FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #35: “Not only is ignorance bliss, but it’s a godsend to Big Government.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 12th, 2010

A Dumb Animal is a Content Animal

We had a customer once across from a slaughterhouse.  The customer is long gone.  But the slaughterhouse is still there.  I remember one cold December day.  It was close to the holidays.  A festive time.  Parked in the street were two cattle trucks.  You could see their breath puffing out through the slats.  They had no idea what was waiting for them once they left those trucks.  They just stood there.  Quiet.  And content.

I had a cat once that lived to a ripe old age.  In his old age, he suffered a stroke in his back end.  His rear legs weren’t that steady.  His feet kind of flopped around when he walked.  He spent most of his days in the basement on an old chair.  His water dish was underneath the chair.  And a litter box was only a few steps away.  We took food down to him.  But every hour or so he struggled up the steps to the food dish in my study.  He ate.  Then I picked him up and placed him on my lap for some petting.  He purred profusely.  After 10 minutes or so he squirmed to get down.  Ate some more.  Then limped back downstairs.  He was a shadow of his old nimble self.  But he was content.  To him, his life was normal.  He couldn’t dwell about what was.  Or what will be.  He just knew when his tummy was empty.  And when he craved affection.

In Gone with the Wind, when Atlanta was burning, Rhett Butler was helping Scarlet escape the city.  The fire panicked their horse, though.  It reared up and refused to move.  So Rhett covered the horse’s eyes and said something like, “You’ll like this better if you can’t see it.”  The horse calmed down.  The fire was still there all around them.  But the horse couldn’t see it.  And they made their escape with Rhett leading the blindfolded horse.

Dwelling on the Fear of the Unknown

Sure, they’re just dumb animals.  But are we really all that different?  Apart from having hands with opposable thumbs, consciousness, an advanced language, our use of tools and our farming and animal husbandry skills to provide an abundant food supply, no.  We prefer to not know unpleasant things.  Especially if there’s nothing we can do to prevent those unpleasant things from happening.  Or think too much about good things.  If there’s a chance we can spoil them.

A pitcher throwing a perfect game (27 up and 27 out) in the major leagues is rare.  It’s great when it happens.  And heart-breaking when batter 27 gets on base.  Whether by a base hit.  Or an error.  As a game moves ever closer to perfection, a deep dread and fear permeates everyone on that team.  They don’t want to be that guy that spoils the perfect game.  And they don’t talk about a perfect game lest they jinx it.  They try to act as if they don’t know what is about to happen.  To ignore the weight of the world crushing down on them.

Sometimes it’s not dwelling on the good that might not happen.  Sometimes it’s dwelling on the bad that may happen.  An infantry patrol going out behind enemy lines to snag some prisoners, for example.  It’s dangerous.  There’s a very good chance that some will not survive the patrol.  As your patrol waits for h-hour, you don’t look at your fellow soldiers and wonder who might die.  You don’t talk about it.  You just try to push it from your mind.  You go through the motions.  Machine-like.  Focus on the mission.  And your training.  And the next 5 minutes.  You try not to think too far beyond that because, well, you just don’t.  If something happens, it happens.  Thinking about it won’t make it not happen.  In fact, thinking about it may distract you a fraction of a second when the shooting starts and make it happen.

Sometimes it’s a cough that won’t go away.  Or a lump that wasn’t there before.  You get a sickening feeling when you think about what it may be.  So you try not to think about it.  You ignore it.  You get used to it.  Acclimate to it.  You don’t dwell on it.  Because the reality of it can be so unpleasant.  But resorting to pure animal ignorant bliss may very well kill you.  Sometimes we have to think about the unpleasant.  To dwell about what might be.  For if we do early enough, things don’t have to be as bad as they could be.

Have Food Will Bow

Life was pretty harsh until the British came around.  Their ideas about representative government and capitalism led to a freeing of the masses from a life of drudgery and suffering like no other people did.  From these ideals grew a new nation.  America.  And the Americans inspired an Old World nation.  France.

It is hard for people today to fully understand what life was like for the average person before the ideas of representative government and capitalism.  The average person was poor.  Not middle class.  But poor.  They lived in abject poverty.  They were overworked.  Under paid.  Oppressed.  Malnourished.  Emaciated.  They were miserable, wretched people living miserable, wretched lives.  Quite a difference from today where the average person is middle class and the poor are often overweight.  Even obese.

