Paul Marks is a name I’m sure many of you have heard. But if you are like me you probably know very little about him. I was at a libertarian gathering once and there was a fashionable fellow there, worked for a think tank I think, who asked “that Paul Marks, he’s everywhere, but who is he?”. And it’s true, you’ll read his name next to full length pieces of writing at the BBC, at the Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Spectator, at Forbes (at least briefly) and at The Economist, which is often the subject of his ire. He also appears at places like Samizdata, Counting Cats in Zanzibar and Libertarian Home.
Why is such a prolific writer not a household name? A national institution? Perhaps it is the superficial matter of his being – in his own words – “fat” and “bald”, maybe it’s because he’s “forgetful” and “old” – which is something else he’ll often tell you about himself. Paul Marks does not have teeth, he has “remaining teeth”. I’m sure Paul has said these things about himself dozen times, and we’ll find out on Thursday if they are true. I suspect not.
More likely it is his total disrespect of grammar. His grammar and spelling are worse than mine because he cares about that sort of thing even less than I do. Perhaps it is the occasionally dark and bloody tone of his writing which is above all, rather blunt. Here is an example:
I am always happy to come upon someone who really knows a lot about a subject (not just facts – but has also thought about the matter) and I will listen to them, even if they have only a limited vocabulary and find it very difficult to string words together. But I have no interest in elegant waffle
But no, the real reason Paul is not a household name is because his prolific and industrious writing happens not above the line, where the articles are on most websites that have articles, but below the line – in the comments. I was surprised to find he had written a pamphlet for the LA – taking on Carson – because conversation appears to be his thing. His fondness, and his capacity, for discussion seems limitless. His comments are often long, are always immensely detailed and are hugely passionate. He has, on at least two occasions, demonstrated foresight, thoroughness and determination when talking about topics that concern him.
He has high expectations about hypocrisy and expects people to always see the full consequences of their own beliefs. He is most passionate when he believes his opponent will not admit to what those consequences might be, and his efforts to correct them are sometimes irksome. His taste for straightforwardness make the Economist and Barrack Obama his favourite – or least favourite – subjects. Though Christian, he is not afraid to judge people in a manner Rand would have been proud of (though for some reason he thinks this is too Kantian).
His self-deprecating “suicide-note” manner, and consistent disregard to the details of English, mean it is quite easy to underestimate him. For example, to my shame, I felt genuine surprise when I found he was not just a parking attendant and a councillor, but the chair of one of the Councils committees. Most of all, I think this is because is spoken manner is quite different from his written manner. In a 2009 interview with Brian Micklethwait, despite Brian’s best efforts to hurry him up, he comes across as much a much calmer and more ordered and patient than you would imagine when you read him.
I suggest therefore, that we let him speak, and do not interrupt him. I suggest we take him as we find him, but also that we do not take seriously any of the self-deprecating things he says about himself.