Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review of Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline by Theodore Dalrymple

I've been reading quite a bit of Theodore Dalrymple. First, Life at the Bottom, then The Wilder Shores of Marx, and now Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline. He has a gift with words ("Le Corbusier was to architecture what Pol Pot was to social reform") and is among those of us who see that there is a life-threatening decline of civilization going on all around us.

Unlike the other two books, this one is a collection of essays so I'm just going to list my favorite quotes:

  • Of course, the corporatist system, at least in its British incarnation, is a house of cards, or perhaps a better analogy would be with a pyramid scheme. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed to perform tasks that are not merely useless but actually obstructive of real work and economically counterproductive.
  • I cannot but conclude that the British state is either utterly indifferent to or incapable of the one task that inescapably belongs to it: preserving the peace and ensuring that its citizens may go about their lawful business in safety.
  • One consequence of the liberal intelligentsia’s long march through the institutions is the acceptance of the category of Thoughtcrime. On the other hand, political correctness permits genuine incitement to murder – such as the BEHEAD THOSE WHO INSULT ISLAM placards carried by Muslim demonstrators in London four months after the publication of cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper – to go completely unpunished. Other people, other customs.
  • Therefore I have removed myself: not that I imagine things are much better, only slightly different, in France. But one does not feel the defects of a foreign country in quite the same lacerating way as the defects of one’s native land; they are more an object of amused, detached interest than of personal despair.
  • Above all, Johnson saw the exercise of judgment as the supreme human duty; however inviting it is for human beings to avoid judgment, because it is impossible to judge correctly of everything, it is inescapably necessary to make judgments. 
The last quote reminds me of something that Andy Redleaf talks about in Panic: The Betrayal of Capitalism by Wall Street and Washington (Credit Bubble Stocks review forthcoming):
"[Luck is] the secret suspicion of the economists and one reason most of them are uncomfortable with the notion of judgment. [...] Economists dislike the notion of judgment not only because they have no way of verifying that it is not actually luck but also because it limits economics. If good judgment is a driving force of capitalism, then economics as modern professors wish to practice it can't explain capitalism. [R]esistance to abstraction makes judgement impossible to model. And yet good judgment is so much the source of wealth that in its absence the most fabulous riches are water poured out on sand."
The good news, as I will talk about in the upcoming review of The Missing Risk Premium: Why Low Volatility Investing Works is that modern finance and the efficient market hypothesis are completely dead.

Review: 4/5

1 comment:

CP said...