Thursday, 30 June 2016

Tory Leadership Candidates

The clown Boris Johnson is now out of the Tory leadership race - which is very good news indeed because his anti-E.U. credentials were always suspect. The five confirmed candidates for the leadership are Michael Gove, Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox. Of these five I would prefer either Gove or Leadsom, though I'm not sure which of the two would be better.

Michael Gove is essentially a like-minded minarchist type who has been trying to reform government from the inside. His anti-E.U. credentials are solid. He consistently argued for non-political solutions to social problems during his time as a regular guest on BBC Radio 4 programmes when I was a postgraduate student in Edinburgh. And the mere fact that the teacher's union hated him is a strong indication that he was doing something right, given that they are overwhelmingly progressive despot and paleo-commie types.

Andrea Leadsom also has solid anti-E.U. credentials like Gove, and she has had a long career in finance and investment banking before becoming an MP and later a Minister in the Treasury and then the Department for Energy & Climate Change. During her time in the latter post she became a strong advocate of fracking and domestic production of natural gas in Lancashire and other places at a time when this was absolutely necessary.

Theresa May would be a very bad choice for two reasons: she was in favour of Britain remaining in the E.U. and she has had a terrible record on civil liberties during her time as Home Secretary.

Stephen Crabb is a junior minister with comparatively little experience, so there isn't much on which to judge him.

Liam Fox has been in frontline politics for a long time, but is unacceptable due to his call for the Guardian to be prosecuted following their publication of Edward Snowden's revelations on electronic surveillance of the public by the NSA and GCHQ.

So it's either Michael Gove or Andrea Leadsom for me, though I'd have difficulty choosing between the two.

Post-Brexit Thoughts

Despite feeling somewhat drained over the last week, and despite various other things vying for my attention, I think it's worthwhile taking the time to sit down and write up some of my thoughts here on four broad aspects of the Brexit fallout, followed by the question of what the implications may be for Taiwan.

Although other EU leaders have called for the UK to leave asap so that they may concentrate on preventing other member states from holding similar referenda, there is nevertheless still some uncertainty in UK politics right now. Some of the people who voted Remain have actually had the hubris and insufferable arrogance to call for a second referendum. The PM has already resigned and will formally leave office sometime in October. With the exception of UKIP, all major political parties in the UK were in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, and likewise there is a majority of MPs whose views stand against the wish of the electorate just expressed in last week's referendum. The formal diplomatic procedure for withdrawing from the EU, the recently-famous "Article 50" has yet to be engaged by the government, despite the referendum result and there is now some uncertainty as to whether this will even happen. With a new PM likely in October, there will be intense pressure behind the scenes (which may include blackmail) for the new PM to either quietly forget about it, or to launch a second referendum or to ensure Britain at least retains EEA membership similar to Norway. Boris Johnson and Dan Hannan probably can't be trusted even though they were publicly in favour of Leaving, so we have to hope that the new PM is going to be someone like Michael Gove or David Davis. If the new PM is a Remainer, then we are in for a disaster because such a person is highly unlikely to enact Article 50. UKIP will retain critical electoral significance unless and until Article 50 is enacted and the UK begins the formal process of withdrawing from the EU.  Finally, although the Queen is still alive, she is now very old and frail and has never previously interfered with the actions of Parliament.

***

Analyzing party political maneouvering is not my main interest, but from this mess it looks like there are several possible scenarios.

1) Boris Johnson takes over as PM in October and delays enacting Article 50. He then attempts to fudge the issue by negotiating a deal for Britain similar to that of Norway. He may succeed or he may find that the EU is not interested in negotitating with him.

2) An actually conservative member of the Tories such as David Davis, Michael Gove or possibly Steve Baker takes over as PM in October and immediately enacts the formal withdrawal procedures of Article 50 in addition to beginning talks with the EU on free trade agreements and other arrangements concerning existing migrants, visas and the like.

3) The current administration takes the unusual step of calling for an early general election. One of two scenarios emerges: both Tories and Labour pledge to keep the UK in the EU and then lose massive numbers of seats to UKIP; or either one of these two parties pledges to enact Article 50 and withdraw the UK from the EU.

