Follow by Email

Friday, 22 January 2016

The British Empire: Something Different

This is a short essay based on Jeremy Paxman's Empire. I wrote it for a senior history class. Hope any Anglophiles enjoy!

Author: Cole Dutton

The existence of Jeremy Paxman’s bestseller, Empire, is a testament to the fact that the enigmatic British Empire occupies a unique location in the popular consciousness. This preoccupation may, in part, be explained by the fact that the British Empire was a momentary construction when placed in contrast with the historical record. The Empire reached its territorial height only after the end of the Great War and the concessions of Paris 1919;[1] the empire rapidly declined thereafter and was virtually gone after the 1960’s.[2] This begs the questions: why was this Empire so fleeting and what brought it down? A plausible argument is that the Empire sowed the seeds of its own destruction by abiding by its own contradictions and failing to reconcile the increasing privileges of the British citizenry and the moralizing mission of empire to the necessities of imperialist governance and territorial acquisition.

This gradual shift from commercial imperialism derived from a Lockean framework[3] to paternalistic facilitator of independence[4] was evident in the American War of Independence, the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the Religious renaissance of the mid 19th century, and the Gradual Emancipation of the ‘White Dominions’ and Ireland.

The Thirteen American Colonies were the most successful early effort by the British to establish a colony, formed not upon a landowning aristocracy, but rather a large-scale settlement composed of a broad cross section of society.[5] The settlement at Jamestown, founded in 1607, originally served as a dumping ground for undesirable citizens,[6] but over time became the progenitor of a society that was composed of a multitude of landholders.[7] Worse yet, these same settlers became the dominant civilization in North America just as the Enlightenment began to spread across the English-speaking world. Not only did Locke and Hobbes influence the settlers, but also, by the close of the 18th century, the increasingly diverse and liberal ideas of Thomas Paine and the continental philosophes took root in the minds of the colonists.[8] It was only a small step from these ideas to a widespread critique of the inequitable spread of privileges established by the 1688 Revolution.

Unconsciously, the American Revolution lay the scaffolding for further critique of British imperialism because it was prefaced on the notion that the American colonists, paranoid or not, were only demanding the recognition of their rights as free-born Englishmen. The fact that British imperialism would change its moral foundation would only further undermine the notion of a valid imperialism in overseas territories.[9]

It may have been in response to the antipathy for the American colonist or it may have been an expression of British beneficence, but certainly the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, further placed into question the validity of the imperial project.[10] This is because the citizens of the empire began to embrace a new form of ‘exceptionalism’, seeing themselves as agents of freedom and moral actors, instead of simply the engines of exploitation in extraneous lands.[11]

The importance of resurgent British evangelism cannot be overstated. This evangelical fervour brought waves of missionaries to the territories of the Empire; it thus placed stable relationships of mutual trust and appreciation into question as the prior secular commercial order was subsumed into the greater religious bureaucratic state engineered in part by the missionaries and in part by technology, which was made necessary by the 1857 Indian Mutiny.[12] The belief in pre-eminence had not characterised initial relationships between the British charter companies and their partners, but the new missions did construct such an association.[13] This not only strained the cooperative relationship, but also made it increasingly difficult to justify any form of violence or diminution of the peoples who occupied foreign lands.

However, this complex and often contradictory order, was maintainable so long as the British had the capacity to exercise military force for the maintenance of their overseas possessions; the Amritsar Massacre, the War in Sudan, the extirpation of aboriginal peoples, and the seizure of the South African gold fields, are all examples of the late seizure and reprisal of territory for geo-strategic purposes in opposition to the professed moral order: an order prefaced by paternal guidance in the form of a civilizing mission.[14]

After World War I this British hegemony was placed into doubt; even amongst its own Empire the patriarch looked unstable. Lloyd George appeased the Dominion’s by permitting greater consultation with the dominions of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Newfoundland as a compensatory measure for the devastating losses incurred by dominion forces during the war.[15] However, for Paxman, the critical blow to British power came with the capitulation of the British in Ireland; if Britain would give independence to the very heart of the Empire, the first colony, then what capacity did it have to forcibly maintain its considerably more distant and less culturally analogous territories?[16]

Tacit acceptance of the British Empire’s weakness came with Winston Churchill’s signing of the Atlantic Charter.[17] The fact that the British were complicit in the abrogation of their Empire meant that any questions of independence did not become a matter of if, but rather when. British inability to resist independence movements throughout the empire was evidential in the various colonial wars, particularly the bloody campaign against the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya resulting in independence for the African nation shortly after.[18]

The moral sanction exercised by the British people no longer had any currency, even amongst their own population.[19] Nevertheless, it was the rising, anti-imperialist superpowers of the Soviet Union and United States who would coerce the British into surrender in 1956.[20] This surrender, however, was already an existential occupation of British minds. The British Empire had been replaced by a greater Power, capable of exercising the trust Britain had held for itself, precisely because they had no ‘global empire’ of their own; reconciliation only came for the British Empire with its dutiful and solemn evacuation of its realm.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

I've Begun to Appreciate Trump

Author: Cole Dutton

Although I can't help but admit that he is a contemptuous blowhard I still have found myself beginning to like Donald Trump.

This to me this can be reconciled because Donald Trump may be the only hope that remains for defeating the Republican establishment. The defeat is well deserved because the Republican Party has managed to ignore the wishes of the electorate for the last 15 years: perhaps longer.

And although much can be said against Donald Trump, most legitimately in the policy sphere, where in many cases he seems to bluster through answers rather than reply a cogent response. I am more than happy to see the resurgence of nationalism in the political sphere in the greatest most powerful country in the world.

Such a notion is a is especially pertinent to the immigration debate which for once may extend beyond the simple advocacy of mass immigration for the sake of economic gain.

What I hope Trump represents like the National Front in France, the UK Independence Party in Great Britain, the Swedish Democrats, and many other like wise traditionalist and nationalist parties across Europe is a resurgence in discussions about what it means to be a culture what it means to be a nation and what it means to honour tradition and be bound by it.

Conservative Reading List Part 2

This is part 2 of the Conservative Reading List Part 1 may be found here. 

I recommend Saint Thomas Aquinas because no thinker has impacted me so deeply in such a limited amount of time.Aquinas spent his life working to produce a synthesis of Classical thought built on Aristotle and Christianity; this synthesis may be viewed as the apogee of Medieval, Christian, and Classical thinking. Aquinas was not just a theologian, but one of the most eminent philosophers in history. This collection has provided me with a broad sweep of Thomistic thought. Thought that is still relevant today. The Catholic Church derives the majority of political and ethical positions from the original efforts of Aquinas to guide us toward, God through the use of both reason and revelation. If you have any desire to understand the modern ethical arguments (perhaps the most influential and well articulated in all human history) made by the Church or just understand the reconciliation of reason and faith I cannot recommend Aquinas enough. 

The City of God is a monolith. One need not read it all at once or even in its entirety, however one would be well served by doing so. The City of God against the Pagans was St' Augustine of Hippo's efforts to articulate the theological positions of the early church on innumerable issues, reconcile Platonic philosophy to Christianity, provide a political response to the accusations that Christianity cause the sack of Rome in 410, and establish a framework through which providential history may be understood. Augustine divides the City of Man and the City of God and paints a landscape in which theodicy and the will may be reconciled to the existence of an omnipotent God. The book remains most interesting to me because Augustine not only does it address atheistic arguments that are still made today, but it also provides a framework for understanding humanities limited capacity to exercise its will upon creation. 

The Quest for Cosmic Justice is a book by Thomas Sowell where he attempts to produce a new definition of Justice: Cosmic Justice. Cosmic Justice to Sowell is the attempt to alter, or ameliorate the natural or cosmic order. Cosmic Justice seeks to subordinate God given order of the universe and the work of creation. Sowell does an excellent job highlighting both the futility and harm of such efforts to reconcile the natural to the normative. He does this both through logic and anecdote. This book is important because not only does it supplement his book The Conflict of Visions but the book also contains a great deal of creative and original thinking articulated in a new way. Sowell did a great deal to advance the conservative conception of justice as a process and disputes over its nature as  a vision. 

I cannot recommend Irving Kirstol enough; to me he is timeless. Kristol covers a broad canvas, but much of this particular book is composed of articles related to capitalism, great society reforms, faith, and the family. The collection is composed of articles from the wonderful magazines (all founded by Kristol) Encounter, Public Interest, and the National Interest. I recommend this particular book because it covers Kristol's foundation thoughts, which in essence provide the founding document of Neo-Conservative political thought. We have a preconceived notion of what Neo-Conservatism is in a descriptive sense, and Kristol does a great deal to show that this understanding of Neo-Conservatism is misguide or incorrectly attributed.  

Lastly, I would like to recommend another Peter Hitchens book. The Abolition of Britain is likely Hitchen's most sweeping book, part historical commentary, part lament for a nation. Hitchen's traces the decline of traditional Britain and its replacement of it with a rapidly degenerating modern Sodom with no spiritual core. You can feel the pain as Hitchen's writes in this work, and his cogent arguments go a long way in buttressing the opinions of those who have a traditional intuition, but have yet to find an empirical argument for the sentiments which they espouse. In the end the book leaves the reader greatly saddened, because it admits that we may be past the brink; the book is not only a portrait of a dead Britain, but at the same time an accurate parallel for societal changes across the Western World. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Remembering John A Macdonald

Author: Robert Finn@RobertFinn12

Sir John Alexander Macdonald is Canada’s greatest prime minister. Let us examine the facts: without Macdonald, Canada wouldn’t have existed. And, if it did, it wouldn’t last for long. No man besides Macdonald had the political skill, practical judgement, amiability, or drive to achieve the impossible: Canada.

He gave Canada a vision of nationhood. He, likewise, gave Canada the means to achieve nationhood: he gave us a backbone and a nationality. By giving us the Pacific Railway he gave us the former, the National Policy the latter.

Macdonald, unlike most of our “great” prime ministers, did not come from privilege. He rose to influence and power by his own assets, of which he had many: he was practical, he wasn’t an idealist, he had a great sense of humour, he stood out by wearing outlandish clothes, he was amiable even to his most vehement opponents, and, most important, he knew how to interact with everyone.

Of course most remember him as a drunk and as a racist. He also has been claimed to have started “Native genocide”; however, why would a man start a genocide on the people he gave the right to vote on the basis of the same property qualification as white men? Here’s something else you might not know: in 1867, Macdonald proposed universal suffrage. Another fact!: he gave workers the rights to form unions.

Also, he didn’t see Canada as two distinct nations. Though he firmly saw Canada as a part of the British Empire- “As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born; a British subject I will die”- he did not see Canada as a division between different ethnicities. Rather, he saw Canada as Canada, and all therein in Canadians- “Let us be English or let us be French... but above all let us be Canadians”.

Sir John A. Macdonald was our prime minister for 19 years. He created and protected Canada through all the tragedies and triumphs, foibles and follies of the 19th Century. He won 6 elections, and died while still firmly in the saddle. He may have been a drunk, but he was the greatest drunk in the long annals of mankind. And Sir John Alexander Macdonald was, beyond all doubt or dispute, the greatest prime minister Canada ever had, and ever will have.

The Conservative Standpoint 12: The Elite Society

This is Part 12 of the Conservative Standpoint by Cole Dutton

What separates the Conservative from the Socialist? Up until now the majority of the distinctions I have made between conservatism and other philosophies and ideologies has been a tracing of the divisions between the liberal modern state and the conservative disposition, but in this case I would like to draw the distinction between conservatism and socialism (however I recognize these waters have been muddied by post New Deal and LBJ Liberalism, Rawls being the chief theorist). What is the chief difference between them that signifies that the Conservative’s mindset is both modest and self-conscious of the limits of the human capacity for improvement? I suggest that one of the key positions setting the Conservative apart is the acceptance and in-fact the potential desire for an elite society. What I mean by this is that Conservatives accept the distinguished in society and recognize that those who elevate themselves over their neighbors bring a distinct benefit to both the political and social sphere. This claim however is not unsubstantiated; it is ancient first articulated by Aristotle and Plato, and in the modern era defended by the likes of Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre among countless others. Where the key difference occurs however is not in the existence of an elite society and a hierarchical polity, as well as hierarchical pluralism in social structures, but rather in the belief that such a society originates not on a rational basis, as the socialists and the marxists claim, but instead is born in the natural distinctions between men; these distinctions would be impossible to abolish without recourse to the most unconscionable totalitarian acts, and even then any true attempt to mediate the elevation of one man over another, to the conservative, seems hopeless and indeed harmful.

