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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Sunday, February 28, 2010

John Reed, R.I.P.

John Reed, perhaps the greatest interpreter of Gilbert and Sullivan's signature patter songs, died February 13. He was a wonderful comedian, who perfectly executed the roles of John Wellington Wells, the Learned Judge, Sir Joseph (First Lord of the Admiralty), modern Major General Stanley, Ko-Ko, Bunthorne, Jack Point, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, and so many other memorable characters created by William Schwenck Gilbert for his and Sir. Arthur Sullivan's 13 performed operettas. I've spent many hours listening to him. He always made me laugh. I admired his passion and dedication to his art.

I have been on hiatus from listening to Gilbert & Sullivan, but this sad news will likely put an end to that.

More on Reed here.


To our ancestors not only for those few centuries during which we have record of their actions, but apparently during an illimitable past, the division of society into those who must work under compulsion and those who would benefit by their labour was the very plan of the State—apart from which they could hardly think of society as existing at all.
--Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Summit: Holding the Context

Government is a system to enable some people (the ruling class) to live off the productive effort of others. The longevity of the system requires that the exploited individuals continue to believe it is legitimate -- that it represents their interests. The greatest threat to the system is the loss of that legitimacy; that is, the people's realization that it is exploitative and inimical to their well-being. To prevent that threat from materializing, the rulers from time to time must convey to the people that, despite appearances, the State's taxes and other impositions are really for their own good and therefore they should keep faith with the system. If the hen becomes unhappy, the golden eggs may stop.

Thus the politicians want to be seen trying to address the public's concerns, such as the rising cost of medical care and insurance, but always in ways that do not upset the larger larcenous operation. The expensive, frustrating, and even dangerous health-care system -- a product of corporate-State partnership -- presents a political opportunity for power to score points with the public. (That the ruling faction has apparently misread the public is another story.) When people expressed their displeasure with partisan rancor, another opportunity presented itself. Hoping that a display of bipartisanship would calm the restless citizens, the summit was conceived and staged. If the two factions of the single ruling party feel that their interests lie a “bipartisan bill,” that is what they will produce. When the chips are down, the system comes first and the factions unite.

The upshot is that the summit is part of a larger project to keep the American people from entertaining radical thoughts about government per se. Of course, the major news media are faithfully cooperating by portraying this all as democracy in action.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Freeman, March 2010

The March Freeman is now online. In this issues: Jim Powell discusses Progressive Republican Theodore Roosevelt's big-government record, Gene Callahan pleads for maturity in public-policy discussions, Gerald O'Driscoll looks at the Fed's recent conduct, Steven Horwitz explains the idea of unintended consequences, Kevin Carson gazes deep into the health care system, and Joseph Stromberg takes another look at John Locke.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Insurance Wins One from Obama

Barack Obama this morning unveiled his plan for overhauling the health insurance industry in an effort to get the stalled legislative process going again. The bill was just posted on the White House website ("Putting Americans in Control of Their Health Care[!]). Here's the first detail to jump out, according to the Wall Street Journal:

The proposal increases penalties on business that fail to insure their workers andindividuals who fail to get health insurance, as would be required under the new law. [Emphasis added.]

This is important because the insurers have been concerned that in earlier bills, the penalty for individuals who don't obey the government order to buy insurance would is so low that people would find it cheaper to pay the fine than to pay the premium. How are the companies to get all those new captive customers with a weak penalty? they wanted to know.

Apparently they won't have to worry about that anymore.

Next time Obama publicly demonizes Big Insurance, don't fall for the show. They are all in bed together when it comes to fundamentals.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Roderick Long Hits Another Homerun

In Tea and Sympathy, Roderick, with amazing brevity, captures what's wrong with the tea-party movement.

CPAC Highlights

Here are my favorite moments from the big conservative CPAC meeting in D.C.:
  • Dick Cheney. Need more be said?
  • Scott Brown introducing Mitt Romney, respectively, supporter and mover of state-run health insurance in Massachusetts.
  • And Ryan Sorba of California Young Americans for Freedom (sic), for his anti-gay tirade, in which he said:
I'd like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPride [sic] to this event. Civil rights are grounded in natural rights. Natural rights are grounded in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationship. The intelligible end of the reproductive act is reproduction. Do you understand that?
Actually, no I don't. Let's go to the videotape.

I'm happy to report that Sorba was roundly booed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back on Antiwar Radio

Scott Horton had me back again on Antiwar Radio to talk about defense without the State. Hear it here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Obama: Enemy of the Working Class

Barack Obama, the current White House occupant, recently reaffirmed his support for employer-based health insurance. In my book that makes him the enemy of all working people. The tethering of employees to their bosses is a rotten leftover from World War II and should have been abolished long ago. Those who believe in freedom and independence must rediscover the mutual-aid movement of the not-too-distant past.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

TGIF: Obama and the Public

Broken or not, government at the moment is not inspiring confidence in the majority of people. That’s good news for those who look to government for neither inspiration nor solutions (to problems it itself has created). There’s no more urgent task that to fan the flames of political cynicism, emphasizing that what’s wrong with health care, finance, and energy won’t be fixed by electing the “right” person or party next time around but rather by removing the obstacles to bottom-up, decentralized solutions.

Read TGIF here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

McCarthy on Belloc

[Hilaire] Belloc's distrust of the new liberal positive state was motivated more by a fear of what the state would do to the poorer classes, which he believed would be relegated to a permanent servile status, than by any Manchesterian laissez-faire solicitude for the property rights of capitalists, whom he thought were using the new liberalism to perpetuate their plutocratic position.
--John McCarthy, Hilaire Belloc: Edwardian Radical