Saturday, 4 February 2017

How the Anti-Trumpers are losing their minds, and why it's no longer funny...

Between the morning of 9 November 2016, when Donald Trump declared victory, and the evening of 20 January 2017, when he made his inaugural speech, politics was at its most entertaining in my lifetime. Watching the bien pensant establishment melt down into a political temper tantrum over Trump's victory was a long overdue balm for the long-suffering rational mind. After years of watching the authoritarian behaviour of professional cry bullies whose affected victimhood had suddenly and violently morphed into the real thing, we finally saw those who had abused their positions of power and authority for so long get what they had earned, good and hard. However, not long after watching Trump's inaugural speech, I stopped laughing. This week, I have started to feel something else: fear. No, not based on anything Trump has done. Not his long overdue declaration of war on business regulation; not his executive order to build the border wall; not his immigration order that isn't and doesn't even border on a "Muslim ban"; and certainly not his appointment of perhaps the most civil liberties friendly Supreme Court judge since before the New Deal era, in the form of Neil Gorsuch. No. There is nothing (as yet) to confound my prediction that Mr. Trump is not a revolutionary (whether of the good (Ron Paul) variety or bad (Bernie Sanders) one) but, rather, a purveyor of the most sensible set of policy positions for which the establishment consensus will currently allow.

No. My fear relates to Mr. Trump's great political asset, which now shows disturbing signs of turning into a liability, namely his ability to induce derangement in his opponents. During his successful campaign, he succeeded in making his enemies expose themselves as politically correct, inverted-racist, open borders zealots. This helped to deflect attention from Trump's greatest political weakness: the fact that his authoritarian streak is real, even if exaggerated and decontextualised. Like George H.W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, he has made public statements in support of criminalising flag burning. Like George W. Bush, he has intimated that he would like to tighten libel laws to reduce the freedom of the press. Like Bill Clinton, he seems discomfitingly comfortable with mass incarceration. Like Barack Obama, he seems to have little respect for States' rights and executive accountability and has intimated that he'd like to regulate the media to make its coverage of him less "unfair" (although, unlike his spoiled brat predecessor, he can at least claim to have a genuine grievance in this regard). This week, Dilbert creator Scott Adams asked whether Trump's opponents actually want to bring out the worst in him. Adams may have a point. I can't think of a better way in which to bring out Trump's inner authoritarian than the manner in which his opponents have been behaving since 20 January.

Observing the Women's March held on that day was akin to watching a hitherto entertainingly and somewhat endearingly mad person cross the line into seriously deranged and destructive behaviour. First, the arch-solipsist Ashley Judd stood, pie eyed, screaming to a frenzied crowd: making fun of Trump's physical appearance; suggesting that he harboured incestuous lust for his elder daughter; and going on a bizarre loghorreous rant about her menstrual cycle. Then there was Madonna, an "entertainer" who became super-rich by making semi-pornographic music videos and has since used her wealth to indulge the wildest and most exhibitionistic components of her personality. Her contribution was to fantasise about blowing up the White House. Finally, there was Linda Sarsour, a "feminist" who wears a Hijab, acts as an apologist for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and recently expressed the desire to subject the genuine women's rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali to an "a$$ whippin". After watching this bizarre freak show and seeing the glowing coverage it received on mainstream media, I could no longer feel amused. These people were clearly a danger to themselves and others.      

But this week, the behaviour has crossed a dangerous Rubicon. Two days ago, Trump supporting Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was due to speak to the College Republicans at the University of California at Berkeley. Left wing demonstrators organised a "protest" against him being entitled to speak on campus (yes, that's right, a protest against free speech, go figure), which quickly turned into a melee when a masked thug element started a riot which culminated in the vandalism of a Starbuck's and a bank. This orgy of "anti-Fascist" violence (terrorism, really) caused more than US$100,000 worth of damage. Berkeley's mayor Jesse Arreguin summed up "progressive" attitudes in saying the following: "Using speech to silence marginalized communities and promote bigotry is unacceptable. Hate speech isn't welcome in our community." Enough said. The following day saw another "protest", this time against Takimag journalist Gavin McInnes being invited to speak at New York University. A woman identifying herself as an NYU professor (admittedly, a status which is, as yet, unverified) screamed at members of the NYPD that they should be beating McInnes up rather than protecting him (McInnes was reportedly pepper-sprayed by an "Antifa" rioter). Even if this woman turns out to be an actress (which seems more than possible), it is impossible to explain away the clear cheers and applause that her deranged and incoherent rant elicited from protesters. 

Yesterday, however, Village Magazine crossed the most disturbing line of all, publishing a cover with a picture of Donald Trump with crosshairs superimposed on it with the chilling caption: "Why Not". As editor Michael Smith pointed out, the lack of a question mark after the phrase, together with an inside editorial suggesting that assassination would be a bad idea, meant that the lurid cover stopped millimetres short of constituting a direct incitement to murder. However, those of us with long memories remember the climate of hysteria in relation to immigration restrictionists in 2002, which culminated in a left wing lawyer by the name of Volkert van der Graaf shooting dead Dutch nationalist politician Pim Fortuyn. There will always be enough people of questionable mental health who will be happy to take the provocations of attention seekers like Smith at face value and indulge their "Saving the world from Hitler" complexes with homicidal results.

This is where Trump's more authoritarian instincts become relevant. 

If Trump supporters wearing "Make America Great Again" hats are attacked and beaten in the streets; if people cannot see a speech by Yiannopoulos or McInnes with being maced or attacked; if Trump's voters become fearful that powerful establishment elements are tacitly encouraging violence and crime as a weapon against the Trump administration, will this make them more or less likely to demand that Congress pass draconian laws against protest or declare groups like ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter to be terrorist organisations and use the RICO Act to prosecute them? 

If elements of the deep state or city governments begin using illegal or legally dubious mechanisms to frustrate policies with wide public support, will this increase or reduce support for Trump engaging in legally dubious strongman behaviour of his own?

If Trump fears that he or his family will be killed or injured by people hostile to his worldview, will this increase or decrease his respect for civil liberties?

If Trump looks at the deep state, the courts, the State governors, the City mayors and their media supporters and concludes that they are engaging in a de facto coup against him, will this make him more or less likely to perpetrate his own coup against America's constitutional order?

Let me repeat to the anti-Trumpsters: Trump's authoritarian tendencies are not welcome but they are not unique. They have been shared to a greater or lesser extent with every president at least since Reagan. Thankfully, from Bush I to Obama, none crossed the line into fully fledged tyranny. However, none of these faced so many elements of the deep state, the political establishment, the media, academia and civic society believing, not only that they were wrong but that they were illegitimate and had no right to govern. If Trump's authoritarian tendencies are provoked like none of his recent predecessors', then it is precisely this provocation, and not any of Trump's unique characteristics, that will be to blame for any tyranny that ensues. 
     

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What posture should Enda adopt towards the Donald? A pro-Irish one perhaps?

So now the Irish establishment knows the nausea I felt watching each of the Taoiseach's annual Paddy's Day pilgrimages to Washington to meet and lard unctuous praise on Barack Obama - or they soon will. Not that they'll be justified, of course, but in the Irish establishment's schema, treating Donald Trump with basic and businesslike respect is somehow equivalent to the craven and embarrassing obsequy lavished on his predecessor. Forgive me if I feel some Schadenfreude (no, scratch that, there's no shame in my joy; just plain Freude will do nicely). Between 2001 and 2008, I watched the Irish establishment bifurcate. Those in power treated George W. Bush with guarded respect. Those in opposition denounced his war in Iraq and decried Bertie Ahern's supposed complicity in it; some, such as Pat Rabbitte and David Begg boycotting diplomatic receptions. Of course, when Barack Obama started the equally idiotic and, arguably, more disastrous Libya war, nobody in Ireland's higher echelons could bring themselves even to suggest that the blessed one should be spared the "Is feidir linn" Blarney in favour of a more arms' length treatment. In so doing, the elites (and especially their leftist cohort) showed that they had no genuine anti-war feelings, merely a pathetic tendency to ape the opinions and attitudes of the "sophisticated" coastal Americans, who hated Bush and loved Obama. 

