France discourages Job Creation with a Short Workweek, Confiscatory Tax Rates and Banning Emails after 6 PM

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2014

Week in Review

For socialism to work you need businesses to provide jobs.  Because without people working the government can’t have confiscatory tax rates to fund a massive socialist state.  You’ve got to have jobs.  Which confiscatory tax rates tend to discourage.  For business and rich investors don’t want to pay confiscatory tax rates.  François Hollande ran on a socialist platform in France.  Promising to raise taxes to bring down the deficit.  Which he did.  Raise taxes.  But it didn’t lower an unemployment rate stubbornly staying above 10%.

High taxes and a poor economy caused the socialists to lose elections.  So Hollande is putting together a tax-cutting package.  To reverse their electoral losses.  You’d think the socialists would have learned their lessons that the people want jobs.  And to have jobs you need a business-friendly environment.  Which something like this is not going to help (see France bans work e-mail after 6 p.m. by John Johnson, Newser, posted 4/11/2014 on USA Today).

France already has a 35-hour work week, and a new rule is designed to make sure that it doesn’t start shading toward 40 hours because of work-related e-mail.

The Guardian reports that the rule forbids workers from checking their phones or computers for work stuff after 6 p.m., and it forbids employers from pressuring them to do so.

The move apparently doesn’t affect all workers in France, but it does cover about 1 million workers in the tech industry — including French employees of Google and Facebook…

At Fox Business, a U.S. labor expert finds it hard to believe the IT industry can manage such a draconian shut-off time.

“There’s always something going wrong off the clock — when a computer goes down, it doesn’t go down between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

It’s yet another thing to discourage business.  Things happen after hours.  Can you imagine a business wanting to open themselves to that kind of liability?  Having someone in the company send out an email without checking the clock first?  Or someone working late into the evening to catch up on a project.  Sending out a bunch of emails so people could read them first thing in the morning.  If someone else is working late do they read this email?  Perhaps this person was waiting for this email and would like to address it that evening to reduce his or her workload the following day.  Would this worker have been pressured into reading the email knowing his or her boss would have appreciated the extra effort?

There’s a reason why General Motors (GM) went bankrupt.  Well, there are a few of them.  But one of them was costly workplace rules.  Such as only allowing an electrician to change a light bulb at a work station.  Even if the person at that workstation could have changed that bulb in a couple of minutes.  Instead of waiting an hour or so for skilled trades to come around to unscrew the burnt out lamp and screw in a new lamp.

These little workplace rules add up.  And though seemingly harmless when you look at them one at a time in the aggregate they increase the cost of business.  A lot.  Just ask GM.  Something businesses look at when they are considering the location of a new factory.  Whether to expand production at an existing factory.  Or whether to shut down a factory and move production out of the country to a more business-friendly environment.  Thus killing job creation.  Jobs the socialists need for people to have so they can pay confiscatory taxes on their earnings.

A business unfriendly environment will never lower the unemployment rate.  As the socialists in France have proven.  And left-leaning governments everywhere have proven.  Confiscatory tax rates do not attract businesses.  Or rich investors.  They discourage them.  And encourage them to take their money and invest it elsewhere.  And create jobs elsewhere.  In another country that is a little kinder to business.  And job creation.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

FT217: “If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 11th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep the New Federal Government and Money Apart

Thomas Jefferson did not trust government.  And he didn’t trust moneyed men.  Because when the two come together they cause nothing but trouble.  That’s why he hated and distrusted Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton wanted a strong central government.  A central bank.  And an economic system favoring merchants and bankers.  With big city moneyed men financing the government in return for special favors.

This is why the nation’s capital isn’t in New York City.  It once was.  But one of the first deals the Hamilton and Jefferson camps made was the relocation of the nation’s capital to a mosquito-infested swamp on the Potomac River.  A long, long way from the moneyed men in New York City.  To try to keep the new federal government and money apart.  To restrict the influence of the moneyed men on the government.  And to prevent the government from having easy access to big money.

Why did Jefferson want to do this?  Well, they fought for their independence from Great Britain.  Which was a constitutional monarchy.  Where some in Parliament were no friends of British America.  And got the king to agree with them rather than the pro-British America faction in Parliament.  Ironically, the Americans got help in their War of Independence from France.  Which had an absolute monarchy.  Whose king ruled with no check on his power.  Both governments were in the big cities.  London.  And Paris.  Where the moneyed men were.  In the big cities.  Allowing these monarchies to do a whole lot of mischief all around the world.  And a fair amount of mischief inside their own countries.  Because the money and the government were in the same city.

Government + Money = Corruption

Great Britain and France were forever at war with each other.  And with other countries.  Requiring a lot of money.  Which they got from the moneyed men.  In return for special privileges that allowed them to get ever richer.  Of course the mischief grew greater as they fought a world war or two.  Requiring ever more money.  Which they got from, of course, taxing the rest of the people.  Even those who could little afford it.  And once this starts, once the government starts accumulating debt, that taxation will only get greater.

This is what Jefferson was worried about.  And why he so distrusted Hamilton.  The Founding Fathers were all gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Disinterested public servants.  Honorable men who would never take advantage of their position in government for personal gain.  Because for these men honor was everything.  Some even fought duels to protect their honor.  As Hamilton did.  And died.  Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay and Franklin were men of exceptional integrity.  Men who could be trusted.  But here is where Hamilton and Jefferson differed.  Hamilton believed only men like them would ever enter government.  While Jefferson believed that government service would one day attract mostly scoundrels and knaves.

Of course, Jefferson was right.  For as the nation grew so did the size of government.  And the need for great big piles of money.  Which the moneyed men provided.  In exchange for special privileges.  Patronage.  Lucrative government contracts.  Etc.  Big piles of money flowed into Washington.  And favors flowed out from Washington.  With many a politician getting rich in the process of getting rich moneyed men richer.  Politicians who used their position in government for personal gain.  Corrupted politicians.  As government + money = corruption.  Which is why politicians always leave office richer than when they entered office.

Power + Corruption = Tyranny

This is how it started.  As the size of government grew corruption grew.  Just as Jefferson feared.  All that money flowing into Washington corrupted ever more politicians.  Who were not gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  But the scoundrels and knaves Jefferson knew would come.  Who used their position in government for personal gain.  Whose corruption grew so great it exploded federal spending.  So great that taxes from the moneyed men AND the middle class were unable to fund it.  So the taxation grew more aggressive.

The government created by the Founding Fathers had no income taxes.  They funded the few things the new national government did with tariffs for the most part.  People lived from day to day without any fear of the taxman.  The United States even did away with debtors’ prison.  Prison where people were sent who could not pay their debts.  A relic of the 19th century.  Sort of.  For there is one debt people can still go to prison for not paying.  Past-due taxes.  For the IRS can take everything you have and imprison you if you don’t pay your taxes.  And those taxes have grown great as of late.  As the tax code has grown convoluted.  Requiring businesses to hire armies of accountants and lawyers to comply with.  So the government can help the moneyed men who help the government.  In return for special privileges, of course.  Leaving the masses dreading April 15.  As they dread opening any letter from the IRS.

If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.  People fear the IRS.  Just as people feared the arbitrary power of an absolute monarchy.  A king could take your property and lock you away.  Just like the IRS.  And if you spoke out against the monarchy the king could make your life really unpleasant.  Just like the IRS.  During the 2012 election the IRS targeted conservative political groups to stifle their free speech.  Delayed their tax-exempt status approval.  And harassed them with costly tax audits.  And now their tyranny has extended to people in the middle class.  Who unbeknownst to them had a family member owe the federal government.  Years earlier.  Even a generation earlier.  And the IRS is arbitrarily seizing the tax refunds from these debtors’ distant relatives to pay these debts.  Even though they are in no way responsible for these debts.  And the government has no documentation for this debt.  Doesn’t matter.  Because they have the power to do this.  And these people are powerless to stop them.  Just like people living under an absolute monarchy were powerless to stop their king from doing anything to them.  And this is what Jefferson feared.  For after corruption comes tyranny.  For power + corruption = tyranny.  (Just look at every tin-pot dictator that has oppressed his people).  Which is why people fear the IRS.  And the federal government the IRS is beholden to.  Because they have become everything Jefferson feared they would.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The First, Second and Third Reich

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2014

History 101

The Holy Roman Empire was the First German Reich

At the height of the Roman Empire the Mediterranean Sea was a Roman Lake.  For the Romans controlled all the land around the Mediterranean Sea.  As the Roman Empire controlled most of the civilized world.  From Africa to Britain.  From Spain to the Middle East.  And its presence in Europe would shape Europe and the world we know today.  But before the Romans could shape our world the barbarians had to destroy theirs.

The northern frontier of the Roman Empire ran along the Rhine and Danube rivers.  West of the Rhine and south of the Danube was the civilized Roman Empire.  On the other side of those rivers were the Ostrogoths, the Visogoths and the Vandals.  Barbarians.  Germanic people.  Who would sweep down (along with the Huns from Central Asia) and conquer the Western Roman Empire.  With a Germanic chieftain, Odoacer, deposing the last Roman emperor in the West.  Romulus Augustus.

After about 3 centuries Charlemagne, King of the Franks (Germanic tribes in and around modern day France), would unify Western Europe.  In a Christian kingdom.  Pleasing Pope Leo III.  Who went on to crown Charlemagne emperor of the Roman Empire.  But after he died his empire broke apart.  Meanwhile to the east Otto I was unifying the Germanic tribes into a single kingdom.  A German empire that stretched from northern Italy to the North and Baltic seas.  Encompassing a huge swathe of Central Europe (including but not limited to modern day Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France (eastern lands), Italy and Poland).  A Christian empire.  Pleasing Pope John XII.  Who crowned Otto emperor.  And the First Reich (the first German empire) became the Holy Roman Empire.

Winning the Franco-Prussian War ushered in the Second German Reich

The First Reich would last for about 850 years.  Coming to an end in 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated after fighting and losing to Napoleon.  Who reorganize it into the German Confederation.  And reduced the First Reich to a French satellite.  Up until this time there were two large powers in the Reich vying for power.  Austria in the south.  And Prussia in the north.  Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian.  And Prussia was a militaristic nation.  That believed less in diplomacy and more in power.  And Bismarck would use force to unite the German states into a Prussian-dominated Germany.  While getting rid of its rival.  Austria.

War followed.  The Austro-Prussian War (1866) ended the German Confederation.  Prussia replaced the German Confederation with North German Confederation that excluded Austria.  This confederation included much of the northern lands of the First Reich.  To sooth the feelings between the north (led by Prussia) and the south (led by Austria) Bismarck made the French declare war on Prussia.  And when they did the southern German states sided with Prussia.  The Prussians and Germans moved quickly into northern France.  And after a long siege of Paris the Germans won the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).  They took back a lot of lands lost to France.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  Much to the chagrin of the French.  And unified the German states into a German Empire.  The Second Reich.

The German Empire industrialized.  Greatly increasing its economic and military might.  Shifting the balance of power in Europe.  Germany was now the most powerful nation in Europe.  Which concerned the other powers of Europe.  So they began to enter treaties with each other.  Such that if Germany attacked one nation another nation (or nations) would declare war on Germany.  To provide a deterrent against German aggression.  And rebalance the balance of power in Europe.  But then Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, traveled to Sarajevo.  Where Gavrilo Princip assassinated him.  Pushing the first domino in a sting of dominos to fall as all of Europe honored their treaties.

The Third Reich was the Largest and Shortest-Lived German Reich

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia.  In support of Austria-Hungary Germany invaded Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to France.  Causing the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany.  In support of Serbia Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary.  Allying with France and the United Kingdom.  The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia.  Then nation after nation joined a side and entered the war.  Even the United States.  By the time it was all over some 16 million people were dead.  As were the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German empires.  The map of Europe changed.  And the Second Reich was over.  Having lasted 47 years.  Large chunks of the Second Reich were taken away.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And much of Prussia.  Which was restored to Poland.  Which infuriated a lot of Germans.  Especially one German war veteran in particular.  A corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

World War I ended in an armistice.  Meaning that no one surrendered.  But the American entry into the war pretty much meant that the Germans were going to lose.  All the nations had long grown weary of the war.  But here was a fresh nation that could field fresh troops against Germany.  Which was exhausted.  It had nothing left.  Which gave the Allies the upper hand in the peace that followed.  And it was a bitter peace for the Germans.  Who were singled out as the sole responsible party for the war.  Well, one thing led to another and Adolf Hitler inaugurated the Third Reich.  And he set about retrieving all that lost German territory.  He annexed Austria.  The Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Then he took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  A country that conveniently ran along the southern border of Poland.  And then he kicked off World War II.

The Third Reich invaded Poland.  Norway.  The Low Countries.  France.  And the Soviet Union (the former Russian Empire).  Reclaiming all lost German lands.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And unifying them once again.  Even adding on to them.  Through the use of force.  The Prussian way.  The Third Reich was the largest German Reich yet.  But it was the shortest lived Reich.  Lasting only 12 years.  By the time World War II was over some 70 million people were dead.  Making the Third Reich the bloodiest Reich.  The Allies helped to rebuild West Germany (East Germany was behind the Iron Curtain) to keep her out of the Soviet Sphere.  To give it a thriving free market economy.  And prosperity.  By providing full employment.  Which also helped to prevent gangs of unemployed young men from getting nationalistic fervor.  Again.  West Germany integrated into the west.  Away from the Soviets.  And away from her Prussian past.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained
until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Christianity gave us the United States and made the World a Better Place

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2013

History 101

The Pope kept European Rulers from Oppressing their People lest they get Excommunicated from the Church

In 39 AD the Romans crucified Jesus of Nazareth.  Because they said he called himself the King of the Jews.  Or rather those with political power who felt threatened by Jesus’ popularity said this.  His death was to protect power and privilege of those who had it.  Ultimately, though, His death would do more to destroy power and privilege.  For the Golden Rule allowed people to live together in peace.  To build communities.  And to help one another.

Emperor Diocletian split up the vast Roman Empire into four parts.  The tetrarchy.  The rulership by four.  Each of the four parts had its own emperor.  When Diocletian stepped down from power those emperors began vying for power.  By 312 two emperors were in open war with each other.  Constantine.  And Maxentius.  On October 28, 312, they met in battle near the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber.  On the eve of battle Constantine had a vision.  The Christian God would help him win the upcoming battle if he placed the Christian symbol on his soldiers’ shields (accounts differ it was either the Chi-Rho sign or the Latin cross).  He did.  He won.  And became Constantine the Great.  Sole ruler of the Roman Empire.  And because of his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge he began his conversion to Christianity.  Making the Roman Empire Christian.

Christianity spread throughout and united Europe.  And the Pope kept European rulers from oppressing their people.  Lest they get excommunicated from the Church.  In time, though, some resented rule from Rome.  In particular when Pope Leo X sold indulgences (a way to help purify one from sin) to fund the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  This was one of many problems that had many calling for a reform of the Church.  One in particular, Martin Luther, published his The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.  Kicking off the Protestant Reformation.

Plymouth Colony succeeded when Communal Property became Private Property

Henry VIII, King of England, was a good Catholic.  But his wife wasn’t giving him any sons.  And he wanted a male heir.  So he asked the Pope for an annulment from his wife.  Catherine.  So he could marry Anne Boleyn.  The Pope refused.  So Henry left the Catholic Church.  And initiated the English Reformation.  Making England Protestant.  England would swing back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism without being either but something in between.  Making a group of Protestants very unhappy.  As they felt the English Reformation did not go far enough.  A group referred to derisively as Puritans.  They were so hated that they were being persecuted along with the Catholics.  So they left England.  Landing in the Netherlands first.  Then they sailed across the Atlantic.  They sighted land on November 9, 1620.  They eventually came ashore and established Plymouth Colony.

About half of Plymouth Colony died within the first few years.  From disease.  And hunger.  The economic system they were using was killing them.  Communal property.  Everything the colonists produced belonged to everyone.  People produced according to their ability and took from the common store according to their needs.  A sort of Marxism.  Before there was even a Karl Marx.  To save the colony Governor William Bradford abandoned the idea of communal property in 1623.  Communal property became private property.  And the colony was saved.  As people worked twice as hard to produce more on their land than they did on communal land.  And because they did they replaced famines with bumper crops.  So instead of dying off the American colonies became the prosperous New World.

The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) came to the New World.  By the time it ended Catholic France lost its North American possessions to Protestant Great Britain.  To pay off the enormous debt of that war Parliament decided to tax their British American colonists.  Who made out very well in the conflict without the costs the British incurred.  But they did this without discussing it with the colonists.  Treating them as second-class citizens in the British Empire.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  Which led to anger over taxation without representation.  Leading to the Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773).  Which led to the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act (1774-1775).  Which led to the shot heard ’round the world.  The Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).  Which ultimately led to July 2, 1776.  When the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.  After a few revisions it was formally passed 2 days later.  On July 4, 1776.  Known forever after as Independence Day in the United States.

In the United States your Last Name does not Determine the Quality of your Life

The American Revolutionary War did not start out well.  As the British pushed them back with little effort.  Until Benedict Arnold (future traitor) did some superb soldiering.  Impeding the advance of General Burgoyne.  The Americans met him in battle for the last time on October 7, 1777.  On the second day of fighting in the Battle of Saratoga.  And won.  Forcing an army in the mightiest empire in the world to surrender.  Shocking the world.  And getting the French to take notice.  Who then entered the American War of Independence.  The turning point of the war.  And world history.  For France was anxious to get back what they had lost to the British.  As was Spain.  Who joined the conflict as France’s ally.  Turning the American War of Independence into a world war.  And a war of attrition.  As their new foes forced them to send British forces all around the globe.  Leaving fewer to fight in North America.  With a British public growing weary of the war in North America.

America won.  Eventually.  Taking 8 years until the Treaty of Paris officially ended the conflict (September 3, 1783).  And peace and prosperity followed.  Thanks in large part to Jay’s Treaty (ratified by the Senate in November 1794).  Which improved relations between Great Britain and the new United States of America.  And began a Special Relationship between two nations of a common people, culture, religion and tradition.  When the treaty expired there was a minor hiccup in that Special Relationship that resulted in war.  The War of 1812 (1812-1815).  But peace and prosperity soon resumed.  With the South having a larger say in the national direction thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise in the United States Constitution (1787).  Giving the South greater representation in the House of Representatives as they counted 3/5 of each slave to determine their number of representatives.  As the North industrialized and immigration filled their factories and swelled her population the South was losing that larger say.  One thing led to another that eventually resulted in the American Civil War (1861-1865).

