A quick observation

When I started this blog, I lot of my posts attacked bad thinking underlying Facebook memes. I paid particular attention to memes that attacked religion and free markets.

Now I haven’t seen a really bad meme for weeks.

Coincidence?

Finding and Keeping Hope

Dr. Tom Neal provides a powerful meditation on finding the substance of hope at times when hope seems lost.

Here a few snippets from the piece:

  • A friend of his once wrote: “The future totally vanished. Everything became dark. Nothing awaited me. Everything seemed empty of meaning. I could remember nothing good in the past, only regrets and failure. I could see nothing good in the present and had nothing to hope for in the future. No compass. No center. When it was over and I emerged out of the depression, everything looked different. What I used to hold most important now seemed peripheral, and what I saw as peripheral now seemed most important. Money and work success fell away to the edges, while relationships and God wound up in the center. Almost magically, like it just happened. Only when you lose all your props can you see what’s left is what matters.
  • “Hopelessness is not simply an absence of hope, but attachment to a form of hope that has been lost, that lacks enduring substance.”
  • “Substantial hope thrives in adversity.”
  • “You can’t really call faith faith when you feel it’s all settled and obvious. When everything falls apart, the sun sets and night falls, faith begins.”

Read the whole thing here.

Vox Day: Vote LEAVE today

While I have been critical of Vox Day in a couple of my posts, he is absolutely spot on with regard to what British voters ought to do today. Accordingly, I post his open letter to his British readers in its entirety:

To my British readers,

For centuries, your nations have been at the forefront of Western civilization, which may have reached its peak under the Empire on which the sun never set. Now your empire is gone, your confidence is shaken, your faith is exhausted, your pews are empty, your cities are invaded, and you are ruled over by a hostile Continental power.

The current situation is what those great British leaders of the past, who from Napoleon to Hitler fought to prevent the domination of Europe by a single power, were desperate to prevent. Your nations were finally brought to heel through deceit rather than force, through persistent lies and propaganda rather than military might.

But today, you have been presented with an opportunity that is all too rare. You have been given the opportunity to reclaim your heritage, reclaime your birthright, reclaim your independence, reclaim your sovereignty, reclaim your freedom, and reclaim your nation. And you have been given the chance to do this peacefully!

Do not listen to those who have relentlessly lied to you for the last 65 years. Do not listen to the very voices that brought about your surrender and submission. They do not have your interests at heart, they simply want you to obediently accept your fall from a Great Power to a minor administrative region in their empire. Do not give into fear and despair and fatalism. As for my English readers, do not allow yourselves be the last English generation to be governed by the Magna Carta, Parliament, the Common Law, and the Rights of Englishmen!

Don’t be afraid of your freedom. Don’t be afraid to vote LEAVE today. And if you’re even modestly inclined to help your nation escape the chains of the European Union, stop reading this, drop everything, and go out and vote yourself free.

#Brexit

The Platonic Department of Labor investigating wage practices at a Trump hotel

This is disgusting:

The Labor Department is investigating whether workers on Donald Trump’s renovation of Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office are being paid less than federal law requires.

The Labor Department confirmed to POLITICO that it’s looking into allegations of wage-rule violations by the Craftsmen Group, a Trump Organization subcontractor that restores windows. And workers on the site, including one Craftsmen Group employee, told POLITICO that they and others aren’t receiving pay rates mandated by law. Two of them produced pay stubs to support their claims.

I’m sure it’s merely a coincidence that a cabinet-level department of the Obama Administration is looking into the labor practices of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. But then again:

Since the allegations involve a subcontractor, neither the Trump Organization nor the general contractor is under investigation directly and may not be legally liable. But union activists say the complaints reflect badly on Trump.

And we know how objective unions are when it comes to Republicans, don’t we?

It’s tone-deaf moves like this one that keep Hillary’s negatives as high as they are. Don’t be surprised if blue collar workers become more attracted to Trump, for no other reason than they don’t want to be stooges for the Left.

 

Donald Trump’s America First speech, and Vox Day’s interesting reaction to it

Donald Trump gave a speech this morning in New York City. In that speech, Trump articulated his America First protectionist trade policies, citing Washington and Lincoln as support:

Our country will be better off when we start making our own products again, bringing our once great manufacturing capabilities back to our shores.

Our Founders understood this.

One of the first major bills signed by George Washington called for “the encouragement and protection of manufactur[ing]” in America.

Our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned us by saying:

“The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

After criticizing Clinton (nay, throwing haymakers at her) for her involvement with NAFTA and TPP, Trump articulated what he would do as President:

Come this November, we can bring America back – bigger and better, and stronger than ever.

We will build the greatest infrastructure on the planet earth – the roads and railways and airports of tomorrow.

Our military will have the best technology and finest equipment – we will bring it back all the way.

Massive new factories will come roaring into our country – breathing life and hope into our communities.

Inner cities, which have been horribly abused by Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, will finally be rebuilt.

Construction is what I know — nobody knows it better.

The real wages for our workers have not been raised for 18 years — but these wages will start going up, along with the new jobs. Hillary’s massive taxation, regulation and open borders will destroy jobs and drive down wages for everyone.

We are also going to be supporting our police and law enforcement — we can never forget the great job they do.

I am also going to appoint great Supreme Court Justices.

Our country is going to start working again.

People are going to start working again.

Vox Day, an Alt-Right commentator, loved the speech, and ended a post by writing:

He’s got both economics and history on his side, regardless of what the corrupt globalist economists and historians will tell you.

I have to say, Trump the Candidate is saying far more of the right things than I would have even expected to hear from Ron Paul.

I have two reactions to his comments.

First, while  I don’t doubt that some of those who criticize Trump are “corrupt globalist economists and historians”, not everyone who does falls into this category. That would include Tom Woods and Bob Murphy, two libertarian intellectuals who are neither globalist nor corrupt. I would think Vox knows this, given that he participated in a debate on free trade with them. Then again, given his recent interactions with them, maybe he knows something I don’t.

Second, I’m surprised that Vox expected to hear Ron Paul call for protectionist trade policies. Dr. Paul is no fan of Alexander Hamilton, whose work formed the basis of Washington’s call to protect domestic industry. Lincoln carried on Hamilton’s protectionist tradition, both as a congressman and President. Indeed, Dr. Paul is a clear advocate for free trade; he criticized the WTO and NAFTA because they were “managed trade” deals, not free trade ones. He also focused, rightly in my opinion, on the corrosive role fiat money and fractional reserve banking had on the declining purchasing power of the dollar. For Vox to expect otherwise is puzzling.

 

How fiat money creates tyranny

The Anonymous Conservative highlights an article by Jörg Guido Hülsmann that discusses how fiat money creates tyranny:

It may seem unusual that an economist would talk about culture…

A number of economists have observed that fiat money is a prerequisite for tyrannical government, and the idea that monetary interventionism paves the way for tyrannical government is very old and goes back to Nicolas Oresme in the fourteenth century…

Mises said that when it comes to limiting government power, it is essential that the government is financially dependent on the citizens…

Mises believed that those who paid the taxes would then need to specifically limit the size of the government budget…

Now, if we abandon a strict connection between what the citizens pay and what government spends, then we find that we move away from rule by the citizens who are being taxed, and toward greater rule by the elites.

The first way this shift can happen is by the government going into debt… it… allows the government to spend more money than would have been possible with taxation alone.

Now of course fiat money allows government to take out loans to an unlimited extent…

Now we come to the many ways through which a fiat money system affects the behavior of ordinary citizens.

…it has long been an idea among government planners and ideologues of all sorts, even before Keynes, that ordinary people should be prevented from “hoarding” money at their homes.

In a free economy with a natural monetary system, there is a strong incentive to save money in the form of cash held under one’s immediate control…

By contrast, when there is constant price inflation, as in a fiat-money system, cash hoarding becomes suicidal. Other financial strategies now become more advisable. It becomes advisable to exchange one’s cash for “financial products,” thus offsetting the loss of purchasing power of money through the return on that financial investment. It also becomes advisable to go into debt and leverage one’s investments…

But in a fiat money system, as price inflation diminishes the value of one’s monetary savings, we are encouraged to adopt a short-term perspective…

It needs to be stressed that this tendency has no natural stopping point.

Hülsmann expands on the cultural implications of fiat money in The Ethics of Money Production. The book a fantastic integration of Austrian economics and Catholic moral teachings as it relates to the production of money. I would strongly suggest it to anyone who wishes to learn more about how fiat money impacts culture.

Bishop Barron and the art of the argument

Today’s state of communication in America, what with its safe spaces and trigger warnings, can be summed up thus:

 

In response, Bishop Barron suggests that we should go medieval. Literally:

I would like to revisit a time when people knew how to have a public argument about the most hotly-contested matters. Though it might come as a surprise to many, I’m talking about the High Middle Ages, when the university system was born. And to illustrate the medieval method of disciplined conversation there is no better candidate than St. Thomas Aquinas. The principal means of teaching in the medieval university was not the classroom lecture, which became prominent only in the 19th century German system of education; rather, it was the quaestio disputata (disputed question), which was a lively, sometimes raucous, and very public intellectual exchange. Though the written texts of Aquinas can strike us today as a tad turgid, we have to recall that they are grounded in these disciplined but decidedly energetic conversations.

Two points stood out for me. First, when Aquinas articulate objections, sometimes he did so better than his objectors. Second, when he referred to authors with whom he disagreed, he always did so with supreme respect. It would behoove us to keep both points in mind when we addressed our detractors.

Read the whole thing here.

An open letter to “God”

Dear “God”,

As you know, the massacre in Orlando over the weekend sickened me. I prayed that the killed may rest in your peace. I have also prayed for the wounded, and for the families and friends who been affected this horrible attack. In fact, it is right to pray for all of us. What happened in Orlando reminds us that we never know when we may be called to leave for the next world.

With all of this said, please forgive me for being taken aback by the question you asked rhetorically on Facebook:

Dear G--

Perhaps “taken aback” is not the best way to describe it. Shocked and appalled are more like it. After all, why would you, “God” of all people, come across as so ignorant of recent history? After all, not only are you omnipotent and omniprescient, you are omniscient. Right?

Seeing that you are, you clearly recall the tremendous suffering atheistic governments imposed on their subjected peoples. True, these governments did not kill people in the name of “atheism”. However, as you know, the 20th century experienced a number of governments that were extremely hostile to religion, for no other reason than it competed with state idolatry. The  form of government that most actively sought to eliminate religion within their borders, and force upon its people an atheistic worldview, was Communism.

As you know, Communism’s contempt with religion is linked directly to Marx. He viewed religion as a social construction (as the cool kids now say – as you know) the poor created to delude themselves that the future will be brighter than today. Religion was determined by a society’s economic superstructure. If capitalists grew rich through that superstructure by exploiting the working class, then the institutions supported by that infrastructure, such as religion, are fraudulent. As you know, Lenin agreed, writing:

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

Thus, when Marx and Lenin sought to establish communism, they also sought to eliminate religion and establish atheism as the state’s “religion”. In fact, Lenin said as much:

Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and practice of scientific socialism.

As you know, Lenin put that theory into action when the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917. The Bolsheviks first sought to ridicule religion through propoganda. They encouraged the popular wave of anti-clericalism that had swept away Church lands that year. They sought to replace the worship of God with veneration of the state, making Communism Russia’s new religion.

In A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924, Orlando Figes documents with dreadful clarity Lenin’s reign of terror against religion beginning in 1921. Under the pretext of gathering resources for famine relief, Lenin encouraged the press to hysterically demand the Russian Orthodox Church to hand over its consecrated valuables for sale. As you know better than anyone else, to use consecreated items for secular purposes is sacrilegious. Thus, Lenin laid the perfect trap for conflict with the Church. Figes writes that:

On 26 February 1922 a decree was sent out to the local Soviets instructing them to remove from the churches all precious items, including those used for religious worship. The decree claimed that their sale was necessary to help the famine victims; but little of the money raised was used for this purpose. Armed bands gutted the local churches, carrying away the icons and crosses, the chalices and mitres, even the iconostases in bits. In many places angry crowds took up arms to defend their local church. In some places they were led by their priests, at others they fought spontaneously. The records tell of 1,414 bloody clashes during 1922-23. Most of these were utterly one-sided. Troops with machine-guns fought against old men and women armed with pitch forks and rusty rifles: 7,100 clergy were killed, including nearly 3,500 nuns, but only a handful of Soviet troops. One such clash in the textile town of Shuya, 200 miles north-east of Moscow, in March 1922, prompted Lenin to issue a secret order for the extermination of the clergy. (pp. 748-9)

Lenin made his intent perfectly clear when he wrote:

The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie and clergy we manage to shoot the better. (pg. 749)

Clearly, as you know, Communist governments did not only kill the religious. They sought to reshape humanity, indeed human nature itself. Therefore, they needed to get rid of those who, in their eyes, stood in the way of a more perfect tomorrow.

The death tolls under Communism are staggering. There is no way of knowing, aside from you of course, the precise number of victims. However, The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 85 and 100 million people were killed by such regimes. Seeing that you are a loving “God”, you certainly don’t, nay can’t, agree with Stalin that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.

And yet, given the immense suffering atheist, Communist regimes have inflicted on humanity, I’m beginning to wonder whether I have been far too charitable in calling you omniscient. Didn’t you think about this when you made your Facebook post? Didn’t you remember the tragedies people suffered under Communism? Didn’t you remember that Lenin sought to force Russia to conform to his Communist, atheist ideology? Don’t you remember his massacre of religious priests, nuns, and people? Don’t you remember the other examples of when that occurred?  Did all of that slip your mind when you made that post?

Dear “God”, I can only come to one conclusion. You are an ignorant “God”. A stupid “God”. A foolish “God”. “God”, I mock thee.

Given that you have clearly shown that you have no idea what you’re talking about, I have one simple suggestion for you.

Read a book.

“Hamilton” and the quirky nature of creativity

A few days ago, Robert Wenzel, an economics blogger I respect greatly, fumed about the enormous success of “Hamilton”:

The producers of “Hamilton” are sharply increasing the cost of the best seats in the house, shattering Broadway’s top ticket price, reports NYT.

The best seats will now cost $849 a piece.

The show is sold out through next January, but the producers have already begun selling tickets for the following four months to some American Express cardholders.

Wenzel ended his post by writing:

Tom [DiLorenzo] really needs to write an “Anti-Hamilton” play.

To which my immediate response was: in the name of everything beautiful, good, and true, Tom, please don’t!

I don’t say this because I don’t like Tom DiLorenzo’s work. Quite the contrary. His book Hamilton’s Curse is a devastating critique of Hamilton’s policies, which are, unfortunately, the foundation of American government today. By championing an “expansive” interpretation of the Constitution, which is another of way of saying that he ignored it, Hamilton laid the groundwork for the monstrous federal government that permeates almost every aspect of our lives. Libertarians, who are more aligned politically to Jefferson’s generally laissez faire approach, find much of what Hamilton stands for extremely distasteful.

Having said all of this, Hamilton’s personal story is extremely compelling. Born out of wedlock on a Caribbean island in 1755, he showed sufficient intelligence and energy to be put in charge of a trading company at 14 years old. Island community leaders were so impressed with him, they raised funds so he could further his education in North America. As the cool kids say, the rest is history, but Hamilton’s amazing climb to power is captured perfectly in the song “Alexander Hamilton”:

AARON BURR:
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

JOHN LAURENS:
The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father
Got a lot farther by workin’ a lot harder
By bein’ a lot smarter
By bein’ a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter

THOMAS JEFFERSON:
And every day while slaves were being slaughtered and carted
Away across the waves, he struggled and kept his guard up
Inside, he was longing for something to be a part of
The brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow, or barter

JAMES MADISON:
Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned
Our man saw his future drip, drippin’ down the drain
Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain
And he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain

BURR:
Well the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man!”
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world’s gonna know your name! What’s your name, man?”

You know what his name is, but you get the idea.

A story like Hamilton’s is so powerful that it begs to be told in a popular setting. However, scholars, like DiLorenzo, aren’t the right people to tell it. Ron Chernow wrote Alexander Hamilton as a historian, not so that it could become a musical. The spark to create a popular story through a Broadway musical happened when Lim-Manual Miranda purchased the book at random. As discussed in a “60 Minutes” feature on the musical:

[Miranda] graduated from Wesleyan University in 2002 with a degree in theater arts. That’s where he began working on a show about his old neighborhood. …

It turned into Miranda’s first Broadway show. “In The Heights” won the 2008 Tony for best musical. [Ed: That’s also a very good musical. You should listen to it if you haven’t already.] Two months later, he picked up Ron Chernow’s book during a vacation.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: This is what I knew from high school. I knew Hamilton died in a duel with the vice president. I knew he was on the $10 bill. But really, I was just browsing the biography section. It could have been Truman. [Ed: It could have been Truman! At least Hamilton didn’t drop nukes on two Japanese cities.]

Charlie Rose: And as you read it, what happened?

Lin-Manuel Miranda: I was thunderstruck. I got to the part where you know, a hurricane destroys St. Croix where Hamilton is living. And he writes a poem about the carnage and this poem gets him off the island.

Charlie Rose: You saw a rap artist in him.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Yes. I drew a direct line between Hamilton’s writing his way out of his circumstances and the rappers I’d grown up adoring. It’s Biggie and Jay-Z writing about growing up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. It’s Eminem writing about growing up white in Detroit. It’s writing about that struggle and paradoxically your writing being so good it gets you out.

As shown above, Miranda beautifully captures that link in the musical’s first song. That’s why “Hamilton” is as popular as it is.

Storytellers can capture and communicate these links to popular audiences. Scholars can’t. What they can do is provide the raw material for a storyteller to create that story. Once the book is done, however, it is out of his or her hands. Chernow was fortunate enough that a talent – no, genius – like Miranda saw the potential of his work to provide the basis for a musical. Will DiLorenzo be so lucky? Only time will tell.

For those libertarians who are concerned that the musical’s success on Broadway will further cement Hamilton’s legacy in the popular imagination, I do offer one silver lining. Miranda is nothing if not fair, for “Washington On Your Side” captures extremely well Jefferson’s grievances against Hamilton.

[Intro: Aaron Burr]
It must be nice, it must be nice
To have Washington on your side (x2)

[Verse 1: Thomas Jefferson]
Ev’ry action has its equal, opposite reactions.
Thanks to Hamilton, our cabinet’s fractured into factions.
Try not to crack under the stress, we’re breaking down like fractions.
We smack each other in the press, and we don’t print retractions
I get no satisfaction witnessing his fits of passion
The way he primps and preens and dresses like the pits of fashion
Our poorest citizens, our farmers, live ration to ration
As Wall Street robs ‘em blind in search of chips to cash in
This prick is asking for someone to bring him to task
Somebody give me some dirt on this vacuous mass so we can at last unmask him
I’ll pull the trigger on him, someone load the gun and cock it
While we were all watching, he got Washington in his pocket

[Hook: Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and James Madison (ALL)]
It must be nice, it must be nice
To have Washington on your side (x2)
Look back at the Bill of Rights (which I wrote!)
The ink hasn’t dried
It must be nice, it must be nice
To have Washington on your side

[Verse 2: Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and James Madison (ALL)]
So he’s doubled the size of the government

Wasn’t the trouble with much of our previous government size
Look in his eyes, see how he lies, follow the scent of his enterprise
Centralizing national credit and making American credit competitive
If we don’t stop it, we aid and abet it.
I have to resign!
Somebody has to stand up for the South!
Well, somebody has to stand up to his mouth!
If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse,
You can’t put it out from inside the house!
I’m in the cabinet, I am complicit in watching him grabbin’ at power and kiss it.
If Washington isn’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidents,
This is the difference, this kid is OUT!

In fact, the end of the second verse has the best rap phrasing I’ve ever heard. It’s energy and relentless drive perfectly fits Jefferson’s sheer disgust with Hamilton. Listen for yourself.

As much as I’d like Jefferson to have received the treatment Hamilton is currently receiving, Hamilton’s life makes for a great story. It took a storyteller’s random book purchase to start his creative wheels to produce, frankly, an ingenious work of art. No one can tell when a story will take hold of the popular imagination. For those of us who value freedom over government, moments such as these can be quite frustrating. We just need to be patient for our moment to arrive.

But then again, who knows? Maybe you’re the one who provides that spark.