Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Palaeo-conservative thoughts

The one indispensable element for Western civilization are the white Christians. Once they go, everything goes.
Paul Gottfried (he is a Jew, by the way)

Nationalism historically has meant reaction, the friend-enemy distinction. Nationalism in the 19th Century develops against some group that has conquered somebody else. It contributes to the tensions of both sides leading to World War I. Until recently, it was a destructive force. I don’t think it is true anymore. I support nationalist movements in Europe because they are against multiculturalism. They don’t usually hate their neighbours, at least in Western Europe. I don’t think the nationalist paradigm even works here.
Paul Gottfried
Paleoconservatives, unlike libertarians, most neoconservatives, and many contemporary mainstream conservatives, do not consider America to be an “idea,” a “proposition,” or a “creed.” It is instead a concrete and particular culture, rooted in a particular historical experience, a set of particular institutions as well as particular beliefs and values, and a particular ethnic-racial identity, and, cut off from those roots, it cannot survive. Indeed, it is not surviving now, for all the glint and glitter of empire.
 Samuel T. Francis
Just as the Christians turned pagan temples into churches and pagan holidays into Christian holidays, multiculturalism is replacing an old culture with a new one. It is the expression of a deep-seated hatred of this culture in its religious, racial, and moral expressions
Samuel T. Francis

Palaeoconservatives interest me a lot. Perhaps i am one.

So what about Cecil?

The anguish all over the social media about Cecil, the popular lion who was shot dead in Zimbabwe with a bow and arrow by a dentist from Minnesota.

It is a non-story which soft hearted soft headed people care a lot about. And it is the silly season. Even so it seems inane. Had this dentist killed a dog would that be as bad? A fox?
Scratch people who are very concerned about animals, like Cecil the lion who was shot dead, and you often find people who don't like people. Hunting lions is permitted and so very many human beings are killed each day, so why the commotion over a lion?
So many people in Zimbabwe live in terrible circumstances, as they do throughout the world, even in Belgrave Square.
I suppose it's because animals are not self-conscious that many prefer them to men. That's the difference - animals, like children, have not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What is very important about this story - and oddly enough it is important - is not the death of a lion, painful and illegal though it was but the savage persecution of this man by the mob.This is not just about social media but about the way a mob mentality unthinkingly persecutes. As A.J. Balfour said, society is always persecuting but social media make it very easy to ruin people's lives. Every man his own tabloid newspaper.

In the 1970s and 80s most of the big game in the national parks in Mozambique was shot and eaten. this doesn't outrage me. War, hunger and communism were to blame. Everyone talks about apartheid, never about the suffering wrought by communists in Africa, which was much greater.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Quotations of the week

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.
England is a place where a hundred miles is a long distance, and America is a place where a hundred years is a long time.
Animal rights come before religion.
Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister for Agriculture and Food, this week.

Someone on the radio said that he dreaded going back to school because there was an essay on Palmerston that he had never written that they would ask him for.

Friday, 24 July 2015

One more word on the U.S. civil war

Watching the civil wars in Syria and Iraq how can anyone admire Lincoln for waging war in the Southern states for four bloody years?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Paul Gottfried on U.S. presidents

Paul Gottfried interests me.

He said that, unlike England, with its essentially medieval social structure, America was made by 
Protestant sectarians who neither had nor desired a medieval past and whose descendants have turned into celebrants of progress, commerce and human rights.
He thinks American historians skew their works to favour of modern political agendas. In The Managerial President he notes that 
All the major conflicts into which our leaders thrust us from the Civil War on, with the possible exception of Vietnam, are seen as morally desirable actions. … The U.S. is a land of morally driven, energetic presidents who have made us into the envy and dread of the world.
For such historians Lincoln is their great hero. Naturally they also like Franklin Roosevelt. This is the thinking that led to George W. Bush’s presidency and to Mr Obama’s domestic policy though not his foreign policy.

I have always liked Americans and admired very much about them - they are our children and their role in the world has been a very benign one on balance, but I have never liked American culture and Paul Gottfried explains to me why. 
 Progress, commerce and human rights depress him and depress me. Human rights used to be fine when they meant freedoms, the things protected in the first ten amendments of the U.S. constitution, but nowadays they are largely about restrictions on freedom. Age discrimination, forsooth!

For me, a sense of the past rooted in the middle ages or the ancient world are what makes daily life beautiful. Even in a country like Romania, where I live, which does not have old institutions or many old buildings and did not exist as a state till the 1860s. The absence of a tradition, the absence of a church, the absence of conservatism in the European sense and the absence of anything much to conserve make it very hard for me to love America. But I do love Frank Capra films and Garrison Keillor and the novels of Raymond Chandler.

Paul Gottfried also believes that America, which dominated Europe after 1945 from the military, economic and cultural points of view after 1945, gave Europe in the 1960s the idea that multiracial societies are good. If true it's odd since in the 1940s America was utterly white supremacist.

Professor Gottfried is a small government man. I don't know which side he prefers in the civil war but it seems to me that the USA stopped being a republic with very diffuse power with Lincoln.

Progressives admire Lincoln and think America's intervention in Vietnam was wrong, but the Northern states had a weak casus belli and could and should have avoided war, whereas South Vietnam was fighting something absolutely evil and was fighting in self-defence. But historians are like women. They are attracted to power and success. Had the Third Reich defeated Stalin and made peace with the USA and the UK, American and British universities would have had many fascist academics and very few Marxists.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Would a federal democratic Ottoman Empire work better than Greece?

It would have all the oil. Imagine no Gulf States, no Israel, no Saudi Arabia, no Syria, no Iraq.. Just the Ottomans and Persia. I wonder if my Romanian friends think that would have been better for Romania than Communism. Of course, Wallachia and Moldavia were never really IN the Ottoman Empire.

American presidents who might have become Prime Minister had they been born in England

Could any American president have become Prime Minister had he been born in England? Not many. George HW Bush though could have done so. Hoover too and Taft. 

Would any English Prime Ministers have been American presidents had they been American? I am not qualified to say, but one can imagine Gladstone's Midlothian campaign and appeal to nonconformists being translated into American terms. Lloyd George's brilliance could have made him president too, one more corrupt than Harding and a better war leader than Franklin Roosevelt, to say nothing of the appalling Wilson. 

Would Tony Blair might have been president?  Why not?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Who were the worst US Presidents? George W Bush, Lincoln, Wilson. Washington if you are British. Were there (m)any good ones?

I remember back in my first term at Cambridge studying US history noticing that American history unlike British history is largely mythic. We see this especially with Washington, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, FDR etc

The Second Iraq War has cast new light on the Civil War. There are many parallels between Lincoln and the younger Bush. Both launched unnecessary and from a legal point of view probably unjust wars that overturned the local elites and social structures of the conquered peoples, with disastrous short-term and long-term consequences. By his foolish over-reaction to the September 11th murders Bush handed the islamists an unimaginable victory. Lincoln and Grant are responsible for 100 years of racial disharmony in the South and a race problem that has still not been solved. Though had Lincoln lived he might have been much more conciliatory than the Republican zealots.

If only Lincoln had not won in 1860 but someone else - maybe poor, decent Buchanan - war would not have happened. Not for a while, at least. Buchanan said the Union had no right to prevent secession by force. I think he was right. In any case his view would have saved 800,000 lives.

Washington and his cronies, of course, were responsible for another unjust, unnecessary war. 

FDR I have to be grateful to, I know, as an Englishman but I don't like his domestic policy. Thank God he lived to start his fourth term and the world thus escaped President Henry A. Wallace. 

I believe people should submit to lawful governments, so I do not think the 1776 rebellion is justified, especially as George III's government was a benign one. I sympathise with the good, patriotic people who died or were ethnically cleansed because they were loyal to their King. 

Why do I not therefore think the South should have obeyed the federal government? Simple. Because how can a government that derives its legitimacy from a revolution in 1776 and the pooling of sovereignty between sovereign states then insist that as a legitimate government it is entitled to stop those states seceding. The constitution says nothing on the matter, which means, I think, that the states had not give away their essential right to join or leave but even if I do not persuade you of this, why wage a war to stop the Southern states leaving. As Gladstone said the Confederacy was 
a nation rightly struggling to be free.
I am a monarchist, a throne and altar man, an admirer of Clarendon and Metternich, a conservative in short. But, most of all, I think war needs a strong justification. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lincoln WAS justified in making war on the South. Very well but how much infinitely more admirable he would be had he given them the right of self determination. If Americans disagree with me why do they approve of European countries giving their colonies independence?

Who were best? Truman was good, though I have never decided whether the Cold War was necessary. George Kernan opposed it for good reasons. Dr Tim Stanley thinks Calvin Coolidge was the best president ever. Dr. Ivan Eland thinks John Tyler was.

It's worth reading Dr. Ivan Eland's criteria for presidents. He's thinks John Tyler was the best. Eland has amassed a presidential ranking system that rewards such qualities as:
commitment to small government; 

faith in a limited role for the executive branch; 

ability to avoid war; 

yielding power to Congress.

I wonder if, apart from Truman and possibly Theodore Roosevelt and maybe Jefferson, there might not have been any, at least not by the standards of English Prime Ministers. There's no one to compare with the Pitts, Canning, Palmerston, Disraeli, Gladstone or Lloyd George. Wellington was not as good a political leader as Eisenhower, it's true, but no one pretends Wellington was much of  a statesman. Gladstone infinitely excels the wretched Wilson, who kept his bust on his desk. I suppose, if you are a socialist, Lyndon B Johnson is a great president.

All Americans are liberals in a very important sense. The Declaration of Independence is a very un-conservative, very Whiggish document. Republics, as opposed to monarchies, are liberal and so is the ridiculous idea that all men are equal. Goldwater and Reagan were right-wing liberals, Mrs. Clinton is a left-wing one. Most presidents were also liberal and idealistic in foreign policy, including Ronald Reagan, although Nixon and the elder Bush were in foreign policy terms conservatives. But George W Bush, egged on by the neo-cons, ex-Marxists who never had a conservative bone in their bodies, was a consummate liberal in his idealistic, un-pragmatic foreign policy. He was very much the illegitimate son of the very disastrous Wilson.

Wilson's legacy was the disintegration of Austria Hungary, innumerable ethnic conflicts and the Second World War. Reader, if you seek George W Bush's monument, look around you.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Twelfth century psychopaths

An anonymous person has left a very interesting comment on my blog post on psychopaths.

Here is how a Taoist scholar from the 12th century describes 'evil-doers':

It's basically a description of psychopaths.

And so most of it is.  Thank you, anonymous.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Tim Farron and the sin of Sodom

Tim Farron, who is a devout Anglican and the new leader of the British Liberal Democrats was asked the morning after his election by the BBC’s John Humphreys if he would
Seek advice from God when it came to making important policy decisions?
Humphreys pressed him on the question, as if praying were some perverse thing to do. Later that day on Channel 4 News, Mr. Farron was asked three times if he believed homosexual acts are sins. Three times he didn't give a direct answer, instead choosing to say
My firm belief is we are all sinners.
This has created a political scandal in England, even though he did say that he was in favour of 'marriage equality'. The Guardian's headline was 
Tim Farron avoids saying whether he considers gay sex as a sin.
Had he admitted to believing Christian doctrine on the issue he would have been in very much worse trouble.

No TV presenter, of course, would dare ask a  Muslim politician like, for example, Baroness Warsi this question. If he did the heavens would fall down on him.

Dr. Giles Fraser, who until he resigned was Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, says on Twitter that if 
really thinks gay sex is sinful then he is utterly lost as LibDem leader. And the LibDem's can only go further down.
One of Dr. Fraser's followers opined with Johnsonian solemnity
A holder of such a position could not lead a major UK party. It's too easy a target - a party with such a leader would not advance.
There we have it. In the opinion of a senior Anglican divine believing Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans of orthodox opinions, Muslims and Jews (other than some reformed or liberal ones) make bad choices as leaders of British political parties. At least of one that represents liberalism.

At least it's good to know that there are many closet Christians - and Christians like Mr Fallon who have come out - in politics, even as the number in the country grows fewer each day. It brings to mind an old Hom Sap cartoon. Hom Sap cartoons are set in ancient Rome and always feature the same mild little man. This time the man is in court and says
I apologise for saying the government has been infiltrated by Christians
to which the judge replies
You are forgiven.
I am not sure how forgiving Dr. Fraser feels, though.

On a more encouraging note, Dr. Fraser also told his twitter followers that he thinks left-wing firebrand Jeremy Corbyn may become leader of the Labour Party. So do very many of us, but not for the same reasons.

Greece’s brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project?

Wolfgang Münchau wrote an interesting article ion the Financial Times last week headlined

Greece’s brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project

which I want to quote from.
From a pure economic point of view, we know that the euro has worked well for Germany. It worked moderately well for The Netherlands and Austria, although it produced quite a degree of financial instability in both.

But for Italy, it has been an unmitigated economic disaster. The country has seen virtually no productivity growth since the start of the euro in 1999. If you want to blame the lack of structural reforms, then you have to explain how Italy managed decent growth rates before then. Can we be sure that a majority of Italians will support the single currency in three years’ time?

The euro has not worked out for Finland either. While the country is considered the world champion of structural reforms, its economy has slumped ever since Nokia lost the plot as the world’s erstwhile premier mobile phone maker. Whether the euro is sustainable for Spain and Portugal is not clear. France has performed relatively well during the euro’s early years, but it, too, is now running persistent current account deficits. It is not only Greece where the euro is not optimal.

The euro has not worked out for Finland either. While the country is considered the world champion of structural reforms, its economy has slumped ever since Nokia lost the plot as the world’s erstwhile premier mobile phone maker. Whether the euro is sustainable for Spain and Portugal is not clear. France has performed relatively well during the euro’s early years, but it, too, is now running persistent current account deficits. It is not only Greece where the euro is not optimal.

The full article is here. 

Last thoughts on slavery, in the USA, Russia and Mauritius

The Comte de Tilly said that to begin ones life by being raped is a very poor school for virtue. Slavery is a very poor school too and it takes more than a generation for the descendants of former slaves to be able to overcome the lessons slavery teaches. 

I am not sure how long the effects of slavery will last or what exactly they are. Some blame slavery for the large number of single black mothers in the USA, for example, and others get angry at the suggestion. The area is a minefield.

Slavery was a thoroughly bad thing, even for its times - we can all agree on this, except the KKK and a small number of fascists. Some slaves in America were contented, some very unhappy, but all would have preferred freedom. Bad though slavery was, however, it cannot be compared, as liberal historians regularly do, to the Germans' murder of six million Jews in the Second World War. 

This comparison indecently belittles the Holocaust, but it explains the significance of the slavery in the modern American imagination. The attention paid to slavery is not primarily because of the very great cruelty with which many slaves were treated, nor even because of the wickedness in principle of slavery but because of the racial issue. Because white people owned black people and could treat them as they liked.

My ancestors were Irish peasants and lived through the Potato Famine of the 1840s -the Whigs were in power then and did nothing. Slaves in America were better off than Irish who starved to death. The Slave Narratives suggest most freed slaves in their old age did not complain about their masters, though even decent slave owners, such as Washington, had slaves whipped, which is very bad. in the 1820s, it is true, Englishmen were flogged for many things and hanged for stealing sheep or sodomy, but not without a trial or at their masters' whim. 

Slavery and serfdom in Russia - which Alexander II abolished in 1861 freeing far more people than the civil War did - were very similar. Serfs were also liable to be whipped, but in America slavery was made worse because, unlike the Russian serfs who were living in an essentially medieval word and owned by their own people, the American slaves were commodities in an advanced, capitalist society, foreign to them and were owned by foreigners.

I stayed in Mauritius with a Hindu friend whose ancestor had made a fortune importing Indian indentured labourers into the island after slavery was abolished by the UK in 1833. My friend told me there was 'almost no difference' between indentured labourers and slaves. He is vaguely a socialist and ashamed of his ancestor, though, as a Brahmin, he takes hierarchy for granted. I met a number of Mauritian Indians (Hindus make up 61% of population and Indian Muslims a further 25%) who told me how grateful they are that their ancestors came to Mauritius rather than stayed in India. I perfectly understood why - they have a far higher standard of living and live in a more civilised country. I wonder if African-Americans wish their forbears had stayed in West Africa.

Slavery brought Africans to America. They have enriched America in many ways - were it not for them America would be a duller country - but they do not seem, as far as I can tell, to live happily alongside whites. Thus are the sins of the slave-owning fathers visited on the sons. This was foreseen by Madison, Jefferson, and Clay who were in favour of deporting freed slaves to Africa. Lincoln also hoped they might be persuaded to leave.

In 1862, Lincoln invited a delegation of black men to the White House, the first time African Americans had been invited to the White House, to suggest that they should leave the USA for Central America. He told them:

You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. This physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. ..

If this is admitted, it affords a reason, at least, why we should be separated.. .

Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoys. The aspiration of man is to enjoy equality with the best when free; but on this broad continent not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.

Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.

I need not recount to you the effects upon white men, growing out of the institution of slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race. See our present condition the country engaged in war; our white men cutting one another's throats, none knowing how far it will extend.. .

But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. .

It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated. There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free coloured people to remain with us.

Lincoln’s words provoked great anger among black leaders and abolitionists, who argued that African-Americans were as much natives of the country as whites. In an early draft of the emancipation proclamation colonisation was mentioned but it was quietly dropped. The war had a momentum of its own and by the end of the war Lincoln, who had originally been opposed to blacks being given civil rights, came round to thinking some blacks should have the vote. 

It’s interesting that the Fifteenth Amendment to the US constitution, which  gave the right to vote to black men, did so two years after Disraeli's Reform Act of 1867 gave the vote to most though not all working men in towns in England - a move by Disraeli that shocked liberal intellectuals.

Why I support the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War

In 1864, Confederate General Patrick Cleburne said that  if the South lost,
It means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy. That our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by all of the influences of History and Education to regard our gallant debt as traitors and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision.
Of course.

The Second Iraq War, however, I hope has cast new light on the U.S. Civil War. There are many parallels between Lincoln and Bush. Both launched unnecessary and from a legal point of view probably unjust wars that overturned the elites and social structures of the conquered peoples, with disastrous long-term consequences. The Civil War was a terrible tragedy and could have been avoided, by statesmanship on both sides, but Lincoln could have allowed the South to secede. One therefore has to blame him mostly for this unnecessary and unjust war.

Half a million people died because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Lincoln is responsible for a war in which 800,000 died. It was followed by a settlement which led to a hundred years of racial disharmony in the South and a race problem that has still not been solved. I hope the evil consequences of overthrowing Saddam do not last a hundred years or more. I suspect they will.

I have always unreservedly supported the Southern States in the Civil War and find it hard to understand how any informed fair-minded person can do otherwise. This is not because  particularly like the South or think their slave society was pleasant but because they had the legal and moral right to leave the Union. Reader, if you doubt this, imagine that the Scottish parliament were to vote to secede from the UK and the UK were to fight a bloody war for four years to prevent them doing so.

Gladstone, the great British Liberal, called the Confederacy

'a nation rightly struggling to be free'.
Lancashire mill girls, unemployed because of the Northern blockade of the South and consequent Cotton Famine, supported the North, but though poor people are usually wiser than rich ones Gladstone was right and the mill girls wrong.

The war by the north was not fought to free the slaves but to preserve the Union. By the South it was not fought to preserve slavery, which they could have preserved while remaining in the USA, but to gain independence. Supporting the Confederacy does not mean supporting slavery.

Had Lincoln let the South secede In time the South would have emancipated the slaves, though not, we can be sure, given them the vote. (Lincoln only came round to thinking some blacks should have the vote towards the end of the war, in gratitude for their military service.) The South might have had something like apartheid, which in fact is what they did have - after huge numbers of deaths [during and after the war] and years of conflict and misery. 

Stalin is supposed to have said 
'One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.' 
I very much doubt he said it but it is true that every single death is a tragedy. From what I can find perhaps 388,000 slaves were brought direct from Africa to North America, of whom between ten and twenty percent (but it's a guess) perished horribly in the voyage. Thousands more died shortly after landing. The numbers of slaves killed in coming to America, the unspeakable conditions in which they came and the numbers who died on arrival seem to have been the worst aspects of American slavery, whether measured in terms of loss of life or in terms of horror and suffering. In terms of deaths, the Civil War which killed 600,000 was therefore the worst consequence of slavery. In addition to those 600,000 very many former slaves died of hunger after emancipation. 

What certainly perished in this dreadful war was the idea of the original USA with a weak central government, strong states, diffused power and social cohesion. I suppose Switzerland is the one country that lives up to some extent to republican ideals. The South did exactly what the American rebels had done in 1776 and Lincoln reacted to secession exactly as King George III did. The difference is that Lincoln, unlike George III, won. But by the time Lincoln did so the USA had changed in its essence. It was no longer a republic but an empire under the form of a republic. The same thing happened with Rome.

Lincoln was the USA's Cavour or Bismarck. I regret his success as I regret theirs. Lincoln's war cost far more lives than theirs and left scars that still haven't healed.

Since the recent massacre of blacks in a church in Charleston by a young white man there have, unfortunately, been many killings of blacks by blacks in the USA and even at least one massacre of blacks by blacks. These did not attract much attention. Racist murders of blacks by whites in the USA are, fortunately, very rare - but the massacre was important for what is symbolised, the memories it stirred, the deep wound it re-opened. I wonder when or whether blacks and whites will live together in amity in the USA and why they do not do so 150 years after Lincoln's famous victory.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

US slaves were emancipated in the worst possible way - leading to 150 years of race hatred.

I had been thinking a lot about slavery in the USA and about the  US civil war, the first terrible war of the industrial era, before the massacre of black people in a church in Charleston, North Carolina, made it sadly very topical. The massacre, oddly as I think, has led to a war on symbols of the Confederacy. 

DVDs of the 1980s TV programme Dukes of Hazzard, that featured the Confederate flag, are no longer sold and Gone With the Wind - a very good if very schmaltzy film, my mother’s and grandmother’s favourite, is being treated as it had been made by Leni Riefenstahl. I'd like to explain some of the reasons – there are so many – why I support the South in that war and consider Abraham Lincoln not a great man but a bloodstained murderer and, until George W. Bush, the worst U.S. President of them all.

It's tragic that emancipation did not happen peacefully and in an orderly way in America, as it did in 1833 in the British Empire. It’s tragic that 800,000 people, white and black, died in the civil war, tragic that so many freed slaves died afterwards from starvation and sickness. Had Lincoln not made war on the South, the South would have abolished slavery in its own time, as Latin American countries did in the late 19th century, without war. Things then and now would have been very much better.

46,000 British subjects were slave owners on the day that slavery was abolished in 1833. All received government compensation. History is all about asking the right questions, as is life. Here is one. Instead of waging war could the Northerners have bought and freed the slaves? 

This was considered, of course. People naturally assumed before the war that slave owners would be compensated for their slaves. Lincoln proposed a gradual compensated emancipation in the border states in 1861 but the slave owners were not interested. By then war had broken out and no-one knew which side would win. The slaves, in total, throughout the country, were worth about $4 billion. This was an incredibly large sum - a large fraction of the entire economy of the USA - but the war cost the North alone at least $3 billion and more than 600,000 deaths. 

This reminds me that Madison wanted to buy, manumit and deport the slaves and sell public land to pay for it. 

Eventually the South would have decided, as Latin American countries decided, to free the slaves - with compensation for owners - and all could have been well. Instead, the South was forced by violence and by the foes it bitterly hated to accept emancipation. It was then forced by Washington DC - ignoring states' rights - to accept votes for blacks. The Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, Jim Crow were a response by the South to the war and the humiliation and plundering of the South during ‘Reconstruction’.

Had emancipation happened without war how much more cohesive and happier the South could have been and how much less racial hatred there would have been. Emancipation happened in the worst possible way and was followed by the humiliation of the Southern whites in a way calculated to make hatreds last for generations.

These things are pretty obvious if you think about them objectively, but Americans for generations viewed slavery in accordance with the ideology of racism and now with the ideology of anti-racism. Anti-racism makes much of American slavery because in the USA the slaves were black and the owners white. Slavery in fact was not unique to the USA or the Americas and had much in common with feudalism and all sorts of methods of using agricultural labour up until our own day.

Here is another question. Had the British won the war of 1776 would we have had to fight the South when we abolished slavery? Presumably we wouldn’t have abolished slavery so soon had we still possessed the American colonies. Perhaps one can imagine Grant and others fighting as redcoats for Queen Victoria?

When I was 8 I read a collection of alternative histories written in 1931 including an essay by Winston Churchill entitled 'If Lee had won at Gettysburg'. He envisaged the South winning its independence, announcing the emancipation of the slaves and then going on to conquer Mexico and Central America. it's a very Churchillian and imperialistic idea that is perfectly feasible. 

Churchill remained all his life an Edwardian progressive, and like many Edwardian progressives he was markedly racist by the standards of his time and place (England), though no more racist than most Americans, including President Truman and either President Roosevelt. In Churchill's alternative history, writing, remember, as if looking back from 1931 to an alternative 1860s, where the South had emancipated the slaves, he mused,
Let us only think what would have happened supposing the liberation of slaves had been followed by some idiotic assertion of racial equality, and even by attempts to graft white democratic institutions upon the simple, docile, gifted African race belonging to a much earlier chapter in human history.

The three worst US Presidents of all time

I often heard that Grant was the worst US President, or Buchanan or Andrew Johnson or Harding but none of these were the worst. The worst was George W Bush, very closely followed by Abraham Lincoln, closely followed by Wilson.

Bush squandered the US's moment as global hegemon, began a seemingly endless war in the Middle East and, by over-reacting, turned the September 11th murders into a triumph for the Islamists. Lincoln made war on his own people for the offence of wanting national self-determination. His legacy was an America embittered on geographical lines for a century and on racial lines till this day. Wilson's dire legacy is the break-up of Austria Hungary and the Second World War, though, to be fair, the latter would probably have happened even without his help.

Some old-fashioned people consider Hoover the worst but in fact Hoover was rather good, better than Franklin Roosevelt.

Hoover was not  a laissez faire man like Coolidge. He effectively started the New Deal. Rexford Tugwell who helped invent the New Deal said: 
“We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.” 
On the other hand, I doubt whether the New deal under FDR was effective. Under FDR, unemployment averaged  18 %t from 1933 to 1940.. The policies of the British government during the depression, once considered a by-word in myopia are now thought to have been more effective.

Someone recently said Tyler was the best. Perhaps. Though if I were Texan I would regret the annexation of Texas. As a free country Texas could have avoided the Civil War and avoid an awful lot of things that the North forced on the South from 1860 till the present day.. But  this was not a possibility, unfortunately for the Texans. Texas was broke by the time Tyler annexed it.

Truman was good but to rate him one has to decide whether he was right to wage the Cold War against Stalin and kep American troops in Europe. I have always been grateful for the troops but never sure the Cold War was necessary.

Hoover’s history of his times was published only fairly recently and blames FDR for much from prolonging the depression to Pearl Harbor and war with Germany. One of the very few reviews it got is here. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Pandering to the electorate

Favourite quote of the day so far was someone on a comment thread saying that Labour should not pander to the electorate.

This is the EU's position on electorates - they shouldn't be pandered to.

Guy Verhofstadt, who was Prime Minister of Belgium, claims to be a liberal but is really a statist. He said today

If we are to safeguard the euro, the eurozone must no longer be held hostage by nationalists and populists on left or right, whether Finland’s far-right True Finns party, or Greece’s far-left Syriza.
One gets the feeling that Mr. Verhofstadt would like to ban nationalists and populists. He would probably convict the former of hate speech.

The True Finns are not extremists, at all, but the Finnish equivalent of UKIP. They played an heroic role in trying to make sure their government vetoed any deal and pushed the Greeks out of the Euro. If only other countries had parties like the True Finns.

226 years today since the fall of the Bastille

It’s 226 years today since the fall of the Bastille. By the time it 'fell' the Bastille had not been a political prison for years, but a sort of old people's home and lunatic asylum for a very small number of well-connected old and mentally ill people. The decision had already been taken to close down the Bastille to save costs. 

His relatives had placed the Marquis de Sade there but he was taken away ten days before the attack, by which time the Bastille housed seven old men (who were very disturbed by the events of July 14), four forgers, two lunatics and the Comte de Solages, who had committed incest and was placed there at his family's request. After the fall of the Bastille the forgers were free and the others were homeless. 

These things are a parable for progressive politics.

The Marquis De Sade helped cause the fall of the Bastille in that he shouted out from his chamber to demonstrators outside, using an improvised megaphone
'They are killing people in here!'
about 10 days before the storming and before he was moved out of the Bastille. This was a complete lie (de Sade was considered mad), but it got the crowd stirred up and from that day on there was a countdown to the eventual violent storming of the building on July 14th.

Alex Woodcock-Clarke explains De Sade's role in the revolution.

His atheism is one reason that a later class of French intellectuals led by symbolist poet (and pornographer) Guillaume Apollinaire resurrected his writings in the early 1900s. Another reason was de Sade’s ideas about political and, above all, personal freedom. A brief scan of his social works reveals that he was most ardent for man’s freedom to do whatever his nature inclined, even if that includes a little rape and torture, which puts him in the same class as political thinkers like Charles Manson. He was most coherent in his arguments against the imprisonment of for law-breakers, not surprising for a sex criminal who spent twenty-seven years in various jails and asylums.

His spells in behind bars in no way make him a martyr. Life in a royal prison for a nobleman was not too strenuous. He had his own food sent in and his own clothes. His correspondence to his long-suffering wife consists mostly of demands for money so that he can attend dinner soirees hosted by other prisoners. Not only was he allowed to write what he liked but, on July 2, 1789, he somehow got hold of a megaphone, and spent a happy afternoon shouting "They are cutting the throats of the prisoners here!" through the window of his cell in the Bastille, This inflamed the brooding Parisian crowd so much that a few days later, a huge mob stormed the fortress, marking the beginning of the French Revolution.  

De Sade would have been sorry to miss the fun. He had been transferred to the insane asylum at Charenton where he was permitted to stage his own plays using the inmates as actors. This was hardly a high security institution since, boring of the place in 1790, he waddled to the gates (he had grown morbidly obese on a diet of rich prison food), announced “I am the Marquis De Sade” and released himself on his own recognisances. When he was eventually brought back to Charenton, after a brief career as a Revolutionary Tribunal jurist dishing out death sentences galore, he was allowed to bring a 12-year old mistress with him who, perversely, was not allowed to leave until his death in 1814.

Actually, the Bastille was not really "stormed" - the Governor was promised safe conduct for himself and the guards if he surrendered the arms stored in the place (the real reason the mob had been manipulated to go there). When he came out he was instead brutally murdered.

Today progressives celebrate this murder, along with the hundreds of thousands of murders (mostly in rural France) that they went on to commit. Lenin of course modelled the Russian Bolshevik revolution on the French one.

From the French Revolution a line runs to the Bolshevik revolution. Alexander Solzhenitsyn makes the point.
The French Revolution unfolded under the banner of a self-contradictory and unrealiSable slogan, "liberty, equality, fraternity." But in the life of society, liberty, and equality are mutually exclusive, even hostile concepts. Liberty, by its very nature, undermines social equality, and equality suppresses liberty--for how else could it be attained?

Thoughts I read recently

"A new form of family is being prepared resulting in the break-up of the patriarchal family." ~ Lenin, 1914
"We take our bearings, daily, from others. To be sane is, to a great extent, to be sociable." - John Updike
"Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom is really is." – Margaret Mitchell
"We need to get away from soundbite politics." - Andy Burnham