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Fountain of the Future

A story in The Telegraph has brought to mind the following quotation, which seems doubly apt:

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

– Karl Marx, writing in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon”

37 comments to Fountain of the Future

  • David Crawford

    So Bush was tragedy and Obama was farce? Myself, I think that should be reversed.

  • Bruce

    Then there was that Austrian postcard artist:

    WW1 as farce, WW2 as tragedy.

    Maybe Marx wasn’t as smart as he thought he was.

  • Paul Marks

    Hegel made the fundamental mistake (indeed based his philosophy upon the mistake) that if someone or something was fundamentally important they must be contributing something good – not necessarily fully correct (indeed certainly not), but part of the “historical process” of thesis, anti thesis, synthesis.

    It is a false vision (a false conception). Some people who fundamentally shape history are just WRONG – what they stand for does not contribute anything positive (it is just nonsense – but nonsense for which they murder millions).

    “Lenin” was one of these people – and Marxism is one of these very historically important (but utterly FALSE) doctrines.

    One does not accept a doctrine such as Marxism even in part – it is not part of a positive “historical evolution”, it is just WRONG.

    In short the old Cook Wilson (Oxford – he was the mentor of Harold Prichard) way of “doing” the history of political philosophy is correct – “what did this person believe?” (the historical question) and “were they right?” (the philosophical question) – and the Collingwood (also Oxford) way of doing the history of political philosophy is mistaken – one does not accept (to any degree) that X “great thinker” of the past “solved his problems” and try and incorporate their thought in the historical-process build-upon-it…………

    One should not build one’s house on a foundation of liquid – especially (as is the case with Karl Marx as well as “Lenin”) the liquid is urine.

  • Regional

    Napoleon 111 policies ended famine in France.
    Communism caused famines in Russia.
    Paris has a lot to be thankful for Napoleon 111 as has France.
    The same can’t be said for Russia and Communism.

  • Paul Marks – saying it as it is so we don’t have to.

    Paul, a house built upon urine. Bravo! I so wish I’d said that.

  • CaptDMO

    I understand that the transportation infrastructure was very efficient once the NAZI party came to power.
    And lest we forget, the great humanitarian put fourth an edict concerning a humane way of killing lobsters.
    Didn’t Marx “start off” propaganda for his efforts as a columnist for the NYT?

  • CaptDMO- so that Nazi Lobster bit in Family Guy is historically accurate! ?

  • Paul Marks

    I do not think it was the NYT – it was another woolly headed New York newspaper. The man in charge of the newspaper was not all bad (he made some valid points against the Grant Administration)although he did die in the madhouse I believe.

    Nick – yes I am only to0 happy to state the obvious.

    As for consequences – they can only kill me once (in fact I often wish I had been removed from this mortal coil many years ago).

  • Paul Marks

    Napoleon – if one overlooks the many years of war and mass death (although he just carried on the wars the Revolutionaries had started).

    Restored a gold coinage to France (rather than the fiat money of the Revolutionaries).

    And handed back factories to private owners (the revolutionaries had nationalised them – so much for it being a “capitalist” revolution).

    True everything was falling apart when Napoleon took over – but it takes some courage to actually turn things back…….

    Normally when everything is falling apart – it continues to fall apart (getting worse and worse).

    As even new governments seem to find it impossible to REVERSE the polices of previous governments.

    It is always “let us fix ….” – not “….. was a mistake, let us go back to when it did not exist”.

    New “laws” added – not old ones repealed (if only Boney had repealed the compulsory division of inheritance of land – France would have not have had its birthrate undermined in the 19th and early 20th century).

    As for his restoration of a monarchy……

    Whatever one thinks of monarchy – the idea of a man who says to himself “this country was better off under a monarchy, but the monarch was weak – the problem was that the monarch was not ME”.

    That is impressive (in a mad sort of way), this was a man who did not need self esteem lessons.

    One should also remember that the only free trade regime that France has ever had was under Boney’s kinsman Napoleon III.

    After the defeat of 1870 it is all down hill for liberalism.

    At least for the good liberalism that Brian means.

    If Napoleon III had only intervened against Prussia and Bismark in 1866 (when Bismark was crushing resistance to Prussia in Germany) European and World history might have been very different.

    And much better.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes opposition to Bismark and Prussianism – that is where I came in to Liberarianism (long ago).

    But opposing obviously nasty statism is not enough.

    One must oppose “cultured” “liberal” statism also.

    Such as the statism of Frederick the Great.

  • Endivio Roquefort I

    I tend to think of Napoleon as a bit of a vainqueur.

  • CaptDMO

    Marx-Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. I stand corrected (by 4 seconds of search engine, *sheesh*), ty PM.
    Family Guy Nazi Lobster? “Iraq Lobster maybe? Not sure.
    Oddly, I always thought it was neighboring Persia-Iran “modification”, that was a variation of “Arian”, that was most closely associated with Nazi Germany of impending WWII-looking for oil of course.
    “Close enough” for McFarlain’s writers?
    Could entirely be myth on my part.

  • Regional

    If the Axis had realised the amount of oil available in Libya??????

  • if only Boney had repealed the compulsory division of inheritance of land – France would have not have had its birthrate undermined in the 19th and early 20th century

    How so, Paul?

  • Philosophy is largely utter bollocks.

  • Snorri Godhi

    if only Boney had repealed the compulsory division of inheritance of land – France would have not have had its birthrate undermined in the 19th and early 20th century

    An intriguing thought in view of the fairly recent Micklethwait post about Emmanuel Todd and family structures.

    One should also remember that the only free trade regime that France has ever had was under Boney’s kinsman Napoleon III.

    After the defeat of 1870 it is all down hill for liberalism.

    Actually, my understanding is that Napoleon iii was inspired by Saint-Simon, and declared himself a socialist at least on one occasion. (He might have been inebriated on that occasion.) I see the conflict between Napoleon iii and Bismarck as a conflict between 2 socialist regimes. (Didn’t Bismarck also declare himself a socialist at some point?)

  • Snorri Godhi

    Apologies for an off topic comment, but this is, personally speaking, my quote of the day:

    Matthew Chapman, chief executive of The Chapman Consulting Group, notes that if handled poorly, employees could believe certain people get hired because of their minority status, rather than on merit.


    Not because it’s an original thought, but because it’s on the BBC website.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick that thought was expressed by Cicero as “nothing is so absurd that some philosopher has not believed it” (in context implying that some things were so absurd that ONLY philosophers would believe them – Cicero was well read in Greek philosophy, but remained a Roman).

    But it is unfair – it is not philosophy itself that is no good, it is just a lot of philosophers who are no good.

    Snorri – to be fair to employers once “Civil Rights”, “Anti Discrimination” doctrine has been accepted, de facto quotas are inevitable (how else can one defend one’s self against the charge of “discrimination” unless one hires a sufficient number of X group to be in line with the percentage in the general population).

    Alisa – because of the threat to divide farms.

    Even before the Revolution most land in France was owned by the people who farmed it (a fact that somehow Hollywood and the school textbooks miss) – Revolutionary law held that inheritance had to be divided among one’s sons (not quite the same with daughters – at least with land).

    Therefore having more than one son was a danger to the farm (or other enterprise).

    So late marriage, or abortion, or infanticide.

    Men often lecture women on the wickedness of killing babies (of course we do not have to carry one around for nine months – or give birth), but given a threat to the family farm (or family shop or …..) many men are often far more ruthless with dealing with babies than women are.

    Of course not all French men were like this (“oh I have another son – the child better have a little accident….”), but a sufficient number of Frenchmen were like this (or MORE OFTEN just married late) for the German birth rate to exceed to the French birth rate in the 19th century.

    German law also divided up inheritance – but German law was complicated (there were ways that family farms could be protected), French law (in this respect) was dreadful in its elegant simplicity.

    And the English?

    All a matter of freedom of contract in England (in those days) – if you wanted to leave everything to one child (or tell all your children to get lost – and leave everything to the cats) you could.

    So the English could have as many children as the liked – knowing that the children were no threat to the unity of the estate.

    By the way……

    This is why the idea that the agricultural and industrial revolutions “depopulated the countryside” is drivel.

    The number of people in England and Wales working on the land peaked as late as the mid 19th century.

    The people who went to work in the factories in England and Wales were not “driven from the land” they were the extra babies that were born (that would have otherwise died – had not been for the agricultural and industrial revolutions).

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – Napoleon III may indeed have said this (it would not surprise me).

    But I see little evidence in his life (such as signing up a special constable in his time in England in order to fight AGAINST radical agitators) or in his policies that was socialist.

    About the only thing I can think of is the mass alterations to Paris.

    And many rulers have gone for the “planned city” thing – without being socialists.

    As for Saint Simon – the first one (the critic of Louis XIV) is more interesting that the socialist one.

    The arch snob – yet whose hero was a commoner (the author of “The Royal Tithe” the military fortress master V.).

  • Thanks, Paul. So how did it work before that law was passed?

  • Paul Marks

    Much as in England and Wales – Feudal law assumes that the land goes to the eldest son, unless you (the landholder)formally make a will saying it does not.

    Will in English Common Law (and, I believe, in France before 1789) could say anything – even “out with the children – I leave it all to my pet dog”.

    In the English county of Kent the law was somewhat different – the law assumed that that land was divided up, unless the landholder said different.

    In practice this meant that every farmer in Kent had to make a will (and that is about it).

    However, it is historically interesting as Kent remained under Anglo Saxon land law (the land gets divided up unless the landholder says different) in spite of the Norman Conquest – and it remained under Anglo Saxon land law till the 1920s (yes the 20th century).

    Kent is not in some remote place – it is right next to London.

    History is a funny thing.

    Kent did not get serfdom either – but then large areas of England did not.

    In France the Revolution of 1789 ended the laws against Jews and Protestants (the laws that actually been repelled some years before, apart from in the region that is either French or German, depending on your point of view).

    Ended torture (ditto – ended years before, actually the Revolution brought it back, although not officially).

    Freed the serfs (what serfs exactly?).

    And on and on……

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Lately I’ve been of the view that Marx was in fact right about many things, but always for entirely the wrong reasons. He was right for example about the middle classes being one of the biggest barriers to effecting social change (particularly evident these days whenever a government does anything which might hurt house prices). They’re just comfortable enough that they don’t like people rocking the boat in any major way (usually, there are of course exceptions). This is not primarily to do with money per se, despite what Marx said. It is a lot more to do with living standards more generally.

    He was also right about the inherant problem of capital inequality between the social classes leading to an inequality of opportunity. If you don’t have anything to begin with, it is hard to acquire more. His big mistake was in saying that it was an inequality of financial capital.

    The middle classes big strength is their social capital. Someone’s cousin’s uncle’s brother will know someone who can help you, make an introduction etc. etc. It is for this reason that I’ve come across many upper middle class people who have no fear of poverty, despite often having little money. “Something will come up”, they say, apparently ignorant that it is their social networks that made this possible. These same people often feel like this enables them to “understand the poor”, when of course their experience bares no relation to life on a council estate. People who lack these social resources will find it very difficult indeed to be upwardly mobile. Money can always be raised, but social capital is very hard to acquire if you don’t have it.

    Marxist redistribution wont work for social capital either. It’s not like you can forcibly redistribute the contents of the Smithe’s at #14’s black book. It’s a problem that doesn’t have any easy solutions.

    I’m reasonably sure it doesn’t involve government intervention though.

  • But how did it work in practice? The still has to either be divided, or the younger sons are left with no livelihood, no?

  • I meant the land has to be divided, etc. – sorry…

  • Paul Marks

    Many successful businessmen started with nothing much – for example Jon Huntsman (senior)was born in a cardboard house.

    However, it is less difficult to build something if you start with something (at least that is my excuse for a being a total and absolute failure and wasting my life).

    The second Mr V.(the richest man in America in his day) shows the point.

    Flatterers congratulated him on doubling the family fortune to 200 hundred million Dollars – implying he was a much nicer man than his ruthless father (who started with nothing much), and he was a much nicer man.

    “See you have made just as much money as your father” the flatterers declared.

    “I suspect it was rather harder to make the first hundred million” replied Mr V.

    By the way – that stuff about the middle classes blocking housing estates…..

    Does not fit with what is happening around here (or lots of other places I know).

    Good country is being ripped to bits to produce housing estates – with government subsidised roads, and drainage (and on and on). And, of course, all the lovely “cheap money” (the credit bubble that produces the property bubble).

    The “middle classes” the people who moved (or have lived there all their lives – and are not “middle class” at all) to villages and the edge of town because they wanted to be near the woods and fields, do indeed object.

    And they might as well be spitting against a hurricane.

    Their objections carry no weight – none.

    I waked the footpath from Walkton Lane to the villages (there are two) of Cranford a few weeks ago.

    That land (that way of life) is to be destroyed – and I am part of the destruction.

    I am not the solution – I am part of the problem.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Alisa – the younger sons were left with no livelihood.

    In English Common Law (and in large areas of France – law varied in France before the French Revolution) the younger son of a rich Duke could be left to starve in the streets (if the rich Duke felt like it).

    In fact (in England and Wales) it could be the oldest son.

    There was downward mobility as well as upward mobility – although the son of a rich man would not (in practice) be left to starve in the streets, he (or she in the case of a daughter) be left with very little.

    Remember the elderly sisters in Sense and Sensibility?

    They came from a wealthy and cultured background – but they were going down in the world as they were not themselves wealthy (they were eating what little capital they had).

    Hence the anger the main male character has when the main female character talks down to the sisters.

    Their social standing was all they had left – and that the young lady was taking away (if they answered her back in kind they might lose the friendship of the leading people of the local area – and thus their social standing, and their sense of self [even their past lives] would be destroyed).

    The French Revolutionaries found all this horrible “aristocracy has only one child” was one of their slogans.

    Perhaps it is horrible – but that is freedom.

    Freedom must include “off you to the colonies – or the gutter if you prefer”.

    After all the child of a rich person who is left with nothing, is in no worse a position than the child of a poor person who had nothing to leave them anyway…….

    My father was born with nothing – made heroic (almost superhuman)efforts to make something of himself (to make himself a man of means).

    He succeeded – but then lost it all.

    Had he stayed rich and left me with nothing – I would be in no worse a position than I was by him being poor again by the time I reached adult life.

    After all what (apart from laziness) has stopped me making the same efforts that he did?

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Why haven’t you invented something, like a new game, Paul? I have invented the Self-locking Garment Button, just from plastic parts, so small but useful inventions are possible (I am currently trying to get Korbond interested in my product.). Or you could write a book about historical trends- how can Britain regain the lead in world power? There is still time to overthrow a small country and experiment with libertarian structures!

  • Maximo Macaroni

    “Matthew Chapman, chief executive of The Chapman Consulting Group, notes that if handled poorly, employees could believe certain people get hired because of their minority status, rather than on merit.”

    I think he means ” … if handled truthfully, employees would see that certain people get hired because of their minority status and that is the way the powers-that-be like it and just shut up or we will throw you in jail for anti-social statements.”

  • Kevin B

    Alisa, the tradition, (or perhaps cliche is the better word), in the English landowning aristocracy was the first born son gets the land, the second goes in the army and the third goes in the church. Then there was emigrating to the colonies, marrying into a fortune, becoming a scholar or even going into a profession or, gasp, a trade. Then there was the age old task of being the family wastrel.

    As Paul says, the hovel-renting classes had it much easier in that they had far fewer choices to make and far fewer surviving sons to make them for.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick let us not discuss me any more (when I am tired I tend to say things that are better left unsaid, I have known for many years what my logical course of action is, but I have never found the courage to do what must be done, so let us leave it at that).

    I wish you every success in getting your invention applied commercially.

    Kevin – yes although child morality was no respecter of social standing.

    The industrial revolution meant life for those younger children for which there was otherwise no place.

    And it could be in other countries also – if it was allowed to be.

    Unfortunately such things as “labour codes” cripple the growth of industry in countries as India (and undermine the economy and employment in advanced countries such as Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal) – giving people the “right” (the compulsory right) to be unemployment and dependent (at least till the system collapses and the population starves).

    A woman in India recently made the news (at least the Indian news) – the woman worked “illegally” as a construction worker, doing well enough to even buy some domestic animals, but her village knew what to do.

    In an example of progressive community action, the village ordered the woman gang raped and stole her animals (and anything else the local community activists could get their hands on). Now the woman has been informed that she must leave the village (leaving her house behind of course) or she will paraded naked through the streets and made to drink urine (and so on) till she dies.

    Does not progressive community action give one a warm feeling – rather like the feeling one gets before one vomits.

    I am reminded of the response of General Napier to the statement that burning widows was a cultural tradition…….

    “We to have a cultural tradition – when men burn a women, we hang the men. If you follow your cultural tradition, we will follow our cultural tradition”.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way…..

    Friends of mine over in the next county (Oxfordshire) are being strangled (effectively forced out) in their Small Holding (their very small farm – which has been in the family for generations) by a government backed “Eco Town” (a massive development ironically justified by a lot of “Green” waffle).

    Planning Law?

    That was for messing the family about (when they wanted to convert the barn into a home).

    It does bugger all to stop major housing developments such as the Eco Town.

    As everyone who has served on a local council Planning Committee knows…..

    There is no point in voting against a major development (even if government subsidies for roads and so on were a “material planning consideration” which they are NOT legally) as the developers will simply go to Appeal, and government inspectors nearly always find for the appealer (“Growth Agenda”).

    So all one has done (if one fights these insane developments) is cost the local taxpayers money – legal fees.

  • Thanks, Paul (and Kevin) – it all falls into place now.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    What you need to do is find an unusual animal or bird on the farm, and get it protected! If you can’t find one, use spray paint on ordinary ones. Who knew that Owls (or badgers) could be purple? Better protect this rare creature!

  • Bill B.

    This is a really weird thread.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Paul, I’ll give you an idea to develop. Women like brainy men, and women like tall men, according to science, so that settles that. Why don’t you work on the padded wig for men? If women can wear padded bras, we also need some help! I’m working on the button angle, so you could get rich from this!

  • Paul Marks

    Nick – it is funny about these rare animals and plants.

    When you want to improve your farm the lesser spotted toad means you can not.

    But when the government wants to build a road (or give your farm to a Chinese solar thing) then the lesser spotted toad somehow does not matter any more.

    On hair and height…..

    Yes indeed.

    Fortunes are spent on baldness research – and the British Chancellor is one of those rich men who spends his money on powerful chemicals to keep his hair.

    And vast numbers of men wear “lifts” (not open high heels like women – but shoes that are built up on the inside).

    And men denounce women for vanity.

    Men are just as vain as women – but we engage in vanity secretly (whilst denying it).

    Thus adding hypocrisy to vanity.

  • Mr Ed

    when the government wants to build a road (or give your farm to a Chinese solar thing) then the lesser spotted toad somehow does not matter any more

    I am fairly certain that in the UK, any government plans to steal property have to comply with EU Habitat directives (not on sofa quality) and delays ensue as the overlords have to be satisfied that their plans are not affected. Not that this protects property, it just raises costs, but the toad etc. still matters.

    However, it has occurred to me that the main issue is that for the lovers of savagery, a fondness for any beast will do, if that can be translated into doing violence to property rights. It further makes me think that all the ‘bunny huggers’ ‘love’ their furry or feathered friends (says he who took great delight in seeing two leverets on his morning stroll today) is really an expression of their hatred of property, delighting at possible agents of pretexts for destructionism.

    When Love and Hate Collide.