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 it 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 through 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 Conservative in the mould of the English-speaking world. That is build 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 Anglosphere at the moment is that of the United States, and that is under existential threat from authoritarian liberals, there seems to other alliance to oppose the idiocies of modern liberal ideologues.

Books

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 less backbreaking ones.

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.

Books

Ordinary extraordinary men

He was a village character, writing a gentle tale of his coming to live in the village and marry his sweetheart, but he started with the tanks rolling into his Polish village and the revenge he wrought through Normandy and the relentless attrition of Caen. There were no ordinary lives in that generation.

A quiet autobiographical note appeared in the village magazine, from the man best known for making eccentric home-made fruit wines and for having a funny name (this being a village not known for trendy diversity).  His memory lane brought him to our village from far away but it absorbed him.  The tale began in Poland, with a fresh, young pilot in 1939, and an emergency call to report to his airfield:  Germany had invaded.  When he approached the field, he found the Germans were there ahead of him.  He did not slink home but withdrew across Poland and across the width of Europe.  There followed over the next editions the account of how he and a band of fellow airmen crossed German-occupied Europe, and when their path was barred by the swollen and frozen Danube, crossing the ice, three miles wide, to temporary freedom in Yugoslavia.  We read of his making his way to Britain, of the tough training in the Highlands, billeting in Cambridgeshire and then on 6 June 1944, at last taking the fight to the invaders, as he joined the British forces swarming across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy.

Caen was supposed to fall on the first day.  The first day was a great success, but the Germans held Caen strongly, and the British and American soldiers hammered the city for two months until it broke and the advance could continue.  There were personal memories here too:  he reported encountering a Mongolian unit at Caen.  Even further from home than him, they had been recruited as fraternal assistance for the Red Army but defected to the Germans on the Eastern Front and here they were defending a town their ancestors had never heard of half a world away from their pastures, yet all under the same sun in the eternal blue heaven.

What followed Caen is well known from the history books.  It was not fought with maps and statistics, but by men.  One foot before another flesh and blood like us all, all the way to the heart of Germany.  Men stood as bullets ripped through those who stood beside them.  Men stood as a dull steel Panzer charged unstoppably towards them.  Men crossed shot, shell, minefields, barbed wire, and the Rhine, in order, in disciple, unrelenting. Men had to stand to their duty when they saw the gates of Belsen open and they faced the captured guards.

When all was done and time to go home, for some there was no home.  Between Hitler and Stalin, Poland was no more.  It was six years in a young life, with a lifetime ahead of work in the fields and calm gardening.  All this was kept within his heart, done so that his children and all of ours need not see the same again.

Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe

I have watched a man surrounded by a baying crowd, attacked and dragged towards the ground, rescued from broken bones or murder only by a policewoman’s arm, on the streets of London.  His whole offence was differ from an opinion shared by the crowd that wished him dead.

“To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities. …  Good men must defend themselves by taking to them for a Sanctuary the two daughters of War, Deceipt and Violence.”

Hobbes: De Cive

Watch the video and ask where we are.  In the political mobile vulgus we are no longer citizens together but factions, bound together and as against others we have no ties, as in a state of nature:

“the state of men without civill society (which state we may properly call the state of nature) is nothing else but a meere warre of all against all”

Hobbes: De Cive

The events shown in the YouTube clip took place in the heart of the most civilised city on Earth, beside the very places where the laws of the kingdom are made and administered and apparently completely outside those laws.  The victim had expressed disagreement with the crowd’s chosen hatred, in this case a hatred of Donald Trump, and this was enough for them to turn on him in murderous fury.

Man is a pack animal, like the wolf.  Stand in any street or park and see a dog bounding happily beside its owner like a gentle puppy – but when dogs get in a pack they act like wolves and they are deadly.  Young men too behave like a wolfpack, and now, it seems, so does a politicised mob.

The creation of a wolfpack is the creation of a society, bound together with instinctive ties, breaking all ties outside the pack, and that is what we saw on the street.  There is no need for moderation, no “what if” nor “to a certain extent”, no subtle thought – just inclusion or exclusion, and there is no duty to the excluded, only hatred in order to validate to social tie of the pack.

The chant that came louder and louder was without moderation either; “Nazi scum”, as if with no knowledge or care for what those words actually mean.  Those words should make the blood run cold and not be used loosely: it an insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the real Nazis, and to those who still today after 74 years wake every morning in cold terror at the memory from their youth.

The apparent ring-leader apparently says she is an NHS worker – I hope she never looks after me.

The self-supporting crowd is a liberation from the constraints of civil society in which all morality of the wider society is irrelevant and only the immediate crowd and the need to sustain its coherence have any relevance.  An outsider intruding therefore is outside any duties and may be a casualty of the “warre of all against all”.