For those who believe in freedom 2017 was a bad year. The belief in big state now dominates the political mainstream.
For the Conservative party the general election earlier in the year was a total catastrophe. Theresa May’s surrendering of the tory majority at such a crucial juncture must surely go down as one of the biggest political own goals in modern times. I am firmly of the view that by abandoning the liberal centre and running an arrogant presidential style campaign, May bares almost the entirety of responsibility for the resurgent left wing.
By accepting some of the arguments of the left with her rhetoric on energy companies, on identity politics, on the power of state and on meddling in private enterprise amongst other things she has legitimised Corbyn and his team. Being socialist light does not, and will not in the future work! The Conservative party is supposed to defend freedom and liberty.
Over the last thirty years’ free market capitalism has lifted billions out of poverty. We have the moral high ground, yet we have allowed socialism which was responsible for unimaginable horrors in last centuries to make a comeback. Everywhere it has been tried it has resulted in death by famine, you see this today in Venezuela and North Korea. In the Soviet Union during the 1920’s famine caused peasants to turn to cannibalism, with human body parts being traded on the black market. And later in the early 1930’s under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, an estimated 7 to 10 million people died of starvation in Ukraine. Socialism kills, we know this. If one has any doubts of the its horrors you must read The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
For me then the return of socialism to the political mainstream is the biggest political disaster of the last year. Representing a much more profound risk to the prosperity of this great country than anything Brexit could throw at us. And as I blame Theresa May for allowing this to happen, through sheer incompetence, she must go as soon as is possible. There are some who commend May for her steel and determination, surviving the year under fire from all directions. I feel however that it would be more accurate to call it delusion and the fortune to not have an immediate replacement ready. Having just finished reading Tim Shipman’s Fall Out, it is clear, if it was not immediate obvious that she is woefully out of her depth. There is no virtue in incompetence.
Brexit has been the dominant issue of the year. I am still firmly of the view that Britain can make a success of Brexit if we end these negotiation with a reasonable deal on trade and then liberalise trade with the rest of the world. We could also use the opportunity to liberalise our internal market. I think I stated in an earlier post, the success of a nation comes from us as individuals trading and doing business with each other with minimal interference from the state. This remains true. I look at these negotiations then with total dismay.
Our trade deficit with Europe combined with the fact that we are at this moment a net contributor to the EU budgets puts us in a very strong negotiating position. Erecting barriers to trade will hurt the Europeans more than it will hurt us. After years of stagnation the European economics are finally starting to pick up, they cannot afford to do anything to damage this. Listening to the rhetoric however, you would be forgiven for thinking that we are in a position of weakness, with the EU able to dictate terms to us. And yet this is exactly what they seem to have done. I cannot think of a single concession gained by May and her team. As 2017 concludes and phase one of the negotiations has closed, we have thus far accepted all of demands set out. We will continue to make large payments into the EU, the jurisdiction of the ECJ will remain and freedom of movement looks set to remain. Of course the jury is still out on the final shape of the deal but at the moment it does not look positive.
The biggest concern I have now is that we will end up with a bad deal i.e. a deal where we accept some of the constraints of full membership without having a seat at the table combined with a socialist government in 2022. If this were to happen I fear Britain will be in serious trouble. In such a circumstance, I cannot see why investors would choose to place capital in Britain over other markets. Globalisation is now upon us and as well as a loss of capital, a strong socialist government would cause a loss of high skilled labour. it is now extremely easy for people of intellectual talent to find well paid work across the world. Let us hope that on both accounts the picture changes considerably in 2018. Certainly, I can foresee a changing of the guard soon. I see no way that May survives another year. This should in theory present an opportunity for the Conservative party to course correct.
Islamism and Islamist inspired terrorism continues to be of major concern. This is a problem that most of us will not see solved in our lifetimes, although we may see progress. As I write this I am listening to what is happening in Iran. The woman who stood in the middle of Tehran the other day holding up her hijab in defiance of the countries hard line leaders is a hero. It just goes to show that any system of governance which requires a high degree of authoritarianism is inherently unstable. The human spirit cannot and natural desire for freedom cannot be destroyed. We can all hope that this may be the start of change, the start of a movement towards freedom in that country.
We also see that for all of Donald Trump’s failing he has no doubt taken the fight to ISIS. In the first year of his presidency the U.S has, without huge attention from the media, intensified its campaign against these lunatics. We see the results with the liberation of almost all the territory gained by the terrorists under the Obama administration. For this Trump does deserve credit. Although it must be stated that the ideology that underpins ISIS is still widespread in its support and we will continue to see Islamist inspired terror until the ideology is destroyed.
While we recognise the progress made, I think this is a moment to remember those that have lost their lives at the altar of this toxic ideology. There is no greater expression of how evil this belief system is than the robbing of the lives of children visiting an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester earlier in the year. Whatever one’s beliefs, there can be no justification for the random slaughter of the innocent. I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering of the families who have had to go through the first holiday season without their loved ones. Taken from them so unjustly. All I can say is that I am absolutely certain that the people who did this will ultimately be defeated, however long it takes.
September saw the fire at Grenfell tower. We still have to wait for the full report on the causes of this tragedy but I think it is important in a review of the year that we remember those that lost their lives, and start to think about what we can do to ensure this never happens again. We can in our daily lives see health and safety rules as a nuisance however let this be a reminder of how important it is to get these things right. That this can happen in modern Britain in the middle of London in one the richest boroughs is truly shocking.
The other major issue of the year was the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal. For men like Harvey Weinstein and the people who have enabled their actions to go unchecked and unchallenged, one can only hope that this year proved to be a turning point. Reading some of the stories, anyone with any sense of human dignity can feel nothing but horror and disgust. There should be no redemption for Weinstein and co and I sincerely hope he and others face the full force of the law.
In dealing with this issue however we must get the balance right. Already the feminist wing of the left, which has been dying out over the past decade, has tried to use this for political gain. Sexual assault does not exist on a spectrum. Flirting is a normal part of life, and inevitable part of male, female interaction. Sometimes attraction is one sided, this is also part of life and we all must go through life at various points being both the rejecter and rejected. Since the onus is still on men in general to take risks in this area, I think we cannot look for a solution to this issue without considering the intentions of men when they make the first move.
The idea that this about power is also false, men who get into positions of power tend to be intelligent and self-confident. Typical these types of men do not need women for self-gratification. If this type of man finds you attractive, this is a sign of respect not disrespect. We really must ensure that we catch and stop the Harvey Weinstein types, while simultaneously do not put all men on trial simply for being men and therefore having the lion’s share of the responsibility for taking risks. I sincerely hope the new year brings some sanity and balance to this debate.
All in all, 2017 has not been a good year for libertarians. For those of us that believe in liberty we must in the new year get organised, become more articulate and make the case for freedom. When I first started this site, I was full of optimism that ultimately Britain is a country with the belief in individual liberty running through its core and therefore however out of touch the elites get the people will always pull them back. As I write this however my optimism has been dulled somewhat, it is clear that nothing is inevitable and the direction the country is going to go in is not set in stone. We must continuously fight for freedom of speech, freedom of thought and an over arching state.