Archive for October, 2008

Congressional DoubleSpeak on Finance Rules

October 23, 2008

The Utah Daily Herald article “Lawmakers mull tougher finance rules” of October 22,2008 by Andrew Taylor includes several interesting quotes from members of the U.S. Congress.

The following statements made by Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., are ripe for doublespeak interpretation:

“Because our current regulatory regime has failed, we now must design a robust, effective supervisory system for the future…”

“Deregulation — along with the twin notions that markets solve everything while government solves nothing — should be viewed as ideological relics of a bygone era.”

Translated by one with more faith in freedom and free markets this could be interpreted as the following confession:

“We’ve raped and prostituted the free market system and now we need to add even more control (regulation) over this Harlot that we’ve pimped.”

 

Advertisements

The 1895 Rape of The U.S Common Law Jury

October 3, 2008

In the 1895 case of Sparf vs U.S. the institution of the Common Law Jury in these United States was raped, i.e. robbed of its most precious virtue as a true safeguard against the most insidious usurpations of power by any of the branches of government.  It was then decided to set an unconstitutional precedent of having the judge preempt the right of the jury to judge the justice of the law itself in a trial against an individual.  Regardless of how reprehensible or unconstitutional and encroaching the jury might find the law to be, this case set a precedent that the courts have since adhered to in robbing the jury system of its once most noble virtue and constitutional safeguard, namely the safeguard against tyranny and oppression found in the former ability of a jury to determine not only the facts of a case but ultimately the law as well.

Theophilus Parsons, chief justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts said the following concerning this former ability of the U.S. Common Law Jury:

“An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance.  Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.”

The authority of the Common Law Jury to determine not only the facts of a trial but also the law was clearly understood at an earlier time in U.S. history as stated by Chief Justice John Jay in his instructions to the first jury trial before the Supreme Court in the 1794 case entitled “Georgia v. Brailsford (3 Dall. 1)”:

“It may not be amiss here, gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact controversy. On this and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt you will pay that respect which is due to the opinion of the court; for, as on the one hand, it is presumed that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumable that the courts are the best judges of law. But still, both objects are lawfully within your power of decision.”

Despite the dangerous unconstitutional precedent set forth in 1895 to deny the jury their inalienable prerogative to nullify the application of bad laws on their own fellow citizens, there is still some hope that some juries might be as wise and crafty as the midwives of Egypt back at the time of Moses who deceived the Pharoah in fearing (honoring) the true God of Israel.  Such deception is becoming to any saint or decent citizen fed up with unconstitutional laws being applied against their fellow man.  The jury could ignore the evidence against a man even if it was clear that he was guilty if they felt the law that was broken was a bad law.  While I’m actually for vaccinations in most cases, they (the juries) could play the same game as some parents who avoid having their children vaccinated in such states that only allow those with religious convictions to avoid them (i.e. the parents claim that vaccination is against their religious convictions even though it isn’t).

Perhaps one of the best essays on the history and necessity of the original powers of the Common Law Jury was written by Lysander Spooner in 1852.  

 Here is the summary beginning of Lysander Spooner’s famous essay:

An Essay on the Trial By Jury
By LYSANDER SPOONER
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by
LYSANDER SPOONER
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

TRIAL BY JURY

CHAPTER I

THE RIGHT OF JURIES TO JUDGE OF THE JUSTICE OF LAWS

SECTION I.

FOR more than six hundred years   that is, since Magna Carta, in
1215 there has been no clearer principle of English or American
constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the
right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law,
and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also
their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the
justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their
opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating,
or resisting the execution of, such laws.

Unless such be the right and duty of jurors, it is plain that, instead
of juries being a "palladium of liberty" a barrier against the tyranny
and oppression of the government they are really mere tools in its
hands, for carrying into execution any injustice and oppression it
may desire to have executed.

But for their right to judge of the law, and the justice of the law,
juries would be no protection to an accused person, even as to
matters of fact; for, if the government can dictate to a jury any law
whatever, in a criminal case, it can certainly dictate to them the
laws of evidence. That is, it can dictate what evidence is
admissible, and what inadmissible, and also what force or weight
is to be given to the evidence admitted. And if the government can
thus dictate to a jury the laws of evidence, it can not only make it
necessary for them to convict on a partial exhibition of the
evidence rightfully pertaining to the case, but it can even require
them to convict on any evidence whatever that it pleases to offer
them.

That the rights and duties of jurors must necessarily be such as are
here claimed for them, will be evident when it is considered what
the trial by jury is, and what is its object. 

"The trial by jury," then, is a "trial by the country" that is, by the
people as distinguished from a trial by the government.

It was anciently called "trial per pais"   that is, "trial by the
country." And now, in every criminal trial, the jury are told that the
accused "has, for trial, put himself upon the country; which
country you (the jury) are."  

