Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Leftist philosophers

Why do left-wing philosophers feel it acceptable to jettison their philosophical skills as soon as they start talking about politics? Philosophers who are normally very good start making "not-even-minimally-respectable" arguments. They stop considering every possibility, they make assumptions which are clearly false, and they make invalid moves.

Here are two examples:

Stephen Law posts these two articles about traders losing money relative to the market.

Some commenters point him to the Efficient Market Hypothesis.

Law is ignorant of the fact that even in markets where the market is going up (i.e. the average investor makes money), the median investor loses money.

It's hard to beat the market. But what causes the market signal in the first place? That's right. Savvy investors who find information not already incorporated in the market price, and incorporate it into the market price.

Raymond Geuss posts this "brief guide to recent health-care plans" in the UK.

He describes that healthcare in the US as a "free market". It isn't remotely. Therefore, his argument that "Efficiency in this area is one thing ‘free markets’ cannot attain" is not even minimally respectable.

The rest of his argument is similarly bad. For some reason, he thinks that putting healthcare management "out to tender for the most efficient bid" will lead to "costs rising".

For some reason he implies that profits are bad. He ignores whether it is possible to make a profit and improve quality of healthcare (it is).

Monday, 7 November 2011

Inequality is only a problem because people say it is

As you know, I don't think wealth or income inequality is in any way at all a problem.

I am increasingly of the opinion, though, that people who endlessly use the media to tell the masses that they *should* resent the rich, are turning it into a problem.

C.f. the reaction in the rest of the media to this article:


Could there possibly be a mechanism through which wealth or income inequality cause social unrest without the media and the upper class using it to tell people they should resent rich people?

Over the last hundred years, the British people have known that there are people fantastically richer than them: film stars and celebrities. They're even featured in the media every day. But for some reason the tales of expensive parties and clothes entertain the masses rather than enraging them.

Maybe the people don't resent film stars because of the entertainment they provide (both through their films and through their actions as celebrities (being photographed at parties for Hello magazine)). But I suspect that the media could create a resentment towards rich actors if they wanted to. (Wouldn't that be funny?)

Perhaps people resent the bankers because they can't see what value the bankers create. But my guess is that it wouldn't be an issue unless the media made it one. The explanation that the bankers drew attention to themselves by causing the financial crisis doesn't work, because high salaries were not the cause of the financial crisis, yet people talk about reducing pay much more than they do about fixing the causes. I don't think people would resent bankers without the media.

(By upper class I mean people like Polly Toynbee and the entire "liberal elite". (I never liked the phrase because they're not liberals, but it's certainly clear exactly who it's referring to, and I can't think of an alternative that means quite the same.))

I was influenced by Comment #6 here: http://timworstall.com/2011/10/28/occupy-the-city/

"Here’s one issue: is this all about greed per se as our principled Dr Giles Fraser would have it, or is it just a political fight with bankers?

If it is really about greed, now there is one profession that frankly makes your average banker look like Mother Theresa. Have a look here: http://www.therichest.org/entertainment/vanityfairtop-40-highest-paid-stars-in-hollywood/ .

Robert Pattinson is apparently British. Never heard of him. Even Guy Ritchie is topping $1m a month. OK, directing is a lot harder work than acting (very hard work) but $1m a month?

Now we’re talking about real roll in the mud, face in the trough stinking hot oinking greed. Now personally, I don’t begrudge them the dosh if there someone willing to pay. It doesn’t bother me. But if ‘greed’ is the problem, then this lot are as greedy as it gets.

The fun will start if the Occupy mob start attacking the entertainment profession for greed. Front-row entertainment.

Especially seeing Ritchie getting stuck into his actor clients. And being such a man of principle, his ire cannot be far away."

"a political fight with bankers?" What is the true motivation?

Is it about creating an excuse to tax them (personally, and tax the banks) and needing to create public support for it? Or is it about just needing an enemy to somehow increase votes for the left? (Possible causal mechanism: it gives the left something to do and keeps them in the public eye. It gives them a policy to offer the people (which they need because they don't really have much else in the way of policy to offer the people).)

Or are they scapegoating the bankers for the financial crisis because it was really the politicians that caused it? (Using the bankers as a proxy.)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Piracy: Western decadence


"It is relatively recently that piracy worldwide was suppressed - just the past couple of hundred years. The main agents were the British Navy and also the navies of the other great European powers. However, piracy was long enough in the past for wishful-thinking pacifists to imagine (like Shire hobbits) that peace and plenty are the natural state of affairs, and need not be defended, need not be fought-for.


Therefore, the fact that piracy has been allowed to re-emerge over recent years as a highly profitable business - unchecked and essentially unpunished and despite technical developments which make the suppression of piracy easier than ever in the past - is the most conclusive evidence that could be imagined to demonstrate Western decadence: the reckless, complacent, futile, hand-wringing, self-absorbed, morally-paralyzed blindness of Western political leaders and their ruling elites."

See http://james-notepad.blogspot.com/2011/08/build-more-prisons-paradox-of-continual.html

"So we see that an English government of the Victorian era - without DNA testing or closed-circuit TV - managed to largely abolish crime. We also see that the present-day government of England (and of other places governed in the same way) pretends to want to abolish crime - but to be unable to do so." 

Eugenics and antinatalism

http://liberalbiorealism.wordpress.com/: a blog attempting to create "a viable and just political philosophy consistent with likely truths of human biology and evolution."


