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]

Samizdata quote of the day – university schadenfreude edition

“Liberals and centrists seem to have paid attention to conservative boycotts of Bud Light and Target. Then came the scandal surrounding Ibram Kendi’s antiracism center at Boston University. Having burned through over $20 million, he now faces an inquiry from the university. Kendi’s disgrace cracked the window—and the horrific responses to the Hamas attacks opened the door. And yet it is only now—after all the histrionic and outraged statements about #MeToo and BLM and Ukraine and Roe v. Wade—that universities are discovering the virtue of institutional neutrality.”

Jacob Savage

Samizdata quote of the day – the total state is all around you

What we are talking about, then, is really political reason on steroids. And it has two necessary consequences. Foucault’s assertion was that political reason was both ‘individualising and totalising’. Again, this is not difficult to understand, but worth spelling out. The state’s impulse is always to atomise the population, such that each and every individual first and foremost looks to their relationship to the state as the most important in their lives. And this is at the same time necessarily a totalising impulse, as it installs the state as the very essence of society, without which the latter simply cannot survive, let along flourish.

This is the basis of political reason, but why is it so? Regular readers will I hope forgive me for returning to Machiavelli, who made things perfectly clear: ‘[A] wise ruler…must think of a method by which his citizens will need the state and himself at all times and in every circumstance. Then they will always be loyal to him.’ Needing the state in order to address systems of patriarchal domination and toxic masculinity while ensuring everybody enjoys their right to pleasurable, satisfying and safe sex were probably not at the forefront of his mind. But the logic of CSE is impeccably ‘prince-like’ in character all the same. It is predicated on a construction of a vulnerable, benighted and ignorant populace, who simply cannot be expected to govern their own affairs, and must look to the state at every turn – even when ‘managing’ their relationships and even when having sex.

David McGrogan

The Royal Society of Arts succumbs to the Dark Greens

My wife is a fellow – she finds it useful to work there occasionally and attend events – at the Royal Society of Arts. I know Anton Howes, the RSA’s in-house historian (his writings on the Industrial Revolution are excellent, and he’s known to groups like the Adam Smith Institute).

(Here is Anton’s substack

In issue three, 2023, in what the RSA calls “The Planet Issue” of its quarterly magazine, are articles asserting how serious the climate “emergency” is, and in one article, (the print edition, I cannot find the web version, which makes me wonder why not) it has a piece by Tom Hardy, entitled “Tropes of Deception”.

Hardy is a member of Extinction Rebellion and co-founded of MP Watch, a constituency network “monitoring climate denial in parliament and MPs’ commitment to net zero”.

Hardy’s RSA article refers to the Global Warming Policy Foundation (involving the likes of Benny Peiser and Conservative MP Steve Baker, among others) and other supposedly nefarious “Tufton Street” organisations. As Hardy writes: “Their agenda: to deny the scientific reality of climate change at the behest of those vested interests whose bottom line requires a repudiation of net zero and renewable energy technology.” (So that’s a “no” for nuclear power then, or an endorsement?)

In what I think is the most unpleasant part of the article, Hardy refers to the “Editor’s Code of Practice” of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPOS) and refers to what the GWPF does, and how its reports are used by journalists. Hardy also writes about “cherry picking details from authentic research”. (Coming from a deep Green, this claim of cherry picking is a bit rich, given some Greens have admitted to mistaken alarmism.) Hardy suggests that IPSO would, if he had his way, drop the hammer on journalists quoting alarmist sceptic organisations without, at least, lots of disclaimers.

The whole piece, which includes swipes at the Daily Telegraph’s business journalist Ben Marlow, and the writer Matt Ridley, finishes with the line that IPSO must be “empowered” and be “free of political interference” (translation: the wrong kind of interference, as he defines it) and be a “priority of the next government”. (How very reassuring.) Hardy does not state what this might mean precisely, but one might reasonably infer that he wants to squash the ability of journalists to source anything other than alarmist content around human-caused global warming, or face some sort of consequence to their careers and publications.

What’s striking is Hardy assumes the case around a climate emergency is beyond any scientific doubt, that debate is over, that any attempt to challenge alarmism must be squashed, including by using so-called guardians of press “independence” to punish journalists that are naughty or foolish enough to cite sources such as the GWPF. This is a religious mindset, of the very worst kind. And it is being laid out in the elegant surroundings of the Royal Society of Arts.

I suppose there are several things that might have prompted Hardy to take this line, and for someone at the RSA to be complacent enough to print him. Hardy’s possibly worried that the deep Greens are losing public support. Hardy’s right to be concerned. For starters, as has occurred over the anger at London mayor Khan’s extension of the ULEZ rules on cars, regulations in the name of Net Zero are causing real political anger. The antics of Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Greta Thunberg and others are also riling a population that has had enough with relentless nagging, taxes and rules. This isn’t just a UK issue. Look at Dutch farmers, for example.

There’s also the transparent bias that is alienating important parts of the electorate: if we get a hot summer, then the UN, for example, talks about “global boiling”, but goes mute when a snowstorm halts windmills in Texas, for example. The public aren’t stupid, and they can see the imbalance.

There’s also the whole COVID-19 aftermath and its impact on those claiming to follow “The science” (the definite article is a red flag). That episode has weakened trust in official organisations’ pronouncements on science, particularly given the dishonesty about masks, and the attempts – which eventually ended – to halt questions about China’s culpability and the role of a lab In Wuhan.

There are several points the GWPF might want to comment on, given the attacks on it in the pages of a body as supposedly prestigious, and “royal”, as the RSA. (I note, as above, that a web version of this article is unavailable.) First, the RSA is clearly all in for climate change alarmism; it is publishing incendiary and bullying material from hardline ideologues that use disruption of ordinary people’s lives to make a case; ER has shut down the publication of a newspaper it does not like; the RSA has, in this specific edition of the RSA magazine, not provided any opportunity for a different point of view to be aired. Where, for example, are the references to the views of Michael Shellenberger, Bjorn Lomborg, Roger Pielke, Alex Epstein, former Obama advisor Steven Koonin, and many more? I guess they’re all evil and just in it for the money.

Samizdata regulars are, I know, unsurprised by all this. The RSA has, like English Heritage, the British Museum (assuming it has anything left in it), the British Library, and countless other supposed bastions of education and learning, been given the Gramsci treatment (the “long march through the institutions”). There may be people who continue to enjoy the place, with its lovely 18th century architecture, agreeable surroundings and networking parties over a glass of bubbly. Alas, champagne appears one of the few compensations from a body that appears intent on foisting shrill agendas. It may still do some good, which is why people such as Anton Howes can work there, but one has to plough through a lot of crap to find it.

There are many reasons why, as a radical classical liberal chap, I focus a lot of my attention on this issue. Because what the likes of ER want is to suppress, even kill, human flourishing. They are prepared to call for coercion; they applaud the disruption of people’s lives, and have shown an utter contempt for a free press. They’re bullies, and are beginning to realise that people are fighting back.

Samizdata quote of the day – a new rent-seeking class

“How many environmental justice majors does it take to calculate the CO2 emissions of a light bulb? This isn’t a joke. Businesses now employ scads of college grads to do this. For years America’s political class has lamented that too many college grads are working in low-paying jobs that don’t require post-secondary degrees. The diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental, social and governance industries—DEI and ESG, respectively—are solving for this problem while creating many others. In the modern progressive era, young graduates are finding remunerative employment as sustainability coordinators, DEI officers and “people partners.” Instead of serving up pumpkin soy lattes, they’re quantifying corporate greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring employers don’t transgress progressive cultural orthodoxies.”

Allysia Finley, Wall Street Journal ($).

Meritocracy in America

Well, a day has gone after Independence Day, and I read this interesting article by Bloomberg ($) columnist Adrian Wooldridge about the recent SCOTUS ruling against affirmative action as it applies to higher education. The Court ruled, among other things, that such action violates the 14 Amendment. Wooldridge, who has written a book about meritocracy (he is for it), has these comments:

The most serious problem with affirmative action (and one that the court ignored) is that it is too little too late. The best way to address inequality of opportunity is at the high school level and earlier, rather than at college when most of the damage has already been done. Elite America needs to shift its focus to fixing the supply chain of talent.

The obvious way to start is to abolish affirmative action for the rich, which the court’s judgement leaves in place, despite a lot of tut-tutting, because it is based on class rather than race. Astonishingly, Harvard actively discriminates in favor of ALDCs—athletes, legacies, the Dean’s interest list and children of university employees. For one, that could cover the children of politicians and celebrities as well as people who might give the university lots of money. It also sweetens the pill of diversity for the people who administer it by discriminating in favor of the children of alumni and staff. ALDCs make up less than 5% of applicants to the university every year but 30% of freshmen.

Harvard’s “preferences for the children of donors, alumni, and faculty are no help to applicants who cannot boast their parents’ good fortune or trips to the alumni tent all their lives,” Justice Clarence Thomas acidly wrote in his opinion. ALDCs are also 67.8% white (11.4% are Asian American, 6% are Black and 5.6% are Hispanic). Other elite universities pursue similar policies.

A second method is to emphasize objective rather than subjective assessments of applicants. That means academic and objective tests such as the SATs as opposed to so-called holistic ones that take into account extracurricular activities, personal statements, and measures of potential rather achievement.

I agree with much of this but, being a classical liberal chap that I am, I am sort of opposed to any outside interference with how a private university conducts its admissions policy, period. (If such a place takes taxpayers’ money, or is even forced to do so, that’s a separate issue.) A broader point, maybe, is that in US higher education and to some degree in other Western nations, the “sheepskin effect” of having a degree from a smart university is more potent than the intellectual capital that any person may have accumulated from his or her studies. Bryan Caplan, the economics writer, has written a book where he unpacks the whole issue and argues that much of present higher education, at least in most subjects as taught today, rests on this effect, and is socially regressive to the extent that such places receive State (ie, taxpayer) funding. The issue becomes even more egregious when you have attempts, as in that of the Biden administration, to “forgive” the college loans of people who are, mostly, middle class (and disproportionately women, which plays to how we live in an increasingly “gynocentric social order”, as the “manosphere” writer Rollo Tomassi might put it. (The Supreme Court has ruled against Biden on student loans. It’s been a good week for that court.)

In my view, how Harvard, Yale, Oxford or any other place of higher learning structures its admissions is up to the people who run it. To break any dangerous hold these institutions may have is going to mean a, genuine school choice and a re-focus on excellence in schooling (and encouragement where possible of homeschooling); the closure of government education bureaucracies and the end of monopolies of teacher training certification, which is a crucial problem. We need far more people, from all different backgrounds, to be able to teach. That, in my view, is a big issue. Tinkering with Higher Ed. admissions may do some good, but it is, as Woodridge says, too late when a lot of damage has been done already.

Be assured we do not want your kids for selfish reasons

Dear benighted parents, you must understand that we operate under a “higher obligation”.

There is a magnificently orotund opinion article by one Professor Sarah J. Reynolds in the Indystar* (the newspaper formerly known as the Indianapolis Star):

“Parents’ rights debate missing key piece: Kids’ right to learn to be free thinkers.”

“Parents’ rights” have been widely discussed in local, state and national debates around education in recent years. Here in Indiana, Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office has released a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which specifies that parents “have a constitutional right to direct the upbringing and education of [their] child in the manner [they] see fit.” Many of these bills and discussions, however, crucially forget that the higher obligation in education is not to the parent, but to the child themselves.

We have a collective community responsibility to ensure that children’s education is not determined by or dependent on the whims of a few, but instead is truly preparing children for a future as independent, free-thinking citizens in a world beyond their parents’ control and vision. In our communities, we need to work together to collectively ensure that children’s rights to education are what is privileged in our schools and laws.


Certainly, the parental impulse to protect and guide and nurture is an important one, and one that strongly benefits children and their education. However, we must remember that impulses can lead even the well-intentioned astray. Protection can be stifling, guidance can seep into control, and forms of nurturing that were once age-appropriate must transform and transition into different varieties of love and respect as children mature. Furthermore, we are sorrowfully aware that not every parent has their children’s best interest at heart.

In the comments to the Indystar’s tweet, a lady called Orietta Rose shares her own sorrowful awareness that “less than 40% of 4th graders [in Indiana] were testing proficient or above in reading & math in 2022. Can’t read, but they’re learning to be freethinkers, right?”

