Friday, April 16, 2010 41 Comments

Join the Froude Society!

Again, I apologize for the sudden lack of content on UR. Type inference has consumed me. But while we wait to see whether I get the bear or the bear gets me, why not some required reading?

Therefore, I invite anyone and everyone to enter the exclusive Froude Society. (Froude rhymes with "dude.") The Froude Society is an exclusive and disorganized fellowship of fellow human beings united by intellectual nostalgia for the Old Order, ie, Western civilization before 1923. The Society, which is not an activist organization, expresses its refined saudade by reading works published before 1923.

Again, the Froude Society is exclusive. Whatever its purpose may be, the method of the Society is not to maximize its membership. It is certainly not a democratic organization. Rather, the Society exists to consider the Old Order collectively, and it measures its work by the quality of its thought. Which is not in any way dated, or at least not meant to be.

To join the Froude Society - actually, to become a deacon of the Froude Society - all you need to do is read three works of High Victorian political and historical criticism. I recommend this order: The Bow of Ulysses, by James Anthony Froude; Popular Government, by Henry Sumner Maine; and Latter-Day Pamphlets, by Thomas Carlyle. These books will change your life, or at least your mind.

There are more books, more authors, where these came from. Without blinking we could add Lecky, Stephen and Austin to this pantheon, for instance; nor are Ruskin, Arnold, and Kingsley to be sneered at. And the remaining oeuvre of Froude, Maine and Carlyle is no less vast. And this is not a random sample of Victorian thought, but the cream of a coherent tradition. And anyone can read it. It's free - thanks to Google. Now and for the foreseeable future, Froude is more accessible than Stephen King.

The task of the Froude Society is to restore High Victorian thought in the 21st century. And when I say restore, I mean restore to life - not study. The Society traffics not in critical formaldehyde.

The historical subject is always and everywhere a human being. If you had him in your living room, you could watch CNN with him. If you'd be surprised by what he'd say, perhaps you should have read more and studied less. If you disagree on some matter but are not prepared to grapple, don't be surprised if he throws you down. The past, while much studied, is little read - at least, not on these terms.

To restore an intellectual tradition, as opposed to merely studying it, demands you believe in it and adopt it as your own. Think of it as shooting on location - a critical test of authenticity. To restore the old farmhouse, you need to live in the old farmhouse. Otherwise, you are just a contractor. You can read the Froude Society canon without becoming a Froudean, but it takes a pretty considerable power of resistance, I feel.

The scholars of the European Renaissance did no less with the Greco-Roman texts they found in their monasteries. They saw: here was an alien civilization, now deceased, superior to their own. There was simply no comparing Virgil to the monks and professors of the medieval university. This comparison was one the scholastics would simply never win. And in a century or two, Church Latin was no more. The Italian upstarts didn't just visit the old villa; they moved in.

If you're restoring a tradition, as opposed to studying it, you maintain and update it. If Froude had lived another century, would his mind have changed? If he was not locked in a closet, most certainly. It is incorrect to reason from this fact, however, that his mind would have changed in any predictable way. It is certainly incorrect to assume it would have changed in any fashionable way. Old men, whatever their vices, are not terribly susceptible to fashion. Updating Froude is a task of great importance, but not an easy task.

A little while ago, someone emailed me and asked: are there any contemporary writers you admire? A disconcerting question, hard to answer in the yes or no. I could cop out, of course, and say that I admire Deogolwulf and Nihon Cassandra and Carter van Carter and Conrad Roth and Steve Randy Waldman. But this is really not what my correspondent was looking for.

No; he was looking for the sort of writers whose works are admired, promoted and discussed in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, etc, etc, etc. This in fact was his definition of writer, I think. It is certainly most people's definition, though few have really considered it.

I think the proper answer is: are there any Soviet writers whose work you admire? Who, for instance, is your favorite Soviet historian? What do you think of Soviet poetry?

But this is recent history, still loaded. Perhaps a better comparison is to the Greco-Roman era, from which we see almost no work of any lasting quality after 150 AD, and even less after 250 or 350. Why were these periods of intellectual decline?

Not because of a general shortage of education or intelligence - the likes of Sidonius had no shortage of either. Yet if you read Sidonius, even his private letters, what you find is flowery garbage. There is almost no content. Content is entirely reduced to style and formalized sentiment. Sidonius is living through the fall of the Roman Empire; every once in a while, he complains that the roads are becoming unsafe; otherwise, we learn nothing.

In early 21st-century America, just as in the late Roman world or 20th-century Russia, as in our society, each year many baby boys and girls are born who could grow up and become good writers - in the sense of, people paid to write, promoted by the Times, etc, etc. And if our system of government changes, perhaps they will. Otherwise, probably not. The baby boys and girls grow up, of course, but no man is an island. Or can teach himself to write. Or even, still today, can be his own publisher.

And this is why I cannot point to literary giants I respect, admire, and could never hope to equal. I can; but the only giants I can identify are giants of a different era. Just as, living in the Soviet Union, you might say that all the writers you like are American. Time, not barbed wire, divides me from my heroes; the principle is the same. I encourage others to adopt this line of thought. There is nothing egotistical about it, just the sad realization that, per Carlyle,
you are fallen in an evil, heavy-laden, long-eared age, and must resignedly bear your part in the same.
And this is why we read Froude and Maine and Carlyle. We read Froude and Maine and Carlyle because, when we read Froude and Maine and Carlyle, we sense ourselves in the presence of a civilization which is, in certain very important respects, superior to our own.

Carlyle's era had problems, sure. But not the problems we have. And, as Froude writes,
Each age would do better if it studied its own faults and endeavoured to mend them instead of comparing itself with others to its own advantage.
The professors of the later 20th century, as in so much, managed to find the polar opposite of Froudean good sense and extend it deep into pathological absurdity. Except possibly in the Soviet Union, past-hate has never been so common and widely-taught. This is no good sign.

There are many ways in which 21st-century civilization compares favorably to the Old Order. Its computing hardware, for instance, is far superior. Its physics is far more delicate and nuanced. Even I do not much care for Victorian fiction and poetry. And so on. We need not overlook these matters, and indeed must not; but to dwell on them is pathological.

Rather, if there are matters on which we must dwell, they are our faults. Which comparison with the Victorian order, or with any past, may not reveal; the past may have the same disease; all pasts may have the same disease. But this is not the case with all diseases! And if you cannot think of a case in which our age shows comparative disadvantage, much you have to learn. Much has been hidden, both present and past.

