Last week, The Guardian reported with predictable snark that Ayn Rand’s work has been added to the U.K.’s politics A-level curriculum. They note that Rand is “achingly on trend” and “having a moment.” Oh, dear. By my amateur estimation, Rand’s “moment-having” has been reoccurring every seven or eight years since the end of the Second World War, yet is always heralded with the same air of surprise and alarm.
Not that I am an unalloyed fan of the woman. Of course, like countless conceited teenagers before and after me, I was relieved to learn of Rand’s very existence, let alone her staggering success — evidence, surely, that more of “us” were not only out there, somewhere, but right.
Especially for a particular variety of female, Rand’s mannish ambition and uncompromising idealism set a rare and welcome example. Unlike Florence King, who broke her braces trying to mimic The Fountainhead’s imperious heroine, I found Rand’s thick fictions impossible to swallow.
However, I eagerly read The Virtue of Selfishness while in high school. (I want to type “of course”; Could a book title better calculated to appeal to the adolescent mind possibly be conceived, other than perhaps 101 Ways to Murder Everyone Around You and Get Away With It?)
Kathy Shaidle, “The Danger of Ayn Rand”, Taki’s Magazine, 2017-04-18.
April 29, 2017
April 28, 2017
What about tenure? We can imagine an alternate universe where academia is populated with various PhDs on equal footing. Since there would be a glut, their salaries would be very low to start, but low salaries would mean easy employment, and colleges would find a lot of room for them to do one-on-one tutoring, or low-level research, or something like that. Eventually some of them would become a bit more prestigious in their fields and could demand higher salaries from hiring institutions, and a few superstars like Nobel Prize winners and the like could demand millions. At no point would there ever be anything called a “tenure track”. It seems like the main difference between this universe and our own is that tradition plus the reasonable desire of professors to be free from political interference has created this dichotomous variable called “tenure” and caused it to replace the continuous variable of salary as the prize for success. In favor of that theory, top professors seem weirdly underpaid compared to eg top athletes or top artists, even though I would expect having one of the world’s top scientists or historians to be a big draw for a school. According to the List Of Highest Paid Professors, only five professors in the US make more than a million dollars a year, and all of those are professors of lucrative medical subspecialties or of finance, who presumably are being paid that much to compensate them for teaching instead of participating in the high-paying professions they are otherwise qualified for.
Scott Alexander, “Non-Dual Awareness”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-07-28.
April 27, 2017
… Canada has no influence whatever in the world. It is unique in this condition among G7 countries, because it has a monstrously inadequate defence capability and takes no serious initiatives in the Western alliance or in international organizations.
Canadians seem to imagine that influence can be had in distant corners of the world just by being virtuous and altruistic and disinterested. That is not how international relations work. The powers that have the money and the applicable military strength have the influence, although those elements may be reinforced if a country or its leader is able to espouse a noble or popular cause with great persuasiveness. This last was the case in the Second World War, where Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle and Adolf Hitler were all, in their different ways, inspiring public speakers who could whip up the enthusiasm of their peoples. Churchill and Roosevelt stirred the masses of the whole world who loved and sought freedom. There are no world leaders now with any appreciable ability to stir world opinion, and influence in different theatres is measured exclusively in military and economic strength, unless there is a colossal moral imbalance between contending parties. Even where such a moral imbalance exists, as in the contest between civilized and terrorism-supporting countries, the advantage is not easily asserted.
But we are almost entirely dependent on the United States for our own defence. When President Roosevelt said at Queen’s University in Kingston in 1938 that the U.S. would protect Canada from foreign invasion, Mackenzie King accepted the responsibility of assuring that invaders could not reach the U.S. through Canada. Since the Mulroney era, we have just been freeloaders. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to make a difference in the Western alliance, which the Trump administration has set out to revitalize. As I have written here before, a defence build-up: high-tech, increased numbers, and adult education, is a win-double, an added cubit to our national stature influence (and pride), and the best possible form of public-sector economic stimulus. It is frustrating that successive governments of both major parties have not seen these obvious truths. Strength, not amiable piety, creates national influence.
Conrad Black, “Being nice gets Canada liked. But we won’t be respected until we pull our weight”, National Post, 2017-04-14.
April 26, 2017
Yet Another Example… of our current practice of making important policy decisions based upon little except the learned habit of ostentatious class disdain.
You notice that at this late date, with a major policy campaign against the dreaded Semi. Automatic. Weapon., that most of these guys still haven’t bothered to discover what a semi-automatic is?
That’s a learned habit. They are signalling to other members of their class (or the class they aspire to) that they consider such knowledge base, the sort of thing known by the dirty callous-handed illiterates of the rabble and certainly not by the Lords of Intellect.
I mean, it’s like a recipe for ‘Possum Stew. To even know the thing would reduce you in status. Knowledge about guns is something the lower classes have; the criminal class, the agrarian workers (the peasantry), the lesser Servitor Classes of policemen and armed guards and military betas.
What could possibly explain such ignorance at this point, except a calculated, learned ignorance of the habits of one’s putative lessers?
April 25, 2017
I hate sweet drinks — Coca-Cola et al. — so passionately that I grow angry whenever I see someone buy or drink one. I hate their taste, I hate the horrible plastic bottles in which they come; to see people carry them around with them as if they were dolls or comfort blankets infuriates me. It appalls me worse that anyone actually likes them. The drinks don’t relieve thirst, they merely create it and make their drinkers wish for more: a perfect recipe, from a certain unscrupulous commercial point of view.
I was therefore secretly pleased to read in a paper published recently in the British Medical Journal that those who drink these disgusting concoctions are more likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes — the type that is increasing throughout the world at an alarming pace, and in some countries even threatening to reverse the increase in life expectancy to which of late decades we have grown accustomed as part of the natural order of things and now think of almost as a human right. Such diabetes is not only the wages of sin — gluttony — but of something that affects our everyday lives even worse, namely mass bad taste.
Of course, the paper in the BMJ can be criticized. A statistical association is not by itself proof of causation, though I should be surprised in this instance if the relationship were not causative. Again, in my heart of hearts I hope that it is. It would restore my faith that the universe is just.
Theodore Dalrymple, “Gluttons for Punishment”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-25.
April 24, 2017
April 23, 2017
Here is what conservatives do not understand — they did this. The hatred you see for cops in this country? It is all on them. They are the cause behind modern hatred of American police officers because while cops were taking kids on nickle rides and were beating suspects with hoses; were mistreating inner city blacks in a fashion conservative whites would never have allowed should it have occurred in their own neighborhoods; were torturing suspects and beating bartenders in Chicago; were shooting dogs to death for no reason and skating due to horrifying laws that shield them from any sort of consequence for their actions, those same conservatives were bowing and scraping and licking the boots of every police officer who happened to come walking by. Then, when one, random cop gets pistol whipped and claims that this was the fault of all who dared to criticize his profession, suddenly conservatives work themselves into a spittle inflected frenzy that they could not seem to manage when cops were doing far worse to their fellow citizens.
Where was the howling right-wing outrage when a cop beat a woman in a bar and his buddies tried to protect him from rightful consequences? Where was this conservative anger and angst when marines, those wonderful soldiers that conservatives adore so very much, were killed during ridiculous no-knock SWAT raids that, in a legitimately free society, never should have even been conducted?
They were nowhere — they did not say a word, they hardly cared. When black and Hispanics were provably tortured by the police, they hardly cared. When marines were killed, there was not a peep from the right and we had to rely on those evil anti-American progressives and libertarians to even discuss the matter.
And then they have the audacity to criticize me for daring to be too mean to the poor widdle boys and girls of our national constabulary. Well, respectfully, I don’t feel too bad about criticizing cops and attacking the unreasonable and often criminal actions of American police officers, and I will continue whether or not I have the permission of National Review or The Blaze or any other conservative media outlet. Maybe one day, if conservatives actually begin to care about the ‘small government’ ideals they’re constantly babbling about but never exercising, they’ll join me in my protest against illegitimate police activity. Until that day, though, I will continue to assume that conservatives are all talk and bluster and mindless blather, and that they don’t actually give a good Goddamn about any of the ideals they pretend to hold.
April 22, 2017
One last, minor thing: Vanilla is a deeply rich flavor that has unfairly become shorthand for boring, basic, and sexually unadventurous. Merriam-Webster’s second definition includes the sad phrase “lacking distinction” to explain the term “vanilla.” I’m not arguing that we drop this secondary use of the word — we’re too far gone for that — but I do want to remind people that vanilla is actually an extraordinarily complex flavor. Chocolate is far more vanilla than vanilla.
Caitlin PenzeyMoog, “Salt grinders are bullshit, and other lessons from growing up in the spice trade”, The A.V. Club, 2017-04-06.
April 21, 2017
What I’m saying is that male sexuality is extremely complicated, and the formation of male identity is very tentative and sensitive – but feminist rhetoric doesn’t allow for it. This is why women are having so much trouble dealing with men in the feminist era. They don’t understand men, and they demonize men. They accord to men far more power than men actually have in sex. Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand.
My explanation is that second-wave feminism dispensed with motherhood. The ideal woman was the career woman – and I do support that. To me, the mission of feminism is to remove all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm – to give women equal opportunities with men. However, what I kept saying in Sexual Personae is that equality in the workplace is not going to solve the problems between men and women which are occurring in the private, emotional realm, where every man is subordinate to women, because he emerged as a tiny helpless thing from a woman’s body. Professional women today don’t want to think about this or deal with it.
The erasure of motherhood from feminist rhetoric has led us to this current politicization of sex talk, which doesn’t allow women to recognize their immense power vis-à-vis men. When motherhood was more at the center of culture, you had mothers who understood the fragility of boys and the boy’s need for nurturance and for confidence to overcome his weaknesses. The old-style country women – the Italian matriarchs and Jewish mothers – they all understood the fragility of men. The mothers ruled their own world and didn’t take men that seriously. They understood how to nurture men and encourage them to be strong – whereas current feminism simply doesn’t perceive the power of women vis-a-vis men. But when you talk like this with most men, it really resonates with them, and they say “Yes, yes! That’s it!”
Currently, feminists lack sympathy and compassion for men and for the difficulties that men face in the formation of their identities. I’m not talking in terms of the men’s rights movement, which got infected by p.c. The heterosexual professional woman, emerging with her shiny Ivy League degree, wants to communicate with her husband exactly the way she communicates with her friends – as in Sex and the City. That show really caught the animated way that women actually talk with each other. But that’s not a style that straight men can do! Gay men can do it, sure – but not straight men! Guess what – women are different than men! When will feminism wake up to this basic reality? Women relate differently to each other than they do to men. And straight men do not have the same communication skills or values as women – their brains are different!
Camille Paglia, interviewed by David Daley in “Camille Paglia: How Bill Clinton is like Bill Cosby”, Salon, 2015-07-28.
April 20, 2017
No trade agreement is necessary for a government to adopt this ideal policy [true free trade]. And because real-world trade agreements universally fail to achieve complete free trade, real-world trade agreements are universally less than ideal. Each such agreement can and should be criticized for failing to achieve an ideal that is economically not only possible, but easily economically possible and immensely beneficial.
But political realities being unavoidable – and freer trade being superior to not-freer trade – freer trade is an acceptable real-world outcome. In my assessment (as in the assessment of many others), most so-called free-trade agreements make trade freer. (A more-accurate name for them would be “freer-trade agreements.”) And for this reason such agreements deserve the support of proponents of free markets if the only plausible option is the status quo of not-freer trade.
For free-market proponents to oppose freer trade because it isn’t fully free trade is akin to opposing cuts in marginal tax rates because the proposed cuts don’t eliminate taxes altogether. It’s akin to opposing legalization of marijuana if not all drugs are legalized. Or akin to a refusal to join with, or to support, those who oppose raising the minimum wage on the grounds that those opponents aren’t actively working for a complete abolition of minimum wages.
It is true that NAFTA, WTO agreements, TPP, and other such bilateral and multilateral freer-trade agreements leave in place many trade barriers and specify the always-too-slow timing of tariff reductions. But these arrangements are no more instruments of “managed trade” than are government policies that prohibit the sale of some drugs, sex, and body organs – and impose taxes on the sales of all other goods, – instruments of “managed consumption.” While I argue for eliminating all of these promotions and taxes, if such elimination isn’t politically feasible, then any move to reduce the number of prohibitions and the rate of taxation will make market freer and, hence, worthy of the support of proponents of free markets.
Don Boudreaux, “Bonus Quotation of the Day…”, Café Hayek, 2016-11-22.
April 19, 2017
Few things are more likely to precede defeat than the conviction that you are on the verge of victory. One hundred years ago, in the spring of 1917, Germany had every reason to believe that it would triumph over its enemies in the First World War. France had been bled white in repeated attacks on the German army’s fortified lines, England was suffering from shortages of both munitions and military manpower, and Russia was descending into a revolution that would, within a year, enable Germany and its Austro-Hungarian allies to shift enormous numbers of troops and guns to the Western Front. Yet the entry of the United States into the war on April 6, 1917, proved to be the counterweight that shifted the balance. By the autumn of 1918, the fond hope of Germany victory had been exposed as a delusion. The ultimate result of the Kaiser’s war was the destruction of the Kaiser’s empire, and of much else besides.
What is true in war is true also in politics. Hubris is nearly always the precedent to unexpected defeat. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson won a landslide victory; less than four years later, LBJ could not even win his own party’s nomination for re-election. In 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected in a landslide; less than two years later, he was forced to resign from office. More recently, after George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, some imagined that this victory was the harbinger of a “permanent Republican majority” — a GOP electoral hegemony based on a so-called “center-right” realignment — but two years later, Democrats captured control of Congress and in 2008 Barack Obama was elected president. Obama’s success in turn led Democrats to become overconfident, and Hillary Clinton’s supporters believed they were “on the right side of history,” as rock singer Bruce Springsteen told a rally in Philadelphia on the eve of the 2016 election. Unfortunately for Democrats, history disagreed.
Robert Stacy McCain, “Why Is the ‘Right Side of History’ Losing?”, The American Spectator, 2017-04-05.
April 18, 2017
To someone ignorant of economic reasoning, rent control seems like a great policy. It appears instantly to provide “affordable housing” to poor tenants, while the only apparent downside is a reduction in the income flowing to the fat-cat landlords, people who literally own buildings in major cities and who thus aren’t going to miss that money much. Who could object to such a policy?
First, we should define our terms. When a city government imposes rent control, it means the city makes it illegal for landlords to charge tenants rent above a ceiling price. Sometimes that price can vary, but only on specified factors. For the law to have any teeth — and for the politicians who passed it to curry favor with the public — the maximum rent-controlled price will be significantly lower than the free-market price.
The most obvious problem is that rent control immediately leads to a shortage of apartments, meaning that there are potential tenants who would love to move into a new place at the going (rent-controlled) rate, but they can’t find any vacancies. At a lower rental price, more tenants will try to rent apartment units, and at a higher rental price, landlords will try to rent out more apartment units. These two claims are specific instances of the law of demand and law of supply, respectively.
In the long run, a permanent policy of rent control restricts the construction of new apartment buildings, because potential investors realize that their revenues on such projects will be artificially capped. Building a movie theater or shopping center is more attractive on the margin.
There are further, more insidious problems with rent control. With a long line of potential tenants eager to move in at the official ceiling price, landlords do not have much incentive to maintain the building. They don’t need to put on new coats of paint, change the light bulbs in the hallways, keep the elevator in working order, or get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. when a tenant complains that the water heater is busted. If there is a rash of robberies in and around the building, the owner won’t feel a financial motivation to install lights, cameras, buzz-in gates, a guard, or other (costly) measures to protect his customers. Furthermore, if a tenant falls behind on the rent, there is less incentive for the landlord to cut her some slack, because he knows he can replace her right away after eviction. In other words, all of the behavior we associate with the term “slumlord” is due to the government’s policy of rent control; it is not the “free market in action.”
Robert P. Murphy, “The Case Against Rent Control: Bad housing policy harms lower-income people most”, The Freeman, 2014-11-12
April 17, 2017
The liquor board’s cocktail recipe of the month, offered on its website, is for “gin and lemonade,” which you make with a shot of gin and some lemonade. The gin is cherry, so there’s that. Its three recommended beers of the month are themed for the hockey playoffs. They are — I am not kidding — Molson Canadian in a bottle, Molson Canadian in a can, and Molson Canadian in a larger can. The value the LCBO’s adding that a private retailer couldn’t is not obvious.
David Reevely, “LCBO union uses government’s rhetoric against it in brewing labour battle”, National Post, 2017-04-06.
April 16, 2017
This morning I read Marina Fontaine’s review of Downfall (http://marinafontaine.blogspot.com/2017/03/netflix-review-downfall.html), yes, including mention of that scene, the one that’s been recaptioned several gazillion times, some with more humor than others. In the review, she asks why the fascination? What is it with the Nazis and Hitler?
I have a theory. It is purely mine, based on reading a metric crap-ton about all manner of things (and don’t ask me for cites because this stuff has stewed so long in the back of my head I no longer remember where I originally read whatever triggered any particular piece. You can get most of the raw facts off Wikipedia). It is also a very broad generalization. Coming years will determine whether or not it is correct in the big picture. I’m not optimistic (I hope I’ve got this horribly wrong. I fear I haven’t).
The ongoing fascination with Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Simply put, it’s the most well-documented and acknowledged demonstration of the allure of evil and how easy it is for a more or less civilized people to descend into utter brutality. As such, it holds an unclean fascination not helped by uniforms that were designed to look good as well as be practical (or by the simple fact that evil, when done effectively, is sexy. Because it is invariably power, and untrammeled power at that. We’re human. Power attracts and corrupts us. The wiser among us acknowledge this so we can fight the effect).
The various Communist regimes can be dismissed as “not counting” because to the minds of those who do the dismissing, Russia, China, North Korea, and Eastern Europe “weren’t civilized”, and so Communism/Socialism would work just fine implemented by civilized people (they usually point to one of the Nordic nations when they do this). These same people are a big part of why the wrong lesson keeps being drawn from Nazi Germany.
The problem was not nationalism. It was not even the disgusting racial laws. Those laws could never have been passed, much less enforced, without the one big thing Socialism, Communism, and yes, Nazism have in common.
The supremacy of the state.
That bare listing of facts accounts for the rise of Hitler, but not the continuing notion that the Nazis were conservative (only if you define ‘conservative’ as ‘nationalist’). That one comes from two sources. One was Soviet propaganda aimed at making Communist and Nazi ideologies seem much more distinct than they actually were. The other was Allied propaganda aimed at much the same thing. It wouldn’t do, after all, to have people realize they were allied with a dictator every bit as vile as Hitler.
So in American and British media, the evil of the Nazis was played up, while the evil of the Communists was minimized where it couldn’t be silenced altogether. The Communist plants and fellow-travelers in both nations helped.
They were – and are – almost the same. Both demand an all-powerful state. The state determines who is deserving and provides for the deserving. The state dehumanizes the undeserving prior to eliminating them. The state determines the direction of industry (in the case of the Nazis, by requiring business owners to support the regime where the Communists took over the businesses). The state cares for you – but if you’re no use to the state, your care will be an unmarked grave in a prison camp/work camp/concentration camp/gulag. All hail the state.
Kate Paulk, “The Ease of Evil”, guest-posting at According to Hoyt, 2017-03-21.
April 15, 2017
Whenever I find myself choosing my next meal I always like to look out for the sign that says “healthy option.” In this age of variety and abundance it can often be hugely difficult making up your mind as to what to eat next. “Healthy option” makes things so much easier. It tells me: “Avoid like the plague.”
Good news, then, for takeaway customers in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. No fewer than six local fish and chip shops have taken on board the advice of their local council’s Healthier Choices Manager and introduced special, non-greasy, low-fat menu options. So now when customers find themselves torn between the battered sausage, the chicken nuggets and the “rock salmon” at least they can be sure of what they don’t want: that insipid-looking fillet of steamed cod on a bed of salad, with so few chips they barely even qualify as a garnish.
“It’s too early to say if steamed fish will be a hit,” says an article on the council’s website. And I’ll bet when they know the answer they won’t tell us. That’s because this well-meaning scheme is doomed to flop like a wet kipper. Of course it is. No one in their right mind goes to a takeaway as part of a calorie controlled diet. You do it when you fancy a treat.
And the reason it’s a treat is precisely because that food is so deliciously greasy. As the late Clarissa Dickson-Wright, the generously girthed cook from TV’s Two Fat Ladies, once explained to me, fry-ups, sizzling bacon, battered fish, and so on will always taste nicer than the “healthy option” because fat is a great carrier of flavour.
Clarissa (who was as big an expert on the science of food as she was on cooking and eating it) remained, to the end, a great defender of butter, cream and full-fat milk. She claimed they were much better for you than most of the supposedly healthy, low-fat alternatives. And it turns out she was right. Recent studies have shown that it’s the “trans-fats” in artificial health products like margarine that are the killer, not natural animal fats you find in butter.
What’s more, the evidence increasingly suggests, that it’s sugar not fat which is most responsible for our supposed obesity epidemic. So by trying to stop customers eating fried fish in Rochdale, the council is barking up the wrong tree. It’s the cafes pushing sweet cakes and doughnuts they should be investigating.
James Delingpole, “I prefer my cod in batter, thanks very much”, James Delingpole, 2015-08-15.