Thursday, 17 October 2019

All behind you Boris

If the deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU passes, the whole of the UK will leave both the EU Single Market and the EU’s Customs Union. Let’s be clear. This is Brexit. It isn’t Brexit in Name Only. All of the UK, Northern Ireland too will be leaving the EU.

The Irish Backstop has been removed. Northern Ireland will no longer have to stay in the Customs Union after the UK left. The international border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will remain open.  There won’t be an international border between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland will be just as much a part of the UK’s internal market as it is at present.

 There will be some alignment between Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to maintain the all-Ireland economy which at present exists in certain areas such as electricity. There will be some monitoring of goods transported across the Irish sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. These checks for the most part will be carried out by British officials. No one travelling between Britain and Northern Ireland will be checked or hindered in any way. In fact, it’s entirely unclear if anyone is even going to notice whatever checks take place. There will be an arrangement whereby goods which might end up being exported from the Britain to Ireland via Northern Ireland will be charged EU duty. If they don’t in fact go south, but remain in Northern Ireland this duty will be repaid.

The Northern Irish Assembly if it ever gets up and running again will have a say on these arrangements. Neither side of the community will have a veto. This appears to be what the DUP is objecting to. But if a simple majority wishes to change matters, they can be changed.

This isn’t a bad deal. We all agreed that “No deal was better than a bad deal.” But this isn’t that. It may not give Brexiteers everything that we want. But this is enormously better than Theresa May’s deal. The UK will be able to make trade deals with other countries. Those deals will apply to the whole of the UK. We will no longer have to apply the EU’s common external tariff. The UK’s Parliament and Government will not be subordinate to the EU and it’s laws.

I would greatly prefer that the DUP were onboard, but Northern Ireland’s position as an integral part of the UK may end up being safer than if we went down the no deal route. A hard border in Ireland might persuade enough nationalists on both sides of the border that the only solution is a united Ireland. The present deal doesn’t change Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the UK, it just does what is necessary to keep the border in Ireland open. My view is that a border poll in Ireland would be unlikely to take place peacefully. If either side lost closely it might prefer to go back to bombs rather than ballots. Better by far that both communities in Northern Ireland get some of what they want and that those who want to be Irish can be Irish and those who want to be British can be British. This deal just might keep the peace.

With the whole of the UK completely outside the EU, the SNP are going to be faced with a horrible dilemma. They are not going to be able to argue that Scotland should be given the Northern Irish option because Northern Ireland will be completely outside both the Customs Union and the Single Market.

Scottish Independence would mean that whatever trade deals the UK negotiates in the coming years would not apply to Scotland. It would mean Scotland having to apply to join the EU from scratch or alternatively having to negotiate trade deals both with the UK and the EU at the same time. Joining the EU would require joining the Euro and Schengen which would inevitably lead to a hard border between England and Scotland. Moreover, the SNP would have to explain to the Scottish electorate that they wanted to make the Scottish Parliament less powerful by giving back to the EU those powers over fisheries, agriculture etc etc. that the UK will get back from the EU. The vast majority of these powers will be devolved to the various Parliaments and assemblies.

It has taken three years for the UK to get an acceptable deal from the EU. How long would it take Scotland to get an acceptable deal from both the UK and the EU. Do Scots really want to go through these kinds of negotiations again?

Scotland being in the EU while the UK is out is a nightmare scenario for Scotland, but Scotland being outside both the UK and the EU is if anything even worse. This is why the SNP oppose Brexit and why they will vote against any deal or no deal. Scottish independence depends on the whole of the UK remaining in the EU.

I regret that Northern Ireland is being treated in any way differently to the other parts of the UK. Belfast is as British as Burnley and Bognor Regis. But If Northern Ireland was sold down the river it was not today rather it was when we signed the Belfast Agreement in 1998.  But if we hadn’t signed it would Northern Ireland be as peaceful today as it is? Probably not. This was the price that we had to pay for peace.

