Quotulatiousness

September 18, 2017

QotD: …of (some of) the people, by (some of) the people…

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations — 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 a 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.

August 24, 2017

Teaching history in the South – the “Lost Cause” school of historiography

Filed under: Education, History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Warren Meyer gives some background on how most people in the Southern US were taught the history of the “War Between the States”:

The Lost Cause School: I want to provide some help for those not from the South to understand the southern side of the statue thing. In particular, how can good people who believe themselves not to be racist support these statues? You have to recognize that most folks of my generation in the South were raised on the lost cause school of Civil War historiography. I went to one of the great private high schools in the South and realized later I had been steeped in Lost Cause. All the public schools taught it. Here is the Wikipedia summary:

    The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, or simply Lost Cause, is a set of revisionist beliefs that describes the Confederate cause as a heroic one against great odds despite its defeat. The beliefs endorse the virtues of the antebellum South, viewing the American Civil War as an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life, while minimizing or denying the central role of slavery. While it was not taught in the North, aspects of it did win acceptance there and helped the process of reunifying American whites.

    The Lost Cause belief system synthesized numerous ideas into a coherent package. Lost Cause supporters argue that slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War, and claim that few scholars saw it as such before the 1950s. In order to reach this conclusion, they often deny or minimize the writings and speeches of Confederate leaders of the time in favor of later-written revisionist documents. Supporters often stressed the idea of secession as a defense against a Northern threat to their way of life and say that threat violated the states’ rights guaranteed by the Union. They believed any state had the right to secede, a point strongly denied by the North. The Lost Cause portrayed the South as more profoundly Christian than the greedy North. It portrayed the slavery system as more benevolent than cruel, emphasizing that it taught Christianity and civilization. In explaining Confederate defeat, the Lost Cause said the main factor was not qualitative inferiority in leadership or fighting ability but the massive quantitative superiority of the Yankee industrial machine.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia (via Wikimedia)

Obviously this was promoted by the white supremacists after the war, but in the 20th century many well-meaning people in the South who are not racist and by no means want to see a return of slavery or Jim Crow still retain elements of this story, particularly the vision of the Confederacy as a scrappy underdog. But everything in these two paragraphs including the downplaying of slavery in the causes of the Civil War was being taught when I grew up. It wasn’t until a civil war course in college (from James McPherson no less, boy was I a lucky dog there) that I read source material from the time and was deprogrammed.

The comparisons of the current statue removal to Protestant reformation iconoclasm seem particularly apt to me. You see, growing up in the South, Confederate generals were our saints. And the word “generals” is important. No one I knew growing up would think to revere, say, Jefferson Davis. Only the hard-core white supremacists revered Jefferson Davis. Real lost cause non-racist southerners revered Robert E. Lee. He was our Jesus (see: Dukes of Hazard). Every town in the south still has a Robert E Lee High School. Had I not gone to private school, I would have gone to Houston’s Lee High (I had a friend who went to college at Lehigh in New Jersey. Whenever he told folks in the South he went there, they would inevitably answer “yes, but where did you go to college.”) So Lee was by far and away at the top of the pantheon. Then you had folks like Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart who were probably our Peter and Paul. Then all the rest of the generals trailing off through the equivalents of St. Bartholomew or whoever. We even had a Judas, General James Longstreet, who for a variety of reasons was reviled by the Lost Cause school and was blamed for many of Lee’s, and the South’s, losses.

If you want to see the Southern generals the way much of the South sees them, watch the movie Gettysburg, which I like quite a bit (based on the book Killer Angels, I believe, also a good read). The Southern Generals are good, talented men trying to make the best of a losing cause. Slavery is, in this movie, irrelevant to them. They are fighting for their beloved homes in the South, not for slavery. The movie even has Longstreet saying something like “we should have freed the slaves and then fired on Fort Sumter.”

The movie Gettysburg is excellent, but if you don’t know much about the actual battle, you might end up thinking the entire conflict revolved around the 20th Maine…

July 3, 2017

Meet the Romans with Mary Beard 3/3 – HD

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

Published on 16 May 2013

1. All Roads Lead to Rome
2. Street life
3. Behind Closed Doors

June 24, 2017

The Articles of Confederation – Lies – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Government, History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Jun 17, 2017

The Articles of Confederation gave the United States their name, but even beyond that, they exposed many of the issues that would underlie this new nation for the rest of its history. James Portnow interviews series writer Soraya Een Hajji about the Articles of Confederation!

May 24, 2017

QotD: The evil of political correctness

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

PC [political correctness] represents, in essence, the institutionalisation of dishonesty, of deception, where people are given carte blanche to behave in an immoral way — ‘erect those fences, release the dogs, deport those people’ — but are encouraged to make it all seem nice and ‘non-hostile’. It brings to mind Wilde’s observation in his essay ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’, that ‘the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it’. So today, the worst people in politics are those who are nice about the individuals they repress, whether it’s British politicians whose policies keep migrants in degrading limbo in Calais yet who insist everybody use nice words when talking about those migrants, or American army officials who kill Afghans yet demand that their soldiers write only PC, gay-friendly messages on the bombs that do the killing (as, remarkably, happened during the Afghan War).

Some apologists for PC describe it as simply ‘being nice’: ‘institutionalised politeness’. There’s nothing remotely nice about PC. It is the friendly slave-owner; it suppresses open, honest discussion; it obfuscates the divisions and tensions in modern society through stymying the expression of certain ideas; it is the ornate lid on a society which, however civil we make our speech, remains fractured, sometimes tense, packed with clashing interests that will never be resolved by niceness. Whether PC is being used as a glossy cover for brutal policies, as in the case of Calais, or is being used to justify anew old racial and gender divisions, as it does when it demands that we recognise and celebrate the alleged differences between blacks and whites and between men (competitive) and women (consensual), PC is a tool of censorship and conservatism, its chief accomplishment being the repression of difficult words and ideas in the name of pacifying public life.

Brendan O’Neill, “The Calais migrants and the moral bankruptcy of PC”, Spiked, 2015-08-03.

March 11, 2017

Catherine the Great – III: Empress Catherine at Last – Extra History

Filed under: History, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Feb 11, 2017

When the conspiracy to seat Catherine on the throne of Russia was exposed, she had to move quickly. While Peter III blundered through a day of miscommunications, Catherine swiftly seized power, secured the loyalty of the army, and demanded his abdication.

February 15, 2017

Yale’s name change doesn’t go far enough

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:05

Names matter, as the recent decision to rename Calhoun College at Yale clearly indicates. As a distinguished alumni of Yale, Calhoun rated having a college named after him, until modern awareness of his involvement in the slavery issue demanded that his name be expunged immediately. Case closed, right?

Well, not so fast. As it turns out that there are much worse examples of things named after slave owners and slave trade supporters at Yale:

Calhoun owned slaves. But so did Timothy Dwight, Calhoun’s mentor at Yale, who has a college named in his honor. So did Benjamin Silliman, who also gives his name to a residential college, and whose mother was the largest slave owner in Fairfield County, Conn. So did Ezra Stiles, John Davenport and even Jonathan Edwards, all of whom have colleges named in their honor at Yale.

Writing in these pages last summer, I suggested that Yale table the question of John Calhoun and tackle some figures even more obnoxious to contemporary sensitivities. One example was Elihu Yale, the American-born British merchant who, as an administrator in India, was an active participant in the slave trade.

President Salovey’s letter announcing that Calhoun College would be renamed argues that “unlike … Elihu Yale, who made a gift that supported the founding of our university … Calhoun has no similarly strong association with our campus.” What can that mean? Calhoun graduated valedictorian from Yale College in 1804. Is that not a “strong association”? (Grace Hopper held two advanced degrees from the university but had no association with the undergraduate Yale College.)

As far as I have been able to determine, Elihu Yale never set foot in New Haven. His benefaction of some books and goods worth £800 helped found Yale College, not Yale University. And whereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his “just and kind” treatment of slaves and the “stainless integrity” of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. Is all that not “fundamentally at odds” with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?

I anticipate a quicker response to these revelations than the administrators managed in the Calhoun College case…

H/T to Amy Alkon for the link.

January 22, 2017

Simón Bolívar – III: Leavings and Returns – Extra History

Filed under: Americas, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Dec 3, 2016

The failure of his first attempted revolution in Venezuela only fanned the flames of Simón Bolívar’s determination to end Spanish reign over South America. Convinced that he needed to unite the entire continent in freedom, he gathered troops and set out with a new purpose. But his ferocity threatened to overwhelm his ideals.

January 5, 2017

Thomas Sowell

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren on the recently announced retirement of economist Thomas Sowell:

Born in the rural poverty of North Carolina, raised in Harlem, he remained personally acquainted with the fate of his race. A disciplined and unexciteable controversialist, he rose closest to exhibiting passion when discussing, for instance, the destruction of the black family by the Great Society of Lyndon Baines Johnson — how it arrested the social and economic advancement blacks had been making by their own efforts to overcome the monstrous history of slavery. By its “helping hand” the government rewarded unwed motherhood, punished enterprise, and promoted crime. In addition to family, it undermined religion, and finally helped install the abortion mills which disproportionally reduce the black population. And all of this by legislation drumrolled from the start with pseudo-Christian moral posturing.

Sowell could understand this through the economic analysis of moral hazard. Reward people for making irresponsible life choices, for discarding prudence and embracing victimhood and dependency — the result may be predicted. The question whether the policies were the product of invincible stupidity or demonic inspiration is moot: for stupidity is among the devil’s excavating tools. He is a master policy analyst, to whom men are merely statistics to be crunched; and to the stupid man he proposes the job-ready shovel, by which to dig his own grave.

October 26, 2016

QotD: Argument against slavery

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

Aphorism inspired by some smarmy political writing against libertarianism that I saw earlier today:

The polite answer to someone arguing that a slave should learn to love his chains is an extended counterargument, but the correct answer is a bullet through the arguer’s head.

Eric S. Raymond, Google+, 2016-10-15.

August 25, 2016

The Brothers Gracchi – I: How Republics Fall – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Aug 2016

Rome had doubled the size of its empire in a single generation, but such expansion came at great cost. The wars enriched the wealthy and impoverished the soldiers who fought in them. Into these turbulent times came a talented and well-connected young man named Tiberius Gracchus, who soon learned the power of appealing to the populace over the elite.
____________

Rome had expanded rapidly during the 2nd century BCE. It now stretched from Spain to Greece, with holdings in Africa, and showed no signs of stopping. At home, this growth destabilized the entire economy. Slaves from captured lands became field workers for the wealthy. Common soldiers who used to own land could no longer tend it during the long campaigns, and returned to find themselves either bankrupt or forced to sell to the large slave-owning elites. Now these displaced landowners flooded Rome looking for work, but many of them remained unemployed or underemployed. In the midst of this, two boys named Tiberius and Gaius were born to the Gracchus family. They were plebeians, but of the most distinguished order. Their mother, Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio Africanus. Their father was a two-time consul who’d celebrated two triumphs for winning great campaigns. But their father died early, so Cornelia raised her children alone and made sure they had a firm grounding in the liberal arts. As soon as he could, the elder boy, Tiberius, ran for office as a military tribune and joined the final campaign against Carthage. There he earned great honor for himself, and learned from the Scipio Aemilianus, his half-brother who also happened to be the leading general. Upon return to Rome, he ran for quaeastor and was sent to serve in the Numantian Wars in Spain. This time, the general he served under was struggling and suffered defeat after defeat. At the end, he tried to flee, only to be captured by the Numantians along with the entire army. The Numantians insisted on discussing surrender terms with Tiberius Gracchus, whose father had long ago earned their respect, and he successfully negotiated the release of 20,000 captured soldiers. In Rome, however, the elites looked on his treaty with scorn: they felt his surrender made Rome look weak. The families of the soldiers had a far different perspective: they celebrated Tiberius, and even saved him from punishment at the hands of the Senate. He had learned that power could be found in appealing to the people.

