Is the UK government misleading the public on COVID tests?


So, that’s over 9 million COVID tests done in the UK up to June 27th a.m. Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? As of today (July 1st), that count has moved on to 9,426,631 – fourth in the world in total tests! (The UK is also fourth in the world in COVID deaths per million population, and closing in on Andorra for third place; but that’s another story). Now… is that figure believable?

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David McDonagh – RIP


David McDonagh "The role of 'The Wealth of Nations' as a pristine ...It is with great sadness that I must report the death of David McDonagh. Details are as yet scarce, but I am told that he suffered a heart attack on the 12th June.

I first met David in 1980, back in the days when there was just one Libertarian Alliance. We would attend LA meetings at the Conway Hall in London – I as an earnest student, sat in the audience, he as one of the luminaries of the Movement, sat behind one of those trestle tables that shook every time someone breathed.

When the Libertarian Alliance suffered its Great Schism, I found myself in the Chris Tame Faction. However, though David was part of the other Faction, we remained on friendly terms. We became significantly more friendly after Chris died in 2006, when I became a semi-regular speaker at events organised by his part of the Libertarian Alliance.

In all the time I knew him, David never seemed to change. Except he grew more battered over the years, he wore much the same clothes, and he never changed the style of his hair or moustache. He also never changed his opinions. From first to last, he was a Cobdenite Liberal. There was always something about him of the early twentieth century, when Cobdenism was last a viable movement. He could be irritating in debate – pedantic, repetitive, very much in love with the sound of his own voice. These were traits he carried into his written correspondence. At the same time, he possessed a large fund of simple goodness, and I am not aware of anyone who disliked him. I certainly never did.

Because he had been for so long a fixture of the British libertarian movement, predating even my own involvement, I had retained a young man’s belief that his elders would live forever. His death is a shock to me and a cause of much sadness. I will pay tribute to all that he did to keep libertarianism alive – let us face it, a thankless task given the circumstances of at least the past thirty years. He lived and died a man of immoveable principle and personal decency. We must lament his death, but also celebrate his life.

He will not be forgotten.

How to Define “the Right”


The Distributist is a fascinating Youtube channel.  I cannot recommend enough the systematic and deeply intuitive, insightful way with which this influencer analyses political thought on the left and right, and even cultural phenomena such as the horror genre.  I was so struck by this thinker’s development of a nine-point framework of what it means to be right-wing, that I needed to sit down and pick his brain about it.

ninepoints

For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself “a man of the right” and I believe I can determine whether others are. But, recent conversations and questions have cornered me into a realisation – many I do consider my fellow rightists have very little understanding of what it means to be on the right.  So, can we crystallise some quintessence of a definition?

Dave “The Distributist” Donovan has made a Herculean effort to be objective about things, setting aside his own traditionalist, Catholic, reactionary beliefs in order to define the right so as to capture the whole, whether right-libertarian, fascist, conservative etc. The piece is titled, ‘To be “right-wing”… (in 9 points)’.  To summarise his work, we can describe fundamental right-wing beliefs as follows:

There is an essential meaning to human life and so there are virtues to realise that meaningful life. However, we naturally tend to fall short, entropically, from realising those virtues and ends of life. We, therefore, need ordering principles, customs, cultural institutions etc. to curb degeneration.

That’s it! Too simplistic? Well, to understand the Donovan’s wisdom here, this requires unpacking.  Here is my interview with him (and do excuse the poor audio in the first several minutes); and, below that, are my own thoughts on his definition:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg7OAX1-m58

In terms of the first three of Donovan’s axioms, there is a meaning, a teleology to human existence which transcends the self; there are thus virtues or disciplined actions to pursue that meaning, to live a good life and meet a good death. As such, there is objective goodness and it is an end in itself – power or might are not necessarily right, but are only means to earthly ends. Echoing the don of Radical Orthodoxy, John Milbank, communities exist to sustainably manifest those virtues and that shared meaning of life, enculturating a particular people in a particular place to that end, and preserving those virtuous responsibilities qua customs across time, principally through families.

Practically speaking, even if the above is assented to, constraining forces are required to halt the entropic, degenerating nature of fallen man; furthermore, the very institutions designed to maintain such discipline become less observant themselves, according to Robert Conquest’s apocryphal “three laws of politics”. A classical understanding would be: we share a logos and an ethos, and to preserve these, we will have to manage our shared pathos. Donovan aptly paraphrases G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which is worth quoting fully:

‘We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things.’

