Thursday 18 July 2024

RMA: "It was twenty years ago today..."

 


Crikey! Is it really 20 years since I wrote this cover story (above) for the Free Radical magazine? 

Sure is.

It was twenty years ago last month, and even then it was already well past time to put a stake through the Frankenstein monster of Simon Upton, Nick Smith and Geoffrey Palmer. And now (as the saying goes) a little girl still waits.

And twenty years since this piece first appeared, the RMA is still a current controversy ...




I'll post the whole piece here, below the fold, so you can find out what still happens when you want a bigger home for your grandmother's Morris Minor (there's only two pages more), but in the meantime you can

Wednesday 17 July 2024

"How is it conservative to back Putin’s Russia?"


"Donald Trump’s selection of Ohio Senator J D Vance as his running mate on Monday ... was a death knell marking the end of the American conservative movement as it was constituted from the mid-20th century until now.
    "The movement’s birth date is typically traced back to 1955 ...  Ronald Reagan would go on to restate the [founding] principles by observing that the [modern] Republican Party ... was held up by a 'three-legged stool' of social and fiscal conservatism, as well as anti-communism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this third tenet was unofficially amended to emphasise the importance of American leadership on the world stage.
    "Though the GOP has always represented these values to varying degrees, Trump was the first to seriously stress-test the stool during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. By promising to implement tariffs, leave entitlements untouched, and seek a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Trump threatened to kick at least two of the movement’s legs out from under it. ...
    "By making Vance his heir apparent, Trump has not only set the tone for what his second term would look like, but what the GOP will stand for in the years that follow.
    "Vance is not merely an advocate of a more restrained foreign policy, he’s a demagogue plagued by a single minded obsession: rewarding Putin for waging a bloody, unprovoked war on Ukraine. ...  
    "He may claim to put America first, but Vance can be better understood as a member of the 'Blame America First' crowd that conservatives once rightly deplored.
    "His economic outlook is similarly indistinguishable from the Right’s ancestral opponents. ... resort[ing] to the simpleminded, envy-laden demagoguery of the Left since entering the political fray.
    "He supports minimum wage hikes and indiscriminate protectionism. He opposes Right-to-Work laws and tax cuts. ... and has suggested that Senators Bernie Sanders (a socialist) and Elizabeth Warren (a quasi-socialist) were his favorite candidates among the 2020 Democratic presidential field.
    "Moreover, Vance’s prioritisation of his own personal ambition over all else throws even his claim to being a committed social conservative into doubt. ... This should come as no surprise. Vance now claims to be proud to be the running mate of a man he once compared to Hitler and agreed was a serial sex predator. ...

"Reagan, and their contemporaries ... fought and won an uphill battle to bring much-needed contrast, not to mention wisdom, back to American politics.
    "By contrast, Vance’s rapid rise has been characterised by his sycophancy toward a single charismatic figure whose coat-tails he hoped to ride.
    "With Trump and Vance cemented as American 'conservatism’s' frontmen for the foreseeable future, it is no exaggeration to say that the values – and the spirit – of the conservative movement shaped by  Reagan [et a] are functionally dormant, if not dead."

"The argument is that 'wealth is a privilege, and with it comes the obligation of paying tax to benefit society'."


"The argument [is that] 
Wealth is a privilege, and with it comes the obligation of paying tax to benefit society.   
"This is, obviously, piffle. For what is being said there is that only by paying tax does wealth benefit society. Which is, obviously, that piffle.
    "It’s actually true that wealth is the product of having benefitted society. As in the William Nordhaus paper about who gains from entrepreneurial activity, it’s us out here, us consumers, who gain the vast, vast proportion of it. The entrepreneurs themselves gain some 3% or so of total value created. Only 3% too.
    "As an example, Jeff Bezos has some $200 billion. A lotta cash, agreed. It’s also true there’s been the 'Amazon Effect.' By making the retail system more efficient the simple existence of the company has knocked 0.1 to 0.2% off the inflation rate. Every year for two decades. No, not 2 to 4% off retail sales that is, but 2 to 4% off the whole cost of living for everyone. That’s a sum vastly larger than the Bezos pile - especially when we convert that annual benefit into a capital sum so as to be able to compare it with the Bezos capital sum.
    "It simply isn’t true, not in the slightest, that the justification for wealth is the tax paid upon it. It’s how much better off are we made by someone having made that wealth?"
~ Tim Worstall from his post 'If people don’t grasp the basics then….'

