Single market, multiple lies

crossedfingersOur neognostic economists like to hide behind the smokescreen of recondite jargon, concealing that the economy is too simple for economists to understand.

Or else they utter deliberate falsehoods, designed as a means of self-perpetuation. True enough, most economists would be made redundant if people applied to economics the only faculty it takes: common sense.

Economists have failed to predict a single major development in world economies, from the 1929 stock market crash to the subsequent depression to the 2008 crisis. That, one would think, would force them to display some humility when making their doomsday prognoses.

Fat chance. With the arrogance of jumped-up ignoramuses, they extol the virtues of the single European market, predicting calamitous consequences should Britain be mad enough to leave it.

Now, let’s agree on the terms. No single European market, in the real sense of the word, exists. There’s only a protectionist bloc slapped together for purely political purposes. As such, it doesn’t function according to market laws, and Europeans are paying through the nose for this travesty.

It has been known at least since the time of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that protectionist tariffs, like those imposed by the EU, hurt one’s own consumers.

Smith wrote 240 years ago that “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful.”

Hence belonging to a protectionist bloc hurts the domestic economy, and getting out of it is well-advised, provided it’s done right. This may sound theoretical, but it’s the kind of theory that has been amply proved in practice everywhere in the world.

According to David Ricardo (d. 1823), a free-trading nation will always do better than a protectionist contrivance even if the latter imposes unilateral tariffs on the former. But to do so, the free-trading nation must realise it’s dealing from a position of strength and act accordingly.

Too often Mrs May and her ministers sound like supplicants when dealing with the EU on Brexit. Too often they listen to the choir of economists bleating about losing foreign investment if, God forbid, we may be so silly as to leave the deified single market.

This is arrant nonsense. All we have to do is make real market laws work for us, and then we won’t have to issue specific guarantees to foreign investors, such as the one apparently given Nissan to keep up its Sunderland plant.

Investors are sensitive to the economic climate, and, when it’s beneficial, they need no special inducement to invest. Realising this, Britain can practise economic oneupmanship vis-à-vis the EU, which is shackled by its politicised anti-economics.

However, Britain can only capitalise on its competitive advantages by accentuating them. Certain measures that Mrs May uses only as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations must be brought on stream immediately, irrespective of how the horse-trading is going.

For example, a couple of weeks ago she hinted at the threat of introducing a 10 per cent corporate tax rate should the EU bar us from the single ‘market’ (which is, in fact, closer to the Zollverein, the trick Prussia used in the nineteenth century to bring all German principalities under its sway).

This should be done anyway, single market or no single market. Foreign investment is the oxygen without which Britain, with her currency imbalance, will suffocate. And what better way to bring foreign companies in than making it cheaper for them to operate?

By 2020, Britain’s corporate tax rate of 20 per cent is set to fall to 17 per cent anyway, which already gives us a head start compared to Germany (29.72 per cent), France (33.33 per cent) and everybody else in the high-rent part of Europe.

Reducing it to 10 per cent would make the EU’s competitive position well-nigh untenable, and don’t think for a second the Eurocrats aren’t scared witless of the prospect. Coupled with our labour laws, already more liberal than on the continent and ripe for even more liberalisation, our generous tax policy is bound to act like a magnet.

By regaining our economic freedom, we could attract not only industrial investment but also the purely fiscal kind, taking advantage of the central position of the London Stock Exchange in the world of finance.

In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, France’s intellectually challenged finance minister Macron was threatening Britain with becoming like Jersey or, alternatively, Guernsey. That threat sounds more like an opportunity to me.

Britain should indeed take advantage of the political millstone around European economies by turning itself into a tax haven. If as a result we become as wealthy as the Channel Islands, not to mention as socially stable and crime-free, I for one wouldn’t shed any tears.

Bolstered by silly economists, the EU is bluffing, trying to conceal what a poor hand it holds in any Brexit negotiations. In response, Mrs May should change her language from ‘may we please?’ to ‘you shall’. She’s holding all the aces.




The face of British Toryism

PutinTVIt’s becoming easy to think that any explicit association with today’s Conservative Party may tar a man with an indelible blotch.

I’m not even talking about the increasingly socialist noises made by leading Tories, including Theresa May. This has been par for the Tory course for so long that any initial novelty appeal has long since worn off.

But at least there have always been individuals and groups within the party that would buck the Zeitgeist by supporting causes they regarded as morally right.

One such cause was Brexit. It was thanks to organisations like the Bruges Group (founded by Margaret Thatcher), and also to individuals like Lord Tebbit and John Redwood, that regaining British sovereignty has become possible.

Alas, the very groups – and individuals – that fought for the cause of our constitution are playing lickspittle to a foreign power presenting an existential threat not only to Britain’s constitution but indeed to her physical survival.

Enter Tory Councillor Robert Oulds, Bruges Group’s director. The Group has released a video showing Oulds interviewing Alexander Kofman, one of the chieftains of the bandit gang calling itself the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’.

“Is there a moral responsibility on the Donetsk People’s Republic,” asked Oulds, “to expand its borders to, in a sense, liberate territory from the rule of Kiev, liberate those people that do not want to be dictated to by the current junta in charge in Kiev?”

The question contains the answer. According to Putin’s gang, now ably supported by the Bruges Group, it’s the gang’s moral duty to expand its aggression against a sovereign people refusing to live in the same servitude under which it lost millions of people and every conceivable liberty.

To what extent Oulds et al are acting as free agents is open to debate. What’s beyond doubt is that Putin’s government is making good use of its KGB recruitment techniques.

