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Friday, 21 December 2012

What Makes a Nation Civilised?

 Here is a point raised by Geoff:

Unlike other, more civilized countries, they (the US) don’t see a responsibility for helping the truly needy and sick and I greatly emphasise the word “truly”.

The constitutions and laws of countries are often simply window-dressing. Can you think of any country which does not celebrate (in law) Democracy? There are something like 200 members of the UN – every one claims to be a democracy.

Actually there is one which does not in its founding documents: the USA. The founding fathers were not dressing their windows. They were attempting to create an unbreakable guarantee against tyranny. Benjamin Franklin said that their objective was a Republic. Democracy is a word unused by the fathers. Indeed, some of them would have been revolted by the idea. Unhappily, brilliant though they were, the US constitution left wormholes through which some in succeeding generations have undermined it. “The Commerce Clause” and “The General Welfare Clause” are notorious. So too is the concept of “A Living Constitution” (not the fault of the framers), whereby activists have essentially declared that what we now perceive to be desirable trumps the intentions of the framers.

Abraham Lincoln, whose legacy and reputation have come under critical scrutiny of late (by Thomas DiLorenzo et al) memorably claimed that the Civil War had been fought (at the cost of over 600,000 lives) in defence of “Government of the People, for the People and by the People”. It was a fantastic speech and has been a rallying cry for Democracy ever since. Indeed, to be suspicious of Democracy is enough to invite comparison with anti-democratic ideologies: Nazism, Communism and, latterly, Islamism. The fathers were as anxious about the tyranny of the majority as of monarchy. Hence the famous system of “checks and balances”.

The political thinkers of the eighteenth century include some pretty impressive minds. More later, perhaps.
Early Americans were overwhelmingly religious. Many went to the New World for the freedom to practise their religion. Morality loomed large in their thinking. They did not place their faith in political institutions. When they came to devise a better government than the world had previously known they beset the Presidency and the Congress with limits to their powers. Most Americans knew that a virtuous citizenry was the essential foundation for a prosperous and happy nation. The Constitution was a bulwark against the encroachment of the state on the citizenry. They insisted, in the Second Amendment, that citizens should retain the means physically to resist the state. I think that this argues for the supremacy of individual conscience over political institutions. Swiss citizens have comparable rights and Switzerland has a noble tradition of Liberty.

The existence of slavery is a blot upon humanity. It persisted for too long in the Anglosphere. Some Christians, disgracefully, defended it. However, it was the Christian Anglosphere which first declared war on it. Regrettably, in spite of the efforts and writings of many abolitionists, slavery persisted in the US for far too long. The Civil War was a war to preserve the Union against secessionists and only incidentally to abolish slavery. Lincoln’s writings are clear on this. He cared less about slavery than about the Union and was prepared to provoke war with the Confederacy. He may not have expected 600,000 deaths; but that is what it took to defeat the South.

So, religious and moral Americans did some bad things in the past. Religious and moral Americans today are almost unanimous in condemning slavery and the subsequent oppression of black Americans after the war. We cannot close our eyes to the hideous phenomenon of lynching.

“Progressive” Americans did bad stuff too. They enacted “union-friendly” legislation to exclude blacks from labour markets in the North. “Progressive” entitlement programmes (regrettably supported by black political leaders) have done much to undermine the integrity of black American families and to ensure the immiseration of millions of blacks. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams (two towering black American intellects) have much to say on the subject.

American Exceptionalism
What society is innocent of corruption and cruelty? None! The British Empire, more benevolent than any comparable empire, did bad things. From the Greeks we derive the idea of Democracy, and yet, they accepted slavery. We have inherited much from Roman administration and law, and yet, crucifixion was their standard form of execution.

The Genius of Catholicism (at least insofar as it relates to the polis) is the concept of Original Sin. We do not have it in our power to create The Kingdom of God on Earth. History is unequivocal: try it and you will find that you have built a Hell. The Anglosphere, imperfect though it is, incorporates ideas of Liberty and personal responsibility. Improvements will only ever be incremental and practical. Morality, not ideology, is the way forward. On these grounds, I propose the USA as the most civilised country ever – in spite of the missteps of her past and her present.

She has given the vast majority of her citizens the opportunity to improve their living standards to an extant never before witnessed. Free Enterprise, moderated by personal morality, has created philanthropic institutions on a scale never before even imagined. Free Enterprise rewards initiative, creativity, hard work, thrift, service to one’s fellows and honesty. Socialism does not! Oppressed people from all over the world have endorsed what I am not ashamed to call the American Dream. They endorsed it by choosing to live it.

Americans, particularly conservative Americans, take their personal responsibility to help the needy and the sick very seriously. They give and they give and they give. If some do not see this as a political programme but as a moral imperative, God bless them. If you think that putting a gun to their heads is morally superior, more civilised, I can’t agree.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Geoff & Guns

Geoff has strong and cogent opinions about America, the NRA and gun laws. Below is his email to me in blue. I comment intermittently in red.

The NRA and their stupid stance, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" just highlights the fact that the USA is a lost cause. Nothing at all will change. Americans care more than you do about senseless violence and crime. They spend a lot of money on studying it. The aggregate conclusion seems to be that when there is likely to be an armed citizen with a concealed gun on the premises (a situation prohibited in many states) madmen wanting to die and take as many as possible will avoid such locations. If my grandchildren had been threatened (at Dunblaine, for example) would I have been more or less alarmed if I knew that the caretaker had a Glock 9mm.

In America, even a cretin, and I use that term in its truest and psychiatric sense, can buy a gun, and, if they are so minded, shoot someone.
Are you telling us that this is the law?

My dear and very wise old Dad always said that if you want to examine the case for or against anything you should look at the extremes. So, let's suppose that pocket size nuclear bombs were available in Walmart for $25 each. Would it be reasonable for our cretin to be allowed to buy one? Would it be reasonable for even a non-cretin to be able to buy one? Would the NRA, or maybe the NNBA (as it would have become), really say, “"nuclear bombs don’t kill people, people kill people". Somehow I doubt it.

Sadly, because of the massive political lobby that the NRA carries and the fact that it is simply a PR stunt of behalf of US weapons manufacturers, which the deluded population swallow, nothing will change and 80 people a day will be killed by gun violence.

It is worth remembering that over one million people have died from gun violence since Martin Luther King was assassinated. I can’t quite see how NRA members sleep peacefully at night but maybe the pistol under their pillow and the AK47 hanging in the kitchen help.

On another aspect of American life, Obama (and I am more of an Obama fan than you) stated yesterday (again!), “This is the greatest nation on earth”. Really! I was heating up a nice pan of spinach soup when I heard this and nearly puked.

For me, after visiting the US over 40 times, it doesn’t even make my top 50. Let’s have a look:

1. They think they are the greatest nation on earth and are therefore clearly, by definition, all deluded. 
This is a syllogism with a premise left out. George thinks he is the fattest person in his household and is clearly, by definition, deluded. “Fat” and “great” are undefined. Weighing scales and body mass index are not appealed to. GDP, social mobility and Nobel Prizes are ignored. Anorexics die because they think they are fat – couldn’t resist that.

2 Their total arrogance does not let them imagine why foreigners might not want to live there.
People do want to live there: Vietnamese, Cubans and Mexicans, for a start. As Obamisation takes root and flourishes, they may well become less keen.

3. They still execute people (can you believe that?!)
This doesn’t even pretend to be an argument.

4. Unlike other, more civilized countries, they don’t see a responsibility for helping the truly needy and sick and I greatly emphasis the word “truly”.
American philanthropy, particularly from conservatives, puts the rest of us to shame. The so-called “robber barons” created schools, hospitals and myriad charities dedicated to the needy and sick, in their homeland and abroad. They gave billions and billions. If Democrats gave blood to the extent that Republicans do there would be 40% more blood.

