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Economics

Sir William Blackstone – the beginning of the intellectual collapse of liberty?

However, good an 18th century university administrator and judge Sir William Blackstone may have been, and however personally well disposed he may have been to liberty and property, the rights of the latter being the essential foundation for the former, his doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament was radically subversive of the principles of liberty – leading, in the short term, to war with the American colonies, and, in the longer term, the undermining of liberty in Britain and elsewhere.

The central “Whig” principle is that there are some things that the ruler or rulers, Kings or Parliaments, may not do – that natural law – natural justice to-each-their-own-liberty, expressed in the Common Law and other traditions, forbids fundamental attacks on liberty and property, either by private criminals or by the government.

This was the position of Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke in “Dr Bonham’s case”, it was the position of Ralph Cudworth and others against the unlimited government doctrine of Thomas Hobbes (whose mentor was that servant of unlimited government “The New Atlantis” Francis Bacon – the great enemy of Sir Edward Coke) who held that humans were not moral agents, and it was the position of Chief Justice Sir John Holt and the other “Old Whigs” of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Sir William Blackstone’s doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty destroys this Whig foundation stone of liberty – destroys it utterly. Blackstone might pay lip service to the principles of natural law, the legal principles of Cicero and the view of humans as moral agents of Aristotle, but his doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty negates them. If the “legislature” can do anything it likes – then liberty is naught, and natural law is just an empty term. Things are reduced to the level of the Roman Empire – where no legal thinker denied, in theory, that liberty and natural law, natural justice – to each his own liberty, existed, but held that positive law, the will of the Emperor, trumped them – which was the same, in practice, as denying that the rights of liberty and property existed at all.

Blackstone may be held up as one of the great Common Law thinkers – but his fundamental conception of law was essentially Roman, and that of the Roman Empire, just with a Parliament in place of an Emperor.

Many Americans, holding to old Whig principles, were profoundly shocked and rejected the principle of Blackstone, and those who held the same view, – but in Britain it carried all before it.

The principle of Blackstone simplified law by holding that, at a fundamental level, law is whatever Parliament and Francis Bacon “lions UNDER the throne” style judges say it is – with no appeal to natural law, natural justice (to each his own – liberty) principles against them.

It also flattered Parliament (Thomas Hobbes had always said that the supreme unlimited ruler could be one person or a group of people – thus hedging his bets in terms of the Civil War by trying to flatter both sides, like Francis Bacon before him, he would be a lickspittle apologist for whoever was in power) – it gave them delusions of grandeur, indeed of infallibility, and made them unwilling to compromise with the American colonists. After all the law was whatever they, Parliament, said it was – they were Gods upon this Earth who could do no wrong. At least that is how his doctrine was, inevitably, interpreted. So war was made inevitable – and with war the division of the English speaking peoples, a division that continues to this day.

The tradition of the Bill of Rights, American or British, runs directly counter to this doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty – which is why the British Bill of Rights, oh yes it once existed, is not much talked about any more. What is the point of talking about the right to keep and bear arms – if Parliament can take away this right with a statute? It means that the right, for all practical purposes, is negated. Ditto freedom of speech or anything else. If Parliament wishes to, for example, “redistribute” the property of the Duke of Portland this may be sad – but he has no rights against the “legislature”. As Mark Twain was later to say, but not as PRAISE, that “no man’s life or property is safe when the legislature is in secession” the legislature being the only true “criminal class” in United States – the fact that British opinion would have been shocked by a statement like this in the 19th century shows how much damage the doctrine of Sir William Blackstone and others had done – spread by Victorian legal writers such as Maitland, who pretended (with breath taking dishonesty) that not a single Act of Parliament in history had ever been fundamentally unjust or irrational.

By the 19th century more and more people were starting to use the words “the State” in the same awe struck way that German philosophers had in the time of Frederick the Great and before. The State seen as some sort of God on Earth, with, in this case Parliament, being seen as at least semi divine – infallible.

Sir William Blackstone may not have shared some of the “new”, there are actually ancient precedents for its errors, philosophy that was bubbling up like a witch’s brew in his time – but he opened the door for it. David Hume had made his name by being “sceptical” about everything (whether he really was, or whether it was a performance, to wake people from their dogmatic slumbers, is something I will not try to answer here), even the most obvious self evident things such as the existence of the self (the “I”) as a moral agent. If nothing was secure, if there were no principles that one could “prove”, if even the existence of oneself, as a moral agent free to choose to do otherwise than we do was in doubt, what would step into the chaos? Why the state of course – “the euthanasia of the Constitution” the end of “Whig”, Old Whig, principles. This philosophy horrified some Tories – such as Dr Johnson, who expressed his horror when someone said to him that both he and David Hume were Tories. Dr Johnson believed in the principles of Church and King because he believed they were true, objectively true, not because he believed that nothing was objectively true – that is why the Tory Dr Johnson was more of a friend of the Old Whig Edmund Burke than he was of political “allies” such as David Hume.

Jeremy Bentham, and the rest of the “Bowood Circle” of Lord Shelborne (Lord Shelborne, Sir William Petty kinsman of that other Sir William Petty – the friend of Thomas Hobbes, who wanted to mathematically “plan” Ireland in totalitarian fashion) had nothing but contempt for the principles of the Old Whigs – which were “nonsense on stilts”.

13 departments of State should control most aspects of life, according to Bentham – in this way the “greatest happiness of the greatest number” would be achieved, and pleasure and pain (not traditional right and wrong) should be the only guides to policy. If wickedness produced more “pleasure” than “pain” then it was not evil it was good – so if, according to Bentham, control of most aspects of life via 13 departments of State produced more pleasure than pain then it was to be done – and no silly “old rights” allowed to stand against it. The interests of “the people” trumped the silly (indeed “nonsense on stilts”) old rights of individual persons. The fact that this is a “category mistake” that, for example, one does not work out whether rape or gang rape is morally wrong by sitting down with a “calculator of pleasure and pain” to try and work out if the pleasure of the rapist or rapists was greater or lesser than the pain of the victim, escaped Jeremy Bentham. He made the elementary mistake, which would be shameful even in a young child, of mistaking “good” as in pleasure, with “good” as in moral (as they are the same word they must mean the same thing – NO THEY DO NOT). Just because it may be pleasant to torture someone to death it does not mean that it is morally good to torture someone to death – and this has nothing to do with the pain of the victim being greater than the pleasure of the murderer.

