We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What’s the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’?

Did you know that Boris doesn’t know who won the battle of Stalingrad? If you did not know this, please continue not to know it, because it is not in fact true. Should you encounter a reader of The Economist, however (one of life’s occasional joys of which I am now deprived by the lockdown), you may be told that Boris’ biography of Sir Winston Churchill reveals this and other remarkable lacunae in our current PM’s historical knowledge – told in a tone of great certainty and with the firmest assurance that any milder speculations you offer (for what Boris might have said to appear to mean such things) are not possible, so established are the facts.

I have never once in my entire life given money to The Economist in exchange for the doubtful privilege of reading it (and see very much less than no reason whatever to begin now), so I encounter copies but rarely in airplane lounges and on other people’s coffee tables. I therefore cannot tell you whether Economist readers believe this because an Economist writer once told them that or implied it, or merely because reading The Economist renders one credulous of such urban legends (insofar as the habit of reading The Economist does not reveal that one already is).

So astonished was I to be assured of this claim (by the undoubtedly educated and well-read) as a matter both unsurprising and beyond all doubt, that I have now once in my entire life given money to Boris (not to some cause he also espouses) in exchange for a copy of his Churchill biography – something I deduce Economist-readers are more loath to do even than I am to buy their rag. It struck me as a more primary source for verification than tracking down whatever years-old copy of The Economist had reviewed it or made a passing reference to it, or tracing the origin of its readers’ urban legends about it.

I was not surprised to learn that Boris knows what the gardener, the hairdresser and even the teenager all know – that Stalingrad did not end well for Adolf. I was not surprised to find I was correct in my pre-purchase guess that some throwaway one-liner about how far Adolf got despite Churchill (to suggest how dangerously further he might have got without Churchill) would be the sole basis for the bizarre claim that Boris didn’t. But after reading right through the book I am very surprised to discover just how vicious and/or deranged a reviewer would have to be to pretend and/or imagine that the text even remotely suggests such a thing (and likewise for the other claims).

That, however, is secondary. In her study of anti-semitism, Hannah Arendt explains that establishing the history of how ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ was forged is secondary. The historian’s primary subject is that the forgery is being believed. That someone – maybe originally some writer for The Economist but maybe, for all I know, originally just some reader of it holding forth to other readers in an upscale SW1 pub – claimed that Boris did not know a historical fact so famous that even an update of ‘1066 and all that’ might call it ‘memorable’, is secondary. The greater strangeness is that this claim is being believed – not by Jeremy two-Es Corbyn and his Momentum followers but by at least a few highly educated people who, in the late 1980s, were voting for Thatcher’s and Reagan’s economic policies even as they virtue-signalled disdain for their populism. What goes on in otherwise-intelligent minds to let a person move from that to this? How can their sense of reality be so deficient that they can be told Boris does not even know who won Stalingrad and still hear no alarm bell, no, “Maybe I should just check whether even Boris could really not know even that”?

The Economist was founded in 1843, not so long before Mill explained that democracy works best when:

“the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they have always done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few.” (‘On Liberty’, John Stewart Mill, 1859)

By this definition, The Economist has always been just what it claims to be: ultra-liberal. It is said that a senior editor once gave a junior colleague terse advice on how to write their first Economist leader article:

“Pretend you are God.”

The Economist has sometimes changed its mind in fact – it was rather late to abandon its Keynsianism for monetarism in the 1980s but it did. What never changes is the unapologetic arrogant smugness of a pretence that one suspects senior editors do not always recall is pretence. The Economist’s latest editor, a woman named Beddoes, is a Keynsian who thought Obama was wonderful. She belongs irredeemably to those whom Dominic Cummings described as:

aways writing about how ‘shocking’ things are to them – things that never were as low probability events as they imagined

Brexit winning, Trump as president, Boris as PM – how shocking that the omniscience of pretend-God be challenged by such unforeseen events. Late last year, I was aware from my acquaintance how much Economist-readers loved Fintan O’Toole’s ‘explanation’ that Brexit arose from the idiocy of backward-looking British voters (Fintan O’Toole: ‘Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain’, published November 2019). Fintan laughed when Brexit-supporting reviewers warned him to worry instead about a real ugliness in his own Southern Irish electorate – until he was again shocked by an Éire election result that was (regrettably but foreseeably) never such a low-probability event as he and EU-negotiation-supporting taoiseach Varadkar imagined. (Corbyn’s success in 2017 is one on-balance-hopeful analogy to draw; there are others.)

It is said of communists that they think their party is God – a God sadly lacking the attributes of forgiveness and absolution. People who have the sense to know communism is stupid can still be very wilfully deluded about how much they themselves understand and how unshocking it should be to be proved not merely wrong but clueless.

So what is the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’? We all know what ‘Guardian-reader’ means. Is it time to be aware what ‘Economist-reader’ can mean?

Our astonishing controls

Who would have thought that Sweden would end up being the last place in Europe where you could go for a beer?

writes an understandably surprised Swede (No lockdown please, we’re Swedish). In Sweden, the state tells people

how many slices of bread to eat per day … We still close liquor stores at 3 p.m. on a Saturday. The general idea is that if people were given the freedom and responsibility to figure out these things on their own, anarchy might follow.

And I can’t work out whether to call it ‘hardly less surprising’ or ‘barely more surprising’ that, at the other end of Europe, Portugal is (for now) following the same path. Instapunditer Sarah Hoyt was born and raised in Portugal but left because it lacked things like the first amendment, the second amendment and a lively SF culture.

The cynic in me is happy to suggest some less-than-libertarian explanations.

– Sarah Hoyt quotes the Portuguese Prime Minister explaining they avoided lockdown because the Portuguese are “more organized than other Europeans” – then adds

I have no idea what he’s smoking, or where he found it, but that’s potent stuff.

– Sweden has an unusually docile native population, an unusually different immigrant population and a political class that calls it bigotry for visible police actions to betray statistical differences between the two. Trying to enforce a lockdown is sure to offend many politically-correct regulations. Further, a society whose police seem already unable to control immigrant predilection for grenades and automatic weapons lacks the reserve of unused power needed to enforce a lockdown.

However the same attitudes that give me those thoughts also tell me that Swedish politicians will not only not speak them, even behind closed doors, they will have a hard time thinking them – which challenges my cynical explanation. Ordering the police and media not to mention the colour of suspects they seek lest the public see trends, yet thinking that

in a liberal democracy you have to convince and not command people

not to go to the pub, may seem absurd to logical libertarian and logical statist alike – but freedom owes much to the fact that humans are not logical. That Portugal may be too ill-organised to enforce statist solutions is another common way in which liberty survives its enemies, but at the moment it is not that they are trying and failing – they are actually not trying.

Thus we have our experimental controls – our null-hypothesis case studies. We’re doing a huge experiment to see how well locking down a nation can address a pandemic – an experiment whose costs’ ability to rise exponentially over time matches that of any disease graph. I don’t know how good or bad it will be for the Swedes and Portuguese, but it will be very good for the after-action report on this if a couple of moderately comparable nations stick with seeing what happens when you don’t lock everyone up.

What will you yield?

Duke Gorlois of Cornwall: “Lord Uther, if I yield to the sword of power – what will you yield?”

Uther Pendragon: “ME YIELD !!!??”    (from the film Excalibur*)

We are yielding quite a few liberties to the dread virus – to the need to flatten the curve of disease to what the NHS can handle. Steve Baker’s speech says it well.

As regards mere money, the government will provide tide-you-over assistance to those whose cash flow cannot outlast these measures. Their loss will still be a net loss (and since all the government’s money is ultimately provided by us, the tide-you-over sum will one day be repaid with interest) but there is help for those facing outgoings with no incomings.

How about the liberty account? As we yield many liberties, could the state perhaps yield back a few others they have taken? Might the police who will now ask, “Is your journey really necessary under our latest emergency regulations?”, include all who were previously asking, “Is your remark really permissible under our modern hate speech laws?” Any chance the power of the state, when not enforcing the new rules, could be wholly focussed on fighting things the public consider criminal, not things the politically correct consider offensive?

It is a fair question (to the state, but even more to the ‘elite’ apocalypticists): if we yield to the danger of the virus – what will you yield?

* (Quoted from my old memory of the film. If I’ve remembered it right, I think Uther’s grammar is wrong here – it should be “I YIELD”.)

Might they deal with you too, Sadiq?

Violating lockdown has joined hate speech on the very short list of crimes that the mayor of London does want enforced. He favours having the army deal with lockdown violators.

