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Johann Peter Hasenclever, The Reading Room, 1843

23.12.2016, Gerald Warner: HS2 vanity project is an establishment folly too far

HS2 is due to be completed in 2033 – 17 years from now – and if it conforms to previous vanity projects will significantly overrun that target date. Effectively, we are looking at the prospect of two decades of serial blunders, unforeseen problems, the whole gamut of long-term hazards that invariably put such projects into fiscal freefall. By the time HS2 has negotiated the innumerable legal, political, geological, logistical, environmental and managerial perils, to emerge into a future society where it will be as contemporary and relevant as Stephenson’s Rocket, £90bn will be small change compared to its final cost.

Yet the landscape is to be raped, communities bulldozed, house prices on the route destroyed and the lives of many thousands of people reduced to misery. Why? We all know why, in this post-referendum, post Trump election era. Because the establishment has decreed it shall be so, as it has throughout the lifetimes of everyone alive today. You could not ask for a more representative example of an elite project than HS2. Until very recently, that would have guaranteed its inevitability.

13.11.2016, John Redwood MP: The cruelty and tyranny of global government

There is one theme in common between the very different Brexit and Trump campaigns. Both drew strength from the growing hostility to global government, global treaties, neo con military interventions. Both challenged the arrogant assumption of superior wisdom and moral right adopted by a gilded elite flitting between the large corporations, quangos and governments of the advanced countries, claiming they know best and should be allowed to get on with it unchallenged.

In the case of the UK there was a strong feeling that a largely unaccountable use of power by the EU institutions was not what electors want. We accept that national governments make mistakes and may annoy us, but they are mistakes we can criticise and do something about. They are governments we can persuade to change or politicians we can remove from office if they stubbornly persist in doing the wrong things. We have little power or influence to change EU taxes, budgets and laws, and find that the rigid Treaty based legalistic approach makes normal democracy impossible. This is even more true for Euro members as Greece and its chosen government, Syriza discovered.

We remember the litany of disasters the so called experts and elites have visited upon us – their Exchange Rate Mechanism recession, their Banking crash slump, their Euro with running crises attached, their dear and intermittent energy which often produces more carbon dioxide overall, not less. On both sides of the Atlantic politicians struggle to explain why lower incomes remain depressed and why so many jobs have been exported abroad.

In the USA there was a feeling that their Washington elites – of both major parties – has embedded too much in global treaties too. They felt their trade and global warming treaties did not take into account the need for more and better paid jobs at home, and the important role cheaper energy plays in industrial renaissance. In both countries there was an anger about the elite idea that we in the west know best how Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern states should be governed, and have a moral duty to bomb their cities and train rebel groups in those countries to effect violent change.

The gilded elite lacks awareness of its own moral insensitivity. Why did Mrs Clinton think it a good idea to spend valuable campaign and air time in the last week fraternising with rich celebrities, rather than making it her business to see what she could do for out of work steelworkers or middle income Americans facing huge health insurance premium hikes from Obamacare? Why did she think it right to organise a large fireworks celebration of her victory before she was secure in that aim? Why did she not see that the big money she raised from corporates for her campaign posed presentational problems and would not guarantee victory just because she had more cash to spend than her rival?

07.11.2016, Ryan McMaken, of The Mises Institute recalls the malign influence of our house zombie Jean-Jacques Rousseau: 'The Will of the People' Is a Myth
Even Ludwig von Mises, who was himself a democrat — that is, a supporter of the use of elections in political institutions — denied that elections could tell us about "the general will." Moreover, Mises contended, the idea had been responsible for justifying unlimited government power:

Grave injury has been done to the concept of democracy by those who, exaggerating the natural law notion of sovereignty, conceived it as a limitless rule of the volonté générale. There is really no essential difference between the unlimited power of the democratic state and the unlimited power of the autocrat. The idea that carries away our demagogues and their supporters, the idea that the state can do whatever it wishes, and that nothing should resist the will of the sovereign people, has done more evil perhaps than the caesar-mania of degenerate princelings.

22.08.2016, Matt Ridley, Matt Ridley Online Blog: Whatever happened to Adam Smith?

Never have the American people been faced with such paternalist, protectionist and authoritarian pair of options. The United States, long a beacon of economic libertarianism, is now being offered a choice between two forms of growth-killing, deficit-boosting, zero-sum, big-government economic nationalism. Long gone are the days when both Republicans and Democrats subscribed to some form of free-market economic philosophy while differing mainly over how to fight the cold war and the culture wars.

Show me a country suffering from too much economic freedom. Somalia? No: it has too much government – competing forms of it called warlords. Haiti? No: its red tape is the despair of investors and aid donors. Chile? It has a socialist president. The experiment of too much economic liberty has not been tried.

There is a long list of countries that were transformed by free-market reforms: post-war Germany under Ludwig Erhard, China under Deng Xiaoping, New Zealand under Roger Douglas, America under Ronald Reagan, Britain under Margaret Thatcher, Estonia under Mart Laar, India under Manmohan Singh. South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Peru... Or Peel and Gladstone’s Britain, seventeenth century Holland, the city states of Renaissance Italy, Song dynasty China, ancient Athens, Tyre and Sidon under the Phoenicians. In every case, trade did that.

Hongkong is probably the most successful economy of the last half century, going from abject poverty to opulence without a natural resource of any kind. It did so largely because one man, Sir John Cowperthwaite, the financial secretary of the colony in the 1960s, insisted on minimal government interference in commerce, on low taxes and little regulation, infuriating his LSE-educated superiors in London with his refusal to follow their socialist plans. Yet when I was in Hongkong recently and met the free-market Lion Rock think-tank, I was struck by how pessimistic they felt about winning the argument for small government, even there.

By contrast, I can point you to a list as long as your arm of countries ruined by too much government. Venezuela, North Korea, Belarus and Zimbabwe are top of the list today, but Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot (plus most empires) are egregious reminders that government is a more dangerous toy than markets ever could be.

Why is economic libertarianism out of favour? Unlike welfare-socialism and crony-capitalism, it fails to create vested interests dependent on its subsidies. The whole point of running for president is to be able to hand other people’s money to your favourite causes and generate grateful patronage. Laissez-faire robs you of that treat.

12.07.2016, Brendan O'Neill, The Spectator: Thanks to the sneerocrats, the political bores are back in power

Consider the fall of Andrea Leadsom. I know, I know: the only thing we’re meant to say about Leadsom is ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’. The stupid woman said something stupid and therefore she deserved to be destroyed, amirite? Actually, her fall is more complicated than that. It deserves analysis. For it speaks to the spread of the sneerocrats, who are like a carbuncle on political life, ready to drag down any politico who misspeaks, says something off-colour, cracks an unwise gag, or commits some other breed of thoughtcrime. Very few survive the barbs and memes and petitions of the sneerocracy.

It was the intolerance aimed at Leadsom that was alarming. As it happens, I think she was wrong to say that having kids gives one a greater stake in the future. But we seem increasingly incapable of simply saying ‘I disagree with you’. In these feverish, always-on, politically tribalised times, ‘I think you’re wrong’ has been replaced with ‘OMG. I can’t even. WHAT IS THIS RUBBISH’. The former nurtures debate, the latter destroys it. In the sneerocracy, whose kingdom is Twitter, whose heroes are the snider newspaper commentators (no names!), and whose weapons are photoshop and arch 140-character putdowns, politicians are never wrong or misguided: they’re ridiculous or pathetic or evil, creatures to be sneered at rather than engaged with.

So it was that Leadsom was not merely criticised — as all politicians ought to be — but set upon, viciously, branded backwards and insane and possibly not fully human. The attacks on her were infinitely uglier than anything she actually said. The sneerocrats never say ‘You’re wrong to say that’ — they say ‘You can’t say that’. And in the process they freeze debate, make politicians more cautious, shrink the parameters of acceptable thought. You can laugh at Leadsom’s demise all you like, but you must realise that we’re losing something rather more important than this lady who, in my view, isn’t quite ready for high political office: we’re losing the ability to have cool, deep debate; to disagree; to discuss; to do politics at all.

That’s the end result of the sneerocracy, of the tweeting-and-bleating outrage machine: politics itself becomes impossible. Dreading being Twitch-hunted, politicians keep their more experimental or eccentric ideas to themselves. Fearing the wrath of a snidey commentariat, politicians play it safe. It’s always the weirder, more colourful or most principled politicians who get it in the neck from the sneerocrats: Boris, Farage, Gove. The end result? Greyness. A bland, safe, Blairite wasteland where ideas and argument ought to be. The bores win. The technocrats stride to power. The ‘safe pair of hands’ — who never say anything daring or provocative or stupid — come out on top. Like Theresa May.

The more we mock the politician who dares set foot outside the borders of acceptable ideas, the more we turn politics into the preserve of the dull. It’s the final irony: the sneerocrats think they’re being edgy and funny, yet they help to keep politics edge-free and wit-less.

12.07.2016, Norman Tebbit, The Telegraph: Theresa May will drive Tory members into the arms of Ukip.
Of course she [Andrea Leadsom] never claimed that being a mother gave her an edge over the childless Mrs May. She merely expressed her natural pride in her family.
I suspect that much of the hatred she has suffered arises from her opposition to gay marriage as much as her Euroscepticism.
All is not lost. They do things better at Wimbledon. Andy Murray’s victory has not been set aside after he attributed his strength to fatherhood. Generously his childless opponent made no complaint.

24.04.2016, Charles Moore, Spectator Coffee House: As Matt Ridley discovered, public appointments go to ‘green’ candidates
Similarly, Matt Ridley — distinguished scientific author, naturalist, PhD zoologist, columnist and peer — applied for the chairmanship of the Natural History Museum last year, having been encouraged by headhunters to do so. He did not make it to the shortlist. He asked why. Apparently, it was because his experience as a member of a local National Trust committee had been considered ‘too minor’. Ridley discovered from other sources, however, that the real reason for being excluded was that he does not believe in the catastrophe theory of climate change: he is, in his words, ‘a lukewarmer’. In public appointments, belief in global warming, like belief in ‘diversity’, is a non-negotiable qualification. Lord Green, who got the post, lives up to his name.

03.03.2016, Brendan O'Neill, spiked: For Europe, against the EU: The progressive's case for a Brexit.
My argument for getting out of the EU is not a Little Englander one. It's not because I think Britain is the best country in this continent. It's not because I love the pound or the Queen. It's because the EU is detrimental to the whole of Europe, and particularly to two incredibly important values that European peoples have in various ways been fighting for for hundreds of years: democracy and liberty. The EU is anti-democratic and illiberal.
Supporters of the EU tell us it is an inspiring union of the European peoples. Nonsense. It is a union of European elites who want to avoid their peoples. The EU is the mechanism through which national governments outsource various powers and decision-making processes to distant, aloof, mostly unaccountable bodies like the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.
The true instinct behind the Brussels machine is not to bring Europe together. It is to absolve national governments of the burden of having to consult us, the plebs, about important political and social matters, in favour of allowing various experts and cliques in Brussels to discuss and shape such matters on our behalf. The EU's fuel is not cosmopolitanism — it's democracy-dodging.

18.01.2016, Andreas Kolbe, The Register: 'It's Wikipedia mythbuster time: 8 of the best on your 15th birthday' What Wales doesn't want you to know
Wikipedia's 15th birthday has brought its predictable spate of news coverage, some of it thoughtful, some of it filled with the inevitable barrage of spin and half-truths issuing from Wikimedia HQ. Here's a round-up.
See our own Wikipedia thoughts: Wiki-wacky

10.01.2016, Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday: 'Only strong borders and pride in our civilisation can save us now'
The louder our governments shout about their dedication to fighting Islamist extremism, the readier they are to Islamise our own society. The sheer size of the Muslim population compels them to do so.
That is why exams in England are to be moved to accommodate Muslim pupils taking part in the Ramadan fast. And it is why the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, reacted to the first reports of women being molested in her city by advising them: 'It is always possible to keep a certain distance that is longer than an arm's length.'
Of course she has now been mocked so much that she has backtracked. But the point is that it was her first instinct, and what she really felt.
Radical multicultural types will in the end destroy the things they claim to like, because they don't understand that liberty and reasonable equality are features of stable, free, conservative societies based on Christian ideas, which guard their borders and are proud of their civilisation.
The people who really want to defend our enlightened society, in the end, are dinosaurs like me.

12.12.2015, Luboš Motl, The Reference Frame, the best summary of Paris COP21: Stunning scientific illiteracy behind the Paris 2°C target
The "final" COP21 Paris agreement has 31 pages and this delusional text will go down in history as a certificate of madness and hysteria. Representatives of 200 countries are ready to sign the document.

26.11.2015, Gerald Warner, CAPX: Chairman Mao is no more a joke than Adolf Hitler
“I don't support Mao, of course not,” McDonnell subsequently protested. Yet his colleague Diane Abbott, in 2008, defended the “positive” side of Mao on television. The most serious academic study of Mao's genocidal career estimated the number of deaths he was responsible for in China totalled 65 million. Add to that 5 million more perpetrated by neighbouring communist regimes under his protection and you have a conservative estimate of 70 million murders.

23.11.2015, Matt Ridley, The Rise of Humanism
Non-belief is the fastest growing category of belief; Islamists are worried.

15.11.2015, Eric Worrall, Watts Up With That: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: Climate Change is STILL the Number One Security Threat
Why have I explored these ghastly scenarios, in such nauseating detail? I believe people who claim climate change is more of a threat than terrorism haven't faced up to the reality of what is possible. Suggesting all of these horrific yet technically viable scenarios are somehow less of a threat, than a mild temperature rise which might or might not manifest over the next few decades, in my opinion is completely nuts.

14.11.2015, Brendan O'Neill, Spiked: After Paris
That's enough cultural appeasement; fight — really fight — for the Enlightenment.

08.11.2015, Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday: The State shouldn't poke its nose into my emails - or yours
Hitchens is always insightful, but excelled himself as a writer with this wonderful simile:
Terror works by surprise. It also works by driving societies mad, like a wasp at a picnic. Terrorists are overjoyed when we shut down our freedoms and turn ourselves into a police state, and when we retaliate, swatting the Middle East with useless bombs, or rounding up the wrong suspects and locking them up without charge.

01.11.2015, Christopher Booker, The Telegraph: Why the Paris climate treaty will be the flop of the year. Good stating of the obvious. Jean-Jacques Rousseau will, however, lend a helping hand.

15.10.2015, Matt Ridley: Some policies to fight climate change have done more harm than good An excellent summary of the perils of activist dirigisme. A must-read for every would-be technocrat.

13.10.2015, Angela Nagle, Spiked Online: The new PC priests of Irish censorship'The church's war on evil has been replaced by a "liberal" war on hate speech'. Quite.