I added some thoughts in the comments.
Uh-oh (it doesn't matter that he is correct):
This was another great set of Dr Dalrymple's essays. I must admit to having a soft spot of conservative pessimism, but I also have a soft spot for damn good writing. The skeptical doctor provides both. Incidentally, he also provides great old-fashioned reporting (the kind that has died as newspapers have died).
Dalrymple's books are collections of essays that have subtle ties. In this book the meta, subtle tie is a criticism of the leaders of our culture. Our intellectuals and stars – in short, our role models and opinion-makers. The doctor believes that these people have ruined our culture and condemned our poor people to a nearly hopeless life in the under classes.
With that tie in mind, here are some of the highlights:
Here we enter the realm of culture and ideas. For it is necessary not only to believe that it is economically feasible to behave in the irresponsible and egotistical fashion I have described, but also to believe that it is morally permissible to do so. And this idea has been peddled by the intellectual elite in Britain for many years, more assiduously than anywhere else, to the extent that it is now taken for granted. . . .
To paraphrase Burke, all that is necessary for barbarism to triumph is for civilized men to do nothing: but in fact for the past few decades, civilized men have done worse
than nothing-they have actively thrown in their lot with the barbarians. They have denied the distinction between higher and lower, to the invariable advantage of the latter.
The increase in crime is a favorite topic of the good doctor:
And some marvelously old-fashioned bits:
There is also plenty of my favorite Dalrymple theme: the imperfectibility of mankind:
There is even some Roissyism:
That civilized life cannot be lived without taboos – that some of them may indeed be justified, and that therefore taboo is not in itself an evil to be vanquished – is a thought
too subtle for the aesthetes of nihilism.
And there are unbelievable stories from his patients:
Such is our cultural decline.
Another interesting idea (that came up in several essays) was the idea that we are willingly living under conditions that are becoming increasingly similar to conditions under totalitarian regimes, for example:
The book ends with an interesting essay on Rhodesia and colonialism that I am still chewing on. I'll post some excerpts as I continue to pull together my thoughts:
I expected to find on my arrival, therefore, a country in crisis and decay. Instead I found a country that was, to all appearances, thriving: its roads were well maintained, its transport system functioning, its towns and cities clean and manifesting a municipal pride long gone from England. There were no electricity cuts or shortages of basic food commodities. . . .
An income that allowed a white to live like a lord because of a lack of such obligations scarcely raised a black above the level of his family. Mere equality of salary, therefore, was quite insufficient to procure for them [i.e. blacks] the standard of living that they saw the whites had and that it was only human nature for them to desire – and believe themselves entitled to, on account of the superior talent that had allowed them to raise themselves above their fellows. In fact a salary a thousand times as great would hardly have been sufficient to procure it: for their social obligations increased pari passu with their incomes. . . .
The thick network of social obligations explains why, while it would have been out of the question to bribe most Rhodesian bureaucrats, yet in only a few years it would have been out of the question not to try to bribe most Zimbabwean ones, whose relatives would have condemned them for failing to obtain on their behalf all the advantages their official opportunities might provide. Thus do the very same tasks in the very same offices carried out by people of different cultural and social backgrounds result in very different outcomes. . . .
And indeed, in all but one or two African states, the accession to independence brought no advance in intellectual freedom but rather, in many cases, a tyranny incomparably worse than the preceding colonial regimes. . . .
After several years in Africa I concluded that the colonial enterprise had been fundamentally wrong and mistaken, even when, as was often the case in its final stages, it was benevolently intended. The good it did was ephemeral; the harm, lasting.
Given that Keynesians' explanation for the failure of the stimulus is that it was too small, I think they will never admit failure. Their position is therefore unfalsifiable (if the recession ends, it was because of the stimulus – if it doesn't end, it is because the stimulus was too small).
Remember this next time someone refers to economics as a "science."
Like the old one, but totally ineffective and useless. From Mr Moldbug: