Putin it like that, no

I was due to write a long, possibly rambling, post on Vladimir Putin’s comments on liberalism, but the job has been done for me. I loathe the modern philosophies of nominal liberalism and the destructive effect they have had on state and society, but if President Putin thinks I must then fall into his camp, he has not understood the Britons.

As it happens, I need not provide an insightful analysis because Paul Goodman has written a flawless piece on Conservative Home this morning:

Putin asserts that liberalism has outlived its purpose and is obsolete. That choice of words follows the liberals’ own playbook, by asserting Putin’s philosophy to be ‘on the right side of history’, and he is also playing the old game of portraying the choice of philosophy as one-dimensional; Liberal v Authority.

In fact, there is no ‘right side of history’ and the field is not one-dimensional either. Also ‘liberalism’ is not one entity but a series of propositions, some right, many wrong, and a badge seized upon by anyone with a mad idea they wish to propagate. Therefore opposing the maddest new ideas, or ideas fifty years old, is not to throw yourself into the hands of dictatorship not to abandon liberalism itself (however it might be defined).

Then there is the basic point put by Paul Goodman: it is not just liberalism and authoritianism: there is the Conservative in the mould of the English-speaking world. That is built on the inheritance of freedom which is fundamental to Anglosphere culture: strip modern accretions away from the cultures of continental Europe and you are left with feudal tyranny as the basic norm of life, but strip modernity from the English-speaking peoples and you have the ancient rights of free Englishmen. This makes deep-conservatism so different in the Anglosphere: in Europe it looks back to ancient authority which was tyrannous, while for us it looks back at a time when the state barely interfered in life.

On the basis of opposing western liberalism, Putin is building alliances with European-style conservatives, in Turkey and the old lands of Austria-Hungary. As the only genuine freedom-loving conservative government anywhere in the Anglosphere at the moment is that of the United States, and that is under existential threat from authoritarian liberals, there seems no other alliance to oppose the idiocies of modernist ideologues without jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

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The Long March: conspiracy or accident?

The Long March through the Institutions was advocated by Rudi Dutschke, a German, Communist student activist in 1971: he saw the progress of revolution stifled by the established order and so wrote that Communists could subvert this order by infiltrating the institutions which make it up.

As those with Marxist or cultural-Marxist ideas have apparently taken control of all institutions, the conspiracy would seem to have been sprung.  Something does not feel right about this neat theory though.  For one thing, giant conspiracies do not work, and for another, writing your whole plan in a popular book for all the world to see is a terrible way to run a secret conspiracy.

It has happened though, and as ConHome reminds us frequently, research has found five times more labour supporters have been appointed to public bodies than Tories.

Conspiracy or natural selection?

There may be an element of deliberate exclusion of Tories.  This might be the sort of action which is co-ordinated over dinner parties or WhatsApp groups.  This is a conspiracy, but a localised one rather than anything centrally directed.

It can be hard to deny a conspiracy against conservative-minded candidates when we see apparently co-ordinated attacks on such appointees bursting out into the media.  This might just be a ‘Twitter congregation’.  More studies would be needed to determine how much planned co-ordination goes into such attacks (but with few conservatives now in academic positions it may be impossible to commission such research).

There may be other explanations though for the overwhelming dominance of Marxists and cultural-Marxists in institutional positions; essentially that it has been a natural process caused by the characters and motivations of those involved; an osmosis where the red particles pass more easily in through a membrane and others more easily pass out. 

A body which effectively appoints its own successors, or which has an independent appointments board, will through natural processes entrench its own prejudices.  In making appointments, the board will be charged with choosing those considered sound and sensible: it is natural then to think that their own views are the sound, sensible view and that those who differ from them are lacking in principle or intellect.  If charged with ensuring political neutrality, it is natural to think of their own views as neutral and others as political or “fringe”.  Furthermore, it is natural for a board to choose as colleagues those with whom one can work in harmony, who will not challenge their colleague’s own views and assumptions.

A system fine-tuned to fail

A quick review of the positions offered in the quangocracy shows an interesting pattern:  most senior positions are part-time jobs, paid well for the few hours the holder is expected to work, but not as a career salary.  Therefore anyone who wishes to take a management role in a quango must be one who has the hours to spend: an academic, a semi-retired company director, or more particularly an existing quangocrat with a portfolio of positions to keep his family fed.  These are not career-structure positions:  they are to be filled by those with a “proven track record” in the field, which excludes new blood and favours those in the system.

The biggest ‘Public appointments’ advertising section is in The Guardian (which is essentially a socialist political party which happens to run a newspaper on the side).  The implication is obvious.

In addition, these whose instinct is in favour of commerce and enterprise will gravitate to what most of us would call getting proper jobs:  jobs in commercial business where merit is rewarded and wealth created. Those with no liking for commerce will gravitate to jobs living off state largesse.

Our nation’s social history does not help in this: in the days of a regimented class system, a gentleman would live from his rents and landed income, or seek such a worthy profession as the army the Church or the law, while ‘trade’ was considered a low calling.  Now there are few landed estates, the outlets for those who still despise ‘trade’ are academia and the quangocracy.

A man isolated from the realities of commercial life is isolated from reality and unfit to be entrusted with any great charge.  Also, he cannot be expected to appreciate the need for a limited state, if he has no love for any endeavour that is outside the state.

In this way, the institutions of the state will by natural process be filled with those who would despise the commerciality of a whelk stall and be unfit to be entrusted with one.

Challenging the entrenched powers

If all this is so, then reversing it will take more than exposing a conspiracy, as there is no conspiracy:  it requires a fundamental change in the system which makes this osmosis happen.

The reality of the take-over is undoubted, and it is realised as much by the left-wing as by conservatives.  The defence of left-wing hegemony has been deployed on notable occasions:  just months ago Sir Roger Scruton, Britain’s greatest living philosopher, was barred from an innocuous, unpaid position after a targeted attack:  no conservative is to be permitted a position of influence.

Public frustration at the leaden-headedness of bureaucracy and the strictures of public bodies (and alleged public bodies) has grown to anger, and if elections every five years seem to make no difference, the safety valve has gone.

The action to take?  That might require a longer article.

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4IR: understanding and fear

Alan Mak MP recently wrote a series of articles on Conservative Home about the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which its aficionados dub ‘4IR’.  The excitement and the possibilities echo through the whole piece.  The IT revolution is exciting and inviting of innovation that has transformed life as we could not have imagined not just in my lifetime but the last decade, and the next leap can make new transformations we can barely imagine.

It is a promise of the future but also the reality of the present:  we are deep within the ‘third’ industrial, revolution, the computer revolution, and ‘4IR’ is all that follows or might potential follow from it: beyond apps to artificial intellegence, robots, synthetic biology, ‘the internet of things’, augmented reality, biohacking, and more we cannot yet conceive across the world and beyond it. It is the fusion of technologies: you might say that 4IR geeks must step out from their screens and create real things in the real world.

Is it true that no new thing has been invented since the 1950s- 1960?  Then we saw the first hovercraft, lasers, maglev, the silicon chip – all since has been the improvement of existing technology.  The latest Tesla may be a revolutionary car it is a car, and nothing Henry Ford would not recognise.  Since the IT revolution, innovation has shrunk to the confines of a screen, and has changed the world from there, but it is limited.  The promise off the next stage, this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is to bring all the strands of technology, from Boulton-Watt to Microsoft. Together to do new things which each alone cannot achieve or even conceive..

We should not however get carried away with imagining that the new age is unimaginable.  It is called the ‘fourth’ revolution after those of steam, of electricity and of computers.  As we saw the previous upheavals, so we see this one, and we can learn not to underestimate it, nor to be afraid of it.

It is no different from the others.  This new revolution is governed by pure Adam Smith logic, as have been the preceding industrial revolutions and all innovations since man first lifted a hunting spear:  if there is incentive for an individual to innovate then he will innovate, in order to make his work less boring or more profitable.

If the system were ever established that takes from a man all that he can produce then there is no incentive to innovate and society ossifies:  Smith identified this deadening factor in the feudal states of his day.  Innovation and the motors of prosperity existed only where a man could earn more by working hard and innovating, and were strongest in America, as land rents were low. In the French countryside a seigneur would take as rent the whole increase in production, and as a result tenant farmers made no innovations, but lived from day to day. It was in the towns, freed of this system, that new machines and techniques were developed, and in Britain both town and country fizzed with innovation, leading to prosperity for all: profit for the innovator and cheaper goods for the customer.

The deathly feudal system is in vogue today: its idea of taking from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, is a cornerstone of Marxism to which Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell are devoted, and a large section of the unthinking population too.

There is fear over the new industrial revolution.  This too is nothing new. The Luddites, Captain Swing, and all machine-breakers did what they did convinced that machines would take their jobs and leave them to starve.  Today, identical fears are heard, and those most vocal about it will tell the world on Twitter and Facebook, while sending out for online pizza.

The lesson of all revolutions in innovation has been that it can produce unexpected prosperity in all society, with new jobs arising where others are lost:  as less work is needed, there is time and energy to do more work, and new prosperity opens up new opportunities.  If a ship once took a year to build from timber and can now be built in two months, then that is not five out of six workers on the scrapheap – it is building six ships in place of one, or building them bigger for new cargoes, or building them of steel.

When robots take jobs, as they will and must, it is to make consumer goods more affordable and industrial processes cheaper, and it creates more jobs, and ones less backbreaking.

Each sudden change produces fear and protest – when the mines closed in the 1980s commentators thought the mining villages lost to poverty forever, but they throve, with more jobs there now than ever before, and jobs that do not involve crawling through a mine in the blackness waiting for a cave-in, and retiring with lung disease.

The future is good.

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Believe in the bin

It was a rubbish analogy, had Rory stopped to think about it.  It has been taken up in other forms by commentators assuring us that Boris Johnson simply cannot deliver on a promise to leave the EU by 31 October 2019, and with the same assured nodding we have been familiar with over the last three years, and which stays knowing and assured every time the nodders are shown to be completely wrong.

The Channel 4 debate was a week ago but it seems like an age way. You may remember how the audience chuckled when Rory Stewart animatedly told us that when his wife wants him to put three bin bags in the outside bin, and they will not fit, it is not enough to “Believe in the Bin”, which somehow related to leaving the European Union.

Chuckle a moment then think about the position:  there is a man known for his resourcefulness faced with an overladen bin, and his sole solution is to jam yet another bag into the same inadequate receptacle; then unable to do so, he declares there is no solution, so the bin will not be filled. Others on the panel appeared to agree: they wanted a delay in the bin collection until they have worked out how to shrink the rubbish, or to agree to take some of the rubbish back in possibly.  That limited thinking will get us nowhere.  The bin lorry is coming. Think around it.

Firstly, do not become obsessed with the dark mouth of that one bin and the one solution.  The aim is not to fill one bin in one conventional way, but to get the rubbish out of the house as quickly as possible before it begins to stink.  The one bin going into the standard collection is the easy, conventional solution, but not to only one.

Try shifting some of the rubbish already in there, and use that half-plank left behind the shed from when you were making shelves to jam it down: not so much that the rubbish will not slide out when tipped into the dustcart, but enough to make space.  Then fit another bag round it.  Try taking some things out for the recycling bin instead – you might have missed them before.  Is there still not enough room? Well, so far you have not left the narrow confines of the mouth of that conventional bin.

(You should have put the bins out before they started getting so full.)

Do the bin men accept loose bags outside the normal bin? Will they empty a second bin?   They might take a second bin if you pay them cash-in-hand, but that is your household savings and you must resist.  If you are still staring at the bin, you are still being unimaginative.

Take bags out of the bin, and leave space for when you actually need it.  Then put those bags in the back of the car and drive them round to the municipal dump.  If it is closed, Google around and find one that is open.

If desperate, you can even have a bonfire.

The point is, you need to get the priority right, and not mistake the usual solution for the actual intention.  Do not believe in the bin if the bin is inadequate but get the job done that you are called to do, and that job is not filling a bin.

You may be accused by your neighbours of opposing the bin collection, of wanting a no-collection solution, but that misses the point: the collection is not the aim.  You do want a collection; it is just that this collection does not do the job, does not rid your house of the rubbish.

Mrs May’s failing was tunnel-vision: she concentrated on the bin collection, getting her Withdrawal Agreement undefiled through the House of Commons, to the exclusion of all else.  She missed the point, and therefore missed the solution.

There were other options: she could have walked away, she could have put in place a series of unilateral arrangements assuming no-deal and left the EU to reciprocate, with negotiation on permanence to follow Exit Day; she could have asked the Commons to pass the Brady compromise and dared the EU to refuse it; she could have put the Withdrawal Agreement to the House and invited them to enact all but the backstop, or to put that to Stormont.  She could in the final throw have signed a deal on the day after Exit Day, which would therefore not have been a ‘withdrawal agreement’ as Article 50 understands it and would not have required approval from the House of Commons. All this would have worked.

All this was open to her, and all this remains open to our current crop of would-be leaders.  They just have to take their heads out of the bin and look around.

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Winner is coming

It’s been a long time getting here. Now the wider party, those who turn out year by year to knock on doors and smile in the face of the foulest weather and foulest tempers, those whose hands are black with hastily printed leaflets, the foot-soldiers , the payers of subscriptions, now they get to vote on who will lead the Conservative fightback which they without reward will make real on the doorstep.

It is a question we ask maybe of our priorities and policies, but there is barely a difference between the two there, but also of character and intent, and on this other comments have been made today:

The Conservative party fell almost overnight from 40% in the polls to less than 10%, and all from one failure to deliver a promise. There are many more promises coming.

This site has tried to keep the candidate profiles up to date, but each character has undergone metamorphosis in the course of his own campaign. What a weird campaign it has been though, where all ten candidates were in complete agreement on most things, but Brexit has been the divider.

Two stand: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. (Both have written books, very contrasting subjects, which may give an idea of character.) Both are fine men who would do well, but there are crucial differences.

One of Mrs May’s better decisions was to lift Jeremy Hunt out of a low, ignominious department into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here he has shown himself to be a statesman: reliable, trustworthy, solid – exactly what we do not need now.

Imagination, originality, unconventionality, courage: that is what it needs. Mostly though it needs someone who will win.

Books by the candidates

Boris Johnson:

Jeremy Hunt:

Also worth a look are the books by a candidate eliminated earlier: Rory Stewart: