When England’s prime minister, Theresa May, signed papers beginning the process of removing the United Kingdom from the European Union, the popular London newspaper the Daily Mail, ran a one-word headline:  “FREEDOM!”  At the very same moment, Scottish voters began a demand for a vote on leaving the United Kingdom, arguing that May’s actions were forcing Scotland to leave a European Union that they were much wished to retain.

Two things are happening here that provide a picture of where we are going as a global community.  The first is that the United Kingdom, or whatever will be left of it if the prime minister’s actions ultimately succeed, will be withdrawing into a small and self-contained community.  What a far cry that would be from an empire on which, it was once claimed, the sun never set.  England will provide for itself, something that is quite possible, but it will have limits that it probably does not now expect.  By withdrawing from the European market, it signals that it will not participate in the global market.  So Englanders will withdraw into being the quaint, self-sufficient country that has made it so attractive to tourists.  After all, if you are touring England, you would rather see some pub with a colorful name, like The Kilt and Clover, than those tired McDonald arches.  They will grow and serve good English food — oats and potatoes and mutton and hearty English wheat.  They will work at the trades that any community needs — cobbling and weaving and farming and the making of pots and pans.

What they will not be doing is participating in the global economic community.  Isolated from that community, they will find its products too pricey for general consumption.  So they will no longer have access to reasonably priced goods from other countries with other climates.  No more reasonably priced citrus fruits or pineapples or kiwis.  No more reasonably priced meats from other countries.  No more reasonably (or even lower) priced clothing or vehicles or machinery.  England will be free to be whatever England can make of itself by itself.

That should stand as an example to all countries now boasting of populist self-sufficiency.  Imagine, for instance, what the shelves of Walmart might contain if all the products on them were made in America.  Imagine also what the price of those products might be.  Whatever that imagining evokes in you, it will be so if populism succeeds.  I make no judgment as to its success or failure.  It just seems to be an interesting direction to choose.

That choice is a fundamental one, and it is one that the world will need to make.  Either we will be a global community, with different customs and different faces and different beliefs all mingling around the world, or we will be a collection of separate communities, each filled with similar faces and similar customs and each facing the limitations inherent in their geography and cumulative work ethic and religious and cultural beliefs.  One rightfully supposes that each of these will present its own grave difficulties.  That is, however, the monumental choice that the world is beginning to face.

The second thing that is happening is that we are developing two notions of freedom.  The first, the one behind the Daily Mail’s headline, is the notion of freedom as the removal of constraints.  By this definition, freedom is the ability to do what one wants.  It is license.  It is based on the assumption that freedom is that which serves my self-interest.  The freest of people, then, would be he or she who was so wealthy and powerful as to be able to obtain and enjoy whatever he or she wanted.  That sounds a tiny bit perverse, but the notion is surprisingly present in our world.  Consider for instance the motto inscribed on the Gadsden flag and adopted as the symbol of the Tea Party:  “Don’t Tread on Me.”  It is the announcement of the ideology of self-interest, and the ideology is most certainly the standard of our financial community, if not the entire market place.

The second notion of freedom is not so obvious.  According to that notion, freedom is the unhindered development of what is best in us.  A well-designed workout plan frees up an athlete to perform well at his or her sport.  A well-designed education frees up a person to perform at his or her best in a given trade or profession.  A well-developed morality frees a person from fear and doubt.  In general, that person is most free who lives his or her life most in accord with the best that he or she can be.

The difference between these two notions of freedom is startling.  Freedom as license is unconstrained but pointless.  Freedom as fulfillment is derivative, constrained if you will by the need to fulfill what it means to be human.  However, it is also then the source of our deepest meaning, and is therefore freedom in its fullest sense.

So shut your borders, whether as an individual or a culture, and you will be free in the first sense, unconstrained by the demands of others.  That will not, however, fulfill you.  Time will tell what England becomes.  Time will also tell what we become.































The people who voted for Trump were, in the main, decent, hard-working family people.  They are not bigots.  They are not selfish.  They really do care about the poor and the downtrodden.  They were simply looking for someone to take care of their basic needs.  Trump promised to do that.  Specifically with respect to health care, he promised these good people that he would replace Obamacare with a health care program that would do three things:  1) [provide health care for more people, 2) provide coverage of more services, and 3) make it cheaper.

As I said long ago, and as everyone now seems to agree, the only way we can judge Trump is by his actions.  His, and his legislature’s, first significant action has now taken place with the introduction of Trumpcare, the health care program otherwise titled the American Health Care Plan.  In capsule, what Trumpcare does is 1) provide health care for far fewer people (with twelve million people likely to lose health insurance, 2) limit the services covered, and 3) raise the cost of medical care for most people.  Oh, and there is a bonus feature:  it provides substantial tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year.

True conservatism, rational conservatism, has enormous merit.  It seeks to cut waste, to promote efficiency, and to encourage all citizens to contribute to the best of their abilities.  Trumpism, and the oligarchic right most perfectly characterized by House Republican leader Paul Ryan, wants none of that.  Rather they essentially promote the interests of those with sufficient funds to support the re-election of those already in power.  By offering Trumpcare, those presently in power have said to those solid, hard-working folks who voted them In that they really don’t give a damn about them.  They have shown that disregard for those good-hearted votes in many ways — getting rid of safety regulations, taking steps to worsen rather than improve the environment for us and for our children and grandchildren, slashing funds for education, and more.  What they are proposing to do with health care is a direct slap in the face of the people who voted them in.

Trump apparently made a discovery recently that health care is a complicated issue.  He comes to that insight a little later than, say, the entire rest of the nation.  However, there are some simple things about it.  First, there are only two ways to cut the cost of health care:  cut the cost of that care and spread that cost across more people.  Second, health care cost gets cut only by having the power of collective bargaining with health care providers.  Third, to get these things done we must have universal care.  Obamacare was only a start in that direction.  So the real problem with Obamacare  is not that it wasn’t going in the right direction but rather that it didn’t go far enough.

Those presently in power got there by making some serious promises to the hard-working people who pay most of America’s bills.  Their first actions show that they lied to those good folk.  Our only recourse is to get them out of there as fast as we can.