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.