Was Bertie Ahern wrong to visit DC despite Iraq and should Cowen and Kenny have boycotted Obama over Libya? No, and nor should they have engaged in the narcissistic virtue signalling which accepting their hospitality and using it as a platform to criticise them would have entailed. Contrary to the image that our delusional political establishment has sought to project, Ireland is not a small country that punches above its weight in geopolitical and geostrategic influence. Rather, we are a small country which , in common with all countries below a certain critical mass of population, punches with no weight at all. Nothing Ireland says about any great issue outside our borders is capable of exerting any fundamental influence at all. With no ability to affect reality, the fundamental duty of our government is to negotiate that reality to ensure that Irish interests are best served. In 2003, the Ahern government, in its own incoherent way, represented Ireland's interests well with regard to the Bush administration. By pointedly neither endorsing nor opposing the Iraq expedition, Ahern kept on the right side of the Bush/Cheney compact. This was useful. The Bush administration largely ignored the offshoring of US corporate profit streams to Irish vehicles. Meanwhile, when Ahern shrewdly sought to use the murder of West Belfast man Robert McCartney to pressure Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, Bush helpfully backed him up by inviting the dead man's sisters to the White House. Moral grandstanding would have done nothing to prevent the Iraq war and it's unlikely that a more fulsome or laudatory approach to Bush would have delivered anything more. All the evidence is that Bush respected Ireland and acted accordingly.

By contrast, in spite of the condescending pats on the head from Obama and our puppy dog like yelping in his midst, what did we get from him? Arguably worse than nothing. When the US Congress started to assail Ireland as a global tax haven, Moneygall's favourite son was nowhere to be seen. So what should Enda learn from Ireland's relations with the last two POTUSs? Insulting Trump will do us no more good than canonising Obama did. America and the world don't care what we think - and we should not be narcissistic enough to think they should. All we can do is behave in a businesslike manner, command respect, engender some passive goodwill and hope that each yields some low hanging fruit to be picked. Kenny will go to Washington on St. Patrick's day under pressure from some not to go at all and from others to go and condemn his so-called Muslim ban and his Mexican border wall. Many of those who advocate the latter also want him to raise the issue of the 50,000 or so Irish illegals living in the US. This final issue is a classic example of low hanging fruit that can be picked by a deft harvester. So what should Kenny do?

First, let me answer by saying what he should not do. He should not ignore the fact that it is in Ireland's indubitable interest not to have to assimilate tens of thousands of deportees from the US. By the same token, if it is not in Ireland's interests to have them back, it's logical to presume that it's not in America's interests to keep them. This leads to the second thing he should not do. He should not insult Mr. Trump by asking him to ignore law breaking by tens of thousands of our citizens and the socialised costs associated with their presence in his country. Big countries like the US can (for a time) pretend that the rest of the world is obliged to operate in their interests. Ireland has no such luxury. Kenny should thus say nothing about these 50,000 in public and anything said in private should be said through diplomatic back channels. Behind the scenes, Enda needs to talk the language that the Donald himself speaks like no other: The Art of the Deal.

So what trade is to be had? First off, Kenny should publicly call on Trump to take Ireland's interests into account when negotiating a trade deal with post-Brexit Britain. This will send Trump the tacit message that Ireland will adopt, at worst, a benign neutrality with respect to his and Theresa May's attempts to craft a new international order for when the terminally ill EU finally dies. Secondly, when asked about Trump's border wall and his so-called "Muslim ban", he should pointedly say that the US's immigration policies are a sovereign matter for the American people and not something upon which a foreign leader should comment. He should then add, as an aside, that, so far as he is aware, Mr. Trump's executive order does not even mention the word "Muslim" and that there is thus no "Muslim ban" for him to condemn or endorse and, so far as he knows, no plans for one. Finally, Kenny should sound the distinctly Trumpian note of endorsing the latter's policy of replacing "refugee" resettlement in western countries with a policy of locally guaranteed "safe zones" in the Middle East, where far more, far more desperate people can be helped at a far lower per capita cost. In addition to being something approaching the most principled stance any Taoiseach has taken in relation to international policy in the history of the State, such a statement would be a deposit in the bank of goodwill which can allow Kenny to quietly work out a deal exempting the Irish illegals from whatever Trump has planned for the Mexicans et al. This is Trumpian dealmaking avant la lettre.

Enough of the "should" though. What do I predict Kenny will do instead? He will go to Washington, thereby offending the terminally Donald-deranged. He will present his bowl of shamrock without enthusiasm. He will use his 15 minute photo-op to insult his host by blatantly prying into matters of American domestic policy that are none of his business. Trump, who, whatever one may think of his qualities, does not suffer fools gladly, will see the Taoiseach as a glorified mayor who takes his marching orders from Angela Merkel, a politician who, all the evidence indicates, he (justifiably) despises. There will be no respect, no goodwill, just a fixed and sour smile on his perma-tanned visage. Meanwhile, when his Treasury and Justice Departments cast a beady eye over our illegals and our tax laws, Ireland will be overdrawn at the United States Bank of Goodwill. But hey, who wants to be a normal, self-respecting country that looks out for its own interests when there's virtue to be signalled?     

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Collapse of the (E)USSR and the Twilight of Globalism: A Future History (Part III)

This is Part III of a hypothetical speech delivered at the Trump Presidential Library in Queens, New York on Friday 13 January 2040. For Part I, please click here and for Part II here:

(continued)

While immigration, trade and sovereignty were the rocks on which globalism ran aground, the Genesis of its demise lay in the world of high finance. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, thereby taking down the entire commercial paper market and causing a global financial infarction, the intellectual status quo was exposed as sorely lacking. Ideology and not demography were the initial indicators of what people thought the financial crisis proved. To the right, the crisis proved that Central Bank money printing and interest rate manipulation inflated bubbles and that decades of bailouts from Continental Illinois to the Savings and Loans to Long Term Capital Management had generated moral hazard. To the left, which regarded the duty of the government to raise and cut interest rates, manage monetary aggregates and intervene to prevent crises as sacrosanct, the crash demonstrated the finance was insufficiently regulated and that the state needed to take a more active role in credit allocation. While both could agree that something had gone horribly wrong, each bitterly opposed the other's solution. To the right, the crash was caused by an abnegation of individual responsibility and a loss of freedom. To the left, the culprits were social irresponsibility and a lack of solidarity in economic decision making. One thought that capitalism had been corrupted by the state, the other that state had failed to stop capitalism from corrupting itself.

Here in the US (where else?) were born the two movements which came to define the Freedom v. Solidarity divide: the Tea Party on the right and Occupy Wall Street on the left. Initially, the fight between these two movements shook the centrist establishment's confidence. There seemed to be a debate going on to which the purveyors of the status quo had become irrelevant, with the only question being how rather than whether the regime would be replaced. However, while those who wanted change were divided, those who wished to preserve the status quo were comparatively united. By 2012, the Tea Party had been co opted by the Republicans and Occupy by the Democrats, each preferring the status quo to the other. By 2015, the establishment was heaving deep sighs of relief, as a faltering economic recovery had returned some degree of respectability to the cadres that ran the western world on both sides of the Atlantic. The public, rightly or wrongly, seemed unwilling to choose between freedom and solidarity, meaning that both the political prescriptions of the Tea Party and those of Occupy were considered scary or, to use political language, extreme. To my own caste, it seemed axiomatic that the political balance that globalist centrism struck was itself the happy medium between freedom and solidarity. But those we regarded as the "masses" didn't agree.

Our worldview regarded a free society and an open society as one and the same. In truth though, we were oblivious (to put it charitably) to the distinction. We were so attached to integrated global markets that we signed up to trade agreements and treaties which allowed for free trade in goods (and, to some extent, services) in return for agreeing hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages of regulatory ordinances to mollify progressive concerns about a so-called "race to the bottom" and to favour special interest groups such as unions and the owners of IP - ordinances which applied to the export and domestic economies alike. In order to enshrine the principles of free immigration, we admitted immigrants from societies which were culturally hostile to our own and when they engaged in paramilitary or terrorist activity, we considered it unacceptable to restrict their entry but were happy to introduce draconian anti-terror laws and launch wars of choice in far away lands instead. We conveniently ignored that many migrants came from societies much more illiberal than our own and threatened to bring sex-segregation, sumptuary laws and gay bashing back into our official culture. To deal with the dislocations caused by trade, high taxes and welfare had to substitute for work and intrusive race relations laws were increasingly deemed necessary to regulate frictions inherent in a multiculturalism we had previously assured them was a benefit and not a cost. Outside the elite bubble, our "open" societies didn't seem terribly free.