My point is: 20th-century scholarship on the Old Order, while sometimes valuable, must be treated with great caution, and the later it goes the more worthless it gets. The professors of the 20th century are quite sound on the 17th and before, increasingly weak in the 18th, highly unreliable and actively misleading in the 19th. By the 20th, you are reading journalism.

Thus it is essential to read the Victorians before you read about the Victorians. Once you have a strong grounding in Victorian thought and feel you could have a conversation with Froude, you can dabble in some of the modern commentaries, just to know what you're not missing. (Carlyle in particular is extremely distorted, largely by a focus on his least interesting work - I know of no modern biographer, not even Simon Heffer, who really takes his politics seriously.)

So, without further ado: The Bow of Ulysses; Popular Government; Latter-Day Pamphlets. These books will change your life, or at least your mind.

As an experiment, I will leave comments on this post off until April 23rd, then turn them on. Please don't comment unless you have at least started at least one of these works.

[Update - May 12: comments are now on. Again, please comment if and only if you have actually read one of these books.]

41 Comments:

Blogger Scott Robinson said...

Please link to Gutenburg when it can be done-- as it could in this case. I don't know if it's a function of sitting outside the ARIN zone of influence, but Google Books refuses to relinquish electronic versions of the books. And why limit the audience?

Where Froude was fun (his commentary on individuals usually the best), and Carlyle interminable (couldn't finish, as per normal), Maine was an incredible breath of fresh air. His perspective on the US Constitution was fascinating, though I think he lent too much to the Federalist papers. An argument for a stronger central government and away from the, then, current confederation wasn't as much the argument against democracy in general as against what they had.

When all said and done, we (us) have two systems (both born from Britain) of relatively stable popular government.

Presuming some sort of restoration, is it only to be guns that keep the (educated) mob from seizing control again?

May 12, 2010 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Just yesterday finished The Bow of Ulysses. The cognitive dissonance is still quite frothy. I saw some of these same islands on my honeymoon a few years back and would not have been able to describe in any way approaching his of the fauna, geology, economy, politics, demographics and moral aspects of the communities we visited. But I was young and in love, and here 123 years ago, Froude is already 69. His major acquisition being an order of cigars in Havana and observations such that warranted the publication of this book. His critics I will not answer here directly. He had his conclusions planned from the start and only made such observations as supported that view. He suffered from selection bias. He was bigoted, racist, and quite possibly an insufferable bore of an old man. What possible merit, other than the furtherance of anti-colonialism, could this volume help us in this most dark hour of our floundering and despair? Isn't it his hand that is still at the throat of the oppressed? His boot that crushes the heads of those who would want those most precious gems of freedom and equality? I have met the Bogey Man. And he was just a guy, offensive to us today in many of his descriptions of customs and people. Yes. He was also consistently spirited and with a view that side-by-side, ruled by a disinterested crown administration the whites and blacks of the British West Indies could be returned to a desirable financial position, maintain and develop themselves spiritually and materially, and that all of the Empire might benefit and prosper from this glorious effort; devoid of the machinations of politics, assemblies, proportional representation, and every other scheme which serves to rob the people not only of the efficacy of such a governing, but to also dilute the very soul of mankind in inverse proportion to his new found freedoms and rights. Liberty there may be when order is strong, stability ensured, and men's actions direct and true to the preservation of the whole.

Froude's arguments of course found support in the great halls London. The ministers and lords retired in shame and disgrace. Self-flagellation by those, who had so recently championed their view of progress and self determinations, became such a concern that Queen Victoria herself issued a directive allowing her Majesty's Guard to have great freedom in disposing of these cases in such manner, and manner most discretely, as was warranted to alleviate their suffering and prevent them from further harassment pressing upon the youth of London with their pleadings for forgiveness for so nearly squandering their birthright. The prosperity unleashed in the BWI served as a touchstone of truth and light in the Americas and led eventually during the uprising against FDR to an end to the schism in Greater Britain which had so divided a people those 150 or so years. Together their might was brought to bare around the world within which peace, fraternity, and achievement knew no end...

The dream fading, what advice would this tired man have for Jonathan? Cease these shrill political discussions at all hours of the day, and have the women retire from the pianos and duets at a reasonable hour so that a gentleman may have his rest in a Havana hotel.

His advice: In those areas where you have influence, act resolutely and with an eye always to honoring truth and virtue. If you have it in you to be a great leader, do so. If not, find one and follow him (or yes her as the case may be). Stop the endless doubts, questioning, and despairing. The ending of all things is in its own beginning. Let the beginning, life, and end of your endeavors be of a doing rather than a paralysis of analytical overreaching. Be first of action based on proper motivation and strong discipline; and let time and old men sort out the labels and results. Now go away. The train will be rattling the foundations in a few hours and perhaps I can sleep now that the pianos and duets have subsided.

May 12, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. Their effects are known well enough: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic--every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.

These same institutions produce quite different effects while they are still being fought for; then they really promote freedom in a powerful way. On closer inspection it is war that produces these effects, the war for liberal institutions, which, as a war, permits illiberal instincts to continue. And war educates for freedom. For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one's cause, not excluding oneself.

Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of "pleasure." The human being who has become free--and how much more the spirit who has become free--spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.

How is freedom measured in individuals and peoples? According to the resistance which must be overcome, according to the exertion required, to remain on top. The highest type of free men should be sought where the highest resistance is constantly overcome: five steps from tyranny, close to the threshold of the danger of servitude. This is true psychologically if by "tyrants" are meant inexorable and fearful instincts that provoke the maximum of authority and discipline against themselves; most beautiful type: Julius Caesar. This is true politically too; one need only go through history. The peoples who had some value, attained some value, never attained it under liberal institutions: it was great danger that made something of them that merits respect. Danger alone acquaints us with our own resources, our virtues, our armor and weapons, our spirit, and forces us to be strong. First principle: one must need to be strong--otherwise one will never become strong.

Those large hothouses for the strong--for the strongest kind of human being that has so far been known--the aristocratic commonwealths of the type of Rome or Venice, understood freedom exactly in the sense in which I understand it: as something one has or does not have, something one wants, something one conquers.

Twilight of the Idols, F. Nietzsche

May 12, 2010 at 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whispered to the conservatives. --
What was not known formerly, what is known, or might be known, today: a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible. We physiologists know that. Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite--they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. Morality was always a bed of Procrustes. Even the politicians have aped the preachers of virtue at this point: today too there are still parties whose dream it is that all things might walk backwards like crabs. But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward--step by step further into decadence (that is my definition of modern "progress"). One can check this development and thus dam up degeneration, gather it and make it more vehement and sudden: one can do no more.

Twilight of the Idols, F. Nietzsche

May 12, 2010 at 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading the life of Thomas Carlyle, this unconscious and involuntary farce, this heroic-moralistic interpretation of dyspeptic states. Carlyle: a man of strong words and attitudes, a rhetor from need, constantly lured by the craving for a strong faith and the feeling of his incapacity for it (in this respect, a typical romantic!). The craving for a strong faith is no proof of a strong faith, but quite the contrary. If one has such a faith, then one can afford the beautiful luxury of skepticism: one is sure enough, firm enough, has ties enough for that. Carlyle drugs something in himself with the fortissimo of his veneration of men of strong faith and with his rage against the less simple-minded: he requires noise. A constant passionate dishonesty against himself-that is his proprium; in this respect he is and remains interesting. Of course, in England he is admired precisely for his honesty. Well, that is English; and in view of the fact that the English are the people of consummate cant, it is even as it should be, and not only comprehensible. At bottom, Carlyle is an English atheist who makes it a point of honor not to be one.

Twilight of the Idols, F. Nietzsche

May 12, 2010 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Well I read The Latter Day Pamphlets, and what struck me was the contempt Carlyle had for commerce and industry. He seemed to be strongly anti laissez-faire. How does Mencius reconcile his love for Carlyle with his apparent love of Austrian Economists?!

May 12, 2010 at 11:42 PM  
OpenID foseti said...

I've put down some thoughts on the books as I've read them (Carlyle, Froude, Maine).

I've always understood the goal of reading these authors to be to understand how they think.

Once you've read a few of these works - and had some help with the interpretation from Moldbug, which is not to be underrated - I think you begin to see the world in a new light.

We've all grown up (I'm under 30) in a world with a predominant religion. I'm no more capable of thinking of things in an non-Progressive way that someone raised in the Soviet Union in the '60s was capable of thinking in a non-Communist way or someone raised in the 1200s was capable of thinking in a non-Catholic way.

These authors poke holes in the Progressive mode of thinking. Maybe they're right about some things or maybe they're wrong about some things but they are capable of thinking in a totally unfamiliar manner. It makes the reading difficult but ultimately, quite rewarding.

May 13, 2010 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"How does Mencius reconcile his love for Carlyle with his apparent love of Austrian Economists?!"

He's said that where Mieses and Carlyle conflict, Mieses is almost always right.

I think foseti is right in that the particulars of Carlyle aren't always what to focus on but his way of looking at the world. He's not unique to that; to Maine, Froude, and Carlyle one could add James Fitzjames Stephen.

Note that as much as MM likes Austrian economics, there are some broad hints that his ideal State would not always follow them. That economics is not the be-all and end-all. It would follow them when it saw fit to follow them, but would not always be Miesian:

"So, for instance, Mises will tell you that mercantilist policies such as high tariffs or exchange-rate manipulation do not just reward exporters, but also punish consumers. Mises will not, however, tell you whether such a policy is good or bad for a country containing both exporters and consumers. (Rothbard will. But Rothbard often goes too far.) By Misesian theory itself, there is no such index of economic good, no quantitative means by which one man's advantage can balance another's disadvantage."

He's elsewhere written that his ideal State can create employment for the unemployed by deliberately adopting some low-tech/lower productivity methods. I forget the exact post and paragraph.

The importance of Mises and Austrian Economics would be that no airy claims would be made that such a policy would have an effect other than what it does have: None of the lies you get from modern political economy.

You would *know* that something is *economically* sub-optimal but perhaps do it anyhow for *other* good policy reasons. (Of course, arguably this is how we got where we are now, because the natural next step for people is to rationalize it and begin to forget economic reality and begin to claim all good things. Green jobs: Good jobs at good wages with absolutely no downside whatsoever! Better economic growth through government subsidy and intervention!)

Anyhow, back to MM: Such policies, in his ideal state, would be narrow, tailored to a specific non-economic "good"* - such as putting everyone into some form of work wherever possible so that they aren't a source of social instability, regardless of the fact that gas station attendants who fill your tank or elevator operators or swarms of street sweepers using brooms instead of street cleaning trucks aren't really economically productivity-maximizing.

In that way he mixes the economic insights of Mises with the sociopolitical insights of Carlyle without needing to attack market economics.

*This is not really a proper phrase because some, especially Miseans, would say that all goods boil down to economic goods, properly understood. Well, ok...

May 13, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is extremely important for us, reading the letters of these gentlemen in the 21st century, to consider their arguments in the context of their time. The conclusions we draw from their wisdom may be timeless but the spirit-language they use is specific in time and place. (I have not read Maine but I assume he is similar to Froude and Carlyle.)

Modern readers would be well advised to pretend that these authors were literary figures in an ancient Babylonian society who have just recently been translated into modern languages. Msr. Molbug's "Imagine if an alien..." thought experiments are also a good approach.

This manner of thinking will guard the reader against the mistake of assuming that because the expressions used by these authors mean something to us today, they necessarily meant the same thing when written. As a specific example, our modern concept of "laissez faire" is completely foreign to the 19th century British writer. "Laissez faire" as commonly understood at the time presumed humble guidance by the Hand of Providence. When Adam Smith speaks of an "Invisible Hand" he does not mean the hand of a man, he means the Hand of the Creator.

Examined in this context I believe we will see that Carlyle did not have contempt for commerce and industry - he had contempt for those who deny the natural moral order and authority of their Maker. These men favor commerce and industry - but Within a Moral Framework which is designed not by men but by their Creator.

May 13, 2010 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Well...all goods are (perhaps) economic goods but not all such goods are calculated into the usual economic indices such as GDP, growth rates, PCI, trade balance, &tc.

This would be one such. There are clear trade-offs to make-work projects aimed at employing the otherwise unemployed (typically in economic flexibility), if the jobs are unpalatable enough and perhaps part or two-thirds time then those soaked up in them might still be prodded to seek other work.

Mainly for MM's ideal state such jobs would be for the otherwise unemployable, however, who never the less can do *something*

Invalids, dependents, and the like his interpretation of Carlyle has more trouble with, at least if you (or they) don't value being Virtualized. After all, wasn't MM trying to *wake* us from the Matrix, offering 10 red pills? But in the end he gives us* the blue pill anyhow...sux to be us.

*Himself included, to be fair.

May 13, 2010 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

A non-substantive observation: On the whole I must admit I find Carlyle tough going: He has a gift for the wonderful phrase or passage, but it's a bit of a slog to read at length.

Froude doesn't have as many clever/memorable/brilliant phrasings (though he does have them), but on the whole its a smoother read.

Oh, and yes Nietzsche expressed contempt for Carlyle, he expressed contempt for everyone, *especially* those who influenced him most*.

