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The ghastliness of the weak state

Bear with me on this.

I give you two examples from 1917.

Exhibit A hoarding:

The Times, 1 September 1917 p3

And now for the grim tale of Exhibit B (from The Times 8 September 1917 p3). To cut a long story short: a German gets served with a deportation order, doesn’t want to go and commits suicide instead. Oh, and he tries and fails to take his family with him. The suicide note is heartbreaking.

In the First World War, the British state started off weak and only acquired greater powers on a case by case basis.

In the Second World War, the British state was much more comprehensive and consistent. As a consequence neither of these two outrages would have happened. There would have been no hoarding because the ration system would have made it more or less impossible and there was no deportation because all German citizens were interned.

I would much rather this wasn’t the case.

26 comments to The ghastliness of the weak state

  • bobby b

    A well-filled larder?

    I have more food than that stored at one of my houses out in the middle of nowhere in the Dakotas. Two hunting weekends would take care of what these 1917 “hoarders” had stored. That warranted an arrest and fine? Tough times.

    (Well, no “potted tongue”, of course. We’re not barbarians.)

  • Zerren Yeoville

    ‘Hoarding’ as a crime is BS anyway, exposing the true nature of the State. It doesn’t want self-reliant, resilient citizens who can provide for their own needs during periods of social breakdown; it would much rather use rationing as a tool of population control. It discriminates against Aesop’s ‘ants’ in favour of the ‘grasshoppers’ despite the fact that the ‘grasshoppers’ would likely be better off for not having the ‘ants’ standing in front of them in the ration queue.

    There was a young-adult novel published in the Seventies on this theme; ‘Noah’s Castle’ by John Rowe Townsend (later filmed as a series for ITV) in which a (rather sternly paternalistic) father foresees a severe economic breakdown in the UK (well, this was in the times of Heath and Callaghan!) and responds by moving his family out of town to a large house with a capacious basement which he proceeds to fill with masses of tinned food, much to the emotional turmoil of his liberal-minded altruistic teenage children. It’s worth reading for more on this topic.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    “War and the Rise of the State.” A great book. I forget who wrote it, but governments expand in wars, hence the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, etc. Here in Australia, Canberra really started to expand during WW2, and hasn’t looked back.

  • Mr Black

    If there was ever a time where heavy-handed government might actually be necessary, I’d call total war that time. Normal rules and laws don’t apply.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s usually better to fight fire with water. In the case of WW2, perhaps we could have tried to assassinate Hitler and the top level of Nazis, rather than fight just like him. In the case of Japan, if we had kidnapped their royal family, we could have ended the war with a minimum of fuss.
    Counterfactuals are interesting, but we might want to try this in any future conflict.

  • Mr Black

    There is a general agreement that national leaders are out of bounds. Any nation has more than enough resources to totally annihilate the leadership of any other nation. Even some shithole in Africa could put together the resources to assassinate the President or Prime Minister of any Western nation. Once it was the accepted practice, it would become dangerously common. And secondly to that, wars are not usually initiated because one man wills it. There is a culture and a war-ready population behind him. There has to be. Killing a leader does nothing to win a war, as evidenced by our retarded notion of fighting the muslims by killing their leaders (who are immediately replaced) instead of incinerating their cities, which permanently fixes the problem.

  • There is a general agreement that national leaders are out of bounds

    Generally agreed by other national leaders or prospective leaders. Frankly they should be the prime target.

    Even some shithole in Africa could put together the resources to assassinate the President or Prime Minister of any Western nation

    You clearly know jasckshit about the shitholes of Africa. Try living in one for a few years and then get back to me. These are states with institutions of such transcendent ineptitude that is passes all understanding of those who have not experienced it first hand. The Nigerian intelligence services (an oxymoron, I know) would be hard pressed to find, let alone assassinate, the cat of Mrs. Doris Winston of 138 Cleethorpes Crescent in Humberside.

    Once it was the accepted practice, it would become dangerously common

    Hey one can dream, right?

    instead of incinerating their cities, which permanently fixes the problem

    Simple minds like simple solutions I suppose, but I do find it bizarre that someone who balks at bumping off leaders is perfectly ok with nuclear weapons (which are 1940s technology, btw, which is why Pakistan & North Korea have them).

  • Mr Black

    I am generally in favour of things that work. Killing the enemy works. Killing the enemy’s chief, does not. We have the entire history of humanity to prove it.

  • Mr Ed

    You kill Kaiser Bill, his son succeeds him.

    You kill Hitler, one of his weird gang succeeds him. Bormann, Goering, Himmler?

    You kill Roosevelt, the Vice-President succeeds him.

    You kill Churchill, some Labour git succeeds him.

    You kill Stalin, perhaps Malenkov succeeds him.

    You kill Hirohito, he ascends to heaven to be with his ancestor.

    I don’t see how this necessarily achieves anything.

  • Paul Marks

    The British state had been growing in power (both in spending, even as proportion of the economy, and in regulations) since the early 1870s – there were still many ordinary people who held the old limited view of the state, but the elite (since at least Victorian times) had been taught that Parliament could do anything it liked. The Blackstone Heresy of the 18th century that had led to the American War of Independence and the principles of the Bill of Rights that the Congress could NOT do anything it liked – much in line with old British thinking such as that of Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke and Chief Justice Sir John Holt. AND that a professional Civil Service (created in Victorian times) could impose regulations without the specific consent of Parliament, under vague “enabling legislation” (see Chief Justice Hewart “The New Despotism” 1929).

    Still that is the Constitutional background – as for specific policies…..

    Rationing in the American context was more of a CULT than a needed policy during the 2nd World War (it was clearly a harmful policy – although it did allow real wages to be cut and unemployment to be dealt with, by the pretence that official prices rather than “Black Market” prices were the real prices), but Britain was in a different position in BOTH World Wars.

    The vast increase in population meant that the people of this island could no longer feed themselves (as they had done during the Napoleonic Wars) so Patrick may indeed have an argument in favour of rationing – although prosecuting people for “hoarding” is obviously absurd (but then Patrick agrees that it is absurd – so that is not a point against him). We faced unrestricted submarine warfare – in a situation when this country depended on food imports, that may (may – I am not certain) create a “life boat situation” as philosophy calls it. Although German “War Socialism” (in part imposed with the excuse of the British blockade on the Central Powers) was an utter disaster – most likely making hunger and other terrible problems in Germany worse rather than better. Westerners are very resistant to the basic fact that German War Socialism was a failure (assuming that German “economic planning” in food and munitions “must” have worked and “must” be imitated), but the facts (and logical analysis) show clearly that it was a horrible farce. See Ludwig Von Mises “Nation, State and Economy”.

    As for mass internment on the basis of nationality, rather than because of actual evidence that someone was not loyal to the cause of civilisation against the moral relativism that had overcome Germany I am far less comfortable with that than with “lifeboat” arguments for rationing in a country dependent on imports facing unrestricted submarine warfare. For German moral relativism see the pack of lies that is the German Declaration of War on France in 1914, the lies are so wild that they are clearly NOT meant to be believed. As the French President, a philosopher, pointed out at the time – the real target of the Imperial German document was not France at all, but rather a philosophical dispute about the very existence of universal principles of truth and justice which the form of philosophy fashionable in Germany at the time denied-the-existence-of. The lies in the German Declaration of War upon France in 1914 could have been made far more plausible – they were deliberately made obviously false in order to make a PHILOSOPHICAL point (that the real war was against the concepts of objective truth and objective morality – concepts that relativism and historicism regarded as absurd).

    The war, from the Imperial German point of view (or rather from the point of view of a certain FACTION in Germany – not all Germans), was not about lines on a map – it was a war-of-cultures a war-of-ideas (moral relativism and historcism VERSUS universalism). Although the British political and military establishment never really grasped this. Indeed even in the run up to the 2nd World War many members of British establishment (such as N. Chamberlain and Halifax – NOT bad people) did not grasp that the conflict was one of basic PHILOSOPHIES.

    The “practical people” of the British establishment (right down to their defenders to this day) are incredibly frustrating for people who think in terms of principles (and I plead guilty to thinking in terms of principles) – and not just in terms of philosophy. Even the basic principles of warfare seemed to be unknown to the British establishment. For example the need to surround an opponent for a “siege” to be real, and the vital need to LINK-UP with allies in war, so that the enemy can not deal with one’s allies piecemeal “picking them off” – seemed to be utterly beyond the grasp of the British establishment. Instead their minds were (and are) filled with a mass of details – accurate, but essentially irrelevant details. Even many of the British Generals appeared (perhaps due to the “reforms” of the late 19th century and early 20t century) to be “Civil Servants in uniform” – their minds filled with details, and unable to grasp principles. They had also perfected the Civil Service practice of making the consignment of BLAME on specific commanders very difficult – passing they buck to their “political masters” even when the politicians had no real power to hire-and-fire them.

    “Ah but Paul – people who think in terms of logical general principles NEED people who think in terms of details in order to put theory-into-practice” – yes indeed, but only if those “practical” people are actually honestly trying to put theory into practice. Not saying to themselves “I do not understand this, therefore it is not important – therefore I need not try and actually do it”. The contempt (not too strong a word) felt by the British establishment for IDEAS and PRINCIPLES could-and-did have lethal consequences. The little smile (of contempt) that establishment people have when one tries to explain ideas and principles to them does indeed merit the response “well you are clearly not going to honestly try and carry out the orders I have given you – so you are DISMISSED, send in someone who will actually apply their minds to carrying out the orders I have just given”. If one’s orders are NOT based on logical principles then that is open to dispute – but not by people who have nothing but contempt for the very concept of logical principles.

    A minimum requirement for a Commanding General is that he understands the strategic objective he has been given (understands the logical principles that make it a strategic objective) , and that he concentrates his mind on the tactics needed to achieve the strategic objective that he has been given. The “little establishment smile” (the contempt for logical principles – as such) really does merit dismissal.

    Still back to the moral point – Patrick has inspired me to make write a short post for this blog in the different MORAL factions in Germany during the World War (something I have already posted on Facebook) – as they were NOT all moral relativists and historicists.

    The proper question to ask is not “where was this person born?” but rather “what does this person BELIEVE?”

    The second question is much harder – so the bureaucratic mind goes for the first question, “this person was born in X, we are at war with X – so lock them up”.

  • Paul Marks

    Why did Britain, a relatively “weak” state, defeat France, a “strong” state, in the Napoleonic Wars – indeed also a century earlier in the conflict with Louis XIV (the “Sun King” – whose system of control, created by Colbert and others was the “strongest” state in Europe, Britain being the “weakest” state in Europe in the early 1700s….).

    France was many times the population of Britain and had a much better climate (especially then when the Europe was colder).

    So why did France lose both under Louis XIV and under Napoleon?

    France lost BECAUSE the British state was “weak” – i.e. limited.

    Sadly both in Britain and in France in the First World War the relatively limited nature (the “weakness”) of their states compared to that of Germany was seen (by the establishment elite of both countries) as a “weakness” not as the STRENGTH it actually was.

    Even in the United States “intellectuals” bewailed the end of the “New Deal” war on business with the outbreak of World War II – under the official talk of government control, business enterprises in the United States were vastly freer to manage their affairs than business was in National Socialist Germany (where there really was government control of the economy).

    The establishment were unable to see that the relatively “weak state” was actually a vital STRENGTH.

    Just as in France during the First World War the establishment elite (the people who created the new subject of “Public Administration” before the war – to get round free market French economists) could not see that the French economy was actually performing better (not worse) than the more government controlled German economy. In spite of France losing much of its industrial area at the very start of the war.

    Both the British and French elite had long been obsessed with copying Germany (fed on myths – such as the “liberating state” of Frederick the Great in 18th century Prussia) – even when they hated Germany they desperately copied its bureaucratic controls (indeed eventually creating a structure that was MORE bureaucratic, less flexible, than that of Germany) – this attitude was to have terrible results in 1940, when the British and French armed forces (by then intensely bureaucratic top-down structures) essentially fell apart when faced by a German military that was at the peak of “mission command”.

    Essentially “mission command” is “here is what I need you to do – but use your own mind to work out how to do it”. The “strong states” of France and Britain in 1940 were not really effective – their “strength” was about strangling everything (even their own armed forces) with Red Tape.

    Not so much a ruthless and evil “I want you to take this position – I do not care how you take it, but if you fail I am going to have your children fed alive to a pack of dogs, and I am going to make you watch”. As “I am sorry,but you can not do that – as you have not filled out the HC1B/ZXY forms in triplicate and (oh-my-God) you have used the wrong colour ink for the VFD forms. The former can, at least in the short term, be effective – indeed it might even have made General Stopford leave his ship at Suvla Bay in 1915 and actually do something. The latter, Britain and France in 1940 – before the shock of defeat in Britain led to some changes, is just a mess.

    Indeed Winston Churchill had to by pass the “Ministry of Supply” to even get the most obvious ideas for new weapons followed up – by his “Toy Shop”, and the very first action of the British establishment (the next generation of the establishment that had undermined Churchill in 1915) on the defeat of Winston Churchill in 1945 was to close down the “Toy Shop” and even refuse to create a museum or memorial for it.

    Atlee’s Labour Party Britain from 1945 completed the process of strangling everything in Red Tape – which is why “New Liberals” such as Cambridge Professor Pigou supported it.

    A state that is “all in all” as Edmund Burke put it (referring to the France of his day) is not really “strong” – any more than the late Roman Empire (after Diocletian) was “strong” – it strangles individual initiative (INITIATIVE), and the pursuit of such “perfect strength” ends in “imbecile weakness”.

    A system that has no room (in civilian or military life) for the “wild man of imagination” with his “hair brained schemes” is not really “strong” – it is crushing and stifling, and that is not the same thing as strength.

  • You kill Kaiser Bill, his son succeeds him.

    You kill Hitler, one of his weird gang succeeds him. Bormann, Goering, Himmler?

    You kill Roosevelt, the Vice-President succeeds him.

    You kill Churchill, some Labour git succeeds him.

    You kill Stalin, perhaps Malenkov succeeds him.

    You kill Hirohito, he ascends to heaven to be with his ancestor.

    I don’t see how this necessarily achieves anything.

    Everybody needs some form of exercise to keep in shape.

  • There would have been no hoarding because the ration system would have made it more or less impossible and there was no deportation because all German citizens were interned.

    Wait, what? Why don’t I see this brought up every time Americans rebut the charges that the US’s internment of Japanese citizens was uniquely racist?
    Well, it’s probably for the same reason that I’d never heard of this before…

  • John Galt III

    Mass Internment:

    Let’s assume in 20 years there are between 10 million to 20 million Muslims in the UK or for that matter any Western European Nation. If you understand Islam’s 1,400 war against everyone who is not Muslim, how will countries protect themselves when it will surely hit the fan?

    Should be fascinating as well as entertaining to watch at a distance.

  • Laird

    With regard to the assassination of the political leaders of your enemies, I offer an extract from Sir Thomas More’s Utopia which describes the Utopians’ approach to waging war. Frankly, this is the only aspect of that otherwise execrable (albeit fictional) society which I find admirable.

    “As soon as they [the Utopians] declare war, they take care to have a great many schedules, that are sealed with their common seal, affixed in the most conspicuous places of their enemies’ country. This is carried secretly, and done in many places all at once. In these they promise great rewards to such as shall kill the prince, and lesser in proportion to such as shall kill any other persons who are those on whom, next to the prince himself, they cast the chief balance of the war. And they double the sum to him that, instead of killing the person so marked out, shall take him alive, and put him in their hands. They offer not only indemnity, but rewards, to such of the persons themselves that are so marked, if they will act against their countrymen. By this means those that are named in their schedules become not only distrustful of their fellow-citizens, but are jealous of one another, and are much distracted by fear and danger; for it has often fallen out that many of them, and even the prince himself, have been betrayed, by those in whom they have trusted most; for the rewards that the Utopians offer are so immeasurably great, that there is no sort of crime to which men cannot be drawn by them. They consider the risk that those run who undertake such services, and offer a recompense proportioned to the danger—not only a vast deal of gold, but great revenues in lands, that lie among other nations that are their friends, where they may go and enjoy them very securely; and they observe the promises they make of their kind most religiously. They very much approve of this way of corrupting their enemies, though it appears to others to be base and cruel; but they look on it as a wise course, to make an end of what would be otherwise a long war, without so much as hazarding one battle to decide it. They think it likewise an act of mercy and love to mankind to prevent the great slaughter of those that must otherwise be killed in the progress of the war, both on their own side and on that of their enemies, by the death of a few that are most guilty; and that in so doing they are kind even to their enemies, and pity them no less than their own people, as knowing that the greater part of them do not engage in the war of their own accord, but are driven into it by the passions of their prince.”

  • Mr Ed


    You have prompted me to search (and find) online an excerpt from Spetznaz, a book by former GRU officer ‘Viktor Suvorov’, a defector to the West. He wrote about Utopia and their battle plans in the context of how the Soviets imitated them, it was written in the 1980s. I have found quite an excerpt, which puts Utopia in context.

    Chapter 3. A History of Spetsnaz

    In order to grasp the history behind spetsnaz it is useful to cast our minds back to the British Parliament in the time of Henry VIII. In 1516 a Member of the Parliament, Thomas More, published an excellent book entitled Utopia. In it he showed, simply and persuasively, that it was very easy to create a society in which universal justice reigned, but that the consequences of doing so would be terrible. More describes a society in which there is no private property and in which everything is controlled by the state. The state of Utopia is completely isolated from the outside world, as completely as the bureaucratic class rules the population. The supreme ruler is installed for his lifetime. The country itself, once a peninsula, has after monumental efforts on the part of the population and the army to build a deep canal dividing it from the rest of the world, become an island. Slavery has been introduced, but the rest of the population live no better than slaves. People do not have their own homes, with the result that anybody can at any time go into any home he wishes, a system which is worse even than the regulations in the Soviet Army today, in which the barracks of each company are open only to soldiers of that company.

    In fact the system in Utopia begins to look more like that in a Soviet concentration camp. In Utopia, of course, it is laid down when people are to rise (at four o’clock in the morning), when they are to go to bed and how many minutes’ rest they may have. Every day starts with public lectures. People must travel on a group passport, signed by the Mayor, and if they are caught without a passport outside their own district they are severely punished as deserters. Everybody keeps a close watch on his neighbour: `Everyone has his eye on you.’

    With fine English humour Thomas More describes the ways in which Utopia wages war. The whole population of Utopia, men and women, are trained to fight. Utopia wages only just wars in self-defence and, of course, for the liberation of other peoples. The people of Utopia consider it their right and their duty to establish a similarly just regime in neighbouring countries. Many of the surrounding countries have already been liberated and are now ruled, not by local leaders, but by administators from Utopia. The liberation of the other peoples is carried out in the name of humanism. But Thomas More does not explain to us what this `humanism’ is. Utopia’s allies, in receipt of military aid from her, turn the populations of the neighbouring states into slaves.

    Utopia provokes conflicts and contradictions in the countries which have not yet been liberated. If someone in such a country speaks out in favour of capitulating to Utopia he can expect a big reward later. But anyone who calls upon the people to fight Utopia can expect only slavery or death, with his property split up and distributed to those who capitulate and collaborate.

    On the outbreak of war Utopia’s agents in the enemy country post up in prominent places announcements concerning the reward to be paid to anyone killing the king. It is a tremendous sum of money. There is also a list of other people for whose murder large sums of money will be paid.
    The direct result of these measures is that universal suspicion reigns in the enemy country.

    Thomas More describes only one of the strategems employed, but it is the most important:

    When the battle is at its height a group of specially selected young men, who have sworn to stick together, try to knock out the enemy general. They keep hammering away at him by every possible method — frontal attacks, ambushes, long-range archery, hand-to-hand combat. They bear down on him in a long, unbroken wedge-formation, the point of which is constantly renewed as tired men are replaced by fresh ones. As a result the general is nearly always killed or taken prisoner — unless he saves his skin by running away.

    It is the groups of `specially selected young men’ that I want to discuss in this book.


    Four hundred years after the appearance of Utopia the frightful predictions of that wise Englishman became a reality in Russia. A successful attempt was made to create a society of universal justice. I had read Thomas More’s frightening forecasts when I was still a child and I was amazed at the staggering realism with which Utopia was described and how strikingly similar it was to the Soviet Union: a place where all the towns looked like each other, people knew nothing about what was happening abroad or about fashion in clothes (everybody being dressed more or less the same), and so forth. More even described the situation of people `who think differently’. In Utopia, he said, `It is illegal for any such person to argue in defence of his beliefs.’

    The Soviet Union is actually a very mild version of Utopia — a sort of `Utopia with a human face’. A person can travel in the Soviet Union without having an internal passport, and Soviet bureaucrats do not yet have such power over the family as their Utopia counterparts who added up the number of men and women in each household and, if they exceeded the number permitted, simply transferred the superfluous members to another house or even another town where there was a shortage of them.

    The Communists genuinely have a great deal left to do before they bring society down to the level of Utopia. But much has already been done, especially in the military sphere, and in particular in the creation of `specially selected groups of young men’.

    It is interesting to note that such groups were formed even before the Red Army existed, before the Red Guard, and even before the Revolution. The origins of spetsnaz are to be found in the revolutionary terrorism of the nineteenth century, when numerous groups of young people were ready to commit murder, or possibly suicide, in the cause of creating a society in which everything would be divided equally between everybody. As they went about murdering others or getting killed themselves they failed to understand one simple truth: that in order to create a just society you had to create a control mechanism. The juster the society one wants to build the more complete must be the control over production and consumption.

    Many of the first leaders of the Red Army had been terrorists in the past, before the Revolution. For example, one of the outstanding organisers of the Red Army, Mikhail Frunze, after whom the principal Soviet military academy is named, had twice been sentenced to death before the Revolution. At the time it was by no means easy to get two death sentences. For organising a party which aimed at the overthrow of the existing regime by force, Lenin received only three years of deportation in which he lived well and comfortably and spent his time shooting, fishing and openly preaching revolution. And the woman terrorist Vera Zasulich, who murdered a provincial governor was acquitted by a Russian court. The court was independent of the state and reckoned that, if she had killed for political reasons, it meant that she had been prompted by her conscience and her beliefs and that her acts could not be regarded as a crime. In this climate Mikhail Frunze had managed to receive two death sentences. Neither of them was carried out, naturally. On both occasions the sentence was commuted to deportation, from which he had no great difficulty in escaping. It was while he was in exile that Frunze organised a circle of like-minded people which was called the `Military Academy’: a real school for terrorists, which drew up the first strategy to be followed up by armed detachments of Communists in the event of an uprising.

  • Fraser Orr

    Back to the OP, I am not a student of WWI, but know a little about WWII, and it isn’t a simple as presented. The principle of supply and demand is such that hoarding doesn’t matter — hoarders reduce supply without changing demand which causes increased supply through entrepeneurship, and various other market correcting mechanisms.

    But during war many of the items being bought were in large part subsidized. How? Well because, at great expense, the Navy escorted supply ships across the oceans to provide the food. When you accept subsidized goods you also accept the rules that come with the subsidies, and careful distribution limits are probably wise in this situation.

    I don’t know if it was possible to bypass the rules (by, for example, flying your goods in from America on a private aircraft), but this is not a normal supply/demand situation. Whether it was all necessary, or whether there would be alternative course of action that would have lead to better market mechanisms, I’m not sure.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Wartime entrepreneurship is difficult

    Why is it difficult?
    Because you have no idea how long the market for your product is going to last.

    Is that true?
    Let’s face it in 1918 large parts of the government were making plans for 1919. And they had a far better idea of what was going on than anyone else.

    So, how does not knowing how long the war is going to last affect things?
    Because you don’t know if you will be able to make a profit or not.

    But you never know if you are going to make a profit.
    For sure. But there are “normal” risks – market drying up, a better alternative coming along etc, and then there are extraordinary ones.

    So why don’t you know if you are going to make a profit or not?
    Because it may take many years for the turnover to pay for the capital outlay and if the war ends beforehand you are going to make a loss. Aware of this risk many entrepreneurs will shy away from entering the market.

  • Laird

    Mr Ed, it has been a very long time since I read the whole of Utopia, so I suppose I shall have to do so now, because my memory of it is not as Suvorov presents it. A nasty place, yes, but not quite that bad. But then, I was not reading it with conditions in the Soviet Union in mind, which might have colored Suvorov’s judgment.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I think that if Hitler had been assassinated, then the Nazies would have fallen apart, because Hitler arranged things so that no other faction was strong enough to rule. And we needn’t have stopped at Hitler- kill the top and the body becomes leaderless.
    As for Moore’s Utopia, I think he was just having fun, like Erehwon.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed:

    Thank you.

    . . .

    It does seem to me that it was not perfect “justice” but rather perfect equality that Suvarov was speaking of. Unfortunately, it does seem that the majority of English-speakers use “justice” sometimes as a synonym for justice-in-the-libertarian-sense, sometimes justice in the sense of perfect equality on all fronts (even handicapping those with uncommon inborn potential or talent), and most of all, justice in the sense of “fairness,” which is where the train most often leaves the rails.

    However, as a matter of fact I don’t think perfect justice is attainable either. We should hold justice (real justice) very high on the list of virtues, but it’s an ideal and we do well when we come close to it.

    We feel like heck when we think we’ve failed to achieve it.

    And we writhe in agony when justice and compassion dictate different courses. As has been the topic of quite a few discussions in the Fields of Samizdata. The trick is to decide which is more important in the instant case, and try not to mourn over the situation the Great Frog handed to us. At least, not to the point of tormenting or paralyzing ourselves…difficult also because the same person can see the same event and circumstances quite differently, depending on how he’s looking at things (and the state of his liver).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas et al.:

    Well, I can only say that I once told a pal I’d take out the garbage myself, if I thought it would do any good.

    Persons are welcome to interpret this as they choose, but the garbage in that sentence was quite specific.


    It’s not as if no one tried to take out Hitler, nor Stalin either.

    OTOH, someone (not the CIA!) did take out Allende, and the Chileans got Pinochet instead of a client-state of Fidel’s.


    But someone quite lately pointed out here that the thing to do is to give aid and support to the people of the country who are rising up against the regime. Iran comes to mind.

  • TJ

    The latest I have read is that Allende, shot himself to avoid facing justice for his crimes. Life is great when you can do what you want, not so great when the judge comes knocking.

    Another example would be Beria’s execution, that made life so much better for pretty young women, and no one took his place. The problem of Beria and the leaders listed below, was ultimate power, they could almost do what they wanted, and get away with it. When you have no immediate judge you will get people behaving like Chavez, Maduro and Kim wrong-un. Of course no western leader will ever consider targeting for example Kim wrong-un, just in case people get the idea that taking out the leader could in some way solve a nations problems. As for the megalomaniacs below if you executed them, this act would at the very least focus the mind of the successor that there could be an immediate judge, willing and able to act…

    “You kill Kaiser Bill, his son succeeds him.

    You kill Hitler, one of his weird gang succeeds him. Bormann, Goering, Himmler?

    You kill Roosevelt, the Vice-President succeeds him.

    You kill Churchill, some Labour git succeeds him.

    You kill Stalin, perhaps Malenkov succeeds him.

    You kill Hirohito, he ascends to heaven to be with his ancestor.”

  • the other rob

    @ bobby b

    I could just fancy some potted tongue. You can’t get it round here, but I occasionally pay an exorbitant price to have a can smuggled in from the UK.

    I also import my baked beans. The free market is marvelous, to the extent that the cunts who call themselves the government stay out of its way.

  • the other rob

    On killing Hitler, this.

  • Laird

    Great story, the other rob! Thanks for posting it.