The Belfast Agreement gave Dublin leverage and it has played its hand well. But Ireland set out to thwart Brexit and keep the UK in the EU, and there is little doubt that this was its aim, it may have failed. A united Ireland is no closer today than it was yesterday, last year or indeed in 1998. The UK subsidised Northern Ireland massively and the Northern Irish economy is closely integrated with the rest of the UK. Who would pay for Northern Ireland if Belfast and Dublin were united? Who would keep the peace if unification was less than peaceful? The Boris deal while treating Northern Ireland slightly differently from the other parts of the UK will bring Northern Ireland closer to the UK and further away from Ireland because the UK as a whole will over time diverge from the EU. If the DUP want Northern Irish to remain British forever their task is to persuade Northern Irish citizens who feel Irish that they also can feel equally British.

The Boris deal is not everything I might have wanted, but it is the best deal we are going to get. It is better than no deal. Brexiteers should get behind it. Farage should disband his party and we all Leavers should vote for Boris. Only a very short while ago the Remainers thought they had won. If we get out over the next few days and weeks it will be the Remoaners who will be moaning not least because they will know that the UK will never re-join the EU. Scottish nationalists too will reflect that this will be the moment that Scottish independence became impossible.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The slaves of the fathers

Various universities in Britain are investigating their links to the slave trade. They are asking whether they directly or indirectly benefited from slavery. Glasgow has already confessed its guilt and proposes to do penance. Cambridge, no doubt will, soon do the same. After that we can expect every university that existed during the Atlantic slave trade to find that it is guilty and needs to pay millions to people who are descended from slaves.

It’s all very Old Testament. The Glaswegian Lord ‘by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Do academics from Glasgow really think that they are guilty for things that their parents did? Perhaps they think that their sin is so original that it goes back to eating an apple.

But let’s apply this theory of guilt to more recent history. Imagine that someone donated a large sum of money to the University of Glasgow in the 1930s because he had made a great deal of money from trading with the Soviet Union. Did the University of Glasgow directly or indirectly benefit from Communism? Must it share the shame of the Gulag and pay reparations to the children who were oppressed by Stalin? The same argument could obviously be made for someone who made money from trading with Germany in the 1930s or China while ruled by Mao. Where will the guilt end, especially if it is to visited on the children so liberally.

Why focus merely on the Atlantic slave trade. It isn’t after all that slavery was invented when we discovered the West Indies or that it was located only in the southern states of the USA. There were slaves in the Bible. The Romans and Greeks owned slaves. Did any of us benefit from the fact that the English language is full of words derived from Latin and Greek? Did any of us benefit from Greek and Roman literature and culture and the contribution they made to the development of human civilization? Then we too are guilty and ought to pay reparations to the descendants of Greek and Roman slaves.

But who are these descendants and why should we stop with them? After all slavery was a feature of every European country until relatively recently.  Serfdom existed in Britain the Middle Ages and was abolished in Russia only in 1861. What this means is that if the University of Glasgow benefited from trade with people who owned serfs in Russia, the descendants of those serfs should equally be compensated. That’s rather a lot of descendants I’m afraid. It would be hard to find a Russian who did not have serf ancestors.

But it’s not just Russia. Did someone who owned serfs in the Middle Ages give money to the University of Cambridge? Well shouldn’t Cambridge pay the descendants of those serfs? Who are those children?

Here though we face one of the problems of visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the children. The children multiply. I have, two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents etc. If you go back enough generations then all of us are the descendants of serfs and equally the descendants of masters. With sufficient generations the number of my ancestors is greater than the population of the whole world. Everyone in the Britain is the descendant of a slave, whether Roman, Greek, or serf. But so too everyone in the West Indies is a descendant of a master. That master may have come from Africa, Arabia or Scotland, but if you go back far enough each of us is both the child of a slave and a master, because each of us is the child of everyone that ever was.

It is morally decadent to apologise for something I didn’t do. We do not think that Germans are guilty for what their grandparents did. But white liberals have become so obsessed with race that they are quite desperate to pretend to be sorry for something that they didn’t do. Of course, they are not sorry at all. The University of Glasgow will benefit from the reparations it sends to the West Indies in the form of the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with departments both in Glasgow and the West Indies. It will benefit financially and it will benefit from the publicity generated by its confession of guilt and atonement.

But it is the obsession with race that is damaging all of us. Liberal guilt isn’t interested in historical examples of slavery in the UK, nor in the fact that slavery in Russia was abolished around the same time as slavery in the USA. It doesn’t care that millions of Russians and Chinese worked as slaves in the Gulags. All slaves are equal, but some slaves are more equal than others.

Once upon a time we had a dream where none of us would be judged by the colour of our skin. What mattered was how we lived our lives, the goodness of our actions. Each of us should be judged by the morality of our own actions, not by what our parents did. Someone is not a victim because of what happened to his ancestors. On that basis all of us are victims and all of us are guilty. Which of us does not have an ancestor who was wronged or who did wrong? No one deserve compensation for something that didn’t happen to him from someone who didn’t do him any harm at all. We should treat each other simply as human beings. The liberal obsession with race is itself racist. It thinks that the thing that matters most about a human being is his skin pigment. It views everything through that colour. In doing so it sets race against race by dividing us into the guilty and the innocent and in doing so loses all sight of our shared humanity.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The children's crusade

There are two ideas that the children going on strike about climate change should be aware of. Science progresses or ought to progress by means of scientists testing their theories to destruction. This is the day to day stuff. Science progresses or ought to progress by means of scientific revolutions. This is the long-term stuff.

The problem with science is that scientists want to be proved right. Which scientist wants to see his theory falsified? For this reason, in the history of science certain false theories have been almost universally accepted. This is because scientists only seek to confirm their theories, they only look for evidence that fits in with what they believe and discount everything that might undermine their faith. Those who disagree with the consensus are frequently denounced as charlatans or heretics. But science progresses in the long run not by means of the herd mentality, but by means of the revolutionary genius.

Truth is not democratic. It didn’t matter that the whole scientific consensus thought Pasteur was deluded. It didn’t matter that everyone believed Newton was right about everything, everyone that is except Einstein. Peer reviewing is the scientific consensus whereby each scientist grooms the other by metaphorically picking nits from the chest of the other chimpanzee. You pick my nit and I’ll pick yours.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is frequently wrong because in order to be accepted into the scientific community you have to agree, you have to confirm what everyone else “knows” to be true and above all else you must not be sceptical about the group thought, you must not try to falsify it.

Fortunately, while science is governed by group think psychology, most scientists historically have been open to scientific revolution. If this had not been the case, we would still think that Malaria [mala aria] was caused by bad air. Ordinary group think scientists may spend their lives confirming rather than falsifying their theories, but they usually have recognised when the revolutionary scientist shows them that mosquitoes cause their fever. This is because most science is not political.

When science becomes politicalised nonsense frequently results. In the Soviet Union science as well as history often had to fit in with Marxism-Leninism. The result was that a whole generation followed the pseudo-science of Trofim Lysenko and rejected modern genetics and science-based agriculture.  The writings of generations of Soviet scientists and historians are worthless, because everything they wrote had to fit in with Soviet politics and was rejected if it did not. The pity is universities here are now following exactly this Soviet model.

Most university academics are left-wing. Certain subjects have been completely politicised, so that it is very difficult to get published if you disagree with the consensus. This doesn’t much matter if you are writing about literature or history. It makes these subjects dull and pointless when everyone conforms to the same left-wing model, but little harm is done. No one much reads this stuff anyway. But scientific theories do matter, when they have real world consequences. Before spending trillions of pounds trying to stop climate change, we should make sure that climate science isn’t biased by left-wing politics.

The Left was destroyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. People voted with their feet when given the choice between socialism and the free market. No further argument was needed. But left-wing thinking didn’t go away it just redirected itself into Green politics and identity politics. The Left had decisively lost the argument but found a new way of winning.

Climate science used to be just another niche like particle physics or organic chemistry. It had nothing whatsoever to do with politics. I remember years ago being told that the world was soon going to have another ice age.  There were stories about skating on the Thames again. The world’s climate has always gone through cycles. Sometimes in history it has been much hotter than now, sometimes much colder. At some point however the climate science consensus went through a revolution. Cold became the new hot.   But this revolution was different. The possibility of a new ice age had been studied just like chemistry or physics. But the idea that the world was going to get hotter instead of being merely a hypothesis to be studied, became a political dogma to be believed.

Climate science should have no more to do with politics than geology, but Green political parties formed and used the apocalyptic theories associated with global warming to put forward the extreme left-wing solutions which people had rejected when the Wall came down. The soft-left (Al Gore et al) and the hard-left used global warming as a means to achieve a political agenda that otherwise would have been ignored.

The politicisation of climate science meant that only voices from the left were heard. Instead of the whole of humanity being involved in an issue that affects all of us, only left-wing solutions were presented to solve a left-wing problem. Anyone concerned about the future of our planet, must regret this.

Is global warming happening? Probably. It’s a theory. Let’s test it to destruction by trying to falsify it. If we do so, it just might be that we have another scientific revolution that overthrows the present consensus.

Let’s stop the scare stories. I have lost count of the number of times over the past decades where I have been warned if we don’t do something in the next year or so something dreadful will happen. The end of the world is nigh stuff led by children is something we did in medieval times. Soon they will go on a children’s crusade led by Greta d’Arc in shining armour on a quest for sainthood.

Can human beings change the climate? Probably not. It may well be that a caveman living during the Ice Age thought that if only he prayed to whatever God he believed in, then he could make the world warmer. But he had to wait centuries, just as we do.

There are fossils of tropical fish in Scotland, while we also were once covered by glaciers. Human beings couldn’t do much to stop climate change in the past. To suppose we can now is the equivalent of doing a rain dance or indeed sacrificing small children to make the sun rise.

When king Canute pretended to stop the tide coming in his point was to demonstrate the limit of human power. Well if the world today was heading towards an ice age, we wouldn’t be able to stop it by driving more cars. The reverse is also true. 

 Is it possible to limit the affects of climate change? Possibly. But it's not going to be done by recycling, or by not using paper cups for our coffee. What we need is a scientific revolution that provides us with cheap, clean, abundant energy.

There is no point lecturing people to stop using fossil fuels. What we need is a viable alternative. People the whole world over want economic development. This requires that they use more energy. We can no more stop this, than we can stop the tide. 

Green energy is not going to solve the problem. Wind power, wave power and solar power are not going to be able to replace the use of fossil fuels. They just don’t generate enough and the amount they do generate isn’t cost effective.  If the world today ceased to use fossil fuels and relied exclusively on Green energy, our economies would crash and none of us would be able to do the routine tasks that we do every day. We would in effect go back to Victorian times.

Every improvement in human life and every solution to every problem has come about because of the free market. Let us therefore objectively investigate our climate. Get rid of all of the bias and all of the dogma. Let everyone speak freely with no charges of heresy. Climate change “denial” might just bring about the next scientific revolution, just as Newtonian Physics "denial" gave us Einstein.

It is better anyway for us not to rely on fossil fuels. They are dirty. They are limited and we have to buy them from places that are frequently dangerous and despotic. But the only way to completely replace fossil fuels is by either splitting the atom or even better by fusing it.

If all of the scientific work that has been wasted on Green energy had instead been used to discover clean nuclear power (e.g. Thorium reactors) or even better fusion reactors, we could by now be abolishing the use of fossil fuels. But we are only going to be able to adapt to whatever changes our climate brings us if we continue to have the wealth that only free markets can give us. Therefore, we are only going to have a world without pollution and without burning hydrocarbons if we reject the Greens and their Marxist economics. If there is a solution to the problem of climate change, it will only be found by objective research and the economics of supply and demand.

We may not be able to change our climate, but with sufficient energy and sufficient wealth we can adapt both to extremes of cold and extremes of heat. Right now people can live in places that reach minus fifty or plus fifty centigrade. Humans have lived through ice ages and we have lived through periods when the world got warmer. We have done so by adapting, thinking freely and rejecting the dogma of children indoctrinated from infancy that their snowflakes are melting.