The object of this trial "by the country," or by the people, in
preference to a trial by the government, is to guard against every
species of oppression by the government. In order to effect this
end, it is indispensable that the people, or "the country," judge of
and determine their own liberties against the government; instead
of the government's judging of and determining its own powers
over the people. How is it possible that juries can do anything to
protect the liberties of the people against the government, if they
are not allowed to determine what those liberties are?

Any government, that is its own judge of, and determines
authoritatively for the people, what are its own powers over the
people, is an absolute government of course. It has all the powers
that it chooses to exercise. There is no other or at least no more
accurate definition of a despotism than this. 

On the other hand, any people, that judge of, and determine
authoritatively for the government, what are their own liberties
against the government, of course retain all the liberties they wish
to enjoy. And this is freedom. At least, it is freedom to them;
because, although it may be theoretically imperfect, it,
nevertheless, corresponds to their highest notions of freedom.

To secure this right of the people to judge of their own liberties
against the government, the jurors are taken, (or must be, to make
them lawful jurors,} from the body of the people, by lot, or by
some process that precludes any previos knowledge, choice, or
selection of them, on the part of the government.

This is done to prevent the government's constituting a jury of its
own partisans or friends; in other words, to prevent the
government's packing a jury, with a view to maintain its own laws,
and accomplish its own purposes.

The full text can be had for free from the Project Gutenberg website at:
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/tbjry10.txt

One shouldn’t dismiss Lysander Spooner’s clearly worded and very instructive essay on accounts of his reputation as an anarchist. One should remember the history he lived through and remember that one can have anarchist leanings without being treasonous.  Remember that treason is limited to that definition of Article III.3.1 of the U.S. Constitution:

Treason against the United States shall consist of levying war against them or adhering to their enemies by giving them aid and comfort.

Promoting disobedience of bad laws in my mind is better than wasting one’s efforts dutifully but stupidly trying hard not to offend the government by obeying asinine laws.   Surely it would be ridiculous to disobey all bad laws.  Most bad laws are typically tolerable for a while.  Still there are some laws that could never be tolerated by any freeman.  An example will illustrate my point: let’s say that the legislature outlawed the public display and carrying of firearms, even those carried by persons with concealed weapons permits.  This bad law would probably be tolerable and ok to obey for a short while.  However if the laws become as encroaching as to say that the ownership of firearms were to be illegal and that all firearms had to be turned over or even confiscated then such a law would be immediately intolerable and successively intolerable for any duration of time before it could be addressed by an amendment.  That the Canadians have permitted their own government to disallow the ownership of handguns is to me a sign of their collective ignorance in the crudest connotation of the word.  Other nations have fallen prey to such disarmament of their citizenry for other reasons such as despotic acts of government without their peoples’ consent.  It is little comfort however when one realizes how close we are in the United States to the same stupidity.  Both Canada and the U.S. however at one time had more common sense and hopefully can regain the foresight and prudence of their ancestors.

Some knowing my faith and religion might reprimand my suggestion that we disobey some bad laws quote me the 12th Article of Faith:

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Only an ignorant fool however would take this without the context and history of the Doctrine and Covenants that further qualify what law the Latter Day Saint is morally bound to obey.  This is succinctly expressed in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.    5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. 

  6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; 

  7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. 

  8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
 
  9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. 

  10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
 
  11 And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

This scripture clearly reemphasizes the principle that Natural Laws or God’s Laws trumps the laws of man or Civil Laws.  That men still fear men more than God and surrender their God given rights to improper laws however is nothing new.  The ancient Israelites offended God by demanding a King.  He let them have one, but warned them of the oppressive consequences.  The following Bible passage found in 1 Samuel Chapter 8 depicts the Lords sadness at Israel having rejected Him as their true King and emancipator from worldly sin and oppression:

1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.    2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. 

  3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. 

  4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 

  5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 

  6 ¶ But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 

  7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 

  8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

Much of the above information was gleamed and requoted from the excellent book “The Making of America, The Substance And Meaning of the Constitution” by W. Cleon Skousen as well as the scriptures themselves.

Principles of a Sound Economy and the U.S. Constitution

October 3, 2008

The Founding Fathers wanted the young American republic after the Revolutionary War to survive and flourish.  They were all extremely well versed in political and economic theory from having read numerous writings from Cicero to Adam Smith as well as having experienced much in terms of practical experience as lawyers and leaders in political and economical spheres of influence.  While some of the Founding Fathers later deviated from the strict policies of limited government and frugal administration that they had originally engineered in the original U.S. Constitution, they all originally shared a common enough vision of the principles that would sail the vessel of their nation past stormy waters and onto safe harbors.  They knew that these principles were timeless and practical and incorporated as many of them as possible into the original U.S. Constitution without making the document too burdensome and less wieldy.

What follows is a quick summary of those principles of sound economic policy as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.  Much of the information contained herein has been obtained from W. Cleon Skousen’s seminal work on analysis of the Constution in light of modern times entitled  “The Making of America, The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution.

A-What principles in the original U.S. Constituion promoting a healthy economy have been since perverted?
    1-Government spending limited to:
       a-Common defense and general welfare (Article 1.8.1).  Originally this clause was meant to limit spending, but was perverted to promote spending.  As Skousen outlines, this unintended interpretation began as early as when Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury and grew in strength with the successive precedents set by the Supreme Court in the following cases:
          i)Butler Case of 1936 (Expanded the powers of Congress to tax and appropriate such taxes beyond the limitations originally defined by relaxing what general welfare implied.)
          ii)Social Security Case (This case began unhealthy precedent of the federal government  violating the Tenth Amendment by preempting state tax jurisdictions.  In light of this case, it is very likely that state initiatives towards mandating health care insurance at the state level would be only temporary before the federal government preempts state jurisdiction once again.)
          iii)Oklahoma v. Civil Service Commission (Supreme Court encouraged the shady practice of the federal government using money as a tool of coercion by making grants-in-aid to states conditional upon their compliance with the federal will.)

    The original intention of Article 1.8.1 is explained in the following quote from Skousen:

Thomas Jefferson explained that this clause was not a grant of power to “spend” for the general welfare of the people, but was intented to “limit the power of taxation” to matters which provided for the welfare of “the Union” or the welfare of the whole nation.  In other words, federal taxes could not be levied for states, counties, cities, or special interest groups.

Madison supported Jefferson’s view that this clause restricted the taxing power to matters which provided support for the national government in carrying out its assigned responsibilities.

    b)Lawful appropriations (Article I.9.7) which states:

7. How public money is drawn.  No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

2)Government should adhere to only issuing money that has value independent of a government’s authority, e.g. adhering to the gold standard where paper monies were basically certificates of precious metals deposited in banks.  This eliminates the hidden indirect tax of inflation whereby governments generate revenue by printing more money without more precious metal to back it.  Article I Section 10, clause 1 of the Constitution forbids the states from issuing bills of credit or making anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.  While some argue that the gold standard limits and ties the economy to the supply of precious metals, history has shown that responsible lending of credit by banks and other financial institutions can expand the money supply without government intervention.  When disaster has struck under the gold standard, it has been due to widespread bad or irresponsible lending practices.  The people of a nation are no less victims of abuse under a fiat money system to such bad lending practices as is evidenced by the current banking crisis revolving around the collapse of the real estate bubble and subprime mortgages.

3)Government shouldn’t interfere with the free market system except in prosecuting cases of fraud, extortion or other corrupt business practices.

    a)Unfortunately the government has promoted the Marxian-socialist fears of big business along with the misguided notions that the economy can be improved by central direction instead of the time-proven and morally correct hands off approach of letting the people and the markets run themselves except for criminal prosecution.  The fear of big business is misguided since bigness, while often bad in governments, is often beneficial in businesses, where economies of scale often allow cheaper production and therefore prices.  Excessive fear of monopolies (except ironically government monopolies which the government would never label as such) has often led to the hasty persecution of big businesses despite evidence of healthy competition in the markets those big businesses produce for.

    b)Allow infinite variety of products in the market.  Let the people’s vote with their dollars determine the demand and supply.  Don’t artificially regulate the supply and thereby limit the choice as has been done by socialist parties.  Skousen mentions in his book “The Making of America” how the British Labor Party tried to do this with cheese which “contributed to its defeat in the 1951 elections.  Today in America the Democratic party (which has become the party and haven for Marxists and Socialists) is encouraging such limitations of the market supply in various realms such as the automobile industry under the guise of environmental regulations.  When one considers how much cleaner automobiles are now than they were even ten years ago, and how ridiculous some of the proposed gas mileage and emissions requirements are, it becomes more obvious that such regulations are merely excuses to limit the consumer in the type of automobile they drive.  It would be funny and very close to the truth if some cartoonist were to depict Fred Flintstone “driving” one of his foot powered cars and having Barney Rubble ask him why he had to power his vehicle by foot.  Fred could then honestly reply: “Ever since Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat majority have pushed through all the regulations on cars, I can’t afford anything but foot power!  This Marxian socialists bent to limit the variety of the market supply is explained by Skousen:

In socialist countries the government continually intervenes to discourage or prohibit the “deployment of valuable resources” in unnecessary “duplication” of products already available on the market.

4)Taxes should be fair.  
    a)Direct taxation if necessary, should be directly proportional to representation (based on population).
    i)The tying together of taxation with representation balances out (cancels) their opposing tendencies (think yin-yang) towards abuse as explained by Madison:

“In one respect, the establishment of a common measure for representation and taxation will have a very salutary effect.  As the accuracy of the census to be obtained by the Congress will necessarily depend, in a considerable degree, on the disposition, if not the co-operation of the States, it is of great importance that the States should feel as little bias as possible to swell or to reduce the amount of their numbers.  Were their share of representation alone to be governed by this rule, they would have an interest in exaggerating their inhabitants.  Were the rule to decide their share of taxation alone, a contrary temptation would prevail.  By extending the rule to both objects, the States will have opposite interests which will control and balance each other and produce the requisite impartiality.

   
    ii)The 16th Amendment gravely affected the fairness of taxes and led to the dreaded income tax that should have been repealed after the war was over.  This tax oppresses so many today and promotes the socialist principle of stealing from the rich and forced wealth redistribution that discourages honest hard work and self-improvement.

5)Government should be directly accountable to the people for its spending.
    a)All bills for the raising of revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. (Article I.7.1).
    b)There should be a public accounting of money spent (Article I.9.7)

6)Government salaries should be limited (Article I.6.1).

Was the Earth made for man or the polar bear?

October 3, 2008

Such was the question arisen in my mind after deeper contemplation on today’s article in the Daily Herald entitled “Conservation groups await federal decision on polar bear listing”.  

If polar bears are threatened by thinning sea ice due to global warming it would seem innocent enough to list them as endangered, right?  The innocence evaporates however in light of the exponential growth in political maneuvering aimed at justifying increased regulation and control over industry, production, the energy market and consumer choice.  Such regulation reeks of the decay of Socialism.  The key to unlocking the usually locked doors of prudence of citizens normally concerned with encroachments on their freedom has been to establish in these same citizens’ minds an unbalanced concern about something, e.g. the environment, that will cause them to overlook the more immediate threats to their own well being, especially regarding the continued protection of their own rights and freedoms.  While the environment certainly does affect all its inhabitants in the short and long term for good and bad, the promotion of certain environmental concerns over the economic and spiritual needs of mankind certainly needs to be weighed in the balance.  Similar scare tactics have been effectively used by the American Cancer society to appropriate ever more government money towards cancer research and screening by scaring the public with increased awareness of the realities of death.  Forget the fact that people have always been dying from cancer, we must act now at all costs to prevent death from ever occurring again!  Of course those having recently lost a loved one to cancer are emotionally charged to spend other people’s precious tax monies on such a vain quest to thwart mortality itself.  Such a vain quest mocks the ultimate purpose of our earthly existence that necessitates that you can’t have really live and afterwards have incorruption and immortality unless you first have corruption or death of the body.  

While it may become more indisputable that global warming is occurring, it is harder to see how the inference of global warming being not only attributable to man and his production of greenhouse gases but somehow also able to be arrested by the same humankind whose emissions have time and time again been dwarfed by volcanoes and sea algea alike could be truly objectively rather than politically motivated.  Nor is the recent increased interest and scientific inquiry in studying the planet Venus and theories surrounding a supposed evolution of its atmosphere from previously more earthlike conditions to the present state of severe planetary conditions attributed in part to the greater concentration on Venus of greenhouse gases that discourage the escape of heat and radiation absorbed from the sun.  Such inquiry gives credence to the question itself of whether science can ever truly be objective posed by Werner Heisenberg and requoted in the book “Nature Exposed to Our Method of Questioning” by Amy Ione:

“…we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”

My objection to the polar bear being listed as “endangered” however is not against the credence of a real possibility of their extinction in the near future but to the very real and more dangerous political leverage such a listing would give some politicians towards further chaining and regulating our livelihoods and its dependence on industry.  Why? Because they will now say that greenhouse gases emitted by men are causing the extinction of the polar bear! Forget the more probable likelihood of global warming being much less attributable to mankind than they would like us to believe.  The mere juxtaposition of the two concepts is enough for such parties to use such an “endangered” animal listing event to further stoke the emotional fires that might lead to the irrational and hasty judgement of viewing one as a preventable cause of the other.  What is too often forgotten is to ask the question of where the humanity is in sacrificing humanity yet again for an environmentalist weighted agenda.  It’s not just a question this time of whether the timber industry can be trusted with the stewardship of our forests when a spotted owl may be at stake.  It’s an even deeper question from a philosophical and religious standpoint of whether the earth was made for man or whether man was made for the earth.  On the one hand you have the answer from the Lord of the Sabbath that man wasn’t made for the sabbath or for the Earth but that both were made for man’s benefit.  On the other hand you have the age old arguments that define man on a very different scale that reduce him to a demeaning state of coexistence with animals instead of exalting him with the humbling role of a steward over creation.  

It isn’t the first time either in history that such a conflict of diametrically opposed views have waged war.   The American Indian himself may provide evidence of how a people fell from industrious habits to the idle depravity that typifed many such natives.  Many early explorers noted the admirable coexistence and lack of waste in the use of the environment by the native Americans.  These same early explorers however noted a laziness and more animal like existence among these same savages.  If some sources are to be believed, the ancestors of these same Indians may have once been a more glorious and industrious people worthy of even further admiration.  Their once held industry and prosperity maintaining them above mere animal-like existence may have fallen victim to the same war being waged in our day between the aforementioned parties with diametrically opposed priorities concerning mankind’s role and status amidst god’s creation.

Questions and Notes from “A History of Money From Ancient Times To the Present Day” by Glyn Davies

October 3, 2008

Questions from “A History of Money From Ancient Times To the Present Day” by Glyn Davies Copyright 2002, Reprinted 2005 ISBN 0-7083-1717-0

  1. Who has been the official arbiter of the purity of British coinage since 1248 A.D.? (pg. 146)
  2. How is the American word “check” related to : the British word “cheque”, chequered cloth and the tables of the Exchequer (pg. 148)
  3. Why was paper money accepted as currency first in China and later throughout the Mongol empire? Was paper money originally a sort of certificate backed by real wealth (e.g. gold, silver, produce, goods and/or property) or did it start out as fiat money that had to be accepted as payment for debts, i.e. legal tender?  Did the transition from money being like a gold or silver certificate to legal tender lead to inflation, even hyper-inflation?(pg. 181-184)
  4. What events and inventions marked and/or caused the end of feudalism? 
  5. Why was the poll tax first tolerated in 1377 but later led to tax evasion and open rebellion in 1381?  How did the Black Death contribute to the government’s urgency to find other sources of taxation such as the poll tax in addition to traditional taxes?  What can we learn about the dangers of modern variations of direct taxes like poll taxes (e.g. income taxes) that are introduced and allowed to steadily increase and never rescinded?  Was the open rebellion of 1381 due to the poll taxes having been excessive for that year or from having been prolonged?  Or was it due to both factors (pgs 167-168)
  6. When did the Black Death or bubonic plague first arrive in Europe?  From whence did it come and how did it arrive in Europe?  What affect did it have on the population?  When was the final major epidemic of the bubonic plaque? (pgs. 160-163)
  7. What motivated Henry VIII to take the monasteries and other church buildings and lands into the possession of the crown and subsequently complete the dissolution of all religious orders by 1540? (pg. 194-195)
  8. What is the historical significance of the title “Fidei Defensor” meaning “Defender of the Faith” conferred on Henry VIII by Pope Clement VII?  How did history prove this bestowal of a title ironic? (pg. 221-222)
  9. How did both the speed and scale of Elizabeth I’s recoinage ensure its success in restoring the currency to its former undebased value?  Without either scale or speed, i.e. rapid and widespread effects, would her reign’s recoinage efforts have been able to overcome the negative effects of Greham’s Law where bad money drives out good money?  How did she recoin and restore the currency to its former glory while still making a profit at the mint? (pg. 204-207)
  10. What can be done when producing small coins is economically infeasible? (three farthing coin example – pg. 208)
  11. How did the concepts of: interest payments, opportunity cost ‘lucrum cessans’ payments, and periodic payments (for long-term loans) give legitimacy to the idea of lending for profit despite the social stigmas against usury?
  12. When did machined “milled” coin come of age and begin to supplant hammered coin?  Why were “milled” coins produced in only limited quantities in England until the Restoration of Charles II in May 1660? (pg. 241-243)
  13. Why did gold supplies at first exceed silver in the New World?  What changed this dramatically so that silver output from Mexico and Peru peaked at around 300 tons per year to dwarf gold output?  How much silver is produced annually today?  Is the mercury amalgam process still used to extract silver from ore?  (pgs. 188-189)
  14. Great Britain’s government in the 17th century developed a voracious appetite for money, especially to fund its navy and ongoing wars.  It issued bonds or “Exchequer Orders to Pay” as a means of obtaining more revenue than from taxes alone.  Who was left “holding the bag” (suffering the most) when the infamous “Stop of the Exchequer” occurred on Jan. 2, 1672 which effectively halted most payments on the formerly issued bonds or “Exchequer Orders to Pay”?  Why did the government do this when they must have known that this action would gravely hurt their biggest lenders?  Did this “death blow” to these financial backers of the government set the stage for the successful nationalization of banking in England?  Would the Bank of England have been founded as it was if the goldsmiths hadn’t been thus dealt with?  Would the goldsmiths have tolerated a competitor bank whose very existence depended on the privilege of a perpetual loan to the government?  Can we blame our current government’s excessive national debts on the model and precedent established by the Bank of England? (pg. 252-260)

Gresham’s Law: wrongly formulated or misinterpreted?

October 3, 2008

Gresham’s Law is often stated as “bad money drives out good money”. There are more precise definitions and the historical context itself provided at Wikipedia’s website. What is frustrating to me and certainly to some historians is the misinterpretation of the underlying general principles related to the ideas behind this law, especially by some Keynesian economists.

Many use Gresham’s Law to argue against monetary reform, especially the idea of returning to a gold standard (i.e. a money based on intrinsic worth (e.g. paper redeemable in precious metals) rather than fiat money, or money backed only by government). There are historical examples of where bad money did prevent the usage of better money that might seem to give credence to these pessimistic views towards the true and valuable monetary reform aforementioned. However in his seminal work “A History Of Money From Ancient Times To the Present Day”, Glyn Davies provides a very insightful perspective on why monetary reform sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. He contrasts two late Roman emperors: Diocletian and his successor Constantin. He mentions how Diocletian tried monetary reform by reissuing a much purer coinage than his predecessors. However the good coinage was too little to tip the scales towards restoring the economy. Constantin was successful in his subsequent monetary reform because he issued even more good coinage to the point where the scales tipped towards true change for the better. The key was in quantity: if the amount of good money in circulation was too little, it was deemed too precious to part with, whereas if the amount of good money in circulation reached a certain threshold it became the preferred medium of exchange. Why? It is for the simple truth that once money with intrinsic worth returns to the scene in quantities that the general public can amass and trade freely, the money that was always worth less becomes truly worthless as it should be. Good money with intrinsic worth only flows freely once people lose their fear of not being able to retain or regain a store of such good money when the majority of the population have only bad money to trade in exchange.

Variety in Writing: composing refreshing reads

October 3, 2008

Why do we enjoy great classical works?  If they only contained great stories that we already know the classics might better serve as bookshelf bookends.  An often overlooked merit of the past great works of literature is the rich style of writing that lends itself to imitation, the sort of enlightening imitation that scintillates the minds of young and old readers and writers alike.  Besides using the excellent examples afforded by the great works of literature, resourceful writers can also sharpen their mental edge with periodic exercises in phrase and sentence constructions.  The following online resources provide not only references to sources of such compositional exercises, but outline the valuable theories behind such exercises:

Beyond Primer Prose: Two Ways to Imitate the Masters – National Writing Project

OWL at Purdue: Sentence Variety

JSTOR (abstract on article: Teaching Sentence Variety)

This last link mentions Frank O’Hare’s book SentenceCraft.  I looked this up on Amazon.  Some versions of this work (e.g. a 1985 edition) were being sold for the ridiculous price of over $200, but most others were under $5 (around $10 with shipping) in the U.S.  I don’t know the difference between these editions.

Questions From Reading “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

October 3, 2008

1)Dr. Jekyll said of his quest and experiments towards distilling the good from the bad more completely in himself: 

“I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous fagots were thus bound together — that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then, were they dissociated?” 

While the purely evil, less than full stature side of Dr. Jekyll manifested itself incarnate as Mr. Hyde, a purely good, more than full stature side never manifested itself. Nor could Dr. Jekyll himself, despite his vain illusions to the contrary be as fully divorced from the evil as the Mr. Hyde manifestation of himself was from the good. Why was this the case? As Mr. Hyde he was fully unrestrained and “plunged in shame” yet free of remorse. In contrast as Dr. Jekyll, while he labored to better the world and serve others kindly he still had to restrain and conceal his darker side. Did the better half of him struggle under the dichotomous propensity to both assume responsibility for and yet harbor and safeguard the evil within himself? Can a shadow define a space solely dark while light cannot exclude regions of night? What role did his conscience play in this whole affair?

2)The powders that Dr. Jekyll originally procured from a chemical supply company differed from the later supplies which didn’t have the same effects to Dr. Jekyll’s dismay.  There was almost something otherworldly,different and potent  about the original supply and its effects.  The original potent powders had both good and evil effects: on the one hand bringing the Mr. Hyde out of Dr. Jekyll for evil, and on the other restoring Mr. Hyde to the restraints of Dr. Jekyll’s conscience.  Could these powders symbolize the worldly and otherworldly struggle between good and evil (e.g. god and satan for religious persons) that men can’t fully comprehend?  What else might they have represented (e.g. the diminishing power of repentance to a soul that returns to the same sins again and again like a dog returning to his vomit (Bible, New Testament: 2 Peter 2:13-22))?

Other sources of questions:
Note: one of these sources asks who narrates the story and gives the answer as Utterson, the lawyer.  However in rereading some of the book I didn’t notice Utterson as speaking in the first person, although the story seems to be mostly framed from his perspective.  So is this source then inferring that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the story as if Utterson was narrating his own story in the third person?

http://www.online-literature.com/quiz.php?quizid=427 

http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/jekyll/questions.html 

http://www.teachit.co.uk/attachments/4201.pdf

Questions and notes from reading “Washington’s Secret War The Hidden History of Valley Forge” by Thomas Fleming

October 3, 2008

Questions from “Washington’s Secret War The Hidden History of Valley Forge” by Thomas Fleming Copyright 2005, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

