‘Nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action,
but not the execution of any human design.’
Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)

09 October 2017

On the Record | Tories Manhandle Brexit at Birthplace of Manchester School

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Tories Manhandle Brexit at Birthplace of Manchester School’:

“Our first and most important duty is to get Brexit right.” So vows Prime Minister Theresa May at the conclusion of the Conservative conference at Manchester. In the early 19th century, this northern English city nurtured faith in free trade. Led by Richard Cobden and John Bright, the “Manchester School” rose to protest agricultural protection against imports of cheap foreign wheat from feeding England’s working poor. In time, Manchester came to represent the principles of free trade and economic liberty; so much so that, according to one economic historian, “Manchester liberalism has come to mean a policy that relies on the market as much as it can and somewhat more than it ought.”

(As October is anniversary of the infamous “Charge of the Light Brigade,” a topical aside: Florence Nightingale, heroine of the Crimean War and founder of the Victorian Order of Nurses, spoke out in favor of a strong British army; she thus castigated the Manchester School’s pacifism that wished to cut army expenditures, which “made a deity of cheapness.”)

Yet little of the ghost of the Manchester School walked among Tory conference delegates, whose sympathy for interventionist welfare economics influences the party much as it did before the era of Margaret Thatcher. Only the conference’s Brexit segment gives cause for encouragement, with two stand-out performances.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.


May I wish friends and supporters Happy ‘Canadian’ Thanksgiving!

03 October 2017

On the Record | Boris Johnson emerging as Brexit’s biggest booster

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘As Tories meet in Britain Boris Johnson is emerging as Brexit’s biggest booster’:

Brexit. Brexit. Brexit. And Boris Johnson. That’s what’s on as Britain’s Conservative Party meets this week at Manchester, England. Poor Theresa May, prime minister and leader of the rancorous Tories. She is persona non grata for many delegates, although most are too polite to say so. Once enjoying the respect, if not the love, of the party whose lead she assumed when David Cameron resigned office to let others oversee the United Kingdom leave the European Union, Mrs. May is now reviled as the leader who called an unnecessary election that was hers to win and then to lose.

Which left her humbled before Parliament to manage a minority government propped up with discordant Irish unionist support. The embattled Prime Minister is routinely dissed as the one-time “Remainer” who seems set to bottle Brexit. Into this leadership maelstrom swirls the Foreign and Commonwealth secretary, Mr. Johnson.

A Telegraph article in mid-September was Boris Johnson’s first salvo over No. 10’s transom, in which he lays out his “glorious Brexit blueprint.” He conjures up all manner of exploits, from regulatory and tax reform to technical and financial innovation, where Britain will triumph again. And he drives home the case for Brexit, as the patriotic response to an evolving Euro-federalism — “an attempt not just at economic but political integration of a kind that the British people had never bargained for” — that was the impetus for the “Independence Day” referendum results of June 2016. “That plan is simply not for Britain,” Mr. Johnson writes, “and we should have been more honest about it years ago.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.


Readers of these DMI updates will be aware that yours truly has been away on ‘sabbatical’ since early August — momentarily setting aside my journalistic responsibilities to devise a scholarly agenda (focussed on natural law and ‘spontaneous order’ in the political and economic realm) for research planned in the months ahead. But as the summer heat beats retreat at autumn’s advance, it’s time to re-enter the fray. Brexit, as much else in the Anglosphere political world, is ‘hotting up’ once more.

One aim going forward is to increase readership, so do share these updates with family, friends, and colleagues who may enjoy them. Anyone may join the list by sending an e-mail with ‘DMI Subscribe’ in the subject line, or leave simply with ‘DMI Unsubscribe’. Many thanks!

08 August 2017

On the Record | Brexit cunning leaves Eurocrats nonplussed

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Brexit cunning leaves Eurocrats nonplussed’:

Baldrick, of Blackadder fame, a member of Team Brexit? Who knew? For the uninitiated, Blackadder is a British comedy series, starring Rowan Atkinson (of Mr. Bean renown) in the title role, as various scheming rogues through the march of history. Tony Robinson plays his dogsbody Baldrick, who in times of crisis invariably says, “I have a cunning plan.”

Baldrick’s “outing” as the fourth Brexiteer — the three UK Government principals are David Davis at Exiting the European Union, Liam Fox at International Trade, and Boris Johnson at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — comes courtesy of this Politico headline, “Brussels fears Britain’s ‘Brexit chaos’ part of cunning plan.” EU officials are nonplussed at the cool nonchalance of their Westminster counterparts. “Trade attachés in particular who know their British colleagues as tough, canny negotiators are suspicious of the seemingly fickle and aimless procrastination from the British government,” Politico reports. “The Brits’ chaotic early posture in the Brexit talks has left them wondering whether London is pulling some sort of deft ploy — a strategy of pretending not to have a strategy.”

One EU official is worried that when negotiations resume in September, the British team is “going to swamp us with [position] papers on the fault lines — exactly the issues where they know we [the EU27 countries] are divided.” Further remarks from the Maltese prime minister will encourage Brits anxious over their government’s competence to pull the country out of the European Union. “People who say the Brits don’t know what they are doing are wrong,” Joseph Muscat told the Dutch daily de Volkskrant. “I have lived in Britain, I know the British mentality. A non-prepared British government official simply doesn’t exist.” But Brexiteers shouldn’t get cocky. “A seasoned EU diplomat said that if London had constructed an elaborate ruse to gain the upper hand in Brexit, it had fooled even the British negotiators,” according to Politico. “If it is indeed a mise en scène, this diplomat said: ‘It would be an extremely sophisticated one.’”

As I conclude:

In the end, all we can do is wait and trust in the skill, strategy, and foresight of the Brexit negotiators. As Blackadder fans will attest, poor Baldrick’s cunning plans were outlandish nonsense, meant to evoke scorn from his superior and laughter from the audience. And Brexit is no laughing matter. But Baldrick is just the sort of patriotic “everyman,” common in English theatre, who voted for Brexit and whom the Government serves: he is full of ideas for making good — for himself, his family, and his nation. As long as his cunning never tires, never fear, for Britain will prosper. “It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people,” Adam Smith wrote of the ruling class of his day. “Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.” Trust in the people animates Brexit. No wonder the EU is flummoxed.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

03 August 2017

On the Record | Anguish among Brexiteers starts to grow palpable amid Tory handwringing

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘Anguish among Brexiteers starts to grow palpable amid Tory handwringing’:

Anguish among the Brexiteers is palpable in these long days of summer, even to your diarist on the far shores of Nova Scotia. Proponents of Britain’s exit from the European Union must suffer not only the daily insults of Remainers and other Europhiles, plus the hostile press, but dissension in the ranks of Britain’s own cabinet ministers, most of all the chancellor, Philip Hammond.

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, Mr. Hammond said that he “would expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural model that is recognizably European.” The BBC reports that “tax raised as a percentage of the British economy ‘puts us right in the middle’ of European countries,” according to Mr. Hammond, who added, "We don't want that to change, even after we've left the EU.”

We haven’t heard such absurdity since “1066 and All That.”

There was a time when personal enterprise was encouraged. Such drive fueled the amazingly productive period of the Industrial Revolution when the Empire spanned the globe. Is Britain returning to the sclerotic 1960s and 1970s when the nation was hamstrung by Marxist labor, high tax rates directed by redistributionist policies, the folly of pursuing the equality of a “classless society,” and the nationalization of key industries and services? A time when entrepreneurial initiative, economic growth, and upward mobility were frowned upon, when the Establishment goal was simply “the orderly management of decline”?

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

02 August 2017

On the Record | Bastille Day equals Brexit Day

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Bastille Day equals Brexit Day’:

Freedom lovers around the world celebrate Bastille Day (14th July) in recognition of the rights of man and ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. As many on the Continent believe, the French Revolution was the pivotal event in the rise of the individual against the entrenched power of the Crown, the aristocratic court, and the privileges of the Roman ‘Gallic’ Church. But the irony is lost by those who fight Britain’s exit from the European Union, particularly the leadership in the devolved regions of Scotland and Wales, whose preference, it seems, is to live under foreign-dominating EU law than the domestic laws of the United Kingdom.

