Communist China has no human face

‘Communism with a human face’ was a popular buzz phrase back in the 1960s, mostly spread in countries such as Italy, where the communist party was pushing for electoral victories.

Muzzle or no muzzle, it still bites

Like everything emanating from communists, the slogan was a lie. Communism has no human face, nor can ever develop it. All it has is a lupine scowl, baring its red fangs.

If anyone had any doubts on that score, the news coming out of China ought to dispel them. Benefiting from these insights would be not only assorted lefties, but also libertarians, who see free markets as a guarantor of virtue.

If their theories were true, China would have learned to act in a civilised fashion by now. Its markets were largely freed up after all. And markets aren’t just self-regulating. They also impose public morality, a culture of equity and consent. Is that right, my libertarian friends?

It actually isn’t. For China remains as evil as it was under Mao, except that it displays that quality in different ways. Such is the way it has responded to Covid-19.

Downing Street estimates that the actual number of deaths in China is 15 to 40 times greater than what the communists claim. That is no minor matter, for other countries try to model their actions on China’s experience. Thus the US delayed its response for a month on that basis.

Yet the spirit of commerce, for which the Chinese have been known in Asia for centuries, is very much alive there, manifesting itself with nice touches that are indigenously communist.

Thus, when China was already afflicted with the virus, but hadn’t yet spread it around the world, Italy generously supplied tonnes of PPE (personal protection equipment). That irredeemably ‘capitalist’ country did so out of the goodness of its heart, which means for free.

Then Italy itself was hit – hard, harder than China ever was, if one believes its official figures. And even if one doesn’t, Italy’s relative plight is still greater because its population is 20 times smaller.

Now that Italy itself was in trouble, the Chinese communists offered a helping hand – by selling Italians the very same supplies Italy had generously given China for free.

Or at least one hopes it’s the same PPE, rather than an equivalent of Chinese manufacture. The products of that great trading nation are better known for their low price than high quality. While with most goods this may only be cause for minor irritation, with PPE it becomes a matter of life of death.

Thus Spain, having paid £382 million for China’s largesse, has had to send back 50,000 testing kits that didn’t test. And the Dutch recalled 600,000 protective masks made in China because, well, they didn’t protect.

The interesting question is how civilised countries will handle relations with China in the aftermath of the pandemic, if indeed it ever ends. Now, the signals sent by HMG may be more reliable than those sent by the communists, but only marginally so.

Referring to the Chinese disinformation campaign as “disgusting”, a Downing Street spokesman suggested that China risks becoming a pariah state. Moreover, several Western governments, including ours, are suing China for trillions.

The level of self-deception involved in such actions fully matches that of the ‘60s, when communism was supposed to be acquiring a human face. For, even if such lawsuits do materialise, and the judgement goes against China, the chances of collecting are, in broad numbers, nil.

As to turning China into a pariah state, if you believe that I can get you a good price for a bridge over the Yangtze. Western greed and unquenchable thirst for a cheap production base (even one using effectively slave labour) has turned China into a global powerhouse, both economically and militarily.

Western economies can only go cold turkey on Chinese trade at their peril. And China holds trillions in Western (mainly US) cash and securities, meaning it could crash the global economies even worse than coronavirus will.

If you believe that Western governments can stand on principle regardless of economic consequences, that aforementioned bridge has just got discounted. Let’s just wait for free markets to work their magic and turn China into a benign state, shall we?

P.S. Speaking of disgusting things, our ‘liberal’ papers can barely conceal their joy at Boris Johnson’s dire condition. Should he die, one can see those ‘liberals’ dancing in the streets. Regardless of how you feel about Mr Johnson’s political acumen, I hope you’ll join me in praying for his full recovery. Please don’t give those ghouls (including a Labour mayor) cause for celebration, Boris.

Can we vote ourselves into slavery?

Why governments respond to coronavirus by converting so-called liberal democracies into police states is reasonably clear.

The message has reached our shores

Any political institution of modernity, regardless of its self-description, is mainly concerned with self-empowerment. However, democracies need a credible justification for their powerlust, and in that sense Covid-19 is a godsend. The message of “it’s all for your own good” can’t be gainsaid easily.

That, however, doesn’t mean it can’t be gainsaid at all. One would think that people weaned on the ideals of liberty would have them coded into their DNA. One would think they’d revolt against losing their liberties and livelihoods, some of both doubtless irrevocably.

One would think wrong. HMG’s draconian measures are enjoying overwhelming public support. Even the health secretary’s threat to ban the one permitted exercise outing a day didn’t cause much excitement.

When reality belies assumptions, especially on a massive scale, there must be something wrong with the assumptions. So no, the ideals of liberty aren’t really coded into the people’s DNA.

Yet democracy has had plenty of time to create a new type of man, one prepared to die defending his secular liberties, one ever ready to repeat Patrick Henry’s words: “Give me liberty or give me death!”

A new type of man has indeed been created, but his ringing words are different: “Take all my freedoms, including one from want, arrest me if I venture outside without a valid reason – but please, please protect me from any risk of death for as long as possible.”

People congenitally fear death; such is our nature, and in that sense we’re no different from skunks. But we differ from such creatures in that we’re capable of fearing death for reasons other than purely animal ones.

For the Judaeo-Christian civilisation was built on the belief that life never ends; that, an animal though a man may be, he isn’t just an animal. He is endowed with a high purpose that transcends earthly concerns, and his life everlasting will depend on how his temporal life serves that purpose.

Hence man used to fear not only death, but also the judgement after death. It followed logically that some metaphysical considerations trumped physical ones, including death. That logic was indeed emblazoned into man’s consciousness, and it largely determined his attitude to the state.

A materialist who believes that his life will end at death will always attach a great importance to his physicality, along with its trappings. Someone who knows he is immortal will pay less attention to the stage set within which the eternal drama of his life is played out.

The same applies to the complex interaction between the state and the individual. The Christian believes his life is eternal. He also knows from history books that the life of a state isn’t: even extremely successful ones only ever lasted between 1,000 and 1,500 years.

Compared to eternity, this stretch is minuscule. That individual will therefore perceive himself as more significant than the state and for that reason alone will never accept its tyranny.

Etched into his soul is the conviction that he is transcendent, but the state is transient. Hence in everything that matters he can only regard the state not as his master but as his servant.

If the state assumes the role of master, then the believer may either resist it or pretend to be going along to protect himself from persecution. But inwardly he’ll never acquiesce. 

At the same time the materialist may well accept the tyranny of a powerful state more readily. After all, his lifespan is much shorter than the state’s. The state had existed before his birth and will happily survive his death.

That’s why when it is communicated to him that he must obey the state no matter what, then, however much he may loathe the idea, he’ll find it hard to come up with a strong argument against it while at the same time remaining a staunch materialist.

Modern democracy pilfered its name from Athens, but Johnson or Macron can’t be confused with Pericles or Solon, today’s parliaments with agoras, and today’s voters with Hellenic citizens.

Citizenship in a democracy implies direct participation in government. Hence it presupposes an ability to self-govern on the basis of a well-developed faculty to judge affairs of the state, both in general and in particular.

That faculty can’t be spread too wide, whatever the level of public education. That’s why both Plato and Aristotle believed that, when the franchise exceeded 5,000 or so, it became unworkable – democracy turns into mob rule (“deviant constitution”, as Aristotle described it).

Anybody who believes that our comprehensively educated electorate is qualified to govern itself is deluded.

Most voters are staggeringly ignorant of politics, and especially how it fits into the general picture of life. When asked to substantiate their opinions – and God knows they have them – they’re not only incapable of doing so, but are in fact unaware of what constitutes a valid argument.

If Athenian schools taught rhetoric and philosophy above all, today’s schools teach Homosexuality for Beginners, The Use of Condoms, and Multi-Culti Virtue. A country whose education breeds mass idiocy can’t be a true democracy, especially if it extends suffrage to millions.

It can only be a sham one, a system that indoctrinates people to accept the illusion that they govern themselves. In reality, they are governed by a small, typically self-serving elite. That it ascends to power by a show of hands is an irrelevant technicality.

Such an elite consciously uproots every surviving sprig of higher freedom, along with the memory of what it was. It brainwashes people to believe that uniformity is diversity, egotism is individuality and voting is liberty.

In that undertaking our rulers succeed spectacularly. Give them a few generations of such brainwashing and they’ll produce a mass unable to define freedom, having no taste for it and ready to swap it, however defined, for a longer life.

This brings back the question in the title. Would we accept a popular vote in favour of selling us into slavery? Would we feel that democracy is thereby served?

For make no mistake about it: coronavirus shows that, given sufficient provocation, our public will happily underwrite such a transaction – at a derisory price.

Thought for food

Our hacks insist on drawing parallels between our current plight and the Second World War.

As Americans say, “Enjoy!”

Some point out biliously that coronavirus managed to do what the Luftwaffe couldn’t: shut the country down. During the war, London shops and restaurants didn’t have much to offer, but at least they stayed open.

Anyway, all such comparisons with the war inevitably veer towards food, specifically shortages thereof. That comparison isn’t particularly valid.

For, compared to the wartime shortages (one egg every other week etc.), we are enjoying a veritable cornucopia. That, however, doesn’t mean that our diets and ways we procure food haven’t changed.

They have, and we’ve all had to adapt. Thus supermarkets have stopped being the mainstay of food shopping for many, certainly for me.

However, here in London we’re blessed with many small groceries and ethnic delis, making life easier, if slightly more expensive. Also, my freezer that normally contains nothing but a bottle of vodka and some ice cubes is now bursting at the seams.

When the epidemic was just starting, I displayed a completely uncharacteristic foresight. First, I bought several large fillets of salmon and turned them into gravlax.

All one needs is some white alcohol (vodka, gin or white rum), capers, Maldon salt, sugar and fresh dill. Just rub the fillet with booze, stud it with capers, pat in a two-to-one mixture of salt and sugar, put some freshly ground pepper on and some chopped dill.

Then into the fridge overnight, after which the cured fish can comfortably live in the freezer for a fortnight or even longer. One fillet feeds two or at a stretch even three, especially if accompanied by sweet potato wedges roasted with olive oil and smoked paprika.

The next step towards filling the freezer is ragú sauce, which really is Bolognese – unlike the red muck supermarkets sell and some unscrupulous restaurants serve.

You just brown a fifty-fifty mixture of beef and pork mince in good olive oil, then bung in chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and chilli pepper, cook for a while longer, add any herbs you like (a mixture of rosemary, oregano, basil and bay is good), then drown the lot in good tinned tomatoes, an equal volume of water and a lug of red wine.

Simmer the sauce for a couple of hours, let it cool, then freeze in individual bags. If you start with 500g each of beef and pork, you’ll end up with six meals for two. The Bolognese usually put it on tagliatelle, but what do they know? Penne works much better because those little tubes get filled with the sauce when you mix the pasta.

All you need is some Parmesan on top, a salad on the side, a bottle of something red and Roberto è tuo zio, as Italians would say if they tried to translate ‘Bob’s your uncle’.

That’s it, freezer full, and that Absolut bottle is feeling distinctly crowded. However, the rest of the fridge could now step in to help out.

Here you need a large chicken, those vegetables you have left after making the ragú, and some of the same herbs. You use those ingredients to make about two litres of stock. The boiled chicken, minus skin and bones, can then be turned into a chicken salad. All you’ll need is some red onion, mixed olives, capers, some pickles (those in brine work best), balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

But the stock can make a single-dish meal for six – or, in my household, three meals for two. You must still have some onions, carrots and celery left, so soften them up in a little olive oil. Then add a good hunk of pancetta, some 150g, sliced across the piece.

I’ve tried to skimp on the pancetta and make it with our smoked bacon, but that’s like replacing the beef in ragú with lentils – can, but shouldn’t, be done. In France, I’d use poitrine fumée, but I can’t get to France during the lockdown, can I?

Oh yes, here comes the vegetable that gives the dish its name: cabbage soup. You shred a whole head roughly, add it to the pot, then in with your stock. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s it.

Once you’ve done your shopping in one go, you don’t have to break the social distancing diktat for some 16 days if you don’t want to. And if you’re as lazy as I am (and as quick), it’s about an hour’s cooking for the lot, not counting the time on the stove.

You can use those couple of hours to do a spot of domestic violence, which, according to our powers that be, is rife in our isolated environment. What better thing to do than beat your wife if you’re stuck with her all day long and the cops are too busy chasing sunbathers?

Now that sunbathing came up, I’d like to share with you a discovery I’ve made experimentally in physics, a discipline for which I’ve hitherto displayed no aptitude whatsoever.

When the weather stayed cold, whisky evaporated much faster than gin. Now the weather has turned summery, it’s the other way around. One of those mysteries of life, I suppose.

First principles do work

As a rule, I eschew the I-told-you-so genre of journalism. Tooting one’s own horn invariably produces discordant music in questionable taste.

Our NHS that art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy will be done…

And in any case, anyone writing regularly will get some things right on the strength of statistical probability alone. Pointing them out invites one’s detractors to cite things one got wrong, and that list may well be longer.

However, Charles Moore’s piece in today’s Telegraph has emboldened me to exercise a bit of vanity. For this is the first article I’ve ever seen in the mainstream press saying that the problems with the NHS just may be, to use the medical parlance, systemic rather than symptomatic.

Comparing the ways coronavirus is being fought in Britain and Germany, Mr Moore correctly states that our fully nationalised system can’t respond with the same efficacy and flexibility because it’s weighed down by parasitic, top-heavy bureaucracy.

In common with all such bureaucracies, it’s mostly concerned with protecting its own turf. This makes the NHS congenitally hostile to the private sector.

That’s why it fought for a fortnight against the rapid construction of a badly needed 4,000 bed hospital in East London. Once the NHS was forced to relent, the private sector stepped in and took just nine days to put up the UK’s largest hospital.

Mr Moore was also right in pointing out that, while some intrepid critics may at times find something wrong with the NHS in detail, no one has so far dared criticise the very principle on which it’s based.

It’s at that moment that a broad grin forced its way onto my face. For, ever since I moved to London 32 years ago, I’ve been saying and writing that the NHS has become an object of worship, if not downright deification. (If you tap ‘NHS’ in the search function of this blog, you’ll find dozens of pieces to that effect.)

No substantive criticism of it is possible – for the same reason that major religions discourage heresy and apostasy. The NHS is a surrogate deity, not a highly questionable way of financing medical care.

Even a close friend of mine, himself an NHS doctor and a conservative writer to boot, almost snapped my head off when I mentioned some 30 years ago that no entity built on egalitarian, which is to say false, premises will ever be successful. Since then he has changed his views, but then he’s an extremely intelligent man and therefore eminently capable of self-correction. Most people aren’t.

Part of his objection then was that I proceeded from a priori first principles, in that case that any large-scale socialist enterprise is corrupt by definition. Sooner or later, even if it didn’t start out that way, it’ll begin serving itself rather than the public.

The next step will be for the socialist enterprise to communicate the message that the public is supposed to serve it, rather than the other way around. Hence the PROTECT THE NHS slogan prominently displayed all over the country.

Mr Moore took exception to that self-serving message, but I (Me! Me! Me!) beat him to it by several days. Such quicker response comes from faith in first principles – provided I’m satisfied they are correct.

That’s me done – no more self-aggrandisement for any foreseeable future. Back to my self-effacing, vicariously British self.

Meanwhile, I hereby propose that Pontius Pilate be canonised, to assume the name of St Pontius, the patron saint of hand-washing and personal hygiene.  

Don and Vlad show on the road again

What’s the difference between humanitarian aid and a commercial transaction? Easy. The latter involves payment; the former doesn’t.

