Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Shouting past each other

Underlying the philosophy of the Left is the unshakeable belief that its goals and motivations are intrinsically and uniquely good, and that all contrary opinions are, by definition, malicious. From this position, leftists can justify any behaviour, however dubious, if it serves their higher cause, and can condemn any action by an opponent, however benign, for being done in the name of wickedness.

Nowhere is it written, of course, that the Left’s beliefs are morally superior. That's simply an article of faith for true believers and, as such, goes completely unexamined. Because people on the Right don't favour the Left's methods, they can't care about the people the Left claims to care about. Period.

In truth, the morality of a political position is irrelevant if has lousy real-world consequences. If wealth redistribution wrecks the economy and ruins people's lives, it doesn't matter that it was well-meaning. Mass immigration might benefit newcomers to this country, but if it harms the interests of the native population, it can't be considered wholly virtuous. Conversely, if capitalism leaves everyone better off than socialism, then it can be considered a good thing, even if it isn't motivated by compassion.

One could argue that a policy is moral if it helps the most needy, even if it screws over everyone else, but that is a subjective opinion, not a foregone conclusion. Often, prioritising the interests of the needy harms them in the long-run as it undermines the people who prop up their existence. Ultimately, morality alone is an unreliable guide to policy and by no means the grounds for claiming that one particular method or ideology is unquestionably right and proper.

If the policies and ambitions of the Left are not universally popular and objectively laudable, it cannot have a monopoly on virtue, in which case its methods must be judged on some criteria other than their intentions. How successful are they at achieving goals that are empirically desirable and generally popular? How much harm do they cause to people's widely-shared interests? And how, in these respects, do they compare with alternative methods?

If state-enforced equality, for example, is a worthwhile aspiration, it's because it delivers the benefits people most care about better than capitalism. Its advocates might consider equality of outcome an innately noble cause, and there may be times of popular support for their position, but it is really just a personal opinion.

It's asinine, then, to claim that opposing the Left's efforts to expand the state and increase public spending is ‘nasty’, since this starts from the unspoken assumption that bigger government is our best and only ethical option, and that all else is, by definition, wrong-headed and uncaring. The absurdity of this thinking should be obvious, yet it's rare to hear conservatives calling out the Left for begging the question and taking for granted the fundamental assumptions on which political differences are based.

This is why most political debate involves people shouting past each other - or, more often, involves conservatives allowing the Left to dictate the terms of the debate, instead of extolling their own position and brushing aside presumptive left-wing dogma.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Immigration - the unanswered questions

Mass immigration is here to stay and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That was the message of EU Commissioner on Migration Dimitris Avramopoulous in a piece he wrote for POLITICO entitled “Europe’s Migrants Are Here to Stay”. So stop your whining and get used to the new normal.

This is an old debating tactic: steer clear of fundamental questions, which, if answered, might cause your argument to collapse, and advance the debate so far beyond these questions that it's generally assumed they were settled in your favour and that your position is the sensible status quo. These assumptions are then established as gospel, which only heretics and lunatics would dare speak against.

So it is with the immigration debate in the UK - if there were one, of course. The Tories briefly flirted with the issue when they thought a failure to do so would cost them votes (which Theresa May managed to lose, anyway), but since then the party has reverted to its ‘don't frighten the horses’ policy. Labour, suffice to say, is a strident supporter of mass immigration, having kicked it off under Tony Blair, and is in no hurry to discuss the matter. This leaves an enfeebled UKIP and a few fringe groups trying to keep the debate alive, who are easily dismissed as extremists.

The issue is talked about more vigorously elsewhere in world, but the fundamental questions remain unanswered. Sweeping assumptions about the inevitability of widescale migration go unchallenged, allowing the pro camp to control the conversation and confine its opponents to arguing the small stuff.

Supporters of mass immigration talk as if the time prior to it happening was one of racial apartheid - as if would-be migrants were penned up in enclaves (aka their own countries) by white devils - a travesty that ended with the dismantling of border controls, which granted them rightful passage to their nations of choice.

Now that unchecked immigration is the Western norm (or the aspiration of most politicians, at least), this view of border controls as a form of apartheid is commonplace. Respectable opinion holds that it's not only selfish to deny foreigners unhindered access to your country, but counterproductive, due to the benefits they bring - namely a more diverse culture, a willing labour force, and a greater tolerance of foreigners among the natives.

This is the common answer to the big question about mass immigration: What's in it for us? These supposed boons of welcoming untold millions into your country have never been properly challenged or qualified, and they don't hold much water, anyway, since they're based on the principle that immigration is the cure for problems caused by too much immigration.

For instance, to say we need more diversity to encourage tolerance of foreigners in our midst only makes sense if you accept continual mass immigration as a fait accompli. Otherwise, it’s like telling a vegetarian they should eat more bacon to get used to the taste. If we didn’t have such a torrent of newcomers in the first place, there wouldn't be a need for more of the same to acclimatise the natives to their arrival.

This analysis of immigration as cause and cure applies to the cheap labour argument, too. Importing migrant labour drives down wages among the low-paid until the indigenous workforce opts for the dole queue, leaving jobs that are only fit for more migrant labour. The ensuing increase in population drives demand for goods and services, creating new jobs that need filling by - you guessed it - yet more migrant labour. It’s a perpetual motion machine that exists to solve problems of its own making.

Which leaves us with the alleged benefits of a more diverse culture, the need for which apparently grows the more of it we have. To this I would ask: what was wrong with our country exactly that needed fixing with greater diversity? Why was our largely homogeneous society of old so bad that it required an injection of foreign blood? Was there widespread discontent at such undiluted Britishness? Was our reluctance to compromise our national identity an impediment to our success?

Tightening our borders might send the message that immigrants aren't as welcome as they used to be, which could hurt the feelings of those who've already reached our shores; but unless you believe the relentless influx won't eventually lead to unpleasant trade-offs, we'll eventually have to take action. If not now, when? How much is too much? And when the time comes, will you know or admit to knowing?

If the introduction of alien cultures into our own has made things spicier and more interesting than they used to be, that doesn’t mean there's no upward limit to the process. At some point the indigenous culture becomes so diluted that people stop recognising the country as the one they grew up in. Whether that's a good thing or not is a matter of opinion, but it's not one that's ever been gauged or listened to by our decision-makers. Certainly the only opinion that should matter in this regard is that of the people who already live here, but current policy prioritises the interests of the people who want to live here.

One thing’s for sure: those flocking to Britain must think it’s a better place to live than their own countries, or they’d have stayed put. In which case, shouldn't we be preserving our customs, rather than trading them for those of places people are fleeing in droves? Even if there are aspects of those cultures that would enrich our own, how can we be sure we’ll get the good and keep out the bad, especially when the creed of multiculturalism discourages this kind of discernment? And if we can’t be sure, why risk it? Is the prospect of doing without more diversity really that awful?

If the West desperately needs to adopt more people and customs from the developing world, why isn’t the opposite true? You don’t hear anyone ticking off Pakistan for being too Pakistani, or Somalia for being too black. In fact, any attempt to recommend Western values to impoverished nations would be labelled cultural imperialism. They're fine as they are, apparently, despite millions of their people voting to the contrary with their feet. Why the double standard, when it would seem they’d be better off being more like us?

To answer these questions honestly is to understand the real reason for the mass immigration movement. Virtually no one is against migrants living and working in Britain, providing they accept our laws and values, and arrive in controlled numbers. Nor is anyone against taking in genuine refugees, providing our solution to strife in other countries isn’t to siphon off their populations and turn our own into a giant soup kitchen. But the pro-immigration lobby isn't interested in just importing the best or the wretched few. It wants to invite the unskilled Third World masses, too, without any expectation of them adapting to our way of life. Indeed, it actively discourages them from doing so by promoting the doctrine of multiculturalism and doing down our own culture at every opportunity.

The truth is that pro-immigration types don't expect Western society to remain essentially unchanged by the mass influx of people from foreign lands. On the contrary, they expect and hope that it will be radically and irrevocably altered. They have a visceral dislike of our culture and the people who find it amenable, and want to see them suffer. They want to introduce so many alien influences that the centre cannot hold and the whole thing comes crashing down. From the ruins they imagine a society will rise run for and by people like them.

These wreckers are ably assisted by useful idiots who've ingested the idea that any criticism of immigration is racist - the recourse of prejudiced proles and bourgeois bigots - and think that flying the flag for immigrants makes them better people. Because they don't rub shoulders with migrants (except for the educated, assimilated kind) or compete with them for work, they can blithely ignore their effects on the wider community and lecture the rest of us on the virtues of tolerance and diversity.

