Friday, August 22, 2014

The Politically Fractured Heart: Between Resentment And Regret

There are several Web commentators I admire and celebrate as worthy colleagues, but recently the one most prominent in my esteem is the pseudonymous Ace of Spades:

...I do think there's too much anger and hostility being let loose out there. Not so much here, but generally; it's more a Twitter thing, but still, the air is just thick with it....

Everyone's angry, and everyone's afraid, and, honestly, they should be. A friend of mine feels it in his bones that another 9/11 is coming, and, while I don't have that intuition, I can't tell him he's just making things up or being silly.

That's certainly out there in the possibility-space.

These are frightening times, and our political leadership's reaction to this is to double down on failure and futility and fairways.

But people don't make good decisions in a state of anger, and they usually don't say useful or correct things in that state, either.

And I see a lot of people following the Left down the road illuminated for them by Jonathan Chait in 2006 or so, when he wrote his (in)famous article, "Yes, I Hate George W. Bush." And then went on to justify his hair-on-fire emotionalism, bitterness, venom, and sheer mental unwellness.

I think people have to be very, very careful when they rationalize to themselves what they know in their hearts (or souls) to be bad behavior with easy, glib, self-flattering excuses like "Well, I'm angry, and justly angry, so every angry outburst is justified!"

I would love to stand this man a bacon-wrapped filet mignon and an evening of tipple. He has spoken my own thoughts, more succinctly than I could have managed to do it. (Let's be candid, Gentle Reader; succinctness isn't one of my notable virtues.)

Ace, clearly, is tired of the tide of vitriol that appears to have displaced rational discourse. He has every reason to be. I share his weariness. What about you?

The stimulus for Ace's plaint can be found in this piece by RedState's Erick Erickson:

As much as the internet can bring people together of like mind, it also can help shrill minorities of people think their views are more mainstream than they are. That then emboldens them further.

In the past several months there have been three incidents that have solidified for me that my faith and my politics are starting to collide. While I am a firm believer in the idea of a conservative populism, I see a dangerous trend within the mix of unfortunate shrillness and hostility. That trend is playing out in the comments here at RedState and on social media....

I’m a conservative before I’m a Republican. I was once even an elected Republican. But before I’m a father or husband, I am a Christian. My politics have to be balanced by my faith. That faith requires me to put faith, hope, mercy, and grace ahead of much, including a lot of short term political gain. And sometimes that requires me to rely on Christ for justice, not the government.

Erickson is a reasonably smart fellow. Yet there's a major mistake in the above, one I would have expected him to perceive on his own: there is an irreconcilable contradiction between conservatism and populism. Indeed, populism cannot be harmonized with any set of ideas, political or otherwise, that incorporates firm principles never to be morally breached. Populism is merely an exhortation to follow the majority to wherever it chooses to go: mob mentality and nothing else.

Nevertheless, he has an important point to make. Populist -- perhaps I should say "lowbrow" -- conservatism often incorporates a tendency to dehumanize persons caught by the policies and incentives conservatives deplore. The recent example of Glenn Beck's generous mission to the southern border, to bring a few comforts to the illegal immigrant children massed there, is a stark one: many, many voices have risen in condemnation of Beck's kindly action.

What on Earth does any such venom-drooler think to gain from such a tirade? Politically or otherwise? More fundamental yet: How could any man of good will want to deny a few comforts to children innocent of any wrongdoing other than being on the wrong side of the border -- perhaps through no inclination of their own?

Let's be maximally explicit about all of it: Politics and politically produced incentives are important. But when your politics causes you to condemn a private citizen for an act of generosity at his own expense, it's time to examine your own conscience. There just might be a bouquet of poison ivy embedded in it.

In his blockbuster audio series The Essence of Political Persuasion, Michael Emerling tells a sad story whose "villain" is himself. In his younger days, when acting as a front man for the Libertarian Party, he was once asked by an interested party what the liberty movement could do to help older Americans. He responded reflexively, with an angry tirade that condemned the Social Security as a system of legalized theft. The other fellow was turned off completely -- indeed, he became angrily hostile. That was not the reaction he wanted, to be sure...but it taught him a lesson he never forgot.

America, despite the representations of that scoundrel in the White House, is a Christian nation. Christians believe passionately that we should be kind to the misfortunate, at least toward those whose misfortunes are not of their own making. That's certainly the case with quite a number of the illegal-alien minors crossing into America from the south. Discriminating among them is difficult, especially at a remove. If a Christian should be moved to generosity by his perception of their state, he is not practicing politics; he is answering to the dictates of his conscience. Anyone who dares to castigate him for doing so has demonstrated himself to be a far less worthy specimen.

Hatred, be it clearly if perhaps unnecessarily said, is the antithesis of Christian virtue. Hatred aimed at children is especially vile, even if they're here in response to political incentives we deplore and passionately want to see corrected. Hatred poured upon those of a different, more compassionate attitude, acting entirely from private resources...well, let's just say the hateful one has quite a lot of repenting to do.

I'm with Ace and Erickson on this. It's time we detoxified the discourse. Perhaps a program of public hangings...but perhaps not. At any rate, it deserves our best efforts, lest we become all too much like those we oppose.

It's On Part 3: Where Explanation Remains Required

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote:

I'm a child of the Civil Rights Era. I've yearned for the day when Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" vision would become the unquestioned reality of our nation. It has not arrived. If anything, it's receded further from reality with every passing year.

Intelligent people who would never act so foolishly in any other venue have collaborated in the suppression of information about black-on-white violence, black cultural pathologies, and blacks' hatred of whites. I have a special animus for "journalists" who have done so; their betrayal of their occupational responsibilities played a large part in bringing us to where we stand today.

The race war is on.
Recent black attacks on whites are the opening skirmishes.
If more and worse violence can be avoided by "negotiations," the time for the effort is now.
I don't plan to leave myself defenseless if they should fail.
What about you, Gentle Reader?

Given the "knockout games," the miscellaneous black-on-white violence, the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other majority-black districts, and the continuing, completely incomprehensible willingness of the media to grant even a nanosecond's exposure to such as the scrofulous Al "Remember Tawana Brawley" Sharpton, I think my conclusions as expressed above have been validated. Not that I'm happy about that, mind you.

When it comes to black racism toward whites and the behavior it engenders, there remains at least one cleavage to be discussed. Darin at Crusader Rabbit takes note:

Driving back to work yesterday I had two encounters with people on bicycles, particularly young, black people on bicycles.

This isn't an unusual thing, lots of black kids ride where I live, but the younger generations ride with attitude. Particularly the attitude that they and only they own the road and the rules just don't apply to them, this attitude occurs elsewhere as well, but more on that later.

The first encounter was as I was turning right at a traffic light. I came to a stop, checked traffic and started my turn, out of nowhere here comes a 20 something black boy coming around the corner, against traffic, cutting in so close he pushed the passenger side mirror out of whack. The second came a couple blocks later on a side street. Another 20 something black boy, this time riding with traffic, occasionally when he was on the same side of the street. He was riding zig-zag, lolly gagging around, talking on his cellphone and blocking traffic. He got kind of indignant when I came up behind him and layed on my horn, but finally got out of the way and allowed myself and two other cars to pass. One never sees an older generation black person doing these things, it's always the younger group, the entitled group doing stupid stuff.

A division based on age can be even more informative than one based on race. Such a gulf suggests that time – specifically the length of the interval over which a set of influences have been at work -- can override forces that would seem to be objectively stronger.

In short: Younger American blacks have been steeped in the racialists' cant for so long, and to the exclusion of all else, that they're not American; they're simply black. By contrast, older black Americans, though they've been exposed to the racialists' harangues as well, were mostly raised to different standards. They tend to be more American than black.

However, the sting in the tail is that despite the difference in attitudes and proclivities, the older blacks, in the main, refrain from disciplining the younger ones when they go wild. This might be due to apathy; it might be due to fear. But it's at least partly due to the very same "us versus them" mindset that licenses their thuggish progeny to use the death of one of their number at a white cop's hands as an excuse for looting and destruction.

The racialist hucksters have been allowed to rant from their pulpits for far too long. If we can't eject them, we must countervail them so forcefully that sheer embarrassment will impel them to slink quietly away.

During the years of the Vietnam War, the subject of greatest interest was America's attempt to buttress South Vietnam against the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies. Many a conversation, including those that involved persons routinely cordial toward one another, featured an exchange like this:

War Opponent: The war is a genocidal invasion of another country and must end immediately.
War Supporter: I had some respect for you before you said that. The war was declared by Congressional resolution. It's being fought by Americans under American leadership. Americans are dying to protect innocent South Vietnamese from the viciousness of the Viet Cong and their suppliers. If you'd rather root for the other side, you should pack your bags and move to North Vietnam. We don't want you here.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore! But I digress. Today, race relations are at least as hot a topic. Yet you almost never hear exchanges such as the following:

Racialist Black: The anger and hostility of blacks toward whites is justified by our history of racist oppression and the legacy of slavery.
Intelligent White: I had some respect for you before you said that. Slavery is 150 years dead and was ended by the sacrifices of whites. Whites passed and enforced every civil rights act. Whites pay the freight for your ineducability, your welfarism, your illegitimacies, and your crime and violence. If you think you can justify rampant criminality on any grounds, pack your bags and move to Nigeria. We don't want you here.

The reason, of course, is that most irritating of contemporary shibboleths, diversity. Rather than being allowed to sort ourselves out as naturally as we normally would, we're forced to rub up against persons who have been persuaded to be at war with us. Additionally, in the case of black / white relations, the charge of racism, though it's lost much of its steam, still retains a punch sufficient to get a man ostracized or worse. Few are the white Americans who lack all fear of it.

But the “unspoken riposte” above isn't being wielded by intelligent blacks, either – a far greater tragedy, given their superior intimacy with their own racial kindred. The job of civilizing black youths, steeped in racialist venom, dismissive of civilized behavioral norms, and untroubled by anything resembling a conscience, has been left to us whites...and most of us are unwilling to shoulder it.

Go ahead: call me a racist. These days, my response is: Damned right I am! And if you need to know why, you can read all about it here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


1. Why Now?

The world is erupting in Islam powered violence. The jihadis seem to be everywhere, and advancing everywhere, or nearly so. Consider this squib from Yemen:

Thousands of armed Shiite rebels in Yemen strengthened their positions in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday as they pressed their campaign to force the government to resign, AFP correspondents witnessed.

The rebels have been fighting an off-conflict with government troops in the northern mountains for the past decade but analysts warned their bid for a greater share of power in a promised new federal Yemen was creating a potentially explosive situation.

The Zaidi Shiites are the minority community in mainly Sunni Yemen but they form the majority in the northern highlands, including the Sanaa region.

No conflict that puts Shia and Sunni on opposite sides is secularly motivated. This is a bid for the power to impose Shia Islam on Yemenis generally -- and given the weakness of the Yemeni government, it has a fair chance of succeeding.

So there's that, and the Islamic State gaining ground in Syria and Iraq, and the Moros and their affiliates in the Philippines, and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Islam-powered violence in the border regions of India, and the conflicts in Nigeria and the Sudan, and this little news item, and so on -- all at once. Why now?

Simply because there is no Great Power looming over the world, ready, willing, and able to restore order.

Time was, the British Empire filled that role. With the two World Wars, it passed to the United States. With the election of Barack Hussein Obama, the post became vacant.

Significantly, even during the Reagan Administration, the simultaneous surge of so many violent movements in so many widely scattered places would have been more than American power could handle. Yet they didn't arise. Each group feared to be the one that would be punished -- possibly by outright extinction -- thus becoming the example used to cow the others.

Given how much has broken loose since then, even a power on the order of the Reagan years might not be able to put things back together. All we can do is wait for 2017, and hope.

2. Poseurs Will Pose, Won't They?

There isn't much one can say about Richard Dawkins that hasn't already been said, but I will note that he remains true to form:

Atheist author Richard Dawkins provoked a firestorm Wednesday on Twitter by claiming an unborn baby with Down’s syndrome should be aborted and that it would be “immoral to bring it into the world.”

The debate with some of his one million followers began when Dawkins, 73, linked to an article at the liberal New Republic titled, “The Catholic Church prefers medieval barbarism to modern abortion,” by Jerry A. Coyne, according to The Daily Mail.

“Ireland is a civilised country except in this one area,” Dawkins said. “You’d think the Roman Church would have lost all influence.”

Irish Catholic Aidan McCourt tweeted in return to Dawkins, “994 human beings with Down’s syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilised?”

“Yes, it is very civilised,” Dawkins responded. “These are foetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.”

Perhaps Dawkins is merely reacting to the Catholic position on abortion: i.e., that it's murder. Given that any mention of religion, especially Christianity, tends to send him careening into the outer darkness of foaming-mouth irrationality, that's more likely than not. But let's assume for the moment that Dawkins's openly expressed hostility to every religious faith except Islam -- Wonder why the exception? Me, too -- has nothing to do with his position that allowing a Down Syndrome child to be born is "immoral." Here's the killer question, which no one, as far as I know, has yet posed this overhyped intellectual lightweight who relentlessly preaches his own faith from a global pulpit:

Whose rights are violated by such an action?

Take your time, Mr. Dawkins. We'll wait.

3. The Anti-Gunners Whistle Past Their Own Graves.

It's fairly clear in retrospect that:

  • In 1992 George H. W. Bush lost his re-election bid by alienating the gun culture;
  • In 2000 George W. Bush, by not alienating the gun culture, defeated Al Gore -- vice-president of a popular Administration riding atop a booming economy -- by a hair-thin margin.

(Anyone else remember Charlton Heston clutching a musket and shouting "From my cold dead hand, Mr. Gore" -- ?)

But hope springs eternal in the anti-gunners' breasts, as evidenced by this fatuous piece:

Twenty months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, renewed national attention on the topic of gun violence has not been enough to change federal gun laws. But the National Rifle Association, still the most powerful entity in the war over guns in America, no longer has a monopoly on the debate.

A resurgent gun control movement is challenging the status quo, while groups to the right of the NRA are also growing. Nonprofit organizations on each side are battling like they haven’t in years, trying to shape the country’s politics and win over the American people....

Would someone kindly refresh this old man's memory? When did the NRA, or any other pro-gun group, have a "monopoly on the debate" -- ?

The gun control movement was nearly $285 million behind the gun rights movement in 2012 revenue raised, before Sandy Hook. Today, it is playing catch-up to the money, membership and political savvy of its opponents as the NRA works to maintain its dominance. With new groups, a revamped strategy, more money and unprecedented collaboration, the gun control movement has made headway. Organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, the group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say they are moving the needle.

“Now, for the first time in our country’s history, there is a well-financed and formidable force positioned to take on the Washington gun lobby,” said Shannon Watts, founder of gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, speaking at an Everytown event on Capitol Hill in May.

Mind you, the Bloomberg anti-gun coalition has lost every battle it's undertaken, by margins that leave no doubt that the majority of Americans want their Second-Amendment-guaranteed rights left strictly alone. But that mustn't be allowed to disturb the hopeful ones at NBC and other mass media outlets.

The battle over the right to keep and bear arms powerfully resembles another, seemingly unrelated contemporary clash: that over same-sex "marriage." One referendum after another makes it plain that large majorities oppose State recognition of same-sex "marriages." Yet the media continue to talk it up as "inevitable," while utterly ignoring the copious evidence of its unpopularity and its pernicious effects on a society. If there were any doubt that the mass media are in bed with the Left, those two issues alone would put it to rest.

Should the Democrats make straitened gun control an element of their national platform going into the 2016 elections, they could experience a defeat to rival the Reagan clobberings of Carter and Mondale. We shall see.

4. A Tough Decision.

To my fiction readers: Is there any great interest out there in a fourth Spooner Federation novel, or would you prefer something from an entirely new line of development?

For those who've been wondering, there will be further novels and stories connected to Onteora County, New York, that fabled birthplace of so many heroes, supermen, and world-historical figures. One is in development as we speak; others will follow in their course. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Microcosm Part 2: Scailures

No proposition produced by human thought is context-independent. Every idea about cause and effect, however ingenious, pertains to a specific domain of applicability, outside which it will fail. Therefore, it is vital to understand both successes and failures in context.

Failure to acknowledge this truth is at the root of most failures in public policy. It's most devastating when an idea that works well in the small is unthinkingly scaled up and fails disastrously.

Let's look at a few contexts for "social systems" and review their differences:

  1. Nuclear family
  2. Compact neighborhood
  3. Village or small town
  4. Large town / small city
  5. Large city or state
  6. The United States in toto

The nuclear family is almost always an autocracy. The breadwinner is the ultimate authority; his decisions are absolute and unreviewable by some higher power. He might not exercise totalitarian control of the rest of the family, but disputes they cannot solve -- especially disputes about finances -- will usually find their way to him. This works because the others are his dependents, and (teenaged children occasionally excepted) they acknowledge it. More, there can be little doubt that the breadwinner has the well-being of all the others as a very high priority. Otherwise he wouldn't stick around, would he?

A compact neighborhood, within which the residents are adequately acquainted with one another, tends to be demographically near to homogeneous. Though there is usually a substantial degree of good will among the residents, such that they will rally to one another's aid in times of crisis, under normal circumstances the individual households are expected to be self-supporting. Such a neighborhood recognizes a few "leader figures." Those persons don't have coercive authority; theirs is the influence that comes from general respect for their intelligence, knowledge, industry, humility, generosity, and other characterological factors. But respect of that sort and degree is harder to gather when one's radius increases to the size of a village or small town.

At the town or small city level, we begin to see the use of impersonal processes to select authorities. The population of a town of several thousand persons can't be intimate enough for neighborhood-style influence and trust factors to suffice for that purpose. More, at the town level demographic distinctions become possible that tend not to apply in a compact neighborhood of a few dozen families. This gives rise to competing attitudes, interests, and priorities that cannot be dealt with merely by the exercise of personal influence and general good will.

A large city magnifies the demographic diversity of the town / small city still further. More, if it is geographically compact relative to its population, there will be practical pressures to collectivize various facilities that in a more dispersed environment would be left to individual choice and effort. Political processes become ever more important, for no one will be disposed to trust decisions over the allocation of collectivized resources to anyone's personal decision making. The political problems of a state will be similar, despite the greater degree of geographical dispersion of its residents.

Note that as the aggregate populations under discussion become larger and (potentially) more demographically diverse, the degree of contention over what the system forces into the political orbit becomes greater and more quarrelsome. Mechanical processes such as elections contain no ingredient capable of damping the animosity that arises over "they got they wanted, but we didn't" outcomes. Worse, the larger the population, the more likely it is to "balkanize" into interest groups with mutually incompatible agendas, which will create a great cacophony (and no small amount of disorder) as they struggle with one another. Still worse, the larger the domain over which authorities, however selected, get to exercise their powers, the greater the draw of power-lust, which pulls in ever more venal, ever less "public spirited" contenders for such powers.

The United States of America, that fabled home of 150 million knuckle-dragging, gun-toting, beer-drinking, flag-waving Neanderthals and approximately an equal number of supercilious twits who dream of "re-educating" the Neanderthals by force, is the largest quasi-coherent social system Americans experience -- and its various mechanisms for making law, enforcing the law, allocating collectivized resources (e.g., national defense), and dealing with unforeseen developments operate in failure mode overwhelmingly more often than not. The number of things the federal system attempts to control is simply beyond the power of any central authority to manage or control. Special interests routinely dominate decision making. Perhaps 98% of Washington's demesne should be delegated to smaller systems -- the original point of a federal system. But at the top of that system we routinely find men who almost literally worship power. Whatever lip service they render to "serving the people," their true agenda is to stay where they are or ascend further in the hierarchy.

The troubles experienced at each level derive in large measure from the common, uncritical assumption that what works at smaller scales can be made to work at larger ones.

