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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Toppling of the woke authoritarians

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19 minute read

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Tom Slater, editor of Spiked.

If you – like me – loathe authoritarian, faux-progressive scolds, it’s actually been a good few years. I know it might not seem like it, with the ‘Queers for Palestine’ contingent currently running riot on American university campuses, but hear me out. Across the Anglosphere, one politician after another, beloved by the media but increasingly disliked by the public, have exited the stage, often jumping before they were pushed.

This week, we bid farewell to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, whose year-and-a-bit-long premiership in Scotland produced more scandals and disparaging nicknames – Humza Useless, Humza the Hapless, etc – than it did any positive legacy. In the end, he proved himself to be as illiberal as he was inept. His Flagship policy, the Orwellian, broad-sweeping Hate Crime Act, alarmed voters and sparked a tsunami of spurious complaints, many of them about Yousaf himself. We can only hope it will now collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. (One thing’s for sure, voters are furious about it: only one in five Scots wants the Hate Crime Act to stay.)

Then, Humza managed to accidentally collapse his own government. He was apparently surprised to learn that his decision last week to suddenly terminate his party’s coalition agreement with the Scottish Greens –following some internal friction over trans and environmental issues – left the Greens angry and unwilling to prop up his minority government. As his short reign ends, Yousaf has at least managed the incredible feat of being even more unpopular than the leaders of the widely disliked Tories and the crackpot Greens, with an approval rating of -47. Yousaf – who was crowned first minister by SNP members and never gained a mandate from the people – was in negative numbers for all of this tenure.

Only in March, democrats were also toasting the demise of another despised, virtue-signalling leader who owed his position to elite politicking rather than democracy. Namely, Leo Varadkar. He became Irish taoiseach in 2017, after Fine Gael made him party leader. Even then, he had to rely on his support within the parliamentary party – in Fine Gael’s leadership-election process, the politicians are given much more weight than the members – given the membership voted two-to-one for his opponent. When Varadkar led his party to the polls in 2020, Fine Gael actually lost seats. Only by getting into bed with Fianna Fáil, his party’s supposed bitter rival, was Varadkar able to cling on to power.

Like Yousaf, Varadkar was a visionless leader who came to see superficial ‘social justice’ as his route to a legacy. While nominally on the centre-right economically, he was credited by international media with ‘Ireland’s transformation into a secular progressive state’. He clearly warmed to this image of himself, even if the Irish people did not. ‘We have made the country a more equal and more modern place’, he said in his resignation speech (my emphasis), ‘when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community, equality for women and their bodily autonomy’. This notion that Varadkar’s Ireland – like Yousaf’s Scotland – needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, that voters and their values desperately needed a politically correct makeover, gave the semblance of substance to his otherwise hollow premiership.

Ireland’s historic 2018 referendum, in which 66 per cent voted to overturn one of the Western world’s strictest abortion bans, was indeed a seismic blow for freedom. But Varadkar can hardly take credit for the decades of grassroots campaigning that got it over the line. His fingerprints were, however, all over the ‘family’ and ‘care’ referendums earlier this year, which produced two historic, humiliating defeats. Varadkar utterly failed to convince the people that this campaign to change the wording of the Irish constitution – to update the meaning of ‘family’ and to remove references to women’s role in the home – was anything other than an exercise in elite moral preening. He even insisted on holding the vote on International Women’s Day, just to heighten the sense of moral blackmail, even though doing so meant radically shortening the time the pro-amendments campaign had to prepare. The ‘family’ and ‘care’ amendments were rejected by 67 and 74 per cent of voters respectively. Varadkar tried to limp on, noting all major parties had backed the amendments. But this ballot-box revolt left his authority in tatters. He resigned two weeks later.

When Varadkar wasn’t talking down to voters, he was trying to censor them. Before he resigned, he had been toiling to pass Ireland’s own insanely draconian hate-speech bill, aimed at expanding restrictions on ‘incitement to hatred’ and adding gender to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, opening the door to criminalizing people for refusing to bow to the trans cult. To Scots, this may sound familiar. Indeed, it was as if Varadkar and Yousaf were competing to be the most censorious. Where Scotland’s Hate Crime Act criminalizes even private conversations in your own home (removing the so-called dwelling defence), Ireland’s proposed legislation would criminalize mere ‘possession’ of offensive material, including memes. From your phone’s camera roll to the family dinner table, no area of life is now safe, it seems, from the state censors. Having sailed through the Dáil in April 2023, the bill is now stuck in the upper house, after an almighty backlash from voters and civil libertarians. (Varadkar’s successor, Simon Harris, says he intends to table amendments to assuage voters’ concerns.)

