I’ve been sceptical in the past of this notion that the modern left and right merely represent different flavours of socialism, or ‘the left’. It seemed too simple. Then I read Hans-Herman Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, and everything became clearer. Watching recent developments in British politics has made the argument more convincing.

If you haven’t been following: the three mainstream political parties in Britain are working themselves into a panic over the unexpected rise of UKIP (UK Independence Party). Urging national sovereignty and tighter controls on immigration, UKIP won a majority in the European Elections early this year, and gained its first MP last month.

In a vain attempt to defame them, all parties have been dismissing UKIP and their supporters as borderline-racist reactionaries, and what they espouse as something close to fascism.

But what is so maddening for the Labour Party in particular is that even though UKIP’s leadership is mainly made of disgruntled ex-Tories, it’s supporters are mostly former Labour voters. What has happened here? Are we seeing the single greatest mass change in opinion in world history?

Labour is supposed to be for the forward-thinking leftists, UKIP is for the right-wing old white male who thinks the BNP goes too far but the Tories don’t go far enough. They shouldn’t mix.

Yet is not a great stretch for traditional Labour voters to see UKIP as a viable alternative, for they are both working for protectionist goals.

Labour gets its support from lower-income working class people in the hope they will save the from what they see as the inequities of the market. They do not want their livelihoods threatened by profit-seeking business or individual. For this they want a high minimum wage and strong union protection. The aim is to preserve their wage.

Considering this, it is easy to see why many people who think this way are opposed to heavy immigration. Free movement of labour increases the size of the national workforce and depresses the wages of native workers. The same interests that oppose businesses hiring for less from their own country are hardly going to embrace a surge in cheap labour from others.

The establishment Left cannot comprehend this development because they mistakenly view their movement as evolutionary and progressive. Socialism is all about the future, gosh darn it! They refuse to believe that their ideology can be construed as being conservative, reactionary and protectionist.

It is only on the issue of immigration that Labour and UKIP differ strongly. Otherwise, they are both opposed to cutting the NHS, or any other sizeable chunk of the budget. They’re both committed to the welfare state, the latter only objecting to foreigners ‘living off benefits’. They both talk about nationalisation. They may as well be bickering sects of the same party.

Yes, Labour is pro-EU. But UKIP has only suggested that they would replace the international state with an equally invasive national state. We are talking about differences in administration, not ideology.

UKIP fits nicely into the Social Engineering Socialism category defined by Hoppe: a form of socialism that gears national policy for nationalistic ends.

It was not always like this. UKIP’s grassroots were based in neo-Thatcherite opposition to the modern Conservative party’s acquiescence to the EU. Some aspects were encouragingly libertarian in nature. At one time, UKIP’s website slug read ‘A non-racist, libertarian party…’, and MEP Godfrey Bloom was a consistently decent exponent of anti-state principles in Brussels before the unfortunate ‘Bongo-Bongo land’ incident forced him to resign.

Patrick Hannaford from Reason asks: is UKIP’s slow abandonment of libertarianism complete?

Conservative-libertarian commentator James Delingpole chased a young UKIP candidate up on the subject of ideology: you claim to represent ‘change’, but what is the point of UKIP’ if they don’t address the elephant in the room that is the state and its meddling?

If all matters of ideology are dismissed as ‘theoretical debate’, far inferior to the happy business of ‘helping people’, we cannot expect radical change from this party.

Libertarians hoping that UKIP would amount to something closer to a freedom party must now, regretfully, give it up*. However, in hindsight is difficult to imagine why a population so raised against individual liberty should so suddenly give up statism. Unfortunately the first question most ask when the subject of politics comes up is ‘what can the government do for me?’.

Thus, it is not too tired a cliche to wave your hand dismissively: they are all the bloody same!

*I stand by the view that voting UKIP may be an option in the upcoming general election, if only to increase the likelihood of an ‘out’ decision in any vote on EU membership. A UKIP government would be bad, but would be more manageable than a European Federal Empire.