It’s tempting to avoid the immigration issue in the belief that it’s something bad people obsess over; but it’s not an understatement to say that it will determine the fate of the Western world. It’s more important than ever, then, that those who wish ill upon us don’t get to fast-forward past the questions that matter.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Bash away at the subversive Christmas ads

Oh Jesus, as if it matters. Who cares whether TV Christmas commercials feature Muslims, gays, transsexual cripples, rutting donkeys, or anything else for that matter? No one’s trying to insult Christians, upset conservatives or ruin all the yuletide fun. Get over it. Move on.

Social media has been full of this kind of thing since the big stores launched their festive ads, featuring images seemingly designed to infuriate the reactionary bigots of the progressive imagination. And yes, it’s ridiculous that such a trifling matter should provoke so much outrage, but it’s also hard to avoid the suspicion that this is precisely the point.

When you insert your agenda somewhere conspicuous yet trivial, any objection to it looks unavoidably petty. Even non-ideologues will spring to the defence of your propaganda rather than side with fulminating racists. One sneaky attack follows another, and eventually civilisation suffers death by a thousand cuts.

Admittedly, Christmas ads aren’t the ground on which I’d choose to make a stand against the progressive tide, but I didn't pick this fight. If this is how it has to go down, so be it. Allow me, then, to explain for the benefit of the eye-rolling liberals sighing “big deal” why these ads are ‘problematic’.

I’m sure a few people were miffed by the lack of obvious Christian imagery amid the multi-ethnic commercial showcase (Tesco’s advert featured a royal flush of Muslims, Sikhs and gays), but that’s not the real issue here, because religion was hoovered out of large parts of Christmas a long time ago. Nor is that people are appalled at the mere sight of tinsel-draped foreigners and homosexuals, despite what the BBC and the Guardian may think. It’s the pushers of identity politics that are the problem, not the groups they are pushing.

We are frequently told that identity groups should not be criticised, disrespected, imitated, borrowed from, or held to any standards other than their own. We should adjust our way of life to accommodate theirs, and embrace their customs and values as delightful additions to the patchwork of British life. Then we should celebrate the differences between these disparate factions, show them boundless tolerance, and all live happily ever after.

Trouble is, this hands-off approach to group relations is a one-way street. Whereas the majority is expected to keep its nose out of minority affairs, minorities are invited to put their stamp on the dominant culture, and any attempt by the majority to have its own thing is met with howls of protest.

Which isn’t to say that the opposite should be true and the majority should be screwing with minority interests. If Hindus want to celebrate Diwali and Muslims want to celebrate Eid, who is anyone else to meddle? No one would dream of trying to ‘whiten’ their celebrations, but as long as there are double standards in this regard, many will object to being the only ones whose traditions should be done over in the name of inclusiveness - and given the stealth tactics used by the Left, they will suspect that minorities are being used as a weapon against the majority.

A great many people understand that you can’t go down this multiculti identity group route without compromising a country’s values and customs, and changing its look and feel. And they happen to like how their country looks and feels - or how it used to, anyway - and not because they're all haters and imperialists. If minorities should be proud of their identity and their heritage, why the hell shouldn’t the majority? They were never consulted on the changes that have been forced on them, so they’re naturally aggrieved at what has come to pass, and are protective of those traditions that haven't yet fallen to the armies of progress and diversity.

With every victory these armies claim, the guardians of tradition become increasingly sensitive to the appearance of progressive mascots in their midst, seeing them as precursors to another full-scale assault. And they're right to be wary. This, after all, is a society in which a teacher can be suspended for ‘misgendering’ a pupil, citizens who fight with ISIS are rewarded with council houses, and the authorities turn a blind eye to Muslim child-abusers from a fear of seeming racist. Political correctness is not just the stuff of conservative fever dreams; it’s real and it actively works against traditional culture. Little wonder, then, that some want to preserve those areas of life still largely untouched by progressive dogma.

“Yeah, but this isn’t political correctness,” the pushers of PC assure us. “This is just about love and tolerance, and definitely won’t lead to anything else.” To which, most sane people say “pull the other one”. They know how these people work and have seen enough supposedly innocent gestures mutate into full-blown leftist face-slaps not to be fooled again.

As David Cole observes, “Social engineering of the type the left desires is accomplished by a very simple formula. Advance one step, and then promise that this step will not in any way lead to the next step. Wait a brief amount of time, and then advance to the next step, explaining that it’s only logical now that the previous step has become so widely accepted. Simple rule: Swear there’ll be no progression, and then progress.”

Most people get this, so even if the latest suspicious act is as innocent as its protagonists claim, they’ve pulled this shit too often to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Chances are it’s another sly backdoor effort to undermine normalcy and shaft the status quo.

Christmas is important because it’s about family and tradition - things that get up the nose of leftists and which they routinely attack. It’s a touchstone for those who aren’t exactly enamoured with the direction our country has taken; a beleaguered redoubt in a hostile land of screeching SJWs, scheming Marxists and resentful wreckers. So when progressives start messing with it, the backlash they receive is not, as it may first appear, an attack on the victim groups being showcased; it’s a rebuke to the agitators pulling their strings.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The egotism of the BBC pay gap delusion

One of the guiding beliefs of the modern Left is that we should be treated according to what we feel on the inside, as opposed to what people see on the outside. So, if you reckon you're a capable, hard-working person, it shouldn't matter if everyone else sees you as a oafish layabout. If you want to be considered beautiful, then that's what you are, even if you're pig-ugly. And if you're a man who thinks he's a woman, then a woman you are, in spite your penis.

Whenever someone is bold enough to call a spade a spade (or a penis a penis, for that matter), the Left cries ‘discrimination’ in order to preserve the lie that everyone is what they say they are. This is one reason why leftists are forever pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour: because once you put enough unpalatable ideas beyond criticism, it becomes hard to deny people their inner desires, however narcissistic or grotesque they may be.

Which brings us circuitously to the kerfuffle over the gender pay gap at the BBC. The corporation’s release of star salaries has prompted plenty of feather-spitting among leftists, who are appalled to learn that female presenters are generally paid less than their male counterparts. This is, we are told, further evidence of the patriarchy’s relentless campaign of oppression against women. Or something.

Prior to the uncovering of this supposed scandal, the gender pay gap theory had already been thoroughly debunked, but like so many ideas useful to the Left, it continues to be brought to the stream as if it still holds water. Every new ‘exposé’ of pay discrimination is put up in lights, as though it adds weight to the original argument and the previous debunking never happened. Tell a lie enough times, and all that.

The BBC is a public body, of course, so it routinely indulges all manner of PC insanity, but it still has to compete for an audience against privately-owned rivals. As such, it's pay structure must have some grounding in reality. Its most marketable stars will receive large enough salaries to dissuade them from going elsewhere, and its lesser lights will be paid according to their value in terms of talent and popularity.

A celebrity who hosts a successful flagship programme, the appeal of which is largely down to their personality or the expert insight they provide, is likely to be paid more than the host of a less popular show which is more about content than the person presenting it. The Chris Evans show without Chris Evans is not the same thing. The host of, say, a sports programme, who introduces links, asks someone else's questions, and offers little personal insight, is probably interchangeable with any number of other presenters, and won't command the salary of a Chris Evans. That's the reality of the marketplace. Get over it.

According to its press release, Clare Balding, an outspoken critic of the BBC pay gap, earns between £150k and £199k, compared to John Inverdale who is in the £200k to £249k range. Both are BBC sports presenters, so the argument goes that they should be on similar money (which they will be if she's at the top of her pay bracket and he's at the bottom of his, but let's assume otherwise for the sake of argument).

The BBC is one of the most arse-achingly PC organisations in Britain. They're also the same people who gave Balding her first job in broadcasting, then pushed this rather dull lesbian into the limelight, so they're likely to be guided by something other than sexism when determining her salary. Who, then, between Inverdale and Balding, is the more valuable asset? Who would rival stations prefer to snap up, and who has had the longer broadcasting career? The answers are not irrelevant to a person's earning potential, but wage gap obsessives have not bothered asking these questions, let alone answered them.

If Clare Balding is really as bankable as she seems to imagine, she should be able to get a better-paying job with a different employer. After all, commercial stations want presenters who bring in an audience, and they wouldn't get very far if they denied themselves this advantage out of a commitment to sexism. But since Balding hasn't jumped ship yet, she is either wrong in her estimation of herself, or she has prioritised working at the BBC over earning more elsewhere. Perhaps she'd prefer to stay where she is and be paid more, but the BBC isn’t at fault for not letting her have her cake and eat it.

This brings us back to the Left’s belief that an individual should be treated according to their wishes, rather those of the person doling out the treatment. According to this reasoning, Clare Balding should be paid what she thinks she deserves, irrespective of any other considerations, because her opinion of herself is irrefutable. And if she isn’t, then it’s an open-and-shut case of discrimination.

I dare say the BBC is not perfect in its assessment of people’s worth. For instance, it pays Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker £1.75m a year, although it’s highly questionable whether anyone tunes into the programme to see him in action, or would stop watching if he left the show.

I’m sure such bad judgment isn’t confined to Lineker. Some of the women on the BBC payroll may well be undervalued, but others - perhaps a greater number - may be overrated. No organisation will ever base its pay structure on employee self-estimation, so the only alternative to the status quo is to pay by job description alone.

On some level, I suspect those calling for closure of the wage gap know this, which is why they prefer equality of outcome to true fairness. God forbid they ever got the latter, because as Hamlet said, “Use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?”

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playtime is over

There is a theory - one I subscribe to - that Western societies have become vulnerable to Islamism because they have lost faith in their own core values, and are unable to offer any resistance to an ideology that is hellbent on bringing them to their knees.

People cleverer than me believe that many Westerners have reflected on their history and on the changes that have taken place in their lifetimes, and become so disillusioned with their way of life that they can’t bring themselves to defend it, even if they don’t especially care for what threatens to take its place.

Maybe. But if there is some deep philosophical explanation for this cultural ennui, those gripped by it must be old enough to have grown world-weary, or learned enough to have a sense of historical perspective. We may have our fair share of geriatric cynics who've fallen out of love with the West, or academics with an axe to grind against it, but they aren't numerous or influential enough to infect an entire culture. For there to be such widespread distaste for Western values, there must be considerable animosity among a younger, less intellectual demographic, whose distaste is rooted in something other than personal experience or scholarly knowledge. I suspect the real explanation is a lot less complicated.

When the Left collapsed as a labour movement in the 1980s, it was hijacked by brattish malcontents looking to dodge the responsibilities of adulthood. They gazed at their society, their culture, their civilisation and saw the prospect of a life at odds with their spoilt childhoods: one of duties and expectations they’d never experienced, criticism where flattery used to be, and toil where once there was leisure. Even their educational achievements, so important to them for so long, looked set to play second fiddle to qualities they conspicuously lacked, like charisma and cunning.

Instead of accepting that things are probably the way they are for a reason and getting with the programme, they sought excuses for why they shouldn't bother. It wasn't that they were lazy, entitled or scared, it was because the system was unjust, and unfairly skewed against them. It was down to elitism, racism, sexism, or whatever -ism afflicted the latest victim group looking for a societal sick note. There should be greater equality, they cried, so there would be fewer opportunities to thwart their precious egos.

Having never grown beyond the idea that their welfare is someone else's responsibility, they blamed everyone who had brought history to its current point for letting them down. It wasn't inevitable that the cosy assurances of their childhood should come to an end; it was a mean-spirited decision made by people too selfish, ill-educated and hidebound to entertain an alternative. Their resistance and state of perma-outrage was proof of their commitment to higher ideals, and confirmation of their moral superiority to the degraded champions of the status quo.

These infantile malcontents spoke the language of rebellion and liberty, but the last thing they wanted was to be left to their own devices. They simply expected society to afford them the same simulacrum of power and freedom enjoyed by a mollycoddled teenager.

They envisaged a world in which their pampered youth was replicated in adult form. So instead of a pat on the head for drawing daddy a picture, there would be cushy jobs that pandered to their narcissistic whim. Rather than suffering the judgment of others, there would be soothing assurances that they are perfect as they are. Any big boys who outshone them, or asked for more than they were willing to give, would be brought to heel. Instead of dealing with the consequences of their actions, some parental figure would tidy up after them and make things better. Being too immature to cope with disagreement, theirs would be the only voice heard and the only advice followed. In fact, as many of their emotional and material needs as possible would be catered for, so they could pursue a life of adolescent insouciance.

These overgrown sixth-formers were successful in rebuilding society in their own image. They took over our institutions and created millions of non-jobs in the public and private sectors - jobs that were like schoolwork in being of little value to anyone other than those doing them. Likewise, they oversaw the proliferation of in-pay ‘experts’, whose findings only ever made the case against autonomous adulthood and for the empowerment of people like them.

They expanded the welfare state and turned the NHS into a national religion, normalising dependency and portraying self-reliance as a hoity-toity privilege. They propagated universal excuses for ineptitude and failure via bogus theories of oppression, then howled down naysayers and called for them to be jailed. They sanctified youth, prioritised the interests of youngsters, and cursed the elderly for not just shutting up and getting out their cheque books.

They upended traditions and trashed social norms with the glee of people too naive and arrogant to believe they served any useful purpose. To this end, they also flooded the country with immigrants, to dilute the dominant culture, upset their opponents, and advance the need for a bigger welfare state. Freedom, and those who cope with its slings and arrows, were vilified, while vulnerability was turned into a virtue and presented as our fundamental condition. In fact, everything they did seemed designed to infantilise the populace and strengthen the hand of the authorities, who were cast in the role of doting parent.

Perhaps the greatest symbol of their success has been the EU: a monument to unaccountable, paternalistic power; a writer of stifling rules that curb our freedoms and, therefore, our responsibilities; a creator of makework jobs to fill the schoolwork-shaped hole in the lives of beta nerds who fancy themselves too smart and sophisticated to join the rat race; an endorser of the kind of people who fill those jobs and of their position as masters of the universe.

But like all leftists, they eventually overreached. The cost of supporting their juvenile Shangri-la became unsustainable, and the people cowed into propping it up decided enough was enough. The financial crash of 2008 exposed its economic inanity, setting a number of Western nations on the long path back to probity. With accountability back in vogue, resentment grew of the institutions that had taken it away in the first place: the EU, the nanny state and the legions of technocrats who presumed to tell us how to live. Brexit and Trump were natural responses to this sentiment.

The position of our sissyfied overlords on social issues began to grate, too. Their insistence that ‘the system’ was profoundly unjust required them to wage a never-ending war on behalf of the ‘oppressed’ - an increasingly ridiculous and unpalatable roll-call of misfits and ne’erdowells. “Why should we sacrifice our way of life to satisfy these people,” the public wondered, “when they are so few and their interests so at odds with our own?”

In the face of this push-back, the left-wing establishment upped the ante, directing its spite at whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and all those other markers of the status quo. The targets of this blood libel were to blame for all the evils of the world and deserved to be shamed, punished, blotted from history, and replaced by mascots of the brave new world.

Such absurdity was not only offensive to the vast majority of people, it flew in the face of their own experiences and common sense. The declarations of the new Left, for so long taken as the voice of reason and progress, sounded like lunatic rantings. Their underdog-worship became a series of unsustainable contradictions. They rooted for gays, but then Muslims became the victim de jour, who were not so hot on the whole gay thing. Cue hilarious displays of intellectual gibberish and cognitive dissonance, to the eye-rolling despair of sane people everywhere.

In spite of the Right’s resurgence, the cultural establishment remains firmly in the hands of adolescent leftists, who so despise the prospect of a truly free society that they will do anything to avoid its deliverance. They will kick, scream and spoil like sulky teenagers until they get their way. Their rage and their hatred for their own cultural inheritance is all the greater for them being so used to having their cake and eating it. They would rather live under a totalitarian regime if it means avoiding the challenges, frustrations and potential humiliations of freedom. They even believe, on some sub-moronic level, that they will be afforded more grace and favour under autocratic rule than under the ‘iron fist’ of liberty.

With the tide turning, panic is spreading among millennial ingrates and their aging soulmates. Their foot-stamping demands for salvation become more hysterical by the day. They don't want to grow up, dammit, and they see nothing worth saving in the culture that expects them to do so.

Well, sorry kids, but playtime is over.

Friday, 9 June 2017

There are none so blind

Thursday's General Election saw millions of first-time voters give their support to Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently, they felt his pledge to stick it to the rich and increase public sector spending equates to justice and decency, and they’re very much about these things. History has demonstrated time and again that big government is a bad idea, but hope springs eternal. The imbecilic idealism of youth ensures that each time socialism is tossed into the dustbin of history, it crawls out again to entice the another generation of fantasists.

For doubting the wisdom of eternal state expansion, conservatives are seen by the Left as heartless knaves, who walk on the backs of peasants. Or as Thomas Sowell put it, they “seem to assume that if you don't believe in their particular political solutions, then you don't really care about the people that they claim to want to help”.

Leftists find it useful to conjure up evil conservative straw men, because they like having something dark and satanic to define themselves against. In truth, however, conservatives do care about other people. They’re just more interested in doing good than feeling good. The reason they doubt the ability of a benevolent state to banish all our social ills isn't just down to their lack of faith in the omnipotence of bureaucrats, but because they have a grasp of economic reality.

To illustrate this point, allow me to borrow an example from philosopher Jamie Whyte. Suppose I took a portion of your income and did your weekly shopping for you. Chances are, I’d buy plenty of things you don’t need, be extravagant where you’d have economised, and frugal where you’d have splashed out. Even if I stayed within your usual budget, what was left wouldn’t be enough for you to afford the things I'd neglected to buy. You’d be left worse off than if you'd done your own shopping.

Now imagine this scheme was rolled out nationwide, with the government buying groceries for everyone. Soon enough, retailers would tailor production to the government shopping list, and variety would vanish from the shelves. With no competition or consumer choice to worry about, there would be few controls over costs, and nothing to drive productivity, quality or innovation. With everything free at the point of use, demand would be effectively infinite, but budgetary constraints, growing inefficiency and spiralling costs would hamper supply. Rationing and shortage would be inevitable. Eventually, you’d have to queue around the block for loaf of bread that used to cost a pound, but now costs a tenner and is full of weevils.

This is why it’s absurd to claim a little less efficiency is a fair price for a little more equality. Truth is, the state makes everything so expensive that it can only be afforded by the state. This may not bother you if you think someone else is picking up the lion’s share of the cost, but when government plays provider, prices rise and quality falls to such an extent that you’d still be better off paying your own way.

To understand the magnitude of this effect, consider Venezuela. Even having the largest oil reserves on earth couldn’t save it from the consequences of socialism. Its economy is in tatters, not because of interference by scheming gringos, but because of its statist policies. This is the eventual fate of any country that goes down the route of providing the public with too much 'free stuff'.

Once statism takes hold, it’s very hard to dislodge. Because the NHS has a near-monopoly on healthcare, for instance, it dictates and drives up the cost of medical procedures nationally. Private alternatives compete in this inflated market, so their prices tend to be high also. They have a limited pool of potential customers (because most people can’t afford private healthcare after forking out for the NHS), so there is insufficient competition or demand to apply downward pressure on prices. The net result is that only a relative few buy private health insurance, and everyone else is stuck in the gravitational pull of an NHS doomed by the mechanism described above.

The only way to break the spell is through privatisation. But that is a poisonous word for people concerned with ‘social justice’, who (getting things entirely the wrong way round) associate it with bad value, shoddy service and diddling the poor. Instead, they call for more public spending, preferring short-term good they can take credit for supporting, than long-term good they did nothing to bring about.

The same people probably wouldn’t dream of using government mobile phones, eating in government restaurants, or going on government holidays. They understand how expensively second-rate those things would be, but refuse to view our monolithic public services the same way. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The road to hell

Consider this…

Islamic terrorism is committed by a tiny fringe of extremists – a fraction of one percent of all Muslims, who follow a perverted interpretation of what is a fundamentally peaceful faith. The remainder are thoroughly decent people, appalled by the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of Islam, who want to live in harmony with non-believers.

Their way of life may be different to ours, but the two are entirely compatible, providing we, as hosts, show sufficient tolerance and understanding. Not that our own culture is anything to be proud of, being a sorry tale of prejudice, oppression and greed. Instead of singing its praises, we should accept Muslims and their customs into the melting pot of British life, as an antidote to our shameful past and to the people who want to keep it alive.

Provincial racists, with their poisonous patriotism and support for Tory cuts, are the reason Muslims feel alienated and neglected. We must not give into their demands for an immigration crackdown and closer scrutiny of the Islamic community. More racism, more arrogance and more meanness are not the cure, they’re the cause. We need to show Muslims we are accepting, humble and generous if we are to win their allegiance.

The idea that Islam has spawned a disproportionate number of fanatics is a distortion. There are plenty of Christian, Hindu and Sikh murderers in the world, though they don’t get the same exposure. In fact, most so-called Islamic extremists aren’t motivated by religion at all – despite what they might claim themselves. They’re mentally-disturbed individuals, using Islam as an excuse for their actions. Many are not even affiliated to a terrorist organisation. They’re just lone-wolves, who happen to be Muslim, so it's difficult to understand their motives or intercept them before turn violent.

Statistically speaking, terrorism isn’t a big deal, anyway. The chances of being killed in a terror attack are so small as to be insignificant. Even if a hundred people are murdered by terrorists in Britain this year, that’s only about 5% of the number of who’ll die on our roads. We shouldn’t let the drama of these events and sensational press coverage let us get things out of perspective.

Then again…

...try telling the family of someone killed in Manchester or London that the death of a loved one is no big deal – a statistical anomaly that shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. As Mark Steyn put it, in response to the fatuous claim that more Americans are killed by falling fridges than by terrorists:

“Your refrigerator is not trying to kill you, and not eternally seeking new ways to do so. You don’t have to worry about your fridge getting hold of an automatic weapon, or a dirty nuke. The Islamic supremacists want to kill as many infidels as possible by whatever means are to hand. Nor are statistics irrelevant: If you’ve lost your only child because she went to an Ariana Grande concert, that’s 100 per cent of your kids who are dead. When it comes to deceased loved ones, the only statistical pool that counts is your family, not the nation or the planet.”

Events of the type witnessed in London and Manchester strike a special kind of fear into us precisely because they're exceptional. They shatter our assumption that, despite all the terrible things in the world, we can still go to the shops, the pub or a pop concert, without being massacred by medieval savages. As such, they're not just attacks on innocent people, but on civilised order itself.

Knowing that these dreadful incidents occur more often in far-flung places than at home doesn't comfort us, because we don’t live in those countries. What shocks and appals us is that it’s happening on our doorstep, where we’re entitled to feel safe. The more we explain away terrorism with pie charts and philosophical musings, the more we resemble those lawless hellholes where we're told they have it much worse.

Muslims are not the only people of faith committing murder, of course, but they’re the only ones doing it in the name of their god on a global scale. Those responsible haven’t misinterpreted their religious teachings, they’ve taken them verbatim. If anything, it’s the moderate Muslims who have things back to front, because, contrary the ‘religion of peace’ trope, the Koran doesn’t have a New Testament or Version 2.0 that preaches tolerance and forgiveness. All it has is the real-deal original, replete with blood, thunder, and death to the infidel.

It stands to reason – not as a matter of prejudice, but as a statistical certainty – that if you increase the number of Muslims in your society, you increase the number of Islamic extremists. Despite this, many people are reluctant to halt or reduce Muslim immigration, or deport and detain terror suspects, because they claim it would stigmatise Muslims already living here and could inspire more attacks.

Whether you take this position or not, there is surely a degree of bloodshed beyond which even the most tolerant individual would be forced to park their principles and support more robust action. So why isn’t that moment now? If the preachers of tolerance believe we’ve some way to go yet, they need to spell out exactly what ‘enough’ looks like. What kind of death toll can they live with? Put a number on it.

As for the idea that taking action against Muslims would inflame the situation, how do we know? Where’s the evidence that moderate Muslims would take measures to prevent further mayhem as a call to arms? And what alternative do we have, anyway? Two decades of multiculturalism – of turning a blind eye to misogyny, homophobia, arranged marriages, child rape gangs, female genital mutilation, and all the other ‘eccentricities’ of Muslim culture – have done little to improve matters. Why would more of the same make a difference?

This programme of appeasement and self-flagellation hasn't just failed to address extremism, it's facilitated it. For years now, left-wing intellectuals have charged Western culture with exploiting and oppressing people, denying them a platform, discriminating against them on the basis of class, race, religion, gender or sexual preference, and brainwashing them into pursuing a shallow, materialistic existence that serves the interests of a privileged few. Opinion-formers and decision-makers have indulged this dogma and, in doing so, sent a clear message to Muslims: you live among selfish, racist philistines, who will never accept you and have no beliefs worth embracing. Under the circumstances, I’m surprised more of them don’t hate us.

It’s easy for dangerous beliefs to take root in such an ideological void. The empty mantra of tolerance and diversity has replaced the judgmental values of old, and offer a free pass to anything opposed to how things used to be. When liberals urge us to stay united in the face of terrorism, what they mean is, “Don’t let this take us back to the bad old days”. They are so terrified of being called racist, or so wedded to the leftist narrative, they would rather sit on their hands and wait for things to blow over, than do anything worth a damn.

But it’s not going to blow over. The longer we wait without acting decisively, the worse it will get. Take the high road if you like, but know that it leads to hell.