Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Testaments

This is Margaret Atwood’s continuation of the story begun in A Handmaid’s Tale.  

Reading over my notes, most of these quotations come from the diary of Aunt Lydia, a former judge now enforcer for the paternalistic theocracy of// Gilead, the former USA.

_The Testaments_ by Margaret Atwood
NY:  Doubleday, 2019
ISBN 978-0-385-54378-1

(57)  Normal is like looking out a car window.  Things pass by, this and that and this and that, without much significance.  You don’t register such hours;  they’re habitual, like brushing your teeth.

(116)  You pride yourself on being a realist, I told myself, so face the facts.  There’s been a coup, here in the United States, just as in times past in so many other countries. Any forced change of leadership is always followed by a move to crush the opposition.  The opposition is led by the educated, so the educated are the first to be eliminated. You’re a judge, so you are educated, like it or not.  They won’t want you around.

(123)  You hold it in, whatever it is, until you can make it through the worst part.  Then, once you’re safe, you can cry all the tears you couldn’t waste time crying before.

(142)  Giving up was the new normal, and I have to say it was catching.

(143)  Aunt Lydia explains captivity:  They were reducing us to animals - to penned-up animals - to our animal nature.  They were rubbing our noses in that nature.  We were to consider ourselves subhuman.

… How tedious is a tyranny in the throes of enactment.  It’s always the same plot.

(145)  Sorry solves nothing, I told myself.  Over the years - the many years - how true I have found that to be.

(148)  The powerless are so tempting.

(277)  Reign of terror, they used to say, but terror does not exactly reign.  Instead it paralyzes.  Hence the unnatural quiet.

(279)  Innocent men denying their guilt sound exactly like guilty men, as I am sure you have noticed, my reader.  Listeners are inclined to believe neither.

(307)  The truth can cause a lot of trouble for those who are not supposed to know it.

(363)  Aunt indoctrination:  She who cannot control herself cannot control the path to duty.  Do not fight the waves of anger, use the anger as your fuel.  Inhale.  Exhale. Sidestep.  Circumvent.  Deflect.

(387)  The ability to concoct plausible lies is a talent not to be underestimated.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Archibald Cox on the Role of the Supreme Court in American Government

Found a copy of Archibald Cox’s _The Role of the Supreme Court in American Government_ (Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press, 1976) a few years ago and put it aside in my book closet.  Thought now was the time to take it out.  The book is from lectures Cox delivered in the UK.  Archibald Cox was the target of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre that was part of the whole Watergate investigation and impeachment process and his words, I believe, speak to today’s politics too.

Archibald Cox’s
The Role of the Supreme Court in American Government
Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press, 1976

(page 7)  Constitutionalism as a constraint upon government depends, in the first instance, upon the habit of voluntary compliance and, in the last resort, upon a people’s realization that their freedom depends upon observance of the rule of law.  The realization must be strong enough for the community to rise up and overwhelm, morally and politically, any notable offender.

(8)  Suppose that the President’s defiance [Nixon tapes case] were successful.  The habit of compliance - the notion that a powerful executive official has no choice but to comply with a judicial decree - is a fragile bond.

(26)  The courts ruled upon the claim of executive privilege as a defence to the subpoenas obtained by the Special Prosecutor because it arose in the course of normal judicial business: a grand jury inquiry into possible crimes in the one case [Nixon v Sirica], and the trial of a criminal indictment [United States v Nixon] in the other.

But resolving disputes between the President and Congress over the provision of evidence for the Congress is not part of, or incident to, any judicial business confided to the courts by the statutes that presently define their jurisdiction.

(40) [In re Gertz v Welch] (1)  The Constitution gives absolute freedom to publish statements about public figures which turn out to be false and defamatory unless the publisher knew them to be false or was reckless as to their truth.
(2)  The Constitution frees the press from liability where there is neither negligence nor more serious fault.
(3)  Injury must be proved;  it cannot be presumed from the bare publication of a libel, and the damages may not exceed “actual injury” unless the falsehood was intentional or reckless.

(71)  Shapiro v Thompson invalidated State laws requiring one year’s residency to qualify for State welfare payments to indigent mothers with dependent children.  Some passages in the opinion seemed to put the decision upon the ground that discrimination based upon exercise of the privilege of interstate movement is especially “invidious.”  Elsewhere the majority intimated that receipt of welfare payments when indigent is a “fundamental right.”

