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Stand By Me…

Ben E King died yesterday.

He wrote and sung probably the best love song ever.

I know this because it was played at my marriage. I chose it.

I stood next to Elizabeth quite a few years ago but Ben E King was my wingman.

I don’t seem able to embed it but do listen.

A day to remember the evil of Marxism and the evil of others also.

Today, “May Day”, is a day to remember evil. The evil of Marxist socialism – and the murder of more than one hundred million people by the Marxists over the last hundred years.

To read such works as “The Black Book of Communism”, or the works of such historians as Robert Conquest or Frank Dikotter is to be reminded of the evil of Marxism. And such individual Marxists as Lenin, Stalin and Mao – along with the legion (legion of Devils) of others.

But today is also a day to remember those who failed the moral test of resisting the Marxists – indeed actively parroted their propaganda.

Sadly some “libertarians” were among such people. The late Murray Rothbard, and his followers, must not be forgotten on this day.

Just over 40 years ago (April 30th 1975) the late Murray Rothbard celebrated, actually celebrated, the conquest of the Republic of Vietnam by the Marxists – because (supposedly) for six hours there was no government. In short Rothbard celebrated what was to happen to the Boat People of Vietnam, and to the Cambodians in “Year Zero” (Pol Pot’s Marxist victory over the “puppets of American Imperialism”), and the mass slaughter in Laos. In fact Rothbard had parroted enemy propaganda over the Vietnam war for years.

Nor is this an isolated case. The Rothbardians opposed the whole Cold War – the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, all of it.

They parroted the lies of the enemies of the West (about American “Imperialism” and so on), and would have let the Marxists conquer the world – in the vain hope that non resistance in the wider world would have meant that the United States was left alone.

As Winston Churchill put it “an appeaser is someone who feeds everyone else to the beast – hoping it will eat him last”.

Without the CONTAINMENT of Marxism the slow forces of economic law (of the fact that socialism just does not work – at least not in the long term) would not have had time to undermine the Soviet Union and so on – but the Rothbardians opposed containment, they would have allowed the forces of Marxism to conquer Europe and the world, without American “intervention” to oppose them (including no CIA operations in the France and Italy after World War II).

Nor is the attitude of the Rothbardians confined to the Marxist socialists.

The Rothbardians openly oppose the support the United States gave to this country, the United Kingdom, during World War II – they would have allowed the National Socialists (Hitler and his Nazis) to conquer this land. The hatred of the late Murray Rothbard for the United Kingdom bordered upon the insane – hence his support for the IRA and so on.

To someone like the Rothbardian Ralph Rico (spelling alert – I am too annoyed to bother checking the spelling) Winston Churchill was not a hero – he was a “man of blood” whom the United States should not have supported against the National Socialists (the real “men of blood” – blud and boden).

To Murray Rothbard such “historians” (really dishonest propagandists) such as Gabriel Kolko and Harry Elmer Barnes were hero figures.

And, no, Rothbard did not confine his support of such beasts to their lies concerning the Cold War or their disguised Marxist account of the American government – which claims that the American government has in the 20th century has always been controlled by “the rich capitalists” or “the big business corporations” (with early 1900s Progressives “really” being the puppets of big business and so on).

Rothbard even supported Harry Elmer Barnes (see his obituary of this vile man) – the holocaust denier. Who first made his name denying German responsibility for the First World War (ignoring such facts as that the German Declaration of War upon France in 1914 was a tissue of lies – and that the German war aim was to dominate Europe and the world), but then went on to deny that the National Socialist (Nazi) government had any policy to exterminate the Jews.

To do as the late Murray Rothbard did, to get into bed with both the apologists for the Nazis and the apologists for the Marxists, is evil – and this evil must also be remembered on this day.

What is a libertarian?

Philosophically a libertarian is someone who believes in “free will” (agency – moral responsibility) the ability, with effort, to do other than we do. Politically a libertarian is someone who believes that an individual (or a corporation – such as a church, club, foundation, trading company….) being “rich” does NOT give people the right to loot. A libertarian is a FOE of the looting of “the capitalists” or “big business” – as well as a foe of the looting of anyone else. Nor do libertarians say “your ancestors stole this land centuries ago, so I have the right to take it now” – that would be the “argument” of a pig, not a libertarian.

Politically libertarians vary from hopelessly (pathetically) moderate people like me – who spend most of our time saying “I would not start from here” and worrying desperately about the old, the sick and the poor and what would happen to them if the present Welfare State collapsed rather than was reformed in the direction of self reliance and mutual aid. To, at the other extreme from me, strong confident people who would press a magic button and create anarcho capitalism this instant.

However, for all of us (from the most pathetically moderate libertarians, such as me, to the strong and proud anarcho capitalists at the other extreme from me) the two basic principles remain the same.

We believe that, with effort, human beings can do other than we do (that we are agents – that we have “free will”, that our freedom exists and is a moral freedom) and that no matter how “rich” (in land or other wealth) an individual or body corporate (trading company, church, whatever) is, their wealth should NOT be looted – and that would-be looters should be opposed.

Quote of the Week.

Mwah, mwah, mwah, ‘darling, haven’t seen you since the Cuba Libre fundraiser at Antonia Fraser’s; shall we sing the Internationale before or after the rosemary and shaved-truffle foccacia nibbles?’

Quentin Letts

Yes, the starting gun on the General Election has started… Yawn… and iDave is no different to the above assholes.

1 + 2 is 75 in Lucy land

It may seem like I am singling out Labour women; not so. I don’t listen to much politics these days, but I happened to see Lucy Powell being killed by Brillo on the internet.
He starts asking her about the deficit and she starts mouthing the line to take, tax rises for the rich, spending cuts and an increased tax base because zero hour contracts will be abolished. In Lucy-world this accounts for £75B.

Brillo asked deeper questions “What tax rises?” “We will reverse tory tax cuts for millionaires by increasing the top rate for people on over £150,000” (Apparently if you gross £150K and net about a hundred, you are automatically a millionaire – in some way). How much will that raise Brillo wondered, Lucy didn’t have the figures. Brillo unhelpfully did. Between zero and £2B. What else he wondered. “Well we’ve identified spending cuts; we’ll freeze ministerial salaries and stuff. Another billion, tops.

Brillo was unimpressed, Lucy looked flustered. “We will increase the tax base by abolishing zero hour contracts” It did not seem to occur to Lucy that this could actually kill some jobs and if you take more from the employer, he’ll pay less tax. Brillo said this would affect about 300,000 people and the IFS reckoned the accounted for £2-3B. “What about the other £72B is you want to tackle the deficit?” he wondered.

She got stroppy (sic). I invite you to watch the video if you can stand it on Guido.
With the fastest growing economy in Europe, it’s a curiously modest ambition to want to borrow a bit less. So even if these Neverland figures added up (and they don’t by a country mile), the best they aspire to do, is to put your kids in still more debt, a bit slower? Desperate, clueless stuff.

God alive

Guido featured this one. It’s quite amazing. I don’t expect much from thoughtless modern politicos, but this maybe a new low. No it’s not child rape, or expenses fiddling, or perverting the course of justice, or starting pointless wars, or taking bribes, or lying (so far as I can tell), this one seems to actually believe this.

I refer of course to that paragon of intellectual rigor, Rachel Reeves. You may recall Labour’s work and pension spokesman couldn’t actually say what the pension level was and she seemed unclear on how it was actually made up. In any other walk of life, not having the most basic command of your brief gets you fired. Not so modern politics.

But today she seemed to surpass even that low point. Rachel it seems, wants to abolish the so-called bedroom tax. What this actually means is that if you live in a house where the government (i.e. the rest of us) pay your rent and you under occupy it, you have a choice. Move to a smaller house appropriate to your needs (and keep getting it free) or pay the extra costs for the extra space. For some reason which escapes me, Labour seems to regard this as the moral equivalent of jailing Nelson Mandela.

Anyway, Rachel wants to abolish this and “with the money saved” spend £175M on Scottish poverty (You will recall how the Scots are diabolically underpaid by the Barnett formula and this is in no way a bribe to the possible SNP voters). Only there’s a tiny problem.

By not asking people to pay extra for houses that are too big for them, government revenue drops. (you see how that works, government gets less money, so it has…less money, not more).

I’m almost embarrassed for the woman. This is presumably Labour policy. Is there any kind of audit going on at all? Do the shadow cabinet just say stuff and it is sacrosanct and unchallengeable? Do doubters of the final victory face a Utah firing squad? No. It’s simply group think and a refusal to think counter-revolutionary thoughts. And she is allegedly some kid of economist.

She could very soon end up around the cabinet table in number 10. Incitatus would do less damage.

Not even the day after tomorrow redux

I suspect that Emma Hall may well end up back home with her parents after university as I doubt there will be any other “safe space” for her.”

JG, no. I suspect you are wrong. This may be the case for those poor saps who are suckered into following this sort of thing, but the leaders, the instigators behind it all, are hard as nails control freaks.

Ms Hall will end up joining some Soros or Rockefeller funded hard left hate group, something with a name like Mothers for a Kinder and Gentler Society, or Fluffy Bunnies for a Clean Environment, and spend most of the rest of her career trying to destroy those with whom she disagrees, before finally being given a State Department appointment to the UN Human Rights Council, providing aid and comfort to whichever genocidal totalitarian theocratic movement is currently squealing loudest about being offended.

If Mr John Stuart Mill was really the heart of Victorian British liberalism – no wonder it collapsed.

An “Old Whig” in politics and student of the Austrian School in economics like me, would not be expected to like the economics of Mr J.S. Mill – his Labour Theory of Value (from his father James Mill and family friend David Ricardo), and his arrogant statement that the “theory of value is settled” (“Principles of Political Economy”) refusing to even mention that dissent existed – even British dissenters such as Richard Whately and Samuel Bailey are ignored (shoved down the Memory Hole), or his Ricardian view of land and rent – refuted some years after the death of Mr Mill, by Frank Fetter (who put the absurd idea of the “Land Question”, which led to Henry George and co, to bed).

However, it is not as a economist that Mr Mill is remembered (which is just as well – when one thinks of his ideas on worker coops or musings that the problems of “production” had been worked out, but not the problems of “distribution”).

Nor is it even as a general philosopher that he is remembered – so the fact that his attacks on Hamilton and so on are pushed by academics, but philosophical attacks upon Mr Mill himself (such as the defence of “self evident truths” by the head of what is now Princeton, James McCosh – 1811 to 1894) have been shoved down the Memory Hole, does not matter too much (other than to grumpy people like me). As for utilitarianism – well even J.S. Mill had problems with the idea that good and evil are just pleasure and pain (as his father James Mill and family friend Jeremy Bentham, the man who wanted 13 Departments of State to control virtually every aspect of human life, maintained) – as if one decided whether, for example, rape is good or evil by trying to measure the pain of the rape victim against the pleasure of the rapist or rapists (to confuse good and evil, right and wrong, with pleasure and pain is a crass “category mistake”).

Did J.S. Mill even believe in agency (free will) – the capacity for real moral choice? Or did he deny it – as David Hume seems to deny it (Hume may be just testing people), and Thomas Hobbes certainly did deny the existence of the human person. To Hobbes humans are just flesh robots and their “freedom” has no more moral content that the “freedom” of water after a dam has been blown up – there is no real moral choice (no agency) in Hobbes. Yet far from rejecting Thomas Hobbes with disgust and contempt as the Old Whigs had, the “Westminster Review” “Radicals” (James Mill and co) held up Hobbes, the arch defender of tyranny, as some sort of guide to be followed. How can one have political libertarianism, if one has rejected philosophical libertarianism – the very existence of human persons, agency (moral choice – real choice) itself? Of course one can NOT – but…….

It is as a political philosopher that Mr Mill is mainly remembered, not as an economist or general philosopher, – mostly for one short book “On Liberty”.

Stop obsessing over the supposed errors of John Stuart Mill in economics and in general philosophy, Paul Marks – behold the wonder that is “On Liberty”.

But is it really wonderful? Consider the following……

“Again trade is a social act. Whoever undertakes to sell any description of goods to the public does what affects the interest of other persons, and of society in general; and thus his conduct, in principle, comes within the jurisdiction of society”.

No it does not – and stop calling the state “society”, you son-of-a-bitch (and as your father was James Mill this vulgar language is close enough). It is bad enough that you also seem to think, like some admirer of Frederick the Great and other Prussians, that the term “the state” is a positive (something good) and not a negative one.

“the restraints in question in question [price controls or whatever] affect only that part of conduct which society [you are doing it again Mr Mill - I told you not to misuse language that way] is competent to restrain”.

Certainly Mr Mill admits in the same pages of “On Liberty” (pages 164-5 of the Penguin edition in front of me) that government interventions, such as price controls, do not achieve their objectives – but there is no problem, in PRINCIPLE, with using the threat of violence (the state) to get producers and traders to do what you want them to do, and to stop them doing peaceful things that you do not want them to do – “As the principle of individual liberty is not involved in the doctrine of free trade” (oh just jump in the nearest lake and drown yourself).

Even outright bans on things, such as booze, are only “infringements on the liberty of…… the buyer” NOT on “the producer or seller” – if one is Mr John Stuart Mill who does not appear to believe that “the producer or seller” has any rights at all. Because selling something is “other regarding”, but buying something is “self regarding” (and other drivel).

We even get old lines about how sellers will adulterate goods – as if losing REPUTATION is no harm in business, as if Adam Smith (and so on) had never written a word and it is in the interests of butchers (and so on) to poison their customers. Real “who protects the consumer?” rubbish – a question rightly mocked (along with “who protects the worker?”) in Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” (such questions are no better coming from a “great man” such as Mr Mill than they are coming from envy driven rabble rouser).

