Author Archives: David Seri

Sins of Omission

In another May article in The Critic, Theodore Dalrymple points out a glaring example of the typical leftist misuse of statistics with the unquestioning support of the compliant left-liberal media.

If I were to say life expectancy rose in Britain during the Great Depression, which it did, quite steeply, no one would take me for an advocate an economic depression because I thought it would be good for health. But this is precisely what the deputy advocates with regard to rationing on the basis of the rise in life expectancy in Britain during the war. A little statistics is a dangerous thing, but it’s not the only method of suggesting falsehoods while suppressing truths.

The Quiet Liberation of Paris

Theodore Dalrymple reports in City Journal on Parisian life slowly returning to normal as the French authorities begin to ease the severe lockdown restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of the Chinese bat flu.

No sooner were people allowed a little more freedom than the rail union, controlled by the Communist CGT, went on strike. Yes, life is definitely returning to normal in Paris. And when I look back on my own youth, I think that, were I young now, I might have joined that party on the banks of the canal.

No Cure for Impatience

The skeptical doctor assesses the dismal state of the latest Chinese coronavirus related scientific research in his Takimag column.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic, I have observed a syndrome emerging in scientific research, namely publication of hopeful findings before there is any real evidence that the hope is well- or properly founded. One or other of the hopes may be justified in the end, but the syndrome is not in itself harmless if it raises false hopes, puts additional pressure on politicians, and leads to a misdirection of financial and other resources.

Catastrophism and Control

In the June edition of First Things, the good doctor returns with a Red Chinese pandemic related essay that covers two of his recent reads while quarantined in Paris.

COVID-19 will no doubt be mastered in time; there will be a vaccine, perhaps a treatment. But it will have dented mankind’s belief, or illusion, that it has everything under control, give or take a blip on the upward ascent to a life without suffering, the unpleasantly untoward or the unforeseen. For us after the epidemic, science will have strengthened its grasp but shortened its reach. 

Longing for Revolution

Theodore Dalrymple reviews Professor Daniel Chirot’s book You Say You Want a Revolution over at Law & Liberty.

The author of this short book, more extended essay than a history of revolutions in the two centuries that followed the French Revolution, sets out to explain why revolutions have so often been followed by slaughter on an unprecedented scale. Pascal said that he who sets out to be an angel ends a beast: to which we might add that he who sets out to create a heaven-on-earth creates a hell.

Empire of Conformists

In another essay at The Critic, the good doctor slays that most sacred of British cows yet again—the British National Health Service.

No doubt the prime minister’s praise of the NHS was politically shrewd — one casts no doubt on the perfection of the Koran in Mecca — but in the long run such praise does no service to the nation, which at some time or other ought to face up to the fact that its healthcare system is at best mediocre by comparison with that of other countries at a similar level of economic development, and that being ill and seeking treatment is a more unpleasant experience in Britain than in it is many civilised countries.

Monsieur Hulot’s Principles

We have just been informed by our reader Michael P. that Theodore Dalrymple is now writing for a new British magazine called The Critic. Thank you to Michael for letting us know about this new outlet for the good doctor’s writing. So far, 14 Dalrymple essays have been published there and I will be posting the latest ones in the coming weeks.

The latest Dalrymple gem in The Critic excoriates the pointless and banal sentimental liberal slogans published by M. Macron’s former Minister for the Ecological and Solidary Transition (and no, this title is not a joke), Nicolas Hulot, in Le Monde.

It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. Insofar as M. Hulot’s Hundred Principles have any value at all, it is that they illustrate to perfection, in a comparatively concise manner, the proximity of sentimentality to the potential, at least, of great brutality: for it would probably require a civil war for some of his principles were to be put into practice, the time having come for us to undo our personal and mental conditioning and to synchronise science and conscience.

Sweden’s Gambit

The Swedish policy toward the Wuhan pandemic is thoughtfully considered by our skeptical doctor in his weekly Takimag column.

The politicians, despised as they are (they are lower in public esteem even than journalists, which is saying something), are nevertheless expected to deliver us from death, and if death supervenes it is they who are to blame. We hate them, but we run to them, like young children to their mother, to protect us from danger.

The Pleasant Embrace of Fear

The good doctor is back at Quadrant with another interesting philosophical essay about the Chinese coronavirus and its possible economic, social, and cultural ramifications. This is an alluring read to kick off the weekend and we also have the weekly Dalrymple Takimag column hitting the presses tomorrow.

If taken seriously, not only offices, but millions of journeys to offices, would become unnecessary, pollution would decline and leisure time would increase. This latter would be a disaster, since most people do not know what to do with themselves as it is. It is for this reason that work is not arranged as efficiently as possible, but its productive aspect is diluted by myriad unnecessary tasks—unnecessary, that is, from the narrow point of view of production. Except in the factories of the East, where production is all, a great deal of work is designed to keep us occupied while we produce nothing. It ameliorates boredom and prevents the bad behaviour in which boredom results.

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.