Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Driverless cars 2

This is from Matt Ridley’s blog:

In cities, driverless cars could cut congestion. A recent simulation at the University of Texas of a city with driverless cars prowling for business found that passengers need wait an average of 18 seconds for a driverless vehicle to show up and that each shared autonomous vehicle could replace 11 conventional cars. A study by Columbia University concluded that a driverless vehicle fleet could cut the cost of transport by 80 per cent compared with a personally owned vehicle driven 10,000 miles a year — not counting the reduction in parking costs and the value of time not spent at the wheel….

They will never be flawless, but nor are drivers. Insurance needs sorting out. Yet KPMG reckons that the driverless revolution may save up to 2,500 lives by 2030, and points out that Britain has a technological head start in all the relevant industries, so there is every reason to think we can become a centre of excellence in connected and autonomous driving, and get 320,000 jobs out of it.

Alongside this kind of stuff, I just cannot help feeling that a very fast train, built at glacial speed (half a mile a week) over many years of consultation, review and challenge as it punches through Nimbyland, and at up to nine times the cost per mile of French high-speed rail, feels like a white elephant waiting to happen.

 

 

Our driverless future?

A young engineer was speaking to me about the future of cars and roads. The addition of artificial intelligence to cars is ongoing, and will soon reach the stage, he says, where it will become clear that cars in certain urban areas will not be allowed to drive with human drivers at the wheel.

Such an outcome assumes a great deal of progress in resolving a host of issues, technical, social and political.

 

The implications of increased intelligence in cars – up to the point where humans can be replaced as drivers – go on and on.

  • ownership versus renting

If cars can be rented by the hour or by the occasion, the incentives to own a car may go down. Cars usually sit in the driveway or the parking lot for most of the day. Imagine that cars are basically taxis, and that the ownership (whoever they or it may be) cleans, maintains and provides cars on much the same basis as taxis, but with no taxi driver. You would summon a car as you would an Uber taxi, and it would show up at your location, but without the driver. Step in and the car will drive you to your destination.

  • traffic signals

Your community is strewn with stop signs, lights, and painting of signals on the road. Imagine that the driving rules for every intersection are communicated by local networks to the cars within reach of the signal, and that cars communicate by networks to each other in constant Bluetooth-style to adjust momentum (direction and speed). Once cars are self-directing, if the destination has been selected by the passenger, then a huge infrastructure of visual signs would be replaced with an electronic infrastructure. As a pedestrian, you may need a sign as to where you can cross, but the governing software of cars will ensure that, within the limits of the laws of physics, cars will not be able to hit you.

  • legal compulsion

It will be argued that the full benefits of the driverless automobile system will only be realized when people are legally obliged to switch over from the human driver to local network control. The law will compel drivers in certain areas to surrender control, and in all likelihood the car will simply adjust by becoming integrated with the local network, on the supposition that there is a private automobile entering the local network space.

The sign saying “you are now entering Such and Such” municipality also acts as the point where the car – not your car but “the” car – passes from the control of one network to another, just as a cell-phone call is passed from one tower to another. The car in which you are riding has become a physical instantiation of a telephone call.

The consequences  of this driverless system are expected to be:

1) drastic reduction in the amount of society’s resources dedicated to automobiles, as the use of each car intensifies. This may mean fewer cars, or less social investment in related automobile technologies, or lowered energy consumption. It may allow for quicker transitions to newer propulsion technologies.

2) legal liability will be need to be worked out between the software makers (General Motors, Toyota, Apple whoever) that make the car control software, the cities which install the driverless networks, and insurance companies for both sides.

Some of the negative effects will be:

1) loss of autonomy and privacy, but as computer technology invades everything, the loss of autonomy will long precede the transfer to the automated driverless system spoken of here. You are already being followed by your GPS and other technologies in your car, even if you still drive it. Mandatory guidance systems will not change the trackability of cars.

2) Every car will become like a taxi. The cleanliness, appearance, and maintenance level of your car will depend on the previous occupants, and on which company owns them, and some companies will be better than others. Given the human propensity for status distinctions, people will pay for better cars by belonging to better car-cooperatives.

Cultural and social resistance will take a long time to be overcome.

First, the software to run all this must work seamlessly and efficiently to figure out the dozens of social and safety rules that govern human transactions in every driving situation. Consider four-way stops which can be a ballet of mutual recognition.  The mutual interchange of signals among cars and the successors to stop signs and traffic lights must work out in a faultless protocol. WIll drivers be allowed to assume control, and in what circumstances?

This leads to the second huge issue: trust. It is likely that failures will become as rare and nearly as deadly as airplane accidents. Imagine a breakdown of signals, or the failure of protocols, on a highway where hundreds of cars are hurtling on autopilot. It will take a long while before people can trust the state of the system to be sufficiently  faultless that getting into a car is as safe as getting into an airplane.

Inconvenience is the third major reason for resisting. Private ownership of cars may be as irrational as the private ownership of power tools, from the perspective of efficiency of use, but people do not like systems of common or collective ownership for good reason. Some people are slobs, others neatfreaks. Some use their cars as mobile filing cabinets. So private ownership will likely continue, even in the brave new world of automated driverless cars. Thus the argument for the driverless car system is not an argument for the abandonment of private ownership, but it will increasingly make private ownership look as anachronistic as a CD or record collection.

stuffedcar

Population reduction

The UN’s Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) believes that lowering the human population should reduce the load we impose on the planet. In 2013, Figueres had a conversation with Climate One founder Greg Dalton regarding “fertility rates in population,” as a contributor to climate change.

Ironically, she is right, but the means she proposes to get to lowered population runs through higher wealth, not lower wealth, and to get to higher wealth, we need to maintain current per capita energy consumption.

Moreover, the total human population numbers will rise to 2050, but fertility is already crashing or in the process of doing so. This is the largest unrealized LARGE FACT in the world today. Everyone seems to think global population will continue to expand, as it did in the aftermath of World War 2. But as fertility (the number of babies per woman) crashes, population cannot continue to increase.

The fact is, women choose to replicate, when they can choose at all, in competition with a mass of other incentives. They will trade the possibility of a fourth child for a sewing machine; and the prospect of a third child for a better home.

The rich have always had fewer children, and now, thanks to energy consumption, we face the same income trade-offs as 18th century aristocrats: more children, less wealth to divide among them. Infowars reports

Populations in developed countries are declining and only in third world countries are they expanding dramatically. Industrialization itself levels out population trends and even despite this world population models routinely show that the earth’s population will level out at 9 billion in 2050 and slowly decline after that. “The population of the most developed countries will remain virtually unchanged at 1.2 billion until 2050,” states a United Nations report. The UN’s support for depopulation policies is in direct contradiction to their own findings.

But keeping wealth concentrated in the countries which are rich now is not the purpose of economic development, nor is it possible. The largest fact is that globalization is allowing wealth in countries that have not experienced it: not just China and India, but Indonesia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh, even Africa.

According to the UN Report “World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision”, whose first finding is:

In July 2013, the world population will reach 7.2 billion, 648 million more than in 2005 or an average gain of 81 million persons annually. Even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline, the world population is still expected to reach 9.6 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100,according to the medium-variant projection.

Under the low variant of fertility, global population starts to decrease after 2050.

The moral is clear: allow people to increase their wealth and keep the products of their labour, and they will solve the population problem (as perceived by leftist planners)  by their own actions. Wealth is the key to population control.

What I have always felt Gaianism was, it is: degenerate Calvinism

Jonathan Franzen on the subject of the ecology and global warming confirms my view that the religion of Gaianism is a degenerate Christianity. Calvinist Christianity, to be more precise.

 

John_Calvin_by_Holbein

Franzen writes:

Maybe it’s because I was raised as a Protestant and became an environmentalist, but I’ve long been struck by the spiritual kinship of environmentalism and New England Puritanism. Both belief systems are haunted by the feeling that simply to be human is to be guilty. In the case of environmentalism, the feeling is grounded in scientific fact. Whether it’s prehistoric North Americans hunting the mastodon to extinction, Maori wiping out the megafauna of New Zealand, or modern civilization deforesting the planet and emptying the oceans, human beings are universal killers of the natural world. And now climate change has given us an eschatology for reckoning with our guilt: coming soon, some hellishly overheated tomorrow, is Judgment Day. Unless we repent and mend our ways, we’ll all be sinners in the hands of an angry Earth.

I’m still susceptible to this sort of puritanism. Rarely do I board an airplane or drive to the grocery store without considering my carbon footprint and feeling guilty about it. But when I started watching birds, and worrying about their welfare, I became attracted to a countervailing strain of Christianity, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s example of loving what’s concrete and vulnerable and right in front of us. I gave my support to the focussed work of the American Bird Conservancy and local Audubon societies. Even the most ominously degraded landscape could make me happy if it had birds in it.

And so I came to feel miserably conflicted about climate change. I accepted its supremacy as the environmental issue of our time, but I felt bullied by its dominance. Not only did it make every grocery-store run a guilt trip; it made me feel selfish for caring more about birds in the present than about people in the future. What were the eagles and the condors killed by wind turbines compared with the impact of rising sea levels on poor nations? What were the endemic cloud-forest birds of the Andes compared with the atmospheric benefits of Andean hydroelectric projects?….

But climate change is seductive to organizations that want to be taken seriously. Besides being a ready-made meme, it’s usefully imponderable: while peer-reviewed scientific estimates put the annual American death toll of birds from collisions and from outdoor cats at more than three billion, no individual bird death can be definitively attributed to climate change (since local and short-term weather patterns have nonlinear causes). Although you could demonstrably save the lives of the birds now colliding with your windows or being killed by your cats, reducing your carbon footprint even to zero saves nothing. Declaring climate change bad for birds is therefore the opposite of controversial. To demand a ban on lead ammunition (lead poisoning is the foremost cause of California condor deaths) would alienate hunters. To take an aggressive stand against the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs (the real reason that the red knot, a shorebird, had to be put on the list of threatened U.S. species this winter) might embarrass the Obama Administration, whose director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in announcing the listing, laid the blame for the red knot’s decline primarily on “climate change,” a politically more palatable culprit. Climate change is everyone’s fault—in other words, no one’s. We can all feel good about deploring it.

A little tragicomedy of climate activism is its shifting of goalposts. Ten years ago, we were told that we had ten years to take the kind of drastic actions needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius in this century. Today we hear, from some of the very same activists, that we still have ten years. In reality, our actions now would need to be even more drastic than they would have ten years ago, because further gigatons of carbon have accumulated in the atmosphere. At the rate we’re going, we’ll use up our entire emissions allowance for the century before we’re even halfway through it. Meanwhile, the actions that many governments now propose are less drastic than what they proposed ten years ago.

The article is important. It is the completest explanation and description of the mentality behind global warming catastrophism. We are ineluctably doomed. All else is window-dressing.

To answer the question, it’s important to acknowledge that drastic planetary overheating is a done deal. Even in the nations most threatened by flooding or drought, even in the countries most virtuously committed to alternative energy sources, no head of state has ever made a commitment to leaving any carbon in the ground. Without such a commitment, “alternative” merely means “additional”—postponement of human catastrophe, not prevention. The Earth as we now know it resembles a patient whose terminal cancer we can choose to treat either with disfiguring aggression or with palliation and sympathy. We can dam every river and blight every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms, and wind turbines, to buy some extra years of moderated warming. Or we can settle for a shorter life of higher quality, protecting the areas where wild animals and plants are hanging on, at the cost of slightly hastening the human catastrophe. One advantage of the latter approach is that, if a miracle cure like fusion energy should come along, there might still be some intact ecosystems for it to save….

Climate change shares many attributes of the economic system that’s accelerating it. Like capitalism, it is transnational, unpredictably disruptive, self-compounding, and inescapable. It defies individual resistance, creates big winners and big losers, and tends toward global monoculture—the extinction of difference at the species level, a monoculture of agenda at the institutional level. It also meshes nicely with the tech industry, by fostering the idea that only tech, whether through the efficiencies of Uber or some masterstroke of geoengineering, can solve the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions. As a narrative, climate change is almost as simple as “Markets are efficient.” The story can be told in fewer than a hundred and forty characters: We’re taking carbon that used to be sequestered and putting it in the atmosphere, and unless we stop we’re fucked.

I am reminded of John Calvin’s doctrines in all of this eco-bleating.

They are as follows:

(1) Total Depravity, more honestly called Total Inability: We are utterly unable to save ourselves. Neither turning to God nor to Gaia is sufficient. We burn fossil fuels despite ourselves.

(2) Unconditional Election.

Unconditional election is a doctrine within the reformed theology framework that in eternity past, before God created the world, he predestinated some people for salvation, the elect, and the others he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God’s law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.[1]

God has selected the ecologically aware, and though they may consider themselves unworthy, yet they are of the elect, and the fossil fuel consumers and the climate change deniers are of the damned.

(3) Limited Atonement.

Limited atonement,” also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, asserts that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all.

 

In Gaian terms, only the elect are saved, but they are unclear on the exact nature of the atonement which is called for, and there is no Christ who has made this atonement on anyone’s behalf. Plastic bags or paper ones, the fate of the earth depends on it, but we cannot be sure which one it is this week.

 

(4) “Irresistible grace,” also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved.

As the elect of the ecological faith in the redemptive power of Gaia, they may yet err, even as they are mistaken about some particular of Gaia’s divine plan, but no error, however large, will prevent them from being among the Elect. So they could be wholly and massively wrong, even wrong about something as large as climate change, yet they will be saved.

 

(5)”Perseverance of the saints” (or perseverance of God with the saints) (the word “saints” is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9).[83]

 

More of the same. The elect of Gaia can do nothing to prevent their salvation, and if they are not part of the Elect, nothing can save them anyway.

Gaianism is not a new heresy, it is an old one. But inasmuch as it borrows the Calvinist ideology of the Elect, it is a heresy.

A more thoroughly Christian and biblical attack on Calvinism is found here, but as Calvinism is really a background factor in my attack on Gaianism, it is beside my point.

 

Is the Internet behind growing income inequality?

The MacDonald Laurier Institute held a debate last night between the Liberal trade critic Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian-American professor of law, Frank Buckley.

The issue was “Income Inequality:  we should quit worrying about it”. The debaters were too intelligent and well-informed to disagree fundamentally. The only decision criterion in the debate arose from one’s pre-existing disposition either to worry, as distinct from being concerned. Not a single intelligent person fails to be concerned about income inequality, in the same sense as a sailor keeps a wary eye on the water level in the bilge.

Freeland’s views are here.   Frank Buckley’s views are here.

The debate turned into a massive agreement between Buckley and Freeland that the United States is doing much worse than Canada in almost every dimension of income inequality, permanent class differences, social mobility in and out of the top ten and bottom ten percent of the income deciles, and so forth.

Buckley’s views on how American government is failing are summarized here. Essentially he attributes the fundamental fault to the separation of powers: the fact that the executive is not responsible to the legislative branch, which has powerful and ramifying effects on the whole system, including irresponsibility of legislators and presidents for results.

Here is Buckley:

 

What Canada has importantly over the U.S. is reversibility, the ability to undo bad laws. That doesn’t happen so easily in America, with the gridlock built into its separation of powers, and that’s a problem Fukuyama himself has identified in two recent books that describe a sclerotic society of special interests which enact wealth-destroying laws. Once passed, Americans are stuck with bad laws. Their constitution doesn’t have a reverse gear.

What Fukuyama recognized in his recent books is James Madison’s error in The Federalist Papers. Madison argued that the separation of powers would prevent bad laws from being enacted in the first place. However, that’s an example of what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” the idea that planners can anticipate all the problems that might arise with a well-drafted statute. More modestly, Canada’s parliamentary system assumes that, in a world of human fallibility, mistakes will be made, that “experts” are often unreliable, that dumb laws will be passed; and that what is more important is giving the legislator the ability to bring hindsight wisdom to bear in undoing laws which experience tells us were ill-planned. If American government has gotten too large, if the statutory code and the federal regulations have caught a case of elephantiasis, that’s not surprising. The know-it-all hubris of the planner was baked into the American constitution from the start.

Other faults abound. US laws are written by lobbyists for various interests – yes, this is exactly true – and then various sections are then “reconciled” with other sections written by other crews of expensive lawyers, and then, if possible, the House version is reconciled to the senate’s version. At no time is a consistent editorial or legal style enforced; no equivalent of the official of the Ministry of Justice, no specialized drafting section, touches a bill.

The Canada Health Act (RSC ch.C-6) is 22 sections long, the US Affordbale Care Act is  974 pages long. It could not have been passed without a large degree of legislative log-rolling, which are buy-offs for regions, senators, and pet-projects.

Or as Buckley says, “the Canada health Act is twelve pages long, and that includes the French”.

__________________________

Of all the forces  acting on our respective countries, Canada and the US, I see this one as decisive.

  • every action capable of being reduced to an algorithm is being turned into software,  the instructions for machines, and these machines are doing jobs formerly done by humans.
  • More, the economic productivity gains are, under modern networked conditions, able to gathered on a global scale by very few owners of the intellectual property.
  • For example, think about how Uber takes the economic rents out of taxi licences, or Netflix out of Canadian broadcasting licences, and you can see how wealth can be centralized as never before.

Every other force generating inequality: family breakdown, the Bell curve – the unequal distribution of intelligence, globalization, decline of social cohesion, acts on both sides of the Canada-US border with greater or lesser effect.  The two political systems translate these forces into different social effects. Hence the Buckley-Freeland debate swerved into US-Canada comparisons, but avoided the main cause, as I see it, of increasing inequality.

The conclusions of this effect are being felt around the world:

  • since we do not need as many people to do the jobs now able to be performed by machines, people are reproducing themselves less, and population  is crashing in most places in the world.
  • Modern networked economies permit both innovation, and new forms of accumulating wealth, on scales that were not previously possible.

 

I recognize I am entering the dangerous territory occupied by Andrew Keen. Keen argues against the Internet, in that it does not create jobs, does not increase freedom, and wrecks the middle class. Both Freeland and Buckley were, in their ways, conscious of these trends, but they had not attributed the problem squarely to the effects of the Internet.

It is a thesis well worth allowing yourself to contemplate. I am allowing myself to think negatively and will report back when my views have matured.

.

 

 

Charles Taylor doesn’t get it

Charles Taylor is one of Canada’s most eminent philosophers, a Roman Catholic, a three time candidate for the NDP, and well decorated for his accomplishments. I heard him back in 1967 lecturing at McGill University on political science, where he demonstrated to me a complete misunderstanding of philosophers prior to the French Revolution. I mean howlingly wrong.

charles-taylor

 

 

Thirty years later, or thereabouts, I heard Taylor again after a conference on communitarianism in Ottawa in the 1990s. Communitarianism is a view of society promoted by Amitai Etzioni, an Israeli immigrant to the United States.The founding idea of communitarianism is that  the community has rights; and it may reduce to something as simple as: where your neighbours mow their lawns, mow yours too. It is vain and socially detrimental to assert your “right” to turn your lawn into a weed-infested wild prairie in a carefully maintained garden suburb.

Wikipedia says:

His writings emphasize the importance for all societies to have a carefully crafted balance between rights and responsibilities and between autonomy and order.

 

Etzioni said to me that one of the most important aspects of Canada is its very strong sense of community order, which is stronger than that sense in the United States.

The meeting was held in the same building as the old Ottawa Press Club, and thus Charles Taylor, who had been one of the speakers, was interviewed by the CBC right after the conference. We were sitting in the bar of the old Press Club and we saw Taylor being interviewed live on CBC, saying something utterly wrong about Etzioni and what the conference had been about, rhetoric that communitarianism was a left-wing phenomenon about greater social spending rather than what Amitai Etzioni says it is, which is a call for the legitimacy of higher senses of community order.

Glendronach and I sped to the elevator, and to the CBC floor, whereupon the door opened and there appeared all six feet three of Charles Taylor, whom we greeted with a loud collective spontaneous cry of

“No it isn’t!”

And that pretty well sums up my view of Charles Taylor. I do not have the specialized knowledge of the subject to dispute him in his specialist domains, but wherever his views intersected what I already know about (politics, philosophers pre-French Revolution, and now the niqab issue) his rubber does not hit the road.

 

Today’s report in Huffington Post says:

Taylor said Harper is fueling anti-Muslim sentiment and that, in turn, makes alienated Muslim Canadians easier targets for recruitment by radical Islamist terrorists.

“Ask yourself what are the recruiters for Islamic State saying? They’re saying (to Muslims), ‘Look, they despise you, they think that you’re foreign, you’re dangerous, you’re not accepted here, so why don’t you come with us?'” Taylor said following a speech to the annual summit of the Broadbent Institute, a social democratic think-thank.

“The more you make it sound like that (is true), the more you’re helping them. And it’s strange that people don’t see this.”

Let us try to dissect this for a moment.

  • we despise those aspects of Islam which suppress the freedom of women to be present in society, and this is not a modern trend. Christianity has always allowed women to be socially present since its inception. Pagan societies too. Consider the existence of Byzantine Empress Theodora, AD500-548, co-ruler with the Emperor Justinian. Or how about Boudicca, the Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe who led the rebellion against Roman rule in Britain in AD 60-61? Women have been in power a long time on this side of the religious fence;
  • we do think many Muslims are foreign, in consequence;
  • they are dangerous, as has been amply demonstrated;
  • their practices are not accepted here;
  • so why do they not return to Islamic countries and practce their barbarous religion and social system where they came from, rather than try to colonize us?

Professor Taylor, what would you have us say to them? That we approve their social exclusion of women, their jihad, their violent intolerance of religious freedom, their attempts t o colonize us for Islam?

Who would believe it if it were ever said?

Taylor continued:

“We’re in a context where Islamaphobia is very powerful in the West,” he said.

“It’s perfectly understandable emotionally. We have to get over it and the worst and the last thing we need is for our political leaders to surf on it and encourage it.”

 

The fear of Islam is actually one of the few indicators that western society is healthy, and has a sense of itself as a community, despite the endless articulation and elaboration of “rights” of the individual against the community, so constantly promoted by our out of control legal culture. Islamo-phobia is healthy, same as Nazi-phobia, or Commie-phobia. Totalitarian political ideologies should be resisted by liberal society, and not, as Charles Taylor would have it, embraced as just another part of life’s rich tapestry. You do not let weevils ruin the tapestry.

 

 

Lee Kwan Yew 1923-2015

Lee Kwan Yew-1955

 

The founder of the independent city-state of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, who has just died at 91, was undoubtedly the most intelligent and capable world leader of the past half-century.

So says Theodore Dalrymple, and I concur.

How many people in history manage to found a state? Since the days of Greek heroes of near mythology few men could rightfully say, “I founded a state”. Theseus and Athens? Oliver Cromwell tried, but was too early, and could not solve the succession problem. George Washington succeeded, with the assistance of an brilliant cadre of fellow founders. MacDonald in Canada? There are not many men of this illustrious calibre.

Let me tell my little story about Lee Kwan Yew. He had retired as Prime Minister of Singapore ten years before; it was the year 2000, though in the Chinese way he was retained as “Senior Minister”. I was reading the Singapore Straits Times in the lounge at Bangkok Airport, about 2 a.m., one of the best newspapers in the world.

On the inside front page was a report of a speech by Lee Kwan Yew to a Singapore business club. In it, Kwan Yew was basically saying that every major economic development policy he had imposed on Singapore was wrong, and needed to be changed. Singapore had made it through a nimble fingers approach to working up the production chain to ever higher value-added goods, with a significant measure of cultural repression.

Lee Kwan Yew had just then returned from California, and he had seen the future, and it worked. It involved making an economy work on brains, and it therefore involved policies that would attract talent. These policies would be tolerant and welcoming to a multi-ethnic citizenry.

I am not concerned with whether Singapore has managed such an about-face; I like to think it has. My point is that for Lee Kwan Yew to say this, he would have had to take stock fundamentally of where the world was going and had both the wit and the courage to see where his beloved and successful policies were no longer sufficient. Then he declared them to be insufficient, and called for new approaches to wealth development in Singapore.

Imagine if Harper or Chretien had said, at any time, that policies to which they had been personally committed were no longer sufficient? Not Harper criticizing Chretien, or the converse, but Harper or Chretien criticizing in public his own decisions: official bilingualism, multiculturalism, free trade.

We Canadians need to see the way the world is working out, and if we had leadership like Lee Kwan Yew’s, there would be little to stop us. Then again, maybe we do have leadership like Lee Kwan Yew’s in the current PM: unlovable, but possibly great.

Dalrymple again:

Lee Kwan Yew had no problems with elitism, provided it brought about an elite of intelligence and ability (not always quite the same thing); the fashionable theories of liberal educationists had no attraction for him. No politician has ever defended more fiercely than Lee Kwan Yew the importance for a society of fostering high intelligence….

He was educated in London and Cambridge, and he recalled admiringly the way evening newspapers were piled in the street in London and people paid for them by leaving their money without any compulsion to do so and without ever stealing what others had left. This, he thought, was a well-ordered and disciplined society, and he resolved to bring such good order and discipline to his own society.

 

I saw a mother with three young daughters out walking around the snow-covered park near me the other day. One was in a pram, the other children were about three and five years old. Mum had a plastic bag hanging from the pram, and one of her children was spotting waste paper left in the park, which they were encouraged to pick up and take home, as a matter of civic duty and pride. I felt that Canada had a great future if such values were being inculcated in young children. Just a little bit of Singapore and Japan, please. We do not want to live in mental strait-jackets, but we can always manage with high levels of civic engagement, trust, and public cleanliness.

 

lee kwan yew-2015

 

 

 

Conrad! Get an editor!

I am reading Conrad Black’s mighty Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present. It has much to recommend it. But I have a few quibbles, as you will see.

I have read Black’s previous works, a life of Nixon and a life of Franklin Roosevelt. They were both magisterial treatments of the persons in question.

Why I am annoyed with Rise to Greatness?

1) It is not a history of Canada, it is a history of the Prime Ministers of Canada. Black focuses almost exclusively on leaders and leadership; outside events are related insofar as they shed light on the situation of Prime Ministers and the actions they took to handle their crises. One can learn a lot by this method about how leadership has mattered: MacDonald’s handling of the simultaneous crises of Métis rebellion and deliberate attempts by rich Americans to undermine the financing of the CPR is well told.

But a history of the  Prime Ministers of Canada is not the same as the history of Canada. Black is relentlessly elitist in this sense, and has every right to be. But calling this a history of Canada when this is a history of Canadian political leadership, almost exclusively at the federal level, is misleading.

2) In the vein, the books wants charts, graphs, or tables: population growth, railway growth, GDP per capita, family size, immigration, electoral maps and other basic factors are utterly missing. That is not the story he is telling.

3) Finally, he ought to have set the book before Barbara Amiel, his wife, and asked her to read it. Or someone who could speak plainly to him. Here is a sample – there are many – of what I am referring to:

Lord Curzon (1859-1925), the foreign secretary – who had been sent as the brightest of the Souls (an elite British group of talented and stylish aristocrats that included Tennants, Wyndhams, Lyttletons, Asquiths, Coopers and Balfour) to be, at forty, the youngest viceroy of India ever – had just been passed over by King George V as prime minister (to succeed the terminally ill Andrew Bonar law) for Stanley Baldwin, whom Curzon described, with some reason, but typically, as of “the most profound insignificance”. (p.518)

Got that?

I still have 501 pages to go. <sigh>

Conrad Black may well deserve to belong among  the talented and stylish aristocrats whom he admires, and possibly envies, and whose literary and historical writings surely merit inclusion in the pantheon of the truly accomplished of Canadian letters (who, by that way, do not include Margaret Atwood, and most of those wet Toronto leftists held up for our admiration by a fawning press no longer owned by him), yet his inclusion in this august company is held back not merely by the envious agitations of the second-rate, but by a tendency on his part observed by many – not wholly without justice – to write annoyingly heavy books with sentences in need of emendation.

<Satire alert>

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is at it again

In her latest book, Heretic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that Islam is not a religion of peace and desperately needs reform.

Nothing that we do not know already.

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/ayaan-hirsi-ali-islam-not-a-religion-of-peace-desperately-needs-reform/

http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/ex-muslim-author-and-activist-ayaan-hirsi-ali-calls-for-reform-of-islam/story-fnh81jut-1227273860667

http://nypost.com/2015/03/22/activist-argues-for-a-complete-reformation-of-islam/

 

Ali argues for five amendments to the faith. “Only when these five things are recognized as inherently harmful and when they are repudiated and nullified,” she writes, “will a true Muslim reformation have been achieved.”

Those five notions are:

  • The infallibility of the Prophet Mohammed and the literal interpretation of the Koran
  • The idea that life after death is more important than life on earth
  • Sharia law
  • Allowing any Muslim to enforce ideas of right and wrong on another
  • Jihad, or holy war

Rejecting these ideas, some of which date to the 7th century, is a shocking proposition to the faithful.

“The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world,” Ali writes, “is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here.”

Sorry, Ayaan, that is not an amendment to the faith, that is the abandonment of any specifically Islamic idea of religion. Shari’a is the expression of the faith; Islam is a totalitarian social ideology, and Shari’a constitutes the ideology.

You cannot give up the idea of the divinity of Jesus and still be a Christian. Just look at the vapid stew of leftism and progessivism that the Unitarians have ended in. Likewise there are beliefs you cannot give up and still maintain that you are a member of a specific religious community.

Though I agree with Hirsi Ali, I expect some resistance from the faithful.

The best thing about Islam is its insistence on a superintending, transcendent God, but the worst thing about their idea of God is that the the almighty does not allow Himself to be known by the operations of human reason, nor does He love us, nor is the universe He created intelligible.

Thence flow all the errors and evils of Islamic life, in my opinion: irrationality, desperate clinging to formulaic obedience to behaviours called “religious”, a lack of love in society and family life,  and a lack of interest in or concern for the operations of the natural world. This leads to a society without love and science. Try that as an explanation of what you see in the Islamic world, and see if the theory is explanatory.

 

The colonization of Britain

A most surprizing entry today in the Guardian, about the genetic origins of people in the United Kingdom. Surprizing because the great unmentionable in PC circles is genetics, and surprizing – to me – in that the article says that most people in the United Kingdom are of germanic origin.

This finding contradicts those of Bryan Sykes, in his Saxons, Vikings and Celts, who says that most people of Great Britain are, with limited exceptions, “aboriginal”, that is, they have been there since the end of the last ice age (13,000-11,000 years ago), and that scandinavian and germanic  admixtures were relatively rare and confined to the eastern shores.

Take your pick.

 

 

The latest DNA research from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, in Oxford, claims “astonishing results”. According to its author, Peter Donnelly, there was no specific Celtic people before the Romans arrived, or after: only genetic clusters. There was no Anglo-Saxon genocide after the Romans left but a steady westward movement of Germanic peoples, intermarrying with the pre-existing Britons.

The Oxford team has studied the genes of 2,000 Britons who can trace their parentage back to the late 19th century. The results mostly confirm conventional wisdom. The Celtic scholar Barry Cunliffe has long argued that after the last ice age the British Isles were repopulated by waves of migrants returning from warmer climes. With his emphasis on “mobility, connectivity and the sea”, he separates the “west side story”, of Atlantic colonisation, from the “east side story”: of Germanic and other northern Europeans’ migration across the North Sea. We already knew that by the sixth century Frankish-German tribes occupied most of what is now England.

What we do not know is when they came, how they settled and who, if anyone, was there before them. Donnelly claims that his gene map shows a Saxon migration “moving into what is now eastern England from AD450-600 after the collapse of the Roman empire”. It shows 20-40% of the study’s English gene pool to be north European, spread across what is now considered England.
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This migration was apparently so potent that in just a few centuries it eliminated almost all trace of indigenous language and archaeological remains in its newly settled lands. Donnelly’s co-author, the geneticist Sir Walter Bodmer, adds that “Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD”.

(As long as you ignore recent immigration from former parts of the Empire and a massive influx of Eastern Europeans in the EU).

The original Guardian article from which the Simon Jenkyns article is drawn is found here.

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