A few days ago in Greenwich, the British Prime Minister gave a speech on the beauty and benefits of free trade and how he wants Britain to lead the way once again, just as it did during the 19th century. It was an eloquent and stirring speech, one which many a libertarian would have found most encouraging.
However, the next day Johnson’s government announced its intention to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars after 2035. And just like that, his libertarian credentials vanished as quickly as they appeared. Boris Johnson made a beautiful speech about economic freedom and then told us what economic activity he intends to ban. Go figure.
It’s possible the demand for new petrol and diesel cars may have fallen so low by 2035 that manufacturers will have stopped producing them anyway and thus the government ban will be academic. Then again, that might not happen and there still may be demand for new petrol and diesel cars, even after 2035 – no one can really know for sure what will happen in the future.
Either way, the point is that it shouldn’t be a few people in government decreeing by law when the production of any given good ceases. It should be millions of individuals deciding through their economic choices – i.e. choosing to buy something else. The former is nothing more than an arbitrary and artificial declaration that some product has no value to society anymore.
The latter is the only truly egalitarian and democratic way to make that decision. Boris Johnson knows this. He’s not an economic illiterate like many of today’s politicians, and yet he plans to do a distinctly illiberal thing by banning the production of new petrol and diesel cars.
Having people in government decide which products can exist and which can’t works on the false premise that people in government are special beings who can somehow know what’s best for everyone, now and in the future. And that is sheer hubris on the part of politicians and sheer stupidity on the part of the people who vote for them.
Apparently, then, Boris Johnson’s idea of free trade is the people of Britain being free to trade with the rest of the world those goods which the government allows them to produce.
Happy days, then, for producers of lamb and everything else the Prime Minister happens to like or thinks Britain should be the world-leading exporter of. But not good for producers of goods like petrol and diesel cars, which in the minds of today’s climate change extremists are akin to nuclear weapons – a threat to humanity’s very existence.
These are the upper and middle-class eco-warriors who selfishly demand the government imposes eco-austerity on people who really can’t afford to be ‘green’ just so they can ease their own feelings of guilt and self-loathing about destroying mother earth.
It’s a reminder that in our political system all politicians, no matter how much they claim to or indeed do love liberty, are bought and sold by lobbyists and the politically influential wealthy elite. And that, eventually, they’ll always end up enacting some illiberal, unjust and impoverishing law(s) to payback those who facilitated their rise to power.
Johnson will go down in history as the man who got Brexit done, and for that he’ll always get his liberty brownie points. But at the end of the day, he’s a politician who wants his time on the throne. His love of power is going to clash with his apparent love of liberty. Something will have to give, and we’re already getting an idea of what sort of government action that will lead to – fascistic.
After all, one aspect of fascism is people in government forcing industry to act towards a national purpose, some single political end, some supposed ‘greater good.’ In the UK today, what drives fascistic government action is the political end of making society ‘carbon neutral’. If Johnson continues in this vein, then the benefits of his liberal free trade agreements will be negated to some degree or other by his illiberal domestic environmental policies.
It was a good thing that the world heard the Prime Minister of the UK speaking truths about the benefits of national sovereignty and free trade, but the early signs are that Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister will leave the people of Britain with more freedom to do business with the world, but less freedom to live their home lives according to their own choices.
Just like God, government giveth and government taketh away. What we need is for the state to lose its god-like powers.