Comment

How Diversity Hiring has ruined TV

Over the past few decades, the media has been obsessed with characters representing minorities in society who haven’t received much recognition on television before. The hope is that a person of colour might see a black Hermione or a girl might see a female Doctor Who and think “that could be me!” and feel represented in British Society.

Like most of British society, I hold the view that unless a character’s race is an important part of their role, we should give actors parts based on their skill and performance. I also believe that casting directors should be able to have the freedom to cast whoever they want in their movies. After all, if they make the wrong decision they will pay the price. For example, the Ghostbuster reboot which had an all-female main cast was widely reported to be a flop, warning future filmmakers of the consequences of casting on diversity for diversity’s sake.

The original argument was for minorities to be proportionately represented on television as they are in British society. However, same sex attracted people and ethnic minorities are now over represented on screen. BAME people account for 13% of the national workforce but 23% of on screen roles. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are nearly twice as likely to appear on television.

In addition, the presence of LGBT and ethnic minorities on television is often dedicated to side characters. On some occasions, the producers try to lump as many diversity points onto one character while still having a white straight protagonist. For example in the series Sex Education, the three main people of colour are Eric, Ola and Jackson. Two of these characters have had same sex relationships and the other has two mums and attempts to get into a relationship with a “non-binary” Sudanese-American character introduced in the last season. Meanwhile, the two main characters, Otis and Maeve, are both white and straight. This identity points dumping ruined the character of Jackson, who is already dealing with the conflict of being a high achiever who can’t meet the expectations that he and his mums have for him. Instead of trying to figure out who he is, his main issue this season is getting with a rebellious “non-binary” girl who is annoyed at him for seeing her “as a girl” instead of “non-binary”.

This isn’t to say that there can’t be shows and movies which have BAME and LGBT people as the majority of the cast. It’s not unrealistic for a show about people in London for example to have an ethnic minority cast. For example, the show Chewing Gum, featuring a black main cast, was extremely funny and well produced. The show was created by Michaela Coel who grew up in East London so the reason behind the diversity casting is because of her own experience and background, rather than some white middle class liberal who wants to gain diversity points. This contrasts to the announcement of there being a production of Anne Boleyn on which the actress who plays Anne Boleyn is black. The show’s creators admitted to adopting a “race conscious” approach, rather than picking who could play a realistic Anne Boleyn or even a colour-blind casting of who is best for the role.

However, it seems that identity and virtue signalling is everything nowadays. The left even are trying to make horror villains gay icons. Vox published an article on “How the Babadook became the LGBTQ icon we didn’t know we needed”. In addition, even Chucky has shown his respect for the LGBT community as he accepts his “gender fluid” child, stating “I’m not a monster”. It’s odd that the LGBT community are so keen to relate themselves to monsters who are hostile towards children. Surely these aren’t characters you want to represent you?

Most recently, Doctor Who has fallen victim to diversity casting. Recently, Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa has been casted as the next Doctor, taking the place of Jodie Whittaker. In addition, a new character called Rose will be played by a biological man who calls himself a transgender woman. Many have scoffed at those who have had complaints about the Doctor and his companion changing identity. For example, The Guardian wrote:

“There is no way on earth that a shapeshifting ancient alien god and an interdimensional explorer trapped in a parallel dimension should be played by anything other than a white British guy and the woman from I Hate Suzie respectively.”

However, this shifts from the original idea that minorities need to be represented for people to see themselves in the characters. Modern media holds the conflicting ideas that identity is everything and to act ‘colour blind’ is racist and that a character can be any colour. Not only is it important that we display the voices and experiences of minorities, but it doesn’t matter if we replace traditionally played white characters with ethnic minorities.

Personally, I don’t need to share the same identity as a character in order to relate to them.When I was younger I used to dress up as Harry Potter and got offended when I went to The Making of Harry Potter and somebody thought I was dressed up as Hermione. That is because I identified with the character of Harry Potter. It didn’t matter that he was a boy as I aspired to be as brave as him when I was young.

Though I’m doubtful, I hope that the media sees the error of its ways and focuses on providing thought provoking entertainment that doesn’t rely on progressive pandering. Being purely identity-focused on unchangeable characteristics such as race, gender and sexuality is creating a generation full of narcissists. A movie shouldn’t be good because it has people who look like you; it should be good because of the message it sends.


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Forget The Greenbelt: YIMBYs Should Focus On Permitted Development

Britain needs housing. We all (aside from a tiny minority who don’t understand the concept of household formation) know this. And those of us who want that housing all know exactly who is to blame for the lack of supply: those dastardly NIMBYs and their unenlightened self interest in keeping property prices high.

Perhaps, though, that’s not the whole story. Almost everyone agrees that we need more homes, even if they don’t agree that those homes need to be near them. When you look at opposition to new housing, a pattern emerges – most opposition to housebuilding is opposition to concreting fields with deanoboxes, rather than an ideological opposition to adding any new homes at all. The only organised and large scale opposition in Britain appears to be over greenfield development. Sure, brownfield developments in city centres always get a few people holding signs outside them to oppose building a four storey tower block, but there is no Council for the Protection of Urban England pushing to keep brownfield land as brownfield. Brits like their green and pleasant land and wish to keep it; they aren’t usually so bothered by a couple of houses being built on a garden unless they live right next door and have a feud with their neighbour already.

And who can blame them? The costs of greenfield development, both aesthetically (loss of visual appeal replaced by boxes on concrete) and logistically (increased demand on infrastructure) fall on existing residents, whilst the benefits flow to the landowners and developers (who make the profit) and new residents (who now have a place to live). Compare this to the construction of a backyard rental cottage: the primary beneficiary of the development is the same person who bears most of the costs, so there is less incentive to oppose it, and the cottage is tucked away behind the existing house, where it does not alter the look of the area.

The government expanded permitted development quite a lot in 2020 with little pushback, enabling the owners of houses built between 1948 and 2018 to add additional storeys to their homes. Expanding permitted development rights therefore seems to be a politically feasible route to go down. More feasible at any rate than implementing a zoning scheme and zoning large swathes of greenbelt for new housing. Whilst the standard development pattern benefits landowners at the expense of homeowners, permitted development rights benefit homeowners. Certain options in particular would benefit homeowners with larger houses, who tend to be the voters that the government most wishes to keep onside.

There are a couple of changes that would be natural extensions to the existing policy. First, the right to add a mansard roof to any property not in a conservation area. At present, you are allowed under the permitted development rules to add an ugly dormer to most houses, regardless of their age, and to add a whole floor to many of them. Mansard roofs are more aesthetically pleasing than massive flat dormers, and are significantly cheaper to construct than a full additional storey. This would enable many presently small homes, that are amongst the cheapest of properties for those wishing to get on the property ladder, to be made more suitable for families.

Secondly, the right to add an annexe; or as they are usually called by urbanists and planners, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). This is not as radical as it might seem – AFAIK there is nothing that stops one from renting a large ensuite bedroom with an external entrance and additional washbasin, that is totally not a studio flat (no oven, see! It’s not the landlords job to forbid fridges and hotplates and air fryers.) to a lodger, and the only difference between this and a studio flat is the presence of an oven. This would simply expand an existing right to include other extensions such as outbuildings.

The Cameron government introduced a rent a room scheme to try and take advantage of an oversupply of housing (in the sense of bedrooms per person; whilst dwellings per household have gone down,  the number of rooms per person have increased since 1960). This is a good direction, but many people do not wish to share their homes with strangers. If part of the home can be carved out into an ADU and rented out, however, that would present a very different proposition that would hopefully see more uptake.

Adding accessory dwellings could have significant impact on rents. As many of the houses that would be suitable for this are owned by pensioners, this would provide an  additional source of income – it is a common complaint from pensioners that they aren’t getting enough money. Here would be their chance to fix this. With an increasing supply of rental properties available, there would be reduced pressure on existing homes, which would return to the market for would-be homeowners to purchase. By making it easier and more predictable to add a flat or cottage for granny, the constraint of supply of smaller homes that prevents many people from downsizing would be done away with – those looking to become grandparents could either sell their home to help their children afford to buy, or let their children start families in the existing house.

Permitted development is not unrestricted development, and there’s no reason ADUs would necessarily mean permitting the construction of a large new house on the totality of the garden (existing rights do not allow more than half the curtilage to be taken up by outbuildings anyway). Reasonable restrictions may be: no more than fifty square metres, no more than two tenants (most households are one or two person), one ADU per dwelling, and perhaps councils having the power to require a single parking space.

