Jan

26

On "progressive visionaries", by a fellow I know:

"[The author] went to college with these people, and for a brief time 40 years ago was one of them. He recalls their thinking. They have been striving to gain real political power for all these years, and in the process have carefully taken control of the unions, public education, most big city governments, and much of the underlying federal bureaucracy. The election of 2008 was the culmination of their lifetime of strenuous effort, and it awarded them the Presidency, insurmountable majorities in both houses of Congress, the prospect of soon controlling the U.S. Supreme Court, and one or two serviceable crises by which to justify hurried and drastic action.

This is the Golden Opportunity, the one they have been working towards all their lives. They will never, ever again have such an opportunity. If they let this slip away, all is lost, possibly for generations. But more than that, their lives will have been utterly wasted, their very identities shattered."

Alan Millhone comments:

The British Navy at the dinner table is best approach to politics.

Stefan Jovanovich returns:

The sagas about the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars are wonderful; but the notion that there was an absence of the discussion of politics at the ward room table for reasons of civility alone is a part of the fiction that has no basis in fact. The very purpose of the British Navy was political; and the men in the Navy were unambiguously candid about what the politics should be — mercantilism, not free trade — and ruthlessly dismissive of anyone who did not agree with them.

Politics was not "discussed" precisely because the only political argument of the day was about whether trade should allowed to be "free" — i.e. restricted only by tariffs and not by gunpowder; and the British Navy was, for reasons of understandable self-interest, "agin it". It very much helped their cause that most of their political opponents were no more in favor of "open" trade than Napoleon was. Instead, like the people whom Dan described in his post, they were believers in a "rational" authority that would have made a Marxists proud.

Here is how Henry Dundas, Stephen Matarin's fictional father, and First Lord of Admiralty saw the purpose of the Royal Navy:

"…be the causes of the war what they may, the primary object ought to be, by what means we can most effectually increase those resources on which depend our naval superiority, and at the same time diminish or appropriate to ourselves those which might otherwise enable the enemy to contend with us in this respect… I consider offensive operations against the colonial possessions of our enemies as the first object to be attended to in almost every war in which Great Britain can be engaged."

One interesting aspect of this is the extent to which abolitionism in Britain was an extension of mercantilism and the slavery patrols off West Africa were, in fact, a jobs program for the Royal Navy whose cannons could no longer thunder and men could no longer plunder. James Stephen is known to our age as Wilberforce's brother-in-law and as an abolitionist; but, like Dundas, his prominence came primarily from his devout support of the idea that British commerce should always be the handmaiden of the British Navy. You can detect a whiff of that nostalgia for the good old days in what James Stephen wrote in 1802:

"To impoverish our enemies used, in our former contests with France and Spain, to be a sure effect of our hostilities; and its extent was always proportionate to that of its grand instrument, our superiority at sea. We distressed their trade, we intercepted the produce of their colonies, and thus exhausted their treasuries, by cutting off their chief sources of revenue, as the philosopher proposed to dry up the sea, by draining the rivers that fed it. By the same means, their expenditure was immensely increased, and wasted in defensive purposes. They were obliged to maintain fleets in distant parts of the world, and to furnish strong convoys or the protection of their intercourse with their colonies, both on the outward and homeward voyages. Again, the frequent capture of these convoys, while it enriched our seamen, and by the increase in important duties aided our revenue, obliged our enemies, at fresh expense, to repair their loss of ships; and when a convoy outward bound, was the subject of capture, compelled them either to dispatch duplicate supplies in the same season, at the risk of new disasters, or to leave their colonies in distress, and forfeit the benefit of their crops for the year. In short, their transmarine possessions became expensive encumbrances, rather than sources of revenue; and through the iteration of such losses, more than by our naval victories, or colonial conquests, the house of Bourbon was vanquished by the masters of the sea."

James Stephen, War in Disguise of the Frauds of Neutral Flags (London, 1805)


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3 Comments so far

  1. Nick Pribus on January 26, 2010 11:59 am

    The entire piece should be linked, I found the opening (below) especially entertaining since I am amoung the simple folk from farm country who simply do not get what the progressive movement hopes to achieve on my behalf.

    “[I have]noticed that the intellectual and academic elite are always far ahead of their time. They see the truth of things in a way that the teeming, Bible-thumping, gun-toting (pickup-truck-driving) masses never can. And since manifold generations can rise and fall before the hoi-polloi ever come close to “getting it,” [I] can understand how frustrated the elite often become.

    Think of how they must feel: Blessed with keen intellect and superior education; having shed themselves of ancient superstitions, and freed themselves of the constraints on human behavior imposed on mankind by unseen mystical beings; they have (through their own cognitive superiority) conceived of a plan to achieve what evolution so clearly has intended - a perfectly harmonious, productive, and sustainable human society. And what’s stopping them from achieving this embodiment of perfection? The unwashed masses, stuck in their old ways, encumbered by their old beliefs. The frustration has got to be tremendous.”

  2. Steve Leslie on January 27, 2010 10:08 am

    Politics and sports are the two most controversial subjects that may ever be discussed. The fact is that the far right will never submit to anything beyond their core ideological value structure, the far left will never submit to anything beyond their ideological value structure that leaves the middle to decide. This is where the real battles are waged to win over the middle, the moderates and the independents.

    Clinton learned this lesson after his debacle post Hillary-Care. He learned to govern as a centrist. Obama is now learning that Southside Chicago politics does not work on a large scale. Back room deals in smoke filled rooms, strong armed tactics, school yard bullying, are not tolerated for very long. The Louisiana purchase and the Nebraska cornhusker will not go unpunished. The American people are only stupid for a short time, eventually they get things right. This is exactly what is going on right now in with the results from Mass. New Jersey and Virginia as evidence. It will soon take root in Delaware where Bo
    Biden is stepping down, in North Dakota, in Indiana, Ohio, Nevada and across the nation. The American people are becoming united on this one matter this is undeniable. The tea party movement is much more than a fad. There will be a gigantic rally in August on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the same day that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic "I have a dream" speech.

    Rebranding someone as progressive instead of liberal will not work. The American people are willing to look behind the curtain and see that Obama is not the great and powerful Oz, yet just another self-serving politician with a suit, a speech and a teleprompter. The comical aspect to this was revealed recently by Jon Stewart when Obama was filmed giving a speech to a bunch of elementary school children with teleprompters in front of him.

    We as an American people once again are reminded that there is no honor among thieves and Washington is rife with them on both sides of the aisle. They want to steal our money in the form of taxes so that they may use it for their ill-gotten gains. Why do they do this? Because they can. Why does the American public have to suffer? Because that is where they money is.

    Remember the words of Willie Sutton when asked why he robbed banks: "Because that is where they keep the money."

  3. Kermit Johnson on January 27, 2010 1:14 pm

    Thanks for that quote, Nick. I am among the simple folk from farm country too.

    And, yes, central planning has such strong appeal to the frustrated elites, is seems. But, who would be the central planners? The intelligent and educated elites, of course.

    What is missed by most, I think, is that either the Left or the Right, if policies were to be allowed to progress to their logical conclusions, lead to where for most of us would be depression. The reason on the Left is obvious to those of us involved in markets. But, on the Right, it leads to the same place due to concentration of wealth and power. That concentration results in a lack of incentive similar to the lack of incentive we know would result if we swing too far to the Left.

    It seems to me that the best we can hope for is to swing back and forth and never get too far either way that we can’t get back.

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