But there is a parallel between the two relevant here: I almost wonder if Carlyle, like Nietzsche, wrote the way he did in part because he didn't aim to be easily read by just anyone.

*I'm not saying Carlyle necessarily influenced Nietzsche in any particular way.

May 13, 2010 at 9:15 AM  
OpenID foseti said...

@Porphyrogenitus,

I believe the quote you are looking for from MM is here:

"First, the King has no compunction whatsoever in creating economic distortions that produce employment for low-skilled humans. A good example of such a distortion in the modern world are laws prohibiting self-service gas stations, as in New Jersey or Oregon. These distortions have gotten a bad name among today's thinkers, because makework is typically the symptom of some corrupt political combination. As the King's will, it will have a different flavor.

"As both a good Carlylean and a good Misesian, the King condemns economism - the theory that any economic indicator can measure human happiness. His goal is a fulfilled and dignified society, not maximum production of widgets. Is it better that teenagers get work experience during the summer, or that gas costs five cents a gallon less? The question is not a function of any mathematical formula. It is a question of judgment and taste. All that free-market economics will tell you is that, if you prohibit self service, there will be more jobs for gas-station attendants, and gas will cost more. It cannot tell you whether this is a good thing or a bad thing."

May 13, 2010 at 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Porphy,

You'd be right,

"I am often asked why, after all, I write in German: nowhere am I read worse than in the Fatherland. But who knows in the end whether I even wish to be read today? To create things on which time tests its teeth in vain; in form, in substance, to strive for a little immortality--I have never yet been modest enough to demand less of myself. The aphorism, the apothegm, in which I am the first among the Germans to be a master, are the forms of "eternity;"

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book--what everyone else does not say in a book."

MM's ambition is to say in book-length what everyone else says in ten sentences--what everyone else does not say in ten sentences...

May 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM  
OpenID foseti said...

You're all being way too hard on Carlyle. He's hard to read at first, but once you've read a couple books, the style starts to catch you. Once you hit that point, you'll start to love him. No one else writes like that. I suppose this ability is the reason people like Emerson couldn't help but like Carlyle. If you're a writer, you've got to envy someone who can write like that.

May 13, 2010 at 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critique of modernity. -- Our institutions are no good any more: on that there is universal agreement. However, it is not their fault but ours. Once we have lost all the instincts out of which institutions grow, we lose institutions altogether because we are no longer good for them.

Democracy has ever been the form of decline in organizing power: in Human, All-Too-Human (I, 472) I already characterized modern democracy, together with its hybrids such as the "German Reich," as the form of decline of the state. In order that there may be institutions, there must be a kind of will, instinct, or imperative, which is anti-liberal to the point of malice: the will to tradition, to authority, to responsibility for centuries to come, to the solidarity of chains of generations, forward and backward ad infinitum.
...
The whole of the West no longer possesses the instincts out of which institutions grow, out of which a future grows: perhaps nothing antagonizes its "modern spirit" so much. One lives for the day, one lives very fast, one lives very irresponsibly: precisely this is called "freedom." That which makes an institution an institution is despised, hated, repudiated: one fears the danger of a new slavery the moment the word "authority" is even spoken out loud.

That is how far decadence has advanced in the value-instincts of our politicians, of our political parties: instinctively they prefer what disintegrates, what hastens the end.

...

Witness modern marriage. All rationality has clearly vanished from modern marriage; yet that is no objection to marriage, but to modernity.

The rationality of marriage--that lay in the husband's sole juridical responsibility, which gave marriage a center of gravity, while today it limps on both legs. The rationality of marriage--that lay in its indissolubility in principle, which lent it an accent that could be heard above the accident of feeling, passion, and what is merely momentary. It also lay in the family's responsibility for the choice of a spouse. With the growing indulgence of love matches, the very foundation of marriage has been eliminated, that which alone makes an institution of it.

Never, absolutely never, can an institution be founded on an idiosyncrasy; one cannot, as I have said, found marriage on "love"--it can be founded on the sex drive, on the property drive (wife and child as property), on the drive to dominate, which continually organizes for itself the smallest structure of domination, the family, and which needs children and heirs to hold fast--physiologically too--to an attained measure of power, influence, and wealth, in order to prepare for long-range tasks, for a solidarity of instinct between the centuries.

Marriage as an institution involves the affirmation of the largest and most enduring form of organization: when society cannot affirm itself as a whole, down to the most distant generations, then marriage has altogether no meaning. Modern marriage has lost its meaning--consequently one abolishes it.

Twilight of the Idols, F. Nietzsche

May 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM  
OpenID foseti said...

I agree with Anonymous (8:05) that Carlyle isn't an opponent of commerce. He does, however, object to the pursuit of economic gain and only economic gain.

One can certainly recognize that the average factory job in the 19th Century might have left a worker with a bit of longing for something more meaningful without jumping to an anti-commerce position (again a distinction between Carlyle and Mises).

With respect to Carlyle's constant religious references, I always read "truth, order and justice" for "God" as per Moldbug's suggestion.

May 13, 2010 at 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

foseti,

"...the average factory job in the 19th Century might have left a worker with a bit of longing for something more meaningful..."

That's the problem.

"The Labor question. -- The stupidity--at bottom, the degeneration of instinct, which is today the cause of all stupidities--is that there is a labor question at all. Certain things one does not question: that is the first imperative of instinct.

I simply cannot see what one proposes to do with the European worker now that one has made a question of him. He is far too well off not to ask for more and more, not to ask more immodestly. In the end, he has numbers on his side.

The hope is gone forever that a modest and self-sufficient kind of man, a Chinese type, might here develop as a class: and there would have been reason in that, it would almost have been a necessity.

But what was done? Everything to nip in the bud even the preconditions for this: the instincts by virtue of which the worker becomes possible as a class, possible in his own eyes, have been destroyed through and through with the most irresponsible thoughtlessness.

The worker was qualified for military service, granted the right to organize and to vote: is it any wonder that the worker today experiences his own existence as distressing--morally speaking, as an injustice?

But what is wanted? I ask once more. If one wants an end, one must also want the means: if one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters."

Twilight of the Idols, F. Nietzsche

May 13, 2010 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

foseti: Yeah, that's the quote. Also re. Carlyle's writing style, he *is* a unique and creative writer. I just find it a tough read and less straightforward, but the fault is probably more with me than with him.

Indeed I'm certain of that: I'm still not half the man I used to be. pointless aside: THere's a reason why I stopped writing my blog the first time and let www.porphyrogenitus.net go dormant and then away (much to my current regret), and while I can focus and retain what I read somewhat better now, and once again write somewhat lucidly (usually), I'm still not what I once was. No that I was so great then.

Anyhow, Carlyle and Nietzsche didn't write at an 8th grade level and I'm not saying they should have. {Nor, before someone suggests I'm taking a jab at Froude, did he}.

Anyhow I didn't intend to be hard on Carlyle and there are actually benefits to being a tough slog: You have to really pay attention and it forces you to get the point. In theory (a lot of people still just won't get it, for them there's always the NYT and other organs written at an 8th grade level).

Various Anons: Could you do us the favor of picking a name, at least for our club? For all I know it's one Anon but anyhow it would be nice if everyone could have an identifiable handle.

May 13, 2010 at 5:22 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Porphy, all the anons w/ nietzsche references in them are from me, jkr.

i was anoning because on prev thread i had an impersonator. sorry.

May 13, 2010 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Anon, re Institutions: The problem lays where Froude identified it. Bureaucratic Democracy can't abide organic institutions, institutions that grow over time through trial and error.

There is a paradox; rationality is good (as you mention), but bureaucratic democracy feels it must create institutions according to some rational conception, or rationalize existing ones, that they perceive as irrational (generally because their traditional form is perceived as violating some liberal/egalitarian precept).

The paradox is that this attempt to rationalize everything, construct and reconstruct everything, produces an irrational result: Org Charts and regulations even their creators cannot honestly pretend to understand, dysfunctional social institutions that no longer fullfil their proper purpose, despite the attempts to rationalize/"improve" them. A general degeneration from a common rationality to a perspectivist based one that ultimately consists more of rationalization than reason.

Reason is not the end-all and be-all of everything, but one of the things Carlyle and Froude (I haven't gotten to Maine yet really) and James Fitzjames Stephen attempt to warn is that the "reformers" have not used their reason to learn *why* institutions are the way they are, and thus go toppling them and rebuilding society in accordance with some "rational" vision without really understanding what they're doing.

Our writers on the other hand use their reason not just to analyze what is wrong with the plans of reformers, but what is wrong with institutions of their time that they too see as having become disfunctional (as we see ours...generally the same ones, having degenerated further). Their aim, unlike that of the reformers, is to comprehend the original purpose and reason behind each supposedly "outmoded" institution, to see how it became a "SHAM," and *why* the reformer's program will only continue to make it worse, and see what elements are being left out that were necessary and need to be repatterened instead of tossed out.

Thus Carlyle has as little use for the Kings and titled nobility of his age as the reformers do, but he sees the purpose of the role they once filled, and ultimately decrees (correctly or not) that this function will still be a necessary one.

May 13, 2010 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

A bit on Nietzsche then: He would probably (and effectivly did, and is thus useful here) point out that the reason the reformers (Pre-Progressives, whatever) failed to understand the effect of their reforms and how it led not to uplift but to further degeneration was and is their ideological refusal to face difficult facts, facts they found objectionable at least, and to give due consideration to the purposes that forms they considered "social evils" served, and whether simply eliminating those institutions actually had any effect other than to make things worse.

That at least is a vice Carlyle, Froude, et al didn't commit. Nietzsche shared their contempt for the nobility of their age but like them believed there had to be one, but it should be a true aristocracy. What I'm not sure is if they had a shared conception of what that aristocracy should be. Indeed they probably part company there but for one thing: They should be clear-eyed and not deceive themselves, as all felt the reformers, what we might call the progressive false aristocracy, do.

It's said the first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie for them. The most effective lies are ones one tells oneself.

May 13, 2010 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

I would be impressed if someone were able to articulate a 'Froudean' interpretation of what's going on in Turkey at the moment. Basically, the Islamic party is burying the old Turkish state, where the generals could always step in to preserve Ataturk's model. All the contingency plans they used in such situations - provocations, assassinations, etc meant to justify a state of emergency - have been unearthed and their authors are being dragged through the courts and the media.

At the same time, Turkey's strategic orientation has changed; it is moving to reestablish ties in the 'post-Ottoman space', and one nexus in particular that is being discussed a lot is Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq. And in fact the Russian president was just in Syria, meeting with the external head of Hamas. Turkey is also joining up with Brazil to offer an alternative front with respect to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Despite all that, for Turkey this is not simply a matter of joining an anti-American strategic bloc. They still want in on the EU and they want to retain the military relationship with America. And no-one actually says that what's going on within the country is about burying Ataturk's legacy; instead it's about Turkey becoming more democratic. And herein lies the challenge for would-be Froudeans: if you can't make sense of these events, how can your ideas possibly be politically relevant?

But perhaps we need to draw a distinction between what Moldbug says and what these Victorians said. Moldbug writes that democracy equals America equals entropy equals communism equals decline. But in these authors he's selected, I don't see quite the same categorical rejection of representative institutions.

Anyway, my point is this. If this so-called Froude Society really does exist to revive High Victorian thought under present conditions, it needs to be able to interpret truly contemporary phenomena such as the Middle East realignments I just mentioned. If all it can do is turn its back and advocate neo-Victorian separatism, I suppose that's a viable culture, but it would suggest a failure to understand or engage with what's actually happening in the present.

May 13, 2010 at 10:08 PM  
OpenID foseti said...

Porphy, I think you're on to something in suggesting that Carlyle is intentionally writing in a difficult way.

Perhaps he's only writing for Nock's Remnant.

Perhaps Moldbug is too.

May 14, 2010 at 6:06 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

If "the Froude society" is to go the way of the Pre-Raphaelites (certainly the most successful philosophical-artistic movement and one of the driving impeti of "The Beautiful Age" or whatever we're going to call c. 19th century Western Civ) it will have to answer the inverse of a very early implied question of Carlyle's:

Why did the kings give up their kingship?

That is, how do we get the kings to regain said kingship? How do you convince us, milked on the teat of mother democracy, to glory in being a king.

Hint: I think Pete Jackson may have helped us a bit.

Programmers can go a bit of the way in influencing the wondrous technology of Fnargl-land

but

artists have to do the work of making folks need to live there.

Can this be done?

In what way?

Under what religions--someone, I think, quoted GKC regarding humans and non-belief.

Though MM is a natural atheist, he seems to have embraced the idea that most folks aren't--and that employing the language of religion is invaluable.

An interesting line of argument may be that since, contra-Luther, Christianity advocates a disinterest with regards to the state that democracy is incompatible with Christianity.

A healthy dose of "derp-derp-abortions and queers gettin married" may do well to jar the pitchforkers out of their love of democracy--and a dose of "hur-hur death penalty, endless war, and corporations" can for the macbookers.

It might be a good use of time to explore "royalist-leaning" popular art & "royalist-talking-points" for a debate in the near future.

Just following the advice of Froude as tl;dr'd by Jeff:

In those areas where you have influence, act resolutely and with an eye always to honoring truth and virtue. If you have it in you to be a great leader, do so. If not, find one and follow him (or yes her as the case may be). Stop the endless doubts, questioning, and despairing.

That is, figure out how and where we can employ influence and do it.

May 14, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Mitchell, I don't think any pre-Spenglerian framework could really grasp events and developments taking place in different cultures, Froudean or otherwise. West-centric thinking about Islamic or other cultures isn't going to get very far.

May 14, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Attaturk probably corresponds in Turkic-Islamic history to the Western aping of the classical culture that was the Renaissance. Both short-lived, shallow, and counter to the real stream of the culture.

Besides, with the decline of western power in the world, western forms will also recede in the areas where they once had influence.

The same happened in early Islamic culture, which was buried under the Roman-classical forms in its early stages. The same was true of western culture growing up under the cultural forms of the early church, which disappeared later.

If the Turkish state is melding back into the Islamic world, it is only returning to its nature.

May 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Slay the dragon.

It was still young in their day but they would recognize it now at first glance. MM has graciously been applying his intellect this long while on how to fill the dragon-shaped hole once it is flung back into the pit. It is a virtuous endeavor.

On How To Slay The Dragon he has offered much less to say. Maybe it will seek sepukular redemption; who knows...

This whole Froude Society thing is about seeing a world that had a working alternative to Universalism. If Dr. Who accidentally left Carlyle himself in Trafalgar Square tomorrow - he wouldn't be able to solve all our problems for us. Nor can his work be distilled to reversible functions that will spit out the most effective policy decision given all the pertinent facts. Such a steam powered governor he would abhor even if in some cases his advice did match its output. He dealt in received wisdom not reductionist idealism. Oil and water don't mix.

So what would Froude say about Turkey? It would depend on who is asking and what their goals were. If our stated goals and course of action are at odds he would pick up on that. If I asked him about Turkey he would probably tell me to work on something else because I have no power over those events. If Barack Obama asked him what we should do about Turkey... That's just not going to happen.

From the "Enlightenment" on we set out to leave no stone unturned and place everything on a rational footing. There was a twenty year period between Principia Mathematica and Gödel's completeness theorem. Mathematics is a more honest discipline than most. I know you have to be careful using Gödel for non-mathematical analogies; but here the risk is warranted. What motivated Russell and Whitehead was the spirit of their age to start from a clean slate in all areas and build new foundations. In The Bow of U. Froude is baffled on why this self-destructive path should be sought. Everything he recommends turns on the question of do they want to preserve the Empire, and by implication themselves as a people. He asks it several times. There was much good that could have been done by wisely employing the capabilities at their disposal. Would it redress every past foul deed that had been sanctioned by the state? No. It is an alternative that was not taken that could have provided better for the subjects of the Empire.

So the Froudeian take on Turkey is that if our goal is to further weaken ourselves and continue the self-deception, keep doing what we are doing. Do more of this. If our goal is to provide a stable environment for them, we should conquer them mercilessly and then govern based on the crown-colony model. Provide structure and limitation that are unquestionable, and then allow liberties inside of those boundaries. Inside of a generation Turkey would be bailing out Greece. Or we could leave them the heck alone.

May 14, 2010 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Blogger Mitchell said...
But in these authors he's selected, I don't see quite the same categorical rejection of representative institutions.

For Mencius Moldbug, the origin of good government is the King. For Froude, the origin of good government is pirates and brigands.

I think Froude is closer to the truth.

All organizations tend to fall apart. It is simply difficult to have a large bunch of people efficiently coordinated. Organizations that are actually effective originate in intense competition, and sooner or later are apt to decay - the Peter Principle, Parkinson's Law, etc.

Absent intense competition, they decay very badly indeed.

Government originates in a stationary bandit, a bandit king, a bandit so successful he deters or exterminates all competition. The government at first consists of little more than the bandit himself. Taxation consists of him suggesting that the eminent give him and his boys land and money, thus taxes, though capricious and erratic, are quite low. Laws are few, verging on nonexistent, but enforced with brutal efficiency, the main law being that no one else does any banditry.

Over time bureaucrats, laws, taxes, quasi governmental organizations, and regulations multiply like vermin. Eventually, laws, taxes and meddling bureaucrats become a serious burden, and the bureaucrats face the need to persuade everyone that a horde of bureaucrats is a good thing.

The left is the bureaucracy's PR apparatus - a collection of government sock puppets.

May 15, 2010 at 1:58 AM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

If this so-called Froude Society really does exist to revive High Victorian thought under present conditions, it needs to be able to interpret truly contemporary phenomena such as the Middle East realignments I just mentioned.

No need. Froude has already explained the events that are now happening. Froude tell us that Islam is less decadent than Christianity, so "If the English were to withdraw, he would retake the sovereignty of the peninsula ... because he has the truer faith"

With the decline of colonialism, the time of religious empires returns, as Froude said it would

May 15, 2010 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

I didn't want to take this because I don't want to dominate the discussion, but here's a go.

Anyhow I don't think it's beyond the pale to include a "neo-Victorian separatist" analysis when talking about modern Turkish politics. Which does not mean such an analysis would be right, but it's not implausible.

The authors would probably say that a lot of modern Turkey's policies were generated by the EU pushing them to greater democratization in the first place, which included sidelining the Ataturkian counterbalance, where the Army effectively served as a hierarchical authority to curb democratic excesses. They would likely have predicted that this would produce a perverse outcome, including many policies we don't like.

Representative institutions and non-representative authorities have enough difficulty existing side-by-side as itis, and by prodding Turkey as the EU did (with American encouragement*) it led to things we may not want. Letting alone may well have been the better policy here.

Letting alone isn't always the best policy, and the Victorian authors, when they see we have interests at stake, do want us to act to insure those interests but they tend to prefer dealing with local elites in a clear-eyed manner. *If* however it doesn't affect us what policies the Turks have, then why should we meddle, when it may only make things worse? *If* we do, then its better to have reliable continuity in Turkish government, with institutionalized policies such as the Ataturk settlement insured, rather than the vagaries of elective government with its tensions and contradictions and politicians pandering to a mob that does *not* much like us and often sees things much different from us. You get one impression of Turkey in and around Constantinople (yes I know it's called something else these days), Thrace, and the coastal areas frequented by most tourists and dillitantes, but the Turks of the Anatolian heartland are a bit different and an understanding of them (for example by actually being among them, rather than "multiculturally" just assuming they're like us) would have told us that the more the Turkish government represents this part of Turkey, the resentful Islamic heartland, the less its policies will align with ours and the more it will be push-pulled in the other direction. Constantinopolitan Turkey will also keep that government wanting to be part of the EU but on terms that make it impossible, and a government that reflects *this* part of Turkey, while seemingly in line with "us" (in the sense of EU/West) really will not be.


(I understand this is an imperfect answer because it's difficult for me to completely divorce my own views from what I think the Froudean view would be. Not all of the above is reflective of my own thinking but some of it is, in a way that I think aligns with Froudeanism, but I can't be sure. Anyhow we will pick up from these authors such insights as seem useful to us).
*Note I'm not like MM and do not ascribe all the evils of the world to an American or British origin, however.

May 15, 2010 at 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A note to the other Anonymous,

HEY! STOP QUOTING NIETZSCHE YOU SANCTIMONIOUS TWIT!

In case you didn't get the memo, this is a space to discuss the works of Carlyle, Froude, and Maine; specifically, the works Mencius proposed. Some of us appreciate his invitation to engage in such discussion and would like to do so.

If you think that some idea proposed or expressed by Nietzsche is relevant to the conversation, why don't you crawl out of the ooze, grow a spine, and express it in your own words? Or are you too intellectually bankrupt to actually express an individual thought?

If you want spew multiple-paragraph quotes from Nietzsche because you think it makes you sound like a grown up, go do it somewhere else. The adults are having a conversation here.

Have a GREAT day Snookie-poo.

May 15, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re foseti on the God thing
(By Anonymous 8:05)

I think foseti has raised an interesting point, on which I think s/he has good intent but is badly mistaken, and I suspect others are making the same mistake.

When people like Carlyle say "God", or "the Creator", "our Maker", and the like - they mean God, the Creator of the Universe, the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ who died on the cross and was reborn in Heaven.

You might not completely share their beliefs - personally, I find more than a little of that a tiny bit difficult to accept - but when you replace their reference to God with "truth, justice..." and whatever else strikes your fancy, you're doing the author and yourself both a tremendous disservice.

You would be far better advised to accept that yes, Carlyle is actually talking about God, and think to yourself, "OK, I don't exactly agree with this, but that's all right. There is still value in reading these words even though I don't agree with him 100%."

If you substitute your own words for what Carlyle - or anyone else - actually says, then you are not reading, you are not listening, and you are not learning anything. You are simply substituting what you want to hear for what was actually said. You'll miss out on a lot of intellectual growth if you do that.

I think if you'll try this manner of reading these works, you'll find it a far more rewarding experience.

May 15, 2010 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mitchell raises a very interesting point. Were Froude writing outside the Victorian age, he wouldn't be Victorian. How would he apply similar principles to a modern context?

I'd like to respond but I'm still trying to get my brain around this concept. I would be very interested to see some attempts to respond to this. In the interest of not drinking the MM kool-aid without fully examining the contents, it would seem that one of us should attempt to advance the argument that Froude et. al. are not, in fact, relevant to today's world, but are simply figures of their times. It seems to me difficult to accept that this is the case, but we would also seem to have an intellectual duty to give such a line of argument a fair shot.

May 15, 2010 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

A common heritage belonging to Carlyle, Froude, Maine, Nietzsche, and indeed all educated persons in the nineteenth century, which most people today do not possess or comprehend, was a familiarity with classical languages, literature, and history (Nietzsche's life illustrates this - he was educated as a classical philologist).

All of them would have been acquainted with the concept of aristocracy as described, for example, in Aristotle's Politics, and would have contrasted it with the character of the elite in their day. If we knew what they did, we would be better able to understand the reality of our own time, because we would have the means of comparing it with the classical ideal. MM attempted something along these lines early in the history of his blog in his description of what he called Brahmins, and the origins of their peculiar characteristics.

May 15, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
OpenID foseti said...

Anonymous,

You say that "when people like Carlyle say "God", or "the Creator", "our Maker", and the like - they mean God, the Creator of the Universe, the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ who died on the cross and was reborn in Heaven."

This would be true except that Carlyle stopped believing in God (see Wikipedia, for example).

I know Moldbug suggested that we refrain from reading Carlyle's more widely read books, but you get a better sense of what he means by "God" when you read "On Heroes."

Unsurprisingly, his meaning is as Moldbug suggested, "order, justice and truth," the laws of reality.

May 27, 2010 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

I read Popular Government, and I read The Bow of Ulysses, and they were both interesting, but I've gone on to Froude's Short Studies of Great Subjects, and I've found it, much more than the other books, gave me different ideas to strive with and interpret the old problems with.

Even the theological essays (I just finished the one on The Book of Job) say more about the underpinnings of political relations than anything else I've read. It follows a "plea for the free discussion of theological difficulties" - an attempt to reconcile a civilisation built on Christianity with the fact that much of Christianity is obviously untrue.

I would say the conclusions I am pushed towards are not all that Moldbuggian. Against the insights into human and social motivations, Neocameralism looks as sterile and flimsy as libertarianism or Marxism.

On the other hand, the situation we are faced with in the absence of any coherent social fabric is very different from that of Victorians fearing - rightly - the destruction of one that still existed. Who knows what stages we might have to go through before able men can again act for their societies? Perhaps people will have to be forced to be virtuous before they will want to be virtuous.

May 27, 2010 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

To be read alongside The Bow of Ulysses:

Independence only brought crime and violence to Jamaica
The former colony’s attitude to power is the brutal one of the old plantation system - Times Online, 29th May 2010

In a society burdened by three centuries of the plantation and the lash, strongmen like Christopher “Dudus” Coke have become the new lords of the manor, revered by some as Robin Hood figures. Such men may be lawbreakers, but they are lawmakers as well: men who are feared. The power held by Coke in Tivoli Gardens has evolved in the absence of proper government. The Church and police have long since moved uptown.

May 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

I read _Popular Government_, by Henry Sumner Maine (1st ed.).
http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=904&Itemid=27

This is not a bad book, but if I were to twist someone's arm to get them to read something on political science, it wouldn't be at the top of the list.

The top of my list would be _In Defence of Politics_, by Bernard Crick. Crick is a sword drawn against the misuse of the word "democracy" to mean "all things bright and beautiful." He also has a clear-eyed view of the paradoxes and ambiguity that run rampant through political processes. In some ways, Crick is the anti-Moldbug. Moldbug bad-mouths democracy for being associated with deception. Crick argues that the alternatives are often worse, and that "politics" (the sharing of power) is the only form of government that is not threatened by an honest explanation of how the system works. However, he writes (p. 28), "Even with luck and courage, we must not hope for too much from politics, or believe that we see it everywhere." He specifically mentions Northern Ireland as an example of where democracy is part of the problem (factions want to draw national boundaries so that they can practice the tyranny of the majority on each other).

