Thursday, July 30, 2015

global warming - the King Canute option and the sensible option

James E McConnell, King Canute Defies the Waves.
It seems to me that most of the arguments over “climate change” miss the point. You can argue indefinitely about whether human actions have any influence on climate. Climate is so complicated that it is unlikely that we will ever know.

There are some much more important questions we need to ask. If climate does change is there anything we can do about it? If so, what exactly should we do?

Of course there is one thing we do know. Climate does change. We are living in the Quaternary Ice Age, characterised by a series of glacial periods and interglacial periods. Since there have been eight glacial cycles in the past 740,000 years it’s reasonable to assume there will be more. We also know there are short-term cycles, over a period of centuries, which produce events such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.

We have no idea how far we are into our current interglacial period. It could come to an end in 100 years, 1,000 years or 10,000 years. We do not know if we are heading for the equivalent of another Medieval Warm Period or another Little Ice Age.

We do not know why ice ages occur. There are numerous hypotheses, all of them interesting and all of them unproven.

Given that climate change has occurred and will occur again, what can we do about it? We can try to stop the climate from changing. That would be astronomically expensive and probably about as effective as King Canute’s efforts to prevent the tide from coming in. The only difference is that Canute knew the effort was futile (he was demonstrating the powerlessness of man compared to the power of God). 

There is another option. We can learn to adapt. That would have two advantages - it would be a lot cheaper and it would probably work. If we want to be able to ride out changes in climate we need efficient agriculture, economic prosperity, high technology and plentiful supplies of cheap energy. The Little Ice Age caused a good deal of misery and a number of serious famines. With high technology and cheap abundant energy such misery could easily be avoided. With economic prosperity and enough cheap energy any change in climate would be survivable and would be survivable with minimal suffering.

Unfortunately the misguided attempts by politically motivated environmentalist fools to prevent the tide from coming in will have the effect of wrecking any chances of economic prosperity. And those same attempts will also deprive us of the cheap energy we will need. One thing we can say for an absolute certainty - solar power and wind power are abject failures. We need technologies that actually work, not pipe dreams.

We may have nothing to worry about. The next glacial period might be thousands of years away. Any climate change in the immediate future might be so mild as to be no problem at all. It doesn’t matter. If we concentrate on economic prosperity and cheap energy we’ll still be better off. On the other hand if we waste trillions of dollars on futile attempts to control the climate we could cause economic chaos which would result in untold human misery, and with nothing whatever to show for it.

For a country like Australia there is another point to consider. Nothing that Australia does will have the slightest effect on the climate. Even in the unlikely event that carbon emissions prove to be harmful our contribution is so insignificant as to be meaningless. We could sabotage our economy to placate the green scaremongers and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference anyway. On the other hand a prosperous Australia with plenty of cheap energy could be a beacon of hope. All we need are leaders smart enough to realise that giving in to the demands of warmist alarmists will do a great deal more harm than good. Unfortunately there is no sign of such smart leaders emerging. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

waiting for the political Messiah

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the touching faith that so many conservatives have that sooner or later a political Messiah is going to arise from the ranks of the mainstream “conservative” parties (American conservatives have a particularly childlike faith that this will will come to pass).

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the hypocrisy, duplicity, stupidity, corruption, greed and evil of these parties this faith remains unshaken.

The fact is that the differences between the mainstream parties of the Left and Right are so slight as to be insignificant. All are committed to cultural marxism (it was the Conservatives who imposed homosexual “marriage” on Britain in a breath-taking display of cynicism and contempt for democracy). All are committed to crony capitalism. All are loyal supporters of Big Business. All are committed to globalisation. All are committed to mass immigration from the Third World. The one small difference is that the parties of the Left are marginally more honest - they make no real secret of their hatred of western civilisation.

In Australia many conservatives actually believed that the Messiah had arrived in the person of Tony Abbott. So much for that fantasy. It is possible that Tony Abbott has a few genuine conservative beliefs. Possible, but very unlikely. What is beyond doubt is his spinelessness, his cynicism and his opportunism. He proved himself to be an enemy of freedom of speech with his cowardly surrender on Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. He has made a big noise about stopping illegal immigration but he is in favour of legal immigration which is an infinitely greater threat. On foreign policy he takes his orders from Washington. He has done nothing to halt the spread of the poison of political correctness in our education system. He has made no significant moves to dismantle the apparatus of oppression represented by the tangle of worthless and malevolent quangos that infest this country. He has not taken a stand against the insanity of the global warming hoax. The only thing that can be said in his defence is that Malcolm Turnbull would be worse. 