For Brexit minister David Davis, the process is merely procedural. ‘We’re bringing into law 40 years of law. It is putting into British law what was European law. So then, after that, we can change it if we want to,’ Davis told a BBC interviewer. ‘Any material change will be in primary legislation. It’s only technical matters that will go through the statutory instrument and even then the House of Commons will have its say.’ But critics are less accommodating, calling it a ‘naked power grab.’ Most annoyed are leaders of two devolved regions, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones in Wales. They argue that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns authority from Brussels to Westminster and sidesteps their assemblies, contrary to assurances of co-operation from the Government — which is under no legal obligation to consult them. (Far better for prime minister Tony Blair, during the Westminster devolution period, to have returned more power to the people and rethought the wisdom of setting up additional power centres among the ‘united kingdoms’.)

One cannot help but marvel that this leadership was against Brexit, and now wishes to remain under the EU jurisdiction of the Single Market and Customs Union. But the irony of choosing to live under the European legal yoke would not have been lost on Margaret Thatcher.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

01 August 2017

On the Record | A post-Brexit surprise suggests EU is blocking aspirations of its members

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘A post-Brexit surprise suggests EU is blocking aspirations of its members’:

It looks like it’s going to take a keen eye to handicap the negotiations that are taking place between Britain and Europe in respect of Brexit. Particularly because the early maneuvers may give the false impression that the Brits have been back-footed by wily Brussels bureaucrats.

Not so, is my prediction from the rocky outcrop of Nova Scotia, whence we watch Brexit. While each eyes its counterpart warily, testing for strengths and weaknesses in opposing strategies, the Europeans outside the room offer the hints of the EU’s future. The first telling signs come from its strongest member state, Germany.

It turns out that the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, representing more than 3 million businesses and entrepreneurs, is worried about the impact of Brexit upon prospective trade. (No doubt the same concern is fermenting among the other 26 EU members.) German exports to the UK were down 3% last year, igniting fears of a post-Brexit slump.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

21 July 2017

On the Record | Tony Blair struts and frets his hour upon the stage to frustrate the people’s Brexit

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Tony Blair struts and frets his hour upon the stage to frustrate the people’s Brexit’:

Nothing so annoys an audience as the artless ham who simply won’t get off the stage, trying their patience. Just so former prime minister Tony Blair, as he loiters on the UK political stage, with his incessant need for the spotlight, as put-upon Britons await the needful theatre hook to yank him back to the wings and, with him, his tireless and tiring crusade against Brexit — Britain’s escape from the étatist European Union.

“I think it’s possible now that Brexit doesn’t happen,” Mr. Blair confided to a Sky News interviewer. “I think it’s absolutely necessary that it doesn’t happen because I think every day is bringing us fresh evidence that it’s doing us damage economically, certainly doing us damage politically.”

This pro-EU platform is well-trod by Mr. Blair (once a contender for its presidency), and the Continental project of ever greater integration of its member-states. Britain only escaped the catastrophe of the single currency because Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown insisted that five conditions be met before Britain signed on to the Euro, and internal Labour Party tensions meant that Blair thought twice before crossing his Chancellor.

But the Labour prime minister had no qualms about crossing the electorate. He promised and eventually reneged on giving Britons a voice on a “federated” European constitution, released from his pledge when the plan of an EU super-state failed to pass muster in several other countries. Brussels bureaucrats obfuscated and simply passed the legislation as the Lisbon Treaty, a constitution in all but name. It was Conservative premier David Cameron who ultimately gave the people a choice, which earned him Mr. Blair’s opprobrium for bowing to his Euroskeptic Tories’ demand for democratic accountability. Mr. Blair came out against the 2016 referendum and campaigned for Remain, and has continued to snipe ever since, even threatening to re-enter the political arena at the time of last June’s general election. True to form, as Fleet Street busily reports on Brexit difficulties (real or imagined) with the EU negotiating team, once more our aging pantomime artist slaps on the grease paint and heads out before the Krieg lights.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

16 July 2017

On the Record | France’s Brexit strategy could yet be called war by other means

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘France’s Brexit strategy could yet be called war by other means’:

No wonder President Macron rushed to get President Trump over to Paris. He’s maneuvering madly against Britain in the face of Brexit — a strategy that is finally out in the open with the publication of a leaked City of London memo shared with Brexit ministers early this month.

“France,” it warns, “sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners.” The Corporation’s special representative to the European Union, Jeremy Browne, writes of the intentions of both Paris government and banking officials.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective,” Mr. Browne writes; “the weakening of Britain, the on-going degradation of the City of London.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

27 June 2017

On the Record | Brexit is Britain’s Independence Day

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Brexit is Britain’s Independence Day’:

Independence Day. That was Boris Johnson’s description of June 23rd last year, as he and fellow Leave campaigners canvassed the United Kingdom for Brexit, making the case to exit the European Union and strike out into the world once more as a sovereign nation. What a year it has been, with much to come before the official break in March 2019. ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end,’ so Sir Winston Churchill described an early Allied victory in the darkest hours of World War II. ‘But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’

Many trace the origins of Brexit to Bruges in September 1988, when Margaret Thatcher declared that ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’

Yet with what hopes did the European project begin. The horrors of the war never far from its mind, and with the Soviet threat and the spectre of nuclear devastation before it, the Continent took a positive step toward removing barriers to trade and opening up new markets for competition, innovation, and productivity. Thus was born the European Economic Community (‘Common Market’) in 1958. Alas! conceived in the bureaucratic mind-set, the EEC soon trod the familiar statist path, culminating in 1993 when it became known as the European Community, signalling that politics was added to its economic remit. Political integration now became the central thrust, but a proposed constitution stumbled when plebiscites in several member countries failed, and sleight-of-hand was resorted to with the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, a constitution in all but name.

UK Eurosceptics took their lead from Mrs Thatcher, and while the Westminster establishment encouraged an inexorable move toward continental union, opponents mounted a rear-guard action. To quell unrest, prime minister David Cameron offered Tory MPs in the Coalition Government a referendum on Europe in exchange for their support. When a majority of Britons voted for separation, Mr Cameron resigned the premiership and was replaced by Theresa May. Although hitherto a tacit supporter of staying in the EU, she assured the country and her party that ‘Brexit means Brexit.’

And, as I conclude:

Much hard work and uncertainty remain, but the Brexit anniversary is still an occasion to celebrate. As a young, failed electoral candidate, Benjamin Disraeli remained resolute. ‘I am not at all disheartened,’ he vowed. ‘I do not in any way feel like a defeated man. Perhaps it is because I am used to it. I will say of myself like the famous Italian general, who, being asked in his old age why he was always victorious, replied, it was because he had always been beaten in his youth.’ From Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech on, Brexiteers have been fighting and have been frustrated for thirty years: they are now battle-tested, and they know that British independence is in sight.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

21 June 2017

On the Record | Elizabeth makes it official: The Queen backs Brexit and independence

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘Elizabeth makes it official: The Queen backs Brexit and era of independence’:

“My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union.” With these words Queen Elizabeth today officially opened the 57th Parliament. With the first session scheduled to last two years, it should give the Conservative government sufficient time to concentrate on exiting the European Union by March 2019. So the British ship of state has cleared its decks for Brexit.

As if to emphasize the seriousness of the moment, the State Opening lacked the pomp and circumstance of past years, with the Imperial Crown simply carried in procession and Her Majesty, foregoing the state coach to arrive by limousine and wearing not her ceremonial regalia but a bright blue dress and matching hat. The speech itself was a model of brevity, listing in curt succession the future agenda of the Government.

Many of the economic consequences of Brexit were foreshadowed by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to the Mansion House yesterday. Clearly stung by the results of a snap election meant to strengthen Prime Minister May’s hand, not weaken it, Mr. Hammond admitted that Tories “must make anew the case for a market economy and for sound money” and how “stronger growth must be delivered through rising productivity” as “the only sustainable way to deliver better public services, higher real wages and increased living standards.”

The Chancellor then delivered the strongest case for Britain’s independence — away from the European Union and toward global opportunities: “That means more trade, not less; maintaining our strong trade links with European markets after we leave the EU, as well as seeking out new opportunities for trade and investment with old friends and fast growing emerging economies alike.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

19 June 2017

On the Record | Independence gets lift from Britain’s monarchy as Brexit talks begin

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘Independence gets lift from Britain’s monarchy as Brexit talks begin’:

“The world is your oyster.” So opined Britain’s former trade envoy, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. Asked about UK firms’ attitude toward Brexit, the Duke spoke of their guarded optimism. “You can either look at it as a glass half-empty — which is: ‘Oh my God, why have we done this?’ Or you could look at it as a glass half-full, which is: ‘Okay, that’s where we are. There are opportunities that we’ve got to make.’ So . . . you may lose one thing but you may gain something else.”

Fleet Street is not remiss in reporting this as the first major intervention on the EU exit by a senior member of the Royal Family. But as The New York Sun editorialized March last year as “Elizabeth’s Finest Hour,” the Queen herself “backs Britain leaving the European Union.” This story was confirmed in December, when a BBC reporter revealed that Her Majesty had at a luncheon retorted, “I don’t see why we can’t just get out. What’s the problem?”

Her Majesty will start to get answers today, as her Minister of the Department for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, meets with his continental counterpart, Michel Barnier. Meetings will continue throughout the summer and autumn, with parties drawing up exit plans in Whitehall and Brussels each month, and conferring together once a week about progressing UK-EU negotiations.

EU bureaucrats may have thought that, with Britain’s ruling Conservatives weakened after a failed electoral gambit and reduced to a hung Parliament, the oyster was theirs for the eating. But, true to form, they have misread the British people’s determination for freedom.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

17 June 2017

On the Record | With the Tories in disarray editor George Osborne starts feeling his oats

Please see my latest wire — and first as Brexit diarist — for The New York Sun, ‘ With the Tories in disarray editor George Osborne starts feeling his oats’:

The editor of London’s Evening Standard is feeling his oats. George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer until last June’s Brexit referendum, when prime minister David Cameron left office after his support for the “Remain” campaign. When Theresa May acceded to the leadership, Mr. Osborne felt the bristles of the new broom.

Mr. Osborne landed the Standard editorship last month, and promptly started using his new perch to cast aspersions upon the Conservative Government of which he had once been a central figure. Last week, in the wake of Mrs. May’s humiliation at the polls, Mr. Osborne called her a “dead woman walking.” His latest is an editorial arguing that “this is no time to ditch fiscal responsibility.”

You don’t say. When Mr. Cameron came to power at the head of a coalition government in 2010, his Treasury officials found a letter left them by the outgoing Labor chief secretary, Liam Byrne: “I’m afraid there is no money.” Seven years on — two with a majority Conservative government — there still isn’t any money.

Fiscal hawks will lament that the British deficit and debt are, respectively, a staggering £50 billion and £1,700 billion. Even with the wind at its back, the Tory government failed to do little more than slow the growth of government and hope that better economic conditions — investment, entrepreneurship, and growth — would swell Treasury coffers. The deficit declines accordingly, but the debt continues its upward climb.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

12 June 2017

On the Record | Britain Ripe for Collective Government by ‘Ministry of All the Talents’

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘ Britain Appears to Be Ripe for Collective Government by “Ministry of All the Talents” ’:

Though Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn is one of the few major figures in British politics publically calling for Theresa May to stand down from her premiership, the sentiment is rampant in Conservative constituencies and Establishment enclaves across Great Britain. The Prime Minister’s electoral gamble of trying to backfoot Mr. Corbyn’s troubled tenure, and increase her parliamentary majority, failed spectacularly.

To remain in power as leader of a minority party, Mrs. May must seek an agreement of “confidence and supply” — supply meaning spending — with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who was cashiered in July and edits the Evening Standard, calls Mrs. May a “dead woman walking.”

For all intents and purposes, the Prime Minister leads a caretaker government, awaiting a new head and new direction. Already rumors swirl that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, once her opponent for leadership, has been approached by five ministerial colleagues to stand against Mrs. May. While there may be little love in the country for the beleaguered Tory chief who shared scant authority with her colleagues, there is less appetite among Conservatives for the wounds that would be inflicted by a contest for the top job.

Particularly not with Brexit negotiations scheduled to begin in less than a fortnight (European Union officials will be merciless in exploiting Britain’s divisions to win concessions that undermine the determination of last June’s referendum). Mr. Corbyn’s rejuvenated Labor MPs will be salivating for any opportunity to assume government.

But there is an alternative to the choice of glumly following the maladroit Mrs. May or risking all on the vagaries of a leadership race. Simply turn the Prime Minister from a political liability into a benign figurehead for cabinet rule.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

08 June 2017

On the Record | Tories’ Muddled Approach to British Independence Costs UK Its Compass

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Tories’ Muddled Approach to British Independence Costs UK Its Compass’:

Not for the first time, Britons go to the polls with the European Union the unseen ballot question.

In 2013 David Cameron promised fractious Conservative members of parliament, chaffing under a coalition government, that a referendum on remaining within the European Union would be put before the people. Then it was the Brexit vote itself, with a majority of Britons voting for independence.

Now, with a general election tomorrow, the question revolves around who will steer negotiations: Theresa May’s Tories or Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor party?

For the Brexit purist, neither choice is satisfying. Mrs. May hadn’t campaigned for Brexit last year and, while she has said that “Brexit means Brexit,” the government’s opening gambit has been to accept minor concessions that belie the determination of Britain’s bid for sovereignty, whether, say, paying to participate in the single market and customs union or converting existing EU law to UK law.

As for Labor, while it has mouthed platitudes about respecting the Brexit referendum, its composition of loose variables — from those die-hard statist Europhiles to those who want a second referendum vote — leave much to be desired, as demonstrated by its approach to the EU: placate Europe for access to its markets, enshrine workers’ rights into law without corresponding care for the rights of entrepreneurial capital, and outright rejection of the Tory position that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

24 April 2017

On the Record | Primrose Day

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Primrose Day’:

Pity. If Theresa May had any historical nous, she would have postponed divulging her polling intentions by one day and announced her plans the following morning, Primrose Day — once a high holiday in Conservative circles.

For April 19th is the anniversary of the death in 1881 of Benjamin Disraeli, the Victorian premier who in many ways wrote the manual for successful Tory leaders. Rumoured to be Disraeli’s favourite flower, a primrose wreath was sent to his funeral by a mourning Queen Victoria. Lord Randolph Churchill — Sir Winston’s father — never one to let an occasion pass him by, coined the phrase Primrose League to take advantage of the deceased leader’s popular appeal. For decades, Conservative party ranks were filled with thousands of loyal members from Primrose Leagues across the United Kingdom.

But Dizzy would have admired Mrs May’s electoral gambit. ‘In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill,’ she explained to the press. ‘The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.’ ‘The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,’ she lamented.

So, the Prime Minister reasons, ‘we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.’ Disraeli, a wily tactician himself, relished thwarting his political adversaries by ‘dishing the Whigs.’

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

13 February 2017

On the Record | Brexit’s Progress

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Brexit’s Progress’:

‘MPs hand Theresa May the starting gun on Brexit’. That is how the Independent recorded last Wednesday’s ‘second reading’ in the UK House of Commons [1st February] to permit the Conservative government to begin exiting the European Union. And what a process it has been.

Many will argue that Brexit has been in the works since September 1988, when then prime minister Margaret Thatcher argued that ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’

This became known as her ‘Bruges speech’, and inspired countless Britons to struggle for UK sovereignty against Continental encroachments. An eponymous ‘Bruges Group’, with Lady Thatcher as its founding president, was formed the next year to continue the fight.

Unrest smoldered under successive Labour governments, culminating in widespread disgust at the passing of the Lisbon Treaty — the compromise alternative when a formal agreement failed to receive sufficient votes from member states to pass, and for critics a ‘constitution’ in all-but-name for a federal Europe.

Attempting to quell dissent among his Eurosceptic MPs, coalition prime minister David Cameron promised an ‘in/out referendum’ early in 2013 and, in February last year, called for a June 23rd vote — which ‘Leave’ campaigner Boris Johnson called Britain’s own ‘Independence Day’.

Mr. Cameron, who resigned after leading the unsuccessful Remain camp, was succeeded by Theresa May, who vowed to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and initiate talks to pull Britain out of the EU.

But not so fast. Or ‘festina lente’, as the Romans used to say.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

02 February 2017

On the Record | Making a Case for Trump’s Entrepreneurial Inaugural Address

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Making a Case for Trump’s Entrepreneurial Inaugural Address’:


Hell’s Justice Department issues forth this “Devil’s Advocate” brief…

We are compelled to respond to the Institute of Economic Affairs’ policy head Ryan Bourne’s excellent analysis of President Donald Trump’s paean to protectionism in his first Inaugural Address. (See how we devils like to taunt our colleagues in the #NeverTrump department?) In response to the President’s admonition to “Buy American and Hire American,” Bourne replies that “If Trump goes down the protectionist route, he’ll be hurting American consumers and the growth potential of the US economy.”

In general, we agree with Bourne on the benefits of free trade: lower prices, greater and more diverse availability of goods and services, specialization as a facet of the division of labor, greater productivity, and overall more wealth for all. Yet it also behooves us to mention drawbacks to free trade, for those who lose their jobs to foreign competition and who must either take up new employment with lower emoluments, re-train, or relocate to more financially promising communities. Some, sadly, will find all these alternatives unpalatable or impossible to fulfill. In the larger scheme of things, these are short-term drawbacks, but for the individuals and families involved, they are no small matter and the negative impact can be great.

Nevertheless, we Devil’s Advocates can point to two elements of President Trump’s Inaugural that may give free traders consolation.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

25 January 2017

On the Record | Supreme Court of Britain Insists That Brexit Vote Goes Through Parliament

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Supreme Court of Britain Insists that Brexit Vote Goes Through Parliament’:

Americans tired of presidential end runs around Congress will sympathize with the Supreme Court ruling out of London that Her Majesty’s Government cannot act alone but must pass legislation in Parliament before triggering Brexit negotiations to leave the European Union.

Following this summer’s referendum vote, Prime Minister May promised to initiate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin procedural talks for EU withdrawal. Opponents challenged the government before the High Court in early November, arguing that the executive, by acting unilaterally, was usurping parliamentary sovereignty.

The Government countered that, through executive power based on the royal prerogative and buttressed by the majority vote, its Brexit plans were constitutional. The High Court thought otherwise and ruled against the Government, which in turn appealed to the Supreme Court.

Complications ensued when the constituent countries of the United Kingdom joined in the mid-December hearings, contending that Whitehall diktat threatened the equal prerogatives of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which should have the right to consult on and veto future Brexit developments.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

19 January 2017

On the Record | May Takes a Step Forward to British Independence with an Eye Out for Trump

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘May Takes a Step Forward to British Independence with an Eye Out for Trump’:

Prime Minister May’s Lancaster House speech outlining the British government’s Brexit agenda takes an impressive step forward in Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — and keeps a weather eye out for the man who is about to become President Trump. Brexit was “a vote to restore . . . our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.”

The Prime Minister opened with an apologia, setting out the reasons for Britons’ June decision to leave the EU and set out once more on their historic path of international engagement. “The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours,” Mrs. May assured. “It was no attempt to do harm to the EU itself or to any of its remaining member states.” The lovelorn will recognize the “it’s not you, it’s us.”

Mrs. May detailed a dozen markers that will guide her Brexit strategy, from negotiating a new free trade agreement with the Union (maintaining and revising those current provisions that work for both parties) to normalizing relations for EU citizens living and working in the UK (and vice-versa), while assuring member countries of Britain’s continuing commitment to mutually beneficial co-operation in matters of continental security, defence, and cultural engagement.

Europe was not Mrs. May’s only audience. While England is the dominant “kingdom” in the Union, the Prime Minister assured the administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that their concerns and suggestions will be heard at Westminster. Strengthening “the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom” is also part of the Brexit framework, as the referendum vote demonstrated the urban-rural divide and the tensions between England and the periphery regions.

Read more . . .

One point raised in the wire, to counter both prime minister Theresa May’s ‘modern industrial strategy’ and President-elect Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ protectionist policy, I believe needs to be especially emphasised: ‘Far better to look to future prospects than past accomplishment and base economic policy on the pillars of property, competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship.’ It is the basis of classical liberal economics and, as the French say, la théorie des débouchés (‘law of markets’).


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.