will be restored, and that’s basically what Trump’s whole speech was.

So what I’m saying is successful democratic capitalist societies create – they change values, they generate wealth, they invite people in and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger the other people to be furious, and those other people actually have a point because you have to have trust and social capital to have a redistributive welfare state. My point is that yes the economy matters and economic changes matter, but they matter in ways which always run through psychology.

I follow Haidt’s argument, but I do not see myself or many others of my acquaintance in the binary model he describes. For a start, I see nothing particularly liberal about the starry-eyed EU-supporting globalists, particularly when one examines the full palette of their typical political opinions. And there is certainly nothing inherently authoritarian about being a small-c conservative and fearing the jettisoning of the nation state in favour of an ill-defined globalism built upon the foundation of supranational institutions which are flawed, remote from the people and totally lacking in democratic legitimacy.

I and this blog are about as far from authoritarianism as it is possible to get, despite being staunchly pro-Brexit and anti-elite. I alternately use the labels conservatarian and libertarian to describe this blog’s desire for a much smaller state and greatly enhanced personal liberty – give me classical liberalism or give me death! The difference is that I see a strong and healthy nation state as being essential to the defence of these personal liberties, while the globalists (as described by Haidt) seem to lazily imagine that these liberties will automatically continue to endure beyond the era of the nation state.

Our experience with supranational governance – whether the United Nations or, more viscerally, the European Union, has not been a pleasant one in terms of democracy, accountability or the amount of control that ordinary people feel they have over their lives. Perhaps there are ways to reform those institutions in theory, but in practice they are loath to change and almost allergic to close scrutiny. Recall, even the prospect of losing its second largest economy and most powerful military member could not persuade the EU to consider the smallest of meaningful reforms.

Thus the European Union plods blindly onward towards a federal destination set decades ago by grey old men who presumed to decide for us how we ought to govern ourselves in the years following the Second World War, but who never thought to ask our permission. And the result is a remote and unloved supranational government whose “founding fathers” are unheralded and whose true leaders lack all accountability.

More worryingly, the ability of organic popular movements to influence the direction of supranational juggernauts like the EU is almost non-existent. Whether it is anti-austerity movements in Greece or the need for domestic industries to influence vital global trading rules in forums at which the EU speaks for all of us while really representing none of us, it is almost impossible to get the attention of EU leaders or encourage them to change direction. Just ask Greece’s Alexis Tsipras, or anybody who used to work in Britain’s beleaguered fishing industry.

I am patriotic because I love my country and consider it special and exceptional, yes. But I am also patriotic because I believe that the basic unit of the nation state remains a crucial building block in the world order, essential to the defence of our rights and liberties, and will remain so until humanity finds a way to make the various supranational institutions now undermining nation states more democratically legitimate and more responsive to popular opinion.

And so when confronted with a movement full of people who talk eagerly about being post-patriotic, who revel in being “more European than British” and who want to dissolve our democracy into a remote and dysfunctional supranational government of Europe without a second thought for our own distinct history and culture, I oppose them. Because however well-intentioned they may be, they are actively undermining the one institution (imperfect though it may be) which has thus far kept us relatively free and prosperous for centuries – our own nation state, the United Kingdom.

Does this make me an “authoritarian”? I hardly see how. While Britain has its share of authoritarian tendencies (which I despise and frequently campaign against), these tend to be even stronger on the continent. If hate speech laws seem draconian here, they would only become stricter if we were to harmonise our laws with those of much of mainland Europe. Want the police to regularly use water cannon to break up public protests? Again, look to Europe, not Britain. Much of Europe is ambivalent about property rights, to the extent that no watertight right to property is truly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

And putting all that aside, the vast majority of people in this and other European countries, when asked, do not want their countries to become dissolved into a federal European government and assume the subordinate rank of American states. Maybe rejecting this Utopian vision is backward and foolish, but a fully federal Europe is not what people want (which is why the EU has been forced to move in this direction by unapologetic stealth and deception for over half a century). So since the majority of people in the countries of Europe are not yet post-patriotic, how does opposing an institution which seeks to covertly undermine their wishes make me an authoritarian? And how does it make the people who know the truth but still support this vision enlightened “liberals”?

So much as I admire Jonathan Haidt, hail his work in exposing the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics and agree with most of his diagnosis of the reasons behind the current populist backlash, I cannot support his conclusion because it totally fails to take into account people like me and other liberal Leavers and Brexiteers.

Indeed, Haidt’s usual perceptiveness appears to desert him when he suggests that something simply snaps and makes people “get really racist, homophobic” when confronted with pro-globalism policies and sentiments. That is simply not how it works. All racists may be anti-globalist almost by definition, but that does not mean that everybody with reservations about globalism (as it currently exists) is remotely prone to racism.

Clearly there are other reasons for opposing globalist projects (or the current state of globalism, at least) that have nothing to do with authoritarianism, including those I have outlined here, which Haidt fails to take into consideration.

The full picture behind 2016’s populist backlash has yet to be fully understood.

 

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Nick Clegg, Defiler Of Liberalism, Has Something To Say About Populism

Populism is bad, mmkaaay?

“I think it’s important to remember populism can be a very positive, can be – I mean, Gandhi was a kind of populist. If populism is about challenging a complacent elite, challenging an established order, speaking for people who are not spoken for, populism is a really really important antidote for complacency in politics” – Nick Clegg

The only way that one can hold this seemingly benign attitude toward populism while deploring Brexit and the vote to leave the European Union is either to misunderstand the true nature and purpose of the EU, or to be engaging in deliberate deception.

Nick Clegg is not an uneducated man. With his career, he knows better than most precisely what the EU is, how it operates and where it is heading. He knows that the European Union is more than the “friendship ‘n co-operation”, humble free trade club portrayed by deceitful Remainers during the referendum campaign. In other words, the ignorance excuse is not available to Nick Clegg.

That leaves only the conclusion that Nick Clegg is a liar. A very affable and eloquent liar, certainly, but a liar all the same, and a particularly dangerous one for his gifts.

Nick Clegg would seriously have us believe that the European Union has nothing to do with a “complacent elite”, an “established order” or “complacency in politics”, and that therefore Britain voting to liberate ourselves from the EU is therefore the “bad kind” of populism as opposed to the virtuous kind, which he happily supports. How anybody could sit and listen to him advance this view without either laughing or heckling is completely beyond me.

What nonsense; Nick Clegg has no time for populism of any kind, because it inevitably threatens the rule and routines of the elite in which he is so personally ensconced. Besides the archetypal High Tory, it is hard to imagine a senior British politician with less affinity for anyone who supports any populism movement. At his core, Nick Clegg believes that politics is something to be done to the people by enlightened, “liberal” elites like himself, not something for the masses to influence, with their base prejudices and uncomfortable opinions.

We know this because immediately prior to praising populism, Nick Clegg also said this:

“Populism is redolent with kind of uncontrollable rages and angers and passions, whereas liberalism – at least the liberalism I believe in – is about reason, rationality and evidence, and so on and so forth.”

No. The “liberalism” that Nick Clegg believes in consists of insulating oneself inside an hermetically sealed, epistemically closed information loop, listening only to those “experts” or paying heed to those “facts” which are conveniently in line with one’s own globalist, anti-nation state worldview to the complete exclusion of all other parameters, angles and viewpoints, before applying “reason” to that desperately narrow window on reality and pronouncing verdicts which always comfort and never challenge the metropolitan Regressive Left mindset.

Nick Clegg is perfectly entitled to hold and profess those seethingly anti-democratic, elitist positions. But he should not be allowed to get away with calling himself a liberal while he does so.

Watch this fascinating Intelligence Squared debate/discussion between the excellent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and the sneering, unrepentantly euro-elitist Nick Clegg, on the subject of populism.

 

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Ann Widdecombe Is Right To Encourage Rebellion Against Political Correctness

18-year-old Sam would be horrified to hear 33-year-old Sam admit it*, but Ann Widdecombe is actually right more often than she is wrong – and never more right than when she recently gave an interview to BBC Parliament and veered onto the topic of political correctness.