And so, as hierarchies are inevitable – as in Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy – the chief problem of politics and metapolitics is the tendency of humans and institutions to corrupt. The responsibility for societal survival, vis-à-vis maintaining the virtues necessary for moral uplift, must therefore be undertaken at every level of all institutional hierarchies, to check and balance every other from inevitable degeneration – that is, from the promotion and pursuit of mere comfort and pleasure for their own sake.

To realistically expect such solidarity and shared purpose requires the alignment of the interests of rulers and subjects – all must have skin in the game to maintain accountability; thus, the tendency on the right towards monarchy, with rulers’ children benefiting from the common good of the body politic, and other political systems which imperfectly mimic this arrangement; similarly unsurprising are tendencies towards nationalism and degrees of subsidiarity – that is, some decentralisation of political decision-making.

Finally, to prevent the corrupting influence of clandestine “dark power”, from within or without, such as bribery or the seductions of wealthy international forces, very orderly, clearly delineated and formalised rules, offices, functions etc. are necessary wherever the potential for the accumulation of power is concerned. Essentially, the right-wing trend is towards maximising responsibility and minimising impunity.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all very Platonic, expressing beliefs or at least behaviours which indicate an implicit belief in objective truths; of course, this is in stark contrast to the individualistic spirit of modernity and the inevitable scepticism which has captured postmodernity. This does seem like a good starting point for identifying the kernel of philosophical difference between leftist and right-wing thinking. But, notice something: these categories, which we can use to make sense of the left vs. right dichotomy, platonism vs. scepticism etc., are fundamentally Western, European ones; and this is where I think Donovan’s definition falls short, and probably deliberately so. We could, of course, say that there are people in any given human society who will tend towards some of the above concepts, and certainly there have been in the other great civilisations, such as the Islamic and Chinese. But that is hardly defining the right and is, in fact, imposing that category or construct of Christendom onto other civilisational contexts.

Yes, Christendom! Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, being a reactionary, shied away from the more modern view of left and right-wings qua modern statist constructs, but he nevertheless used the terms to describe the general virtuous trends towards the shared logos as “on the right”, as they direct one towards Christ, who is the logos incarnate and seated at the right hand of God. The sinister/left was what deviated from this towards modern liberal secularising and, thus, away from a Christian cultural framework, a collective effort to halt the degeneration of man – his relinquishing of the responsibility to do what is right.

Even our understanding of leftism cannot escape its origins: From William of Ockham’s nominalism, in the Middle Ages, developed the spiritual individualism of Lutheranism, and rather inevitably on to moral consequentialism (in stark contrast to virtue as an end in itself) and, thus, the modern liberal ethics of moral relativism. This is how we arrived at the hyper-individualistic view, prevalent today, that most and maybe all collectively imposed moral obligations are immoral, with genderless individuals defining their idiosyncratic meaning of life.

As much as Donovan is to be commended for trying to develop a theoretical framework for the empirical definition and future study of the right (something which would not even occur to most right-wingers), our conceptual baggage of political left and right were born in and developed by the particular context of Latin Christendom. I must conclude by agreeing with the underappreciated Fr Aidan Nichols, that the Anglosphere owes all its truly conserving and ordering institutions and traditions, ultimately, to the Albion of Catholic England. From the attire of our judges to the rituals of our politics and military, the secularised Anglosphere animates itself on the skeleton of Christendom, and when we talk of “the right”, we are talking of approximations to that former order. We can no more escape that context than a fish can jump on land and start a new life.

So, is a pragmatic alliance of those religious and ideological communities which adhere to Donovan’s “9 points” possible? Well, it certainly was possible in history, under the emperors and kings of Christendom (and elsewhere, under similar arrangements), and pockets of this harmony are extant, but the question will always remain: Which ethos and logos will rule as King of kings? Christ, at the right hand of God, may be exactly what right-leaning folks, from various backgrounds, need in the West, but will they accept him or rather cry, ‘Barabbas’? With the acceptance of hierarchy on the broader right comes the problem of accepting another’s ethos to guide our rulers.

Donovan ends our interview by suggesting that the transnational threading of power in our current context allows little more than smaller communities in which traditional Christian values can act as the underlying framework for such non-pluralistic polities (which are almost purely hypothetical). The major disadvantage the right has is that, although the Catholic heritage of the West is ultimately where the cultural framework which undergirds the public discourse of the right lies, not all on the right are so accepting of this; the left, however, now have the framework of intersectionality to act as the map for their discourse and to separate their pereceived wheat from the chaff, and so the right is now vulnerable to the left’s superior ability to police the public discourse.

As such, the attempt to provide a framework makes Donovan’s valiant attempts timely and a necessary step to bring some balance to political discourse. Given the riots and lotting erupting across the West in 2020, I don’t exaggerate when I emphasise how timely it is. We now have a vantage point for the future.

The Left’s Exploitation of Race


The Left’s Exploitation of Race

By Duncan Whitmore

Nearly two years ago, the present writer published on this blog an essay concerning how gullible leftists are whipped up into frenzies of hysteria for the purposes of fulfilling a political agenda often only loosely connected to the problems of which they complain. An example we gave was the leftist outrage at Donald Trump’s supposed racism and misogyny, allegations which are raised solely because of the wider threat that Trump poses to the mantra of globalisation and a US hegemonic world. Absent that threat, none of the 45th President’s alleged affronts against women and other races would have seen the light of day. Fast forward to today and the protests, riots, and looting following the killing, by a Minnesota policeman, of a black man whom he was apprehending, have demonstrated this useful idiocy – fuelled also, no doubt, by the economic frustrations of younger, university educated middle classes whom the COVID lockdowns may have driven over the edge – to an even wider extent.

Regardless of the specific images of rioting and violence with which we were greeted last weekend, it is probably the case that the vast majority of those who took part in the protesting feel that they care, quite genuinely, for what they perceive to be the plight of African-Americans. It is typical for libertarians, and the right genuinely, to paint all leftists as dyed-in-the wool Marxists hell-bent on destroying Western civilisation, but we should remember that many of them are themselves victims of years of indoctrination by their schools, universities and mainstream media which presented them with a wall of unbridled, hegemonic leftism. Indeed, we have to hope that they are not all committed fanatics immune to reasoned rebuttals of the leftist monologue, for if they are then our cause may well be lost. A handful of personal acquaintances of mine who drift around the left but who have, other than minor mutterings about Brexit and Boris, scarcely uttered a political statement in their lives, have, within the last few weeks, unloaded a deluge of social media condemnation of police brutality and decrying “institutional racism”, all with the “#blacklivesmatter” hashtag. A few even donned placards and took part in the protesting. True enough, most will be content to merely virtue signal rather than do anything that actually makes a real difference, and most have already reverted to posting “selfies” and worrying about the fact they cannot get a haircut during the COVID-19 lockdown. But they are not fundamentally bad people. Read more

The Conservatives: Not Fit for Any Honest Purpose


The Conservatives: Not Fit for Any Honest Purpose
Alan Bickley
12th June 2020

According to The Daily Mail, Madeline Odent is the Curator of the Royston Museum in Hertfordshire. This museum is funded by Royston Council. In the past few days, Mrs Odent has taken to Twitter, giving expert advice on how to use household chemicals to cause irreparable harm to statues she dislikes.

It is, she says, “extremely difficult” to remove the chemicals once they have been applied. She adds that “it can be done, but the chemical needed is super carcinogenic, so it rarely is.” Again, she says: “We haven’t found a way to restore artefacts that this happens to.” Her last reported tweet features a picture of Winton Churchill’s defaced statue in Parliament Square, and says: “Stay tuned for our next edition, where we’ll be talking about marble memorials of racists.”

The newspaper and various people are calling for the woman to be sacked. It is, I allow, surprising for someone to hold a job that involves conserving the past, and then to advise an insurrectionary mob on how to destroy the past. This being said, and assuming the story is substantially true, Mrs Odent is less to be blamed for giving her advice than those who employed her as an expert on conservation and its opposite.

We have had a Conservative Government since 2010. We have had a Conservative Government with a working majority since 2015. For the past six months, we have had a Conservative Government with a crushing majority. It all counts for nothing, because the Conservatives themselves are useless.

Political power is not purely, nor mainly, a matter of being able to make laws. It is far more a matter of choosing reliable servants. Before 1997, we could suppose, within reason, that these servants were politically neutral. They often had their own agenda. They could use their status as experts to influence, and sometimes to frustrate, laws and policies with which they disagreed. But there were not self-consciously an order of people devoted to a transformative revolution. The Blair Government broke with convention by stuffing the public sector with its own creatures, loyal only to itself. This is to be deplored. On the other hand, the Blair Government did have a mandate for sweeping change, and it is reasonable that it should have given preference to employing those who could be trusted to further both the letter and spirit of this mandate. The Conservatives have had enough time to make the public sector into at least an obedient servant of those the people keep electing. Instead of this, they have spent this time employing and promoting people whom Tony Blair would have sacked on the spot as malicious lunatics.

Royston as a town and Hertfordshire as a county have been dominated by the Conservatives almost without a break since the creation of elected local government in the nineteenth century. Yet Royston Council allowed Mrs Odent to become the curator of its town museum. It allowed this in 2015 – five years into a Conservative Government. To her credit, she did not lie her way into the job. Once more according to The Daily Mail, she claims that she negotiated a contract with her employers that allowed her to “decolonise and diversify” the museum, and that her employers gave her a “safe platform” that she could use to “piss off some racists.” She adds: “a) my boss thinks I’m funny, b) she also supports BLM, and c) I’m the one reading [your direct messages].”

Ever ready to pose as the spokesman for a disenfranchised majority, Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative Member for Romford, announced that the spreading wave of vandalism was being driven by “a politically-correct gang of anarchists who hate everything about this country.” Fair enough, so far as these people do hate England. But this is not an insurrection of anarchists – not even the kind who like the power to destroy. It is an insurrection driven by the wealthy and the well-connected. Mrs Odone is the daughter of an American college president and the wife of a banker. She is part of a network of the rich who feel no twentieth century shame about their wealth, so long as they believe and act on their beliefs in a repeat of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And they have been given the power to make this revolution by Conservative Governments.

A government of conservatives would long since have purged these people from every institution within its orbit of control or influence. It would have remodelled some and shut others down. This Conservative Government has instead left or even put them in charge of these institutions, and they are now acting in mockery of the parliamentary majority won just six months ago.

For the avoidance of doubt, I do not approve of police brutality. Indeed, I have long believed in abolishing the police. I am no fan of Winston Churchill. I do not believe, had I been alive at the time, that I would have supported slavery or the slave trade. I do not think, in retrospect, that having a big empire was a good idea. But the events that have been made the excuse for what is now happening took place in a foreign country, or a long time ago. What we now have is, I repeat, a cultural revolution – a cultural revolution led by what amounts to the ruling class. The BBC has incited it. Big business and the rich are cheering it on. The police have no wish to stop it.

It is also a cultural revolution that will not end with pulling down the statues of men whose actions may not have been spotless. Again, I quote Mrs Odent, whose honesty, if nothing else, is to be commended: “[W]e all immediately forget history when statues are destroyed.”

And a Conservative Government that, last December, swore blind it would stand by us has abdicated what little control it might still have. If disappointment is reasonable, we have no reason to be shocked. The Conservatives are, and always have been, unfit for any honest purpose. Sooner or later, I have no doubt – if it has not already happened – Mrs Odent and Boris Johnson will meet at some smart dinner. They will get on very well. Why not? She may despise him. Being herself intelligent, she has no choice. Being intelligent, though, she can also be sure that, unlike the average reader of The Daily Mail, he is not her enemy.

The Problem of Modernity and the Radical Orthodoxy Movement — a conversation with Dr Paul Tyson


Radical Orthodoxy (otherwise known as the Cambridge School) is a movement of traditional Christians from across the denominations, including John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, William T. Cavanaugh etc., which criticises modernity, especially the modern state, and attempts to trace the steps of Western civilisation back to the point of departure from the Platonist lifeworld of Christendom.

So, what were the philosophical missteps which brought Western civilisation from the lifeworld of Christendom to a modernity that has left our stomachs full but our souls empty?

In the interview below, Paul Tyson discusses this movement’s critique of modernity and the unguided Hobbesian Leviathan state, and he presents suggestions of how we might set the West back on track, and perhaps take steps towards the reunification of Christendom.

 

Dominion Theology: Salvation or Snare for Liberty?


A review of Robert Grözinger, Why Libertarianism Needs Christianity to Succeed, Kindle eBook, April 7, 2020.

 

Dominion Theology: Salvation or Snare for Liberty?
Anthony G. Flood

This provocative essay derives from a talk given to the Libertarian Alliance in London late last summer. German economist and translator Robert Grözinger (Jesus, der Kapitalist: Das christliche Herz der Marktwirtschaft, Munich, 2012) argues that libertarianism, which traditionally prides itself on its alleged independence from philosophical frameworks, cannot succeed without one that gives meaning to liberty-seeking itself. Arguments for, say, the superiority of free to hampered markets don’t compensate libertarianism for its lack of an adequate framework of meaning or worldview. Libertarians should identify theirs and persuade others on its terms if they want libertarianism to be more than an intellectual hobby. For if libertarianism’s attitude toward ultimate-meaning frameworks remains as laissez-faire as its politics, its attractiveness will remain limited. Grözinger believes Christianity best meets that need. Read more

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