Scaling-up failures arise most frequently from the failure to appreciate the emergence of demographic diversity, with all its varieties of traditions, customs, tastes, priorities, and time preferences. These things almost always account for the failure of successful small "pilot programs" to replicate their successes at the national level. However, the last thing any federal officeholder wants to admit is that we're not all alike. They'd much rather claim that "we need more money" or that "the wrong people were in control."

Sometimes the laws of nature come into play. A few homeowners with a few hours to spare each week can effectively protect a neighborhood. However, the thing comes apart when "neighborhood watch" techniques are applied to the protection of the national border. The geometry is simply against them. But even in a case such as border enforcement, there are demographic factors, including the diversity of the populations on both sides of the border, that can render the matter disproportionately more difficult than keeping watch over a compact neighborhood.

The implication for the citizen's proper attitude toward larger polities' tendency to suck power, authority, and resources away from smaller ones -- in particular toward Washington's tendency to suck power, authority, and resources out of the states -- should be clear. To the extent that politicization is allowed at all, decisions over the politicized issues must be forced downward to the smallest organizational unit capable of handling them, such that local assets, especially that of demographic homogeneity, can be kept in play. The demands of power-wielders and aspirants to power will nearly always be opposed to that attitude: a clear indication of the degree of trust any decent American should extend to them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Microcosm

I am pleased to help to publicize this important piece by the esteemed Hans at NC Renegade about Americans' gradual loss of liberty over the decades. He traces the process through a number of non-obvious stages, with a gradually tightening focus on freedom as a consequence of localism, a condition we have lost with the development of the technological supports of long-range commerce:

Prior to the Civil War, courts in the northern States began to re-define law from its historical focus on private rights in an attempt to establish and mandate public duties that accommodated rail operation.

Expansion of commerce via rail was accompanied by a belief that society must change to embrace technological progress. This may well be the roots of the American progressive movement.

“… the railroads of the 1850s transformed the patterns of social and commercial interactions in two critical dimensions: speed and scale. … The world of commercial interactions was standardized, rationalized, and reshaped in accordance with new forms of industrial production, transport, marketing, and management.” (5)

“Traditional, local conceptions of the public good were inconsistent with a world-view that began with the assumption that long-distance rail traffic was the condition of commercial activity, the route to economic growth, and the measure of human progress.” (6)

“The railroads were recent arrivals, whose rights should have been subordinate to the timeless truths of property usage. … (but) speed was now invoked as the positive good that everyone had a mutual duty to promote, or at least to avoid impeding.” (7)

Railroad law in the northern States was an artificial political construct to accommodate desired technological and economic progress. In the southern States “… adjudication of cases would continue to take as its starting point a comparative evaluation of private property-based rights, … conceiving of economic activities – whether carried out by business corporations, towns, or individuals – as exercises in private interest rather than as instruments bound to the pursuit of public good.” (8)

After the ‘war of northern aggression’, as railroad commerce was expanded across the agricultural south, Reconstruction drove changes from the north into the law of the southern States.

Localism in this context is a matter of orientation: the attitude that puts the highest priority on persons, things, and events nearest to oneself. When Adam Smith noted in his Theory of Moral Sentiments that it is natural to prioritize one's own hangnail over the death of a multitude in a faraway land, he was speaking of that orientation and the consequent system of priorities.

The federal structure originally given to the United States by its Constitution implicitly recognized the naturalness and power of localism. For there is this about what is natural: One sets it aside, or attempts to thwart its operation, entirely at one's own peril.

What struck me most powerfully about Hans's thesis is how "obvious" (i.e., overlooked) it is -- and how I had been working from it unconsciously as a novelist for many years before this.

In the foreword to Freedom's Fury, I wrote:

In [our] world, peopled by men such as ourselves, anarchism—the complete abjuration and avoidance of the State—is unstable. In time, it will always give way to politics. Hammer it to the earth as many times as you may, you will never succeed in killing it permanently. The State will rise again.

However, as we’ve learned to our sorrow these past few centuries, the State is unstable, too. It always deteriorates and falls, though not always swiftly. What follows it varies from place to place and era to era.

The Spooner Federation novels are obsessively localist in their focus. They concentrate almost completely on one district, populated by a few thousand persons, on a planet populated by many millions -- and on the actions of one family, the Morelons, within that district. Yet in the conflicts that embroil the Morelon family, their titans, and the district of Jacksonville can easily be found exactly the seeds to which Hans has pointed in his essay: the emergence of the facilitators of long-range commerce, and their ascendancy as instruments for the enrichment and aggrandizement of whoever can dominate them.

The second and third novels of the Spooner Federation trilogy, Freedom's Scion and Freedom's Fury, employ struggles over the control of air travel and access to space as elements of emerging political power. The potential for enrichment from dominating those elements motivates the Morelons' antagonists. Ultimately, the competition for wealth embraces the usual elements of political strife: force and subterfuge. The conclusion gives the reader a glimpse at an embryonic State: a development, no matter how inevitable in the circumstances, the Spoonerites of Earth and the First Settlers of Hope would have condemned without qualification.

Long-range commerce isn't necessarily a negative development. It takes unrestrained, amoral avarice and callousness to make it so. Unfortunately, Mankind is copiously supplied with both.

Long-range commerce inevitably brings about long-range movement of persons. Population mixing is no more necessarily pernicious than commerce itself, but it has had pernicious consequences in the past, most notably slavery and colonialism.

Hearken now to the inimitable Fred Reed on the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri:

Whites with university educations, who read five books at once, who have never been in a police car, cannot know who the rioters are, cannot imagine how the world seems to them. Black physicists do not loot shoe stores. Those who do tend strongly to be functionally illiterate. The rest have probably never read a book in their lives. They live in a mental world unknown to most whites. They will never live amicably with white cops....

The obvious, inexpensive, simple, practical solution would be to have only black police in black neighborhoods, and white in white. This wouldn’t end shootings because it wouldn’t end crime, but it would end the consequent racial riots, looting, and burned cities. I suggested this when I was police writer for the Washington Times, but was told that it ran against the policy of compulsory integration. Black cops didn’t like the idea because it would leave them in the most dangerous jurisdictions.

The first Negroes in North America were purchased from black African tribal kings by white slave-ship captains and sold to slaveholders in the south. There is no evidence that they volunteered to be parted from their homelands and everyone they knew. It was the slave traders' willingness to violate their rights for a profit that made them Americans. But Reed has a larger point to make than the cultural divide between the races:

Note that the togetherheid pushed endlessly on us is almost entirely rhetorical, preached by people who mean that others should practice it. I lived for years in the city with many liberal, racially correct friends. They spent all their time with other whites, and the restaurants and bars they patronized seldom had more than a token black, if that.

Ethnic mixing doesn’t work, gang. Not Moslems and Parisians, Irish Catholics and Protestants, Shias and Sunnis, Indonesians and Chinese, nor even New Yorkers and Alabamans. We think it should work, insist that it will, punish those who observe that it doesn’t. Yet still it doesn’t work. The greater the difference between groups, the less well it works. If we realized this, and let people do as they choose, the country would be much better off.

I cannot disagree, despite my own lifelong wish that it should be otherwise. But more important than anyone's anguish over the matter, whether nurtured in secret or openly proclaimed, is the importance of compulsory population mixing in the genesis of political power.

Vanishingly few of us actually like conflict. When conflict arises among us, we immediately look for a countervailing force. In today's America, we tend to look to the State.

It was not always thus. The State's exercise of the "police power," by which it claims the privilege of coercion and constraint in anticipation of a judgment, is somewhat younger than the country itself. Before the organization of "public" police forces, maintaining public order and apprehending offenders against the law were responsibilities of the common citizenry.

I cannot say of my own knowledge whether that previous state of society was in any objective sense "better" or "worse" than what followed, according to any pertinent standard. But the dynamic of delegation -- the transfer of an ongoing responsibility to a hired agent -- has certain consequences that can only be negative:

  • The delegator swiftly feels relieved of all aspects of the job except paying the agent.
  • The agent, being a hired hand, has less of a commitment to the job than to his own well-being.
  • The two are more likely than not to squabble over:
    • The scope of the job;
    • How well it's being performed;
    • The appropriate remuneration for it;
    • The appropriate metrics for adequate performance;
    • The appropriate degree of latitude of action to be afforded the agent.

The case of Ferguson, where a nearly pure-white police force is responsible for maintaining public order in a two-thirds black community, offers an even greater hazard, owing to the influences Reed cites in his essay. That the shooting of junior-varsity thug Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson brought matters to a head should surprise no one except the excessively multiculturally credulous. Neither should the rapidly intensifying arguments over the use of military-grade gear by the understandably fearful Ferguson police, and the governor's invocation of the National Guard to reimpose order, given the immediate eruption of violence under the guise of "protest."

Worse is in the offing as National Guard troopers from all over Missouri flood into Ferguson, a place to which few of them will have any ties. The chasm between the "forces of order" and those they're intended to watch over will grow wider as the freedom of action of Ferguson residents is circumscribed further. It could only get worse with federal involvement...and that, frighteningly, now appears to be on the horizon.

There's much more one could say about this, but my duties beckon. The key lies in localism: essentially, the attitude that "our problems," for the most geographically concentrated meanings of "our," are properly ours to cope with, and not to be handed off to hirelings who might botch it. The fatuity of discarding localism, such that everything becomes everyone's concern and everyone's responsibility to fix, becomes ever plainer as racially, ethnically, and religiously homogeneous population nodes reassert local prerogatives, effectively walling themselves off from the surrounding nation. Some such become exclaves, where the writ of law as the rest of us understand it does not run.

The most vivid illustrations involve Islamic populations imported into historically non-Islamic nations. France has its banlieus. Britain has Luton and similar districts. America has Dearborn, Michigan. But though the cleavage in Ferguson is racial rather than religious, the dynamics driving local sociopolitical developments are much the same.

I might return to this. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sulva Come To Earth: The Culmination Of The Hedonic Upheaval

Some old men, firmly attached to the things of their fondly remembered pasts, are fairly easy to shock. Others, emotionally calloused by what they've seen (and in some cases, what they've done), take a lot more work. I'm one of the latter sort. But now and then a development will pierce me in an unexpected place:

Japanese scientists claim to have developed a sex doll that is amazingly lifelike. Advertisements for the dolls in Japan say anybody who buys one will never want a real girlfriend again.

That's probably an exaggeration, but the thing is, just as robot workers are getting better while human workers stay the same, so robot women are getting better all the time, too. And smarter: Siri's inventors are working on a new artificial intelligence program called Viv that will do "anything you ask." Put that together with the fancy sex dolls, and you've got a true fembot.

We've already been warned about what comes next by Matt Groening's Futurama series, in which an episode warned of humanity's extinction as illustrated by a boy who was more interested in making out with his "Marilyn Monroebot" than in school, work or dating. The moral was don't date robots, lest society lose its reason for existence: "All civilization was just an effort to impress the opposite sex. And sometimes the same sex." And, of course, sex with robots doesn't produce children, eventually causing the entire species to die out.

Professor Reynolds, who's more of a child of this time than I, compared this to the well-known short story "The Screwfly Solution," by the late Alice Sheldon (who more frequently wrote under the pen name "James Tiptree, Jr."). The story concerns meddling by an unknown alien race in the human psyche, by which it replaced the human male's drive to mate and reproduce with an unconquerable homicidal impulse toward all human females. But were our beloved InstaPundit to reach a wee bit further into the past, he might have recalled this passage from C. S. Lewis's blockbuster novel That Hideous Strength:

“Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk? Why is the womb barren on one side? Where are the cold marriages?”

Ransom replied, “Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.”

Lewis was so prescient, and about such a vast range of things, that I've occasionally wondered whether God had granted him a peephole through which to see the outlines of the future.

Please allow me a longish citation from an old essay of mine:

In a rather well-known essay, commentator Tom Bethell quotes an unnamed acquaintance as saying: "We were worried about the bomb, when we should have been worrying about the Pill." The speaker undoubtedly had in mind the convulsive casting-off of sexual restraint that characterized the Seventies and early Eighties -- the Sexual Revolution years prior to the emergence of the AIDS threat. And indeed, one doesn't have to squint too hard to see the figure of present-day social chaos -- a barbarized culture, brutally exploitative sexual practices, millions of broken homes, hordes of fatherless children, endemic venereal diseases -- in the marble of Sexual Revolution promiscuity. But your Curmudgeon must remind you in his most ominous tone: that figure did not carve itself. There were active agents at work, making use of the destigmatization of sex-for-pleasure-alone as part of a sociopolitical campaign with broad goals. To these social engineers, sex was important solely as an instrument of deflection and distraction.

The Sexual Revolution's enduring social significance was philosophical and economic. Because of the Pill and less popular birth control techniques, sex had become an indulgence that, in theory, could be enjoyed without consequences. Stripped of its emotional significance, it approached being a "free good" as closely as anything ever can. For once, Ralph Waldo Emerson's jaundiced assessment of human endeavor:

The ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the solution of one problem -- how to detach the sensual sweet, the sensual bright, etc. from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair; that is, again, to cut clean off this upper surface so thin as to leave it bottomless; to get a one end, without an other end. [from his essay "Compensation"]

...appeared to have no downside. That's how it was represented to us, anyway.

But everything has a cost, even a bit of harmless friction on the mucous membranes. The costs of sexual indulgence were simply well concealed by a veil of wishful thinking, which the social engineers of the Left helped us to draw across our minds.

Much has already been written about the impossibility of divorcing sexual conduct from all emotional entanglement. Your Curmudgeon need not repeat it for you. But above and apart from that, we've suffered from the shift in our assumptions about the consequences, potential or actual, of sex:

  1. Sex need not amount to anything but pleasure.
  2. Averting other consequences is expected of the woman as a default condition.
  3. If she "cheats" and presents him with a conception to which he never assented, the responsibility is entirely hers.

The first of these assumptions is the most ironic. If it's just pleasure one wants, then why intercourse? Intercourse carries the largest potential costs of all sexual or para-sexual acts. More, the intensity of the sensations available from masturbation, with or without technological enhancements, greatly exceeds that of intercourse. From a pleasure-only standpoint, men ought to consider intercourse the least attractive of the alternatives. But they don't.

The same is broadly true for women. Indeed, intercourse poses risks to women an order of magnitude greater than it poses to men: pregnancy, greater receptivity to venereal disease, a heavier social stigma from being known as promiscuous, risks of being stalked or harmed by a quondam lover. But women, too, prefer intercourse to masturbation, and by a large margin. Why?

The fulfillments of sexual intercourse don't end with physical pleasure. They don't begin there, either. Though the language seems brusque, even a bit savage, the principal fulfillment to the man is that of conquest: winning access to the body of his lover. The principal fulfillment to the woman is that of agreeable surrender: the cession of her body to his, not merely for immediate pleasure but also in hope of a union that will last well beyond the physical connection. These satisfactions greatly overshadow those of the body, despite all attempts to assert the contrary.

The marital bond, which originated in the days before contraception or modern treatments for venereal disease, was designed specifically to protect women and their children from men's desire to experience that sense of conquest over and over, with a succession of new partners. In its assignment of responsibility for children and condemnation of adultery, it also protects each partner from betrayal by the other.

Women, who nominally had "more to lose" from accepting a regime of promiscuity, were the original enforcers of premarital chastity. As long as they had no alternative, men accepted that constraint on their desires. But when told that the consequences that made the constraint important could be averted, they strained to cast it off, and to persuade women that they needed it no longer.

The binding, enduring nature of marriage, and the embedding of licit sexual intercourse within it, was congruent with the classical attitude toward "a life well lived" as the source of true happiness.

Happiness, defined by Aristotle as "that which we seek as an end in itself and for no other reason," cannot be sought directly. It must be the consequence of our choices to do this or become that. If the choices are well made, and the actions that follow are well conceived and executed, happiness should follow, even though much of any man's life is determined by forces beyond his control. After all, there's great satisfaction to be had in knowing that one has done one's best and lived up to one's freely chosen standards despite all obstacles and temptations.

Viewed through this lens, the married man's determination to remain married, remain faithful, remain responsible, and "make it all work" are critical to his chances of happiness. The married woman's complementary determination to remain married, rear responsible children, maintain a decent home, and keep her husband by her are critical to her chances of happiness. But these things are not obvious to one who, in place of the classical formulation, adopts a standard of "living for the moment."

To "live for the moment" inescapably means to eschew the consequences of one's actions. More, it imposes a very narrow time filter on one's evaluations: Am I enjoying myself right now? The more closely that filter presses upon one, the more obsessed he'll be with mere sensation, and the less he'll want to be bothered about what might flow tomorrow from his pleasures of today.

Before birth control and the shift in attitudes away from obligatory paternal responsibility for children, "wanted" or not, "living for the moment" was an attitude no woman would condone in a man who wanted her body. But things have changed.

The title of that essay, posted nine years ago at Eternity Road, was "The Usages Of Sulva."

In the more than ten thousand pieces I've written for the web since I started out on this adventure in 1997, I've said a great deal about matters sexual. A superficial reading thereof might induce some persons to deem me a bluenosed prude. That's not the case, though modesty and prudence forbid me the recitation of specifics. Nevertheless, I'm alarmed and more over the extent to which C. S. Lewis's fantastic depiction of the lustful preferences of the Sulvans has become a wholly accurate description of the preferences and practices of millions of humans.

Maximizing pleasurable sexual sensation, as transient as such sensations are, has become the sole aim of many. In pursuit thereof, they eschew normal intercourse -- with or without contraception -- for cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, vibrators, electric stimulators, and other sorts of machine-produced thrills, specifically because the physical sensations are stronger than those available through ordinary coitus. This is "living for the moment" to an extent even I didn't foresee in the earlier essay: a concentration upon sexual pleasure so complete as to forgo all other pleasures and satisfactions, including others of the body: Genital Nerve Endings Uber Alles!

Will these practices become so ubiquitous as to doom the human race, by reducing fertility rates to below replacement level? Who can say for sure? But the virtual sanctification of live-for-the-moment / anything-goes sexuality -- a cultural embrace so complete as to exhibit contempt toward those who disdain it -- presents an ominous set of possibilities. It is not impossible that the attitude, and the practices it encourages, might become the norm, and "ordinary" sex be relegated to the margins of human behavior.

Sulva has one more dark gift for us: "the fabrication of our children by vile arts," whether or not in a secret place. We stand upon its threshold as we speak.

Advances in biotech have brought us to a point where even an infant born four months prematurely can usually be kept alive in an artificial incubator, such that he will eventually become viable without technological supports. It won't take much longer before we have true artificial wombs, capable of accepting a zygote created in vitro and reproducing the full gestation cycle. At that point, no woman would ever again need to experience the discomforts and quite considerable perils of pregnancy. She and her chosen inseminator would merely provide gametes to a convenient facility, which would supply the equipment required to bring "their" baby" to term. Parentage would be reduced to a matter of genetic input.

I have no doubt that there are couples, wholly innocent of any low motives, to whom such a development would be a unique blessing. (I also have no doubt that when it arrives, massive political forces will rise to demand that it be provided free of charge to everyone.) Given the rapid advancement of our capabilities in microsurgery and genetic screening and analysis, anyone with three functioning brain cells should be able to foresee the consequences.

It is not in me to fear such developments. I doubt I'll live to see them, and anyway, these days I reserve my fear energy for myself and my loved ones. But like Olaf Stapledon's Langatse, I feel that I have looked into the future, and "what I have seen it is not in me to praise."

We reject the wholly horrible: that which brings only pain, and degradation, and death. But when we are offered a more complex bargain:

The ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the solution of one problem -- how to detach the sensual sweet, the sensual bright, etc. from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair; that is, again, to cut clean off this upper surface so thin as to leave it bottomless; to get a one end, without an other end. [from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Compensation"] which the terrible price for our present pleasures is deferred by some indefinite interval, we are prone to telling ourselves that the uglier possibilities are avoidable, that our children (should we trouble ourselves to produce any) will find ways to cope that we can't envision, and anyway, that not all such problems are ours to solve -- that wiser heads will surely undertake to solve them for us.

Think it over.

"Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you." [From That Hideous Strength:]

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Just Deserts: An Out Of Sequence Tirade

Despite my possession of both A Kindle Fire HD and a NOOK Color, once in a great while I still sally forth to a Barnes & Noble to "slap the racks:" i.e., to scout the shelves for conventionally published books and writers with whom I'm unfamiliar but seem to deserve a tryout. This is an important process for me, as I'm the sort of reader who exhibits "high loyalty" to writers who've pleased me in the past...and sad to say, they don't always keep on writing. Some of them have the poor grace to die, leaving me without the entertainment I've come to expect from them. (The most recent entrant on the casualty lists was SF and fantasy great Jack Vance, a longtime hero of mine. And at only 90! At the very least, he could have called first.)

But there are dangers. One's eye cannot be constrained to view only the shelves upon which one expects to find one's imagination fodder. It sees what it will. And today it saw a selection of most disturbingly titled tomes. Allow me to give you the flavor thereof -- paraphrased, as I'd rather not be haled into court for "artistic defamation:"

  • Changing Your Frog Into A Prince
  • How To Get The Love You Deserve
  • Winning Love While Staying Yourself
  • Husband Hunting For The Overworked 21st Century Woman
  • Keeping Him Faithful Without Pandering To His Icky Male Fantasies

...and so forth. All of them were aimed at women. All of them embedded as fundamental assumptions that:

  • You, Miss Reader, deserve to be loved;
  • That's inherent in your being an American woman;
  • You shouldn't have to change yourself to attract Mr. Right;
  • But changing him is your God-given, double-X-chromosome right;
  • And we'll ram the enforcement legislation through Congress Real Soon Now.

Imagine that.

I have an unfortunate role on the World Wide Web: it's my job to tell people things they don't want to hear, and having heard them, would greatly prefer to disbelieve. I appreciate your sympathy, but someone has to do it, and who better than I: a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, gun-toting, retrograde Catholic knuckle-dragger who blathers onto the Web for fun and profit? Though I must declare: there's precious little profit in it. But "my station and its duties," as some pompous ass other than myself once said.

And in keeping with those duties, I must tell the women of this once proud nation something terribly bleak:

You are not entitled to love.

How can I be so certain of that position? Quite simply: Love in this context is an emotion engendered in another person's psyche. To say that Jones is entitled to Smith's love is therefore to say that Jones is entitled to dictate Smith's emotions. But not only is it impossible that Jones should be so entitled, the dictation itself is impossible. The three pounds of "little gray cells" within Smith's skull, wherein he decides such things as whom to love, whom to ignore, and whom to waylay, behead, marinate, fillet, and serve at a church barbecue, is the most private of all organs. It does only what Smith pleases.

Many who yearn for love never receive it. Many who love are not loved in return. It's the subject of quite a lot of memorable (and even more mediocre) fiction. No tactic -- i.e., no technique that anyone can master acontextually and without reference to her situation, her personal qualities, and her character -- will reliably get you love. Indeed, no tactic is even odds-on to do so.

Nevertheless, there's apparently a huge market for books about "getting the love you deserve." It appears to be the fantasy of half the women in America that they can "bag Mr. Right" without having to do more than: 1) find him; 2) zero in on him; 3) apply the appropriate tactics.

The most terrible thing about this delusion is that quite a number of the women afflicted by it are married.

As awful as the above must sound, here's worse -- much worse:

No matter how "perfect" you are or become,
Love is not guaranteed you.

I've known thousands of people of both sexes. A could rattle off a dozen names of men and women I regarded as utterly without fault, sterling examples of the very best of Mankind...all of whom have been single their whole lives long, and not from a disinclination to mate. That's because personal quality isn't the only factor. Chance is involved as well.

The hell of it is, though "working on yourself" -- your appearance, your character, your social graces, your small talk, your comfort level among strangers, etc. -- is the approach most likely to put you in the way of someone who'll love you, there are still conditions to be met:

  • You must meet;
  • You must both be available;
  • You must be physically compatible;
  • You must be compatible in age, values, and priorities;
  • You must both be positioned to capitalize on one another's availability;
  • You must be moved to love him back.

For any given individual of the opposite sex, at the most optimistic the probability that he and you will meet all those conditions is 1 in 64. This is not a figure the pari-mutuel industry is likely to embrace.

All that having been said, most Americans do find love at some point in their lives, whether or not they manage to keep it. It's unlikely to be the sort of all-consuming passion one reads about in "pink and purple books," to the dismay of many fantasy-ridden women. And it could cost quite a bit of effort to keep it alive. Given the disinclination to such efforts so many women exhibit today, rampant domestic disillusion and unhappiness, the plague of marital infidelity, and the "divorce epidemic" stand largely explained.

I can't say with justice that this is entirely because so many women think they deserve to be loved, entirely without conditions and just because they're alive and ambulatory, but that's surely part of it. The "entitlement mentality" is powerfully unattractive. It's especially unattractive when it touches upon human emotions. You cannot command the emotions of others no matter how hard you try. It's pointless to look to the march of science for assistance.

And here's the Ace kicker:

You might be eminently lovable by every objective standard.
That makes absolutely no difference.

You cannot deserve love.
You cannot somehow earn a right to it.
You cannot make yourself irresistible by any means.
No matter how many frogs you kiss, you might never find your prince.

The only love we are guaranteed is God's love. All else is a matter of personal quality and happenstance, with happenstance being by far the larger determinant. And it won't matter how many "romantic tactics guides" you buy and devour.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Owners Part 2: The Law And The Profits

[NB: The subtitle to this piece was shamelessly stolen from the late, great Cyril Northcote Parkinson. I hope he won't mind. Anyway, I plan to buy him a drink if we meet in the afterlife.]

[NBB: Subtitles must not become a habit. A late friend of mine proposed to write a monograph titled: Subtitles: The Abuse of the Colon, which is only funny until you realize just how ubiquitous and annoying the practice has become.]

[NBBB: It might be possible to distinguish subtitles from the sort of "series tag" novelists append to their titles, such as: Which Art In Hope: A novel of the Spooner Federation, but it's much too early in the morning for such fine distinctions.]

[NBBBB: Wi not trei a holiday in Sweden this year?]

One of the most insightful of Isabel Paterson's many observations on government and politics was that whereas the usual conception of corruption is that it occurs when business corrupts government, in reality exactly the reverse is the case: persons who wield political power actively seek to sell the use of that power to persons who can enrich them. In point of fact, business cannot corrupt government, because the power to create privileges in the marketplace by an action of the State must exist and be "advertised for sale" before it can be purchased.

The earliest corruptions of business by government are falling stones on a steep, loose mountainside. They trigger an avalanche of efforts by businesspeople to get the government "on their side" -- or at least "off their backs" -- that redounds massively to the fortunes of politicians. The underlying dynamic is irresistible:

Corruption makes State favor into the most important single factor in the marketplace.

It's simple, really: If your competitor manages to enlist the State on his side, just how long do you think you'll manage to remain in business? Thus, the State's favor becomes the paramount consideration in any market segment into which it is introduced.

There is no more pernicious convergence than that of profit with power.

The federal design expressed by the Constitution of the United States was motivated by several factors, not the least of which was the attachment to power of the governors and legislators of the states. Yet the Founding Fathers managed to do something no previous architects of government had ever succeeded in doing: they got the states to agree to a binding compact that expressly forbade them certain actions and exertions of law:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay. [Article I, Section 10]

It's difficult to get a sense for the magnitude of this achievement without a fairly wide and deep knowledge of the history of political systems. At the time of the Framing it was unprecedented. Yet the fifty-odd men of the Constitutional Convention -- and take it from me, some of them were more than a little odd -- pulled it off, with immense popular support.

Since then, nearly all of the provisions of Article I, Section 10 have been violated. Cui bono? Hint: It wasn't yours.

Ownership of a thing is supposed to confer rights over that thing, including the right to set the terms on which it shall be yielded up to another. For instance, if I own a chair, whether I made it myself or paid for it at the local furniture store, my rights over it are an impassable barrier against your dictating at what price I must sell it to you. I can set any price I like, or declare the item not for sale. Whatever I decide, you have no recourse, for I have merely exercised an owner's rights: the same rights available to you over anything and everything you own or might acquire.

The Framers left a chink in that barrier, unfortunately:

The Congress shall have regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; [Article I, Section 8, third authorizing clause]

...the expansive interpretation of which gave birth to the worst aspects of the federal leviathan: the alphabet agencies of the Regulatory State.

Regulators routinely exercise the power to dictate who may buy and who may sell, and under what conditions, at what prices, and at what times. They do so without legislative authorization, which is bad enough, but is essentially a side issue. Not even Congress could enact such rules without violating the property rights of Americans in business. Such regulatory power -- arbitrary and unreviewable in nearly all cases -- is the gouting fount of 99% of all governmental corruption. Compared to it, federal employees surfing for porn during working hours are a triviality.

Is it any wonder that every corporation in the Fortune 5000 possesses legal and regulatory-compliance departments that are larger than its sales and marketing forces, or that every one of them maintains an office in Washington specifically for swift access to the federal government?

One of the most illustrative historical examples of the lethality of political corruption stems from France during the reign of Louis XIV. The Edict of Nantes, issued by Henry IV in 1598, extended State protection to (and enforced public toleration of) France's Protestant minority, the Huguenots. French Catholic artisans, shopkeepers, and manufacturers, forbidden by the Church to work on Sundays, chafed at this provision, for their Huguenot competitors tended to work seven days per week, which gave them a commercial edge. Over time, pressure mounted upon Louis to revoke the Edict, which he did in 1685. The immediate resumption of bloody hostilities between Catholics and Huguenots, with eventuated in the mass migration of the Huguenots to Belgium, was a major contributor to the economic decline that ultimately produced the French Revolution.

Most monarchs of Louis XIV's time considered their powers unbounded, regardless of any quasi-constitutional mechanisms that might militate to the contrary. In the usual case they were correct de facto to think so, for few were the mechanisms that might succeed in restraining them. Thus, when Louis decided to bestow his royal favor on French Catholics, his altitude, combined with majority support for the revocation, made the consequences inescapable.

Seldom in these United States does blood visibly flow over a corruption of that sort. Yet the consequences are equally inescapable. Regulators empowered to decree who may buy and who may sell, and under what conditions, at what prices, and at what times possess the power of commercial life and death over American businesses, from the greatest to the least. When they exercise those powers, some lose their livelihoods...and often much else besides.

The late Poul Anderson once expressed the core principle of statism as "Do as we say or we'll kill you." Sometimes "doing as they say" will kill you just as dead.

Those familiar with Ayn Rand's blockbuster Atlas Shrugged will remember the backstory about Dagny Taggart's ancestor Nat Taggart, founder of Taggart Transcontinental:

    In his lifetime, the name "Nat Taggart" was not famous, but notorious; it was repeated, not in homage, but in resentful curiosity; and if anyone admired him, it was as one admires a successful bandit. Yet no penny of his wealth had been obtained by force or fraud; he was guilty of nothing, except that he had obtained his own fortune and never forgot that it was his.
    Many stories were whispered about him. It was said that in the wilderness of the Middle West, he murdered a state legislator who attempted to revoke a charter granted to him, to revoke it when his rail was laid halfway across the state; some legislators had planned to make a fortune on Taggart stock -- by selling it short. Nat Taggart was indicted for the murder, but the charge could never be proved. He had no trouble with legislators from then on.

Though I can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, this sketch of Nat Taggart might well have been modeled on a quite similar story about Cornelius Vanderbilt, who faced almost exactly the same sort of political ploy from the New York legislature. However, no senator or assemblyman died under mysterious circumstances, though many went broke when Vanderbilt succeeded in countervailing their maneuver. Yet even those who know the Vanderbilt story seldom ask the key question at the base of the whole incident:

By what right does any legislature or other political body claim the power to permit or forbid a peaceful act of commerce?

The long and the short of it is that governmental attempts to decree who may buy and who may sell, and under what conditions, at what prices, and at what times, constitute a usurpation of the rights of ownership. Such a decree is a taking quite as much as the physical seizure of a physical item. If we grudgingly allow that the Constitution does authorize such actions, we must nevertheless demand that they be limited to "public use," and that the dispossessed owners by justly compensated...but despite numerous Supreme Court edicts to his effect, regulatory takings almost never are.

If, as I said in yesterday's tirade, "men must be free because nothing else can be," it behooves us to ask why. The answer is simple: Our interactions with the nonsentient material universe, and with one another through trade, are how we survive and flourish. He who claims the power to "regulate" those interactions implicitly claims the power of life and death over us, for there is no domain of applicability within which such a power can be bounded.

Combine that with the ruthless voracity characteristic of men who view government as an instrument by which to profit, and with the willingness of supposed "public servants" to sell them the use of State power. Given the landscape of coercion and favoritism that results, with all its pockets of privilege and special provisions for politically favored companies and groups, can we really call it a "government of laws, not of men?"

Think it over.