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Without cash, gold can have no monetary role

September 24, 2009 1 comment

Cashless Beast

Cashless Beast

Although the topics of the Cashless Society and the Gold Monetary Standard have been discussed previously on this and other sites, we feel that further discussion on these pressing issues is warranted.

The Cashless Society

Earlier we speculated that there might be a glorious return to sound money, such as a precious metal standard. But you can forget about gold as a real standard to moderate the issue of money. Not because it’s not a good idea. A gold standard is a fantastic idea, but it will not come about, because the finance industry has something else in mind. We all know it’s coming, but it has been somewhat forgotten as a discussion point. Yes, we mean the Cashless Society. Every monetary transaction is moving to electronic form.

Back in 2007, credit card Visa chief Peter Ayliffe predicted that a cashless society (in the UK) would come into being by 2012. It may not seem like a sure thing, but the timing of such a prediction is worth making a note of. The problems of electronic transactions at the moment are that financial institutions are making too much money from surcharges and fees, keeping cash as a more attractive way to buy small to medium priced products than plastic. During the current artificially created economic crisis, there has been a contraction of credit, but the idea of eliminating cash is still high on the agenda, even at the UN. The impediments to a universal cashless system can be removed overnight: remove fees on electronic transactions, and impose unreasonable fees on obtaining or depositing cash. Within a couple of years the system will be locked in, and nobody will take cash any more.

Introduced as part of the national e-Governance initiative, the e-Purse, embedded on national ID and resident cards, is the first of its kind in the region. Implemented by the Royal Oman Police (ROP), in association with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and BankMuscat, the national e-Purse project will revolutionise cash transactions.

“Being an identity card, the e-Purse always remains with citizens and residents. Whenever e-Purse is used, the identity of the user is verified and the government can track each transaction. The support from ITA to the e-Purse project is in line with the directive of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to enhance e-government services in Oman,” [Dr Salim Al Ruzaiqi, chief executive officer, ITA] added.

The cashless society is a government’s dream. Tax evasion becomes practically impossible, resulting in substantial gains in tax revenue. In theory, the purchase of dangerous substances and weapons becomes more easily traceable to individuals, making criminal activity increasingly difficult. Except for bartering, which is difficult to conduct on a large scale, the economy becomes completely accountable. Not a cent is lost, and society becomes unable to avoid policy changes. No more armoured cars, bank robberies, muggings, bribes, illegal drugs, and so on. All of this has been claimed by proponents of the cashless society. They tend not to mention certain other obvious points which might coincide with this phenomenon, such as the storage of personal information together with the electronic money devices (be they cards or some other form of identification), such as medial information, license details and biometric data. They are already being introduced.

The cashless society would likely accompany the introduction of a single world currency. Without the need to exchange physical coins or notes, all money becomes completely arbitrary. All money would reside on computer accounts, can be given any unit value, and can be created or destroyed at will (unlimited credit). Potentially, all money could reside on a single supercomputer, to save energy.

Banks are especially poised to benefit:

“Banks are very excited about replacing cash. Smart Cards give them the opportunity to make some big bucks off interest-free loans from their customers. Once a customer transfers credit to a cash card, the bank can stop paying interest but gets to hold on to the cash until it’s billed by a merchant. If 100 million people used a card with an average of only 10 unspent dollars on it, the banks would reap $1 billion a day of interest-free money to invest.” (Forbes Magazine, 1998)

Then of course is the argument for the implantation of microchips, or some other physical and permanent means of identification. The technology is indeed ready and has reached a mature status. It is only society that is not yet ready.

The truth of the matter is, of course, different. Many of the arguments in favour of the cashless society are false, where the truth in many cases is diametrically opposed to what is claimed. So what problems might exist with the Utopian dream of universal electronic funds transfer?

Most of the logistic problems are covered elsewhere, and can be easily thought about. Aside from the fact that private transfer of money becomes impossible without the involvement of the universal infrastructure, the other problems are identical to those that plague electronic money transfers already. Identity theft is the biggest problem, and it continues to occur as computing systems become ever complex and bug-ridden.

From our point of view there are three major threats to ordinary people arising from a cashless monetary system. Some of these can already be appreciated, if you just imagine your life suddenly without any access to your credit or bank cards.

(Out of) Control

Could it be said that the quality of governance is directly proportional to the likelihood that the governor is deposed should he or she fail to perform? The easier it is to block the government, the better.