Anti-natalism is the belief that life should not be brought into existence. David Benatar's book, "Better To Never Have Been", sets out the case masterfully, and I recommend it unreservedly.

As we know, existence is not a property. Essentially, Benatar makes the point that to bring someone into existence to experience a life wholly of pleasure does not benefit them. If you hadn't brought them into existence, they would not mind, because they wouldn't exist. On the other hand, bringing someone into an existence where they will experience pain, does them harm. There is an asymmetry between pleasure and suffering. If a potential person does not exist, their potential pleasure is not a good reason to create them, whereas their potential pain is a good reason not to create them. Everyone's lives are almost certain to contain at least some pain/suffering, therefore no one should be brought into existence.

(Benatar considers the idea that some people should be brought into existence because their suffering is outweighed by the pleasure they bring to others ("using people as means, not ends"). He proposes a "phased extinction".)


One fact that Benatar considers is that people don't really appreciate how bad their lives are. We notice that our lives are much better than disabled people. But we too lack many abilities. We don't notice how bad our lives are compared to what they could be, if, say, we had the ability to fly.

In http://curmudgeonjoy.blogspot.com/2009/02/unwelcome-guest.html, Deogolwulf makes the point that Charles Darwin was a eugenicist: he correctly thought that superior races should inherit the earth. Insights from the world of antinatalism support this. If we can have some influence over which beings are brought into existence -- and we do -- we should use this influence for eugenic purposes, to bring in to existence beings with superior abilities.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A theory of charity

Or, Kaldor-Hicks charity. 

An action is Pareto efficient if it makes some people better off without making anyone else worse off. Pareto efficiency is achieved if there are no actions remaining that can be made without making anyone worse off.

In practice, however, there are few actions that do not make at least some person worse off. An action is Kaldor-Hicks efficient if people made worse off could in theory be compensated. They do not actually have to be identified and compensated. This allows us to identify actions which move us closer to Pareto efficiency.

I claim that a charitable action should only be undertaken if the person receiving the charity could in theory compensate the person giving the charity. While this condition is not enough to make charity morally obligatory, I claim that if the condition is not fulfilled, it is morally obligatory not to give charity.

For example, if a homeless beggar could use an amount of capital to get back on his feet, he would then be able to pay back the capital (he doesn't -- that's why it's called charity, not a loan). The capital "makes a return"/"makes a (social) profit".

"You know it's so easy to lose everything. But it's so, so tough to get it back."

But if this wouldn't happen, then the charity is wasted. It would have been better spent on something else. We all want to maximise the good done by our charitable donations. http://timworstall.com/2011/09/04/if-warren-buffett-thinks-tax-is-so-great-whys-he-giving-all-his-money-to-bill-gates/
If charity does not "make a return" (in a Kaldor-Hicks sense) then it will just be required again, and again, and again.

Assisted suicide should be legal. 

The Left cannot understand colonialism

The Left cannot understand colonialism because they cannot understand profit. They cannot understand that it is possible to make a profit without being exploitative.

Successful colonies must make a profit: that is, they must extract resources etc. Colonies that do not make a profit are unsustainable.

But that does not mean the poor countries lose out. Quality of life and productivity improves for the natives. Under colonialism, more wealth is created than would be otherwise. More wealth remains even after the colonial profit has been taken.

It is right for developed countries with spare capital should lend it to poor countries. That way poor countries can develop faster.

"Punish the rich, hurt everybody"

Dennis Sewell, The Spectator, 3rd September 2011
"HMRC also identifies a tiny group of the super-rich, upon whom we have become dangerously reliant. These are 14,000 taxpayers earning on average a little over £2 million each. If just one thousand of them were to leave the country, the economy would have to generate 300,000 extra new jobs, paying £20,000 per year to make up the resulting shortfall in the tax take."

What is Reaction?


Reaction, or Reactionism is a political philosophy which has emerged in recent years from blogs on the internet. Its followers are "reactionaries" or "neo-reactionaries".

While it is a coherent political philosophy, it does not flow from a set of axioms (like libertarianism flowing from "natural rights" or conceptions of property). Rather, it is a collection of coherent but not necessarily related ideas. As such, it is called "Reaction" largely for want of a better word.

What do reactionaries believe? 

Reactionaries believe in the following:

  • Small, strong government.
  • Democracy is bad. The solution is some for of autocracy. 
    • "Almost every transition from a lawful aristocracy or lawful democracy to a lawful democracy has lessened the quality of governance." "only the polities with the strongest traditions, most educated people, greatest cultural ethic of fair play, and most established institutions can hold lawful elections without having those elections devolve into corrupt and violent gangsterism."
  • Force is necessary to maintain control of the state against the masses. 
  • Human rights do not exist. 
  • Colonialism was good.
    • For-profit government with no democracy kept the government small, strong and provided a basis for freedom and economic development. 
    • The end of colonialism was a disaster for all involved. 
  • Zero inflation. Either through a wise government not inflating its currencies, or through people being free to use competing non-government currencies. 
  • Human Bio-Diversity, or HBD. Different races have different average IQs. 
  • Marriage is good for society. 
  • Neo-Cameralism: for-profit government owned by a joint-stock publicly traded corporation. 
  • Formalism: formal ownership should be the same as actual ownership. Sovereignty can be split but not eradicated. Any decision has a person or organisation who is sovereign regarding it and can overrule anyone else. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2010/07/race-modest-proposal.html. "Society should stop lying to itself."
  • Dependents should be recognised as such. In exchange for being a dependent, their guardian should have certain rights over them. 
  • Land taxation. A sovereign's income should come from the territory they own. Land taxation is a simple and efficient way of collecting it. 
  • Tax is rent, not theft. 
Some quotes about Reactionism:
  • "But unlike the older reactionaries, who belonged to what is sometimes known as the throne and altar school of conservatism, modern reactionaries will be skeptical of everything, including throne and altar, because we realize that most of these institutions have sold out to mass man." http://mangans.blogspot.com/2010/12/reaction.html
  • "Broadly, I take reactionary to include anyone who is seriously and openly opposed to democracy." 
  • "I take it 'reactionary' means you want to make the U.S. into a giant version of Singapore. Talking about non-democratic systems, Singapore is the perfect embodiment of everything you guys believe in." 
  • "order is simply good, and chaos is simply evil"

List of reactionary blogs:

The Left on the NHS and free schools

"The lies aren’t some artifact of her misunderstanding the debate, they are the entire contribution from the left. Because they have no substantive contribution to make, they need continuous propaganda to ensure their supporters don’t get distracted by the facts." 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Poem, by Mencius Moldbug

Hanged in the lovely month of October,
My troubles were not over. I thought Hell;
But went to Heaven, where bull-necked
Angels grabbed and threw me down.
Straight they dragged me to the edge
Of a cloud, where from a long bar
I was hanged again - and this time, drawn,
My bowels burned before my eyes. For
Hours the black drops welled and shot
Twisting to the old and distant earth:
Indescribable. But next day
I was healed; so they could melt me
To hipbones in a tub of cold lye.
In Heaven you never lose consciousness.
And there is no Hell - but this Heaven,
Unroofed against the freezing fog,
Whose God is Jean Cauvin's,
Whose dirty work is His alone; nay He
Glories in it; so it went on. The
Cross? Oh, yes, the cross; many
Times; ingeniously refined. Did I
Cry, why? Many times. To no answer
But the ungentle angels. Finally
I understood; and some time later,
Was smelted of my crimes. My soul
Was good silver, thinner than paper,
Stamp-small; such remained; such
Big angels brought before the Lord.
Who spoke formalities, and sent me
Back to the one hell, this earth,
Where it is summer always, where men
Are animals, where I whisper
Like a leaf in the perfect breeze.


Saturday, 3 September 2011



Obviously England needs a Secession Party. The purpose is to end redistribution of wealth from the productive to the unproductive, and thus lower taxes. This cannot be achieved through electoral politics, so the solution is to split the polity. Other good reasons include a more responsive political system (smaller electorate: more influence per person), more competition between the seceded regions, and thus lower taxes and regulation. Smaller states, and indeed city-states, are better. We cannot terminate payments to Scotland without taking away their votes, and we cannot take away their votes without paying them to keep quiet. The only way to do it is to split the polity. We cannot keep control of Scotland for our own purposes (tax) unless we either pay them (contradictory and unacceptable) or use the army to crush rebellion. There is no public appetite for this and the army would not obey. Secession is the solution.

At the very least, this would be a Secession Party for the whole of England, to stop transfers from England to Scotland and Wales. But it could cover a smaller area than England. The advantage of an England-wide party is that this helps it avoid being a single issue party, thus giving it broader appeal. It would be easier to insert the policy into an existing political party (the Conservative Party) if it was for England to secede.

Unlike the Scottish National Party, our manifesto commitment will not be to hold a referendum on secession, it shall be to UDI: to unilaterally declare independence from the United Kingdom.

This might be easier after we have elected police chiefs, because then a member could be elected Local Police Commissioner. The police would then legitimately owe allegiance to the new government against the old. Countries are ruled (laws enforced, taxes collected) ultimately through their police locally and army nationally. It is the police who arrest those who break the law and the army who arrest police who are not obeying the national government. So having the police on side is essential.

The only way the UK could prevent secession is therefore to use the army. Hopefully the army would not be willing to fire on civilians. But it could still arrest the police. If the Secession Party won a majority in the House of Commons, this would not be a problem. But a much smaller area of secession would not be able to do this.

Where should secede?
  • London
  • London and the Home Counties
  • Brighton
  • Hull
The area shouldn't be an enclave. Hull has its own communications network, and is a natural port. Brighton or similar places are on the coast and could build a port. Many of them could secede.

Many places could benefit massively from freedom from the United Kingdom. They would de-tax and deregulate, and become fantastically productive and wealthy.

London and the Home Counties don't have as much scope for growth. However, it would still be worth them seceding in order to keep their current wealth.They would need to keep coastal access.

Should the Secession Party pursue local or national government? Both.

Control of Westminster would allow dismantling of the UK, which would benefit each new country. For example, Scotland and Wales would have an incentive to become productive. The North and the South East of England could become new countries (I favour the names the Kingdom of Northumbria and the Kingdom of Wessex). However, for a Secession Party to gain control of Westminster, it would need to win the majority of seats in the Commons (could form a government with the Scottish Nationalists). This would be easier if it was a Secession Party for the whole of England (i.e. the Conservative Party with a new policy).

Control of the County Councils of the Home Counties would enable UDI without control of Westminster. But they would need to somehow gain control of part of the army, or hope that the UK would not use the army, or that the army would not obey the UK's demands to crush the rebellion.



The Free State Project aims to encourage like-minded people to move to New Hampshire, as a practical alternative to changing other people's minds.

