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  • Archive for June, 2006

    Over-Celling

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 30th June 2006 (All posts by )

    When the woman in the Toyota Highlander drifted into my lane this morning, she apparently inhabited a Japanese-designed Cartesian monad, with her cell phone as the only source of sensory input. According to some recent research using a driving simulator, cell phone users are about as impaired as drivers with 0.08% blood alcohol levels. Some studies have reached similar conclusions. The literature has convinced state legislatures to restrict or regulate cell phone use while driving. Much as I would like to agree with the findings, I can’t do it. It seems far-fetched to me, judging by the number of people I see using cell phones while driving, that they constitute a hazard equal to an equivalent number of drunk drivers. The legislation is unwarranted.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Society | 5 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz fans are remarkably loyal. In this image a hard-core blog reader who has sold his car to pay for a new computer and DSL line commutes home from work.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Best Named Product of the Year

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th June 2006 (All posts by )

    At Business Week’s 2006 IDEA Awards.

    Of course, I am a little afraid that it will appear on my grandmother’s coffee table filled with pecans.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Traveling the Far East with Lord Curzon

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th June 2006 (All posts by )

    In the last few months, I have found myself reading and enjoying what I think of as a “family” of blogs. First, there is Thomas Barnett’s blog, wherein he covers his own travels and doings, promoting his vision of the Core and Gap and how to shrink the latter by expanding the former, through enterprise resilience and development in a box amongst other means. Barnett has a small selection of blogs on his blogroll, among which the ChicagoBoyz are honored to have a place (due I think primarily to this and this). A few of these blogs have been engaged in something like a polymorphous, attenuated and elaborated conversation with Barnett, and with each other, which is greater than the sum of its parts. In particular, I would mention Mark Safranski’s excellent ZenPundit, the unique TDAXP, Coming Anarchy, and in a somewhat more distant orbit, the distressing future visions purveyed at Global Guerillas, as well as T.M. Lutas of Flit(tm) (and sometimes – though I wish more often – of ChicagoBoyz as well). These guys comment on each others’ blogs, pour forth frequent and high quality posts, about Barnett’s theories, about globalization, Fourth Generation Warfare, John Boyd and his OODA loop, political and military trends worldwide, and all kinds of other cool stuff, including abstruse topics, obscure people, and acronyms and terminology I barely understand. (In light of my own recent and near-total blog exhaustion, I am heartened and amazed at the quantity and quality from these guys.) Dan from TDAXP in particular has these posts with amazing charts and graphics, e.g. this one entitled “Secret Warriors Walk without Rhythm, Won’t Attract the Worm”. Dan’s posts often go plunging over the edge of my capacity to comprehend, but are still interesting.

    Though it is hard to pick, the Coming Anarchy blog is probably my favorite, though is a damned near-run thing. It features three pseudonymous authors, who go by the names of distinguished Victorian men of letters and men of action, Curzon, Chirol and Younghusband. I get a kick out of this Neo-Victorian tone, which reminds me of my favorite recent SF book, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (Bantam Spectra Book) (source of the word “Anglosphere”, btw), and it appeals to my own retro-Victorian Anglophilia.

    (Speaking of martial Victoriana check out this incredibly good version of Men of Harlech, sung by the Royal Regiment of Wales’ Band on the 120th anniversary of the battle of Rorke’s Drift, recorded in the church at Rorke’s Drift. From here.)

    Coming Anarchy is named after The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War by Robert D. Kaplan of the same name. Kaplan is the source of their motto: “Speak Victorian, Think Pagan”, and is something of a patron saint of their blog. The Coming Anarchy team focuses on what might be called “strategic geography”. And in the footsteps of their hero, Kaplan, they go to remote places and report their findings.

    Curzon recently had a a post introducing an excellent travelogue through Vietnam, China and Japan. This travelogue is a true labor of love, with many photos and even ambient sound from the various locations. This is journey very much worth traveling along with namesake of the erstwhile Viceroy of India. Bravo, Curzon.

    Check it out.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    The Supreme Court’s Interpretive Dance

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th June 2006 (All posts by )

    In HAMDAN v. RUMSFELD, the left-leaning members of the Court have shown their usual talent for ignoring both the plain meaning of the Geneva Convention and 50 years of precedent. Their “creative interpretation” is so egregious I think I’ll do some fisking. Here are links to the decision [PDF] and to Geneva Convention IV if you want to double-check me. (All page numbers for the PDF refer to the logical page number, i.e., the page number in the PDF itself.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

    Beyond the Far Horizon

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 29th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Science fiction has always been one of my favorite literary genres. If memory serves I went from the “Dick and Jane” books to juvenile sci-fi without much transition. It helped that this was the 1960′s, and everyone thought science fiction was something that was pretty necessary in order to get people ready for the Space Age future that was coming at warp speed.

    It was obvious by the 1970′s that the future wasn’t about to arrive, or at least the one envisioned seemed to fall by the wayside. There were some big names in the business back then, like Asimov and Bradbury, but science fiction had mostly lost its way. In 1968 the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey showed everyone a false but brilliant glimpse into a universe where people lived on the Moon and traveled around in bright, clean commercial spaceships. Less than ten years later and the best anyone could do was a story about some hick farm boy who gains magic powers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars and think it is one of the best movies ever. But I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim that it is a thoughtful and mature film. Science Fiction as literature had slipped back into sci-fi as juvenile entertainment.

    But then James Baen came along.

    He didn’t write the stuff himself, working instead as an editor. He would buy and publish the work of some of my favorite authors, almost single handedly pulling the business out of a boring swamp of dreadful hack writing by giving some extremely talented people the chance to get paid for doing what they did best. After Jim Baen got started you could take a science fiction novel up to the checkout counter in the bookstore and not be afraid that the pretty co-ed behind the cash register would laugh at you.

    Those of us who enjoy science fiction owe Jim Baen a debt that is so big it’s tough to even acknowledge the whole of it. We’re never going to get the chance because he died yesterday.

    Click on that last link and you’ll find a eulogy written by Jim’s buddy David Drake. It’s a fitting tribute to the man who saved our sense of wonder.

    (Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

    Posted in Obits | 4 Comments »

    Keller Provides Fodder

    Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Since it seems pointless to deal with comments such as Billy’s (ah, yes, everything is about Rove & if not that elections – what a small prism through which to view the world), I wandered through other blogs. And found a certain kind of pleasure in two of the best: Iowahawk discovers a letter and Lileks writes a screed. As usual, both are witty & incisive. Thanks.

    Posted in Humor | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Nobody brought up in post-war England can fail to be aware of the educated derision that has been directed at our national loyalty by those whose freedom to criticize would have been extinguished years ago, had the English not been prepared to die for their country. The loyalty that people need in their daily lives, and which they affirm in their unconsidered and spontaneous social actions, is now habitually ridiculed or even demonized by the dominant media and the education system. National history is taught as a tale of shame and degradation. The art, literature and religion of our nation have been more or less excised from the curriculum, and folkways, local traditions and national ceremonies are routinely rubbished.

    Roger Scruton, speech to the Vlaams Belang party of Belgium. (Note Scruton’s discussion of “oikophobia” is very similar to John Fonte’s discussion of “tranzis”.)

    UPDATE: Helen Szamuely sends along this paper by Kenneth Minogue entitled The Fate of Britain’s National Interest, which she likes better than the Scruton piece.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Source Boycott of the Times

    Posted by Shannon Love on 27th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes word that House members are circulating a letter asking that the House revoke the New York Times’s press credentials. I think I have a better idea. Politicians and other interviewees should simply refuse to answer any questions from Times reporters on any subject. Unlike a more traditional boycott where the consumers refuse to purchase the target’s products, this boycott would cut the Times off from its sources of information.

    Let the Times try to do real reporting on political matters when a large number of major politicians will not talk to them.

    Posted in Media | 6 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    Bennett on the Origins of The Anglosphere Challenge

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett responds to a (positive) review of his book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century in the (very good) Australian magazine Quadrant. If you have not yet read TAC, pick it up and use it for beach reading this summer.

    Bennett’s post shows the development of his thinking as he worked on the book, and how his initial idea was that technology would drive the creation of a networked world a “Network Commonwealth”. As he worked on it further, he came to see more and more the existence of an “Anglosphere” with its own distinct characteristics — and this idea came to predominate in the book and in his thinking. He notes in particular that he was well along in the writing of the book before he came across the writing of Claudio Veliz and Alan Macfarlane, who had a major impact on his thinking.

    An example of Veliz’s approach is this article, entitled ” Peron, Whitlam, Argentina and Australia”, comparing the development of Australia and Argentina. Macfarlane, of course, I have mentioned frequently on the blog, e.g. here. He has devoted his professional life to the study of ” the most mysterious, yet portentous, change of the last two thousand years of human history, the origins of industrial capitalism.” This short piece entitled Some Reflections on the Origins Of Industrial Capitalism in a Comparative Perspective gives an indication of Macfarlane’s intellectual approach. A short version of Bennett’s thinking is the Anglosphere Primer, which is very good but really needs a new edition to capture the stuff he has been working on, reading, discussing and thinking about for the last several years. But it is still a good overview.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Gerson Leaves

    Posted by Ginny on 26th June 2006 (All posts by )

    I’ve often linked to Bush’s speeches here; it is only appropriate to link to the writer’s departure.

    Jay Leno cracked: “Another Bush team member is stepping down. This time it’s long time speechwriter, a guy named Michael Gerson. He was President Bush’s speechwriter for seven years. Isn’t that amazing? President Bush had a speechwriter?”

    Well, yeah. But this resignation will, indeed, be a loss.

    “He’s one of the few people who is irreplaceable,” Bolten said. “He’s a policy provoker, a grand strategist and a conscience who in many cases has not only articulated but reflected the president’s heart.”

    Gerson’s speeches created memes that defined Bush’s presidency, if not always repeated & analyzed in newspapers the next day. The images & vision may have seemed archaic, certainly foreign to many, who often seemed unclear about some of the allusions (as was I, with a weaker Biblical background). However, Bush’s own vision seemed aligned with those speeches, even if their fluidity & complexity were at odds with his own idiolect, his own sometimes inarticulate speech.

    Bush’s sense of personal informality and institutional formality was reinforced by the clear differences in those two levels: the formal speeches resonated in time and space; his natural informal speech was full of nicknames, joviality & familiarity. Even before he was elected he saw as distinctly different the respect due him as George Bush & that due the presidency. But the speeches were Gerson’s words & we are likely to remember the apparently shared vision intrinsic to both. Gerson

    was a formulator of the Bush doctrine making the spread of democracy the fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy, a policy hailed as revolutionary by some and criticized as unrealistic by others.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Political Philosophy | 2 Comments »

    Note on India

    Posted by Ginny on 26th June 2006 (All posts by )

    A&L notes a Foreign Policy article, “The India Model”, that may interest. Sample argument:

    India’s greatness lies in its self-reliant and resilient people. They are able to pull themselves up and survive, even flourish, when the state fails to deliver. . . . Indian entrepreneurs claim that they are hardier because they have had to fight not only their competitors but also state inspectors. In short, India’s society has triumphed over the state.

    But in the long run, the state cannot merely withdraw. Markets do not work in a vacuum. They need a network of regulations and institutions; they need umpires to settle disputes. These institutions do not just spring up; they take time to develop. The Indian state’s greatest achievements lie in the noneconomic sphere. The state has held the world’s most diverse country together in relative peace for 57 years. It has started to put a modern institutional framework in place. It has held free and fair elections without interruption. Of its 3.5 million village legislators, 1.2 million are women. These are proud achievements for an often bungling state with disastrous implementation skills and a terrible record at day-to-day governance.

    . . . . Even though the reforms have been slow, imperfect, and incomplete, they have been consistent and in one direction. And it takes courage, frankly, to give up power, as the Indian state has done for the past 15 years. The stubborn persistence of democracy is itself one of the Indian state’s proudest achievements. Time and again, Indian democracy has shown itself to be resilient and enduring — giving a lie to the old prejudice that the poor are incapable of the kind of self-discipline and sobriety that make for effective self-government. To be sure, it is an infuriating democracy, plagued by poor governance and fragile institutions that have failed to deliver basic public goods. But India’s economic success has been all the more remarkable for its issuing from such a democracy.

    I especially liked the observation that it takes courage to give up power. Democacy requires a deferential libertarian vision as much as an assertive one.

    Posted in India | 2 Comments »

    Pei — China’s Trapped Transition

    Posted by James McCormick on 25th June 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Pei, Minxin, China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy, Harvard Univ Press, 2006. 294pp.

    As much as the end of the Cold War, the big story of the tail end of the 20th century was the movement toward economic liberalism in mainland China after 1979. After twenty-five years on a new compass heading, how are things going?

    For the interested general reader, business, foreign policy, and military websites provide deeply contradictory news. On the one hand, China seems to have dramatically increased its per capita wealth and changed its peoples’ lifestyle faster than any other nation in history. On the other hand, the vast majority of Chinese are stuck in unproductive state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or subject to the whim of central authorities when it comes to the pricing of agricultural goods. That translates into hundreds of millions of people with little hope of climbing the Chinese ladder of prosperity in their lifetimes. China, according to the demographers and “best-case” economists, will still grow old before it grows rich.

    On the military front, China appears as the most likely candidate for super-power status with a central autocratic government, a growing economic engine to fund military purchases, a massive population, a compliant diaspora funneling international secrets homeward (Time article [subscription] from early 2005), and a chip on its shoulder lovingly nurtured for centuries as a substitute for an effective political theory. The naysayers, in contrast, claim that China is fortress with no one manning the walls … an army, navy, and air force more effective on paper than in reality, and a billion people dangerously dependent on potential enemies for the raw materials and consumer markets that would subsidize any military modernization.

    Which is it?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 8 Comments »

    Broadcast Yourself!

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th June 2006 (All posts by )

    People having fun…

    Where the Hell is Matt?
    Introducing Lisa Nova
    LisaNova takes the Bus
    Bikini Wax

    You’ll need your speakers on.

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 8 Comments »

    Saddam WMDs, Support for Terrorism?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Frontpage.com has an interview with Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, described as “a retired Air Force Fighter Pilot who has been a Fox News Military Analyst”. Is this guy McInerney reliable? If so this is pretty remarkable stuff:

    I just reviewed this additional release of documents. This release continues to confirm that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were in contact with Iraq intelligence for sanctuary, training, and plans for acts of terrorism against the US and in the US.

    McInerney describes videotapes of Saddam meeting with advisors:

    …the most telling to me was the conversation between Tariq Aziz his foreign minister and Saddam in which they discussed having proxies implant nuclear and biological weapons in US cities. They concluded that Iraq would be blamed for an explosion but not biological as they could use deception and blame US facility ( Ft Dietrick) which makes me conclude that Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attack in US less than 30 days after 9/11.

    And this:

    Saddam’s stockpiles of WMDs were moved by a Russian Spetznatz team headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian Intelligence Chief, who came to Iraq in December 2002 to supervise the final cleanup.

    Jim Miller, whom I have always found to be sensible, is taking him seriously.

    McInerney is promoting a new book, so maybe is trying to be sensational.

    Or maybe this stuff is plausible.

    This is the kind of thing I believed before the war.

    But can it really just be coming out now, in this level of detail, from this source?

    UPDATE:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Got Yer Terror Plot Against The Sears Tower Right Here

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    Glittering Eye has the Chicago media rundown.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Instapundit and the Medici Lesson

    Posted by James McCormick on 23rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Instapundit has a post up on a book about the Medici and Italian banking:

    SO I’VE BEEN READING TIM PARKS’ Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence. It’s a pretty interesting book, with a juxtaposition of prejudices against sodomy and usury (both seen as “against nature”) as a background for the Renaissance.

    It’s mostly a history of the Medici banking empire, though, and it’s interesting to see how the bank declined. The problem was the passing of a generation of bankers who loved the work — Cosimo Medici said that he’d remain a banker even if he could make money by waving a wand — and its replacement by those who weren’t terribly interested in the actual work, but rather in the opportunity their jobs provided to hang around with kings, queens, and cardinals. Not surprisingly, things went downhill fast once that happened.

    I think that’s a metaphor for politics and journalism today — and a cautionary example for the blogosphere.

    Economic historian Joel Mokyr believes that these periods of innovation in technology (hard and soft) can be spotted repeatedly back to the Greeks (see his Gifts of Athena: Origins of the Knowledge Economy reviewed here, and the The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress). The distinction, finally, with the Scientific/Industrial Revolution was that the inevitable rent-seekers couldn’t get an adequate grip and the Malthusian caps were breached. The widening of the “epistemic base” (which Mokyr represents with the symbol omega) was creating usable knowledge (symbol lambda) faster than it could be controlled or stamped out by antagonistic parties. To quote Mokyr: “The broader the epistemic base, the more likely it is that technological progress can be sustained for extended periods before it starts to run into diminishing returns.” A virtuous cycle rather than a negative feedback loop gets established. He’s got a great article on Why was the Industrial Revolution A European Phenomena? available in .PDF format.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Tribute to a Blogger

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    From humble beginnings as an indentured child laborer carrying 100 Lb. sacks of dynamite through the coal mines of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the heights of his current success as a mega-blogging celebrity lawyer, his story must be told.

    “Inspirational.”
    -Lexington Green

    UPDATE: The awards ceremony!

    Posted in Humor | 11 Comments »

    The Right Advice

    Posted by John Jay on 23rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    David Foster had an interesting piece up a couple of weeks ago on organizations, using Moltke’s refusal in August 1914 to turn around the troops on the Western Front to attack the East as an example. Moltke was adamant that the plans in place were at the time irreversible, but the German military railway expert later claimed that he could have turned things around. Whether or not the post-hoc analysis was correct, the actual expert, of course, never got to speak with the Kaiser.

    This points to one of the problems of organizations as they ossify – that information gets filtered by each layer in the hierarchy as it passes up a silo. Each layer of spin holds the possibility of not so much adding perspective as simply moving the information content further from reality, and in some organizations any resemblance between actual observations and the information contained in top management briefings is purely coincidental. CW’s NoSuchBlog had a nice post up about that same phenomenon at work in the CIA:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business | 5 Comments »

    Barbarossa: 65

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    The Conservative History Blog has this very good post on today’s anniversary of the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Tory Historian tells us:

    Stalin’s own reaction [to the invasion] was interesting. He first broadcast to the people on July 4. My mother, who was a teenager in Moscow at the time, has told me that his appeal to “brothers and sisters” caused panic. Things were far worse, the Russians reasoned, than anyone had told them if the old tyrant saw them as his brothers and sisters.

    Anyone interested in the opening campaign, where the Germans inflicted such disastrous initial defeats on the Red Army, should read David Glantz’s excellent book Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. For the history of the entire war, I would suggest When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler by David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House. I think the best site on the Russo-German war of 1941-45 is the incredible Russian Battlefield, especially the section of “soldiers’ memoirs.”

    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

    The Old Globalization

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    Globalization, round one, ended in 1914:

    What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend. He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighboring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.

    John Maynard Kenyes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

    (Quoted at the beginning of Deepak Lal’s new book, Reviving the Invisible Hand : The Case for Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-first Century . I mentioned Lal in this post.)

    The Keynes quote is, of course, reminiscent of the famous opening paragraph of A.J.P. Taylor’s English History, 1914-1945:

    Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.

    When I quoted this here, Helen corrected me noting that by 1914 “Even by [Taylor's] own admission the state was interfering in ever more aspects of everybody’s life.” (BTW, see this good post about Taylor, from the Conservative History Blog.)

    It is true that Taylor overstated the case, a type of exaggeration meant to make his larger point. Still, he was more right than not when comparing pre-1914 with post-1918. And he was right to make clear that the freedom to participate in international trade and travel was considered a seamless part of the general liberties enjoyed by all Englishmen.

    Nonetheless, by 1889 F.W. Maitland, in his Constitutional History of England, was writing that the great change came with the Reform Bill of 1832, and that by his day, circa 1889, it was clear:

    We are becomng a much governed nation, governed by all mannder of councils and boards and officers, central and local, high and low, exercising the powers which have been committed to them by statute.

    Maitland was looking back to the then still living memory of true laissez faire, and the trends were clear. But if Taylor overstated the smallness of the State’s role before the war, he did not exaggerate the vast expansion it experienced during the war. Compared to 1889, 1919 was a very different world.

    Similarly, Keynes was right about the extraordinary level of freedom to buy and sell, trade and travel, that existed prior to the 1914 outbreak of war. In many ways, we have never gotten back to that level of freedom.

    World War I really was the moment when the wheels came off, when things really started going to Hell in a big way.

    (I’ve been obsessing about World War I lately.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Sarin, Sar-out

    Posted by Shannon Love on 22nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    I don’t think the reports that we have found several hundred old shells of sarin nerve gas in Iraq change the argument on the war very much.

    Sarin and almost all other chemical weapons are highly reactive and unstable chemicals with relatively short half-lives. Sarin in particular only has a shelf-life of a few months at most. I think it most likely the shells found in Iraq are probably pre-1991 shells that Saddam lost track of and didn’t destroy when he went on his secret destruction binge after the defection of his sons-in-law in 1995. The contents of the shells would now be almost entirely harmless. On the other hand, if the shells contain almost any remaining Sarin that would be strong evidence that they were manufactured within a couple of years of the liberation.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq | 11 Comments »

    Russian Backwardness Revisited

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st June 2006 (All posts by )

    John had an interesting post entitled “Russia: East or West”. It cited in part to the discussion we had in the comments to this post about the correct way to think about Russia in relation to the West. I cited to this article (actually an abridgement) by Prof. Richard Hellie of the University of Chicago. I took his Russian Civ class at U of C, probably the best class I took in college. A few years ago, Prof. Hellie had this interesting review of Russia in the Age of Peter the Great by Prof. Lindsey Hughes.

    Some quotes from Hellie’s review add further detail to the deep historical roots of Russia’s contemporary political and economic problems, and general lack of freedom.

    Peter’s statement that “English freedom is not appropriate here” is quoted, but I wonder whether readers of Hughes’s tome will understand why that was so. Why was/is social cohesion wanting in Russia? Why does the rule of law not work? Why do contracts mean nothing? These were major questions about Russia of Peter’s time, as they are of our time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Got Yer Wednesday World Cup Blogging Right Here

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st June 2006 (All posts by )

    My old pal Mark Mravic and his colleague who blogs as “Bechtel” have an amusing road blog covering their visit to Germany for some “football”.

    Things I Learned About Germany: 1) Beer is cheaper than Coke. 2) It’s hot. 3) People are just as fat here as in the States. 4) The men dress much better than the women. 5) Germans really do talk like Colonel Klink.

    And of course it would not be soccer on this blog without a reference to those ten German bombers:

    There were about 100,000 English fans in town without tickets, and most of them were watching the Paraguay game down along the river, where four big screens had been set up (including one in the middle of the Main). The most common chant from them was the old “There were 10 German bombers in the air” one, in which the RAF proceeds to shoot them down–one-by-one, which, if nothing else, makes for a hell of a long cheer.

    Much beer is drunk, many sausages are eaten. Heat and crowds and packed, stationary trains are endured.

    Some soccer also occurs.

    Most amusing. (Start at the bottom and read up.)

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