Progress, Private Property, and the Nation State

A rather garbled essay I read yesterday – Liberalism doesn’t respect a nation’s sovereignty – set me thinking about property ownership and nation states and progress. Sample statements from the essay:

A nation’s sovereignty means that the residents in a land possess the ultimate authority over that land,…

Liberalism is instead dominated by the concept of the individual’s right to property, which is the fundamental right in liberalism, upon which all other rights are (in traditional liberalism) based…

Progressivism means something totally different than either liberalism or conservatism: it is the belief not in “natural law” nor in any “God’s Law,” but instead in natural worth: Worth inheres in any sentient being, because it is sentient and can therefore experience joy (positive) and/or misery (negative).

What on earth does that mean? I couldn’t make head or tail of what the author was driving at, and so I asked myself what I thought about them.

And that brought me back to the conceptual system of Idle Theory, in which people (and in fact all living things) are seen as alternating between busy and idle states. Here’s somebody who’s 33% idle:

Progress, as far as I’m concerned, means growth in idleness. Human progress means life getting easier for people. Progress means more people having more idle time to do what they want, rather than do what they must. Progress means increasing freedom. And progress is principally achieved through technological innovation: roads, railways, cars, trucks, houses, telephones, computers.

Progressives are people who believe in progress. They want more progress. In this narrow sense I am myself a progressive. I’m in favour of idleness-increasing progress.

Unfortunately, a lot of modern “progressives” seem to think that progress just happens of its own accord, automatically, and that tomorrow is always better than yesterday. I don’t share this optimistic view. I think that progress can and does often go into reverse, and that life can become harder for people, as their idleness decreases. It’s what’s just happened to a lot of people on islands in the Caribbean, after the passage of a couple of hurricanes.

Greens are people who don’t believe in progress. They think that technological innovation just fills the atmosphere with smoke, and poisons the seas and rivers. They believe, or some of them seem to believe, that we would all be better off if we’d stayed living in the Stone Age, with stone tools.

Liberals (before the word was corrupted to mean something like its opposite) are people who place high value on freedom. And people are only free to the extent that they have the idle time in which to freely do as they like.

Libertarians are the same as Liberals. It’s just that they’ve had to find a new word to describe themselves since “liberals” became illiberal.

Conservatives are people who like things the way they used to be, usually about a century ago. In this sense, Greens are ultra-conservatives who’d like things to still be the way they were 10 million years ago. I’m a conservative in that I think that life was much better before the UK smoking ban than after it, and I think the ban cost me a great deal of freedom.

Communists are people who believe in the communal ownership of property – roads, railways, cars, trucks, houses. Communists believe that goods should be held shared in common with everybody else. Communists also believe in state planning. They regard society as a whole as more important than individual people.

Private property is property for the exclusive use of its owner. I am myself an owner of private property, in the form of the flat I own, and all the contents inside it. I’m also a car owner. The advantage of private property to its owner is that he can immediately use it whenever he likes. When I want to do something – like buy food – I can jump in my car, and go and buy my food with my money. If I didn’t own a car, I’d have to hire a taxi, or catch a bus, or walk to the shops. And it would take a lot longer to do my shopping. So privately owning a car increases my idleness. And it doesn’t decrease anyone else’s.

Home ownership also increases idleness. In my privately-owned flat, I have exclusive use of its kitchen and bathroom and bedroom. I don’t have to wait for someone else to stop cooking before I can cook something for myself. And having a roof over my head also increases my idleness: I’m not cold and wet all the time, as I would be if I didn’t have one.

Simply being “at home” means living an easier, idler life. I know where everything is in my home. The sense of relief that one has on arriving home is one of re-entering a familiar environment in which everything is in its place, and in which there are no dangers. There is nothing that needs to be explored. Not being at home means always being in an unknown, unfamiliar environment, and having to keep an eye out for dangers of one sort or other. Just being away from home means being busier in countless small ways.

