THE COLUMN: The System Is the Steal

The nastiest side effect of China's gift to the world, Covid-19, was not the illness itself, nor the deaths (surely over-attributed) it caused primarily among the aged and infirm. Nor was it the unnecessary and unconstitutional lockdowns that accompanied the government-fueled, manufactured authoritarian panic, along with the arbitrary abrogation of fundamental constitutional rights, including those protected under the first amendment: freedom of speech, assembly, and the free exercise of religion—a national disgrace that will live in infamy, and which should never be forgiven.

Nor was it the incalculable economic destruction caused by this unholy concoction of Chinese bat-butt soup, liver of pangolin, and gain-of-function seasonings provided by Chef Boyarfauci, nor the loss of several years of schooling for America's increasingly ineducable youth. Nor even was it the semi-mandatory "vaccines" that don't fulfill any of the traditional metrics for real vaccines, including prevention of disease and its transmission or the granting of future immunity; now the argument has moved to whether they actually kill people, which isn't an encouraging trajectory for something billed as a panacea.

No, the worst damage has been to our political-electoral systems, as the results of the past two elections have made abundantly clear. Forget the nonsense about a "stolen" election; all elections are "stolen," if by stolen you mean that one side won and one side lost, and have been since George Washington Plunkitt was a pup. (For those keeping score at home, Tammany Hall, of which Plunkitt was an outstanding exemplar, was founded by Aaron Burr, the first Democrat Party vice president, national traitor, and murderer of Alexander Hamilton.) Whatever the election rules are—and under our unwieldy system, there are 50 different sets of them—the party that manipulates them best usually wins. And this of course gives the long-practiced Democrats an enormous advantage.

The fundamental principle of all American elections has been to determine as far in advance as possible how many votes the other guy is getting and then come crashing in at the end with overwhelming numbers of newfound votes to close the deal at the finishing bell. You can find them in storerooms, in the trunks of cars; sometimes they fall off trucks, mimeographed and marked in advance to save the poor voter's time. You do whatever it takes, more or less within the limits of the law, and then worry about penalties after the election is safely in the bag.

Permission vs. forgiveness: the fraud, dear Brutus, lies not in the machines but in our electoral system. There is only one way to ensure a free and fair election. But before we get to that, consider this:

Democratic norms are not perfectly realized anywhere, even in advanced democracies. Access to the electoral arena always has a cost and is never perfectly equal; the scopes and jurisdictions of elective offices are everywhere limited; electoral institutions invariably discriminate against somebody inside or outside the party system; and democratic politics is never quite sovereign but always subject to societal as well as constitutional constraints... There is much room for nuance and ambivalence... [and] bending and circumventing the rules may sometimes be considered “part of the game.”

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Part of the game? It is the game. There is no perfect "democracy." The system is, in fact, the steal. 

One of the Democrats' favored weapons a century ago was the Repeater, the man who voted in multiple districts under various names, a la today's college students, illegal aliens, single cat ladies with toxoplasmosis, and forgetful suburban wine moms. When the opposition (here called the Fusionists) tried to do the same thing, they would easily be caught out; one thing the GOP never has been any good at is being a criminal organization masquerading as a political party. It just doesn't have the talent for it:

The Fusionists make about the same sort of a mistake that a repeater made at an election in Albany several years ago. He was hired to go to the polls early in a half-dozen election districts and vote on other men's names before these men reached the polls. At one place, when he was asked his name by the poll clerk, he had the nerve to answer "William Croswell Doane."

"Come off. You ain't Bishop Doane," said the poll clerk.

"The hell I ain't, you—I" yelled the repeater.

Now, that is the sort of bad judgment the Fusionists are guilty of. They don't pick men to suit the work they have to do.

And what is that work? Why, winning elections, of course. Power and the lust for it is the only constant in political systems, even democracies. The Greeks were just as mad for dominance as any Roman consul; Periclean Athens was no idyll. Further, there is little or no proof that "democracies" are inherently superior to other forms of government, Churchill's silly formulation to the contrary notwithstanding. European democracies differ greatly from the American version, as do the Chinese and North Korean versions.

Nor is there any compelling practical argument in favor of universal suffrage; slaves, women, and male teenagers were not allowed to vote either in Greece or Rome, nor would they be for almost 2,000 years. Voting was generally limited to property owners, those with a financial stake in their society. As we'll see next week in my column about the history and effects of the 19th amendment, the expansion of a fetishized franchise ("sacred right," etc.) created at least as many problems as it solved. To the question of universal suffrage, "because" cannot be a satisfactory answer.

