Feckless Tories and Brexit Negotiations

I don’t feature Dan Mitchell here all that much, although I do read him most every day. Why? Because like economics itself, his writing isn’t as exciting as some. But he is nearly always right. Yesterday, he wrote about the strong hand that the Tories hold in the Brexit negotiations, and here too he is right, although I fear that the Tories are just as good as the GOPe at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory™. Here’s a bit of what he wrote.

If I was a citizen of the United Kingdom, I would have voted to leave the European Union for the simple reason that even a rickety lifeboat is better than a slowly sinking ship.

More specifically, demographic changes and statist policies are a crippling combination for continental Europe, almost surely guaranteeing a grim future, and British voters wisely decided to escape. Indeed, I listed Brexit as one of the best things that happened in 2016.

This doesn’t mean the U.K. has ideal policies, but Brexit was a good idea precisely because politicians in London will now have more leeway and incentive to liberalize their economy.

Though I wonder whether Prime Minister May and the bumbling Tories will take advantage of the situation.

The Financial Times has a report that captures the real issue driving Brexit discussions. Simply stated, the European Union is scared that an independent U.K. will become more market-friendly and thus put competitive pressure on E.U. welfare states.

The EU is threatening sanctions to stop Britain undercutting the continent’s economy after Brexit…the bloc wants unprecedented safeguards after the UK leaves to preserve a “level playing field” and counter the “clear risks” of Britain slashing taxes or relaxing regulation. Brussels…wants…to enforce restrictions on taxation…and employment rights. …the EU negotiators highlight the risk of Britain ‘undermining Europe as an area of high social protection’…the UK is “likely to use tax to gain competitiveness” and note it is already a low-tax economy with a “large number of offshore entities”. …On employment and environmental standards, the EU negotiators highlight the risk of Britain “undermining Europe as an area of high social protection”.

In case you don’t have a handy statism-to-English dictionary handy, you need to realize that “level playing field” means harmonizing taxes and regulations at very high level.

Keep reading here.

And that is pretty much true. Europe is scared, in losing the UK, they lose a good chunk of their Danegeld, while the UK gets rid of the Dane, for as Kipling wrote

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: –
“We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
 Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
“Though we know we should defeat you,
we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
 But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
 You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
 For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
 No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
 And the nation that plays it is lost!”

Sadly though, I am having increasing trouble seeing Theresa May as King Alfred, but perhaps the people will find a way to inject a bit of Sheffield steel into her spine. Although GK Chesterton’s vision is doubtlessly beyond her.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

The lines are repeated in a different context toward the end as Alfred gathers the Saxons for what will prove the last and successful battle

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’ 

Now it proves the flint against which the iron of resolve is sharpened, and the Saxons rally and they win, even though all had seemed lost. Alfred was not the most charismatic or dramatic of leaders, but he won, and this is why:

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

Alfred has faith and he had patience, and he had resilience; he lacked the capacity to despair. In short, he possessed all the Christian virtues. He listened to Our Lady and he understood her advice, and so, at the height of the battle:

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

And so, through many a sorrow and woe, the steadfast faith of Alfred proved victorious where the charismatic personalities of men with less character failed.

Here there is a lesson for us all – if we will read it.

Thanks to Jessica for teaching me that poem, and that paragraph.

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Caracas on the Thames

Sunset near Trafalgar Square, London, UK

So there sits Britain, a bit more than half of the population bestirred themselves to extricate themselves from the EU to a fair amount of excitement on both sides of the pond. An excellent move, but now what? Theodore Dalrymple has a view, and it is a bleak one. It’s one I don’t completely agree with, but I see the same signs. I merely hope and pray that the Britain that has been preserved through the centuries will manage to bestir itself one more time. Whether that will happen is very problematical.

And the economic auguries for Britain are indeed poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. The fact is that Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is itself in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones. The present Prime Minister, Theresa May, is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats, and the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn, who might well be the next Prime Minister, is an unapologetic admirer of Hugo Chavez. It is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well weaken property rights, impose capital controls and increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice. It would not take very long to turn Britain into a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Here lies the crux of the current problem, in my mind. Mrs. May was an abysmal choice, although she may have been the best on offer, rather like like choosing Hillary because she was the least worst candidate. But that is just how bad the Tories are, and Labour tends to make Stalin look right wing. She’s all that is said here and more, but the worst is that she seems to have no convictions of her own, simply an empty vessel to be filled by whoever last spoke to her. Well except the Vicar’s daughter has absolute faith in the State, God not so much. Sad.

