On the Beach, On the Balcony

In the April edition of New English Review, the good doctor discourses on the Wuhan coronavirus and some of the virus-related social and cultural changes he has observed in France.

I dislike such gestures which seem to me empty and shallow. They are supposed to be gestures of gratitude and encouragement, but all that I have seen (which of course may not be representative of anything except of all that I have seen) suggests that doctors and nurses are more irritated than pleased by them. Often they have to work in poor conditions, with essential equipment lacking despite the vast expenditure on the health service in France. It costs nothing, financially or in any other way, to make this gesture. It is, as I have said, empty and shallow.

A Time for Gurus

Many in France look to a highly distinguished, if eccentric, microbiologist who touts a treatment for Covid-19, but the skeptical doctor has some justifiable doubts over at City Journal.

France has a new savior—neither its president nor the savior proclaimed as such by its former religion, but Professor Didier Raoult, an eminent microbiologist who works in Marseille. He strongly, indeed loudly, advocates the use of hydroxychloriquine and azithromycin in the treatment of patients with Covid-19.

Where Will the Coronavirus Lead Us?

Another thought-provoking article from Theodore Dalrymple addressing the economic consequences of the Wuhan coronavirus is available at Law & Liberty.

One should never underestimate the power of amnesia in human affairs. Even catastrophes on a vast scale are often soon forgotten, at least by those who were not directly affected by them. The young in Eastern Europe, it is said, know nothing of the ravages of communism, though they lasted decades and still exert an influence, and quite a lot think that socialism might be a good thing to try, as if it had never been tried before. Moreover, no memory exerts a salutary effect by itself unaided by thought and reflection: memory (even where accurate) has to be interpreted, and where there is interpretation there is the possibility of error and disagreement.

Off the Rails

A train ride from Nimes to Paris with an annoyingly garrulous passenger nearby has Theodore Dalrymple contemplating over at Takimag. Another day in the life of the skeptical doctor.

I have long thought that if it were not for complaint, we should have very little to talk about. Complaint is like crime in the theories of the first real sociologist, Émile Durkheim: It is the glue of society. Without opposition to crime, society would fall apart. Without complaint, most of us would remain silent and have no relations with others at all.

A Lost Mandate in Europe

The good doctor laments the response to the Wuhan coronavirus in the European Union over at City Journal.

It is surely of some interest that those Asian states that—for the moment, at any rate—are believed to have done well during this epidemic, while more authoritarian than we would like, also have relatively small public sectors as a proportion of their economies as a whole (a third or less that of France). The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the selling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it.

The Astonishing Pieter de Hooch

For the April 2020 New Criterion, our skeptical doctor—using his real name, Anthony Daniels—has penned an essay on one of his favorite painters, the 17th-century Dutch artist, Pieter de Hooch.

But there was also a more private reason for my deep attachment to the painting, namely the beautiful and straightforward emotional calm that reigned between the two figures, their uncomplicated and unconditional love of one another—something that I longed for as a child but never had, instead continually experiencing the petty Sturm und Drang of domestic conflict. To the inherent melancholy of any capture of a beautiful moment that is fleeting (the child, so fresh and tender, so full of trust, would grow old and die nearly three centuries before I first saw the picture), I added a personal sorrow over the fact that I would never experience anything like the little girl’s quiet, careless rapture.

Is Trump’s Classical-Architecture Policy Authoritarian?

Theodore Dalrymple returns to The American Conservative after an eight-year hiatus with another excellent essay on President Trump’s much-needed executive order to restore classical architecture to all new federal buildings, which will hopefully banish the modernist, brutalist style of unmitigated ugliness into the dustbin of history. There are another eight essays from the skeptical doctor from 2006-2012 that our readers can catch up on.

The order will also free architects and teachers of architecture from the groupthink which undoubtedly afflicts the profession, not only in America but in Europe and elsewhere. It will serve to increase, not reduce, choice, and with luck will restore public confidence in its own taste and right to pronounce on architectural matters, as well as its influence over what is built in its name. After all, it is the public that has to live with architecture. Architecture should not be a secret garden into the beauties of which only architects may enter.

Children of Richard III

In his weekly Takimag column, the good doctor tackles the thorny issue of race and identity after learning about another misguided, race-obsessed, progressive decision—this time from the Arts Council of England.

In an open society, identifiable groups that were once despised can quickly ascend the social and economic scale, though not all do so. No society is without prejudices both for and against various groups, but many societies, at least nowadays, are without laws that enforce those prejudices and make their expression obligatory. It is unpleasant to be the object of prejudice, but it is not fatal to social advance and, within limits, may even stimulate determination to succeed.

Murder Most Foul

In the Winter 2020 edition of City Journal, our favorite doctor takes a trip to Wales, buys the inevitable book, and recounts for us a brutal murder that took place over two decades ago.

Welsh Christianity was often narrow-minded, bigoted, censorious, and hypocritical. There is an extensive and extremely interesting literature on this subject, which obsessed Welsh writers for much of the twentieth century. But for all its unattractive qualities—I would have chafed under its domination—it provided a moral framework (or perhaps straitjacket would be a better way to put it) in which life was to be lived, and that gave a distinctive—and, in some ways, charming—character to Welsh life. It was also extremely earnest about educational effort. When it collapsed, the coarsest hedonism replaced it, which the Clydach murder case illustrates graphically.

A Badge of Discrimination

The repressive reign of the rainbow is on full display in Britain’s National Health Service and Theodore Dalrymple excoriates the politically-correct, bureaucratic, leftist thought police’s latest obnoxious ukase at Law & Liberty.

But should doctors think that a person’s sexual orientation is relevant to their health care? What is being demanded seems self-contradictory: namely that there should simultaneously be both discrimination and non-discrimination. This impossible demand arises from intellectual carelessness as to when and what categorisation is necessarily relevant. A patient’s occupation, for instance, may be relevant to my diagnosis, but not to my determination of whether or not I should treat him as best I can. The deliberate confusion of these two senses by political entrepreneurs leads to endless conflict and the destruction of trust, to the advantage of the entrepreneurs.


A paranoid, mistrustful, resentful, and indignant population is the delight of political entrepreneurs, their bureaucratic dependants, and those who would be dictators of virtue.