The Futility of Electoral Politics

The Futility of Electoral Politics
by Sean Gabb
8th April 2018

One of my Books
Learn More

There was a time when I felt obliged to argue for certain propositions. However, we have now reached a stage where these propositions can be taken as at least a working hypothesis. We are governed by a coalition of fools, cowards, drunkards, whoremasters, and whores of every kind. Their mission is to finish turning England into a financial casino in which a few hundred thousand punters and croupiers grow very rich, while the rest of us – when not working as cleaners, drivers, cooks, and jesters without licence – live either as atomised individuals or in ethnic and religious communities, each too powerless to impose on the others any one agenda of dissent. This is not to say we shall be impoverished in the traditional sense. We shall have no shortage of food or of shiny electronic toys. But we shall not have the luxury of owning property, and our only security against falling into real poverty will be obedience to our masters and an outward show of conformity to whatever they claim at any one moment to believe.

The main divide in British politics is over the details of the settlement. Those politicians who want us to remain in the European Union, either formally or informally, are in the pay of commercial interests that want to make money from continued access to the Single Market. Those arguing for a clean break are in the pay of other interests that hope to make money from the chaos of an unprepared exit. The idea that any of these politicians is concerned for our long-term interests, as free citizens of an independent nation, is risible. Whatever noises they make to the contrary are the equivalent of tickling a trout until it can be stunned and thrown in the bag.

These propositions being taken for granted, the question is what can be done. The answer, I suspect, is nothing in the political sense. Two years ago, we voted to leave the European Union. This gave our masters a few weeks of panic, followed by effective action to restore business as usual. Two years ago, millions of our American cousins voted for what was promised to be a more fundamental revolution. The result again was business as usual. If Donald Trump was always a fraud, or if he has given up trying to swim against a tide of power he never imagined, is beside the point. The difference between him as President of America and Hillary Clinton seems to be one of public relations.

Perhaps it is too early to call these revolutions a failure. Perhaps they can be seen as the early moves in a process that will take us, slowly and without obvious break, away from the future that seems presently to await us. The intellectuals who legitimise our masters are getting old. They are faced by dissident intellectuals who are younger, and more in possession of the truth. Intellectuals are important. No matter how much money and how many guns may be there, interests without legitimisation are like leaves in autumn. It may be that we have simply to wait for the revolution to take place. Perhaps it will happen one retirement and one funeral at a time. If I presently find it hard to believe, this is a credible possibility.

What I have to say, however, does not require me to take sides in that debate. Whether people who have been getting all they wanted since about 1980 will carry on getting what they want for the foreseeable future, or are already in retreat, is irrelevant to how we conservatives and libertarians ought to conduct ourselves for the next few decades. Here are my thoughts – given not for the first time, but based on four decades of observation and writing and other attempts at activism.

This Book is Free to download, or buy a hard copy

I see no value in electoral politics. There is in both mainstream parties a sealed divide between the membership and the leaders. If the Conservative leaders had in any sense been responsible to the party membership, they would have pulled us out of the European Union in 1980. They might have been less liberal on pornography and sexual nonconformity. They would also have given us a more overtly authoritarian criminal justice system. On the other hand, they would not have given us the anarcho-tyranny we had already entered by 1997 – minimal punishments for real crimes, and a mass of non-crimes punished by random brown envelopes through the post. The Blair-Brown takeover of the Labour Party I leave to my Labour friends to discuss. But what they delivered was not socialism in any meaningful sense. What they did deliver may have been slightly better from my own point of view – but this also is not a point I feel inclined to argue. We can be sure, even so, that electing Jeremy Corbyn will also not deliver socialism. He would face the same constraints as Donald Trump has in America, and his time in office would be more symbolic than substantial. Getting involved in these parties is a waste of time for anyone who wants change from the present order of things – though where the Labour Party is concerned, that may not be so bad. But these parties are not, and cannot be made, vehicles for meaningful change.

Where minor parties are concerned, there may be some value in participation. It was, after all, the fact of a haemorrhage of votes to UKIP that forced David Cameron to allow that referendum on membership of the European Union. At the same time, political parties soak up considerable effort and money for little worthwhile effect. They are also open to capture by the usual cast of cranks and outright criminals. Either these people take over completely, or they hobble the few men of vision who manage to rise to the top.

The ultimate cause of where we are is not because the country is governed by trash, but because government by trash is the best we presently deserve. We are where we are because we no longer see ourselves as a distinctive people, able and willing to hold onto our ancestral homeland and our ancestral ways. Membership if the European Union is one symptom of this collective failure. So is multiculturalism. So is our cultural prostration before America. So is the degeneracy of our rulers, and the immiserisation of our working classes. These symptoms cannot be addressed before the cause is addressed.

So, how to address the cause? Let us rule out a rich man willing to lavish money on us. The money would not come to us, but be grabbed by the usual suspects and spent on cocaine and whores in the usual manner. The rich man would almost certainly be a fool, more focussed on speaking in the Albert Hall than on doing something useful. And I doubt there are any rich men on our side. What I suggest instead is a growth of self-sufficient communities of interest.

Details here

We need to form closer bonds with each other than the commonalities of outlook that have brought us together. Because state and corporate employments are increasingly closed to us, we are forced to consider self-employment. This gives us the moral advantage of independence. This being said, the self-employed flourish best not as isolated individuals, competing in some anonymous market, but as members of tight networks. We need to do business with each other, and to help each other. In every respect where it can be given, we must give regular preference to each other. We should employ builders and window cleaners who share our outlook. We should expect preference in the sale of our own talents from those who share our outlook. We need our own schools and institutions of learning and research, our own orders of distinction and merit. We need standards by which to discipline the unworthy, or purge them from our communities, and to prevent infiltration. We need to show indifference to smears from the ruling class media, and discretion and flexibility enough to shelter us from its direct invasions.

I am not suggesting yet more organisations. These need money and officers, and the officers will be more of the usual suspects. I am only suggesting that we should change how we lead our everyday lives, so that we behave a members of a community rather than utility-maximising consumers. Nor am I suggesting withdrawal and quietism, even if that might be the result for some of us. The purpose is to create communities with institutions of outreach and proselytism, and a cultural revival and style of life that makes us worth listening to.

This is not an unprecedented strategy. It has, with necessary variations, been followed by every group of outsiders who survived and flourished and had eventual influence. I think of Christians in the second and third centuries, or Jews in twentieth century England, or Moslems at the moment in England. These are all examples from which we can learn.

How long before these communities can grow into a network of communities able to have a measurable influence on our national life? I have no idea. But I do insist that, had this been our strategy in 1992, some difference might now have been made. Instead – and, so far as I have been alive and active in this time, I do not exclude myself from the blame – we have spent a quarter of a century variously whining about the Maastricht Treaty and helping rich men grow still richer by arguing for the transfer of state monopolies into their hands. It is simply unfortunate if we must begin a strategy that might work somewhat later than we should have. But nothing can be achieved otherwise.

The sooner we begin, the better it will be.


  1. Sean: Thank you for a fine essay.

    As Mason Cooley put it, “Commerce is greedy. Ideology is blood-thirsty.” Today’s political classes are one or the other, or – increasingly – both. You’re right that it’s pointless to try to do anything within the existing political system; as I’ve been arguing pretty much since I discovered the ideas of liberty.

    And your idea of self-sufficient communities of interest is very close to my own vision of a decent future. Surprisingly so, since I don’t think of myself as a conservative. The vision at the back of my mind is of communities of different kinds of people, each operating their own rules internally, but dealing with other communities (of similar or different beliefs) according to a basic set of rules acceptable to all. In my view, conservative communities, anarchist communities, small scale capitalist communities, Muslim communities, and lots of other kinds can all co-exist in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance – and interact economically too, in a kind of “market of markets.” And these communities may be, but need not be, geographically based.

    In such a vision, there is no place for the state or for a political class.

    • Political parties might be useful to roll back the state by tax cuts but first there needs to be a public that sees the state as wasteful and dysfunctional. As the public are today, voting is futile

      Did those certain propositions you used to argue ever have any merit, Sean?

      It does not seem to be the case that very intelligent people could make the negative sum game of politic a boon to the public. The state is an anti-social institution as liberalism has always suggested.

      The public saw the EU as alien. That is why they voted Leave. They expected to Leave at once. They do not like article 50 that creates uncertainty to discourage others from leaving the EU. “Revolution” is in politics as “soul” is in religion and both lack existential import. They also lack credibility. I am more explicit but quite concentric when I say they are sheer Romance. 1789 in backward France was not a Revolution no more than there ever was one elsewhere. It was merely a series of riots. You may have a mind but you have no soul or faith. They at null-set ideas that refer to nothing.

      We do not have any masters. The state is there but is made up not of masters but of conforming flatterers but they do impose Political Correctness [PC] but only because they do not understand it. A part of the Brexit and Trump protest was about the state’s attempt to PC brainwash.

      Liberals, especially anarcho-liberals, need to continue to point out the anti-social and wasteful nature of the state and politics.

      There seems to be no point whatsoever in liberals trying to form a community of their own. That will not roll back or get rid of the state. Liberal propaganda is the sole thing for liberals to do.

      What difference might have been made from positive discrimination amongst liberals from 1992 onwards? I suggest it is none at all.

  2. Electoral politics has always had the fatal flaw that the people who get elected are simply the ones who are good at winning elections.

    Similarly the people who are best at making money are the people who are best at conning you into parting with it and the best people at getting women are usually gigolos.

    The actual quality of the product or person is secondary.

    Thus the potentially ‘reasonable’ sounding ‘centre’ parties (in the UK thats usually the Lib Dems) are great at getting votes from people who like listening to people who claim to be ‘reasonable’ and assume that there is some ‘centrist’, non political Utopia, available which the rest are keeping from them.

    At the moment there is (according to the media), a ‘clamour’ for a new ‘centre party’. How this would differ from the Lib Dems, the ‘left’ elements in the Tories, or the ‘right’ elements in Labour which between them have a substantial majority in Parliament already, isn’t explained by the people who say there we are ‘clamouring’ for it.

    It’s only when these Lib Dems etc are actually forced to take power that the whole thing goes tits up, their voters abandon them, and go off and vote for various other parties including loony left, and fascist ones.

    People on the other hand who have a harsher tone, tell it like it is, are not so attractive looking, or are just boring, find it harder to get votes, regardless of the fact that what they are promising might be much better, and that they actually have some skills at doing the job you are voting for them to do.

    Whatever criticism we might have of Mrs May, she is plainly more capable of actually doing whatever it is she is supposed to be doing, than almost anyone else in Parliament. She’s just not as good at winning elections, as the Tories had assumed she’d be.

    Were she more attractive however, and a political spiv like Tony Blair, Justin Trudeaux, Obama, Bill Clinton, Macron, JFK, etc etc etc, she’d win a landslide i her existing ‘policies’

    When people are asked to vote on a specific issue in a Referendum however, things turn out rather different. People quite happily vote for things like Brexit. But when people who go on TV to argue in favour of it, they are presented by the media as nutters.

    I think Trump’s election can properly be seen as much as a Referendum, on dissatisfaction with the electoral establishment, as it was on whether Hillary or he, were best (or even suitable) to be elected at all.

    We should count ourselves lucky we don’t have ‘Proportional Representation’. We have precious little ‘democracy’ as it is but with PR, it would cease altogether.

Leave a Reply