Within the elite bubble, openness was seen as the only moral force capable of cleansing solidarity of the taint of tribalism. To the left wing of the establishment, individualism was a social weakness, sapping civilisation of its cooperative functions and atomising citizens. However, every kind of group loyalty below the level of the human species as a whole (family, tribe, race, religion, nation) was considered intolerable and bigoted. The notion that a citizen might direct his altruistic tendencies toward his fellow citizens and not to the world at large was, ironically, more offensive to the leftist mindset than the notion of a world with no altruism at all. Writing in the Guardian in mid-2015, Irish journalist Fintan O'Toole typified this attitude when he lamented the rise of pro-welfare, anti-immigration parties in Scandinavia: "The welfare state? The recent elections in both Finland and Denmark suggest that even in its Nordic heartland, it is no longer seen as a European value but as a national, even an ethnic, possession, to be kept for “our people” alone." O'Toole and his ilk did not seem to recognise that this is precisely how every welfare state that emerged from the ashes of 1945 had been designed, it's altruism based on citizenship and not human universalism. O'Toole could not see that Scandinavia's welfare nationalists were the true believers and that he was the deviationist. Comments like these convinced right leaning voters that open borders represented an open ended commitment to the world which was to be funded by taxing them to penury. Meanwhile, left-of-centre voters not infrequently saw in this concern for the world's poor a Trojan horse designed to rob them of their welfare entitlements.

The disconnect was, in hindsight, glaringly obvious. The world of 2015 was one in which a billionaire or a multinational conglomerate could arrange supply chains, financing and tax affairs across multiple jurisdictions with unprecedented ease but where a corner shop or a hotdog stand had to deal with an unprecedented amount of bureaucracy and red tape. It was a world in which workers could increasingly ignore borders in pursuit of their professional and residential preferences but where native born populations were subjected to vast arrays of regulation and social engineering in order to manage the cultural frictions that arose as an inevitable consequence of such migration. To those outside the jet set, these "open" societies didn't seem all that free. Likewise, people who were constantly lectured about their duties to their fellow citizens found it mystifying that an employer who imported a cheaper worker from the third world could do so with impunity while a civic-minded employer who chose to employ his countrymen in preference to foreigners would be sued under equality legislation. Indeed, the US Department of Labour had even started suing employers for discriminating against illegal immigrants. To the elites, preferring one's co-ethnics was racist and undermined human solidarity but to the masses, it was solidarity. In the bubble, centrist Globalism represented to only acceptable trade-off between freedom and solidarity. Outside it, something else was brewing and that something was nationalism.

In the end, nationalism became the glue that held various brittle aspects of the western experiment in self-government together. In 2000, it was fashionable to believe that the kind of capitalism represented by neoliberal globalism was an inevitability - a fate from which we could not escape, whether we wished to or not. In 2008, it was fashionable to say that the era of unrestrained capitalism was over and that a new internationalised architecture of global regulation would need to evolve to tame it. In 2016, it was fashionable to say that the anti-Globalist trends in evidence in political behaviour on both sides of the Atlantic represented Fascism. However, by 2020, it was becoming clear that the new populism was directed towards something very different and nowhere near as alarming. The nationalism of Trump and Brexit was not Fascistic at all but fundamentally conservative in character.

The common thread binding together all of the dominant political tendencies of the first 15 years of the 21st century was Globalism. Whatever the prevailing mood, internationalisation of governance and identity was taken as a given. In 2016, the thread snapped and the consequent collapse of neoliberalism, progressivism and socialism, in many ways resembled beads falling to the floor, as each slipped off the now exposed breach. Some of us were being entirely cynical when we screamed "Fascism" in response to Brexit and Trump. However, in truth, most of us were betraying our own historical ignorance. Fascism was a political system which entailed a gigantised military, a powerful class of unelected government mandarins and an economy heavily controlled and managed by the state through regulatory, fiscal and monetary policy rather than collective ownership. In reality, the liberalism and progressivism of the 20th century had migrated so far in the direction of corporatism that we ourselves were closer to Fascism than to any form of liberalism. But we couldn't see this. To us, all Fascists were people who believed in ethnic fidelity. Anyone who believed in that was, to us, a Fascist, regardless of any other views he might have in relation to public policy. Meanwhile, anyone who abjured ethnic fidelity was, ipso facto, free from the taint of the Fascist moniker.

In fact, while the character of the revolution that took place was not liberal in the classical sense, it was, in essence, a rebellion against the key tenets of Fascism. It was a rebellion against speech codes, against the migration of political power away from the elected government and towards the administrative state, against the will of the electorate being flouted whenever it failed to coincide with those of the political elites, against political correctness and against the suffocation of private enterprise by regulators and bureaucrats. The people who circled the wagons around their vision of multicultural internationalism couldn't see that if there was a Fascist v. non-Fascist paradigm at play, they were the Fascists. It seems in hindsight like a case of Mussolini gazing lovingly into the mirror and seeing Gandhi staring back at him. In the end, they were dealing with human beings whose loyalties were concentric and who valued loyalty to their fellow citizens above and beyond loyalty to the world beyond.

No, the great hopes and fears of the 2015-2020 era were, almost without exception, proven to be unjustified. The ideological attachment to free cross-border trade and immigration which was so beloved of the Globalist establishment melted like snow off the dyke. Nonetheless, those who wished to return to the somewhat imaginary protectionist past were disappointed too. Supply chains that cut through national borders never went away. Consumers showed themselves to be as resistant to high prices as workers were to low wages. The consumer base of the western world has remained as enthusiastic about an integrated global market in the highest skilled labour as it is unenthusiastic about the influx of its lower skilled counterpart. Free trade, contrary to some of the fears and hopes, didn't die. It just ceased to be a religion. At the same time, the dramatic fall in mass third world immigration reinforced the need for cross-border trade. For example, when the strawberry farms in Southern California and the chicken plants of Arizona and Texas were shut down due to the loss of Mexican stoop labour, where did America turn to satisfy its appetite for berries and poultry but its southern neighbour? This has left the US government with less GDP to count but relief for the country's bloated welfare and entitlement programmes.

Likewise, the so-called welfare chauvinism of France's Front National and Denmark's DVP couldn't stand up to the iron laws of demography. Reserving the benefits of the welfare state to natives has helped cushion the blow, but it has nonetheless been hard. At the same time, longer working lives and less certain retirement security and have been achieved at a cost to both universalism and free movement. Western voters have shown that they will only tolerate redistribution where it solely benefits the native born and will only accept poorer job security and a less lavish safety net if the native born are given privileged access to the labour market. Meanwhile, regions and municipalities, seeking to protect their tax and service baselines frequently pressure governments to implement selective tariffs and anti-dumping ordinances to protect regional industrial players. That said, those who believed that protection could return the western economy to the perceived golden age of regulation and unionisation of the 20th century have been left bitterly disappointed. The administrative state, unlike the money and freebie dispensing welfare state, evinced little affection from the public and politicians have preferred to use selective trade protection (which is cheap) instead of welfare and regulation (which are expensive) to satisfy the public's appetite for populism.

It's a strange world, much more akin to pre-1920s conservatism than to the Manchester liberalism of the mid-19th century, the Fascism of the 1930s and 40s or the social democracy of the 20th century's second half. A solution nobody in the elite class could happily stomach solved a problem nobody had truly sought to create. At the nub of the issue was this. We are a tribal species. Our loyalties are concentric. We naturally discriminate in favour of our kinsfolk. Globalism emerged from the Fascist order of the 1940s convinced that human beings needed to be regarded as naturally universalist, with our tribalism regarded as an artificial imposition upon our personalities. To achieve this fantasy, we needed to act with greater and greater degrees of authoritarianism against a population which refused to conform to the dogma. Universalism brought the western world to the closest its been to Fascism since 1945 and the people we often labelled as Fascists were the ones who saved us from it.

