Tag: england

Government Shutdowns and Debt Ceilings

Craig Axford | Canada

Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.

Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.

That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?

The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.

America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.

Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.

In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?

The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.

In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.

Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.

Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.

I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.

I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.

If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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Is Britain Still a Free Country Today?

By Rufus Coombe | United Kingdom

During the 19th century, Britain was a pioneer of freedom, a leader in individual liberties, and a staunch defender of the ideas of classical liberalism, many of which have their origins in British philosophy. Today, Britain no longer stands as a staunch bastion of liberty nor does it stand out in its defense of free markets. Britain, the country that began modern capitalism, lead the campaign against slavery, created the first restrictive constitution (the Magna Carta), popularised free trade and which was at the forefront of the fight for personal liberty. Much of this changed dramatically during the late 20th century.

An integral question for the modern day is; does Britain still protect the values of free people and free markets it once espoused? How authoritarian is modern Britain?

A common talking point of the right, particularly in America, is the alleged authoritarianism of Europe. The focus of such arguments usually revolves around the supposedly tyrannous state of Britain. One should explore the accuracy of this sentiment and tackle both the myths and the truths of the accusation.

Britain and Negative Rights

To assess the validity of the claims about freedom in Britain, start by using the idea of negative rights. Negative rights are a rejection of the contemporary view of rights. They state that an individual is free if others cannot inhibit them from acting. Negative rights impose a duty on others to abscond from intervening whereas positive rights compel another to act to provide the right. An action is not representative of freedom if others are forced to aid you in any way. By this definition, one does not have a ‘right’ to healthcare because healthcare forces others to act for you (they must pay taxes to subsidize it). However one does have a right to private property as private property only requires that others refrain from infringing upon your land. These differences will be crucial in the analysis.

Britain, for a large part, is still a free society. Inalienable rights such as the right to property and life are still tenets of its legal system. Murder, rape, and theft are prohibited by the British state. The government still carries out its proper protective functions such as the protection of life and property.

Furthermore, British press freedom is ranked 40th in the world, low for a western country but still above the global average. Britain, in theory, also has equality in the eyes of the law for sexual and racial minorities summarised in the 2010 equality act which forbids the state or judiciary from discriminating based on race, religion or sexuality. Moreover, the police force is unarmed and has restraints placed upon it. This protects the citizens from being violated by a rogue or overreaching constabulary.

However, Britain has ventured into an age of authoritarianism. With enforced progressivism, the introduction of an extensive welfare state, and increasingly invasive powers handed to the police, Britain seems on the cusp of becoming Orwellian.

An Orwellian Country

The principle of voluntary association has been disregarded and replaced with a new idea that one’s land is no longer one’s own but rather the property of the community. This is seen by the popularisation of collectivist values with most, if not all prominent politicians arguing from the collective perspective on issues such as healthcare, education and unemployment benefit. No prominent political party supports the privatization of these faculties of the state.

The individual is no longer free to use their property as they see fit, instead the use of land is now often dictated by the state. For example, intrusive Pigovian taxes augmented by heavy substance controls means that people can no longer buy and sell what they want. Britain has waged an extensive war against ‘victimless crimes’ with a costly drug war and stringent rules on prostitution. Implementation of a sugar tax and congestion charges (effectively taxes on driving in certain areas) has allowed the state to step further forwards in its march for omnipotence. Britain is very much a nanny state with Pigovian taxes on everything from alcohol to energy drinks.

In addition, it is now illegal to refuse service to certain groups of people or to extend membership organizations to only one member. For example, the equality act of 2010 means employees and property owners cannot discriminate based on race, sexuality or gender. While equal treatment should be encouraged, legislation compelling it is in flagrant violation of the principle of individual sovereignty. The state intervenes to ensure that an opening to one is an opening to all- a job must be equal to all applicants regardless of the wishes of the employer. In Britain, one has no choice but to bake the cake. The moral reservations of individuals are cast aside for the demands of the collective. Unlike in some countries (such as the US) where the right to refuse services have been preserved.

Furthermore, Britain has implemented numerous draconian free speech restrictions which inhibit the individual’s ability to speak candidly and openly. With the recent and notoriously case of count Dankula, who was fined for racist language and hate speech after filming his pug making Nazi salutes, it is clear that Britain is no longer free, even in the realm of entertainment. The police in the UK spent 3,750 police hours tackling online hate speech, most of which was even too trivial to be taken to court. Britain has begun curbing freedom of speech- a fundamental tenet of freedom.

