Sunday, July 20, 2014

Plague Blankets

You've probably heard all that about the European plan to wipe out the Indians of North America by handing out blankets infected with smallpox. Genocide, clearly genocide.

Yes, it seems it did happen. Once. At the siege of Fort Pitt, General Amherst at least suggested the idea. But I've seen claims it was used in Newfoundland to wipe out the Beothuks, by General Custer on the plains, and just about everywhere else. It just keeps coming up. The false impression is that there was some kind of general policy to do this. And every light-skinned person is guilty.

But hey, did you know that the English actually did use smallpox against the Americans during the American War of Independence? General Howe's idea. They deliberately infected thousands of American civilians, then released them behind Continental Army lines.

A much bigger deal than Fort Pitt.

And yet, when did you last hear of this one?

Conclusion: a dead Indian is worth more than a dead European.

Here's another one: much has been made in recent revisionist history of the claim that there was some slavery (a little) in Canada too, before it was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833. So Canadians should feel some guilt towards blacks too, right? Worse, because we've been trying all along to cover it up. Self-righteous crackers. Never mind that Upper Canada was one of the first jurisdictions anywhere to pass actual laws against slavery. Never mind that Canada offered freedom for decades to any US blacks who could make it through the Underground Railroad. That's just whitewash. Whitewash.

But just a minute. Did you know that most of the slavery in Canada was practiced by Canadian Indians? Did they mention that bit? It was part of the traditional Indian culture; everywhere. The sainted Joseph Brant, mighty loyalist and leader of the Mohawks, kept 40 black slaves. Probably the largest slaveholder anywhere in Canada.

No offense, guys. But it's just possible people with pale skin are not quite the devils they've been painted as, and people of other colors are not universally morally superior.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Women are Increasingly Unhappy

It's only justice, but how could they not have seen this coming? It was obvious from the beginning of feminism that this was the way it would go: single, too old now to have kids, lonely, exhausted, and bitterly disappointed.

A few thinngs the article does not say: in every "underdeveloped" country and culture, women are significantly happier than men. It is only where feminism has taken hold that women are less happy than men.

And this has absolutely nothing to do with sharing the workload at home. That is less likely to happen in less developed countries. Less work does not make you happier. Notice that the happiest people now are men with senior management positions. I doubt most senior managers have a lot of free time.

Perhaps the real problem here is that we, and modern women in particular, have lost all sense of what life is about.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Whatever Happened to Northern Ireland?

If present trends continue, Northern Ireland will have a Catholic majority as of January or February, 2016. This upcoming demographic deadline has a lot to do with the current peace in Ulster: the Unionists have realized they have no option but to moderate and seek allies. (And a sumilar deadline faces Israel).

According to the Good Friday Agreement which acheived the current peace in Northern Ireland, reunification of the North with the Irish Republic must occur if and when majorities in both North and South vote for it.

This might now actually happen, and rather soon.

Add this to the legal possibility that Scotland might declare independence as a result of the upcoming referendum, or some future one.

Will Britain be reduced to the United Kingdom of England and Wales? Can Britain live with this?

I think such an event might be one more factor encouraging the creation of a formal anglosphere, in which England, Scotland, and Ireland reassociate as equals within a larger comity including some or all of Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, and some of the Caribbean islands.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

John Stuart Mill on Education

Before state schools were introduced, John Stuart Mill saw clearly why they were a bad idea:

A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another, and the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation.
In proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.
In other words, school vouchers. Mill suggests these be backed up with standardized tests from government in certain designated essential skills:
The instrument for enforcing the law could be no other than public examinations, extending to all children, and beginning at an early age. An age might be fixed at which every child must be examined, to ascertain if he (or she) is able to read. .... Once in every year the examination should be renewed, with a gradually extending range of subjects, so as to make the universal acquisition, and what is more, retention, of a certain minimum of general knowledge, virtually compulsory. Beyond that minimum, there should be voluntary examinations for all subjects, at which all who come up to a certain standard of proficiency might claim a certificate.
He then turns to the professions--and sees immediately the danger of government certification here:
The examinations, however, in the higher branches of knowledge should be entirely voluntary. It would be giving too dangerous power to governments, were they allowed to exclude any one from professions, even from the profession of teacher, for alleged deficiency of qualifications. Degrees, or other public certificates of scientific or professional acquirements, should be given to all who present themselves for examination, but such certificates should confer no advantage over competitors, other than the weight which may be attached to their testimony by public opinion.
In other words, nobody should be prevented by law from setting themselves up as or from employment as a pharmacist, or an engineer, or a lawyer, or anything else. Such restraint of trade leads inevitably, as it has led, to self-interested cartels with no regard for the public interest.

It is that simple--it is all predictable. If we have nevertheless ended up with compulsory public schools and government-regulated professions, it can only be because this was the deliberate intent. Those in power wanted to protect a ruling class, and to impose conformity on the rest of us.

This, according to Mill, is not tolerable in a free society.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Truth Will Out

It's just that it seems to take 40 to 70 year on average for it to happen. Far from fast enough to avoid terrible injustices.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Government Unions

"Through their strong unions, workers and peasants destroy their oppresors." Azerbaijan, 1920s.

“People of the same trade seldom meet together,” Adam Smith famously wrote, “even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” He goes on to say that this cannot, as a practical matter, be prevented. But it is why we have laws against collusion and cartels in business.

But we not see that people of the same trade includes employees. We do not see it, simply because our stereotyped idea of a unionized worker is of somebody poor, although that has not been true for several generations. In other words, any union is ultimately, by its nature, a business cartel, a conspiracy against the public. While we cannot perhaps prevent this from ever happening, we ought certainly not to be passing laws assisting the process.

In the private sector, fortunately, the problem is self-limiting. If the employees of one firm unionize, it forces the prices up, the firm simply becomes non-competitive, and goes out of business. Along with the union.

Unions quickly discovered, therefore, that in order to survive they had to organize and operate across an entire industry sector. At this point, there can be no pretense that their adversary is some imaginary too-rich capitalist making “excess profits”; it is the consuming public. It is everybody not in the union.

And that worked well enough for the unions for a time. It has come a cropper, though, through growing international trade. Unless the union is global as well as industry-wide, consumers can simply seek the products they need at lower prices offshore. So far, unions have not managed to organize world-wide; although of course they are trying to fight “free trade” for this reason.

Hence the disappearance of entire industry sectors from across the developed world. This is not an entirely bad thing; it gives a chance for the poor world to develop. And with the progress of globalization, we can trace the decline of unions everywhere in the manufacturing sector, where they began. Most unionized workers today are in government. There is a reason for that.

There have been two places where it is harder to go offshore. One is personal services. So the developed world has retained its edge in the “service sector.” And the professional associations—unions for service workers--are still having a field day. But they too are beginning to feel the bite. Improved technology has made offshoring more feasible here too. We have seen the rise of call centres, offshore accounting, “medical tourism.” Information technology is cutting into their cartels as well: “citizen journalism” and homeschooling, for example. I wouldn't give them that much longer on the gravy train.

The one place where the cartel works best is government. Here there is no free market, no consumer choice, apart, in democracies, from elections every four years or so. Here, then, is the one place unions can most flourish, and can continue to flourish against all comers. Whenever the union enters into “negotiations” with their bosses, it is really people of the same trade on either side of the table. As Adam Smith pointed out, there is only one way this will go.

For exactly the same reason, here is one place unions should be aggressively prevented. There is almost nothing but conscience to stop them from soaking the rest of society for everything they want, down to the socks and underwear. And this, growing and avaricious government, as Ibn Khaldun pointed out six hundred years ago, is what invariably causes the fall of civilizations.

I have recently read two pieces convincingly arguing that, quite apart from any White House direction, the current American IRS scandal is a more or less inevitable consequence of the unionization of the public service. Unionize the guys with their hands on the levers of power, and they will begin operating in class self-interest. It is obviously against their class self-interest for tax-slashing groups to come into government. Therefore, they will work together to prevent this.

You unionize government workers, and you are creating a ruling class.

Granted, it is not a hereditary ruling class, although there are obvious growing tendencies in that direction. There is sometimes, though not that often, open competition for government jobs, as opposed to hiring relatives and friends. But it would actually be better if government positions were hereditary: then there would be some incentive to leave the living carcass for the next generation. Now, the incentive is for this generation to milk the system for all it can before they pass on, for their inheritors will be strangers.

It was only in the 1960s that government workers were permitted to unionize in North America. I think it is time to chalk that one up as one of the historic bad ideas. Government workers should not be allowed to unionize, and should not be allowed to strike. Their pay should be pegged as a percentage of private sector pay.

If it is not too late. The sad truth is that, by now, as Tim Hudak can attest, anyone running on a platform of cutting government or cutting government salaries is facing into a stiff headwind. The entire machinery of government, in addition to the campaign contributions of all the highly-paid government workers, will be working against them.