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:


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:


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.)