A very mean reversion

A virtual Grand Tour around the various right of centre, libertarian and free market media sites and commentators over the last few years may have resulted in the, not unreasonable, conclusion there is a kind of Anglospheric Exceptionalism. From Roger Scruton, through Douglas Murray, Matt Ridley, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Haight, Lionel Shriver, and many other voices who pop up regularly in each other’s podcasts and on the pages of The Spectator.

The unique Anglo cultural phenomenon is hard to define but likely to include elements of the following (in no particular order); individuality, free speech, free trade, freedom of movement, property rights, rule of law, meritocracy, religious and sexual tolerance, morality, and fairness.

Different versions of this are shown to perhaps apply variously across countries.

Australia, for example, has almost an entire national identity built on the shifting sands foundation of a concept of “fairness”. Everyone who has travelled around the Aussie media, legislation and government services will have encountered the word “fair”, without it ever really being defined. Australian fairness is defined as, to recycle the words of US Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it”.

The USA’s proud boast is based more on free speech, individual responsibility and the creative destruction of free markets.

The UK spends much of its currency of national conversation on expensive angst about how racist and intolerant it is whilst simultaneously being the destination of choice for immigration from almost every ethnicity and religion. UK tolerance is clearly a national trait, as witnessed by the inability of most of its citizens to complain about customer service.

The Canadian, New Zealand and Irish flavours of Anglospheric Exceptionalism are harder to define. They’re three irrelevances on the world cultural stage, taking their cues heavily from their larger neighbours and generally piggybacking on the good stuff whilst pointing at the negatives as if they were a problem of some other.

There’s clearly a place for the theory of Anglospheric Exceptionalism, otherwise so many of the products of these countries, both tangible and philosophical, from iPhones to fundamental legal concepts, wouldn’t be adopted and/or envied by other less happy lands.

Culture must be a factor too, otherwise the success of the USA might perhaps have been replicated to some degree on the west coast of Africa when the newly formed country of Liberia adopted a CTRL C/V version of the USA Constitution. Last time we checked, Liberia wasn’t at the top of the list of countries people were battling to emigrate to.

Some amazing outcomes have been achieved from the children of the anglosphere. As a proxy measure, Cambridge University has produced double the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire country of France. Interestingly, France has produced four times the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire continent of Africa (including the Africans of European ancestry).

Clearly, cultural relativism is a bollocks concept. Not all cultures are equal, as anyone trying to get to the grocery store and home again unharmed in Johannesburg or Durban could tell you right now.

It’s easy to fall into the fantasy that we’ve found some magic civilising incantation, a secret formula to civilise the world and ensure the direction of travel is forward.

Worse, if you’re tempted down the roads of patriotism, ethnic pride and supremacy-thinking, you might believe this has something to do with genetics or another hard to define concept, “race”.

What if we’re wrong? What is history telling us?

It’s easy to ignore the inconvenience of history. Until really very recently, say, until the second quarter of the 20th century, life for everyone was uncertain in duration, brutish and tough.

Freedom of speech, for example, would have been quite a distant thought for most people in the anglosphere when faced with the prospect of having to bury a child every year or two. Freedom of movement and property rights were theoretical for the vast majority, who had only the option to emigrate vast distances with little to no possessions, often to escape religious intolerance, indentured labour and restrictions to their ability to trade freely.

If we’re really being honest with ourselves, these modern miracles about which years’ worth of podcast content and self-congratulatory books have been produced, are a specifically modern phenomenon probably not yet even 100 years old.

The normal scenario was benign rule by king or emperor if we were lucky, but brutal authoritarianism mostly. After all, Marcus Aurelius was only one man in an empire lasting more than a millennium.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we’ve been living in a dream? Perhaps we’d convinced ourselves the circumstances all but our last four generations found themselves in had been prevented from recurring.

Our ability to choose and find work, travel freely in and out of countries, speak freely in public, make our own health decisions, manage personal risk, protect our wealth and family and to take individual responsibility no longer exists.

Perhaps it never really did. Certainly, the swiftness with which these “rights” were removed indicates the fragile grasp by which we held them.