5. Their only foreign policy is to bomb countries they take exception to.
I can’t support every US foreign policy. But I must point out one (which I deplore): underwriting the defence of Western Europe, partly by stationing 10s of thousands of troops in Germany (for example) can’t be described as bombing anyone.

6. They seem to accept that having a gun and shooting people is the norm.
If I were a member of the NRA, I might accept that having a gun should be (and is, under the Constitution) my right, and perhaps even my duty. I’m sure that I would accept that I should only ever shoot someone who is threatening an innocent victim.

7. Apart from the obvious exceptions such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Guggenheim, they have very little in the way of serious culture given the size of the country and population.
Oh dear! The number of cultural institutions and the private money spent on them put the rest of the world to shame. Are you going to claim that the Turner Prize makes us superior? What about their novelists, their theatre. On a slightly different note, the US has hundreds of privately financed economic and political think-tanks, churning out innovative ideas on an unprecedented scale. Fortunately, these institutions are being copied by people in many other countries. And, for example, the Mises Institute invites these creative foreigners, (eg Hans Herman Hoppe and Jesus Huerta de Souto) to feed back into American political thinking.

8. Their TV is truly atrocious (OK we’re getting down the list now). Have you ever watched, “The International World News” on any of the awful channels? A typical headline might be about a strike by Central Park gardeners or the Boston Mass Transit having leaves on the track.
OK. US TV may be ghastly. Ours is too. Ours depends hugely on theirs. Most of the decent films come from Hollywood, as well as lots of crap. We have virtually no variety in current affairs. BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are homogenised political correctness. They have Fox News. They have talk radio (some head-bangers there, perhaps); we have nothing comparable. I have been prompted to blog, when on a rare occasion a current affairs programme in the UK actually illuminated the subject “under discussion”.

BTW, since you didn’t ask, my favourite country (and sadly I’ve only been to 54 of them), is Italy.
Even though you didn’t ask, The United States of America is, unquestionably (and despite its faults), my favourite. Its wholesome political instincts are severely threatened; its institutions and civic culture are oppressed by “democracy” itself (the ultimate irony). Italians make the best coffee in the world. The guy who guides you to your coach at Venice airport is dressed more elegantly than your average UK cabinet minister. An example to the nations?


 Blogging is my hobby. I love it. But hobbies can hurt you. If my hobby had been cabinet-making, I can expect to have hit my thumb with a hammer more than once – fell running, the occasional sprained ankle. In a recent rant I accused anti-frackists of being diabolical. This turns out to include someone I love and know not to be diabolical. So, I withdraw the epithet unequivocally, with apologies. I shall be more circumspect in future.

This is not to say that I have changed my opinion on fracking. I'm for it because I am for cheap energy (for industry), cheap heat (especially for poor people) and jobs for people in NW England and Pennsylvania.

But fracking is not a new or unique phenomenon. Milton Friedman and Walter Block bang on about externalities. They know what they are talking about. In a society in which the rule of law prevails, if you pollute my water, dirty my shirt or keep my baby awake, I have the moral right (and almost certainly the legal right) to demand that the authorities intervene and make you desist or compensate me.

Incidentally, I expect soon to see court cases in which wind farms are prosecuted. On the one hand there are allegations that wind farms have bad effects on health and bad effects on property prices, on the other that wind farms slaughter thousands of birds and bats. Birds and bats can’t sue; but we have many instances of individuals and companies being sued for damage to the environment. In principle, I think that if the moral and legal case can be made, wind farmers and frackers should be made to desist or to pay compensation.

It baffles me that “greens” take opposite points of view on these technologies. Wind farms contribute next to nothing to our energy needs. They require the back-up of other technologies. They are fabulously expensive to construct. They could not exist without subsidies. They take money from ordinary people and pay rich landowners – like Cameron’s father-in-law (£1000 per day). The opponents of fracking allege that the fact that lighting your water has been possible for centuries is “irrelevant”. In the mountains of Taiwan, I remember a tourist spot where water and gas emerged from subterranean systems simultaneously. The gas burned and the water bubbled. A restaurant was built around the spot, at least sixty years ago, probably much more.

It seems to me that forensic science is well placed to identify those cases where your fracking is polluting my water or where your fracking is causing tremors which damage my property. If it is proved, you are going to have to stop, or at least to compensate me.

Check out Fracknation on YouTube – Gasland too, if you want the antifracking view.

I blog because I enjoy the thinking, the research and just the writing. I have promoted it to a tiny group of people, some of whom turn out to be on the “other side” of every question I address. I am going to have to think again. I had one comment on my Lewontin post which compensated (a bit) for some very harsh words on my Fracking post.

Next up, as the media has it, Geoff’s response to my Newtown, Connecticut post.

Monday, 17 December 2012


I thought I should do the man the courtesy of listening to him in his own words. So, I sought him out on YouTube. There is an extended video of Richard Lewontin being interviewed by Harry Kreisler (Conversations with History). This is a series which has introduced me to many great thinkers.

To my surprise, I liked him. I liked him for demonstrating against police brutality. I liked him for his deep suspicion of government intervention in Science. I liked him for being quite witty. Harry Kreisler, though, did not task him with his most extraordinary pronouncement:

“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

OK. Have you just sold the pass? Are you admitting that your commitment to Materialism and therefore to Darwinism is purely metaphysical? I had come to this conclusion before I even knew of your existence. But you express it so eloquently, so innocently. May your sins be forgiven (see below).

The dispute then is not scientific. It is metaphysical. You can’t put metaphysics under the microscope. Is belief in a Creator reasonable? I think so; but you have ruled my belief “inadmissible”. That’s a way of winning the argument without having an argument. You are like a defence lawyer who starts with the premise that there is no such thing as “guilt”. You haven’t ruled me as inadmissible. You have resigned from the case.

Me and my lot have a lot invested in metaphysics; and we are not (even a little bit) embarrassed. You come along with your dogmatic a priori adherence to material causes (pure metaphysics) and allege that your metaphysics trumps ours – No argument. Er....

Horror in Connecticut

 There is a tiny tiny number, in absolute terms, let alone in percentage terms of human beings who express admiration for Ian Brady’s “work”. There have been some, at least one. Some people will explain his behaviour in terms of neuroscience. Some will say that it is simply diabolical. Both groups weep in each others’ arms at what he and Myra Hindley did (likewise Fred and Rosemary West). As a race, we are appalled and disgusted. As a race, we pity the victims and condemn the perpetrators. We regard IB and MH as less than human. My guess is that a majority of humans would accept that these deeds were so wicked that the criminals should be exterminated with as little compunction as we would express over the eradication of smallpox. The Christian position is a little more complex. IB and MH were made in the image of God – and God loves His creation. I, and many other Christians, don’t believe that this means that we should allow these monsters to go on living.

Then we get Newtown, Connecticut; and we are faced with evil behaviour on a par with the Norwegian monster, almost with IB (though it is not just the numbers which count). This is evil so manifest that it surprises me that it doesn’t convert more to theism – not my point here.

Needless to say, what happened in Connecticut has unleashed a torrent of anti-Americanism, of sneering contempt for the NRA and the Second Amendment.

Is American culture to blame for what happened? It’s difficult to say so when 999,999.99 Americans in every million are as revolted as you and I. This kind of thing happens more in America than it does elsewhere – OK. Who would have thought it would happen in Norway? Norwegians don’t get beaten up for what that madman did. Norwegian culture is not to blame.

Social pathology exists around the world. I hope that I have succeeded in showing that what happened in Newtown is that individual wickedness (pathology, if you like) is not confined to any race or culture.

Where it is manifest is not in Norway or the USA. It is to be found in societies where the monsters have defenders in the wider society – not Norway and the USA. A Pakistani who throws acid in the face of a girl who rejects his advances will have defenders. A Pakistani father who stuffs a plastic bag into his daughter’s mouth will have defenders. A Somali grandmother who holds a little girl down while she is mutilated will have defenders. Ian Brady has no defenders. Adam Lanza has no defenders. A “Palestinian” suicide bomber will be glorified.

You know that I do not regard modern European culture as the ideal paradigm. I am as critical of it as the most fervent Muslim. There is, nevertheless, a residue of European decency that has not yet been lost.

There are intelligent people on both sides of the “gun lobby” debate. Obama is not one of them. He has surrendered his moral intelligence over fiscal and social issues over and over again. But he will make political capital over Newtown. His political intelligence is still pretty bloody lively. He will use this ghastly event to smear Republicans.

Americans have, traditionally, applied the principle of subsidiarity to domestic affairs – if it is a local issue, we should deal with it locally. Many communities will, in the near future, demand that at least one member of staff in every school is armed and trained. Use the moral sense you take with you to every 007 movie you see. Adam Lanza probably wanted to die. Don’t you wish he had been taken out as he un-holstered his weapon, before he shot his second victim?

How do Darwinians Explain Sex?

 I suppose that it is somewhat plausible that single-celled creatures found it advantageous to merge with one another before dividing – a bit more variety in the genome, dontcha know? But when it comes to complicated creatures like whales, cattle and humans, even if we grant common ancestry, getting the gametes together requires some very special plumbing. The male thingy will do nothing to contribute to reproduction unless the female thingy comes into being simultaneously. The appearance of design is pretty hard to ignore. These organs were made for each other. Special creation is easier to credit. Dawkins calls my kind of thinking, “the argument from personal incredulity”. I think it is an excellent argument. Random mutation and natural selection? Puhleeze!

You’ve got these male mammals with an extra appendage. They can’t reproduce unless they encounter a female able to accommodate them – or vice versa, mutatis mutandis. No matter which of these mutants appears first, he or she is going to be extinct in short order, unless a complementary mutant fortuitously shows up – with all the necessary pheromones and what not.

Darwinians have over-developed organs of credulity. If your world view forces you to reject the idea of a designer (as poor old Lewontin’s does), you have to believe some startling stuff.

Now, the fact is that no scientist (or theologian, for that matter) has any idea of how precisely Life began. What is more, theories about how one species gives rise to another species are speculative in the extreme. It seems to me that in the absence of hard evidence, not provided by the fossil record, Occam’s razor has sliced away RM & NS. They are the forbidden entities.


 You would have thought that ever since Aristotle gave us the rules of thinking we could have settled many issues which remain contentious. And yet, there remain people who think Castro’s Cuba has been a great success. People like me wonder if they are simply mad. Clearly not, in a clinical sense. There are those who believe that the cure for a debt crisis is more debt. Some of them are better at Maths than I am – not difficult. Hardly any of them pass the time by banging their heads against walls. Some people think that human well-being is best served by focusing on poverty and inequality – instead of concentrating on wealth creation. This is not a psychiatric condition. And yet, from my perspective, they are as wrong as it is possible to be.

There are many unresolved disputes among physical scientists; but there is more of a consensus about what constitutes evidence in the physical sciences than there is among political and economic thinkers. Logic can be formalised and logical absurdities can be demonstrated. But an argument about whether the gulag was a price worth paying is not going to be resolved by syllogisms – it depends upon your premises. I can ask you what you got for the price – shortages and stagnation? You can reply that “the dictatorship of the proletariat” is worth any price.

The gulf is colossal. Consensus seems impossible. What separates us is our values. Is it even theoretically possible to determine what constitutes the good?

I think we are getting metaphysical here. For me, the good is transcendent. It exists beyond me and you. We are actually getting theological here. Aye, there’s the rub!

The Western Tradition, with its Greek and Hebraic roots has served us very well. Christianity, for all the failings of Christians, has an awesome legacy, which, in my not-very-humble opinion, includes Science, Human Rights and Democracy. For most people, including many Socialists, Darwinians and Keynesians, these are pretty good things. I like Capitalism too; and I think it is part of the Christian legacy, though it got going late (in view of the fact that so many vested interests opposed it – they still do).

Have I got anywhere with this?

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Geoff – Marriage & Immigration

My thoughtful and intelligent cousin Geoff took me to task for calling the Church of Rome the world’s most ancient institution. He said that marriage is older; and he is right.

Here is my reply to him. I’ll make it blue – additional remarks will be in red.

[BTW, when I use the phrase, “May his sins be forgiven,” I usually do so with respect to fellow Christians, who understand it to be merely benevolence, not criticism. Geoff isn’t. But, I sincerely hope his sins are forgiven, as much as I hope he receives credit for his charity work and for being a top person.]

Geoff, Perhaps I should have said "organisation". Yes, marriage is very venerable; but it exists in many forms, including polygamy and polyandry.

I am, you will not be surprised to hear, very disquieted by proposals to extend the definition of the word "marriage" to same-sex unions. I fear we are in for a period of semantic confusion. My first instinct has been to revive the term "matrimony" - not presumably applicable to a union between two men. Gabriel and Carrie would be entitled to it. Christians could say, "What we used to call 'marriage' we will now call 'holy matrimony'".

The terms "husband" and "wife" will be similarly confusing. Will both the men in a same-sex "marriage" be husbands? One classic example of "contradiction in terms (oxymoron)" has been "married bachelor". Are we going to have "male wife"? The more I think about the subject the more disquieted I get.

[BTW, did you know that among some American Indians a chap could have a wife and be a "wife" to another chap?]

Perhaps my tactic for dealing with your comment should have been to wait a couple of years and say, "No, coz, "marriage" is a very new-fangled thing."

The worst word I can think of to describe the modernisers’ proposal is “impertinence”. That must sting! Leave my language alone! Trembling, they must be.

The famous AK 47 has a recent successor, the AK 12. Got to get me one of those.

George Orwell wrote a seminal essay: Politics & the English Language. It’s not particularly germane to this topic; but, you need to read it. F**ing with the language is a tactic of the bad buys. F**ing with the institutions is another. Antonio Gramsci was a very bad guy, and very smart. Saul Alinsky is another very bad guy with similarly brilliant tactics.

Gramsci, Alinsky and I live in the same world. It is baffling that their solutions could be so diametrically opposed to mine – really baffling. This is not an argument – but how can it be? Is it the shape of our brains which makes take such opposite positions? My (probably inadequate) explanation is that they are not grown-up. They started with the infantile position: wouldn’t it be nice if..? Yeah, but that’s not the way the world works. If only Marx had grown up. He was pretty bright: interesting but stupid! What was that programme that gave us Goldie Hawn? Alhamdulillah!


Geoff thinks I should address this issue in the light of Milliband’s admission that the Labour party got it wrong. All our political parties have been getting it wrong about immigration for generations. To question mass immigration has been verboten by the political class. To do so was tantamount to racism. All that the mainstream parties succeeded in doing was to let the BNP drive the conversation – brilliant! Yer average Brit of my age asks a question: Has virtually unrestricted immigration been a net good or a net bad? shall we weigh Chicken Tikka Massala against 7/7? It’s a fair question.

We have benefitted hugely from immigration – we may, indeed depend on immigrants and their descendents to pay for the pensions of the likes of me.

What seems to me to be indisputable is that Gordon Brown was cynical in the extreme in encouraging immigration. He may well have lost the election by sneering at a characteristic Labour voter. He was wicked and corrupt in expanding the state sector. Both phenomena increased his power base. His father was a Presbyterian minister, so is mine.

