Decadence, Part 3: Democracy

Decadence_Title_(Screenshot)And so we return to the series. On this one, we’re going to have to turn some filters on since we’re mostly Americans.

He focuses here rather strongly on Australia, which is fine, but Australia is not America, and most of us are Americans. Our problems are not dissimilar, but in ways Australia is the most nanny state of us all, and the amount of government meddling in lives would likely shock us. I also sense a  lessening of the old fear in the English-speaking world (by those opposed to the government, at any given time) of the old fear of “Mobocracy”.

I also notice a decided lack of respect for the base reason we formed states in the first place, to protect ourselves and our property from others, whether gangs, other states, or a flood of refugees who want us to take care of them, and turn themselves into illegal immigrants to be such.

But even if we don’t agree with all he says here, he does an excellent job of limning the issues.

Enjoy, and think.

The Socialist Dream Will Never Die

w704 (2)Steven Hayward over at Powerline recently wrote something very interesting.

Not long ago I was listening to one of Russ Roberts’s archived “EconTalk” podcasts with the great Thomas Sowell (and if you don’t listen to EconTalk you’re missing one of the top podcast artists of our time—subscribe for free here), and was completely stunned by something Sowell said. When he was assigned Friedrich Hayek’s seminal essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society” as a graduate student, he didn’t get it. Sowell found it too abstract and dense. Russ Roberts, another fine Chicago-school economist, said he had the same reaction to it the first time he read it, and, moreover, that Vernon Smith (a Nobel Prize winner) also found the essay opaque at first reading.

Source: The Socialist Dream Will Never Die | Power Line

Like Steven, I’ver never found this anything but clear as a plate glass window, so I’m a bit dumbfounded. Still the examples he gives worked through it, extraordinarily well, and as sometimes happens, maybe they understand it better for not seeing immediately the point.

He then proceeds to comment on an article in The New Republic, entitled “What If Stalin Had Computers?” What his point is that it is simply the old socialist saw that communism merely needed more time, as if a few more generations of misery would have made it work, violates another thing. Name one thing that Stalin’s Soviet union invented or developed from scratch. Can’t think of one myself, everything they had, somebody in the west, mostly Britain or America developed. So, Stalin having computers is simply a fantasy, that would have never happened in a millennium without the west. But, in truth, communism, or socialism, can never work, because people will always act in their own rational self-interest. And if you attempt to force it, they will simply pretend to work, and lie.

And the real reason it makes no difference is this. Sometime, long ago, I read a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, which I can no longer find, that said roughly, “We gather all the statistics in the world, and analyze and plan things on them, and reorder national priorities and all that. But it all come down to that grubby little man, with a clipboard and a pencil, who wrote down whatever he felt like.” And that is what always kills command economies–they lie to themselves, whether they are the Soviet Union, Venezuela, or increasingly, the United States. The real reason that we didn’t forsee the downfall of the USSR was that we believed the BS given to the Politburo.

Let’s finish with Steve and how he finished his article:

I recall reading one of the last interviews Hayek ever gave shortly before his death in 1992 in Forbes (sadly I can’t seem to find it now), where he was asked whether the information revolution and supercomputing didn’t change things, and make possible more effective centralized economic planning. Hayek said no—no matter how big and fast computers get, and how complete the data gathering, no centralized process can ever hope to match the uncoordinated actions of the constantly changing marketplace. Go re-read “The Use of Knowledge in Society” slowly and repeatedly until you get it.

At the end of the day, of course, the socialist impulse is not really rooted in reason or epistemology, but in envy and the desire for authoritarian control. That’s why we’ll never be rid of these people, no matter how many Venezeulas and Cubas you pile up.

 

Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the Way

HT_spencer_stone_alek_skarlatos_anthony_sadler_jt_150822_16x9_992

via ABC News, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler

Is, of course, a very old American maxim. Back when the world was young and I had just met Jess, I used it in connection with a British academic who was irritating her. Jess, being a sensible girl, who loves America nearly as much as I love Britain, proceeded to mutter it at an academic function she attended, about some footless thing that nobody could decide, choice of wine or something like that. Needless to say, it raised a few eyebrows, leading the gentlemen with her to comment about the company she was keeping. Me.

4159So I’m going to do this story backward. On that train in France the other day, there was a 62-year-old British IT guy, an expat living in the south of France. Now, I don’t know about you but that is not where I’d first look for a hero – but that’s where we found one.  His name is Chris Norman He said he thought this:

“I saw someone running down the aisle to the front of the train. I stood up to see what was happening and saw a man with what I think was an AK-47,” he said.

“My first reaction was to sit down and hide. Then I heard an American say, ‘Go get him’. I decided it was really the only chance, to act as a team and try to take down the assailant.

“My thought was, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go. I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than simply sit in the corner and be shot.”

“Either you sit down and you die, or you get up and you die. It was really nothing more then that,” he said.

Well, Kipling once wrote that:  “A brave heart and a courteous tongue. They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling.” I hope Mr. Norman will forgive me if I call BS on that. I bet his thought process ran more like this, a toast by American general John Stark of New Hampshire. It goes, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” because Chris Norman is by any standard a hero. He saw a chance to fix something and he took that chance, he didn’t lead, but he followed effectively, not many men would have, especially since we have all seen how docile the Brits have become. The same is true for that off-duty French train conductor. Damned good men, both of them.

But the Americans! Well, I happened to be listening to the BBC when the story broke, arriving with the information that the were marines. Without disrespect to anyone, I thought, of course, later the story changed that it was two soldiers and an American civilian. OK, if you look at the pictures they’re wearing their hair pretty high and tight, so it’s a more or less natural mistake, and besides no leatherneck could have done it any better. Think about that for a minute, a junior Air Force medic, an Oregon National Guardsman, in Britspeak, a territorial, and a civilian friend of theirs, running to the sound of the guns. Are they heroes? You’re damned right they are! It was nearly a perfect anti-terrorist operation. What flight 93 could have been with some more luck.

And that Air Force medic, Spencer Stone, who nearly had his thumb cut off by this thug, still had the guts and presence of mind to provide basic aid to a Frenchman who had either been either shot or knifed in the neck, I’ve read both, don’t know which is true, doesn’t really matter at the moment.

It was once written that:

“The truly amazing thing about me is that, as a product of this amazing country, I am utterly ordinary. However, once I leave the borders of these United States, I start to grow in power and influence until I become someone who can do anything; feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, protect the weak and clothe the shabby”.

And that pretty much applies here, utterly ordinary Americans, until some fool on a French train opened up with an AK, and then, well the adults in the train took over, three young American guys. And from what I read, he’s a lucky terrorist, he didn’t maintain his weapon, and it jammed, so they merely subdued him, instead of letting him tell Allah all about it, and his failure.

Kipling also wrote: “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”. And that my friends is why terrorism doesn’t work on free men, it does not account for the sheepdogs, not all of whom wear uniforms.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks that fought with us.

A few years ago, in one of the documentaries about the war in Europe, they interviewed a Dutch woman about the day that the Americans liberated her town.

She stated she knew they were Americans because ‘they walked like free men’.

We still do.

 

Downtown

You all know that I don’t subscribe to ‘The Cult of Celebrity’. but in a fairly long lifetime, there have been a few exceptions, in the field of popular music there is only one, and we’re going to talk about her today.

One of you this week linked to my all time favorite singer, and one of my favorite songs, that she sang. When it burst out of the car speaker, late in 1964, a lot of things changed, for American music, for her, and maybe more.

This is the version from The Dean Martin Show in early 1967, and yes it was still getting some airplay.

When Downtown came on the radio, it was completely different, and it spoke to something in us all, I think. her voice is very obviously British, in that exact way, that Americans adore, and as far as us kids were concerned she was was one of us, although our dads (sometimes) did tell us that she had been recording since during World War II, and was a TV star as well, in the UK.

That’s all true, but she was also the first British female to make it onto the Billboard chart since Vera Wang in 1952. Downtown was #1 starting the week of 23 January 1965. The song was also #2 in the UK, and Ireland, and number one in  Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3), the Netherlands (#3) and Norway (#8). She was far from the last, though, the Atlantic got very narrow there for a few years, and American top 40 radio sounded an awful lot like BBC 1. And after Downtown, she would have fourteen more consecutive hit on the Billboard chart, and there was plenty of competition those days.

When asked why he approved it for a quick release in the States since it was so very English. Joe Smith of Warner Brothers replied: “It’s perfect. It’s just an observation from outside of America and it’s just beautiful and just perfect.” And you know, it was, and it is still.

But there was a lot more to Pet, than that wonderful voice, she is perhaps one of the greatest female entertainers of the twentieth century, like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and such. In fact I think she could have been  better than them all, by a fairly wide margin. here’s a bit more about her.

When they talk about how she became Norma Desmond in the play, it’s sort of creepy, isn’t it, but that is what the great actors do, it’s why we are able to suspend our disbelief for a while. Petula could, and did, do it too, even on the concert stage. Watch her eyes her, closely, this is more than singing, I think she is feeling it, even as she shares the emotions with us.

So let’s head on Downtown, but remember Don’t Sleep on the Subway.

Decadence: or Modern Life

Aston Martin 2-Litre 2/4-Seater Sports 1937

Aston Martin 2-Litre 2/4-Seater Sports 1937 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was young, all around me I could hear adults saying, “You can’t buy happiness.” often with a humorous dependent clause, to elicit a rueful chuckle. But in the main, we knew and believed it.

But it seems to me, many do believe it now. I knew when I was 5 and drooling over the Sears Christmas catalog, that nothing in there, on its own, was going to keep me happy long. The same is true now, as I drool over the Snap-on catalog or the Aston-Martin brochure. Some things would, did, and do fire my imagination, for me it was electric trains, and Tonka trucks, they let me imitate the world of men (sorry ladies, you didn’t have much role in my 5-year-old imagination). But, perhaps strangely, I never liked equipment with figures on it: the operators seat was where my imagination sat. That may be unique to me, but I doubt it.

But I grew up in a pretty traditional family, and in a rural area to boot. It was entirely conceivable to tell me, after breakfast, to go play, I’ll call you for lunch, and it was done, often. That left me open to learning things, by experiment, by reasoning through things, to use my imagination, unfettered. I have no clue how many times I single-handedly won World War II in Indiana, but it was certainly in triple digits. The same with roads and power lines built, and crops brought in.

So we are going to have a series, I don’t know how long, or whether it will be continuous, or not. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to investigate how we came to believe that so very novel idea, that we can buy happiness. In many ways, the last two posts here have been a sort of prologue, documenting how our (mostly) young people have gotten themselves into trouble, today we’ll start looking at the causes. I don’t agree with all the specifics here, but he touches on many truths that we need to heed. So listen up, and we’ll start on our mission because we can’t fix it till we define the problem.

Kipling reminds us:

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

The Great Unlearning

I’m playing with some video-based series, but they’re not in shape yet. But, sadly, I have little to disagree with Bill Whittle here.

Sad and disheartening stuff isn’t it?

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