In those olden days, the KGB bribed Western opinion formers to toe the Soviet line through Western media. The bribery wasn’t always a straightforward transfer of cash: the KGB was capable of subtler techniques of seduction. It knew that stroking people’s egos could be as effective as greasing their palms.

To that end, it would organise all-expenses-paid ‘fact-finding’ junkets for Western politicians and intellectuals. On one such, Henry Wallace, FDR’s VP, was favourably impressed by Siberian concentration camps, where millions had perished.

Hundreds of Westerners, all those Webbs, Steffenses, Shaws, Wellses, buried their conscience under the mountains of Caspian caviar. Shovelling it into his mouth at a Kremlin reception, G. B. Shaw expressed his bemusement at Western reports about the Soviet famine. That was 1931, when millions – at least five million in the Ukraine alone – were being didactically starved to death to make them see the benefits of collectivised agriculture.

In parallel, the KGB created hundreds of Soviet fronts, academic, political and civic. These were the syringes through which the syphilitic contagion of bolshevism was injected into the West’s bloodstream. Transparent Soviet fronts, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, attracted hordes of Soviet agents of influence, witting or unwitting.

Those chaps, Jack Straw and Tony Blair spring to mind, were intuitively predisposed to flock towards left-wing causes. All the KGB had to do was channel their instincts into the proper conduit, which wasn’t hard.

Now FSB/KGB officers make up 85 per cent of Russia’s government – meaning they are Russia’s government. Much to their delight, they’ve discovered that the old techniques work well in a new setting – and with new targets.

Russia’s ideology has been changed from bolshevism to imperialism. Hence, even as the left of yesteryear could easily be seduced by progressivist verbiage because its ears were already attuned to it, today’s right tropistically reaches for the God, Putin and country banners flapping in the Russian wind.

Translating such instincts into action favouring the KGB state is just a matter of KGB tradecraft. So far Putin’s kleptofascists have set up 10 pressure groups in Britain, but that’s only those that are upfront about it.

Some others aren’t, and they may even be ‘played in the dark’, in the KGB jargon, meaning used unwittingly. But that doesn’t matter one way or the other.

What matters is that Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Tory Bow Group, appears on Putin’s TV, saying things like “It is important to acknowledge the massive potential cost of sanctions [against Russia] to the West and explore other options.”

Western media, added Harris-Quinney, are promoting a “sleepwalk towards war or conflict with Russia.” It’s as if it were Western media rather than Putin’s kleptofascist state pouncing on neighbouring countries like a rabid dog.

But never mind small fry like Oulds or Harris-Quinney. No decent person would ever shake hands with anyone appearing on Russian TV and acting as Putin’s agent of influence. However, even Tory icons like Lord Tebbit and John Redwood are openly blaming the EU for Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine.

Not only do we allow the KGB to set up its propaganda outlets in Britain, but we also let our venerable institutions fall into its hands.

The other day, hacked Kremlin e-mails revealed that Alexander Lebedev, the Russian billionaire who, through his son, owns The Independent and Evening Standard, tried to orchestrate a press campaign to secure western approval for the theft of Crimea.

Lebedev, ladies and gentlemen, was – and is – a career KGB officer. (“There’s no such thing as ex-KGB. This is for life,” Putin once said). So Lebedev has a job to do, and he can no more be blamed for it than a dog can be blamed for chasing a cat around the block.

The blame lies with those who allow such people to buy our mainstream papers and turn them into mouthpieces of enemy propaganda. It also lies with people like Tebbit and Redwood, who are led so far astray by their justified hatred of the EU that they unwittingly expose us to a far greater danger.


Culture against civilisation

russiancultureSome readers have taken exception to my describing Russia as uncivilised. Russia, they replied, is as civilised as any other country, just look at Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

It’s all my fault. Most words have multiple meanings, and it’s incumbent upon a writer to define his terms, especially those used in a potentially controversial context.

There’s no doubt that Russian culture is one of the world’s greatest. But culture and civilisation aren’t so much synonymous as practically antithetical.

The kind of culture that produces a Tolstoy or a Dostoyevsky is created for few by fewer. At the time those two gentlemen were writing, close to 90 per cent of Russians were unable to read their novels, or anything else.

A similar observation could be applied to any culture. Perhaps the minority of Englishmen or Frenchmen able to contribute to culture either actively, as creators, or passively, as consumers, was greater than in Russia. But it was – and remains – a minority nonetheless.

Cultural disfranchisement in Russia was exacerbated by the servitude in which most Russians lived throughout their history. De facto slave owners, all those noblemen followed by the commissars, didn’t want their chattels to read Tolstoy and get ideas above their station.

The commissars did insist that the slaves learn to read, but they made sure that the newly acquired skill was applied only to learning the latest Party directives. Dostoyevsky didn’t come into it.

Civilisation is altogether different, not to say opposite.

It’s a method of organising life without any group having to resort to arbitrary force. This is replaced by an intricate ganglion of laws, custom, prescription, prejudice, equity, consent, civility (another cognate of civilisation), respect for others, good manners – it would take a long book even to enumerate all the components.

While culture thrives on esoteric exclusivity, a civilisation can’t last unless it includes all, or at least most, members of society. Some may drive it, some may sleep in the back seat, but they all must be inside.

Russia’s historical tragedy is that she borrowed the small cultural component of Western civilisation without also borrowing its entirety. Partly that’s the West’s fault: the quasi-Western cultured Russian was born at a time when the West proper was already becoming senile, its own roots severed by the Enlightenment.

Russia forged ahead culturally with youthful vigour, emulating the West’s path, but skipping many intermediate steps. Whenever things looked as if they’d take too long to develop, the youngster would simply borrow them ready-made, making more or less good use of them.

Thus Catherine II was involved in a lively correspondence with Diderot and Voltaire. That most absolute monarch of her time routinely described herself as a republican and sought Diderot’s advice on how to weave the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Russian political fabric. (This didn’t prevent her extending serfdom to the Ukraine.)

Yet Catherine didn’t succeed in making Russia Western. It was too late for that. Had the westernisation started not with Peter I but with Ivan the Terrible, Russia would have had many useful things to learn from the West at its peak, and the gap between her and, say, England would never have grown so wide.

As it was, the Russians succeeded in turning their country into a mirror image of the West. The mirror is both concave and convex, so it distorts the picture, but not beyond recognition. It’s rather like an impersonator conveying the character by accentuating the most salient traits.

The Russians mixed Western hand-me-downs with the bric-a-brac from their own attic. Hence where the West had social unrest, Russia had manor houses burnt to cinders; where the West had the Bastille, Russia had molten pitch down the throat; where the West had Fourier, Russia had Lenin.

If the West is Dorian Grey, Russia is the portrait. Even as Wilde’s character was horrified by the grotesque mask into which his vices had turned the portrait, so should Westerners look at Russia not with scorn but with the sadness of someone whose soul has been turned inside out and its depravity revealed for the world to see. That’s a good way to look at Russia’s history and the animus behind it.

The difference is that over millennia the West built up a capital of civilisation. That is now rapidly being frittered away, and we’re cutting deep into the principal. How long the capital will last is anybody’s guess, but there’s definitely some left.

Russia has no such capital, and don’t let Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky mislead you. They’re a lot less representative of Russia than Stalin and Putin.

For, in the absence of the multifarious ganglion I mentioned above, culture isn’t a civilisation’s meat. It’s its poison, or rather an abortion-inducing drug.

The brisk musical life in Moscow or Petersburg tells you less about Russia than the brown streaks one sees on the walls of public lavatories away from those cities’ centres. The presence of a literature is nothing as compared to the absence of just laws.

All this may sound too abstract, but the upshot of an uncivilised, if cultured, Russia is a concrete danger to the West. Beware of the uncivilised barbarian with “a lean and hungry look”.

Which MP said this?

housesofparliamentI’m not going to play silly games and ask you to guess. Even if I replaced ‘Russia’ with ‘Britain’ in the quote below, no one would be fooled anyway:

“I’m proposing to help Russian Jews to move to Israel. We should pay their moving expenses and award them medals ‘For the liberation of Russia’. We must tell Jews: you have your own country, go there and leave us alone. We’ll somehow manage on our own… Any Jew, no matter where he works, still looks towards Israel and can’t be a patriot of our country.”

This diatribe was delivered two years ago by Yelena Mizulina, Duma deputy for United Russia, Putin’s party. No British MP would enunciate such a proposal on the Commons floor, even though some may be capable of saying such things in private.

This points at a key difference between the two countries: Britain is civilised and Russia is not.

The proportion of good and evil people in both places is probably roughly similar, although, when it comes to anti-Semitism, the Russians hold a comfortable lead.

However, it’s the role of civilisation to draw certain lines that even wicked people dare not cross. That’s why, though, say, Jeremy Corbyn’s innermost feelings about the Jews may be similar to Mizulina’s, he wouldn’t express them publicly, and certainly not in Parliament.

We have our share of loudmouthed morons in all political parties, but, no matter how loudmouthed or moronic, they wouldn’t say the kind of things routinely bellowed by Russian parliamentarians.

For example, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, for many years Deputy Speaker of the Duma and still the leader of a major party, is impossible to imagine in the legislature of any civilised country.

Zhirinovsky routinely expresses the desire that Russian soldiers “wash their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.”

In the past he suggested that the only way to teach Condoleezza Rice, then US Secretary of State, proper geopolitics would be to have her gang-raped in Spetznaz barracks “until soldiers’ sperm comes out of her ears.”

America, he once explained is “a second-hand store” filled with “c***suckers, hand-jobbers and poofters”. Hence, “if Russia rises, it means the USA falls down”. To accelerate that descent, Zhirinovsky hinted that Russia was capable of changing the Earth’s gravitational field to sink America.

He believes Russia should occupy all of the Ukraine, then take back Alaska by force because it’ll be “a great place to keep the Ukrainians.”

One of Russia’s most prominent politicians also has strong thoughts on the upcoming presidential election:

“Americans voting for a president on 8 November must realise that they’re voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere.”

In other words, “Victory for Trump would be a gift to humanity. But if Hillary Clinton wins, she’ll be the last U.S. president ever.”

And hot off the press: “We must develop new weapons, not just nuclear ones. The kind of weapons after whose use there’s nothing left. Only a desert – and smoke.”

Please don’t dismiss these as isolated rants of a madman. Such threatening shrieks regularly pass the lips of Russian policy-makers, including Putin.

It’s against that background noise that we must assess the concrete steps taken by Russia. For example, the Russians make no secret that their barbaric bombing of Syria is also a rehearsal of tactics and a test of armaments.

A couple of weeks ago, 40 million Russians were involved in a massive evacuation drill in case of a nuclear attack. Yesterday the Russians tested an RS-18 missile’s ability to defeat US defences.

Also yesterday, the Russians unveiled the RS-28 Sarmat missile, Satan 2 in NATO nomenclature, to come on stream in 2018. Designed to dodge any anti-missile shield, the RS-28 is capable of carrying a 16-warhead, 40-megaton nuclear payload, sufficient to wipe out an area the size of France.

The other day the Russian battle group led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov passed by Ramsgate on its way to Syria. This was seen as an exercise testing the capabilities of the Royal Navy (“What Royal Navy?” I hear you ask).

Our assorted ‘useful idiots’ exemplified by Peter Hitchens laughed that show of force off by dismissing the Kuznetsov as obsolete. This is as idiotic and disingenuous as one has learned to expect from that lot.

First, the Kuznetsov was launched in 1985, which doesn’t necessarily make it useless. For example, the US Navy is still using the Nimitz carrier that’s three years older.

Second, Russia’s carrier may be old, but at least she still has one, which is more than can be said for the Royal Navy.

Third, the planes carried by the Kuznetsov are perfectly modern and capable of wreaking destruction, as they’ve demonstrated in Syria. Dismissing the Kuznetsov as obsolete is like saying that nuclear bombers taking off from an old airfield are harmless.

This gets me back to the original point. As the rants by Russia’s leading politicians demonstrate, the country isn’t civilised. Its responses to challenges are tethered by no more restraints than the tongues of its leaders.

Weapons aren’t dangerous by themselves. But they do represent a deadly threat to us when wielded by barbarians. The Russians, ably led by a junta, 85 per cent of which are KGB butchers, are indeed barbarians armed to the teeth.

And if you don’t believe me, follow what their leaders are saying.

Be not a baker if you’re a Christian

christian-cake“… if your head is made of butter” is the original proverb. But what’s progress if not adjusting old wisdom to new needs?

That’s what Belfast’s Court of Appeal has just done by upholding the original verdict in the case against Ashers Bakery. Only in a mad world could such a case have been brought before the court at all, never mind decided against the defendants, Mr and Mrs McArthur, Ashers’ managers.

This Christian couple declined an order placed by Gareth Lee, an activist in the homosexual pressure group QueerSpace. QueerSpace aggressively campaigns for homomarriage, which is still illegal in Northern Ireland. In that spirit, Lee ordered a cake decorated with the inscription SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE.

I would have recommended a less perishable medium for carrying this noble slogan. What if the cake is sliced so that the middle word is cut out, and only SUPPORT MARRIAGE remains? That would scupper the whole idea, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, citing their Christian faith the McArthurs refused to put this political message on their product. Lee threw a wobbly and sued the couple for breaching equality legislation.

In a sane world, Mr Lee would have been told not to be so bitchy. After all, any business has a right to refuse custom in extreme cases.

Imagine one such extreme case: a pervert orders from a Muslim baker a cake with an image of a dog in flagrante delicto with a pig and an inscription saying SUPPORT BESTIALITY. (I didn’t make it up: years ago a Manhattanite could order such things from an East Side shop called Erotic Baker.)

Something tells me the Muslim baker would decline such an order in no uncertain, possibly violent, terms. Moreover, should the rebuffed customer appeal to the law, it would be him and not the baker who’d get in trouble.

How the case in question differs from this imaginary scenario escapes me. Fair enough, bestiality isn’t legal. But then neither is homomarriage in Northern Ireland. Not being an expert in sexual pathology, I can’t weigh the fine points of the two practices against each other, but they don’t seem to be a million moral miles apart.

What’s sauce for the Muslim goose ought to be sauce for the Christian gander. Isn’t that what equality is all about?

If you ask such questions, you aren’t fit to live in the modern world. Equality, as in equality legislation, the Equality Commission and some such, actually means inequality in today’s parlance.

All religions are equal except Christianity, that stubborn creed hanging on to its outdated faith. Such things go against the grain of progress, which insists that the dial is zeroed in every generation.

Equality, in its present sense, is a device used to inch towards the ultimate goal: the destruction of the last vestiges of our civilisation, with all its religious, cultural and moral underpinnings.

Hence the judgement of the Irish court upholds the modern ethos, and Daniel McArthur can scream bloody murder till the judges come home. Where does he get off, saying things like “This ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.”?

And look at this lame excuse offered by Mr McArthur: “We wouldn’t even decorate a cake with a spiteful message about gay people, because to do so would be to endorse and promote it.”

His ear clearly isn’t attuned to the mellifluous music of modernity. Decorating a cake with “a spiteful message about gay people” would have landed him in prison, while refusing to do so would have earned him an honorary membership in QueerSpace. As it is, he’s stuck with £300,000 in legal bills (partly shared by The Christian Institute).

The Irish judges obviously didn’t realise that their ruling set a legal precedent for “spiteful messages about gay people” and other such exotica to appear on cakes as well. After all, while equality before God is no longer relevant, equality before the law still should be.

But such considerations would matter only in a sane place, not the loony bin going by the name of modernity. And if you doubt this description, here’s another appeal, this time not overturned but upheld.

An Iraqi 20-year-old child refugee raped a 10-year-old boy in the lavatory of a Vienna swimming pool. In his defence, the big child claimed he raped the small child because of a “sexual emergency” created by four months without hanky-panky.

The Austrian court must have seen that as a mitigating circumstance, if its lenient sentence of six years’ imprisonment is any indication. Now even that exercise in liberalism has been overturned on appeal.

Judges found that the big child may have believed the small child consented. Of course, unless Austrian laws are dramatically different from ours, a 10-year-old isn’t regarded as qualified to issue consent.

Yet even a raped babe in arms could be treated as a consenting adult if refusal to do so would clash with the dominant pieties of modernity. After all, the Iraqi rapist is a) a Muslim, b) a refugee and c) a homosexual.

