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Against Exceptionalism


Fighting the State's Hypocrisy

The Western condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again served to highlight the exceptionalist attitude of the West, and of the United States in particular. Whichever standards other countries and governments are held to, the West believes that it is permitted to deviate from, or even obliterate those standards, labelling its own interventionist feats with some other, innocuous term, while utilising a half-baked moral justification in order to promote its acceptability.
For instance, what is, for other countries, an illegal invasion of a sovereign state is, when the West does it, an act of “liberation”. When someone else organises a rebellion against a foreign government it’s a violation of “sovereignty” and of “international law”; but the West only “spreads democracy”. When other states commit horrendous acts of torture or indiscriminate murder they are “war crimes”; for the West, they are the “enhanced interrogation” and “collateral damage” necessary to fulfil a just and noble cause.
One does not have to endorse any of the motives or methods of the Russian state vis-à-vis Ukraine in order to point out this out; indeed, the precise details of this whole affair are outside the scope of this article. However, we might as well note that Russian concern over its Western border region is likely to be far more pressing than any interest that the West has either there or wherever else it has poked its heavily armed nose, such as Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. This serves merely to magnify the West’s unrelenting hypocrisy.
While the attitude of exceptionalism is, no doubt, bolstered by faith in the values which furnished the West with an untold level of prosperity, it is not something that is necessarily restricted to the West, nor is somehow born out of the Western psyche. Rather, the real root of exceptionalism can be found in how the state operates domestically.
If people steal from each other, it is called “theft” and is criminalised; but when the state steals, this is permitted, and is referred to as “taxation”. If a company dominates an industry it is called a “monopoly” and must be broken up; but if the state does it, we can call it “nationalisation” (“for the people” etc. etc.). If a fraudster takes cash from customers to pay returns to previous investors, it is called a pyramid or “Ponzi” scheme, and he is locked up; when the state does precisely the same thing it is called “Social Security”. If the mafia forces you to pay tribute in return for security it is called a “protection racket”; but when the state forces you to contribute to its armies, navies and air forces it is called “national defence”.
In conjunction with all of this, the state necessarily conditions its operatives to believe that they are exempt from the common standards of morality to which all other human beings must adhere. This would be bad enough if such an attitude was restricted to acts taken within an official capacity. But the level of corruption in our state apparatus is now so grave that the private malfeasance of favoured, high profile state operatives is also swept under the carpet.
None of this is different from exceptionalist attitudes on the international scene; such attitudes gain traction when a particular state, or group of states, becomes the de facto most powerful government on Earth. So in just the same way as the state does not have to behave in the same way as its citizens, neither does the most powerful state have to behave like any other state.
In recent decades, that has been the US, although, as the Russian challenge is demonstrating, the era of American global dominance is coming to an end. However, the US is not an historical anomaly in this regard, having been preceded by other wealthy and heavily armed states such as Ancient Rome, and the British Empire. Of course, many beneficiaries of this dominance will be well aware that they are engaging in outright plunder and pillage. But it is not unusual for them to become blinded by the hubristic belief that, as representatives of the pinnacle of “civilisation” in an otherwise barbarous world, their acts are somehow qualitatively different from those of others. St Augustine relates an anecdote of a pirate brought before Alexander the Great. When prompted by the undefeated conqueror to explain his actions, the pirate delivered a bold but truthful reply: that what he, the pirate, was doing, was exactly the same as that which Alexander was doing; the only difference was that Alexander terrorised the seas with a “great fleet” and was styled an “emperor”, while the pirate did so with a "petty ship" and was thus brandished a “robber”.[1]
The conquest, therefore, of the exceptionalism of the most powerful nation can be achieved only by eradicating that exceptionalism at home – in domestic government and domestic policies. All human beings, whether they are “public” or private citizens, must adhere to the same common morality, and must be held to the same moral standards. Better still, eradicate the state completely so that its political caste – together with the divisions it creates between itself and those of us less exalted – will disappear. Only then can we hope for a peaceful world in which all humans are equal before the law – both nationally and internationally.

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Notes

[1] St Augustine (tr. Rev. Marcus Dods), The City of God, in Phillip Schaff (ed.), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series, Vol. II, WM B Eerdmans Publishing Company (1886), Book IV, Chapter 4, 165.

