Centrists Cling To Their Failed Dogma Even As It Tears Their Countries Apart

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In a wide-ranging essay, Michael Lind argues that the elite managerial class have broken their compact with the working classes to the detriment of the country, thus explaining the populist backlashes witnessed in Britain and America

“The New Class War”, an essay in the American Affairs Journal by writer Michael Lind, perfectly captures the intersection between trade regulation, democracy and the interests of the managerial elites which is at the heart of the current debate over sovereignty – and which fuelled the Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency in America.

It is necessary to quote at some length from the section entitled “The Politics of Global Arbitrage“, in which Lind discusses the ways in which corporate behaviour has influenced the contours of our democracy:

Even as they have exploited opportunities for international labor and tax-and-subsidy arbitrage, firms in the post–Cold War era of globalization have promoted selective harmonization of laws and rules, when it has been in their interest to do so. In the second half of the twentieth century, successive rounds of negotiation under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and, more recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) effectively reduced most traditional tariff barriers. By 2016, when the WTO effectively terminated the failed Doha Development Round of global trade talks, the United States and other leading industrial nations had shifted the emphasis from removing barriers restricting the cross-border flow of goods to harmonizing laws and regulations through “multiregional trade pacts” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), in the interests of transnational investors and corporations reliant on transnational supply chains.

The areas chosen for arbitrage and harmonization reflect the interests not of national working-class majorities but of the managerial elites that dominate western governments. Harmonizing labor standards or wages would undercut the labor arbitrage strategy, while transnational crackdowns on tax avoidance would thwart the strategy of tax arbitrage by transnational firms. Instead, the emphasis in harmonization policy has been on common industrial standards, the liberalization of financial systems, and intellectual property rights, including pharmaceutical patents. These kinds of harmonization benefit transnational firms, investors on Wall Street or in the City of London, and the holders of intellectual property rights in Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry.

In many cases, this kind of regulatory harmonization makes sense—standardizing product safety measures, for example. But the new regulatory harmonization agreements produce a “democratic deficit” in two ways.

First, they remove whole areas of regulation from the realm of ordinary legislation, replacing it with “legislation by treaty.” Favorable laws and regulations that corporate lobbyists are unable to persuade national democratic legislatures to enact can be repackaged and hidden in harmonization agreements masked as “trade” treaties. These treaties, often thousands of pages long, tend to be drafted in secret by committees involving corporate lobbyists and may be ratified by legislatures without careful scrutiny.

Worse, most of these contemporary regulatory harmonization agreements include “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that allow individual corporations to sue national governments that change the rules in their countries after the passage of the treaty in private tribunals, dominated by corporate lawyers, with no appeal mechanism. If Congress enacts a statute that adversely affects the interests of Acme Inc., then Acme has few options, other than paying lobbyists and making campaign donations. But if Congress ratifies a treaty, and later changes a provision by passing a new law, Acme can sue the federal government for financial damages. The United States has yet to lose a case to ISDS, but other countries have, and some believe that the prospect of corporate lawsuits has a chilling effect on new laws and regulations of which particular corporations disapprove.

None of this is to imply that the transnational managers of the West and littoral East Asia who control the new global oligopolies are more selfish or less public-spirited than the managers of national corporations during the Second Industrial Era. On the contrary, in personal terms, today’s managerial elite is for the most part less bigoted and often quite philanthropic. The point is simply that the American, German, and Japanese corporations of half a century ago were constrained by kinds of Galbraithian countervailing power and Burnhamite/Moscian juridical defenses that have crumbled. Thanks to globalization, itself a voluntary policy choice enabled but not required by new technology, today’s transnational firms have much more bargaining power in their dealings with workers and democratic nation-states.

My emphasis in bold.

This perfectly sums up a core part of the democratic case for leaving the European Union as it relates to trade, and is very much in line with the analysis and arguments advanced by Dr. Richard North of eureferendum.com and Pete North.

Lind is quite correct to acknowledge that regulatory harmonisation can be an enormous force for good. In fact, the trouble only really comes about when there is no option for a democratic nation state to “opt out” of a certain regulatory change or edict when its imposition would harm the national interest in some way. Obviously there would be consequences for such an action, such as the non-recognition of standards relating to the product or industry in question. But the opt-out is a vital tool which nation states must possess in order to wield sensibly and with restraint on those occasions when the compromise hashed out by 27 EU member states is unacceptable to the sole outvoted dissenting country.

This is what we mean by the outsourcing of sovereignty. Remainers and assorted pro-EU apologists love to make the glib assertion that EU member states retain ultimate sovereignty at all times because they are technically free to leave the EU, but this is an asinine assertion. Sovereignty should not be a choice between having to go along with every diktat from Brussels or deploying the nuclear option and leaving the European Union. Indeed, how can you call it sovereignty when the choice is between accepting papercut after papercut (grave though the cumulative wound may be) or else enduring the disruption of severing ourselves from the union? This isn’t sovereignty, it is blackmail. Thank goodness that Britain finally called the EU’s bluff.

This section is also instructive:

To obtain social peace and mobilize national populations during World War II, the United States and its allies like Britain brokered business-labor pacts and promised welfare benefits to veterans. In the ensuing Cold War, every major industrial democracy devised some kind of “settlement” or compromise among business and labor interests within the nation.

The postwar settlements were a combination of employer-specific welfare capitalism and universal or means-tested, social-democratic welfare states. In West Germany, welfare capitalism took the form of “codetermination,” or union membership on corporate boards. Japan, following intense labor conflict after 1945, developed a system of corporate paternalism and lifetime employment for many workers. Organized labor was weak in the postwar United States, but the “Treaty of Detroit” negotiated among automobile companies and unions was a successful example of informal business-labor corporatism. Low levels of legal and illegal immigration, and social pressure on married mothers to exit the work force to become homemakers, strengthened the bargaining power of mostly male workers by creating tight labor markets.

These corporatist systems of welfare capitalism made the welfare states of the period from the 1940s to the 1970s much smaller than they would have been otherwise. Wage compression brought about by unions in the welfare-capitalist system made it easier for payroll taxes to fund entitlements like public pensions, which in turn were smaller than they might have been because of the widespread existence of private employer pensions.

The post-1945 settlements in the West and Japan demonstrate countervailing power and juridical defense in action. The result was the golden age of capitalism from the 1940s to the 1970s, combining high growth with a more equal distribution of its rewards than has ever existed before or since.

But Lind sees the end of the Cold War as a turning point when the post-war settlements established in the West and Japan began to be fatally undermined:

Following the Cold War, the global business revolution shattered these social compacts. Through the empowerment of multinational corporations and the creation of transnational supply chains, managerial elites disempowered national labor and national governments and transferred political power from national legislatures to executive agencies, transnational bureaucracies, and treaty organizations.

Freed from older constraints, the managerial minorities of Western nations have predictably run amok, using their near-monopoly of power and influence in all sectors—private, public, and nonprofit—to enact policies that advantage their members to the detriment of their fellow citizens. Derided and disempowered, large elements of the native working classes in Western democracies have turned to charismatic tribunes of anti-system populism in electoral rebellions against the selfishness and arrogance of managerial elites.

I have to say that Lind’s essay has given me pause for thought. This blog has consistently championed the Thatcherite revolution which took Britain from being the sick man of 1970s Europe, seemingly in terminal decline, to a revived and confident global power by the 1990s. I did so while acknowledging the various failures of the Thatcher government to ameliorate the decline of heavy industry outside of the wealthy Southeast and its cost in terms of suffering and wasted human potential, but I nonetheless saw (and continue to see) Thatcherism as a necessary if painful tonic for the economically sick Britain of the 1970s.

Lind, however, sees things differently. From Lind’s perspective, the post World War II settlements established between labour and the managerial classes in various Western countries were responsible for the great boost in productivity and living standards, not an anchor on these metrics (as I have always viewed the post-war settlement in Britain, partially deconstructed by Thatcher). To be fair, Lind pinpoints the start of the unravelling to the end of the Cold War when Thatcher’s premiership was nearing an end, but since many of the tenets of Thatcherism continued through the Major and Blair governments into the 21st century once can reasonably infer a criticism of Thatcher’s policies, which merely took a decade to come to full fruition.

This is food for thought for an unabashed Thatcherite like me, and I need to do more reading to decide how much of Lind’s narrative holds water. The narrative arc he constructs is persuasively argued and passes the “common sense” test, but to my mind Britain’s experience stands as an exception to Lind’s rule. In our case, the post-war settlement we constructed (based on the recommendations of the Beveridge Report) grievously held us back as a country. We did not benefit from enlightened German-style corporate governance or Japanese-style jobs for life in the post-war years, but rather sank into decades of adversarial conflict between unions and (largely state-owned) employers, with government policy repeatedly favouring the interests of the producer over those of the consumer.

Now, this could be because British government policy was particularly misguided and the British managerial class particularly useless (an argument I have some sympathy with), but it seems more likely to me that Lind’s blanket assertion that countries prosper most when there is a powerful countervailing force to push back against the elite managerial class is not always correct – or at least is only one of several other key factors determining economic growth and increases in standard of living. I would posit that Thatcher’s Methodist upbringing probably provided a great moral anchor that prevented excessive self-serving policymaking, while today’s decadent and avowedly secular elites are perhaps more prone to corruption and in greater need of the countervailing force that Lind describes (hence the populist backlashes we have witnessed).

Lind then goes on to discuss how labour arbitrage and tax & subsidy arbitrage in our more globalised world have worked to undermine the nation state and empower the corporation – a line of reasoning which would certainly be familiar to anyone on the Left.

He concludes by looking ahead to the likely geopolitical situation in the year 2050, and considers what will be the best strategy for the West to maintain power and influence:

Great-power competition, even in the form of limited cold wars, is likely to reward nations whose economic model is based on developing productive technology and raising the incomes of domestic worker-consumers, rather than engaging in labor and tax arbitrage, regulatory harmonization, and other schemes that boost profits without increasing productivity. In cold wars and trade wars, even if no blood is shed by the contenders, countries and blocs with empowered and patriotic workers are likely to do better than rival nations crippled by immiserated workforces and selfish, nepotistic, oligarchic elites.

[..]

Managerial elites are bound to dominate the economy and society of every modern nation. But if they are not checked, they will overreach and produce a populist backlash in proportion to their excess. By a misguided policy of suppressing wages and thus throttling mass consumption, unchecked managerial elites may inadvertently cripple the technology-driven productivity growth responsible for their rise and accidentally cause the replacement of managerial society itself by a kind of high-tech rentier feudalism.

