Godfrey Bloom, Speech to the Swinton Circle, April 2015


Godfrey Bloom

It is always a pleasure to come and speak to the Swinton Circle, although not the easiest of tasks, like the Cambridge University Conservative Association or Mises Institute the audiences are some of the most informed in the world, the same problem when writing for Breibart or Libertarian Alliance. An expert audience makes it difficult to add value; you risk people going home thinking ‘I knew all that’. So it is often a case of emphasis or revision or simply a new angle. It is inevitable that many of our views are subjective. I remember in Cambridge giving an opinion on same-sex marriage. A post graduate suggested that Nozick would not have agreed with me, well as Bogart said in The Big Sleep when criticised over his manners, ‘I sit up at night grieving over them’. Who knows whether he would agree with me or not?

What I want to do tonight is to examine why I believe this May 7th is a missed opportunity, and take an historical perspective.

Heaven knows missed political opportunities are fairly regular events. Let’s go back to the congress of Vienna, the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a missed opportunity for mainland Europe, 15 years of wasted blood and treasure to return almost to the starting point. There was a chance to liberalise Europe, not necessarily drastically but enough, perhaps, to head off troubles later in the century.

Another devastating missed opportunity was the failure of the Germans to agree to participate in the proposed congress of London in July 1914. Imagine, if you will, a world without the horror of the Great War and its terrible consequences for the world in the 20th century. Fast forward then to the Versailles treaty conference of 1919. Still a hot academic subject today for seekers of what some people call WW2’ they mean as this audience knows full well WW part 2

My grandfather used to fix me with his one good eye, the other shot out on the Messines Ridge in 1917, if I referred to WW2; “there was only one war boy, it came in two parts”.

Fast forward again to another major wasted opportunity, this time specific to Great Britain. I refer to the 1945 ‘khaki election’. The same political mood in the country as 1919, the search for a home fit for heroes. Utopia in fact. An unattainable goal as pragmatists understand, we can though but strive. Important now to understand this mood. The whole country had been on a war footing for 5 years. War weary again, a second generation.

A socialist utopia is offered by the Labour Party, a creed now out-of-date and discredited, but picture yourself an exhausted soldier, sailor, airman or munitions worker, being offered cradle-to-grave welfare, affordable housing and free national health. Moreover being mooted by both men of education and some of your own social class. The election result dealt a death blow to hopes of quick recovery. The myth perpetuates today that what followed was inevitable. It was not. War weary, yes, but a nation honed and fit, highly motivated and ready to succeed in peace as in war. Bear in mind war production per capita was the highest of both allied and axis countries, an empire bruised but still intact and many more members ready for Dominion status, the war had also put the UK at the cutting edge of technology, fledgling computers, the jet engine and many other advances easily translated into peacetime projects. Add to this a workforce addicted now to hard work. Yet in less than 25 years we saw defeated nations sail past. Welfarism, trade unionism, appalling management, together with truly dreadful political leadership dragged the country down to the level of a fifth rate power.

Fast forward yet again, this time to 1997. A modest economical Renaissance  in the 1980s followed by economic failures in the1990s saw a landslide victory for New Labour. A young and highly articulate prime minister in Tony Blair came to office with such a mandate for reform he could practically do whatever he liked. He even suggested that we could ‘think the unthinkable’

The country now had an opportunity to surgically remove the terminal cancer of lifestyle welfare addiction a concept so far removed from the ideas of Beveridge as to beggar belief. New Labour had their star player in Frank Field, an expert in the field and importantly highly respected on all sides of the house. Unbelievably Blair blew it. He put Harriet Harman in charge, Field as number 2. Field inevitably resigned after a few months, the opportunity never resurfaced. Most of the electorate today put the major failure of the Blair administration down to Iraq. Not true, history will judge his biggest failure to reform welfare. From this everything else flows. Welfare and educational failure are the country’s disease, massive deficits, pending bankruptcy and immigration are just the symptoms.

