Why Did the Industrial Revolution Happen? 1

Interesting article on economic history from Gary North.

The economic historian Gregory Clark summarizes a remarkable fact.

. . . there is no sign of any improvement in material conditions for settled agrarian societies as we approach 1800. There was no gain between 1800 BC and AD 1800 — a period of 3,600 years. Indeed the wages for east and south Asia and southern Europe for 1800 stand out by their low level compared to those for ancient Babylonia, ancient Greece, or Roman Egypt.

Then, around 1800, this all changed. Economic growth began: about 2% per annum, compounded. That brought our world into existence.

We are the great beneficiaries of a process that few people understand. No one has explained cogently how it came into existence. A rate of growth so slow that no one could perceive it at the time has created a world that would have been inconceivable in 1800.

This change has taken a mere three generations. This is simply inconceivable.

My Dinner with Vilfredo Pareto 19

Scott Locklin discusses the great sociologist.

Vilfredo Pareto was arguably the greatest economist of the 1800s and possibly the greatest social scientist of all time. He was one of the first to suggest applying the cold hand of mathematics to what was previously a liberal art rather than a mathematical science. His work is still considered controversial today, despite the fact that it is self-evidently true, mostly because the average modern economist or sociologist is more an ideological fashion victim than an applied mathematician.

Pareto was born to Genoese nobility in Paris during the revolution of 1848. His training was in classics, physics, and engineering, so his approach to the soft sciences was more rigorous than most. Not only did he make immortal contributions to economics, but his theories of elites were enormously influential in sociology back when it still had some hope of becoming a hard science rather than the incoherent booby hatch it is today.

Like most academic types then and now, Pareto started out a sort of liberal socialist. Then he got sick of trying to save others. To paraphrase what he said of his transformation, he had once wanted to protect the underdogs but later became contemptuous of their infirmity. Pareto also explicitly realized the socialist or democratic revolutionaries were just another would-be elite trying to replace the natural elite rather than friends to the common man as they postured themselves. This was a common transformation in his day. You can read a similar evolution in Jack London’s “Martin Eden,” as London fell under the spell of thinkers such as Herbert Spencer (and, probably, Pareto).

You Say Anarchy Like It’s a Bad Thing 1

Thomas Knapp challenges the great William S. Lind.

Writing in The American Conservative, William Lind bemoans the tendency revealed by current upheavals in the Middle East. “[T]he worst possible outcome … is the disintegration of states and their replacement either by statelessness — as we see in Somalia — or by fictional states, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

But what’s so bad about that? Let’s look at a couple of Lind’s objections:

“Within the territories that were formerly real states,” he writes, “power devolves to many non-state entities.”

Color me clueless, but isn’t that exactly what “limited government conservatives” usually claim to be for?

Isn’t that, in point of fact, precisely the goal Lind himself pursued as Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation? That institution’s “Declaration of Cultural Independence” swears off state politics and commits its adherents to “the creation of a complete, alternate structure of parallel cultural institutions.” Moreover, those “parallel cultural institutions” are of a specifically “Judeo-Christian” variety. But these days Lind lists, among his fears, the possibility that power will devolve to “religions and sects.”

“Internally, war becomes a permanent condition,” he warns. To which I can only reply, “was it not ever so?” Hobbes’s “war of all against all,” if ever that war truly raged, didn’t end with Leviathan’s appearance on the scene. The modern state merely armed the political class at the expense of the productive class, then proceeded to systematize the slaughter and — with spectacular exceptions like Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s reign of terror, Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” — regulate its domestic intensity to a more bearable and sustainable level than that of all-out war between states.

The Real Terrorists Reply

Article by David D’Amato.
Reporting on the “death toll for a grisly hostage situation” that began on Tuesday (March 29) in Iraq, the Associated Press counts 57 dead and 98 wounded. “Gunmen wearing explosives belts,” says the AP, seized a government building in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin, holding off police for five hours in a plot that was apparently aimed at the province’s governing council.

Officials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s puppet government, fingering al-Qaeda while invoking the cult of “security,” parroted all the Empire’s standard bilge about terrorists’ attempts to undermine “the very foundations of democracy.” For the United States and its colonial government in Iraq, “democracy” — the structure that Iraqis have apparently “strived so valiantly to build” — would seem to mean little more than superficial participation in the occasional, ceremonial celebration of the state.