And a nation state is the private property of the people who live in that state. They may arrange it as they like, build roads and railways and houses wherever they like, and enact whatever laws they like, and speak whatever language they like. There is a considerable increase in idleness attendant upon a people all fluently speaking the same language. All transactions – like shopping – can be done more rapidly. It also speeds transactions if the goods in shops, and the books in libraries, all have descriptions and contents that are written in the same language. It helps me a lot – makes my life idler – that when I go shopping the shop assistants speak English, and the goods in the shops have English names, and the newspapers on sale are written in English. But the same would also apply in France and Germany and Spain, with their own languages.

It’s much easier for the French to live in France, where everyone speaks French, and everything is written in French, than it is for them to live in England or Germany or Spain. And life in these countries gets harder the more people who arrive who don’t speak the national language.

And so the benefits of belonging to a nation state are the same benefits that attend upon home ownership and private property: there is an increase in idleness. Life is easier for everyone who is a citizen of a nation state.

Much the same applies to customs and beliefs. If everyone behaves in customary ways, or believes the same things, there is little conflict between people. And conflict is work. Having shared values increases idleness.

And that, very roughly, is how all these things look from the viewpoint of Idle Theory. A single measure – idleness – is used throughout to define and explain and justify Progress, Liberalism, Private Property, and Nation States. If words aren’t carefully defined, they can mean more or less anything. And increasingly words like “liberal” and “progressive” now mean more or less the opposite of what they used to mean. And rational debate becomes impossible, or futile. And that also entails a loss of idleness.


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Representatives In Name Only

One puzzling thing about Craig Kelly (whom I was highlighting yesterday) is that here is a politician who doesn’t represent at least some of the people in his Australian parliamentary constituency. He actually hates quite a few of them. And he doesn’t mind saying so.

What kind of politician is it who hates a great many of his constituents? Surely politics is very much a business of trying to win as many votes as possible, and therefore appealing to as many people as possible? Surely you don’t want to alienate anybody?

But maybe politics doesn’t work that way any more. Increasingly these days, more or less everywhere, politicians are interchangeable with each other. They are simply a bunch of people (in the UK, about 650 people) who get elected to enact laws in parliament. They will all nominally belong to one party or other – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green, etc – but they will quite often change their party allegiance on the spur of the moment. So, for example, Douglas Carswell changed from Conservative to UKIP. And in the USA there are RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – who will not behave like Republicans at all once elected.

And organisations like ASH (and not just ASH but any number of others) spend a great deal of their time lobbying these 650 politicians. They wine them and dine them, even send them on holidays.  These lobbyists seem to act together to shape the climate of opinion in parliament and in the mainstream media that reports on parliament. It’s well worth reading Deborah Arnott describing in Smoke And Mirrors how it’s done.

It makes perfect sense for lobbyists to do this. No need to change public perception: all you need do is to change the perception of a mere 650 people who inhabit one single building in London. And you do it by creating an artificial world in which all the people around them are antismoking, environmentally conscious, global warming alarmists who are in favour of gay marriage, transgender restrooms, and Wahhabi Islam. MPs in parliament are probably the most highly propagandised people in the country. It may even be that the lobbying organisations surrounding them have come to agreements with each other, so that there is a separate “lobbyists’ parliament” where these agreements are worked out, so that they all sing from the same hymn sheet. And it’s a hymn sheet which is increasingly at odds with what Joe Public thinks.

In the USA it’s called The Swamp, and Donald Trump was elected on a promise to Drain The Swamp, and restrict the power of lobbyist groups in influencing legislation. It remains very much open to question whether he has made any progress at all in this respect. Some people think that he has been sucked into the swamp. And in the case of the President of the United States, instead of 650 people whose opinions must be shaped, there is just one. And a lot of US politics right now seems to be all about who is going to be the opinion-shaping advisors who surround Donald Trump. It’s probably much easier to control the opinions of one man, simply by feeding him selective information, than it is to influence 650 (or however many people there are in the Senate and House).

The mainstream media also have a large part in shaping opinion in parliament, because they are the mirror in which politicians see themselves. And so it’s natural that the lobby groups are as influential in the MSM (e.g. the BBC) as they are in the legislature. In fact, the principal role of the MSM may not be so much to shape public opinion as to shape opinion of the few elected members inside the legislature. MPs and Senators and Congressmen all live inside a lobbyist media bubble.

