Apr 30 • 53M

144: Ed West - Britain, Europe and Decline

Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

Will Jarvis
Narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been, the ways that it is worse, and the paths toward making a better, more definite future. Narratives is hosted by Will Jarvis. For more information, and more episodes, visit www.narrativespodcast.com
Episode details

In this episode we're joined by writer Ed West to discuss the decline of the UK, the future of Europe, and where we go from here. This episode was cohosted by Lars Doucet. 


William Jarvis 0:05

Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways it is worse in the past, where it's a better, more definite vision of the future. I'm your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com. Additionally, in this episode, my friend Lars to say joins us as a co host.

Unknown Speaker 0:39

Well, Ed, how are you doing this afternoon?

Ed West 0:41

Absolutely fine. How are you? Doing? Great. Thanks,

Will Jarvis 0:45

again for joining us again, for round two, kind of a first guests. We've had to do that, which is it's awesome to have you had we really appreciate it. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Do you mind just giving us a brief bio for the guests who might not have met you before?

Ed West 0:59

Well, I write the substack wrong side of history, which I've been doing for now for, I don't know, 10 months or something. Before that was unheard. And I also wrote for the UK spectator and The Daily Telegraph all the basically, you know, all the reactionary obligations. But now Yeah, moving subsets, that's going to do our vote, you know, right, that politics and with the kind of history flavor, that's my main thing, I suppose my characteristic is I'm quite known as being pessimistic. But you know, I think I'm being proved right at the moment. So you know, you know, there's like prophets who was talking about Doom, eventually, they're going to be proved right. And I think 2022 is my lucky year.

Lars Doucet 1:38

What are all the things are getting proved right about

Ed West 1:42

me just genuinely, while I've been on holiday in Spain, and then recently, I just can't you know, when you're on holiday, and just can't resist looking at Twitter. And it's like, I know, this is ruining my holiday, I'm supposed to be wait for help, but read the news. And even though I'm in this lovely setting by the sea in the Mediterranean just need to be a little depressed. Just the economy, the economy is I mean, economy in Britain is looking very bad. But the gas price situation for us is like they're talking about pints like a pint of beer is like six pounds in London, and like a northerner wouldn't pay more than like, four pounds 50. And they're getting really upset about that. But now they're talking about pints costing 20 pounds, if that if the pubs are going to survive, if they say that two thirds of pubs aren't able to survive the winter, just the price of energy is like, unbelievably skyrocketed. It's like nothing before. So we can, you know, there's talk about doing a cap as the government pay people's energy bills, but I mean, it's kind of it's a bit Latin American, the whole thing. It's, it's kind of heading towards default territories. So I mean, it's generally quite scary that the whole thing is just because of the war. Yeah, I suppose. And so basically, I mean, it didn't help. I mean, a lot of our economy was in a bit of bad shape before then anyway. So it was a bit of a, you know, the analogy is, you know, they didn't fix the roof and sunshine is coming. And we've we, I don't think we've had any growth since 2007. I mean, if reading about the British economy is quite, quite bleak. I mean, around 2007, around the time of the crisis, Britain and America weren't that far apart in terms of GDP per capita. Now, it's like way different than we've had that almost no growth since then, we've basically done the same as Italy, which is 20 years of no growth, nothing. And the same fabulous sort of same end result, which is sort of lots of people in their 30s and 40s, living with their parents, and I kind of just don't do anything, we don't even have the nice food and a nice weather. I mean, we've got the same we're at like, you know, we've had like a fourth Prime Minister in St. Six years now, which is, you know, very, again, very Italian. And, you know, she's coming to power in a really, really difficult time. So, I mean, I wouldn't want to, it's not the best time to be taken over. And, you know, what I have now is it looks much more sort of, sort of worrying then even the financial crisis, and much more worrying COVID

Lars Doucet 3:59

What are some things that led you here?

Ed West 4:01

What for Britain?

Unknown Speaker 4:02

For, for Britain specific?

Ed West 4:07

Um, I mean, Britain has? Well, I mean, obviously, the one obvious fact is, Brexit has definitely made everyone poorer. Because like, over half our trade is with the European continent, and it's just it might it'll fix itself. And, you know, I think the Brexiteers argument is that in 1520 years time, we're going to have much more freedom with a regulation and and actually start to pay off and that may be true. I mean, I didn't know you know, but the problem is that in the short term, we're all alive and it's gonna be a rough few years and it's something that people were very divided over not only half population voted no, but of those who voted for Brexit, there was a huge variety of different ideas about what it meant. So there are you know, it's almost like the different religious sects they just break up and then when the break up and then break up. So there's not really the will so people people might endure suffering and pain and poverty if they I have an idea of what they're gonna get at the end, and if they know what they want, and if they believe in it, but when there's, with Brexit, we're not even sure what we, you know what aim is what kind of country wouldn't be who we want to be aligned to. So there's also divisions, which aren't necessarily like left or right. But in the meantime, you know, it's like just traveling to France in the summer, which you know, that whole English middle class or go to the south of France and their cars, when some of the times comes, and you know, they all get stuck in Dover trying to cross over, it's all very frustrating. There are, you know, all sorts of other things. We have the kind of one of the worst housing situations in Britain, in Europe in the world. I mean, I know all the other English speaking countries have problems. But in the States, it is slightly at least a bit more localized in cities. But you know, London is basically a London is sort of almost on somewhere between San Francisco and maybe a bit less than in terms of unaffordability. And London is basically about all the jobs are in in Britain, in most industries. So imagined, like San Francisco is the only option in terms of affordability, it's impossible to basically break the housing situation to build more houses. Because the kind of political system means that, you know, you know, the Tory party is very elderly now. So it's very controlled by nimbyism. So most of the average Tory voter has their own house, or many of them are retired, there's no real incentives for them to allow new building. So that's basically that's another big block fact that I think another thing is just basically, we're very over regulated. And also, I think we're just getting older, like everyone else. You know, that the Blair thing was the Blair. Government, they had a lot of immigration. For, you know, for economic reasons, but again, it was just you know, now 20 years later, a lot, you know, these immigrants are old as well. And now we just say, Okay, what are we doing now? The population is aging and aging population, inevitably, there are some economic consequences of that. There aren't enough young, dynamic people, it's really notable, if you go to parts of England, that the southwest, everyone's so unbelievably old. You know, I mean, that's the problem ever. I've just been in eastern in Romania, actually. And, you know, and that's the kind of similar thing you can see areas that are quite looked feel quite depopulated, which is the kind of thing you get where, you know, people are going from the poor parts of Europe away, and they're all sort of congregating in the wealthier parts where there isn't enough housing, to sort of, you know, to make a nice life. So yeah, things are looking quite, quite bleak at the moment.

