Recently, I was wandering along a back street in the former Vietnamese Imperial capital of Huáº¿, perhaps best known outside Vietnam as the site of one of the bloodier battles of the Vietnam War. This was a street full of the sort of shops that would once been have referred to as a “General Stores” in English: shops full of many goods that are likely to be useful to many people, but that sometimes seem to have a tenuous relation to one another.
In such a store, I stopped and started photographing a colourful display of western trademark violating motorcycle helmets. After I had been doing this for a short while, the shopkeeper came up to me, basically just to say hello. He didn’t mind me photographing his merchandise and was not putting any pressure on me to buy anything, but he clearly didn’t get Westerners wandering into his shop to take photographs every day. Huáº¿ is a tourist destination, but despite its easy accessibility (the Americans having built an airport) it is not nearly as big an attraction as places such as the nearby ancient town of Hoi An. One does not have to walk far from the centre of town for the presence of foreigners to be rare.
What happened next was more interesting. He gestured for his son to come over and pose for a photograph. The lad must have been only about two years old, but there was a serious amount of proud father syndrome on display. This gentleman wanted the whole world to see how proud a father he was. So they posed and I took a photo. Alas, the white balance isn’t perfect.
As an added bonus, the father decided that he would pose for the photograph with a cigarette in his mouth.
Of course, this gentleman had no idea how many western taboos he was breaking. If he had, I am sure he would have thought we were all idiots. Quite accurately.
Great essay by Sean Gabb on the UK government and supposed plans to reduce public spending. The article contains a lovely line in relation to Peter Mandelson, the disgraced former Cabinet minister.
Along with Sean and others, I will be at the two-day Libertarian Alliance annual conference tomorrow, held at that ancestral seat of 19th Century liberal politics, the National Liberal Club.
[with apologies to the Four Yorkshiremen]
A fantasy writer produced this:
Oh really? Try this from the Old Bailey’s website:
I’ll surely have more to say about this, but busy day today. So suffice it to say, for now, click on this to listen to the mp3, or follow the top link to find it as a podcast.
My main general impression of James Tyler was what a good and thoughtful person he is, very much his own man in how he thinks about things and goes about things, yet in no way scornful of or unsympathetic towards others who take the road more travelled. If the propaganda fence to be got over is that Austrian economics, once you’ve been told about it by your resident lefty, is an excuse for billionaires to piss on everyone, then a man like Tyler is just the sort to get you thinking that it’s a whole lot better and more intelligent than that.
His central point was that nobody should have the kind of power over economic life that our current powers that be (“crony capitalism”) do now have.
Chris Dillow, over at his Stumbling and Mumbling blog, writes this:
The reason why they do not “recognise their undeservingness” is that they are not asking that the state, with its violence-backed power to tax, should give them something, only that they should be left alone to enjoy their wealth, whether it be undeserved or not. On the other hand, if we are going to have a state with these powers to make transfer payments, then it follows that people are more likely to support such coercive transfers if they are made to people who are considered, by some measure, to “deserve” these transfers. Seems a fairly simple argument to me.
More broadly, though, the idea of “deserving” poor or “underserving” rich is, in my view, loaded with ideological significance, depending on who is using the term. Clearly, people feel a lot more relaxed about handing out money – either from a charity or from a government department – to people who are down on their luck but of good character, than they are about handing it out to the feckless. Similarly, it follows that there is more support for taxing supposedly “undeserved” wealth than “earned” wealth. The trouble with such words, of course, as has been shown by FA Hayek in his famous demolition of payment-by-merit in The Constitution of Liberty, is who gets to decide whether our circumstances came about due to “desert” or not. Such a person would have to have the foresight of a god. It is, as Hayek argued, impossible to do this without some omipotent authority being able to weigh up a person’s potential, and then being able to measure whether that person, in the face of a vast array of alternatives, made the most of that potential.
Another point for redistributionists of all kinds to remember is this: if person A does not, according to some yardstick, “deserve” his or her wealth, then neither does anyone else “deserve” that wealth, either, since why should they presume to grab the benefits of such unearned luck? The logical result, surely, would be to destroy that wealth, so that no-one receives it at all.
Of course, whether Nick Clegg or David Cameron would give such a comment is unlikely; I guess they’d go on about how their good fortune means they have an “obligation” to “society” in some form. That seems to be the view of a lot of those who come into the world with a lot of good advantages. It is by no means a fake or ignoble motive, at all; there is some sense, after all, that a lot of people are dealt a shitty hand by natture or Providence and that there ought to be a way that those down on their luck can get something better. But such a point of view in no ways sanctions state thieving (tax), in my view.
Karl Rove, a leading advisor for George W. Bush and therefore one of the people who made the Obama presidency possible, has launched another attack on Sarah Palin.
If I were her, I would be grinning from ear to ear.
That event has already been flagged up (although somewhat imperfectly!) here. The Cobden Centre head honchos are hoping for a good-to-bursting type turnout, to keep the buzz they are already creating buzzing along and buzzier. So if you can just show up, do. No compelling need to listen to everything that carefully, or not first time around, because unless things go badly wrong the event will be recorded. I will be going, and I expect to learn a lot.
And there’s more:
One of the things I most like about the Cobden Centre is how they cooperate so enthusiastically and helpfully with other groups which have broadly (rather than merely narrowly) similar agendas, that latter event being typical of this mind-fix.
It may be surprising to present-day readers to think that it was once thought a “soft option” to transport a convicted criminal to a colony such as Australia’s Botany Bay. But as this letter shows, that is what some influential people thought at the time:
Sydney Smith, Whig clergyman and wit, as quoted in Robert Peel, by Douglas Hurd, page 78.
As an aside, Peel was involved in two issues – re-connecting bank notes to bullion, and the 1844 Bank Charter Act – that have enduring relevance to our own time. Hurd’s biography is very readable and has a nice tone to it; in my view, however, Norman Gash’s study remains the definitive one.
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