Managerial society works best when there are not only concessions to national working-class economic interests—the bribes to the “losers” of neoliberalism—but also genuine economic bargaining power and political power wielded by the many. Far from undermining managerial regimes, Burnham’s “juridical check” and Galbraith’s “countervailing power” make them more legitimate and sustainable.

In other words, the policies favoured by the current dispossessed centrists in Britain and America are not as smart and self-evidently beneficial as their advocates love to claim. Status quo globalisation, which increasingly seeks to leverage labour arbitrage, tax arbitrage and selective regulatory harmonisation to benefit the managerial class while doing little to raise productivity (not to mention leaving millions of people in dead-end jobs or the unemployment scrapheap) is not only selfish on the part of the managerial class, it is also injurious to the future prosperity and security of the country.

In fact, according to Lind, it turns out that having a patriotic population and workers with a commitment to the country they live in, together with some degree of bargaining power (preferably due to their possessing valuable skills rather than the threat of withholding their labour, as deployed in the 1970s), is perhaps a net positive after all, particularly in the long term.

Again: I don’t buy everything in Michael Lind’s essay. But he spins a plausible narrative and argues his case well. And if Lind is correct, how regrettable is it, then, that the populist backlashes on both sides of the Atlantic have been held in check partly through their own incompetence (Donald Trump in America and the Tory hard Brexiteers in the UK) and partly by the fact that the resurgent centrists have effectively ground the respective movements to a halt?

Bear in mind, if and when the centrists retake power, they intend to revert to pure business as usual. They have learned nothing from the comprehensive rejection they received from voters only a short time ago, and think that the world can revert to its previous happy state where they got everything that they wanted while anyone who dissented could go jump off a bridge.

I have long contended that such an overturning of these populist movements by the elite would be poisonous, even fatal, to our democracy. But if Lind is correct, it could also be fatal to the future economic prosperity and national security of our countries.

 

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Bitter Remainers Dream Of A Single Issue Anti-Brexit Political Party

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Still firmly stuck in the “denial” stage of the grieving process, some bitter Remainers are now pinning their hopes on a new political party with the sole aim of thwarting Brexit

A number of overexcitable Remainers seem to be getting carried away with the idea that a brand new political party, dedicated solely to the purpose of thwarting Brexit, might be the answer to their prayers.

We first saw this idea floated in the Financial Times by Janan Ganesh, who did a masterful job of suppressing everything he knows about the British political system to convince himself that the idea might actually have merit:

A new political grouping has been in fitful gestation since Britain voted to leave the EU. Uncomfortable in their own parties, a few Conservative and Labour politicians have probed the idea in discreet settings. Donors are primed with start-up capital. Tony Blair has improvised a role as a curator of these forces, and at times as their frontman. An electorate that has withheld a decisive win from any party since his own days as prime minister is plainly open to some disruptive entrant to the market. If it shows promise, Liberal Democrat MPs might subsume themselves into it rather than stagger on as a futile dozen.

For all this, the breakthrough never comes — and not because Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system stymies the new. The project never gets that far. The trouble begins earlier. To avoid caricature as pro-European monomaniacs, and to let their restless energies roam, the people involved aspire to stand for something broad: political moderation in an age of extremes. This requires them to have policies, or at least first principles, across the full spectrum of government business. But each time a putative party settles its view on, say, fiscal policy or healthcare, it will alienate some of its original and potential supporters. It also loses definition. Before the project has a single achievement to its name, it is bogged down in matters of internal theology. It becomes a paradox: a fissiparous political party with no MPs.

Ganesh concludes with a well-rehearsed yet tone-deaf paean to the kind of bland, managerialist centrism which sparked this anti-establishment backlash in the first place:

A wider manifesto for moderate government might emerge, but only over time and as a consequence, not a cause, of the movement’s success. To design an entire worldview upfront is to wallow in detail before any political momentum has been established. And to lose friends in the process.

And yet the foolish idea is now gaining traction, with journalist (and ex-Chief of Staff to Brexit Secretary David Davis) James Chapman promoting the idea, as the Guardian excitedly reports:

A former chief of staff to David Davis has said Brexit is a catastrophe that must be stopped and called on centrist MPs to form a new party.

James Chapman, who worked for the Brexit secretary for a year as the Department for Exiting the European Union was set up, suggested the new party should be called the Democrats and claimed some “very interesting people” wanted to be involved.

[..] Chapman, who previously worked for George Osborne, said anti-Brexit MPs such as Anna Soubry, Grant Shapps and Mark Harper had more in common with party opponents such as Rachel Reeves and Vince Cable than “Owen Paterson et al”.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the delicious irony of a political party explicitly founded to overturn the results of a democratic referendum – and all in order to ensure that Britain remains a part of a supranational political union whose very purpose is to undermine nation state democracy – calling themselves the Democrats. This utterly shameless tactic is taken straight from the Karl Rove playbook, with Remainers projecting their own flaws onto their opponents while claiming the virtues of Brexiteers (commitment to democracy) as their own.

Nevertheless, Janan Ganesh and James Chapman both seemingly believe that the best way to overturn the result of the EU referendum and thwart Brexit is for pro-Europeans to band together and campaign only on that single issue, in the name of moderation and to avoid deadly infighting by introducing other ideological squabbles to the debate. But the problem with this thinking is that by definition, only those disaffected MPs who feel most strongly about stopping Brexit would join such a party, and they tend to be the swivel-eyed euro-federalists or dim but enthusiastic EU cheerleaders.

What the Remainers forget is that while the Leave campaign may only have won the referendum 52% to 48%, many of the 48% also have no real love for the EU. Even in my own North London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn, one of the most defiantly Remain-voting constituencies in the entire country, I have spoken to numerous people who voted Remain either grudgingly or out of alarm at the apocalyptic stories spun by Britain Stronger in Europe.

Arch-Remainers have tended to assume – wrongly – that the full 48% who voted to Remain in the EU did so because they share the same fanatical devotion to the European Union as themselves, but this is not the case. Many people strongly bought into the Leave campaign’s argument about sovereignty and self-determination, but voted Remain because they prioritised short-term economic security over long-term democratic security. And one cannot entirely blame them for doing so – I fully admit that I am something of an outlier with my unfashionable, somewhat fanatical obsession with constitutional issues.

So how would a British public which was probably much more than 52% hostile to the EU at the time of the referendum react to the formation of a new political party created with the expressed intention of overturning the referendum result? Janan Ganesh clearly thinks that such a party would be greeted like liberators, come to rescue benighted Britain from the evil clutches of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. I’m not so sure.

While as a country we may be increasingly confused about what “British values” really mean, most of us would still point to the importance we attach to “fair play” being a defining national trait. And I think that the British people would take one look at a bunch of establishment arch-Remainers (led by Tony Blair, no less) attempting to undo the referendum result as a grave insult and a brazen power grab.

The New Party campaigners also totally overlook the dynamics of individual constituency races in favour of national polling. Even assuming that a new political party got off the ground (I’m not holding my breath) it would face exactly the same challenges as the SDP back in the 1980s, squeezed between a rock and a hard place as Labour and the Conservatives refused to stand aside.

Even Owen Jones sees through the scam:

And what then would be the point of such a party with (at best) only a handful of fanatical europhile MPs in Parliament? Even if Theresa May’s government falls before the next scheduled general election, the chances are that Brexit will either be concluded by this point or more likely that negotiations will be so far advanced (perhaps with a negotiation extended) that it is no longer possible to undo without accepting revised membership on harsh new terms (no budget rebate, mandatory joining of both Schengen and the Euro) that an overwhelming number of Britons would find unacceptable.

The whole idea is a complete non-starter, the futile fantasy of an establishment class which still believes that it can simply circumvent or nullify democratic outcomes rather than doing the hard work of convincing people and winning them over to their side. A year on from the referendum and the tantrum continues with no sign of abatement.

Having said that, by all means let them try. Lord knows that the Conservative Party would be an immeasurably better entity without the likes of Anna Soubry and Grant Shapps.

 

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Remainers: You Can Stop Pretending To Be Patriotic Now

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A rare moment of honesty from an arch-Remainer

New Statesman staff writer Jonn Elledge – whom I recently described as “worse than a garden variety xenophobe” for his heinous statements about elderly Brexit voters, much to his indignant outrage – has been engaging in a minor Twitter spat with Tim Montgomerie this afternoon about the nature of Brexit.

This would be utterly unremarkable, but for one inadvertently revealing tweet in the exchange in which Jonn Elledge revealed in a moment of strange candour the real reason that establishment Remainers love the European Union and cannot conceive of a life outside of its cloying embrace.

Pressed by Montgomerie, who asked “Is there a name for continually thinking the European project, and its gradual erosion of nation state democracies, will turn out ok?”, Elledge replied, simply and honestly (for once) “Never did understand what was meant to be so brilliant about nation states, if I’m honest. I’m quite up for a democratic world superstate”.

This is an appallingly ignorant and historically illiterate statement, the kind of sentiment that could only be uttered by somebody who enjoys all the benefits of living in the age of the modern democratic nation state without pausing for a moment to consider the true source of all his comfort (hint: not the EU). Would Elledge at least concede that the nation state is a slight improvement on the city state? The multiethnic empire? The dynastic kingdom? Marauding tribes? He is at pains not to say, and yet is quite ready to roll the dice, jack in the nation state and try something new without really giving it a moment’s thought.

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen. Finally, a moment of honesty from the arch-Remainer side of the argument. Of course, those of us who followed the EU referendum debate closely and saw through the paucity and desperately narrow scope of the Remain side’s argument (focused almost entirely on negative scaremongering about trade with occasional rhetorical flourishes about “cutting ourselves off from the world”) knew that something deeper was motivating the EU’s loudest cheerleaders.

But of course Jonn Elledge and his co-conspirators could not admit their dirty desire in public during the referendum. They could not simply admit the truth – that they have no respect or appreciation for the nation state and its role in guaranteeing our core freedoms and liberties, and that they would sooner consign nations to the grave so long as they and their ilk could preserve their current perks and become true citizens of the world.

To admit their scorn for the nation state and eagerness of its demise would have been suicide during the EU referendum. Thus their only hope was to pretend to be patriotic and to have a love for this country and its many positive qualities (some of them are still continuing the pretence to this day to maintain their credibility in the hope of winning a potential second referendum) while secretly loving the EU precisely because it actively undermines nation states by design.

But of course the one world government (or “democratic world superstate”) longed for by Jonn Elledge (and no doubt many other Remainers in the secrecy of their own hearts) is totally impractical in any case, working against human nature rather than with it, as all Utopian left-wing pipe dreams tend to do.

