Category Archives: consumption

Global capitalism flattens differences in tastes and cultures

Everyone everywhere, writes Dalrymple,

consumes the same branded products.

He cites the phænomenon of large numbers of shoppers from China arriving in Britain

and being taken straight after their long journey in buses from the airport to a so-called village which consists of outlets of brands of clothes and accessories that they could have bought at home, though presumably at greater expense.

Consumption in the modern world

becomes the meaning of life, a meaning that can only be sustained if what is consumed constantly changes.

The questions some doctors wouldn’t dream of asking

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.15.41In John Buchan’s Sick Heart River (1941), Dalrymple explains, Sir Edward Leithen has been given a year to live by the Harley Street specialist Acton Croke.

A gas attack in the First World War has awakened tuberculosis as a delayed effect, and it is galloping through his lungs.

Although occurring only a handful of years before the discovery of streptomycin,

Sir Edward’s tuberculosis is a death sentence.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.21.02Presumably, writes Dalrymple, Sir Edward’s tuberculosis is of the open variety, yet the appropriately named Croke

never mentions the danger of spreading it to others or shows any interest in that possibility. Was it that, in those days, certain people were so socially prominent that doctors dared not suggest to them so vulgar a matter as contagiousness?

Something similar is related in Reginald Pound’s 1967 survey Harley Street, though in this case the specialist takes a more robust approach than the general practitioner:

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.13.53


Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.26.04Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.25.03Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 08.46.57

94 Harley Street

94 Harley Street, where Sir James Purves-Stewart practised. Here a church dignitary consulted the neurologist about syphilis-related symptoms of paralysis affecting his palate. (94 Harley Street was once the home of Meredith Townsend, successively editor of the Friend of India, the Calcutta Times and the Spectator, and author notably of the 1901 work Asia and Europe.)

Dalrymple’s twin laws of political economy

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.54.52The existential problem of indebtedness

To restate the Dalrympian laws of public and private finance, they are:

Memories are short and lessons are never learned.


Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.23.03Dalrymple writes that

a profound change in culture and character has taken place in my lifetime. People not very much older than myself prided themselves that, poor as they were, at least they were not in debt; not to be indebted was for them a matter of pride and self-respect. What they could not buy outright, they were content to do without. Whether or not this was a good thing for the economy as a whole I cannot say; but I think it was good for the character. It encouraged self-control and also a probity that is now uncommon.


Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 09.15.54are under political pressure to indebt themselves

while ordinary people

are under some other type of pressure or compulsion that is internal to them and resistible but not resisted. They judge themselves and others by their modes and quantities of consumption, which give meaning to life in the absence of any other meaning. Spending, whether or not they can afford it, is affirmation that their life has a purpose.


is an existential problem. Spendthrifts hope, if they give any thought to the matter at all, that the economics will take care of themselves. Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof. At least until the next credit crunch.



Is the crisis faced by the Greeks their own fault?

Feeble-minded: Martin Wolf Wolf: feeble-minded

NO, says Martin Wolf. Stupid lenders lose money

This greatly overvalued (and very conceited) journalist writes about high finance. He can be read in the Financial Times, the Irish Times and other prints. He argues:

Nobody was forced to lend to Greece. Initially, private lenders were happy to lend to the Greek government on much the same terms as to the German government. Yet the nature of Greek politics, tellingly described in The 13th Labour of Hercules: Inside the Greek Crisis by Yannis Palaiologos, was no secret. Then, in 2010, it became clear the money would not be repaid. Rather than agree to the write-off that was needed, governments (and the International Monetary Fund) decided to bail out the private creditors by refinancing Greece. Thus began the game of ‘extend and pretend’. Stupid lenders lose money. That has always been the case. It is still the case today.

Dalrymple: incisive and gutsy Dalrymple: incisive

YES, says Theodore Dalrymple. Stupid borrowers lose assets

This greatly undervalued (and very self-effacing) essayist writes about the human condition. He can be read in City Journal, the Salisbury Review and other prints. He argues:

The lenders were foolish, or worse than foolish, relying as they did on Greece’s fraudulent membership of the common currency to forestall any possibility of default. But the Greeks, or rather the Greek government, can hardly be absolved of all blame for the situation. The latter borrowed huge sums of money to fund current consumption, having previously falsified its public accounts in order to meet the criteria to join the common currency. If nobody had to lend to Greece, Greece did not have to borrow, at least not like it did and for the purposes that it did. And if it is true that stupid lenders lose money, stupid borrowers lose their assets. If this is a tale of stupidity, it is of stupidity – or dishonesty – all round.