Monday, April 02, 2007

Good Old Boy #27

The Director of the Libertarian Alliance is someone with whom I agree about almost nothing. But this review (via Tom), of a book by leading Tory thinker Danny Kruger, is absolutely savage and hilarious.

"Our politics may be degraded from the level even of the late 1970s. But we have yet to sink entirely to the level of America, where elections seem to be decided wholly by money and competing armies of drum majorettes. It is still expected that political debate in this country should proceed from an intellectual basis. The Conservatives have no intellectual basis that they dare honestly explain to us. They must at the same time convey the impression of one. They have, therefore, put Dr Kruger up to write a whole book about Conservative principle, but to do so in a way that will allow almost no one to understand him.

The language of his book is in all matters of importance pretentious and obscure.
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German philosophy is notoriously a learned gibberish. For nearly two centuries, it has been used to justify every imaginable lapse from humanity and common sense. Dr Kruger is supposed to be an expert on Edmund Burke. It is worth asking why he has, on this occasion, avoided all attempt at imitating the clear English of the Enlightenment.

The likeliest answer is that enlightenment is not among his intentions. As said, that must be to express himself in a manner that almost none of his readers will understand. This book has been sent out for review to hundreds of journalists and general formers of opinion. It is hoped that these will all skim though it and scratch their heads. "What a bright young man this is" we are all to say. "What he says is all above my head, but I do not wish to look stupid, so will join in the applause at his erudition and profundity."
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His book is not only pretentious and obscure. It is also incompetent. If he were one of my students, and he were to offer this to me as a long undergraduate essay, he would have it thrown straight back in his face.
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Dr Kruger went, I believe, to an expensive public school, I to a comprehensive school in South London. Perhaps the classical languages are not so well studied in these former places as they once were. But anyone who wants to quote the ancients should make at least some effort to do it properly.

Is this pedantry? I do not think so. The quotation should be familiar to everyone of moderate education - even to people who do not know Latin. Its use is not absolutely required for the meaning of what Dr Kruger is trying to say. Like much else, it is there to impress. And he gets it wrong. And the fault is not confined to him. This book has gone through many drafts. Remember that it has been read and discussed by every intellectual close to the Conservative leadership. Even so, this glaring error on the second page was not picked up and corrected. This says more about the intellectual quality of modern Conservatives than anything else in the book."

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