Category Archives: bureaucracies

China flu and the persistence of illusion

The Wuhan virus is of relatively minor consequence for the mortality of the world population

Follow the science.

On this view, writes Dalrymple, science

speaks with one voice, ex cathedra. It lays down doctrine that humanity, most of which is not scientifically minded, must humbly accept. Neither the world nor science is like this.

Epidemiology, he points out,

is not only an inexact science but can be a powerful tool for the regulative bullying of the population by ­bureaucracies.

The Wuhan flu is

not the Black Death, which killed between a third and a half of the population of Europe. The 1957 Asian flu was said to have killed up to 2m people and the 1968 Hong Kong flu 1m, yet they have passed from collective memory, perhaps without having entered it.

The illusion that the risk of epidemic default on mortgage obligations had been eliminated

There is an increasing unfamiliarity with death as the natural end of life, and

assuming that this is an epidemic of relatively minor consequence for the mortality of the world population, the panic must be in part because of the apocalyptic nature of death from the disease.

The China pandemic

will no doubt be mastered in time; there will be a vaccine, perhaps a treatment. But it will have dented mankind’s illusion that it has everything under control — give or take a blip — on the upward ascent to a life without suffering, the unpleasantly untoward, or the unforeseen.

Dalrymple reminds us of the time before the collapse of Lehman Brothers,

when mathematicians claimed to have developed a model that eliminated the risk of epidemic default on mortgage obligations. This proved illusory and was always foolish; but it suggests that the illusion of control will return soon enough, once the epidemic is over.

The professional purifiers of our utterances

The idea, writes Dalrymple, that ‘hate speech’ can be banned is

a sign of impatience with the intractability of the human condition. It wants to legislate people into kindness, decency and fellow-feeling. It appeals to the sort of people who forget (or never knew) that supposed solutions to human problems frequently throw up further problems that are greater than that which the solution is designed to solve.

For its protagonists,

it has the advantage of creating a bureaucracy of virtue with pension arrangements to match.

Only the USA, he says,

with its constitutional commitment to free speech, has held the line against the encroachments of the professional purifiers of our utterances.

Trump’s finest hour

Donald Trump: patriotism, generosity and good sense

Reading in his morning newspaper that the General Assembly of the United Nations had greeted a short section of Donald Trump’s speech with laughter, Dalrymple’s esteem for the US president grows. The laughter, Dalrymple writes,

gave rise to Mr Trump’s finest moment. He took it in good part, admitted that he had not expected it, and said it was perfectly all right.

The moment

revealed something about world opposition to Mr Trump: that it is bogus or not deeply felt, and is pro forma.

Dalrymple asks:

  • Would the General Assembly have laughed disrespectfully at Mr Putin or Mr Xi, and would either of them have reacted in the same good-natured way if it had?
  • Did anyone laugh at Mr Obama’s fatuously grandiose claim that his election marked the beginning of healthcare in the United States and the healing of the planet, at least the equal in absurdity of anything said by Mr Trump?
  • Is Mr Trump’s slogan Make America great again any shallower than Mr Obama’s Yes we can?

Barack Obama: absurdity, grandiosity and fatuity

Dalrymple points out that Trump is held to a different standard; and anyone really believing the president was an incipient totalitarian dictator wouldn’t have laughed.

Trump’s speech offered

a more generous view of the world than that of most of his opponents. He called on the people of all countries to be patriotic, acknowledging that people of all countries had something to be patriotic about.

Trump’s was a vision of the world that was

far more genuinely multicultural and multipolar than those who believe in, or call for, a kind of European Union on a global scale, in which all cultures are ground into a food mixer from which a health-giving culture juice of universal rights (to healthcare, social security, etc.) will emerge.

The European Union monstrosity: an emergent bureaucratic tyranny

Trump’s view of patriotism certainly did not entail

the hatred of or disdain for, let alone enmity towards, other countries. What he said in essence was that he wanted a world of live and let live. He appeared to understand that a world government without borders would necessarily be a monstrous bureaucratic tyranny with no possible legitimacy.

To be sure, he simplified problems, but

to look to political speeches for subtle elucidation of knotty problems is like looking to tabloid newspapers for metaphysical insight.

How to get ahead in a state or corporate bureaucracy

The pseudo-poetic metaphors are about as inspirational as a cargo ship’s ballast

The vital quality, writes Dalrymple, is

the mastery of, and willingness to use, a certain kind of language that is opaque and almost meaningless to an outsider. The mastery requires dedication, and the willingness a lack of scruple. It demands a certain intelligence, but not high intelligence. Mediocrities do it best because others are impatient of it.

The language

is peculiar to itself, and makes a speech by the late Leonid Brezhnev seem like a soliloquy by Hamlet. Full of neologisms, its words have connotations but no definite meaning can be fixed to them. Vagueness is essential because only then can responsibility be denied when things go wrong. It is ugly and circumlocutory, but with occasional pseudo-poetic metaphors that are supposed to be inspirational but are as exciting as a cargo ship’s ballast.

This bureaucratese, says Dalrymple

is ever more widespread. It has left few corners of our world uninvaded. It is to be found almost everywhere. It is native to government, of course, but it is certainly not confined to government. Large companies employ it, as do educational institutions.

A question he has long pondered

is whether anyone, in the privacy of his mind, employs such language. I suspect that after a time those who employ it can use no other.

How social policy maximises sexual abuse of children

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-22-53-40We are horrified, writes Dalrymple,

by the sexual abuse of children.

But all our social policy over the last 50 years

has been to maximise it. We would, in practice, be far more horrified by attempts to reverse that policy than any amount of such abuse. We prefer to erect (and pay for) vast and ineffectual bureaucracies whose ostensible aim is to counteract the natural consequences of those policies.

Immigration and British incompetence

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 23.32.20Dalrymple points out that much immigration to the UK, for instance from Poland,

has been good and even necessary for the country.

He draws attention to the fact that the inability or unwillingness

of the British public administration to control the kind of immigration that is most feared, for example from Moslem countries,

is associated with

a generalised administrative incompetence.

He attributes the incompetence to

a culture of frivolity and to careerism in bureaucracies grown too large and convoluted to have any connection with their ostensible purposes.