What did Geoff mean by “immigration”? I love the immigration of hard working and creative people from whatever quarter. Some of them are helping to keep me alive? They may be pink, blue or striped, for all I care. When they live off the British state and work for the imposition of Shariah law, I got my doubts.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


 Hard to think of a phrase more over-used than this. But, what does it mean? It powers innumerable “debates”. Goat curry is good? Goat curry is good! Jewish attitudes to work, education and family are pretty wholesome? Yes! Polish Catholics are (often) terrific human beings? – well, many are. Asian family values have much to teach westerners? Amen! Honour killing is OK, likewise female genital mutilation? – I don’t think so. Perceiving some children to be “witches” (as some Nigerian cults do), and torturing and killing them is the way to go? It is not!

Multiculturalism is an excuse to stop thinking. And, because I like thinking, I ain’t havin’ it.

In Britain today multiculturalism only relates to two cultures: our indigenous culture and Islam. No other religo-ethnico group makes the claim that Islam does.

Our indigenous (ie populist) culture is moribund and corrupt. It is materialistic in two ways: philosophic and hedonistic – not good. It accepts (and pays for) the slaughter of countless unborn children (anathema to many Muslims). This is not a “good” society. It is sinking into an abyss of dependency – of the feckless individuals who prefer welfare to work and of corporations who claim to be too big to fail.

You could make a good case for saying that modern Britain is stupid and evil. If Muslims think so, I have no quarrel with them.

Western Christian culture has given us incomparably beneficent ideas: Science and Capitalism, so far so good. It has also given us the idea, pretty well unknown to other cultures, of the value of the individual – and, thence, Democracy, a poisoned chalice. Muslims, at least in practice, and often explicitly, reject Democracy.

Democracy is deeply flawed, but not for the reason that Muslims give. They say that Democracy means man-made law, whereas Islam means God-made law. When theocratic mullahs interpret and enforce God’s law, you get Iranian style tyranny. The “elect” lord it over the rest, just as they do in statist regimes.

You can defend Democracy in more than one way. First, Democracy is the only way so far tried to prevent one group of people lording it over the rest. Second, History shows that, compared with all other systems, Democracy tends to deliver prosperity and liberty. Not such a bad record until recently.

There is a big problem, though. We have got “democratic” institutions in all the wealthiest nations on Earth.

But, our prosperity is in big time decline. Our liberty, likewise. This is not a coincidence.

The bigger problem, as de Tocqueville foresaw, is that for Democracy to flourish the electorate has to have a moral compass. As his compatriot, Bastiat, also predicted, a society in which every man seeks to depend on his neighbours is doomed.

Democracy’s biggest problem is us!

Back to the title: What should every Brit think about multiculturalism? Forget the whole ridiculous concept. It helps not even a little bit in our relationship to Jews, Poles, Jamaicans or Nigerians. This is a hard truth: it’s up to us. Don’t let your anxiety about upsetting Muslims affect your moral compass at all. Family values are good. Honour killings and female genital mutilation are bad.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Alan Turing - Pardon

 People, we are talking about the English Language!

I’ve cited this example before, forgive me. Sunday Times readers were asked to say whether marital infidelity was a “sin” or a “temptation”. I really thought that this was the lowest we could possibly have sunk in our national debate on things moral.

In words which a five-year-old could understand: a temptation means an inclination to sin. I know that wanting to take my sister’s teddy bear is a temptation; taking it is a sin. The Sunday Times was being morally illiterate to pose the question thus.

We continue to sink.

Clarification: sins and crimes are not the same thing; but the same terminology, regrettably, appears.
With respect to sin, the word “pardon” has a very clear meaning. I did something bad. I can only be pardoned if my good intention (or, perhaps my good action) outweighs my bad action. I did something bad. Somehow it got cancelled by my intention or my action. In Catholic theology, I may be pardoned because my bad action was cancelled by God’s Grace – He took my bad action and cancelled it. It was still a bad action.

With respect to law, the word “pardon” has got badly muddied.

What does it mean? You didn't do what you were accused of (and punished for?) So, the legal system betrayed you. The judges got it wrong. But there is a meta-legal system implicitly in operation. Perhaps you did do something which was “wrong”; it was against the law. But, then the law changed its mind, what you did was against the law, at the time. We decided, the law decided, that doing what you did should not be illegal – we changed the law. Pardon? How so? Did we decide that your intentions (or even the effects of your actions) were innocent in view of our new legal view?

Alan Turing is a national hero. He helped us to defeat the Nazis. You and I might think that we owe him a huge debt – I do! He was a queer; he was prosecuted for it. He committed suicide as a result.

Nowadays being queer is not only not a crime – there is no societal reprobation attached thereto. How can Turing’s supporters possibly want him to be “pardoned”? Pardoned for what? The “offence” for which he suffered is no longer an offence. In legal terms, it is surely grounds for disallowing all anti-gay prosecutions, back to infinity. So, it is ridiculous to suppose that Turing needs a pardon. In legal terms, surely, everyone ever prosecuted under anti-gay legislation gets not a “pardon” but a total dismissal of all charges.

Do I think that Turing’s sexuality is what I espouse for my grandchildren?: I don’t. He suffered unnecessarily. Being beastly to people is bad news.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Attenborough Magic

 More David Attenborough on TV tonight. More magical mixtures of CGI and incomparable wildlife filming. He tells us about creatures which existed 100s of millions of years ago; he brings them to life with brilliant technology. He speculates on which of them might have been our ancestors or the ancestors of our contemporaries, modern insects, for example. He is persuasive when he tells us that there were once dragonflies with 1 metre wingspans. He is plausible when he explains why the largest modern dragonflies are much smaller – there isn’t as much oxygen in the atmosphere as in the time of the giants. He is very good! His breathless presentation is sans pareil. He is a national treasure, without doubt.

And yet!

There was a substantial section of tonight’s programme which dealt with the first arthropods to take up residence on land, to breathe air. He showed us fossils of astonishing delicacy and pointed out the tiny holes through which they drew air into their bodies to provide them with the oxygen they needed to respire.

He was honest enough (unguarded enough?) to point out that these creatures could never return to the ocean from which they had emerged; they would drown – they invented drowning! He neglected to address what seems to me an obvious question: At what point did these spiracles appear? Was it in the ocean? – not possible. Was it on land? – again, not possible.

This evening’s programme spent next to no time on how our alleged ancestors, the early vertebrates, overcame their watery patrimony and started breathing air. They learnt to “gulp air”, it seems. David Berlinski, much smarter than me, and you, begs us to consider the co-ordinated adaptations required when one species gives rise to another.

Why do I have it in for a national treasure? I hope it is clear that I don’t hate the man. Many, probably most, Catholics can just enjoy the pictures, pathos and information with which he confronts us. I have it in for him because of his agendas. He is very keen for us to sign up to Darwinism. Again, many, perhaps most, Catholics are Darwinists. As long as they say the creeds without embarrassment, I am on their side. But, let us not forget that Richard Dawkins declares that Darwin’s theory makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. It doesn't – Darwin’s theory addresses a tiny aspect of what Catholics believe about why anything exists, rather than nothing, about how life and humans came into existence. Dawkins, despite his declaration, is unfulfilled.

His other agenda is to persuade us that there is an antagonism between Human Kind and the Natural World.

This worries me more than a little. Rachael Carson alleged that DDT was bad for certain raptors. She persuaded the bien pensant elites that, although Americans had eliminated Malaria from their own country, they should lean on third world countries to ban this incredibly beneficent chemical. Rachael Carson has more deaths on her hands than Pol Pot. Millions of children in Africa die annually from entirely preventable Malaria. She is dead. Should I pray for the repose of her soul? Should I pray for the repose of Saddam Hussein’s soul, of Adolf Hitler’s?

