The state’s war on gold

Two of the Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, have come out in favour of the gold standard, the former (who hopes to win) obliquely, the latter (who knows he won’t) in earnest. Both probably realise that a currency pegged to the country’s gold reserves would put paid to the rampant statism of modern politics. That’s why it’ll never happen, in America or anywhere else. So our politicians can continue to play their little power games with impunity.

It’s a given that politicians have always sought power. However, in the past, when Christianity still provided a unifying moral force in the West, many of them (though of course far from all) saw power only as a way of achieving some desirable ends. When that was still the case, the gold standard was the norm. Britain adopted it in 1717, the USA in 1834 (de facto), Germany in 1871 (immediately after her formal unification) and so forth.

Modern politicians, on the other hand, see power as an end in itself. When this became commonplace, they had to look for ways of increasing their power, and the choice was limited, what with violent coercion being out of fashion in the West. That left control of the money supply as the clear winner, and the gold standard as the loser.

Those opposed to the gold standard argued, justifiably, that it would limit the country’s ability to climb out of recessions by increasing the money supply (this is called ‘quantitative easing’ these days, presumably ‘queasing’ for short). However, Joseph Schumpeter and other eminent economists showed convincingly that, unless a country gets out of a recession organically, it’ll show not so much recovery as remission. In any case, limiting the state’s flexibility in economic matters is no bad thing.

For state control over the money supply is always inflationary, and inflation is in fact a tax that requires no legislative approval. The state uses inflation to control how much we earn in real, rather than bogus, terms, and the difference is staggering. For example, £100 in 1850, when the gold standard was in force, became £110 in 1900 — a negligible inflation of 10 percent over 50 years. However, £100 in 1950, when the gold standard was but a fond memory, became £2,000 in 2000 — a soul-destroying, economy-busting inflation of 2,000 percent.

Money losing value at that rate turns everyone into either a spendthrift or a gambler, including those who are by nature neither. If they don’t want to see their money melt away, people have to turn it into something tangible, which explains the huge inflation of assets, especially property, everywhere in the West. This urge to convert cash into bricks and mortar no matter what was a principal cause of the 2008 debt crisis, and it’s Western governments that created the urge.

By operating the money-printing presses the state effectively turns us all into its dependants — either directly, by pushing people onto welfare rolls, or indirectly, by controlling our real income. That’s why the gold standard, and gold in general, is anathema to modern statists.

Gordon Brown drove this point home when he was still Chancellor. In a series of auctions between 1999 and 2002 he sold off more than half of Britain’s gold reserves at a rock-bottom price that represented a 20-year low. That stands to reason: as gold in the country’s coffers represented a potential loss of power for him and his ilk, the pernicious yellow stuff had to go. The immediate cost to the taxpayer was £2 billion, but the long-term consequence is even more dire: with our gold reserves slipping down to 17th place in the world, Britain can never go back to the gold standard.

Neither, really, can anyone else. For the total amount of gold that has ever been mined in the world is estimated at around 142,000 tonnes. At $2,000 an ounce, all the gold that Egyptian, Soviet and South African slaves, American forty-niners, Inca and Aztec Indians or our contemporary miners have ever extracted out of the ground would today be worth about $9 trillion. This is approximately the value of the inflated paper money currently circulating in the USA alone, never mind the rest of the world.

Thus, barring a catastrophe of a magnitude we dare not imagine, a return to the gold standard would be impossible even in the unlikely event that the state would show willing. Like death and taxes, our brave new world never relinquishes what it claims.

But one can understand a nostalgic longing for the gold standard, especially in those who regard as repugnant the growing power of the state. And it’s not just dyed-in-the-wool conservatives who have reasons to pine for a reliably hard currency. It’s also people who value economic stability above instant gratification, those who’d rather not devote their whole lives to the feverish pursuit of what Americans call happiness (money to you).

They simply want to have decent, not opulent, lives for themselves and their families. But with money worth less and less, even such a moderate expectation requires an immoderate effort to realise. We can no longer trade a bit of wealth for a bit of freedom — it’s all or nothing.

State control over money supply thus leads to what is in effect economic totalitarianism. Admittedly, totalitarianism that relies on money is on balance still preferable to the kind that relies on guns. But it’s totalitarianism nonetheless, and the only way of fighting it would be to deprive the state of its financial instrument of control by reintroducing the gold standard. Alas, this option is no longer on the table. Our power-hungry statists have seen to that.

 

Obama seems to be confident of victory — run for the hills

President Obama’s State of the Union address set the stall for the November election and confirmed, if any confirmation was necessary, his socialist credentials.

Of course the word ‘socialist’ is seldom used in the US, and then only to describe Europeans. Americans are never socialist; they are ‘liberal’, a misnomer if I ever heard one. A US liberal is someone who believes that the big state should increase its power at the expense of the small individual, which is about as illiberal as one can get this side of concentration camps (actually, our LibDems are liberal in exactly the same sense — something to ponder there).

Yet even when an American ‘liberal’ himself insists he’s actually a socialist, he’ll still be called a liberal by everyone else. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote a whole book explaining why he was proud to be a socialist, but every review still described him as a liberal.

At the heart of such a liberal’s understanding of economics lies egalitarianism, which for reasons of subterfuge masquerades as ‘fairness’. This Obama illustrated by using the word ‘fair’ three times in the same ungrammatical sentence (everyone should do his ‘fair share’, Mr President, not their — laws of grammar shouldn’t be repealed for the sake of political correctness) and by calling for an ‘economy that works for everyone’.

Whenever this abortion of an idea is put into practice anywhere in the world, we find out the hard way that an attempt to create an economy that works for everyone only ever succeeds in creating an economy that works for no one. Fair, as defined in this way, is most unfair. But never mind the thought; it’s the word that counts.