The political will is not there to straight up abolish the Town And Country Planning Act, and doing so would most likely result in a deluge of poor quality homes and neighbourhoods to meet the pent-up demand. Seventy-five years of planning restrictions have warped housebuilding, it will take time for this to be fixed. But the political will is there to chip away at it within existing neighbourhoods. YIMBYs need to choose their battles carefully – forget the greenbelt for now, pick the fights where there is a hope of winning.


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Removing Boris Johnson was never about morality

Boris Johnson has been effectively removed from office under the guise of moral outrage, but there is far more to this picture than righteousness.

Let’s not forget the primary reason Boris Johnson assumed office after Theresa May and was voted in with a landslide majority in the General Election that followed, was because he was considered the man who could ‘Get Brexit Done’. There was never any pretence about his morality, we knew what we were getting. A man who would make jokes seen as politically incorrect by some and casually racist by others; a man who is known for adultery and promiscuity, despite being married – several times; a man with an unconfirmed number of children by different mothers. By no standards is Boris Johnson a morally upright man.

The last time I saw Boris Johnson, he was joking in his apartment above No. 10 about not knowing how the Roman Catholic Church had even managed to marry him and Carrie, in consideration of his previous two marriages.

If the Conservative Party wanted moral leadership, they would have stuck with Theresa May. There are very few in politics with a stronger moral compass than Mrs May. The vicar’s daughter whose most rebellious act as a youngster was to run through fields of wheat. Compared to Boris Johnson and his time as a member of the Bullingdon Club – famous for burning wads of cash in front of homeless people – she was an outright angel. However, she didn’t have the strength of leadership to get Brexit over the line, and that was the national issue that mattered most at the time.

So, to hear parliamentarians arguing about Boris Johnson’s lack of moral fibre, as if to suggest they’ve only just been made aware of it, is laughable. Chris Pincher groped a couple of men in a gentlemen’s club in central London and it wasn’t dealt with appropriately, but that is not the reason Boris Johnson was dethroned. Nor was the fact that he ate some cake and received a fine for breaching COVID regulations. He has previously done far worse, and his colleagues have turned a blind eye.

What we have here is the culmination of multiple fronts of attack. The mainstream media has sustained a continuous attack against the Prime Minister for a number of months now. Sky and the BBC in particular have taken every opportunity to undermine the Prime Minister and paint him as a criminal – not for taking away peoples’ civil liberties, but for briefly attending the most boring party to ever grace the premises of Downing Street. Of course, their real agenda is probably more in line with the second group who has been attacking the PM incessantly, the Remainers and Rejoiners – or Remoaners for the sake of convenience. People who cannot get behind the democratic will of the British people to support one of the largest mandates in our nation’s history; people who, for their own selfish purposes, want to undermine and undo the EU referendum.

The third camp targetting the Prime Minister, is the most devious of all. The political genius Dominic Cummings. Cummings is arguable our country’s greatest campaign strategist, but is not exactly known for his empathy or compassion. Cummings was absolutely the right guy for the Vote Leave campaign, and the 2019 General Election, but he is a campaigner, not a governor. He should have been kept well away from the levers of power during the pandemic. Cummings held far too much influence for a man who was not democratically elected and therefore practically unaccountable. When Cummings was unceremoniously deposed, promised revenge on the Prime Minister and Cummings is a man who cashes in his cheques.

The Remoaners and Cummings are not natural allies, but together – perhaps uncoordinated – along with the mainstream media, they have succeeded in toppling the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and painting themselves as the good guys in the process.

None of this was about morality. The entire situation was both political and personal. A joint venture of vendettas that we may very well yet come to regret, depending on what happens next.


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The Moment of Decision

In the throes of the culture wars, it’s easy to get acclimated to the situation after some time has passed. It feels like a lifetime ago that the battlefield that has become of the issue of transgenderism was little more than a few videos on YouTube imploring viewers to cringe at ‘Die Cis Scum’, and if anything demonstrates the futility of the adage ‘twitter is not real life’, it would be the recent admission from Jamie Wallis that he considers himself a woman.

There is almost certainly some kind of meaning to the fact that Jamie’s desire to be a woman emerged after he was raped, as though he psychologically associates a lack of autonomy to womanhood. But I am not a psychologist, and Jamie’s warped feelings about his identity are irrelevant in and of themselves. What this turn of events creates however, is a moment of decision for the Conservatives.

For a long time, the Conservatives have enjoyed playing both sides of the culture wars. At conference, they can laud Maggie Thatcher as the first female Prime Minister and reap the benefits of appearing to be progressive – knowing that opposition can be quickly labelled sexist, and something that even the Conservative party has outgrown. Simultaneously, they can point to the Labour party and remind us of what happens if we abandon them. A few cringeworthy remarks about supporting women into politics is certainly a preferable alternative to those same “women in politics” sporting a five-o’clock shadow and suspiciously broad shoulders.

Governments, political parties, and states, like individuals, can hold simultaneously contradictory beliefs. Those who do not act are fortunate enough to never have to confront these contradictions – for they never implement them. But it is through existential participation in life that these contradictions make themselves plain, and a moment of decision must occur. Constitutional monarchies justified themselves with recourse to the people – but what happens when the monarch and the people (or at least, the institutions representing the people) are at odds over a decision? Who decides? The logic of constitutional monarchy legitimises the king with recourse to the people, and so those institutions closer to the people in the mind of the populace ultimately set the laws. It’s these moments of decision that move history – a constitutional monarchy may retain the state form of monarchy but rest atop the principle of democracy, but the moment of decision reveals the incoherence of this state form and opens up a state of exception to alter it.

Equally, the Conservatives present themselves as being opposed to wokeism, but like the constitutional monarch – justify themselves on the principles of equality, and the moment of decision reveals the incoherence of their rule. Whilst the party had no skin in the game, and whilst it had no existential participation, it could ignore the incoherence because it never actually had to make any decision based on these two contradictory principles. But the moment of decision has arrived, and what is in store for us as members of the party?

Jamie Wallis has been supported by Boris and Oliver Dowden, the CEO of the party. It is clear the Conservatives have no intention of removing this person from the party or even coming close to asserting that transgenderism is in no way conservative. Jamie Wallis will most certainly be in attendance at Conference and all Conservative events in the future. The Conservative party will now have to decide:

  • How will it refer to Jamie, should he ask to be referred to by female pronouns?
  • What will they do if Jamie Wallis decides he wants to use the female bathrooms?
  • If they wish to affirm Jamie’s wishes, how will they then define what a woman is, since it clearly no longer conforms to a simple definition?

Once again, the failure of Conservatives to engage in philosophy rears its ugly head. When you don’t attempt to delve into your beliefs, when you rest everything on ‘Common Sense’, you actually rest your political order upon the principles of those who do wish to assert and articulate their beliefs. Then, when you inevitably go to implement your beliefs: you’re struck with the inability to implement them in accordance with the principles you’ve justified your beliefs on. It’s simply not enough to have a political philosophy which resolves political (read: economic, technical, bureaucratic, etc.) problems. Your political philosophy must blend, gel, mesh, and harmonise with your ontological beliefs about the very essence of what it means to be anything at all. The idea that culture, economics, and philosophy are distinct and separate spheres is an optical illusion brought about by extended periods of peace. Any of these things, driven to a sufficient extreme become political, and our only tool to navigate these new political realities is philosophy. Those who don’t use it will find themselves lost, both politically and spiritually.


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How the British Mentality is Being Taken Advantage of

Having travelled to the United Kingdom on many occasions and having interacted with British people all around Europe from Leeds to Tallinn, I can safely claim that the folk of those fair isles have one of the friendliest dispositions I’ve encountered on my many travels. This is a bold statement and may very well sound strange to any UK native. However, I’ve failed to find such a friendly, helpful and hospitable demeanour anywhere else. By now, I’ve lost count of how many pints I’ve been offered, whether by a good friend in an ice rink in Nottingham or a complete stranger in a small pub in Attercliffe.