This is the principle of the French Revolution, of Rousseau – not of the Old Whig American Revolution. It is why the French Revolutionaries did not believe that their murdering, plundering, rape and other crimes were crimes at all – as the “welfare of the people” trumped, negated, everything else.

And the belief of Bentham and others in intellectual government administrators taking control of various aspects of Civil Society harks back to Sir William Petty and Francis “The New Atlantis” Bacon, and may even have been foreshadowed by Thomas Cromwell in the reign of Henry VIII – although his schemes, on education and so on, came to naught.

The “liberals” who followed Bentham, there were other factions of liberals of course, included people such as James and John Stuart Mill who endorsed the views on land of David Ricardo, which led to people attacking the rights of property – down with the Duke of Portland and other “Old Whigs” I bet he did not “justly acquire” his property, and he expects rent and rent is evil. This view was refuted by Frank Fetter a century ago, but one still hears it – just as one still hears demands that the state expand the money supply to maintain a “stable price level” as if Frank Fetter had never refuted Irving Fisher (let alone the absurd Lord Keynes).

And there was the Labour Theory of Value, also an interpretation of Ricardo, that holds that factory workers and so on are “exploited” – if private landed estates are, somehow, wrong and large scale non-landed property (factories and so on) are also, somehow, wrong – then the old Whig principles have been utterly destroyed there is nothing left, apart from empty chanting of the words “freedom” and “liberty” (as “liberals” still do today) based on no foundations, philosophical or other.

Of course there is a good side to both James Mill and to John Stewart Mill – but there is also a bad side, a very bad side. And it must not be hidden away – because it did great damage.

A liberal of the 19th century “Westminster Review” type (not other types) may have hoped if nothing is objectively true then there is no justification for state attacks on liberty, and may have held that denying everything, including selfhood, is the ultimate freedom – but, in reality, someone who believes that nothing is objectively true is likely to seek the STATE to fill the void (the “myth” of William James, Sorel or Mussolini). Besides the state NATURALLY expands (those who have power seek to use it – the “Dark Side” tempts them) – and if there are no principles to oppose them with……….

And Sir William Blackstone, whatever his intentions were, has in practice helped get rid of the principles limiting the state – by getting rid of all principles limiting Parliament.

“Ah but Paul – Blackstone trusted Parliament to limit the state” – then he was profoundly foolish and also ignorant, not understanding the typical nature of such statutes as the one that Sir Edward Coke struck down in “Dr Bonham’s Case” – where it was held that someone practicing a trade without a piece of paper called a “license” could not be a crime, because it was not aggression against anyone. The fact that the “Royal College” had both King and Parliament backing it, being irrelevant. If this is a crime whose person or possessions has Mr Bonham attacked? He has attacked no one – so him not buying a “license” CAN NOT be a crime.

Ditto the “Stature of Labourers”, seeking to enforce serfdom, and a thousand other wicked, and unlawful, statutes of Parliament.

But it is more than this – the decline of the respect for Parliament, and there has been such a decline, has not led to the restoration of the principles of the Old Whigs – far from it.

The worship, and “worship” is the right word, has been transferred from Parliament and Congress, Prime Ministers and Presidents – to an ideal state, the public power, “the people” which will impose “Social Justice” (the opposite of real justice – to each their own). Modern “political philosophers” say that they DO believe in liberty, in freedom against elected politicians – but, it turns out, that their “rights” are like the “rights” of the French Revolution, under the mask of “freedom” terrible tyranny, plundering and murder. The words “freedom” and “liberty” chanted endlessly – but divorced from their foundations.

When American judges, and the university class generally- the Harvard Law School, the Imperial German loving Johns Hopkins, the Frankfurt School of Marxism Columbia and on and on, first started to turn against the Old Whig principles of the Founding Fathers they first held that rights and natural law were nonsense (perhaps nonsense “on stilts”) – beasts such as “Justice” O.W. Holmes jr were open friends of Harold Laski and other totalitarians, they held (Buck V Bell) that a screaming woman, who had committed no crime, could be held down and cut up by the servants of the state – because they judged her to be “inferior”. But at least such beasts did not pretend to serve “freedom” “liberty” – they were open followers of Thomas Hobbes and other such creatures.

This sort of “judge” did not, for example, in the gold confiscation and voiding of contracts cases of 1935, hold that they were serving “liberty” and “freedom” when they tore up the Constitution of the United States.

Today Blackstone may be discredited – few would pretend that Parliament, or any other institution of government can do anything it likes. But the Old Whig principles that he helped to undermine have not returned – instead the forces of evil (for that is what they are) have taken the words “freedom” and “liberty” for themselves, and use them to force politicians to expand statism (tyranny) even when they do not wish to do so.

The book shelves groan with books on legal thought that seek to twist the concept of liberty 180 degrees – using it as a justification to destroy liberty, to expand the size and scope of government. The “intellectuals” can get away with this because the old principles have been forgotten – even the very word “right” is no longer understood to be a limitation on government power (under the natural law principle of to each their own – as the late Ayn Rand put it “hands off”), rather a “right” is now seen as an invitation for government to intervene – to enforce “anti discrimination” doctrine (that to “discriminate” is another way of describing freedom of choice, the right to associate or refuse association, is forgotten) and to give people their “rights” to goods and services at the FORCED expense of others.

This is because the old principles are out of sight and forgotten – and, however good his intentions may have been, Sir William Blackstone was one of the people who started to bury them.

The West, not just the United States, faces an Obama crises in 2015 and 2016 – what can be done?

The years 2015 and 2016 , and onward, will see something of a perfect storm – a perfect Barack Obama storm, not just for the United States but for the whole Western World.

“Oh Paul is going to go on one of his Chicken Little “the sky is falling” credit-bubble-is-about-bust things”.

O.K. let us ignore the credit bubble – although it must burst one day, and when it does burst the world economy will come crashing down. Hint – do not be near any city dependent on banking and so on, such as New York, when this happens.

There are many other things that are going to happen, on clear dates.

For example more and more of “Obamacare” is coming into effect, based on the lies of Johnathan Gruber and other Obama employees. These costs will massively undermine American industry in 2015 and 2016 and when the United States catches a cold the rest of the West comes down with influenza.

Also Mr Obama, and co, is pushing increased State and Federal minimum wage edicts. Which, whatever phony “empirical studies” say, greatly increase unemployment – even if it is hidden by people no longer looking for work. The work participation rate is already at a low level in the United States, but this does show up in the official unemployment rate, in fact it masks it.

Mr Obama is also going to, illegally and unconstitutionally, “legalise” millions of illegal SOCIAL JUSTICE immigrants to act as part of his private army to “fundamentally transform” America. Sorry “free migration” fans – but it is not an automatically good thing to let people into the gates or stay within the gates, not if they want to help “transform” the city by burning it to the ground in the name of “Social Justice”.

Mr Obama is also going to use the unconstitutional powers of the EPA to continue to attack American industry – he has agreed with the Chinese regime to cut American C02 production by 28%. Not by deregulating nuclear power, which is massively overregulated by endless red tape that does NOT improve safety, but by crucifying American industry with high energy costs, destroying the relatively low energy costs that have maintained some American industries thus far.

And China has agreed to? China has agreed to NOTHING – this deal with China is nothing to do with reducing world C02 emissions. It is an illegal and unconstitutional agreement motivated by a deep hatred of the United States and the West generally – not just a hatred from the People’s Republic of China regime, but a hatred from Mr Barack Obama himself.

President Barack Obama is also continuing to destroy the United States armed forces – basically doing to the American military what Wilson and Healey did to the British armed forces in the 1960s. Soon the U.S. Navy, and so on, will be at 1930s levels.

This is at a time when the Chinese armed forces are vastly improving and the PRC regime is making endless new claims on lands and seas in Asia and the Pacific – places that have nothing to do with China are being declared “always part of China”.

The nations of Asia and the Pacific can not stand against the increasing military might of the PRC regime – especially as it is allied to Mr Putin’s Russia and the soon to be nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran regime.

And neither can anywhere else stand up to the alliance of China and Russia – with the Iranian regime tagging along behind, in its own vicious way.

The only force on the planet that might have deterred the alliance between Putin’s Russia and the PRC is the United States Armed Forces – the very force that is being undermined by President Barack Obama.

The same President Barack Obama who is going to destroy the American economy in 2015 and 2016 – for example in the ways described above, but, no doubt, in other ways also.

What can be done?

Do not talk to me about “impeachment” – it is impossible to get two thirds of the U.S. Senate to vote guilty in relation to Mr Obama – regardless of how obvious his treason is. At least a third of the Senate will support Barack Obama – regardless.

So what can be done?

I DO NOT KNOW – that is why I am asking you.

The United Kingdom in 1964 – a big government country that was O.K. ish (well perhaps).

Anti big government people often make the assumption that life gets worse as government gets bigger. It is true that if government grows, in size and scope, things will not be as good as they could have been – but life can still, for a while anyway, get better for most people.

Take my home town of Kettering, Northamptonshire. Government started to grow here in 1875 (in other towns it was after 1870 – but we did not vote for an Education Board here), with the rise in national taxation and the increase in functions pushed on local government by the Disraeli Act of 1875. Yet life still got better here till at least 1960 – and government was big indeed by then.

I am not just talking about real wages – but general life also. For example Wicksteed Park (the first amusement park in the country) did not exist in the 19th century – but it was a national institution by 1960, although it has sadly declined in recent years. Also ordinary people were better dressed in 1960 than they were in the 19th century (when some children did not even have boots or shoes – even in a town famous for making them) – although, again, one could hardly call people in 2014 well dressed, or well behaved.

And the buildings were fine (or at least O.K.) – the destruction of so much of the “town that Gotch built” did not really begin till 1960. And the town was not too big with endless housing estates eating the fields and the bluebell woods. It was still the Northamptonshire of the writer H.E. Bates and others.

In 1964 there was full employment and historically high wages, no welfare class (of any size) unlike today. But people were also mostly well behaved, polite, well dressed and so on.

“That is trivial stuff Paul” – perhaps. although I do not think so, but there is rather a lot more.

I have already mentioned the lack of a welfare class in 1964 – there were people who could not take care of themselves, but there were not millions of healthy working age people who had never worked and never would. Is this not important?

Also non state institutions were vastly less unhealthy in 1964 than they are now. “Oh Paul is going to obsess about the Churches again” – actually I was thinking of the family.

In 1964 most people still lived in stable families – now we do not. Is this not an important change – and not for the better.

In 1964 the fertility rate was positive, we could replace ourselves as a nation – now it is negative, we can not. We have vast immigration instead of our own children.

In 1964 most shares were still owned by individuals (there was no Capital Gains Tax) and the City of London was matter of self employed stock brokers and stock “jobbers” (wholesalers). The brokers worked for individual clients who still owned most shares (the “Aunt Agathas”) and stock jobbers worked selling shares for the companies.

Now most shares are owned by institutions (hired manages in control of other hired managers – with real owners a thing of the past) and private investors are taken to the cleaners by faceless organisations in a post “Big Bang” GOVERNMENT DOMINATED City of London.

Even Ulster (Northern Ireland) was quiet before 1964 – the main news stories there were about lost cows and the latest attractions at Port Rush. Not how the IRA (Sinn Fein) was running the government and destroying education.

Indeed education was much better in England and Wales also – Grammar Schools were common, intelligent children could get a good education (at the expense of taxpayers). Qualifications meant something – not like now. And the universities were only just starting to over expand.

And the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was an independent nation in 1964 – not a slave of the European Union, we were are own masters.

Also the British armed forces were still a real force in 1964 – the Wilson-Healey gutting of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (reducing Britain to a token power dependent on others) had not yet happened. Britain was not a joke – we still mattered. Yes in spite of Suez, and in spite of the pathetic “Super Mac” we still mattered. And there was no conscription – getting rid of conscription was about the only good thing that “Super Mac” ever did.

And there was still freedom of speech and freedom of association – the 1965 (and all the later Acts) had not yet been passed.

“We get it Paul – in 1964 everything was wonderful – everything now is awful”.

No I am NOT saying that.

The advance of technology in the last 50 years has been a good thing (yes I find the internet time consuming – but the advance of technology has been a good thing) – and that has enabled higher living standards, for most people.

And government in 1964, although much smaller than now (the Welfare State has exploded since 1964), was still vastly too big – unsustainable big in the long term, all the seeds of our present and future societal crises were already long planted before 1964. Government dominated health care and education and old age provision (at least for the poor) and none of these things is good – although the old traditions of the pre government dominated schools and hospitals (the grammar schools and hospitals were still private in the 1930s) still dominated the government services of 1964, teachers, nurses and doctors still acted like dedicated professionals (not dominated by endless government rules and union practices).

However, it was a good country in 1964 – it was a better place to live than Britain had been in (say) 1874, when government was vastly smaller.

I am not saying that if government had been kept to the level, size and scope, it had been in 1870 or 1874 that Britain in 1964 would not have been an even better place – of course it would have.

But Britain in 1964 was an O.K. ish place in 1964 – in ways we are not now, and this should not be forgotten.

The Economics of Sex

The Economics of Sex

One of the advantages of giving up being spoon-fed whatever the mainstream media outlets choose to pass off as “News” is that I end up following some pretty obscure links about things which affect both our global economy and society as a whole.

One such traipse across the web led me to an institution I had never heard of before, the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture and a video by them entitled “The Economics of Sex” (and no, before you ask it has nothing to do with prostitution), which argues that the decline in marriage rates across the world are not about changing morals, Big Government, radical feminism or any of the usual bugbears which are identified as being responsible for the decline of marriage as an institution, but just the consequences of basic economics in the form of supply-and-demand.

One aspect of the attached video I do object to is the perpetuation of the usual lies about DDT, feel free to skip over that part.

Addendum – For those who wish to point out that the Austin Institute for the study of family and culture is a nest of Marxists or alternately a front for the CIA – I don’t care. The message is fairly simple and aligns with my non-Keynesian view of economics, so I am giving it the “John Galt stamp of approval”.

One tax to rule them all…

HM Revenue and Customs

As I have mentioned previously, my family has strong ties to Northern Ireland, where my late mother was born and where some of my relatives still remain.

Having a large, mainly rural open border with the Republic of Ireland spanning 220 miles / 360 kilometres the opportunity for smuggling has existed since the border was created in the 1920′s and much of the local funding for terrorist groups on both sides came from smuggling goods across the border.

The trade was always bidirectional, but ebbed and flowed as duties rose and fell or items such as birth control were banned or rationed. With the coming of nominal peace to the region in the late 1990′s, it was hoped by the fiscal authorities on both sides that smuggling would be reduced, but in truth it just became much more mundane.

(more…)

Max Keiser of Russia Today finally jumps the shark.

I have long known that Mr Max Keiser is a propagandist who works for Mr Putin’s “Russia Today” attacking the West. However, vile as he is, I have accepted that Mr Keiser is sometimes effective at his job – an effective propagandist. I think this is no longer true….

Russell Brand (yes the long haired moron) described as a “real revolutionary – someone who will lead the revolution” by Mr Keiser today on his show. And without the slightest hint of sarcasm or irony.

Followed by an interview with a lady who wants everyone (the entire adult population) paid to take part in politics – “like Ancient Athens” (blissfully unaware that the payment of citizens just for turning up to the Assembly marked the start of the DECLINE of Athens).

The subsidy of the rich is wrong – but the correct response is not to subsidise everyone (in the hope that Klingons, or some such, will pick up the bill).

And “revolution” is not going to solve anything.

Time for Mr Putin to hire new propagandists – his old ones have gone stale.

Labour don’t seem to be trying

I don’t really follow mainstream politics these days.  So many of the big issues are not debated.  Should our health provision be nationalised? Should we privatise schools? How come only the government substantially owns roads? Why is our currency fiat,? What is the point of a central bank? Will Iraq be fixed with more killing? Why are there victimless crimes on the statute book? Why are the government entitled to half our cash? Why are we disarmed? Why don’t we have robust reliable energy supplies? Why can’t we quit the EU, the UN, NATO? Why do we even need national trade agreements in the internet era?

There is almost no debate on these gigantic subjects; the political settlement having run aground on the social democratic rocks.  So it doesn’t much energise me.

However, I did catch some of the Labour conference this week, and it looks like they have stopped trying.

We had Sadiq Khan who wasn’t quite sure of what he thought about bombing ISIS.  He wanted to “see what the Prime Minister said” because independent thought was obviously a bit tricky.  In fairness to him, the coverage is a joke; the so-called Arab coalition extends in some cases to allowing use of air space and not much else.

Then we had Rachel Reeves who is apparently shadow work and pensions secretary who didn’t know what the basic state pension was (sic) nor apparently did she have any understanding of how it was derived.  I had to read the report twice to see if I had misread it.  You cannot be taken seriously as a frontline politician without at least a basic grasp of your own brief.

Ed Balls did not disappoint announcing the ludicrous ‘mansion’ tax which will be nightmarish to administer and won’t raise the cash they think.  And you might question why someone who lives in a leafy Southern suburb and has done for years should suddenly have to fork out an additional £15K a year.  Avoidance schemes aplenty will abound.  Plus he was going to “close tax loopholes” how do they say this stuff with a straight face?  Oh and cut the deficit of course along with all the extra spending pledges.  Balls it seems to me was going to cut the deficit by borrowing more.  You will recall what borrowing too much money has done to Greece.

Then we had the organ grinder himself saying he was going to spend the mansion tax cash on the NHS (which is curious because on Monday Rachel Reeves was spending it on reducing the deficit) and this was of course cheered for some reason which completely escapes me.  Maybe there is this weird school of thought which says “Large bureaucracy – good, give more money to with no thought of actual results or even goals”

Labour were asked how many cuts they had identified to eliminate the structural deficit.  It turns out they amounted to £400m.  The structural budget deficit is £75B.  So all their efforts in opposition have identified just over half of one percent of the cuts need to balance the budget.  And this is blown away with all the extra spending you know they will do.

Also Ed didn’t talk about the deficit in his speech, because you know how popular financial reality is with Labour party delegates.  This is “dog-ate-my-homework” stuff.  You forgot?

This is not serious politics.  They aren’t trying, they are just making noises which sound nice to the hard of thinking, but which evaporate when you look at them in any detail.

Lest you think this is an invitation to vote Tory, it’s not.  Osborne may try but will clearly fail to balance the budget if the Tories are re-elected.  Balls and Milli won’t even try.

This is going to end in either sovereign default or an orgy of QE regardless of who is elected because the debt and the interest payment keeps going up.  This means more and more of the government’s tax receipts are spent paying the interest on the debt.  No-one wants to take the hard decisions, nor even has a philosophical basis for doing so, much less any chance of being elected if they tell the obvious truth (which is being stubbornly ignored by the electorate).

Emmentalish

Is Kim Jong ill? North Korean dictator in poor health as his weight has ballooned thanks to an obsession with cheese.

That is Kim Jong Un who is 31! Hell’s Teeth I like a bit of cheese and being a European there is a lot of it about. Say what you like about Europe (including the UK) we make formidable cheese. We do because we are free(ish). This is the reason the North Koreans can’t make decent cheese despite being a nation of 25 million.

So Comrade Kim is eating himself to death whilst the proles (and isn’t communism meant to be about the proles?) are starving. Apparently Dear Leader Kim got on the Emmental train following his education in Switzerland. Well, that is nice. I can honestly say that my assorted travels have changed my tastes but I can’t say, oddly enough, that, say, learning olives were nice in Spain or that certain fish was very nice in Florida (and there is some good fishing off FL) ever meant bizarre imports for just me whilst everyone else starved. That is obscene.

Defector Cho Myung-Chul, of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, said: ‘North Koreans think being fat is good, unlike South Koreans who want to be skinny.’

Well, currently Nick Witchell is on the telly. The telly is a Samsung. It is not by any means the only thing I own from the Korean Republic. Let us be honest. Celebrating fatness is what you do when you are so poor you have to eat grass.

So in the name of communism the people are dying of starvation whilst the boss is doing death by cheesing. It is shocking.

He is understood to be furious that the Pyongyang Dairy has continually failed to produce an Emmental-style cheese of a high enough quality to satisfy his demands.

Well, oddly enough, I walked down the road yesterday and bought some very nice Emmental from the local shop. In a real sense I am (cheese-wise) a richer man than a dictator of 25m souls. I can buy cheese. The Supreme Potentate of North Korea can’t. And God knows what the poor folk can do.

The news comes as North Korea branded the U.S. ‘a graveyard of human rights’, criticising the nation in the wake of the Missouri riots following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Err… I have been to the USA several times and whilst, obviously, it ain’t perfect it is way better than North Korea. Actually it is incomparable. They are taking the piss.

So who agrees…

China, Iran and Russia have previously criticised America following the shooting and the crackdown on protesters following the shooting in the town of Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis.

I think that is enough said.

President Warren Harding – the real founder of the modern Republican Party (or the good bit of it anyway).

All most people know of Warren Harding is that he was corrupt – and all that most people know is wrong.

Although certainly no saint (he was a drinker, and a poker player, and a lover of women) Warren Harding was not personally corrupt – and his Administration was actually less corrupt than most. For example vastly less corrupt than the Administrations of Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman – and Hollywood and the rest of the media (and academia) do not present those Administrations as corrupt.

That is all the space I am going to waste on the so called “Ohio Gang” or “Tea Pot Dome” – people who are interested in such stuff can read a good biography of Harding (clue to what a good biography is – the author will not pretend Harding’s papers were destroyed, which is the standard “Progressive” excuse for not reading the documents and writing “history” based on nonsense instead). 0r they can just look at the chapter on Harding in the “Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents” by Steven F. Haywood (a good historian).

I am interested in other matters………

Today it is a common place among Republican politicians to talk of rolling-back-government – reducing the size of government, cutting taxes, getting rid of regulations, and reducing government spending.

Some (alas not enough) of these Republicans actually mean what they say – but WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

Republicans have not always promised smaller government – Republican Presidents (and Governors, and Senators and Congressmen and …..) did not use to make a big thing of this. One does not hear this in the speeches of Lincoln, or in Chester Allan Arthur. or Harrison, or Taft…….

These were not the big (peacetime) government fiends of Rothbardian fantasies – but they were not roll-back-the-state types either.

So where does it come from? This modern identification of the Republicans (sometimes correctly – sometimes NOT correctly) as the make-government-smaller party?

Basically it comes from one man.

WARREN HARDING.

Essentially Warren Harding created this role for the Republican Party – he invented the approach, he created the modern Republican Party (or the good bit of it anyway).

In his campaign against the Administration of Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding created all the themes we know today.

When you hear (for example) Senator Rand Paul speak (on civil liberties, on government spending, on ANYTHING) you are really hearing WARREN HARDING – Republicans did not tend to speak in this way before him (he, basically, invented it).

And Harding lived the dream – he made it real. And he was faithfully followed (in his policies) by his Vice President Calvin Coolidge (President Calvin Coolidge) and his Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (anther viciously libelled man).

As the British historian Paul Johnson (in “Modern Times” – long before Ron Radash’s work on Harding) pointed out – Warren Harding actually did the things he said he was going to do.

He sincerely believed in Civil Liberties.

Warren Harding utterly opposed the politics of the Socialists and Communal Anarchists (the Red Flaggers and the Black Flaggers) – but (ironically) they were physically safer under Warren Harding than they were under the Progressive Woodrow Wilson.

President Harding would not tolerate people (even Reds) being sent to prison on trumped up charges – and if he found them already in prison, he would pardon them to get them of prison.

“The bastard must have done something. so what does it matter what we got him for – after all he would murder millions if he had the chance ” may appeal to nasty people (nasty people including, perhaps, ME), but it horrified Harding.

Harding was also horrified by censorship – or any other aspect of the Police State.

He was denounced as Pro German (totally false) for defending German Americans from persecution – German thinkers (as far back as the 1700s) may have worked on aspects of a “Police State” (see Hayek – “The Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”), but this did not mean that German Americans deserved to be persecuted by an American Police State.

And Warren Harding defended black people also.

He was born in 1865 the year of defeat for the Slave Power – and Warren Harding did not have the “benefit” of a Rothbardian education (based on the writings of Woodrow Wilson – oh yes that was the source Rothbard based his stuff on) that the Civil War was not “really” about slavery. The old men that Warren Harding knew in Marion Ohio had fought in the Civil War – but what did they know, they were not academics…..

The continued persecution of blacks (above all lynching) disgusted Warren Harding to the core of his being – and he denounced the persecution.

The Democrats (and some Republican Progressives, for racism was a Progressive doctrine then, indeed it still is – accept now Progressives stir up blacks against whites, rather than whites against blacks, the switch came in the 1960s and was quite sudden, but as the Dems control the media they got away with it ) replied by spreading rumours that Warren Harding was part black himself (a lie) – but he carried on.

Unlike Woodrow Wilson (a German style trained intellectual [see my first comment] – and “scientific” racist), Warren Harding (a man with little formal education) held that prices and wages should be set by supply and demand – not government orders.

This is why the crash of the post World War One Credit Bubble in 1920-1921 was not like the crash of 1929.

The crash was just as bad (although the Progressive academics have put it down the “Memory Hole”) but Warren Harding was not Herbert “The Forgotten Progressive” Hoover (a man who became conservative after he left office – having never been so before). Harding did not prevent wages and other prices (a wage is a price) adjusting to the crash – instead he got government out of the way (so mass unemployment was not a feature of year-after-year – as was under Hoover-Roosevelt,  for most of Roosevelt’s policies were started by Hoover).

So what did Warren Harding do?

He cut the Federal government in half – from about six billion Dollars spending in 1920 (a peacetime total) to about three billion Dollars only a couple of years later.

Yes prices were falling – but you try and do that. Cut government spending – dramatically.

No “fool” or “lazy man” could do what Warren Harding did - roll back the government on civil liberties, on taxation, or regulation, and on government spending itself.

That is what “normalcy” (and, contrary to ignorant leftists, “normalcy” was the correct American English in Webster’s dictionary when Harding was young) meant to Warren Harding.

Civil Society – where individuals and private associations (commercial companies, churches, clubs, fraternities……) could exist and thrive – and not have every day of their lives spent looking over their shoulder for the commands of the state. A government limited by the Constitution of the United States - in which Warren Harding believed (unlike Woodrow Wilson who despised it) and even physically saved (the physical document was falling apart when he became President – Warren Harding had preserved).

This (his belief in liberty, in property rights, in limited government)  is why the collectivists hated Warren Harding (and still do) – and that is why they (the academic-media-cultural elite) have spent more than 90 years spitting on his name.

The mistake of John Jay – believing that the governement could make people virtuous.

The American Founding Father John Jay was fond of reading Plato in his youth (often not a good sign), and even named one of his slaves Plato (I am not attacking Mr Jay over slavery – I know he did more than anyone else to end slavery in New York State, even losing an election over it).

It is not likely that John Jay was fond of the economic collectivism of Plato (after all John Jay was the man famous for making “those who own the land should govern it” his maxim – although it was actually G. Morris who supported a strictly limited franchise, as long you owned a little land, say your own home, you should have the vote according to Jay), so what was he getting from Plato?

Not the idea of the importance of virtue – that was a commonplace of republican (small “r”) thought, that only a moral people could remain free (that a people addicted to vice and waste would either not notice government getting more powerful – or would actively welcome a despotic government, if it promised them lots of benefits “bread and games”).

Nor was John Jay some sort of “Puritan” in the Hollywood sense – he did not believe that such things as drink and dancing should be banned, he liked a drink and he employed tutors to teach his children to dance (and the only reason he did not go to the theatre was that he believed there was so much suffering and humiliation in real life that he did not want to see it on the stage as well). Again “virtue” was a much broader concept than the Hollywood mockery of po faced Puritans.

What Plato would have given John Jay is that idea that people can (and should) be made virtuous by THE STATE.

We today are used to prisons and government schools (especially in New York) being dens of vice – and that is not funny (rape and so on should not be a matter for nudge-nudge, wink-wink jokes). Places where vast amounts of taxpayers money are spent – and people come out vastly worse than they went in. Indeed the only thing that government schools in America appear to be good at teaching people is that government should control everything and that business (especially “big business”) is evil (needing to be controlled by noble government), and the churches are evil too, and…… (well any alternative to the state in any area of life) is evil – how odd that government schools should teach that government should control everything (well actually not odd at all).

However, dens of vice was not the Platonic vision (although what American schools and colleges actually teach would have pleased Plato).

In the vision of John Jay the government prisons he established (to replace the old policy of either hanging or flogging criminals) were meant to “reform” criminals.

And the government school system he longed for (it was not really established till after his time) would take children and turn them into virtuous citizens of the new republic .

What if someone from the state had come to Mr Jay’s farm (the house he had built shows his reputation as an aristocrat is false – it is a rather ordinary house with a front pouch where someone can sit on a rocking chair and chat to passers by – the house that “Common Man” Jefferson had built is vastly grander, but then Jefferson did not mind borrowing money, John Jay hated the idea of borrowing for luxury, he would only spend money he actually had) and started to order him about in farming matters?

I think such a government official would have got a cold stare from the man who attacked price controls and other such nonsense (John Adams would have lost his temper and set the dogs on such an official). But why should government be better at forming human character?

If would not trust the government to be in charge of your carrots, why would you trust them to be in charge of your children?

Governments are often better than private individuals and associations for destructive things – killing people, burning cities and so on (as a man who had lived through war – Mr Jay knew that), but for constructive things such as reforming human character? That does not seem very likely.

Evil (force and fear) has its place in human affairs – remember the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is divided between good and evil. His good side has many things (for example a sincere love of knowledge for its own sake) – even his courage (the evil Kirk is a coward – terrified of losing his own skin), but the good Kirk is also useless as a Star Ship commander (he will not take risks with other people’s lives – and he is horrified even by the suffering and death of enemies). It is the evil Kirk who has the “power of command” and the delight in torment and destruction that gives him the incentive to think up clever ways of destroying foes (the pleasure a cat has). And these-things-are-necessary at times.

The state (force and fear – the Sword of State) is the negative (destructive) energy of human life – you can burn a city with such a force, but you can not make people better (not really) you can not create new and good things. Force and fear has its place in human life (the good Kirk can not command the Enterprise – although the evil Kirk can not be trusted to do so) – but it can not turn a child into a good adult, or turn criminals into honest people (it can just turn them into hypocrites like Mr Heap – pretending to be “ever so humble” as they plot fresh crimes).

If one tries to use the state for positive (for constructive) purposes the negative energy feeds back on itself – the tormented child becomes a vile adult, the criminal leaves the prison worse than when he went in (and so on). The state can punish crime – but it can reform people (and the effort to use state power to “make people better” leads to the most terrible tyranny, as C.S. Lewis pointed out).

Those people (such as John Jay) who supported setting up state prison systems and school systems sincerely believing that they would promote virtue were making an error – a terrible, fundamental, error (an error for which the world is still suffering  – and will suffer more).

Dr Bonham’s case.

A man by the name of Bonham refused to pay for a license to practice medicine from the London College Physicians.

The College pointed out that not only did it have authority granted by a King (Henry VIII) , but also a specific Act of Parliament upheld medical licensing. So it fined Bonham (half the fine going to the college – half to the government, just as the Statute said it should) and ordered him to be imprisoned.

In the modern world that would be it – consumer protection upheld, and the evil “Dr” Bonham shipped off to be raped to death in prison somewhere (to the applause of the media – and the education system, the schools and colleges with their “protect the consumer” and “protect the worker” textbooks). However, this was 1610………

Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke (with his wicked, reactionary “Medieval mind”) was outraged by the whole thing. Not owning a piece of paper (a “license”) was not a crime under Common Law (to the Common Law a crime was an aggression against the bodies or goods of someone else – not failing to buy something). Also how could a body (the college or the government) sell licenses and, at the same time, sit in judgement over the case? This would mean that those who profited from the sale of licenses (had a financial interest in it) could punish those who did not buy them! – Which (to the modern minds of both the college and the government) is replied to by “well yes you Feudal nutcase – THAT IS THE POINT”.

Sadly (in spite of the work of Sir Francis Bacon, the author of the Progressive classic “The New Atlantis”, and mentor of Thomas Hobbes – the great philosopher who spread the enlightened notions that “law” was just the whims of the rulers, and that humans were just machines, not beings – not moral agents). The reactionary Sir Edward stopped the imprisonment of Dr Bonham – and declared that he did not have to pay a fine for refusing to buy a piece of parchment (a “license”) as the Common Law (those DUSTY CENTURIES of Year Books full of cases about one man hitting another man over the head with an axe – or damaging a local church by using its windows for target practice for archery……) knew of no such “crime”, and that it was an outrage that those who sold these pieces of paper could fine (indeed imprison) those who refused to buy them (Sir Edward’s “medieval mind” just did not understand the Progressive modern world……).

Nor did this reactionary bigotry end with Sir Edward Coke.

Chief Justice Sir John Holt (late 17th century – the generation that produced the English Bill of Rights and other hopelessly reactionary documents. with their right to keep and bear arms and so on, that are affront to the modern Progressive world) held to the same view that Acts of Parliament do not overturn fundamental principles of natural justice embodied in the centuries of tradition of Common Law reasoning (in spite of Progressive Legal Positivist Thomas Hobbes “proving” that there was no such thing as natural justice or natural law in a moral way – and that the judges of the Common Law, in seeking justice over the dusty centuries, were just lost in illusions – true law being just the will of the ruler).

Chief Justice Holt – even cited judges as far back as Bracton (did he not understand that only what has been said in the last five minutes matters?) and openly stated that Acts of Parliament do not trump fundamental law – indeed it is the other way round. And that it was possible (although difficult) for legal reasoning to find justice. Not that all judges would always agree (YES – there are other cases in the centuries of Year Books that contradict the cases that Sir Edward Coke cited, he knew that and it does NOT undermine his position), but that legal reasoning (fundamentally reasoning in justice – after the manner of Aristotelian reasoning) was possible – that law was NOT just the ravings of Kings and Parliaments. That fundamental law was different to (and higher than) “legislation”.

Chief Justice Holt even tried to apply this to slavery – which to him (as to the 19th century American lawyer and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase) was the Common Law crimes of false imprisonment (dragging someone back if they ran away), and violent assault (whipping someone for refusing to work – no more acceptable in Common Law than throwing someone in prison for refusing to buy a piece of paper, a “license” or an “insurance policy” as with “Obamacare”).

In the United States this reactionary tradition continued with, for example, Justice Pierce Butler of the Supreme Court who held (by dissenting in “Buck Versus Bell”) that a State (even after it passed a “statute”) could not hold down a screaming woman and cut her up for the “crime” of (allegedly) having a “low IQ” out of fear that the women might give birth to babies who also might (allegedly) commit the “crime” if having a “low IQ”.

Justice Butler did not even believe that the government had the right (even after passing a statute) to exterminate “inferior races” – he had clearly never read the noble Progressive writings of the Fabian socialists H.G. Wells (the teaming millions of blacks, browns and yellows must go, forms of gas could be developed and…..) and George Bernard Shaw (every person should be made to justify their existence before a government board, “like the income tax tribunal” and if the board was not happy with them, they should be executed), friends of fellow Supreme Court Judge – O. W. Holmes Jr who wrote the Progressive view of Buck V Bell.

To a Progressive such as Holmes  the old American saying (attributed to Mark Twain) – “no man’s property or liberty is safe – when the legislature is in session” (a much realistic attitude that the deluded British faith in Parliament) is replied to with “and a jolly good thing to!”.

Well where do you stand gentle reader?

With the vile reactionaries such as Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice John Holt, Edmund Burke (see his writings on Ireland and India), American Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, 20th century Justice Salmon P. Chase (and the others of the “Four Horsemen” who opposed such Progressive things as Franklin Roosevelt “National Recovery Agency” – General Johnson’s Jackbooted “Blue Eagle” thugs who tried to set the prices and business practices of every enterprise in the United States).

Or do you stand with the noble Sir Francis Bacon (of The New Atlantis), Sir William Petty (the creator mathematical “economic planning” in the mid 17th century), Thomas Hobbes, the Bowood Circle of the late 18th century (funded by Lord S.) with such lovely people as Jeremy Bentham – with his 13 Departments of State controlling every aspect of life (as it is the duty of government to promote pleasure and oppose pain – and natural law and natural rights are “nonsense on stilts”, law being simply the will of the rulers), and with the Hobbes lovers among the “Westminster Review” crowd of the early 19th century (with their “land question” – i.e. the view that the state could plunder the ancient estates, overturning “feudal” notions going back to the ninth century, as David Ricardo had “proved” that….. let us ignore the fact that Frank Fetter refuted David Ricardo on land a century ago, the Ottoman Empire, and Eastern Despotism generally, rocks, it is “Progressive” to attack the estates of “feudal” Western land holders). And the “New Liberals” of the late 19th century, and the Fabians and the American Progressives and………….

Ignore the warnings of old reactionary Common Lawyers such as Sir Edward Coke and John Holt that Progressive Francis Bacon stuff is really the dark side of Roman Law – the “Civilians” with their doctrines that the will of the ruler has the force of law, and that no law binds the government (because the government can change the law as it likes).

After all such warnings are repeated in the speeches of reactionary (and “corrupt”) President Warren Harding and reactionary (and “stupid”) President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s (see the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents) when they pointed out that  such things as the Progressive “New Freedom” of Woodrow Wilson which claimed to “evolve” beyond the principles of the Constitution of the United States, are (in fact) a product of German collectivist political philosophy (see J. Goldberg “Liberal Fascism”) going back as far as the 18th century philosophy (see the works of Hayek on this – for example the “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty” – although Hayek can never free himself from the general philosophy of the very people whose political ideas he attacks – and, contrary to Hayek, their politics comes naturally from their philosophy) and that this political philosophy is (in turn) a return to the ideas of the “civilians” – the Roman Law scholars with their doctrine that the government is limited by no law (as it can create any law it likes – and change any existing law) and that one must hope for wise rulers to promote the happiness of the people… The reactionary Harding and Coolidge claiming that those who seek to “evolve” beyond “vulgar” or “primitive” views of freedom (the property rights view embodied in such things as the British and American Bill of Rights) actually collapse back into the darkest tyrannical despotism.

Surely no one (but the most hardened and bitter reactionary) would deny that governments should promote pleasure and prevent pain (prevent the little darling people, children really, hurting ourselves) – without letting any silly “old right” stand in their way?

Lets avoid a shotgun divorce

Fog in the Channel - Continent cut off

Before I get kicked to death in the streets by the Counting Cats Eurosceptic wing (which seems to be most of us in fairness), I shall be clear and unequivocal.

I believe that Britain has a place in Europe as its political and economic stability is essential to British peace and prosperity, but that “Europe” and the “European Union” are two very different things.

I believe that the EU is a travesty and, if not brought down by its own hubris, will cause conflict in Europe in the not too distant future, probably over the secession of Germany.

For this reason, I believe the UK should leave the EU, in fact we should have baulked at its creation at Maastricht in 1992.  Although John Major was very successful at negotiating away the worst excesses of the transformation from European Community into European Union, it was in fact little more than appeasement. (more…)

QotD: Sowell on the Negative Wage

Dr. Sowell:

Someone who is trying to climb out of poverty by working their way up can easily reach a point where a $10,000 increase [ in pay]* can cost them $15,000 in lost benefits they no longer qualify for. That amounts to a marginal tax rate of 150 percent—far more than millionaires pay.

–Quoted by Hunter Lewis in his piece “50th Anniversary of Federal Government’s Failed War on Poverty.”

*Parenthetical not mine. –J.

Hunter Lewis: Negative Interest Rates– Only The Start?

In the article, only the first bit of which is below, you will find several delightful ideas on how to stimulate consumer spending and thus to revive the economy. And anyone who invents the phrase ‘the zombification of the economy’ has my applause.

Personally, I am thinking of taking a strong position in cockle shells.


Negative Interest Rates: Only The Start?

By Hunter Lewis
Saturday, June 7th, 2014

As Ryan McMaken noted on June 5, the European Central Bank has instituted negative interest rates for member banks. This could soon spread to the US and also to consumer accounts. If so, you would find money taken out of your bank account each quarter unless you spend it. Some observers think that in the US at least it will start with higher account fees, which will be stealth negative interest rates, and then move to overtly negative rates.

The idea is that if low rates are not yet persuading you to spend, then why not punish you even more for saving. To make this more effective, there would also be a push for all electronic money, to keep you from stashing any away from the confiscation agents. Ken Rogoff, leading Harvard (and Republican) economist has just recommended this to facilitate negative interest rates and in general to increase government control over cash.

….

This is far from the only “innovation” that could be coming our way. In a speech on June 4, San Francisco Fed Chairman John Williams suggested that the Fed should at least take a look at “nominal income targeting.”

[SNIP]

Prof. David Bernstein discusses the 1905 Supreme Court case “Lochner vs. New York”

Prof. David Bernstein of George Mason Univ. published in 2011 his book Rehabilitating Lochner. So vass ist ziss case Lochner, anyvay?

The Foot of All Knowledge explains:

Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that held that “liberty of contract” was implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved a New York law that limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. By a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the law was necessary to protect the health of bakers, deciding it was a labor law attempting to regulate the terms of employment, and calling it an “unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract.”

Lochner is one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court’s history….[SNIP]

…and has until recently enjoyed a lousy reputation among the right-thinking (that is, the librul-Progressive, which is to say, not at all right-thinking) legal professoriate.

Professor Bernstein, along with Profs. Randy Barnett and Richard Epstein (as we inferred from his remarks in his last appearance on CCiZ) disagree on that, stout fellows that they are. They talk about legal esoterica such as Freedom of Contract and other stuff that is not for the tender and innocent ears of the Elite (or of various Union leaders or members and their legbreakers and enforcers).

David Bernstein is one of the contributors to Prof. Eugene Volokh’s law weblog The Volokh Conspiracy. (The Volokh Archives going back to 2002 are now found here.) Interviewer Josh Blackman is also an attorney and an Assistant Law Professor at the U. of South Texas. You can read his short summary of the interview at his website. You can also download the interview as a podcast there, watch the video there, click on over to Vimeo and watch it or download it as an mp4 there, or stay here and listen to the audio.

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