Wednesday, 18 September 2013

There's no such thing as an anti-establishment Lib-Dem – the only real ones are libertarians

Nick Clegg has just told the Lib-Dem conference that their party is anti-establishment. He did this with a straight face. Bigger government, less choice, more welfare recipients, higher taxes, handing more power to Brussells, more expensive green power, no to a nuclear deterrent, yes to mass immigration… this is what Labour, the Guardian, the majority of our elected representatives, most people who work in local government, almost everyone employed by the state (especially the Civil Service), the vast majority of teachers and academics, and, of course, the BBC believe in. Together, they are the establishment. How does a passionate belief in all the failed liberal-left ideas of the 20th Century – to which all the above-named groups cleave - make posh little Nicky Clegg a rebel?

Clegg’s dad was a top banker with a CBE. He was born in Chalfont St Giles. His granddad edited the British medical Journal for 30 years. Clegg attended Westminster School and Cambridge and went on to work for the EU. He became an MEP and then an MP. He’s about as anti-establishment as a tin of shortbread.

As the British establishment is now inherently left-wing (including sopping wet Conservatives of the Ken Clarke variety), it’s very hard to be an even mildly anti-establishment lefty unless your beliefs are so unacceptable they render you persona non grata. For that to happen, you either have to be anti-immigrant working class (EDL), a communist dinosaur (Bob Crow) or support Israel against the forces of barbarism in the Middle East (Nick Cohen). Any other form of Big State tax-and-spend social engineering enthusiast (David Cameron, for instance) is today’s equivalent of the sort of Sir Bufton Tufton-style 1950s Queen-and-Country, stuff and nonsense, stand-on-your-own-two-feet, wogs-start-at-Calais, bloody-Bolsheviks, but-we-must-look-after-the-workers, backwoods Tory the Left appears to imagine the establishment is still composed of.

Left-wing anarchists like to see themselves as anti-establishment, but they’re really just nihilists who hate themselves and, therefore, the rest of humanity. Whenever prominent members of the Occupy movement here and in the US were asked to state what they actually wanted, they had nothing to say because they believe in nothing. Literally. Humanity is evil, therefore civilisation is evil, therefore civilisation must be destroyed. In a nutshell.

It would be tempting for a small state, low tax, Thatcherite right-winger such as myself to pose as a bold, free-thinking anti-establishmentarian – but I believe in a strong military, the monarchy, the Church of England, an effective police force and some form of central government, albeit with severely-limited tax-raising powers. I believe in the concept of the nation state and I’m not against the idea of an establishment – I just don’t want it to be the ruinously stupid, smug, self-pleasuring left-liberal one we’re saddled with at the moment.

The only real anti-establishment types I can identify right now are Rothbardian libertarians. They genuinely wish to destroy our existing establishment – MPs, the Lords, a standing army, the civil service: you name it, they want it gone -  because they believe centralised state control is inherently wicked and corrupt.  Unlike left-wing anarchists, they have a perfectly rational system with which to replace the current set-up. It combines a belief in the rule of law with a fierce brand of localism and individualism, allied to a radical and bracing vision of personal responsibility. I only wish I could believe that the system they’re proposing could work, because I find it enormously appealing, eschewing, as it does, all modish cant about state-imposed egalitarianism and compassion and the whole modern victimhood narrative.

To be truly anti-establishment, the Lib-Dems - and all the other silly lefties who get a kick out of imagining themselves as radical revolutionaries riding to the rescue of the oppressed - would have to be brave, individualistic, clear-headed and have some sort of faith in humanity. Unfortunately, they're actually timid, muddled, faithless sheep. Only a pro-establishment party would believe that, because some parents are too wicked, stupid, selfish and feckless to ensure that their children eat properly, it’s the state’s job to force-feed everybody’s children. And, of course, only a leading member of that establishment would have the power to sequester our money to pay for such a retrogressive, freedom-denying measure.

Perhaps it's time for me to reread Murray Rothbard's radical 1973 work, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Or maybe I should send a copy to Nick Clegg, so he can see what being anti-establishment really means.


  1. Excellent post. Nothing to disagree with.

    I sometime switch my TV on to get some value from my £145 and note that the BBC have moved into full throttle on the political conference season [carrier bag tax etc and dum-dum Clegg].

    Christ...who are the next mob? Roll on Brisbane and November.

  2. It's Labour next - which should be extremely funny, given how well they're doing in the polls. I'm particularly looking to the leader's speech, as well as the Shadow Chancellor's. New New Labour (i.e. the Conservatives) bring up the rear. I may just give that one a miss, apart from checking out George Osborne's weird new sides-brushed-forward hair-do.