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The Madness of Government Planning

Why Top-Downism Will Always Fail

[This article is excerpted and adapted from an essay published previously on Free Life.]
It can scarcely be denied that the past two years have seen a rapid increase in the centralisation and consolidation of state power. While 2019 was hardly a small-state paradise, the penchant for central planning has gathered pace during the time in which we were all confined to COVID house arrest. Indeed, the whole sorry spectacle of lockdowns, masking, distancing and mass vaccination programmes were themselves uniform, top-down responses to a particular problem. Never matter how disastrous and destructive these policies, governments haven’t wavered from the notion that more of their input is the panacea to every societal ill – most of which, needless to say, are caused by governments themselves. Indeed, there is a pending attempt to harmonise government responses to health “emergencies” under the auspices of the World Health Organisation through a “pandemic treaty”.
It is therefore no surprise to see this attitude continuing with the subsequent problems caused by COVID lockdowns and excess money printing – high inflation, supply change disruption, a growing food and energy crisis, and so on. The UK government alone is presently trotting out grand plans such a “food strategy”, an “energy security strategy”, a “strategic plan for homes”; in the field of transport alone, there is a “transport investment strategy”, a “future of transport programme”, a “transport decarbonisation plan”, and an “inclusive transport strategy” – undoubtedly one of a few amongst many others. Moreover, all of these – some of which, quite literally, are Soviet-sounding “five year plans” – are individually quite modest compared to bigger schemes such as “Net Zero” or the “Great Reset”, although they may all be fashioned from the same mould. All in all, we seem to have given a green light to the zeal for remoulding social and economic systems according “all-encompassing” visions enforced upon society from the top-down.
If, for the sake of argument, we assume that such visions are promulgated with the best of possible intentions, they are, no doubt, built partly on the misguided notion that chaos would reign without such interventionism. In other words, only the steady hand of government on the societal tiller can foster “harmony”, “unity” and “co-operation”. The opposite, however, is really the case. It is this top-down, state planning that will always bring disorder, misery and destitution.
Of course, the most extreme form of top-downism is outright socialism. Such a system is bound to fail owing to the economic calculation problem. If the state owns all of the means of production across the entire economy then there is no trade in machines, tools and equipment. Without exchange markets for these factors, then they cannot command market prices. If there are no market prices then it is not possible for a state controlled planning board to undertake any kind of cost accounting. Without accountancy, there is no way of determining profits and losses. And if there are no profits or losses then you can never know whether scarce factors of production are being deployed efficiently or wastefully. The result is economic chaos as the capital structure deteriorates into a quagmire of wasteful surpluses of some goods and chronic shortages of others. In the former Soviet Union, for instance, fields of crops were left un-harvested because as much as one third of agricultural machinery stood idle owing to a shortage of spare parts.
Ultimately, however, all kinds of top-downism fail because they are fundamentally at odds with the nature of human beings – that we are each individuals with our own ends and desires, and that we each act within a local, limited environment so as to fulfil those desires. In human society (and often, for that matter, in the natural world), anything that can be observed as a complete, harmonious system is not the product of any single cause. No individual designed or moulded the whole thing in the way in which a single architect may design a building or a sole author can write a novel. Rather, social systems are the amalgamation of thousands of individuals striving to fulfil their individual ends in such a way that, nevertheless, manages to mesh them into a coherent whole. Institutions such as culture, language, market prices, customary legal systems and money are of this ilk. No one person ever invented any of these, and yet we can clearly define them as singular entities that exist to fulfil human purposes in a conflict-free manner.
As Leonard Read pointed out in his essay I, Pencil [1], the same is true of all complex economic processes involved in the production of goods and services – whether its food, clothing, construction, automobiles, etc. In building each of these economic systems (or industries, as we tend to call them), each individual producer acts within his own sphere of understanding with means available to him. An individual farmer, for instance, will have intimate knowledge of the layout of his land, the crops that can be supported by the soil type, the local climate, the drainage, the best kind of fertiliser to use, and so on – details that may have taken years of experience to acquire, or even generations for a family business. Moreover, he will also be sensitive to the immediate needs, habits, desires and terms of his suppliers and customers, tailoring his produce accordingly. These people, in turn, may serve to fulfil other, individual steps in the chain of production necessary to place a completed food product on the dining table of a consumer. They too will have a similar purview only over their own, specific area of production.
However, there will be no one individual who has a grasp over the whole system, nor could anyone ever comprehend all of the relevant information that is required to be known at each stage of the process – a factor which, from the point of view of economic planning, we usually summarise as the Hayekian knowledge problem. Any kind of unified “vision” is both unnecessary and impossible to achieve when it comes to ensuring the smooth working of these industries. Indeed, the great accomplishment of the science of economics is to explain how everybody’s individual goals and desires need not lead to zero-sum conflict over a limited supply of nature-given goods, but, instead, to positive-sum, peaceful co-operation in the production of new goods without the need for a controlling arbiter.[2]
A failure to appreciate this and to assume instead that such systems can be built or refashioned in a top-down manner is likely to lead to disaster, as the failures of socialism have already demonstrated. But today’s governments, together with wealthy billionaires and philanthropists, seem equally convinced that, in order to make a positive difference in the world, one must think big and act big, making radical, far reaching changes to whole economic and social systems in the way that an inventor can dismantle a machine before starting over. Thus, we get attempts to revolutionise and control “farming”, “the housing market”, “transport”, “the climate”, “the internet”, “sustainability”, or even human society as a whole.
If, however, you wish to make a contribution to human progress – and, to reiterate, let us assume that all of these grand plans and schemes are designed to promote human flourishing – this is precisely the wrong path to take. Rather than trying to make gargantuan, wholesale changes, you should focus instead on a small area where you can make a specific improvement, the effects of which you can control in a limited environment that you can understand. If you are successful, you will enhance one small part of an economic system, but at no point does your attempt to do so threaten the integrity of the entire edifice. And once everybody strives to make the same kinds of localised improvement then the system as a whole improves as well in immeasurable strides.
For instance, in improving the production of Leonard Read’s pencils, the sawmill may employ a more efficient machine in cutting the wood; the shipping company may purchase a more capacious or speedy freighter in which to transport the wood; the pencil factory may devise a process that saves money on electricity or on packaging materials. The success or failure of these innovations will be determined ultimately by the profit and loss test, with those employing successful innovations profiting ahead of those who employ less successful innovations. These examples may be multiplied many hundreds of times for each and every factor of production involved, and are not (as is commonly supposed) confined to the practice of inventing new technology – simply improving an existing process, or finding a way to market an existing solution better would suffice, as would simply gathering existing factors of production and combining them in a better way. The final, singular result that can be appreciated by the consumer is a greater number and variety of cheaper pencils. It shouldn’t necessarily be assumed, however, that such small improvements are always, on their own, insignificant, consigning their proponents to relative obscurity. Some of them – such as pneumatic tyres, the Ford assembly line and the jet engine – represented great strides in the progress of humanity.
On the other hand, truly big plans – whether it’s the so-called Great Reset, the UN’s Agenda 21, the Green New Deal, or Bill Gates’ bizarre proposal to block out the sun so as to cool the Earth – will be disastrous, as their attempts to remake or refashion the world in a certain basic image through making drastic and far-reaching changes will have ramifications on systems and processes that simply cannot be foreseen by any one person. Such effects are often referred to by economists as “unintended consequences”, outcomes that would occur even if we were to assume that the planners are employing basic premises that are correct. But if (as is more often the case) they were to adopt demonstrably false premises – for example, Malthusian over-populationism, the dubious conclusions of so-called “climate science”, or the disastrous COVID modelling – the effects will be even worse. In fact, it is the gradual accumulation of unforeseen problems coupled with the belief that it is the state’s responsibility to solve all problems that, in the long run, leads to the growth of the state and the strangulation of liberty.
Over the coming years, further crises and problems are going to be used as excuses to increase state control and involvement in every facet of our lives. This is only going get worse given that our economic house has, for the last fifty years, been built on the sand of paper money, and the tide is finally coming in. We must resist the tendency towards greater centralisation in managing this transition, dispersing economic control away from states and global institutions to the most local level possible.

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Notes

[1] Leonard E Read, I, Pencil: My Family Tree, Foundation for Economic Education (2019).

[2] In the words of Ludwig von Mises:

What makes friendly relations between human beings possible is the higher productivity of the division of labor. It removes the natural conflict of interests. For where there is division of labor, there is no longer question of the distribution of a supply not capable of enlargement. Thanks to the higher productivity of labor performed under the division of tasks, the supply of goods multiplies. A pre-eminent common interest, the preservation and further intensification of social cooperation, becomes paramount and obliterates all essential collisions. Catallactic competition is substituted for biological competition. It makes for harmony of the interests of all members of society.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, The Scholars’ Edition, Ludwig von Mises Institute (1998), 669.
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National Defence and Just Wars

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Liberty and International Relations

An Article from Free Life

Recently, I posted on Free Life an analysis of the threats that can be posed to liberty by interstate relations and conflicts. Today, I wish to reiterate one particular part of that analysis: that we cannot analyse relationships between states by reference to libertarian principles in exactly the same way in which we discuss relationships between individual people.
Only individuals have rights to the physical integrity of their own bodies and to that of goods they have acquired, either through original appropriation or through voluntary transaction. Consequently, concepts such as “ownership”, “property”, “sovereignty”, “aggression”, “criminality,” etc. only have a concrete meaning when applied to individuals. If, for instance, P initiates physical force against Q – say, by shooting a gun at him – we can say clearly that P, by violating the property rights of Q, has committed an act of aggression against the latter. Further, should Q act so as to protect himself then, subject to certain limits, we would easily classify this response as self-defence. If P happens to be a state goon – say a policeman or tax collector – initiating force against Q on the state’s behalf, then we may summarise P’s action as being that of the state. However, the basic clarity of the analysis remains: he who initiates force is the aggressor; the recipient of that force is the victim; the former is the clear affront to the liberty of the latter.
States, however, exist only by violating the rights of others. Each and every single one of them is an occupying force of the particular territory over which it claims to have jurisdiction. None of them has any basic right to anything at all, and all of their actions are prima facie illegitimate. Even the most ostensibly peaceful state action will have been funded not from the personal assets of the particular politicians in question, but by taxation mulcted from the citizenry. Thus, given this fundamentally unjust nature of states, the use of binary distinctions such as those between “peaceful” and “aggressive” behaviour, or between “aggressor” and “victim”, makes little sense when discussing interstate relations. At best, we can ask only whether a particular act of a particular state, relative to that of another state, is likely to be better or worse for the liberty of those who have to suffer under state rule, both immediately and in the long run. In this regard, concepts such as “sovereignty” and “borders” – whether our concern is with invasion, secession, immigration, trade or any other interstate act – are useful only insofar as they can serve as a shorthand or proxy for the rights of individual people.
For example, say that the state of Ruritania invades the state of Muldania. To say here that Ruritania’s invasion is an act of aggression simply repeats a truism. We know already that Ruritania is occupying territory to which it has no right (just like it has no right to occupy its own territory), and that innocent civilians are likely to end up as casualties, either intentionally or as so-called “collateral damage”. But neither does Muldania have any inherent right to that territory either – indeed, to assert that Ruritania is “the” aggressor is to implicitly legitimise Muldanian rule. According to libertarian principles, the reason this invasion should never have happened is not just because it is an aggressive act but because neither Ruritania nor Muldania should even exist in the form of states in the first place. But given that both states do, in fact, exist, and given that the invasion has, in fact, happened, it can be classified only as a fight between different aggressors, not between aggressor and victim. Rather than being like a straightforward bank robbery, the situation is more akin to a shoot out between two different gangs of thieves, each of which is trying to rob the bank for itself. In assessing the impact on the individual people affected, we have only a choice of which acts by either state end up being better or worse for their liberty, and this will depend upon the particular circumstances.
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Why Governments Lie


