Theodore Dalrymple

Are we prepared for the end of obesity?

Sixty years ago, my biology teacher told me (so it must have been true) that after the war, some Americans were so delighted that the restrictions on food had been lifted that they ate capsules containing a tape worm so that they could eat to their heart’s content without getting fat. This, of course, revolted

Why are we letting dangerous criminals roam the streets?

If you repeatedly ask someone to do something that is inherently, and obviously, impossible, and then blame him for not having done it, you might be suspected of ulterior motives, such as a desire to hide something such as your own incompetence.  And so it is with the criticism constantly levelled at the Probation Service,

In defence of repression

There is a modern superstition that for every terrible experience suffered there is an equal and opposite psychological technique that, like an antibiotic in a case of infection, can overcome or dissolve away the distress it caused or continues to cause. This superstition is not only false and shallow but demeaning and even insulting. It

How we fell for antidepressants

The French novelist, Michel Houellebecq, with his accustomed acuity about modern culture, titled his last novel but one Serotonin. By then, of course, this famous neurochemical had become the key to a perfect human existence, too little or too much of it resulting in all the little problems that continue to plague mankind. If only

Let’s abolish parole

The furore over the parole granted to John Worboys, the rapist taxi driver, misses the point entirely — that the system of parole is disgraceful in theory and irredeemably unwork-able in practice. The only thing that it is good for is the employment of large numbers of officials engaged in pointless or fatuous tasks who

Love rats

 Paris The rat is an intelligent, flexible and determined creature that’s difficult to eliminate A rat’s not called a rat for nothing, and — as we are repeatedly told — we are never very far from one. Certainly not in Paris, where I sit, which has seen a great increase in their number recently. There’s

Liberté, egalité, supériorité

The French election, of unprecedented interest, hazard and potential for violence, has been largely about who is to blame. Blame for what, exactly? For the country’s chronic malaise. But is it the fault of the bankers, the bosses, the bureaucracy, or the immigrants? Quite often the British press gives the impression that France is in

Why we need migrants

This is perhaps not the best moment in history to extol migrants from the developing world or Eastern Europe, but the fact remains that without them my life, and I suspect the life of many other people in the West, would be much poorer and more constricted than it is. A migrant is not just

How we drive our children mad

Mental health is a slippery concept at best and according to the annual prevalence rates given in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, people in north America and Europe suffer from an average of about two-and-a-half psychiatric conditions a year. This suggests that either we are all mad or the

Why borders matter

There is no better way of discrediting an opinion than by attributing it to a psychological quirk or peculiarity. The task is then not to refute it, but to explain it away by reference to its murky psychic origins. For a number of years, doubt about the wisdom of a European project (whose end can

The rehabilitation game

‘They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work,’ said the Soviet worker in the good old days; the British criminal could nowadays say with equal reason, ‘They pretend to punish us and we pretend to reform.’ Recent statistics show that two thirds of young criminals ordered to wear electronic tags break their court

Visiting rites

The slowest and most expensive museum refurbishment in world history must be that of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is taking longer and costing more than it took and cost to build it in the first place. Let us hope that the result will be magnificent, with all the interactive features that any modern child

Coventry blues

He who would see England’s future should be separated for a while from the better parts of London and sent (literally, not metaphorically) to Coventry. There, amid the hideous and dilapidating buildings of a failed modernism, he will see precincts with half the shops boarded up, where youths in hoodies skateboard all day along the

Rough treatment

If anyone needed persuading of the deep moral disarray of modern British society, the latest figures on assaults against National Health Service staff should be more than sufficient to convince him. It is not so much their overall number — though 57,830 in a year seems quite a lot to me — that is alarming,

A case in point

You can tell that the economy of East Anglia is more flourishing than that of the West Midlands because the fine for drunken vomiting in the back of the taxis of Peterborough is £50, whereas it is only £40 for doing so in the back of the taxis of Wolverhampton. The other difference between the

It’s fun to smash things

Only the wilfully blind could have been surprised by the scale or ferocity of the riots that have engulfed Britain in the past week. Unfortunately, most of the country’s political and intellectual class have been wilfully blind for years, in a state of the most abject denial; a brief walk in any of our cities