Will Jarvis 7:38

And if you had to pick just one, you know, policy lever, you know, we should all just start jumping up and down as hard as we can to start getting this thing back into this train back on the tracks. In the UK, let's say in particular, what does that look like? Is it is it street votes at the local level to kind of fix zoning, maybe increase housing supply? Is it? Is it something else? Is it just encouraging people to have more kids? Is it rejoining the EU or is it do you have any thoughts there?

Ed West 8:05

I mean, I would say street votes. I mean, I don't know if you know about that, Lars, it's just, I'm sure it's just

Lars Doucet 8:11

been if you could describe it for audience, that'd be great. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Ed West 8:15

That it was actually basically the brainchild of a friend Michael bend southward to work for Think Tank, Policy Exchange. And it basically means where there's a street of quite low density houses in an urban area, the entire street and votes that up densify it. So the moment the planning regulations. So if you live in, say, if you live in zone five, and six, which is the outskirts of London, they have a lot of sort of low density streets with either bungalows, or two stories, which are very spaced out. And if you have one of these and you want to extend the build a house, you you can't do that, obviously, because your neighbors will object to you. And another kind of regulation Stop it, but and this system, the entire street can vote on whether they all densify. So that will go from one story to either three or four stories. And they will vote on a plat on an architectural plan as well. So that kind of the most popular type of housing gets built. And that way, you know, the NIMBYs because obviously everyone, everyone, most people NIMBYs for totally rational reasons. Because if your neighbor builds a big house, it makes your house less valuable, because no one wants to live next to the big houses and more people. But this way, it means that everyone financially benefits from there being more housing. So the to the whole, the whole street gets rich. So if there's like a 60% vote, then you can turn these low density things into sort of bigger blocks. And that would densify London and I think there's there's some like 2 million and more properties could have built I don't know what the exact figures that that seemed like the best idea and the government that US government debts kind of the I think that I think I think it might happen still. But the problem is the government is changing so much the moment I mean now suppose I'm Michael Gove who's But by far the most, like intelligent of all the cabinet ministers very effective, like, wherever he, whichever department he running he was did quite a good job. And you know, and the rest of them aren't, like particularly talented. So now he's done though, so I don't know what happened. But that's I mean, housing is the most like, you know, employment I mean, my my when my so when I don't know if I mentioned this last time we were but my daughter had the leaving do when they're all the kids the leaving assembly at primary school age 11. And they will talk about, like, what they're going to do when they're older, like how they see themselves in 10 years time. And they all said about one they said I want in I'm going to be my own flat. And like just thinking like none of you I do want to say none of you are going to be realistic about this. It's like never gonna have you ever known flats when you're 40, let alone when you're 21. And that's like a dream that that's kind of completely disappeared. And compared to like my parents day when my mum came to London in the 60s and she from Ireland, and she you know, she really like a secretary and she lived in Hampstead, which was like impossibly at market. I mean, it was impossible. When I was growing up, right for a secretary. You know that it's like where the Monty Python class or live it's like really expensive. But again, but more generally, if you went into sort of London in the 60s when it was like swinging that it was incredibly filled with young people because that young people would live there and and the even the statistics on the number of young people who lived within zones 123 was a starting place now now it's just really old. So I feel like it's now as my concerns are like less about me and more about my children and you know, what kind of world they're gonna live in? I didn't feel sorry for them, they're gonna miss out on this, like normal, normal young person's experience should be

Lars Doucet 11:42

do you think any of those young people are going to be driven out of Britain entirely? I don't know. I thought I mean, what do you think they're going to do?

Ed West 11:48

I mean, most of the options is so vast that most of them sitting there remain the remain campaign often said about Yeah, our chance to go live in Europe. I mean, most British people go and living in English speaking countries, because it's being English. In Australia and Canada rather have understates basically, and New Zealand those for basically the volt. I mean, Australia, Australia is quite strict about immigration. And I think I mean, I think the current housing situation is kind of a problem amongst all the English speaking world Ireland's got a I mean, you know, islands got something like absurd the other day, there's like something like 80 available flats to rent left in our country. I mean, like, there was a queues of the show pictures of queues of people queuing up for this one bedroom flat or something. I think it's maybe something just do the kind of governance and culture which is maybe, maybe it's, I mean, like the English speaking world has this has this very strong tradition now of like, homeowners having rights, which prevents other homeowners and building and I think maybe that might be part of the problem? I mean, France? Maybe France has its troubles, but they don't really have nimbyism in the same way just because their whole thing is like, okay, you don't you don't want like this, you know, railway being put through your back garden. But you know, tough was, like, Paris says, though, and, you know, I'm the heir to the 14th I can do whatever I like, you know, maybe there is something about Yeah, just kind of the Anglo phone culture of freedom, which makes out and it's basically is described as a Gordian knot, it can't be can't be broken, because there's just no democratic mandate for breaking it. And older people, I mean, older people that you know, it's attractive, common, so all the people, they mostly want grandchildren. So they want their own grandchildren, you know, they want their children to be able to have children, but it doesn't make any sense for them just to allow their own area to be developed. So I mean, it's, yeah, it's, I mean, as for like, other things, I mean, I didn't know the power station thing is depressing. There was a video game around Nick Clegg, who was I mean, there's no reason you'd heard him in the States. He's a complete, like, nonentity. Really, I think he works on Facebook, the, and he was deputy prime minister of Britain. And there's a video of him going around 2010 saying, well, there's no point building power stations, because, you know, let him get anything since until 2022. Now, thanks for that. I mean, there's, you know, like an aversion to building infrastructure, which is a problem here, which I think is kind of related to, we've just, I think, when our major power stations just been shut down, because of, and we've, you know, basically failed to build any new ones. And now that, you know, we've been dependent on you know, unfortunately, most of the natural resources of the world are controlled by quite bad regimes. And now one of them is kind of like our enemy, and there's nothing we can do about it. So yeah, I mean, I think the optimistic thing is maybe like a crisis is sometimes needed, like whether it's like in someone's personal life or whether countries sometimes you need to get to a crisis point before people think actually, this needs to be resolved. And maybe, optimistically and you know, like the power situation like the natural resources now we probably will invent, invest more nuclear energy and in In a renewables because we have to, and now this is a vision of a future where we can't rely on countries like Russia to supply all our needs. I mean, the only good thing is that I mean, if you're Norway now, I mean, laughing Absolutely. Just, I mean, they're already completely loaded as anything. Now, they're going to be the only sort of sort of reasonably reasonable country in Europe, which has all these kind of,

Lars Doucet 15:22

it's funny, because I'm actually Norwegian. I'm a my mom's an immigrant. I'm a citizen. I happen to be born in Texas, I was just up there visiting my family. And it's, it's kind of interesting listening to Norwegians complain right now. And then like, talking to what stuffs a little more expensive than it used to be. But,

Ed West 15:41

but it's only 10 pounds a pint for better? I mean, it's like, incredibly, I want to I want early this year, is that wow. I mean, it really is expensive. But I guess, well, their average income is like $90,000 a year, right? It

Lars Doucet 15:54

is pretty good. You know, it's been interesting, like talking to so many other friends in Europe who are like, I'm not sure I'm gonna make it through the winter. And I'm not trying to slag off my Norwegian friends and family. But like, I think we we have something to be grateful for compared to the entire rest of Europe right now.

Ed West 16:10

But yeah, again, they have also, you know, saved during the good times, you know, they've got this problem. I mean, also there, bless the resources, but lots of countries are blessed the resources and make a complete mess of things. So

Lars Doucet 16:22

what's the like, I'd love to talk to you about that, because you've just got this great political analysis approach to things. So like, I mean, doesn't Scotland and therefore the UK have access to, you know, Norway has access to use North Sea oil resources, but so does the UK I'm not sure if we split it 5050 Or if we got the good end of the stick. But I mean,

Ed West 16:43

I think no, more or definitely hasn't, I mean, Norway's only like four and a half million people in Britain said, Yeah, but

Lars Doucet 16:48

you got access to any of it. And you've had access to a bunch of other stuff, this whole legacy, the British Empire and things, you know. So what we've lost, right, right, right. Well, that's gone now. But um, one thing that I'd like to talk about is, since you mentioned natural resources, so I've spent a lot of time studying the Norwegian natural resource regime, I'd be interested in what you think about it, because the did you know that the Norwegian oil management system was set up by an Iraqi immigrant specifically to avoid the resource curse?

Ed West 17:21

No, I didn't know that. That's very interesting. No,

Lars Doucet 17:24

so there's this guy called True called Kasim. Now, if you ask him, personally, he will probably push back on getting all the credit, because there are other people involved, too. But um, so basically, Norway discovers oil back in the 60s 70s, you know, and they don't know what to do with it, they don't really have an established oil industry. And this Iraqi immigrant is there. He's married to a Norwegian woman, he came back to Norway for his son's health. And he's looking for a job. And they're like, Do you have any ideas what we should do with this oil, but now that you're asking for a job, and he's like, Yes, I do. And he sits down, and he hammers out this plan, where he's like, the problem you're going to have is you're going to have the resource curse, you're going to let the Americans come in and do whatever they want. And they're going to take all the resource wealth out of your country, because by the very act of regulating access to this resource, you're going to create and the fact that it's a naturally scarce resource, you're going to create monopolies. And they're not going to be not only are they going to charge whatever they like, they're also going to monopolize access to that resource, they're not necessarily going to be incentivized to develop it to the full extent. And so what I propose to avoid the resource curse I saw in Iraq, with a, you know, is not to go full socialists nationalization, and not to go full privatization. But you do. What I would classify as a Georgist approach to natural resources through caucus, he never uses this word, but he basically reinvented the approach, which is you have a huge severance tax on oil that comes out of the pipe. But you have a huge subsidy on the exploration and discovery of the resource, right? It's kind of like, because the approach is basically like, if you're gonna sit on an oil, well, you're incentivized to basically be lazy, and to basically just capture resource nodes to keep them out of the hands of your competitors. But if we so we should put a severance tax on that, because it's the people's resource that you're, you're essentially renting. But if we do that at 100%, and just like cut it at that there's this argument that it's like, well, it's really capital expensive to go get that resource. So what we should do is we should subsidize discovery. And the argument is that well, it seems to have worked really well because even my like hyper conservative, like American oil friends are like, yeah, the Norwegians are really good at this. You know, the technology and their investment is like is like really advanced. So it seems to be a good way to manage natural resources and what was really interesting means that apparently the hydro power industry is managed in the same way. And that was set up 50 years earlier. And that was actually set up specifically by Norwegian Georgia's. It's in the early 1910s or so. What the Norwegians are kind of complaining about now is basically the distribution of that resource wealth that supposedly belongs to the people. They're like, okay, shouldn't we be spending down some of this sovereign wealth fund? You know, if we're the owners of this resource, you know, some of them are complaining that we're selling it to Europe, you know, and then others are, you know, this is where there's debates about how do we distribute the wealth that belongs to the people. But in my opinion, it seems like that that's a smart way to run a resource regime seems smarter than the way we're doing it in America. But, you know, you're the big political economy brain, what do you what do you think of?