There are still some poor deluded fools in Britain who think they elected a Conservative government this year.  I’d like to be able to say that they will realise what a huge mistake they made, but they won’t.

As for the US, in the very unlikely event that a Republican candidate wins the presidency next year the only thing that will change is that the chances of the US starting more futile wars and organising more disastrous coups in the Middle East and Eastern Europe will increase. 

The irony is that if a political Messiah does arise he will be more likely to arise on the Left. In fact virtually all the “far right” nationalist parties that have emerged in Europe in the last few years have been unequivocally parties of the Left. The one exception is UKIP, and thus far it has been a spectacular failure. UKIP’s only chance of survival is to move sharply leftwards.

There are several reasons that salvation is more likely to come from the Left. A left-wing leader would have some chance of avoiding destruction by the leftist media. Not much of a chance, but at least some chance. The one reason that the newly emergent nationalist parties in Europe have not been more successful is that they have failed to brand themselves as parties of the Left. If the Front National in France renamed itself the Socialist Front National it would be unstoppable.

A combination of left-wing populism, social conservatism and nationalism would be a potent brew with a great deal of appeal to most voters. If you want to sell the idea of genuinely restricting immigration the one way to do this would be to sell it as the only way to save the welfare state. If you want to take a stand against the excesses and degeneracy of cultural Marxism the one way to do so would be by pointing out that the agenda of cultural Marxism is most harmful to the poor. If you want to call a halt to the madness of the global warming scam the best way of doing it is to point out that it hurts the poor, not the rich.

I’m not saying that a political Messiah will arise from the Left. I am saying that there is at least a chance it might happen and that such a leader might gain real political traction. There is zero chance that salvation will come the mainstream parties of the Right.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mussolini: A New Life by Nicholas Farrell

One of the major problems facing a historian today is that there are so many historical subjects that cannot be approached with the kind of questioning attitude that is so essential to the proper study of history. These topics are not exactly off-limits but any historian who ventures into these areas is compelled to stick to the marked paths. Any tendency to leave those marked paths is likely to provoke the kind of Two Minute Hate that ends careers.

In his 2003 work Mussolini: A New Life Nicholas Farrell has ignored the marked paths altogether and has boldly gone in search of the truth. He has in fact committed the ultimate  mortal sin - he has written a sympathetic biography of a fascist dictator. In doing so he has shone a light into areas that today’s political establishment would prefer to leave in darkness.

Mussolini is one of the major historical figures of the 20th century and his career certainly deserves to be re-examined.

Mussolini started out as a socialist. To his dying day he still regarded himself as a socialist. While Mussolini’s fascism borrowed elements of both left-wing and right-wing thought it remained a species of socialism, albeit an heretical variety. 

Fascism as developed by Mussolini was a response to what he saw as a critical failure of socialism. The First World War convinced Mussolini that internationalism was a dead end. It was clear that nationalism struck an emotional chord in the vast majority of the population, in a way that class solidarity did not. Internationalism may have been intellectual satisfactory but it was emotionally completely unsatisfactory. And Mussolini always valued instinct and emotion more highly than reason. In that respect Mussolini was in touch with ordinary people in a way that most socialist theorists were not. It was clear to him that a socialism based on class struggle was futile. If ordinary people valued patriotism more highly than class solidarity then clinging to the concept of the class struggle was swimming against the tide. Mussolini was a pragmatist - if theory did not correspond with reality then the theory was simply wrong and useless. He set out to create a socialism that would unite the nation rather than dividing it along class lines.

Mussolini also came to the conclusion that representative democracy was another dead end. The Italian experience had demonstrated conclusively that representative democracy produced chaos, divisiveness, corruption, inefficiency and instability. A form of authoritarianism was needed. He believed that government needed the consent of the governed, but not in the form of representative democracy. In 1924 he called an election. The Fascists won an overwhelming majority of the popular vote. This was important not only in giving his regime legitimacy but also because it demonstrated that he had the support of the people. 

