Thursday, August 14, 2008

Motoring writer Jeremy Clarkson on British envy

Recently, I wrote in another part of the paper about the difficulties of trying to work while staying for the summer at your bolthole in the country. There are too many distractions, the view is too consuming, the children too needy and the constant longing for a beer too overwhelming.

Well, soon all the problems will be erased because a government think tank has looked carefully at the question of second homes and has announced that the rich bastards who have them should be forced to rent them out to underachieving, fat people. Hmmm. I wonder. Did it deliver its findings to Gordon Brown at No 10, or to his second home in Buckinghamshire? And how does it think such a scheme could possibly work?

Many people, for instance, claim they live in Monaco for tax reasons. Whereas in fact, all they do is buy a small flat and employ an estate agent to pop in every morning to make a few phone calls. The bills are then used as proof that they were there. Second-home owners would adopt similar tactics here. Or they'd say their country cottage is their primary residence and that their apartment in London is a pied-a-terre. Then, the local council would have to prove otherwise by going through everyone's knicker drawer and employing men with binoculars and coffee breath to follow us about. I fear the government think tank hasn't considered any of this because it was so consumed with bitterness, hatred and envy for people with money. It is not alone.

Just the other day, I read a report that said musicals in London's West End are bucking the trend with higher than ever audiences. This, you might think if you were a normal, well balanced soul, is a good thing. But sadly the red top reporter was not. He was just bothered that bigger audiences meant Andrew Lloyd Webber would have even more money. And that made him incandescent with fury. Why? It's not like Andrew Lloyd Webber spends his evenings being carried around council estates in Slough in a sedan chair, waving his jewels out of the window. He just gets on with his life in a way that has no effect whatsoever on the way you live yours or I live mine.

It's like being kept awake at night with a burning sense of envy about Cliff Richard's youthful good looks. What should we do? Take a Black & Decker sander to his cheekbones? Why? Because disfiguring Cliff's face won't make any difference to your own. I don't yearn for many aspects of the American way but they do seem to have this dreadful bitterness under control. When they see a man pass by in a limousine, they say: "One day, I'll have one of those." When we see a man pass by in a limo, we say: "One day, I'll have him out of that."

All this past week, I've been driving around in a Rolls-Royce coupe and it's been a genuinely alarming insight into the bitterness of Britain's obese and stupid underclass. Because when you drive this enormous monster past a bus queue, you realise that hate is not an emotion. It's something you can touch, and see and smell. Just yesterday, a man in a beaten-up van deliberately straddled two lanes to make sure I could not get past. It would have made no difference at all to his life if I'd done so, but there was no way in hell he was going to let a Roller by. I find that shoulder-saggingly depressing.

More here

Misery merchants

Janet Albrechtsen writes from Australia:

It's called the happiness industry. But one gets the feeling that the aim is to make you feel unhappy. Very unhappy. After all, without unhappiness, there would be no need for a happiness industry and doyens of the trade such as Clive Hamilton would be out of a job. The author of books such as Affluenza and The Growth Fetish is touring Australia, sprinkling a little misery wherever he goes to promote his new book, The Freedom Paradox. Last week his publishers approached this newspaper to see if The Australian would like to interview Hamilton about his new book. The editor of The Weekend Australian wrote back, suggesting I interview Hamilton. No thanks, came the answer. Hamilton was adamant that it would need to be someone else, probably anyone else except me.

He said: "She may have an agenda." He's right. I do have an agenda to probe Hamilton's argument that we are so unhappy with our wealth that a new political and moral order is required to save us.

You don't need to interview Hamilton to do that, of course. His books have a repetitive theme, bemoaning the empty consumerism of modern society where people are depicted as drones, buying larger houses "filled with furnishings, appliances, carpets and curtains", a big car in the driveway and a "super barbecue" on the lawn as a symbol of our vacuous lives. "Is this what civilisation in Australia has come to?" he asks. Rhetorically, of course.

For happiness gurus, economic growth is bad: the higher wages delivered by a surging economy apparently make us unhappy. Now it's true that surveys of national wellbeing reveal that, past a certain point, more money does not equate with greater happiness. It seems that people adapt to their wealth, often taking for granted their new, more affluent lifestyles. But here's an idea. Try taking away higher wages and bigger houses from people. Perhaps then you will find unhappiness.

In any case, Hamilton's "woe is you" message is not supported by the evidence. Drawing on the Gallup World Poll and other surveys, research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers earlier this year found that countries with the greatest economic growth recorded the highest levels of life satisfaction. In other words, it's no fun living in Tanzania.