Le plus ça change, le plus c’est la meme chose, as your great great grandparents probably couldn’t pronounce but understood implicitly.

The reversion to the mean, is indeed very mean.

Are you an artist?

An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some examples:

The threat of mental health impacts.

Position A: we must agree, without question, with children who say they are transgender because otherwise their inevitable negative mental health outcome and possible suicide will be our fault.

Position B: we must keep children off school and away from group sports for months to protect the elderly and chronically unwell. The mental health impacts of this are insignificant.

Climate change

Position A: climate change is the biggest existential threat to humanity, all necessary resources and national finances should be applied to solve it. We must think the unthinkable.

Position B: nuclear energy is too big a danger to use to generate our power.

Election fraud

Position A: Russia hacked the 2016 election resulting in the illegitimate Trump presidency.

Position B: there were no irregularities in the 2020 election. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

The World Health Organisation

Position A: it’s unfortunate the WHO made several significant mistakes over the efficacy of masks and the possibility the Kung Flu came from the Wuhan lab.

Position B: the WHO is correct that the vaccines are safer for all age and health cohorts than catching the virus.

Prophylaxis

Position A: there is no evidence from randomised double blind longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of existing generic pharmaceutical treatments for Kung Flu and anyone suggesting these should be further investigated is a conspiracy theorist.

Position B: a vaccine first produced less than a year ago is completely safe in both the short and long term for all age and health cohorts.

Freedom of speech

Position A: one of the greatest benefits of living in a western democracy is the freedom to criticise government policy without sanction.

Position B: there is no problem with private companies, some of whom have revenue greater than the GDP of many countries, to censor people who spread misinformation as these people are dangerous conspiracy theorists.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps there’s a bit of artistry in us all. It’s not those who have inconsistency who scare me most, but those with certainty.

Take it away boys:

The cruel social experiment continues

In the same week:

Caitlyn Jenner arrives in Sydney.

Katie Hopkins arrives in Sydney.

Queen’sland Premier departs for the Tokyo Olympics after jumping the queue for a vaccine.

The residents of the Sydney suburb of Fairfield are under house arrest.

There’s something for everyone, heh?

If you think putting a bit of lippy on and acting out an autogynephiliac fantasy is stunning and brave, Caitlyn neé Bruce is here for you.

If you like confrontational shock jock politics, Katie is at hand.

If you believe for an Olympic bid to be successful, an authoritarian Premier with more chins than the Hong Kong phone book needs to visit Tokyo rather than use Skype, Anna is going bring gold home for you.

And if you didn’t even know where Fairfield was until last week, but you assumed it was out west and filled with smelly immigrants, the Westies will take one for the team and you.

At what point do people just say, “nah, fuck this”?

Bill’s Opinion

I think the answer to my question above is, not for a long while yet. It’s obvious we can all take a hell of a lot more hypocrisy, removal of freedom and hectoring by our ruling class and media before we decide we’ve had enough.

It’s an interesting social experiment though. I wonder when the result will be published?

Clayton’s zero covid policy

Last week was a watershed moment for Australians in their ongoing battle with the virus. A national cabinet agreed to a “plan” out of the current endless cycle of lockdowns, internal border closures and never visiting or being visited by our loved ones overseas.

Here it is:

One can read further details behind each of those steps at… no, wait, there are no further details. That graphic, using standard Microsoft PowerPoint SmartArt, has taken the Federal and States governments’ combined brain power 15 months to produce.

There’s not even a broad range for the ratio of vaccinated residents that would trigger a move between phases.

Those of us with a job in the productive part of the economy can tell you this is a bollocks plan. The measures should have some element of “SMART” to them to be worthwhile, that is; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

This looks rather similar to those ridiculous international statements we are handed as a fait accomplis from climate conferences, such as the Paris Agreement. The process to produce these documents is the same; a bunch of vested interests get together and drive their own agenda into the document, resulting in an inarticulate mush leaping from the minutiae to the macro between bullet points.

In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the process used to record the final Beatles’ album, Let It Be. A group of hostile collaborators tasked with producing something, anything, pumped out a disappointing product. In the Beatles’ case, an album full of solo efforts. In the Australian national cabinet’s example, a shitty PowerPoint slide a primary school child would score mid-class for.

It’s not all bad news though. We finally learned precisely when Australia switched from “flatten the curve” to “zero covid”. We all instinctively know that strategy change occurred, but nobody I’ve spoken to could point to the moment it happened.

It was July last year.

I don’t know about you, but I totally missed that press conference and the subsequent public discussion of the pros and cons of the various options for dealing with the virus. Not even the partisan hacks on Sky News Australia or The ABC mentioned it or discussed it.

Why? No seriously, why? This was a massive national decision and, if it was even reported, it must have been buried deep in the unread part of the newspaper (just next to Peter Fitzsimons’ column, presumably). Why no reporting of note?

Bill’s Opinion

If ever there was an illustration of the consequence of the political consensus across political parties and mainstream media, this would be it.

We didn’t have a national discussion over whether to go for zero cases of Kung Flu because both parties and the media tacitly agreed with it. Our opinion wasn’t sought.

Just a friendly reminder of the consequences government by consensus gets you:

A war in the Middle East looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, “45 minutes to launch”.

“Temporary” anti-terrorism laws, “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear”.

Taxpayer funded bank bail outs following irresponsible lending mistakes., “we gotta save the economy”.

And now this, the reversal of a decision made quietly and without scrutiny a year ago that has had implications for 24 million people, who were never asked and are now not being asked for the reversal.

Hanlon a minute

Hanlon’s razor is a principle or rule of thumb that states “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

This describes my default position whenever I try to parse the statements of politicians. Only their words however, not their actions; the motivation behind these are usually painfully obvious as the trusty revealed versus expressed preferences test explains.

Politicians’ words are often a tricky minefield to navigate though. For example, should the public be wearing masks to combat the virus? Well, no AND yes and you’ll be fined if you don’t keep up with the changes.

Experience has taught me to use Hanlon’s Razor as a safe heuristic to quickly make sense of a politician’s pontificating. For a single statement made by a single politician, it’s rarely wrong. They’re all dumber than bag of hammers and usually a one off statement is simply that lack of intellect revealing itself in verbal form.

When several, seemingly unconnected, politicians make similar or even identical statements, we should probably consider being a little more sceptical of relying on Robert Hanlon’s shaving device.

For example; in the same 24 hour period, Boris Johnson claims lockdowns, not the world’s 2nd largest per capita vaccinated population, reduced deaths and Greg Hunt’s suggestion that, even if Australia ever got its shit together and vaccinated the population, we won’t be leaving the country for several years.

Well, aren’t we just living in a very connected world, eh? Two senior government officials on different sides of the globe decide to downplay the effectiveness of vaccines, one of whom has spent the previous 6 months reminding his country on a daily basis that “normality” would return once enough people had done their civic duty and had the vaccine.

Coincidence? Conspiracy? Collective incompetence? Cowardice?

Your guess is a good as mine.

The one thing we can probably bet the house on is we will not be getting on a plane to an overseas holiday or be welcoming friends and relatives from overseas any time soon, regardless of vaccination status, vaccination passports or any other factor.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s been too many of these coincidences to be ignored. From the lockstep changes over last year of every national leader’s position on masks, school closures, lockdowns, herd immunity, not overwhelming the hospitals and now the effectiveness of vaccinations, the pattern has become too obvious to be ignored.

Hanlon’s Razor suggests we should consider a kinder explanation before assuming bad intentions. My view on these frequent coincidences is now not that we have incompetent leaders, I’ve always assumed that, but they compound their stupidity with cowardice.

No democratic leader is going to risk being accused of having “blood on their hands” by returning those freedoms we used to believe were rights while there is a risk of a single death by this virus. Regardless of any other cost.

Lastly, if your income relies on incoming tourism or overseas visitors such as students, what would the rational response be to Greg Hunt’s latest statement?

Yep, close up and go do something, anything, else.

“I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a million Australian hospitality workers cried out and were suddenly silenced

Whither Australia’s Federal Government?

If you observe Australian Federal politics for a short while, you may draw the conclusion the current Prime Minister provides about as much national utility as a chocolate teapot. However, should you be masochistic enough to observe Australian Federal politics for a longer time, you will realise this “as useful as tits on a bull” characteristic is common to ALL of the modern era Prime Ministers. It’s a feature of the system, not a bug.

