Worshipping the NHS

In another Law & Liberty article, Theodore Dalrymple examines the almost religious fervor that surrounds the British National Health Service, which would have made a Soviet apparatchik blush.

The propaganda in favour of the NHS has been so successful that it now accords with the sentiments of the population, a triumph that no communist regime achieved despite herculean efforts at indoctrination. The triumph has been achieved without compulsion or violence and ought to be an interesting case for political scientists who study the successful inculcation of political mythology. Of course, the danger of such a study would be that it might induce doubt or cynicism about other political mythologies, and we all need such mythologies to live by.

Contradictions of Labor

The good doctor explores the inconsistent British attitude toward skilled versus unskilled immigration in last week’s Law & Liberty article.

That we “celebrate” (to employ the current cant expression) foreign workers in the National Health Service but lament or reprehend the importation of fruit-pickers from Eastern Europe is surely indicative of willful avoidance of difficult and disturbing questions. We think in connotations rather than in denotations. We see what is on one side of the curtain but choose not to look behind it.

Eyesores Galore

In his latest Takimag column, Theodore Dalrymple passionately rebukes the talentless, obnoxious, and destructive architect of the modernist school after his daily stroll in Paris.

On the whole I am against the practice of preventive detention as being the weapon of authoritarianism, but I would be strongly in favor of it in the case of graduates of French (or British) architectural schools, who should be incarcerated immediately on graduation. It is the only way to preserve what is left of the material fabric of civilized urban life.

A Pandemic of Authoritarianism

The good doctor has published perhaps his most philosophical examination of the Wuhan pandemic in the May issue of New English Review. His targets of justified criticism include the useless hacks in the media, globalization and materialism, our pathetic political elite, and busybody policemen and bureaucrats.

And yet our own habits—namely, spending more than we earned for years and years, indeed for decades—required precisely this. In order to maintain the illusion of solvency, money had to be created and interest rates kept low; but to avoid the appearance, though not the reality, of inflation, prices (except for property and financial assets) had to be kept low. The only way to do this was to outsource the manufacture of goods to low-cost economies, and voilà! with the able assistance of the coronavirus, the economic situation developed that we are in today.

The Situational Nature of Scorn and Stigma

The topic of stigma is covered by Theodore Dalrymple in Quadrant after he reads the first international bestselling crime novel, which was published in 1886.

Anthropologists used to divide societies into shame and guilt categories. The former depended on people’s public face to keep them in order, the latter on people’s internal sense of right and wrong. No doubt no pure forms of either exist in reality, though in my darker moments I sometimes wonder whether we have succeeded in creating a new type of society, one in which neither shame nor guilt are very much in evidence.

Poor Tourists

The good doctor hopes in vain for one of the anticipated positive consequences of the Chinese pandemic—the end of mass tourism—in his weekly Takimag column.

I have always found mass tourism a little puzzling. To go to the effort of traveling, which is increasingly onerous and unpleasant, and then to demand the same kind of food as you have at home seems distinctly odd to me. Cultural tourism is a bit odd too. People who don’t give a moment’s thought to the visual arts for, say, three hundred and fifty days a year suddenly experience an urge to join a procession, a bit like those caterpillars that congregate by the million and devastate the countryside, through a famous art gallery, say the Louvre.

Too Immature to be Punished?

Yet another ridiculous liberal policy proposal—from Scotland for a change—to stop sentencing criminals under the age of 25 to prison is obliterated by the good doctor over at Law & Liberty.

The idea that a man’s brain is so immature before age 25 that he does not know that all manner of crimes are wrong would suggest a revision of our electoral laws, for if a man can neither distinguish right from wrong nor control his impulses, should he have the vote? Should he, in fact, be considered of legal age? Should he be allowed even to choose his own career?

‘Springtime in Paris is eerily empty due the draconian lockdown’

Theodore Dalrymple returns to The Telegraph with his account of life under the stringent lockdown in the French capital. This is premium content and is only available with a subscription.

Thank you to my colleague, Steve, for pointing this one out to me.

My wife and I arrived in Paris from London by Eurostar just as the barriers were going up all over Europe, as Sir Edward Grey would have put it were he alive today: whether they will come down in our lifetime, or come down fully, remains to be seen. We had come because my mother-in-law, who is Parisian, needs 24-hour care, and we were afraid that some of her carers might not be able to look after her. We ourselves, over 70, both retired doctors, were aware that we might in the near future prove the vectors of her destruction, but what else could we do?   

An article at the Canary is critical of Dalrymple

Peter Bolton from The Canary wrote to us to let us know about his new piece that criticizes right-wing commentators for hypocrisy on the subject of civil discourse. He says Theodore Dalrymple is the most notable culprit:

In a highly competitive field, the prize for the most glaring peddler of wilful bias may go to the conservative essayist Anthony Daniels, better known by his pen name Theodore Dalrymple… 

Daniels’ writing often focuses on what he sees as the decline in manners, self-respect, decency, and personal responsibility in both public and private life in the UK. And for Daniels, the blame for this decline lies squarely with Britain’s political and intellectual class, along with their purported embrace of popular culture at the expense of high culture. This criticism, however, is seemingly reserved almost exclusively for those who he considers left of center.

It’s a fairly long piece with many examples, as Bolton sees it, of Dalrymple’s hypocrisy. Read it here.

Bolton asked if Dalrymple would like to reply, and I expect him to reply here shortly.

Gide’s Judgment

In the May edition of New Criterion, the good doctor reviews Andre Gide’s memorable memoir of his time as a juror in the French criminal courts.

Gide’s little book might have accompanied me during my time as a doctor working in a prison and as a witness in murder trials. It raises many of the questions that ran as a refrain through my mind as I worked: At what point do circumstances excuse a man or relieve him of his responsibility? How may one be realistic without being harsh? How far can one extenuate without becoming sentimental? To what extent are we all the product of our heredity and environment? I do not foresee a time when these questions will be completely answered to everyone’s satisfaction, or even to mine.