As for “public sanitation” and so on – only the state can provide anything (we are back to the world of Principles of Political Economy – where “everyone agrees” with what Mr Mill wants them to, because he shoves down the Memory Hole anyone who does not agree that local government should do X, Y, Z).

At least in this “On Liberty” we do not get Mr Mill’s wonderful idea that people who do not have the income to bring up a family should not be allowed to marry (as if forbidding people marrying will stop them breeding), but …….

But it is CRAP – the “harm principle”, as if anything that “affects the interests of other persons” is O.K. for state intervention (as long as the statists rig the economic argument in their favour) – crime is not about “harm” it is about aggression – violation.

If I charge lower prices or provide better quality goods (or both) than someone else , and he goes bankrupt and kills himself I have certainly “harmed” him (or her) – but that is NOT a crime.

The Common Law idea of crime is based on the nonaggression principle, not on a “harm” principle.

Otherwise we are into such absurdities as Anti Trust “law”.

In his “classic” judgement against ALCOA (the standard “boo-hiss” big business operation – this time in the aluminum trade) American Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand said the following……

It was not inevitable that it [ALCOA] should always anticipate increases in demand for ingot and be prepared to supply them. Nothing compelled it to keep doubling and redoubling its capacity before others entered the field. It insists that it never excluded competitors: but we can think of no more effective exclusion than progressively to embrace each new opportunity as it opened, and to face every newcomer with new capacity already geared into a great organisation, having the advantage of experience, trade connections and the elite of personal.

Now this evil (and “evil” is the correct word) judgement has been rightly attacked by many people – from Thomas Woods and Dominick Armentano in our own day, to the late Murray Rothbard (yes his political history is often terrible – but his economics and grasp of natural justice were sound), to Milton Friedman – and, most strongly of all, by the late Ayn Rand. It takes virtues (hard work and innovation) and pretends they are crimes – it shows a vision of “law” that is utterly devoid of any conception of natural justice (of the basic principles of jurisprudence in Common Law), any of the Founders of the United States (or the Old Whig tradition they came from) would have a taken a horsewhip to “Justice” Learned Hand. Edmund Burke would denounced not just the ignorance but also the sheer vileness (moral evil) of the man.

It also shows (as do so many other cases) that government regulation is NOT “for the benefit of big business” – as the “libertarian left” claim.

But how could Mr John Stuart Mill attack the judgement? All he could say is that “Justice Learned Hand” got his economics wrong. Businessmen have no rights according to Mr Mill – ordering them about with threats of violence does not violate natural justice (which he does not seem to believe even exists) – Dr Bonham’s case (of which I have written on this site before) of Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke would mean nothing to Mr Mill, and nor would the judgements of that classic Old Whig Chief Justice Sir John Holt.

To Mr J.S. Mill (as to Blackstone – but without the natural law writings of Blackstone) Parliament (or the American government – or any government) can do anything it likes in these sordid commercial matters, only the freedom of thinkers like Mr Mill matters – the freedom of “producers and traders” does not matter. Thus we see the rebirth of Plato’s children – the snob “intellectual” (the modern “liberal”) who despises the freedom of anyone who is not like them. Who denies that such things are “really” about liberty at all.

Short version?

The late Ayn Rand was more right than wrong about Mr Mill and his “On Liberty”. And the lady was not complementary……

Who remembers the hundreds of thousands of Christian civilians murdered by the “Young Turks”?

When asked if the German National Socialist movement would get away with killing the Jews, Mr Hitler is supposed to have replied – “who remembers the Armenians”.

In the First World War the Turkish regime (originally nicknamed the “Young Turks” when they came to power, by a coup, in 1908) slaughtered vast numbers of Christians civilians – men, woman and children. Christians generally (not “just” Armenians) were thought to be disloyal to the regime – and they were also presented as evil businessmen and greedy farmers, “exploiting” their Muslim neighbours. Muslims generally, not just ethnic Turks, were encouraged to rise up and “punish” their “exploiters”.

To a far more limited extent same was done to those Jews who had tried to settle in their historic home. As with so many other times over the centuries (check the history, over centuries, of virtually any town in the Holy Land – it is always the same “Jewish community set up at X date, attacked on Y date”) with Jews trying to make a home in the Holy Land, the communities were attacked. However, for the first time since the period of the Ancient Romans, Jews fought back – hence the “Jewish Legion” that fought with the British Army in the First World War.

But it must not be thought the Young Turks were a reactionary regime – on the contrary they prided themselves in being “Modernist” and “Progressive”, this is what attracted them to the alliance with Imperial Germany – which was also considered “Modern” and “Progressive”, especially in its “advanced” statism.

Yes the Young Turks had elections (in the spaces between their 1908 coup and the First World War – a period in which there were at least three wars), but had the Parliament tried to veto their policies (for example had they said that the expansion of state education was too expensive – or would lead to political indoctrination), the difference between real and pretend “Constitutional rule” would have become obvious.

To those who get their history from Rothbardians (who, in turn get their history from socialists and other “Progressives” – check who the late Dr Rothbard cited in his “historical” writings) all the above is “reactionary British propaganda” about the First World War – as is the idea that Imperial Germany had no intention of letting countries (Belgium – or anywhere else) go free after the war. That the academic and political elite of Imperial Germany (closer in Germany than any other country) were determined to bring both Europe and the world (including the United States) under German domination, is also dismissed – although the writings of the German elite are hardly a secret.

Fair enough my dears. Pretend that the killing of hundreds of thousands of Christian civilians in the First World War is just “reactionary British propaganda” (“the British blockade against Germany is the real killing of civilians” – yes stopping ships is much worse than shooting and stabbing people, raping and murdering women, and killing children or selling them into slavery), and that the German Declaration of War upon France (which has the French bombing Bavaria and so on) was not a pack of lies (which it was – as the President of France said in his reply, the German Declaration of War was much more than a Declaration of War upon France, it was a Declaration of War against the “universal principles of reason and justice” themselves – as the German academic elite, historicist-relativist, denied such universal principles even existed), and that the Germans intended to allow countries to go free at the end of the war (which they did not), and that they had no designs upon the world – even though they did.

As with their view of so much else – from Ulster to the Middle East, from the American Civil War, to the Soviet invasion of Finland, to the Korean War, I have grown used to the folly and absurdity of those of our libertarian brothers and sisters who get their history from the late Dr Rothbard – and the legion of socialist and other “Progressive” historians he relied upon.

Lost her Marbles…

Shirley MacLaine has gone utterly tonto. It is entirely possible this is not a new thing. I know nothing about her and care even less. But let’s go…

She seems to think the victims of the Holocaust were being punished for sins from a previous life and that Stephen Hawking gave himself ALS to become “pure brain” unchained from the mere physical. (yeah, unchained from the physical for a physicist.

Normally I would regard these claims as the usual Hollyweird drivel but I shall fisk them. Why? I don’t know. I just feel like it and oddly enough it might make a couple of points. The first is logical (sort of), the second is empirical. Well, you can’t say fairer than that can you?

So let us assume past lives are real. What does that mean? Well, almost everything I’ve heard about reincarnation from Hindu Scriptures, Dr Who and of course shysters implies very strongly a level of continuity of some sort. Without that it is meaningless to the point of being beyond false (as the great physicist Wolfgang Pauli would put it, “Ganz Falsch!” or “Not even false”*. Well that is the first point. In order to believe that you have to believe in evil as intrinsic and in a bizarre sense inheritable. In a way it is like blaming me (born 1973) for slavery in the American colonies. The second point (almost too obvious to state) is that “I” was a Roman centurion at St Albans in the C2nd who worshipped Mithras. What “I” is that? I’m streaming Bruce Springsteen in a house in Cheshire in 2015 trying to type this tripe and find a suitable pro-qualification in computer security.

*I love that from Pauli. I love it.

Ya know, I’m getting really sick of having to post this.

06_02_21_Toonaphobia-X_thumb1

Copenhagen, 2015.

El Salvador.

Recently the Qatar government television station “Al Jazeera” has been reporting about the terrible situation in El Salvador – with savage gangs looting business enterprises, and homes. Robbing, raping and murdering – and driving people to flee to the United States.

However, Al Jazeera does not seem to understand that these gangs (who are not led by stupid people – far from it) are acting on the very “Social Justice” ideology that Al Jazeera, and the “international community”, supports.

“Social Justice” is the idea that income and wealth belong to the collective “the people” and should be “distributed” for the benefit of the poor. In short if you have got more stuff than me then I have the right to take it, by force, and if you try and stop me……. well too bad for you (and your family).

And it is not just the Marxist government of El Salvador who teach this doctrine, so does the Progressive faction of the Catholic Church. True the Church hates the violence – but someone who says that the poor have a “right” to something, that such “redistribution” is a matter of “justice” (NOT mercy, NOT charity) is backing the gangs (with all their robbing, raping and murdering). Sorry but you can not throw lighted matches (indeed petrol bombs – for that is what “Liberation Theology” is) and then say the fire is “nothing to do with me”.

Back in 1979 the disguised military dictatorship of President Romero in El Salvador (which was NOT free market – for example it greatly increased government education spending in the 1970s) was overthrown by a coup backed by the Carter Administration.

The new government, headed by the leftist Christian Democrat President Duarte, nationalised many companies, broke up some big landed estates (“land reform” – which has been a disaster again and again in Latin America, the new penny packet sized farms just do not work and big estates have to come back over time), and greatly increased government spending.

The economy collapsed – output just about halved between 1979 and 1982 (yes there was a world recession – but what happened in El Salvador was a Great Depression not a recession), and a Communist terrorist problem was turned into a full scale Civil War (with terrible atrocities on both sides).

Eventually the Communists were defeated – and a new elected conservative (ish) government came into office in El Salvador.

However, things changed when Barack Obama became President of the United States.

The Americans started to quietly (privately) back the Communists – first a television presenter turned President, now an actual “ex” Communist terrorist leader as President of El Salvador.

People who made a lot of noise about the “Death Squads” during the Civil War in El Salvador (who did indeed do terrible things) are oddly silent about the Social Justice criminal gangs who are robbing, burning, raping and murdering on a vast scale.

Vast numbers of people in El Salvador are either being murdered or having to flee to the United States (alas some of them are not real immigrants – they are bringing the gangs with them). Yet most of the media are either looking the other way or, like Al Jazeera, reporting the bare horrors – but not the Social Justice ideology behind them.

Lastly a note to American leftists.

Back in the 1980s you backed the Social Justice forces in El Salvador – and backed their use of violence. According to you only the violence of the “Death Squads” was bad – the Social Justice violence (for example of the person who is now President of El Salvador) was fine.

Well now the Social Justice gangs of El Salvador (and other parts of Latin America) are in the United States.

What do you think they are going to do when they see your wealth?

Your money, your comfortable home, the clothes you are wearing……

Have a good hard look at El Salvador.

It is the future of California and so on.

It is your future.

A weakness in Roman Catholic social teaching revealed through military history?

The late Murray Rothbard and the very much alive Thomas Wood (and others) have argued that the economic position (and some other positions) of the Roman Catholic Church have been misrepresented. That many Roman Catholic scholastic thinkers in the Middle Ages and later were strongly pro private property rights and had sound free market ideas, about the subjective nature of economic value and so on.

There is a large amount of truth in what they say – but the corrective to previous negative opinions (that it was statist and oppressive) of the “social teaching” of the Roman Catholic Church can, itself, be overstated.

For example, Thomas Wood cites the historian Brian Tierney as a source of the idea that the Roman Catholic Church had a good idea of natural law – natural rights (I am going to leave aside the matter of whether these are fundamentally different concepts), yet Dr Tierney says that “positive rights” were part of Church teaching from the start – what does this mean?

“Positive rights” means things at the forced expense of others. Logical contradictions such as “compulsory charity”, which Dr Tierney claims that all Church theologians believed in in the Middle Ages, even…….

“Feed the poor. If you do not feed them you kill them”. “A man who keeps more for himself than he needs he is guilty of theft”. “The use of all things that are in the world ought to be common to all”. “No man may call his own what is common, of which if he takes more than he needs, it is obtained by violence……. The bread that you hold back belongs to the needy, the clothes that you store away belong to the naked”.

And on and on with the collectivist insanity.

Dr Tierney quoting from “Decretum” (on page 70 of his work “The Idea or Natural Rights”) which he claims was the mainstream view, I suspect that this is really the rules of a Dark Age monastic community which 12th century Canonists (church lawyers) published without knowing what it was – but if Tierney is within a million miles of the truth, the private property respecting, free market believing Church of Rothbard and Thomas Woods does not exist. This seems more like Marxist “Liberation Theology” than anything that Rothbard or Thomas Woods claim the Roman Catholic Church believed in.

Even Rothbard admited that the old idea that the “just price” and “fair wage” were arbitrary commands of the state (not the product of voluntary civil interaction) had supporters – for example the theologian legal advisers of the first Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great “Charlemagne”, who told him that (unlike Bavarian law in the same period) the state, HIM, could and should set prices so that they would be “fair” (like demented Roman Emperors at the time of the dying old Empire) – a tradition of thought that is still alive in the secular France of today.

But what of military history………..

For all the undoubted good work of such theologians as Rothbard’s beloved “School of Salamanca” Catholic Spain in the late 16th century was a more state dominated society than Protestant (or Anglican – whether someone like Richard Hooker can really be called a Protestant in the sense of Luther and Calvin is a hotly debated point) England of the same period. And this had practical military consequences.

The invasion attempt of England by Spain in 1588 (the Armada), was defeated partly because of a technological gap between the two forces – a technological gap created by the two nations becoming different sorts of society.

The Spanish ships could only fire once in battle – as they could not practically reload their cannons during battle. The great Spanish victory of 1571 against the Turks (Lepanto had been a matter of ramming and boarding actions, much like a sea battle of Classical Times – the English were operating, or starting to operate (exploring) a different world. English cannon fire might still be weak compared to later generations – but at least they could reload and fire repeatedly during battle – their cannon came back into the ships. Also about half of those English ships were privately owned – they were errrr “merchant” ships.

The idea that King of Spain could send a fleet and control its movements by letter (letters that took weeks to get from his inland monastery palace to the fleet – if they got there at all) and control an army for the fleet to pick up in the Low Countries, was insane – the product of a society, Catholic Spain, that was already being strangled by its own bureaucracy. As centuries of British people were to use the term – “Spanish practices” perhaps still to be seen in the insane “Labour Code” that condemns Spain (and every other nation of southern Europe) to mass unemployment. Yes the code is relatively new – but the attitude (the state coming down to make everything “fair” (out of its compassion) is not new.

Move on 50 years to the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 – the turning point of the 30 Years War.

The Swedish army utterly defeated the vast (40 thousand strong) Imperial army of the Catholic powers. The Swedes lost about two thousand men – the Imperial army was destroyed (killed, captured or fled).

Normally this is all put down to the genius of King Gustavus Adolphus – and he was indeed a great general, but was this all that was at work?

After all the Imperial commander, Tilly, was no fool – he was a highly intelligent man with a first rate military record, in command of a vast army of veterans.

Would it help if I pointed out that the Swedish artillery was firing three times faster than the Imperial artillery – not just a matter of training, the cannons of the Swedes were technologically different.

And when the Imperial cavalry rode up to the Swedish infantry – expecting to shoot their pistols at pikemen, they were shot down by musketeers, of course there were Imperial musketeers also – but not quite like this……

The Imperial army looked splendid in brightly coloured clothing – compared to the uniforms of the Scots and other mercenaries of the Swedish army (it was mainly a mercenary army under the King of Sweden – but then some of the Imperial Catholic army were mercenaries also, but not quite the same sort of mercenaries….) fought flexibly and were open to the new ideas of the Swedish King, they did indeed have, to use the old much mocked form of words, a “scientific” attitude.

Sweden, and Scotland for that matter, was a different sort of society from the guild bound and serf bound society that was Catholic Austria in the 16th century. And the teaching of the Catholic Church was that guilds were good – some form of such ideas can be seen in Papal documents as late as the 1930s (including the implied idea that guilds should be compulsory) – and the idea that people should be cared for from above (rather than make their own way in the world) was a natural complement to such ideas as serfdom – although Protestant thinkers such as Martin Luther also supported it, they lacked the centuries of authority 0(and the administrative machine of the Church) to make their ideas really stick – they relied on the state (rather than being the state – at least being the state in many ways) and state policies could change…

Even statist examples of Protestant states “feel” different from Catholic ones of the same period.

Prussia was a vile state – but it “got things done”, Catholic Austria did not (it was strangled in its own red tape). Prussia opened up to free market reforms in the early 19th century – too make itself more powerful in military terms, such reforms never really had a chance in the Hapsburg Empire of the same period – with its endless officials, none really accountable, and a monarchy strangled by its own traditions. Although, yes, under both Marie Theresa and the Emperor Joseph the Hapsburg Empire was actually anti clerical – but it had no doctrine to put in the place of that of the Church.

The gap between the two powers became obvious at the Battle of Konnigratz in 1866 – not just because the Prussian soldiers were firing three times faster than the Austrians (their rifles were physically different), but even before the battle, when the Prussians used their railway system vastly more effectively than the Austrians did.

The scientific management of logistics (the railways and so on) was also a mark of the war between Prussian dominated Germany and France in 1870 – and this war was also marked by the greater power of the German artillery.

It was not a matter of courage – many Austrians and Frenchmen had great courage, it was the matter of a scientific “war machine” – which the Prussians had (and Germany had in both wars) which the Austrians and French just did not seem to have.

The Catholic world, with the possible exception of Belgium, just seemed to enter the industrial age a bit slower than the Protestant world – and Church social teaching does seem to be involved in that.

Do not get me wrong……

I am not claiming that Prussian single mindedness – “the army that became a state” (originally a Catholic military order of course – the Teutonic Knights) is a good thing (after all the Prussia of Frederick the Great or of Bismark was a centre of STATISM – in all its vile forms), or even that the Lutheranism of the Swedes or the Anglicanism of the English is theologically correct.

What I am claiming is something much more limited – that there was something wrong with Catholic “Social Teaching” – with their position on economic and political matters, a suspicion of individualism and of change. A top down institutionalised “compassion” which made caring for the poor or even wild consumption by the rich (wonderful clothing – or art, or…..) somehow seem better than investment and production – the old Max Weber point may have some truth to it, and the advice of the Church to maintain guilds and other restrictive practices was not good.

The historian Norman Stone often talks of a distinctive “Protestant culture” in places like 19th century Scotland and other places, with “one man” achieving more than an entire department in a place like Hapsburg Austria or the Kingdom of Italy.

That “Protestant work ethic” and “scientific attitude” – determined to produce “results” in business or government, seems dead today. But that does not mean it never existed.

It may not even be the case that it depended on doctrines of “the Elect” (the special predestined elite of Luther and Calvin) – it may be simpler than that. That the Roman Catholic Church and the societies it influenced was burdened by centuries of “Social Teaching” – not basic theology, just the “teaching” that had grown up like weeds over the centuries, and the Protestant Churches (at least at that time) were not.

From Hayek and others we are taught to respect “social evolution”, how things change over time in the light of experience. However, where FORCE is involved (and the Christian Church has used force since at least the time of Augustine) such “social evolution” may not be a good thing – it may lead to complexity being piled upon complexity, error upon error, without any right of exit or room for dissent. A suffocating mixture of top down institutionalised “compassion” and endless censorship and detailed (compulsory) rules smothering life – and REAL “social evolution”

“Compatiblism” and World War One – two of the things that have been “on my mind” recently.

Either we make some real choices or we do not.

If everything is predetermined (if we have no real choice – if we can not do other than we do) then there is no moral responsibility (indeed there is no such thing as morality – as ethics), and crime and punishment are devoid of moral content. To hold that we do not choose any of our actions (that we can not do otherwise than we do) is as absurd as to hold that there can be thoughts without a thinker – without a reasoning “I”, a person (personhood – agency, a reasoning agent capable of real CHOICE).

The absurdity of “compatiblism” – of trying to reconcile moral responsibility with everything being determined has not stopped many great people trying to square this philosophical circle – have their cake and eat it as well.

For example many of the Stoics (in opposition to some previous philosophers such as Aristotle and Epicurus) tried to argue both that real choice did not exist (that everything was pre determined) and that we have moral responsibility (i.e. that choice does exist). The falseness of their position was shown, for example, by Alexander of Aphrodisias – (“The Commenter” on Aristotle cited by Moses Maimonides and so on) in his work “On Fate”. And nor was Alexander “the commenter” a religious thinker as we would understand the term – for example he believed that the soul died with the body.

As for David Hume’s effort (if he really makes the effort – Mr Hume’s polite literary style often makes it hard to pin down whether he is really advancing a position he would die to defend, or whether he is just engaging in intellectual exercises) to bring back compatiblism? Even his admirer Kant accepts that the compatiblism is an absurdity. The philosopher Immanuel Kant may have many faults – but he draws the line at compatiblism. Arguing that everything is predetermined (that we can not do other than we do) yet we are morally responsible for our actions, is absurd – it is as absurd as “square circle” or “dry wet” or “hot cold”. Either humans are moral agents or we are not.

The First World War.

This is another matter that has been messed up repeatedly in a lot of stuff I have come upon recently. Two great mistakes are being made – I will not deal with them at length, but a basic reply is needed to them.

Firstly the idea that Britain entered World War One for some squalid economic purpose – to serve “big business”, the “Jew bankers” (such as Lord Rothschild) or whatever.

Actually Germany was the number one independent EXPORT market for Britain before World War One – in spite of the taxes that Bismark and others had put on British goods. And there was no way at all that the high taxes of war would benefit most “big business” enterprises – on the contrary it would hurt them. Even the bankers (such as Lord Rothschild) lost far more than they gained economically – due to the inevitable chaos in the financial system that war between great powers brings.

Britain went to war in 1914 to prevent a single hostile power, in this case Germany, gaining control of Western Europe – including the coast opposite this island. The same concern that has guided British policy since at least the time of the first Elizabeth in the 16th century. Against Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV of France, the French Revolutionaries, Napoleon and so on.

As for the specific case of 1914 – the German Declaration of War against France was a tissue of lies (it has the French bombing Bavaria and so on) and German war aims were collectivist to the core – having them dominate Europe and enslave the population (yes – in the First World War, not just the Second World War) as a preparation to the destruction of the United Kingdom itself – and making Germany the great power of the entire world (again this was the aim in the First World War – not just the Second World War). Even the much mocked “atrocity stories” against the Germans in Belgium turn out to be basically true – with the Germans burning ancient libraries (cultural war – from the “people of culture”) and shooting hundreds of civilians (yes – including young children) in order to make Germany “respected” – read FEARED. The Belgium civilian population was even forced to work in the war machine of their invaders – and that would have been the fate of the rest of Europe (including this island) if Imperial Germany had not been stopped.

The revolt against the “universal principles of reason and justice” among the German intellectual and political elite, that the French President (himself a philosopher – and one whom a disinformation and agitprop campaign was waged against as late as the 1920s a joint operation by Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union – think about that) warned of, was very real and although the relativism and historicism of the German elite was a sickness that had spread to all the powers (including Britain and the United States – see the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, for example the article on political economy, for how far Germanic historicist statist influence had gone).

Martin Luther had taught centuries before that human beings could not find objective moral truth (he proposed the ARBITRARY commands of God against “that whore” reason – later German thinkers proposed the arbitrary commands of the STATE), just as Martin Luther taught that human beings could not choose between good and evil (as all our actions are totally predetermined) even if we could know what they are. Now the German elite had dropped (in fact – if not in name) the God of Luther’s thinking (the “religion” of the elite, although not of many ordinary people, had been turned by perverted philosophy into nothing real). Now the intellectual and political elite of Germany (closer together in Germany than in any other nation), embraced relativism (historicism – the spirit of Hegel as much as Karl Marx, with the idea that right and wrong was just a matter of the “historical stage”) and the denial of individual moral responsibility.

Why not lie about France in the Declaration of War – if there is no such thing as objective truth? William James did not understand the implications of his ideas – but the German thinkers he got those ideas from, did understand the implications.

Why not conquer and enslave Europe (as a preparation for doing the same to the world)? If nothing is objectively wrong – then this is not objectively wrong (and one does not choose one’s actions anyway – it is all predetermined, so one can not be blamed for anything).

Adolf Hitler was a lance corporal – he did not invent grand new theories.. German thinkers such as Hegel, Fichte, List and the others did not Mr Hitler to invent things for them (see Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” or Mises’ “Omnipotent Government”) – even the anti-Semitism is nothing new (the hatred is clear in Luther’s book on Jewish people) – and the “scientific” racism was a common place of the 19th century and the early 20th century (see Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” about the American Progressives – and the Germanic roots of their thought). It is no accident that National Socialism was wildly popular among school teachers, students and academics (how modern academics try to cover up that bit – truly they are the bastard children of Plato) – long before it was popular among ordinary Germans (indeed most Germans never freely voted for the Nazis – but the Nazis won student elections with ease). Even Kant could be used for collectivist purposes (due to his view that the state could have positive uses and his idea that morality was entirely about service to others) – as the Kantian socialists of the 19th century show, although Kant was far too much a universalist for the National Socialists, and too humane for the mainstream Marxists.

What Hitler did do was take everything to its “logical” conclusion – with fanatical intensity. And he was able to do this, without decisive opposition, because Civil Society had been utterly undermined in Germany – not just by defeat, but by so much that had occurred long before. Germany had been defeated in the First World War – but not crushed (there had been no entry into Berlin – as French General Foch and American General Pershing wanted), its collectivist ideas had not been discredited and the basic nation of Germany remained (no restoration of the independence of Bavaria and so on) – as Foch grimly predicted in 1919 this was not peace, it was a “20 year truce”.

Enough is enough – let us turn to the other mistake.

This mistake is that not only was the defence of Europe against Germany in the First World War was justified – but that it was fought correctly, not by the French forces (everyone accepts that the French fighting in brightly coloured uniforms in 1914 – as the flung themselves at the Germans in what were more parade ground operations than military attacks, were committing mass folly – the French were devoid of a real grasp on military reality, at least at the start of the war, and they died in heaps truly “brave men getting themselves killed – but not soldiers”, and most of their Generals were useless), but by the British.

To explain the folly of this view – of the insanity that is such works as “Haig: The Educated Soldier” would take a post of its own, so I will confine myself to a few brief remarks.

The first duty in a situation such as First World War is to link up with one’s allies – in this case the Russians. Only then can one’s allies by supported and military operations be really coordinated – only then can the “siege of the Central Powers” (Germany and Austro Hungary) be a real siege – not a hopelessly flawed undertaking.

To link up with the Russians it was necessary to knock out the German ally the Ottoman Empire (the monstrous “Young Turk” regime – that was responsible for a near genocide of Christians in wide areas of the Middle East during the First World War).

The Ottoman Empire was the only one of the Central Powers that had its capital, Constantinople, on the coast – and thus within reach of the guns of the Royal Navy.

However, the chance to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war was thrown away at Sulva Bay in 1915 – by the incredibly incompetence of British commanders (the story is a horrible one), some 20 thousand British soldiers landed at Sulva Bay – facing a few hundred Turkish troops. But, due to their useless commanders, the British troops basically did nothing till it was too late – till the Turks had rushed in reinforcements and dug in to defensive positions in the hills.

It is the bitter truth to say that the horrors of the modern world come from this deafeat – from the Russian Revolution (the more than one hundred million dead murdered by the Marxists of Russia, China and so on in the last century), to the Third Reich of Mr Hitler, and even the rise of Islam – for had not Sulva Bay proved that the armies of Islam could take on a world power (Britain) and utterly defeat it?

It is not so much that the defenders of the British commanders in the First World War do not understand that Sulva Bay (and the rest of the 1915 campaign against the Ottomans) was a farce tactically – they do not see its strategic importance. They denounce people who stress the importance of linking up with Imperial Russia as “easterners” – they really can not see that in a siege one must cut off the enemy, otherwise it is not really a siege at all.

The Western Front is something I will not discuss in detail here – it was, or should have been, a holding action (whilst Germany was starved of vital supplies – the great siege), the French offensives of the First World War are rightly denounced, but the British ones (before late 1918 – when Germany was internally cracking up due to lack of supplies, and large numbers of American soldiers became available) were not fundamentally better.

For example, General Hubert Gough is often attacked for his poor performance at the Battle of Loos in 1915, the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Passchendaele in 1917 and his poor defence against the German offensives of 1918 (before he was replaced – for example his “redoubts” that were too far apart to support each other, thus enabling the Germans to go past them, appear in their rear, and force the British forces to surrender).

However, one should not just blame “the monkey” (such as Gough) one – should have an eye to the “organ grinder” – General Haig, whose servant Gough always was.

But I can not bring myself to write any more – especially not on Haig.

“Bottom Line?”

The First World War was justified – but it was fought dreadfully. The overwhelming material superiority of the world powers that the allies had (the vast Russian, French and British Empires) was undermined by useless Generals on the allied side – facing the most professional killing machine the world has ever known, the German army (of both world wars).

Only Allenby in the Middle East and Plumer on the Western Front deserve real praise for tactical skill.

Both British Generals – but that does not make up for so many others.

The replacement of Civil Society by the State – with the consent of some Civil Society groups?

The “left”, for want of a better word, have historically tried to replace Civil Society (families, churches, clubs, business enterprises, and so on) with the State.

This is not a new thing – for example Hillary M. (the BBC darling of “Wolf Hall”) does not like Thomas Cromwell because she shares his theology of justification by faith alone (although Thomas C. ratted on that when he faced execution – trying to please Henry VIII and get a reprieve), the lady does not really care about theology – what she cares about is “social reform”, i.e. ever bigger government.

It is not actually true that there was a “revolution” in government under Thomas Cromwell in the 16th century (the historian Eldon over egged the pudding a bit), but there almost was. Had not the Duke of Norfolk and others intervened it is perfectly possible that Thomas Cromwell would have created government departments covering every major aspects of human life (as Jeremy Bentham wanted to do in the early 19th century) – he does seem to have believed that the State should, to some extent, replace the Church, and other Civil Society groups.

What has gradually changed from the 19th century onwards is that some Civil Society groups have joined the left in wanting the state to replace them – at least to some extent.

This is especially true of the Churches – including the largest Church, the Roman Catholic Church.

From a modest opening to statism under Pope Leo XIII, under the influence of Cardinal Manning and others, the Roman Catholic Church position has evolved to fully fledged “Social Justice” collectivism – with the traditional Christian position that justice and mercy (charity) are two separate virtues, being replaced with the idea that everything (all aspects of morality) come under “justice” – for example that for a rich person to give money to a poor person is a matter of “justice” and that a rich person has committed a crime (an injustice) if they do not. Thus everything, all of morality, comes under THE STATE – and, logically, non state institutions (such as the Church itself) have no real role in education, healthcare, old age provision, income support and so on. Of course this conclusion is resisted – but it is the logical end point of the “Social Justice” doctrine. The doctrine that everything is a matter of “justice” of crime and punishment – and thus the province of the state.

It is true that some writers, such as Brian Tierney of “The Idea of Natural Rights”, argue that Christian teaching has always been this. That “natural rights” include “positive rights” (to goods and services at the FORCED expense of others) and that not being charitable has always been considered a CRIME – a matter of “justice”, of crime and punishment. However, I believe he takes a few documents, rips them from their historical context – and pretends that they represent the general view, when they did not.

Surely, if writers such as Brian Tierney were correct, the West would have always been a totalitarian nightmare – with government utterly unlimited and no person (and no organisation – no “body corporate”) having any safety at all in its property – after all it is always possible to find a poor person. I am poor myself – so if I have a RIGHT as a matter of JUSTICE to your stuff – then…….

It is all rather like the old Russian saying “first they smash your face in” (make government unlimited) “then they say you were always ugly” (say it was always unlimited and that everybody agreed that government should be unlimited).

In reality things were far more complicated with both pro and anti unlimited government thought, both in the Churches (not just the Roman Catholic Church) and outside them.

Yes there were Church taxes, such as tithes (traditionally a tenth of production). But the mainstream view was that Church taxes should be limited – and that above this the Churches should be financed by voluntary means, not force and fear (not by taxation).

As for the state – the “Sword of State” was supposed to be limited in its use, not unlimited. And taking from the rich and giving to the poor was NOT seen as a the role of the State in the Middle Ages – it is just not true that this was generally seen as the role of the State.

Today it is seen as the role of the state – education, housing, health care, old age provision, income support….. are all seen as the responsibility of the state. Not just by secular Civil Society groups (although such things as universities are now financed by the state, directly or indirectly, so they can not really be considered part of Civil Society) , but by many of the Churches also.

Why?

Well perhaps the West was always doomed. After all the great contrast between Aristotle and Plato pointed to by a legion of writers (most recently Arthur Herman in his “The Cave And The Light”) is, in politics, not really a contrast at all. As one can tell from reading the “Politics” – Aristotle never really freed himself from the totalitarianism of Plato, for Aristotle (as for Plato) the state is a positive good (not a necessary evil), and everything (marriage, education – everything) should be a matter for the state. Rereading “The Politics” recently reminded me why I called myself “Lycrophon” when I originally wrote on the internet (back in the early 1990s), the person Aristotle attacks for having a limited view of law and the state.

“The Politics” is a work from a declining civilisation – where the educated have come to look for the state to plan everything, and come to see law as the commands of the state to make people “just and good”. For the changing views of law and the state among the Greeks see the references given by F.A. Hayek in “The Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”.

The Roman Republic, where people still had a limited view of the state and law, overwhelmed the Greeks (who had declined so badly), only to be corrupted in its turn. It is noteworthy that neither Plato or Aristotle had any practical experience of governing – someone like Cicero would have smiled at the idea that politics tends to moral virtue, and at the idea that the state can make people just and good (can create the “happy life”). In reality in politics, in the use of force and fear, people are shown at their worse – and the more they try to use the means of force and fear (no matter how high minded their intention) the worse they, and everything else, becomes. Even under the Empire the “Meditations” of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius show the old Roman spirit – or some ghost of it.

“From my brother Severus, to love my kin, and to love truth, and to love justice [Roman Law justice - as to each their own, not "Social Justice"]; and through him I learned to know Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion, Brutus; and from him I received the idea of a polity administered with regard with equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of governed”

That was written in Greek – but only a Roman could have written it, not a Greek of the age of Plato and Aristotle (although, perhaps, previous generations of Greeks could). To start with one’s own family (the first of Edmund Burke’s “Little Platoons”) and work out to the rights of everyone, even against one’s own family (if honour is on their side), is the good side of the Republic – centuries after the Republic fell. Although Marcus Aurelius might have said the Republic had not fallen – not while a single man believed in it. With the Greeks, at least of the generation of Plato and Aristotle it is all the opposite – top down, not outward from the honourable individual and their family. The Lawgiver, of Aristotle not just Plato, telling everyone how to live “for their own happiness”, who should have what and what they should do with it – basically the modern world as it slides towards totalitarianism and then collapse.

And yet it was Aristotle and Plato, not Marcus Aurelius who were the starry eyed theorists with no practical experience. Marcus Aurelius had lived under Hadrian when anyone could incite the murderous suspicion of the Emperor – even an architect who made the fatal mistake of disagreeing with the Emperor. As Emperor Marcus Aurelius faced the constant threats of assignation, or mutiny, or revolt from some general – he lived with a sword hanging by a thread over him every time he sat down to eat, or when he slept. Also Marcus Aurelius faced Parthian (Iranian) invasion and a terrible plague which slaughtered so much of the Roman Empire’s population. There had also been the “little” matter of the invasion of the Germanic tribes who had brought fire and death to the plains of Italy – slowly fighting them back, year after year to the forests of Germany.

Marcus Aurelius had not spent his life teaching students in Athens. He had spent it fighting savage tribes who burned their captives alive in wicker cages to the dark Gods (think “The Wicker Man”). Yet it is he who has more to say, in a few brief pages, to students of politics, about what the state is and is not, than the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

Of course Marcus Aurelius did not end gladiatorial fighting – although it disgusted him. Nor did he speak against slavery – although he did not write philosophical justifications of it, as Aristotle did (although Aristotle showed how hollow his own arguments were by freeing his own slaves in his will – an example where hypocrisy is actually a good thing). Roman legal thinkers admitted that slavery was against natural law – but held that state law trumped natural law, and that state law should allow slavery because “the law of all nations does”, a fancy way of saying “if everyone else is a bastard, we have to be bastards as well”.

We know now, as Marcus Aurelius feared. That the Roman Empire was doomed – that it would pass away. By the time of Diocletian the idea that the Empire stood for any form of freedom (even for non slaves) had become a sick joke – with people being assigned to the jobs (or tied to the soil) from birth and, those who met the Emperor (in his absurd robes) having to prostrate themselves on the ground as if they were in the presence of a Persian God-King – not a Roman military commander, which is what Marcus Aurelius held himself to be to his dying day – fighting to protect the Res Publica , even if only he believed in it any more. And the advent Christian rule under Constantine changed nothing – the Empire had become one of slaves of the state, not free citizens.

The words “hold on, the Eagles age coming – HOLD ON” had become meaningless, at least devoid or moral content.

But Christianity always had within it (contrary to the writings of Brian Tierney and others) the idea that government should be limited – that the rights (not the “positive” rights – i.e. the “right” to loot others) of people had some meaning AGAINST the will of government.

When Charles the Bald in the late 800s agreed to formal limits on his powers as Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Franks he was not establishing something revolutionary – there has always been those who are argued for formal limits on the powers of a Christian King.

That a Christian ruler not be allowed to take the land of one family and give it to another. That a Christian ruler not be allowed to loot the rich and then pretend to be generous (with the money of other people) throwing coin and free bread at the mob (like some Islamic Caliph – or Roman Emperor of the bad sort) with the mob mocking the corpses of the rich merchants, or whoever, who had been robbed and then murdered by their “noble” ruler.

And, yes, that a Christian ruler not be allowed to dictate to the Church.

But, of course, in our day – most of the Churches, not just the secular charities and universities and so on (all eager for taxpayer money) want an unlimited state (at least in its spending and its regulations to make people “happy”). No powerful force really stands for limited government any more.

Who reads such works as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius – a work about character more than politics. Victorians still read him – people like Kipling (the Empire of Freedom indeed). But who now?

Also the “feudal” (whatever that name really means) gentry and nobility – the powerful landholders are broken. There is indeed still a Duke of Norfolk – but not one who could drag down a Thomas Cromwell and smash his new State (before it was even really born).

In France “feudalism” (constitutional limits on government – in terms of structure) was not really defeated in 1789 – it was defeated in 1648-53, the nobility had long been painted clowns by 1789, the state centralised.

Montesquieu (echoing the good side of Aristotle) argued that the difference between a monarchy and a despotism was the rule of law – this law NOT being the will of the monarch. And to prevent a monarchy becoming a despotism (like the later Roman Emperors or the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire) it was necessary to have institutional checks, for civil society itself, upon the government.

But where is this now? Formally or informally? In America the Constitution (for example the Tenth Amendment) seems to be as dead as the Roman Republic, and in Britain the informal (but very real) limits on government died with people such as Prime Minister Lord Salisbury – neither the gentry or aristocracy have any real limiting power now, and (contrary to the Marxists and fellow travellers) the traders and manufacturers (the “capitalists”) never did have much power in Britain – and their power in the United States is wildly exaggerated, for all their campaign contributions and the like they can not prevent taxes being so high that companies have to keep their profits overseas, and regulations being so insane that people can be sent to prison for little more than clerical errors – the idea that regulations just hit new companies that that established companies benefit, net, from them is WRONG.

So here we stand, soon perhaps like Marcus Aurelius observing the flames of burning towns, and hearing the screams of the helpless. Knowing that no one – not the educated, not the wealthy, not the poor, not the priests, not even our own son – no one really believes in the principles of the old Republic, or the old Monarchy (for they are the same principles), and having only death to look forward to.

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