Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Scottish referendum

I grew up with a severely distorted view of the Scots because my mother’s side were of Highland origin generations before and well integrated into Montreal’s economic elite. Indeed they constituted a portion of it. That side of the family included successful people: corporation presidents, university professors, stock brokers, lawyers  and accomplished sorts for generations. So my view of the Scots was of a world-embracing commercial tribe who delighted in good taste and thought art was the proper adornment of that taste. A bourgeoisie in short. Educate to make yourself rich, and embrace those who acted on the same principles.

Then in my thirties I met a Scottish newspaper reporter working for the Montreal Gazette. What a wee man! A professional whiner, and complainer about the English [of England], essentially no different from the Péquistes from the small towns of Quebec’s backward minds. It was quite a come-down. I then speculated that all the Scotch with any gumption had emigrated, populating Canada, the United States, and New Zealand in the past centuries, leaving behind the less enterprizing, the duller, and that the tipping point had been reached some time ago.

My concern about Scottish independence is that what they may want is more welfare, and they want it on the basis of grievance-entitlement, and that, win or lose, England has entered upon or is maintaining a province of grievance rather than a setting up a new zone of enterprize, thrift, brain-power, and accomplishment.

My experience tells me that Scotland is on a path downward into more pettiness, idleness and grievance. Anyway, if it results in David Cameron leaving politics, it will not be an entire loss.

On further thought, the great benefit of Harper’s regime has been his encouragement through every policy of the kinds of people the Scotch used to be, and his steady discouragement of the kinds of people they may have become.


This excerpt below comes from “The Son Also Rises”, by Gregory Clark, which I have recommended for many reasons. I copy an aside he writes about receiving one’s inheritance, an event I look forward to with mixed emotions, as my mother approaches 100 years old, and I apply for my old age pension

Greater longevity is making the circulation of wealth in modern economies increasingly socially dysfunctional. In 1858-69, when our data on deaths begins, the average age for those with wills proved was 62. Given an average gap of thirty years between generations, wealth was inherited by children on average at age 32, just as they were rearing their own children and buying housing. But now people are, on average, fifty years old when they inherit any wealth from their parents. By they they typically own their own house and cars, and their own children have completed much of their education. If longevity continues to increase, then, despite increases in average age at which women produce children, wealth will increasingly pass from the ancient to the aged.


The Red Wine Diet

Gerard Depardieu admits to drinking 14 bottles of wine a day. Well, maybe a little scotch and champagne thrown in for good measure, and actually, he does not drink 14 bottles every day. Just some days. Still, I am in awe of such prodigious consumption, and admire the wealth that can support such disciplined dissipation.

Incidentally, there is a book called The Red Wine Diet, by Roger Corder. I recommend it, if only for amusing bathroom reading. It will improve your mood, as you annoy your wife by hogging the claret.

red wine diet

Those inscrutable Swedes

The usual head scratching is taking place among the bien-pensants as to why the Swedish anti-immigrant party took more seats in the recent election. Look at the figures.

Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, has a simple explanation for the lack of jobs. “If you allow more asylum seekers into the country than the number of jobs you can create, the result is obvious,” he said in a recent speech. Sweden expects more than 90,000 asylum seekers this year, a huge number in a county of only 10 million people. According to the United Nations, Sweden received the most asylum applications per person in the world from 2009 through 2013. The share of Swedes born abroad was 16 percent last year compared with 11 percent in 2000. Akesson calls for cutting back on asylum acceptances, requiring immigrants to pass language tests, and trimming immigrants’ welfare benefits.

“The Sweden Democrats is the only political party that wants to stop immigration,” Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University, told the French news agency AFP. “All the other political parties have a united stance, a generous immigration policy.”

1. Why are the Nordic nations so keen on erasing their national existence?

2. Why do their policy elites believe that unlimited immigration of Muslims, Africans and every sort of refugee claimant should take place?

3. Why, when one out six people in Sweden is not Swedish by culture or assimilation, do they believe their culture will survive,  at current rates of immigration?

The usual suspects, such as the Economist, see the election as shift to the Left after a decade of conservative retrenchment. Bloomberg reports on potential parliamentary deadlock.

The only real winner is the party that is resisting the tide of immigration, the Sweden democrats, with which all other parties have pledged not to cooperate.


The results for the Sweden Democrats are shown in the yellow bar.

Fraser Nelson, in the Spectator, captured the issue.