And it may not matter who gets elected to the legislature, because once they have entered that bubble, their opinions will rapidly come to be shaped just like pebbles in a stream, having the rough individual edges worn off them, and turned into nicely rounded and easily-compliant yes-men. So within a year or two of entering parliament, and learned the ropes, they’ll be something completely different from what they were when they first came in. They’ll have become Representatives In Name Only.

One consequence of this process is that the climate of opinion inside the legislature begins to diverge from public opinion outside it – because the general public are not as highly propagandised as their representatives inside the legislature. And so politicians – of all parties – lose public esteem. They are increasingly felt to not represent the voters. And this is because they actually don’t. They have become the captives of lobby groups, and are doing their bidding instead of that of the voters.

Craig Kelly, as an MP in the Australian parliament, which has only 150 members, may be an example a complete captive politician. He’s been an MP for seven years, so there’s been plenty of time. It’s probably much easier to shape the opinions of 150 people than 650 people. And that may be why the Australian government is so politically correct, and why Kelly is an antismoking zealot. There are only 120 MPs in the New Zealand parliament. And by all accounts New Zealand is correspondingly more politically correct.  It’s easier to subvert small parliaments than large ones. Or it can be done more quickly.

Craig Kelly is now almost an anti-politician. He can openly express his hatred and contempt for large numbers of the constituents he supposedly represents – the smokers – whose lives he wants to make horrible for them. He almost certainly has hatred and contempt for all his constituents. But it won’t matter if he doesn’t get re-elected when his constituents discover this, because whoever succeeds him will become identical to him once he has in turn been “processed”. It won’t matter if the new elected member is a member of the Tea Party, or UKIP, or AfD: all are soon converted into compliant politicians who can be relied upon to do the lobbyists’ bidding.

I’ve sketched out here a rather dystopian vision of the state of contemporary politics in the Western world. It’s one of rule by special interest groups. The public have been locked out. The representatives who are supposed to speak for them are bribed, blackmailed, browbeaten, and kept in an artificial environment in which opinions are very tightly controlled. I can’t see any other explanation for the growing divergence of opinion between legislatures and electorates except that they inhabit very different worlds.

In the extreme, legislatures everywhere will be entirely filled with “representatives” who openly hate all the people who elected them, and work to “make life horrible” for all of them.

One solution – perhaps the only solution – might be to throw out every single elected member of the existing legislatures, and replace them with a new membership whose very first act, before they can be “processed”, will be to stop the influence of lobby organisations, so that the opinion in the legislature once again reflects the opinion of the people.

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Make His Life Horrible

H/T Audrey Silk for these words from Australian MP Craig Kelly.

“You have to have some price pressure,” he says. “You have to have the strongest possible law enforcement. You’ve got to make lepers of those that smoke… make their lives horrible.”

We’ve already been made lepers, and our lives made horrible. But at least one of the bastards is being honest about what he wants to do: make people lepers, make their lives horrible.

Here’s a politician of some considerable seniority (and supposedly a “Liberal”) who wants to make people into lepers, and make their lives horrible. And if he will do this to smokers, he’ll do it anybody. Here we have an MP, a supposed representative of the people, who wants to make make them into lepers.

It’s quite easy to make people people’s lives horrible. You just have to do a lousy job of whatever you’re paid to do. And Craig Kelly is certainly doing that. And he’s probably doing a lousy job as chairman of the joint committee on law enforcement as well. In fact he probably makes a pig’s ear of everything he does.

I think that a political class writes its own death warrant when it openly turns on the people it’s supposed to represent. Such people are nobody’s representatives. They are tyrants.

But at least the author of the article in The Saturday Paper can see it, and the paper has published it, and people all over the world are reading it. And maybe a few of the people who voted for him will have second thoughts about voting for such a man again. I’ll be interested to see if he survives the next election. And in fact whether he survives at all.

