Utopian Socialists

The world is full of utopians pursuing utopian projects.

Smoking bans are utopian projects. The utopia of Tobacco Control is a “smoke-free world”, a world in which, somehow or other, everyone has stopped smoking – perhaps because nobody needs to smoke any more, because nobody experiences any stress any more, nobody worries about anything, nobody puzzles over anything. The “smoke-free world” of Tobacco Control has to be some sort of heaven. The Tobacco Controllers are trying to create heaven. And that’s why they regard themselves as holy warriors, with God on their side.

But all these attempts to create heaven always and invariably end up creating hell.  Smoking bans fragment society as they expel smokers onto the streets. They break up communities and shatter friendships. They set people against each other. And instead of making life easier and less stressful for smokers, they make life harder and more stressful for them. And smokers are also continually robbed by ever-mounting taxation. And they are insulted with bullying, brow-beating messages on their tobacco packets.

One day the smoking bans will be lifted, and the taxation removed, and the messages erased. And that’ll happen when the utopian project is recognised to have not only failed to have attained its utopian goal, but to have caused a terrible social catastrophe of a scale which will live on for centuries in human memory. And it will be seen once again how people who were trying to create heaven ended up once again creating hell.

This utopian or millenarian mentality was well expressed by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War, when he said to his fellow revolutionaries:

“Do you not think, gentlemen, that we are not ushering in those things which God hath promised?”

These are words of his that I read somewhere once, I know not where, and which burned themselves into my memory. The world is full of people who think they are ushering those things which God hath promised. Needless to say, Cromwell’s utopian Commonwealth was a failure, and on his death the monarchy was rapidly restored.

I’m no utopian. I have not spent my life trying to build a utopia, nor start The Revolution, nor usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. If anything, I’m a dystopian, trying to prevent the world becoming more of a hell than it already is. I think the Millennium, when the saints go marching in, is a thousand years hence, and more likely ten or a hundred  thousand years hence.

After all, look around. We’ve had World War 1 followed by World War 2. And we’ve had Auschwitz and Hiroshima. And the Soviet gulag, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. And now we’ve got the Islamic State, and the Bataclan massacre. And nearly all of it has been the work of Cromwells of one kind or other, who thought they were ushering in those things which God hath promised. And all they ever brought was death and destruction.

The European Union is another piece of utopian social engineering. It’s an attempt to construct a whole new society, and merge dozens of once sovereign nations into a single superstate with a central government and no internal borders (and no external border either). And the European political class which has been embarking on this “project” for the past 70 years are themselves utopian socialists no different from Lenin or Trotsky or Mao or Castro. Here’s EU President Jean-Claude Juncker speaking recently in defence of Karl Marx:

“Karl Marx was a philosopher, who thought into the future had creative aspirations, and today he stands for things, which is he not responsible for and which he didn’t cause, because many of the things he wrote down were redrafted into the opposite,” Mr Juncker said in a speech at a church in Trier.

“One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on the review, these judgements shouldn’t exist. Karl Marx was lucky in life as he was born in Trier. He grew up in the city, actually the shortest period of his vita.”

Drawing on the philosopher’s legacy, Mr Juncker said the European Union’s instability could be addressed by focusing more on social welfare, which he said had been a neglected part of European integration so far.

“It will be a task of our time to create a lively reality out of the social rights we set up for Europe, for the ones who live today and often are sad or blackmailed by life and won’t have enough social rights and the ones, who will be born tomorrow,” he said.

From this we learn that Juncker is a Marxist, and intent on “creating a lively reality out of social rights”. That is to say that he is another Oliver Cromwell, ushering in those things which God hath promised. And we may also predict with certainty that his utopian European political project is as doomed to certain failure as any of its predecessors. It will indeed be “a lively reality” when it comes crashing to the ground.

And we might also guess that the appreciative audience to whom he addressed his remarks were also Marxists, albeit well-dressed Marxists in expensive suits and ties. These are champagne socialists, and in the case of Juncker he does indeed consume a great deal of champagne.

And we have in the UK plenty of our own utopian socialists. Tony Blair (who brought in the UK smoking ban) is a utopian socialist. And so was Gordon Brown. But supposedly Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was another revolutionary. And we have found out in recent weeks that our current Prime Minister Theresa May is yet another one of them: she single-handedly thwarted Brexit.

These days the revolutionaries are not to be found on the streets throwing Molotov cocktails: they are to be found already in government. But even if they have the immense advantage of already being in government, they’re still going to find it impossible to construct their utopia.

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Millionaire Politicians

Breitbart:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Saturday attempted to play down the significance of his millionaire status, quipping dryly that he didn’t imagine lucrative book sales would hurt his chances to win the White House.

Did Bernie Sanders really get rich by writing a book? Does anyone get rich by writing books?

I suspect that Bernie Sanders got rich from being a politician. And lots of politicians do get to be very rich. California sends 20 millionaires to Congress. The names I recognise include Democrat Dianne Feinstein ($58.5 million minimum net worth), Democrat Nancy Pelosi ($16.0 million minimum net worth). And not just California. There’s also Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren (estimated net worth of $7,820,514 )

And of course there’s Democrat Bill and Hillary Clinton:

Since Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001, they have turned political fame into a personal fortune, raking in more than $240 million, according to a FORBES analysis of 15 years of their tax returns.

Bill made most of the money, earning $189 million by writing books, giving speeches, consulting private companies and advising billionaire Ron Burkle. Days after his presidency ended, he earned $125,000 for a speech at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in New York, according to a financial disclosure form Hillary filed as a senator in 2002. It was the first of hundreds of paid speeches that collectively made him an estimated $106 million over 15 years.

In 2004 he published his bestselling memoir My Life, one of the former president’s four titles. Clinton earned an estimated $38 million as an author from 2001 to 2015.

So Bill Clinton got rich the same way as Bernie Sanders, by writing books? Really?

And then there’s one-time Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry (estimated net worth of $103,001,362 in 2013). And one-time Democrat vice-president Al Gore (net worth $300 million) And then of course there’s Michael Bloomberg ($47.6 billion).

Donald Trump seems to be about the only loser:

Try as he might, the billionaire president isn’t profiting off his time in the White House, according to a new report.

President Donald Trump’s net worth has declined by more than $1 billion since the year he launched his presidential campaign at the foot of Trump Tower’s escalator, Forbes reported Tuesday.

The president’s net worth stands at $3.1 billion, down from $4.5 billion in 2015, Forbes said. As a result, Trump has tumbled down the Forbes 400 list, the latest edition of which will be published in full Wednesday. Trump was the 248th wealthiest person in America on Forbes’ 2017 list.

How about British politicans? Labour ex-PM Tony Blair is one of the richest Labour politicans (£60 million). And his sidekick Peter Mandelson (£6 million). And he’s not quite as rich as Conservative ex-PM David Cameron (£50 million) Who wasn’t as rich as Conservative Michael Heseltine (£264 million). Current PM Theresa May isn’t short of a bob or two either (net worth £2 million). And George Osborne must also be a millionaire:

Former Chancellor George Osborne was the highest earning MP of 2016, raking in £628,000 on top of his MP’s salary of £74,962 – chiefly from lucrative public speaking engagements – latest figures have revealed…

Another former Tory Chancellor, Ken Clarke, is the second highest earner, making an additional £599,160 on top of his salary, much of it from public speaking and advance payments for a book.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the fifth highest earner, topping up his parliamentary salary with an additional £356,459 – including £250,000 for his column in The Telegraph – which he gave up after being appointed to his new role.

Mr Johnson was also in receipt of a monthly income of £3,982.50 as Mayor of London until Sadiq Khan took over this May.

The figures reveal 13 of the top 14 earning MPs are Conservatives, with former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg the only non-Tory in the top ten earners. He earned an additional £193,040 – including more than £36,000 for one speech he gave to Barclays Bank during the EU Referendum campaign.

So how do they all get so rich? Do they all write best-selling books? Are they all famous authors?

I think there’s a simpler explanation, and it’s that if you work in government and know that something is going to happen somewhere (a new road gets built, or a new airport, or a new factory), when most other people don’t know, you’re in a position to benefit from that knowledge. And people who know you are also likely to benefit too. And the higher your office, the more you’ll know. You’ll know things that nobody else knows.

And how do people pay you for keeping them well-informed? Why, they pay you to make speeches to them a few years later:

$153 million in Bill and Hillary Clinton speaking fees, documented

Or else you write a book (or, more likely, get someone else to write a book for you), and the book becomes a best-seller of course.

It’s probably not that you get rich in politics through bribery and corruption (although there’s always that as well). It’s probably that you simply know stuff that other people don’t know, and very much want to know, and are prepared to pay to find out about.

So when you see all those Peers in the House of Lords, and MPs in the House of Commons, and Representatives in Congress, you can be pretty sure that a lot of them will be millionaires in a few years time, if they aren’t already.

And the richer they get, the more powerful they become. And so when the world’s 14th richest man, Michael Bloomberg, became mayor of New York City, he probably just used some of that money to personally push through a city-wide smoking ban.

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No Surprise Really

I can’t say that I’m surprised that Brexit has been delayed or thwarted. For even though I voted for it, I’ve been saying all along that I never expected to actually see it happen.

Why not? Because we’re not really living in any sort of democracy, but instead in something that has the appearance of democracy. We can vote. We can elect MPs and councillors. But the big decisions are taken by just a few people in positions of power and influence. And those people didn’t want Britain to leave the EU. And so it isn’t leaving.

They’re the same people that gave Britain its 2007 smoking ban, which the British people also never voted for.

Theresa May is one of those few influential people who didn’t want Britain to leave the EU. And it’s become clear that she became Prime Minister simply so that she could prevent Brexit from happening, while pretending to be working to make it happen. And she’s done a very good job of that.

I now think that she’s probably always been working for Brussels all along. She’s the principal agent of the EU in Britain. And when she leaves office she’ll probably be rewarded with a plum job by the EU, a large house in France, and a big pension as well.

She’s not the only person in  Britain working for the EU. Tony Blair is another one. And the Kinnocks. And Mandelson. And probably quite a few Conservatives as well. All bought and paid for. How did Tony Blair become a millionaire? And they all owe their loyalties to the EU rather than to Britain.

I think that if the MPs in the Conservative party could vote Theresa May out of office now, they would do so, because hardly any of them have any confidence in her any more. But unfortunately she survived a vote of No Confidence in December 2018, and under the rules she can’t face another vote until a year after the last vote. So I now expect her to be kicked out of office in December 2019. And I think she may have arranged to have the December 2018 vote while she knew that most Conservative MPs still had confidence in her, because she knew that many of them would lose confidence in her when in March 2019 she’d prevent Brexit from happening.

Theresa May is a dead Prime Minister. Nobody has any confidence her. But it seems that she’s going to carry on being Prime Minister for the rest of 2019, or as long as her masters in Brussels want her to be.

But how long is the EU going to survive, in a Europe in which more and more countries want, like Britain, to regain their independence from it?

It’s what European politics has now become all about: the attempt of Europe’s former sovereign states to regain their independence, and to shuck off a political class which owe their principal loyalty to their paymasters in the EU rather than to the peoples who elected them.

For what is Emmanuel Macron but an agent of the EU, just like Theresa May?  And that’s why a great many French people – the Yellow Vests – are trying to get rid of him.

Britain will remain inside the EU for now. But the EU is now heading for disintegration, as all its peoples rise up against their EU-appointed political class, for the simple reason that they want to govern themselves, and not be governed by remote and unrepresentative powers. They want independence for the same reason that America wanted independence from the British empire in 1776, and why the former colonies of Portugal and Spain wanted independence from the Portuguese and Spanish empires. For the EU is simply yet another empire, from which the peoples inside it will sooner or later want independence.

 

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Opposites

At about noon on 1 July 2007, a complete stranger came up to me and said, “It’s not a free country any more.”

It struck me as being a profound truth that he uttered that day. And it remains as true today as it was back then. For Britain ceased to be a free country the day that smoking was banned, and it will continue not to be a free country while the smoking ban remains in force.

But that means that one day, when the smoking ban is lifted, or ceases to be enforced, it will become a free country again. And that will be a glorious day. It’ll be one long party. There’ll be bands playing and crowds cheering and people waving flags.

And that day will come, because that day must come. And it must come because Britain must become a free country again.

And after that glorious day, for a long time it will be a great pleasure to be able to sit in a pub and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette, which was once a freedom that was taken for granted, and which seemed almost inconceivable to lose.

But it is only when something is taken away that its loss can be felt, and the joy of its recovery can be experienced. It is only by losing freedom that its real value can be known.

The same applies to everything else. It’s only because we regularly experience darkness at night that we can appreciate the light of day. It is only because of the cold of winter that the summer is hot and sunny. It is only because we can experience pain that we can also experience pleasure. It is only because we begin with ignorance that we can acquire knowledge. We need these contrasts or opposites to experience anything. For otherwise there would be a perpetual sameness, in which nothing ever changed.

So the odd effect of smoking bans will be to make people appreciate freedom much more, and enjoy smoking much more. The best way for anyone to learn the value of anything is to have it – whatever it is – taken away. It’s what anyone who breaks an arm or a leg has brought to their attention: how wonderfully valuable arms and legs are.

To believe that smoking bans will never be repealed is like believing at sunset that the sun will never rise again, or as winter arrives that summer will never return, or in wartime that there will never be peace.

And also smoking bans always entail using the force of law. And whatever has to be forced must always meet with a resistance that seeks to return to a former equilibrium. And so, when smoking bans cease to be enforced, a former equilibrium will be restored. And the glorious day will come when, in some pub somewhere, somebody lights a cigarette, and nobody complains.

And also the war on smoking is an endless war that’s been going on in the Western world for over 500 years, and will no doubt go on for another 500 years. At times smokers advance, and at times they retreat. The present plague of smoking bans around the world will be inevitably followed, in due course, by their repeal.

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We The People

We the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland found out last week that we have no voice in the affairs of our own country. We were asked whether we wanted to leave or remain inside the European Union, and we voted to leave. But it seems that we’re actually going to remain. We’ve been overruled. Other people have decided the matter.

Which other people?

That seems to be anybody’s guess. But our Prime Minister, Theresa May, seems to be a fairly good candidate. It certainly seems like she decided that, as Prime Minister, she’d do her level best to make sure that Britain didn’t leave the EU. And she’s managed to stall the whole process for three years and more.

But actually she’s clearly been acting on the instructions of somebody else. But who? That’s also anybody’s guess.

Yet are any of the Prime Ministers and Presidents of any of the countries in Europe not also doing the bidding of somebody else than themselves? Is Emmanuel Macron a free agent? Or Angela Merkel? Nope. They’re all doing what somebody else wants them to do. The real power brokers are out of sight.

It’s no different in the USA. Is Donald Trump the President of the United States? He certainly lives in the White House and occupies the Oval Office, and he has some influence on US policy. But he’s been thwarted and hampered in pretty much everything he’s wanted to do. He’s not managed to normalise relations with Russia. He’s not managed to close the US southern border. He’s been loudly complaining  recently about an attempted coup that’s been being made against him for the past two years. There are clearly a lot of very powerful people in the USA who want him gone.

Once again, who? Who are these powerful people? What are their names? Where do they live? How did they get to be members of the Deep State that actually runs the USA?

Or is it that the Deep State is a deeply shared state of mind? And it’s shared not by just a handful of people, or even by thousands of people, but by millions and millions of people. And they all exert influence. Maybe only tiny amounts of influence. But it all adds up to an enormous amount of influence.

Theresa May has a lot of influence in Britain. She’s perhaps the most influential person in Britain right now. But there are also people who exert influence on her. And one of these might be Richard Dawkins:

Prominent biologist and “anti-theist” Richard Dawkins has welcomed Theresa May’s move to delay Brexit yet again, appearing to suggest it will improve the electoral arithmetic for Remain in a second EU referendum.

“9 month delay? The longer the better,” Dawkins gloated on social media.

“More time for young voters (who have to live with the consequences) to come of age. More time for Leave voters to drop off their nostalgic perch,” added the emeritus professor, who has previously expressed his deep envy of fellow Remainers who are able to apply for Irish citizenship, as he is “So ashamed to be English.”

And she probably knows him. She’s probably met him. She moves in those sort of social circles, I imagine. He’s a writer of influential books, like The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. They’re both books that influenced me, after all, even though I’ve found Dawkins pretty tiresome in recent years (and even more so today).

The “Deep State” may simply consist of people like Richard Dawkins and other like-minded people. They share a state of mind. And they form a body of deeply shared opinion.

And the same can be said about Tobacco Control. The antismokers have a shared state of mind. They all believe that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer. In fact almost everybody believes that smoking causes lung cancer. It’s a very deeply ingrained belief, the result of many decades of careful conditioning.

A belief in Global Warming is another state of mind, that is also shared by a great many people, but not everybody.

There are lots of these states of mind, these deep convictions.

And We The People have been overruled by people in the grip of these sorts of state of mind. They think they know better than we do. They utterly convinced of it. They know that it’s better for us if smoking is banned. And they also know that it’s better for us to remain in the EU. And they also know that we must cut our CO2 emissions. How did they come to be so convinced?

We The People may have been thwarted for now. But we will not be thwarted forever.

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Catholic Remainers and Protestant Leavers

Guardian:

Britain will remain as a member state of the EU until 31 October, with the option to leave earlier if Theresa May can secure Commons support for the Brexit deal, after a Franco-German carve-up of the UK’s future.

And then there’ll be a further extension 10-year until 2030. Britain is not going to be allowed to leave. And nobody else is going to be allowed to leave either.

I had the thought this morning that we’re in a replay of the Reformation. The European Union is another Roman Catholic Church. Its president is a pope who is elected by fellow cardinals. Ordinary people have next to no say.

Remainers are Roman Catholics. and Leavers are Protestants. Remainers want to continue belong to the European, universal, catholic belief system. They owe their primary loyalty to Rome (or the new Rome in Brussels). Leavers owe their primary loyalty to their own country. They want to make their own choices about what they will and won’t believe.

And Roman Catholicism is itself an echo of the Roman Empire, with a Pope in place of its Emperor, exerting spiritual power rather than military power.

The underlying struggle is between the individual and society. The Roman Catholics form a society in which individuals lose their autonomy. Protestants are individuals who re-assert individual choice and individual responsibility.

I must re-read Boris Johnson’s The Dream of Rome. The copy I have is a signed copy, sent to me as a gift by his secretary, Melissa, over ten years ago. I seem to remember it started with the Varian Disaster of 9 AD. If Boris is going to be our next Prime Minister, it might be helpful to rediscover what he thinks about a European Union that is a recreation of the Roman Empire and of the Roman Catholic Chorch.

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Parliament Has Overruled The People

I think Brexit died yesterday:

The House of Lords and the Queen have signed off on the Cooper Bill which will force Prime Minister Theresa May to seek a Brexit delay and stops the UK leaving the EU in a clean break.

After the House of Commons forced through three readings, a committee and a reporting stage in one day to pass the Cooper-Letwin Bill by a single vote last week, Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, gave its unopposed third reading Monday night.

The bill, put forward by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory Remainer Sir Oliver Letwin, was then handed it back to the Commons to debate Lords amendments at around 8pm, with the Commons passing the bill just before 11pm, accepting the final House of Lords amendment by 390 votes to 81 – a majority of 309, according to The Guardian.

Parliament has overruled the People.

It was always likely to do that, because it was a Remainer parliament with a Remainer Prime Minister. It’s what I always expected they’d do. I just didn’t know exactly how they’d do it.

Britain is going to remain in the EU.

And probably in the next few days the EU will grant a 100-year delay or extension to Article 50.

And then what?

I think the British people will get very angry. It’s quite likely that Britain will become like France, paralysed by a populist Yellow Vest revolt.

And I think the peoples of Europe will get angry too. Here, yet again, they’re seeing one of the peoples of Europe being overruled after voting in a referendum that produced the “wrong” result. It’ll produce a nationalist populist tidal wave in the EU elections next month.

It’s going to get ugly.

But the EU is dying. It’s becoming clear that it’s not a democratic institution that seeks to represent people. It’s an organisation that seeks to control people. And it’s inevitable that peoples of Europe will revolt against it. And they’ve already started to revolt.

It’s going to be people against government. And that probably means that civil war is coming to Europe.

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