A Secession Party would only put up candidates in the area it wants to secede, and would encourage potential supporters to move there. E.g. the Hull Secession Party would only field candidates for Hull parliamentary constituencies and local and county council elections.


The True Election Party. Slogan: "one vote once".

Friday, 2 September 2011

Reactionary heroes

  • Sulla
    • A general: never lost a battle; the only man in history to have attacked and occupied both Athens and Rome. Twice consul, he became dictator, executed thousands, and neutered the Plebeian tribune, thus preserving the power of the aristocracy and the senate against the people and democracy. He then resigned the dictatorship and was elected consul for the second time.
  • Charles I
    • "For the people.   And truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever.   But I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having of government; those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own.   It is not for having share in government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them.    A subject and a soveraign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean , that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves." 
  • Ian Smith
    • "I told you so." Declared independence from the United Kingdom rather than give in to democracy in Rhodesia. Rhodesia was destroyed by sanctions from the International Community, who gave power to Robert Mugabe, who destroyed the country. Life expectancy is now the lowest in the world, having declined from 60 in 1990 to less than 40 now. There are frequent famines in what used to be the "breadbasket of Africa", and Zimbabwe now relies on aid from abroad. This is blamed on "erratic rain". Rhodesia never had "erratic rain" problems.
  • Lee Kuan Yew
    • Singapore remains low tax and regulation through suppression of democracy. 
  • The Duke d'Alba
    • Imposed order and tax by executing thousands. 
  • General Pinochet
    • Imposed low tax and regulation by suppressing democracy.
  • The White Rajahs of Sarawak
    • Ruled a happy, prosperous state for a hundred years until destroyed by the British after World War 2.
  • Porfirio Díaz
    • Ruled a successful, prosperous state until he started to encourage democracy. Under Díaz, Mexico was ahead of the U.S. in learning and the arts.
  • Enoch Powell
    • Eloquent opponent of expansions of democracy. He opposed reform of the House of Lords, which would reduced its power relative to the Commons, and expansion of the electorate whether by the Reform Acts or immigration.
  • Lord Cromer
    • Consul-General of Egypt. Ruled a country of 10 million with 1000 British civil servants and 5000 soldiers, and profitably.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Programme for reactionary government

A reactionary government will liberalise the economy and abolish democracy. It must formalise power, so that the people who appear to hold power are the same as the people who actually do.

How will it cement its power?

It must write a new national curriculum to explain the principles of non-democracy. History lessons will demonstrate the unusualness of democracy. Novels such as "Starship Troopers" could be studied in English Literature lessons.

The state broadcaster will encourage self-reliance instead of socialism. Universities will produce research designed to support the self-reliance and the new state over socialism. Control of university funding will encourage such research.

If the state broadcaster and the universities cannot be reformed, they will have to be dissolved, like the monasteries, as competing power centres.

The state schools will remain, because they definitely can be reformed.

The armed forces will also have to be reeducated to ensure loyalty to the new principles of the state. This should not be difficult. Different ethics classes, and a different selection of military history, will show that taking the necessary measures to preserve the government from the people are both moral and easy.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Obviously wrong philosophies

Various political, philosophical and moral theories have struck me as bunk. People advocating them seem to know this, too. We can pretend to believe them for the sake of argument, but we all know that they're not true.

So I thought I'd collect them together here.


Conservatism: there's not much to it. See my previous post. Not so much wrong as incomplete and ineffective.

Natural-rights libertarianism

Nonsense on stilts. Rights-based theories of morality are as wrong as other theories of morality (see below).

Freedom as the highest political goal

"Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end." Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877).


The Social Contract

It's not a contract, because no one ever agreed to it. It's not a contract because it isn't fixed; no one knows what it is (because it isn't written down) and it seems to change over time. (Some people call it a "social compact" to distinguish it from a contract.)

In fact, it's bunk. There is no social contract. It doesn't exist. It's a myth required to justify various ideologies.

Objective morality

I have no problem with the idea that some things can just be true. Why does the gravitational constant have the value it does? It just does.

But the idea that morality exists, that things can be right or wrong, good and bad, is bunk.

My claim is not moral relativism; I am not claiming that different people's moral beliefs are all equally true. I am claiming that they are all equally false.

Moral facts could exist in various different ways. The universe could be dualistic, with moral facts existing as Platonic forms. The universe could be monistic, with moral facts existing out there as atoms or patterns. They could be in the mind of God, in which case to know moral facts would be to know the mind of God. There is no reason to suppose that moral facts could not change over time.

We have as much reason to believe in the existence of moral facts as we have to believe in the existence of God.

If moral facts existed, we have no way whatsoever of discovering what they are. There is no way to measure them. We might presume that a list of moral facts could not contain a contradiction, so we could reject a given person's list of moral facts if it contained a contradiction. But we would have no reason whatever to accept a list of moral facts as true just because it did not contain contradictions.

Because we could no more know moral facts if they existed than we could know the mind of God if he existed, there is no way they could affect our daily lives.

Often, when trying to argue against the view that there is no objective morality, people talk about the consequences of such a view. "Surely it would be terrible if everyone thought so?" "How can you live with such a view?" But the supposed consequences of a view have nothing to do with whether it is true or not. People want it to be true, but that does not make it true.

People talking about morality sound to me like people discussing whether animals go to heaven. "I believe that animals have souls and go to heaven." "Do you really? I believe that only pets have souls and go to heaven". No one can possibly have anything more to say on the subject than anyone else.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The emptiness of conservatism

Conservatives have always been a movement crying out for a philosophy.

Conservatism is a party before it is a philosophy. Just as the Right contains many different people (including conservatives) with conflicting opinions, so does conservatism (a subset of the Right) also contain many different people with conflicting opinions.

The Conservative Party in the UK (and its predecessors) is regarded as a very successful political party, which has survived for so long by not having any principles.

However, the since the Conservative Party has occupied the niche of the right-wing party in the UK for many years, it has required a political philosophy to attempt to justify its existence and actions.

So what is conservatism? It is a political philosophy that thinks some things should be conserved. Which things? It is a political philosophy that thinks that change should be slow. Yet it does not oppose all change. So which changes are good, and which bad?

The reasoning behind conservatism is the law of unintended consequences. This should guard against being too convinced of your own rationality. ("The essential idea of leftism is that the world should be governed by scholars." C.f. the Cult of Reason.) A policy which appears to be good, on rational inspection, may turn out to have bad consequences on balance, because of bad consequences which were not foreseen by rationality. This has earned conservatism something of a reputation for disparaging rationality.

But how are we to judge policies except with the power of reason? Conservatism still cannot answer our question of what should be conserved; which changes are good? The law of unintended consequences should influence policy, but it is not a political philosophy.

Conservatism provides no long-term political direction.

In practice, conservatives are limited to trying only to reverse recent changes, or more usually to trying to prevent further change. They tend to accept changes as "inevitable" soon after they happen, and have a limited memory so tend to become happy with the change before last: they only want to turn back the clock a little bit.

Their mistake is to believe that they can stop the growth of state expenditure in a democracy, or that they can reverse social change without dominating the universities. With no long-term political direction, they cannot win.


Monday, 22 August 2011

Build more prisons! The paradox of continual moral decline



The Economist points out that people have been bemoaning moral decline for a long time. Therefore they must be imagining it, right?


Things have gotten worse and we have the stats to prove it:

2011: "Britain: Prison Population Hits Record"

Reported crime increased 37 times between 1900 and 1997. We have more police than ever before. It is the sentencing that is too lenient.

Jose Harris: Private Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870-1914:
"A very high proportion of Edwardian convicts were in prison for offences that would have been much more lightly treated or wholly disregarded by law enforcers in the late twentieth century. In 1912-13, for example, one quarter of males aged 16 to 21 who were imprisoned in the metropolitan area of London were serving seven-day sentences for offences which included drunkenness, 'playing games in the street,' riding a bicycle without lights, gaming, obscene language and sleeping rough. If late twentieth-century standards of policing and sentencing had been applied in Edwardian Britain, the prisons would have been virtually empty; conversely, if Edwardian standards were applied in the 1990s then most of the youth of Britain would be in gaol."

Friday, 12 August 2011

Arts funding multiplier nonsense


"'Money lost to the arts since 30.03.2011: £20,392,023.
Money lost to the economy since 30.03.2011: £40,784,046.'

The latter figure is exactly twice the former. I suppose this is a reference to the claim made by John Smith, President of the FEU, in the comments that 'Every £1 invested in the Arts generates £2 for the wider economy'."


"Polly Toynbee in the Guardian back in July:

'The return from a tiny government investment is probably greater in the cultural industries than any other – every £1 the Arts Council England puts in generates another £2 from commercial sources.'

The UK Film Council, quoted in the Independent in August:

'But the UKFC doesn't waste money, it makes it. For every pound it invests, the country gets £5 back.'

Ivan Lewis in the Guardian yesterday:

'The National Campaign for the Arts estimates that every £1 of grant given to the arts brings a fifteen-fold return in investment into the county [Somerset].'"

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Leftist contradictions and double-standards


"You don't have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday."


"We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions... We should assume until it's proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped"


"We are told, endlessly, that only the rapist is to blame for rape. Nothing that the victim does, has done, where they go, how they’re dressed, nothing at all changes the fact that the rapist is solely and completely responsible, in and of themselves, for the crime.

So why isn’t this true for rioters?"

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Peer review part 2: Medical Hypotheses

The journal "Medical Hypotheses" was founded with the explicit intention of not having peer review. http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2011/03/david-horrobins-letter-handing-over.html

"As he instructed me, this type of journal can only in practice be run by the editor choosing papers himself (not by delegating decisions), and by his taking responsibility for these choices." (http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/12/david-horrobins-inaugural-editorial.html). Committees are cancer. (http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2010/04/cancer-of-bureaucracy.html)

"Horrobin argued that peer review intrinsically tended to exclude radical and revolLinkutionary ideas, and that alternatives were needed. He chose me as his editorial successor because I shared these views.

Both Horrobin and I agreed that the only correct scientific way to deal with dissent was to publish it so that it could be debated, confirmed or refuted in an open and scientific forum. The alternative - suppressing scientific dissent by preventing publication using behind-the-scenes and anonymous procedures - we would both regard as extremely dangerous because it is wide open to serious abuse and manipulation by powerful interest groups.


It is hard to measure exactly the influence of a journal, but some recent papers stand out as having had an impact. A report by Lola Cuddy and Jacalyn Duffin discussed the fascinating implications of an old lady with severe Alzheimer's disease who could still recognise tunes such as Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'. This paper, which was discussed by Oliver Sacks in his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, seems to have helped spark a renewed interest in music in relation to brain disease.

The paper "A tale of two cannabinoids" by E. Russo and G.W. Guy suggested that a combination of marijuana products tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) would be valuable painkillers. This idea has since been widely discussed in the scientific literature.

And in 2005, Eric Altschuler published in Medical Hypotheses a letter outlining his idea that survivors of the 1918 flu epidemic might even now retain immunity to the old virus. A few 1918 flu survivors were found who still had antibodies, and cells from those people were cloned to create an antiserum that protected experimental mice against the flu virus. The work was eventually published in Nature and received wide coverage in the US media."

"Genuine conceptual originality is by definition outside the accepted way of looking at things. It often has rough edges that can be easily refuted, thereby making its core seem suspect. And, indeed, most conceptual deviants are justifiably discarded.

Originality at the conceptual level can come from empirical discoveries. However, it can also come from looking at the world in a different way.

It's commonly recognized in the metascientific literature that conceptual originality is inversely related to publishability. As someone who has made some conceptually original contributions, I've noticed the same phenomenon myself.

More specifically, there are indeed occasional gems in Medical Hypotheses that would be difficult to publish elsewhere."


"What prompted Elsevier to set about a rethink of its journal was Charlton’s intention to publish two papers which, so Elsevier claim, undermine the current understanding of AIDS. One of them, by the Stanford virologist Peter Duesberg, certainly tries to do this. He uses the instance of South Africa to argue against the HIV virus as the cause of the disease. One might suggest that Duesberg is a tiresome man and that Charlton’s intention to give him more space in which to argue his already familiar case was ill conceived. But is this sufficient reason to revamp the entire basis of the journal’s editorial selection procedure?

Even odder is the case of the other banned paper. Submitted by a group based in Florence it seems not to deny the viral origin of HIV, but to tease the Italian health authorities for the incompetence of their bureaucracy and procedures by suggesting that those authorities themselves behave as if they are "AIDS deniers." Whoever made the decision at Elsevier either hasn’t read it or didn’t understand it." (http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2010/02/medical-hypotheses-affair-geoff-watts.html)

Eventually, the journal published a paper which the establishment demanded be retracted. The editor was sacked and the journal became peer-reviewed. Why?

The problem is state involvement in science. People insist that quacks are prevented from being able to claim that they are scientific because they a published. Therefore quacks must not be allowed to publish. Otherwise the public might be mislead that they are true.

Why does it matter whether the public consider quackery science? Because they can vote.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Peer review part 1

Is peer review over-rated?


"Referees are supposedly anonymous. However, the author, the editor, and the referees often work in small fields where everybody knows one another, and people's beliefs, foibles and writing styles are often well known, so this anonymity is often more theoretical than real. The theoretical reason for anonymity - that the referee can say what he pleases without consequences - is not always entirely true. The anonymity is one sided: the referee receives a paper with the name of the author at the top. The name of a famous and influential scientist at the top has an impact. The editor is very powerful, as he gets to select the referees and by choosing referees carefully clearly has influence whether a paper will be published or not. A good editor will choose referees of mixed levels of seniority (referees include everybody from graduate students to senior professors), and (in areas of some dispute) of mixed positions in any argument."

Peer review is inadequate to the task of assessing scientific findings for policymakers

"8 Academic studies on peer review to identify fraud and error have not painted a good picture of its ability to detect fraud and error. In the words of Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal, "We have little evidence on the effectiveness of peer review, but we have considerable evidence of its defects. In addition to being poor at detecting gross defects and almost useless for detecting fraud, it is slow, expensive, profligate of academic time, highly subjective, something of a lottery, prone to bias and easily abused."

9 The CRU disclosures demonstrate that the peer review process can be subverted by a small but influential group of scientists. In the emails we see that there were at least four attempts to subvert journals[*] by putting pressure on editors to reject or delay submissions that were critical of mainstream climatology or to otherwise hinder sceptics. Editors who stood in the way of this group appear to have been forced from their posts. Articles by activist scientists were sent to sympathetic reviewers. Articles by sceptics were sent to hostile reviewers.

10 Policymakers need to be clear that peer review does not normally involve obtaining the scientific data and code used in a study and reproducing the findings. It is normally simply a read-through of a paper. This is adequate for finding glaring errors or non-original work. It is an absurdly inadequate process for justifying multi-billion pound decisions. As McCullough and McKitrick put it, "some government staff are surprised to find out that peer review does not involve checking data and calculations, while some academics are surprised that anyone thought it did".[3]

11 With scientists assessed on their productivity, in terms of numbers of papers published and citations achieved, there is little time for replication of the work of others. However, with peer review being such a weak check on scientific correctness, replication is the only way to ensure that decisions are taken on a sound scientific basis. Policymakers need to consider how they will ensure that scientific findings on which they base their decisions have been adequately replicated."

This Samizdata article mentions "peer-to-peer review" (with enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow). One problem is that scientists are not publishing enough data for their work to be properly evaluated or replicated. Though "
with enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow" relies on enough people devoting their eyeballs, which didn't happen with Wikileaks. Commenters at http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/4/13/peer-to-peer-review.html mention problems with "open peer review". All data should still be published though. All papers too (ArXiv).

"Lecturer plagiarised student's work
17 September 2004

A senior lecturer at Cardiff University has been suspended after an investigation panel found that he had plagiarised a former student's PhD thesis for articles published in two international journals.

Cardiff confirmed this week that an allegation of "misconduct in academic research" had been substantiated against Kamal Naser, a senior lecturer in accounting at the university's business school."