The motivations for a cashless society are really those of making the government of the population easier (for government) and not to ‘enable’ or ’empower’ ordinary people. Supposedly, it would cost less to collect taxes, to police fraud, to run after escapees, because all you need to do is look up the individual’s number and instantly you can see practically every interaction the person has had, each hour of each day. Tracking the movements of people becomes a trivial matter. It’s no secret that even the rudimentary magnetic strips on credit cards can be read from a distance, particularly at doorways if the appropriate magnetic coils are installed (which, in most first world retail stores, they are).

Any electronic device designed to act as a portable electronic wallet will also serve as an access key and unique identifier. It is merely natural progression to bundle passport, wallet, driver’s license, medical alerts and personal details into one key, which is synchronized both locally (on the person) and centrally (on the supercomputer). The same can be rigged to allow key-less entry to house, car, workplace, and airport departure gate. The benefits are a seamless, keyless, paperless, and no-touch life from the apartment door, to the secure car-park, into the car, into work, through the shops, to one’s overseas holiday, and all the purchases and movements there, and back. All of this can be achieved with a single microchip, either as a card, embedded in a wristwatch, or implanted under the skin.

The great weakness of a centralized, integrated and unified key system is that people can be ‘unplugged’ instantaneously and effortlessly, even arbitrarily. Physical papers, a wad of cash and a set of metal keys is a robust, low-tech and  redundant way of doing things, yet the tiny gains in convenience of electronic keys (and money) come at great personal risk, because the power is completely out of the hands of the individual. Any failure of the supporting infrastructure is a total failure. It can happen at the hands of a disgruntled or corrupt employee, a hacker or an out-of-control government. The temptation to abuse such a system is immeasurable. If it can happen, it will happen.

In essence, by “holding” all of an individual’s money for him, the electronic monetary system robs the individual of all of his power. This is the ultimate form of population control. In particular, since populations now live in cities and are totally dependent on common infrastructure for their survival, the cashless society permits any kind of political and social change to be effected with no way for people to resist effectively, nor to organize against the system without being found out at a very early stage. The cashless society has the potential to transform what today appears to be a free society into a prison that is tighter and more oppressive than has existed in any totalitarian system in the past, including the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Black Box Economy

It is already problematic that the vast majority of money that is “out there” exists in the form of electrons on magnetic and solid state devices, and not as tangible wealth. We read in the news about billions of dollars being “wiped off” stock markets, and trillions of dollars sitting “on the sidelines”. All of it is meaningless sensationalism, and only illustrates the absurdity of fiat money. The fact that central banks can magic trillions of dollars of new funds into the economy in the space of a few seconds, and that the supply of credit is limited only by people’s willingness to borrow, means that the number that represents your life savings can be wiped out in seconds, by the sudden dilution of the global money supply (to name but one example). The fact that company shares are mostly traded by computers, with the value of shares fluctuating every millisecond as a result of computer algorithms and not human decision making, makes the whole business of market investment a farce.

There is no way of being certain, in an electronic economy, that anything is real. There is not necessarily any paper trail to account for the volume of transactions that exists, and a corrupt elite (which, conveniently enough, already exists) can line its pockets with limitless money, with no way of detecting or proving the crime. Forensic information can be planted or removed all too easily. Without cash, there is no way for an individual to opt out of the system by holding his money in physical form. In a cashless society, there remains only one certainty: hard assets. Everything else will have made the full transition to becoming make-believe.

In many ways, the electronic economy reflects the modern approach to morals. There is great emphasis on civics, and on the conduct of individuals in public (looking good in public), but there is no emphasis on personal moral integrity and the proper conduct of thoughts and deeds in one’s private realm. Modern society encourages personal moral depravity, and teaches a perfect hypocrisy, whereby people in public behave impeccably, yet frequently their private lives are as corrupt and vile as can be imagined. An electronic economy looks squeaky clean on the outside, but there is no telling what manipulation, corruption and wholesale theft is going on beneath. There is also no way to trust the individuals maintaining and governing the monetary infrastructure, since they are as likely to be soulless, amoral and opportunistic as society itself has become.

The Apocalyptic Vision

It is easy to laugh at religious zealots when they harp on about St. John’s Apocalypse, on things such as the Mark of the Beast, and so on. In their rush to sell a message they don’t understand, they undermine the value of the Sacred Texts, leading others to miss out on the wisdom contained therein. We quote the passage that appears to be relevant to the idea of the cashless society:

And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads. 17 And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast. For it is the number of a man: and the number of him is six hundred sixty-six.

