June 20, 2014

"Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses.... "

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"'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country.

All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!

"Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world." The Crisis, Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at June 20, 2014 9:20 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

No need to panic,
coerced fear is just a tease.
Just appease to please.
Your beheading is simpler
when you're on your knees.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at June 20, 2014 3:11 PM

The last paragraph is gold. Pretty much what Gide said.

Posted by: james wilson at June 20, 2014 5:31 PM

Circumstances were so much different back then. We had intelligent people with vision and a talent for rhetoric;
we had a populace united against oppression and tyranny;
we had men, and women for that matter, that were willing to make sacrifices for the common good,
folks that placed the welfare of our fledgling country before their own comfort.
We had a spiritual awareness, morals that guided us through dark times;
in fact we had God on our side as part of a Judeo-Christian paradigm.

Allow me to insert a quote here, not to hijack the thread, rather to enhance and validate what Paine was saying:
"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.
An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.
But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments,
he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.
He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city,
he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.
A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." - Marcus Cicero

Posted by: chasmatic at June 20, 2014 7:28 PM

Things were not so much better 1n 1776 as you think, Chas. The Boston mob for example was an absolute rabble, and John Adams was terrified with the thought that he might usher in a democratic republic that represented his worser clients all too well.

After the war was won the citizens elected scofflaws and populists to dominate the state legislatures which were so vile, and caused such fear among decent men, that the Constitution was thrown together in a year's time.

The incalculable advantage the great men had was that universal suffrage did not exist. A quarter of the population could vote, if that. The arguments of the Founders could address great issues and great complexities because they did not need suffer from the appeasement of foolish and needy people. What they so cleverly did was create an anti-trust act against government. Which lasted, depending on your point of view, either seventy-two or one hundred and forty-four years.

There is no path back to liberty against the tide of universal suffrage.

"My theories explain, but cannot slow the decline of a great civilization. I set out to be a reformer, but only became the historian of decline."-
Ludwig von Mises

Posted by: james wilson at June 21, 2014 12:17 AM

No Paine no gain.

Posted by: USS Ben at June 21, 2014 3:54 AM

james: thanks for showing me that POV. I guess I took a short view. I considered the dynamics necessary to achieve freedom, not to maintain it.
I remember reading somewhere that a democracy starts failing when the populace realizes it can vote itself more benefits.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years.
These nations have progressed through this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to selfishness;
From selfishness to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependency back again into bondage.
---Sir Alex Fraser Tyler: (1742-1813)

As to the scurrilous nature of the first politians, I think Machiavelli suggested that a prince needs a rough tough nasty army to fight for him.
The only caveat being, just don't let them sleep within the gates of the city.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 21, 2014 5:59 AM

All the great historical philosophers of that day believed that a benign republic had to be a thing of limited size and of singular demographics. The American Republic was a great surprise to them because it discovered rules--rules which, according to Tocqueville, no one before had discovered--which allowed it to work. But when you remove those rules it becomes the worst possible apparition. Tocqueville described in minute detail how the faults and virtues of American government were bound together, and how easily they could be flipped. Every detail upon which he wrote has been targeted and turned, by those men who Hamilton and Madison disparaged in The Federalist as "Visionary and Utopian" philosophers. Could that even be taken as an insult today?

We will not vote our way out of this. To the contrary, it is voting which is driving us deeper into Utopia. Being of weak mind and irresolute character myself, I will likely vote again. And on we go.

Posted by: james wilson at June 21, 2014 1:05 PM

No, James, we will not vote our way out. The electoral process is broken beyond repair. Only a miracle or a disaster could restore it.
I'll go with disasters for five hundred. Leviathan will soon commit itself to a course of action that is unacceptable and sparks will fly.
Think: the Bundy situation. It will unfortunately come down to boots and steel.
Heads will roll, blood will flow, fire will scour the land. I do not envision any other way.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 21, 2014 8:36 PM

Ever the optimist, Chas. My bet is on whimpering and submission. Two gets you three.

Posted by: james wilson at June 21, 2014 11:19 PM

James: One can always hope, no?

I plan to do as Svejk and a lot of Czechos did. It's my ancestry. German and Czech, a winning combination.
http://dpjk.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-good-soldier-svejk-part-2.html
My uncle Letsgo Lozko was a member of Chicago's Bohemian Mafia. A dealer in stolen dogs, He raised bantam chickens as a cover.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 22, 2014 5:43 AM