Author Archives: David Seri

The Life of Democracy’s Interpreter

In Law & Liberty this week, Theodore Dalrymple reviews a rather well-written biography of that famous French observer of the American republican project, Alexis de Tocqueville.

One cannot but remember the famous line in The Third Man, that while despotism in Florence had produced Michelangelo, five hundred years of democracy in Switzerland had produced the cuckoo clock. Tocqueville was famously alive to the drawbacks of the democratic spirit, for example its tendency to pander to foolish or ungenerous passions, to promote conformity, to bring to the fore ambitious mediocrities, and so forth.

Over Sharing

In his weekly Takimag column, the critical doctor recounts an annoying train ride through his native England during which his fellow passengers did not manage to keep their mouths shut for more than a few minutes.

During the whole journey, there was not more than five minutes of silence. It was as if the passengers I have described were members of a relay team, who had to take up a baton passed on to them by the others. Above all, no silence, which has the distressing effect of forcing people to attend to their own thoughts! They might even have supposed, these passengers, that they were performing a public service by rendering concentration impossible; for if concentration comes, can distress be far behind?

Which Came First: Twitter or the Troll?

Over at Law & Liberty, Dr. Dalrymple dives into the old topic of violence on television before transitioning to the general low intellectual level of much of the Internet’s comment sections.

If habit becomes character, the ease with which such exchanges can now take place will not improve the character of at least some of the population. Before the advent of the internet and social media, no one would ever have gone to the trouble of writing down such comments on paper and then have posted them somewhere. And even if they did, I suspect that no one would even have given any thought to them. If I am right, the opportunity creates the supply.

‘But They All Do It’

Over at The Epoch Times, our astute doctor explains to us the latest French political scandal, this time involving the right-wing French Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.

The accusation against Le Pen could conceivably backfire, so patently is it timed to influence the election, but I still think that Macron will win. Furthermore, I think any other result would be extremely dangerous, even catastrophic, for France, which is not to avow any admiration whatsoever for Macron. Most elections, not only in France, are a choice between la peste et le choléra, the plague and cholera.

Everyone’s an Expert

In this week’s Takimag, the good doctor questions the wisdom of relying on so-called experts when it comes to many topics, but especially that of economics.

We would like to wish our readers around the world a Happy Easter.

I do not want to cast doubt on the idea of expertise in some kind of know-nothing way. But there is no more important task for the citizen than the recognition of true expertise, as well as the recognition of its limits.

Samuel Johnson’s ‘Rasselas’: An Introduction

Theodore Dalrymple has completed his first online course ever for Ralston College on Samuel Johnson’s only novel Rasselas. There is an option to gain free, but limited access to the course, as well as purchasing the course for a one-time payment of $49. A class with our skeptical doctor as the professor. What could be better?

In this six-week course, Dalrymple will facilitate an encounter with Samuel Johnson, a towering figure of English literature. The course contains the full text and an original audiobook production of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, which depicts its hero’s “choice of life.”

The novel will show you that human life, far from being perfect—or even perfectible—inevitably contains a large measure of dissatisfaction. Johnson teaches us that the best way forward is not to ignore this fact and embrace the false hope of utopianism, but rather to accept that life involves many trade-offs. The art of life, for Johnson, is largely about making such compromises.

The Fragility-Industrial Complex

In his April essay in Quadrant, our dubious doctor attends the cinema and is confronted with one of those generic, overbearing warnings preceding the film, which gets him thinking about modern society’s excessive sensitivity.

Sometimes I buy packets of nuts with the following warning inscribed on them: “May contain nuts”. And there I was, hoping that they did contain nuts.

A Barber Shop Chat on the French Elections

The skeptical doctor stops in at his local Parisian barbershop for a fiery political discussion following the French presidential election on Sunday.

I suspect, though, that it’s Macron’s manner, rather than his policies, that aroused this man’s hatred. The fact is that the president has often let slip his disdain for much of his electorate, a disdain that has the merit (if it’s a merit) of being sincere. And my experience of humanity, for what it’s worth, leads me to conclude that disdain or contempt infuriates far more than injustice. People can tolerate injustice, but they can’t tolerate disdain.

Newly-Minted Mission Statements

In the April edition of The Critic, our skeptical doctor calls into question the wisdom of minting a commemorative Brexit 50 pence coin by the British Royal Mint.

On the other hand, since no one pays close attention to anything other than their smartphones, perhaps the striking of the coin didn’t really matter: but still I don’t much care for the obvious untruth of the slogan.