Nonetheless, I ask you to show an old man some pity. For those of us born at any time before 2000, the world is a strange and not entirely pleasant place. Universalism was axiomatic to us and tribalism and nationalism are profoundly strange. A great deal of what passes for normality today is strange and unpleasant and offends our sense of probity. The past, they say, is another country, where they do things differently. For many of us, that past is our home, and one to which the laws of physics decree we are doomed never to return. Meanwhile, many of us would be more emotionally satisfied if the foreign present had confirmed our fears. There have been no genocides and no pogroms, no catastrophic trade wars or international mercantile dislocations or armed conflicts, the new nationalism could not be stopped and the ideological certainties of liberalism and socialism could never be restored, but there was no catastrophic retreat into reactionary deglobalisation or reckless demagoguery. Having warned that these things would be the inevitable result of the new nationalism, we have found ourselves looking silly - and some of us would rather have seen millions die just to avoid looking like the boy who cried wolf. Perhaps that symbolises just the arrogance that brought about the revolution.

Thank you. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Collapse of the (E)USSR and the Twilight of Globalism: A Future History (Part II)

This is Part II of a hypothetical speech delivered at the Trump Presidential Library in Queens, New York on Friday 13 January 2040. For Part I, please click here:

(continued)

Of course, you must not believe that none of us felt any discomfort with the yawning chasm between how we viewed the world and how the generality of the population did. I think most of us felt some. A large minority of us felt, if you'll forgive the language, that the reason so many people dissented from our worldview was because of our indubitable propensity to behave like assholes. A substantial majority of us would periodically accept that we occasionally insulted and patronised people who disagreed with us. Only a small minority of us thought that we were simply right and those who disagreed with us were simply idiots (and I suspect most of those were professional controversialists, paid to cause outrage). However, lacking a fundamentally sound intellectual base, it seems obvious in hindsight that behaving like assholes represented the only viable defence mechanism to protect our ideas from scrutiny - our haughtiness being a veil for our lack of confidence.

For alas, our worldview was being undermined by the very technological and institutional trends which, at the beginning of 2015, made it seem so unassailable.

Our views on immigration were, beneath their cosmopolitan surface, rooted in the technology and institutions of the 19th century. We ignored the magnetic effects of the welfare state and the ability it gave immigrants and their employers to socialise vast swathes of their costs onto the taxpayer whilst enjoying all of the profits themselves. We also ignored the fact that technology which made communications and the transport of goods over vast distances cheap and economical had obviated the need for much immigrant labour, even as it had facilitated its arrival. Moreover, we were the last people to understand what those technologies had done to make immigration less attractive to host countries and assimilation less attractive to the immigrants themselves. 

An Irish peasant arriving in Ellis Island in 1850 could never contemplate the expense, inconvenience or danger of ever returning to his home country. The only contact he would have with family back home for the rest of his days was a few letters a year - if he was literate. The only media, entertainments, news and information services, food, drink or consumer services he would ever enjoy would be from his new home. His children would grow up with nothing but second hand stories of the homeland. Their accents, tastes, attitudes and behaviours would quickly regress to the surrounding mean. By middle age, their Irish origins would be little more than a curio.

Contrast that with a Pakistani New York taxi driver from Lahore in 2015. Skype and Whatsapp allowed him to speak to his family every evening if he so wished. Affordable air travel meant annual trips home to visit his family. The local ethnic grocery shops could satisfy his every nutritional requirement without his ever having to eat American food. Advanced ICT meant that he could entertain and inform himself with Urdu or Punjabi language television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online services, without once having to watch an American TV show or movie. Online dating agencies meant that he could find a wife in the old country without submitting to an arranged marriage. For the first time in recorded history, he could hope to have children and grandchildren who were as mentally attached to the Punjab as he was. Therein lay the problem. The first generation immigrant's inability to ever find his comfort zone in an alien society became a multi-generational phenomenon. But few of us were interested in that, preferring instead to blame it all on "racism" in the host society.

On trade, our knowledge seemed to begin and end with cautionary tales about the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act and the trade war which it excited in the 1930s. In truth though, the generals were fighting the last war. In the 1930s, America had the highest per capita wealth in the world and the largest economy, was the world's main lender and had the world's biggest manufacturing base. Having inflated a giant capital investment bubble, it had sought to close its gap between output and capacity by restricting imports, thereby depriving the rest of the world of markets for its goods and the ability to pay its war debts. The world of the 2010s was different. The world's biggest lender and manufacturer was now middle income China. The US was still the world's largest economy and still prosperous, but also the world's largest debtor. Europe wasn't far behind on either score. We thus had free trade in Europe and America, whilst the Chinese protected their manufacturing through currency manipulation and vendor financing. In the ultimate Faustian pact, middle income countries accumulated debt instruments from high income countries, subsidised their consumption and hollowed out their industrial base in a veritable Ponzi scheme which could only last until the West's entire industrial base had been eroded to nothing. We failed to realise that whilst in 1935, free trade was the solution to global imbalance, now it was part of the problem, permanently forestalling any balancing of accounts between East and West.

Our views on the EU and the evisceration of the nation state were even more mystifying. On trade and immigration, we were at least misapplying the lessons of the past. On sovereignty, we were ignoring lessons taught to us in our own lifetimes. How could we have watched as nationalism caused the USSR and the Federation of Yugoslavia to crumble - and just a generation after decolonisation had replaced vast empires with a patchwork map of independent countries - and yet persevere with the belief of those benighted multinational states' architects that the nation state was somehow an anachronism whose time had come and gone? If that remains a mystery to me (and I shared that belief), I can only imagine how strange it must sound to those born this century.

"It's not that our liberal friends are ignorant", Ronald Reagan once said. "It's that they know so many things that aren't so." The masses may not have been knowledgeable of all the facts but their conclusions were correct. The intellectuals may have had more knowledge but we used it to reach conclusions which were often entirely at odds with the facts.

Be that as it may, as the international caste of globalist, multiculturalist, politically correct, culturally Marxist elites wended their way through 2015, they saw little to disturb them. David Cameron's victory in the UK election may have been a surprise but his views were not such as to upset any apple carts - though some remarked with (it has to be said, prescient) worry that he owed his victory to an (insincere) appeal to English nationalism in the face of growing Scottish separatism. Meanwhile Trump's growing support in the Republican Party was seen as evidence that "pale, stale" white America realised that its demographic doom was upon it.

Typical of this attitude was an intemperate rant on the part of Minnesota's Governor, Mark Dayton welcoming a cohort of Somali migrants into his state. Describing native Minnesotans who were leery of these new arrivals as racists and bigots and admonishing them to "find another state" if they weren't happy, Dayton (a billionaire of inherited wealth) made the following comment: "Our economy cannot expand based on white, B+, Minnesota-born citizens." Indeed, as hordes of Middle Eastern and West Asian migrants poured into Germany at Chancellor Merkel's invitation, her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble suggested that Germany needed third world immigrants to prevent inbreeding (with a population base of 80 million odd, his command of biology was clearly questionable). The elites convinced themselves that there was a growing consensus that immigration was necessary to save the West from its own inferior population base. Moreover, when the body of Syrian child migrant Alan Kurdi was found floating in the Aegean, the establishment rubbed its hands together, believing it to be good propaganda which would convince westerners that any attempt to stem the flow of migrants was inhumane.  

2015 showed even more promise on the domestic front. In April, the US Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges more or less invented a right to same-sex marriage based on the text of a constitutional provision which was written centuries before the concept even existed in mainstream literature. The lack of any public revolt over the issue and the global triumph of so called "marriage equality" was followed swiftly by the new cause celebre of transgenderism. Glamour Magazine's "Woman of the Year" award went to a man known as Caitlyn Jenner who, in his previous incarnation as Bruce Jenner, had fathered six children. With the suddenness and force of an unexpected freight train, media and political figures queued up to out-do one another with fawning paeans to gender fluidity, elective rather than standardised pronouns and denunciations of "heteronormativity" and "gender binary" assumptions. Their understanding of the terminology they spouted was as limited as their sense of self-satisfaction was ostentatious. Not for nothing did James Bartholomew, one of the few intellectuals of the epoch who was admirably unbeholden to contemporary fads, coin the phrase "virtue signalling".

