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.

On how the English revolutionary ideology of improvement took its time

During a recent conversation that Patrick Crozier and I recorded (although as always Patrick did all the button-pushing and editing), about how the Industrial Revolution came about, Patrick asked a question that I didn’t answer at the time but which I think I can now answer, at least in broad brush strokes.

My thesis was and is that the Industrial Revolution was and is the English Revolution. It was an ideological event, sparked by mass literacy, just as the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions were. (See all my Emmanuel Todd postings.) Patrick pointed out that, unlike those three very political revolutions, the English Revolution, if that’s what it was, sure took its time to mutate into the Industrial Revolution. The political bit of the English Revolution happened in the seventeenth century, but the big impact of the industrial bit of the English Revolution didn’t achieve lift-off until late in the eighteenth century.

At the time, I just said yes, hm, I’ll have to think about that. But now I have, and I think the answer is not that difficult to supply.

The three very political revolutions were successful, not in the sense they accomplished much that was good, but in the lesser sense that they did at least achieve political dominance, after which they did their best to improve things but ended up doing mostly their worst. They were all very destructive in their impact. And this all happened very quickly. Destruction and catastrophe doesn’t take very long to happen.

But the English Revolution stalled politically. The political bit of it ended in a draw, with the old monarchical and aristocratic institutions changing quite radically, but not being destroyed. And so, having failed to make the big breakthrough in the manner of the French, Russian and Chinese ideological breakthroughs, the English Revolution turned its attention to peaceful progress. To “improvement”, to use the word the English ideologists themselves used.

And, improvement takes time. As the English eighteenth century unfolded, presided over by a rather contentious and corrupt mixture of aristocrats and well-connected capitalists, the ideologists of improvement started to achieve actual improvements, step by inventive step. They were creative rather than destructive, and creativity takes time. I say “started”, but in truth they merely somewhat accelerated a process of step-by-step invention and innovation that had already got under way.

And that’s my answer, for the time being. Destruction happens quickly, and the quicker it happens the more it “succeeds”. Creativity, aka actual improvement, takes far longer.

This ideology of improvement spread, way beyond England, first to America, and subsequently to the whole then Germany, and now everyone. And the world outside Britain and America realised they couldn’t beat the damn Anglos with only their own atavistic and destructive methods, adorned by mere political rhetoric. To hold their own against the Anglosphere, they realised that they would have to copy it. So, they did. And the English ideology of constant improvement now rules the world. We now all live, with ever greater ease and comfort and contentment, in that world.

The English Revolution is, on the whole, not understood by modern educated people. Insofar as the typical Educated Modern has a theory of how all this happened, it is that the English achieved their industrial revolution pretty much by accident. In other words it wasn’t a “revolution” at all, because there were no revolutionaries in the usual sense. Selfish go-getters achieved a mass economic breakthrough that was neither anticipated nor even wanted in each of their individual, selfish little plans. Adam Smith, basically. But the English Revolution, which was and is the global industrial revolution, was an ideological event as well as a merely economic event. Modern educated people cannot see this, because that would involve realising that here was a gang of starry-eyed ideologists and idealists and altruists, with a radical and ludicrously optimistic plan for transforming the lives of all humans everywhere for the better, making omelettes and breaking eggs with relentless single-mindedness. And their plan ended up being triumphantly, fabulously, world transformingly successful. Educated Moderns just don’t have a mental box in which to place events like this. Ideologists always fail, always cause havoc. Even most ideologists nowadays proclaim that their alleged creative miracles, in the radiant future that they proclaim, must be preceded by a phase of destructiveness, during which they destroy all the human barriers to their vision, and of course the rest of us assume that this is all that they will ever accomplish.

But the English Revolution was not like that. It was a Revolution, but a Revolution which only began by being destructive. That part of it failed, in that the political regime that it tried to overthrow was merely modified somewhat. So instead, the English Revolution turned its collective mind towards creativity, and in that it succeeded, beyond its wildest dreams.

To any commenters who want to say it, let me say it first. I know that I haven’t proved, or even really argued, the above proclamation. I have simply proclaimed it. But although I haven’t proved it, I am nevertheless right about all 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.

The books I’ll be talking about this afternoon with Patrick Crozier

This afternoon, all being well, Patrick Crozier and I will finally get around to doing our podcast on the Industrial Revolution: Good Thing and here’s why it happened.