Fascist policy under Mussolini remained pragmatic. He disliked capitalism but he was prepared to tolerate it, as long as it was productive capitalism that served the nation. The Italian Fascists’ economic policies were flexible and generally successful.

He was no atheist but he grew up with a dislike of the Catholic Church. This did not stop him from making an historic agreement with the Church. This was not cynicism or opportunism. This was realism. He was determined to prevent the Church from interfering directly in politics but as long as the Church was prepared to accept Fascism he would accept the existence of the Church. Better to have the Church as an ally (even if a not very enthusiastic ally) rather than an enemy.

Mussolini’s one big mistake was his alliance with Hitler. As Farrell is at pains to point out that very last thing Mussolini wanted was an alliance with Hitler (whom he regarded as a dangerous madman). Mussolini wanted an alliance with Britain and France. When they (with incredible foolishness and hypocrisy) rejected such an alliance he felt he had no choice other than to choose alliance with Germany. The only other alternative would have been complete isolation for Italy and in the late 1930s such isolation would have been fatal (and in any event would probably have resulted in invasion and conquest by Germany). 

Farrell also points out that the Italian Fascists in general and Mussolini in particular were responsible for saving many many thousands of Jews from the death camps. To the Italian Fascists Nazi anti-semitism was incomprehensible (Jews were among the most enthusiastic supporters of Fascism in Italy) and the death camps were viewed by the Fascists with unconcealed horror and revulsion.

Italian Fascism was certainly authoritarian but on the whole not particularly repressive. While Hitler and Stalin presided over regimes that murdered millions of people the victims of Fascism were numbered in hundreds, at most. Given the chaos that threatened to engulf Italy in the early 20s, the same chaos that threatened other European countries like Germany and Spain, the restraint shown by Mussolini was remarkable. Without Mussolini it is highly likely that Italy would have succumbed to Bolshevism and its inevitable horrors. The decision of the king to appoint Mussolini prime minister in 1922 is not only understandable - it was entirely sensible and reasonable.

Farrell does not gloss over the various flaws in Mussolini’s character but he finds more to admire than condemn. Had the British and French not forced him into Hitler’s arms with disastrous consequences all around his Fascist state might well have endured for decades and had Italian Fascism not become inextricably (and incorrectly) associated with National Socialism (an ideology Mussolini despised) the judgment of history on Mussolini might well have been rather favourable.

A fascinating and provocative book. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 17, 2015

politically incorrect sci-fi - Lucifer’s Hammer

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer is, quite rightly, considered to be a classic of post-apocalyptic science fiction. There are two distinct strands in post-apocalyptic SF. The pessimistic strand sees even mere survival as just barely possible and  usually assumes that once civilisation has been wrecked the descent into barbarism will be unstoppable. Lucifer’s Hammer belongs to the optimistic strand that assumes that perhaps civilisation might eventually be rebuilt.

This is also a novel that has much to say about politics. The authors are interested in the scientific implications but they’re at least as interested in the social and political implications of catastrophe. If this book has one really major theme it is that in the face of global disaster we’re not going to need group hugs and we’re not going to be able to indulge in emotional posturing. Feelings will have to be subordinated to reason and tough decisions will have to be made. This is a very politically incorrect book indeed. In fact at one point one character remarks that the one good thing about the catastrophe is that feminism was dead milliseconds after the disaster hit.

Lucifer’s Hammer was published in 1978 but it had a distinguished (and equally politically incorrect) predecessor in 1923 in J. J. Connington’s Nordenholt’s Million. J. J. Connington was the pseudonym used by British scientist Alfred Walter Stewart and not coincidentally it can be considered as an early example of hard science fiction (a sub-genre to which Lucifer’s Hammer most certainly belongs). Nordenholt’s Million and Lucifer’s Hammer have something else in common - in both novels the authors accept that saving enough of civilisation to form a basis for rebuilding will come at a cost. It will require a leader willing to make very tough decisions in a clear-sighted rational and even brutal manner. It will not be possible to save everyone. Trying to save everyone would mean saving no-one. As Senator Arthur Jellison remarks in Lucifer’s Hammer, “every civilisation has the morality and ethics it can afford.”

