DHT – a sensible review of the book

A review of Defending the History of Economic Thought by someone who is not involved in the issues and therefore sees the common sense point of the book and its arguments.

The Economic Studies Shelf
Defending The History Of Economic Thought Steven Kates
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815 http://www.e-elgar.com
9781848448209, $99.95, http://www.amazon .com

The principle focus of “Defending the History of Economic Thought” is the crucial importance of the history of economic thought in the study of economics itself; without its history at the core of the curriculum, academician and economist Steven Kates (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) persuasively contends that economics is “a lesser subject, less penetrating, less interesting and of much less social value” . A 160 page treatise, “Defending The History Of Economic Thought” is organized and presented in five major chapters (Preliminary thoughts; Why study the history of economic thought; Debating the role of the history of economic thought; Teaching the history of economic thought; and Defending the history of economic thought. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, “Defending The History Of Economic Thought” is enhanced with an bibliography and a comprehensive index, making it an impressive contribution to professional and academic library Economic Studies collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Roman Empire really did fall

My favourite statistic, which may be entirely wrong but it has been said, is that the Roman Empire reached its highest living standard during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and from his death in 180 A.D., and the ascension of his son Commodus (i.e. Joaquin Phoenix, the emperor in the film Gladiator) it took until the middle of the 16th century for living standards to reach where they had been 1500 years before. Some corroboration from the latest IPA Review:

In the next IPA Review, Chris Berg will review The Roman Market Economy by Peter Temin – a fascinating new book which shows just how extensive the Roman market economy was. You can read the review here.

Rome was an extremely wealthy society. It had a complex market economy. People living in Britain could easily purchase products made in Anatolia, and vice-versa. Large cities flourished, and would not be outsized in Europe until Industrial revolution. There is even evidence that Roman pottery factories adopted quality control measures.

This changed after Rome fell. Brian Ward-Perkins published this controversial book in 2005, showing just how catastrophic the fifth and seventh century crises were. Here is an excellent review of it by Canada Free Press. And here is an interview with Ward-Perkins on Historically Speaking.

Based on a range of evidence – including the size of Roman cows, the size of cities, building activity and the dispersion of farms outside Rome – he concluded that there was indeed a catastrophic economic collapse between the fourth and seventh centuries.

On both sides of the Mediterranean, cities declined or were abandoned altogether. Factories disappeared. Domestic animals were smaller due to lack of nourishment. In some regions, quality-controlled, factory-made pottery was replaced with poor-quality hand-moulded pots. Different regions were impacted at different times, and some were more hard-hit than others, but as a general rule economic activity declined everywhere.

Overall, ‘Late Antiquity’ would hardly have been a time of ‘peaceful’ transition for anyone involved.

Any parallels with the world today is, of course, strictly coincidental.

The non-existent principle of free speech on the left

Here is where the controversy over Tim Wilson’s appointment to the HRC overlaps with the controversy in the United States over Duck Dynasty:

Our current social understanding of free speech is this: You can speak your mind freely if you have a large enough army of supporters to pressure a company [and in Australia the Government itself] into resisting pressure from a large army of Speech Police.

This is not free speech. This is free speech as an exceptional thing — only for those with a wide, passionate following — not as a routine thing.

A&E is a cowardly organization. First it puts Robertson on ‘indefinite hiatus’ under pressure from one group of people, then it puts him back on the air because they’ve been pressured by a somewhat larger group of people.

At no point did they trip over anything resembling a general principle of speech free from ‘consequences’ of broad application.

The world does ever so slowly change, sometimes for the better

A story that overlaps culture, politics and the movies. It’s about someone named Patrick Millsaps, the man who was Newt Gingrich’s campaign chief of staff. This is the story how he has become the agent for this very brave movie star, Stacey Dash, who took an enormous amount of flak because, although black, she came out in public for Mitt Romney during the election. The Romney campaign wasted the opportunity to have her speak on their behalf, and thereby hangs a tale.

After the election and Romney’s loss, Millsaps wrote Dash a letter. He found her agent’s name online and put pen to paper, explaining that he’d had a unique experience as Gingrich’s chief of staff and said if she ever wanted to get more involved in politics to let him know.

He never expected a response. But Dash emailed Millsaps and said thanks. Not long after, Millsaps was headed to Los Angeles for a Republican National Committee meeting, emailed Dash and asked to go to lunch and offered to take her to the RNC meeting.

At lunch, not at the Chateau or the Ivy or some other famous celebrity spot, the two met at a nondescript Italian restaurant and talked for hours.

They kept in touch. Finally, Dash wanted to fire her agent but didn’t want to do it herself. She asked Millsaps to do it. In L.A. for business, he agreed.

It’s a great story and I really like them both.

How a civilization commits suicide

The sense that we in the West, our entire culture of freedom and individual rights, are under mortal threat is not an uncommon theme. Adding to this is an article, a long article, from Camille Paglia:

‘What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide,’ says Camille Paglia. . . . The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead.

And why does all this matter?

‘The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,’ she says. ‘These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.’

An interesting article, commented on here where it was picked up by Powerline, linked to at Instapundit and mentioned prominently at Drudge.

Perhaps a slow news day, but going to the movies yesterday which started with a trailer for Nelson Mandela, the movie and then watched a film as some English man becomes best mates with the chap who tortured him in a Japanese prisoner of war camp – and let me not forget the man who the Americans have elected president – you really do wonder whether we have what it takes to survive as a culture.

Pier review

Piers Morgan is one of the more obnoxious commentators on CNN and that takes some doing. He took over from Larry King and his usual lefty rants from the grandstand, typically against every right-side target he can find, has helped the network cascade downwards in its ratings.

But for once he thought he’d show them how it was done by facing six balls from Brett Lee. On top of everything else, it is a reminder of just how good the really good really are. I’m happy to see this is all over the net but they probably won’t see much of it in the US since the game is so foreign in that part of the world.

It’s only a shame we don’t do eight ball overs any more.

The evidence looks overwhelming

From The Australian on 23 December:

AUSTRALIAN entertainer Rolf Harris is facing three additional sex assault charges involving two new alleged victims, one aged “seven or eight” at the time.

The additional counts mean Harris, 83, is now accused of assaulting four victims dating back to the late 1960s. He’s facing 16 separate charges in total.

“`Rolf Harris is to be prosecuted over a further three allegations of indecent assault,” the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement.

“The alleged offences relate to one existing complainant and two new complainants.”

Harris was already facing six counts of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1980 and 1981 and three charges of indecent assault on a girl aged 14 in 1986.

He was also charged previously with four counts of making indecent images of a child in the first half of 2012.

The additional counts include one offence of indecent assault “relating to a girl aged seven or eight in 1968 or 1969“, the CPS said.

The artist and singer is also accused of indecently assaulting a girl aged 14 in 1975 and indecently assaulting a girl aged 19 in 1984.

The later offence relates to the same complainant as six of the charges laid in August.

The additional counts were included in the original police file sent to prosecutors in August.

But it was only after a “review process” that the CPS decided the allegations should be formally added to the indictment against Harris.

Prosecutors say because evidence relating to the further counts has already been served on the court and the defence, Harris won’t appear again at a Magistrates Court.

Rather, the Australian will front Southwark Crown Court on January 14 as previously scheduled for a plea and case management hearing.

Harris has not commented on the allegations since he was first named in the press in April.

He appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in September looking frail and confused for his only court appearance to date.

The 83-year-old, who was accompanied by his wife Alwen and daughter Bindi, spoke only briefly to confirm his personal details.

His lawyer indicated the entertainer would plead not guilty.

For the offences committed after 1985 Harris could face up to 10 years’ jail.

Harris was asked by UK tabloid the Daily Mirror if he wished to comment on the new charges.

“I don’t think so, thank you,” he said over the intercom at his Berkshire home the paper reported.

Harris was first questioned by officers from Operation Yewtree back in November 2012. He was arrested in March and rearrested in early August before being charged three weeks later.

The Australian is on conditional bail under which he is banned from having contact with anyone under 18 unless he’s accompanied by someone over the age of 21.

His trial is scheduled to begin in late April.

During 2013 one-time royal favourite Harris has been dropped as the face of British Paints, the host of hit TV show Animal Clinic and as the narrator on Olive the Ostrich.

His paintings have been removed from cruise liners including the Queen Mary 2 and no-one, including Buckingham Palace, seems to know what’s happened to his 2005 portrait of Her Majesty.

Nothing more recent than 25 years ago but justice must be served. Still, something more recent would make a difference, don’t you think? With Jimmy Savile, the allegations came from every side. With Rolf Harris, there is nothing more recent than the 1980s.

Philomena – a feel bad film about all the standard enemies of the left

The left will have its villains and nothing will stop them. Philomena is a feel bad film in which nothing positive can possibly be said about its chosen enemies, in this case organised religion, specially the Catholic church, and the Republican Party in the US, and especially Ronald Reagan.

But in this case, because there is a true story of some kind that lies beneath the plot, the film is forced to hold onto some actual facts that are obstacles to its heavy-handed lessons. I won’t say there would have been no bad actions taken by anyone in real life since who can know, because there are some pretty mean-minded people around and you find them everywhere. But let’s start with a few bits.

I don’t wish to be judgmental, but not to put too fine a point on it, the young Philomena is something of a tart. She meets a boy at a fair around age 14, goes off into the bushes and never sees the lad again. Even in our more permissive times, that seems unacceptable. What parent today would find that OK? And that fifty years later she can reminisce about how wonderful that moment was, makes me wonder whether that could have been her first occasion since she has no memory of a painful deflowering moment.

The idea that an unwed mother back in the 1950s would keep her child back has a probability in the range of zero or perhaps less. Few abortions, some unwed mothers and therefore many adoptions. So the very premise of the film, that her son was adopted out, is hardly a tale of horror since it was standard. There is so little likelihood that she would have been allowed to keep her son that it is ridiculous even to set that up as a premise. But a bit of an anachronism and we can rage at the attitudes of those who ran the orphanage as if it were the year before last.

But then there are the kinds of things that Philomena could not possibly know, such as when she is in the middle of a breech birth, that they decide to let her suffer and not offer any medical assistance. If you are in the middle of labour pains, you don’t know what conversations are being held somewhere else, and no one was going to tell her later.

The son is adopted out but those at the centre of the storyline work out that he has been adopted by an American family. Moreover, the son turns out to be (1) gay and (2) a high official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. A nice chap, very accomplished. Therefore, he is a “closet” gay since no one in the Republican Party can be seen to have accepted his sexual orientation. Except that everyone you meet is perfectly aware, especially since he dies of AIDS.

But since it goes against the Code of the Left that amongst Republicans no one cares, they have to make it out that he has had to hide this side of his life because otherwise you would have to think that someone like Ronald Reagan – and therefore Republicans in general – are indifferent. Which is the case but cannot be allowed to be shown.

Then, finally, there is the scene at the end when Sister Hildegarde is confronted with her hatred of the sin of carnality. The scene is so perfect as a concluding statement, so nicely framed and to the point, that there can be no doubt that it is entirely made up. If it’s in the book, I don’t believe it’s true. But the narrative is all, and this gives us the high point finale in which all views are satisfied, except perhaps my own.

A clever and manipulative film that you enjoy in spite of yourself, and to a large extent because Judy Dench does stand up for the church until the very last moment. Being aware in the confines of the theatre of how everything is structured doesn’t quite protect you because you are driven by the story. They set the stage and there is little chance to resist as you sit and absorb the plot. But a sign of our decadent times that such an anti-Catholic film is even possible never mind a box office sensation. Try it out with some other religions and see how you go.

Santa is a conservative

That Santa Claus is a conservative is conclusively shown on this post. There are thirteen pieces of evidence but I’ll only list numbers one and eleven:

1. Did you ever hear Santa wishing someone a ‘Happy Holidays?’ No, for the man in red, it’s always ‘Merry Christmas’ – no matter who it offends.

11. The naughty or nice list also shows an objective moral compass. Santa apparently rejects liberal relativism or explaining away bad behavior with pop psychology and ‘culture’ issues.

And not a government handout anywhere to be seen.

The left will still seek to destroy anyone who dares to dissent

Mark Steyn wrote an article in which he basically told his editor at National Review Online to get rooted only much less politely than that. Steyn had written an article in defence of the Duck Dynasty and found his editor at NRO taking sides against him. Mark Steyn’s scathing and angry reply elicited a further reply from his editor. A bit complex, but made up of a brief article by Mark, an inane response by his editor, a further rejoinder by Mark and then another even more idiotic response from his editor.

But what really interests me is this from Mark Noonan at the blogsite blogsforvictory.com. This was his comment on the second statement by the National Review Online editor:

No, Mr. Steyn cannot mount an argument against the left without insulting them. To disagree with them is, in their view, to be insulting. We’re not dealing with rational people, here. We’re dealing with people who are, in the largest sense of the word, insane. For crying out loud, they really think that its ok to kill a baby! When you’re dealing with that sort of irrationality, trying to keep it polite is the least of your concerns. Our job, as sane people, is to drive these people entirely out of power. We won’t do that if we try to pretend that lunacy has a proper place in the debate.

And now he has written an even more scathing article defending Mark and attacking the NRO editor in no uncertain terms. This is the best para but it’s a short post so you should read it in full:

As I noted in my small comment, liberals are essentially insane. Not in the clinical sense where we could diagnose and treat them, but in the fact that what they propose flies in the face of facts and logic. That what they propose, if really and fully implemented, would utterly destroy human life on earth. People who think that babies can be killed, that tax increases cause prosperity, that crony-capitalism is a good idea, that government employees are altruistic, that a small elite can better decide things than people on their own; that a hack, Chicago politician is a new messiah – these are not rational views to hold. Added to their irrationality and completing it is a mercilessness which knows no bounds. You can rely on it that no matter how nice and polite we are, the left will still seek to destroy anyone who dares to dissent. This is not a call for us to start being mean and merciless – but for pity’s sake, don’t just sit there and be a punching bag. Hit back. And keep on hitting because until we completely remove the left from all ability to effect policy in this nation, we will not be able to reform and save it.

I let my subscription to National Review lapse years ago and I now almost never visit its website. I am more of the persuasion of Mark Steyn and Mark Noonan. We are dealing with uncertifiable nutters whose pious and hypocritical superficial inanities will yet be the ruin of us.