As for the other parties – they concentrated too much on denouncing the Sweden Democrats and not enough on addressing the concerns of their target voters. As one TV commentator put it, it’s all very well bemoaning racism but if a voter’s school suddenly takes in 100 kids who don’t speak Swedish then they’re going to have concerns. Who’s listening? In a lot of cases, the answer was the Sweden Democrats.

The usual charges of racism attend any attempt by any organized political movement to stop the drowning of local populations in Muslims, whatever the political stripe of the resisting party: moderate liberal (UKIP-Nigel Farage), hard line (Front National -Marine Le Pen), fascist (Hungary-Jobbik ). It matters not what the economic policies are of the resisting parties; their are branded as racist for resisting the policies chosen by their national elites. That is their common denominator. In a sane world UKIP and Marine Le Pen’s political group would be perceived as distinctly as Liberals and Tories are in Canada, but in the prevailing elite view that drowning Europeans in Islamic rabble is good for you, all resistance is “racist” and the same. On the contrary, resistance is channeled through significant  variations in local political culture.

The fact that any resistance to immigration on this scale exists at all is what makes European elites so outraged.

A report from 2013 from the BBC on rioting in Sweden shows that the usual suspects are Muslims burning cars. The issue is described as “inequality”, and strident denials of the Islamic origin of the rioting assure one that the issue is exactly what it is denied to be: mass Islamic immigration

The BBC report has all the hallmarks of denial:

There was a widespread assertion that the violence was not motivated by Islamist ideology.

Despite the assertion, some local people said the police had been heavy-handed and there is clearly much anger at the shooting dead by police of an elderly man wielding a knife 10 days ago.

Many said there was a wider context of a growing gap between rich and poor in Sweden.

On OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures, Sweden has seen the biggest increase in inequality of any developed country over the past 25 years.

Immigrants and their descendants tend to congregate in areas such as Husby, the neighbourhood west of Stockholm where the violence started on Sunday.

About 80% of the 11,000 residents are either first- or second-generation immigrants.

Accordingly, this week’s troubles have raised the volume of the debate in Sweden on immigration. About 15% of the population was born outside the country, the highest proportion in any of the Nordic countries.

The influx has come mostly from war-torn countries like Iraq, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Syria. In 2012, Sweden accepted 44,000 asylum seekers, up by nearly 50% from a year earlier.

Ah! The total mystery of it all! The inexplicable relationship between massive influx of low-skilled Islamic immigrants, poor assimilation, higher incidences of rape, and cars burning in the night.

Sean Gabb on Enoch Powell

In the spirit of Pablo Picasso, who said that “minor artists borrow, great artists steal”, I copy below the entire speech of the British libertarian, Sean Gabb,  who has a truer picture of what needs to happen in England than any of its current leadership.

Enoch Powell: The Man and his Politics

by Sean Gabb

Speech to the Conference

of the Property and Freedom Society

Bodrum, Saturday, 13th September 2014

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

I may have fellow countrymen who cannot identify these words. If so, I have yet to meet them. The words are from the speech that Enoch Powell (1912-98) gave on the 20th April 1968 to the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre – a work best known as “The Rivers of Blood Speech.” It is, beyond any doubt, the most notable political speech given in England during my lifetime. It may be the most notable of the twentieth century. It made its author both the most loved and the most hated politician in the country. Shortly after the speech, dockworkers marched in his support through the centre of London. Twenty years later, at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey, the space outside was filled with a great crowd of those who had come to pay their respects.

If, on the other hand, you want to commit professional suicide in virtually any occupation, not excluding sport or driving a taxi, the surest and shortest mode of self-dispatch is to be overheard muttering that “Enoch was right.” He was never forgiven by those who now have power, and never has been or will be forgiven. And the more he is proved right, the louder and more grim grows the chorus of execration.

I could easily make this speech into an account of what Powell thought and said about immigration. I could pull out statistics to show that, if anything, his projections of the “immigrant and immigrant-descended populations” of my country were too modest. I could probably give you a more entertaining half hour by simply reading out his Rivers of Blood Speech. Like all else he said or wrote, it is a masterpiece of English prose. But I have been asked to speak about “Enoch Powell: The Man and his Politics,” and there is more to him than the debate over immigration. Yes, immigration is part of the story. It is a large part, and I will return to it. But, of all British politicians in my lifetime, he was the most systematic and consistent, and what he said about immigration draws its full meaning only from a consideration of the whole system.

Powell Before Politics

Now, to join the phrases “systematic and consistent” and “British politician” may seem pretentious. But Powell was no ordinary British politician. Not for him a PPE at Oxford, accompanied by much toadying of those already in Parliament, and followed straightaway by a job in Westminster. He came late to politics. His degree was in Classics at Cambridge, where he studied under A.E. Housman and was awarded a starred double first. Even before, at the age of 25, he became the youngest Professor of Greek in the British Empire, he was seen as the most brilliant classical scholar of his generation. He re-edited Thucydides for the Oxford University Press. His Lexicon to Herodotus (1938) remains a standard work on a man who, after all the changes of 2,500 years, is honoured with a statue here in the place of his birth. He wrote poetry. As well as in the classical languages, he was fluent in German, French, Italian and Urdu. He knew Russian and Welsh and Syriac and Aramaic. He was deeply read in German philosophy. He was more than competent in Economics. As learning and subtlety of thought are measured, he would, in the politics of 19th century England, have rivalled, and might have outshone, Gladstone and Macaulay. In British politics of the mid-20th century, he was plainly in a class of his own.

I say he came late to politics. He was in his thirties when he joined the Conservative Research Department. But his immense talents carried him upwards through the Party like a bubble through water, and he was elected to Parliament in 1950. It would be several years still before he arrived fully at the set of views we now call “Powellite.” But to call him systematic and consistent cannot be regarded at all as pretentious.

The Transition to World Empire

I think the best key to understanding Enoch Powell’s thought is to dwell on the years 1760 and 1947. Before the earlier of these years, Britain had been a European nation state – an oddity among its neighbours in its domestic arrangements, and unusually rich and powerful, but a European nation state. It then became a world empire. It would be some while – perhaps a century, or more than a century – before the nature of this change was fully understood. But the governance of the country now had to take into account far wider concerns than those that had filled the thoughts of Walpole and Bolingbroke. Because we ruled India, we had to involve ourselves in the disputes between Turkey and Russia. Because of the long route to India, we had to control Southern Africa. Once the Suez Canal had opened a shorter route, we had to take Cyprus from the Turks, and become the dominant naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean; and it became as great a crisis in our politics as disaffection in Ireland or Church tithes when the King of Egypt refused to pay his debts, and control of the Canal became an open question. Alongside India and its consequent acquisitions, there grew up immense colonies of mainly British settlement, in North America and in the South Western Pacific.

Yet even as, in the later years of Queen Victoria, its full magnificence finally took hold of the British imagination, this achievement was coming under strain. Powell described British India as a strange and improbable dream. As for the colonies of settlement, their possession of British institutions made it inevitable that they would eventually become free standing nations. The rise, towards the end of the 19th century, of other great industrial powers led to calls in Britain for some kind of Imperial Federation, with a common tariff and a common defence. For Powell, the idea was an obvious nonsense. For Powell, the Empire was a phase, terminating in itself, not the first step to a world state capable of staring down the United States.

The Recessional

And then, almost as quickly as a light is turned off, it was over. The wars with Germany were more expensive than had been expected. By 1945, Britain was on the edge of bankruptcy. India could not be held, and, in 1947, became independent. For Powell, this was the end. To use a different simile, it was as if the magnet beneath a sheet of paper covered with iron filings had been shifted. Because India was gone, we no longer had any interest in whether China went Communist or Fascist. Without any border between us, Soviet Russia itself was no longer a threat. Control of the Suez Canal no longer mattered. We had no reason to hold Cyprus as or for a naval base, nor any reason to buy influence in Arabia, or to garrison Aden and Mombassa.

By all means, let the liquidation be dignified, and carried out with some regard for the interests of the formerly subject peoples. But the logic of 1947 was that 1760 was undone. No longer directing a world empire, the British political class was required to think again like Walpole and Bolingbroke. Its whole concern now was to defend our home islands, and to attend to our commerce and industry, and generally to the rights and welfare of the British people.

Yet, if the Empire was only a phase in our history, its loss did not mean our end as a nation. In the life of nations as of individuals, one phase is followed by another; and, until the very end of things, no one can say which one was the more interesting or productive. Speaking in 1961, Powell told his audience:

And yet England is not as Nineveh and Tyre, nor as Rome, nor as Spain. Herodotus relates how the Athenians, returning to their city after it had been sacked and burnt by Xerxes and the Persian army, were astonished to find, alive and flourishing in the blackened ruins, the sacred olive tree, the native symbol of their country.

So we today, at the heart of a vanished empire, amid the fragments of demolished glory, seem to find, like one of her own oak trees, standing and growing, the sap still rising from her ancient roots to meet the spring, England herself.

The Long Delusion

Sadly, his view of the logic of our position was not shared by the British ruling class. No doubt, we had been a world empire for nearly two hundred years – longer than the entire life of the United States to that time. By men of second and third rate minds, the assumptions and habits of Empire could not be thrown off overnight – nor, perhaps, in twenty years. But, rather than allow themselves to be led, however slowly and reluctantly, to an understanding of the new logic, our rulers took refuge in a vast and pernicious delusion. The Empire had not fallen, they told each other. It had merely evolved into the Commonwealth. No less organically united than the Empire had been, it remained one of the three great powers in the world, and its unique goodness both entitled and allowed it to act as arbiter between the other two powers.

In this, our rulers were like a man who has lost his job, but who continues, every morning, to put on a suit and buy a railway ticket to his former place of work. And, when the cost of travel exhausts his own means, he turns to borrowing and begging from anyone who may feel inclined to listen to him. So it was in 1950, and in 1960, and in 1970 and 1980 and 1990. So, sixteen years after Powell’s death, it remains. The delusion has become less reasonable since 1950. Its justifications have changed in ways that Churchill and Eden would not have liked. But nerve yourself to attend to the speeches written today for David Cameron to read out: you will eventually hear that we “punch above our weight,” or that “they eyes of the world are upon us.” Or look only at our involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone, and our nagging of Iran and Nigeria and Zimbabwe, and our fussing over aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles and other weapons inappropriate for control of our own sea approaches.

I have said that Powell was a systematic and a consistent thinker. His view of what happened in 1947 connects the whole of his thought – his denunciations of inflation and socialism and his firm defence of the Union of the Kingdoms and the ancient rights of its people, and his resistance to our membership of the European Union. But this is a half hour speech, and I will not put myself on your indulgence by going beyond my time. Let me, then, look at just two of the positions he took during his career.

Powell and America

The first is his suspicion of the United States. By the 1950s, it was clear that the delusion of British world power rested on the sufferance or the active subsidy of the United States. We could fight Communism in Malaya because the Americans wanted us to. When we tried to take back the Suez Canal, they told us to stop, and we did stop. I am not aware that Powell set out his thoughts at any length on the United States, and I am here interpolating my own opinion. But I do not think it inconsistent with what I have read by Powell.

Leave aside the evil and insanity of the American ruling class – something, I think, on which all in this room can agree. The problem for us is that every American, unless he denies his own birthright, must resent the survival of England since 1776. It is possible for one nation to speak a language that evolved in another nation, and to study a literature and to possess a legal tradition both of which are truly organic only to that other nation. But success in such an effort requires that other nation to be dead or insignificant. The Byzantines managed it. So have the Brazilians. When that other nation is rich and powerful, and in some degree a rival, the effort will, of necessity, lead to feelings of inferiority.

In 1917, and, again, after 1940, the Americans were given their chance. They helped Britain to victory, and did so with a lavish hand. But, if the fruit of this help was pulled beyond their grasp after the Great War, they took full possession in the 1940s. The price of helping Britain was the reduction of Britain to the status of a satellite. Even a firmly Powellite Britain, after 1950, would have had to take account of American power. But every grand gesture of the rulers we had was underwritten by the United States. To go back to my last simile, the Americans lent the railway fare money – and the price, each time, was entanglement in an American foreign policy that made no sense in terms of our own interests, and that led us into continual and corrosive national humiliation.

Enoch Powell was as hostile to NATO as he was to the European Union – perhaps more so. He never blamed the French or Germans for wholesale bribery of our rulers, or for the occasional murder of dissenting politicians. He went to the grave convinced that Airey Neave had been murdered, in 1979, by the CIA because his policy on Northern Ireland was inconvenient to an American Government that wanted the Irish Republic to join NATO.

Powell and Immigration

Now to immigration, and I hope that his views on that make more sense than perhaps they did before this morning. He never had time for rather American views of white superiority, or for the moral infirmity of the coloured races. You do not become fluent in Urdu, and a scholar of its poetry, when you believe its speakers are a lesser breed. He would probably have been indifferent to the opinions of Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer – not that I think it appropriate to denigrate either of these men thereby. His whole objection to mass-immigration was that the newcomers – regardless of their inherent quality as human beings – were not our people. Small numbers of immigrants – perhaps a few hundred thousand, concentrated in a few well-marked districts – might be accommodated. But the millions who did come, and their children and grandchildren, were in the nation, but not of the nation. Their physical presence displaced and otherwise inconvenienced the natives. The moral effects of their presence were to make the country ungovernable according to its ancient ways.

We can agree that the second, and greater burst of mass-immigration to Britain that began in the 1990s was part of the Cultural Marxist assault on Western Civilisation. But the first wave, beginning in the late 1940s, was entirely an effect of the delusion I have explained. The British Empire had a common citizenship. If the pretence of the Commonwealth as a continuation of Empire was to be maintained, it too needed a common citizenship. For this reason, British Governments refused, until the partial, and unwilling, withdrawal from delusion in the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1961, to give up on insisting that every citizen of the Indian and Pakistani Republics, and of every other territory coloured red on the map in 1947, had the same right to settle and live in the United Kingdom as my own parents, and the same right to vote and to benefit from the various welfare services that, wisely or unwisely, had been made available to the British people.

I began by quoting two sentences from his Rivers of Blood Speech. I will approach my end with another: “It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre” Powell said this of British immigration policy. But he could have said it of every other failure of the British ruling class to understand and act upon the logic of what happened in 1947.

Bearing in mind the nature and tone of what I have said, my closing may superfluous. Even so, I will give it. I met Enoch Powell and heard him speak less often than I wish I had. I wish I had known him better than I did. But I can say, with not the smallest doubt, that he was the greatest Englishman of my lifetime. I am proud to say that the Libertarian Alliance frequently invited him to speak at its meetings in the 1980s and 1990s, and that we published several articles by him. Of particular importance among these articles is the attack that he made in 1984 on the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill and the principle that it brought into English law of asset forfeiture without conviction.

I regret that I was unable to stand outside his memorial service. But my late friend, Chris R. Tame, made a point of being there. A hundred years from now, no one will remember the corrupt nonentities who fall over each other to denounce Enoch Powell. Equally, a hundred years from now, men will still be reading Enoch Powell for pleasure and instruction. And, by then, it may not be an informal crime to stand up and say “Enoch was right.”

Sean Gabb
Director, The Libertarian Alliance (Carbon Positive since 1979)  Tel: 07956 472 199 Skype: seangabb

Postal Address: Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, London W1J 6HL, England

And while we are on the subject of sexual selection…

Social mobility, families, breeding, genetics, the persistence of social classes, lead me to the subject of sex. As what doesn’t?

You will recall that Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859. You will probably not recall that he published another massive tome twelve years later entitled The Descent of Man, or Selection in Relation to Sex. In it, Darwin argued for a different force of evolution, the selection of males by females and of females by males. I have been amazed by the number of people who rail for or against Darwin who remain completely ignorant of his second book, in which he argues for a force of evolution that is a) non-random, or directed, b) mutual as regards the sexes and c) because it is not random,  therefore efficient, rapid and sharing none of the characteristics of the first method proposed in Origin of Species.

I confess I don’t get it – why the second theory has been  politely ignored by most people, Darwinists and anti-Darwinists alike.

Entire careers seem to have been built defending or opposing Darwin – as if he had written only one book, proposing one theory, when in fact he wrote several, and proposed at least two -maybe more – independent theories of how evolution occurs. One theory -natural selection – does not contradict the other; each operates. But  one theory offers an efficient method of selection by members of the species itself of who should breed and who should not.

I have heard two British biologists explain away the second book by saying that since sex is natural, then sexual selection must be just another aspect of natural selection, and therefore the gap between the two theories can be papered over. Whistling past the graveyard, in my opinion.

Geoffrey Miller covered this phenomenon in his marvellous book, The Mating Mind.

Darwin’s second theory has been taken up by other biologists of late. I came across this article in, called DUCK SEX, AESTHETIC EVOLUTION, AND THE ORIGIN OF BEAUTY, by Richard Prum. With a title like that, I was powerless to resist.

Sexual selection was distinct from natural selection in that it had to do with differential reproductive success. Not survival up until the moment of mating, but differential access to mates as a result of two possible mechanisms: One was male-male competition or competition within the sex, the other was female choice or mate choice of the one sex for members of the opposite sex. Darwin elaborated and predicted how male-male competition should give rise to armaments like antlers and large body size like elephant seals, and that nature should give rise to ornaments like birdsong, beautiful bird plumage and many other ornamental features. Darwin used explicitly aesthetic language to describe his theory. He described the mating preferences of birds as standards of beauty. He described female birds as having an aesthetic faculty. He described birds as the most aesthetic of all organisms, excepting of course man, and he was greatly criticized at the time.

In fact, his theory implied that female aesthetic judgments were a major force in evolution, and that was countered immediately by misogynistic responses who described female choice as “vicious feminine caprice.” In those days vicious meant full of vice. In other words, it was even immoral, this theory. In particular, Darwin was criticized for proposing that there was some other theory that might explain evolution other than natural selection, that the power of natural selection was its capacity to explain everything and to be a universal explanation to the origin of biodiversity.

Prum explains the abandonment of sexual (mate) selection as a legitimate theory under the influence of Alfred Russel Wallace, the biologist who is co-author of the theory of natural selection. It is fascinating reading for those who interested in the suppression of ideas, or fashions in theory. Much can be explained by a Victorian squeamishness about the idea that female selection of males was normal.

My interest here is what has happened in the human species as a result of female selection of males: to what ends have we been selected? Prum writes:

I’m interested in the possibility that aesthetic mate choice in humans—female choice—could have played a critical role in the remodeling of male-male competition, essentially by establishing that those features of males that are associated directly with violent competition are unsexy, or more positively, that those features that are associated with advancing female autonomy evolved to be a new from of sexy. That is the kind of dynamic interaction you get between sexual conflict and aesthetic mate choice that we see in birds like bowerbirds and lekking birds and throughout the bird world.

What would these traits be? Well, one of the interesting things is that even though human beings evolved to be much larger than their chimp-like ancestors in body size, they actually have gotten less different in size. Males and females are more similar in size than are chimpanzees. This is exactly against the laws of allometry, which indicate that as you get bigger any differences between the sexes should get broader. That means there’s been active selection to reduce the difference in body size between males and females, and that’s very likely to have evolved through female mate choice.

Prum speaks of sexual selection as being based on an aesthetic agency, and it is true as far as it goes. But female selection of human males goes further; it selects on the basis of moral qualities. One of the qualities selected for, he writes, is  the capacity of males to get along with each other. Selecting on this basis over time has meant that males do not kill the children sired by the previous mate of a female, when the latter remarry/remate. We have been gentled sexual selection.

Other theories have been advanced why life has become  less violent  – notably Steven Pinker’s reworking of Norbert Elias – Prum’s ideas on sexual selection are worth a close reading. The thought that males and females actually select one another, and have been doing so for aeons, and that this drives human evolution, should be a cause of hope.

The Son also Rises

Anyone interested in how society actually operates would benefit from reading Gregory Clark’s The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.

Clark examined surnames in several different societies and how they have persisted over time in elite occupations. He found that social mobility was real, persistent and slow: much slower than much modern theorizing about it. In short, families count. Coming from a good family is more than half the battle.

And that means that genetics count. Most of the status of your children will be determined by whom you mate with. Practically speaking, produce the kids from the right wife or husband and you can largely forget about sending them to $50,000 a year Manhattan day cares. They are going to succeed with quite ordinary levels of parental investment. No amount of private schooling will turn a dolt into a success, and conversely quite ordinary levels of parental investment (love, education, opportunities) will turn smart kids into successes.

As Clark writes:

By and large, social mobility has characteristics that do not rule out genetics as the dominant connection between generations. Ascribing an important  role to genetics helps to explain one puzzle of social mobility, which is the inability of ruling classes in places like England, Sweden, and the United states to defend themselves forever against downward mobility. If the main determinants of economic and social success are wealth, education and connections, then there is no explanation for the consistent tendency f the rich to regress to society mean even at the slow rates we observe…..

Only of genetics is the main element in determining economic success, if nature trumps nurture, is there a built-in mechanism that explains the observed regression.

The implications of Clark’s findings are contrary to what most believe.

If nature does indeed dominate nurture, this has a number of implications. First, it means that the world is a much fairer place than we intuit. Innate talent, not inherited privilege, is the main source of economic success. Second, it suggests that the large investment made by the upper classes in the care and raising of their children is of no avail in preventing long-run downward mobility….Third, government interventions to increase social mobility are unlikely to have much impact unless they affect the rate of intermarriage between levels of the social hierarchy and between ethnic groups. Fourth, emphasis on racial, ethnic and religious differences allows persistent social stratification through the barriers they create to this intermarriage. In order for a society to increase social mobility over the long run, it must achieve the cultural homogeneity that maximizes intermarriage rates between social groups.

Of course, humans segregate themselves by religions and denominations within religions, and to a lesser degree by social classes, castes, and political tastes. “Not our kind” is the answer to many a proposal of marriage. Perhaps one of the main functions of denominations and religions is to prevent intermarriage. For example, an Anglican can marry a Catholic of the right sort, and a Presbyterian without thinking, but neither a Jehovah’s Witness or a Muslim without conversion being entailed, and conversion to either of the latter religions is to slide down the social scale to the bottom rung.

Which brings me to the end of Clark’s book, concerning his observations of the persistence of elite groups within Islamic societies of members of non-Islamic religions.

Elites and underclasses are formed by the selective affiliation to a religious identity of some upper and lower share of the distribution of abilities within the population. In Islamic societies, the practice of imposing taxes on religious minorities tended to recruit to Islam the lowest economic strata of the conquered societies. Elites and underclasses have maintained themselves over periods as long as 1,300  years because of very high rates of endogamy (marriage within the tribe) which preserves the initial advantages of elites from regression to the mean by preventing intermarriage with less advantaged populations.

Clark’s book is well-written, fact-based, and amusing. For those interested in how society actually works, rather than how it is supposed to work, his discussions of social mobility and the largely vain attempts to  prevent it produce lively interest in the discerning reader, and not a few laughs-out-loud as some important truth clangs like a bell.

The legal culture of Canada

There is no dissent.

In the C2C Journal, there are some interesting articles. This is one of them. Written by Bob Tarantino, it describes the complete hegemony of the Charter interpreting class. Says Tarantino:

Appreciating how the law works requires accepting that if you want different decisions from the courts, the only option is to have different judges.

Recall that when the Supremes nixed Nadon’s appointment from the Federal Court, they also declared themselves to be a constitutionally protected institution. At the same time as they wrecked the advancement of Federal Court judges to the Supreme Court, they insulated themselves from any change. Said the Court at paragraph 74 of Nadon:

We disagree. Parliament cannot unilaterally change the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada. Essential features of the Court are constitutionally protected under Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982 . Changes to the composition of the Court can only be made under the procedure provided for in s. 41 [1] of the Constitution Act, 1982  and therefore require the unanimous consent of Parliament and the provincial legislatures. Changes to the other essential features of the Court can only be made under the procedure provided for in s. 42 [2] of the Constitution Act, 1982 , which requires the consent of at least seven provinces representing, in the aggregate, at least half of the population of all the provinces

Tarantino again:

Injecting more conservative and libertarian principles into the legal system requires, at a minimum, injecting more conservative lawyers into the legal system. The goal is not to displace progressives in the legal community, but rather to supplement their presence with conservative/libertarian intellectual counterweights, so that the field of contest is not dominated by progressives to the point of excluding competing conceptions of the law. “Political” judges are not a problem; but uniformly political judges are. The law develops in an impoverished way if only “progressive” views dominate and inform decisions from the bench. For the vitality of the law to be maintained, judicial decision-making must be a crucible of debate over what the law is, its purpose and its application, from a variety of perspectives.

Invasive Species


Sable Island is about 110 miles (300 kilosquidgets) off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is home to a naturalized breed of ponies, which the improving minds of some scientists wish to see removed. Why? They are an “invasive species”. They are wrecking the ecology of this insignificant sandbar. Ian Jones, a “researcher specializing in the ecosystems of remote islands” is quoted as follows:


He, along with a host of other researchers who study invasive species, is suggesting the removal of the horses to preserve the island’s fragile ecosystem. They say the horses are causing the desertification of the island by eating the vegetation and compacting the soil with their hooves.

“It’s a debate between this romantic idea of horses and conservationism and biology,” says Mr. Jones. “[Science-based policy] is more difficult for some members of the public to buy into than this image of wonderful horses running wild on windswept offshore. But you have to differentiate between values and science.”

Note the number of self-serving tropes and embedded assumptions in one sentence:

  • Ecosystems are always “fragile”; they are never robust.
  • “science based policy” must trump any romantic consideration.
  • Invasive species are bad.

Whether we keep the horses on Sable Island or not is a matter of policy; we put them there (by unconsidered accident) and we can keep them there, or turn them into dog food.

I agree with young Mr. Jones that you have to differentiate between values and science. That is precisely why – assuming we humans are the sole cause of global warming, which I deny – so many people do not wish to return to the levels of wealth we experienced in 1900, or 1800, so that our planet can recover. We would rather take the chance that our analysis is wrong than that we should return to the poverty of earlier centuries that knew not how to enrich themselves by burning fossil fuels on the scale we now do.That is what I mean by distinguishing values from science. We have a choice in this matter. we have a choice in every matter, and “science based policy” is often no more than dressing up opinion in the robes of dogma.

Stepping around the abyss of anthropogenic global warming, let us consider some of the other arguments and unquestioned assumptions wrapped up in Ian Jones’ mind.

The fragile ecology

Ecosystems are fragile: the recurring motif of all ecological thinking is the fragility of the ecosystem. The motif operates at every scale. The planet is fragile, the planet is a spaceship, there is limited room, resources are limited, we must conserve.

earth from space Indian Ocean

There is a great George Carlin take-down of the absurd idea that the earth and the ecology are fragile.

“Science-based” policy

Why must the romantic notion of horses running free be trumped by “science-based policy”.  Even assuming Mr. Jones’ “science” is anything more than a pre-conceived opinion dressed up in the white lab coat of authority, there is no basis for us to be guided into action. Suppose the horses eat the grasses down to nothing, the whole place is swept away by a storm, and all the horse die. Is this a superior outcome to removing the horses to preserve this glorified sandbar? Why? What about introducing a few wolves? What about shooting a few of them? Options please, said the Prince to his council of ministers.

“Invasive Species”

All species invade econiches where they can make a living: moss on stones, musk-oxen on moss, wolves on hares and musk-oxen, humans on all of them. We whites have invaded a continent (North America) some thousands of years after the previous invaders from northern Asia, and all of mankind “invaded” the planet outside of Africa, starting some 30,000 years ago. We have invaded lands that used to be under ice, learning how to sew, make fires, and hunt mastodons, giant ground sloths, and two-ton bears as we followed the game out onto the tundra. Should we all go back to Africa?

Should the Department of Ecological Correction of the Canopean Empire remove the Polynesians from Hawaii, Tonga, and Samoa? Should New Zealand be depopulated of Maori and British?

Between “fragile ecology” and “invasive species” you can triangulate the voice of the mandarins crying in the wilderness: we the scientific caste, are the saviours of the planet. Let us have our way and Gaia will be healed. A more pretentious philosophy of rule has not been heard since the last Caliph or the last Emperor of China.



Bored with the usual drivel?

Are you bored with ISIS, climate catastrophism, Harper versus his enemies, environmentalists versus Alberta, Obama’s incompetence, decline of the West, Putin’s machinations, Ebola, and the stupidification of everyone? Me too.

For a plunge into cold water, there are a number of blogs you can read that are far removed from ordinary worldly concerns, and I recommend them.

One which I came upon today is called The View from Hell. You might wish to start with “A Unified Theory of Nerddom”. This is what happens when you are very, very smart, and quite idle.

You can waste time in the neo-reactionary canon. I do not recommend them for their suitability for work or improving your social standing.

Then there is the ferociously Catholic philosopher Edward Feser who is always ready to assert that science and Western thought went wrong by the abandonment of the idea of final causality (goal-directedness) through the influence of Rene Descartes. In this regard David Bentley Hart is in full agreement with Feser: we went off the rails when  a limiting assumption which improved our scientific method (efficient causes only) morphed into a metaphysical assumption about the limitations of what was possibly true.

Here is classic Hart eviscerating an article in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik:

Which brings me to Adam Gopnik, and specifically his New Yorker article of February 17, “Bigger Than Phil”—the immediate occasion of all the rude remarks that went coursing through my mind and spilling out onto the page overhead. Ostensibly a survey of recently published books on (vaguely speaking) theism and atheism, it is actually an almost perfect distillation of everything most depressingly vapid about the cogitatively indolent secularism of late modern society. This is no particular reflection on Gopnik’s intelligence—he is bright enough, surely—but only on that atmosphere of complacent ignorance that seems to be the native element of so many of today’s cultured unbelievers. The article is intellectually trivial, but perhaps culturally portentous.

And so forth.

I will summon the energy to care about worldly issues shortly. I hope your summer was beautiful.