Ed West 20:48

I don't know enough, that resulted really, I mean, I'm, I mean, I suppose I'm more interested in the culture. I mean, like, presumably, that that could just never ever worked in Iraq, for example, it wouldn't be possible. The culture is different. I mean, Norway has been the United States, like one kingdom since about 900. Ad. You know, it's been well, we've

Lars Doucet 21:05

been we've been a Danish or Swedish protectorate for most of that time.

Ed West 21:10

Yeah, but Norwegian identity has always been while I'm in Vegas, I mean, obviously. So I think the oldest states in Europe already then marketing limit Norway's around the same time? Yeah, you're right. It's but it's always had a distinct identity when it's ruled by the two other countries. I mean, I couldn't ever see a situation where Norway or Denmark or Sweden, yes, oil, when they're sort of like warring clans fighting over? It's just a sort of. I mean, I don't even for the British. I don't know enough. I'm not as much I know, he's been basically stopped, I think, because it was like the hardest oil to get. And now only that's not really making much sense. Although I would say it's probably easier for like a smaller, much more cohesive country like Norway, or, you know, or similar Scandinavian country to manage this better. Yeah.

Lars Doucet 21:54

Also also helps if you have a really smart guy come in, right. The minute you discover the resource before you've established a

Ed West 22:00

lot of that stuff is just like serendipity right there. Right? Just the right man in the right place. I mean, it could be it could have been a complete, they could have had like a Charles Ponzi tying up. And but I mean, I think even if that happens, I think eventually, they probably would have would have stumbled on, on the right way of doing things. I don't know, it just seems, I don't know, all those Scandinavian countries, when I if I go to they will seem a bit like from an ad fraud point of view. This is like a really not a paradise. But, you know, like these, they're very, like trusting places. And when you when you come back to England, it's

Lars Doucet 22:34

not so they are they are very cohesive. They are a very high trust society. But I think at the same time, like I mean, we used to be bloodthirsty Vikings, so I don't think it's in our blood. Exactly. But on the other hand, you know, I do think there is something to be said, for having a smaller unit of government. You know, Norway is famously not in the EU, we are in the European economic system and are subject to a lot of the same treaties. One on ending debate in Norway is that basically, we, we have all the obligations of the EU, but none other representation. But um, but

Ed West 23:04

I think that Britain is gonna get eventually as well. I mean, that seems to be the most likely thing, which no one's really sure why, but just, what a reason. Yeah, yeah. But isn't that I mean, I mean, surely all the most bloodthirsty Scandinavian Vikings went to like Yorkshire and that's why so chilled out and England, I actually reached out the most like, yeah, and Texas. I mean, isn't there actually a theory that amongst Scandinavian migration to America, this is like a semi serious theory, there has been some sort of like, selection effect? Yeah. Well, I mean, there's this whole there's this, Minneapolis and whatever, what what

Lars Doucet 23:40

really happened was, it was most of the poor people who were forced out, it was your second and your third sons, who didn't inherit land, who mostly were forced out to Minnesota, like, I mean, I look at my own ancestry. And I look at my mom's family, and it's like, oh, we own the farm. You know, that's probably why we got to stick around so long in the old country. And the other thing is that Norway, Norway, Norway has consistently been one of the poor of the three Scandinavian states. One of the big things that kind of saved us was potatoes, of all things. A good 150 years ago, this group of people called the potato priests, Norwegian priests, who just like got really of angelical about potato cultivation. I mean, because like, there's almost no arable land in Norway, and that's why we had to steal yours for so long. You know,

Ed West 24:31

it's you're not surprised to get in potatoes. I mean, like, you know, from an Irish perspective, obviously, they have incredible, you know, they can make the population grow fantastically, but obviously, like risky if you have one family. And you're gonna put all your potatoes in one basket, presumably. Yeah, there is a problem. Yeah. I mean, I don't know where in Norway and Sweden were quite poor until relatively recently, what they were trying was fine, straight. Like, I mean, like 1900. I mean, I suppose probably, by the late 19th century, there's quite I'd big civic life though.

Lars Doucet 25:02

Well, I think there was also like, there are some historic land reform around the turn of the century that I think had a lot to do with it because what's really funny is if you read Norwegian folk tales, you can kind of get like the picture of it from like 1800s and region folktales that they kind of end like this. And I'm mixing two of them together here, but this is not really all that exaggerated. And then the young ash lad killed the evil landowning troll cut off his head went home with all his gold and silver and using it paid off most of his debts.

Ed West 25:35

That seems that seems left coded to me.

Lars Doucet 25:39

But it's like it's like literally like that, like someone's like you're expecting like lived happily ever after. And like the punchline is paid off most of his debts. And then like these evil trolls are often like, specifically landowners, like over and over again, which is like really weird from a modern perspective, but kind of telling from like, what the peasants were, like writing stories to each other about.

Ed West 25:57

Yeah, it must be a tough life I went to I went to Denmark as well this year, the Balkan, very nice, very, it's just a kind of home the home the whole model was basically compromise and reasonable. And I think it room where they took things out is called about the compromiser industry. And there's all signs and it's all about, that's just, you know, let's just make a reasonable kind of like model, it's everything is just avoid unnecessarily Stupid, stupid conflict. And

Lars Doucet 26:26

I think I think it helps when you have just less people, you know what I mean? And, um, we do, we do have our conflicts and I do think like, I as a Norwegian and a Texan. I think it's hilarious when my like, Lefty American friends like really fetishize Norway, because there's a lot of things that get wrong about it. Like, I mean, my just be that all my family is from kind of a more rural area of Norway. But like, a lot of my Norwegian family is a lot more right wing than I think any of my lefty American friends, like, have an understanding is even possible in Norway. You know,

Ed West 27:00

that's the general rule, though, isn't it? I mean, Europe is much more right wing in America in actually most Yeah. You know, like, Holland has its bible belt. And I mean, France is very, pretty, quite xenophobic, basically, you know, quite a low trust society. I mean, Americans are much more evangelically progressive. I mean, not on economics, but you know, on social issues. So we Norway's still quite religious, isn't it compared from

Lars Doucet 27:22

a well, it's weird. It's like it was a theocracy on paper until quite recently, you know, with the well, yeah, I mean, still, literally, you know, we got the Queen, who's the head of the Church of England, like, I mean, we disestablished the church kind of like a couple years ago. But like, so Norway is really interesting. And I think it's a really good example of the difference between the American and the European approach to religion. So like, there's the state Lutheran Church, and, but what's funny about it is like most of the country are functionally atheist, right? Or agnostic, or, you know, into horoscopes and whatnot. Yeah, but you've got this really big state church that was like an organ of the government until, like, five seconds ago, you know, we're like, there was like a cabinet minister, who's like the Minister of school and church, you know, that's the same department for some reason. Not anymore. But. And then in America, at the same time, you've got actually like, with that perspective, coming from Norway, like American separation of church and state is actually pretty separated. But what's not so separated over here is church and culture. And that's what people who really are upset about like religious culture actually want. And so in Europe, you don't I mean, in Norway, especially like until, like, even now, I would say you still don't have good separation of church and state, like people didn't even use to have separate birth certificates used to just have a baptismal record. And if you're a Jew, I guess things just were awkward. You know? And, you know, and so like, in America, you have this good separation of church and state, but like, the religious culture is just like, permeates in the religious places. And there's no escaping that was in Norway. It's like, here's the official religion, and everyone is kind of assumed to belong to it, but nobody believes it. You know, it's weird. Yeah.

Ed West 29:05

I don't see factors might be like tangentially linked, there surely isn't. I mean, the fact that state religion probably does actually decrease I

Lars Doucet 29:11

don't think they're tangentially linked. I think it's extremely causal and strong.

Ed West 29:15

I mean, America is just a place of competitive religious sects. And that makes those religious sects stronger in more than one in England. It's just it's, you know, Church of England is a state run bureaucracy and like a lot of state run bureaucracies, is incredibly sluggish and slow and actually destroys the thing. The only place in England strangely, where you have that kind of American style separation is, if you go to secular weddings, you can't they go, like, you know, they say what priming and they go through it, but and I've been at these or they say, and I read it, I read a poem by Elizabeth round and say on a minute, what does it say? Oh, yeah, the second verse, it says angels so you can't say that you can't mention like, you can't and the Pomocy you can't mentioned heaven, like literally any words, even remotely related to religion won't read that poem. They say there's a state this is a state thing. That's the only place where you have to kind of, you know that kind of I mean, otherwise I think it's just I think it's just kind of like awkwardness is, I went to I actually went to a lovely stave church in Norway's gorgeous out. It was a classic scanning story because it was, it was been burned down by like this guy who like

Speaker 4 30:17

recorded on something. Yeah,

Ed West 30:22

that whole thing No way. I mean it's really bad music I mean it's what has been the murderer

Lars Doucet 30:26

and Nazi and maybe was either what were the Nazis

Ed West 30:30

though it's kind of like yeah kind of Viking

Lars Doucet 30:35

murder someone and I can't remember if he's the one who Yeah, Varga he's real bad. And then he also I can't remember if he's the one who was also a cannibal or if that was someone else anyway, it's problem.

Ed West 30:46

I think there's a whole like, slew of them for a while I remember that it was a kind of it was a very 90s moral panic. And since then we don't really get it seems, but they rebuild the church exactly how it was. It's absolutely gorgeous. You know, there's no, there's no even like nails or anything. It's all everything's just fits into pieces. At the end,

Lars Doucet 31:05

it's kind of it's kind of it's kind of anticipating Lego, you know,

Ed West 31:08

but it's I mean, yeah. I mean, maybe maybe that is maybe it

Lars Doucet 31:13

was so cool. But the stave churches is that one of the reasons you have these ancient wooden churches that have persisted so long until some black metal asshole brings it down? is I think the argument is that Norway so far north, you don't have the problem with bugs that you have in other climates. And so you're able to have a Yeah, so you're able to have like, wood things that just like last way longer, but we'll see if, you know, with climate change that that holds up.

Ed West 31:40

Yeah, I don't know, I didn't ever thought about that. I just assumed because I didn't have

Lars Doucet 31:45

like, we're just better carpenters and everyone else, that's just the secret.

Ed West 31:52

That's how you built the wrong boats that were able to, you know, cross the North Sea and attacking. And yeah, you get a

Lars Doucet 31:57

cop and the weird thing. And I would like your thought on this, the weird thing in Norway that my wife detected immediately she's American, is she's like, your friends and like your cousins will introduce themselves. They're like, I'm a carpenter. And there's like, not a hint of shame in their voice. Right? Whereas like, even in America, someone who wasn't ashamed of being a carpenter, it's like, there'll be a little bit of like, I'm a lower class than you. Right. And that was like, the really crazy thing that she noticed when she was visiting was just like, how blue collar? I mean, I have like friends who are like, manual laborers who are doing better than I am. Because they're in Norway and Norwegian, you know, and I think that's one of the biggest contrast between Norwegian culture and Americans but

Ed West 32:38

that's a Scandinavian thing, isn't it? I think I mean, surely competence is all right. I mean, that's that's pretty prestigious. Good enough for JC Yeah, I found I found that when I went to a Swedish wedding, it was kind of like you meet people and say, Yeah, I drive a tram or I yeah, that kind of jobs, which I guess it's because in Scandinavia, they're probably paid quite well. Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of the time, the prestige is debate over here about sort of like getting, you know, like, dishes, how do we get like carers and people like that to be more prestigious as a job so that we would want to do it? And I think a lot of it just follows the money we have something's paid well, and it's status normally, I think, because, you know, if I collected everyone's rubbish, and I was paid 200 grand, I would be high status. I don't care. I mean, how much I've gotten.

Lars Doucet 33:25

I mean, your, your history with the Elizabethan era proves that right? Like actors used to be low class, and now they're superstars because we just pay him a lot, right?

Ed West 33:33

Yeah, that's the lowest of the low there was sort of levels of this, you know, there's consider the same as prostitutes, basically. And and I think there were bands in France from being involved in any politics because they were just considered sort of just deviant subversives. I mean, I gotta admit, I think that's the proceeds that are pretty sensible. I did. Like when's the last time an actor opened their mouth? And you thought that was an interesting? Well?

Lars Doucet 34:01

Yeah, well, that's hilarious. Yeah. So so so so so anti celebrities and politics is your take? I take it.

Ed West 34:10

Yeah. I except the occasional one in 100. Who agrees with me? Yeah, exactly.

Will Jarvis 34:15

It speaks speaking about that about politics. What is going on to the UK? Why have the Tories been in power for so long? Is labour just completely incompetent? What's going on there?

Ed West 34:26

Well, we had that was just a weird, like combination of unlikely events. Really, that stopped late, what's the labor law since 2010, but they've been around for ages. So the Tories had a coalition with the Lib Dems who I don't even know how to describe the Lib Dems because they're not really anything that kind of center left, but they're kind of kooky center, left and many then what happened was that there was a kind of series of events that there was actually a by election that started because there'd been a fight in the bar of the House of Commons where like a very drunk Scottish MP punk Come on. This is how it also acids and delta, because there was a byelection involved in that by elections when like an MPS to be recalled, and a new MP voted in between elections, that head of the Labour Party Geigle Ed Miliband, who was a bit of a like a dweeby. Kind of like the guy who was good at you know, like ran the company. He was top of the computer club at school very, like very nerdy kind of laughter a little bit heart in the right place. But he changed the the membership rules as a result of that violation. Remember how and so it basically you know, from being like 30 pounds a year to join, the Labour Party went down to three pounds a year, he wanted to encourage like a wider selection of people to join the Labour Party, what it actually meant was massive like entry ism to the Labour Party from like, the radical left. And so they ended up the new and then all the all the constituent the MPs had their vote in them. So what they do is, the MPs in Parliament will vote to have a selection of of candidates for leadership to be sent to the members. And then so they had lots of MPs said, Well, you know, we want to give the the members like, a wide selection of parties. So as well as the three like mainstream candidates will, will vote for a fourth one who's like the most extreme left wing MP, we have Jeremy Corbyn, who have been like a kind of cranky left wing flight for years and always voted against his own party. Like, I didn't I mean, there's no one really comparable in American politics, like he's committed, he's not Bernie Sanders, because he's much he's much more leftist and Bernie Sanders. And anyway, so went to the party and by the standard policy is completely taken over by like really like radical teachers from London and like, Corbin wins an overwhelming majority. And then in today's point, that kind of long story is Corbin takes over the labour go way to the left, lose a lot this book, but the complicated thing is now the Tories have to they have to announce the referendum result result, they have to announce a referendum because of their own challenge from their own right wing party to them. So they have to have this referendum. And normally, like most of Tory MPs are pro remain and all of labour and liberal Democrats are proven except a hardcore of leftist Labour Party members who are also the anti EU but for like leftist reasons, because they want nationalization, they use upset. So Jeremy Corbyn, who's basically a secret Brexit here. So he's a prominent guy in the red. So that causes a referendum to be lost by Romaine because he's basically working. I mean, I'm almost certain he voted leave. And his Chancellor, John McDonnell, who's to turn up at these May Day parade next to these like banners of Stalin and Mao, I mean, like the National Health, he was gonna be in charge the British economy, it was like, it was comical. So they so they basically the referendum was basically lost because of that. And that and the Tories. Most of the Tories basically wants to have this referendum because they wanted to sort of like get the issue done, but didn't actually want to leave the EU. And now they found that they had to leave the EU. And a lot of the Tory leadership basically left the party or left the cabinet, because they didn't want to be part of it. So what you had left was it was a very reduced or reduced kind of thing. So long story short, so you know, three years later, there's kind of basically nothing gets done. But they can't do Brexit, there's no one gonna vote on the right Brexit and eventually, MP like the another be another prime minister, we've had David Cameron, he had to leave because he lost Brexit, Theresa May, she had to leave because she couldn't get the Brexit done. And so there's I'm Boris Johnson turns up, he had been very popular with the sort of party very charismatic guy, but the problem is, he's a journalist, and he's really like, messy, like, his whole personal life is no one actually knows how many children he's got as the funny thing. I mean, literally, he's either it'd be 20 I don't know, even though he knows he's got he's had three marriages, at least two illegitimate children, which have sort of been covered up he was he's he's like a compulsive womanizer, which was kind of like he was a mayor of London's it's tolerated. It's all kind of fun, because he's quite a very liberal conservative and a kind of good time guy, and, you know, just wants to be jolly. And he's always quoting the classics, and everyone found this amusing. And he was and you know, even though he was in charge of Brexit, and that made him very unpopular with a lot of his son of former sympathizers who felt he'd become sort of nationalistic, he wasn't really wasn't nothing like Trump. He was like, quite just the fun guy. And he said, Well, you know, and then finally, he came to in 2019, won a resounding general election victories of Brexit is basically sorted, we'll get ill. And he pointed, he wants to be the kind of like jolly leader, so why now? Everything's gonna be brilliant. And so, you know, January the first 2020, he does his tweet saying thumbs up, then this is going to be a fantastic year for Britain and you know, like, nothing can go wrong. And then like, four months later, he's in intensive care, almost dying of COVID. And, you know, the whole economy has been completely ripped to pieces by the disease, which is just Come out. I mean, but the funniest thing is that he kind of reigned in complete chaos. So the funniest story is he had to write this Shakespeare biography, because he had to pay off his second divorce. Because during his life while married to the second wife, he had started, like an affair with a younger woman who worked in government, who's now married to. And by the time he he's like, the perfect symbol of like our generation, because in a sense, when he came to Stanford, she was literally homeless, he'd been kicked out his wife, he was living the living with his girlfriend at her place, and Campbell he'd ever stand up blazing round with her, which became a story what they think like, it's the neighbors that reported that screaming and you know, there's been wind thrown it just like this guy is so chaotic. He is really, you know, it's very slapdash. So while all these like the the cobra, who are the British Security Council, they deal with imminent threats. And so January 2020, is saying, like, there's this kind of disease in China, we're gonna, we're gonna have these meetings, like we're gonna have a meeting again, like, and it was fine, fine, just so you know, I've got to finish the bloody biography. So he failed to apparently turn up to five of these meetings. You know, and I think we should you know, you should take this seriously, sir. This is like looking quite serious. nothing done. So then he just kind of hesitated. hesitate, said today said, you know, I think the the history of the COVID response will be debated forever. But I mean, I think he was very slow. And by the time we locked down, we had to lock down a long time because it was already kind of riddled to thing and he was going around, hugging everyone. And then he gets himself. And he's like, quite an overweight guy. So he almost dies, which a lot of people deny, you know, this big conspiracy theory never had COVID Because a lot of people have just been driven mental where politics and think it's all fake. So he survives comes out again, by which time I think he's he's impregnated his wife yet again. Now, that number seven or eight chart showed in more than one sense. But then he was brought down by this like, incredibly stupid scandal, because while they were all you know, everyone has been ordered to lock down and not means anyone. They're all sort of having like regular policies at Downing Street. And this eventually came out a year later. I mean, I think it was kind of the stupidest. It was like the least probably bad thing he didn't did. It was kind of in the Al Capone getting done for tax because it's just stupid reason. I mean, some of these parties wouldn't, they weren't, they were like drinks in the office. But suddenly, she's something bring like a beer. So one of his colleagues was classified as a party. And so everyone got scanned. And I think there's a real sense of, I mean, I'm sure the same mistakes that people there's a kind of very puritanical thing of like, I've got to stop other people, having parties or having fun even situation where it wasn't particularly risky, because people, I guess, naturally attach that moral weight to like a virus I like if you're having a good time, if you're doing something that's a bit seedy, or squalid, or even just fun, and I'm not involved, like, the disease is more likely to spread then than otherwise. And that was, you know, that that scandal just kind of rolled on and on and on until, until basically all the policy deserved. And I mean, the I mean, I think that the choice with things I think the lowest point was so he's it's a kind of classic story. And like Henry the eighth is the obvious parallel, Henry has left his older sensible wife or a younger woman he was attracted to, and it's kind of basically led to Chaos within the regime and, and this younger wife was opposed by his chief minister was Cromwell and the case only eight and as Dominic Cummings, who has since resigning has become a very strong critic of Boris and the entire sort of British government and how the establishment he despises carry, obviously, to his Boris, his wife

been this kind of thing, he's under the influence of the younger wife. And one of the lowest points was during the evacuation of Afghanistan, Boris personally ordered for the British Army and the RAF to evacuate this bunch of dogs, which was, and that was point, he left like this for like the Afghans there, and they evacuated all these dogs because Carrie was like friends or like sympathetic to this, this animal charity, which was like saving on the street. And it was just all these footage of like, these dogs being just like unit risking the lives of like servicemen. It was this thing, it's like a real, that typically British sentimentality about everything I use, I must say that Palmerston, like Churchill, like turning in their graves think that our country has come right, to Kabul dog Airlift. And to me that was the lowest point of everything. And so I think there is just general like dysfunction in the government wish like nothing on some levels that ideological and that they can't kind of get conservative ideas implemented against that resistance from you know, like, obviously, that the the most departments tend to be because the university educated dominates tend to be like more left wing, and there's a lot of resistance in civil service, but a lot of it is just kind of basically functional, you know, then they're just not very effective at running a lot of things with the exception of Michael Gove. I mean, Dominic Cummings, who was Like, he writes, he writes these like 9000 word blog posts and was always quoting for the entire Prussian generals and stuff. He does famous quotes about British government that and how nothing works. And he, he said, you know, everyone thinks that if they go deep inside the government, there'll be like a place like a door where behind there is like loads of ninjas and like this lack of lack of bonding, and everything actually works. And he said, well, there are no ninjas. There is no door and matching. That's just like the best quote, I always see it repeated by people, that actually there isn't there aren't really clever people deep down running the country. It's all just kind of incompetence all the way down. So yeah, so now this dress has taken over. And you know, it's just happened to kind of, you know, take over just as this kind of massive crisis. I mean, the one thing Boris had, I think, has been very good on as Ukraine. So I mean, I mean, I don't, you know, I don't what historians will say about our future, but he that the policy very, very early on, he was he was very supportive, as it was kind of clear that Russia was about to attack. You know, I think, you know, I generally think he should be made ambassadors. Yeah, I think you'd be amazing. He'd love it there and they'd love him there. He's like, genuinely loved and you know, it's a country full of very attractive blonde women he'll, I'm sure he's in absolute love it. But yeah, I guess that mean that his legacy is basically that's going to be the country where he's, he's loved, just like, you know, Tony Blair's loved in Kosovo. But kind of like, hated it. Yeah.

Lars Doucet 46:32

We covered a lot of territory today. You know, one thing to tie two threads together is it's funny that you kind of like mentioned, like, Norway is doing great, you know, what's not doing great is if you want to afford a house in Oslo, because no one can afford it. And it's just like, going, it's not getting better anytime soon, either. You know, so everything else seems to be going okay. But like, just man, like I see the like the prices, people are paying for rent.

Ed West 46:58

Can they not feel that off at all? I mean, that seems I mean, I know that's it's harder said easier said than done. Yeah. There's a big well,

Lars Doucet 47:05

like Norway has, like, is more constrained geographically than Sweden. Sweden's. And that is, I mean, fuels, isn't it? Right. And mountains right. Now, the but it's also I mean, it's nimbyism. It's, you know, people, you know, it's all the land policy stuff. Right. You know, I mean, I've dropped the word Giorgio isms, you know, where I come from, you know, which is something I'm trying to kind of push back in Norway. But, you know,

Ed West 47:32

in Northern Ireland, the Danes are building an island in Copenhagen.

Lars Doucet 47:36

Are they just to get around? Yeah, I mean, I mean, going and going going full Dutch, you know, seems seems like not a bad approach. You know, but I think I think, you know, what, what do you think of gimpy ism, and Georgia ism and all these other like things to kind of like make Land Policy and housing kind of the center of our politics. I don't remember housing being something anyone ever used to talk about? And it seems like every real thing anyone ever talks about now?

Ed West 48:00

It's a I mean, it's, it used to be a sort of dinner party thing. I remember people, I mean, like people a bit older me talk about, you know, house prices and stuff. And that just sort of stopped. I see that one day, no one ever talks. It's, like, depressing, like, why we thought about it, it's just like, we're never gonna write. It just became be unaffordable. I mean, I'm sympathetic to the NBS. I mean, like, I'm like, a much more. I'm like, a bright yimby It's such a thing. Yeah. My UMB friends who are you know, are very real, like very pro. Pretty much freedom of movement between like loads of open borders. I think in Britain, we got like a million people come in, you have to, you know, I think there's only so much you can do if you have that much immigration, because your land prices are still gonna go up. I mean, it seems to me the demand supply issue. I mean, I do think the style of architecture is big difference, although, I mean, that's not going to stop. I mean, I think nimbyism is just everyone's default, right, everyone's going to be NIMBY. And whether there's like a like a concrete monstrosity next door to you, or like a beautiful Moorish Palace, whatever you're gonna, most people will oppose it. But I think people do have are given, like greater moral support by the fact that they know that. Like, in my experience, whenever there's been new buildings, and new builds in my area, they've always been hideous, and like, the more hideous the more likely they're gonna win an architect architecture award. I mean, that's just like, if I were universal,

Lars Doucet 49:21

I went to architecture school. I know exactly what you're talking about. Like, there's no I

Ed West 49:25

met someone from I was at dinner party with someone who's a very nice woman from Canada. She's an architect and I made the joke about like, you know, like an architecture would be like a negative thing, though. And another friend, you know, just said like, then, you know, then you realize like, everything's right. I mean, it goes that saying if something if somebody wins an architecture award like that's, that's nightmarish Yeah. I don't know. The Germans have like quite a good idea and that's so it's like a local so in a lot of small towns and this is like the same everywhere. There are like small towns which are very desirable whether the local, like wage isn't very high like one malls A classic example Foreman's wearing a nice land of misty mountains, pinging off and all that. But corner was actually very poor. It's the poorest county in England. And so lots of people come from London and buy a property and boom, I know. And obviously, if you're local was like, I can't afford anything, I can't afford a home. But the Germans have a system where like a certain amount of money, they have new builds built every year, that's from a city but like a certain percentage can only be bought by local people. I don't know how you measure that. It's like whether you're born there or like live 15 years, but that'd be some local attachment. And that way you say to people, well, okay, we're building the houses, which you might not like, but like, only, you know, your children have a prime chance to buy these. And as the way I see, I mean, it's only fair, London salaries are much bigger, it's only fair that London has to pay more than the local people. And also, I mean, the main like policy, the most important thing and policy wise, is that the things get built, right. I mean, right. However, you both kind of secondary. I mean, I'm kind of less I mean, I you know, social housing is another issue, but we Britain already has a very high level social housing compared to the rest of the rest of I think we like by far the the highest in the Western world. But no, I find that frustrating thing is the kind of the constant grumbles like, oh, we must stop these these flats from being built because they're not affordable. It's like yeah, but just because you block of flats, every single building, it's affordable. It's like basic, like supply and demand. No one seems to Yeah, it's like very few MPs who will say, you know, all their constituents want to like you want to stop this new building. And some of them have been like ridiculous is one in London receipt. And they they stopped these buildings in central London. No, is a barn in the outskirts again, because there was a gasworks. There's like this is literally gas. Right? It's not, it's not the seventh one as well. I think we can you can live with the gasworks been

Lars Doucet 51:52

adapted. Yeah. It's the historic parking lot kind of issue, right?

Ed West 51:56

I mean, there isn't there are quite a serious link thing. parking spaces and fertility, like parking is literally destroying Western civilization for sure. More parking spaces. You have fewer children. Yeah. And that's why we all die out because of just so people can drive to the shops. Right? Yeah. It's frustrating. Yeah.

Will Jarvis 52:16

Very frustrating. Well, Op. Ed, we've got to let you go. Now. Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on. Really appreciate it. Learn to time. Thanks again. Where can people find you? Where should we send them?

Ed West 52:30

Go to the sub stat just type in wrong side of history at West sub stat that should get you I don't actually know the exact jest but that will get you there. But yeah, definitely go to my sub stack and subscribe for free just to start with and then you can pay later.

Will Jarvis 52:43

Yeah, or just pay up prime. Pay for a year just to Yeah, put on that credit card. Awesome. Well, thanks, Ed.

Ed West 52:50

All right. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Take care.

William Jarvis 52:56

Special thanks to our sponsor, does market analysis for the support. Bismarck analysis creates the Bismarck brief, a newsletter about intelligence great analysis of key industries, organizations and live players. You can subscribe to Bismarck free at brief dot Bismarck analysis.com. Thanks for listening. We'll be back next week with a new episode of narratives. Special thanks to Donovan Dorrance, our audio editor. You can check out documents work in music at Donovan dorrance.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai