Be thankful every day that you don’t live in California or in Britain where the newest, craziest, and most extreme forms of contemporary insanity flourish, multiply, and metastasize in more outrageous and virulent forms every week.
Douglas Murray, in The Spectator, recently noted in an editorial that British Counter Terrorism’s Prevent’s “Research Information and Communications Unit” (RICU) identified some potential sources of indoctrination in right-wing extremism.
[A]ccording to RICU there were warning signs if people absorbed information or opinions from ‘pro-Brexit and centre-right commentators’. These included Jacob Rees-Mogg, Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle and yours truly. So everybody reading this column is at as much risk of being ‘radicalised’ as some young Muslim settling down with a tape recording of Ayman al-Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden, and Rees-Mogg becomes the equivalent of a finger–waving imam sending the young off to become martyrs in the cause of Allah. Which is strange because he never came across that way to me when we crossed paths at Conservative Philosophy Group meetings.
I have since been able to look over some of this pathetic material provided at public expense and can confirm that it gets worse. In one RICU document a number of books are singled out, the possession or reading of which could point to severe wrongthink and therefore potential radicalisation. These include a book on the Rotherham rape gangs, books by Peter Hitchens, Melanie Phillips and – once again – me. Without wanting to beat my own drum, the book of mine that is singled out for this sinister treatment is my 2017 work The Strange Death of Europe. This book spent almost 20 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller lists, has been translated into dozens of languages and was for some time the bestselling non-fiction book in the UK. So that is an awful lot of potential radicals just there. …
When I first saw these documents I felt a sort of white-hot anger. But then I read on and saw that these same taxpayer-funded fools provide lists of other books shared by people who have sympathies with the ‘far-right and Brexit’. Key signs that people have fallen into this abyss include watching the Kenneth Clark TV series Civilisation, The Thick of It and Great British Railway Journeys. I need to stress again that I am not making this up. This has all been done on your dime and mine in order to stop ‘extremism’ in these islands.
These include Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as works by Thomas Carlyle and Adam Smith. Elsewhere RICU warns that radicalisation could occur from books by authors including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley and Joseph Conrad. I kid you not, though it seems that all satire is dead, but the list of suspect books also includes 1984 by George Orwell.
So in general, I begin to feel in good company. If government agencies are going to compile lists of suspect books, then I am very happy to stand condemned alongside these fine people, both living and dead.
If I were Professor Peter Mathieson MBBS(Hons)(London), PhD(Cambridge), FRCP(London), FRCPE, FMedSci, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, before I renamed the David Hume Tower, I would read his Treatise of Human Nature (1739â€“1740), his Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), his six volume History of England, and his posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), and I would compare Mr. Hume’s achievements and contributions to Humanity to my own and I would tremble with embarrassment at the very notion of such an insignificant contemporary pygmy and nobody as myself setting up in business to pass judgment on a demigod and giant, one of my own country’s greatest all-time thinkers and very possibly my university’s greatest single alumnus.
I received the following letter from Doctor Black.
‘Edinburgh, Monday, 26th August, 1776.
Yesterday about four o’clock afternoon, Mr. Hume expired. The near approach of his death became evident in the night between Thursday and Friday, when his disease became excessive, and soon weakened him so much, that he could no longer rise out of his bed. He continued to the last perfectly sensible, and free from much pain or feelings of distress. He never dropped the smallest expression of impatience; but when he had occasion to speak to the people about him, always did it with affection and tenderness. I thought it improper to write to bring you over, especially as I heard that he had dictated a letter to you desiring you not to come. When he became very weak, it cost him an effort to speak, and he died in such a happy composure of mind, that nothing could exceed it.’
Thus died our most excellent, and never to be forgotten friend; concerning whose philosophical opinions men will, no doubt, judge variously, every one approving, or condemning them, according as they happen to coincide or disagree with his own; but concerning whose character and conduct there can scarce be a difference of opinion. His temper, indeed, seemed to be more happily balanced, if I may be allowed such an expression, than that perhaps of any other man I have ever known.
Even in the lowest state of his fortune, his great and necessary frugality never hindered him from exercising, upon proper occasions, acts both of charity and generosity. It was a frugality founded, not upon avarice, but upon the love of independency. The extreme gentleness of his nature never weakened either the firmness of his mind, or the steadiness of his resolutions. His constant pleasantry was the genuine effusion of good-nature and good humour, tempered with delicacy and modesty, and without even the slightest tincture of malignity, so frequently the disagreeable source of what is called wit in other men. It never was the meaning of his raillery to mortify; and therefore, far from offending, it seldom failed to please and delight, even those who were the objects of it.
To his friends, who were frequently the objects of it, there was not perhaps any one of all his great and amiable qualities, which contributed more to endear his conversation. And that gaiety of temper, so agreeable in society, but which is so often accompanied with frivolous and superficial qualities, was in him certainly attended with the most severe application, the most extensive learning, the greatest depth of thought, and a capacity in every respect the most comprehensive.
Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.
Chelsea German, at Cato, points to a demonstration of the argument for division of labor through marketplace exchange first advanced by Adam Smith:
What would life be like without exchange or trade? Recently, a man decided to make a sandwich from scratch. He grew the vegetables, gathered salt from seawater, milked a cow, turned the milk into cheese, pickled a cucumber in a jar, ground his own flour from wheat to make the bread, collected his own honey, and personally killed a chicken for its meat. This month, he published the results of his endeavor in an enlightening video: making a sandwich entirely by himself cost him 6 months of his life and set him back $1,500.
(It should be noted that he used air transportation to get to the ocean to gather salt. If he had taken it upon himself to learn to build and fly a plane, then his endeavor would have proved impossible).
The inefficiency of making even something as humble as a sandwich by oneself, without the benefits of market exchange, is simply mind-boggling. There was a time when everyone grew their own food and made their own clothes. It was a time of unimaginable poverty and labor without rest.