Not only that but feminist plays. In France, it is only fair to point out:
The Times, 23 December 1912 p8
In La Femme Seule he discusses the position of a well-educated young girl who is forced by financial ruin and the lukewarmness of her betrothed to earn her own living.
Threrese, the heroine… finds employment as a manageress of women workers in her uncle’s factory. Here it is the economic selfishness of man that drives her from her work. The men in the factory object to female competition and strike.
Not that that doesn’t present itself with an opportunity for some cross-Channel point scoring:
The play served to show how slow France has been to respond to the feminist movement.
In comparison to England, that is. Which I find surprising. I know there has been a revolution when it comes to women in the workforce over the last 40 years, but a century ago? But if it was the case that women were entering the workforce and they were paying the newly-introduced income tax could that explain the demand for female suffrage?
By the way, the latest suffragist tactic is to pour acid into pillar boxes.
Correction 15/1/13 Income tax (in the UK) was not introduced just before 1912. It was introduced (on a permanent basis) by Peel in 1842.
Child attacked the very idea that one man could own another and in so doing enunciated the heart of libertarianism. “The personal liberty of one man can never be the property of another,” she wrote. “In slavery there is no mutual agreement; for in that case, it would not be slavery. The negro has no voice in the matter—no alternative presented to him—no bargain is made. The beginning of his bondage is the triumph of power over weakness…One man may as well claim an exclusive right to the air another man breathes, as to the possession of his limbs and faculties. Personal freedom is the birthright of every human being.”
These are the words of Lydia Maria Childs, as remembered in a nice article by those folk at The Skeptical Libertarian.
There has been something of a kerfuffle recently – over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians site – about the role, or perhaps lack of involvement of – women in what can be loosely called the libertarian movement. On one level, this strikes me as a bit misplaced in terms of a concern, since I don’t really think that the circle of libertarians that I have moved in to have been particularly male dominated. And in general, the history of classical liberal thought in the 19th and 20th centuries has its prominent women figures such as Ayn Rand (even if she rejected the term); Rose Wilder Lane, Isobel Paterson, and more recently, Wendy McElroy and Virginia Postrel.
And given how women continue to be oppressed in parts of the world – such as in Saudi Arabia, to take one extreme example – I would argue that pro-liberty views ought to be particularly appealing to women, all things considered.
I’ve been reading about both recently. For those unfamiliar with it, the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s involved the wrongful conviction of a French officer for treason.
So, the similarities:
In the Dreyfus case, the authorities faked the evidence. In the Climate Wars the authorities sought to “hide the decline”.
In the Dreyfus case, an officer who raised doubts was removed and posted to the desert. In the Climate Wars, anyone raising doubts will find himself in the academic equivalent.
In the Dreyfus case, the authorities were aided by a tide of anti-semitism. In the Climate Wars the authorities are helped by a tide of environmentalism.
In the Dreyfus case, the author Emile Zola was sued for libel. In the Climate Wars, the author Mark Steyn is being sued for libel.
In the Dreyfus case the authorities withheld evidence that would have exonerated Dreyfus. In the Climate Wars the “scientists” refuse to publish their data.
In the Dreyfus case the authorities felt it was all right to lie because the truth was on their side. In the Climate Wars some warmists, convinced that the truth is on their side, are happy to lie.
In the Dreyfus case, Dreyfus was exiled to Devil’s Island. In the Climate Wars it’s the truth that is far, far away and under guard day and night.
In the Dreyfus case, and after many years, justice was eventually done. In the Climate Wars…well, we’ll see.
Alfred Dreyfus begins to regret challenging the global warming orthodoxy
While perusing the Times from 1912 I came across an article that mentioned Austrian mobilisation. This got my attention for two reasons. The first reason was that it’s big stuff. Mobilisation is as close as you can get to going to war with actually doing so. Things must have come close to the brink. As Eric Sass explains (in a wonderful series, by the way) they had:
On November 22, 1912, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II had promised Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones, that Germany would back up Austria-Hungary in a war, and on November 17, the French premier Raymond Poincare assured the Russian ambassador that France would back up Russia. The stage was set for a conflagration.