Section 2 — Revels and Redcoats

  1. Why did Quakers oppose the American Revolution?  Why did they ignore the plight of the starving and freezing American prisoners of war in Philadelphia? Did their attitudes change after being exposed to British decadence?(see ch. XVII, pg 63)
  2. Was Mrs. Loring, who was seen with William Howe at the Southwark Theater outside Philadelphia, effectively his mistress?  In contrast to the American army, what other evidence is there that the British army was severely lacking in moral virtues? (see ch XVIII, pg 65)
  3. Were British officers as committed to fighting the war as the American rebels?  How does the statement by Loftus Cliffe, a lieutenant in the 46th Infantry Regiment in a letter to his brother that he was thinking of selling his commission and quitting the army if he did not get promoted soon shed light on this? Did General Howe’s causual methods of promoting officers on a whim encourage or discourage the moral of his troops? (see ch X, pgs 50-52)
  4. Why did so many supplies get smuggled into the British occupied Philadelphia despite the presence of American rebels in the surrounding countryside?   Were there economic incentives that promoted smuggling supplies to the British? (see ch XIX, pg 68)

Section 3 – Idealogues Front and Center

  1. The American revolutionary forces that fought against the British included various militias as well as Continentals.  How did these forces differ — e.g. how were they recruited, what was the duration of their service, how were they provisioned, who were they ultimately accountable to?
  2. Why did the Whig’s prefer militias to standing armies?  How did this attitude and the states’ handling of the militias detract from the strength of Washington’s army?
  3. Why did some want to see General Gates replace George Washington as the effective commander in chief of the army?

Notes from “Uniqueness The Human Pursuit of Difference” by C.R. Snyder and Howard L. Fromkin

October 3, 2008

Uniqueness theory as proposed by the authors of the book “Uniqueness, The Human Pursuit of Difference” by C.R. Snyder and Howard L. Fromkin Copyright 1980 Plenum Press, essentially boils down to a conflict of forces of attraction and repulsion of individuals towards each other in terms of like and dislike or dispositions to socially interact with one another.  Such forces of attraction and repulsion remind one of a similar interplay of conflicting forces in other domains such as that of territorial behavior between animals or in physics models of the behavior of atomic particles.

The authors discuss a curvilinear relationship between average acceptance levels of individuals’ perceived similarities with others with regards to various attributes that might give a person a sense of identity and uniqueness.  This relationship shows low acceptibility levels exhibited by most individuals when they perceive themselves as least alike to another individual.  They show increasing acceptibility levels by most inidividuals when they perceive themselves as more and more like others up to a level of moderate similarity.  When the level of perceived similarity goes beyond the moderate level the degree of acceptance begins to decrease towards low acceptability with a perception of very high levels of similarity with respect to others. 

This relationship and the counteracting struggle between forces of attraction and repulsion is similar to the Lenard Jones potential function from the domain of physics:

U = – (A / rn) + (B / rm)

Lenard Jones potential function 

where U is the potential energy and r is the distance between two molecules.  The derivative of this potential energy function with respect to distance r might yield a formula relating the change in force experienced by a particle as it changes its location.

While the analagous potential function for Uniqueness theory has two minimum endpoints and one maximum midpoint, literary works as well as scientific works preceding this book have concentrated only on the one of the minimum endpoints and the maximum midpoint. 

There are numerous literary precedents concerning extreme repulsion, autoscopic paranoia and disdain at the real or imagined discovery of “der doppelgänger” or duplicate of oneself:

  1.  The short story “William Wilson” by Edgar Allen Poe (Poe, E. A. William Wilson. In E.A. Poe’s, The works of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Scribner’s, 1927, pp.5-32.)
  2. Guy de Maupassant’s story of his own autoscopic hallucinations entitled “He?” (Maupassant, G. de.Short stories: Margot’s tapers and others. New York: Review of Books, 1903.)
  3. Henry James “The Jolly Corner” (James, H. Jolly Corner. In H. James, The altar of the dead. New York: Scribner’s, 1909, pp. 435-485.)
  4. Dostoevsky’s novel “The Double” (Dostoevsky, F.M. The Double. G. Bird (Trans.), Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958)

Much psychology work has focused on the concept of “birds of a feather flock together” but have failed to critically define the level of similarity between the “birds flocking together”.  This has led to the false assumption that a steady growth in similarity between individuals will continually lead to growing attraction between these individuals.  This ignores the evidence presented by the authors of this book that beyond a level of moderate similarity this steady growth in attraction not only declines but the growth changes slope and becomes negative leading to decay in attraction levels.

Various studies of personal reactions to perceived uniqueness with respect to others have been conducted using measures such as:

  1. mood scale surveys
  2. self-esteem surveys
  3. evaluations of how participants distort information given them about their similarities with others when asked to verbally express this information to an audience.
  4. evaluations of body language and nonverbal expressions such as interpersonal distances maintained between participants and others whose degree of similarity with themselves on enumerated attributes they have been made aware of.
  5. evaluations of ingenuity performance levels of individuals in low versus high self-uniqueness perception environments.
  6. evaluations of how the demand for scarce experiences can increase for individuals provided an artificially high sense of self-perceived non-uniqueness.

The authors discuss how such studies when objectively considered and screened against false positives help reinforce the aforementioned curvilinear relation provided by uniqueness theory.

