June 27, 2017

QotD: The mistakes of the wealthy versus the mistakes of the poor

Filed under: History, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

What have been the effects of progressive, centralized control of education, healthcare, and social services? It is true that the backwards practices of a few local school boards have been reformed, but the loss of a rich layer of church and private charity social services has impoverished local social capital. While today’s mass communication and the Internet removed one of the impulses to community (“I’m bored. Let’s go into town and hang out!”), a lot of the loss is due to the crowding out by a monopoly government, which had deep pockets and would use them to continue failed policies, as Microsoft in the 80s used the profits from its near-monopoly OS business to keep creating mediocre applications software until the innovators in applications were destroyed.

Very wealthy people have always been freer than others from the stifling social controls and judgments of bourgeois community standards. The elite of Paris and London in the 1800s often kept mistresses and dabbled in drug use without having their lives destroyed. The lower classes did not have the wealth to recover from errors, and those who did not hew to bourgeois social norms were isolated and damaged.

As the upper middle classes in the US grew as wealthy as the elite had been in the previous century after WWII, the sexual revolution and War on Poverty bestowed more social freedom on everyone — the middle and upper classes got birth control, sexual freedom, and women in the workplace, while the poor got programs to “uplift” them from poverty (a term which exposes the condescension involved). Social workers in vast numbers were hired to distribute assistance, free of any obligation — except for unmarried mothers, who were told their assistance would be cut if they married a working man.

Over the course of several generations, the well-off used their freedoms and came out relatively unscathed — families were still largely intact, children were still trained in the arts of civilization and followed the path of university and marriage into professional careers. But the artificial assistance to the poor, with its lack of community obligations and support and its immediate withdrawal in the event of marriage and better work, removed the social incentives that keep healthy communities healthy. Intact families grew less common. Crime and social pathologies became the norm in poor inner-city communities. As conditions worsened, the motivated and organized left for more civilized neighborhoods with better schools. The segregation of cities and even whole regions by income increased. Whole generations of children were poorly raised, poorly schooled, and left to drift without purpose or guidance from now-absent fathers, who were in prison or adrift themselves.

Jeb Kinnison, “Real-life ‘Hunger Games'”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-25.

June 22, 2017

QotD: “The culture war has come to the ballot box”

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The message we’ve been bombarded with since Brexit and the Corbyn surge is that when the old vote, everything goes to shit, and the sooner these selfish, nostalgic bastards die, the better; but when the young vote, it’s all milk and honey and roses and light, and the sooner this fresh, caring generation takes over society, the better. The old are demonised, the young sacralised, giving rise to what must surely be one of the nastiest divides in our society right now. I can’t get behind the enthusiasm for the youth vote, I’m afraid, because much of it seems to me to be driven by a culture-war sense of entitlement against the apparently unfeeling, uneducated elderly. The culture war has come to the ballot box.

Brendan O’Neill, Facebook, 2017-06-11.

June 16, 2017

QotD: Cultural decline markers

Filed under: Education, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In response to my previous post noting that the Flynn effect turns out to be a mirage, at least two respondents have suggested that average IQ has actually been falling, and have pointed to the alleged dumbing-down of politics and popular culture in the last fifty years.

I think both those respondents and the psychometricians are correct. That is, it seems to me that during my lifetime I’ve seen evidence that average IQ has risen a little, but that other traits involved in the “smart or stupid” judgment have eroded.

On the one hand, I’ve previously described the emergence of geek culture, which I take among other things as evidence that there are more bright and imaginative individuals around than there were when I was a kid. Enough of us, now, to claim a substantial slice of turf in the cultural marketplace. This good news is reinforced for me be the explosive growth of the hacker community, which today is easily a hundred times the size it was in, say, 1975 — and far larger than I ever dreamed it would be then.

On the other hand, when I compare Americans today to the country of my childhood there are ways the present comes off rather badly. We are more obese, we have shorter attention spans, our divorce rate has skyrocketed. All these and other indicators tell me that we have (on average) lost a significant part of our capacity to exert self-discipline, defer gratification, and honor contracts when the going gets tough.

To sum up, we’re brighter than we used to be, but lazier. We have more capacity, but we use less of it. Physically and mentally we are self-indulgent, flabby, unwilling to wake up from the consumer-culture dream of entitlement. We pursue happiness by means ever more elaborate and frenetic, diminishing returns long since having set in. When reality hands us a wake-up call like 9/11, too many of us react with denial and fantasy.

This is, of course, not a new complaint. Juvenal, Horace, and Petronius Arbiter wrote much the same indictment of their popular culture at the height of the Roman Empire. They were smart enough to understand, nigh on two millennia ago, that this is what happens to elites who have it easy, who aren’t tested and winnowed by war and famine and plague and poverty.

But there are important differences. One is that while decadence used to be an exclusive problem of the upper crust, we are all aristocrats now. More importantly, where the Romans believed that decadence in individuals and societies was inevitable, we know (because we’ve kept records) that as individuals we are taller, stronger, healthier, longer-lived and more intelligent than our ancestors — that, in fact, we have reaped large gains merely within the last century.

We have more capacity, but we use less of it. And, really, is it any surprise? Our schools are abandoning truth for left-wing bullshit about multiculturalism and right-wing bullshit about “intelligent design”. Our politics has become a wasteland of rhetorical assassinations in which nobody but the fringe crazies believe even their own slogans any more. Our cultural environment has become inward-turned, obsessed with petty intramural squabbles, clogged with cant. Juvenal would find it all quite familiar.

Eric S. Raymond, “People Getting Brighter, Culture Getting Dimmer”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-08-28.

June 14, 2017

QotD: Portuguese culture

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So, let’s go back to culture being like the water in an aquarium. Most people aren’t blind to their culture. They know what it’s like and where it stacks in comparison with other cultures, more or less, relatively.

For instance, Portuguese are well aware of being very unorganized — and weirdly proud of it. No, really — and know they stack above Brazilians in organization but below powerhouses of organization like France and Ireland. What they don’t know is how their disorganization/disregard for times/disdain for details affects their prosperity, their security and every level of life in the country.

They don’t know this because they’ve never lived anywhere else. Going shopping will take an entire afternoon because the buses run more on suggestion than schedule (and if you drive, the traffic rules are also suggestions, which means sometimes bizarre traffic jams because someone didn’t find a parking space and thought he might as well park on a lane on the road.) Also, the stores might or might not have the same products they had last week, and besides, if the shopkeeper came in late, and then had a really difficult customer, you might have to wait an hour. And on and on. I often say I spent most of my teenage years standing on street corners, fortunately reading science fiction and not going “oh, hai sailor” because I got so neurotic about being late for an outing with friends that I got there ten minutes early. And then waited an hour for the first of them to show up and two for the stragglers. This type of thing, over time, eats people’s time and their mental and emotional resources. Frankly, it’s amazing the country works as well as it does.

And yep, they know they’re unorganized — they view it was free and not rigid — but they fail to take into account everything it touches, because “it’s always been like that.”

I suspect in the US people would bodily move a car that parked blocking a lane of a two lane road “while I go over there to the post office. It’s just a minute. What are you so uptight about that you object?” In Portugal it’s the way it works. (Though I understand if you park on the tram lines and are driving a smart, you will get moved. The occurrence is so common trams have really long poles to assist this move. You should have seen my kids’ faces watching this.)

Not ragging on Portuguese, really. They’re at worst a second world country. I’m only describing them because it’s a culture I have a lot of insight into. The culture as in all Latin countries, has all the stigmata of Rome, from bribery as a way of life, to nepotism as the oil that lubricates society. Which is not entirely compatible with modernity, and therefore means that Portugal isn’t one of your leading lights of technological creation and innovation.

Sarah Hoyt, “Water, Fish, Culture and Genes”, According to Hoyt, 2017-05-31.

June 11, 2017

QotD: The role of women in pre-modern society

Filed under: History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Traditional societies more often than not have less room for the individual than the Western society, which means that projecting our idealized intent onto such societies, and viewing deviation from our norm as “tolerance” is an act of provincial stupidity.

The truth is it has been the Judeo-Christian tradition, flowering into the enlightenment coupled with the material wealth fostered by the industrial revolution and, yes, capitalism (in however small measure it is allowed even in the west) that has allowed our society to develop ideas of self fulfillment, of “pursuit of happiness” which would be considered downright strange in the past.

Note, I’m not implying that we’re perfect. Being human, we can’t be perfect. And if we don’t get lost looking for an imaginary past, our grandchildren might look upon us as intolerant barbarians.

HOWEVER I’m implying looking for lessons in the distant and the primitive does nothing for us here and now, particularly when most of those lessons are crazy made-up stuff.

For instance, what good is it saying that women were revered in pre-history, when we know that more than likely women in pre-contraceptive days and particularly in poor times and places were sort of a baby factory whose life was limited and confined by their biological function? What does it teach women? That merely letting go and daydreaming about a past that never was will make them superior to men?

Is this what we want?

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Inventing the Past — The Great Divorce”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-23.

June 8, 2017

QotD: The Cloud People look out upon the land of the Dirt People

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In the French Revolution, after the White Terror, the Constitution of 1795 established The Directory. This was the start of a new phase in which the lower classes were mostly ignored, as the new ruling class consolidated its power. That may be what we are seeing with our managerial class as they largely ignore the results of recent elections and enforce discipline in their own ranks. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it may be useful in analyzing what we are seeing.

There is another angle, one you can see in this Scott Alexander post a few weeks ago, that was popular with the cognoscenti. Star Slate Codex is popular with people who not only think they are smart, but see themselves as steely-eyed reason machines. It’s also popular with people who like to believe stuff like this:

    Yes, CNN leans liberal, but it’s not as liberal as FOX is conservative, and it’s not as open about it – it has a pretense of neutrality that FOX doesn’t, and although we can disagree about how realistic that pretense is I think few people would disagree that the pretense is there. Nor is there a liberal version of FOX that lacks that pretense of neutrality.

That’s a very believable argument if you have no familiarity with cable news or you look out at the world from deep inside the Progressive fever swamps. It is the sort of thing people write when they want to seem like the people who write things like this. It’s the worldview of someone confusing a mirror with a telescope. To Alexander, Fox is way out on the fringe and they are brazen about it. CNN, on the other hand, is maybe a little biased, but they are good people, my people, so they mean well.

Of course, there is the omnipresent hive mindedness. The world for Scott Alexander, and most of his readers, is a world of black hats and white hats. There are those inside the walls, the people of light, and the people outside the walls, in the outer darkness. The people outside are an undifferentiated collection of eyes peering out of the darkness, which is why they routinely misuse works like “conservative” when describing the people outside the walls. Words like “conservative” and “right-wing” just mean the outsiders.

The Z Man, “Ruminations On The Way Down The Mountain”, The Z Blog, 2017-05-24.

June 7, 2017

QotD: Blame America

Filed under: Cancon, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Canadians love to compare themselves to Americans, for all kinds of reasons — to congratulate themselves, to flagellate themselves, to comfort themselves when they’re somewhat embarrassed. The “meanwhile in Canada” genre of tweets is a bit of all three: in the midst of chaos in Washington, someone will oh-so-cleverly take note of a comparatively minor Canadian scandal. There is no charitable interpretation to be made of it: it’s either bragging, or it’s suggesting that we worry too much about Canada’s ostensibly piddling scandals — like, say, the prime minister’s chief of staff cutting a $90,000 cheque to a sitting Senator. That’s not Watergate, but it’s bonkers nonetheless.

The effect is both to confuse the conversation about any given issue and to absolve Canadians of any responsibility for it. The ultimate example was CBC Marketplace’s moronic attempt to sell racist t-shirts on Canadian streets and chalk up any interest to “the Trump effect.” But again, that was just an extreme manifestation of this unhealthy blame-America instinct — one we would do well to eradicate.

Chris Selley, “‘Canada’s Donald Trump’ was never on offer in the Conservative leadership race”, National Post, 2017-05-26.

May 27, 2017

QotD: When international sport replaced war between the Great Powers

Filed under: History, Quotations, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I do not know if there was a meeting, in about 1961, of a subcommittee of the Bilderberg Commission (itself a characteristic consequence of the Great Change) at which it was resolved that, what with Great Wars needing now to be things of the past, some harmless outlet now had to be found for all those nationalistic passions which until so very recently it had been necessary for Great Powers to keep permanently inflamed (in case they found themselves having a Great War), but which they now needed to extinguish (in case these passions started a Great War). Discuss. Having created nationalism, what were the Great Powers now going to do with it? One big answer: sport. Don’t have the hoi polloi wave their national flags and have big urban demonstrations and nationalistic ecstasies and lamentations in their newspapers and internet sites and city squares because of war. Let them indulge in these things because of sport.

As I say, maybe there was such a meeting and maybe there has never been such a meeting. But, if such a meeting had occurred, events would probably have unfolded, in sport, much as they actually have. What did definitely happen, I assert, is that the end of Great Wars, and the coming of the Great Peace, has left a war-shaped gap, so to speak, in all the cultures of the Great Powers. And one of the many things that has flowed into this gap, like molten metal into a mould, has been professional sport.

The “professional” bit is important. The former manager of the Liverpool football team Bill Shankly once famously said something like: “A lot of people say that football is a matter of life and death, but it’s a lot more important than that.” And one of the ways in which it is “more important than that” is that the most successful sportsmen, successful footballers especially, are now paid such huge sums of money, a lot more now even than in Shankly’s time.

Professional sport means more, especially to spectators, than mere sport does. If a game is “only a game”, then people simply don’t watch it in large numbers. They may participate in large numbers, but when it comes just to watching, too little is at stake, in an “only a game” game. But if what potential spectators are offered as entertainment is the public struggle to become one of the absolute best at whatever it is, and as an intrinsic part of that the struggle to be either averagely well-off or worse (because of having placed your bets on sport and lost), or super-rich, depending on how things play out during the next hour or two, then millions will pay to attend. And that sets a positive feedback loop in motion, of more money being paid by spectators (including television spectators) and hence even more money being paid to the contestants, and hence even more being at stake when the contestants have their contests. And whereas the careers of earlier generations of sportsmen, then very poorly paid indeed compared to their successors, were often interrupted and frequently terminated by Great Wars, now, there is no such upheaval on anyone’s horizon, either to wreck sporting careers or to put sport into anything resembling “perspective”, in other words to make it not seem like a matter of life and death.

So, is sport in any sense a matter of life and death, or even, as Shankly said, only partly in jest, more than that? For many years I was puzzled by the constant use of the adjective “gladiatorial”, with all its ancient Roman associations of fighting literally to the death, to describe modern sporting contests. But recently, the experience of giving a talk about the sort of stuff in this posting made me realise that this is not an unreasonable way to describe something like this Anglo-Australian set-to that will be starting in about half and hour, as I first write this.

Nor is it coincidence that the original version of gladiatorial sport emerged into prominence during that earlier Great Peace, the Pax Romana. That too was a Great Peace that happened at a time when smaller wars continued, these smaller wars or the threat of them being the means by which Rome’s Great Peace was continuously contrived.

Brian Micklethwait, “From the Great Peace … to the ordeal of Adam Lyth at the Oval cricket ground”, Samizdata, 2015-08-20.

May 25, 2017

QotD: Lies about the past

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It has long been said that the truth will set you free. This is often true, even when that freedom is the bleak and dry eyed horror of knowing how wrong things can go. (As in, say, studying totalitarian regimes of the past.)

The corollary is that lies enslave you. They make the perfect the enemy of the good, and in making current day people long for a past that never was, turn them into the dupes and followers of totalitarians and power seekers.

Or in other words, stop making sh*t up. It doesn’t help, and it might be hurting. The future deserves better than your lies about the past.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Inventing the Past — The Great Divorce”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-23.

May 22, 2017

Who’s afraid of Mrs. Grundy?

Filed under: Books, Britain, Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

In my family, the name “Mrs. Grundy” was used to describe someone of rigidly conformative taste and judgement (and keenly censorious bent). I’d always assumed it was just a family notion or perhaps a Yorkshire-ism, but the Wikipedia entry makes it clear that Mrs. Grundy has been the bane of many a would-be adventurous or daring spirit for centuries:

Mrs Grundy is a figurative name for an extremely conventional or priggish person, a personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety. A tendency to be overly fearful of what the respectable might think is also referred to as grundyism.

Although she began life as a minor character in Thomas Morton’s play Speed the Plough (1798), Mrs Grundy was eventually so well established in the public imagination that Samuel Butler, in his novel Erewhon, could refer to her in the form of an anagram (as the goddess Ydgrun). As a figure of speech she can be found throughout European literature.

It also discusses a real-life Mrs. Grundy from the early nineteenth century:

During the reign of William IV (reigned 1830-1837) a Mrs Sarah Hannah Grundy (1 January 1804 – 30 December 1863) was employed as Deputy Housekeeper at Hampton Court Palace one of Henry VIII of England’s most famous residences. Her husband, John Grundy (1798/1799 – August 1861), was keeper of the State apartments. Mrs Grundy became Head Housekeeper on 22 April 1838, a year after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, and she served in that position until 1863 when she retired. Her duties included the care of the chapel at Hampton Court.

Royal families stopped using Hampton Court as a residence in 1737, and from the 1760s onward, it was divided up for “grace-and-favour” residents who were granted rent-free accommodation in return for great service to the Crown or country. These private rooms numbered in the hundreds. Much is revealed about the Victorian ladies living at Hampton Court Palace through their letters, particularly their correspondence to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office as the Ladies attempted to get around the regulations — to exchange their apartments for better ones, to sub-let their apartments for profit, to keep dogs, or other matters of convenience. Equally revealing are the letters from the Housekeepers to the Lord Chamberlain, complaining about the Ladies’ behaviour.

However, a bit of Canadian history indicates that the use of the term “Mrs. Grundy” as I’m familiar with it long predated the lady who policed morals at Hampton Court:

… in a book published in 1836, The Backwoods of Canada Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America, by Catharine Parr Traill, she writes: “Now, we bush-settlers are more independent: we do what we like; we dress as we find most suitable and most convenient; we are totally without the fear of any Mr. or Mrs. Grundy; and having shaken off the trammels of Grundyism, we laugh at the absurdity of those who voluntarily forge afresh and hug their chains.” This appears to show that the modern concept of “Mrs. Grundy” was current before the Mrs. Grundy of Hampton Court began her reign.

May 13, 2017

QotD: Sneering at the “farmers” in fly-over country

Filed under: Education, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If Star Wars was written by today’s establishment, Luke would have to be a girl who suffered oppression by the bigoted farm boys, then escaped to the Empire (which was, of course, politically correct and ruled by wise, learned Socialist oligarchs) to wield its military might against the hicks and unlearned morons of Planet Redneck.

Such disdain is everywhere, now. It’s not hard to find in the media, in entertainment, or social media. Some time ago, I remember watching a Youtube video where a man with a strong Southern accent went to great lengths to demonstrate his education and intelligence, discussing complex matters of science, history, and philosophy in an effort to disprove the notion that a Southern accent somehow implies stupidity. I remember wondering why this was even necessary. I’ve met many intelligent, educated individuals in the South, and I’ve encountered no more idiots here than in the other places I’ve been to. Why would this even have to be disproved?