(* As a 19-year-old lefty student at Cambridge, full of self-righteous assurance and moral superiority, I once accosted Ann Widdecombe in the bar of the Cambridge Union after the annual “This House Has No Confidence In Her Majesty’s Government” debate and no doubt made a complete idiot of myself in the process, though for some time afterwards it pleased me to brag about having supposedly confounded Widdecombe with my impeccable logic and well-rehearsed diatribe against the Evil Tor-ees.)

The BBC reports:

Political correctness is “silencing a great body of thought”, the 69-year old says, to the point where she wonders if we can still claim to live in a free society.

She worries that almost everyone is under pressure to keep their views to themselves, not just those with strongly-held political or ethical convictions

“You actually get bright, intelligent people that could hold their own anyway, saying to you: ‘Well, of course you can’t say that these days’. And I think: ‘Yes you can’.

“This is not the Soviet Union. You should not be constrained by state orthodoxy.

“You should be able to say what you individually think and if it is unpopular, you should stand your ground.”

And continues:

In such a climate, she says it is doubly important that politicians speak out.

“The only people who don’t have to (keep quiet) are the parliamentarians. We can say what we like. We can be against gay marriage, we can be against abortion, we can want to limit immigration – we can say what we like.

“The ordinary citizen is much less blessed these days. I’ve always said if you hold a view what is the point of holding it if you don’t stick by it.”

Widdecombe is absolutely right to emphasise the special responsibility which falls upon those with unpopular or minority views to actually air their beliefs so that unpopular ideas can be tested and either be found wanting and discarded or be acclaimed and more widely adopted based on their merits.

I have just come back from a friend’s Christmas party in a very fashionable part of London, a lovely evening, but one in which I was (for the second time this month) presented with the situation in which a fellow party-goer and friend-of-a-friend casually disparaged Brexit and Brexiteers to my face, automatically assuming that I would agree with their stance.

As happened last time, a virtual decision tree flickered to life in my mind. Do I do what the political blogger and ardent Brexiteer in me wants most, and dramatically out myself as a Leave voter before going on to deliver some barbed and witty put-downs of smug London-dwelling Remainers? If I do so, will it escalate into an argument which might be embarrassing for the hosts? Will it embarrass my wife? Is there a genuine opportunity to change minds, or is this just an opportunity to invite social ostracisation with no realistic potential upside?

On different days and in different scenarios and moods, I opt to go down different branches of the decision tree. On this occasion, knowing my audience, I deemed that there was no realistic opportunity to change minds or even plant the seeds of doubt, and so I changed the subject and ended up having a very pleasant conversation with the chap about other matters.

It is important to note that this friend-of-a-friend is a good guy in every respect – he is just lost to reason on one particular, highly important topic. And while I may not have been afforded the same courtesy had the situation been reversed, I think it is important for Brexiteers to hold themselves to higher standards of behaviour than some Remainers seem to be displaying in their sneering contempt of those who dared to vote their principles rather than their wallets.

On other occasions, I have taken the opposite approach and confronted idiotic EU-worship and criticism of Brexit with the immediate revelation that I am a eurosceptic Brexiteer and that anybody intending to insult Brexiteers in my presence had better be packing something more powerful than smug, idiotic, failed talking points from Stronger In. The last time I took this approach, a couple of weeks ago, the person concerned physically moved her seat a couple of inches further away from me, and frosty silence reigned throughout dinner.

Aside from casual interactions with friends (who no doubt feel duty-bound not to dismiss me out of hand because of our shared history) I have had zero success talking to Remainers in social settings with any degree of success, regardless of the approach I choose. But I am increasingly coming to the opinion that on this subject, as Ann Widdecombe says, “you should be able to say what you individually think and if it is unpopular, you should stand your ground”.

Of course there will always be times when getting into a heated political debate at somebody’s wedding reception is not the right course of action. But having now witnessed how a fairly representative sample of professional young Londoners feel about Brexit and Brexiteers, I think that these people urgently need to hear dissenting voices – if not to change their minds (for such a feat seems impossible) then at least to make the point that there are intelligent young professional Londoners out there who do support Brexit and whose political philosophy consists of something more than vacuous, superficial internationalism and a readiness to believe pro-EU propaganda and apologetics.

And whether the subject is Brexit or any of the issues falling under the suffocating blanket of social justice and identity politics, now is not the time for Brexiteers, conservatives, free speech supporters or other modern day heretics to stay hidden in the closet. Not with so much at stake.