I have not read anything by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, but I thought this EconTalk podcast was also great, and very anti-Moldbuggian:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/08/the_political_e.html

The Fnarg gedankenexperiment seems to have been approximated by Leopold II in the Belgian Congo.

My second choice would be _The Myth of the Rational Voter_, by Bryan Caplan. Caplan is at the cutting edge of public choice theory with this book, and has a far more detailed and accurate view of how democracy goes wrong than any other writer I've seen, including Maine. Like Crick, he spends quite a lot of time dope-slapping people who get romantic about democracy. I suspect that Caplan's views would be more to Moldbug's liking: It's not such a bad thing for politicians to have a bit of "wiggle room." My review of the book is here:

http://home.earthlink.net/~peter.a.taylor/caplan.htm

Honorable mention: _Notes on Democracy_, by H. L. Mencken. Hilarious. Again, a sword drawn against romanticism.

Also, _The Federalist No. 55_ (http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa55.htm):

"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form." -- James Madison ("Publius")

I think we should be worried that the problem is not just "human nature" but culture.

Highlights from Maine:
P. 45: "Experience rather tends to show that it is characterized by great fragility, and that, since its appearance, all forms of government have become more insecure than they were before."
P. 114: Party as religion. Whig is to Tory as Jew is to Samaritan.
P. 121: "the most difficult of all governments."
P. 123: democracy like water in a reservoir. "Let them take heed that it not be admitted into a receptacle of loose earth and sand." (Written in 1885 in the context of the US "War between the States")
P. 136: "moral guillotine"
P. 187: "In reality, the devotee of Democracy is much in the same position as the Greeks with their oracles. All agreed that the voice of an oracle was the voice of a god; but everybody allowed that when he spoke he was not as intelligible as might be desired, and nobody was quite sure whether it was safer to go to Delphi or to Dodona."
P. 201: "It is not at all easy to bring home to the men of the present day how low the credit of Republics had sunk before the establishment of the United States."

September 4, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

I read _Popular Government_, by Henry Sumner Maine (1st ed.).
http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=904&Itemid=27

This is not a bad book, but if I were to twist someone's arm to get them to read something on political science, it wouldn't be at the top of the list.

The top of my list would be _In Defence of Politics_, by Bernard Crick. Crick is a sword drawn against the misuse of the word "democracy" to mean "all things bright and beautiful." He also has a clear-eyed view of the paradoxes and ambiguity that run rampant through political processes. In some ways, Crick is the anti-Moldbug. Moldbug bad-mouths democracy for being associated with deception. Crick argues that the alternatives are often worse, and that "politics" (the sharing of power) is the only form of government that is not threatened by an honest explanation of how the system works. However, he writes (p. 28), "Even with luck and courage, we must not hope for too much from politics, or believe that we see it everywhere." He specifically mentions Northern Ireland as an example of where democracy is part of the problem (factions want to draw national boundaries so that they can practice the tyranny of the majority on each other).

I have not read anything by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, but I thought this EconTalk podcast was also great, and very anti-Moldbuggian:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/08/the_political_e.html

The Fnarg gedankenexperiment seems to have been approximated by Leopold II in the Belgian Congo.

My second choice would be _The Myth of the Rational Voter_, by Bryan Caplan. Caplan is at the cutting edge of public choice theory with this book, and has a far more detailed and accurate view of how democracy goes wrong than any other writer I've seen, including Maine. Like Crick, he spends quite a lot of time dope-slapping people who get romantic about democracy. I suspect that Caplan's views would be more to Moldbug's liking: It's not such a bad thing for politicians to have a bit of "wiggle room." My review of the book is here:

http://home.earthlink.net/~peter.a.taylor/caplan.htm

Honorable mention: _Notes on Democracy_, by H. L. Mencken. Hilarious. Again, a sword drawn against romanticism.

Also, _The Federalist No. 55_ (http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa55.htm):

"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form." -- James Madison ("Publius")

I think we should be worried that the problem is not just "human nature" but culture.

September 4, 2010 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

I read _Popular Government_, by Henry Sumner Maine (1st ed.).
http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=904&Itemid=27

This is not a bad book, but if I were to twist someone's arm to get them to read something on political science, it wouldn't be at the top of the list.

The top of my list would be _In Defence of Politics_, by Bernard Crick. Crick is a sword drawn against the misuse of the word "democracy" to mean "all things bright and beautiful." He also has a clear-eyed view of the paradoxes and ambiguity that run rampant through political processes. In some ways, Crick is the anti-Moldbug. Moldbug bad-mouths democracy for being associated with deception. Crick argues that the alternatives are often worse, and that "politics" (the sharing of power) is the only form of government that is not threatened by an honest explanation of how the system works. However, he writes (p. 28), "Even with luck and courage, we must not hope for too much from politics, or believe that we see it everywhere." He specifically mentions Northern Ireland as an example of where democracy is part of the problem (factions want to draw national boundaries so that they can practice the tyranny of the majority on each other).

I have not read anything by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, but I thought this EconTalk podcast was also great, and very anti-Moldbuggian:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/08/the_political_e.html

The Fnarg gedankenexperiment seems to have been approximated by Leopold II in the Belgian Congo.

September 4, 2010 at 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Comments on Henry Sumner Maine:

I read Popular Government (1st ed.), by Henry Sumner Maine.

This is not a bad book, but if I were to twist someone's arm to get them to read something on political science, it wouldn't be at the top of the list.

The top of my list would be _In Defence of Politics_, by Bernard Crick. Crick is a sword drawn against the misuse of the word "democracy" to mean "all things bright and beautiful." He also has a clear-eyed view of the paradoxes and ambiguity that run rampant through political processes. In some ways, Crick is the anti-Moldbug. Moldbug bad-mouths democracy for being associated with deception. Crick argues that the alternatives are often worse, and that "politics" (the sharing of power) is the only form of government that is not threatened by an honest explanation of how the system works. However, he writes (p. 28), "Even with luck and courage, we must not hope for too much from politics, or believe that we see it everywhere." He specifically mentions Northern Ireland as an example of where democracy is part of the problem (factions want to draw national boundaries so that they can practice the tyranny of the majority on each other).

I have not read anything by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, but I thought this EconTalk podcast was also great, and very anti-Moldbuggian.

The Fnarg gedankenexperiment seems to have been approximated by Leopold II in the Belgian Congo.

September 4, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

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