It is possible you are unaware of the, cough, subtleties of the political system in Australia. I certainly was prior to moving here. If this doesn’t describe you, save time and skip the following 3 paragraphs.

Australia has a federated system of states, similar to, yet different from, the USA. This is documented in a rambling and confused constitution which reads like a bunch of vested interests wanted to copy the American version but without any of the annoying parts describing the rights of individuals, inalienable freedoms and primacy of self-determination. Frankly, it’s a dog’s breakfast of a document, although it does perfectly demonstrate the nation’s ongoing struggle with English prose.

The important part is that it is a federated system of quasi-sovereign states, where state governments have far more power than someone from most European counties would intuit.

If that wasn’t obvious prior to 2020, it became painfully clear during the response to the pandemic as state premiers opened and closed domestic borders in a spirit suggesting they felt Queensland and New South Wales had no more in common than Spain and Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the powerless Prime Minister and his ministers mouthed silently like fish washed up on the shore.

The “lived experience” of this system is a confused mess of inconsistent laws and competing regulations (up to 11 versions) for a population similar to that of London and the Home Counties.

Practical examples of this include;

There are countless examples such as these. It’s analogous to the American version of states within a republic but without the justification which comes from the sheer size of population. Both versions probably made huge sense before easy transport and communications, but only one still works as an effective ongoing experiment to test new legislation in a limited jurisdiction. Australia’s federated system of states seems to add unnecessary friction and cost to day to day life when one can travel faster than a horse and communicate quicker than a letter.

These annoyances and inefficiencies impacted Australians infrequently and not greatly enough to become a political movement prior to 2020. From March 2020, the various and differing state responses to the global pandemic starkly exposed the flaws in the system.

We could spend much time here discussing the seemingly random, unconnected and different state laws Australians were subject to during the previous 12 months, pointing out the illogical border closures seemingly dependent on whether the neighbouring state was governed by your fellow political travellers rather than location and number of cases.

The topic of this post is not “Whither Australia’s State Governments?” however. Today, we are wondering what exactly is the bloody point of all the various sociopaths, incompetents, rent-seekers and clock-watchers we are paying for in Canberra? A shorter version of that question is, “what’s the point of the Feds?”.

From what we’ve learned this year, the main duties of the Federal Government seem to be limited to the following:

  • National defence,
  • International Diplomacy (with the caveat some states have been running side campaigns in this area),
  • Immigration,
  • Central banking and the national economy,
  • Collecting income tax and distributing much of it to the states,
  • Erm, that’s about it.

So why then, for example, would the Federal Department of Health need 4,000 full time employees? The department “oversees” the state health departments, doesn’t have any hospitals, and probably doesn’t even employ more than a few dozen medical professionals.

It also failed spectacularly to secure enough vaccines from a diverse selection of pharmaceutical suppliers, despite having been given a 12 month grace period whilst we’ve been locked in a quarantined country. A luxury most other countries did not have. The words, “you had one job” seem somewhat appropriate.

There’s also a Department of Social Services with 1,887 souls desperately doing something, anything, every working day to justify their salary and pension, despite all of the actual governmental social services being delivered at a state level.

Rinse and repeat this question for every federal department listed here, with a particular curiosity for the 107 employees overseeing the $21m spent each year on Food Standards New Zealand.

It’s become painfully obvious over the last year that, regardless of which party is in power, the Federal Government isn’t fit for purpose. If you are unconvinced, let’s try a thought experiment to imagine what Australian life might look like in a version of reality where the Federal Government was fit for purpose.

Obviously, a centrally procured and “needle ready” national vaccine programme, would seem to be a desirable outcome. Also, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken over 12 months to negotiate a standard national policy to determine why and when lockdowns and internal border closures would be enforced.

What about in a regular, non-pandemic year?

How about a national standard for all medical qualifications? Followed by a national standard for any other profession which doesn’t have a specific regional flavour to it?

Or perhaps a joined up immigration system where infrastructure such as roads, housing, health and education capacity were planned and implemented in sync with the new arrivals?