August 5, 2016

QotD: Slavery as an American invention

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

I started giving quizzes to my juniors and seniors. I gave them a ten-question American history test… just to see where they are. The vast majority of my students – I’m talking nine out of ten, in every single class, for seven consecutive years – they have no idea that slavery existed anywhere in the world before the United States. Moses, Pharaoh, they know none of it. They’re 100% convinced that slavery is a uniquely American invention… How do you give an adequate view of history and culture to kids when that’s what they think of their own country – that America invented slavery? That’s all they know.

Dr. Duke Pesta, in conversation with Stefan Molyneux, transcribed by David Thompson, 2016-07-27.

May 10, 2016

QotD: A misleading half-truth in the movie Glory

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

[The movie] Glory, concerning the raising, training, and early combat actions of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the state’s two free – that’s important – black regiments raised for the Civil War. It’s a good movie, in most respects. But it fosters a couple of half truths which, like most half truths, are wholly misleading.

In the first place, the 54th was not a regiment of runaway slaves. Oh, there are some; men who escaped – self-selecting, like William Carney, as they did – at a time when escape was quite difficult and very dangerous. Most of the men of the 54th, however, were born free. Some, indeed, were born free in Canada. Company G, for example, was recruited in Toronto and came south to fight.

What difference does that make? It makes a vast difference. If one were to peruse the accomplishments of the black regiments in the Civil War, one wouldn’t find much to commend or condemn among the regiments composed of freedmen. Oh, they were important to the war effort, but not for fighting so much as for labor, and to guard behind the lines. The couple of occasions they were given the chance to shine, notably at the Petersburg Crater, circumstances, to include some incredibly stupid decisions, tended to screw them.

So the best we can say of the freedmen regiments is that we don’t know. That said, it would be a very surprising thing – an unconscionable defense of slavery, really – to suggest that having been enslaved didn’t do bad things to one’s character, didn’t set one in the mind of being inferior, didn’t strike at one’s self confidence and morale at the very core.

The good regiments, conversely, 54th and 55th Massachusetts, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Louisiana Native Guard, 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored, 20th USCT … some few others … were by and large free born. They did well, fought well, and, in disproportionately large numbers, died well. But they had never, in the main, been subjected to the literal degradation and decay of slavery while, for that fraction which had, they had either self-selected for sheer obstinate courage or could draw considerable moral support from those who had or who had been born free.

And then there’s the other thing that annoyed me about the movie, that scene where the men of the 54th – explicitly, if wrongly, portrayed as runaway slaves – are issued their first uniforms and everything changes in an instant from disorder, indiscipline, and general raggedness to precision, as if the mere symbol could change the reality.

The very idea is nonsense. One doesn’t overcome a lifetime’s conditioning with a symbol. No, not even if you desperately want to. No, not even if you can convince a court and legislature that your fantasy must be given wing. It just doesn’t work like that.

Tom Kratman, “The Amazon’s Right Breast”, Baen Books, 2011.

May 5, 2016

QotD: The Cavaliers

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

Virginia had been kind of a wreck ever since most of the original Jamestown settlers had mostly died of disease. Governor William Berkeley, a noble himself, decided the colony could reinvent itself as a destination for refugee nobles, and told them it would do everything possible to help them maintain the position of oppressive supremacy to which they were accustomed. The British nobility was sold. The Cavaliers – the nobles who had fought and lost the English Civil War – fled to Virginia. Historians who cross-checking Virginian immigrant lists against English records find that of Virginians whose opinions on the War were known, 98% were royalists. They were overwhelming Anglican, mostly from agrarian southern England, and all related to each other in the incestuous way of nobility everywhere: “it is difficult to think of any ruling elite that has been more closely interrelated since the Ptolemies”. There were twelve members of Virginia’s royal council; in 1724 “all without exception were related to one another by blood or marriage…as late as 1775, every member of that august body was descended from a councilor who had served in 1660”.