Some of the most illiberal movements in society right now – the establishment’s rearguard fight against Brexit, the trampling of free speech under the jackboots of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics – are fuelled by ignorance of and antipathy toward those who dissent from the leftist orthodoxy. Those dissenters such as myself, living deep behind enemy lines in places like central London, almost have a duty to show that Brexiteers, anti-SJWs and other latter-day thought criminals are more than the two-dimensional caricatures painted by screeching left-wing propaganda outlets like the Guardian and Independent.

95 percent of the time, this may be a lost cause. But once in awhile it may lead to a conversation, and even to a changed mind. Was swallowing my tongue and changing the subject in the face of lazy Brexit criticism the right decision this evening, given that the payoff for me was an hour of pleasant small talk and the knowledge that I helped perpetuate ignorance on such an important subject? Probably not.

Next time I am confronted with the Brexit/Social Justice-in-a-social-situation decision tree, I shall hold my ground unapologetically. Henceforth, the price of airily expressing half-baked political opinions in my presence, in the arrogant expectation that everyone present will concur, will be a thundering response from me which might make even Ann Widdecombe proud. Not only when I am feeling particularly up for a debate, but every single time, even when I would rather have a quiet, conflict-free evening.

That much is the least that I can do – that we all should be doing – for the causes in which we believe.

 

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Don’t Let Politics Ruin Thanksgiving

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The holiday season approaches, and politically divided families gear up to fight the presidential election all over again

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday come face-to-face with distant family members who committed the crime of voting for the wrong candidate on November 8, the National Review looks back to a more innocent age when cynical politicians did not attempt to divide families along partisan lines or turn every last social occasion into a teachable moment in favour of their own pet causes.

Jim Geraghty writes:

The idea that Thanksgiving is now a massive, stressful, unavoidable occasion to litigate our national debate about party and philosophy over family dinner represents the insufferable hyper-politicization of American life. Some of this may reflect growing cultural differences, partisanship, communities segregating themselves along ideological lines, and so on. But there’s an unavoidable fact that only recently have we been subjected to political leaders explicitly calling for these holiday arguments.

Back in 2013, Michelle Obama wrote on the site of the White House’s political arm, Organizing for Action, that, “as you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health-care reform can mean to them.”

Then in 2014, Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, offered a placemat entitled “Talking Turkey About Guns.”

In 2015, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest concurred, suggesting that families should discuss why members of Congress are too afraid of the NRA to pass a gun-control bill: “As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table talking about these issues – as they should and I’m sure they all will across the country – I hope that is a question that will be raised and asked by members around the table.”

This year we get “How to Talk to Your Family About Planned Parenthood This Thanksgiving.” Pass the gravy, and let me tell you more about the organization’s commitment to STD testing.

What is wrong with these people? Since when is it a national obligation to subject your relatives to the conversational equivalent of push-polling? Everybody’s gotten together to express thanks, say a little prayer, maybe drop off some canned goods at the soup kitchen, watch a parade and some football, eat way too much, and scoff at the lunatics camped out on shopping-center sidewalks in anticipation of Black Friday. If a family wants the main course to turn into The McLaughlin Group, it will happen naturally. We don’t need government officials and interest groups to coach us on our dinner conversations.

More importantly, there’s a lot more to our relatives than their voting histories and political perspectives.

Take a good look around the table this Thanksgiving. Even when your family members drive you crazy, you’re lucky to have them. You’ll miss them when they’re gone, and they’ll miss you when you’re gone. Do you really want to spend Thanksgiving arguing with them about their vote, or the fairness of the electoral college, or Trump’s latest Tweet, or what the cast of Hamilton did? Must we say every thought that pops into our heads? Is it really so impossibly hard to find things to admire in our relatives beyond their political beliefs?

My American family has not been immune to the online partisan warfare, with several colourful and highly passive-aggressive Facebook conversations unfolding in the days immediately before and after the US election and Donald Trump’s remarkable victory.

We are not all assembling together in Texas for Thanksgiving, but will be doing so at Christmas, when we will be confronted by the same problem. And while the New York Times would have us print out and follow a tedious 19-point checklist walking us through the process of talking to our relatives about contentious political issues while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, we know an unrealistic proposition when we see one.