To be clear I do not propose that inequality is a simple thing. Instead, I suggest that it is made up to intangibles, and tangibles. For example, there were points in the career of Winston Churchill, where he engaged in such profligate spending and conspicuous consumption that he had to close down wings of Chartwell House and live off book advances, which were in his case promissory. Certainly Churchill remained part of the Aristocratic class, but at this time his economic elevation was not of the kind we normally associate with the bourgeois and capitalistic body of society.

Tangibles as far as they go are the economic goods associated with the elevated class or the elite. The great wealth, new money or old, makes no difference where it originates or how it was procured, what matters is that the individual who has great tangible distinction has by some means either out produced other citizens or has become the chief heir of someone who had done so. Included in the tangible though slightly less so, is the collection of bonds, securities, stocks, corporations, and the like accrued to these individuals not to mention, the most ancient form of wealth property.

Intangibles however, may take a much smaller and more abstract definition. Generally, intangibles, as I define them are the result of the long term maturation of social capital in the form of trust and reputation. A colleague of mine, outlined such intangibles well in a thesis he wrote on the nature of social capital in premodern England, and noted that the ability of an individual to receive credit and engage in merit building activities such as business engagements, social functions, and institutional programs directly correlated with their ability to prove good character, this good character, I argue, was mutable of generations, and may be used by the elites of a society to bolster their position or enhance it when economic measures are weakening.

One quick elucidation before diving into the main arguments surrounding the Conservatives’ relationship to elite society. Firstly, I do not propose that gross inequalities should or must be abided by conservatives especially when the communal good is ailing. Nor do I propose that elite society may be free from culpability when it comes to the exploitation of labour, for such accusations are difficult to prove and disprove, the only assertion I can make is that a competitive economy generally makes it untenable to exploit labour. Secondly, I note that the elite society is not limited to an oligarchy, I do not suppose that wealth be the only measure of excellence, but rather that those distinguished individuals are often the best among us; supplementary to his I propose that social and political elites are not in opposition to the conservative fear of centralized power, but in fact, through their dispersal throughout the society may actually act as an informal check on the gross injustices potentially committed by the corporate and statist machines.

The arguments for the aristocratic, in the Aristotelian sense, or elite society are as follows: First, that elites have a genesis which is immutable and natural, not rational; second, that elites balance arbitrary power and form the foundation of authoritative institutions; thirdly, elites serve to stabilize the worst elements of the electorate’s vacillation; fourth, that economic distinction is unavoidable, and that any attempt to suppress economic elites will lead to greater harm for the polity as a whole.

Hierarchy is eternal. Perhaps the permanence and organic nature of a hierarchical relationships is the most evident of the prior assertions. Empiricism stands as testament to the eternal distinctions between men. Biology, in its crudest sense substantiates this statement; the animal kingdom, wherever creatures are social, is governed by a tension between the dominant and the subordinate. Primates are governed and actuated by the movements of the Alpha males: Canines likewise, even the insects are divide themselves according to workers, drones, queens, and the like. Humanity takes this process and applies it naturally to its political and institutional associations.

One does not find a man independent of social and political relationships for long. We are all intrinsically aware of our standing amongst the group in which we are currently involved. Every conversation among a multitude of human beings is a subconscious maneuver or recognition of status. I like most people have felt my position in a hierarchy change, and have changed it likewise; all have experienced positions of leadership, and often this positions are based upon an informal recognition of excellence used in a sense relative to the ends being pursued by the group. It is this social behavior which facilitates, stabilizes, and contextualizes the human relationship.

Our institutions stand as testament to this reality. The episcopal nature of the Church and the recognition of the Great Chain of Being are representation of the divine hierarchy between man and his master. Our businesses are overwhelmingly governed by a hierarchy between management, owners, employees, and the like, each specializing and differing. All armies for millennia were organized based upon recognition of hierarchy.

It stands to reason that the only way in which human relationships are and were, in the infancy of our species and beyond, maintained was through recognition of relative status; this seemingly is because relative states allows for allegiance and deference as well as arbitration, and formal equality amongst men, when too broad and too rigid equality leads to the over struggle for distinction. Aristotle recognized this distinction, his politics for one, does not question the existence of the hierarchy, rather he presupposes it and asks rather who should sit upon the precipice, with the inevitable answer being the one who governs in the interest of his subordinates. Even Aristotle's Democracy does not suppose equality among men, but instead maintains only an equal participation in the prerogatives of governance and citizenship. In fact, the key democratic error is the supposition that these equal political actors, to Aristotle, presumed their equality extended to all spheres.

The fact that we may observe the existence of Elites in all societies and among both animals and man does not prove that these differences are natural. However, numerous thinkers have recognized the limits of egalitarianism and testified against the manipulations of the state as a means to reconcile the natural differences among men.

Roger Scruton explains in The Meaning of Conservatism why institutional advantage cannot be eliminated. He uses education as an analogy suggesting a base service is reasonable, but that some will always approach such an institution better prepared. He notes “we are forced to recognize an inevitability here: a collusion between the institution of the family and the later institutions which prepare a child for the adult world. Unless we are to snatch our babies from their mothers and rear them in battery farms, this ‘inequality of opportunity’ could not be eradicated. And even then, its full eradication might depend upon depriving children of some part of their natural understanding [Perhaps as Scruton suggests a club to the head as a means to delay the cognition of the gifted would suffice].”

William Graham Sumner wrote in his Sociological Fallacies that any sampling of the public through artificial selection of an experimental sample to be applied to a task, would necessarily separate, the most industrious and reflective would rise to the top and place themselves in a position of leadership. Sumner continues by stating, “the dogma that all men are equal is the most flagrant falsehood and most immoral doctrine which men have ever believed.”

W.H Mallock argued in his Aristocracy and Evolution: A study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social functions of the wealthier Classes, that, Sociologists have failed to answer the question of how much of an individual's advantage is derivative of his congenital or natural advantage bestowed upon him through his biology. In kind Russell Kirk takes up the arguments of John Adams, and writes in The Conservative Mind Adams saw no need to reform the inequities of nature “physical inequality, an intellectual inequality, . . . is established unchangeably by the Author of nature.” For Adams, as well as Kirk, the only sufficient and guaranteed equality was equality under god.

Doctor Charles Murray has spent his life studying this exact phenomenon, the differentiation of men based upon innate ability and intelligence, and has done a great deal to expressed a view sympathetic to those who are incapable of reaching the highest reaches of human achievement. Murray goes to great lengths to the suggests that such individuals may still be recognized in a multitude of ways and that if they are given opportunities suitable to their nature they are are not incapable of living a fulfilling and satisfactory life equal in happiness with anyone who has innate cognitive or physical gifts. Much of this reasoning, in a psychometric form can be found in the Bell Curve, and is expanded upon by Murray in other books.

Larry Arnhart author of Darwinian Conservatism notes that the innate need to form hierarchies is a key element in stability among primate species as well as man and suggest, drawing on the Research of Jane Goodall and Franz De Waal, that we such hierarchies naturally regulated between the one and the few and the many in order to maintain stability and safety. The question of conservative politics is how do we regulate the innate status drive of humans in relation to the aspirations of the many and how to do we provide an adequate life to those who are not worthy or capable of excellence in some sphere. The Conservative seeing this natural order knows that such natural restrictions are immutable and instead must be directed in the fashion most suitable to the needs of the community.

Now it is necessary to turn from the relationship between man and nature to the relationship between the elites themselves. The elite society is one that is divide between the one or the elites in the extreme and the many; this upper strata of elites is most often evident in the political apogee of the executive or head of state. The political body naturally has dominion over the civil and social spheres, but this dominion is prone to misappropriation by malevolent forces. Therefore, an investigation of the utility of elites is necessary in this regard, because it is in the intra-elite relationships that elites show their merit to society. The political world, as all know, is not limited to the organs of government. The political world is also interacting on a constant basis with the spheres of various private institutions or quasi governmental bodies. This is most evident both in the church and the lobby structures of most states; Labour Unions and Chambers of Commerce also serve as mercantile expressions of these associations. The associations make up the little platoons of Edmund Burke, as well as the various Mediating Structures of Richard Neuhaus and Peter L. Berger.

These mediating structures firstly provide the individual with distinction and a status and productivity outlet beyond the limits of the state and therefore provide for the acquisition of skills and social elevation. This is important not only because the monopolization of opportunity in the state sphere necessarily impairs the opportunity for all, but also because it provides an outlet for those who would otherwise seek political elevation and the imposition of the will through misattributed theory and vision. Sumner noted that without the notion one could distinguish themselves among peers there was little worth striving for.

Important multitude of institutions and mediating structures is the notion of subjective excellence. A concept recognized by W.H Mallock who maintained, that there was a great many forms of excellence, and “People who many be classed as great by one judge and classed as ordinary by another.” Of course to the egalitarians the ability to achieve in athletics, craftworks, or higher education, for a handful of examples does not directly correlate with political power and this is the problematic notion. Sure African Americans may dominate American athletics, but what good is that say the egalitarians if they are under-represented in the halls of power. Secondary outlets beyond the political have no use to the egalitarian.

Russell Kirk in an extensive tract on John Adams and Tocqueville in The Conservative Mind sums up concisely the importance of the elite society. Adams took a descriptive view of aristocracy recognizing its benefits and faults as intrinsic and unalterable. He notes that they often formed the bulwark against revolution and through doing so saved humanity from the exercise of popular tyranny and despotism.

Kirk notes, as he reflects on Tocqueville, that the democratic impulse acts in opposition to hierarchy; like Aristotle it is notable that the great majority, always the poorest, will act in opposition to prerogative and complex distinctions. Because democrats naturally act against the institutions which oppose or limit direct representation in democracy they, “efface gradually those very safeguards which make libertarian democracy possible.”

Like Tocqueville it seems Kirk sympathizes with the immutable nature of aristocracy, permanent, because it is made up of a plurality of souls(unlike the mortal monarch), stable because they are too few to be moved by popular outrage, and unmoving because it is confident in its nature and tied to property and distinction. However, democracy will not abide by the aristocratic state.

These institutions are important because they provide an independent political, social, and resource base for the exercise of resistance towards outside powers. For example the labour union resisting the extensions of the corporate world just as the independent municipal associations exact pressure on the mayoral body and in turn secure concessions beneficial to the municipality.

However, the elite society does not solely act as a check upon arbitrary power, but also acts as a bridge between the personal/private and political worlds. The structures of institutional power outside government organs and corporate bodies, the so called megastructures to Neuhaus and Berger, are to them, necessarily alienating. In To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy in the piece they argue a thesis that they key failure of the welfare state structures is the failure to acknowledge and effectively utilize the mediating structures present in society. The key structures they identify are “neighborhood, family, church, and voluntary association.” They maintain that any divorce from these structures depersonalizes government efforts to ameliorate suffering or act in an authoritative fashion. They state “Without institutionally reliable processes of mediation, the political order becomes detached from the values and realities of individual life. Deprived of its moral foundation. . . . When that happens, political order must be secured by coercion rather than by consent.”

With Kirk, Neuhaus and Berger in mind we create a picture whereby the political world finds stability through the moderating nature of the elite or aristocratic society. This is because the institutions they head are capable of resisting the force of the state and corporate megastructures while meanwhile providing a bridge between the private and public worlds. Thus invested with power, prerogative, and property to protect the elite society is one in which a body is placed into a position where by nature it must mediate between the emaciated and the gluttonous. Elites resist revolution, and they are educated enough, to even blockade the silent ones when possible: only an elite society can muster that much independent strength, the strength to oppose the rapine nature of the mass and the banditry of the potentially corrupt leader. This resistive character is of the utmost use in the democratic system because in such a system more than any other the reckless and capricious people are given the means to act in a tyrannical and harmful fashion.

Finally, I would like briefly touch on the existence of economic elites, those supposed exploiters of capital, who, according to critics are responsible for the base state of the most impoverished among us. An accusation of this fashion may essentially be dismissed out of hand, only in the most extreme regions of economic inequality is economics a zero sum game. We all know by instinct that economic measures are prone to problems, but simply because one class of people rises in its incomes faster than another or a population declines in wealth does not imply causation. Yet, many of the Marxist and Socialist demeanor would have it believed that the state of hardship endemic to the poor is not permanent, but rather recent and curable through the elimination of the entrenched advantage of the wealthy. However, I contend that such an assertion is misguided because the economic elites, will always resurface, and in doing so provide benefit to their communities, if given the opportunity to act freely; likewise any attempt to equalize economic outcomes, as Friedrich Hayek new well, is inimical to the freedom of the society as a whole.

Thomas Sowell touches on the issue of economic elites in his Quest For Cosmic Justice where he acknowledges its futility like all other forms of Cosmic Justice. Cosmic Justice being defined by Sowell as Justice which seeks “to mitigate and make more just the undeserved misfortunes arising from the cosmos, as well as from society. It seeks to produce cosmic justice, going beyond strictly social justice, which becomes just one aspect of cosmic justice.” The aims of cosmic justice can be summarized as the creation of a world as it ought to have been initially created, it is justice beyond the frontiers of man. Another way of looking at Cosmic Justice is instrumental reasoning placed into the realm of Justice, what is meant by this is that to the Cosmic Justice advocate the disordered universe has no pattern and no rationality and therefore may be subject to the whims of mankind, who stands above and beyond the frontiers of nature: it is a deluded and superhuman conception.

To highlight the failed attempts to equalize outcomes Sowell points to Malaysia as one example. In Malaysia local Chinese were discriminated against because the native Malays were failing to secure positions in the University. Despite a many impediments placed upon the Chinese to reduce their University attendance rates and therefore equalize the number of Chinese and Malays attending university the initiative failed, and Chinese continued to make up the economically dominant population in the country.

Likewise, Sowell talks about reformers in the Jewish quarters of New York who saw massive ghetto’s instead of economic trade offs. They assumed that because Jews had been living in such impoverished dwellings they must have been exploited by the landlords or employers. In fact, the Jews were living there by their own volition finding it easier to save money when housing costs were lower, often saving above 50% of their earnings. When city ordinance was placed to limit the squalor in the neighborhoods the Jews and other locals protested alongside the landlords knowing that housing prices would climb if minimum standards were placed on the housing. Certainly, reform could have been possible, but the misguided assumption of exploitation highlights the errors of visionary thinking and efforts at equalization. This conscious soothing efforts often do little for the benefit of the supposed victims of the circumstances to be remedied.

In The Road to Serfdom Friedrich Hayek described the pattern by which equalization and state interference in the marketplace necessarily impacts freedoms and hinders justice recognizing that our fundamental freedoms were based on equality before the law, or the conception of the rule of law: the fundamental concept that all parties regardless of station are governed by the same law of the land from the head of state to the pauper. He also recognized that the rule of law produced necessary inequalities. In order to have equal status before the law, the law could not treat people at variance with one another due to economic circumstance. The moment the law procured more for some or facilitated economic or opportunity access for one at the expense of another equality is necessarily eroded to a greater extent than the minimal inequality necessitated by the rule of law. In essence formal equality before the law must be readily sacrificed to achieve economic equality. It is this paradigm that makes a mockery of Blind Justice.

Joseph Schumpeter went to great lengths to dispel the myths of erroneous economic thinking about the highest achieving individuals in a given society. He wrote about these issues in “Social Classes in an Ethnically Homogeneous Environment.” Primarily he highlighted that economic class is not a monolith and wealth and achievement are subjective criteria. Though a poor man may call both Bill Gates and a local contractor rich, say the contractor has a three million dollar house and makes several hundred thousand dollars a year, the distinction between Gates and the contractor is likely greater than the distinction between the average individual and the contractor. Schumpeter also took the time to acknowledge that the perception most people have of the wealthy is tainted. Those who are not wealthy often experience the wealthy outside of their labours and instead at leisure, where their hard work and energy is not apparent; rather we experience the wealthy as indolent rather than industrious. Schumpeter says the rich are maintained and grow through, “differences in efficiency. . . . Behavior giving rise to such differences may, for our purposes, be adequately described in terms of hard-headedness, concentration on profit, authority, capacity for work, and inexorable self-discipline, especially in renouncing other aspects of life. . . . [O]ften escap[ing] consideration, because the outsider is likely to observe these people in the practice of compensatory and conspicuous excesses.”

The ultimate result of this is a misperception of the monied class and a toxic envy rather than an energetic aspiration driven by a desire to learn from those who achieve most in our society. To Schumpeter the capitalistic system is necessarily dynamic and reliant on innovation, which is provided by the monied class, therefore it would not be misguided to place such a monied class in a position of elevation rather than denigration so the necessarily innovative knowledge and ethic may be disseminated to those who are capable of similar achievements yet lacking in means.

Ultimately what may be derived from Schumpeter beyond his insights about the innovation produced by economic elites and the necessarily oblique perspective of the mass of people in relation to the wealthy, is that changes in social class take place over the long term not necessarily a life time. People were improving their condition and have been inexorably, however, this does not content the multitude of reforms and revolutionaries because it is largely imperceptible or at least inadequate when a single lifetime is under consideration, and in fact the improvements in condition may not be reliable, regressions may take place, and individual elements of families may fall behind, these concerns then draw the attention of reformers and egalitarians who refuse to take the historical view into consideration.

I hope that the arguments given may prove persuasive for some who have not considered the relationship between social and economic inequality; it is my hope that such arguments will prove to be a catalyst for a re-examination of our paradigms and projections related to an elite and aristocratic society.

Primarily, I hope that one will realize that the elite society provides a necessary stabilizing force on imperative to good government as it forms a natural buffer between the envy and vacillation of the mass and the acquisitiveness and domination of the ruling body. The elite society is eternal; it is eternal because men natural differ on the most base and biological levels are capacity differs, but not only on such mean grounds can we measure distinctions, rather our culture, environment, heritage, and efforts all produce the richness of human life. Equalization, and the efforts to reduce the elite society, is a non-teleological goal one that serves no greater purpose but the satisfaction of the aggrieved. This effort is misguided and I hope the case has been made for the utility of the elite society both economic and social.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Remembering Edmund Burke

Author: Robert Finn

Note: Burke's birth is January 12, 1729

By remembering Edmund Burke we aren’t just honouring the memory of the most eloquent conservative; nor are we paying tribute to his immortal name as the first conservative. We are remembering an orator hardly surpassed in the history of the English tongue, a writer of sublime vivacity and beauty, a politician forward in his thinking, a lover of liberty, a man of warm heart and of a caring soul. We are remembering one of the greatest men to have been born during the last four hundred years. We are remembering the most radical thinker in the history of mankind.

The last sentence of the preceding paragraph would have undoubtedly have caused some eyebrows to rise. For many, conservatism signifies to any form of change either in the constitution of the state or in the means and ways of society. But Burke was certainly not a reactionary. Just a brief glance at his career as a politician clears away such false ideas of Burke: he opposed slavery and the slave trade, fought for the emancipation of Catholics, and gave some of the greatest speeches in the English language to defending the American colonies.

A constant theme of Burke’s life is his opposition to the abuse of power. Besides his opposition to the encroachment of the British crown upon the rights of the British parliament during the time of George III, Burke opposed the tyranny of idealism. Indeed, his greatest work, and the work of which he is chiefly remembered, Reflection on the Revolution in France, besides (in the opinion of the author of this article) being the greatest work written in the English language on politics, is the greatest defense ever written against politics based on ideals and not on experience or tradition.

This is where Burke is the most radical thinker of all time. For hundreds of years thinkers had been trying to deduce the laws of politics from pure reason alone: Locke with natural rights, Rousseau with his social contract, etc. Burke, however, stated that politics has nothing, and should have nothing to do with, ideas. It has to do with people and their practical affairs. Out of all the major thinkers during the Age of Enlightenment, Burke did not believe that mankind could achieve perfection. His belief in the doctrine of Original Sin led him to the conclusion that man is an imperfect being, largely guided by prejudices rather than by reason. Burke said, “Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts”.

If you’ve never read any of Burke’s work (which you should), here are some quotes to both satiate your palate and spark your curiosity:

“A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution”- Reflections on the Revolution in France.

“But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint”-Ibid.

“Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in”-Letters on a Regicide Peace.