Brilliant Insights from Theodore Dalrymple (and, um, Paul Krugman, I Guess)

 

At the bottom of the Wikipedia page for Theodore Dalrymple, they list a few recurring themes from his writing. I was so impressed with this list, that I couldn’t help but share it. Somebody did a nice job summarizing such complex themes so concisely. And each bullet point is a brilliant insight that should be posted on billboards all over the country. Sorry for all the hyperlinks – again, I just copied and pasted this from Wikipedia. Enjoy:

  • The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries – criminality, domestic violencedrug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families – is the nihilisticdecadent and/or self-destructive behaviour of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behaviour, and the medicalisation of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behaviour, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently.[26]
  • Poverty does not explain aggressive, criminal and self-destructive behaviour. In an African slum you will find among the very poor, living in dreadful circumstances, dignity and decency in abundance, which are painfully lacking in an average English suburb, although its inhabitants are much wealthier.[27]
  • An attitude characterised by gratefulness and having obligations towards others has been replaced – with awful consequences – by an awareness of “rights” and a sense of entitlement, without responsibilities. This leads to resentment as the rights become violated by parents, authorities, bureaucracies and others in general.[28]
  • One of the things that make Islam attractive to young westernised Muslim men is the opportunity it gives them to dominate women.[29]
  • Technocratic or bureaucratic solutions to the problems of mankind produce disasters in cases where the nature of man is the root cause of those problems.
  • It is a myth, when going “cold turkey” from an opiate such as heroin, that the withdrawal symptoms are virtually unbearable; they are in fact hardly worse than flu.[30][31]
  • Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.
  • Sentimentality, which is becoming entrenched in British society, is “the progenitor, the godparent, the midwife of brutality”.[32]
  • High culture and refined aesthetic tastes are worth defending, and despite the protestations of non-judgmentalists who say all expression is equal, they are superior to popular culture.[33][34][35]
  • The ideology of the Welfare State is used to diminish personal responsibility. Erosion of personal responsibility makes people dependent on institutions and favours the existence of a threatening and vulnerable underclass.
  • Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience.[36]
  • Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense.[37]
  • The decline of civilised behaviour – self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life.[38]
  • The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.

I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the others. We would have a wonderful conversation, I would imagine. But that wasn’t my first thought.

After reading this list, I wondered where I would go to read an equivalent summary of leftist thought. I honestly can’t imagine.

A friend once asked me why there was no leftist equivalent of Thomas Sowell. I flippantly responded, “Because Thomas Sowell makes sense. And leftism doesn’t.” We both laughed at my silly insult.

There must be more to it than that, right? There must be leftist writers struggling with the great questions of our day, like Mr. Sowell and Mr. Dalrymple. And Walter Williams and Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson and Larry Elder and Kevin Williamson and Jonah Goldberg and Victor Davis Hanson and on and on and on and on. So many fascinating thinkers, with so many different perspectives, on so many important topics, having so many fascinating conversations.

The left has Bill Maher. And AOC, I guess. I suppose they would claim Paul Krugman. I’m sure there are some others. What would a list of the great contemporary thinkers of the left look like?

And then imagine what a summary of their ideas would look like. Like the list above from the writings of Mr. Dalrymple. What would Mr. Krugman’s list look like? Or Bill Maher’s? Or, Lord help us, AOC’s?

No wonder the left talks about racism and climate change so much. Their ideas are uninspiring and uninteresting. They’re dangerous, too, of course, if you look at history. Which leftists typically do not.

But that’s not my point. It’s just that I would think that being a leftist would be terribly boring, for a thinking person.

I should go read some of Mr. Dalrymple’s work. I suspect I’ll learn something.

When a leftist reads Paul Krugman, or listens to Bill Maher or AOC, does that leftist learn anything?

I’m not sure. But I don’t think they care.

Which I don’t understand. Such a life must be terribly boring.

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  1. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    I imagine their current list of wisdom would be rather simple.  Something along the lines of:

    • It’s never your fault
    • Because racism
    • Because sexism
    • Because homophobia
    • We know more than you do
    • Because science says so
    • Because racism
    • If it’s not my fault, then it’s your fault
    • Because racism
    • Bad things should never happen to good people so it’s got to be somebody’s fault
    • Because racism
    • Because systemic racism
    • And if you don’t believe that it is because of racism, then shut up.
    • #1
  2. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Thanks. I’m a big fan of Mr. Dalrymple. Its interesting, at least to me, that two of the most insightful conservative commentators on the passing scene over the last three or so decades have been two former psychiatrists (Dalrymple & Charles Krauthammer), a profession that is famously left-wing.

    • #2
  3. Jim McConnell Inactive
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    I imagine their current list of wisdom would be rather simple. Something along the lines of:

    • It’s never your fault
    • Because racism
    • Because sexism
    • Because homophobia
    • We know more than you do
    • Because science says so
    • Because racism
    • If it’s not my fault, then it’s your fault
    • Because racism
    • Bad things should never happen to good people so it’s got to be somebody’s fault
    • Because racism
    • Because systemic racism
    • And if you don’t believe that it is because of racism, then shut up.

    You forgot to capitalize Science. : )

    • #3
  4. JohnVonEcon Inactive
    JohnVonEcon
    @John Scott

    Dr. Bastiat:

    What would a list of the great contemporary thinkers of the left look like?

    And then imagine what a summary of their ideas would look like.  Like the list above from the writings of Mr. Dalrymple.  What would Mr. Krugman’s list look like?  Or Bill Maher’s?  Or, Lord help us, AOC’s?

    My answer: There are few/none of those thinkers, because they do not need them. We rely on reason, while they rely on slogans, and it has been that way for a very long time. Any BLM protester or CNN talking head with zero thought can spout slogans. “Everyone deserves a living wage!”

    Back when Obamacare was under consideration I was in discussions with (1) a departmental secretary and (2) a professor of management information systems. The first’s entire reply was, “I just think that when you’re sick you should be able to go to the doctor.” She would not engage further. The professor of management information systems’ whole reply was, “Every developed country should have a national healthcare system.”

    There was a priceless discussion between Obama, plus his leading democrats, vs. republican leaders. On one side, Paul Ryan would make the point that more insurance would lead to more health care spending, so that the cost estimates of the plan were too low. On the other side, Louise Slaughter (D. NY) would counter that one of her constituents had such high health care costs that she had to wear her dead sister’s dentures.

    Bastiat, himself, in his introduction to Economic Sophisms (1845), said the following (slightly edited for brevity).

    ———————-

    But, it may be asked, are the benefits of freedom so well hidden that they are evident only to professional economists? Our opponents in this argument have a marked advantage over us. They need only a few words to set forth a half-truth; whereas, in order to show that it is a half-truth, we have to resort to long and arid dissertations.

    You may say, “Here is a machine that has put thirty workmen out on the street.” or “Here is a spendthrift whose behavior encourages every branch of industry.” or “Government expenditures provide a living for a hundred thousand families.” Everyone will understand you, for your propositions are lucid, simple, and self-evident.

    But, for our part, we cannot limit ourselves to the consideration of a single cause and its immediate effect. We know that this effect itself becomes in its turn a cause. In order to pass judgment on a measure, we must, then, trace it through the whole chain of its effects to its final result. In other words, we are reduced, quite frankly, to an appeal to reason.

    • #4
  5. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

     

    • #5
  6. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

     

    First of all, opioid withdrawal can be pretty nasty, in my experience.  But I’d value his perspective – I’m sure he’s treated more of this than I have.

    And I’d love to hear him explain the link between sentimentality and brutality.  I’m not sure I disagree, I’ve just never thought about it.  Very interesting thought…

    • #6
  7. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    The Right (Sowell, Darymple, Krauthammer, Et al.) relies on intelligence and logic.  The Left relies on smarmy self-importance.  (And yes, they are terribly boring.)

    • #7
  8. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Daniels/Dalrymple is brilliant.  I’ve been reading him for years, have most of his books, and generally have one going most of the time.  Right now it’s “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Medicine” from 2001.  Still timely.  All of his books age well.

    As far as opiate addiction/withdrawal, he makes a pretty convincing case in “Romancing Opiates.”  He never denies that it’s nasty, as is any withdrawal, but his claims that the addict exaggerates the symptoms and that there is a system in place that encourages such is well supported.  

    He is one of the living authors I’d most like to meet over a meal.  Or two or three.

     

    • #8
  9. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

    First of all, opioid withdrawal can be pretty nasty, in my experience. But I’d value his perspective – I’m sure he’s treated more of this than I have.

    September, 1980.  Third floor medicine unit, Saint Francis Hospital, Hartford CT.  We admitted a young man for heroin detoxification.  The third year medical student worked him up and presented to the admitting team.

    Soon-to-be-Doctor Robert:  …So we admit him for detoxification, using diminishing doses of benzodiazepines.

    Attending Doc*: That’s right, that’s the plan.

    StbDR: Geez, that sounds pretty intense, why can’t we give him diminishing doses of opiates too?

    AD: Intense schmintense.  People overestimate the difficulty of opiate withdrawal.  Soon-to-be-Doctor Robert, do you know the mortality from opiate withdrawal?

    StbDR (guessing wildly, reasoning by analogy to DT’s): 15%??

    AD: No.  Guess again.

    StbDR: 5%????

    AD: No.

    StbDR: What is it?

    AD. Zero, Doctor.

    And that is the truth.  Death from opiate withdrawal is exceedingly rare and when it happens, is usually a complication of vomiting.  Aspiration, Boerhaave esophagus, that sort of thing.

    Now it turns out, by a remarkable blessing, that in my 58th year of life I married an Addiction Doc.  Mrs Dr Doc Robert does opiate, benzo, gabapentin, meth, cocaine, alcohol withdrawal full time.  She loved this story and “Zero, Doctor” has become a stock phrase in our marriage.  In 30 years of practice, she has never had a patient die from opiate withdrawal.  She’s lost a few to DT’s (and I have lost one too).  She tells me that with short acting benzos and alpha blockers, the patients aren’t even uncomfortable.

    As one of our fellow Ricochetti has noted, addiction is indeed a choice.

    • *The Attending Doc supervises the house staff on a ward and is ultimately responsible for all the care they give.  This attending, Malcolm Galen, was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, but I will save his stories for another time.
    • #9
  10. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    JohnVonEcon (View Comment):
    They need only a few words to set forth a half-truth; whereas, in order to show that it is a half-truth, we have to resort to long and arid dissertations.

    YES. Testify, Fred.

    • #10
  11. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

     

    First of all, opioid withdrawal can be pretty nasty, in my experience. But I’d value his perspective – I’m sure he’s treated more of this than I have.

    And I’d love to hear him explain the link between sentimentality and brutality. I’m not sure I disagree, I’ve just never thought about it. Very interesting thought…

    Probably wouldn’t grasp it all, but would sure like to be in the audience on that one

    • #11
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

     

    First of all, opioid withdrawal can be pretty nasty, in my experience. But I’d value his perspective – I’m sure he’s treated more of this than I have.

    And I’d love to hear him explain the link between sentimentality and brutality. I’m not sure I disagree, I’ve just never thought about it. Very interesting thought…

    You are more sentimental towards women and not towards fetuses. Being ruled by emotions corrupts your moral sense because your feelings are almost never just or reasonable.

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    I’d challenge Dalrymple to wander around Lagos, Nigeria or a Rio favela at night. I don’t think he would last long.

    • #13
  14. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I’d challenge Dalrymple to wander around Lagos, Nigeria or a Rio favela at night. I don’t think he would last long.

    As a matter of fact, he is quite aware of how deadly dangerous such places can be at night. See his book on traveling across Africa by bus and boat, Zanzibar to Timbuktu.

    You were responding to this point from the OP:

    Dr. Bastiat: Poverty does not explain aggressive, criminal and self-destructive behaviour. In an African slum you will find among the very poor, living in dreadful circumstances, dignity and decency in abundance, which are painfully lacking in an average English suburb, although its inhabitants are much wealthier.[27]

    And I think his point stands. As a matter of fact, I have seen a couple items about African immigrants who were so appalled by the degraded social condition of British society that they decided to return home, concluding that although the West offered opportunities for greater material wealth this came at the cost of spiritual and moral debasement which they were sure would harm their children and eventually themselves.

    • #14
  15. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Christopher Hitchens had, I think, the intellectual honesty and the leftist sympathies to make a good interlocutor. I always liked him.

    • #15
  16. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    “One of the things that make Islam attractive to young westernised Muslim men is the opportunity it gives them to dominate women”…at the same time, there seem to be a significant number of western women who convert to Islam because they feel a need for more *structure* in their lives.  This includes British female medical students. A writer who is  herself a Muslim, says that “Since 9/11, vast numbers of educated, privileged middle-class white women have converted to Islam”…she identifies these converts as including women at “investment banks, TV stations, universities and in the NHS.” Her concern is not that they are converting to Islam…something I’d presume she would applaud…but that they are converting to “the most restricted forms” of the religion. (And it is, of course, among the believers in the most absolute form of any religion or political system that one is likely to find the most obviously self-confident believers.)

     

    • #16
  17. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I agree with many of his points, and I would love to debate with him on the other

    So which of these points would you debate with him?

     

    First of all, opioid withdrawal can be pretty nasty, in my experience. But I’d value his perspective – I’m sure he’s treated more of this than I have.

    And I’d love to hear him explain the link between sentimentality and brutality. I’m not sure I disagree, I’ve just never thought about it. Very interesting thought…

    William Burroughs said that every junkie has a particular withdrawal symptom that breaks him, and from reading the afterword to Naked Lunch Burroughs seemed to have some personal knowledge. For him it was what he called the “cold burn” which he described as the feeling of having menthol rubbed across hives. 

    • #17
  18. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    People on the Right, Think.

    People on the Left, Feel.  Feelings never make good arguments, or theories, or explanations.  That’s why there are no leftist intellectuals on the order of Thomas Sowell.

    That’s why the Left could never come up with a talk-show host like Rush Limbaugh, and they never will.

    • #18
  19. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    People on the Right, Think.

    People on the Left, Feel. Feelings never make good arguments, or theories, or explanations. That’s why there are no leftist intellectuals on the order of Thomas Sowell.

    That’s why the Left could never come up with a talk-show host like Rush Limbaugh, and they never will.

    Why was Noam Chomsky idolized by so many leftists? 

    • #19
  20. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    People on the Right, Think.

    People on the Left, Feel. Feelings never make good arguments, or theories, or explanations. That’s why there are no leftist intellectuals on the order of Thomas Sowell.

    That’s why the Left could never come up with a talk-show host like Rush Limbaugh, and they never will.

    But Randi Rhodes and Air America were so entertaining…

    • #20
  21. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    People on the Right, Think.

    People on the Left, Feel.  

    I doubt there is any difference between left and right in the amount of feeling. There is a lot of outrage here based on feeling.

    There may be some differences between left and right in the amount of thinking, and certainly in the amount of thinking they will allow. 

    • #21
  22. JohnVonEcon Inactive
    JohnVonEcon
    @John Scott

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Christopher Hitchens had, I think, the intellectual honesty and the leftist sympathies to make a good interlocutor. I always liked him.

    I always think of Hitchens and Nat Hentoff. But they’re both dead.

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    JohnVonEcon (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Christopher Hitchens had, I think, the intellectual honesty and the leftist sympathies to make a good interlocutor. I always liked him.

    I always think of Hitchens and Nat Hentoff. But they’re both dead.

