Airstrip One
by Emmanuel Goldstein

December 1, 1999

Because we do:
A plea for Reaction


Today in Europe, and across the world, we are seeing a radical re-shaping of the political landscape and the death of ancient institutions because they are, well, ancient. In a move akin to the demolition of four-fifths of Soviet churches or the French revolutionary ten day week, we are seeing the quirks and oddities of Europe torn out by the roots, only because they are quirky and odd. The cultural hand made tapestry of Europe is being inelegantly picked apart in preference for bland, factory made carpet. But this is not merely mindless vandalism, but hides a darker motive.


The age of the absolute monarch is not over in Europe. There is one state smaller than every American State, or Texan County, that still proudly upholds its tradition of absolute monarchy. Liechtenstein’s monarch is no king or emperor, but an archduke whose family has ruled the archduchy for centuries. In the eighteenth century the fashion for absolute monarchy reached Liechtenstein, although it did not seem to serve it as well as its neighbouring Germanic absolute monarchy, Austria, but unlike the Hapsburgs, Liechtenstein survived. And that would have been the end of the story, until last month. In a case involving the archduke sacking one of his ministers (what is an absolute monarchy for, unless you can sack your ministers?), the European Court of Human Rights decided that this did not meet their right to free speech. So the absolute monarchy of Liechtenstein will have to become a constitutional monarchy, and another harmless European anachronism will go.


The absolute monarchy is too new-fangled for some. Take the inhabitants of Sark, an island off the coast of France ruled by Britain. They were colonised in the sixteenth century on a very similar model as Maryland or Georgia were to be later, born again feudalism. Not only is the Prime Minister of Sark an hereditary position, but so are three quarters of the legislators. Cars are banned, as is divorce. Primogeniture, or passing all your property to your eldest son, is compulsory. This is not, I’ll admit, the most enlightened regime, but then I don’t live under it. In fact, less than a thousand people do, and they like it. But there are two newcomers to the island, the millionaire Barclay brothers, who do not like it. They recently bought an island, Breccau, within Sark’s jurisdiction. When they die they want to share this island four ways with a quarter going to a daughter. This falls foul of Sark’s law of primogeniture, so they took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, where to protect the human rights of a millionaire’s daughter they ruled that Sark had to change, everything. Divorce is to be legalised and hereditary legislators are to be banned.


I have little time for absolute monarchies or feudalism, but they do not affect me, so I have no desire to change them. Even the people who live there can, with very little trouble, pack up and move on. However, if you wish to restrict liberty across the board, the first thing you must do is iron out those small quirks such as Sark and Liechtenstein, as some of them are rather libertarian quirks. Take, for example, taxation. The Channel Islands (of which Sark is the smallest) and Liechtenstein are well-used tax havens. Attempts to make these areas fall in line with the rest of Europe are not, therefore, really about divorce or ministerial appointment, but about money.


As well as tax, and the unfairness of not giving more of your money to the rapacious state, there is also the bogie of "money laundering". This is based on the idea that if you somehow block drug dealers and other organised criminals out of the financial system, rewards will be less for them, so they won’t sell drugs any more. But it does not work like this. The fact is that most anti-money laundering measures involve prying into bank accounts. Consider this, the major opposition party has a rich backer. He has been approached by the government to join their party, but refuses. He is then targeted with a media campaign accusing him of drug running and various other crimes. Then, when the government is in trouble, they decide to leak details of his payments to the press. This may sound like the behaviour of a third world sham democracy, but it is what is happening in Britain, to the controversial opposition financier, Michael Ashcroft. The way in which they managed to look into the opposition party’s bank accounts? Well the money laundering regulations allow all payments of over 10,000 (around $17,000) to be monitored by the government. And you thought it was just to crack down on criminals? Unless, like the British government, you regard all dissent as criminal.


Another example is the Caribbean, where numerous British dependencies, like the Cayman Islands (which tend to be semi-detached from the mother country), are suddenly under attack for their prohibition on homosexuality. Banning homosexuality may not be something that even the most conservative of us would recommend for our country, but should we stand in the way of other democracies deciding that this is what they want to do? The concern for West Indian alternative lifestyles may be motivated more by the lax tax and "money laundering" regimes of many of these places. Bringing them under firmer British colonial control may also bring their tax regimes and banking systems under closer supervision of international regulators.


Their fight is our fight. The ability to vote in the regime of your choice is commonly known as Democracy. It is for this reason that sovereignty is so important, as real democracy is not possible in any other circumstance. To have that choice circumscribed by outside powers is unacceptable intrusion. A New World Order is threatening for this very reason. The wish to take away your guns may be motivated by a desire to disarm a rebellious populace (I do not subscribe to this theory). Or it may be due to a simple incomprehension of a comfortable urban elite towards the joy of hunting and fear of intruders. How much worse is this going to be if the decisions are made in Brussels or Geneva, rather than just Washington or New York? Always remember a simple but often forgotten equation, Sovereignty = Democracy = Liberty.


The word "dumping" is often used, borrowed from protectionists, to describe the use of policies that give a weaker partner an advantage in trade. Add-on labour costs are lower than in Germany, why that is social dumping. Lower taxes become unfair tax competition. And a devalued exchange rate becomes financial dumping. All are seen as a menace, all are to be stopped. It does not occur to decision-makers that competition could lead to us finding a suitable mixture of taxation, labour costs and social provision, which would be endorsing a "race to the bottom". Clinton’s so-called free trade regime is just as guilty as the most arrogant French regime on this matter. Fair Trade, as espoused by the otherwise commendable Pat Buchanan, is not the same as Free Trade, merely an excuse at foreign meddling. To regulate trade is aiming at internal interference in foreign regimes as much as the direct use of military force.


The very fact that you have a choice is the final guarantee of liberty. If you do not like a regime you can, in extremis, leave. The circumstances do not need to be as extreme for your money to go to a less heavily taxed part of the world. This is all declining in the name of fairness. Despotism can only really start when we can go nowhere else, it is vital to remove these quirky dependencies and archduchies. It is time to defend the reaction, if change is not absolutely necessary it is absolutely necessary not to change. Our ultimate guarantee of liberty, to move our money or persons to more liberal climes, is being whittled away in the name of the very liberty it is destroying.

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