Much of modern psychology applies the empirical methodologies of natural science to man. This accounts for its authority but also for many of its errors. Today, empiricism no longer has to argue for its own authority, so firmly ensconced is it in the public imagination. It has been almost universally accepted as capable of explaining all things, including man.
David Cameron’s unexpected victory in the British elections Thursday is also an important victory for liberty. Rather than increasing spending after the financial crisis, he pursued what the left terms “austerity” policies. An austerity program is better described as a liberty program because it curbs the reach of the state by shrinking it. By contrast, government stimulus programs, like those supported by most of the intelligentsia in the UK and elsewhere, make the state more powerful by allowing politicians to direct a firehose of money where it will do them the most good.
Cameron’s constitutional thinking is sound as well. He wants to reform Britain’s relationship with the EU to make the latter more a free trade zone than a super state. Subsidiarity within a free trade zone can foster freedom while preserving accountable government. Within the UK, Cameron is also for the devolution of powers, not only in Scotland, but also in England, which should further align government with the people. Local jurisdictions could be more responsive to their citizens, and those who do not agree with the local politics may be able to move to another jurisdiction within the United Kingdom with policies they prefer.
Cameron’s differences with Ed Miliband’s Labor Party were huge.
Some have questioned or criticized this website over the past few days for posting this short essay by Theodore Dalrymple, where he made, to my mind, an interesting argument about the variety of book shops still evident in small towns and villages in France. Such book shops are not, in Dalrymple’s judgment, as nearly abundant in his native Britain despite its more open book market. France, he noted, has a law mandating that book retailers cannot charge under a certain price for books. Could this, strangely, be the reason why there are more French book retailers, and more variety and…
To live in two countries is to make comparisons, instructive or not as the case may be. And since I spend an unusually large proportion of my time in bookshops, it is unsurprising that I compare the book trade in the two countries in which I live, Britain and France.
In Britain, booksellers are allowed to discount books as much as they like; France, by contrast, maintains a fixed price for books, as did Britain until the 1980s. The effects of this difference are interesting: what appears to be a restraint on trade actually improves its quality.
About twice as many books are published in Britain annually as in France, although this difference may be as much the consequence of the much larger Anglophone market as of the difference in pricing policy. In France, few books are published initially as hardbacks, and newly-published paperbacks there tend to be about the same price as their hardback equivalents in Britain. The mass-market paperbacks, by contrast, tend to be cheaper.