But unless the vote is given to toddlers, numerate chickens, or articulate dolphins, there are no more worlds left to conquer on the universal suffrage score. Covid, however, gave the Left whole new worlds to conquer: instead of expanding the franchise they simply expanded the time available to exercise it. Originally sold (as usual) as a "compassionate" and "fair" redress for the poor, the sick, the out-of-town, and those unable to read a calendar, mail-in and other forms of passive voting have now taken over the system:

The biggest issue for election administration in 2020 was the pivot to voting by mail throughout the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying importance of de-densifying in-person voting. This need led many states to increase opportunities for voting by mail, ranging from expanding the accepted reasons voters could list for requesting a mail ballot, to mailing ballots to all registered voters. As a consequence of these changes, the rate of voting by mail in 2020 doubled from 2016.

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That's not the worst of it. Friendly judges across the land threw out challenges to mail-in/absentee ballots on the niggling grounds that they weren't properly executed; worse, "ballot harvesting" allowed dumps of completely untraceable "votes" into random drop boxes, and lax counting regulations (differing from state to state) meant the suspect ballots could be quickly mingled into the legitimate-vote population. Add to that the arbitrary decision regarding the latest moment that ballots could be accepted even after the real polls had closed and you have a recipe for a perfectly legal steal.

Voting for fraud, not for democracy.

So while you’re complaining about the results of the last two elections, remember that in many states votes were cast weeks or even months ago. Those votes heavily favored the Democrats, which in part accounts for the election of a bona fide rutabaga as the new senator from Pennsylvania. Further, as long as one side can mail in—or worse, "discover"—an unlimited number of ballots or votes on thumb drives of uncertain provenance, with little or no chain of custody, and the other side appears in person with ID to vote once on election day (as Republicans tend to do), the former is always going to beat the latter. No cheating necessary! The Steal is built into the system.

The only chance we have of recapturing our Republic is to return to real voting: one day, one man, one vote, in person, with identification, on a paper ballot, and getting a purple finger in return to prevent Repeaters. No early voting, no late voting, no drop boxes, no "curated" votes, no harvested votes, no absentee ballots for any reason other than active-duty military overseas. If you're sick and can't get to the polls, tough. If you've moved out of the country, tough. Anything else is not an election, but a rolling plebiscite whose parameters can be adjusted on a whim and which therefore renders elections functionally meaningless. And if you don't think so, ask yourself why, with control of the House of Representatives currently on knife edge, votes are still being counted in Democrat-friendly California.

Citizenship ought to entail at least as many responsibilities as it does benefits. There's no right to vote in the Constitution: it has to be earned, not demanded. It's not for everybody (nor does everybody even want it): it shouldn't be for wards of the government, the criminal, the insane. Nothing encourage indigency like being able to vote yourself a raise with other people's money.

If the franchise is really "sacred," let's start acting like it. The country would be a better place, the government would be more honest, and we'd no longer have to endure now-constant accusations of fraud from both sides. Who wouldn't vote for that?

THE COLUMN: The Worst Form of Government

To save the American nation as founded, the first thing we have to do is restore the basic principles of the original American Republic. Most real Americans are familiar with Benjamin Franklin's famous reply to the question of which type of government the Founders gathered in Philadelphia in year 1787 had decided upon, a monarchy or a republic: "A Republic, if you can keep it." Nota bene that the word "democracy" was nowhere mentioned, nor was it ever seriously envisaged by the men meeting at the constitutional convention that year. As Churchill famously observed: 

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

It has indeed been said. But if by "democracy"—or "our democracy" as the Left is fond of saying, by which they mean their version of "democracy"—we mean a universally enfranchised electorate that includes indigents, welfare cases, teenagers, layabouts, criminals, non-citizens, the unidentified, illegal aliens, and non-taxpayers, then it really is the worst form of government. Because, at that point, it's simply unrestricted mob rule under which the majority votes itself the wealth and possessions of the minority until the monetary and social capital runs out, after which the entire system collapses. 

They had a good long run.

