Monday, March 30, 2009
I hope it goes without saying, that the President of the United States of America, has no constitutional power whatsoever, to demand the resignation of any employee, of any business, in any industry, anywhere in the nation.
None. Zero. Nada.
With this, he has announced that he has discarded the rule of law. The principle is out the window.
Prior to today's bracing announcement, last week Geithner announced his intention that,
"Firms that are deemed to be systemically important large institutions must be able to give the government a comprehensive report on their aggregate counterparty risks exposures "within a matter of hours."
If business's spend bunch's of money to lobby and persuade legislators to alter prepositions, verbs and nouns in legislation now, in order to get a little bit more favorable of an angle on their business, can you imagine what is going to happen, when the favorable view of legislators, and their staff, have the ability to determine whether or not your business is a "systemically important large institution", and whether or not those staff members, legislators or even the President himself, considers your current decisions to be politically useful for sending a message that "... it will take a new vision and new direction..." to influence the market and his polls?
Oh. My. God.
Do you realize the sheer political power that each and every bureaucrat involved in this process, is going to have and command? As I said in my previous post, this has little or nothing to do with 'fixing' GM or any other business, this is about seizing power, pure and simple.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hate to borrow a phrase from our non-representing-representatives, but we've got to do something, and do it fast! I don't know if these Tax Day Tea Parties are promising or not, but it's something while we're trying to figure out a worthwhile plan to counteract this madness!
Oh... wait a minute. Maybe too late there too... "A tea party to protest government spending and taxing is canceled. Canceled by the government."
Ladies and Gent's, you've heard of 'Tipping Points'? Which way are you going to let the nation tip towards, Freedom or Tyranny?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
If you have so far managed (THIS WEEK!) to make it past the government destroying our wealth through the printing press, and were still stumbling past the ‘notion’ that government should be in the banking (or any other) business, only to be hit with the government using taxation as a way to target particular citizens… AIG peter-principle execs or otherwise, not to mention the fear that just as our government “took an interest in” AIG & leading Banks that were ‘too big to fail’ in order to ‘protect the economy’, there is now the very real possibility that the IMF & nations of the U.N. may decide that the USA is ‘too big to fail’ and so they (China, Russia, etc, who hold our loans) may propose that the fundamentals of our economy may need to be ‘managed’ in order to protect the rest of the world… (pause to catch breath … run-on sentence aerobics…) if you can possibly make it past all of that which is going on right now, which is damn near overwhelming, then this is where you may want to focus some of the remaining shreds of your attention upon: Free Speech.
Free speech, because if that goes, there will be no way left for us to combat the rest of the problems.
When foolish ‘moderates’ such as John McCain led the fight for campaign finance reform (which was also the excuse for the 17th amendment, which reduced the U.S. Senate to the status and quality of House Representatives with triple length terms – which, btw, also increased, rather than decreased, the ‘campaign finance problem’), giving the idiotic excuse that ‘money must be kept out of politics’; completely missing the fact that that established the right of the government to prohibit people from putting their money where their mouths wanted it to be heard - endorsing a political choice – the only free speech the founders had in mind to protect.
McCain and others of his ilk said these ‘protections’ would never spill into prohibitions on actual ‘free speech’ of individual citizens political ideals, no, no, McCain/Feingold would only prevent big money from corrupting big government (the truth is the other way around of course, but that’s another matter), while some of us said that once the principle was established, the rest would surely follow.
“Court hears arguments over anti-Hillary movie
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned whether government regulation of a movie critical of former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton might also be used to ban books critical of political hopefuls during election season.”
No crystal balls are needed here to predict the future should this new principle stand, only the application of philosophical principles.
If the McCain/Feingold statutes themselves are not struck down, then whether or not this particular movie is successfully banned, more attempts will follow, until the logical expression of the new McCain/Feingold principle that “Speech can only be free, when and where the government says it’s ok to speak” is given the force of law.
You can see the same principle being applied through a different form in the efforts to recast the “Fairness Doctrine”, and trial balloons over control of speech on the internet. Once limits on movies or commercials are established as ‘detrimental to free speech’, then similar controls on books will follow quickly behind, then the scope of what defines an ‘election season’ will be expanded, and finally it will be extended to prevent interfering in the ability of elected officials to ‘carry out the peoples business which they were elected to do’.
At that point, the Founders Constitution will become only a historical curiosity… which you’ll probably need authorization to examine.
Am I exagerating? Well... have a look at this, which just passed the House, From H.R. 1388: Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, Down in Part III, SEC. 120. INNOVATIVE DEMONSTRATION SERVICE-LEARNING PROGRAMS AND RESEARCH, you'll find this gem,
"‘(B) service-learning is a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the
secondary schools served by the local educational agency."
Which part of 'Mandatory' sounds like 'volunteerism' to you? Which part of 'Home of the Free' do you think seems amenable to forcing our children to volunteer for government mandated 'community service'? People used to say 'It can't happen here' - folks, it IS happening here, here and now. It is happening because people are not familiar with the very document expressly designed and created to prevent such things from ever happening here - the U.S. Constitution, and the relevant documents (Federalist & Anti-Federalist papers, etc) which can help you to understand it, as it was intended then - not as it is being spun now. (BTW: For another look at this which is not as nonchalant as mine, try Gateway Pundit's take - Hat tip to QP)
If you know anyone who thinks anything that is being done now is ‘constitutional’, they are dreaming. If you don’t know how to explain how that it is un-constitutional, how are you going to avoid their dream from becoming your nightmare?
Examine it now. If you aren’t familiar with the ideas which shaped the Founders thinking in writing the Constitution, I’m aware of no better site than the Founders Constitution, hosted by the University of Chicago Press and the Liberty Fund. Each phrase, such as the Preamble, is hyperlinked to the relevant documents, ranging from the Greeks to Locke, the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers, even early Supreme Court decisions affecting them… it is outstanding.
Tell your representatives you ‘disapprove’ of these measures, assuming you do (and if not, why not?), but don’t count on them. No long term solutions will come from them, it will have to come from ‘We The People’ learning what is right, Why it is Right, and Demanding that the right thing be done, continually, and over the long term. If you are looking for easy answers, you will just as easily lose it all.
If we don’t learn it, and defend it, it will be gone.
Bank on it.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Every good Magician makes a big show of providing his audience 'Full Transparency', in fact he relies upon it,
"Look closely ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing up my sleeve and nothing in my hat, in fact, why don't you sir, come up and pat me down... you agree I'm concealing nothing? Yes? Excellent... and by the way, what were you doing with this marble behind your ear?"
... and out pops a marble 'as if' it were behind your ear all along.
Here's a tip: it wasn't.
It is part of the act, 'providing transparency' is one of the magicians chief techniques for misdirecting your attention so that he can perform his trick without your noticing how he is actually accomplishing it.
No different with Uncle Sam. When Uncle Obama offers 'full transparency',
""The American taxpayer will benefit from full transparency at
each step of the process as these funds are disbursed.""
... in most cases we'll remain better informed by not looking at where he is directing us to look.
Where Else Not To Look
Don't look at the 'successful performance', or lack there of, of Govt programs. Those do nothing but stand in for 'nothing up my sleeves...', don't bother looking for infrastructure improvements (remember 'The Big Dig'?), or initiatives to 'improve education'... they will accomplish nothing of the sort.
We tend to make the mistake of viewing Govt as if its 'product' can be looked at, viewed and measured, in the same way as we would a business whose 'output' is the product produced - but that is not the case.
With a business such as Ford, the product is obviously a Mustang, or an Explorer, etc, and the machinery of the business; workers, managers and executives, are there to design, build and sell that product, and the relative health of such a business can be gauged by the sales of, and satisfaction with, that product. Which is very true... though we tend to forget that the purpose of the business and its product, from the shareholders perspective, is not the 'Mustang' or any other product, they are merely means to an end, and the end purpose of the business is ultimately to earn a profit.
Similarly so with Govt.
Profit is the result paid to shareholders, from a business that is run efficiently and creates dependable, functioning, products. But 'efficient', 'dependable' and 'functioning', do not describe the products which a Govt is in the 'business' of creating, for there is a corollary to profit in Govt, which we often overlook, because to most of us it has no value, but to the typical Govt person, it is THE value.
It is a mistake to think that the 'products' of business and of Govt can be evaluated in the same way, because their purposes are so different. The soundness and dependability of a business's product, serves to increase profit, but the soundness and dependability of a Govt's product, whatever the program or 'service', does NOT serve it's end purpose. And even those who do look past the 'products' to the end purposes of creating them, they tend to think that YOU, the Public, are viewed by those in Govt, as the equivalent of 'shareholders' to a business. But just as the products can not be viewed the same, neither can the 'customers' be viewed in the same way... and lest you do think that YOU are considered by those in Govt as if you were on a equal par as a business's shareholder, let me just speak for them... NOT!
With Govt, the output we see, and typically take to be its Product, is only a minor visible component of their 'business model', and in actuality it is but a means to the real ends, that which takes the role that 'profit' does in private enterprise, which is the maintenance, distribution, and expansion of Power.
When you have a budget, stimulus plan, etc, which have line items within it such as 'upgrade infrastructure' or 'education'; upgrading infrastructure and education, ARE NOT either the point, product or purposes of that budget. A more accurate, but still flawed interpretation would be to say that the purpose of the budget, is to
- 1st, reserve for some Govt administrator the power to control the allocation of the power that will be needed to do this item, and
- 2nd, to name other people, dept's and committee's, etc (expanding and enhancing power), and so on, for implementing that power
- and power MUST be exerted, it must be released, kinetic power in Govt is worse than useless, it is wasted. But that diverts attention away from the true primary requirement for steps 1, 2 and so on, which is transferring power from the populace, principally through taxation, and also through directives and regulations, to the Govt.
Any 'Budget' or 'Stimulus' plan in a Govt which has escaped its restraints, such as ours has, is NOT a plan to improve 'infrastructure' or 'education' or even to fix the economy; it is only a development plan for further enhancing, spreading and increasing power and entrenching the powerful. It's more akin to a plan for planting weeds, than wheat.
There are only two purposes for selecting how and where to exert power. Either for the sole purpose of Power itself (and you should forget about eliminating them, it will never happen, such people will always be among us, the best that can be hoped for is to control their excesses), or to accomplish some goal which the powerful desires to do (and these are far more dangerous than mere power luster's), whether it be because of grudge, whim or worse, 'morality'.
Govt Slipping the Surly Bonds
The only thing that has been discovered in all of human history that has had even a chance of controlling and directing power in such a way that benefits all of the people, not just the powerful, is a written constitution and a system of law which is based upon, bound to, and harmonized with, the higher laws as directed by that written Constitution.
This written constitution produces an irritating restraint upon those who have the reins of power. In even the best of societies, those in power, seek it in order to DO that which they see to be necessary and right, and a written constitution hampers and inhibits them at every step of the way. The constitution was barely dry, before the congress was seeking to 'upgrade infrastructure', to create what we today would term a 'Highway Bill', but there could be found no way past the still clear and un-fractured constitution and body of laws, to permit it, and so Madison and others (for a time), vetoed them.
It's instructive to read from President Madison's Veto Message for the 'stimulus' and 'infrastructure' bill of his day, the first 'Bonus Bill',
"I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.Madison did think that the goals of the bill were worthwhile, even necessary, but he knew that doing so without amending the constitution, would be destructive to the constitution - it would break its restraints. He urged Congress to begin the process of amending the constitution. It should be noted that the constitution never was amended to allow for such things as 'upgrading infrastructure'.
President of the United States "
Because, 'upgrading infrastructure' was never the purpose of the bill, or at least that wasn't the purpose of those who sought to push it through despite the obvious unconstitutionality of doing so, which Madison pointed out.
Amending the constitution would have strengthened the constitution, and would have made ignoring it even more difficult, and doing that, was the real purpose!
Various forms of that 'highway bill' would surface and resurface through the centuries, seeking a way through those restraints, but it would take over a century and a thousand nicks, paper cuts in our body of laws under the Constitution, to support the 'nothing up my sleeve' flourishes needed to give the illusion that it could be allowed within the constitution.
Once that wound had been opened, the constitutional dam began to crumble, and more and more bills to 'do right' were shoved through the gap, until eventually the point was reached where the constitution could, except in the most shallowly obvious ways, be ignored and subverted almost at will, needing only nebulous polls of public opinion to accomplish it.
That is where we are today.
Looking up the sleeve
Another key difference between private enterprise' products, and Govt's 'products', is that private enterprise gains from a functioning and effective product. Govt, except when fully under constitutional restraints, almost never benefits from functioning and effective 'products'. An 'educational' system which actually educates children, is a dead end for the power monger... where, within a functioning and efficient system, do you think you can find an opportunity to expand power? If something is working to everyone's satisfaction, why would it require more services and funding and people & groups beholden to you?
A successful Govt Program, is a complete dead end, from the point of view of the power monger! And especially with education, if the public is actually educated, they are not going to allow those in Govt to do whatever the hell they want to do... and who wants that?!
Only within a written constitution, whose laws are in conformity to it, and whose purpose is to preserve the individual rights and property of the people, and to protect them from enemies foreign and domestic, and where those in power seek to exert their power only to accomplish those goals, only within that narrow scope, can a fully functioning and efficient Govt, be deemed successful... but we've slipped past that stage, long ago.
It only takes one leak in the Constitutional dam, beginning in the merest trickle, to spread and grow into the full crumbling flood we are experiencing today. It's been my contention that the earliest and most significant breach, was the Morrill Act, which was the first federal action which fully transgressed the defined constitutional scope and powers of the Federal Govt, even though it appeared to be just a wee bit and for a good cause - education -, and with those good intentions, began the diluting of Education with Proregressive purposes and theories, which has been central to the American public losing sight of what the Constitution originally was and why it ever even existed.
(As an example of the corrosive spirit of indoctrination that has taken over Educationists in particular, and modern philosophy in general, see this quoting of Richard Rorty, which gives a clear example of Goldberg's point from 'Liberal Fascism', that the real face of fascism today, is a teacher with a leftist education. Sickening(Hat tip to Julie for the link that linked to this link).)
Within forty years of the first version of the Morrill Act, Education; it's meaning, content, purposes, structure and practice, were completely transformed, and the U.S. Govt was routinely doing what the Founders would have been appalled to see it do. The Govt was directly infringing upon the peoples property rights in the most blatant of ways, 'trust busting' and further ventures into 'protecting' monetary stability, which would culminate within another two decades, in the defacto loss (or at least legitimized abridgments) of our freedoms, through the creation of the Fed, the Income Tax, mandatory public schooling, Govt regulatory agencies, and the leveling of the Senate with the 17th Amendment.
Don't Look Where You Are Directed To Look
Don't bother looking up the magicians sleeve, at least not when he offers it, look at what he is actually doing; not his flourishes, but the actions he's hoping you don't notice. Focus on the purposive/philosophically motivated anti-restraint (constitutional) power monger, for that is the rabbit which will breed and multiply and overrun our garden.
At the surface level of the statist's policies (all of which are leftist and little 'r' republicans), you'll find that they seek to forcibly change circumstances in order to 'improve' the people. Whether it be through, from the left, welfare checks, hate speech codes or quotas - or from the little 'r' right: educational reform (instead of the obliteration of the entire system), values education, prohibitions, blue laws, etc - they think that by rearranging the distribution of wealth or insensitive words or numbers of melanin or gender counts, or through forced actions labeled as 'choices', that they will be able to improve and fix and pacify 'we the people'.
Look deeper into the statist's policies (both leftist and little 'r' right), and you're going to find them doing what is 'necessary' for the feeding and caring of the powerful, which means the expansion of bureaucratic programs, regulations and taxes, all excused as 'necessary' for 'Success!' and even when it becomes obvious that they are only rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic, they will persist, to keep their power base happy at their apparent 'progress' and 'action!', and keep them in power right up until the ship has sunk.
If you look past the surface to the root of the statist's policies (and leftist and little 'r' right are the same in kind, differing only in degree), what you're going to find buried in the motivations and justifications for their policies and actions, are their metaphysical first principles, which will be Determinism. They do believe that outward changes in the environment will mechanically cause inward changes and 'corrections', like one billiard ball bouncing off of another, in the 'people'. And such deterministic scenario's are one of the few times they'll refer to that dirty term 'cause', and then only because they can't figure out how to get around using it.
However, the denial of free will, which determinism entails and requires (and which leads to the complete inversion of morality), and which that mechanical billiard ricocheting 'cause' is meant to discredit and take the place of, requires of the powerful not only the willingness, but the necessity, for them to violate the rights of the individual (righteously so), in order to serve the collective, and that is what keeps the powerful in the business of developing power.
When you hear 'Look, nothing up this sleeve', you can bank on two things. One, that isn't where the rabbit is, and two, the rabbit, no matter how it appears to have appeared, will not be pulled out of thin air. No matter the appearance of the free-lunch rabbit trick, the rabbit exists in fact, it has mass, and it must be fed and cared for, and you are going to be made to pay for it... or more accurately for them, for you must never forget, rabbits multiply.
I was just reading a column from the excellent Thomas Sowell, called False solutions and real problems
P ("...No one asked how many hundreds of thousands of dollars would be added to the cost of an average home by "open space" laws, for example. Yet empirical studies have shown that land-use restrictions added at least a hundred thousand dollars to the average home price in dozens of places around the country. ..."), and then browsed to one of his columns from earlier in the year, which beat me to this post's punch by a few months, called What are they buying?,
"What are the Beltway politicians buying with all the hundreds of billions of dollars they are spending? They are buying what politicians are most interested in— power.
In the name of protecting the taxpayers' investment, they are buying the power to tell General Motors how to make cars, banks how to bank and, before it is all over with, all sorts of other people how to do the work they specialize in, and for which members of Congress have no competence, much less expertise.
This administration and Congress are now in a position to do what Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression of the 1930s— use a crisis of the times to create new institutions that will last for generations."
Sowell is one of my Heroes.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Last week I had the surreal experience of being unemployed, savings fast depleting, and cruising on a cruise ship from San Deigo, to Catalina Island, down to Mexico and back… faced with unending supplies of food and drink with my wife’s extended family to celebrate her grandma’s 90th birthday. We’d booked and paid for the cruise and airline tickets last year when we thought my job was secure, but while the floating food and board and entertainment was paid, drinks and activities were an expense, and a particularly painful one, given the circumstance. We had considered cancelling, even with the penalties, but keeping in mind the present economy, and the long running disaster likely to result from the dimulous bailout plans, we figured it might be our last chance for such a trip for many moons, and so chose to bite the bullet and party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine.
The trip was a blast, the kids had a fantastic time, and the adults did as well. It also gave me a chance to take a slightly looping cruise through our investigation of Justice - nothing quite like blogging, disconnected as it was, from the deck of a Cruise ship.
“… kids drive through the sights, seeing the mountains and waterfalls and redwoods, with barely a glance at them before returning their attention back to their GameBoy's and DTS players.
And one of the things I’ve noticed is that Plymouth Rock is a real disappointment to kids, if you’ve got a choice of vacation destinations, choose something else, because once you get down there, and in the sand, there's a roped off area and this plain little rock, just so far around. Such a letdown."
But I won’t hold my fingers. I’ve got to ask, if you present kids with the Lincoln Memorial, why, apart from the fact that it is big, why would they be more impressed with the carved, do nothing but sit there, lump of white stone made to look like the guy on the $5 bill, why would or should that grab more of their attention than the multi color, lifelike animated world that taunts them with solving their puzzle’s and races against the clock… why?
Unless that carved stone is filled with meaning, and meaning simply can’t be contained in stone, it must exist within their own minds, meaning which they must deeply feel to be interconnected with all that they truly value, which they know to deeply affect their dreams, their parents dreams, their very worlds and their futures within it… why, without that meaning being constructed layer upon layer within their mind, heart and soul, why would they have even the slightest bit more interest in that cold, unmoving, white lump of stone… than the glistening, moving, urging, GameBoy video game, calling to them as it is, to pursue a task and a score, right there within their hands and so relevant to their lives Now!?
The previous night there was a hypnotist show, and one of Uncle B’s girls was put under on stage as part of the act. BIL claims that hypnosis 'is all fake', on the basis (my guess) that there is consciousness and unconsciousness, and no variations or gradations in between, only on/off. He is quite a remarkable person, I like and respect him very much, he’s married to my wife’s older sister, is an independent thinker – one of those people who are able to read into almost any circumstance volumes of detail and understanding, where most of us would barely notice the scenery. He began a successful business a few years ago, leaving the UPS job he’d had for twenty years, and his business is still doing fabulously well today, they have great kids, and he's very much aware and involved in his family, kids schools, neighborhood and political issues and current events, etc, but his interests are rooted very much in the present day and with a casually materialistic viewpoint.
We got into an economic discussion once a few years ago about price controls and ‘price gouging’, and I brought up Frederich Bastiat, and replying to BIL’s “Who’s that?” I got as far as mentioning that Bastiat lived in the mid 1800’s, before getting the “That’s over a century ago! Some hundred year’s dead French guy means nothing to me and my business today!”.
So I decided to try and walk through the real meaning and effects of price controls in peoples lives, using an example of someone selling plywood to hurricane victims for ‘gouging’ prices. We agreed on the small points, that gov’t had no business telling someone how much they could charge for a service they performed, or what services they should provide. That agreement remained as long as we imagined a person who, barely making ends meet, has a sick kid that needs an operation, and decided to set aside his normal service in, say Oregon, selling plywood for $8 a sheet, to invest his savings in a truck load of plywood in order to haul it across the country to a gulf hurricane site in order to not only cover his costs, but to earn a sizable enough profit to make it worth while for him.
He agreed that the possibility of earning a sizable profit would serve to benefit both our truckers own family, and the hurricane victims desperately short of plywood, and he saw that even though they had nothing in common, it was his desire for earning more money, and their urgent need for a product that had suddenly become scarce in their community that brought them into a transaction for mutually agreeable benefit and profit.
“But… too much profit, would be bad.” Ok, how much? No answer. I asked If he asked more than the people had, or were willing to pay, that would prevent him from earning a profit, wouldn’t it?
“Yeah.” If he asked for too much, they wouldn’t pay it, and so that would be too much, right? So if they’re willing to pay it, that’d be ok?
Ok, how about keeping in mind our Boy's cash strapped family, and his sick child needing an operation, should the hurricane victims be able to force him to sell the plywood at a price he wouldn’t find it worthwhile to travel across the country bringing plywood they desperately need and otherwise wouldn’t have… should those people be able to force him to deprive his family and kid of what they need to survive, because of their need? Does their need outweigh his need? Should anybody on the outside be able to say which need should be sacrificed to the others? Our trucker runs the risk of getting to the hurricane zone, and finding that someone else has already supplied all the plywood they need, and find himself not being able to even sell his at $6 a sheet.
Shouldn’t it be left to his taking the risk of buying the plywood and trucking it across country in order to get the highest price that both he, the needy seller, and the hurricane victim needy buyer, can mutually agree upon?
"Yeahhh… but there’s a limit."
Yeah, there is, the limit is what the seller considers to be too low, and the buyer finds to be too high, would anyone else without deep knowledge of the conditions and needs of both parties, even be able to say, and should anyone at all, including those without any knowledge, be able to force a ‘fair price’ upon either party?
"Yeah, but you can’t gouge people!" Right, but wouldn’t forcing our trucker to sell for less than he thinks he should, or could, sell for, be gouging him? What percentage profit qualifies as gouging, and in what context? Why is 'gouging' Ok for the buyer to do, and not for the Seller?
How about if, with local supplies gone, our boy’s plywood was all that was available, ok?
“But I’ll pay you double… triple… your regular price”
“Sorry, but even if I did have some, I wouldn’t be allowed to sell any of it to you at those prices, I’m told that’s been made illegal.”
Now, I said, look at what your ‘kinder-gentler’ pricing has done… because our boy couldn’t set his prices where he expected to be able to, he’s actually lost money in trying to aid the hurricane victims, not because he misjudged the market, but because some legal-beagle-do-gooders forcibly changed the market through force of law, and his family is going to be hard hit, his sick child’s operation no longer a possibility; Sad Sam’s family is going to be exposed to the rough weather elements, because anybody with the most frivolous of needs, was able to get plywood at near normal prices, and without the market control of higher prices, they were not dissuaded from buying all they wanted for their casual hobby whims, whereas if our boy had been able to ask for the prices he had hoped, the hobbyist and frivolous shopper would have steered clear of the higher prices until things settled down again, Sad Sam would have been able to patch his roof and protect his family, true, it would have cost more than he wished, but since their safety and health would be worth it to them, he’d be willing to pay the ‘gouging’ prices to do so, and our Boy's kid would have gotten his operation, and his family would have been financially better off again.
But with the gov’t imposed pricing, divorced from reality and the knowledgeable needs of those involved in their own transactions, market forces weren’t allowed to apply and ensure that the scarce supplies had the best chance of getting to where they were most needed, by pricing the lesser need buyers out of the market, enabling those scarce supplies to get to those who really did need them.
He couldn’t pin down the profit percentage where that person would be making ‘cutthroat profits’, or unfair ‘steals’ of a deal, but… he still had no problem getting behind the gov’t prosecuting businesses for ‘predatory pricing’ for the very same thing. When I tried to pin him down, to explain to me where & how it became possible for that individual trucker who was fully within his rights to do what he chose without gov’t interference, that such controls and regulations would not only stop the trucker from earning extra money for his cash strapped family and would also deprive the hurricane victims of plywood they desperately needed, how that was clear and understandable, but became ‘WRONG’ and ‘SCUMMY’ when a hardware store, or (shudder) Corporation, did the very same thing… neither of us got anywhere.
The discussion (loud and gleeful on my end, a chuckling ‘oh man’ on his and our families) couldn’t quite make it into a discussion of property rights, and ended when I pointed out to him that he, who has no use or respect for any shade of faith, had nothing to support his positions but faith that the gov’t violating that plywood truckers, and everyone else’s rights for the ‘public good’ and ‘keeping big business in line’ would somehow make things ok and not hurt either the truckers family or the hurricane victims together.
And that was as true, and fully unsatisfying, a resolution as can be expected.
My BIL is a very sharp, level headed, energetic and generous person, astoundingly generous and loyal to his employees; he gains great respect and loyalty from his friends, family and employee’s because he deserves it; he is not one to be deluded by what is in front of him, but he doesn't look for, or expect, or give much if any credence to anything beyond the range of what can be seen, and he is suspicious of that which operates, or claims to operate, beyond the range of what he can see, touch & quickly grasp.
He’s not a leftist in the least, but he is an unusual mix of libertarianish ‘keep gov’t out of my life’ but somehow along with that belief on the personal level, he believes on the macro level, that gov’t should be involved with mandating recycling, promoting alternative energy research and reigning in big business and outrageous Oil Co profits…. Still, if I ever needed advice in how to do, approach or accomplish some practical task or goal, my BIL is the first person I’d seek out.
And that has always been the case in America.
This is a view that has always been typical of Americans, perhaps more so today than 250 years ago, but it always has been there. We are a people who are generally suspicious of intellectuals, suspecting them of being wooly-headed and out of touch with reality, and that has helped to slow our slide towards Europe’s socialistic states. The difference between way back then and now, is that way back then, people realized that there were higher things to be considered in making important decisions, and while in most cases, then as now, the typical person usually understood common sense day-to-day tasks and issues and had no interest in or use for those higher level issues, principles and perspectives, they new that those hard to grasp concepts did exist, that they were important, and that when they could no longer be avoided, they required wise hands to handle them, and when those issues became unavoidable, they knew that scholars and college graduates were the ones you wanted to ask for advice about those issues.
That is no longer the case... but not in the most obvious way... it's not so much that the normal person no longer seeks out the 'wise' intellectual for help... but the 'wise intellectual' who denies such wisdom exists at all.
What is different today, is that it is the intellectuals of today, who are skeptical of anything beyond the most perceptual, range of the moment issues. They give no higher goals or aspirations for the regular person to suspiciously regard, if anything they are even more rooted in the perceptual moment than the so-called ‘common man’.
The intellectuals of today regularly regard scoundrels as being intriguing and ‘authentic’ people worthy of regard (Madoff, Pres Clinton, Chavez, etc). We are in the bizarre and inverted situation of the ‘common people’ having higher values and virtues, than those who pose as being our intellectuals. The result is, that the people have no vision to look up towards, other than their own, and so ‘common virtues’ are the highest that can be conceived, respected, or pursued.
And where there is no vision… the people perish… and no bailout or parole will save them, or any of us… but no one any longer knows that.
The American people have always been suspicious of intellectuals, but they did used to believe in the worth and value of capital ‘E’ Education, because they believed that Education would help to form someone towards the image and caliber of a Washington, Jefferson & Madison, and would also, incidentally (and in many cases more importantly to the parents of the child being educated) be key to achieving economic success. But what intellectuals have increasingly been telling them for two centuries of progressivist thought, is that all that the people really need to be educated in, is how to be competitive and earn a living in 'today's world', and given most peoples own inclinations and suspicions of high-fallutin ideals, most people have jumped on the “Oh Good! No foo-foo-osophy! Just the stuff that is effective and of real worth!” vocational ed bandwagon, first successfully set rolling down the hill with the Morrill Act.
The problem is, is that ‘the stuff that is of real worth’ becomes of less and less worth, as history, literature and philosophy are neglected, as meaning is lost, and soon afterwards we reach the point where our cultural milestones such as the Lincoln Memorial, become nothing to the people but a lump of white stone, where the Plymouth Rock becomes a ‘little flat rock with a fence around it’, a 'disappointment to be avoided', and Individual Rights and Property Rights, rather than being recognized and revered as the inviolable defenders of our freedoms, become modified as ‘active liberties’ granted by the mood of the populace, and the mood of the populace begins to more and more resemble a GameBoy video game, chasing here and there to catch the golden cheerios and beat the clock.
Great for gaming! Pitiful for living.
This very much flows into our discussion of justice, and gives me the way into the next section, which I was having a problem figuring out how to approach, which is... the error of mistaking an increased attention upon the practical world as an antidote for what may have been an over reliance upon the intellectual world.
This leads us neatly into two examples of this mode of thinking, and acting, in intellectualism, and in governance, with a look at Sir Francis Bacon and Niccolo Machiavelli.
Both were put on the racks, in one case literally, for their dealings with the opposition which had its head too high up in the clouds, and they then established that which would dethrone their perceived wooly headed oppressors, and which has finally pitched us over into the looking glass for a mirror image of their unbalanced world. That pitching away from a wooly headed world view, first resulted in a century of near perfect balance through most of the 1700’s to early 1800’s, the closest the world has ever seen, but then the pendulum continued on and we are now past the guard rails and are riding it towards the far wall.
Sir Francis Bacon was an exceptional character, striding through political, judicial, literary, philosophic and scientific worlds. His mind was such that he has made many of the literary conspiracists quests for who the ‘real’ Shakespeare was. He served in Queen Elizabeth’s court, got caught up in a political backstabbing and was convicted of accepting the normal bribes that accompanied his office, served time in the infamous Tower of London before being released to a life of philosophical contemplation, essay writing, contemplation of the proper methods for scientific thinking, and finally an experiment upon a freezing chicken which resulted in his contracting pneumonia and dying.
Bacon’s intellectual target and avowed enemy, was the then dominant wooly headed scholastics, commonly represented as being comments upon comments upon comments of Aristotle, resulting in long and heated debates on issues such as that caricatured by the old saw of ‘how many angels can dance upon the head of a pin”.
This really cooked Francis’s bacon. He wanted to put an end to this mess, and with the intellectual roots of the scholastic having been planted in the writings of Aristotle (though long since uprooted), Aristotle soon became the scapegoat for such fuzzy thinking.
Now Bacon knew very well that Aristotle himself was not to blame, and that in fact his ideas, and St. Thomas Aquinas’s thinking which was much dependent upon Aristotle’s, lay at the root of nearly all that was right and good in philosophical thought, but with some few exceptions where he made a point of saying that it wasn’t Aristotle’s fault… he let him catch the blame most of the time. An anticipation of marketing I suppose.
Part of the reason why, was that what Bacon was after was ‘hard facts’, he was sick and tired of ‘principles’ and ‘concepts’ which for the most part were derived not from reality, but only from other rationalistic conjectures. Bacon demanded that unless you could point to an actual measurement or something resulting from your own direct, and repeatable, experience, you should consider it as nothing more than unsubstantiated theories. And that, understandably, to Bacon, was a very bad thing.
Reading Bacon’s essays is to experience the world through the thinking of one of the best minds of his age, within one of the highest ages ever. His thoughts and essays range from considerations of Truth, Love, Beauty… like Montaigne, you find yourself really, really, really wishing that he was writing a blog today, the urge to pick his ideas over with him is overwhelming, for instance, from the opening of his essay on “Judicature” (administration of Justice),
“Judges ought to remember, that their office is jus dicere, and not jus dare; to interpret law, and not to make law, or give law. Else will it be like the authority, claimed by the Church of Rome, which under pretext of exposition of Scripture, doth not stick to add and alter; and to pronounce that which they do not find; and by show of antiquity, to introduce novelty. Judges ought to be more learned, than witty, more reverend, than plausible, and more advised, than confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue. Cursed (saith the law) is he that removeth the landmark. The mislayer of a mere-stone is to blame. But it is the unjust judge, that is the capital remover of landmarks, when he defineth amiss, of lands and property. One foul sentence doth more hurt, [I don’t know about you, but a “…specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance…” comes to mind for me]than many foul examples. For these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain. So with Solomon, Fons turbatus, et vena corrupta, est justus cadens in causa sua coram adversario. The office of judges may have reference unto the parties that use, unto the advocates that plead, unto the clerks and ministers of justice underneath them, and to the sovereign or state above them.”
“But as a false imagination of plenty is among the principal causes of want, and as too great a confidence in things present leads to a neglect of the future, it is necessary we should here admonish mankind that they do not too highly value or extol either the number or usefulness of the things hitherto discovered; for, by closely inspecting the multiplicity of books upon arts and sciences, we find them to contain numberless repetitions of the same things in point of invention, but differing indeed as to the manner of treatment; so that the real discoveries, though at the first view they may appear numerous, prove upon examination but few. And as to the point of usefulness, the philosophy we principally received from the Greeks must be acknowledged puerile, or rather talkative than generative—as being fruitful in controversies, but barren of effects.
The fable of Scylla seems a civil representation of the present condition of knowledge; for she exhibited the countenance and expression of a virgin, while barking monsters encircled her womb. Even thus the sciences have their specious and plausible generalities; but when we descend to particulars, which, like the organs of generation, should produce fruits and effects, then spring up loud altercations and controversies, which terminate in barren sterility. And had this not been a lifeless kind of philosophy, it were scarce possible it should have made so little progress in so many ages, insomuch, that not only positions now frequently remain positions still, but questions remain questions, rather riveted and cherished than determined by disputes; philosophy thus coming down to us in the persons of master and scholar, instead of inventor and improver. In the mechanic arts the case is otherwise—these commonly advancing toward perfection in a course of daily improvement, from a rough unpolished state, sometimes prejudicial to the first inventors, while philosophy and the intellectual sciences are, like statues, celebrated and adored, but never advanced; nay, they sometimes appear most perfect in the original author, and afterward degenerate. For since men have gone over in crowds to the opinion of their leader, like those silent senators of Rome,1 they add nothing to the extent of learning themselves, but perform the servile duty of waiting upon particular authors, and repeating their doctrines.”
“We make no attempt to disturb the system of philosophy that now prevails, or any other which may or will exist, either more correct or more complete. For we deny not that the received system of philosophy, and others of a similar nature, encourage discussion, embellish harangues, are employed, and are of service in the duties of the professor, and the affairs of civil life. Nay, we openly express and declare that the philosophy we offer will not be very useful in such respects. It is not obvious, nor to be understood in a cursory view, nor does it flatter the mind in its preconceived notions, nor will it descend to the level of the generality of mankind unless by its advantages and effects.
Let there exist then (and may it be of advantage to both), two sources, and two distributions of learning, and in like manner two tribes, and as it were kindred families of contemplators or philosophers, without any hostility or alienation between them; but rather allied and united by mutual assistance. Let there be in short one method of cultivating the sciences, and another of discovering them. And as for those who prefer and more readily receive the former, on account of their haste or from motives arising from their ordinary life, or because they are unable from weakness of mind to comprehend and embrace the other (which must necessarily be the case with by far the greater number), let us wish that they may prosper as they desire in their undertaking, and attain what they pursue. But if any individual desire, and is anxious not merely to adhere to, and make use of present discoveries, but to penetrate still further, and not to overcome his adversaries in disputes, but nature by labor, not in short to give elegant and specious opinions, but to know to a certainty and demonstration, let him, as a true son of science (if such be his wish), join with us; that when he has left the antechambers of nature trodden by the multitude, an entrance may at last be discovered to her inner apartments. And in order to be better understood, and to render our meaning more familiar by assigning determinate names, we have accustomed ourselves to call the one method the anticipation of the mind, and the other the interpretation of nature.”
“XII. The present system of logic rather assists in confirming and rendering inveterate the errors founded on vulgar notions than in searching after truth, and is therefore more hurtful than useful.
XIII. The syllogism is not applied to the principles of the sciences, and is of no avail in intermediate axioms,4 as being very unequal to the subtilty of nature. It forces assent, therefore, and not things.
XIV. The syllogism consists of propositions; propositions of words; words are the signs of notions. If, therefore, the notions (which form the basis of the whole) be confused and carelessly abstracted from things, there is no solidity in the superstructure. Our only hope, then, is in genuine induction.
XV. We have no sound notions either in logic or physics; substance, quality, action, passion, and existence are not clear notions; much less weight, levity, density, tenuity, moisture, dryness, generation, corruption, attraction, repulsion, element, matter, form, and the like. They are all fantastical and ill-defined.”
It does become clear that for Bacon, higher Ideas are to be distrusted, ideas that don’t have direct and tangible ties to facts, should be distrusted, and those that do should be watched carefully all the same. This perception fit like a glove with, and expressed very, very well, the typical hardheaded and no nonsense British point of view. But it also invited in along with its distrust of high-fallutin’ ideas, a tendency towards anti-conceptual thought which served to define the British empiricism even to the point of nominalism (it’s all just ‘names’ and little more), and the conviction that if something isn’t scientifically quantifiable, it wasn’t worthwhile at all and worse, it instilled a marked vulnerability towards skepticism, and where Aristotle, particularly his Metaphysics, such as this from book IV,
“"There are some who, as we said, both themselves assert that it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be, and say that people can judge this to be the case. And among others many writers about nature use this language. But we have now posited that it is impossible for anything at the same time to be and not to be, and by this means have shown that this is the most indisputable of all principles.-Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education, for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything (there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration); but if there are things of which one should not demand demonstration, these persons could not say what principle they maintain to be more self-evident than the present one. "We can, however, demonstrate negatively even that this view is impossible, if our opponent will only say something; and if he says nothing, it is absurd to seek to give an account of our views to one who cannot give an account of anything, in so far as he cannot do so. For such a man, as such, is from the start no better than a vegetable. Now negative demonstration I distinguish from demonstration proper, because in a demonstration one might be thought to be begging the question, but if another person is responsible for the assumption we shall have negative proof, not demonstration. The starting-point for all such arguments is not the demand that our opponent shall say that something either is or is not (for this one might perhaps take to be a begging of the question), but that he shall say something which is significant both for himself and for another; for this is necessary, if he really is to say anything. For, if he means nothing, such a man will not be capable of reasoning, either with himself or with another. But if any one grants this, demonstration will be possible; for we shall already have something definite. The person responsible for the proof, however, is not he who demonstrates but he who listens; for while disowning reason he listens to reason. And again he who admits this has admitted that something is true apart from demonstration (so that not everything will be 'so and not so').”
What these positions and views also bring out in practice, is a fondness for the opinion of experts, the idea that there is “A” proper way of handling issues, and the view that if it isn’t in line with the experts conclusion, then it must be in some way ‘wrong’.
His book on The New Atlantis with its Solomon’s House, proposed something very much like what would become the British Royal Society, the first organization dedicated to pursuing the advancement of scientific understanding of the world, and which placed its members in a position of great respect throughout the land. Its future members are a who’s who of science, with members such as Boyle, Isaac Newton, etc. It also engrained a distaste for money, profit, and a governing system with a high opinion of socialist practices – keep in mind this type of socialism had little at all to do with that which followed centuries later from the pens of Rousseau and Marx, other than his ideal state would be responsible for supporting the people and giving direction to them and the more efficient leading of their lives.
What Bacon did, was bring intellectual consideration down from the clouds to the facts everyone could grasp, and focused attention upon the importance of empirical data in investigations and their results… but with his obvious distaste for higher principles and his preference for verifiable facts over what could be inferred from them, he also sowed a seed for seeking after more precision than the subject affords, the sort of thing that is apparent if you’ve ever seen an educationist showing quantified results, such as “shows a 63.7% understanding of interpersonal relationships” – which is the mark of a lack of education, again, as Aristotle noted,
“…we have now posited that it is impossible for anything at the same time to be and not to be, and by this means have shown that this is the most indisputable of all principles.-Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education, for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education.”
“It must be observed that the precepts we have laid down upon this subject are all of them lawful, and not such immoral artifices as Machiavel speaks of, who directs men to have little regard for virtue itself, but only for the show and public reputation of it: “Because,” says he, “the credit and opinion of virtue are a help to a man, but virtue itself a hindrance.”97 He also directs his politician to ground all his prudence on this supposition, that men cannot be truly and safely worked to his purpose but by fear, and therefore advises him to endeavor, by all possible means, to subject them to dangers and difficulties.”
“Princes and masters are, by the advice of Solomon, to observe moderation in conferring grace and favor upon their servants. This moderation consists in three things. 1. In promoting them gradually, not by sudden starts. 2. In accustoming them sometimes to denial. And 3, as is well observed by Machiavel, in letting them always have something further to hope for. And unless these particulars be observed, princes, in the end, will doubtless find from their servants disrespect and obstinacy, instead of gratitude and duty. For from sudden promotion arises insolence; from a perpetual obtaining one’s desires, impatience of denial; and if there be nothing further to wish, there’s an end of alacrity and industry.”
Between he on the philosophical side, and Machiavelli, as we shall see, on the political and ethical side, the seeds were sown for isolated facts over wider principles, of quantities over qualities, of effectiveness over goodness, and eventually the trend would yield the disastrous results we enjoy around us today. How could it not? Is effectiveness, absent the control and guidance of virtue, really a good thing? Given an order “Fill our refrigerator with food asap”, the most effective method would be to break into the house next door, take all their food and deal with any obstructions with equal efficiency, and return those contents to your refrigerator. Again, is effectiveness without the guidance and control of Virtue, a good thing? Machiavelli, for one, didn’t see a problem with it.
Machiavelli came from an old political family, with some mid level influences on power. Niccolo himself was raised with a classical education in Greek and Latin, well versed in the history of Rome, his associations put him among the machinations of the Medeci and the Borgia families (who were practicing ‘Machiavellianism’ long before he put it into print), and eventually the Medeci’s came back into power, were not thrilled with his earlier involvement with their opposition, and he was put through tortures such as John McCain would recognize, arms drawn behind him and hoisted up into the air in that position, surely doing serious damage to those joints alone, let alone the rest which he was put through.
Machiavelli got front row seats to some of Cesare Borgia’s convoluted power plays, he describes in Chapter VII of The Prince how Borgia (the Duke) used a thug to pacify a hostile town, gave him license to be as brutal as need be… and knowing how to resolve the matter afterwards,
“…as this part of the Duke’s proceedings is well worthy of notice, and may serve as an example to others, I will dwell upon it more fully.
Having conquered the Romagna, the Duke found it under the control of a number of impotent petty tyrants, who had devoted themselves more to plundering their subjects than to governing them properly, and encouraging discord and disorder amongst them rather than peace and union; so that this province was infested by brigands, torn by quarrels, and given over to every sort of violence. He saw at once that, to restore order amongst the inhabitants and obedience to the sovereign, it was necessary to establish a good and vigorous government there. And for this purpose he appointed as governor of that province Don Ramiro d’Orco, a man of cruelty, but at the same time of great energy, to whom he gave plenary power. In a very short time D’Orco reduced the province to peace and order, thereby gaining for him the highest reputation. After a while the Duke found such excessive exercise of authority no longer necessary or expedient, for he feared that it might render himself odious. He therefore established a civil tribunal in the heart of the province, under an excellent president, where every city should have its own advocate. And having observed that the past rigor of Ramiro had engendered some hatred, he wished to show to the people, for the purpose of removing that feeling from their minds, and to win their entire confidence, that, if any cruelties had been practised, they had not originated with him, but had resulted altogether from the harsh nature of his minister. He therefore took occasion to have Messer Ramiro put to death, and his body, cut into two parts, exposed in the market-place of Cesena one morning, with a block of wood and a bloody cutlass left beside him. The horror of this spectacle caused the people to remain for a time stupefied and satisfied.”
… so, on purely effective grounds, Machiavelli notes the benefits of hiring a thug to cow a people, and once the job was done, order that the thug be sawn in half and left in the town square, putting himself into both the position of having gotten rid of a hated ruler, and at the same time making it clear that he could be even more brutal than his thug had been, Borgia was to be reap both thankfulness and at the same time be even more feared. Niccolo thought that was primo brilliant. This was the age and climate he was raised within and lived through, where popes led armies in war, fathered children all about the place (Cesare Borgia himself was the out of wedlock son of a pope, Pope Alexander VI)… this was a world where any moral notions of right and wrong were held and used for political and theatrical effect alone, and anyone who took such notions of morality seriously, soon wound up ruined, tortured and dead.
Recuperating from his torture and exile, and witnessing the chaos of city states descending into warring factions and anarchy, Machiavelli set pen to paper in order to write a guidebook for a Prince, a leader, to study and learn how to use the tools of power, pretense and prestige to keep control of their states by any means necessary, and whatever those means were, if successful, to Machiavelli’s empirical eyes, fixed as they were upon facts and effects rather than upon what was right and good, such pragmatic actions were worthy of praise and practice. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Machiavelli too, as with Bacon, had many disrespectful things to say about Aristotle (often seems to work as a canary in the philosophical coal mine, the differences between the two, which one summed up as
“Aristotle viewed the basis for any city-state to be the bond of friendship and trust. Machiavelli sees power resulting from fear and coercion to be the reality of the situation. This is quite a challenge to Aristotle's influential and traditional view.”
The Causality Behind 'The Ends justify the Means'
What Machiavelli accomplished with The Prince, was to establish the idea that effectiveness was not only more important than what was ethical, it meant that effectiveness was fully separable from morality. That morality was of no real import in and of itself, unless it served effectiveness. That was a big idea, one which turned the world upon its head, and it stuck. Machiavelli’s ideas persisted and spread, and can be seen and felt from his day to ours.
There is something to be considered, something to be wary, even afraid of, beyond the simple ‘ends justify the means’ scenarios, such as Borgia’s use of his thug – nearly everyone denounces those instances and that notion. What is worse, is that it smuggles into your mind the premise that such actions, wrong and evil as they are, can not only be effective, but that such ‘effective means’ can be considered in isolation from not only all previous experience, but from future consequences, and results, and precedents, being set through it. As if order and prosperity could be maintained without Law and lawful behavior; as if that behavior achieved through force and violence could even be considered ‘good’ and desirable behavior at all. The idea that immoral, even evil, actions can accomplish good, can be effective in furthering worthy causes, is pure folly, and preaching otherwise, is to preach the practice of Evil. It is as if to say that banks who made a practice of exchanging $50 dollar bills for $75 one dollar bills could achieve success through the many pleased and satisfied customers they would attract. It is an anti-reality notion at its very core.
But the lure of apparent ‘effectiveness’, which can only be put across in isolated instances separate from perspective, is the sugar coating which masks swallowing the seed of evil filth which it is, and which will soon sprout like weeds through all you think and do.
To teach that the connective ties between effectiveness and goodness, can be successfully severed, is not only a shortsighted and shallow lesson, it is wrong, it is evil, and it IS ineffective. Anyone who wishes to maintain that the leftist policies of the welfare state were an effective practice for promoting the health and safety of inner city families, should be mocked, insulted and publicly denounced and shunned. The pretense that the ends can justify the means is a confession of ignorance about not only Ends, but Means and more importantly, causality.
Thinking such as Machiavelli’s has gained some cache and circulated down through the centuries, and it’s effects have been felt directly or indirectly through the ideas of thinkers such as Bacon, Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, etc, etc, etc. None of these thinkers needed to agree with him (though several did), they only needed to absorb his limited flat-world message of non-morality, into some aspect of their thinking, and it was assured to percolate out in one form or another, from there.
It should be noted that Machiavelli did say and write many fine and good things. His Discourses on Livy were one of the first in modernity to illustrate the structure of a Republic and to clearly put into print the theories behind structuring checks and balances in order to keep the powerful in check through their own mutual regulation,
“I maintain that those who blame the quarrels of the Senate and the people of Rome condemn that which was the very origin of liberty, and that they were probably more impressed by the cries and noise which these disturbances occasioned in the public places, than by the good effect which they produced; and that they do not consider that in every republic there are two parties, that of the nobles and that of the people; and all the laws that are favorable to liberty result from the opposition of these parties to each other, as may easily be seen from the events that occurred in Rome. From the time of the Tarquins to that of the Gracchi, that is to say, within the space of over three hundred years, the differences between these parties caused but very few exiles, and cost still less blood; they cannot therefore be regarded as having been very injurious and fatal to a republic, which during the course of so many years saw on this account only eight or ten of its citizens sent into exile, and but a very small number put to death, and even but a few condemned to pecuniary fines. Nor can we regard a republic as disorderly where so many virtues were seen to shine. For good examples are the result of good education, and good education is due to good laws; and good laws in their turn spring from those very agitations which have been so inconsiderately condemned by many. ...”
This doesn’t mean the common supposition that the “Good” must be “nice”, that to be 'Good' you must be ineffectually bound to pacifistic niceties – remember, “thou shalt not Kill”, is directed towards the murderer, not towards the policemen, soldier or executioner, who in the very moral course of their duties may be required to kill another man. To avoid that trap, you must not allow your higher reasoning to become divorced from the particulars, you must make an effort to be aware of the full context at all times, you cannot allow yourself to confuse ‘killing an armed intruder who seeks to rob you of your wealth’ with ‘killing competitors who seek to defeat you in the marketplace’, the equivocations involved in such comparisons (the modus operandi of the leftist) are the means of cutting your higher mind adrift from the particulars of the moment – allow that, and you are lost.
That is the ‘power’ of evil, not a power to “DO” anything, it can do nothing on it’s own, but to insinuate a breach between your mind and the structure and requirements of reality through your acceptance of it, through your blindly thinking it can be an effective aid towards your values; and with each successive spread of that disintegrating premise, it spreads and widens, until soon the nearly invisible hairline crack, becomes a fissure and finally a fault line that will swallow your entire property.
Back to the future
If instead you taught something like "...here on this spot was the birth point of not only our nation, but of freedom being born into their world and ours, because of what happened here, you and your families ability to live lives of their own choosing and passions and dreams, are possible, and are possible to you here and now..." Following along in that vein, and backing it up, you may begin to catch their attention. But here's the tricky part... although it would of course be more complete, there's no critical need to point out that the first (and perhaps better) settlers in English America landed at Jamestown (and even earlier at the vanished Roanoke), that would be up to an editorial choice based upon available time, etc. But the important Truth of the founding of America could be equally portrayed and conveyed, in focusing upon either location... and later on when more details would be taught, the Truth that had been learned by the student, could be easily expanded to the other location, and others as well. But if only dead textbook facts are trained into memory, no Truth will be grasped, no affection will be felt, and no understanding of America and its importance, would be understood or felt by the student. A blob of stone would be a blob of stone, whether at a parking lot, plymouth rock, the lincoln memorial or the washington monument.
The understanding of historical context and what it meant to our ancestors, of how the ideals and values of freedom animated their lives, and what that still means to us today, and to our children and theirs, THAT is the integrated lesson that should be taught, and when taught in that way, a dull lump of concrete and brick could easily be made to serve as stand-in for Plymouth Rock for busloads of eager children craning their necks for a glimpse of the sacred talisman, for when properly taught, the value and fascination of Plymouth Rock exists within the child, and any material item you offer up to serve as anchor for those ideals, will serve just as well as any other factoid.
That is what is not only missing from our educational system, but what was purposefully removed from it and that is why children ‘educated’ without it, rightly resent diverting their attention from the truly fascinating video game in their hands, for the uninteresting, meaningless lump of stone that has the sign “plymouth rock” slung around it and to which they are drug over to bow towards, for the apparent amusement of their parents and teachers.
That is what is missing from our children, from their education, from the philosophy which forms that education, and from the so-called ‘justice’ we groan under today, and the leading edge of the fissure which we have accepted into our culture, our thinking, and our very selves.
I put it to you, that given two different busloads of students, one set educated to learn your modern educational factoids and led to a rock the size of the rock of Gibralter and told that it was the actual initial footfall for the pilgrims; and the other group educated as I’ve just described, and led to a small three foot grey slab of a stone and told that it was the actual initial footfall for the pilgrims, I put it to you that the first group would groan at having to put down their GameBoy’s to trudge over to the ‘stupid rock’, and the second would toss them aside as soon as the bus came to a full stop, pushing and shoving to be first in line to see Plymouth Rock.
Taking that thought experiment a step further, the first group will grow up to nod and groan at being told that the supreme court will adjust their ‘active liberties’ to the needs of the country and that the supreme court populated with those groan up students, would casually rule that gov’t can seize your property for the ‘greater good’ with little more than a sigh. The second group will want to grab their guns and shout “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death! (the thought experiment has already been performed... those raised prior to 1875, and those raised after)”
If you present kids educated in the modern way with the Lincoln Memorial, why, apart from the fact that it is big, why would they be more impressed with the carved, do nothing but sit there, white stone, than the multi color, lifelike animated world that taunts them with solving their puzzles and tasks against the clock… why?
Children whose education relies upon dry, amateurishly written textbooks (often filled with outright errors or errors of omission) crammed with more fact than meaning, ‘taught’ by teachers reciting from PowerPoint presentations, ‘reported’ upon with ‘graphic organizers’ (oh! How I hate these dumbed down outlines!), quizzed and tested with true/false bubble exams and fill in the blank worksheets, will not only never fill a Childs mind with wonder, reverance or inspiration, but will also never teach the child to organize and express their own thoughts, or ever discover what they mean, or the value of doing so, certainly not in competition with the dazzling graphics of a GameBoy game which does at least allow them to accomplish something of value, even if it is only a high score. And after all, what has a clearer payoff, a high score reflecting the acheivement you've striven for, or a bubble test on memorized facts you couldn't care less about? If effectiveness is the standard of value, then the GameBoy clearly offers the child the more superior payoff.
As Richard Mitchell notes of the narrowing of education,
“"Writing," Bacon said, "Maketh the exact man," as we all know, but we ordinarily stop thinking about that too soon. The "exact" part is only half of what writing makes; the other half is the "man." Writing does indeed make us exact because it leaves a trail of thought that we can retrace and so discover where we have been stupid. At the same time, though, it makes us "men," grown-ups who can choose what toys we want to play with and who can outwit the random suggestions of environment. In his writing, then, we can judge of at least two things in a man--his ability to think and his intention to do so, his maturity. An education that does not teach clear, coherent writing cannot provide our world with thoughtful adults; it gives us instead, at the best, clever children of all ages.”
But educationists revolt at the thought of teaching all of those ‘elitist texts and higher principles’ for reasons of it being so high-fallutin, so undemocratic, and that would be in complete opposition to the whole thrust of modernity and its educational policies which were determined back in that very bad year, 1913. Richard Mitchell describes this so well in the chapter (from his “Graves of Academe”) “The Seven Deadly Principles” , about how a bureaucratic committee of progressives overrode the academic recommendations of an earlier group of scholars (progressives themselves, true, but leavened with the recognizable remnants an earlier ages education), led by Harvard President Charles Elliot, for the curriculum content of those still new institutions called ‘High Schools”. Mitchell digs into how the new committee, containing no scholars, but some community minded school system superintendents, YMCA secretaries and other assorted bureaucrats, which he terms the “Gang of twenty seven”, proceeded to establish the swamp of modern education,
“In the cause of "democratic" public education, the Gang of Twenty-seven compounded illogic with ignorance by deciding that the education proposed by the Eliot committee was primarily meant as "preparation for the college or university." True, relatively few high school graduates of 1913 went on to college; but even fewer had done so in 1893. Indeed, it was just because so few would go on to more education that the Eliot committee wanted so many to have so much in high school. But the Gang of Twenty-seven decided that since very few students would go on to the mastery of a discipline and the rigorous training of the mind in college, which colleges were still fancied to provide in those days, there was little need to fuss about such things in high school. They had far more interesting things to fuss about in any case, their kinds of things. They enshrined them all, where they abide as holy relics of the cult of educationism to this day, in their final report, issued in 1918 (and printed at government expense, like all the outpourings of educationism ever since) as Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.
Cardinal Principles was a small pamphlet, not much larger than The Communist Manifesto or a man's hand. It rejected the elitist and undemocratic education of the dark past and provided in its place "preparation for effective living." It made us the effective livers we are today, and it sends forth every year from our public schools and colleges all those effective livers who will make the future of the nation.
The seven cardinal principles were put forth as the paths to the seven "main objectives of education," which had finally been discovered once and for all after twenty-five hundred years of intellectual floundering. The first of those main objectives was Health. Health. Its primacy is justified by that firm grasp on the obvious that was to become the very foundation stone of educational theorizing: "Health needs cannot be neglected during the period of secondary education without serious danger to the individual and the race." How true. You can't make effective livers out of dead children. And think of the race! Suppose they all die! How then will we get the taxpayers "to secure teachers competent to ascertain and meet the needs of individual pupils and able to inculcate in the entire student body a love for clean sport?"”
Sooo? What does that have to do with Justice?
I’ll put it to you this way, that students who have been trained to be effective in tasks, rather than learning the meaning and principles of what is Good, Beautiful and True, will not only regard the Lincoln Memorial and Plymouth Rock as uninteresting distractions from the engaging tasks compelling them in their GameBoy, they will also regard the reverence of Justice as pretentious distractions and obstructions in the way of just making effective laws to get things done, like using the more modern notions of ‘active liberty’ for adjusting so-called ‘individual rights’ as needed for the benefit of the masses.
Unless that carved stone is filled with meaning, and meaning simply can’t be contained in stone, it must exist within their own minds, it can have no meaning for child, or the adult. But such meaning can only be found within those who have pursued studies in history and literature and philosophy in order to pursue a capital “E” Education, studies which are simply not directly translatable into training kids to attain effective skills useful for earning a living in ‘today’s marketplace’.
Unless that carved stone is filled with meaning, and meaning simply can’t be contained in stone, it must exist within their own minds, meaning which they deeply feel to be interconnected with all that they fully value, which they know to deeply affect their dreams, their very worlds and their futures within it… why, without that meaning being built layer upon layer within their mind, heart and soul, why would they have even the slightest more interest in that cold, unmoving, white stone… than the glistening, moving, urging, GameBoy video game, calling to them as it is, to pursue a task and a score, right there within their hands?
What calls to them?
Which call will they heed?
Where will that call lead them to… within and without?
What will be the Justice resulting from the minds of those trained in choosing what will be most effective, right here and right now, regardless of what would be the right thing to do? Does the question even arise?