(98)  In the 1930s political philosophy came to accept in theory as well as practice the principle that government is not merely a policeman but has affirmative obligations to meet the basic needs of citizens for subsistence, shelter, jobs, education and - more recently - medical care.  Somehow constitutional law must cope with the change.  As the dependence of the citizen upon government acitivites increase, so will grow the proportion of cases in which the the critical issues of human liberty, equality, and dignity depend upon how well the government is satisfyng its obligations, rather than upon whether the government should leave the individual to himself.  The Court will scarcely perform its historical function of protecting the individual in his relation with the State unless substantive constitutional rights and the processes of constitutional adjudication can be adapted so as to retain vitality despite the difficulties of the new milieu.  This is the next great challenge of American constitutionalism.

(107)  Similarly, although the general outlook of an appointee may often be predictable enough and would be taken into account by any President, “value-packing" the Court in the sense of appointing men so committed to one set of values that all would vote together on a variety of issues in predictable ways would soon raise questions of legitimacy, and thus undermine both the Court and the impact of its decisions.  One of the chief dangers of excessive politicization is its tendency to feed upon itself.  If constitutional decisions lose their roots in law, such pressures as there are to appoint Justices steeped in the legal tradition would diminish, the decisions would become more political, and the descending spiral accelerate.

NB:  John Adams’ “paper judges" - the Federal appointments rushed through confirmation at the end of Adams’ first and only term in office.  Value packing and political cronyism have been part of the judiciary in the USA since the beginning.   

Friday, November 22, 2019

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer

How the Good Guys Finally Won:  Notes from an Impeachment Summer by Jimmy Breslin
NY:  The Viking Press, 1975
ISBN 0-670-38207-8

(page 9)  He [Ehrlichman] was speaking in off-English, in words which seemed one half notch off true meaning.  He spoke earnestly, affably, but with one foot out of bounds.

(14 -15)  Tip O’Neill:  "As it is now, there are four parts to any campaign.  The candidate, the issues of the candidate, the campaign organization, and the money to run the ccampaign with.  Without the money you can forget the other three.

Well, I can tell you that I started hearing from a lot of them.  There would be a guy who always was a big giver and nobody was hearing from him.  I’d go over the lists for our dinner and I’d say, ‘Hey, where is so and so?  He always was a helluva good friend of ours.  Why haven’t we heard from him?’  So I’d call the guy and he’d call me back and he’d say, ‘Geez, Tip, I don’t know what to tell you.  Nine IRS hit me last week and I’d like to stay out of things for a while.’  I began getting that from a lot of people.  Fellows like George Steinbrenner.  He’s a helluva guy.  I called him up and I said, ‘George, old pal, what’s the matter?  Why don’t we hear from you any more?  Is something the matter?’   You bet I called him up.  He was one of those guys who would get on the phone for you and raise up a half dozen other guys to come and help out.  So what does Steinbrenner say to me?  He said, ‘Geez, Tip, I want to come to see you and tell you what’s going on.’  And he came into my office.  He said, ‘Gee, they are hlding the lumber over my head.’  They got him between the IRS, the Justice Department, the Commerce Department.  He was afraid he’d lose his business.

(31)  The Office of President is such a bastardized thing, half royalty and half democracy, that nobody knows whether to genuflect or spit.

(33)  Tip O’Neill at all times has one great political weapon at his disposal.  He understands so well that all political power is primarily an illusion.  If people think you have power, then you have power.  If power think you have no power, then you have no power.

… Thomas Hobbes, who wrote in England in the 1600s:  “The reputation of power is power.”  Power is an illusion.

(58)  Federal law gives a person immunity for testifying in a case only for those facts the person himself deals with.  If the government can prove by independent sources that the person is involved in the same crime, the immunity does not protect the person.

… Agnew read part of the letter which said there were great Constitutional precedents, involving the case of John C. Calhoun, which made it impossible for a President or a Vice President to be criminally tried in court while in office.
NB:  I’d like to know more about this finding

(69)  And Jerome Zeifman, his impeachment precedents piled high, asked Rodino if the material could be printed and distributed to Congress.  Rodino said this would be regarded as a direct attack upon Nixon.  Zeifman had stacks of Calhoun, of Colfax, of Andrew Johnson and the Journal of James Madison.  Over the summer he and Don Edwards, member of the Judiciary Committee from California, had gone to London, where Zeifman, catechist at work, sifted the impeachment files kept by Parliament.
NB:  Zeifman’s 700+ page report on impeachment

(88)  The theory of Hale Boggs, and any other politician who has more than a cabbage for a head, is that you immediately try to win over the man who voted against you.

