Russell Taylor: Welcome to Airstrip One

Some commentators have noted that the warnings found in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four never materialised in Britain, but that a more subtle, creeping authoritarianism has taken hold instead. Members of the political class crave power just as much as those of the Party, but they don’t express it with such ruthless intent. Their brand of paternalism is less a boot stamping on a human face than it is death by a thousand cuts. Their declared motivation is not a shameless thirst for control, but an unshakeable conviction in their own wisdom and good intentions – rampant egotism, in other words.

But there are some predictions from Nineteen Eighty Four that have been realised. In the novel, Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite history to the Party’s satisfaction – a job now undertaken by our state schools, which recount Britain’s history as a sorry tale of exploitation and oppression. Children are now encouraged to turn on their parents if they contravene the progressive doctrines vis-à-vis health and the environment. Hate crimes are thought crimes by any other name. And what is political correctness if not Newspeak?

Welcome to Airstrip One.

One of the most prescient features of the novel is the on-going war fought by Oceania against, alternately, Eurasia and Eastasia, which we are led to believe is a fiction, designed to justify the existence of the totalitarian state. The modern British state may not blow up its own people to spread panic and whip up support, but it’s still an enthusiastic peddler of crises that legitimise greater government intervention. I’m thinking here of global warming, although it’s only the latest in a long line of state-sponsored scare stories that have included bird flu, SARS and AIDS in recent years. Once the panic du jour has moved on, the search always begins for the next one, which can only be solved by bulldozing your personal sovereignty and empowering the government and its legions of experts. Today it’s global warming, tomorrow it will be asteroid collisions, radioactive monster attacks and alien invasions.

In fact, the economist Paul Krugman is already imagining the good that could come of an alien invasion. Talking about the recession, Krugman remarked that, “If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren’t any aliens, we’d be better [off].”

There are very good reasons why Krugman’s analysis is utter nonsense. With all that money and effort being poured into repelling the alien invasion, the pleasures of life that we would otherwise pursue would have to take a back seat. We saw this during World War Two, when people on the home front had to endure shortages, rationing, curfews, controls on their movement, and various other infringements of their liberties. These deprivations were endured because they were necessary sacrifices at the time. Indeed, many people actively enjoyed all that pulling together in a common cause. But in the absence of the Nazi threat, they would be have been felt as appalling impositions – a point made by Hayek in The Road to Serfdom.

There is no evidence that massive state intervention and spending provides any lasting economic good, either. US federal spending in 1940 was $9.5 billion, but by 1945, this had risen to $93 billion (unsurprisingly, given the circumstances). A recession began in February of that year, during which GDP shrunk by 1.1 per cent. The following year it fell by a staggering 10.9 per cent, and then a further 0.9 per cent the year after that. As a Nobel Prize winning economist, one might have thought that Paul Krugman would have known this. Maybe the aliens have already abducted him and left a deranged lefty pod person in his place.

The Left’s cult of action is already well-documented. Time and again they have tried to get nations on a war footing as a pretext for expanding the state and extending their power. They use this tactic precisely because they wish to circumvent the objections of the electorate. They understand that a free people will not willingly acquiesce to the dictatorial rule of a technocratic elite, hence the frustration shown by New York Times Thomas Friedman, who dreams of America being China for a day. Why, if the will of the people could be crushed for 24 hours, just think of all the good that could be done!

Suffice to say, Friedman, Krugman and their fellow liberal magnificos don’t see themselves as the cod-eyed troglodytes whose wishes would be trampled on by the China-for-a-day regime. In this fantasy, everything is orchestrated by an Olympian court, comprised of all those sophisticated individuals who are denied proper recognition and respect by free societies. People like themselves, in other words. They’re like the school swot who fantasises about beating up the cool kids and getting the girl he’s too socially inept to speak to.

