I have removed the search box because it was not working but the search box in the title bar seems to.

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.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tesco – A Greater Institution than the C of E?

The Church of England has been engaged in a frenzy of navel-gazing of late. Week by week attendance shrinks. It doesn't seem to care. Some of those engaged in the women bishops debate are manifestly more concerned with Political Correctness than with Evangelism.

The Church of England is not the only denomination wherein secular ideology holds sway. The United Reform Church might be characterised as the Green Party (or the LibDems) at prayer. The Church of Rome is my refuge, not because it is perfect (no human institution is), but because it has remained more faithful to its Founder than its modernising sisters. More faithful in its Christology and in the centrality of the sacraments.

The Roman Church does not ask what the Culture teaches. Catholics ask what Scripture and the Tradition teach. Some of you will think that this means that Catholics have stopped thinking. Nothing could be less true. I have mentioned Father Robert Barron more than once in these posts. He is brilliant and not alone among Catholic thinkers in applying his intellect to matters of faith and morals.

There are many great Anglicans. C S Lewis, Peter Hitchens, John Lennox and Keith Ward are among them. There are many great Evangelicals. But when it comes to institutional faithfulness, The Church of Rome has proved itself again and again. One test (to me an important one) is to ask which of the traditions is the most demonised by the bien pensant elites. Materialists, Progressives and Socialists hate the Catholic Church more than they hate other “denominations”. Evidence of this is to be seen in the glee with they seek to humiliate the Church by insisting that in matters of conscience Catholics should be dictated to by secular ideology. We have seen this repeatedly when it comes to adoption, contraception and abortion. Devoted and effective foster parents have been told that they do not even have the right to silence in respect of same-sex relationships.

What has Tesco to with this? Not much, to tell the truth.

A new branch opened in Stretford today. The choice and quality are outstanding, the staff are extraordinarily helpful and courteous and prices are reasonable. Why? Because the directors and shareholders of Tesco are faithful to their mission – to make money. And because they understand well that the only way to do so is to serve consumers, their fellow men and women, they expend enormous effort to keep quality high and to keep prices to a minimum. What is more, they serve me well. “Service” is a word with religious connotations. I’d prefer them to provide me with healthcare and my grandchildren with an education than the state-run organisations now entrusted with these services.

A failing supermarket chain goes bankrupt; its assets are acquired by entrepreneurs who can run it better. A state school or hospital is seen to be failing; the state shovels money into it.

Is Tesco “better” than the C of E? Superficially a stupid question. Tesco is successful in fulfilling its mission, the C of E is decreasingly successful in fulfilling its.

As to the question of whether women should be consecrated as bishops, I am not going to intrude into a private grief. I am, after all a refugee from the Church of England. May I observe, however, that the Nicean Creed mentions two humans (apart from Our Lord): Mary and Pontius Pilate. We pray to the triune God and we say the Ave Maria. Female saints figure very largely in Catholic devotions. Is it better to be a bishop or a saint – no brainer!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Most Unsuccessful Blog of All Time – Not

I wish there were thousands out there, clicking the link, hoping for an update. It seems that there are not.

I do this self-indulgently. Like you, I have lots of opinions. Some of my posts start out as not much more than expressions of my instinctive reactions. Should prisoners vote? Of course not!

If I blog on the subject, doing so forces me to do more than to simply react.

On this particular subject, it would lead me to wonder whether we have too many (or too few) banged up behind bars. Then I would be obliged to discuss whether or not incarceration is, in itself, a justification for denying the incarcerated a vote.

In practical terms, I’m not sure that it has any relevance. Are we going to have a single prison constituency? I don’t think so. If the prisoners are distributed between all existing constituencies, will they be significant? I don’t think so.

Why do I do this? I like thinking. I like listening to others think. I would do this if I knew that nobody ever read the blog. But there is a tiny clique which bothers to respond. God bless them. They ice my cake!

My beloved cousin, Geoff, takes me to task on factual matters – thanks, Geoff.

My beautiful (more so than you can even imagine) niece takes me to task from time to time. Elisa doesn’t just compensate for the fact that I have only sons not daughters – she makes it OK. Suppose I had a daughter and Elisa were more beautiful and brainier – bloody hell! Not gonna happen.

She is kind enough to read this stuff. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and to respond - reason enough to carry on.

Writing makes you think. There are lots of writers who, in my opinion, think badly, or scarcely at all. But, blogging makes me think. I read my blogs (obsessively and critically). It’s good for me.

It’s fun. Is it blasphemous to suppose the God created the Universe for fun?

I really enjoy thinking. I hope you do. If I make you think, I’m doing you a favour – and vice versa.

Or, in Other Words...

I posted bitterly yesterday about corruption in the West. We have been smug and complacent about our institutions: our incorruptible civil servants and our legislatures, full of selfless, disinterested men and women, eager to use their talents only in the service of their fellow men. We have contrasted our rulers with those of benighted times past and societies distant.

I, myself, believed, for most of my life, that, to a degree, our aspiration was to imitate Our Lord, who presented himself as the servant of his friends, whose feet he washed. I knew, of course, that this aspiration was not more than an aspiration, which I and all the human beings I had ever met fell short of the ideal.