4) At some point before the end of the year, probably after a new PM has taken office, the government kneels to demands from elsewhere in the media, academic, financial and political establishment for a second referendum on the issue.

These possibilities are obviously not exhaustive. Of the four, the second scenario is preferable but perhaps the least likely. If either of the first or third scenarios were to come about then there is a question of whether we may see mass defections to UKIP and a landslide change in the electoral map accompanied by the possible demise of both the Tories and Labour. The fourth scenario would be very serious as it could trigger a constitutional crisis. Parliament deliberately choosing to ignore the result of the referendum would be a violation of the terms of Parliament's legitimacy. I doubt that Queen Elizabeth II, now elderly and frail, would have the courage to dismiss Parliament and appoint a new government willing to enact the will of the people as expressed in the referendum result, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility. But as I said above, analyzing party political maneovring is not my strength. I'm more Stark than Littlefinger.

***

Assuming that disaster does not occur and that something closer to scenario 2) evolves then the government will enact Article 50 and the UK will actually formally leave the EU. That is my preferred option as, with the right leadership in place, there will then be a tremendous opportunity for the British government to begin political reforms that may have international implications. UKIP will no longer exist as a political party as its' raison detre would have been fulfilled and there would have to be a massive realignment of party politics.

Two of the most important areas of reform would be trade and immigration.

There would have to be new trade agreements signed between the UK and the EU, but also between the UK and numerous other nations that were formerly trading with the UK via EU trade agreements, so this includes the U.S., China and Japan among others. There would also be a new opportunity for the UK to sign trade agreements with other countries that were formerly hindered by EU trading rules, so that includes a number of other Asian, South American and African countries. It would be both preferable and expeditious for this considerable number of trade agreements to take the radical form of the abolition of UK import tariffs, import quotas and other restrictions and that this could be done irrespective of what the other governments choose to do in regards to such restrictions. One would hope that they would follow the UK's free trade example, but it is not necessary for our purposes that they do. Radical free trade agreements of this nature could be completed very quickly (hopefully within weeks or even days), and this would all be very much to the long-term benefit of UK consumers. Trade agreements of this kind would also contrast greatly with the protectionist approach the EU takes to trade with other countries outside the EU, and this may embolden people within other EU member states to also seek withdrawal from the EU.

However, free trade in goods would only be a half-measure if it were not also paralleled by new free trade agreements in services also, which would allow European workers and professionals (and indeed those from outside the EU) to come and work in the UK without having to meet the demands of entrenched licensing rackets. The legislation underpinning the UK's various licensing organizations must be repealed so that these organizations would then have to work within a system of voluntary registration. A move like that would mean that large swathes of the UK's formerly comfortable, closed-shop middle classes would now have to face unfettered market competition. A move like that would also necessitate appropriate immigration reform to allow European professionals to obtain work and residency visas now in place of the old EU arrangements.

In addition, choices would have to be made regarding the immigration of low-skilled people, the plight of the native working classes in the north and, in particular, the immigration of Muslims. This is not an easy problem to solve, particularly when the media establishment are still ready to scream "racism" at any suggestion that is less than absolutely open borders and a maximum welfare state. Ultimately that is the real choice: we can have either a welfare state or open borders, but we cannot have both. Probably the easiest and most likely choice is to begin restricting immigration whilst also reducing the welfare state, but if this is done too slowly, there will be time for opposition to organize and prevent the reforms from reaching their conclusion. I think the focus really ought to be on three things; the repeal of hate speech and anti-discrimination legislation; the regeneration of the economy in northern England; and the dismantling of the welfare state as quickly as possible. We cannot go on in a situation where the northern working classes are effectively ghettoized in their own country and denied the right to complain and dissent by shouting them down and slandering them as "racists". That is a ticking time bomb. At the same time, there has to be an economic regeneration of the north if not quite a reindustrialization, then something not too dissimilar to it. And you can't accomplish that without removing the perverse and soul-destroying incentive traps laid by the welfare state. If those three things can be accomplished, then the immigration issue may largely disappear and be forgotten.

