An Obituary

To Norman Macrae:

Norman’s early experiences did not just sour him to politicians. They soured him to collectivism in all its many varieties. He had no time for the government-worshipping intellectuals he found when he studied economics at Cambridge in 1945-47. He loathed the feminists and black-power activists he came across in America in the late 1960s and 1970s, smelling in their affection for group rights and their willingness to use intimidation the same intolerance he had smelt in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. He took his children on trips to eastern Europe in order to teach them the difference between freedom and tyranny. He seldom missed an opportunity to champion the “hard hats” over the “soft heads”.

Norman’s case for market capitalism did not rest merely on its ability to create wealth, but on its capacity to advance individual freedom. He was almost as critical of big-company capitalism as he was of big-government socialism. In a 1976 survey on “The coming entrepreneurial revolution” he argued that big business was as doomed as big government. Hierarchical managers sitting in their skyscrapers could no longer arrange how brain workers should best use their imaginations. The future lay with small firms that could exploit individual creativity and with bigger firms that could split themselves into small centres and encourage competition between them.

Norman’s critique of the welfare state was inspired by a similar belief in individualism. He pointed out that the market had produced a remarkable equalisation in people’s lives. Rich and poor had access to the same consumer goods—the same television programmes, the same comfortable armchairs, the same plethora of goods in supermarkets, which were spreading from the suburbs to the slums. In 1945 the average Englishman had only one pair of trousers; in the swinging 1960s he had access not only to lots of pairs of (tight) trousers but also to holidays in the sun and cheap mortgages.

I think that The Economist has gone downhill considerably since he left it.

Their Finest Hour

While it’s the seventieth anniversary of the fall of France, it’s also the seventieth (related) anniversary of one of (if not the best) Churchill’s finest speeches:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Sadly, it may have been. It’s certainly been downhill since the end of the war.

Dunkirk Evacuation Delayed For Safety

June 1, 1940

DOVER (Routers) The evacuation of British and French troops from the besieged French city of Dunkirk was halted today, over concerns that many of the private vessels that had been deployed for the task were unsafe for troop transport.

Government officials ordered all soldiers to hold their places on the harbour waterfront and beaches, and those in the water were told to hold up boarding as well, until the various fishing and pleasure vessels could be inspected by the Home Guard, to ensure that there were sufficient life vests, fire extinguishers and other safety devices on each one. Each boat will also have to be tested for leaks before it will be deemed safe for the passage across the Channel.

“We can’t risk our soldiers’ lives on these cheap boats,” explained one official. “The Germans are firing on our ships, and we’ve already lost six destroyers to submarines and aerial bombardments, three of them just today. If all those non-military boats don’t have the proper safety gear, they won’t stand a chance,” he shouted over the din of incoming mortar fire from German troops only two miles away.

Many of the troops agreed. One of them, standing chest deep in the surf, holding his weapon out of the water, said “The Home Guard always knows best, that’s what I always say.” Ducking down at the sound of a nearby artillery shell hitting the beach, he came back up for air. “We can’t be expected to risk our lives on those floating death traps. The colonel said that some of those fishing boats have exposed hooks on the deck. We could stab ourselves something nasty if they go through our boots. And look at that rickety dinghy there. We’d probably spend half the trip to old Blighty bailing it. And think of the splinter danger.”

In response to concerns that the troops might be in danger if they remained much longer, the notion was pooh poohed. “Jerry knows how dangerous those boats are. That’s probably why they’ve held up on the final assault. It will only be a couple more weeks until we can get a shipment of life preservers and fire extinguishers in from Southampton. Nothing comes before the safety of our troops.”

[Copyright 2010 by Rand Simberg]

The Lesson Of McCain-Feingold

Some thoughts on the NRA and the DISCLOSE Act (which looks like it may be dying or dead, thankfully):

The lesson of McCain-Feingold fight is that if you see legislation that fundamentally violates constitutional rights, kill it. Do not try to minimize the damage. Do not try to get the best deal you can. Do not count on even a John Roberts-led court to do the unpopular work and strike it down. Do not count on any other part of our political or judicial system to step in. Do not collect “Go” or pass 200 dollars. Kill it, kill it, kill it before it can put down roots.

Because we have a governing class that literally “doesn’t care” about the Constitution. As far as they’re concerned, the Commerce Clause ensures that Congress can pass any idea that pops into its members’ heads if the votes are there. Ben Stein tells how the White House press office told him that no enumerated power in the Constitution or federal law was required for Obama to fire the head of GM. This crew thinks that the Constitution ensure the government’s right to require citizens to purchase health insurance. As Charles Kesler noted, “TARP, for example, was an unprecedented delegation of legislative power to the Treasury secretary, of all people. It was a desperate, essentially lawless grant resembling the ancient Roman dictatorship, except that the Romans wisely confined their dictators to six-month terms.”

Up against a crew like this, for whom the Constitution is a dusty museum relic, you don’t take the best deal available.

As I’ve often said, I think that George Bush should have been impeached for signing McCain-Feingold. In doing so, he blatantly violated his oath of office.

Very Bad News

If this guy is right:

Over the next 2 months the mechanical situation also cannot improve, it can only get worse, getting better is an impossibility. While they may make some gains on collecting the leaked oil, the structural situation cannot heal itself. It will continue to erode and flow out more oil and eventually the inevitable collapse which cannot be stopped will happen. It is only a simple matter of who can “get there first”…us or the well.

We can only hope the race against that eventuality is one we can win, but my assessment I am sad to say is that we will not.

The system will collapse or fail substantially before we reach the finish line ahead of the well and the worst is yet to come.

Sorry to bring you that news, I know it is grim, but that is the way I see it….I sincerely hope I am wrong.

We need to prepare for the possibility of this blow out sending more oil into the gulf per week then what we already have now, because that is what a collapse of the system will cause. All the collection efforts that have captured oil will be erased in short order. The magnitude of this disaster will increase exponentially by the time we can do anything to halt it and our odds of actually even being able to halt it will go down.

The magnitude and impact of this disaster will eclipse anything we have known in our life times if the worst or even near worst happens…

…If the BP data correctly or honestly identified four separate reservoirs then a bleed-out might gush less than 2 to 2.5 billion barrels unless the walls — as it were — fracture or partially collapse. I am hearing the same dark rumors which suggest fracturing and a complete bleed-out are already underway. Rumors also suggest a massive collapse of the Gulf floor itself is in the making. They are just rumors but it is time for geologists or related experts to end their deafening silence and speak to these possibilities.

This is likely to become the biggest environmental disaster in history. At least American history. And hard to top, short of the Yellowstone Caldera blowing.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!