    And Hentoff’s kid has kept the leftism and left behind his father’s liberalism (as far as I could tell from Twitter). 

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I agree with Theodore Dalrymple that human beings would be much happier if they lived differently. He is a brilliant writer, and he has seen a lot.

    I have no idea how this can be fixed.

    How people turn out usually–not always, for sure–is determined by the parenting they received. A lot happens during the first three years of life.

    My pediatrician gave me a fantastic book when my firstborn was a year old. It was called Children: The Challenge. Being a parent is a lot of work. Most parents don’t know that and don’t understand it. It gets really easy as they get older, but those early years are critical.

    I used to think being a mother made me a good editor, and being an editor made me a good mother. I could make all the changes I wanted to make while we were still at the manuscript stage. But as a book progressed through the production pipeline, changes became harder to make and much more expensive.

    Kids are like that too. Parents can accomplish so much before a child ever steps foot in a school. Effecting change after that gets ridiculously harder and harder with each passing year.

    The superintendent of our school district and I were very good friends. I used to say, “Mike, we need spend more on kindergarten teachers.”

    He always said, “You’re right. Education spending is upside down. If we spent what we needed to spend on kindergarten and first grade, the kids would teach themselves as they got older because they’d be so fired up with curiosity and excitement. We could solve the social skills problems easily in kindergarten. The kids wouldn’t even notice they were learning good manners. When kids have good manners, adults respond positively to them, and everything seems to fall into place for those kids.”

    Yup.

    • #24
  25. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I’d argue with him on high culture.  So much of it feels like an excuse for snobbery, or the emperor’s new clothes.  “If you don’t understand this, you are a barbarian.”  So be it.

    • #25
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.

    I don’t follow the logic of this. Anybody?

    • #26
  27. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.

    I don’t follow the logic of this. Anybody?

    Yeah, I got stuck on that one too.

    • #27
  28. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Before we can fairly come up with a list of their themes, we have to come up with a fair list of contemporary leftist thinkers.

    Question: Does Mark Lane qualify as a leftist ? I’m mesmerized listening on audible to his last book on the assassination of J.F.K.. ( It certainly has me persuaded that the C.I.A. did it.)

    • #28
  29. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.

    I don’t follow the logic of this. Anybody?

    I think it’s similar to an exorcist telling you the possessed person was doing something, or living in some way, that let the demon in. The possessed person isn’t exactly a completely an innocent victim of the demon.

    • #29
  30. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.

    I don’t follow the logic of this. Anybody?

    Yeah, I got stuck on that one too.

    Whether some people on the right will admit it or not, alcohol is a drug, and it is addictive. It takes a while, but it’s one of the worst addictions. Withdrawal is worse than heroin as reported above.

    So, with this in mind, let’s take on that cause/effect logic shall we? 

    How many alcoholics became criminals – or how many criminals became alcoholics? 

    I know hundreds – yes hundreds, of alcoholics that are not criminal types at all.

    Now if alcohol was criminalized, then these people would A) be labeled criminals and B) associate with other criminals of all kinds to get their fix C) get used to breaking the law every day.

    People addicted to illegal drugs need to steal or con to maintain their habit. It doesn’t make sense that someone is a burglar and then discovers heroin in passing. Note also that many rock stars (Kieth Richards comes to mind) were addicted for decades and had no real consequence in society (personal life isn’t at issue here) . They had enough money and were able to get the ‘good stuff’ that didn’t affect their heath. Dr. Bastiat will attest (I believe) that narcotics are not physically harmful in their pure forms  (psychologically harmful and addicting, yes, of course) but not as physically damaging as alcohol.

    Let’s note that the states that legalized recreational marijuana have not seen any significant spike in crime.

    I was just in LA and was shocked at how mainstream the  it was. 

    I’m not saying taking drugs is good – or that they make you a better citizen, but the link to criminality is dubious, and actually stunningly absurd compared to the other claims listed here.

     

    • #30