Dear American Conservatives,

We live in dangerous times.

A man you hate as much as anyone else is running to be president under your banner. Those who aren’t voting for him are either not voting or are voting for “what is Aleppo”, a man so unqualified for the presidency that in any other year he’d be struggling to get within an order of magnitude of his current 9% polling.

After the election there’s a good chance that the Blue team will control both the white house and the senate. With an open spot on the Supreme Court and several justices at the ends of their careers we’re likely to see a hard-left bench and the end of the constitution as an effective force in American politics.

What are you doing about this?

Why are you letting this happen? From my perspective an ocean away you’re making the same mistake the left is making here. You’re running scared of a fringe, and not taking control of them. You’re also focusing on the big shiny prize, with the long term result of being unable to get even that, and with the short term cost of losing all the rest.

Who am I talking to here? I’m talking to moderate, reasonable conservatives. People who aren’t irrationally opposed to change, but want democratic control over what happens. Who want traditional rights respected, not new ones invented from whole cloth. Who want sensible economics, not racism disguised as a trade policy.

I find such people in two camps, those who want to support the libertarians this November, and those who are trying to cling on to the GOP while distancing themselves from Trump.


To the first:  People won’t vote for the libertarians until you can show it working. Here is my strategy for a libertarian President in 2044. It’s also a strategy for a root-and-branch reform of the entire American political system.

Vote Libertarian 2044

Supposing you’re not willing to back the long long road to the Libertarian victory. Then focus on excising the cancer at the heart of the GOP. Fix your damned candidates. Make sure that RINOs don’t run under your flag. (Remembering of course that Republicans In Name Only includes anyone who doesn’t support the platform that reasonable sensible conservative members of the party have worked for for generations. This certainly includes Trump, and frankly includes a lot of the weirder Tea Party types).

Stop Nominating Buffoons

I wish you the best of luck. Because god knows your country needs you.

Vote Libertarian 2044

This is part of my letter to American Conservatives.

What on earth are you doing and why do you keep doing it? Third parties don’t win the presidency. This isn’t evidence of a broken system, or defeatism. This is a reflection on the utter lack of strategic vision on the part of 3rd parties, their supporters and their members.

Why *should* anyone trust the most powerful nation on earth to an untried, untested set of ideas? We know the libertarian platform is better than that of the other two parties. But the American people dont. The ambassadors for it hardly fill the voters with confidence. A man who knows nothing about foreign policy can get away with it if (like Bush) we see smarter men pulling his strings. A man like Jonson cannot. You can’t get someone to try something new unless you wrap it up as something trusted and old. Here’s how to do that.

2016: Forget Gary Johnson, stop wasting time and money on him. Get a list of every candidate for town council you have and throw the party’s money at them. Have Johnson visit Podunk Alabama population 300 and tell people to vote for the libertarian school board candidate. Win a new city council seat, somewhere, anywhere.

2018: Pick a local council somewhere that’s having elections this year. Run a full slate of candidates. Throw the whole party behind that slate. Become the second largest party on the council. At the same time try the same in a few other councils, stand full slates anywhere it’s easy, and at least someone as many places as possible.

2020: Be the credible voice of opposition in one township somewhere. You know as I do that market based solutions to traffic, to crime etc are best. Prove it. If this tiny town has a problem throw the not inconsiderable intellect of the Libertarian party behind it. Solve the practical issues. The potholes on Main Street? Work out why the market isn’t solving this problem and make it happen in practice. When some innovation has a bad side effect in practice work out how to meliorate it. Show that you have serious practical ideas. Then in 2020 you’ll make gains, people will be re-elected. Run for everything going, sheriff, school board, elected judges, city mayor.

2022: Actually win a town council. Run full slates in many more nearby,  and at least someone in every council in the state. Continue to focus on just this council, solve its problems in the real world, not in theory. Become known as the Libertaian success story.

2024: Run for an win another few town councils or similar in the same state. Run for and lose councils in other states. Run for and lose as state representative and state senator.

2026: Run a full slate in every council in the state. Run candidates in as many other other states as you can, run full slates at least somewhere in every state. Win a council in another state.

2028: One district you’ll control several town councils and mayors. Win that state representative, come second in a handful of other rep races. Make people realise that it’s possible to vote Libertarian and win. Win dozens of town councils in other states. Run everywhere you can for every office below state senator. Come up with a radical set of proposals for voting reform, political reform of all kinds.

2030: Become the second largest party in the state legislature. Put forward serious legislation, have it debated. Put the full intellectual power of the libertarians into solving all the practical problems. Fix the gerrymandering your opponents propose by arguing for a fair redistricting system. Run for governor and come close third. Make it clear that you are not a protest vote. Make it clear you are ready and able to take political power. Raise money locally to spend in local races. Gain members locally to run in them. Argue for your reform platform and implement it in a town council by changing its charter.