Such a mentality is a credit to any people, but to avoid this essay sounding like too much of an adulation of the British, I have to point out that I’ve seen this jovial mentality evolve into a double-edged sword. My observation and subsequent thesis is that the British people are being taken advantage of in a frankly horrid way and mostly through no fault of their own. The stereotypical friendly attitude of the British towards their fellow man is being used insidiously to destroy the very society that created it, and by Britain’s own ruling class, no less.

What do I mean by this exactly? The way I see it, British friendliness has created not only complacency, but rather powerlessness in the face of people and ideologies that have no qualms asserting themselves, often violently. As an outsider, a foreign observer, I’ve witnessed this phenomenon repeated in several cases which I’d like to bring out here. Firstly, I’d touch on immigration and its consequences. When the arch-enemy of Britain, Tony Blair, figuratively threw open the floodgates, Britain has been the destination of wholly unprecedented numbers of immigrants from all around the world, especially from the third world. The consequences of this population shift have been equally unprecedented.

As many will know, mass immigration exacerbates already existing economic issues. Much like other Western countries, Britain is facing a housing crisis and wage stagnation. Furthermore, the public services of the country are under increased duress. Yet, immigration has not been slowed; quite the contrary in fact. In addition to economic woes, increased criminality, which at its worst has manifested itself in horrific instances of systemic physical and sexual violence, has already become commonplace to the extent that few are even shocked. As if all this wasn’t enough, the native British are being actively displaced within their own communities. London is an already infamous example of this, with White Britons already a minority within the city.

Introducing an ethnic component into immigration discourse has, in my opinion, been viewed with suspicion by the British public at large. This has, however, created a situation where a question of fundamental nature is rarely asked, namely: What is the use of (British) communities, when they are no longer inhabited by the British? Do those communities even exist then? A stroll through major cities shows an emergence of new communities created by people who, in their large numbers, have neither the need nor the will to become part of Britain. The ubiquitous religious centres and assorted ethnic food peddlers are just a symbol of a much more assertive culture against which the natives seem to be mentally powerless.

Another wholly wicked social phenomenon which has for some time already but which rose to the forefront again against the backdrop of the global “anti-racism” movement, is the self-flagellatory attitude towards British history and heritage. This attitude, espoused by the cultural and political elites will, in the long run, have the inevitable consequence of eliminating the last sheds of pride the British people have towards themselves and their past achievements. A heroic representation of a Victoria Cross recipient in Kabul must now have a plaque explicitly condemning the irredeemable evils of empire and military heroism. The statue of a well-known and respected local philanthropist is mercilessly torn down due to his connections to the slave trade. Britain’s most famous wartime PM is continuously vilified and demonised as a symbol of racism. To someone like me, who hails from a country that still largely values its historical heritage, this ultra-revisionism seems to be nothing more than a violent attempt to erase the historical achievements and links that still provide Britons with pride and legitimacy as a distinct people.

What then of the political class that facilitated these destructive social changes? The children of Thatcherite neoliberalism and Blair’s New Labour have combined to create a seemingly perfect storm which from one side creates economic deprivations and from the other destroys social cohesion. It seems to hardly matter which one of the nominally different parties is in power. My observations of British politics always lead me to a similar conclusion: the people of Britain are still confined to a binary choice which, at the end of the day, doesn’t make much of a difference. I admit, much of this is due to the structural shortcomings of the Westminster parliamentary system. However, despite the electoral process heavily favouring large established parties, there is another, more spiritual factor at work and this brings me back to my original thesis.

The British people are not sheep. At least I believe they are still very much capable of independent thought and are aware of their unenviable situation. The issue lies, however, in the expression of this independent thought. Instead of a roaring fire, it is rather a small ember which manifests itself mostly as quiet grumbling over a pint and the occasional protest. The glory days of the Miners’ strike seem to be long gone. This inability or unwillingness to mobilise discontent is, I believe, the unintended and unfortunate consequence of the British national psyche.

In addition to being friendly and agreeable at heart, which hampers reaction to even objectively negative developments, I’ve noticed among the Britons an exceptionally strong yearning for stability and respect for the status quo. An average Briton will often do his utmost to not cause a fuss. The British are clearly not content with their situation, far from it, but any fundamental and lasting change would require disrupting the status quo, rocking the boat so to speak and thus causing the dreaded fuss. Since the vast majority of Britons seem unwilling to do this, they are shamelessly taken advantage of by people who have no qualms about pushing their destructive social and economic agenda, disrupting the status quo clearly for the worse.

Let me be clear, this isn’t the fault of the British people at large. A national psyche is something that can be seldom changed. I would even consider Brexit to be largely within its confines. While it most definitely caused a fuss, tapping into the remaining sovereigntist spirit of the people, it has failed to address some of the more fundamental issues I touched upon earlier in this essay. Brexit seems more and more to have been a managed release of pressure, before the people were pushed too far.

When will the British be pushed over the edge then? To conclude, I’d like to hearken back to Kipling’s poem “The Beginnings”. It has, in my view, a very prophetic message.

It was not part of their blood,

It came to them very late

With long arrears to make good

When the English began to hate.

This verse captures the essence of my thesis. I do believe the British will someday react against those who have wronged them. This will most likely, and unfortunately, come at the expense of their inherent friendliness and hospitality, I fear. Perhaps a final loss of innocence is the last tool at their disposal. As someone who has enjoyed it on many occasions, I’m sad to see it go. But just as the Empire, maybe the old British mentality has its own epoch, which is regrettably coming to an end.

In Defence of the Profits of Oil and Gas Companies

Few companies today are less popular than those in the oil and gas industry. Shell, ExxonMobil and British Petroleum are all resented for the great profits they are now making. 79% of the public back yet another windfall tax to get these profiteering companies to subsidise their bills. This is despite the fact the existing levy, with pre-existing taxation, is already an extortionate 65%, following Rishi Sunak’s increase to it in May. No doubt, with the forthcoming £130bn plus price cap,  further increases to the windfall tax will be touted as the means to pay for it. 

Increasing the windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ profits would be wrong: any windfall tax on these companies’ profits is wrong. Individuals, and the companies they constitute, have a right to the windfall gains of their labour or property, even if they haven’t done anything to earn them. To seize these gains is to violate their rights, to use them unjustifiably. Any such levy must therefore be abolished, and any increase in them opposed.

Let us proceed to bolster the truth of this liberal position by refuting the principal argument for the existing windfall tax, and by deduction all increases too.  We start with the contention that the profits of energy companies are ‘undeserved’. When Sunak increased the levy in May he argued it was fair because the companies’ increased profits have not come through “changes to risk-taking or innovation or efficiency”, but rather, have come as a “result of surging global commodity prices”. The essence of this argument is that individuals are not entitled to the income they have not had to do anything for. Although not Marx’s, Sunak’s reasoning shares with his the idea entitlements to incomes cannot be legitimised simply because they have arisen through free exchange. Some work needs to be done to confer deservedness.

It is then argued that the poor need support to get through the cost of living crisis, more than the companies’ shareholders need dividends, and this is a reason for the government to seize their profits via windfall taxation. Indeed it is predicted two-thirds of households could be in fuel poverty by January of 2023 (without further intervention). Together, the undeserved profits of oil and gas companies, and the needs of the poor, allow for a windfall tax for increased benefits to help the impoverished with their energy bills. 

The problem with this argument for the windfall tax is it proves far too much. Consider this example: across the country the average salary of a plumber is £35,862, putting such tradesmen’s earnings 14% above the median. Now imagine for some reason half of all plumbers quit the trade and decide to become waiters instead. The remaining plumbers would see their wages increase significantly, even though they’re doing the same hours and work as before. Let us assume our plumber ends up being paid a wage, such that his household expenditure is £45,437.60, putting him in the ninth decile of spenders. This allows his household to spend about £11,117.60 on restaurants, hotels, recreation and culture, as of 2019.

According to Sunak’s argument, the plumber should be subject to a windfall tax. Both criteria are satisfied. First, the plumber has done nothing to see his salary increase. Second, the poorest households, who really struggle to pay for their food and increasingly large fuel bills, clearly could do with the money more. Indeed, the poorest decile spends only about £1,705.60 a year on food and non-alcoholic drinks, less than a fifth of the plumbers’ spending on leisure, and that was in 2019! 

