"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State."
"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State."
When I was a naive youth of sixteen years, my headmaster called my father in for a discussion. I had been suspended from school for distributing revolutionary materials on the premises. I was the Vice Chairman in Wales of a Marxist-Leninist school students organisation; an offshoot from a Maoist splinter group several splinters removed from the party then recognised by Moscow as "the" Communist Party in Britain. Even by the 1970s, every creature with any aspiration to humanity had already left that.
The world seemed so unfair and I wanted to do all in my power to change it for the better. As a young male, of course, I vastly over-estimated that power. It's amusing now, but that miscalculation is a feature not a bug in humanity's software; a key engine in human progress. Young men are meant to be unrestrained by any sensible appreciation of their limits - even their mortality. We would all be living miserably in caves without that irrational self-belief.
I also wanted to be liked; not an easy thing for a bright, unsporty, boy in a bog-standard comprehensive. My peers - by and large - were reliably anti-intellectual. Loudly proclaiming my intent to build a better world was my alternative to being the class clown. As a means of endearing myself, revolutionary communism was a limited success. It did attract Mrs P., who told me later that - though she had no appetite for revolutionary violence herself - she thought "at least he's thinking, not like the other boys." Who knew?
Called into the interview with a headmaster who was as much a better chap than I thought at the time as my embarrassed dad, I asked defiantly what was wrong with wanting the world to be a better place. The answer, of course, is nothing - as long as your proposed solutions do not involve, as mine did, violence. I don't think it's too much to say that I was a little bit crazy at that point. I am not much embarrassed by that. Most 16-year old boys are crazy about something. Girls, football, drink or drugs perhaps. Politics was an odd choice from such a menu of delights, but there you are.
Over the years that followed, I progressed from believing myself capable of setting a path for all humanity to a more realistic appreciation of my limits. Most days, for most of my adult life, I was doing well if I could see a way forward for my clients, for myself and - in consultation with my wiser other half - for my family. People don't become older and wiser because they become more intelligent. The young man I am remembering was a lot sharper than I am now. We become wiser because all our mistakes teach us that a young man's boundless self-belief is a bit barmy and very dangerous - to himself and others.
So what then to make of those who never lose that belief? Every politician who proposes the use of limitless state power to shape the actions of his fellow-humans is as barmy as that young man of long ago, without the excuse of youth. The ones who try to use it to shape their fellow-humans' speech or even thoughts are, in fairness to the young me, a lot barmier. They must know, in their hearts, that they are prone to mistakes in their own lives. What kind of insanity makes them think they can tell others how to live?
After four-and-a-half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding, I was fired today ... As CEO I'm accountable.
After less than two years back in Britain I am bored of the first world problems of this plump and pampered land. I am particularly tired, for example, of the overused word "privilege". To me, the great enemy of mankind is not privilege but poverty. Those of us who are not poor represent a problem solved. The question is how to increase the wealth of those who still are. As a purely economic issue, that's a question long since answered.
History shows us that free markets cure poverty fastest. History also shows us that socialism increases poverty. Ask the millions of people in the former Soviet Bloc. It is a stupid, nasty, hateful doctrine; the moral equivalent of deliberately infecting the healthy with disease in order to reduce health inequality.
Socialism's obsession with material goods ignores the fact that the ability to accumulate wealth, important though it is as an engine of economic development, is not that big a deal at a personal level. Faced with my late wife's cancer, our life's savings could ultimately only buy her more comfortable surroundings in which to die. Material rewards for a life of hard work are all very well, but any sane person knows that true happiness comes from things that have little or nothing to do with money; health, culture, education. recreation and family.
There's a wonderful passage in one of Billy Connolly's shows where he talks of a man at a dinner party who, asked what he did, said "I am a tobogganist". Connolly has much fun imagining what his Glaswegian working class father would have said if he had told him that's what he wanted to be. I have recently been reading about the famous photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Both came from rich families. Both walked away confidently from their material comforts (although Frank occasionally took money from his parents to help him along) in order to embark on artistic careers. Their equivalent, if you like, of tobogganing.
The confidence, perhaps even arrogance, of such people about the importance of their life choices derives from the fact that, unlike Billy Connolly (and most working-class children) they have no practical-minded parents telling them, with their best interests at heart, to "get a real job" The confidence, or indulgence, of their parents is helped by money, of course. If you can't support your child for ever, you are understandably more anxious to see him support himself. But their "privilege" was more complicated than that. Their parents did not laugh at them when they aspired to be "tobogganists". Rather, they expected of them, if that's what they were going to do, that they should head for the highest Alp. That expectation is the true nature of privilege.
Yes, it's easier with money but it's also possible without. Chinese children do not do best in Britain's schools because Chinese parents are, on average, richer. They do better because their parents, on average, value education more highly and expect more effort. A "tiger mother" may not feel like a privilege when you are under her care and control, but she is worth more than all the money in the world. Any parent, rich or poor, educated or not, can be a good parent - with better effect on their child's ultimate happiness (and, incidentally, the nation's prosperity) than any redistribution of wealth.
I remember two long-lost school friends in my scruffy home town up North. Their father was a dustman devoid of all aspiration. Their mother, however, had a dream. Both arrived at infants school able to read because she had pushed them around town in their prams teaching them to do so from the road signs. Unashamedly eccentric herself, she empowered them to be different from their contemporaries and not to give a damn about the relentless peer pressure to be stupid at our bog-standard comprehensive school.
She wasn't Chinese. She was from the white working class; now the second-worst performing ethnic group in Britain's schools. She did nothing any parent, grand-parent or aunt - rich or poor - could not do. I wish all the whingeing envy-ridden half-wits banging on about "privilege" would shut up and be like that scruffy, oddball, utterly splendid mother. She refused to be defined by her circumstances. So - if we have any dignity - should we all.
If you have economically under-privileged kids, if you teach them, are related to them or even just have them as neighbours don't tell them they are doomed. Don't encourage them to hatred and envy. Encourage them to dream of "tobogganing" and lend them the occasional book. Let them see you reading for pleasure (pretend if you have to) so they think of it as normal. Then they will be privileged kids too.
The video is a little ropey but please persist and view the whole thing. As ever, Dr Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) is both interesting and darkly amusing.
He reports that, under a threat of violence (50% of doctors have been assaulted in the last 12 months) most general practitioners in Britain are routinely filling out fraudulent certificates enabling fit individuals to go "on the sick" where benefits are 60% higher than for unemployment and there is no need to pretend to seek work. More than 2.5 million people have such certificates and he claims that "the great majority of them are fraudulent or at least untruthful." More than a million people have them for "depression and anxiety" alone. He comments wrily that it is an achievement of the British welfare state that it has "created more invalids than the First World War".
Another achievement of the British welfare state is an enormous growth in heroin use. In the 1950s, when heroin addicts were registered with the Home Office, there were known to be about 60 in the whole country. It is now thought that there are about 300,000. He describes an official ideology that heroin addiction is a sickness beyond the addicts' control, which renders them unable to work and drives them to crime. An ideology he says is "completely and obviously wrong."
Every user chose freely to take heroin the first time and most use it intermittently for up to a year before beginning to take it regularly. Most users live in a sub-culture in which the consequences of taking heroin are far better known, as he puts it, than "the dates of the Second World War".
He says it's untrue that medical or other support is necessary to give up heroin. He jokingly calls Mao Zedong "the greatest drug therapist in history" because he told China's heroin addicts that if they didn't give it up he would shoot them. 20 million duly did. Without recommending such a radical approach, he points out that this clearly proves a "conceptual difference between, say, rheumatoid arthritis and drug addiction." Mao's approach, after all, would not have "cured" the former.
For so long as users don't give up heroin he says that's no reason for them not to work. Research shows that in the fifties most American addicts worked normally and indeed most of our own users now lead very active working lives - except that their "work" is burglary.
The growth in heroin use is therefore driven, he seems to suggest, by the needs of the "bureaucracy of care" serving the addicts. Its members need a passive population that takes no personal responsibility in order to secure their jobs. He believes that "at some level" these public employees know full well that they are playing games. In his words;
I would say the addiction services need the addicts more than the addicts need the services.
That's a more shocking critique of welfarism from an insider that I would ever have dared to offer from the outside. To suggest that an army of "carers" has, in effect, steadily built heroin use from 60 to 300,000 to give themselves jobs seems so wicked as to be scarcely believable. But then who would have thought the learned members of our medical profession could be recruited to knowing, if not willing, participation in frauds worth billions of pounds?
For all that its servants justify their jobs by droning on about the supposed immorality and greed of their bogeymen in business, only the state, ladies and gentlemen, can corrupt on such a massive scale.
I am not quite sure how I missed the linked article back in September but I am glad I found it via Chris Snowdon's review of the year at his excellent blog, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. The authoritarians of the medical establishment are in many ways our best hope for liberty. This may seem paradoxical, but bear with me.
Where, however, is this resistance to come from? State education, state broadcasting and the generally emasculating effect of the Welfare State have much weakened the yeoman spirit that made England, for most of its history, delightfully ungovernable. The unthinking majority of voters will never rebel - until it's far too late - against threats to freedom of thought. Attacks on their lifestyle however are another matter. Cromwell fell not because the Monarchy won a rematch of its debate with republicanism, but because, having weakened his appeal by forbidding dancing, aleing and Christmas, his hypocrisy in having his son succeed him (just like a King) tipped the scales of popular feeling.
The state can beat up as many anti-statist intellectuals as it likes and no-one will protest. Let it beat up the smokers, drinkers and pie-fans however and popular resistance can be expected - even from those usually too idle to move further than to the nearest Greggs. Doctors with God complexes may therefore be our best hope. Perhaps as we enter the final phase of end-of-year excess, we should be campaigning for votes to be proportionate to BMI, units of alcohol per week or fags per day?
The fall of the Berlin Wall was the great political event of my life. Though I wore a "free elections in the East" badge at National Union of Students conferences, it was something I never really dared to hope for. I remember either Edward Heath or Keith Joseph quieting leftist protestors at my University by asking the simple question;
If the Wall was taken down, which way would the human tide flow?
They had no answer even then and would be startled, I suspect, to see their political successors arguing the DDR's merits so many years later. The full horror of that police state is now beyond rational denial.
This is the chorus of the anthem Socialist Unity is inviting you to be nostalgic about.
The Party, the Party, she is always right!
And Comrades, so it will always remain…
Since he who fights for the right, is always right…
He who defends mankind is always right….
As raised to life by Lenin’s spirit, as welded by Stalin
The Party, the Party, the Party!
And of course, if you substitute the Labour Party for the Democratic Party, the same is true of the Welfare State in Britain.
h/t Catallaxy files