2032: Make gains in both houses of the state legislature. Ally with one of the other parties to get a signature law through. Win in town councils up and down the state, and make sure they run *brilliantly*. Make people think you can make the trains run on time. Win town councils in other states. Run for state representatives elsewhere and come second. Argue for your reform platform, solve the practical problems with it in the town council you tried.

2034: Become the largest party in one house of the state legislature. Run for governor and come second. Win state rep seats elsewhere. Win town councils up and down the country. Run a candidate for federal representative, come second. Become the second largest party in other state legislatures. Stand candidates for all state and local offices you can. Implement your political reforms in another town council, argue for them in every town council

2036: Become at least the second largest party in a third of all state legislatures. Stand candidates for all federal offices for the first time since 2016. Win a federal representative. Implement political reforms in every town council you can. Argue for similar reforms in a state you control.

2038: Win many federal representatives, telling the story of how your party fixed <state> and you’re coming to fix America. Implement sweeping political reform in that state by fixing the state constitution. Make the states you run examples to the world. Fix the practical problems better than the other two parties ever did. Show how you can solve problems in practice.

2040: Come second for the presidency. Come second in the House, win something in the Senate. Win another few state legislatures. Put forward important bills. Make them practically workable. Explain how you helped turn around several states. Reform the constitutions of other states, argue for such reforms in every state.

2042: Win the House, come second in the senate. Win many state legislatures, and lots of governorship. Put forward a proposed set of constitutional amendments and have the House and Senate debate them.

2044: Win the presidency. Put your constitutional amendments to the people.

Stop Nominating Buffoons

This is part of my letter to American Conservatives.

In California Democratic Party v. Jones Scalia wrote “Proposition 198 forces political parties to associate with—to have their nominees, and hence their positions, determined by—those who, at best, have refused to affiliate with the party, and, at worst, have expressly affiliated with a rival,” These words apply not just to the strange primaries California tried at the time, but to all.

The goal of the GOP is not to simply do whatever half of America wants it to do. The goal of the GOP must be to get elected and control legislation, so as to enact policies it cares about. A sensible conservative platform. Not fringe lunacy of the Trump or Tea Party varieties. The primary process for this year’s presidential election has forced the GOP to associate with a man what hates it. With a man who has openly insulted its ideals, its leaders, its platform.

Scalia, with sad prescience, continues “A single election in which the party nominee is selected by nonparty members could be enough to destroy the party.” I hope this election will not destroy the GOP. But I fear it may come close. Conservatives must work hard right now to see that doesn’t happen.

America is such that all things are decided by public elections. This is hardly the greatest failing of a nation. But when unrepresentative elections get hijacked by the fringes we have problems. I’ve suggested in other times that primaries really ought to have less power and the party system more. But it’s unrealistic to change America in this way.

What is realistic is to step in ahead of time. To step up before things get out of hand. To stop bad people being on the ballot paper, to have a punishment to hand out for the worst offenders.

As Trump shows anyone, no really anyone, can get into a Republican Primary ballot paper. No matter that he used to be a Democrat, that his policy platform is closer to the Dixiecrats than anything the GOP put forward, or that he brings the entire party into disrepute by offensive statements and allegedly by illegal acts.

The RNC rulebook must change. There must be a code of conduct, very explicit, with legal language that can survive a court challenge (because it’ll need to). It must be very clear that the Republican National Committee has the right to determine who is bringing the party into disrepute, who does not endorse its platform (or in the case of various congressmen who has voted against that platform). It must be drafted in such a way as to make clear that such a determination is not an political dispute to be decided by a primary election. It must be clear that this is a disciplinary action taken by the party in its corporate capacity, against which there can be no appeal save for that of due process as with any other disciplinary matter within a private organisation.

Once this is done then people like Trump simply lack the right to stand on the ballot. This is not disenfranchisement, it’s not vote-rigging. Trump can stand as a third party. It might even cost the GOP the presidency if he does. But it will not cost this party its soul.

At every single level of this party from the grassroots up it must be clear that being involved with the party means agreeing with the platform, not rigidly and dogmatically, but agreeing with it all the same. The GOP exists to promote a view of the world, it is not to be hijacked by outsiders.

This means that county conventions to consider the nominee for ward 3 on the town council of Boondock Tennessee should only consider candidates who are publicly pledged to endorse the candidates, policies, and organisational hierarchy of the GOP. If not then someone at a level above needs to be empowered to bar them from stranding.

It means that when a senator who has publicly and repeatedly defied the GOP whip stands for re-election the RNC informs him he must stand as he truly is, as a third party. If the voters want to back him anyway good for him. The GOP won’t have to give him their stamp of approval.