The previously discussed model of emotional and behavioral reactions of persons as functions of perceived similarity to others assumes that the others used for comparison with the individual are presented without additional positive or negative bias.  Such positive or negative bias may be introduced for comparison others as individuals by attaching positive and/or negative labels, personal history anecdotes or information concerning their membership in groups.  Group membership may thus introduce emotions of affinity or repulsion in the individuals comparing themselves with other indlviduals belonging or not belonging to such groups.  The existence of social groups is reinforced by the needs of individuals to obtain more accurate self-appraising feedback by associating with others somewhat similar to themselves that can serve as a yardstick against which they can measure their own personal performance and improvements.  Positive or negative bias information influences the curvilinear relationship of uniqueness theory by shifting the curve right (positive) or left (negative). This is evident from observations that people tend to want to be more similar, even highly similar to persons they view as positive and uplifting.  Likewise people tend to want to be more unlike persons they regard in a negative light, e.g. those they regard as vulgar or undesirable.


Reasons to be unique: 

Besides theory, numerous persons, famous and otherwise have commented on our need as humans to be unique, to offer our own special contribution to the world. Here is a quote by Martha Graham, the famous dancer that expresses this idea succinctly:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

The authors provide the following quote by Henry David Thoreau:

“It is one of the great paradoxes — and equally redeeming features — of human history and evolution that a scale of organized society grows and as the gregarious and enveloping nature of that society increasingly dominates the individual, the very same process highlights the extreme individuality of the human conscience.  The more the conformist nature of society grows, the more accented is the nonconformity of what the ancient Hindus called the “atman” — the individual soul.  It is the spirit of nonconformity that has enriched the dialogue of human progress — no less, indeed, in the material fields than in the spiritual.  (Nehru, B.K. Henry David Thoreau: A tribute. In W. Harding (Ed.), The Thoreau centennial. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1964, pp. 112-119.)

 


My results in taking the Need for Uniqueness Scale (Fromkin and Lipshitz, 1976; Snyder & Fromkin 1977):

Each of the following questions were answered on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 meant I had the strongest disagreement and a 5 meant I had the strongest agreement:

#
Question My Answer Score
1 When I am in a group of strangers, I am not reluctant to express my opinion publicly. 5 5
2 I find that  criticism affects my self-esteem. 4 2
3 I sometimes hesitate to use my own ideas for fear they might be impractical. 4  2
4 I think society should let reason lead it to new customs and throw aside old habits or mere traditions. 2  2
5 People frequently succeed in changing my mind. 3  3
6 I find it sometimes amusing to upset the dignity of teachers, judges, and “cultured” people. 4  4
7 I like wearing a uniform because it makes me proud to be a member of the organization it represents. 4  2
8 People have sometimes called me “stuck-up.” 2  2
9 Others’ disagreements make me uncomfortable. 3  3
10 I do not always need to live by the rules and standards of society. 5  5
11 I am unable to express my feelings if they result in undesirable consequences. 4  2
12 Being a success in one’s career means making a contribution that no one else has made. 4  4
13 It bothers me if people think I am being too unconventional. 4  2
14 I always try to follow rules. 4  2
15 If I disagree with a superior on his or her views, I usually do not keep it to myself. 3  3
16 I speak up in meetings in order to oppose those whom I feel are wrong. 4  4
17 Feeling “different” in a crowd of people makes me feel uncomfortable. 3  3
18 If I must die, let it be an unusual death rather than an ordinary death in bed. 1  1
19 I would rather be just like everyone else than be called a “freak.” 4  2
20 I must admit I find it hard to work under strict rules and regulations. 5  5
21 I would rather be known for always trying new ideas than for employing well-trusted methods. 2  2
22 It is better always to agree with the opinions of others than to be considered a disagreeable person. 2  4
23 I do not like to say unusual things to people. 4  2
24 I tend to express my opinions publicly, regardless of what others say. 4  4
25 As a rule, I strongly defend my own opinions. 4  4
26 I do not like to go my own way. 3  3
27 When I am with a group of people, I agree with their ideas so that no arguments will arise. 3  3
28 I tend to keep quiet in the presence of persons of higher rank, experience, etc. 4  2
29 I have been quite independent and free from family rule. 4  4
30 Whenever I take part in group activities, I am somewhat of a nonconformist. 4  4
31 In most things in life, I believe in playing it safe rather than taking a gamble. 4  2
32 It is better to break rules than always to conform with an impersonal society. 4  4

My total score was 96.  A score of 100 meant average need for uniqueness, and scores below 100 meant less than average need for uniqueness.  So apparently I don’t need to feel as unique as most people, which surprised me.  I thought myself a bit more nonconformist than the rest of the crowd.  I guess the average person seeks just a little more nonconformity than I do. Or perhaps I am highly nonconformist only in a narrow field (e.g. in my expression of opinion to non-authority figures or in an environment of higher anonymity) but more highly conforming in most other ways.