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Why is Daniel Hannan's banner pic a work of science fiction? Donald Trump ushers in a new era of kakistocracy: government by the worst people

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NewsHubSince Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy…
People out there in the big wide world are often helpful enough to point me towards Daniel Hannan’s latest brainfarts. He’s pretty prolific, but some of his work seems so boneheaded that I’ll get the same link sent to me by two, three, or, on one occasion, five different people.
This week it was this particular tweet – a retweet from last September; it’s all repeats on the internet these days – that everyone seemed keen to point me towards.
It’s like Ayn Rand has been reincarnated in the form of 15 year old hoping to study PPE at Oxford, isn’t it? That tweet suggests a world view so comfortingly simple that nobody actually needs money, and if you try to tax anyone anything they might decide to stop earning any in a fit of pique. (At time of writing, incidentally, Daniel Hannan has yet to resign his job as a Member of the European Parliament.)
If I get too far into this one, though, there’s a danger I’ll find myself attempting to disprove the assumptions of classical economics through the medium of sarcasm, and while I’m not shy about my own abilities to bullshit, I think that may be a bit beyond me. So instead I’m just going to leave it there for everyone to marvel at while we talk about flags.
Daniel Hannan’s header has been annoying me for months now, because it clearly takes place in a parallel universe in which the Anglosphere is a real thing rather than just the masturbatory fantasies of a certain type of free market ideologue. It combines the flags of the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, into a single red, white and blue monstrosity: the fact that one of Britain’s best known Eurosceptics uses this as his banner pic implies, at least to me, that he thinks this is what we should have instead of the EU.
At first glance, the assumption here seems to be that Britain’s natural allies are all the other countries who speak English. Except it clearly isn’t that, because a lot of other countries also speak English – Ireland, India, South Africa, to name but three – yet are mysteriously missing from the flag.
A better definition might be that it’s the bits of the British Empire where our forefathers planted their own colonies and attempted to wipe out the natives, rather than simply lording it over them through a combination of divide-and-rule and Maxim guns. More charitably, it’s the places that have a slightly misty-eyed relationship to the same stuff – free markets, Magna Carta, the notion that Britain invented freedom – that Dan himself does.
The notion of the Anglosphere is not entirely without foundation: these five countries constitute the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which implies a certain degree of closeness, and there’s a fair amount of military co-operation too. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, indeed, one of the instructions British prime ministers can leave for their nuclear subs is, basically, “You are now Australian. ”
But nonetheless oh my god, mate, are you actually high? The Anglosphere is not a political unit – outside the world of George Smiley and GI JOE, it might as well not exist – and the idea of a US that is increasingly a) diverse but b) protectionist going anywhere near that kind of thing is just delusional. Dan is basically just saying he’d be happier if Britain’s primary allies were countries which we founded, which speak English, and which contain depressingly high concentrations of people who agree with him.
I was going to end with a crack about how the Anglosphere flag was such a work of science fiction that Dan might as well employ the flag of Star Trek ’s United Federation of Planets or, if that was too lefty, the Terran Federation from Blake’s 7 (at least everyone there speaks English). But I’ve had a better idea. There is another rainy, sea-faring kingdom in a popular work of fantasy that recently took advantage of continent-wide chaos to break away from a larger political unit. In what may or may not a foretaste of things to come, it later used it as an excuse to attack its former allies.
I am talking, of course, about the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones .
What is dead may never die.
“What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone,” wrote the American poet James Russell Lowell in 1876, in a letter to his fellow poet Joel Benton. “Is it or is it not a result of democracy? Is ours a ‘government of the people by the people for the people’, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?”
Is there a better, more apt description of the incoming Trump administration than “kakistocracy”, which translates from the Greek literally as government by the worst people? The new US president, as Barack Obama remarked on the campaign trail, is “uniquely unqualified” to be commander-in-chief. There is no historical analogy for a President Trump. He combines in a single person some of the worst qualities of some of the worst US presidents: the Donald makes Nixon look honest, Clinton look chaste, Bush look smart.
Trump began his tenure as president-elect in November by agreeing to pay out $25m to settle fraud claims brought against the now defunct Trump University by dozens of former students; he began the new year being deposed as part of his lawsuit against a celebrity chef. On 10 January, the Federal Election Commission sent the Trump campaign a 250-page letter outlining a series of potentially illegal campaign contributions. A day later, the head of the non-partisan US Office of Government Ethics slammed Trump’s plan to step back from running his businesses as “meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective”.
It cannot be repeated often enough: none of this is normal. There is no precedent for such behaviour, and while kakistocracy may be a term unfamiliar to most of us, this is what it looks like. Forget 1876: be prepared for four years of epic misgovernance and brazen corruption. Despite claiming in his convention speech, “I alone can fix it,” the former reality TV star won’t be governing on his own. He will be in charge of the richest, whitest, most male cabinet in living memory; a bizarre melange of the unqualified and the unhinged.
There has been much discussion about the lack of experience of many of Trump’s appointees (think of the incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has no background in diplomacy or foreign affairs) and their alleged bigotry (the Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, denied a role as a federal judge in the 1980s following claims of racial discrimination, is on course to be confirmed as attorney general). Yet what should equally worry the average American is that Trump has picked people who, in the words of the historian Meg Jacobs, “are downright hostile to the mission of the agency they are appointed to run”. With their new Republican president’s blessing, they want to roll back support for the poorest, most vulnerable members of society and don’t give a damn how much damage they do in the process.

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