About theartfuldilettante

The Artful Dilettante is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and a graduate of Penn State University. He is a lover of liberty and a lifelong and passionate student of the same. He is voracious reader of books on the Enlightenment and the American colonial and revolutionary periods. He is a student of libertarian and Objectivist philosophies. He collects revolutionary war and period currency, books, and newspapers. He is married and the father of one teenage son. He is kind, witty, generous to a fault, and unjustifiably proud of himself. He is the life of the party and an unparalleled raconteur.

An Eloquent Objection to Critical Race Theory (from a Parent)

Nehemiah Leftwich, writing on Facebook:

It has been a long time indeed since I have found myself exclaiming “BRAVO” so loudly and so frequently as I did when reading this post by a friend here on Facebook, a post which consists almost entirely of a letter from a disappointed and thoroughly disaffected parent to New York’s exclusive private school, Brearley, at which his daughter had previously been enrolled. Rarely have I encountered so brilliant an exposition and argument. In fact, I believe Mr. Gutmann’s letter should be committed to memory and shared as widely as possible.

As my friend wrote:

“This is what moral courage looks like. Bravo.

“Please read this letter. It was written by a father who took his daughter out of her expensive NYC private school because of what happened due to Critical Race Theory.”
***********************

April 13, 2021

Dear Fellow Brearley Parents,

Our family recently made the decision not to reenroll our daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. She has been at Brearley for seven years, beginning in kindergarten. In short, we no longer believe that Brearley’s administration and Board of Trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart. Moreover, we no longer have confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic minded adult. I write to you, as a fellow parent, to share our reasons for leaving the Brearley community but also to urge you to act before the damage to the school, to its community, and to your own child’s education is irreparable.

It cannot be stated strongly enough that Brearley’s obsession with race must stop. It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way. The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob, and then allowing the school to be captured by that same mob. What follows are my own personal views on Brearley’s antiracism initiatives, but these are just a handful of the criticisms that I know other parents have expressed.

I object to the view that I should be judged by the color of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.

I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. Ask any girl, of any race, if they have ever experienced insults from friends, have ever felt slighted by teachers or have ever suffered the occasional injustice from a school at which they have spent up to 13 years of their life, and you are bound to hear grievances, some petty, some not. We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today’s societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction.

I object to a definition of systemic racism, apparently supported by Brearley, that any educational, professional, or societal outcome where Blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of the aforementioned systemic racism, or of white supremacy and oppression. Facile and unsupported beliefs such as these are the polar opposite to the intellectual and scientific truth for which Brearley claims to stand. Furthermore, I call bullshit on Brearley’s oft-stated assertion that the school welcomes and encourages the truly difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding race and the roots of racial discrepancies.

I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism.

I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners. They are an insult to parents and unbecoming of any educational institution, let alone one of Brearley’s caliber.

I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors.

l object to Brearley’s advocacy for groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter, a Marxist, anti family, heterophobic, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic organization that neither speaks for the majority of the Black community in this country, nor in any way, shape or form, represents their best interests.

I object to, as we have been told time and time again over the past year, that the school’s first priority is the safety of our children. For goodness sake, Brearley is a school, not a hospital! The number one priority of a school has always been, and always will be, education. Brearley’s misguided priorities exemplify both the safety culture and “cover-your-ass” culture that together have proved so toxic to our society and have so damaged the mental health and resiliency of two generations of children, and counting.

I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums. I object to the censorship of books that have been taught for generations because they contain dated language potentially offensive to the thin-skinned and hypersensitive (something that has already happened in my daughter’s 4th grade class). I object to the lowering of standards for the admission of students and for the hiring of teachers. I object to the erosion of rigor in classwork and the escalation of grade inflation. Any parent with eyes open can foresee these inevitabilities should antiracism initiatives be allowed to persist.

We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training grounds for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history.

Lastly, I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of “consequences.” I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home. I object that Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into two. These are the reasons why we can no longer send our daughter to Brearley.

