June 04, 2004

UKIP 2004, Sinn Fein 1918.

Somewhat apologetically may I point you in the direction of one of my own comments on another blog, not to mention the post itself. It's about situations when a "wasted" vote is not wasted.

I'm still not sure who to vote for. For the first time in my life I am split three ways:

1) UKIP for the reasons quoted in the comment. On the downside, UKIP is perpetually vulnerable to infiltration from the far right. On the upside to the downside, Labour is equally vulnerable to infiltration from the far left and I'm considering voting for them, too.

2) Conservative, to get the candidate who would be most likely to do the things I want a member of the European Parliament to do, in so far as I want them to do anything other than resign.

3) Labour, to support the Prime Minister. Did I really write that? Yes. I keep hearing that stacks of people who generally approve of his performance as Prime Minister are going to vote against him over the issue of Iraq. I wouldn't mind being a tiny counterweight. Can't stand the man as PM, admire his moral courage (I really wrote that, too) over Iraq.

I think I shall keep my vote secret the better to keep in with incompatible groups of friends and out with incompatible groups of enemies.

UPDATE or maybe this should be a separate post on the peverse incentive not to link to people who just linked to me. I just linked to Brian Micklethwait on Samizdata. I then read down a few posts and cursed mightily. Micklethwait, the villain, had just linked to me. It looks so embarrassing. Honest, Guv, I didn't know! (Yet it probably was no coincidence. For a few days my mind will often run in parallel to that of another blogger. That's the whole idea of this mutual exchange of ideas bit, innit.) Perhaps if I had seen the post where Brian linking to me before I wrote mine linking to him I would have half-consciously steered away from writing mine, for fear of it looking as incestuous as it does.

But I've written it now and it would offend against my sense of economy to delete it.

Brian, don't link to this.

UPDA... oh, why bother. Like no one guessed this was coming.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 11:40 PM

June 03, 2004

No Title

Cheep! "All blogging is currently carried out to an accompaniment of cheeping." Quite right too. Ought to be a rule.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:25 PM

June 02, 2004

Why I oppose the EU, the UN and I'm not too thrilled by the WTO either.

First a question for you. How do you know communism doesn't work? Because you saw it not working all through your childhood and early adulthood, right? (I'm assuming you are about my age and a citizen of a liberal democratic state.) But back then the communists had all sorts of extremely plausible alternative reasons for the repression, the queues and the greyness. World War II. The drought. The floods. World War III being planned by the Americans. Fraternal assistance to the comrades abroad. And anyway it is working, honest, a loaf of bread costs 0.3p.

After a while you, dear reader who approximately fits my profile, tuned all this out because you noticed that non-communist countries also had natural disasters and enemies yet still managed to feed their people and churn out impressive numbers of transistor radios and those amazing new calculator thingies besides. To help you along to this conclusion the goddess History primly laid out several countries split into communist and non-communist sections so that you could watch one half sink and one half rise and draw appropriate morals. Even without the lessons of divided Korea and Germany, you'd have got the point eventually though. The unfortunate people in the communist countries had got it some time ago. All the lies they were told weren't enough to black out the obvious greater prosperity of the other system, where even the toilet paper was better.

Communism versus liberal democracy was the biggest variable in the laboratory when I was growing up, but it's far from the only one that has been and is being tested. The laboratory procedure is shot to hell and the results are unclear, but they keep coming in. They say that an aerial photograph of two neighbouring states in the US will sometimes show the land changing colour at the state border as clearly as on a map; the difference being no manifestation of nature but the result of differing agricultural policies.

What I fear is that a time will come when there will be no significant examples of difference left in the world. That possibility is still far off but for the first time in history the technology is in place for it to happen. Think about that. We are always being told that this or that situation is without precedent when what the tellers mean is that they dislike the precedents, but this time there really is no precedent. We do not know how human beings do a single world society.

A relatively benign version is the one the anti-globos fear; the one where everyone obeys the WTO/World Bank/IMF consensus of managed capitalism under a polite fiction of democracy. Hey, nobody starves. But what Douglas Adams would call the long dark teatime of the soul continues until the sensible tenets of managed capitalism atrophy from lack of exercise.

That, dismal as it is, is the optimistic scenario. Another one, perhaps the degenerate successor to the first, or you could get there from here, is the world of the international elite. Orwell's O'Brien said, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." Nothing so dramatic for this future: just imagine a bureacrat stamping "permission denied" on an application for a satellite dish - forever.

And it could come about so easily, so gently. All it would take is for the EU to continue its present course, and for other blocs to become more like the EU in its role as the UN's favoured son. I can imagine a future US administration deciding to differentiate itself from its predecessors by coming repentant back into the fold. Then the UN would put gradually put its warm, loving arms around the whole world, with international treaties and courts and protocols and constitutions. These bodies do so love constitutions, don't they? And the whole point of a constitution is to take some matters out of discussion. The French National Assembly has voted to embody the Precautionary Principle into the French Constitution. Voila! If they take it seriously (always a big 'if' in France), whole vast areas of variability and innovation have been swept forever off the table in order to get one week's good publicity.

All you have to imagine is stuff like that keeps happening on a world scale.

Read pretty well any account of how the British government responds to a threat to its sovereignty from the EU. First they say it is all a scare story. Then they say, well it has been proposed, but it will be resisted to the last gasp. Then they say that the new proposals, while maintaining the name, purpose and structure of the old proposals are in fact completely different than or at least heavily influenced by our tough negotiating stance. Then they swap whatever sacred principle it was for a deal on beetroot.

All you have to imagine is stuff like that keeps happening on a world scale.

I am haunted by the tale of the fleets of Zheng He, recounted in Guns, Germs and Steel. China's vast program of exploration, greater than anything Europe ever had, was turned off click! because of some otherwise obscure quarrel between two factions at court. The reason that there was only one switch was that China was unified.

All you have to imagine is stuff like that keeps happening on a world scale.

As Madsen Pirie says, a tax or regulatory regime does not like exceptions. If once we have a world government or close imitation thereof I think we might really see, not the end of history, but its asymptote.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:47 PM

Talk about sawing through the branch you're sitting on...

This is kind of sad. OK, he was stupid. But does his stupidity really deserve to be punished by becoming nationally famous for being stupid?

I wondered if there were a patron saint of DIY, stupidity or stupid DIY that the poor man could call upon in his hour of travail. The answer appears to be no, but St Barbara does protect builders and St Jude Thaddeus desperate and lost causes.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:10 PM

June 01, 2004

Rident stolidi verba Latina.

Latin is on the way back to the nation's classrooms according to the Independent. Probably this is an exaggeration, a little like the way the Liberal Democrats or their predecessors, the dear departed Liberals, would "prepare for government" after every good by-election result. Still, I can well believe Latin is coming back into fashion - partly because the very fact that it was such a minority subject has raised its status. There's another thing, too:
Dr Jones said. "Until the Sixties, people studied Latin because they were forced to do it. This had a spin-off in educators' attitudes towards it in the Seventies and Eighties. They remembered how they loathed it and did what they could to kill it off."

...But slowly the tide began to turn. Dr Jones said Latin hit its "year zero" in the Nineties, when the collective memory of enforced Latin was finally expunged and the Cambridge teaching technique began to pay dividends. Lunchtime clubs sprang up, Open University courses were over-subscribed tenfold, and other universities began offering starter courses.

Mutatis mutandis indeed. It's certainly true, and welcome, that Minimus the mouse is a creation of a time when no one is compelled to study Latin. Brian Micklethwait often mentions that education-by-persuasion is the coming thing and education-by-compulsion the going thing. I'm sure he's right in general, both factually and morally. Yet I don't think the decline of Latin can be blamed on the fact that it was forced on children until the Sixties. Until the Sixties people studied everything because they were forced to do it, not just Latin, and, now you mention it, not just until the Sixties. There has to be some other factor present that would work against Latin in particular.

I blame Socialism. Regular readers will know that I blame Socialism for everything - and it is a fact that International Marxism is responsible for 62% of unharvested human navel fluff - but seriously this time, I think the modernising egalitarian spirit of the twentieth century wanted Latin gone because it was old and elitist.

Incidentally, I don't speak Latin. I got the quote at the top here and checking the spelling led me here.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:25 PM