These dramatic passages are full of symbolism and, to some extent, allegory. Throughout the last two millennia, people have tried to torture the words to fit the situation of the day. The lesson we draw from the passage is that the restriction to trade, imposed on individuals because of a religious or political attribute, is always a bad thing. The point to be taken from the Apocalypse, however, is that the predictions apply to the entire world, not just the situation in one or another country at a given time. The point of our article, in part, is that the cashless society is a phenomenon which is capable of being imposed globally, perhaps over the space of a decade or so.

If the G20, for example, met for another “crisis meeting”, and decided, once and for all, to coalesce their currencies, they may simultaneously claim that it is cheaper not to issue any notes or coins, but to issue electronic keys, as described above. Once some heavyweight economies adopt the idea, all else will follow, or face the sword. The scenario is plausible, even though in 2009 it still seems like a pipe dream.

It ought to be noted that think tanks that guide global policy have attitudes which resemble those described by St. John.

In the closing plenary session of the [San Francisco, 1996] forum, philosopher/author Sam Keen provided a summary and conclusive remarks on the conference. Among the conference participants, said Keen, “there was very strong agreement that religious institutions have to take primary responsibility for the population explosion. We must speak far more clearly about sexuality, about contraception, about abortion, about the values that control the population, because the ecological crisis, in short, is the population crisis.

Cut the population by 90 percent and there aren’t enough people left to do a great deal of ecological damage.”

It’s had to imagine just how so many people could be killed without leaving the planet itself uninhabitable, but there is no limit to human ingenuity. There is also, clearly, an insanity at work that makes Nero look like a dull boy.

Gold Has No Place

To go back to material matters, we think once again of gold. Even if a single world currency is purportedly based on a precious metal, because this currency is likely to be cashless, the metallic standard is nothing more than an empty promise. You are trusting the same men in the same suits who are this very day swindling the planet without rest. Just as there is no living soul within the body of the modern man (in a suit), there can be no golden heart to an electronic currency.

We conclude that whatever actions can be taken to limit the progression towards the elimination of cash, should be taken. More importantly, however, it behoves every person to consider the implications of such a system coming about, and to have contingencies in place (a topic in its own right).

Haven’t Heard of Chesterton?

September 22, 2009 2 comments
Gilbert Keith Chesterton - 1874-1936

Gilbert Keith Chesterton - 1874-1936

The problems of the modern world do not merely revolve around whether money is based on faith, or gold, or seashells, nor whether the US has the weapons, or Russia, or China. All the problems persist, while wrong ideas persist. So it is our pleasure to add a link to our site in promotion of Chesterton.org. As the name suggests, it contains the collected works of what was arguably the greatest author of the 20th century. To that end, we quote from the website, with our emphasis in bold:

Chesterton is the most unjustly neglected writer of our time. Perhaps it is proof that education is too important to be left to educators and that publishing is too important to be left to publishers, but there is no excuse why Chesterton is no longer taught in our schools and why his writing is not more widely reprinted and especially included in college anthologies. Well, there is an excuse. It seems that Chesterton is tough to pigeonhole, and if a writer cannot be quickly consigned to a category, or to one-word description, he risks falling through the cracks. Even if he weighs three hundred pounds.

But there is another problem. Modern thinkers and commentators and critics have found it much more convenient to ignore Chesterton rather than to engage him in an argument, because to argue with Chesterton is to lose.

Chesterton argued eloquently against all the trends that eventually took over the 20th century: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, and spineless agnosticism. He also argued against both socialism and capitalism and showed why they have both been the enemies of freedom and justice in modern society.

And what did he argue for? What was it he defended? He defended “the common man” and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith. These don’t play well in the classroom, in the media, or in the public arena. And that is probably why he is neglected. The modern world prefers writers who are snobs, who have exotic and bizarre ideas, who glorify decadence, who scoff at Christianity, who deny the dignity of the poor, and who think freedom means no responsibility.

We think it ought to be part of every educated person’s task to be familiar with Gilbert Keith Chesterton, his writings, his thinking and his witty humour. It is becoming ever more important to promote clear, critical thinking in the face of our increasingly murky world of vague ideas adrift in a sea of insanity.

Piggy Swine Flu and The Dreaded Lurgi

April 28, 2009 7 comments
Spike Milligan, Harry Seacombe, Peter Sellers

Conspiracy Theorists: Spike Milligan, Harry Seacombe, Peter Sellers

You dirty rotten swine flu!