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Alan Rusbridger: hypocrite

Tax avoidance is okay when we do it, because we think our purposes are good.

PM: That means that you earned £520,000 last year alone. That's more than the editor of The Sun by a long way.

AR: I'll talk to you off the record about this, but not on the record.

PM: Why? In The Guardian, you never stop banging on about fat cats. Do you think that your readers would be pleased to hear that you earned £520,000 last year? Are you worth it?

AR: That's for others to say.

PM: Wouldn't it be more Guardian-like, more socialist, to take a bit less and spread the pot around a bit? We have this quaint idea that you guys are into that "all men are equal" nonsense, but you're not really, are you? You seem a lot more "equal" than others on your paper.

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Do you ever get awkward moments when your bonus gets published? Do you wince and think, "Oh dear, Polly Toynbee's not going to like this one."

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Or is Polly raking in so much herself that she wouldn't mind?

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Are you embarrassed by it?

AR: No. I didn't ask for the money. And I do declare it, too.

PM: But if you earned £520,000 last year, then that must make you a multimillionaire.

AR: You say I'm a millionaire?

PM: You must be - unless you're giving it all away to charity...

AR: Er...

PM: What's your house worth?

AR: I don't want to talk about these aspects of my life.

PM: You think it's all private?

AR: I do really, yes.

PM: Did you think that about Peter Mandelson's house? I mean, you broke that story.

AR: I, er... it was a story about an elected politician.

PM: And you're not as accountable. You just reserve the right to expose his private life.

AR: We all make distinctions about this kind of thing. The line between private and public is a fine one, and you've taken up most of the interview with it.

PM: Well, only because you seem so embarrassed and confused about it.

AR: I'm not embarrassed about it. But nor do I feel I have to talk about it.


PM: Any other cars?

AR: A company Volvo estate.

PM: A big gas-guzzler.

AR: Yes.

PM: Bit of a culture clash with your G-Wiz, then?

AR: Let me think about that. The problem is that I also have a big dog, and it doesn't fit into the G-Wiz.

PM: I'm sure the environment will understand. Any others?

AR: My wife has a Corsa.

PM: Quite an expansive...

AR: Fleet...

PM: Yes, fleet.

AR: But I've got children as well.

PM: They're privately educated?

AR: Er... [pause].

PM: Is that a valid question?

AR: I don't... think so... no.

PM: And you went to Cranleigh, a top public school.

AR: I did, yes.

PM: Do you feel uncomfortable answering that question?

AR: It falls into the category of something I don't feel embarrassed about, but you get on to a slippery slope about what else you talk about, don't you?

PM: It's not really about your private life though, is it? It's just a fact. And I assume by your reluctance to answer the question that they are privately educated.

AR: [Pause] Again, I am trying to make a distinction between...

PM: You often run stories about Labour politicians sending their kids to private schools, and you are quite censorious about it. Are you worried that it makes you look a hypocrite again?

Thursday, 14 July 2011


"Social problems often fall into one of two categories: those that need sniper fire, and those that need machine-gunning."
-- dearieme


Monday, 11 July 2011

Funny headline

"Student union rejects academic's IQ claims"

"The National Union of Students described the paper as 'wrong-headed, irresponsible and insulting'." But not "wrong".

Friday, 8 July 2011



"In terms of the fostering of culture and the forming of good taste and character, liberal-democratism has been so great a failure that it is believed by most to have been a great success."

Economic decadence


"Bloggers Aretae and Foseti are debating moral decline. Foseti takes the classic reactionary position. He states that we are in a period of moral decline and warns of the dangers. Aretae mocks him, saying, "every single generation in the last three thousand years has complained about moral decay, and look we are doing great!"
Paradoxically, it's possible that both Aretae and Foseti are completely correct.


consider the following three assertions
  • 99% of the people ever born in the history of the world were more morally decadent than their parents.
  • reactionaries are absolutely right about the dangers of moral decay and decadence, and absolutely correct that a hard-core, disciplined morality is crucial for building civilization
  • we are more prosperous and live in a more developed civilization than any previous time in history.
It is entirely possible that all three statements are true statements. How can that be you might ask?


Discipline is required to build civilization.

Once built, civilization causes increases in wealth. Wealth leads to moral decadence. Therefore each generation is more decadent and simultaneously, more prosperous.

It takes a long time and lots of decadence to destroy civilization, hence all three positions are possible. For a while, at least."

"Let's use the reactionary definition of moral decline, which basically means decadence. By this definition, moral decline is when people stop valuing the traits that reactionaries believe make civilization grow and prosper. Indicators of moral decline include: sacrificing future investment for indulging today; ... spending time at dilettante political book clubs rather than building a business; importing foreign castes to do hard labor; importing foreign castes to fight your war; unwillingness to use violence in the cause of justice and self defense..."

I am interested in economic decline, economic decadence, not moral decline or moral decadence.

"Let's zoom forward to 2016. This is the year that the chancellor and the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts we will have closed the gap between national spending and income.

Well done us. For the first time since 2002 - fourteen years - we will be living within our means.

The Labour Party look forward to this moment with not a little glee. The Tories will have done the hard bit and they'll be able to slip the cheque book out of your pocket and starting spending again.

More frightening is the fact that many on my own side believe the same thing. They are all wrong. 2016 is merely the end of the beginning. The real slog will have only just begun.

In five years time our national debt will be somewhere north of 80% of GDP. On current projections that'll be roughly level with France and quite a bit worse than Germany. Of the big economies, only the USA will be more indebted and they, of course, have the mighty dollar to discount what they owe.

At the same time, China, India and Brazil - with projected gross debt to GDP ratios of 10%, 62% and 59% respectively - will be paying significantly less in interest payments just at the point when they move up to meet us on the value chain. Millions of graduates will pour forth from their universities, able to set up businesses that - in China's case - will make use of infrastructure well ahead of anything we will possess. Maybe the first sod will have been turned on the High Speed 2 but that is equivalent to an extension to the Docklands Light Railway in Chinese terms.

It's not only that we'll be paying more interest as a proportion of our economic output and investing less in growth. We're also going to be carrying with us the costs of a welfare state that none of our new competitors will share. And this is for certain: as they start to develop a proper system of guaranteed pensions, healthcare, sickness and unemployment support, it will be along the marketised lines that we are so wary of adopting ourselves.

In short, we will be asking the productive part of the economy, business, to compete in what will be the most competitive global environment this country has ever seen, with one arm tied behind its back. And if we expect to be able to tax employment and profit as we currently do, we will have to kiss goodbye to the businesses who generate our nation's wealth.

Where do Tory truths come into this? Well, it's really what we are not saying that is the nub of it. Here's a topical example: we now have just over four working people to support each state pensioner, the slimmest ratio the UK has ever seen. Even with the government's accelerated timetable for the increase of the state pension age, that figure falls to under three within forty years time. If the state pension is unaffordable now, what then? Have we explained that to everyone my age, who on current plans will be retiring at just that point?

Before too long we on the right are going to have to own up to the fact that we must live quite differently, and receive far less from the state, that our parents have come to expect. That is not a statement of political intent: it is the reality of the world as it will soon be."

Friday, 1 July 2011

"Translation" by Roy Fuller

by Roy Fuller (1912-1991)
from “Counterparts” (1954)

Now that the barbarians have got as far as Picra,
And all the new music is written in the twelve tone scale,
And I am anyway approaching my fortieth birthday,
I will dissemble no longer.

I will stop expressing my belief in the rosy
Future of man, and accept the evidence
Of a couple of wretched wars and innumerable
Abortive revolutions.

I will cease to blame the stupidity of the slaves
Upon their masters and nurture, and will say,
Plainly, that they are enemies to culture,
Advancement and cleanliness.

From progressive organisations, from quarterlies
Devoted to daring verse, from membership of
Committees, from letters of various protest
I shall withdraw forthwith.

When they call me reactionary I shall smile
Secure in another dimension. When they say
‘Cinna has ceased to matter’ I shall know
How well I reflect the times.

The ruling class will think I am on their side
And make friendly overtures, but I shall retire
To the side furthest from Picra and write some poems
About the doom of the whole boiling.

Anyone happy in this age and place
Is daft or corrupt. Better to abdicate
From a material and spiritual terrain
Fit only for barbarians.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

"The Sons Of Martha" by Rudyard Kipling

“The Sons Of Martha”
by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
from “The Years Between” (1919)

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains “Be ye removèd.” They say to the lesser floods “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd—they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit—then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger Death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden—under the earthline their altars are—
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s ways may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd—they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet—they hear the Word—they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and—the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

Monday, 20 June 2011



The Prodigal
by Hamish Robinson
March 2011

Arriving at the airport I was sure
Of what I was about
To do: I had no doubt
I had to have this woman for my wife,
But she began to raise her voice and shout
(Some on-line check-in flaw
Meant seats not near the door),
And I thought fast and hard about my life.
Her shrillness passed through me like a knife
And left me somewhat shocked:
My confidence was rocked,
And I knew then what I had left behind
Was something I would find
I missed as soon as all routes back were blocked,
And there and then I turned and walked away
While she was busy trying to get her way.

I should have seen it coming from the first:
Her having such a lung,
And being highly-strung,
But then her beauty held me like a hook,
And every time I saw her I was stung.
I would have died of thirst,
Or shrivelled up, or burst,
Had I not taken all the steps I took,
But now I saw it plain as in a book:
The good life I had led
Could not be lived in bed,
And comforts that sustained me in the past
Were hardly going to last
Beyond the marriage I was keen to shed.
She knew how to inflict a wound, for sure,
But she herself could not provide the cure.

And so I took the holiday we'd booked,
The one my wife had planned,
And came to understand
How much my sanity and peace of mind
Were owed to her, and walking on the sand,
Or eating food we'd cooked,
How what I'd overlooked
Was that this was a marriage of a kind
That few of us can ever hope to find,
And that I was half-mad
To throw up what I had
For something that was really just a dream
Of licking off life's cream,
And think this harebrained scheme would make me glad.
The thought of it sends shivers down my spine,
Though sometimes I still think of her and pine.


Perfect Love
by Sarah Skwire
May 2011

When we were young and did not know each other
When we were perfect in our perfect skin
When we loved heartlessly, and with our lovers
When we rejected any thought of sin,

Then we were pebbles shaken in a jar
Then we were noise and little-nothing more
Then we collided without any scar
Then we were shut like fists, a fan, a door.

Now love, now you and I are growing old
and now perfection's just a memory.
But now, my love, we've learned a thing or two

and I have, now, a truth that should be told:
Have I now softness, sins, and scars? I'll be
in time to come, perfectly flawed with you.