We might expect a fit for purpose Federal Government brokering agreements to standardise rail gauges and facilitate inter-city rail links capable of speeds greater than Stephenson’s Rocket.

The outcomes we can observe in non-pandemic years should be evidence enough of the pointlessness of the Federal Government in its current form. What we experienced during the pandemic simply made it all the more obvious.

Bill’s Opinion

It won’t surprise regular readers of my minarchist instincts. The less opportunity an unelected bureaucrat has to interfere in my life, the happier I am. So, obviously I was in favour of immediately firing as many of them as possible anyway, even before making the observations above.

The post-2020 difference though, is I now have a very clear idea of which career politicians should be given their marching orders first; everyone in Canberra. Raze the buildings, salt the earth, remove the place name from the maps. Replace it with something a fraction of its current size and, while we’re at it, distribute it around the country. There’s a reason why Canberra has the best restaurants in Australia….because you’re picking up the bill for the food and wine every night.

It would seem to me that, based on the dog’s breakfast of a constitution and 120 years of legal precedence, the role of the ideal Federal Government can be summed up in one noun, “diplomacy”.

All we actually need from the Feds is to maintain appropriate relations with other countries (including “muscular” diplomacy, where required) and to use the same diplomacy skills to broker frictionless relations between Australian states and territories.

I’m not even convinced we necessarily benefit by the setting of interest rates and collection of income taxes to be undertaken at a Federal level. Perhaps what’s good economically for Sydney isn’t the same as that which would benefit Launceston, and the ability for their respective state governments to independently course-adjust would be more optimal?

Ultimately, my ramblings on this subject were just an exercise in complaining; there’s zero chance the Canberra political-industrial complex will countenance a change and, unless the people of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane* decide to march on the ACT with pitchforks and singing La Marseilles, nothing will change any time soon.

*sorry Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart, but you’re not relevant. As for Perth; go on, we dare you to declare UDI; we’ll invade and take over those mines within 15 minutes…to save them from China.

Hot dog, boiling frogs, Albuquerque

We’ve all got different limits.

In the film Falling Down, the main character reaches his after a long and difficult day when a store owner refuses to give change to make a telephone call.

For Britons, perhaps it’s the passing of this law later today, banning “non essential” overseas travel, at almost the precise point the herd/vaccine immunity makes itself clear on the offical statistics.

Sorry. WHAT?

Over the 806 years of Common Law, the principle has been consistent: if something isn’t explicitly banned, it’s allowed. Look at how lightly the current crop of politicians are prepared to flip that on its head.

Previously, if a citizen (synonym; “free man“) wished to travel overseas, they would only be prevented for a small list of reasons such as to flee prosecution for a criminal offence, or there was a reasonable expectation they were intending to commit an offence overseas (child abuse, for example).

In 2021, we now have just ten reasons a citizen can cite to not be detained in domestic captivity.

These reasons are listed below, you’ll read them and think, that’s reasonable.

But you’d be wrong. Dead fucking wrong.

It’s so unreasonable, it justifies outrage. Not violence, we’re not there yet, but we should be doing everything within in our capability to fire the people who thought this was a good day’s work in Westminster and never allow them to hold public office again.

If you’ve committed no crime, have no intention of committing a crime, perhaps you’ve even had the bloody vaccine like you were told to, who the fuck should be able to prevent you from departing the country?

Some wanky bureaucrat making a decision to hand out five grand fines at Dover because their interpretation of your reason to leave the country is that it isn’t good enough? Fuck off. Fuck right off.

Those ten reasons:

Study

Work

Weddings

Legal obligations

Moving, selling or renting property

Childcare or to be present at a birth

Visiting a dying relative

Attending a funeral

Medical appointments

Escaping a risk of harm

Bill’s Opinion

That last reason is a doozy.

It’ll be interesting to review the final wording of the act to look for the opportunity to cite, “taking a mental health break from an authoritarian government, operating for over a decade without a credible opposition, imposing arbitrary and unscientific laws on citizens” as a valid interpretation.

I no longer recognise my country of birth and its supine, compliant, frit citizens.

