Quotulatiousness

October 9, 2017

QotD: The fall and rise of the “liberal” label in Canada

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The word “liberal” began to encounter a well-known crisis starting in about 1980. Liberalism had become equated with feeble criminal justice, Cold War slackness, large public deficits, high taxes, squirrelly currency … the mix of outrages varied from place to place and from time to time, but the common theme was weakness. To be a liberal was to be spongy and soft-headed about Darwinian imperatives of life, foreign policy and economics.

Our federal Liberal party has, given time, addressed some of these perceptions head-on and simply outlasted others. The capital-L Liberal brand has benefited from a whole range of phenomena, from Paul Martin’s curtailment of the federal public service to Justin Trudeau beating the crap out of a Conservative senator on television and looking good doing it. Trudeau took pains to stress the presence of “liberty” in the name “Liberal,” which had become almost a forgotten secret, a coincidence of etymology. That deprived the Conservatives of some of the energy that socially liberal and libertarian fellow-travellers might have brought to the contest.

Perhaps the secret of recent history in the provinces is that conservatives are not addressing psycho-semantic problems with the term “conservative.” How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a social liberal but a conservative on economics”? This is the default political position of most adults now, is it not? Liberalism, which is to say pluralism, has won the argument in the “social” realm of government. What once was liberalism in economics, the dirigisme that my generation was taught to think of as the “mixed economy,” has largely lost; but the people who call themselves Liberals have succeeded at extricating themselves from the reputational burden.

Colby Cosh, “Is conservatism on the way out?”, National Post, 2015-11-10.

September 29, 2017

Judge Roy Moore as a sign that worse is coming

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR posted this to G+ yesterday:

Judge Roy Moore, a truly repellent creature who reifies every liberal’s fantasy of what fundamentalist conservatives are like (well, except for the racism – even Moore is not actually a racist), has won in Alabama against a candidate backed by the GOP establishment and Trump.

And I wonder if Democrats are too far gone to heed the warning.

You demonized the Tea Party, and you got Trump. If you neutralize or expel Trump as you dream of doing, worse is coming. Roy Moore is worse. Roy Moore is a sign. The conservative/populist revolt can no longer be contained even by Trump. The beast is loose.

Time to question your assumptions, Democrats (and establishment Republicans). The more painful and disruptive that self-questioning is, the more likely it is that your party might escape the destruction that is coming.

As the Instapundit often says, “Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.”

September 24, 2017

QotD: Libertarians and Conservatives

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

‘Who lost the libertarians?” It’s a question you hear a lot from conservatives of late. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has followed the conservative movement’s internecine intellectual frictions over the last decade — or decades. Self-described libertarians are a minority, even among the ranks of people one could properly describe as libertarian. On many, or even most, contentious public-policy issues — economics, gun rights, health care, free speech, regulation, constitutional interpretation — most support for the libertarian position actually comes from people who describe themselves as conservatives. In other words, conservatives tend to be libertarian, but libertarians tend not to be conservative.

And self-described libertarians are very keen on emphasizing that distinction. They justifiably point to the areas, many of them quite significant, where the bulk of libertarians depart from the conservative consensus: foreign policy, drugs, gay rights, etc. Of course, the demarcations between these different camps are not hard and clearly defined. Many conservatives now — and even more in the past — hold the same convictions as libertarians on foreign policy and drugs and, to a lesser extent, on issues such as gay rights. But as a generalization, libertarians want to have their own identity, separate and distinct from that of conservatism. They’re a bit like the Canadians you meet abroad who go to almost obsessive lengths to show everyone that they aren’t American.

Jonah Goldberg, “Fusionism, Sixty Years Later”, National Review, 2015-11-05.

September 23, 2017

The end of Andrew Scheer’s brief political honeymoon

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition isn’t quite the easy job some people seem to think it is. Paul Wells explains why Andrew Scheer’s brief time in office is already becoming much more of a grind than he may have anticipated:

There comes a time in every new opposition leader’s career when he discovers it’s a horrible job. This usually happens early.

The reasons why it seems like it shouldn’t be a horrible job are: (a) all you have to do is make fun of the government; (b) being an opposition leader, and therefore hating the government to your bones already, for reasons of ideology or team allegiance or both, it seems to you that everyone in the country will want to join you in making fun of the government; (c) it’s a nice job in general, with a suite of offices and an excellent seat in the House of Commons.

The reasons why it turns out to be a bad job anyway are: (a) you’re probably in opposition because your party has lost an election, and many Canadians haven’t yet forgotten why they wanted that to happen; (b) the rotten press corps will insist on poking and prodding the opposition’s behaviour, rather than focussing its wrath entirely on the government; (c) the job carries all of the perils of government — gaffes, caucus management, infighting — with none of the institutional clout.

And so hello to Andrew Scheer, who’s having a bit of a week.

Scheer (and his supporters) may have thought that just being not-Harper would be enough. It’s clearly not enough:

I don’t think Scheer’s performance on these files is determined solely by his temperament, either. It’s also structural. He sold himself to his party as a specific kind of cure to Harperism. It’s not clear he has the luxury to be that kind of cure.

By the time Scheer became Conservative leader, many Conservatives, probably most, were heartily sick of the Harper party’s oppressive message-control mechanisms. The forms you had to fill out, the layers of approval. Opinions diverged on whether the party needed to change its policy direction, but in its day-to-day communications and caucus management, the overwhelming consensus was that it needed a lighter touch.

Scheer’s selling proposition to Conservatives was that he could appeal to moderates by being a nicer guy than Harper, but that he could mollify the activist base by letting it act up a bit, without fear of reprisal. Blow off some steam. Have a few debates. The driving assumption seems to be that Harper brought the hammer down on his own people because Harper is the kind of guy who enjoys bringing the hammer down. And there’s some truth to that!

But there’s also the absolutely brutal purgatory the Canadian Alliance went through for two years before Harper became that party’s leader. Plummeting in the polls. Constant MP defections from caucus. Mockery in the news coverage. To some extent, this continued through the 2004 election, which Harper believed he lost because he could not trust his own candidates not to sound crazy. That’s why he clamped down.

Scheer will soon have to decide whether he can afford to let his caucus members say what they want. Until he does, the emerging pattern of his management style — laissez faire, followed by hasty backtracking — will come to define him.

July 20, 2017

Deirdre McCloskey defines libertarianism as “Liberalism 1.0”

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The introduction to her “Manifesto for a New American Liberalism, or How to Be a Humane Libertarian” [PDF] states:

I make the case for a new and humane American “libertarianism.”

Outside the United States libertarianism is still called plain “liberalism,” as in the usage of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, with no “neo-” about it. That’s the L-word I’ll use here. The economist Daniel Klein calls it “Liberalism 1.0,” or, channeling the old C. S. Lewis book Mere Christianity on the minimum commitments of faith (1942-44, 1952), “mere Liberalism.” David Boaz of the Cato Institute wrote a lucid guide, Libertarianism — A Primer (1997), reshaped in 2015 as The Libertarian Mind. I wish David had called it The Liberal Mind.

In desperate summary for you Americans, Liberalism 1.0 is Democratic in social policy and Republican in economic policy and non-interventionist in foreign policy. It is in fact mainly against “policy,” which has to be performed, if there is to be a policy at all, through the government’s monopoly of violence. (To confirm this experimentally, try not paying your taxes; then try to escape from prison.) Liberals 1.0 believe that having little or no policy is a good policy.

That does not put the Liberals 1.0 anywhere along the conventional one-dimensional left-right line, stretching from a compelled right-conservative policy to a compelled left-”liberal” policy. The real liberals instead sit happily up on a second dimension, the non-policy apex of a triangle, so to speak, the base of which is the conventional axis of policy by violence. We Liberals 1.0 are neither conservatives nor socialists — both of whom believe, with the legal mind, as the liberal economist and political philosopher Friedrich Hayek put it in 1960, that “order [is] … the result of the continuous attention of authority.” Both conservatives and socialists, in other words, “lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about.”

Liberals 1.0 don’t like violence. They are friends of the voluntary market order, as against the policy-heavy feudal order or bureaucratic order or military-industrial order. They are, as Hayek declared, “the party of life, the party that favors free growth and spontaneous evolution,” against the various parties of left and right which wish “to impose [by violence] upon the world a preconceived rational pattern.”

At root, then, Liberals 1.0 believe that people should not push other people around. As Boaz says at the outset of The Libertarian Mind, “In a sense, there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.” Real, humane Liberals 1.0 […] believe that people should of course help and protect other people when we can. That is, humane liberals are very far from being against poor people. Nor are they ungenerous, or lacking in pity. Nor are they strictly pacifist, willing to surrender in the face of an invasion. But they believe that in achieving such goods as charity and security the polity should not turn carelessly to violence, at home or abroad, whether for leftish or rightish purposes, whether to help the poor or to police the world. We should depend chiefly on voluntary agreements, such as exchange-tested betterment, or treaties, or civil conversation, or the gift of grace, or a majority voting constrained by civil rights for the minority.

To use a surprising word, we liberals, whether plain 1.0 or humane, rely chiefly on a much-misunderstood “rhetoric,” despised by the hard men of the seventeenth century such as Bacon and Hobbes and Spinoza, but a practice anciently fitted to a democratic society. Liberalism is deeply rhetorical, the exploration (as Aristotle said) of the available means of non-violent persuasion. For example, it’s what I’m doing for you now. For you, understand, not to you. It’s a gift, not an imposition. (You’re welcome.)

July 18, 2017

Signs of the libertarian revolution

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

L. Neil Smith explains how some clearly libertarian trends are being misinterpreted in the latest Libertarian Enterprise:

… primarily as a result of the Internet turning human communications completely sideways, depriving those who have falsely believed they own us of their lofty perches, the 10,000-year-old Age of Authority is ending. Communication between human beings is now lateral, egalitarian, even Tweets from the President, and it doesn’t matter at all how much governments stomp their jackbooted feet or scream and shout. Their kind of social structure is doomed as humanity enters a new era.

One set of consequences of this change is examined, if a bit superficially, in a June article on Breitbart.com by one Liam Deacon, who informs us that a new study finds that “Traditional Views on Same Sex Marriage, Abortion, Pornography [and sex before marriage] in Britain [are] Rapidly Diminishing”. These are trends of the last four years, and to the extent they’ve also occurred long since in America — add in the legalization of marijuana and the increased tendency of individuals to arm themselves against crime and terrorism — it means that most academic and official analyses of socio-political events from, perhaps, the Tea Party Uprising of 2009. through the election of Donald Trump to the triumph of Brexit are dead wrong. We are not undergoing any merely conservative or populist (whatever that means) swing of the pendulum, but an all-out libertarian revolution. I think I know one when I see one: I’ve been doing my best to arrange one for my entire adult life.

According to the study, conducted in 2016, the latest edition of the “British Social Attitudes” survey, resistance from organized Christianity, even the Roman Catholic Church, which used to form a bulwark against social changes like this, is now crumbling, with 64 percent in favor of gay marriage, and 75 percent favoring pre-marital sex. Seventy percent of Catholics believe that abortion is within a woman’s rights. Pornography, too, is now approved by a majority.

Researchers somehow, irrationally, believe that these changes are in opposition to other events, such as “Brexit, Trump, and Le Pen” but they’re wrong. The object in all cases, is self-determination, which is the very heart of libertarianism. Increasingly, people — of all ages, the article observed with a note of amazement — are unwilling to accept dictation from once-respected leaders and traditional social, political, and economic structures. I’d like to believe this is because of the conspicuous failures of authority over the past century or so, but, entirely without condescending — most people are just too busy earning a living and living their lives for theories — I’m not certain that the average person’s thinking is that informed or organized.

More likely, the soap-opera of everyday living has taught them far better than the pompous pronouncements of the fat-heads in power. And for those of us who never believed in Authority, that’s very good news.

July 9, 2017

QotD: Maxime “Mad Max” Bernier’s oh-so-close loss in the Conservative leadership race

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… for those of us who supported the man we call ‘Mad Max,’ Bernier’s loss was a heartbreaking disappointment. Yet, his defeat need not be a loss. His campaign was unlike any other for high national office in the modern history of Canada. It was not a traditional campaign focused on his likeableness or on minor ideological differences from other candidates, but rather one that proposed wholesale reform and sweeping policy changes. Max’s campaign was not simply about a candidate. It was a movement to revolutionize Canadian conservatism.

Max fused traditional conservatism with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on an array of issues

That movement can broadly be described as liberty-conservatism. Max fused traditional conservatism—patriotism, respect for civil and family institutions, a strong national defence, and fiscal responsibility—with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on issues like corporate welfare, supply management, equalization, micro-tax cuts, and federal overreach into areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is a ‘get off my lawn’ conservatism that believes that the government’s power should be sharply restricted—from intruding into our wallets, our televisions (CRTC, CBC), our dinner tables, our speech, and our bedrooms.

The liberty-conservative movement broke all the moulds of traditional, Laurentian-dominated, consensus politics. It was young, it was online, and it was aggressive. It took on sacred cows that no major, national candidate had been willing to talk seriously about before.

Derek Fildebrandt, “Mad Max was not just a candidate. His campaign was a revolution for Canadian conservatism”, National Post, 2017-05-29.

June 13, 2017

QotD: Conservative love of the police

Filed under: Law, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is absolutely nothing that conservatives love more than cops. To the average right-winger, cops are everything good and wonderful about the world — a thin blue line of barrel-chested, chivalrous, honorable men who are standing, at great personal risk to themselves, against an onrushing hoard of savages who will murder our children, rape our wives, and sweep away all the gains of Civilization over the last 200 years. As a result, anyone who dares to criticize police officer is on the side of anarchy and violence; anyone who mindlessly adores the cops and will kneel down when asked to lick their boots is a defender of justice and of order.

What this means is that conservatives are constantly misinterpreting any legitimate criticism of American police officers as being some kind of an affront to civilized society, a sop on behalf of violent criminals, rapists, and murderers. Recently, a cop got pistol whipped after, according to him, decided not to use force because he was worried about how it would look on the evening news. […]

Basically, they take this officer’s word as law — the reason he didn’t react forcefully (even when his safety was threatened) is because, in the back of his mind, he was considering how this might potentially run on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe that’s true, but it seems equally likely that this officer made a bad call and then, when called upon to justify his poor decision making, invented an excuse that not only alleviated him of any wrongdoing, but also allowed him to proclaim that any critics of the police are putting lives in danger. Now maybe a beat cop is willing to risk a beating to stay out of the news, but I myself have my doubts.

Regardless, this story has traction because conservatives steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that any criticism of the American police could possibly have merit. All critiques of the cops is illegitimate, merely another example, as if any further examples were needed, of a) the fact that black activists are anti-white racists, b) that libertarians are anti-American anarchists, and c) that progressives wish for the policy to lie prone in the streets, drowning on their own blood. No one seriously criticizes the police due to actual and legitimate concerns — it is all as a result of anti-cop bigotry and demagoguery and it is putting lives at risk.

J.R. Ireland, “Cops Deserve Rightful Criticism No Matter What Whiny, Boot Licking Conservatives Might Like to Pretend”, Locust Kings, 2015-08-20.

Note: when I originally read the linked blog post, it was available to all. At some point in the last year or so, the original author or the owner of the blog changed to a members-only model, so you are now required to log in to read it (I don’t have a Blogger account). My apologies for any inconvenience.

June 1, 2017

Terence Corcoran – It was the fake Tories that did in Maxime Bernier

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Financial Post, Terence Corcoran blames the supply management fans and other anti-free market types for Maxime Bernier’s loss in the federal Conservative leadership race:

On Monday, during a noon-hour Ontario CBC Radio show, the host opined that Maxime Bernier lost the Conservative leadership because of his “wild ideas,” as if the libertarian politician from Quebec had been offering conservatives options too crazy to contemplate.

Wild ideas? In the recent history of Canadian politics, no politician has been more grounded or sane.

[…] if accounts from the frontline are accurate, Bernier would have won the leadership were it not for vote-rigging infiltrators from the farmers’ unions and associated backers of supply management.

One source says that as many as 3,000 points went to Scheer, mostly in Quebec and Ontario, as a result of an organized campaign in which farmers temporarily joined the Conservative party and then cast votes against Bernier.

Bernier didn’t lose the leadership vote; it was stolen from him by a concerted campaign organized by members of Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) and farmers in Ontario. Via Facebook, Quebec farmers and others were urged to join the Conservative party and vote for Andrew Scheer.

Three Quebec ridings tell the story. One is Beauce, Bernier’s home riding. Right off the bat, in the opening round of the ranked ballot, Scheer collected 46.63 per cent of the points against 47.5 per cent for Bernier. By the end of the final round, Scheer was at 51 per cent versus 48 for Bernier — in a riding where Bernier is a local hero among Conservatives and hardly anyone would even know Scheer’s name.

May 29, 2017

Who the heck is Andrew Scheer?

I admit, I wasn’t really paying attention to the federal Conservative leadership race … I’d blithely assumed that Mad Max would win … so I didn’t pay much attention to the other candidates (other than my local MP, who was eliminated on the 12th ballot). So who is this new guy? Tom Flanagan thinks he’s the Tory version of our current “sunny ways” Prime Minister, god help us:

Andrew Scheer is the new Conservative leader, beating Maxime Bernier by the narrowest of margins, 51 per cent to 49 per cent. Mr. Bernier campaigned on an adventurous platform of economic libertarianism, including an end to supply management and corporate subsidies, and new approaches to equalization and to health-care funding. Mr. Scheer, in contrast, stressed continuity with past party policy. He positioned himself as the consensus candidate, the leading second or third choice.

Mr. Scheer is 38 years old, young for a political leader but not impossibly so. (Joe Clark became leader of the Progressive Conservatives at 37 and went on to beat Pierre Trudeau in the next election.) Though young, Mr. Scheer already has a lot of political experience. He has represented Regina-Qu’Appelle for 13 years and won five consecutive elections in his riding. He has also been Speaker of the House of Commons and House Leader of the Conservative Party under Rona Ambrose.

Mr. Scheer’s political roots are in Reform and the Canadian Alliance, but he followed Stephen Harper in abandoning the sorts of libertarian policies still favoured by Maxime Bernier. As leader, Mr. Scheer will continue to pursue Mr. Harper’s goals of lower taxes, balanced budgets, and closer cooperation with Canada’s international allies – things that all Conservatives agree on. Like Brad Wall, premier of his home province of Saskatchewan, he is vociferously opposed to the Liberals’ carbon tax and has promised to repeal it, though that may prove difficult to accomplish if and when he finally comes to office.

Oh, goody! He still supports market-distorting supply management and crony capitalist subsidies for “friends of the PM”. I’m sure he’ll fit in just fine in Ottawa — they’ll make room for him at the trough. Yay!

May 28, 2017

Maxime Bernier falls just short of victory in federal Conservative leader race

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:37

He was defeated on the thirteenth ballot by Andrew Scheer (who?)

Andrew Scheer emerged as Conservative leader after 13 ballots on Saturday evening, a surprise victory but one with which most Tories seem to be at peace.

He overtook Maxime Bernier on the final ballot, thanks to the support of social conservatives — even though he has pledged not to reopen the abortion debate — and Quebeckers upset at Bernier’s stance on supply management.

Bernier was struck by the 30 per cent curse: no Canadian leadership candidate has won after recording less than 30 per cent on the first ballot.

Scheer’s victory was a vote for moderation and continuity — a very conservative choice.

The new leader performed strongly in Quebec, even beating Bernier in his home riding of Beauce. He also won in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and his home province of Saskatchewan.

Scheer won by just 7,000 votes in the popular vote.

It’s pointed out that Bernier’s opposition to our illiberal protectionist supply management system may have been the deciding factor (it certainly cost him support in his own riding and in Quebec as a whole). It’d be almost amusing if Justin Trudeau is forced to break up the supply management system as a concession to save NAFTA…

May 5, 2017

Back from the brink of extinction … the Scottish Tory

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Spectator, Alex Massie discusses one of the most unexpected political revivals of this century:

Twenty years ago, Conservatism all but died in Scotland. Tony Blair’s landslide victory made Scotland, at least in terms of its Westminster representation, a Tory-free zone. At no point since has the party won more than a single Scottish seat, and the last time the party won more than a quarter of the Scottish vote, in 1983, its current leader, Ruth Davidson, was four years old. Two years ago, the Tories won just 14 per cent of the vote, an even worse result than 1997. This seemed to fit a broader narrative: Toryism had been beaten back into England, a sign of the union’s exhaustion and a Scotland moving inexorably towards independence.

How different it all looks now. The most recent opinion polls in Scotland suggest the Tories could win as many as one in three ballots cast on 8 June. One opinion poll even suggested that, albeit on a uniform swing, the party could win as many as a dozen Scottish seats — including Moray, seat of the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson. In an era where elections are delivering extra-ordinary results, one might just be a stronger union and a strange rebirth of Scottish Conservatism.

Massie credits the leader of Scotland’s Conservatives for much of the turnaround:

Just as it remains hard to imagine how the SNP could have risen to its current state of supremacy without Alex Salmond, so it is difficult to underestimate Ruth Davidson’s importance to the Scottish Tory revival. Her personal background — working-class, lesbian, BBC journalist — is often used to explain her ability to reach a wider audience than previous Tory leaders, but there is more to it than that. Viewed from one angle, she is every inch the modernising Tory — her influence played a large part in persuading Theresa May to maintain the commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid. But seen from a different perspective, she is also a traditional Conservative: a god-fearing Christian and former army reservist. She believes in gay marriage because she is a Conservative, not despite it.

Most of all, she offers an alternative to SNP orthodoxy. Sturgeon warns that only a vote for the SNP can ‘protect’ Scotland against an ‘unfettered’ Tory govern-ment whose values are alien and inimical to those of Scotland. Davidson observes that ‘the SNP is not Scotland’. Unionists are Scots too. Labour, not so long ago the party of Scotland, might even finish fourth in this election, at least in terms of seats won. If Ian Murray retains Edinburgh South, he will be Scotland’s only red panda.

Political anthropologists are already asking why the Scottish Tory party, previously thought close to extinction, has made such a remarkable recovery. For more than a generation on the left, the idea of the Tories being an invasive species in Scotland has been the foundation of first Labour and then SNP politics — but it no longer holds. If at least one in four Scots are prepared to endorse Tory candidates, can one really maintain the fiction there is something grubbily disreputable or even unpatriotic about voting for a Conservative candidate?

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

May 1, 2017

“We can leave aside the idea of a libertarian revival. No one in or near government wants less control by the State”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Sean Gabb reflects on the coming British general election (where he’s decided to hold his nose and vote Conservative, despite his strong distaste for Theresa May’s governing style and the party itself):

… we are entering an age of rapid ideological change. Questions of whether we should have identity cards, or if the authorities should be able to censor the media, are becoming less important than the questions of who makes these decisions, and how they are made. There is not – and probably, in my lifetime, never has been – a libertarian option in British politics. The choice has always been so far which elements of a broadly leftist-authoritarian agenda should be pushed hardest. The choice now is between a Conservative Government that has no electoral interest in leftism, and limited inclination to uphold its hegemony, and various parties that will try to keep that hegemony going till it fully shrivels away. The Conservative Party is an organisation of frauds and liars. Its directors are in the pocket of any interest group with money to spend. Though split on exactly what it believes, however, Labour is a party of true believers. The Conservatives will do evil by inertia, Labour by choice. Without hope of immediate improvement, I will vote Conservative.

Give her a decent majority, and Theresa May will take us out of the European Union on acceptable terms. These terms will be available almost for the asking. The European Union is little more than the agent of twenty seven governments, all with conflicting interests. The British Government will have a fresh mandate to act on behalf of a unitary state. Mrs May is no fool, and she must understand that her hold on power and her place in the history books are both contingent on how she manages our disengagement. Her lack of principle is beside the point – or may be an advantage.

And then?

We can leave aside the idea of a libertarian revival. No one in or near government wants less control by the State. Hardly any of the electors want it. This is probably for the best. I have been an insider on the British free market movement for about forty years. Those who run it are willing to nod approvingly whenever freedom of speech is mentioned, or due process of law. The mainstream utopia, though, involves full speed ahead for the City banking casinos, and an immigration policy that will stuff the rest of us into sixty-storey tower blocks of bedsitting rooms. What we can more likely expect – and hope for – is what I will delicately call a revival of national identity. This will eventually involve some regard for historic liberties. It will also involve a degree of directed reindustrialisation, and even a pretty generous welfare system.

April 23, 2017

QotD: Unthinking conservative support for the police fuels the public’s growing distrust

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here is what conservatives do not understand — they did this. The hatred you see for cops in this country? It is all on them. They are the cause behind modern hatred of American police officers because while cops were taking kids on nickle rides and were beating suspects with hoses; were mistreating inner city blacks in a fashion conservative whites would never have allowed should it have occurred in their own neighborhoods; were torturing suspects and beating bartenders in Chicago; were shooting dogs to death for no reason and skating due to horrifying laws that shield them from any sort of consequence for their actions, those same conservatives were bowing and scraping and licking the boots of every police officer who happened to come walking by. Then, when one, random cop gets pistol whipped and claims that this was the fault of all who dared to criticize his profession, suddenly conservatives work themselves into a spittle inflected frenzy that they could not seem to manage when cops were doing far worse to their fellow citizens.

Where was the howling right-wing outrage when a cop beat a woman in a bar and his buddies tried to protect him from rightful consequences? Where was this conservative anger and angst when marines, those wonderful soldiers that conservatives adore so very much, were killed during ridiculous no-knock SWAT raids that, in a legitimately free society, never should have even been conducted?

They were nowhere — they did not say a word, they hardly cared. When black and Hispanics were provably tortured by the police, they hardly cared. When marines were killed, there was not a peep from the right and we had to rely on those evil anti-American progressives and libertarians to even discuss the matter.

And then they have the audacity to criticize me for daring to be too mean to the poor widdle boys and girls of our national constabulary. Well, respectfully, I don’t feel too bad about criticizing cops and attacking the unreasonable and often criminal actions of American police officers, and I will continue whether or not I have the permission of National Review or The Blaze or any other conservative media outlet. Maybe one day, if conservatives actually begin to care about the ‘small government’ ideals they’re constantly babbling about but never exercising, they’ll join me in my protest against illegitimate police activity. Until that day, though, I will continue to assume that conservatives are all talk and bluster and mindless blather, and that they don’t actually give a good Goddamn about any of the ideals they pretend to hold.

J.R. Ireland, “Cops Deserve Rightful Criticism No Matter What Whiny, Boot Licking Conservatives Might Like to Pretend”, Locust Kings, 2015-08-20.

April 1, 2017

Repackaging H.L. Mencken for modern-day conservative tastes

Filed under: Books, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At The American Conservative, D.G. Hart attempts to rescue H.L. Mencken’s reputation from the progressives:

H.L. Mencken has a conservative problem. The Baltimore journalist became the poster boy for literary modernism thanks to his literary criticism and nationally syndicated op-ed columns, in addition to his work as a magazine editor, most notably at American Mercury. But he ranks well behind the modernist poets T.S. Eliot or Wallace Stevens as an acceptable literary figure for conservative consumption. The reason has much to do with Mencken’s skepticism and irreverence. He mocked Puritanism famously as the cultural force that gave Americans a moralistic squint. Worse, he recommended the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as an antidote to Victorian morality and then promoted Theodore Dreiser, whose novels offended censors. Mencken proved his heretical ways at the Scopes Trial, where he mocked the prosecution led by William Jennings Bryan and the “simian faithful” who hung on the Great Commoner’s every word. Everywhere Mencken turned, his mantra seemed to be “just say no” to inherited moral, intellectual, and literary standards.

[…]

It doesn’t help conservatives who have a soft spot for Mencken that Gore Vidal took inspiration from the Baltimorean. Vidal’s own moralism could be as priggish as any fundamentalist’s, but that did not stop him from recognizing Mencken as another writer who was too good for America. Vidal applauded Mencken’s ridicule of Americans’ intelligence: “The more one reads Mencken, the more one eyes suspiciously the knuckles of his countrymen,” Vidal wrote, “looking to see callouses from too constant a contact with the greensward.” How grass produces callouses is anyone’s guess, but that imagery’s challenge did not stop Vidal from recommending Mencken’s unbelief. Mencken viewed religion, Vidal contended, “as a Great Wall of China designed to keep civilization out while barbarism might flourish within the gates.” Vidal was convinced that only the few, the proud promoters of licentiousness like himself could recognize Mencken’s charms.

Of course, conservatives have saner writers like Joseph Epstein, longtime editor of The American Scholar, to speak on Mencken’s behalf. Epstein grew up at a time when reading Mencken was required by “young men with intellectual interests.” The reason was Mencken’s iconoclasm — his constant deflating of politicians, reformers, moralists, preachers, and “all the habits and attitudes and hidebound views that for him marched under the flag of twentieth-century Puritanism.” But Epstein noticed that as he became older, Mencken’s appeal grew. For starters, “few American writers have been funnier.” And Mencken’s prose was “original and unmistakable” — “strong verbs, exotic nouns, outrageous adjectives, a confident cadence … and wide learning.” Epstein also credited Mencken with an accessible and engaging point of view that relied on basic common sense. “Like Nietzsche, Mencken could be wildly extravagant, but unlike Nietzsche he was always sane,” Epstein wrote. “Like [George Bernard] Shaw, Mencken made a living out of detesting hypocrisy; but unlike Shaw, he was without the pretensions of the pundit.”

One way of putting Epstein’s point is that with Mencken there is more than meets the eye, a truism that registers as scientific fact when measuring Mencken’s literary output. Over his career he authored approximately 10 million words. That works out roughly to 40,000 pages of manuscript. At roughly 350 pages per book manuscript, that leaves Mencken with the equivalent of 115 books. Much more than meets the eye, indeed.

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