*I’ve got a lot of fond memories of that dog.

The US Supreme Court judgement on affirmative action – a couple of brief reactions

“America doesn’t need more proficiency in Harvard’s Postmodern Nihilist indoctrination. What America needs are thousands of Neo-Enlightenment Revolutionaries.”

From a friend of mine called Steve on Facebook, writing about the US Supreme Court decision about Affirmative Action and its application to university admissions. He is pleased at the ruling, but of course hopes the students who are now able to get into university on merit, rather than via quotas, study subjects that are rather more intellectually rigrous than of late. (See Ilya Somin, who writes about these issues frequently, via Reason.)

Glenn Reynolds, who needs no introduction here, has related thoughts on his substack.

It is going to be bemusing to see the social justice crowd try and argue that Asian-Americans somehow “don’t count” in terms of the grievance bingo game that has been played recently. Popcorn is going to be in demand.

Of course, it would be even better if we stopped the whole hypenated-American thing at all, and treated people as individuals. How wild and crazy is that?

Among Asian-American voters in “blue” states, and those with children trying to get into higher education, this could have an interesting impact on how they vote in 2024.

RIP Professor Alice Coleman 1923-2023

Alice Coleman, geographer whose study of failed council estates impressed Mrs Thatcher – obituary

Alice Coleman, who has died aged 99, was a professor of geography at King’s College London whose book Utopia on Trial (1985), in which she launched a scathing attack on post-war high-rise housing estates, so impressed the prime minister Margaret Thatcher that she was given a five-year, £50 million contract to put her ideas into practice.

Her book, inspired by the American architect Oscar Newman’s seminal study Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design (1972), was based on a “design disadvantagement survey” in which she and a team of researchers surveyed blocks of flats, containing more than 100,000 dwellings in total, with the objective of mapping “lapses in civilised behaviour” (litter, graffiti, vandalism, pollution by excrement, and family breakdown leading to children being placed in care) against design features (number of floors per block, dwellings per block, dwellings per entrance, and so on).

She detected correlations between levels of crime and antisocial behaviour and the design of estates and, in her book, advanced the provocative thesis that badly-designed social housing schemes “breed antisocial people”. Change the design, she argued, and crime and antisocial behaviour would dramatically drop.

Le Corbusier’s vision of a “Radiant City” of tower blocks surrounded by parkland was, she wrote, the “great Utopian blunder”. Taken forward in Britain by an unholy alliance of planners and civil servants, it had been “conceived in compassion” but was “essentially a device for treating people like children, first by denying them the right to choose their own kind of housing, and then by choosing for them disastrous designs that create a needless sense of social failure”.

I saw Professor Coleman speak at a Libertarian Alliance event once. My memories of the time and place are foggy – late 1980s or early 1990s and somewhere near Holborn, I think – but I remember her and what she said very well. Not because she was a good speaker. On the contrary, she was difficult to hear and seemed nervous. But somehow that made her message all the more powerful. She was not there for fun; she was there to say things that urgently needed to be said. I still have the copy of Utopia on Trial that I bought that day.

The Telegraph obituary reports that not long after Margaret Thatcher’s downfall, Professor Coleman quit as an adviser to the government. Recalling the circumstances of her departure later, she said that civil servants “continually put obstacles in her path”, and that the new Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine, did not wish to see any project with Margaret Thatcher’s name on it succeed. Given what happened after Brexit, I do not find either assertion hard to believe.

Nonetheless, I think the Telegraph obituary underestimates her influence and overestimates how much it mattered that she did not leave garlanded with flowers. As a quote attributed to both Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan goes, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Some people contribute most to a cause by being the person who shifts the Overton Window. Alice Coleman moved the mainstream. Her achievement was to make her findings about the inhumanity of utopian architecture into background knowledge.

And how cool was this:

In 1960 Alice Coleman decided to update the national land-utilisation survey first conducted by Sir Dudley Stamp before the war, and recruited a team of some 3,000 volunteers to gather the information. With no funding available, she spent some £65,000 of her own money on the exercise. Although, due to lack of resources, less than 15 per cent of the country was covered with a published map, she reported some of the key results of her research.

English children ranked fourth in international reading test. Yes, really.

England came fourth out of the 43 countries that tested children of the same age in the Progress International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), announces the government. Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, England. Yes, dear highly literate Samizdata readers, your own reading skills have not failed you. English schoolchildren are the fourth best readers in the world and the best in Western Europe.

Pinching myself, I offer my sincere congratulations to England’s teachers and to the Department of Education, in particular Nick Gibb MP, the Minister of State for Schools. Mr Gibb is serving the third of three non-contiguous stints in this ministerial role. That suggests he is genuinely interested in education, and indeed his Wikipedia biography says “Gibb is a longstanding advocate of synthetic phonics as a method of teaching children to read”. He himself says, “Our obsession with phonics has worked”.

Tomorrow I will get back to calling the teachers “the Blob” and the government “the government” in a voice that suggests I can think of no worse insult. Today, I give credit where credit is due. For British education nerds, this is like our own little 1989. OK, perhaps that is over the top, but a wall that seemed no more than slightly cracked as recently as January 2022 has finally fallen. By the “wall”, I mean the side in the so-called “Reading Wars” that wasn’t phonics. The Not!Phonics side has had many names, “Look and Say”, “Whole Word”, “Whole Language”, and most recently “Balanced Literacy”. That last name was an attempt to paper over the cracks in the wall. Or perhaps, since I am allowed more than one metaphor, it was a deliberate breach in the wall of a dam, done in an failed attempt to stop the whole damn dam wall collapsing.

To see what the wall looked like in the days of its Krushchev period, discredited but still seemingly impregnable, read this 1998 paper that Brian Micklethwait originally wrote for the Libertarian Alliance: “On the Harm Done by Look-and-say: A Reaction to Bonnie Macmillan’s Why Schoolchildren Can’t Read”, and this one written in 2002: “The Failure of Politics and the Pull of Freedom: Reflections on the Work of the Reading Reform Foundation.” I wish I could ask Brian what he thinks about this now, but thanks to the Brian Micklethwait Archive you can see what he thought about it then, and be reminded that truth stays true. Read those two papers and you will know most of what you need to know about the battle that raged across the Anglosphere over how to teach children to read, including these cynical words of wisdom:

The phonics-persons have pretty much proved their case, probably even in the eyes of many of the look-and-say people. But the look-and-say “experts” at the DfES are in an arkward position. (The inverted commas around “experts” being there because these people don’t know things which are true, they “know” things which are untrue.) Suppose their bad techniques are completely swept away and completely replaced by completely good ones. The teaching of literacy in schools would leap forward. A mass of seemingly “complex” problems, like the recent huge rise in “dyslexia”, the spiralling cost of “special needs” education, and the general inability of several generations of people to learn how to spell, will be revealed as not so complex after all. These problems will be revealed to all as having been caused by the government’s own literacy “experts”. Thus it is that even – especially – those “experts” who have been completely convinced of the wrongness of their own former opinions now face a huge, career-saving incentive to perpetuate their follies as much as they can, to disguise the enormity of the disaster they have caused.


That would have been a fine, dramatic line with which to end the post, but I must add → Continue reading: English children ranked fourth in international reading test. Yes, really.

Beware the graduate

Mr Grundy, an Oxford academic expresses his doubts about the value of modern education:

One wonders what these unfortunate lads are going to do for a living after they leave the University ; and one wonders, too, what the parents are going to do when they come to realize the returns on the heavy expenditure on their boys’ education. They will realize this soon, for these sons of theirs, these products of post-war ideas in education, will soon be coming back on their hands ; and then they will have to solve the question of getting employment for those whose ignorance renders them unemployable in the professions and in many forms of business.

Now as you’ve probably guessed from words and phrases like “lads”, “on their hands”, reference to parents paying for education and the fact that this post has my name at the top, this is not a recent quotation. It is, of course, from a hundred years ago and formed part of the latest episode of that YouTube channel I do.

But the sentiments are familiar enough. Which causes me a difficulty. While I am quite happy to believe that many modern degrees are worth less than the cost – and indeed may have a wholly negative value – I am reluctant to believe the same was true a hundred years ago. So how do I tell?