***

As Peter Hitchens remarked in an interview the other day, Britain's major political parties are now transparently at odds with the electorate, as large numbers of both "traditional Labour" voters and "traditional Tory" voters wanted Brexit, whereas the modern Conservative and Labour parties were officially in favour of Britain remaining in the E.U. It seems likely that there is now considerable ideological overlap across "class" boundaries with Brexit drawing voters from both "high Tory" types and the northern working classes, as well as parts of the mostly non-London based middle class. By contrast the Remain vote seemed to be concentrated in the UK's extremities and among media types, academics, celebrities, artists, ethnic minorities and probably most of the comfortably well off, sinecured and property owning middle classes.

One thing I am certain of, however, simply because I read a lot, is that the Brexiteer voters were largely united in a long-suppressed rage and discontent at the transgressions of political correctness on freedom of speech and freedom of association (and disassociation). Although the E.U. is only partly responsible for those transgressions, with much of the work having been carried out by Britain's own political class, it has long been clear that a vote against the E.U. would also be a symbolic vote against the treachery of Britain's own political classes. The Leave campaign slogan of "let's take back control of our country" epitomises this.

On the other side of the fence in the Remain camp are large numbers of people (with a number of honorable exceptions of course) who positively revel in political correctness and who have employed its' various shibboleths repeatedly both as a substitute for thinking, a means of virtue signalling to their peer groups for the maintenance of "moral status", and as a weapon for shaming and dismissing those with the temerity to have "wrong" opinions or to object to their preferred government policies.

So, in addition to the primary objection to the E.U., which is its' dearth of democratic accountability and the absurd nature of much of European law, I think there has also been a strong tide of backlash against the tools of political correctness imposed by self styled "progressive" despots. This also ties in with the popular objection to mass immigration. I suspect that there is hardly anyone in the Brexit camp who would object to foreigners with marketable skills entering and residing in the UK. Similarly I don't think one would find many objecting to the arrival of Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Rastafarians and other religious and ethnic minorities. Instead the objection is largely concentrated on Muslims and we all know why. It's not because they have a different skin colour, it's because an increasing portion of their young men are becoming sympathetic to Islamic terrorism and a large number of them are also involved in violent crime. And one of the downstream consequences of political correctness has been to insulate these individuals from the criminal justice system for years. The Rotherham child abuse case is the obvious example, even though I personally suspect the numbers of girls raped in that case were likely exaggerated. What ought to have been absolutely intolerable and met with the full fury of the law, was deliberately tolerated and ignored by the police and local authorities for a long time and that was made possible by the zealous, puritanical overuse of the doctrines of political correctness.

***

Another aspect of the Brexit fallout has been a tendency in the media to turn in on itself. What I mean by that is the apparent assumption by media commenters that the motives of the people voting for Brexit can be explained by the foci of the media Leave campaign. This accounts for the "narrative" in which Brexiteer voters are depicted by insinuation as stupid, ignorant, old, misinformed, misled, racist, xenophobic knuckle dragging retards who deserve a mixture of pity and contempt from their betters. It does not seem to occur to them that many Brexiteer voters would have likely made up their mind many years ago and paid little, if any, attention to the messages of the Leave campaign. This is reflected in the broader tendency I have found in my opponents to argue with me, not about the actual content of my remarks, but about the claims of the Leave campaign. Since when did I or anyone else take on a duty to defend the Leave campaign?

It is the condescending presumption among the "Remnants" that nobody could possibly disagree with them unless they were in a prior state of ignorance and then deliberately misinformed and misled by the wicked Leave campaign.

People are more complicated than that.

***

What are the implications of Brexit for the rest of the world?

