We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Necessary, not sufficient

The first Iraqi election, which I gather was to elect delegates to their constitutional convention, went off better than expected, and plenty good enough to go forward. The number being bandied about for turnout nationwide is 60% – higher in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south, lower in the Sunni triangle. This would make it higher than in any US election in recent memory.

At first, I thought the practice of requiring voters to be indelibly marked with purple ink was a major error, as it would target them for terrorist retaliation. As it happened, though, the purple finger has become a symbol of defiance against the killers and hope for the future. The illusion that the various terrorist gangs that roam a few neighborhoods in Iraq have the power to influence the course of this nation may have taken a mortal wound. Terrorism in Iraq has always lacked a popular base to speak of, existing mostly on foreign lifelines from Iran, Syria, and the Western media, but now the isolation of the terrorists from the Iraqis has been vividly displayed.

We don’t know who won, of course, but the fact that the Iraqis turned out to elect delegates to a constitutional convention is an enormous positive. Now, I know some find it fashionable to affect a certain ennui toward such bourgeois artifacts as elections and written constitutions, but I regard elections as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a free society, and a written constitution as damn useful sand in the gears of the seemingly inevitable expansion of the state. The Iraqis have taken their first step down the road. Lets hope they make it all the way.

18 comments to Necessary, not sufficient

  • The Iraqis have taken their first step down the road. Lets hope they make it all the way.

    Once they have rule of law, especially guaranteed property rights, a first in that region, the Iraqi economy will become that much stronger than any other in the region that nobody will wnat to turn back, including the Sunnis.

  • Jacob

    Let’s have some perspective: it took South Korea some 40 years after the war to reach democracy. They had military regimes, coups, counter coups, political murders. Now they are democratic and prosperous.

    What about Russia ? Is it democratic 15 years after the fall of communism ? Not much, maybe a little bit.

    Has Iraq any chance ? Yes – with long term presence and help from the US. Not a couple of years, but really long term, like maybe in Korea – 50 years +. The chances for that aren’t bright, more than half of the US public wants to get out in a hurry, seeking an “exit startegy” instead of a “staying strategy”.

    Regime change in Iran and Saudi Arabia are preconditions for any stability in the region. EU, working with the US for democracy instead of doing their best to prevent it, could also help.
    Terrorism is a permanent feature of life in the ME, you have to learn to live with it.

    The Iraqi elections and their success are an important step on a very long and hazardous road.

  • Jack Maturin

    Now, I know some find it fashionable to affect a certain ennui toward such bourgeois artifacts as elections and written constitutions, but I regard elections as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a free society, and a written constitution as damn useful sand in the gears of the seemingly inevitable expansion of the state.

    I think Professor Hoppe might disagree with you there! :-)

    Democracy: The God That Failed (http://www.mises.org/hoppeintro.asp)

    Also, wasn’t the US Constitution one of the greatest statist travesties of all time, oil in the wheels of a nascent growing state, rammed through by power-seeking money-grabbing federasts, against the popular will of the American colonialists, via a series of unaccountable conventions held in the railroad manner of our current Euro-constitution acceptance campaign?

    In many ways the US Constitution was even worse than what’s happening now in Euroland. The ‘People’ in the US, whose power the Constitution claims to represent, never voted on the US constitution, in a referendum of any size, and only six of the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence (a fine document, which is NOT enshrined in US law) could bring themselves to put their names to it, more in resignation than in joy.

    The federasts tried to keep their heavyweight Founding Father opponents away from the constitutional conventions, which is why so few of the Declaration of Independence signatories have their names on the US Constitution, many of them bitterly opposing it at the time.

    Indeed I believe the small handful of convention attendees from Rhode Island who ever got to vote on the US Constitution thought it so bad they ALL walked away, with none of them signing it. (Does this mean Rhode Island could still secede if it wanted to?)

    I think my favorite quote about the US Constitution was by one of the unfortunate six, Benjamin Franklin, who DID sign it, but with a very heavy heart after he’d failed to stop its government-aggrandizing thrusts, afterwards saying in a quote which has since been excised from many texts:

    I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but which may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe further that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so currupted as to need a Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

    Has the despotic tyrrany that Franklin inevitably predicted already come to pass? Think of the difference in the world we could have had today if he HAD refused to lend the power of his name to the US Constitution. There’d probably be no New Deal, no Euro constitution, No Iraq constitution, probably no Iraq war, and best of all, no Hillary Clinton. If only we could go back in time and warn ol’ Ben about Ms Clinton. I’m sure he would have got straight on his horse and gone right back to Philedelphia without troubling anyone for the quill or the ink.

    There are two great Robert LeFevre commentaries about all of this, at Mises.org, MP3 links below:

    Background to the Constitution (http://www.mises.org/mp3/lefevre/149.mp3)

    The Constitution Revisited (http://www.mises.org/mp3/lefevre/150.mp3)

    As with all the LeFevre commentaries, well worth a listen. Why stop at just two of them? Why not listen to all sixty? I reckon it must be the best resource on the entire Mises site.

  • Hunt Johnsen

    Actually, our constitution seems fairly intact, and our despotic tyranny still functioning pretty well compared to the rest of the world after some 200 years.
    With a little help from America, the Iraqis may be on their way to lasting freedom as well.
    Eat your heart out Jack!

  • R C Dean

    Jack, pls. review your logic 101 lesson entitled “necessary but not sufficient.” Then note that I did not even characterize written consitutions as necessary, but merely as useful.

    I meant, of course, written constitutions that restrain hte government, limit its powers, and are respected and enforced by the courts or some other body. The US Consitution is not as useful as it once was, due primarily to rampant idiotarianism on the Supreme Court, but it still does act to rein in some of the baser impulses of our overlords.

    We’re better off with it than we would have been without it – those with power never need permission or an excuse to exercise that power, but for the rest of us the Constitution, threadbare as it may be, serves a positive purpose to this day.

  • Shawn

    When asked about why the US invaded Afghanistan after Sept.11 Hoppe replied in an interview, “I dont know”.

    I can’t take the Mises people seriously, but what scares me is that they take themselves seriously.

  • Jack Maturin

    Eat your heart out Jack!

    President Hillary Clinton today announced an $1.2 trillion dollar budget deficit today, January 15th, 2009, but said “What the hell, we owe it to ourselves.” She also announced a rise in property taxes, an increase in federal income tax to 60%, and social security and medicare payments increases to pay for the burgeoning baby-boomer “older” voter population. As the dollar reached an all-time low against the Euro, at two dolllars to one Euro, the popular Democrat president also stated that her presidency would be marked by increased aid to Africa, a re-introduction of the Draft to help fill the missing ranks in the continuing Middle-East conflicts (goarmy.com), and a compulsory social security photo-id, to be carried at all times, under the extension of the Patriot Act, with a registration cost of $250 dollars a year. “This is the Land of the Free”, she said. “And I intend to make sure that everyone here pays for the privilege.”

    Remember, you read it here first. If the social security swamp doesn’t drown the US in the next 20 years, just think you’ve got Medicare and all those multi-trillion dollar deficits riding up on the outside just waiting for their turn, perhaps in time for a real big “hot” war with somebody like China or Iran, instigated by the politicians to try to take away everybody’s attention. What was the deficit this week? $487 billion dollars? Oh well, it’s only somebody else’s money.

    but it still does act to rein in some of the baser impulses of our overlords.

    In what way exactly?

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    In other words, we can take as much as we like, spend as much as we like, on whatever we like, and borrow as much as we like, and there ain’t a damned thing you can do to stop us. We define the terms. And you pay.

    It’s nice work if you can get it.

    Where exactly are the ‘limitations’ in the constitutional quote above? Can you define ANYTHING which doesn’t come under the catch-all phrase ‘general Welfare’?

    “Rein in the base impulses of your overlords”, you’ve got to be kidding me. It was the trough-snouting overlords that wrote the Constitution in the first place, after they saw a good thing coming with the trough-snouting Brits kicked out of the way. Admittedly over 200 years of state-funded education has drummed it into many American heads that the US Constitution is holy writ, and absolutely unquestionable, and finer than the very finest words of God and William Shakespeare put together, but just examine the actual words. Where exactly are the limits? Who defines them? The government, that’s who. Oh sorry, an independent arm of government, the Supreme Court. Forgive my mistake. A totally separate body, not related in any way to any other part of government.

    Well, at least Charlton Heston gets to keep hold of his gun. Provided he doesn’t annoy the local law enforcement operators in any way. It’s just a shame that when the IRS come round to rob him of most of his wealth each year, if he dared use his gun he’d have a hundred bullets pumped into him by the local SWAT team.

    With western-style constitutional democracy all the people in Iraq will end up with, if they’re lucky, is their own corrupt series of Tony Blairs and thieving Romano Prodis and Hillary Clintons and a mass of self-serving moochers helping themselves to everyone else’s wealth. And if they’re unlucky, they’re headed straight towards fascist socialism once again, or theocratic socialism (which seems likely given the Shia dominance of the upcoming parliament – a union with Iran, anyone?). Tom Clancy, eat your heart out.

    I suppose we’ll have to have that war with Iran next, to clear up that one.

    Ok, so if you had a referendum in the US tomorrow, probably 90% of the population would vote for the constitution, which is a great thumbs up for state education and indoctrination over many decades, but please. Democracy is clearly the route one approach to social democracy, Marx’s preferred approach to world socialism, and if we libertarians can think of nothing better, based upon a respect for an individual’s property rights, then we deserve all the long-term socialism we’re going to get and may as well get out there and start voting Democrat or New Labour right now. If you can’t beat them, you may as well join them.

  • Shawn

    The point of the Constitution was to create a republican system of limited government with seperation of powers. Wheter or not this conforms to Libertarian ideology is neither here nor there.

    Democracy has its faults, and I prefere a much more limted system more akin to what we had after the Revolution, but to dismiss all forms or possible forms of democracy as a sure path to socialism is the kind of fundamentalist nonsense that the Mises crowd and Marxists are fond of.

  • Shawn

    “President Hillary Clinton today announced ”

    Yeah thats gonna happen. I guess when you dont have an argument making up history is the next best thing.

    More paranoid fantasy from the Mises cult.

  • Doug Collins

    Jacob’s comment about “exit strategy” versus “staying strategy” provides food for thought.

    I tend to think that we will not, and probably should not be in the Middle East for decades, as we were in South Korea and other areas. One important difference is that we are no longer concerned with an aggressive Soviet Union, ready to move into any area we vacate. Al Quada/Salafists/Islamic feudalists are already there and at the levers of power as much as they are going to be.

    This time around, WE are the subversive power. And there is no Islamic “United States” to oppose us. We also have an ‘ideology’: Liberty. Unlike marxism, liberty has greater appeal after it is tried, not just beforehand. We may need to be in an area only long enough to plant the seeds and get them well started.

    I and others have seen this conflict as a replaying of the change in the West from feudalism to modernism. The mullahs and their intolerant rigidity are easy to see as the equivalent of Rome facing the twin threats of the Reformation and emerging modern experimental science. So easy to see that another analogy may have been missed: The French Revolutionary armies and later, the Napoleonic armies and the fundemental changes they forced on European culture as they rolled across Europe. The Reformation may have been the start of the feudal>to>modern change, but the French convulsions were the completion of it.

    What is happening in Iraq now may be the equivalent of various German duchies and minor kingdoms suddenly being exposed to the populist/totalitarian ideas of the Philosophes. That exposure eventually brought down nearly every ruling house in Europe, as well as leading directly to the horrors of the twentieth century. This time the exposure is not to the Philosophes, but ultimately to the ideas of the American founding fathers and to the philosophers of the English enlightenment.

    I believe these ideas will be equally corrosive to the established Islamic order. However I also believe that they are free of the toxic totalitarianism of the French ideologies. That, I hope, is a difference that will lead to a more positive outcome this time.

    As far as exiting or staying is concerned – Napoleon did not stay long (though he no doubt meant to). Just long enough, as it turned out, that no congress in Vienna or anywhere else could put the cat back in the bag.

  • Jack Maturin

    The point of the Constitution was to create a republican system of limited government with seperation of powers.

    Yes, it’s all really separated isn’t it. You’ve got the Congress, which is part of the government, and the executive, which is part of the government, and the supreme court, which is part of the government.

    However, these totally separated arms of government are all paid for and limited by the same single phrase:

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    If you’re a US citizen, the United States government controls your life down to the microscopic details of what toothpaste you’re allowed to put on your teeth in the morning, via that quote above. There is NOTHING which is not covered by the phrase ‘general Welfare’.

    There are no real limitations to the United States constitution, which is why the US is currently in such a mess. Please do listen to the late great Robert LeFevre’s commentaries on it, as listed above, on the constitution. Nothing I can say will probably get through to you, but maybe he will. I can but hope.

    Wheter or not this conforms to Libertarian ideology is neither here nor there.

    I beg to differ Shawn. The proposition that constitutional democracy is ‘the solution’ to all of mankind’s woes, when it could in fact be ‘the problem’, and the very reason why there is a ‘seemingly inevitable expansion of the state’ is a fundamental question which deserves a thorough debate, not dismissive hand-waving. We could be forcing a poisoned chalice upon the Iraqis, ie. constitutional democracy, having learned nothing from our own experience. I may be wrong. I hope I am. But to dismiss this idea out of hand because it means we’d have to question our own deeply-rooted assumptions is dangerous, and could get us into an even greater mess than our current plight, if that’s possible.

    Yeah thats gonna happen. I guess when you dont have an argument making up history is the next best thing. More paranoid fantasy from the Mises cult.

    I’m sorry Shawn. I thought I put forward the idea, dressed up in a little tinsel admittedly, but only for fun, that constitutional democracy is not all that it’s cracked up to be, and is in fact the root of the problem rather than any kind of solution. I know you don’t want to answer my challenge to you that there is no real limitation in the US constitution and you would rather throw sticks at me and bury your head in the sand on this question, but I regard that as your problem rather than mine.

    Yes, it took the US government a long time to become the monster it is today, but the roots for that were laid right there at the start with those railroaded constitutional conventions. The key was the ability to take taxes and then make war, with war being, as ever, the route to growing government power.

    Unfortunately there weren’t too many enemies around for the early US government to fight, to thereby gain increasing power for itself, but they got there in the end. And with every war the US government gathered yet more power unto itself, at one point even attacking its own people when it ran out of other enemies to attack, till we reached today’s situation where it has absolutely no shortage of enemies whatsoever and US troops need to be stationed all over the globe to protect the monolith from all the people that would wish to destroy it and the people it supposedly represents. And this is all as a direct result of constitutional ‘limited’ democracy.

    We really should be careful what we wish for, especially when we impose these wishes upon other people.

    You never know, maybe the Iraqis will indeed find that ‘magic’ ingredient at long last, to create a Minarchist heaven of ‘properly’ or ‘sufficiently’ limited government? I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Shawn

    “Yes, it’s all really separated isn’t it. You’ve got the Congress, which is part of the government, and the executive, which is part of the government, and the supreme court, which is part of the government.”

    Yes, they are seperated. Thats why neither Congress nor the President can simply make any laws they like and expect them to just automatically become the law of the land. Look at how difficult it has been for the administration to get some of its policies passed, or to get its choices for the judiciary through Congress.

    Now I currently live in a country, New Zealand, where there is no seperation of powers and in which Parliament is supreme. It is far far easier in NZ for the government to pass laws and make policy than it is in the US, and they do so with almost no effective opposition and very little in the way of legal and constitutional limits. Even extremely radical changes have been passed into law with no opposition. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of NZ, has far more raw unbridled power over NZ citizens than President Bush could ever hope to have, and that difference is directly related to the US’s constitutional system and its seperation of powers.

    So the fact is that while the US system of seperation is not perfect, its is certainly far better than the elected dictatorship that exists in many other Western democracies, and to make the claim, as you do, that the seperation of powers is meaningless in practice is demonstratably false.

    “The proposition that constitutional democracy is ‘the solution’ to all of mankind’s woes”

    Please point me to where anyone here at Samizdata has said that. Thats known as a straw man argument.

    What people HAVE said is that constitutional democracy is ONE of they ways to try to limit government, but certainly not the only way or sufficient on its own. If your going to put words into peoples mouths that they havent said and then argue with that this is going to get boring real fast.

    “when it could in fact be ‘the problem’, and the very reason why there is a ‘seemingly inevitable expansion of the state’ is a fundamental question which deserves a thorough debate, not dismissive hand-waving.”

    I think dismissive hand waving is exactly what the claim deserves. In fact I think the claim is dangerously misleading for advocates of small government because it wrongly assumes that the problem of the growth of Nanny State is a technical one, rather than a moral and ideological issue. Plenty of nation-states that do not have any kind of constitional democracy also have large authoritarian states, so its not even a good place to start as far as trying to determin the root cause of big government. It is, to use the old phrase, barking up the wrong tree.

    “You never know, maybe the Iraqis will indeed find that ‘magic’ ingredient at long last, to create a Minarchist heaven of ‘properly’ or ‘sufficiently’ limited government?”

    At this point I couldnt care less if they do or not. All I do care about is that they live at peace with their neighbours and stop exporting terrorism. If landing a big wad of democratic government on them achieves that result I’m happy. We are in the ME to win a war, not figure out the perfect form of government.

    No the US system is not perfect, and yes we have allowed the government to grow well beyond its proper limits and scope. But that failing is OUR failing, and it is a moral one. We must take responsibility for what we have created, and not hide behind excuses like blaming the constitution.

  • Julian Taylor

    In commenting on Iraq’s future we should bear in mind that Iraq did enjoy over 60 years of peace and stability, prior to Saddam’s effective coup. Despite his regime of terror there are sufficient numbers of Iraqis who can recall life without Saddam and I think that this certainly has helped in promoting a new democracy so quickly after the events of the past 2 years. Bear in mind that Russians had never actually known a democratic system before where they could all vote, or express their views without fear of the Okhrana, NKVD or KGB.

  • Nathan

    Plenty of nation-states that do not have any kind of constitional democracy also have large authoritarian states, so its not even a good place to start as far as trying to determin the root cause of big government. It is, to use the old phrase, barking up the wrong tree.

    If you think about this for a minute, you should find that it makes no sense. You have said that both democracies and non-democracies have bloated governments – you could equally conclude that democracy doesn’t hinder the growth of government. If you want to discount democracy as a problem, you have to do better than that I’m afraid.
    As it happens, the main problem is the fact that legislation

    is

    passed easily (how many bills were passed by the US congress last year?), and based on rather short-term considerations, given the periodic nature of administrations.
    Show us a democracy that hasn’t gone down the familiar path – then you’d have a point.

  • Nathan

    Oh dear, I seem to have had an accident with a quote tag. I must remember to use the preview more often..

  • Jack Maturin

    I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on most of the things in your latest post, Shawn, as we’re obviously bunkered up in our own missile silos, but the following point really does cut through to the heart of the debate:

    What people HAVE said is that constitutional democracy is ONE of they ways to try to limit government, but certainly not the only way or sufficient on its own.

    It’s my contention that the only really successful way to limit government is to remove it entirely.

    Even if you start out with just one person, a philospher king or queen, governing a population of let us say 1 million, within a few generations that one person will have festooned into a burgeoning bureaucracy of at least a hundred thousand.

    The prophet and private enterprise judge Samuel explains this superbly in the Bible (I Samuel 8:10), when the Israelites want him to approve a societal change from competitive private law to monopolistic public law, under such a king:

    So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king.
    And he said “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

    As a card-carrying atheist, I’m often amazed by these irregular gems in the Bible. It really does have all the best stories. And note there that we’re talking about an initial one-man government, which Samuel predicts will quickly puff up to taking 10% of GDP whilst also increasing the amount of general warfare the society has to endure (because the king needs war to justify the growth in his powers and can externalize the costs of war onto the taxpayers). And isn’t it nice to know, if you are a believer, that this section of the Bible lets us know that God, who clearly supports his prophet Samuel, must also therefore believe in the non-existence of government. Right on, God! :-)

    And so we move through history with all those kings stealing a tithe off their respective populations, limited by a hard upper limit of subject resistance, until we reach the happy republican age of constitutional democracies, which within 200 years take the typical western tax take up to (give or take) 50% of GDP.

    Constitutional democracy does not, has not, and will not limit government. All it does at best is to limit the rate of growth of government. Let me just accept for a moment, that America has the perfect form of democracy and the perfect form of constitution. Even if I can stomach that, I don’t even think you’ve tried to deny that its growth, from the 1770s onwards, has been relentless, even if you can get someone like me to admit that its growth has been slower than any other such government, such as the one in France.

    There really are no magic ingredients to add to democracy or constitutionalism to shrink government down or limit it in the conventional sense of the word, to let us say 10% of GDP, as we had under most of our earlier monarchies (unless of course, dare I say it, we return to the monarchical age). Governments run under constitutional democracies simply keep on growing until they collapse under their own weight, as the Roman government did before the thousand year dark age in western Europe. The greed of the Roman armies and the greed of the Roman mob did for the Romans. The greed of our bureaucrats, and the stupidity of rest of us moochers, who actually believe that politicians really can cut taxes and increase spending ad infinitum, will do for us.

    So when will each western government collapse exactly? I have no idea, but collapse they will. I predict sooner rather that later, as we’ve got all those baby-boomers coming on-stream to claim their social security, but we may possibly stumble doggedly through another fifty years or so before the fall, with probably the EU blowing up before the US due to its even slower growth and even older population.

    Unless of course somebody somewhere can come up with the magic ingredients which are ‘sufficient’ to cut democratic governments down to size.

    I’d be reasonably happy living under a government which only stole 10% of my wealth each year, and which only fought the occasional needless war. That would be a massive improvement on what we currently have now. I just don’t believe, at the moment, that this is a likely scenario. Either we will witness the spontaneous growth of tiny secessionist no-government societies, bolstered by tiny secessionist city states or secessionist city monarchies, many of which will wither on the vine overcome by conventional statist opposition, before possibly one of them grows large enough to survive, prosper, and transplant its ideology to the rest of the world. Or we’ll witness a complete Roman-style meltdown followed by a painful and bloody dark age (or perhaps a combination of the two, with a mixture of no-government rennaissances mixed in with localised bloody dark ages) – history does seem to move much quicker these days.

    What we won’t experience is some political Minarchist Archimedes suddenly shouting “Eureka!” one morning, in a small coffee shop in Lewisham, after working out the ‘sufficient’ ingredient to make constitutional democracy actually work.

    Minarchists often accuse us No-government types as being utopians. I think it’s the other way around.

    Though Shawn, I am all ears if you have any other ideas on how government can be successfully limited. I have no axe to grind, I would love a truly limited government as I stated above (at least as a first step before a no-government society). But short of full-blown divine-right monarchy, I reckon it’s impossible.

    BTW, I hereby put forward my notice that I am prepared to be King of America. I will have a yacht and a castle in San Diego, and a small mansion up the coast in Malibu. Oh, and my own stretch-747, but only the one. Having two is just pure extravagance.

  • Duncan

    Jack I think you are now my 2nd favorite commenter… right after toolkien.

    Where’s his post anyway?!

  • Jack Maturin

    Where’s his post anyway?!

    Duncan, I don’t know where toolkien’s post is, myself, but I do know that my next post is at the Bier Hallen, in an alpine retreat somewhere near Geneva. The gluhwein is a’calling me, and the slopes, they too are a’calling.

    If they can drag me out of the apres ski I may even manage a few yards down this week’s heavy snowfall.

    Au revoir, or as we say in Zurich Canton, Guete Obeg.