Saturday, January 31, 2004

More evidence

"What does higher social justice mean? It means work guaranteed, fair wages, decent homes, it means the possibility of continuous evolution and improvement. Nor is this enough. It means that the workers must enter more and more intimately into the productive process and share its necessary discipline." - Benito Mussolini, The Corporate State

"The Fascist State aims at:
1) the improvement of accident insurance;
2) the improvement and extension of maternity assistance;
3) insurance against occupational diseases and tuberculosis as a step towards insurance against all forms of disease;
5) the adoption of special forms of endowment insurance for young workers" - Benito Mussolini, The Corporate State

"Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself, can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists." - Benito Mussolini, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions

Friday, January 30, 2004

Writing Senior Thesis

As all who were or are history majors know, when you approach the end of your undergraduate work you come to a point where you are required to write a serious historical paper on a given topic in the range of about 20-25 pages buttressed primarily through primary sources.

I am at such a point (therefore cutting into much of my time for other writing) and I have decided to keep everyone who reads this blog up to speed on my evidence findings, and my writing for this senior thesis.

The overall topic of the class I am in is U.S. Involvement in Vietnam. I spent the first week developing a thesis that interested me and I've included it below:

The United States fatally hampered its war effort in Vietnam by not supporting a consistent free alternative to Communist North Vietnam. The reason for this was that American intellectuals and politicians of both parties no longer believed in the ideas that form the basis of a free society (individual rights, capitalism) and did not support or implement policies in South Vietnam consistent with this. If we didn't promote freedom at home, why and how could we even try to do it abroad?

My preliminary research, aside from learning the pertinent facts of the war, has been directed towards American domestic politics. Several quotes already found include,

"We need to strengthen our nation by safeguarding its health. Our working men and women, instead of being forced to ask for help from public charity once they are old and ill, should start contributing now to their own retirement health program through the Social Security System." italics added - John F. Kennedy, Third State of the Union, Jan. 14, 1963.

"Today the potential of the American economy is such that it has become the responsibility of society to delineate and fulfill a far broader range of civil rights than we have provided for in the past." - Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, First Things First: New Priorities for America

"I believe that new American will have, first among his characteristics, the understanding that his capacity for grace - his love and concern for his fellows - is more significant and necessary than an unbridled individualism or an intellect devoid of compassion." - Senator George McGovern, A Time for War A Time for Peace

"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1961.

"Men want to be part of a common enterprise -- a cause greater than themselves. Each of us must find a way to advance the purpose of the nation, thus finding new purpose for ourselves. Without this, we shall become and nation of strangers." - Lyndon B. Johnson, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1965.

"The second third of this century has been a time of proud achievement. We have made enormous strides in science and industry and agriculture. We have shared our wealth more broadly than ever. We have learned at last to manage a modern economy to assure its continued growth." - Richard Nixon, First Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1969.

"In this past third of a century, government has passed more laws, spent more money, initiated more programs, than in all our previous history.

In pursuing our goals of full employment, better housing, excellence in education; in rebuilding our cities and improving our rural areas; in portecting our environment and enhancing the quality of life -- in all these and more, we will and must press urgently forward.

We shall plan now for the day when our wealth can be transferred from the destruction of war abroad to the urgent needs for our people at home." - Richard Nixon, First Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1969.

"We have the chance today to do more than ever before in our history to make life better in America -- to ensure better education, better health, better transportation, a cleaner environment -- to restore respect for law, to make our communities more livable -- and to insure the God-given right of every American to full and equal opportunity." - Richard Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1973.

"But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer to the American people, but what I intend to ask of them ... It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security." - John F. Kennedy, Nomination Acceptance Speech, July 15, 1960.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Watching Iowa Speeches

John Edwards - He set out an American dichotomy, an America of producers and an America of second-handers (my words but his implications), and he supports the second-handers whole heartedly. Loot the productive Americans for everything they have and give it to the bums. My god his rhetoric is disturbing.

Howard Dean - You'd almost think that he'd won. This man's dimentia is unbelievable. He seems to believe that coming in third after being in first for such a long time is a good thing. He claims to want to take the country back for ordinary Americans yet I wonder how he explains the fact that most of the people who have donated to President Bush aren't millionaires but "ordinary" Americans.

Dick Gephardt - Good riddance to you. As to his speech, I wanted the fiddle to play the sad music and bring on the tears. How often does he plan to use the story of his son getting cancer? Ad misercordium fallacies really are crummy when they don't end sadly. Thanks to the labor unions? What an idiot, they already are getting artificially high wages, what more does he want, lamborginis and mansions? Neither of his parents got through high school, he says this as something to be proud of. He's getting out of the race, Democrats are going to win, blah, blah, blah.

John Kerry - First of all, I hate him more for letting that drunken murderer Ted Kennedy introduce him. I like how Kerry doesn't stand for special interests, what are welfare recipients, people who want free healthcare, and has he ever heard of the big dig? He attributes victory to a four leaf clover? What an idiot. I'm sure he's real sorry Gephardt is out, one less guy to steal the limelight. He quotes John Paul Jones for his dopey little political campaign, good comparison. More talk of powerful interests and fairness, does that mean he's going to steal more money from us? Oh no, he's got names of common folk, some baby factory who has a minimum wage job, so sad. He thinks someone who makes $28,000 a year with four kids is middle class? Universal healthcare to improve healthcare? Perhaps he should go to Canada, Britain, France, Scandanavia to see the long lines and fleeing doctors (fleeing to America). What an unadulterated communist this man is. And the dopey crowds lap it up, oh yes, Democracy is a good thing, letting all the poor bums vote.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Michael Jackson is Not Black
By Alexander Marriott January 17, 2004

Sick and tired of hearing about Michael Jackson’s standing in the “black community?” First, the black individuals in America are not a homogenous group of automatons, and second, it used to be racist to refer to a whole group of people based on nothing other that superficial skin pigmentation. Plus there is one other problem, Michael Jackson is not black, he’s white.

Perhaps I’m just insane but every time I’ve seen him on TV lately he’s appeared whiter than me. It is true that once upon a time Michael Jackson was black, but insofar as skin color is based on anything at all, he’s certainly not black anymore. To maintain that he is black is to do deny reality, because the evidence of eyesight tells us that he is not. To maintain that he is black is to maintain that race is based on something other than skin color and bone structures and this is where one slips, necessarily, into racism.

One would have to believe Michael Jackson is somehow black by blood even though he’s white as a sheet, pardon the pun. Such blood racism used to be the realm of segregationists and the Ku Klux Klan, but it is now the open implication of black “leaders” who claim that Michael Jackson is a victim of modern racism. Jackson, who stands like a dream project of the notorious Nazi, Dr. Mengele, is now held up as the prototype victim of white bigots.

This turn toward racist implications is not surprising though considering who Jackson has chosen to associate with. The Nation of Islam is playing an increasingly visible role in Jackson’s security, finances, and legal defense. This is a group of black Muslims who are notoriously racist towards white and Jewish people so it should shock no one that they consider Jackson black even when, clearly, he is not. If this sort of blatant racism were displayed by a white person or supremacist group (for that is what the Nation of Islam is) it would be pointed out quickly by all of the media, but since most, if not all, of the media accepts the racism implied in things like calling Jackson black and multiculturalism the offense goes unnoticed.

Johnnie Cochran, Michael Jackson’s former lawyer and still close confidant, set forward the obvious dictum in the O.J. Simpson trial, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Now we need another obvious dictum, “If he isn’t black, then he’s not black,” and anyone who contends otherwise not only puts irrational importance in race, but is also, by implication, a racist and should be condemned as such.
Possible Reason for Economic Stagnation
By Alexander Marriott January 17, 2004

There has been much uninformed talk of economics lately as the eight Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination run around Iowa and New Hampshire crying about how jobs aren’t been created in the economic recovery and that the recovery in general isn’t going fast enough, despite GDP growth of over 8% recently. Some of that is no doubt due to inflation since the Federal Reserve is printing money like it’s going out of style, but there are other reasons why the economy is taking longer to recover and why jobs aren’t part of the equation.

Task one is to forget and ignore anything you may have heard from any of these eight dingbats. It was only last Sunday that Meet the Press’s Tim Russert passed up an unbelievably dumb comment from Sen. John Kerry to the effect that production in the economy was irrelevant and that jobs were all that mattered. If production were eliminated what would anyone be hired to do?

Task two is to realize that despite the tax cuts the President has engineered and gotten through congress he has not deregulated anything. In fact he imposed an onerous new level of regulations on CEO’s to sign on to the full accuracy of their companies financial statements, or face jail time. Regulations are just as hurtful as taxes and they continue to multiply ad infinitum.

Task three is to remember that the Federal Government isn’t the only government is the country. Fifty separate states within our country make their own policy regarding their own economies. Some have been wisely governed with reductions in government spending and no tax increases, personal, property, or business. But some states have not been so well led, Nevada being one of the not so fortunate. The Nevada State government decided that instead of cutting welfare programs which are a moral abomination upon the productive people of the state, they would raise business taxes to have their cake and eat it too. In such a situation hiring more people, which now costs much more money, is impracticable.

Ultimately, it is the atmosphere the governments in this country create, is it one that encourages and rewards producers with security in knowing they’ll keep what they produce and not be demonized by the government and looted for everything they have and will have? Or is it one that treats them little better than servants, to take the blame for every possible economic downturn and to follow the very numerous and irrational regulations that bureaucrats pass in Washington and the fifty state capitals? Unfortunately, it seems that the country is taking up the mantle of the second option rather than the first. All this will do is ensure that the economy will slowly stagnate into oblivion, with ups and down but the ultimate course fixed downward.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Paying Homage to the Architects of the American Welfare State
By Alexander Marriott 1/13/2004

Would-be defenders of individual rights and liberty, the fundamental ideas of the founding fathers who created the United States of America, have recently decided to pay homage to the Presidents who created the modern American welfare state. I refer of course to people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, scions of the “New Right,” who have recently been unabashed in their admiration of men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy.

This is problematic not only because these three presidents are unworthy of any praise whatsoever, but also because people like Hannity and Limbaugh profess to champion capitalism and limited government, and are often looked to in the media as voices for these two ideas. Even if the praise they heap is not for the economic policies these presidents promoted (though this is not the case) and it is merely because they were “strong on defense” then this too is wrong, for all three were quite the opposite.

Franklin Roosevelt engineered the New Deal in the 1930’s, which was a whole series of works programs, wealth redistribution schemes (Social Security), and new regulatory bodies, all of which did nothing to end the Great Depression. If anything, they and the Federal Reserve kept the recession going far longer than any previous recession in American history. The New Deal was predicated on the belief that it was the government’s right and responsibility to tax and spend the country out of economic woes rather than getting out of the way to let individuals voluntarily interact and cooperate through what ought to have been a relatively short recession.

As to his defense credentials, they are atrocious. Franklin Roosevelt maintained an ambiguous and dishonest foreign policy, declaring neutrality while secretly (a poorly kept secret) supplying countries on the eve and then during hostilities. I don’t disagree with the supply of Great Britain; however the President should have gone to congress to call for the open and proud defending of an ally, rather than maintaining an official lie, as if it were shameful to help England against Hitler’s Germany.

Franklin Roosevelt also paved the way to give the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin all the aid and comfort they could ask for including advanced T-series tanks, food, industrial equipment, and all sorts of other provisions for the Soviet Union to stay alive and threaten the world for forty years after the war’s end.

Finally, Franklin Roosevelt instituted a whole series of unconstitutional rationing, sedition, production, and draft laws which showed everyone, if they weren’t already aware of it, that he was no better than the petty dictators of the world, only he was restrained by congress and an independent legal system. To praise this man for anything, be it defense or his domestic agenda is a slap in the face to all who have ever fought to preserve or secure individual rights and liberty.

The fact that the United States prevailed in the war has nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt. In spite of his best efforts the United States was still the freest country with the freest and most productive industrial base in the world; the only way the United States could have lost would have been for the governments of Moscow and Washington to switch places.

Harry Truman, looking for something to do after the war ended, began a whole new series of economic regulatory programs which he called the Fair Deal. These programs did not stop the recession that happened when the war ended.

His defense credentials are hardly better than his predecessor when you look at the missed opportunities that his limited vision and muddled philosophy let slip by. While it was realized that the Soviet Union wasn’t our friend and shipments of most goods and military equipment ended, the United States had a nuclear supremacy window of three years and a massive army in Europe with which to destroy the Soviet Union, but nothing was done. Instead the United States worked out the Marshall Plan, a mass welfare program for the defeated countries (the idea was that the opposite of the reparations imposed after World War I, in other words the United States paying reparations to the instigators of the war, would be the best way to deal with the defeated opponents) instead of just leaving their economies alone. Truman also worked to set up the United Nations, a body that includes all “legitimate” governments without any rational definition for what that is and without any rational definitions for human rights or international law and letting the worst killing machine the world has ever seen, the Soviet Union, not only into the UN, but into the important of the two bodies that make it up, the Security Council.

To praise this man for anything he did, domestic or foreign, is to ignore his actions and accept the rhetorical propaganda of friendly historians or those who served in his administration. Or it merely means that the people who praise him accept the things he did and reject the ideas of individual rights, limited government, and national defense.

John F. Kennedy deserves more praise than the others because he was forced to deal with all their mistakes. But he created some of his own problems. The Bay of Pigs invasion, while having the admirable goal of getting rid of Fidel Castro’s Communist regime, was poorly thought out and executed even worse. This invasion led Castro to ask for nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union to deter any further acts against him, which he received and became known in history as the Cuban Missile Crises. Luckily Kennedy got himself out of that mess unscathed. Unfortunately, thanks to Roosevelt and Truman, the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons, so the fact that Kennedy didn’t fight them is understandable, but he did begin an escalation of hostilities in Vietnam in which U.S. troops started to participate in active fighting. This wouldn’t have been bad had there been some sort of objective, such as conquering the whole country as opposed to fighting a limited war with spheres of operation where the only goal was to stop communist infiltration of South Vietnam. So while not as terrible as Roosevelt and Truman, Kennedy’s foreign policy was muddled and blunder-filled and it would only get worse under his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

For anyone who claims to represent the ideals and founding principles of the United States, a person who would have to proclaim the inviolability of individual rights, the morality of capitalism, and the reasonableness of limited government; for that person to hold up Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy as great presidents, whether in foreign affairs or domestically, is to deny everything the founding fathers stood for and risked their lives to win. It also cheapens the cause of the founding fathers in modern America, to be grouped with the architects of America’s welfare state, something that is antithetical to what they created and the things they believed.

There are two choices for those on the “New Right.” Either condemn these three and all others like them, regardless of party, as the thieves, charlatans, and statists that they are, or give up the ideas of capitalism and limited government, for the two cannot go together. To force them into a union only ruins those which are good and aggrandizes those which are evil.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Book Review – T.S. Ashton’s The Industrial Revolution
December 3, 2003
By Alexander Marriott

Despite more than a hundred years of condemnations and the harshest ridicule men like Friedrich Engels could hurl at the time period known in Great Britain as the Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) Dr. T.S. Ashton took up the task of restoring, or at least attempting to restore, the good reputation of those changing times. The degree to which he succeeded or failed is what his book should be read for. Does he effectively rebut the whining of Engels over land enclosures? Does he effectively defend the rights, moral or otherwise, of property owners and factory operators? Does he point out the absolute absurdity of those who live in today’s world and continue to insult and condemn the Industrial Revolution? The answers to these questions, among others, are the measure by which one can say he succeeded in his purpose, which was obviously to cast the seventy year time period in a far better and, hopefully, more accurate light than had previously been done.

Land enclosure was the act of large landowners or primary owners (Lords) closing off unused lands known as “commons” because in the feudal period they were allotted to the serfs and peasants as common grazing grounds. Ashton sets out early to retell the story of this process by saying,

"Some writers [Engels] who have dwelt at length on the fate of those who were forced to leave the land have tended to overlook the constructive activities that were being carried on inside the fences. The essential fact about enclosure is that it brought about an increase in the productivity of the soil. There has been much discussion as to whether it led to a decline in the number of cultivators, and some who hold that it did write as though this were a consequence to be deplored. It is a truism, however, that the standard of life of a nation is raised when fewer people are needed to provide the means of subsistence. Many of those who were divorced from the soil (as the stereotyped phrase goes) were free to devote themselves to other activities: it was precisely because enclosure released (or drove) men from the land that it is to be counted among the processes that led to the industrial revolution, with the higher standards of consumption this brought with it." (pg. 20-21)

He essentially is setting out a utilitarian argument for enclosure, i.e. more people were better off for it thus it was good. But such an argument, which was made by 19th century “capitalist” philosophers like Bentham and Mill, is weak for it concedes the morality argument to men like Engels and Karl Marx. The right of ownership had originally and still lied with the primary owners, and therefore any enclosure of the commons was justified as an absolute right to one’s property. To say that the cottagers and vagrants who lived on the edges of communities, often on the commons, had a more prescient right to the land, or to concede this without mentioning it, gives a victory to those who would destroy private property rights entirely. The reasons why Ashton didn’t set forward any other argument, aside from this utilitarian one, will be obvious later on in his book and this review of it.

Does he defend the rights of factory owners? Seemingly he does until he reaches his discussion of Capital and Labor, or Chapter Four, where he concedes major points to labor cartels, again forgetting who has the actual rights in the situation, over who has a made-up “right,” which he entirely ignored in his discussion of land enclosures. To be fair, Ashton does start the chapter off discussing the tremendous benefits that ensued from the increased division of labor that the factory owners spurred and he also credits them with the first road improvements and canals, a job that is allegedly only possible for the government to do. But he soon squanders these points by saying,

"If there had been a properly constituted system of banking much of the difficulty [lack of liquid currency] might have been avoided. There was, it is true, the Bank of England, which had been set up as early as 1694." (pg. 81)

He seems to insinuate that the presence of a government central bank is a good thing for a “properly constituted system of banking.” This, however, is about as far from correct as one can go. A government central bank will only debase the currency, facilitate government corruption (who gets loans?), and cause inflation, but certainly not help the economy in any way in the long run. Oddly, he then goes on to describe the rise and success of private banks built around rich individuals. This development fixed the liquidity crisis England faced without having to run to the central bank, which at that time was kindly oblivious to all of England outside of London.

Ashton then sets himself to discredit the idea that individualism was on the rise in the industrial revolution, his proof being than employers and workers tried to establish cartels throughout the period and that fraternal societies were on the rise. However, these proofs don’t speak to the concept of individualism at all and why Ashton should spend so much time trying to get this idea out of the Industrial Revolution is odd and telling. He then talks of the related idea of Laissez-Faire, at once praising and condemning it,

"The Wealth of Nations gave matchless expression to the thoughts that had been raised in men’s minds by the march of events. It gave logic and system to these. In place of the dictates of the State, it set, as the guiding principle, the spontaneous choices and actions of ordinary men. The idea that individuals, each following their own interest, created laws as impersonal, or at least as anonymous, as those of the natural sciences was arresting. And the belief that these must be socially beneficial quickened the spirit of optimism that was a feature of the revolution in industry.

Experience has taught us, however, that an industrial society needs a framework of public services if it is to operate without social discomfort. Some of Adam Smith’s followers, intoxicated by the new doctrine, were disposed to confine the role of the State to defense and the preservation of order: laisser-faire was extended from the economy to society at large." (pg. 111-112)

Ashton has now slipped into the language of Marx and Engels. What is “social discomfort?” Why should factory owners, or anyone else for that matter, care about this mysterious undefined thing occurring? But, Ashton tells us, it is because of this thing that the state must step in to provide public services which, he seems to be alluding, aren’t an interference in the economic realm. This is impossible though. The government must have money for any “service” it renders and to raise this money a tax of some sort will have to be levied. Any tax, direct or indirect, is an act of interference in the economy. He also seems to think there is something cruel about Laissez-faire, or leaving people alone. But it isn’t cruel to interfere in their lives and take their money away. For Ashton though, the abominable situation of Laissez-faire never occurred,

"But fortunately most Englishmen have too much good sense to walk by the light of abstractions, and the actions of men, as this chapter has shown, were often better than their creeds or their theories." (pg. 112)

He gives himself too much credit and denies the possibility of everything in his book by condemning abstractions and those who walk by their light. The concept of a mixed economy is a series of abstractions as well; all human thought is predicated on being able to look at the evidence of reality and making abstractions from it, to say that following these abstractions is a bad thing is to deny the human mind. He is saying, implicitly, that human action ought to be determined by some emotional, non-rational, altruism rather than the “cold” light of reason. One can almost hear the echo of John Stuart Mill, “We are all socialists now.”

Ashton’s last chapter is much more effectively written and reasoned than chapters four and five, but he suffers from the same reliance on utilitarianism that plagues the entire book. He uses the chapter to answer the cry of modern British, no doubt Labor, politicians who appeal to the Industrial Revolution as a time they are working to get away from, correct, or undo. His last paragraph eloquently states his rebuttal,

"An historian has written of ‘the disasters of the industrial revolution’. If by this he means the years 1760-1830 were darkened by wars and made cheerless by dearth, no objection can be made to the phrase. But if he means that the technical and economic changes were themselves the source of calamity the opinion is surely perverse. The central problem of the age was how to feed and clothe and employ generations of children outnumbering by far those of any earlier time. Ireland was faced by the same problem. Failing to solve it, she lost in the forties about a fifth of her people by emigration or starvation and disease. If England has remained a nation of cultivators and craftsmen, she could hardly have escaped the same fate, and, at best, the weight of a growing population must have pressed down the spring of her spirit. She was delivered, not by her rulers, but by those who, seeking no doubt their own narrow ends, had the wit and resource to devise new instruments of production and new methods of administering industry. There are today on the plains of India and China men and women, plague-ridden and hungry, living lives little better, to outward appearance, than those of the cattle that toil with them by day and share their places of sleep at night. Such Asiatic standards, and such unmechanized horrors, are the lot of those who increase their numbers without passing through an industrial revolution." (pg. 129)

This paragraph is not without error of course. There is an objection to saying, “the disasters of industrial revolution,” for it is an obvious attack upon the processes of industry. If the historian wished to attack the wars or the cheerlessness of dearth then they could have said, “the disasters of the Napoleonic Wars,” or, “the disasters of economic regulation and lack of division of labor.” But Ashton is right to point out the fact that England escaped the horrors of other countries, but he doesn’t identify the reason why, beyond the obvious fact that they had no industrial revolution. It is because England’s government started removing itself from the economic realm that the industrial revolution occurred in England and not Colbert’s France or Bismarck’s Germany.

At the beginning of this review it was stated that the success of Ashton’s book would have to be judged on the basis of how well he answered the oft heard criticisms of the industrial revolution. With this as the criterion it must be said that he both succeeded and failed, but in entirely different ways. He was able to point to evidence, statistics, and records to show that enclosure critiques didn’t drive people out of the country and that there was no mass death as a result of factories. But his attempts to morally obfuscate and deny the minds of men force a utilitarian and almost Marxist morality upon his work. He fails because he agrees with those who hate the Industrial Revolution; laissez-faire is a false hope, reason isn’t “practical,” and that that which benefits the most is the best. These three tenets are needed for the abstraction of a mixed economy and the ultimate slide to socialism and tyranny.