When Is a Public Health Emergency Really an Emergency?

The governor of Massachussetts recently declared himself possessed of extraordinary powers due to a public health emergency. Dalrymple derides a New England Journal of Medicine article on the source of the supposed emergency: opioid overdoses…

Words such as “public health emergency” cannot be defined so narrowly that there is a clear and unequivocal dividing line between an emergency and a non-emergency. We cannot demand of words more accuracy than they can provide, which is why human judgment will always be necessary. In my opinion, however, the governor’s judgment was wrong in this case. If this was a public health emergency, then a great deal of what goes on is a public health emergency and we are on the slippery slope to a purely administrative state.

Needless to say, the authors did not mention the possibility that there was a categorical difference between a viral epidemic and an increase of deaths caused by irresponsible human conduct, whether of doctors or of patients.

Bolivar with a Burr

I suppose it was more relevant before Thursday, but this piece on the question of Scottish independence finds an analogue for Alex Salmond: Hugo Chavez.

In Mr. Salmond’s imagination, at least as imparted to his electorate, the oil in the North Sea plays the role of the fairy godmother who brings what everyone wishes, namely life at a higher material standard of living than that which is justified by his own efforts and economic activity. It is as if Mr. Salmond would make himself the Hugo Chavez of the North Sea. The Venezuelan, recall, managed the remarkable feat of producing fuel shortages while sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world. Lost in the debate, too, is that countries that rely entirely on oil revenue to sustain themselves (except where they are so vast in relation to the population that everyone can live as a millionaire rentier) are generally destined for a special kind of economic and social woe.

Yet Scotezuela is Mr. Salmond’s dream. And like the late Bolivarist revolutionary, he has his supporters. If the voting gives him 50 per cent plus one, he will try to eternalize his power, with a fair chance of bringing all the levers of state power under his control. But even if he falls short, his policies will continue, for Labor’s social attitudes and policies are all but indistinguishable from his. Scotland, then, will not be a one-party state but a one-policy state. No real change of direction will take place absent economic catastrophe and possibly violence.

Victoria: A Life by AN Wilson

In The Times, Dalrymple reviews A.N. Wilson’s new biography of Victoria and likes it:

AN Wilson has written a sympathetic but by no means hagiographic biography of her that will probably overturn many people’s prejudiced conception of her.

Nowadays we tend to snigger a little at the statues of the plump and vastly overdressed woman on the plinth, as often as not crowned by a pigeon, holding the sceptre and the orb in front of a hundred town halls around the world. Our pomp of yesterday is now truly one with Nineveh and Tyre, and to compensate for our own comparative pettiness and low standing in the world we laugh at the absurdity of Victoria and her era. It takes some imagination to perceive Victoria as a human being rather than as an institution, and Wilson succeeds in helping us to do so.

Read it here (subscription required)

Threats of Pain and Ruin

Once again, we are behind the curve in our efforts to keep up with Dalrymple. New English Review has put together another collection of his essays for that website, and it is now available for purchase (ahem, has been for some time). From their press release:

New English Review Press is pleased to announce the publication of our fourteenth book, Threats of Pain and Ruin by Theodore Dalrymple.

Sparklingly funny, unflinchingly realistic, and profoundly wise, these brilliant meditations on our postmodern predicament by the Montaigne of our age impart urbane pleasure and enlightenment on every page.
Myron Magnet, author of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817

No one else writes so engagingly and so candidly about the world as it is, not as the politically correct would have it be.
Dr. Charles Murray author of Coming Apart and The Bell Curve

Dr. Dalrymple’s eye alights on a topic; his mind dissects it; his imagination embroiders it; his judgment delivers an appropriate verdict, usually condemnation; and his sensibility ensures that all these activities are conceived, argued, and expressed wittily or sadly but always beautifully.
John O’Sullivan author of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister

Another brilliant collection from our age’s answer to Dr. Johnson and George Orwell. A feast of wit, insight, admonition, and plain old common sense.
Roger Kimball, author of The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art

The summary from TD:

What is written without pain, said Doctor Johnson, is rarely read with pleasure. Rarely perhaps, but not, I hope, never: for the little essays in this book were written, I must confess, without much angst. In part this was because, in writing them, I had no thesis to prove, no axe to grind, except that the world is both infinitely interesting and amusing, and provides us with an inexhaustible source of material for philosophical reflection.

Many of the subjects treated of in this book were found by serendipity or came to me in flashes – it would be immodest to call them of inspiration – of previously unsuspected connection and interest. I can only hope that they entertain the reader as they have entertained me. At least they will do no harm, in compliance with the first principle of medical ethics.

