England's Sword 2.0

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

In Memoriam, Wisden's cover illustration

Since its first publication in 1865, Wisden's Cricketers' Alamanac, the cricket buff's bible, has carried a handsome illustration of an old-style cricket scene, complete with batsman in hooped shirt and top hat. Now, as the Times sarcastically comments, they have seen fit to do away with that and replace it with a photograph of England batsman Michael Vaughan in action. With all due respect to one of the best cricketers England has produced in years, something beautiful and valuable has been lost, and there's no excuse for it at all.

Reform and Revival

Important article by Therese Raphael in today's Wall Street Journal Europe, available here for non-subscribers. She looks at a presentation given in the UK by two New Zealand finance ministers who revolutionised that country's public sector in the '80s, to its great benefit:

Under the Douglas/Richardson reforms New Zealand became the only developed country to do away with farm support. They gave New Zealand one of the developed world's flattest tax structures, halving the top rate of tax to 33 per cent from 66 per cent. Government spending was brought under tight control and welfare system restructured to encourage job-seeking.

As in other countries that experience free-market reform movements, the success of the reforms changed the nature of political debate in New Zealand. And as in other countries, the parties that advocated reforms lost the plot and enabled a reinvigorated and reformed left to become electable again.

The broad-brush lessons for the New Zealand reforms as the two veteran finance ministers noted are twofold: move quickly (the bureaucracy will slow you down in any case) and embrace "quality" reforms. As Roger Douglas warned, what kills radical change is uncertainty. "The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be the Minister for Reform," Ms. Richardson told me after the breakfast. That of course is precisely the opposite of the role that Gordon Brown has carved out at Treasury.

These reforms appeal to the Individualistic value group I mentioned below, a group that mostly stayed with the Tories. Those who went to Labour may be wobbling with the new tax rises and Labour's uncertain performance on Foundation Hospitals. However, it should not be taken for granted that they will stick with or return to the Tories:

Britain's Conservatives may have once been naturals to take up this challenge, but not today. The Party is no longer for serious tax cuts, sanctions Labour's spending on health care and other sectors and has been most visible in the run-up to this week's election criticizing the government's asylum policy. When the party makes headlines, it is usually for reports of in-fighting or looming leadership challenges.

That leaves the Liberal Democrats, which trail the Tories by only six or seven points in the polls. And surprisingly, this is where Ms. Richardson and Mr. Douglas said their ideas received the warmest reception. Of course, that may be because they met the most interesting of the Liberal Democrats -- a group of young forward-thinking MPs who call themselves Liberal Future and who lean more toward classically liberal ideas than the warmed over socialism that has been the party's more recent hallmark.

I don't think the Lib Dems are in as good shape as Raphael suggests. Certainly there is a core of truly liberal thought there, but it is so obfuscated by watered-down socialism that it will need a real public debate to get it to the fore again, coupled with the recognition that neither the far Left nor the social justice conservatives -- target groups for the Liberals in recent years -- are attracted by classicly Liberal values.

Yet Raphael's argument underlines something for Conservatives. Economic liberalism is still attractive to a valuable block of voters. In trying to get back social justice conservatives, we mustn't forget them. Nor vice versa.

This is not an endorsement of scientific validity


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Steven Chapman.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

We want Baghdad Bob!

The way is clear for the former Iraqi Information Minister to pursue a career in game and chat shows. US forces reportedly refused to arrest him because he's not dangerous enough. Max Clifford should be getting the first plane to Iraq he can find.

It's not rocket science

... or even tuba science. The Telegraph says this so well that here it is in its entirety:

The country's best music colleges are losing huge sums of public money because of their failure to admit enough working-class students to satisfy the Government. Under a new funding system introduced this year, they have been told to give about 10 per cent of their places to students from poor areas, or face financial penalties.

The problem for the colleges is that in the poorer parts of the state sector, music is not taught nearly well enough, or early enough, to produce the virtuosi of the future. A pupil who has not been properly taught in early childhood stands very little chance of achieving musical excellence in later life. So the colleges now find themselves faced with the choice of losing public money or admitting students who will not be able to benefit fully from their courses. This is not only bad for music students, but for all music-lovers. It is like insisting that 10 per cent of the England football team should be drawn from the third division.

How many times must we say it, before the Government gets the message? The solution to the crisis in Britain's education system is not to penalise the good schools and colleges, but to improve the bad ones.

Actually, it's not exactly like insisting that 10 per cent of the footie team come from Division 3. With modern scouting methods in football, there's probably more chance of recruiting a musical genius from the poor areas than there is of finding the new Bobby Charlton playing for Darlington. However, the main point is still valid: raising up is better than levelling down. We used to understand that, didn't we?

I have a male brain

No, "Duh" would not be the right reaction to that headline (unless you know me). Simon Baron-Cohen provides a useful summary of the thinking about male and female brain types. This important research indicates that a lot of what has been disparaged as "sexism" is actually natural for both sexes, although of course stereotyping does exist, as Baron-Cohen underlines. Extreme feminism that denies any difference between the sexes is just as wrong as extreme sexism by this evidence.

One thing I'm interested in is that a lot of attention has been devoted to the idea that autism in its various forms might simply reflect extremes in male brain types. What about the extreme female brain?

What are the potential new insights from a theory like this? It may help us understand the childhood neurological conditions of autism and Asperger syndrome, which appear to be an extreme of the male brain. Such individuals may have impairments in empathising alongside normal or even talented systemising. The theory also predicts the existence of the mirror-image of autism or Asperger syndrome, namely, the extreme female brain. Science has not even begun to investigate what such people are like, but we know they must have impairments in systemising, alongside normal or even talented empathising. Finally, the theory delineates two key dimensions of individual differences - empathising and systemising - that exist among any group of children, so that parents and educators can become more tolerant of difference.

May I suggest that the mirror-image be called the "Phoebe syndrome"?

By the way, there are tests linked to on the page that give you a rough idea of the shape of your brain. I got 34 on the Empathizing test (quite low average score -- male average is 42) and 38 on the Systematizing test (high average score -- male average is 30, persons with Asperger syndrome score 40 or higher). So if I'm shy if I ever meet you, you know why.

With friends like these...

Apologies for the lack of updates -- I was at another conference today. Anyway, I rather liked the outrage from human rights organizations as Cuba was voted onto the U.N. Rights Commission:

"You have a huge powerful and very well organized bloc that doesn't want any country criticized, opposes U.N. human rights monitoring and wants to weaken the office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights," Joanna Weschler of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

"It's almost a rule now. You get criticized by the commission or you might be, so you get a seat on the commission and you vote as a bloc against criticism," Weschler said.

Now much of that argument could be applied to certain other UN activities. Time for an alliance of right and left to sweep away this relic of the Cold War, methinks.

Monday, April 28, 2003

TCS Column Up

Statistical Traffic Wreck looks at the lazy investigative reporting surrounding last week's release of the 2002 traffic fatalities data. The media blamed SUVs and alcohol, when the biggest cause of death was, once again, failing to wear a seatbelt.

Brits want an American approach to crime

Utterly fascinating poll about British crime in the Sunday sister of the Guardian, The Observer. Among the remarkable highlights, 67 per cent support the death penalty and nearly a quarter of Brits would be tempted to carry a gun if the law allowed it. The details, with the Observer's commentary:

Do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable for householders to use potentially deadly force to protect their property against intruders?

Acceptable 68%
Unacceptable 32% ...

There is strong support for householders using potentially deadly force to protect property against intruders. The results indicate a considerable level of support for the view that criminals forfeit certain rights when illegally entering a property.

In other words, the public's belief in the traditional Common Law approach to defense of property rights has not been dented by 50 years of jurisprudence aimed at eradicating that approach.

If the law were changed to allow possession of registered handguns, would you be tempted to carry a gun for protection?

Yes 22%
No 78% ...

Almost a quarter of Britons would be tempted to carry a gun for the purpose of self-protection if the laws were changed. There are striking differences on the basis of region, with only 7 per cent of Londoners tempted to carry a gun, compared to 55 per cent of those living in Yorkshire/Humberside, and 45 per cent of those living in the West Midlands. The lower take-up rate in London may be a reflection of the relatively lesser fear of crime exhibited by Londoners. Men are more likely to consider carrying a gun, although the differences between the sexes is not as great as might have been anticipated (23 per cent of men versus 20 per cent of women).

This is truly amazing to me. The process of demonizing firearms began in 1920, but still almost 1 in 4 people want to carry one, never mind possess one for defending the home (I'd love to see the results if that question had been asked). It seems that RKBA may be an issue that could resurface in the UK if some people are courageous enough to champion it.

Do you support or oppose the introduction of private police forces and security groups to assist the police?

Support 64%
Oppose 36% ...

As for introducing private police forces, while Britons across the board support the move, there are some considerable differences. Women are significantly more in favour (73 per cent versus 55 per cent of men) and the 16- to 24-year-olds are far more likely than any other age group to support the proposal (83 per cent).

Again, this seems to be a throwback to an earlier era. The police's campaign to persuade the public that they and they alone can legitimately enforce the law has failed.

Do you believe that the death penalty should be re-introduced in Britain for certain crimes?

Yes 67% No 33%

Which of the following crimes do you think should be punished with the death penalty? (Asked of all those who support the re-introduction of the death penalty for certain crimes)

Murder 91%
Terrorism 68%
Paedophilia 41%
Rape 23%
Drug dealing 13%
Other 2%

Support for the death penalty is strongest among those aged 65+ (86 per cent) and lowest among those aged 25-34 (55 per cent). Those who have been a victim of crime are more likely to support capital punishment, but the most striking differences in attitudes are regional ones. Ninety-four per cent of those living in the West Midlands support the re-introduction of the death penalty, compared to just 34 per cent of Londoners. Indeed, Londoners appear out of step with the rest of the nation on this issue - London is the only region where capital punishment is opposed by the majority.

Brits are not only in support of the death penalty, but enthusiastically so. This is no surprise, but the difference of London to the rest of the nation is striking. I've said before here that I think London is unrepresentative of the UK, and that our movers and shakers living there affects their actions and beliefs to the extent that they are increasingly out of step with Britain as a whole. This poll shows that repeatedly -- in attitudes to capital punishment, in attitudes to self-defense, and in attitudes to good citizenship (30 percent of Londoners would ignore a mugging happening before them, compared to 13 percent of the general population*, something that non-plusses the Observer). Londoners believe poverty is the most important factor in creating criminals, while the rest of the country believes it is family upbringing. Londoners are also the only group to believe that a life sentence should not necessarily mean life:

Do you believe a life sentence should always mean life imprisonment, ie prison for the rest of your life?

Yes 87%
No 13%

Would you support or oppose the introduction of a 'three strikes and you're out' scheme whereby offenders automatically receive a prison sentence if they are convicted of any three crimes?

Support 80%
Oppose 20%

A majority of every group within society believe life should mean life, with the exception of Londoners, who again demonstrate that they are a breed apart. [Emphasis added]

Despite our prison population already being at record numbers, a large majority of Britons (80 per cent) would support the introduction of an American-style 'three strikes and you're out' scheme. There is broad-based support for this proposal, although Britons at the lower end of the social scale are significantly more likely to support the proposal.

Leaving London for the moment, I'd be interested to see the "significantly" greater support for Three Strikes among the working classes -- 80 percent is pretty significant. It sounds like they're approaching unanimity. Finally,

Do you believe that under-18s charged with serious crimes such as murder should be prosecuted as adults?

Yes 82%
No 18% ...

All age groups, including the 16- to 24-year-olds, believe that under-18s charged with serious crimes should be prosecuted as adults.

The running theme throughout this poll seems to me to be that Brits want an American-style approach to crime, introducing or re-introducing methods and protections that have proven effective in America. This is further evidence that the Anglosphere's cultural and legal framework is far more robust than many take it to be.

Except, it seems, in London. The rise of London and the fall of provincialism have been disastrous for the UK, leading to this strange cultural divide we now see. In the absence of any proposal for federalism, London needs to rejoin the rest of the UK.

* This 13 percent includes the London 30 percent. I'd love to see the figures for the rest of the nation excluding London

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Tory Revival IV: The Guardian has a go!

Can this lot save the Tories? reports on a Guardian-assembled panel aimed at suggesting a new set of policies and image for the Tories. Useless, superficial stuff most of it, despite the presence of Eddie Vaizey, for whom I have a lot of time. This, however, was a good point when it comes to branding:

Karmarama's new look for the party was red. The message behind this was, they explained, "Why blue? Why not red?" In other words, we are not hung up on colours and old allegiances, and neither need you be. Surprisingly, we all thought that this was brilliant, suggesting a party that was open to change.

Although red is used to represent Republican seats on maps over here, the Republican Party has no single color. Why do you need one? Let every Tory candidate campaign under his or her favorite color. And if it happens to be red or yellow, so be it.

But party color is meaningless unless you appeal to the voters' values. The word is not mentioned once in the article.

Tory Revival, part III: The idiocy of "nasty party" imagery

Some words of background for American readers are in order here. One of the Conservative Party’s biggest problems during John Major’s spell as Prime Minister related to the problem of “sleaze” – the general impression that Conservative MPs were sexual libertines, on the take, hypocrites, or all three. After Major’s loss the problem intensified as, with the defection of a large number of centrist voters and representatives to Labour, persons with extreme right-wing views became a larger proportion of the visible party. Members of the party, often elderly, with unpopular views on immigration, race relations, homosexuality and other social issues were regularly “exposed” in the press, and would often express the view in their defense that they were “mainstream” members of the party. The party began to suffer from a terrible image problem. It became known as “the nasty party.”

Major’s successor, William Hague, reacted to this with the strategy that one should “concede, and move on.” A Tory spokesman should admit that mistakes had been made, and that there were undesirable people in the party, but move on to talk about the new conservative ideas. The strategy failed. The media continued to harass the party about past mistakes and present embarrassments.

Under Hague’s successor, Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), a movement grew up within Conservative Central Office, the party headquarters, to confront the problem head on. IDS removed the combative Chairman of the Party, David Davis, who resisted this urge, and replaced him with Theresa May, a resonably photogenic figure who seemed to engage public trust despite being a relative failure as party Education spokesman. At the Conservative Party Conference in October 2002, May delivered a speech to the party’s delegates that has since become known as “The Nasty Party Speech.” She castigated the party as appearing “nasty, narrow … unrepentant and unattractive.” She said that “glib moralizing and hypocritical finger wagging” had to end, and criticized some members for “demonizing” minorities. She said the party was “hopelessly stuck in the past” and reminded delegates that they had been called “the nasty party.”

Some members of the party hierarchy thought that this was a great act of catharsis and hailed the speech as a great success. Yet it has not translated into any improvement in the public perception of the party. If anything, it has underlined it. Small wonder, with the Party’s own chairman saying with great passion that Tories were glib, narrow-minded, nasty hypocrites.

The Hague strategy had failed, and it was probably right that the problem of the party image had to be confronted head-on, and May was indeed the person who would attract the most attention while doing it. Yet what happened was that the message that what was delivered at exactly the right time, by exactly the right person, was exactly the wrong message. It achieved maximum impact, and so inflicted maximum damage on the party.

My own reaction (from here on Tuesday Oct. 8) was as follows: “What the Dickens? How about standing up and saying Conservative voters are decent people, who love their families and love their country, compared with the haters in the Labour Party who want to destroy anything they don't approve of, whether it be families, education or patriotism, and replace it with their own, twisted version, whatever the consequences for the working class? The silly woman has just given Labour a nice big stick to beat them with.”

This was not an unusual reaction. Many Conservatives who were veterans of the Thatcher years thought the same too. The media have not been slow to bring up the “Nasty Party Speech” whenever the Tories propose a policy defending family values or propose greater efficiency in public spending (invariably cast as “Tory cuts”). By accepting their opponent’s arguments, rather than advancing their own values, the Tories have placed a huge albatross around their collective neck.

I therefore find it incredible that Tories of the caliber of Michael Gove continually refer to the imagery. Every utterance of the phrase reaffirms in the voter's mind the idea that Tories are nasty. It puts off every value group there is. It is foolish in the extreme to continue to use it and it should be stricken from the public Conservative vocabulary.

Michael may well reply that it is Conservative MPs and activists who have to face up to the reality of how they are viewed. If they are not trusted, they will not be listened too. This is true up to a point, but I cannot see how continuous reference to the nasty party will serve to engender any trust in the electorate's mind.

Which brings me to a point I alluded to earlier in the week. Conservatives are simply party hacks to the ordinary voter. They are after political power alone. This seems to me to be the crux of the matter. No-one is providing conservative leadership outside the political sphere. We need a genuine conservative movement in the UK. To that extent conservatives should be forgetting about political power as the only outlet for conservative activity. We need a sea-change in conservative thought that says that the agenda can be advanced through other outlets: through public service in organizing voluntary groups around schools (and in conservatives becoming educators and parent governors), through philanthropy by successful businessmen (promote a good cause such as young black leadership rather than giving money to another meaningless anti-Euro campaign), through local activism outside councils, and through national activism by promoting value-driven messages. Conservatives need to focus on how to take back the institutions that the left long ago focused their attention on. We should not be afraid to exploit those institutions where we still have some sway, such as in the military. When people see that conservatism is not just about the naked pursuit of power, they will pay attention to the messages it creates. No amount of self-flagellation will achieve the same results as genuine conservative activism. And if British conservatives cannot see that, then the movement as we have known it for so long is truly dead.