Over the past several months, I have personally spoken to many Brearley parents as well as parents of children at peer institutions. It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous. Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution. But as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up.

But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers and I assure you, the numbers are there. Contact the administration and the Board of Trustees and demand an end to the destructive and anti-intellectual claptrap known as antiracism. And if changes are not forthcoming then demand new leadership. For the sake of our community, our city, our country and most of all, our children, silence is no longer an option.

Respectfully,
Andrew Gutmann

Joe Biden’s Demonic Phase

Joe Biden’s party must be thinking — if you call it thinking — that being psychotic isn’t enough… it’s time to go demonic! How else to explain the supernatural doings of the folks in charge of things in our nation’s capital. The casual observer might suppose that these things are spinning out of control, but you also have to wonder how much Joe Biden & Company are spinning them that way. Are they looking to start a war, for instance?

Three weeks ago, Ol’ White Joe called Vladimir Putin “a killer.” This week, Ol’ Joe called Vlad on the phone and suggested a friendly in-person meet-up in some “third country.” In the meantime, Ol’ Joe essayed to send a couple of US warships into the Black Sea to assert America’s interest in Ukraine, the failed state whose American-sponsored failure was engineered in 2014 by Barack Obama’s State Department. Turkey, which controls the narrow entrance to the Black Sea, was notified that two US destroyers would be steaming through its territory. Hours after the announcement, the US called off the ships. Then, hours after Ol’ Joe proffered that summit meeting, his State Department imposed new economic sanctions on Russia and tossed out a dozen or so Russian embassy staff. How’s that for a coherent foreign policy?

What’s going on in Ukraine, anyway? The US and NATO have prompted Ukraine to move troops and tanks toward the ethnically-Russian breakaway Donbass region. Russia countered by massing 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. Though supplied with Western armaments, Ukraine’s ragtag and incompetent army has no ability to control the Donbass, nor do either NATO and the US have any real will to interfere there with their own troops — the logistics are insane. Mr. Putin’s elegant solution: evacuate the three-plus million Russians stuck in Donbass into Russia — which needs labor — ceding the empty territory to foundering Ukraine — soon to be an ungovernable post-industrial frontier between East and West. For a rich rundown on these matters, read Dmitry Orlov’s mordant disquisition on the subject: Putin’s Ukrainian Judo.

The lesson there is that the US has absolutely nothing to gain from continuing to antagonize Russia, and that the mentally weak Joe Biden is merely projecting the picture of a weakened and confused USA by keeping it up. Of course, a closer read might be that these hijinks are meant to distract from the more serious and consequential breakdown in relations between the US and China, currently engineered by the blundering team of Sec’y of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who went to Alaska recently to tell the Chinese delegation that they were morally unworthy of conducting trade negotiations, thereby torpedoing the trade negotiations that they went to Alaska to conduct. Smooth move fellas.

Unlike Russia, with its eleven time zones, which actually does not want or need any more territory, China is surely making hegemonic moves all over the place, not just around Hong Kong and Taiwan but in Africa and South America, while it strives to build the world’s largest navy, exports gain-of-function viruses, replaces the US in space exploration, and excels at weaponizing computer science. China’s weaknesses are a lack of sufficient domestic oil supply and food, which its current moves aim to correct. It was on its way to turning the US into a raw materials and food-crop colony when Mr. Trump came along and tried to put a stop to that. And now Ol’ Joe has cancelled that remedial action — after being on the receiving end of Chinese financial largesse in four years out-of-office. Nothing to see there, folks, says Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice, while in possession of Hunter Biden’s laptop, with its trove of incriminating memoranda.

On the domestic front, Joe Biden’s government only seeks to turn American life inside-out and upside-down, with the move to make the politics-neutral District of Columbia into a state, strictly to furnish two more senators for the DNC, and to pack the Supreme Court strictly to advantage the same DNC. Those Bills are being rushed through the House committees but something tells me they will die in the Senate. One also must wonder what exactly the rush is all about. I’ll tell you: something is up in the shadows. Something is lurking out there that is going to bring down Ol’ Joe Biden as an illegitimate chief executive. Could be some new non-ignorable evidence of his China grifting activities, or new non-ignorable evidence about the dubious ballot-tally in last November’s election. Could be something else.