These aristocrats didn’t want to do their own work, so they brought with them tens of thousands of indentured servants; more than 75% of all Virginian immigrants arrived in this position. Some of these people came willingly on a system where their master paid their passage over and they would be free after a certain number of years; others were sent by the courts as punishments; still others were just plain kidnapped. The gender ratio was 4:1 in favor of men, and there were entire English gangs dedicated to kidnapping women and sending them to Virginia, where they fetched a high price. Needless to say, these people came from a very different stratum than their masters or the Puritans.

People who came to Virginia mostly died. They died of malaria, typhoid fever, amoebiasis, and dysentery. Unlike in New England, where Europeans were better adapted to the cold climate than Africans, in Virginia it was Europeans who had the higher disease-related mortality rate. The whites who survived tended to become “sluggish and indolent”, according to the universal report of travellers and chroniclers, although I might be sluggish and indolent too if I had been kidnapped to go work on some rich person’s farm and sluggishness/indolence was an option.

The Virginians tried their best to oppress white people. Really, they did. The depths to which they sank in trying to oppress white people almost boggle the imagination. There was a rule that if a female indentured servant became pregnant, a few extra years were added on to their indenture, supposedly because they would be working less hard during their pregnancy and child-rearing so it wasn’t fair to the master. Virginian aristocrats would rape their own female servants, then add a penalty term on to their indenture for becoming pregnant. That is an impressive level of chutzpah. But despite these efforts, eventually all the white people either died, or became too sluggish to be useful, or worst of all just finished up their indentures and became legally free. The aristocrats started importing black slaves as per the model that had sprung up in the Caribbean, and so the stage was set for the antebellum South we read about in history classes.

Scott Alexander, “Book Review: Albion’s Seed“, Slate Star Codex, 2016-04-27.

February 3, 2016

Brace yourself for the predictable bullshit about “trafficked” prostitutes at the Super Bowl

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Reason, J.D. Tuccille explains why the usual media coverage of underage/trafficked/sex slave prostitutes being shipped in to cater to the depraved masses at the Super Bowl are so much hysterical nonsense:

When the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off in San Francisco, experts warn us to expect Cam Newton and Peyton Manning to face burial under a tidal wave of human flesh — not the opposing team’s defensive line, as you might expect, but a writhing mass of sex slaves inundating the Super Bowl and the Bay Area.

Or so government officials and moral panic types would have it.

“Super Bowl host cities typically see a jump not just in tourists, but also in some crimes, including human trafficking and prostitution,” San Francisco’s KGO warned earlier this month on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an annual event held every January 11.

“The good news is that we are continuing our efforts to fight human trafficking,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said the same day. “The bad news is that the problem continues to increase.”

Gascón made his comments at a press conference deliberately tied to the big game, in anticipation of a wave of “trafficked” sex workers descending on the area.

That term – not “prostitution,” but “trafficking” — is a deliberate choice, selected to confuse people accustomed to the plain language established over the long history of the buying and selling of sexual services. The reason why is obvious. While the trade in sex was once frowned upon in itself, that’s no longer necessarily the case. A YouGov poll published this past September found Americans almost evenly divided, with 44 percent favoring legalization of prostitution, and 46 percent opposed. That’s up from 38 percent support for legalization in 2012. Amnesty International is among the organizations seeking to recognize people’s right to, in the organization’s words, “the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.”

Opponents of commercial sex find themselves on the wrong side of shifting public opinion, so they pull a little rhetorical sleight of hand to get around that inconvenient word “consensual.” The implication of the “trafficking” terminology is that prostitutes are slaves — and they’re being hustled off to a major sporting event near you.

“Coercion is much rarer than ‘trafficking’ fetishists pretend it is,” insists Reason contributor and former call girl Maggie McNeill. “The term ‘trafficking’ is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative.”

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