Lucifer’s Hammer begins with the discovery be amateur astronomer Tim Hamner of a new comet. It’s a very exciting discovery because the Hamner-Brown Comet is going to pass very close to Earth. Scientists will have an unprecedented opportunity to learn about comets. It soon becomes clear that the comet will pass very close indeed to Earth. There’s very little chance it will actually hit us of course but we’re going to get an extremely close-up view.

Initially astronomers dismiss the chances of the comet hitting our planet as billions to one against. As the Hamner-Brown Comet approaches ever closer they revise the estimate to one in a hundred. This is just a tiny bit worrying. It’s not entirely surprising that pretty soon people are stockpiling food and survival gear. This provides one of the most interesting elements of the novel, as Harvey Randall discovers to his amazement and horror that a lot of people actually seem to be hoping the comet will hit. Niven and Pournelle have in this instance put their finger on one of the more disturbing aspects of modern western civilisation - our tendency to develop a kind of collective death wish, driven by a mixture of disillusionment, guilt and what can perhaps be best described as self-indulgent adolescent despair.

The enthusiasts of doom get their wish and the comet does hit the Earth. 

The first half of the book introduces us to a huge cast of characters most of whom seem to have nothing in common but all of whom are destined to play important parts in the struggle for survival after the comet hits. The second half deals with that struggle for survival. Interestingly enough those who survive are not necessarily those who made elaborate preparations. The end of civilisation poses so many varied and unexpected challenges that it is impossible to prepare for them. Survival has more to do with grit and a stubborn refusal to give up in the face of apparently hopeless odds than with careful preparation. Interestingly enough those who contribute the most towards survival are not necessarily those with obviously useful skills. It is obviously vital to have a few doctors, engineers and scientists but you would hardly expect an accountant like Hamner’s new-found girlfriend to be useful in a post-apocalyptic world. In fact she turns out to be a brilliant administrator, a very handy commodity in a world threatened by chaos.

Although this novel has plenty of action, excitement and adventure Niven and Pournelle have bigger fish to fry. Their overriding theme is that if survival means living as subsistence farmers in a world without hope of progress then survival is simply not worthwhile. There has to be hope. Hope that things will get better, that civilisation will rise again from the ashes. If you don’t have that hope you have nothing.

Niven and Pournelle being very much hard science fiction writers there is naturally a wealth of fascinating and presumably fairly realistic speculation as to what exactly the results of a comet strike might be. Equally interesting though is their focus on the social, psychological and political implications of catastrophe. Their conclusions are likely to be extremely unpalatable to devotees of the cult of political correctness.

Lucifer’s Hammer is a passionate defence of science and technology, of the necessity of clear-headed rational and courageous leadership, and of human indomitability. Most of all it’s a plea for optimism - civilisation might have its faults but it’s worth fighting for and it sure beats barbarism. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

the end of patriotism?

Patriotism is deeply unfashionable these days. That’s unfortunate since I happen to believe that patriotism is in general a good thing. 

On the other hand it can be a tricky thing. What do you do as a patriot when the country you loved no longer exists? When the country you loved has changed to such an extent that you no longer recognise it? And when the things you loved about it have been utterly and systematically trashed? Does there come a point when this process has gone so far that you no longer has a duty to a country that no longer represents any values that you cherish? If so, at what point is a patriot morally released from the duties that patriotism entails?

It has not yet reached that stage in Australia. The Australia in which I grew up and which I loved is not yet quite dead. Almost, but not quite. In other parts of the world the process of disintegration has clearly gone much further.

Loyalty to country is a very different thing from loyalty to government. A patriot does not feel any less loyalty to his country just because he happens to dislike the current government. A patriot will even risk his life fighting for his country in a war he disapproves of started by a government he disapproves of. You don’t fight for the government or the prime minister; you might fight for what you see as your society’s values but you’re far more likely simply to fight for your homeland and for your family.

What patriots in the western world today face is more than governments that they don’t like. It’s more like a complete regime change. The entire power structure is dominated by forces that are fundamentally hostile to homeland and family. The elites who control our society are the enemies of our society and they are far more dangerous and implacable than any external enemy.

In such a situation is patriotism still a viable option?