Parole and the Rule of Law

This piece at the Library of Law and Liberty is Dalrymple’s most thorough argument to date against the granting of parole. Parole is essentially arbitrary, he argues, and also rewards dishonesty.

…the system of parole for prisoners in practice demands not only acknowledgement of the crime committed – in effect a forced confession if one has not already been made – but an expression of remorse. This is because parole is discretionary: a man who says he committed a crime but is not sorry for it (because, say, the victim deserved or asked for it, and he thought it right to commit it) is unlikely to be granted parole. If he is a successful liar, on the other hand, he may well be. The system of parole can, and in practice often does, reward men for being good liars and punish them for being bad ones.

‘Hell is other people?’

At his Salisbury Review blog, Dalrymple makes a very interesting point about a recent piece in the Guardian. When the head of a charity was confronted with data that predicted an increase in the number of men suffering from loneliness, she said the issue was an important one because “loneliness is actually a health risk”. One would think loneliness is undesirable in and of itself because of the decrease in the quality of human life that it represents. So why did she not say that? Dalrymple’s take:

…we suffer nowadays from an unease in talking about what cannot be easily measured, such as life expectancy. If I say something that would once have seemed perfectly obvious, such as that loneliness is undesirable, someone will demand the evidence. Life expectancy can be measured; and we are inclined to believe that what can easily be measured must be more important than what cannot. The result is a lot of pseudo-thought.

Read the whole piece here

A Sense of Others

At Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple writes on the modern rejection of a phrase like “pull yourself together”:

In this world, bravery in the face of misfortune or grief has changed its meaning, from remaining silent about it and getting on with one’s life as best one can, to a public relation of the most minute circumstances of one’s feelings. Nothing must be left out, not even the laboratory results. How many times have celebrities been praised for their bravery in coming clean about their conditions, moral and physical? Where film stars confess, can ordinary mortals be far behind?

Read the entire piece here

Your Dad Is Not Hitler

Upon seeing French graffiti comparing Sarkozy to Hitler, Dalrymple muses on the philosophy behind it:

…there is an unattractive egotism and grandiosity in the slogan. There is an envy of suffering because suffering is supposed to confer moral authority on the sufferer, which is not available to those who merely think about suffering without experience of its worst forms. The syllogism is as follows: the suffering have moral authority; I have moral authority; therefore I suffer.

Read the whole piece at Taki’s Magazine

Animals at the keyboard

On the Salisbury Review’s site Dalrymple addresses the contentiousness of social media commentary, wondering “whether the social media express the bile that has always existed or whether it has actually increased that bile by turning the expression of it into a habit.” In the example he gives, people can’t even discuss the discovery of an underground canyon in Greenland without getting angry:

James: Very interesting, but the probing is probably just a
cover for the start of checking for oil.

Carrol: The computer you used to type your idiotic post was
made possible by oil.

James: ‘My idiotic post,’ Carrol? Judging by your absurd/
unintelligible comment, YOU are the only idiot here, as
you don’t even understand what I’ve written.

Truant: All [Carrol] did was make a statement that your
computer has oil-based components in its construction,
and stated so without any accusations except that you
are an idiot.

James: No, Truant, you are as thick as Carrol.

The Despot Within

Dalrymple on his encounters with frustrated, would-be dictators, in Taki’s Mag:

Dictatorship, or the urge toward it, is not confined to heads of government, indeed it probably lies lurking in all or most of us; nor is the worst stupidity the most obvious stupidity. If anything, the stupidity of the bright and well-educated is the worst, because the most self-confident.

Life at the Top: The Worldview That Makes the Elites

Last May, Dalrymple gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. We linked to it at that time but only as part of a mass post with links to many of his recent essays. We’ve been asked to post the speech individually and are quite happy to do so, as I fear many people probably did not see it the first time.


Dalrymple’s readers know that his work has attempted to shine a light on the worldview of those at the bottom of society and to explain how much modern social pathology results from an embrace of the ideas of those at the top. In this speech he was asked to explain the latter group: what the elite believe and why. The title is thus a reference to his most well-known work, Life at the Bottom.

As one of many examples of elite opinion, Dalrymple cites a public debate he had with a “well-known left-liberal journalist” on “the social, psychological, and cultural effects of the welfare state”:

Now, if the success of [Jewish and Sikh] immigrant groups in a tolerably open society… was not the result of a sinister conspiracy, what they had done could, in principle, be done by anyone else. What prevented them from going ahead and doing it?

It was my contention that it was the “mind-forg’d manacles,” among which manacles were the very ideas peddled so assiduously during her career by this very journalist: namely, that without the assistance of government bureaucracies paid for by taxation they could do nothing to improve their lot, an attitude that was bound to foster resentful passivity—resentful because no assistance can ever be enough for a passive person.

What my opponent wanted to deny was that there were any such things as mind-forg’d manacles; and the reason that she wanted to deny their existence, I suggest, is that to have done otherwise, to have admitted their existence, would have been to destroy her worldview completely, according to which only social injustice to be righted by state action (as suggested by her) would have redeemed the very many people in our society who are undoubtedly sunk in a wretched and pitiful condition. To have admitted their existence would not only have been to deny her the role of Salvationist to the masses, but suggested to her that her career had been dedicated to ensuring that the manacles were never struck off but rather strengthened and reinforced.

Thank you to the Heritage Foundation for hosting the speech and for reminding us that we never gave it the proper attention it deserves.

You can find the text of the speech here.

Myths, Lies, and the National Health Service

If this depiction of the importance of the NHS in British life is true, it points to an enormous cultural difference between the US and the UK:

In Britain, the most powerful political mythology (perhaps for lack of any other) attaches to the National Health Service (NHS). This way of organising our health care was born with original virtue in 1948, since its conception, in more senses than one, it has become more and more immaculate. If the service had a slogan, it would be Noli me tangere. No British politician would dare admit that its institution was anything other than an unmixed blessing; no British politician, at any rate none who aspired to office, would dare do anything other than tinker with it at most. Against the mythology, Mrs Thatcher herself was as helpless as a day-old kitten.