Sceptical libertarianism and opera

Location: France

June 29, 2004

Oh, but Mr Knightley, I really did win the cold war

Ah, the incomparable Jane Austen. On any topic, is there anyone to beat her? She now comes to my aid in the debate that is simmering away on whether Ronald Reagan ‘won’ the cold war.

As all of you out there with taste will know, Emma takes great delight in telling Mr Knightley about her ‘success’ in getting Mr Weston and Miss Taylor to marry in Chapter 1 of Austen’s peerless penultimate novel.

Mr Knightley harrumphs. Emma is right, he says, only if one defines ‘success’ as saying idly to oneself ‘wouldn’t it be nice if they got married’ and then watching it come to pass. True, Emma may have made the odd nudge here and there, and smoothed away the occasional misunderstanding. But to say that the marriage is her doing is to have a very curious view of the ways of the world.

As with Emma, so with Ronald Reagan. True, he did little to prevent the cold war from ending, and he was on the winning side when it did come to a close, but to say that he ‘won’ it is flying in the face of both history and early 19th century genius.

June 28, 2004

Janacek does it better

Some more high culture. I've just noticed that the 'ring' theme from the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings is suspiciously like one of the main themes from the overture to Kat'a Kabanova. Scandalous. Isn't Janacek still in copyright?

Of course, Janacek then goes on to do much more interesting things with it than mix it with elves and trolls.


It's good that some British traditions never die. Like moral outrage at the appearance of a new translation of the bible. The end of the world is nigh -
or perhaps 'The proverbial's about to hit the fan some time soon', as the new version might have it.

So, how bad is that damage? Compare these two renderings of Mark 1: 10-11:

Authorised version: "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from the heaven saying, Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."


New: "As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!' "

Abuse of the English language: immense. Damage to religion: who am I to say? I am not fluent in New Testament Greek. The Authorised Version is,
forget it not, a version, a translation. It was not written by God, it was translated by man. It is a sublime piece of English, so appeals to the high-culture part of me. But that is quite separate from its religious value.

By all means criticise the new translation for cheapening some of the most beautiful texts the English language has produced. But don't pretend it's 'blasphemous'.


Okay, so I have sympathy with many of the values of the British left (there, I've admitted it). I like niceness, caring and fluffiness in public policy.

But what is it with the left and fox hunting? Try as I might, I can't get my head around what makes this an issue to excite such passions.

The anti-hunters tend to have two line of arguments. First, hunting is cruel to animals. Y-e-e-e-s. And? If we want to legislate to avoid cruelty to animals, then banning hunting is surely priority number 24,567, somewhere behind prohibiting having cats as pets, beekeeping and those little tablet things that get rid of mosquitoes. The foxes are going to be killed anyway, and hunting seems as good a way as any of doing it.

The second line of argument drags up the 19th century decisions to ban bear-bating and cockfighting. The relevance being? To use an analogy (something I hate, but hey), this is like using slavery as an argument to ban work. Or domestic violence as a reason to outlaw sex.

Of course, what the anti-hunting lobby really object to is not the death of the fox, but the fact that people experience pleasure in achieving it. And legislating to control thoughts rather than actions makes me feel even queasier than contemplating the remains of a half-digested vixen....

June 25, 2004

Opening salvo

Why start this blog?

Well, egoism to begin with. But I also I want to fill a blog hole. My aim is to write a blog that is libertarian in outlook yet, unlike most existing UK libertarian blogs, does not place its flag squarely with George Bush and flee in horror from anything with its roots in Europe.

And to wallow in the glories of unashamedly elitist high culture.

And to have a lot of fun.

Comments, complaints and discussion welcome.