Some 15 years ago, the lieutenant-colonel who was to handle a key part of lockdown if terrorists hit London with a bioweapon was someone I knew well. “Lucky you”, my friends said, when that chanced to come up in conversation. “While we’re being gunned down by the ruthless soldiery as we try to flee the capital, you’ll be able to slip through the lines.” – to which I replied (jokingly – they thought! 🙂 ), “You don’t know her. She’ll shoot down her friends with the others; why do you think she got the job!”

I think my friend would have made full colonel if she’d stuck with it, but the time demands on the rest of her life would have been too great and she is now happily pursuing other choices. I don’t know who would be in charge if the army were called in, but I hope they’ll have the same willingness to call Sadiq Khan out – not least because the only consideration that might make him and his kind hesitate to see the crisis as “a terrible thing to waste” is the worry that others might think the same.

If only the Italian government had not so much else to do and can defer none of it

To add to the burden, hospitals in Italy depend on medical personnel to try to trace the contacts that people who test positive have had with others. One doctor in Bologna, who asked not to be named, said he had spent a 12-hour day tracing people who had been in contact with just one positive patient, to ensure those who next need testing are found.

(from this interesting comparison of Italy with South Korea, h/t instapundit.)

How very sad that Italy evidently lacks any pool of state employees whose ordinary tasks could be deferred or done with fewer people, so they could be used to trace contacts while doctors treated patients.

How very fortunate that in the UK, we have an overstaffed bureaucracy in many offices of the administration. As doctors will be very busy in coming months on tasks that need their skills, and police busy enough (to defer policing speech? – if only!) and the army perhaps busy if new facilities must be quickly built, the government should immediately give itself the power to allocate up to half the bureaucrats in any state office to the task of tracing the contacts of the infected, requiring the others to step up as needed to keep any essential tasks going (some offices of course, like cruise liners, could go into mothballs pro tem).

I despise PC talking heads who demonstrate (yet again) that they see a crisis as just a terrible thing to waste, so would not wish us to imitate them. Does anyone see a problem with my suggestion, considered strictly as a way of addressing the upcoming issue better than Italy has?

(Alas, I can see one – and will be interested to see who else has the same thought. 🙂 )

PC Savage – paladin of wokespeech

Oxford’s UNWomen society gave its name a new meaning by no-platforming Amber Rudd last Thursday. Student Nadia Awad

“highlighted Ms Rudd’s reference to Labour’s Diane Abbott as a “coloured” woman during a radio interview”

in her explanation of why the remoaner-sympathising ex-Home Secretary had to be silenced.

Inspector: “Would Mr Kodogo by any chance be a coloured gentleman?”

Police Constable Savage: “WelI, I can’t say as I’ve ever noticed, sir.”

All those times I watched the Not-the-Nine-O’clock News sketch yet failed to realise that PC (in both senses) Savage was merely shocked at his superior’s using such a term.

I knew that the terminology merry-go-round is a major PC concern, but I had not realised that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had advanced so far as to make part of its own name unsayable – at least by those who who wished to be allowed to say anything else afterwards.

(What with her being set up by her civil servants over the Windrush scandal and now this, I may yet feel compelled to a slight sneaking sympathy for Amber – which, as demonstrations of how political correctness distorts reality go, really takes the cake! 🙂 )

Is his name Dracula?

Allegheny County, home to the city of Pittsburgh, has been hit with a lawsuit over irregularities on its voter rolls, including dead voters, duplicate registrants, and one registered voter marked as being born in June 1800. (reported on freebeacon, h/t instapundit)

I was aware that every election day in the US the dead rise, shamble towards the polling booths and vote, shall we say ‘disproportionately’ ( 🙂 ) Democrat. (It seems they have been some Democrats’ most reliable voting block for a long time.) However this is the first time I’ve wondered whether the undead join them. For the dead voters, is there some healing ritual we could perform that would free these trapped souls to ‘move on’. For the undead voter(s), is a stake through the heart the only way?

In the UK’s past, the rising of the very-recently deceased from the morgue, of the ill from their sickbeds and of the politically inactive from their slumber was only a very localised problem, but as parts of the US are not the only foreign culture from which dead voters could immigrate with the living, I hope our new government will keep more of an eye on things than past ones have done – especially when our politically-correct media avert theirs.

How would she know?

