Libertarian Thoughts on 2015
by Keir Martland
Another year is over and as exactly one year ago to this day I wrote a review of 2014, I shall do the same today for 2015.
The General Election
The first political event to spring to mind is of course the May 2015 General Election. A longer campaign than usual, it was perhaps more overtly leftist in its tone than any of the twenty first century. UKIP, itself having veered to the left to accommodate new Old Labour members, proved no counter-weight to the leftism of the other parties.
Not long ago, I decided to revisit the 2010 Election Debates with Cameron, Brown, and Clegg. I was struck by two things: the lack of polish compared to the 2015 Debates; the existence of at least a few differences in rhetoric and policy between the three party leaders. In the debates of this year, all that was gone. Very professional and polished compared to 2010, but all said much the same and in much the same way.
The Debates, introduced for the first time to British politics in 2010, are the logical conclusion of a drive towards the increased personalisation of politics which seems to have started under Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, while ostensibly focussed on economics, both the 2010 and 2015 Debates have been popularity contests, with the winner being whoever manages to sound most confident and look the most prime-ministerial. This was taken to a new extreme in 2015, with the key message hammered home by Lynton Crosby’s Conservative campaign being that a weak Ed Miliband would be pushed around by Scottish nationalists like Alec Salmond, on whose votes he would rely in the Commons.
Democracy is absurd, yes. It is a system of government whereby anyone, whether intelligent or unintelligent, propertied or property-less, old or young, experienced or inexperienced, can cast a vote which will have an impact on the lives, liberties, and properties of their fellow men. In such a system, the haves are outnumbered by the have-nots and the predictable results are the growth the state, the redistribution of income, and the politicisation of society. And yet I had not thought it possible that in Britain, the theoretical absurdities of democracy would become so plain for all to see – without, that is, something like a revolution. Some might argue that the rise of UKIP was that revolution. If that was a revolution, then I’m Zsa Zsa Gábor!
However, the results of the 2015 General Election were on the whole rather good – or, at least, much better than expected. On the one hand, the result was a Conservative majority government. This is broadly better than Labour majority government and the markets seemed to agree on the day the result was announced. On the other hand, it was a Conservative government with a small majority. This is better than a government with a more workable majority, able to pass any law it likes through the Commons.
What I find most regrettable about the General Election result is the loss of the Liberal Democrats from government and their heightened insignificance on the political scene. They may have been slightly to the left of the Conservatives on economic policy, but they were a considerable restraint on some of their more awful surveillance-state policies. With the loss of the Lib Dems, the return of the Communications Data Bill, or Snooper’s Charter, became inevitable.
Both UKIP’s failure to breakthrough in the General Election and its present troubles were predictable. It has since been revealed that Stuart Wheeler encouraged both Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to defect to UKIP from the Conservative party by showing them local polling figures suggesting that they would be unseated if they did not. That more Conservatives or indeed MPs from other parties did not defect to UKIP suggests that the polls for UKIP were just not strong enough in any other constituencies in 2014 apart from Reckless’ Rochester and Strood and Carswell’s Clacton.
Neither Carswell nor Reckless would have been seen dead with members of UKIP in ordinary circumstances as most Conservatives, especially members of the recent intake of MPs from the last few elections do indeed regard them as “fruitcakes, loons, and closet racists mostly.” Modern Conservative MPs are ultra-modern, metropolitan, and pro-immigration. That Douglas Carswell would disagree with Nigel Farage was inevitable. Both of them are quasi-libertarian, but on balance Farage is better. On the one hand he is better for UKIP. On the other hand, he is relatively unafraid – for a politician – to be politically incorrect, which is a pretty good litmus test for a real libertarian.
Labour and the Rise of Jeremy Corbyn
The resignation of Ed Miliband prompted a Labour leadership election, which was entered by Liz Kendal, Andy Burham, Yvette Cooper, and Jeremy Corbyn. The latter won with about 60% of the vote, Cooper and Burnham received roughly 40% between them with Kendal reduced to a rounding error in this approximation. Jeremy Corbyn was propelled to the leadership by a combination of two factors: enough Labour MPs decided to nominate him, if only to hear him out; the new Labour constitution, Ed Miliband’s legacy, allowed tens and then hundreds of thousands of members to join the party and vote in the leadership election. The Labour leadership election was pure democracy, with the predictable result that a socialist was elected leader.