— Theodore Dalrymple

Available here

Now for a Really Destructive Innovation: A Europe-wide State

At the Library of Law and Liberty, Dalrymple takes on the arguments for European federalism advanced by Luc Ferry in his book “Destructive Innovation”. Ferry says, for example, that an extensive European war fueled by nationalism is a realistic possibility and that union, imposed (needless to say) by European bureaucrats, is the solution. Dalrymple says this is absurd and that there is no prospect of Germany attacking France in the modern era (the unspoken premise of most federalists). According to Dalrymple, Ferry’s other arguments are made “with the characteristic looseness of European federalists”.

Feeble and sketchy as Ferry’s arguments are, no European federalist ever provides any better. They are trotted out with monotonous regularity, like the stories of someone with Alzheimer’s, and anyone who raises objections, however obvious and unanswerable, is immediately compared to a rabid nationalist, as if to be attached to a national identity were itself a symptom of hating everyone else. There are such rabid nationalists, to be sure. Forced federation is the best way of ensuring their increase in numbers and influence.

Read the piece here

Is It ‘Unjust’ for Doctors to Die from Ebola?

In his book Monrovia, Mon Amour, Dalrymple writes of, and analyzes almost as an archaeologist, a hospital completely vandalized during the Liberian Civil War. In a piece at Pajamas Media, he notes that the hospital has now been reopened but is ground zero for the Ebola epidemic. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine laments the deaths from Ebola of two doctors there but veers into what Dalrymple calls humbug:

The article suggests that, horrible as their deaths were, those of the two doctors in Monrovia were good in the sense that the ancients meant: deaths, in other words, consciously faced and to some higher purpose. One can indeed admire their bravery, their devotion to duty. But I think it hyperbole to say, as do the authors, that “Dr Sam Brisbane’s death diminishes us a people.”

Read the whole piece here

The Free, the Just, and the Ugly

Dalrymple’s explanation of the reason for the ugliness of modern art and architecture in this new piece at Taki’s Magazine has me nodding in agreement. I think he nails it.

Since beauty is often and so obviously the product of unjust societies, not only in Europe but everywhere else, we are afraid of it. Beauty is tainted by injustice; and since nowadays we value justice, fairness and equality above all things, and make them the touchstone of value, beauty makes us uneasy. This does not mean that aesthetes should call for unjust regimes: that would be an error of logic. Because beauty is produced in conditions of injustice, it does not mean that conditions of injustice produce beauty. Modern autocracies are aesthetically at least as disastrous as social democracy, indeed usually more so, but they have all the drawbacks, to put it mildly, of autocracies. Our main artistic task is to preserve remnants.

Islam’s Nightclub Brawl

National Review yesterday excerpted a Dalrymple piece from their forthcoming printed version. The piece has already received 600+ comments.

Citing researchers at King’s College London who say British jihadists are both the most numerous and the most brutal of the Westerners joining ISIS, Dalrymple seeks to answer why. He cites the disproportionately high rate of social and economic failure among Muslims in Britain for their numbers (a series of self-directed failures, he points out; in short, the jihadis are losers), and the brutality of British culture for their extremism, while decrying “the sheer stupidity” of Islamism itself.

[F]ailure is not necessarily easier to bear in a more open society than in a closed one: On the contrary, resentment is all the stronger because of the additional element of personal responsibility for that failure, actual or anticipated. In some ways, life is easier, psychologically at least, when you can attribute failure entirely to external causes and not to yourself or anything about yourself. The relative failure of Muslims (largely of Pakistani origin) is evident by comparison with Sikhs and Hindus: Their household wealth is less than half that of Sikhs and Hindus (immigrants at more or less the same time), and while the unemployment rate of young Sikhs and Hindus is slightly lower than that of whites, that of young Muslims is double. Sikh and Hindu crime rates are well below the national average; Muslim crime rates are well above. Racial prejudice is unlikely to account for these differences. Jihad attracts ambitious failures, including those who are impatient or fearful of the long and arduous road to conventional success. Jihad is a shortcut to importance, with the added advantage of stirring fear in a society that the jihadists want to believe has wronged them, but that they are more likely to have wronged.

Do You Really Need That Colonoscopy?

Perhaps this is enough justification for us men to avoid these procedures:

When you put everything together, including the fact that colonoscopy is itself not without risks, I think my avoidance of my doctor’s invitation [to a colonoscopy] might not be quite as absurd as it appears. It is true that, if everyone had colonoscopy, many but not all deaths from colorectal cancer might be prevented; but I am only one person, as is everyone else, and so the chances of it saving my life, or the life of any individual person, are very small.

Read the entire piece here