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Post Brexit: The Eternal Contradictions of Politics

YESTERDAY, June 24, 2016, the voters in Britain elected to leave the European Union. I think it is time to recall Enoch Powell, of the "Rivers of Blood" speech, who said that the European Union could never work because there is no European demos.

He meant that a pan-European state required, to succeed, a pan-European people.

However, the Brexit election showed that there isn't a British people either. The English voted to get out of the EU but the Scots voted to stay in. England and Scotland have been Britain since the Acts of Union in 1707. But of course the Act of Union was a lie; it was the forcible joining together of two dynastic states, and the English and the Scots have quarreled ever since.

France? Put together by force. Germany? Force, in the wars provoked by Bismarck against Denmark, Austria, and France. Italy? A forcible takeover of the south.

The United States? Conquest of North America, followed by a rebellion by hot-heads against the Brits, followed by a split between North and South that ended in a bloody Civil War that restored the Union but divided North and South for a century.

My point is that nations and peoples do not just happen. There is always politics, and politics is violence. Every nation is some guy's power project. The European Union is the power project of a trans-national elite that decided after World War II that it would end the wars of nationalism by imposing a superstate over the eternally warring nation states. The current liberal project of a diverse America is a power project to end the dominance of white males and replace it with a new demos of women, minorities and immigrants who would vote for big government and empower Democrats to rule forever.

The point is that these power projects sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Sometimes the political activists create a new demos and rule forever. Sometimes they fail and get thrown onto the dust heap of history.

But here is the problem. When the power projectors successfully establish their power project and create a demos the demos expects something in return. They expect the ruling class to protect them from the swirling winds of power in the world. But what that means in the modern world is protection from the verdict of the market. That's what labor unions are for; that's what crony capitalists are for. They go to government for a sweet application of force to protect them from the market.

So everyone is is favor of freedom; but everyone wants to be protected from harm. Everyone wants the right to work and trade anywhere in the world. But they don't want everyone to come here and compete with them in the labor market. And they certainly don't want foreigners to come here and use government benefits that ought, by right, to belong to people born here.

So the Brits want to get out of Europe and restrict immigration and keep the NHS for Brits. But what about trade with Europe and the rest of the world?

So Trump wants to restrict immigration and bring manufacturing back home to America. And Make America Great Again.

But the point about the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years is that, one way or another, the established powers were unable, time after time, to stop the "trade-tested betterments" that various nobodies launched upon the market. So we got the Great Enrichment in spite of ourselves. If you listen to people, they tell you that they don't want to have to change and they are saying that they want government to protect them from the rest of the world. They want the goodies the market brings them, but not if the goodies put them out of business. So people want the betterment of the Great Enrichment, but not if they have to change.

I like to say that the decisive change of the modern era is that Gerald O'Hara's comment that "land is the only thing that lasts" is no longer true. In the old days you occupied land with your chimp troop, or agricultural empire, against the world, because land was life and the very definition of survival. But not any more. Today you can buy and sell food on the global market as grain travels around the world in giant 100,000 ton grain ships. Today what matters is the innovation of new products and technologies, new applications of technical knowledge.

But we humans are still living in the old world of Gerald O'Hara. We still believe in the permanence of land, even as we all move to the city and the suburb and work in offices rather than down on the farm.

Ever since the start of the industrial revolution we have been dealing with the problem of rural people moving to the city with their rural, tribal culture and confronting the urban, bourgeois market order. The Muslim hordes that are presently terrifying us all are just the latest wave in the migration to the city.

The migrants to the city come to the city with their culture of land, of defending their land from all outsiders. and they look to a powerful patron to protect them from the pirates and the pillagers that want to plunder their tribal lands. Only the city does not work like that. The city is not a world of separate landed estates; it is a world of trust and exchange and innovation.

How people adapt to the bourgeois culture of trust and innovation, and learn to be not that interested in power, is the great story that is never told.

Meanwhile we live in a contradictory world in which we all work in a world of trust the stranger, but we still want politicians to bash the stranger. That's a contradiction that won't change any time soon.

perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/24/16 6:25 pm ET

Two Cheers for Consumerism

ONE thing the left whines about all the time is consumerism. Their problem is the combination of corporations and advertising and waste. And liberals really don't like the things that people can be persuaded to buy. Corporations are always trying to convince consumers to buy stuff they don't need, and then, with "planned obsolescence," they design products to wear out so that consumers will be ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/23/16 6:49 pm ET

How to Turn Left Through Modernism and Postmodernism

FOR straight lefties the "postmodern turn" is a bit of a puzzler. When you attack "meta-theory" as a form of domination, what is left of the granddaddy of all "meta-theories," Marxism? That is the problem that David Harvey sets out to solve in The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. And he is a solid Marxist, in the sense that his chapter on "...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/22/16 6:31 pm ET

Think of Liberals as Trapped Rats

THE political situation in the US would be obvious if the ruling class of educated liberals weren't so determined to deny it. The whole progressive project of class politics and race politics and identity politics, and liberals running the place as their administrative fiefdom, is dissolving in chaos, and liberals are having to resort to more and more desperate measures in order to keep their ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/21/16 6:25 pm ET

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“I Want a President”

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Charles Murray’s By The People

Thomas Piketty’s Capital

The Spirit Level

McCloskey’s “Bourgeois Era”

Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation

A Look at the Left: “Contra-deBoer”


Attention Deirdre McCloskey: Here’s the Big Thing about the Bourgeoisie

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RMC Contents
Chapter 1: After the Welfare State

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Chapter 2: Down in South Carolina and Out in Brooklyn
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Chapter 5: The Nineteenth Century From the Bottom Up
Chapter 6: Popular Religion in the Nineteenth Century


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E.G. West, Education and the State
How education was doing fine before the government muscled in

RMC Books on Law

Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
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F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
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John Zane, The Story of Law
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David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
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David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish
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cruel . corrupt . wasteful
unjust . deluded


Take the Test!


Work to restore the Road to the Middle Class. Here’s how. Ground it in faith. Grade it with education. Protect it with mutual aid. Defend it with the law. more>>


The Road to the Middle Class is a journey from a world of power to a world of trust and love. In religion, it is a journey from power gods that respond to sacrifice and augury to the God who makes a covenant with mankind. In education, it is a journey from the world of the spoken word to the world of the written word. In community, it is the journey from dependence on blood kin and upon clientage under a great lord to the mutual aid and the rules of the self-governing fraternal association. In law it is the journey from the violence of force and feud to the kingŽs peace, the law of contract, and private property.



“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


©2014 Christopher Chantrill

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