Inevitably this brings us to May 7th.

Anyone with a pocket calculator knows, without the recent assistance of the IMF, if things continue as they are with deficits of £100 billion and the national debt growing at 10% per annum the country must eventually default. Those with any conception of how international accounting standards work also understand the UK debt to GDP ratio is closer to 180% than the outrageous figure put out by the government and the press of 80%. As the nation stares into the abyss, we are entering an election where no political party is, or indeed feels it can tell the truth. I personally believe, as did Winston Churchill that the British people can be confronted with the facts. We have to lose the national illusion we can all have something for nothing. We have to shake off the 1945 mistake.

The main political parties are simply offering more of the same. No serious radical changes but a vague commitment to trim around the edges, tiny changes in tax policy, all basically the same with just a penny or two on or off the rate, yet reform is urgent, tax should  not be a political statement but a system of raising revenue for a very small and limited provision of government services. There must be no sacred cows. The only conceivable system mankind has produced for value and efficiency is competition. The question is, do you want a BMW or a Trabant? We need an ethos which states boldly, be he ever so humble the citizen will always spend and invest his money more wisely than the cleverest politician or civil servant.

We have, or had, a legal system the envy of the world, yet it has been usurped from both without and within. Not only is it now subservient to the Napoleonic code, it has been undermined with statutes against all the principles of English law, retrospective legislation, enabling acts and the distinction between judiciary and executive all but gone. Recent catch-all tax legislation would have the great attorney-generals of yesteryear spinning in their graves.

 Where is a Denning when you need one? May7th is the last chance saloon, yet none of what we need is on offer, there is no real choice; some manifestos are not as hopeless as others, but there is no serious offer of welfare, tax or electoral reform to stop the rot, what can’t go on won’t go on, the longer the problems are left to fester the more shocking will be the cure.

So what, exactly has been missed? what will eventually have to be addressed forced by circumstances? A complete reform of welfarism, the deathwatch beetle in the soul of the western industrial democracies. Reform of the electoral system, generally accepted to have failed, and an overdue national examination of the system on the model of the 1830s  Reform Acts. An unequivocal  return to the principles of English Law, starting with liberty of contract and the abandonment of Enabling Acts, and a return  to the House of Lords as the supreme arbiter of law. The abandonment of fractional reserve banking, tax payer funded banking guarantees. The disestablishment of central banks and legal tender laws. The return to a non-progressive tax regime a Marxist concept, adoption of Adam Smith ideas, ‘each according to his means’ and a constitutional cap on government spending as a % of GDP. A complete rejection of state education and a system of primary education free from politics. A complete review of failed crime and punishment policy starting with the disastrous drug prohibition policy. A society where freedom under the law is paramount and the total disestablishment of government enforcement agencies. The courts are the arbiters and enforcement institutions in a fair society. The resurrection of the 1688/9 Bill of Rights.

There are many more reforms but these are the starting point, none of these have been put forward by any party in this election, so I say again, a missed opportunity.

2 comments

  • The Ludwig Von Mises Institute (actually founded some nine years after the death of the person it is named after and, more importantly, more in line with the ideas of Murray Rothbard than his teacher Ludwig Von Mises) is indeed well informed on some matters – much less well informed on other matters (where the ideas of Mises, rather than Rothbard, would have been a better guide to follow). The deep seated anti American (and anti British) bias of the late Dr Rothbard has not been a good influence. Nor has his reliance on collectivist “historians” (really dishonest propagandists) such as the late Gabriel Kolko and Harry Elmer Barnes.

    Still let us leave that aside and turn to the actual speech of Godfrey Bloom.