But it is not only jokes which are being censored (albeit unfunny ones). The government has criminalized numerous political organizations of an unsavory nature. The actions of individual members of these groups have led to the government cracking down on their very existence. Such as the banning of National Front (a neo-fascist organization) which was banned in December 2016. Again, the right to free association falls apart.

The Surveillance State

Then there is the issue of privacy. In 2016 the government passed the investigatory powers bill, also dubbed the ‘snoopers charter’. This was only the most recent extension of the state’s powers to monitor and collect online content. The bill stipulates that all data providers must monitor and keep a record of their users’ messages and viewed content which the security agencies can then view if necessary. The UK authorities now have the power to draw up and read anyone’s private messages or see their web history, a clear violation of the right to privacy.

Government mass surveillance does not end at the internet, the security agencies also have a prodigious network of security cameras. It is estimated that there are 11 people per security camera in the UK. Britain is one of the most surveyed countries in the world.

Moreover, Britain also has a protruding welfare state. Funded by burdening tax rates (some brackets which are in excess of 40%). People are being extorted to pay for the government, large tax rates are the enemy of a free and prosperous country. The British welfare state is one of the most intrusive and malignant welfare programs in the world. The arguably bureaucracy riddled welfare system is now being reformed, however, the main principle of collective responsibility remains. To those who believe in a free economy, this spells bad news.

41% of GDP in the UK is from government spending. This exorbitant amount of government spending coupled with cumbersome regulations means huge sections of the economy are now de facto controlled by the state. The constant stream of new regulation flowing from parliament augmented by additional EU restrictions has led to an economic minefield of regulation. Bizarrely, private property no longer seems very private. What good is privately owning a business or a home if it’s management is dictated to you by the state?

Finally, what many Americans love to decry; Britain has the most hostile gun regulation in the world. The right to own guns has been severely curtailed. The rules on getting a firearm have very stringent since the 1997 handgun act. Due to a recent surge in knife crime in the capital, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, is banning knives and considering imposing yet more pernicious regulation on gun ownership. The idea of banning knives is something Americans find alien if also a little comical, in Britain the general populace barely bat an eye at the idea.

This article was intended to be a balanced piece to debunk the claims of totalitarianism in Britain, but the overwhelming amount of evidence found was against this premise. The more was discovered about the modern legal system, the more demoralizing the situation seemed to become. As you will see from the points discussed above, Britain is far from the bastion of freedom it once was. It has strayed from beliefs in small government and inalienable rights. There is now a socialist mindset which has permeated into British society. A mindset which will only bring more authoritarianism.

This article has only tackled the major talking points and there is far more to say. The government is continuing to snowball in size, pressure groups seem to see the government as the only tool for influence and the corporate elite are continuing to pump out regulation. The situation will deteriorate before it gets better.


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What does California’s Success Say About the Free Market?

By Clint Sharp | United States

According to new federal data released Friday by the U.S Department of Commerce, the state of California is now the fifth largest economy in the world. With a GDP of $2.747 trillion, they surpassed the United Kingdom’s GDP, which is $2.625 trillion. What is even more outstanding is the massive population difference between the two, with the Golden State only having a population of 40 million to the UK’s 66 million. So how did a single state become fifth among a list of much larger countries? Two words: free market.

Although many see California as a sort of haven for liberal thinkers and progressive ideals (i.e UC Berkley), the economy of the state tells a much different story. California has seen the development of some of the most profitable and innovative companies and products the the world has ever seen. Among these are Apple, Intel, Chevron, Disney, Tesla, and Wells Fargo. These grand corporations and businesses were founded by entrepreneurial individuals and grown by the consumers to become some of the most recognizable brands in the world. They are surely the main constituents of California’s economic success.

The U.K on the other hand, has fallen from the economic graces. The productivity of the U.K, or the output the UK workforce per hour of work, has dropped drastically. This results in wage cuts, income cuts, and severely limiting the growth of the nation. Although the economy has shifted backwards, the foremost priority of the nation is to increase the number of social programs and the amount of public spending using money that the country simply doesn’t have, creating an ever-deepening deficit in their economy.

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So what has caused the staunch dichotomy between these two economies? The simple answer is the free market. Now boasting its status as one of the most liberal minded countries in the world, the U.K has shifted itself into an increasingly socialized economy where social programs and “equality” are the primary focus. In fact, during the most recent general elections held in the U.K, the “Conservative” party, led by Theresa May,  vowed to return to what they considered to be “true conservative economics”. However, May stated,  “We do not believe in untrammeled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism.” (read the full manifesto here). It is this rejection of laissez faire, free market capitalism that has cause them to forfeit their previous spot on the list and be replaced with the state of California.