Say what you will about Leo and Humza, at least they were occasionally – unintentionally – entertaining. Both were famously gaffe-prone. (Who could forget Yousaf’s tumble from his knee scooter, or Varadkar’s Monica Lewinsky joke in DC?) The same cannot be said for Nicola Sturgeon, the former Scottish first minister, Yousaf’s mentor and the walking embodiment of the prickly puritanism and mad identitarianism of our age. She looked upon the masses as reactionary filth – she once smeared her opponents as ‘transphobic… deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well’ – all while ushering in the most reactionary agenda Scotland has seen for decades. Her already hated ‘gender self-ID’ reforms collapsed in 2023, when the public realized they would mean putting rapists in women’s prisons – which, by a grotesque quirk of fate, had become the ‘progressive’ position.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that the SNP was founded to achieve the ‘liberation’ of Scotland from the UK, rather than the ‘liberation’ of perfectly healthy genitals from the bodies of confused young people. It speaks to the grip of woke identity politics over the technocratic, centre-left imagination that Sturgeon was not only sidetracked but, in part, brought down by her dogged, fanatical pursuit of ‘trans rights’.  Then again, social engineering has characterized much of the SNP agenda since it first came to power. Ending the Union has often taken a back seat to reforming Scots, from the SNP’s crackdown on offensive football chants to its profoundly creepy ‘named person’ scheme, which would have assigned a state guardian to every child had it not been held up in the courts on human-rights grounds.

One of the hallmarks of our woke, technocratic ruling class is that they increasingly define themselves against their own citizenry. Leaders today draw their moral authority not from the democratic endorsement of their electorates but from their ability to rise above the throng, to oppose our supposedly backward values. Skim-read the resignation speeches of Sturgeon, Yousaf and Varadkar and you’ll find them all peppered with rueful references to ‘populism’, ‘polarization’ and the supposed ‘toxicity’ of contemporary discourse. Voters are forever the implied villains of the piece, for refusing to just shut up and let the adults get on with governing.

All this speaks to why elites have become so insanely authoritarian in recent years. What we used to call illiberal liberalism, along with greenism and multicultural identity politics, has held a malign sway over our rulers for decades. But all these tendencies have been sent into overdrive over the past eight years. In the wake of Brexit and the rise of a more populist, democratic politics, our leaders have been confronted with the chasm that exists between their values and ours. And having failed to convince, they can only compel, coerce, punish. This self-righteousness has also bred an obnoxious, unabashed narcissism. In her resignation speech, Sturgeon used the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ 153 times. ‘Scotland’ appeared 11 times.

Covid added further fuel to this fear and loathing of the populace.

Politicians, already gripped by the panic about supposedly dim, irresponsible voters being manipulated by disinformation, gave full vent to their most authoritarian tendencies – locking us down and raging against any dissent. Arguably, no one did so as enthusiastically as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who was showered with praise by the globalist great and good for subjecting her own citizens to an unhinged ‘Zero Covid’ experiment. Naturally, she also became a campaigner for global censorship during this time, telling the United Nations in 2022 that ‘misinformation’ constituted a modern ‘weapon of war’, and calling on global leaders to confront climate-change deniers and peddlers of ‘hate’. She announced her resignation as prime minister and Labour leader in January 2023, just as she was enjoying her lowest-ever poll ratings while in office, all to the swoons of international media. Labour was wiped out later that year, in the worst election defeat of a sitting NZ government for decades.

Politicians seem to be going out of their way to alienate and infuriate voters, pursuing unpopular policies at the very same time as they demonize and clamp down on debate. On climate, they have embraced a programme of national immiseration, to be borne on the backs of the working classes, who are expected to just accept being colder, poorer and less mobile. On immigration, they have thrown open the doors to migrants and refugees on an unprecedented scale, without seeking public consent and without ensuring proper provision for – or vetting of – those arriving. On culture, they have embraced a new form of racism under the banner of anti-racism, and a misogyny and homophobia posing as ‘trans inclusion’. Meanwhile, voters are beginning to realise that all those calls to censor ‘hate’ and ‘misinformation’ are calls to censor them.

