Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Shallow assertions about the market are made with no attempt as supporting reasoning or proof

I noted on Dissecting Leftism recently that some group of loopy Leftist do-gooders have just published a pie-in-the-sky "Manifesto of Wellbeing". There is a satirical look at it here. One of my readers has also sent in the following comments on a couple of passages (italicized) from the manifesto:

"There is widespread community concern that the values of the market-individualism, selfishness, materialism, competition-are driving out the more desirable values of trust, self-restraint, mutual respect and generosity. Many people feel alienated from the political process; the main parties seem too alike and think of progress only in material terms."

Why on Earth do people seem to actually believe that the market promotes individualism, selfishness, materialism, and competition.. and threatens trust, self-restraint, mutual respect, and generosity?

It's so very clear to me that it's just the opposite. The market seems to promote self-restraint, generosity (consider how far corporations go to make unhappy customers happy) and mutual respect? All the books I read on success in a free market are constantly advocating ethical values as being the cornerstone to success (7 habits and all the rest). As much as lefties seem to loathe country clubs and gentlemens clubs, (finding the excessive politeness fake), it seems clear to me that such clubs provide for a more positive example of good virtues than some communist party power struggles.

"Our collective wellbeing is improved if we live in a peaceful, flourishing, supportive society, so promoting wellbeing should be a public as well as a personal task.

We often think of wellbeing as happiness, but it is more than that. It is about having meaning in our lives-developing as a person and feeling that our lives are fulfilling and worthwhile."

One gets the sense that on the deepest level, this is what this jibber-jabber is all about. A bunch of unfulfilled people trying to find meaning by taking away that which other people find fulfilling.


Comment on a new book: "Wild Scots, Four Hundred Years of Highland History", by Michael Fry

A lot of people seem to be reaching the conclusion that I am at heart a wicked man who has set out to make money from falsifying Scotland's past - at least to judge by the ruckus over my book, "Wild Scots, Four Hundred Years of Highland History", even before it is published next week. This is supposed to set forth a new theory of Clearance denial, as my critics like to call it in deliberate allusion to the notorious Holocaust denial of David Irving.

The elevation by the politically correct of a non-famine into an atrocity of Highland history has since taken on a life of its own. Before Devine, so far as I can discover, nobody spoke or wrote of famine. Enemies of the landlords at the time, such as the stonemason of Cromarty, Hugh Miller, or John Stuart Blackie, first professor to wear a kilt, never mention it, though they must have known of the reality of famine from contemporary Ireland. But now a modern scourge of Highland landlords, Brian Wilson, claims: "Thousands of people died." And to others the non-famine has become a Holocaust.

Here, in a nutshell, is why I wrote my book. Philosophers of history tell us the discipline progresses through paradigms. One historian establishes a standard view, as Prebble did for the Clearances. Successors deepen and broaden this view, so for a while it becomes productive and enriching. But then at lesser hands the quality of the work falters and the paradigm moves away from the historical reality. History, in other words, gets increasingly wrong till it ends up presenting the opposite of what happened: such as a Highland Holocaust where in fact no Holocaust occurred.

Then it is time for the paradigm to change, for a new view better fitting the facts. Let me say my own book was inspired not just by the wrong answers other historians have given to questions of Highland history. It was also inspired by questions they never asked because the prevailing paradigm blinded them to facts which give rise to these questions.

For example, if Clearance is the central fact of modern Highland history, how come that during the classic era of Clearance the region's population was not falling but rising, and steeply?

The first Highland census, an unofficial one, was carried out by Dr Alexander Webster of Edinburgh in 1755. He found about 250,000 people living in what are now known as the seven crofting counties. By the official census of 1841 that figure had increased to near 400,000. Such Clearance as was going on cannot have been very effective.

Another question: why is the term Clearance applied to, for example, the great estates of the Duke of Sutherland whose purpose was not at all to get rid of the population but to make it more productive according to a blueprint of development which anyone who looks into his papers can read? In one respect the duke succeeded. The population rose, though not at the rampant rate of the rest of the Highlands. In contrast to other areas, the population also survived in good shape the crisis of the 1840s. In another way the duke failed. He never found the magic formula to create a prosperous Highland economy. Doubtless he can be faulted for that. But no other developer has found it either.

The Duke of Sutherland believed in planning the same way the Scottish Executive believes in planning; it will be interesting to see if they can ever do better. He also believed in shifting people under his plans the same way the post-war Labour Party believed in moving them, for example, from Townhead to Castlemilk in Glasgow. Intentions in both cases were good but both paved a road to social hell.

Another: why do we ignore those Highlanders who had the gumption to get up and go under their own steam? Before the Reform Act of 1832 the soppy old Tories, who wanted peasants to stay on the land and breed recruits for the army, only ever legislated to deter Highlanders from leaving. It was the Liberals after 1832 who took the view that if people could not support themselves where they were then they would have to go somewhere else. But there had been a steady stream of voluntary migration anyway, regardless of what government said or did. In this Highlanders showed themselves to be the same sort of go-ahead Scots as Lowlanders famously were.

These first questions I posed myself led on to more, none ever answered by anybody else but all set out in Wild Scots. I do not expect everyone to agree with my answers. But in that case they will have to offer answers of their own, because the questions are real.

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