How Unspeakably Bad to Be Relatively Worse Off

This piece at the Library of Law and Liberty might also be titled: What austerity?

It is true that welfare expenditures in Britain have declined slightly in real terms over the last few years, but so has the need for such expenditures, as illustrated by a falling unemployment rate and a decline in welfare claims. And yet the Guardian calls such a modest reduction in spending “Unspeakable Horrors”, apparently without sarcasm.

This is another example of a tendency for public expenditure, once it has reached a certain level, to sever any connection with its ostensible goal or purpose. It would be an exaggeration to say that the main beneficiaries of such public expenditure are the people working in the public sector, for it is clear that schools and hospitals, for example, must offer some service to the young and the sick, respectively; but the main purpose of public sector of the public sector, as against its main beneficiaries, becomes the preservation, or if possible the improvement, of its privileges.

Electroconvulsive therapy by radio

We’ve just realized that we’ve been overlooking Dalrymple’s blog posts at the Salisbury Review since last October. They are no longer posted on the separate “Hilarious Pessimist” page but directly on the website’s front page. Our apologies.

His latest post muses on the unique voice of the radio DJ:

It is strange how the purveyors of radiophonic drivel around the world have precisely the same intonation; there is something relentlessly bright and facetiously emphatic about it. Even in a country of whose language you speak not a word, you can recognise it and know that the speaker is talking to create a mood or fill a vacuum rather than convey a meaning.

Read it here

The Man Who Made Singapore

Yes, Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew became a little authoritarian, and much of what once made it interesting was lost, but are the results not preferable to the “terminal decline and decadence” that Yew (who recently died at 91) observed about England?

The achievements of Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew are incontestable. Almost alone of all the countries in the word, it has developed a first-rate medical system that it can actually afford. The Singaporeans are among the healthiest people in the world. It has economic reserves that would be enviable for countries many times its size. All this is largely thanks to Lee Kwan Yew, who knew how to harness the energies of his people for their own good.

Dalrymple at City Journal


In Taki’s Magazine Dalrymple reacts to a conversation he overheard on a train, in fluent managerialese and containing these phrases:

That’s all been improved to deliver the capacity to deliver.

When we try to pin people down about what they’re going to deliver, we’re not good at it, it’s necessary to flex it but we don’t have a culture of it.

She’s passive-aggressive because she feels a feeling of being left out.

There was too much emphasis on what wasn’t right, and we’ve managed to shift the narrative.

From a performance management viewpoint, we could articulate a lot more engagement.

Macron Economics

All hell breaks loose in France, as the country – gasp – considers some minor economic reforms.

That so minor a piece of legislation can have brought about a political crisis is symbolic of France’s paralysis (and that of much of Europe also). The law, self-proclaimed as being for “growth and equality of opportunity,” would institute certain small changes. …These amendments are not such as to change the country profoundly, but the Socialist deputies in the National Assembly see them as the thin end of the wedge—as every change is seen in France.

Revolt Against Civilisation

Why are Islamists like ISIS so determined to destroy the ancient monuments and works of other cultures? Writing at Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple says it’s because they have given in to the all-too-human temptation of barbarity. Better to embrace the attitude exhibited in the words of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India, whom he quotes at length:

If there be any one who says to me that there is no duty devolving upon a Christian Government to preserve the monuments of a pagan art or the sanctuaries of an alien faith, I cannot pause to argue with such a man. Art and beauty, and the reverence that is owing to all that has evoked human genius or has inspired human faith, are independent of creeds, and, in so far as they touch the sphere of religion, are embraced by the common religion of all mankind. Viewed from this standpoint, the rock temple of the Brahmans stands on precisely the same footing as the Buddhist Vihara, and the Mohammedan Musjid as the Christian Cathedral. There is no principle of artistic discrimination between the mausoleum of the despot and the sepulchre of the saint. What is beautiful, what is historic, what tears the mask off the face of the past and helps us to read its riddles and to look it in the eyes – these, and not the dogmas of a combative theology, are the principal criteria to which we must look.

Read the full piece here

To Make Men Thin

Dalrymple takes a surprising policy position in a piece for the Library of Law and Liberty, but of course he is also making a point about personal responsibility:

I would have no real objection, then, to regulation of the sugar content of prepared foods, provided it was done on intellectually honest grounds. Those grounds would not be that people are incapable of acting other than as they do, but that they are too idle to cook, their tastes and pleasures are too brutish, their habits too gross, for them to be left free to choose for themselves. Someone who knows better must guide them.

False optimism in the drugs debate

There is no approach to the issue of marijuana legalization that is obviously correct, says Dalrymple, but consider some of the potential harms that many, like Nick Clegg and Richard Branson in their recent public campaign, are ignoring:

…according to the latest research in Britain, the consumption of cannabis early in life is associated with a greatly increased risk of developing schizophrenia, and not even Messrs Clegg and Branson suggest legalising its sale to, and consumption by, such young people. Cheated by legalisation of a black market among older people, it is at least conceivable that dealers then turn their attention even more than they already do to a young population to maintain their sales and profits – and this at a time when levels of consumption are, luckily, falling among youngsters.

Read the piece in the Telegraph