And he looks like he’s a bit of a “well-fed” man. I wonder how he’s feel if somebody said “You’ve got to make lepers of fat people… make their lives horrible”? Or could it be that he already has been made into just such a leper, and he’s now busy spreading the disease? Perhaps he’s just passing on to others what was handed to him?

Perhaps he’s on one of those hideous slimming diets, and his life is horrible, and so every day as an Australian MP he sets out to make life horrible for everybody else?

But somehow or other at least he’s not a global warming alarmist:

Renewable energy is killing people this winter, according to Liberal MP and chairman of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment committee.

Hughes MP Craig Kelly said high power prices meant many households were unable to adequately heat their homes.

“People will die,” he told AM.

“We’ve seen reports only recently that one-in-four Australian households this winter will be frightened to turn the heater on because of the price of electricity.

Wouldn’t it be a golden opportunity for him to make life horrible for another one-in-four Australians?

He’s also the chair of the Coalition’s energy policy committee. How many committees does the bugger chair?

Ah, I think I understand… The electoral division of Hughes, which Kelly represents, is a suburb of Canberra, in south-eastern Australia, a bit north-east of the Snowy Mountains. So Kelly is one of the quarter of Australia’s population who lives in the coldest part of the country. He is himself one of the “one-in-four” Australians who are “going to die”. Why doesn’t he just move to Darwin in the Northern Territory? I bet it’s a lot warmer there, just 12.5º south of the equator. Positively tropical, in fact.

Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do if you’re worried about cold: move to Darwin? Why should three-quarters of Australians subsidise the quarter who have adopted the very bad habit of living in the icy far south? Don’t they know that it’s killing them? If they could just summon up the strength of will to quit living in places like Melbourne and Canberra, they’d probably live at least 10 years longer. Australians should make pariahs of people like Craig Kelly, make his life horrible.

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One Reason Why It’s Healthy To Smoke And Drink

In conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar last night (and with Legiron a week or so back), the subject of the bactericidal, fungicidal, and insecticidal properties of tobacco smoke (in fact more or less any wood smoke) came up. Unfortunately, smoke doesn’t kill off viruses as well – although viruses are actually just pieces of DNA, and not living things.

It set me wondering what it was in (tobacco) smoke which killed off bacteria and fungi and insects. Nicotine is a poison, after all. And there are probably any number of poisons in a great many plants.

But then it occurred to me that it was perhaps not so much what was in smoke that gave it these lethal properties, but rather what was not in smoke that did so. And what was not in smoke – or not present in such great quantities as usual – was oxygen.

After all, the combustion of plant material entails combining oxygen with combustible substance, and the oxygen required for combustion is drawn from air, in which it is present in a concentration of 20% by volume. So smoke that is the product of combustion must be low in oxygen. Maybe it’s simply this oxygen deficiency which kills off bacteria and fungi and insects? Perhaps a reduction of oxygen concentrations from 20% to 5% or less might be enough to do that.

Large animals (like humans) are able to store air for short periods in their lungs. And oxygen is carried in their bloodstream in protective packets of haemoglobin in red blood cells. But insects (and presumably bacteria and fungi) don’t have lungs. They simply have pores in their bodies into which air diffuses, carrying oxygen. Their (blue) blood (haemolymph) uses haemocyanin rather than haemoglobin to transport oxygen.  But because they are such small animals, it’s unlikely that they can store much oxygen. And so it may only need a brief interruption in the supply of oxygen for them to exhaust their oxygen stores and die. Larger animals, carrying larger stores of oxygen in lungs and extensive blood systems, would take longer to die in the same oxygen-depleted environment.

Of course, fresh oxygen will normally rapidly diffuse into an oxygen-depleted air space, but only if there is good ventilation. If a room (or building) is sealed, before a fire is lit to fill it with smoke, it may take a long time for fresh, oxygenated air to diffuse into the building. And this will mean that any bacteria or insects – even those is cracks and crevasses – will eventually experience a lethal oxygen deficiency.

If it’s oxygen deficiency that’s killing them, the important thing would be to arrange for the most complete combustion of as much of the oxygen in the air entering the fumigated space. It would need an experiment of some sort to determine whether oxygen depletion was the cause of death, rather than something else (such as the chemical components of smoke).