A republic is a form of government in which voting citizens elect representatives to small political bodies in order to vote on matters of civic interest or concern on behalf of the citizenry. The Romans, for example, were ruled in their Republic by a pair of consuls, serving simultaneously for a one-year term, and a senate composed of mostly wealthy men, usually aristocrats. There was also a host of lesser officers, including praetors, questors, aediles, etc. There was even an unwritten but constitutional provision for the office of Dictator in times of civic or national crisis.

Tribunes, who could be elected by the people or appointed by the consuls, represented the common folk, and had veto power over legislation. but overall the votes of the propertied classes and equestrians had a greater weight than those of the lower classes. Women, although citizens, were not allowed to vote or hold office; instead, their political power was wielded behind the scenes. A Roman politician could go very far as long as his wife's fingerprints were on the knife.

The Roman way may not be to modern tastes, but it worked from the expulsion of the Tarquins in 509 B.C. (the last kings of Rome) up to the assassination of Caesar in 44 B.C. (His dictatorship-for-life only lasted a month.) Caesar's death at the hands of his political opponents in the senate came at the end of a half-century of civil war during which time Rome's empire had outgrown the capacity of its political system to effectively govern it. Further, the increasing aggrandizement of personal wealth via military conquest in effect produced large private armies that were set against each other until the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., in which Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian, soon to become Caesar Augustus, the first emperor. After all, Caesar conquered Gaul not because Rome asked him to, but because he needed the money.

As monarchy gradually made way for various forms of republicanism, at no time was a plebiscitary democracy—a society in which every man, woman, and child got a vote—ever envisaged.  There was no enumerated "right" to vote in the Constitution; the qualifications were largely left up to the states, which set minimum ages for voting in their own elections. Early on, for example, the original 13 colonies each had some sort of property qualification for male voters, and by the time the national constitution was ratified in 1789, free black men of property could vote in some jurisdictions. But as the Civil War loomed, and Southern Democrat animosity toward Africans hardened, black men had been stripped of voting privileges, and only got them back with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment under Republican president Ulysses S. Grant in 1870.

Madison: right from the start.

The subsequent history of the United States has been an ever-greater push to universalize voting "rights," to the detriment of the Founders' original notions of what constituted a government that could best protect individual freedom and God-given (not man-given) rights. As Madison said during the debates over the constitution in 1787:

Viewing the subject in its merits alone, the freeholders of the Country would be the safest depositories of Republican liberty. In future times a great majority of the people will not only be without landed, but any other sort of, property. These will either combine under the influence of their common situation; in which case, the rights of property & the public liberty, will not be secure in their hands: or which is more probable, they will become the tools of opulence & ambition, in which case there will be equal danger on another side. 

Madison has, of course, been proven right. From the time of ancient Athens and the Roman Republic, no sane system of government ever afforded the franchise universally and uncritically. Today, as the chief advocates for the craze of egalitarianism in all things, the Left speaks of the franchise in religious terms, as a "sacred right," which is rich coming from them, since the only thing they currently hold sacred apparently is their right to contract monkeypox without social disapproval in their continuing pursuit of Dionysian sexual excess. 

Just how badly the universal franchise has turned out can be seen in this current moment of our electoral politics. Chaotic elections in 2000, 2016, and 2020 have become the new normal. The Left howls about "disenfranchisement" even as it tears down all legal restrictions on untrammeled voting, most notably attacking the role of the states in determining eligibility (an authority that, as noted, goes back to the founding of the country) and relentlessly gutting protections against voter fraud.

And yet despite its ready availability, the vote seems not highly prized by the public, where it is routinely met by indifference by half the population. As urbanologist Joel Kotkin notes in his pessimistic piece on the upcoming election in Los Angeles, pitting white millionaire (and former Republican; California now is a one-party state) Rick Caruso against black female radical Democrat Karen Bass, the decision to pick the new mayor lies almost entirely in the hands of the members of the teachers' union. And you know whom they're going to vote for:

Unsurprisingly, some Angelenos have sought to reverse this disastrous course. Earlier this year, disgruntled residents united around property developer Rick Caruso in his insurgent campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles. Caruso spent over $24million of his own money on the first round of the election in June. Caruso is the grandson of Italian immigrants, whose father founded the successful LA business, Dollar Rent a Car. And he has himself been a big player in California for years. Yet Caruso’s mayoral bid appears to have stalled against the well-organized might of the city’s public-employee-driven political machine.