The agrarian South had more in common with feudal England than they did with the industrial North.  Rich landowners (the planter elite) comprised an aristocracy that controlled politics.  While peasants/slaves worked the land.  The South was holding onto the Old World.  Where there was power and privilege.  While the North was building the New World.  Though the South talked about states’ rights they used the power of the federal government wherever they could.  Such as the Fugitive Slave Act (1850).  When war broke out the South won most battles.  Until General Grant started his great advance down the Mississippi River.  With the Vicksburg Campaign (May 18 – July 4, 1863) culminating in the capture of Vicksburg.  And control of the Mississippi River.  Severing the Confederacy into two.  Pretty much guaranteeing a Union victory.  It was just a matter of time.  In the east the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) also ended in a Union victory.  President Lincoln went to the Gettysburg battlefield for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery there.  Where he gave his Gettysburg’s Address (November 19, 1863).  Which ended with “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  And so far it hasn’t.  Remaining that shining city upon a hill.  The destination of people everywhere yearning liberty.  And a better life.  Where all men are created equal.  And your last name does not determine the quality of your life.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Little Ice Age, Protestant Reformation, Louis XIV, Enlightenment, Seven Years’ War, American Revolution and French Revolution

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 28th, 2013

Politics 101

(Originally published August 30th, 2012)

King Louis XIV remained Catholic as Protestantism was Breaking Out in Europe and Britain

It’s been awhile since the last ice age.  In fact the last time we had a real ice age predated the first civilizations.  We still wore animal skins and hunted and gathered our food.  Long before we first farmed.  But it would get cool again.  Shortly after the Black Death (during the 1300s) it did get unseasonably cool.  So cool that we now call it the Little Ice Age (from 1350 to 1850 or thereabouts).  The glaciers didn’t cover Europe.  But it was cold.  And wet.  The spring took forever to change into summer.  While summer was quick to turn into fall.  Which led to short growing seasons.  Poor harvests.  Hunger.  And famine.

Martin Luther was no fan of the Pope.  Especially because of the indulgences he was selling.  A shortcut to heaven.  For those with money.  Which is what the Pope wanted.  Money.  For he was doing some costly renovations in Rome.  So in 1517 Martin Luther nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door demanding reform.  And kicking off the Protestant Reformation.  Well, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in reform.  So Luther set up a new church.  With a new religion.  Protestantism.  A more plain religion.  With masses in the common language of the people.  Instead of Latin.  And no fancy things in the church.  No altars.  No stain glass.  No icons.  Just the word of God.  With over a thousand years of Catholicism already under their belt, though, a lot of people took offense to this.  And their offense offended the new Protestants.  So they went to war with each other for a few centuries or so over their religious differences.

King Louis XIV was one of the great French monarchs.  Under his rule France was the dominant European power.  The Sun King believed in the divine right of kings.  Absolute monarchism.  Doing pretty much as he pleased.  Which included a few wars.  And growing an empire with oversea colonies.  It cost a pretty penny.  And a lot of lives.  Louis remained Catholic as Protestantism was breaking out in Europe.  And in England.  For a couple hundred years or so England and France were bitter enemies.  Contesting colonial lands throughout the globe.  And defending the true faith.  Catholicism.  Or Protestantism.  The Catholic-Protestant battle lines stretched across Europe.  And to distant lands across the globe.  Including the New World.  Where they would both spend fortunes in waging war.

For the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, gave the French Voltaire.  One of the great Enlightenment philosophers.  When Benjamin Franklin was in France the French were eager to bring two of the world’s greatest Enlightenment philosophers together.  And did.  The French also gave us the great Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.  The greatest influence on the Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.  So there was some great thinking percolating in France.  Thoughts that focused on science and reason.  Not tradition and faith.  Even questioning some long-held beliefs about the Catholic Church, the aristocracy and the absolute monarchy.

Louis XIV built a great French empire.  The French seemed invincible.  Until Louis XV took over.  Who lost the Seven Years’ War to the British.  And saw French North America become British.  (And the Louisiana Territory go to Spain.)  That was tough having their eternal foe humiliate them.  The Protestant British.  It was a blow to French pride.  French commerce.  And French finances.  The near-perpetual state of war that had existed between Britain and France had cost both nations a lot of money.  The British decided to recoup some of that money by taxing their American colonies.  Which didn’t go over well with the Americans.  For unlike France the British had a constitutional monarchy.  Where the Parliament restricted the king’s powers.  That great institute of the people.  Which the Americans had no representation in.  Leading to their rebellion.  Because they didn’t like being treated like second-class subjects of the British Empire.  Which brought about the American Revolutionary War.

After the Americans defeated a British army at the Battle of Saratoga the French joined the Americans in their fight for independence from the oppression of a constitutional monarchy.  Which seemed rather odd being that the French at this time was still an absolute monarchy (though now ruled by Louis XVI).  Which was far more oppressive than the constitutional variety.  But for the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans.  It had to do with French interests.  It was a chance to strike back at their eternal enemy.  The Protestant British.  And more importantly, when they won they could get back all their colonies they lost in the Seven Years’ War.

The French were Intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment Ideals and the American Win over an Oppressive Monarchy

The Americans won their independence.  But the French didn’t get anything they wanted.  All they got was a lot of debt.  To add to the enormous pile of debt they already had.  One of the French conditions for their alliance was that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British.  Which is what the Americans did.  Why?  Because the French and the Spanish were conspiring against the Americans during the peace talks.  So they could expand their holdings in North America at the expense of the British and the Americans.  The French were even willing to trade American Independence away.  The British, who would rather have Americans on their former lands than the French or Spanish, made a separate peace with the Americans.

This act of diplomacy stunned the French.  For they had assurances from the American Congress that they would take the lead in the peace talks.  The Americans double-crossed them before they could double-cross the Americans.  This wasn’t supposed to happen in the world of European diplomacy.  Especially with rubes like the Americans.  But it did.  And the French were now in a world of hurt.  Broke.  And facing bankruptcy.  Desperately needing new tax revenue King Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables.  The nobility and clergy.  But they didn’t want to pay any more taxes.  So the king called the Estates-General of 1789.  Which included the clergy, the nobility and everyone else (i.e., the Third Estate).

Meanwhile there was widespread hunger and malnutrition.  Poor grain harvests (in part due to the Little Ice Age) pushed the price of bread out of reach for many.  People were cold, hungry and poor.  In the Third Estate, that is.  For though they may have been suffering they saw that the nobility and the Catholic clergy were not.  In fact, they were living rather well.  Which inflamed the masses.  Who became intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment ideals.  And that American victory over an oppressive monarchy.  It got the people thinking.  That they didn’t need a nobility any more.  The Catholic Church.  Or a king.  And the people would get rid of these things.  For awhile, at least.  With something called the French Revolution.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Even the French feel they are Taxed too Much

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 28th, 2013

Week in Review

President Obama is sick and tired of the Republicans, conservatives and the people who don’t give him everything he wants.   The fiscal year ends Monday so he has to fight with the Republican controlled House of Representatives to get them to pay for his increased spending.  And because he’s spending so much we have to raise the debt limit again so we can borrow the money to pay for his out of control spending.  How he wished the United States was more like France.  They don’t have these problems.  Why, the French will even elect a socialist president.  While President Obama has to veil his contempt for capitalism France can just tax and tax and then tax again.  And no one bitches about high taxes.  Well, that may be changing (see Why do the French tolerate such high taxes? by S.P. posted 9/24/2013 on The Economist).

The government is planning an extra €3 billion ($4 billion) of taxes next year, which will push up the overall tax take in the economy to 46.5% and make 2014 the fifth consecutive year that the tax burden in France has grown. François Hollande, the Socialist president, was elected last year on a promise to tax the rich, with a scheme for a top income-tax rate of 75%. But the tax bill is now wearing holes in the pockets of not just the rich but the rest, too. Why do the French put up with paying so much tax..?

Historically, the French have tolerated high taxes as the price of decent public services and a proper universal safety-net. All those fast trains, first-rate hospitals and public crèches do not come for nothing, and the French are the first to defend a way of life subsidised by the public purse that can often only be bought privately in Britain or America. Moreover, the French make a firm distinction between taxes and social-insurance contributions. Only half of households have to pay income tax, but everybody pays social charges… Indeed, the longstanding tolerance for taxes has underpinned the solidity of French sovereign debt, since it is a fair bet that France’s government can efficiently collect the taxes it needs…

This social contract, however, could be on the verge of breaking down. Over the past year, as taxes on beer and cigarettes have risen, tax-free overtime abolished, tax deductions squeezed and tax-band thresholds frozen, even the French have started to grumble. Polls suggest that tax increases have become the top worry among voters, and chief reason for Mr Hollande’s calamitous popularity ratings. The sharp rise in taxes, which began under Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president, as part of an effort to reduce the government’s budget deficit, is all the more resented at a time when the French are no longer convinced that their public services—underperforming state schools, overcrowded commuter trains—are so much better than those that cost less in other countries. What is the point of paying Swedish-style taxes (or more) if you do not receive Scandinavian-style public services in return?

The new mood has not passed the politicians by. Mr Moscovici acknowledged recently that the French are “fed up” with taxes. Mr Hollande even conceded in a television interview that tax increases have been “too much”. Most of the effort to reduce the budget deficit in 2014 will now fall not on tax increases but public-spending cuts. Mr Hollande has promised a “tax pause”, which will be part of the message in the 2014 budget.

Yes, even the French are tiring of constantly rising taxes.  Especially when they keep paying more for less.  Which is what happens with socialism.  High taxes are a disincentive.  When you have “decent public services and a proper universal safety-net” it takes away a person’s ambition to do more and achieve more.  They may want to.  But if half of their income from this extra effort goes to taxes why put in any extra effort?  After all, there are already “decent public services and a proper universal safety-net” available.  Why work twice as hard to have virtually the same things?

This is the price of the welfare state.  It makes people less willing to take risks.  To start a business.  To create something new that everyone will want to have.  Socialism kills the entrepreneurial spirit.  And stalls the engine of job creation.  With all those small businesses going uncreated huge amounts of wealth goes uncreated.  Wealth that they can never tax.  Tax revenue doesn’t grow to keep up with the growth in spending.  So they increase tax rates.  And find other ways to make people pay more taxes.  While the quality of services fall.  Just like they are in France.  Just as they are in the United States.

And they will only get worse in the United States with the addition of Obamacare.  Which will explode the deficit while throwing the country back into recession.  With a corresponding fall in tax revenue the government will look for other ways to make people pay more taxes.  It’s happening in France.  As it has happened in every other socialist country.  And will happen in the United States.  Because of President Obama’s veiled contempt of capitalism.  The kind of contempt for capitalism shown by socialist President François Hollande.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Kerry insults Britain because the House of Commons said ‘No’ to Military Action in Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2013

Week in Review

There is a special relationship between Britain and the United States.  The first Americans were British.  As the American colonies were part of the British Empire.  The American colonists fought alongside British regulars against the French and Indians during the Seven Years’ War.  The cost of that war and the subsequent taxation to pay for it created a bit of a falling out between the British and the Americans.  In a little thing we call the American Revolution.  After that falling out, though, we resumed our special relationship with our former masters.  Who was our major trade partner.  Not France.  Who helped us in the American Revolution.  Why?  Because Britain’s Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And had a vast empire to trade with.

The French were inspired so much by our revolution that they had one of their own.  The French Revolution.  And unlike the American Revolution the French Revolution was rather vengeful.  With French citizens killing other French citizens.  Including their king and queen.  Which just appalled President Washington.  Then the French started waging war with her neighbors.  Including their eternal foe.  Britain.  The Americans remained neutral in the conflict.  But their neutrality favored the British.  As America’s economic future was tied more closely to the British than the French.  Something that irked the French in charge of France at the time.  The same people that killed King Louis XVI.  The head of France that helped the Americans in their revolution.

Then the Franco-American relations soured.  Citizen Genêt came to the U.S.  The new French ambassador.  To encourage the Americans to support France in their wars against Britain and Spain.  Recruiting American privateers to attack British shipping.  Even basing these operations out of American ports.  Bringing captured British vessels to American ports.  And he recruited a militia to march on the Spanish in Florida.  Infuriating President Washington.  It even got the ever-quarreling Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to agree on something.  The danger Citizen Genêt was placing the Americans in.  Risking war with the British Empire.  So they asked for his recall.  Which the French did.  But because that probably meant the guillotine Genêt asked for asylum in America and got it.  Living out his days as an American.

Then there was the XYZ Affair.  The British and the French were interdicting trade of the other with neutral powers.   Including the Americans.  The Jay Treaty eased tensions between Britain and America.  But it angered the French.  Who stepped up their attacks on American shipping.  Hoping to avoid war with France President Adams sent a diplomatic mission to France.  But the French said before the Americans could enter any negotiations they first had to pay a bribe.  And agree to a loan.  The Americans refused and left.  When word reached America there was outrage.  Congress even annulled the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.  The treaty that brought the French into the American Revolution.  And promised America military support if the British ever attacked the French.  People wanted to go to war with France.  But eventually they reached an agreement and avoided said war.

So the Franco-American alliance was tenuous at best.  And short-lived.  The French entered into it not to help the Americans succeed in their lofty idealism.  Of life without a king.  For France was an absolute monarchy.  And the last thing an absolute monarchy wants is to fill their people’s heads with silly notions of liberty.  Because that could lead to things like the French Revolution.  No.  The French allied with the Americans to regain territory they lost to the British.  Which they lost a lot of at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.  Which the Americans helped them lose.  No doubt weighing heavily on their minds.  As during the peace negotiations they tried to strike a deal with the British to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  Thankfully, for the Americans, Benjamin Franklin was in Paris during the peace negotiations.  And made a more favorable peace for the Americans.  To France’s dismay.  Which no doubt led to the tenuous Franco-American relations following the French Revolution.

So this is America’s history.  A history that is based in friendship and amity between the British and the Americans.  Apart from that small episode called the American Revolution.  While King Louis XVI did help America win her independence from Britain France’s motive for their support was to take large chunks of North America back.  Even at the expense of the Americans.  We had a brief alliance during the Revolutionary War with France.  But the Americans have prospered because of the special relationship with Britain.  Two people that share a language, a history, a culture, a legal system and a form of government (representative government).  So what does the current American administration do to our BFF?  This (see Syria: John Kerry slaps Britain in face as he calls France ‘oldest allies’ by Peter Foster posted 8/30/2013 on The Telegraph).

John Kerry administered a diplomatic slap in the face to Britain following David Cameron’s withdrawal of military support for intervention in Syria, omitting the UK from a long list of ‘friends’ prepared to support US actions against the Assad regime.

The diplomatic smart was made worse by Mr Kerry’s pointed reference to the French as “our oldest ally” – a reference that dates back to France’s role supporting America against Britain in the American Revolutionary War that began in 1776…

He then listed the Obama administration’s supporters, including the Arab League, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, the Turks, Australians and the French. Britain, however, was conspicuous by its absence from that list…

“Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”

What is it with this administration and the British?  First President Obama returns a bust of Winston Churchill to the British embassy.  And now this slap in the face.  One would get the impression that they don’t like the British.  Perhaps it’s because of Britain’s support in the Iraq War.  Or that John Kerry can speak French.  And is a Francophile at heart.  But as the U.S. Secretary of State he should not spurn our BFF.

America and France are great friends.  But Britain and America are greater friends.  Because of the special relationship.  Insulting them is not stately.  It’s just impudent and impertinent.  Things a secretary of state should just not be.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

France tried the President Obama Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction only to see it Fail

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2013

Week in Review

All we heard during the debt ceiling debate and the sequester debate from President Obama is that we must have a balanced approach.  Tax hikes now.  And spending cuts later.  Which, of course, means no spending cuts.  Ever.  For why would they cut spending after they got their tax hikes?  Too many Republicans got snookered by past Democrats on that false promise.

President Obama assures us that if we raise tax rates it will solve all of our problems.  But if we cut spending that’s just stupid.  Because government spending creates economic activity.  According to the Keynesian economics playbook, at least.  And President Obama is a Keynesian.  In fact, he’s so much a Keynesian that some would even call him a socialist.  But Keynesian economics hasn’t worked in America.  It didn’t work in the 1970s.  It gave us a dot-com bubble in the 1990s.  And the beginning of the real estate bubble that burst into the subprime mortgage crisis in the 2000s.  So we’ve tried Keynesian economics and it doesn’t work.  And, as it turns out, Keynesian economics that borders on outright socialism doesn’t work either (see France signals shift to tax cuts in boost to business by AFP posted 9/1/2013 on France 24).

France’s Socialist government is hinting it may appease discontent at tax rises by putting more stress on spending cuts in its fight to control the budget and boost growth…

France has so far relied on tax hikes for about two-thirds of its fiscal adjustment. Most famously it hiked the tax rate to 75 percent on income above 1 million euros.

The reliance on tax hikes has also prompted warnings from the IMF and European Commission that it should focus more on cutting spending in order to avoid snuffing out the recovery…

France’s social welfare system is funded primarily by charges on labour, burdening businesses…

A threat to nationalise a French plant owned by steel giant Arcelor Mittal to protect jobs raised concerns among foreign businesses…

The latest purchasing managers surveys by Markit found that while business activity is picking up in the eurozone overall, it contracted at a faster rate in France this month.

Francois Hollande has been president since May 15, 2012.  That’s about one year and three months.  And in that time his socialist government raised taxes.  But barely cut spending.  Just as President Obama wants to do to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.  Despite the fact that it doesn’t work.  As France has proven.

The U.S. doesn’t have to try the President Obama way.  The balanced approach.  AKA, the all tax and no spending-cut approach.  Because France has tried it in a grand way only to see it fail.  It failed so badly that they’re talking about outright socialism.  Nationalizing industry.  Because the economic climate is so anti-business in France that there is no job creation.  Because there is no business growth.  Worse, the French economy is contracting.  That’s right, while the rest of the Eurozone is seeing growth France’s economy is going deeper into recession.  Because they’re doing what President Obama wants to do in the U.S.

It’s time we purge Keynesian economics from our governments for good.  It is the source of all the great financial problems countries are having all around the world.  All it does is empower those in power.  Elevating them to elite positions.  Where they enjoy a life of plenty and extreme comfort.  While their people struggle to provide for their families.  It’s time that we return to classical economics.  Save our money and live frugally.  Creating private investment capital from our savings via a sound banking system.  Where bankers practice good lending practices without governments passing their risks onto the taxpayers.  Which is what gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.  And the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Finally, governments have to spend less.  So we can cut tax rates.  Providing the spark to ignite private investment.  Which drives business expansion.  And creates jobs.  Which is what people want.  So they can provide for their families.  Not more benefits that the government can’t pay for.  No matter how high the government taxes them.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries