Women don’t deserve equal pay at Wimbledon, but men do

Wimbledon is drawing to a close, and so it’s time to break lances over the issue of prize money. Specifically, over the perennial stumbling block of the women getting the same prize money as the men. Should they or shouldn’t they?

Wielding a lance for the con side this year is Gilles Simon, world No. 13. His jousting opponents are Maria Sharapova, world No. 1, and Serena Williams, probably still the world’s best player.

The contest proves yet again that equal pay for equal work has replaced most Biblical commandments as a principle to live by. Equal pay, sure, we can all understand that, no problem there. In some fields, however, the difficulty starts with the definition of what exactly constitutes equal work.

For example, two persons, regardless of their sex, design bridges at the same engineering company. One, however, is responsible for high-profile structures spanning rivers in the centre of great cities. The other designer specialises in farmland bridges over irrigation canals. Should they be paid the same? No sane person would answer in the affirmative. Even without looking at the company’s balance sheet, it’s clear that the first designer generates infinitely more revenue than the second. So he should be paid more. Fair’s fair.

In those few sports where women and men compete against one another (chess springs to mind), the issue doesn’t arise: whoever wins gets a fatter cheque. The problem is, men and women don’t compete in the same tennis tournaments, and no one who has ever hit a tennis ball in anger thinks they should. For if they did, it would be more like a slaughterhouse than a sporting event: the women wouldn’t get a game.

John McEnroe was once asked how the sexes would fare against each other. In his younger days Mac was known to handle the odd hot potato, but this one was clearly burning his mouth. He tried to evade the answer, but the reporter persisted – he knew good copy when he saw it. Finally, the erstwhile brat relented: ‘Any full-time male player,’ he admitted sheepishly, ‘including veterans, juniors and American college players would beat any woman on the tour.’ Mac was talking about well over 1,000 players, yet most experts would admit off the record that his estimate was too generous. For example, a good British county player, even if he has a day job, would probably beat either Maria or Serena.

Does that mean women should get less money? Not by itself it doesn’t. It’s an unfortunate physiological fact that men are stronger, faster and leaner than women. That’s why their best speed over 100m is 10 percent faster than women’s, that’s why they can bench-press much higher weights. And that’s why they can hit the tennis ball harder and get to it more quickly, other things being equal.

Unfortunately, other things aren’t equal. For, even assuming their biological inequality, there’s no reason under the Wimbledon sun why women can’t develop the same technique as men, why they can’t hit all the same shots, albeit a bit slower.

That, alas, isn’t the case. For example, neither Maria nor Serena can volley as well as a good male club player can. Neither of them can hit a decent sliced backhand. Both have a lot of double faults because neither can kick a second serve, again a shot in the repertoire of any good male player. Even more damagingly, neither can really construct a point with any intelligent foresight. All they ever do is whack flattish backcourt drives accompanied by orgasmic, borderline feral, shrieks. The point ends when one of those piledrivers hits the net or back fence. Another shriek, this time of a frustrated caged animal. Next point; more of the same.

At least, even though Sharapova is still too slow, these particular ladies have clearly put in enough time off the court, turning themselves into athletes. Most of their colleagues haven’t; all the men in the Wimbledon 128 have. No biological excuse works here: women in athletics, rowing, cycling and just about any other sport this side of curling show that a woman can become a real athlete. Yet some years ago, the Dutch Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek described most female players as ‘fat pigs’. Gentlemen don’t talk about ladies that way, but a brief scan of the women competing this year will reveal more spare tyres than one would find at an average Michelin dealership.

Thus they don’t work as hard as the men off the court, either to develop their bodies or to hone their shots. Nor do they work as hard on it: the average duration of a women’s match in any Grand Slam event is less than half of the men’s. Add to this the infinitely longer hours that the men put in on the running track, practice courts and in the gym, and we realise that their hourly pay is perhaps a third of the women’s.

Did Simon mention any of this? He didn’t. He realised that none of this would matter from the commercial standpoint, if only women generated higher ticket sales and TV revenues. His point was that they don’t. And even though Gilles didn’t quote any numbers, they do confirm his remark: equally ranked male players draw much higher crowds and TV audiences than their female counterparts.

‘Maria’s way hotter than he is,’ said Williams, and Sharapova agreed: ‘I’m sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his,’ she said. If they do, it’s not for tennis reasons: most spectators at tennis matches are themselves players, and they use the occasions as free lessons. Simon may not be the most exciting player, but he’s one of the most intelligent. Hackers like me can learn a lot from watching the way he thinks through a rally. What can we learn from Sharapova? We already know how to whack the ball and pray it’ll go in. And we can scream with the best of them.

If you ever watch tennis, which match would you rather see, Nadal vs. Federer (world Nos 2 and 3) or Azarenka vs. Radwanska (ditto)? Thought so. Or replace either man with Djokovic or either woman with Sharapova – your answer, provided it’s honest, will be the same. Unless, of course, you’re a sucker for the combination of long legs and short skirts.

The fact is that since the retirement of Justin Henin, the happy exception to the drab rule, watching women play tennis has all the excitement of a curling, or gurning, contest. Calling what they do equal work for which they are entitled to equal pay can only make sense at a feminist rally.

‘We fought for years [to get equal pay],’ declares Williams. The same effort should have gone into developing a professional volley, then perhaps she would be justified in her pronouncements. Meanwhile, someone ought to start a campaign for the men getting equal hourly wages with the women. Who knows, the PC brigade may prove less than invincible. 