This is an unacceptable conclusion. Individuals have a right to the windfalls they derive from the voluntary exchange with customers and employers. To deny such a proposition is to accept whenever there is a shortage of labour in your trade or profession you are not entitled to bargain for a higher salary, or rather that the government is entitled to tax away all the additional income you may receive. Or at least it may tax it away insofar as others’ needs are greater than your own. I doubt my reader will want to embrace this. I believe this is because most of us implicitly reject the idea that individuals are only entitled to money they have worked for, or rather are only entitled to money insofar as it was proportionately worked for.

Consider the man who stumbles across truffles in his garden, he hasn’t worked for the money he receives on their sale; it’s sheer luck. Nonetheless, we accept he is entitled to their windfalls and should pay no more tax than anyone else with the same income. Equally, we accept people are entitled to the windfall on their car if it has become very popular, despite it being sheer luck such conditions have arisen. Indeed, it is sheer luck that beauty models are born beautiful. Yet no one is proposing taxing away their genetic-based windfall, with the bar being the income the average person would get going down the catwalk.  I contend that the root of these beliefs is a commitment to defending the freedom of the individual to make as much money as he so can, in whatever activity he so chooses – even if sheer luck is the cause.

By analogy then, if individuals, e.g. our plumber, are entitled to their incomes from sheer luck, then so too must the oil and gas companies be entitled to their profits from sheer luck too (from globally higher commodity prices). The alternative would be to live in a dystopian world where each job, trade, profession and commodity market has a differential tax rate to eliminate all windfalls (for why allow a part to be kept). To a few this may appear but a minor inconvenience. However, as F. A. Hayek has explained, this would lead to the impoverishment of society, as prices would be unable to direct resources to their most efficient uses. 

Consider, due to potato blight, the price of wheat increases dramatically as consumers switch to pasta. Today farmers of wheat would receive far larger profits as a result, due to the high price, despite having done no more work. This incentivises other farmers to shift to wheat production, from less urgently demanded crops, eventually pushing supply out, bringing the price of pasta back down. Resources are shifted from less valued to more valued uses and thus consumers are better off. If the state insisted, since wheat farmers are conducting no more work, efficiency-savings, investing or risk-taking, they should receive no higher price for their crop, the market would take far, far longer to adjust, and in the meantime, people would be worse off. Given these adjustments are always occurring across the economy, consumers would be permanently worse off if all windfall gains were taxed away.

Indeed it is even worse than this concerning the labour market. If half of the existing bin men decided to leave their jobs today the remaining bin men would see their wages go up, which would encourage new individuals into the role. If this wage weren’t allowed to go up though there would be shortages of bin men. To stop rubbish from going uncollected the state would have to conscript people into the position: These bin men would be slaves. Such is the conclusion one is forced to, as Hayek maintained, if rewards correspond not to the value which their services have for their fellows, but to the moral merit or desert the persons are deemed to have earned.

Clearly, if applied consistently, the principle no one should receive windfalls would impoverish the people, and require the conscription of individuals into many jobs. No man committed to living in a free society can thus permit the state to operate on such reasoning. Individuals have a right to their windfall gains, whether they be plumbers, or indeed the owners of oil and gas companies. The windfall tax must therefore be abolished, and failing that any attempts to increase it must be resisted every step of the way. Only then will the extraordinary profits of oil and gas companies remain where they should have always rightfully belonged: In the bank accounts of the shareholders.


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What are these ‘Christian values’? |

In the same way my last article ended, this first paragraph is being written on a Saturday, a day on which I often go to my Anglican parish church for the 9:30am Eucharist. After a week of exams, even a modern Common Worship service can warm my traditional soul. After the service, I turned to our good Rector and talked about a few things, namely about Calvin Robinson’s lack of ordination – our Rector thankfully sees the value conservatives bring to the Church of England – and asked “Just what are these Christian values people talk about, Reverend?”. Being a strong believer in the personal relationship between believer and the Almighty, he said to follow the guidelines of faith, hope and charity, and see where God guides us from there. While that may be enough to satisfy many Christians in a church environment, how do political conservatives, many of whom are not Christian, translate that into ideas and policies when we often cite our appreciation for ‘Christian values’?

Needless to say, one does not have to believe in God or the divinity of Jesus Christ to realise He had a lot of good things to say on morality that are relevant to the reader as a person, and to British politics. Christianity and interpretations of the Bible are responsible for much of how Britain functions politically, and even progressive politics – and it goes without saying that Christianity influences conservative social values. The historians Robert Tombs and Nigel Scotland made good cases to say that the British Labour Party has deeper roots in Methodist Christianity than Marxism, especially historically speaking. Methodist Christianity is probably the best example of the political Gospel having profound influence that lasts to this day. Christianity in England generally contributed greatly to the establishment of the welfare state and educating the masses; likewise, the abolition of slavery in the British Empire was driven through by Evangelical Christian William Wilberforce. Even the renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama attributed much of the West’s development into liberal democracies as down to the influence of the Christian religion on politics and society in his books The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay, as well as Christianity being responsible for the Western notion of universal equality. Christianity has much symbolic influence on the development of nation-states as well: the name “England” was given to us by the Roman Catholic Church, believing the land that is England to have been primarily made up of Angles and not Saxons, and of course the British flag is an amalgamation of three crosses that represent Christian saints. 

And even if you don’t believe in it, you probably like a lot of what Christianity gave you. Given all it has accomplished, it may even be worth looking to an interpretation of Christianity for a moral system.

With this, one returns to the subject at hand. Writing for UK-based Premier Christianity, Peter Lynas argues that Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine is “an attack on Christian values”. His general argument is that equality and human rights are products of Christianity, thus making Russia’s invasion and subsequent alleged human rights violations an attack on Christian values. On the other side, American congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called for a restoration of ‘Christian values’, stating that they built America. British conservatives, from David Cameron to Nigel Farage, spoke highly of Christian values. Cameron in particular accredited the Bible to being a great moral influence, while Farage had much more to say on specific policies, such as restricting abortion. Even recently, a conservative Member of Parliament – a 2019-intake one – praised Christian values. There is indeed a place for these ‘Christian values’ in British politics. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent argument as to what these values are from the conservative right. Few people are actually adequately describing, in sufficient detail for meaningful political goals, these Christian values.

It is sensible to make a distinction between ‘Christian values’ and following the Bible, not least because these values ought to be promotable to those of others faiths or no faith. Following the Bible and being a Christian is appropriate for the Church to promote as priests in the Church of Christ, as opposed to the job of ministers in the service of the state. Theocracy – rule by priests – is not an accountable form of government, and theonomy – rule by scripture – is simply impractical for the modern era; the Bible was made for regulating personal conduct and driving societal change, not to be a substitute for a good legal system. After all, Jesus himself told us to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”, meaning that there is some distinction – though not necessarily a separation – between the state and the Church. The Christian values I will attempt to identify will be principles and notions that are derived from the Bible and Christian thinking in broad terms that are specific enough to be applicable while not being vague enough to be detached from Christianity.

Christianity is about love; there is nothing more obvious than this. This type of Christian love brings us to the first value I can identify, and that is paternalism. The Bible portrays God’s love as not just passive and merely tolerant, but active and guiding. Like a father traditionally would, God the Father lays down rules to bring us closer to moral virtue and goodness, and God the Son, Jesus Christ, consistently showed his willingness to care for, support, and feed people. It is clear that moral and material paternalism is a Christian value, and that can be reflected in governance – material paternalism through welfare for the truly needy and moral paternalism through a state that legislates on moral issues. This acts as a good transition to the next identifiable value of a belief in a firm, universal system of morality. It may be stating the obvious to say Jesus Christ preached about morality, and that it is a virtue to follow God’s moral law. Likewise, both conservatives and liberals can see the importance in society of following common, universal morals that are not mere formalities, but a set of rules and customs that people subscribe to in order to become better people. Universal morality is key to a functioning society. Do we not already agree to a set of universal morals, such as the belief that murder is wrong? Does not the widespread belief that violence is wrong help keep individuals and society safe? Point being, take a moral stand on social issues. Having a legal system will always lead to morals being imposed on others, and it only makes sense to impose a good moral system than to be weak-willed and push for dangerous societal atomisation.