Our faith in Democracy could be justified negatively, to paraphrase C S Lewis: We embraced it, not because the majority are so virtuous that they deserve to rule, but because we could never trust any fallen human being with authority over us. This makes a lot of sense. Pretty well everything which emanates from Christian theology does. We recognised that Democracy was untidy, that it required endless compromise. We smiled with knowing self-satisfaction at Churchill’s characterisation of Democracy as the worst form of government apart all the others that have ever been tried. He may have been right. All those other forms have been tyrannies of one sort or another, including (perhaps especially) those which based their legitimacy on egalitarianism.

I am an admirer of Rudolph Rummel, the brilliant Hawaiian historian. His, not quite unique, insight is that no two democracies have ever been to war with each other. I have an earlier post on this great man. The facts that he presents are strongly supportive of Democracy. Given the choice between North Korea and Sweden, there is no contest.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the Constitution’s framers had constructed, he replied, “A Republic, if you will keep it”.

He and his heroic fellows did indeed construct a sublime document. He, and they, lived in an era in which “moral sentiments” were closer to the surface of every day discourse than in the 21st century. We suffer from a sort of moral illiteracy. We live in an era in which the Sunday Times could poll its readers with the following question: Is marital infidelity a sin or a temptation? You do get it, I hope. This is a morally illiterate question. Forgive me for belabouring the point. To ask it, you must not know the meaning of “sin” or “temptation” in English. If they had asked whether marital infidelity was a big deal there would have been intelligible responses, including: Yes, No or Compared with what?

I am very depressed to conclude that Democracy has slid into Corruption. The US founding fathers recognised that for their constitution to work the electorate required a moral compass, that people needed to be moral, not to be saints (saints are regrettably rare) but that Right and Wrong should figure as poles.

Corruption is a disease and one which spreads easily in democratic societies. We electors infect our rulers. Focus groups tell them what we would like. They infect us. They promise to favour our group if we vote for them.

Are we doomed? Perhaps. Are there alternative outcomes? Perhaps.

Hans Herman Hoppe is an “Austrian” thinker who has exposed the Democratic Dilemma. We should pay attention. There are smart people in the Libertarian movement who think that we can and should allow/encourage institutions to arise from the market, to emerge from the endless transactions between individuals, independently of what tyrannical governments mandate.

The bigger the political entity the more likely it is to be corrupt. The government of the US has this century trampled on the constitution. You do not need an IQ to see that Income Tax and Obamacare are violations of the Constitution, just a pulse. You do not need a degree in international law to notice that Greece’s admission to the Eurozone was contrary to the instruments which brought the Euro into being.

Friday, 23 November 2012


This is perhaps the bitterest post ever.

We in the West (particularly in the UK) have been smug and complacent about corruption in the political class and among public officials. Corruption (we suppose) bedevils the Third World. Poor bloody blacks in Africa live in kleptocracies. South American governments have habitually preyed upon their peoples by bribery and corruption. Who you know determines your influence. There is a lot of truth in these suppositions. To start a business in Peru requires yards of forms to be filled in and years of palm greasing. All this is true.

An anecdote is relevant here. When I was on the point of moving to Brazil in the 1970s, Post Office and other officials bent over backwards to ease the issues of “exporting” our meagre belongings. They were on my side.

On the other side of the Atlantic things were different. I was lucky enough to have an intelligent and sophisticated friend to accompany me when I went to “liberate” my imported property. We went to Office No 1. The guy sent us to Office No 2. From there we went to Office No 3 and eventually back to Office No 1. When my Brazilian friend explained the situation to the official we had originally encountered, he casually opened a drawer and handed me the necessary form. This smug Brit (me) then (mentally, already smart enough not to do so aloud) poured vituperation on this sad, corrupt twat. He was not on my side. His only objective was to keep his colleagues in Offices 2 – 3 (or 4 or 5) in jobs.

We Brits, I said to myself, would not put up with crap like this. I felt superior.

Corruption is now endemic in the West. I was listening today to Burt Folsom. He quoted FDR’s friends. Roosevelt openly used federal money to buy votes for the Democratic Party.

Mitt Romney, not a hero of mine, pointed out that close to 50% of the electorate had a vested interest in keeping entitlements high. Obama didn’t point this out – Hopey, Changey, don’t you know. But that is how he got elected.

The European Union is another case in point. There are net contributors and net recipients. We and Germany are net contributors. We are not members of the Euro. Germany is. Germany benefits (short-sightedly) from a weak currency; it is a manufacturing country. Recipient countries are very keen to increase the contributions of contributor countries. Surprising?

We are now faced with the new seven year EU budget. The EU has failed for the 17th year to have its accounts signed off. You and I (as businessmen) would be in prison for such dereliction.
Corruption Rules. Schmucks like me have no cause to be smug and complacent about our supposed superiority over third world countries.

There are two groups of workers in society, to oversimplify. Once upon a time there were private sector workers, who characteristically earned a bit more than those in the public sector; but the public sector workers were compensated by inflation-proofed pensions and other benefits. Now the public sector lot have not only inflation-proofed pensions and other benefits, but higher salaries as well. Gordon Brown deliberately engineered this situation. He calculated that an inflated public sector would vote for New Labour. He wasn’t wrong. This is corruption on a massive scale. Yes, of course, I feel superior to those who exploit their fellow men with the connivance of the state.

Britain, the EU and the USA are as corrupt as the states of South America and the kleptocracies of Africa. In Britain we may be a bit better off than Zimbabwe, for the time being. Once upon a time, we in the Christian West might have hoped that the moral intuition of our fellow men would protect us. Our intellectuals have sabotaged our moral intuition.

C S Lewis, John F Kennedy & Aldous Huxley

Yesterday was the anniversary of the deaths of these three men. Of course, JFK’s death eclipsed those of the other two. Famously, we are supposed to remember where and when we heard the news – and I do. I can picture the corridor I was walking along on my way to supper.

I was at boarding school. We had just emerged from a Film Society event at which we had seen Ashes and Diamonds, a film about political assassination.

We wondered whether WWIII was about to erupt. The ripples caused by this event are still disturbing the water.

I had been a fan of Kennedy and I retain some my youthful admiration.

I thought Brave New World was great. I still do, although the particular dystopia of which it warned has not come to pass.

C S Lewis has been among my heroes since my mother first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to me and my sister, within, I think, a year of its publication (1957). I have read it many times since – and all the other Chronicles.

I loved the “science fiction”: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, which has proven more prophetic than Huxley’s book. It is illustrative of the gruesome truth that when conservative moralists warn about “slippery slopes”, they almost always prove to be horribly right.

The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast are also brilliant and morally instructive. Interestingly, Lewis says that of all his books these were the ones he least enjoyed writing.

Then there are his essays, everyone a gem.

But, of all his writing Mere Christianity is the one which I would most strongly recommend. It is lucid and persuasive and as good an exposition of the Christian faith as I have encountered. He does not duck the difficult teachings of the Church. Read it.

Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of these deaths.

Question Time: Israel and the Palestinians

Once more a BBC programme which generated more heat than light.

The Ottoman Empire made the serious error of siding with Germany in WWI. Germany and the Ottomans were defeated. Britain assumed control of much of the Arab lands previously under Ottoman hegemony, including the “Mandate”, also known as Palestine. The name derives from the Latin version of “Philistine”. The Jewish nation was destroyed by the Romans and so began the Diaspora, which eventually proved (in some ways) to be a blessing for Europe, although Europeans were for centuries too stupid to perceive the advantages which accrued to them from having a population of educated and hardworking Jews in their midst. To the shame of the mediaeval church, Jews were persecuted and excluded.

Not all Jews left the Holy Land. Many thousands remained in the territory which for millennia had been the Jewish homeland.

From the end of WWI to 1948 Britain ruled Palestine and its mixed population of Arabs, Jews and others. The Jews of Palestine had been joined by many thousands of European and Asian Jews in a kind of reverse Diaspora. This was inspired by the ideology of Zionism and started in the nineteenth century. Naturally, it gained impetus from the Holocaust. Native Jews and their returning bretheren were instrumental in creating a vibrant and increasingly prosperous region in the midst of what had been for centuries the moribund Ottoman Empire. The technological and economic brilliance of the Jews made Palestine, particularly the part which corresponded to the ancient Holy Land, an agricultural cornucopia with other nascent industries which attracted Arabs and others to participate in the prosperity.

The Zionists did not relish British rule and in some cases resorted to unsavoury tactics to gain independence. In 1948 the United Nations voted to create the state of Israel by partitioning Palestine. The biggest portion became Jordan, ruled by a royal family who had been British clients in the struggle against the Ottoman Turks.

On the day after partition, new-born Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbours; but in the tradition of King David and the Maccabees, it astonishingly prevailed. The Jews had added military prowess to their agricultural, technological and economic genius. In spite of a clumsy electoral system which made the creation of effective governments difficult, the Israelis have created (with the support of some in the West, notably the USA) the only democracy in the Middle East, with civil rights and a free press. Non-Jewish Israelis enjoy unparalleled economic prosperity and political liberty. Non-Jewish Israeli members of parliament are free to rail against Zionism.

In the 1960s there came into being the PLO, led by the odious, mendacious and corrupt terrorist, Yasser Arafat. He received the support of all the nasty regimes on the planet. His successors are Hamas (an openly terrorist group, which calls in its charter for the destruction of Israel) and the so-called Palestinian Authority. They hate and murder one another, but are united in their hatred of Israel. Hamas, most of whose members are (nominally, at least) Sunni Muslims, receives support from Shiite Iran. This is curious because many violent deaths of Muslims around the world are the result of Sunni/Shiite mutual excommunication and loathing.

Israel has continued, in the course of six Arab wars, to maintain its democratic existence. It has made concession after concession to the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Egyptians and the Lebanese. It is committed in principle to a “two state solution” – ie the division of the Holy Land into a Palestinian State and the Jewish State. I use inverted commas because, in my view, there are already two states: Israel and Jordan. The so-called Palestinians are ethnically indistinguishable from the Jordanians. Their flags are almost the same. Nevertheless, most Israelis are prepared to countenance a third entity comprising Gaza and the West Bank, largely controlled respectively by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The Israelis’ problem is this: how do you come to an accommodation with people whose avowed aim is the destruction of your nation? It has been rightly said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. David Horowitz confronts a Palestinian supporter who calls for all the Jews in the world to come to Israel so that the Arabs can the more easily exterminate them.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves. Of late, Hamas has been lobbing thousands of rockets at Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. Their declared aim is to kill and demoralise Jewish civilians. Relatively few Israelis have been killed because of the Israeli policy of building shelters and their high-tech missile defences – the Iron Dome.

Israeli intelligence is very effective. They know the habits, names and addresses of the most prominent terrorists, aka “fighters” or “militants”. They go after them with precision weapons and have killed a substantial number. Heartbreakingly, there have been civilian casualties, largely because the terrorists site their launchers in civilian areas. They regard the death of every little girl, every little boy and every grandma as a propaganda victory for themselves. Truly do they say, “We love Death!”

Many of those who comment on these issues preface their remarks by saying that there are faults on both sides, implying that there is a moral equivalence between Israel and her enemies. Not me! Yes, there have been times when Israelis and Israel’s government have behaved badly and unwisely. But it seems to me that there is no moral equivalence.

I am nervous about posting this because I know that some who have read this blog will disagree with my sentiments and analysis. If you are one of them, please comment. If you think my facts need correcting, please say so. I shall do my best to respond in a civilised manner. Your civility will be much appreciated.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


I have many problems with Islam; but I respect many of its adherents. There are many aspects of Islamic culture which cause me disquiet – and worse. But here is something I admire. When you ask a pious Muslim how he is, he is likely to reply, “Alhamdulillah”: Thanks be to God. Arabic discourse is suffused with references to the Almighty. Any reference to the future is accompanied by a pious, “Inshallah”, “If God wills it”. This used to be common enough in English discourse: “DV”, “Deo Volente” or “God willing”. In Portuguese, Si Deus quiser (future subjunctive).

Daniel Hannan, lamenting Europeans’ lack of enthusiasm for having babies, describes how in Turkey adults of either sex, encountering a young child, are likely to pick it up and exclaim, “Alhamdulillah!”. Wonderful, pious and life-affirming!

Well, I have every reason to be exclaiming “Alhamdulillah!” repeatedly. I spoke yesterday evening to my youngest, the first time since his ghastly experience (see Evil Predators post). He suffered no more than a chemical assault and is recovering from the shock. What is more his bank has recognised that the withdrawals from his account were a form of fraud and have agreed to indemnify him. Alhamdulillah!

A Couple of Videos

I blogged earlier about economists and mentioned three Catholic members of the species.

Tom Woods has his own website on which can be found many witty and erudite entries, including many videos. He is brilliant, illuminating and funny. Watch him:

Jay Richards, whom I also mentioned, as the author of a very thought-provoking book: Money, Greed and God, speaks very persuasively to Christians whose moral intuition is (superficially) contrary to free markets. Here is a link to him speaking at some length: Jay Richards

I think he is also worth listening to on the Climate Change issue.

Last, but not least, is Arthur Brooks: Arthur Brooks.

Economics & Economists

It is frequently pointed out that Economics is not Normative. It does not tell us how we should organise society; it only tells us what the consequences of economic policies will be. I am not, of course, ignoring the fact that there are dozens of schools of Economics, furiously disagreeing with each other.

Economics is not normative. Nevertheless, when you have an idea about how society should be organised, you will very soon start thinking about economic policies.

Adam Smith the great Scottish economist, author of The Wealth of Nations (1776), was the author of an earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He was first a moral philosopher and only secondarily an economist. This seems to me to be the right way round. Our parents first teach us to be good, only much later do some of us take an interest in economics; and only then because we wish to know how to do good and be good with respect to scarce goods. If all goods were as non-scarce as air, we would not have to trouble ourselves.

Adam Smith came to economics having started with morals. He was not the first. Among the earliest economists were the Scholastic Theologians in Salamanca in the mediaeval period. Theologians are obliged to wrestle with moral questions. This led the Scholastics into Economics.

Similarly, progressives in our own day start with ideas such as “fairness” and “social justice” and then construct economic policies with a view to achieving them. Sadly, because their hearts rule their heads, they construct disastrous policies, which have the effect of immiserating the people they were designed to help.

Moreover, because their economic ideas are little more than wishful thinking, they have to use coercion to put their ideas into practice. Violence (or, at least the threat thereof) is piled on immiseration and these have resulted in Hell on Earth in extreme cases, when the progressives thought they were creating an earthly paradise.

Perhaps this is why the Nazis have had a worse press than the Commies. Their “ideology” included the idea that might is right. The communists did to death human beings on a scale which surpassed the Nazis by orders of magnitude. But it is OK for students to have posters of Che Guevara on their walls, while Prince Harry gets properly condemned for wearing a Nazi uniform.

Progressives (including Nazis and Commies) are literally infantile. They start by saying, in effect, “Wouldn’t it be nice if...”. This prevents them from achieving an adult understanding that the world isn’t like that and that wishing won’t make it so.

It is no accident, I think, that free market economics had its origins in the Christian West. Nothing is more central to Christianity than the Doctrine of Original Sin. We deplore human evil and have an obligation to mitigate its effects; but we will never abolish it. The Catholic tradition with its reverence for Reason produced Western Science, as well entirely beneficent ideas about the value of every human life. Out of the Catholic tradition came the Scholastics; and the Scholastics produced free market economics.

I would like to close by mentioning three living thinkers, all Catholics, who have important things to say about Morality & Economics.

Tom Woods is an American “Austrian” historian and economist, who has written eleven books (and counting). I am going to recommend in particular The Church and the Market. It is magisterial. In it he critically examines Catholic Social Teaching as expounded in papal encyclicals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nowhere does he question the popes’ piety or moral sentiments. He does, however, take them and progressive Catholics to task over their economic prescriptions. He says that, as Churchmen, they have no special insight into what effects particular policies will have. If a pious and moral person, even a saint, were to recommend bleeding as a remedy for all manner of diseases, his piety and morals would not be at fault – only his medical expertise.

