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]

“Without these shall not a city be inhabited …”

This morning I recorded a BBC Radio 4 programme about the late LTC Rolt, historian of the industrial revolution, biographer of (to name but one) Brunel, and the man who put a Rocket, to coin a phrase, under British industrial archaeology and who did much to make it a popular British enthusiasm.

The programme ended by quoting these words from Ecclesiasticus (not in the Bible and not to be confused with Ecclesiastes which is in the Bible) chapter 38:

All these put their trust in their hands and each becometh wise in his own work. Without these shall not a city be inhabited, and men shall not sojourn nor walk up and down therein. They shall not be sought for in the counsel of the people, and in the assembly they shall not mount on high. But they will maintain the fabric of the world, and in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer.

This guy liked it too, when this show was first aired, on Nov 8th.

Not saying I agree, mind. Read what precedes it (e.g. by following the immediately above link) and you discover that the writer of these stirring words had no problem with the working stiffs playing no part in government. That’s strictly for the idle – and therefore wise – rich to take care of.

But, stripped of that context, the above quote reads more like a protest on behalf of the downtrodden craftsmen and a claim that they should be sought in the “counsel of the people”. Understanding it that way, which is how I did understand it when I first heard the words on my radio this morning, I liked it a lot.

I also think that these words capture something of what the Tea Party is about. We, say the Tea Partiers, run the world, even if we don’t rule it. We certainly maintain the world. We know how the world works. Without us the world – the “fabric of the world” – stops. When the idle rich, mounted on high in their assemblies, decide about how the world shall be ruled, they should damn well be listening to us. A healthy majority of those in such assemblies should be us.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

52 comments to “Without these shall not a city be inhabited …”

  • Laird

    I’m not sure that I agree. On their own, I didn’t get much out of those words, and frankly I think you were reading into them more of your own philosophy than that expressed in Ecclesiasticus. Stripped of their antecedents these words just don’t make a lot of sense.

    And there is some merit to the (complete) point made in Ecclesiasticus. We’re now reaping the fruits of largely unfettered democracy, and it’s not pretty. It turns out that the common man is more than willing to vote for his own short-term benefit regardless of the long-term consequences. Our Wise Men aren’t so wise after all, it’s true, but the putative wisdom of the proletariat leaves much to be desired also.

    Whether the Tea Parties can, or even desire to, restore “power to the people” (which I believe is what you’re suggesting) remains to be seen. Whether they should is yet another matter, and I’m not at all convinced of that. But in the end I don’t think that’s really what the Tea Party movement is about at all. Rather, it is about reducing government, not merely reforming the way it wields its excessive power, reallocating it away from the elite and toward the common man. And I don’t think that concept is contained in either Ecclesiasticus or your explanation.

  • Laird, I don’t agree that we’re reaping teh whirlwind of “unfettered democracy”. The masses have little say in policy matters. Representative democracy is the worst of all worlds; it has a figleaf of respectability by pretending to be the will of the electorate, but in fact it just creates a political oligarchy. We are not suffering the will of the people. We are suffering the will of the best organised lobbyists. That is a very different thing.

    My perennial argument on this is; suppose every law had to be approved by a majority of the people- that is a plebiscite whose pass mark is 50% of those eligible to vote, rather than those who do vote. How many laws would pass? Very few. If nothing else, the inertia of the disinterested majority would ensure considerable legislative stasis.

    In my own country for instance, a lobbyist need only gain the support of a little over 300 citizens- a simple majority of the MPs. In practise, on most issues the lobbyists must only persuade a few cabinet ministers who will then whip their MPs into the correct lobbies.

    This is not democracy. It is certainly not the will of the people. Before we condemn the proletariat as unfit to choose, it might be nice to at least give them the chance to prove themselves unworthy, a chance they- we, that is- have never had.

    Universalising the franchise gave the people little more power than they had had before. But it provided an enormous justification for unlimited government. That is the problem that needs addressing.

  • You must have grown up in one of those weird Protestant sects. If you had grown up in one of the weird Catholic or Orthodox sects, you’d know that Ecclesiastics is also called Sirach and part of the deuterocanonical books, which are in fact part of their Bible. :-p

  • llamas

    Let us Kipple.

    The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited
    that good part;
    But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the
    careful soul and the troubled heart.
    And because she lost her temper once, and because she
    was rude to the Lord her Guest,
    Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without
    end, reprieve, or rest.
    It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and
    cushion the shock.
    It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that
    the switches lock.
    It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care
    to embark and entrain,
    Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by
    land and main.

    They say to mountains, “Be ye removed.” They say to
    the lesser floods, “Be dry.”
    Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not
    afraid of that which is high.
    Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the
    bed of the deep laid bare,
    That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly
    sleeping and unaware.
    They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece
    and repiece the living wires.
    He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry
    behind their fires.
    Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into
    his terrible stall,
    And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn
    him till evenfall.
    To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till
    death is Relief afar.
    They are concerned with matters hidden – under the
    earthline their altars are-
    The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to
    restore to the mouth,
    And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again
    at a city’s drouth.

    They do not preach that their God will rouse them a
    little before the nuts work loose.
    They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop
    their job when they dam’-well choose.
    As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark
    and the desert they stand,
    Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s
    day may be long in the land.

    Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path
    more fair or flat –
    Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha
    spilled for that!
    Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness
    to any creed,
    But simple service simply given to his own kind in their
    common need.

    And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed – they
    know the Angels are on their side.
    They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for
    them are the Mercies multiplied.
    They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see
    how truly the Promise runs.
    They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the
    Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    Ian B, I said “largely” unfettered democracy. The modifier is important, because while you are certainly correct that the masses don’t vote on every bill under consideration in Congress, what they do do is vote on who do pass the laws. And their votes are bought and paid for by stealing from the minority, which the electorate knows all too well. So just because their perfidy is indirect, conducted via agents, doesn’t make it any less perfidious. This may be a “political oligarchy”, but the masses are complicit in it.

    Llamas, I appreciate Kipling as much as anyone (been known to quote him myself), but I didn’t get the point of that poem. Are the “sons of Mary” Christians, and the “sons of Martha” everyone else? Because if so I don’t think that now holds (if it ever did). What am I missing?

  • llamas

    The poem refers to a Biblical incident, where Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and absorbed his wonderfulness, while her sister Martha did the dishes and made the beds. When Martha complained to the Son of God that she could use a little help and how about sending Mary to the kitchen for a while? she was rebuked and told that Mary had chosen ‘the good part’.

    The Sons of Mary are the privileged, who float through life in cushioned ease. The Sons of Martha are the working stiffs, who make it all happen.

    llater,

    llamas

  • She was rebuked by him? What a nice guy he was.

  • Laird

    Thanks, llamas. I’ll have to look it up. (My knowledge of the Bible is obviously deficient.)

  • John B

    Unfettered democracy has a bit of a failing in that people do have a problem getting to grips with reality, and we ALL are prone to believing what gives us short term comfort. That is the main engine of mind manipulation.
    However.
    If the masses were not brain washed every day, if their decisions were not made for them by the consensus that controls MSM, academia, etc, they would make better decisions as free people.
    The Tea Party is confirmation of that. It happened despite MSM. There is hope.
    Re Mary and Martha.
    Yes Mary chose that good part which was to realise the Kingdom of God is the fulfilment of reality. Martha was having a bit of trouble grasping that.
    However I guess if Mary’s realisation became corrupted with untruth and she lost sight of the eternal, the Lord Jesus would have gently suggested she wash some dishes.
    But I think He would actually have washed them first.

    But a perhaps of relevance to the original post can be found in Ecclesiastes, chapter 9:
    14There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
    15Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
    16Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

  • Talking about Marys, it’s a not often recognised fact that in the early first century, all Jewish women were called Mary. Thus leading to the strange gaggle of Marys at the crucifixion-

    “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”

    Mary, her sister Mary, Mary who was Jesus’s girlfriend… must have been terribly confusing.

  • John B

    You make assumptions, Ian, the kind one gets coming out of Hollywood.

  • Roue le Jour

    “unfettered democracy”

    laird, you’re singing my song. Universal suffrage is the foundation on which socialism stands. Socialism gives wealth to people who haven’t earned it, universal suffrage gives the vote to people who haven’t earned it.

    People reliably vote in their own interest. There’s nothing wrong with that, but people who are making no contribution see their best interest as taking stuff from other people.

    I’ve been thinking recently that I had this democracy stuff all wrong. It’s not voting that determines the form of the government, it’s the form of the franchise. Voting just decides who manages it.

  • Roue le Jour

    Ian B, nah, the Bible is just using Miriam the way Ozzies use Sheila or squaddies use Doris.

    And when Jes got banged up, there were all these Miriams there, mate, and they were tearing at their togs and making a hell of a racket.

    See?

  • Considering that Big Government preceded universal suffrage, we are forced to conclude that universal suffrage votes have a supernatural power to travel backwards in time and cause the making of laws many years before the votes were cast.

  • Roue le Jour

    I’m sorry, where did Big Government preceded universal suffrage?

  • Everywhere. The pattern for the anglosphere nations is first for restrictions to be brought in, and then eventually welfare of various types, and the restrictions and state expansionism started in the mid 19th century, before universal suffrage.

    The model of “the evil lazy proleteriat rose up and demanded money” is wrong. The anglosphere big government is a creation of the rich, not of the poor. I quote GK Chesterton, writing in 1922-

    “It may be said of Socialism, therefore, very briefly, that its friends recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as decreasing liberty. On the one hand it was said that the State could provide homes and meals for all, on the other it was answered that this could only be done by State officials who would inspect houses and regulate meals. The compromise eventually made was one of the most interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that had ever been desired in it. Since it was supposed to gain equality at the sacrifice of liberty, we proceeded to prove that it was possible to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality. Indeed, there was not the faintest attempt to gain equality, least of all economic equality. But there was a very spirited and vigourous effort to eliminate liberty, by means of an entirely new crop of crude regulations and interferences. But it was not the Socialist State regulating those whom it fed, like children or even like convicts. It was the Capitalist State raiding those whom it had trampled and deserted in every sort of den, like outlaws or broken men. It occurred to the wiser sociologists that, after all, it would be easy to proceed more promptly to the main business of bullying men, without having gone through the laborious preliminary business of supporting them. After all it was easy to inspect the house without having helped to build it; it was even possible, with luck, to inspect the house in time to prevent it being built. All that is described in the documents of the Housing Problem; for the people of this age loved problems and hated solutions. It was easy to restrict the diet without providing the dinner. All that can be found in the documents of what is called Temperance Reform.

    In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a Capitalist State. For the vital point is that it did not in the smallest degree diminish the inequalities of a Capitalist State. It simply destroyed such individual liberties as remained among its victims. It did not enable any man to build a better house; it only limited the houses he might live in — or how he might manage to live there, forbidding him to keep pigs or poultry or to sell beer or cider. It did not even add anything to a man’s wages; it only took away something from a man’s wages and locked it up, whether he liked it or not, in a sort of money-box which was regarded as a medicine-chest. It does not send food into the house to feed the children; it only sends an inspector into the house to punish the parents for having no food to feed them. It does not see that they have got a fire; it only punishes them for not having a fireguard. It does not even occur to it to provide the fireguard.

    Now this anomalous situation will probably ultimately evolve into the Servile State of Mr. Belloc’s thesis. The poor will sink into slavery; it might as correctly be said that the poor will rise into slavery. That is to say, sooner or later, it is very probable that the rich will take over the philanthropic as well as the tyrannic side of the bargain; and will feed men like slaves as well as hunting them like outlaws.

  • James Waterton

    I’m interpreting the “sons of Martha” in Llamas’s poem as the sons of Martha’s Vineyard – they who have the self imposed “burden” of ruling the masses.

  • Roue le Jour

    Ian B, Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood, but you seem to be arguing governments started to become more powerful before universal suffrage, while I am arguing that universal suffrage is necessary for a government to become seriously big.

    Governments are funded by what they can skim off of the money that passes through their hands. To get seriously big, they need to handle a lot of money, which means taking over the big four, education, health, welfare and pensions, that gives them about half the nations GDP to play with.

    However, no party is going to get elected by proposing to take half of voter’s incomes and give it to non voters. Consequently, governments have to surround themselves with a mercenary army of voting non taxpayers to protect them from the ire of the voting tax payers. Sweep away that army and the big taxes necessary for big government become politically impossible.

    I think one of our hosts remarked a few days ago, “where do you go if you don’t want to live in a social democracy?” Which highlights something that has always bothered me. We are led to believe we can vote for any form of government we like, yet for the west, that seems to be basically the same government. Baring conspiracies, I wondered if it might be something else that was determining the form of government. As all western nations have similar voting systems, might it not be the form of the franchise itself?

    Given the much greater knowledge of political history that Samizdatanistas have than myself, the rebuttal I was expecting was along the lines of “That was proposed by A in 18xx and disproved by B in 18yy.”

    (apologies for possible duplicate – I have to rely on a dodgy EDGE connection)

  • John B

    Ian, that GK Chesterton quote is very good. Don’t know if I quite go with him nailing “the Capitalists” so directly (a term coined by Socialists) but in what was presumably the political and sociological trends/norms of his time, trying to take them into account, it is quite brilliant.
    Did not anybody hear what he was saying?
    I suppose they did but the overall political situation was driven by the controllers “fooling enough of the people enough of the time” as usual.

    James, that is the impression they like to give, indeed!

  • John the whole essay is quite brilliant and well worth reading-

    Ujeniks And Other Evils

    I think as regards his references to “capitalists” we should see that as the kind of mercantilist grandees with one foot in business and one foot in the State, rather than as our ideal of free-market enterpreneurs.

  • Roue-

    Okay, for dates, let’s have nationalisation of the telegraph system, 1868, well before universal suffrage. Supported by the entire political structure, the bureaucracy, business leaders and the opinion forming classes, and which set the precedent that the State may confiscate any industry “in the national interest”. Further, it put in place the principle of State control of communications that has plagued Britain ever since.

    In general terms, I am arguing sort of that “size doesn’t matter”. It’s not the size of government that is important, it is the perceived nature of it. To use a somewhat off-colour analogy; it’s not the size of a cancer tumour that matters, it is the existence of it and its nature. Nobody says, “it’s okay having a small tumour” because the nature of the tumour is to grow, subverting the rest of the body’s systems to its needs.

    My argument is that welfarism and redistribution (in our anglosphere nations) have been the last of the planks of Big Government to be laid; indeed America is still arguing about full nationalisation of healthcare. The other two planks; regulation of the economic sphere, and regulation of the private sphere, are laid first. As the Chesterton quote demonstrates. Welfare becomes a requirement once the private citizen’s ability to live an independent life has been crippled by the first two planks. Once you’ve made healthcare unaffordable, then you make it a state provision.

    In this view, universalising suffrage is simply part of the anglo-statist “package”. By making the citizens “stakeholders” in the government, the government is justified in its rapaciousness as it is doing it supposedly on behalf of the people. It is generally recognised that in Britain, the Great Reform Act of 1832, though it barely extended the franchise at all, resulted immediately in a much more active government, as the Parliament now had a figleaf of enfranchisement by “the people”. So in my view, it was the Victorian Era’s redefinition of what government should do- acting as a moral force to “make the world a better place” that matters; it led eventually to a universal franchise, and to full-on welfarism, but they very much lagged the implementation of central control structures and could only be put in place once it had been universally accepted that the State could do anything- even steal the telegraph system from its rightful owners.

    The universal franchise isn’t a primary causative agent. The cancer was already growing, and giving out the gift of the vote was simply one more means by which it captured the rest of the national body to use to feed itself.

  • Thanks, llamas. Kipling immediately sprang to my mind too.

  • Roue le Jour

    Ian B, thanks for that well considered comment. I’m not really seeing a major disagreement.

    My argument is if you don’t want a state that takes half the national income and employs a quarter or more of the workforce, disenfranchise non tax payers.

    Your argument, if I understand it, is that that would do nothing to reduce the power of the government, which is of course true. If a government is determined to be feudal lords, then they have the guns.

    This is peripheral to the main suggestion I am making. I am suggesting that it is the form of the franchise determines the form of the government, not voting. Empirically I would suggest that the greater the similarity between two country’s franchise, the more similar their governments are likely to be. I am raising this point on a libertarian site because, if true, then libertarians should be thinking about voting systems, not persuading people to vote for them under the current system.

    It is this proposition, Ian, I would prefer you to tear down.

    Based on this idea, I suggested that large scale wealth redistribution, and the big state that goes with it, was an inevitable consequence of universal suffrage. I am not suggesting the poor rise up and use their vote to seize wealth, I am suggesting that some fuckin’ intellectual will craft policies to appeal to the poor to obtain power for himself. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anybody that in Orwell’s 1984 it is the middle class intellectuals that are continuously monitored, not the proles. I don’t think this is a particularly contentious point, as I think it obvious that you cannot rob Peter to bribe Paul through the ballot box if Peter has a vote and Paul doesn’t.

  • Laird

    Roue le Jour, I think you’re absolutely correct. What you haven’t yet described is the manner in which you think the “franchise” should be reformed. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter. My own opinion is that if we’re going to have elections at all (I’m becoming progressively less convinced that’s either necessary or wise, but that’s a different discussion), the power to vote should be limited to those who actually pay taxes. Just as there should be “no taxation without representation”, the converse is equally true: there should be no representation without taxation. Those who pay for the government should decide how it’s run. What say you?

  • Roue le Jour

    There’s no easy answer to your question, Laird, because the Devil is always in the details. But for the big picture, welfare dependents don’t vote because they have no skin in the game, government employees not only don’t vote, but are not active politically in any way. The situation we recently had, where Labour, who these days are basically the political wing of the state unions, form the government, is simply ridiculous. This is The State choosing its own government.

    One could reasonably object and say that not all issues presented to the electorate involve tax and spend, and that would be true, in theory. In practice, the electorate tend not to be asked if they want to go to war in Iraq, for example. Virtually all issues have a financial dimension in any case, membership of the EU springs to mind here.

    The purpose of such changes is not to end up with a vast disenfranchised mob, quite the opposite. I suggest that giving tax consumers political power causes politicians to pander to them which increases their number. Conversely, removing their political power will decrease their number.

  • You can’t solve the problem of liberty by gerrymandering the electorate. Why only exclude people on welfare, and government employees? You would also have to exclude owners of private corporations, and their employees, who also vote for their own benefit via beneficial regulations. You have to exclude car drivers who will vote against cyclists and pedestrians’ interests, and cyclists and pedestrians who will vote against car drivers’ interests. In fact, you have to exclude everybody who may vote for their own benefit. So that’s everybody then.

  • Maureen

    The point of the Sirach quote is that workmen don’t have time to futz around with being politicking and advising, they may not have money enough to give big showy gifts to the poor and orphans and widows at the synagogue, and that sometimes they don’t even have time to go to the synagogue, but that doesn’t make them bad men. It makes them men with a different job, but no less holy servants of God and possibly no less wise.

    The general OT prophetic and wisdom literature theme is that, although being rich is a sign of God’s favor, there are lots of other signs. Poor people are championed and avenged by God, so the rich should watch their step. Also, that all Jews are pretty much equal in the sight of God, and maybe you shouldn’t be too sure that you’re better than a Gentile because they might be obeying God better than you.

    The point of the Mary/Martha story is that women were allowed to do rabbinical studies also, not just housework, and that Jesus wasn’t going to chase away any attentive listener. The story is paired with both Jesus’ admonition that people should be paying attention and celebrating while the bridegroom (Him) is here, because he’s going to be dead soon; and the later story of the death of Lazarus, where Martha demonstrates that she’s been listening from the kitchen, so don’t feel too sorry for either sister. The general idea that’s generally derived is that both the active and the contemplative life are important. Kipling’s having some fun with it, not condemning Mary or Martha.

  • Maureen

    As a matter of fact, it was the Cistercians (contemplative monks, tons of time in silence) who first industrialized steel in Europe. Their steel industry was ripped away from them by the kings of France, so they went into other fields of production to support their contemplative monasteries. They had those ripped away from them, so they started making Chartreuse. They had their monasteries and their rights to be monks taken from them by the French revolutionary government, so they died as martyrs or walked over the mountains to Spain in their sandals. And then came back a few years later and built monasteries again. And they still support themselves with work, not donations.

    For real huge amounts of work, there’s nothing like a contemplative trying to financially support his silent meditation time. 🙂

  • Laird

    Ian B, you’re missing my point. I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t get to vote merely because they have a personal interest in the outcome; as you point out, that’s true for all of us. I’m saying if you don’t contribute to the cost of government (i.e, pay taxes) you shouldn’t have a vote. “Those who pay the piper call the tune.” So in my scheme people on welfare (many of them, anyway) wouldn’t have a vote not because they’re on welfare, but because their income is so low that they don’t pay taxes (which is why they’re on welfare in the first place). The receipt of welfare is not the cause of disenfranchisement; rather, both welfare benefits and disenfranchisement spring from the same cause.

    To this extent I disagree with Roue du Jour. I wouldn’t disenfranchise government employees. I would, however, disenfranchise impoverished students, other dependents, and anyone who pays no taxes. But the corollary is also true: I would completely enfranchise anyone who does pay taxes, at that level of government. Thus, if you own two houses and pay property taxes on both, I would permit you to vote in local elections in both jurisdictions. And that is true even if your income is such that you pay no taxes at the state (in the US) and/or national level, and so are disenfranchised at those levels.

  • I like Maureen’s take on this.

  • Laird

    Her take on which part? The Ecclesiasticus quote? I guess it’s a reasonable interpretation of the words, but it’s certainly at odds with the meaning Brian was trying to draw out of it.

    As to the Mary/Martha story, it’s difficult to credibly maintain that Kipling was merely “having fun” with it. Certainly he was not being critical of Martha, and probably only mildly so of Mary (or rather, her “sons”). But to me it seems highly critical of God’s overall scheme. “Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.” So she makes one error and her descendants are punished? Forever? (Good thing we’ve abolished corruption of the blood; I hope someone has told Martha’s sons.) “They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!” Hereditary whipping boys. Nice. That’s a pretty nasty message.

  • Laird, do you mind if I call you a fascist? I mean it in a purely insulting sense, rather than specifically politically accurate sense.

    Your formula for disenfrachising those you despise carefully focusses on a narrow economic effect in order to justify your particular bias. On what grand principle is it that only those who pay for goverment through direct taxation should have any right to influence it? As I pointed out, wealthy industrialists can, and do, enrich themselves by influencing government. Bankers and much of the financial sector owe their entire economic existence to government monopoly. The list goes on. On the other side of the coin, the poor pay a great deal in indirect taxation; on their food, on their meagre luxuries such as beer and tobacco and so on.

    We must also add that policies deliberately inflicted by economic and academic elites drive the unemployment that your policy would use as a cause of disenfrachisement. Statist economics takes the bread from the mouths of the poor and stuffs it into the mouths of the rich; and if wages start to rise the rich flood the market with cheap migrant labour to ensure that wages are driven back down below worthwhile levels- only in proletarian market sectors of course. The polish plumber is welcomed, and the arabian warehouse worker, but the “professions” are tightly regulated by state-backed cartels. We are not awash with Polish lawyers, we note.

    There are no firm ideological grounds for your preferred policy other than the naked self interest of using a rather hollow justification to exclude others and include yourself. I do not believe that it has any merit whatsoever.

  • Laird: yes, the former – Brian’s take on it being a separate issue.

  • Also, Laird, regarding your suggestion, my problem with it is that those who pay taxes vote for a government that wields power over everyone, including those who do not pay them, further including those who do not actively benefit from it (i.e. are not receiving welfare) – in other words, people who simply want to be left alone.

    Me, I would disenfranchise government employees, period.

  • John B

    The Mary/Martha is about looking beyond the created into the eternal.
    Anyone can begin to do this by exploring the meaning and implications of black holes, worm holes, time, space, infinity, a portion of infinity (me), mass, energy (mass being energy in space?), and how did it all come about?
    While that is still the created, is does start to take one beyond the ‘accepted norms’.
    Reality is of course no more than that which is, which is why I have a lot more respect for Sarah Palin than Al Gore. And for those who do make things work rather than those who pontificate. There’s no problem with trying to work it out, of course. It goes rotten when some folk decide to start telling other people how it should work, and charging them for the privilege of their wisdom = taxation ? Especially when those folk are just venal, ego-hungry, mediocre folk who have little concern beyond their own access to the global goodies.

  • Laird

    Thank you, Ian; I accept your insult in the spirit in which it is given. If I may reply in kind, your post (rather surprisingly vitriolic, and clearly not up to your usual standard) reads like a fairly typical low-grade Marxist tract. Accordingly, I shall hereinafter address you as Comrade.

    Please note that my point was only that those who contribute to the cost of government should determine in its operation. I did not require any specific quantum of contribution; one dollar would suffice. I merely require that one be a contributor, not a taker of governmental largesse. I don’t expect the patrons at a soup kitchen to have a say in how it is managed; that should be left to the contributors. Same concept here, Comrade. I’m sorry that it offends you, but that’s your problem, not mine. Still, if you would prefer a return to the old rule that the vote was limited to property owners, I’m certainly willing to listen to the argument.

  • Well, herr Laird with the toothbrush moustache, I’m afraid your level of argumentation here is very far below your usual erudite standard. As I mentioned in the previous post, and you have not addressed, your standard is entirely arbitrary. You simply declare a preference to limiting the franchise to one class- property owners. But one could make a case for limiting to any other class- for instance- only those who have served in the armed forces perhaps. You have singularly failed to justify why this one particular class are the only ones deserving of the vote.

    It seems you’ve fallen into a common libertarian snare of attempting to reduce all of human life to economics, and thus reducing this issue to economics. The problem is that although a major role of current governments is economic management, they also manage many other things which are not in particular or at all economic matters. Your view on the totality of this issue seems to be obscured by that raised right arm of yours.

    As to my “marxism” you will find many great libertarians such as Murray Rothbard- not known for his adherence to Das Kapital addressing the enormous usage of the State by capitalist grandees to siphon the money of the less advantaged into their pockets. A certain Herr Von Mises, a man not normally associated with the socialist worker’s revolution, wrote very eloquently on how the central banking system ratchets wealth from the poor to the rich. It is hardly reasonable for those who have been de-wealthed to then be de-franchised also. Your soup kitchen analogy is particularly fun, as the traditional image of the soup kitchen comes from the 1930 Depression Era USA, an era when most libertarians- even the famous communist Mr Ron Paul- agree that the vast unemployment was caused by policies imposed by the powerful. No doubt disenfranchising all those queueing for soup due to the economy’s wreckage by plutocrats would have led to Mr Roosevelt and his Brains Trust and the rest of the American elites realising the errors of their ways. I am likewise sure that in the current climate, limiting the franchise to those earning vast sums from housing market inflation would have led to a new dawn of economic reason and stability.

    Or perhaps not.

  • erratum-

    I said property owners when I meant “government contributors” or “taxpayers” in the first para.

  • Laird

    Isn’t any standard “inherently arbitrary”? Your position seems to be that merely because someone is affected by something (here, the State) he should ipso facto have a voice in its actions. Sorry, but that’s not the way things work; I am powerless over lots of thing which affect me. I have no voice in the internal governance of the state of North Carolina, but when I drive through it I am nonetheless subject to its laws. Why don’t I get to vote on them? My position is no more (and no less) “arbitrary” than is yours. Sorry, but I don’t accept a vague charge of “arbitrariness” as a valid argument.

    And while I probably am guilty of reducing many things to economics, it seems to me that just about everything government does should be viewed in those terms. All of life isn’t economics, true, but most of what government affects (or at least what it properly should affect) is.

    I won’t argue for rent-seekers (I despise that term, but it seems to be the one we’re stuck with); I have no more use for them than do you. But I would posit to you that had my idea been in force during the 1930’s the grossly and demonstrably destructive policies of the Roosevelt administration would have been quickly abandoned for the simple reason that he could never have gotten re-elected. All of his supporters would have been disenfranchised, and all of us (including them) would have been better off as a result. Thanks for making my argument for me.

    Well, I’m off to groom my moustache now. Later!

  • Roue le Jour

    You guys have been having fun while I was asleep! I would add this point. All systems must have a natural limit or they will grow out of control. You can’t have more zebras than the plains will support, you can’t have more lions than the zebras support, etc. etc.

    So what limits the tax and spend power of the government? Currently they run a very simple scam that never seems to get pointed out. Any one on a cyclic income, farmers being the classic example, knows that you use the fat years to prepare for the lean. The government, with its income determined by the business cycle, quite calculatedly does not do this. When the nation has a good year, and tax receipts are higher than expected, the government uses the extra money to take on extra spending commitments. When the inevitable downturn happens, they wheel out the tired old bullshit, “no one could have foreseen” the downturn, and it is necessary to raise taxes to “meet spending commitments”. Run that through a few cycles and you have taxation up to the current eye watering levels.

    What system could provide the necessary checks and balances to prevent the government bankrupting the nation? The only possible candidate is the tax payers, by voting the bastards out. But the tax payers are prevented from doing this because the government has packed the electoral roles with non tax payers. So we all just sit back and watch the clowns pull levers and push buttons and drive the economy into the abyss.

    There is nothing sacred about universal suffrage. It is a recent innovation and in my view a failed experiment, as is its contemporary, socialism.

  • Laird

    Nice to have an ally! Another “fascist” (in the purely insulting sense, of course).

  • Yes Laird, unfortunately this kind of bad reasoning is quite widespread in libertarianism I’m afraid.

  • Laird

    Conveniently ignoring my last substantive comment, I see.

  • Roue le Jour

    I can only conclude from Ian Bs defense of universal suffrage that he deplores being taxed but will defend to the death the right of others to tax him.

  • It didn’t seem to make any new substantive points to address. For instance, the silly point about North Carolina; you are not one of the owners of North Carolina, you are a guest there when you drive through. I recommend Hans Hermann Hoppe’s writings on the joint ownership of the nation state by its citizenry (under the current nation state system) which would apply to federalised States too.

    You get a vote in your own State because you’re one of its joint owners.

  • Laird

    Yes, I am one of the joint owners. But those who don’t pay taxes to my state (wherever they may happen to reside) are not “owners” of it in any reasonable sense; at best they’re guests and at worst they’re squatters. Either way, they enjoy the “benefits” provided by the state without contributing to the cost. And guests don’t have any say in how things are run.

    I did enjoy Roue le Jour’s little epigram. Skewered you quite nicely.

  • I don’t know why, it doesn’t make much sense.

    As to your first paragraph, do I take it that you are advocating the position that anyone not actively paying taxes should have their citizenship revoked? That appears to be your position. What would you do with these “squatters”? Forced exile?

  • Roue le Jour

    Ian B, you seem to be determined to see disenfranchisement as as scheme to create a second class of citizen that can be abused at will or kicked out all together. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim is to increase the accountability of politicians by making them answer to their paymasters, the tax payers, not to those who benefit from their irresponsible profligacy. The intended consequence is economic stability which would benefit all.

    If I still had teenage children I would love them to bits and wish them only well, but they are still my dependents, and do not get to out vote me and demand that I spend the mortgage money on buying them new iPhones.

  • Laird

    What Roue le Jour said. Damn, he’s a lot more succinct than I am!

  • Sunfish

    But those who don’t pay taxes to my state (wherever they may happen to reside) are not “owners” of it in any reasonable sense; at best they’re guests and at worst they’re squatters. Either way, they enjoy the “benefits” provided by the state without contributing to the cost.

    What if I stopped in Durham and bought a tank of gas, a can of Dr. Pepper, and a pack of Prime Time wine-flavored pseudocigars?

    What if I own a second home there on which property taxes are assessed?

    What about getting a speeding ticket for 51 in a 45 from one of the chickenshit little towns that use traffic enforcement for a general revenue source? Does that make me a taxpayer?

    Or are some taxes more equal than others?

  • Laird

    I own properties in 2 other states, and don’t get a vote (even at the municipal level, which is where my property taxes go) in either of them. So yes, clearly some taxes are more equal than others. Your point?

  • Paul Marks

    One does not have to be Ian B. to doubt the force of attacks on democracy – indeed to doubt that idea that we are democracy at all.

    For example, my home town has regular elections and, between elections, expensive “consultation exercises”.

    Yet what influence have the people got on policy? Very little.

    Indeed almost all policy choices over the last 50 years in Kettering were (and are) OPPOSED by the great majority of people.

    This town is not unusual – it is normal.

    In fact it is towns where the people have some influence on policy (such as Epsom) that are freakish.

    Nationally…..

    As the historian Maurice Cowling (spelling alert) pointed out almost NONE of the statist policy moves by British government over the last couple of centuries came from “the people” (even after most people had the vote).

    They came (as in other nations) from educated and wealthy “experts” and were pushed by politicians of all parties.

    It was the same in the United States – for example the people who voted for F.D.R. in 1932 thought they were voting for a SMALLER government (not a bigger one) and it was only after four years of an intense disinformation and propaganda campaign that the people endorsed what had been done in 1936.

    “But there was dissent allowed on the radio” – actually the “dissenting” voices were people like Father Coughlin – at first a passionate SUPPORTER of F.D.R. and then a critic because he thought F.D.R. was not statist ENOUGH.

    The nonsense about Father Coughlin being a conservative voice is just that – nonsense, he was a radical statist.

    Look for conservative voices on American radio in the 1930’s – you will have a hard time finding them, a young bureaucrat by the name of Johnson (yes the future “L.B.J.”) worked to make sure of that.

    Supportive of F.D.R.? Wonderful.

    Thinking he did not go far enough? – Well we can find a use for you (for a time).

    But thinking government is too big and should be rolled back? Errrrr no “private” radio is not the place for you (nor is Hollywood – the left ran their own “black list” in the 1930’s, and no modern university historian attacks it, or even mentions it).

    Allowing dissent into the mass media (if only in a limited way) may prove to be the greatest achievement of Ronald Reagan – for it was he who stopped the policy of forbidding the airwaves to people who had certain political points of view (and if the policy had continued on the radio – it would AUTOMATICALLY have been applied to the internet when that came).

    “What about 1964 – the people voted for L.B.J.s Great Society” – no they did not.

    The people voted AGAINST Barry Goldwater (who they were told was insane, many head docs wrote public letters to this effect, had met with NeoNazis in Germany, this B.S. was widely reported, and planned to BLOW UP THE WORLD).

    This was the “golden age” of the media that Barack Obama talks about – i.e. age when any lie (no matter how absurd) could be transmitted by the MSM (on the air and in print) without any challenge getting to most voters.

    How many people wanted the vast increase in government welfare spending that the Great Society was?

    A few did – but nothing like a majority. In spite of all the efforts of the MSM and (of course) the elite controlled education system of schools and colleges.