In the bubble, however, Obergefell and Jenner were taken alongside the Kurdi emotional spasm as proof positive that the western world was entering a new age of tolerance and that Trump was either an aberration or some kind of crazed act of Götterdämmerung from the defeated forces of reaction. However, they mistook what they were seeing for tolerance, when it was, in fact, the reverse. They would have done well to consult their history books. Here in New York (and indeed in the United States in general), almost all soft drinks and confectionary items are kosher despite no metro area in the US having a Jewish population much over 10%. This is because observant Jews won't consume non-kosher foodstuffs, while gentiles have no difficulty consuming kosher ones. In a national market in which Orthodox Jews do not even number 1%, the cost of kosher compliance in confectionary or soft drinks is low enough to justify accommodating a numerically small portion of the market. As Nassim Taleb pointed out in an essay published in 2016, this example demonstrated that a minority that cannot or will not tolerate something will triumph over a majority that is uncommitted or apathetic. Another example Taleb cited was how Christianity triumphed in the Roman Empire precisely because of its intolerance for polytheism. This intolerance, of course, could have resulted in Christianity being crushed if it had not reached critical mass, but it also prevented the Romans from engaging in their usual practice of cooption by raising Christ to divine status and incorporating him into their polytheistic ritual.

The elites could not see that what they were witnessing was not tolerance but the time-honoured tradition of motivated minorities imposing their will on unmotivated majorities. It was thus that they looked upon the immigration question and the Globalism question as simply another formula of openness and modernity versus conservatism and tradition. If they had understood what their LGBTQ victories really signified, they would have realised that majorities will only acquiesce to the motivated minority where the perceived costs are negligible or the opposable gains are obvious. For instance, the cost of making every Polo mint in America kosher would not even average one cent per pack, so the cost is virtually non-existent to the gentile and offers him the benefit of convenience if he is, for instance, offering hospitality to a Jewish guest. The same cannot, however, be said for meat or fish. Having no pork or shellfish products available in grocery stores becomes a grossly excessive price. Likewise, worshipping one God instead of the cast of characters on Mount Olympus was no price at all for a woman whose husband was legally entitled to kill her or unilaterally divorce her under Roman law but strictly prohibited from doing so by Scripture.

And so the lesson was lost. The perceived costs of gay marriage or elective gender pronouns were small enough that the cost of mollifying an intolerant minority who would brook no dissent with respect to their sanctity was low. However, immigration and globalism were a different kettle of fish altogether. People were, in effect, being asked to give up their nations, and with them all and any control over the meta-culture that held the civilisational norms that they valued together. Moreover, without a nation with its own government, people were being asked to relinquish their right to pursue their self-interest as a group and to abjure allegiance to their nation in favour of an allegiance to a wider world which would not necessarily bind itself to the same obligation.

Perhaps the delusion had its origins in the straightjackets imposed on intellectuals by the two inhouse ideologies of the globalist elites, neoliberalism on the right and progressivism (or social democracy, as it's known in Europe) on the left. Both loathed nationalism for polar opposite reasons and seemed to see what they hated in all support for it and what they liked in all opposition to it. Moreover, neither neoliberals nor progressives could conceive of the fundamental inconsistencies between their anti-nationalism and their own philosophies. Neoliberals regarded nationalism as collectivist, disliking what they perceived to be its interference with the individual's pursuit of personal self-interest. By contrast, progressives regarded nationalism as bigoted and socially irresponsible, disliking its tendency to draw an individual's solidarity away from humanity at large and towards his bloodline. What difference, they thought, was there between a man favouring the interests of his own countrymen over foreigners through geopolitics and a man favouring the economic interests of his children over other people's through inheritance or arranging employment through connections? It was thus that neoliberals regarded nationalism as socialism applied to blood and soil and that progressives regarded nationalism as dog-eat-dog capitalist brutalism applied to collective decision making.

But both were cruelly mistaken in how this prejudice applied to reality. Neoliberals blithely assumed that the only alternative to nationalism was market capitalism and saw globalism as a proxy or even a synonym for the latter. Progressives, however, assumed that the alternative to "narrow" nationalism was "inclusive" universalism and saw the latter in globalism. If the neoliberal product was individualism (each man for himself) and the progressive product was collectivism (universal solidarity), nationalism surely represented not the polar opposite of either but a midpoint between the two. For the neoliberal nation states pursuing the collective interests of competing populations was surely more consistent with the market capitalist vision than global governance which treated the entire species as a nation. For the progressive, meanwhile, was nationalism not a solidaristic break on rampant capitalist individualism (the bird in the hand being better than the two in the bush, so to speak)? But no, each wing of the establishment came to see nationalism as the foremost enemy. Hence globalism hollowed out to the point of virtual emptiness the entire philosophical basis of both ideologies, to the point that it represented the threshold proposition which subordinated all other considerations.

In hindsight, what happened was probably inevitable and would have been caused by something, and at some point in time. As it happens, I think that the point in time was 2008 and the something was the economic crash that took place that year.

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Collapse of the (E)USSR and the Twilight of Globalism: A Future History (Part I)

Picture the date of Friday 13 January 2040. Imagine that on that date is held the tenth annual Andrew Breitbart Memorial Lecture on Public Policy, delivered this year by a famous public intellectual of the 2016/2017 epoch at the Trump Presidential Library in Queens, New York. The title of the lecture is: "The Demise of the Second Soviet Union - a Quarter Century's Revisitation." The identity of the speaker doesn't matter. You'd recognise him standing at the lectern as a grey haired seventy something version of the fifty something whose syndicated column you can read today in one of the major American newspapers (the New York Times, the Washington Post or perhaps the Wall Street Journal). He might be a fellow in a think tank or perhaps a chair professor in an Ivy League University. His nationality doesn't make much bones either. He could be American, Canadian, British, Australian or Kiwi. For simplicity, let's assume he's a Brit who has spent most of his adult life in the United States, giving him a direct stake in Brexit, as well as Trump.

He is introduced to the audience by Donald Trump's speechwriter Stephen Miller, who has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors into a career as a commentator and media talking head. Stepping onto the podium, this is what he says:

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you and thank you for that most kind introduction Stephen. As the man who wrote all of President Trump's seminal speeches such as the Tuscon and Gettysburg addresses, as well as the superbly theatrical "Argument for America" speech that made it into the final two-minute campaign ad that is perhaps responsible for having gotten President Trump over the line, it must feel somewhat ironic for you to be introducing one of the very Metropolitan scribes who once viciously mocked him. For me, it is certainly an occasion of peculiar paradox as I am one of the very people to whose careers Mr. Trump promised to lay waste back in 2015 and 2016. In many cases, his revolution achieved just that, which a cursory glance at what remains of Washington's once legendary network of think tanks would attest. However, those of us who adopt the somewhat pompous sobriquet of "public intellectual" have shown a cockroach-like ability to survive the apocalypse. I often feel that the reason why people like me have survived in our lucrative careers is that our very ridiculousness allowed us to transition seamlessly from being thought leaders to entertainers. As someone who cheerfully admits that almost everything he believed about the world on his fiftieth birthday (the very zenith of my career) was wrong, my reminiscences provide much mirth. I have always accepted that mirth as my due. To those such as my peer, Professor Paul Krugman, whose egos were larger than mine, the transition was far more painful, but I have been more philosophical and accepted that my role as a court jester perhaps has some value.

When Sir Milo Yiannopoulos (God, those words still sound funny in my ear) saw the title of this year's Breitbart lecture, he immediately told me that I was jumping the gun by a year. However, much like the seminal political decisions of 2015 and 2016, what appears to be a mistake was, in fact intentional. No doubt, there will be much done in a few years time to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the formal dissolution of the European Union. For the more historically literate, like Sir Milo, the EU actually died in 2016, twenty five years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, like General Burgoyne's admonition that history would always lie, the EU and the Soviet Union both died approximately a year before the advertised dates - it's just that people didn't realise it. In 2016, there was little in the way of commemoration of the Soviet Union's collapse. In January of 2016, to talk of that event would have been to draw attention to the fact that the USSR's collapse had been a moment in which the concepts of internationalism, rule by experts and the Leviathan-like administrative state had been humiliatingly defeated. Given that the political elites of Europe and America were seeking to defend those self-same concepts, they did not wish to draw attention to their discreditation. By December of that year, those same elites were too traumatised by the victory of President Trump to be in a fit state to mark any event, never mind one which undercut the foundations of their entire worldview.

