A few weeks ago a great man decided not to write anymore. Residing as Chair and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California, Dr. Sowell’s gift is to write engagingly clear prose on the geopolitical, social and fiscal determinants constituting political economy. Given his age, and the duration of his tenure at Stanford, he deserves the rest, but what makes him peculiar and worthy of your time is his willingness to unmask the pretensions of contemporary thought.
His last book is titled Wealth, Poverty & Politics: an International Perspective. Here you’ll find Sowell at his best discerning the errors of populist trends in redistributionist thought; discerning why their remain geographic, demographic, economic and cultural factors explaining large differences between and in groups across America. In a word, Sowell seeks to examine the capital stock of American ingenuity to discover that policy should reward effort in framing taxation so as to permit individuals the ability to enjoy capital, equity formation.
It should surprise no one that the concept of progress itself originated in northern latitudes. It is there where we discover the application of human capital toward profit. As Peter Drucker said, “what is profit but value.” Derided today as pejorative, the concept of profit as added value perplexed both Adam Smith, Ferguson, Aquinas and even Ibn Khaldun. The concept itself only came into relief late in the 20th century when money lost its veil and was no longer either a store of value nor a consistent measuring tool. Returning money to the States as a measuring tool providing consistent value is something Hayek understood as necessary if the West was to conquer the collective.
That fight has yet to be joined, but the battle grounds are well travelled and known by conservatives, Austrians and of course, the fresh water school of economics from Chicago.
Since ancient times, the discipline of history was confined to examining the concept of great statesman. It was perfected by Carlyle’s insistence that history cannot be but the study of great men. Toynbee and hosts of others would partially agree, but the truth remains, those able to gain traction on impossible political scenarios are studied with good reason. When Margaret Thatcher unleashed the idea of functioning markets she was affirming not only Aristotelianism, but the Thomism of spontaneous order of Hayek. Now the hard part comes. Successors now must grapple with seemingly identical conditions without the confidence of previous leaders. If Britain’s Tony Blair converted Labor to neoliberalism, certainly David Cameron converted the Tories to genteel Jenkinism.
Both have receded with the disastrous failure of neoliberal order beginning in 2008. Upon the distant horizon hovers a man neither party in London wishes to identify with, Enoch Powell.
The Presbyterian Irish (northern Orangeman) identify with Powell’s racial overtures. This was fine until Whitehall and Downing discovered that the behavior and policy overtures of besieged settlers under Ian Paisley couldn’t be sold in Westminster. The IRA played a deft hand in encircling Elizabethan foreign policy in Northern Ireland. It isn’t quite a rout, but portent trends reveal that the sectarian, religious themes of the one hundred years war is about to begin, again.
Before the arrival of Brexit, conventional British consensus remained that the party that produced the best synthesis of Thatcher and Jenkins would easily win. Today, that marker no longer possesses any currency. Today British politics is chiefly embodied by a man born in 1912, eight years before Jenkins and thirteen years before Thatcher. His influence is gaining, as are his myriad detractors. His name is Enoch Powell, best remembered for his ‘rivers of blood’ comment delivered upon public reflection on egalitarian principles hoisted upon stolid Anglo-Saxon stock. Powell’s insight wasn’t well received, but it animates governing convictions of western political economies since the long war began. Powell deeply believed like Tocqueville, or even a George Eliot, that suturing militant secular policies upon a society grounded in social custom of hierarchy would produce chaos. In a sentence, Enoch Powell stood for Imperial conviction and excellence in an age of egalitarianism.
Powell wrote that all political lives end in failure. Peculiar instinct given his grasp of both history, and British Parliament. For him and all the Tories of England, migration and Europe were touchstones worthy of conflict. In 1968, Powell declared in his native Birmingham that mass migration would produce inevitable social breakdown throughout England. Funny how his convictions never sought to evaluate Northern Ireland.
The reform of Corn Laws, voting rights and suffragettes all pulled him to declare his utmost opposition to the European Economic Community; a French ploy to harness American diplomatic and military diplomacy to constrain Teutonic steel after the World War II.
Like Daniel Deronda for George Eliot, the familiar ties that procured the nation state remained supreme. Any attempt to procure transnational identity would seek the total amelioration of the human person, ultimately prostrate before totalitarian power.
For the Euroskeptics throughout Parliament, the Brexit is soaked in the blood of Powellism.
We should remember that he spent 37 years at Westminster and only 15 months as Minister of Health, the fire he lit resonates today, even though most loath to admit of his prescience. To his credit, Powell was deeply worried about immigration from the British Commonwealth. The whole edifice has long since come crashing down when Parliament permitted the dominions to appeal for domestic status. Londonstan they call it today.
The populist revolts should been seen as manifestations of nationalism. May’s Cabinet now needs to comet to terms with Powell’s legacy of integrative national unity in identity that harnesses both social cohesion and economic growth. This isn’t a governing plan to produce revenue through fiscal transfers or velocity; we’re in the very trench that procured Thatcher. May just ‘may’ pull it off. As of this writing, Tory leadership has taken quite easily to this challenge, but England’s Labor parties two baseline constituencies of liberal intellectuals and working laborers have no reserve from which to quarry.
What Sowell’s latest book demonstrates is that human capital stock matters. So does the governing policy of the dominant majority.