James Delingpole's bio note in The Telegraph says that he is "a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything." Why can't U.S. newspapers allow their pundits a little measure of humor? Maybe because they know they are right about everything, and are serious about it. It won't do for any individual opinion writer to make the claim, even in jest.
Anyway, while most of our newspapers and other mainstream media are unspeakably dull, earnest, and politically correct, Delingpole envies us Yanks because unlike in his country, the spirit of liberty lives.
Arriving back at Heathrow late on Sunday night I felt - as you do on returning to Britain these days – as if I were entering a failed state. It’s not just the Third World shabbiness which is so dispiriting. It’s the knowledge that from its surveillance cameras to its tax regime, from its (mostly) EU-inspired regulations to its whole attitude to the role of government, Britain is a country which has forgotten what it means to be free.
God how I wish I were American right now. In the US they may not have the Cairngorms, the River Wye, cream teas, University Challenge, Cotswold villages or decent curries. But they do still understand the principles of “don’t tread on me” and “live free or die.” Not all of them, obviously – otherwise a socialist like Barack Obama would never have got into power. But enough of them to understand that in the last 80 or more years – and not just in the US but throughout the Western world – government has forgotten its purpose. It has now grown so arrogant and swollen as to believe its job is to shape and improve and generally interfere with our lives. And it’s not. Government’s job is to act as our humble servant.
Delingpole exaggerates and Photoshops his picture of the States; quite a few Americans ask nothing of their government except everything, want it to regulate away every ill. But maybe it takes an outsider to see the larger truth that it's easy to miss amid the shot and shell of daily political battles. I love being a citizen of a country were so many feel no embarrassment, but rather pride, in speaking such corny slogans as "Don't tread on me."
Europeans tend to think they represent older and wiser civilizations, that we Americans are brash and immature. Well, in fact we have one of the longest continuous political systems on earth. But more to the point, the idea of limited government that gave rise to it is more than just stale, irrelevant history and myth. Despite a dysfunctional education system and loathsome pop culture, a surprising number of Americans still identify with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other figures present at the creation.
As Delingpole notes, we are sailing against the wind:
What’s terrifying is how few of us there are left anywhere in the supposedly free world who properly appreciate this. Sure, we may feel in our hearts that – as Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe put it in their Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party manifesto – “We just want to be free. Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others”. And we may even confide it to our friends after a few drinks. But look at Australia; look at Canada; look at New Zealand; look at anywhere in the EUSSR; look at America – at least until things begin to be improved by today’s glorious revolution.
Wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere run by a notionally “conservative” administration, the malaise you will encounter is much the same: a system of governance predicated on the notion that the state’s function is not merely to uphold property rights, maintain equality before the law and defend borders, but perpetually to meddle with its citizens’ lives in order supposedly to make their existence more fair, more safe, more eco-friendly, more healthy. And always the result is the same: more taxation, more regulation, less freedom. Less “fairness” too, of course.
It remains to be seen how revolutionary the next stages of our national life will be, or how glorious the revolution if there is one. But the fact that it's widely believed to be possible to reduce government to its proper sphere sets us apart from places like Britain. Our over-taxed, over-regulated, socially engineered population can look its political ruling class in the eye and say, "Don't tread on me," and be heard.