The Best of All Possible Government Ministries

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, is the driving force between government reforms aimed at making the United Arab Emirates the “best country in the world” by 2021, which is certainly faster than, say, the US Congress or Mrs May’s cabinet could pull it off. So last week His Highness launched a new government ministry, with the inspired name of the Ministry of Possibilities. “The word impossible does not exist in our dictionary,” he declared. He could well be right on that – his dictionary’s in Arabic, after all.

The Ministry of Possibilities will have four subsidiary departments, including the Department of Behavioral Rewards (to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif) and the Department of Anticipatory Services (to be headed by Ohoud bint Khalfan al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing). These are ingenious names of government departments for those of us who come from countries with dreary ministries like treasury and foreign affairs. Obama should have moved Hillary to the Department of Anticipatory Services (run out of the Clinton Foundation) and Justin should have punished Jody Wilson-Raybould by moving her from Justice to the Department of Behavioral Rewards.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Anticipatory Behavior would make a grand name for Theresa May’s new Internet thought-crimes apparat.

~Speaking of Justin, over the weekend he hosted the Prime Minister of Japan. That’s a different guy from the President of China. Unfortunately, they all look the same to him:

If Trump had twice referred to Shinzo Abe as the leader of China, Morning Joe and Brian Stelter and Rachel Maddow would be jeering round the clock that he’s a racially insensitive know-nothing. But, when Justin does it, the court eunuchs of the CBC rush to protect him. To a Panglossian media, whatever Prime Minister Candide does is all for the best in the best of all possible Ministries of Possibilities. Thus, Justin’s inability to tell the difference between Japan and China apparently means to crack CBC reporter Elise von Scheel that China is weighing heavy on his mind.

This would be a more persuasive argument if Justin had a mind to weigh on.

~Spain went to the polls and returned its socialist premier to office with a minority government, assuming he can find coalition partners. The scary headline is the “far-right breakthrough” for the first time since the restoration of the monarchy four decades back. But the real story is the collapse of the “mainstream” conservative Popular Party, an unfortunate name for a party that has never been more unpopular. As always, there are local factors at play (Catalonia) but, also as always, there is a trend, stretching from the True Finns to Trump. I first formulated it seventeen years ago in The National Post:

Europe’s ruling class has effortlessly refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it. You might disapprove of what Le Pen says on immigration, but to declare that the subject cannot even be raised is profoundly unhealthy for a democracy. The problem with the old one-party states of Africa and Latin America was that they criminalized dissent: You could no longer criticize the President, you could only kill him. In the two-party one-party states of Europe, a similar process is under way: If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable politicians — as they’re doing in France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere. Le Pen is not an aberration but the logical consequence.

And again a decade ago:

If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.

And so it is proving. Many of these parties are not “right-wing” in any economic sense. Indeed, as I noted in that ten-year-old Maclean’s essay, anticipating the key ingredients of what would become “populism”, most of them are more economically protectionist than, say, Tony Blair’s Labour Party, but they are also culturally protectionist – and the latter, in and of itself, now makes you “far right”. And, as I said of M Le Pen almost two decades ago, the more you shriek that such views are unacceptable in polite society, the more polite society will be inclined to accept them.

~The weekend also saw the end of Passover. The beginning of Passover was greeted by Rashida Tlaib (in the US) and Jeremy Corbyn (in the UK) with cheery images of leavened bread. I cut Ms Tlaib some slack here, in that I seriously doubt she or any of her staff know a single Jew, except when she finds herself sharing a telly sofa with one and pretending to like him. So the Corbyn faux pas is more revealing: Not too long ago the Labour Party was full of Jewish lefties, and it would have been impossible for a Passover greeting to have been cooked up without being given the once over by a couple of Jews sitting round the office. Evidently, in Corbyn’s Labour Party, there are no longer any such persons. That is telling.

So too is the publication, at the close of Passover, of a crude anti-Semitic cartoon in The New York Times – showing a blind kippah-topped Trump being led around by a Netanyahu-headed dachshund. I last wrote for the Times twentysomething years ago, when it had a sclerotic editorial process in which your copy passed through untold legions of editors before it got anywhere near the printing press. And, for the last half-century or so, some of the most important hoops a contributor had to jump through were Jewish – A M Rosenthal and his son, just to name two. The Times cartoon is witless and tediously familiar, but I think of all the Timesmen (and women) whose hands it passed through and who saw nothing wrong with it.

As with Corbyn, that is far more telling. In both cases, it’s not a “gaffe” when entire institutions sign off on it.

~It was a busy weekend at SteynOnline, including a look at Bob Fosse on the big screen, and the hit parade’s shortest song titles. But our marquee presentation was the latest in our series of monthly audio adventures for Mark Steyn Club members, Tales for Our Time: The Island of Dr Moreau by H G Wells. Click for Part One, for Part Two and for Part Three – and do join me for Part Four this evening just ahead of telly with Tucker.

Two years after CRTV breached my contract, I can say with certainty that we would not be here without the support of members of The Mark Steyn Club, for which we are profoundly grateful. For more information on the Steyn Club, as we approach next week’s second birthday observances, see here – and don’t forget our special Gift Membership.