Wednesday, 7 December 2011

“Everything is what it is and not another thing” – politicians should take heed of Wittgenstein

I’ve been using Wittgenstein’s phrase for years, almost invariably – and pompously - giving Ludwig a name-check in the hope that people will be cowed into accepting whatever point I’m trying to make. It usually works. (It won’t here, obviously, because I’ve just given the game away.) 

Most of Britain’s problems have been created by governments, government agencies and the civil service. Most of those problems have been created because of what’s known in technology circles as “scope creep”. (As one very wise consultant once put it to me, “90% of all technology projects fail, and 90% of those that fail do so due to scope creep.”) Policies, initiatives, laws, agreements and treaties which, when first conceived, were aimed at achieving one particular goal wind up being used to achieve a whole variety of often contradictory purposes. (These purposes usually reflect the modish political obsessions of the Left - right-wingers tend to be clearer-headed.)

For instance, income tax, which started as a means of paying for the defence of the country has been transformed into a tool for achieving “social justice” (whatever that means) by redistributing money from those who work for a living to those who don’t. And to allow politicians to exercise their compassion at our (considerable) expense. And to maintain a vast bureaucratic machine. And to bribe voters in key constituencies. And to allow the enlightened to indulge their delusion that human nature can be improved by wholesale social engineering.

Disability allowance, introduced to ameliorate the hardships suffered by people who – for genuine reasons – couldn’t work to support themselves, morphed into a handy way of hiding the truth about the scale of British unemployment ("Here's some wedge, you lazy bastard - now plonk yourself down on your nasty little sofa, tune to Sky Sports, fire up a fag, get stuck into a six-pack, and keep your mouth shut. You ain't seen me. Right?")

Immigration, which was designed to provide low-wage, low-skills labour to plug gaps resulting from pretty close to 100% employment in the late 1950s now serves a variety of functions: (1) it helps gloss over the unemployability of large sections of the working class (2) it masks the appalling failure of the state education system to turn out competent, literate, numerate, responsible adults (3) it helps keeps the UK’s enormous welfare and pensions Ponzi scheme afloat (4) it provides a ready supply of Labour voters  (5) it helps blur the fact that some previous immigrant groups have turned out to be a bit of a disappointment (5) it's a way of assuaging colonial guilt (6) it's a means of sucking up to the EU by helping spread the burden.

So, a policy designed for one purpose – to plug a gap in the domestic labour market – has undergone decades of scope creep. It was one thing: now it’s a myriad. Result? Riots. Terrorism. Street crime. A demographic time-bomb. The erosion of national identity. (And some good stuff too, of course – after all, I’m an immigrant myself!)

The EU was primarily designed to stop the Germans going bonkers again by helping to create permanent economic stability in Europe(how's that working' out for ya?). It’s now hard to think of any area of the national lives of its member states it doesn’t seek to control. And, of course, it has recently added another major function to the scope of the project – keeping its ridiculous, ruinous currency alive. And the result of all this is liable to be Germany being handed sole control of Europe’s affairs (which one somehow doubts was the intention of the EC’s founders).

Britain’s main interest in Europe is as a market for our goods and services, particularly financial. All the other nonsense – directives about the shape of aubergines and how many hours we’re allowed to work and joint defence initiatives and suchlike paradiddle - is irrelevant. To slip into the vernacular, all that stuff is total and utter and entirely unnecessary bollocks.  The EU’s one purpose has become a plethora. Result? Disaster. The majority of the British people – and most Tory MPs -  understand this only too clearly: it’s only Tory wets, the other parties, and their cheerleaders in the liberal-left media establishment who don’t get it. They never do, and never will – simply because they don’t understand that everything is what it is and not another thing.

Vince Cable yesterday accused Eurosceptics of indulging in schadenfreude at the EU’s sufferings (I think he meant to add that we'd been proved right about everything and that he and all the other Euro-fanatics were dreadfully sorry for having got it so wrong - but maybe they cut that bit of the interview). Well, no, Vince, because we will all suffer financially when the Euro collapses: I don't really want my investments to perform any worse than they already are, and I have no desire to see rioting in the streets of most European countries (espeically if I happen to be there on holiday at the time).  

But I will admit to enjoying the sight of our dreadful, pseudo-Tory PM tying himself into pretzel shapes as his many lies on the subject of Europe and the careless, woolly imprecision of his thinking are relentlessly exposed. For all his silly, unconvincing, Churchillian posturing, Cameron will sign up to a new Treaty – if required to. There will be no referendum, whatever the treaty contains. British interests will be sold down the river. And the whole sad, sorry, misshapen, confused, many-headed beast that is the EU will continue its long, painful slouch towards an inevitable, agonising death – with Britain, for some incomprehensible reason, clutching onto its injured leg.

Because it was one thing – and now it’s many other things.Welcome to scope creep.


  1. My pet Wittgenstein quote is "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen" [Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent]. This is usually spoken to some prat who is explaining an article he has read in The New Scientist or Popular Science. It must be said in German initially before providing the translation to enhance the irritation factor. This must be accompanied by a pursing of the lips and a narrowing of the eyes before melting away from his presence. It works a treat.

    I can only think of three people called "Ludwig" and they all went off their rocker.

  2. I have a feeling Wittgenstein was always off his rocker - anyone who could write Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus during lulls in the fighting in the trenches during WWI isn't quite normal, let's face it. And then he turned into a rather savage teacher in Austria after the war. Strange man.

    So there's the Mad King and Wittgenstein. Who's the third?

    If you could provide me with the German translation of "Everything is what it is and not another thing" I will drop it into a conversation at the earliest opportunity and report back..

  3. "Alles ist was es ist und nicht etwas anderes" is the best I can do.

    "Ludwig". I was thinking about van Beethoven who said bad things about my hero Napoleon.

  4. Thanks for that, Lennart. I shall use your quotation the next time I meet someone pretentious. As I live in a popular area for media types, this shouldn't take too long.

    Worshipping Napoleon is quite an odd thing to do. I'm with "lovely, lovely Ludwig Van" on this one.

    Anyhow, good luck with the investigation, Mr Brix. I wonder what you'd look like in a larger version of one of Lund's sweaters.

    My all-time favourite Lennart was Bergelin. Bjorn Borg's coach. There's a shot of him at Wimbledon a few moments after Borg won his fifth title. Bergelin, a large, balding, good-looking middle aged man, has his arms raised aloft in triumph - and I have never seen anyone look more enraged. Quite scary.