It’s not even been a week and the Swine Flu epidemic/pandemic hysteria has already taken an unbelievable hold in the minds of people everywhere, from Mexico City, New Jersey and New York to London, Paris and Calcutta. The BBC reports:

“Containment is not a feasible operation” – Dr. Keiji Fukuda (WHO)

So now it’s time for everyone to run under a rock until the Dreaded Lurgi passes, because, of course, we’re all gonna die! Just over many many years and not all at once (but why spoil a good story with the truth). What is amazing is that a virus can affect people who have never been in contact with it, as Spike Milligan so cleverly observed:

Moriarty: …And now, my friend, to business. My name is Count Moriarty. Have you ever heard of Lurgi?
Seagoon: There’s no one of that name here
Moriarty: Sacristi Bombet! Listen to me while I tell you a tale. In 1296 on the Isle of Ewe
Seagoon: Where?
Moriarty: Isle of Ewe
Seagoon: I love you, too. Shall we dance?
Moriarty: I don’t wish to know that. On the Isle of Ewe the dreaded Lurgi struck. In six weeks, in cinq weeks mark you, Lurgi had destroyed {Silence Please} Lurgi had destroyed the entire population.
Seagoon: What a splendid story
Moriarty: Oui
Seagoon: Have you heard the story about the man who didn’t marry Rita Hayworth
Moriarty: Impossible
Seagoon {Snigger}
Moriarty: As I was saying, Lurgi, Lurgi could easily destroy the entire human race.
Eccles: Then I’m okay, fellers.

In the above quoted episode of the Goon Show, the Dreaded Lurgi strikes Britain, but, mysteriously, it was observed that none of the victims played in a brass band. Needless to say, the British parliament was advised that four million E Flat trombones, three million Euphoniums, and four million Saxophones…in all, fifty million brass band instruments should be purchased at once in order to save the nation. The thing was, though, that Count Moriarty just happened to be a brass instrument dealer and was ready to take orders in bulk. Soon enough, thousands of aircraft were in the air delivering vital instruments to Great Britain. In the end, however, it was revealed that there was no such thing as the Dreaded Lurgi.

Sadly, the World is not an episode of The Goon Show, but merely a cheap imitation. Swine Flu exists, of course, but it hasn’t reached Spanish Flu proportions yet, and it isn’t 1918 either. A vaccine against the organism is not yet available, but in a panic, the authorities will hand over samples of the virus to any company that claims it can come up with one. Baxter pharmaceuticals put their hand up first, claiming that they can achieve a result in as brief a period as two weeks. We’ll see who gets the contract.

Economic effects of even a sniff of a pandemic can be astronomical. It’s said that SARS (which was very much a Dreaded Lurgi that never eventuated) cost the Asian economy $40 Billion. Estimates of the cost of Swine Flu are given as $3 Trillion worldwide. That is $3,000,000,000,000.00 (about 8 Sydneys). Of course, it won’t really cost that much money, because at that point money is a meaningless measure of anything, even economies themselves.

The direct effects of the virus (perhaps in numbers of deaths) are likely to be much smaller per head of population than Spanish Flu, which was estimated to have affected 20% of individuals worldwide, with a mortality of 3% of the world’s population. India’s population sustained a loss of 5%. In Fiji, 14% died. In Australia, only 12,000 died. These are interesting statistics, and they reflect the underlying health of nations at the time. However, a worst case scenario of, say, 5% deaths globally from Swine Flu means a staggering figure of 300 million deaths (most of them in second and third world countries). That ought to make the depopulationists happy.

A bit of a Google search (just for fun) of Spanish Flu reveals hundreds of websites and blogs which claim that it was man-made, and there is a long history of distrust of (forced) vaccination programmes. Even stronger is the suspicion now that the Swine Flu could have also been non-accidental. Spanish Flu has been intensely studied recently, with attempts to recover its RNA, and claims of success in 2005. Since Swine Flu contains elements in common with the Spanish Flu virus, there is fertile ground for sensationalism and suspicion. Stranger things have happened in history, so the possibility of foul play cannot be ruled out. Sorry about the irresistible SARS pun, by the way.

So, as the death toll rises, as the fear spreads and the international flights get canceled, let’s pause for a moment to think about our own mortality. And then let us also pause and realize that the chance of dying of Swine Flu in Australia is at worst around 2 in a thousand (probably much less), given a full-blown epidemic, much less than the underlying death rate. Not as exciting as it could be, is it?

Never the less, if Swine Flu inspires people to think of how short life really is, that they should make friends with their Maker, go to Mass, go to Confession and be nice for a change, then at least something good might come of all this. Life is short. Hell is forever. Maybe that is why people are so worried.