This is a powerful machine. According to Gloria Romero, a former state senator from east Los Angeles, this public-sector political machine has filled the vacuum left behind by weakened neighborhoods, a decline in local churches and the loosening of family ties. At the same time, turnouts for city elections have been dropping consistently, reaching only 14 per cent in the primary back in June. Meanwhile, practices like ‘ballot harvesting’, which allows campaign workers to gather ballots at nursing homes and other facilities with little supervision, make progressives all but unbeatable. This proved critical in the first round, as Bass, behind in the early results, ended up with a five-point lead after the late ballots were counted, which included those from harvesters.

You do the math. Universal suffrage plus low turnout plus powerful public-sector unions = civic ruination. The Democrats say they want everyone to vote and every vote to count, but what they mean is they want their people to vote, and only their votes to count. Reinstating a property requirement, or even restricting voting to those with a positive net worth (even if it's only one cent), regardless of race or sex—although there were and still remain strong arguments against female suffrage—would do wonders for governance, but it will never happen for reasons you well know. The point of the exercise is not to preserve the Republic for a better tomorrow but to destroy it.

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Further, once the electorate understands it can vote itself funds from the public treasury, "their democracy" is suddenly our very big problem. You wonder why there's a "labor shortage" in the middle of a recession? The famous observation, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury," attributed variously to Alexander Fraser Tytler and to de Tocqueville, is most likely apocryphal, but the sentiment remains true. 

In the Federalist Papers, No. 10, James Madison wrote: "a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction... Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." And when that "pure democracy" consists of everybody... 

Los Angeles, where you can vote yourself a piece of the American Dream.

In their incessant quest to dilute the value of the vote by expanding it, the Left has shown its true anti-constitutional colors. Should one pose the value-neutral question, "Why should the franchise be universal?" the answer is "because." As we go about our efforts to restore the intent of the Constitution, it behooves us to remember the crucial role that property—"skin in the game," as we might say today—has played in the preservation of our freedom from the beginning. Now you understand why the communist/Marxist Left is so dead set against it, and why it has inverted the very concept of freedom against those who would preserve it.

We want, and were given, ordered liberty. We prize our Constitution; these blackguards despise it. But it's our Republic, not their "democracy," and it's about time we make that clear to them—by any means necessary, as they like to say.

THE COLUMN: What's the Constitution Among Friends?

Thus spake the great George Washington Plunkitt, of Tammany Hall fame, and it makes a fitting epitaph for the noble experiment in self-government that is, or was, the United States of America. Last week, we discussed the now-explicit anti-constitutionalism and anti-Americanism of the modern Left, and their desire to see it on the ash heap of history, now that it's served its purpose (like John Hurt in Alien) as their incubator and victim. From at least the time of Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats have despised the Constitution—which they think let them down in the battle over slavery—and have sought to kill it by the death of a thousand cuts, some of which have been delivered by the Supreme Court, some by legislation, and some by sheer inanition.

It's time now to begin going into detail about what can be done and what can't. The good news is, there are solutions, or rather, one simple one. The bad news is, it will never be implemented, because the century-long browbeating of the American public via the political establishment and their handmaidens in the news media makes that effectively impossible.

The hell with it.

Free speech, the cornerstone of our Republic, dies in several ways, most obviously by suppression and prohibition. We might term this the punch-in-the-face, "shut up, he explained" approach much beloved by national-socialist fascists and totalitarians everywhere. Aping the unfortunate literary example of most of the Ten Commandments, leftist rules for radicals are filled with thou-shalt-nots, which delight those who instinctively believe that humans are intrinsically guilty and must be punished, even for sins they haven't committed yet. It's not a big leap from "thou shalt not covet they neighbor's ass"—don't blame me, blame the King James Bible—to the clank of prison bars and the eternal solitude of the oubliette. In a proscriptive community, just one look is all it takes.

But it also dies from self-strangulation, which is currently the preferred murder weapon. Having just emerged from Facebook prison for the second time in less than three months (a month in stir for each "offense against community standards," i.e. thou shalt not speak ill of the Chinese or the Ukrainians), and having been permanently anathematized by Twitter for (I believe but cannot prove, since they won't tell me) publicly correcting the mistakes of a certain "presidential historian," which act of lèse-majesté the reigning robots of Tweetville deemed "targeted harassment," I am bloodied but unbowed.

Social media has proven itself a very great evil, and in the coming kingdom needs to be atomized and resurrected as a genuine free-speech platform, not an implement of government and "community" censorship hiding behind the increasingly slipping mask of private enterprise.

This is in contradistinction to the U.S. Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, derided by leftists such as Barack Obama as "a charter of negative liberties" in that it tells the authorities what they may not do, not what you the citizen may not do, but which in reality is the sole guarantor of personal freedom left in these crumbling United States, which almost certainly will not last out this century and is unlikely to make it to its 300th birthday intact. But then, the Left has never really been interested in freedom—intellectual, spiritual, or personal—when it can enforce conformity via the trigger fingers of all of the non-constitutional agencies with which it has supplanted the Declaration of Independence. License, especially the sexually exotic, is what they mean when they say "freedom," and if you don't like it you're a bigot who deserves to be cancelled or charged.

The joke's on them, Barry.

That said, it's becoming increasingly likely that the Left won't be crushed at the polls this November. That the Burden of Brandon may not, in fact, bring the houses of Congress tumbling down around Nancy Pelosi's and Chuck Schumer's ears. At the highest levels, nobody cares who's "President." One guy named Joe signing the bills is as good as another, especially given the fact that the nomenklatura runs the national-security state today, just as it did in the old Soviet Union. A nebbishy nonentity, such as Mr. Thompson in Atlas Shrugged, is just what the moment calls for, to occlude the ugly face of fascism beneath.

Neither side wants to upset the worm-ridden applecart. Resuscitate a dead nuclear deal with Iran without Senate approval? "Forgive" student loans for gender-studies unemployables at taxpayer expense, without bothering to get the House to originate the spending bill? No problem! What part of "our democracy" don't you understand?

It's like the relationship between the CIA and the KGB during the Cold War. Both teams loved the status quo and neither wanted things to change, ever. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, at which I had a ringside seat, caught them both completely by surprise. But in the cozy modus vivendi of the current Washington racket, an accommodation has long since been reached between "progressivism" (always good) and "conservatism" (always bad) by which things will gradually but inexorably shift leftward until the Last Trump, when the charade collapses under its own weight and we have finally reached the New Jerusalem: one zillion consecutive life terms in Hell.

Freedom ain't what it used to be, and coveting your neighbor's ass has a vastly different meaning nowadays. Much of the population of the territorial United States now hails directly or indirectly from countries and regions that have neither a connection to nor an affinity for 18th-century British or American political institutions and philosophy. Perhaps the worst moment of the wretched George W. Bush presidency came with these spectacularly ill-chosen words in his second inaugural address:

Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery... In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak.

Revelation 21: it's down there somewhere.

At that, any self-respecting Roman would have laughed out loud and ordered the Tenth Legion into action. (You want to see a country that has never, ever, once fought for freedom? Try China.) Even with "their democracy" crashing around Roman heads during the civil wars between 83 and 44 B.C., it had already lasted half a millennium, and in form if not in substance would last another half-millennium in the west. "A heart for the weak" was the surest way to find your head sitting atop a pike in Parthia or nailed to a tree in the Teutoburg Forest by German barbarians. Nobody ever said gratias vobis ago to the Roman legions bringing civilization to Gaul or Germania at the point of a gladius.

Which brings us back to the Constitution, now as shredded and torn and lying on the floor of the Senate like Caesar on the Ides of March. The easiest and most direct way to restore our American Republic (not "our democracy") is to restore the Constitution in all of its salient particulars, including the restoration of the Ninth and Tenth amendments, a return to the notion of limited central government, the reduction of the Supreme Court to its (very constrained) core powers and duties, and the rollback of the National Security State that began with the American surrender after 9/11. We'll be looking at the details of our Restoration in the coming weeks, what political price we might have to pay to effect it, and whether at this point it's even worth trying.

What's in our future? Civil War? Partition? Amicable divorce? In the meantime, let me leave you with this, from my debut novel, the controversial Exchange Alley, written after my return from Moscow in 1991 and published in 1997 but set in the period just before the end of the Soviet Union.

There is an unmistakable odor about socialist countries that pervades every public place. It is a strong animal smell, composed in equal parts of sweat and unwashed clothes, Russian cigarettes, cheap perfume, piss, disinfectant, and leaded gasoline; in the heyday of Communism, every socialist country smelled the same. But in the mother church of Marxism-Leninism, the reek was stronger, sharper, more pervasive. It was the ur-stench of the Soviet system, the stink of a dying animal and with each passing year it got stronger and more difficult for foreigners, even fellow travelers in the west, to ignore.

Smell that here at home now? I thought you might.

How the World Really Works

Some very odd things are happening in the modern world of government and politics that don’t conform to democratic theory. I’m thinking, for instance, of the mass protests against anti-Covid regulations in cities across France, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, the United States, and in Canada without much attention from the international media; the brutally violent police tactics used against protesters in most of these cities, especially  farmers in Holland and car-owners (the Gilets Jaunes) in France, again with not much media coverage; the attempts by the Canadian government to crush the truckers’ parking protest in Ottawa by such extraordinary (and extra-legal) methods as seizing the bank accounts of people who wanted to help them financially; the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government because it had instituted agricultural policies banning the use of fertilizers on the advice of the World Economic Forum that led to crop failures and widespread hunger; and the signing of a memorandum of understanding on future cooperation between the United Nations and the aforementioned W.E.F. which is little more officially than a conference of corporate CEOs (though it boasts of planting its former interns in high government positions around the world).

In short, though I haven't weakened yet, I'm tempted to become a conspiracy theorist.

The mere existence of the W.E.F., an international conference of billionaires and CEOs who fly in annually to a remote Alpine resort to discuss how the world should be governed, to which prime ministers, presidents, and “opinion formers” are flattered to be invited, arouses my curiosity. It sounds (and acts) like a sinister conspiracy in a dystopian novel by writers as various as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley, or like Karl Marx’s “executive committee of the bourgeoisie.” Yet it is deeply respectable—it signs MoU’s with the U.N. for heavens sake!—and is seen as mildly and desirably progressive. Moreover, because it brings together “top people” from all enterprises and institutions, its policy prescriptions have an almost automatic credibility rooted in a general expectation that the W.E.F. network will get these things done. Next step: they’re inevitable!

But the sad (or cheering) fact is that almost all its “big projects”—the euro, open borders, anti-Covid lockdowns, vaccine mandates—have crashed upon launching. Its motto is “global problems require global solutions” but a better one would be “Ah well, back to the drawing board.”

Even so we shouldn’t exaggerate the independent power of the W.E.F. It exercises some power and more influence as the leading edge of the large overall institutional bureaucracy—including N.G.O.s, transnational bodies such as the European Union, multi-national corporations, and governments in whole or in part—that goes under the name of “global governance.” John Fonte, the Hudson Institute scholar, has revealed in detail how global governance really works: it proceeds issue by issue by making international treaties on everything from trade to transgenderism that commit the signatory governments to implement them in domestic law but that were negotiated secretively in a wilderness of committees in Brussels or New York and have never been the subjects of serious democratic debate.

Open covenants, openly arrived at... right.

We then enjoy the spectacle of government ministers being unable to explain why they are passing laws which they personally dislike as well as fear that the electorate won’t stand for them. Such treaties empower the bureaucrats who negotiated them, the corporations that influenced their drafting, the N.G.O.s that go to court to compel governments to implement them, and the courts that will finally interpret them. They disempower the voters, their elected representatives, the government ministers who have to tailor their policies to fit the undemocratic straitjacket of the treaty. And they lead eventually to a clash between the voters and the global governance bureaucracy.

Under global governance the democratic process becomes a play in which the democrats speak lines written by non-accountable global governance bureaucrats. It ends in a series of clashes and crises like those cited above. And whether or not those who protest are indulged or crushed depends in part on whether their demos and lawsuits are aimed at obstructing the global governance agenda or advancing it. The Dutch farmers trying to save their land from Net-Zero environmental regulations enshrined in treaties get crushed; the Extinction Rebellion protesters using violence and property destruction to ensure the enforcement of such property seizures are joined by dancing policemen at jolly street parties.

Democracy in these circumstances becomes a façade for authoritarian rule by remote bureaucracies. Writing in Quadrant earlier this year, I argued that this had happened in response to Covid-19 in early 2020 when an international bureaucratic consensus drove governments to impose massive restrictions without proper debate:

Governments panicked, cast aside their earlier pandemic planning based on protecting vulnerable groups, and adopted approaches to suppress the virus by locking down the entire society. This was the wrong approach and maximized economic problems. Almost all the forecasts supporting this policy were exaggerated. Covid was a nasty illness that killed people: but its infection fatality rate was low: most of its victims were elderly people with pre-existing illnesses (people like me, in fact); and “excess” deaths were quite low.

These realities were concealed by not distinguishing between dying with and dying of Covid, by suppressing medical information that contradicted the orthodoxy, by censoring scientists who dissented from it, and by “nudging” people to accept lockdown policies at a subconscious level.

And now, of course, we know that the consensus—the bureaucratic orthodoxy—was a mistaken one. Sweden defied it and has had a better outcome on all measures—not only economic ones, but also in democratic accountability, public order, and civil rights. As I also pointed out in Quadrant, “ this bureaucratic groupthink also led to increasingly authoritarian behavior by the state:

The flame that torched the truckers’ protest in Canada was the mandate from the Canadian government that truckers must be vaccinated before driving their long and lonely way along the vast interstates of North America.

Vox populi.

Standing back from partisan politics, we can see that a broadly similar political structure is emerging throughout the West. Conservatives and-or moderate liberals win elections sometimes, maybe most times, and therefore make occasional advances; the Progressive Left controls the unaccountable institutions of global governance along with cultural, legal, bureaucratic, and economic power almost all the time. So the Left is able to block most of the Right’s policies in government, but the Right has no similar restraints on the Left.

We see it most clearly in Britain where Boris Johnson’s government won a large parliamentary majority, but found that cultural institutions from the BBC to the British Museum to the National Trust are now “woke” institutions focusing on, for instance, an account of the slave trade that makes no mention of Britain’s abolition of it worldwide—and failed to find a way of altering that balance.

That explains why some governments in Europe, notably the Polish and Hungarian ones, want to strengthen the elected government in relation to the progressive institutions that can block it. The E.U. is the largest such obstacle in today’s Europe, and conservatives generally should want to see Brussels return some of its powers to national capitals. That’s especially important at the moment in relation to taxation which the Biden administration, the E.U., and now the G7 are attempting to harmonize in a way that will penalize low-tax and low-regulation countries. Those attempts violate the vital principle of jurisdictional competition. If they succeed, they would turn the E.U. into a cartel of governments colluding with each other to keep the price of government high.

We should oppose that in principle. If we fail, we will find ourselves both living under taxation without representation and financing inefficient and unresponsive global governance. And our only recourse will be to riot—by which time, of course, we will have lost the argument.

'Rumble thy Bellyful! Spit, Fire! Spout, Rain!'

In politics as in markets the tough question is not whether there’s going to be a crisis—believe me, there is—but when. Getting it right too soon or too late is to get it wrong. That remark could be about any kind of crisis, but in what follows I’m discussing the West’s crisis not over global warming but over the energy policies intended to solve it.

For the last two years The Pipeline has been predicting that the drive for a carbon-free world was certain to run into political trouble when the voting public began to realize that it would mean horrendous costs for them in higher taxes, bigger energy bills, electricity blackouts, and unpleasant life-style choices (i.e., no meat, fewer vacations abroad, and colder homes in winter).

What looms ahead, we’ve been warning, is an inevitable clash between the supposedly irresistible force of Net-Zero policies and the immovable object embodied in a democratic political system. It’s taken time for the crisis to arrive, but it began to hit the fan last fall when the wind across Western Europe failed to blow as strongly as its electricity grids needed; continued with the failure of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow around the same time; and is reaching its climax with the combination of cold weather, rising energy prices, and signs from Russian president Vladimir Putin that he might soon be turning off the gas pipelines which provide Western Europe with half its energy.

Blow winds blow. Or in this case, don't.

Here are two early signs that this is producing political second thoughts about climate change orthodoxy in European government circles:

  1. The European Commission proposes to declare that nuclear power is now a “green” and “sustainable” fuel and therefore eligible for various subsidies and investment incentives across the E.U. The Commission’s own technical experts oppose this judgment; it will be contested by several E.U. governments' and by the Greens in Germany’s new coalition government; but there is a good chance it will get through. That will not end the dispute, however, because the Commission’s proposal is a violation of one of the deepest commitments of both the environmentalist and climate emergency movements which until very recently have been growing in political clout. So watch what happens when the full E.U. council of ministers meets on this.
  2. Tory MPs have been pressing the U.K. Treasury to lighten the consumers’ burden of energy prices swollen by the levies imposed by the government on energy utilities to subsidize their switch from fossil fuels to “renewables” (i.e., wind and solar—neither of which have been very cooperative in Britain lately). In response to this pressure from their colleagues, other Tories (led by a former minister for science and universities) have founded a backbench committee to push the case for Net-Zero. They are likely to have the support of prime minister Boris Johnson who has made Net-Zero a flagship policy of his administration. But that policy is at odds with his other flagship policy of “leveling up” the Northern English constituencies the Tories won from Labour in 2019 with a massive (anti-Green) infrastructure building program. And as I outline in detail in National Review Online Boris is in deep trouble with almost all factions of his party because so many of his policies irritate them, Net Zero especially. A battle royal is looming in the Tory Party on it. It’s hard to forecast which side will come out on top.

That’s a huge change because almost all governments and parties in Europe pledged themselves to support tough carbon emissions reduction twenty years ago. How did they sustain this? In place of a democratic conversation between politicians and the voters in elections, the parties substituted a conversation between themselves, business, and what they called “civil society” which is a nice-sounding name for NGOs, which itself a synonym for pressure groups, usually in this context Green ones.

Ben Pile who’s that rare pollical animal—a climate-skeptical activist on the U.K. Right—points out that this common position deprived the voters of democratic choice over climate policy. But that common front can’t really be sustained when the voters start to get genuinely worried about whether they can pay the bills and taxes that the policy requires. Then you get what the sociologists call a "preference cascade" as the voters wise up and start protesting first the consequences, then the policy, in an impressive cascade as they realize that many others share their opinions.

Let the cascade begin!

That happened with Brexit. It’s happening now. It’s what’s supposed to happen in democracies. And it should logically be followed by a change of policy. Indeed, almost everywhere Net-Zero has been offered to the voters, they have rejected it—most recently in a Swiss referendum that asked them if they would pay higher taxes in order to meet Net-Zero targets. They voted no.

But the powerful economic and ideological interests that support climate alarmism have already set in place barriers to any change of mind by the voters. The first such barrier has been constructed by an alliance of capitalist fund managers and banking regulators—among them former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Bank of England governor Mark Carney—which seeks to compel investors to accept lower rates of return on their savings by, in effect, stopping the flow of funds to fossil-fuel companies. Their argument is that as fiduciary guardians and regulators respectively they have duty to protect these investments from the undue risks that fossil fuels represent. It is a ludicrous argument, exploded on this website a year ago, by among other arguments this knockdown refutation from economist John Cochrane:

Relative market demand for fossil vs. alternative energy is as easy or hard to forecast as anything else in the economy. Exxon bonds are factually safer, financially, than Tesla bonds, and easier to value. The main risk to fossil fuel companies is that regulators will destroy them, as the ECB proposes to do, a risk regulators themselves control. [My italics.]

And indeed, in the months since then, fossil fuels have strongly outperformed the market, owing ironically, at least in part, to the kind of policies that Carney and Bloomberg advocate, which have encouraged the European energy crisis and the corresponding sharp rise in demand for oil, gas, and even coal. It is probably too much to hope that the Green Grandees will now have second thoughts.

At about the same time, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Daily Telegraph, was pointing to the second barrier to democratic re-thinking on climate: legal warriors are busily weaponizing international law, in particular human rights law, to obstruct democratic governments in their pursuit of policies to guarantee cheap and reliable energy supplies:

There has been a cascade of judgments based on the UN Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, or national constitutions. They are compelling governments to act faster than they had planned, or are capable of doing without resorting to revolutionary economic and social measures. [My italics.]

Mr. Evans-Pritchard is sympathetic to the aims of the climate legal warriors on the grounds that they represent the judgment of mankind expressed in the policies of more than a hundred governments. But do they really represent the judgment of mankind?  Or merely the convictions of passionate minorities who exploit the somnolence of most citizens in order to rig the rules of politics and law so that when the majority wakes up, it will be unable to express its conscious and deliberative second thoughts in the voting booth with any practical effect.

We may be about to discover that.

In the meantime, here’s a tip on how to deal with people who tell you that climate change is too important to be left to the voters in democratic elections. Ask this question:

“Okay, I’ll accept that on one condition: Tell me the policy so vital to the world’s well-being that you would accept the decision of a non-democratic junta of experts to carry out the opposite of the policy you want."