Patrick and I talk sport

Yes, the latest recorded conversation between me and Patrick Crozier is up. It’s about sport. My pet theory, that the rise of professional sport and the ending (for now (fingers crossed)) of great wars between great powers are not coincidental events, gets another airing. I expanded because it sounded like Patrick was having his ear bent on this topic for the first time. I swear I’ve mentioned it before. Should also have mentioned a famous earlier peace episode, the Pax Romana, which gave rise to the custom-built sports arena in the first place, gladiators, etc. Forgot.

Our conversation happened just before the Euro2020 (that happened in 2021) semi-finals. Patrick doesn’t care to watch England games because England have disappointed him so often. I resist watching them because I can’t help getting sucked in and my nerves can’t take it, so I keep half an eye, rather than the usual two, on the game, while internet surfing.

Adding Wembley to the big model of London

i’ve always liked that big model of London at the Building Centre in Store Street. Well, it’s not there any more. But, relax. It’s moved, to King’s Cross.

And, there’s now more of it than there used to be:

And that’s the new bit, off to the north west of London.

To me, this is an interesting photo, because it highlights the imperfections of this model. I don’t know about you, but to me it looks like large swathes of north west London are flooded, especially, because of the accidents of lighting, in the top right of the photo. That being because both the buildings and the ground they are stuck on are both, actually, so very rudimentary. The land is just a shiny sheet of plastic. And there’s no up and down to be seen, of the land. Only of the buildings.

And those railway lines. They look like continuous railway stations, I reckon.

I look forward to the day when you can flap about over London, for about one fine day, in a helicopter, hoovering up photos, and then shovel all the photos into a 3D-printing machine which can then spit out the final model. And, that model then looks an order of magnitude more realistic than this one does. With all the right colours and shapes and heights, as big as you want, any scale you want, just as it would look from an airplane. That would really be something.

Meanwhile, this Store Street/King’s Cross model only hints at such excellence, in isolated moments when they decided to go all-out and make at least a few of the buildings look as they do in real life, instead of like they were made of Lego (before Lego started cheating by making special shaped bits).

For instance: Oh look, there’s Wembley Stadium, looking remarkably like actual Wembley Stadium, other than it being totally smothered in whiteness. Next Wednesday, in actual Wembley Stadium, there is apparently going to be a big international football match.

Good timing for me and Patrick Crozier, because we going to do another of our recorded conversations, this time about sport, this coming Tuesday. Patrick’s going to drop be at my place, and for first time in I don’t know how long we’ll be doing it face-to-face. However, we are going to use a newly acquired microphone, which Patrick fears may not work. So we’ll have to be careful we don’t say anything so clever that we regret not recording it properly, if that’s what happens. I’m sure we’ll be up to doing that.

The latest conversation with Patrick Crozier is now up

I only started deciding what to put here today quite late on. What should I say here today? Then, to rescue me, incoming from Patrick Crozier, telling me that our latest recorded conversation is now up, at Croziervision. Once again, we are to be heard worrying about what caused World War 1 to start.

I listened to an earlier discussion we had about WW1, which including how it started. So I tried to say some different things. But as I said just after we recorded this latest chat, no apologies for going over the same ground again. And only a bit of an apology for saying that again also.

Today Patrick and I had another conversation about World War One

We had already decided that our chat today would be about what kicked off World War One. However, as part of my homework for this, I listened again to this earlier conversation we recorded about World War One, way back in 2017, and I was reminded that we’d already had quite a lot to say about the causes of World War One. This was the very first of these conversations of the most recent clutch, and I was agreeably surprised by how much sense it made, and by how relatively little irrelevant tangenting and general repetition and waffling I inflicted upon Patrick.

All of which meant that we needed to steer the chat towards things we hadn’t said in that previous one. We went into a bit more of the detail this time, about how Russian military reaction to defeat in 1905 by Japan might have made Germany nervous. And we also talked more about how Britain was, in the years before World War One, threatening to tear itself apart over how to answer the Irish Question, which meant that in 1914 Britain consequently seemed very weak, compared to how strong it eventually turned out to be.

I also added some attempted generalisations, about how nothing on its own can cause anything else (I blamed and have long blamed Sherlock Holmes for immortalising the error that consists of contradicting this fact), and for how a multipolar world made that world vulnerable to a cascade of escalating declarations of war, all of them restrained, but not restrained enough, by the fact that this huge war was actually much feared, but not feared enough. Which is all quite orthodox, but I feel I understand all this stuff a bit better than before. However, I did digress rather wildly into giving this book about Brexit a plug, because it illustrates well how the cleverest people can react to events really quite intelligently, and still get, for them, a very bad result.