    The position of the German government in 1914 was indeed unfortunate – rejecting all of Sir Edward Grey’s desperate efforts for peace. Indeed the last great champion of German Liberalism within the political elite died in 1888 when the Emperor Frederick died of cancer. The behaviour of the new Emperor, surrounding the palace with armed troops and treating his own mother as some sort of evil British agent, showed how things were going to go from now on – as did the breaking of the alliance with Russia (essentially on racial grounds – the idea that Germans and Slavs were naturally opposed) a move that filled the elderly Bismark with terrible despair. Otto Von Bismark had opened the door to collectivism – but he thought he could control it (limit it – make it his servant), his dismissal in 1890 showed that the evil forces he had let loose could not be controlled. Not that the new Emperor was personally a bad man – that was not the case. The problem was that he was in the grip of terrible ideas – that were spreading through the academic and political elites of most countries, but were strongest in Germany.

    Godfrey Bloom is, I believe, also largely correct about what he says about Civil Liberties and economic matters.

    Civil Liberties in this country have been in decline for many years and Dr Sean Gabb (however much I may disagree with him on other matters, philosophical, historical, political and economic) deserves high praise for trying to bring critical attention to the problem of the decline of civil liberties in this country. Including the awful blunders in legal matters of Conservative party governments – including that led by Mrs Thatcher herself.

    Such things as freedom of speech have declined (declined terribly) and this decline should be reversed.

    On economic matters – Mr Bloom is also correct to point out that while the rise of statism in Britain can be dated to as far back as the 1870s, a decisive move (for the worse) as made after World War II.

    Before World War II the state was indeed on the rise in Britain – but no more than other countries. So the RELATIVE freedom of the British economy (compared to that of other major nations) remained. It was only after World War II that one can say that, for example, the British economy (in many ways) actually became more state controlled than, say, the German economy – not just the nationalised industries, but the wild government spending (and even wilder monetary policy – much worse in post war Britain than in post war Germany) and the endless “planning” at both national and local government level.

    In the United States directly after World War II there was a big reaction (in the late 1940s) AGAINST statism – with the so called “Do Nothing Congress” moving to get rid of many government controls and schemes, not just war time ones but also some 1930s “New Deal” ones.

    By 1948 the difference in the level of economic freedom between Britain and the United States was utterly vast – I would go as far as to say that the United States was just as “more free” (for want of a better form of words) than Britain in 1948 as Britain was more free than the Soviet Union in 1948. There was indeed a massive difference between Britain and the Soviet Union – but there was an almost equally massive difference between Britain and the United States.

    Although, of course, the level of economic freedom in the United States has horribly declined since then – especially from the 1960s onwards.

    I would say that Godfrey Bloom is also correct about the current economic position.

    Fractional reserve banking, the effort (via credit expansion) to lend out more “money” than was ever really saved (to lend out “money” that does not really exist – the “fraction” in “fractional reserve banking SYSTEM” being more like 900 tenths or 9000 tenths than 9 tenths) is a demented practice – and it is heading towards disaster.

    I am not saying that, for example, the recently proposed plan to end fractional reserve banking in Iceland is perfect from a libertarian point of view – but it is well worth exploring. Although it is too late to prevent the disaster that is coming upon the Western world – we have already planted the wind, so we must reap the whirlwind.

    Godfrey Bloom is also correct about government spending.

    The Welfare States (the vast majority of government spending in most Western Countries – including the United States) were not created to benefit “capitalists” or to deal with problems caused by “capitalism” – on the contrary, when these government schemes were established poverty was at an historic low and was falling.

    But we are where we are – people (the whole culture) has grown used to government providing the basic needs of life, so it is horribly difficult to do anything about this before society collapses.

    However, it being horribly difficult does not excuse people like Mr Blair – who, yes indeed, had all the political cover of being a Labour Prime Minister but choose to do nothing to try and restore Civil Society – indeed massively EXPANDED the dependency culture.

    But what of my own political tribe?

    Do I believe that reducing overall government spending by 1% is going to be enough? No I do not.

    And do I believe that the government has set out sufficiently clear and specific policies explaining how even this modest aim of a 1% reduction in overall government spending is to be achieved? No I do not.

  • UKIP were wrong to ump him.Might have been better to make him leader!

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