World economy sold short

If it’s true that there’s an opportunity in every crisis, then there exists today the greatest opportunity in a decade. But not necessarily for you and me.

Cui bono, Mr Sechin?

As stock markets register the biggest fall since 2008, pensioners, savers and small investors are getting hammered. That’s hardly surprising, considering that some of the world’s major markets, including China, are more or less in a lockdown.

As a result, the FTSE 100 has lost the better part of half a trillion pounds, £144 billion just yesterday, and none of the equivalent indices is doing better. The immediate reason for such plummeting is the global coronavirus hysteria, with people encouraged to run scared.

Markets respond by giving a new twist to the old Nietzschean adage. In this case, it could be paraphrased as “what doesn’t kill you will make you poorer”. And the virus has a much greater potential of causing the second calamity than the first.

After all, markets are more sensitive to the perception of reality than to reality itself. Thanks to today’s masses’ steady diet of mass media, the distinction between the two is blurred. Yet actual reality does exist, and it warrants caution rather than panic.

Coronavirus isn’t the Black Death that wiped out between a third and 60 per cent of Europe’s population in the 14th century. Nor is it Spanish flu that killed between 17 and 100 million in 1918-1920.

By contrast, so far Covid-19 has claimed 3,584 victims worldwide. Comparing this with seasonal flu that kills between 291,000 and 646,000 every year ought to put things in perspective.

Unlike reality, perception can be manipulated, and some groups have a vested interest in doing so. The media are usually singled out as a culprit, and with good reason: panic sells papers and products advertised on TV.

Yet other, possibly more significant, culprits hardly get a mention. It’s market speculators who stand to earn trillions by short-selling and asset-stripping. In case you have more important things to worry about, short-selling benefits from shares falling.

A trader borrows a large number of declining shares at rock-bottom prices. Then, when the prices rise, he sells his position at the new high level and remits the cost of the borrowed cheap shares to the original owner. The profits can be staggering, and the greater the original fall, the greater the returns.

Asset-strippers are another genus of vultures circling around moribund companies. The moment a company’s market value plunges below its assets (in 2008, some firms were even worth less than their cash reserves), the asset-strippers pounce, buy the company, tear it up, sell off its assets and get richer.

Since I’ve seen no reports to that effect, this is purely conjecture on my part. But I’m certain that such vultures have a large role to play in the scale of the crisis.

Some of those creatures live in Russia, nesting in and close to the Kremlin. Prime among them is Igor Sechin, Putin’s former KGB colleague, seen as Russia’s sinister eminence grise.

As chairman of Rosneft, the world’s largest publicly traded company, he keeps his hand on what the Russians sardonically call their “oil needle”, hydrocarbons being the sustenance to which the country’s economy is addicted.

On 6 March, Sechin (with Putin’s blessing) instigated a move that looks incomprehensible outside the avian context I outlined above. Russia abruptly severed her agreement with OPEC about keeping crude production low.

Predictably Saudi Arabia responded by slashing prices and dramatically increasing production. As a result, Brent prices, already dropping due to the coronavirus crisis, went down 30 per cent, dealing a huge blow to the Russian economy.

Or so one would think, off the top. Yet Russian realities can’t be skimmed off the top; they reside at a greater depth.

Sechin’s official explanation for this seemingly crazy move evokes the cliché of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The purpose, he explained, is to put US shale producers out of business: at prices below $40 a barrel, shale oil is produced at a loss.

Taking those greedy Yanks down a peg seems like a sufficient justification for impoverishing the already indigent Russians even further. Overnight the rouble lost 10 per cent of its value against the dollar.

Since everything worth buying in Russia is imported, and the cost of imports will grow, the people will bear the brunt of Sechin’s initiative. Yet this reminds me of an old Soviet story about a collective farmer attending the Party Congress in Moscow, presided over by the Politburo.

When he returns home, his friends ask him how things were in the Kremlin. “Lads,” says the farmer, “you wouldn’t believe it. Government of the people, by the people and for the people. And I saw those people!