(127)  ...the Irish stock market - cemetary plots.

(130)  It always has been extremely difficult for legitimate people to get into politics because the base of the American political system has been built on the needs of lawyers.

(166)  It was clear what Nixon was doing in his office on the morning of June 20.  He had ordered his people to fix the Watergate mess - can it, kill it, bury it - and he was taking the position that he did not want to know anything about it.  This is the pattern and behavior of any boss-thief:  you go do it, but don’t tell me about it.

More Jimmy Breslin:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Fifth Risk

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
NY:  WW Norton, 2018
ISBN 9781324002642

(page 22)  The money people donated to his campaign Trump considered, effectively, his own.  He thought the planning and forethought pointless.  At one point he turned to Christie and said, “Chris, you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.”

(41-41)  … We don’t want you to help us understand;  we want to find out who you are and punish you….  According to a former Obama official, he [Thomas Pyle, liaison from Trump to DOE] was replaced by a handful of young ideologues who called themselves “the Beachhead Team.”  “They mainly ran around the building insulting people,” says a former Obama official.  “There was a mentality that everything that government does is stupid and bad and the people in it are stupid and bad,” says another.  They demanded to know the names and salaries of the twenty highest-paid people in the national science labs overseen by the DOE.  They’d eventually delete the contact list with the email addresses of all DOE-funded scientists - apparently to make it more difficult for them to communicate with one another.  “These people were insane,” says the former DOE staffer.  “They weren’t prepared.  They didn’t know what they were doing.”

(70)  Asked what it might cost the U.S. government to return Hanford to the standards now legally required of it, [John] MacWilliams said, “A century and a hundred billion dollars.”  And that, he thought, might be a conservative estimate.

Every year the Department of Energy wires 10 percent of its budget, or $3 billion, into this tiny place.

(73)  Kate Brown, Plutopia, comparing Hanford to its Soviet twin Ozersk

(86)  “Someone got up and asked, ‘If you are a store owner after Katrina, should you hike up the price of flashlights?’  Greg Mankiw said yes, without hesitation.”  Ali [Zaidi] remembers thinking:  Greg Mankiw is a good guy.  But that answer is absolutely wrong.  We don’t just have markets.  We have values.  “I started to think, Ah, man, I’m probably not a Republican.”

(108)  In 1872, the average American farmer fed roughly four other people;  now the average farmers feeds about 155 other people.

(162)  The Forbes reporters were accustomed to having rich people mislead them about the size of their wealth, but nearly all of them had been trying to keep their names _off_ the list.  “In the history of the magazine only three people stand out as having made huge efforts to get on, or end up higher than they belonged,” said [Dan] Alexander.  “One was [Saudi] Prince Alwaleed.  The second was Donald Trump.  And the third was Wilbur Ross.”

(178)  “We asked the question:  What causes excessive use of police force?”  Combing the data from the ten cities, a team of researchers from several American universities found a pattern that would have been hard to spot with the naked eye.  Police officers who had just come from an emotionally fraught situation - a suicide, or a domestic abuse call in which a child was involved - were more likely to use excessive force.  Maybe the problem wasn’t as simple as a bad cop.  Maybe it was the emotional state in which the cop had found himself.  “Dispatch sent them right back out without time to decompress,” said DJ.  “Give them a break in between and maybe they behave differently."

(186)  The Climate Corporation had turned farming into decision science, and a matter of probabilities.  The farmer was no longer playing roulette but blackjack.  And David Friedberg was helping him to count the cards.
NB:  The Climate Corporation does micro-weather to help farmers plant, fertilize, and harvest at the optimal times.

(191)  There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government.  It wasn’t between Democrats and Republicans.  It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money.

(194)  The relationship between the people and their government troubled her [Kathy Sullivan].  The government was the mission of an entire society:  why was the society undermining it?   “I’m routinely appalled by how profoundly ignorant even highly educated people are when it comes to the structure and function of our government,” she said.  “The sense of identity as Citizen has been replaced by Consumer.  The idea that government should serve the citizens like a waiter or concierge, rather than in a ‘collective good’ sense.”

