Category Archives: productivity

Forward into the seventies

Britain, Dalrymple notes, has several very severe problems, and this is evident the moment you leave a prosperous area whose residents are likely to vote Conservative. Among the problems are

  • stagnation of productivity
  • precariousness of income
  • deficiencies in public services
  • low cultural and educational level of much of the population
  • inadequacy of the housing stock

Yet

the only solution heard to these problems is more government expenditure. The Conservatives went in for this — Theresa May refused to rule out tax increases, for example.

Socialist calamity looms

Thus an alarming aspect of the election was

the recrudescence of the politics of envy and resentment.

The Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn

radiated dislike of the prosperous, even the modestly prosperous.

The party’s solutions to the country’s problems were supposedly to be paid for by higher taxes on the richest 5% of the population.

This proposal overlooked the fact that the top 1% of earners already pay almost three times as much in income tax as the bottom 50% combined.

Wealth, Dalrymple points out,

is dynamic rather than static, resembling the bloom of a grape, not a cake to be sliced.

Taxes on capital (in other words, state expropriation) were Corbyn’s obvious next step,

with capital flight the equally obvious consequence.

None of this worried the young,

who had as yet no stake in property, only what are sometimes called ideals. The Labour party offered them and others the beguiling vision of living perpetually at the expense of others — Bastiat’s definition of the state. The Laffer curve meant nothing to them; punishing the prosperous was more important and gratifying than understanding how to maximise tax receipts.

Dalrymple comments:

The election could take Britain back more than 50 years.

The French are on a higher plane

France, Dalrymple observes,

  • is well administered — many intelligent young people want to work for the government
  • has among the best-maintained roads
  • has excellent public transport
  • is clean. There is less litter in 100 miles than in 100 yards in England. Either the French do not drop litter or councils are more assiduous in picking it up, or both
  • provides markets everywhere, with local produce
  • offers proper bookshops. One cannot attribute the much higher cultural level in France to bookshops alone, but they help to maintain it
  • enjoys efficient roadside drain clearing services
  • has better small shops, with greater attention to detail
  • is more efficient: far fewer of the French working far fewer hours produce at least as much as the British

Hopeless, stagnant Britain

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-23-14-04On the train to the airport in England, and at the airport itself, Dalrymple sees a population that strikes him as

more militantly ugly and unintelligent than any other known to me, one that consumes without discrimination and enjoys without taste.

With regard to ugliness, he writes,

it added to whatever ugliness nature had bestowed upon it by refusing to wear any clothes that might lend it any dignity, choosing apparel that accentuated its natural unattractiveness. Grossly fat slobs insisted on wearing figure-hugging T-shirts that did not quite meet the tops of the shorts that exposed their fat white tattooed calves, exposing their repellent midriffs to the appalled gaze of the minimally sensitive.

Of the women, he says,

it would be kinder not to speak; suffice it to say that they made the men look like Beau Nash or Beau Brummel.

The taste of the British in everything from food to music and clothes

is base, vulgar, stupid, and crude.

Dalrymple notes that it is not that they know no better—innocent vulgarity can be amusing and even refreshing—but that

they know better and reject and hate it.

They refuse to aspire to what is better,

and try to intimidate others into abandoning it, with some success.

The productivity of such a nation, Dalrymple points out,

is unlikely to rise very fast or far. It will be lucky if in the modern world, with so much competition, it achieves stagnation.

A continent limping towards the abyss

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 23.36.42Dalrymple points out that ‘ever closer union’

resuscitates old national stereotypes and antagonisms and increases the likelihood of real conflict.

He notes that politicians and bureaucrats,

like all people with bad habits, are infinitely inventive when it comes to rationalising the European Project, though they’re inventive in nothing else.

  • Without the Union, they say, there would be no peace; when it’s pointed out that the Union is the consequence of peace, not its cause, they say that no small country can survive on its own.
  • When it is pointed out that Singapore, Switzerland, and Norway seem to have no difficulties in that regard, they say that pan-European regulations create economies of scale that promote productive efficiency.
  • When it is pointed out that European productivity lags behind the rest of the world’s, they say that European social protections are more generous than anywhere else.
  • If it is then noted that long-term unemployment rates in Europe are higher than elsewhere, another apology follows.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 08.42.50The fact is that for European politicians and bureaucrats,

the European Project is like God — good by definition, which means that they have subsequently to work out a theodicy to explain, or explain away, its manifest and manifold deficiencies.

The personal interests of European politicians and bureaucrats,

with their grossly inflated, tax-free salaries, are perfectly obvious. For politicians who have fallen out of favour at home, or grown bored with the political process, Brussels acts as a vast and luxurious retirement home, with the additional gratification of the retention of power.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 23.41.11The name of a man such as Herman Van Rompuy,

whose charisma makes Hillary Clinton look like Mata Hari, would, without the existence of the European Union, have reached most of the continent’s newspapers only if he had paid for a classified advertisement in them.

Corporate interests,

ever anxious to suppress competition, approve of European Union regulations because they render next to impossible the entry of competitors into any market in which they already enjoy a dominant position, while also allowing them to extend their domination into new markets. That is why the CAC 40 (the French bourse benchmark) will have more or less the same names 100 years hence.

Dalrymple reminds us of the European Union’s role in corroding civil society.

Suppose you have an association for the protection of hedgehogs. The European Union then offers your association money to expand its activities, which of course it accepts. The Union then proposes a measure allegedly for the protection of hedgehogs, but actually intended to promote a large agrarian or industrial interest over a small one, first asking the association’s opinion about the proposed measure. Naturally, your association supports the Union because it has become dependent on the Union’s subsidy. The Union then claims that it enjoys the support of those who want to protect hedgehogs.

The best description of this process is

fascist corporatism, which so far lacks the paramilitary and repressive paraphernalia of real fascism. But as the European economic crisis mounts, that distinction could vanish.

One should not mistake the dullness of Eurocrats

for lack of ambition, or the lack of flamboyance for the presence of scruple. History can repeat itself.

Dalrymple says that whenever he reads the French press on the subject of the European crisis,

I’m struck by how little questions of freedom, political legitimacy, separation of powers, representative government, or the rule of law feature, even in articles by academic political philosophers. For them, the problem is mainly technical: that of finding a solution that will preserve the status quo (there is no such solution, but intelligent people searched for the philosopher’s stone for centuries).

As for the British political class,

it is composed largely of careerists,

and in the world of the Eurocrats,

ignoring arguments is the highest form of refutation.

United in decadence

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 07.43.52France and Britain are

very similar in their inability to tackle the problems that confront them. Both countries are sleepwalking to insignificance and international oblivion.

The French

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 08.11.53cannot tackle the rigidity of their labour market, that makes the creation of new jobs or new enterprises so difficult, because no politician has the guts to do it. Everyone in France is ready to struggle, even violently, for the preservation of his own little privileges and protections (while pretending to do so for the good of humanity – the French are just as hypocritical as the British). France’s social model produces fonctionnaires like the savannah produces termites, and allows certain categories of workers to retire on a very high percentage of their salary almost as soon as they have begun to work.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 08.16.42The British

cannot tackle their abysmally low educational and cultural standards, which are obvious even on landing at a British airport, because no politician has the guts to do it — politicians prefer the tried and trusted policy of après moi, le déluge. Successive British governments have comprehensively destroyed the British educational system: a high percentage of British children leave school less literate than Tanzanian peasants [and this is reflected in low productivity and generalised gormlessness].

La belle France, left, and England, dear England

La belle France, left, and England, dear England

Britain’s election disaster

Lynton Crosby: political engineer

Winner: political engineer Lynton Crosby

The worst possible outcome for the Greece of the North Sea

Examining the results of the 2015 UK general election, Dalrymple notes that now,

to all Britain’s intractable problems — low productivity, abysmal cultural level, addiction to debt — have been added political instability and the prospect of chaos.

The poll, he writes, was both one of the most important, and one of the most boring, for many years.

It was important because

Winner: Nicola Sturgeon resembles an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress

Winner: Nicola Sturgeon resembles an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress

it destroyed Britain’s reputation for political stability. This is of enormous significance for a country that is so heavily dependent on financial services, having little else to offer the world, for money doesn’t like political turmoil. Half a trillion dollars has left and might not come back.

It was boring because

all the candidates were boring. Apart from Nicola Sturgeon, who looked like an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress, all the three main candidates contrived to look the same. They had smooth, characterless faces and often eschewed [neck-] ties for fear of intimidating with smartness the slobs and slatterns who are one of the country’s largest constituencies.

Loser

Loser: conflict and chaos are coming

The candidates looked less like people than

products designed by political engineers.

Neither David Cameron nor Nick Clegg nor Ed Miliband ever cracked a joke,

at least not knowingly. No one in Britain can tell any longer the difference between earnestness and seriousness. A joke will only get you into trouble — someone will take it literally and be offended. It is best not to make one, even if you are capable of it, which in these three cases is doubtful.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 23.59.36Cameron remains prime minister, but that is

not the same thing as political stability.

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 11.19.59was workable and not grotesquely unfair when there were two overwhelmingly preponderant parties, but with the balkanisation of the political scene, the system is unworkable. The British now live in an unrepresentative democracy which produces gross distortions in parliament.

3.9m votes = 1 seat; 1.4m votes = 56 seats

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 23.58.23The biggest swing was to the UK Independence Party. It received 12.6% of the votes and one seat, compared with the Scottish National Party’s 4.7% of the votes and 56 seats. Dalrymple concludes:

No system that produces such a result can retain its legitimacy.

The system has given the SNP a near-monopoly of Scottish seats, so that

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 00.04.41the representation of Scotland in parliament would be worthy of the results of a Soviet election.

Moreover, for as long as the threat of Scottish independence remains,

stability cannot return to Britain. Chaos and conflict are just around the corner.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 08.18.12Britain’s one

indisputably successful and world-beating economic activity [apart from binge-drinking], namely financial skulduggery, might contract or collapse, because such skulduggery needs an environment of political stability.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.34.06Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 23.18.10