For all the hysteria surrounding a socialist being elected the leader of an ostensibly socialist party, Corbyn has lasted for three months already. He has managed to put together a shadow cabinet. He has withstood negative media coverage. He has made something of an impact at Prime Minister’s Questions. He has not seen a noticeably big drop in Labour’s poll ratings. I do suspect that Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay. Indeed, perhaps there is now something we could call the “shy socialist” phenomenon since Labour did much better than expected in the recent by-election for the late Michael Meacher’s seat.
Is this good or bad? It doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, people like Jeremy Corbyn are not the enemy. Old-fashioned socialists and old-fashioned trade union leaders are not the enemy any more. Nowadays, the enemy wears a business suit, preaches political correctness, and devises ways of giving us more of the government that our taxes pay for. The enemy is the ruling class of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, educators, media people and associated business interests to which Sean Gabb refers in his writings on the subject. These people, I suspect, are more content with a Conservative government under David Cameron than with the prospect of a Labour one under Jeremy Corbyn.
What is more, Jeremy Corbyn is more than his economics. Jeremy Corbyn is not merely an old-fashioned socialist who wants to nationalise the railways and impose higher rates of income tax on the wealthy. Jeremy Corbyn also seems to believe in world peace. He is critical of the United States’s foreign policy and the hawkishness of the British government. He also seems to genuinely hate most of the slick, professional politicians in both the Labour and Conservative parties, which must count for something I suppose.
All-in-all, the ruling class, or the Establishment, call it what you will, are probably right to be scared of Jeremy Corbyn. He has been critical of the European Union. He would take us out of NATO. He has consistently opposed British involvement in foreign wars for much of his adult life. Moreover, Corbynmania has given rise to a group of devotees: the so-called Corbynistas. This new breed of Labour supporter is, while anti-“austerity”, also socially liberal, anti-war, and difficult to control. I think we should expect a mass exodus of the Establishment from the Labour party to the Conservative party. That will then make it even more difficult for those libertarians who still bother to vote to decide which party is the lesser of two evils: on the one hand the Establishment that wants to eat half your heart and cut half your head off; on the other hand the anti-Establishment party that, having roasted your testicles over a large fire, wants to hang, draw, and quarter you.
The Conservative Government
The Conservative government has, however, turned out to be much worse than I could have anticipated. Perhaps I should have expected no less from a party which had the audacity to write in its manifesto “We are getting our national finances back under control” after having doubled the national debt. It seems that, much like a frustrated second term American president, Cameron has decided to specialise in what he is worst at: foreign policy. The benign influence on the Commons of Jeremy Corbyn and some sane Conservative backbench rebels was felt when Cameron almost tried to take Britain into Syria in September 2015, but after the Paris attacks, Parliament, and indeed the British public were like putty in David Cameron’s hands. The result will probably be to strengthen ISIS, not weaken them, and thus prolong the Syrian Civil War.
And as ISIS are now so well-armed and funded, they don’t just operate in Syria, as recent events have shown. We hear of foiled terror attacks on London quite regularly now and the terrorist threat has now become the main justification for a surveillance state. The government has already devised the thoroughly unpleasant Extremism Disruption Order, which silences anyone designated an “extremist.” To qualify as an extremist, you need only be critical of the institution of democracy. Oh dear!
The Conservative government’s 2015 Autumn Statement must also be regarded by libertarians as a disappointment. In the Spring 2015 Budget, the Chancellor unveiled plans for some half-decent cuts to the state, though a good deal of detail was left to the imagination during the election. During the election, however, one promise was made not to cut working tax credits, which, while we do not have a free market and while many of those presently unable to make ends meet are in that situation as a result of state distortion of the market, I welcomed. Indeed, tax credits are, on the whole, the best welfare benefit of a bad bunch, being both efficient and simple.
However, in a botched attempt to renege on this promise, using a statutory instrument which the Lords then blocked, the Chancellor showed his unwillingness to make serious cuts to the size and scope of the state. If a serious libertarian government were to come to power tomorrow, it would not immediately abolish benefits. Many people rely on these benefits and without them would have to go out onto the streets. A serious libertarian government would instead abolish the Department for International Development, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and the list goes on. Indeed, in a sense, a libertarian government would increase “handouts” by cutting as much unnecessary government spending as possible in order to give the taxpayer a rebate. Such thinking is anathema to the Cameron regime, which has significantly increased the foreign aid budget while freezing and cutting welfare.
Towards the end of the year many in the north and west of England and in other parts of the United Kingdom experienced flooding after storms and long rainfall, with parts of Wigan, for example, and other towns near the River Douglas, flooded. However, these floods are largely the result of European Union law. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides subsidies to farmers, but not for wooded lands. The CAP incentivises farmers to pull up trees, which happen to soak up more water than grass alone. The European Water Framework Directive also bans the dredging of river bottoms to help channel water away, something which we have been doing for centuries. The justification for this is that riverbeds must be left in a “natural condition.” However, I don’t believe David Cameron has demanded that Britain be exempted from EU regulations and directives which cause flooding as part of his EU “renegotiations.” Perhaps he should.
The Year of “Safe Spaces”, “Micro-aggression”, and “Transphobia”
This year we have also seen more and more people persecuted for views expressed on-line. Yet, this is part of a general trend of increased culturally Marxist hysteria. 2015 could be described as “the year that everyone – particularly students and Americans – went stark-raving bonkers.” Mostly starting in America, the concepts of micro-aggression, transphobia, and university “safe spaces” have spread across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. This present wave of madness is, I fear, with its privilege-checking and fines for “misgendering” and its suppression of dissenting views, potentially far more dangerous than any of the post-Jimmy Saville paedo-mania and its presumption of guilt.
The micro-aggression et al madness is only in British universities at present, with Cambridge University removing eminent historian Dr David Starkey from their promotional material after complaints from Cambridge University Students’ Union because of his “racism,” and Bristol University, to name just one, operating a “safe space” policy during any of its Union Debates which feature controversial speakers. But how much longer before it enters the workplace? We aren’t talking about the relatively tame ‘diversity training’ some of you may have become familiar with. Be prepared for weapons-grade feminism etc in 2016.
The Immigration Crisis
The Immigration Crisis is something I must also mention in a review of 2015. Largely as a result of the folly of Western intervention in the Middle East, in the first nine months alone of 2015, EU member states received over 800,000 new asylum applications. Libertarians in this country are probably majority in favour of Open Borders, yet I assure you this is not the right position to take from a libertarian point of view. Rather than simply re-iterate the argument of Hans-Hermann Hoppe that immigration in the modern sense is either forced integration or forced segregation, rather than a propertarian system of invitation-only movement, I will put another equally forceful argument from Sean Gabb at the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum this year:
As libertarians, we spend a lot of time trying to work out what is true. What, for example is the true position that we should take on intellectual property?
What I suggest we should do with regard to immigration is not spend any more time asking ourselves “what do I believe ought to be the case?” We ought to look instead to what the overwhelming majority of people in all times and places have always thought.
What most people have always thought is that they are a people. They look to an identity maybe based on shared blood, maybe shared religion, maybe shared history, some point of perceived unity between people. They believe that they have a right to the territory which they inhabit.
Indeed, they believe that the nation exists…they even believe that the nation is a kind of head landlord and that individuals have only a leasehold interest in their properties and indeed in their own lives and that these leaseholders have a duty to rise in defence of the nation if they perceive it to be attacked.
Now, I’m not saying that any of this can be proved in the same way that we might try to prove the rightness or wrongness of intellectual property. I’m just saying that this is what the great majority of people have always believed and continue to believe to this day which indicates the extreme folly of admitting very large numbers of strangers into a country. So many strangers indeed that majorities may be at some risk of becoming minorities.
I have no doubt… that many people in the modern West believe that history came to an end some time ago and that none of the rather grim lessons of history can possibly apply to us. One cycle of history ended and another began with the release of Windows 95 perhaps and ever since then past experience does not apply to ourselves .Well, it does apply to ourselves and you do not have to have any uncharitable beliefs about the moral or genetic or other fitness of the newcomers to see that if the numbers continue to increase as seems likely to be the case, there will be a collapse into civil war of some kind….
Not only is libertarian theory squarely against uninvited, mass-subsidised trespass of this kind, and not only is it a completely unprecedented episode in our history, and not only are many of the new immigrants inassimilable, but the result will be to increase the power of the British state and the other European states facing the present wave of migrants. On the one hand, the effect will be to Balkanise the affected countries. Germany, in particular, will become a deeply divided country of citizens more suspicious of each other than willing to combine against the German state to limit its power. The states importing large numbers of immigrants against the wishes of the domestic population will thus make use of the strategy of divide et impera. On the other hand, the government, with all of its detention centres full, is now making contracts with hotel chains such as the Britannia Hotel Group to house asylum seekers.
The crisis in Britain’s asylum system is a bonus for Britannia, which is raking in taxpayers’ money for rooms that might otherwise be empty.
The result is to enrich the hotel groups and strengthen the links between the state and big business. It will also provide an incentive to more and more big business interests to lobby the government for looser border controls.
The Republican Primaries
Immigration, if a taboo in the United Kingdom, seems to be possible to discuss in the United States, largely due to Ann Coulter and Donald Trump. The rest of the Republican candidates are playing catch-up with Trump on the immigration issue. The similarities between Trump and Pat Buchanan – supported by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard – in 1991 are undeniable. Both focus on immigration and both are right-wing populists. Yet, Trump is also undeniably to the left of most of the GOP candidates on economics and has nothing to say about reducing the size and scope of the American state. Trump’s sole virtue, apart from raising the issue of immigration, seems to be that he is an anti-establishment candidate. The extent to which this is true is debatable, though, since he has for decades contributed funds to both Republican and Democrat presidential campaigns. If a Tory donor suddenly became an MP and then ousted David Cameron, would we call him an anti-establishment Conservative?
The “libertarian” candidate in the GOP primaries is Rand Paul. However, he, while adopting mainstream jargon and looking professional, and toning down the message of his strict-Constitutionalist father Ron Paul, he has had disappointing poll ratings. Rand Paul will not be the GOP nominee. Ted Cruz is doing rather better than Paul and is also a quasi-libertarian, but is far from perfect. At this stage, the best we can hope for is that Hillary Clinton does not become President of the United States, which may mean settling for Donald Trump.
The Conservative “invisible” primaries
Since David Cameron, whether accidentally or not, announced he would not lead the Conservatives into a third general election, this has also set into motion invisible primaries in the Conservative party for who shall succeed “Call Me Dave” Cameron. If the European Union referendum goes ahead next year and the result is not to Cameron’s liking, he will likely have to go. Cameron’s leadership has appeared very strong, but he was close to being forced to resign several times during the last Parliament according to Cameron at 10: The Inside Story 2010-2015.
So what if that happens? Who will succeed Cameron? What are the options?
At the moment, it seems the real contenders are Boris Johnson, George Osborne, and Theresa May.
Boris Johnson is the favourite in almost every poll of Conservative members and members of the public. Further to that, recently a Ukranian donor to the Conservative party came out in support of Johnson to succeed Cameron, rather than Osborne. He has a reputation as something of a quasi-libertarian, a strong Eurosceptic, and yet also someone with more of a regard for the old institutions of this country than most modern Conservatives. On the Syrian Civil War, he has even criticised David Cameron for refusing to work with Assad and Putin and for having a “Cold War mindset” which suggests that Johnson is not as much of a neoconservative as Cameron. Yet he describes himself unashamedly as “pro-immigrant.”
George Osborne is one of the stronger “modernisers” in the party, seen in his decision objection to swearing the Oath of Allegiance on the magnificent King James Bible, asking instead for a copy of the New Testament. While he may talk about cutting government spending, he has not delivered. Furthermor, he, like Michael Gove, is also a strong neoconservative, who has enthusiastically supported British intervention in foreign wars.
While Theresa May is said to be one of the only members of David Cameron’s cabinet opposed to mass-immigration, she hasn’t done a very good job in five years as Home Secretary in dealing with it. Net migration to the United Kingdom is now running at a third of a million people a year, ten times the average of the second half of the twentieth century. Not only has she comprehensively failed to even prevent immigration from rising, let alone reduce it, she has also introduced much of the surveillance state legislation of the Cameron government.
It doesn’t look good, whoever takes over from Mr Cameron. Ultimately, mass-immigration, another burst bubble resulting from the Bank of England’s ridiculously loose monetary policy since 2008, the creation of a surveillance state, the continued increase in the national debt, the threat of terrorism – all of these, and more, are problems that the present ruling class have created and have no interest whatsoever in solving. The most we can do, as libertarians, is educate the general public about the causes and consequences of statism, as well as the alternative – of a free society – and hope for the best.
 Keir Martland, Rushed Thoughts on 2014 and a Few Predictions for 2015, Libertarian Alliance http://thelibertarianalliance.com/2014/12/31/rushed-thoughts-on-2014-and-a-few-predictions-for-2015/ retrieved 31st December 2015
 Neil Tweedie, ‘Lock your doors. Your holiday hotel’s full of asylum seekers’: What British pensioners were told as they headed for a mini break in Cheshire – and found themselves on the frontline of the migrant crisis, Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3198783/Lock-doors-holiday-hotel-s-asylum-seekers-British-pensioners-told-headed-mini-break-Cheshire-frontline-migrant-crisis.html retrieved 31st December 2015
 Purnell, Sonia (2011). Just Boris: Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity. London: Aurum Press Ltd. Pg. 225