Our current working solution: to hang a basket outside the house with a sign instructing people to “Please leave your political opinions inside this basket before you enter, and collect them when you leave”.

 

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Jonah Goldberg On Conservatism In The Age of Donald Trump

Jonah Goldberg says it best when describing the existential danger facing American conservatism in the Age of Trump.

On Trump’s unearned reputation as a happy warrior against political correctness:

This is just flatly not true. I also don’t believe it is true that Trump is appealing to minorities based upon their status as citizens, it’s not in his rhetoric, it’s not what he says; nor do I think he gives a rat’s patoot about the Constitution, which he thinks has twelve articles. He is just making it up as he goes along, riding a populist wave.

[..] This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction. He’s against being held accountable to people to political correctness for himself but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people. He’s done it against me when he tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women and that I have to apologise or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women. What did I do that was so insulting to women? I said that Donald Trump is staying up late into the night like a teenage girl, tweeting. Which was A, accurate, and B, accurate.

During the primaries when Jeb Bush had a completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues, for weeks Donald Trump was talking about how horrible Jeb Bush was on women’s issues, playing these politically correct cards. He’s a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things because he does have no philosophy, he has no intellectual grounding whatsoever, and I understand saying “well, we don’t need any more intellectuals, what did intellectuals get us, look at Woodrow Wilson, look at Barack Obama”, I get all that.

But Donald Trump is not a practitioner or a believer in American exceptionalism. He’s rejected the term outright, explicitly, more than once, nor does he represent what we mean by American exceptionalism. His core values, as he says over and over again, are strength and winning. Getting him to talk about the Constitution is like getting my daughter to eat brussel sprouts. I mean, she’ll do it, but it’s not a pretty picture and she tries to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Interestingly, Jonah Goldberg seems to broadly agree with my assessment of the first presidential debate, awarding Hillary Clinton the win, but not by a massive degree:

I thought Trump lost the debate, but not overwhelmingly. He was clearly the winner of the first 30 minutes or so, and if he’d stayed that guy for the full 90 it would have been a hugely consequential rout. But then, Hillary implemented “Bait Trump Protocol Alpha-1,” when she brought up how he got his start with a $14 million loan from his father. (She got the details wrong, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re baiting fish or Trumpzilla, the lure doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be shiny. In fact, getting the bait just slightly wrong makes it even more irresistible, because we all have a natural instinct to correct falsehoods aimed at us, and Trump more than most.)

So Trump bit the shiny thing, and for the rest of the night, plodding, dull Hillary Clinton led Trump around the stage like a matador with a red cape. And, four days later, Trump is still charging around like an enraged bull. At first I thought Clinton’s use of Alicia Machado was odd. There are so many Trump victims out there, why use one with such a weird past? But that’s what was so brilliant about it. If Machado were a nun, it’d be harder for Trump to attack. But Trump thinks he can win this one on the merits and so he won’t let go of it. He didn’t learn the lesson of his feud with the Khan family: The only way to win such fights is to not engage in them at all. The debate wasn’t a disaster but how he handled the post-debate spin was, and continues to be.

If Trump could stay on message, if he could be a disciplined candidate, I think he’d be ten points ahead by now. But realistically, this is no different from saying if he could control anything metal with his mind, he would be Magneto.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate (at 4AM UK Time, with no opportunity for reflection or benchmarking against the reaction of others) I wrote:

Clinton did become more effective during the final 30 minutes, which her campaign will be very relieved about. And did she manage to rile Donald Trump? Yes – but no more than the country is used to seeing after his tussles with Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

[..] My gut says that this was a victory for Hillary Clinton on points, but a score draw in terms of public reception. Time will soon tell.

All but the most extreme Trump partisans have indeed admitted a Clinton victory on points, substance and tone. And once again, Donald Trump is crowdsourcing advice for how he should tackle the upcoming second debate at Washington University in St. Louis – advice which he will surely reject again, whether it comes from his army of supporters or his despairing, demoralised campaign team.

American conservatives who have chosen to collaborate with Donald Trump have hitched their wagon to the wrong train – in victory or defeat, he will lead them nowhere good.

 

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