Monday, August 15, 2011

Jona's Job

Seventy-five years ago, Albert Jay Nock wrote a column called Isaiah's Job that was published in The Atlantic Monthly. It advanced the idea that there is in any society a "Remnant" of people who are interested in the truth and in doing the right thing by their fellow man, but who are pretty much isolated from each other and go about their business without ever knowing how many others there are like themselves, if any.

The people of the Remnant can spot a phony immediately and will pay them no mind, but they can spot the purveyor of the genuine article or "true faith" just as easily. Isaiah is preaching to this Remnant and to everybody else that wants to listen, but he has no way of knowing who they are and they have no way of identifying each other.

I have thought about this essay many times over the years in relation to some of the modern Isaiahs such as Nock himself, but also people like Leonard Read, Frank Chodorov, Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Sobran, Jacob Hornberger and Ron Paul. These people disseminated their ideas, but had no effective way to reach a mass audience. You almost had to be in a clique to find out about The Freeman, The Rothbard Rockwell Report, analysis or Sobran's. Most of the publications were preaching to the choir for the simple reason that you had to be in the choir to even find out about them.

Ron Paul is probably the most visible Isaiah of modern times, at least in the political realm because he had a little bit of a forum by virtue of his congressional office.

The efforts of the Remnant have always been unorganized or disjointed because it had no effective way of recognizing and communicating with its members over a large area until the last fifteen years or so.

In Nock's day, if you wanted to make others aware of his Isaiah article, you would have to read it to them, buy multiple copies of the magazine or perhaps mimeograph copies of it, since nobody had copying machines or FAX machines or computers, and most people didn't own a newspaper.

This has all changed with the advent of the internet. Now anybody can alert all their friends in Botswana, Lichtenstein or the Azores about anything they wish. This allows the message to get out quickly and without a middle man "filtering" or censoring it, which of course leads me to Jonah.

For most of his congressional career, Ron Paul has been an Isaiah, but now he seems to be turning into a Jonah. When Jonah told the people of Nineveh that in forty days the city would be destroyed, they repented and took remedial action, thus averting disaster. Paul has been saying the same thing for years, but now it is becoming obvious that what he was saying is true, and the people - still a small percentage - are ready to put on sackcloth and ashes. Much of this is because of his unrelenting fidelity to the message, but a greater part is probably because the message can't be suppressed like in the recent old days.

News stories in the old-time news organs still try to ignore or minimize his accomplishments, but they are becoming less relevant by the day. With email, blogs, YouTube, world-wide access to unfiltered news and opinion sites, social networking etc., it's as though a hydra-headed genie has escaped the bottle.

Four years ago, many of the comments about news articles concerning Ron Paul would refer to him as "moonbat," "wingnut," "kook," "lunatic," or some other derisive term. Now almost all the comments are in support of his ideas. It's as though the people have heard the modern Jonah and are ready to put on the sackcloth - figuratively - and ashes.

There is something about truth that makes it recognized when heard - not always, but more often than not. When somebody has demonstrably been speaking the truth his entire public life without apology and can finally be heard, he will eventually be believed over the equivocators and apostles of mendacity.

Here is a man who said that the housing market is a bubble, we shouldn't go to war with Iraq, and the Fed is an engine of inflation. Is he a kook or a modern Jonah? Many people are starting to see him as the latter.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

David Hume and the Republican Tradition of Human Scale

This is a fairly long essay, but well worth reading.

"Third, with the collapse of the landed gentry and nobility, a traditional order rooted in land and place would collapse in favor of rule by a new rootless class of stockjobbers and paper money men. “These men,” Hume writes, having “no connections with the state...can enjoy their revenue in any part of the globe in which they chuse to reside, who will naturally bury themselves in the capital or great cities, and who will sink into the lethargy of a stupid and pampered luxury, without spirit, ambition, or enjoyment. Adieu to all ideas of nobility, gentry, and family” (E, 353). Hume’s criticism of public credit mirrors exactly Jefferson’s criticism of the public debt system proposed by Alexander Hamilton...."

"And elsewhere he describes them as a “middle power between King and people” (E, 358).With their elimination, a pure Hobbesian state would emerge with a centralized authority ruling directly over an aggregate of millions of individuals. In this condition, “every man in authority derives his influence from the commission alone of the sovereign.” And “the whole income of every individual in the state must lie entirely at the mercy of the sovereign” (E, 358-59). Hume thinks this form of despotism intimated in eighteenth century centralized states, if realized, would be “a degree of despotism, which no oriental monarchy has ever yet attained” (E, 359). What Hume considered despotism is viewed as normal today. A European monarch in Hume’s day could not order military conscription nor impose an income tax, which would have been viewed as a form of forced labor."

Read the full essay here

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Coming Tree Explosion

  Mendax News Service

Are there too many trees? That is a question that is causing great concern among many scientists worldwide. The problem of exponential increase in the tree population is one that few people outside the discipline of dendrology (the study of trees) are aware of. In order to explain the magnitude of the problem we consulted many noted experts in the field for this report.

One of the explanations for the rapid increase in the tree population was attributed to climatic changes. Dr. F. X. Molesky, world renowned climatologist has advanced the theory that underwater volcanic eruptions have caused a worldwide temperature and humidity increase. Molesky says that the eruptions have caused a water temperature increase of .02 degrees Kelvin at the polar regions causing changes in temperature and water salination conditions. This in turn has caused increased rainfall facilitating more rapid tree growth.

Other causes are more easily understood by the ordinary non-specialist.

Dr. Harmod Wysong of the Longleaf Institute of Dendrology had explanations that attributed the ominous trend more to economic causes. " The problem", he said, "has been increasing ever since Detroit stopped making wood-sided cars and trucks, ships quit using wood in their construction and people went to gas and electric heat sources."

This is not the only reason, however. The powerful tree lobby has been gobbling up land for years to plant its rapid-growth trees and the petroleum producers have been trying to get people to use plastic instead of paper bags at the supermarket, thereby reducing demand for pulpwood at the very time its supply is increasing geometrically.

Political efforts to help save resources and endangered species such as the spotted owl and the stump-jumper have only exacerbated the problem. As forest land is placed off-limits to timber companies, the price of lumber goes up because of the supposedly diminishing supply. This in turn causes more tree planting by the greedy lumber producers to reap the potentially greater profits.

Not surprisingly, governments have been a major cause of the tree over-population problem. In many areas, every new building has to have a certain number of trees planted on its property after completion and if a tree is chopped down, even on private property, a new tree has to be planted. Even an unwanted tree cannot be summarily killed, just because it happens to be in the wrong place.

It is estimated that there are five times as many trees in the Americas than there were when Columbus came here. If the tree lobby is not exposed and stopped, pretty soon there will be no place for houses, farms, stores or offices. Experts estimate that at the present rate of increase, there will be no place for people to live by the year 2015.

What are some of the remedies suggested by the experts? Dr. Molesky suggests that you purchase only wooden furniture and buy no products containing recycled paper; insist on virgin paper. Heat your house with a wood stove or fireplace. Stop extinguishing forest fires; let them burn out of control. Outlaw the use of steel or any artificial materials in home construction.

Dr. Wysong suggests that ships be made out of wood unless they are for military use. Fire all boilers with wood instead of coal or oil. Require railroads to retire their diesel-electric locomotives and return to wood-fired steam locomotives. Return to wood for bridge construction and use more wooden airplanes. The wooden airplane is an idea whose time has surely come. In the event of an airplane crash, the wreckage would completely deteriorate within a few years thus not causing permanent harm to the environment.

During the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, many roads were made out of logs laid perpendicular to the line of travel. These were referred to as corduroy roads. They were ecologically sound and prevented drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. They should be brought back.

Professor James Parks of the Smyrna chapter of Treat Responsibly the Environment and Ecology (TREE) agreed that the tree problem is very real, but he denounced as "alarmist" the idea that trees will be a problem as early as 2015. Parks says that he doesn't see the over-population of trees as causing serious problems for 'humans and non-silvicolous animals for at least thirty years.
He did agree, however, that the trend of rapid forestation is disturbing. "The time to seek solutions is now, not when we have been finally walled in by trees", he said.