Jay Richards is an American philosopher. He characterises his attitude as a student thus: God cares about the poor. Socialism talks about the poor. Therefore Christians should be socialists. He then goes on to demolish eight myths relating to morality and economics. You can hear him on YouTube: Money, Greed and God.

Arthur Brooks is the founder of The American Enterprise Institute. He is an economist who is more interested in happiness than in money. He claims, with justification, that the intellectual case for free markets has been comprehensively won. The trinity of Capitalism, the Rule of Law and Private Property has given us the greatest increase in prosperity ever. What is needed is for free-marketeers to win the moral argument.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


I had a conversation today in which I confessed my love-hate relationship with the BBC. On the one hand their professionalism is sans pareil. They make lots of good programmes. But there are increasingly few (do I mean decreasingly many?) which illuminate the many desperate problems which face us. And I think they do this on purpose.

For the umpteenth time this evening I sat slack-jawed in front of Newsnight. I am not as bright as a citizen should be – as we need all citizens to be. But I spend hours every week reading and listening to economists.

I would suppose that makes me more acquainted with economics than most of my fellow voters. If I challenged you to name four Nobel Prize winners in Economics, or the most influential academic economist of the late twentieth century, or the dominant economic school in the western world, how would you do? I sorta know who the players are. I sorta know what the broad brush differences are. I know that Samuelson was an idiot. He predicted that the Soviet Union would bury the West. He wondered whether the gulag was worth the shortage of toilet paper (or was it vice versa?)

I am a crappy economist. I sorta struggle with Sey’s Law – probably spelt his name wrong. I get von Mises critique of socialist price theory – there is no such thing. But I know more Economics than anybody in my street, perhaps than anybody in Stretford.

When it comes to the Maths of Economics I am pretty well totally at sea.

So, at 20:35 we have Jeremy Paxman interviewing a Rothschild and a few others. Did I expect to be illuminated? I did not. Was I? I was not.

There exists a phenomenon which I have mentioned in earlier posts. It is called fractional reserve banking. This is rather difficult to understand – not just because it is complicated (it is), but that it turns out to be legal.

They way banking is supposed to work and the way it did work initially was as follows:

Mr A decided not to spend his substance on “goodies” but to save money instead. He chose to invest the cash in a bank. The bank promised to invest his money in a promising business which would pay interest on the investment. They further agreed to share the interest with Mr A.

Nothing could be fairer.

The bank, though, offered his money not to “a promising business” but to 33 “promising” (all of it, not just one thirty-third) businesses, nearly all the money to all of them, all of which would pay interest on what you and I think of Mr A’s money. Bankers make money umpteen times over on Mt A’s decision not to buy “goodies”.

Is this something that Newsnight shares with you when explaining problems with the banking system? It is not!

I share with you not my economic sophistication but my rage with those who would ignore common sense. You can’t make money (or increase wealth) by doing arithmetic. The only way you can increase wealth is by increasing production. There are those who think that increasing demand is the answer. This is stupid. Demand is already and always will be infinite.

Was fractional reserve banking mentioned?  Not before I switched Newsnight off. Ask anybody you know what fractional reserve banking is.

It is pure legal theft. It's theft, in the same way that deliberate government cash creation is theft. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Evil Predators

I was watching University Challenge and doing quite well. Nevertheless, any phone call from my offspring takes precedence. Godolphin was on the line and began by reassuring me that Sebastian was OK. Thanks be to God!

It turns out that Sebastian had been a pub with some mates and with some new acquaintances. The mates departed and soon after that Sebastian found himself under the influence of some psychotropic drug.

The upshot was that (perhaps with his own involvement) money was extracted from his account.

Just introspect for a moment. If this had happened to you, how sinister and evil would you regard a chemical assault on you?

I know that evil predators use drugs to take advantage of women. I knew it but it never seemed to me a particularly big deal. Sam escaped any physical assault; but I shall never be so complacent again. There are drugs about which are so powerful and about which we know so little that it behoves us to be very careful.

Please warn all your young friends that this danger exists.

Burton Folsom: Robber Barons

Professor Folsom makes some very important points in this YouTube video. Other free market economists make similar points.

Progressives characteristically ignore actual history. They have created imaginary bugbears, fat men in three-piece suits with white moustaches and sacks of money, rapacious villains who plunder consumers and exploit workers. In truth, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, as well as hundreds of others, were the heroes of the nineteenth century, contributing enormously to the wealth of the US (thereby improving the living standards of their fellow citizens). By shrewd investments and innovation they drove up production (ie wealth), which drove down prices. At the same time wages rose dramatically. If, in view of these beneficent results, you vilify these men because they became very wealthy, I have to say that your moral compass is defective. Very few, if any, of the men we are talking about were saints. Very few of us are. The miracle of the market is that we can do good without being saints.

The free market works because it allows people to do well by doing good. In other words, it is the only system which rewards ability, imagination, hard work, thrift and honesty. A businessman who succeeds by ripping people off does not succeed for long. Capital is available to those whose credit is good, ie those who have demonstrated their trustworthiness. In a free market you do well by serving your fellow man. You will only do well by offering consumers what they freely choose to purchase. Yes indeed, there have always been those who grow rich by violence, fraud, corruption and (particularly) by manipulating politics; but it is the heroes of the “golden age” who attract the opprobrium of progressives.

Why, oh why did millions of Asians and Europeans leave their poor native lands to migrate to the US? Was it because they yearned to be exploited?

The philanthropy of the “robber barons” was legendary. They built schools, universities and hospitals on a mammoth scale. They endowed the arts and sciences with billions of dollars. They took care that their money was well spent, in contrast with the way in which modern public institutions are run, where huge amounts of money are siphoned off to the inefficient and self-seeking bureaucrats in charge. American churches benefited immensely from their largesse. What’s not to love?

I hope you enjoy this video.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Geoff Claims the Prizes – or One of Them

Well, he was the first. Geoff is red and I am blue.

Re: the Pol Pot competition. Difficult to win £100m on this. I sometimes ponder on how we would rank the most evil tyrants of the past 100 years - Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Tough one. For me, however evil he was, Pol Pot is clearly third.

I have pondered PP many times over the years. Indeed he is a fourth division baddy in terms of the absolute number of human beings done to death. But, be fair, Geoff, it was a much smaller country but he killed a third of them. Third place seems a bit mean. You could have gone for Kim Il Sung, if you had chosen to ignore the poverty, death and immiseration. Perhaps you should have read the question more carefully. Easy for me to say. Albania springs to mind and so does Cuba but both require us to ignore the details: poverty, death and immiseration. BTW, why did you not mention Mao?

I blow hot and cold on whether Stalin or Hitler takes the number one slot. Hitler is clearly a common favourite, probably because so much of his awful deeds were documented and indeed filmed. (I hope you are watching “The Dark Charisma of Hitler” currently on BBC2 on Monday nights).

The same does not apply to Stalin. However having just cruised from St Petersburg to Moscow via the Moscow Volga Canal we learnt that 80,000 Gulag prisoners died while constructing it. When the project was finished in 1937 Stalin had all of the 200 managers shot. Sadly this is just a very minor example of how evil he truly was.

What does not apply to Stalin? He was responsible for more deaths. He was as repulsive a human being as Hitler. Recent historians have hinted that his success in avoiding the authorities before the revolution was that he was in fact a Czarist agent. Very evil, yes.

On the Solyndra Challenge I feel you are on far dodgier ground and I hereby claim the £100 million which I will give to charity.

There are numerous examples of where a Government initiative in business has eventually worked out well. Take for example British Leyland. OK, so it might have all appeared a disaster at the time but we now have two of the spin offs which are very successful companies – viz Jaguar Land Rover and BMW Mini. These two companies, regardless of who now owns them, are very large UK employers and all three brands are world-leading. I fully appreciate that their survival history is complicated and messy and a lot of money was wasted but they would have disappeared if the government had not stepped in. There are of course other examples in the motor industry cases

Government take-over was not an initiative in these cases. It was a re-action. We on the Austrian side would have allowed these companies to fail – to go bankrupt. There are always entrepreneurs ready to buy up failing companies and to use their means of production, their work-in-progress and their employees. Never forget that free enterprise is a profit and loss system. You make bad decisions – you deserve to fail.

Another obvious example is Rolls Royce PLC (the aero engine company). In 1971 this company almost went to the wall because of problems with the RB211 engine and its world leading carbon fibre blade technology. The Government stepped in and the company was rescued and is now very successful indeed. The RB211 engine is still its flagship product.

See above.

Also, RBS was effectively rescued by Gordon Brown and I seem to believe that they have now fully paid back their debt.

See above.

Don’t get me wrong I’m no soppy lefty and there have been numerous examples of very poor government intervention but as I have shown above there are also ones that worked very successfully.

Never, Geoff, would I accuse you of being a soppy lefty. But, governments in the face of genuine crises always feel that they have to act. Better that they don’t.

The judge has not awarded Geoff the prize – only an honourable mention. Apologies to his charity. 

Gaza – Gosh!

At last, an issue so simple that even Obama gets it.

Israel has possibly (probably) the securest legal title to exist of any nation-state in History. Hamas is committed to its destruction. The Palestinian Authority likewise. They poison the minds of their children against Israel and all Jews. Hamas has directed hundreds (thousands?) of rockets against civilian populations in Israel. The IDF has responded by targeting the individuals responsible. Tragically, Palestinian civilians, including children, have suffered. They were not the targets. Israeli civilians, including children have been Hamas targets.

Hamas expects the reprisals and makes no effort to keep children out of harm’s way. The deaths and maiming of their own children are part of their strategy.

President Obama appeared on television this evening to proclaim that step one in the de-escalation of violence must be for Hamas to stop targeting Ashkelon and other Israeli towns. Perhaps he will announce tomorrow that water is wet.

Am I being ridiculously over-optimistic to hope that they day after he will recognise that it would be a good idea for the US government to stop its war upon the US state, the US nation and the US people? That he will put an end to the endless increase in US debt? Yeah, sometime soon pigs will take to the air.

Thomas DiLorenzo makes a good case for saying that Lincoln was a cynic and a bad president. That the Civil War, which he engineered, and which killed over 600,000 Americans was unnecessary and was not motivated by a desire to end slavery. After all, slavery was outlawed by nearly all civilised nations without war. I’m not a historian but I do know that Lincoln declared that to preserve the Union he would either free all slaves, keep all slaves slaves or free some slaves.

Other historians have argued that FDR prolonged the depression for a decade. Among his policies was the slaughter of millions of pigs to keep farm prices high. It’s as though the government mandated the destruction of everything in your fridge and larder and told you that this would make you better off.

In the face of competition like this, you would think that the prize for worst president ever was pretty tough. Obama takes it by a mile, even more easily than his Nobel Prize.

Nobel Prizes incidentally are now given to astonishingly undeserving candidates. Al Gore, Paul Krugman, BHO and the EU have made the institution a bad joke.

Obama has been right about one thing – it’s not enough.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Pol Pot and Solyndra – Two Competitions

I announced this post in an earlier one and am cursing myself for not mentioning the entry fee – a lousy £1000 per competition! Still, my beloved readership would regard that as sharp practice. So, entry is free. £0 wins you £100M.

I earnestly hope that the prize-money will not contribute to inflation. I have good reason to believe that it will not. Inflation is rising and will rise nevertheless.

There is no instance in History in which Fiat Currency has not resulted in catastrophic inflation/monetary collapse.

Anyway, here are the competitions/challenges.

The Pol Pot Challenge
To win £100M, name one statist regime which has not resulted in poverty, death and immiseration.

The Solyndra Challenge
To win £100M, show that any government sponsored business initiative has ever been anything other than a catastrophic failure. We regret that we are unable to match the Obama Administration’s $500M loan to Solyndra, ten minutes before it collapsed.

NB: The judge’s decision, in each case, will be final and no correspondence will be entered in to.

Good Luck!


I am starting two new blog posts tonight: this one and another to be titled: Pol Pot and Solyndra. The second post will be in some ways the more exciting of the two in view of the two one-hundred-million-pound-prizes I shall be offering. The first £100M prize will be awarded to anyone who can demonstrate that any tried statist organisation of society has not resulted in poverty, death and immiseration. The second £100M prize goes to anyone who can show that any government sponsored business initiative has ever been anything other than a catastrophic failure.

Fair enough? The judge’s decision, in each case, will be final and no correspondence will be entered in to.

Back to Consciousness. There may be a million people on the planet who are better equipped to discuss this subject. But this is my blog.

It is very hard to define consciousness. Pascal based his whole philosophy on it. It seemed to him that it was self-evident, to him, that something to which he had access was thinking.

There is a spectrum. You and I believe we possess consciousness. I am not embarrassed to make the claim. If you are, I am doubly embarrassed for you: firstly, I think you are lying; secondly, I think you are incoherent.

At the other end of the spectrum are minerals. If you think minerals possess a rudimentary consciousness, I’d love to talk to you – I don’t actually rule this idea out of court. In fact, I am open to the idea that, in the Big Bang, were created not only Space, Time, Energy and Matter but also the seed of Consciousness. I can even imagine arguments which start with where we are, go backwards and end with that seed. I’m not going there now, or probably ever.

Between minerals, on the one hand, and you and me on the other, are many many intermediate stages. I would be prepared to contemplate crystals. Then plants (simple), plants (complex), animals (single-celled), animals (multi-celled), vertebrates, mammals, humanoids and humans. You can see how unsophisticated I am, how lacking in meaty science. All the same, I am not deviating from intuition by postulating minerals at one end of the spectrum and us at the other. I have just caught myself out in Blasphemy – we are not, according to Catholic Theology, at the top end of the consciousness spectrum. Who knows how many colours there are between you and the Loving Creator/Infinite Father?

Consciousness may be regarded, like Free Will, as an illusion. I must have been all of twelve years old when, accepting the idea of Cause and Effect, I brought Free Will into the focus of the object lens of my pubescent microscope. Yes, I said, there is a reason to suppose that because every effect has a cause, it makes no difference what we do (or think). Minutes later I realised that, according to that logic we have no responsibility to act or think at all. I decided to remain human.

Consciousness either exists or it does not. If we proceed a though it does not, we cut off the bough upon which we sit. A dog knows what it wants: food, comfort, sexual satisfaction. It does not crave coherence. We do, as well as food, comfort and sexual satisfaction.

Good Night!

Some of My Heroes

If this blog presents to even one of you even one of my heroes with whom you would not otherwise be acquainted, I shall be pleased. As you know, I do this for fun; but to have a real effect would be nice.

Many of the names below have already appeared in this blog. The list is not exhaustive. What is more, I hope to go on acquiring heroes until the day I die.

The men and women I am selecting here are my intellectual heroes and heroines. I can only suppose that I would have some difference(s) of opinion with pretty well every one. In some cases, the differences will be substantial. I think it goes without saying that every one is my superior – brainier and/or better read. But that is what heroes are for.

Since this a blog, you are likely to be reading it on line, which means that with a few clicks you can check out the entries using Google or YouTube. In some cases I will provide links to make it easier for you.
I am not going to categorise the entries on the list as religious, moral, political or economic heroes. Many, if not most, will fall into two or more categories.

Not all my heroes are still living. In many cases my heroes are men and women with whom I am only remotely familiar. For example, I have read very little of Thomas Aquinas, even in translation. So, he is a kind of second-hand hero. If he is good enough to be a hero to Father Robert Barron, he is good enough for me.

The list is alphabetical (by surname or by the name most commonly known – for example you will find not “Of Tarsus, Paul” but “Paul, Saint”). I am not creating a heroic hierarchy. I expect to be adding to it over the months. I do not expect to be deleting from it. Blog posts appear in reverse chronological order, most recent at the top. If, by astonishing chance, there should be a reader who wonders whether Beeby has added a hero, he or she will have to use the navigating link on the left hand side of the blog.

The list will be tabular, with three columns: Name, Comment & Link. Not every column will be populated in every case. Please notify me about any typos.

Lastly, before I begin, nothing would please me more than for you to introduce me to your heroes. If I adopt him, her or them, I shall amend my list. My email address is:

Here goes.

Aquinas, Saint Thomas
Intellectual Giant, Catholic Scholastic Philosopher and Theologian.

Baker, Steven
British Conservative MP and Free Market Thinker.

Barron, Father Robert
Catholic Priest and Theologian. See  his “Comments” on YouTube.

Baxendale, Toby
Founder of The Cobden Centre, Entrepreneur and Economist.

Behe, Michael
Catholic Molecular Biologist. Darwin’s Black Box.

Berlinski, David
Secular Jewish Mathematician and Polemicist.

Block, Walter
Secular (I think) Jewish Austrian Economist.

Booker, Christopher
British Journalist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists and the EU.

Brooks, Arthur C
Catholic Economist. Founder of The American Enterprise Institute.

Butler, Eammon
Founder of The Adam Smith Institute.

Carswell, Douglas
British Conservative MP and Political Thinker.

Carter, Bob
Australian Scientist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists.

Casey, Gerard
Irish Philosopher and Anarcho-Capitalist.

Chesterton, G K
British Catholic Thinker, Journalist and Novelist. Orthodoxy.

Coren, Michael
Canadian Catholic Talk Show Host and Defender of Free Speech.

Delingpole, James
British Journalist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists. Watermelons.

Denton, Michael
Medic and Scientist. Nature’s Destiny.

DiLorenzo, Thomas
Austrian Revisionist Historian. Dares to Criticise Lincoln.

Duesberg, Peter
US Microbiologist and Brave Opponent of the HIV Theory of AIDS.

Farage, Nigel
Leader of UKIP, British MEP and Scourge of the EU.

Friedman, Milton
Free Market Economist. Free to Choose

Geshekter, Charles
US Historian and Demolisher of AIDS Nonsense.

Gilder, George
Political and Technology Commentator. The Israel Test.

Gold, Thomas
Polymath and Proponent of Abiotic Oil.

Goldberg, Jonah
US Historian and Political Commentator. Liberal Fascism.

Gregg, Samuel
Catholic Economist and Historian of The Acton Institute.

Hannan, Daniel
British MEP and Scourge of the EU.

Hazlitt, Henry
US Free Market Thinker and Journalist. Economics in One Lesson.

Hitchens, Christopher
Atheist Journalist and Brilliant Polemicist.

Hitchens, Peter
Ex-Trotskyite Anglican Journalist and Polemicist.

Jefferson, Thomas
The Greatest of US Founding Fathers and Author of the Dec of Ind.

Johnson, Phillip
Jurist and Scourge of Darwinists.

Klaus, Vaclav
Sometime President of the Czech Rep. and Scourge of Warmists.

Lennox, John
Oxford Mathematician and Theologian.

Lewis, C S
Anglican Scholar, Theologian & Novelist. Mere Christianity.

Lindzen, Richard
MIT Scientist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists.

Malan, Rian
Brave South African Journalist and Exposer of AIDS Myths.

Meyers, Stephen C
Philosopher of Science and Advocate of ID. Signature in the Cell.

Mises, Ludwig von
Secular Jewish Austrian Economist.

Monckton, Christopher
Catholic Scientist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists.

Mullis, Kary
Nobel Laureate and Brave Opponent of the HIV Theory of AIDS.

Murray, Douglas
British Journalist and Right Wing Polemicist.

Nova, Joanne
Australian Journalist and Scourge of Climate Alarmists.

O’Rourke, P J
US Right Wing Commentator. Very Funny.

Paul, Ron
The Greatest US Congressman for a Generation or More.

Paul, Saint
Apostle and Father of Christian Theology.

Richards, Jay
Catholic Philosopher and Advocate of ID. Money, Greed & God.

Robinson, Peter
US Conservative Thinker and Brilliant Interviewer of the Hoover Inst.

Rothbard, Murray
Secular Jewish Austrian Economist and Libertarian.

Rummel, Rudolph
US Historian and “Democratic Peace” Theoretician.

Sayers, Dorothy L
British Christian Novelist and Thinker.

Schiff, Peter
US Investor and Economic Commentator who Predicted the Crash.

Sirico, Father Robert
US Catholic Priest and Economist. Founder of The Acton Institute.

Smith, Adam
Eighteenth Century Moral Philosopher and Economist.

Sowell, Thomas
African American Economic Genius and Free Market Thinker.

Spencer, Robert
Indefatigable Scholar of Islam and Campaigner against Extremism.

Steyn, Mark
Brilliant Journalist and Defender of Western Civilisation.

Tucker, Jeffrey
Catholic Austrian Economist and Brilliant Speaker.

Ward, Keith
Oxford Scientist and Theologian.

Will, George
US Right Wing Commentator.

Williams, Walter
African American Economic Genius and Free Market Thinker.

Woods, Thomas E
Catholic Austrian Historian. The Church and the Market.