In contrast, the people of Iraq, as opposed to their masters, probably have a very different notion of democracy in mind when they’re striving to build the future of their country, one that presumably doesn’t involve the lordly oversight of American plutocrats. And if we’re going to be considering what the U.S. Embassy calls “horrific acts,” we should probably take some time out to evaluate those of the United States in Iraq.

We often hear that people like those who took the Iraqi hostages “hate us because we’re free,” a narrative that — leaving aside its irony (how “free” are we?) — willfully ignores the United States’ military imperialism not just in Iraq, but around the world. Lest anyone should mistake revulsion toward the Empire as an apology for the murder of innocents, Glenn Greenwald has helpfully explained the distinction:

“[T]he issue is not justification — it is inherently unjust to deliberately target civilians with violence — but causation. … Imagine the fury and craving for vengeance and violence that would be unleashed in the U.S. if we were being invaded, occupied, bombed, tortured, disappeared, and indefinitely, lawlessly detained by a foreign Muslim power on U.S. soil for a full decade or more.”

Terrorist attacks, if indeed they are disproportionately directed at the U.S. and its surrogates, are, while monstrous and morally detestable, the desperate convulsions of a people trapped and oppressed by the weight of empire. As Greenwald notes, violence like the hostage situation in Iraq is inevitable, the natural response of human beings comparable to thrashing, caged animals.

Democracy: The Problem Reply

Review of Alain de Benoist by Alex Kurtagic.

De Benoist begins by problematising this taken-for-granted term, democracy, and by showing that it is, and has been, used very loosely, cynically, imprecisely, disingenuously, and outright deceptively, to describe just about any system of government, from direct democracies to totalitarian communist regimes. To his mind, only the democracy of Athens in ancient Greece can be genuinely referred to as a democracy: after all, those who invented it best know what it was about.

Judged against this standard, modern democracies fail to meet the required definition—they are something else, but not democracies.

De Benoist also demonstrates that democracy is not synonymous with liberalism, elections, or even freedom. In fact, often the opposite is the case: modern elections are effectively a delegation—and therefore an abdication—of sovereignty, the anointment of a self-perpetuating class of professional politicians who then do whatever they like, with complete impunity.

De Benoist’s main thesis is that genuine democracy can only exist in a community with shared values and common historical ties. A secondary thesis is that the larger the political unit, the stronger the type of government needed to hold it together. The liberal democracies of the West, governing over vast multicultural multitudes, are necessarily repressive and tend increasingly towards totalitarianism.

You Lie, Mr. President Reply

Article by Justin Raimondo.

Given the routine misery and oppression the governments of the world inflict on their subjects as a matter of course, the opportunity for fresh interventions by the Forces of Goodness & Light is effectively unlimited. In cheerleading Obama’s Libyan adventure, the President’s supporters are signing on to a future of perpetual warfare.

To be sure, the righteous tone of the President’s speech was ameliorated by protestations that the action was “limited,” and assurances that we’d soon be handing the effort off to NATO, and that there wouldn’t be any troops on the ground. This last, by the way, is yet another brazen lie: if we don’t have CIA over there already, aiding the rebels and coordinating air strikes with rebel actions on the ground, then somebody is not doing their job.

We are already half way down the slippery slope of Libya’s internal turmoil, and we’re in so deep at this point that I cannot see our way out for quite some time. The President is reported to have told congressional leaders that the intervention should last “days, not weeks,” and this is the biggest lie of all, a lie the President is apparently telling himself as well as us. We now own Libya’s insurrection: its fate belongs to us, and we’ll be wearing that albatross around our necks for quite some time to come.

Libyan War Will Last a Long Time Reply

Stephen Walt interviewed by Scott Horton.

Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University and co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, discusses the liberal interventionists and neoconservatives uniting in support of war in Libya; how the mission to protect Libyan civilians almost immediately became a mandate for regime change – despite claims to the contrary; fighting a preventative war based on anticipated massacres and imagined regional repercussions; the risk of moral hazard, where any and all “rebel” groups can demand help and protection – a bailout, so to speak; and how the US government somehow got on the right side of history by sort-of backing the Egyptian protesters at the last minute, after decades of stabbing them in the back.

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he served as academic dean from 2002-2006. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as master of the social science collegiate division and deputy dean of social sciences.

He has been a resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also been a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Professor Walt is the author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (W. W. Norton, 2005), and, with coauthor J.J. Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).

He presently serves as faculty chair of the international security program at the Belfer Center for Science and international affairs and as co-chair of the editorial board of the journal International Security. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. He was elected as a fellow in the American academy of arts and sciences in May 2005.