See also: Swine Flu Got Legs

Circus Economicus to Crisis Maximus

April 24, 2009 1 comment

torches-of-nero3

The (Christian) Torches of Nero

Nero, to win credit for himself of enjoying nothing so much as the capital, prepared banquets in the public places, and used the whole city, so to say, as his private house. Of these entertainments the most famous for their notorious profligacy were those furnished by Tigellinus, which I will describe as an illustration, that I may not have again and again to narrate similar extravagance. He had a raft constructed on Agrippa’s lake, put the guests on board and set it in motion by other vessels towing it. These vessels glittered with gold and ivory; the crews were arranged according to age and experience in vice. Birds and beasts had been procured from remote countries, and sea monsters from the ocean. On the margin of the lake were set up brothels crowded with noble ladies, and on the opposite bank were seen naked prostitutes with obscene gestures and movements. As darkness approached, all the adjacent grove and surrounding buildings resounded with song, and shone brilliantly with lights. Nero, who polluted himself by every lawful or lawless indulgence, had not omitted a single abomination which could heighten his depravity, till a few days afterwards he stooped to marry himself to one of that filthy herd, by name Pythagoras, with all the forms of regular wedlock. The bridal veil was put over the emperor; people saw the witnesses of the ceremony, the wedding dower, the couch and the nuptial torches; everything in a word was plainly visible, which, even when a woman weds darkness hides. Tacitus (Annals, 15.37)

Nero was populist and hedonist. He was also probably insane and it is postulated that he, and most other aristocratic Romans suffered from lead poisoning. The above account by Tacitus (having occurred during his childhood) occurs shortly before the great fire of Rome which, burning for a whole week, destroyed much of the City including Nero’s palace and the Temple of Jupiter, a building which had spanned eight centuries of history. It would have left around a million inhabitants homeless. The fire also completely destroyed the homes of the members of the Roman Senate. The entire system of legislative government, the decision making core of the Roman Empire, was left in disarray.

Eugene Thirion - Triumph of Faith

Eugene Thirion - Triumph of Faith

There is no answer to the question of who caused the great fire, but rumors abounded. It’s as likely that the fire was accidental as is the possibility of arson. Nero was suspected to have organized the fire by many, for reasons of reshaping the City against the wishes of the Senate. Fearing the loss of authority, he blamed the Christians, whom he persecuted with ever greater brutality thereafter. The Christians believed a prophecy which predicted Rome’s destruction by flame. The date of 19th July, on the night of which the star Sirius rose above the Roman horizon, was given much astrological significance. They were also probably saying “I told you so”, which would have invited the finger of blame. Refusing to ‘worship’ the Caesar and the Roman gods, Christians had already been identified as a potentially subversive group. The thing going against the theory that they conspired to burn down Rome is that such a crime would certainly not have been condoned by the followers of Jesus whose doctrine was generally pacifist, whose beliefs included a rejection of the brutality and moral depravity which abounded at the time.

Regarding statecraft, Nero’s populism (and popularity) was as important as his brutal oppression of perceived enemies. He lowered taxes (down to 2.5%), cut the wages of lawyers and cracked down on various forms of government corruption. He made imports cheaper by removing tariffs. These interventions were not ‘reforms’ as much as they were attempts to promote himself at any cost. The city of Rome, in many respects, had outgrown itself. The streets were a shambles and the quality of buildings poor. It didn’t seem to matter, because the people were distracted and they loved their Caesar. Yet Nero’s populism and extravagance threatened to bankrupt the government. In response, he kicked off Rome’s economic decline by debasing the dinarius, reducing its gold content by 5%.

The events in Rome around this period are significant, not merely because of the magnitude of the fire. Rome was rebuilt and the growth of the Empire continued, although the administrative problems compounded over time. Nero’s Rome stands out as being the time and place where Christianity began the war of ideas, the battle for Rome’s heart and mind, in earnest. That Nero chose Christians as the scapegoats for the Great Fire shows their significance. The number of followers of Jesus in Rome by 60 AD must already have numbered in the tens of thousands (or more) for Nero to have been so worried about them.

People occasionally compare the Western world with aspects of Roman history. There are some extremely important differences which nullify many of these comparisons. Nero was truly powerful as an individual. His personal opinion counted. Today, the personal opinion of almost every head of state in a Western democracy counts for almost nothing. Nero had significant control of the Empire’s finances. Today, no Western government has any realistic control of its finances; the issuance of money is practically in the hands of private individuals.

However, other similarities are striking, such as the emphasis on public entertainment as a means of distraction, while extreme brutality and torture is sanctioned by governments. The loss of grip on real power by politicians and their increasing populism have similarities with Nero’s approach. The debasement of the currency by Nero and the same today is also a telling sign of the times. History teaches that such moves tend to precede an unremitting economic decline that eventually threatens civilizations. Today, the flood of US dollars threatens to have the same effect, except that it is occurring so rapidly that the three hundred or so years it took for Rome to ruin itself might be curtailed to a mere 18 or so months for America and its closest allies.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but the lessons that can be gleaned from history are eternal. The Neroes of our time are not poisoned by lead exposure, but the philosophies that guide their decision making are no less poisonous and insidious. Nero’s era marked the beginning of centuries of Christian persecution, and the oppression of good ideas. Stupid decision making on a massive scale lead to Rome’s decline and fall. The suppression of ideas and the blindness (and corruption) of Western leadership threatens to have the same effect on our civilization. Yet the time of Nero and the centuries that followed are a source of great hope for our own future, because despite all efforts to the contrary, the principles of peaceful resistance, and the power of truth succeeded in overcoming even the most rigorous opposition. The Romans thought the world would be theirs, but they were wrong.

The fall of the Roman Empire, as gradual as it was, resulted in the end of slavery in Europe and the rise of Christianity. In our time, the pace of change is an order of magnitude greater, due in part to the speed at which ideas are propagated. As the economic crisis plays out, today’s oligarchy believes it is on the verge of world domination, of finally tying things up for good, but it cannot escape the fact that its position and influence are jeopardized by this very belief. The fact that the ‘global elite’ is not a meritocracy, that its money is meaningless, that its people are corrupt and its philosophies are not based on truth, makes it fallible and weak. By relying on false principles, it lays the seeds of its own destruction.

Roman civilization was not built on false economy, hedonism and laziness, or the Circus Maximus. Modern civilization will fall for the same reasons.

Creeping Elitism or Crappy Education

April 16, 2009 Leave a comment
Collingwood School, UK, 1950

Collingwood School, UK, 1950

Elitism generally refers to the (wrongful) centralization of power to a minority group which shares a particular ability, trait or character, such as wealth, education or breeding. People mostly hate elitism purely because it excludes them, but it is a natural fact of society that people with similar interests form groups. Unions and business clubs are the same thing in this regard, except that business clubs tend to work in their members’ interests far more often than do unions!

There is nothing wrong with having a lot of money. I doubt anyone, after some consideration, would have any objections to have plenty of it, but what gets one’s ire up is the way in which money is obtained, especially if it was by immoral means. There are wealthy people who have reached their status fairly and squarely on the foundations of good ideas, good management and good business principles alone, but the truth, if it were known, would probably be that the majority of the filthy rich did whatever it took to get there – all within the law of the land, of course, but rarely within the confines of moral law. They see life and money as a game, where understanding and exploiting the rules (and exploiting those who don’t understand the rules) is more important than trying to play fairly and not crush one’s opponent.

A similar situation exists with education. There is nothing wrong with being intelligent, educated, academically accomplished, but growing numbers of people with academic degrees are obtaining them undeservedly, getting ‘helped’ through, followed by getting plum jobs and so forth. In the Financial Times, an article appears bemoaning the “shocking” rise in elitism among the Professions in the United Kingdom. It describes how, among groups such as lawyers, fewer and fewer ‘outsiders’ are admitted into the ranks. The profession remains within families, who, by means of the wealth generated by the profession, are able to afford to send their children to the private schools which feed the universities which in turn train the lawyers. Internships and other important appointments are then given to the favorites, either on the basis of long standing friendships, club membership or family ties. It’s a typical story of the class divisions which the English speaking world seems unable to shake off.

The problem with the public debate is that the wrong phenomenon (elitism) is being identified as being a problem. The real problem is the erosion of meritocracy.

Elite groups are an essential part of a functioning society. Academics are rightly entrusted with the task of giving society timely advice on topics which they are experts on. The wealthy are entitled to do whatever they wish with their money, within legal limits. Doctors are entitled to support each other, protect their profession and advise society on medical issues. The same for lawyers, teachers, nurses, shop owners, cleaners, anybody.

What society is lacking is the freedom for someone from the bottom to rise to the top by his own merit. It is not the fault of the professions or professionals, but the abject failure of government to provide an adequate standard of free education for its constituency. Because state run education is so inadequate, universities are naturally looking at private education for its intake because those schools produce literate, numerate adults. The students from these schools continue to do well in university, not because they are more intelligent, but because they are better supported, both socially and financially.

Bright students in state run schools suffer from poor quality teachers, poor quality teaching materials, large class sizes, lack of resources and low morale. To get an equivalent score to that of a privately educated student, a state educated student has to work harder and put up with lower expectations placed on him.

It wasn’t as bad as this in the past, because in the past, to be a teacher was a serious vocation, a respected profession, like being a doctor. You had to be above average at school to become a teacher. It was possible to fail a teaching degree if you weren’t good enough. Teachers graduating from universities were of a guaranteed minimum standard, such that whatever school someone went to, he could be almost guaranteed to receive a good and fair education, as long as the individual himself was enthusiastic and hard working. With the decline in teaching, the semi-adequate graduates look like geniuses when placed next to their peers. As a result, they get all the well paid jobs at private schools, with small class sizes and luxurious facilities.

So, what passes for elitism is merely the fact that those who understand the inadequacies of state run education are doing what they can to ensure that their own progeny is not disadvantaged by government incompetency. No doubt there are, additionally, elements of corruption and pockets of racial supremacy, but by and large the problem lies squarely with government.

The solution? Pay teachers what they’re worth, and the previously better situation will gradually return.

Pontius Pilate – Prefect of Judea

Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo

Pontius Pilate, under extenuating circumstances, condemns Jesus to death.

And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus saith to him: Thou sayest it. And when he was accused by the chief priests and ancients, he answered nothing. Then Pilate saith to him: Dost not thou hear how great testimonies they allege against thee? And he answered him to never a word; so that the governor wondered exceedingly. Now upon the solemn day the governor was accustomed to release to the people one prisoner, whom they would.

And he had then a notorious prisoner, that was called Barabbas. They therefore being gathered together, Pilate said: Whom will you that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. And as he was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and ancients persuaded the people, that they should ask Barabbas, and make Jesus away.

And the governor answering, said to them: Whether will you of the two to be released unto you? But they said, Barabbas. Pilate saith to them: What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ? They say all: Let him be crucified. The governor said to them: Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying: Let him be crucified. And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made; taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it. And the whole people answering, said: His blood be upon us and our children.

Then he released to them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified.

Pontius Pilate (Pontius Pilatus) had jurisdiction in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, although he originated from the Samnarians, to the east of Rome along the Adriatic Sea. His real title was that of Prefect, which differs from Procurator which was used by historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus. His role there, as representative of Caesar (Tiberius Caesar Augustus) was to provide regional military leadership and to oversee the collection of taxes. For most judicial matters, such as civil disputes and minor criminality, local governments were employed and systems of justice applicable to the local ethnic mix were applied. There would have been clear legal demarcations to that end. In Judea, the local governmental head was Joseph Caiaphas, High priest of Herod’s Temple. His appointment to that role was made by the Prefect Valerius Gratus, who preceded Pontius Pilate. Herod’s Temple was destroyed in AD 70, although some remnants of it remained in place until around AD 690 when the Dome of the Rock was built by the Muslims.

In the context of Jesus’ trial, Pontius Pilate was understandably reluctant to have any part in the matter. It was not supposed to be his problem, but that of Caiaphas, who would have had the power to imprison Jesus or apply some other penalty upon him. Capital punishment was a Roman matter, however. The Gospel account describes how Pontius was manipulated and pressured into sentencing Jesus against his better judgment and despite the protestations of his wife. It is likely that he acted out of fear, both of the Jews and of Tiberius. He was later recalled to Rome, probably because of this incident, in AD 36.

Later writings about Pontius Pilate, which are unlikely to be entirely factual, suggest that Pilate was completely taken aback by the events which immediately followed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, particularly of the earthquake, the blotting out of the sun and the civil commotion that must have resulted. It is traditionally believed in the Eastern Orthodox churches that he later committed suicide, whereas his wife, Claudia, is venerated as a saint for acting in Jesus’ defense.

It appears that in the early centuries of Christianity, there was a strong desire to reconcile Pontius Pilate’s actions with the hope that he had later converted and died a Christian. At the same time there were libelous and false accounts of Jesus’ life circulating which were used to subvert the Christian cause. Some historical documents were concocted (both sympathetic and against Christianity), based on rumors and legends which abounded at the time. Although mostly false, some aspects of these apocryphal texts may contain elements of truth.

