How to Fight the Tranzis

A quote from John O’Sullivan in The New Criterion, January 2008

“[M]ainstream” conservative parties in all countries for the last thirty years have shunned nationalist voters and the causes that arouse them from immigration to anti-supra-nationalism. This has resulted in the rise of third parties and political entrepreneurs specializing in such issues. […] In almost all cases, however, such parties have divided the Right, at least temporarily, and allowed the Left to slip into power. […]

Why do conservatives shrink from seeking the support of these voters? They are supposedly shedding an image that is racist, intolerant, and (to use a recent British idiom) “nasty.” Party leaders such as David Cameron seemingly believe that these issues are the concerns only of an old, relatively small, and shrinking part of the electorate and repel a larger and more desirable group of centrist voters from backing the Tories. […]

Similar points could be made about the growing gulf between moral traditionalists and economic conservatives. Some conservative leaders in Britain and America have argued that the Christian Right and issues like abortion are handicaps in the battle for centrist and metropolitan votes. That may sometimes be so. But moral traditionalists are a large component of any conservative coalition likely to win elections. They are often more numerous than economic conservatives. In countries where the electoral system encourages interest groups to form their own political party, those parties which direct their main appeals to moral conservatives (e.g., the Christian Democrats in Germany) usually win many more votes than those stressing free markets and low taxes (e.g., the German Free Democrats). […]

As blue-collar workers were moving Right, significant groups in a new middle class were moving Left: university arts graduates, workers in new science-based industries, the media, and cultural institutions. […] At an international level the itch to regulate became a campaign to establish rules and institutions that would restore a regulation of economic life that was atrophying at the national level. […]

This shift to international regulation of various kinds was also rooted in a new social class, namely, the international extension of the New Class – international lawyers, officials in supra-national agencies, NGO organizers, senior managers in multi-national corporations, and those officials in domestic agencies whose career path included transfers to the international level. Though there are divisions of opinion between some of these groups, they tend to share a common outlook of global humanitarianism. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute, who has analyzed their ideology, describes them as transnational progressives, and the London lawyer David Carr has shortened this term to the catchier “Tranzis.” […]

Insofar as the United States, Britain, and Western Europe now have rulers shaped by this outlook, they can be described as the first nations in history to have a dissident ruling class. Dissidence has consequences. A dissident ruling class, whether consciously or not, will tend to be suspicious of the nation it rules. […]

[This] can be clearly seen in three highly important developments: the shift of power from legislatures to bureaucratic agencies and the courts in domestic politics; the shift of power from democratic nation states to largely unaccountable supra-national bodies from the UN to the European Union, etc; and the development of ideologies that, lagging behind events, serve to justify these relatively new political practices and institutions as legitimate. […]

To sum up, Tranzi-ism is an ideology that extends regulation over the full range of human activity while exempting the regulators from democratic control by transferring governance from national democratic parliaments to unaccountable bureaucracies in independent agencies, the courts, and supra-national bodies. […]

The first task for a serious conservatism is to de-mystify the unaccountable bureaucracies that are not only our enemies but also the enemies of the nation-state, religion, small independent businesses, aspiring entrepreneurs, families and married people, and patriotic and self-reliant citizens. […] Our second task is to defend democracy at home and the nation-state abroad. […] Our third general response should be to restrain and obstruct bureaucracies directly. […]

[W]e should not be afraid of controversy. Persuading the nation, including the media, that such values as patriotism, self-reliance, and enterprise are admirable, and that such policies as choice, competition, and diversity in public services are practicable, is the first step to expressing and implementing them in office. Success is not guaranteed by the controversy; failure is ensured by shrinking from it.

The advice above may sound familiar. If so, it is because unaccountable power is a perennial enemy of liberty. As Conor Cruise O’Brien points out in The Great Melody, Burke spent his entire life fighting it. That should give us confidence for the battle. After all, wisdom is more often a matter of remembering than of inventing.