Sending him down would thus be construed as a knife in the back of the prevailing ethos, and that won’t do. Taking an axe to our civilisation is much better.

Call for the men in white coats.

She isn’t the PM of England

TheresaMayScotland’s fishy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is demanding direct access to Brexit negotiations. That’s to be expected from this jumped-up nationalist. What’s astounding, not to mention unconstitutional, is that she looks likely to get it.

After all, the United Kingdom isn’t a federation, like the USA. Nor is it a confederation, like Switzerland. It’s a unitary state. That means Her Majesty’s government is authorised to conduct any negotiations on behalf of the four countries under its aegis: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Scotland owes its devolved status to the most revolting personage ever to occupy 10 Downing Street: Tony Blair. Dead set on destroying as much of our constitution as possible, Blair pushed the devolution act through Parliament, granting Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales their own assemblies and greater autonomy.

However, even Blair didn’t go so far as to grant the devolved parts of the UK the freedom to set their own foreign policy. Moreover, what Parliament gives it can take away. Activating the same mechanisms Margaret Thatcher used to get rid of the Greater London Council, Theresa May could – and should – undo Scotland’s devolution. She probably has a sufficient parliamentary majority for that.

Meanwhile, Dave Cameron, who could give Blair a good run for his money in the worst-ever-PM stakes, tried to deliver another blow to the constitution of the United Kingdom by granting Scotland an independence referendum.

The blow missed: the Scots sensibly voted against. However, presaging similar tactics by the Remainers, Sturgeon’s SNP is pushing for another referendum because it didn’t like the results of the first one. The nationalists must have learned the trick from the EU they love so much: if the people vote wrong, make them vote again until they get it right.

Actually, by the looks of it, their understanding of nationalism differs from the dictionary definition. They don’t want to be independent tout court – they just want to be independent from England.

If they get their wish, break away from a Brexit UK and join the EU as an individual member, Scotland will become considerably less independent, not more. Within the EU, beggars definitely aren’t choosers, and Scotland would be totally dependent on Brussels’s largesse.

Considering the catastrophic state of EU finances, this largesse isn’t likely to be exorbitant, certainly falling far short of the handouts Scotland receives from the British Parliament. And Scotland would have to become an abject supplicant to receive even those short EU rations.

That would give it a status similar to that of Greece, a far cry from Scotland’s influence in the UK, where it has supplied one royal dynasty, seven prime ministers and uncountable cabinet members. The Scottish nationalists are thus expressing not love of independence but hatred of England, a sentiment demonstrably not shared by most Scots, especially those whose English one can understand.

Now the nationalists are holding England to ransom, threatening a second referendum, which would be a major irritant even if it delivers the same result, as seems likely. And Sturgeon’s demands are as outlandish as those of most blackmailers.

Effectively she’s demanding veto powers to any Brexit deal or, alternatively, the right to make separate arrangements with the EU. That would involve staying in the single market even if the UK opts out.

The SNP’s previous leader, the equally fishy Alex Salmond, supports her unequivocally: “Nicola Sturgeon’s red lines are that she wants Scotland to be within the single marketplace, she wants proper legal treatment for fellow EU citizens in Scotland and she wants the rights of Scottish workers, social and employment rights, to be protected.”

In other words, he wants Scotland to be an independent state, or rather one dependent on the EU, effectively reversing the result of Scotland’s referendum and ignoring the wishes of the Scottish people. That, of course, is par for the course: like any other socialist party, the SNP regards people as merely a means to its own ends.

One hopes that Mrs May will respond with the kind of fortitude that’s essential when dealing with blackmailers. In fact, she could counter their threats with some of her own, such as cutting Scotland’s subsidies or revoking its devolved status through an act of Parliament.

Unfortunately, one detects some vacillation on Mrs May’s part and a tendency towards appeasement in her initial response to Sturgeon’s blackmail. If so, this is most unfortunate: weakness on the PM’s part may achieve the opposite result to the one she desires: the breakup of the United Kingdom.

The Nasty Health Service

nhs-logoI’m sure it’s unintentional, and doubtless the parallel isn’t yet exact, but the NHS is rapidly approaching the moral – or rather moralising – standards set by Nazi medicine. Thus obese patients and smokers are routinely denied treatment, including surgery.

Now, considering that 26 per cent of all adults are classed as obese, and 18 per cent smoke, and assuming some overlap between the two groups, possibly a third of us aren’t seen as fit for the NHS’s tender mercies.

This reconfirms the immutable law: a government that does a lot for the people will always do a lot to them. Whenever the state oversteps the boundaries of its legitimate mandate, it becomes tyrannical, and the NHS is a prime example.

Whatever their declared purpose, all state Leviathans ultimately serve to extend state power. The NHS is no exception.

That nationalised medicine can be used for this purpose was demonstrated by the Nazis, whose fanatical anti-smoking campaign would be the envy of today’s NHS. Also, chemical additives and preservatives were roundly castigated by the Nazis, wholemeal bread was depicted as morally superior to breads made from blanched white flour, and preventive medicine was elevated to a religious status.

Like today’s bureaucrats, the Nazis promoted vegetarianism (practised by Hitler, Hess and many others) and attacked medical experiments on animals (unlike us, they had no shortage of enthusiastic human volunteers).

Of course, doctors in Nazi Germany were involved not only in preventive medicine but, most of them eagerly, in such less benign pastimes as enforced euthanasia. It’s comforting to observe how medicine in today’s Britain is inching in the same direction.

One can’t open the papers these days without reading a thinly veiled lament about the burden placed on the fragile shoulders of the NHS by an ageing population. And euthanasia is steadily moving towards the forefront of potential remedies.

Now, I realise that this may sound as a heresy to a modern ear, but the role of medicine isn’t to pass moral judgement and sort people out into ethical categories. It’s to treat those in need of treatment – even if the need is self-inflicted.

In any case, why reduce the number of disqualifying habits to smoking and overeating? A man breaking his leg playing football has only himself to blame. Ditto, a hypertensive who never exercises. Ditto, a heavy drinker suffering from liver disease. Ditto, an avid consumer of junk food who’s a health wreck. Ditto… well, the possibilities are endless.

How long before patients are ordered to submit their food and liquor bills before getting a quadruple bypass? This may sound ludicrous, but no more so than denying treatment to someone who lights up occasionally or prefers chips to sprouts.

We must remember that the NHS, Europe’s only fully nationalised health service, isn’t just about medicine. It’s about extending state power. And funding shortages are routinely cited as an excuse for implementing that inner imperative.

Using this justification, British hospitals everywhere cut the number of hospital beds and reduce their frontline medical staffs, while creating whole new layers of administrative jobs, all those directors of diversity, optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation.

Doctors, nurses and beds aren’t really needed for the NHS to perform its real function, while administrators are indispensable. This madness is accompanied by Goebbelsian propaganda so successful that most Britons worship the NHS in lieu of God.

The NHS, claim those poor brainwashed souls, is the envy of Europe. If so, one has to compliment those envious continentals for the courage with which they fight off the temptation to follow suit: all major European countries have mixed state-private healthcare.

Many Britons seem to think that before 1948, when the country was blessed with the arrival of nationalised medicine, people had been dying in the streets without any medical help on offer. This is nonsense.

More hospitals were built in the 1930s, hardly the most prosperous decade in British history, than in the 68 years of the NHS. Rather than being burdened with administrators outnumbering the medical staff, those hospitals were run by two people: head doctor and matron, with a bookkeeper clicking his abacus somewhere in the back room.

In those backward times, hospitals were spanking clean, and hospital-acquired infections, like those killing thousands in NHS hospitals every year, didn’t exist. A matron would run a finger over every surface, and woe betide any nurse responsible for a single speck of dust.

It wasn’t just secondary care either. Before progress arrived, patients didn’t have to wait three weeks for a GP appointment, as they do today. And they’d see the same GP every time, one familiar with their condition, rather than whomever they drew like a lottery ticket.

Moreover, doctors wouldn’t hector patients on their habits, nor – how reactionary can you get? – refuse treatment if said habits didn’t pass muster.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not only a doctor’s right but indeed duty to give lifestyle advice when it’s needed. A patient, however, remains free to follow the advice or not.

If he chooses wrong, it’s a mistake. But refusing to treat him as a result is a crime – committed by a tyrannical state acting in loco parentis.




Free speech finds a new champion

rtThe other day the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and its NatWest branch threatened to shut the account of RT, the propaganda and disinformation extension of Putin’s KGB junta.

In response, that very station, ably supported by Russia’s diplomatic pressure, whipped up an hysterical campaign shrieking all over the world about this affront to freedom of speech.

By way of retaliation, the Kremlin threatened to freeze the BBC’s accounts in Russia and report RBS to international watchdogs, while assorted Russian money launderers said they’d take their laundry elsewhere.

As a result, RBS has caved in and withdrawn its punitive action. I suspect the threat of losing those laundered billions has proved decisive – our banks are animated by the spirit of Emperor Vespasian who, when questioned about his tax on the urine sold to tanners by public lavatories, pronounced that “pecunia non olet” (money doesn’t stink).

No surprise there. But I must admit that even I was amazed at the cynical effrontery of Putin’s Goebbelses having the gall to invoke freedom of speech.

RT isn’t a communications channel in any civilised sense of the word. It’s the mouthpiece of KGB/FSB’s disinformation service (formerly known as the First Chief Directorate), performing an intelligence task rather than journalistic ones.

The intelligence task it performs is undermining the West’s morale in any possible confrontation with Putin’s Russia. To that end RT peddles barefaced lies portraying Russia as the last outpost of conservative, Christian values desperately fighting for survival against Western aggression.

Nothing saddens me more than seeing that so many conservatives, exactly the kind of people who ought to know better, swallow those lies whole. They see Putin as a strong traditional leader, rather than what he really is: a kleptofascist KGB thug threatening world peace more than any other evil force.

RT ‘expert’ analysts routinely vent neo-Nazi messages, nuclear threats to the West, various conspiracy theories (such as the CIA organising 9/11). Producing palpably phoney evidence, RT ‘reporters’ blame the Ukraine for aggression against Russia and for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

In fact, Sara Firth, RT’s London correspondent, resigned in 2014 specifically for that reason. Blaming the Ukraine for Flight MH17, she said, was “the most shockingly obvious misinformation”.

As a result of RT’s lies, numerous complaints have been filed with Ofcom, which has upheld 15 of them. Against this background, claiming that RT should be protected by our tradition of free speech takes cynicism to a whole new level.

Putin first demonstrated his commitment to free speech just four days after taking power, when the offices of Russia’s most popular TV station NTV were sacked, and its owner slapped in prison.

On 9 September, 2000, four months after his ascent, Putin signed a vitally important document: The Doctrine of Information Security. All mass media were to be divided into two clearly delineated categories: ‘ours’ and ‘alien’.

Since then, the government has used this doctrine to bring all mass media under its control. Even online opposition magazines, such as Grani, and Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, have been blocked for internal consumption.