(207)  “A government agency does not have an incentive to hype.  Private companies have an incentive to hype.  The problem when you hype is that you reduce confidence in _all_ weather forecasts, because no one knows the source of the information.”

Lewis reports that at both the DOE and NOAA, the Trmpists were more interested in quashing climate change work more than anything else.  He looked at DOE, Department of Ag, and Department of Commerce.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Donella Meadows' Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems

Donella Meadows' Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems [my comments]:

Get the beat of the system. [music and dance]
Expose your mental models to the light of day.
Honor, respect, and distribute information.
Use language with care and enrich it with systems concepts.
Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. [system failure is too often the first clue to what’s important]
Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
Go for the good of the whole. [Sarvodaya, a concept from Gandhian economics*]
Listen to the wisdom of the system.
Locate responsibility within the system.
Stay humble - stay a learner.
Celebrate complexity. [and recognize simplicity]
Expand time horizons.
Defy the disciplines.
Expand the boundary of caring.
Don't erode the goal of goodness.

My notes to Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems at

*  Notes on Gandhian Economics
Sarvodaya, Swaraj, and Swadeshi

Essays in Gandhian Economics

Inclusive Economics

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers

_The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers_ 
NY:  Random House, 1940

Introduction by Whitney Oakes
(xix)  The gods, on the other hand, exist, but they have nothing to do with human affairs for if they did they would be troubled, and a god by his very nature cannot have his blessedness marred by trouble.

(xxi)  The Stoic argued that since the universe was good, there was actually no evil in it.  Morally virtue was proclaimed to be the highest good, and virtue was defined as living χατά φύσiν, according to nature.  Living “according to nature” then means that man must accept everything that takes place as good or “indifferent”;  if he interprets anything as evil he is obviously wrong, and in making such an erroneous judgment, he is not by any means “living according to nature” in the full sense.

(40)  XI.  For most men rest is stagnation and activity madness.

(41)  XXXIV.  It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confidence of their help.

(48)  I am thrilled with pleasure in the body, when I live on bread and water, and I spit upon luxurious pleasures not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow.

(49)  The man who follows nature and not vain opinions is independent in all things.  For in reference to what is enough for nature every possession is riches, but in reference to unlimited desires even the greatest wealth is (not riches but poverty).

(50)  If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished:  for they are for ever praying for evil against one another.

… That which creates joy insuperable is the complete removal of a great evil.  And this is the nature of good, if one can once grasp it rightly, and then hold by it, and not walk about babbling idly about the good.

…. Thanks be to blessed Nature because she has made what is necessary easy to supply, and what is not easy unnecessary.

(51)  The laws exist for the sake of the wise, not that they may not do wrong, but that they may not suffer it.

(226)  Here you see the result of training as training should be, of the will to get and will to avoid, so disciplined that nothing can hinder or frustrate them.  I must die, must I?  If at once, then I am dying:  if soon, I die now, as it is time for dinner, and afterwards when the time comes I will die.  And die how?  As befits one who gives back what is not his own.

(265)  If you do not find one [pallet] you will sleep on the ground, only do so with a good cheer, snoring the while, and remembering that it is among rich men and kings and emperors that tragedies find room, and that no poor man fills a part in a tragedy except as one of the chorus.  

(362)  What occasion for anger, what occasion for fear concerning things that are not our own, nor of any value?  For the two principles we must have ready at command are there:  that outside the will there is nothing good or evil, and that we must not lead events but follow them.

(395)  You bear God about with you, poor wretch, and know it not.  Do you think I speak of some external god of silver or gold?  No, you bear Him about within you and are unaware that you are  defiling Him with unclean thoughts and foul actions.

(396)   What is yours then?

[Diogenes]  “Power to deal with impressions.  He showed me that I possess this beyond all hindrance and compulsion;  no one can hamper me, no one can compel me to deal with them otherwise than I will.  Who then has authority over me any more?  Has Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Great King?…”

(397)  In like manner you must remind yourself that you love a mortal, and that nothing that you love is your very own;  it is given you for the moment, not for ever nor inseparably, but like a fig or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year, and if you long for it in winter you are a fool.

(404)  Trusting in what?  Not in reputation, not in money, nor office, but in his own might, that is in judgements on things within our power and beyond it.  For it is these alone that make free men, whom nothing can hinder which lift up the neck of those who are in humiliation, and make them look with unwavering eyes upon rich men and upon despots.

(405)  And what is the end of the illness?  Nothing worse than death.  Will you realize once for all that it is not death that is the source of all man’s evils, and of a mean and cowardly spirit, but rather the fear of death?  Against this fear then I would have you discipline yourself;  to this let all your reasonings, your, lectures, and your trainings be directed;  and then you will know that only so do men achieve their freedom.

(407)  How can we call him free when he has not learnt to give up desire and fear?

(413)  You must treat your whole body like a poor ass, with its burden on its back, going with you just so far as it may, and so far as it is given you;  but if the king’s service calls, and a soldier lays hands on it, let it go, do not resist or murmur;  if you do, you will only get a flogging and lose your poor ass all the same.

(420)  Diogenes was free.  How came he by this?  Not because he was of free parents (he was not), but because he was fee himself, had cast away all the weakness that might give slavery a hold on him, and so no one could approach or lay hold on him to enslave him.  Everything he had he was ready to let go, it was loosely attached to him.

(425)  Remember that it is not only desire of office and of wealth that makes men abject and subservent to others, but also desire of peace and leisure and travel and learning.  Regard for any external thing, whatever it be, makes you subservient to another.

(440)  ‘But you will be flung abroad and unburied.'

I shall be, if I and the dead body are one, but if I am not the same as the dead body, state the facts with more discrimination, and do not try to frighten me.  These are things to frighten children and fools.  But if a man has once entered a philosopher’s lecture-room and does not know what his true self is, he deserves to fear and to flatter what he flattered afterwards:  I mean, if he has not yet learnt that he is not flesh or bones or sinews, but the faculty which uses them, and which also governs the impressions and understands them.

(455)  But if I bear in mind, that one man does not harm another, but that it is his own acts which help or harm a man, I achieve this conquest - that I abstain from doing the same as he did, but still my own babbling has put me in the position I am in.

(462)  There are certain persons who indulge their anger gently, and who do all that the most passionate do, but in a quiet passionless way.  Now we must guard against their error as a much worse fault than passionate anger.  For the passionate are soon sated with their revenge, but the colder spirits persist for a long period like men who take a fever lightly.

6533(464)  Those whose bodies are in good condition can endure heat and cold;  so those whose souls are in good condition can bear anger and pain and exultation and other emotions.

(466)  You are a little soul, carrying a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.  - M Aurelius

…The rarest pleasures give most delight.

(467)  No one is free that is not his own master.

(468)  Of all existing things some are in our power, and others are not in out power.  In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which is our own doing.  Things not in our power include the body, property, reputation, office, and, in a word, everything which is not our doing.  Things in our power are by nature free, unhidered, untrammelled;  things not in our power are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, dependent on others.

(469)  To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education;  to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun;  to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

(470)  Never say anything, ‘I lost it,’ but say, ‘I gave it back.’  Has your child died?  It was given back.  Has your wife died?  She was given back.  Has your estate been taken from you?  Was not this also given back?  But you say, ‘He who took it from me is wicked.’  What does it matter to you through whom the Giver asked it back?  As long as He gives it you, take care of it, but not as your own;  treat it as passers-by treat an inn.

The Manual of Epictetus
(473)  Keep before your eyes from day to day death and exile and all things that seem terrible, but death most of all, and then you will never set your thoughts on what is low and will never desire anything beyond measure.

(480 - 481)  Everything has two handles, one by which you can carry it, the other by which you cannot.  If your brother wrongs you, do not take it by that handle, the handle of his wrong, for you cannot carry it by that, but rather by the other handle - that he is a brother, brought up with you, and then you will take it by the handle that you can carry by.

(481)  It is illogical to reason thus, ‘I am richer than you, therefore I am superior to you,’ ‘I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am superior to you.’  It is more logical to reason, ‘I am richer than you, therefore my property is superior to yours,’I am more eloquent than you, therefore my speech is superior to yours.’  You are something more than property or speech.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
(500-501)  Of human life the time is a point and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgment.

(509)  The universe is transformation:  life is opinion.

(511)  Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not have praise as part of itself.  Neither worse then nor better is a thing made by being praised.

(513)  Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered.

(514)  Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul;  and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being;  and how all things act with one movement;  and how all things are the co-operating causes of all things which exist;  observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.

(523)  The intelligence of the universe is social.  Accordingly it has made the inferior things for the sake of the superior, and it has fitted the superior to one another.  Thou seest how it has subordinated, co-ordinated and assigned to everything its proper portion, and has brought together into concord with one another the things which are the best.

(524)  But to have good repute amidst such a world as this is an empty thing.

(526)  The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong doer.

(530)  Short is life.  There is only one fruit of this terrene life, a pious disposition and social acts.

(535)  What is badness?  It is that which thou hast often seen.  And on the occasion of everything which happens keep this in mind, that it is that which thou hast often seen. Everywhere up and down thou wilt find the same things, with which the old histories are filled, those of the middle ages and those of our own day;  with which cities and houses are filled now.  There is nothing new;  all things are both familiar and short-lived.

(536)  All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy;  and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other thing.

(537)  Near is thy forgetfulness of all things;  and near the forgetfulness of thee by all.

(543)  The gods who are immortal are not vexed because during so long a time they must tolerate continually men such as they are and so many of them bad;  and besides this, they also take care of them in all ways.  But thou, who art destined to end so soon, art thou wearied of enduring the bad, and this too when thou art one of them?
NB:  men are not gods

(549)  In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present.  But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this.

… Was it not in the order of destiny that these persons too should first become old women and old men and the die?  What then would those do after these were dead?  All this is foul smell and blood in a bag.

(554)  This, then, is consistent with the character of a reflecting man, to be neither careless nor impatient nor contemputous with respect to death, but to wait for it as one of the operations of nature.

(556)  All things are the same, familiar in experience, and ephemeral in time, and worthless in the matter.  Everything now is just as it was in the time of those whom we have buried.

(557)  As thou thyself art a component part of a social system, so let every act of thine be a component part of social life.  Whatever act of thine then has no reference either immediately or remotely to a social end, this tears asunder thy life, and does not allow it to be one, and it is of the nature of a mutiny, just as when in a popular assembly a man acting by himself stands apart from the general agreement.

(571)  Have I done something for the general interest?  Well then I have had my reward.  Let this always be present to thy mind, and never stop doing such good.

(574)  How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to deal with thee in a fair way.  - What art thou doing, man?  There is no occasion to give this notice.  It will soon show itself by acts.  The voice ought to be plainly written on the forehead.  Such as a man’s  character is, he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith trades everything in the eyes of lovers.  The man who is honest and good ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander as soon as he comes near him must smell whether he choose or not.  But the affectation of simplicity is like a crooked stick.  Nothing is more disgraceful than a wolfish friendship (false friendship).  Avoid this most of all.  The good and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking.  

(582)  Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.  Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner, who has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and a waveless bay.

(583)  Constantly bring to thy recollection those who have complained greatly about anything, those who have been most conspicious by the greatest fame or misfortunes or enmities or fortunes of any kind:  then think where are they all now?  Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even a tale.

…. for the pride which is proud of its want of pride is the most intolerable of all.

(584)  There is one soul, though it is distributed among infinite natures and individual circumscriptions (or individuals).  There is one intelligent soul, though it seems to be divided.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Unto This Last was one book that MK Gandhi felt influenced by more than most others.  So much so that he translated it into Gujarati (and a Gandhi scholar has re-translated that book from Gujarati back into English).  After reading about Gandhian economics and thinking about it for years, I finally sat down to read Ruskin's work.  I can see why Gandhi thought so highly of it.

Unto This Last, The Political Economy of Art, Essays on Political Economy by John Ruskin
Everyman’s Library
London:  Dent, 1968
NY:  Dutton, 1968

Political Economy of Art
(4-5)  In the simplest and clearest definition of it, economy, whether public or private, means the wise management of labour;  and it means this mainly in three senses;  namely, first, applying your labour rationally;  secondly, preserving its produce carefully;  lastly, distributing its produce seasonably.

(12-13)  The value of the horse consists simply in the fact of your being able to put a bridle on him.  The value of the man consists precisely in the same thing.  If you can bridle him, or which is better, if he can bridle himself, he will be a valuable creature directly.  Otherwise, in a commercial point of view, his value is either nothing, or accidental only.

(17)  For it is only the young who can receive much reward from men’s praise;  the old, when they are great, get too far beyond and above you to care what you think of them.  ...But now, their pleasure is in memory, and their ambition is in heaven.

(63)  For remember always that the price of a picture by a living artist, never represents, never can represent, the quantity of labour or value in it.  Its price represents, for the most part, the degree of desire which the rich people of the country have to possess it.

(73)  There is not a chapter in all the book we profess to believe, specially and directly written for England than the second of Habakkuk, and I never in all my life heard one of its practical texts preached from.

(86 -87)  So that the real fact of the matter is, that people will take alms delightedly, consisting of a carriage and footmen, because those do not look like alms to the people in the street;  but they will not take alms consisting only of bread and water and coals, because everybody would understand what those meant.

(89)  For the arrangement of the laws of a nation so as to procure the greatest advantages to itself, and leave the smallest advantages to other nations, is not a part of the science of political economy, but merely a broad application of the science of fraud.

(106)   There are three weighty matters of the law - justice, mercy, and truth;  and of these the Teacher puts truth last, because that cannot be known but by a course of acts of justice and love.  But men put, in all their efforts, truth first, because they mean by it their own opinions;  and thus, while the world has many people who would suffer martyrdom in the cause of what they call truth, it has few who will suffer even a little inconvenience, in that of justice and mercy.

Unto This Last
(134-135)  What is really desired, under the name of riches, is essentially, power over men;  in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist;  in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).  And this power of wealth of course is greater or less in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over whom it is exercised, and in inverse proportion to the number of persons who are as rich as ourselves, and who are ready to give the same price for an article of which the supply is limited.  If the musician is poor, he will sing for small party, as long as there is only one person who can pay him;  but if there be two or three, he will sing for the one who offers him most.  And thus the power of the riches of the patron (always imperfect and doubtful, as we shall see presently, even when most authoritative) depends first on the poverty of the artist, and then on the limitation of the number of equally wealthy persons, who also want seats at the concert.  So that, as above stated, the art of becoming “rich,” in the common sense, is not absolutely nor finally the art of accumulating much money for ourselves, but also of contriving that our neighours shall have less.  In accurate terms, it is “the art of establishing the maximum inequality in our own favor.”

(142)  So far as I know, there is not in history record of anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea that the commercial text, “Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest,” represents, or under any circumstances could represent, an available principle of national economy.  Buy in the cheapest market?  - yes;  but what made your market cheap?  Charcoal may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks may be cheap in your streets after an earthquake;  but fire and earthquake may not therefore be national benefits.  Sell in the dearest?  - yes, truly;  but what made your market dear?  You sold your bread well to-day;  was it to a dying man who gave his last coin for it, and will never need bread more, or to a rich man who to-morrow will buy your farm over your head;  or to a soldier on his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune?

None of these things you can know.  One thing only you can know, namely, whether this dealing of ours is a just and faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about respecting it;  sure thus to have done your own part in bringing about ultimately int he world a state of things which will not issue in pillage or in death

(168)  Valor, from valere, to be well, or strong;  - strong, in life (if a man), or valiant;  strong, for life (if a thing), or valuable.  To be “valuable,” therefore, is to “avail towards life.”  A truly valuable or availing thing is that which leads to life with its whole strength.  In proportion as it does not lead to life, or as its strength is broken, it is less valuable;  in proportion as it leads away from life, it is unvaluable or malignant.

(169)  “To be wealthy,” says Mr [John Stuart] Mill, is “to have a large stock of useful articles.”

I accept this definition.  Only let us perfectly understand it.  My opponents often lament my not giving them enough logic:  I fear I must at present use a little more than they will like;  but this business of Political Economy is no light one, and we must allow no loose terms in it.

(171)  Hence, it follows, that is a thing is to be useful, it must be not only of an availing nature, but in availing hands.  Or, in accurate terms, usefulness is value in the hands of the valiant;  so that this science of wealth being, as we have just seen, when regarded as the science of Accumulation, accumulative of capacity as well as of material, - when regarded as the Science of Distribution, is distribution not absolute, but discriminate;  not of every thing to every man, but of the right thing to the right man.  A difficult science, dependent on more than arithmetic.
NB:  Marx - needs/abilities

(175)  The general law, then, respecting just or economical exchange, is simply this:  -There must be advantage on both sides (or if only advantage on one, at least no disadvantage on the other) to the persons exchanging;  and just payment for his time, intelligence, and labour, to any intermediate person, effecting the transaction (commonly called a merchant):  and whatever advantage there is on either side, and whatever pay is given to the intermediate person, should be thoroughly known to all concerned. 
NB:  perfect knowledge and Economic Man

(176)  Three-fourths of the demands existing in the world are romantic;  founded on visions, idealisms, hopes, and affections;  and the regulation of the purse is, in its essence, regulation of the imagination and the heart.  Hence, the right discussion of the nature of price is a very high metaphysical and psychical problem;  sometimes to be solved only in a passionate manner, as by David in his counting the price of the water of the well by the gate of Bethlehem;  but its first conditions are the following:  - The price of anything is the quantity of labour given by the person desiring it, in order to obtain possession of it.  This price depends on four variable quantities.  A.  The quantity of wish the purchaser has for the thing;  opposed to ∂, the quantity of wish the seller has to keep it.  B.  The quantity of labour the purchaser can afford, to obtain the thing;  opposed to ß, the qunatity of labour the seller can afford, to keep it.  These quantities are operative only in excess, i.e. the quantity of wish (A) means the quantity of wish for the thing, above wish for other things;  and the quantity of work (B) means the quantity which can be spared to get the thing from the quantity needed to get other things.

(179)  So far from this being so [economists speaking of no good in consumption], consumption absolute is the end, crown, and perfection of production;  and wise consumption is a far more difficult art than wise production.  Twenty people can gain money for one who can use it;  and the vital question, for individual and for nation, is, never “how much do they make?” but “to what purpose do they spend?”

(184)  It is the very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe that it is entirely capitalists’ wealth whch supports unjust wars.

(185)  THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE.  Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration.  That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings;  that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.

(190)  As the art of life is learned, it will be found at last that all lovely things are also necessary…

(191)  Note, finally, that all effectual advancement towards this true felicity of the human race must be by individual, not public effort.

… We need examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide whether they are to rise in the world, decide for themselves that they will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek - not greater wealth, but simpler pleasure;  not higher fortune, but deeper felicity;  making the first of possessions, self-possession;  and honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of peace.

… Of which lowly peace it is written that “justice and peace have kissed each other;”  and that the fruit of justice is “sown in peace of them that make peace;”  not “peace-makers” in the common understanding - reconcilers of quarrels;  (though that function also follows on the greater one;)  but peace-Creators;  Givers of Calm.  Which you cannot give, unless you first gain;  nor is this gain one which will assuredly on any course of business, commonly so called.

Essays on Political Economy
(198)  For no economist would admit national economy to be legitimate which proposed to itself only the building of a pyramid of gold.  He would declare the gold to be wasted, were it to remain in the monumental form, and would say it ought to be employed….  The golden pyramid may perhaps be providently built, perhaps improvidently;  but, at all events, the wisdom or folly of the accumulation can only be determined by our having first clearly stated the aim of all economy, namely, the extension of life….

It has just been stated that the object of political economy is the continuance not only of life, but of healthy and happy life.

(199)  We must therefore yet farther define the aim of political economy to be “The multiplication of human life at the highest standard."
NB:  not quantity but quality as the "standard of living"

(203)  Wealth consists of things in themselves valuable;  Money, of documentary claims to the possession of such things, and Riches is a relative term, expressing the magnitude of the possessions of one person or society as compared with those of other persons or societies.

The study of Wealth is a province of natural science:  - it deals with the essential properties of things.
NB:  ecological economics

The study of Money is as province of commercial science:  - it deals with conditions of engagement and exchange.

The study of Riches is a province of moral science:  - it deals with the due relations of men to each other in regard of material possessions;  and with the just laws of their association for purposes of labor.

(278)  A republic means, properly, a polity in which the state, with its all, is at every man’s service, and every man, with his all, at the state’s service - (people are apt to lose sight of the last condition), but its government may nevertheless be oligarchic (consular, or decemviral, for instance), or monarchic (dictatorial).  But a democracy means a state in which the government rests directly with the majority of the citizens.