Back to Darwinism – The Nazis and the Bolsheviks were enthusiastic Darwinists. Of course they were – Darwinism bolstered their atheism. They were the baddest people in History. Was Hitler worse than Stalin? How do you measure? Stalin killed more people.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Poverty & Wealth – Sickness & Health

I am returning tonight (as a dog to his vomit) to what I increasingly believe is a fundamental divide between politico-economic schools.

Those on the “left” want to deal with poverty – reduce it, eliminate it, “make it history”. This is a moral standpoint and, at least superficially, understandable and perhaps laudable.

Those on the “right” observe that the western world has seen a historically unprecedented increase in wealth over the past two centuries; they want more and more people to share in it. This is a moral standpoint.

So, you have these two groups of moralists, opposed to each other over every conceivable policy. Good people, indubitably, on both sides.

Suppose we turn our attention from economic well-being to physical well-being. The analogy is not perfect; analogies never are.

But, just suppose, the Emperor has two advisors: Dr Sickness and Dr Health, both decent and compassionate men.

“Your Majesty,” says Dr S, “we see that a large number of your subjects suffer from a painful, life-threatening disease. I and my team have developed a variety of drugs and procedures which can, to some extent, alleviate the ghastly symptoms. Some of our patients have recovered completely. May it please your Majesty to grant us increased resources to combat this scourge? Your subjects will surely be pleased to be taxed to this end.”

The Emperor smiles benignly. His benignity is what the people love him for.

“Thank you, Dr S, pray be seated. Dr H, do you oppose the measures proposed by your learned friend?”

“Your Majesty,” replies the second sage, “my colleague has, indeed, apparently cured some patients, although some sufferers have relapsed or even (apparently) died of the cures. We thoroughly endorse what we have taken to calling ‘evidence-based medicine’. It is no part of my proposal to entirely eliminate the treatment of this or any disease, at least insofar as every pill, every operation can be shown to have a positive result. Your Majesty understands well the costs associated with Dr S’s proposal. My proposal is more modest. My team has shown, I believe convincingly, that the sufferers fall into a definable cohort, all of whom share certain behaviour patterns. If your Majesty pleases, a campaign for encouraging different behaviour patterns would require far less in the way of resources than my friend is requesting and would reduce this horrible scourge.”

Concentrating on Health and Wealth does not mean neglecting Sickness and Poverty. But, what makes people wealthier reduces poverty – just as making people healthier reduces sickness.

What the “left” proposes is intervention (drugs and procedures, ie entitlements). What free-marketeers propose is the liberty to “get on with your own life, in the light of what experience teaches, regardless of what the authorities mandate (Faith, Family, Work and deferment of gratification.”)

Don’t treat sick people; don’t help poor people. THAT IS NOT WHAT I AM SAYING.

A huge (and increasing) amount of “medical” thinking relates to “healthy eating” – The “Healthy Eaters” don’t all agree with each other.

The Emperor wears yellow. His throne faces South. He smiles.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I Like Boris Johnson – You should too!

He is smart, funny and his heart is definitely in the right place. Is he as profound a political thinker as Daniel Hannan? Perhaps not; but they are both among our last best hopes. BJ, DH and Nigel Farage – what a combo that would be.

I have not heretofore addressed the subject of fracking. Not because it isn’t a no brainer – over a trillion barrels worth of cheap natural gas (duh?), but because the mindset of the opposition is so baffling.

Let’s let technology contribute to an economic revival - every industry depends on energy. Let’s make energy cheap for poor people. Let’s create jobs for people who need them. Let’s reduce our dependence on imported energy. Let’s reduce “carbon emissions”, if you think that is important. Let’s thank The Almighty for a timely (even miraculous) intervention.

The naysayers oppose it on the basis that we will suffer earthquakes in NW England – earthquakes equivalent to a bus passing your house? What else? Every other energy source, apart from nuclear, has claimed many lives. Workers in the oil and coal industries have died in their hundreds and thousands to give us comfort and prosperity – and we should remember them and bless them, likewise merchant seamen and countless others who have risked their lives for us.

No life has ever been lost to fracking – not one!

Moronic economic policies have landed us in the worst economic situation in living memory. Shale gas promises us a partial solution. Clearly, not a complete solution – it doesn’t remove the morons.

There are those who are in thrall to the “precautionary principle”. Michael Crichton has demolished this. Do they ever set foot outside their own front doors? Do they ever fly? Do they ever catch a bus?

Risk is necessary, Risk is good. The risk we are talking about with respect to fracking is vanishingly small. The people who oppose it are very bad people. Moreover, their behaviour is zillions of times riskier than going for it.

You will/may think me extravagant for describing anti-frackists as literally diabolical. Their science is non-existent; their motives are bad. They hate Humanity.

I would genuinely like to hear from an anti-frackist, or an apologist.

Meanwhile, Go, Boris!

Political Debate – Economic Debate

 Most people in Britain would run a mile if asked to participate in a debate on Politics or a debate on Economics. A minority would, if pressed, admit to being a Tory or a Socialist (a political question).
What do Tories believe in? Letting rich bastards do as they please to exploit the poor! What do Socialists believe in? Social Justice!

Now then, let us turn to Economics: Can you think of one or more sets of economic beliefs? Bloody Hell! Economists are a bunch of sad bastards who think about Money – sorta like Accountants. Do they all agree with each other? Well, getting a degree in Economics is not like joining a church. There are loads of formulas which explain stuff like prices.

Is there a connection between Politics and Economics? Whaddya mean? Do people who take one approach in Economics tend to have a characteristic political position, whereas people who take another approach have a different political position? Economics is Economics for chrissakes. What has it got to do with Politics?

This is about as sophisticated as I was ten years ago.

Politics cannot be peeled away from Economics. If you are going to take a political position or recommend a political policy it’s going to depend on your understanding of Economics, which is (statistically) likely to be practically non-existent. So, you are probably innocent of the fact that, characteristically, Economics as embraced by Socialists is wildly divergent from Economics as embraced by Tories. Left-wingers (aka Keynesians) think that stimulating demand is the answer. Libertarians and free-marketeers (including some Tories) see that encouraging Production is the solution – ie making things (creating wealth) to exchange with each other, geddit?

The tragic fact is that Left-wingers focus on poverty (and, insanely, on inequality); they look for ways to eliminate them. Free-marketeers look at mechanisms which produce wealth. They have all the Logic and all the Evidence.

I pointed out a few posts ago that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher before he was an economist, that the Scholastics of Salamanca were theologians before they were economic theorists; we should be good before we should be economically sophisticated. But, being good means behaving well towards our fellows and devising good political programmes requires us to understand stuff about human behaviour and motivation. So, willy-nilly, we are going to need to know something about Economics. We need to guard against unintended consequences.

Good grief! A new heroine! I had hitherto regarded Janet Daley as a sensible political commentator – she is much more: she is the author of this magnificent analysis – Wow! “Having won the Cold War and succeeded in settling the great ideological argument of the 20th century in favour of free-market economics, the nations of the West managed to bankrupt themselves by insisting that they could fund a lukewarm form of socialism with the proceeds of capitalism.” This is how she imagines a 22nd century Gibbon writing about the Decline and Fall of the West.

Is unmitigated gloom and despair the right response to this analysis? Gloom, yes, at least in the short term. Despair is the opposite of Hope and Hope is a virtue; so, we mustn't despair. I am profoundly gloomy about what I perceive to be the inevitable financial collapse. Relatively free markets have their bastions in some countries; I can’t stop thinking about South Korea. When the collapse comes, some somnambulists in the West will be jolted awake. Some will look around and see that the collapse has not been quite ubiquitous. They will see that, although S Korea and other bastions have been hard hit by the decline in western markets, the model for success is still there. Cheer up, then.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Mother Church

The Church of Rome is, of course, the oldest single institution in Earth’s History. Respect! A thousand years from now it will remain so.

Churchmen have done stupid and wicked things. Men do; and men do not cease to be men when they become churchmen. We Catholics believe that Christ weeps when his bride stumbles. Our cheeks, too, are streaked with tears. The Galileo fiasco is a lasting embarrassment, though human hubris (as much on GG’s part as that of the pope) was largely to blame, not a real doctrinal (or even scientific) difference. The “abuse scandal”, we must suppose, is another crown of thorns on Our Lord’s brow. It is, and should be, a source of pain to all Catholics. The hierarchy made bad decisions to protect the Church’s reputation, as they thought.

The Church will suffer scandals again. Christ and the Church will weep again. Catholics are destined to have wet cheeks forever. Our tears are our pride. Just as our symbol is an instrument of torture.

All the same, the Church is not just old. The Church is faithful. To a non-believer the following will be just silly, but the faithfulness of the Church is reaffirmed Sunday after Sunday: We pray as Jesus taught us to pray 2000 years ago. We eat his flesh and drink his blood, as he commanded us 2000 years ago. The Mass was instituted by Our Lord. We celebrate it today and that is why the Roman Church has outlasted every other institution in Human History.

Bad popes and misguided bishops (and, God forgive them, at least some of the “kiddy fiddlers” and worse) have known in their hearts that the sublimity of the Mass deserves our devotion. The lasting damage to the child victims deserves our pity, our disgust and our determination that such abuse should never be repeated. May we also pity repentant abusers, whose self-loathing and self-disgust must be indescribably horrible?

[I can’t help thinking of the penance I was given at my first confession: One Our Father and one Hail Mary – for a life of self-indulgence! A truly repentant abuser can be imagined to implore of his confessor, “More, Father, more!”]

As Gerard Casey observes, Salvation is the only Free Lunch. Perhaps that is why we are suspicious.

OK, enough piety and indulgence for one evening. Does the Church (meaning Catholics) do enough to fulfil her mission – that of preaching the Gospel to every creature? No.

The Church is my Mother and deserves my respect and honour. Nevertheless, the Church (meaning Catholics) is complacent. We neglect our duty of evangelisation. Moreover, we neglect our duty to study and to understand our faith. Our priests, though mostly devout and pious, do not challenge us in their homilies. Parishes are content with ministering to existing parishioners. Every parish and every parishioner should strive to bring others in. I want every human being on the planet to be a Catholic. Not all Catholics take the same position. I want every Catholic to be a better Catholic, better informed about his faith and more energetic about sharing it.

Grace is a Free Gift but Catholicism is hard; there are difficult doctrines and evangelisation is hard work.

Reflections on “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray

I mentioned this great observer of American society in an earlier post. Read him and listen to him on YouTube.

His message is somewhat bleak. Over the past couple of generations the top and bottom strata in the US (he focuses on “white America”) have been diverging. Fifty years ago the majority of white Americans in whichever stratum went regularly to church, the vast majority worked and most over the age 25 were married.

[In an earlier book, in which Murray gave us the term “underclass”, he observed that to stay out of the underclass an American had to do three things:
1.      Finish High School.
2.      Stay in first job for a year.
3.      Get married.]

In the 21st Century the overwhelming majority of white Americans in the top economic stratum still do these things. In the bottom stratum they don’t.

The top stratum understands well that to achieve happiness, what Arthur Brooks calls “earned success”, three things are important: Faith, Family and Work.

My first reflection is that there is a huge gulf between the USA and Europe. The better off (and better educated) in America are likely to be believers, whereas, our “educated” classes aren’t. Alexis de Tocqueville has a lot to say about American religiosity and what it has contributed to American success.

The second is that there is a strong prima facie case for behaving like an upper-class American, in ways that do not require you to have money.

But upper-class Americans don’t preach what they practice: many, including a majority of Jews (big on Faith, Family and Work) vote for Democrat (and Republican) entitlement policies which have been demonstrated to blight the lives of Americans below them in the socio-political order.

One of my grandfather’s brothers bought 1000 bricks, some sand and a couple of bags of cement, not because he needed a garage but because he wanted to teach himself to lay bricks. Having done so, he went to America and did well. Went without beer, took a risk and lived the dream.

Message to Helen

My very very dear Helen

Thank you for thinking about me and for your thoughtful message. You can be sure that I think about and pray for you and yours every day.

As for being happy - or allowing myself to be happy: The fact is that I am probably much happier than you imagine. My life is not filled with myriad satisfactions; but those that I do have loom very large.

I had a conversation with Gabe this week in which I was at pains to point out that, in spite of my creakiness, I never feel sorry for myself. More than that, I regard the obligation to be grateful as devotional - as a form of prayer. To reflect on one's sense of gratitude makes it very difficult to be depressed or anxious - at least with respect to my own circumstances. I do have profound anxieties about the moral, political and economic crises in the Western World; but not even Obama's re-election made me suicidal.

I have great hope that Christianity's great capacity for renewal will work wonders in this fallen world. It is growing apace (though persecuted) in Africa. I often think about your friend Matthew and rejoice in the fact that South Korea is 50% Christian and that Korean Christians are such energetic evangelists and missionaries. As China becomes increasingly economically significant, Chinese Christians will too.

There is still a heartening intellectual dynamism in the USA - dozens of institutes and foundations committed to the combat of moral relativism and statist politics. Ideas are incredibly powerful.

UKIP continues to grow in the UK. And there is this amazing blog, Raleigh Street, which is read by nearly half a dozen people each week! I am so glad that I had the good sense to resume it.

I don't see as much as I would like of you and Jonny and your enchanting boys, or of Gabriel and Sam and their delightful womenfolk. Nevertheless, you all contribute to my happiness.

What's more, I love my little house, only 100 yards from St Ann's.

I still haven't decided finally to visit you in the New Year but am inclining to doing so - and visiting Sam and Emily in Singapore on the way back.

Sloppy kisses to you all; and give my regards to Matthew.

Your very loving father-in-law, Chris

Friday, 7 December 2012

Goodness Me or WTF!

On Newsnight tonight there was a regrettably short piece which took as its starting point the question: Suppose we had to design government from scratch, what would it consist of? Before the discussion element we saw a graphic depicting the “theoretical minimum”: Defence, Courts and Police.

There was a contributor to the discussion who was from the left – something to do with the RSA. He said nothing egregiously stupid. In fact, he made an interesting point, namely that mayors are more popular than PMs. I’ll drink to that.

The programme introduced me to two other individuals, both of whom will get attention from me. One was Jamie Whyte, who had me prejudiced in his favour by being a representative of the Cobden Centre, founded by Toby Baxendale (already a hero). The other was Nassim Taleb, a Lebanese renaissance man.

If stuff like this is starting to appear on the BBC in place of the usual obfuscation, where will it lead? No, it’s too soon for me to begin hyperventilating.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

In Praise of Prejudice

This post could have had many other titles.

I have been watching a “Discovery” programme about dinosaurs. It was quite beguiling and technically competent. Innovation in film-making has been so dramatic in recent years that technical competence (or even brilliance) in CGI is now almost a requisite – The Lord of the Rings without CGI is pretty well unthinkable. Peter Jackson’s trilogy is vastly superior to earlier attempts, though perhaps not exclusively on account of the technology.

As I watched, I remembered an observation of C S Lewis: that uneducated people have far greater confidence in our knowledge of “cave men” than in our knowledge of Cicero or Thucydides (or even Elizabeth I). He explains this by observing that to his uneducated interlocutors “cave men” were “Science”, whereas Cicero is only known via “texts”, which are notoriously unreliable. This prejudice was unexamined. You can see where it comes from. But it deserves examination – not my purpose here.