Lest there might be some misunderstanding, Alexander Volin, Putin’s overseer of mass media, has explained how the junta defines a journalist’s duty. Speaking to the faculty of Moscow University’s journalism department, he said:

“A journalist’s task is to make money for his employer. You must leave students in no doubt that, having left university halls, they’ll be working for the boss, and the boss will tell them what to write, what not to write and how to write about certain things. And the boss has a right to do so because he pays them.” He didn’t have to clarify the identity of the boss.

The message was so easy to understand that it’s amazing how many Russian journalists have demonstrated learning difficulties. For those recalcitrant children, the junta doesn’t spare the rod.

Altogether 314 Russian journalists have been killed for what they write, and hundreds more harassed, beaten up or crippled. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranks Russia as the world’s third most dangerous country for journalists, behind only Algeria and Iraq. But then Russia finds itself in that kind of company in most categories defining civilised society.

Common sense ought to suggest that those who are actively trying to undermine Western constitutions shouldn’t enjoy their protection. Freedom of speech isn’t a suicide pact.

Not many people in the West would object to curbs on jihadist or Nazi propaganda. It’s sheer ignorance not to realise that Putin’s disinformation machine falls into the same category, where it can claim pride of place for being by far the most dangerous.

To paraphrase an Elizabethan law report, the air of England is too pure for enemy propagandists to breathe. Any sensible government wouldn’t just slap RT’s wrists but ban it outright. That would be not so much denying as upholding freedom of speech.

Among the few contributions Russian has made to the English language, ‘disinformation’, a Russian blend of Latin components, is one of the most pernicious. The rat of Putin’s disinformation runs rampaging all over the world, yet few manage to smell it.


Today’s politicians are for turning

borisweathercock“This lady is not for turning,” said Margaret Thatcher, who had the power of her convictions.

However, today’s lot, perfectly exemplified by Boris Johnson, won’t let convictions get in the way of their pursuit of power.

To wit: during the referendum debate, Johnson published his Telegraph column, arguing the case for Brexit. Yet at the same time he also wrote a pro-Remain article, and was in two minds which one to send to the paper.

Apparently Cameron had promised Johnson the Defence slot in exchange for his support. On the other hand, leading a successful Leave campaign could conceivably land him at 10 Downing Street.

Those were the bases on which Johnson made what he then called “an agonisingly difficult decision”. Yet now that the unpublished article has seen the light of day, he claims no career motive was involved.

Johnson supposedly wrote the pro and con articles to see which argument was stronger. Having realised the paucity of the Remain position, he opted for Leave.

Pull the other one, Boris, would be my response – but not Dominic Lawson’s, who has sprung to his “old mate’s” defence. Perish the thought that Dominic’s mate be accused of “duplicity and opportunism”. This was merely Johnson’s “method of analysis – or, as it might be, self-analysis”.

Loyalty to one’s mates is highly prized in military and criminal circles. But in matters of the mind and morality it should be secondary to a superior consideration: the truth.

One’s understanding of the truth springs from a whole ganglion of philosophy, moral convictions and what Collingwood called absolute presuppositions. When these are firm, as they should be for an educated man in his fifties, intellectual and moral choices usually make themselves.

Coming to Johnson’s defence, Lawson compares his agony with Charles Darwin’s struggle over the decision to marry.

Being a rationalist, Darwin drew a list of arguments for and against. The chief among the former was possessing an “object to be beloved & played with – better than a dog anyhow”; the latter hinged on losing the “freedom to go where one liked”.

Lawson compliments Darwin on making the right decision (“Marry!”), but I have to rebuke Lawson for drawing a wrong analogy. Unlike a statesman’s choice of policy affecting millions of people, a man’s decision to marry is morally and intellectually neutral.

A better analogy would be a man considering whether to divorce or murder his unloved wife. He then sits down and does a Darwin. For murder: no bickering, legal fees, alimony. Against: messy, might get caught.

I’d suggest that, regardless of what conclusion he reaches, the very fact that the question came up shows him for the amoral sociopath that he is.

Similarly, the very fact that Johnson had to put down an extensive list of pros and cons, shows him for an unprincipled intellectual lightweight.

This he also proved in a private e-mail, which Lawson divulges with a QED finality: “Am wrestling with the Europe thing. Reasons for staying in: Britain force for good in Europe; historic need for us to be there to stop them screwing up; the Scottish problem, break-up of Union etc; exit looks negative, anti-foreigner etc”.

One has to think that only the last argument could possibly have mattered to Johnson: how his support for Brexit would look.

Truth didn’t come into Johnson’s amphigory even tangentially. Otherwise he wouldn’t have weighed Britain’s entire constitutional essence against his reluctance to look “anti-foreign”.

Not even to be – only to look. Equating support for Britain’s sovereignty with xenophobia is nothing but leftish knavery. It goes over big at Islington and Notting Hill salons, where Johnson doubtless likes to impress gasping groupies, but it hasn’t a grain of truth to it.

“I suspect that millions of voters would identify with Boris’s self-questioning approach,” writes Lawson. No doubt. The same voters wouldn’t have heard of an argumentum ad populum, and why it’s a rhetorical fallacy.

Nor do millions of voters proceed from a carefully considered political philosophy, general erudition, extensive understanding of constitutional matters and how they relate to morality. However, a statesman must.

Lawson is scathing about those who prefer “politicians who appear never to have given the slightest thought that there is more than one side to an argument”. But not all arguments have more than one side, Mr Lawson.

There exist such old-fashioned things as first principles, which must act as the starting point of any serious argument, and the ending point of some. No pro-Remain argument comes remotely close to agreeing with any first principle – or indeed with any sound thought.

But even assuming at a kind moment that an educated Remainer does proceed from some first principles, they don’t at all overlap with those supporting Brexit.

They can’t co-exist in the same breast: the holder of one set won’t even consider the other. It’s like Hugh Heffner discussing love with Benedict XVI – their understanding of the concept simply wouldn’t mesh.

That Johnson, who’s a clever if facile man, had to put those pathetic words on paper shows that he was driven only by base considerations of what would or wouldn’t play with the public.

Someone who seriously weighs the constitutional sovereignty of crown and Parliament against his reluctance to appear anti-foreign has no first principles, nor any convictions of any kind – this, irrespective of his conclusion.

Neither does he have, mutatis mutandis, any more moral sense than a man unsure if he should murder his wife or divorce her. What he does have is a keen sense of where the wind is blowing.

Now let’s canonise Dylan

bob_dylanYes, I know Bob isn’t a Christian. But you’re not going to be a stickler for such inconsequential detail, are you?

He’s popular, he’s cool, the young (and those who pretend to be) love him – what more do you need? If The Times says he’s a saint, he is.

And if you say he isn’t, you’re jealous. There’s no other possible reason for anyone to take issue with Dylan receiving any accolade, be it canonisation or the Nobel Prize.

Brian Appleyard certainly thinks so: “Come gather round, people, and admit it: the haters and doubters who believe Bob Dylan should not have been honoured are jealous.”

Brian is a sixtyish writer who dresses like a twentyish copywriter, no doubt to appear cool. That sort of thing seldom works: those with taste are more likely to wince at such stylistic solecisms.

However, dressing like a young Neanderthal is just about excusable. Thinking like one isn’t, and that’s where Appleyard errs.

Rather than throwing ad hominems at people whose taste is superior to his own, Appleyard should go through the exercise I suggested the other day: looking at Dylan’s verses and judging them as poetry. He may find it’s possible to despise such anti-poetic doggerel for purely aesthetic reasons, without committing a deadly sin.

Here are a few examples, plucked out of the website of ‘Bob Dylan’s Best Lyrics’. If these are his best, I shudder to think what his worst might be:

“You that build all the bombs// You that hide behind walls// You that hide behind desks// I just want you to know// I can see through your masks”

Modern poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, and in fact vers libre is par for its course. But Dylan obviously thinks that ‘masks’ rhymes with ‘desks’, which isn’t so much libre as inepte.

But never mind the form, feel the content. These lines are the blabbering of a 10-year-old with learning difficulties. Forget poetry; these effluvia don’t even qualify as clever doggerel.

“Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth// You’re an idiot, babe// It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe”

Lyrical poetry, it’s been a-changin’ since “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…” ‘Teeth’ and ‘breathe’ don’t rhyme either, but that’s their problem, not Bob’s. But what’s this obsession with blowing wind? Dylan must suffer from chronic flatulence, and his sublime poetry is a profoundly oblique reference to it.

“Every man’s conscience is vile and depraved// You cannot depend on it to be your guide when it’s you who must keep it satisfied”

Perhaps I was too generous earlier, when comparing Dylan to a 10-year-old with learning difficulties. Even that hypothetical lad wouldn’t sink to such pseudo-philosophical depths, unless helped along by a handful of hallucinogens.

“Yes, I wish that for just one time// You could stand inside my shoes// You’d know what a drag it is to see you”

One has to be as perceptive as Appleyard to discern the existential angst so expertly, if deceptively, conveyed by these lines. The rest of us might think this is just a modern barbarian spouting offensive gibberish.

The Academy’s “job is to seek out and reward a plausible candidate for the best work of the age, wherever and whatever it may be,” explains Appleyard. “Certainly the word literature is a restraint but it is pretty loose and getting looser.”

Quite. It’s getting so loose it’s disappearing up its own rectum. Literature is what anyone says it is: graffiti in a public lavatory, Dan Brown’s novels, ‘Off the pigs’ poster, Bob Dylan’s lyrics. If a pickled cow is art and deafening cacophony is music, why can’t Bob’s doggerel be poetry? The times they are a’changin’, and never mind the commas.

To support this astute observation, Appleyard approvingly quotes Salman Rushdie, that living vindication of fatwa: “The frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting that the Nobel prize recognises that.”

Expansionem ad absurdum, if I’ve ever seen it. The frontiers of everything keep widening, Salman and Brian, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Moral frontiers are now wide enough to accommodate homosexual marriage, euthanasia and abortion on demand. Social frontiers are pushed out to welcome puddles of vomit on pavements every weekend. Political frontiers have expanded to contain mass murder, surrender of sovereignty and Tony Blair.

In matters cultural especially, widening usually spells diminution – certainly these days, when our civilisation is collapsing all around us. Adding fruit and veg may constitute a welcome dietary expansion; adding poison and human flesh doesn’t.

Rather than slinging mud at those who don’t swap intellectual integrity for vain pretentions of cool, Brian ought to buy himself a tweed jacket and start thinking like a grown-up.

Then perhaps he’ll realise that at a time like ours it’s the moral duty of every educated man to be a cultural reactionary – fighting rearguard action against the barbarian assault spearheaded by the likes of Bob Dylan and encouraged by the Nobel committee.

That may delay their triumph, if not prevent it. But above all, a resolute stand against modern perversions may save one’s own soul. You know, that thing Appleyard and Rushdie probably don’t think exists.