Tuesday, July 25, 2006


“Yet by this time [late 1800s] rulers the rulers of the advanced states of Europe, with more or less reluctance, were beginning to recognize not only that 'democracy,' i.e., parliamentary constitution based on a wide suffrage, was inevitable, but also that it would probably be a nuisance but politically harmless. This discovery had long since been made by the rulers of the United States.”

Eric Hobsbawm "The Age of Capital 1848-1875" p. 3

Bush's Tax Policy: A Return to a Former Time

"In his capacity as protector, the noble earned exemption from direct taxation by poll or hearth-tax, although not from the aids or sales taxes. These, however, took proportionately more from the poor than from the rich. The assumption was that taxpaying was ignoble...Taxation like usury rested on principles that were anything but clearly defined and so muddled by ad hoc additions, exemptions, and arrangements that it was impossible to count on a definite amount of returns."

Barbara W. Tuchman “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” p. 15.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Church of the Free Market I

“[T]he question of what part institutional or legal changes play in fostering or hindering economic development is too complex for the simple mid-nineteenth century formula: “liberalization creates economic progress.” The era of expansion had already begun even before the Corn Laws were repealed in britain in 1846. No doubt liberalization brought all sorts of specific positive results. Thus Copenhagen began to develop rather more rapidly as a city after the abolition of the “Sound Tolls” which discouraged shipping from entering the Baltic (1957). But how far the global movement to liberalize was cause, concomitant or consequence of economic expansion must be left an open question. The only certain thing is that, when other bases for capitalist development were lacking, it did not achieve much by itself. Nobody liberalized more radically than the Republic of New Granada (Columbia) between 1848 and 1854, but who will say that the great hopes of prosperity of its statemen were realized immediately or at all?”

Eric Hobsbawm “The Age of Capital 1848-1875” p. 37-38

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The most Annoying Cliche

Sometimes, after it has finished creating a cliche, the press will do everything in its power to maintain that cliché despite that annoying thing called reality. In the early nineties the press created the cliché of the Russian person; he or she does not have access to basic necessities, he or she has never seen a microwave or a televison. Russians live in cramped apartment buildings and basically spend their day dreaming of coming to America so they can stand wide mouthed in front of a supermarket.

I don't know what it is about this cliché, but the press just absolutely adores it. There is no force on the planet that could ever dissaude them from using. Never been to Russia? Need to write about something Russian? No problem, just stick to the cliche. Even if you have been to Russia and you saw something else; stick to the cliche.

It is no wonder that my wife is overcome by moronic questions (do you guys have TV?) when she meets new people. Today in the the local paper (3rd grade reading level) there is a perfect example of this. It was a nice story about children coming here from Belarus to get medical attention. Of course, the writer has to drive home the idea that every Slavic person would murder their own grandmother to come to America

“They stood transfixed by the throng of well-fed Americans in bright, clean clothes. Everything, from the groomed lawns on Summit Avenue to the shiny new cars parked along the street, was new to the children, who live in the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyl disaster.”

What is with all of the malnourishment stuff? My wife's family, a normal working class Ukrainian family, eats better than we do in America. Their diets are hearty, and their meals are not laden with sugar like the food here. My wife spends a great deal of time in supermarkets trying to find food that isn't synthetic or loaded with sugar. White bread, as we eat it here, would be unheard of in Ukraine. If I took a loaf of Wonder Bread to Ukraine they would probably think it was a joke or some mistake made by a novice bread maker. However, you will never read anything like this in an American newspaper. If this writer did an expose on my wife's family, he would write “this family has American flags hanging up all over their house. They haven't eaten in days. On top of their TV is a picture of a Pop Tart that they worship. They have yet to see an automobile, though they have heard of the horseless carriage. When they do get food, it is food that they have grown themselves without pesticides, and horrible bread that is dark and heavy.”

This has broader implications. Americans think they are more free and richer than anyone in the world. On paper we are richer than England for instance, but in England they have universal healthcare and college tuition that they won't be paying back for the rest of their lives. According to this weeks Economist, America is one of the most unequal countries in the world. But the average American does not know that. The average American truly thinks that they don't have cars in Italy, and that anyone would kill to get to this country.