Consider the case of the United States of America, fifty states combined into one great nation, bound together under the motto E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). When it comes time for presidential elections, Americans do not stubbornly vote only for candidates from their own state, but instead choose from the candidate whose policies they prefer from any of the fifty states. A Californian might vote for a candidate from Illinois without so much as a second thought, knowing that the candidate will represent all of America if elected. Americans can do so in confidence because their sense of being American is stronger than their sense of being an Iowan, New Yorker, Nevadan or even Californian or Texan, the two states with the strongest sense of separate nationhood.

Now imagine an election for Leader of the World. Do you think that people from countries as diverse as Britain, Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, Greece, Kenya and Japan would vote high-mindedly for the candidate who offered the best suite of policies, regardless of his or her nationality? Would it even be likely that a candidate would offer a fair suite of policies rather than a manifesto geared toward benefiting his or her home nation? Of course not. Cultural differences are far more significant across national borders (despite the furious efforts of pro-EU “citizens of the world” to pretend otherwise), and out of protectionist instinct people would inevitably want to vote for a candidate from their own country, or at least a sympathetic country.

And who can say that they would be wrong to do so? Is Jonn Elledge seriously contending that he would be happy for the world to be led by a member of the Chinese Communist party? Or by a Putinesque Russian oligarch? Or a theocratic Saudi cleric? Of course he wouldn’t. Elledge, in his disdain for the nation state and desperate need to virtue-signal his abhorrence of patriotism, paints a fraudulent world of rainbows and unicorns where all cultures are equally praiseworthy and deep-seated cultural and religious differences are non-existent. Again, working doggedly against human nature rather than working practically with it.

There can be no world government because there is, as yet, no world demos. One day, probably quite far in the future, this may change. And that may be a good thing when it eventually happens. But we are not there yet, and to pretend that a “democratic world superstate” is either viable or desirable is foolishly naive as well as being oxymoronic – you can either have democracy or a world superstate, but not both.

I wrote about the ongoing importance of the nation state at some length back in 2015:

The liberties and freedoms we hold dear today can very easily slip away if we do not jealously guard them. By contrast, power is generally won back by the people from elites and powerful interests at a very heavy price – just consider Britain’s own history, or the American fight for independence from our Crown.

If we want to have a say in designing the new institutions that will govern our politics, trade, intra-bloc affairs (for we soon may not call it “foreign relations”) and other issues, we need to put the brakes on the demise of the nation state while we take stock and think about the future that we want, so that we do not end up in the future that our leaders and elites are building now in secret, without our consent.

Even if you find patriotism silly and the importance that conservatives attach to symbols and rituals to be absurd, it is still in your interests to slow down the juggernaut of European integration so that you too can help design the world our descendants will inhabit. You may laugh at the latest sensationalist Daily Mail headline, or think Nigel Farage a fool when he stands in his local pub, resplendent in tweed, drinking a pint of English ale. And that’s fine, you can laugh.

But think about what the world will be like in one hundred years, with its new technologies and services and ideas. Think about what innovations there will be in healthcare and banking and computing (and data collection) and travel. And then think about how much oversight and control we have over any of these things even today, in 2015. It it enough?

Imagine, then, the world of 2115. What institutions will then exist to safeguard our children’s  interests, and which bodies and authorities will they petition for redress of grievances? Who will control foreign relations between whatever nation states or multinational trading blocs remain, and who will decide whether to wage war using whatever unimaginable weapons we have conceived a century from now?

Do you entrust the EU with these powers? The World Trade Organisation? The United Nations?

The answer to this final question is apparently a resounding “yes!”, at least as far as Elledge is concerned. Any international or supranational institution is brimming over with legitimacy and ability to solve “a lot of stuff the nation state can’t do” in the mind of hardcore ideological Remainers, while the despised nation state offers nothing but insularity, bigotry and nationalism.

The naivety on display here is quite simply off the charts. Obviously it is one of the defining characteristics of those on the Left to leap towards radical change without stopping to think through the consequences, but to show a willingness to do so with something as fundamental as abandoning the nation state as the basic building block of human society is reckless indeed. Especially since neither Jonn Elledge or anybody else has proposed a viable alternative.

It is one thing to rage against the status quo and advocate for radical change. But to sneer at the nation state, close one’s mind to the stability and prosperity it has delivered and advocate for One World Government without even beginning to think through the consequences and practicalities should destroy once and for all whatever credibility Jonn Elledge and his ideological brethren have left.

And still we should be grateful. For too long, ideological establishment Remainers have walked a tightrope, angrily proclaiming that they are as patriotic as the next man (and taking great offence when the impossibility of this statement was pointed out to them) while doing everything in their power to ensure that the nation state is weakened, together with the fraying bonds which hold our society together. Now, finally, the mask is slipping. Whether through a moment of frustration or deliberate design, the real motivations are now being unmasked.

Now we see the hardcore ideological Remainers for what they are.

 

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Vince Cable Joins The Anti-Brexit War On The Elderly

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Remainers love to claim that the EU referendum “divided Britain”. But many prominent Remainers are perfectly happy to stoke divisions of their own in order to thwart Brexit

While any measured, rational human being ought to be immediately capable of seeing through YouGov’s recent flawed opinion poll – which was constructed to give the misleading impression of elderly Brexit voters being selfish extremists – new LibDem leader Vince Cable is happy to stoke intergenerational conflict in order to feed his desperate pro-EU confirmation bias.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday (surprising enough in itself, considering most bien-pensant elites view that paper as little more than a fascist propaganda newsletter), Cable moans and wails about how the older generations have supposedly “shafted the young”.

