RemovedJan 26, 2023Liked by Helen Dale
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Jan 26, 2023·edited Jan 26, 2023Author

This is only the fifth essay in a series. Lorenzo provides an action plan as part of the series (see the pinned post for forthcoming titles).

Thing is, if you're going to do something as dramatic as closing 4/5ths of the universities and nearly all humanities and social science departments, you better have a bloody good argument and make out your case first.

Which is what Lorenzo is doing here, and why I commissioned what's essentially a book.

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Jan 22Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

President Eisenhower, probably the best prepared POTUS ever, warned of the corruption of science that the huge influx of money from the federal government would bring. Academics remember what he said about the military-industrial complex, and forget that.

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He was prescient in both ways.

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Jan 26, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Great insight. Covers in a lot more detail one of the aspects I've investigated in that Region is more of a Psychology than a Theology. Once you see this, so much of politics makes so much more sense!


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Jan 27, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Agreed that modern Crittery takes up the activist framework of Marxism while picking and choosing from the beliefs.

But the utopian future itself seems to be one of the beliefs they don't bother with. Their doctrines are famously pessimistic. Postmodernisn teaces that truth claims will always be mere power plays. Race critters say racism is ineradicable.

I sometimes hear them use aspirational language on normies. But even that is weak tea. Commies promising to end poverty makes sense when there's a lot of poverty around. Critters rubbing out invisible racism doesn't create vivid vision of the future.

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They are not conventional utopians in the “we have a specific vision of the future” sense. And yes, the nihilistic pessimism is pervasive. A lot of which is the Gnosticism coming through: constraint is oppression and in a proper society we should be able to will/will to be whatever we want.

They are not justified by some specific vision they can spell out to you. They are justified by their rejection of the sin-laden past and the continuing-horrors-present, so judged by standards grounded not in anything that has ever existed anywhere. With any attempt to make comparisons between societies, or the past of our own, being mere comparison of sin with sin, so without resonance or legitimacy. The future is the only grounding they are left with.

What is salvational is the intent to reject, justified by a conception of how things should be (however mostly a series of “not-be” and “not-haves” rather than of “will-bes” and “will-haves”). Salvational, not conventionally utopian, politics still ultimately justified by their splendid intent. The politics of the splendour-of-their-intentions. An intent never yet realised, so can only be of the future.

However pervasive the nihilistic pessimism, the past-hell/present-purgatory/future-heaven pattern keeps emerging. Right down to elevating the choices of children over their polluted-by-past-sins parents.

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Jan 27, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Yeah. And this makes the modern crowd even more similarly to conventional religion.

The Utopia is not a prediction about an actually desired future. it really is meant as a literal Nowhere.

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Your perspicacious comment prompted an entire post in response.


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Mar 29, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Great analysis. Love the Hegel joke.

Effective Altruism follows logically--they can model (see climate change) the future in such detail that they can justify any means to enable the glorious, transformational future.

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Nice point.

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Aug 9, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

I’m always amazed by your erudition.

I consistently notice the cognitive shift towards intention > outcome, which is now even being embraced by corporations with the climate agenda. However, in most cases of Marxists I doubt their intention; I know people who are Marxists and are both very compassionate but also have a sense of victimhood/ injustice. It’s a moral and intellectual project for them. I think they are (even if just subconsciously) interested in tearing things down more than anything else. It also helps that being destructive now offers social currency.

My mother, ironically, is a hippie who doesn’t know or understand anything about socialism or Marxism, but is driven by the doctrine of absolute compassion (accepting endless migrants, a social welfare system, carbon taxes to save the planet) and fighting against the “evils” of the world (racism, sexism, inequality, greed). She cannot be convinced she’s wrong because it is a religious belief that she doesn’t understand is a religious belief. It’s very frustrating to be around her because I know she’s apart of the mad crowd thats bringing this system upon us, and that ultimately she won’t understand that good intentions like hers created hell.

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Dec 24, 2023·edited Dec 24, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

I have arrived at this party late. But I’m absolutely loving the quality of Lorenzo’s thoughts and the clarity of his writing.

Reading this Essay No 5, the compelling evocation of Marxism’s intellectually cheap, but physically, disastrously expensive appeal, resonated not only with the weirdness of living in a world in which a minority of elites have captured policy with a reality-denying and obviously harmful dogma, but also with my experience of having lived through the Brexit debate and the UK’s departure from the EU. Lorenzo’s nail-on-the-head description of the irrefutable nature of “arguments” based on appeals to an imagined future - which cannot be falsified by reference to the trade-offs of the past or present time, reminded me of the stomach churning, migraine inducing dissonance I felt over the EU debate.

It occurred to me reading this piece, that Sovereignty was - or at least was presented and sold as - a sacred ideal of the “take back control” slogan. And that the imagined future of Britain free from the dictates of Brussels bureaucrats was an irrefutable ideal which was immune to critique from “trade-off” based objections from pragmatists like me.

Part of the toxicity of the Brexit debate, was how the unattainable goal of supposedly re-establishing an in-fact historically unprecedented ideal of a nation state in complete “control” of its regulations, international obligations and borders, was elevated to a high status beyond the reach of pragmatists who - for example - tried to point out the extent to which exiting the EU was highly likely to leave us with less control of our borders than remaining. (To name but two ways, by motivating the French to cease tolerating UK immigration officers conducting asylum checks on French territory, and ending the UK’s treaty-based ability to return failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to safe countries in Europe through which they had passed on their way to Dover.) That kind of intelligent, reality based comment (which required actual knowledge of domestic and international law to make) was utterly meaningless in the religious-feeling domain in which the debate occurred. The same was true of comments based on our relative GDP, the present and historical importance of our relationship with commercial counterparties within Europe, and the fact that in reality, this meant that European regulations were set to be of practical application to a large part of uk business for - practically forever - and the consequent question: is there not a benefit to staying at the EU table for the writing of future regulation?

This point was partly made by a cartoon in the FT a few weeks after the referendum, called something like, “If Brexit were a

Roundabout.” The first exit from the roundabout was “remain”. (The commentary pointed out that 49% of those who voted, voted for that, actual, ascertainable, present time reality.) All the other exists were some iteration of “no deal”, “Norway”, “Switzerland”. The point of the cartoon, was that the framing of the referendum question presented “Leave” as if it were a single option, when it really wasn’t. And thus the result was not democratic at anything beyond a superficial level. Quite possibly, this is correct.

But as Lorenzo made me recall, this was just the start, and not the end, of the conceptual problems with all the “leave” iterations which the cartoon referenced. Each of those iterations was presented as a real option, when in fact none of them (including “no deal”) was. All of the pro-leave rhetoric about what a post Brexit world would look like, was about as deluded as a spouse (and parent) looking forward to their post-divorce lifestyle as if they could obtain it from a wish-granting genie, instead of negotiate it with their real-life (and pissed off) spouse and/or have it approved by a judge. Not a single vision for Brexit was ever - to my knowledge - presented to the British public alongside an actual plan for agreeing the package with the EU and/or (or, in the case of “no deal” just, or) rolling out the vast, deep and technical domestic changes in law and practice that were going to be necessary once we broke off our membership. When, the day before the vote, I heard a journalist on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme say that the economic arguments were “very finely balanced”, and how to vote seemed to “come down to how you feel about sovereignty”, I actually wept.

The result was to feed into the spiral of decay in the value and prestige of what Hilary Mantel in one of her brilliant novels neatly described as,

“The basic business of thinking.”

It’s also fed directly into the decay of our own statecraft and administration. Someone could write a book on the collapse in quality of legislative drafting coming out of parliamentary counsel’s office since 2016, and the very great harm this has done. It was so, so, so predictable and not the fault of the draftsmen - who were I believe simply overwhelmed. We are now left with more and more legislation drafted too quickly, not thought through, and (ironically) ceding too much detail to ministers to write in future, via delegated powers of secondary legislation. It has weakened the vital but largely unknown organ of the state that is the parliamentary draftsman, and made the office all the more vulnerable to high-jacking by politicians with little respect for (or even understanding of) the rule of law.

