Author Archive: Iain Murray

ONE LAW FOR THE RICH, LITERALLY: Any middle-class would-be investor knows it’s hard to find somewhere to let your money grow these days. The SEC could be just about to make it even harder. As John Berlau explains at the Washington Times:

If it goes into effect, the regulation would cripple investors’ ability to buy dozens of funds they can now purchase on American stock exchanges for zero-dollar commissions from discount brokerages and investing apps such as Robinhood. Under the regulation, investors could not purchase these funds unless they can answer an extensive questionnaire of highly personal questions about their investing knowledge and household assets to the SEC’s satisfaction. SEC Republican Commissioners Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman have blasted the regulation as a “blunt overly paternalistic approach to investor protection.”

While the Trump administration is still deregulating, independent agencies like the SEC can head in the other direction.

FROM “NOT REAL SOCIALISM” TO “NOT A SOCIALIST”: Ed’s post below is amusing to me given that I have a book about socialism in America coming out this summer. It’s astonishing how often socialists deny* socialism or being socialists.

In one example, socialists regularly says that actual existing examples of socialism aren’t and never were socialist. As Kristian Niemietz demonstrates in his brilliant book (unpriced download here) Socialism: The Failed Idea that Never Dies, the progression goes:

  1. Avowed socialists set up brave new socialist world
  2. The wheels start to come off. This is blamed on “wreckers” and foreign agents. The economy seizes up. Eventually people starve and the gulags get set up.
  3. Socialists explain this was never a real socialist system in the first place

Krugman’s intervention appears to be a different form of denial that I identify in the book:

  1. Socialists set out to win an election
  2. Recognizing the unpalatability of a socialist platform, socialists claim they actually only want to be “like Denmark or Sweden.”
  3. Socialists deny desirability of a thriving Nordic free market model that includes things like school choice in Sweden.
  4. Socialists unveil a platform that looks more like traditional socialism than anything currently on offer in Scandinavia.
  5. People who point out the discrepancy between 3 and 4 are vilified as supporting inequality, racism, etc.

If the socialists-but-not-socialists-really then win an election, expect things to progress as in the first progression.

Or, as Toby Young puts it, “socialism always begins with talk of the international brotherhood of man and ends with having to eat your own pets.”

*And of course, the only real “deniers” are climate deniers.

TURNING VIRGINIA INTO CALIFORNIA, PART II: At Bacon’s Rebellion, Hans Bader points out that the Old Dominion has passed the most extreme anti-discrimination statute in the South (the bill simply awaits reconciliation between the House and Senate versions):

For example, the Virginia Values Act contains no protections against groundless or unreasonable lawsuits: It doesn’t allow employers to obtain their attorneys fees when such lawsuits are brought to shake down an employer over a meritless claim…Another flaw of the Virginia Values Act is that it provides for unlimited punitive damages, “without limitation otherwise imposed by law.” This is troubling, because punitive damages are often imposed in a random, unpredictable, and arbitrary way, and limitations imposed by law are appropriate to constrain such abuses and provide greater consistency.

Virginia is fast becoming a very bad place to do business. When Northern Virginia turned blue, it turned deep blue. It is dragging the rest of the state with it to the depths.

TURNING VIRGINIA INTO CALIFORNIA, PART I: For a purple state, Virginia is sure turning blue real quick, thanks to an almost complete lack of public scrutiny about the revolution going on in Richmond. Here’s Vincent Vernuccio warning that the failure of the effort to repeal right-to-work is obscuring the effort to unionize government workers. A pretty extreme bill passed the House last week while a vaguer version passed the Senate this week. Bad things are afoot in the Old Dominion.

WE MUST DISMISS THE PEOPLE AND ELECT ANOTHER: Berthold Brecht’s famous line is usually used satirically. In Cambridge, England, the green extremist group Extinction Rebellion actually means it. They are threatening to “bring the city to a halt” unless authorities accede to their three demands: the University of Cambridge must divest from fossil fuels (here’s what happened when they made that demand in Oxford), the city and county councils come up with a plan to replace the transportation system, and the city of Cambridge holds a “citizens’ assembly” on climate justice. Here’s what they say about the citizens’ assembly:

To meet this demand, the City Council must:

Establish a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Justice.
Ensure that marginalised groups are well represented in the Assembly. This must include those without citizenship status in the UK.
Ensure that the expert panel includes: Climate scientists, Health professionals, Experts on decolonisation and climate justice, People who have lived on the front lines of the climate crisis
Exclude from the panel those who directly profit from the exploitation of workers, the Global South, or natural resources.
Ensure that the Citizens’ Assembly has significant decision-making powers and a binding mandate.
Act urgently on the decisions of the Citizens’ Assembly.

To me, this sounds less like an assembly, and more like a Committee of Public Safety. I expect they’ll erect the guillotines on The Backs.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Proper response: “Sod off, Swampy!”

“SMELLING THE COFFEE IS ABLEIST”: British conservative polling guru Lord Ashcroft is out with his 2020 edition of “smell the coffee” – a warning to the defeated party (Labour in this case) of why they *really* lost the last British election. The Labour establishment has said it was all about Brexit. Lord Ashcroft’s findings:

[T]he feeling that the Labour Party was no longer for [former Labour voters] went beyond Brexit and the Corbyn leadership. While it had once been true that “they knew us, because they were part of us,” Labour today seemed to be mostly for students, the unemployed, and middle-class radicals. It seemed not to understand ordinary working people, to disdain what they considered mainstream views and to disapprove of success. The “pie in the sky” manifesto of 2019 completed the picture of a party that had separated itself from the reality of their lives.

As far as many of these former supporters were concerned, then, the Labour Party they rejected could not be trusted with the public finances, looked down on people who disagreed with it, was too left-wing, failed to understand or even listen to the people it was supposed to represent, was incompetent, appallingly divided, had no coherent priorities, did not understand aspiration or where prosperity comes from, disapproved of their values and treated them like fools.

I couldn’t possibly comment about possible parallels with American politics.


WHAT ARE WE BANNING TODAY?: In Canada, like in America, it’s single-use plastics, like grocery bags and straws. There’s a debate going on at the Toronto Star where they helpfully include the poll question in the middle of the “yes”argument for the question “should we ban them?” – which of course means most people who vote won’t yet have read the “no” argument by my friend Angela Logomasini… So, if you’d like to help even out the discrepancy, you know what to to.

Meanwhile, at the Skeptoid podcast, they point out that banning single-use plastic bags doesn’t make sense even under environmentalist assumptions.

Personal PS: I’ve been away writing a book and had an annoying problem with the Instapundit interface, so haven’t posted much. Expect that to pick up now the book is in editing and the glitch is fixed. With any luck you’ll be sick to death of hearing about The Socialist Temptation by the time it hits the shelves.

A CHARACTER JUDGMENT IS NO GROUNDS FOR IMPEACHMENT: That’s the (unsurprising) conclusion my friend and colleague Mario Loyola reaches in this piece in The Atlantic, of all places.

UK ELECTION UPDATE: The polls show a moderate to large lead for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, but because the electoral calculus has changed it’s still difficult to predict what might happen next week. Nevertheless, this analysis is extremely interesting.

Key paragraphs:

The media conception of who the swing voter in the UK is much the same as in the US – the fiscally conservative, socially liberal suburbanites who like tax cuts, “responsible” spending decisions, and who would feel perfectly comfortable living in any major US or European city. The media conception of this as the swing makes sense – these voters are in most metro areas, and if one spends enough time in well off circles, with professionals – lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, et all – it’s a viewpoint one would see quite frequently. Consequently, this is the swing voter the media thinks of – as New York, DC, or London media would frequently encounter that view in their work – either in their private lives after hours or in the seemingly endless amounts of charity dinners, functions, and galas that occur. The problem is, that isn’t the swing voter anymore, at least not the one that swings UK elections. Labour could do even better with that voter and still lose this election worse than any since the Second World War.

The new swing voter in the UK is the reason the Tories are on track for a large majority government. The new swing voter is the fiscally liberal, socially conservative voter who wants more money spent on northern towns and health care in regional areas and less money spent on “elites”, which routinely means whoever that voter isn’t a fan of. They’re wary of immigrants, mad at the Blair-era broken promise of only 13000/year net immigration from the 2004 EU Accession states – 250000/year would come in the decade after – and is annoyed by social issues that grip the modern left. This class of voter was staunchly Labour for decades, especially in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s term in office. These voters were tempted by Theresa May last time, but went home to Labour because Corbyn did enough to reassure that Brexit would happen. With Labour policy now being a second referendum with an option to Remain – and every senior Labour politician outside Corbyn saying no possible deal is better than staying in – their likelihood of repeating their 2017 trick is somewhere between small and non-existant.

The old certainties are as much dust in the UK as in the US. It is quite possible that the Tories will win Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old Durham mining constituency. To even suggest that five years ago would have been to invite scorn and derision.


UNRULY BRITANNIA: A fascinating article by British conservative (and ex-libertarian) philosopher John Gray on the state of British politics. Lots of read-across for here as well. I thought this summary of the left especially accurate:

The technologists of power are today’s true rationalists. That superior intelligence is found among the practitioners of populism is a fact of our time. When liberals talk about reason they mean a mishmash of ideas they picked up at university. Scraps of Rawls, Dworkin and Thomas Piketty, together with a smattering of modish conspiracy theories, form the folk wisdom of the thinking classes. Rationality means deferring to this ragbag of ephemera and ignoring enduring truths about the deciding forces in politics.

Supporters of Brexit will be particularly pleased by Gray’s analysis of the Remainer alliance, and by his conclusion that Brexit will happen.

THE DEEP STATE GUIDE TO RESISTING EXECUTIVE ORDERS: President Trump has started tackling one of the biggest abuses of the administrative state – the use of guidance documents that effectively have the force of law. The deep state, of course, and its allies in the progressive movement are already looking for work arounds. My colleague Wayne Crews discusses that here, as well as why the orders are so desperately needed.

PROUD OF MY COLLEAGUE: My colleague Patrick Hedger has been protesting in favor of the Hong Kong freedom movement this week. Here’s a nice Buzzfeed article (I can’t believe I just wrote those words) covering his activities.

(Sorry I haven’t been posting much recently – unresolved technical difficulties.)

THE FREE MARKET, CONSERVATIVES, AND WOKE CAPITALISM: A couple of weeks back I had an article (paywall, sorry) in the Wall Street Journal noting that free marketers have taken conservatives for granted, and that we should do something about that.

Erick Erickson has written a typically thoughtful response, noting the areas that need the most work. One of those areas is dealing with the issue of “woke capitalism.”

On that point, Liberty Fund philosopher Douglas Den Uyl has an excellent essay at Law & Liberty on “stakeholder capitalism.” As he notes, this movement, most recently embraced by the Business Roundtable of all things, socializes businesses – and “can only result in the obliteration of the private portion and thus of the essence of capitalism.” Woke Capitalism is in many ways just another, insidious form of socialism. Which means we have work to do.


GET A GRIP, BRITAIN: British “remainiacs” are having a fit of the vapors about Boris proroguing Parliament to get Brexit done, screaming about it being a coup or worse. As Oxford’s Vernon Bogdanor calmly points out, something like this was bound to happen thanks to David Cameron’s idiotic Fixed Term Parliament Act, which just doesn’t mesh with the British constitution.

DON’T HAVE A COW, MAN: Milking cows is “sexual abuse.”

I need to lie down in a darkened room…

WHEN THE DEFAULT ARGUMENT IS CRYING WOLF: Douglas Murray (no relation) at The Spectator on reactions to new parties in Europe:

Terms such as ‘fascist’, ‘far right’ and ‘white supremacist’ are serious. Such sinister forces certainly exist, both in Britain and on the continent. But in recent years — especially since the Brexit and Trump votes — there has been an acceleration in claimed sightings and a blurring of the definitions. This is wrong not just because it means that perfectly decent people are maligned, but also because distinctly dangerous groups are confused with harmless ones.

The fog began to descend earlier this decade. Campaign groups which used to oppose neo-Nazis realized that there weren’t sufficient Nazis to justify their business models. They decided that, henceforth, attacking parties such as Ukip should also come under their anti-fascist remit. Soon anybody who opposed supranational institutions or sought to restrict immigration found themselves labelled as beyond the pale. It meant that the views of the majority of the public — in Britain and elsewhere — effectively became defined as far right.

In recent years this terminological mission-creep has morphed from being annoying to being disturbing. For if everybody is a fascist, then nobody is. And anyone who knows the scene across Europe will understand that we may well have need of these terms.

RTWT (registration may be required).

I’LL GIVE THIS TO LEFTIST LUDDITES: They are great at neologisms. Apparently using restaurant delivery services is “convenience maximalism.”

QTWTAIN: Was July 2019 the hottest month on record? Nope.

REAPING THE WHIRLWIND: Readers of my old blog back in the paleolithic era of the web will remember I frequently wrote about Tony Blair’s dismantling of the British constitutional settlement. Two of the most radical experiments of the Blair era were regional devolution and the introduction of referenda. Fraser Nelson points out in the Spectator today that Boris Johnson’s way of governing is a child of these innovations:

Boris Johnson is different. He is the creature of two Blair-era inventions: devolution and referendums. The team he is building around him in No. 10 is from City Hall and Vote Leave, where he was able to pioneer a new style of politics and government…

The result of this will be to reject the old rules: that you govern, then at some stage switch to campaign mode. The Boris project is starting in campaign mode, and I doubt it will ever stop. This is one of Donald Trump’s innovations: never stop campaigning. To apply pressure to the insiders, appeal to the outside…

But Brexit or no, I suspect it will be the changes to government that will last. Boris’s team will apply the techniques of modern campaigning and a more modern system of governing to Westminster, pioneered in the labs of Tony Blair’s constitutional reform.

Hosea 8.7 applies.


REJOICE, REJOICE: James Delingpole correctly notes that Boris Johnson has picked a cabinet of all the talents – and on merit, to boot:

I’m particularly happy to see Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Theresa Villiers given top jobs – and for the right reasons.

Sure it will suit Boris’s spin doctors to note how diverse and gender balanced the new team is. But they didn’t get the jobs because they were women or because Priti is ‘Asian’: they got them because they’re bright, talented and, well there’s really no other word for it, sound.

One of the things Boris has always been exceptionally good at is picking the right team. He has, in British football parlance, played a blinder here.

ECO-PAGANISM?: Classical Liberal and classicist Helen Dale, who wrote the fascinating Kingdom of the Wicked books, looks at echoes of ancient pagan religion in modern societies at Law & Liberty. While she argues against progressivism itself as a reassertion of pagan morality, she is less sure about environmentalism:

Whether one scrutinizes James Lovelock’s historic Gaia Hypothesis or considers how activist outfit Extinction Rebellion advances autistic savant Greta Thunberg as a type of child seer, one perceives a blend of immanent pagan orientation with millenarian Christian eschatology. ‘Gaia’, incidentally, was a popular Roman girl’s name.

This is a fascinating topic, and Helen goes into more detail in her podcast.

DEREGULATION MATTERS: The Council of Economic Advisers has just released a new report summarizing and quantifying the effects of the President’s deregulatory agenda. It

…estimates that after 5 to 10 years, this new approach to Federal regulation will have raised real incomes by $3,100 per household per year. Twenty notable Federal deregulatory actions alone will be saving American consumers and businesses about $220 billion per year after they go into full effect. They will increase real (after-inflation) incomes by about 1.3 percent.

As the report also notes, “The ongoing introduction of costly regulations had previously been subtracting an additional 0.2 percent per year from real incomes, thereby giving the false impression that the American economy was fundamentally incapable of anything better than slow growth. Now, new regulations are budgeted and kept to a minimum.”

Turns out the new normal…wan’t.

BREXPLAINER: My friend Helen Dale provides the best summary I’ve seen yet of the Brexit mess. Key takeaway:

In days gone by, superannuated elites refusing to accept defeat on existential questions of this type finished up with their heads on pikes. Democracy put a stop to that by doing what democracy does best: facilitating the peaceful and orderly transfer of power. But democracy means you elect a new parliament, not a new people. That, in truth, is the only deal that matters.


NEWS YOU CAN CONSUME: It’s National Donut Day! Eat one for yourself, and one for freedom!