Cable writes:

The Remain argument about economic damage is now largely accepted. Mounting evidence of a slowing economy and rising inflation give substance to earlier warnings. The issue has become one of how to minimise or postpone the damage. And instead of countering the arguments, more and more Brexiteers are embracing economic pain as a price worth paying for ‘taking back control’: almost as a badge of honour.

This attitude has reached worrying proportions. Press stories refer to ‘martyrs for Brexit’ based on a YouGov survey suggesting 61 per cent of the public would accept ‘significant damage to the economy’ from Brexit and 39 per cent ‘don’t mind losing their job’. These figures seem wildly implausible.

I don’t encounter people running around saying ‘please make me poorer’ or ‘please sack me’. These figures are also difficult to reconcile with polling which shows 66 per cent of voters wanting to remain inside the single market.

Of course, as I explained at length in my response to an equally idiotic piece in the New Statesman, there is in fact no contradiction here. It has nothing to do with being a “martyr”, or acting irrationally against one’s economic self interest. Rather, elderly voters simply understand that there are other motivations and considerations besides short term economic gain.

Having grown up in the post-war years and through the Cold War, older voters tend to appreciate the value of democracy and self-determination more than young voters who have never faced existential threat and for whom the EU has been an ever-present reality and an unquestioned positive force. And Vince Cable probably knows this full well, but it suits his purposes to portray those with differing political opinions as somehow unhinged or even malevolent.

Ironically, immediately after impugning the motives and morals of older Brexit voters, Vince Cable then goes on to make a plea for tolerance and mutual respect:

But the last thing the UK needs is further polarisation. There is already more than enough bad-mouthing of opponents and questioning of the patriotism of those who criticise the Government.

The gall of these establishment EU-defenders is absolutely off the charts. Where once a senior politician might have felt a degree of shame that would have prevented him from contradicting himself so completely in an Op-Ed, Cable does so proudly, fully expecting not to be picked up on it. This is how little establishment centrist politicians think of voters and their capacity to understand political or rhetorical arguments. But it is also a sign of the desperation in the Remain camp, as the dream of thwarting Brexit altogether recedes further and further into the distance.

And it gets worse:

To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous. We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language which is troubling. We have already had the most fervent of Brexiteers, such as Nigel Farage, warning of civil unrest if the ‘will of the people’ is frustrated.

Brexiteers may well be frustrated since the practical difficulties of Brexit, as well as the costs, could result in Brexit never happening.

This is a clever little construction of Cable’s, writing that we haven’t yet heard about “Brexit jihadis” while simultaneously inserting what he clearly hopes will become the Left’s new insult of choice into the public discourse. Let’s be clear – the leader of the Liberal Democrats, that party which considers itself so rational and pragmatic, has just compared Brexiteers who dared to weigh considerations other than economic gain when voting in the EU referendum to jihadis. To murderous Islamist terrorists who maim and kill.

At what point do we stand up to the establishment’s collective hissy fit over Brexit? At what point do decent people refuse to be thus insulted by what Tim Montgomerie called the very “greybeards” who only recently urged further EU integration and the Euro on us even as these failing policies devastated the younger generation, particularly in southern Europe?

That’s not to say that Vince Cable is wrong in many of his warnings about Brexit. In many ways he is right to warn about the implausibility of hammering out a bespoke deal with the EU by 2019, and to urge a slower, managed transition which maintains current access to the EEA. But all of these sensible warnings are completely overshadowed by the overwrought, flowery language suggesting that Britain’s grey-haired voters are supposedly full of hatred and malice towards the children that they raised.

Are the older generations completely innocent? Of course not. Valid arguments can be made that they have been too sheltered from “austerity” and the consequences of the Great Recession thanks to universal benefits and the “triple lock” on pensions. And certainly, as a demographic with a high propensity to vote, the retiree lobby has been very successful in seeing their interests turned into government policy.

But Vince Cable’s over-the-top attack on older voters immediately turns them back into sympathetic characters, and only makes it harder to question the privileges that they have accrued through successive government policy. Comparing decent people who have worked their whole lives and done so much to build the country in which we live today to radical Islamist terrorists is so heinous, so wildly excessive, that sensible discussion becomes impossible.

This kind of behaviour might be just about acceptable from someone like me – a relatively unknown political blogger perhaps looking to make a splash by saying something outrageous or provocative (see Abi Wilkinson’s clickbait call for a 100% inheritance tax in the Guardian). But Vince Cable is not an obscure political commentator. He is leader of the Liberal Democrats, a political party which still purports to be taken seriously.

In reality, most people vote both for reasons of self interest and for the perceived good of society. The truth about the elderly Brexit vote probably lies between Brendan O’Neill’s lionisation of these voters and Vince Cable’s haughty dismissal.

O’Neill has been effusive in his praise:

I find it deeply inspiring, moving even, that my fellow Brexiteers are willing to have it rough in the name of democracy, in the name of bringing law-making back to where every progressive of the modern, Enlightened era believed it should be: in the nation, under a people’s oversight.

I straight up got a lump in my throat when I read the bit of the YouGov research that says many Leave voters would even be okay with losing their own jobs, or seeing a family member lose a job, in the name of Brexit. Thirty-nine per cent said such personal hardship would be a price worth paying, against 38 per cent who said it wouldn’t be. Now that’s devotion. That’s idealism. And if it seems alien to us, that only goes to show what a flat, grey political era we live in.

Indeed, the rather elitist alarm that has greeted the revelation that people are willing to suffer for their democratic ideals sums up what a baleful influence technocracy has had on our political imagination. In the technocratic era, when politics has been drained of big ideas and reduced to a box-ticking exercise that is all about managing society, its inhabitants and their aspirations, political passion can seem threatening. Strong feelings, democratic devotion, self-sacrifice – these have become foreign bodies in a time when politics is about making things chug along as uncontroversially as possible. To the technocrat, to the EU suit who drafts laws far from the madding demos, the utterance ‘I am willing to go through hardship for what I believe in’ seems perverse. It’s disruptive. It is because we inhabit such a beige world of spun, small politics that the willingness of us Brexiteers to suffer for our beliefs can look like ‘extremism’.

I get where O’Neill is coming from, even though I think he goes a little too far, reading something that both he and I desperately want to see (a return to conviction politics and commitment to ideology rather than fudged centrist compromise) into a vote whose motivations were more nuanced than either extreme.

In truth, elderly Brexit voters are neither selfless heroes nor foaming-at-the-mouth jihadists. But as far as the media is concerned, the narrative about older voters being selfish is too convenient to ignore. Unfortunately it reveals a gulf of misunderstanding, as Vince Cable makes clear:

The old have comprehensively shafted the young. And the old have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation much more comfortable with modern Europe.

If I had a pound for every time some sanctimonious Remainer airily asserted that Brexit was motivated by “nostalgia for an imperial past” then I would never need to work again. In reality, the Lord Ashcroft poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum clearly showed that the principle motivating factor for Leave voters was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. Perhaps this lacks nuance and an understanding of modern day interdependence in the regulatory environment, but it is also a clear and unambiguous call for the same kind of autonomy enjoyed by countries far smaller than ours in terms of GDP such as Australia, Canada or Korea. This is by no means unreasonable, and cannot be fairly caricatured as some kind of imperial nostalgia.

So why pretend that it is? Either Vince Cable is so full of self-hatred for his own country and its history that he believes that our dissolution as an independent nation state into an increasingly federal EU is somehow appropriate “payback” for our transgressions in the days of empire, or he knows full well that the Brexit vote was not motivated by imperial nostalgia but simply finds this to be a convenient trope with which to whip up his own supporters.

For now I will do Vince Cable the courtesy of assuming the latter rather than the former – that he is in fact not a self-hating Brit, but rather just a cynical old politician like so many others. But the longer this tantrum against anyone and everyone who voted for Brexit goes on, the harder it becomes to assume good faith on the part of the furious Remainers.

At some point the Vince Cables of this world have to either engage with the real substance of Brexiteer arguments, attitudes and motivations, or else just admit that they don’t care – that they simply feel blind, unthinking hatred towards those who disagree with them and have no interest in rational discussion.

It might actually prove quite cathartic; rather than having to make increasingly ludicrous arguments that people voted for Brexit somehow want to bring back the Empire, Vince Cable and his ilk could simply have their Two Minutes Hate every day and be satisfied.

 

Vince Cable - Brexit - EU

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Does Brexit Mean That Baby Boomers Hate Their Own Children?

New Statesman hysteria - Brexit means baby boomers hate their own children

The idea that parents and grandparents would vote Leave out of hatred for their own children is as absurd as it is vile. But some Remainers will make any accusation in their rage against Brexit

The baby boomers of Britain are in the grip of a virulent, infanticidal mania. The EU referendum apparently caused highly contagious spores to be released into the air,  primarily affecting those aged 65 and over, causing them to forget any maternal, paternal or other protective familial instincts and instead seek to cause maximum financial and emotional suffering to their own children and grandchildren, for the pure pleasure of it.

Or at least so says Jonn Elledge, staff writer for the New Statesman, who brings every ounce of confirmation bias in his body to bear on a new YouGov poll in order to pronounce that by voting for Brexit, baby boomers and older people must actively “hate their own children”.

First of all, let’s be clear about what the YouGov poll actually says:

YouGov poll - Brexit extremism

That is, a significant majority of Brexit voters would be willing to tolerate significant damage to the British economy in order to see Brexit fulfilled, a tendency which the poll goes on to reveal becomes stronger among older age groups.

Is this necessarily evidence of “Brexit extremism”? Perhaps, but one can only say for sure if one takes it for granted that economic growth (or avoiding economic harm) is the sole valid consideration of a rational person, a premise which neither the poll nor Jonn Elledge even attempts to make.

And of course, the corollary to these figures is the fact that the same “extremism” is alive and well among Remain voters, many of whom would dearly love to see Britain heavily punished economically so long as it meant that Brexit was subverted and they could stay in their beloved European Union:

YouGov poll - Brexit extremism 2

Jonn Elledge takes no notice of this latter fact, though, and immediately launches into a hysterical tirade against the evil older generations who clearly could have had no other motive for voting Leave other than to watch as their children and grandchildren suffered and led diminished lives. No, seriously.

Elledge writes:

The older Leave voters are, the more likely they are to think crashing the economy because they don’t like Belgians is a pretty fine kind of idea.

That trend reaches its peak among the Leavers aged over 65, fully half of whom are happy to tell pollsters that they don’t give a shit if Brexit causes a relative to lose their job, they want it and they want it hard.

Ah yes, let’s begin with a glib assertion that Brexit is all about not liking Belgians or other funny foreigners. One might think that one year on after having his worldview so thoroughly and humiliatingly repudiated by the British people in the EU referendum, Jonn Elledge might have had the humility to go back to the drawing board and question some of his glib and not-very-witty assumptions about what motivates people to make political choices. But apparently not.

More:

The thing about the over 65s is that relatively few of them work: to be blunt about it, those most enthusiastic about people losing jobs are those who don’t have jobs to lose. The vast majority of this oldest cohort will be on pensions, whose value is far less likely to come under threat from a recession than almost any other form of income. Most will own their own houses, too. They’re the section of the population most likely to be left entirely unscathed by the Brexit-based recession. They are quite literally alright, Jack – and, it turns out, fully half of them don’t care if their kids aren’t.

Baby boomers, as a cohort, benefited from free education, generous welfare and cheap housing, then voted for parties which denied those things to their kids. Their contribution to intergenerational inequality led my colleague Stephen Bush, in one of his frequent bouts of being infuriatingly good at his job, to note that, “The baby boomer is one of the few mammals that eats its own young.” All this we already knew.

Nonetheless, it’s rare to see this selfishness communicated so baldly, so shamelessly. When asked directly whether they’d swap the wealth and security of their own children for a blue passport and the ability to deport Polish plumbers, they said yes in huge numbers.

“Would you like your children to have a better life than yourselves?” You Gov asked them. And the reply came back: “Fuck ’em.”

This YouGov poll could have touched off a genuinely interesting conversation about the balance between present wealth and future liberty, about other historical examples of populations allowing themselves to be bought off with bread and circuses in exchange for turning a blind eye to the way that their societies were (mis)governed. But that would have required a British political media class who did not think as a herd that the European Union is an unquestionably Good Thing, and that anybody who dissents from this groupthink is an irrational, evil hater.

Does Jonn Elledge seriously believe, in his heart of hearts, that those older people who voted for Brexit did so with the expressed intention of harming their children and grandchildren – or at least not caring that such harm might come to pass? Does he not realise that the counterfactual, unrecorded by YouGov (who did not bother to probe more deeply) is that perhaps these older people – rightly or wrongly – thought that by voting for Brexit they were preserving some other vital social good for their descendants, something potentially even more valuable than a couple of points of GDP growth?

I would posit that the supposedly hateful Daily Mail-reading generation of grey haired fascists scorned by Jonn Elledge actually do not have any particular desire to inflict economic harm on their children and grandchildren, but simply realise – through having lived full lives through periods of considerably less material abundance than those of us born since the 1980s – that other things matter too. Things like freedom and self-determination, precious gifts which were under threat during the Second World War and the Cold War, and which the older generations who remember these difficult times therefore do not casually take for granted.

They correctly perceive that sometimes there is a trade-off between short term economic security and long term freedom and prosperity. Can anyone who knows their history – or at least has watched the recent Dunkirk movie – doubt that the British population would have been immeasurably safer and better off in the short term had we made peace with Nazi Germany rather than fighting on alone after the fall of Europe? And looked at through a purely economic lens, how many years of subjugation beneath the jackboot of a fascist regime would have tipped the scale and suddenly made it worth fighting for freedom after all?

This time, the choice before us is nowhere near as difficult, and the trade-offs nowhere near as severe. Even if this incompetent government mishandles Brexit as badly as sometimes appears likely, bombs will not fall from the sky to level our cities and destroy our cathedrals. This is not to understate the effect that a mishandled Brexit negotiation could have – any uptick in unemployment or decrease in economic activity is highly suboptimal, with real human consequences.

But there are negative consequences associated with failing to safeguard our democratic institutions and fundamental liberties too, though they often seem remote or even irrelevant until suddenly they are both present and irreversible. Those who have been on this good Earth for a few more decades than Jonn Elledge perhaps appreciate this fact more readily.

Our politics has become increasingly consumerist in recent years – the politics of me me me. And unfortunately we now have a young and poorly educated millennial generation – my generation – who see politics only through the lens of what they can get for themselves in terms of perks and opportunities. This makes them particularly vulnerable to any old charlatan who comes along spewing EU propaganda suggesting that the European Union is the only reason that they are able to “live, love and work in other countries” (to use their nauseating phrase du jour).

Ultimately this is yet another total failure of the pro-EU Left to remotely empathise with those on the other side of the Brexit argument. It represents a colossal failure of imagination to sincerely believe – let alone publish in a major national political magazine! – that a generation of parents and grandparents who scrimped, saved and sacrificed to raise their families now want to cause them harm merely to warm themselves in the glow of imperial nostalgia as they enter their twilight years.

And yet this is what Elledge, the New Statesman and countless commentators on the Left would have us believe. Frankly, this haughty and arrogant attitude is more dehumanising of its victims than that of the xenophobe who may believe that foreigners are good people, but simply doesn’t want them in his country – at least there is still the outside possibility that they vaguely respect the other.

I’ll say that again, lest there be any doubt or confusion – by holding this vile opinion, Jonn Elledge, the New Statesman and anyone who concurs is worse than a garden variety xenophobe.

A society which does not respect its elders cannot long endure, and these puffed-up millennial moralisers seem determined to drive us into the ditch as fast as they possibly can.

 

Thousands Of People Take Part In The March For Europe

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