And the power that the parties have is remarkable, our primaries are often more or less corrupt, but the British have no say whatsoever in who is running to ‘represent’ them. And their bureaucracy puts our deep state to shame, that is who really rules Britain. Long ago they stripped the one voice who could speak for the nation, the Queen, of all power. If they had the guts to fight, it would become Thomas Hobbe’s nightmare come to life – “A war of all on all.”

Just a word of warning, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a UKIP peer, asked the government recently in the House of Lords if talking about Christianity was a ‘hate crime’.

The government refused to answer.

And it is not only Britain, we have the same disease here, although not as markedly. The other day, J.J. Sefton in Ace’s Morning Report said this.

We’ll start of this Thursday with the continuing, and hopefully soon to end, autopsy of Tuesday’s debacle in Alabama. As we all know, Roy Moore was a flawed candidate for a number of reasons. That doesn’t mean I and most of you did not support him; we all wanted him to win. It’s just that our wish-casting and transposing our logic on to the voters vis a vis allowing the alternative to win (which they did) was illusory. Now all that said, much of the blame can be laid squarely on the drooping shoulders of Mitch McConnell. He wanted an Establishment lackey, like Thad Cochran only with a marginally higher brain stem function, and NOT a member of the House Freedom Caucus, represented by Mo Brooks. And so from the get-go he supported Luther Strange, but for whatever reason (I am uninformed about Alabama local politics) Moore threw his Stetson into the ring and the voters chose him in the runoff. And the rest as we all know is history. Now, yes, while Moore as stated was flawed, the combination of the smear campaign against him, his own idiosyncrasies, and the abandonment by the GOP-e until it was essentially too late gave away what should have been a lock to a Democrat.

Yep, that whole mess was flawed, mostly by Mitch McConnel, another Theresa May type, much more concerned about party than country, not to mention preserving their rice bowls, no matter what.

Back to Britain

This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. The fact is, however, that though these tasks require no special skills, they did require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the health care that, though it is free to them under the National Health Service, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty. In short, they do not know, because they have never been taught, how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable.

No doubt other comparable countries have similar problems, but none (at least, none known to me) has them to anything like the same extent. These problems do not originate from Britain’s membership of the European Union, nor will they be solved by exit from the Union. They can be solved only by something more resembling a religious revival than by any likely government action. But expecting a population to bethink itself while simultaneously being offered political solutions that require no effortful cultural change is unreasonably optimistic. And politicians are unlikely to be frank about the problem for two reasons: first because alluding to the deficiencies of their electorate is probably not the best way to get elected, and second because it downgrades the providential role of politics, which politicians are understandable reluctant to do.

As if this were not quite enough, the hold on the country’s intelligentsia of statist solutions to practically all problems is still immensely strong. Nowhere is this more evident than in its attitude to the National Health Service, the establishment of which it almost universally regards as having been a great achievement, perhaps Britain’s only great achievement of the twentieth century.

Yep, if you talk to Brits, even educated ones, nearly every one of them sees the NHS as the ‘one true god’, even though they get crappy service at best, and are probably more likely to die if treated than not. It can only be religious because the facts are easily available.

But that speaks to what I see in my interactions with what is admittedly a sliver of them, and one that is well right of (their) center. Here we quote our founders often and well, almost all American conservatives do because while they were writing over 200 years ago, the principles they bequeathed us are truly timeless, if we are stalwart enough to apply them even close to properly. It is why we have prospered so mightily.

Most of those principles derived from British sources, Locke, Smith, Burke, Blackstone, and others, not all British, of course, but a majority probably were. Our founders took a clear look at the weaknesses of British government and liberty and wrote a constitution to minimize them. It works pretty well still, even with so many trying to subvert it. But we have that firm foundation, written in ink on parchment, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and so much more.

The Brits have none of that, the core principles were developed there. But there is nothing comparable to our supreme constitution, they have some scrap of paper they refer to as a constitution, but in our sense, it isn’t. All is always in flux. One Parliament cannot bind another. Magna Charta, that we Americans revere so much, was repealed long ago, so was the English Bill of Rights, as was the right to self-defense.