This is a country who produced someone capable of delivering this speech with a straight face and honest intentions. An iron curtain has indeed fallen across the continent.

Take it away Byron:

“England! with all thy faults I love thee still,”

I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;

I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;

I like the government (but that is not it);

I like the freedom of the press and quill;

I like the Habeas Corpus (when we’ve got it);

I like a parliamentary debate,

Particularly when ’tis not too late;

I like the taxes, when they’re not too many;

I like a seacoal fire, when not too dear;

I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;

Have no objection to a pot of beer;

I like the weather, when it is not rainy,

That is, I like two months of every year,

And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!

Which means that I like all and everything.

Our standing army, and disbanded seamen,

Poor’s rate, Reform, my own, the nation’s debt,

Our little riots just to show we are free men,

Our trifling bankruptcies in the Gazette,

Our cloudy climate, and our chilly women,

All these I can forgive, and those forget,

And greatly venerate our recent glories,

And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

Covid numberwang

Have we reached the point where there is any credibility left in academia or the news industry when they present numbers to us?

Here’s an example. London bus drivers three times more likely to die from Covid.

Well, that’s bad, obviously.

I came across this article because I’d been waiting for data to appear to help answer a question that’s been nagging my brain for some time. That is, what’s the relative rates of infection, hospitalisation and death for the workers who’ve been unable to work from home for the last year. I’m thinking of bus drivers and supermarket cashiers, specifically.

Read the article for yourself, but data points offered include:

  • 51 bus drivers have died of covid.
  • This equates to “three times” the rate of other workers (but the actual rate isn’t offered, nor is the denominator).
  • “….an earlier introduction of the lockdown on 23 March 2020 would have saved lives“.
  • The report confirms driving a London bus is one of the most dangerous jobs during the pandemic.”

If we accept the UK population is about 67 million, give or take a couple of million illegal immigrants, and the offical total of covid deaths is about 126,000, then the population fatality rate is just under 0.2%.

Despite the BBC article not bothering you with this detail, a search would suggest there were approximately 24,500 bus drivers in London in 2014. So, 51/24,500 x 100 = a death rate of 0.2%.

Obviously the UK-wide calculation is using the overall population, including retirees who would skew the ratio up, but also children who would skew the ratio down. But, as a sniff test, it suggests there’s not something wildly different going on with bus drivers, despite what the report claims.

The assertion that driving a bus is one of the most dangerous professions seems to be doing a little heavy lifting and one many cycle couriers and North Sea divers may want to take issue with.

The report’s conclusion seems suspiciously in line with precisely what Sadiq Khan paid them to write was expecting, i.e. evil and stupid Boris Johnson should have shut down the country earlier.

In other news, if nobody ever travelled by car again, there would be no more traffic fatalities and, in a specific example, if James Dean had taken a train instead of driving Little Bastard he might still be here today. Just because a statement is true doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

If you wish to bypass the useless reporting, the full 87 pages of the UCL report can be found here. Fair warning, it won’t improve your confidence in the existence of objective science, though.

The report attempts to parse diverse data sets on areas such as age, ethnicity, health, social status, housing, and methods of commute to work to produce a conclusion on why the death rate was so high (a prior assumption which we can challenge) and what could have been done or can still be done to ameliorate it.

Judge for yourself whether this was achieved and whether or not objective scientific analysis was used.

Bill’s Opinion

Personally, I’m none the wiser on two important questions:

Have front line workers been disproportionately infected or killed by the virus, and if so, why?

The report has convinced me of one fact, however; this is a multi-variable problem and seeking a single reason is pointless. 87 pages of pointlessness, in this case.

Some clues can be found within the report, if one looks hard enough though. Once you get past the headline conclusion of, “keeping everyone at home earlier would have stopped bus drivers from catching a virus and dying from it“, there is a tell tale admission in the second recommendation:

2) In the longer term, early interventions on ill-health prevention are needed to reduce obesity in the population as a whole, with responsible employers playing their part. In particular, measures are needed among younger London bus drivers who have higher rates than other young people of the same age.

Finally, he who pays the piper, calls the tune. This is a flawed and political study, primarily for the purpose of shifting blame on to the Mayor of London’s political opponent.

The clue is even in the organisation name, the Institute of Health Equity.

Equity. Whenever one sees that noun, it’s a clear signal you are dealing with disciples of Critical Theory and should treat the call for action with the same credibility as the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A year on and we still can’t trust any number offered on the subject.

What’s the secret soy sauce?

The Spectator’s Cindy Yu hosted an interesting podcast this week; Has China really beaten coronavirus? in which she interviewed a correspondent in China who pointed out life has been back to normal since about May. Domestic flights are full, about one in ten people are wearing masks in public (which is a rational decision for anyone worried about pollution there) and nightclubs are operating as they did in 2019 with no social distancing restrictions.

That’s quite a turnaround from the situations we were seeing on the news, YouTube and social media back in January and February.

Do you remember? People were being welded shut inside their homes, others were collapsing on the street, including this man who died and whose photographed corpse made it on the Grauniad’s coverage on January 30th 2020:

Compare and contrast with practically every other country in the world and the varying levels of incursions into centuries’ old freedoms they have imposed. Going nightclubbing must see like a distant memory to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians.

So what’s going on? What’s the secret to China’s success?

That’s got to be the question of late 2020, surely?

As documented in the media in the early months of 2020, China enforced city-wide lockdowns, including the infamous door-welding.

But so did many other countries and cities. Why is it that, say, London is still moving in and out of lockdown on an almost weekly basis while the disco twinkies in Guangzhou can boogie the night away inside a steamy nightclub?

From the dead body in the pages of the Grauniad and the nightclubs being open was barely 4 months. How is it that New York, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Sydney have nobody in their nightclubs?

Indeed, that famous Churchillian libertarian and free market advocate, Boris Johnson, is considering stopping Britons from going to the pub on Christmas Eve, something that wasn’t even implemented during both world wars.

So what on earth is going on?

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why 1.3bn citizens in an authoritarian regime like China have, prima facie, greater personal freedom than the heirs to Magna Carta.

All I have is a blunt razor that suggests (not proves) the explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the cause.

I’d love for people to offer alternate suggestions in the comments but my current view is the other countries are now dealing with a problem of fearful and incompetent leadership. They are fearful that the initial reaction was justified on the available data but, with what is known now, would be judged far too extreme. They are also incompetent at explaining the trade-offs required to be accepted for us to return to normal life.

Is it an international conspiracy of the Illuminati? Of course not.

It doesn’t really matter though; the impact is indistinguishable.

What we have here is a failure of imagination

If the bookies are a good indicator, it’s President Kamala Harris Joe Biden for the next term.

There will be much celebration and gnashing of teeth depending on people’s preferences and biases, obviously.

Despite the probable win, the fact the election was so close will not be a comfort to the Democrats. After all, if nearly half the vote went to this “literally Hitler” orange man, what does that say about the Democrats’ persuasiveness that theirs was the morally-correct path?

Commentators have spotted this, for example this Daily Mirror opinion piece wondering why 17% of black voters couldn’t spot Trump’s racism.

This one is amusing too;

Until about five minutes ago, Emma was a high profile journalist. That she is unable to understand the possible motivation of almost half the voting population, probably goes quite some way to explaining the reason behind her recent sudden change of career.

Bill’s Opinion

One of the key requirements for a journalist must surely be an ability to empathise, or at least know of the major reasons behind other people’s opinions. Not to agree with, but at least to form a good understanding of their key grievances and motivations.

That so many professional commentators are clearly and publicly incapable of this basic human characteristic, suggests a life lived exclusively in one hermetically sealed opinion echo chamber.

Check whether this applies to you; if you’re of the left, try to list the five best arguments in favour of free markets and, if you’re a free market kinda person, do the same for the left.

See? Easy isn’t it? You don’t have to agree with the other opinion to understand it. In fact, it’s necessary to make every effort in order for us to live peacefully together.

Being incapable of that simple act of empathy indicates a total failure of imagination.

Let’s hope that’s not a skill one needs in the role of “Chief Strategy Government Relations & Communications” for an insurance aggregator website company, otherwise Emma will be making a custard of that job too, despite it being a bit of a bullshit job reliant almost entirely on who you know, not what you know.