Ninety-Five Percent Is Crap: A Plain Man's Guide to British Politics, by Terry Arthur, illustrated by Michael Cummings, Beford, England: Libertarian Books, Cranfleld Book Service, 1975, 246 pp., £3.50.
Terry Arthur gives us, in this book, a lively, irreverent examination of British politics from an implicitly libertarian perspective. He makes a good case for the overwhelming crappiness of British politics by quoting and commenting upon more than 300 statements made by various British "politicians" over a 19- month period. (I quote the dustjacket: "The word 'politician' is used in a broad sense to include those industrialists, trade unionists and academics who influence political action, political journalists and economists, etc., as well as Ministers and Members of Parliament.") Each of the book's 13 chapters is devoted to a particular type of crap. There is "Newspeak Crap," "Illogical Crap," "Meaningless Crap," "Statistical Crap," "Fashionable Crap," and so on.
Here are a few examples of the sort of thing Arthur does. First, from the chapter "Yes and No Crap":
The summer soon passes and before you can say Cock Robinson it's election time again. The Tories still don't know whether they should be pro- or anti-miner:
We believe it is right that the unions themselves should accept a significant share of the responsibility for the welfare of the families of men who go on strike, and that the whole burden should not fall on the taxpayer. Equally, it is right that the families of strikers should not suffer unnecessary hardship.
(Conservative Party Election Manifesto—October 1974
Let me translate:
(a) The Unions should pay a lot
(b) The striker's family must not suffer
(c) We will talk about it some more
And, from "Contradictory Crap":
The Rehabilitation of Offenders' Act answers a real need. It allows certain offenders who have gone straight for a period of years to respond truthfully that they had never been convicted of a criminal offence. (Adam Raphael—Guardian, December 15. 1974)
Oh what a tangled web we weave. He was convicted, but he wasn't convicted. Switch "truthfully" to "untruthfully" and there is the truth!
In a similar manner, alternating crappy quotations and snappy commentary, Arthur touches on numerous subjects, including inflation ("a political counterfeiting racket"), tax loopholes, immigration, "consumer protection," price controls, and the fallacy of the human rights-property rights dichotomy. In the process he makes many sensible points.
The book, unfortunately, has a number of flaws that detract somewhat from its value as a critique of political verbiage. In addition to making a few factual errors, Arthur is sometimes an incompetent linguistic analyst. For example, Arthur ought to know the difference between redundancy and meaninglessness, but his comments on the expression "social justice" (p. 8) suggest that he does not.
But, despite some lapses, Ninety-Five Percent Is Crap presents a convincing indictment of the culprits who have transformed Great Britain into Mediocre Britain.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Ninety-Five Percent Is Crap".