Category Archives: Procrustes

A Procrustean political bed

The purpose of the European Union, writes Dalrymple,

is to fuse very different countries in the hope that something powerful will emerge, so that European politicians may play a role on a larger stage than their own. Who would have heard of Mr Juncker had he remained a former prime minister of Luxembourg, Mr Barroso had he remained a former prime minister of Portugal (and Maoist student agitator), or Mr Kinnock had he remained but a failed leader of the British Labour party?

The procrustean BMJ

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 22.38.52There is practically no liberal nostrum, writes Dalrymple, to which the British Medical Journal does not subscribe. Its pages, he writes,

are innocent of debate. When the BMJ speaks, it is ex cathedra.

A recent issue

was devoted to the subject of war. The BMJ’s attitude to war is like that of Coolidge’s to sin: it is against it. War is so bad for the health. The white man has spoken. 

Fortunately for the world, the BMJ

has discovered the causes of war. They are the same as the causes of all other evils: inequality and poverty. Eliminate these, and peace will reign.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 23.08.19It seems to have escaped the BMJ’s notice, says Dalrymple,

that attempts during the 20th century to achieve radical equality were not entirely pacific or good for the health. Likewise, it has failed to notice that famine is much more likely to be a consequence of war than its cause.

The idea that wars are fought when ‘individuals are motivated to fight to seek redress‘ for their poverty

is laughable in its historical and psychological ignorance. Are Bin Laden and Saddam driven by poverty? Was Galtieri? Do Pakistan and India fight over Kashmir because of poverty?

The desire for someone else’s property

is not confined to the poor, nor need the property be of any value to be coveted. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought bloodily over scraps of land of use to neither nation.

The BMJ’s

procrustean theory of war is the liberal theory of crime writ large. Poverty makes men desperate, and desperation drives them to crime or (if they control an army) to war.

It is

up to us—the rich and contented portion of humanity—to prevent crime and war by paying more: for social welfare programmes in the case of crime, for foreign aid in the case of war.

It is, notes Dalrymple,

a tribute to the distorting power on educated minds of an abstract theory that anyone could believe such rubbish. Only someone with long years of formal training could deceive himself in this comforting fashion.

The fact that crime in Britain has risen along with income

should have been sufficient to persuade the BMJ that a more complex theory of human motivation was necessary.

Dalrymple points out:

The disregard of elementary reality is perhaps the distinguishing feature of much modern intellectual life.