Thursday 10 November 2016

2016 – The pulse of our times

By Trevor Watkins

2016 is the international year of pulses – a designation intended to raise awareness and to celebrate the role of beans, chickpeas, lentils and other pulses in feeding the world. You might have missed that. Nevertheless, it has been a surprisingly optimistic year for those lovers of liberty known as libertarians.

On June 23rd Britons voted to leave the EU – an unexpected and surprising decision that shocked many observers deeply. The result was a resounding rejection of the expanding, globalist state. While steeped in British nationalism, the result was also a victory for believers in limited and reduced government. It was a result welcomed by most libertarians.

Then on August 3rd South Africans went to the polls in the local government elections. The ruling ANC was dealt a resounding “warm klap” by the “gatvol” electorate, losing control of 3 major metros, and being humiliated in the 4th opposition-held Cape Town metro. Amazingly, Herman Mashaba, an avowed Libertarian, was elected as mayor of Johannesburg. The demonstration effect of good governance and economic growth in these major cities is likely to lead to even further losses for the largely incompetent ANC in other districts. Libertarians and liberals could hardly believe their eyes.

On 31st August the Brazilian Senate voted to impeach Dilma Rousseff, the corrupt president of Brazil. Once again this demonstrated the power of ordinary voters to bring their lords and masters to book, to hold them accountable for their failings.

Throughout September, October and early November, Jacob Zuma's attempts to remove his fiery minister of finance, in order to advance his state capture agenda, have been roundly rebuffed by the judiciary, and by angry protests from the citizenry. Zuma's job security is severely threatened and he will be lucky to see out the year in the job. Even in a hopelessly one-sided democracy like South Africa, individual activism can make a difference.

On the negative side, the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements, while successful in focussing attention on their grievances, emphasize that not all activism is useful or intelligent. In fact, rampaging mobs are mostly known for their stupidity. Libertarians believe in individual liberty AND property rights, putting them at odds with most of the students.

Fittingly, on 11/9 the western world was turned upside down by the unexpected election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. This may have a greater impact on the course of American history than that other thing on 9/11. Just revealing the truth about 9/11, should Trump choose to do so, might have a greater impact on the American psyche than 9/11 itself. The fact that the Libertarian party tripled its vote was completely lost in the tumultuous triumph of Trump.

Is a Trump presidency good or bad for the overall libertarian cause? Libertarians themselves seem to be pretty evenly divided. In my opinion,the mere fact that a complete political outsider with no obvious ties to party or pressure groups is now running America is good news. There is a small chance that the established and vested interests may be frustrated for awhile. Like with the change in management in South African metros, we can expect the crooks and cronies in the US corridors of power to be scurrying for the exits.

Some of Trump's policies are music to a libertarian's ears – reduced government, reduced regulation, reduced taxation. Investigating the Fed, limiting foreign involvements, reducing intervention in foreign wars – these all make sense. Some, such as renegotiating free trade agreements, will have to wait for details to emerge before rushing to judgement. Restrictions on immigration and deporting of illegals may end up impacting on the rights and liberties of individuals. Time will tell.

And to cap off what has been an unexpectedly good year for individual liberty, Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize for literature. Does it get any better than that?

While the times may be a'changing, the answers are blowing in the wind.

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