No apology for returning to this vexed subject. I mean, historically, could there be a more important question?

This latest effort will arrive at Croziervision, whenever it arrives, presumably accompanied by the very helpful notes that Patrick now likes to introduce these conversations with. Nothing we said can’t happily wait a couple of weeks, or whatever the wait turns out to be.

Patrick posted our conversation about Steve Stewart-Williams and evolution ( and I’m glad he did)

I am starting to take exercise by doing exercises, which I have not done since my school days, which put me right off the whole idea. I am being supervised and guided and advised and encouraged by a physiotherapist attached to the Royal Marsden. This morning I attended (virtually) one of his group exercise sessions, and it was a real effort, lasting more than half an hour. Then, after only brief lie-down, I went out on a big shopping expedition, and of course bought too much stuff for me to carry in comfort and am now totally knackered. But, I still owed this blog its daily feed.

Luckily, however, an email from Patrick Crozier has now arrived saying that our latest recorded conversation is now up and listenable to, so here’s my posting here alerting you to that.

Our conversation was based on and revolved around the book by Steve Stewart-Williams entitled The Ape That Understood The Universe, which regular visitors to this blog will know that I like a lot.

Patrick and I have already fixed that the next of our conversations will be about how World War One started, which Patrick knows a lot more about than I do.

James Tooley talks about Really Good Schools

I’ve just listened to the whole of this podcast (which I encountered here), in which Paul E. Peterson talks (for a little over forty minutes) with one of my most favourite public intellectuals on the entire planet, Professor James Tooley:

It’s not just what he says; it’s the way he says it.

Here is a link to more information about Tooley’s latest book, Really Good Schools. If you want to buy it on Amazon, here.

When I searched Amazon for “tooley really good schools” I was asked if I meant “toilet really good schools”. But, it did at least show me what was looking for.

What Tooley says, in his ingratiatingly polite and scrupulous manner, is that the best way to sort out education is to have a totally free market. He is the world’s leading spotter of private sector schools for the world’s poorest people, and would like to see this sort of thing spread to richer countries. Although, interestingly, he is skeptical about education vouchers. Politically, they don’t seem to work, because they attract such heavyweight teaching union opposition, and crucially, even if they could be made to stick politically, they might well put off the very people who would be best at owning and running such schools.

Tooley and Peterson also talk about the impact of Covid restrictions, and the consequent rise of home schooling, particularly in the USA. But although Covid has revealed that public schools have been bad compared to private schools during this crisis, when the crisis passes, will very much be revealed as having changed with any permanence? Maybe. We shall see.

Patrick and I talk about Enoch Powell

The latest Patrick Crozier/Brian Micklethwait recorded conversation is now up and listenable-to. We talk about Enoch Powell, of whom Patrick writes:

Enoch Powell was a prominent politician in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his views on immigration although he was also friendly towards libertarian ideas especially on economics. While a large part of our chat is inevitably taken up with immigration we also discuss Margaret Thatcher, Steve Baker and the end of Empire.

I embarked upon this conversation fearing that I had not done enough homework. But during Powell’s career itself I was paying attention, and, stimulated by Patrick, I found myself remembering a lot more, of the sort that I had not, so to speak, remembered remembering beforehand.

Also, I wasn’t expecting to notice the Powell/Steve Baker parallels. Both took/take ideas more seriously than they took the mere achievement of office, and both consequently had/have a big Parliamentary impact. Baker also resembles Powell in being extremely clever and extremely industrious. (Baker also resembles Powell in not being a racist.)

This is the biography of Powell that Patrick had been reading.

Patrick and I talk about the current state of libertarianism

I’ve had a busy day doing other things, but last Tuesday, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the current state of the libertarian movement, and I can at least today report that Patrick has now done the editing and introductory blogging and linkage, and you can listen to it by going here. It lasts, after Patrick had sliced out the pauses (which we discuss at the end), almost exactly an hour.

As the title of Patrick’s posting alludes to, we speak in particular about how libertarians happen to have been divided about recent Big Issues of the Day, like Brexit, Trump and Lockdown. In each of these arguments, libertarians have been on both sides. However, we both express guarded optimism that libertarians will be more united in the argument that will soon be raging about how best to recover from Lockdown. Our voice may not win, but it will at least be more like one voice.

For further clues about the kinds of things we discussed, see the categories list below. Notice that “Education” is not in this list. For some reason we failed to even mention this.

Patrick Crozier and I talk about death – and lots of other things

The latest Patrick Crozier Brian Micklethwait “podcast” is up, although I prefer “recorded conversation”.

Our subject was … well, basically some thoughts that were provoked by my recent lung cancer diagnosis, and by Patrick’s recent experiences as a carer (see first comment from Patrick) of a dying mother.

But, we did a lot of tangenting, me especially. I think this was because the treatment I’ve been having has been so successful, for the time being anyway, that I was, when we recorded this, and still am, feeling rather cheerful, considering. Thank you Osimertinib, not least for giving me back my voice. We couldn’t have done it without the magic pills I’m taking.

Patrick’s notes, with lots of links to stuff we mentioned, give you some clues about all that tangenting.

I was interested in what Patrick said about grieving. It doesn’t come in stages, said he. It comes all at once.

I honestly don’t know why you should devote an hour and a half of your life to listening to this conversation, what with there being so much else to be attending to in the world these days. If this sounds like it will appeal to you, great, go ahead. But Patrick and I keep doing these recorded conversations because we seem to enjoy them. I certainly do, and I like that I can listen again and be sure what was said. Patrick and I are good friends. We enjoy having long and thoughtful conversations, and these tend to be more thoughtful if we know that others might be listening in. For me, this is the big and immediate benefit of sharing them with potential listeners, quite aside from the matter of how many people actually do listen.

For some reason, the one we did about the Falklands War seems to have attracted the most listeners, by our modest standards. Not sure why. Maybe it was Americans, with their own opinions about what happened, but wanting to experience it from a domestic Brit point of view. Or maybe just younger people, eager to learn about an interesting drama that, understandably, gets rather less attention than bigger wars, like Vietnam and WWs 1 and 2. Or maybe older people wanting to compare our recollections with theirs.

Patrick and I finally did our Industrial Revolution podcast

In this posting here just over a week ago, I showed you all a pile of books, and said that if all went well I’d be recording a conversation with Patrick Crozier in which I’d speak about these books (plus the writings of Anton Howes). I had in mind how each writer provided a piece in the puzzle of how the Industrial Revolution came about, and that I was going to fit all these pieces together. Mass literacy, ideology, revolution, both political and industrial.

Well, last week, Patrick and I finally did manage to record this discussion, which was mostly a monologue by me with occasional queries from Patrick, and now you can listen to it, and read Patrick’s commentary and notes with more links, by going here.

The recording was a definite success in one way, which is that my voice functioned really well, better than I thought, about one month ago, that it ever would again.

The heart of my claim is that the Industrial Revolution had a lot more in common with the “other” revolutions, in places like France, Russia and China than is now usually supposed, in the following sense: The Industrial Revolution was also an ideological event. It happened because starry-eyed ideologists had a glorious plan for the betterment of mankind. Very long story very short: The plan worked, magnificently. But this is not a story which intelligent and educated people nowadays can compute. Revolution equals blood, chaos and a world that is the opposite of what the starry-eyed ideologists said it would be. What most educated people now seem to believe is that the Industrial Revolution happened by mistake, when selfish go-getters pursuing only the narrowest idea of their own selfish interests happened to have a huge but unintended collective consequence. I say that industrial improvement, even if not exactly the “revolution” that happened, was deliberate.

Between them, the writers I assembled and talked about explained all this, although it takes me to fit the various pieces of the story together, to tell it in full. Said he modestly.

And so on and forth, for over an hour. When this unbalanced “conversation” ended, I was disappointed, because of what I hadn’t managed to say. Basically I outlined a theory, but the way I told it, it was severely lacking in illustrative detail, as Patrick’s questions forced me to acknowledge. But listening again this afternoon, I was comforted by the fact that although that criticism stands, I did at least say some interesting things. I didn’t illustrate them, still less go any way towards proving them. But at least I said them, as best I could. Which is to say, I tried to.

LATER: I can’t make the comments system at Croziervision work, so I will have to put my embarrassing apology for saying that John Lilburne was executed here instead. I’m embarrassed. Sorry.

My problem was that I read all the books in the pile quite a while ago, remembered the broad outlines that I concluded from them and forgot most of the illustrative details and backup evidence. In this respect the delay doing this was unhelpful. I hope to be writing out, for Samizdata, the thesis I merely presented in this podcast and will then at least try to allude to rather more evidence than I did in this. But I promise nothing.