Although California still rests under the mixed economy umbrella of the United States, it still remains one of the more free economies in the world and its future only looks brighter. Not only is California the top agricultural state in the country, but they are also the starting grounds for the legal cannabis industry in the U.S; a multi-billion dollar industry that has nowhere to go but up in the next few years. This, and its innumerable number of industries, businesses, and individual opportunities is what has made California’s economy soar above that of nations of greater size and will continue to carry them up the GDP chart.

The success of California over Britain proves one thing: the freer the market, the better the economy. The free market is the most tried and true way to economic growth. When the market is free, the people have the power to spend their money the way they want to and look out for themselves, preventing others from having to provide for them. It is this idea of economic freedom and individualism that the greatest innovations are birthed, the best standards of living are created, and the overall happiness of the people are improved. It would be wise for any nation to employ deregulation tactics and privatize everything in order to see mass growth, but until that happens, the parasitic ideal of collectivism will remain present in the minds of the people and governments everywhere.


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What The Alfie Evans Case Taught Us About the Second Amendment

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

The controversy around the case of Alfie Evans has been well reported on and many have come out against the government’s near detainment of the child. Prayers and messages of support have poured in from around the world, with many openly wondering how a government could grow to a place where they are the sole arbiter of what a child’s “best interest” is, and what the parents are able to do to with their child. Private possession of firearms would have prevented the government from ever coming to a point where they could control a child’s life.

Alfie Evans was a twenty three month old boy who suffered from an undiagnosed neurodegenerative disease. Alder Hey, the hospital he was being treated at, removed him from life support, against the parents will, because they believed that further keeping him alive was inhumane and causing him suffering. The parents had sought second and third opinions from Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome and another hospital in Munich, Germany. Both offered alternative treatment plans. However, the hospital, backed by British Courts, argued that transporting him to receive alternative treatments was not in his best interest. Instead, letting him die was better for him.

One of the great differences between the United States and the UK is that it is much easier to own firearms here in the US than in the UK. A citizen in the UK wishing to own a firearm must  complete a multi step process. First, they must join a shooting club or document that they hunt. Second, they must receive a character reference (sort of like a letter of recommendation) from a trusted source. They must then arrange proper firearm storage that satisfies local police upon inspection. The final step is to pass a background check, which includes a police interview at the candidate’s residence. Only then may they purchase a firearm- but their options are limited as many are banned, including most handguns and semi automatics.

These steps are designed to limit the amount of firearms in the hands of the public, and have succeeded in doing so. According to data compiled by GunPolicy.org, the UK has a firearms per capita rate of 6.2 guns per 100 people, while the US, with its comparatively fewer restrictions, has a rate of 101 guns per 100 people.

In the absence of an armed populace, the government in the UK was free to grow enormously without threat of revolt by displeased people. British citizens stood by and watched the erosion of their personal liberties and allowed themselves to come to a place where the government is able to dictate what parents are allowed to do when seeking to better the well being of their child.

Barring Alfie’s parents from removing him from the hospital to seek alternative treatments shows that the government feels that they have a more legitimate claim over the child’s well being than the parents, which is obviously not true. Bureaucrats, which is what hospital staff are in socialized healthcare, will never have the same bond with Alfie that his parents had. Parents should always be allowed the full range of options with how to handle a case where their child has little chance of survival and they seek to improve the child’s chances. The parents of Alfie Evans were not seeking to harm their child, but rather, to give him a better chance of survival and eventually regaining health. The bureaucrats of Britain’s socialized healthcare system essentially held Alfie hostage and condemned him to die, punishing the parents for seeking to help their baby.

The citizens of the US must fight to have their right to bear arms remain intact, otherwise the state will grow in size to a level similar to the UK, where bureaucrats get to choose if a baby is allowed to be given a fighting chance or not. An armed populace is the only deterrent of massive government overreach. Once the government is able to decide whether a patient should be allowed to continue to fight against their horrible affliction or to force them to give up and die, we very quickly move towards a state where the government  is able to determine what lives are worth living and which are not. Does this sound crazy to you? Maybe because it is/ Bureaucrats deciding the value of a person’s life is eugenics in its natural form.

Americans should view this as a wake up call as to why the second amendment is so crucial to protecting us from an unimaginably dystopian government structure.


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