Mutatis mutandis, the same joke would work just as well nowadays. The Russian government runs solely for the benefit of those in and around it, Putin’s personal cronies, mainly from the KGB.

And what’s poison to the Russian people may well be meat to those people. Hence I don’t believe that Sechin’s attack on those shale Yanks has only an aesthetic value to him and his boss. One suspects a pecuniary motive at play as well.

Russian gangsters, otherwise known as oligarchs, have trillions in purloined cash sloshing in global offshore funds. This can be easily shown by comparing the oil revenues of Norway and Russia.

Russia’s oil production is about four times that of Norway. Yet the latter’s reserves of oil cash stand at $1.1 trillion – to Russia’s $100 billion, roughly one tenth of Norway’s. True, Russia pumps more of her oil revenues into the internal economy. Yet most of them go into those offshore accounts, and the populace be damned.

Having that much ready cash enables Russian traders-raiders to move in with ease on any flagging company and buy it at a deflated price. At this point they can either asset-strip it or simply wait for the share prices to go up. Some short-selling may come in handy as well, ultimately serving the same purpose.

It’s not just the Russians of course. Vultures breed in the West too, and they are just as ravenous.

But seldom do they act in the same blatant manner – our civilisational veneer still encourages some semblance of tact. Yet when it comes to Messrs Putin, Sechin et al., no such constraints exist.

8 March, brought to you courtesy of MeToo

This time every year, I vent my spleen on the subject of the International Women’s Day, and the amount of stuff to vent grows every year.

Here’s a little something for you, love, and no, you don’t have to duck

This communist holiday has now been thoroughly naturalised here, dovetailing neatly as it does into the burgeoning ethos of MeToo and other toxic movements. The Times, formerly a conservative paper, even ran a gushing editorial on it, producing a strong emetic effect in yours truly.

Being enfeebled by pneumonia, I can’t find anything to say on this subject that I haven’t said before. So here’s my last year’s piece, in case you missed it then.

First we had Mothering Sunday, a religious holiday Western Christians celebrate on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Then, under the influence of the US, Mothering Sunday was largely replaced by Mother’s Day, a secular holiday with no religious overtones whatsoever. That’s understandable: our delicate sensibilities can no longer accommodate any Christian festivals other than Christmas Shopping.

Now that secular but basically unobjectionable holiday has been supplemented by International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated by all progressive mankind on 8 March. Our delicate sensibilities aren’t offended at all.

Actually, though the portion of mankind that celebrates 8 March calls itself progressive, it isn’t really entitled to this modifier – unless one accepts the propensity for murdering millions just for the hell of it as an essential aspect of progress.

For, not to cut too fine a point, 8 March is a communist event, declared a national holiday by the Bolsheviks in 1917, immediately after they seized power and started killing people with the gusto and on a scale never before seen in history. A few wires were expertly pulled after the war, and IWD also got enshrined in Soviet satellites.

The event actually originated in America, where the Socialist Party arbitrarily chose that date to express solidarity with the 1909 strike of female textile workers. Yet the holiday didn’t catch on in the States, doubtless because the Socialist Party never did.

Outside the Soviet bloc, 8 March went uncelebrated, unrecognised and, until recently, unknown. I remember back in 1974, when I worked at NASA, visiting Soviet astronauts made a big show of wishing female American employees a happy 8 March, eliciting only consternation and the stock Texan response of “Say what?”

The event was big in the Soviet Union, with millions of men giving millions of women bunches of mimosas, boxes of chocolates – and, more important, refraining from giving them a black eye, a practice rather more widespread in Russia than in the West.

But not on 8 March. That was the day when men scoured their conscience clean by being effusively lovey-dovey – so that they could resume abusing women the very next day, on 9 March. For Russia was then, and still remains, out of reach for the fashionable ideas about women’s equality or indeed humanity. As the Russian proverb goes, “A chicken is no bird, a wench is no person.”