Racial Tests in Dayton 1

Article by Walter Williams.

One of the requirements to become a Dayton, Ohio police officer is to successfully pass the city’s two-part written examination. Applicants must correctly answer 57 of 86 questions on the first part (66 percent) and 73 of 102 (72 percent) on the second part. Dayton’s Civil Service Board reported that 490 candidates passed the November 2010 written test, 57 of whom were black. About 231 of the roughly 1,100 test takers were black.

The U.S. Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, rejected the results of Dayton’s Civil Service examination because not enough blacks passed. The DOJ has ordered the city to lower the passing score. The lowered passing grade requires candidates to answer 50 of 86 (58 percent) questions correctly on the first part and 64 of 102 (63 percent) of questions on the second. The DOJ-approved scoring policy requires potential police officers to earn the equivalent of an “F” on the first part and a “D” on the second. Based on the DOJ-imposed passing scores, a total of 748 people, 258 more than before, were reported passing the exam. Unreported was just how many of the 258 are black.

Keith Lander, chairman of the Dayton chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Dayton NAACP president Derrick Foward condemned the DOJ actions.

Mr. Lander said, “Lowering the test score is insulting to black people,” adding, “The DOJ is creating the perception that black people are dumb by lowering the score. It’s not accomplishing anything.”

Mr. Foward agreed and said, “The NAACP does not support individuals failing a test and then having the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” adding, “If you lower the score for any group of people, you’re not getting the best qualified people for the job.”

I am pleased by the positions taken by Messrs. Lander and Foward. It is truly insulting to suggest that black people cannot meet the same standards as white people and somehow justice requires lower standards. Black performance on Dayton’s Civil Service exam is really a message about fraudulent high school diplomas that many black students receive.

In Leviathan's Shadow Reply

Article by Mark Hackard.

It is fitting that the initial phase of the U.S. attack on Libya was overshadowed in the media by college basketball finals, popularly and quite appropriately known as March Madness. Wars, akin to dated sitcom reruns, have no hope for ratings share considering the competition. And a company like Sony won’t pay to advertise its new Playstation game Kill Zone 3 during scripted and predictable news of another desert intervention. Perhaps the press should have just phoned in coverage of the action by playing clips from the films G.I. Jane and The American President, both depicting a conflict with Tripoli. The public would doubtless be comforted that Commander-in-Chief Michael Douglas has sent Demi Moore and her fellow-SEALs to teach the Libyans a lesson in democracy.

Our absurd fantasy state reflects the approach of a monstrous reality- a world empire, declaring itself the embodiment of universal good, moves to subjugate any points of opposition to its rule. From this chaos emerges a counterfeit order, and before us appears a premonition of Yeats’ rough beast, “with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun”.

The NATO air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is so far a variant of the Kosovo template, a range of measures used to destroy Serbian sovereignty in 1999. While a no-fly zone to protect civilians in rebel-held Benghazi is the ostensible objective of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the relevant players in Washington, London and Paris will only be satisfied when the Libyan state is led by someone more amenable to their interests. Speaking on behalf of global civilization, U.S. President and Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama made clear that “the writ of the international community must be enforced”. One U.S. Navy carrier strike group wields more destructive power than most nations’ air forces; to defy such overwhelming might, it is implied, Gaddafi must have taken leave of his senses.

The Ideology of the Ruling Class Reply

Article from Claes Ryn from 2005. Ryn was discussing the Bushies, of course, but the same analysis applies to the present neocon-liberal alliance.
The French Jacobins were followers of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued, “man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains.” For men to be liberated, inherited societies and beliefs had to be destroyed.

The French Revolution was an attempt to enact his ideas. The Jacobins dealt harshly with “evil,” guillotining conspicuous representatives of the old order and employing a general ruthlessness that culminated in the Terror. To France was assigned the mission of liberation. Europe and other parts of the world were thrust into protracted war.

Today communism has collapsed, but another universalist ideology, the new Jacobinism, has taken its place. A difference between the French and the new Jacobinism is that the latter has chosen not France but America as mankind’s savior.

According to Irving Kristol, the reputed godfather of neoconservatism, today’s United States is “ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear.” His son William insists that for America vigorously to promote its universal principles abroad, it must have great military and other governmental might. The old conservative suspicion of strong, centralized federal government must be abandoned. According to the elder Kristol, it has been the role of neoconservatism “to convert the Republican party, and conservatism in general, against their wills,” to this new conception of government.

To call people who are attracted to the new Jacobinism “neoconservatives” reveals profound confusion. Modern conservatism was born in opposition to Jacobin universalism. The father of conservatism, Edmund Burke, was an English liberal, a Whig, who was very friendly to the American colonists; he thought they had strong traditional grounds for challenging king and Parliament. What Burke argued passionately against, by contrast, was the French Revolution and Jacobin thinking, which he saw as expressing an unhistorical, tyrannical spirit and an importunate desire for power. Burke warned specifically against “liberty” in the abstract.

Question Time? Indeed, It Is! Reply

Posted at MRDA’s Inferno.

Shame that some folk failed to get the memo…

Watching Question Time on Thursday, I hadta roll my eyes at the moralistic endorsements of UN military intervention in Libya; Baroness Warsi‘s She-Ra fantasies of saving the poor Libyans from “the dictator killing his own people” proved especially grating—and depressingly familiar.

It almost sounded as if the last decade never occurred; I remember, on the eve of Gulf War II: The Return, watching the same deontological dogshit fall from different mouths on that same show (and, regrettably, swallowing a substantial amount of it).

(Also, what the fuck? She opposed that war on account of its “legality”? Where was her concern for the poor, oppressed Iraqis then? I’ve heard arguments from empathy from both the pro and anti-war camps, yet she plumped for “legality”?)

Thank Lucifer for Kelvin McKenzie’s evisceration of her high-minded hawking; as well as reminding her of the dodgy deals the government had no problem doing with Gaddafi, he made mention of the fact that, for all the repression and bloodshed happening in those lands, no one seemed to be lifting a fucking finger to intervene in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen.

Who’d’ve thought I’d be giving a fucking (ex-)Sun staffer any kudos?

I suspect much of the support for this military action comes not so much from principle as it does popularity: ever notice that when you get the right people mouthing the right slogans, a substantial number of doves transform into hawks? Evidently, injecting “democracy”, “international community”, “humanitarian”, “Balkans”, and “moral obligation” into one’s war cries affects reality like “alakazam” does the fictional realm.

Glad I snapped out of that spell!

Social science and the Libyan adventure Reply

Article by Stephen Walt.
But when foreign interveners oust an existing ruler and impose a wholly new government (which is what we are trying to do in Libya), the likelihood of civil war more than triples.

Why? According to Downes, because deposing an existing regime and bringing new leaders to power “disrupts state power and foments grievances and resentments.” To make matter worse, the probability of civil war in the aftermath of foreign imposed regime change increases even more when it is accompanied by defeat in inter-state war, and when it occurs in poor and ethnically heterogeneous countries.” This isn’t reassuring either, given that Libya’s is still a poor society (because the Qaddafi family monopolizes the oil revenues) and it remains divided into potentially fractious tribes.

Here’s the bottom line (my emphasis):

[Foreign imposed regime change] is likely to spur resistance and civil war in those countries where the United States and other advanced democracies are most likely to undertake such intervention [i.e., poor, weak states]; the situation is made even bleaker if war is needed to overthrow the existing regime. . . [O]verthrowing other governments (and bringing new leaders to power rather than restoring previous rulers) is a policy instrument with limited utility because of its potential to ignite civil wars. These conflicts may in turn result in the imposed regime’s ouster or draw interveners into costly occupations.”

By the way, Downes also has another paper (co-authored with Jonathan Monten of the LSE) which finds that “states that have their governments removed by a democracy gain no significant democratic benefit compared to similar states that do not experience intervention.” Democratic intervention does have positive effects (on average) in relatively wealthy and homogeneous societies, but “evidence from past experience suggests that imposed regime change by democratic states is unlikely to be an effective means of spreading democracy,” especially when one factors in the costs.

We should all hope that Libya proves to be an exception to this tendency, but these various scholarly studies suggest that the probability that our intervention will yield a stable democracy is low, and that our decision to intervene has increased the likelihood of civil war. Heading off that possibility is likely to require a costly and extended international commitment, which is precisely what the people who launched this operation promised they would not do. We’ll see.

Beware of Humanitarians with Bombs Reply

Article by Kevin Carson.
If the Libyan people want an illustration of what will result from allowing the U.S. government any voice in how their postwar society is reconstructed, they need look no further than the work of Bremer’s CPA in Iraq. A modern prophet Samuel could provide an eloquent description of what awaits any country that accepts a U.S.-designed neoliberal government so that it can be “like the other nations.” It will have its state property distributed on sweetheart terms to politically connected western investors, be overrun by mercenaries from Halliburton and Blackwater, and sign a “Free Trade Agreement” with “intellectual property” provisions that criminalize saving seed and drive up the price of HIV drugs by ten thousand percent.

Libya, having benefited from the no-fly zone, had better take these historical lessons to heart and keep the Devil at arms length.

The Return of the Return of Anarchism Reply

Article by Thomas Knapp.
[A]n ideological philosophy and political movement that had been thought of as a dusty oddity, a relic of the late 19th century, has returned to the fore,” writes Abe Greenwald in Commentary. Worse yet, opines Greenwald, this return is fraught with “enough consequence that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently denounced terrorism ‘whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaeda, from anarchists, whoever it is.’”

Like those rumors of Mark Twain’s death, recurring claims of anarchism’s demise and resurrection are greatly exaggerated. Greenwald misinterprets his own observations. It is not resurrection he sees, it’s resurgence: A cyclical phenomenon driven primarily by the reliably recurring failure of the modern state to deliver on its most basic promises of peace, prosperity and respect for human rights.

At its least introspective, anarchism seems a merely visceral response to those failures. When confronted by some particularly repugnant manifestation of X, it’s only natural to reflexively posit Not-X as the solution. The growth of the state — its increasing size, its ever more insistent insertion of itself into new areas of human interaction, and its thoroughness in regularizing and co-opting, rather than remedying, social ills — makes it more and more the usual suspect for the role of X. Thus the more and more frequent renascences of anarchism as populist street theater.

Beyond that visceral expresion, anarchism — fundamental, principled opposition to the existence of the state — survives as numerous unbroken (though often evolving) intellectual traditions, awaiting, nay begging, adoption by those street actors as both explanatory tool and plan for more considered action.

As the Hobbesian experiment we call “the state” polarizes along the lines of its own contradictions of “left” and “right” authoritarianism (Hobbes, meet Hegel!), anarchism emerges not as antithesis, but as synthesis. When the state runs short of convincing fictions (“constitutionalism,” “dictatorship of the proletariat,” “fuhrerprinzip”) to disguise those contradictions and stands weakened, near collapse over the pit of its own digging, it is anarchism we invariably see approaching, shovel in hand, ready to bury the failed experiment and turn, with humanity, to new ones.

For two centuries, give or take, the anarchists have — sometimes in breathless anticipation, sometimes in a stoic spirit of resigned obduration — looked for inspiration to Cato the Elder’s admonition that Carthage must be destroyed. The state, we say, must be destroyed, the sooner the better. Can someone please pass the salt?

R.I.P. Joe Bageant 1


Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.

According to Joe’s wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.

China Moves To Save Libyan Leader As Russia Warns Of ‘All Out War’ 1

Article from the European Union Times. Will a new Cold War pit B-R-I-C against the Anglo-American-Zionist axis?

An “urgent” dispatch from Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Mikhail Fradkov to President Medvedev that is circulating in the Kremlin today says that the Chinese warship Xuzhou is preparing to offer protection to Libyan leader Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi and his family to protect them from assassination from the US-led air assault on that North African Nation.

In what this report calls a “stunning betrayal” by the West, Russian leaders say their abstention in the United Nation Security Council vote to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to protect its civilian population from both Gaddafi and rebel forces is, instead, being used by the West to engineer their takeover of Libya’s vast oil and water resources, and which we had previously warned about in our March 8th report, “Global Resource War Warned Has Begun Between East-West.”

Even though Chief of the Russian General Staff Nikolai Makarov had previously warned that foreign military intervention in Libya could trigger an all-out war with the West, his warnings have fallen on deaf ears as British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said the direct targeting of Gaddafi was “possible” and British submarines fired two missiles at the Libyan leaders compound in downtown Tripoli bringing number of civilians killed by the West to 48 with over 150 wounded.

After the West’s massive killing of Libyan civilians Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich called for the immediate halt to the US-led attacks against Libya, a call that was joined by both China and India who just days before these attacks were said to be considering offers to drill for Libyan oil.

China’s most important political newspaper, The People’s Daily, further warned that the United States and its allies are violating International rules and that in places like Iraq “the unspeakable suffering of its people are a mirror and a warning” and the military attacks on Libya are, following on from the Afghan and Iraq wars, “the third time that some countries have launched armed action against sovereign countries.”

The Arab League’s secretary general Amr Moussa, also condemned the West by saying, “what is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”