One problem within mainstream conservatism and Western society in general is the shift towards moral relativism. In my last article, I referenced Edmund Burke’s claim that social order rests on moral foundations. Putting this simply, society and your day-to-day interactions function and go well because we collectively agree to the ‘ground-rules’, otherwise known as morality. As silly as it may seem to mention, I wouldn’t punch someone in the nose in response to being greeted with “Hello”, because that would be rude. It is the distinction between what thing is ‘right’ to do, and what is ‘wrong’ to do. Scale up this very small rejection of morality to the widespread rejection of law, the rejection of dignity and self-restraint, the rejection of being orderly and rejecting responsibility and the place where you live becomes worse-off. Some of those things just mentioned are quite widespread, perhaps with some such as the rejection of law it isn’t quite as chaotic as widespread murder, but little respect for the law in regards to, say, drug dealing and drug usage – which anyone under 20 knows is common – is just the start of it. Why follow one law if you don’t follow another? Perhaps, moving forward with firm morality, and Christian values, is in your interests. Following Christian morality, according to some studies, indeed reduces criminal behaviour and encourages positive traits. The logical conclusion is that the Christian moral system should be the standard for behaviour in the future, and there is no better place to look to the future than the education of children, especially at home. Some teachers have expressed frustration at the lack of parents teaching their children to behave politely or morally, and the answer to this is the re-emergence of following Christian values being the norm.

A word I used in the previous paragraph was “dignity”, and inalienable human dignity is absolutely a Christian value. As it is Christian to hold up God highly, so too does it make sense to hold up other humans, who are made in the image of God, as having inherent dignity that should not be taken away, especially not because of race. The Golden Rule – do unto others what you would have them do to you – on how to treat others with dignity comes from Jesus’ teachings. In particular, the dignity of children is especially important, and this includes those who are yet to be born. Naturally, the Christian principle of human dignity extending to all humans leads to the controversial position that humans that have not been born yet have equal dignity too, and so ending life before birth is not a matter to take lightly. But human dignity is more than the love of unborn children. Human dignity extends to all people, both progressives and traditional conservatives. Many conservatives likely feel that many pro-censorship progressives could use a lesson in this, and that freedom of belief – an extension of dignity – extends to those who disagree.

Perhaps less popular among the conservative right, this human dignity extends to all people in prison and economic migrants. If we are to subscribe to the Christian principle of paternalism, the government has a duty to truly rehabilitate prisoners. Indeed, many cases of good Christians being made out of some of the most violent criminals exist, as anyone who has attended the Alpha Course can tell you. Likewise, while conservatives such as myself object to mass immigration and illegal migrants coming over the English Channel, policies to address these issues – especially the latter – must recognise their inalienable human dignity. How this is done is of course open to interpretation, and that is a good thing – these values must be broad enough to allow for healthy debate, but conservatives who wish to advocate for these principles must remember that the inalienable and universal qualities matter, especially in our image towards both opponents and potential voters. For the record and to reiterate, this doesn’t mean conservatives should not stop channel crossings or facilitate them; it means to stop it humanely.

Inalienable human dignity applies to all individuals, and this brings the reader to the principle of individual responsibility. This may be my Evangelical Protestant/Anglican bias showing, but recognising the uniqueness and individuality of each person is evident in the Bible. Each of us has a certain gift, and so each of us are responsible in different ways. From this, conservatives should draw on the idea of individual responsibility, tempered by some collective duty, which too is Biblical. In one sense, the principle of individual responsibility is tied in a complementary manner to valuing morality, as there is an emphasis on personal accountability as to how well you follow Christian morals. In other words, it’s holding yourself to certain standards. Practising self-restraint with behaviour, to act according to what is right and wrong, is an act of taking individual responsibility. This value in particular is hard to encourage politically because of how it is about influencing people’s mindset. People have to be convinced that the moral system they are holding themselves to account to is worth following, and this will bring about individual responsibility in regards to morality. This may come about naturally as a hypothetical government that has read this article and agreed wholeheartedly tries to implement these values, and people recognise the virtue in them. Individual responsibility is not very controversial among conservatives, so I’ll move on to the more controversial topic; collective responsibility to altruism and charity, and whether this means we ought to be socialists.

My initial plan was to list out every argument, every talking point and each verse for why Jesus would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn or endorsed Steve Baker as leader of the Conservative Party. Having read articles by Huffpost, various smaller magazines and academics, Forbes, the Christian Socialism Institute and a video from Novara Media I will attempt to summarise what each side said, in short, and what the truth likely is. The articles in favour of portraying Jesus as favouring left-leaning economics surprised me by quoting scripture far more often than those arguing the contrary. Their arguments rested on scripture criticising wealth, the pursuit of wealth and greed, praising giving up private property and of course, the comparison of a camel going through a haystack to a rich man entering the Kingdom of God.

From those against the idea Jesus was a socialist or economic progressive, almost every article started by saying socialism did not exist at the time of Jesus Christ, and most mentioned that Jesus was against coercive force. As taxes and government intervention is ultimately supported by coercive force, Jesus would have disapproved. Notably, it was said that helping the poor in a Biblical context has to be voluntary, and an act of charity, not an act of state-sponsored wealth redistribution. Talks of giving up private property were stated to be not an act of collectivisation, but strictly voluntary acts of altruism.

Forbes writer Bill Flax, his biases aside, reflect the view I concluded with very well by saying “I’m a capitalist and you might be socialists. Christians can be both, but Christ was neither. He was the Author and Finisher of faith”. As stated earlier on in this article, I am attempting to take religious texts and apply them to politics in the form of values/principles, so naturally there is friction between trying to translate commands over personal conduct into government policy. What leftists trying to say Jesus was a socialist get wrong is that Jesus did not call for mass wealth redistribution, but rather called for altruism and to reject the idea that wealth was important. He called for prioritising your spiritual self; to say He was calling for socialism would be to forget that Jesus is a religious figure with spiritual concerns. Likewise, what many capitalists get wrong is that Jesus had a strong concern for the poor, and strongly criticised the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake, and of course he encouraged giving to the poor. So, what Christian principle can one develop from this?

The final principle that one can infer from Biblical teaching is that the government must foster a community-orientated society that encourages individuals to believe strongly in charity and altruism, and care for their needy neighbours; the Christian principle of community-centred altruism. Government policy must not put GDP first. I am aware this talking point is almost painfully repeated among conservative internet personalities, but it is still an important truth. Economic growth is good when it leads to economic development; when economic growth leads to a higher quality of life. Further still, in balance, the government should respect private property as a means to generate wealth for society to benefit from, and so that private citizens can indeed be altruistic with their own wealth.

I often read calls for separation of church and state from people replying to GBNews tweets about how the Archbishop of Canterbury says this and that, and how religion should stay out of politics. I am reminded of how many Americans complain of inefficient government, and how their state should be reduced and further constrained, with powers further separated and devolved to make government less powerful. Except the reason why America’s political system is so inefficient is largely due to the separation of powers, the overbearing constraints on the executive and the culture that has come out of it. America needs a less restrained executive and civil service in order to produce better government. See Political Order and Political Decay for further details. 

Similarly, conservatives in Britain should not call for the destruction of another ancient state institution, which would likely not return should we tear it off, such as the Church of England from its established role, on the grounds that it is too liberal. That would be exactly what progressive liberals want, as religion is often the best source of conservative, traditional morals and values. Rather, if the Archbishop of Canterbury focused more on the Gospel and Christianity, he would receive far much more praise from conservatives. Conservatives should seek to promote social conservatism within the Church of England, and make use of a fantastic vehicle for morality. It was only recently that the Prime Minister no longer had powers over appointing bishops in the Church of England, and the Prime Minister still has an influential say on who is picked to be Archbishop of Canterbury. If we in Britain are going to get our moral teachings from anywhere, would we want it from an institution that has existed in one form or another for over a thousand of years, or from the musings of self-appointed philosophers? Christianity guided Europe for over a millenia; rocking the foundations of our society, as we are right now, is not working out.

Numerous Members of Parliament have resigned from their seats or other parliamentary positions as of the date this article has been published, from Neil Parish to Christopher Pincher. One could argue that too many politicians no longer really believe in absolute morality, and certainly do not hold themselves responsible to a moral system. If politicians were more like Christ, espousing Christian values, surely this problem would be far less pronounced. We would have far less lies being told (lying is something that Jesus is not fond of) and greater dedication to serving the people; paternalistic love. Politicians holding themselves to account to a system of morality is something worth agitating for. If you are a member of a political party, you may want to only support candidates that discuss and hold themselves accountable to morality. Perhaps you can act as an example for others to follow, as Jesus Christ did, and follow Christian values. Maybe you could stand for elected office, or find work in government departments, and see the spread of Christian values in politics by your own work. The emphasis in all of this is that you should do something, big or small.