This life was commonplace when oppressive state powers were commonplace.  As the state’s power grew more limited, the average person’s life grew less miserable.  The poor in pre-revolutionary France, working some of Europe’s most arable soil under an absolute monarchy, suffered from recurring famine.  Meanwhile, over in the tiny island kingdom of Great Britain, a constitutional monarchy, they did not suffer recurring famines.  In fact, they were grain exporters.  That’s why there was no British Revolution to overthrow their monarchy as Europe trembled in the face of Napoleon’s advancing armies.  Life was pretty good on that tiny little island.

People are Just Dying to Get Out of their Socialist Utopias

There are great debates about which is better.  Capitalism or socialism.  People like to point to European socialism as the ideal.  These people are, in general, poor.  When the Beatles got obscenely rich, they fled that socialistic utopia.  As did others who struck it rich.  Why?  To keep what they had earned.

Because the vast majority is poor or middle class, we’ll never solve this debate.  The poor and middle class will feel little pity for the rich and approve of confiscatory taxation.  Until they become rich, that is.  But what about other countries?  Cuba?  North Korea?  The former Soviet Union?  The People’s Republic of China in the days of the great famines? 

Cubans boarded makeshift rafts and risked their lives to make it to Florida.  Those who could in North Korea, like pilots, defected and flew to South Korea.  The Soviet Union had to bribe and hold family members hostage to prevent their spies from defecting once they crossed over into the west.

The Soviet Union would eventually collapse and break out in capitalism.  Communist China allowed some capitalism to prevent a collapse.  Cuba was once a jewel in the Caribbean and now can’t even make a decent cigar.  The North Koreans are still suffering recurring famines and chronic energy shortages.  No, in these hardcore socialist states the message is clear.  Life for the average person is little better than it was in the Middle Ages.  And those who could escape their ‘utopias’ did.

Blinders are Okay if you’re a Horse

The scary thing is that these communist nations started out as people’s revolutions.  They attacked the rich.  Even the middle class.  They promised their people everything (more food, shorter working days, free universal health care, free universal education, etc.).  And, in most cases, failed to deliver.

These nations didn’t become totalitarian states overnight.  It was a process.  A process that went from good intentions to bad to worse.  And here we are in America.  Big Government promising us the same things.  Free food for the poor.  Shorter working days (by empowering unions).  Free universal health care (which is just one public option away).  And free college education for all. 

Should we be concerned?  Yes.  Because these stories always end the same.  After a people votes themselves the treasury, poverty and tyranny typically follow.  It’s like a cancer growing.  And we shouldn’t ignore it.  For if we do, it will only spread further.  And the further it spreads the harder it will be to get rid of it. 

America was the first republic not to collapse.  Can we continue to be that notable exception?  Not by wearing blinders.  As unpleasant it is, we must face this unpleasant truth.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.

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God Bless the Internal Combustion Engine

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 10th, 2010

Oxen were better than people.  Horses were better than oxen.  Steam engines were better than horses.  And internal combustion engines were better than steam engines.  Better at what you ask?  Making it better.  For people.  And our environment.

When we learned to farm we didn’t have to gather anymore.  When we developed animal husbandry, we didn’t have to hunt anymore.  This led to peace.  Because hunter and gatherers need a lot of land to hunt and gather on.  Often they tried to hunt and gather on the same land others were hunting and gathering on.  And when hunting party met hunting party, they used their weapons on each other.  To protect their food supply.  So they could survive a very harsh existence.

When we took control of our food supply (farming and animal husbandry), societies grew.  Life was still tenuous.  But less so.  The work was hard.  And life was short.  People worked from dawn to dusk.  Everyone.  Men, women and children.  In the fields.  Working along draft animals.  Stepping in their feces.  Battling the flies.  And disease.  Dirty drinking water.  Dysentery.  Famine.  The steam engine changed that.  It greatly increased productivity.  Letting people to do things other than work in the fields.  And there was much more food.  Then the internal combustion engine greatly improved on that productivity.  Increasing farm yields.  Increasing life spans.  They made less pollution than the steam engine.  And drew no flies.

Energy.  Power.  It’s what makes life better.  A single steam engine could replace a team of horses.  And do more with less.  But steam boilers were complicated.  And could be dangerous.  Though better than horses, they needed a lot of fuel and water.  Look at a steam locomotive.  It had to stop along the way to refuel and re-water.  Often.  That’s a lot of infrastructure.  A diesel-electric locomotive doesn’t.  The internal combustion engine can work harder, travel longer and requires less maintenance.  Petroleum contains a lot of energy.  It’s a liquid that can be stored, handled and carried easily.  There’s never been a better fuel.  Small tanks can power engines giving vehicles freedom of mobility, speed and distance.  There would be no such things as emergency medical helicopters, fire engines, ambulances or trucks (to stock our grocery stores) without the internal combustion engine.  You just can’t power these vehicles with battery-electric engines.

Batteries have to charge.  And that takes time.  You just won’t be able to pull into a charge station on the highway for a quick charge.  At best you could change out a battery.  But batteries are expensive.  I guess you could get a core deposit on the discharged battery.  Then again, how would the charging station owner know it can hold a charge?  He or she would be taking a big risk.  Or the next driver to get that battery would.  Provided it was compatible with that driver’s car.  And changing a battery is probably not something a 19 year-old secretary could easily do herself on her way to work.  Could there even be a self-service charging station?  And with the shorter range, God help her if her battery charge runs low late at night (because she turned on her headlights) when there is no mechanic available to change her battery.  If she can make it to a charging station.

The internal combustion engine and petroleum give us a modern, safe and healthy life.  Life has never been better since the internal combustion engine.  And the only way a battery-engine will replace that is if the battery-engine comes with an internal combustion engine backup.  That provides a far, far greater range than the battery-engine.  And can be refueled easily.  Conveniently.  And if that’s the only way a battery-electric car will work, why bother with the battery-electric engine?  I mean, the backup engine could get a whole lot better fuel economy if it didn’t have to carry around that dead weight.

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LESSONS LEARNED #13: “If you were to live under the socialist maxim ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his need’ you would find yourself surrounded by needy people with no ability.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 13th, 2010

KEY TO CIVILIZATION growth is the food supply.  Food surpluses in particular.  Before dependable food surpluses, life was short, harsh and miserable.  Especially for women.  When they weren’t working in the fields they were giving birth and raising children.  High infant mortality rates, though, inhibited population growth.  Most of the children women gave birth to didn’t survive to adulthood.  So there was a constant state of child rearing.  But few children survived to help with the business of family life.

Malnutrition and famine were common.  Feudalism provided a precarious balance between life and death.  For centuries the common people (i.e., peasants) eked out survival on their landlord’s manor.  The lord owned the land.  The peasants worked it.  Most of the bounty went to their lord.  But they kept what they grew on a small strip of land for themselves.  Just enough for subsistence.

But England changed all that.  By 1750, her agricultural output was second to none.  Private property.  Free market economy.  Capitalism.  Increased productivity.  Specialization.  These all combined to provide incentive.  Incentive produced food surpluses.  Food surpluses produced profits.  Reinvested profits improved farm yields.  This produced more profit.  And the cycle continued.  In less than a century feudalism would disappear from England.  There, you either worked land you owned or were paid wages to work land owned by others.  People began to live longer and healthier lives. 

The British Empire ruled the civilized world in the 19th century.  Representative government.  Abolition of slavery.  Free trade.  The Industrial Revolution.  These things, and others, gave them wealth, power and moral authority.  A lot of good came from this island kingdom.  Including the United States.  They weren’t perfect.  There was a learning curve.  But the modern capitalistic economy which they gave us liberated the masses.  It let us do what we wanted to do, not just what we had to do.  In particular, women, who could do more than just raise families and work in the fields.  One day, she could even become prime minister of Great Britain.

FOOD SURPLUSES BEGET industrialization.  Food surpluses beget everything, really.  Food surpluses release human capital to do everything else we do besides farming.  England was at the van of this modernization.  Others followed.  In time. 

Russia abolished serfdom (i.e., feudalism) in 1861.  Industrially backwards at the time, this liberty awakened a dormant human capital.  They followed the English model.  In time, with the advent of steamship and rail transportation, Russian grain competed with other European producers.

Joseph Stalin, looking to jump ahead in the industrialization process, implemented collective farming in the late 1920s.  He turned away from the English model.  The government became land owners.  It was feudalism on a grand scale.  Large collective farms would produce vast food surpluses that could feed industrial cities.  And there would still be surpluses left over to export to raise capital to build these industrial cities.  At least, that was the plan.

With less incentive came less productivity.  What land the former serfs had come to own was lost to the state.  The state took so much of the harvest that there was little food left for those who labored to grow it.  And the price the state paid for their crops was less than it was before collectivization.  The ‘free’ serfs were earning less and working more.  They didn’t like it.  And chose not to participate.  Collectivization became forced collectivization. 

Deportations, terror, murder and famine followed.  Perhaps more than 5 million starved to death during the famine of 1931 and 1932.  Others were to follow.

Forced collective farming produced famines elsewhere.  In China, during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, forced collectivization produced even greater famine deaths.  Historians estimate that 20-30 million, maybe more, starved to death in the famine of 1959–62.  Though hard numbers aren’t available, North Korea suffered a devastating famine in the late 1990s that claimed millions.  But in the West, in the 20th century, famine was unheard of.  When the United States suffered during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, there was no corresponding famine despite the loss of productive farmland.

WITH INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY comes incentive.  With incentive comes productivity.  A small island nation of free land owners could produce grain to feed themselves with surplus left over for export.  Nations with great fertile tracts farmed by forced collectivization led to famine.  Slaves have little incentive other than to subsist.  The collective good means little to them when they are starving.  They continue to sacrifice.  And continue to suffer.  Even if they do produce a few more bushels of grain.  So if the suffering is the same, what is the incentive to work harder?

As individual liberty declines, those in power tend to exploit those they rule.  In the name of the state.  Or the common good.  This is easy to see when it results in famine or revolution.  Not easy to hide those things.  But it is a little more difficult to see when the results are more benign.  Longer unemployment benefits, for example.  I mean, those are pretty nice.  Hard to see the downside in them.  As it is in other benefits these rulers give us.  So we are seduced as they whisper these sweet nothings in our ears.  And soon we willingly cede our liberty.  A little at a time.

WITH THE RISE of individual liberty, there was a corresponding decline in the ruling elite thanks to representative government.  Great Britain gave this gift to us and the United States took it to incredible heights.  The oppressed everywhere immigrated to the United States to feed a growing industrial demand.  Being new, we did not know all the affects of industrialization.  When the bad things came to light, we addressed them.  Great Britain, for example, was one of the first to protect women and children from the worse of industrial society.  Still, working conditions could be harsh.  As could life in the industrial cities.  Poverty.  Filth.  Disease.  And it was the wretched state of life in these slums that gave birth to a new school of thought on industrialization. 

In 1844 Friedrich Engels wrote The Condition of the English Working-Class to expose life in these slums.  He would collaborate 4 years later with Karl Marx on a treatise called The Communist Manifesto.  And from this Marxism, Communism, socialism, collectivism, etc., would follow.  As economic systems go, these would all prove to be failures.  But the essence of them lives on.  State planning.

You see, it was capitalism that gave us the industrial slums.  And that was good propaganda for a ruling elite looking to rule again.  So they whispered sweet nothings into our ears.  They talked about a Social Utopia.  From each according to his ability to each according to his need.  Fair taxation (i.e., only the ‘rich’ pay taxes).  Social safety nets (paid for by taxes of the rich).  Shorter workdays.  Longer paid vacations.  More government benefits.  A burgeoning welfare state.  Free stuff for everyone.  Again, paid for by taxing the rich who have exploited the working class.

What evolved was the elimination of the middle class.  You had the evil rich (and the middle class were, for all intents and purposes, rich because they didn’t need government help) whose wealth the government taxed away.  And the poor.  The poor who the government would now take care of.  If elected.  And they were.  They seduced a great many people with their utopian vision.  Even in the West. 

Great Britain and the United States would fall to this seductress, too, thanks to the Great Depression.  It was capitalism that gave us the Great Depression, after all.  The greed of the money people.  And so these great nations declined from greatness.  They became welfare states, too.  They had short respites during the 1980s.  Margaret Thatcher helped rejuvenate Great Britain.  Ronald Reagan, the United States.  But the ruling elite whispered more sweet nothings in our ears and the decline continues.

In 2010, our appetite for state benefits appears to be insatiable.  And we may have run out of wealth to tax away to pay for it.  California is on the brink of bankruptcy.  New Jersey elected a governor who proposed draconian spending cuts to stave off bankruptcy.  Other ‘blue’ states (i.e., states who vote Democrat) are also in trouble.  Underfunded pension obligations.  Demands of teacher unions.  Of government worker unions.  Everyone is there with their hand out.  None of them are willing to sacrifice for the common good.  No, they expect others to do the sacrificing.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION has increased federal spending to such record levels that Communist China is concerned about our fiscal/monetary policies.  As they should be; they hold a lot of our debt.  The federal government has ‘bailed out’ private industry and taken de facto control.  They have created a healthcare entitlement that will cost more than a trillion dollars.  More spending is coming.  And it is all for the greater good.  They are vilifying those who are not poor, taxing away what wealth they can from them and giving it to the poor.  When about half the electorate doesn’t pay any income taxes, there is little opposition to raising taxes on those who do.  For if the ‘rich’ complain, the government vilifies them.

