Of Coronavirus and Chartism 343

I am cheerfully optimistic that this Coronavirus, like asian swine flu and SARS before it, will prove not to be as deadly as may be prognosticated by journalists wanting to fill column inches. One day the human race will become extinct; but it is unlikely to be a virus that does it, as wiping out your host is not a clever survival policy for a virus. Even a disease as vicious as ebola proved not to be so potent against subjects who were not malnourished nor struggling with other health issues. So far this coronavirus seems to have a mortality rate of about 3%, which is probably an over high estimate as it is only a percentage of those who died after testing, whereas it appears there are large numbers with milder symptoms who are unlikely to have been tested in the first place. So coronavirus is not looking vastly different to ordinary influenza, which has a mortality rate of about 1%.

When you or I get flu we don’t normally panic as though we have a 1% chance of dying from it. That is again because we are well nourished, live in good conditions and have not been much weakened by other disease. Like this coronavirus, influenza generally carries off the old and frail. Whether the infamous Spanish flu after the First World War that killed so many was a particularly potent strain is open to doubt. A more powerful factor is probably that the population it wracked was suffering greatly from malnourishment, stress and disease already as a result of the war. But unlike this coronavirus, that one did attack children badly.

Which is not to say the current coronavirus might not yet mutate into something much more lethal, but as yet there is no sign of that happening.

I was educated both at school and university very much in the liberal tradition of history. At both levels, the curriculum featured a view of historic political development very much as “progress”. The “years of revolution”, 1830 and 1848, were landmarks in this, where liberal and national movements made some progress against monarchist autocracy across the whole of Europe. These political waves of convulsion on a continent wide basis undoubtedly happened, and in the UK resulted in the Great Reform Act and the Chartist Movement. They were taught in the Macaulay/Trevelyan historical tradition as very much the product of development in thought, as a product of political philosophy, as though the masses were moved by the elegantly turned phrases of a Benthamite pamphlet.

At university, I did add to this the knowledge that poor harvests had helped precipitate events, and indeed those had featured in my A level lists of “Causes of the French Revolution”. But it was only really a few years ago, when I was researching Sikunder Burnes, that I came to focus properly on the role of epidemiology in these human convulsions. Both the 1830 and 1848 European wave of revolutions coincided with the first and second ever cholera pandemics sweeping across Europe. The reason I came across this while studying Burnes is precisely that it was the opening up of Central Asia to trade in this period, largely through Russian exploration and expansion, that brought the disease into Europe. Burnes was in 1832 in a Bokhara ravaged for years by cholera. Its great canals – which are still there – were only being opened to fresh water once a month, and they served as both water supply and sewer, as Burnes documented in detail.

Without the misery inflicted by cholera, both directly and in economic impact, the desperate urban mobs may not have existed which enabled middle class liberals – and their own auto-didactic leadership – to start the establishment of western European democracy. It seems a very strange thing to suggest that cholera pandemics forwarded social progress. But there you are. I am now proceeding to an audacious discussion as to whether a lack of effective pandemics may retard social progress. Hang on to your hats.

[As a complete aside, I also discovered while researching Alexander Burnes that the great British liberal historical tradition was founded on a truly remarkable incestuous household menage a trois between Macaulay, his sister and Charles Trevelyan, father of the historian George who may well have been Macaulay’s son and nephew, rather than the official version of just nephew, and that Macaulay had also been having sex with his other sister. So much for Victorian respectability. Sikunder Burnes is a difficult book to describe because it presents an extremely detailed and painstaking account of the life of a 19th century British imperial functionary, and then from that framework sprout all kinds of exegeses on my wider intellectual interests. I hope it reads better than that sounds].

I do hope that I am right that coronavirus will prove, like SARS, not a great threat to us. The ability of modern nutrition, living conditions and medicine to ward off serious risk of epidemic and other illness has of course resulted in a very significant increase in human longevity. The relentless increase in longevity has slowed slightly as a result of the post 2008 economic crash, but I expect it to pick up again as it is a centuries old trend. In the UK, much has been written about the economic effects of this. In the UK, the concentration of wealth in the hands of old people who are not dying and passing it down, coincides with economic changes which have made it very difficult for young people to have good secure employment and to accumulate wealth, particularly property.

At the same time, the old people may own wealth but do not much generate it. With the increasingly aged demographic profile boosted by both people living longer and by historic falling birth rates, the percentage of the population in employment is in decline. The Office of National Statistics projects that while in 2007 there were 244 pensioners for every 1000 adults of working age, by 2041 there will be 419 per 1,000. This is a well understood economic problem to which, within the UK, the answer has lain in immigration.

It is not my purpose here to touch on these economic questions. I wish rather to look at the political effects. The UK has become a gerontocracy. The proportion of British adults eligible to vote who were aged over 55 in 2007 was approximately 37%. By 2041, that will be a majority of voters aged over 55. It is quite possible that a majority of those who do cast their vote in the UK are already over 55, as voter turnout is much higher among the elderly. So by 2040 it is perfectly possible that 60% or more of all votes actually cast will be cast by people aged 55 or over.

This is significant because it is a matter of indisputable fact that voting patterns are different between the old and the young. It was, to a truly remarkable degree, only the votes of the over 55s that stopped Scottish Independence, voted for Brexit, and elected Boris Johnson. Now any time I write on this subject I get offended older people saying “well I am old but I am not a Tory”. I know. I am not claiming every old person is a Tory. But Unionism, Brexitism and Toryism all are much more predominant among older voters. And while the issues may differ by 2040, I very much doubt there will cease to be differentials between the views of the old and the young.

The long term effects of western political systems which become increasingly dominated by geriatric voters are very unlikely to include a greater willingness to adopt progressive or innovative political approaches. I do not see how there can fail to be a stultifying effect on social progress. Again, I am 61 myself. Of course there are many radical older people. But there is overwhelming evidence that is not the norm.

Gaia has ways of restoring balance. It seems to me a fascinating speculation that, as the planet’s apex predator, mankind has succeeded in increasing individual longevity by increased nutrition and an ability to stave off pandemics which nature would use to keep down the numbers, and which normally would particularly kill older people. But the result of this may be a profound reduction in the adaptability and flexibility of mankind’s political hive mind as it becomes encrusted with geriatric thought, leading to seriously bad political decisions which ultimately will impact population anyway. Climate change is the most obvious example, but the process could have long term subtle effects in many ways.

Thomas Malthus was pilloried for centuries, but his critique of the dangers of human over-population now chimes with envronmentalist concerns. I have no desire to underestimate the suffering of those unfortunate enough to be affected by coronavirus. I do not actually wish to see elderly Tories and unionists carried off by flu. But I suspect you, like me, may very seldom get to read an article referencing the interrelationship of epidemiology, longevity and political systems. As the avowed purpose of this blog is to make people think, I thought readers and commenters may care to stretch their brains on this one.

