Lew Rockwell said, after the failed paleo alliance in the United States, that the main lesson he learned was to “[n]ever trust a politician to represent, much less speak for, an intellectual movement.” He was referring to the former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Rothbard and Rockwell had originally supported Buchanan as the only plausible anti-war candidate along with the paleoconservatives, including people like Paul Gottfried. However, during the presidential race, Buchanan began to pontificate on economics, a subject he knew – and still knows – next to nothing about, arguing for tariffs and an expanded welfare state. The paleconservatives were thus given a huge incentive not to learn their economics and instead to fall back on the familiar: the tried and tested policies of import duties to ‘support the workers’ and welfare to ‘support families’.
Some years ago, UKIP was founded by members of the Anti-Federalist League. While they were essentially a single-issue party, united in their opposition to the EU and in their belief that, if given a referendum, the British people would show that they held the same view, from 1993 until very recently, UKIP was rightly called ‘the Tory party in exile’. That is to say, that UKIP was a party made up largely of former Conservatives holding and espousing unfashionable views. Those unfashionable views were shown, through their manifestos at least, to be unfashionable right-wing views. In short, UKIP was a eurosceptic, anti-open borders, traditionalist, minimal-statist party.
However, over the last year they have attracted a good deal of support from the working classes. After their 2010 election flop, Lord Pearson stood aside for the former leader Nigel Farage to take the reins. My guess is that this is when UKIP decided to alter their strategy and to start championing the fact, rather than hiding it, that they had ‘Old Labour’ voters in their midst. That is what they have been doing since 2010 and their membership has soared as a result. UKIP, a party which had in the past called itself libertarian, started to welcome socialists into their ranks with open arms.
Now, this is where UKIP made serious mistake. There is nothing inherently wrong in letting socialists into a right-wing quasi-libertarian party as old fashioned socialists can and do often agree with us on certain issues, in particular immigration, the EU, foreign aid, and political correctness. But I have said that UKIP have made a mistake. The mistake UKIP have made is attempting to maintain a party line on the NHS, welfare, schools, housing, unemployment, taxation, and drugs. People like Nigel Farage want the NHS privatised, welfare hugely reduced, schooling at least partially privatised, the minimum wage abolished, a flat rate of income tax established, and most drugs legalised. And this is all well and good when the party is made up of people like Nigel Farage.
The trouble is that UKIP is no longer made up of people like Nigel Farage. UKIP is no longer a party of articulate, rational, and well-to-do libertarians, but is quick becoming the Labour party in exile. How, then, can such a broad church as the new UKIP put together a manifesto?
It would seem that Farage has already made concessions to his new recruits. I recall him in an interview with Jeremy Paxman stating that a top rate of income tax of “something like 40%” was “reasonable”. This is a stunning U-turn from a party which fought the last election on the promise of a flat tax at 31% which, if including National Insurance, would have meant a tax cut for the highest earners of 30%. Indeed, when you compare the tax policies which UKIP and the Conservatives will probably fight the election on next year, the Conservatives’ has the advantage of coming from a party which will likely win. Think about it. UKIP is a small party, it certainly won’t win more than twenty seats, it hasn’t been around as long as the Conservative party and probably won’t outlive it either. This party used to promise ‘unrealistic’ tax cuts, but has now embraced realism and is going to settle on a tax policy comparable to that of the Conservative party itself. Why not just vote for the latter?
Oh, but tax is not the best example. It is difficult for foreigners, particularly Americans, to understand the love the British have for the NHS. Indeed, it is difficult for me to understand it, too. But the inefficient, corrupt, state provided healthcare we receive is a sacred cow. No politician in Britain who wants to be taken seriously can advocate reform of the NHS, private involvement in the NHS, or – God forbid! – its privatisation. UKIP used to do just that. They used to fight elections on the promise of introducing a continental-style subsidised health insurance system. Not any more. And why? To answer that question one must again look to the new UKIP recruits; many of these people were members of the party that introduced the National Sacred Cow in the 1940s and many of them are simply proles who’ve been told of how awful it is in America, where people pay to be cured of their ailments! In his most recent Question Time appearance, Farage revealed that UKIP will fight the next election on the promise of keeping the NHS free at the point of delivery and ending the relatively recently introduced private involvement in NHS treatment. On this, they are to the left of Labour!
In area after area of policy, UKIP are being pressured by their new recruits into taking an old fashioned socialist line or at least leaving out some of the more libertarian policies we had come to expect from them. This could have been avoided. At the 2010 election, Lord Pearson offered to disband the party provided that the Conservative party promised an ‘In-Out’ referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. He may have realised that UKIP, already being a broad church, could not possibly hope to become a mainstream ‘professional’ political party and ought to stick to what it knew best. Alas! Pearson, a rather uncharismatic fellow, has gone. UKIP is now run by the articulate Nigel Farage, quick becoming a cult figure and turning the party into something it was never meant to be. It has to be said, libertarians can no longer support this party.
It is rather ironic that UKIP, while still the only party to talk openly and frankly about mass-immigration, have allowed the existing conservative and quasi-libertarian members to be displaced in many areas by new socialist members. UKIP has not only allowed these socialist immigrants to settle, but has made concessions to them on the NHS, welfare, tax, and other areas. Irony aside, I repeat, if UKIP had decided to put forward a manifesto with just three pledges – an end to mass immigration, a referendum on the EU, and a repeal of the various anti-discrimination laws – then they would still have attracted a good deal of support from the working classes. The only difference would be that they would not have alienated their earliest supporters. But, this was to be expected. Libertarianism is not UKIP and UKIP is not libertarian. Libertarianism is an intellectual movement and, as Lew Rockwell said, we ought never to trust politicians to represent, much less speak for, an intellectual movement.