CHRIS COOPER'S BLOG - infrequent forays into fun, freedom, fysics and filosophy...

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Blogosophical Investigations
Tuesday, May 28, 2002  

The New Statesman came through the door today. It's not mine, of course. My son takes it, having been persuaded by his mother to have a subscription as a gift. The deed was done when my back was turned. I'd rather it had been Loaded or NME or The Oldie.

The cover story: 'Laptop Fascists', by John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. It seemed from the title to be about the perils of the hordes of far-Rightists online. Resentful of this selectivity, I growled: "How many laptop Trotskyites are there?"

Actually it's not about the use of new technology by neo-Nazis at all: rather, it dwells on their position as 'modernizers', but ones who realize that (according to Gray) economic liberalization and prosperity can go hand in hand with political illiberalism:

Like the fascist parties of the past, the far right accepts the economic orthodoxies of its time. Today, those are the orthodoxies of the free market.
… the notion that a modernised economy is bound somehow to engender a liberal society [is] a fantasy. … The link between liberal values and economic growth is a historical accident, not a universal law.
…the Enlightenment faith that, with the growth of knowledge and wealth, human beings will shed their various, divisive identities to become members of a universal civilisation. Once the prerogative of Marxists, this fanciful rationalistic creed is now the intellectual basis of market reform throughout the world.
… in Europe today, where welfare states and trade unions are strong, persuading voters to accept open borders must be a forbiddingly difficult task.
… Europe has contrived to weaken national identities at a time when the legitimacy of its institutions has never been more widely questioned. It is a dangerous place to launch an experiment in liberal utopianism.

Interesting article. Exactly the same hand-wringing is taking place on the classical-liberal side of the fence.


I'm surprised to find Roger Scruton doing the NS wine column. The last time I heard his name mentioned in libertarian company, a comrade snorted. But I have a lot of time for Scruton. I go out of my way to read or hear him. I'm glad he and his opinions are nowhere near power, because he's a paternalist and I don't believe that Paternalist Knows Best. But I always emerge wiser from an encounter with him. He gives the impression that his views are the product of a deep, thought-through system of values that infuse his whole life. He seems to be – as far as I can tell – one who lives as a philosopher should, reflectively.

I have to say the same about Anthony Grayling, whom I've had a go at previously. He's popped up recently on radio and in the papers on the side of the angels, defending voluntary euthanasia and drug legalization. But, although I probably overlap more with Grayling than with Scruton on most issues, it's the latter who seems to me to have depth.

But I shan't be reading Scruton's wine column. Surprisingly, this is the acme of pseudery:

The Merlot from the Languedoc is both shy and impeccable, like an endimanche peasant. Don't be deceived by the "vin de pays" label: in the Languedoc, this means nothing. After a few months in the bottle, this shy peasant may well become a jovial buffoon.

… The reservas and gran reservas have more of the sleepy vanilla flavour for which Rioja is famed. But the Crianzas have a firmer tread on the palate, and this one wound its way down the oesophagus like a sure-footed donkey on a mountain path.

I suppose there just isn't enough that is true and useful to fill a weekly wine column.

10:00 PM

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