Another victory for feminist

February 18, 2010

and another loss for civilization.


Funny

February 18, 2010

I’m not sure if it’s alpha, beta or omega, but it is funny.


Democratic mismanagement (not “Democratic”, but “democratic”)

February 18, 2010

Since Mencius Moldbug is off today, may I be so bold as to recommend this piece (and this follow-up), for those hankering for their weekly dose of moldbuggery?

Thanks to Redstate for the links. The piece can certainly be read to show Progressive mismanagement in San Francisco. But, it’s better read to show the inevitable failure of democracy. San Francisco is simply farther along this path than many other locales.

A few excerpts are in order. Let’s start with the most important:

When it comes to mismanaging a city, San Francisco has pulled a 180 — in half a century, we’ve gone from "city fathers" (if you liked them) or "oligarchs" (if you didn’t) operating with limited input from the people to a hyperdemocracy. . . . For all its scotch-soaked flaws, the city of yore did not suffer from these problems. While archaic and stridently antidemocratic by today’s standards, the system of government cobbled together by a citizens’ commission in 1931 largely did what our forebears wanted it to do — mind the store and eliminate rampant corruption. . . .

From 1932 until 1996, much of city government was handled by a powerful chief administrative officer (CAO), appointed to a 10-year term and tasked with overseeing the city’s largest departments. The job was to take politics out of city management. (Today’s San Francisco is so intensely saturated with politics down to the minutiae that the supervisors’ recent appointment of a transit expert to a transit board — and not a union plumber — was seen as a deeply political move and an affront to organized labor.) The CAO was charged with making the city’s largest decisions in an apolitical manner; the major portion of the job was keeping the books on the most vital departments and making sure they were running smoothly. In a manner of speaking, the CAO was a living, breathing accountability measure. The city certainly made its share of lousy calls, but the sloth, waste, and dysfunction emblematic of today’s city government would have been shocking.

Over time, however, the CAO’s purview was replaced by that hyperdemocracy. The reasonable notion that the people of San Francisco should have input into how things are run has turned into the democratic equivalent of death by a thousand cuts; as everybody gets a voice, democracy votes accountability down. When everyone’s in charge, no one is. "In the old days, they ran roughshod over opposing views," Fracchia says. "Today, all ya got is opposing views. Pick your poison."

What recommendations does our reporter have, I’ve selected one:

Return much of the day-to-day control of city operations to an unelected, long-term city manager — who would also be responsible for negotiating union contracts.

As to the future:

The far more likely scenario is that nothing will happen. The city will continue its orgy of waste and incompetence.


Review of “Ancient and Modern Imperialism” by Lord Cromer

February 17, 2010

The book is here, and I’m – of course – reading it because Cromer is a favorite of Mencius Moldbug. The book is a short comparison between ancient (i.e Roman) imperialism and modern (i.e. mostly British but also French and Russian) imperialism. I’m going to dive right into some quotes that summarize Cromer’s ideas and then I’m going to compare modern American imperialism to the imperialisms discussed by Cromer.

1) Imperialism for both Rome and Britain is driven by geography:

The first points of anal­ogy which must strike any­one who en­deav­ours to in­sti­tute a com­par­ison be­tween Ro­man and mod­ern—no­tably British—Im­pe­ri­al pol­icy are that in proceed­ing from con­quest to con­quest each step in ad­vance was in an­cient, as it has been in mod­ern, times ac­com­pa­nied by mis­giv­ings, and was of­ten tak­en with a reluctance which was by no means feigned; that Rome, equal­ly with the mod­ern ex­pan­sive Pow­ers, more es­pe­cial­ly Great Britain and Rus­sia, was im­pelled on­wards by the im­pe­ri­ous and ir­re­sistible ne­ces­si­ty of ac­quir­ing de­fen­si­ble fron­tiers; that the pub­lic opin­ion of the world scoffed 2,000 years ago, as it does now, at the al­leged ne­ces­si­ty; and that each on­ward move was at­tribut­ed to an in­sa­tiable lust for an ex­tend­ed do­min­ion.

In this Cromer has much in common with George Friedman.

2) Both empires made us of foreign troops.

In re­spect to an­oth­er point, the meth­ods em­ployed by the British, both in In­dia and in Egypt, bear a strik­ing sim­ilar­ity to that adopt­ed by the Ro­mans. Both na­tions have been large­ly aid­ed by aux­il­iaries drawn from the coun­tries which they con­quered.

3) Both exact some form of tribute from conquered nations, but this form changes dramatically:

An Im­pe­ri­al Pow­er nat­ural­ly ex­pects to de­rive some ben­efits for it­self from its Impe­ri­al­ism. There can be no doubt as to the quar­ter to which the Ro­mans looked for their prof­it. They ex­act­ed heavy trib­utes from their de­pen­den­cies. . . . Eng­land has re­gard­ed trade with In­dia, and not trib­ute from In­dia, as the fi­nan­cial as­set which coun­ter­bal­ances the burden of gov­ern­ing the coun­try.

4) Next we turn to the ability of empires to assimilate their subjects:

If we turn to the­ com­par­ative re­sults ob­tained by an­cient and modern imperialists; if we ask our­selves whether the Ro­mans, with their im­per­fect means of lo­co­mo­tion and commu­ni­ca­tion, their rel­ative­ly low stan­dard of pub­lic moral­ity, and their ig­no­rance of many eco­nom­ic and po­lit­ical truths, which have now be­come ax­iomat­ic, suc­ceed­ed as well as any mod­ern peo­ple in as­sim­ilat­ing the na­tions which the prowess of their arms had brought un­der their sway, the an­swer can­not be doubt­ful. They suc­ceed­ed far better. . . . They ei­ther Ro­man­ized the races who were at first their sub­jects and even­tu­al­ly their mas­ters or left those races to be the will­ing agents of their own Ro­man­iza­tion. . . . A great deal has been said and writ­ten on the sub­ject of the in­abil­ity of mod­ern Eu­ro­pean Pow­ers to as­sim­ilate subject races. . It is very gen­er­al­ly held that this in­abil­ity is es­pe­cial­ly marked in the case of the British.

In this area of assimilation, the Romans had two distinct advantages. First, the Romans did not have to contend with such strong, divergent religions in the populations they conquered:

In one of those bold and pro­found gen­er­al­iza­tions on East­ern pol­itics in which he ex­cels, Sir Al­fred Lyall has very tru­ly point­ed out that the Ro­mans on­ly had, for the most part, to deal with tribes. It was Chris­tian­ity and its off­shoot, Is­lam, that cre­at­ed na­tions and in­tro­duced the re­li­gious el­ement in­to pol­itics. Now, in the pro­cess of as­sim­ila­tion the Romans eas­ily sur­mount­ed any dif­fi­cul­ties based on re­li­gion. The easy-go­ing poly­the­ism and pan­the­ism of the an­cient world read­ily adapt­ed it­self to changed cir­cum­stances. . . . Far dif­fer­ent has been the sit­ua­tion in more mod­ern times. Alone amongst Im­pe­ri­al­ist na­tions, the Spaniards en­deav­oured to force their faith on their re­luc­tant sub­jects, with results that con­tribut­ed to their own un­do­ing. In all oth­er cas­es there has been tol­er­ation, but no pros­elytism—or, at all events, no of­fi­cial pros­elytism. That tol­er­ation has, indeed, been at times pushed so far—as in the case of the tac­it ac­qui­es­cence at one time ac­cord­ed to the sav­age rites of Jug­ger­nauth—as to strain the con­sciences of many earnest Chris­tians. Tol­er­ation, how­ev­er, is, from a po­lit­ical point of view, but a poor sub­sti­tute for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. It does not tend to break down one of the most formidable obstacles which stand in the way of fu­sion.

The Romans also had the advantage of Latin and Greek:

In di­rect op­po­si­tion to the case of the Ro­mans, who had to deal with con­quered races ea­ger­ly de­sirous of adopt­ing the lan­guage of their con­querors, mod­ern Im­pe­ri­al­ist na­tions have to deal with na­tion­al sen­ti­ments which of­ten clus­ter round the idea that the ex­tru­sion of the ver­nac­ular lan­guage should be stout­ly re­sist­ed.

5) Our final difference, is that much more is expected from modern administration than was expected of ancient administration:

Nowhere does the pol­icy of mod­ern dif­fer more wide­ly from that of an­cient Im­pe­ri­al­ism than in deal­ing with mat­ters of this sort. The mod­ern Im­pe­ri­al­ist will not ac­cept the decrees of Na­ture. He strug­gles man­ful­ly, and at enor­mous cost, to re­sist them. In the case of dis­ease he brings sci­ence to his aid, and, in the case of famine, his re­sis­tance is by no means in­ef­fec­tu­al, for he has dis­cov­ered that Na­ture will gen­er­al­ly pro­duce a suf­fi­cien­cy of food if man can ar­range for its time­ly dis­tri­bu­tion.

The pol­icy of pre­serv­ing and pro­long­ing’ hu­man life—even use­less hu­man life—is no­ble. It is the on­ly pol­icy wor­thy of a civ­ilized na­tion. But its ex­ecu­tion in­evitably in­creas­es the dif­fi­cul­ty of gov­ern­ment.

Before I compare our modern imperialism (i.e America’s) with Cromer’s imperialisms, I can’t help but quote some good advice from Cromer, who has so much governing experience:

Very great im­prove­ments were, in­deed, made by Au­gus­tus. Like all who have had to en­counter the prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties of ad­min­is­tra­tive work, he found that the first and most es­sen­tial step to­wards the cre­ation of a sound ad­min­is­tra­tion was to es­tab­lish an ef­fi­cient De­part­ment of Ac­counts.

I think budgetary reform in the US will only be possible once we have an honest governmental accounting system. The government requires companies to honestly report their financial status, but the government subjects itself to a separate, dishonest system. The government is not forced to recognize implicit liabilities, such as investments in government-sponsored entities, potential ownership of institutions that are too big to fail, social security, medicare, and guaranteed employment contracts and pensions. The list could go on. If we follow Cromer and Augustus down the path to fiscal responsibility (and who else would be better to follow, dear reader?) then we see that "sound administration" is impossible given our current accounting system.

Cromer also comments on the need to separate administration of colonies from commercial exploitation, after criticizing British rule of India under the East India Company, Cromer says:

It was not, how­ev­er, un­til sev­en­ty-​four years lat­er that the adop­tion of the prin­ci­ple which lies at the root of all sound ad­min­is­tra­tion, and which in quite re­cent times has been fla­grant­ly vi­olat­ed in Turkey, Egypt, and the Con­go, was forced up­on the rulers of In­dia by the con­vul­sion of 1857. That prin­ci­ple is that ad­min­is­tra­tion and com­mer­cial exploitation should not be en­trust­ed to the same hands. State of­fi­cials may err, but they have no in­ter­ests to serve but those of good gov­ern­ment, where­as com­mer­cial agents must al­most of ne­ces­si­ty at times ne­glect the wel­fare of the sub­ject race in the re­al or pre­sumed pe­cu­niary in­ter­ests of their em­ploy­ers. For the last fifty years, al­though errors of judg­ment may pos­si­bly be im­put­ed to the rulers of In­dia, more es­pe­cial­ly in the di­rec­tion of a some­what reck­less adap­ta­tion of West­ern ideas to East­ern requirements, not a word of re­proach can be breathed against the spir­it which has an­imat­ed their rule.

Now, in turning to our modern imperialism, we must first explain the form of modern imperialism. The long explanation can be found in the "Vampire of the World" series by Mencius Moldbug (helpfully collected here with direct links here and here). The short version can be found here and in this money quote:

The unspeakable truth was that by 1941 we were a defeated nation [Britain], whose conquerors had neglected to invade us. Impoverished, beaten in battle in Flanders and Malaya, condemned as it seemed to grey years of sacrifice with no certain end, we were invaded by our allies instead. . . . [British traditions] simply could not compete with the vigorous, wealthy, well-fed, sheer success of the Americans . . .

As Mr Moldbug has said, the post-1945 world has the exact same opinions as the Harvard faculty of 1945 – this is not a coincidence.

America is an empire of a different sort. The American empire compares easily to the British empire described by Cromer, except the Americans have figured out 4) assimilation. Alas, we suffer under ever-increasing expectations in 5), which will perhaps be our downfall.


The confusion over sovereignty

February 17, 2010

This article is interesting because it illustrates the modern confusion with respect to sovereignty. It states:

While the symbolic move [by the EU] to suspend Greece of its voting rights at one meeting makes no practical difference, it marks a constitutional watershed and represents a crushing loss of sovereignty.

Now, if the EU can suspends Greece’s rights, Greece is not sovereign. It’s sovereignty cannot have suffered a blow, since it apparently didn’t exist to begin with.

This analysis also raises the more interesting question – which body currently has sovereignty in Europe?


Review of “Cromwell” by Thomas Carlyle

February 17, 2010

The book is here. It is a short biography of Cromwell. Carlyle devoted quite a bit of ink to Cromwell. Carlyle opens like no one else can:

The first world-great thing that remains of English history, the literature of Shakespeare, was ending; the second world-great thing that remains of English history, the armed appeal of Puritanism to the invisible God of heaven against many very visible Devils, on earth and elsewhere, was, so to speak, beginning. They have their exits and their entrances. And one people, in its time, plays many parts.

That the “sense of difference between right and wrong” had filled all time and all space for man, and bodied itself forth into a heaven and hell for him; this constitutes the grand feature of those Puritan, Old-Christian ages;— this is the element which stamps them as heroic, and has rendered their works great, man-like, fruitful to all generations. It is by far the memorablest achievement of our species ; without that element in some form or other, nothing of heroic had ever been among us. For many centuries Catholic Christianity—a fit embodiment of that divine sense — had been current more or less, making the generations noble : and here in England, in the century called the seventeenth, we see the last aspect of it hitherto,—not the last of all, it is to be hoped. Oliver was henceforth a Christian man ; believed in God, not on Sundays only, but on all days, in all places, and in all cases.

We then get brief descriptions of the major events (again in great Carlylean style). We begin with the Levellers. Then we’re treated to wonderful descriptions of Cromwell’s actions in the Battle of Dunbar, the Rump Parliament, the Barebones Parliament and assassinations attempts against his own life.

It ends as only Carlyle can:

But Pu­ri­tanism, the king of it once away, fell loose very nat­ural­ly in ev­ery fi­bre, — fell in­to king­less­ness, what we call an­ar­chy; crum­bled down, ev­er faster, for six­teen months, in mad sui­cide, and uni­ver­sal clash­ing and col­li­sion; proved, by tri­al af­ter tri­al, that there lay not in it ei­ther gov­ern­ment or so much as self-​gov­ern­ment any more; that a gov­ern­ment of Eng­land by it was hence­forth an im­pos­si­bil­ity. Amid the gen­er­al wreck of things, all gov­ern­ment threat­en­ing now to be im­pos­si­ble, the rem­inis­cence of roy­al­ty rose again, “Let us take refuge in the past, the fu­ture is not pos­si­ble!” and Ma­jor-​Gen­er­al Monk crossed the Tweed at Cold­stream, with re­sults which are well known.

Re­sults which we will not quar­rel with, very mourn­ful as they have been! If it please Heav­en, these two hun­dred years of uni­ver­sal cant in speech, with so much of cot­ton-spinning, coal-bor­ing, com­merc­ing, and oth­er valu­able sin­cer­ity of work go­ing on the while, shall not be quite lost to us! Our cant will van­ish, our whole bale­ful cun­ning­ly compact­ed uni­verse of cant, as does a heavy night­mare dream. We shall awak­en; and find our­selves in a world great­ly widened. Why Pu­ri­tanism could not con­tin­ue? My friend, Pu­ri­tanism was not the com­plete the­ory of this im­mense uni­verse; no, on­ly a part there­of! To me it seems, in my hours of hope, as if the des­tinies meant some­thing grander with Eng­land than even Oliv­er Pro­tec­tor did! We will not quar­rel with the des­tinies; we will work as we can to­wards ful­fil­ment of them.

. . .

The works of a man, bury them un­der what guano-​moun­tains and ob­scene owl-​drop­pings you will, do not per­ish, can­not per­ish. What of hero­ism, what of eter­nal light was in a man and his life, is with very great ex­act­ness added to the eter­ni­ties, re­mains for­ev­er a new di­vine por­tion of the sum of things; and no owl’s voice, this way or that, in the least avails in the mat­ter. But we have to end here.

Oliv­er is gone; and with him Eng­land’s Pu­ri­tanism, la­bo­ri­ous­ly built to­geth­er by this man, and made a thing far-​shin­ing mirac­ulous to its own cen­tu­ry, and mem­orable to all the cen­turies, soon goes. Pu­ri­tanism, with­out its king, is king­less, an­ar­chic; falls in­to dis­lo­ca­tion, self-​col­li­sion; stag­gers, plunges in­to ev­er deep­er an­ar­chy; king, de­fend­er of the Puri­tan faith there can none now be found; and noth­ing is left but to re­call the old dis­owned De­fend­er with the rem­nants of his four sur­plices, and two cen­turies of hypocri­sies (or play-​act­ing not so called), and put up with all that, the best we may.


Review of “The Whiskey Rebels” by David Liss

February 17, 2010

I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Liss’s other books. The book is set just before the Whiskey Rebellion.

In short, the book follows two plot lines which intersect at about the two-thirds mark. The basic premise involves a plot by westerners (from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio) to ruin William Duer and thereby to ruin the first Bank of the United States and thereby to ruin Alexander Hamilton. Without giving too much away, the reason why the westerners want to ruin these men is the Whiskey Tax.

Basically, Hamilton decided to tax whiskey to fund the Bank of the United States. He then used the bank as a sort of proto-Fed. The bank would essentially try to spur investment by lending cheaply. Unfortunately, for the westerners, whiskey was a valuable commodity. First, there was almost no specie in circulation in the west. The crops grown by westerners wouldn’t last forever and thus any surplus was turned into whiskey. For these reasons, westerners were therefore used whiskey as currency – whiskey therefore did not provide westerners with cash but they were taxed on the whiskey nonetheless. Moreover, the tax was used to give loans to speculators, like Duer. The obvious result was rebellion – though the actual rebellion takes place after the conclusion of the plot of the novel.

Liss gets bonus points for writing such a timely novel. The clash between the westerners and Hamilton mirrors the modern clash between Wall St and Main St. The government in the late 1700s was taxing hard-working, relatively poor people to the benefit of the east coast elite. Hamilton, like Paulson and Geithner and Bernanke believe that cheap credit makes everyone better off, even if that means continually transferring wealth from one class to another. Some things never change – though I would point out that Hamilton never considers directly bailing-out Duer, so maybe things do change, if only slightly.

Liss loses points for failing to create accurate historical characters. This book is PC to the point of losing credibility. One main character is a female speculator – unlikely in the 1790s, to say the least. There is a black character, a Jew, and references to Asians. The main white, male character is the only flawed character. Further his moral attitude would place him in the 21st Century mainstream and therefore place him way out of bounds in the late 18th Century. This is the major problem with historical fiction these days. If you know a lot about the actual time period in which the book is set, you will find the book’s characters incongruous with your knowledge, as the characters are given 21st Century sensibilities. 18th Century events provide a great setting, why not stick with 18th Century norms?


Democracy in Africa

February 17, 2010

There are quite a few interesting points in this article – too many to excerpt.


Review of “The French Revolution in San Domingo” by Lothrop Stoddard

February 16, 2010

This book (still in print here) is another recommendation from Mencius Moldbug. Mr Stoddard is interesting in himself.

The basics facts of the story can be found here, but Wikipedia (ever politically correct) misses too much to give you the full story. Stoddard actually gets closer to summing it up here:

The pe­ri­od opens in 1789 with a res­ident white pop­ula­tion of near­ly 40,000 souls, at the very pin­na­cle of ma­te­ri­al pros­per­ity and pos­sessed of a com­plex so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion, jeal­ous­ly guard­ing its suprema­cy and race iden­ti­ty in face of a large caste of half-breeds whose on­ly bond of in­ter­est with their white su­pe­ri­ors was a com­mon ex­ploita­tion of some half-mil­lion ne­gro slaves. The pe­ri­od clos­es six­teen years lat­er with the com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion of the last rem­nants of the white pop­ula­tion, the sub­or­di­na­tion of the mulatto caste to the ne­groes, and the de­struc­tion of the is­land’s eco­nom­ic pros­per­ity.

The division of races, with three races, is the key to understand what happens as the revolution in Frances spills-over into the colony of San Domingo. Our three races are whites, mulattoes and blacks. These groups are important because everyone on the island sees them as important.

Prior to the revolution, the colony was prosperous:

In 1789, San Domin­go “had at­tained a height of pros­per­ity not sur­passed in the his­to­ry of Eu­ro­pean colonies. The great­est part of its soil was cov­ered by plan­ta­tions on a gigantic scale which sup­plied half Eu­rope with sug­ar, cof­fee, and cot­ton.” And the de­gree of this pros­per­ity was in­creas­ing by leaps and bounds. Since 1786, “the planters had dou­bled their prod­ucts, and a large amount of French cap­ital had poured in­to the is­land for in­vest­ment — a hun­dred mil­lions from Bor­deaux alone. The re­turns were al­ready splen­did and still greater were ex­pect­ed.”

But French rule was not exactly ideal. It was governed under the Pacte Coloniale, which had five principles:

(1) the colony must send its prod­ucts on­ly to the moth­er coun­try; (2) the colony must buy on­ly from the moth­er coun­try; (3) the colony must es­tab­lish no man­ufac­tures; (4) the moth­er coun­try agreed to buy its trop­ical prod­ucts on­ly from the colony; (5) the car­ry­ing-trade with the colony must be the monopoly of the moth­er coun­try’s mer­chant marine.

We next get into the characteristics of each group. Stoddard is no defender of slavery:

In spite of their poor qual­ity and bad treat­ment, these en­gages had done fair­ly well, and it seems prac­ti­cal­ly cer­tain that if slav­ery had been ex­clud­ed, San Domin­go would have be­come the home of an ac­cli­mat­ed white peo­ple. But it was not to be. Slav­ery be­came the very ba­sis of so­ci­ety — and wrought its log­ical con­se­quences. . . .
Bryan Ed­wards, as we have seen, states that the base of slave so­ci­eties is fear. This is true, — and true in its broad­est sense. For, if the slave feared the mas­ter, the master al­so feared the slave. In the back­ground of San Domin­gan life, there low­ered a dark shad­ow, of which men thought much even when they spoke lit­tle.

And:

The mu­lat­toes looked up­on the free ne­groes with un­con­cealed dis­like, but this nev­er caused an open breach with­in the caste; the free black ful­ly shared the mu­lat­to’s contempt for the slave, and re­fused to make com­mon cause with his blood-broth­er. For this rea­son the free ne­groes nev­er played an in­de­pen­dent role, and the “free peo­ple of col­or” may be treat­ed as the caste of the mu­lat­toes.

Here, we must remember that slavery in colonies like San Domingo was not the same as slavery in the US (though the common understanding of what slavery was like is probably closer to the non-US reality). Stoddard points out:

But rapid as was this in­crease [in the number of slaves in the colony], it was due to im­mi­gra­tion, not to births; the slave pop­ula­tion of San Domin­go nev­er re­pro­duced it­self, and al­ways showed a ten­den­cy to die out.

This is still the best discussion of types of slavery that I have read.

To make a long story short, when French rule goes away, the three races on the island begin fighting for control. The result was perhaps inevitable (especially when France went to war with other countries in Europe). Along the way, we get some gruesome stories of some bad actors:

The hor­ror of the race war in the West now al­most sur­passed that of the North. The mu­lat­to Con­fed­er­ates, in “to­ken of their Roy­al­ist sen­ti­ments, fash­ioned white cock­ades from the ears of then-dead en­emies. The atroc­ities per­pe­trat­ed up­on the white wom­en and chil­dren are past be­lief. ”The mu­lat­toes,“ writes the Colo­nial As­sem­bly to its Paris commis­sion­ers, ”rip open preg­nant wom­en, and then be­fore death force the hus­bands to eat of this hor­ri­ble fruit. Oth­er in­fants are thrown to the hogs." . . .Then be­gan a strug­gle whose hor­rors have prob­ably nev­er been sur­passed. Nei­ther side dreamed of quar­ter, and the on­ly pris­on­ers tak­en were those re­served for tor­ture. So fe­ro­cious was the racial ha­tred of the com­batants that men of­ten tore one an­ot­her to pieces with their teeth.

Keep in mind that much of this violence was black on mulatto and vice versa.

We end with some fighting between Leclerc and L’Overture before the French give up.

I think this about sums up the story best:

The at­ti­tude of con­ser­va­tive French­men on the colo­nial ques­tion is well ex­pressed by De Wimpf­fen in a let­ter writ­ten at the very be­gin­ning of the Rev­olu­tion. “My sen­ti­ments, sir, with re­gard to the slav­ery of the blacks are no se­cret to you,” he writes a French cor­re­spon­dent in March, 1789. “You are ap­prised, then, that I have al­ways agreed, and still agree with those writ­ers who repro­bate so strong­ly the in­fa­mous traf­fic we main­tain on the coasts of Africa. But, while I do jus­tice to the pu­ri­ty of their mo­tives, . . . our age is un­for­tu­nate­ly too full of po­lit­ical re­form­ers; who are in a vi­olent haste to pull down an ir­reg­ular ed­ifice, with­out hav­ing ei­ther the tal­ents or the ma­te­ri­als nec­es­sary to con­struct it again up­on a bet­ter plan. One sim­ple ar­gu­ment shall suf­fice for all. Your colonies, such as they are, can­not ex­ist with­out slav­ery. This is a fright­ful truth, I con­fess; — but the not rec­og­niz­ing it is more fright­ful still, and may pro­duce the most ter­ri­ble con­se­quences. You must, then, sanc­tion slav­ery or re­nounce your colonies: and as 30,000 whites can con­trol 460,000 ne­groes on­ly by the force of opin­ion (the sole guar­an­ty of their ex­is­tence), ev­ery­thing which tends to weak­en or de­stroy that opin­ion is a crime against so­ci­ety.”

And so it proved to be. One can’t help but be reminded of Reconstruction, as Shelby Foote said:

This country has two grievous sins on its hands. One of them is slavery – whether we’ll ever be cured of it, I don’t know. The other one is emancipation – they told 4 million people, you’re free, hit the road, and they drifted back into a form of peonage that in some ways is worse than slavery.


Keynes vs. Marx

February 13, 2010

Will Keynes be to the 21st Century what Marx was to the 20th? Marxist ideas were incredibly influential in the 20th Century. It’s not hard to argue – without going into the merits of Marx’s ideas – that his ideas were at least indirectly responsible for more death and destruction than anyone in previous centuries would have thought possible.

I think it’s distinctly possible that Keynes’s ideas will be to the 21st Century what Marx’s ideas were to the 20th. The former’s ideas are so destructive that they might destroy civilization.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Niall Ferguson (he teaches at Harvard, so by 20th Century logic you have to believe him):

What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not “save” us half so much as monetary policy – zero interest rates plus quantitative easing – did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed “multiplier”) has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped. Second, there is a good deal of “leakage” from open economies in a globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur bills that fall due much sooner than we expect