However, in truth, the Soviet Union did not end in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, or in 1991, when it legally ceased to exist, but in the Summer of 1990. The thought might have occurred to President Gorbachev, as he was preparing his resignation speech and the mayor of Moscow was ordering bailiffs to seize property belonging to the Communist Party but, if it did, that thought went to his grave with him and unless Peter Thiel is successful in his quest to reverse death, there it shall stay. However, it seems to be that the day that the Soviet Union truly came to a de facto end was 19 August 1990, when the government of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic defied Moscow to order troops into the Armenian populated Oblast of Nagorno Karabakh, which lay within the official borders of the Azeri Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia was one of the Soviet Union's two southern Christian territories (the other being Georgia). Unlike their predominantly Muslim neighbours, the Armenians had regarded the Soviet Union's predecessor, the Russian Empire, as a liberator from the hated Ottomans. It was one thing for restive Lutheran Balts or Turkic southerners to rebel against the Russian hegemon but for her old friend Armenia to ignore Moscow's orders was unthinkable - nonetheless, it had now happened. In the following months, the Union's Slavic members, the Ukraine and Belarus, seceded and when Russia's president Boris Yeltsin, recognised the secession, what had long since become the de facto situation became de jure.

In much the same way, the British vote to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 and the American electorate's choice of Donald J Trump of 8 November that year are now regarded as the beginning of the end of the EU and, more significantly, the post-Cold War ideology of globalism. However, in truth, these events marked the culmination of a process, which began much earlier and which reached critical and (I would now argue) uncontrollable momentum in the previous year, 2015. It is now 25 years since that year began and, I humbly submit, the silver anniversaries of events that happened in that, not the following year, are what we should be paying attention to now. Perhaps, as a man who was utterly clueless as to the true significance of those events, as they were happening, I am trying to atone for my error now. Be that as it may, the various dice were cast in that year. I would narrow the source down to three discrete events. 

The first came courtesy of the UK's Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron in May 2015. In order to head off a challenge from his right from the UK Independence Party, Cameron had promised an "In-out" referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU - albeit that he pledged to campaign to remain. The promise was cheap. Cameron expected that his return to power would have to be facilitated by the support of the small Liberal Democrat Party. However, the election did not go to plan. The Liberals imploded, leaving Cameron with a windfall of 25 seats which got him a slim overall majority. Having confidently expected to have to jettison his referendum promise in order to consummate a deal with the Lib Dems, Cameron was now stuck with the implementation of a promise which he thought he'd never have to keep. 

The second was the decision of Donald Trump in August 2015 to, after many years, finally make good on his threat to run for the presidency. In the speech he made at his launch, Trump decisively broke with the elite consensus on global migration, regarded at the time by economists, business and media leaders and the academic establishment alike as a massive net economic boon to the world economy, bringing relief to poor and young countries and vibrancy to rich and old ones. The most incendiary line in his speech was the following: 

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with them. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

The message to the educated ear was terrifying. Instead of cleaving to the elite consensus, Trump was expressing the average citizen's largely unspoken suspicion that the corrupt political elites of the third world were using mass migration as a safety valve which brought social problems to western countries (and taxpayers) whilst allowing their own fetid political systems to go unreformed. The media tried to drown the message out in a din of "Trump said Mexicans were rapists" hysteria but it's clear in hindsight that by failing to take Trump seriously or to predict what he would say, they had allowed him to open a Champagne bottle and now they were struggling to close it.

But perhaps the most crucial Champagne bottle was uncorked by Angela Merkel, Germany's formerly well-respected Chancellor and this event weaponised what might otherwise have been a successful referendum for Cameron and a doomed campaign for Trump. In late 2015, she issued a reckless "come one, come all" invitation to migrants supposedly fleeing the ugly civil war then taking place in Syria. More than a million people, mainly young, mainly male, mainly unskilled and mainly uneducated poured into Germany and overwhelmed the country's already creaking social services infrastructure. A regrettable number went on crime sprees, most notably committing sex crimes against German women, whose (by Islamic standards) revealing clothing was regarded by many as an invitation to help themselves. A particularly nasty spate of sex attacks on new year's eve in Cologne led that city's previously feminist mayor to warn German women to dress more modestly. Intended as an advertisement of Germany's Willkommenskultur, the whole affair was a PR disaster which the EU's Schengen arrangements of free travel between member states meant was shared with dozens of other countries. Islamic terrorist attacks which followed in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin only cemented the feeling of voters that open immigration policies were being implemented with cavalier disregard for their welfare.

The margin in what became known as the "Brexit" referendum was narrow - 52% voting to leave and 48% to remain. Given the important part that immigration control played in that margin of victory, it is not hard to attribute Britain's departure from the EU to Merkel's recklessness. The Brexit moment, in turn, emboldened the nationalist Trump campaign and its voting cohorts. However, perhaps the effect might have been contained if each event had not revealed an attitude on the part of the leadership class - I might just as well say, my class. That attitude could best be summed up by two expressions: "human rights" and "international community". The two expressions were, in effect, euphemisms.

It was forcefully argued that Britain could not leave the EU because freedom of movement was a "human right", that Donald Trump couldn't build a wall along the Mexican border, deport illegal aliens and that US immigration laws could not subject Muslims to special scrutiny because of "human rights". Prosperous London professionals, viscerally contemptuous of their older non-metropolitan fellow citizens, attended post-Brexit protests accusing the electoral majority of denying them their "human right" to European citizenship and post-November 2016, similar protests followed against Trump. It seemed that certain people had a "human right" to their preferred political outcomes - irrespective of the numerical formalities. Of course, when we said that something that the populus wanted to prevent or restrict was a "human right", what we really meant was not just that  the policies for which people were voting were wrong but that they had no right to vote for them. The voters picked up on this and gradually became angrier at the attitude of their social "betters".

The "international community", meanwhile, was a mythic and imaginary entity supposedly so large that the voters inside the petty national boundaries of one country really had no right to make their own decisions without consulting it and giving it veto power. It helped, of course, that this "international community" bound by the norms of "international law" was not legally defined and didn't seem to have rules or policies which an ordinary citizen could affect through the ballot box. But that, once again, was the point. When we demanded that anyone (be it a recalcitrant third world dictator or a national electorate) respect the wishes of the "international community", what we really meant was "people like us". Again, no matter how hard we tried, the electorate heard us telling them that people from our jet-setting class should make the decisions and that the only role of their democracy was to rubber stamp them. Again, the message was persuasive - just not in the manner intended.

It is tempting, when looking at events like Brexit and the Trump election, to iconise a particular moment and to treat the events as flowing from that peculiar source. The true significance of these iconic moments is rarely reflected in the facts because they are chosen with the benefit of hindsight and with an eye to aesthetic considerations. However, iconic images are rarely entirely useless in determining what happened and why. From my own memory, let me suggest some iconic moments which turned voters in the nationalist direction in which they ultimately went.

First there was the Thames boating incident where a pro-Remain barge made its way lugubriously down London's principal river with millionaire musician Sir Bob Geldof standing on a deck with a megaphone. When Sir Bob's opulent riverboat was traversed by a convoy of small fishing boats with pro-Leave decking visibly attached to them, Sir Bob could not resist the urge to shout abuse at the hapless fishermen. Voters got the message.

After the Brexit vote, a by-election was held in the prosperous and pro-EU London constituency of Richmond Park. With no hint of irony, the notionally left-of-centre Liberal Democrats openly played to the class resentments of wealthy voters and made the campaign into a single issue referendum on the validity of Britain's departure from the EU. The Liberal candidate (whose command of policy detail was so poor that she had to be bundled off a radio interview by a handler during a bout of mildly tough questioning by a friendly interviewer) won by a margin smaller than the margin of victory for the Remain side in in June 2016 referendum vote. With no hint of irony, the media tried to portray this "so what" moment as a decisive fightback for the pro-EU side. A week later, when a pro-Brexit Tory won a massive majority in the Sleaford by-election in Lincolnshire, the media barely covered it. However, they were naive to believe that the public was not wise to the manipulation.

