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Samizdata quote of the day

What is the intellectual origin of the foreign policy views of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle? It is Lenin’s theory of imperialism.

In the early 20th century, building on the work of liberals such as John Hobson, Lenin argued that capitalism was being sustained only by the profits from colonial exploitation. These excess profits allowed domestic workers to be paid enough to prevent them from rising up against their capitalist employers. Imperialism was made possible by the power of capitalists to make the state provide military and political protection for their foreign investments.

From this two things follow. All foreign policy by capitalist countries is about creating empires, conquering property and exploiting resources. Kosovo as much as Iraq, Sierra Leone as much as Afghanistan, troops in West Germany as much as in Vietnam. Hence Mr Corbyn’s jaundiced view of Nato and any institutions connected with it, such as the European Union.

So Mr Corbyn argues, as he did in 2011, that “since World War Two, the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism and the biggest, mostly US-based corporations. The propaganda for this has presented itself as a voice for ‘freedom’ and carefully and consciously conflated it with market economics.”

The second thing that follows is that the troops on the front line of the movement to overthrow capitalism are national resistance movements. These are the heroes of socialist advance, even if sometimes they aren’t purely socialist.

So Mr Corbyn has given encouragement and support to the Iranian government, the Irish republicans, Hamas and Hezbollah, and Fidel Castro. He saw Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela as lights to the world, developing a new economic model worth emulating….

The Labour leader ignores or dismisses the idea that any of these groups or countries, such as Iran, might be imperialist powers because all that matters is that they resist western capitalist imperialism. So their imperialism, like that of the Soviet Union, is, he put it, “different”. Where resistance movements have turned to violence or fundamentalism Mr Corbyn says he disapproves but that the root cause is not their behaviour but ours….

There will be some who read this and will think I’m being unfair because I mentioned Lenin and Hezbollah and there is an election coming. But this article is unfair only if it’s an inaccurate description of Mr Corbyn’s views, and given that it is based on things he and his close advisers have written and said, it can’t be. If Mr Corbyn becomes prime minister he and his advisers will control foreign policy. Given that he departs so far from the postwar consensus and the traditional Labour position, it’s as well to understand what he thinks.

– Daniel Finkelstein, in a piece behind the Times paywall, but quoted (all of the above and more) by Mick Hartley.

How to defeat the Chinese Communists

How can the HongKongers defeat the Chinese Communists (hereinafter termed ChiComs), and preserve their HongKonger way of life approximately as it now is? In the short run, they probably can’t. During the next few months, the ChiCom repression in Hong Kong will surely get ever nastier, and the bigger plan, to just gobble it up and digest it into ChiCom China will surely bash onwards.

But then again, I thought that these Hong Kong demonstrations would all be snuffed out months ago. So what the hell do I know? I thought they’d just send in the tanks, and to hell with “world opinion”. But the ChiComs, it turned out, didn’t want to just kill everyone who dared to disobey, plus anyone else who happened to be standing about nearby. That would not be a good look for them. What are they? Russians? Far too unsophisticated. Instead the plan has been to divide and conquer, and it presumably still is. By putting violent agent provovateurs in among the demonstrators, and by ramping up the violence simultaneously perpetrated by the police, the plan was, and is, to turn the peaceful and hugely well attended demonstrations into far smaller, far more violent street battles of the sort that would disgust regular people. Who would then turn around and support law and order, increased spending on public housing, blah blah. So far, this has not worked.

And for as long as any ChiCom plan for Hong Kong continues not to work, “world opinion” has that much more time to shake itself free from the sneer quotes and get itself organised, to try to help Hong Kong to stay semi-free.

Those district rat-catcher (or whatever) elections last Sunday came at just the wrong time for the ChiComs, because they gave peaceful HongKongers the chance to make their opinions known, about creatures of a far more significant sort than rats, and at just the time when the ChiCom plan should have started seriously shutting the HongKongers up. These elections were a landslide.

The ChiComs are very keen to exude indifference to world opinion, but they clearly do care about it, because if they truly didn’t care about it, those tanks would have gone in months ago, just as I had assumed they would. So, since world opinion clearly has some effect, the first thing the rest of us can do to help the HongKongers is to keep our eyeballs on Hong Kong.

As I say, I continue to be pessimistic about the medium-term future in Hong Kong. But in the longer run, if the HongKongers can’t have a local victory, they can set about getting their revenge. And all of the rest of us who care can join in and help them.

We, the HongKongers and all their supporters around the world, can start talking seriously about toppling the ChiComs, not just by continuing to contest Hong Kong, but also by talking about China as a whole.

If the ChiComs won’t let Hong Kong be, then the HongKongers have a perfect right to start talking about China as a whole, since that’s what is now trying to swallow them up. If they aren’t allowed the distinct and distinctly better system that they were promised, then the only system they are allowed becomes fair game for their complaints and for their recommendations. That’s a claim that will make sense to anyone able to think for themselves. It won’t persuade the ChiComs, but persuading everyone else in the world with a clutch of honest brain cells to rub together is a fine start.

What needs to happen is some re-framing.

→ Continue reading: How to defeat the Chinese Communists

Sir Charles Trevelyan, the Irish Potato Famine and the inversion of reality. Not laissez-faire in Ireland under Trevelyan – the opposite of laissez-faire.

This post is written by Paul Marks and is posted on his behalf as he is not in a position to post.

Part of the story of Sir Charles Trevelyan is fairly well known and accurately told. Charles Trevelyan was head of the relief efforts in Ireland under Russell’s government in the late 1840s – on his watch about a million Irish people died and millions more fled the country. But rather than being punished, or even dismissed in disgrace, Trevelyan was granted honours, made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and later made a Baronet, not bad for the son of the Cornishman clergyman. He went on to the create the modern British Civil Service – which dominates modern life in in the United Kingdom.

With Sir Edwin Chadwick (the early 19th century follower of Jeremy Bentham who wrote many reports on local and national problems in Britain – with the recommended solution always being more local or central government officials, spending and regulations), Sir Charles Trevelyan could well be described as one of the key creators of modern government. If, for example, one wonders why General Douglas Haig was not dismissed in disgrace after July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme when twenty thousand British soldiers were killed and thirty thousand wounded for no real gain (the only officers being sent home in disgrace being those officers who had saved some of them men by ordering them stop attacking – against the orders of General Haig), then the case of Sir Charles Trevelyan is key – the results of his decisions were awful, but his paperwork was always perfect (as was the paperwork of Haig and his staff). The United Kingdom had ceased to be a society that always judged someone on their success or failure in their task – it had become, at least partly, a bureaucratic society where people were judged on their words and their paperwork. A General, in order to be great, did not need to win battles or capture important cities – what they needed to do was write official reports in the correct administrative manner, and a famine relief administrator did not have to actually save the population he was in charge of saving – what he had to do was follow (and, in the case of Sir Charles, actually invent) the correct administrative procedures.

But here is where the story gets strange – every source I have ever seen in my life, has described Sir Charles Trevelyan as a supporter of “Laissez Faire” (French for, basically, “leave alone”) “non-interventionist” “minimal government” and his policies are described in like manner. I must stress that I do not just mean sources such as “Wikipedia” (according to which the economic polices of General Perón were good for Argentina, and the failed communist, from each according to their ability – to each according to their need, experiment in the Plymouth colony in North America, in the early 17th century, never happened, despite Thanksgiving), I mean every source I have seen. Here is a quote from an article on the BBC website:

Laissez-faire, the reigning economic orthodoxy of the day, held that there should be as little government interference with the economy as possible. Under this doctrine, stopping the export of Irish grain was an unacceptable policy alternative, and it was therefore firmly rejected in London, though there were some British relief officials in Ireland who gave contrary advice.

It would seem odd for the creator of the modern Civil Service to be a roll-back-the-government person – but let us examine the theory in relation to what actually happened.

Let us test the theory that Ireland under Charles Trevelyan was a “laissez faire” place. Under this doctrine taxes would be very low – well were taxes very low? No, taxes were crushingly high – under the slogan of “Irish property must pay for Irish poverty” Irish Poor Law taxes, under the Act of 1838, (which had not even existed in the 18th century – the time of Edmund Burke) were pushed higher and higher – and the taxes were spread, although you wouldn’t know that from Wikipedia. As various “Poor Law Unions” went bankrupt the British government insisted that other Poor Law Unions that had not gone bankrupt, for example in the Province of Ulster, come to their aid – by pushing up their taxes. Thus taxes everywhere in Ireland became crushing. Taxes in Ireland had not been low before – indeed Edmund Burke had calculated that, relative to the wealth of the people, taxes in 18th century Ireland were much higher than taxes in England and Wales – but in the late 1840s under “laissez faire” Trevelyan taxes became much higher than they had been. The armed Royal Irish Constabulary, a national police force, perhaps more like a Gendarmerie, which had not existed in the 18th century, had its work cut out making sure these taxes were collected. And Charles Trevelyan insisted that the government education system, which also had not existed in the 18th century, not be neglected. The idea of perhaps spending the money devoted to the government schools on famine relief – well perhaps best not to mention that to him, even though Ireland had existed for many centuries without these government schools. Well, to a bureaucrat, children must be educated, even as they starved and died, just as dead men must be sent formal letters of complaint that they had not filled in government forms (no, I am not making that up) in relation to their relief work (even if they had not been paid – due to not filling in the correct forms).

Ah yes, the relief work. The endless “roads to nowhere” and other such schemes, Keynes did not invent these, but multiplier there was none. Charles Trevelyan was very determined that none of his relief projects should benefit the Irish economy (yes – you did read that correctly, NOT benefiting the Irish economy was his aim), that is why the roads tended to go from “nowhere to nowhere” and the other projects were of much the same “digging holes and filling them in again” type (much like the mad projects in France after the Revolution of 1848 – and yet no one calls them “laissez faire“). This was due to Trevelyan’s hatred, and hatred is not too strong a word, for Irish landowners – most of the anti-Irish comments that Irish Nationalists gleefully quote were actually directed at Irish landowners (most of whom were Protestants); Trevelyan hated them with a passion and attributed all the problems of Ireland to them (rather than to the Penal Laws, undermining the property rights of Roman Catholics and Dissenting Protestants, which had actually created the Irish “Peasant Plot” system over so many years – the Penal Laws had been repealed. but the system they created remained), no scheme must in-any-way benefit the accursed “gentry” (who Sir Charles seems to have regarded as close to being spawn of Satan). That the Whig Party itself was the creation of the aristocratic landowners does not seem to have carried much weight with Trevelyan – after all he was not working for the landowners, he was, at least in his own mind, on a mission from God (yes – God Himself) to set the world to rights. A Philosopher King – or rather a Philosopher Civil Servant, who treated the forms and regulations he created as Holy Texts.

None of the above is anything to do with “laissez faire” it is, basically, the opposite. Reality is being inverted by the claim that a laissez faire policy was followed in Ireland. A possible counter argument to all this would go as follows – “Sir Charles Trevelyan was a supporter of laissez faire – he did not follow laissez faire in the case of Ireland, but because he was so famous for rolling back the state elsewhere (whilst spawning the modern Civil Service) – it was assumed that he must have done so in the case of Ireland”, but does even that argument stand up? I do not believe it does. Certainly Sir Charles Trevelyan could talk in a pro free market way (just as General Haig could talk about military tactics – and sound every inch the “educated soldier”), but what did he actually do when he was NOT in Ireland?