Recently, I posted a short article explaining that the essence of the so-called “fake news” phenomenon lies not so much in the relaying of outright falsehoods, but in the selection, ordering and presentation of information in such a way as to lend a wrong impression. In passing, we noted also that the majority of “disinformation” is fostered not by private individuals posting on their Twitter or Facebook accounts, but by the government itself. In this present article, we will attempt to get to the bottom of why it is that the state is committed to disseminating so many officially believed falsehoods. As we shall see, the basic reasons are, at bottom, very simple, and are only tangentially related to the fact that governments are staffed by shameless amoralists.
First is the fact that the existence of truth on the one hand, and the discovery of truth on the other, are not the same thing. The former may be fixed and immovable, but the latter requires productive effort. Its costs real resources to discover, verify, authenticate and disseminate facts, resources which must be diverted from other uses. In short, truth costs money, and is subject to a trade-off, just like anything else. Each and every one of us must decide for ourselves the point at which spending more on obtaining information ceases to be worthwhile. In fact, it’s worth noting in this regard that no person can exist as a permanent sceptic. Even the most doubting of individuals must reach a point at which he stops investigating, testing and verifying, and accepts at least some propositions as true. The alternative is to starve to death, because the eternally doubtful would never even accept that a meal on his dinner table was able to satiate his hunger, for instance.
Given this, it follows that the discovery of truth cannot be divorced from the values of those who have control over resources necessary to engage in that discovery. In a generally free market, the vast majority of resources are owned privately. Thus, the discovery of truth would be a part of the market process, just the same as any other. The precise information that is discovered, the way in which it is discovered, the standard against which it is verified, together with the methods by which it should be disseminated would all be governed by the purchasing preferences of consumers. Those firms which estimate these matters correctly would make profits, those which do not would make losses.
To illustrate, let us take an example of a clearly ridiculous piece of information: the length of time it takes to fry an egg on the bonnet of a car in the scorching sun. Car manufacturers and vendors could spend a portion of their time and money breaking eggs onto the hoods of their cars, arming their employees with stopwatches to estimate how long it takes to produce a breakfast. After a certain number of tests, such information could then be published in the car’s brochure. Clearly, however, this knowledge is unlikely to be of much interest to prospective purchases of automobiles. Having done nothing whatsoever to increase sales, these vendors have inflicted onto their bottom-line a dead-weight cost. Thus, they are likely to go out of business sooner than those vendors which avoided wasting their resources in this manner.
The same is true of the yardstick by which information should be verified. Information can come in a variety of different standards, from mere gossip and chatter all the way up to detailed, rigorous studies that may cost hundreds or thousands of pounds to undertake. The number of resources that we are willing to commit to a process of verification also has to be determined. Generally speaking, for relatively trivial or less costly matters, we will be content with lower standards of veracity; the greater the cost (or the risk of loss) the more likely it is that we will seek an enhanced level of accuracy. For example, we are likely to be more thorough when purchasing a house or making a major investment than when we are buying a pack of ball point pens.
In determining what is valuable to its customers, a firm may find that the latter are willing to pay a premium if the firm undertakes more detailed studies to determine what a product can do. A manufacturer of washing detergent may find that sales increase even at a higher price if he tests the product on 10,000 washes, publishing the results to show just how efficient it is. Alternatively, the same firm may find that customers prefer a cheaper product that they are willing take a chance with and, as such, the study won’t be undertaken. Once again, we can see that it is individual people who are the ultimate arbiters of the standards of veracity, in just the same way as they are the ultimate determiners of standards of quality and safety. Discovery of truth and information is part and parcel of the trade-offs that have to be made when dealing with scarce resources.
However, if it is the state, rather than private individuals, that has power of disposal over a vast quantity of resources, then it is the state that is the primary determinant of how those resources should be deployed. It is, therefore, the state that has greater sway in deciding which information is worth investigating, the standard to which it should be held, and whether or not it should be acted upon.
It would be bad enough if the state was merely incompetent in this regard, for in just the same way as a nationalised shoe industry would produce substandard shoes, so too will a nationalised information provider furnish us with information of a lower quality. But the game is changed entirely when the state has an active agenda, with goals to fulfil at the expense of your own. In that instance, everything that comes to be known, believed and disseminated would be tailored to fulfilling the state’s priorities, not yours. It is no small wonder, therefore, that the vast majority of such information would turn out to be false, at least from the perspective of what is good for you and for your life; for its primary purpose will be not to inform, but to persuade, cajole and intimidate you into following the state’s line.
This provides a segue into the second reason, which concerns the nature of the relationship between the state and the people. Most people assume that they and their government – especially a “democratically elected” one – co-exist in some kind of symbiosis. The people elect the government while the government ensures we are furnished with such things as institutions of law and order, and at least some form of social welfare. In other words, the interests of the state and the people are supposed to align – we choose them to do a job for us. Belief in this notion is why the state usually achieves, at least, the minimum level of tolerance from the populace necessary to ensure its survival; we may not like it, we may whinge about it, we may think it does things wrong, but at least we can’t say that it is categorically inimical to our flourishing.
Every aspect of this neat little description is wrong. Because the state always operates through the use of force (or the threat thereof), every state action necessarily involves benefiting one person at the expense of another. Taxes must be taken from Peter to pay Paul; regulations must hamper company A (usually a small business) to the benefit of company B (most likely a large, politically connected multinational). Even services which are of an apparently necessary and universal benefit – such as the provision of law and order – can be a net expense to the vast majority when you consider a) the inefficiency with which the state runs them, and b) there is little guarantee that the precise way in which the state chooses to provide these services is beneficial for each particular taxpayer. This is before we even consider the existence of those who use the state as a source of pillage and plunder, extracting unearned privileges at the expense of the mulcted masses.
States can only survive, however, if they maintain the illusion that they are universally beneficial – that they are for us, with us and by us. As such, they must continue to tell us that everything they do for us is for our own good. This is the original lie that is the source of all others. The more that the state grows, the more nooks and crannies of our lives into which it weaves its tentacles, then the more this lie must spread like a cancer to infect an ever greater portion of our societal tissue. In fact, ironically, the illusion of symbiosis with the state can increase the more paternal the latter becomes; the more that the state fosters our dependence upon it, the more likely it is that we will reach for its teat at the first sign of trouble.
All of this, moreover, explains why states always end up engaging in the censorship and persecution of dissenters. For whenever the state’s activities are subjected to rational scrutiny, the only conclusion must always be the state is a detriment, not a benefit. We soon discover that there are better ways to provide certain services other than through the state’s monopolistic provision; we realise that its management of problems and crises tends to make things worse for ordinary people rather than better; it is easy enough to discover social engineers, rent seekers and plunderers masquerading as saints as saviours behind the state’s façade of legitimacy. The state cannot allow these facts to be realised, and so there will always be an assault on truth-tellers. Should the state becomes absolute, then the discovery and dissemination of all information throughout the entirety of our economic, social and cultural life will necessarily be strangled by the state’s choke-hold. The state would simply collapse if this was not the case. The flourishing of the state is inherently incompatible with the free dissemination of ideas.
This is why your government must always lie.
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Platinum Platitudes

The Fuss over the Jubilee

Britain has spent the long weekend partying in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the only occasion on which such a milestone has been reached. Ordinarily, our cultural leftist establishment and mainstream media tend to regard Britain’s history, traditions and patriotism as either an embarrassment or an active target for denigration. Her Majesty, however, seems to be spared much of this vitriol; instead, we cling onto her as a vestige of pride in an era struggling to find little else to celebrate.
And yet, indeed, one has to wonder precisely what it is that we were supposed to be celebrating.
The first half of Elizabeth’s reign was a long slide into a massive, socialist experiment: widespread nationalisation of key industries, a cradle-to-grave welfare state, and a full embrace of the so-called “Keynesian consensus”. The infliction of these diseases produced nothing other than the “sick man of Europe”, marked by sluggish growth, high taxation, inflation, industrial strife, the three-day week and an IMF bailout.
The second half saw us us hollowed out into a garrison of the neoliberal, globalist-corporatist empire, accomplished in tandem with the decimation of the manufacturing industries in favour of a consumer/services based economy. Our social and cultural life is now crippled by the cancer of wokeness, an agenda set by a bare handful of urban liberal fanatics.
During all of this, Elizabeth barely uttered a peep, at least not in public. She is supposed to have had her weekly audiences with the Prime Minister, all of which remain private, undocumented and, thus, immune to any scrutiny. But given the results which actually transpired, either she has failed to act as a roadblock to the destruction of a once great nation, or she has been fully complicit.
Particularly notable is that, for more than four decades, we sat as a golden goose to be plucked by the crumbling experiment in transnational, transcultural governance known as the European Union. Some of the Queen’s predecessors of prior centuries – her own father and grandfather included - fought wars in order to keep British sovereignty out of the hands of a foreign power. It was left to a rare display of public revolt by her own subjects to bring at least a formal end to this status.
As I have explained recently, the monarchy could provide a much needed restraining influence upon Britain’s exceptionally centralised system of government. Instead, all we have is a figurehead whose role is to do little more than cut ribbons and wave from balconies. 
No doubt, there has always been a tacit understanding between the Palace and the government that this should, indeed, be the arrangement – “Keep schtum, Your Majesty, or you’re out!” After all, they gave the boot to her uncle, the unreliable and interfering Edward VIII, for the dubious excuse of his marriage plans. But it was critical, during these past decades, for us to have had a monarch to muster the courage to stand up to this, one who would display the resilience necessary to help prevent what this country has become - even if it meant risking herself and the very institution she leads. 
Ironically, though, it may be her eternal public silence which ends up jeopardising the centuries-old continuity the monarchy represents. Much of Elizabeth’s popularity is personal to her, ranking far ahead that of any other royal; like that of her late mother, her longevity has served to cement her as an institution in her own right. There is little indication that either of Princes Charles and William will muster this kind of popular support - especially not if they complete the transformation of the Crown into just another leftist/environmentalist outpost. Without a role that is seen to be substantively critical to the UK’s constitution, Elizabeth’s passing could well prove to be a watershed moment in public support for the monarchy as a whole.
In short, Elizabeth has failed every test which has been required of her during these past seventy years, and I see little reason to celebrate her reign.
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