Then it hit me. The new American myth, carefully constructed by the SJWs and their ilk, is that farmers are stupid. Mechanics are dumb. Plumbers only ply their trade because they are too stupid to take gender studies courses. And since they are all idiots, of course their children must be idiots too. Indeed, they are all far too stupid to be permitted a say in how their own lives are run. As Tom Nichols once explained to me: Americans are too stupid to read maps, so why bother informing them about terrorist incidents? Being something of a Centrist, Tom is more charitable than most of the Leftists, whose disdain is much more direct. To those folks, America (and by extension, Americans themselves) is nothing more than a backward nation full of bigots, greedy thieves, murderers, and utter morons in desperate need of extinction.


But now, a two and a half centuries later, we’re back to where we started. The anointed, ivory tower aristocrats telling us what’s good for us — when we all know it’s a steaming pile of horse manure constructed solely to fool enough good people to keep the nobles planted atop their wobbly thrones. Their underestimation of the regular folks in the world, the farm boys and plumbers, may be what saves us, in the end. After all, it’s worked for America before, time and time again. It’s why, despite all the agitprop to the contrary, today America still remains the most powerful nation on Earth.

Dystopic, “From Farm to Space: A Lost Cultural Myth”, The Declination, 2017-05-01.

May 11, 2017

The transactional nature of “identity”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Eric S. Raymond on the rising chatter about “identity”:

These criticisms imply a theory of “identity” that is actually coherent and useful. Here it is:

Your “identity” is a set of predictive claims you assert about yourself, mostly (though not entirely) about what kinds of transactions other people can expect to engage in with you.

As an example of an exception to “mostly”, the claim “I am white” implies that I sunburn easily. But usually, an “identity” claim implies the ability and willingness to meet behavioral expectations held by other people. For example, if I describe my “identity” as “male, American, computer programmer, libertarian” I am in effect making an offer that others can expect me to need to shave daily, salute the Stars and Stripes, sling code, and argue for the Non-Aggression Principle as an ethical fundamental.

Thus, identity claims can be false (not cashed out in observed behavior) or fraudulent (intended to deceive). You don’t get to choose your identity; you get to make an offer and it’s up to others whether or not to accept.


I can anticipate several objections to this transactional account of identity. One is that is cruel and illiberal to reject an offer of “I claim identity X” if the person claiming feels that identity strongly enough. This is essentially the position of those journalists from The Hill.

To which I can only reply: you can feel an identity as a programmer as strongly as you want, but if you can’t either already sling code or are visibly working hard on repairing that deficiency, you simply don’t make the nut. Cruelty doesn’t enter into this; if I assent to your claim I assist your self-deceit, and if I repeat it I assist you in misleading or defrauding others.

It is pretty easy to see how this same analysis applies to “misgendering” people with the “wrong” pronouns. People who use the term “misgender” generally follow up with claims about the subject’s autonomy and feelings. Which is well enough, but such considerations do not justify being complicit in the deceit of others any more than they do with respect to “I am a programmer”.

A related objection is that I have stolen the concept of “identity” by transactionalizing it. That is, true “identity” is necessarily grounded not in public performance but private feelings – you are what you feel, and it’s somehow the responsibility of the rest of the world to keep up.

But…if I’m a delusional psychotic who feels I’m Napoleon, is it the world’s responsibility to keep up? If I, an overweight clumsy shortish white guy, feel that I’m a tall agile black guy under the skin, are you obligated to choose me to play basketball? Or, instead, are you justified in predicting that I can’t jump?

You can’t base “identity” on a person’s private self-beliefs and expect sane behavior to emerge any more than you can invite everyone to speak private languages and expect communication to happen.

May 9, 2017

Historical ingratitude

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, D.J. Webb asks what Europe — individual European nations, not the EU — owe to Britain:

I do believe that historical perspective is important, and that we should deal with other nations on the basis of historical memory. For example, we recall in our dealings with Greece and Italy that these countries have been of vital importance to the historical development of civilization in Europe, and at a long remove, we should be cognizant of the cultural and economic advantages bestowed on the Roman province of Britannia by the Romans. At a minimum, they evoke in us a residual affection. Of course, as history recedes, the ability of these countries to demand a special status owing to their illustrious history has to decline too. But some recognition of the achievements of the most glorious nations and what they have done for all of European civilization is in order.

Britain is a special country — we are told in the media and in the schools today that this is not the case — but a cursory reading of history shows that we are of vital importance to Europe. Economically, we gave the world the industrial revolution and capitalism. Politically, democracy and human rights (even where absurdly misinterpreted) are among our gifts to the world. Culturally, literature, drama and film are among the arts to which we have made great contributions that remain to this day part of the canon of world literature. Scientifically, Europe looks to us for having provided electricity, railways, automobiles, planes, computers, the telephone, television and the Internet. It is not an exaggeration to state that the prosperity of the whole of Europe, and indeed of every country in the world, comes on the back our our ancestors’ — and not their ancestors’ — achievements. English children should grow up with a knowledge of and pride in this.

Geopolitically, we have always sought to prevent combinations on the Continent, and stood against the Habsburgs and Imperial Spain, Napoleonic France, the Kaiser’s Germany and Nazi Germany. We also made an outsized contribution in the Cold War. Numerous European countries owe their freedom to us. I do not deny that historical memory works both ways. Maybe — I say this for the purpose of discussion — the prominence of Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain provides us with good reason to take, if possible and where facilitated by Poland’s own foreign policy, a pro-Polish view of modern international affairs, and if we need immigrants going forward, we could well consider prioritising Poland, as well as Czechs, Belgians, Frenchmen, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, all represented in the Battle of Britain. However, there is no other European country that can lay claim to being the author of European freedom. True, Russian blood was expended to an immense degree in the defeat of Germany, but many European countries will be mindful that Russia was ultimately engaged in its own war of imperial conquest of Eastern Europe.

We are special, and do deserve recognition in Europe. Yet we get none. Or less than none, as all 27 EU countries have agreed to try to punish Britain for asserting its sovereignty. Would Luxembourg be free today without Britain? Jean-Claude Junker’s treatment of Britain is disgusting from a Luxembourgeois national. Does he not know that Luxemburgers huddled round the wireless in the 1940s listening to the World Service, hoping or praying that Britain or America would come to their salvation? I cannot abide the continental Europeans who refuse to acknowledge this. They will end up making an enemy of Britain, with long-term consequences.

It’s time to realise that the European nations we liberated were not worth it. They turned out to be ingrates. We need to face up to this. We wasted the lives of our servicemen for nothing. Who would wage war to liberate Belgium now?

May 8, 2017

“Have libertarians — and the broader right and/or classical-liberal movement — really lost the ‘culture wars’?”

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:14

Nick Gillespie on the outcome of the most recent battles in the culture wars:

Spoiler alert: I think libertarians have already won the culture war in the most important ways possible. Whether it’s businesses like Whole Foods, Overstock, and Amazon; the massive and ongoing proliferation of platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, and Twitter; or gig-economy titans such as Uber and Airbnb, capitalism and entrepreneurship has been recast as an innovative, disruptive, liberatory system that allows us all to produce and consume whatever we want under increasingly personalized and individualized circumstances. What we need to do next to nail down what Matt Welch and I have dubbed The Libertarian Moment is to articulate the ways in which our society’s cultural, economic, and even political operating system has already bought into the idea that decentralization, individualism, innovation, and freedom to experiment.

If the medium is the message (all props to Marshall McLuhan) — if an operating system is more important than any specific content generated within that system — what has been abjured as “late capitalism” for decades has effectively ended all debates about how libertarian policies and mind-sets have freed us from bland top-downism in all parts of our lives. This isn’t to suggest that we are in any way living a utopian dream. It’s simply to point out that even after 15 years of drowsy economic growth and a massive expansion of state (and in many ways, corporate) power, our living standards continue to rise. Add to that huge advances in tolerance and change when it comes to racial, ethnic, and gender disparities and transformative shifts on topics as varied as drug policy, sexual orientation, criminal-justice reform, and gun rights too.

Cultural and political pessimism isn’t just a losing strategy, it’s a misimpression. Again, that’s not to say that massive problems don’t exist and need to be confronted. Will we ever see an actual federal budget again, much less that cuts government spending? U.S. foreign policy remains a shameful, disastrous, and destructive hodgepodge of hubris and stupidity. Speech and expression are under attacks from the right and the left, and the bipartisan turn against free trade and the easy movement of people across borders needs to be beaten back. As the late, great Arthur Ekirch explained in his neglected masterpiece The Decline of American Liberalism, forces of decentralization and centralization — of liberation and authoritarianism, of individualism and collectivism, of choice and coercion — have been slugging out in the United States since before there was a United States. The question is whether we are moving generally in a direction of more autonomy and less restriction on how we live our lives.

May 7, 2017

Deadly Africa

Filed under: Africa, Environment, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kim du Toit reposted something he wrote back in 2002 about the dangers to life and limb people face in Africa before you factor in dysfunctional governments, terrorists, and continuing ethnic disputes from hundreds of years ago:

When it comes to any analysis of the problems facing Africa, Western society, and particularly people from the United States, encounter a logical disconnect that makes clear analysis impossible. That disconnect is the way life is regarded in the West (it’s precious, must be protected at all costs etc.), compared to the way life, and death, are regarded in Africa. Let me try to quantify this statement.

In Africa, life is cheap. There are so many ways to die in Africa that death is far more commonplace than in the West. You can die from so many things: snakebite, insect bite, wild animal attack, disease, starvation, food poisoning… the list goes on and on. At one time, crocodiles accounted for more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than gunfire, for example. Now add the usual human tragedy (murder, assault, warfare and the rest), and you can begin to understand why the life expectancy for an African is low — in fact, horrifyingly low, if you remove White Africans from the statistics (they tend to be more urbanized, and more Western in behavior and outlook). Finally, if you add the horrifying spread of AIDS into the equation, anyone born in sub-Saharan Africa this century will be lucky to reach age forty.

I lived in Africa for over thirty years. Growing up there, I was infused with several African traits — traits which are not common in Western civilization. The almost-casual attitude towards death was one. (Another is a morbid fear of snakes.)

So because of my African background, I am seldom moved at the sight of death, unless it’s accidental, or it affects someone close to me. (Death which strikes at total strangers, of course, is mostly ignored.) Of my circle of about eighteen or so friends with whom I grew up, and whom I would consider “close”, only about eight survive today — and not one of the survivors is over the age of fifty. Two friends died from stepping on landmines while on Army duty in Namibia. Three died in horrific car accidents (and lest one thinks that this is not confined to Africa, one was caused by a kudu flying through a windshield and impaling the guy through the chest with its hoof — not your everyday traffic accident in, say, Florida). One was bitten by a snake, and died from heart failure. Another two also died of heart failure, but they were hopeless drunkards. Two were shot by muggers. The last went out on his surfboard one day and was never seen again (did I mention that sharks are plentiful off the African coasts and in the major rivers?). My experience is not uncommon in South Africa — and north of the Limpopo River (the border with Zimbabwe), I suspect that others would show worse statistics.

The death toll wasn’t just confined to my friends. When I was still living in Johannesburg, the newspaper carried daily stories of people mauled by lions, or attacked by rival tribesmen, or dying from some unspeakable disease (and this was pre-AIDS Africa too) and in general, succumbing to some of Africa’s many answers to the population explosion. Add to that the normal death toll from rampant crime, illness, poverty, flood, famine, traffic, and the police, and you’ll begin to get the idea.

My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read:
“Three Headless Bodies Found”.
The next day: “Three Heads Found”.
The third day: “Heads Don’t Match Bodies”.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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