Contrary to just about everybody I communicate with, I remain convinced that former US Attorney for Connecticut, now Special Prosecutor John Durham is still putting real cases together, and I suspect that his cases exceed the narrow spotlight of the origin of the Steele dossier, and I expect that indictments will be announced soon in a way that will shock the nation. Just sayin’… though nobody else is….

Meanwhile, the Wokester branch of Joe Biden’s party makes hay with the ambiguous killings of two more criminal suspects-of-color: first, Daunte Wright of Minneapolis, busy ignoring the open warrant out for him in failing to answer a previous warrant for his role in the 2019 aggravated burglary (that is, with a firearm) of a woman. He was out on $100,000 bail, but it was revoked in July 2020 when he got caught in possession of another gun. In the commotion of his resisting arrest, he got shot, tragically for officer Kim Potter, who somehow mistook her handgun for a taser. She is now teed up on a manslaughter case, while the Wright family is teed up for an $XX-million personal injury lawsuit settlement courtesy of ambulance-chaser Ben Crump. The city of Minneapolis is teed up for a municipal auto-da-fé of lootin-burnin-and-riotin in the name of “justice” — and the Derek Chauvin trial has not even concluded.

Secondarily, out comes the chest-cam video of Chicago police officer Eric Stillman shooting thirteen-year-old junior gang-banger Adam Toledo, in possession of a handgun, in a 3 a.m. chase down a West Side alleyway. So, Officer Stillman is teed up for some sort of career-ending action and Chicago is teed up for another round of lootin-burnin-and-riotin — sure to spread to other cities all over the country as the Woke vengeance campaign moves into its Satanic phase.

Reprinted with permission from Kunstler.com.

Will Evidence Really Matter in the Chauvin Trial ?

Evidence is coming out in the courtroom, although not in the US media, that Officer Chauvin’s arrest was based entirely on “camera perspective bias,” as I previously reported. As the police videos demonstrate, Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s shoulder blade and not on his neck.

https://sputniknews.com/us/202104061082555798-what-killed-floyd-lawyer-plays-30-sec-video-showing-chauvin-knelt-on-black-mans-shoulder-blade/

My opinion is that evidence will play no role in the trial. If evidence mattered, Chauvin would not be on trial. I hope I am wrong. But if Chauvin is acquitted, “All Hell Will Break Loose,” and this fear will produce a guilty verdict. The utterly corrupt Minnesota Democrats will sacrifice an innocent person in order to appease the ignorant mob. Consider, if you were a juror, would you acquit Chauvin when you know that your name will be leaked and Antifa and Black Lives Matter will burn down your home in your police-defunded city? Americans so easily scared silly by the Covid propaganda haven’t the stamina to stand up to an angry mob.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/04/jon-rappoport/if-derek-chauvin-acquitted-all-hell-will-break-loose-2/

Paul Craig Roberts, UNZ Review

How NOT to be Sheep

How NOT to make an important life decision: “Let me check out what everyone else is doing. If everyone else is doing it, it must be right. If nobody else seems to be doing it, then it must be wrong.”

How to ACTUALLY make an important life decision: “What are the facts? What logically follows from all the facts I know? What are the different arguments offered for the possible courses of action, pro and con? Which conclusion do I accept responsibility for accepting?”

Never try to escape the responsibility of independent, rational judgment. It’s lazy, and it’s cowardly. It harms yourself, most of all. And yes, it’s bad for society too. Because if everyone is looking at what everyone else is doing, then NOBODY is making a rational decision. We all become a bunch of sheep, led to the slaughter because of our own refusal to THINK.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason

U.S. Financial Markets are a Hill of Sand Built on a Mirage of Fraud

Would you pay more than 100 million dollars for a single deli in rural New Jersey that had less than $36,000 in sales during the last two years combined? I know that sounds like a completely ridiculous question, but the stock market apparently thinks that deli is worth that much. On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 34,000 for the first time in history, and investors all over the country cheered. But this financial bubble is not real. It is a giant mirage that is built on a foundation of fraud.

