Brexit: What Could It Mean?
Andy Duncan (Honorary Vice-President of Mises UK)
A Speech Delivered in May 2017 at the 5th Austrian School Conference of Mises Brasil
Today, I wish to discuss three related topics, how they fit together, and how we can use them to help create a freer world. These topics consist of historicism, the notion that historic destiny dominates free will; the original formation of ancient states, and what this tells us about modern states; and secession, and how this relates to Brexit and to other freedom movements around the world.
In Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, in Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, and most recently in Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History and the Last Man’, there exists a constant idea from the left that ‘history’ exists as a living entity outside the lives of men, women, and children. This concept, in a nutshell, forms historicism.
This external entity – sort of like the Man in Black in the TV series, ’Lost’ – has somehow struggled for centuries to manipulate mankind into achieving its own independent goals.
Socialists imagine that this entity constantly strives towards societal perfection. Sometimes the ratchet slips and goes backwards, as in the decade of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. However, they believe the general progress of this ratchet remains inexorable, unavoidable, and unstoppable. This tells us why so many non-revolutionary socialists, such as the Fabian Society of Great Britain, use words such as ‘gradualist’ and ‘progressive’. We gradually progress, they say, towards a perfect socialist utopia, which is predetermined by history and where cooked chickens will fly into the mouths of hungry workers.
Further, they imagine that a world state will form this perfect structure, and expand its goodness and its benevolent rule to all, via the oceans, the moon, and the very stars themselves.
As Rothbard explained in ‘Economic Thought Before Adam Smith’, one of my favourite books, the drive behind historicism came from Christian millennialism, which is the belief that a New Jerusalem should await the return of Jesus Christ in some new millennium. This radical Christianity found its best expression in places such as Münster, in Germany. It comes as little surprise to me that millennial Christianity transformed in Germany particularly, into godless socialism. The state replaces God and historicism replaces millennialism. The greatest prophet of this new religion became Karl Marx. So the same cloth that forms radical Christianity also forms radical socialism.
The socialist science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, took historicism to its furthest point when he created ‘Psychohistory’ in his Foundation novels. His main hero, a robot called R. Daneel Olivaw, described how every galactic atom would link together to become a single telepathic organism called ‘Galaxia’, all ruled over by perfect angelic robots. It’s the socialist vision of perfection.
Following on from Christianity, socialists see their heroes – including Lenin, Castro, Chavez, and so forth – as perfect angels rather than as violent immoral men with perverse corrupt ambitions of their own.
Being a child of the 1970s, myself, historic inevitability seemed believable. It seemed that the world did intend to go down a socialist road, whether we wanted it to or otherwise.
But we know, here, that a world state would create a living hell, with rulers far different from being perfect angels. Instead, evil devils would rule over us, bent on satisfying their criminal lifestyles by pillaging and coercing ours, holding us to ransom – ultimately at gunpoint – to force us to make their lives better, at great personal cost to our own.
Though I do find it interesting that when a really good devil appears on television, or in movies, he’s always played by an Englishman!
In his book, ‘Our Enemy the State’, Albert Jay Nock stated: “Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.”
Or, as Murray Rothbard put it in ‘The Ethics of Liberty’, the first state began as a bandit gang writ large. This first state gang will have terrorised early farmers into handing over food tributes, to avoid the direct threat of cannibalism or murder.
And we see clearly how this first state began in the TV series, the Walking Dead, where Negan and his Saviours behave exactly in this way.
We even have documentary evidence of the first states beginning in violence, with one of the earliest pictures from Ancient Egypt, the famous Narmer Palette.
This shows the first ever Egyptian Pharaoh, King Narmer, beating conquered farmers over the head with something that looks remarkably like Negan’s infamous baseball bat.
Many predator states then arose all over the world, all born in bloodshed, especially when human populations became sedentary through the invention of farming at the end of the last ice age.
These early farmers were held hostage by organised criminals, just like the Mafia. Trapped on their land, they reluctantly handed over some small percentage of their crop to these protection racket warrior gangs.
Once freed from daily labour, the gang lords and their intellectual bodyguards prospered to become kings, emperors, high priests, and generals. Through the evolutionary process of warfare and welfare, these initial bandit gang territories coalesced into the several hundred states we see today, some small, some large.
If any natural orders did arise to combat these criminals, kings would use intellectual bodyguards to put forward the Hobbesian myth that monopoly judges like them are needed, funded by taxation, to resist these criminals.
Thus the monster called Leviathan feeds itself.
Strangely, those early crop taxes, stolen by these original bandit gangs, perhaps amounted to only ten percent or less.
This is what Judge Samuel says in the Bible, which is our best document from this time. About a King of Israel: ’He will take the tenth of your grain, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants’.
Nowadays, because of the successful indoctrination of children in state day prisons, known as schools, this figure has swelled to fifty percent or more. But I’m digressing.
This DNA of violence and theft has never left the state, but now they call it taxation policy and security policy.
As it evolved, the state also rid itself of visible kings, such as King Pedro II, and has successfully draped itself in the camouflage of what it calls ‘freedom and democracy’.
Underneath this skin, however, as Nietzsche would say, the same powerful lion still bites us with the same stolen teeth. It also now spies on every transaction to make sure it gets its cut. It also spies on us because despite its power from the barrel of its gun, it still fears us. It remains a parasite entirely reliant upon us.
It steals its guns from us. It lives upon our substance, and as Rothbard said in ‘The Anatomy of the State’, it needs our goodwill, or at least our acceptance of its existence, to survive.
To generate our goodwill, it spends much of what it takes from us in propping up those intellectual bodyguards to persuade the rest of us of our need for this ravenous predator – The Hobbesian Myth again – in return for a handsome share of the stolen loot.
We see this again in ‘The Walking Dead’, where Negan buys the intellectual support of Eugene, with a jar of pickles taken from someone else. How easily are the morals of the statist intelligentsia purchased.
Or, as the Bible puts it, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour’.
But even the most powerful state can melt away once we call its bluff, despite all of its guns – witness the death of the Soviet Union. One moment – or rather for seventy terrible years – the Soviet Union terrorised its population of what Hoppe would call “public slaves.” But its collapse came as swiftly as the Bolshevik’s own seizure of power in 1917!
From global superpower, within minutes of Boris Yeltsin standing on one of its own tanks, it blew away like mist in the morning sun.
Getting back to our Brexit story, it did seem a few years ago – perhaps around the creation of the Euro currency – that relentless state growth would continue – with places like Estonia immediately swapping Soviet domination for EU domination – until such time as we inevitably arrived at a world state without any form of escape.
Of course, Mises explained in 1920 that any socialist world state would collapse for lack of rational economic calculations.
We see this model in microcosm in Venezuela, now, and we’ve seen it many times before.
Without any need to satisfy any market, factory managers kept themselves out of the Soviet Gulag by always meeting State targets, no matter how ludicrous the result.
Henry Hazlitt even wrote a brilliant novel, ‘Time Will Run Back’, which describes how a socialist world state would revert back to a free market. But do we need a world state before we can get back to private property and individual freedom? Fortunately, Brexit has broken the steps on the escalator.
Brexit. Changes. Everything.
Beforehand, we see the European Union growing ever larger and ever more menacing towards its subjects. The U.S. state helped form the EU after World War II to shackle Germany, I believe, into the American Empire. In history, many such empires never go by their true name. For example, the Athenian Empire of Classical Greece called itself the ‘Delian League’. The Soviet Empire called itself the ‘Warsaw Pact’. And the American Empire calls itself ‘NATO’.
This stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but NATO forces now pop up everywhere around the globe, often formed of U.S. troops and those of reliable subservient states such as, unfortunately, the United Kingdom.
My geography does get confused, but I’m pretty sure that Afghanistan is nowhere near the North Atlantic!
It seemed one day the EU would merge with NAFTA, Mercosur, and all the rest – perhaps under a United Nations umbrella – and that this would form what George Orwell would have called Oceania. Perhaps then we would have a final showdown between Eastasia and Eurasia to deliver us into the hands of a true world state. After the TV show Firefly, I’ll call this planned world government, ‘The Alliance’.
I hope you noticed, if you did watch Firefly, that all the major villains in the Alliance were also played by Englishmen. If you need a good villain, get an Englishman!
But England has made up for this, I hope, with Brexit; it delivered a potential death blow to the European Union. We saw immediately afterwards Donald Trump’s accession to the White House. Now I believe Trump’s election arose only as an indirect consequence of Brexit, but it’s definitely as part of the same process of people all over the world waking up, realising that they’ve allowed themselves to become slaves, and finally attempting to shake off that slavery.
Even the French Revolution tried to achieve the same thing. However, the modern invention of socialism at the time by the French aristocrat, Claude Henri de Rouvroy, the Count of Saint-Simon, soon turned the ‘Ancien Regime’ of King Louis XVI into the more modern horror of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror.
Socialism hijacked the French Revolution.
Now some may find it surprising that an aristocrat invented modern-day socialism, but I find it entirely predictable. In ancient Athens, a family of aristocrats – the Alcmaeonidae – invented democracy. They used it as a tool to cement their own power over other families to create the Athenian Empire, which as one of its first acts sentenced the philosopher Socrates to death. Thank you, democracy.
This corrosive Delian League, spawned by democracy, only collapsed after decades of resistance by the rest of the Greek people.
Fortunately, the ancients realised that mob rule – democracy – had proved a dangerous experiment, so they locked it inside Pandora’s Box for two thousand years. Unfortunately, the French Revolution released this monster once again.
Immediately, it generated another coercive empire, which the people of Europe needed to face down. This included guerrillas in Portugal and Spain, who eventually drove Napoleon out of the Iberian peninsula, with a little help from the English.
Always and everywhere, whenever socialism and democracy appear, especially when they twist together, they create powerful tools to enable a new ruling class to replace an old ruling class.
As Daenerys Targaryen said on Game of Thrones, the wheel turns, but we are still bound by the same spokes.
But, Brexit shattered the morale of European elites. Let’s hope it broke the EU’s wheel. Let’s hope that Brexit also forms the end of this trend in history of a global state war on individuals, private property, and freedom.
So let me describe how Brexit happened. The actions of a single Englishman triggered it. Having had the chance to speak with Nigel Farage, and having found him quite an ordinary man, let’s consider what he achieved, almost single-handedly. He turned around the super tanker of world government and sent it crashing onto the rocks of its own arrogance.
A former commodities trader in London, he resigned from the British Conservative party in 1992. This was after it drove Britain into the Maastricht Treaty. This terrible agreement created the European Union monster, which the elite had previously sold to British people as a simple European Economic Community. Overnight, the club became a country, along with a flag, an anthem, and a president.
Nobody asked me whether I wanted to become a citizen of this horrible super state.
Farage then helped form the UK Independence Party and became its leading figure, up until the Brexit vote last year. Against all odds, he started eating into the Conservative party’s political base. He gave them a real fright in 2009 when his party came second in the European Parliament election.
Since 2009, the Conservatives ran scared of Farage demolishing them, to gain their well-deserved place in the dustbin of history. He frightened them so much that, to stop him, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised that if he won the 2015 General Election, he would deliver a referendum to secede from the European Union. Yes!
Nigel Farage cornered him into that promise.
Three unspoken things fed the referendum. First, David Cameron expected to win the General Election, but only with the support of a different party, the Liberal Democrats.
He would then turn around after the election and say, ‘My coalition partners have blocked the referendum I promised, so it’s business as usual with the European Union.’
Unfortunately for David Cameron, he won a clear majority, so this excuse was blown away. A man might say to his wife, I’ll get rid of my girlfriend, but only if you let me drink wine every day. Imagine his surprise if his wife gave him the keys to the wine cellar!
Second, nobody expected a referendum, even if held, to actually vote against the European Union. The entire establishment supported the EU and every intellectual bodyguard on the state payroll supported the EU. They all thought that we dumb proletarians lacked the nerve to challenge their clearly expressed wishes.
David Cameron also rigged the election in every way he could. He loaded the referendum question, involved the supposedly unbiased civil service in the pro-EU cause, paid for pro-EU leaflets with taxpayer funds, called Brexit supporters unintelligent racists, enlisted the help of Barack Obama, and finally, threatened the entire population that the country would face something approaching a zombie apocalypse if they dared vote the wrong way.
Daniel Hannan, who’s a Member of the European Parliament, became really good at countering this ‘Project Fear’, with some wonderful tweets. My favourite threatens an invasion of Britain by giant mosquitoes if we left the EU!
Fortunately, Nigel Farage got the referendum question changed, and helped to dismiss all of this ‘Project Fear’ talk, of impending disaster.
Finally, third, even if Brexit crossed the first two hurdles – seen as highly unlikely – the political elite would water down Brexit in such a way that it would make no political difference. Peter Hitchens called this the Hotel California option. You can check out from the EU, but you can never leave.
But the process of Brexit continues. The vote possessed such power that any politician who tries to employ this trick, will get destroyed at any subsequent election. Because of the selfish cowardly nature of politicians, so far it looks as though we really will achieve a real separation from the appalling EU. But I cross my fingers every day, just to make sure.
Farage achieved the remarkable event of Brexit in less than twenty years. This demonstrates the importance of a single person, rather than the collective.
Since Brexit, the EU has begun to unravel even faster than I would’ve predicted. Within a decade, I hope it disappears entirely, just like the Soviet Union. Maybe this will occur when the Euro collapses? I say when, rather than if, because I’ve read Mises and Rothbard!
And with the EU will go any immediate creation of any world government Alliance. Hurrah!
Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that those same deep state forces which wrapped us in chains for ten thousand years have gone away. The kleptocrats remain. They plot and they scheme for power. Always. History merely describes events that happen. Their project could re-establish itself. They retain immense power especially through central banks. If we want freedom, if we want to stop existing as slaves, we need to keep promoting secession. The snowball of Brexit must become an avalanche.
Daenerys Targaryen will not rescue us from slave masters with three handy dragons at her back. The work remains with us.
They want us to work for their luxury. They want to avoid the whims of the free market, especially court intellectuals, most of whom would never find a job on a free market in line with their own good opinion of themselves. They believe themselves superior to us. They think we need them to direct our lives for us, even though we’re too stupid to realise it.
They want to control us, because this makes their immoral lives of coercion and theft easier, even though this drains wealth and freedom from the rest of society. What does this matter to them, living off taxes, so long as the champagne, the five star hotels, and the first class air tickets all keep flowing at the G20 political summits and the Davos conferences of this world – as I hope that the voluntarily supplied champagne will flow tonight!
We must continue the work of South American secessionists, like the wonderfully named Bernardo O’Higgins and Simon Bolivar.
It’s remained a puzzle to me why Brazil failed to break up in the same way that the Spanish Empire broke up, but maybe it’s because you are such relaxed, beautiful people. However even so, independence from Portugal was achieved.
But you have a problem. If Brazil secedes from Mercosur, what are you going to call this process? You can’t call it ‘Brexit’, because that name is already taken. But I have a potential solution for you…
You can call it Brexcita!
There has been a limited history of secession in Brazilian history.
Perhaps this can be extended in the future, especially with ‘O Sul é o Meu País’ and other movements. But I’ll leave that to you!
So what can we do now? We must achieve Brexit everywhere. We must help all secessionists, everywhere. We must secede from everywhere, whether this is Venice, Catalonia, California, Scotland, or even places closer to home.
You might say, but what if a potentially new country will then get ruled over by socialists, such as in California? Should we help secession then? I say yes. The Scottish Independence Party forms a deeply socialist body, but I support them in their bid for a free Scotland. Why? Because as states shrink, markets force them to become even more free. Very large countries such as the United States, Russia, Brazil, can get away with socialism for some time. They lack the absolute need to trade outside their borders.
So they can sustain socialist islands of economic chaos, because the country contains most of the resources it needs to survive, on a day to day basis. But as a country becomes smaller, it needs import and export markets – more and more – to keep itself going.
At the other extreme from countries like Brazil, we have micro-countries such as Monaco, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Because of their tiny size, they need entrepreneurs and markets to survive. With socialism, they would starve. With free markets, they have become the richest countries, per capita, in the world.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe said in ‘A Short History of Man’ that the world should break down into a constellation of such micro-countries. I believe that Brexit could mark the beginning of such a constellation, with a diverse world of free peoples, in small independent territories, all trading together.
As states shrink in a linear fashion, their power shrinks in exponential fashion and free markets expand in exponential fashion. The power of trading blocs shrinks, until we reach a point where we can get rid of all these socialist trading agreements completely. Then we shall trade with someone on the far side of the world as easily as we trade with a next door neighbour.
I dream of a free Catalonia, a free Galicia, and an independent Venetian Republic. I dream of a free Scotland, a free Cornwall, and a free Henley On Thames, which is where I live. I’m going to be the natural order King!
I want you to dream of these things too.
So everywhere you see secession, support it. Sponsor it. Help it. This way, eventually, over time, we’ll evaporate the state down to nothing. I challenge you to make as much difference as Nigel Farage.
And then we can go beyond having less Marx and more Mises.
Then we shall have zero Marx and all Mises.
Thank you very much.
I disagree with Andy Duncan’d hope for a multitude of micro states and I think calling for it does not help our cause. The ideal size of a state is what the inhabitants generally are happy with and I believe there is a demos for England.
There is also a demos for Scotland or perhaps more correctly several potential demos because I do not see much empathy between the central belt and the Highlands or with the Islands and Shetland.
This is perhaps a small quibble and thank you Andy for the lecture.
This was an excellent read. Thanks for sharing. I’m currently in Tobago where my partner lives and they have a very large autonomy movement here that wish to secede from Trinidad, its very encouraging. Movements in Catalonia and Brittany are promising too.
I personally think that the British constitution, ancient and unwritten, is the most powerful tool we have against Fabian/EU/UN historicism that we have in the UK. Our constitution is practically libertarian as far as I’m concerned, the fact that as a people we have fought and reclaimed time and time again for millennnia certain very basic constitutional rights, perhaps most significantly the right to simply be LEFT ALONE, is a powerfully motivating national myth that has the power to inflame us to maintain our most rudimentary autonomy in the face of the state, and strongly counters the idea that freedom lies with progress as we consider our freedom (defined as negative liberty) to be an ancient pre-Norman inheritance. Whether or not we ever lived in such a state of freedom prior to the Normans and Romans is irrelevant, it is a powerful foundational myth that is sadly unknown to young people disaffected with the state and government, they naively turn to socialism (I was one of them) without realising that socialism is the trap they’re already in.
I also think that a good knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and democratic Kampuchea is a very powerful weapon against socialist and historicist myths. Soviet Russia and even Maoist china are liable to romanticism for whatever reason, perhaps lack of primary accounts and obscurity, but the pol pot regime is now a very open source. Not only is it absolutely clear that pol pot’s Sorbonne education which drove his eventual reign of terror was the result of French Marxist intellectuals, the same intellectuals that are responsinle for the long march through the institutions that STILL exists to this day in most western universities AND of course the education of the blairites and europhiles/eurocommunists, but due to the wealth of resources we have on the horror of the pol pot regime – hundreds of thousands of photos, ‘confessions’, plenty of damnimg survivor accounts and even living ex-guards that have been quite willing to layout exactly how they were indoctrinated and all of the unspeakable barbaric acts of torture and depravity they inflicted on completely innocent victims due partly to the paranoia of the leadership (the same old communist paranoia we find an inchoate form of in Rousseau, interestingly enough) but also as you rightly say, the fear of torture and execution that caused the guards and functionaries to extract insane ‘confessions’ to meet ridiculous, impossible quotas. It’s my belief that a study of the Khmer Rouge regime, from its Marxist university origins to its very clear descent into absolute hell that we can clearly witness today is a very powerful tool against socialist myths/lies, and an understanding of our unwritten, providential constitutional inheritance makes for a blessed replacement of the false idea of progress (the rotten side to the enlightenment, which I don’t believe defines all of it) and trumping of the socialist myth.
It might b an oversimplification, but I believe that the English classical liberal tradition was simply a rationalising of our ancient constitution; this sowed the seeds for the elucidation of the libertarian and Austrian economic outlook that came later.
Had to write this on a phone so it’s messy (not even gonna proofread) but I really enjoyed this article and will return to it again, gave me a great deal to think about.