Depending on what happens now, I would think that a Britain which began making unilateral declarations of free trade in goods and services would be a great example to other nations throughout the world. It would demonstrate once again that years and years and years of trade negotiations only occur because domestic producers are using their governments to rip off the consumers. If these simple, unilateral free trade deals are pursued vigorously and with conviction and with a steadfast refusal to be bent by the demands of British exporters, then they can be completed quickly and Britain's economic recovery can begin as soon as possible. An enterprising approach may even be to take advantage of the current vaccuum and invite producers in other countries such as Chile or Taiwan to begin making business trips to the UK now to sign deals before there is even any government sponsored trade agreement.

It's also worth noting that this might well be an inflection point in global politics; a watershed moment from which will follow the backlash against political correctness and the despotism of the so-called "progressives". What the new UK government must do, aside from repealing legislation, is to destroy the quangos and various other public bodies with official ties to the government; things like OFCOM which are part of the power base of the despots and from which demands for new regulations are forever being made. Opposition parties in Taiwan ought to take note of what the UK government begins to do in October, because the DPP and their allies are similarly styled to the UK's own domestic "progressives".

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A Momentary Loss Of Temper

"You simply lost. And you lost despite the incompetence of Boris Johnson, and the Leave campaign; you lost despite having a majority of MPs and political parties supporting your cause; you lost despite having the support of the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Independent and numerous other media organizations to run your own fear-mongering campaigns about "collapse" and "disaster" and smear campaigns about "racism"; you lost despite having the support of various EU leaders; you lost despite having the support of the U.S., Japanese and Chinese political leadership; you lost despite having the support of the world's largest investment banks like Goldman Sachs and J.P Morgan. Your side had almost unlimited money and support throughout all aspects of the world's political, media and financial establishment. And yet you still lost. 
And after all that, it still hasn't occured to you why."
An exerpt from my comment on this article/advertisement referring to Brexit at The News Lens International.

"The Poncey Remnants"

"Ever since Friday’s Glorious Victory, one of the chief recreation activities of we Brexiters of a childish bent has been the Taunting Of The Remnants, mostly online. ‘How are you comforting yourself?’ one Facebook post asked. ‘In the usual way – with the tears of the vanquished,’ I replied..." 
"...We have been told that the vote – and the nation – is divided between rich and poor and young and old but frankly I believe that the biggest divide was between Ponces (Remain) and Non-Ponces (Leave)."
The hilarious Julie Burchill writing in the Spectator. I have been doing my taunting of the poncey remnants mostly offline down the pub, though I really need to finish my own post-Brexit essay.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

"Democracy Has Failed Us": The Hubris Of Progressive Despotism



Oh and "Roll With It" was better than "Parklife", you sanctimonious git.

An Observation

But first, a confession: I believe that the value of democratic mechanisms of government has long been exaggerated by the newspapers and universities in order to obscure the value of constitutional restraints on political power, whether that power is expressed autocratically or democratically. Without such restraints, democratic mechanisms can be used to trample individual rights with the mob or this or that racketeering group wrapping themselves in the disguise of "the public interest", and that is largely why I am not a democracy fanboy.

Yet isn't it strange how, following the Brexit referendum result on Friday, there have been no op-eds in either the Taipei Times or The News Lens International extolling the virtues of democracy, independence and national self-determination? Readers were frequently reminded of these things in editorial after editorial after editorial in the run up to and aftermath of Taiwan's recent general election and have been similarly reminded in frequent reports and editorials on the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong.

After the British referendum result on Friday however, the newspapers have barely uttered a squeak. Perhaps one could be forgiven for thinking that there is an unwritten rule under which the virtues of democracy, independence and national self-determination are only virtues when the "right" result is achieved?

Or as Tam puts it: "that stuff is not for crackers".

"Against Dog Whistle-Ism"

Another good, reasonable post at Slate Star Codex detailing one of the delusions of political correctness. I would think that surely everyone who does not live and breathe within that particular bubble has been able to see the nonsense of these claims for years, and Scott Alexander goes to some length to extract the worm of unreason from several prominent examples.

It was largely the hubris of people in the "Progressive Despot" camp that led me to predict, at the start of this year, that Donald Trump's brash attitude would mean he will be elected as the next U.S. president. The backlash has begun.