A sure way of putting clamps on an economy is to overtax the rich, thus trying to equalise down (the only possible direction). That’s precisely what Obama wants: ‘if you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.’ What if you reinvest $900,000 into your job-creating business? Do you still pay 30 percent on a million? But then you’ll simply take those jobs elsewhere, which would be a shame in a country where over 13 million people are officially unemployed already, and God only knows how many more unofficially.

In the USA over 50 percent of all taxes are paid by the wealthiest three percent of households; 90 percent are paid by the wealthiest 10 percent — how much fairer does Obama want to get? And how much more damage is he prepared to do in the name of this pseudo-fairness?

On his watch the US government debt has increased by 50 percent, from $10.6 to $15.2 trillion, dwarfing in per capita terms our own mere £1 trillion and a bit, though the gap is closing. This millstone around the economy’s neck will continue to pull it down, no matter how good other indicators seem to look.

Obama’s address exudes self-confidence, which belies his approval rating of less than 50 percent. But then he’ll probably win the next election anyway, considering the sideshow that the Republican primaries are turning out to be. Obama will continue to downplay the debt and the unemployment, while overplaying those indicators that are edging northwards. At the same time, whether the Republican contender will be Romney or Gingrich, Obama has a clear line of personal attack.

With Romney, it’ll be his taxes first and his Mormon religion second. In fact, it was probably Romney’s revelation that he pays taxes at only 13-odd percent that made Obama rediscover his affection for fairness. Never mind that Romney pays millions of tax-deductible dollars to charities, which lowers his taxable income. To a socialist, charity is the state’s business (hence the $15.2 trillion of government debt), whereas demagogic populism is the domain of a presidential candidate. If you want to be charitable, Mr Romney, give money to the government, not the needy.

And with Mormonism, as November draws nearer, Romney will be made to come clean on whether he does share some of the Mormons’ more bizarre beliefs, such as only Anglophone people being saved (on a remote planet) or Jesus having already come to America. If he confirms he shares such beliefs, American evangelical fundamentalists will cut him to shreds, and they’ll get a lot of secular helpers. If he repudiates the views he is known to hold, he’ll be accused of hypocrisy. Damned if he does; damned if he doesn’t.

With Gingrich, his colourful sexual past will make even an easier target: Americans expect their presidents to be monastically pristine. Someone like Mitterrand or Berlusconi or even our own Paddy Ashdown wouldn’t be elected proverbial dog catcher there — unless the press were willing to hush a few indiscretions down, as it did with JFK. Republicans, however, tend not to receive the same compassionate understanding in the predominantly ‘liberal’ press.

Neither Romney nor Gingrich gives one much grounds for optimism. It’s not immediately clear how either will make a better president than old Dubya, who said all the right things while campaigning and then turned out rather disastrous in office. And yet either man would be preferable to a second term of an unabashedly socialist president.

If Obama managed to add 50 percent to the already staggering public debt while keeping an eye on possible reelection, just imagine what he’ll do when he has nothing to lose. The 2008 crisis in the US economy brought the global economy to the brink of disaster — a repeat performance could push it over the edge. And make no mistake about it: the main culprit in the ongoing crisis is governments wasting billions to promote ‘fairness’.

If Obama doesn’t feel he even has to disguise his socialist, which is to say big-spending and high-taxing, intentions, the reality will be worse. Since the US hugely affects the whole world, this kind of reality doesn’t bear thinking about. 




 

Genocides, deniable and otherwise

France’s new law, making it illegal to deny the Turks’ genocide of Armenians, raises all sorts of questions, and not just among the Turks.

First, what is genocide? If we define the word rigorously, it means massacre of an ethnic or racial group specifically because of its ethnicity or race. However, in our semantically loose times, the term is often misleadingly applied to any mass murder. This distinction may be a fine point, but intellectual and legal integrity is balanced on fine points. All else confusion, as Lord Tennyson would say.

For instance, the Nazi holocaust of 6,000,000 Jews definitely was genocide, but the Bolshevik murder of some 60,000,000 Soviet citizens wasn’t: they weren’t killed for their race. However, there were aspects of genocide within Bolshevik atrocities, such as the artificial famine in the Ukraine that killed about 5,000,000 in the 1930s, or the mass deportation of the Chechen, Ingush and Balkar in the 1940s, during which these populations were reduced by half.

There is absolutely no denying that many ethnic groups suffered persecution in the Ottoman empire, not just Armenians, but also Bulgarians, Greeks and other Christians. Mostly, this didn’t qualify as genocide: those people suffered for their religion, not race. Nor were all victims killed: the Turks would frequently kidnap Christian boys, mostly Bulgarians, and place them with Turkish families who would raise them as fanatical Muslims. When they grew up, the boys would join the elite Janissary corps and often conduct murderous raids against their own ethnic group, including their kin.

For such reasons, the term ‘Armenian genocide’ is usually used in the narrower sense to describe the atrocities perpetrated by the Young Turks government during the First World War. The number of victims is variously estimated to fall between 300,000 and 2,000,000, with the low-enders and high-enders tending to split the difference to arrive at 1.5 million. Those people were killed — but were they killed specifically because they were Armenians?

In the 1920s the post-Ottoman nationalist government of Turkey held two trials that settled the issue. In one, on the basis of much evidence, the Young Turks government was found guilty of genocide. In the other, a young Armenian’s assassination of the wartime Interior Minister Talaat was ruled to be justifiable homicide.

Of the many pieces of juicy evidence presented in both trials, one stands out: Talaat’s wartime telegram stating the Young Turks’ intent with lucid clarity: ‘…the government by the order of the Assembly (Jemiet) has decided to exterminate entirely all the Armenians living in Turkey [about 2,000,000 at the time]. Those who oppose this order can no longer function as part of the government. With regard to women, children and invalids, however tragic may be the means of transportation, an end must be put to their existence.’ If there’s a difference between this document and the Wansee Protocol, it escapes me.

Actually, there is one difference. Germany, the nation that issued the Protocol and faithfully carried out its prescriptions, has since repented its crimes and compensated the victims’ families as best it could. Too little, too late and all that, but at least it’s something. On the other hand, Turkey responds to accusations of genocide with the ‘who, me?’ indignation of wounded innocence — as demonstrated by her reaction to the ruling by the French Senate yesterday.

Turkey is about to recall her ambassador to France, a measure that’s certain to be reciprocated, and trade relations between the two countries will suffer somewhat. The amount of suffering can’t go beyond ‘somewhat’, as Turkey is locked into a customs union agreement with the EU and a military union within NATO.

For the time being, it’s mostly rhetoric, with Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan overstating the case in the heat of righteous wrath. According to him, the measure represents a ‘murdered freedom of thought’. He also accused France of pandering to ‘considerations of political agenda’ — that is, presumably mollifying the 500,000 Armenians living in France. This last accusation is nonsensical, considering that the new law is likely to enrage many of the 10 million French Muslims. But the first charge merits discussion.

Erdogan probably meant freedom of expression, not thought. For such matters ought to be governed by hard facts, not free thinking. A reasonable person must be free to think that Christianity is a more sound religion than Islam, or vice versa. But, on pain of no longer being considered reasonable, he isn’t free to think that the earth is flat — this freedom has been abrogated by facts.

Thus, though some debate is still possible about the precise number of victims, facts make the case against the genocide of Armenians unarguable this side of reason. Similarly, it’s valid to argue on the basis of facts that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis during the holocaust was lower than 6,000,000, or that the number of Soviets murdered by the Bolsheviks didn’t quite reach 60,000,000. Khrushchev, for example, only owned up to 20,000,000 but then he meant just those murdered by Stalin in the 1930s — all others were presumably fair game. In general, criminal regimes aren’t known for actuarial accuracy in their body count. They are, however, known for their tendency to suppress incriminating evidence.

But Erdogan would in my view be right had he said that the new French law strikes a blow against the freedom of expression. For this freedom to have any meaning at all, it must cover the expression of ideas we find repugnant. After all, allowing people to say only things we agree with wouldn’t be much hardship. I do think that denying malignant idiots the right to express malignantly idiotic ideas — provided they fall short of inciting violence — does more harm than they themselves could ever do by speaking up.

Do let’s allow the likes of David Irving to claim that the Nazis didn’t murder that many Jews — he, along with other neo-Nazis, will only hang himself with his own intellectual rope. Do let’s allow Russian communists, who still poll second in most Russian elections, aver that Stalin never murdered anyone — even though, given the political innocence of most Russians, such permissiveness may backfire. And do let’s allow the Turks to be as provincially defensive as they like. Our own institutions and traditional liberties will only be the stronger for it.

I am, however, aware that many people would disagree with me — and they would do so not just on the basis of emotions, but also with the facts in hand. Well, they too ought to be allowed to speak they minds.

 

 

 

Bishops on a crusade

These days our politicians are driven by neither their conscience nor their reason, what with both faculties being demonstrably under strength. Instead they rely on focus groups and polls, those guides to potential success in the next elections.

When they proposed to cap benefits at £26,000 a year per family, they knew they were on a winning wicket: 76 percent of the people, including 69 percent of Labour voters, supported the measure.

As someone who believes that, for most families on the dole, such benefits ought to be capped at £0, I’m happy that this once the polls at least pointed in the right direction. It does, however, have to be said that the very existence of payouts of that magnitude represents an egregious insult to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and moral sense.

That large group doesn’t seem to include our bishops who, egged on by that font of intelligence and moral sense Paddy Ashdown, are trying to block the measure in the Lords. Allow me to remind you that these are the people who have devoted their careers to vulgarising the liturgy to a point where we’re expected to believe that ‘this ring is a symbol of our marriage’ sounds more mellifluous and Godly than ‘with this ring I thee wed’. Their destructive weapons thus honed, their Lordships have now decided to turn their attention away from the area about which they ought to know next to everything towards one about which they know next to nothing.

I’m not talking here about the nitty-gritty of economics — the bishops’ ignorance of that field would be understandable and perhaps even commendable. They may not grasp the depth of the precipice to which suicidal government spending has already pushed not just our economy, but indeed our society. However, even their tin ears, deaf to the majesty of traditional scriptural language, ought to be attuned to the moral damage wreaked by the welfare state.

They should realise that by extorting money from families who earn an average of £26,000 a year and giving more than that to families who earn nothing, the government is spurning not just economic wisdom but moral probity. By robbing Peter to pay Paul, it debauches the latter more than it impoverishes the former.

The bishops may confuse welfare with Christian charity. In fact, the two are more nearly opposite than alike: it was St Francis who was a model of Christian behaviour, not Robin Hood.

A Christian works in the sweat of his brow to earn the money he then charitably offers to the poor. He doesn’t, as our state does, hold a gun to somebody’s head to make him give away the money he has earned to someone who hasn’t. The former transaction improves morally both the generous giver and the grateful taker. The latter corrupts both the state and its clients, who are more likely to demand more than to be grateful.

That’s why one won’t find any glorification of welfare in the New Testament, and the concept was far from unknown in the Roman empire. Instead, one finds calls to hard work. These come across in the Lord’s Prayer (‘give us this day our daily bread’), in Jesus the carpenter talking about ‘the labourer worthy of his hire’ and in St Paul the tent maker stating categorically that ‘if any would not work, neither shall he eat.’ As a Roman citizen, incidentally, Paul could have qualified for the dole. He chose to make tents instead.

Having already displayed their ineptitude in their area of immediate expertise, the bishops now come up with a truly pathetic rationale for their attempts to torpedo the so-called cuts (if that’s what £26,000 a year is, I’d like to see the uncut benefits). For example, the Archdruid of Canterbury remarked that ‘no one voted’ for this new government policy.

That’s true, no one did. By the same token, no one voted for the gradual build-up of welfare to the level where £26,000 a year represents a cut. As someone who sits in a House of Parliament, Dr Williams should be aware that we have a representative, not plebiscitarian, democracy. The people don’t vote for bills; they select representatives whom they trust to do that for them. Really, it’s always best to think before speaking — that way one’s ignorance can be less glaringly obvious.

Lord Ashdown adds to these episcopal musings his deft lay touch (no pun intended). ‘I am president of Unicef and… the effect on children across the country of a cap… will be in my view completely unacceptable.’ He obviously regards as acceptable the state breeding en masse little brutalised Mowglis, trapped for life in the jungle of welfare-supported sloth. Deprived of education, devoid of pride, divorced from civilisation, what chance do they have of ever leading dignified lives? I’d say their chances of dying from stab wounds are much higher.

One shudders to think what would happen if the government really tried to put forth a responsible economic policy, rather than these risibly derisory ‘cuts’ and ‘caps’. Why, the Bishop of London wouldn’t just extol the dwellers of tents at St Paul’s; he’d move into one himself. Always provided he could pop over to his nearby palace to use the facilities.

 

 


 

 

 

Capitalism — what’s in a name?

Last week all three party leaders made speeches on capitalism in which they attached different modifiers to the word. Mr Clegg trumpeted ‘responsible’ capitalism based on employee ownership. Mr — or should it be Comrade? — Miliband decried ‘predatory’ capitalism. Mr Cameron came out in favour of ‘socially responsible and popular capitalism’. None of the three identified the fundamental problem of capitalism, as it has become.

Actually, the problem starts with the very word ‘capitalism’. Show me someone who uses it often, and I’ll show you someone in need of a remedial course in both political economics and elementary logic.

The word has largely negative connotations, and that’s how it was understood by those who first put it into general vocabulary. ‘Capitalism’ was first used in its modern meaning by the French socialists Blanc and Proudhon, and it became a common term of abuse courtesy of Marx and Engels. In other words, ‘capitalism’ is a pejorative term used by socialists and anyone else wishing to disparage the underlying concept.

As such people have difficulty defining the concept positively, they define it negatively — not as something it is (free enterprise fuelled by capital), but as something it isn’t (socialism). Logically, they should talk about ‘non-socialism’ instead, for that’s what they really mean. Implicitly then, ‘capitalism’ is a swear word.

Understood negatively as non-socialism, ‘capitalism’ will appeal or repel depending on one’s attitude to what it isn’t. And one’s attitude to socialism depends on whether one proceeds from common sense or ideological bias. Leaving the theory aside, simple empirical observation will suggest that the amount of economic misery in a country is directly proportionate to the amount of socialism in it. To this simple equation there are no known exceptions.

In the economic game, socialism is broadly characterised by the state being a major player, rather than merely the referee. In Stalin’s Russia, for example, the state owned 85 percent of the economy, whereas in Britain it’s still only about 50 percent (closer to 75 in the north of England and the Celtic fringe), so there’s room for growth in that direction.

Cameron is to be complimented for his judicious use of ‘capitalism’. In his speech he mostly used positive terms like ‘free market’ or ‘free enterprise’, which he described correctly as ‘the best imaginable force for improving human wealth and happiness’. Now happiness is a nebulous notion, and one that America’s Founding Fathers ill-advisedly inserted into their Declaration of Independence. When later pressed for a precise definition, they explained that happiness equated to what Cameron called ‘human wealth’. The add-on ‘…and happiness’ is therefore tautological.

Now, only someone who is as feeble of mind as he is strong of leftie animus (e.g. Ed Miliband) will deny that this kind of happiness is always much greater and more evenly spread in conditions of free enterprise. Moreover, free enterprise generally presupposes a reasonably free society, although China has added numerous qualifiers to this presupposition.

However, both the defenders of free markets and their detractors reduce a very complex issue to the simplistic binary proposition first popularised by Orwell’s animals: ‘Capitalism good, socialism bad’ or vice versa. Their frame of reference is identical; they just disagree on the number of legs.

Both regard the economy as a panacea, a cure-all treatment of every social ill. If that’s what’s expected of the economy, it’ll invariably fail. No -ism can live up to such a lofty expectation.

Leading the party that’s still nominally called Conservative, Cameron understands this better than his colleagues, which is why he’s calling for a capitalism ‘in which the power of the market and the obligations of responsibility come together’. Suddenly the desire to compliment Dave, which is seldom close to the top of my aspirations, fades away. For he is mixing up the proverbial apples and oranges.

Free markets are there to make a few people rich, most reasonably comfortable and a few poor. Responsibility comes into it only inasmuch as it’s a pragmatic tool for controlling social unrest animated by the sixth deadly sin: envy. That’s why, while it was always understood that a competitive free market would, like any other competition, produce its winners and losers, even the early winners had to make sure that others didn’t lose too badly. Thus a social safety net was put in place under the economic summit to catch those falling down to the flinty ground below.

As free markets were gradually ousted by modern corporatism, the capitalist, the owner of capital, disappeared as the pivotal figure. That distinction has passed on to the bureaucratic manager who disposes of the capital he doesn’t own. This figure lacks a face — can you name offhand the current CEO of Ford or Marks & Spencer? The names are still on the door, but they are now attached to impersonal entities, not to any particular capitalists (which term, incidentally, predates ‘capitalism’ by a good 700 years).

As markets are now largely controlled by increasingly globalised corporations converging with increasingly globalised governments, ‘responsibility’ has become a meaningless shibboleth. If before it meant softening the plight of those who fought the good fight and lost, it has now come to mean breeding and fostering a class of those who have neither fought any fight nor have the slightest intention of ever doing so. As such, it’s a device for the self-perpetuation of the corporatist elite made up of both corporate and governmental managers. By paying off those who could potentially unseat them, they buy themselves a few more years of corporate power, while reducing ever greater numbers to being just that: numbers, not men and women.

Britain has neither capitalist nor indeed free markets any longer. It has a largely dysfunctional population corrupted by what Cameron calls ‘responsibility’ into apathy, ignorance and sloth. The problem with our economy in particular and society in general isn’t too little ‘responsibility’ but too much.

And the problem of which all three party leaders are painfully aware is that free, capitalist production can no longer pay for controlled, socialist distribution, otherwise known as ‘responsibility’. The will is there, but the money has run out. All three respond in the only way that comes naturally: instead of making responsible, but hard, choices, they make irresponsible, but easy, speeches. They aren’t trying to improve the economy; they are trying to improve their own electability.

Regarded in that light, perhaps Cameron did a bit better than the other two. There are still enough voters out there for whom ‘capitalism’ doesn’t sound as negative as it did originally. Whether they’ll consent to be tricked… sorry, I meant governed by the wielders of the word and negators of its meaning remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 



Who should or shouldn’t be let in?

Three crimes currently adorning the newspapers’ front pages were all committed by Eastern Europeans. One Lithuanian raped and disfigured a woman in Kent. Another bludgeoned a Birmingham couple to death with a lump hammer. Moldovan squatters took over a house in East London.

And these aren’t isolated events: a disproportionate number of crimes are perpetrated by recent arrivals from that region. Various mafias from Kosovo to Moscow and everywhere in between are mentioned almost every day.

Naturally whenever an immigrant, especially one from a manifestly un-English country, commits a newsworthy crime, BNP types are up in arms. Partly because of that, civilised people shy away from the issue of immigration altogether, or else mumble sweet nothings when it comes up. Makes one wish BNP types kept quiet for a while, to make a serious discussion possible.

Some time ago I chatted on that subject with your quintessential Anglican, a church-goer who doesn’t believe in God. He was opposed to too many immigrants from alien cultures being admitted to the UK. I agreed. ‘But what about all those Poles and Russians?’ I asked, secure in the knowledge that my own background made me immune to the felony charge of Little-Englanderism. ‘I’ve no problem with those,’ replied the non-believing Christian. ‘They come from a kindred culture.’

That’s where our paths diverged. You see, I don’t think the Christian past of Eastern Europe means its present culture is similar to ours. It used to be, give or take. But after a few generations of communism it no longer is — and it’ll take a long time to make it so.

To paraphrase Lord Acton ever so slightly, socialism corrupts, communism corrupts absolutely. A child growing up under a communist regime learns as he emerges from his pram that he must think one thing, say another and do a third.

He’s trained to believe that all morality is relative — that is, relative to the current Party line, which alone is absolute. He’ll lie not because he is a compulsive liar, but because he doesn’t know the difference between a truth and a lie.

All Eastern European children were taught to worship Lenin and his fellow mass murderers. All Soviet children were also taught to worship Pavlik Morozov, a young pioneer who betrayed his own father to Cheka executioners. Survival is a day-to-day proposition to them, and even those who’ve never seen the inside of a concentration camp are imbued with the mentality of that provenance: You croak today, mate, as long as I don’t croak until tomorrow.

A couple of generations of this Walpurgisnacht, and a new psychocultural type emerges, Homo Communisticus, whose links with his country’s pre-Communist history are at best tenuous, at worst nonexistent. This cultural genocide is rarely mentioned whenever the numbers of Communist victims are calculated. And yet the lasting effect of cultural mass murder makes it an even more heinous crime than the physical murder of millions.

That’s not to say that all, or even most, people from Communist countries are fervent believers in that perversion. Far from it. In fact, most of them aren’t fervent believers in anything except survival at any cost. Where they come from survival was understood in purely physical terms: having enough food to eat and staying out of concentration camps. When they find themselves in the West, survival takes on new dimensions, mostly dealing with newly available creature comforts. The goals change immediately, but it’ll take many generations to change these people’s nature.

They have no more respect for the laws of their new country than for those of the old. Legal is anything they can get away with; moral is anything that pays an immediate dividend. Upon arrival in England they discover in short order that, though the police are less corruptible than in the old country, they are also less efficient and much less ruthless. And, in the absence of an in-built moral imperative, why not bend the law if the chances of getting caught are small and the punishment often derisory?

There are of course exceptions, people endowed with the mind, courage and moral sense to reject the spiritual poison of Communism. Many of such people find themselves in the West, where they become law-abiding, hard-working citizens. By the same token, there are many Chinese, Arabs, Indians or Africans who make a successful transition to Western civilisation. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they come from a culture different from, and often alien to, ours. So do the Eastern Europeans.

More than two million Russians have emigrated just in the last decade, and many of them have ended up in the UK. London alone has about 300,000 such new arrivals, and God knows how many more from other republics of what’s now called the former USSR. Some of those republics, such as Lithuania, are now ‘independent’ parts of the EU, which means their denizens can settle here as they wish. Add to these other Eastern members of the EU, plus those Ukranians and Byelorussians who can easily obtain Polish or Hungarian, which is to say EU, passports, and the influx of cultural aliens becomes staggering and unmanageable.

In the spirit of English pragmatism, a virtue to which I’m privy only vicariously, one has to ask the perennial question: So what are we going to do about it? The answer is, whatever would work. Leaving the EU would be a good start, but that’s a separate issue. Introducing tougher border controls would be another step, and also tightening entry requirements, whether EU laws allow this or not.

But all such measures would be futile in the absence of a fundamental understanding of the underlying problem. People who come from Eastern Europe may look like us, seemingly act like us and sometimes even sound like us. But most of them aren’t really like us.

 

 

Margaret Court beats Laura Robson hands down

Stars shine so bright these days, they are blinding. Our vision impared, we’re ready to accept that expertise in a narrow technical area, such as acting, sports or science, somehow adds brilliance to the expert’s views on other subjects as well. Thus we don’t flinch when a 40-23-40 film star regales us with her opinions on the global implications of warm weather, or when a tattooed footballer with a useful left foot declares that ‘we shouldnta went into Iraq.’

Still, when a 17-year-old girl who is still a long way from stardom chooses to expand on serious issues, one would think that her silly pronouncements would be laughed away. Yet Laura Robson’s publicity stunt for her flaming social conscience has attracted the kind of attention that her feeble tennis at the Australian Open wouldn’t rate.

Laura showed up for her first-round match wearing a rainbow-coloured hair band, which was her way of defending same-sex marriage from the attack launched in the press by the former champion, three-time Wimbledon winner Margaret Court.

Mrs Court, who upon her retirement from tennis became an evangelical pastor, told the Perth Tribune that, ‘Politically correct education has… escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors… and is now aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.’ It was this factual observation that in Miss Robson’s mature judgment demanded a stern rebuke.

Asked about her public display of the pro-homosexuality symbol, Laura explained, ‘I believe in equal rights for everyone, that is why I wore it.’ Now, normally I refrain from debating serious matters with barely post-pubescent people, whose brains aren’t even wired properly yet. But in this instance, the ensuing brouhaha is of such intensity that a comment or two would be in order.

‘Equal rights for everyone’ is a fraught notion, one to be used with caution, especially when taken out of its natural domain of jurisprudence. That everyone has equal rights before the law doesn’t mean that society can’t take issue with practices it considers objectionable. Homosexuality used to be one such practice, for reasons moral, aesthetic and demographic. But by now acceptance of ‘alternative’ sexual behaviour has become a new orthodoxy enforced by the state.

Though supposed to be a sign of tolerance, this is in fact its exact opposite: the modern state is no longer prepared to tolerate even vestigial manifestations of Judaeo-Christian morality. Propaganda of homosexuality is thus a weapon of aggression, not defence. Witness the fact that the first modern country without anti-homosexuality laws was Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1934, a place and time not otherwise known for a laissez-faire attitude to life or love of Western liberties.

Those reacting to Mrs Court’s remarks with anger singled out her description of homosexuality as a ‘personal choice’. People, they say, can’t be blamed for the way they are. That much is true: homosexuals shouldn’t be blamed, much less prosecuted, for their proclivity. Nor, for that matter, should a murderer be blamed for his propensity for violence as long as he controls it, or a kleptomaniac punished for his urge to steal until he actually does so. People must not be blamed for what they are; it’s for what they do that they must be held accountable. I’m not suggesting that homosexual acts ought to be criminalised the way murder and theft are — only that they are indeed a matter of personal choice.

Moreover, observation suggests that most people, including homosexuals with taste, are uncomfortable to see this personal choice exercised openly and defiantly. If our democracy were more than a figure of PC speech, politicians would listen to the voice of the very demos in whose name they supposedly govern. As it is, they do all they can to smash what’s left of the traditional order, knowing full well that in the old days the likes of them could only get to Westminster as tourists. The traditional order rests upon traditional institutions, and none is more vital than marriage. That’s why it finds itself under savage attack.

A tax system punishing marriage, various single-mother benefits discouraging fatherhood in any other than the physiological sense, divorce and abortion available on demand, sex education that’s not so much immoral as amoral are all prongs of this offensive. Homosexual marriage, so passionately supported by Laura Robson, is one such prong too, perhaps the most egregious of all. Marriage is thus being deprived of its procreative function, for which it was instituted in the first place.

There are enough legal tools in existence already to protect, say, the property rights of cohabiting homosexuals. A couple of wills ought to do it, accompanied by jointly taken mortgages, shared ownership of things like cars and furniture and so forth. Adding marriage to this armoury is superfluous in any other than a purely destructive sense. And it’s traditional marriage that’s at the receiving end.

It used to be a union of man and woman before God. First, in keeping with the spirit of the time, God was replaced by the registrar. Now man and woman are being augmented by man and man or woman and woman. How long before we’ll thus sanctify interspecial unions? After all, zoophiliacs can’t be blamed for what they are either.

All in all, Laura Robson would do much better trying to improve her sluggish movement on the tennis court. That way she may learn to win more than three games in the first round of a major tournament — and gain publicity for the right reasons.

 

Responsible capitalism and irresponsible politicians

Another day, another attempt by Clegg to do an impression of a statesman on TV. This time, speaking on behalf of the coalition, the Rory Bremner of politics introduced a shift from one set of buzz words to another.

Words like ‘responsible capitalism’, ’employee ownership’, ‘right to request shares’ and ‘progressive taxation’ were buzzing all over the Mansion House, where the DPM gave the world the benefit of his economic wisdom, springing no doubt from his own rich experience in business. 

About time too: ‘Big Society’ lost its buzz when it turned out it was nothing but buzz. Now we have ’employee ownership’, an idea that’ll supposedly end our economic woes once the TV star has worked out all the ‘details’, which he self-admittedly hasn’t quite done yet.

One detail I’d suggest he concentrate on is how to work out this imaginary scenario. Let’s say four chaps start a company, with each owning 25 percent of the shares. Within a few years the company has thrived, it now employs 100 people, and the owners’ shares are worth a lot of money, though each still owns 25 percent. So how is Clegg going to make them transfer part of the ownership to the employees? Assuming they haven’t seen the light of their own accord? There’s only one sure way: the state moves in, confiscates a portion of the company and distributes the shares. Thus we can reduce Nick’s buzzing ‘responsible capitalism’ to one prosaic word: confiscation.

As to the ‘right to request shares’, one would think no government action is required because this right already exists. In a plc, anyone can buy shares in the open market, no special dispensation needed. And in a privately owned company, an employee can always ask the owners for shares in the business — all they can do is say no. Still, if you never ask, you never get, and perhaps this same employee is valuable enough for the owners to give (or sell) him a small part of the company. Either way, there’s no harm in asking — is this what Clegg is saying?

Probably not. What he’s still too coy to spell out is that, for the employee’s right to request shares to mean anything at all, it must be matched to the owner’s obligation to satisfy the request. So this too means confiscation.

Sure enough, Clegg is suggesting some tax incentives for owners to go along. Again, that area where the devil resides needs to have some light thrown on it. Let’s say our hypothetical four owners have 1,000 shares each. It would then be no great sacrifice for them to give each of their 100 employees a couple of meaningless shares just to qualify for the tax breaks. To think they wouldn’t resort to such a ruse is to presume too much on human goodness.

Therefore, to prevent windows from being dressed in this way, the state would have to insist that the relinquished shares represent a significant chunk of the total. In other words, the state would reserve the right to decide who owns what, effectively turning business owners into business managers first, state employees second.

That would enforce the concept so dear to Clegg’s heart: egalitarianism. He hinted at this affection by yet again using ‘redistribution’ and ‘progressive taxation’ in the positive sense. To Burke ‘compulsory equalisations’ could only mean ‘equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.’ To modern egalitarians like Clegg they are the shining beacon.

‘Progressive’, which is to say redistributive, taxation highlights this by setting up a conflict between two pieties. On the one hand, redistributive taxes represent an egalitarian attempt to push high earners down to a lower level. On the other hand, they are a flagrant violation of the principle of equality before law, which is the only equality that can be mentioned in the same breath as justice.

It goes without saying that someone who earns more should pay more tax in absolute terms. But to make him pay, say, four times the proportion of his income has as much to do with justice as the Korean People’s Democratic Republic has to do with people, democracy or republicanism. So at the heart of Clegg’s affection for ‘progressive’ taxation lies the same deeply felt conviction in confiscation. Bogus equality will trump the real kind every time.

One can detect the source of Clegg’s ideas (details presumably to be worked out after the next election). In Germany employees indeed sit on remuneration committees and take a more active part in management. This goes back to Walther Rathenau’s war socialism of the First World War, a practice later embellished and incorporated by the Federal Republic. It’s debatable whether Germany’s economic successes are indeed attributable to worker participation, as opposed to the superior work ethic and education of their labour force. But the German provenance of this arrangement is indisputable, and Nick does have this uncontrollable passion for things continental.

It’s far from certain, however, that, in the absence of superior work ethic and education, employee ownership would be universally successful in Britain. Still, as the success of John Lewis, much touted by Clegg, shows, the idea isn’t without merit in some situations and for some types of business (in this instance, retail trade). But Nick, Dave, George, Vince, Danny and the rest of the gang must learn that, when it comes to companies they don’t own, there has to be an uncrossable line between a promising idea and government action. 

If you want to help the economy, gentlemen, just halve taxation and government spending, leave the EU with its stifling regulations, and let us get on with it. We’ll sort ourselves out, thank you very much. The people who make a big success of the businesses they own don’t need your help — much less your diktats — to decide how to deal with employees.

And please — please! — spare us the waffle and buzz words. Keep those for your ghost-written memoirs.




           

Christmas roast, Dutch style

And you thought Big Brother was bad. Over Christmas the Dutch TV channel BNN ran a show called Proefkonijnen (Guinea Pigs) that introduced a whole new viewing experience: cannibalism, in living colour.

Two young presenters, Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno, each had a small piece of his flesh surgically removed, Mr Storm from his buttock, Mr Zeno, paradoxically, from his belly. A professional chef, presumably the Dutch answer to Gordon Ramsay, then fried the delectable morsels in sunflower oil (recommended by the medical profession as a healthy alternative to butter), but, disappointingly, without any salt and pepper. The two cannibals then had a candle-lit supper on camera, all in the best possible taste, joyously comparing notes on the flavour of each other’s meat.

One hesitates to describe the repast as human flesh for that would imply that the two main participants, along with everyone else involved in the production and viewing of such entertainment, are indeed human — which in this case ought not to be taken for granted. But it’s beyond doubt that the BNN channel has outdone its previous achievements.

A few months ago it ran the show Shooting Up and Swallowing, offering for public consumption live mainlining of heroin, along with sex acts whose nature is implicit in the show’s title. And in 2007 BNN embellished the format of Big Brother (also a Dutch creation, by the way) by presenting The Big Donor Show, where the public was supposed to eliminate one by one gravely ill patients in need of a kidney transplant. All perfectly disgusting of course, but it’s the cannibalism that takes the biscuit — or the buttock, if you’d rather.

One hankers after the days olden when people were regarded, at least in the West, as consumers of food, rather than the main course. The human body was thought sacrosanct, but that prejudice was of course only prevalent before Jesus Christ became a superstar. It was assumed that the difference between man and beast was that of quality, not degree. Man wasn’t just more intelligent than the chimpanzee or more enterprising than the dolphin. He was created in the image of God, which salient characteristic might not have prevented him from killing or being killed, but it did prevent him from eating others or being eaten by them.

The universal acceptance of Darwin’s slipshod theory has put an end to such an outdated notion. Man got to be seen as other animals’ equal, no better than any if a bit cleverer than most. Within the boundaries of such a perception of humanity, any logical objection to cannibalism begins to fade away.

And it’s not just cannibalism. In 2008 Spain’s parliament passed a resolution granting human rights to apes. Specifically, it committed the country to the dictates of the Great Ape Project, founded by the ‘philosopher’ Peter Singer, professor of bioethics in Princeton. Henceforth, the 315 apes currently resident in Spain can’t be incarcerated without due process. That raises all sorts of irreverent questions, such as, where trial by jury is part of due process, who will serve on the juries of the apes’ peers. Presumably it’ll have to be other apes (Millwall supporters may be narrowly disqualified). Then how will the jury follow the barristers’ arguments, evaluate the evidence and pass the verdict? I’m sure Prof. Singer will figure it out, clever chap like him.

Earlier he allowed that humans and animals could have ‘mutually satisfying sexual relations’ because ‘we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.’ Therefore such sex ‘ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.’ This may be bad news for sheep and poor Mrs Singer, but there’s some insane logic there. Why not have sex with apes if we aren’t all that different from them? We do share about 99% of our genetic material with chimpanzees, so what’s that extra 1% among friends? And if we eat bovine flesh, why not the human variety?

No reason at all, especially in Holland, where the legalisation of euthanasia in 2002 put paid to the ancient notion of the sanctity of human life. By some accounts, about 4,000 people have been done in by doctors since then, with the issue of consent somewhat blurred in many instances. And I know from numerous conversations with Dutch people that many of their elderly compatriots refuse to go to hospitals because they fear that doctors will kill them.

In that context, using human corpses as a source of protein is no longer unthinkable. They’re already used for medical research, and their organs for transplants, so the unused portion may add some welcome variety to our diets. And there’s no denying that a small steak cut out of a live person would be fresher, healthier and tastier than dead flesh. So yet again the Dutch have pioneered an important development in the concept of man, not to mention nutrition.

Can you imagine this? ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, live, from the same wonderful people who gave you Rembrandt and Vermeer, another yummy treat: the devouring of human flesh!!!’ Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. You can watch it on YouTube.

 

 

 

Clegg’s usual Euro-nonsense, this time on TV

Normally I don’t watch TV news, instead relying on newspapers for information and books for knowledge. However, in rural France, where I am now, no British newspapers are to be found, and French papers aren’t worth reading. Not only is their writing poor but, for someone of conservative disposition, they’re actively irritating and medically dangerous. Politically Le Figaro is about like The Times, Le Monde is like the Guardian and La Liberation is Trotskyist. The whole range is shifted leftwards, and my blood pressure simply can’t handle it.

So there I was, watching, rather than reading about, our DPM doing a star turn on Sky News. And a decent TV performer he is too, almost as good as Rory Bremner. Clegg’s impersonation of a statesman was confident, polished and, apart from the odd ‘at the end of the day’, stylistically sound. And if only I had his looks… In other words, loved the delivery, shame about the content.

The jolly, rotund Irish interviewer asked Clegg if Britain would eventually sign everything Cameron refused to sign last month. No doubt about that, came the disloyal reply, provided some unspecified ‘safeguards’ are inserted into the document. After all, ‘three million UK jobs depend on our ability to export to Europe.’

How do politicians get away with uttering statements that wouldn’t survive 10 seconds of even half-competent and scantily informed opposition? What makes them so sure of their intellectual invulnerability? This kind of self-confidence borders on effrontery which, coupled with photogenic looks, seems to be the sole requirement for political success these days. But scratch their arguments, and you’ll find nothing but hot air inside. Scratch a bit harder, and you’ll hear a hissing sound.

In this instance, Clegg’s assumption seems to be that, should we, God forbid, leave the EU, we wouldn’t be able to trade with Europe, thereby losing the three million jobs supposedly derived from that activity. But that’s arrant nonsense, which Clegg probably knows but wouldn’t tell.

First, the EU would continue to export to Britain because 1) we buy more from them than any other country does, and much more than they buy from us, and 2) slapping protectionist tariffs on British exports to the EU would be contrary to the rules of the World Trade Organisation and indeed the EU’s own Lisbon Treaty. Witness the fact that the EU didn’t apply such restrictions to either Switzerland or Norway, both of which wisely stayed outside the Single Market. And yet, in per capita terms, the former exports to the eurozone three times more than we do, and the latter five times.

Clegg’s second assumption is that staying in the EU has a positive, indeed indispensable, effect on our economy. That too is nonsense. Our costs, hidden or otherwise, of belonging to the EU are far greater than the total value of our exports to the continental 26. These costs are variously estimated at four to a whopping 20% of our Gross Domestic Product.

Moreover, almost 90% of our unsustainable trade deficit is caused by trade with the EU. That means that at least two million jobs that would otherwise stay in Britain instead go to Germany, France, Italy and the rest (it takes jobs to make the goods we buy from them).

Also, it’s useful to remember that 90% of our economy has nothing to do with European trade — it’s either domestic or involving trade with other countries. And, while our exports to the EU account for about 40% of our total export activity, they are growing at a much slower rate than our exports to other continents.

To sum it all up, if we left the EU with immediate effect, we’d save at least 10% of our GDP and unshackle our businesses currently groaning under the weight of European regulations and red tape. Which is to say we’d be much better off even in purely arithmetical terms, never mind in the areas dealing with Britain’s ancient laws, national sovereignty and traditional rights of Englishmen. Those considerations alone would be sufficient for us to leave the EU even if the sums added up. But they don’t.

If we left now we’d be in a much stronger position to prepare for the toxic fallout of the economic catastrophe lurking just around the EU corner. Should the euro collapse, in its present form or altogether, as anyone with a modicum of economic education knows it will, we’ll suffer one way or the other, as will the rest of the world. But our exposure would be much smaller outside than inside, and smaller still if we had enough time to shift more of our trade away from the eurozone.

If Clegg doesn’t understand any of this, he’s a fool. If he does and still mouths his usual ignorant platitudes, he’s a knave. And if we have someone like him in a position of power, what does it make us?