Category Archives: Essays

Let’s just admit it: the French are simply better than us

France has its fair share of problems, certainly: ghettoes filled with unassimilated immigrants, a declining educational system, hideous modern architecture and more. But Dalrymple says that, all in all, its advantages over Britain are decisive. One example:

The attention to detail in shops is another painful contrast with Britain (for a Briton, that is). A florist in France gives the impression of being a specialist in flowers, not of someone who sells flowers faute de mieux or merely as a sideline. He or she wraps the blooms with an aesthetic consideration for the flowers themselves, with matching coloured tissue, for example. This raises the price, no doubt, but also the quality; and this constant concentration on detail raises the level of the florist’s, or his employee’s, practical intelligence. This is also true of the sale of fruit, fish, meat, cheese, bread, pâtisserie, etc. And all this adds to the enjoyment of life, though like any virtue it can go too far and become mere pettiness.

Dalrymple at The Spectator

Worst Architect Prize

The Guardian recently complained that refugees into Britain are disproportionately placed in the poorest areas. Perish the thought! (says Dalrymple):

…it is true that there are fewer jobs in poorer areas than in rich, but refugees are not allowed to take jobs in any case. And it seems to have escaped the Guardian’s notice that rent tends to be cheaper in poorer areas than in rich. Under the present rules, therefore, it would be outrageous for them to be located anywhere else but the poorest areas.

But Dalrymple can imagine another reason that so many are placed in Rotherham: the architecture is so hideous that perhaps it will encourage them to return home.

Dress to Regress

The slobbish attire of Mark Zuckerberg is a great annoyance, says Dalrymple, and indicates a worldview that easily extends to other aspects of life:

As there is slobbery in clothes, so there is slobbery in manners, which often masquerades as informality. My slight acquaintance, Alexander McCall Smith, created the delightful character of Mma Ramotswe, the only lady detective in Botswana, whose attractiveness for audiences of many millions around the world is surely connected to the ceremoniousness of the African life portrayed in the books in which she appears, a ceremoniousness that has been lost almost everywhere.

That ceremoniousness is sometimes thought to be not only a waste of time (and time is money) but, far worse from the intellectuals’ point of view, to be inauthentic as well, insofar as it involves forms of words that do not express real individual thoughts or feelings. And the authentic person is under the obligation to be always sincere. If I don’t actually care a jot how you are, I shouldn’t ask you; and if I do ask you, it should be because I really want to know how your varicose veins are getting on.

Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine

How Do You Enforce Responsibility?

At the Library of Liberty and Law, Dalrymple argues that, contra the libertarian idea, it is not always possible to make people bear the full consequences of their actions.

Hard cases may make bad law but they make good journalism. We live in a society in which you have only to publicize a hard case for there to be demands for a change in the law, demands that are sometimes met, either immediately or in the long run. And since politics is not merely the easy art of being absolutely right in the abstract, but the far more difficult and arduous one of making things slightly better in practice, the argument that, as responsible beings who are agents, that is to say subjects and not objects, the consequences of our actions should be brought home to us, even unto the point of death (a principle with which we may agree, intellectually), is not likely to be much of a guide to practical politics.

On the other hand, he acknowledges the extent to which this truism is used as an excuse even in cases where properly locating responsibility is actually possible.

Read it here

Pity the Poor Monster

The killer of that policeman on the Champs-Elysées had a long history of violent crime, and the record of how leniently France treated him is almost comical. Why was he not in prison?

An article in Le Monde said that the case was bound to reignite debate on the “laxity” of the French criminal-justice system. It is symptomatic of the problem that the word laxity appeared as “laxity,” as though juridical negligence were a wild allegation, a figment of someone’s febrile imagination. But the case of Karim Cheurfi is far from an isolated one: indeed, such stories emerge regularly.

Dalrymple at City Journal

Psychobabble On

Dalrymple decries the psychobabble of Prince Harry’s recent confession and Theresa May’s response of offering a policy solution:

Anyone who has had dealings with the so-called mental health services in Britain, whatever they may be like in other countries (and the very notion of mental health is doubtful reality), knows that they are, as currently organized, frequently cruel and stupid, simultaneously neglecting the raving mad while concentrating their desultory and ineffective efforts upon the voluntarily inadequate…
The reason they concentrate their efforts on the voluntarily inadequate rather than the lunatics is that the former are relatively docile and predictable, while the latter may be hostile and in the modern world both drug-taking and machete-wielding. They are difficult and sometimes dangerous to deal with, and therefore best avoided, especially by mental health workers, who can rely on the police to deal with them when they become so disturbed that they can be ignored and left to their own devices no longer. Having closed down all psychiatric hospitals, we have had to build what are in effect psychiatric prisons to which patients are dragged by the police. Meanwhile, the form-filling, by ever-larger numbers of functionaries, continues undisturbed as a kind of displacement activity, in the way that mice wash their paws when confronted with a cat. They are thereby treating not their patients but their own anxieties, at the same time receiving a salary every month.
All this is a perfect model for government as a whole, which pursues policies that cause problems that then call for further policies to correct them.

Immigration Follies

Writing at Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple says that, while it is perhaps impossible to obtain the necessary data to confirm, it appears that British immigration authorities prefer to admit immigrants or refugees that are lower-skilled and less likely to acculturate. If he is right, what could the reason be? Are bureaucrats and the intellgentsia who back them acting out of stupidity or of self-interest? Both are possibilities, he says, but they may also be driven by an illogical syllogism:

Action in pursuit of a national interest may be wrong or even evil.

Therefore, action against a national interest must, ex officio, be good.

Hence to act against the national interest is a simple rule of thumb to ensure that one is acting ethically.

Read the piece here

Silence in Paris

Almost as bad as the recent murder of a Jewish woman in Paris is the silence in the French press about it:

As every married person knows, silences can be pregnant with meaning, even if the meaning is not immediately clear. The silence in the French press about a recent startling event in Paris is surely pregnant with meaning. On Monday, April 3, an Orthodox Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, a doctor aged 66, was thrown out of a window to her death by an African man aged 27. He was her neighbor in the flats where she lived. According to witnesses, whose testimony has yet to be confirmed, the man, who had been harassing her with insults for several days, shouted “Allahu akbar!” as he threw her.

Unleashing Arrogance, Complacency, and Mediocrity

At the Library of Law and Liberty Dalrymple reviews Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit, calling it “one of the worst books on any subject that I have read in a long time”:

But a very bad book may, in its own way, be highly instructive, as this one is. If mediocrity can ever be said to shine, then it shines from these pages. The writer, though a journalist, has no literary ability whatsoever. He writes entirely in clichés, there is not a single arresting thought in over 400 pages, wit and even humor are entirely absent, and he seems unable to use a metaphor, almost always tired to begin with, without mixing it (“We are likely to succumb on this if they get on their high horses and cry foul”). He has no powers of analysis and no sense of history; there is no plumbing his shallows.

The Rich Are Different

A statement from Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer about punishing tax avoiders makes obvious his support for arbitrary law enforcement:

He could hardly have made his lack of scruple clearer. What ‘robust action’ has been taken against people who have avoided taxes, a perfectly legal if not always laudable thing to do? Blackmail? Threats? These are, implicitly, the words of a gangster, though the person who uttered them may not be aware of it.