“How much for your charity, Vlad?”

However, when Vlad and Don get going, their double act is exempt from semantics. Witness the 60 tonnes of medical supplies Russia sold to the US yesterday.

It’s clear why the comments have been semantically slapdash: selling masks and ventilators to a country that can’t satisfy its own demand has no propaganda value. Offering them out of compassion does.

That’s why Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov felt obligated to say: “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.” The little matter of the payment was glossed over.

As is his tendency when dealing with Putin, Trump happily went along with that propaganda stunt by referring to the sale as a “nice gesture”.  

“It was a nice offer from President Putin,” he said. “And I could have said no thank you or thank you. And it was a large plane of very high quality medical supplies and I said I’ll take it.”

Trump’s spokesman confirmed this accolade by describing the sale as “an act of goodwill”. Mercifully, not everybody in either country was as eager to endorse Putin’s special op.

Brett McGurk, who served as Special Envoy to three presidents, including Trump, described the sale as a “propaganda bonanza”. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of US forces in Europe, commented that: “it’s a gift TO the Kremlin, not FROM it.” And Carnegie’s analyst Andrew Weiss tweeted: “This is nuts”.

Why Vlad activated this op is clear enough. Russia is under US sanctions, introduced after her 2014 aggression against the Ukraine and 2016 meddling in US elections.

Like a boxer who smiles demonstratively after being hit, Russia pretended for a while that the sanctions didn’t hurt. However, when the price of oil collapsed, and with it Russia’s major source of income, such pretence no longer worked.

Hence the mighty resources of the FSB/SVR were partly shifted from trying to subvert the West in every conceivable way into a massive op aimed at having the sanctions lifted. Portraying Russia as a global charity much given to ‘nice gestures’ is part of that effort.

It has to be said that Russian doctors and nurses, sewing their own masks and dying from a lack of protective equipment, don’t feel particularly charitable.

Their trade union, The Alliance of Doctors, wrote: “It’s just making a mockery of everything.” They didn’t say that charity begins at home, but the proverb would have been appropriate.

Russia, or the Soviet Union as she then was, has form in neglecting her own people for the sake of strategic gains.

Thus in 1932-1933, when millions were dying in the famine deliberately organised by Putin’s predecessors, when parents were eating their children in the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, when corpses lined roads and scavenging was rife, and when a loaf of bread could have saved a child’s life, the Soviets, in need of hard currency, were selling millions of tonnes of grain to the West.

The situation isn’t quite so dire now. But, though Russians aren’t yet dying in their millions, they are still dying in large numbers. How large, no one knows, except people whose credulity has been bought wholesale and who therefore are willing to believe any information supplied by Russia.

While Vlad’s position in this transaction is crystal clear, Don’s is ambivalent. That is, it would be ambivalent but for the amply documented affinity he feels for his friend Vlad.

Not only has Trump never said a single critical word about Putin, but Vlad is one of only two foreign political figures he has ever unequivocally extolled (our Queen is the other one).

It was over Trump’s tooth and nail objections that Congress managed to push through the package of aforementioned sanctions. Since then Trump has been trying to reinstate Russia in the G8, from which she was expelled for beastly behaviour.

Putin’s clandestine support of Trump’s campaign is a proven fact, which even Trump can no longer deny. Although the Mueller inquest was unable to produce prima facie evidence of any collusion, any unbiased observer of the Vlad-Don double act would smell something fishy.

The characteristic smell had begun to reach our nostrils long before Trump’s presidential campaign, when he had extensive business dealings with the Russian Maf… – sorry, I mean businessmen – and was trying to secure contracts worth hundreds of millions.

He clearly senses a kindred soul in Putin, which may mean ill will, but can also be the traditional useful idiocy from which so many Westerners suffer where Russia is concerned.

Trump is trailing Biden in the polls, and he may well lose in November – major disasters, natural or otherwise, tend to be bad news for incumbents. I’ll be sorry if that happens, for I think Trump is on balance a decent president, especially by comparison to the available alternatives.

Yet should he lose the election, his relationship with Putin will, as far as I’m concerned, make me a little less sorry.

Cui bono? Not you and I

No one doubts that the world will suffer huge losses as a result of the pandemic. Yet, dialectics says that losses must co-exist with gains, and losers with winners.

Everything points in the same direction

Most of us will lose, but who will gain? First, a general observation: following a major upheaval, the world never emerges at the other end the same as it was going in.

The Black Death put paid to the Middle Ages. Napoleonic wars drove the last nail into the coffin of Christendom. The First World War killed what was left of traditional Europe and gave birth to two satanic regimes. The Great Depression followed by another world war enshrined the big corporatist state with strong socialist overtones.

Squeezing all such developments under the same umbrella is difficult, but some common tendencies are detectable.

The state steadily gets stronger, bigger and more centralised. The West becomes more secularised, with a tendency towards neo-paganism. Political extremism thrives, starting at the margins and slowly seeping into the mainstream. Society becomes more stratified, a tendency made even more obvious by the backdrop of incessant egalitarian propaganda.

Alas, neither history nor common sense points at things being substantially different in the aftermath of the current pandemic. Now, Cassandra’s plight shows the danger of making predictions. But hell, nothing ventured…

Hence, in no particular order, here’s my starter for ten:

The EU will soldier on, but the fault lines, already noticeable before the crisis, will steadily turn into chasms. That ugly construct has always shown its impotence at crisis time, and now more than ever.

Even the two seminal EU countries, Germany and France, are appealing to national, rather than pan-European solidarity. The choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth has been effectively replaced as the EU anthem by each member screaming Sauve qui peut! at the top of his voice.

The state will assume greater powers throughout Europe. Major industries will be nationalised either outright or under the guise of rescue packages, and public spending – which is to say state power – will grow exponentially.

This will happen by popular demand, for Europeans have been brainwashed to regard ‘capitalism’ with suspicion. Their fickle affection for it has to be bought, and the price is steep: greater and more conspicuous consumption.

When an economy’s ability to deliver is hampered by either its own mistakes or force majeure, it’s seen as being in default of its promise. The people’s craving for a paternalistic state, carefully fostered over decades of strident propaganda, comes to the fore.

Thus a current poll shows that more than 70 per cent of the French want the state to nationalise key industries – and the same slant is observable throughout Europe, if perhaps not everywhere on the same scale.

Since European, and generally Western, countries are governed not by sage statesmen but by self-serving politicians, they’ll treat such polls as their marching orders.

As always, when a shift to greater corporatism happens, the money supply will be inflated. Savings, pensions and investments in long-term securities will collapse, while the value of properties will inflate in parallel with the money supply.

This will set the stage for a carbon copy of the 2008 crisis, but blown up to a greater scale and accompanied by wider unemployment. That will both increase the size of the dependent class and lower the purchasing power of those in work.

As a result, fascisoid authoritarian parties, of either left or right, will take over in some European countries, starting with the continent’s low rent part. Even if they don’t, they’ll acquire a more prominent role, and not only in Eastern Europe.

Hungary and Czechia will probably be the first to go that way, although in Hungary’s case the future tense may be misplaced: her nationalist PM Orbán is already ruling by decree, and his country is widely regarded as the first authoritarian member of the EU.

Orbán, Czechia’s Zeman and Poland’s Duda have close ties with Putin and his kleptofascist clique. Their countries may drift out of the EU, de facto at any rate, and into Russia’s re-established sphere of influence. That will effectively invalidate Nato and shift the global strategic balance towards Russia and, even more so, China.

Western European governments, including Germany, France and Britain, are all governed by ineffectual, what I call spivocratic, elites. However, bad is better than worse, and worse is better than worst.

Much as I may mock France’s Macron, for example, he is preferable to Le Pen or Mélenchon; and I’d rather Britain were governed by Johnson than by Corbyn, Tommy Robinson or their typological equivalents.

However, the Macrons, Merkels and Johnsons won’t stay in power for long – and even if they do, they won’t stay the same. The gravitational pull exerted by extremists will force the mainstream parties to abandon their few free-market policies and push them towards greater corporatism. Since their instincts already point in that direction, the shift won’t take long.

A swing to either extreme is bound to lead to an upsurge of chauvinism, xenophobia (in its real meaning, not as shorthand for opposing the Islamisation of Europe), anti-Semitism and other manifestations of pond life.

In France, Jews (either as such or as the embodiment of capitalism) are already being blamed for the pandemic. That seems counterintuitive, considering the origin of the virus in communist China, which is neither excessively liberal nor particularly Hebraic. But such emotions come not from the mind but from the heart and, as the French say courtesy of Pascal, le cœur a ses raisons.

European governments will rail against extremism in public, while doing nothing about it in reality. They’ll gauge the public mood and act accordingly.

No moral counterweight will be provided by Christianity, for even Catholic churches, to say nothing of Protestant ones, will empty out even more than now.

Brace yourself, in other words. Things will probably get tough, and they’ll certainly change beyond recognition.

Idaho, oasis of sanity

Idaho is one of the few states I never visited, nor even drove through. If I were in the US now, I’d want to correct that oversight, if only to find out what a sane place looks like.

Renée Richards, pioneer of true equality

For Governor Brad Little has just signed into law two bills preventing the few deranged people from imposing their madness on the many sane ones.

One bill prohibits transsexuals from changing the sex listed in their birth certificates. The other bans transsexual athletes from competing in women’s events.

The reason, or rather the pretext, for the first bill is actuarial: the state justifiably insists that it needs to be able to record births accurately. The real reason has to be sanity, which evidently is still extant in Idaho.

Sex, its legislators state implicitly, is determined by chromosomes. It’s an immutable physiological characteristic, like height, fingerprints and colour of eyes. As such, it’s exempt from any exercise of free choice, which faculty has many other arenas for expression.

The other bill reflects basic fairness: men have certain in-built physical advantages that don’t disappear when their genitalia do. That was demonstrated by Richard Raskind, who in 1975 was born again surgically as Renée Richards.

In addition to being an ophthalmologist and the father of a child, Richard-Renée was a strong amateur tennis player, who then insisted on his/her right to compete in professional women’s tournaments. The nearest Richard could have got to professional men’s tennis was to watch it on TV.

Having won a court case, Renée joined the women’s professional circuit at age 43. Over the next few years, Richards parlayed her/his masculine serve into a lucrative Number 20 ranking, which most women on tour, especially the straight ones, found grossly unfair.

This is the kind of iniquity Idaho has now eliminated from amateur sports, those practised under the aegis of schools and universities. As a lifelong champion of equality in all its forms, no matter how perverse, I don’t like the new law – because I can propose a much better one.

Now open to arbitrary choice, sex identity has become so fluid as to be meaningless. If it doesn’t derive from ironclad physiology, it should be eliminated from sports altogether. Since distinctions between men and women are bound to be discriminatory in one way or another, all athletes, regardless of how they identify, should compete together in the same events.

That way, say, women tennis players will be guaranteed equal access to higher prize money, although something in me suggests that’s different from actually earning higher prize money. But high principles shouldn’t depend on high earnings.

In all likelihood, the Idaho law will run foul of a 2018 federal court ruling, making such bans illegal. After all, whatever those hillbillies claim, the primacy of central government over state rights was settled once and for all by the bloodiest conflict in US history, the Civil War.

The federal government can thereby decree any insanity it wishes, and all individual states can do is grin and bear it (the grinning part is optional). Creeping centralisation is of course not unique to the States – this is the vector of all modern politics.

The Idaho legislature will soon be reminded of this fact. Rudely.

P.S. Speaking of government decrees, Boris Johnson has announced that all NHS coronavirus patients are to be put on a diet of nothing but kippers and pancakes. “Because,” explained the prime minister with his contagious chuckle, “they are the only things that can be slid under the door.” Happy April Fool’s Day!