From my seat, what they never developed, either personally or in the Conservative Party is the principled outlook we have. When something comes up, we know almost instinctively whether it accords with the principles the founders gave us. None of that amongst the Tories, it is all pragmatic, tactics to win the next vote in Parliament or election, never a thought as to principle. It is their great weakness, I think, and why spoke a bit of Judge Moore here. While he has priciples, many of them conflict with our history. he is right on many issues, but often for the wrong reasons. That why he was a very imperfect candidate. It’s also why the British government is broken, perhaps beyond repair.

Impositions that in America would have led to a war in the streets, pass with a shrug “What can you do?” The government says jump, most Britons don’t ask “Why should I?” They merely ask, “How high, ma’am?”

Where is Britain going? Unless they figure out something, I think Dalrymple may well be correct. Caracas without the nice weather.

Welcome to December

Well, another week, for a lot of us Christians, we start a whole new year today, as we anticipate the birth of Jesus. I’m ready for one, and suspect you are too. He’s back!

Well, the President retweeted some British group (that hardly anybody had heard of, although they have now) and HMG came unglued. I wonder of it was because Britain First was correct. Less NSFW than usual, BTW.

Well, another week, another bunch of unemployed famous men who can’t seem to understand that women are not their property, or something.

More palatably

Christmas shopping?

And, of course

Mostly from PowerLine, Sleeping Beauty from Ace.

Still Another Week

The British response to terrorism

Yep, this is the picture post, back where it belongs. But I want to say something. Yesterday my post Amish Attack did pretty well. In it, we quoted the amazing 1978 Harvard Commencement speech of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but as many of you noticed, it wasn’t the first time. Our former co-blogger Jessica talked about that address back on December 22, 2013. Enough of you noticed to make it our most read post this week. It’s well worth your time to read if by some chance you haven’t. It called The Exhausted West?. Enjoy!

From Ace

Undocumented shopper

 

From Bookworm

More Ace:

And from PowerLine:

Steve’s comment is, “Like I say, Melania’s First Lady cause should be: “Make America Straight Again.”. I must say, it works for me!

Take no chances

Have a good day!

The Acid Test of Civilization

You may have missed the news, the FSM (British and American) is doing its level best to make sure you do, but there has been a large increase in acid attacks in Britain. I noticed, but didn’t have enough to write about it, Daniel Greenfield, on the other hand, did.

Things are going smashingly well in Londonistan.

The City of London has the highest murder rate in the land. While the authorities launch investigations into pork being left at a mosque or a hijab supposedly being torn off, crime continues to rise.

Gun control has worked so wonderfully well that gun crime in London rose 42%. When gun control advocates insist that we should be more like the UK, London’s 2,544 gun crime offenses probably aren’t what they have in mind.

But gun control does work in London after a fashion. Those gang members who can’t lay their hand on a firearm must make do with a sharp blade. Knife crimes in London rose 24% to 12,074 recorded offences. 60 people were stabbed to death last year.

Why? Here’s a hint from the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner. “There are complex social reasons why more young people are carrying knives and this cannot be solved by the police alone.”

Those complex social reasons would seem to involve stabbing other people. But like Islamic terrorism, stabbings in London are one of those things that can’t be solved by the police. Unlike people saying mean things about Muslims on Facebook and Twitter which the Met cops are well equipped to solve.

Still the authorities have been doing their best to tackle stabbings with a knife ban. Carry a knife without a “good reason” and you can get four years in prison. Good reasons for carrying knives include using it as a prop in a production of Romeo and Juliet, taking it to a museum or “religious reasons”. The ban, which covers “sword-sticks”, samurai swords and “zombie knives” that are sold to fight zombies, isn’t working.

But it’s working well enough that many of the gangs responsible for the violence are turning to acid.

Acid attacks in London rose from 162 in 2012 to 454 last year. There have already been 199 acid attacks this year. Five acid attacks just happened in London in the space of little more than an hour.

And so the obvious new solution is drain cleaner control.

The push is on to “license” corrosive substances while banning anyone from carrying drain cleaner unless they have a good reason. When the public is banned from buying drain cleaners, then finally everyone in London will be safe. It’s worked for guns and knives. Bound to work for acid. And being stuck with a clogged toilet, like Allah Akbar car rammings, is the price we must all pay for diversity.

It’s easy to blame and ban inanimate objects. And it avoids any discussion of the perpetrators.

And to me, that is the most offensive part of all. If we don’t talk about it, if we bury the story, the story doesn’t exist. Except it does, and it is getting worse, fast. And HMG, instead of doing something useful, seems to be taking a page out of the Saudi manual, and criminalising reporting this stuff instead of prosecuting the perpetrators.

Now mind, the British justice system is rather a joke, anyway. While the prisons are rather nice, the inmates are either seriously incorrigible, or politically unconnected (near as I can tell), and that means they are simply victims there as well. But it’s very hard to get into a British prison (Rather like Tom Dart’s in Cook County, IL, in fact. And with similar results). Not sure if you can be sentenced to more than seven years for anything, probably can, but doesn’t seem to happen, and a probationary sentence for killing someone is entirely possible. Now, be careful, writing against same sex marriage will likely get you hanged, but then that is so very much worse than killing someone.

Daniel also says this:

Murders in London, like murders in most major American cities, are driven by gang violence. Behind the shootings, stabbings and acid attacks are gangs. Many of those gangs are made up of first and second generation migrants and settlers from the Muslim world. The UK’s prisons bulge with Muslim convicts. And these criminal gangs naturally feed recruits into Islamic terrorism as they do in Iraq and Syria.

Banning drain cleaner won’t stop acid attacks. Drain cleaner control is no solution. Migration control is.

Immigration from violent societies prone to terrorism is the acid that is eating away at Europe. Migration advocates have splashed acid on Britain, on America, on Australia and on Canada. The bombings and stabbings, the child rapes and acid attacks, are the burning sensation of the attack.

Yep, true enough, but you can have immigration, but only if you have and rigidly enforce laws against violence, and if you force immigrants to conform with the host country’s rule and laws. Europe, in general, and Britain in particular, are not doing so. They are hiding their head in the sand (actually up another dank and odoriferous canal) and if not checked, it will contribute to the end of Britain qua Britain.

Do read the article. Britannia is being very poorly served by her politicians and civil servants, not sure if it is misfeasance or malfeasance, but they need correction. And they need it fast, and they need it good and hard.

David Brooks actually did have a Point

David Brooks is catching a fair amount of grief for one paragraph of his column. Well, when one writes this, it’s not overly surprising.

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

And yep, it reads elitist and snark-worthy as all get out. But maybe there is a bit more to it than that. I hold no brief for David Brooks, but he is a pretty decent writer, who can get his ideas, however wrong or silly, into words, effectively. Erick Erickson has some thoughts.

The rich keep up with David Foster Wallace and raise eyebrows at the rubes reading Proverbs. They look down on Chick-Fil-A while eating at their artisan sandwich shops that get reviewed in the backs of location specific vanity magazines. Then they tax the poor guy’s coke and plastic grocery bag. They shut down the Christian baker who just wants to be left alone and put hedonism on a pedestal they can afford that the poor could not. Abortion on demand is the left’s preferred equalizer, but as the poor descend into the rich’s hedonistic lifestyle, they cannot afford the STD’s, addiction problems, etc. that the rich can paper over with money.

He’s right, and part of the reason I am uneasy with the instant snark that comes, especially from Twitter. It’s fun, and often very funny, but sometimes there is a nuance buried in there that snark hides forever. And that’s not good either, we need to talk together more, and snark at each other less. I don’t know any more than you how this begins, but it needs to.

Way back when I started blogging one of the first people to follow here was Michael O. Church. Over the years, I’ve found him fascinating, sometimes infuriating, sometimes agreeable, and always original. I disagree with him a lot, but always respect how he got there, and I remember that his journey is not my journey, in either time or place. He too wrote about that David Brooks piece. Here’s a bit.

We have a problem in this country. The economic elite is destroying it, and the intellectual elite is largely powerless to stop the wreckage, and while there are many sources of our powerlessness, one of the main ones is that we get the bulk of the hate. The plebeians lump us all together, because the economic elite has told them to do so. They make no distinction between the magazine columnist, who can barely afford her studio in Brooklyn, and the private-jet billionaire who just fired them by changing numbers in a spreadsheet.

Brooks has some good points, and the essay that I linked to is worth reading, not because he’s right on every call, but because he’s not wrong. For example, he writes:

Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.

If that isn’t true, well you’ve been vacationing in sunny Antartica. Do not, Do Not Ever in current America, get between a parent (especially a mother) and her dreams for her kid(s). Not even if you are that kid. That’s always been true, of course. But it seems like now, that kid must be successful no matter what, whether he can read or not, whether he bothered to do the coursework, or not, whether or not he ever showed up. Hate to say back in the day, but back in the day the pressure was different, it was on the kids to earn their way, not be given a free ride because…well I guess because (s)he managed to learn to breathe. With that pressure, even going to school could be optional, Lincoln went to school less than a year, but he managed to learn a fair amount.

Brooks also says:

Well-educated people tend to live in places like Portland, New York and San Francisco that have housing and construction rules that keep the poor and less educated away from places with good schools and good job opportunities.

[…]

All true. All valid. Except, the emphasis is completely wrong. He implies that well-educated people are the problem. No. This is like the conservative contention that anti-vaxxers are liberal. Scientifically illiterate anti-intellectuals (on the left and right) are the problem, not leftists. Some of the NIMBYs are well-educated, and some are not.

The zoning/housing issue has little to do with educational pedigree. It’s generational. Boomers got into the housing market when prices were fair; then, they passed a bunch of self-serving legislation to thwart supply growth (as noted) and let a bunch of nonresident scumbags buy coastal real estate in order to spike land prices and apartment rents. Generation X was affected, but Millennials just got screwed. Further, Boomers have perpetuated a work culture based on hierarchy and socio-physical dominance, making it difficult to have a career in a company unless one works on-site in close proximity to the (very wealthy) people at the top. This creates abnormal demand for real estate in major cities, because peoples’ careers depend on them living there, even though the Internet was supposed to make location irrelevant. Consequently, we have a bipolar nation where one stretch of the country has affordable houses, even in beautiful locations, but offers no jobs; and the other offers jobs but offers no path to homeownership other than winning a hedge-fund or startup lottery.

Sounds likely to me, but my experience is different, but I’m a Boomer and live in the interior so it would be.

This is not a balanced country, politically speaking. First, while we have two parties, we’ve become polarized to such a point that most places suffer under a local one-party system.

He’s absolutely right here, as are the conclusions he draws.

When I look around in my circle, I don’t see an exclusive “intellectual elite”. I see people from all sorts of backgrounds: black, Latino, transgender, Midwestern, Southern, European, Asian, sons of restaurant owners and daughters of coal miners. We accept people who are different from us. If you’re smart, no one cares where you’re from; we don’t even really care where you went to college, because it’s correlated with almost nothing after age 30. Most of the best writers and artists don’t have elite degrees at all.

For a contrast, how often do you see Davos Men hang around with anyone but other Davos Men? Never. How much do corporate executives care about people who weren’t born into their milieu. They don’t.

My circles are like that, too, and it’s the way I want them. I skipped quite a bit here that you need to read, a good part of it I disagree with, but I was wrong once or twice as well. So read it and see what you think. But the point he makes about the intellectual elite should always be true, it’s about merit, nothing else. I see much more of that on the right than the left, but I, like everybody have an internal echo chamber, where what is memorable to me is what I agree with. And while the short form is ‘the intellectual elite’ far more often the right is talking about the university itself, which ties back to his point on the plans of parents for their children, maybe.

If you want to hate me for the books I read or words I use or food I eat, go ahead. Let’s not get distracted. We have a shared enemy. The country isn’t being destroyed by people using the word “intersectionality”. No, it’s being wrecked by the weakening of unions, corporate downsizing, accumulated environmental damage, rising anti-intellectualism, and creeping plutocracy. We have a real enemy and it’s time to put our (very mild) differences aside and fight.

There’s a lot of that I disagree with, and yet, I see much the same thing happening, so maybe he has a point. He surely has a point of view and the reasoning process to make it valid. So read the articles, and see where they take you. Hiding in a cave never solved a damned thing, after all.

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