About this blog

This blog is mostly a place for me to review and evaluate books that I've been reading.  Some of these will be recently published works, while others will not be.  Many of them are about politics and political ideas.

Where I'm coming from

I'm a private citizen of a small island off the north-west coast of Europe, of no importance in the world.  Since you've clicked onto this page, however, you might be interested in knowing where I'm coming from as a blogger and what beliefs and prejudices I'm bringing to my blogging.

Human society is a messy business.  There's no reliable blueprint with all the answers, whether it's the one put forward by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Thatcher or Steven Pinker.  Sorry about that.  A lot of the time, there are no answers.  If there were, we probably would have found them by now, and I'd have nothing to blog about.

This means that any political ideology is by definition going to be wrong somewhere or other.  But we have to take some decisions, and in any case most people (including me) seem to need something to believe to give meaning and coherence to their world.  So I try to choose the form of politics that I think is the least harmful and remote from reality.

In order to determine what the least harmful course is, it is a good idea to be risk-averse and to start with a broadly pessimistic view of humanity.  Humans beings are aggressive chimps who can't think straight and often do bad stuff to each other.  My take-away point from this is that power over other human beings will always be abused to a greater or lesser extent, so it must always be constrained, whether it lies with politicians, wealthy individuals, lords or clerics.  It would be really great if we could have a benevolent dictator to set the world to rights, but we know how that sort of thing tends to end up, and it isn't pretty.

On economic policy, I tend to dress to the left.  We're all capitalists now - socialism has notched up a fairly consistent record of failure wherever it's been tried.  Capitalism has created unparalleled wealth and has liberated people all over the world from poverty and oppression.  But there is nothing divine or sacred about the unregulated free market, and constraining power has to include devising appropriate regulation for business corporations and banks. (In the interests of balance, the same could be said with regard to the power of trade unions.)  Developing countries need to pursue capitalist economic policies to lift their peoples out of absolute poverty, but in developed countries the evidence is that relative poverty and economic inequality are more serious and pressing problems.

I absolutely hate tribalism and zealotry in politics.  I have my own prejudices - we all do - but there's no reason to be proud of them.  If you get off on that sort of thing, go and support a football team.

It is possible that the vast majority of the world's climate scientists are wrong about the seriousness of the threat of man-made climate change, just as it is possible that I will win the Euromillions next week.  But it seems rather unlikely on the whole.  I know damn all about climate science, and I certainly don't assume that scientists in general are infallible, but if the future of the planet's entire ecosystem is at stake I'd have thought that it's possibly not such a clever idea to get too far out of whack with the best available evidence and analysis.  I've also noticed that a lot of the denial guys seem to be selling a pretty specific political agenda, and some cynical souls might question whether their take on the science is utterly balanced and impartial.

I'm a committed religious person, but I'm not on the internet to tell you about my inner spiritual life.  For the purposes of my blogging, I'm interested in the social and political dimensions of religion.  There is no good evidence that God has told us that she wants us to implement a specific political programme, let alone one as specific as harassing gay people or making women cover up particular body parts.  A literalistic interpretation of the sacred texts of the world's religions has been untenable for a couple of centuries now.  On the other hand, I don't have much time for militant atheists who have a one-dimensional materialistic view of the world and are too blinkered to see the limitations of science in plumbing the depths of the human condition and the cosmos.

I am very sympathetic to feminism.  For a number of reasons, we love - and I mean really love - to categorise the sexes into crude stereotypes, and there has been a resurgence of interest in Mars-and-Venus views of gender in recent years.  But, while men and women are different, we're not quite as different as some people seem to want to think.

My other blogs

I've created several other blogs dealing with interests of mine. These are mostly finished projects now, and they are no longer regularly updated:
  • Religious Studies, which deals with the subject of religion from a historical and social point of view.