THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
A nugget from an unexpected seam
The poison in our civilisation's veins

An unexpected encounter with a monster

I went to a series of talks on Sunday at Birkbeck College. They are part of the Weekend University programme established by Niall McKeever — an excellent initiative that I commend to you. They were about the psychology of behaviour change and I thought they might help me in my quest to establish healthier habits as I seek to address my long standing weight problem.

I did glean some useful ideas but one price I paid was to sit, horrified, through the presentation of Dr Paul Chadwick of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change. I don’t doubt the quality or value of Dr Chadwick’s research. He seemed very intelligent and competent. I am sure as a clinical psychologist he can be very effective in helping people who want to change their behaviours. But from his anecdotes it seemed that CBC’s main focus is on assisting government agencies such as Public Health England and the NHS in changing behaviours non-consensually.

I listened aghast as he spoke at length about what “we” need to do to change the behaviour of the stubborn “people” who are so stupidly resistant to doing “the right thing”. Who, I wanted to ask, is included in this “we” of whom you speak? All I could tell from his smug, arrogant, flippant demeanour is that it was emphatically *not* the addition of me or anyone I care about that makes it the first person plural. As for this mysterious “we’s” right to determine “the right thing”, that was a given; something his fine mind never apparently questioned — not even when a programme of behaviour change (for example the government’s “Sure Start” policy) turned out to have unintended results.

The truly scary thing to a classical liberal like me is just what a nice chap he seemed to be. I don’t doubt his good intentions or his good humour. If he were my son, I would be proud of him. Which raises the terrifying question; just how far has our society slipped that a clever young man like him, full of scientific rigour and desire to make a better world, only addresses moral questions accidentally? He did address the question of volition but only in terms of avoiding a “backlash” (his word) if measures had not been the subject of “consultations” (in the formal public sector sense) with “stakeholders”.

He doesn’t mean to be a monster and I don’t want to see him as one, but in his presence my blood ran cold. I was afraid of him. I was even more afraid of the way the earnest folk in the room laughed as he joked about the unintended consequences of various programmes to clean up the act of the idiotic, self-destructive great unwashed, I realised that I might be the only one there who included himself in the category of “the people” to be shaped as opposed to the smug elite doing the shaping.

No one seemed remotely concerned for the freedoms of those on the receiving end of Dr Chadwick’s mind bending, “nudging” and manipulation — the benighted mugs who ultimately pay to have such well-shod professionals sneer about them behind their backs.


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David Bishop

Thank you, though no great credit to me - I'm mostly a reader.


Yes, I saw that. Samizdata is in my RSS feed. I also tried to spread the word on Twitter, giving you credit.

David Bishop

Indeed. The irony is superb!

I see Samizdata has found it, too!:


That is a word we should adopt into the English language! Given its origin in the Socialist world, it's particularly potent.


I've been back in England for six years now, but was away for twenty, when all this was coming to fruition. I guess I am not as acclimatised yet as those who lived here throughout. Especially as I was in post-communist economies while I was away, helping market players rebuild on the rubble of socialism. It was a real shock to come home and find that deadest of all dead ideas had been gaining ground here in zombie form while I was away. No-one in Poland or Russia expects the state to take care of them. Given their history they would think it hilariously naive.


I am still quietly optimistic, despite the poor performance of the British negotiating team and the obvious efforts of the Deep State to betray our democracy. The EU team is incompetent too and intent on pushing things so far that my desired outcome – a no deal Brexit – seems by far the most likely outcome. The lack of preparation for no deal is certainly a problem and there will be some costly chaos for a while, but then our factions must surely unite between a clear national interest to sort out the mess? My most optimistic hope is that the EU will be seen to be at fault for its vindictive approach; more geared to frightening other potential leavers than to dealing practically with the situation. 

David Bishop

With reference to my comment above, I've managed to find the derogatory Chinese epithet, relatively recently coined, for "White Left(ies)".
The Wikipedia link is:
but it may be worth pasting an excerpt here:

"The word baizuo is, according to political scientist Zhang Chenchen, a Chinese word that ridicules Western "liberal elites". He further defined the word "baizuo" with the definition "People who only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment" and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.[7] The term has also been used to refer to perceived double standards of the Western media, such as the alleged bias on reporting about Islamist attacks in Xinjiang.[8]"


We smokers in the UK were the first in the firing line (and warned that state interference in individuals' choices would extend beyond the issue of smoking). The trouble is that the State wields such power that it's difficult to flatly refuse to co-operate as, eg, Nick Hogan and hospital in-patients who smoke have found.

Tobacco Control and its mates in other lifestyle NGOs are indeed vile but I guess when you've got a mortgage to pay you don't question the moral authority by which you not so much nudge as forcibly bully people into making the 'right' choices.


Any chance of a post on how you see Brexit going, seeing as we don’t seem to be getting prepared for a “no deal” scenario?


These are the type of people encouraged by Cameron's Nudge policy. They are unremittingly evil and the only way to respond is a flat refusal to cooperate.


There nothing ironic about it.
Fascism originates from Marxism.

Perry de Havilland

I feel Tom's Pain (sorry)

David Bishop

Natalie Solent's most recent post at Samizdata covers the same topic:


"He doesn’t mean to be a monster ..."

Of course not. Those are the worst type of monster, as C S Lewis warned us.

Anthony Duckworth

I'm from England, now living in northern California. My part of the world is dripping with Dr. Chadwicks. They would hang a grandmother from every lamp-post in the cause of "anti-fascism" or whatever the current thought-fad. There is a checklist of opinions and behaviour that one must subscribe to - any deviation from that list, whether it be concerning race, politics, abortion, gun control, etc., will be met with personal insults and scorn. The irony is that this way of thinking is of course entirely and truly fascist.

David Bishop

I live in SE Asia, where my wife is from, and am mercifully free of most of this 'noble cause corruption'. You are right. The Dr Chadwicks of the world (the West at least) are legion, and your description of them as smug, arrogant and flippant is spot on. I might add narcissistic, as so many of them seem to enjoy applause. They are utterly sure of their own rightness, and so far have things lapsed that they would consider any differing opinion an affront. Someone elsewhere describes conversations in their circles are 'the buzz of the hive mind', though I suspect they would see themselves as the benevolent bee-keepers, and us proles as the drones.

I can't find the right expression at the moment, but the Chinese have in recent years coined a term for such western public intellectuals dripping with PCness, and it's not exactly complimentary. If I find it again, I'll drop you a line if I may.

I see Samizdata and Tim Newman's Desert Sun among others on your blogroll, and Brendan O'Neill of Spiked and the Spectator is also trenchant on this type of issue, as would Jordan Peterson be! So you know you are not alone. And for what it's worth, I'm with you, too, not least because you write so well!


Oh dear. Is this really a revelation to you? I envy the blissful ignorance you have enjoyed till now. You are obviously a far kinder and more well disposed person than I. I have despised these people for far too long for my own well being. Common Purpose. Local government "Change Managers" Changes enforced by taxation, fines (with no legal process), television, adverts, the MSM, to make the deplorables do and act and accept and speak and think as intended.
I've waited in vain for any sign of pushback--unless you can see Brexit and Trump as straws in the wind. I think it is too far gone now. We are well into the most urgent item on their agenda-- the normalization of Islam in all aspects of our lives ready for our future.
Thank you for your blogs especially your travablogs (TM)

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