I would be grateful for comments on this series particularly from members of the American conservative movement.

Tory Revival: part II

With that brief overview of how values help shape the political milieu, we need to move on to how to apply it to the current conservative predicament. First of all, we need to understand that not everyone within these categories reacts to policy in the same way. There's a pyramid with the 40% non-voting public at the bottom. Above that is the voting public, 60%. Of that, about half is probably attentive to the issues. A much smaller proportion is "mobilizable," i.e. will campaign or argue for a particular point of view. An even smaller proportion of that forms the political "leadership" of society, and only a small proportion of them actually have a hand in crafting policy or suggesting new ideas locally or nationally. The thing about this pyramid is that the further down you go, what is close to them is clear and what is abstract is a fog. As someone once said, "ordinary citizens tend to be muddle-headed (lacking constraint), or empty-headed (lacking genuine attitudes) or both." At the top, however, the situation is reversed. Abstracts are clear, but personal factors are foggy.

So the utilization of the model I've identified depends very much of the level of sophistication of your target audience. If you wish to change policy from the top, you need to talk in sophisticated, abstract terms. If you want to change politics from below, you need to link the values to the individual personal concerns. Thus, "Tell Sid" linked privatization very closely to the wallet of the individualist voter at the bottom of the pyramid. Yet it also spoke in those same acquisitive terms to those to whom acquisition was not necessarily a positive value. The egalitarians detested it, the fatalists took it as more proof that everyone was out for what they could get and the H/Ds were left feeling uncomfortable about what was missing from the message (any sort of appeal to the traditions or institutions of the country).

Yet not every message need go out to the bottom to work its way up. The movement to accept alternative lifestyles, for instance, has been very definitely targeted at the top of the public opinion pyramid. Policy makers and community leaders are far more likely to believe that alternative lifestyles should be accepted than people further down the pyramid, even within the egalitarian value group. Social justice conservatives have been won over by arguments based on traditional values of fairness and by the suggestion that alternative lifestyles are no more harmful to society than traditional ones. Despite all the evidence, for instance, it is a rare H/D leader who is willing to stand up and say that fatherlessness has been detrimental to communities. Libertarian arguments sufficed to win over the leaders in the individualist camp.

So when Conservatives are trying to work out what they can do to revive their party's fortunes, I suggest they pay attention to this framework. Now this also means that Michael's injunctions to the party to speak only to those issues that the public currently say they are concerned about are also slightly misplaced. let me explain this in two ways. The public are concerned about the NHS, and with good reason, but for a variety of reasons. The H/D class are, to a greater or lesser degree, worried about standards of care. The individualists are worried about inefficiency and incompetence in the health service. The egalitarians are concerned about the postcode lottery. Yet the argument that seems to carry the most weight is that last one, because the egalitarian leaders have been targeted. Social justice conservatives have been assured that spending on the NHS will rise, and individualists have been told that such reforms as Foundation Hospitals will address their concerns. To be sure, there are tensions between these arguments, but they don't really form a wedge big enough for the Tories to exploit. That is why I believe the Tories should be concentrating their fire on the bottom of the pyramid, with the central argument that the NHS is killing people (see these pages passim). It speaks the the social justice conservatives, who hold life in high regard, to the individualists, who see the wste of people dying before their time, and even to egalitarians, who, with some dishonorable exceptions, are also sensible to the value of human life. The solution is not the issue here. Execedrin does not market the cure, it markets the headache. President Clinton did not advocate tobacco regulation, he pointed out repeatedly that tobacco harmed children. This is one area where the Tories can establish an identity by going from the bottom up. Labour, via the NHS, kills people. It's a pretty visceral message.

However, simply because the public are not currently concerned about tax cuts does not mean that the issue cannot be usefully exploited. Most people who are unconcerned about tax cuts at present feel that way because the arguments do not speak to their values. Social justice conservatives feel ashamed that tax cuts contributed to lowering standards of public services. The case needs to be made, as it has been successfully in the past, that it is efficiency and competence that determine the success of public service delivery, not central government financing. Every incidence of public waste leading to bad public service must be highlighted. Individualists are mostly convinced of the case, but still feel it less important than the NHS or education in the great scheme of things. Abandoning tax cuts, however, can only make them think the Conservative party stands for nothing, so causing even greater fracture in what remains of the party. Egalitarians can also be targeted by aiming tax cuts at the poor first and foremost. The issue is not dead, just dormant because the Tory party has no idea how to market its ideas to match people's values by pointing to the benefits the ideas will bring.

So for each policy the Tories have, they need to consider what values it affects, which audience should be its targets, and what the positive messages are that result. They clearly have not been doing that. And a prime example of that muddled thinking lies in Michael's biggest mistake. More on that to follow.

Tory Revival: Some Thoughts

I promised to blog on the subject of Michael Gove's Spectator piece on the Tory troubles -- see also his longer presentation "The Case for Change" at the C-Change web site.

Michael makes many vital points, and this is the context in which Tories must think about their revival. They must give up fantasies of the Europe issue saving them, and, much more importantly, need to recognize how conservatives are viewed in the UK. Yet I'm not sure there is much of a positive message here, more of an especially articulate setting out of the problem. Mrs Thatcher said of Lord Young, "Other people bring me problems. David brings me solutions." Solutions are what we need, but Michael has done an exceptional job setting out the problem. Here, I'm not so much going to critique the message (except in one vital area) as give an extended series of thoughts from my American perspective that might come in handy.

To begin with, I think we need to look at the electorate as a whole from the point of view of their values. Demographic analyses are all well and good, but we all know that what appeals to one 27 year-old female single C1 in Reading will not necessarily appeal to another 27 year-old female single C1 in Reading. It is a values-based analysis that is most important here. The late economist and political theorist Aaron Wildavsky used surveys of values to produce a model of the way people use values to direct their lives and political opinions. There were four main categories (I'll try to do a graphic of this):
  • the Fatalist, who prefers a structured world but trusts his immediate circles more than institutions or governments (the passive underclass and the cynics fit here; many of these people do not vote)
  • the Hierarchical/ Deferential, who prefer a structured world and trust institutions (moral authoritarians and patriots fit into this category, as do neo-conservatives in the American sense)
  • the Individualist, who prefers a free society but does not trust institutions (entrepreneurs exist here, as do economic liberals and optimists, old-style Liberals also exist here); and
  • the Egalitarian, who prefer a free society but also trust institutions (this is where the active underclass fits, as well as those who are interested in social justice and also the alternative lifestyle activists).

  • The conservative bedrock has always been the Hierarchical/Deferential class. Mrs Thatcher added the Individualists to it to create a strong alliance that dominated British politics for 15 years. However, it is my contention that a series of mistakes in personnel and policy drove a lot of the H/D class into fatalism. At the same time, the Blairite strategy was to steal the economic optimists and the "neo-cons" (in British terms, those who believed in a strong society with a 'decent' welfare state but incentives to work, or strong law and order policies that took account of economic differences -- social justice conservatives might be a better term) away from the Thatcherite alliance. The ERM debacle and the tax on fuel were gifts to this strategy. At the same time, a campaign demonizing moral authoritarians helped create a division in the Tories between the Individualists and the H/D class. The result is a political landscape that shows a dominant Labour party, a Liberal Democrat party existing on the margins, and a fractured Tory party. In addition, the far-right parties are beginning to mobilize the Fatalists (something we should not lose sight of).

    But the crux of this analysis is how the Labour party managed to grab those groups and fracture the Tories. They did it by speaking the language of the appropriate values. To the economic liberals they announced that the economy was safe in their hands and that the Tories were no longer economically competent. To the social justice conservatives they announced that the NHS and welfare state were safe and that they would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." Another rallying cry here was "education, education, education." These social justice conservatives had been scared off by the loony left. They were only too happy to embrace Labour when it looked like the Tory party would be privatizing social institutions like schools and hospitals.

    The Tories contributed by digging their own grave in speaking too much to Individualist values rather than to the H/D values in these arenas. The message of Privatization is the key here. I intend to post a longer article elsewhere about this, but, simply put, the original "turning workers into owners" argument appealed to these people, but they were turned off by the "tell Sid" fast-buck message that accompanied later privatizations. When this approach was associated with health service provision or education, they were lost.

    More to follow.

    Friday, April 25, 2003

    Iain out today

    Iain is at a conference today and Saturday so he won't be posting much. That said, watch this space. Now that I've said he won't be posting, he'll come home late and post away for hours. Typical, but I just had to let ya'll know what was going on.

    Kris Murray, Iain's Wife

    Thursday, April 24, 2003


    Today was spent seeing my parents off back to Blighty, including a successful campaign to get them upgraded to Business Class (guess who organized that).

    There are huge amounts to blog on, so I'm frustrated that I'm going to be tied up tomorrow and Saturday. Do not fail to check out the latest Spectator, expecially my good friend Paul Robinson's cover story on the reprehensible approach of Tony Blair towards the ratification of the EU Constitution -- it seems that Our Tone thinks the Iraqis should have more of a voice in creating their constitution than his own people in changing theirs -- and Michael Gove's article on The Nasty Party, which makes many good points but still falls victim to a huge mistake, more on which later, I hope.

    Mote in eye

    After a spectacular display of impartial coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including judicious editing as to what segments would air on BBC North America, and which only on terrestrial TV, Greg Dyke sees no reason to stop, castigating US networking for 'gung-ho' and 'shocking' reporting, and then turning to Number 10, accusing them of the usual sin of spin. Oddly enough, Dyke claims that the Government is trying to manage public opinion. Apparently, Mr Dyke is confusing Britain for the Iraq of a month ago. Surely a political party cannot 'manage' public opinion unless it is a dictatorship. It can respond to polls and sail with the prevailing wind, but that is a choice of government, not the compulsion of citizens to accede to a dictated wisdom. If he is criticising spin, it's rather odd, coming from the director-general of a supposedly impartial corporation whose output is determined by the broadcast audience. I thought impartiality was objective, not dependent upon whether you're airing a program to Palestinians or Texans. Face it, Mr Dyke, the BBC scored an own goal with its slanted coverage of the war.

    Mr Dyke continues to state that US networks are not impartial (implicitly comparing them to the platonic ideal of the BBC), and defines impartiality as "giving a range of views, including those critical of the government's position". First, where do we draw the line between acceptable, yet rather extreme views, and hatemongering? I have not seen many BNP apologists on the BBC recently, even though they have views critical of immigration policy, and are certainly as mainstream as Tariq Ali or anti-globalist activists. Oddly enough, I didn't see that many views supportive of the government's position. Dyke has the right grasp, though, looking for a balanced coverage, as opposed to an impartial coverage. The Economist is an admirable model. Furthermore, the BBC, which used to be known for fact-checking, seems not to have anyone in the D-G's office. First of all, he alleges ClearChannel/AMFM Inc, the largest radio group in the States, was actively using its network to organize pro-war rallies. Hardly. Simple because a DJ advocates a certain point of view doesn't mean the network has a political motive. He's horrified that AMFM plans on moving into radio in the UK. Well, since they already own several West End theatres, ought we to band "We Will Rock You" on political and cultural grounds? He claims fragmented media makes the White House and Pentagon 'all-powerful'. First of all, Mr Dyke, competition works. Secondly, remember the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the plethora of stories covered by fragmented organizations? Why were they so eager to publish this news? To beat their competitors. I can't seem to recall a BBC scoop of that magnitude, but it could be my relative ignorance of BBC history. Dyke claims US networks have misjudged their audiences. Sheesh. I'm on spring break in the US, and all of those I've talked to of different political hues seem to appreciate network news, and take the spin of certain networks, like Fox, with a grain of salt regarding the political implications of their pronouncements. At least US networks don't hide behind a faux veneer of impartiality. Ratings are very high, and that's misjudging your audience? Aren't those the same 'ratings' the BBC uses to justify its license fee? Lastly, he stretches credibility by stating how he was continuously approached by people in the US praising him for his work in keeping the BBC impartial. I'm sure the average American, or even the well-educated "public intellectuals" don't tend to know what Greg Dyke looks like. These weren't people on the street, but probably sycophants at a symposium. This guy's almost criminally foolish. Hence his column appears in the Independent.

    Most importantly, what Greg Dyke fails to understand is that the US market differs in its tastes from the UK market. The US is a more conservative nation, and that is reflected in its mores and preferences. Given what the BBC has become (Reith must be rolling over in his grave), I doubt there would be much desire for what he's proposing, not to mention that the US public tends not to trust major state-owned broadcasters. PBS is enough for us. And as for the free-market and impartiality, I recall an experiment occurred in Britain's newspaper industry whose goal was to create a paper unbeholden to any political interest group. Its name? The Independent?

    Wednesday, April 23, 2003

    Anti-Americanism and the Left

    Mr British Spin has some very interesting things to say about anti-Americanism on the Left today:

    For me, the first groundspings of freedom lie not only in healthcare, social justice and the environment, but in freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of choice. The left can make America our greatest ally in that noble fight. To do otherwise is to abondon that America to the tender mercies of those who wish to take America and turn it into a vehicle for their own enrichment. If we abandon America, they will be able to say to their population, “it is us alone who will fight the battles. Why should we not take the spoils?” If we join with our American friends, however, we can hope to help them choose the right ground to take stands on. We can help them live up to that dream of exporting a good revolution to the world.

    Now if only the American left would recognize the good things Mr Spin does about America...


    ... for the lack of updates today. I had another interview this morning and have been spending some time with my family this afternoon (including watching the epic Man Utd - Real Madrid game with my father, where Casilias saved Real from an almighty thumping, despite Ronaldo's hat-trick). I hope that I might have time to blog a bit more this evening.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2003

    Now why didn't the Beeb mention this?

    A leading Tory in Wales has been criticised for saying that asylum seekers are 'swamping' the UK:

    A Labour Party spokesman criticised Mr Bourne's comments. "This kind of language is not helpful," he said.

    (Incidentally, it is interesting that the spokesman of the governing party is quoted after a Liberal Democrat). Anyway, I wonder what that spokesman said when David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, stated publicly that asylum seekers were 'swamping' British schools?

    Of course, it cuts both ways. Oliver Letwin criticized Blunkett for use of the word 'swamping' then. What's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, and if the Tories are to lose the old Hagueite populist bandwagon-jumping image, Letwin should stand by his previous remarks and criticize Nick Bourne too.

    Bang to rights

    Rummaging through some files in a looted iraqi ministry, Telegraph journalist David Blair found a real smoking gun, proof that Gorgeous George Galloway MP was in Saddam's pocket all along. Galloway's response has been to call the papers forgeries. This is doubtful. David Blair is, by all accounts, a man of integrity, personally expelled from Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe, recipient of the top First in Politics from Oxford and former debating partner of a friend of mine. A man of such credentials falling for a forgery is very unlikely. George's days are numbered. Liberation for the people of Glasgow is at hand.

    PP: George is threatening to sue. This is really the only card he has left. Jonathan Aitken made the same mistake...

    Well played, sir!

    Peter Briffa is in The Times, and credited as the author of publicinterest.co.uk. Many congratulations, old chap. The Times is still the paper of record for the UK. Looks like blogging, thanks to the likes of Stephen Pollard, is having more mainstream impact in the UK than in the US. When we see Stephen Green writing in the Washington Post, we'll know the cognoscenti are deserting like Saddam's army.

    Monday, April 21, 2003

    Eurohistory is bunk

    Via the Conspiracy, check out Neil Gaiman (yes, Neil Gaiman) on a move to rewrite European history to emphasize the solidarity of European peoples. His suggestion as to how the Spanish Armada should be taught is priceless.

    New Elizabethans

    Christopher Howse disses Queen Elizabeth I, probably with good reason. He also disses the British people of today, too:

    The Queen, though not asked to declare war, has the stomach for it, if it be just. The British people flinch at the slightest accident among the brave Servicemen facing our enemies abroad. Would the British endure a serious terrorist attack on our own country? I hope so; I fear not.

    Howse is famously erudite, so I think he probably fails to read The Sun. He watches the BBC, if he watches television at all, and mistakes their pusillanimity for the people's. I don't see much flinching here, while Richard Littlejohn tells us exactly what many think of the BBC here:

    Consider the enormity of this. The pride of the British fleet was forced to take off the air a service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation because it was pumping out enemy propaganda in wartime.

    If the commander of the Ark Royal had refused to allow The Sun on board because it was undermining the morale of our troops, the editor responsible would now be selling The Big Issue in Wapping High Street.

    The British public's reaction to major terrorist incidents, and we've had a few, has always tended towards the "string 'em up" approach. It's the cognoscenti and Guardian readers who flinch. I'm sorry that as eminent a correspondent as Howse has fallen for the big lie about the British people.

    Where Howse is right is that the support system that enabled British public vibrancy to translate into great achievements is being dismantled. The first approach -- nationalization -- failed, so now the cry is "modernization" and every tradition is being assailed. The monarchy is even at risk, as Howse says:

    The Queen cannot help it, but she is one of the forces of conservatism. The monarchy is among the institutions that store values and hand them on to the next generation. The values are unstated but implicit in the institutions: the Lords, the judiciary, universities, the Church. Those are the institutions that politicians set about destroying, with no inkling of what to put in their place.

    Gramsci's long march is moving towards its culmination in the destruction of British institutions. The Lords was emasculated while the judiciary, universities and Church were taken over. Conservative activists in the UK might devote a little time towards recovering them, rather than meaningless council seats. I'll have more on this later.

    Couldn't resist it...

    Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

    What Monty Python Character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Friday, April 18, 2003

    Domestication of man

    Women are essential. We make men civilized. We take them out back, hose them down, clean them up, and make them presentable. Don't believe me? Take an average single male. Look how he lives. Unclean bathroom, nasty furniture, huge entertainment center and big computer set up. Bring in a chick. Suddenly he has a clean bathroom, clean home, nice furniture, decent food in his fridge, and his floor is relatively clean.

    It drives me crazy when single men complain about women who try to "run" their lives. You should count yourselves lucky enough to find a women willing to clean your nasty underwear, clean up after your in the bathroom, make sure your towels and bed linens are clean, and provide you with nice hot meals - all to show how much she cares about you (and herself).

    Why do I bring this up? We were out for our fifth wedding anniversary and the guy next to us was complainig because his "girlfriend" had steam cleaned his carpets. She was upset he came home early before she could get everything back in order. Instead of being grateful that his place was clean "for the first time in two years" (according to him), he was upset when she said her surprise was ruined. Instead of being grateful he had such a dame in his life, he left to get drunk on the bar stool next to us.

    So men, consider yourselves lucky you've convinced some unwitting chick to love you and take care of you and clean up your crap before you run off and bitch about how "demanding" your woman is. Trust me. We can easily find someone else.

    Kris Murray
    Iain's (Much Appreciated) Wife

    Britain not quite as irreligious as thought?

    Well this is interesting. According to a new poll, half of Britain believes in the Resurrection. The figures are higher than earlier polls, but other indicators are also heading back towards spiritual beliefs:

    The survey found that women are more devout than men, with 49 per cent agreeing that Christ rose from the dead compared with 43 per cent of men.

    Peter Brierley, the director of Christian Research, said that the figures would cheer Church leaders, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who has orthodox views on the Resurrection.

    "They add strength to the feeling that Britain is still a Christian country, as evidenced by the 72 per cent who said they were Christian in the 2001 census earlier this year," said Dr Brierley, a former Government statistician.

    "The actual percentage is higher than in some recent polls, but the proportion who hold the not unconnected belief in life after death has also been increasing over the past few years."

    While this is good news as far as I'm concerned, concern is being expressed about the level of theological knowledge among new Church of England priests.

    [A Director of Training for the Church said] "Is it satisfactory for Church of England clergy, on the whole, not to be graduates in their main discipline? The Church has taken such a minimalist approach to theological education for such a long time that it has sold the clergy short."

    Critics also believe that theological colleges spend too much time on topics such as "gender power relations", "racial awareness" and "domestic violence" and too little on doctrine and worship.

    This all fits in with my general thesis that the Church of England dealt istself a severe blow when large parts of it decided to become a leftist political movement in the early 80s. The Church has failed the flock, rather than the other way round.

    Did he have any Frank Frazetta?

    It appears Saddam must have had a taste for the sort of art you find on the cover of low-grade Sword and Sorcery books. The BBC posts some of the examples found at his villas here.

    Is it just me, or does the hero struggling with the snake in that first picture look a bit, well, Aryan?

    Thursday, April 17, 2003

    RIP Sir Paul Getty

    One of the greatest benefactors of English cricket, books and heritage has died at the age of 70. Son of the American billionaire John Paul Getty, Sir Paul devoted himself to England after a dissolute early life. His Times Obituary gives us the full story. He will be missed by many.

    The Matter of the Museum

    Boris Johnson is a noted classicist (he once managed to get a reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses Book VIII in a speech on defense policy), so I'm not surprised he gets a little heated over the Baghdad museum issue, asking Why are we allowing the rape of Iraq?

    What steps are the coalition forces taking to stop this happening again? As I write, there is still apparently no adequate protection for the National Museum, to say nothing of the provincial museums. Why, finally, did Geoff Hoon seem last week to condone the looting of official buildings? I can think of no explanation, except perhaps that the Government may wish to use the chaos to explain away another embarrassment.

    The situation is indeed serious, as a look at the Iraq War and Archaeology site (found via Dr Weevil, I think) will tell you, but we may have been just a little misled as to the extent of the damage. This Command Post entry suggests that talk of the museum being emptied is overblown, quoting the Wall Street Journal as follows:

    But, thanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters.

    "Most of the things were removed. We knew a war was coming, so it was our duty to protect everything," Mr. George said. "We thought there would be some sort of bombing at the museum. We never thought it could be looted."

    So far, then, it seems that the museum was the subject of a robbery by some with keys to the museum, while other parts remained safe. There may have been a great deal of damage when the museum was looted by people looking for durables. Doubtless many precious artefacts are gone. Any epigraphist knows the value of a small clay tablet, and I am more concerned about them than about artwork. Yet the full story of this incident has yet to be written, and it may turn out to have been less serious than some say.

    However, and here I am in agreement with Boris and find other arguments rather flippant, how exactly would it have endangered the military objectives to assign a fire team or two to secure the Museum when intial resistance in Baghdad had been overcome? I also recognize that anyone who argues for that happening should accept that it may have led to the loss of human lives as the soldiers shot potential looters (given what's happened elsewhere, I don't think the soldiers would have been in any appreciable extra danger).

    The interesting thing about this possibility is that therefore presumably neither Clare Short nor the webmaster of the Iraq War and Archaeology site would have assigned any soldiers to guard the museum...

    Statistical significance

    Thanks to The Corner for the link to this Reuters speculation about Saddam's fate. It contains this spectacular piece of relativism:

    White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said in an online discussion he believed Saddam was dead.

    But a survey of 7,122 people published by Gulf News on Thursday showed a majority believed he was alive, hiding outside Iraq.

    Ah, well, the survey settles it, then.

    Natural justice?

    Here's what the Philosophical Cowboy describes as the perfect protest sign for our times. What are you gonna do?

    Why stop at Europe?

    Professor Tim Congdon, one of Britain's brightest economic thinkers, argues in the new Spectator that Britain should propose a new economic future for Europe, on an old model:

    We have reached a critical moment. Britain should react in two ways. First, it should advocate a new Efta to include all the existing members of the EU and Efta, plus Russia and Turkey. The UK would belong to this new and much expanded Efta which would have no ambitions to be anything more than a customs union. Second, it should make clear to other members of the EU that free trade and economic interaction are the purposes of its involvement with them, and that it is not interested in political union. Britain therefore proposes to renegotiate the existing treaties, and to withdraw as soon as practicable from the CAP and the CFP, and from the financing of the Structural Funds. (It goes without saying that the repeal of the Single European Act, and of the legislation relating to the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, would be part of the process of renegotiation. The 1972 legislation on the UK’s accession to the Common Market might remain on the statute book while the renegotiation was under way, although this would be largely a matter of form.)

    Europhiles — although now outnumbered and embarrassed — might say that these proposals are extreme. After all, they amount to ‘withdrawal from Europe’. The answer is that they would indeed amount to the ending of the UK’s involvement in European political integration under EU auspices; they would be a withdrawal from that aspect of ‘Europe’. But will the Europhiles (or rather the EU-ophiles) never understand that the EU is not the same thing as Europe? The truth is that the EU is only part of Europe. France and Germany would resist political integration if that were to involve Russia and Turkey, because they have too many people and, potentially, too much economic power. The EU will never embrace the whole of Europe.

    The UK can never ‘withdraw from Europe’, just as it can never withdraw from planet Earth. Europe is our neighbour, and the British government can no more curtail economic and financial contact with the Continent than it can move the land-mass of the British Isles to somewhere in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. But it can try to ensure that these inevitably extensive contacts take place in a form that respects its national interests. The objective of a new European Free Trade Area — to which Russia and Turkey would be invited — would be a better and larger Europe. British economic integration with the rest of Europe could be taken further than ever before, but the UK would retain its political independence, its cultural identity, its own constitution, and its separate diplomatic and military capability.

    This is all very well as far as it goes. It has been the paralyzing problem of the British Euroskeptic movement that it has not had an alternative suggestion for British economic advantage. Isolationism is simply very unpopular and is therefore a non-starter. Professor Congdon does present an alternative, and it is one that is likely to be well received. But it doesn't go nearly far enough.

    We now live in a global economy. The market for British goods and services is far wider than mere Europe. We should not limit ourselves in this way. Europe's economies, as Congdon describes, are faltering, and likely to sink further. Europe is too old-fashioned, too monolithic and, well, too darned white for a forward-thinking global power like Britain. That's why I think we should reach out to free economies all over the world, and John Hulsman has presented an excellent proposal for a global free trade agreement in The World Turned Rightside Up (PDF link). It is an idea compatible with an Anglospheric approach to the world, as most Anglosphere countries possess the sort of free economies necessary to participate in such an agreement. It's also progressive to the extent that I can easily see the Blairite speech recommending it.

    Like the Anglosphere, the time for global free trade has come. Let's not waste any more time talking about geographical details.

    More on book lists

    A few months ago I provided a correspondent with a list of recommended books about the Anglosphere. So You'd Like to... Learn about the Anglosphere is the Amazon list that resulted, I think.

    The value of Classics

    No slouch when it comes to recognizing half-truths or distortions, Eugene Volokh picks up on an allusion to Roman history in the New York Times. The op/ed says

    When the Roman republic gave way to empire, the new supreme ruler, Augustus chose to name himself not "rex," king, but "imperator," from which our words emperor and empire derive, even though its original meaning was more like commander in chief. Thereafter Roman emperors came to depend increasingly on their military. Will our future presidents? Let us doubt it. And yet . . .

    Eugene believes this to be inaccurate. He's right. Here's the relevant text of the Oxford Classical Dictionary's entry on Imperator:

    Imperator, (Gr. autokrator) a generic title for Roman commanders, became a special title of honour. After a victory the general was saluted imperator by his soldiers. He assumed the title after his name until the end of his magistracy or until his triumph. Sometimes the senate seems to have given or confirmed the title. The origin of this form of honour is unknown, but some religious meaning is possible (cf the formula Iuppiter Imperator). The first certainly attested imperator is L. Aemilius Paullus in 189 BC, as the evidence about P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus is uncertain. The title was assumed especially by pro consuls and gained new importance through Sulla before he was appointed dictator. The increasing influence of the army in the late republic made imperator the symbol of military authority. Sulla occasionally stated (and Pompey emphasized) that he was saluted imperator more than once. Caesar first used the title permanently, but it is doubtful whether in 45 BC he received from the senate a hereditary title of imperator (as Cassius Do 43.44.2 states). Agrippa in 38 BC refused a triumph for victories won under Octavian's superior command and established the rule that the princeps should assume the salutations and the triumphs of his legates. Henceforth, apparently, Octavian used imperator as praenomen (imperator Caesar, not Caesar imperator), perhaps intending to emphasize the personal and family value of the title. Thus the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in this sense. But, officially, Otho was the first to imitate Augustus, and only with Vespasian did Imperator ('emperor') become a title by which the ruler was known. The formula imperator Caesar was sometimes extended to members of the family of the princeps who were associated with him in power. On the death of a princeps, or during a rebellion, the salutatio of a general as an imperator by an army indicated thst he was the candidate of that body for the imperial dignity.

    So our NYT commentator has it completely about-face. The use of Imperator by Augustus was because of the increased importance of the military during the last years of the Republic (not just under Julius Caesar, as Eugene suggests), not the signal that the military would become more important. One might venture to suggest that the designation of a civilian as commander-in-chief by the Constitution deliberately defuses the threat of the army recognizing its own general as Commander-in-Chief (whatever McClellan may have thought).

    Perhaps Chef from South Park...?

    Gosh, I'm embarrassed. Over at The NRO Corner, Jonah Goldberg called me "the Barry White of statistical policy analysis." I wonder if I can get that on my business cards?

    Wednesday, April 16, 2003

    Secular Fanatics

    One of my favorite Simpsons jokes occurs at a prison rodeo the family attends. After a rider is thrown off and obviously seriously injured, the warden/announcer comments "Don't worry too much about him, folks. He's in for erecting a nativity scene on public property." The crowd boos and Marge comments, "So much evil in the world."

    I am happy to have grown up in an avowedly Christian country. Collective worship every morning at school and a sense of the history, tradition and national role of the Church of England helped shape me. Yet it seems that this great benefit is yet another thing that is being thrown away in the mad drive to "modernize" Britain. It is ironic, as Daniel Johnson points out in his Telegraph column,
    The threat of secular fundamentalism, that one of the leading opponents of this movement is an American-born Jew, Oliver Letwin:

    What I take to be Letwin's main point is to defend the established Church of England against the intolerance of "state secularism". It may seem paradoxical that a Jewish atheist should defend faith schools and the right of Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords, or that the strict separation of Church and State does not seem preferable to a man born and bred in America.

    Yet Letwin is a true British Conservative: he values our constitution, Christian through and through, because it has preserved our liberties for centuries. Not only the liberties of Christians, either: Jews, Muslims and others, too, prefer the status quo.

    The combination of state secularism and European notions of human rights could destroy the basis of religious pluralism. Faith schools are already losing their autonomy; churches, synagogues and mosques could soon follow. Letwin wonders "if in 10 years' time it will still be legal to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to Heaven, a proposition from which I dissent but which I wish to preserve the right of others to utter".

    Johnson concludes:

    Secular fundamentalism is as much of an internal threat to our civilisation today as the external one of religious fundamentalism. Our leaders are tempted to abandon the distinctively Christian claims on our historical imagination. With Passiontide upon us, the tragic consequences of such a betrayal should be in the forefront of our thoughts.

    I agree. I shall be praying this Easter that the Church of England finds the strength to resist the tide that is against it.

    Lloyd on Blair

    Harry Hatchet has a very important article by John Lloyd, a genuine progressive, looking at what Tony Blair's recent actions have meant for the world, and Europe in particular. Here's a sample:

    First, he has thrown down the gauntlet to the international system. He has said – stop your endless debates about sovereignty and human rights. Human rights trump sovereignty. Realism would have to add – he sometimes adds himself – that this will not be so everywhere at every time. He would also add – this would only be so if it can also be aligned with British interests. For many, these reservations are proof of hypocrisy. In fact they are evidence only of inevitable restraints. Morality, in world as in human affairs, is rarely pure: it never is when acted upon. Blair has acted for as much of a moral cause as he can square with realism.

    Second, he has set the Anglo Saxon cat among the continental pigeons. Discussion of a common foreign and defence policy – an even more leisurely and circular debate than that on human rights and sovereignty- can never have the same fine careless languor it had before. European leaderships – including those candidate members whom President Jacques Chirac told to shape up or shut up – must now decide whether or not they wish to be partners with the US, or counterweights. On these decisions hang the future of Nato, of transatlantic relations and on the long term balance of powers. For if Europe is to be a counterweight it is bound, at times, to use its weight to counter the US. When these circumstances occur, Europe will seek allies – in Russia, in China, in India and elsewhere. A counterweight thus soon becomes opposition. Opposition can become hostile. Who needs reminding of that these days, even if we still may believe that the present rhetorical torpedoes swishing across the Atlantic will be de-fused by time and diplomacy?

    Third, Tony Blair has put another stake through the heart of socialism – not, in this case, the theory as much as the sentiment. British socialism, as elsewhere in the democratic world, has been suffused with pacifism since its inception. It was at times a popular pacifism, stemming from the experience of the First World War, and based on the harsh experience that it was the working class which suffered most when war was declared by their rulers. More recently, the remnants of that old feeling have merged with a multilateralist, UN-led view of the world, which sees all conflicts as capable of resolution by talk and all war as failure. That current has in turn tended to merge with the presently hugely popular view that America is the now the world’s evil empire.

    You won't see this article anywhere else but at Harry's place, because it was published in Italy. Yet I think everyone interested in the Blair World Order must read it.

    More excuses

    Now things are back to normal I have a backlog of articles to write, so don't expect too much today. Do, however, check out a new (to me) blog by Giles Ward. He has a particularly good post on the "Ali" affair in Europe.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2003

    In Memoriam, British education

    My wife left a comment bleow about her anger with the various European governments as to their attitudes towards the war. It is testimony to the state of British education that "angry brit" left the following comment, reproduced here unedited:

    our country contributed nearly 4billion dollars worth of support and 45,000 troops to an american led liberation of iraq so dont you americans accuse great britian of not contributing, may i also remind you that we spend the most on defense in europe. you may also want to hear that maybe its the united states that holds down defense spending so to keep herself in prime position as the worlds most powerful military power just imagine how far behind a combined europe would leave the united states, the days of american domination would soon disappear both in economic and military circles

    But that wasn't enough. He or she then added:

    american attitude towards europe is disgusting if the europeans dont automatically agree with the american way of thinking they are slated , we should do what we dam well please, its not like the united states can pressurise europe , especially western europe. A combined GREAT BRITIAN , FRANCE , GERMANY , and ITALY would rival the US just imagine when all the other states come into play america would become the second rate superpower the exact position the USSR occupied during the cold war. What is it they say what goes around comes around , looks like European world dominance is assured some time in the 15 years

    Yeah, Europe's gonna get you, America, you big bully, you've been pushing us around long enough. Your defense and technology was just a pretense, see. You hate us and we, well, we'll get REALLY REALLY UPSET with you. There. See how you like it.

    The puerility that Shirley Williams and her ilk decided to breed into the British people has never been more apparent to me. The restoration of British independence and self-reliance is urgently required. I hope that Tony Blair, for all his faults, may have contributed towards this.

    Asked and answered

    Glenn Frazier asks if it would kill me to link to him. No, it wouldn't Glenn. More power to your elbow.

    Carry the 2...

    If ever you want an accountant's view of something that won't bore you to tears, there is only one souce available. Layman's Logic has a magnificent deconstruction of the silly argument that it's wrong to say that the French are in "it" for the oil when the Coalition is not. can't recommedn you visit this highly enough.

    First Amendment UK

    By the way, head on over to David Holford's blog to see the nature of liberal fascism in the UK. David posted something on the Hot Cross Bun story I mentioned earlier. I continue to believe that the story was exaggerated, but David is adamant that there's more to it than meets the eye. The journalists who first broke the story stand by their sources, so he's prbably right. Yet some tinpot little Hitlers from Tower Hamlets council (I used to live under this Liberal Democract benevolency, so I know exactly what they're like) have threatened him with a lawsuit for "inciting racial hatred" if he refuses to remove, not just edit, but REMOVE the article he had up complaining about it all. This is incredible. John Milton helped cut off a King's head for the idea of freedom of speech, but these cockroaches just want to expunge any record of something that might reflect badly on them despite having, quite probably a basis in truth.

    When the law fails, and guards the wrong-doers, and the people fail to change the law in accordance, that's when you need a real Bill of Rights. For 300 years the UK did not need one. We need one now. And Tower Hamlets can sue me too if they think I'm doing wrong in saying that their sort of policy would have been approved of by the worst sort of racists in the Deep South of the USA.

    That book list

    Many moons ago I promised Eve Tushnet a list of books I'd recommend to anyone interested in, well, the sort of things this blog is about. Now Mr British Spin (again, no direct link thanks to the blogger bug) gives us an interesting list of works. I've got to get to work on that list...

    Arma viresque cano

    Very interesting article from the Ashbrook Center. Disarming Iraq, or Disarming Iraqis? by Andrew E. Busch looks at the differing approaches to disarmament of Iraqis by the British and American occupying authorities.

    This seems particularly relevant to me. As you'll know if you're a long term reader, I am a convert from the "guns are EVIL!" school of thought prevalent in the UK to a much more balanced view after my exposure to the genuine academic research into the issue available here in the US. Dr. Busch makes a lot of good points, but I do have the following glosses:

    First, it should be readily apparent, but no-one has yet mentioned this as far as I can see, that an armed populace can only defend liberty IF AND ONLY IF liberty is a base value for that society. The British and then the Americans realized that guns are a valuable resource in defense of liberty. To other societies, they are instruments of repression, privilege or power. As sensible gun scholars say all the time, guns themselves have no moral value or capacity. It amazes me that people are nonplussed by the idea of Iraq being a gun-owning society but still a dictatorship, or, conversely, that people should use the example of Iraq to say that guns cannot guarantee liberty. Both arguments are hogwash, and I am glad that Dr. Busch did not fall into the trap.

    Second, from everything I have read and analyzed, it is of fundamental importance to the continued existence of a law-abiding, armed society, that guns are kept out of the hands of the non-law-abiding elements. To this extent, I do not see anything wrong with the UK approach at the moment. There has been serious looting and law-breaking in Basra. We have no court system to work out who are the Fedayeen and Ba'athists who are the decent civilians. Everything we know about Saddam suggests that the criminal types are the ones likely to have the guns. In this society disarming everyone, therefore, evens up the odds (in a just society, arming the law-abiding evens up the odds). I'd far rather that we disarmed everyone and then allowed gun shops to open in which sale of guns is banned to former Ba'athists than allowed the thugs to keep their guns so they can start their evil again when we are gone (see below, though, for why I think we have to be there for a long time).

    In other words, I think it's too early to judge whether the British idea is bad and the American idea is good. Dr Busch may well have a point, and I probably incline to his side if Our Tone starts calling for a legal ban on civilian gun ownership. But I don't think that's the issue yet. At the moment we have to get the guns out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of honest civilians.

    I'll be interested to see the views of Natalie Solent on this

    The BIG Question...

    Is, of course, whether marmite is better than grits. Of course it is. I once saw a good friend try everything from the condiments tray on a bowl of grits in an effort to make them edible. He eventually decided that heapings of Tabasco sauce was the only solution. Kris, I should add, disagrees fundamentally. Anyway, if this is your sort of thing, visit Across the Atlantic, a new conglomerate formed by the ever reliable Group Captain and one young lady called Shell. Dashed decent entertainment, what?

    End of Empire

    The new City Journal is out, and chock-full of intellectual goodness it is too. I intend to comment on many of the articles therein, but first and foremost is a somewhat depressing article by the good Doctor Theodore Dalrymple on what he has taken away from witnessing the end of British colonialism. Those who read it with an eye on the Coalition's upcoming experiences in Iraq may be dismayed at the prospect. Indeed, it might seem to echo the comments of some before the war that it is futile to attempt to introduce democracy to Iraq, as its culture will not allow it.

    Dalrymple's article in many ways echoes one of Kipling's most famous poems, but in reverse. Dalrymple plainly believes that "there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the Earth." He is no racist, although I am sure that the simple-minded will accuse him of that on skimming this piece. What Dalrymple argues, I think, is that the cultural make-up of Africa is such that the governmental structures left by the British would naturally by used by Africans to exploit their fellows:

    In fact, it was the imposition of the European model of the nation-state upon Africa, for which it was peculiarly unsuited, that caused so many disasters. With no loyalty to the nation, but only to the tribe or family, those who control the state can see it only as an object and instrument of exploitation. Gaining political power is the only way ambitious people see to achieving the immeasurably higher standard of living that the colonialists dangled in front of their faces for so long. Given the natural wickedness of human beings, the lengths to which they are prepared to go to achieve power—along with their followers, who expect to share in the spoils—are limitless. The winner-take-all aspect of Africa’s political life is what makes it more than usually vicious.

    Dalrymple concludes:

    After several years in Africa, I concluded that the colonial enterprise had been fundamentally wrong and mistaken, even when, as was often the case in its final stages, it was benevolently intended. The good it did was ephemeral; the harm, lasting. The powerful can change the powerless, it is true; but not in any way they choose. The unpredictability of humans is the revenge of the powerless. What emerges politically from the colonial enterprise is often something worse, or at least more vicious because better equipped, than what existed before. Good intentions are certainly no guarantee of good results.

    There are two comments I should like to make on this article. The first relates to whether the African experience can be generalized to the idea that British colonialism was evil from this conservative perspective. The second asks whether the African experience tells us much about the possible effects of introducing democracy to Arab countries.

    For the first point, I turn to Niall Ferguson, who has emerged as the best defender of the British Imperial legacy working today. In the conclusion to his book Empire, which I cannot recommend highly enough, he points out the efforts the British made, and the success they had, in leaving stable government behind. This excerpt is lengthy, but important:

    [Comparing the growth in the economies of fomer British colonies to those of others] ... which British institutions promoted development? First, we should not underestimate the benefits conferred by British law and administration. A recent survey of forty-nine countries concluded that 'common-law countries have the strongest, and French civil-law countries the weakest, legal protections of investors,' encouraging both shareholders and creditors. This is of enormous importance in encouraging capital foundation, without which entrepreneurs can achieve little. The fact that eighteen of the sample countries have the common-law system is of course almost entirely due to their having been at one time or another under British rule.

    A similar point can be made about the nature of British governance. At its apogee in the mid-nineteenth century, two features of the Indian and Colonial services are especially striking when compared with many modern regimes in Asia and Africa. First, British administration was remarkably cheap and efficient. Secondly, it was remarkably non-venal. Its sins were generally sins of omission, not commission. This too cannot be wholly without significance, given the demonstrable correlations today between economic under-performance and both excessive government expenditure and public sector corruption.

    The economic historian David Landes recently drew up a list of measures which 'the ideal growth-and-development' government would adopt. Such a government, he suggests, would

    1. secure rights of private property, the better to encourage saving and investment;
    2. secure rights of personal liberty ... against both the abuses of tyranny and ... crime and corruption;
    3. enforce rights of contract;
    4. provide stable government ... governed by publicly known rules;
    5. provide responsive government;
    6. provide honest government ... [with] no rents to favour and position;
    7. provide moderate, efficient, ungreedy government ... to hold taxes down [and] reduce the government's claim on the social surplus.

    The striking thing about this list is how many of its points correspond to what British Indian and Colonial officials in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries believed they were doing. The sole, obvious exceptions are points 2 and 5. Yet the British argument for postponing (sometimes indefinitely) the transfer to democracy was that many of their colonies were not yet ready for it; indeed, the classic and not wholly disingenuous line from the Colonial Office was that Britain's role was precisely to get them ready.

    It is a point worth emphasizing that to a significant extent British rule did have that benign effect. According to the work of political scientists like Seymour Martin Lipsett, countries that were former British colonies has a significantly better chance of achieving enduring democratization after independence than those ruled by other countries. Indeed, nearly every country with a population of at least a million that has emerged from the colonial era without succumbing to dictatorship is a former British colony. True, there have beeen many former colonies which have not managed to sustain free institutions: Bangladesh, Burma, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe spring to mind. But in a sample of fifty-three countries that were former British colonies, just under half (twenty-six) were still democracies in 1993. This can be attributed to the way that British rule, particularly where it was 'indirect,' encouraged the formation of collaborating elites; it may also be related to the role of Protestant missionaries, who clearly played a part in encouraging Western-style aspirations for political freedom in parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

    In short, what the British Empire proved is that empire is a form of international government that can work -- and not just for the benefit of the ruling power. It sought to globalize not just an economic but a legal and ultimately a political system too.

    How can this overview be squared with Dalrymple's? I think there are two important elements to the reconciliation. The first is the role of property rights, that foremost of Landes' prescriptions. British rule in Africa in fact did little to introduce the Anglospheric concept of property rights. Check out Roger Bate's article on the problem with land and water rights in South Africa, for example, or a host of other articles by Africans at the International Policy Network. Most African property rights remain in the hands of tribal elders, so providing no incentive (or ability) to exploit your own property for personal gain. This leads to the problems Dalrymple eloquently describes. It was a failure of colonialism (perhaps caused as much by premature British withdrawal as anything else), but it was not one that happened everywhere.

    Second, it is important to note Ferguson's terminology when he says there have been many former colonies which have not managed to sustain free institutions. Most of the Dictators have actively undermined British institutions, rather than exploited them. Mugabe's greatest hindrances to his rapacity has been the existence of an independent legal system and a free press. He has therefore had to remove them in a painstaking manner, which he has been able to accelerate recently. But where the institutions entered public consciousness as part of their national identity, they have been valuable tools in stopping dictatorship and, in one case, Kenya, enabled that happy people to overthrow a dictatorship peacefully. It is not surprising that so many of the dictators have claimed to be socialist, because gave them an ideological basis for dismantling the Landes system that would thwart them, or nationalist, so that they could taint the British systems as bad for the country simply because they were British. Many, of course, were both.

    So I do not think that the problem is quite as simple as Dalymple would have us believe. The Anglospheric system that the British exported works, time and time again, when it is allowed to work, and when its basic roots of property rights and individual liberty are allowed time to grow.

    This is where we come to the lessons for Iraq. Fareed Zakaria has another interesting article in this week's Newsweek, How to Wage the Peace. It is full of insights into how we might ensure democracy takes root in Iraq, not least this observation from Paddy Ashdown on the lessons of Bosnia:

    Paddy Ashdown, the British politician who was appointed “czar” of Bosnia, admits that administrators there got the sequence wrong: “We thought that democracy was the highest priority, and we measured it by the number of elections we could organize. The result even years later is that the people of Bosnia have grown weary of voting. In addition, the focus on elections slowed our efforts to tackle organized crime and corruption, which have jeopardized quality of life and scared off foreign investment.” “In hindsight,” he wrote, “we should have put the establishment of the rule of law first, for everything else depends on it: a functioning economy, a free and fair political system, the development of civil society, public confidence in police and the courts.”

    It is precisely that which we should be willing and dedicated to achieve. We must re-establish the rule of law, and not just any law, but a common law system predicated on property rights, personal liberty and security, and contract law. We have the advantage in Iraq that teh country had been secular for many years before Saddam turned to fundamentalism, which I think Dr Johnson would recognize as the true last refuge of the scoundrel. We must use this in resisting calls for the imposition of Sharia law, which would surely spell doom for any attempts to democratize Iraq. From there we should follow Landes' prescriptions, and resist any calls for a quick fix, so that true civil society is established and the people are able to recognize knaves from the honest men they need. If the basic rights of the people and responsibilities of government are established, a true liberal democracy has every chance of taking root in Iraq. The mistakes of Africa should not be repeated in Arabia. And if that means that the coalition is in it for the long haul, so be it. It will require tremendous courage and dedication from the people and governments of the coalition, but they will be thanked for those qualities by history.

    Back again

    My mother is doing much better now, so I can begin to devote time to the blog again. I'd like to start by pointing you towards an excellent analysis by Mr British Spin [sorry no direct link -- blogger archive bug] on the interesting column in The Sun by Trevor Kavanagh that suggests Tony Blair might use the authority he has got from his position on Iraq to move up the date for a referendum on the Euro. As Mr Spin says, there is more here than meets the eye.

    I agree with Mr Spin that Our Tone is giving a boost to the pro-Euro forces when they desperately need it, and tend to agree with his analysis about the outlet and timing, but I think this is mainly a factional move by Tony. He lost a lot of goodwill on the transnationalist left of his party with his stance on Iraq. They are the most likely to go to the Lib Dems if they find themselves continually in disagreement with him. By throwing them this sop, he may make it harder for them to desert after the upcoming Foundation Hospitals debate (at least, I think it's still upcoming). Moreover, given the state of the polls (also referenced by Mr Spin), I think in some ways it is, ironically, safe for him to do this now. A referendum will be lost, as things currently stand, and the transnationalists know it. They will not want a referendum to be held until they know they can win it, so they will want to see his position strengthened as the only real hope of getting the Euro they want. So they will be inclined to stay in the party and back Blair against Brown. Win double.

    He's a pretty smart cookie, that Tony Blair.

    Saturday, April 12, 2003

    Oh, the Brits are good too

    I have been accused of blind love for America in my life. Thinking about it this evening, I realized my "accusers" misunderstood. I'm not blind to America's flaws, she has many. Our government is not perfect, nor has it always behaved impeccably. Yet I am in love. With Americans.

    I love the fact that our brand of democracy makes our leaders deeply beholden to the will of the people. I love that because our politicians must answer to us with every election, they dare not impose their will on us willynilly. I love our free press that keeps politicians and corporations scared at night. I love the fact that whatever you may think of it, the American justice/legal/political system is one of the most corruption-free on the planet. That we still expect more, delights me.

    I love the fact that Americans really want to do what's right. I love Americans because we believe. We believe in ourselves, we believe in faith, we believe in inherent good. Americans want to make connections with others. We want to like you.

    I love everyday Americans. We smile at each other. We hold the doors for each other. We help each other without reservation when need arises. We may fight amongst ourselves like siblings, but when push comes to shove, we stand shoulder to shoulder against all comers. Then, we help our former enemies. We like to help.

    I love Americans. We come from everywhere on the planet and yet have our own unique culture. America has her problems but I love her people. I trust them to want to do what's right and kind and just. We are good folk who don't want to hurt anyone. We just want to make our country a better place for our kids. I love America. But I love Americans even more.

    Kris Murray
    Iain's (American) Wife

    Thank you

    Iain's mother's surgery was successful despite having a ruptured appendix. Again, your support of Iain in a time of crisis touches us deeply. I want to thank you for taking the time to wish us and Mrs. Murray well. I wish I could shake each of your hands and tell you in person how much this has meant to me.
    Kris Murray
    Iain's Wife

    Friday, April 11, 2003

    A family emergency

    I won't be blogging for a few days. My mother (who is visiting us with my father) was admitted to hospital today and is undergoing surgery for advanced appendicitis. I feel terribly guilty because she said she didn't want to worry me while I was having interviews, which is why it has got so bad. So I hope you'll excuse me if there's a lack of posts until she's out of danger.