Did this generation fail to find gainful employment as Grundy suggests? Not that I know of. Shift forward ten years and many did awfully well… in the KGB. Which brings me on to a worrying thought: this generation was bloody awful. This was the generation that gave us the 1945 Labour government with the horrors of nationalisaton, gun control, the NHS, the welfare state, the Town and Country Planning Act, council housing and the abolition of flogging. This was a generation whose arrogance was fortified by a point blank refusal to let facts get in the way of ideology.

So, maybe Mr. Grundy was right.

By the way, Grundy’s main complaint about post-war ideas in education – as far as I can make out – is that Latin and Greek are being dropped in favour of modern languages.

Avoid the Equater!

My spellcheck pulsates in impotent frustration, but I don’t care. An Equater is a person who equates. In this context, which I get to decide because it is my post, an Equater is a person who is not content to compare something bad done by a liberal democratic government to the very much worse things done by despotic governments in order to shame the former into better behaviour, but who insists on going from comparison all the way to equation.

Since the death of Her Late Majesty, there have been many occasions when the British police reverted from their recent tendency to exceed their legal powers while stamping down on those who say rude things about illegal aliens or the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag, in order to return to their traditional role of exceeding their legal powers while stamping down on people who say rude things about the monarchy. Or even on those who film other people saying rude things about the monarchy: in this tweet, a documentary filmmaker called Rich Felgate writes, “Yesterday I got arrested whilst filming a @JustStop_Oil supporter holding a banner on the pavement near the coronation route. I’m a filmmaker and had my @BECTU press accreditation visible around my neck. Police deemed this to be “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance”.

That is bad. Dammit, it almost looks similar to what you would expect to see in a communist country. Similar, much too similar for comfort, but no one with any respect for the millions murdered by communism would say “identical”.

Meet Dr Charlotte Proudman:

→ Continue reading: Avoid the Equater!

Teaching maths and the “Soviet” mistake

“The Soviet Union was world-renowned for maths and science instruction but that failed to translate into a strong economy. Similarly, the UK has some of the top universities in the world yet has experienced stagnant growth for the last decade. Prosperity requires creating the right institutional environment for entrepreneurship, not dictating curriculums from the top.”

Matthew Lesh, Director of Public Policy and Communications, at the UK-based Institute of Economic Affairs, the UK think tank. (The quote is from an emailed press release I was sent today.) He responded to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s comments on the case for extending the teaching of maths and how far too many people think it is okay to be poor at the subject. (I used to be poor at maths, but certainly did not wear that as a silly badge of pride.)

Lesh’s point, however, is certainly worth focusing on. Being good at certain subjects and having knowledge about subjects is not the same as having a flourishing economy, particularly if one has oppressively high taxes, heavy regulations, spending on flashy projects such as HS2 that crowd out private investment, etc. At the margins, having a more maths-literate population might have a positive effect if, for example, more people can get their heads around statistics – and how they can be manipulated – and important concepts for business and finance such as compound interest, for example. Of course, in an age when the teaching of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) gets more attention, this all fits.

Here is a paper from Stanford University about maths skills and economic growth.

I do worry that Mr Sunak, in his understandable and laudable desire to encourage teaching and better grasp of such subjects, can come across as assuming that this might be a sort of silver bullet to the UK’s economic woes. As the Lesh comment about Soviet Russia shows, having lots of maths whizzes in a country is no good if the underlying economics is poor. And by the way, a lot of those Russian maths aces, such as those of Jewish descent, emigrated to Israel as soon as they could, which explains, among other things, why Israel has been a STEM and start-up powerhouse.

On a final point, I remember some years ago (I cannot find the link, sorry) watching a televised talk by Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 and Gemini astronaut, given at MIT. He talked about teaching, and about why there needs to be another “E” in the STEM acronym: E for English. There’s no point in having all this knowledge if you are lousy at communicating it. He’s right. An example of how to communicate complex ideas brilliantly and clearly is that of Edward Chancellor in his recent book The Price of Time, where he writes about interest rates, and why manipulation of them is dangerous and a folly that goes back centuries. It is an outstanding case of clear exposition, fascinating facts and an enjoyable tone of voice.