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January 17, 2021




"We don’t need grifters to discuss these: we can use health experts, economists and philosophers." - Chris Dillow

Be careful what you wish for:

""iron law of oligarchy." Articulated by the sociologist Robert Michels in the early twentieth century, the law says: the more complex the issue, the greater the need for elite-driven solutions that bypass popular input.44"
Kotkin (2020)

"The current mission in universities, and even in lower schools, is “to promote” a particular set of beliefs rather than “to teach,” notes Austin Williams.30 Instead of celebrating a diversity of opinion, academia seems to have adopted the notion of “repressive tolerance” developed by the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who said
that tolerance for different views — that is, views he disapproved of — was really a form of oppression"
Kotkin (2020)


(Story also appeared in the Guardian)

"I opened my emails to find that more than 600 people had signed an open letter denouncing me.

These were not hardened campaigners or activists – rather, the letter had been signed by fellow philosophers who pronounced themselves ‘dismayed’ that the Government had chosen to honour me for my ‘harmful rhetoric’."

I have just (the last few hours) been taking a canter through:

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism - A Warning to the Global Middle Class by Joel Kotkin (2020)

Of course Toby Young et-al are part of what Kotkin calls the "clericy"

In the UK it is private schools (7% of the population) and the Russel Group (or perhaps Oxbridge and the LSE) who are gatekeppers of the aristocracy.

"A class of thought leaders and opinion makers, which I call the “clerisy,” provide intellectual support for the emerging hierarchy."


"But while high-ranking clerics often enjoyed their comfortable status as essentially a branch of the aristocracy, the medieval church’s teaching did not encourage the hope of general uplift for the masses"

Nothing new about people been forced/encouraged to accept their lot in life and closing down the Overton window,

It is how you stabilize society/the status quo.

But 'woke' cancel culture closes down debate.

Clearly we need to extend the Overton Window and extend debate beyond the clerisy.

But experts also close down debate by appealing to exclusive expert knowledge. Beware the 'technocracy' or 'meritocracy'.

As opposed to democracy...


«In the UK it is private schools (7% of the population) and the Russel Group (or perhaps Oxbridge and the LSE) who are gatekeppers of the aristocracy.»

They are the gatekeepers of the upper-middle class, the "trusties" of the "aristocracy".
The "aristocracy" is defined by wealth not by education, even if they go "independent" schools and "top" universities for "finishing".


An exceptional essay, so necessary however saddening and angering. Branko Milanovic referred to the "apathy to death." We must not forget, we dare not forget.


" shaping their perceptions, cognitions and preferences in such a way that they accept their role in the existing order of things"

I think this is called “shifting baselines syndrome”, yes ?
Humans often don’t remember what we’ve lost or demand that it be restored. Rather, we adjust to what we’ve got.


See also reference-dependent utility




David Friedman

Your piece would be more convincing to readers who are unfamiliar with the people and issues if the link to "one of Toby Young’s Covid denialism columns" went to one of his columns, so that I could see whether he was writing obvious nonsense or only things you disagreed with, instead of to a piece by someone else referring to "the loathsome Toby Young."

One of the mistakes people routinely make is to agree with one side of a dispute without having seen the other side. If you want sensible people to accept your position, it is up to you to point them at the information they need in order to evaluate it.




""This is an important public debate to have," he [toby young] wrote, "both because it helps us assess the present government's management of the pandemic and because it will help us prepare better for the next one.""

But we need to be fundamentalist on free speech.


""If the government is going to be the one to decide what hate speech to ban, it’s not going to be the same speech as the speech you hate, it’s going to be the speech they hate," Glasser warned."


Anjem Choudary appeared on Newsnight


"The unit, which previously held prolific terrorists including Anjem Choudary"

The problem is not the speech, but the consequences, that flow from the speech.

e.g Shoe Bomber or dehumanisation/resentment/victim-hood.

The 'woke' movement is predicated on a hierarchy of vulnerability/victim-hood and a rejection/distortion of the past.


«Such power does not consist merely in overt shows of force or bribery. It also consists in manipulating the agenda – deciding what questions get debated and what don’t.»

Ah though, I am probably imagining things, but this statement may imply our blogger's wykehamism, here in the form that debates should be open and free to all worthy opinions thanks to an unbiased agenda, so that the experts (or even the populace) may debate them as if philosopher-kings from Wykeham.

If that is the case, the goal is to repeal the principle that who pays the piper calls the tunes.

That to me seems unrealistic, what seems to me more practical even if still difficult is to ensure that there are several different pipers paid for by people who call for different tunes the capitalists pay the pipers who gloss over their failings, and those who suffer from those failings pay the pipers who debate how to fix those failings.

That is, to have multiple debate forums with multiple agendas, rather than dreaming of a single debate forum a fair, unbiased, "philosopher-king" driven, agenda.


«And these decisions are not consciously made to defend capitalism.»

Oh please, this is so naive: yes, those who pay the pipers and call the tunes don't necessarily call them explicitly, but they would not pay the pipers if the tunes that just "emerged" spontaneously were tunes they did not like.

What actually happens is that among all pipers playing their tunes, those who keep playing the "best" tunes (for example Toby Young) get paid and are given access to the most popular media, and soon many of the others learn too which tunes are the "best" and start playing them.

That means that the popular tunes are *both* emergent and the fruit of conscious decisions.

It is a common assumption that there are only two cases: non-free speech, where each tune is called by conscious decision of the authorities, and free speech, where tunes "emerge" freely.

But there is the third case, managed speech: where the authorities (not necessarily a single block) realize that unpopular tunes don't matter much, and consciously select for popularity the pipers who play the tunes they like best. And that's also why Keir Starmer is so keen to get rid of Labour members and their subs, and make New Labour again dependent on donations by wealthy contributors.


«The problem is not the speech, but the consequences, that flow from the speech.»

The *consequences*? Then burn the Bible, for the consequences of that has been wars with huge massacres, witch hunts, etc.; burn all works by Adam Smith, or Milton Friedman or Michael Jensen, because the consequences have been increased poverty and exploitation of workers; burn all the works of "enlightenement" authors, because the consequences have been the massacres of the french revolution and the deaths of the war of american independence.

Is the argument that every free speech which might have as consequence some deaths, then is obviously akin to killing?

Perhaps, but some deluded fools think that freedom involves risks, and the risk of negative consequences is something that we should accept for the its sake.

Or is the principle "absolute security at any cost to someone else" or "you can never be too safe"?


January 17, 2021



Cases   ( 3,395,959)
Deaths   ( 89,261)

Deaths per million   ( 1,311)


Cases   ( 2,050,099)
Deaths   ( 47,440)

Deaths per million   ( 565)



"Certainly, some change may be needed, but finding the right balance so that government’s don’t end up forcing websites to close off user submitted content completely is easier said than done."


Machines moderating comments made by machines?


"In October 2019, Idaho proposed changing its Medicaid program. The state needed approval from the federal government, which solicited public feedback via Medicaid.gov.

Roughly 1,000 comments arrived. But half came not from concerned citizens or even Internet trolls. They were generated by artificial intelligence. And a study found that people could not distinguish the real comments from the fake ones."


"OpenAI and other researchers have released a few tools capable of identifying AI-generated text. These use similar AI algorithms to spot telltale signs in the text. It’s not clear if anyone is using these to protect online commenting platforms. Facebook declined to say if it is using such tools; Google and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment."

Am I just a bot? Do I know?

I think therefore?

Content moderation is about to get harder!


January 18, 2021

Who caused our current COVID crisis: an example of public deception by the media and government

 Let me start with what the public thinks:

[ https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5VashEJd5iE/YAQeJ2L1ppI/AAAAAAAAD8w/LKvxFCTf7ssI5OIOgeU6deOx0vY4ePB3QCLcBGAsYHQ/w594-h640/YouGov.JPG ]

It is a straightforward question and the majority of the public give a clear answer. Unfortunately that majority are wrong. There is no doubt that the rise in COVID cases over the last month is a result of government failure. Let me set out what the government’s mistakes were....

-- Simon Wren-Lewis

Donald A Coffin

I thought you might be amused? outraged? disconcerted? to discover that Facebook won't allow me to post the url linking to your posts. Although I can't get a response to them, it's apparently because the conjunction of "stumbling" and "mumbling" is regarded as pejorative.



January 18, 2021



Cases   ( 3,433,494)
Deaths   ( 89,860)

Deaths per million   ( 1,320)


Cases   ( 2,059,314)
Deaths   ( 48,105)

Deaths per million   ( 573)

James Charles

'Marr: “How can you know I’m self-censoring?”
Chomsky: “I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” '


Young, Hartley-Brewer, and Grimes, and so on are amusing, articulate speakers - 'good value' on the conference circuit. Unfortunately they are taken as a substitute for more nuanced factual speakers, they are colourful weeds in the garden. The good Professor Whitty comes across as knowing his stuff but never ever as a tub thumping motivational speaker. You can hardly blame the meeja, flogging paper and content is about making money and ratings, never mind the quality, feel the width. Unless you make a noise you won't get hired.

Which brings us to the Tories. Their fundamental USP is selfishness, not always overtly stated but looking after number one, self reliance, the virtues of hard work getting you to the top. The truth is more nuanced, Mr Young for example was born into money, blagged his way into Cambridge and into journalism. As a posh version of Just William he is a hero who has beaten the tiresome exam-ridden chav meritocracy - except neither he nor Hartley-Brewer were ever anywhere near being chavs. The Tories and the meeja love a good blagger.

With selfishness as the Tory USP where does that leave Labour? What is their USP - generosity -socialism - giving it all away, be as lazy-as-you-like? A major difficulty, we all like a bit of selfishness and self reliance. A difficult message to get across and even now their message and USP is unclear. So far the message is poorly managed, the Tory media runs rings around the Graun and Mirror. Generosity is a good thing and could make a good message if competently managed.

Still, give Boris enough rope and he will hang the Tories - except he won't. Starmer may sit and wait and Boris may fall, but Boris' support structure will be just as strong. The HoL will still be stuffed, the media will still be owned by the rich, half the Tory party will still be looking to the USA as a model and they still want to sell off the BBC and the NHS. As things stand Starmer will get 5 years only - and that only if he is very lucky.


January 19, 2021



Cases   ( 3,466,849)
Deaths   ( 91,470)

Deaths per million   ( 1,344)


Cases   ( 2,071,473)
Deaths   ( 49,244)

Deaths per million   ( 587)


What the Tories have given Britain is first a weakened and now a recession ridden economy, and lots of serious illness and death. Labour under Starmer has proposed nothing on consequence. How saddening this is, but Jeremy Corbyn, a leader of consequence, was undone by the media and Tories in Labour. Now the costs must be stated and restated and new political leadership must be sought.

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