THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

February 2011

Lost wisdom

Libertarians, no matter how they may conduct themselves in private, are subjected to the blanket accusation of selfishness by their political opponents. Now-conventional thinking contrasts them unfavourably with left-liberals who "care" so very noisily when there is anyone about to take note. On this subject, in De Profundis, Oscar Wilde offered this interesting observation:-

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes them to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he?

Quite. Nominations in the comments section please for the most selfish person in Britain judged by this wise standard*.

*Not Harriet Harman, please. There is nothing more tedious than the obvious.

On the glory of state supplied services

Tim Worstall comments pithily on this subject today, but the "damning report" on state provision for the elderly cannot really have been a surprise to anyone likely to rely on such services. As someone who has visited family in state-run care homes and knows people who work in them, how could I (unless blinded by ideology) not be aware how bad they are? I blogged about it ages ago, commenting in the context of the horrors of the "Baby P" case;

Not only does the welfare state create perverse incentives to feckless breeding, it also divorces people from the need to care personally for the young, the sick and the elderly. Practical caring for others involves skills that need to be learned and maintained by practice. When every widowed grandparent incapable of looking after him or herself moved in with their family, the children of the house learned both to value them as humans and to help take care of them. They were family, after all. Nothing could be more natural. Now they are looked after in state nursing homes, where “carer” is just a job title; usually with as much relation to reality as most modern job titles. An old school-friend works in just such a home and routinely starts her shift by cleaning up residents who have been allowed to sit in their own filth by "carers" who couldn't be bothered because "they will only do it again." Tellingly, she reports that residents are only really cleaned up (other than by her) when relatives are due to visit - for fear that the families will "make trouble." The very families who would, if the welfare state did not exist, be looking after their old folk themselves.

With all due respect to those commentators who will worthily discuss how to reorganise the NHS, this problem is in the nature of the beast. It's not to do with how management or staff work in a socialised system of "care". It's to do with how such a system takes away responsibility from the people who care in the real sense of that word.

Of course good, kind people can be found to take care of you when you are sick, disabled or elderly. However, if you are not able to pay them and hold them accountable for their work yourself, someone who loves you needs to take on that role. If I am ever in a nursing home, I want my daughters to be paying the bills, checking up on the service and making it clear to the proprietors that they are ready to take our family's business elsewhere if they are dissatisfied. No bureaucrat, however kindly s/he may be, can replace that.

That the State could replace - or even do a better job than - a loving family is the most barbarous of the fallacies by which the 1946 generation has lived. They were so hung up on this fantasy that they systematically undermined the very concept of family at every opportunity. They actively encouraged people to depend on a burgeoning, state that would nurture them "from cradle to grave." Not only was that wrong, it was corrosively wrong. In fairness to the hapless wimp, that is what the boy David is trying to signal to the nation behind the backs of the Guardianisti with his "Big Society" schtick. The blank incredulity on the faces of the Polly Toynbees of this world is quite genuine. Their confusion between "society" and "state" is as total as their confusion between "the economy" and "the Treasury". But then Polly is wealthy enough never to sit in her own piss in her dotage as most of the nation's grannies - thanks to idiots like her - have good reason to fear.

Don't tell me that socialists "care" more than conservatives or libertarians. Ignore their fine words and look at what they actually do.


I have been unfashionably fond of America since my days reading DC Comics and watching "Rawhide" on TV as a small boy. At university, I coined the word "yankophile" during a debate, noting how odd it was that we have the words "francophile", "russophile" and "sinophile", but no word for the love of our best friends. I love American popular culture (who doesn't?) and I feel more at home in New York than London. I enjoy and admire American literature. The greatest living writers in our language are all American (read this book if you think I am wrong), which gives the lie to the nasty, snobbish sneering of the Guardianisti.

So, as a confirmed yankophile, this was the most difficult story not to blog about during my recent purdah. It's disappointing (though not surprising) to someone who lived in Moscow for years and has Russian friends to find the Kremlin is still obsessing about unlikely exchanges of nuclear nastiness. But it's devastating to learn of what appears to be an un-nervingly wicked betrayal of America's most loyal ally.

I want to believe this story only shows just how un-American Obama is. Time will tell. In the meantime, it certainly accounts for Hilary Clinton's disproportionate reaction to the activities of Wikileaks*. She is a lady with more to hide than we ever imagined. With one nugget of  information, Wikileaks has shaken my faith in America in a way decades of Soviet propaganda (and pernicious Guardian sneers) could not. I wonder how many more such revelations are to come.

*Not blocked by the Great Firewall of China, whereas The Last Ditch now is. Hmm.

The Devine Comedy

Except it isn't really funny, is it? This trade unionist and stalwart of the workers' party chose (partly) to defend himself by blaming an innocent employee. He may claim he did not understand he was doing wrong in filing forged expense claims, but what kind of a man cannot see the wrong in false witness?

This is the hypocrite who claimed he could not name another employee because she was working while on benefits. He told the police "My dad was a miner. We don't grass." The jury seems to have concluded that the woman he so nobly "protected" was as fictional as the one he freely, falsely "grassed" was real.

Even forgetting about his paltry fraud for the moment, this is the kind of bullying, selfish behaviour one might expect from a "filthy capitalist" (if indoctrinated by the British education system, balanced coverage from the BBC and liberal insight from Guardian). Never underestimate a socialist in these fields of endeavour though.

From the moment he was interviewed on Channel 4 news, it was clear that Devine's only defence was that which is famously unavailable to us all; ignorance of the law. That's no defence (often sadly) even if it is ignorance of complex and technical issues. It's still less so if it is ignorance of the basic concepts of law. It is the very opposite of a defence when it is ignorance of the morality on which good law is founded.

Jim Devine is a petty thief, but that's the very least of it. He abused the trust of his electors, and of all taxpayers. He tried to blame innocents for his own crimes. Confronted with his crimes, he lied, lied and lied again. Sentencing guidelines recommend a premium on criminals who abuse positions of trust (e.g. accountants stealing from their employers). Devine certainly merits such a premium. He has also earned an extra dose of jail time for his failure to plead guilty (as I am confident his lawyers must have advised him to do, given the evidence). I hope his wronged ex-secretary can raise the funds (there's no legal aid for defamation cases) to bankrupt the wretch for his slander.

But then, to men like him, property is theft and people are mere ingredients for Socialism's great omelette. Perhaps, as he heads to gaol, this degenerate will tell himself that, in one way at least, he lived up to his principles.

Labour has renounced him of course. Councillor Terry Kelly once more proudly bears the heavily-contested dunce's cap of the Scottish Party. Fair play to him though. Crackpot he may be, but he is a better man than Jim Devine.

Out of purdah soon?

I took a step towards resolving my work situation today. I have a new home, of which more soon. I am out of the clutches of my lawyers (but still dealing with my accountants). With luck, Mrs P's recently scary medical situation should be sorted out in the next week so she can join me in our new location (and begin learning our new language). Meatspace issues appear (God save the mark) to be coming under some kind of control.

I should therefore be able to resume blogging this month. Watch this space...