Finally, as a restorative affirmation of the fact that older people can have very positive contributions to make to political thought, here is last week’s debate between George Galloway and myself on the subject of Scottish Independence. It has become unusual in British politics to see two people with fundamentally different views on a major political issue, discuss the matter with mutual respect and absolutely no rancour. It is a practice that appears to have deserted most professional politicians, as the last disintegrating days of the UK state become increasingly acrimonious.


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343 thoughts on “Of Coronavirus and Chartism

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  • N_

    Does anyone know of a site with an animated graphic that shows the increase in recorded infections, deaths and recoveries from this coronavirus over time? This excellent site shows real-time data including by location: 2794 reported cases so far, 80 deaths, 54 recoveries. So yes, a mortality rate of 3%, but only 2% confirmed recoveries so far. A day or two ago there were ~2000 reported cases. It would be useful to have an animation showing the location of new cases and how the numbers in each location have changed. The graph on that site is small and rudimentary, although obviously John Hopkins University does have the data they could use in an animation.

    That obnoxious vicar Thomas Malthus, so hate-filled against the physical and moral “dirt” of the lower orders, would have gone “whoop, whoop, whoop” at this virus, and so would Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton, and H G Wells.

    Meanwhile…will Dominic Raab keep his job? I am carefully watching the reporting. I guess the other Dominic has banned him from poncing around media studios, but if the drift is that “he can’t organise an evacuation properly” there’s no way he will stay in office. This isn’t the Mandelson epoch, but public relations isn’t only to punters; it’s also in-house, including inside the top echelon of an organisation. Anybody viewed as “Mr Can’t Manage Stuff in a Crisis” will be out. Those hints about Raab presumably come from Number 10. Besides, the Duke has got to do a bit more top-rank knifing, otherwise it will be him that’s out…and we can’t be having that.

    (I am also fascinated as to what might happen with Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is one of the 10 ministers at the moment who aren’t in the cabinet but attend it. Word is that the Duke of Cummings will abolish that tier, and also that he has contempt for the European Research Group. But what’s the ERG? Aren’t they in the past now? Which doesn’t mean all their members are, and Rees-Mogg must surely have collected some brownie points from the Duke, given that he is a successful fund manager including in “developing markets”. Cummingsologists know how much the Duke is interested in “superforecasting” and seizing the future. So will Rees-Mogg go up or will he go down and out?)

    Back to the virus: the government in Taiwan

    a) has suggested that the spread of SARS was a biological warfare effort by the mainland Chinese government, and

    b) appears to have its own biological warfare capability. Don’t underestimate Taiwan’s military. They have the ability to strike deep into the mainland.

  • David

    I want an independent Scotland. I am often thinking about the UK “partnership” from the two differing POVs re Scotland as a colony or Scotland as a partner nation in the the United Kingdom. If we take leave of the UK as a colony then we maybe have a lesser entitlement to the spoils of the UK than if we dissolve the partnership of nations. Maybe this is a bit tongue in cheek but if we leave the UK with the status of a partner nation then surely we are entitled to a share in the administration of the remnants of the British Empire, e.g. a part share of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands and a part share of the permanent representation on the UN Security Council.

      • Cubby


        People can google the definition of a colony and make up their own minds if Scotland is a colony. I say it is a Westminster/England dictatorship.

        • N_

          You seem very trusting of the US-based global surveillance and advertising company that you mention. Scotland is obviously not in a position that is significantly and relevantly similar to the one the Congo was in.

          Sane people switch off when others go on about Scotland being ruled by an English dictatorship, as they do when they posit a view different from another person’s who, rather than explaining why they think as they do, prefers to offer the advice “Google it”. GTFU

          • cubby


            Check a dictionary then.

            Not all colonies are the same only someone talking crap would suggest that is the case.

            Scotland has 59 MPS in a UK parliament of about 660 MPs. The vast majority of MPs are English = English dictatorship. Scotland gets what England wants. England dictates to Scotland. An English dictatorship e.g. England votes to leave EU Scotland votes to remain. Englands solution to this issue. Shut up Scotland and do what we want.

            English dictatorship.

          • Cubby


            Did you really say Labour were going to win the election. You accuse others of not being sane.
            Now you didn’t say Labour were going to win in Scotland as well did you?😂😂😂 That would be a sign of having totally lost the plot. Not even jumpy man Leonard forecast that.

            One MP in Scotland and he only got elected because he is a Blairite Tory who did his best to change colour from a red Tory to a proper blue Tory

  • Gerard

    I’ve felt for a while now that the voting age should be restricted to the over 24’s and the under 65’s.
    Thus at a stroke removing both the feckless young and the old codger votes.

    For sure you do drift to the right as you get older, mainly because you lose the ability to run very fast, and you have more to carry when you are trying to get away. Also you have more people you care about so you become more cautious in political calculations.

    • Cubby


      Brilliant let’s take the vote away from women as well. What about nasty foreigners. What about the unemployed – brilliant idea. Let’s just make it homeowners or let’s just go for Royals only.

      Let’s just go for only caring intelligent Royals to have the vote – brilliant nobody votes.

      • Gerard

        As long as there over 24 and under 65 (or the retirement age), everyone can vote, even women and foreigners.
        This would help solve the problem that Mr Murray highlighted in his thoughtful piece.
        Cubby you should learn to avoid extrapolating out to extremes.

    • Tom Welsh

      “Also you have more people you care about so you become more cautious in political calculations”.

      And therefore you should not be allowed to vote.

      I felt rather indignant about that suggestion. Until I remembered that there is no UK political party for which I would vote anyway.

    • Cynicus

      “I’ve felt for a while now that the voting age should be restricted to the over 24’s and the under 65’s.”
      I don’t know whether that comment was tongue in cheek.

      In case it isn’t, in the interests of full disclosure would you care to reveal your own age?

  • Sebastian

    “Spanish” flu of 1918 appears to be thought of in some quarters as having had some element of iatrogenic accentuation: 8+ grams of aspirin a day being a recommended regime at the time! References to some seemingly authoritative journals (at least, to the extent of having paywalls) in the following link:-


    The city of Wuhan, previous to the outbreak, was known to me for extreme post apocalyptic images of air pollution. Can’t help but speculate that millions of damaged lungs might have provided a fertile substrate for the current virus outbreak. Have to wait and see if it spreads as well in other areas, with less rigid information flow control. And better air quality.
    This redditt sub seems to have some people on the ground willing to risk impairing their social credit score. Along with seemingly reputable statistical modelling, based on the officially released figures. On the face of it, forty, or is it eighty, deaths in a city of eleven million seems like a slender excuse to quarantine forty, and counting, million people.

    But it’s interesting times we live in, so stay well !

    • Mrs Pau!

      yes I read a book by someone from US who worked there for a couple of years and developed a bad chest condition from the extreme the air pollution.

  • Rob

    On the whole, this is an excellent article, but for the record, the so-called “Spanish Flu” (which was not Spanish in origin) struck healthy young adults the hardest. Older generations were not affected as severely, because they might have experienced similar antigenic strains in past epidemics and thus possessed a certain degree of immunity. For some reason, young children had a less violent inflammatory response to the virus.

    • glenn_pt

      From what I understood of the “Spanish Flu”, it attacked by invoking a strong immune response, in particular causing the lungs to effectively attack its own tissue. This meant that those with the strongest immune systems would find it attacking their own bodies the most heavily.

      They didn’t know this at the time and understand why, but it was noted that smokers were less likely to succumb to the flu. Having had the lungs’ natural immunity and self-protection abilities severely compromised by smoking, there was not so much of an immune system to cause damage when the virus was present. Smoking was therefore permitted in workplaces, and the practice positively encouraged.

      The upshot of all this is that fit and healthy people fared the worst, while those with immature or compromised immunity did far better.

  • nevermind

    Its called extinction rebellion, Martin, and it is spreading faster than this virus.
    The make up of it is yet to be discoveted, but research in genespecific military grade viruses has been going on in labs around the world for some time.

    Maybe this is a time for Porton Down to come clean on their own research, as this virus will dwarf the puny Scripal construct, maybe a few reassuring words as to what such weaponised bioweapons could do would help change their abysmal image in public.

  • N_

    One day the human race will become extinct; but it is unlikely to be a virus that does it, as wiping out your host is not a clever survival policy for a virus.

    The Black Death wiped out a quarter of the human population – and in Europe, half.
    Limited improvements in fighting particular viruses don’t rule out something on that scale happening again.

    If any Chinese people or others who are well-informed about Chinese culture are reading this, I’d be interested to hear what significance is being read, if any, into the epidemic happening at this particular time – both in the yearly cycle (start of the year) and the sexagenary one. We’re 60 years from the horrendous Chinese famine of 1959-61, right? That surely can’t have escaped widespread notice.

  • Mary

    Not a single coronavirus but several strains.

    There are seven strains of human coronaviruses:

    1. Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)
    2. Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)
    3. SARS-CoV
    4. Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63, New Haven coronavirus)
    5. Human coronavirus HKU1
    6. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), previously known as novel coronavirus 2012 and HCoV-EMC.
    7. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV),] also known as Wuhan pneumonia or Wuhan coronavirus. (‘Novel’ in this case means newly discovered, or newly originated, and is a placeholder name.)

    The coronaviruses HCoV-229E, -NL63, -OC43, and -HKU1 continually circulate in the human population and cause respiratory infections in adults and children world-wide.


  • Gavin C Barrie

    i’m sorry, but I couldn’t shake off Galloway’s pompous introduction…”we have GIVEN Craig the opportunity…”.It distracted me, lost interest.

    “Keep your eye on the ball”, that is the principle to win the game. The “ball” being independence; S30 – is jersey tugging; once in a generation – time wasting;Queen Liz’s Royal Assent to the Withdrawal Bill – the referee is a homer.

    “Carry your own referee” was my Dad’s advice to me, whether in sport or business. Meaning in boxing terms have a knockout punch.

    “We, Scotland, are not leaving the EU”, is what I want to hear from Nicola Sturgeon.

  • Kim Sanders-Fisher

    Noting your interest in the historical perspective on epidemiology Craig, you might be interested in reading a few of the books written by Robert S. Desowitz, a professor emeritus of tropical medicine and medical microbiology at the University of Hawaii. He brings a unique and fascinating historical perspective into the subject in a very readable and intriguing way. The first of Desowitz’s books that I read was “Who gave Pinta to the Santa Maria: Torrid Diseases in a Temperate World” (ISBN: 9780393332643).

    A glimpse if what is revealed in the book is outlined in this book review:
    “Did the crew of the Santa Maria bring syphilis (Pinta) back from the New World? Did Charles Darwin suffer a protracted illness and eventually die from the bite of an assassin bug while traveling through Argentina? Writing with enthusiasm and from wide medical experience, Dr. Robert Desowitz is a veritable Sherlock Holmes of parasites and pathogens. Spanning a human history of over 50,000 years, Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria? Also looks ahead to the constant dangers of microbial diseases of unprecedented savagery “Doomsday bugs” creeping into the industrialized world.”

    Other books by Desowitz on a historical and epidemiological theme include:
    “The Thorn in the Starfish: The Immune System & How it Works”
    “New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People”
    “Federal Bodysnatchers and the New Guinea Virus: Tales of People, Parasites and Politics”
    “The Malaria Capers: More Tales of Parasites and People – Research and Reality”
    Craig might have already read these Desowitz books, but other visitors to this blog may well enjoy them.

    I have some thoughts on our preparedness to resist the threat of a global pandemic that would become worse if we chose to emulate the US in employment rights and healthcare provision; I will share this with you later on this thread. I don’t find much time to read any books now as I am still obsessing over the recent unfathomable General Election result. I do not believe we voted for this dystopian nightmare, but if you too think the 2019 Election was rigged please join us on the Elections Aftermath Forum on this blog where you can find the link to my new petition with AVAAZ:

    • Giyane

      Kim Sanders-Fisher

      Re the wrong result. It might be those immigrants voting Tory because most of the world is much more right wing than Britain. People come here in admiration of our traffic lights and social cohesion, and the get impatient with participating in them. It’s very hard to convince an outsider that welfare benefits are intended only for the unfortunate because they are told abroad that they are automatic for all. When they understand the limitations of the welfare state , they revert to the right wing ideas they left behind in their country of origin.

      The outside world believes the streets of Britain are paved with gold. When they find that’s not the case , they are much better qualified in capitalist competition than us produce of the welfare system.

      Another legal possibility for this appalling result is that white van man finds little in common with Labour’s traditional union base. We have all moved on. Labour needs to reform, not by signing up to zionist wars like Blair, but by recognising that most of the working class accept working conditions miles below the bar set by the unions.

      I don’t see any candidates in the Labour leadership election that would be capable of even understanding the problem.
      They need to get themselves inside the van with white van man or on site getting bawled out when things go wrong and they are 3 hours driving distance from the comforts of home.
      Ok MPs do that, but they get £70K and perks for their pains.

  • Ros Thorpe

    If it is spreading fast, it is because of poor hygiene and Middle Ages type markets of mixed live stock cheek to jowl in filthy conditions. That does not mean it would spread wildly in other conditions.

  • DiggerUK

    “Thomas Malthus was pilloried for centuries”…….Yes he has been, for just over two centuries, the reason being his theory is plain wrong.
    Although the maths are correct i.e., if a population grows exponentially and its resources don’t , it will die off in huge numbers due to insufficient resources. He failed to acknowledge the blindingly obvious that humans had proved themselves capable of adapting to changed conditions, also that they had developed and improved the means of production.
    Climate alarmists giving credence to such a bankrupt social science should work to persuade many that they are not as bright they first appeared to be.
    P.S., George is right, and although I would buy him a not needed drink, you just make me facepalm. I still love you though…_

    • pretzelattack

      uh, just because humans have adapted to some changes in the environment doesn’t mean they will adapt to all changes in the environment. the dinosaurs were quite successful until they weren’t.

      • DiggerUK

        I understand exactly were you’re coming from pretzel, I did warn my dinosaur chums that reproducing at the rate they were was unsustainable, but did they listen to me? did they hell as like.
        Then when I lectured them about changing their diets instead of producing methane at the rate they were…….boom! somebody struck a match…_

  • 6033624

    Cause and Effect. Being old, within itself doesn’t make you more likely to be a Tory. But those who ARE Tories tend to be wealthier people who want to vote for a government that prioritises THEIR needs over the working classes and poor. Rich Tories, with less exposure to dangerous working and living conditions, the ability to take time away from work when they ARE unwell and have the time to see a doctor, perhaps even paying for it, will simply live longer into old age. My father was exposed to asbestos for much of his working life, he voted Labour. Company directors sat in clean offices and lived into their 90s whilst he didn’t make it past 55.

    Workers are STILL being exposed to noxious chemicals even now, pre existing asbestos affects buidling workers like electricians when they drill into walls with hidden asbestos, people who are now in their mid 50s and worked in agri or horticulture were exposed in their younger years to chemicals that have all been banned now and worked with them with no safety protection whatever, some chemicals were banned at the time but were used anyway as they were ‘in stock’ Many ‘unexplained’ cancers will occur simply because cancers are not investigated to find the cause.

    But that’s a bit of an aside, influenza IS a pandemic, twice every year on this planet tens of thousands die from it. Even that is a conservative estimate because it may be the cause of ‘complications’ arising from it, eg causing pneumonia in elderly people. So pneumonia is on the death certificate, not ‘influenza’ Lazy doctors aren’t REALLY interested in investigating a death from a chest infection, why would they be? The truth is that the flu is deadlier than we would imagine, we just look the other way. It’s certainly MUCH more deadly than measles. I know that you can die from complications from Measles but I, and everyone I grew up with, had the Measles as a child. No one died, no one my parents knew of had died either – it was an extremely rare occurrence and now, with vaccinations, unheard of. What IS common is to die from the flu – why does no one talk about it, record the true numbers or vaccinate the ENTIRE population yearly? Is it a Cost/Benefit decision? Are those not in high risk groups considered expendable? Probably.

    I agree though, this is journalists making another mountain out of a molehill, whilst on the flu they do the opposite. They are deciding for us what we she think and when we should think it. Another revolution is needed, one where the people get access to real information instead of the watered down gruel of propaganda fed to us as ‘news’

    • Giyane


      I was doing a job for a family with limited English the other day. All he wanted me to do was tidy up a cable under the stairs, which I know will be lined with asbestos.
      It’s a council house so it is subject to inspection.

    • Royd

      There are a number of flu-causing viruses 6033624 and it isn’t possible to immunise every single member of the UK population against all of them on an annual basis. Epidemiologists make an informed prediction of which flu virus is most likely to emerge and then recommend a particular vaccine with which to immunise vulnerable groups. That’s pretty much how it works.

  • Vassos the Kurolessos

    You in Scotland should have no fear.
    It is well documented that Orange Irn-Bru treats and cures Ebola, sars and swine flu too
    So no surprise if it proves potent vizaviz this new scourge.
    Even if it fails (which is unlikely) there is also the Lagavulin

  • Vassos the Kurolessos

    Craig, comrade, I suggest that in one of your future great articles you discuss the effects of Lagavulin consumption on radicalism


    I am thinking about getting to read your Sikunder Burnes book.

    Is there a detailed description of his unfortunate demise at hands of akbar khan followers?

  • Dungroanin

    ‘The percentage growth rate is not a constant, as it should be if the population were growing exponentially. Rather, it has been dropping steadily over the past half-century, from over 2.0% in the early sixties to below 1.2% now.’

    The population of humans in totality on the planet is not exponential.
    It is followingthe standard guassian bell curve. Infact food production has been growing linearly over the last 50 years too – both are in alignment.

    The Malthusian fallacy existed based on socio-economic factors – poorest people had more children! As the levels of poverty fall so does the birth rate. Child rearing becomes a lifestyle choice instead of the only choice – where progeny are necessary for the parents to be supported in their seniority. Infant and child mortality drops with decreased poverty.

    As I have pontificated on this previously on this site – citing the late great Prof Hans Roslings work at GapMinder Organisation – i just refer all who still hold the over- population myth to that site and a few hours of lectures by the professor. before embarrassing themselves with misguided propaganda at best; or downright eugenist racist prejudice at worst. Thankyou.

    On the various revolutionary moments being linked to mass deaths through disease – it seems to make sense. Social control breaks down when these controllers are absented from their positions. I look forward to some decent study of that hypothesis.

    4 days for the EU to lift the yoke of 40 years of UK pissing in their tent – time for it to finally accelerate towards the new world paradigm finally free of the old world imperial shackles. When we rejoin it will be as willing partners welcoming a level playing field and a stable strong Euro, in a EU-EurAsian superblock.

    • Giyane


      This week HMG has started rolling out its reasons for unfortunately having to employ immigrants.
      In other words it will do what Corbyn said he would do – compromise with the EU.

      The votes are in Churchillian no compromise.
      Every fallen empire needs to strut it’s old glory.
      Then, like Istanbul, it charges for its public loos.

    • Phil Espin

      Dungroaning: John Michael Greer has covered the so called revolution in agricultural food production which he summed up in the phrase “we are eating oil”. Modern agricultural production relies heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides made from oil aswell as the fuel for production and distribution. When the oil runs out food production will crash and so will the human population of the planet. Unless the techniques showcased in Monbiot’s Apocalypse Cow of growing food from hydrogen fed bacteria come to fruition. The weakness of that technique will be the energy required to generate hydrogen. Whichever, the four horsemen are always in the wings waiting for environmental change or hubris to give them an in.

      • Dungroanin

        Phil, JMG fluffy grand wizard of Occulty gobbledygook that he has made a career out of – is not the Messiah.

        Though when you say, he said oil, o thought of the transfats in our diets. The palm and corn monocrop pork-barrel agro industies so beloved of yanks who sell their votes to wallow in their sties.
        Democracy my Arse – it is not a one man one vote democracy – it is a lie just as the Declaration of Independence was and all men being equal! So forgive me if I say the grand wizard can kiss my arse when he pontificates from a pulpit that preserves the big lie.

        Technology HAS progressed more exponentially than anything- I believe it has been held back too, by patent hoarding!

        Think, we had no desktop computers until the 80’s, No mobile phones, LED Screens … look where we are now a mere generation later.

        The greater number of humans, who are aspired to education has led to more phd students and scientists doing more cutting edge research in existence NOW than probably a sum of all who existed in human history upto a generation ago.
        They WILL discover. It will transform us further and in unknown ways, let the kids worry about it and shake their heads when they remember our generations as being backward and ignorant as we do of these learned gents of a hundred years ago.

  • MBC

    Fair enough Craig, but older people are also healthier than before, and many continue being economically active beyond retirement age, or else are doing voluntary work which has social value. You get pensioners aged 65 looking after other pensioners (their parents) aged 95 whilst also looking after the grandkids whilst Mum and Dad are out a work.

    Pensioners also pay taxes, VAT, road tax, income tax. It’s not a bad thing by any means to be old.

  • Mrs Pau!

    Thinking about how difficult it is for young people to own property in the UK and how this might affect their political views and voting patterns. Housing costs in the UK are directly related to the scarcity of land which makes property so expensive. (In London where I live the situation is also made much worse by property ownership being used as a sort of reserve currency by the international elite. I for one am hoping the
    Market here in 2 bedroomed so called luxury flats will soon crash.)

    Because property is so expensive to buy, it pushes up the rental cost. In Germany where there is plenty of space, property is cheap to rent and prices have been stable for years. In French cities there is more outdoor life, more eating out and a greater tradition of living in apartments. It would follow that young people in these countries here do not have the same obsession with home ownership as in the UK. (And I am not sure that inheritance tax is as prohibitive in these countries as in the UK.)

    Do the different home ownership patterns in these countries reflect different voting patterns and political preoccupations among young people there eg the Green Movement in Germany or safeguarding workers rights in France?

    • Cubby

      Mrs Pau!

      You equate London with the UK when it comes to house prices and the difficulty of ownership for young people. Again you equate London with the UK when it comes to scarcity of land.

      Wrong on both counts.

      • Cynicus

        “ Mrs Pau!

        You equate London with the UK when it comes to house prices and the difficulty of ownership for young people”

        Had she written about Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye, but with a focus on AirBnB, then her arguments would be equally valid.

        On Edinburgh- just ask Craig.

        • Cubby


          You are correct in what you say but sadly miss the point I make by a country mile. It is not the case across the whole of the UK so it is wrong to say the UK. Just because you have a personal experience in London or Edinburgh does not make it universal across the UK.

        • Cubby

          Mrs Pau!

          Of course it is a lot easier. I would have thought that was obvious. But the main point I am making is that it varies across the UK. Again I would have thought that was obvious.

          The long period of low interest rates also makes a big difference.

          The UK is one of the worst economically balanced economies in geographical terms therefore you will get major differences across the UK.

          • Mrs Pau!

            Recently there was a fire in my road and fire engines came from all over London. Subsequently salvage crews arrived to clear up the house fire which was the cause. I got talking to the firemen, who are by no means poorly paid, and they all lived out on the Kent coast because they could not afford to live anywhere in Greater London. The salvage crews, who I also chatted to, mainly seemed to live in outermost Essex for the same reason.

            The artificially high cost of home ownership in greater London, has a knock on effect right across the south east of England. Indeed further as older friends have retired further out still, to nice period houses with a piece of land, pushing them out of reach of locals. London’s insane property prices have a pernicious effect across a wide swathe of England and Wales.

          • Cubby

            Mrs Pau!

            I don’t doubt what you say but the whole point is that a “wide swathe of England and Wales” is not the UK. It seems self evident to me.

    • Stonky

      In French cities there is more outdoor life, more eating out and a greater tradition of living in apartments. It would follow that young people in these countries here do not have the same obsession with home ownership as in the UK…

      One of the main differences between the property economy in France and the UK is that you pay capital gains tax on all increase in value when you sell a house in France, even the increase due to improvements you might have made and on which you might have already paid VAT. So effectively you pay tax on the VAT you have paid. It’s somewhat draconian but it prevents the French economy from becomong dependent on house price inflation in the way the UK economy is.

    • nevermind

      You can’t compare Germanny with the Uk, Mrs. Pau, tennants have rights and responsibilities.
      For example rented housing associations have to provide cellar/garage space and a communal laundry. Tennants have to clean the staircase and clear the path from snow. Rents are a decided with tennants on boards of housing associations.

      There are no Rachmanian excesses by a plethora of private landlords and or greedy builders exploiting the publuc, hogging landbanks, nor do they have buy to rent get rich quick merchants that are selecting tennants and or expelling them for spurious personal reasons such as ‘ you are not earning enough, you are off work for an illness, or for the colour of their skin’.
      One would have thouht that after 40 years of relations with each other such basics would be known.

      Tennants have rights and responsibilities in Germany.
      That said, much thanks to the Russian troops for liberating Auschwitz, just to change the subject, as you just did.

      • Mrs Pau!

        I was picking up on Craig’s point about factors like the difficulty for young people in buying a house in the UK, where owning your own home is something of an obsession, and the influence this has on their political.attutudes in the UK compared to France and Germany where patterns of property ownership are different.

      • Dungroanin

        There is no scarcity of land – there may be of fashionable neighbourhoods.

        Consider – the whole 1.4 billion Chinese, their agricultural and Industrial land in total is less than 10% of its land mass.

    • Baron

      @ Mrs Pau

      There was land scarcity before the war yet the cost of property in relation to wages and earnings wasn’t as massive as it is today.

      In East Anglia, one of the not so prosperous regions of the country, the average weekly wages were in shillings 35 in agriculture, 47 in food and drink, 55 in engineering and textile, 60 in clothing and printing (that was for men, women were around 30-40% less).

      The average earnings £300pa for civil servants. In 1939, Essex appointed a new Chief Education Officer for the salary of 1,600pa, one of the highest paid jobs in the UK.

      House prices varied e.g. Bungalow freehold (4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, bathroom, electricity) £550; A semi-detached residence, freehold (4 bedroom, 2 sitting rooms, bathroom, kitchen, separate WC, electricity, gas, city water, well planted garden, 3 miles to Norwich) £1,650; a farm, Suffolk Essex border (6 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms etc, electricity, water supply, including hot water, telephone, 45 acres of which 37 pasture, running brook, number of outbuildings) 2,000 guineas with possession.

      Rental and lets were also less expensive compared to wages/earnings. A 4 bedroom house in Felixstowe (4 bedrooms, bathroom, electricity, 3 minutes from the beach) 25 shillings/ week. In Ipswich a brand new house to rent, 3 bedrooms, £75.00 pa.

      It’s not fully indicative of the salaries-house prices relationship, but if one takes a civil servant on the salary of £300pa, he could afford the bungalow (£550) on less than 2-year salary, the semi-detached on 5.5 years, and the farm on the earnings for 7 years. Totally impossible today. The key reason for it? An abysmal shortage of housing that’s going to get worse if immigration continues.

      • Andrew Paul Booth

        An abysmal shortage of housing that’s going to get worse unless price-controls are introduced, social housing is built, wasteful laissez-faire crony-capitalist spending is curtailed and progressive taxation is imposed, rather.

  • PhilW

    Increasing life expectancy does not necessarily mean there are more old people.
    If in a population 50% died in their first year, and the rest lived to 100 then dropped dead, life expectancy would be 50.
    If instead of dying in their first year the 50% survived until they were 50, life expectancy would rise to 75. In this scenario there would be more active workers per each pensioner.

    Most rises in life expectancy have been due to combating early death, rather than eking out a few more months for the elderly. Rises in life expectancy are likely to diminish as causes of early death are eliminated. Sorry, but you are not going to live forever, despite what the press likes to push

    There is no economic crisis of aging population – we are not a peasant society only producing just enough to live on. We are a hugely wasteful consumer society. The problem is wealth d-i-s-t-r-i-b-u-t-i-o-n.

    • glenn_pt

      Excellent point, particularly when one considers that the supposedly aging population have spent a lifetime paying into the system – instead of dying early when they would probably have contributed substantially less than nothing to the system.

      40-50 years of working, paying taxes, contributing to pensions, and assisting others. Instead of 10 years or so of draining the system before dying, which is what seriously dragged down the life expectancy figure.

      Now because of this, hands are thrown up in horror, as if everyone is now draining the system for decades instead of dutifully dropping dead just a couple of years from retirement.

      Look around a graveyard sometime. See the ages at which people died then – the more elderly died at about the same age you would expect an “old” person to die now. There were a heck of a lot more infants and children marked on these old gravestones too, which you would not expect today.

      Making people retire later and poorer is another nasty con by the investor class.

      • Bayard

        “when one considers that the supposedly aging population have spent a lifetime paying into the system”
        which would be a valid point if it wasn’t for the fact that “the system” is a Ponzi scheme: that lifetime of payments was used to fund the payments of the pensions of the previous generation.

        • Tom Welsh

          Well observed. Note too that such Ponzi schemes go on appearing to work only as long as the population of dumb punters keeps expanding.

          Does that provide a clue as to why governments are not interested in limiting their populations?

        • glenn_pt

          It is absolutely not a Ponzi scheme – with all due respect, you fail to understand what a Ponzi scheme was, and don’t know what social security is. A Ponzi scheme involves increasing returns which require an ever increasing proportion of new “investors” compared with those taking the money out. It assumes the existing “investors” will always be there taking out returns, their 20% or 25%, indefinitely – and will be from the very moment they put in their investment. (The original Ponzi scheme promised to double your investment in three months!)

          Social security is entirely different. There are new people coming into the system – paying in and getting nothing back for a good while (often never receiving a payout) – and older people continually leaving the system, as they die off.

          Failure to understand this absolutely basic difference is essential to the moneyed classes, who want nothing better than to kill off social security by pretending that it’s just about to collapse and cannot possibly work.

          Pretending social security is a Ponzi scheme is a myth, a quite deliberate lie put out by the right wing and parroted by their useful idiots. You should be ashamed to be one of them.

          • Magic Robot

            January 28, 2020 at 11:36
            If it’s not a Ponzi scheme, then why did it become necessary for public service retirees to forego receiving their benefits for five years, by increasing the retirement age?
            Why did the government force employers to charge their employees pension contributions, whether the employee wanted to sign up for a pension or not?
            Why are the institutional investors, including the pension fund managers, stuck with inflated assets that give little or no income return (and may even give negative return, soon) that they dare not sell?
            Why were there protests in Britain and France over government ‘reforms’ deemed necessary to keep the pension system solvent?
            Why do you think Council Tax is increasing every year, yet services are cut back? – To pay pensions. There aren’t enough people in work, to pay those out of it.

          • glenn_pt

            @Magic Robot:

            Social security isn’t a Ponzi scheme because it doesn’t meet the definition of one, no more than my car insurance meets the definition of a Ponzi scheme.

            You ask a bunch of questions as if the answer to them all is “Oh, well it must be a Ponzi scheme then!”.

            Actually, the answer to all your questions – the more relevant of them anyway – is that insufficient money is taken in taxation, most particularly from the rich, and from large corporations who pay next to nothing, and sometimes less than that.

          • Magic Robot

            January 28, 2020 at 13:33
            “You ask a bunch of questions as if the answer to them all is “Oh, well it must be a Ponzi scheme then!””
            Straw man argument.
            I never said, nor implied, that what you are saying here is the answer to all my questions.

            You wrote: “Social security is entirely different”. You would be better not redefining ‘pensions’ as ‘social security’ to make it fit your argument. None of the posters you replied to wrote ‘social security’ – you coined that one.

            Do some research on what ‘money’, not ‘currency’, truly is and what it is based on. Investigate the relationship between the Bond market and the institutional investors and in particular, what happened to that relationship following the ‘liquidity crisis’ of 2008. The answers you find will amaze you.

            Taxation cannot solve this pension crisis.

          • glenn_pt

            @MR: Social Security is what they call the state pension system in the US, and the article I referred to was using that terminology. Same system applies here for the state pension. Workers pay into it throughout their lives, payment comes out upon retirement.

            Since you’re concerned about straw men and changing the argument, you might explain how my refutation that “the system” is not a Ponzi scheme turned into your condescending to and lecturing me on the 2008 liquidity crisis, currency and so forth.

            Apparently you think taxation has nothing whatsoever to do with it, while the super-wealthy and corporations effectively get a free ride out of the society that has granted their ability to gather such riches. I totally disagree. Tax those taking wealth out of society sufficiently, and there will be plenty for retirees.

          • Magic Robot

            And finally, the truth is out.
            Glenn has been comparing apples with oranges – he is not even a GB resident, yet presumes to compare his system with ours.
            He should have said first: ‘I’m a foreigner, but I still know best about your pension system in GB, because I’ve read an article by another foreigner’.
            And you obviously haven’t the first idea about how pensions are funded – it is NOT taxation!
            If you cannot be bothered to investigate the fundamentals, then you will continue to misunderstand how it works.
            ‘Social Security’ in GB is something that no-one wants to have to demean themselves by claiming – it is a humiliating experience – if you like it where you live, Glenn, you can keep it there.

          • glenn_uk

            MR: “And finally, the truth is out.”

            Err, no. Your ability to leap to incorrect conclusions is, however, rather starkly brought to everyone’s attention.

            I travel quite widely. While residing somewhere for more than a short while, I stick that country’s identifier at the end of my name. And have been doing so on this blog for about a decade and a half now.

            Are you confusing social security/state pensions with private pensions? They are rather different things.

            I can tell you’re on a mission to stick it to your supposed opponent to show how clever you are, and all that, but worthwhile conversations can be had on a serious blog like this if you can get over your own ego for a few moments.

            For instance, we can talk about the pensions tax, “pension holidays” that contributors have been allowed to take, the various successes of large pension schemes such as that of (for example) the British Steel Pension Scheme, and doubtless we can talk about the vagaries of state pensions/social security in the US, investments by state pension systems in government assets, and more besides.

            We could even talk more widely about 401K plans in the US, of which I have first hand experience, and how they were supposed to replace salary based pension schemes. How defined benefit, as opposed to defined contribution policies were done away with.

            Or you can carry on being a jack-ass, and jump up and down with glee because you think you identified me as a “foreigner”.

    • N_

      @ PhilW – Agreed.

      But how many residents of Silicon Valley earning more than say $1m per year believe that “some people” who are alive today will live to 500? I don’t think that’s an uncommon belief in those circles.

  • N_

    This coronavirus epidemic is growing much faster than the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, even if the number of reported cases of this CV is only slightly more than half of the total number of cases of SARS between Nov 2002 and Jul 2003.

    SARS: the highest WEEKLY maximum was about 140.
    Coronavirus: about 1800 cases were reported in China YESTERDAY (27 Jan) alone.

  • Kim Sanders-Fisher

    On population growth it is worth noting that people tend to have fewer children when poverty and access to healthcare enable most of their offspring to reach adulthood. In Uganda the average number of children is still six, but in Victorian families in the UK it was not at all uncommon for a couple to have twice as many children as that.

    I was very privileged to be able to care for my disabled mother during the last five years of her life after her dementia diagnosis. She was terrific fun to be around, but also a great source of inspiration to me as I design pieces of kit and systems for tackling various issues. Everything from ergonomically redesigning kitchen equipment and bathroom fixtures for frail pensioners so they can continue to live safely and independently in their own homes to a nationwide business incentive program that I call “[email protected]” that targets solving logistical issues to reduce malnutrition in the elderly.

    “Silver Sector Design” is of increasing importance due to our growing aging population and I am part of a four country networking group called SEAS2Grow that is focused exclusively on the needs of this sector, (UK, France, Belgium and Holland – do visit the SEAS2Grow Website.) We need to stop seeing our elderly sector as just a burden; there is considerable potential in designing for this growing demographic. The pension is a benefit and among those who receive a benefit, this is financially the most stable group in our population. We need them to encourage them to spend their pension on stuff as that will contribute to growth. The oldest of them belong to the “mend and make do” generation, but this is a false economy as newly designed items can help them to maintain dignity and independence and reduce the worry for their children.

    Craig, I sent you my concept for democratizing Freedom of Movement relying on “Collaborative Circular Migration;” I wonder if you ever got round to reading those documents? One of my disruptive proposed strategies would help to alleviate the current imbalance in our population between young and old by facilitating overseas retirement while retaining all UK earned benefits. If they were fully supported exactly as they would be here, our pensioners would represent a desirable long term tourist sector population; this would cost the UK less while boosting struggling economies like Greece.

    Other segments of the Collaborative Circular Migration plan involve increasing overseas opportunities for young people in an expansion of the Erasmus scheme that has already begun to offer overseas skills training to non degree level apprentices. There is also a proposal for training our doctors alongside local medical students in developing world countries where the need is great and it is cheaper to cover the cost of training. This was the first area of Collaborative Circular Migration that I was inspired to work on following a ten country tour of sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. Migration needs to flow in both directions and not be defined by wealth or driven by exploitation, power and greed.

    As an older person who has led a very active life full of overseas adventures, I feel massively guilty about how we are treating the younger generation. I want them to have the same unique opportunities that enhanced my youth with access to travel and independence as a teenager; instead they are trapped in zero-hours contract jobs unable to leave home before turning thirty. I worry that one day they will rebel and chose the Katie Hopkins solution for dealing with the elderly, sending round little euthanasia vans to lure us out of our homes with the friendly tunes of an ice cream vendor! That vile woman really did write about that in one of her pieces.

    I remain deeply concerned that there will be none of the progressive ideas and opportunities available to young people under this current regime and the dynamic concept of Collaborative Circular Migration does not provide a sufficient level of exploitation for the Tories. Katie’s solution is by far the most palatable for them, but I fear the elderly will face an agonizing euthanasia of neglect and abandonment. Sadly my “[email protected]” concept is dead in the water now that the Tories are in power as they would rather exterminate all of the non-productive, the weak and the most vulnerable.

    The new points based immigration system will accelerate the morally bankrupt strategy of scavenging professionals from countries who cannot afford to train them; shipping them in for fixed periods, paying them lower wages and then discarding them when they become surplice to requirement. This eliminates the need to invest in any level of UK training, as the “Scavenge – Exploit – Deport” system is far more cost effective. For those who cannot afford to take on the lifelong debt of going to university, the UK is set to become a slave state for the majority of impoverished workers stripped of all their former EU rights.

    I cannot envisage any of my disruptive concept or designs gaining investment support or traction now under this toxic Tory regime. I would still appreciate your feedback Craig on the Collaborative Circular Migration documents I sent you despite the concept becoming a non-starter, pipe dream. I feel destined to be buried with my ideas, which is a thought that causes me immense distress right now and why I am driven to harp on about overturning the rigged 2019 election. I do not believe we voted for this dystopian nightmare, but if you too think the 2019 vote was a complete fraud please join us on the Elections Aftermath Forum on this blog where you can find the link to my new petition with AVAAZ:

  • Chris Barclay

    There is a good reason why revolutions break out after the outbreak of a deadly disease. At its start, the probability of a revolution being successful is negligible. Most attempted revolutions splutter and die out. To start a revolution therefore is close to ‘suicide by cop’. The instigators are almost certainly going to die by bullet or torture or execution. A revolution to be started with such abandon is more likely if there is already a present threat to life. Hunger is the most likely cause but an epidemic comes close. The revolutionaries see death as imminent whatever they do and look to give value to their deaths.

  • David

    Satirical news (Off Guardian, Trump) and accurate news (Glenn Greenwald Daily Caller, Trump) seem to be merging.
    what has the past four years of Trump’s presidency been dominated by? Russian and Ukraine– …. do you think people in the key swing states wake up in the morning and give the slightest thought to like, what Putin is doing?….. whether the U.S. is like, sufficiently arming Ukraine, or who knows who the ambassador of Ukraine is or who gives a fück if Trump wanted to fire him? “” is which article, satire or serious?
    The [Intelligence] Community doesn’t assassinate people, and commit all sorts of other atrocities. That’s just a thing they do in the movies. In reality, they would never assassinate a president, especially not one they had been telling everyone is a “Russian asset,” and “literally Hitler,” and a “traitor,” and a “dictator,” for over three years. …. or is this serious or satire?

    So the above mess , it’s not directly 1800’s Chartism, which was about fair votes and fair representation – but it would seem timely to have New 2020 Chartism – to put a freeze on the Intelligence Community’s continuing abuses, seen openly in mainstream US political news & media, yet unseen behind the scenes in UK politics, but still there, still active – more than ever before. Why?

  • Mary

    James Risen in the NYT on Julian Assange.

    Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover
    The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.
    By James Risen
    Mr. Risen, a former reporter for The Times, is the senior national security correspondent for The Intercept.

    He concludes:
    ‘While the Bush and Obama administrations were “inconsistent” on press issues, “they were still willing to discuss concerns about press freedom with another country in the framework of the bilateral relationship,” he added. “That’s gone now with Trump.”

    It will be tragic if journalists shrug off the attack on the contrarian Mr. Greenwald and don’t see his case for what it truly signifies — that Trump-like attacks on the press are spreading like a virus around the globe.’

    Will Trump be re-elected? I hope not but probably he will be.

  • S

    Maybe we are now so used to slick TV production values, but I’m afraid I find Galloway to watch. He speaks as if he is at a rally, and either there is a ton of reverb on his voice or he’s in an echoey room rather than a studio. Craig’s arguments via skype are far more enjoyable to listen to.

  • michael norton

    Most civilizations collapse because of aridification.
    This almost certainly leads to lack of food, drinking water and deceases in health, before death.
    The question is, would the places become arid without farming?

    • Republicofscotland

      CRISPR and CAS-9 might save humanity, and a whole host of other species from extinction. If and its a monumental if, we stop accelerating the heating up of the planet, in which it might already be too late to do.

      I fear the Anthropocene extinction is already underway.

      • wonky

        No. Messing with genetic life codes, based on half-arsed understanding, WILL accelerate the extinction of every living thing.
        Neoliberal science cannot and will not solve one single pressing issue, PER DEFINITION.

        • Republicofscotland

          Its already underway, in China genetic codes are being implanted in DNA strands to stop humans from contracting HIV.

          Its not the tools that are the problem, its what you do with them, whether it be good or bad. Used properly and ethically they can aid mankind.

          • Mr V

            Um, wrong. They are not. The HIV thing was done by an idiot who tried to insert half-assed mutation into the human genome, except he picked wrong mutation and now that the DNA of the child was examined, it turns out the mutations were inserted in wrong places and did more damage to DNA than people thought, which was only realized after really through examination. There is a reason why the rogue doctor was universally condemned, including in China itself. Humans are not primitive crops you can edit without worrying about future ethical and medical problems.

        • John O'Dowd

          Agreed. I am a PhD biochemist. But my one of my first degrees was in zoology. There is s difference between biological science, which seeks to understand biological systems (e.g. zoology) – and biotechnology (such as CRISPR) that seeks to manipulate and exploit them.

          If we are to have a future (and this is looking increasingly unlikely) – then we need to return to undertanding the living systems that support us (human ecology). There will be no technological fixes for our predicament – unless we understand and maintain the complex networks of living systems that we are (were??) part of, and maintain and nurture these, then we are finished.

          I fear that the unstoppable nature of current economic exploitation will doom us all – and sooner than we think!

          • John O'Dowd

            Sorry – my agreement was with Wonky – I’m a bit more sceptical of biotechnology than RepublicofScotland – DNA manipulation may well cause more problems than it solves!

          • wonky

            ” DNA manipulation may well cause more problems than it solves!”
            Yes. Irreversible ones. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There already is (see India’s cotton farmer suicides, for example).
            But hey, let’s continue to put tin foil hats on all these pessimist Cassandras, what could possibly go wrong?
            Direct, radical democracy might actually help. If it is rigorously extended into the spheres of the “markets” and science, that is. Unfortunately, the current zeitgeist dictat is of a rather different nature, and tin foil is still cheap.

          • Republicofscotland

            “There already is (see India’s cotton farmer suicides, for example).”

            “A study conducted in 2014, found that there are three specific characteristics associated with high-risk farmers: “those that grow cash crops such as coffee and cotton; those with ‘marginal’ farms of less than one hectare; and those with debts of 300 Rupees or more.” The study also found that the Indian states in which these three characteristics are most common had the highest suicide rates and also accounted for “almost 75% of the variability in state-level suicides.”

            Trying to pay back large loans, or rather failing to do so is one of main reasons for Indian farmer suicides.

            ” DNA manipulation may well cause more problems than it solves!”


            Driving without a seat belt on may get you killed, stepping off the pavement to cross the road may get you killed.

            May being the operative word.

          • John O'Dowd


            “Tell that to the parents whose children suffer greatly from Muscular Dystrophy.


            I read the link. It states:

            “For example, mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) — which is caused by mutations in the gene that provides instructions for making dystrophin — have been treated with a CRISPR/Cas9 system that was able to restore the function of dystrophin protein in muscle cells.

            For muscular dystrophy, a viral delivery system could provide patient cells with the instructions to make the Cas9 protein, as well as the “guide” RNAs that target specific regions of DNA.”

            Note “could provide”. This is unproven technology in humans.

            Gene Therapy has been promised for many years now – with few tangible benefits.

            Muscular dystrophy is a terrible disease, and it would be wonderful if this worked. If this corrects somatic cell mutations in humans, who would say this is bad.

            But that is not the issue here. Hard cases make bad law. There is a

            My main concern about gene manipulation is with germ cell manipulation in both animals, humans, microorganisms and plants, and its use in cash crops. For example, the main purpose in the latter is to replace local varieties with long established pedigrees, shared and handed down by peasant farmers, with patented varieties that make money for the owners of the patents – with unknowable consequences for the environment. Peasant farmers have been doing biomanipulation through breeding for millennia in circumstances that are in much closer harmony with their local ecologies.

            If you want to read beyond by biotech hype, read for example: Biotech Juggernaut: Hope, Hype and Hidden Agendas in Entrepreneurial BioScience. By Tina Stevens and Stuart Newman.

            This provides a sane and sober counter arguement to the self-serving hype by the financialised patentees who stand to gain financially from potentially hazardous and largely untested technologies.

            You might also usefully read the dozens of article written by Colin Todhunter


            or here:


            As with everything else, we read about biotechnology through the filters provided by the neoliberal establishment.

            It is not a no-problematic arena.

      • N_

        Mother Nature will blow such “technologies” out of the water. It’s basically eugenics.

        I notice that the notoriously far-right organisation “Friends of the Earth” is allied with the Steinerite bank, Triodos. Is the World Wildlife Fund too?

        Watch out for the triquetra symbol, a badge for the Steinerite ideology of “people, planet, profit, all working in lovely harmony, once a few billion people have got the chop – what a pity their karma requires it – and once all the boardrooms have been Steinerised to become so planet-lovy, oh ever so planet-lovy, as planet-lovy as capitalism really should be”.

        What a load of old c*ck the whole of this discourse is. If capitalist scum “cared” about what they have done to the environment, they should f*ck right off out of it.

        • N_

          Who would appoint those who have caused a problem, always acting in their own interests, to be in charge of solving the same problem, just so long as we shut up and obey everything they say? That’s insane.

  • Muscleguy

    There is evidence apparently that the virus is mutating to make it spread from person to person more easily. This ability is generally not compatible with virulence since debilitating or killing the host quickly does not help a virus spread. So this rather paradoxically should be good news.

    After all the various cold viruses (some of whom are coronoviruses) spread easily and are rarely lethal (unless you are an aboriginal person not previously exposed to Westerners in the last century, but most people susceptible have died off). Norovirus which causes winter vomiting syndrome can be transmitted via as few as 9 virus particles (a sneeze or cough will have tens to hundreds of thousands) yet only the very infirm are threatened by it though many are inconvenienced.

    Ebola is proving fairly amenable to control and even local eradication because it doesn’t seem able to make the transition.

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