"The U.S. should abandon its obsession with the anti-immigration policies of the recent past, and instead address the real causes of illegal immigration."


"How can the United States reduce illegal immigration? ...
    "The reality is that only four policies can significantly reduce illegal immigration.
    "The first is allowing more legal immigration. …
    "The second … is to expand free trade. …
    "A more controversial way to shrink illegal immigration is to de-escalate the war on drugs. …
    "A further policy that might reduce immigration is scaling back the U.S. welfare state ... to either reduce that generosity or condition benefits on legal residence for a significant number of years. ...

"The policies that will do little to shrink illegal immigration are increased border enforcement, stiffer punishments for employers who hire illegals, or aggressive arrest policies ... These measures are ineffective because they do not change the fact that wages in the U.S. are attractive compared to wages in poor countries. And, for centuries, immigrants have endured amazing hardships to seek higher income or a better life in America. Longer or higher fences will not change that.
    "Instead, stepped-up enforcement will drive more activity underground....
    "[T]he U.S. should abandon its obsession with the anti-immigration policies of the [recent] past and instead address the real causes of illegal immigration."
~ Jeffrey Miron from his post 'The Right Way to Reduce Illegal Immigration'

Great Barrier Reef is "doomed"?

 



"The Great Barrier Reef is doomed by 2030 without immediate action," said Time magazine in 2013.

"Great Barrier Reef damage is ‘irreversible’ unless radical action taken," said the Guardian in 2014.

"The Great Barrier Reef is a victim of climate change," the Guardian declared in 2021, doubling down on the catastrophising.

And now, in 2024? Well, check it out:


The story of the Great Barrier Reef’s recovery challenges the dominant climate change narrative. While it’s crucial to remain vigilant about environmental protection, it’s equally important to base our policies and perceptions on accurate, comprehensive data. The resilience of the Great Barrier Reef serves as a reminder that nature can be more adaptable and robust than we often assume.


Tuesday 16 July 2024

"New Zealand lacks a national unifying myth"


"New Zealand lacks a national unifying myth that embodies the shared views of the country’s history and future. The loss of a common national story is central to many of News Zealand’s problems. Myths explain our history, chart a path to the future and help bind the country together.
    "Richard Slotkin, who has written extensively about the various mythologies underpinning the United States experience, suggests that ‘myths are the stories – true, untrue, half-true – that ... provide an otherwise loosely affiliated people with models of patriotic action.’ A more formal dictionary definition suggests that myths may be popular traditions embodying core social values* ...
    "There have been a number of what may be described as archetypal experiences in New Zealand history that could approach a 'mythological' status that reflect the embodiment of some of the values that underpin the national identity. ANZAC immediately comes to mind. Wartime activity and service brings a people together often because national survival is at stake.
    "Then there is the 'man alone' myth that underpins much of Jock Phillips writing, along with the Kiwi do-it-yourself 'number 8 wire' approach to problem solving. Sport tends to be a unifier but primarily a hysterical support for the All Blacks which rapidly diminishes if the team does anything but win. Sport is meant to demonstrate resilience in the fact of adversity but not, it would seem, on the part of the fans.
    "Historians are well positioned to invent and develop new national stories. ... But historians have not taken on the task of devising a coherent national mythology that can bring unity to a fractured nation. Instead, students are being taught radically different versions of the nation’s past. All this reflects not simply divergent opinions on specific issues, but disagreements about the fundamental character of our institutions and the purposes of our nation.
    "One myth which did possess a unifying feature but which has been badly eroded is the position of the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty established a foundation for equal citizenship, one people with equal recognition under the law.
    "Hobson at the signing of the Treaty is reputed to have said 'He iwi tahi tatou – 'we are now one people.' ... The problem is that in many respects myths [like this one] contain a great deal of invention and not a lot of evidence. But Hobson’s Pledge, whether it was said or not, provides a solid background for a national identity and the foundation for a common purpose. We should be one people. We should acknowledge our differences but our shared objective should be a unity of purpose. And with that unity of purpose we can become ... a country with well-educated people, who enjoy the lifestyle their unique setting offers and the good health that goes with that ..." 
~ Thomas Cranmer from his post 'A Common Purpose and a National Mythology'
* Myths are not a lie, explains mythologist Joseph Campbell, and to call them that is a misunderstanding — 
"a very strong and narrow opinion of what a myth 'is.' Someone who, perhaps, has only been exposed to the negative use of the term as a phrase for something that is seen as a 'mistruth.' Something told with the intent to deceive, or from the vantage point of a naive or uneducated mind. For many, calling something a 'myth' is to associate it with a profound deception: a feeble or unsophisticated attempt to explain material reality before the advent of the scientific age. Some see the term as an equivalent to the more modern 'fake news.' 
"The contemporary conception of myth as falsehood has led people to think of myths as fairytales (another complex story structure that is often dismissed as containing much less essential truth than they actually do).
"But for Campbell, myth presents a version of the truth that is far more essential than that which can be gleaned from almanacs, censuses, and encyclopaedias, whose 'facts' are dependent on the experience of the field of time and are often outdated as soon as they are published."
Writer Robert A. Johnson sums it up, saying "Myths are a special kind of literature not written or created by a single individual, but produced by the imagination and experience of an entire age and culture, and can be seen as the distillation of the dreams and experiences of a whole culture." 

So neither unimportant nor trivial. And certainly not a lie.

 

Monday 15 July 2024

"This is America. This is not the way we do away with Presidents. We do away with them in a very civilised manner. We vote. We do not kill people."

 

"On the day President Kennedy died, that evening I was at a lecture that she gave. In the question-and-answer period, somebody said something like 'You never liked President Kennedy so his death is nothing to grieve about.' She got terribly upset about that remark and said 'This is America. This is not the way we do away with Presidents. We do away with them in a very civilised manner. We vote. We do not kill people'."
~ Ayn Rand remark, taken from a 1999 interview with Frederick Feingersh (an NBI student under Rand in the 1960s). Hat tip Ben Bayer.

 

Saturday 13 July 2024

Rock journalism ...

 

"Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read."
~ Frank Zappa from a 1977 interview


Friday 12 July 2024

"Neither climate nor climate change cause, fuel, or influence weather. Yes, you read that right"


"It is now a ubiquitous cultural ritual to blame any and every weather event on climate change. Those hot days? Climate change. That hurricane? Climate change. The flood somewhere that I saw on social media? Climate change.
    "With today’s post, the first in a series, I go beyond the cartoonish media caricatures of climate change, which I expect are here to stay, and explore the actual science of extreme events — how they may or may not be changing, and how we think we know what we know, and what we simply cannot know. ...
    "Let’s correct one pervasive and pathological misunderstanding endemic across the media and in policy, and sometimes spotted seeping into peer-reviewed scientific research:
Neither climate nor climate change cause, fuel, or influence weather.
"Yes, you read that right.
    "Climate change is a change in the statistics of weather — It is an outcome, not a cause.
    "I often use hitting in baseball as an analogy. A hitter’s batting average does not cause hits. Instead, a batter’s hits result in their overall batting average. Lots of things can change a batter’s hitting performance, but batting average change is not one of them.


"As the Google NGrams figure above indicates, the idea that climate change is a causal agent has become increasingly common in recent decades, departing dramatically from its use in the IPCC and much of the scientific community. I am sure you can point to examples that you encounter every day. ...
    "Weather can be characterised statistically, but weather does not occur as a result of simple statistical processes. Weather is the the integrated result of at least: dynamical, thermodynamical, chaotic, societal, biospheric, cryospheric, lithospheric, oceanic, vulcanological, solar, and, yes, stochastic processes."
~ Roger Pielke Jr. from his post 'Climate-Fuelled Extreme Weather.' [Emphasis in the original. Hat tip Kip Hansen]

 

Thursday 11 July 2024

Labelling everything "far-right" normalises the real far-right


"Progressive devotees have expanded the scope of who and what is 'far-right' ... [But] if milquetoast conservatives get into government as ‘far-right’ and govern in a way with no perceptible difference to the liberal consensus ... then it normalises the idea of far-right government. ...
    "If mothers growing their own food are far-right, the pro-life church lady is far-right, the radical feminist who isn’t keen on transvestites is far-right, the liberal who gets fired for not using progressive speech codes at his corporate job is far-right, then no one is going to bat an eye at the real far-right – whoever they may be and wherever they may lurk. When the progressive says, ‘But he’s far-right!’ about someone with genuinely reactionary political aims and the means to achieve them, no one will recoil in horror.
    "Instead they will think, ‘Ah, so he is just like me.'
    "The funeral pyre of progress has been constructed by the hands of its faithful devotees and awaits only the match that will set it ablaze."
~ Dieuwe de Boer from, his post 'The Funeral Pyre of Progress'

 

Wednesday 10 July 2024

So maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't give central bankers the keys to the whole monetary system.


"To repeat one of my consistent lines, human beings are fallible, they make mistakes. Central banks – here and abroad – are made up of humans, so they make mistakes. Really serious ones, of the sort seen in the last few years, shouldn’t happen but they do. One might even offer perspectives in mitigation: the pandemic was something quite extraordinary, and many people (here and abroad) misread the macroeconomics of it for too long. But those responsible need to take responsibility for the mistakes that were made."
~ Michael Reddell from his post 'Still avoiding responsibility'

Don't worry, the central banks will control inflation.

 


[Hat tip Rudy Havenstein]

Tuesday 9 July 2024

"The suggestion is that the loss of Newshub and associated jobs is tantamount to the Last Trumpet. It is not."


"[Playwright] Eugene O’Neill said that by using the title 'Mourning Becomes Electra,' he sought to convey 'that mourning befits Electra; it becomes Electra to mourn; it is her fate; black is becoming to her and it is the colour that becomes her destiny.'
    "Newshub went off the air on Friday 5 July 2024. This was reckoned to be a sad day. Sad because a mainstream media platform was no longer being supported by its owners. Particularly sad for those who lost their jobs. In fact the outpouring of grief on that front has been repetitive to the point of banality. ...
    "I have always wondered at the media’s fascination with itself. It is, as [one commentator] suggests, 'an unedifying orgy of self-aggrandisement as Newshub journalists and broadcasters very publicly and ostentatiously mourn the imminent loss of their jobs…..
    "The suggestion is that the loss of Newshub and associated jobs is tantamount to the Last Trumpet. It is not. The Newshub closure represents a certain inevitability that those who worked for it have failed to recognise or understand. [Ironic for an organisation allegedly reporting the news.]
    "The communications landscape has changed utterly. ... Their self-absorbed narrative [has not.] ...[L]ike Elektra’s, [it remains] one of grief."

~ David Harvey from his post 'Mourning Becomes the Media'


"However much it offended the sensibilities of design snobs and planners, we were there because our shoebox apartment was better than the alternative."

"[I]n 2005, Auckland city was ... dotted with cranes, many standing up so-called 'shoebox apartments.'
   "The phrase was not meant as a compliment. They were derided as 'future slums' ... [which] ultimately led to a rule change ... making the minimum size of a two-bedroom apartment 70 square metres. ... [T]he change had a profound and lasting impact on apartment construction. ...


Chart by Apracitis Economics, from The Spinoff

"In 2005, I was only dimly aware of the furore, of the disgust shoebox apartments aroused. In 2005, I was living in one. ... In retrospect that apartment was where I started to get my shit together, started to have a sense that I could be something more than a fuckup....
    "The apartments were objectively ugly, though not so bad as they were made out at the time.
    "But the upside overwhelmed all that. I was right there in the city. ... It was what I needed at that time, however much it offended the sensibilities of design snobs and planners. I feel confident in saying many other residents, transient as we often were, felt the same way. We were there because it was better than the alternative. ...
    "Another characteristic of the inner city when I lived there was that homelessness barely existed. I remember vividly an extraordinary double-page feature in the 'NZ Herald' which looked at life among the unhoused then. It mapped specific characters, and if you spent a lot of time in the inner city, it seemed a near-complete survey.
    "The idea that you could now map the scale of human misery that a lack of housing has brought to Auckland is unimaginable. As the ’00s wore on, the GFC hit and the next decade began, the city acquired its current reality, with hundreds of people making lives on the streets of downtown and its fringes. It’s now a countrywide phenomenon.
    "That’s the backdrop of the reforms announced last week by housing minister Chris Bishop. I travelled into the city to see him deliver a speech about housing last week ... He spent long periods wading through the thickets of regulation, through the acronym soup of the MDRS and the NPS-UD, and paid compliments to Auckland’s groundbreaking 2016 unitary plan, which started the process of unshackling land for development and finally saw us surpass the heady mid-00s for construction of multi-units.
    "But the part which leapt out for me was not technical, it was moral. He announced an override of the minimum dwelling size standards – a return to plausibility for the kind of place I lived in 20 years ago. In front of a room full of people involved in construction and leasing, with tables for Colliers and CBRE and Crockers, he made a simple case. 'You know what is smaller than a shoebox apartment? A car or an emergency housing motel room.' That’s our current plan for dealing with people who don’t have a house, and it’s indefensible.
    "The rest of the reforms he announced are big. They are a continuation of an enormous body of work which started with Auckland’s unitary plan, was driven forward by Phil Twyford’s revolutionary NPS-UD which created a huge potential for urban density, and now reaches a powerful climax with Bishop’s 'Going for Housing Growth' package.
    "It’s not beyond criticism ... But to me those issues are less material, and likely to be less impactful, due to the return of the maligned shoebox."

"Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement.... " [updated]



"Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement. It is by no means an obvious remedy for the obvious evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand. It is a construction of theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their programme."
~ Friedrich Hayek, from his 1949 article 'The Intellectuals and Socialism'
UPDATE:
"Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs."
~ Ayn Rand, from, her 1962 essay 'The Monument Builders,' excerpted in the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on 'Socialism'

Monday 8 July 2024

'Sudden housing intensification' is simply a by-product of past mistakes



"If we'd had super liberal residential zoning since 1925, the market would have naturally led to 'incremental intensification.' 
    "In other words, 'sudden intensification' is a by-product of past mistakes with strict zoning. We should fix those mistakes ASAP."

“What is it about the study of modern philosophy that tends to make brilliant minds stupid?"


“What is it about the study of [modern] philosophy that tends to make brilliant minds stupid when it comes down to what are known as actual cases? Consider Martin Heidegger, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ludwig Wittgenstein ... four great names in twentieth-century philosophy: the first was a Nazi, the second died certain that America was responsible for all the world’s evil, the third was a Stalinist long after any justification for being so could be adduced, and the fourth lived on the borders of madness most of his life. Contemplation of the lives of philosophers is enough to drive one to the study of sociology.”
~ Joseph Epstein from his Essays in Biography [hat tip Stephen Hicks]

 

Sunday 7 July 2024

After the UK election, what is the future of British conservatism?



Conservative Party MP (and Austrian economics enthusiast) Steve Baker lost his High Wycombe seat in the UK election. He was asked about the future of the Conservative Party, about which he has himself been severely critical even when in government, and if "small c" conservative policies were the cause of Britain's problems. [Starts at 9:16]

“GB NEWS INTERVIEWER: What is the future of British conservatism?”

“Whatever problems Britain has got, they weren't caused by government being limited, by taxes being too low, by budgets being balanced, or by debt being too low — or even by money being too tight with high interest rates, because we haven't had those. …
    “The problem is that we've had big government. High spending. Lots of debt, QE and cheap credit. That is not conservative economic policy. And the problem is we've really — and I've said this in all the interviews I've done for 50 years — the [whole] Western world has been living systematically beyond its means and using cheap credit and now QE to cover the gap. And you can't do that without manufacturing Mass Injustice. This is why people can't afford houses — young people particularly. If you pump lots of cheap credit into houses don't be surprised if the price soars, particularly when planning law constrains the supply of land.
    “These are disastrous policies. But in the end, they arise because the state spends too much. So the future of conservatism actually is to face the real world as it is which is that you can't spend more than you're earning in the long run. And your viewers know that.”

 Meanwhile, Razi Ginsberg and Morgan Carter at the Ayn Rand Centre UK observe that things can only get worse ...




Saturday 6 July 2024

Why music is getting worse

 

Musician/music producer/music commentator Rick Beato explains the real reason much of music is getting worse.

Is this "old man yelling at clouds"?

Well, not really.

It's a man who's been around and seen a lot — a man who knows music — explaining why music is getting worse.

And the real reason is reasonably straightforward.




Friday 5 July 2024

"Yes, Labour has won a landslide, but it’s not quite Starmer-geddon."


Britain's 'leaders' mourn the death of the Uniparty


"Yes, [UK] Labour has won a landslide [in the British election overnight], but it’s not quite Starmer-geddon. According to the exit poll, his landslide, predicted to be the largest since 1832 in one eve-of-election poll, is in fact smaller than Tony Blair’s in 1997, although not by much (170 v 179). 
    "More encouraging, if the exit poll is to be believed, is that Labour only managed a vote share of 36%, significantly lower than in 2017 under Jeremy Corbyn (40%). 
    "By contrast, the Tories and Reform won a combined share of 43%. [Labour leader] Keir Starmer has won a landslide but not a mandate – his own majority is down by 16,000 – although I doubt he’ll be constrained by that.
    "The Left of the Labour Party will point to the fact that Starmer polled fewer votes than Corbyn – we don’t know that for sure yet, but it looks likely – and dispute that Labour only won this election by tacking to the centre, just as the Right of the Conservative Party will argue the Party didn’t lose by abandoning the centre ground (which is the prevailing orthodoxy among ‘One Nation’ Tories, believe it or not). And they’d both be right, in my view. In spite of Starmer’s victory, technocratic managerialism – or 'stakeholder capitalism,' as Klaus Schwab calls it – hasn’t exactly triumphed in this election. 
    "The Uniparty – that is, the Conservative Party under Sunak and the Labour Party under Starmer – got a bloody nose in the sense that the two main parties received an even lower share of the vote – 62% – than they did in 2010 (66%). That’s a lower share than in 1983 at the height of the SDP‘s popularity (70%) and worse than in either of the 1974 elections. Indeed, lower than in 1923, when the two main parties won 68.7%. You have to go all the way back to 1918, when the Liberal Party hadn’t yet collapsed, to find find Labour and the Conservatives collectively polling a lower vote share (59.2%).

"The superficial take on the result is that the U.K. is bucking the anti-technocratic trend sweeping the rest of the globe, particularly France where we may be witnessing the death throes of the Fifth Republic. But look beyond Labour’s landslide and the real story of the last six weeks is the rise of Reform and the lack of enthusiasm for the two centrist parties. 
    "Indeed, if we had PR in the U.K., as they do in the EU, we might now be looking at a Right-of-centre coalition with a populist leader at the helm and a move away from the Uniparty’s position on immigration and Net Zero, as well as its uncritical embrace of sectarian identity politics. We may have to wait another five years before that happens, but it seems unlikely, to put it mildly, that Starmer’s premiership will breathe new life into this calcified ideology. Much more likely is that a succession of policy failures, leading to a financial crisis, civil unrest and rolling black-outs, will be the death knell of technocratic managerialism. 
    "In 2029, the British electoral may finally vote for real change."
~ Toby Young from his post 'End of the Uniparty'

"The success of our civilisation rests on the pillars of Enlightenment thought—not on belief in the supernatural or in any specific set of ancient myths"


"Many liberals are strangely eager to concede that liberal societies are morally and spiritually bankrupt without religion to give life meaning. ... liberalism [they say] has proven incapable of filling the 'hole in people’s souls.' ... Liberalism 'nurtures the gentle bourgeois virtues like kindness and decency,' but not the 'loftier virtues, like bravery, loyalty, piety and self-sacrificial love.' Although he considers himself a liberal, [the NY Times's David] Brooks thinks liberal societies are lonely, atomised, and even selfish.
    "Brooks joins a growing list of public intellectuals who maintain that the principles and institutions of liberalism—democracy, freedom of speech and conscience, individual rights, and the rule of law—aren’t sufficient for societies to flourish. They believe society needs an anchor that goes deeper than liberalism—what Brooks describes as 'faith, family, soil and flag.
    "There are different expressions of this belief. In an article for the 'Spectator,' journalist Ed West discusses a phenomenon he describes as 'New Theism'—an intellectual movement pushing back against the rising secularism in Western liberal societies. In a recent essay for 'Quillette,' the historian and author Adam Wakeling describes this phenomenon as 'political Christianity,' which he defines as the belief that 'Western civilisation has Christian foundations, and returning to those Christian roots can help protect Western values today.' Wakeling challenges both of these beliefs and argues that the 'success of our civilisation rests on the pillars of Enlightenment thought: constitutional government, secularism, science, the rule of law, and human rights—not on belief in the supernatural or in any specific set of ancient myths' ...
    "Liberalism has lasted for centuries because it is the only set of principles and practices that enables diverse societies to thrive. But liberalism is under threat today. From the emergence of an illiberal and zero-sum form of identity politics on the Left to the resurrection of blood-and-soil nationalism on the Right, the consensus on liberalism in many Western democracies is breaking down. ... Many liberals are strangely eager to concede that liberal societies are morally and spiritually bankrupt without religion or some other 'comprehensive doctrine' to give life meaning. ...
    "The idea that we’re responsible for making our own meaning can be daunting. While religious believers have established doctrines, traditions, and communities, millions of their fellow citizens must find their way to lives of purpose without this scaffolding. Those who call for a religious revival in the West never explain what this looks like in practice. Does it merely mean refilling pews? Or some version of integralism, in which the state and religion are fused? What about the millions of people who simply can’t believe? Thomas Jefferson opens the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by observing that the 'opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds.' There’s a large and growing population of people in liberal societies who have followed the evidence away from religious faith, and they don’t need a surrogate faith to replace it.
    "The citizens of liberal democracies are fortunate to live in societies that afford them the luxury to have crises of meaning. In many other societies, and at many points in history, people faced more immediate crises: a king or a dictator who would kill them for believing the wrong thing; rival clans that would regularly raid their villages and destroy their homes; life at the mercy of nature, disease, poverty, and starvation. Liberal ideas and institutions like the rule of law, property rights and contract enforcement, and freedom of expression and conscience deserve much of the credit for the health, prosperity, and autonomy we enjoy today. The one thing liberalism can’t provide, however, is a sense of meaning and purpose—that’s up to us, and the responsibility of making our own meaning is a small price to pay. For many, it isn’t a price at all."

~ Matt Johnson from his article 'Liberalism and the West’s ‘Crisis of Meaning’'

Thursday 4 July 2024

UK Election: Choosing "the spam sandwich over the bowl of cold sick"


"I write this entry less than a week before the country ‘goes to the polls’. On July 4th, the British electorate will vote, and it will pick – as it always does – the best option before it. This will mean electing a Labour Government. ...
    "I wish that the people had better options to choose from. But that is not the way democracy works. The voters have to eat what is in front of them on the dinner table, not the Michelin-starred feast they could be having if only they had Michel Roux in the kitchen. And they will, naturally, choose the bland over the actively distasteful – the spam sandwich over the bowl of cold sick. ...
    "People don’t vote on the basis of wanting to 'punish' the Government or because 'they don’t know what they’re voting for.' In aggregate they vote on the basis of a rational choice. And the Tory Party has simply presented the U.K. electorate in 2024 with only one such choice: not to elect it into Government."

~ David McGrogan from his column 'Why the Labour Party Will Win'
"Sunak is a walking, talking reminder that technocracy is a con – that the politicians and institutions most keen to fetishise ‘competence’ and ‘delivery’, over the messy business of ideology and democratic politics, are often rank incompetents who would struggle to deliver a pizza. 
    "Indeed, it is precisely Sunak’s deference to the blob – to the prevailing orthodoxies of the state and the quangocracy – that made him being the man to finally fix Britain’s deep-seated problems such an unlikely prospect. His coronation as PM – all without the say-so of Tory members, let alone the country at large – was premised on the claim he would ‘calm the markets’ after the mini-budget meltdown and that he would defer to the wisdom of the Treasury mandarins, the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility, who were all so outrageously defied by Truss and Kwarteng. 
    "In practice, this meant deferring to the very ‘experts’ who have for decades been presiding over Britain’s economic decay. ...
    "If there’s a lesson to be learned from the Rishi Sunak era, it’s this: politicians who believe in nothing, quite often end up achieving nothing. Nothing good, anyway."
~ Tom Slater from his op-ed 'Rishi Sunak and the folly of managerialism'

" 'The Government is taking immediate action to support New Zealand’s media and content production sector.' This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision."


"'The Government is taking immediate action to support New Zealand’s media and content production sectors, while it develops a long-term reform programme, Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith says.' ...
    "This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision. I can handle principled stupid decisions and even unprincipled smart decisions but this is neither.
    "It is unprincipled because it is forcing successful companies in one industry (social networks and search engines) to fund failing companies in another industry (media). The only rationale for this is that Google and Meta have money and Stuff doesn’t. Will we see Netflix levied money to fund home video rental stores? Will we see Foodstuffs levied money to find Whitcoulls?
    "It is also a very stupid decision. ... The Government is going to pass a law to fund a media that will oppose almost everything that supporters of the Government believe in.
    "Even worse, it will set up a structural incentive for the media to become even more left leaning. ... [to] insist the levy be doubled ... [to] create an institutional bias in favour of the parties that will benefit media the most."
~ David Farrar from his post 'Stupid Government backing Willie’s bill'

Can you be a leftist, and still find enjoyment?


“Leftist libertarians see enjoyment as an emancipatory power: every oppressive power has to rely on libidinal repression, and the first act of liberation is to set the libido free.
    "Puritan Leftists are, on the contrary, inherently suspicious of enjoyment: for them, it is a source of corruption and decadence, an instrument used by those in power to maintain their hold over us, so the first act of liberation is to break its spell.
    "The third position is that taken by [Alain] Badiou: jouissance is the nameless ‘infinite,’ a neutral substance which can be instrumentalised in a number of ways.”
~ Slavoj Žižek, from his book Living in the End Times. Hat tip Stephen Hicks, who reckons an interesting exercise would be to think of the leftists one knows or knows about, and to discover into which category they fit.