Even in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, a land long held up as ‘immune’ to populism, a backlash is stirring. The Canadian premier embodies woke authoritarianism in its most cartoonish form. When, in 2018, a woman confronted him at a corn roast about Canada’s enormous influx of refugees, he accused her of ‘racism’ to her face. Hell, he once corrected a woman who said ‘mankind’ instead of ‘peoplekind’. Worse still, his outrageous clampdowns on dissent make his contemporaries look subtle by comparison. When truckers rebelled against Covid mandates, he invoked emergency powers to freeze their bank accounts, break up their rallies and forcibly clear the streets. Of course, he’s also now trying to pass his own piece of censorship legislation, Bill C-63 – which, among other alarming provisions, would allow for people to be placed under house arrest if they are deemed likely to commit a hate crime. You know, like ‘precrime’ in Philip K Dick’s The Minority Report. Incidentally, Trudeau’s Liberal Party is currently trailing the Conservatives by a steady 19 points in the polls.

Wokeism. Climate extremism. Kindly authoritarianism. This is now the operating system of Western, ‘centrist’ politics. Take Joe Biden, America’s somnambulant president. At the 2020 election, even anti-woke liberals insisted this scion of the old Democratic establishment – a man so old he can’t even be slurred as a Boomer (he’s actually Silent Generation) – was the man to return America to normality, before the BLM riots and MAGA mania. ‘If you hate wokeness, you should vote for Joe Biden’, declared a piece in the Atlantic, arguing that Trump is to the culture war what kerosene is to a dumpster re, fueling the woke extremes. That take has aged like milk. On his first day in office, Biden signed sweeping Executive Orders on ‘racial equity’ and gender ideology. He later tried to apportion Covid relief on the basis of race. He’s a Net Zero zealot. He has allowed the justice system to be weaponised against his opponents. He invited Dylan Mulvaney to the White House, FFS. Biden’s return to ‘normalcy’ has been so successful millions of Americans are starting to wonder if Donald Trump might actually be the saner choice.

Everywhere, political leaders are pursuing the same batshit, authoritarian policies and everywhere they are colliding with reality – and the electorate.

Yousaf, Varadkar, Sturgeon and Ardern may have stepped down, but they did so in the face of growing public fury. Biden and Trudeau may not get the same privilege. Plus, while technocratic centrists remain in power or the ascendancy in various nations, they are at least being forced to adapt, albeit insincerely, to the new political reality – one in which voters are increasingly unwilling to put up with the punishing green policies, out-of-control transgenderism and woke censorship that have been rammed down their throats for years. And so, Labour’s Keir Starmer has suddenly worked out what a woman is. The SNP is watering down some of its ludicrous. Net Zero targets. Welsh Labour is paring back its more insane anti-car policies. The Irish government is finally, tacitly, admitting that it has let migration and asylum get out of control (albeit by just blaming it on the British).

The new authoritarianism is far from defeated. It is a feature, not a bug, of our technocratic ruling class. Worse than that, it is what gives our leaders meaning. The conviction that they are saving the world from a climate armageddon, that they are the protectors of all those supposedly easily offended minorities, that they must censor and re-educate the masses for our own good, has provided moral purpose to an otherwise simpleminded and disorientated elite. It won’t be easy to dislodge this stuff. But as one political leader after another exits the stage, having shredded their authority with voters, we see that the common sense of the demos remains our greatest defence against the insanity of the elites – if only we can find better ways to channel it. If there is hope, it lies in the masses. Always.

Tom Slater is editor of Spiked.

Energy

Why we should be skeptical of the hydrogen economy

Published on

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Hügo Krüger and Ian Madsen

Hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative.

At first glance, using highly variable, intermittent, inexpensive renewable energy to produce hydrogen for energy supply stabilization seems logical. However, renewable energy is not always readily available. The concept of hydrogen as a ‘buffer,’ akin to a battery, to ensure consistent renewable power is more complex than it appears.

Upon further examination, the idea is impractical and expensive for several reasons. Among them, hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative, depending on its use.

Contrary to claims, renewable energy is neither inexpensive nor environmentally benign. Storing hydrogen in a natural gaseous state requires massive, costly storage vessels. Electrolyzing is expensive and will likely remain that way. Similarly, the cost of producing hydrogen is higher than that of deriving it from natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide, which is unwanted. There are some other techniques, such as pressure, heat, and radiolysis from radiation emitted from nuclear reactors, that are feasible, perhaps in combination. Small ‘micro nuclear reactors’ may drive down these costs. Atomic reactors are already used in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers to produce aviation and diesel synthetic fuel.