For example, in the Acts of Peter and Paul is a letter, supposedly of Pontius Pilate:

Pontius Pilate to Claudius, greeting. There has lately happened an event which I myself was concerned in. For the Jews through envy have inflicted on themselves, and those coming after them, dreadful judgments. Their fathers had promises that their God would send them his holy one from heaven, who according to reason should be called their king, and he had promised to send him to the earth by means of a virgin. He, then, when I was procurator, came into Judæa. And they saw him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing paralytics, expelling demons from men, raising the dead, subduin the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him Son of God. Then the chief priests, moved with envy against him, seized him, and delivered him to me; and telling one lie after another, they said that he was a wizard, and did contrary to their law. And I, having believed that these things were so, gave him up, after scourging him, to their will; and they crucified him, and after he was buried set guards over him. But he, while my soldiers were guarding him, rose on the third day. And to such a degree was the wickedness of the Jews inflamed against him, that they gave money to the soldiers, saying, Say his disciples have stolen his body. But they, having taken the money, were not able to keep silence as to what had happened; for they have testified that they have seen him (after he was) risen, and that they have received money from the Jews. These things, therefore, have I reported, that no one should falsely speak otherwise, and that you should not suppose that the falsehoods of the Jews are to be believed.

Little is really known about what Pontius Pilate was thinking at the time, or what he did afterwards, but much has been surmised. It is likely that Pontius had regrets over the sentencing to death of someone who was clearly innocent of wrongdoing, and it is very likely that he was angry at having been made a fool by Caiaphas.

The great question that has been asked through history is that of Pilate’s responsibility for and guilt over Christ’s death. The answer cannot ultimately be known, but the lesson here is that a person, however far removed from an event, takes on a moral burden whenever a judgment is made on it. Those who rejoice in Jesus’ death, even two millennia later, become as guilty of His murder as was Pontius Pilate (although that is debatable), Joseph Caiaphas and the Roman guards who hammered in the nails.

Engulf and Devour

March 26, 2009 Leave a comment
Silent Movie

Silent Movie

In the Times Online we read:

More aggressive, concerted efforts are needed by key economies to quell financial market stresses if the world is to avoid an even sharper and longer recession, the International Monetary Fund urged today.

Let’s face it, economic catastrophe is unavoidable and was foreseen by many (including those in power) for a long time. The IMF pretends to care, but we know that deep down it favors a single world currency (presumably with itself at the helm). There seems to be a race to get this single currency concept off the ground, with China and Russia also vying for the “top job”. But for ordinary people, a single planetary currency (with its obligatory single World Government) is nothing but a guarantee of Universal Mediocrity. The reasons the world is sick financially is because of Internationalism, not for the lack of it.

In the Mel Brooks film “Silent Movie”, the “Engulf and Devour Corporation” steals the film just before it is previewed. It is a parody of the Gulf & Western company, notorious for its aggressive business practices, hostile takeovers, asset evisceration and so on. It was an example of a highly immoral business in terms of how it treated its assets (companies it owned and its employees). The history of the company has been covered from several aspects and its business methods analyzed in detail:

The imperial conglomerate has wholly owned subsidiaries in unrelated industries. In theory, the conglomerate can use cash generated by operations in some areas to diversify into other areas that might provide counter cyclical market risk reduction.

Actually, these mega-corporations are like huge monsters which destroy smaller, independent companies by taking them over, bleeding them dry (particularly to cover the losses of other companies) and then selling the left-over carcass of a company to some other sucker-company. Some more of this excellent analysis is worth quoting:

In other words, a great many of America’s largest companies are de facto hedge funds. Their “diversification” (Peter Lynch preferred the term “di-worse-ification”) resembles that of imperial conglomerates. This is not exactly good news for a country with out of control debt growth and intractable balance of trade deficits linked to declining product competitiveness.

The size, prestige, and complexity created by cobbling many firms together into a large conglomerate often provides enough maneuvering room to subtly and cleverly plunder shareholders while real underlying wealth-creating performance actually declines (and malinvestment rises). As part of their sorcerer’s bag of tricks, imperial conglomerators typically have enough cash flow to pay for big ad budgets, big consulting fees, major lobbyist services, and big transaction costs. All of this helps to bribe elements of the media, academia, the consulting profession, Washington, and Wall Street into saying nice things about them.

Having too much under one umbrella company is not good for the world, let alone America. A single world currency would bring this about in its most extreme form, as what it really means is a single World Central Bank, with a single Director. It will be the Monster to end all monsters, if it ever comes about.

This is the situation where Capitalism will converge with International Socialism to create the worst form of government the world will ever see. When no nation is independent from the other (politically and financially), when the world’s economy is centrally governed (with politics to follow suit), there will be only one way to march. Yes, there will be “stability”. Yes, there will probably be no more wars between subscribing countries. But there will be no way to stop “scientific government policy” such as forced population reduction, suppression of religion and free speech.

You will smile and you will enjoy it, or else.