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CapX Weekly Briefing

Defending democracy

The week started with much talk about the will of the people  - of yet more referendums for Scotland and a date confirmed for the triggering of Article 50 - but this was overshadowed by an attack on the very place meant to exercise that will.

On Wednesday, Khalid Mamood mowed down pedestrians and knifed a policeman in a brutal attack on the Palace of Westminster. He was shot dead. No one knows what his twisted motivation was, though Islamic State have claimed him as one of their own. His target, though, was hardly a surprise.

Daniel Hannan, in his vivid piece for CapX on the attacks, reminded us of Enoch Powell’s words about Westminster: “Parliament,” he would say, “is a word of magic and power in the country.” It is a symbol of our shared history and represents our democratic voice.

Powell’s words have not resonated so keenly recently, following the divisive Brexit result and with the prospect of another plebiscite in Scotland; many are irritated that the exercise of democracy hasn’t resulted in the “right answer” and resent the politicians who stand for us.

But for those who resent our privilege, who would like to see us live under different laws - they still understand democracy’s flawless power. And we are reminded of what we take for granted when we see it under attack.

Our parliamentarians were back in the House of Commons the following day; in London it was business as usual. For, as the death of Martin McGuiness reminded us earlier in the week, we have been under attack from dark forces for as long as we can remember. The motivation might be different, but the visceral, crazed hatred is the same. And our reaction is the same: we cleave to our freedom more keenly than ever. And we just carry on.


The week also marked the 25th anniversary of Friedrich Hayek’s death. Matt Ridley wrote a passionate defence of the man who is so maligned by the Left for his supposed pursuit of individualism. In fact, Hayek’s ideas couldn’t be more relevant today; he was a passionate advocate of collaboration, believing that society has advanced at such a pace because of our freedom to work together.

Paul Collier’s piece on giving refugees the right to earn a living, rather than handouts, was also a reminder that even in the bleakest of situations, the human determination to succeed is undiminished.

Below you'll find these and the rest of our selection of the best CapX stories from the past seven days. Have a great weekend.

Sally Chatterton
Executive Editor, CapX

A blow to the heart of our democracy

By Daniel Hannan
Our national story is, in a sense, the story of an old hall on a bend in the Thames. That building was the target of a vicious attack today. Almost nothing is known about the perpetrators' motives, though the political implications of their choice of target cannot be ignored. Evidently some people think Parliament is worth attacking. The rest of us should realise that, in every sense, Parliament is worth defending. 

Why Scotland needs two more referendums

By Chris Deerin
Given that 62 per cent of Scots voted Remain, Nicola Sturgeon is understandably keen for Brexit to dominate Indyref2. But by making the next referendum about Scotland's membership of the EU, she risks diminishing her cause. So instead of over-complicating one vote, why not give the Scots two? The first on whether they want to remain part of the UK. And then, if they vote for independence, a second on membership of the EU.

Friedrich Hayek and the collective brain

By Matt Ridley
It is 25 years to the day since Friedrich Hayek's death. Wrongly dismissed by the Left as a right-wing zealot, Hayek was a giant of economics as well as a thoroughly modern thinker. Long before the internet enabled us to share ideas in an instant, he realised that it was only through collective endeavour that meaningful human progress could be achieved. How is that collaborative effort best organised? Not by the state - but by the market.  

How much will the Brexit divorce bill cost? 

By Andrew Lilico
When Theresa May triggers Article 50 next Wednesday, settling the bill for Brexit will be the first order of business. The EU appears determined to exact as much as it can out of the UK, and is threatening the divorce bill could be as much as £50 billion. While the Government must make clear our obligations are nowhere near that high, there might be a pragmatic case for being generous. 

Free speech is being shut down in South Africa

By Marian L. Tupy
The case of Helen Zille would suggest that South Africa is falling short of the mark when it comes to the ability of government opponents to speak freely. The Democratic Alliance Premier of Western Cape made the mistake of suggesting that the legacy of colonialism was not entirely negativeThe evidence is on her side. Nevertheless she may yet pay a high price for her candour.

Refugees need jobs not blankets

By Paul Collier
Why does the world have such a persistent refugee problem? A lack of empathy in the West? A lack of resources? None of the common explanations is right. At its heart, the scale of the present crisis is a result of the UN's refusal to see refugees as anything other than victims. Most are not as helpless as is often assumed. Nor are they as dangerous as some make them out to be. All they want is a job.

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