There are also a series of impractical issues. Existing pipeline infrastructure cannot transport pure hydrogen due to hydrogen embrittlement, and hydrogen cannot easily be used as a transportation fuel. A new Teflon-coated pipeline and distribution system parallel to the existing natural gas network would have to be built, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in North America alone.

While the idea of synthetic fuels using hydrogen may seem more feasible, it would likely be limited to a ‘niche role,’ potentially in natural gas-deficient nations. However, this would still necessitate significant investment. Ultimately, diverting funds to this ‘hydrogen economy’ could be a misallocation of capital from other, potentially more viable, areas.

Download the full report in PDF format here. (16 pages)

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer, and civil nuclear engineer who has worked on a variety of energy related infrastructure projects ranging from Nuclear Power, LNG and Renewable Technologies. He holds a Master’s in Nuclear Civil Engineering from École Spéciale des Travaux Publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie, Paris and a bachelor’s from the University of Pretoria.

Ian Madsen, BA (Economics, University of Alberta), MBA (Finance, University of Toronto), holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He was an investment portfolio manager; owned his own investment counselling firm; published an investment newsletter; founded the professional society now known as CFA Saskatchewan in 1986; and was a director of an investment research operation in India. Since 2016, he has been the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, performing valuation analyses on federal and provincial Crown corporations in Canada, and also written numerous policy analyses. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his family.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Where was Canada’s Governor General on D-Day?

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

There really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

On D-Day June 6 Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon should have taken her rightful place. At ceremonies in France. But she wasn’t there. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed her aside. As usual.

The D-Day landings may seem like ancient history even as June 6, 1944 was a defining day for Canada. But it’s important to recall that over 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach, as part of the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 5,000 Canadian troops were killed and thousands more injured in the Battle of Normandy. While we celebrate the eventual defeat of Germany, we may also recall Winston Churchill’s saying we need to remember that there was a Germany before Hitler.

The military historian Basil Liddell Hart had a view of history that’s largely gone missing in the western democracies. Essential reading is his book, Why don’t we learn from history? He quoted the Roman historian Polybius: “There are two roads to the reformation of mankind—one through the misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…we should always look out for the latter, for thereby we can, without hurt to ourselves, gain a clearer view of the best course to pursue… the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all education for practical life.”

Arguably, the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza could have been averted or could have evolved less disastrously by heeding the lessons of history—and, specifically, from history of the two World Wars. Undoubtedly, the mismanaged exit from Kabul emboldened President Putin. Disaster in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea represents failure to heed the ancient principle, also from Roman times, If you want peace, prepare for war. There was no deterrent to the invasion of Ukraine. And the western democracies have consistently delivered far too little materiel and far too late.

There’s abject disrespect at the highest levels for truth and tradition, and the values that made of Canada a great country. I came across a phrase in news  reports that made me shudder. The Governor General was relieved of her duties when it was she who should have hosted a state dinner for President Joe Biden in 2023. Prime Minister Trudeau had no business relieving her of her duties. He usurped her constitutional role.

The Governor General was also relieved of her duty to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France. Arguably, it was her job to unveil unveiled a statue commemorating Canada’s participation. In her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, Princess Anne performed that ceremony. Fair enough. But as a minimum, the Governor General should have been there too. Instead, of course, Trudeau traveled to France after shunting the Governor General off to perform a token ceremony in New Brunswick.

My point is, there really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

Canadians don’t normally need to know that the British North America Act vests in the Governor General an ultimate duty to override political abuse. But that’s why King Charles’s representative signs legislation into law as well as other proclamations. That function, and the power to withhold it, is the last resort for maintaining the free and democratic society that Canada purports to be.

History tells of ultimate leaders who failed that duty to their people. In 1921, under pressure of riots, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III refused to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. Instead he dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to take the power that evolved into his dictatorship. Similarly, in 1933 Germany’s ailing President Paul von Hindenburg signed into law the Enabling Act that empowered Hitler’s unbridled exercise of power.

D-Day reinforces this lesson from history, from two thousand years ago. The Roman political philosopher Cicero warned: “Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our constitution speaks of the people’s general welfare. Under that phrase all manner of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants …”

In sum, it’s important to learn history and to maintain traditions. That includes having Governors General who insist on taking the lead role as Canada’s functional head of state—and, most importantly, not having politicians usurping the vice-regal role.

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.  

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