Accidence & Incidents: Aurobindo, Koestler, Oakeshott

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

FT political leader writer, Sebastian Payne recently referred to the Conservative Party’s pre-eminent post-war philosopher — Michael Oakeshott.

So why do Tories love him?

1. Oakeshott was a philosopher — not a neo-liberal economist.

2. Unlike Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, or even Arthur Seldon, Oakeshott was a bona fide English Gentleman.

3. He wasn’t actually that interested in politics.

Oakeshott was appointed Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics in 1968 – at a time when Daniel Cohn Bendit (Nous sommes tous les Juifs Allemands / We are all German Jews) was over from Paris attempting to foment revolution at the London University.

By simply not being a leftist, unlike his predecessor Harold Laski, Oakeshott did more to foster the LSE neo-liberal counter insurgency than many realise.

Oakeshott was very good friends with Oliver Letwin’s mother Shirley Letwin who wrote the Anatomy of Thatcherism shortly before passing away in 1993.

A lot of these relationships are outlined in the wonderful Thinking the Unthinkable by Richard Cockett.

Thatcher once said “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”

Given that Oliver Letwin has since discovered Behavioural Economics, as outlined in a previous post, it is telling that he chose to name his new book on the Conservative Party — Hearts and Minds.

Nudging people into loving deregulation hasn’t gone quite according to plan. In a way Letwin was hoist by his own petard. He wrote a paper called Drift to Union in 1988 in which he pointed out the risk of a Ever Closer Union and a European Superstate. But nevertheless he believed it would have been better to remain in the customs union whilst arguing for reforms.

He talks about the morning of Brexit as reminiscent of passages by Nadezhda Krupskaya on the morning of the Russian Revolution. A coup d’état had taken place with the ‘arch-Machiavelli’ David Davis being one of the major players.

Was all this madness just to suit the ambition of a bunch of Tory psychopaths?

A Guide to the Classics

Oakeshott wrote a book in the 30’s about how to pick the winner at the Epsom Derby.

Applying conservative principles to the world of horse-racing Oakeshott translated his way of thinking to something everyone could relate to — dealing with uncertainty.

In some fields this could be termed rationality, empiricism or even heuristics.

Oakeshott’s principles included checking a horse’s breeding and form and not just betting on a horse because of its name.

“Airborne”

Despite Oakeshott’s advice I couldn’t help but notice — at the top left of an early edition — a horse going by the name of ‘Airborne’.

Airborne, for a couple of years, was also my nickname for Daily Mail Columnist Peter Oborne.

And it just so happens that Oborne wrote the foreword to the June 2017 reissue of Oakeshott’s Guide to the Classics — the only reason I picked it up in the first place.

Merely co-incidence? Of course — but fun all the same.

It turns out that Airborne was a surprise winner. Nobody had heard of it but lots of people bet on it because of the airborne division in the war.

Oakeshott never claimed to make you rich, merely to help you think about how to think.

The Routes of Co-Incidence

Psychogeography

Several years ago I met a cousin of the great Indian teacher and Spiritual Guide Krishnamurthi. He (the cousin) was friends with my mother. I understand both were devotees of the late Sathya Sai Baba.

Krishnamurthi (for that was also the cousin’s name) told me all about Sri Aurobindo and the Upanishads.

For a mix of Oakeshottian and non-Oakeshottian reasons I decided to follow these leads, albeit at a leisurely pace.

The Krishnamurthi who I had  spent time with was an eloquent inspiring man.

I soon discovered that I had (briefly) attended the same school as Aurobindo in London — St Paul’s.

I call my reasoning partly Oakeshottian because of the  breeding component.

Not racial necessarily — but I did also find out that Aurobindo was Bengali.

Turns out most Bangladeshis may be Dravidian — not unlike yours truly — a Tamil from Sri Lanka (via Paddington).

Aurobindo would have been a Hindu – like the Bengalis I came across at St Paul’s

They were all very high caste. Or so it appeared.

From Death to Death will go the man
who discriminates between,
What is seen in the unseen world
and unseen in the seen

This is my re-edit of a line in the Upanishads that I found highly useful.

As a Hindu, once I die, I don’t want to come back.

Breaking: Corrupt Money Launderers HSBC bankrolled Corrupt Cameron & Corrupt Osborne’s Trips to Davos

Corrupt Money Launderers HSBC bankrolled David Cameron and George Osborne’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009, it has emerged.

The controversial lender lent the gaffe-prone billionaire bookie and former Tory Treasurer Michael Spencer £200 million pounds just a day before the massive Iceland Crisis that wiped billions of pounds off the balance sheets of many UK Local Authorities.

Many of these cash strapped Local Authorities had invested in Iceland because of advice given to them by one of Michael Spencer’s firms — Butlers.

Shortly after getting a £200million bailout from HSBC and narrowly avoiding bankruptcy because of the Iceland debacle (unlike his local authority clients), Spencer donated a million pounds to the Tory party.

It was around this time that Spencer’s holding company IPGL paid for Cameron and Osborne to fly to Davos by private jet.

This revelation is all the more galling given that Cameron and Osborne are known to have shaped regulation to favour HSBC and Spencer’s ICAP and torpedoed investigations into both firms both in the UK and the USA.

Some anti-corruption researchers and campaigners raised this issue with the HSBC board at the Bank’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London on Friday but were sidelined.

The Canary have run a piece on the scandal which has received zero pick-up in the mainstream press.

For more info on Spencer read this article by the excellent I am Incorrigible :

 

Ex-KGB Billionaire appoints City of London lobbyist to run London’s biggest newspaper

Billionaire ex-KGB spy Alexander Lebedev has just hired George Osborne to edit London’s Evening Standard newspaper.

The move has triggered concerns about media bias and conflicts of interest.

This from HSBC Fraud whistleblower Nicholas Wilson.

In Praise of Sound Money

Here is Osborne praising the Conservative Chancellor Phillip Hammond  straight after last week’s disastrous budget.

 

Will there be calls for Tory U-Turns in Osborne’s Standard?

Conflicts of interest

Only last week the Evening Standard itself printed a story on Osborne’s conflicts of interest.

Originally covered by Financial Eyes / London Conversation here.

  Original Shape-Shifter

Adam Curtis’s short 2009 film, Oh Dear, points to parallels between Russian and British propaganda — particularly to George Osborne’s rôle. (after 3 minutes 12 seconds)

KGB Banking Oligarch

Lebedev himself made his money from banking in the late 90’s after having been a London based Soviet spy.

en.wikipedia.org en.wikipedia.org

BBC Bias

Here is the BBC’s very own ex-Lebedev man, Amol Rajan, being interviewed by its ex-Murdoch Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil:

The establishment routinely ignores questions about media ownership and media bias in this country.

But even by British standards this is an unprecedented political appointment.

City AM

The City Of London’s daily financial free paper City AM’s editor Christian May was given the job without ever having worked at a newspaper.

Though I disagree with many of his views Christian May edits well:

Murdoch

Murdoch’s Times has had it in for Russia for a while. It’s pushed for sanctions against Russia for its role in the Crimea and Syria.

Putin

Lebedev does seem to be friendly with Putin.

Standard Morale

I wonder what having the Austerity Chancellor in charge of the Standard will do for staff morale.

 

Transatlantic Aliens

I came across Transatlantic Aliens in the bookshop today.


The blurb referred to the cultural contribution made by Europeans who moved to the US in the 1930s and 1940s.

By looking at how celebrated outsiders such as Theodor Adorno, Simone de Beauvoir and Vladimir Nabokov experienced American life, Will Norman celebrates their transformation of alienation into novel ways of interpreting the modern world.

Given President Trump’s recent Executive Order indefinitely banning all refugees from Syria from entering the US, the book — which came out in October — couldn’t be more relevant.

This is an excellent blog post by author Will Norman on the need to not demonise foreigners — written just days after President Trump won the 2016 US Election:


Norman starts by saying, “These are dark days for Cosmopolitanism.”

Dark days indeed.

Theresa May told the Conservative Party conference in October that a Citizen of the World is a Citizen of Nowhere.

Following Amber Rudd’s speech about naming and shaming firms who hire too many foreign workers — the Pound dropped like a stone.


One interpretation of Cosmopolitanism is that the Cosmopolis, the world state, is an ideal state in which citizens must live their lives regardless of local constraints. This is a morally driven universe which comprises of international solidarity above all else.

I do not feel this is Mrs May’s interpretation. Although English Culture is itself a mix of so many influences, the incorporation of habits, customs and languages from around the world makes the PM squirm. 

In Mrs May’s worldview, the more that Cosmopolitans feel they have in common with outsiders, the more readily they distinguish themselves from fellow British citizens and the less loyalty they show.

Tory donor Lord Ashcroft commissioned a study into the US election which referred to Cosmopolitan Activists — 25% of whom are less than 24 years old — the majority of whom believe in gun control, government regulation, green energy, same sex marriage, immigration, multiculturalism, social liberalism and feminism.


There are so many contradictions in what our politicians now say that there’s no fun in spotting inconsistencies.

Now that they’ve lost power, maybe here are two former Chancellors whose words we can actually trust.

Here is George Osborne on how the Government has prioritised controlling immigration over the economy:

And Ken Clarke on how Enoch Powell would have been surprised that the Tory party is now ‘mildly’ anti immigrant:

Where do we go from here? 

I hope there is more public participation in the debate surrounding the terms of Brexit.

If not then commission hungry lobbyists will run the show and sell Britain into feudalism for a fraction of what it is really worth. 

The British Parliamentary system is not equipped to override inherent conflicts of interest – if this isn’t fixed immediately this will lead to Britain’s downfall.

How to solve such a problem? 

Strategic Noise. We have an accountability problem. Certain people are getting away with passing lots of favourable legislation because there is no independent scrutiny or oversight.

Better reporting of parliamentary, local government and international affairs would do a lot to warn people of what is coming in a structured way that allows for organised civil responses that go beyond attending protests. 

The Government is well equipped to rely on and perpetuate bureaucracy – the rest of us need to start catching up.

Too many people are keeping their knowledge to themselves. 

The more we know about what is actually happening up and down the country and about the political process the more we can more meaningfully get involved.

Will political parties suddenly adjust to allow new ideas? 

Or will they do what they can to protect the status quo?