Quotulatiousness

August 3, 2017

QotD: Improved quality of life doesn’t always show up in GDP figures

Filed under: Business, Economics, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

We economists marvel, too, but we also wonder how free apps fit into GDP. They do have their long-run downside, as we forget how to read maps and plot routes ourselves. (Anybody out there remember how to work a slide rule? No? That’s not a loss for computation but it does mean lower average numeracy.) But in the short run they save billions of hours in wrong turns not taken and trillions of cells of stomach lining no longer eaten up by travel anxiety. Not to mention their entertainment value.

But hardly any of that very big upside shows up in GDP. In one respect, in fact, GDP goes down. I used to buy maps, including travel atlases. I’m unlikely to do that anymore. Maps purchased by consumers are a “final good or service” and thus do enter into GDP. Maps I interact with online but don’t pay for aren’t GDP. So well-being has gone up — a lot — as a result of Google Maps. But GDP may well have gone down.

In fact, apps do produce some GDP. Google sustains itself in part by selling ads, including to retailers and restaurants looking to pay for prominent mention on its map display. Its ad revenue is an intermediate input into GDP. Many of the entities buying Google ads are in the business of selling “final goods or services” and if they’re money-making, the prices of their goods have to cover the cost of their ads. So by that circuitous route the “value” of the apps does end up in GDP.

But what’s the relationship between what advertisers pay for my eyeballs and the value of the app to me? The two are not completely unrelated. The more I use the app the more I’m likely to buy the advertised products, presumably. But in practice, the probability of my buying is pretty small while my benefit from the app is pretty big. How strange that miracle apps can change our lives but not our GDP.

William Watson, “How using Google Maps on your summer road trip messes with the GDP”, Financial Post, 2017-07-18.

August 2, 2017

QotD: The fundamental problem of the Middle East

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Western media and intelligentsia don’t seem to have a clue that the issues in the Middle East are not related to competing political ideologies, but to competing religious tribalism.

The ongoing conflicts throughout the region, and in other parts of the world, are not about democracy versus monarchy; or fascism versus communism; or imperialism versus freedom. Or indeed any of the other childish ideologies Western journalists fell in love with during their undergraduate post-modernist deconstructionalist courses by failed ex-Trotsky’s, who simply can’t accept that the last century has proven how appalling and basically evil their over-simplistic ideologies are. (Yes Comrade Corbyn, that’s you and your gushing twitteratti I am slamming!)

In fact the problem in the Muslim world is that they are entering the third decade of the Muslim Civil War.

The Sunni’s and Shia’s are at about the point that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were at in Europe in the 1620’s to 30’s, and it is only going to get worse. That war was ideological, and paid very little attention to national boundaries. This one is the same. The Christian 30 Years War is about to be repeated in a Muslim civil war, and 30 years might be an optimistic number.

Interestingly the Christian’s split over 3 or four centuries, into Orthodox and Roman, then split again into Albigensian and Protestant etc. Eventually it got to the point, after 14 or 15 centuries of slow development, that major conflict broke out. Is it co-incidence that the Muslims have followed a similar path? Is it inevitable that after 14 or 15 centuries of existence, they too are having a major internal conflict? Or is it just that a century of renewed prosperity and development (largely brought on by Western intrusion into their secular affairs) has given them the semi-educated proto-middle class who traditionally stir up revolutionary stuff they don’t understand?

Whatever the reasons, stupid Westerners are eventually going to have to admit to a few realities:

  1. No matter how much you fantasise about the functionality of republics and democracy, you can’t impose systems that don’t work in places that don’t have the necessary pre-requisites.
  2. No matter how much literacy or free press you do manage to push in, you can’t impose rule of law and understanding of natural law on societies that have very specifically rejected such concepts for 8 or 9 centuries.
  3. No matter how much your secularist ideologies (developed from safely behind 2 millennia of Christian teaching that accepts rule of law and natural law) is offended, you cannot expect a similar acceptance from people whose cultural development of such beliefs is several centuries behind the West.
  4. No matter what you want to believe, the Muslim civil war is happening.

Let’s hope we really are at least half way through the 30 years…

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

August 1, 2017

QotD: NFL preseason game passion and intensity

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The NFL pre-season is getting underway, with teams using their matchups to assess the rookies and free agents who all hope to make the team. The Vikings played the Arizona Cardinals in Minnesota on Saturday night. The new coach of the Cardinals was formerly the head coach of the Vikings. The Cardinals had a last-second, fourth-down, desperation play in the last regular season game which knocked the Vikings out of the playoff race. There was thought to be plenty of incipient drama to this game. This article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about the lack of excitement in the game:

    Last and best sign it’s the preseason: The Vikings were offside on a fourth-quarter kickoff. Twice. In succession.

Reposted from the old blog (no longer online), 2004-08-15.

July 31, 2017

QotD: Naming Mount McKinley as an amusing “up yours” gesture

Filed under: Economics, History, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Just one thing makes me regret the change. “Mount McKinley” was originally named as a amusing “up yours” gesture with which I have enormous sympathy.

The story told by the prospector who pinned the moniker on the mountain is that he had crossed paths in the wilds of Alaska with two advocates of “free silver.” This was a political craze that, like the Dreyfus Affair or the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, took over an entire civilization for a while, but now defies easy explanation. The “silverites” were Western populists and farmers who wanted silver to be accepted as currency and minted into coin “freely” by the government, as gold then was — but at a face price far above silver’s market value. This would have expanded the money supply explosively, letting the chronically indebted off the hook.

Most economists now regard the silverites as having had a ridiculous answer to real problems with a gold standard. But the important point is that the prospector, Frank Dickey, ran into classic monetary cranks of a type that still exists. And he had done so in a unique situation which permitted no immediate escape. One shudders upon envisioning such a hell.

Dickey got so tired of his companions’ laborious tirades — one imagines them arguing with him long, long after he had stopped arguing back — that when they ran across an impressive mountain, he immediately decided to name it after the new presidential nominee McKinley, Great Satan of the silverites. As the Secretary of the Interior’s Order No. 3337 points out, William McKinley never visited or had any other connection with the mountain, or with Alaska. He was, for Dickey’s purposes, a punchline.

Colby Cosh, “Mount McKinley was a most amusing ‘up yours’ aimed at monetary cranks”, National Post, 2015-09-01.

July 30, 2017

QotD: Orwell on climate change since Shakespeare’s day

Filed under: Britain, Environment, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To the lovers of useless knowledge (and I know there are a lot of them, from the number of letters I always get when I raise any question of this kind) I present a curious little problem arising out of the recent Pelican, Shakespeare’s England. A writer named Fynes Morrison, touring England in 1607, describes melons as growing freely. Andrew Marvell, in a very well-known poem written about fifty years later, also refers to melons. Both references make it appear that the melons grew in the open, and indeed they must have done so if they grew at all. The hot-bed was a recent invention in 1600, and glass-houses, if they existed, must have been a very great rarity. I imagine it would be quite impossible to grow a melon in the open in England nowadays. They are hard enough to grow under glass, whence their price. Fynes Morrison also speaks of grapes growing in large enough quantities to make wine. Is it possible that our climate has changed radically in the last three hundred years? Or was the so-called melon actually a pumpkin?

George Orwell, “As I Please”, Tribune, 1944-11-03.

July 29, 2017

QotD: Imposing “democracy”

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To be fair, the British set up monarchies, in the hope that they would become constitutional monarchies (which were their experience of something that might actually get somewhere). Jordan seems to be succeeding; the Gulf states are so successful few want to change; and Egypt was derailed by the Soviets and Americans playing Cold War games. The French tried to set up republics (god knows why, their’s [had] never worked) in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and other places. In the words of Dr Phil, ‘How’s that working out for you?’. The Americans successfully undermined the Egyptian and Iranian attempts to get constitutional monarchies off the ground, and celebrated the resulting republics… very briefly. The second in particular no longer looks a very clever move.

The latest American attempts to force republics on Afghanistan and Iraq have been absolute disasters.

Afghanistan might, might… have worked if the Americans had understood that such a tribalised society required a House of Lords of all the powerful tribal leaders and major clerics, to balance [the] elected representatives. (But of course it would still need some sort of monarch to make it work, because, as Machiavelli pointed out, you need 3 powers in balance, so any two can stop the third from dominating!).) Or they could just have a system where the two major components completely ignore each other while they compete for control, and leave an easy opening for the return of the Taliban.

Iraq might, might… have worked with a federal system of at least a dozen ethnically based states that each had two representatives to a senate that had the right to block the excesses of an elected house where a 50% majority could get revenge on everyone else for every slight since the death of the prophet. Or they could go for a more simplistic version of a republic, and get what they inevitably got.

Why couldn’t the Americans have kept their big fat ideologies out of it, as they largely did after the first Gulf War. Kuwait is no great shining beacon, but it doesn’t suffer from the American idealism that lead to Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Iran!

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 28, 2017

QotD: Soviet agitprop still echoes today

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue. In this way of thinking, when we surrender our well-being to others we store up grace in Heaven that is far more important than the momentary discomfort of submitting to criminals, predatory governments, and terrorists.

The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally superior to non-suicidalists.

They did this so successfully that at least one major form of Western self-abnegation seems to have developed as a secondary phenomenon: “deep environmentalism”. I can’t find any sign that this traces back to the usual Stalinist suspects, but it is rather obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but to species.

I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.

Eric S. Raymond, “Suicidalism”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-13.

July 27, 2017

QotD: The Blitz

Filed under: Britain, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

And now this stage set was illumined by incendiary bombs — their white glowings as they came down, their yellow flashes, and the rings of fire from the buildings they’d ignited. And the barrage balloons, shining bright and pink, in the clouds of pink smoke from artillery and flares. And the aircraft themselves, glowing pink, in their remorseless parade — giving the illusion they were close enough to touch. And through it all, here and there, an opening in this shroud, and a star twinkling; an old familiar star.

Seventy-five years ago; three generations. Here, you can mark them off with a ruler: 1965, 1990, 2015. And soon, not one living to remember. …

And the noise of the explosions, and the grinding of the aeroplane propellers, as if they were churning through the sea; the lady heard all this. Heard the sirens, the sirens, the sirens; heard the “all clear.” And everywhere the shouts of firemen, and of the working-class heroes in the cratered streets, dousing the flames with dirt and sand.

“It was so beautiful.”

From September to May, it was like this almost every night, and often in the daytime. It became a routine: “Oh bother, it’s the Luftwaffe again.” Fear was in the air, but compressed under boredom, and sometimes in the heat of it the fear went away. “How long can they keep this up?” Perhaps, forever.

One night, an odd thing happened. A row of old tenements came flopping down like cards, but one plumbing column remained standing. There was a man sitting on the toilet at the top, with his trousers at his knees. It was ludicrously comic. In the middle of all this pain and death, people saw him and chuckled. Somehow, eventually, he slithered down the pipes, leaping into arms as the column tilted over. Made a joke of it, the man did, when he saw his wife alive; said he was thinking about complaining to the landlord.

And people were emerging everywhere from the rubble — bloody and hurt, though patient and good-willed. Others digging, frenetically for the most part. Only names on their lips, but tears in their eyes; expecting to find corpses. “The bricklayer sounds,” the crunch of plaster, the creak of joists. But no screaming, with so much work to do. Ears being used as stethoscopes.

“We were all trying to be British,” the lady said. “One mustn’t get it started. One mustn’t be the first to wail.”

Bodies coming up from the ground; people suddenly standing. It was the end of the world, and she was watching the resurrections.

David Warren, “Seen & unseen”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-10-08.

July 26, 2017

QotD: From local private charity to national government social program

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Government, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In a small town, the impulse to assist the poor and disorganized was direct, and the people being helped were known to everyone. Big cities with their concentrated slums of poor immigrants led to social service agencies, funded at first by churches and cities, and then by state and federal governments. As the source of the assistance became impersonal, so did the aid — and the direct contact between those assisting and those assisted declined. Instead of the local church matrons with their bourgeois ideas of proper behavior and work, harassed social workers with enormous caseloads processed cases quickly, and the ideology of government assistance changed so that any behavioral expectation of the client population was viewed as an affront to their dignity.

In time, the government assistance ethos spread to every corner of the country and crowded out the local community services. Meanwhile, locally-controlled schools were gradually taken over by higher levels of government and distant union bureaucracies so that the influence of local parents was minimized. This was viewed as “progressive,” since distant elites thought local school boards and parents were too parochial and backward to be entrusted with decisions, and would get in the way of teaching the correct materials.

The incorrect application of emotions of sympathy and support to faceless categories of people like “the poor” and “the undocumented” removes any possibility of understanding the real situations of each of the category’s members. A hazy idealized poor family is envisioned, then a response that would be appropriate if that family lived next door (help them!) leads to voting for politicians that offer new programs to help “people like that.” By misapplying family and community feelings to higher levels of government, voters put into place a bureaucracy that misses most of the social signalling features of local groups and takes tax money to grow itself, crowding out local groups (and the valuable social signals that maintained bourgeois standards.)

Jeb Kinnison, “Real-life ‘Hunger Games'”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-25.

July 25, 2017

QotD: The republican form of government

Filed under: Government, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… it IS possible to have a Res Publica – by the people – government, but only as long as it is by the ‘deserving’ few. The worst excesses of these proto-democracies can be undercut by an extreme limiting of the franchise – preferably to an effective oligarchy of voters narrow enough to be more self-interested in keeping control against the uneducated and undisciplined rule of the genuine majority, but this is hard to achieve. The Serene Republic of Venice achieved it for almost a thousand years by limiting the franchise to the great and the good families, and the early United States managed to hold it together for about 90 years by limiting it by racial profiling as well as property franchise… but note that both were, like all the Greek and Roman republics, slave based societies: so their claims to be genuine democracies are hopelessly confused to anyone with a consistent or comprehensible ideological viewpoint. In their case ‘the people’ simply meant, the deserving few that we will allow to vote.

This limiting of the franchise to the deserving actually continues in very successful – one could even say the ONLY successful – republics of the modern world. The ancient Greek and Roman franchises were honestly based on ‘those who contribute get a say’. Contribution at that time being buying the expensive armour yourself, putting in the training time, and taking the risk in the front lines of battle: to prove you put the good of the state and your fellow citizens above your own interests. (Though it is notable that their Republics almost instantly graduated to imperialistic and aggressive expansion, which pretty quickly made republican government unworkable, and inevitably led to such champions of democracy as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.)

The only long term successful modern Republic – Switzerland – still has compulsory military service; as does Israel, the only successful democracy ever established in the Middle East.

The other ways to limit the franchise – Like the first (1770’s), second (1860’s) and third (1880’s) American attempts of a franchise limited by race/property; or the first (1790’s), second (1820’s) or third (1860’s) French attempts at a property-based franchise (which often saw as few as 20% of people with a vote): were actually much less successful than the equivalent slow Westminster-style expansions of the franchise under a developing constitutional monarchy. (No Western Westminster system state has ever had a coup, let alone a civil war.) France has had 5 republics, 3 monarchies and 2 emperors in less than 200 years; and the United States has similarly run through several major reformations of their race/property franchise system since their – 600,000 dead – little debate about their system.

(The American comparison with France is amusing. The first American republic was smashed by the Confederate Defection; the second was an anti-democratic imposition on the South – with no voting rights for Confederate ‘activists’ – after the Confederacy War of Independence was crushed; the third ‘republic’ was when the white southerners were re-enfranchised and promptly disenfranchised the blacks who had been the only voters in the south for the previous 20 years – and whose elected black representatives had not been allowed in the front door or the dining rooms of Congress; the fourth republic… well you get the idea. The US system, with all its defections, jumps and retreats, simply can’t be called a continuously expanding development the way Westminster systems are.)

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 24, 2017

QotD: Salvador Dali, in his own words

Filed under: Books, Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here, then, are some of the episodes in Dali’s life, from his earliest years onward. Which of them are true and which are imaginary hardly matters: the point is that this is the kind of thing that Dali would have liked to do.
When he is six years old there is some excitement over the appearance of Halley’s comet:

    Suddenly one of my father’s office clerks appeared in the drawing-room doorway and announced that the comet could be seen from the terrace… While crossing the hall I caught sight of my little three-year-old sister crawling unobtrusively through a doorway. I stopped, hesitated a second, then gave her a terrible kick in the head as though it had been a ball, and continued running, carried away with a ‘delirious joy’ induced by this savage act. But my father, who was behind me, caught me and led me down in to his office, where I remained as a punishment till dinner-time.

A year earlier than this Dali had ‘suddenly, as most of my ideas occur,’ flung another little boy off a suspension bridge. Several other incidents of the same kind are recorded, including (this was when he was twenty-nine years old) knocking down and trampling on a girl ‘until they had to tear her, bleeding, out of my reach.’

When he is about five he gets hold of a wounded bat which he puts into a tin pail. Next morning he finds that the bat is almost dead and is covered with ants which are devouring it. He puts it in his mouth, ants and all, and bites it almost in half.

When he is an adolescent a girl falls desperately in love with him. He kisses and caresses her so as to excite her as much as possible, but refuses to go further. He resolves to keep this up for five years (he calls it his ‘five-year plan’), enjoying her humiliation and the sense of power it gives him. He frequently tells her that at the end of the five years he will desert her, and when the time comes he does so.

Till well into adult life he keeps up the practice of masturbation, and likes to do this, apparently, in front of a looking-glass. For ordinary purposes he is impotent, it appears, till the age of thirty or so. When he first meets his future wife, Gala, he is greatly tempted to push her off a precipice. He is aware that there is something that she wants him to do to her, and after their first kiss the confession is made:

    I threw back Gala’s head, pulling it by the hair, and trembling with complete hysteria, I commanded:
    ‘Now tell me what you want me to do with you! But tell me slowly, looking me in the eye, with the crudest, the most ferociously erotic words that can make both of us feel the greatest shame!’
    Then Gala, transforming the last glimmer of her expression of pleasure into the hard light of her own tyranny, answered:
    ‘I want you to kill me!’

He is somewhat disappointed by this demand, since it is merely what he wanted to do already. He contemplates throwing her off the bell-tower of the Cathedral of Toledo, but refrains from doing so.

During the Spanish Civil War he astutely avoids taking sides, and makes a trip to Italy. He feels himself more and more drawn towards the aristocracy, frequents smart salons, finds himself wealthy patrons, and is photographed with the plump Vicomte de Noailles, whom he describes as his ‘Maecenas.’ When the European War approaches he has one preoccupation only: how to find a place which has good cookery and from which he can make a quick bolt if danger comes too near. He fixes on Bordeaux, and duly flees to Spain during the Battle of France. He stays in Spain long enough to pick up a few anti-red atrocity stories, then makes for America. The story ends in a blaze of respectability. Dali, at thirty-seven, has become a devoted husband, is cured of his aberrations, or some of them, and is completely reconciled to the Catholic Church. He is also, one gathers, making a good deal of money.

George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali”, Saturday Book for 1944, 1944.

July 23, 2017

QotD: Australian aboriginal languages

Filed under: Australia, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Little moments like that kept adding up, incrementally nudging me away from leftism but not yet to full conversion. In 1988, watching a John Pilger documentary with lefty friends, another such moment occurred.

Pilger, as usual, was complaining about colonialism and racism and Aboriginal injustice, so naturally we — uniformly white, urban and privileged — were lapping it up. The documentary then shifted to the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga in South Australia, where seven British bombs were detonated in the 1950s and 1960s. Pointing to a sign warning of radiation danger, Pilger observed mournfully that it was written in several languages — “but not in the Aboriginal language”.

Startled by this claim, I looked around the room. Everyone was silent, including a few who had studied Aboriginal history in considerable depth, and so must have known that Pilger’s line was completely wrong. So I just said it: “There is no single Aboriginal language. And no Aboriginal language has a written form.”

I didn’t last long with that bunch of friends, either. Small note to self: my comrades will deny even their own knowledge if it runs counter to a preferred leftist version of events.

Tim Blair, “The Setting of Their Leftist Suns”, Quadrant, 2017-06-17.

July 22, 2017

QotD: Middle-class “revolutionaries”

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

‘Revolutions’ tend to kick off way before the society as a whole is really ready for them. Usually as pre-emptive takeover attempts by the newly educated middle class ‘intelligentsia’, (or chattering class as we would call them, or ‘twitteratti’ as I have recently heard the political ‘pundits’ ruthlessly described).

Unsurprisingly these newly graduated minor functionaries, petty civil servants, and junior lawyers, want more say in the power structure of the state than the traditional ruling class has previously allowed them. Unsurprisingly – I suppose – they want it immediately… Or as Billy Connelly said in a skit, “We want it now, we want it yesterday, we want to control half of that, most of that, f….ing ALL of that, and stay awake, because tomorrow the demands will change!”

The problem with the proto middle classes jumping the gun and trying to impose their idealized version of democracy before the working class (read average voter) is even half way down the trail to a similar level of literacy and political interest and philosophical conceptualization: is that the resulting mad theories are far too complex for the voters, and NO imagined safe-guard can stand up to the combined ignorance and misunderstanding of the newly enfranchised. The result is, absolutely inevitably, a dictatorship.

Either one of the theoretical loony models is seized by a corrupt power seeker ‘for the good of the people’, and away we go to a Mussolini, or a Stalin, or a Franco, or a Gaddafi, or a Castro, or a… well the list would go to a couple of hundred in the last century. Or worse, it is seized by the much more restricted number of ‘genuine believer’ nutters: like the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, who (like Hitler, Petain and Mao) honestly believed that the only way to give the people the government they deserved was “to rule myself!”

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 21, 2017

QotD: Anachronistic “Regency” romances

Filed under: Books, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Which brings us to a discussion about romances, yesterday. Like apparently most people who read Regencies I’ve become aware of a tendency for them to read more and more like modern romances than like something set in that time.

Someone nailed it for me by pointing out that female characters have been getting more modern. For instance, they will do things like not want to marry UNTIL they have sexual experience, so they’ll be engaged and go out to find someone to sleep with them: in a time without either contraceptives or antibiotics and in a time when a unwed pregnancy would ruin not only the woman but all her relatives.

Or they rebel against being the one who was supposed to marry to make the family fortunes. I’m not saying a woman might not wish to marry someone else rather than make the family fortunes, but it would present in her own mind not as resentment to lifting the family out of debt, but as “I’m madly in love with the stable boy.” or whatever. And if a woman was thoroughly opposed to [being] married, it often manifested (at least in Catholic countries, granted, not England) as a “vocation.” What it didn’t manifest as was “I want to pursue a career.” Women married, or if they were unmarried stayed around the house helping with the nephews and the running of the house. If they had the means they might set up household with a companion. But only the poor worked, (even for men “having to” work was a downcheck on status.) If you were a governess or a nurse, it wasn’t for a “career” but because you were desperate.

Oh, and please save me from all the women running philanthropic organizations. While there were of course a number of these run by women, it wasn’t every other woman as seems to be in today’s regency romances. And charities for unmarried mothers would be very heavy on the preaching and getting them to give the baby up for adoption. Not telling them they’ve done nothing wrong and “affirming” their choices. Again, no contraceptives, no antibiotics. Sex and its consequences were serious business PARTICULARLY for women who make more of an investment in reproduction.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “What Has Gone Before Us”, According to Hoyt, 2015-08-03.

July 20, 2017

QotD: Who was Epicurus?

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

Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher who claimed the cosmos was eternal and merely material, made up of atoms and void. Yet, breaking with his predecessor Democritus, he considered the universe indeterminate. In the realm of ethics, Epicurus taught that the purpose of human life was the pursuit of happiness, which could be achieved by the measured study of the natural world and adherence to a prudent and temperate hedonism.

He counseled men not to fear their own death, saying,

    Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.

He considered friendship as the utmost means of securing wisdom, saying,

    Friendship dances around the world, bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness…The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing we have to fear is eternal or even of long duration, also enables us to see that in the limited evils of this life nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.”

He advised men to avoid vain ambitions such as the pursuit of fame, exorbitant wealth, and political power for their own sake. Rather, he thought wise men would be “strong and self-sufficient” and “take pride in their own personal qualities not in those that depend on external circumstances.”

To Epicurus, pain is a natural evil, pleasure a natural good, with the ultimate pleasure being the absence of bodily pain and tranquility of the mind. From his Letter to Menoeceus:

    When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

Nevertheless, because Epicurus claimed the ultimate aim of happiness is to find pleasure – and not virtue or knowledge unto themselves – many of his contemporaries and later critics would uncharitably accuse him of advocating debauchery, one even saying he “vomited twice a day from over-indulgence,” and that his understanding of philosophy and life in general was wanting.

One might hear the very same smear today from mainstream American partisans in regard to libertarians, i.e. that liberty lovers are simply “pot-smoking republicans” or libertines who barely understand life and are too drunk on utopian dreams to see clearly. In this same vein, many reproached Epicurus (as they do of libertarians today) for his aloof stance on politics as apathetic and his notion of justice as too transactional.

“Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit,” writes Epicurus in his Principal Doctrines, “to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.” Elsewhere he writes, “We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.”

Accordingly, Epicurus set up his own school, “The Garden,” where he offered philosophy to anyone, even women and slaves – an unheard of practice at the time, which many contemporary critics saw as proof of his penchant for depraved behavior. Why else would one invite women and slaves into one’s abode other than revelry? Was he actually going to talk to them about ideas?

Thankfully, we have Diogenes Laërtius to defend Epicurus from his detractors:

    But these people are stark mad. For our philosopher has numerous witnesses to attest his unsurpassed goodwill to all men – his native land, which honored him with statues in bronze; his friends, so many in number that they could hardly be counted by whole cities, and indeed all who knew him, held fast as they were by the siren-charms of his doctrine…the Garden itself which, while nearly all the others have died out, continues for ever without interruption through numberless successions of one director after another; his gratitude to his parents, his generosity to his brothers, his gentleness to his servants, as evidenced by the terms of his will and by the fact that they were members of the Garden…and in general, his benevolence to all mankind. His piety towards the gods and his affection for his country no words can describe. He carried his modesty to such an excess that he did not even enter public life.

Joey Clark, “What Epicurus Can Teach Us about Freedom and Happiness”, Foundation for Economic Education, 2016-10-18.

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