Of Public Sector Millionaires

There is a lot of ad hominem argumentation around, and often the arguments attempt to disprove someone’s beliefs or statements based upon the supposed financial gain they will derive from the outcome for which they argue. There is some truth in this line of attack, Dalrymple says at the Library of Law and Liberty, but it’s more complex than all that:

If someone does something of which we disapprove, something dishonest, and we discover that he has benefited financially from it, we say aha, now we understand!

Often, of course, we are not wrong; yet sometimes the situation is psychologically more complex than what is captured in that cynical “aha” moment. People can easily persuade themselves that what is in their own interest is also in the interest of humanity, their country, the town in which they live. Even the most unimaginative people can be highly inventive when it comes to rationalization. There is scarcely anyone so dull of intellect that he cannot make a thousand excuses for himself when the occasion requires.

….

It is a crude view of human life and psychology, however, to suppose that only financial inducement can constitute a vested interest. A worldview, one could say, is as much a vested interest as a block of shares….Worldviews determine economic interests as much as economic interests determine worldviews.

The Parents’ Impossible Choice: Increase Your Premature Baby’s Risk of Death or Blindness?

This column at Pajamas Media gives some sense of the ethical dilemmas faced in medical research:

How informed is informed? What is the psychological effect of being told of every last possible complication of a treatment? Do all people react the same way to information, or does their reaction depend upon such factors as their intelligence, level of education, cultural presuppositions, and if so does the informing doctor have to the account of them, and if so how and to what degree? An orthopedic surgeon once told me that obtaining informed consent from patients now takes him so long that he had had to reduce the number of patients that he treats.

Avoid Rich Foods

A nightmare inspires some self-reflection:

I was polite even in my dream: or was it pusillanimous? I didn’t so much as raise my voice to him. Even asleep I wondered whether this was pusillanimity rather than politeness. I don’t in the least mind upsetting people by what I write, but when confronted by someone in person, even someone whom I dislike, with whom I disagree profoundly and to whose views I have a profound aversion, I suddenly become anodyne and emollient. I can pour scorn on any number of writers, but not upon a single individual in person. In a way this is not surprising: I have never had any problem with public speaking. It is speaking in private that I find difficult.

Looking Away from Europe’s Muslim Problem

Recent exaggerations by terrorism expert Steven Emerson about the Muslim areas of France have provided a welcome distraction to those who want to deny what are in fact very real problems:

…the most worrying aspect of the situation is the attraction of jihadi ideology for young Muslims. It is impossible to gauge exactly the degree or strength of support for it: opinion surveys are all but useless. The least one can say, however, is that jihadism attracts both those with bright and dim futures, and according to official calculations, some 2,200 youthful jihadis from France, Britain, and Belgium alone have gone to Syria. This is a far more than sufficient pool of murderous religious ideologues to cause untold havoc in Europe.

Read the rest here

The Lamps Are Going Out

The streetlights in Dalrymple’s English town are now being switched off every night at midnight. This might at first seem like a fairly minor development, but I can’t help but think that his explanation for it uncovers what is in fact a major problem and one that explains much of what is wrong with the modern world.

Even if it provided no services at all, the council would still run at a deficit if it continued only with its essential business, which is to pay the salaries and pensions of those who work in it, and the various parasitical rent-seekers, like employment lawyers, who live at its expense. And so the bureaucracy (and its hangers-on) does not exist to serve the public, but the public exists to serve the bureaucracy. In the past, the council had reserves to meet its deficits, but these have been run into the ground, and it has therefore had to appeal to other, larger sources of public funds for help, which themselves run on the same great pyramid-principle as that of the town council. Indeed, the whole country, the whole continent, the whole hemisphere is run on that principle.

The root cause of it all? Fiat money. Read the whole piece here.

Which Medical Treatments Today Will We Someday Regard as Barbaric?

A look at medical history tells us there undoubtedly are some:

Such beliefs, that now seem to us so absurd that it is a wonder to us that anyone could ever have held them, were not uncommon at the time, and Freud himself, under the influence of his friend, the ear, nose and throat surgeon Wilhelm Fliess, believed that a condition of the nasal septum could cause hysterical symptoms. In the 1920s a man called Cotton tried to cure schizophrenia by taking out all the patients’ teeth, on the theory that infected teeth were the cause of the condition.

What are our theories today that will seem absurd to our successors, what unnecessary or dangerous operations performed on the flimsiest of hypotheses? We can never know. Properly conducted trials repeatedly demonstrate that widespread practices are useless at best and harmful at worst. However, there is a more fundamental principal of medical ethics than First do no harm. It is that Something must be done.

Indifference or Obsession?

What is the proper amount of attention that free people in a democracy should give to politics? Forget it all, and avail oneself of society’s bread and circuses? Or read the newspapers every day and take seriously the wooden pronouncements of people like Francois Hollande? Indifference or obsession? Dalrymple would prefer the former, apparently, and yet…

The problem is that if you do not go to politics, politics will come to you.

Tyranny of the Minority

While the majority of French Muslims are not anti-French, Dalrymple reminds us, this fact only gets one so far:

I go to a Muslim boulanger in Paris whose French bread and pastries are as good as any in the vicinity; and, if anything, I have a prejudice in favor of patronizing his shop precisely to encourage and reward his successful integration. And he is only one of many cases that I know.

Unfortunately, this is not as reassuring as it sounds, because a handful of fanatics can easily have a much more significant social effect than a large number of peaceful citizens. There is more to fear in one terrorist than to celebrate in 99 well-integrated immigrants. And if only 1 percent of French Muslims were inclined to terrorism, this would still be more than 50,000 people, more than enough to create havoc in a society. The jihadists now have a large pool from which to draw, and there are good reasons to think that more than 1 percent of young Muslims in France are distinctly anti-French.

A Breakthrough Discovery in Treating Strokes?

A study on the use of stents to treat a certain kind of stroke recently caught Dalrymple’s eye:

One little phrase caught my attention.

The doctors who took part in the trial had to have performed the stenting procedure using the latest technology and appliances at least five times before they were allowed to participate in it. This meant that many procedures must have been performed previously without knowing whether or not they would benefit the patients. From the point of view of current rigorous medical ethics, those procedures were probably unethical, though not of course meant maliciously. Perhaps there is an inevitable tension between medical advance and medical ethics.