“I will not be slienced.” (Greta Thunberg in Bristol)

How would she know? Indeed, how would we know? It savours less of English understatement that of pointed irony to say that noone has tried to silence her. So it seems to me that we and she lack data on this point.

Greta has Asbergers Syndrome. Fans of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ know how many of the jokes depend on the impossibility of silencing the asbergian Sheldon by the gentle methods of social cues and hints, and the ease of doing so when to speak or to act requires that he move outside his idiosyncratic comfort zone. If Greta ever goes to China (obviously required by her proclaimed cause but AFAIK not even hinted at by her handlers or herself) then we may learn how far her ability not to be silenced extends beyond her condition. Meanwhile, we are entitled to reply to her, “How do you know?”

The question could also be put to her about other matters.

Echoes of distant rhymes

“The Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might conceivably disappear? Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.” (Eileen Power essay on the fall of the Roman Empire, written in the winter of 1938-9.)

“History does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.” (attributed to Mark Twain)

It happened in Thessalonika near the end of the Roman Empire.

The empire had been in trouble for some time. It was not reproducing itself – “The human harvest was bad” (Seeley). ‘Agri Deserti’ – once-cultivated lands now abandoned for lack of people to till them – could be found in every province.

Internally, the empire tried its usual solution: more government, more laws, more force. Legislation to reward large families and tax bachelors was kept on the statute books for centuries although “successful it was not” (Power). As the empire waned, laws to deal with the consequence of this failure were added: binding cultivators to the soil (the origin of serfdom) was merely the most common example of assigning a hereditary obligation to more and more of the professions the state relied on as soon as a shortfall appeared in them, legally punishing any son who did not follow in his father’s footsteps. To draft and regulate these laws, the numbers and privileges of bureaucrats ballooned from Rome’s former proportion (though still small by our standards).

Successful all these laws were not – so, externally, the empire addressed its chronic shortage of manpower by immigration,

to dose it with barbarian vigour. Just a small injection to begin with and then more and more

Goths arrived, first as recruits to Roman army units, then as foederate units under their own leaders, growing like a cancer within the armed forces until an Egyptian mother quite naturally wrote the emperor to return her citizen son who “has gone off with the barbarians” – by which she meant he had joined the ‘Roman’ army.

Emperor Theodosius made the Goths obey him, but his was an insecure authority over them. He used Gothic troops in battles where pyrrhic victories may have been welcome. As one summary of the costly victory of Frigidius (394 AD) puts it,

The loss of 10,000 Goths cannot have distressed Theodosius unduly.

Theodosius also had little choice but to use some of their leaders as governors. Mostly, the empire’s soldiers were also its police – so the leaders of those who were now increasingly providing those soldiers had to be both rewarded by, and used in, such posts. Thus did Butheric the Goth became governor (magister militum) over Illyricum, which included Thessalonika.

The urban elite of Thessalonika were university-educated Greeks.

It would be hard to imagine an education less suited to help them understand the dangers they faced. The study of rhetoric, its links with reality long severed, …

So Eileen Power described the ‘learned’ of the dying Roman world. (Today, 8 decades after she wrote those sentences, it is easier to imagine an education even less suited to helping elite intellectuals understand the dangers facing them, one whose links with reality are even more completely severed.) In the empire’s second century, Hadrian had dispersed those Jews he did not kill around the empire, confident they’d soon lose their primitive prejudices and assimilate to being broad-minded Graeco-Roman intellectuals like himself. Fourth/fifth century Graeco-Roman intellectuals thought the same of the immigrants. Sidonius Appolinaris wrote a ‘good-natured’ description of the “embarrassing friendliness” of the new barbarian neighbours he encountered on a fifth-century visit to Lyons:

“How can he be expected to compose six-foot metres”, [Sidonius] asks, “with so many seven-foot patrons all around him, all singing and all expecting him to admire their uncouth stream of non-Latin words.”

The shrug of the shoulders, the genial contempt of one conscious of an infinite superiority – how familiar it all seems.

Perhaps the Thessalonikan city leaders greeted their new governor in this spirit, as sure as Hadrian was about the Jews that this uncouth Goth would soon lose his barbaric prejudices.