He goes on:
Fortunately, internal divisions in St. Petersburg helped avert further escalation. The Council of Ministers, furious that Nicholas II had bypassed them in ordering mobilization, demanded that he cancel the orders. At the same time, France, Germany, and Britain were scrambling to arrange a diplomatic meeting that would allow them to iron out the complicated situation in the Balkans; the Conference of London, which first met in December 1912, ended up preventing Serbia from expanding to the sea, satisfying Austro-Hungarian demands.
I love the use of the word “fortunately”.
The Austrians even issued a commemorative medal:
The second reason it grabbed my attention was that it completely undermines the argument (put forward by Harry Elmer Barnes) that the Entente was just as much to blame for the First World War as the Germans. The claim rests on the idea that mobilisation meant war. In other words, Russia’s partial mobilisation in 1914 was just as aggressive as Germany’s subsequent declaration of war. The fact that a mobilisation happened and war did not follow only a couple of years previously would appear to blow that argument out of the water.
I find it strange that this dreadful crime is so little known; I first read of it only within the last few years. Perhaps this is because Wikipedia and many other sources refer to it as the “Bath School Disaster“, as if it were a natural catastrophe, rather than what it was, a mass murder. Worse may have happened in the Indian Wars, or in the various other conflicts during the early history of the European presence in what is now the United States, but the premeditated murder of the children of Bath Consolidated School was the worst such killing in the US in time of peace.
From the Wikipedia article Bath School Disaster:
The Bath School disaster is the name given to three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 elementary school children, two teachers, and four other adults; at least 58 people were injured. The perpetrator first killed his wife, and committed suicide with his last explosion. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–14 years of age) attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.
The bomber was the school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was angry after being defeated in the spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat; he had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed Kehoe had stopped working on his farm and thought he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe carried out steps in his plan to destroy the school and his farm by purchasing and hiding explosives.
Kehoe’s wife was ill with tuberculosis and he had stopped making mortgage payments; he was under pressure for foreclosure. Some time between May 16 and the morning of May 18, 1927, Kehoe murdered his wife by hitting her on the head. On the morning of May 18 about 8:45, he exploded incendiary devices in his house and farm buildings, setting them on fire and destroying them.
Almost simultaneously, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. Kehoe had used a timed detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of incendiary pyrotol, which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and used a rifle to detonate dynamite inside his shrapnel-filled truck, killing himself, the school superintendent, and several others nearby, as well as injuring more bystanders. During rescue efforts at the school, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the south wing. Kehoe had apparently intended to blow up and destroy the entire school.
In the aftermath of the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, there have been widespread calls for gun control. It is worth noting that two of the most deadly massacres of children in the US, the Bath School massacre and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, among the 168 victims of which were nineteen children under the age of six, were carried out with explosives.
Libel actions. They’re things that only really, really rich people can indulge in aren’t they? At least, they are nowadays. But what about a hundred years ago? Here’s an example involving a building surveyor suing an architect.
Now, reading the article, it doesn’t sound as if the surveyor is exactly loaded. Yet he brings his case and (amazingly) wins it. By the way, the damages are about £10,000 in today’s money if you convert to and from gold.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Another example I found a few months ago was a small school bringing a case against a disgruntled parent. And I have spotted others. These are cases of not particularly well-heeled people – although, to be fair, not exactly poor people either – finding no great difficulty in suing for libel.
Two questions. One, have I got my facts right? Two, if I have, what has changed?
A recurring theme in Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature (see some earlier postings here about this book, here and here) concerns how a modern and humane principle, cruelly ignored in the past, then gets over-emphasised. Such a price is worth paying for the triumph of the principle, says Pinker, but the price is indeed a price, not an improvement.
An example being the extreme lengths now gone to in order entirely to eliminate child abductions by strangers (p. 538):
And even if minimizing risk were the only good in life, the innumerate safety advisories would not accomplish it. Many measures, like the milk-carton wanted posters, are examples of what criminologists call crime-control theater: they advertise that something is being done without actually doing anything. When 300 million people change their lives to reduce a risk to 50 people, they will probably do more harm than good, because of the unforeseen consequences of their adjustments on the vastly more than 50 people who are affected by them. To take just two examples, more than twice as many children are hit by cars driven by parents taking their children to school as by other kinds of traffic, so when more parents drive their children to school to prevent them from getting killed by kidnappers, more children get killed. And one form of crime-control theater, electronic highway signs that display the names of missing children to drivers on freeways, may cause slowdowns, distracted drivers, and the inevitable accidents.
The movement over the past two centuries to increase the valuation of children’s lives is one of the great moral advances in history. But the movement over the past two decades to increase the valuation to infinity can lead only to absurdities.
We here nod sagely. This book is full of cherries like that, pickable by people who think along Samizdata lines. But it also includes fruits to please those deviating from correct opinions in quite other directions.
With regard to the matter of children’s rights, libertarians like me are fond of urging property rights solutions for problems not now considered properly soluble by such means, such as preserving endangered species or sorting out such things as the right to transmit radio waves. But it is worth remembering that we applaud the fading of the idea that parents own their children, to the point where they may destroy them with impunity, as if binning unwanted household junk. And yes, such a right to kill faded because it could. The world can now afford to keep all newborns alive. That doesn’t make this any less of an improvement. Well done us. We can understand why so many people were child killers in the past, and still rejoice that times have changed.
The pages where Pinker describes the murderous cruelties inflicted upon many newborns are very vivid. I will never think of the ceremony of christening in quite the same way. He reminds us that what is being said with it is: this one’s a keeper.
A bit of crime-control theater is surely a small price to pay for the pleasure of living in less cruel times.
German asparagus in season. Heaven.
- Michael Portillo samples the cuisine of Germany in his latest European Railway Journey.
I am greatly enjoying this show, and am recording it. I am finding it to be a wonderfully relaxing and entertaining way to soak up a mass of historic trivia, such as (this week – just as one for-instance) how Eau de Cologne got started. I also learned about that upside down railway that I have seen so many pictures of but have never pinned down to a particular place.
And not so trivia, because Portillo is focussing particularly on the period just before World War 1. Europe’s last golden age, in other words. Railways were not just for tourists, they were for
canon cannon fodder.
This week, Portillo was wearing a rather spectacular pink jacket, of a sort that he would never have risked when being a politician.
I have made no secret here of my admiration for Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.
I was especially struck by the pages where he describes The Enlightenment, and I have taken the liberty of scanning these pages into my personal blog. If anyone connected with the book objects, my posting will be removed, so if a brief exposition of what The Enlightenment was and how the ideas behind it all fitted together appeals, go there, soon, and read on.
Two questions naturally arise from Pinker’s summary. First, is it an accurate description? Or does Pinker impose a coherence upon Enlightenment thinking that it never quite possessed for real? (My guesses: yes, and no.) Second, if I am right that Pinker does describe the unified scientific and moral agenda of The Enlightenment accurately, then how true are these ideas? Were errors made, as well as truths declared? Did these errors do harm? (Did any of the truths do harm?)
I could go on, but prefer not to. Suffice it to say here that it’s there if you want it, for the time being anyway.
I did not write what follows. It was sent to me by my regular correspondent, “ARC”. – NS
When I first started reading Edmund Burke, it was for the political wisdom his writings contained. Only many years later did I start to benefit from noticing that the Burke we know – the man proved a prophet by events and with an impressive legacy – differed from the Burke that the man himself knew: the man who was a lifelong target of slander; the one who, on each major issue of his life, gained only rare and partial victories after years or decades of seeing events tragically unfold as he had vainly foretold. Looking back, we see the man revered by both parties as the model of a statesman and thinker in the following century, the hero of Sir Winston Churchill in the century after. But Burke lived his life looking forwards:
– On America, an initial victory (repeal of the Stamp Act) was followed by over 15 years in the political wilderness and then by the second-best of US independence. (Burke was the very first member of parliament to say that Britain must recognise US independence, but his preferred solution when the crisis first arose in the mid-1760s was to preserve – by rarely using – a prerogative power of the British parliament that could one day be useful for such things as opposing slavery.)
– He vastly improved the lot of the inhabitants of India, but in Britain the first result of trying was massive electoral defeat, and his chosen means after that – the impeachment of Warren Hastings – took him 14 years of exhausting effort and ended in acquittal. Indians were much better off, but back in England the acquittal felt like failure.
– Three decades of seeking to improve the lot of Irish Catholics, latterly with successes, ended in the sudden disaster of Earl Fitzwilliam’s recall and the approach of the 1798 rebellion which he foresaw would fail (and had to hope would fail).
– The French revolutionaries’ conquest of England never looked so likely as at the time of his death in 1797. It was the equivalent of dying in September 1940 or November 1941.
It’s not surprising that late in his life he commented that the ill success of his efforts might seem to justify changing his opinions. But he added that “Until I gain other lights than those I have”, he would have to go on being true to his understanding.
Of course, the background to these thoughts is reflecting on the US election result. Reflecting on how much worse it was for Burke is consoling. Choosing to be truthful in politics often means choosing to be justified by long-term events not short-term elections.
Two weeks before, I’d have guessed a Romney victory with some confidence, but the night before the election, I realised – rather to my surprise – that I expected Obama to win. I took myself to task over these negative thoughts, but it made no difference: I still expected Obama to win. On Wednesday morning, I was glad that being British gave me some feeling of insulation from it (not that our own government has been anything to shout about for a long time – shout at, maybe), although I fear the ill consequences will not all be confined to the far side of the pond.
Burke was several times defeated politically – sometimes as a direct result of being honest – and later (usually much later) resurged simply because his opponents, through refusing to believe his warnings, walked into water over their heads and drowned, doing a lot of irreversible damage in the process. Even when this happened, he was not quickly respected. By the time it became really hard to avoid noticing that the French revolution was as unpleasant as Burke had predicted, all the enlightened people knew he was a longstanding prejudiced enemy of it, so “he loses credit for his foresight because he acted on it”, as Harvey Mansfield put it. Similarly, when ugly effects of Obama’s second term become impossible to ignore, people like you and me will get no credit from those to whom their occurrence is unexpected because we were against him “anyway”.
Even eight years is a shorter time than any of Burke’s epochs. If the euro dies in less than another four years, maybe we should think ourselves very lucky. In our health service, the ratio of administrators to doctors and nurses passed 100% much longer ago than four years or even eight, and the NHS is still a sacred cow. Perhaps US citizens should think themselves lucky that adverse effects of ObamaCare may show soon and be noticed.
Since Burke was admired by Churchill, here’s a Churchill quote: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
And a related Burke one: “The conduct of a losing party never appears right: at least, it never can possess the only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar judgments – success.”
Earlier today I visited my elder brother, in the family home we shared as children in Englefield Green, up the hill from Egham in the county of Surrey. I chose today for this fraternal reunion because the weather forecast was particularly encouraging, and I wanted also to include a visit to the nearby Air Forces Memorial.
This was my first view of this Memorial:
As you can see, the weather forecast was not wrong.
What I have always liked about the Air Forces Memorial is the views from the top of the tower. Climb that, and you are above the trees and can look out over the Thames Valley. On a day like today, you can see clearly, for miles. → Continue reading: Remembrance
They say that’s what Margaret Thatcher said, the day she fell. I was in the small crowd that watched as the car brought her back from the Commons to Downing Street, a self-conscious little crowd, split about fifty-fifty between sympathisers and opponents, the sort of crowd from which occasional shouts pop out like kittens nervously venturing forth from a cardboard box. I did not shout either to jeer or console; I was only there because at the time I worked in the Treasury building in the next street and wanted to see a little history being made.
It might cheer up any American readers saddened by the result of the recent US election to recall that the first shot in the fusillade that brought the Prime Minister down was this:
On 1 November 1990 Geoffrey Howe, the last remaining member of Thatcher’s original 1979 cabinet, resigned from his position as Deputy Prime Minister over her refusal to agree to a timetable for Britain to join the European single currency.
Howe thought he was making straight the path down which the forces of modernity would march, but he didn’t know the future any more than Thatcher did, or you, or I. I’ll tell you something, though, his political delusion on 1 November 1990 regarding the desirability of currency union looks a lot more foolish now than her personal delusion that she would still have the key to No.10 Downing Street a few weeks later.
That’s the trouble with the future. It won’t stay put.
Today we are hearing much (in tones of glee or despair) about how “a permanent Democratic majority” is emerging, an oligarchy dispensing patronage to fiefdoms of class and race that will only fall when the money runs out, and then with vast misery and perhaps bloodshed. Similar predictions are made for the UK and other developed countries. I do fear that, but a tempering memory, again from my Treasury days in the early nineties, is of seeing earnest policy papers written by Conservative MPs who worried that in order to preserve democracy it might be needful for the Conservative party to split into two, because it was obvious that Labour was never getting back in.
I cannot say quite what I am aiming to do in this post, other than possibly bore some harried souls into tranquility with my recollections des élections perdues and similar political ups and downs. Just saying, it’s a funny old world.