England's Sword 2.0

Friday, August 30, 2002

Posters rather than posts

Not many posts today as I've been rather busy, but if you'd like some great posters, please, please check out Cold Fury: Okay, So I Was Bored Tonight.


Sunderland sign strikers Flo and Stewart. Bring on Manchester United...

Soul Train of Thought

Natalie Solent poses some interesting questions in relation to the theological aspects of abortion I mention below. However, as I mentioned to her by e-mail, if we argue that the innocent will experience God's love automatically if they die still innocent, then that's a pretty good argument for abortion, it seems to me. No worries about aborting, or even about infanticide, because the soul is assured of heaven. I seem to remember someone positing that the Islamic version of this argument is why their terrorists don't mind blowing up babies. I'm therefore not sure that we adequately discern God's love by following this course of argument.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Murray swims in dangerous waters

There are two peculiarly American political controversies, both of which are simply too philosophical for sophisticated Europe to bother with. One is gun rights (is there a right to self defense that overrides considerations of publc safety -- or vice versa -- is the way the debate is phrased, which is a pretty deep argument when you actually take the time to listen to it).

The other is, of course, abortion. I'm profoundly ambivalent on the subject. You cannot deny that human life begins at conception, and so (if you are a humanist, especially, like civil libertarian champion Nat Hentoff) the debate must begin over whether that life should have rights. Personally, I think it should, but I am unable to decide when those rights should attach. The common religious justification is that the soul must attach at conception (although this has not always been the case). Yet this argument does not account for multiple births, as the individuals do not split until several days after conception. Is it one soul until the split? Or two souls attached to the single embryo? This is not an easy problem to solve.

Nor is it the case that every fertilised embryo is destined to live unless man chooses otherwise. As this excellent article, Abortion and Brain Waves by Gregg Easterbrook, makes clear, there are a lot more spontaneous miscarriages than we thought:

new science shows that conception usually does not produce a baby. "The majority of cases in which there is a fertilized egg result in the non-realization of a person," says Dr. Machelle Seibel, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Boston University School of Medicine. What exists just after conception is called a zygote. Research now suggests that only about half of all zygotes implant in the uterine wall and become embryos; the others fail to continue dividing and expire. Of those embryos that do trigger pregnancy, only around 65 percent lead to live births, even with the best prenatal care. The rest are lost to natural miscarriage. All told, only about one-third of sperm-egg unions result in babies, even when abortion is not a factor.

Do each of these embryos have a soul too? If so, then (using down and dirty simplistic renditions) heaven is going to be occupied by a lot of souls that have never heard Christ's teachings. That's pretty weird theologically speaking.

So I'm not convinced of the religious, or indeed scientific argument for banning abortion in the first trimester. Yet, as Easterbrook argues pretty convincingly, there is precious little difference between a late-term baby inside the womb and one outside. Interestingy, the medical logic of Roe vs Wade (as opposed to the abominable constitutional logic) seems to recognize this problem. In those medical terms, it was a carefully crafted compromise that I can live with.

Of course, neither side in this debate is happy with the compromise, so we reach a situation excellently summarized by Easterbrook:

... each year since 1995, Congress has enacted legislation to restrict late-term abortion, and each year President Clinton has either vetoed or threatened to veto it. During the sequence of votes and vetoes, each side has gone out of its way to make itself look bad. Pro-life members of Congress have proposed absolute bans that make no provision for protecting the life of the mother, which undermines their claim to revere life. Senator Diane Feinstein of California, in what was surely one of the all-time lows for American liberalism, brought to the Senate floor a bill intended to affirm a woman's right to terminate a healthy, viable late-term fetus. Both sides have opposed a reasonable middle ground. In 1996, for example, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a liberal Democrat, offered a bill to ban late-term abortions except when necessary to avert "serious adverse health consequences" to the woman. Rather than rally around this compromise, pro-lifers and pro-choicers mutually assailed it.

And, of course, statistics are used in this debate like stolen lightning. The latest round comes from the pro-life side, with a study published in the Southern Medical Journal (warning -- pdf file) that is summarized here. It claims to find that women who undergo abortions are significantly more likely to die, from both violent and non-violent means, in the years following the abortion.

This study suffers from all the problems I've mentioned in the recent cases of airborne pollution, HRT and other examples of scaremongering. The relative risks are below 2, casting doubt on the significance of the findings. The lower ends of the confidence intervals are suspiciously close to 1. Moreover, the researchers, while they controlled for psychiatric history, did not, as far as I can tell control for marital status. The single biggest predictor of a woman suffering violence is her marital status. Similarly, single women place themselves in risky situations that can lead to accidental death or death by infectious disease more than women. If the researchers had found that a married woman who had had an abortion was more likely to die than a married woman or had not, or, more significantly, an unmarried woman who had not, then that would be something worth paying attention to. As it is, this study is not a particularly useful contribution to the debate.

PP: If you want to know why abortion will never be banned outright in the States, read this article.

British media bias

Check out Stephen Pollard's latest blog post on British media bias, which clearly states the exact objection I have to the BBC in particular.

Blood, toil, tears and sweat

Sir John Keegan, who should know, says that if Churchill were alive today, he would strike at Saddam. By contrast, a UVA assistant professor* of philosophy raises moral and political objections to starting war with Iraq, which I'd have more sympathy for if we weren't already at war with Iraq (we have been bombing it weekly for quite some time). Ceasefires don't end wars, they simply pause them.

* Remember, one of the reasons why we are supposed to ignore Bjorn Lomborg is because he was only an assistant professor. The argumentum ex auctoritate is fallacious, but you'd never know that from the coverage of Lomborg. If anyone on the right uses this argument against Talbot Brewer, they deserve equal condemnation.


Anatole Kaltesky, a generally idiotarian commentator who is sometimes insightful when he talks about things he knows about (i.e. economics), declares confidently that the Euro is a dead issue in the UK. His prognosis for Europe will make a few people smile:

... while Britain has been saved from the euro, at least for the time being, by the operation of democracy and the good sense of voters, the rest of Europe is looking less and less fortunate on both counts. Europe is bouncing along the bottom of a deep economic slump and can no longer hope to export its way out of trouble by selling luxury goods to a super-charged American economy. Meanwhile, Germany, which is now perennially Europe’s weakest, as well as its largest, economy, is being sucked into a deflationary whirlpool similar to the one that drowned the postwar economic miracle in Japan.

Kaletsky then goes on to a detailed examination of the state of the German economy and the peculiar bind the Euro has placed it in. I think he's right on this one. Now, now, we mustn't laugh...

Predictions wrong again

Everyone said there would be a baby boom nine months after 9/11. I mentioned in a STATS article that time and time again people had predicted baby booms after events of national import and time and time again, they did not happen. Someone in Northern New Jersey -- an area you'd expect to be one of the most affected -- has looked into the figures. The result? No baby boom there.

Over the Moon

Pardon me while I leap around the room yahooing like a crazed gibbon. The lads beat Leeds at Elland Road last night for the first time since 1961. Now if only we can get another proven striker to join us by Saturday...


I've been meaning to mention Jim Miller on Politics for some time now. He has a particularly nice discussion of the ecological fallacy up there at the moment.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The devil is the details

Rand Simberg rails at the Director of ONDCP for disingenuous use of statistics over at Transterrestrial Musings. Rand's complaint is about correlation being misinterpreted as causation:

Note that it doesn't say that marijuana caused the emergency-room visit--just that it was "mentioned as a drug patients used." Had they been asked, even greater numbers might have offered up milk as a "food patients used." Since there's zero reason to equate correlation with causation, Fearless Leader is either being idiotic, or disingenuous when he says:

"Marijuana-related medical emergencies are increasing at an alarming rate, exceeding even those for heroin," White House Drug Czar John Walters said in a prepared statement. "This report helps dispel the pervasive myth that marijuana is harmless.

Rand's contempt would be utterly deserved if the definition of "mention" was as he and some of his correspondents suppose. It isn't though, according to the voluminous SAMSHA report (warning -- huge PDF file), on p.35, to be classified as a drug-related episode, several criteria have to be met, including:

The patient's presenting problem(s) (i.e., the reason for the Emergency Department visit) was induced by or related to drug use, regardless of when the drug use occurred; (and) ...

The patient's reason for using the substances(s) was dependence, suicide attempt or gesture, and/or psychic effects.

In addition to drug overdoses, reportable ED episodes may result from chronic effects of habitual drug use or from unexpected reactions. Unexpected reactions reflect cases where the drug's effect was different than anticipated (e.g., caused hallucinations). DAWN cases do not include accidental ingestion or inhalation of a substance with not intent of abuse, or adverse reactions to prescription or over-the-counter medications taken as prescribed.

A single drug abuse episode may have multiple drug mentions. Up to 4 different substances can be recorded for each ED episode. Therefore, not every reported substance is, by itself, necessarily a cause of the medical emergency. On the other hand, substances that contributed to a drug abuse episode may occasionally go unreported or undetected. Even when only one substance is reported for an episode, an allowance should be made for reportable drugs not mentioned or for other contributory factors.

It goes on:

DAWN does not measure the frequency or prevalence of drug use in the population, but rather the health consequences of drug use that are reflected in visits to hospital EDs.

This a pretty careful study, from what I can make out. Simply going to an ED with an ingrowing toenail and admitting you smoked a spliff or two in college would not classify the visit as either an episode or mention. Someone admitted to hospital after smoking a spliff, snorting coke and then drinking a black velvet (the combination that killed Olivia Channon, if I recall correctly) would be classified as an episode with three mentions (marijuana, coke and alcohol, which is recorded if in combination with a drug, for good reason). If someone smoked a spliff and then someone who had not been taking drugs hit him with a baseball bat, it would not be classified as an episode. If someone took a toke and decided he could fly out of the second story window, it would be.

If Walters had said "Marijuana abuse is increasing at an alarming rate," Rand's objection would be valid. Given the careful design of this study, however, Rand's point about milk and food is not appropriate. This study depends on a clinical assessment that drugs were causally involved in the incident. It looks pretty damning to me.

The Poverty of Poverty theory

Amazing. A hard-left organization in the UK has recognized that poverty is normally a temporary state:

"People move through dependency, and most poverty is temporary. Poverty is generally an experience for part of people's lives, not for all of it.

"Few people under retirement age who have low incomes now have been poor throughout the last five years.

"Relatively few people who are unemployed stay unemployed continuously. Most young people who are currently poor will either obtain work, or settle down with someone else who is not poor."

In other words, the idea of a permanent economic underclass is a myth. Quite right. Janet Daley dismisses some other economic myths, such as the notion that you can define poverty in relative terms, here. But that is not to say that there is no such thing as an underclass. instead, we have a cultural underclass, one that ensures it remains in the lowest socio-economic stratum by making poor decisions the cultural norms. Daley hints at this when she mentions marriage:

Social analysts (again, invariably labelled "Right-wing") have been saying for years that family breakdown is a main cause of modern poverty. It is much more expensive for individuals, and for society, when people try to raise children alone.

So if the Government really wanted to abolish poverty, the most valuable thing that it could do would be to encourage people - by any means in its power - to marry before having children and to stay married once they have had them. Don't hold your breath on this one.

The culture of the underclass in both the UK and US is strongly anti-marriage. It is also pro welfare-dependency, the other aspect that Daley hints at. Policies that promote the social importance of marriage and personal responsibility are needed. Funnily enough, both are, how shall we put it, traditional...

War: The Case For

Leave it to Michael Gove to lay out the principled conservative case for war against Iraq. He answers particularly the conservative argument that state sovereignty must not be breached:

The international order has hitherto depended on the principle that national borders are sacrosanct and, however unattractive a tyrant, military action to remove a regime can be justified only by its breaching another state’s sovereignty. But, as Dr Kissinger has noted, Iraq’s imminent acquisition of weapons of mass destruction challenges that doctrine at root. For not only is Saddam’s programme to acquire such weapons in breach of treaty accords and the international order, it also gives him the potential to threaten global security at will, possessed of the means of inflicting irretrievable damage on other states and peoples. Saddam, and his terrorist allies, would be horrifically empowered. Our capacity to protect our citizens, and interests, would be grotesquely weakened.

The scale, and imminence, of the threat we face requires action of a kind it has become hard to contemplate. We have no alternative but to launch a pre-emptive war against Iraq to prevent Saddam completing his drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Massive military force must be deployed to remove Saddam’s regime. Such an action will inevitably lead to significant casualties, both Western and Iraqi. No reasonable, or moral, human being can regard such a course with equanimity. But reason, and morality, tell us that there is no alternative.

The difference between Iraq and Serbia (in the case of Kosovo) is clear. Serbia had ceased bothering its neighbors, and was struggling to maintain order against what were essentially Islamic terrorists. There was no real emergent threat. Iraq is plainly different.

Moreover, Michael goes on to point out that in removing Saddam, the "West" will be clearing up a mess partly of its own creation:

It also requires a recognition that the traditional diplomacy which placed stability above morality only succeeded in compromising both. The realpolitik which led Republicans, and Tories, in the past to acquiesce in the propping up of regimes in Baghdad, and Riyadh, has not bought us security. It has allowed evil to incubate. And we have been forced to pay, in the innocent blood shed on September 11, for that folly.

Now, however, America is determined to ensure that danger is defeated by liberating those whom its past policies have betrayed. It is an irony, and one perhaps not welcome among the old Left or the old Right, that morality has been restored to international affairs by a conservative American President. Just as it was in the 1940s by a Conservative British Prime Minister. While Europe stands irresolute and divided, while America’s old managerialists cavil, while the Left temporises in the face of tyranny, the White House recognises that Western democracy’s future depends on democracy taking root in Iraq.

Cynics might call it cowboy diplomacy, but putting its faith in freedom is how the West has always won.

The Western powers have left a lot of messes behind them. It is quite simply compounding the error not at least to contemplate clearing them up.

Butterfield at it again

The New York Times is trumpeting a Justice Policy Institute report that says Black males are more likely to go to prison than college. This is a foul canard. You go to college generally between the ages of 18-24, while you can go to jail at any time. Can you say apples and oranges? Moreover, the figures for black male college enrollment look suspiciously low. A quick check of the Census bureau figures show 815,000 black males enrolled in college, not the 603,000 claimed here. That's a hell of a difference.

Anyway, my quick check shows that there are 195,000 black males of college age in prison or jail, as opposed to 469,000 enrolled in college. The JPI looks as if it's being deeply disingenuous here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Set the People Free

... was Churchill's election slogan in 1951, after the Labour government had refused to remove all the cumbersome regulations of wartime. Bill Deedes says it helped win the election for the Tories, and suggests that it might work again now:

One thing for sure, we are enmeshed by many more regulations than we had in 1951. There are no acute shortages, so we are spared rationing; but our lives have become far more tightly controlled.

The regulations passed with scant parliamentary attention and spun round business, shops, schools, doctors, hospitals, factories, hotels, every mortal form of activity, are formidable, perhaps crippling, and growing.

There is no longer such a thing as an accident in life. Someone is to blame and, if you set about it in the right way, a lawyer or tribunal will collect for you, probably for free.

Like the rationing and controls kept on long after the Second World War, "It's only fair, innit?" No denying, there are political risks here. So best keep the cushion pressed hard down on the face of the enterprising? There is a fork in the road ahead for the Tories. Turn right - and is it all that far right? - and promise to set the people free.

My personal favorite UK political slogan was Mrs T's "Britain Strong and Free," but I think Churchill's is more appropriate to the current times.


The fightback looks as if it is beginning with sport as the champion in this Spectator article.

Comparative Advantage?

Public school values at a fraction of the price. This story speaks volumes about the state of education in the UK.

Hiding behind the Bill of Rights

Something we should all do now and then, whether it's the 1689 version or the one from a century later. Thanks to Alan K Henderson for pointing to this excellent idea.

The Spanish Front

Xavier Basora's thoughts on WWI and American intervention are up at Buscaraons.

The BBC and the Government: whore and pimp

I can think of no better analogy. The BBC performs for the body that guarantees its funding by enforced taxation. Janet Daley
makes clear exactly how this arrangement works:

It is queasily reminiscent of state broadcasting in a totalitarian society when the BBC schedules a day-long programme called Your NHS to coincide with a Labour Budget that promises vast amounts of money to the National Health Service, and the Prime Minister actually appears on that programme to make clear his commitment to quality health care. As Adam Boulton said, why couldn't they have called it "Health Day" rather than "NHS Day" and examined other ways of funding and structuring health care?

Maybe the corporation is actually colluding to keep Labour in power in an explicitly corrupt way. But probably not. It is just that its personnel share Labour's assumptions and language. They do not regard these shared views on, say, the virtue of high tax and high public spending, as merely correct: they see them as the only rational opinions. And they, apparently, are the masters now.

The BBC is a high class prostitute, certainly. But it is a prostitute just the same.

Quiet Riot?

Chris Bertram has instant analysis of the report into the Bradford riots last year. It seems that the riots were pretty much motivated by religious hatred of non-muslims, and the authors deserve commendation for their bravery in pointing this out. I'd be very interested to see a comparative analysis of the Bradford and Cincinatti riots.

The European Ideal

I have nothing really to add to The Group Captain's remarks on Jack Straw's latest pro-Euro rantings except to say that it seems that the central principle of Eurocracy is Berthold Brecht's "Let us dismiss the people and elect another in their place".

Matthew 7, 3

Eucharist Is Cannibalistic, Says Bishop. Yes, our old friend the Rt Rev Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford (he's been there since '87, a clear case for ecclesiastical term limits), says the eucharist is turning people away from the church. Not wishy-washy relativistic views or failure to address the concerns of individuals rather than groups, no. It's that rotten transubstantiation issue again (although I'm sure Harries would be appalled if Ian Paisley ground a catholic wafer under his foot as an "instrument of idolatry" again). Perhaps His Grace should turn to the Gospel According to St. Matthew once again:

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Iustum Bellum

Chris Bertram sets out the compelling case from the left that the war in Afghanistan was just in the latest Imprints magazine.

Anglosphere: the view from Oz

Scott Wickstein sends the following useful contribution on the idea from Australia:

Iain Murray has been a leading promoter of the "Anglosphere Concept", and he very kindly asked me to put a few words together describing how the "Anglosphere Concept" looks from an Australian perspective.

To be honest, from here, the "Anglosphere Concept" and the "Network Commonwealth" look to be more an outline of what is already under construction then just a blueprint. Because of it's geographical isolation, Australia has been more thoughtful then it perhaps has been credited for about it's international relations. And Australians, again perhaps due to their remoteness from the world stage are not aware of the impact they have on the world.

The Anglosphere Concept places great emphasis on the strength of civil society. Australia indeed has a strong civil society, which is a remarkable achievement for a nation that was founded as a penal colony. The strength of Australian civil society is not obvious on the surface. It has less participation then in other nations- Australians are reluctant to put themselves forward. However, in times of crisis, Australian civil society shows itself to be exceptionally strong- you can see how strong when a bushfire endangers a town, or the huge volunteer effort that contributed so much to the success of the Olympic games.

Australia's much maligned local government level helps out here as well- Australian municipalities cover suburbs rather then whole cities- There's no such thing as the Greater Adelaide Council, all this work is done by suburban authorities. Only Brisbane has a large municipal organisation.

Australia also benefits from a strong immigration intake, which tends to be of the "best and the brightest". Australia has been criticised lately for its refugee policies, but this overshadows the trend towards a larger intake, and underlines how desirable a place Australia is to live in.

James Bennett makes the point that the "Anglosphere" is a strong leader in the field of science and technology. Australia is not renowned as a leader in raw science, however it has made contributions here. What Australia is really strong at is adapting to new technology, and what you might call "applied" science. Australia has been innovative in uptaking modern communications (anything to make the world seem smaller and distances less vast is popular here.) and even in science, Australia has its innovators, often with help, as I will discuss later.

A point I would like to make about the "Anglosphere" attitude to science, that isn't talked about by James Bennett, is that I feel there is a strong "Anti-Science" emotion prevalent in the Anglosphere that counteracts scientific leadership, that is probably stronger in Britain and Australia, then in North America, though it can also be identified there. Such Luddite thinking (itself an English term from the industrial revolution) is often to be found in the literary-arts intelligentsia, and has a strong political effect in terms of hostility to technology, of old, the anti-nuclear power groups, and is now seen in hostility to genetic technology and nanotechnologies.

The Network Commonwealth concept is already a work under construction as far as Australia is concerned. The very term Commonwealth has great resonance here- Australia's official name is "The Commonwealth of Australia" and of course Australia was a big fan of the British Commonwealth of Nations before that concept collapsed as a useful medium in international affairs.
Trade is a part of the NC- and Australia is working hard to make this a reality. Australia has a free trade agreement of long standing with New Zealand, and is working hard to secure another with the United States. Trade with the UK is still of importance to Australia, and Australian companies still look to London when they first look to expand internationally. In other areas of co-operation, Australia has common food standards organisation with New Zealand, and a lot of trade co-operation is done "behind the scenes" that doesn't get a lot of public recognition, but is important nonetheless.

The concept of sojourner provisions for the Anglosphere is a great one that Australia would benefit greatly from. It's almost a rite of passage for Australians to travel overseas, for a working holiday in the UK or increasingly the US, and indeed elsewhere, and an increasing number of Australians spend part of their careers overseas. This is starting to work both ways, with large numbers of UK 20somethings working and spending time in Australia, and Australian corporates are increasingly looking for international personnel to fill key vacancies. More co-operation is needed with both the US and the UK, for Australia to reap the benefits in international movement.
Scientific collaboration is another area Australia has long been active- mostly in space technology, with the Anglo-Australian telescope program, and Australian authorities have long worked to help NASA in its space expeditions. A more focussed effort here by Australian authorities would work wonders however, keeping Australia up to date in important new technologies such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

This collaboration effort is seen more in security issues. For Australia, the alliance with the United States is not just a common defence treaty- Australia's security agencies work closely with their US and UK counterparts, specialising in South East Asian affairs. Australia is usually to be found in the ranks of any "Coalitions of the Willing", sometimes causing internal debate, but whenever there's trouble to be found, Australia will usually help in sorting it out. In East Timor, Australia started to exercise a leadership role, with the US providing support in logistics and communications.

The call for Civilisation construction leads people who wish to spread the Anglosphere Concept and make it a part of mainstream debate first have a question to ask of ourselves. Do we wish to make it a political concept, to put it "on the Agenda" so to speak, or to work it into the background as an idea, rather in the way that "globalisation" was. Seemingly each nation interested in the Anglosphere will have their own problems and priorities. In England, the Network Commonwealth provides a workable alternative for Eurosceptics to offer to the EU- in America and Australia, such a political use of the concept seems less necessary, as ideally, the Network Commonwealth should be a bipartisan approach.

One of the important social organisations of the old British Commonwealth that is transferable to the Network Commonwealth is the importance of sporting links, especially cricket and rugby. These sports help to develop social and other links between nations and cricket and rugby are especially good because they attune attitudes and spread memes between nations- especially nations that otherwise would have little in common. The role of cricket in India is crucial- no one who knows India can doubt the importance of cricket in Indian national life, and the same applies to rugby in New Zealand. Such sporting issues are not as obvious in Australia or England, but are definitely there in the background. It is a shame that America's sporting endeavours are in fields that are not practiced internationally.

Suman Palit refers to the flourishing of Anglosphere memes in India. These are seeds of the new Network Commonwealth, and it is greatly to everyone's advantage that those seeds are watered and well looked after.

E-mail problem

By the way, my e-mail wasn't working this weekend for DNS reasons, so please feel free to re-send anything that bounced.

Not Invented Here

Steven Den Beste has a pretty good discussion up about Hobart's Funnies, the British variants of US tanks in WWII, and what they tell us about the respective nations.

However, I think Steven overdoes the idea that there was obstructionism in the UK military. Frank Whittle, for instance, who invented the jet engine, joined the RAF as an apprentice aircraft fitter. The initial refusal by the Air Ministry to countenance spending public money on his unproven idea was quite proper in my opinion, but after he had raised private money to build a working model in 1937, the Ministry very quickly gave the idea the attention it deserved, so that we were well on the way to building the first Gloster Meteor in 1940.

Meanwhile, the Americans were obviously guilty of the "not invented here" syndrome. By far the most effective version of the Sherman tank in WWII was the British Sherman VC, or Firefly, with its 17pdr gun rather than the far less effective 75mm cannon. As a result, it was the only tank on the Western Front that could take on the Tiger and Panther. The US military command, however, refused to countenance upgrading the gun. I understand this decision was not popular with US troops who saw the Firefly's effectiveness.

Friday, August 23, 2002

You couldn't make it up

Give a Brit a uniform and chances are he'll become a power-crazed petty dictator, making up rules on the spot. A bus company has been forced to apologize to a little boy for charging him 10p to take a hamster on board. Amazing.

PP: More evidence here, rather more serious this time.

She came from Birmingham/ Way down in Alabam

Heading down to Birmingham, Alabama, for my sister-in-law's wedding, so little in the way of posting until Monday. Poodle tip!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Deadly Debate

Iain Coleman, whose Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy? blog is always worth a look, raises the following objections to my post below on the death penalty:

The pragmatic argument against the death penalty is essentially that it fails more badly than imprisonment. The moral argument is that for the state, or for any individual, to kill a person deliberately and in the absence of any overriding necessity to do so is profoundly evil.

Neither the original blog entry nor the comments here adequately address either of these arguments.

I originally replied in the comments section, but think this discussion deserves more obvious positioning.

Let's deal with the moral argument first. The overriding necessity is to prevent the person, absolutely, from killing again. As is the case over here, much murder should not attract the death penalty because the circumstances of the murder were such that the killer would be unlikely to kill again. In the case of psychopaths, however, terrorists and others who exhibit what is generally regarded as evil, where the likelihood is that they may well kill again, the death sentence is a safer surety for society against such an event than "life imprisonment," which is so often cut short for some reason. There are many cases in the US of freed and escaped killers who have killed again. Their victims would have been saved by application of the death penalty. Would the death penalty have been profoundly evil in those cases? I think not. In these cases, imprisonment fails society much more than the death penalty.

As for the failure argument, that would be more convincing if there was recent actual evidence of miscarriages of justice. In the US, from all the evidence I have seen, I do not believe that there are grounds for asserting that anyone who has been executed since the restoration of the death penalty was innocent. And that is with systems that are pretty flawed. If we have a rule that the death penalty is only to be applied when there is DNA evidence that proves the killer's guilt, or sufficient corroborating evidence in the case of terrorists and war criminals, I believe that argument is dealt with as well.

Finally, are there more innocent people killed by previously-convicted murderers than innocent people killed by wrongful execution? I think the answer is pretty clearly yes. If you're a utilitarian (I'm not), that's a pretty weighty argument in favour of the death penalty.

Worth a look

I'm always glad to see another blog enlivening the British political debate. British Politics is, I think, about people rather than policies. The anonymous host is kind to me, which I appreciate, even though he hints at being on the other side of the great divide (the sporting one -- far more important than the political one). Thanks to Emmanuel for the heads up.

I should also mention Politicalia, partly run by Andrew Dodge. It's a discussion forum for British politics, with reporting from such intrepid souls as Jeannie F. Macaulay, the Lois Lane for the 21st century.

A small but significant victory

Political correctness has been dealt an important defeat today in the dismissal of a pc-motivated lawsuit against Elaine Donnelly and the Center for Military Readiness. The full story can be found here, but Elaine deserves to bask in this. She has been a tireless champion of the needs of the military against the demands of what we are now calling the Tranzis. I have no problem with women in certain combat roles, but they have to be properly trained and not rushed into position for the benefit of good photo-ops. That failure to train properly led to the needless death of a pilot. Elaine should have been congratulated for pointing that out. Instead, they sued her.

A Blog de toute le world

Xavier Basora's blog, Buscaraons, has posts in English, French, Spanish and no doubt Esperanto. As indicated in the discussion below, Xavier is a thought-provoker, so this is well worth a look.

Anglosphere Evolution

Top blogger Suman Palit has some very interesting things to say in the comments section below about the evolution of Anglosphere memes and institutions in the cultural context of India. This is pretty convincing evidence that the Anglosphere is emphatically not about WASP identity.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Negative result published!

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ginkgo for Memory Enhancement: A Randomized Controlled Trial, has found that the popular herb, which even I took for a while, has none of the claimed beneficial effect on memory. As it is a slight anti-coagulant, the risk from increased bleeding can only make taking it dangerous (unless you need an anti-coagulant, in which case there are more effective ones readily available).

A good guide to these so-called herbal medicines is available at Quackwatch.

Modern medicine

As I've often said, modern medicine is not about inhaling burning leaf smoke. The medically beneficial elements in marijuana have now been properly isolated: Cannabis drug 'fights pain without high'. I'll be interested to see how keen the medical marijuana crowd are in pushing this.

American intervention and the end of WWI

On the comments section below for my post on Rand Simberg's look at "American intervention" in Germany in 1944-5, a Canadian correspondent has raised the objection that American intervention at the end of WWI was disastrous for Europe. This has raised some strong disagreements. Another correspondent replied here, while Chad Dimpler gives us his take here. An interesting discussion, but as my command of history becomes pretty dicey after 1914, I'm happy to let others continue this.

To the tune of The Red Flag...

The old satire used to run "The working class can kiss my a**e, I've got the foreman's job at last." Nowadays it seems that getting the foreman's job (or, indeed, the manager's job) does not entail any change in one's class consciousness. According to MORI, two thirds of Britons are "working class and proud of it," despite a significant upward swing in income. This explains how the wife of the Prime Minister, a barrister eraning about $400,000 a year, can be described by a plain-talking Old Labour MP as "the epitome of a working class woman."

What does this mean? Roger thinks that it's a revival of working class solidarity. Maybe, but I think it's more that being middle class doesn't have any benefits any more. Being middle class meant standing in the community and benefits such as home ownership. Now, anyone can own their own home and the community is so cynical that repectability (including the old idea of working class respectability) means nothing. So why should anyone claim to be middle class when all you get from such a claim is a sneer? Quite simply, working class has been redefined to include much of the middle, and indeed some of the upper class.

This has been in process for some time. I remember having a debate at the Civil Service College in 1992 with a woman who adamantly maintained that "secretary" was a working class job. From what I had experienced in South Shields, secretaries did not live in working class areas and were not regarded by the miners, shipbuilders and housewives of the area as working class. That has now changed. Thatcherism and John Major really did usher in, if not a classless, then at least a single class society.

So what does that mean for The People's Party? Roger points out that being "working class and proud of it" is no longer a good predictor of a labour vote, especially among the Upper/Middle Classes who regard themselves as Working Class and, interestingly, among the lowest socio-economic classes:

But what they gain on the swings (so to speak) they may be more than losing on the roundabouts. The working class identity seems no longer to be binding the loyalties of DEs to the Labour Party, so that those who admit they are working class and proud of it are no more likely to vote Labour than those who do not - instead, they are more likely to say they will not vote or to be undecided. If this pattern persists, it may have as profound an impact on the future class/party structure of politics in this country as the rise of the ABC1s; and it has happened a great deal quicker.

The UK is entering a post-class consciousness phase. Very interesting.

Get back under the bridge

I've had a few ill-mannered comments posted on the blog in the past couple of days. I enjoy the comments feature and feel, in general, it adds considerably to the contribution of this blog. However, trolling and flaming will not be accepted. For definitions of these terms, I reporduce here from memory something I read on a newsgroup many years ago:

>I don't understand. What's a troll?

Why, are you gay? (That's a troll)

>What's a flame?

F*** off. (That's a flame)

In future, I shall ban flamers and trolls without warning when I think they have crossed the line. I'm not happy about this.

A Small Reason for National Pride

UPI columnist, and president of the Institute for Human Biodiversity, Steve Sailer asks How tolerant are the British? His answer: quite a bit, actually. Why?

What seems to matter is that a society be sufficiently open to moral debate and economic progress to allow minorities to improve themselves and to impress their neighbors.

The core Anglosphere countries are quite good at this. It's something we should really be proud of.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

He got an icepick, that made his ears burn

Perry over at Samizdata points out that on this day in 1940, Churchill delivered his one of his finest speeches. A good day for civilization then, as, I think, this was also the day that Leon Trotsky had his appointment with a bar utensil.

PP: Thanks to Chris Bertram for taking me to task over this. Nothing in the above post should be taken as approving of Stalinist murder. Nevertheless, in the great cost:benefit analysis of life, I think Trotsky's contribution to the human condition has been negative overall.

Brilliant, Rand, brilliant!!!

Read this. Now.

Anglosphere update

Jim Bennett has some very interesting comments left below on the question of the "one country, two established churches" nature of the Treaty of Union.

Grief and Vengeance

In a characteristically insightful essay, Outpourings of grief that hide an inner emptiness, Theodore Dalrymple hits the nail on the head about the public reaction to those little girls' murder. He points out the double standards of a society that openly accepts, nay encourages, the "lifestyle choices" that lead inexorably to increased abuse of children, and then addresses the ills of sentimentality:

Sentimentality - false sentiment - is not only the simulacrum of feeling that tries to fill the vacuum left by indifference; it is also an evasion of moral responsibility. It allows people to imagine that they are virtuous simply by expressing the emotions that are deemed to be correct in the circumstances, but it demands nothing of them, no sacrifice in the name of duty.

Only in a country as scandalously neglectful of its children as England could there have been such a morally redundant outpouring in a case such as that of these two girls. As for the likely official response to the case, it is likely to pander to the shallowest of emotions: to do otherwise, to tackle the real root of child abuse, insofar as such child abuse is preventable by political means, would require moral courage of a type that is conspicuously absent from our entire political class.

The Dianafication of our emotional life, as exemplified by the response to the abduction and murder of these two girls, marks a deep shift (for the worse, of course) in our national character. It wasn't very long ago that expressions of extreme emotion were regarded as anti-social: indeed, my older patients still cleave to this view, which is what gives them such dignity and permits them to overcome so many real tragedies of their own.

We have been taught that, on the contrary, the expression of emotion - any emotion - is better than its repression. Emotion is regarded like pus in an abscess: if it isn't let out, it results in the emotional equivalent of blood poisoning. This is destructive of all finer feeling. It is destructive of nuance and subtlety. It is an invitation to crudity, vulgarity and shallowness. It means that people are regarded as feeling most who speak loudest and longest, which not surprisingly results in a universal shouting match.

As usual, Shakespeare understood perfectly, though we are increasingly unable to learn anything from him. In King Lear, Kent warns Lear against the folly of mistaking high-sounding words for emotional truth. He takes the part of Cordelia, who has refused to exaggerate the depth of her filial affection:
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.

The hollowness of modern Britain could hardly be greater. We are a nation of Lears, minus the tragic grandeur.

The difference between the reactions of the US and UK to the recent child murders is instructive. In the UK there is hand-wringing and wailing. In the US there is a simple desire to catch the guilty parties and punish them, followed by a search for practical measures, such as the Amber Alert system, that might make child abduction and murder more problematic. The difference is that between a society that remains confident and one that has lost its belief in itself.

Civis Britannicus Sum

Briton axed to death in Zimbabwe.

I therefore fearlessly challenge the verdict which this House ... is to give ... whether, as the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say Civis Romanus sum; so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and strong arm of England shall protect him against injustice and wrong.

-- Lord Palmerston, speech in the Don Pacifico debate, 25 June 1850.

Will there be a Jerzy Tolozcko debate? I doubt it.

Death in the UK

Former Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe has called for reconsideration of the possibility of using the death penalty following the apparently brutal murder of two ten year old girls in Cambridgeshire. The "debate" over there is summed up perfectly in these two sentences:

Ben Page, from pollsters MORI, said that three quarters of the population consistently say they believe the death penalty "is suitable in some circumstances", although lethal injection is the preferred method.

But the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull, said a return to state execution would mean society admitting defeat.

His Grace's words are laughable. What is "society," if it is not the people? And the people have clearly stated that the death penalty is acceptable to them. So they have already admitted defeat. But defeat in what? In a war to reduce crime to zero? That is an unwinnable war, and surely admission of defeat in that fool's errand is the sane course of action.

Since my conversion back to belief that the death penalty can be appropriate in certain circumstances, I have often asked my old comrades exactly why the death penalty is wrong in all circumstances. My old argument, based on redemption, is irrelevant in a secular society, while the argument that it is no deterrent is a) not really an argument, b) does not address the incapacitation argument and c) probably wrong. The "errors" argument is no argument against the penalty, merely the system that is used to apply it. In the end, the argument, rather than concentrating on explaining exactly why the penalty is morally wrong, always seems to boil down to some variation of "that's not how we do things any more," "it's barbaric" or some such formulation. In other words, the argument is one of simple distaste from a minority of the population. To put it more bluntly, it is an argument based on snobbery.

Oxbash Season

It's that time of year again in the UK, when the politics of envy takes charge and the "egalitarians" find some bright young symbol who had been rejected by an Oxford college but who somehow managed to obtain 5 or 6 "A"s at A-Level (quite how they obtain such a large number is beyond me -- no-one at my school was allowed to take more than 3, unless they took Additional Maths, which didn't really count as it was included in the Maths syllabus anyway). Happily, Peter Briffa skewers the Independent, discerning the real reason behind their outrage.

Blog Revival!

The team I've put together over at Tory Revival has started posting! From now on, any posts about the future of the Tory party will be over there. I hope it becomes a one-stop-shop for all your Conservative Re-emergence needs.

Monday, August 19, 2002


Top Aussie blogger Scott Wickstein has a second sports blog (a bit like Ben Sheriff and Howard Fienberg), Ubersportingpundit, which looks mainly at Australian sports but also at Association Football worldwide. Unfortunately, the man supports Newcastle United, the poor deluded soul, and will of course be supporting Australia in the Ashes series. In other words, in sporting terms, he's the bizzaro world version of me...

Cannabis: the case against

More evidence from the UK on cannabis as a public health hazard. Neurophysicist Susan Greenfield writes in the Observer about The real danger of cannabis:

It is hard for me, as a neuroscientist, to accept that a drug that has the biochemical actions that it does, that hangs around in the brain and body, and that has dramatic effects on brain function and dysfunction, could not be leaving its mark, literally, on how our neurons are wired up and work together.

It is argued that we will never stamp out cannabis use, and therefore we should give up trying. But we will not stamp out murder or house break-ins or mugging, yet I've never heard an argument for freeing up police time by liberalising the law on these acts. ...

The condoning of chemical consolation also distracts from other problems. We have failed our young people in providing homes and jobs and, by giving them an easy route into a chilled-out oblivion, have turned our backs on the far more challenging prospect of initiating policies to help them realise their potential and live better and more fulfilling lives. They are paying a high price for cool.

Meanwhile, in The Guardian, long-time marijuana addict Rebecca Cripps talks movingly about the effect the addiction has had on her life:

A couple of weeks into sobriety, I began to realise that I'd spent the previous 10 - or was it 15? - years walking round like a sleepwalker. There, but not there; emotionally absent. How did I manage coherent thought, enveloped in those thick dope clouds for half of every day? It still amazes me.

I wouldn't describe the withdrawals as being that mild either. Four months of sweaty, itchy insomnia, uncomfortably vivid dreams, constant cravings and anxiety seemed a pretty extreme price to pay for being good.

Later, when I went back to smoking (as almost everyone apparently does, unless they follow through with a recovery programme) it really hit me just how strong a drug marijuana is. As the dense tendrils of fragrant fog curled through my brain for the first time in several months and my mindset began to alter radically, I almost had a panic attack. Within seconds I was paralysed on my sofa, once again soaring through unreality, back to being a speechless motionless teenager. Only this time I was aware of what I was doing and why. Bummer.

And the last word should go to a psychiatrist practicing a few miles away from where I grew up, who wrote, in a letter to The Spectator:

‘Cannabis is rather sneered at in circles which consider themselves modish,’ [Petronella Wyatt] tells us. ‘This is probably the best argument of all for its legalisation.’ The next time I am called out to admit a snivelling, bleeding schizophrenic forcibly to psychiatric hospital, after one joint too many has brought on a full psychosis, I will be sure to ask, as the police bundle him into the van, whether he considers the circles he moves in to be modish.

Bracing myself for the predictable onslaught from the libertarians...

Brendan's Back

And he has some jolly good thoughts on the idiocy of animal righst activists:

Pro-animal campaigns in Africa are even worse, where modern-day Rudyard Kiplings (except they tend to be young, trendy and 'radical') take on a new white man's burden of protecting the elephant and the rhino and the gorilla from nasty Africans who would dare to kill them. The fact that such campaigns can devastate people's livelihoods and force them to move from their homes is either overlooked or, even worse, celebrated as a success.

Too damn right. As long as third worlders live in naked squalor, with poverty, disease and death, then it's "living in harmony with nature" and positively admirable. As soon as they start to use the resources around them, they're victims of globalization and have to be protected from it (and returned to semi-naked squalor). And does anyone really think that if you could make a profit from farming rhinos for their horns that there'd be fewer rhinos in the world today?

The Co-ed Disaster

Melanie Philips' latest, The feminisation of education, gets it right on the money. The way schooling has changed has not been about righting prejudice:

Clearly, if any prejudice existed it would be right to address it. But this was not prejudice. It was rather that boys and girls behaved in different ways. This was never an issue in single sex schools. But once co-educational schools became the norm, the differences became striking – and feminism assumed that to be different meant inferiority and discrimination.

This was not only wrong in itself. It was also disastrous for boys. For rather than men being masters of the universe as feminists contend, their sense of what they are is fragile. Unless their particular male characteristics are acknowledged and supported, they start sliding downhill and some go off the rails altogether.

Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute has said exactly the same thing in the American context in her book "The War Against Boys," an extended summary of which was published by The Atlantic Monthly a while ago. This is an important issue, as at the very least I am certain it is partly responsible for increased crime rates from the less intelligent boys who find themselves frustrated in their desires to succeed. Would separating the education of the sexes reduce crime rates and lead to a society in which both sexes could achieve their needs in a socially-acceptable fashion? I'm willing to bet it would. And will anyone have the courage to suggest it? Only enlightened progressives like Melanie Philips really can, in the UK at any rate...


Check out Glenn's thoughts on jury nullification. Long-time readers will know that I consider nullification to be the long-stop in the Anglosphere's liberty-based system. If representative government, separation of powers and Constitutional safeguards all fail, the jury can still save citizens from an oppressive law. That's a vitally important failsafe, not a "bug in the system." And I'm sure that's one of the reasons why the "modernising" pro-Europeans want Trial by Jury in the shape we know it phased out in the UK.

The plural of anecdote is NOT data

Thanks to the Media Research Center for picking up this egregious piece of amateur science. The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt ridiculed UVA professor Patrick Michael's comments about Global Warming on CNN's Capital Gang because of his personal experience of DC weather over the past week. The MRC does a reat job of applying Hunt's own reasoning to the data...

Bumper Day for Bloggers at TCS

My latest Tech Central Station column is up. Check out Slaughtering the Fatted Calf, a look at a new study on obesity. While you're there, drop by the Prof's excellent essay on the British experience with gun control (a meme that desperately needs to spread in the UK) and Charles Murtaugh's great piece on the public health implications of an ageing population. Both Charles and I need better photos on TCS, by the way...


I've recommended the Electric Review's Candidatewatch before as a great pricker of the pomposity bubble for prospective Conservative Party candidates. It seems to have touched a nerve in Central Office. Jolly good. Sites like this one and Candidlist are necessary to keep an eye on a selection procedure that serves the needs of the party, and of the country, rather badly. And I say this as a big fan of Mark Reckless (mentioned in the Observer article).

Friday, August 16, 2002

How to Smack a Tosspot

The former Daddy warblogs, Stephen Chapman, gives that tosser who called for national boundaries on the internet a damn good seeing-to. One of the best posts I've ever read.

The Anglosphere: Criticism and Response

A little while ago, the excellent Canadian blogger Joe Katzman allowed Xavier Basora to post this article on his site criticising certain aspects of the Anglosphere idea. Jim Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Primer, requested space here for his reply, which follows:

Basora on the Anglosphere: A Response

Xavier Basora has written an interesting and thoughtful set of comments on my summary article The Anglosphere Primer. They deserve a response, which logically should be divided into several sections. One concerns those points which, had Basora had access to a more expansive discussion of the Anglosphere phenomenon as I think about it, would have probably not been in disagreement. (Some of these issues have already been clarified in private exchanges between Basora and me, but deserve to be repeated for the public.)

Another concerns those points regarding which we are actually in disagreement, mostly issues of historical interpretation. The third concerns those points where I do not disagree with Basora's analysis, but believe that the points raised are actually consist with my argument and support it.

1. The purpose of understanding the Anglosphere. Basora appears to assume in some of his comments that I am arguing that anything that can be found in the Anglosphere today is inherently good and superior to extra-Anglosphere alternatives. Other comments seem to assume that I am making an argument for Anglosphere essentialism; that things about the Anglosphere that are good, are good because of some inherent quality of English-speaking people. Neither of these points are in fact what I am trying to claim.

I believe when my book is published some of the matters on which Basora commented will be explained in more detail. Without waiting for that, one point that will hopefully become more clear is that I do not write about the Anglosphere to be self-congratulatory. In fact, I consider my work to be in part a critique of previous work on English and/or American exceptionalism, which is for the most part too essentialist. I'm not trying to say there's something about the English-speaking peoples that is inherently superior, more trustworthy, more freedom-loving, or whatever. Quite the contrary.

Rather we are the beneficiaries of a series of cultural-evolutionary circumstances that have led to the emergence of a particular social institutions that, whatever their merits or demerits, have been the specific sources of effective parliamentary and constitutional government, and the Industrial Revolution. Of course these might (or might not) have emerged elsewhere, but it is a fact that they didn't. We can acquire some useful guides for future action by learning from this historical process.

Since the particular characteristics of the Anglosphere are the product of cultural evolution, of course they can be eroded or lost. Preventing such erosion is a concern of people in the Anglosphere. This is why, as an Anglospherist, I am concerned to critique the centralization of local government in the UK and Canada, and the plans of the Blair government to abandon the double-jeopardy protection.

Similarly, effective analogues of these characteristics can be acquired by other societies, and in many cases have been. I tend to believe that imitation of Anglosphere institutions and practices by other cultures is a waste of time, and often counterproductive. Rather, there are probably local institutions and practices that can be evolved to serve parallel functions, and thus would probably be more effective. To use Basora's own cases and examples, Catalunya certainly had its own mediaeval parliamentary traditions, and I am happy to see Catalan decentralists appealing to their precedents. It is far more effective than merely trying to imitate the British Parliament or the American Congress. I don't think that any human population is destined to remain poor or oppressed. However, it must realized that if in some cultures family loyalties continue to determine, for example, government allocation of resources or judicial decisions, they are not going to become fully competitive with venues that enjoy full transparency. How they evolve out of that situation is their business, but I can't see how they can improve things unless they succeed.

It's important to make a distinction between Anglosphere exceptionalism, which I believe is real enough; it shows up statistically all the time. The issue is where it comes from and what does it mean. It's the *essentialism* I try to critique. Some people can't seem to understand that you can demonstrate Anglosphere exceptionalism without proving essentialism. But in fact, looking at the league-table rankings of nations on various things typically will show several non-Anglosphere outliers (usually Switzerland, and often some Scandinavian nations) clustered together with Anglosphere nations. To me this is a good argument against essentialism; whatever features Anglosphere nations share with these outliers (usually, at heart, strength of civil society) are probably important contributors to economic and political success.

Many people don't seem to understand that exceptionalism (showing that certain societies have significant differences from others) and essentialism (claiming that these differences are innate) are two different things.

2. Some historical points. Regarding municipal autonomy, I would have to take exception to the claim that English municipalities have been strongly under the control of the central state since the beginning of the settlement of America (which I assume means 1607.) Although of course their charters stemmed from a grant of Crown-in-Parliament, as did the charters of the American colonies, there were in practice substantially autonomous, elected their own councils and mayors, and remained significant centers of political power until after World War Two. The autonomy of American municipalities has been present from the settlement of America and was not invented out of the blue over here; it was copied directly and rather automatically from English models. As noted above, I regard the degradation of municipal self-government in the several Anglosphere countries to be an error that an understanding of the particular virtues of the Anglosphere advises against.

Regarding German technological leadership between 1871-1945, I would have to say that it is Basora's characterization of Germany that is the exaggeration, not my claim. Certainly Germany was a strong challenger between those years (actually I would say up to 1933; Germany was eating or destroying its own seed corn after that) but although it took leadership in several sectors (industrial chemistry, certainly, and optics) it was rarely more than a peer to the Anglosphere nations over that time in most key lead technologies, and often was behind. In what emerging technology of the first half of the 20th Century was either Britain or America (and usually both) not a peer? Aviation, automobiles, radio, electronics, electrical apparatus, steel production -- Anglosphere nations were leaders or peers in all these fields.

Everyone recognizes that America prevailed over Germany partly because of industrial productivity (another way of saying we had better production engineering; Germany never matched Willow Run) but we are only now really understanding how important raw scientific-technological superiority had been as well. Radar and computation, mostly British, (particularly the cryptanalytical computers developed at Bletchley Park) were key to the Allied victory, and if course, if Germany hadn't collapsed before August 1945, they would have been finished off with nuclear weapons.

It's instructive to note a few side points in the Anglosphere-German technology leadership issue. One of the principal reasons for the rapid German progress in the late 1800s was their invention of the research university as an institution. But it's worth noting that between, say, 1880 and 1930, America has effectively copied the German institution, and Britain had altered their university system to incorporate many of those research features. Thus the Anglosphere responded to the German challenge fairly quickly and effectively.

The other issue is sensitive, but worth looking at. Germany's period of greatest growth and progress was also the period in which its Jewish population was most integrated into German life. From Mendelssohn to Rathenau, many of the people who contributed greatly to making Germany smart, rich, and strong were Jews only a generation or two from their emancipation, or recent immigrants from Eastern Europe. In comparing the two cultures, we need to look at what made Germany fall, as well as what made it rise. The Anglosphere nations have always prospered most and best when they were most opened to strangers and minorities, and when it most enthusiastically integrated them into their national lives.

This is true for others as well, but it's worth looking at how wide those windows have been in the Anglosphere and how narrow they were in other cultures. In fact, it's worth looking at the two main Continental challengers to the Anglosphere, France and Germany, and asking how much of a handicap they gave themselves by the persecution of the French Protestants (just at the time France was losing its high-trust characteristics, perhaps not coincidentally) and by the German rejection of Jewish integration.

It does not buttress the argument for German leadership to point out that the Anglosphere benefited from immigrant and refugee German technological expertise. In fact much of the real benefit came specifically from Jewish refugees, without whom it's doubtful we would have been able to develop nuclear weapons. The several hundred rocket engineers we brought over after World War II were a mere drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands of talented refugees that flooded into the Anglosphere before and during the war. I would hold that in comparing cultural traits, a culture that expels (or murders) talent is down points against a culture that shelters it.

Finally, Basora is at his least convincing when he tries to argue that Germany would have become and remained the world technological-economic leader had it not chosen to challenge Britain before 1914 and seek an overseas empire. This is, at a minimum, impossible to prove, and furthermore, puts us into a game of picking and choosing aspects of a culture and saying "if only" certain parts hadn't have existed, the other parts still would have, and that they would have had a substantially different historical outcome. For better or worse, the Kaiser's ability to project his cranky personal strategic ideas on Germany's course of action was part and parcel of German culture and constitution.

In fact, overseas empire and naval expansion *was* the liberal option for Germany between 1871 and 1914; the conservative option was conquest of and expansion into Eastern Europe and Russia, a program that was finally indulged in 1941-44. The liberal and mercantile middle class (who were also the source of technological entrepreneurism) supported the Navy League and the Colonial League as political counterweights to the landed aristocracy and Army interests. A Germany that concentrated more on eastern expansion and gave up its naval and colonial ambitions would have been less likely to have come into direct conflict with Britain, but British foreign policy of the time would still have seen the need to support France and Russia to counterbalance what would have
been a very strong Germany.

It's impossible to say anything for sure in alternative history, but the probability of a non-expansionistic but technologically and commercially dynamic Germany before 1914 strikes me as being very low. The self-limitation of the German challenge seems to be one of its characteristics, and one of the reasons why the Anglosphere retained leadership in spite of that challenge.

Regarding the issue of Anglosphere tolerance and the treatment of the Catholic minority in the British Empire between the Reformation and Catholic Emancipation, that must be discussed in the context of European practice of the day. The Anglosphere certainly wasted many of the talents of two of its significant population groups, Irish Catholics and people of African descent, for substantial periods in its history. However, the Catholic issue was primarily a military-national security issue, not a minority tolerance issue.

Remember that elements of the Catholic community in Britain engaged in armed rebellion and subversion in concert with foreign hostile powers periodically from the time of the Act of Supremacy through the 1745 Rebellion. At the same time, Britain experienced a constant inflow of refugees from Catholic portions of the Continent relating validated stories of horrific persecution. This was a situation that fluctuated between cold and hot war for more than a century. In other words, enough British Catholics presented a genuine national-security threat to the Protestant regime that they felt justified in taking steps to preclude Catholics from full participation in national political life.

However, it's worth noting that for most of this time British Catholics did not have full equality, but still were able to live, work, and
worship with relatively few restrictions other than political. (Ireland, which was a war zone for substantial parts of that time, was a different story.) They could not attend Oxford or Cambridge, but could go across the Channel for Catholic education and return without hindrance. They could not serve as commissioned officers in the armed forces but could be warrant officers. None of these things were true for French or Spanish Protestants. In comparison to contemporary Catholic Continental nations, British religious minorities experienced substantially more tolerance. Indeed, it's worth considering that in Muslim Andalucia, where academics assure us that Christians and Jews enjoyed a multicultural paradise alongside the Muslim majority, non-Muslim minorities had rather fewer rights that British Catholics before Emancipation.

It's odd that Basora brings up Quebec as an example of the religious tolerance issue: minority religious rights under the Quebec Act were a grant from the British government after the conquest. When it was under French rule, Quebec forbade Protestants entirely. In fact, the Quebec Act was the first experiment with Catholic emancipation in the Anglosphere, and quickly led to its expansion elsewhere. And of course Catholics were given full political rights in the United States as a result of the revolution. The fact that Irish Catholics came quickly (by historical standards) to full political and social integration in the United States demonstrates that anti-Catholicism was a transient phenomenon of the Anglosphere, caused by specific geopolitical circumstances, rather than an inherent feature. It's also an interesting phenomenon that today, so many prominent British Euroskeptics, stridently proclaiming English exceptionalism, are Catholics. (One such Catholic did tell me that the British Catholic Euroskeptics tend to be Jesuit-educated, while the Europhiles are Dominican-educated. I don't have a theory about that just yet, although it does speak well for the quality of Jesuit education.)

3. On Cultural Crosscurrents within the Anglosphere. Basora's point about Canada, Australia and elsewhere serving as influences to
democratize England is perceptive and accurate. This does not seem to me to invalidate any of the Anglosphere analysis. In fact, although the Anglosphere is a unitary culture area, it has within a common framework of language and political structures a very wide diversity of regional and national cultures. These are constantly interacting and influencing each other. These is an overall split between a relatively rural, traditional, Anglican, hierarchical and aristocratic tradition (what I call the "Tory temperament") and an urban, innovative, dissenting-religion, egalitarian, and bourgeois tradition (which I call the "Whig temperament") that have been contending politically and socially for centuries. The American Revolution split an empire that was by turns mildly Whiggish or mildly Tory into a rather more Whiggish American republic, and a more Tory Second British Empire. Canada served as the refuge-point for many American Tories and thus shows what a North American Tory culture is like.

America and the colonies of settlement have continued to influence Britain from the start. Britain continues to influence America and the colonies. (This is also true of metropolitan-colonial relations in the Francosphere, Hispanosphere, and Lusosphere as well, of course.) Now the emerging English-speaking cultures of India and other Third World parts of the Anglosphere are beginning to have a real impact on the demographics, culture, religion and arts of the Old Anglosphere. It's all part of the ongoing evolution of the Anglosphere, and it's all fascinating.

Summary: I think Basora and I would agree that the Anglosphere is a real, statistically evident phenomenon that merits ongoing study and research. I think we would both agree that a simplistic triumphalism or essentialism obscures, rather than adds to the understanding of the Anglosphere. We may have to disagree on certain specific historical points, but I am always open to more discussion and evidence. In short, this is a welcome addition to a common discussion whose initiation was one of the objectives of my publishing The Anglosphere Primer.

James C. Bennett

ISM: I have little to add other than what are essentially nit-picking points with the Basora critique. First, either I am suffering from a lon-standing delusion, but I think he gets his facts wrong in his very first assertion. As far as I am aware, the Lord Mayor of London has been elected annually by the liverymen of London since 1215.

As for the decentralized democracy that Basora claims was usurped long ago, I'd put that as beginning with the growth of the welfare state and the nationalization of hospitals, prisons and public assistance in the 1940s (although a case can be made for Salisbury's education reforms as being a nationalization of schooling in the 1890s). But the biggest change was the rate-capping in the early 80s that destroyed accountability for local taxes (something the poll tax was designed to reverse, until the Treasury stupidly insisted on a cap for that too). As for the Scottish parliament, that's not a local government issue at all. Tam Dalyell would box his ears for his confusion over this issue. The reality of the supposed "centralization" of control in the UK is best summed up by AJP Taylor:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card.... [B]roadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone. (English History: 1914-1945)

As for Basora's citation of the "ne bis in idem" principle, well, jolly good. I'm glad that Protocol 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes this. But, as with virtually everything in the ECHR, there are exceptions allowed, including the new evidence loophole that Blair & Blunkett are exploiting. The Common Law autrefois rule does not provide for exceptions. Advantage common law over codified law here. Would NuLabour be trying to subvert common law by statute is the ECHR wasn't around to give them cover? I don't know, but if he's saying that Common Law should not be supplantable by Statute Law that's a whole different argument, it seems to me.

Fonte of Wisdom

John Fonte's latest essay, The Ideological War Within the West, has garnered a great deal of attention, and rightly so. I have a slight disagreement with Fonte over the citizenship arguments (expressed here and here) but I find the rest spot on. Fonte's definition of the concepts behind "transnational progressivism" is worth quoting in full:

The ascribed group over the individual citizen. The key political unit is not the individual citizen, who forms voluntary associations and works with fellow citizens regardless of race, sex, or national origin, but the ascriptive group (racial, ethnic, or gender) into which one is born.

A dichotomy of groups: Oppressor vs. victim groups, with immigrant groups designated as victims. Transnational ideologists have incorporated the essentially Hegelian Marxist "privileged vs. marginalized" dichotomy.

Group proportionalism as the goal of "fairness." Transnational progressivism assumes that "victim" groups should be represented in all professions roughly proportionate to their percentage of the population. If not, there is a problem of "underrepresentation."

The values of all dominant institutions to be changed to reflect the perspectives of the victim groups. Transnational progressives insist that it is not enough to have proportional representation of minorities in major institutions if these institutions continue to reflect the worldview of the "dominant" culture. Instead, the distinct worldviews of ethnic, gender, and linguistic minorities must be represented within these institutions.

The "demographic imperative." The demographic imperative tells us that major demographic changes are occurring in the U. S. as millions of new immigrants from non-Western cultures enter American life. The traditional paradigm based on the assimilation of immigrants into an existing American civic culture is obsolete and must be changed to a framework that promotes "diversity," defined as group proportionalism.

The redefinition of democracy and "democratic ideals." Transnational progressives have been altering the definition of "democracy" from that of a system of majority rule among equal citizens to one of power sharing among ethnic groups composed of both citizens and non-citizens. James Banks, one of American education's leading textbook writers, noted in 1994 that "to create an authentic democratic Unum with moral authority and perceived legitimacy, the pluribus (diverse peoples) must negotiate and share power." Hence, American democracy is not authentic; real democracy will come when the different "peoples" that live within America "share power" as groups.

Deconstruction of national narratives and national symbols of democratic nation-states in the West. In October 2000, a UK government report denounced the concept of "Britishness" and declared that British history needed to be "revised, rethought, or jettisoned." In the U.S., the proposed "National History Standards," recommended altering the traditional historical narrative. Instead of emphasizing the story of European settlers, American civilization would be redefined as a multicultural "convergence" of three civilizations—Amerindian, West African, and European. In Israel, a "post-Zionist" intelligentsia has proposed that Israel consider itself multicultural and deconstruct its identity as a Jewish state. Even Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres sounded the post-Zionist trumpet in his 1993 book , in which he deemphasized "sovereignty" and called for regional "elected central bodies," a type of Middle Eastern EU.

Promotion of the concept of postnational citizenship. In an important academic paper, Rutgers Law Professor Linda Bosniak asks hopefully "Can advocates of postnational citizenship ultimately succeed in decoupling the concept of citizenship from the nation-state in prevailing political thought?"

The idea of transnationalism as a major conceptual tool. Transnationalism is the next stage of multicultural ideology. Like multiculturalism, transnationalism is a concept that provides elites with both an empirical tool (a plausible analysis of what is) and an ideological framework (a vision of what should be). Transnational advocates argue that globalization requires some form of "global governance" because they believe that the nation-state and the idea of national citizenship are ill suited to deal with the global problems of the future.

These are the hallmarks of the enemy. The British conservative movement -- whether isolationist or Atlanticist/Anglospherist -- could do worse than to read this article and unfurl its standard atop it.

Labour splits

Mark Seddon of Tribune analyses the internal Labour opposition to war with Iraq for The Spectator. As I've predicted, a major split looks likely. But does this mean Blair will be "out by Christmas"? No. Blair's party will probably split three ways. Leadership challenges in the Labour party are very difficult to arrange, and in the meantime he will survive with the support of the Conservatives. After all, the Prime Minister is the one who commands the support of a majority of the Commons. Party is simply a convenient way of identifying this person, having no other constitutional presence.

Of course, Blair could always chicken out and refuse to support the US. By doing so he would doom Britain to being a forgotten province of Europe.

Sustainable Development Defined

Professor Philip Stott of the University of London examines what has become of the phrase "sustainable development." He doesn't like what he sees:

Today, sustainable development is a ubiquitous, politically compliant phrase, a pleasant-sounding palliative to inexorable and inevitable change. It is dished up as a placebo to eco-chondriacs the world over. Ecological and economic change are the norm, not the exception. Equilibrium solutions are impossible; we inhabit a disturbing, non-equilibrium world, in which volcanoes erupt, earthquakes quake, seas rise and fall, and climate changes, whether under human influence or not.

Sustainable development lurks everywhere - for business, it is a neat PC word: all PR and ethical investment, but signifying little; for scientists, it means: "Give me funds for research"; for politicians: "Give me your nice Green vote".

The biggest problem arises when authoritarian environmentalists hijack the phrase. Then sustainable development becomes either no growth at all or limited growth of a type approved by an elite few - wind farms, yes: nuclear power no; organics, yes: GM no. This is why, so often, environmental organisations try to portray business as the arch-enemy of sustainable development. Like biodiversity, another key word from Rio, sustainability is thrown into the argument to block development and growth, to conjure up a return to an imagined, usually rural, Utopia.

He goes on to examine the idea of "sustainable climate":

The Kyoto protocol on climate change also arose from Rio. Climate is the most complex, chaotic, non-linear system. The idea that climate can be managed "in a predictable way" by manipulating one factor, carbon dioxide, out of the millions of factors involved is Alice-in-Wonderland science, with the verdict before the trial. This is the ultimate flaw: the sheer hubris of humans maintaining a "sustainable climate" vividly demonstrates the delusions of the sustainability myth.

Kyoto will do absolutely nothing to halt climate change in any predictable manner. For all we know, it might even play a tiny part in triggering a most unfortunate plunge into another ice age, which on purely statistical grounds is just about due. As we grow economically, the "command-and-control" targets of the type set under Kyoto are utterly impractical.

Required reading for anyone about to set off for another climate control conference in the sun.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Oh for Pete's sake!

Pretty good article from someone who confesses 'I make crop circles', right up until this piece of ignorant prejudice:

My art collective - myself, Rod Dickinson and Will Russell - get thousands of abusive e-mails and phone calls. We've had attacks on our property, and one of my team had bricks thrown at him. But at least this is not America - people don't carry guns here.

PEOPLE WHO CARRY GUNS LEGALLY DON'T GO AROUND SHOOTING PEOPLE!!! Why does the UK insist on thinking that because law-abiding Americans are able to arm themselves, they'd go about gunning down crop-circle makers?

Well, they might, if they're trespassing, but whose fault is that?

Just what we need

For those in the UK, UK Transport's Patrick Crozier has founded CrozierVision, "The TV channel without T or V. News as it ought to be." This is, of course, exactly what is needed.

Pout, pout

Bush may get UN support for his war, sniffs a Guardian columnist. Oh, so it's likely that "the international community" will formally approve of action against Iraq, is it? How unfair. Everyone knows that 400,000 Guardian readers disapprove, so surely the action is wrong. It must be US bullying that forces the wonderful UN system, such a force for good in the world, to act so out of character. Oh, give me a break.

I'd be less upset with this article if it was just some Grauniad hack who'd penned it, rather than the senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. This character is formerly Director of BASIC, the British-American Security Information Council, a CND-era ginger group. The fact that he has such a prominent role in an Institute founded by the Iron Duke makes me sick.

Credit where credit is due

The estimable John O'Sullivan, no dove by any means, points out something that the more hawkish members of the blogosphere should always bear in mind:

[The current debate in the UK about Iraq] is, of course, an internal British debate — but it is one that the Bush administration can influence vitally. Underlying the current halfhearted mood in Britain is the feeling that the war on terrorism is an entirely American show. In fact this is false; Britain, Canada, Australia, France and other U.S. allies played an important part in the Afghan campaign — and continue to play an important part in the wider war on terrorism.

But the Bush administration has underplayed their role and seemed to suggest at times that the contributions of allies were not valued. That indifference — an indifference sometimes bordering on contempt — has been amplified and exaggerated by the punditocracy, including several pundits on the Right. And the knock-on effect of that has been to breed a mildly anti-American mood of reluctance to get involved in the next round of hostilities. An English friend, lunching at one of London's celebrated gentlemen's club a day or so after September 11, had found himself then the leading dove because he favored the U.S. liberating Afghanistan before Iraq when the mood around the table was to cut off the serpent's head right away; just recently he was the leading hawk at the same table because his fellow members felt that the U.S. had made clear a lack of interest in the help and opinion of its allies.

If the President wants international support, he could be doing a lot more to get it while still not compromising his determination to rid the world of the terrorist menace. This is pretty basic stuff.