If we had the aforementioned Christian values put at the centre of public policy, with community, human dignity and paternalistic love in mind, Britain may well be better off, and the British people far more content with government. Such change will not happen without people being vocal or active about their concerns; A politician will not answer a question that he isn’t asked. People may sneer at you for defending Christian values publicly, but these people, and others, will sneer at you for almost anything. If there is no good answer to ‘Why not?’, then consider giving it a go.


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Current Criticism on Austen: An Overview of the Norton Critical Pride and Prejudice, 4th Ed.’s Back Material

“Short and easy will be the task of the mere biographer. A life of usefulness, literature, and religion, was not by any means a life of event…to the little disappointments incidental to human life was never added, even for a moment, an abatement of good-will from any who knew her.”

No, this quote does not refer to the late Queen Elizabeth II—though several aspects of it, from the humble understatement to the positive rapport among her acquaintances, could just as well describe the late monarch (ignoring the lacking a “life of event” part) as they do its actual subject, Jane Austen.

Written by her brother Henry and included as a preface to the posthumous volume containing Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the brief biography is one of the many resources found in the 2016 Norton Critical Edition (the fourth) of Pride and Prejudice, edited by Donald Gray of Indiana University and Mary A. Favret of Johns Hopkins. Besides confirming that one cannot understand Austen without understanding her, as he puts it, “thoroughly religious and devout” faith (another parallel between Austen and Her Royal Highness, and many others), the biography gives several details that lend insight into not only P&P but Austen’s other novels, as well.

This is, of course, the purpose of Norton Critical Editions, which I have used since my first essay as a California kid at Oxford (due on a Monday after meeting my tutor on Friday). The Norton Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, bought, read, and cited in a two-day scramble, saved my grade that weekend, and it still graces my bookshelf for whenever I or mine might need it.

While pieces contemporary with the books’ printings, like the above biography, letters from the author to family and friends, and subsequent reviews at the time (for P&P from Scott, C. Bronte,  Emerson, Twain, and others) provide a great context, as a student I found most useful the critical excerpts included in each edition, which attempt to give an up-to-date view on the literary conversation surrounding a certain work. For undergraduates who may not know where to look for sources on a certain author, I usually suggest Norton Criticals (and, by God, the several-page-long Selected Bibliography in the back—my brother and sister in Christ, THEY DO YOUR WORK FOR YOU), if only as a primer for larger critical discussion.

But the editions aren’t, and shouldn’t be, limited to the student; indeed, fans of Austen (or whom have you) might wear down their editions faster and more thoroughly than the student who buys it for a two-week paper. Although written with the academic in mind, works like Norton Critical Editions might very well contribute to the canon being preserved outside of the university, providing, as they do, the tools for a historical and critical understanding of one’s favorite work.

Literally one of the greatest novels ever written, and second in my mind only to The Brothers Karamazov, qua novel, Pride and Prejudice needs no encomium from me. Based on and in parts expanding my Goodreads review, what follows is a summary of and, at times, response to the recent critical sources in the 4th Norton Edition. I hope it will prove useful to Austen lovers as much as students.

D.A. Miller, “No One is Alone,” from Jane Austen; Or the Secret of Style (2003).

Discusses the break between Austen’s style and her characters, with the former being omniscient and the latter being little-knowing. Recounts how Austen’s style developed from reading 18th-century writers like Sam Johnson and how she novelized several aspects of their articles. Discusses the paradox of Elizabeth’s marrying Darcy (Miller cynically sees it as an unfortunate contradiction) by supposedly eschewing the very wit (or “impertinence”) that made her unique.

Jeff Nunokawa, “Speechless in Austen,” from Differences 16 (2005).

Discusses the timelessness in Austen (both narration and characters), whose writing seems to have no idea of the enormous cultural changes that were to come in the 1800s. Nunokawa identifies this confident changelessness as being part of why we read P&P, which, despite readers’ approaching it with nostalgia, has very little actual nostalgia within its pages. Discusses, like Elfenbein below, Austen’s use of space-as-social dynamic. Also contextualizes and discusses silence within P&P, and how Darcy must learn to open up because it is through sociability and inclusion, not mere rank, that one succeeds in P&P. Reasons that in Austen one can only know themselves through social interaction, and so Darcy’s attempting to only speak when he has something perfect or great to say ironically reduces him. Finally, examines the certainty of tone often used by both Austen’s narrator and her characters.

At times syntax/language felt a bit overwrought, but it may be because it’s an excerpt and, its being the first article I read after finishing the novel, I was still reading with Austen’s rhythm.

Andrew Elfenbein, “Austen’s Minimalism,” from The Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice (2013).

Examines how and why Austen leaves out descriptive details; identifies her as not being a realist (as has been argued) because of this selectivity. Contextualizes Austen with Johnson’s 18th-century advice to make writing timeless by avoiding too many details; shows how Austen nuances this by using detail to enhance beauty of characters/scenes, like the then popular picturesque school (which suffuses the book – see Knox-Shaw below). Identifies rooms and the outdoors not as physical places but as identifiers of distance and a context for the social interactions that make up the book. One of the best articles in the edition, both for historical context and argument flow.

Peter Knox-Shaw, “Pride and Prejudice, A Politics of the Picturesque,” from Jane Austen and the Enlightenment (2004).

 Identifies the Picturesque as finding a medium between the Burkean-Romantic poles of pacifying Beauty and provoking Sublime. Follows the picturesque as a running metaphor through the book for Elizabeth and Darcy’s love, and thus, for Elizabeth’s breaking of gender stereotypes/politics. Argues that, like the picturesque, Elizabeth’s development depicts a nuancing of (if not campaign against) conventional beauty, while showing that beauty and attractiveness are not synonymous in the book (see Michie below). In conjunction with the other articles on the picturesque, Knox-Shaw’s was one of the more enlightening articles in the material.

Felicia Bonaparte, “Conjecturing Possibilities: Reading and Misreading Texts in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,” from Studies in the Novel 37.2 (2005).

Places P&P within the contemporary philosophical debate between the rationalists and the empiricists. Establishes how P&P identifies Jane Austen as an empiricist in the line of David Hume due to its consistent focus on skepticism regarding secondhand accounts, texts, and assumptions. Stresses how often characters’ epistemology is discovered to be faulty, and how the book encourages a general skepticism regarding first impressions. Argues that the Bennet sisters each, in their own way, undermines one’s ability to interpret reality with certainty, and that Elizabeth’s developing a “practical empiricism” is “the bildung of the novel.” Goes further to argue that Austen was even an early Nietzschean post-modernist in how she incorporates her characters’ mutual and self-reflective interpretations into their construction of, rather than deduction of, reality. Probably my favorite of the edition’s essays, for its historical context and depth of substance, as well as readability.

Vivien Jones, “Feminisms,” from A Companion to Jane Austen (2012).

Argues that, despite her focus on primarily women characters and their circumstances, Austen should not be classed as an early feminist because of her reaffirmation of marriage, which Jones interprets as an endorsement of the patriarchal structure she sees throughout the book. Identifies Austen, rather, as a postfeminist author, who (she thinks mistakenly) argues in her characters and scenarios that the inequalities facing early-19th-century women had largely been dealt with and that many problems experienced by women could be surmounted not by societal revolution and polemic but by individual reflection and reformation. Identifies Elizabeth as being in the vein of Mary Wollstonecraft, but Austen as aligning more with the conservative female writer Hannah More. Accuses Austen of contextualizing the benefits achieved by Wollstonecraft within a conservative/Tory context of twenty years later that reaffirms the social structure. Reads P&P as conservative reinterpretation of previous feminist ideals through the onus for individual, rather than broader social, reform. In my opinion, Jones’s view that Elizabeth’s marriage is a renegging on her previous independence (rather than a full expression of it) misses the point of the book, which his her growth out of her own pride and prejudice (an impetus and growth Austen notably gives to Darcy, too).

Janet Todd, “Jane Austen’s Hero,” from The Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice (2013).

Argues that Darcy’s place in society allows him to begin the book as a boor, whereas Elizabeth’s requires her to adapt through the book. Sees Elizabeth as having no individuality in either Darcy or Collins’s eyes. Follows Alistair Duckworth’s 1971 Marxist reading of the book’s property entail (arguably refuted below by Macpherson), applying it to gender and property. Like Jones above, interprets Elizabeth’s growth out of her pride and prejudice as a negative, a product of her social standing and gender, and thus misses the point of the book.

Elsie B. Michie, “Social Distinction in Jane Austen,” from The Vulgar Question of Money: Heiresses, Materialism, and the Novel of Manners from Jane Austen to Henry James (2011).

Interprets P&P as Austen’s attempt to find the proper relation to wealth. Reads book as a response to Hume and Smith’s writings on the problematic effects of wealth on English society. Elizabeth as the opposite of Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine, both of whom present the negative effects of status via inherited wealth (shallow, arrogant, etc). Examines the growth of manners to replace the traditional virtues of the landed aristocracy (both shown in said characters). Points out how Elizabeth’s manners, as well as her disregard for inherited virtue or status, make her attractive despite her lack of apparent beauty (see Knox-Shaw above). Looks at what Darcy’s growing attraction to her says about him. A good essay for understanding and contextualizing the different dynamics in the Elizabeth-Lady Catherine interactions, as well as the changing social mores of the time.

Sandra Macpherson, “Rent to Own: or, What’s Entailed in Pride and Prejudice,” from Representations 82 (2003).

Lays out the laws of property entail—and, Macpherson points out, ironic humor surrounding the issue—that undergird the plotof P&P. Debunks Duckworth’s Marxist view that the book’s society is structured along class and gender lines (see Todd, above). Showing how entail cannot be blamed on any one person or group, explains the implicit joke in both Mrs. Bennet’s expecting something to be done about the entail and Collins’s continual apology for it (both of which Austen’s readers would have seen as ridiculous). Reads Austen as not being against entail, per se, because it is an image of social obligation, not one of exclusion. Examines Austen’s contrasting renting vs owning as makers of different personalities and virtues (vis, Bingley and Darcy). One of the more enlightening, historically based, and easy/fun to read of the back material; possibly my favorite, contending with Bonaparte.

Andrew Maunder, “Making Heritage and History: The 1894 Illustrated Pride and Prejudice,” from Nineteenth-Century Studies 20 (2006).

Examines the role illustrations play in forming (and revising) later perceptions of an artist and their work. Explores how, “Illustrations play a central role in how readers construe novels,” and “modify, challenge, and even dictate readers’ understandings,” of the novels. Argues in a footnote that later illustrations of P&P like , rather than the text itself, are to be attributed with the reading that Darcy becomes more emotionally responsive by the novel’s end; conversely sees the text as validating Darcy’s cold “legal and ethical formalism,” and pushing Mr. Bingley to emulate it. Explores the effect the 1894 edition had on how the novel was interpreted, despite it’s being merely a “gift book” among many similars flooding the market. Presents and critiques key illustrations by artist Hugh Thompson and describes others, unpictured; interprets Thompson’s stated desire to show Austen’s “sense of fun,” as going too far, into reinterpretation. Although Thompson and editor George Allen caused a revival of interest in Austen, implies the popularity had more to do with the reinterpretive lens than with Austen’s work, itself (see my own critique of the recent Persuasion adaptation, linked above).

Tiffany Potter, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” from Women, Popular Culture, and the Eighteenth Century (2012).

Reads Seth Grahame-Smith’s book/reinterpretation, P&P&Zs, as more than a pulp piggyback off of Austen. Presents book as a concretization of the implicit, unspeakable aspects of P&P, with the zombies being “a literalization of the threat of a social death in spinsterhood…in opposition to the socially constructed life-and-death quality of the marriage plot.” Interprets several moments from Grahame-Smith’s book as helping readers better understand Austen, such as Lydia’s becoming an “unmentionable” zombie as an image of the unspeakability of her adultery in Austen, or the steady death to zombiehood of Charlotte as a picture of her intellectual death in marrying Collins. An interesting piece that treats P&P&Z seriously, though Potter ultimately interprets certain aspects of Austen (e.g. Jane and Elizabeth’s marriages) negatively, like others above.


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On the majesty of Britain’s unwritten constitution

In light of Boris Johnson’s recent attempts to cling onto his own personal power, many within the media commentariat have proposed the idea of a written and entrenched constitution. Such a solution is historically ignorant: as will be developed in the succeeding paragraphs, the miracle of Britain’s constitution is that its conventions have weathered all storms and continue to stand strong today. Whether it be the unequivocal adherence to Erskine May or the continued existence of Habeas Corpus, Britain’s conventions are to be proud of and cherished. For utopians, too blindly obsessed with rationalism and rigorous state planning, Johnson’s escapades provide the perfect alibi for constitutional reform. But they are as wrong as they have always been, even in the interesting times in which we live.

Many of these misguided pundits have suggested that the answer to Britain’s political woes is that it should look to the various nations across Europe and the West that decided long ago to adopt a codified and entrenched constitution, but what does such a constitution actually look like? For one, all the key constitutional provisions would be drawn up in a single document which would then be protected by a court of law. This would inevitably go far further than the current Supreme Court which only considers the principles laid down in the Human Rights Act (1998) which are, of course, in line with the European Convention of Human Rights. All future laws would be required to stand in compatibility with this document. Any executive which desired the alteration of this document would be naturally required to achieve a super-majority within parliament.

For a considerable amount of time, such an idea has stood at the forefront of many constitutionalists’ minds. Given the fact that the British public tend to spend more time worrying about the accessibility of public services, rather than constitutional issues, the idea of a written constitution has not quite permeated through to the masses. Brexit for many may have been about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom but the constituent vote that tipped the scale in favour of withdrawing from the European Union saw the threat of mass migration on public services. Why is it that the growth of the Eurosceptic movement peaked only a few years following a financial crash? It is unwise to use worn out clichés, but Bill Clinton was correct in asserting that “It’s the economy, stupid.”

This, however, may not remain the case. Class dealignment and the absence of any real proletariat movement has shifted many people’s interests away from economic issues and towards constitutional and political issues instead. With the insistent obsession amongst media apparatchiks, the Prime Minister’s drawn out occupation of No.10 Downing Street has really lit a touch stone amongst the British public. Johnson has rightfully been described as someone who throws caution into the wind when bending the rules to further the interests of himself or, in some cases, the British public. To list a few of his more provocative actions over the last three years, he prorogued parliament, watered down the ministerial code and restricted certain forms of protest. The point of this article is not that his actions were wrong, but rather that they have inspired a rejuvenation amongst radicals to further pursue constitutional reform. It is perfectly reasonable to desire high levels of robust executive scrutiny and accountability but codifying the law is not the way that one should go doing about it.

Even in an age in which nation-states increasingly subscribe to the same hegemonic notion of what a liberal democracy should look like, Britain remains nearly alone in that the roots of certain constitutional elements can be found centuries ago. Exemplifying this perfectly is the fact that the bicameral nature of parliament grew eventually out of the 8th century practice of Witan-based council rule. Even if one takes a strictly anti-anachronistic view of history, the first official parliament was called in 1236, a few years subsequent to the signing of the Magna Carta. The unique majesty of Britain’s constitution is that its legitimacy is found in virtue of its longevity. Such a system, when working effectively, is both natural and superior to any other constitutional format. A system built upon the trust of politicians to uphold constitutional conventions is both perennially fragile yet also preferable to anything else.

Yet, such an argument for the maintenance of our constitution has to be framed with the recent Westminster scandals in mind. As is already becoming apparent, the ongoing Conservative Party leadership election will have a great focus upon propriety and ethics within politics. Candidates, whose prior lives fell short of the squeaky-clean standards expected of them, will be faced with a considerable uphill battle. Media pundits love to jump on the bandwagon of criticising Sir Keir Starmer for being too boring but the reality is that, after the last few years of political chaos, much of the British public will want a prime minister who is serious and trustworthy, even if that means being a bit on the dull side. Ordinary people do not want to go about their lives worrying about politicians; they have far bigger concerns. As a result, I suspect that the next few prime ministers will bend over backwards to ensure individual decency and political stability.

On a different point, it is worth refuting the conservative argument which can be made for a written and entrenched constitution. Such a constitution would prevent radicals from unwisely or unthinkingly bringing a sledgehammer to the political system. One has only to look at the toxic legacy of New Labour. Admittedly, even David Cameron, a Conservative prime minister, attempted to abolish the House of Lords with a simple majority within the House of the Commons. It is perfectly true to argue that the preservation of a particular constitutional setup would remain existent for a long time if codified and entrenched behind a naturally conservative law court. However, if moderation is a fundamental conservative principle, then to alter the constitution in such a dramatic and radical way, even in an old-fashioned or nostalgic manner, would be, by definition, an unconservative thing to do. Purely in a hypothetical conservative utopia, a written constitution would be naturally the constitution of choice. We don’t live in a utopia though; we live in reality.

In contrast to the unwritten and uncodified dignity of Britain’s ancient constitution, the American constitution is constantly the source of unnecessarily bitter political debate and congressional blockage. If one were to take the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, there is still a decades-old, unresolved debate around whether or not to alter it. Discussions around laws that may appear to violate such amendments centre around whether or not the law is constitutional, rather than whether the law would actually be effective in practice. Debating the constitutionality of federal states banning the right to an abortion is an entire debate in itself and not one that an Englishman should necessarily engage with, however the recent decision to overturn Roe vs Wade does raise an interesting point. Following British tradition, it is far better that law-based decisions are determined by elected politicians, not by unaccountable judges. This point was rightfully raised at the despatch box by Dominic Raab while deputising for Johnson. To be a 21st century conservative, one must commit to upholding the democratic will of the people. Despite the influence of pro-Atlanticist conservatives, it is wrong to look to the USA as a political model.

Despite the temptations of a written constitution, politicians and activists must remain ever vigilant in their defence of Britain’s unwritten constitution. In order for our political system to develop naturally, prominent conservatives must put aside any admiration they may have for the American system and stand strong against historically-ignorant reformers. Preserving the way in which things are done is one of the core building blocks of being a conservative. This principle cannot be undermined by constitutional reformers, even if they are paradoxically trying to prevent radical reform. The checks and balances within the British political system have survived far worse than Johnson.


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Where do we go from Here? The paths to Liberty and Heritage – Book review

Last August, a group of leading dissident right thinkers have gathered at a conference titled ‘Where do we go from Here? The paths to Liberty and Heritage’. Each speaker discussed in detail their own idea and concept of how to get the future they want – be it a libertarian pipe dream, an idyllic Hobbiton-like quasi-communist Trumpton, or a reactionary haven. Despite the speakers coming from a vast variety of backgrounds, they were all united by a few common goals – the desire for change, an appreciation for tradition, love for aesthetics and liberty.

Despite not being able to attend the event in person, I had the privilege of reading and reviewing the book that contained all the speeches from the event. I humbly, and not so modestly believe that the choice of the reviewer (me) was perfect – as I can cast an outsider’s eye into the book and review it from the outside as someone who hasn’t even stepped foot in the Warwick University, where the event took place.

The concept of the PATH FORWARD was a brilliant idea to, for once, put the dissident right towards a shared goal – instead of continuous Twitter-based infighting they could all contribute and map out their vision for the future. Bring out the wholesome, squash the grim and bleak.

There was a fair share of similarities – the themes of community, aesthetics, and traditionalism shone forth, which was only a good thing – it showed that despite any apparent differences, there is a common goal.

There were a few notable speakers that many of us have heard names of more than once – our very own Mallardite – Samuel Martin, the famed Academic Agent, and even Carl Benjamin – the creator of the popular Lotus Eaters Podcast.

Many speakers have mapped out the problems with the current world, to then proceed to explaining how to move on forward.

Naturally, one of the most hard-hitting speeches was the one written by Academic Agent, who decided to cover one of the subjects he seems to often hyper-fixate on – ‘Culture is Downstream from law’. Using many studies, research and quoting Caldwell, AA has elaborated on the subject which, I believe, links to the main theme of the event by expressing the need to be in power in order to legislate in order to enforce your own positive vision of reality in the form of Trumpton – an idea which was generally critiqued in the later speech done by Carl Benjamin.

It felt like AA’s essay hasn’t delved too much into the concept of the ‘where do we go from here’ as he already touched on this point many a time in his own YouTube channel – building a network of 10s, the new elite who are best in everything they do, the elite of the new Ubermensch, so to speak.

Following AA, we had speeches/essays by Alexander Adams and Edward Slingsby, both focusing more on the concept of aesthetics. Slingsby was concerned with the matter of architecture and how far it has been bureaucratised. He outlined a few clever ways of how to retake the architecture and return it to traditionalists. He suggests that the architects should try to build their networks with the likeminded individuals and find other creatives who would do the same. This was generally a very strong theme that permeated the entire book – the need for a strong community of likeminded men who can ensure the success and preservation of the values and ideas. 

Adams, however, structuring his essay in a highly academic manner, debated the concept of choosing your opponents wisely and ensuring that you don’t alienate people who could help you which was a nice touch. Adams focused on the current tendency to censorship and how to avoid it. Adams is likely one of the best people to talk on this subject considering he published a book last year that discusses a similar subject titled Iconoclasm, Identity Politics and the Erasure of History. He also suggested that we need to steer clear from accelerationism advising that ‘you can’t take the Canterbury Cathedral and move it to Idaho’, as you lose the people and the atmosphere in the process. I disagree with this statement – one could make a very similar argument for returning the artifacts to their original place. You can and you SHOULD dismantle and take the Canterbury Cathedral with you. At least you saved it from the imminent ruin. It’s a tribute to the great of the past. But let’s not go on a tangent here because other than this, Adams certainly has a point – He continues by advising of the need of the preservation of the texts in the form of physical copies as well as the return to traditional means of communication – letters and email (how far we’ve fallen since email feels like a ‘traditional’ concept).

One of my favourite essays in the entire book was the one done by Samuel Martin (and I am not saying this because he is literally publishing this piece and he agreed to postpone my deadline on multiple occasions). Sam added a Zoomer-like breath of fresh air to the conference and a passion I have not sensed from other speakers. He decided to talk about the Utopia project. Utopia Project did specifically that – attempted to sketch out a positive idea for the future. Martin goes on to explain:

‘I have never understood why the right focuses so much on strategy. It’s not an irrelevancy, it’s very important. But surely you can only construct an effective strategy if you have a cohesive idea about what you want to achieve. You don’t build strategy first in the hope that you will get somewhere.’

And this captured the pure essence of the book – the creation of the cohesive idea of where we are going.

Ferro decided to dissect and deconstruct Klaus Schwab’s book titled ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and explain why it’s of the utmost importance that we ought to reject the kind of globalist technology he is proposing and ensure we return to tradition.

What I really liked was Not So Obvious’s article, very grounded, very focused on authenticity. He brought up something a lot of us don’t even realise sometimes, I think – how far we are removed from authenticity. The fact that money isn’t physical, the digitalisation of society, friendship, and romance. He offers a cure – by ensuring that we do more authentic friendship-building and doing more things in the real world.

One of the most wholesome elements of the book was the call for getting involved on the local scale in whatever way you can do it. Buy art from your fellow dissidents, read their magazines (worth noting, the Mallard was mentioned), start businesses, make meaningful friendships, find yourself a Twitter autist waifu. Some (Po the Person) even suggested that we should get involved in our local Conservative community and go drink wine with dusty old men who care about housing in your local area. Others advised learning a skill.

What I feel was very important that came across from it was that the path to liberty and heritage really starts from us. If you dislike the modern world, you must take steps to change something. First, you may need to change your outlook (Po the Person, Jogging to get somewhere), look to God for hope (Lambda, What Reactionaries can learn from the Bible), or if you’re a female, quit birth control (Aydin Paladin).

Once you’ve worked on yourself, you can try to tackle issues on the small, local scale, such as rejecting globalist technology and starting your own thing (Ferro, The Technology Problem), institution-building and networking (Samuel Martin), or doing things out in the real world (Not So Obvious).

The essays were all very well done with the speakers clearly highly knowledgeable within their chosen areas of discussion. The calls to change show that there are so many of us so strongly disaffected with the current reality. And this book and these essays map out of how we can disentangle this messy path of intertwined ideas and concepts and find a common goal we can all go towards – maybe not a utopian one but something clearer and more down to earth – a preservation of beliefs and values and passing them on to more people so we could make a meaningful change one at a time. If you’re interested, there is another event coming up relatively soon – if you’re interested – check out the website.


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