Are they all insane? Why the fuck do people keep voting for them?
"It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar" – Henry David Thoreau
Libertarians sometimes say that we are really “classical liberals”, “19th century liberals”.
Of course if I actually found myself in Victorian Kettering my political opinions (against the establishment of a School Board, anti prohibition of booze, hostile to land nationalisation or even taxation…….) would mark me as a “Conservative” indeed an “arch Conservative” or a “blackhearted reactionary Conservative” (which, of course, is exactly what I am).
But let us leave aside these irritating “fact” things, and go off into generalities…..
There was a strain of 19th century liberalism that was pro freedom (even if I can not find much evidence that it ever existed in Kettering – centre of the universe). Indeed “Liberalism” was the international movement that declared itself pro freedom – dedicated to reducing the size and scope of government.
In Britain such things as 1835 Muncipal Reform Act were intended to sweep away the corrupt Tory dominated closed corporations and lower the rates (the property taxes). Of course the actual result (in Manchester and virtually everywhere else) is that the rates went UP – but the intention was good. And, indeed, such Liberal party leaders as Gladstone really did work to reduce government spending and taxes – and with some success (at least till 1874). And some Conservative party leaders (such as Disraeli) were vile statist ………
However, the major liberal thinkers in Britain in the 19th century (at least the mid to late 19th century) present a confused picture. The thought of people such as J.S. Mill and Walter Bagehot (and so on) seems pro freedom when one first glances at it – but the more one examines it in detail the less pro freedom (pro driving back the size and scope of the state) it is.
But it would take an essay (or book) to show fully what I mean…………………………………………………………..
In Europe and Latin America also “Liberal” meant the party of freedom – but it does get a bit harder to argue the case in practice.
In Latin America “Liberal” basically meant “someone who robs the Church” as that is what Latin American Liberals seem to have concentrated on – with anticlericalism being a sort of religion in-its-self with them. But there were some Liberal (as in freedom) aspects – for example in the 1850s the Columbian Liberals got rid of slavery (also done by Liberal forces in other Latin American countries – the first being Chile in the early years of the 19th century). But there does seem to have been an obsession with “nation building” – with Liberals being associated with state education systems, and “national this” and “national that”.
In Europe the picture is not wonderful either.
In France things are best in terms of what “Liberal” meant – with the French “Liberal School of Political Economy” being solidly libertarian, the Say family, Bastiat and so on. And having a positive influence in the United States (the leading American free market economist of the 19th century was A.L. Perry – a follower of Bastiat). Even as late as the 1920s 1930s Irving Babbit (the leader of the “New Humanism” in literature) was a follower of French civilisation – and an enemy of the statism he associated with German thought.
Hard for us to think of French thinkers as defenders of “capitalist” civilisation – but perhaps we should remember such modern thinkers as Bertrand de Jouvenel and (leaving economics but not the defence of civilisation) Jacques Barzun – who died in Texas last year, the last living link with the old French civilisation, the civilisation that all those left bank degenerates revolted against.
Once French “Liberal School” thinkers (not British thinkers – as British liberal economic thought was a bit of a mess, Walter Baghot, J.S. Mill, Alfred Marshall) were indeed the main counter weight to Germanic statist thought in the United States. It is only later that the “Austrian School” took on the antistaist role of the French School in American thought – with, perhaps, the first Amercan thinker to be an open follower of the “Austrian School” being Frank Fetter.
People such as Richard Ely (and his followers “Teddy” Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) may have wanted to destroy Germany – but only because they wanted to turn the United States into a new (and more extreme) version of Germany. Of course a more extreme version of Imperial Germany was eventually created, but not in the United States (as the Progressives were pushed back by Conservative forces in America) – but by the National Socialists in the 1930s, who adopted many American Progressive ideas (such as the extermination of the “inferior”) which had met determined opposition in the United States itself (almost needless to say, the true evil of the American Progressive movement does not appear in mainstream American history books – where they are presented as true “liberals”).
But in Switzerland, Germany and Italy things were less clear than in France.
In Switzerland – liberalism became associated with centralisation (with the destruction of the independence of the Cantons after the was of 1947 – in order to persecute Catholics, religious persection of the Jesuits may be “Liberal” but it is not libertarian) and the increase in the size and scope of the Central government after the 1874 Constitution – and in stages since then. Although, it should be pointed out, that the 20th century Liberal party in Switzerland was opposed to further centralisation – and was considered the opposite of the Social Democrats who became part of the Swiss govenrment in 1959 (and still are part of the Swiss government).
In Germany things were not good either. German liberalism was obsessed with nationalism. This became clear in 1848 – when the energies of the liberals were entirely devoted to building up a “nation called Germany” (an idea about as positive as the obsession with a “nation called Europe” is now).
Such a “unification” could only lead to higher taxes and so on (because of the reduction of tax and regulation competition between the various polities of the old Germany) – but the liberals (for the most part) did not seem to care about that.
Indeed even the opposition (it is wrong to call it resistance – as the liberals did not fire a shot) to the extra Parliamentary taxation (plundering) of Bismark after 1861 was not opposition to higher taxes as such, but just over who should increase the taxes.
That taxes “had to be” increased, in order to build up the Prussian Army to “unify” Germany (by such things as attacking Denmark, Austria and France……) was taken for granted by most Germans “liberals”. They just wanted to be in charge of doing it.
The Prussian liberals eventually split – into the “National Liberals” (who were Bismark’s slaves – till he turned on them as a “party of Jews”), and the “Progressives” who just went on about “civil liberties” (keeping rather quiet about the private property rights upon which civil liberties really depend) who eventually became the slaves of the Social Democrats (who, it should be remembered, were full socialists in Germany till the conference of 1959 when they moderated their position).
Bismark’s takeover of places such as the Kingdom of Hanover (and the increase in taxes upon the local people) do not seem to have produced much opposition from German Liberals.
Even the later creation of the Prussian Welfare State (with its roots in the “Police State” thinking of Frederick the Great and so on – long before) and Progressive (graduated) income taxation – seem to have only been opposed by a few isolated Liberal thinkers (not the mass of Liberal thought).
It is somewhat of a mircle that the few isolated thinkers that were all that was left of “economic liberalism” in Germany by the Second World War (in the face of the German “Historical School” effort to wipe them out) were able to lauch such a comeback after World War II – although they were helped by the utter collapse of the National Socialists (the Nazis) and the wretched mess that the international socialists (the Marxists) produced in East Germany. People (especially Catholic Conservatives) were looking for something else – and the few pro private enterprise (as opposed to Progressive) “liberal” thinkers in Germany provided it.
People (not just big “capitalists”) all sorts of people were looking for ideas that WORKED (a very German demand – as in the positive side of the German spirit) and the, relatively, free market policies offered to Germany from 1948 onwards did work.
And 19th century Italy?
Perhaps worst of all.
Mussolini was to say that his Fascism (all power to the state) was the “opposite of liberalism” (with its desire to reduce the size and scope of the state).
But there is little evidence for this in 19th century Italy (bar a few islolated thinkers) – on the contrary Italian Liberalism was obsessed with “unification”.
What did this mean in practice? In meant language persecution (with places like Venice having Tuscan forced down upon the people – as “standard Italian”), it meant conscription (for example Sicily did not have conscription before “unification”), it meant plundering (of Churches in Rome – and of private banks in Naples, whose wealth went to the new “Italian Treasury”) and it meant HIGHER TAXES.
Taxes in the South of Italy (the old Kingdom of Naples and Sicily) basically doubled – no wonder so many Southern Italians fled their “liberation” to go all the way to the United States. But a century and a half of brainwashing state eduation have made Italians forget all this – and resistance (which lasted for decades in Sicily) is written up as “bandit activity”.
In spite of its high taxes, the Liberal Kingdom of Italy was always on the verge of bankrutpcy – going from pratfall to pratfall till it collapsed in the face of the Fascists in the 1920s.
What to make of all this?
Well Karl Marx had no trouble explaining the contradiction between the pro freedom words of the Liberals and there less than pro freedom actions.
To him liberalism was just an “ideology” representing the “interests of the capitalists” – so governments would do what was in the interests of these “capitalists”.
The trouble with the Marxist account is that it is not true. For example some big business enterprises may have gained by Italian government’s Imperial adventures – but most big business enterprises lost by the high taxation and the messed up national finances.
In Germany Bismark never ruled in the interests of business – on the contrary he secretly subsidized the first socialists (whose movement he only turned against when it became powerful) in order to scare business people into not imposing his high tax policies (it is me or the Reds lads), and the people who followed Bismark were worse than he was. It is always possible to find business enterprises who benefit from statism – but that does not alter the fact that most of “big business” LOSES by it.
So what does explain why liberalism fell so short of its promise?
Anti clericalism is part of it – for example in Germany the Liberals mostly strongly supported Bismark’s “War of Culture” persecution of the Roman Catholics. Hardly a libertarian position – and one that made their own position, as Liberals, an isolated one. After all why should the Catholics support the Liberals when Bismark turned upon the latter as a “party of Jews”? The Liberals had not supported the freedom of the Catholics. And the Catholics (from 1891) fell more and more into forms of economic interventionism of their own – becomming the divided group of people they still are (Catholic “Social Teaching” is actually riven by rival “interpretations”).
But the main factor was the obsession with the “nation”.
Liberals rejected loyality to the old Kings and Princes (or to the little Free Cities) and they certainly rejected loyality to an international Church.
But they had a loyalty of their own – to the new “nation state” (whether in Latin America, Europe, or the “New Nationalism” and “New Freedom” of the American Progressive moverment which corrupted American liberalism – once American liberals had opposed the Progressives, but by the 1920s they had become one and the same, only the most reactionary elements in American life, the American versions of “Colonel Blimp and the old school tie” stood up in defence of Civilisation against the Progressive onslaught of eugenics and other horrors – much as the Hapsburgs, and other such, stood against it in Europe).
This Progressive nationalism (the interests of “the nation”, “the people”), not the “squalid interests of the capitalists”, eventually became the guiding light of liberalism.
But it collapsed in the horror of the unlimited “total wars” – the First World War and the Second World War.
“Well at least liberals have rejected nationalism now Paul”.
Yes they certainly have – so totally that they have forgotten that they were nationalists – and, sadly, they have replaced it with something WORSE.
There was always an elment in the New Liberalism (Progressivism) that was not satisfied with nationalism – after all some nations might collapse into “reactionary” forms of thought (perhaps even such “absurdities” as “natural law” like the more reactionary Catholics, Protestants and Jews).
The most “learned” (in the sense of the vile twisted “wisdom” one gets from, say, studying the works of Sauron – the basis of so much social sciences and humanities work in the universities and schools….) Progressives were never really satisfied with the tup thumping Proto National Statism of someone like “Teddy” Roosevelt – a man whose bark was often worse than his bite – for example he might not with agreement to an argument that blacks were inferior, but exterminate them? not a chance, he “even” used the same toilets as black people – which an “intellectual” such as Woodrow Wilson would never do. Deep down there was still something of the reactionary “gentleman” about T. Roosevelt (for all his Progressive ideas). And there was a fear that such people could never “rise above” the petty and weak ideas of their national traditions.
A true Progressive intellectual (such as Woodrow Wilson) thought on a WORLD scale.
They still worshipped the state – but it was (in their muddy dreams) a WORLD state. With nowhere, anywhere, for the “reactionary” and “inferior” to flee to.
Only a world state could ever truly be the new “God” – to replace the old fashioned (“bearded man in the sky”) view of God, that Progressive “Social Gospel” thought wished to transform into a religion of “the people” and “collective salvation”.
Even Woodrow Wilson never quite “freed himself” from the “moral chains of good and evil” that had been taught to him in childhood – and by the habits of his nation.
Marxism and other developments of international collectivism really made an impact later – cutting off the last links with concepts of “good” and “evil” in terms of personal conduct and honour.
The world state would not be a “state” – it would be “the people” the new “God”. And good would be (as with extreme theological “voluntarism” which is similar to legal and philosophical “Positivism”) whatever served the interests of this new “God” as worked out by the “enlightened elite”. Whether they called themselves, Marxist, Progressive, or “Liberal”.
As terrible as the 19th century alliance between Liberalism and Nationalism was – the 21st century alliance between Liberalism and COLLECTIVIST “internationalism” may prove to be even worse.
So what are we up to in Mali?
I have never seen a more rapid and openly disingenuous escaltion ever. First it is a couple transport planes, then it’s a surveillance plane (but no boots on the ground – honest), then it’s “training” and it’s allowing tankers to operate from British airfields but still we’re “not going to be combatant”. It beggars belief. Finally all the pundit’s of Jane’s Fighting Armchairs are talking of a long-term commitment. I suppose that’s kinda like marriage. Except marriage is nice and being shot at by ragheads until HS2 is completed* (or for the duration) isn’t.
So why the interest?
iDave has annoyed the French with all this referendum on the EU nonce-sense. Helping out Hollande is some quid pro EU. He’s blotted his copy book but is now trying to get himself back in the good books by playing teacher’s pet.
Which of course begs the question. Why are the French getting involved? Could it just be that 80% of French electricity is nuclear and France buys 80% of it’s Uranium from Niger which is beginning to look almost surrounded by Islamist insurgencies…
If that domino falls to the beards France is up a gum-tree without an electric paddle.
Oh, and of course it’s back to the Caliphate. And not the future. To dark age tyranny over all of North Africa in the C21st. And boat people across the Med in huge numbers. Not that I’d blame them.
And if that happens expect the domino (I think that game is haram BTW) next to be Nigeria where we do have interests. Yet more refugees. Not that I’d blame them either. It’s not that I hate refugees – I don’t at all and they should be afforded our help, if it comes to that – but I hate the reasons for them which are universally vile – like polio better prevention than remedy (Yes, I did see Bill Gates at the RI last night – and he pussy-footed about saying polio would be no more if it wasn’t for Islamic fundamentalism – not that we can be too proud following the MMR fiasco). Politicians (by and large) do hate refugees because the Daily Wail can whip up an election killing stink over ‘em.
But there is another thing – returning to the energy issue** – and that is we have got into a position where these places matter to us.
So I suggest if iDave hadn’t engaged in a cockamamie grand-standing over the EU (the price of which is helping out France in a war that at first blush has nothing to do with us) and we hadn’t put ourselves in a situation where we simply can’t generate electricity sufficiently (I’m talking base-load here) we wouldn’t be embroiled in this utter mess.
I mean the sensible thing is to just get fracking! And of course build nuke plants. And yes, I’m calling Johnnie Porridge out on this. And all the bally rest of ‘em such as Chucles the Lugs all because they dream of their deranged visions of The Shire. Deranged because unlike the Hobbits we have the tech (sadly less advanced than it ought to be due to their meddlesome obstruction) and also deranged because they dream of sitting at the high-table and lording it over the rest of us. Oddly enough I don’t get the impression (and I am a Tolkienista) that was how Hobbits actually lived. They didn’t have a Central Committee of the Righteous.
Oh, well, it’s all going to pot. But I would warn them we’re only three power cuts from bloody revolution. I hope we do not go gentle into that last dark night.
*Why is that taking so long to build. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have reached for the smelling salts on hearing the time-scale. I mean 20-odd years to build a railway not quite as good as that the French or Japanese, or… have had for decades. It’s like me being charged through the nose for a Ford Escort to be delivered just in time for turning 60. I’m 39 BTW. Yes, that is the time-scale!
**It would appear the Cumbrians have voted against a major nuclear waste storage facility so that is British nuclear power buggered and we’re stuck with playing with whirly-gigs and importing real power from France via the Channel cables. So in that sense Niger matters to us and therefore Mali does. How it should come to this is of course a sequence of unfortunate events. And of course the oil and gas from Nigeria.
I have been rereading a couple of works that I have not looked at in many years – Sir John Fortescue’s “In Praise of the Laws of England” and “Of the difference between absolute and limited monarchy”.
Fortescue was writing in the late 1400s – at the time of the so called “Wars of the Roses” in England, but it is his picture of France that interests me here.
Some of what Fortescue writes is exaggerated, even bigoted. But there is, sadly, much truth in the picture he presents of France.
By the late 1400s France was a land where (as with Roman Empire) the professional army of the King could demand that people in towns and villages give them anything they needed (or claimed to need). And where the Estates General (the French Parliament) had given up the right to regularly approve (or decide NOT to approve) taxation – with th nobles of France having been bought off by imunity from most (although not all) taxation.
Also any ordinary person could be condemned to death in France by the King’s judges without anything that would be understood as a proper trial in England.
Roman law (in the sense of the Roman law of the Empire – with the Prince being above the law and able to change the law by his own WILL) had triumphed in France – with such “feudal” ideas as juries swept away. Louis XI (“Louis the Spider”) sat in his dark tower making up webs of “laws” on the basis of his whims, much like a Roman Emperor.
However, France had not always been like this. Once the nobles, townsmen and freemen of France had been strong in the defence of their liberties – and had forced such Kings as Charles the Bald to recognise them.
Indeed, for example, such things as even the King of France not having the right to take the land held by one family and give it to another had been accepted as an “old right” even as far back as the 877 Edict of Quierzy.
Juries (first, of course, as a form of gaining evidence rather than deciding a verdict) actually came to England from northern France – yet in France (by the time of Fortescue) they had been suppressed. After all one could not have a local group of freemen giving their formal view, either as evidence or as judgement, of the facts of the case – that might limit a judge in his desire to execute people, or to torture them (“putting the question” another feature of late Roman law) till they confessed.
So what had changed? How had such things as eternal taxation (as opposed to taxation considered as a emergency matter – to be approved, each time, by the Estates General) come to be? How had the French King mutated into something close to a Roman Emperor?
My own view is that the so called “hundred years war” with England (mostly faught on the soil of France) was the main factor in the transformation of France from having a limited government – to something that, whilst not totally without limits, was close to be like the government of the Roman Empire (unlimited government).
French desperation to survive conquest, and the desperate desire for “order” (as armed men of many masters and none plundered and killed in most of the country) led to the French people placing vast power in the hands of the government.
Remember what were considered terrible and exceptional circumstances in England during the so called “War of the Roses” had been the NORM in France for around a century.
It may be this that so transformed France from a land of limited government – to what Richard Burke (the son of Edmund Burke) was later to call a land where “the state was all in all”.
In a daring raid intended to boost the morale of the French [hmm...], Wing Commander Ken Gatward flew just feet off the ground to put the wind up the Germans.
After dropping a huge French flag on top of the Arc de Triomphe, the British pilot headed towards the Gestapo headquarters which he raked with 20mm shells.
The attack sent the German SS troops running for their lives [and crying like girls], to the delight of Parisians.
Just read the whole thing. It’s awesome.
It reminds me oddly of this.
An interesting thing happened a few years back.
There were two new music formats out. MP3 and a DVD – Audio. MP3 won, and DVD -Audio is dog biscuits. Why? MP3 was convenient. Oh, lower quality than even CD but so what? I recall reading at the time to get the monty out of DVD – Audio you needed to go to Richer sounds with a dump-truck full of money. Or you could buy an iPodule.
Much the same has happened with cameras. What fundamentally is revolutionary about the digicam? Well my Sony Alpha 55 is much the same as my Pentax MZ-50 film camera in many ways. What is different is ubiquity and the price per shot. This laptop has a camera. OK, it’s only really for Skype etc but did I not see people with laptops round the sites of Paris using them to take pictures? Yes. Did I also see loads of people using tablets? Yes. or iPhones and similar. Forget the quality and feel the convenience. There has been an explosion in photography. And it’s just like download music. Dog cheap and dog rough.
Now here is something I hate. I was in this gaff in Paris. It’s gorgeous. The stained glass is kick-ass.
Now this is one of my piccies…
That is from the big round window in Sainte-Chapelle. It is Christ presiding over the Book of Revelations. The full window has the Beasts and the Whore of Babylon and all the rest. I took it with my 300mm Tamron lens. Numpties were using flash on Samsung Galaxies. Seriously. Now you don’t have to be an f/stop philosopher to realise that photographing stained glass from the inside using a flash is an exercise in utter futility. But who cares? It costs nothing (near enough).
Now if we roll back time something weird happens. Now obviously an iPhone in many ways is a better camera than some wooden box that Lewis Carroll would use but I’ve seen his piccies and they are gorgeous. Technically brilliant. At some level the sheer cheapology of it has resulted in crapology. Back when Victoria was on the throne a photograph was expensive so folks took care. Now it’s cheap as chips and thoroughly automatic for the people so the quality has gone done hill like a cannon ball rolling off Mount Everast. In Sainte-Chapelle there were hordes of folk taking pictures with every form of gadget imaginable. And then there was me and a woman in her 20s with a Nikon DSLR who was holding it right – as I was with my Sony. The simple truth is our society has not coarsened morally as much as economically. I am as guilty as everyone else. I have taken puerile photos of puerile things. At high quality on my Sony with an 8 Gig card I can take 1000 photos. On my Pentax I can squeeze a roll to maybe 39. I can delete as I wish with the Sony too. I can feck around with the settings. It’s a nightmare when you review them. Umpteen piccies of the same thing from the same angle just with different ISO or exposure. And bear in mind the Sony has SteadyShot so for a static image I can get down to 1/20s sometimes and that is hand-held and still looks good.
I know I must sound like an old git but… I do have a point. The ubiquity of the image cheapens it because well, it is cheaper. On the Paris Metro (line 1) I sat opposite a Japanese bloke who was photographing everything. He grabbed a shot of the “stand clear of the doors” sign. Why? God knows. The image I reproduced above is of Jesus Christ on the last day in stained glass in a gorgeous late medieval chapel. One I think is worth more. Not financially but culturally. And no. I am not being a snob.
It’s like twitter. Back in the days of writing copperplate letters people had to think about what they wrote. Is it any surprise the number of celebs etc. who have posted on twitter something immediately regrettable? Or indeed even twitter addict Stephan Fry who felt the need to say he was stuck in a lift? If you don’t have to think then what you produce is either vile or banal or both. Mr Fry is clearly an intelligent chap so why such dross? He has the technodiction as have we all these days and he’s got it bad.
No, I don’t want to go back to cuneiform and graven images but we need to think before we shoot. Or tweet. Or whatever. Consider txt-speak. That wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t cheap as air. People would take time to craft a txt msg if it cost a quid a throw.
And yes, I appreciate as a blogger this is trivial junk. But it matters to me. To put it bluntly I wanted to share the above image with you the moment I took it. I hope you like it. It took about 15 mins to find it and I’m still not sure it is the definitive one! As I said, I’m just as guilty as everyone else of cheapening the image. And the letter and all the rest.
I can’t write English with a pen anymore. Seriously.
Another point. I learnt to take piccies on a seriously good optically (though heavy) Zenit. It belonged to my then girlf. It weighed a pig-iron ton. Of course I had to learn. I also had to do, as part of my physics degree, a photo course with Tony, the Nottingham University Physics photographer. Fascinating. It was a horrendous day in December and I slipped coming down the road on the ice and snow so I was soaking but he taught me the f/stops. Certain readers around here probs know how cold Nottingham is in winter. That is when I really got into piccies. Tony and Rachel. Tony was a nice guy and she was an uber-munt. But that is when I learnt. Greece was field practice. I have loved cameras for years and oddly enough I only really got into them once I got into SLR/DSLT territory. Before that I was a mere snap-shooter. Now I am not.
I have to say something mind. In 1996 I go up the Empire State Building early in the morning. NYC looks gorgeous and I have the Pentax K1000. And the film rips. That is an utter buggeration. I would have rather been anally raped by Lady Gaga with a 12 incher (actually if she uses enough lube that could be fun) than that happen. I got pictures of lower Manhatten and the Twin Towers at dawn but they no longer exist. Not like that is an option to go back anymore. Tnank you Al Queda! You can shoot a fourteen year old in the head in Crapistan (Now being treated in Brum) but can you build 110 storeys? Nicht. No you can’t. You can create chaos, slaughter and slavery. And no this is not Islam. Turkey isn’t like that. Sayeed (Mancunian Pakistani) at the corner shop ain’t either. His wife, a Mulimmah, wears a saree. I guess she is c.40. She looks very nice. It is flattering. It’s no burkha.
The depraved bastards. You know the 9/11 mob shaved their pubic hair to be righteous. I quite like (female – obviously) pubic hair but I also like the smooth look. The later is more fun for oral sex. But shaving is more morally righteous according to Big Mo. Certainly when moral righteousness involves making killing 3000 people more morally righteous than getting the Gillette out. They shaved to be righteous in front of Allah. Not shaving your body hair or killing 3000 people. It’s a toss-up innit?
I know where I stand here. I like piccies. I take hordes. I do not regard any image as wrong per-se. Being against graven images went out with the bronze age. I do think we ought to take care with piccies but is a nude image wrong or indeed any image. I posted an image of God. Call me. It is the fundamental (to me) idea of libertarianism. “Many things we should not do, but that shouldn’t make them illegal.”
Terrible photos should not exist but that should not make them illegal. Taking such shots is it’s own punishment after-all.
There will be a Paris edition which will be more fun. But I have to post this.
But before the piccie some background. I am a Quaker warden (for my sins) and part of my responsibility is to look after a stream that runs through our grounds. Well that is disputed. A couple of years ago there was hell on over who owned what. Hell on between the Quakers and the Church of England*. Neither of course want it but according to B who is a farmer and knows about such stuff the stream is the boundary which when it floods is agro. Of course me, my wife, B and others of our meeting and the owners of the pub which has a car-park in this fight sort it out. The Church of England does the square root of fucketh all. And, they need a new roof. They have posters round the village. They need GBP200K for the roof. Now a little known fact about me is that I like taking pictures of religious buildings. I have some kick-ass ones of various cathedrals and a few mosques. So when I hear the vicar (who is clearly a woman in comfortable shoes but wouldn’t have a lesbian marriage in her parish – we want that because this is Cheshire and not Iran – the state won’t allow it even though the Quakers want it though).
Anyway, I go round the vicarage (very nice house) and I proffer my services with my Sony Alpha 55. It’s win-win. It’s a pretty church and that is fun for me and hopefully it will help the fund-raise so it’s a win for her. We make a date and time. So I show up with all my kit (inc. a tripod) at the time and date and nowt. So I trudge up home. No good deed escapes punishment does it? I try to phone. I dunno – maybe she had a critically ill parishioner but to no avail. She just said that at the time because it was easy. Same way (see *) she pissed me about over this homeless chap. I am not a Christian. I am a Godless Heathen but I’m better than the CofE at providing a bit of comfort to those who don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of (that’s NYC Jewish BTW). I dropped that camera in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (it was bollocked but insured to the hilt). No issues there. No imams playing Les buggeurs risible. As an aside in Paris I am allowed to take piccies (they shall follow) in Notre Dame and The Louvre but not in Sacre Coeur or the Musée d’Orsay I is not. In Sacre Coeur (I swear to God) the sign outside says no piccies. OK, disappointing but their gaff, their rules. So I’m wearing the camera round my neck. Of course I am! I’ve been taking pictures of Paris from Montematre but some officious cunt grabs me. I wasn’t going to break the rules and I had even turned the camera off but still I was grabbed – physically grabbed – and told he me to put it in the bag. Utter cunt. He then wanders round going, “Shush!!!” very loudly. Christ almighty! You give some fucker a uniform and minimum wage and you get numpties.
Anyway here is the picture. This is on the boundary.This is pagan fucking idolatry.
Really.This is a soft toy attached to a fence by barbed wire. It is on almost the exact boundary between us and the CofE.
*I fucking hate our CofE vicar. She cast nasturtiums against me for feeding a homeless man. Every Sunday morning I buy milk – and that means seeing the stream up to our gaff and the trickle up to St Mary’s.
So fuck off. I am more a Christian than those fuckers and I ain’t even a believer. Neither are they
I know this has been done to death here (cracking post from RAB!) and elsewhere but it needs to be said or re-iterated at least. I was born in England in 1973 (the year the UK, the Irish Republic and Denmark joined the club) and I have subsequently been to (in no particular order) France, Spain, Belgium (briefly), Holland, Germany, Yugoslavia (as was – twice!), Hungary, Czechoslovakia (and subsequently the Czech Republic), Poland, The Irish Republic, Portugal, Hungary, Austria (very briefly), Greece, Malta and indeed Turkey. Some of the above several times. Many of the above I shall happily re-visit. There is a picture (I really have to sort my piccies out) of me hugging a statue of a bull over the Asian side of Istanbul and no I wasn’t pissed at all. I was just thinking cool! Another continent bites the dust.
You think that artificial? Of course it is! The East side of the Bosphorus is no more or less culturally European than Porto. Being European is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with (often nominal) religion either. An odd thing about Istanbul is that it has maintained into this century the habit of having streets of x,y or z. Just down from the Europa bull is the street of wedding dresses. And by wedding dresses I mean things Jordan would regard as OTT.
I mean Katie Price not the near-East country.
I have met gits on three continents. Mainly I have met decent people. I have met many of both in my own country. I have met many of both in Europe or the USA and many in my “toe in the water” trip to Asia. I even met some recently in Paris! I have met gits of course but for good or ill they seem to be fairly evenly distributed. In a deluge in Istanbul I slipped and fell awkwardly on subway steps. A Turkish businessman in a nice suit helped right me and asked if I was OK (I was – I only fell awkwardly to protect my camera bag). He spoke perfect English. He was very nice. I know “nice” sounds like damning with faint praise but it was nice. On the far side of this continent people were just the same.
Well, almost. I found the Turks to be polite and helpful. Sometimes witty (hard to gauge sometimes given the language gap) but be aware the restaurant barkers are tiresome.
We can all get on. I like (some) French wine, Czech cars, Polish vodka, Scottish salmon (not the Alex version), Italian cheese, Finnish software, women from everywhere (as long as they are smart, funny and good-looking), German ham, Belgian beer, Spanish tiling, Swedish crime stories, English novels…
We build airliners that are duralumin overcasts because we have engineers, not politicians. Have you flown on an Airbus? Probably. The wings are designed in Bristol and made in Wales. Final assembly is Toulouse. Whatever! OK, the last two ‘planes I was on were Brazilian but that is not the point is it? I’ve flown on a fair few Embraers and they always got me back (good on you Brazil!). So are all the rest I have flown on. If the ground traffic was bad it has taken me longer than the one hour fly time from Paris to Manchester to get from my outskirts to Manchester Town Hall.
This they don’t get it. We can fly, we can twitter, we can Skype… All this has nothing to do with the EU.
In the 1960s my Gran phoned her sister who had emigrated to Melbourne. My Gran didn’t have a phone. She used a local grocer’s shop she had an a/c with. A twenty minute call cost nearly a week’s wages. She hid the bill.
We have created a global society not because of politics but in spite of it.
I am writing this near Manchester. The latest kitty in the count is Julie (near Chicago – spot on virgin post Julie btw!) and the server is in Queensland, Oz. Did legislation and politics make it possible for us to all run and play? Did it hell! I am typing this on a Lenovo laptop. This was made and designed in China but that’s because Lenovo bought up IBM’s brand for laptops and it has USA DNA so to speak. It runs Windows 7 for a start.
And that is the point. The EU (and more broadly) is an exercise in stealing our intrinsic internationalism and then parceling it back as a “gift”. If you, as I do, read late Victorian/Edwardian stories then the World was at least as globalized as it is now. Seriously. Read the Holmes canon if you doubt me. We don’t need a superstructure in Brussels to give us back (and we must thank them for it) rights we always had. They took those rights and are now parceling them back and expect us to be grateful for giving us a semblance of what we had a century ago! They call it progress. I call it graft.
No, I don’t exactly. There is graft obviously but it is more than that. It is about the political class making itself important whereas in a rational World none of this is needed. We are not a nursery school. We don’t need an authority figure to make us “play nice”. We certainly don’t need this to be self-imposed with the tacit concept that if we don’t have nanny we will automatically be at each other’s throats. The EU is many things. Ultimately it is patronising. We don’t need looking after and we really don’t need the aggression of the EU because the same political class (note I don’t say working class, middle class or upper class but -political class) building barriers only to partially tear them down and then claim credit for it. The EUrocrats are the sort of people who will piss on your rug and then want a lollypop for cleaning half of it.
Europe is united at the the most fundamental level. This is bottom-up*. Officialdom never helps. It hinders and when it “tries to help” it requires praise and a gold star sticker on the infant school merit board. This is toxic. This is politics – making out they are heroes for granting rights you had anyway if not for politics taking it away and then drip-feeding you such rights back (or not). When I lived in Stepney, East London, we’d go to the Globe pub and round the table would be Brits and Americans, and French and Italians and Germans and all the rest. We’d do the pub quiz**.
We don’t need nanny to get on. We need ourselves. Just that. And we need cheap flights. The sort of things that the EU goes berserk over in terms of CO2 and stuff. They like trains instead. Trains. Fucking trains. Like Orv and Will bust their humps to go by fucking train.
We are not united by politics. We are united by cheap ‘planes that our EU Lords hate. Have you ever wondered about the concept of a geographical super-state in a non-geographical age? I have. They haven’t. They are playing the C21st with C19st pieces.
And if I had a single Euro for every time I have been accused of being anti-European (I am European for God’s sake!) for speaking out against the EU or the single currency despite loving Europe I’d be able to bail-out Greece. Well, for a week at least. If I were Angie I’d tell the hairy-backed fuckers to fuck off***.
So, I shared a joke about a bottom with a Frenchman. Is that not what it should really be about? If the powers that be realized just how similar we then they would melt like the Wicked Witch.
We need each other. Well, we are best with each other. We don’t need them telling us that. We don’t need them to “make it so”. We need shared laughter in a bar in Paris over a bared bottom. That sort of thing does more for genuine European integration than any quantity of expense account genuflecting from Brussels or Strasbourg.
And of course the sort of cheap flights the EU hates. Here “integration” and “environment” lock horns. Here I speak truth.
*Literally. I was in a bar in a student area of Paris recently (Thanks MHG!) and there was a birthday going on. Several students were somewhat Brahms et Liszt. One had forgotten to wear a belt and his trousers had slipped somewhat. My wife did a “pull-down gesture” and one of his mates yanked his underwear down revealing bare bottom. Generalised hilarity ensued. A bit later I got chatting with one of the lads outside whilst we were having a fag. He said, “You liked my mate’s bum?” I said, “Très bien!” and we chortled.
**I particularly recall one event because we were all bamboozled by a single question. “What was the first London Underground station to open?” That made very little sense to us all because a railway with one station makes no sense.
***The Greek male national sport would appear to be sexual harassment. They are largely right mummies boys you see. I was in this street in Athens once and I’m asking directions and this git (see above about gits – partially) starts fondling my girlfriend’s buttocks. I should have lamped the hairy backed troglodyte (he seriously didn’t look like a Spartan from 300). I didn’t because it was so off kilter I scarcely believed myself. Oddly enough the nicest town I saw in Greece was Sparta. Had a bloody good kebab served by a Greek-American who was back to the old country to help his uncle out. Jolly decent sort. Much can be done with a Greek if you catch them early enough.
What is the post Roman West? How does it differ from the Roman Empire?
Well, for example, under the Roman Empire the army was a professional force – it was the state.
The warbands of the Germanic chiefs were not the world of the Middle Ages either – the armies of the Middle Ages were Feudal, the King called upon his land holding vassels and they brought their men to his aid (if they were loyal).
They came from their castles – which were neither the state fortresses of the Roman Empire, or the strongholds of independent rulers.
They were something else – privately owned castles. And a King who tried to take land away from such lords – risked (indeed invited) revolt. But it was more than that – a ruler who took land from those who had inherited it invited contempt (people were outraged by what he had done – he was regarded with disgust) – it was a different world from the late Roman Empire. So the land went down over the generations (over hundreds of years). And other property (including coin) was also held more securely than under Roman law (at least as it was under the late Empire). A ruler in the Middle Ages might rob Jews with impunity (indeed he might win praise for robbing Jews – but Jews had been robbed and slaughtered by Roman Emperors also) – but to rob other Christians (even though they were Merchants, craftsmen or free peasants) invited contempt and open hatred – something that rival rulers might well use against him (or that the, armed, common people might take revenge for themselves).
Jews often did not even carry weapons (rather like Roman “citizens” under the Empire had not carried weapons – because they were not allowed to) – so they were beneath contempt. But however vile the commons were – they (0r at least the free ones) did carry weapons.
Roman Emperors were not limited in what land they could take by Feudal law – Roman law was whatever the Emperor said it was. The Emperor (the state) had a whim – and the intellectuals duely justified it and made it formal law. Roman legal philosophers reconised the concept of natural law (they even accepted that natural law forbad slavery) – but, to them, it had no practical force in the real world (the will of the state trumped it).
And the feudal landholders who led their men to the aid of the King – how did the travel and how did they fight?
On horseback – they were knights. They looked rather like Roman heavy cavarly of the late Empire – but their weapons and armour were not made in state arms factories (they were privately made), and their horses did not come from state stud farms – they were privately bred and owned horses.
Nor was there one great universal Empire – for all the claims of the new “Holy Roman Empire”.
On the contrary there were various Kingdoms, and Grand Dutchies and…… Not the temporary holdings of strongmen, but Kingdoms (and Princedoms and ….) that formally recognised the right of each to exist and to govern themselves.
Certainly they might invade each other – but they were, formally, at least under the same natural law (made by God – not by man). Another King (or Prince or ….) had rights. To put them to death in some savage entertainment would invite outrage.
One had to work hard to invent a good legal reason to invade somewhere else (and it is not automatic that one would come up with something) and if the case was bad then this would have an effect – the Church (an independent force – not a branch of the state as under the Roman Empire) might denounce you, your own lords might decide you had spat upon their honour (by involving them in an unjust war) and on and on.
Certainly wickedness and the slaughter of the innocent continued – but their were risks (and not just the battlefield risks that Roman Emperors understood) there was the risk of practical consequnces from inciting disgust with your conduct (even if the conduct was successful).
Not all Kings (and ….) only pretended to be honourable and uphold the natural law – some actually thought that their sworn word (on the Bible – or not) meant something (in a way that would have astonished someone in the late Roman Empire) – and even those rulers who were utterly cynical (rotten to the core) had to at least pretend to be men of honour upholding the universal law (the true law that they did not write) – and putting on a convincing performance needs certain pratical actions and inactions.
A strange hybid of the old warrior honour code of the barbarians – and the idea of formal law and government of the Romans.
When Papa Franz – the Emperor Franz Joesph last Hapsburg ruler before the First World War refused to go along with hate campaigns against the Jews – because he had given-his-word to treat all subjects equally, he was dealing with a concept (honour) that his ancestor riding out of Hawk Castle (from which the word “Hapsburg” comes) a thousand years before would have understood.
And his kin – both Habsburg and Bavarian Wittelsbach, risked their lives in the 1930s and 1940s – for people with whom they had nothing in common and whom aiding gave no advantage of power.
The highest ideal of chivalry – the service of the great (service till death) for the weak and helpless, and (the greatest leap of all – and so often failed) service to the alien, to the “other”.
Do I have to explain that a Roman ruler (even after the formal conversion of the Empire to Christianity) would have been utterly baffled by all of this?
The dark side of men (our love of seeing the blood of our enemies cover the ground – as their heads roll in the dirt) is well known. Whether Roman or barbarian we all love cutting the throats of our enemies (show me a man who denies feeling joy, or at least quiet satisfaction, at the dying screams of his enemies – and I will show you a liar). But to risk our own throats – and to risk them for those who are no kin of ours (or connection of ours) – that is something else again. As is showing mercy to enemies who have thrown down their arms – and grasping their hands in friendship at the very moment when they expected torture and death. Rare indeed are those who can match the deeds of Alfred the Great – or his warrior daughter Ethelfleda (or Aethelflaed – perhaps if the lady had a less difficult name she would be feminst icon) the “White Lady of the English”, but in our Walter Mitty way we think ourselves heros – the concept had no real meaning in the late Roman world. The great soldier certainly – but not those who would follow justice for its own sake, and follow it in regard to foes as well as friends.
All the above remained, in part (but it was always only in part), till quite recently.
Tanks may have replaced cavalry (not that Alfred and those who came after him really understood cavarly – indeed Tolkien argued that this lack of understanding led to the terrible events of 1066), but the code of honour remained.
Indeed up to the late 19th century so did the idea (in the British army at least) that an officer shoud not profit from military service – indeed that it should cost him and that he should outfit himself (and sometimes troops) at his own expense.
Colonel Blimp is a mocked figure – but he has his good side. There are things he will not do – and, more importantly, things he will die to save others from.
As even the socialist George Orwell admitted (in despair over the alliance of the National Socialists and the Marxists in 1939) “who now will now step forward to defend civilisation – only Colonel Blimp and the old school tie”.
Stepping forward from his (near bankrupt) country estate – or from his job in the City of London (where “my word is my bond” was the basis of relationships till 1986 – for it was a private club, indeed several different private clubs, not the government regulated entity it has been since 1986) to lead his tanks (or his aircraft) into battle with those who had betrayed civilisation and had declared “my honour is loyality” (thus showing they had no undertanding of what either “honour” or “loyality” really mean under the unversal law) – as if they were fighting raiders and invaders (whether Viking of Barbary corsair) centuries before.
“But what has all this to do with Charles the Bald”.
Well this man was the grandson of Charles the Great – Charlemagne.
Charlemagne is an over rated figure – due to his patronage of intellectuals (he paid for their bread, and their ink and parchment, and they praised him – there is some honesty in that relationship I suppose). He was essentially no good.
He did little to oppose the Islamic invaders of Europe. His campaigns aganst the Eastern pagans (such as the Saxons) were marked by brutality and cruelity (even by the standards of war) he plundered endlessly – and used the plunder buy the loyality of thugs. His campaigns against the pagans may have led the Viking age – both as revenge, but also because he had undermined the Fresians (the traditional check upon the Norse – going right back to Roman days). And he not did spare Christian Realms – as Bavaria was to discover in 788.
And why should he spare Christian lordships? After all Charlemagne believed in the old Roman Empire with himself as a new Constantine (another meglomanic), the Church his faithful servants – and the whole world his domain.
In economic policy to Charlemagne was a (late) Roman.
De facto serfdom (the tax policy of Diocletian that peasants not be allowed to leave their area of birth) was a difficult thing for any neo “Dark Age” administration to enforce (lack of written reconds and so on), but Charlemagne would have had no objection to it. And it is more than this.
In the Christian Church there has always been a great conflict over what a “just price” is – indeed over what “justice” is.
Is a just price one that is voluntarily agreed between buyer and seller?
Or is a “just price” what the state thinks is “fair”.
Just as is justice to each their own – or to each the income and wealth the state thinks “fair”?
No prizes for guessing which side Charlemagne came down on in this debate. The side the late Romans had come down on.
The side of tyranny.
Income and wealth went to who Charemagne thought it fair for them to go to (no better than an Islamic Caliph or a late Roman Emperor).
Prices were what Charlemagne (and his intellectual hangers on – that faction of the clergy that he favoured) thought “fair”. Bavarian law (also written by clerics) came down on the other side (that a just price was a price that the buyer and seller voluntarily agreed to) – so Charlemagne judgment was not automatic (not predetermined) – he made a choice to come down on the side of tyranny.
A good fighter and a parton of the arts and scholarship – but one can say the same of Constantine (or of many Islamic rulers).
In the world of Charlemagne we are not in the West – not as I have tried to describe its spirit above.
However, under Charles the Bald things changed – partly because Charles the Bald was not a very good soldier.
The Bretons defeated Charles the Bald in great battles, where the outnumbered Breton cavalry followed a war of movement – out flanking the Frankish armies and engaging in hit and run attacks, in the end Charles fled his own army under cover of night, leaving it to its fate.
Charles accepted de facto Breton independence and self government – something that lasted from the 9th century to the 16th century.
And it also established a principle – the new “Empire” (already divided under the sons and grandsons of Charlemagne) was going to be a very different place from the Roman Empire – places could, de facto, secede from it (and rule themselves) and Kings and Emperors would recognise their self government.
The Church also had more independence under Charles the Bald than under Charlemagne. The Bishops were (mostly) loyal to him – but then he desperatly needed their loyality.
Needed it because his kinsman Louis the German invaded his domians and Charles could not raise an army to oppose him (because Charles was an unpopular ruler).
The intervention of the Bishops saved the rule of Charles and he and his kinsman were eventually reconciled (various late Roman heads are exploding at this point – priests preventing a conquest [?] a power struggle not being to the death [?], does not compute – head explodes….). But there was a de facto price for the loyality of the Bishops – if one depends on their independent authority one has accepted that they have independent authority.
Nor were they the only people that Charles the Bald needed – especially as the Viking raids got worse and worse.
In his Edict of Pistes Charles the Bald did conventional things – such as ban trade with the enemy (especially in weapons and horses – selling them to the Vikings was punisable by death). But he also tried to develop his cavalry arm – for only cavalry could move fast enough to oppose raiders (and withdraw fast enough to avoid destruction if they found they were overmatched).
But how to raise this cavalry?
Charles could have tried the late Roman way – paid troops, given equipment from state arms factories and horses from state stud farms.
However, he simply did not have the resources to do that – so he tried something else.
Any private person who had the money to own a horse had to come and fight on horseback – or send someone to fight for him.
This was actually a return to the Classical world (including the old Roman Republic) where rich men had made up the cavarly – either directly, or by paying (personally) for the horse and horseman.
About a thousand years of French chivalry can be dated from this.
True in the 18th century the sacred Blue Cordon (once a group of knights who has sworn that the King would be unharmed till the the blue sashes they wore were turned red by their own blood) had turned into a glorified dining club (translate “cordon blue” into French and you will understand) – part of the general degeneracy that led to the French Revolution.
However, some ghost of the “old France” still remains, even the idea that a bad life can be redeemed by an honourable death that prevents some terrible act of wickedness, and in an intensely personal sense of honour and achievement that can be seen in extreme sports and in exploring.
Charles the Bald tried to ban private castles – but the effort was absurd.
He did not have the resourses to build (and maintain) enough castles of his own (although he did build fortified bridges that may have saved Paris, some years after his death, by holding up the Vikings) and castles were desperatly needed.
So local land holders (one can argue about whether they were officially land “owners” – but they were de facto private landowners, indeed far more so than landowers under Roman Imperial law) built, maintained and manned the castles. They were the first (and often the only) line of defence against raiders – both Viking and Muslim Corsair.
Estate management is a vital skill or any landowner (otherwise the family will go bankrupt – and the land pass to someone better at estate management) – but for centuries in France (and elsewhere) how to ride and how to fight were also vital skills.
It was not till the reign of Louis XIV that the nobility of France became painted toys, with absurd hairdos living in his vast (and rather absurd – its water supply did not work) palace (so different from where Kings of France had traditionally lived – compare Versailles to the Chateau De Vincennes on a visit to Paris). The noblity of France (unlike the nobilty of Britain) lost power and they lost their basic link to the land – they became toys of the Kings (and Louis the XIV aped the Roman Emperors – he was the Sun King) and fell with them. This is, in part, unfair some French noble families resisted the corruption of Versailles – but not enough.
And private castles had long been targeted by the Kings of France – and made useless by the age of gunpowder.
The private landownship (or de facto private landownership), on which everything else (from the idea of limited government to a spirit of personal honour) is based, where did it come from?
It came from the same source – the weakness of Charles the Bald.
He accepted that fiefs of land were hereditary – and not even a King of France could justly take the land of one person and give it to another (this is the foundation upon which modern Western civilisation was built).
It is fashionable to downgrade the importance of the Edict of Quierzy (877).
Modern historians (the same sort who regret the Ottomans not taking over all of Europe centuries later – because the Ottoman despotism was a much more “tolerant” and “progressive” civilisation than the landowner dominated European realms) downgrade the importance of the Edict of Quierzy.
Either they say it was just a restatement of an old principle (as if that makes it less important) or they say it was for selfish motives – to protect the allodial lands of his mother from Louis the German and to win over the support of lords against Louis the German.
That is like saying the Great Charta in England in 1215 was not important – because the basic motivation was to protect the property of barons from the King.
Of course the motivation was selfish. If Charles the Bald could have protected the lands of his mother (without having to call on the aid of others) he would have done so (by the way – where in asiatic despotism, sorry I mean in progressive social justice, is there concern for the large scale private property in land of a women?).
As for winning over Lords by a formal declaration that even a King can not steal their land – or steal it from their children….
It remains a formal declaration that a King can not justly take land – either from adults or their children.
All liberty (including civil liberties) is based upon private property rights – and if the property rights of the great are not respected what hope is there for the property rights of ordinary folk?
The slow (and vastly painful) process of building civilisation – of establishing liberty, depends on such foundations.
Even if they were (in part) built (unintentionally) by the weakness of a 9th century ruler by the name of Charles the Bald.
After the “Joseph” post, a post on Islam.
Not in praise of Islam in today’s context (although some people may see some relevant point), but in the context of the world in which it became important and powerful.
This was not the Classical World – the world of Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic. Where people (in many places – although far from all) were either free or slaves.
Slavery certainly existed in the world in which the Muslims went forth on the path of conquest (just as it existed among the Muslims themselves) – but the world they faced was a world where the vast majority of people were semi serfs. Tied to the land, or tied to their urban occupations (tied from birth).
The first thing to go had been the right to keep and bear arms (the classical mark of a free man – in both Ancient Greece and Republican Rome, just as with the Celtic and Germanic tribes). Octavian (“Augustus”) had got rid of most private ownership of, and training in, arms. Useing the argument that he was saving Rome from the dangers of civil war (the repeated civil wars of the Imperial period – where different factions of the army backed different Emperors somehow do not count as civil wars I suppose).
So the Ancient World abandoned the central principle of that great work of classical literature “Starship Troopers” – “everyone fights” (meaning everyone who is to be considered a citizen must be prepared to fight).n And I am not being, entirely, sarcastic – after all Robert Heinlein (the author of Star Ship Troopers) got the idea from Aristotle. In the “Politics”, Aristotle explains how the idea of the armed citizen is not just Greek, how (for example) the men of Carthage are allowed to vote or stand for public office unless they have first accepted military service (of course this rule was later abandoned by Carthage – with tragic results).
Most “citizens” of the new Rome (which now meant the entire Classical world) had no military weapons and were not trained in their use.
Later more and more regulations and restrictions (and higher and higer taxes) were imposed on these “free citizens” – till, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian, they basically became cattle. Tied to the land (if they were peasants) or to their urban occupations (sometimes in state owned factories).
And it even became acceptable to keep these “free citizens” in chains (physcial chains) if it was expected they were going to run away (i.e. no longer farm the land – but run off to the barbarians, or whatever).
And, of course, flogging and all forms of torture (under the Republic only to be applied to slaves) gradually (over the years and centuries of decay) became accepted ways of relating to most ranks of “free citizens”.
Nor were things fundementally different with Rome’s great enemy – the Persians.
The Pathians seem to have tolerated the Greek and other civilizations they became overlords of. But the new (or restored – depending on one’s point of view) regime of the Persians established a new civilization.
With (yes you guessed it) hereditory castes determining a person’s fate in life from birth (much as in Hindu India – accept under the banner of Zorastrianism).
Under the Persians there was also a de facto religous monopoly (how could there not be – the Magi of Zorastrianism were also the magistrates and officials), apart from in the “land of the King” (basically Babylonia – where the King of the Persians ruled directly) where a wide measure of religious tolerance (for Jews and others) was practiced.
The Romans, after the conversion to Christianity, also moved towards a defacto religious monopoly with the persecution of all other forms of belief.
Some Christian Emperors (such as Valentarian) believed this was unChristian. But Emperors eventually adopted the position that it was their role to discriminate against nonChristians – indeed to persecute even fellow Christians over differences in theology.
Of couse in the 7th century the hatred this persecution of Christians by other Christians produced was to have fatal consequences for the Byzantines in the Holy Land – for many Christians (of persecuted types) went over to the Muslims in the middle of the key battle (the fact that these Christians were ethincally Arab was also a factor of course – but Pagan Rome, and Christian Emperors who did not practice persecution NEVER faced defection in the middle of a battle – not even to barbarians of the same ethnic group as troops on their own side).
Augustine, amongst other theologians, provided useful arguments about how using violence, including torture, in matters of religion was not really anti Christian. How did Augustine refute the Hebrew, Amoraic and Greek texts? Well he could not really read any of these languages, so he did not have to.
Ah dear Augustine – it was, of course, him who was one of the leading theologians to ridicule ancient science. And to mock the idea that people could choose to behave decently, none of this “Pelagian” free will for Augustine (that was as bad as being able to read Greek or Hebrew or Amoraic – you know the langugage that that Jesus bloke spoke, why someone interested in the Amoraic words of the Jesus bloke [or the Greek writings of the people who knew him] might be so absurd as to actually visit the land he lived in, which, of course, the wise Augustine never did ). Predestination, and human efforts are doomed, all the way – that is Augustine (he was a true father of the Dark Age).
To me it is no accident that the first theologian in England in the Middle Ages to stress the study of Greek and Hebrew, Roger Bacon, was also interested in submarines, aircraft (and so on) – contray to what is often thought there is no contradiction between a love of ancient learning and hopes for a better future. On the contrary it is the book burners (those who wish to destroy the learning of the past) who tend to be the people who strangle the future.
Of course the Western Roman Empire had collapsed by the time of the comming of Islam (although the Byzantines ruled in most of what had been Roman Africa – as well as in Sicily and other parts of Italy). However, the Germanic regimes that had taken over the rest of the Roman Empire in the West had kept the Roman sytem.
Most of the population reduced to de facto serfdom – a population where the “everyone fights” rule (of free citizens of the Classical World, or of the Germanic world itself) was ignored. Is it really any wonder that the Muslims found it fairly easy to conquer vast populations – even thought their own numbers (at first) were small?
The populations the Muslims took over had been treated as cattle for centuries – both in the East and the West, so conquest just meant a change of masters (not a loss of the freedom they did not have anyway).
And the Persians?
With them it was even worse. Insane social/religious experiments (for example trying to share out “all goods and women”) had almost destroyed the Persian Empire (torn it apart into chaos and civil war) long before the Muslims arrived.
The followers of Muhammed (a member of family of traders) might plunder the goods of other people – but they had no truck with denying the rights of private property amongst themselves.
At least where it came to goods – Islamic law as concerning LAND is more contested, which was to prove a major weakness in Islamic civilization, in comparision to that of the emerging “Feudal” law of the West. Such as the Edict of Quierzy of 877 which restated that even a King of France could not take a fief of land from the children of the person who held it, and give it to someone else – which meant that a Western King was a different sort of thing than a Roman Emperor or an Islamic ruler.
Western Kings might rob. rape and murder people – but these remained CRIMES even if the King did them (as King John was to discover), just as a Western King might have mistresses, but not a “harem” and his heir was expected to be from a marriage (not a slave girl).
A Western King might be a terrible hypocrite and criminal – but there was an objective standard to judge them by (unlike a Roman Emperor) and (again unlike a Roman Emperor) independent land holders with large numbers of armed (and trained) men, to hold them to account. “The Emperor’s will is law” would be an outrage to a mind of the Middle Ages.
And as for the powers of the “barons” themselves – a lord who overstepped the mark with free peasants might well get a longbow arrow in his face, at least in later period England (but other forms of death in other places). Remember even in England at the hight of the “Norman Yoke” only half the population were serfs (which means the other half were not). And the Kings of England (and the various lords) were desperate for armed (i.e. free) men to increase their own power, at home and overseas (that is the whole point of “bastard feudalism” – but it goes back a lot further). As early as the time of Henry the first (son of William the Bastard) the King was already desperatly reaching out to Englishmen to fight his Norman brothers (litterally his brothers) and marrying a direct decendent of Alfred the Great to bolster his claim to the throne.
So indeed “everyone fights”. And the Black Death meant the de facto end of what serfdom there was in England – whatever the demented statutes of Parliament said.
But Islam in the 7th century did not face the Kingdoms of the Middle Ages.
It faced the Persian despotism (desperatly trying to recover from its own madness), the despotism of the Byzantines (really the late Roman Empire – although after their defeat by Islam, what survived of Byzantine civilization was to change…) and the recently (well a century or so) arrived Germanic overlords of places like Spain – where the old Roman system (i.e. most people are cattle – unarmed) remained basically in force.
The Muslims were in a way a throw back to the Classical World – “everyone fights” (indeed believers had a religous duty to train and fight). And, amongst themselves, believers (at least in the early stages of Islam) had rights – they could not be treated as cattle (as the “free citizens” of the late Roman world, or of the Persian world, were).
There was even, again in the early stages, an intense Islamic interest in Classical learning and science – and scholars (Christan, Jewish and Muslim) made progress in these areas (although progress rather over stressed by BBC programmes) that was unmatched (at that time) in the Byzantine Empire or the Western Kingdoms.
For the Muslims (at least at first – and for the most part, there were nasty exceptions such as the ruler who burnt what was left of the library of Alexandria) did not know they were supposed to reject the learning of the ancient world (not build upon it), whereas too many of the Christians and too many of the Magi did reject it – because they thought it represented the civilization they had replaced.
Of course, within a few generations the Islamic world started to reject Classical learning and science more than the folk of the Western Kingdoms did.
However, the story of how that came to pass will have to wait for another time – or another person to tell it.
It has often been pointed out (by me – amongst lots of other people) that the policies of Otto Von Bismark had a vast influence around the world. They mark the turning away from the (relatively) free market liberalism of the 19th century to the Welfare State “ism” and general statism of the 20th century. They also mark a turn from a culture in which at least lip service was given to virtue of peace and the virtue of honesty – to a culture (the culture of the early 20th century) where war, or at least organzing a country on the basis of war, was seen as a positive good. And where deceit (trickery) was seen as good – as long as it was for a “good cause”.
A move away from the German culture of (for example) the composer Mendelssohn (with its almost obsessive concern for personal morality), to a cynical power seeking culture – where anything (ever whipping up ethnic hatred – such as, of course, anti semitism) was O.K. as long as it led to POWER (both personal power and collective power).
Bismark himself did really love war (in fact he was always very nervious that his gambles might go wrong – and spent the last years of his life worried that everything had gone too far and that Germany he had unified was heading to destruction), but this did not stop his bombastic speeches about “blood and iron”. And Bismark did not really believe evil Jews ran the world (in private he mocked such absurdities), but this did not stop him digging up the spirit of antisemitism when it served his political purposes in the late 1870s (denouncing German liberals as a “party of Jews” because they opposed his plans for higher taxes on imported goods).
Nor was Bismark a socialist (at least not in the full sense), but this did not stop secretly subsdizing the socialist moverment in the 1860s (in order to scare factory owners, and so on, into supporting the Prussian government) – even though his concern was genuine when the Red monster he had helped create started to get out of control…..
Bismark believed that the state should dominate education (a traditional Prussian belief – very much connected to the man I will get on to presently), and he also put into the practice the dream of so many collectivists over the years that the state should dominate such things as health care and old age provision also (Bismark was indeed the man who took the concept of the “Welfare State” from the theories of the old, and discredited, economics and political science of the “Cameralists”, and made it a practical reality – although the schemes he created were at first of very modest cost, as such schemes always are at first).
Bismark would not have welcomed the 20th century (with its, in many nations, state control of just about everything – and with its extermination of hundreds of millions of human beings). But the ideology of his time led, logically, to it. The German “Historical School” rejected the idea of “economic law” based upon reason – and held that if a problem existed it was the job of the state to fix it (and one “fix” leads to more problems which lead to more “fixes” and….) they may not have gone as far as “Closed Commercial State” Fichte (let alone Karl Marx) in their attacks upon free enterprise – but by denying the concept of economic law they opened the door to modern 20th (and 21st) century collectivism.
Prussian (German) education also instructed Richard Ely and the rising school of American collectivists. They did not slavishly support the Germany of Bismark – but only because (after their time in Germany) they thought they could home and make America a “better” version of it (by “better” read a version of collectivism that had no silly aristocrats or Kings, and where there were no barriers of custom and tradition as a bar to the will of “the people” and the “modern age” – Adolf Hilter and his “National Socialists” had a very similar vision, even in racial matters and eugenics, to such American “Progressives”, see Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism”).
In economics they managed to purge American universities and texts of much of the old French lassiez-faire school of Bastiat and so on (in Frace intself the government created a new subject “Public Administration” to have the same effect – to purge France of limited government ideas, and imitate Germany, just “do it better”). And, in philosophy, such Schools as “Pragmatism” (with its denial of reason and objective truth – and its insitance that government was there to solve problems) would replace the old philosophy of “Common Sense”.
Sometimes all this purging was (and is) done by the normal tricks of academic politics (by people who, with no sense of irony, screamed “academic freedom” when there was any effort to fight back), sometimes by more direct means – have a look into the stange death of Mary Stamford (of Stamford University).
The reactionaries and their silly things (such as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights) must be destroyed – by any means necessary. And so it was (and is) in the rest of the West also. Although the conflict has been a lot longer (and with many more setbacks – setbacks produced by desperate resistance, in many parts of the world, by the “reactionaries”) than the Progresssives thought it would be.
In Britain also both many Liberal party people and many Conservative party people were wildly impressed by the example of the new Imperial Germany (although sometimes in the was Saruman is impressed by Sauron in the “Lord of the Rings” – they envyed it as a rival, and wanted to make Britain a “better” version of it).
Even the young Winston Churchill sneered at the “old women”, the hopeless reactionaries of such groups as the Liberty and Property Defence League, and the Personal Rights Association, who resisted the “march of progress”. He accepted much of the statist agenda from a desire to set up government “insurance” schemes (covering just about everything – even unemployment, which Bismark had thought a step too far), to nationalizing the railways (very Prussian), to eugenics (the young Churchill accepted much of what the older man, now become something of a Tory “reactionary” himself, denounced).
By the early 20th century a belief in liberty (both economic and civil liberties) was seen as hopelessly reactionary. Part of a world of Hapsburg Princes (not for nothing did Hitler hate the House of Hapsburg) opposing the killing of helpless Jews because it was not “honourable” (as if individual honour could have any meaning in the modern world – the modern concept of honour was “my honour is loyality” a collective concept), and Polish cavalry (like “the last charge of the Middle Ages” when the Poles led by their hopelessly reactionary King saved Vienna from the Ottoman Machine in 1683) charging tanks with lances (whether this really happened or not is debateable – but the point is, that it is the sort of thing people expected to happen).
The modern world (whether Marxist, Nazi or Progressive) was a collectivist world – the old world of private property rights and personal honour, was gone with the horse and buggy. And the idea that progress (even technolgical progress) might actually be eventually undermined by collectivism was considered absurd by most “enlightned” people.
For the American verison of such “intellectuals” (both political and cultural) see the description of them in Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead” – sadly it is not a satire (they were like that – and they still are). The screams for “freedom” turn out to be for the “freedom not to be free” (as the young Nazis of the German university student unions put it), or “freedom” from physical reality, or “freedom” from morality (such as respecting the property rights of others), never freedom in the sense of personal responsbility and the nonaggression principle (that is hoplessly reactionary – ask the Bader-Meinhof gang, or the American “Weathermen” and SDS, or the modern international “Occupy” movement).
So I should just stop there, with no mention of Frederick the Great (and thus leave people scratching their heads at my strange title for this little rant of mine)?
No – because he played a vital part in it all.
Without Frederick the Great there could have been no Bismark – and Frederick is actually (in many ways) more like the modern international elite than Bismark ever was.
Frederick the great is still an inspiration to modern “intellectuals” (including some who call themselves “conservative” such as the Scotsman Nial Ferguson), whereas a modern intellecual would not (today) cite Bismark in a friendly fashion.
Frederick was a composer, and a flute player, and fashionably cultural in every way (talking on equal terms with all the great cultural icons of his time). Even his sexuality may have been fashionable in modern terms (somerthing that can certainly not be said of the women chasing Bismark). Intellecuals have always loved Frederick the Great – partly, perhaps, he shows the false nature of the view that an cultured (and sensitive) intellectual can not also be macho. After all Frederick the Great had more human beings die by violence than any other person of his time. So what if he would have fitted in perfectly (in every way) in the Apostles Club in 20th century Cambridge – he was also one of the great killers of history (so there – you reactionary bigots).
Frederick the Great is the cultured philospher-king (Plato’s dream – and a man who took some of Plato’s ideas out of the books of theory and into the world of practice). A true philospher in that he wrote on issues of philosophy (supporting determinism, the denial of human agency – “free will”). A man who mocked the formal religions of his time (whilst, of course, being “deeply spiritual”….).
Frederick the Great got rid of torture (so some modern civil libertarians love him) – the fact that he got rid of it for the practical reason that a confession extracted by torture could not be trusted (so the real guilty might escape his punishments) can be glossed over (perhaps RIGHTLY so). Although, it should be remembered, that torture was itself was a Progressive concept, it is from Roman law (Imperial Roman law – late Imperial especially), and “putting the question” (torture) was formally incorporated in the laws of nations when they got rid of chaotic “Common” (“Feudal”) law. England never did – which meant that torture (whilst sometimes practiced) had a doubtful legal status here (as it is not part of Common Law, the idea of attacking, torturing, someone who is tied up and unable to defend themselves is not a “Feudal” law concept).
Of course the Empress Elizabeth of Russia (who ruled at the same time as Frederick the Greate) swore an oath that she would never have anyone executed – and in all the years of her reign she never did. But Elizabeth was not an intellectual (Elizabeth was tall blond who looked, and acted, like she should be driving a charriot with knives sticking out of the wheels or, alternatively, side by side in the shield wall that Aethelflead, “White Lady of the English” and daughter of Alfred the Great, formed in a ditch against a Viking raid – when she was 15 years of age), so Elizabeth gets no credit for this (“have you seen her taste in art? those paintings are so chocolate box…..”).
He also established “freedom of the press” (as long as his own right to rule was not questioned – a very modern, “social”, view of this freedom, to be found in the Constitutions of many countries now, freedom of speech unless…..). As Frederick said – “they can say what they like – as long as I can do what I like”.
Frederick is also supposed (in most textbooks) to have established freedom of religion. Actually this had long been the de facto practice in many lands ruled by the Electors of Prussia – for historical reasons.
The Electors came from the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order – an order set up to defend Christians against Pagans (of course it soon became an Order to wage war against Pagans), but the Order did not die when the Slavs became Christians (of course some of the Slavs, such as the Russians, were already Christain before the Order was founded), it continued to fight and take land (because that was all its structure could do) – till the Slavs finally defeated the Order and the Grand Master agreed to become a Feudal vassel of the King of Poland (something old German history books glossed over – as they did the fact that virutally every German aristocratic family was intermarried with Slavic aristocratic families).
Anyway the rulers of Prussia (a land named after a slav tribe) tended to have a pragmatic attitude to religion. As the Grand Masters showed when they dropped their Roman Catholic faith and became Protestants – so they could marry and create a de facto (if not legal) kingdom of Prussia – “the army that became a state”.
In the chaos of 16th and 17th century Germany the Grand Masters of the Order ended up remaining Electors of Prussia (“elector” as in “entitled to a vote on who was Emperor” the Holy Roman Emperors being, formally anyway, elected). And they controlled land a long way from traditional Prussia – lands with a mixed population of Lutherians and Roman Catholics. The Electors themselves were (at least formally) Calivinsts – but it did not really matter, they worked through the Lutherian Church and tolerated the Catholics (just as Frederick the Great was famous for doing later) and all this was noted by the English philosopher John Locke.
There was some “danger” that the power of the Electors of Prussia would be undermined – with the growth of “Feudal” elements (such as independent minded aristocracy and a Parliament, “Estates”, made up of nobles and townsmen and …..).
However, 18th century “enlighted” despotism saved the power of the Electors (as it did state power virtually everywhere in Europe – bar such places as England and Poland, where such things as the independence of the nobles remained strong, arguably too strong in the choatic Polish case).
The “Great Elector” (the forefather of Frederick the Great) had managed to snuff out all reactionary elements in Prussia – and create an “enlightned despotism” (these late 17th and 18th century rulers thought of themselves as totally unlike the unlightened despotism of the Ottoman Turks) – although with a Prussian twist (worthy of the Grandmasters of the Order).
In the lands controlled by the Great Elector war would not be a way of surviving in a hard world – no it would be a positive good that the entire state machine would be organized around. Everything else (religious faith – everything) would be trumped by the army – in the army that had become a country. Even the greatest aristractic families would become loyal servants of the state (in a way that the English did not dream of – and the French Kings, who did dream of it, could not manage to do).
Sometimes this got a bit silly (such as with the detailed Prussian regulations on….. well on just about everything, and with Frederick the Great’s father “the Soldier King” who played toy soldiers with real people, a special guard of men all over six feet tall….).
Anyway, Frederick the Great got rid of the sillyness aspects that had crept in – and returned Prussia to a pure war machine (rather as if The Order had become a whole country – which, in a way, it had).
This did not mean that everyone in Prussia was a soldier – far from it. Frederick (being a highly intelligent man) understood that he needed a functioning economy to support his wars, so although there was peacetime conscription in Prussia (had been even before Frederick the Great) most people who could serve a useful economic function were left alone. For he did not intend his army for toy soldier games (like his father) – from the first, Frederick wanted real war, real blood, and as much blood as he could possibly get. Although he found more philsophical language to express this desire (and we are all the slaves of our desires – free will is an “illusion”, philosophy proves it…..), indeed he often expressed his desire for PEACE (although this was normally either just before he attacked – or after he had been defeated and needed time to rebuild his forces), as “truth” is not a objective thing…..
And he drenched Europe in this blood – in his wars against Austria (Marie Theresa), and later France (where, in typical French fashion, it was King Louie’s mistress who took the lead in advising that France should oppose Frederick) and Russia (the wild Elizabeth).
Over a million people died in these wars, but Frederick did gain Silesia (which may even have mattered to him – sightly) and (vastly more importantly) gained Frederick a great name – so that he was admired everywhere.
Particularly in Britain – which had first allied with him for balance-of-power reasons (to counter balance the France of Louis XV), but where Frederick became wildly popular (can you finally see where this is going gentle reader?) and some of the upper classes even (it is said) started to mimic the “clipped” way that Prussian “Junker” military officers spoke. This may be the origin of the “tight assed” English accent, that Americans sometimes note (have no fear – I am not going to go into the black leather and whips).
There were even “useful idiot” British people who went to Prussia and reported that (alone of all the major cities involved in the wars) there were no cripples in Berlin.
The fact that the Prussian army did not really bother with medical services (even by the low standards of the 18th century) so that soldiers who were likely to be crippled by their wounds, were just left to die…. well that was not important, the fact remained “no cripples in Berlin”.
In reality Frederick the Great’s economic planning (the endless law codes, the state barns, the state sponsered factories…..) was all a bit of a failure. His one great “economic success” was getting hold of the dies by which the Poles minted coins – which allowed him to produce lots of debased coins that looked as if they were real Polish coins (shades of the Nazis with “Pounds” during World War II), but Frederick was not enough of a “Keynesian” to pretend that this was not a massive fraud.
Prussian ECONOMIC strength actually comes from the time long after Frederick, the free market reforms of the early 19th century – made in reaction to Prussia’s defeat by France. It was these free market reforms that created a Prussian economy strong enough to take over all Germany (which Frederick never had a hope of doing), they were the true foundation that Bismark exploited (he exploited something that neither he nor Frederick the Great had bugger all to do with).
But that was not how British (and other) people viewed the matter. To them Bismark was building on the glorious example of Frederick – it all PROVED that state planning worked.
And Frederick really was a great General (that part of his legend is true) – although he came within an ace of losing everything.
Russian troops were closing in on Berlin itself (having defeated Frederick) when the Empress Elizabeth died, replaced by a German Tzar (Peter III – who hero worshipped Frederick and called off the Russian army).
So the legend of Frederick was secure – the man whom the universe (we must not say God) favoured, who would always win in the end (even if not by his own efforts – after all FATE determins all, we are but puppets in its hands…..).
And the intellectuals had more important things to look at than the exact position of the Russian army in 1762.
After all Frederick (after long preperation and many previous edicts) finally made EDUCATION compulsory (for all) the following year.
No more would local churches dominate education (which they did – even in Scotland, up to 1872 in the Scots case). Now the State would organize everything – and make it compulsory for all.
No wonder the intellectuals loved Frederick and his legacy – the enlightened “Prussian Schoolmaster” taking the population from the darkness of ignorance into the glorious light of the state.
Even liberal (after all was not the Prussian philospher Kant a liberal – true he believed in World Government and government with a positive welfare role, but……) philosophers, such as Sir William Hamilton, made a point of going to Germany to study philosophy (and Hamiton’s rival, J.S. Mill, was just as influenced – though he stayed here), and it shows.
It shows, for example, in Hamilton’s DEFINITION of certain key concepts – such as a “university”.
A university is DEFINED by Hamilton as a institution that is given by the state…. (by the STATE – it is in his definition, even though many universities were not created by the state historically).
The word “state” starts to be used (in a positive way) in English in the very late 18th and early 19th century – and it is German (really Prussian) influence.
Not everyone went along with all the above.
For example, Edmund Burke did not. Every piece of his writing that mentions Prussia mentions it with contempt or hostility. Even his “Annual Register” attacks Prussia whenever it can.
For example, the wars of aggression against Poland – the partitions of Poland, and the raiding (including the stealing of the Polish Crown Jewels from a city no where near the area “assigned” to Prussia).
And the persecution of the Poles (far more than the Austrians, or ever the Russians, did in the late 18th century) and Frederick did it first – before the other powers were led into it. And Prussia contined with Frederick’s tradition long after Frederick’s time (perhaps, one could argue, right up to 1939 – “that is absurd”, quite so Hitler lost, the “universe” or “fate” did not act to give him victory from the jaws of defeat in 1945 so he can not have been any connection with Frederick, who won).
In a way the intellectuals are correct. After all (like Bismark and unlike Hitler) Frederick did not exterminate the Jews (although he did make very clear their numbers should be controlled) and was pragmatic in ethnic matters (he used Jews – rather than murder them) – his contempt for the Poles was not a matter of “scientific” racism (as this nonsense had not yet been invented).
However, more and more people (over the cause of the 19th century) moved away from Edmund Burke’s view of the Prussia created by Frederick the Great.
They may have seen Prussia-Germany as rival – but one to be copied (not opposed in its principles).
Nor was this just wrong headed “liberals” British (such as the British ones I have already mentioned – or others I could mention such as Lloyd-George) or American – such as H. Mann, who long before Richard Ely was born, was trying to spread Prussian (Plato) notions of compulsory state education in the United States – but “in an American way” of course, as part of a “religion of humanity” (as opposed to traditional Christianity), close to Frederick the Great’s own thinking.
“Conservatives” also loved (or envyed) Prussia-Germany.
The front page of the “Daily Telegraph” on the first day of the 20th century is given over to a comparison of Britain with another country – and Britain is declared to compare badly.
“Well yes Paul – American output (per man, and in total) was far higher than British output even at the start of the 20th century”.
Accept it is not the United States that Britain is being compared to – it is Prussia-Germany (I keep saying “Prussia-Germany” as such writers were not interested in the “other Germany” of old free cities, and little Grand Dukedoms and so on – they were not really interested even in big places like Bavaria).
German real living standards were HALF those of Britian at the start of the 20th century.
But it is Britain that must copy Germany – not the other way round.
Of course this is partly a love of conscription and war (as opposed to the America of the time – the “Carthage” with its love of money and the contempt that many American businessmen still, WISELY, showed for the creatures in academia – Plato’s bastard children).
But it is other things to.
Yet more state education – check.
State control of railways and telegraph services – telegraph services were quickely taken over (a Parliamentry report admitted that government control proved to a be a mess – but just said the government must try harder, the PRINCIPLE of statism was now taken for granted). Railways took more time to take over.
Government industrial accident “insurance” – check.
Government medical “insurance” – check.
Government old age “insurance” – check.
And we will add government unemployment “insurance” as well – the Germans have not even done that yet (i.e. at the start of the 20th century – they did later).
By the 1940s the British “progressives” (in the Labour party and outside it) were overjoyed that Britain was finally OVERTAKING Germany in statism.
Directly running healthcare (as well as paying for it).
Nationalizing coal and steel production (even Hitler had not, officially, done that).
Comprehensive state planning – even of someone building an extra room on his house in a remote village.
Yes we finally become more statist than Germany. And more statist in our monetary policy also – “the value of money comes from the state” (argued the German “Historical School”) so, clearly, the state can produce as much of it as it likes, without it losing value (hard experience taught Germans that this was not true – but the British, after World War II, accepted the doctrine).
And the dream goes on.
A world ruled by enlightened experts (even if they are not called Kings), every setback and proof of the utter uselessness of the state is dismissed – with the Progressives comming back (after every defeat by reality, and by the desperate resistance of “reactionaries”, the Progressives come back).
It is not just a theory (in the mind of Plato or Francis Bacon) enlightened statism can work in real life.
Frederick the Great “proved it…..”
Philosophers and politicians who have never heard of the man follow him – for they follow other philosophers and politicians who knew of the example of Frederick the Great and (each in their own particular way) followed it passionately.
Britain and France are to deploy attack helicopters against Libya in an attempt to break the military stalemate, particularly in the important coastal city of Misrata, security sources have told the Guardian.
In a significant escalation of the conflict, the Apaches – based on HMS Ocean – will join French helicopters in risky operations which reflect deepening frustration among British and French defence chiefs about their continuing inability to protect civilians in Libya.
The decision to deploy the helicopters is a clear recognition that high-level bombing from 15,000 feet cannot protect civilians who continue to be attacked by rocket and mortar shells. It brings the Nato offensive much closer to the ground at a time when Britain and other Nato countries are insisting they have no intention of sending in troops.
Does anyone believe the last bit? The “mission creep” here is incredible. And inevitable. It’s like the ‘stan or Iraq Rebooted – so vaguely defined as to be meaningless. Say what you like about Iraq the first time or the Falklands but they at least had a clarity of purpose. There is no substitute for that in warfare. We’re not even prepared to admit we want Ghadaffi dead or in exile for example. Can you imagine Churchill prevaricating about whether he wanted Hitler’s head on a pike? He’d fetch the pike himself. Can you imagine Dave or Little Nicky Sarcophagus making the sort of decision Harry Truman had to make in ’45? Can you imagine that Clown in Rome? Can you imagine Angela Merkel? Actually, yes I could but wisely the Germans have stayed out of this one. This is a purely Anglo-French caper with the enthusiastic cheer leading of Silvio. God knows what Berlusconi brings to the party – letting refugees drown and his Mama’s pizza recipe mainly. But the drowning of the refugees really is instructive. The entire claimed point of doing this Suez 2.0 is to protect civilians. And why won’t we just stick a Paveway down Ghadaffi’s chimney pot? Because we are apparently allied with the Arab League here and they don’t want to see a fellow Arab potentate blown to buggery because that sort of sets a precedent does it not and most of them have their own local difficulties? But I don’t actually see their air-forces being deployed? Which rather raises the question of in what practical way they are our allies. I could say precisely in what way Australia or Canada or the USA or even the Soviet Union were in the ’40s against Hitler. This is the most vaguely defined conflict in my country’s long history of twatting Johnny Foreigner and it will not turn out well for that very reason. I suspect that is why the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Bundewehr are sitting out this match. Say what you want against the Germans but clarity of purpose is not something they have ever been short of. Indeed they have frequently had rather too much of it.
And this ridiculous adventure has no clarity of purpose. It is entirely political. No sane military man or woman would advocate it. That is of course why we have politicians who these days know less about military matters than small kids who watch the History Channel on Sky.
As early moring Fox News does not presently exist in Britian (it has been taken over by Sky News for Royal Wedding reasons – errr if we wanted to watch Royal Wedding stuff could we not just turn on Sky News…..) I have been watching the financial stations.
I can not get Fox Business (“if you provider does not offer it, DEMAND it” – I have tried Neil Cavuto, I have tried. But my provider is Sky and they will only provide competitors to Fox Business not Fox Business itself), so I have been watching Bloomberg and CNBC.
Of the two CNBC is the less bad (Bloomberg basically thinks that the sun shines from the backsides of Comrade Barack and Fed Chairman Ben B.) and one even (just sometimes) gets a nice story (my apologies if the following story was really from Bloomberg the two stations are so similar, and I station hop, so I may be making a mistake)….
A gentlemen (a guest on the show) claimed he could still buy a gallon of gasoline for 13 cents – just as he could have done in 1931. And he had the coin to prove it.
Of course it was a silver coin (a 1931 90% silver coin – a quarter, 25 cents, if my memory serves).
I remember thinking “but that was before the Roosevelt regime….”
Almost as if he had heard my mental question (for the studio team asked him no such question) the gentleman went on….
“And the govenrment went on producing these basically silver coins till 1964-5 when the modern coinage was introduced – made from materials that have little value” .
That is true, I thought to myself, the Roosevelt regime launched its unholy war on gold – not on silver). Future archaeologists (if there are any) may not date the decline of American (and Western) civilization from what we call the “1930s” at all (as most of the coinage appears to be still sound), they may well date it from what we call the mid “1960s” when the coinage suddenly goes like that of the late 3rd century Roman Empire – base metal “washed with silver” (if even that).
“This buying of silver and gold is a very American thing…..” said someone on the studio team (he did not get round to saying “a very Glenn Beck, stroking your rifle, paranoid thing…”).
“No” replied the gentleman guest – “actually European investors buy twice as much physical gold and silver (per person) than Americans do.”
His company, of course, sells physical gold and silver – but it is worth noting that other forms of gold and silver are just PROMISES. One can not buy goods with promises that gold or silver will be delivered at some future time – not in a time of crises, which is the only time one would be trying to buy food or other goods with gold or silver anyway. So what is the point of “nonphysical” gold or silver?
At this point the various studio people (both employees of CNBC and other guests) started to agree that physical gold and silver was a “good hedge” (we do not buy it out of paranoia – we buy it as a rational hedge, an insurance policy….. BUT YOU DO BUY IT).
And the CNBC lady who was helping the gentleman with his coins suddenly seemed to get very attached to a silver coin (it seemed to get stuck to her hand), as she gazed longingly at the other silver and gold coins (American, Canadian – the nationality did not matter, only the physical content). The other people in the studio had similar expressions.
These people (both the journalists and the guests from other lines of business) regularly see bits of paper (or computer screens) with X zillion Dollars (or Pounds or Euros) written upon them. But I have never seen such looks on their faces before – only when they were looking at these physical objects.
For centuries two of the standard attacks on the French Revolution have been the related attacks that it took liberty “too far” and that it applied principles rather than practical experience.
I will not, here, explore the debate of whether the above was Edmund Burke’s view of the French Revolution (I will simply say that I do not think that the above is a good description of Burke’s opinion), but I will give my own view.
I have always rejected the above line of attack upon the French Revolution – and for very basic reasons, based upon the opinions of leading Revolutionaries themselves, and what they actually did. Their words and their deeds.
The most often attacked group of Revolutionaries are the Jacobins and their leader Robespierre. Was he a fanatical supporter of laissez faire?
Of course he was not – he was an ardent statist (not a socialist – but no great roll back the state man, quite the contrary). Robespierre supported an active role for the state in economic and social life – the “freedom” he supported was the freedom of “the people” (not individual persons and private associations such as families) and a collective freedom under the wise guidence of a lawgiver (himself – or someone like him).
Nor can one blame “pressures of war” or even the supposedly power crazed nature of Robespierre for the statist nature of the French Revolution. As right from the start (before war and before people like Robespierre were leading figures) its nature was obvious – if one bothered to look at the facts.
The individual acts of murder (such as promising the Governor of Bastille safe conduct and then murdering him when he came out – such was the truth of the “storming” of the Bastille), destruction and plunder in 1789 could be dismissed as the actions of out of control mobs (although the fact that the supporters of the Revolution acted in such a way should have given observers some warning), but the central action of the new government could not be dismissed.
This was to confiscate the property of the church (the largest corporate body outside the state in France) and the issuing of fiat money supposedly “backed” by the stolen lands of the church.
For those people (like the Jacobins) who reject the corporate form (other than in their own clubs of course) and hold that there should be only atomized indivduals and the state, the confiscation of church property will cause few tears to be shed.
After all, no doubt the church had not “justly acquired” the land, or the people who had given the church this land had not “justic acquired” it (after all if one traces back far enough, very little land is “justly acquried” especially if one reverses the burden of proof by demanding that the owner “justify” his ownership or have the property taken by force and fear).
Of course confiscated property that is then sold or given away will soon concentrate in great estates again – if it is allowed to do so.
There have been many “land reforms” (i.e. mass land theft and handing out of land) in Latin America over the last two centuries – and great estates reemerge (if they are allowed to) under new owners. This is because even if everyone starts with the same – some people will soon be rich and some people will soon be poor (that is human nature – which ideological collectivist egalitarians ignore).
However, the French Revolutionaries (at least in theory) intended to keep the church property in the hands of the state and use it is as “backing” for their new currency.
However, land can not be used in this way – there was no need for a new currency anyway (the coinage under Louis XVI was basically sound) and whilst gold or silver can be divided up to make coins, land can not (trying to use land as money is folly).
As Edmund Burke predicted the fiat money of the French Revolution would soon became worthless – it was just printing press “money”.
It is often forgotten that Burke uses vastly more ink in “Reflections on the Revolution in France” denoucing fiat money and property confiscation (confiscated from the church – AND FROM OTHERS) than he does on the abuse of the Queen or anything like that.
But WHY did the Revolutionaries act in this way?
Two reasons – partly their desire to spend lots of money (this is always a desire for politicians – and it leads them down the fiat “easy” or “cheap” money road), and partly because they had no ideological committment to property rights (the bit in the Declaration of the Rights of Man about property sounds good – but when one looks at the wording in detail…..) – at least not the property of other people (the Revolutionaries were, in the main, not socialists – those who had property themselves were rather keen on defending it).
Indeed there was less respect for private property under the Revolutionaries (even the moderate ones) than there had been under Louis XVI – just as there was less respect for civil liberties (the Bastille had about half a dozen prisoners in it when it was “stormed”, and none of them were there for their political opinions).
For example, under the old regime would-be Revolutionaries openly plotted in certain areas of Paris and the police did not touch them.
Why not? Because these areas were the private property of the Duke of Orleans and it was wrong to enter private property without a warrent. Of course the Duke of Orleans (the richest man in France, yet a radical – a sort of George Soros figure) was financing the Revolutionaries. He would later rename himself “Citizen Equality” and voted for the death of his own kinsman – the weak and well meaning Louis XVI (who went to his death with a courage that surprised his foes, and some of his friends). However “Citizen Equality” later met a bad end – and if there is a future state, kinslayers and oathbreakers have little to hope for in it.
Like “world governance” supporting Geoge Soros (am I the only person who has read his little book denoucing Hayek and so on? Soros may talk about “the Open Society” but he is not really a supporter of Karl Popper, who was a fiend of Hayek), the French Revolutionaries (in the main) cared greatly for their own lives and goods (Soros bases his operations in the Netherlands Antilles – to avoid the high taxes he demands be imposed on other people) – but did not mind the plunder or murder of other people IF it was for the good of building the new society.
However, WHY did the Revolutionaries think they way they did?
It is normal (among people who get this far) to blame the influence of Rousseau.
Conservatives from Burke to Babbitt have claimed that the French Revolutionaries (unlike the American Founding Fathers) had their opinions warped by the collectivist influence of Rousseau – indeed many would point to the ideas of Rousseau (such as the idea that working for a private employer is a form of a slavery) as the inspiration of totalitarians from Karl Marx to Kevin Carson, and would claim to see the influence of Rouseau in such things as National Socialism and the modern “Green” movement.
I do not argue with the above, but I wish to draw attention to a more mainstream figure – Voltaire himself.
Unlike Rousseau, Voltarie is a main (and mainstream) figure in liberalism. And, indeed, much about him is admirable.
For example, his support for freedom of speech “I disagree with what you say – but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (what libertarian is not moved when he or she hears those words – and we are right to be moved). And his religious tolerance – it should not be forgottent that religous persecution was in decline in the 18th century, but cases of great injustice still occured and Voltarie was right to denounce them.
So why do I claim that Voltarie’s influence (and the influence of the many other intellectuals who followed him) had its dark side?
Partly his economics – Voltarie fully accepted the idea that one nation’s wealth in trade must be the result of the poverty of another nation. A fixed sum of wealth idea in trade (trade as a form of war). And an idea that if it was ever applied internally (to domestic economic matters) would lead straght to the totalitarian evil of state enforced egalitarianism – for if wealth can only be the result of the poverty of others should we not “forbid capitalistic acts between consenting adults”? Should we not follow the path of “land reform” and “communal anarchism” (collectivism with the state renamed “the people”) and “mutalism” (and all the rest of the totalitarian folly)?
Of course Voltarie never took this idea (the idea of trade as war) to these conclusions – but a false idea will be taken to false conclusions. For example, David Ricardo never used the (utterly false) idea of the labour theory of value, to reach collectivist conclusions – but the “Ricardian socialists” did, as did Karl Marx and (inspite of the labour theory of value being shown to be utterly false) collectivists down to our own day.
However, economics was not where Voltaire’s chief negative influence lay – it was in political theory.
Please remember how the 18th century enlightenment started. It started (in its European form at least) with the opposition of Montesquieu (and others) to the policies of Louis XIV – the Sun King.
Montesquieu did not claim that the France of Louis XIV was as bad as the Ottoman Empire (where tyranny went unchecked by such things as great private owned estates of land – protected by fundemental law and out of the reach of the “public power”), but he noted the tendancy towards tyranny in the regime of Louis XIV.
The centralized power (Montesquieu did not favour local tyranny over central tyranny – on the contrary, he understand that decentralized power acts as a check on tyanny by making it less difficult for people to vote with their feet), the undermining of insitutions (both legislative and judcial) that might act as a check on the executive – and the result, ever more taxes and government spending, and ever more regulations covering every aspect of life.
All the traditional checks on the power of the central government (from an independent Church, to provincial autonomy, to the independent nobility) were under threat in the opinion of Montesquieu.
In the words of Edmund Burke some decades later… the power of the monarchy (the central state – it need not mean the person of the king) had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished (rolled back).
This was the spritit of the early enlightenment – yes concerned with free speech, relgious tolerance (although Montesquieu, like Burke, was a believer – his was not a tolerance based on INDIFFERENCE, it is easy to be relgiously tolerant if you do not care, but more important if you really do care) and hostilty to things like torture and slavery (Montesquieu was famous for his denouncement of slavery – we pretend that blacks are not human beings, for if we accepted that they were beings endowed with souls by God, we could not claim that we are Christians for we treat blacks as if they were not human beings).
However, the spirit of the early enlightenment was also a spirit of “traditional liberties” (seeking to recapture them) and a spritit that held that centralized and unlimited power was tyranny – the supreme political evil, that it was the duty of all to work against it.
This is NOT the spirit of the late enlightement – not the spirit of Voltarie and others.
To them centralized and unlimited power was a GOOD thing (not the supreme evil) – it was the way they would be able to reshape all of society to their heart’s desire. I am not claiming that Voltaire and others were like the depraved Fabians (see “the Fabian Window” a stained glass window created by the Fabians themselves, that shows their utter evil much better than any words of mine can), but some of the same “intellectual” spirit is there.
A throwback to Francis Bacon (of “The New Atlantis”) and even to Plato – a view of the intellectual as ruler or as adviser to the ruler. And that government should be centralized and absolute, with no traditional limitations upon its power.
No independent corporate organizations (such as the church), no great private estates, no provicial autonomy, no local customs……
For all his faults this is not really totally the view of Rousseau (who, for example, held that government should be as local as possible – although I doubt that he held that view for vote-with-your-feet reasons, Rousseau would not have been too unhappy with tyranny, as long as it was local tyranny) – it is more the view of Voltarie and his friends.
Why did they turn the spriit of the enlightenment on its head (from freedom to statism) and why did anyone listen to them?
The answer is Frederick the “Great”.
Where Frederick was pro freedom it was because of indifference – not conviction.
He supported religious tolerance – because he had no real religious faith (not because he belevied it was a natural right of free will given by God Himself, as the American Founding Fathers did) – “who cares, it has the same result”, actually whether you support freedom out of indifference or conviction matters a great deal.
Nor was it just religious faith – Frederick is (or should be) famous for saying “let my subjects believe what they like – as long as I can do what I like” but even this cynical view does not get to the heart of his philosophical contempt for freedom.
Frederick did not just have indifference for religion – he was also indifferent to human freedom (to the idea that humans are beings, free will agents, at all) in general. In fact he was a philosophical determinist – who did not see any basic difference (in TYPE) between a human being (not really a “being” in this view of course) and a lump of wood.
It is perfectly possible for a non religious person to be philosophical libertarian (Ayn Rand, not just nonreligous but an athiest, is the obvious example), but Frederick was neither a religous man (although he was not a formal athiest) or a philosophical libertarian.
And Voltarie and the others opposed this evil man? On the contary he was their idol. He was the “enlightened Prince” who would make all their dreams come true.
Why was Frederick so important? Partly because he was truly cultured (he had read their works – always a way to flatter an intellectual) and he loved music and the arts, he could play the flute to a professional standard, and was composer in his own right.
He was also indifferent to traditional aristocratic things – for example he did not chase women (I will not go into the reasons as to why that might be so – or into the CONTESTED claims that it was a factor that led him to the rejection of traditional values, as it is supposed to have done with certain people from the University of Cambridge in the 20th cventury), and he sneared at points of honour.
To an aristocrat (and to a non aristocrat in the Western tradition) force should only be used to defend a point of honour (Montesquieu defined “honour” as the defining feature of a Western monarchy – and what made it different from an Eastern despotism). To the honourable man (or women) force should never be used against the weak or helpless to take their lives or goods – on the contrary it was the duty of the honourable to defend the weak (even if it meant their own deaths).
“My honour is loyality” (the Nazi S.S. line) is, to the tradition of men like Baron Montesquieu (but to non barons also), a total perversion of what the word “honour” means. “I was only obeying orders” is no defence.
On the contrary – the man of honour (aristocrat or not) should oppose “orders” indeed should stand against a whole army on his own, if this is the only way he can defend the lives and goods of the weak or helpless.
Like the title character in the film “El Cid” (the Charlton Heston version) on hearing the words “you are alone and we are many” he should reply “the just man is never alone” and plunge in sword in hand, if this is the only way to free someone who has been unjustly arrested (and if killed, this is just the price of being an honourable man).
Old sickly, Edmund Burke (spectacles and all) knew all of this - and when faced with the Gordon Riots (in 1780 London) he drew his sword to defend the helpless and (when the rioters backed off – courage was not their stong point) he went quickly to help defend houses under attack from the mob.
However, to Frederick the “Great” honour was just nonsense.
He could point to many cases (to hundred of cases over the centuries) where people had claimed to be honourable – whilst seeking base advantage with the use of violence.
You should not need my help in seeing the flaw in this “argument”.
Frederick wrote the “antiMachiaval” claiming to oppose the cynical power politics associated (perhaps unjustly) with the name of Niccolo Machiavelli. But Frederick admitted that he started the war of Austrian Sucession out of a desire to “make a name for myself” NOT out of a sincere belief that he had an honourable (just) claim to Silesia.
Frederick’s wars led to at least a million deaths – and the country that suffered the most deaths in proportion to its population was Prussia itself. And the only reason that Prussia was not full of cripples after his wars is that Frederick did not spend money on medical care for his soldiers – your chances were bad if wounded in the service of most 18th century armies, but in the Prussian service you were doomed (a man without a leg or an arm was no use to Frederick - so he would just let you die, remember most humans are not “beings” not free will agents, they are just material like lumps of wood).
Wars that were not motivated by justice – but a desire to make a name for Frederick, wars born of a lust for power.
This was the hero of the intellectuals. And he was a hero because he WON.
His battlefield success mattered to them – not the lack of justice in his cause.
I might point out that had the Empress Elizabeth of Russia lived a little longer Frederick would have been crushed and his Prussia his “army that became a state” (with its nobility that were dependent on government employment – rather than being independent of it) along with him. But that is one of the might-have-beens of history.
Frederick won – and winning (power) is the only thing that impresses some intellectuals (now as well as then). The victory proved, to the intellectuals, that a state bureacracy, if it was honest and hardworking and led by a man of genius (like Frederick – but also like themselves of course), could achieve great things – could create a new great nation (if there could be a new Prussia – why not a new France?).
As for Frederick’s economic opinions – of course they were vile.
Frederick was in the mainstream of German “Cameralist” thought, state guidence of the economy, state education (and so on) were all good as far as he was concerned.
Frederick was only limited in his statism by practical considerations (lack of money) not by any principled anti statism.
It is absurd to compare Federick to the National Socialists – he was not a fanatical racialist and anti semite seeking to exterminate Jews and enslave Slavs (and that is what the Nazis were – anyone who thinks only Hitler was a problem is a fool, the Nazis were a force of basic EVIL, evil that had to be OPPOSED, and those who do not see that are no more historians than they are camels), but it also absurd to make Frederick a hero – to a person of honour, to a person who believes in justice and freedom (the rights of people and private associations to be secure in their bodies and goods) Frederick is nothing of the kind.
But he was the hero of Voltaire and his friends. And the “enlightened government” (whether the enlighted Prince or the enlightened Republic) has been the, STATIST, ideal of many since then – from the French Revolutionaries to own times.
It is not really freedom, not really putting one’s faith in Thomas Reid style “Common Sense”.
To use words from Rousseau – it is more faith in the “lawgiver” in “the General Will” not the “will of all”.
Not the traditional liberties of people (seeking to recapture them – by removing the corruptions of the passing years, seeking to RESTORE liberty, indeed to get to the heart of traditional principles even if this was NOT fully achieved in the past – which is what Montesquieu and Burke and others have tried to do). But rather the liberty of THE STATE – to remake the world (build a “new society”) in line with the “heart’s desire” of those “enlightened ones” who try to control the state. What they call “good sense” (of the elite – although I am, of course, not attacking everyone who has ever used the term “good sense”) rather than (truly) “common sense”.
Of course Thomas Paine himself (the writer of “Common Sense”) was, especialy in his later years, far more in the second group than the first. A centralizer (not a defender of local autonomy – and voting with your feet), a person who supported religious tolernance out of indifference to religion (not out of committment to religion) and a person who would violate private property if it did not produce the results he wanted – if it did not produce a new society in line with his heart’s desire.
For example, Paine first claimed that getting rid of King George III (and hangers on) would give the money needed for such things as government financed education for most people (of course government financed education is harldy what a pro freedom person should support – as John Locke pointed out almost a century before). And when it was pointed out to Thomas Paine that his sums just did not add up (that “The Rights of Man – Part II” does not add up) he simply demanded a tax (going all the way to 100%) on private landowners.
In short Paine was not really a libertarian (any more than Voltaire was) – he was quite happy to use government power (unlimited tax and other power) to create the new society he craved. He was (at bottom) no better in this than Frederick the Great or Plato. I am not saying that Paine was a man of blood (as Frederick was), but I am saying his principles were no good.
This cancer at the heart of the late enlightment (the enlightenment of Voltaire and Paine, not Montesquieu and Burke) was, I believe, first noted by John Adams. And modern libertarians (whether in America or elsewhere) could do a lot worse than study the judgements of John Adams – in this and many other matters.