I don’t know what the answer is. Even on this one single issue, I’m too much of a pragmatist to believe that rejoining the EU (on terms vastly inferior to the terms negotiated by Thatcher and Major) is a good or viable option. And I do not know how we reinstall the respect for pragmatic expertise, and knowledge of outcome-driven processes, in this dysfunctional New World which is - undeniably - now ours.

I am glued to my seat, to read what Lorenzo suggests.

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Dec 24, 2023·edited Dec 25, 2023Author

Ta, a lovely, deeply intelligent comment. I have a slightly different take, which is that the decay in UK state capacity that EU membership clearly generated was a reason to leave, even given the deeply practical concerns you raise and even given the balls up made of the leaving (due to that decay in state capacity).

In an odd sort of way, it reminds one of the disastrous[ly managed] US exit from Afghanistan. Or that the way various privatisations have been screwed up is an argument for privatisation.

The decay of UK state capacity is perhaps more salient to an Australian. We are a much bigger island with a much smaller population and we can control our borders.

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Dec 25, 2023·edited Dec 26, 2023

It’s surely nothing like saying that the USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was not justified (even in theory) because in practice it was botched. Afghanistan was not the US’s largest trading partner, and the relationship between the two States had not been founded first on a referendum, and then developed over many decades in a series of mutually agreed treaties. A US voter could rationally support the exit from Afghanistan knowing that - done well or badly - the withdrawal would have zero effect on the domestic life of his own State. A US voter was also logically entitled not to care too much about the effect of withdrawal on the administration of Afghanistan. It follows that Americans were absolutely not calling on an imagined future for themselves (or in fact Afghans) when agitating to end US military presence in Afghanistan. They could coherently demand, “We don’t care about the details: end our massive investment in a country that has nothing to do with us, now!” Vis-a-vis the EU, no British voter could rationally demand that. Objectively viewed, Brexit - as an idea - could only ever be as good as the proposed practicalities. And none were proposed. Instead, imagined futures which, in your concise words, “were not possible in any universe” were drawn on.

The analogy with privatisation is a better one, but I would say that it operates in support of my argument. Like “sovereignty”, “privatisation” cannot sensibly be a sacred ideal in its own right. Some parts of industry and commerce operate better freely. Others - rail networks, for example - do not. It would be foolish, today, to privatise a national utility under a slogan of Thatcherite ideology, without reference to the practicalities of implementation and the trade-offs in costs and benefits for citizens dependent on that service. The proposal to exit the EU was deeper and vastly more complex than a proposal to privatise a state utility. And yet the proposal to leave was devoid of any detail of this kind.

Finally, Australia is really not, in fairness, comparable. The UK is surrounded on all sides by near neighbours - with whom it is factually and commercially interconnected in countless ways. It is connected to the continent via the busiest shipping lane in the world. It has a land border with a neighbouring EU state - Ireland - which for historical reasons is open and barely discernible: traffic is not even stopped. That last fact alone, was a reality that Leave’s proponents simply denied. (They made abstract claims

to be able to solve the incompatibility between the Good Friday agreement and “control” of the UK’s border with Ireland like small children boasting they could draw a triangle with two sides.)

Brexit was an appeal to wish-granting genies all the way. The proposition that the UK leaving the EU was the right idea in principle (and was ”only” botched in practice) does seem to me to suffer from exactly the same flaw of irrefutability, as the evasive defences of Marxism these essays seek to attack. One cannot defend the imagined ideal, simply by discounting the disasters of implementation-in-reality as “not doing it right”.

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Jan 22Liked by Lorenzo Warby

The EU was creeping its way into becoming a central government, with little to no accountability to its citizens. Various EU referenda were held repeatedly until they were ratified. The officials pursuing ever greater union simply would not take no for an answer.

Most US constitutional amendments have a ratification deadline, after which the attempt is abandoned.

There were probably no good ways to do Brexit. It didn’t help that the government in charge of implementing it earnestly wanted a do-over.

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