Milton Friedman – economic visionary or scourge of the world?

The Keynesian economist Nicholas Kaldor called Milton Friedman one of the two most evil men of the 20th century. (Friedman was in distinguished company.) The ‘scourge’ he inflicted on the world was monetarism, a product of what Kaldor called Friedman’s Big Lie – of which more later. Moral judgments aside, how does Friedman rank in the world of 20th-century economists? By common consent, he stands with Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes at the apex of his profession. All wrestled with the defining problem of their age: the radical economic and political instability of the 1920s and 1930s. Their responses reflected their national situations. Keynes, economically secure and confident in

Can you feel sorry for Liz Truss?

It is not easy to feel sorry for Liz Truss. She has a deeply unattractive streak of vanity – when in the Foreign Office, she seemed more interested in posing for the official photographers who trailed her round than she did in building relationships with the places she visited. She campaigned hard and sometimes dirty to obtain a job for which she was manifestly out of her depth. Once in that job, she exercised power with peremptory arrogance. She rewarded people who had sucked up to her, cast out anyone who had spoken up for her rival, and allowed experienced civil servants to be hoofed ruthlessly out of their jobs.

Viktor Orbán’s Texas rodeo

Say what you want about Viktor Orbán, but he gives a good speech. His address on Thursday in Dallas on the opening day of CPAC, the annual jamboree of the American right wing, was wide-ranging, hard-hitting and quite funny. One of his best jokes – paraphrasing Pope Francis – was ‘that Hungary was the official language of heaven because it takes an eternity to learn’. It also happens to be nonsense. Hungarian is recognised as considerably easier to learn than Arabic or Mandarin, but Orbán doesn’t do nuance. In fact, the entirety of his speech was about drawing an unbridgeable distinction between the ‘Judeao-Christian’ values of himself and his audience on one

Viktor Orbán won’t save conservatism

It’s always the ones you most expect. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, nationalist strongman and post-liberal poster-boy gave a speech over the weekend on the evils of race-mixing. He was speaking on Saturday to attendees at Tusványos summer university in Băile Tușnad, Transylvania, previously an annual forum for Hungarian-Romanian dialogue but now an intellectual pep rally for the ultranationalist Fidesz party. According to the Budapest Times, he told his co-ideologues the West was ‘split in two’ between European nations and those in which Europeans and non-Europeans lived together. He declared: ‘Those countries are no longer nations.’ This is also how the Daily News Hungary and Hungary Today characterised Orbán’s remarks.

The rise of the neoclassical reactionaries

A strange new ideology has been growing over the last few years, you might have noticed — amid the day-to-day chaos — the slow, proto-planet-like formation. Currently, it has no name, nor an obvious leader. Its many thousands of proponents do not even seem, yet, to consider each other fellow-travellers. But to the onlooker, they’re clearly marching the same steps to the same tune. We might call it neoclassical reactionism. The central refrain is a familiar one: the modern world is ugly, decadent, sick. But rather than seeking refuge in religion or racial politics, neoclassical reactionaries hark back to Ancient Greece and Rome — in particular, to supposedly lost values like

Boris Johnson and the Tory identity crisis

The Tory conference in Manchester will be a relatively muted affair. In part, this is because — as I say in the Times today — of the fuel crisis. Ministers are acutely aware that even if petrol queues ease this weekend, the autumn will be full of such difficulties. What is known in government as the EFFing crisis — energy, fuel and food — will be a theme of the next few months. Even cabinet optimists think the shortage of lorry drivers will produce flare-ups over the coming months as supply chains come under pressure. Johnson’s conference speech will be in line with his recent Gaullist turn But conference will also

The callousness of the Conservative foreign aid cut

A billionaire who reduces his or her charity is a billionaire asking to be judged and found wanting. When they do so, not on the basis that their charity is squandered but because they fancy keeping more of their wealth for their own purposes, they demand to be judged and found wanting all over again. This morning, the United Kingdom and its government is that billionaire. The government has won its campaign to reduce Britain’s foreign aid contributions. As so often, a much-vaunted Tory rebellion delivered rather less than it promised. As a consequence, money will be withheld from some of the world’s poorest peoples and kept instead by some of

Boris’s eco-optimism will get the better of him

Vote blue for green jobs in the red wall. That’s the message we’re supposed to take from Boris Johnson’s ten point plan for reaching zero carbon emissions. The launch follows some shallow Westminster chatter about how this stuff relates to the departure of Dominic Cummings, chatter which somehow overlooks the fact that said departure has made precisely no difference to what’s being announced. Do the Tories new voters in red wall seats care about eliminating carbon emissions? My think tank, the Social Market Foundation, has been investigating this question. For what it’s worth, our polling and focus groups don’t find much regional variation in attitudes here: broadly speaking, voters are quite positive about

Are liberal conservatives now history?

It was a luminous late August sunset, and we were in France, dining outdoors with some friends who have a magical, charming place in the countryside there. We were discussing audiobooks of the kind you could listen to on a long car journey and I mentioned how Julian, my partner, and I had enjoyed my Times colleague David Aaronovitch’s memoir of childhood and youth, Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists. If you haven’t read it, do. David’s family were hardline members of the British Communist party. He was brought up to believe that ‘God Save the Queen’ was an anthem of imperialist oppression, and the revolution, hopefully peaceful, was

Why I’ll never become an MP

Every now and then someone asks me if I have ever thought of becoming an MP. My response tends to be a laugh so deranged that the question answers itself. When I manage to verbalise the answer it usually goes something like this: ‘No, because I enjoy saying what I think is true.’ Occasionally my conversationalist will persist: ‘But MPs have a huge variety of opinions. Parliament is not filled with silent types.’ Throughout such interactions various names and images flash through my head. I think of Sarah Champion, for instance — the Labour MP for Rotherham. Ms Champion got her seat in 2012 and among the problems she inherited

Never trust the people

It was late, and a friend and I were left to talk Brexit. He’s a keen and convinced Tory Brexiteer MP but to stay friends we have tended to steer off the topic. This, however, felt like a moment to talk. The conversation taught me nothing about Brexit, something about him, and a lot about myself and the strain of Conservatism I now realise I’m part of — and which is part of me. Oddly, then, this column is not really about Brexit, but about trusting the people. I don’t. Never have and never will. Our conversation forced me to confront the fact. My friend knows well enough why I’m

Fraser Nelson

The Javid manifesto

There’s an old joke that the most dangerous position in the Tory party is the favourite for the leadership. The frontrunner always ends up with a target on his back, which is why Sajid Javid should be feeling a little nervous right now. Theresa May survived a confidence vote but only after saying that she would resign before too long – so the hunt for a successor is on. He is Home Secretary, his fourth cabinet post. A poll of 700 Conservative councillors found they’d rather have him as leader than anyone else. He is also a former financier who made his name handling economic crises and is someone to

Tory table talk

I bet that you are at best dimly aware of the Progress Trust, and that is what the members of this now-defunct fixture would have wanted. It was a misleadingly named group of comfortably off, often landed backbench Tory MPs, and its weekly discussions very rarely leaked. An unnamed member once explained why. ‘We have no shits,’ he said. The Trust, which would number Alec Douglas-Home and David Cameron, briefly, among its members, was secretive from the outset. It was established in 1943 to resume a more partisan style of politics, at a time when both main parties were still in theory committed to a ceasefire that the Conservatives felt

The right stuff | 1 February 2018

Geoff Norcott is lean, talkative, lightly bearded and intense. Britain’s first ‘openly Conservative’ comedian has benefited enormously from the Brexit vote and he’s popular with television producers who need a right-wing voice to balance out the left-leaning bias of most TV output. ‘It’s funny meeting TV types,’ he tells me. ‘They say, “We really want to hear alternative viewpoints.” And I’m thinking, “By alternative you mean majority,”’ Norcott, 41, was raised on a south London estate. ‘Both my parents were quite political. My dad was a trade unionist who got quite high up in the NEC [Labour’s national executive committee] and my mum ran as a Lib Dem councillor. So

Ambition deficit

Some Budgets are historic, most are boring and a small number can be remembered as a disaster. After just a few months, Philip Hammond has managed a budget – his first – that can be placed in this last category. Economically, it made very little difference. Politically, it is shaping up to be a disaster. His Budget was supposed to have been conducted under the pledge, issued no fewer than four times in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, that his party not raise taxes. ‘Instead, we will ease the burden of taxation,’ the Tories promised. It seems plausible enough, and the Conservatives were returned with an absolute majority. Whatever else one might have thought about David Cameron, he had shown

Brains for Trump

Last week more than 130 right-wing thinkers put their names to a defiant document — a list of ‘Scholars and Writers for America’ in support of Donald Trump. It includes the editors of five of the country’s leading conservative journals of ideas: R.R. Reno of the Christian conservative First Things; Roger Kimball of the New Criterion, the right’s leading journal of the arts; Charles Kesler of the Claremont Review of Books; the American Spectator’s R. Emmett Tyrrell; and me, the editor of the American Conservative. (Notably lacking are names from America’s oldest conservative magazine, National Review, which has been as hostile to Trump as the columnists of the New York

Cooking the books | 15 September 2016

Cooking really shouldn’t make good radio. On television, it’s already frustrating that you can’t taste what you’re seeing, but on radio you can’t even see it. ‘I’m just cracking an egg,’ they tell you. ‘And now I’ll crack another egg.’ The sounds — violent thuds, hissing gas, moist chewing — are more ominous than appetising and the commentary (‘I’m just mixing those eggs together now’) can’t help but be comically sedate (‘OK — they’re mixed’). So it’s a miracle that The Food Programme (Radio 4), after three decades of this sort of experiment, is as good as it often is, and Cooking for Poldark, this week’s ingenious episode, was really

Brexit’s bitter harvest

Nick Cohen and Fraser Nelson discuss The Spectator’s decision to back Brexit: We British flatter ourselves that common sense is a national personality trait. Giddy Europeans may follow the abstract notions of dangerous leaders, but we could not be more different. We are a practical, moderate breed — if we do say so ourselves — who act according to the evidence, not fantastical theories. Let me see how this dear delusion is bearing up. It feels as if the Leave campaign will win the EU referendum. But even if Leave loses, it seems certain that it will perform so well as to produce an existential crisis in both our main

A right mess | 28 April 2016

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Freddy Gray and Tom Slater discuss the state of the right” startat=22] Listen [/audioplayer] Is Boris Johnson turning into the thinking man’s Donald Trump? Just like the Donald, he’s got funny hair, charisma, and an appetite for women. He may not be as rich as Trump — although we were all impressed by his latest contribution to the Exchequer — but he makes up for that by having a much bigger vocabulary. He’s also able to get away with saying outrageous things because people think he’s entertaining. And in his efforts to persuade Britain to leave the European Union, Boris seems to be appealing to the same anti-politics

High life | 3 March 2016

The rich are under attack nowadays, never more so than in America, where The Donald continues to trump his critics, amaze and surprise his fans, and drive his haters to paroxysms of sexual fantasy, with Trump as the main actor. National Review, where I got my start 40 years or so ago, devoted a whole issue to rubbishing Donald Trump. There were contributions from great conservatives, such as Thomas Sowell, and great clowns, like John Podhoretz. It was an issue that inadvertently looked in opposite directions while hating The Donald. William Kristol’s bit was in there — the one where he calls Trump vulgar. That he may be, but coming