Meanwhile, the moments of anti-Trump hysteria amongst elite Americans are simply too numerous to mention. However, the two which stood out most were speeches by his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. In the first, she turned to an audience in Nevada and asked plaintively: "[W]hy aren't I 50 points ahead?" If this amounted to a sotto voce whisper to her support base that the electorate was defective for even contemplating a vote for Trump, she practically screamed that message out a few weeks later when she described "half" of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables" motivated by racism, sexism, homophobia and a newly invented form of bigotry called "Islamophobia".

What we really resented about Trump and about Brexit supporters like Nigel Farage was not that what they believed was out of kilter with the voting public's values (it plainly wasn't), but that they broke the class solidarity of the political caste which had hitherto implicitly agreed that certain of the views we knew substantial portions of the public held were simply ruled out of acceptable discourse. As the enemy became stronger, politicians and commentators of the establishment mainstream became more explicitly resentful of how politicians like Trump and Farage had "emboldened" people of certain beliefs. It seems preposterous now to believe that demonstrating such contempt for substantive democracy could amount to anything other than digging one's own grave. But it's not as preposterous as it seems now. Madness always afflicts establishments in decline. Indeed, would they be in decline in the first place in their ideas were not mad?

(To be continued.) 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Why Enda needs to say: "Hello Donald! Auf Wiedersehen Angela!"

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."

George Orwell
_____________________

In his valedictory spell as Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has but one major policy decision which remains to be made. In the wake of the US presidential election, he faces two directions in which he may point Irish geostrategic policy over the next decade. The first is to turn his gaze westwards to the ascendant wave of conservative nationalism which is exemplified by America's new president-elect. If you want to picture this future, look at the beaming faces of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage standing outside the gilded door of the former's penthouse apartment. For all its virtues and shortcomings (and there are many of both), this is the picture of prevailing non-elite western public opinion. To see what this picture will morph into as the years of evolution inevitably justify some of the hopes and dash others, picture geopolitics as a giant sporting event, with loud, pugnacious and politically incorrect fans draped in their national colours in a spirit of (hopefully friendly) competition. If Kenny turns eastwards to Angela Merkel in Berlin, he will see a different vision. If you want to picture this future, look at the video made by Hungarian truckdriver, Arpad Jeddi, in Calais earlier this year, as swarms of thuggish "refugees" force trucks to come to a halt so that they can stow away in their containers. This is precisely what prevailing non-elite opinion does not want. If you want to know what this picture will morph into over time, think of the aforementioned boot stamping on the face.

In the last week, outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times have hailed Germany's Chancellor as the world's foremost defender of liberalism in the age of Trump. This is the same person whose federal police and interior ministry are reputedly being advised by former agents of East Germany's notorious Stasi on how to police social media for "hate speech"; the same person whose police actively suppresses information in relation to crimes committed by Mid-Eastern and Asian migrants in order to protect her immigration policies from criticism; and the same person who supported the prosecution of a comedian who wrote a rude poem about Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Say what you like for the lefties: their stomachs are stronger than their senses of irony. And pardon my pedantic adherence to to the etymological root of liberalism (i.e. liberty), but if Angela Merkel is the best champion we can hope for, I'd just as soon take my chances with Trump, thank you very much.

Dr. Merkel is Europe's foremost tragedy. She had the intellectual heft to provide real leadership within Europe after the 2008 crash but established a depressingly repetitive pattern of saying many of the right things and then delivering nothing more than progressive, globalist virtue signalling. In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, she spoke harshly of the Obama-led move towards fiscal stimulus and questioned the moral hazard of bailing out fiscally irresponsible governments. Faced, however, with a European peripheral debt crisis that had been caused by a dysfunctional single currency, she blinked. None other than the euro's own chief architect, Prof. Ottmar Issing, said that Greece should have left the euro, defaulted and shared the massive pain of transition between its own beleaguered economy and the lemming financial institutions that had so heedlessly rushed to lend her money. Against this advice, Merkel insisted on putting the EU and the euro ahead of her own country's public opinion and Greece's and, in doing so, managed to rip her own taxpayers off, reward the idiotic lending policies of financial institutions and simultaneously bailout Greece's rotten public sector and emasculate her primitive economy.

She also talked about the need to ensure that the ECB not breach its legal authority by purchasing sketchy member state sovereign debt. However, when Mario Draghi insisted that only such a commitment could save the euro, she went against the wishes of her own Central Bank chief Jens Weidmann by acquiescing to Dr. Draghi ignoring his legal mandates. In so doing, she put the welfare of the euro ahead of that of Europe's constituent nations' economies - not to mention the rule of law. Indeed, her ultimate insistence that the solution to the euro-crisis was "more Europe, not less" demonstrated that, when push  came to shove, her loyalty was to unelected elites rather than to Europe's populations. Indeed, in order to curry favour with the Davos elites, she ignored not only her own population but many of her own country's accredited experts, not just Issing and Weidman but former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin, whose 2015 book Europa braucht den Euro nicht (Europe does not need the euro) became a bestseller in her country.

However, the true glory of Merkel's abandonment of reality came last year when, ignoring EU law (specifically, the Dublin Regulation), she unilaterally invited a functionally unlimited number of Mid-Eastern and North African migrants into her country. When this army of young men threatened the collapse of her country's social services infrastructure and (in the case of regrettably many) went on sex crime rampages in cities like Cologne and Hamburg, she tried to insist that other EU countries accept their "fair" share of the migrants and the financial burdens that went with them. Her cloyingly arrogant motto "Wir schaffen das" (we can do it) was accompanied by bizarre statements to the effect that if her people did not support this "Willkommenskultur", then Germany was "not my country". In Merkel's mind, it seemed, it was for the German people to prove that they were good enough for their Chancellor and not the other way round.     

Of course, while her population turns against her (look at recent gains in the polls by the AfD party), she basks in the approval of the outgoing US president, his chosen successor (who shall not now succeed him) and the bien pensant commentariat. Her arrogant pseudo-congratulation of President-elect Trump last week demonstrated that she values the good opinion of the international ruling class more than that of her own population. Merkel is thus on her way out. However, given the enormous damage that her maniacal Euro-imperialism and indifference to her own people's well-being have inflicted, it would be naive to believe that, in the time she has left, she cannot cause yet more trouble.

What Enda Kenny needs to do is to recognise that, in the emerging political tableau, there is a sort of Cold World War III in process. In this war, instead of nations fighting one another, we have a conflict that traverses borders. On the one hand, we have a metropolitan class, which wants to eviscerate borders and nations, fight endless Wilsonian wars, strip the democratic process of control over public policy and empower an unaccountable and arrogant administrative state to rig the world economy. On the other, we have national electorates who are not on board with this project and have been declared the public enemy by their own political class. While it would be fatuous to morally equate Merkel with Hitler, in this world war, her heedless imperial arrogance places her into a historic role equivalent to that of the Austrian psychopath. Meanwhile, Trump and Farage may be flawed individuals, but then, so were Roosevelt and Churchill, and history has cast the former pair into the historic roles that the latter played in the 1940s.

If Kenny realises this, he can add some noble purpose to his (thus far, largely pointless) reign in power. However, Ireland's respectable opinion still pines for the Merkel doctrine. The preference was best summed-up on the Senate floor last week by Labour's Aodhan O'Riordan, an upper house member whose inglorious career as a TD was ended by his North Bay constituents last February. O'Riordan was so outraged at the Kenny government's gracious congratulation of Mr. Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, that his face flushed with righteous anger as he denounced Trump as a Fascist and professed to be embarrassed at the official government reaction to his election. I wish O'Riordan's hysteria represented a lunatic fringe but, alas, it reflects what most of the political class seems to privately think.

Throughout his time in office, Enda Kenny has not once chosen to take a stand against trendy, progressive mores so one cannot be optimistic that he will act in our national interest. However, if he wishes to (even just momentarily) recapture the spirit of anti-metropolitan rebellion that he occasionally showed in opposition, he will stand athwart Merkel's frightful vision for the future and say nein.    

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Obama's Legacy: President Trump

2008 seems like another world, doesn't it? Nobody came to the office of President of the US with as much good will as Barack Obama and it seems superficially surprising that what appeared to be an inherently healing moment could be the prelude to eight years of almost unprecedented division and vitriol. In hindsight though, the signs of what was to come were there all along. An extraordinarily complicit media foreshadowed its complete abandonment of basic journalistic standards in 2016 by giving Obama a free pass on his long-term association with the sinister ethno-nationalist preacher Jeremiah Wright and Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers. History has also crammed down the memory hole the fact that despite his opponent running an extraordinarily inept campaign that included an incredibly dubious vice-presidential choice and a bizarre ad on the day of Obama's convention speech which all but invited people to vote for the Democratic nominee, the lustrous aura of faux-reconciliation was already beginning to rub off the holy one before he had even been elected. Never forget that a week before Lehman Brothers collapsed, John McCain had clawed back his deficit and gone into a slight lead. Without Dick Fuld's folly, Obama might never have won.

As he took office in January 2009, Obama should have realised that he was perhaps the most uniquely unqualified occupant of the office to date. His professional hinterland consisted of an academic career in which he had published neither a scholarly book nor even an academic paper, an undistinguished career as a public interest lawyer and state legislator and four inconsequential years in the Senate during which his main accomplishments consisted of authoring bills renaming post offices. Despite his indubitable intelligence and bookishness, his principal accomplishments prior to winning office were writing two mediocre books about his favourite subject: himself. In a moment that called for humility, he demonstrated the disasters that were to come by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize - an accolade that he had done literally nothing (good or bad) to earn.

Had he shown some humility, he might have concentrated on foreign policy - one of the few areas in which the US Constitution accords the president significant unilateral power. Despite his puerile (and probably quite superficial) anti-Britishness, his undergraduate prejudices against any country that's ever had a colony and his typical leftist tendency to view Islam through rose-tinted glasses, Obama's core instincts in relation to foreign policy seemed to be sensible. He appeared to have absorbed the lesson that every American intervention in the Middle East and West Asia had been a disaster and they should leave well enough alone. Had he decided to define his presidency by reference to a cold, realist foreign policy and given up on grandiose domestic projects that had no viability in an era of austerity, he might have been a successful (if hardly spectacular) president. However, despite having opinions on foreign relations, they did not motivate or animate him. Obama cared more about a domestic agenda of big government leftism. He therefore made the Lyndon Johnson trade-off. In order to reserve political capital for his socialistic domestic agenda, he outsourced foreign policies to the Wilsonian and Neo-Con cadres whose failures in Iraq had discredited his predecessor before the 2008 crash had even occurred.

Had he asserted himself properly, the disastrous war in Libya, with the subsequent North African division of the migrant crisis might never have happened, the Saudi and Qatari-backed "freedom fighters" of Syria might never have crystallised into ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra and the so-called "Arab Spring" might have been recognised as a reactionary Islamic revanche rather than a democratic revolution. When Donald Trump called Obama the founder of ISIS, he wasn't entirely accurate, as ISIS has many other fathers (and mothers), but his underlying point as to the centrality of Obama's negligence in the group's foundation was spot-on.  

Having turned his back on foreign affairs, Obama pursued what appeared to be his main policy objective of radically socialising vast swathes of the American economy. First, he enacted an US$800 billion"stimulus" package of pork barrel spending and tax cuts. It turned out that the Federal government couldn't actually identify infrastructure or public works projects quickly enough to spend the money, the result of which was that the inventory cycle had rolled over and the Great Recession had technically ended before the first Dollar of stimulus money was spent. His other main priorities were comprehensive "climate change" action which would have inflicted massive pain on blue collar America at the point at which it could least afford it and a law called "Card Check", which was designed to make it easier for Trade Unions to intimidate recalcitrant workers into voting for union representation by eliminating secret ballot requirements. When these Bills died in Congress, he turned his attention to passing Obamacare, a chaotic farrago of bureaucratic socialism and crony capitalism to make it palatable to industry special interests. This was to be his signature policy achievement and, ironically, one of the tie breaker issues that brought Donald Trump to power.

Even after all these years, it seems to me that Obama's policies were designed to worsen the 2009 recession, to elongate it and to deepen it for the purposes of making vast swathes of the population welfare-dependant and inclined to support bigger government - and he came quite a long way down that road to achieving his aim. However, it would have taken a powerful imagination to foresee that the Federal Reserve would be able to use 84 months of zero interest rates and three rounds of quantitative easing to inflate yet another massive financial bubble. This bubble saved his presidency from one-term ignominy by depriving his Tea Party opposition of political oxygen, but it probably also killed the plans of his more ideological backers like Jared Bernstein, Van Jones and Robert Reich for a vast expansion of central planning over the economy.

Bubbles aside though, a second term and the attendant liberation from electoral concerns allowed Obama to pursue his pet projects. What happened next surprised me. Just as he had quickly lost interest in foreign policy in his first term, he seemed to lose interest in economic policy in his second. A lame duck Obama felt free to pursue his passion for racial identity politics. His hostility to his country's ethnic majority was never too hard for an astute observer to glean. In his early years, he concealed it beneath a veil of patronising condescension ("bitterly clinging to their guns and religion") but as time wore on, his petulant personality made it harder and harder for him and his wife to conceal their distaste. In 2008, Michelle Obama had said that ordinary people's lives had been worsening for decades - they had. By 2016, she chided Mr. Trump by saying that America had "never been greater" than today - an easy conclusion to reach if you believe that those whose lives are demonstrably getting worse are somehow getting what they deserve.

Obama and his supporters made no effort to conceal their desire to increase the size of their "minority" electoral base by throwing the Mexican border open (even going so far as to sue the State of Arizona for trying to enforce Federal immigration laws) and announcing that after the failure to pass "Comprehensive Immigration Reform", the Federal government would simply stop enforcing immigration laws against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country. In addition to essentially destroying the last vestiges of constitutional governance by legislating by executive order, Obama was, in broad daylight, trying to, as Brecht would put it, "elect a new people" in order to turn his country into a one-party state.

Meanwhile, in the field of domestic race relations, Obama and his allies shamelessly incited flashmobs in low and middle income locales on the basis of "racist killing" narratives, many of which collapsed on their first contact with scrutiny. The two most famous rallying points were the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In the case of Martin, the Florida police made an entirely justifiable decision not to prosecute his killer George Zimmerman, in a case which distinguished Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said had "reasonable doubt" and "self defence" written all over it. Obama demagogically encouraged an ultimately unsuccessful prosecution by saying that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon". In the case of Michael Brown, a fabricated narrative was promulgated in which Brown had begged Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department to please not shoot. By the time it emerged that Brown had been violently assaulting Wilson and trying to grab his gun off him, a convenience store from which Brown had earlier robbed a packet of cigars had been burned down by an angry mob.

Obama and his attorneys general, Holder and Lynch, used their bully pulpit and a plethora of Justice Department law suits to falsely gin up a picture of a criminal justice system resembling the plot of To Kill a Mocking Bird. In so doing, they created a crisis which vaguely resembles the plot of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. Since the Ferguson shooting, murders have climbed by 16.2% in America's 56 largest metropolitan areas and yet Obama's Justice Department and its compliant press minions furiously deny that there is any such thing as a "Ferguson Effect".

Ultimately, Obama's embrace of institutional political correctness, his indifference to concerns about executive overreach, a rogue administrative state, chaotic law enforcement and his open expressions of disdain for working class white males created what his hysterical acolytes are calling the "whitelash". One does not have to believe in the ridiculous caricature of "Trumpism" as a white male supremacist movement to accept that it is, first and foremost, a vehicle for white and male anger. What Obama's supporters need to accept is that this anger is both rational and justified.

So what is Obama's legacy? Not Obamacare. That is now surely doomed. Not the rest of his agenda, which was achieved by executive orders which can be repealed in a heartbeat. No. His legacy is President Trump. Trump is the apotheosis of the Obama agenda: proof that his efforts to start a culture war against the historic American nation have been an unqualified success. He is also its ultimate downfall: it was a war he could not win and hasn't.