We’ve had our marching orders from Rousseau and yesterday’s Le Monde – TEN-SHUN!!!

If Le Monde were a British newspaper, it would be to the left of The Guardian and ever so slightly to the right of the communist Morning Star. In France, as she has always been, it’s mainstream. And in France, as she is now, EU’s second-in-command, Le Monde is the transmitter of marching orders.

So, before you march, sit up and listen: Europe must have a new ‘social contract’ resting ‘on three pillars: social democracy, most notably collective bargaining; economic government in the service of sustainable growth and full employment; and, above all, economic and social justice based on the politics of redistribution and social protection.’

Now the term ‘social contract’ was already nonsensical in 1762, when Rousseau coined it, and it hasn’t improved with age. A valid contract of any kind presupposes the possibility of enforcement by a third party. Since this doesn’t exist in a ‘social contract’, it’s one party, in this case the state, imposing its will on the other, in this case the individual. And that’s precisely how Rousseau explained it in Du Contrat Social:

‘The state should be capable of transforming every individual into part of the greater whole from which he, in a manner, gets his life and being; of altering man’s constitution for the purpose of strengthening it. [It should be able] to take from the man his own resources and give him instead new ones alien to him and incapable of being made use of without the help of others. The more completely these inherited resources are annihilated, the greater and more lasting are those that he acquires.’

That’s the good thing about totalitarians: they say what they mean. The bad thing is that people usually don’t take them at their word until it’s too late.

Now the above passage from Le Monde is a pseudo-political translation from Rousseau’s pseudo-philosophical. Let’s try to translate both into English.

1. ‘Social democracy’ is a meaningless oxymoron. No sizeable social group can be democratic – it’ll inexorably arrange itself along hierarchical lines. There is such a thing as political democracy, but that’s not what social democracy means. It means socialist democracy, wherein the adjective is everything and the noun is next to nothing. And socialism, if you strip the word of its mendacious shell, means the state riding roughshod over the individual. ‘C’est tout,’ as they say at Le Monde.

2. ‘Economic government’ means single government for the whole EU, including us. That particular buggy can only be driven by Germany, with France, as she forlornly hopes, riding shotgun. 

3. ‘Collective bargaining’ in this context means unbridled power of the unions, something that is a huge contributing factor in France’s economic troubles. Applied to Britain as a EU member, it means that what was done by Margaret Thatcher will be undone by the single European state. And even our home-grown lefties grudgingly admit that in pinning back the unions’ ears, if nothing else, Lady Thatcher was right.

4. ‘Sustainable growth’, in its present usage, requires no translation. Everyone knows it means promiscuous and ever-growing state spending, which is to say something that is mostly responsible for our present economic disasters.

5. ‘Full employment’ means exactly the same thing. The only way a state, national or supranational, can guarantee this is by creating more and more public jobs for those who can’t find private ones. Result? Total, nay totalitarian, state power, otherwise known as socialism, otherwise known as social democracy (see above).

6. ‘Economic and social justice based on the politics of redistribution and social protection’ means taxing all hardworking people into poverty, ideally turning them, along with the laggards, into wards of the state.

Conspicuous by their absence in Le Monde’s dictum are words like liberty, consent, equity, justice. (Justice does appear, but it’s neutered and rendered meaningless by the modifier ‘social’.) Nor does one detect any opt-out clause: thou shalt accept Points 1-6 as they are or else. Or else what? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

In other words, using this utterly objectionable rag as its mouthpiece, the EU has issued the blueprint for its brave new world. Only it’s neither brave nor particularly new. We’ve already seen it all, during Russia’s attempt to unite the workers of the world and Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe.

Then Messrs Lenin and Hitler kindly issued ample advance warnings, both in their books and their speeches. There was thunder in their pronouncements, for everyone to hear. And everyone heard – but no one listened: ‘It’s just idle talk, old boy, what? Campaign rhetoric, that’s all it is. These chaps are really like us, deep down…’ We all know what happened next.

Now yet again the bastards are screaming off the rooftops. Are you listening?





Jilly Cooper is happy: sex is re-porn

Whenever we’re in France, once a week or so we drive past two villages called Orgy and Anus. Spelled this way, the first name doesn’t mean what it does in English, but Anus is just that in French.

We have friends living there, and I envy them their self-confidence: I’m not sure I’d be happy telling people that up in Anus is where I spend half my time. But our friends don’t seem to have that problem.

Anyway, every time we pass by those villages I crack what my wife alternately calls infantile or puerile jokes. Usually I suggest that the places should be twinned either with Sodom or else with Dorking (if you ever lived in the States, you’ll understand this last one; otherwise, you’re better off not understanding it).

But this morning, for the first time in 12 years, I kept silent all the way past Orgy, and Penelope was worried that this lapse of bad taste may have been caused by some terminal medical problem. In fact, I was having dirty thoughts about, or rather caused by, Jilly Cooper.

Please don’t misunderstand: now that Mrs Cooper is past the age of consent, I wasn’t lusting after her. It’s just that some of her comments inspired thoughts on sex, for in passing literary judgement on a new porn sensation Jilly has scaled the heights of tastelessness she never quite managed to reach even in her fiction – and not for any lack of trying.

Mrs Cooper praised the valuable service the book Fifty Shades of Grey has done our society: ‘Porn was terribly out of fashion before that book came out… I am delighted that it’s giving a new lease of life to the genre.’

‘Women,’ according to her, ‘don’t want to have sex any more’ as they are ‘suffering from low libidos’. Could’ve fooled me.

Walking past an overcrowded London pub or night club in the evening, I’m often regaled with the sight of young couples (sometimes triples or quadruples) indulging in what they call ‘snogging’ and what in the past was called ‘heavy petting’. Usually they stop just short of what in Mrs Cooper’s favourite genre is called ‘full pen’, but if there’s a park nearby, its benches do see the sort of action she thinks ought to be described in excruciating detail for our delectation.

‘Ours is now a terribly undersexed society,’ complains Jilly, a problem that she believes could be remedied by a wider spread of pornography. Well, all knowledge is comparative, if you believe Aristotle. Our society at large may indeed be undersexed as compared to Sodom, though perhaps not to Dorking. Yet any Victorian or Edwardian, resurrected to find himself in today’s Britain, would probably feel Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing on today’s London or Cardiff.

Our cities are full of drunk, practically unclad girls trying to pick up men in ways that make normal people blush. A man screaming ‘Fancy a shag?’ at a female passer-by could be arrested for sexual harassment. Reaching for a strange woman’s genitals or even buttocks in a public place could in some quarters be classified as assault. Yet this kind of behaviour, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, is increasingly becoming the norm for our ‘undersexed’ women ‘suffering from low libidos’. You may think I’m exaggerating, but that only proves you don’t live in Britain. Those who do wouldn’t contest my observation.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Mrs Cooper is correct in her diagnosis, and British women don’t do sex any longer. A Freudian could perhaps suggest that their public spectacles are merely overcompensation for a serious amorous deficit in their lives. If that’s indeed the disease, is pornography really the treatment?

By Jilly’s own admission, Fifty Shades of Grey is ‘quite poorly written’. It’s almost embarrassing to have to make this point to a professional writer, but all porn is poorly written by definition. If it’s well-written, it isn’t porn. Great poets, from Aretino to Pushkin, have written erotic verse. Great writers, from Rabelais to Joyce, have written erotic novels. Great film-makers, from Fellini to Bergman, have shot sex scenes. All of them pursued artistic ends, and no one other than a tasteless prude would describe their work as pornographic.

What Jilly’s geriatric heart yearns for is something else. She wants our women to be sexually aroused by words like ‘glistening’, ‘throbbing’ and ‘thrusting’ jammed densely into every other sentence. I’ve got news for Mrs Cooper: they won’t be. And if, as a result of some congenital psychiatric defect, they are the kind of women who would find such trash stimulating, then they’re better off deprived of it. Who knows, they might get frisky and procreate as a result, producing others in their own image.

It would be tedious to go into the multiple ways in which society suffers from a surfeit of porn assaulting our senses at very corner. My problem with it is mainly aesthetic – nothing so crude ought to be in the public domain. That someone would think there isn’t enough porn should make one question his mental health. Or her mental health, in this case.


















Mention the Lords reform, and idiots come out in force

The House of Lords is more than just the upper house of Parliament. It’s the watershed separating the intelligent and knowledgeable from the stupid and ignorant.

Mary Riddell’s article in today’s Telegraph firmly places her into one of those categories, and it isn’t the first. Yet she’s reassured by the exalted company she keeps in the second group: ‘The House of Lords must change. On that, all three party leaders are agreed.’

I’m sure she’s right about that. ‘All three party leaders’ will agree to anything that will perpetuate the spivocracy of which they are both spawns and pawns. If they were told that the slaughter of every first-born male child would ensure their lasting power, they’d come out in favour. However, that wouldn’t make such an act any less monstrous. Nor does their accord on the Lords reform make it any less destructive.

Before even contemplating any constitutional reform, our three stooges and their champion Mary should try to understand the constitution. Specifically, if such an exertion wouldn’t overtax their restless minds, they ought to ponder what the House of Lords is, and what it’s for.

From the time words like ‘state’ and ‘government’ first crossed people’s lips, the best minds have tried to figure out ways of delivering strength without tyranny, liberty without anarchy and justice without oppression. Step by step, said minds realised that the best, probably only, way of achieving such ends is to have a balance of power wherein diverse interests are held in equilibrium, and no one political arrangement dominates.

No political system can exist in its pure form without degenerating into something unsavoury. Following Aristotle, Machiavelli argued in his Discourses that, when their purity is intransigently maintained, a principality turns into a tyranny, an aristocracy into an oligarchy and a democracy into anarchy. For a political arrangement to last, and for liberty to thrive, a state must combine the elements of all three known forms of government. A division of power, in which none of the estates feels the need to usurp it all, is a precondition of justice and liberty.

In modern times, it has been the English constitution that has best reflected the thinking of the greatest constitutional minds, from Plato to Aristotle, from Machiavelli to Montesquieu, from Burke to de Maistre. The hereditary upper house was there to balance the unelected power of the king with the elected power of the Commons, making sure the former didn’t degenerate into despotism and the latter into what Tocqueville called ‘the tyranny of the majority’.

The assumption was that hereditary peers would not by definition be beholden to political pressures – owing no favours to any politicians, they would act on their conscience, honed by England’s entire history of which they were an essential part. This assumption has been vindicated: our finely balanced constitution has produced perhaps the most effective, lasting and just government in modernity. And this is the constitution that the precursors of Riddell and her esteemed ‘three party leaders’ have destroyed by either championing or effecting the dictatorship of the Commons.

In the process they’ve shown that Tocqueville got it wrong: it’s not the majority that has dictatorial powers in an unchecked democracy, but the bureaucratic elite that rules in its name. It’s not the demos that governs, but manipulative self-servers who know how to trick votes out of the demos.

This situation suits Riddell just fine: ‘A nation that aspires to exemplify democratic standards cannot justify having hundreds of lawmakers selected by ministers or ordained by birthright.’ One begins to feel that IQ testing ought to be mandatory for anyone with access to a public forum.

A nation should aspire not to ‘exemplifying democratic standards’ but to justice, security from internal or external enemies, and equitable representation of people’s interests. ‘Exemplifying democratic standards’ at the expense of such desiderata results not in democracy but in spivocracy, but then of course Riddell can’t understand even something as obvious as this. To prove her intellectual failings she lumps together ‘lawmakers selected by ministers or ordained by birthright’.

To be selected by ministers, lawmakers have to curry their favour. Since our ministers are spivocrats, only other spivocrats can be appointed by them – that’s basic. ‘Birthright’, on the other hand, isn’t owed to anyone’s fickle affections – those put by virtue of their birth in a position to judge laws can do so freely and without careerist fears.

However, the hereditary House of Lords has already been destroyed, and with it the constitution that made it essential. It doesn’t matter one iota whether the Lords is an elected or appointed house: in either case, it falls victim to constitutional sabotage. Perhaps an argument can be made that an appointment for life, or a fixed long term, may enable a member to disengage himself gradually from his original patrons. One suspects this unproven argument reflects the thinking of the 100-odd Tory MPs set to vote against the current bill – the right vote for the wrong reasons, in my view.

Still, Mary Riddell must be complimented on her enviable consistency. Having floated from the leftwing Observer to the supposedly conservative Telegraph, she hasn’t changed her views one bit. In all fairness, she hasn’t had to: her boundless commitment to ‘democracy’ is the cross-party flavour of the century. I think next she ought to give serious thought to the desirability of extending voting rights to babes-in-arms and also possibly to members of other species. That’ll keep her busy.

Meanwhile, strain your memory to remember the last time you were oppressed by aristocrats. Then recall the latest act of oppression perpetrated by our ‘democratic’ government, so beloved of Mary Riddell. Then write to TheTelegraph suggesting that she be kicked back where she comes from: The Observer and TheGuardian. Species should thrive in their natural habitat.

What was punishment in the Bible is reality in Britain

In that largely forgotten book, erecting the Tower of Babel with the subsequent disintegration of language was severe punishment: ‘Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

It’s a safe assumption that most of our ‘educators’ are unfamiliar with scriptural texts. It’s an even safer one that they haven’t set out to re-enact Biblical disasters. Yet something inside them prompts them to do just that.

Witness the fact that for more than a million British schoolchildren English is now only a second language, and native speakers are a minority in one out of 13 schools. In our financially strained times, one ought to point out that a pupil for whom English is second language costs six times more to educate. Yet this is the least of our problems.

For in the absence of a unifying religion and shared culture, language looms even larger as social adhesive. And society needs some kind of glue to be, well, a society, rather than an aggregate of atomised individuals who happen to inhabit the same geographical space.

Back in the 1930s the Texas legislature first passed the bill making bilingualism mandatory in both politics and education. However, Governor Miriam Ferguson  vetoed it, saying ‘If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.’ This goes to show that even somewhat ill-informed Texans may understand things British ‘educators’ don’t.

Mercifully, English in Britain is spared a single powerful linguistic rival, as is the case in Texas or Canada. Competing with English here are dozens of tongues, falling into numerous language groups. The opposition is thus fractured: there’s little danger that Polish, Urdu and Portuguese will form a united front against English in our schools. Nor are foreign children likely to do any more damage to English than native speakers aren’t already inflicting so successfully. Why, even our Education Secretary’s rallying cries for better learning are full of most unfortunate solecisms.

The problem then isn’t so much linguistic as social: a shared first language makes children of both Polish and Pakistani ancestry British – it’s what can bring a smile of recognition on their faces when they bump into each other in, say, Paris. It doesn’t even matter that for the first few years of their lives they spoke something else. What matters is what they become, not what they used to be.

It’s important to realise that one’s native language doesn’t necessarily remain one’s first. I’ve observed numerous examples (including, at close quarters, my own) of people who grow up speaking one language and then relegate it to a lower status when English takes over. For grown-ups such a shift requires more effort and aptitude than for children. But neither will effect the shift unless the desire to do so is strong.

It’s this desire that’s aggressively discouraged in Britain by our ruling multiculti omnivores. It takes self-confidence for a society to declare unequivocally that it stands for certain things, and won’t be budged. No society can survive without believing, with what outsiders may regard as pigheaded obtuseness, that its ways aren’t just the best but the only ones possible. Differences ought to be respected, but such respect must not turn into a suicide pact.

This doesn’t presuppose intolerance of other cultures or religions. On the contrary, they should be welcomed, for as long as they don’t present a direct threat. A well-rounded culture can’t be monocentric, but a society has to be just that in order to persevere. It’s a big bonus for a British child, provided he reads anything at all, to be able to read Hafiz, Camões or Pushkin in the original. But he won’t be a British child if his response to Shakespeare is less immediate and intimate. And nor will our society remain British if the number of such children goes beyond a certain critical mass.

Alas, the requisite self-belief, a sine qua non of survival, is now in short supply. Yet history provides ample proof that when this belief is eroded, societies crumble and civilisations disappear. No one has understood this better than R.G. Collingwood, one of Britain’s finest minds:

Civilisations sometimes perish because they are forcibly broken up by the armed attack of enemies without or revolutionaries within; but never from this cause alone. Such attacks never succeed unless the thing that is attacked is weakened by doubt as to whether the end which it sets before itself, the form of life which it tries to realise, is worth achieving. On the other hand, this doubt is quite capable of destroying a civilisation without any help whatever. If the people who share a civilisation are no longer on the whole convinced that the form of life which it tries to realise is worth realising, nothing can save it.’

The Babel being inflicted upon Britain is therefore not the disease; it’s a symptom. And symptoms are the most reliable diagnostic tool – they tell us that something is wrong. Doctors don’t ignore such telltale signs. Too bad our ‘educators’ do.







Nick Clegg sets out to prove that selective education doesn’t always work

One becomes tired of pointing out the breathtaking effrontery of our politicians, but Nick does take the bicky. For this alumnus of Westminster School to attack even pre-castrated proposals on improving secondary education is a bit like Jamie Oliver finding meat-eating morally objectionable.

The British do pay too much attention to the type of school one attends. Actually, as long as the school isn’t actively subversive (Shirley Williams, ring your office), any one will do. Of the highly educated Englishmen I know, three went to grammar schools, three to minor public schools, one to a major public school and one, incredible as it may sound, to a comprehensive.

Without pretending to have a representative sample on my hands, I may still suggest that one doesn’t have to go to Westminster School to become truly educated. For, contrary to a popular misapprehension, education doesn’t equate the gathering of so much information, though that’s an important part. It’s what happens as a result of such gathering: a qualitative shift from ignorance to culture, from barbarism to civilisation, from base to high feelings, from primitive to refined tastes.

As any neurophysiologist will tell you, most people are capable of picking up and storing a practically infinite amount of information – why, even crossing Park Lane in rush hour probably overloads one’s synapses with a surfeit of data. Yet as any teacher will tell you, far from most people are capable of becoming educated in the true sense of the word, regardless of the kind of school they attend.

Teachers would be reluctant to put a number on those so capable, but if you held a gun to their head, most would probably say about 25 percent. Another 25 percent are still capable of succeeding in most practical fields, while the remainder will have to settle for a life of intellectually undemanding careers. They could, for example, become Deputy Prime Ministers. 

An effective educational system should then be made up of schools that educate the top third, instruct the second one and train the rest. Such a system would reflect the way God made people, and what he did can’t be undone. It can, however, be subverted – first by failing to recognise, or refusing to accept, that people are differently able and then creating single-tier schools that fail everybody equally. Enter the brainchild of the more pernicious lefties: British comprehensives.

‘Intelligent socialist’ is an oxymoron to begin with, but even the limited brainpower that socialists are born with tends to dwindle away to nothing when their smallish minds are overridden by a giant ideological bias. As a result of their efforts, the overall literacy levels in Britain are considerably below what they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution, when our masses were supposed to be oppressed and downtrodden.

A child of socialists this system may be, but even reasonably conservative politicians have fostered it. Margaret Thatcher, when she was still Education Secretary, closed down more grammar schools than any of her Labour counterparts ever did, although she might not have been an entirely free agent in that endeavour. On the other hand, though her brand of conservatism eschews economic egalitarianism, it’s not invariably averse to the social and cultural kind.

As a result of the wanton destruction of British education from 1965 onwards, the country has suffered much damage – not just culturally, but also socially and economically. The damage may not be irreparable, but it’s certainly not repairable quickly. Still, one has to start somewhere, and this is what our present Education Secretary is attempting to do, however timidly.

Having noticed that the GCSE exams presuppose the level of education that would have been expected in a kindergarten at the height of the Industrial Revolution, Michael Gove thinks they must be scrapped. In their stead we should go back to ‘world-class’ O-Levels for the abler pupils and have simpler CSE exams for the rest.

Being a politician, Mr Gove won’t find it in his vote-chasing heart to propose what really needs to be done: the scrapping of comprehensive ‘education’. But even the utterly modest and sensible first step he has found the courage to propose has created an outcry. The principal jeer-leader is Gove’s coalition partner Nick, ably assisted by the assorted Milibandits in opposition.

‘I’m not in favour of anything that would lead to a two-tier system where children at quite a young age are somehow cast on a scrapheap,’ declared Nick, with the bleating from the Milibandits providing the background noise. ‘What you want is an exam system which is fit for the future, doesn’t turn the clock back to the past and works for the many and not just for the few.’

In the past, Britain had one of the highest literacy levels in the world. She was in the top five in most academic disciplines, and top 10 in all. She’s now 16th in science, 25th in literacy and 28th in maths. Methinks a bit of clock-turning wouldn’t be such a bad thing, don’t you? And I don’t know how many scrapheaps Nick has rummaged through lately, but if he looked at the metaphorical one he mentioned, he’d find it full of little savages extruded from the bowels of the single-tier education he favours.

Having myself gone to the kind of school where most boys carry knives, I don’t know what sort of curriculum Westminster School teaches. But if it produces alumni like Nick, perhaps another look at the syllabus is in order. Then again, not everyone can be educated in the true meaning of the word. 


















Dave on morality – now that’s a turn-up for the bookkeepers

At my venerable age I ought to have lost any capacity for being astounded by politicians’ effrontery. And so I have, except that Dave Cameron manages to restore some of it with metronomic regularity.

This time he has launched a moral crusade against tax avoidance, using the comedian Jimmy Carr as his whipping boy. Now my understanding is that there exists a valid distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The former is legal; the latter isn’t. And it’s legality rather than morality that politicians are supposed to uphold. For them to comment on the morality of legal tax shelters is akin to Dr Shipman enlarging on the fine points of care for the elderly.

Now in the moral gospel according to Dave, our money doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the government, which decides how much of it we can keep for our families. At present, middle-class people are expected to keep less than half of what they earn in the sweat of their brow. The state confiscates the rest and wastes most of it on schemes ranging from unnecessary to ill-advised to idiotic to downright subversive.

It’s hardly surprising that most taxpayers don’t share this concept of morality. The more savvy among them explore, with the help of their accountants, every possible way of resisting state extortion as best they can. According to Dave, this is ‘quite frankly morally wrong’.

Dave is willing to admit under duress that ‘there is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement – that sort of tax management is fine.’ That is, it’s fine now, when focus groups have told Dave that his original plan to tighten the pension loophole wouldn’t be well received. Alas, because those bloody wrinklies now tend to live longer, they are too numerous to ignore. Their vote can make or break even such an impeccably moral politician as Dave.

Other than that, rest assured that this self-described ‘heir to Blair’ feels about private pensions the same as his role model does. Blair’s first act was to launch a five-billion-pound assault on pension funds. Given half the chance, Dave will live up to Tony’s legacy, but not just yet. For the time being he has to count on his general economic policy, rather than specific raids, to reduce private pensions and other savings to dust.

I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the particular offshore shelter from which Jimmy Carr has benefited. Nor will I compare it to other shelters collectively described by Dave as ‘very dodgy tax avoiding schemes’. As far as I’m concerned, if they are legal they aren’t dodgy. And if they are illegal, they are the business of the CPO, not of our morally crusading Prime Minister.

He and other politicians correctly see every pound left in our pockets as a threat to their power. Economic independence isn’t the same as political liberty, but they largely overlap. Since our state isn’t so much a democracy as a spivocracy, taxation is for it more than just a means of sustaining its solvency. It’s a weapon for the spivocrats to increase their power in relation to private individuals. Regarded in that light, every man who’s clever enough to shield his income from Dave’s grubby hands is committing a moral act.

My hat’s off to Mr Carr, and more power to him. But there is a way for Dave to give his flaming moral sense a rest, at least on this issue. It’s called flat tax.

Charge everybody a flat rate of about 20 percent on any income above a £10,000 personal allowance, permit only legitimate business deductions, and no problem, moral or otherwise, with tax avoidance will ever arise. I can’t calculate the precise effect of such an arrangement on the Exchequer, but people who can, Nobel-winning economists among them, assure us that, at worst, the state will break even on the revenue thus derived. That means it’ll come out ahead, as the need for costly tax-collection efforts will be vastly reduced. Even more important, Dave won’t be tossing and turning at night, kept awake as he is now by affronts to his morality.

If the purpose of taxation were strictly economic this would work famously. But since extortionist taxes are there to send what Vince Cable calls ‘an important message’, that is who’s boss, and to whom our money really belongs, a flat rate will never happen. Never mind that progressive taxation violates the founding principle of Western justice, that of equality before the law. We’re not about legality here, are we? We’re about morality, as defined by Dave and his jolly friends.

The American writer HL Mencken once said that ‘the state remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men.’ Dave must be a Mencken fan – he does his level best to prove him right.



France’s poison is London’s meat – and bread, come to think of it

French elections are coming in thick and fast, and only the thick will fail to get out fast.

For, in a world where even Darwinism is but a theory, there exists one immutable law of nature: when socialists take over, people flee. Admittedly, some run away even from reasonably laissez-faire governments as well, but there’s a difference.

Most economic escapees from decent lands are guilty of some impropriety, usually of the tax variety. However, those who run away from socialists tend to be honest, decent people who all suffer from the same phobia: they hate being robbed by their government.

Britain taxes middle-class people at over 50 percent, and over 40 percent of our economy (closer to 75 percent in the Celtic fringe and the North) is socialist – or public-sector if this is the term you prefer. It says a lot for France that so many of her citizens regard as an oasis of freedom even our overtaxed, overregulated land run by self-serving politicians with learning difficulties.

London is already the seventh largest French city in the world, what with approximately 300,000 Gauls making it their home. Ashford, comfortably sitting on the Eurostar line between London and Folkestone boasts a large French population as well. Most of them work across the Channel, which they obtusely call La Manche, ignoring the waterway’s real name. The Channel to them isn’t English; good job their taxes are.

I don’t know if London can accommodate a million Frenchmen, but if it can it’ll have to, soon. For Hollande’s socialists have just won a 300-seat majority in the National Assembly, thereby finding themselves in total control of both the executive and legislative power. More important, they’ll now grab control of people’s money, which, in common with all socialists, they regard as their own.

It’s a mistake to think that economic and military disasters are some kind of force majeure, a confluence of historical circumstances rendering any human agency helpless. Taxing circumstances do arise periodically, and they do create critical situations. But such situations only become national and international catastrophes when the wrong people are in charge at the time.

Had Louis XIV, rather than Louis XVI, been in charge in 1789, the French revolution wouldn’t have happened. Nicholas I wouldn’t have suffered the fate of his grandson Nicholas II in 1917. Bismarck wouldn’t have let Weimar disintegrate into a breeding ground for Nazism. Unlike Blair, Churchill wouldn’t have acted as America’s poodle in Iraq. And if today’s Western governments were run by statesmen rather than spivs, the world in general and Europe in particular wouldn’t be running the risk of implosion.

In any self-respecting country someone like François Hollande would be satisfying his political ambitions by ranting off a soapbox somewhere in the Bois de Boulogne, with half a dozen derelicts in attendance. The rants would be regularly interrupted by either les flics or by muscular chaps wearing white coats and bearing straightjackets.

It takes a madman even to conceive the policies Hollande is about to implement, especially at present. An economy groaning under the weight of debt, taxation and regulation needs a breath of fresh air. It needs to get rid of the suffocating yoke around its neck by getting the government off its back.

What does François propose instead? A top tax bracket of 75 percent (in fact, closer to 100 percent when all taxes are taken into account), the lowering of the pension age from 62 to 60 and introducing a tax on all financial transactions. This in a country that’s on the verge of needing a bailout, Greek style.

Last Friday, Angela Merkel gave François a piece of her mind, chapter and verse. But France isn’t Greece, not yet anyway. Merkel can’t even try to whip her into shape to the same extent, though I must admit to having a persistent fantasy of Angela in a shiny PVC outfit, brandishing a cat-o’-nine-tails: ‘You’ve been a bad boy, François, but I have just ze remedy…’

That means Hollande will try to put his policies into effect, grabbing a catastrophe out of the jaws of a crisis. Anticipating such an outcome, the French began overworking London estate agents the moment François was elected president. What then was a vigorous trickle will now become a stampede. The French will be competing for London properties against Russian Mafiosi and Arab Springers. They’ll put their educated minds to work in the City. French will become the dominant language on the 22 Bus. And I for one am rubbing my hands gleefully.

For I share the French national obsession with food, and whenever the French move into a neighbourhood the food improves. There’s a superb butcher not far from where I live, listing Gordon Ramsey among the regular patrons. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Gordon there, but each time I join the queue, two thirds of those in it are French. But for them, the butcher might not have survived. Now he’s thriving. The same goes for our local bakery, which is becoming indistinguishable from a boulangerie somewhere in the Sixth.

This, I realise, is a shamefully narrow, not to say solipsistic, perspective. We could broaden it though, if you insist. If the French blackmail the Germans into introducing a tax on financial transactions, where do you think most of those transactions will be made? I’ll give you a multiple choice: A) Frankfurt, B) Paris, C) the moon, D) London. You got it in one. And if their top tax bracket is twice as high as ours, it’s a safe bet that most economically virile Frenchmen will end up in the Royal Borough.

Will the last one of them leaving Paris please turn off all the lights? Before long France won’t be able to afford the electricity bill.

Beware of Greeks bearing votes

For the first time since 323 BC, Greece finds herself at the centre of European politics. That was the year Alexander of Macedon died, leaving behind him a legacy of conquest and reasonably benevolent rule. Neither is in store for the country today.

Admittedly Greece had some news value in 1821-1832 when she fought for her independence from the Ottoman Turks. But even though that cause attracted all sorts of Romantic layabouts, such as Byron, the war wasn’t seen as one on which the future of Europe hinged.

Suddenly, yet another round of elections has turned the country into the earth-moving fulcrum that Archimedes craved so forlornly. For if you believe the press, the elections are supposed to have saved Europe from an otherwise inevitable demise. The earth has been moved.

It’s not that anyone thinks that some unknown tectonic fault was about to break the continent off from Asia, casting it adrift into the ocean where it would then do an Atlantis. You see, Europe is no longer a continent. It’s shorthand.

The name has always had metaphorical uses. At various times in the past it stood for Christendom, with its civilisation and culture reflecting the metaphysical foundations on which it rested. Now it means the European Union or, more narrow still, its defunct single currency.

Anyone staggered by the craven, anti-historical, ideological idiocy that begat that abortion of an experiment is immediately accused of hating ‘Europe’. Never mind that the accused may be a cultured, well-travelled, multi-lingual person, while the accuser may not know the difference between Emily Dickinson and Emile Durkheim, or even between Sweden and Switzerland. The accused is a Europhobe, the accuser a Europhile. He’s the one rejoicing in the triumph of the New Democracy (ND) party that, according to him, has won a ringing mandate from the Greek electorate to ‘stay in Europe’ and keep the euro. The continent has been saved. It’ll remain firmly attached to Asia.

When ideology runs riot, reason is never in the race. Thus our Europhile has no qualms about regarding as a mandate ND’s 29.6 percent of the vote, well short of the absolute majority. Even if this ‘centre-right’ party, which is directly responsible for having run up the criminal deficit in the first place, were to form a coalition with the socialists, which at the time of writing isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion, it would then have only about 160 out of the 300 parliamentary seats on offer.

It’s good to see though that the country is reviving the tradition of highly limited democracy for which it, or more specifically Athens, is so justly famous. Only about 30,000 or so fully enfranchised citizens (out of Attica’s population of about a quarter of a million) could vote in Athens on either side of Alexander, with 5,000-6,000 constituting the quorum.

Or perhaps the tradition animating today’s Greeks is of more recent provenance: after all, Tony Blair’s party chose to regard the 35.2 percent of the popular vote it won in 2005 as a mandate to wreak constitutional mayhem. Tocqueville needn’t have worried about the dictatorship of a majority. A minority dictatorship is the order of the day, all perfectly democratic of course.

But do let’s accept the Greek elections as they are portrayed in the press: the pivot of European politics. What did the Greeks actually vote for and against?

Well, if you really must know, they voted for austerity as a precondition for receiving another €160 billion handout, on top of the €240 billion they’ve received already. At least that’s today’s line we’re expected to swallow. But it’ll take a lot of ouzo to help it go down.

If the Greeks read European papers attentively, they know that ‘austerity’, just as ‘Europe’, isn’t used in its true meaning. What it means nowadays is that the government undertakes to slow down its orgy of public spending designed to corrupt the populace into voting the right way. Not to reverse it, God forbid. We’re talking, to use Britain as one example, about a small reduction in the rate of increase – not about an overall reduction in the amounts spent.

Yet even in Britain one nevertheless hears the growling, rumbling noise among the people used to getting something for nothing, which is to say the majority. In time the noise will be turned into a rallying cry by the Milibandits, the folk who are already talking about creating a pan-European anti-austerity alliance of all true-red socialists.

Now if you think, correctly, that the British have been corrupted too much to accept any meaningful austerity, then multiply our corruption by 100 and you’ll know where the Greeks stand in relation to fiscal rigour.

Of course they want to get their €160 billion, wouldn’t you? But only the naïve think for a second that whoever ends up forming a coalition will abide by the preconditions Angela has imposed. And she knows it, bright girl that she is.

The Greeks will pretend to have found the fiscal God, and Angela will pretend to believe them. She needs the euro as the tether that binds the EU together, suffocating every urge for political and economic independence from Germany. So she and her likeminded eurosupremacists will hail the Greek election as the saviour of the euro.

The euro can’t be saved, Angie. Whether the Greeks stay in or out for the moment doesn’t matter one drachma. Everyone will be out before long, and all talk about contagion is so much tosh. The euro is doomed not because of any potential infection being passed on from one country to another, but because it’s genetically unsound. Every member of it has structural problems for which there are no solutions.

People can be fooled for days, perhaps weeks. But the markets can only be fooled for hours, nay minutes. Witness the original modest rally after ND swept all before it, only followed by a massive dip when Spain delivered the next batch of rotten news. The markets know that this giant Ponzi scheme will go the way of all such undertakings sooner, rather than later. Except that this time no Bernie Madoff will conveniently be there to take the rap.

Rather than seeking scapegoats, we should slaughter the sacred cow of ‘Europe’. Let the word revert to its original meanings rooted in geography and culture. It’s been abused enough. 











Aren’t we lucky: real experts are in charge of our economic health

Dave and George, ably assisted by Mervyn, have cooked up a great scheme: they’ll pump £140 billion into our banks on condition that about 60 percent of the money will then be used for mortgage and business loans.

The amount is positively mean compared to the £325 billion already injected into the banks to keep them from a richly deserved demise. That programme achieved its dubious purpose in that most banks do indeed continue trading even as we speak. What they don’t continue is lending, opting instead to use the money as chips in the computer games banks play with one another. Such newly found frugality has two obvious effects, one bad, the other good.

Since the money is being used merely as a life-support system for the banks, it circulates within their bodies only, doing nothing to drip-feed financial plasma into the veins of the economy. The economy then becomes exsanguinated, leaving our private finances anaemic and moribund. That’s bad – and this is the situation we have at the moment.

On the other hand, if all those billions, trillions and zillions were dumped into general circulation, we’d have not so much an economic Eden as inflation from hell. And inflation, as anyone familiar with the history of the Weimar Republic will tell you, spells disasters of all sorts, not just in the economy. Thus tucking the money under the banks’ mattresses at least keeps inflation down. That’s good – but it won’t last if the banks are forced to release the funds into the economy, as sooner or later they will be.

If we strip the Exchequer’s proposal of the usual PR effluvia, we’ll see that in essence they’ve reversed the long-standing policy of preferring recession to inflation. This goes to show yet again that, when it comes to the economy, the government can only ever give us the choice between a rock and a hard place. Occasionally both. Never neither.

Simple homespun logic would suggest that, if governments are constantly damned if they do and damned if they don’t, perhaps they – and, more important, we – would be better off if they stayed out of the economy altogether. One shouldn’t play if one can’t win seems to be the conclusion, but I find this so shocking that I have to seek outside help.

Hence I’ve interviewed a few experts (identified by their initials only), trying to find out what they think. Here’s what they said in response.

What do you think of the active role our government likes to play in the economy?

EB: The moment that government appears at market, the principles of the market will be subverted.

But surely making it easier for people and small businesses to borrow will stimulate the economy?

AL: You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.

Yes, the events of 2008 seem to bear this out. But we’re in big trouble now, and some excess spending will offer an immediate solution, won’t it?

AL: You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.

Well, every good housewife could tell you that. But aren’t governments run on different principles?

AS: What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.

In that case, let’s extend the parallel. By definition, all family members are economically equal. Shouldn’t we try to achieve the same conditions in society at large, by taxing the rich more?

AL: You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

EB: Compulsory equalisations can only mean equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.

It sounds to me as if you’re advocating less government interference, not more. But can individuals be trusted with their own economic well-being?

AS. Every individual can judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him. The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council or state, and which nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

But doesn’t this individualism border on selfishness, naked pursuit of self-interest?

AS. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their self-love.

At that point there was nothing left for me to do but thank Messrs Edmund Burke, Adam Smith and Abraham Lincoln for their time. Their views, I thought, have antiquarian value, but no other. One can only shudder to think of the kind of havoc they’d wreak on Western economies if given the chance.

We’re so much better off with Dave and George, especially now that they have Mervyn King on their side. Count your blessings – but please, please don’t count your money. You’d only get depressed.