Matthew Sinclair links to an article by Theodore Dalrymple which Sinclair describes as “the best essay written in my lifetime that I’ve ever read”. Sinclair goes on to quote this excerpt from the article (my emphasis):
Ultimately, the moral cowardice of the intellectual and political elites is responsible for the continuing social disaster that has overtaken Britain, a disaster whose full social and economic consequences have yet to be seen. A sharp economic downturn would expose how far the policies of successive governments, all in the direction of libertinism, have atomized British society, so that all social solidarity within families and communities, so protective in times of hardship, has been destroyed. The elites cannot even acknowledge what has happened, however obvious it is, for to do so would be to admit their past responsibility for it, and that would make them feel bad. Better that millions should live in wretchedness and squalor than that they should feel bad about themselves—another aspect of the frivolity of evil. Moreover, if members of the elite acknowledged the social disaster brought about by their ideological libertinism, they might feel called upon to place restraints upon their own behavior, for you cannot long demand of others what you balk at doing yourself.
But this is nonsense. Britain isn’t broken, nor is it a disaster. Of course, Britain isn’t perfect — it never has been and never will be, indeed it would be ridiculous to imagine that any society populated by imperfect people could ever be perfect. But overall Britain does reasonally well; if you use statistics such that the UN’s human development index, it does better than most countries. There are countries that genuinely are broken and disasterous — for example Zimbabwe, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, and North Korea — but anyone who suggests Britain is anything like these is utterly barking mad. In fact, I’m sure that Dalrymple doesn’t believes his words either: if Britain really was as terrible as he makes out, he’d be trying to leave, as would millions of others.
Dalrymple does make plenty of valid points, but his tone is incredibly off-putting, as is his cavalier disregard for reality, for example his absurd claim (highlighted above) that not a single person in Britain ever helps their friends or family in times of hardship. This is not an isolated example. Here’s another passage (again, my emphasis):
After all, the British welfare state is neither the most extensive nor the most generous in the world, and yet our rates of social pathology—public drunkenness, drug-taking, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, hooliganism, criminality—are the highest in the world.
There is much to find fault with in this passage, but I will resrtict myself to just one point. Does Dalrymple really think that Britain has a higher teenage pregnancy rate than, say, Afghanistan? His looseness with facts suggests he is an idiot who is incapable of clear thought.
And if this is the best modern essay that Sinclair has ever read, he either hasn’t read much or has very poor taste.