Where will it all end?  It is difficult to say.  How will it end?  Badly.  We can look at Europe who we seem to be emulating.  They’re further down The Road to Serfdom than we are.  With the excessive government spending, there will have to be greater government revenue (i.e., taxes).  Previous methods of taxation may prove insufficient.  Hello value added tax (VAT).  It’s all the rage in Europe.  It’s a multiple tax.  At every stage of production, government is there.  Taxing.  From the raw materials to the final assembly, government is there at every stage.  Taxing.  VATs will increase government revenue.  But they will also make every day life more expensive.  VATs increase the sales price of everything you buy.  And you pay it again at checkout.  It’s everywhere.  Everything will cost more.  From manicures to lattes to toilet paper to tampons.  And this is a tax everyone pays.  Even the poor.  It is a regressive tax.  The rich will pay more, but the poor will feel it more.  This hidden tax will take a larger portion of what little the poor has.

But how bad can it really get?  In 2010, I guess the answer would be to look at Greece to see what happens when a country can no longer sustain her welfare state.  And the people aren’t all that keen on losing the government benefits they’ve grown accustomed to.  It isn’t pretty.  But when you start down that road (from each according to his ability to each according to his need), the taking and giving always get bigger.  It never gets smaller.  And when you reach a critical point, government just can’t sustain it any longer.  And it crashes.  Like in Greece.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #6: “No one bitched about global warming when it ended the ice ages.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2010

ICE AGES AND glacial movement are complicated.  We know that glaciers exist.  And that they move.  They do so today. 

Scientific study has determined that we have had at least 5 major ice ages.  During these periods the glaciers moved out from the north and south poles.  During the last ice age, they covered many of today’s populated areas.  Most of Canada, Seattle, Chicago, New York, most of Great Britain, northern Europe and Moscow were all under ice at one time.  The ice moved closer to the equator during previous ice ages.  Ice may have covered the entire earth at one time.  Or come close to it.

During the cooling and warming of the earth, glaciers traveled great distances.  Close to 2,000 miles in North America during the last ice age.  And this great movement is cyclical.  It’s happened 5 times already.  And it will most probably happen again.

In front of the glaciers is permafrost (permanently frozen soil).   As the glaciers and permafrost moved forward, life moved away from the cold.  Species died out (the woolly mammoth, the saber-toothed tiger and Neanderthal man, for example).  The advancing ice pushed life towards each other and into conflict as they fought for the increasingly limited food supply.  When the cold receded, life followed, the newly warmed lands able to support life again.

There are various theories about what caused the ice ages and glacial movement.  One thing for certain, though, cold kills.  Warmth, on the other hand, allows life.  Warmth is good.

THE KEY TO civilization is the food supply.  Only when there was a surplus of food did civilization begin.  The surplus of food allowed the division of labor.  Farmers farmed.  Tool makers made tools.  Leaders led.  And soldiers protected the civilization.  None of this happens without a surplus of food.  If you didn’t have to grow food, you could do something else.  And people did.  And they created modern civilization as we know it.

Farming was the quantum leap forward in producing a food surplus.  The first civilizations grew grain and cereal crops in the fertile soil of river valleys.  An arc from the Nile valley up through the eastern Mediterranean, through Lebanon, Syria, and down the fertile river valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris valleys forms the ‘fertile crescent’.   Anchoring the crescent at each end are history’s first civilizations.  Sumer (#1) and Egypt (#2).

Fertile soil and a warm growing season allowed this.  Again, warmth is good.

THE EARTH HAS cooled and warmed.  There are many theories why.  No one can be certain.  But what we can be certain of is that warmth is good.  Cold is bad.  Ice ages are cyclical.  And the glaciers receded further in periods when there was not a single man-made greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

We’re probably 50,000 years or so before the glaciers come back and cover civilizations everywhere.  If man-made greenhouse gases warm the world greater than the natural cooling mechanisms advance the ice, perhaps life will continue.  None of us alive today, though, will have to worry about that.  When the ice comes again, future generations will face that horror.  Until then, let there be warmth.  And life.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAID the sky was falling and there was panic.  And so it is with global warming.  Well, the sky wasn’t falling on Chicken Little.  And it is unlikely that man is causing global warming.  Global warming existed before man created greenhouse gases.  The ‘scientists’ who say the world as we know it will end unless action is taken are more politician than scientist.  Ever wonder why the solution to global warming is the growth of government?  To me, that sounds something like what a politician would say, not a scientist.

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