Troubling…

“The America in which I was born would never have elected a man such as Trump. His victory shows that certain standards have declined, in ways that we, left AND [ Emphasis as in original ] right, may not really appreciate in our college-educated bubble…For many college- educated women like me, raised in a bubble of masculine civility and marriage stability, Trump’s personal style and personal history are very hard to swallow. But for many other women and men, he represents a wonderful father figure of a kind they’ve never actually known…Trump may seem to us to represent a decline in family values and standards. But for many of our fellow Americans, mired in economic stagnation and sexual chaos, he represents an unattainable ideal rather then a problem.”

Maggie Gallagher writing in the “National Review”

“Being here at Duke, I realize I am in a liberal bubble, and this [ election ] was one of the biggest wake up call that I [ have ever ] had. I didn’t live in the America that I thought I lived in.”

A student at Duke University, Durham North Carolina, at a rally called to protest against the election of Donald Trump

Fidel Castro and Black Friday.

There was something fitting about the fact that Fidel Castro died, well near enough, on “Black Friday” the day on which some of the worst features of capitalism are on display. But for all its faults and there are many, the excesses of black Friday also exemplify the achievements of the market system. There is nothing like private enterprise for creating wealth. Those like Castro who favoured the socialist alternative were just plain wrong. They were wrong as Ludwig Von Mises explained, because in lacking  a price system socialism is inherently chaotic. And they were also mistaken because as Hayek showed in “The Road to Serfdom,”  socialism will always ultimately erode human freedom.

Castro was thus utterly deluded. If those who study his career learn this then his life will not have been completely wasted.

May he rest in peace, and may also the Cuban people soon find prosperity and freedom in ways which he would have deplored, but which we on this web site  will continue to celebrate despite the excesses of  Black Friday.

The Room

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The Tinahely Court House Arts Centre, whose web sits has been added to our Visiting Ireland links.

One of the many joys of living in the North Wexford hill country are the film screenings which take place in the Tinahely Court House Arts Centre just over the border in South Wicklow. This year they are taking place once a month. In October a large crowd enjoyed “The Lady in the Van.” Earlier this month a smaller- but equally enthusiastic- group of us gathered to see “The Room” ( 2015) ( not to be confused with the 2003 cult film of the same title)- based a novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue.

“The Room” is not a great film. It won’t figure on any list of must see movies. But it is a both disturbing and thought provoking production, which raises philosophical issues of some interest.

The plot concerns a young women Joy Larson, very well played by Brie Larson,  who has been kidnapped by a “Old Nick” a sexual abuser and held captive for more than five years in an outhouse in his “yard” ( as the Americans would say .) During this time she has been made pregnant and given birth to a son Jack, and the film begins with the two of them  celebrating his fifth birthday. Old Nick then tells Joy that he has lost his job, and can no longer afford their supplies, she realises that this is  the moment when they must escape.

To do this though she has to convince her son that there IS another world to escape to as he knows no other reality than the room in which they are imprisoned. The RoomThe matter is complicated by the fact that the one luxury their captor has allowed them is a television. It transpires that sometime before the opening of the film that Joy had told her Jack that what he sees on the screen is not real, and that the people he “sees” there are “just plastic.” Now she has to persuade him that the “just plastic” does indeed depict a real world beyond the confines of the room which he has no means of imagining.

Ultimately the pair do escape…but then  ( of course ) they face the further difficulties  of adjusting to the realities of life in the outer world. Once more television plays a role. The media of a slice of the action of their story, and Joy is made the subject of a television interview…in which the interviewer questions the mother as to why- as she could have- she did not arrange for Jack be removed from his prison, in such a way as not to implicate Old Nick so that he can enjoy a normal childhood outside “the room.” In other words has she behaved selfishly?  The question – which puts its finger on the flaw in the movies plot- completely throws her, and she attempts suicide.

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Tinahely, Co. Wicklow

While the penultimate scene attempts to frame the story within the joys of the “American way” with a sloppy scene in a Hamburger joint, this is a powerful and worrying film. Very well worth watching.

The Maverick Philosopher.

We are much indebted to the Maverick Philosopher who has just included us among his philosophy links! This is a an honour we hardly deserve, since we only publish philosophy occasionally. We only hope that those who visit here from there will not be too disappointed at what they find.

That said, this is surely a time when philosophy is more than usually important. This is a moment of stark and new divisions. Both Britain and The United States, are as divided, about respectively Brexit, and President Elect Trump, as they have ever been, except in times of Civil War. And in these times when passions on both sides have become almost uncontrollable, then careful thought becomes all the more difficult. But it is vital for the survival of free societies. We hope to be able to contribute here is some small way to the preservation of civilised dialogue between left and right. We are thus all the more flattered that the MAVERICK PHILOSOPHER  has looked in so kindly a way towards our efforts. We hope that we prove ourselves worthy of his support.

Rural America protests!

I have memories of almost every American presidential election since 1956, when I loved the way in which the word “Eisenhower” slipped from my tongue. I have followed most of campaigns closely, and have stayed up all night to see the results of many of them, including the memorable occasion in 1968, when I and two friends ( one now deceased) slipped out of our dormitories at boarding school to watch Nixon defeat Humphrey on a black and white television the size of a postage stamp!

donald-trumpNever though, have I experienced anything like Tuesday night. The polls seemed clear enough. Hillary would win, perhaps by a wide margin. And that was how the evening began. As usual the first results came from reliably Republican states like Kentucky, and then from left leaning New England states. It soon became evident, although no one actual spelled this out, that Trump, was doing a bit better than expected. But only a bit better. Hillary still seemed to be the favourite.

North Carolina was balanced by Virginia, and then Trump carried Florida, a necessary but not sufficient condition for his victory. Trump was still ahead in the electoral college. But for how long could this last? The numbers were leaking onto the web, but there seemed to be a strange reluctance for anyone to draw conclusions from them. It was as if the media really didn’t know what was happening, always the sign of a big, big, story, or else that they didn’t dare say what they were starting to suspect.

It was The Daily Mail web site that seemed first to break the spell. Trump had won. Gradually the disparate numbers formed into a strange pattern. There were two elections going on. There was the relatively conventional race in which the Republican nominee was doing well enough to create a tight result. And then there was the second more dramatic election taking place from Pennsylvania in the East to Iowa further West.

And it was this second election that was going to determine the winner of the whole contest. Something very odd was occurring; something outside the experience of the experts, and outside the data of the pollsters.

Hillary was facing a revolt among in areas she had considered her own, and had taken for granted. The first signs that something was afoot had appeared before the election, when even the pollsters began to admit that the Democrats were in deep trouble in rural Iowa- normally considered a swing state in which the strength of  both parties is about equal. And then there was the flurry of campaign visits to Pennsylvania- which state turned out to be the key to the overall result.

Donald Trump’s  victory in what has inaccurately been called the Rust Belt ( referring to its decayed industries) was one of the most remarkable electoral events in my lifetime. Trump simply had to win Ohio, and he did so by a decent margin. Indiana is traditionally a Republican state which he won easily. ( Obama’s victory there in 2008 was quite exceptional. ) Illinois is Democratic state, despite the legacy of Lincoln, and is out the reach of any Republican in a normal year. Minnesota is classic democratic territory and yet Trump came within one and a half per cent of carrying it. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are not normally considered fertile ground for the Republicans and yet Trump carried all three, which effectively knocked Hillary out of the race, as her wins in the classic swing states such as Nevada and Colorado were not enough.

What had happened? The answer seems to be that rural white voters, many of whom were evangelicals, flocked to the polls in overwhelming numbers to vote for Trump, or at least against Hillary.

The bulk of these did not have college degrees and have thus been depicted by the liberal media as being idiotic and bigoted country bumpkins.

It would be silly to pretend that there was no bigotry about the Trump phenomena. Trump is no saint, and he plainly attracted the votes of many sinners.

That confessed, one of the least reported and understood divisions in The United States is that between urban, and suburban America, and the America of the countryside, of the small towns. Urban America is liberal. Rural America is conservative.

Why is this? As a countryman, and as a conservative, I’m biased. Perhaps I’m not the right person to pontificate on the issue. But if pressed I would suggest that life in a town somehow predisposes the down dweller to think in terms of abstractions.  Too many people mean that they all merge into, well, abstractions denuded of actual reality, envisaged solely as numbers. Reality can be avoided in the town, but not in the countryside where the connection between actions and consequences can never be avoided. “The cattle will get through that fence if it isn’t mended.” “I will get cold if those logs aren’t chopped.” “The pipes will burst in the winter if they are not lagged.”

It is I believe for reasons such as these, and of course the scandal of illegal immigration, rather than a dislike of black and Hispanic American that explains why the countryside in America tends to be more conservative than the towns, and why it backed Donald Trump is so sensational a fashion in this extraordinary election.

And it is for these reasons also why Hillary Clinton could not connect with rural America. Bill may be from Arkansas- which voted-of course- for Trump. But Hilary is a creature of the metropolis. One can imagine Hillary in church, but never driving a pickup.

But what of Donald Trump and his future? Will he serve his supporters well? He is a big beast who reminds me somewhat of the late Charlie Haughey. But he is certainly an urban figure too. It was perhaps indicative that the election parties of the two candidates were both within a mile of one another- in where else but New York City!

Trump was not my candidate, although his choices for the Supreme Court are likely to be much better than those that Hillary would have made. Nevertheless had I been an American citizen I would probably not have voted for him. He is wrong on many of the issues. He is wrong free trade. He is wrong about foreign policy. ( Let us hope that the talk about the super hawk John Bolton as Secretary of State is ill informed! ) Trump is also wrong about the need for a government industrial strategy- which seems to be what he was saying when he spoke ( otherwise well ) when the result of the election became clear on Wednesday morning.  And plainly he is not temperamentally well suited to be President.

Will he betray his supporters? Does he really understand them? Will he really tackle the problem of uncontrolled immigration in a non-vindictive but effective way?

Does his business experience augur well for his country? Can he really “make America great?”

His inauguration three months from now will raise as many questions as it answers. Ihilary share some, but certainly NOT all, the concerns of my liberal friends.  But in the meantime as Donald Trump begins to assemble his team, we must, like Hillary Clinton, in her eloquent speech of concession, wish him well.

Note. I am not now sure whether in fact Trump does favour an Industrial strategy. Here is certainly in favour of huge government infrastructure projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The past is another country…

…they do things differently there” said that dry observer of the human scene, L.P. Hartley at the start of “The Go Between.”  And his is right, they do indeed.

Here is Neville Chamberlain ( 1869-1940 ), as Chancellor of the Exchequer ( 1923-1924, and 1931- 1937 ), finding evidence for thechamberlian time success of his economic policy. It is all the more odd when one considers that he had previously been a highly regarded Minister of Health ( 1923, and 1924-1929)!

As an indication of the improvement in the ordinary household budget, the Committee may be interested to know from figures derived from the returns of the Customs and Excise, I calculate that last year the people of this country sweetened their lives with 80,000 tons of sugar more than in the previous year. They smoked 6,500,000 pounds more tobacco, equivalent, I am told, of 2,600,000 cigarettes. They spent £2,750,000 more on entertainments: they washed away their troubles with 270,000,000 more pints of beer. [ HON MEMBERS: “Hear, hear” ] and with 700,000,000 more cups of that beverage which cheers but not inebriates they “welcomed the peaceful evening in.”

                     Viscountess Astor: No cheers for that.

Mr. Chamberlain: I do not need to be reminded that our recovery is far from being complete and that we require constant effort to maintain what we have already achieved…

Hansard, April, 15th 1935

The deeper point here being that the luxuries of one generation become the necessities of the next, and, it would now seem, the sources of trouble in the one after that. And what drives this process? The brilliance of central planners. No  indeed, rather the ingenuity of human beings fostered by a free economy.