This explanation would also explain why viruses aren’t killed by fumigation. Viruses don’t breathe or absorb oxygen. So viruses are going to survive fumigation.

But it’s unlikely that viruses would survive combustion. A virus passing through a flame or ember would probably be oxidised along with everything else being burned.

And this prompted the thought that smokers probably experience some degree of protection from viruses because some of the air that they breathe has been passed through the high temperatures (800º C) in the glowing tips of their cigarettes (or pipes or cigars), and any viruses in that air will have been destroyed. If, for example, smokers get 5% of the air they breathe drawn through the tips of their cigarettes, then they will have 5% better protection from viral infections than non-smokers.

The protective effect would be enhanced with chain-smokers. And would be greatest of all in people who have cigarettes almost permanently dangling from their mouths.

And if it could be arranged that the air people breathed had all been passed through the flame of combustion, it would be entirely free of viruses, and they would be immune to airborne viral epidemics – which would only affect non-smokers.

In fact, it would not need any smoke or flame to destroy viruses. The same effect could be achieved simply by heating air to a high enough temperature.

In fact it appears that much lower temperatures may suffice. Simply storing one particular waterborne virus in water at 15º C for 50 days resulted in lower survival rates (by a factor of 10) than in water at 4º C. Others suggest that if air is raised to 75º C for some period of time, this alone may be enough to kill off most of the viral load carried in it. Interestingly, it seems that viruses have half-lives:

the half-life of free infectious [influenza A] virus is ∼3 h.

This suggests that anyone who lives far enough away from the centre of any viral epidemic will be less likely to be infected because viruses lose infectivity with time. But we knew that already.

Aside from this, it should be noted that alcohol is also bactericidal (and was one reason why humans have often drunk beer or wine), and may also be virucidal.

Viruses cannot be killed, since they are not alive. However, they can be inactivated. Alcohol, bleach, acids and heat can inactivate a virus. It all depends on the virus in question.

All of which suggests that if you want to avoid bacterial or viral infections, smoking and drinking (preferably in tandem, and in large quantities) will result in a much healthier and infection-free life than a smoke-free, alcohol-free, supposedly “healthy” lifestyle.

The third and final part of my conversation with Legiron below touches on some of the subjects just discussed:

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Bullying and Browbeating

I seem to remember that when some Scots started calling for Scottish independence, the British government’s response was not to crack down on Scottish nationalists, but instead it was to give Scotland a referendum to let Scots decide what they wanted. In the event, in that referendum the Scots decided that they didn’t want to leave the Union.

I’m not Scottish, but I can’t help but think that many Scots were impressed at the civility of the British government, in allowing them a referendum, and conducting it fairly and openly. And that may have swayed a few waverers to retain the Union.

Contrast that with the Spanish government’s approach to a similar push by Catalans for Catalonian independence from Spain. Some 40% of Catalans want independence.

Efforts by Madrid to stop a Catalonia independence vote, currently slated for October 1st, seem to be growing more hostile by the day. Earlier this week Spanish police seized control of Catalonia’s finances, seeking to ensure that separatist politicians could not spend further public funds on the referendum, and conducted raids across Catalonia to confiscate ballots and campaign materials from printing shops and delivery companies.

Now, as the New York Times notes this morning, Spanish police have detained 14 people during operations conducted yesterday which included the secretary general of economic affairs, Josep Maria Jové.

I have some interest in Catalonia, because from 2001 to 2010, I visited Catalonia every year, usually staying in Barcelona. I was seriously considering buying a house in Spain. The intensifying Spanish smoking bans were a large part of the reason why I didn’t, and also why I’ve never been back.

Now, gazing from afar, I can’t help but think that if I was a wavering Catalan, the bullying and browbeating approach of the Spanish government would push me towards voting for independence from it. After all, the bullying and browbeating attitude of the some EU politicians towards Brexit has made me glad I voted for it.

Bullying and browbeating seems to be the standard way of doing things these days. Tobacco Control engages in full time bullying and browbeating of smokers to get them to stop smoking. The EU, when it’s not trying to bully and browbeat the UK, is bullying and browbeating Eastern European states. And the global warming zealots in the UN are bullying and browbeating sceptics to take measures to combat the supposed threat. And Political Correctness everywhere consists in bullying and browbeating people in a wide range of matters.

Bullies are everywhere these days, it seems.

Perhaps it’s a propensity that is never buried very deeply. You want somebody to do something, and you ask them politely to do it, but when they don’t do it (because they don’t want to), you start to try to force them to do it: you start bullying them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s smoking, carbon dioxide emissions, membership of the EU (or Spain), or anything else, when you don’t get what you want, you start trying to force people to give you what you want.

It reminds of a Labour party activist who I once knew, who in response to a request from me to help out with a theatre project I was involved in, replied: “I’ll see if I can twist a few arms.” And I was shocked that his very first idea was not to “ask around” or “seek advice”, but to apply pressure to people, and “twist a few arms.” I wondered whether that was what it was like in the Labour party, and it was all people twisting each others’ arms. These days, I’m inclined to think that that’s probably exactly what it’s like.

It seems that, whatever organisation it is, it sooner or later gets taken over by bullies and browbeaters. So now there’s an army of bullies at the top of the medical profession in the WHO. And there is an army of bullies in Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and more or less every other environmental group. And there is an army of bullies in the EU.

Historically, Hitler was a bully. And so was Stalin. And so was Mussolini. And so was Franco. But there were plenty of bullies on the other side as well. WW1 and WW2 might well be thought of as wars between armies of bullies. And war itself might be thought of as being unrestricted bullying. And if the bullying stops when the war ends, it’s just because one army of bullies has triumphed over another army of bullies, and have finally got their way, and have no more need to bully people into submission. Peace reigns for a while, and then the bullying gradually restarts.

All of which thoughts reminded me of a chapter in Friedrich Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom on “Why The Worst Get On Top”, in which he wrote:

“Just as the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending towards totalitarianism.”

You must either abandon your plans, or push them forward with determination. But the problem here surely starts when someone starts “planning economic life”? In fact, does it not start when people start “planning” what other people should do in any respect whatsoever? Tobacco Control has made plans for a “smoke-free” society. The global warming zealots plan for a “carbon-free” world. The EU politicians plan for a European superstate. And so on elsewhere in other matters. None of them show any signs of abandoning any of their plans. And so all of them are showing signs of assuming dictatorial powers, and disregarding ordinary morals. Any kind of large-scale social planning is always inherently dictatorial and totalitarian, and sooner or later this truth of the matter emerges. Once I decide what’s good for you, I have already taken the first step towards totalitarian control. It only needs a Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini to complete the journey.

All the mounting bullying and browbeating produces counter-bullies and counter-browbeaters. Donald Trump may have emerged in response to the bullying and browbeating of Political Correctness in all its forms, but Trump is himself a bully. The US left will have to find someone who is an equal bully to him. We have therefore entered into a bullying arms race, to see who can be the biggest bully of all. It can only be a matter of time before new super-bully Hitlers and Stalins appear.

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On The Beach

I seem to have an obsession with sand, because it appears that I write about it quite regularly. Like here (dangerous sandcastles on beaches) and here (killer crystalline silica dust on beaches). Just a couple of days ago I was wondering how the sandy river deltas formed (my explanation: the rivers slow as they reach the sea, and widen as they slow).

This morning, still slowly pursuing the most recent line of inquiry, I started wondering about beaches again.

There are a lot of things that puzzle me about beaches (which may be why I keep going back to think about them again and again). Why is it that all beaches everywhere in the world seem to be composed of sand, and not mud or silt or gravel? Where does the sand come from? How does it get to the beaches? Why does it stay on the beaches, and not just slip off?

And why are beaches usually very smooth and flat and firm underfoot near the water edge, but softer and hillier further inland (and also a bit hilly underwater offshore)? Why are there sometimes sand dunes inland from beaches?

