Sunday 1 March 2020


Hugo Rifkind is finally starting to turn into a good writer. His review of Sir Oliver Letwin's novel opens promisingly.
"A colleague of mine once argued that all opinion columns are either obvious or deranged. It has bothered me ever since, because I think it’s probably true. Congratulations, at any rate, to the eminent former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin, whose new book Apocalypse How? manages to be both at once."
Donald Rumsfeld apparently said this.
“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”


  1. The origins of Europe’s so-called “demographic time-bomb” have been acknowledged and understood for over 30 years. The slide in the fertility rate began in the 1960s and is clearly related to the rise in female participation in the workforce. Steps could have been taken in the 1990s, by putting the appropriate incentives in the various nations’ systems of taxes and social security, to check the fall in fertility and to ensure that successive generations replace each other.

    But nowhere did that theme gain any traction in the political debate. Did it echo too much the horrid “master race” strands of inter-war fascism? Can it be overlooked that Nazi Germany blessed Lebensborn (“Fount of Life”) homes, which had the deliberate aim of raising the birthrate of “racially pure” Aryan children?

    But, if fascism was one kind of madness in the twentieth century, demographic suicide will be another in the twenty-first. It is not complicated to work out that — if no migration occurs, and four generations of women have a fertility rate of 1.3 and thereafter the fertility rate returns to the 2.1 replacement level — the population of a nation drops from one century to the next by 85 per cent.

    Common sense demands that these questions be raised in public debate, although they fringe controversially on gender politics, the role of the family in modern societies and the meaning of “national identity”.

    Ageing Europe faces demographic suicide
    As their birth rate plunges, EU countries are failing to confront reality
    by Tim Congdon
    March 2020

  2. “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don't know we don't know.”

    Donald Rumsfeld

  3. We have retained the forms and phrases of a republic, but in reality we are living under an oligarchy, not of courtesan, but of bureaucrats.

    Frank Chodorov

    Income Tax: Root of All Evil (ed. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007) - ISBN: 9781610164276

  4. The deep irony of the years that followed the divorce was that my father’s liquors improved. His wine was now more than palatable, and his ˛tuic˘a was the real thing, a pleasure to start a meal with. It took a long while for us to be able to talk to each other after our fight and my parents’ subsequent split, and even then our encounters were awkward, veins of hurt pulsing under the surface. But it helped that all we ever did, on those tense holiday visits, was eat and drink together. On the worst days, food and alcohol were social lubricants, keeping mouths from talking too much, giving the illusion of celebration and togetherness around a table. On the better days, it was easy to enjoy a good plum brandy, to appreciate it honestly, to see him enjoy the compliment. He would send me off with several bottles to take home with me, some pure ˛tuic˘a, some experiments he had colored with tea, flavored with fruit, or aged in a bourbon wood barrel. I didn’t know what to do with that much hard liquor, but inevitably something would come up...

    We do not speak anymore, my father and I. The decision was his. When I went to pack my things for my most recent move, now so far from Toronto that I’m almost back where I started, I found one more plastic bottle of ˛tuic˘a. It was full, and it would clearly be the last I would ever have from his hands. I decided not to put it inthe container with all my other belongings, wrapping it instead in a plastic bag and hiding it in my luggage; it was perfectly legal, but it felt illicit. This is also an authentic Romanian gesture, one I performed instinctively. One of my parents’ friends escaped from Romania in the 1980s by hiding on a train, leaving his family behind but tightly grasping, under his jacket, two bottles of exquisite wine from the vineyard where he had worked. He opened one bottle with great pomp on his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and told his guests he was saving the second for his elder daughter’s wedding, which he did not live to see. I did not wait so long. The bottle of ˛tuic˘a was a little crushed by the time it reached my new home, looking as if it might crack the moment I tried to unscrew the cap. But it held, and to celebrate the start of our new life, I poured a generous amount into espresso cups for me and my husband. I expected the fresh, clean punch-in-the-face of all-natural, home-made plum brandy, but that is not what I tasted in the cup. This bottle, it turned out, was one of my father’s experiments, an infusion with orange peels that had taken on a powerful bitter note over the years. It was undrinkable.

    My Father and the Wine
    A story about making things from scratch.

    Irina Dumitrescu

  5. How to write well

    Rules, style and the ‘well-made sentence’
    By Irina Dumitrescu

  6. The history of literature is a catwalk on which the same old skeletons keep coming out in new clothes.

    Irina Dumitrescu