I will be making the running and Patrick will be heckling me, seeking clarification, etc.

Here are the books I intend to refer to:

I also intend referring to the recent writings of Anton Howes.

The reason we are able to do this is that my voice has got a lot better lately, thanks to the magic pills. I still cough a bit (so apologies in advance if that happens), but nowhere near the ghastliness of about three weeks ago.

A link

Another rough day, I’m afraid, so not a lot here.

But something there, with a couple of quotes from a book about Beethoven. But quotes not about Beethoven. About war.

Norman Lebrecht has a go at Barenboim (and Igor Levit is not a God either)

I actually don’t think that the things Norman Lebrecht quotes star classical pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim saying about the nature of the Covid ordeal now being suffered by him and his fellow musicians and performers are really that terrible. Barenboim was trying to get across the all-embracing inescapability of the thing. He compared it to World War 2, pointing out that there were places in the world where you could escape from that war. True, he might had been wise to add a phrase like “if you were lucky”. Because as Lebrecht then argues, millions were not so lucky, could not escape World War 2 and suffered horrors and deaths way worse that anything now being endured by all but the most unlucky of the Covid generation.

Concludes Lebrecht:

This is a really unwise statement.

Maybe, but personally I doubt it. I would say that, for once, this is a case where “clarification” is really all that should be needed, and maybe not even that. It was clear enough what Barenboim was at least trying to say.

But what I do relish about Lebrecht is his willingness to disagree in public with classical music’s various star performers when they express what he considers to be foolish opinions outside of their core competence. And in general, when he reckons they are not doing their jobs well enough to justify their often stonkingly unequal remuneration.

Especially when you consider the kind of power that people like Barenboim wield from their perches at the top of the musical world, often without even realising it.

And, when you consider the crawling reverence with which these people are now mostly treated by such broadcasting organisations as the BBC.

I have a recording from off the radio of a Proms performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto (which is one of my very favourite pieces), in which rising star pianist Igor Levit was the soloist. And very well he played it. (I happen greatly to prefer Levit’s way with this concerto to how Barenboim is in the habit of playing it.) But the spoken BBC intro, particularly as perpetrated by the BBC’s Petroc Trelawney, was some of the most grovellingly ridiculous verbiage I have recently heard on a serious radio station. Based on how Levit plays this concerto, and having heard him play Bach and Beethoven solo piano music that I happen also to own on CD, I think Levit is a fine pianist. But Trelawney spoke about Levit’s trick, to take a particularly ridiculous example, of bringing a bar of chocolate with him to fortify him during a hard evening of piano playing as if this were evidence that Levit is some sort of Higher Being, far above us mortals. It was embarrassing.

Norman Lebrecht, I think, often grabs hold of whatever stick he happens to be shaking at the wrong end. He is a man of impulse, and I think this often leads him astray. But he is right that this kind of grovelling to the big beasts of classical music should stop.

More sport thoughts

Sport has filled the gap in society left by major wars between great powers. In general, as the world gets more peaceful, so too does it get more sports mad.

Earlier this year, a fascinating sporting experiment was conducted. In order to stop The Plague spreading, they stopped Big Sport dead. And all hell broke loose. Politics and political demonstrating, the nearest thing to actual war when there is no war, went berserk. Remember when some guy in American got killed by the US cops, and there were demos all over the world about it? I was out and about in London a few times during all that, and I bumped into all sorts of weird looking characters who ought to have been screaming dementedly at football matches, not wandering about in London, picking fights with total strangers like me. The world’s governments learned their lesson. Screwing with people’s weddings and funerals and Christmas get-togethers is fine. But Big Sport has been bribed and begged to keep going. And as if by magic, the idiot demos have stopped. Poof! All gone. And because of Sport now being allowed, they’ve stayed gone. A big old dog that was barking like hell is now silent. Only freaks with opinions about such things like me are even noticing all this.

So, sport as a whole, very significant. Significant in the same kinds of ways that the Roman Amphitheatres were an important part of the Rome story. Or in the way that things like tourism, pop music, and now social media, are other big parts of the story of the world now.

But the actual results of particular sporting events don’t really bother me that much. I like it that the team I favour is currently top of the Premier League. But if Spurs were seventh or eleventh or even seventeenth, I could live with that. I’d just pay attention to something else. I am not, in short, a Real Football Fan.

But favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k is a Real Football Fan and I really feel for him when things aren’t going his way. And boy, are they, now, not going his way. This time last year, Spurs and Sheffield United were leapfrogging one another towards the top of the Premier League. Now? Well put it this way, one of the more interesting stats you can seek out at any particular Premier League moment is what and where the biggest gap is. Remember when the gap between Man City and Liverpool at the top, and all the rest, was something like twenty points, the biggest gap by far? I do, although I don’t recall exactly when this was because I’m not a Real Football Fan. So, what and where is the biggest gap in the Premier League now? Answer: 5 points. And: It is between the bottom team and the second to bottom team. And Sheffield United are, that’s right, bottom.

To cheer himself up, 6k is now reduced to saying things like this:

Each defeat now makes up a smaller percentage of the overall misery, and so it doesn’t hurt quite as much as before.

Another stat: Looking at the current Premier League again, there are only two teams which have won even four of their last five games. Man U and, would you believe, West Ham? They are just two of about a dozen teams any one of whom could yet win this thing. Only eight points separates the top thirteen teams. It’s like one of those long distance races, with a big leading bunch. You know who is not going to win, but not who will win from among that front bunch.

But if nobody has five wins from their last five games, does anyone have a complete set of five losses in their last five? Yes, and no prize for saying who. And given that for week after week they’ve had just the one point, it’s been going on for a lot longer than that.

That’s the trouble with arriving in the Premier League after a tough promotion battle and then having a good season and staying up. Your reward is: You have to do it all over again.

I’m now in such a second-hand state about this that I’d now swap a couple of Spurs wins for Sheff U wins, except that there’s no such soccer deity able to arrange this.

What chance does some lowlife American who gets himself killed, in what turned out to be tediously inscrutable and complicated circumstances, have against all that?

Democracy is war by other means – so do not trash it and especially not in the world’s most powerful democracy

This is all good, but this is particularly good:

Before we settled into peaceful, democratic nations, power was decided by Kings, swords, and armies. Power rested with bloody battle and bloody victory. Democratic politics replaced battle and war in the West, but it has always been understood that democratic politics is war by other means and that if democracy is removed from politics then we can only go back to bloody battle and bloody war.

Read it all.

Deep thanks to Stephen Green of Instapundit, for Instalaunching it.

Maybe you don’t agree with the Brit who wrote the piece I’m linking to, and with me, that the Democrats are now attempting an in-your-face coup d’etat. But about half of America does now believe this. If they are trampled over, rather than a decent chunk of them being genuinely persuaded … Well, like I say, read it all.

Antony Beevor omits any reference to the forecast for June 19th 1944

I did a posting here a while back about the weather-forecasting for D-Day (June 6th 1944), and also about the weather-forecasting for the day that would have been D-Day (June 19th) if Actual D-Day (June 6th) had been postponed, quoting from this book by Peter Caddick-Adams.

In that posting, I surmised that real D-Day experts would surely be familiar with the tale that Caddick-Adams told, about how, had the forecast weather for June 6th not been good enough, as it so nearly wasn’t, the attempt to do D-Day would have then happened on the 19th, and would have been a catastrophic failure.

Later, it occurred to me to delve into another D-Day book that I also possess, but have also only been dipping into. And on page 216 of D-Day: The Battle For Normandy by Antony Beevor, we read this:

The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself. Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’

Caddick-Adams makes no mention of this note, so score one to Beevor for that.

However, I searched before and after the above passage for any reference to what Beevor says the weather forecast had been for the 19th, and found nothing. Caddick-Adams quotes one of Stagg’s forecasters saying that all the forecasters had in fact forecast, very wrongly indeed, good weather for the 19th. Beevor, unless I am badly mistaken, makes no reference to this later and wrong forecast. He only needed to include about one more sentence to do this, but no such sentence is to be found.

Had the forecasters foreseen the dreadful storms of June 19th-22nd, D-Day (had they been contemplating it then) would surely have been postponed yet again, no matter what inconvenience and frustration that would have caused. But, they did in fact miss this storm, and would have missed it. So it’s a crucial detail.

So, I would say that in this particular engagement between historians, Caddick-Adams edges it.