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  • Archive for the 'Quotations' Category

    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 »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th March 2013 (All posts by )

    The low rate of overt accidents in reliable systems may encourage changes, especially the use of new technology, to decrease the number of low consequence but high frequency failures. These changes maybe actually create opportunities for new, low frequency but high consequence failures. When new technologies are used to eliminate well understood system failures or to gain high precision performance they often introduce new pathways to large scale, catastrophic failures. Not uncommonly, these new, rare catastrophes have even greater impact than those eliminated by the new technology. These new forms of failure are difficult to see before the fact; attention is paid mostly to the putative beneficial characteristics of the changes. Because these new, high consequence accidents occur at a low rate, multiple system changes may occur before an accident, making it hard to see the contribution of technology to the failure.

    From:

    How Complex Systems Fail (pdf)
    (Being a Short Treatise on the Nature of Failure; How Failure is Evaluated; How Failure is Attributed to Proximate Cause; and the Resulting New Understanding of Patient Safety)
    Richard I. Cook, MD
    Cognitive technologies Laboratory University of Chicago

    Posted in Quotations, Systems Analysis | 5 Comments »

    Never Give up on the Cause of Freedom

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th March 2013 (All posts by )

    It is only after an unknown number of unrecorded labors, after a host of noble hearts have succumbed in discouragement, convinced that their cause is lost; it is only then that the cause triumphs.

    François Guizot

    Guizot is an under-appreciated writer, a Classical Liberal of the French school, a truly embattled group who struggled against long odds. In the new book by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, we cite to Guizot’s General History of Civilization in Europe (1828), which is a brilliant book. I also hope to read his The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe (1861).

    Cross-posted at America 3.0.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, France, History, Politics, Quotations, Tea Party | 4 Comments »

    Elections Have Consequences

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd March 2013 (All posts by )

    Worst case is that the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on. In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR. Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.
     
    A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs. In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off. The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

    -J.E. Dyer, Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

    William Pitt the Younger, speech in Parliament, November 18, 1783.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Conservatism, History, India, Quotations | 2 Comments »

    We the Serfs

    Posted by David McFadden on 31st January 2013 (All posts by )

    The Preamble is one of the few parts of the Constitution that President Obama did not abuse in his first term. He corrected that omission in his second inaugural address by using “We the People” as a refrain. Democratic politicians love to use refrains in their speeches. At Democratic National Conventions the rabble gleefully and robotically chants the refrain with the speaker. The particular refrain Obama used reminded me of a fascinating talk Professor Richard Epstein gave during a panel discussion at the November 2010 Federalist Society Convention. At the time, I was surprised to hear Professor Epstein characterize “We the People” as the “most dangerous words in the American Constitution.” Now I understand that he explained exactly what Obama was up to:

    We have a deep ambiguity in our own minds when we start to evoke the image of “the people” in dealing with American constitutional law or indeed with any system of governance. . . . Sometimes we treat it as a celebration: “The American people have spoken and have decided x, y, and z ought to be president,” and what they really mean is that 54% of the voters happen to agree with one side and only 46 with the other, and what we do is we create a kind of an illusion of collective unanimity by taking a term like “people” and turning a majority into a total number. And in fact our Constitution does that in one place where I think it’s most misleading and most dangerous. I think the single most dangerous words in the American Constitution in one sense are the words “We the People,” which begin the Preamble. Now you would ask, now why is it that I would take such a negative view with respect to our document, particularly on this occasion? . . . You have to go back and see what the original draft of this particular provision was, and it said, “We the undersigned delegates of the following states,” and then you go through the rest of the thing. What it does in effect in one way is to kind of create this image of sort of coercive unanimity, and that’s the kind of language that you see also when you’re talking about the People’s Republic of China or the People’s Republic of East Germany–or closer to home, the People’s Republic of Cambridge, the People’s Republic of Berkeley–in which what you’re looking at is the notion that if you can get a majority, what you can do is to design and to organize the preferences of everybody. So the aggressive application of “the people” in terms of its ability to create and make law is in my mind a real open invitation to totalitarianism.

    Well, then you look at the other uses of the word people in the Constitution, and by detailed and sophisticated empirical techniques I was able to identify four such uses in the Constitution, all of which are contained in the Bill of Rights, one of them having to do with the right of assembly, one of them having to do with the various issues on searches and seizures, and one having to do with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments on reverse power. [The Second Amendment has another.] Well, this is what I call the benign use of the term people . . . because what you are doing is you are saying every individual within the society is going to be protected against the impositions of government so that the people can be secure in their homes. We do not mean by that sentence that all of us live in one giant tepee in which we have various separate rooms and they are going to be protected. What we mean is that each of us have private and individual rights and that each and every one of them should be protected against government. So the defensive use of the term people in the Bill of Rights has a completely different resonance and a completely different tone than the rather offensive use, i.e., attacking use, of the term when it starts to go into the Preamble. And this, of course, had real consequences with the design of the original Constitution because every time you start hearing the term people in the Preamble being invoked, it’s to sort of indicate the direct relationship of individuals to the central government, which necessarily is meant to sort of underplay and degrade the role of the states in the original system. So it’s not as though this is simply a rhetorical flourish without institutional consequences. It surely has those kinds of institutional consequences.

    As if to illustrate Professor Epstein’s point, Obama uses the phrase “We the People” five times to create an illusion of collective unanimity about (1) redistributionism, (2) the welfare state, (3) climate change (formerly known as global warming), (4) something opaque and equivocal about the war formerly known as the War on Terror, and (5) certain civil rights movements guided by equality “just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall.”

    Regarding that last one, he probably did not have in mind the men and women, or their predecessors, who would leave footprints along the Mall a few days later in the fortieth March for Life. And in addressing the illusory collective unanimity on the welfare state, Obama used another of his favorite rhetorical devices, the false choice. Those who say we have to choose between having our cake and eating it too are presenting a false choice, Obama argues. We can have our cake, preserving it for our children, and eat it too, he insists. (Actually, he said, “we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future,” but it’s the same thing).

    The inaugural address refers to “collective action” and shows Obama eager to use it to turn the illusory collective unanimity he claims into coercive unanimity. From the perspective of Obama and his infatuates, the Senate, with its advice and consent duty and its tradition of unlimited debate, is a problem to be “fixed,” for it stands in the way of the will of the people. Happily, that effort was checked on both fronts last week.

    It was to be expected, I suppose, that a demagogue par excellence would eventually find the Constitution’s “most misleading and most dangerous” phrase and exploit it to lend legitimacy to his program of undermining liberty and the constitutional structure.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Obama, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Rhetoric, Speeches | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Ann Althouse:

    The issue there was not guns but the use of tax money to pay for teachers of religion. In the paragraph quoted above, Madison went on to say that citizens should object to the requirement of paying even “three pence” to support a religion because a government that extracts even that trifle may go on to coerce religious conformity. The small things are not small. The small things are where the people still have the capacity to fight authoritarian government.
     
    Democrats know this. They are part of this American culture of deeply engrained belief in constitutional rights. What is different to the Democrats is that they don’t believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right. They think the Supreme Court misinterpreted the Second Amendment when it found a constitutional right. District of Columbia v. Heller was a 5 to 4 decision, and the 5 are the 5 Justices, still on the Court, whom the Democratic Senators would love to have a chance to replace.

    Read the whole thing.

    Democratic politicians claim that they don’t want to take away people’s guns, but the pols’ behavior belies the claim. As Althouse points out, the Democrats appear to be looking at all possible ways to restrict the right to arms. The only things that hold them back are the Republican controlled House of Representatives, fear of a backlash by voters, and the courts. But we can be sure that the Democrats will seize any opportunities to restrict the RKBA that appear.

    If you haven’t yet done it, now might be a good time for you to join or renew your membership in the National Rifle Association. I just joined. The NRA isn’t perfect but it’s the most effective advocate for the right to arms that we have.

    Posted in Politics, Quotations, RKBA | 12 Comments »