The Republicans better than anyone should know that there are things in the world that matter more than how one publicly identifies, and identifying as a Republican is no different.

We need to respect the traditions of the nation. That means public elections for everything. But the GOP cannot allow its stamp to be attached to candidates who are opposed to its platform, to candidates who are openly opposed to the traditions and values of the party of Lincoln.


A number of things have converged at once where I want to push back against how most people understand democracy. I’m going to try and first outline how democracy and governance works in general, how a parliamentary government works as a clear example, and then dive down into the UK tory, labour, and lib dem parties. First post democracy:

TL;DR: Government can’t know enough to reliably predict good policy in advance because Hayek. Hence the most important feature of democracy is the people being able to reverse bad policy. Doing this policy by policy is hard. It’s much easier to give politicians discretion to make policy and replace them with people who disagree if they do it wrong. Hence public discussion of policy: campaigns, debates, promises, facts, an educated electorate etc, are not vital to running a democracy. Political parties: including careerism, cronyism, ideological blinkers, partisan voting etc, are a vital part.

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The Leave Plan

Lots of people complain that the Leave Campaign in the EU referendum hasn’t put forward a plan for what we do after brexit. So, just to settle that question, here is the 100% official Leave Plan*.

We won’t be doing any Article 50 nonsense. We’re repudiating a treaty, why not just say so? Instead we will push through an act of parliament to do the following:

  1. Repeal the European Community Act entirely, and any other acts or sections of acts the HoC library can find that gives EU law effect in the UK.
  2. Repudiate all EU and proto-EU treaties, formally ending our membership of the EU, the EAA, and the Council of Europe.
  3. Strengthen the Human Rights Act. First by requiring the relevant parliamentary committee to meet, take evidence, and publish a report after any declaration of incompatibility. Second by requiring the Speaker to make time after this report for at least an hour of debate on the motion that the relevant lines(s), clause(s), section(s), or act(s) be repealed. Third by permitting the Supreme Court to issue an injunction preventing the government from applying the incompatible law until this motion is defeated.
  4. Make the jurisprudence of the ECHR and the ECJ invalid precedent in UK courts. Make previous judgments that have depended on such precedents also invalid precedent. Standard common law rules of interpretation will guide what the rights protected by the Human Rights Act are.
  5. Grant all persons physically present in the UK on 23rd of June indefinite leave to remain.
  6. Confirm that the current visa regime remains in place until explicitly replaced, freedom of movement from the EU remains provisionally.
  7. Amend the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to make the date for the next election the 1st Thursday in May 2017. This gives all parties time to make their policies on a wide range of former EU competencies clear and give a new parliamentary mandate to the considerable reforms made in our laws.
  8. Allow by SI any EU regulation to be added to a schedule of provisional regulations. These will remain in force until 2020, by which point they must all be replaced by standalone acts. The regulation must be quoted in full in the SI and amendments made to it elsewhere will not become part of UK law.
  9. Amend the Scotland Act to make it clear that holding referenda on constitutional matters is a reserved power held by the UK government only.

Some argue the UK is too weak to negotiate trade deals, we dispute this, but we will not be negotiating any trade deals. We are unilateralists in the trade war. A second act of parliament will:

  1. Abolish all tariffs and customs duties for international trade unconditionally.
  2. Pay a 90% subsidy to any company to pay for getting their product independently certified as conforming to the standards of some other nation.
  3. Unless specific UK laws apply to the article, permit for sale in the UK all goods which are fit for sale according to the standards of any of a list of nations (initially the IMF list of “Advanced Economies”) amendable by SI.
  4. Permit for sale in the UK any imported article which, if it were produced in the UK, would be permitted for sale.
  5. Make miscellaneous provisions for country of origin and national standards labelling.

The chancellor will issue an emergency budget within a month to replace from central funds all EU funding like for like. The reminder of our contribution will be used to cover contingencies and transitional arrangements, and to lower corporation taxes.

* ok so obviously not really. But that’s kind of my point here.

There is not, and never can be a “Leave Plan” because there is no “Leave Party” campaigning for political power. This is what I’d do. It’s never going to happen because parliament doesn’t agree with me.

But likewise Nigel Farage’s plan is never going to happen because parliament is doesn’t agree with him. Even Boris’s plan is rather moot. He has to get it through a europhile majority house of commons. And *that* assumes the parliamentary Tory party makes the mistake of putting him on the leadership ballot.

What happens after we leave is unknown, just like what happens after an election. A parliament will meet, it will have views, it will enact things. What things? Who knows, maybe bad things. But I’ll vote my MP out if they are.

What happens if we remain is also unknown. Will the Protocol of Frankfurt by pushed forward? Will the Five Presidents report? Will the same tactics as were used with the Lisbon Treaty be used to push these measures forward against the will of many of the peoples of Europe? Who knows. Damned if I know what to do if they are.

Why I will vote Leave.

I’ve written this and re-written this so many times. Here goes one last attempt.

People are surprised I’m a Eurosceptic. I’m liberal, I’m not a racist, I’m well educated, I’m cosmopolitan. Why am I on Nigel Farage’s team?

I am not now, nor have I ever been “on Nigel Farage’s team”.

TL;DR – This isn’t about which team is better, brexiters are awful people, they happen to be right. The EU doesn’t help protect important values in the UK. Migration is great, but not enough to justify the EU. Nations having different laws according to their own preferences is good.

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American Crisis

My prefered definition of ‘history’ is “telling true stories about the past”. This is a true story, but like all stories things that don’t advance the plot are left out. Remember when reading that the same story can be told in different ways. If you don’t like my story then do let me know yours.

I know the following for sure: There will be a serious constitutional crisis in America during my lifetime. Ditto the UK, ditto the EU, ditto China, every country has at least one crisis per lifetime. But let us focus on the US for now.

I don’t know what the crisis will be about. I don’t know who will be President. I don’t know what the distribution of State Governors will be. I don’t know what the judicial philosophy of the Supreme Court will be. I don’t know much. Can we get any hints from the past?

Past crises

Consider some turning points in US history. Look at them all and see if you spot a family resemblance.

The first crisis was Independence. Several state legislatures and a figurehead congress opposed the power of Parliament and King. They use very dirty tactics (start a war), invent a whole new Union, give it a bunch of new powers, and the crisis ends.

The state of play after was simple enough. 13 independent nations were busily writing up constitutions in the latest enlightenment vein. There wasn’t enough central power to pay the troops or stabilise the currency. This was a serious problem. Rule one of statecraft: pay the damn troops.

And so second crisis: The constitution. I’ve talked about it before. Constitutions are in the air, so we get the Federalists. They use very dirty tactics, invent a whole bunch of new federal powers, and the crisis ends.

The state of play after: The states are in practice more powerful than the federal government. But it seems irrational and not very enlightenment to have state-level exceptions to universal national laws. And it’s the federal judges appointed by the federal executive and legislature who decide what power the federal government has. So we get decade after decade of decisions that say federal rules override state rules.

And so third crisis: America decides that slavery is the battleground they will fight the question of states rights on. We get Lincoln (America’s second greatest tyrant). He uses very dirty tactics, invents a whole bunch of new presidential powers, and the war ends.

The state of play after: the states are under no illusion that the federal government can overrule them and they cannot escape that power. But so long as they do nothing abhorrent they can still keep day to day control of their internal economy, criminal law etc. This state-level control of economic policy meant when America had a long run of awful bank crashes and recessions, the disunited states could not deal with them.

And so forth crisis: The Great Depression. The states cannot deal with the economy. Something must be done. And FDR (the greatest tyrant in American history) decides it must be done by the federal government. He uses very dirty tactics, invents a whole bunch of new presidential and congressional powers, and the Depression ends.

The state of play after: The US congress is clearly in control of the nation. They realise they can’t micromanage everything so they set up agencies like the EPA and OSHA to micromanage for them. After a while the state needs so much constant management that congressional oversight (let alone control) becomes impractical.

And so fifth crisis?

If I had to guess I’d say some crisis where these agencies either lose their legitimacy, or congress tries to stop them and loses its legitimacy. I guess historians half a century from now will talk about what powers the US gave to agencies, what controls they were under, what control was taken away from the states and from congress in exchange.

It is not predictable at the moment. But we can guess some things from the patterns above.

Dirty tricks: The new system will be nakedly partisan, imposed by force of will over the objections of law and tradition

Centralisation: The body that makes practical decisions about who has what authority will gain new and scary powers.

Short term gains: The new system will solve the crisis and Make America Work Again. Expect this to be taken as proof by all that the new system is better.

Will this new system, when it comes, be better? I don’t know. I don’t know if any of the previous systems have been better. I know they all made dramatic and scary changes for very very good reasons. And I know the results after were mixed, with unintended consequences.

What should we do about it?

Well, one thing that would really help is if we talked about it in advance of making the decision. If we avoid railroading people into agreeing with the new consensus when it arrives. If we chose the new consensus because it seemed like a good idea rather than like an expedient one.

How would you design the modern US regulatory framework if could start over? Who would be in charge of what? Who would be elected and who appointed? Who would have oversight? How would you make sure the overseers had the knowledge they needed? How could voters overturn bad policy? How would a ballast towards long-term thinking be provided?

Candidates are reminded to write only on one side of the page. There is a time limit, but I don’t know what it is.