Investors have lost all touch with reality, and in this sort of euphoric environment a small deli in rural New Jersey can literally be valued at more than 100 million dollars

The Paulsboro, New Jersey-based Your Hometown Deli is the sole location for Hometown International, which has an eye-popping market value despite totaling $35,748 in sales in the last two years combined, according to securities filings.

“Someone pointed us to Hometown International (HWIN), which owns a single deli in rural New Jersey … HWIN reached a market cap of $113 million on February 8. The largest shareholder is also the CEO/CFO/Treasurer and a Director, who also happens to be the wrestling coach of the high school next door to the deli. The pastrami must be amazing,” Einhorn said in a letter to clients published Thursday.

For young people getting ready to graduate from high school and go to college, don’t waste your time.

Just open up a small deli and go public.

Soon you will be a multi-millionaire.

Alternatively, you could start a fake cryptocurrency as a joke and watch it become worth billions of dollars.

To me, what is happening with “Dogecoin” is completely and utterly insane

The digital currency Dogecoin surged by more than 85 percent so far this week in thrilling scenes for fans of the bizarre coin. Launched in 2013 and created by Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus as a joke, the cryptocurrency has never seen the highs of rival coins like bitcoin, which is currently worth $63,531.49. But a growing fanbase has helped kickstart the meme coins value, and today has seen the prices skyrocket.

Looking at it objectively, I don’t know why any rational investor would ever put one red cent into Dogecoin.

But in 2021, rational investors are being left in the dust, and those that foolishly rush in are getting filthy rich.

I know that it may be hard to believe, but at this point Dogecoin has a market cap that is greater than 22 billion dollars

According to CoinDesk, Dogecoin has surged by 49.96 percent in 24 hours to $0.171956, as of 9.02pm on April 15.

In GBP, Dogecoin stands at £0.124731.

The market cap for Dogecoin is currently $22.19 billion in USD and £16.10 billion in GBP.

Someday Dogecoin will be worthless, but for now this “meme currency” is shocking the world.

Speaking of ridiculous valuations, Coinbase just went public, and it is currently valued at more than 85 billion dollars

Coinbase was briefly valued at as much as $100 billion in its Nasdaq debut Wednesday, a landmark event for the cryptocurrency industry. The stock closed at $328.28 per share, valuing Coinbase at $85.8 billion on a fully diluted basis.

Don’t you wish that you would have been the one to launch Coinbase?

Of course all of these absurd valuations are just temporary.

This bubble will inevitably pop, and those that did not sell at the top of the market will be kicking themselves.

In the financial markets, enormous fortunes are being won and lost all the time, but none of this is real.

What is real are the riots that are happening in our streets on a nightly basis. Last night, rioters “waved a pig’s head” at police officers in Minnesota…

DAUNTE Wright protesters waved a pig’s head at cops as chaos again erupted in Brooklyn Center, with hundreds storming the police station.

Demonstrators came out for the fourth night in a row since Wright, 20, was fatally shot by police officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop on Sunday.

Sadly, instead of trying to calm the violence BLM leaders are actually arguing that rioting and looting are legitimate forms of political expression

A prominent activist who supports the Black Lives Matter movement has appeared to support violent protests, arguing that rioting and looting are ‘a legitimate, politically-informed response to state violence’.

Bree Newsome, 35, made the passionate remarks in a series of tweets this week, arguing that police are not limited to non-violence, and that a violent response to injustice can be appropriate and justified.

And do you want to know what else is real?

As I discussed a couple days ago, social decay is transforming city streets all over America into drug-infested wastelands

Homeless men lie on the sidewalk while others wearing blankets and rags loiter on a street strewn with garbage, feces, and drug paraphernalia along the notorious Kensington Avenue drag in Philadelphia.

Video posted online on March 10 shows people living out of suitcases on the sidewalks in the area adjacent to the entrance to the Somerset train station along the Market-Frankford train line while others openly brandish needles.

Cardboard boxes with trash bags stacked on top of them lie feet away from the entrances to various pawn shops, check-cashing stores, delis, and bodegas.

The financial bubble that we are experiencing right now will go away, but the problems on our streets are not going away.

In fact, they are only going to get worse in the months and years ahead.

But if you don’t want to believe this, go ahead and pour your life savings into Hometown International or Dogecoin and see what happens.

You only make money in the markets if you get out in time, and time is quickly running out for those that have put their faith in this financial bubble.

Michael Snyder

The Diversity Industry has Turned the Clock back….to 1960

When I was young, Americans prided themselves in being part of the “great melting pot” — good times. People from diverse cultures throughout the world could come here and become full-fledged Americans. Our constitution provided a framework for anyone to become successful. All that was required was determination and hard work. In achieving the American dream, our forefathers shed their ancestral heritages and became enthusiastic Americans — and that was something to be proud of. But we don’t melt anymore. Now we categorize. I blame it on the diversity movement.

The diversity movement was initiated by a number of universities in the 1960s. It was initially conceived as a way to address genuine equal opportunity issues. It was viewed by many organizations as a way to avoid lawsuits based on discrimination. In the 1980s, Lewis Griggs coined the term “valuing diversity” — and that’s when it really took off. The ideology of “valuing diversity” has infiltrated the human resources (H.R.) departments of most major corporations and spawned an industry. A network of consultants and trainers now provide diversity training throughout government and the private sector. It’s big money. Unfortunately, its ideology runs counter to that of a “great melting pot.”

I have an example to illustrate its corrosive nature. At the behest of our H.R. department, the company I used to work for created a diversity council. It comprised representatives from numerous racial, ethnic, sex, disability, and religious groups. Its mission was to create a company environment that was welcoming to all of the above groups. The council wanted a high-level executive to be a member, to give them some “juice.” They asked the company president to assign my boss to the council. Bob was a retired admiral and 100% proud American. He was also descended from Latino ancestors. As a person “of color,” he’d be an automatic supporter of this initiative. All minorities think alike — don’t they?

Bob had me tag along for his first Diversity Council meeting, because every admiral needs at least one aide in tow. The council set about their mission with a brainstorming session. “We should have a Kwanzaa day in the factory.” “There should be a gay pride day as well.” “Maybe we could have an ethnic food day in the cafeteria.” This went on for hours.

Bob listened to everyone’s ideas quietly. At the end of the meeting, he provided his own input. “The key is to help people from different cultures assimilate into our culture.” That single sentence ended Bob’s involvement in the Diversity Council. He was asked to leave and never come back. That’s when I had an epiphany.

You see, “melting pot” is a metaphor for “assimilation,” and assimilation wasn’t the goal of the Diversity Council. That line of thinking was just a little too diverse for the Diversity Council. They wanted diversity — as in maintenance of our differences. They did not want assimilation — creation of a shared culture. The very words “valuing diversity” call for elevating the importance of our differences over our similarities. If our inherent humanity is of lesser value than our racial identity, we shouldn’t be surprised that saying, “All lives matter” is now considered racially insensitive. Who could’ve seen that this was the end result of “valuing diversity”?

Whether intentional or not, diversity ideology has become another framework to keep us all separated. By valuing and encouraging our differences, we’re reinforcing (strengthening) the things that separate us. We’re raising, not lowering, the walls. After fifty-plus years of attempting to desegregate, now even the civil rights movement is telling us to segregate again. A number of colleges are even having separate graduation ceremonies for different minority groups — and it’s reported as though it were a good thing. What’s next — separate dining rooms? There’s a word for a system of separate treatment — apartheid. I thought that was supposed to be a bad thing. I guess it becomes good when the right people ask for it.

So what have we achieved after generations of trying to rid our society of racism? Hyphenated citizenship:

  • African-Americans
  • Chinese-Americans
  • Mexican-Americans
  • Irish-Americans (otherwise known as white-privileged-Americans)
  • Native-Americans (those would be the American-Americans)

The very groups that demanded desegregation in the ’60s are now self-segregating. Does anybody think this is good? Before you answer, remember that we just suffered through a summer of watching our cities burn to the ground — and we’re bracing for an encore again this year. All because we no longer trust those outside our assigned group.

I have a question for proponents of the “valuing diversity” ideology. If your ideology leads us to the same end state as that desired by the KKK or the Black Panthers, could there be something wrong with your ideology? I’m sure we all want to live in harmony, but the path we’ve taken isn’t getting us there.

Perhaps it’s time to try something different. Why don’t we try focusing on (valuing) what brings us together rather than what separates us? We can all be proud unhyphenated Americans and love the individual liberties granted us by God. We all want healthy and prosperous families. We can share a commitment to the principles of capitalism that have given us unlimited opportunities and the highest standard of living in the world. The only limit to our full integration is our acceptance of the wisdom of our founding.

Meritocracy is the solution to diversity. Let people be the best that they can be on their own merits, and ignore the rest. Isn’t that what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”? Isn’t it odd that we celebrate this man’s life every year, but we still haven’t heard his message?

Note: For obvious reasons, I have obscured the identity of the executive assigned to my company’s Diversity Council.

John Green is a political refugee from Minnesota, now residing in Star, Idaho. He is a retired engineer with over 40 years of experience in the areas of product development, quality assurance, organizational development, and corporate strategic planning. He can be reached at

When it Comes to Corruption, Great Britain is Catching up to the Middle East

I used to meet businessmen in the Middle East who were in a state of high anxiety about their chances of winning a government contract. They were naturally reluctant to spell out the details, but they hinted that their chief worry was whether or not the official they had bribed to get them a contract would, in the event, be willing or able to do so. They took it for granted that I knew that nobody successfully did business with the governments in question without paying off somebody inside it.

I was in Iraq and Afghanistan when the government system in both countries was saturated with corruption. Britain may not yet be at the same place, but it is much further down the road to kleptocracy than most people imagine. For all the finger wagging about the current scandals, the words and phrases used to describe them – chumocracy, revolving doors, cronyism, conflicts of interest, sleaze – all understate the seriousness and corrosiveness of what has been going on.

In reality, individuals and companies only employ politicians and civil servants, paying them a lot of money, because they expect to make very much larger sums themselves. There is “hard” corruption, aimed at winning a particular contract, and “soft”, generally legal, corruption aimed at winning the support of those at the top to further the general ends of those paying them.

The mechanics of corruption have much in common the world over, though the sophistication of the means used to conceal it or explain it away differs widely. In this, as in so many other things, British exceptionalism is less than is often taken for granted – indeed a presumption of honesty makes life easier for the seriously dishonest.

My knowledge of corruption is mostly drawn from the Middle East, but a list of what I see as the six main staging posts on the road to kleptocracy has increasingly strong parallels in Britain.

1. Corruption is turbocharged when companies become convinced that they cannot successfully do business with the government without having facilitators at the decision-making level inside it. If they do not not find their own insiders, they cannot hope to compete. The quickest way of acquiring such influence is to pay for it. This is likely to be cash down in Baghdad or Kabul. In Britain, the reward may be in the shape of a future high-paying job, share options or some such benefit.

An ominous example of how things are increasingly done in Britain – though there is no suggestion of illegality – was outlined by the National Audit Office report last year into the government’s PPE procurement. It revealed that there had been a semi-secret VIP fast lane for those in touch with “government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals”. The report said that companies in the VIP lane stood a one-in-ten chance of winning a contract as compared to less than one in 100 for those outside it.

The reality of this “insider” fast lane had little to do with professional expertise and was much closer to the way of doing business in the Middle East. The New York Times analysed a large segment of roughly 1,200 UK central government contracts relating to the Covid-19 epidemic worth $22bn (£16bn) that had been made public. It found that about half, worth $11bn (£8bn), “went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy. Meanwhile, smaller firms without political clout got nowhere.”

2. The amount of money involved is a very important factor in the spread of corruption. Reportage on the present scandal in Britain fails to make this point sufficiently clear. This is not small-time sleaze like parliamentary expenses. People inside and outside of government may be playing for tens or hundreds of millions of pounds, which leads them to take risks that they would otherwise avoid. It is when such “life-changing” money is on offer that corruption seeps upwards. I remember a minister in Baghdad who had been happy in London if he could borrow £50 from his friends, but after a few years in office owned a mansion with three swimming pools in Amman.

3. Crises produce great opportunities for corruption whether they come in the shape of a war or a pandemic. Special fast lanes, that would otherwise look deeply dodgy, can be justified as a sort of patriotic measure to meet a national emergency. Normal checks and safeguards can be put to one side as “bureaucratic red tape” strangling the national effort – and when vast sums of money are spent and nothing is delivered this is explained away as regrettable but inevitable in the circumstances. Unfortunately, precedents set in times of crisis tend to stick around and determine future behaviour.

4. Those promoting corruption will, if they are sensible, want to spread the money around within the political elite. This means that lots of people feel vulnerable and unenthusiastic about far-reaching investigations with strong legal powers that might focus on them. Pay-offs to political parties are also a good method of evading pursuit and blocking reform.

5. The limited chance of being caught and punished is another significant driver of corruption. The best way of doing this is to ensure that what you do is technically legal, rather than dodgy or criminal, though it might appear so to the public. If such corruption is unpunished, others will soon be saying to themselves: “everybody is doing it, so why not me?”

6. Contracts handed to companies and individuals who have themselves no means of providing the goods and services paid for by the government have a special role in the decline of standards. Those receiving them become brokers and hand on the contract for a fee; this may happen multiple times. Shady sub-contracting is a trouble-free way of turning strong political connections into unearned profits.

There is one factor that makes life in Britain easier for the corrupt than in Kabul or Baghdad. Here people are still shocked when senior politicians and civil servants line their pockets. In much of the Middle East, ordinary citizens would be surprised if they did not and act on that assumption.

Naive trust in the probity of British institutions opens the door to corruption particularly wide. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Metropolitan Police in London was not only corrupt, but parts of it operated like a criminal enterprise. For a long time its victims were disbelieved and the perpetrators given a free pass until brought down by repeated scandals. The reforming Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Robert Mark, famously said that “a good police force is one that catches more crooks than it employs”.

With some adaption, this would be a good motto for anybody seeking to reform the top reaches of public life in Britain.

It’s Time for Red States and Red Counties to Exit

The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on whether to make Washington, D.C., a State.” [Breitbart]

Sure. Bring in D.C. and Puerto Rico. That means 4 more Communists in the U.S. Senate–FOREVER. We’re already getting 4 new Communists on the Supreme Court. Why not go all the way?

My question for red states and red COUNTIES throughout the former USA republic: What reason do you have to stay in this regime? It’s a permanent one-party, far-left cabal where power and policies ARE NEVER GOING TO CHANGE HANDS.

I believe that Texas, South Carolina, Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and other red states should LEAVE this mess. And I believe that red counties in blue states, including New York and California, should also exit. Divide and exit sure beats submission and tyranny.

Let’s start a new free country WITHOUT the left. This new free country will absolutely uphold individual rights, property rights, gun rights, and freedom of speech. Taxes will be minimal and government will only protect us from thugs and criminals–including the rulers of the remaining blue states and counties.

Sound too crazy and radical? Then I guess this means you’re willing to live under a permanent, one-party radical left-wing regime with no hope of ever enjoying any freedom again. I am ready for the EXIT. If you value the liberty and freedom you no longer have, you had better seriously consider it.

Let’s just get it over with. It’s going to happen anyway, unless 70 million Americans roll over and decide to give in to the greatest totalitarian dictatorship the world has ever known.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason