Elections don’t matter

October 29, 2010

I have argued before that civil servants run the government. I can now prove that I am correct.

I found a case so egregious that all doubt will be removed.

Do you think the President is in charge? Do you think Congress is in charge? If you answered yes to either you are wrong.

The case that proves that you are incorrect is the Volcker Rule. In short, the Volcker Rule is supposed to ban "proprietary trading" at banks. It was part of the Dodd-Frank Act.

You might think that Volcker – who works for the President – got to decide what the rule means. If you thought that, you are wrong:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, seeking to influence the eponymous rule he helped create, is telling administration officials they should avoid writing narrow regulations that banks can seek to exploit or evade, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Volcker, in private conversations with administration officials, said that, in implementing the so-called Volcker Rule, regulators should adopt something akin to antimoney-laundering laws, where the federal government bans a particular behavior and then places the onus on banks to screen for red flags and comply with the rules. . . .

Still, the ultimate decision rests with a myriad of regulatory agencies, which must jointly write the rules. Regulators and policy makers are discussing how best to implement the Volcker Rule and recently solicited comment from the public.

You read that right. The President’s adviser, whom the rule is named after, is begging civil servants to actually implement "his" rule in a meaningful way.

Congress actually passed the law, so they must have had some say in what the law will do, right? Wrong, the article concludes with the following paragraph:

On Thursday, a group of 18 Democratic senators sent a letter to the oversight council encouraging regulators to adopt strict and "meaningful" definitions. "Despite having just emerged as a nation from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, powerful interests will seek to weaken the … Volcker Rule protections," the letter states.

You can view the comment from the senators (click here and check the box for public comments).

Just to make it absolutely clear, Senators and advisers to the President are begging civil servants to implement a law.

The decline and fall of the American Empire

October 29, 2010

The Rally to Restore Douche-dom, er Sanity or whatever is this weekend.

Lots of the roads around my house are going to be closed. Great.

It’ll be interesting to compare this rally to the Glenn Beck rally and the immigration rally, which have been the only big rallies since I moved back to DC. In both of those cases, buses parked at the edge of my neighborhood and dropped people off to walk to the Mall. This meant that my nice weekend in the park with my dog and my reactionary literature was ruined by hordes of people walking to the Mall. I’ll report back the festivities and do my best to avoid any hippie-punching incidents.

In the meantime, enjoy this sign of our decline.

The German question

October 29, 2010

The Economist tackles the German question. They do a lame job of it, because their The Economist. Conventional wisdom and fear of offending anyone (but Germans) rings from every word. The result is, therefore, muddled.

However, the question is fascinating. Germany is emerging from the recession as the only serious country in Europe. How will this play out?

I don’t know, but it’s worth watching.

In praise of John T. Flynn

October 29, 2010

From the Mises Institute:

In fact, that’s the second fundamental truth about journalism we have to grasp if we want to understand the importance for today’s libertarians of the liberal journalist John T. Flynn: journalists are just historians in a hurry. And just as there are revisionist historians, historians who attempt to revise our understanding of the historical record, so there are revisionist journalists, journalists who, while events are taking place, insist on an alternative understanding of those events, an understanding that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom of the time.

John T. Flynn was, if not the very first, then one of the very first few, of the revisionist journalists to write about the New Deal, focusing on both its domestic and its foreign policies. He represents, therefore, the beginning of historical revisionism where the New Deal is concerned. And if any historical event fairly cries out for revisionist treatment, it is the New Deal. The myth of the New Deal, assiduously promoted by the state and its court historians, is that it was a triumph of liberalism that, by further curbing and cushioning the supposed "excesses" of capitalism, brought the American Dream within the reach of more Americans than ever before and brought what Franklin Roosevelt called "the four freedoms" — "freedom of speech and expression"; "freedom of worship"; "freedom from want"; and "freedom from fear" — to the masses.

The truth is far otherwise.

What I took from Flynn’s writing is different than what the author of this piece took. The author of this piece is more focused on Flynn’s criticism of FDR’s collusion with big businesses. When I read Flynn I was struck by his belief that the New Deal was one big vote-buying scheme. It laid the foundation for the modern electoral strategy of the Democratic Party – make sure everyone gets transfer payments.

Flynn also wrote the first draft of the critique of the New Deal that has recently become popular – the critique that suggests the New Deal paralyzed economic activity because it was constantly changing the rules of the game.

Finally, Flynn deals with the transition from New Deal to war.

Whatever your reason for reading him, you have no reason not to read him. All his books are free at mises.org.

Mencken the reactionary

October 28, 2010

From a speech that is worth reading in its entirety, here is a quote from Mencken:

it not only failed to convert me to Marxism, but left me a bitter and incurable scoffer at democracy in all its forms

It’s nice to see Mencken noting that Marxism is just a form of democracy.

You might be experiencing inflation if . . .

October 28, 2010

Trains are being stopped because people are stealing the copper wire.

But don’t worry, the Fed has inflation under control.

Do elites like America?

October 27, 2010

Charles Murray has a piece on the New Elite, in which he says:

The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.

He’s been taking some fire for saying that the New Elite loves America. As it happens, I think he is correct. (Poor Charles Murray, no matter how much he tries to emphasize his real argument – the sorting of the country by intelligence – everyone always pays attention to some other point that he makes).

The New Elite are the modern incarnation of a certain type of American that has been around since the founding.

We tend to think of America the way Roissy describes it today, while discussing a Little League game in which it is forbidden to keep score:

Our country is being assaulted by a new elite of SWPLs who disrespect, even loathe, American tradition and historical precedence, and deny differences between boys and girls.

Unfortunately, America has always had a contingent of people who deny differences between boys and girls, who will stop at nothing to end "injustices," and who believe they have been divinely endowed to determine who is right and who is wrong.

Since before America was America, it was settled by people hoping to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. For these people, the creation of this kingdom has always been what America is about. Thus it’s possible for the New Elites to love America (as they understand it) and want to destroy America as we know it (i.e. as we distinctly understand it).

After all, in the defense of the New Elites, there aren’t many things more American than abolitionism (many of the abolitionists believed that marriage was an institution of slavery), utopian socialism, protestant idealism, and 60s radicalism.

Those of us that oppose this sort of thinking do ourselves no favors when we pretend that the belief system we oppose is foreign to America.

On female suffrage

October 27, 2010

Interesting thoughts here.

I’d like to deny suffrage to a lot people, fat people, people who don’t own land, people who aren’t net tax-payers, criminals, and non-citizens (it’s crazy that I have to add this one, but I do). I’d probably even add people that don’t have children – democracy is short-sighted enough as it is.

I’m fine adding women to the list, but then I’m with adding anything to the list that reduces the number of people who have the "right" to vote.

Review of “The Vampire of the Continent” by Ernst Reventlow

October 26, 2010

How much German World War I propaganda have you read?

I’ve now read one piece of it. My guess is that this puts me in a distinct minority.

"Foseti," you say, "why would you read such crazy stuff?" Good question.

Before I started reading this, I decided to think about what I knew about the beginning of WWI. I knew that Europe was a tangled mess of alliances. I knew that England followed its historical pattern of allying itself in such away as to maintain a "balance of power" in Europe. I knew that the major powers were building up their armies and navies. I knew that when war broke in the Balkans, the alliances caused every country to instantly be at war with every other country. I knew that England was pledged to defend Belgium, but that it could have easily decided not to do so, when German attacked France. I knew that the war lasted a very long time and that lots of people died.

Looking back now on this narrative (which I have perhaps over-simplified slightly), I see some holes. Why were the alliances the way they were? If the major powers were accidentally drawn into war with each other – as the story goes – why were they willing to fight so long and lose so much? Why were they building up their armies prior to the outbreak of WWI? What did they hope to gain from the war once it had begun? Etc.

Reading Reventlow’s work, I realized that my understanding of WWI is based largely on Allied propaganda – this is really only a slight exaggeration. The hazy answers that I would have been able to provide to these questions were also based on Allied propaganda – this is hardly an exaggeration. Allied propaganda in 1916 (the year Reventlow wrote this book) is now known as "history." The Allies, after all, won.

Reventlow’s work is over-the-top. But if Germany had won the war, it would probably be known as "history" now. Thus, one can argue that most of history is written by cranks. The truly even-handed historian is rare, indeed. If you can’t find a true historian, reading propaganda from both sides is the next best option. Of course, in doing so, you’ll be exposed to some cranks. The true however, is not always easy to come by.

Before I get into the book, here’s Mencius Moldbug recommending it (sort of):

I stole [the title for the post] from Count Ernst zu Reventlow, whose Vampire of the Continent (1916), translated by the Irish traitor George Chatterton-Hill, then smuggled to New York by (I kid you not) U-Boat, is today available to all and sundry, courtesy of the innocent young progressives at Google Books. Read it now, before they realize their terrible mistake.

I can’t really endorse Reventlow’s Vampire. For one thing – unlike the aristocratic German nationalists I really do admire, eg, Ernst Jünger, Ernst von Salomon and Fritz Reck-Malleczwen – he succumbed to the brown poison, ie, became a Nazi. And Vampire is not about America, of course, but England. (The translation is half the length of the original – I’m sure any morsels of counter-Americanism were scrubbed for propaganda purposes.) Nor is it a terribly cogent piece of analysis. Reventlow often finds calculated malice where I see only accidental incompetence. He is, after all, writing war propaganda.

Vampire is still a fun read, however. I’ll bet you’ve never read any German World War I propaganda. Better yet, wash it down it with some Allied propaganda – such as George Herron’s Menace of Peace. Herron, who was perhaps even more Wilsonian than Wilson, was actually employed by that dear President as a peace emissary in negotiations with Emperor Charles. It is with great surprise that I report that the talks were not successful.

Anyway, Reventlow wants to explain the build-up to WWI. He starts with British foreign policy going back to the Spanish Armada:

Thus be­gan, as British his­to­ri­ans solemn­ly tell us, the “ hero­ic age ” of the En­glish peo­ple. It was an age char­ac­terised by or­gan­ised pira­cy and high­way rob­bery; which was at first tol­er­at­ed, and sub­se­quent­ly sanc­tioned, by the En­glish sovereigns — es­pe­cial­ly by the Vir­gin Queen, the cham­pi­on of Protes­tantism.

This is hard to argue with.

In Reventlow’s telling, England did nothing good. In fact, in his telling, the industrial revolution didn’t really start in England. It started elsewhere, but since England controlled the seas, England prevented any other country from becoming truly industrialized. Instead, England stole technology from others and ensured that markets around the world were opened to its goods. In other words, if you want to industrialize, you should: 1) steal others’ technological advancements, 2) prevent their goods from being sold abroad, and 3) prevent anyone from closing off other markets to you. Actually, this sounds like it would be highly effective. Here’s Reventlow:

Through­out En­glish his­to­ry, and up till the present day, we can trace the con­stant ap­pli­ca­tion of three meth­ods: first­ly, de­struc­tion of the means which the na­tion whom it is intend­ed to rob pos­sess­es for pro­tect­ing its prop­er­ty on the seas and over­sea — i.e. its fleet, har­bors, docks, etc.; sec­ond­ly, the seizure or de­struc­tion of the trad­ing ves­sels of such a na­tion. When these aims have been re­alised, Eng­land lays hands with­out fur­ther dif­fi­cul­ty on that na­tion’s over­sea pos­ses­sions. It is to be ob­served, that this pol­icy and this method of war­fare de­pend in the last in­stance for their suc­cess on the weak­en­ing of Eng­land’s con­ti­nen­tal ri­vals. When the sea-pow­er of the lat­ter has been bro­ken, the colonies fall off au­to­mat­ical­ly, so to speak. . . .

They [i.e. England] were not more in­tel­li­gent than oth­er na­tions; on the con­trary, dur­ing the era of dis­cov­er­ies they dis­cov­ered noth­ing, and dur­ing the era of in­ven­tions they invented noth­ing. But they un­der­stood the art of plough­ing their fields by means of stolen ox­en. And that which very clear­ly dis­tin­guished them from ev­ery oth­er Eu­ro­pean peo­ple was the greed of lu­cre as the fun­da­men­tal main­spring of ac­tion. . . .

Ad­mi­ral Free­man­tle and oth­er En­glish his­to­ri­ans speak with pride of the era when the En­glish fleet be­gan to un­der­take the du­ties of “ po­lice­man of the seas,” and to im­pose the pax bri­tan­ni­ca on all by force. The right of polic­ing the seas has since been con­sid­ered a Di­vine right of the Cho­sen Peo­ple. This right con­sists in steal­ing as many trad­ing ves­sels, whether neu­tral or not, as pos­si­ble, un­der some pi­ous and ly­ing pre­text.

Colonies can then be forced to buy your goods, and so on. You can then step back and admire your economic and technological prowess.

Far from being the bringer of liberty, Reventlow sees England as the bringer of war:

From the very out­set it was tac­it­ly ad­mit­ted that noth­ing could be so dis­ad­van­ta­geous for the re­al­isa­tion of En­glish aims, than har­mo­ny among the Con­ti­nen­tal States, i.e. peace in Eu­rope. Peace must in­evitably bring about in­creased pros­per­ity; and the con­se­quence will be the growth of the sea-pow­er of Con­ti­nen­tal na­tions, alike in the wa­ters in the neigh­bor­hood of Eng­land, and on the ocean. Sea-pow­er is the typ­ical ex­pres­sion of the in­ner strength and uni­ty of a na­tion — of a strength which must ex­pand abroad be­cause it can­not find ad­equate em­ploy­ment with­in the lim­its of the moth­er coun­try. But it was pre­cise­ly this grow­ing pros­per­ity of the Eu­ro­pean Con­ti­nent of which Eng­land had no need! . . .

In re­al­ity the En­glish pol­icy of the bal­ance of pow­er means sim­ply the stir­ring up of as many Eu­ro­pean Pow­ers as pos­si­ble against the na­tion which Great Britain, at any giv­en time, con­sid­ers as her most dan­ger­ous com­peti­tor. This na­tion is, of course, al­ways the one which, thanks to its strength and pros­per­ity, threat­ens to de­stroy the com­mer­cial monopoly of the Cho­sen Peo­ple [i.e. the British].

In sum:

We have tried, in the course of this book, to give the read­er a bird’s-​eye view of some cen­turies of that his­to­ry; Eng­land, with­out one sin­gle ex­cep­tion, has been found to be the Vam­pire of Eu­rope. Her eco­nom­ic pol­icy, her po­lit­ical pol­icy, her wars, have in­vari­ably had but a sin­gle aim: to drain the rich­es and the life-​blood of the Con­ti­nen­tal na­tions. In order to do this, she has sys­tem­at­ical­ly stirred them up against each oth­er.— But Mr. Lloyd-​George, with true En­glish im­per­ti­nence, speaks about the “in­valu­able ser­vices” rendered by Great Britain to the cause of Con­ti­nen­tal free­dom; he even dares to talk to Eu­rope about “cen­turies of hero­ism and achieve­ment,” when the sole ob­ject of his coun­try has al­ways been pira­cy and theft un­der ev­ery con­ceiv­able form.

I leave it you, dear Reader, to determine whether England embarked on the Great War to cripple the power of Germany or whether she did so to protect liberty and democracy or whatever else you have been told. If you have a few hours, you could do worse that read some Reventlow for yourself. Any crankiness he may have is surely not contagious.

Alex Ovechkin on Russian vs American girls

October 25, 2010

He would know:

"If you compare Russia and America," he told the magazine, "they are two different worlds. People, cars, clothes. Girls’ figures. Especially girls’ figures. Why do you think that is, that when an American goes to Russia for a week, he stays for two extra weeks? Girls! And when a Russian goes to America for a week, he leaves in five days."