I cannot think of any aspect of government in the bigger island of the then UK (Britain) that Sir Charles Trevelyan rolled back. And in India (no surprise – the man was part of “the Raj”) he is most associated with government road building (although at least the roads went to actual places in India – they were not “from nowhere to nowhere”) and other government “infrastructure”, and also with the spread of government schools in India. Trevelyan was passionately devoted to the spread of government schools in India – this may be a noble aim, but it is not exactly a roll-back-the-state aim. Still less a “radical”, “fanatical” devotion to “laissez faire“.

Paul Marks.

Samizdata quote of the day

Oh no. I’ve accidentally stayed up way too late reading about the 1560s attempt to set up copper mining and smelting works in Cumbria using German experts.

Anton Howes, historian of the origins of the Industrial Revolution.

The above is the first of a series of tweets. Read them all here. Howes was asked what exactly he’d been reading. Answer: This book.

I signed up to the Anton Howes Age of Invention newsletter a while back, and am always pleased when another installment shows up in my incoming emails.

What if the Berlin Wall hadn’t come down?

I have always been interested in the What If? question that consists of asking how the world would have been different had the Berlin Wall not fallen and had the USSR just blundered onwards indefinitely, still being the USSR.

That’s a question that has long intrigued me, ever since the Wall in question actually did fall. As you can tell from how I phrase the question, I am damn near certain that the world would have been a far grimmer place than it now is, had that horrible structure not been trashed or turned into souvenir fragments. But, beyond noting with approval the way that various eastern European former Soviet possessions have become much freer and less poor, I have never taken the time to think through the details of this feeling. How might western public opinion have developed, had the Wall remained? How would the world as a whole have been different?

So, I was very interested to learn yesterday about an IEA event, which I have already signed up to attend, to be held at the end of this month:

This month sees the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, ushering in dramatic change across East and West Germany. But even now, East Germany still lags behind the West and the legacy of socialism has been hard to overcome.

So what would have happened if the wall hadn’t come down?

On Thursday 28th November, the IEA is delighted to host an intriguing discussion on that very premise. Professor Syed Kamall will chair the conversation with our own Head of Political Economy Dr. Kristian Niemietz, and historians Roger Moorhouse and Giles Udy.

Rather than just bang on with more guess-answers, I will keep this posting brief and await comments from others.

In particular, are there any ways in which the fall of the Berlin Wall has made the world worse? I’m not talking about how it has embarrassed Communists and (a tribe I particularly despise) anti-anti-Communists … like that’s a bad thing. Those are just two of many features. I’m talking about how life for regular people around the world, and perhaps also in Russia itself, may actually, in some weird knock-on effect ways, have been made worse. I can’t think of any obvious ways that anything like that has happened, but maybe someone else can.

The lost chord, correction, TUC booklet

Seated one day at the organ
I was weary and ill at ease
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys

I know not what I was playing
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music
Like the sound of a great Amen

The Lost Chord was an immensely popular song of the late nineteenth century. It described how the singer had found, then lost, a chord played on the organ that seemed to bring infinite calm.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly
That one lost chord divine
Which came from the soul of the organ
And entered into mine

In like fashion did I, my friends, linger in the library of Her Majesty’s Treasury in my lunchtime many years ago, seeking to put off the moment when I would have to go back to my humble office and do some actual work. Like the fingers of the weary organist upon his instrument, thus did my skiving fingers wander idly across the spines of the publications the Treasury thought might help its minions control public expenditure*. By a chance equally slim did I find the booklet issued by the Trades Union Congress that I am going to talk about in this post. And by a fate equally tragic did I fail to take note of the title, author, year of publication or even the colour of the cover, and lost it again forever.

Which is a bit of a bummer really. This post would have been a lot more convincing if you guys didn’t just have to take my word for it that the damn TUC book ever existed. Then again, it was nice to be reminded of The Lost Chord which was the favourite song of an old chap I once knew who fought in the First World War.

This booklet. For anyone still reading, it was about “Technology in the Workplace” or summat. I got the impression that it had been published in the last years of Callaghan’s government. (This story takes place during Thatcher’s premiership.) It did not bring me infinite calm. It brought me a Hard Stare in the Paddington Bear sense from another patron of the library, because I was going “mwunk” and “pfuffle” from trying not to laugh.

The booklet was all about how when the bosses tried to introduce new technology, workers could use the power that came from being a member of a trade union to block it. It did not go so far as recommending that all new devices such as “word processors” and “computers” should be rejected out of hand, but it made quite clear that no such new-fangled gadgets should be allowed in if it meant the number of jobs for typesetters or stenographers should go down. The power of the unionised worker to resist such impositions was, of course, greatest in our great nationalised industries.

The pages of the little book were clean and perfectly squared off. I do not think anyone other than me had ever read it. Yet it seemed to come from a long-ago time or a foreign country, probably East Germany, so great were the changes that had come to Britain in those few years since it was published.

Yes, Britain changed. And now it’s changing back.

Jeremy Corbyn promises free broadband under Labour.

Labour’s proposal seems very popular, although, hilariously, support drops steeply when the question moves from “Do you like Labour’s plan to give you free stuff?” to “Do you like Labour’s plan to nationalise BT Openreach?” – but even then a solid third of the country hear Jeremy Corbyn say, “we’ll make the very fastest full-fibre broadband free to everybody, in every home in our country”, and also hear that the Labour manifesto is to reiterate the radical 2017 commitment to ‘sector-wide collective bargaining’ – and seriously believe that the “very fastest full-fibre broadband” is going to be brought to them by the unionised workforce of a nationalised industry.

*Or as the Treasury Diary handed out free to staff members one year described it, pubic expenditure.

Climategate ten years on.

Remember “Climategate”? There has been a TV show made about it. Lucy Mangan of the Guardian gives it four stars:

Climategate: Science of a Scandal review – the hack that cursed our planet

In 2009, a vicious attack was launched against groups fighting global warming. Scientists still can’t get over the death threats. And the world is on fire.

I dunno. As I always say whenever I post about these matters, I am willing to believe in global warming caused in significant part by man. But ten years after Climategate cursed the world and set it on fire you would have expected more of a… temperature rise.

The tour guide

This BBC story by by Steve Rosenberg starts in quite an arresting manner…

Berlin Wall anniversary: The ‘worst night of my life’

It’s one of the most bizarre guided tours I’ve ever been on. I’m driving around Berlin with Egon Krenz – the last communist leader of East Germany.

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall came down.

It must be sad for him, no longer being able to rule over Germans as a dictator. Still, at least he still gets to be der Reiseführer.

The Anti-Saloon League is back

“Prohibition showed bans can be good for us”, writes David Aaronovitch in the Times. Unironically. He means it. He thinks Prohibition was good and wants it back. I suppose it was ever thus; it is like the way that when the people who remember the last banking crash die the banks start crazy lending again.

Mr Aaronovitch writes,

Your mental charge sheet against prohibition may well include the accusation that it didn’t get rid of drinking but sent it underground; that the resulting appetite for “bootlegged” liquor led to the rise of organised criminal syndicates, Al Capone, the mob and the St Valentine’s Day massacre; that it helped to make corrupt hypocrites out of public servants; that the rich were able to indulge while the poor were criminalised.

Why yes, it does.

And after just a few years the Americans saw what a disaster it was and repealed it. It may not improve your view of it to know that the Ku Klux Klan were very much in favour of prohibition.

That does not surprise me.

Strangely though, the one question that almost no one seems to ask of this epic public health measure is whether or not it actually improved public health. Yet it doesn’t take much digging into the available statistics to discover that it did — quite a lot, in fact.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to all kinds of adverse health conditions. The most obvious is alcoholic cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver. In 1911 the death rate for cirrhosis among American men was nearly 30 per 100,000. By 1929 that had been reduced by more than 30 per cent. Registered admissions to mental hospitals for psychosis linked to alcohol more than halved. Even by 1933, when Volstead was revoked, alcohol consumption had gone down by a third since pre-prohibition. Whatever Mark Twain may have written, prohibition saved many, many lives.

The commenters made several good points to contradict that assertion. Some pointed out that in the same period alcohol consumption also went down other countries, including the UK, where alcohol continued to be legal. Bryan Dale said, “If prohibition reduced alcohol consumption by a third that can hardly be called a success. It was supposed to eliminate it entirely after all. With 2/3 as much alcohol being illegally consumed as had been done legally before prohibition, the impact on respect for the law must have been dreadful.” Others described well-stocked drinks cabinets in modern Saudi Arabia, or the way that the type of alcohol consumed shifts from beer to spirits when it must be sold and transported illegally.

I expect readers of this site can supply many other historical and factual arguments. All I will say is that there is a void at the heart of the passage I quoted above. Mr Aaronovitch never even questions the assumption that it is for him and people like him to decide what other human beings may or may not put in their own bodies.

Romantic sporting essentialism

So South Africa won the rugby. I didn’t watch it myself. Like many (though certainly not all) of those who congregate here I am more into reading a pleasantly dotty analysis of Rugby As A Class Phenomenon in the pages of the Guardian than watching however-many-it-is blokes run about a muddy field with a ball that isn’t even. No offence to those whose preferences run the other way, or to those who enjoy both – the denunciation of daft Guardian articles just happens to my way of directing my aggressive instincts into harmless channels. Here is said article:

“Rugby league is a rebel sport – its northern strongholds will never turn Conservative” writes Tony Collins, who is emeritus professor of history at De Montfort University.

In fact his account of the origin of the class divide between Rugby Union and Rugby League is fascinating. People like me who make jokingly derogatory remarks about sports because they were crap at them at school need to learn more about sports history.

But Professor Collins knowing a lot about the history of Rugby League in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries doesn’t necessarily mean he knows all about its fans in the twenty-first. And his apparent belief that Rugby League casts a permanent Protection Against Toryism spell is ludicrous:

The attitudes that gave birth to rugby league remain strong. Hostility to the establishment and suspicion of the ruling elite, whether in Westminster or in business, has not diminished. Indeed, the strong Brexit vote in rugby league-playing regions can be seen as a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system that has continually let down the “post-industrial” north.

Or, allow me a little blue sky thinking for a moment, it could be seen as wanting Brexit.

Unlike Essex Man or Worcester Woman, Workington Man (Johnson’s consultants appear to be ignorant of the fact that women are also rugby league fans and players)

Cheap shot, Professor. As you as a historian of the sport know perfectly well, the overwhelming majority of Rugby League players and fans have been male.

has none of the advantages of living in the economic bubble of the south of England. While dissatisfaction with Labour also runs deep, it is unlikely that traditional rugby league areas in the north of England will fall to the Tories.

Although the Brexit party has picked up votes in these areas, Nigel Farage’s Dulwich College accent and golf club-bore demeanour is too great a barrier for him to make any significant breakthrough in areas where stubborn resistance to self-appointed authority is deeply ingrained.

While no one knows what the future may bring, the best means we have for estimating the likelihood of a region “falling” to the Tories is an opinion poll. By a happy non-coincidence an opinion poll to canvass the views of “Workington Man” (and Workington Woman too before anyone gets uptight) has just been carried out. Not a poll of Workington Man the archetype, a poll of actual human beings living in Workington. Here is my post about it over at The Great Realignment site: Workington Agonistes. If you want a TL;DR, the result was that by 45% to 34% Workington would fall to the Tories. Yet worse, 13% of Workingtonites would fall to the golfing side of the force and vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. That is not a high percentage but it is almost triple what the Lib Dems get. So much for Brexit being a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system.

As one contemporary writer remarked about the 1895 split, northern rugby and its communities had rejected the “thraldom of the southern gentry”. There’s no reason to suspect that things will change in 2019. As Onward’s misunderstanding of rugby league traditions demonstrates, Britain remains two nations separated by huge class and cultural divisions. And few things illustrate that chasm better than rugby.

The “Onward” think tank may be misunderstanding rugby league traditions, but what evidence we have suggests that Professor Collins may be misunderstanding who plays the role of bubble-dwelling gentry here.

Goats save the Reagan library

News comes to us that creatures more commonly associated with destruction, a herd of goats in California, have helped to preserve the Reagan Presidential Library by the simple act of eating scrub, thereby clearing brushwood, as the BBC put it:

In May, the library hired the goats to clear flammable scrub surrounding the complex as a preventative measure.
The goats ate the brush, creating a fire break that slowed the flames and gave firefighters extra time to react.
The library near Los Angeles was threatened by the Easy Fire, the latest in a spate of fires causing evacuations and power cuts across the state.
The caprine contractors included Vincent van Goat, Selena Goatmez and Goatzart. They helped save exhibits including an Air Force One jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
We were told by one of the firefighters that they believe that fire break made their job easier,” Melissa Giller, a library spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Well at least the firemen in California recognise the worth of a fire break, and some act prudently to preserve property using forward planning.

Perhaps these caprine fire fighters will become the go-to contractors for those Californians who don’t wish to be incinerated? How long before Sacramento regulates goat use (more than it probably already does, I have no idea?) lest something be left of the Goaten State?

Personally, I’d put them in the State Legislature with some statute books and whatever laws they eat are repealed, surely that would be an improvement? Then they could move on the State Supreme Court.

Matt Ridley speaks with authority to Julia Hartley-Brewer

Yes, I’ve been watching and listening to this conversation, between climate anti-alarmist and all-round rational optimist Matt Ridley and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer. If you like hearing things talked about as well as merely written about, I recommend this conversation, which lasts just under an hour.

Today here seems to be the day for denouncing Extinction Rebellion, and Ridley does that very persuasively. But there is a lot more. I’m just hearing Ridley say that climate change policies now kill far more people than climate change. … Now he’s talking about how much greener the earth is becoming. The idea that we need to be planting trees to make the earth greener is absurd.

My one mild disagreement with Ridley came about a third of the way in, when he says that science never involves arguments from authority. I know what he means. But, arguments from authority abound in the wider debate about climate science. Ridley makes sure to strip away the authority of whichever climate catastrophist he talks about. And he also makes sure to speak in a suitably measured manner himself, thereby enhancing his own authority.

For the truth is that people like Ridley have proved very authoritative. Many of the idiot children of the governing classes seem really to believe that climate catastrophe is imminent. Many more of the governing classes like climate catastrophe, because it is a fine excuse for them to do more governing. But people generally seem to remain unconvinced in their millions.

Certainly today’s foolishness from Extinction Rebellion, in the form of people climbing onto electric trains, really does seem to have been an own goal, as Natalie explained. Screwing with public transport really does undermine any authority these people may now have.

And just as we can all see these Extinction Rebels doing their rebelling, and especially when it looks very silly, we can also listen to the likes of Matt Ridley saying what he has to say. For all the biases and bullying of Facebook, Twitter and the rest of them, they can’t silence all of us anti-alarmists, all the time. And the difference between hearing some anti-alarmism, every so often, and never hearing any anti-alarmism at all from one decade to the next, is, when it comes to shaping public opinion, all the difference. The climate alarmist camp has spread a lot of climate alarmism in the last few years. But millions remain stubbornly skeptical, this being an important strand in the rising tide of what is called “populism”. (“Populism” means popular opinions that the people who don’t attach sneer quotes to the word populism don’t like.) Given how much governing class plugging climate extremism gets, it’s amazing how little it is talked about when elections come around.

Like Ridley, I am an optimist, not only about the state of humanity in general, but about the possibility that the foolishness now being spread by Extinction Rebellion may soon find itself in retreat.

LATER: Several people have also recommended to me this interview, which lasts a mere ten minutes.