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Image credit and more on another green blob. Again, let me emphasise that participation in political competition, political engagement, and hence the work of politicians are of the essence in defending the system of liberty that underlies our civilization. Just ponder these words of a politician: …However, I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of - to coin a phrase - the Green Blob. By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely. Local conservationists on the ground do wonderful work to protect and improve wild landscapes, as do farmers, rural businesses and ordinary people. They are a world away from the highly paid globe-trotters of the Green Blob who besieged me with their self-serving demands, many of which would have harmed the natural environment. I soon realised that the greens and their industrial and bureaucratic allies are used to getting things their own way. I received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland… The source. Related articles Eco-Theocracy Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Chris Berg of Australia's Institute of Public Affairs discusses "Too Big To Fail", and comes to a different conclusion than I do. He argues that the problem cannot be solved because it is an inherent concern of politicians to protect certain companies or institutions from terminal collapse. I would argue, that only politics can change the present state of affairs. However, if libertarians are unwilling to participate in politics, eschewing the competition for political dominance of the state, matters are indeed bound to linger on in their unsatisfactory condition. "Too big to fail" describes financial institutions, mostly banks, which have become so large and so deeply integrated into the financial system that if we let them collapse they would take everything else with them. If a corporation is too big to fail, then, it follows, taxpayers have to bail them out. It's quite a problem. A market economy is supposed to be dynamic, full of entries and exits. Firms that add economic value thrive. Those that do not go broke. So bailing out failed companies makes the economy less efficient. More gallingly, it redistributes money from the poor to the rich. And it creates "moral hazard" - a belief by management that ultimately they won't have to pay for their mistakes. Moral hazard is a particularly severe problem for banks. Banks trade on risk. A bank's basic job is to transform short-term highly liquid deposits into long-term extremely illiquid loans. Too much of the latter will prevent redemption of the former. Too big to fail encourages banks to make riskier loans. Why wouldn't they? They're not the ones bearing the cost of failure. Taxpayers are. So it would be great to get rid of too-big-to-fail. Or at least limit it somehow. The Murray Inquiry has a few ideas: higher capital requirements for bigger institutions, for instance, or new procedures for when banks do fail. But the question isn't what should we do about too-big-to-fail but what can we do about it. And the answer to that question is almost certainly nothing. Make sure to read the entire article. Hat tip to Sinclair Davidson. Related articles You Can Always Tell Them Not To Jump Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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The trousers Hitler was wearing when the bomb exploded. Image credit. The toughest fight in my life? It took place in 1973. I was 14, a judoka at an early age, by now brawls were getting rarer in my life. At the time, I was attending boarding school in St. Blasien. One weekend, my age group went on a retreat in some remote place in the Black Forest, staying in rustic cabins and being half entertained, half challenged by a mixture of games, religious instruction, and outdoor activities. One of the games we played was of a martial nature, culminating in a wresting battle between my age group and the boys of the next higher age group. I found myself fighting a guy easily a head taller than myself. A swift winner, I was not used to extended fights. But this guy was skilled and unusually ferocious, marshaling energies absolutely disproportionate to his wiry body. The fight went on and on and on, becoming increasingly painful owing to mounting fatigue and the savagery of two fighters incapable of conceding defeat. Eventually the fight petered out with no clear winner - which deeply shamed us. We parted without feeling respect for one another. For the rest of the weekend, we remained distrustful of each other, perhaps contemplating a renewed confrontation, and mostly grappling with the tremendous disappointment not to have won. It did not mean much to me at the time -- today, however, it makes me more ponderous to think that I fought the grandson of the man who tried to kill Adolf Hitler: Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Writes my opponent's father: "It was actually the next day that my mother took me and my brother aside and told me that it was our father who'd laid the bomb. I said 'How, could he do it?' And she said, 'He believed he had to do this for Germany.'" "It was a total shock, I couldn't believe it. An attack on the Fuhrer! We were brought up in school and everywhere else, to believe that the Fuhrer was a wonderful man." Read a fuller account of the attempted assassination here. See also Alma Mater St. Blasien. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Few presidents have accomplished so much in such a short time—Harding served from March 1921 to August 1923, when he died of a heart attack. As we’ve argued before, the fiscal policies Harding instituted brought the country out of the economic depression occurring as a result of the Great War, a period in which the national debt climbed from $1 billion in 1914 to $24 billion in 1920. It was a dire time: The country was already experiencing rising unemployment just as soldiers were returning home from the war looking for work. Deflation led to bankruptcies and business closures. In urban areas where African-Americans lived in close proximity to whites, race riots broke out. Harding’s pledge to restore America to a condition of “normalcy” led to his landslide victory in November 1920. In office, he cut government spending to the bone and reduced federal income tax rates across the board. As he said to Congress, the government acted during the war as if “it counted the Treasury inexhaustible”; if that pattern continued, it would result in “inevitable disaster.” To get government spending under control, Harding established the nation’s first Budget Bureau (the forerunner of today’s Office of Management and Budget) in the Treasury Department. As a result, federal spending dropped from $6.3 billion in 1920 to $5 billion in 1921 and then $3.3 billion in 1922. He supported the Revenue Act of 1921, which eliminated the wartime excess-profits tax, lowered the top marginal income tax rate from 73 to 58 percent, decreased surtaxes on incomes above $5,000, and increased exemptions for families. By the time Harding died, the signs of economic growth were evident. Hat tip to Steve Kates, my favourite economist, whose post pointed me to this piece at Slate. See also Coolidge. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Does anyone know this writer? Did you like her writing? Does she deserve to represent Nebraska in a series of the best nonfiction about America's 50 states? I might read her letters to learn more about Nebraska. Nebraska: The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout Cather is the strongest writer to come out of Nebraska, and her letters shed light on the life that gave shape to such books as My Antonia. It shows how, though she tried to flee eastward, the West — and the inspiration that it gave — always had a hold on this bright woman, one that lasted throughout her life. The source. See also Lincoln, Nebraska and Fascinating Nebraska. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Politics is important for freedom: As of today, Australia no longer has the most expensive “carbon” price in the world. The voters didn’t ask for a tax in 2010, but it was forced on them in 2011. They rejected it wholeheartedly in 2013 but it still has taken months to start unwinding this completely pointless piece of symbolism which aimed to change the weather. The machinery of democracy may be slow, but this is a win for voters. 11:15am EST today: The Australian Senate passes the carbon tax repeal bill. “Australia has become the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon, with the Senate passing the Abbott government’s repeal bills 39 votes to 32.“ SMH Now we need to turn off the tap to all the other green gravy rent-seekers who ignore the evidence. The source. This is a case of what I like to call "Freedom bites back", the meaning of which I explain in The Corridor of Success. It is also shows that conviction politicians are rewarded when their ideas have economic merit—and are clearly explained—to the electorate. Republicans should take note. The source. See also Science Sick from Too Much Bad Politics. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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How High Is High Enough? Aesthetically I've never been a friend of skyscraper panoramas. But how high is high enough? Not all very tall buildings appear ugly or misplaced to me. What makes them pleasant to look at, what turns them into an uncomfortable sight? The below video helps you imagine Paris as a city where buildings can only be one or two storeys tall. Mind you, architects are likely to come up with different designs if it is known beforehand that a certain height may not be exceeded. Anyway, which is more pleasing and nicer to live in, the city without regulations or one with urban planners in the driver's seat? Is there a best mix of both? How is it achieved? We, believers in freedom, certainly need a sharper eye for the interfaces and interlocking between markets and public institutions, private decisions and public decisions. How Public Is Public Enough? Back in the 1930s, the Ostroms (including the late Nobel prize winning Elinor Ostrom) started an entirely new field of research by doing empirical research on municipal services and urban public goods. The findings concerning police departments in Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Grand Rapids and Nashville challenged the notion that larger government produced superior public services: The presumption that economies of scale were prevalent was wrong; the presumption that you needed a single police department was wrong; and the presumption that individual departments wouldn't be smart enough to work out ways of coordinating was wrong." (Cited from Institutional Diversity and Political Economy. The Ostroms and Beyond, by Paul Dragos Aligica, p. 45-46) At the same time, the Ostroms discovered a middle ground between uncritical believe in powerful public institutions and unwarranted expectations of markets or unspecified forms of private decision making to provide public goods. ... there is no reason to assume apriori that competition among public agencies is necessarily inefficient (p.44) And The Ostroms explained that the variety of relationships between governmental units, public agencies, and private businesses, emerging, coexisting, and functioning in a public economy, "can be coordinated through patterns of interorganizational arrangements." Interorganizational arrangements [...] would manifest market-like characteristics and display both efficiency-inducing and error-correcting behavior. Coordination in the public sector need not [...] rely exclusively upon bureaucratic command structures controlled by chief executives. Instead, the structure of interorganizational arrangements may create important economic opportunities and evoke self-regulating tendencies (Ostrom and Ostrom 1965, 135-36) (Ibid. 44) Libertarians must discard the straight jacket of simplistic anti-state attitudes. Instead, they need to participate in politics so as to shape the public institutions and discourse in ways conducive to liberty. Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Enjoy: The pre-capitalistic system of product was restrictive. Its historical basis was military conquest. The victorious kings had given the land to their paladins. These aristocrats were lords in the literal meaning of the word, as they did not depend on the patronage of consumers buying or abstaining from buying on a market. On the other hand, they themselves were the main customers of the processing industries which, under the guild system, were organized on a corporative scheme. This scheme was opposed to innovation. It forbade deviation from the traditional methods of production. The number of people for whom there were jobs even in agriculture or in the arts and crafts was limited. Under these conditions, many a man, to use the words of Malthus, had to discover that "at nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him" and that "she tells him to be gone."[1] But some of these outcasts nevertheless managed to survive, begot children, and made the number of destitute grow hopelessly more and more. But then came capitalism. It is customary to see the radical innovations that capitalism brought about in the substitution of the mechanical factory for the more primitive and less efficient methods of the artisans' shops. This is a rather superficial view. The characteristic feature of capitalism that distinguishes it from pre-capitalist methods of production was its new principle of marketing. Capitalism is not simply mass production, but mass production to satisfy the needs of the masses. The arts and crafts of the good old days had catered almost exclusively to the wants of the well-to-do. But the factories produced cheap goods for the many. All the early factories turned out was designed to serve the masses, the same strata that worked in the factories. They served them either by supplying them directly or indirectly by exporting and thus providing for them foreign food and raw materials. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I see a parallel between the below dissent concerning depletable or non-depletable resources, and the controversy between the Keynesian vision and Say's view of the economy. The confounding of physics with economics has plagued a real-world understanding of mineral resource developments. The phenomenon of entropy and the laws of thermodynamics rule in their domain. But there is no economic law analogous to the physical conservation of matter. There is no law of conservation of value; value is continually, routinely created by the market process. And this value creation does not deplete–just the opposite. This insight reorients the peak-oil debate from pessimism about hypothetical future physical resources to here-and-now concerns over incentives and institutions–or the ability of a free market to create a robust energy future. Emphasis added. The source. As for Keynes versus the classical economists: not aggregate demand (Keynes) is a limiting factor in the production of value in an economy, i.e. saleable goods, but the structure of supply (classical economists); i.e. (1) if people are not allowed to produce what (a) is within their means and capabilities to produce, AND (b) meets consumer interest, or (2) if they err in their attempts to match these two requirements (a) AND (b), then the economy will stall, as ipso facto the process of value creation is disrupted. However, and here is the link between Simon and Say, the ability to produce economic value is, as I argue in Greed versus Self-Interest, built into human nature, and thus unlimited -- as long as incentives and institutions are geared to supporting this talent. More on Says's Law: What a man produces is what he can bid for the produce of others. The value of what he creates – that is, its value to others – represents his effective demand in the marketplace. If he produces nothing, if what he produces has no value (mud pies), if what he produces loses its value (stone knives in the Bronze Age), or if he produces more than can be consumed (houses after a housing bubble has burst), he has no effective demand though his needs be unchanged. Say’s Law This restates Say’s Law, which Keynes in his General Theory popularly, though misleadingly, formulated as: Supply creates its own demand – misleading because a supply of goods with no value yields no effective demand and because supply that does have value to others does not create effective demand, it is effective demand. What Keynesians do not understand is that if a man is hired to dig holes and then fill them back up, he is fully employed but he produces nothing of value; effective demand is not increased by his efforts. Nor does giving him money or goods in exchange for his useless labor create effective demand; it only shifts it from the people who produced what was given him. Only production creates effective demand and only after what was produced is sold can other goods be purchased and consumed. What changed England was not increased consumption but increased production, production that made increased consumption possible. As for the source: the link is broken; the excerpt is from a piece (such as this one) published at FEE. See The Courage to Think - More Julian Simon, and for the economic side of it: Structure of Demand vs. Quantity of Demand, Veil of Money ..., A Keynesian Archipelago ..., GO - The Great Say Is Back, and Say's Law Is Back, Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Superb Argentina were absolutely on a par, but Germany win the world cup, owing to greater stamina in overtime, and a dream goal scored by Mario Götze in the 113th minute. In the second half, Argentina were denied a penalty after a foul perpetrated by Manuel Neuer, Germany's goal keeper, who should have seen a red card for it. Be this as it may, Germany is in high spirits and having a great summer - I hope, the same is true for you. See also USA - Germany, and Massacre at Malo Horizonte. Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Via Hoppe on Argumentation Ethics. Take a person, who, to this day, has never left the territory of Nebraska. What does that person do when she claims: "I am not in Nebraska, today." She commits what linguists and philosophers of language call a performative contradiction, i.e. her actual circumstances, being in Nebraska, contradict the statement she makes. In the above video, the gentleman tries to apply the concept to the task of justifying Anarcho-Capitalism, or indeed derive it irrefutably from first principles. 00:51: "This axiom of action is axiomatic because you cannot not act." I cannot go into the properties of axiomatic systems too deeply here, but whatever they are, they are not designed to deal with, let alone decide issues of the empirical world. In their natural habitat of formal systems, axioms tend to be fitted after the fact, to attain the desired overall outcome of formal consistency. In axiomatics, it is not that a starting point gives you a system. It is rather that a (gradually developed) system eventually selects a starting point. Moreover, proposing a non-contradictory statement does not suffice to establish an axiomatic system. 01:04: "We have a firmly established starting point from which all of economic theory is derived." Well, it is simply not true that "all of economic theory is derived" that way. No one ever embarked on such a project, including Ludwig von Mises who only made claims to that effect, among any number of contradicting and retracting statements. The least thing to heed in building an axiomatic system is the need to lay out carefully all steps in its derivation, something von Mises never so much as began to attempt. The above statement reveals the by now archaic and obsolete belief that for knowledge to have validity or for a chain of reasoning to be sound it must be grounded in an ultimate starting point of indubitable truth. No such basis is required, nor does the speaker establish an indubitable base from which apodictically true conclusions can be drawn, as we shall see further below. We seem to witness a hankering after the old, naive Platonic dream, in whose vision The Ultimate is a fixed structure like a three dimensional grid. Discovering Ultimate Truth is like linking up with the Platonic grid; once you get to grip the base, you can feel your way up and eventually grasp the entire structure. It is the epistemology of the control freak, who likes to think of knowledge and truth as a complete set of something that belongs to him; to him managing truth is like pulling out a drawer to ensure none of your toys are missing. I have spent at least the early part of my life looking at the world from the point of view of a believer in the flatness of the earth (and still sometimes think it must be turtles all the way down). Millions before me took the same stance, but man has gradually learned to improve the flawed conjecture of a disk-like world by working out better, yet still flawed conjectures. Aprioristic Praxeology - Between Religious Deontology and Agnostic Consequentialism The speaker - more guardedly: the type of argument espoused by him - seems to take a middle seat between religious deontology and agnostic consequentialism. Religious deontology Religious deontology vests the authority to determine ultimate moral value in God. The most elegant version of which, in my view, is the Christian notion that God has created in man a being whose life has a purpose. That which is in accord with this purpose (reflecting God's will) is thereby morally authenticated and valuable, while that which stands in the way of the pursuit of man's purpose is ipso facto morally dubious or immoral. For more see Natural Ends and Prudential Judgement. Agnostic consequentialism The agnostic consequentialist relies on some functional reconstruction of morality (or law, for that matter). He does not make the assumption that moral values or criteria of moral correctness must be issued by an authority, they may have evolved spontaneously, i.e. without the intervention of a designer of the overall outcome. The trick is to find out what functions certain phenomena of moral interest actually serve, and whether the functions are useful or not (in ways to be carefully qualified; an issue I cannot go into here). Private property is conducive to x, y, z. hence it is morally defensible, whether or not this quality of being moral can be retraced to the will of an authority or stringently deduced from first principles. For the consequentialist moral behaviour can be simply an adaptation to the challenges of an environment that by itself has no moral quality. Thus, for instance, infanticide or senicide may represent moral behaviour in an environment where such practices ensure a community's best adaptation to the environment. Rationalistic deontology Heir to religious deontology, the (type of argument offered by the) speaker represents a form of secularised rationalistic deontology. For him God is not good enough; he trusts no authority but himself, his own reasoning. Therefore, he endeavours to build a theory with which to justify what is supposed to be the only true and valid ethics - his own ethics, the ethics brought into life courtesy of his own mind's incorrupt acuteness. For this reason not only does he reject religious deontology, replacing God by his own intellectual powers, but also agnostic consequentialism, as the latter allows patterns of origination and genesis in moral phenomena that are not under the control of his reasoning, his choice of premises. We will see that his reasoning is in fact entirely arbitrary and groundless, which makes one wonder, is he setting up a show of apodictic veracity to cover the arbitrariness of his reasoning or is he reasoning arbitrarily to appear to be in possession of absolute truth? Fundamentum Inconcussum and Performatice Contradiction 00:51: "This axiom of action is axiomatic because you cannot not act." Now, this argument is susceptible to a number of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Meghan Daum paints a charming portrait of Lincoln, Nebraska. Her life wasn't too happy, and she felt somewhat lost in this world: Until one day I got on a plane and moved to Lincoln. Like I said, I don’t expect people to get it. I didn’t get it myself. Instead, I can offer this controlling metaphor. It concerns the final approach into the Lincoln airfield. It’s a long runway surrounded by fields, with no built-up adjacent areas or bodies of water to negotiate. The runway is so long, in fact, that it was designated an emergency landing site for the space shuttle and, to this day, every time I fly in, even when the wind is tossing the little plane around like a rag doll, I always have the feeling that nothing can possibly go wrong. The space is so vast, the margin for error so wide, that getting thrown off course is just a minor hiccup, an eminently correctable misfire. Lincoln’s air space, like its ground space, is inherently forgiving. After those acid trip sunsets, that’s the thing about Lincoln that rocked my world. That you can’t really mess up too badly. You can marry too young, get a terrible tattoo or earn $12,000 a year, and the sky will not necessarily fall. The housing is too cheap and the folks are too kind for it to be otherwise. Moreover, when you live underneath a sky that big, it’s hard to take yourself too seriously. Its storms have a way of sweeping into town and jolting your life into perspective. That jolt was Lincoln’s gift to me. It comes in handy every day. Make sure to read the whole piece. What I know of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the surrounding area, reduces to my acquaintance with Laura Ebke. By that standard I absolutely love Lincoln. I wonder where Laura and my other friends from the area were at the time when the below video was filmed, and how they felt in the face of this awesome spectacle: And: Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. As expected, the US boys had been a formidable opponent, and it was a stiff piece of work for the German soccer team to prevail in a 1:0 victory. How close the US has come to the very top in international football - as we call it in Europe - is being underscored by a soccer sensation superbly captured in Professor Birdthistle's guest-post at The Volokh Conspiracy: If you were lucky enough to see today’s German vivisection of Brazil, you will have witnessed perhaps the most famous game of soccer ever played. Even had Brazil gone on to win this World Cup, those victories and new trophy would soon have faded amidst their cluttered trophy cabinet. But a loss this massive, this calamitous — at home in front of their bawling compatriots — will scorch football’s record books like a funeral pyre for decades to come. The slaughter was so devastating, so historic, it may take a poet to capture it. Perhaps Wordsworth: Dire was it in that dusk to be alive, But to be Brazilian was truly hell. Or Shakespeare: And footballers in Brazil now a-field Shall think themselves accursed that they were here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles Germans speak That fought ’gainst them upon Saint Jögi’s day. Even the historical superlatives can’t convey just how Titanic this disaster is for Brazilian soccer. The Seleção hadn’t lost a competitive game at home in 39 years. This defeat was their worst in 94 years. Make sure to read the entire post. See also USA - Germany and Filho maravilha (Jorge Ben Jor). Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Apparently, understanding free market economics is hard to accomplish, as seems to be amply demonstrated both by those underestimating and those (especially zealous anarcho-capitalists and radical libertarians) overpromoting the merits of capitalism. As for the majority perspective on market-induced prosperity nowadays, the credo is based on a fundamentally erroneous premise and an appallingly immoral conclusion. Premise: those with wealth have come by it by robbery and exploitation or some other anti-social, zero-sum game whereby what one person gains another must have been deprived of. Conclusion: those with less wealth are entitled to expropriate those with more. This is generally assumed in more or less disguised form, where the biggest problem is that people argue and act on that basis, while often denying or retracting any such conviction when driven into a corner - so, it appears that no one really believes such nonsense, when almost everyone feels strongly about it and acts on it. Conceited ignorance of this kind explains the tremendous success and popularity of third-rate theories of capitalism - such as Picketty's scientifically dressed up political hunches concerning capital and inequality. In a perceptive review George L. Priest explains: The heart of Piketty’s book, however, similar to Marx, is the claim that the owners of capital are gaining returns greater than workers, returns that will continue into the future, generating huge inequality. What is the consequence? The book is quite vague on this. It is not the Communist Manifesto. But laced throughout the book are references to the “powerful and destabilizing effects on the structure and dynamics of social inequality” and the like. This is a political, not an economic, analysis. And it is not quite political science. Piketty shows that there have been periods of greater inequality of ownership than today or than he projects for the future that have not resulted in revolutions. Piketty’s predictions about the destabilizing effects of inequality in the future — revolution? — are a hunch. Almost 70% of young Germans regard employment by the state as the most desirable option for their future; this presupposes an inequality within the population of ownership of growth-producing capital. Anyone who prefers dependent employment to self-employment casts a vote, as it were, for unequal distribution of capital in society. Put differently, if more equality of capital ownership is sought after, then more people must become entrepreneurs/capitalists. This, however, is not achieved by soaking the rich, Piketty's preferred strategy. Wealth creation by entrepreneurs is conditional upon adding value. By contrast, wealth enhancement by expropriation severs the vital tie of a person's acquirements to the production of real wealth. At any rate, what is so surprising about the fact that those earning a living by adding exceptional value to their offerings end up with a higher return than people happy to be told what to do? Priest continues: More importantly, Piketty does not explain, except for his subtle references to social discontent, why we should care about the growing — if it is — concentration of ownership of capital. In a competitive economy, why should we care about capital ownership? [...] If owners of capital aspire to maintain their rate of return, they have to provide products or services of value to the consuming population. Why should the consuming population care about inequality in ownership of the capital used to provide the product? Personally, I am absoluteley in favour of monopoly, that is: meritocratic monopoly - ein Leistungsmonopol, in German, a monopolistic position attained by providing a product of unrivalled desirability. I want my baker to be a meritocratic monopolist, the only guy in town where people buy bread, because it is so much better than anybody else's profferings. If someone managed to produce a top echelon Mercedes and sell it profitably for € 100, she would surely and deservedly become a monopolist and an earner of excpetionally high returns. For monopoly to be a boon for everyone, all we need is open market entry, no political favours, and incredibly capable entrepreneurs. The improvement to my life that a super product makes does not diminish by so much as a tittle when the provider earns a substantial return on his service to mankind. When a patient goes to a hospital, there is a huge inequality of capital ownership. The hospital’s possession of MRI and CT scanning machinery, not to mention the accumulation of machines checking vital signs, is vastly unequal to the capital possessed by the patient. Is this inequality a problem? No, in fact the patient would prefer more inequality of capital if that would enable the hospital to more successfully diagnose the health problem. Similarly, when a consumer buys a car, does it matter whether the car manufacturer is owned or controlled by a dynastic family as opposed to a set of employee pension plans (again, most workers are idle capitalists by Piketty’s definition)? It doesn’t matter. What’s important is the quality of the car. Maintaining a competitive economy trumps all of Piketty’s concerns about inequality of wealth. The source. An economist used to be a person who was able to explain why the economy works well without interference by the state, and, indeed, better than if such meddling were to be effected. Nowadays, an economist is a person who affirms that the economy can only work properly thanks to interventions by the state. The economist – versed in knowledge about the invisible hand – has metamorphosed into a staunch proponent of economic policy, the politician’s advisor ambitious to steer the visible hand. I have watched the reception of Piketty's book for a while, and in the process have accumulated a large bunch of reviews of his rickety economics - so, anyone interested help yourselves: Piketty's Rickety Economics, The Piketty Fallacy, Capital in the Twenty First Century ..., Capital Punishment, Something to Celebrate, Piketty Should Focus ..., Wealth Inequality: Signal or Noise? , The Inequality Puzzle, The Inequality Illusion, The Inequaliity Illusion (II), The x% Puzzle, Two Piketty Links, The Piketty Code, Piketty Problems ...,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. What the above chart shows is that cocaine does not work, while capitalism does. Those ignorant of the conditions of freedom never cease to cook up ingeniously misconceived arguments against her. One "brilliant killer argument" suggests that beyond a certain point economic growth no longer adds to human satisfaction / happiness. For the purpose of the present post, we shall disregard demoscopic problems concerning the measurability of human happiness and the inter-human and inter-temporal comparability of any such metric. Instead let us focus on the fact that the above italicised proposition is based on at least two invalid premises. The human capacity to feel satisfaction or happiness is finite, in particular, (a) it does not grow with the number of amenities available to man, (b) nor is it equipped to register fully and consistently the differences between competing social orders like the relative merits and performance characteristics of different societies or states of society. First, value-adding activity - which is what economic growth is all about - is a constitutive need of the human species; hinder man in his striving to improve his situation and you cause him damage, you dehumanise him. Humankind is the species that survives and lives and lives happily by constantly improving its lot, adding value, thinking up desires and trying to fulfil these new needs. We respond and adapt to our environment by developing new needs and getting them satisfied to the best of our ability. We cannot suspend this value-adding propensity without causing harm and regression. Unless one is happy to invite decline, it is not an option to suggest: we are rich enough, we will not get any happier, so let us stop doing things that add value. The crux: the way in which human beings adapt to their environment is by having and satisfying desires/needs. The greater the variety, variability and degree of differentiation of a specie's ability to have and satisfy needs/desires, the greater its ability to fit successfully with the wider environment. So the ability to constantly renew, extend and grow this ability is key to survival and advancement. Now, what is wealth? Wealth consist of things and practices that enable man to satisfy his desires/needs. Hence, if an open-ended development of desires is an anthropological sine qua non and the key to continuous successful adaptation to a changing and changed environment, then incessantly growing wealth is just as important. If man's ability to adapt to and advance in his environment is damaged and curtailed, he suffers impoverishment (relative to the unhampered presence of this ability), even to a degree that may well lead to stark poverty, misery, and death. Truncating, inhibiting or fully precluding man's ability to develop and satisfy ever more desires/needs and hence to build up more and more wealth is quite simply inhumane. Not to mention that resource-intensive ambitions like comprehensive environmental protection cannot be achieved unless a high level of wealth is achieved and maintained. The source. Second, man is not a solitary creature; in order to survive he must be part of some community; that is to say, man as an individual does not create the world he needs to survive; he has to interact with other human beings, creating and getting involved in a complicated order beyond his control and comprehension - which is why the process whereby we create conditions securing survival takes place in large measure unbeknown to most human beings. If we are not even aware of what makes live more bearable or even wonderful, how are we to personally relish in these improvements and happy life conditions? Hence, many of the things that make us lead more pleasant lives are in need of roundabout, abstract reconstruction (a specialised activity competing with other vocations), and are therefore unknown to most people and denied and rejected as false by large numbers of people. Third, the affective apparatus that enables us to feel content or discontent, happy or unhappy, has not evolved to make us assess astutely the conditions that characterise our social existence. It is perfectly possible to be a sanguine person in the dark ages and a severely depressed billionaire in our days. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that evolution is there to make human beings increasingly happy. True, evolution has brought about the vital and unique capacity of man to become an improver of his own condition. Which ability in turn increases chances for more happiness. But it does not appear that the maximum and the length of sustainable happiness has changed during the course of human evolution. In a word: the happiest contemporary is not likely to feel significantly more happy than a Neanderthaler at maximum happiness. And the happy among us have only 24 hours to be as happy as they can. Also, probably a more realistic metric, conceptually at least, would seem to be absence of unhappiness or still more accurate absence of nuisances and pain. It does not appear to be a human trait to remain ecstatic and emotionally elevated continuously for lengthy periods of time. There is an economy of immediate happiness. Drugs that violate this economy prove to be unhealthy. If this consideration has any merit, we would not expect the removal of severe nuisances and pain as an automatic, constant, and lasting source of outright happiness; however such ameliorations are a typical and most welcome feature of the kind of progress attained under conditions of liberty. Freedom soon becomes a matter of fact, something so ordinary that it is no longer noticed. Millions of aspects of our life (conditions) that can be qualified not only as significant improvements compared to alternative states of affairs, but as making us demonstrably more happy than we would be in their absence, are not responded to emotionally in terms of contentment or happiness. For instance, the fact that Angela Merkel, the most powerful person in Germany, cannot enrich herself arbitrarily at my expense - she cannot even help, say, her baker... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Pursuant to the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867 three colonies joined to form the autonomous federal dominion of Canada. Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Walter Williams considers "Reparations for Slavery". He agrees that slave owners and slave traders should make reparations to those whom they enslaved. However, punishing perpetrators and compensating victims is not what reparations advocates want. And: What moral principle justifies punishing a white of today to compensate a black of today for what a white of yesterday did to a black of yesterday? There’s another moral or fairness issue. A large percentage, if not most, of today’s Americans — be they of European, Asian, African or Latin ancestry — don’t even go back three or four generations as American citizens. Their ancestors arrived on our shores long after slavery. What standard of justice justifies their being taxed to compensate blacks for slavery? For example, in 1956, thousands of Hungarians fled the brutality of the USSR to settle in the U.S. What do Hungarians owe blacks for slavery? There’s another thorny issue. During slavery, some free blacks purchased other blacks as a means to free family members. But other blacks owned slaves for the same reason whites owned slaves — to work farms or plantations. Are descendants of these slaveholding blacks eligible for and deserving of reparations? When African slavery began, there was no way Europeans could have enslaved millions of Africans. They had no immunity from diseases that flourished in tropical Africa. Capturing Africans to sell into slavery was done by Arabs and black Africans. Would reparations advocates demand that citizens of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and several Muslim states tax themselves to make reparation payments to progeny of people whom their ancestors helped to enslave? Reparations advocates make the foolish unchallenged argument that the United States became rich on the backs of free black labor. That’s nonsense that cannot be supported by fact. Slavery doesn’t have a very good record of producing wealth. Slavery was all over the South, and it was outlawed in most of the North. Buying into the reparations argument about the riches of slavery, one would conclude that the antebellum South was rich and the slave-starved North was poor. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. In fact, the poorest states and regions of our nation were places where slavery flourished — Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia — while the richest states and regions were those where slavery was absent: Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. One of the most ignored facts about slavery’s tragic history — and it’s virtually a secret today — is that slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years. It did not become a moral issue until the 18th century. Plus, the moral crusade against slavery started in the West, most notably England. I think the call for slavery reparations is simply another hustle. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. One hundred years ago today, the assassination of the archduke of Austria at Sarajevo triggered the bloody, destructive conflagration of the world’s nations known as the Great War. In The World of Yesterday, Stefan Zweig gives a graphical account of the world left behind at that moment. Ralf Raico offers an excellent panoramic account of the origins of World War I. As for economic causes and consequences, make sure to read this article in which David Stockman explains that [...] the Great Depression was born in the extraordinary but unsustainable boom of 1914-1929 that was, in turn, an artificial and bloated project of the warfare and central banking branches of the state, not the free market. Nominal GDP, which had been deformed and bloated to $103 billion by 1929, contracted massively, dropping to only $56 billion by 1933. Crucially, the overwhelming portion of this unprecedented contraction was in exports, inventories, fixed plant and durable goods—the very sectors that had been artificially hyped. These components declined by $33 billion during the four year contraction and accounted for fully 70 percent of the entire drop in nominal GDP. So there was no mysterious loss of that Keynesian economic ether called “aggregate demand”, but only the inevitable shrinkage of a state induced boom. It was not the depression bottom of 1933 that was too low, but the wartime debt and speculation bloated peak in 1929 that had been unsustainably too high. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Will it be "Stop" or will it be "Go"? The US boys are a formidable opponent, especially in the present context, when an American victory will send the German team home. There are no two ways about it: Germany is the favourite. In the end, however, marginal issues may decide the contest. Marshaling their capabilities on a good day, strong-willed America is perfectly capable of chucking Germany out of the tournament. Sensationally, Spain (the reigning world champion), England, and Italy are already gone. To think, in my youth, American soccer was a laughing stock. I hope, the base of top teams at a soccer world championships continues to broaden, as it seems to this year in Brazil with surprisingly strong performances by teams like Costa Rica, Columbia, or Chile. However, "don't be beastly to the Germans" (see below), let us be good enough to win eventually. In the space of six days last week, the U.S. soccer team became a national sporting phenomenon, with audiences eclipsing the viewership of the NBA Finals (15.5 million), the World Series (14.9 million), and the Stanley Cup (some guy named René). For the first U.S. game at the World Cup, nearly 15 million television viewers (11 million on ESPN; 3.8 million on Univision) and 1.5 million workplace skyvers (watching online) tuned in to see the USA beat Ghana with an exhilarating early goal, some unhealthy filling, and a spectacular late winner. For the second game, those numbers rose to 24.7 million television viewers (18.2 million on ESPN; 6.5 million on Univision) and 500,000 surfers, as the USA bossed their way back from a dire early goal to score twice against Portugal before coughing up a crushing last-second equalizer. On Thursday, the USA faces Germany in a match that will decide America’s fate — and America expects that every viewer will do their duty. On the east coast, the noontime kick-off may demand a long, liquid lunch. On the west coast, “morning traffic” could conspire to create a late start to the day. In Chicago, we like soccer, and 20,000 people have been watching the games in Grant Park, so no excuse is necessary. The Sunday-night timing of the Portugal match likely contributed much to its record-breaking numbers, but if television ratings for the German match don’t rise again, online numbers surely will. Especially considering office internet speeds and WatchESPN’s picture-in-picture feature that allows viewers to follow both games at once. The source. See also Sporting Kansas City - Welcome to the Blue Hell. Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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My favourite economist, Steven Kates, has a hand in this momentous change, patiently educating people for decades, mostly against adverse wind. A feat as admirable as his wonderful Free Market Economics. An Introduction to the General Reader. In late April of this year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it would start reporting a new data series as part of the U.S. national income accounts. In addition to gross domestic product (GDP), the BEA will start reporting gross output (GO) [...] GO represents a significant breakthrough. [...] These changes are big, not only conceptually, but also numerically. Indeed, in 2013 GO was 76.4% larger, and GDE was 120.4% larger, than GDP. Why? Because GDP only measures the value of all final goods and services in the economy. GDP ignores all the intermediate steps required to produce GDP. GO corrects for most of those omissions. GDE goes even further, and is more comprehensive than GO. Even though the always clever Keynes temporarily buried J.-B. Say, the great Say is back. With that, the relative importance of consumption and government expenditures withers away (see the accompanying bar charts). And, yes, the alleged importance of fiscal policy withers away, too. Contrary to what the standard textbooks have taught us and what that pundits repeat ad nauseam, consumption is not the big elephant in the room. The elephant is business expenditures. Make sure to read the entire piece at the source. See also a Keynesian Archipelago ... and GDE versus GDP. Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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I have a strong affinity for Belgium as well as Holland, pardon, the Netherlands; which, incidentally form together with Luxembourg the Benelux region, all three countries thankfully being just around the corner for me. The Dutch are great to trade with, with centuries of commerce circulating in their veins - that is how I first learned to appreciate Germany's vivacious and charming neighbours, these Italians of the North, as I like to call them. May be my fondness of the Netherlands and Belgium has something to do with the fact that these countries cover the area where capitalism and liberty in roughly the modern sense became lasting institutions for the first time in human history. See also Er gaat niets boven Groningen, Surprises of Beauty, Ameland, Liège. Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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The Coyote says he likes this passage: There's a naive tendency to believe that whatever a government agency's mission is supposed to be, is really the mission that its people pursue. That's seldom the case for long. Science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, observing such things, has formulated what he calls the Iron Law of Bureaucracy: In every organization there are two kinds of people: those committed to the mission of the organization, and those committed to the organization itself. While the mission-committed people pursue the mission, the organization-committed people take over the organization. Then the mission-committed people tend to become discouraged and leave. As a result, the strongest priority of most bureaucracies is the welfare of the bureaucracy and the bureaucrats it employs, not whatever the bureaucracy is actually supposed to be doing. That's worth remembering, whenever someone says they've found something else that we should "choose to do together." This is not unique to government, but a rule for all organizations. However, in a private-sector, organizations that devolve in this way get slaughtered (except of course for crony favors and bailouts, but that is another topic). Accountability never ever comes to government organizations. The source. The land registry offices of Germany and England (the two countries where I have had personal dealings with such institutions) are doing just what they are supposed to be doing; they do it well, they are accountable internally and externally, which means that they can be effectively challenged via channels of informal settlement as well as legal action. At the same time, a concomitant feature of misery the world over is a lack of precisely such well working bureaucracies as the land registry office. Hence I sent this (now slightly edited) comment to the Coyote: While it is simply not true that there is no accountability for bureaucracies, the proposed argument is by itself pertinent. But it suffers from the public choice syndrome, as I call it: It is not good enough to write a book about the zoology of the elephant that lists nothing but elephant diseases. A vital deficiency in the standard arguments on this issue by my fellow libertarians consists in pointing out problems of state bureaucracies without offering explanations how and why they have evolved (as a pretty stable features of the state for thousands of years) and how to replace them with something better. Libertarians will remain a fringe for ever unless they begin to realise that our social order depends on innumerable institutions (the state, bureaucracies, democracy etc.) that are naturally ambivalent (containing the good and the bad) and are prepared to deal with this ambivalence rather than wishing it away. Libertarians like to talk about spontaneous order when it fits their preconceptions, but do not see spontaneous order where it evolves practices and institutions that do not fit a neat account of liberty. That's why, absurdly, the USA looks to (many of) them like a concentration camp. The source. The presumption that I challenge is that because an institution has typical or even systematic deficiencies, it must and it can be replaced by an unmitigated improvement. Once this presumption is admitted (really unthinkingly) care is no longer taken in looking at the manifold pluses and minuses of the institution in question, and the constraints on any solutions to the problems the institution has evolved to come to grips with ( - once again spontaneous order without guarantees of preferred outcomes). At this point, it is easy, even seemingly natural to paint the institution all black. This approach is hardly recommendable, as it is based on a severe truncation of the truth. Hence, the above misrepresentations ("accountability never comes to government organizations", or the false insinuation that government bureaucracies rarely fulfil the tasks that they are entrusted with. When it is convenient for the own case to argue so, many libertarians are quick to point out how government and its bureaucracies fulfill their satanic purposes with consummate efficiency. Totally dominating us, the state has been doing this for thousands of years, and it is more effective, stronger, nimbler on its feet than any other social forces. Obviously, in actual fact, matters are far more intricate and often more balanced and indicative of genuine advancement. A bias that makes you deny genuine progress (or simply real conditions) is intolerable, no less in libertarians than in the left-leaning. Liberty is not being helped by truncating the truth. One of the key errors that fosters the libertarian presumption against ambivalent non-market insitutions is discussed in my post entitled The Market Is Not a Democracy. See also A Shout for Inclusion, The Classical Liberal Constitution (1/2), Classical Liberalism vs. Anarchism (1/3). Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The Coyote argues succinctly: Environmentalists seem to all feel that capitalism is the enemy of sustainability, but in fact capitalism is the greatest system to promote sustainability that has ever been devised. Every single resource has a price that reflects its relative scarcity as compared to demand. Scarcer resources have higher prices that automatically promote conservation and seeking of substitutes. So an analysis of an investment's ability to return its cost is in effect a sustainability analysis. What environmentalists don't like is that wind does not cover the cost of its resources, in other words it does not produce enough power to justify the scarce resources it uses. Screwing around with that to only look at some of the resources is just dishonest. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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So often human talk is nothing but smoke and mirrors. I am the visual type. I need to see text, and I require time to digest words before I can come up with a valid analysis. On listening to this, I thought I could not trust my ears. Below see my transcription of the part of the speech that interests me here - from time mark 07:50 to the end, as well as some commentary. I. Transcription from time mark 07:50 onward: What did get us out of this Malthusian trap which characterises or characterised most of human history? And the answer that is frequently given, the standard answer also among libertarians, is: there must have been some institutional change that occurred around 1800. And what is typically pointed out is: there must have been a better protection of private property rights that somehow occurred at that time. But no such change can be found in history. That is simply not true. Private property rights were also well protected hundreds of years before, and still we did not get out of the Malthusian trap. It is true that the protection of private property rights is a necessary condition for getting out of this trap, but it is certainly not sufficient. Now what I hypothesise [...] is the variable of human intelligence. During the Malthusian age, what we can observe is that those people who are economically successful and do survive are by and large the brighter people, and the brighter people have a larger number of offspring. And this is in particular true in northern regions on the globe, because northern regions represent a more challenging environment; and higher intelligence is so to speak something that is especially advantageous to have in more challenging environments; and it takes a long time in order to breed a more intelligent population that then makes it possible to make enough technological innovations to allow not only growth of the population but at the same time also an increase in per capita income off this growing population. And this breeding of a more highly intelligent population, especially in the north, with the gradient going to the south, is responsible for the Industrial Revolution that broke out around 1800. No institutional changes are responsible for this, but the gradual development of a more intelligent population due to the fact that the more intelligent people breed a larger number of offspring, and thereby gradually increase the average intelligence of the population. And I also point out that there is, of course, then also the possibility that this development can be reversed. It can be reversed if it happens that the less intelligent people do breed larger numbers of people, and the more intelligent people breed less and less. And that that is a danger you all know already. II. A critique from the point of view of authors literate in history: It is misleading to refer to the situation in eighteenth -and nineteenth-century Europe as representing initial conditions in development. By then the west was pervaded by the attitudes and institutions appropriate to an exchange economy and a technical age to a far greater extent than south Asia today. These attitudes and institutions had emerged gradually over a period of eight centuries. [Raico quoting P.T. Bauer] Writes Raico: Bauer's critique thus draws attention to the need to study both the centuries of European history antedating the Industrial Revolution and "the interrelationships between social, political, and legal institutions" in that period (Ibid., 277).[2] Here his assessment links up with an impressive body of scholarship that has emerged in recent years emphasizing precisely these points. What added decisively to Europe's unique achievement was the relative lack of political constraint and the attendant pluralism of political and social forces, a charcteristic that is independent of climate - as China goes to prove, where weather conditions are comparable, while the state remained too strong to allow a civil society to emerge. The system protecting the ownership and deployment of private property evolved in Europe by slow degrees — over at least "the eight centuries" mentioned by Bauer. Quite logically, therefore, the economic historians concerned with "how the West grew rich" have directed a great deal of their attention to the medieval period. [...] Carlo M. Cipolla asserts that "the origins of the Industrial Revolution go back to that profound change in ideas, social structures, and value systems that accompanied the rise of the urban communes in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries" (Cipolla 1981, 298). For more on institutional change one may consult, for starters, Mokyr's The Institutional Origins of the Industrial Revolution, which gives an impression of the continuum of institutional change over the centuries as well as closer to the year 1800. III. Let me now turn to the speaker's core proposition. What he hypothesises is pretty much what the Nazis taught. Nevertheless, I shall take the speaker seriously, just to show the extent of the scholarly failure so characteristic in all the work of this luminous figure of Anarcho-Capitalism. Climate If climate makes life tough to cope with, and thus supposedly promotes intelligence in the exposed population, why does this criterion of selection only hold true for the weather conditions in "the North"? Why should severe weather and environmental challenges outside Europe (such as posed by alpine, desert or jungle conditions) be less relevant to the development of human intelligence? Northern Europe is not the only place on earth blessed with comparatively inclement weather. Should not the Eskimos have pioneered capitalism? Why should South Africans braving severe weather conditions such as in Lesotho (where I was brought up) be less intelligent than the inhabitants of the mild wine growing areas of Germany (where I am living now)? Also, what reasons do we have to take for granted that pleasant weather conditions of themselves are detrimental to the creative use and development of the human mind? In fact, there is evidence that human cultures thrive in warmer periods more... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Consult the image credit for more on the coffee cantata. I like the smell of coffee. Not regularly, yet with great pleasure I drink espresso, the only type of coffee that agrees with me. "Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht" (the cat will not give up mousing) - a leopard doesn't change its spots. To me the German idiom suggests - someone will not renounce his bad habits. "Mausen" is a colloquial terms meaning either to pilfer or to screw [sl.]; less readily coming to the contemporary mind, it might also be construed to mean what the English term "to mouse" means: to "catch mice". Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was also apparently a coffee enthusiast. So much so that he wrote a composition about the beverage. Although known mostly for his liturgical music, his Coffee Cantata (AKA Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211) is a rare example of a secular work by the composer. The short comic opera was written (circa 1735) for a musical ensemble called The Collegium Musicum based in a storied Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, Germany. The whole cantata seems very much to have been written with the local audience in mind. Coffee Cantata is about a young vivacious woman named Aria who loves coffee. Her killjoy father is, of course, dead set against his daughter having any kind of caffeinated fun. So he tries to ban her from the drink. Aria bitterly complains: Father sir, but do not be so harsh! If I couldn’t, three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat. Ah! How sweet coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, milder than muscatel wine. Coffee, I have to have coffee, and, if someone wants to pamper me, ah, then bring me coffee as a gift! The copywriters at Starbucks marketing department couldn’t have written it any better. Eventually, daughter and father reconcile when he agrees to have a guaranteed three cups of coffee a day written into her marriage contract. You can listen to the whole thing above. The lyrics in German and English can be read here. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2014 at RedStateEclectic