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  • Archive for the 'Quotations' Category

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    But if Obama and his supporters are ruling out the obvious, so too are many of the president’s critics who hope that at some point — perhaps when he misses 500 out of 500 — that he’ll suddenly realize that he’s doing it wrong. They’re hoping for this because the common perception is that the world is stuck with him until 2016. But perhaps he won’t notice he’s missed the last 1,000 shots for the very same reason that caused the blunders already committed.
     
    The one crisis that Peter Baker omits to mention is the inability of the American political system to diagnose and fix itself. It lies in the circumstance that Baker can realize the world is falling apart without being able to put his finger on why. It is exhibited in Alan Dershowitz’s perspicacious insight that Israel has been put in an impossible position while remaining a pillar of the Democratic cheering squad. They can enumerate the problems but they don’t know what it means.
     
    The feedback loop is kaput. That is the key. But no one in Washington seems capable of divining where the smoke on the ceiling is coming from because it’s coming from them. The significance of the dog that did not bark in the night is that nobody in establishment DC is barking. It means things will only come to a head when the theater actually starts to burn.

    Posted in Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Virginia Postrel:

    Higher education exists to advance and transmit knowledge, and learning requires disagreement and argument. Even the most vocational curriculum — accounting, physical therapy, civil engineering, graphic design — represents knowledge accumulated through trial and error, experimentation and criticism. That open-ended process isn’t easy and it often isn’t comfortable. The idea that students should be protected from disagreeable ideas is a profoundly anti-educational concept.

    Posted in Education, Quotations | 9 Comments »

    Quote of the Day II

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    Jefferson’s great insight is that all decisions in this world are marginal cost decisions; and if we feel free to heap deficit spending on the future to remember the children will also be free to repudiate it. The paramount question we should be concerned with is not whether slavery was evil, but whether a black man living in America today can make a better life than in the Congo; whether Israel is better replaced by the Palestinian authority. For we cannot change the past; it is useless to try and even more useless to make a career of it. Even if it were possible to change the past, Bradbury argues there is no guarantee that the resulting alternative future would be any better.
     
    Our task must to leave the world better than we found it, not to remake it from the foundations. That doesn’t mean the past is gone, but it lacks the special quality of activity. The dead are already costed into the present…

    He got that right.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Israel, Jewish Leftism, Quotations, Tradeoffs, USA | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day from Winston Churchill, July 4, 1918

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document. It follows on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the third great title-deed on which the liberties of the English-speaking peoples are founded…. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those expressed at that time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and handed down to them by John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth….

    Winston Churchill, speech given at the Anglo-American rally at the Albert Hall on US Independence Day 1918.

    RTWT.

    (Note that Churchill’s reference to the “Bill of Rights” is to the English Bill of Rights of 1689.)

    Quoted in a review by Andrew Roberts of Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship” by Peter Clarke.

    We made a similar argument in America 3.0:

    [T]o fully understand the meaning of the American Founding, and of our Declaration and Constitution, we need to go back even farther, to see where they came from. The Founders were not writing on a blank page. Far from it. They made a Revolution because the American people already held strongly to certain principles that they saw coming under increasing threat. And they wrote our Founding documents as a conscious attempt to preserve a valued way of life, at least as much as to make something entirely new.

    And Daniel Hannan made much the same point in Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, when he wrote:

    American Patriots didn’t just propose ideas that were inspired by the philosophy of Magna Carta. They saw that document itself as a part of their inheritance. When, as they perceived it, George III violated their patrimony, they too up arms to defend it.

    We rightly celebrate our independence, and the Declaration that proclaimed it.

    And we are right to recognize that the freedom our Founders fought for was ancient and the Declaration was the embodiment of something very old.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations, Speeches | 10 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Victor Davis Hanson:

    As far as war and peace go, closure for Obama is when the United States is surrounded by war and confronted with looming conflicts, and yet has ended them all by declaring that we choose not to be interested in any of them. Obama is right about one thing: losing is certainly a way of reducing the violence.

    Genteel defeat is the way of the appeaser and comes from cowardice or expediency, sometimes both. The cowardice may be physical though it is often intellectual, a willful cutting of corners for short-term political gain at the expense of foreseeable long-term geopolitical disaster.

    Closure is a pernicious concept. People who use the term sincerely, rather than as cover for some hidden agenda, may have a compulsive aversion to loose ends. Sometimes a loose end or other untidy low-energy equilibrium is the best, least risky, most robust outcome that one can hope for in a bad situation. Obama has achieved closure in Iraq. We could have had a muddy equilibrium stabilized by a few tens of thousands of US troops. Instead we will get closure in the form of a decisive defeat for the USA and its allies following Obama’s principled military withdrawal.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Iraq, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2014 (All posts by )

    Codes governing hate speech are not meant to suppress hate. They are meant to suppress speech.

    -Richard Fernandez

    UPDATE: See also.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Quotations, Rhetoric | 3 Comments »

    SWOT, One Year On

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    A year ago I was dispassionately composing my analysis. Today, when I left the Sprint campus and drove east on 115th Street to turn north on Nall toward I-435, there were TV news vans with telescoping antennae lining the street at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center.

    Coincidentally the number of dead is identical. There are, however, no (physically) injured survivors, and the motivation for the attack was similar only in that it was intended to draw attention to a cause. I fear that the perpetrator is cunning enough to succeed in that; his previous notoriety was due to legally forcing some radio stations to briefly carry Nazi ads during an election campaign season. Much has been made of the gentile – and indeed seriously committed Christian – identity of the victims, but I believe that was unimportant to him. What mattered was that he seize a mechanism for dissemination of conspiracy theories, and now, given the administrative blockheadedness of the American justice system and the puerile conventions of American journalism, we are all too likely to be subjected to many hours and tens of thousands of words of exceptionally vicious, totalitarian propaganda, varying portions of which will be heard by tens of millions of people. This guy knew exactly what he was doing.

    I could tell that from the video snippets of his arrest, just as I could tell, hours before it was officially confirmed, that he would turn out to have come from rural Missouri (Aurora is nearly a 3-hour drive from Overland Park; he had to have cased both facilities beforehand) and would turn out to be a southerner with prior Klan involvement. It was completely obvious from his accent, his tone of voice, and his attitude on camera. He is now operating inside the American institutional OODA loop. Our entirely proper determination to grant a scrupulously fair trial – when we’re not piling on the charges in order to ram a plea bargain through, that is – will be roughly equivalent to giving him not airtime for advertisements, but his own highly rated nationwide radio network.

    Fortunately, he is also sufficiently sui generis that copycat attacks are unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Should an American Dolchstoßlegende catch on, however, things may deteriorate sharply. The general case is to scapegoat a relatively small, easily-identified minority: it was the “1%,” or twenty-five guys on Wall Street, or the Koch brothers – or George Soros, or Obama/Pelosi/Reid, or the leftist academics on their Long March through the institutions – or (of course) Jews, or Latino immigrants or Asians stealing our jobs. If we just expropriate, or deport, or exterminate them, and everyone like them, the story goes, our country will be purified, and Utopia ensue. The ideology may be Nazi or Communist; either will do in a pinch, as Hayek wrote nearly three-quarters of a century ago: its adherents are uncertain, and know only that they hate Western liberal civilization.

    Just to make things more complicated, tolerance can definitely be taken too far. Interviews with the perpetrator’s neighbors in Lawrence County, Missouri, immediately elicit idiotic postmodernist comments to the effect that he seemed like a nice enough guy but had some opinions that they didn’t agree with. Great. Your assigned reading is here, you nitwits.

    So when blood ran in the streets of my city, did I follow my own advice in the ostensibly-uplifting conclusion to my analysis of a year ago, and immediately redouble my efforts on whatever it is I was supposed to be doing? Well, it was a Sunday, so there was somewhat less of that, although I tend to devise more projects for my spare time than I could possibly execute anyway. But in the event, whatever it may say about me, I felt tremendously violated, as though the murders had occurred in my driveway rather than six miles away. And what I actually did was drink rather more cheap boxed red wine than usual and break down a couple of times. I don’t have any particular aversion to weeping, but I don’t need to do so very often. Turns out I needed to on Sunday evening. The question of how I will react should much larger-scale events occur in even closer proximity remains unanswered.

    The problem, of course, is that this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen here … which is a rather hypocritical sentiment in light of the actual statistics on violent death locally. A couple-three people a week get murdered in this town, three-quarters of them in an area covering only one-tenth of the municipality of KC, Mo., and a tiny fraction of the area of the entire MSA. Assuming that the said area (34 mi²) has the same population density as zip code 64130 (of which it largely consists), a moment with a calculator establishes that the homicide rate in question – the southwestern boundary of that area reaches to within two miles of my house – is nearly 80 per 100,000 per year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the Western world, and also as dangerous as Iraq before the Surge, which the media thoughtfully informed us at the time was the Worst Thing Ever. Gallivanting off to Haïti is all very well, but perhaps I should find a more local ministry to volunteer with while I’m at it.

    But it really isn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because Overland Park is a world away from the East Side. Side-by-side, indeed inextricably mixed, with the ongoing mayhem five minutes’ drive from my doorstep is a deep reservoir of peace and contentment. God damn it, we just want to listen to jazz and eat barbecue. In its best moments, there is no gentler place on Earth. The lives of those taken on Sunday bear witness to that.

    “The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized.” – Harry S. Truman, Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, 9 August 1945

    “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” – Harry S. Truman, to reporters, 13 April 1945

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Judaism, Law Enforcement, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Christopher Hitchens:

    Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

    This wears well.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Quotations, Rhetoric, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Seth Mandel: Brendan Eich, the Culture Wars, and the Ground Shifting Beneath Our Feet in Commentary:

    But forget about the Kochs for a moment. Forget, too, about the left’s major donors like Tom Steyer, who plans to spend $100 million in congressional midterm elections in support of Democrats. What about the guy who donated $1,000 to a state ballot initiative six years ago? Should he lose his job somewhere down the line because public opinion has shifted against an old ballot initiative? To the left, the answer is: Absolutely.
     
    This is part of why conservatives have been leery about the Democrats’ proposals to force disclosure of the kind of donors who give to Republicans (while exempting many of their own major donors). The left claims it wants full disclosure of political participation in the name of transparency and electoral integrity. We now know this isn’t remotely true. They want disclosure so they can extend the purge of heretics from private life and thus deter libertarian and conservative political participation. They want a permanent record of everyone’s political opinions to use against them at any time in the future. This is about disenfranchisement and blacklisting and nothing more. That should have been apparent before, but it’s crystal clear now.

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, Society | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Michael Rubin in Commentary:

    What self-described realists misunderstand when they pursue their cost-benefit analysis without emotion or regard for principle is that friendship and trust have value. In one chapter of Dancing with the Devil, I explore the history of intelligence politicization. Iraq may now be the marquee example upon which many progressives seize, but intelligence politicization occurred under every president dating back at least to Lyndon Johnson, if not before (the scope of my book was just the past half-century or so). Iraq intelligence was flawed, but the world will get over it, especially since it was consistent with the intelligence gathered by almost every other country and the United Nations. The betrayal of allies, however, is a permanent wound on America’s reputation that will not be easy to overcome.

    This is a chronic problem. We were able to get away with being a fickle ally when we acted like a superpower. Our allies had no choice but to deal with us; our adversaries had to be cautious lest they provoke us. We betrayed Kurds, Iraqi Shiites and other groups without paying much of a long-term price. It was easy to be casual about our alliances. We could afford to see one-dimensional cynical calculations of national interest as realism.

    But now that we behave like just another country we are beginning to pay more of a cost for our unreliability. Our design margin, in Wretchard’s phrase, has eroded. It is increasingly difficult for us to protect our remaining interests. The Obama foreign policy is an inverse force-multiplier.

    Our geopolitical situation is going to deteriorate faster than most Americans expect.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    History Friday: T.E. Hulme (1883-1917)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    T.E. Hulme was a poet and critic who died leaving behind a very small corpus of work. Nonetheless, he is considered to be an influential figure in artistic modernism, and more tenuously, in modern conservatism.

    Further, Hulme was an English version of a peculiar type of artist and intellectual that emerged in the early 20th century, which we rarely see anymore: A radical reactionary, a revolutionary conservative, or an anarchistic tory. On the Continent, these sorts of people tended toward fascism. An excellent book on this era is The Generation of 1914.

    In the English speaking world, they tended to be religious and cultural conservatives. T.S. Eliot falls into this category. My favorite, Evelyn Waugh falls generally on this part of the spectrum, as well, though Waugh is a late specimen of the type, and on the more pugnacious side, which I like.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick, Khodorkovsky and the freedom agenda:

    Both the Iranian democracy activists then and the Ukrainian protesters today demonstrated through their actions that they do not seek the mere overthrow of unrepresentative, repressive governments. They seek freedom, and are willing to work for it. All the Iranians needed then, and all the Ukrainians ask for today, is assistance from foreign powers, just as George Washington’s Continental Army required French assistance to defeat the British Empire.
     
    While those are easy cases to understand, the lesson of Putin’s Russia and of post-Saddam Iraq is that freedom doesn’t sprout from thin air. The only way to plant democracy in nations unfamiliar with the habits of liberty is to cultivate them, relentlessly and unapologetically, over time.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Iraq, Management, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Russia | 4 Comments »

    History Friday: The Rule of Law

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    [The Rule of Law] means in the first place, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power, and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative, or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the government …. It means, again, equality before the law, or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts … [and], lastly,… that, in short, the principles of private law have with us been by the action of the courts and Parliament so extended as to determine the position of the Crown and of its servants; thus the constitution is the result of the ordinary law of the land.

    Albert Venn Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)

    Restated, Dicey says the Rule of Law consists of: (1) disallowing arbitrary power, restricting the use of power to what is permitted by law, (2) treating all person to the exact same law, in the same courts, without regard to their status, and (3) treating the officers of the government to exactly the same law as everybody else.

    Nota bene: Each of these elements is crumbling before our eyes in America in 2013. In particular, Mr. Obama’s arbitrary use of executive power, unmoored from legal foundation, is literally frightening.

    The Rule of Law is a standard we must demand and enforce as citizens. To the extent it has decayed, it must be restored. Any reform platform must include provisions to restore each of these features.

    Posted in History, Law, Quotations | 17 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th October 2013 (All posts by )

    In the iPad era, people’s lives are decentralizing and services are becoming more customized. Community solutions are being found closer to home. Giving more power to a-one-size-fits-all federal government is out of synch with that reality.

    No Good Options for Obama, Scott Rasmussen

    (A very America 3.0 view of things, and a correct one.)

    Posted in America 3.0, Quotations | 12 Comments »

    Why the “Israel Lobby” Backed Obama on Syria

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Martin Kramer:

    Stephen J. Rosen has written a smart piece on how Obama forced AIPAC to back his planned military action against the Syrian regime. It’s titled “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” and he makes a strong case. Of course, AIPAC views action on Syria as a kind of proxy for action against Iran, and assumes that the former will make the latter more likely when push comes to shove. In fact, bopping Assad may well be a substitute for action against Iran: Obama hopes that by a relatively cheap shot at Syria, he’ll restore enough credibility to restrain Israel vis-à-vis Iran. Alas, a cheap shot won’t restrain Iran, and may even impel it to push its nuke plans forward. Israel has to face reality: it may or may not be a post-American world, but it’s a post-American Middle East. (And if the military operation goes badly it could be post-AIPAC, too.)

    The Rosen piece is here. It’s worth reading, particularly for the reminder of how Obama operates politically (there are no appeals to principle; it’s all about arm twisting, threats and domestic political considerations).

    Kramer’s interpretation is persuasive. Obama probably wants to use a weak attack on Syria, or preferably mere talk about Syria if he can get away with it, as a substitute for rather than a prelude to doing anything about Iran’s nuclear program. Syria is Iran’s puppet and if Obama were serious he’d be going after the mullahs. Instead he appears to be running out the clock until they have nukes, while also doing his best to degrade our military in order to lock in our impotence for the foreseeable future. (J. E. Dyer discusses our current weakness in detail: here, here and here.)

    Whatever the course of Obama’s political career going forward, we are probably going to pay dearly for his ineptitude and anti-American malice.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Jewish Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Commenter CR on “slutwalks” and leftist/feminist moral reasoning:

    Their position on rape has a lot of parallels to the Trayvon Martin case… They continuously believe that people should face absolutely no consequence for any decisions they make and are shocked when people who do potentially risky things (like bashing someone’s head into the ground) end up having something bad happen that could have been avoided if they hadn’t been told that they had no responsibility for what happened to them at all and were free to act in any way they wished.

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Posted in Human Behavior, Leftism, Quotations | 3 Comments »

    Coase on Lawyers, Transaction Costs and Society

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th September 2013 (All posts by )

    From a 1997 interview with the late Ronald Coase in Reason:

    Reason: Some people would say that it’s just paper transactions, that all the efforts of the lawyers are a waste, a mess, a scourge on society. You have a slightly different view.
     
    Coase: Lawyers do a lot of harm, but they also do an immense amount of good. And the good is that they are expert negotiators, and they know what is necessary in the law to enable deals to be made. Their activities are designed, in fact, to lower transaction costs. Some of them, we know, raise transaction costs. But by and large, they are engaged in lowering transaction costs. People talk about the information age and how large numbers of people are engaged in information activities. Well, gathering information is one of the difficulties when you’re in a market. What is being produced, what are the prices of what is being offered? You’ve got to learn all these things. You can learn them now a good deal more easily than you could have done before; you don’t have to search. If you’ve ever tried to buy anything, you know how much time goes into finding out what’s available and all the alternatives.

    Worthwhile reading.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Law, Quotations | 3 Comments »

    Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

    Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    This blog is, after all, called “Chicago Boyz.” One of the greatest and most influential economists of all time, Prof. Coase was for many years a Chicago Boy. A career spanning eight decades has now come to an end.

    The official University of Chicago obituary is here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Biography, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Obits, Quotations | 5 Comments »

    Unhistory Monday: The Impossibility of Writing Truthfully About a Battle

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th August 2013 (All posts by )

    The Chief, the Quartermaster, the Adjutant-General, know well enough what the strength of the army is, and can map out to a quarter of a mile where it lies; but to the casual and ignorant spectator all this is mystery. The vastness of the area over which the armed host is spread, confounds him. He is unable to realise the fact of thousands being present when scattered around him; he only sees a few groups of white tents widely separated. And as it is in a camp, so, I apprehend, it is in a battle. When the great Duke of Wellington was asked by a lady at a ball to describe Waterloo, he pointed to the brilliant pageant which was running its course before them, and asked her if she thought she could describe all that was going on in that ball-room. If it be ever my lot to be present at a battle—although of wars and its alarms I have had enough by this time—I shall have but little to say, I fancy, about the manoeuvres of great bodies of men, desperate charges, skilful flank movements, and so forth. Such graphic narratives are best written at home, years after the event, with the general’s despatches and a good map before one. If ever I were called upon to send home an account of a sanguinary engagement between two great armies, it would most probably—if the account were candid and conscientious—be confined to mentioning that, standing somewhere under a tree, I could make out, through a race-glass, that something like an Irish row appeared to be going on in a field a long way off; and that riding away, rather in a hurry, I met many carts full of men that were wounded, and were crying out, for God’s sake, for water; and that I saw many ditches full of men that could cry no more, for the reason that they were dead.

    George Augustus Sala, My Diary in America in the Midst of War, Vol. 1 (1865)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Military Affairs, Quotations, USA | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: With Winston Churchill at the Front

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I am reading Churchill: A Study in Failure (1970), by Robert Rhodes James. It is a famous book, which describes Churchill’s career up to 1939. It is an excellent book as of page 132/385. In fact, it is so good, I now want to read other things by this author.

    A relatively little-known episode in Churchill’s career was his uniformed service at the front in World War I. Following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, which was Churchill’s brainchild, he was driven out of the cabinet, where he had been First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill volunteered for active service, and was given the command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers battalion from January to May, 1916.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs, Quotations | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th August 2013 (All posts by )

    It is extraordinary how long a nation will allow itself to be misgoverned.

    Rudolf Binding, A Fatalist at War (1926/1929)

    Posted in Book Notes, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    Obama’s Anti-Terror Policy Can’t Be a Continuation of Bush’s Policy

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th August 2013 (All posts by )

    J. E. Dyer:

    Foreign policy doesn’t operate mechanically, on autopilot. Its effectiveness is determined entirely by the nature of the national administrations involved. You take the Bush 41 administration, and it can make a particular basic policy — say, in the war on terror — achieve a detectable level of good effect, in spite of the setbacks and “friction” (in the Clausewitzian sense) that are inevitable with international relations.
     
    You take the Obama administration, and officially, it will modify the same basic policy on the edges. But in reality, the Obama administration becomes known for things like zero follow-through, strategic sclerosis, narcissism, unreliability, and desperation for photo ops and a favorable narrative. The same policy, modified, can’t work under those conditions.

    This is a good point and should give pause to anyone who is reassured by assertions that the Obama administration’s anti-terror activities are an extension of what the Bush administration did. In fact, Obama’s weakness and ineptitude make it impossible for him to get the results Bush did, even if Obama wants to.

    Executive competence is a critical variable in foreign-policy success. There is no adequate workaround for executive incompetence.

    Posted in National Security, Obama, Quotations | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th May 2013 (All posts by )

    J.V. DeLong in a comment at The Right Coast:

    Maybe it was a bad week for the Obama administration — and maybe it was a fine week.
     
    If the Obama-ists weather these scandals with no damage except squawking from the conservatives, then they will know that they are invulnerable, and are free to use the IRS, the regulatory agencies, and the legal system to harass all enemies without limit.
     
    The real test is of the Democratic Party. Does it stand with the Republic, or has it turned into a Leninist party that controls the government according to the will of the Leader? Based on the performance of the Dems at the Benghazi hearing, the latter seems the case.

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Leftism, Obama, Politics, Quotations | 12 Comments »

    The Common Law, Free Markets, and Voluntaristic Rather than Coercive Order: Three Great Things That Go Great Together

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th May 2013 (All posts by )

    In America 3.0 we discuss the origins of the common law, and how it was well-suited to adapt inductively to changing conditions, in contrast to the more top-down Roman law that predominated on the Continent.

    This recent post on the John Wilkes Club blog, makes this point nicely:

    There is no eschatology in the common law: its purpose is to reflect changes in the cultural, social and economic structure, not to direct them towards an objective preconceived in the minds of cultured and erudite elites for our betterment. Likewise there is no eschatology in free markets: they are a tool for the allocation of goods and services according to ever-changing consumer preferences, not for directing them towards some imaginary ‘ideal’ allocation. Not only is there no ethical basis for the social and economic coercion which rational, artificial, imposed order inevitably involves; but also, because even a benevolent genius is trapped in the prison of imperfect information described by Hayek and others, it does not work.

    The post cites to The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America by Claudio Veliz, a great favorite of ours, and concludes in Hayekian fashion: “… the ability to manage the modern welfare state is not just beyond any particular person, but beyond anybody … .”

    Quite so. And that why is it is failing. And that is why the next iteration of America will be flatter, more networked, less coercive and better, cheaper and faster at everything that matters. But we have to get all this detritus out of the way, first … .

    Cross-posted on America 3.0.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, History, Libertarianism, Quotations, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    Margaret Thatcher: Revolutionary, Leader

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th April 2013 (All posts by )

    …[H]er longest-lasting impact has been neglected. Indeed, it is so long-lasting that it is yet to fully play out, even now.
     
    Margaret Thatcher changed the Right from a reactionary movement into a revolutionary one … .

    Mark Wallace

    The Conservatives in Britain needed to become revolutionaries. American Conservatism was started by William F. Buckley, Jr. and was meant to be revolutionary, or at least counter-revolutionary, and many of its early thinkers were former Communists who thought of themselves as continuing a revolutionary struggle.

    Mrs. Thatcher pointed out nicely against whom the revolution must be made: crony capitalism:

    Too many people and industries preferred to rely on easy subsidies rather than apply the financial discipline necessary to cut their costs and become competitive. Others preferred the captive customers that a monopoly can command or the secure job in an overmanned industry, rather than the strenuous life of liberty and enterprise.

    Margaret Thatcher: Rebuilding an Enterprise Society Through Privatisation.

    Saying “the State” is the problem is only partly true. Millions benefit from the State as it currently operates, and most of them are not employees of the State. They are rationally self-interested in keeping things as they are.

    Choosing “the strenuous life of liberty and enterprise” is a moral choice at least as much as it is a self-interested one.

    “Greed is good” does not get you capitalism. Greed is more easily satisfied by turning state power to personal gain. Capitalism, or the better term, free enterprise, permits great personal gain, and improves the lives of many people over time. But it cannot rely on self-interest alone to keep it going. It is a way you have to decide to live, individually, and as a nation.

    Once upon a time I read a book which showed me that the growth of the state and the slow extinguishing of freedom and enterprise were virtually inevitable. The beneficiaries of each incremental increase in state power, of each incremental loss of personal freedom, were acutely focused on gaining and keeping their advantages. The losers in this process were diffuse, unfocused, distracted by everything else in life.

    The common good had no champion, as a practical matter. In terms of strictly material incentives, it never would.

    Worse, in terms of non-material incentives, it is even worse. To go against the currently powerful, the currently well-connected and prestigious, will lead to scorn, insults and derision.

    And I eventually came to understand that pushing back against this process is precisely what is meant by the word leadership, under current conditions.

    There is always a “them” who are the current ruling group. They are the ones dealt into the existing game, its apologists and advocates. To take them on, to organize and lead an opposition movement, the leader must have extremely strong character. Such a leader must be self-assured, know how things really work, and have a very thick skin. The leader must have no regard for conventional wisdom and no respect for the often unstated limits of what can be done or, even more, what is “simply not done” or “simply not said.”

    As a practical matter, such a leader must have the capacity to speak plainly and clearly to a majority of ordinary people who are quietly victimized in the existing game, to show them how certain changes will be good for them, and good generally. They do not lead by force or lies, they lead by telling hard truths and gaining assent to the hard path to better things.

    Mrs. Thatcher was such a leader.

    Mr. Reagan was such a leader.

    We need more of them. But they are always scarce.

    Fortunately, though scarce, there have always been a few of them.

    And as things get worse, people turn to them, reluctantly, out of necessity.

    May God grant us more such leaders in the troubled days ahead.

    UPDATE

    Michael Barone sent the following anecdote:

    My one significant exchange of words with Mrs. Thatcher.
     
    I asked, perhaps a bit obsequiously, whether it was a weakness of her philosophy that its success depended on having a strong leader like her or Ronald Reagan.
     
    She responded in her booming voice: “But isn’t that always true?”
     
    After a pause: “Isn’t that ALWAYS true?”
     
    Your point, exactly.

    Mrs. Thatcher was correct on this point.

    The system does not go of itself.

    There has to be leadership.

    There is no alternative.

    UPDATE II

    I have been schlepping around for 20 years a copy of The Anatomy of Thatcherism by the late Shirley Robin Letwin. It is very good after about 50 pages.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations | 8 Comments »