Hamilton, however, is intent on telling people they don't know what's good for them. "We do not know what is in our interests," he proclaims like a new secular priest. We who aspire to bigger houses, a barbecue that can "roast, smoke, bake and grill" and other nice stuff are the victims of what he calls the "new form of coercion". We are settling for a "life of consumer conformity", unable to make free choices, buying possessions under the evil influence of corporations and spivvy advertisers. "It is probably more accurate to say that the modern consumer goes to the market a needy mass of confused and neurotic urges looking for a salve," he writes in his latest lament.

The answer set out in The Freedom Paradox is neither new nor accurate. It is to impose a far more conformist model on people, where we reject the market and material possessions and search out what Hamilton regards as the path to spiritual happiness. His latest treatise reads like a long-winded version of John Lennon's song Imagine:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

The predictable solution from happiness experts such as Hamilton is to forge a new, exhilarating philosophy that says a certain class of elites - in his case, of the book-writing kind - know better than you what will deliver you true happiness. In this modern utopia, Clive - the Great Leader - decrees that we down-shift to life in utilitarian-style communes, where working hours are limited, stiff tax laws ensure no one earns much more than others, where advertising is largely banned to avoid weak people being drawn into consumer hell, with plenty of free time to navel-gaze about what he calls the noumenon, living close to one's nature. "Only by turning our backs on the market ... can we give expression to our true preferences," he concludes. That may be Clive's true preference, but where does he get off imagining that it is mine? Or yours?

At the heart of the happiness philosophy is a disdain for, and distrust of, people. Old-fashioned paternalism lies at the core of Hamilton's obsession with the "hedonic treadmill". He fails to imagine that people can simultaneously enjoy material possessions and pursue ambitious careers - living what he derides as "the pleasant life" - while also pursuing loving and caring relationships that give our lives meaning. For Hamilton, "the meaningful life" is impossible without rejecting pleasure and pursuing his new politics based on "a need for a redistribution of outcomes".

Pare back the academic prose and it's clear that Hamilton is merely repackaging a distinctly old-style communism into new age, 21st-century language. You get the impression Hamilton would be happier if we were all living somewhere north of the 38th parallel. [i.e. in North Korea].

That Hamilton is deeply unhappy living in Australia should come as no great surprise. Research confirms that those on the Left side of politics are far less happy than those who have conservative political beliefs. And I'm willing to wager my electronic multi-spark, six-burner barbecue on this: the further left one travels, the more unhappiness you find.

The happiness gap between conservatives and progressives, which has been around for decades, was researched most recently in June this year by Jaime Napier and John Jost from New York University. Adjusting for income, marital status and other demographic variables, they found that "right-wingers report greater happiness and satisfaction than left-wingers around the world" because those with a conservative belief in the power of a meritocracy and the ability of men and women to succeed in life treat inequality as inevitable rather than evil.

By contrast, Hamilton - the poster boy of unhappy left-wingers - is a walking, talking, book-writing explanation of why those on the Left are less happy. They have little faith in the ability of individuals to rise above their circumstances. For them, meritocracy is not the goal. The holy grail is equality of outcomes. Hence the existence of inequality is viewed as an inherent evil and a cause of deep dissatisfaction with society.

But, heck, you don't need research to conclude that, for so long as we live in a prosperous free market economy that allows individuals to decide and pursue for themselves what makes them happy, Hamilton will be unhappy. That is his right. If only he'd stick to his own personal journey for salvation and stop assuming the rest of us are just like him.



Liberals either do not have children or they do not have as many children as conservatives do. Instead liberals have dogs, cats and disposable income to spend on themselves. Children require personal sacrifice-which is entirely unappealing to those who are not religiously motivated. These same self-indulgent liberals realize that without children their ideology will die--so they seek to spread their nihilistic dogma to other people's children via the public school system and the popular media. What follows is an excerpt of a new book by Peter Schweizer called Makers and Takers which fleshes out the ugly truth.
"[G]o to the streets of a liberal enclave like San Francisco, Seattle or Vermont. There will be plenty of expensive boutiques, antique dealers, health spas, sushi bars and upscale coffee shops. But you won't see very many children. The reason is not that right-wingers have dumped buckets of birth control pills into the San Francisco municipal water supply. The simple fact is that many on the liberal left today just don't want to have children.

"A 2004 U.S. survey showed that a typical sample of 100 unrelated adults who called themselves liberal will have 147 children. That contrasts with the typical conservative, who is likely to have 208 children per 100 unrelated adults. That's 41% more.

"The liberal Northeastern states - Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York - have the lowest fertility rates in the country. They also have the lowest percentage of population under the age of five. In progressive San Francisco, there are more dogs than children. Joel Kotkin points out that Seattle (my hometown) has roughly the same population as it did in the 1960s, but barely half as many children. Indeed, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. Dogs, of course, offer companionship without the burdens and responsibilities of children.

Some might conclude that this is a result of the high cost of living in desirable cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco. But in these childless meccas, we also see some of the highest per capita expenditures on luxury goods, spas and personal therapies. It's not a lack of money; it's a lack of interest. The General Social Survey found that 69% of those who called themselves "very conservative" said it was important to them to have children. Only 38% of corresponding liberals agreed. An online survey (admittedly not scientific) taken by the left-wing Web site asked readers if they had children and how many. The most popular answers: "No children," "Not going to have any," and "Don't want any."

Meanwhile, the highest fertility rate in the country is found in the most conservative state, Utah, followed by Arizona, Alaska and Texas, otherwise known as "red states," according to the latest National Center for Health Statistics survey. States with the lowest fertility rates are Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, all "blue states." Over half of the women of childbearing age - 15 to 44 - are childless in liberal bastions such as the District of Columbia, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Many on the left proudly proclaim themselves to be "child-free." (They angrily reject the term child-less because it implies that they are missing out on something.) Partly, this is a result of liberal pessimism about the future. Concerned about overpopulation, dwindling environmental resources, global warming, etc., some liberals don't want to have children because they see them as an environmental hazard. Billionaire Ted Turner reflected this attitude when he thoughtfully announced his regret at having five children. "If I was doing it over again, I wouldn't have had that many, but I can't shoot them now and they're here." No doubt, this sort of sentiment makes for charming conversation around the Turner dinner table.

Far more common is the modern liberal notion that children are a burden, something that will get in the way of one's self-fulfillment. As any parent knows, raising children is hard work. It requires emotional commitment, selfless acts, large quantities of time and scads of money. Many liberals just don't want the inconvenience. When asked by the World Values Survey whether parents should sacrifice their own well-being for those of their children, those on the left were nearly twice as likely to say "no" (28% to 15%) when compared to conservatives.

"This birth gap presents a quandary for politically active liberals. Not wanting to be inconvenienced with raising their own children, they still want to see their ideas perpetuated. Professor Darren Sherkat of Southern Illinois University worries that because conservatives "who have lots of children" are not being matched by those on the political left who "may well not have kids," these demographic trends will push the country in a more conservative direction. (Data indicates that 80% of children end up adopting the political attitudes of their parents.) To counterbalance this trend, he argues for increasing immigration and expanding the black population. He also hopes that childless liberals will "be able to reproduce themselves in strangers," by taking on jobs as teachers, writers and other people of influence. The idea is to let conservatives raise their children, while liberals influence them through the schools and universities.

Another lefty concurs: "I'd say that the author of a popular book has far more aggregate influence than do one set of parents. So if the book is very popular and captures the imaginations of kids, presto, you've done a lot to insure that the ideas that are important to you live long after you pass on . If it's the ideas that matter then I suppose that there are ways that folks like you can propagate the ideas without having your own kids be your lab rats."

And here is further living proof --if you need it:

In Sweden children's books are becoming an ideological battleground.


Canadian Human Rights Investigation against Catholic Magazine Resumes

Canada's human rights industry has resumed its investigation of Catholic Insight magazine, published by Father Alphonse de Valk. The Canadian Human Rights Commission had announced on July 4 that it was dropping its 16-month investigation against the publication for alleged 'hate'. However, homosexual activist Rob Wells, the complainant in the case, was given 30 days to request a judicial review of the case.

According to a federal court docket, Wells requested the judicial review on July 31. Canadian blogger 'Blazing Cat Fur' broke the story Thursday evening, linking to the court docket here:" . The docket lists the complainant as "Robert Dale Wells" and mentions that he is suing from Edmonton Alberta.

Fr. de Valk was informed of the application for judicial review Friday morning by reporter Pete Vere, author of an upcoming book on the Human Rights Commission and its attack on freedoms of religion and speech. "I'm very disappointed if I have to go through this again," he told Vere. Fr. de Valk further told that he sees the move as "another attempt to drain us of funds" noting "he's already cost us over $20,000."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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