Sand is actually composed of quite a lot of things. Most of it is made up of quartz. But there are also broken sea shells mixed in. And sometimes coral fragments.  The deltas I was considering a couple of days ago seem to be the sources of a lot of sand, probably because there are no sea shells or coral fragments in them, and they’re purely composed of quartz crystals. Quartz is highly resistant to chemical weathering, and that’s why it sticks around a long time. The quartz, composed of silicon and oxygen, SiO4, comes from granite. We make glass from silica, SiO2.

In fact not all beaches are made of sand. In Devon, beaches like the one at Sidmouth, are composed entirely of large rounded pebbles. And further east at Lyme Regis, where the beaches are made of sand near the water’s edge, there are banks of pebbles along the top of the beach. You have to go further east to places like Charmouth to find beaches almost wholly composed of sand. Which suggests that beaches are graded from top to bottom with the largest pebbles at the top, smaller pebbles (sand) in the middle, and the smallest pebbles (silt) at the bottom. And this probably happens because sand and silt-bearing water flows easily down the beach between large pebbles, and the fine silt-bearing water flows easily further down the beach between grains of sand. The beach acts as a sieve.

But why is the smooth sand just above the water level so firm underfoot? If you’re building sandcastles, dry sand is no good: it falls into a conical heap. And wet sand spreads into a similar heap. For some reason or other, you need damp sand to build sandcastles. Damp sand seems to possess much greater mechanical strength than wet sand or dry sand. Why is that?

I suspect the reason is that as water runs away between grains of sand, some drops (ringlets) remain at the points of contact between grains, and surface tension in the ringlet surface acts to pull the grains of sand towards each other, holding them together. These ringlets of water remain in place, and only gradually evaporate. And they are what serves to give damp sand greater strength than wet or dry sand: the grains of sand are glued together by water.

And there is a lot of air space inside dry sand. The density of quartz is about 2,650 kg/m³, and the density of dry quartz sand ranges from about 1,300 to 1,600 kg/m³. So dry sand is composed of 40 – 50% air. And when sand is filled with water it will drain quite rapidly to leave drops of water adhering to sand grains. Silts composed of smaller grains will have many more, narrower channels between grains, and will drain much more slowly. Pebble beaches will drain quickest of all.

So when a wave rushes up a beach in a thin sheet of water (photo at top), carrying lots of grains of sand in it,  these grains of sand are deposited on the beach when the water slows to a halt, and the grains of sand fall more or less vertically onto the beach underneath. But they are also more firmly deposited by the action of the water flowing down between the sand grains beneath the beach surface. Each wave wets the sand, and it immediately starts drying until the next wave arrives a minute or so later. The beach is a sieve which collects sand. And the damp, drying sheet of sand, bound together by droplets of water, must be in slight tension, which will act to stretch it flat. The same slight tension is what holds sandcastles together. And it also makes damp sand firm underfoot.

And maybe this is why most beaches are composed of sand. Silts that are composed of very fine grains remain waterlogged for long periods of time, and have no tensile strength. Layers of pebbles that are composed of large stones which dry rapidly also lack tensile strength. It may be that only sand drains quickly enough, yet also adheres together strongly enough, can serve to form beaches. And that’s why most beaches are made of sand.

The shape of sand grains may also affect the mechanical behaviour of beaches.

Angular sand grains may bind together much like toothed cogs in an engine, while smooth ones will slip easily over each other. Beaches made up of angular sands might be able to slope more steeply than ones made of rounded sand.

The slope of a beach may also affect its behaviour. Steeply sloping beaches will drain more rapidly than shallower ones, and so dry quicker. They will also be more difficult for waves to sweep up, and so will be wetted less often. Beaches may change their slopes depending on how frequently waves waves break on them, and how much water arrives with each wave. During storms, beaches may get steeper in order to reduce the rate at which water is deposited on them, and speed the drainage of water from them. If a beach can’t drain itself of water quickly enough, it is likely to become completely waterlogged, and the separated grains be swept away.

That maybe begins to answer one or two questions about beaches. I have plenty more.

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Tobacco Control Always Gets Other People To Do Its Dirty Work

Some news I came across a couple of days back:

Health workers attacked and abused over hospital smoking ban

Rules banning smoking outside Victoria’s public hospitals could be reviewed because health workers are being attacked and abused while trying to police the policy.

Calls for an audit of the ban are being led by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, which is concerned nurses are being put in danger.

“We’re hearing that the policing of the ban actually leads to violence and aggression against our members,” union state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.

The calls come after the death of Melbourne heart surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, who was allegedly punched in the head in the foyer of Box Hill Hospital after expressing concern about people smoking near the hospital entrance.

Tobacco Control always gets other people to do its dirty work in enforcing smoking bans. They don’t suffer the consequences of enforcing the laws they enact. I doubt that Deborah Arnott or Sally Davies or Sir Charles George or any of the rest of them would ever have dreamed of themselves telling anybody to stop smoking: they get other people to do that for them.

In the UK, pub landlords were co-opted to enforce the law, entirely unpaid. At least the police, like firemen, are paid to do dangerous work. I suppose that nurses and porters and other hospital staff are paid for the work they do, and might be expected to enforce hospital rules and regulations as part of their normal duties. Or conversely, they might not be expected to.

It should be no surprise to anyone if smokers object to being made to walk long distances to find a place outdoors where they can smoke. It should be no surprise if they react angrily to officious busybodies, and say abusive things, and even become violent. The same would happen with car owners if they are told that they can’t park somewhere, and must park miles away, and walk long distances, simply because their car emits carbon dioxide.

In the case of Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, it would appear that he was an elite antismoking zealot much like Sir Charles George, who also happened to be a heart surgeon:

Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, is now clinging to life after an alleged one punch assault out the front of Box Hill Hospital last Tuesday evening.

Police allege the medical professional was knocked unconscious by Joseph Esmaili, 22, after asking him to stop smoking near the hospital entrance.

He remained in a critical condition on Friday – ten days after the alleged assault – an Alfred Hospital spokeswoman said.

Pritzwald-Stegmann seems to have been different from the rest of the antismoking elite, in that instead of getting someone else to enforce their smoking bans for them, he attempted to do so himself, and was promptly met with extreme violence.

It also rather sounds like Joseph Esmaili was a street fighting man who knew how to throw a punch, and Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann didn’t know how to dodge one, and the outcome of their encounter was a foregone conclusion (although I doubt Esmaili was trying to kill him). It also sounds as if, despite his medical skills, he lacked rather a lot in the way of diplomatic skills, if he managed to get into a fight with Esmaili.

But if Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann was met with violence that cost him his life, aren’t nurses and other hospital workers likely to meet with the same? Why should they put their lives at risk to enforce hospital regulations?

The same question should have been asked of pub landlords in the UK. Why should they put their lives at risk to enforce a smoking ban which they never used to have to enforce? It must be much harder to enforce such a ban in a pub environment in which a great many people will be intoxicated, and liable to get into fights over any number of issues.

Smoking bans are enacted by people who, for the most part (Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann excepted) are never going to experience any of the consequences of them. Those consequences fall on the smokers on which they are imposed, as they are required first to trudge their way out of the hospital, and then to trudge far from the hospital entrance as well. And the consequences also fall upon those who are required, usually without any financial remuneration, to police these bans.

But if antimoking police were remunerated for enforcing smoking bans – and perhaps smokers also remunerated for being required to walk long distances to smoke – it would most likely would have proved far too expensive to do. Smoking bans require voluntary enforcement, for otherwise they’ll be too costly.

It really should be that, whenever anyone enacts some law, they must also provide funds to enforce that law.

I imagine that when (and if) Victoria’s hospital smoking bans do get reviewed, they will be reviewed by people who don’t have any intention of enforcing them themselves, and want other people to do their dirty work for them: they will vote to keep the ban, and maybe even extend it. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation might then respond by voting to instruct its members to refuse to police such bans. Other hospital employees’ organisations might do the same. The ban will remain, but nobody will enforce it, not even those who first enacted it.


And here’s Part 2 of my three part conversation with Legiron:

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