Much as one may be derisory about feminism, it’s hard to justify the antediluvian abuse, often physical, that’s par for the course in Russia, especially outside central Moscow or Petersburg. Proponents of the plus ça change philosophy of history would be well-advised to read Dostoyevsky on this subject.

In A Writer’s Diary Dostoyevsky describes in terrifying detail the characteristic savagery of a peasant taking a belt or a stick to his trussed-up wife, lashing at her, ignoring her pleas for mercy until, pounded into a bloody pulp, she stops pleading or moving. However, according to the writer, this in no way contradicted the brute’s inner spirituality, so superior to Western materialistic legalism. Ideology does work in mysterious ways.

The Russian village still has the same roads (typically none) as at the time that was written, and it still has the same way of treating womenfolk – but not on 8 March. On that day the Soviets were house-trained to express their solidarity with the oppressed women of the world, or rather specifically of the capitalist world.

As a conservative, I have my cockles warmed by the traditionalist way in which the Russians lovingly maintain Soviet traditions, including the odd bit of murder by the state, albeit so far on a smaller scale. Why we have adopted some of the same traditions, at a time when communism has supposedly collapsed, is rather harder to explain.

But why stop here? Many Britons, especially those of the Labour persuasion, already celebrate May Day, with red flags flying to symbolise the workers’ blood spilled by the ghastly capitalists. May Day is celebrated in Russia, so what better reason do we need? None at all. But why not spread the festivities more widely?

The Russians also celebrate 7 November, on which day in 1917 the Bolsheviks introduced social justice expressed in mass murder and universal slavery. I say we’ve been ignoring this glorious event far too long. And neither do we celebrate Red Army Day on 23 February – another shameful omission.

But at least we seem to be warming up to 8 March, an important communist event. At least we’re moving in the right direction.

A reader of mine suggested that those who celebrate IWD should perform the ballistically and metaphysically improbable act of inserting the holiday into a certain receptacle originally designed for exit only. While I don’t express myself quite so robustly in this space, I second the motion.

Cherie (Mrs Tony) Blair once predictably expressed her support for IWD, ending her letter to The Times with “Count me in”. Well, count me out.

Is great art beyond good and evil?

A thoughtful reader asked this Nietzschean question, which would take a longish book on aesthetics to answer properly. Answering it in a shortish article is impossible, but one has to try one’s best.

This painting can answer the question in the title better than I can

There’s a corollary second question: Is a great artist beyond good and evil? And a third question coming out of the second: Can an evil man create great art?

Such difficult questions have simple answers within a cogent moral and intellectual system. As someone whose universe is mainly demarcated by Christian coordinates, I find it easy to say, no, nothing and nobody is beyond good and evil.

Yet there comes Nietzsche with his Übermensch, in effect a demiurge, who soars above such philistine or, worse still, religious precepts. The question is, who, other than Nietzsche himself, is the Superman in our midst?

Here Nietzsche’s fallacy naturally overlaps with the glorification of the artist omnipresent in the Romantic Age. God having been debunked, someone had to fill the vacancy thus formed. And, though the artist had no realistic hope of rising on the third day, he could at least take on some qualities of the Superman demiurge.

After all, he, the artist, was a god-like creator. He might not have created the universe, but at least he created a vision of reality more real than reality itself. And, since his audience no longer believed in God, the artist could claim the distinction of being the only creator around, a God surrogate.

That elevation provided a vantage point from which the writer could look down on the world and feel entitled to usurp another one of God’s functions: teaching what was good or evil, moral or immoral, beautiful or ugly.

Some, such as Tolstoy, took that hubristic tendency to a risible extreme, eventually abandoning their sublime art and beginning to pontificate on morality, philosophy, aesthetics, politics and economics with the self-confidence of a jumped-up ignoramus.

Such artists saw no contradiction in preaching one thing and doing another. As self-appointed demiurges, their earthly actions mattered nothing compared to their celestial pronouncements. Thus Tolstoy could happily combine a sermon of sexual teetotalism and the evil of property ownership with siring a platoon of illegitimate children by the serf girls on his baronial estate.

When the subject of art and morality comes up, another great Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin, inevitably makes an appearance. In his drama Mozart and Salieri, Pushkin makes Mozart say: “Genius and evil are two things incompatible.”

This betokens a belief that, far from being beyond morality, the artist forfeits a claim to genius when he transgresses against it.

Of the two incompatible things, evil is easier to define. A theologian will define it as merely the absence of good, a secular thinker as a propensity to perpetrate or at least vindicate evil acts, a philosopher as perhaps the advocacy of evil ideas.

But how is an artist of genius different from one of mere talent? Schopenhauer answered this question epigrammatically, as he often did: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Accepting this brilliant aphorism as a working hypothesis, we can each compile our own lists of artistic geniuses. The lists may differ, but they’ll largely overlap. Everyone will probably agree, for example, that William Shakespeare was a playwright of genius, whereas Terence Rattigan was one of mere talent.

Now let’s backtrack to the original questions. Can an artist of genius be an evil man? If he is, can he keep his personal evil from his art? Does a work of art fly free of its creator, acquiring a life of its own, or is it stigmatised for ever with the scars of the artist’s personality?

That art has an essential moral dimension has been known since Hellenic antiquity. Thus, for example, Plato on music: “Music is a moral law… It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

By inference, music emanating from an evil man can also lead to all that is bad, unjust and ugly – let’s not forget that Plato also invented the concept of dialectics. One way or the other, music or art in general can’t be beyond good or evil by definition.

I find the view that art, once produced, is divorced from the artist to be simplistic, if superficially attractive. This notion became popular when modern critics, typically of the left, began to see works of art as mechanical reproductions of the artist’s ideology, class or race.

Hence it became fashionable to counter that the artist’s personality has little if any bearing on his work. He lives as one man and creates as another (Pushkin, incidentally, propagated this view in many of his poems – he wasn’t immune to the fashionable view of an artist as a demiurge).

That may be true superficially, but it’s false at a deeper level. The artist’s personality informs every aspect of his art, but it often does so in ways invisible to the naked eye.

Thus a discerning observer could deduce Wagner’s views from much of his music, including his rabid anti-Semitism that, contrary to a popular misapprehension, Nietzsche shared (as any reader of his pamphlet Der Antichrist will know).

In his philosophy, Wagner jumped backwards, leapfrogging Christendom and landing in the midst of German sylvan folklore replete with proto-Nietzschean – and proto-Nazi – visions of Teutonic titans rising above the masses. These motifs are clearly audible in Wagner’s work, and would be even if one were unfamiliar with his pamphlets.

Wagner was a great innovator, arguably one of the most influential composers in history. At its very best, his music approaches genius without, in my view, ever quite reaching it. Germany’s sylvan past could inspire much coarse sensuality and soupy emoting, but little subtlety of feeling and thought essential to Christian art.

Tolstoy’s person also often interferes with his art, seldom in a positive way. For as long as his artistic genius could keep his personal failings at bay, he remained an artist of genius, one who wrote about death and childbirth with a poignancy unmatched by anyone else.

But even his magnificent novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina creaked at times under the weight of his supposedly moral, in fact moralising, sermons and pseudo-philosophical asides. His artistic genius pulled through there, but his last big work, Resurrection, sank to the bottom of cheap philosophising.

Both he and Dostoyevsky failed to see how their commitment to preaching through their novels caused artistic damage. Thus both were prone to replacing sentiment with sentimentality, dragging in banal, beaten-to-death protagonists, such as the whore with a heart of gold first ruined and then saved. Their artistry couldn’t resist the toxic effects of their personalities.

If art can never cast away the moral and intellectual failings of its creator, nor can it rise above the morality governing the world in which the artist lives. Beyond good and evil? Absolutely not. Art can’t be; and if it tries it stops being art, never mind great art.  

Ban the US Constitution

America’s founding documents should be banned because their authors sinned against our modern sensibilities.

The portrait of a paedo as an old man

Most of them were slave owners, prompting Dr Johnson to remark at the time: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

The good doctor himself sinned against a code of later vintage by referring to Afro-Americans [sic!] as negroes, thus showing a lamentable lack of foresight. But his sin was minor compared to, say, the sins of Jefferson, Madison, Washington et al.

Jefferson, for example, not only owned over 600 black slaves, but he also multiplied their number by using the women among them for a bit of how’s-your-founding-father. And when a runaway slave was caught, Jefferson had him whipped to raw meat.

So you must agree that both the Declaration of Independence he wrote and the Constitution he inspired should be declared null and void. You don’t? Then you lack the acute moral sense of British and American distributors who have effectively banned Roman Polanski’s film J’Accuse from our screens.

To a large extent, theirs is a prudently pragmatic decision. In an atmosphere of mass hysteria whipped up by MeToo, cinemas showing Polanski’s award-winning film would be definitely picketed and possibly torched.

For back in 1978 Mr Polanski absconded from the US, having pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Having chosen Paris over prison, he has since avoided both the US and countries having extradition treaties with it.

The underlying assumption, if this word applies to frenzied demagogues, is that an author’s objectionable personality or acts invalidate his work, rendering it unfit for public consumption.

Accepting that postulate for the sake of argument, the fair man in me demands that it be extended beyond the frisky Mr Polanski. Alas, if we display such laudable consistency, we’d find ourselves on a cultural starvation diet.

Leaving aside politics and concentrating on art alone, one has to observe with some chagrin that creative pursuits require so much self-absorption that an artist is unlikely to conform to the middleclass notions of goodness.

Kind, altruistic, self-abnegating artists must have cropped up here and there in history, but they are hugely outnumbered by an assortment of perverts, cads and bounders.

If you look at the great Russian writers of the 19th century, you’ll hardly find one who wasn’t an anti-Semite, a pervert or, in the case of Gogol and Dostoyevsky, both.

Dostoyevsky, incidentally, might have committed the same crime as Polanski, and yet so far no one has called for a public burning of Crime and Punishment or The Possessed (where that crime is described with inside knowledge).

Much worse, swarms of great 20th century artists and thinkers collaborated with the two satanic creeds of modernity. Furtwängler, Strauss, Gieseking, Schwarzkopf, Cortot, Heidegger, Karajan, Céline, Hamsun, Merezhkovsky, Gippius all besmirched themselves with brown blotches, and some, such as Céline and Karajan, did so with deep inner conviction.

Karajan, for example, first joined the Nazi Party in his native Austria, but then chose to reconfirm his commitment after the Anschluss by also joining the German branch. When Hitler attended his concerts, Karajan arranged the audience in the shape of the swastika, pleasing Der Führer no end.

The French film industry not only survived under the Nazis but indeed flourished. Next time you watch one of my favourite films, Marcel Carné’s Les enfants du paradis, remind yourself that it was made under the occupation. Some degree of collaboration or, to be kind, conformism, would have been essential.

As to the list of writers, filmmakers, artists and musicians who actively contaminated the world with the red syphilis, it’s so long that it would be tedious to cite here. One name is worth mentioning though, for Isaac Babel was one of Russia’s most accomplished stylists, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath with Gogol and Chekhov.

Yet during the Civil War, Babel served in the CheKa unit attached to the First Horse Army that cut a swathe through southern Russia and the Ukraine, murdering, raping, torturing and pillaging as it went. That experience produced one of the greatest cycle of short stories in world literature, but Babel glossed over his own role in those crimes.

It’s unclear whether he tortured anyone personally, but he definitely took part in executions. His devotion to Bolshevik brutality stood him in good stead afterwards, when most of his friends were high NKVD officials, including Yezhov himself, with whose wife Babel had an affair. Eventually, the writer came to a sticky end, but that’s a different matter.

Should I deny myself the pleasure of rereading Babel’s Odessa Stories or Red Cavalry out of distaste for his personality? Throw away Furtwängler’s recordings of Beethoven or Gieseking’s of Debussy? More important, should I deny their legacy to others if I were in a position to do so?

Pointless questions, every one of them. For when the fire of ideology enters a man’s belly, it ends up scorching his brain. Ideologues don’t ask themselves probing questions; they just let their knees jerk.

None of this is to say that Polanski should be above the law. Even though his case wasn’t without legal glitches, he deserved punishment. But his films don’t – they live a life of their own and ought to be judged on their own merits.

If you don’t like Meghan, you’re a racist

Such is the view of Dame Hilary Mantel, the writer of prolix pseudohistorical novels beloved of faddish critics and those who take them seriously.

Don’t spit at the image

As a literary celebrity, Dame Hilary assumes the right to speak for all of us, both collectively and individually. She obviously feels, against evidence, that her novels alone can’t bore us sufficiently.

“Meghan,” she writes, “was too good to be true. She was a smiling face in a dull institution, she cheered the nation up no end, or at least men and women of goodwill.”

At least there’s no novelistic equivocation here: if you weren’t cheered no end by Meghan, you aren’t a person of goodwill. Specifically, you are a racist, for there can be no other explanation for your sourpuss at the sight of Meghan.

“I do think abominable racism has been involved,” continues Dame Hilary. “People who say that’s got nothing to do with it – well, they need to check their privilege.” Whatever that means.

Assuming that the final word should have been not ‘privilege’ but ‘prejudice’, I’ve done as I’m told. I took stock of my prejudices and found none against pretty half-caste girls. I did, however, find some others.

Turns out I’m prejudiced against anybody who damages our monarchy. Corollary to that is my history-based prejudice against twice-divorced American actresses of dubious virtue using our royal family as a social-climbing ladder.

I’m prejudiced against anyone marrying into the royal family who doesn’t understand that such nuptials presuppose a lifetime commitment to service. It’s ‘service’, Meghan, not ‘self-service’. You must have misheard.

I’m prejudiced against any immigrant who knows next to nothing about Britain and understands even less, but nonetheless feels entitled to preach a full agenda of woke idiocies loudly and insistently.

I’m especially prejudiced against such a person when, by mouthing her inanities, she harms the central institution of British polity.

I’m prejudiced against foreign D-actresses treating that institution as merely a stepping stone to self-promotion and riches.

Actually, I’m also prejudiced against those born to the royal family who are stupid enough to let such gold-diggers drive a wedge into the family.

And I’m prejudiced against British writers who have so little understanding of their country’s institutions as to be able to write that, “I’m pleased that it’s the marriage that’s surviving and the connection with the monarchy that has to go…”

Touched though I am by Dame Hilary’s affection for the institution of marriage, I am appalled by her disdain for another vital institution that used to depend on marriage for its strength, but no longer can.

I understand that Dame Hilary is promoting her latest crushing bore of a novel and hence will say anything to keep her name in the news. Such crass commercialism is another thing I’m prejudiced against.   

Organic farming, Chinese style

A Chinese soldier was sentenced to be shot. Shot he was – but he wasn’t killed. While the soldier was still breathing, his kidney and eyeballs were taken out, to be sold to the highest bidder in the spirit of free enterprise.

“Man is but a sum of his parts”

The report by the international China Tribunal to be published today will list thousands of similar instances. Organ harvesting is yet another growth industry in China, and many of the donors are slaughtered specifically to provide the products.

The products – hearts, kidneys, lungs, corneas, livers and skin (sold by the square centimetre) – are high value. For example, a kidney goes for $200,000; a liver, for $300,000. Pre-orders are welcome: prospective donors can be custom-slaughtered, and their organs transplanted while still fresh.

The original owners of the merchandise don’t even have to carry donor cards. Some probably do, but an article in a journal of medical ethics showed that of the 120,000 organ transplants carried out in China between 1977 and 2009, only 130 were voluntary.

Business has picked up since 2009, with some 90,000 operations carried out every year, which is a fitting paean for the champions of both organic farming and free enterprise.  

The Chinese authorities claim libel, but then they would, wouldn’t they? Occasionally, their censorship has an off day, and their own medical journals inadvertently let the cat out of the bag.

One article that slipped through by such oversight thoughtfully weighed the pros and cons of anaesthetising a donor before his heart and lungs were removed. The honest author made no claim that the patient would survive the operation.

One can understand the dilemma: anaesthetics don’t come cheap, so why waste them on someone who’s going to die anyway? I don’t know if the Chinese have a saying like our ‘waste not, want not’, but I suspect they do.

The harvest delivered by such organic farming seems to be particularly good in Xinjiang and other areas of western China, where Uighur Muslims live. However, reports show that many of them don’t live long.

They are being rounded up and sent to re-education (aka concentration) camps where many are put down and sold for parts. Apparently, their organs are in high demand in Saudi Arabia for being halal: the Uigurs neither drink nor smoke, which keeps their organs in the pristine condition demanded by their exacting religion.

Some Buddhist sects receive a similar treatment, even though their innards aren’t necessarily halal. But, according to one Chinese transplant surgeon, they keep their bodies in such good shape that their organs are commendably healthy.

However, it’s the Uigurs who seem to yield the best crop, which is why western China has become a magnet for organ tourism. Airports there even feature ‘human organ transport channels’, signposted in both Chinese and English. This bespeaks a respect for wealthy people undiminished under the communists: at $300,000 a pop, only a highly respectable person can afford, say, a liver.

So what will happen when the report is published? How will it affect trade with China? The answer is, not at all.

Western governments will claim that the evidence is insufficient, no matter how many Chinese doctors will have admitted slaughtering people for their organs (some already have). After all, trade with China is lucrative, and what could possibly be more important than that?

In my book The Crisis Behind Our Crisis, I questioned the morality of importing vast quantities of goods produced by slave labour (an admittedly more visible source, the new film Greed, talks about that too). But of course morality doesn’t come into it.

Cutting China off from the global economy would make us all poorer and, more critical, our ‘leaders’ less electable. Can’t have that, can we now?

Far be it from me to suggest we boycott goods coming from countries different from ours. Yet there exists a demarcation line separating ‘different from ours’ and unspeakably evil.

Contrary to frequent claims, doing trillions’ worth of trade with China’s regime won’t make it less evil. It’ll only make it more powerful, more able to impose its evil on others.

Our cynical ‘leaders’ know this perfectly well, and don’t care. Their immediate electoral prospects soar above all other considerations. Many of their charges, however, have been seduced into genuinely believing in the redemptive nature of free markets.

I’d be a rich man if I had £100 for each time a libertarian or even a soi disant conservative told me that, once a tyranny has allowed free markets, everything else will follow. It’ll become a paragon of liberty overnight and a thousand – nay, a trillion – flowers will bloom, each representing a currency unit.

We in the West still acknowledge, for old times’ sake, that man is more than a sum of his parts. But, to keep brisk trade with China going, we’ll accept its denial of this basic principle as merely a cultural difference. We have one culture, they have another. Who’s to say ours is better?

One would think this hardly needs telling, and in fact it doesn’t. Screaming about China’s take on organic farming is an exercise in futility.

Once the report comes out, a kaleidoscope of headlines will adorn our papers for a few days. And then we’ll go back to comfier stories calculating the number of children Boris Johnson has sired or the number of women Harvey Weinstein has violated.

Whoever said “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” had a point, although I doubt that truly good men can ever take evil lying down. One way or the other, learn Chinese, ladies and gentlemen.