Neil’s Note: This is an updated, and greatly improved, version of an essay I published here a few years ago.
There’s been a meme going around, for some time now, that politicians are psychopaths. Or, at least, have mental disorders. It seems this meme was first sowed in 2003 by neurophysiologist Paul Broks, who suggested, on the evidence of conduct leading up to the Iraq war, that Tony Blair was a “plausible psychopath.” It was spread in 2012 in an article by James Silver in the Atlantic Magazine. The meme is still around today in the blogosphere, and every so often I catch new echoes of it.
So, today I’ll take a look at how much of a link there may be between politics and psychopathy.
This is the first essay in a new series. In which, I’ll seek to understand, and to diagnose the causes of, the ethical, political and economic ills of our times.
Some of what I say may be familiar to those who have read my earlier work. What is new here, is that I aim to put those, previously only loosely related, strands of thought into context. Metaphorically, in this series of essays I am seeking to assemble a “big crunch” of ideas. From which, in due time, I will aim to draw out material for the “big bang” of cure. Read more
It was a fine day: February 27th, 2019. I drove to a beautiful place in the New Forest. It was 4pm, still sunny and warm; although it had been almost 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) earlier in the day. Compare that with Minnesota, quite a way south of my latitude, where the daily forecast was minus 16 Fahrenheit (minus 27 Celsius).
For a week and a half, we had had exceptionally fine and warm weather for February in England. Ten days earlier, I had sat in a pub garden full of people. Full! That’s rare enough in March; and unheard of in February. And since I was lucky enough to be in a break between work projects, I had walked a lot around my local area during that time.
Wherever you are on the political spectrum, this essay is likely to offend you. The “left” will hate my uncompromising views on private property. The “right,” conversely, will be incensed by my principled objections to political borders and walls. So, here goes…
Whenever many people must interact together, a common problem is that of scarce means. Resources like food, or land, or tools, or drinkable water, are not sufficiently abundant to allow everyone to have as much of them as they wish.
Today, I’ll address questions like: Are we obliged to help others when they are in adversity? If so, under what conditions? Who, exactly, deserves our help? How well do current welfare states perform the task at hand? And how might we put together a system to do the job properly, helping those who need and deserve help, while avoiding injustice to anyone? Read more
We hear a lot of sneers directed at the rich. Like “the 1 per cent,” “greedy” or “fat cats.” Today, I’ll ask: To what extent do the rich deserve these insults? Then, I’ll look at poverty, and ask: Why are so many people poor? And how might the problem of undeserved poverty be solved?
I was involved in a blog conversation recently on the subject of “fake news.” The Darn-Poor Rhymer (the part of my alter ego which likes to write very bad verse) was inspired to write this parody of Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage.” At first, I thought that what I had written was no more than a piece of fun; but it wasn’t long before I realized that there were some deeper truths in there too. So, I re-present it here for your enjoyment.
Is all the Net a fake?
Are all the so-called “experts” merely liars?
They have their tricks and clever arguments,
And one man in his time learns many arts.
His thoughts move in six stages. First, the newbie,
His gaze, his ear, his mind glued to the screen,
Believing all he’s told. And then the troll,
Crying “fake news,” and “bull,” and “balderdash,”
Annoying and insulting all in range,
Until no-one will listen. Then the follower,
Seeking for wisdom in the godless depths
Of someone else’s arcane religion,
While parroting its credos. Then the warrior,
Shouting his narrative at top of voice,
Augmenting it with copious references
To sources just as biased as himself,
Using his subtle tricks and clever ruses
To seek to sow the seeds of doubt and guilt,
And rarely giving ground to others’ views;
But never once considering the thought
That it might be him, not his opponent,
Who’s got it wrong. The fifth stage shifts
To the truth seeker, doing what he can
To find the facts, and piece together truths,
And spread these truths to those willing and able
To listen to them. Sixth comes the free man.
Able to govern self, to live and let live;
Free from all need for politics or laws,
Free from all wish for violence or aggression,
Free from desire to lie, insult or slur,
Reciprocating others’ tolerance,
And judging people, not by who they are,
But what they do. Way back in Shakespeare’s time
There was a seventh stage, of slow decline;
But as I look out, it’s a sunny day,
And so, I think, that’s all I have to say.