Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Brexit is Britain's path to redemption


Both the Tory Brexit ultras and the EU is that they both believe in maximum trade liberalisation. The only real difference is that the EU works gradually through negotiation whereas the Tories believe there are unilateral shortcuts. The EU knows how the system works when Tories do not have the first clue. What they both have in common is that they haven't really thought about whether it is a good thing and whether the people want it.

We are told time and again that freedom of movement has no detectable impact on wages. I am sure that is true if you look at the averages but any honest multivariate analysis will show that it does have a disproportionate effect on the bottom two deciles. What makes it more difficult to detect is that it tends to mainly affect informal labour or those sectors where it is easier to hide financial transactions. Not least the building trades. 

We are actually being sold a lie in that the one thing all economists agree on is that an increase in supply tends to lead to a collapse in price. Why labour is exempt from this universal rule they do not say. Because it isn't. This is a form of market liberalisation along with liberalisation in trade in goods and services. Voters have expressed doubts about liberal immigration but we should also examine the wider effects of liberalisation of goods. 

We are told that trade liberalisation is a universal good and the statistics will always show that. By keeping losses firmly in separate, unrelated categories, they can convince themselves that they are adding value. You never see them deducing the cost of negative externalities of trade and free movement. If you have a single market in goods, services and people then you also have a single market in crime - and one which asymmetrically affects the UK.

Then there are the undetectable societal impacts. Presently UK retail is collapsing. It's partly mine and your fault. We buy things on Amazon out of convenience and usually because we can save a few quid. But retail is also dying because of unsustainable competition. I shall elaborate.  

I hate Christmas. It means I have to go into town and find something to buy for my family who, like me, don't actually want anything and have everything they could immediately need. This is made all the harder by way of the shops not actually selling anything I would part with money for.

It's not that there isn't a wide selection of goods on sale. It's just that the quality of goods in recent years has collapsed. This is a trend we have seen since the mid nineties as we have opened up our markets to cheap Chinese tat which locally produced quality cannot compete with. 

We therefore have a greater choice but the things we buy have less intrinsic value and are not likely to last. We are actually at a point where it is cheaper to buy a new printer than to replace the ink cartridge. Environmentally that is unsound, but it is also massively wasteful. And that waste is structural. For years we have sent container loads of e-waste abroad to meet our recycling quotas but this usually ends up in Chinese landfill. It's been a key part of the economics for China. 

This also extends to food. Recent "no deal Brexit" warnings have included warnings about the threat to British sandwiches. This is an £8bn industry which is worth a magnitude more than fishing and and employs tens of thousands of people. Again this is a relatively recent phenomenon and one which probably only happens because of a low wage economy. But it also has secondary effects.   

It was recently reported that Millennial couples priced off the London housing ladder could save enough for a deposit in five years by giving up six “luxuries” ranging from phone upgrades to sandwiches and overseas mini-breaks.

Strutt & Parker's original analysis applies to a couple saving for a house over a period of five years, so the figures are a lot more reasonable than they appear, even if it still seems a bit steep for a weekly spend. Their analysis focuses on the potential savings that could be made by a couple cutting back on: coffee, gym membership, takeaways, lottery spending, and not going out once a week.

Naturally this triggers howls of incredulity as hard pressed young things compare their meagre habits to those presented but there is certainly some truth to it. Even in this time of so-called austerity our buying habits have trended ever more toward convenience. Over the last decade we have seen an explosion in supermarket brand express shops opening wherever there is a vacant lot. A quick look at the refrigeration units tell us that it's geared for luxury and convenience foods. It's a peculiarly British thing to see fresh made sandwiches in petrol stations and corner shops.

Britain has become a convenience economy. We can have just about anything we want just so long as we are prepared to lower our expectations on quality. This actually makes something of a mockery of the much vaunted single market controls in that they do not seem to prevent imports of substandard garbage. Amazon backdoors the system. 

The cost of this is a society that has no concept of frugality and one that can sate any whim to the full, which could very easily explain the total collapse in personal savings and the ever growing pensions black hole that we expect the state to plug. The consequence of having a shallow and selfish consumer society is is an equally shallow and selfish politics - and one which sees the state as a financial backstop to its own excessive behaviours. 

What I also see in this is a society that does not create or produce when it can simply buy. We very often innovate in order to produce cheaper alternatives but that doesn't happen when everything is already at rock bottom price. We cannot compete domestically when we're buying from Indian producers who pay 28p an hour. 

This liberalisation has also changed the concept of value. We now take seasonal foods for granted all year round. I am just old enough to remember when new potatoes were a treat. Such things are now mundane and no longer special - to the point where very little is special these days. 

Britain has been at the forefront of liberal economics in Europe and we have liberalised just about everything including immigration and the ruling class has imposed its warped value system on the regions. It has not made us a happier country nor especially has it made us wealthier. Those who caught the housing market at the right time are doing ok but economic exclusion is growing for those who did not. 

Now that we are here we find that Eastern European states are looking very carefully at the malaise we have made for ourselves. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland said on Sunday "Poland belongs in the European Union but should be careful not to be “infected by social diseases” that dominate the bloc, ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader"

Speaking at a party convention he defended his party’s democratic record and accused critics of serving “powerful interests and making deals with the mighty of the world”, in an apparent jab at the close ties between the liberal opposition in Poland and Brussels.

“I had said we would face an uphill battle and that stones would be thrown” Kaczynski said.“We are being attacked internally and from the outside in ways that discount the reality and aim to demean Poland. It’s easy to serve the interests of the most powerful. If you want to serve the society, the nation, it’s much more difficult.”

While underlining the need for Poland to remain inside the bloc, his party says the EU is forcing member states to conform to standards that contravene Poland’s traditional family values. Kaczynski said EU membership was “the shortest way for Poland to achieve parity when it comes to living standards” with its western allies. “But that doesn’t mean we should repeat the mistakes of the West and become infected with social diseases that dominate there,” he added.

Now you can make of that what you will, but as I observed recently, much of Europe only sees the EU as an economic device but does not want the political and social union. Kaczynski may be explicit that Poland needs to stay in the bloc, but it is increasingly apparent that living according to your own values as defined by your own politics is incompatible with EU membership. 

Poland has not yet undergone the sort of rapid social liberalisation the UK has but there are plenty of signs that it doesn't actually want to and I can't say I blame them either. Much of the social liberalisation in the UK is something that was done to us by a virtue signalling metropolitan political class who are bizarrely becoming more authoritarian in the defence of that liberalism. That is why Brexit is as much a culture war as anything else.

This is why I struggle to understand why social conservatives apparently back Jacob Rees-Mogg and his radical "fwee twade" agenda. It's precisely the opposite of what Britain actually wants and needs. I can see the appeal of his social conservatism and is support base is crying out for moral leadership to counteract the creeping "liberal" authoritarianism of the incumbent left. Britain is not the liberal oasis our ruling class imagines it to be.

Remainers have characterised Brexit as a a form of insular nostalgia for days gone by. To a point it is. There is a strong feeling that Britain has lost its moral centre adrift in a perpetual state of moral relativism while our culture and identity is eroded by a political class who will not uphold even the most basics standards. 

Trade liberalisation has had a profound effect on the UK economy but also on our society where we have become an anything goes society where there are no boundaries and the concept of social obligation bound up in citizenship is viewed as antiquated and obsolete. This makes a cohesive society all but impossible, not least with a transient population and insecure employment. 

If anything Brexit is an attempt to row back from globalisation so as to reassert some boundaries and to restore some sense of obligation to one another. The globalist ideal is based on the idea that our nations are just places and that our home is open to the world for others to come and live as they please. What they fail to comprehend is that this is not reciprocated and we never asked for it to be either. 

Right now our politics is collapsing because there is a social revolution underway and our politics as we have known it no longer reflects the divisions in the country. Arguably Brexit is symptom of that, but the EU is one of the more insidious causes of this malaise which has detached our politics from policy and replaced democracy with technocracy. We are, therefore, at the mercy of spreadsheet sociopaths who chase marginal increments in GDP over and above all else and use that as a the sole measure of whether government is performing. 

In recent years due to virtually uncontrolled immigration governments have been able to prop up anaemic growth and just about keep the basics working, but if we are honest with ourselves we know that our entitlement culture is unsustainable and some might very well conclude that if the price of the NHS is predatory Pakistani rape gangs and a perpetual stabbing epidemic and acid attacks then liberal immigration isn't worth it. 

As it happens perceptions are warped by social media as we are fed a daily diet of things we would otherwise not know about. This perhaps explains the rise of the "populist" right which perhaps also explains the establishment's fondness for censorship. Censorship, though, is not the answer. Someone I follow on Twitter remake this week that if liberals will not stand up for our values then it is inevitable we will employ fascists to do it. 

This, of course, is not strictly accurate. The new right have been described as fascists which they aren't. They are in fact the product of liberal success. If you want a society where women and homosexuals are safe to walk the streets and we want to maintain free speech then you can't be importing Islamist primates from the back hills of Pakistan. If we want to maintain liberalism then we must defend it. Being that the moral relativism of the left is no longer capable of doing so, it is not surprising they will be thrown out of office. 

We are told we are facing a crisis of liberalism but it's more a case of if things are to stay the same then everything must change and we must change the way we think about government. Good governance depends on a number of factors and economic growth is far from the most important. There is some recognition of this but the measures to tackle the crisis in social mobility and inequality of opportunity simply do not work. All we are doing is reinforcing failure. 

If we want reform then we have to be ruthless. We have to dismantle the structural welfare serfdom, we have to ask the hard questions about NHS provision, we have to do what it takes to restore labour market fluidity. We have to think long and hard about who and what we open our markets to. We have to rebuild the voluntary ethos and deregulate social provision. We need to rebuild local democracy. We need to take back what is ours. We need a government with the self-confidence to take radical measures and start governing instead of maintaining client bases.

In every area of life the state has sought to insert itself to the point of making people hopelessly dependent on it rather than each other. Even the upper middle class dump granny on the council as soon as she becomes inconvenient - and naturally the state pays. We are culturally conditioned to depend on the state to the point where workers in Britain put less of their wages into savings than counterparts in nearly every other country in Europe. One third of Brits are fiscally illiterate. It makes us feckless, frivolous and selfish.

As we have drifted ever toward managerialism government has lost its moral mission. This is why we have zombie politics drifting from one crisis to another, trying its best not to upset the status quo and firehosing cash at every problem to no avail. It simply doesn't occur to our rulers that there is another way because it means trusting in the public and letting them take back control. This they will not do.

The referendum showed us how the establishment holds us in contempt and it showed us what lengths they will go to in ensuring we don't have a say. That has been the hallmark of our entire relationship with the EU. Like much else in politics, they will try absolutely everything except the one thing that could actually work... democracy. That is why we must leave the EU. We cannot resolve our politics until we do and there is no hope of reform unless we do. 

No comments:

Post a comment