I doubt they would be quite so relaxed about despotic rule if the powers-that-be failed to share their cockamamie opinions. They’re the first people to screech with outrage when contrary views get an airing, but as long as it’s their hands on the tiller, there’s no amount of tyranny they won’t tolerate. They justify their contempt for freedom by thinking they are the sole purveyors of the truth, meaning anything they do serves a higher cause. Hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as Lenin is supposed to have said. And he wasn’t exactly known for his people skills and can-do attitude. As the Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky retorted, “I have seen the broken eggs, but no one I know has ever tasted the omelette.”

7 comments on “Russell Taylor: Welcome to Airstrip One

  1. MellorSJ
    November 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Please put “economist” in quotes when using the word to describe Paul Krugman.

    • Andy Hedges
      November 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Nice one 🙂

  2. Michael
    November 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Another good piece Russell. You allude to about the nature of power and those that seek it as a way to impose their will on others. The problem we Libertarians have is that seeking power to impose our will is the anithesis of everything we stand for.

    Selling freedom to even those who are independent and self sufficent can be tough when much of the cost of socialism is hidden (PAYE, VAT, Green Taxes etc. but most importantly inflation). A good thing about the ongoing “cost of living crisis” is that people start to take notice of al the money the government is hosing up against the wall.

    • silverminer
      November 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      “The problem we Libertarians have is that seeking power to impose our will is the anithesis of everything we stand for.”

      This is a problem. I was one of the (losing) UKIP candidates last May in the council elections. All the other candidates were bragging about how great they were and all the stuff they were going to do with our money once they got on the Council and all I wanted to do was close the place down then resign…

      • FreedomforPeaches
        November 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

        Totally awesome! Closing down the government is such a great idea. I have been advocating for this maneuver for years.

    • therealguyfaux
      November 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      Perhaps the context of the quote is different, but I go back to old Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Man is condemned to be free.” If the ideal natural state is freedom, all that conduces to its ultimate realization is desirable.

      I agree that it is a bit of a paradox that in order to diffuse power you have to seek it and attain it first, but after all, don’t collectivists face a similar problem with redistribution of wealth? That is, you have to HAVE something in order to relinquish it, unless your goal is to destroy something so nobody can have it– and that’s more “anarchy” than “libertarianism,” for my money, at any rate.

      I am put in mind of Red Indians of the Northern Pacific Coast of North America, who had a custom called the “potlatch,” in which the purpose was to accumulate as much as one could, the better to divest oneself of it in large ceremonies– a sort of “conspicuous non-consumption” if you will. Modern Western philanthropy, going back to Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, is but a more sophisticated employment of the same principle. Of course, those who accumulated little and distributed little, but yet seemed to show up at everyone else’s potlatch with their hands out, faced social ostracism, along the lines of “cheap bastard.” A more perplexing situation would have been the Red Indian who said “I’m not into acquisition– I can live frugally and I don’t need to sponge off anyone else’s largesse– so you need not come to me and ask me to conduct a potlatch, ‘coz I ain’t got wot to do it with; but by the same token, I ain’t gonna show up to yours– fair’s fair.”

      The more ascetic Red Indians were thought to be more “holy” and were allowed to live as hermits, but in the woods, and not in the settlements. It is thought the “Sasquatch/Bigfoot” legend derives from the tribes telling their small children about these hermits, making them out to be fearsome creatures lest the children wander off to see them and want somehow to emulate them. Red Indian society could accommodate a small number of such people, but obviously only to a point.

      Libertarians are the modern-day Western equivalents of those “Sasquatch” hermits, it would seem, and most people are the children of the tribe, conditioned to believe those are fearsome creatures. So which is better– playing along and accumulating the power to be able to diffuse it? Will it become the “ring” that corrupts its wearer and must be cast into the volcano? Or is it in being “holy” and outside society?

      Hey, I just pose the questions; I don’t answer ’em.

  3. Andy Hedges
    November 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Excellent article. BTW when are you going on radio free delingpole?

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