There was in Thessalonika a popular charioteer. As Ganymede was charioteer to the god Zeus and also his catamite, so the Thessalonikan charioteer had strong wrists on the race track and Ganymede’s tastes in the bedroom. On the one hand, knowing Graeco-Roman culture of the time, there is nothing remotely surprising in the idea that the charioteer abused slaves, minors or other victims worse than some Hollywood celebrity of our day (Butheric accused him of assaulting a cupbearer). On the other hand, knowing the culture of the Goths in such matters, same-sex liaisons that were as consenting-adults-only as the sternest MeToo advocate could demand might still have disgusted a Goth.

The sophisticated Thessalonikans were at least as disgusted with their governor. If this uncultured Goth had not yet cured himself of his vile homophobia, had not yet been assimilated to their superior way of thinking, he could at least avoid displaying it in public.

The governor refused to back down. It might be he was very opinionated in such matters even for a fourth-century Goth. It might be he indeed knew there was a real abused victim in this particular case. Or maybe he was like many a governor then and now – challenging his authority only made him the more determined to assert it.

The Thessalonikans refused to back down. Maybe they were genuine advocates for sexual liberty (or for the taking of sexual liberties). Maybe they were full of Gothophobic prejudice (despite – or perhaps because of – the imperial government’s formal endorsement of these rapidly multiplying Gothic immigrants, there was plenty of it about). Or maybe they were infuriated at the way their Gothic governor treated the elaborate expensively-learned rhetorical style of their addresses to him as artificial, boring and silly. Whatever the reason, they cancel-cultured Butheric all right – they killed him.

(Gibbon notes, as the empire died,

“the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence”

but it would seem Thessalonika’s civilians were not forbidden to carry knives.)

Perhaps precisely because of the tensions in his relationship with the Goths, Theodosius had a tetchy first reaction to news of this. By the time the less stern commands of his cooler second thoughts reached Thessalonika, some 7,000 Thessalonikan aficionados of chariot racing were as dead as their late governor.

We know about this – just barely enough to part-reconstruct, part-guess the rest as I have described above (in anachronistic terms) – because of what happened next. Saint Ambrose banned the emperor from receiving Christian communion until he repented his violence to the Thessalonikans. Theodosius yielded and did public penance. He also proclaimed a law: imperial orders for mass slaughter were not to be carried out until after 30 days had elapsed – just in case the emperor calmed down again. (Whether Butheric’s Gothic soldiers-cum-police would have paid attention to it is another matter.)

Theodosius was the very last emperor to rule from the British midlands to the Nile cataracts. In the fifth century, as the empire disintegrated, the educated Graeco-Roman elite acquired the familiar figure of Orosius, explaining that the Roman Empire was founded in blood and conquest, so could ill-afford to throw stones at the barbarians. Instead he advised:

“If the unhappy people they have despoiled will content themselves with the little that is left them, their conquerors will cherish them like friends and brothers.”

In the end, the rudely-awakened Sidonius did not find it so, though he did survive and even got freed from captivity – by composing a panegyric for his particular barbarian conqueror. However the confident so-superior intellectual of earlier years doesn’t seem to have felt too pleased about it:

“O necessitas abjecta nascendi, vivendi misera, dura moriendi!” [O humiliating necessity of birth, sad necessity of living, hard necessity of dying!]

So much for ancient history. I cannot exactly tell you that “Those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it” after telling you that history does not repeat itself, it only sometimes rhymes or merely echoes. What was done in Rotherham is eclipsed by what Goths did between the battle of Adrianople and Theodosius regaining tenuous control over them, just as the total of British dead from jihadi terror is eclipsed by the dead of that battle alone. But there could be rhymes. Imagine an inner-city Labour-appointed London magistrate who thinks Sharia-law has insight in such matters confronting a bunch of university-credentialled (but hardy, in any flattering sense, educated) intellectuals without intellects (also Labour-voting). Avoiding islamophobia can trump acting or preaching against QUERTYphobia, but at other PC intersections echoes of Thessalonikan confrontations can be dimly heard.

The best way to avoid rhymes is to hear distant echoes while they are still distant (my less emphatic version of “Those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it”). If only political correctness did not deafen us. 🙁

How the quality of mercy is strained

Prosecutorial discretion is a power jealously protected by prosecutors, who will tell stories about forgoing prosecution of 18-year-old guys for “rape” of their 17-year-old girlfriends, of not prosecuting people for technicalities when the equities demanded they violate those technicalities. It all sounds so decent and commonsensical.

That’s how people like Epstein go forever in safety, how Clinton escaped prosecution for the same acts that put others in prison regularly, how the Jussie Smollets of the world walk away from their troubles . . .

You don’t need to be that well connected to benefit. Bobby b, commenter of this parish, worked for a time as a criminal defence lawyer in the twin cities of Minneapolis / St. Paul.

In my relatively short crimdef career, I asked prosecutors to use that kind of discretion many times. It worked for the judge’s kid, for the cop, and for two staffers of the St. Paul City Councilperson. They were the only ones deserving of the city/county attorneys’ mercy.

We’ve seen the US Department of Justice exercise a lot of ‘discretion‘ recently (and not so recently). Bobby warns us that this bit of the deep state runs a lot deeper than that.

(After ‘discretion’ finally ran out for him, I assume it was a different but liaising bit of the deep state who arranged that one fine day in the middle of the night the ‘forever’ safe Epstein suddenly expired in his ‘guarded’, ‘suicide-watched’ cell.)

On the BBC, persons of no appearance attack Jews in New York

In May, I wrote: “The attacks, and the silence of progressive New York, are utterly appalling.” In ­December, it’s more than appalling. It’s complicit. (Karol Markowicz)

To say that today’s BBC broadcast reports of the latest attacks in New York pivoted swiftly to denouncing generalised “racism and homophobia” in the age of Trump might be called an exaggeration – since to pivot, one must first be pointing in a different direction. But arguably that is unfair, and the beeb’s afternoon and evening news broadcasts did indeed merely swiftly pivot to a more acceptable talking point. Certain omissions, hinted at in this post’s title, assisted that pivot.

How far the BBC is on the same complicit page as against how far they are just unwisely still treating their progressive American friends as trustworthy and sufficient sources of insight, I do not know. My impression was that the beeb covered Corbyn’s little problem in this area a bit less absurdly than what I saw today. It is easier to fool UK viewers about the US than about the UK – and some beeboids do seem to be trying.

I should note that a hint of appearance did appear on the BBC’s website. And, thanks to crime movies, most UK viewers know enough of the geography of New York to realise that Harlem is maybe not the most obvious place for a white-supremacist-style anti-semite to hide out. It will be revealing to see whether coverage becomes more informative – or not.

Barking Parking Teslas

Long ago, Milton Friedman suggested the US might be better off without the Food and Drug Administration. People wrote to him saying the FDA should not be abolished but reformed so it would act differently. Friedman replied by writing a column he titled ‘Barking cats’:

What would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided that it barked?” … The way the FDA now behaves, and the adverse consequences, are not an accident … but a consequence of its constitution.”

Today I chanced to hear a couple of medical professionals discuss the Tesla they have just arranged to buy, bemoaning its cost but rejoicing there would be “no more gas-guzzling trips”. Later they spoke of government policy on parking at NHS hospitals. Labour brought in the policy – which Cameron and May kept on, of course – to help save the environment by making parking at hospitals difficult (its proposers used different words) to encourage use of public transport. I learnt this policy much annoys shift-working NHS staff, who must sometimes travel in and out at hours when there is little or no public transport (or in areas that are not too salubrious). I already knew from my own friends and family that it much annoys elderly relatives visiting hospital patients – friends of mine have had to give up and go home again because an old man was not up to walking the distance from the nearest viable parking to visit an old woman, and might have had to be signed into the hospital himself if he’d tried. These Tesla-buying NHS professionals conceded that the numerous (by government policy) almost-always-empty electric-car-only spaces that adorn the limited hospital parking provided were also annoying. The man remarked that a hospital he’d recently served at really wanted to convert an available site nearby into a car park – “but knew they’d never get permission.” The woman said that if the government wanted NHS staff and patients to use public transport, they should try and ensure large hospitals were well-served by buses, but her experience was the reverse – “They need some joined-up thinking!”.

The thought flitted across my brain that greenie civil servants were not alone in needing to join up their thinking. And then I thought of Friedman, long ago, recalling his “Barking Cats” column of yet longer ago:

The error of supposing the behaviour of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. … It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray. (‘Free to Choose’)

Of course, I believe that the western world’s social organism could be shaped to respect science more and virtue-signalling AGW non-science less. So maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. Still, the BBC reported today that SUVs are outselling electric cars 37:1, “making a mockery of UK policy” so there is hope – of a kind.