Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist, contributing editor of the City Journal and Dietrich Weissman Fellow of the Manhattan Institute.

Royal Burdens

the crown

Public life has never been more public than it is today, and the lives of famous people are examined as never before. Gone are the days when a President’s polio or marital infidelities were passed over in silence by a compliant press corps. A rhinoceros hide is required now, as perhaps never before, for a life in politics—though, as the new President has amply demonstrated, a rhinoceros hide is by no means incompatible with a thin skin.

Who among us has no embarrassing secrets? The constant risk of exposure and humiliation must deter many good people from seeking public office. We demand perfection and get mediocrity.

It is not even necessary any more for the famous to die for their lives to be turned into soap opera, as has happened to the British royal family with The Crown.

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Beer Street, Gin Lane, and Blurred (Moral) Vision

gin lane

We like to consider totalitarianism a thing of the past, at least in Western countries, but its temptations are permanent and its justifications never very far away. Since no man is an island, no human action concerns only the actor himself. John Stuart Mill’s famous principle in On Liberty (1859) that the only good reason to interfere with someone’s freedom is to prevent him from doing harm to others is therefore as effective a barrier against totalitarianism as tissue paper against a tsunami. Potential harm to others can be alleged in practically any human action.

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The British National Health Service Is in Crisis: What Else Is New?

hospital hallway

One of the most curious political phenomena of the western world is the indestructible affection in which the British hold their National Health Service. No argument, no criticism, no evidence can diminish, let alone destroy, it. The only permissible criticism of it is that the government does not spend enough on it, a ‘meanness’ (with other people’s money) to which all the service’s shortcomings are attributable. In effect, the NHS is the national religion.

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Tolerance and Its Limits

Judges talk before rendering the verdict in the hate speech case against populist Dutch MP Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom    Netherlands.  (SANDERKONING/AFP/Getty Images)

When I asked my young patients what their best qualities were, they would almost invariably reply: “I am tolerant and non-judgmental.”

“If you don’t judge people,” I would ask, “how can you be tolerant?”

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The Rules Will Be Enforced

Medical concept

“Use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?” — Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2

In a world of perfect justice, each man would receive his due and nothing else, as Shakespeare’s words suggest. Whether such a world is possible or even desirable is another question.

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The Matchmaker in Brussels

European union flag against parliament in Brussels

Thwarted elites are not good losers. They will resort to any maneuver to ensure that their opinions prevail—which is why I believe that Brexit is by no means a certainty, notwithstanding the recent referendum.

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A Society Worthy of Our Televisions

Multimedia background. Composed of many images

The best way to avoid disappointment is to have low expectations—they can almost always be met. In that sense, the Clinton-Trump debates did not disappoint. No one really expected them to be an intellectual feast. Their interest, such as it was, could be said to be more in the realm of psychology, or even of pathology, than that of ideas.

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Freedom, Unfreedom, and the Burkini

Illustration (vector) of islamic swimsuit on white background

You don’t choose your family, goes the old saying, but you do choose your friends. The same goes for quarrels: you choose when and where to have them, and what to have them about. Needless to say, friends and quarrels should be chosen with some care.

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The Same May Happen

LONDON, ENGLAND - Theresa May enters 10 Downing Street.  (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

It is difficult to say what politicians in modern democracies stand for—other than themselves, that is. At best they seem to be the representatives, or perhaps the lightning-conductors, of the various strains of resentment by which advanced societies are now riven.

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Bludgeoning Aspiration to Get to Equality

Meritocracy concept. No entry. Stairs up blocked.

There is no more fateful failure of modern political thought than its failure to distinguish between elitism and social exclusivity. From this failure stems an enormous, costly, and increasingly intolerant attempt to rectify what is not wrong in the first place. One fights chimeras the better to avoid confrontation with real enemies.

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