[Nor is it my purpose, here, to attack the Materialist assumption that the physical universe is all there is and Science is the only sort of understanding we have.]

No, my irritation was roused by unconsidered turns of phrase: “conclusions about dinosaur behaviour”, whereas “speculations about dinosaur behaviour” would have been just about acceptable. Anyone who knows how dinosaurs behaved should meet a Tyrannosaurus Rex and report back. There was a lot of speculation about colouring in the dinosaur world. Speculating is not a crime.

So, many people, watching while I was, would have taken it for granted that they were watching a “nature” programme” or a “science” programme. It was neither. It was a cross between “Bambi” and David Attenborough.

Back to prejudice. I can enjoy David Attenborough – have done for decades. But he has an agenda – perhaps more than one. He wishes to educate us into the truth of Darwinism/Dawkinism. He wishes us to deplore the pernicious effects of the human species with respect to “Nature”.

I love Nature – how could I not? For me Nature is a miraculous manifestation of God’s power and creativity. It is not God. Humans are “made in the image of God” – so there is some hope, even in a fallen world.

Someone like me can watch (and enjoy) Attenborough and deplore his agenda – it is pretty upfront.

The dinosaur programme comes in under the radar. That’s why grotesquely prejudiced people (like me) need to be alert.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Equality Fallacy

I saw something recently, though I cannot give you chapter and verse, which rehearsed unthinkingly the idea that our problem was not so much with poverty as with “inequality”.

I have addressed this issue before. Christopher Snowdon demolished Wilson and Picket, authors of a dreary pamphlet about inequality of income and its allegedly pernicious effects. Snowdon does a good and necessary job. I, on the other hand (not being a statistician, as he is), take a different point of view. I take a moral point of view. I am a moralist and I hope you are too. What society can survive unless its members take morality seriously? There are moral giants: St Paul, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, C S Lewis, for example. [BTW, I did try to think of a moral giant outside the Judaeo-Christian tradition; only Ghandi presented himself and I decided against him.] I am not one of them; nor do I even hope to encounter one among my readers.

Inequality is a fact of life. I am taller than most other worshippers at the 11:30 Mass at St Ann’s every Sunday. My niece is more beautiful than your niece. Profound apologies for these inequalities.

Many of my schoolmates have been more successful economically (and in other terms) than I. One is a Knight of the Realm. Another has been President of the Bar. Another is a professor at Oxford. Facts of life. These three certainly worked harder than me and were probably better endowed in the nous department.

The players in all divisions below the Premiership are not as good at playing football as the guys at Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U, etc.

Where is the breast beating over these facts of life?

Some people are better at making money than others. I am not talking about those who are better at gaming the system but those whose abilities and hard work have resulted in substantial (perhaps spectacular) financial rewards. Suddenly, the breast beating becomes deafening. There is no reason why this should be. It is simply a fact of life. Bill Gates is smarter and harder working than me (and you).

Bizarrely, this last group are the only ones that the egalitarians go after. Nobody supposes that Rio Ferdinand should be mutilated or prevented from training because he is so good at kicking a ball.

The egalitarians do propose that we should artificially, by means of the tax system, cut the money makers down to size.

Egalitarian-in-Chief, Barak Hussein Obama, wants to enforce high tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” in the name of “fairness”, regardless of whether it would result in more tax revenue. He expresses contempt for the “millionaires and billionaires”, asserting that “you did not build that”. We could turn his argument against him: but for the corrupt Chicago machine, you would not even be an Illinois Senator. Cheap. We don’t need to. America’s entrepreneurs of “the golden age” succeeded in spite of government corruption. They helped to build the infrastructure which BHO claims is the exclusive gift of government.

He is not only the worst US president ever (in practical economic terms), but morally deficient. Regrettably, he is not alone.

Curiously enough, being a crappy (the crappiest ever) president in practical economic terms, chimes well with being (in the “progressive” tradition) the saboteur of moral values among those whose well-being most demands a return to America’s core values, thrift, hard work and honesty.

Last word: Charles Murray, who deserves a place in my list of heroes, issues a heart-felt plea to educated, upper-class Americans: Preach what you practice! These people marry, worship and defer gratification. They succeed; they enjoy “earned success” and yet so many of them vote Democrat.

Desperate & Systemic

Things are going to get worse before they get better. Only when we have adults in power, individuals perhaps yet unborn, will we see an economic, political and moral renaissance. Believe me, please, the three are tightly related!

I watched about three minutes of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement before switching off. He is a smart kid; he knows a lot of stuff – about politics; and that is the problem. He is not a grown-up  nor is his boss, nor are most of his Cabinet colleagues.

A Digression.
I once had a conversation with a Manchester couple about the subject of HIV/AIDS. She was a nurse. He said, “Chris, you should listen to my missus; she has been on courses about HIV/AIDS!” When I burst into tears they were both baffled. If you have been indoctrinated by Camp Gallo (aka “the Bob Club”), you will be the last person I will trust on the subject, unless you come up with something better than, “Everybody knows that HIV is the ‘Virus that causes AIDS’!”

I hope that I have not wasted your time with the digression, that you understand why I think it is relevant.

I know that lots of you are smart. Some of you have doctorates. Being smart is not enough. You do not have to be smart to understand the fundamentals.

·         Politicians are in the business of winning elections, not telling the truth.
·         All Politics involves Economics.
·         Economic policy decisions are usually (and regrettably) driven by political motivation.
·         Economics should be non-normative. Your Economics should be based on Logic and Experience – not on your conscience, not on your desire to be seen as a “caring” person.
·         Political decisions are only “good” when made in good conscience and in the light of Economic truth. Piety, eg pity for the disadvantaged, is contemptible when it leads to predictable unintended consequences.

Not many of you (actually none) are so smart that you have emailed me with thanks for an introduction to Arthur Brooks. He points out that free market economic theory has triumphed intellectually. There is no question but that where it has prevailed the disadvantaged have been helped (more than that, have been enabled to create their own “earned success”). The intellectual battle is over. Marxism and Keynesianism are in tatters. He further points out that he and other free-marketeers are left open-mouthed and floundering when confronted with one example of where in a so-called free market one person is not immediately benefited by, for example, benefit reform.

Free markets work. They increase well-being and prosperity. They encourage the traditional virtues of thrift, hard work and honesty – do you want to discourage these virtues? No other system rewards them. The intellectual and pragmatic argument is over. The Moral argument remains: Do you care about the disadvantaged and the poor at all? If you do, you should be a free marketeer.

The political system in western democracies is mired in professional politics: I’ll prove to you what a “caring” person I am by instituting more and more in the way of entitlements for the disadvantaged, whether or not they are feckless (and I don’t care whether the entitlements make them more feckless – that’s how caring I am).

Our politicians appeal to the self-interest of selected groups. They also appeal to the understandable desire of electors to feel good about themselves – perhaps a more pernicious appeal.

Self – Indulgence (on my part).
What Osborne has not done, and what good sense dictates that he should do, is to dismantle the gross disparity in the UK between the privileged and cushioned public sector and workers (including entrepreneurs) in the private sector. A huge proportion of Gordon Brown’s client state should be disbanded. Being a politician, with little interest in Economics or Morality, Osborne won’t. This is our desperate and systemic problem.

Monday, 3 December 2012

BBC – Turner Prize

 There must be thousands of Brits who watched the announcement of this year’s Turner Prize with profound gratification and contentment, perhaps many thousands. Let us start with the winner, whatshername, who, having achieved this apotheosis, must be pleased not only with the cash but with the vindication of her lifelong struggle against the philistines who had hitherto neglected her genius and creativity. The Art Establishment must also be thrilled by the public recognition of the importance of Art, of Society’s implicit embrace of Art’s place in our world. The bureaucrats who administer this award, the journalists who announce it, the commentators who grace our TVs to give us the benefit of their opinions and next year’s hopefuls must be enormously relieved that at least the BBC has endorsed this fabulously important event.

Not me!

Beauty, Imagination, and Truth (not to mention talent and skill) were entirely absent from this dreary video compilation. Indeed, it seems to me that to exclude all the above is patently a prerequisite for all aspiring contenders.

Of course, it may be my peculiar blindness that prevents me from rejoicing in this award, as it has with respect to all the others I can remember. It is, undoubtedly, a blindness I share with 95%+ of my fellow Brits.

My beloved readers will perhaps remember snotty remarks I have made about Democracy, a system whereby the electorate is encouraged to vote for their narrow short-term interests. Damn them (the electorate, not my readers) for doing so – actually they damn themselves, their children and generations unborn by doing so.

My majority is not, insofar as public endowments of the arts are concerned, narrow and short-sighted in their view. They simply do not give a s**t. But, if you were to draw their attention to the £tax spent on this idiocy, I wager that they would be nauseated. Public money spent on Art is trivial, compared to public money spent on “education”; and does less harm. And yet, take their cash and spend it on this rubbish and there will be hardly one in a thousand who does not retch at the thought.

Some will compare money spent on “high-brow” stuff with that spent on football or pop music. I welcome the comparison. I never go to pop concerts or football matches and I may deplore your taste if you do. Call me a snob if you like; I can take it.

Nobody is forced to go to a Manchester or Liverpool Derby. Nobody is compelled to buy a Lady Ga-ga album. Taxes are taken from all of us to fund the Arts Council and Covent Garden.

Sir Humphrey is the truest representative of our political masters in recent fiction. Jim Hacker is his tool. Mrs Thatcher was the greatest fan of “Yes, Minister”; and yet, when the f**king PM allowed that this programme revealed more political reality than the chattering classes ever do, who noticed?

Thursday, 29 November 2012


It is with the greatest reluctance that I give any attention to Lord Leveson. I think he was chosen for being spectacularly boring. The whole issue of NotW misbehaviour is boring. Given the zillions of pages of existing criminal law, a loyal UK citizen must suppose that to steal information about a murder victim contravenes lots of it.

We need more legislation to control the press? Surely not. We need to control government’s behaviour.

Cameron appears to have the right instinctive to oppose more press legislation – don’t, for a moment take me for an admirer of his. Clegg, unsurprisingly, would like more legislation. Cameron and Brown famously shamed themselves by saying, “I agree with Nick.” You could do worse than take the following position: if Nick’s for it, I am against it. Apologies to all who take this undeveloped opinion for gross prejudice.

The BBC has been bigging up today’s report. Their agenda is always to distract attention from really important issues. More apologies!

Who are they (the BBC) talking to? The vast majority of the electorate have no knowledge or interest in Leveson’s remit. Most, probably, would be disgusted by the hacking of a murder victim’s phone. Most would assume our laws already prohibit it.

I’ll stop now. It’s just too tedious. But watch out for curtailments of freedom of speech! All bad guys are against it.

Fr Sirico

And Something from the Acton Institute

“Whig” on the Welfare State

Good Stuff from the Adam Smith Institute, relevant to my most recent post. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Ding Dong between me and Geoff

Geoff is red; I am blue.

OK, as an "Austrian" I naturally assume that you do not agree with welfare benefits, insofar as everyone should look after themselves in much the same way as in many other, mainly third world, countries.
Welfare benefits currently cost Ali and me £4,750 pa from our taxes. Furthermore the NHS costs us £1,750 pa.
However, how do you reconcile these views with being a Christian?
I look fwd to the blog.

As a Christian I believe that we each have a personal responsibility to those less fortunate. Nowhere does Scripture justify the state taking from one group of citizens to give to another. The welfare state infantilises recipients. In the US, more people are poor than when LBJ declared war on poverty. It is instructive to note that Republicans, broadly speaking, the religious party, give far more to charity than Democrats. Charities spend their money more effectively than state institutions, which are to a large extent run for the benefit of state employees. Charitable endowments have helped millions in the direst poverty. High taxes discourage charitable giving.

As for foreign aid, no country has "developed" as the result of aid. All countries benefit from free trade; but we put up tariff barriers against third world farmers and other producers.

Countries with effective free markets beat statist countries hollow when it comes to improving the lot of the poorest. I cannot mug you and give the proceeds to a poor person. I cannot therefore delegate the mugging to the state.

1. I suppose it depends whether you attach any credence to the scriptures. Most people thankfully don't.
2. I assume therefore that you send back your state pension that was mugged from me and Alison and have returned any tax relief you obtained on a personal pension?!
3. I also assume that you would never use the NHS and would always go private.
4. Have you returned your winter fuel allowance?
5. Charities I'm afraid have very little money to give away. As Chair of Age UK Richmond I know this to be true.

This is perhaps the least good-tempered exchange between us. I am sure that cousinly love will prevail.


I am certain that a lavish and expensive welfare state is not in the interests of the “makers” or the “takers”. Firstly, because the makers are unjustly expropriated. Secondly, because every pound taken from a maker means that he cannot spend it with another entrepreneur, thereby helping him to pay his mortgage and feed his children. Thirdly, because money siphoned from makers is not available to them to invest in their own or other businesses, money which might otherwise create wealth and jobs. Fourthly, paying people to be idle and feckless does not do those people any favours. Of course, not all benefit recipients are idle and feckless; some are schizophrenic; some are paralysed; but some are indeed idle and feckless. One child in five in the UK is born into a “family” where nobody works, has ever worked. Young women are encouraged to produce and raise children who scarcely know their fathers. Those children are likely to grow up dependent. Their life chances are likely to be blighted by academic failure, substance abuse and crime. One economist has said, “People respond to incentives; the rest is commentary!”

These are the moral fundamentals which we need to address.

Can we move from our current catastrophic decline at the stroke of a pen? Of course not. But we cannot hope to recover without admitting that we are in decline: morally, politically and economically. Catholic theology has much to say about the relationship between repentance and salvation – I do not demand that Geoff takes Catholic theology as his starting point; but he might grant that an obese person has no chance of escape from obesity without admitting that he is obese. If Mr Fatman decides to do something about his condition, we achieve little by observing that he should have drunk less beer, eaten fewer pies. Let's applaud his resolve.

I am implicitly accused of hypocrisy in the exchange above. By using the NHS, by accepting my state pension (an acknowledged Ponzi scheme), without which I would eventually starve, I am hypocritical for not applauding the whole panoply of the welfare state. No, there is no silver bullet. But reform is always possible. We happen to have, astonishingly, a couple of cabinet ministers who are working towards reform (of benefits and education): Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove.

Conservatism does not promise Heaven on Earth. It says that there are things we can fix, provided that vested interests don’t stop us. Conservatism says open your eyes! Observe what works. Perhaps Conservatism’s most important lesson is: BEWARE OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Abandon the infantile “ wouldn't it be nice if...” attitude.

Arthur Brooks is moving up my list of heroes. He is an economist but is also a moral philosopher. He claims that free market economics has won the intellectual argument. In other words, if you want to help the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, embrace free markets. History endorses you! Logic endorses you! He freely admits that he can lose the argument to his sister-in-law (in an instant) as soon as she makes reference to a little girl who lives with her mother in a car!

I've been there myself a million times. I have a Catholic friend, a thoroughly decent human being, who frequently tells me that I make a good point. This I know very well. But I am defeated, in his head, by failing to convince him that if he cared at all about the poor he would be a free marketeer.

We need to win the moral argument. The moral argument for liberty and free markets is the crux.