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