02 April 2007

The Pied Piper of Mumblin

The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings,
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king. *
Sometimes I wonder whether Chris Dillow enjoys his role as arch-manipulator.

CD highlights research purporting to show that nature (genes) is more important than nurture (environment). He comments:
"The message here seems to be that pre-birth factors (including genes) are more important than upbringing. ... The data come from Sweden, where the government has traditionally made more effort than most to raise the life-chances of people from poor backgrounds. Draw your own inferences."
S&M commentariat: "grumble ... racism ... grumble ... eugenics ... grumble ... sexism"

CD writes:
"Since nobody chooses their parents, it is as unfair to allow someone to be wealthy because of their class as it is to allow them to be poor because they are black or ginger-haired. If we shouldn't impose costs upon people because of something they are not responsible for, why should we tolerate them getting benefits? Again, there's an argument for inheritance tax."
S&M commentariat: "grumble ... statism ... grumble ... slavery ... grumble ... coercion"

I think Chris's pieces are usually thought-provoking, and also often simply provoking, perhaps intentionally. And he generates some interesting debate. One question, though: does anyone ever leave his blog with a different viewpoint than the one they started with? Of course a writer wants to believe they can change hearts and minds, because that's a major part of the motivation for writing. But is it ever true?

I think people rarely change their minds. They come to a book or a blog to get reinforcement for their preferred worldview, or sometimes (in the case of online comments) to argue against the opposition. Perhaps very occasionally one person is seriously affected by what they read. Perhaps it is really him or her one is writing for?

Stumbling & Mumbling is a paradigm of web intellectualising. Each post is a model of succinctness, lucidity and careful logic. So why does every other one make me want to fisk it? While making me feel it would take a whole book to do so? Am I, too, being manipulated?

Incidentally, on the subject of inheritance tax, I note that a motion to abolish it is currently the most popular Downing Street e-petition. The detailed wording is as follows, and I find myself in perfect agreement with it. There are other important reasons to oppose IHT, to do with culture — material for a future post.
Inheritance tax is an immoral form of taxation that penalises hard work and thrift. By raising a 40% levy on earned assets, it is also effectively double taxation. It frequently piles financial misery and distress on families already suffering the pain of bereavement; that is nothing less than grave robbery. Over the last decade, millions of households have been drawn into the death duty trap by steadily rising property prices. Often, people are forced to sell their family homes to pay the duty. The burden of death duty largely falls not on the super rich, who can often afford to use tax avoidance schemes, but on millions of hard-pressed families struggling on modest incomes. For all the anguish it causes, inheritance tax raises a tiny proportion of the Government’s revenue, less than one per cent. Supporters of this petition believe that inheritance tax is inherently unfair and should therefore be abolished outright in the Chancellor's forthcoming Budget.
* King Crimson, 'The court of the crimson king'