Quotulatiousness

October 5, 2017

Out of Frame: The Real Life Wilson Fisk

Filed under: Government, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:00

Foundation for Economic Education
Published on 5 Oct 2017

Wilson Fisk is one of the most terrifying villains in the Marvel universe. Good thing he’s just fictional, right? Wrong!

In this episode of Out of Frame, we explore the real-life Wilson Fisk, a central planner from America’s not so distant past.

Learn more about Robert Moses and his greatest nemesis, Jane Jacobs at FEE: https://fee.org/articles/jane-jacobs/

The greatest general you’ve probably never heard of

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I missed this article when it was posted in September: Iskander Rehman discusses the life and times of Byzantium’s greatest general, Belisarius:

Belisarius begging for alms. Painting by Jacques-Louis David, 1781.
(Via Wikimedia)

In 1780, the great neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David completed one of his finest works. Entitled “Belisarius Begging for Alms,” the oil painting depicts an aging warrior, blinded with a hand outstretched, seated at the base of a colossal Roman monument. His feet are bare, his beard unkempt, and his armor draped in coarse rags, dull in sheen. A slender walking cane rests to his side, propped against a stone slab bearing the name of a famous former general — Belisario, or Belisarius. A beautiful woman, her face etched in concern, drops a few coins into an upturned helmet, and whispers words of consolation. Her husband, a man in the vigor of youth and full military regalia, is in shock, his arms raised and his mouth open. He has just realized that the stricken veteran is his former commander, the legendary Belisarius himself.

Although his name is not as well known as it once was, Belisarius has long been considered one of history’s finest tacticians. Under the orders of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the sixth century general reclaimed vast tracts of Western Roman territory, from northern Africa to the Italian peninsula. Frequently outnumbered and leading an eclectic grouping of warriors composed of romaioi (Eastern Romans), foederati (Barbarian allies), and ethnikoi (specialist ethnic troops), the Thracian commander greatly expanded the footprint of the Byzantine empire at a time when many thought that Rome’s ancestral lands had been irredeemably lost. The fact that many of these conquests, as we shall see, only proved fleeting, has, if anything, only burnished his myth, transmogrifying the soldier into something of a crepuscular icon — Western Europe’s last great Roman protector before the advent of the so-called Dark Ages.

For Liddell Hart, Belisarius was also the consummate practitioner of the so-called “indirect approach” and the “master of the art of converting his weakness into strength; and the opponent’s strength into a weakness.” T.E. Lawrence, an avid reader of the ancient military classics, considered “the Thracian genius” to be one of “three really first-class Roman generals in history” (the other two being Scipio Africanus and Julius Caesar) and encouraged his friend, Robert Graves, to write the novel Count Belisarius. This piece of historically informed fiction retraces Belisarius’s military campaigns and was much admired by Winston Churchill, who is said to have often turned to it for guidance during the fraught early years of World War II.

Who was the man behind the myth? And why do the tales of Belisarius’s life and military exploits continue to resonate, firing the imaginations of great men from David to Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia? What insights can be gleaned, not only from his campaigns, but from the Eastern Roman Empire’s strategic literature more broadly?

Time to update your political vocabulary for the era of Corbyn

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Spectator, Stephen Daisley provides a great crib sheet to get you up to speed with the new Corbynista words and phrases you need to understand to stay relevant in the Labour Party:

Are you considering a career in Labour politics but fear you may be left behind amid all the exciting changes the party is undergoing?

Maybe you want to be a part of the Jez revolution but can’t get your head around the ever-developing terminology.

Perhaps you are eyeing up a safe seat but aren’t sure which paramilitary cell’s endorsement would most impress the selection panel.

Help is at hand with this guide that takes you through the key terms of Corbynspeak.

Centrist dad: Anyone old enough to remember when Labour was a political party and not an evangelical tent ministry. Owns more than one pair of chinos and only uses Facebook to post ‘FFS’ with links to Owen Jones pieces. Centrist dads just don’t get how politics works in 2017. It’s all about getting people excited by promising to bring change and give them free stuff. That’s never happened before.

Jeremy Corbyn: Substitute father figure for people whose centrist dad didn’t give them enough hugs growing up.

Oh Jeremy Corbyn: The Red Flag for people who don’t know the words to the Red Flag because they only joined the Labour Party five minutes ago.

[…]

Misogyny: It has no place in the Labour Party, save the narrow exception of every woman who has ever disagreed with Jeremy ever.

Slug: Tory. The sort of heartless, racist scum who still hasn’t been convinced to vote for us.

Melt: Blairite. Worse than slugs.

[…]

Racism: Vile prejudice. Totally unacceptable. Victims’ concerns must be taken seriously.

Anti-Semitism: Well, let’s not be hasty. Probably a smear. Victims must be in league with Laura Kuenssberg.

Neoliberalism: The economic arrangements responsible for the laptops, tablets and smartphones Corbynistas use to post memes of Jezza. Also, evil.

Both sides: To blame for terrorism.

Hamas: Not to blame for terrorism.

IRA: They were like Momentum in Ireland or something, right? Pals with Jez. Slugs and melts don’t like them for some reason.

Brexit: A disastrous/progressive/uncertain move, fuelled by xenophobia/working-class discontent/many factors, and is sure to isolate the UK/break up the Brussels capitalist cartel/have an unknown impact. As such, Labour must oppose/lead/express no opinion on the matter. N.B. The party line changes from time to time, so best to avoid taking a clear position. Alternatively, take all three positions at once. Works for Keir Starmer.

Four Reasons Financial Intermediaries Fail

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Japan — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Marginal Revolution University
Published on 26 Jul 2016

As we’ve discussed in previous videos, financial intermediaries bridge savers and borrowers. When these bridges crumble, the effects can be disastrous. For businesses, credit shortages can lead to bankruptcy, or layoffs. For individuals, they rely on credit to invest in education or a new home or car. These negative effects show you how crucial intermediaries are to our lives.

Still, what exactly causes failed intermediation? Four answers:

First, insecure property rights. Simply speaking, when you save money at a bank, you expect the ability to pull out your funds when needed. But what if your deposits are frozen? Or confiscated altogether? For instance, in 2013 amidst a financial crisis, the government in Cyprus confiscated bank deposits to help pay down the country’s budget shortfall. You can see how insecure property rights can scare away potential savers.

Second, controls on interest rates. Interest rates are the price of borrowing. Thus, controls on interest rates, often called usury laws, are effectively price ceilings—they set the interest rate lower than the market equilibrium interest rate. With this forced lowering of interest rates, borrowers will want to borrow more, but lenders won’t want to lend. The effect? A lending shortage.

Third, politicized lending. Banks profit by assessing risk, and then loaning, based on that assessment. Banks that excel at assessment succeed. Those poor at it die out. Problems arise when the government intervenes to prop up failing banks, resulting in what we call “zombie banks.” In such cases, intervention undercuts normal competition, and intervention tends to favor banks that are politically connected. In fact, it’s been shown that there’s an inverse correlation between government ownership in banks and a country’s GDP per capita and productivity growth.

Fourth, you have runs, panics, and scandals. Remember, trust is vital to the financial system. When trust erodes, depositors may rush to withdraw their money from banks, causing what is known as a “bank run.” This can cause banks to fail, as we saw during the Great Depression. Scandals can also depress market confidence. Enron, WorldCom and Bernie Madoff may come to mind.

So, which of these four factors contributed to the Great Recession of 2008?

We’ll discuss that in our next video.

QotD: Legalizing drugs

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is not the business of the State to tell adults what to do with themselves, or how they interact with other consenting adults. Where drugs are concerned, any disadvantages in leaving people alone are greatly outweighed by the costs of the War on Drugs, which has reduced large parts of the world to violent chaos, and corrupted every law enforcement agency involved in fighting it, and been made an excuse for the destruction of due process rights in England and America.

Sean Gabb, quoted in “Wayne John Sturgeon talks to Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance”, Sean Gabb, 2013-08-26.

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