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Tuesday, 21 April 2020


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I would suggest, armed with [more] such studies as the one I've linked above 'the pols' should be better enabled to make the better, but necessary, informed hard choices.

One thing I believe, going forward with our economies 'locked-down' can only lead to certain disaster. A 'reflective unlocking' (though there be dragons) the sole means to chart the best course.

There will be tears of course but such is life. But hell, a Cthulhu lurks around every bend anyway so why not dare it - shall we all continue our lives as parakeets?

Whatever it is, follow Trump's lead. He seems to be the only one with the guts to follow his own instinct.

A few of our "laboratories of democracy" will be lifting nearly all restrictions by next week. They include the states of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. I would not want to be either a politician or a health care worker in those states. We'll see results soon.

Blasted paywall!
Anywho, which will it be? Fear or freedom? All of us have to answer that.

Funny how neither Warner and Evans-Pritchard dwell on the intelligent, non-linear solution of testing and contact tracing combined with lockdown.

They only see straight lines and pro-rata relationships. Feed the output back into the input and their brains melt and dribble out of their ears.

Using lockdown alternating with testing and contact tracing is not only optimal by design but proven in practice.

Mutti will wield this double edged, counter-cyclical, sword of lockdown and test-trace as deftly as the Tiger states have already of course, and piss yet more humiliation all over us. You must know that by experience now, surely?

This cut and slice swordsmanship with lockdown and test-trace could take years and become the new normal, like any fractal form reverberating in infinite regress.

And it comes with health benefits over and above taming, if not slaying, C19 too. Circa 80,000 were dying each year in Blighty from seasonal flu, pneumonia, and sepsis before the new kid on the block Covid arrived, and all of those diseases would be tamed and diminished by a test-trace regime.

But the Anglo-Saxon mind, the materialist devoid of ideas, as personified by Messers Warner and Evans-Pritchard, can only draw straight line supply and demand curves and derive one price at the intersection. They never see the butterfly wings that are the truer nature of supply and demand.

And then there's Tim "Awfuly nice but Dim" Stanley, one notch down from those two in the brain department, who having committed to the Herd Immunity / Sweden model and been made to look a super-Charlie, simply says: "Well everyone got it wrong. And no-one knows what to do" ...

Even though both those statements are false, as evidenced by his own newspaper that had numerous articles explaining how to do it on the same day he published his pea-brained outlook, including one from the head honcho in South Korea!


"Take back control" makes its valuable contribution to the crisis ...

Either "We fked up and didn't check the spam folder in our mailbox" or "We decided killing a load of Brits was worth it to stay pure to the Brexit cause".

And you pity the poor pols?


"A few of our "laboratories of democracy" will be lifting nearly all restrictions by next week."

Well Bob, there's one state I'm very familiar with what's had no (discernible) restrictions on yours truly and I can reliably report I've felt no ill effect from the lack.

Of course our urban areas *report "rough going" but the MDs, the NPs, and the RNs of my personal acquaintance aren't, for the most part, 'echoing' what the politicos would, seemingly, prefer me to be faithful of.

What's really odd about my state's WuFlu affecteds is it seems to be far more "dangerous" to be in any of the very few counties that went for Hillary than to be in any what went for Trump.

Anecdotally of course.

And the bit of "Take back control" that sadly never actually lost control since 1948 weighs in with its contribution to the carnage ...

State healthcare, shrouded in unworthy arrogance, a true emporer with no clothes, refusing steadfastly to accept the help of the better quality and more efficient private commercial and academic sectors with testing. Now shown to be the inferior product and service thousands of deaths down the line.

Pity the poor pols, my arse.


And now, the finale!

From the institution that gave you aircraft carriers with no planes! Yes, you just know this one's gonna be a fire cracker! Drum roll, wait for it you 'orrible lot, wait for it! Crash of cymbals, we have: -

The MoD constructed hospital built in 8 days - but with no doctors or nurses!!! ...

Ooops - apocalypse!

Pity humanity when that gamma ray spun out of the sun, zipped through some geezer's bollocks and knocked a chromosome off its perch: the genesis day of the pol gene mutation.



The areas where Arkies voted for Clinton were undoubtedly cities. The higher population density would make C19 spread more efficiently there. Don't get too comfortable though, rural counties will be hit in due time:


There you go sounding like an "elitist" who has "knowledge". Everyone knows that just pulling something out of your ass that people want to hear is what sells. Go with your gut.

"rural counties will be hit in due time"

We shall see.

Some of my reading suggests, perhaps, that there's something particularly "attractive to the virus" in those environments.

China's study results are suspect of course, but then South Korea's experience seems intriguing to the question.

Have we any information on the numbers New York state rather than "metropolitan" New York City are concerned - I should think the proximity and the constant replenishment (thus, constant co-mingling) should make the ratios of the infected within the city and without directly relateable.

Any observational data you're aware of Bob?

How about Washington state perhaps? That's where, if memory serves, the early deaths *attributed to the lurgy were *confirmed - anybody got a map showing *deaths from the WuFlu in Washington state?

The inconvenience has to go on until there is certainty that the virus is reasonably contained and a jab is available. It could be worse and we have to go to the shelters every night like our family did. Have some bottle folk. Stop moaning.

An interesting observation: how the left media in Blighty is doing a fine job of holding the rotten state institutions to account.

Never heard the Graun and Beeb lay it on so thick at targets like the NHS, PHE, HMG.

Of course it might have been a different story if Jezza and Abbott had been been running the show (that stain on the carpet is not shifting), but I wonder actually.

Maybe the left is starting to turn against socialism and state ownership and towards Marx's second stage of "future history", that of communism?

Perhaps what we are seeing is the undercurrent of sentiment that leads to the withering away of the state and the provision of the social "need" goods and services - food, clothing, shelter, health, education, energy, information and transport - via UBI and the social market of charities, academics, not for profits, mutuals, and privates?

Will the route out of the pointy bottom corner of Nolan's chart actually be up the left side to the glorious pointy pinnacle of Libertarianism at the top?

I don't give shit about the journey route, so long as we get there. If these things are done before I drop off the perch I'll die a happy man ...

1. Chinese Socialist dictatorship falls replaced by democracy and a Constitution based on Liberty

3. Blighty replaces democratic socialism with UBI and market provision of the social need goods and services, and done with a constitutional bill, of the gravitas of Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights

Come on Bob, you know you want to.

After all, it ain't coming from the right in Blighty any time soon for sure. Listen to Charles "Blue Socialist" Moore, couldn't have his tongue further up the NHS, PHE, and HMG collectivist arsehole if he tried ...

It's a Carpe Diem opportunity moment for the left. Leave the Tories holding the socialist pup and grasp hold of a fresh progressive future, both steeped in precedent and philosophical basis from the founding father of the left, and that nicks the right's crown and glory, the market, that was once on the right's head...

"I didn't steal the crown. I found it lying in the gutter. And I picked it up with my sword. But it was the people who placed it on my head."


We have seen a winter with, overall, below average mortality. There have been two weeks with above average mortality, but neither of them exceeded previous peaks, and in both cases Covid did not account for all the excess deaths.
We are two weeks past the peak of Covid deaths and hence four weeks past the peak of infections. Hospital admissions are plummeting.
We have no idea how many have been infected and even less of who they are. Hence it is impossible to trace all their contacts. Even if we could do that we are guaranteed a fresh outbreak unless either we achieve herd immunity or we seal our borders. Given the steady trickle of illegal immigrants the latter is impossible, apart from the economic consequences of ceasing all trade.
The actual effects of the virus haven't been much, thank God, but the virus will do its thing anyway. Clearly we have the healthcare capacity to deal with cases, and have developed improved treatments as doctors gain experience in dealing with a disease none had heard of three months ago.
Time to put the fear to rest and get on with life.

Time to put the fear to rest and get on with life.

Sweet Mother of God. Will the Brits ever learn?


I think the southern states opening soon have the right approach. Outside of big cities, in the US at least, the virus is pretty much confined to ghettos and nursing homes. Contracting it, let alone dying from it, is not an issue in small-town America.

How Blighty on her own got her arse kicked by Jerry in WW2, how Blighty lost to the "German Miracle", how Blighty got outmanoeuvred in the EU by the "German Racket", how Blighty got pissed on by the Jerries in the C19 crisis ...

Time to put the fear to rest and get on with life.

Really? Isn't it time to swallow pride and learn the lessons from enemies and allies alike, and look at what Germany and the Tigers have done and are doing in organising and operating their states?

The Germans themselves made the study of Bonaparte's methods paramount after having their arses kicked in the Napoleonic Wars. They institutionalised the continuous learning process in the German general staff so effectively that that they kicked the French arse in the Franco-Prussian war and held off odds of many-to-one in both the first and second world wars. The lore was so intense, the attitude, the worldview, that they came back quicker than the rest of Europe and got their empire anyway through the "German Racket" and its relentless method.

Meanwhile Blighty got stuck in a Dad's Army and the Bolsheviks time warp, eternally patting itself on the back for running a fallen empire and winning a war in which it was a mere walk-on part. Spending money from the magic money tress of the Marshall Plan, North Sea oil and gas, money printing presses, or debt slate as each lie presented, fake funding the delusion that statism, socialism, and collectivisation work.

That is a fear that should never be put to rest. It isn't time to get on with life. Blighty needs to front these devastating inconvenient truths and make wholesale change, not sweep them under the carpet of business-as-usual.


SoD, obviously, as you make crystal clear over and over and over again, you despise and detest your own country so why don't you do us all a favour and just fuck off to another one - your beloved Germany, perhaps!

In my life, between 1979-1990 and 2010-2016 my country was an admirable place to be. In all the other periods of my life its been in decline or fallen. At least my exhortations are clear, workable designs with a track record of implementation in my country and elsewhere, and founded in a desire to improve my country from the gutters in which it frequently has found itself in my lifetime.

What are your plans for the country you purport to love, btw? We don't hear much about them. Just "Pity the poor politicians", the same blog title, over-and-over again.

So, as an alternative, rather than you going forth and multiplying in some other place and maybe taking your Dad's Army and the Bolsheviks mobs with you, which I would not want, why don't you all simply wake up and give the country a chance of recovery and progress?

Oh, and 50p in the swear box, Gaffer.


"caffeine withdrawals"
Now That is a fine handle!


Cherry picking one story from the Beeb to make a general point, and quite a run from there, is contrary to logic. Godel would not be pleased. I'm not certain that British Libertarianism rests so much on the idea humans are rational, self-interested actors, but your description of British politics seems to somewhat contradict it.

JK (and anyone elso who thinks C19 is only in cities),

Covid has already caused deaths in rural Arkansas and other states' counties near cities, and it's spreading quickly:


Another thing: Considering our top leaders' trying to score points by refusing the help of the EU and WHO, I'd suggest you write an app that only tracks foreigners. It would be an easier sell and you'd be rich beyond your wildest dreams in no time.

The Germans. Weren't they the people who started and LOST two world wars? Emulating them might not be such a great idea.


Here's another map that's more up to date:

The Germans. Weren't they the people who started and LOST two world wars?

And then won the peace - isn't the "German Racket" an acknowledgement that Europe belongs to them?

Imagine being so good and knowing it that your over-confidence leads you to take on the world twice and fail but then win the third time?

A better class of problem you could say.

@Bob - It isn't one BBC article. The entire media is reporting Blighty's 0 out of 6 score, the total failure across the board of the HMG / NHS / PHE nexus. There are half a dozen articles on the DT today alone.



You don't have to convince me. Beneath the cynicism and disingenuousness I commiserate, but would point out our system isn't exactly working flawlessly either, and it's been greatly influenced by American Libertarianism since Reagan.

While I'm being straightforward, political philosophy has a lot less to do with the way societies behave than the character of their people. For example, Germans are very good at raising activities to industrial levels be they killing or saving. Apparently irony, contrary to rumor, has not died.

Here you go Bob, another one popped up in my tea break ...

The bureaucracy surrounding personal protective equipment procurement is putting lives on the line. PPE has turned from farce to deadly scandal. We are sending healthcare workers into battle without the best possible protection; exposing far too many to a high viral load of a deadly virus.

Now it has emerged that the Government ignored offers from PPE wholesalers and manufacturers. Veenak, a Birmingham-based wholesaler, has shipped millions of PPE items overseas after offers to the UK Government were ignored. They still have £5 million worth of equipment in their warehouses.

Cheshire-based Weaver Dane and Trade spent thousands of pounds to produce 450 visors a day, but have also had their offers ignored by the NHS and ceased production. Textile specialists have filled in official forms to offer their help but never heard back.

The Government has responded that they are prioritising larger orders and have received thousands of offers. But this is precisely the problem: centralised procurement is causing bottlenecks.

The decision to centralise all procurement to a single form has not worked. We are struggling to get hospitals, GP surgeries, and care homes what they need when they need it.

At first, the NHS struggled to distribute items from the national stockpile, being forced to call in the army. Procurement prioritised Chinese factories, not anticipating the risk of non-supply, rather than identifying existing domestic wholesalers and manufactures. Now NHS hospitals are warning against updating advice to suggest the public wear masks – like they are in the United States, Europe and across Asia – because of concerns about shortages.

In an ideal market, there are multiple buyers and sellers. In this market though, there is a single buyer: the state — getting more offers than they can respond. Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed they are working with just 159 of the over 8,000 offers.

This is what happens when you apply a Soviet-style ‘command and control’ system to procurement. It may sound lovely at first, ensuring scale and that the right supplies are purchased and distributed. But as we know from history, even benevolent central planners struggle.

Manufacturing and logistics supply chains are highly complex. Particularly in a time of shortage, it takes agility to identify stocks wherever they can be found. One centralised process cannot possibly have the same capacity as hundreds of different people each leaning into different suppliers.

The focus on larger orders has proven risky. The UK has been waiting five days for a much-needed shipment of gowns from Turkey. If they had instead commissioned hundreds of local manufactures to produce gowns the risk of failure would have been spread.

The provision of PPE is also entangled in red tape. While standards are necessary, changing these around and excessive specification makes it a lot more difficult to procure supplies.

For example, the NHS request for PPE makes no mention of the American-standard N95 masks, instead preferring European standards such as FFP2 and FFP3. Public Health England’s guidance on appropriate PPE fails to even mention the KN95 – the Chinese-standard which evidence reviews find is equivalent. After public outcry, the KN95 has been approved for import and use in the United States. It is also being used in other parts of Europe, but not the UK.

The public sector’s failure on PPE is in stark contrast to the private sector’s success in managing our food supply over the last month. Supermarkets, which sell tens of thousands of products, have managed extreme stresses magnificently. Earlier shortages, even of much-in-demand toilet paper, have dissipated. The shelves are replenished while social distancing measures have been introduced. Previous quantity limits are being lifted. The various supermarkets have lent into a complex, highly diversified supply chains involving millions of moving parts across the country and the world.

The NHS’s multi-billion-pound procurement system has always been chaotic and excessively complex. This is practically inevitable in a healthcare system like the NHS. One-size-fits-all often fails us all. As a starry-eyed Boris Johnson warned from the backbench in 2002, Britain is excessively reliant on a “top-down, monopolistic healthcare service.” This leads to much worse patient outcomes than comparable systems in continental Europe.

When this crisis is over, I hope that the PM will consider making the reforms the system so urgently needs. The fantastic doctors and nurses who saved his life deserve no less.



Here's where my acquaintances in Arkansas' medico community (and acquaintances with three morticians as well as two MEs and a few county coroners) comes in handy.

[The last item I'll be noting I'm certain is gonna make you happy.]

Significant co-morbidities - admittedly I'm not yet delivered of the data-runs results (and, most times I'm not particularly 'personally' invested in results - all I'm interested [paid] to do is collect: a man has to earn his crust doncha know; however he chooses)

Anyway, and again admittedly the only line on any of the 'death certificates' I've been made personally aware of and personally interested in is Line #1 [direct cause of death] At any rate 'it would appear' that somewheres in the vicinity of 10-15% of what's been on Line #1 (admittedly #4?) has been Covid. [Our state's authorities have directed - unlike some apparently significant number of other states' authorities - that tissue samples be tested and confirmed before a 'COD' is allowed to be attested as Covid.]

Put in other terms - if a primary care physician (or in a significant number of the rural counties, a AnP [Nurse Practitioner] has previously noted, a 'late stage co-morbidity' what's been the 'usual practice' is for that condition to occupy Line #1.

Now Bob your *happy - VA has completed a trial of the efficacy of hydoxychloroquine and the judgement is "ineffective." *Note - the test subjects have been 'resident patients' (which means not infrequently, that those folks weren't in the best shape to begin with).

I do thank you though for the links Bob.



SoD and JK,

Here's a story I heard about during my lunch:

Evidently Belgians are more honest than most about estimating Covid deaths. Britain and the US are erring toward under counting, possibly for political reasons.


I'd be happy if a treatment had been found, and actually the VA count wasn't a proper study with controls, so hydoxychloroquine isn't really out of the running. My complaint was about Trump just pulling "facts" out of his backside. Maybe you haven't noticed how often he does that. And you're welcome.

Oh I've noticed Bob. It's just that where a President, any President is concerned he'll (or she'll) not - with the exception being if I am active military, which I'm not) have even a smidgen of influence whatsoever in how I, either calculate my odds or, make my decision as to what pair of pants I'll wear nor what the evening's meal will be.

Now I will admit where Trump's 'tweeting' is concerned - tho' usually I don't have to wait any longer than the newsreader's giving the "what's up" - this President can effect whether I'll be watching any newsprogram for the rest of the week. (And usually the crowd here at D&N can reach 'some' conclusion as to whether I'm watching broadcast/cable news during any given week.) (The *possible exception being if I, here in my wired up cell, gets a 'heads-up' on something necessitates me being on call to my 'other computer.' But the last time that happened was when the President wish't to have troops out of Syria. So, thankfully, infrequently.)

Uhm Bob I didn't zoom on what was addressed to SoD.

I'd qualify your ending to (if only we're 50 states governments) "... and depending on jurisdiction, erring either under or over counting, highly likely to be for political reasons."

You're welcome. Too.


The feds are allegedly influencing governors by helping with political, material or financial support to the extent they're happy with the governor's treatment of the administration. Under other circumstances that would just be horsetrading.


You've seen this perhaps?

You're aware I'm certain "all" federal funds are derived from ... well at least 'ostensibly' the totality of the whole body of US taxpayers? Some states constitutions requiring 'balanced budgets' some not and further that some states of the first part having entered into "agreements" (contracts) which those states of the second part having no 'seat at the table' during whatever negotiating the parties having no balanced budget legislation would extend to those states 'not enjoying' whatever the fruit of whatever negotiation[s] would be, necessarily and statutorily (federal) thus during the "horsetrading" as you say, but statutorily as I'd contend on the hook for as if an actual first party to whatever it was the parties of the second part never agreed to in the first instance? And that's to do, since I distinctly note Bob you've employed the word "happy" to extend so far as the Constitution has in it the term, "general welfare"?

Let us Bob take a gander at that one state's 'propositional horsetrade' shall we --- [which for My Convenience's Sake I paste into this comment the pertinent text of an email I sent to the entire Arkansas delegation to Washington DC last night]?

"I've a letter onscreen dated April 14, 2020 bearing the seal of Office of The Senate President, Don Harmon, State of Illinois addressed to *Redacted, Washington DC 20515 wherein on the letter's page two (2) there's a request for "$10 billion in pension relief, directly for the state's retirement systems" under that underlined line item it goes on to state, in part, "Illinois' largest liabilities are its unfunded pension liability at $138 billion and other post-employment benefits liability of $54 billion."

Some 'horsetrade' that Bob - having the feds (or, as I like to say All of us parties of the second part) make, as a precedent, the federal government responsible for a profligate state's fiduciary irresponsibility.

*Some fair bit of reconsideration & rewording/rephrasing of text went into this comment but I think you capable of the gist?

Bob you can just simply dismiss that one because ... well just because as you've said about The National Review. (Whether some *totally *neutral cable news networks are only now just beginning to "suppose" the same damn thing!)

Xenophobic when Senator Cotton posits it but "reasonable theory" from Sanjay Gupta?


I'm not sure what you're getting at. Illinois' budget has been a mess for decades because it always involves a battle between Chicago and much of the rest of the state. Can you break your topic down into a few clear statements without the legalese-ish?


"...political philosophy has a lot less to do with the way societies behave than the character of their people."

Now there, Bob, is something we can agree on! It is precisely what John Adams had in mind in the remark I quoted the other day:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

This is why, for example, democracy in and of itself is simply one form of government among many possible forms, and nothing more. It is why, when the people change, democracy may become less and less suitable, even as the people yearn for more and more of it.

In Aristotelian terms, a thing can be seen as having both "form" and "matter", and the form must suit the matter: you can't make a hammer out of glass, or a window-pane of iron. And so it is with political systems and peoples. The examples of history -- especially recent history -- are abundant; we can draw our own conclusions.


I wasn't referring to democracy as a form of government so much as a principle of society in which the largest number of members possible have a say in how they live their lives. There's a lot of leeway in what the framers thought of as "religion". Here's an extract from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia:

"The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subjects to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

More here:


As Berkeley said, there ain't no such thing as matter; matter's a mere convenience placeholder in a world of ideas ...

I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That the things I see with mine eyes and touch with my hands do exist, really exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny, is that which philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it.

I'd warrant that Adams reference is to the fact that morality and religion are ideas/form and unrelated to matter. He might have cut short the wider range of ideas/forms for brevity and relevance to the times in which he lived.

Since a person's true reality is their mind and spirit/soul, not the mere placeholders of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen that comprise the material placeholder fudge, there is no place in the world for material.

The constitution and the constituents are form, form, form, and nothing else. Aristotle schw-istotle.

And therefore, from the constitution's point of view, any old human being will do, irrespective of whether their ideas/form are moral/immoral or theist/atheist.

Besides, regarding glass hammers and steel windows, you can in fact make the best out of the other ...

If you're honest Malcolm, you're trying to bend the constitution to suit your morals and religion and the constitution and the philosophers who Framed it ain't having it, and Bob is right to call you out.



And you're trying to coerce the constitution to your Democratic Centralism ...

I wasn't referring to democracy as a form of government so much as a principle of society in which the largest number of members possible have a say in how they live their lives.

And the Framers weren't having that either.

They Framed Liberty. Not some Trojan horse of conservative morals and religion, or a dictatorship of the majority.


Right. "Democratic Centralism". So now I'm a communist as well as a Nazi. Oh, SoD, you're incorrigible. The ideas in the Declaration of Independence are clearly democratic as opposed to monarchical. The Federalist Papers expanded on the ideas and Madison himself considered broad participation in democracy protection against tyranny:

The Constitution follows a natural progression from these ideas, and I listed the amendments that furthered democracy as society advanced already. Allow me the compliment that your right wing hippie ideas make you a perfect Libertarian.


I should have explained that James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution. Hippie.

First of all, I'm not religious; agnostic at best. And I am of course well familiar with Jefferson's deism.

Adams's point is simply that in the absence of internal and civic virtue, of which a belief in the objective reality of moral truth (and in the idea of a price to pay for the wicked) is an essential foundation for the great mass of men, then the whole experiment in shared self-government that the Framers were attempting would surely collapse. As it is.

If you read Jefferson's correspondence, it's plain that he too understood the importance of religion for this general purpose, even if his own religious ideas were at the borderline of agnosticism. He hardly regarded himself as a common man, but rather as one of the natural aristoi, and so he could safely flirt with a skepticism that I'm sure he would have considered too subtle to serve the necessary moral purpose in the general mass of men.

As for "form" and"matter", it's simple enough: the Constitution (form) could only secure the natural liberties of men in a society composed of such men (and women) who were capable of the sort of moral and civic virtue -- self-government! -- that a society founded on liberty requires. Only such people are suitable "matter". This is why our experiments in exporting democracy have so often been such a disaster; in many cases we are trying to make hammers out of glass.

The important point, then, is civic virtue, not religion. Religion is understood only as an effective support for that virtue, because it assumes an objective moral foundation (and, for those less able to call themselves to virtue, a watchful eye of judgment).

Simply put: given the many imperfections of Man, then for a society to be built upon such radical notions of liberty as the Framers proposed, men must, rather improbably, be able to control themselves. If not, then the experiment fails, and control must be imposed from above, as it generally had been always and everywhere.

Given that the job of self-control and civic virtue is so important, and so difficult to maintain at the scale of a vast nation, Adams saw, quite rightly I think, that religion was a vital asset. The Framers also understood that for the polis to be made up of a common people, with a shared heritage founded on ancient and familiar traditions of ordered liberty and common law, was an important feature of the budding nation's "matter".

Religion per se, then, is not the point. But it is not nothing, either. Liberty is no easy thing, and it needs all the help it can get.

To be persnickety, I should add also that a careful study of the debates at the Constitutional Convention suggests that the idea of Madison as the father of the Constitution is rather an exaggeration. This is not to downplay his important role, but the thing was very much a group effort.


For a time Jefferson declared himself a materialist, which in those days was fairly equivalent to a hard atheist. Maybe you've read his letter to his nephew Peter Carr.

I agree with most of your points. However, I'm a bit more careful about assuming who is opposed to positive behavior, or morality if you will. It's too easy to attribute immorality to anyone a person might disagree with for any reason. Considering the track record of religion, it's not easy to make an argument it's been good for morality either.

By the way Malcolm, it seems you're advocating keeping "the people" in line via the top-down imposition of religion. If you're not a monarchist, can you explain how you're different from one?



As for "form" and"matter", it's simple enough: the Constitution (form) could only secure the natural liberties of men in a society composed of such men (and women) who were capable of the sort of moral and civic virtue -- self-government! -- that a society founded on liberty requires. Only such people are suitable "matter". This is why our experiments in exporting democracy have so often been such a disaster; in many cases we are trying to make hammers out of glass.

Only such people are suitable "matter", eh?

All races and creeds seem quite capable of participating in a functioning democracy, a DINO (a Democracy in Name Only, like Russia and Zimbabwe), and an outright failure like Venezuela or North Korea.

I don't buy this notion of a special category of humans, some latter-day Spartans, who are the chosen ones for operating a democracy.

One observation I do allow is that those countries who were not recipients of a forced export of democracy by one western empire or other seem better at grasping and running democracy than those who had it thrust upon them. In direct proportion to the scale of violation by Western empires comes rejection of democracy, Liberty and all other notions by the vassal states when foisted upon them in some benevolent, guilt-ridden parting gesture by the retreating empire.

And those who dodged the empire bullet or received a mere Blighty wound picked up democracy and Liberty and ran with it, so much so they're outperforming the West!

In this way state peoples ressemble obstreperous children who do exactly the opposite of authority - gotta Love 'em for it! So much so the best way to encourage democracy and Liberty to flourish might be to ram home the opposite and then back off - as happened in the former Ost Bloc countries where the invader imposed a dictatorship and once gone the locals couldn't grab democracy and Liberty fast enough!

So, actually, you are partially right. There is a category of human beings who are not ripe for democracy and Liberty: Those who had it rammed down their throats by a foreign invader. But I see no other.


Right. "Democratic Centralism". So now I'm a communist as well as a Nazi. Oh, SoD, you're incorrigible. The ideas in the Declaration of Independence are clearly democratic as opposed to monarchical.

"So now I'm a communist as well as a Nazi" - well the bottom corner of Nolan's chart does squeeze the two together for a reason, Bob, works like a charm in describing the reality.

"The ideas in the Declaration of Independence are clearly democratic as opposed to monarchical." - there you go again, it's a total blindspot for you Bob, and Malcolm for that matter, isn't it? The constitution's about Liberty, and democracy is Liberty's little bitch, a useful idiot side-show, not the other way round.

It's funny how apt the obstreperous child metaphor is, the biggest stroppy kid on the block being China. The biggest state in the world that didn't fall to Western vassalage. And just look what their own people made from papier-mache and served up to their home-grown overlords: "Look what we've got for you, you mthrfker!" they said! ...

Lady Liberty leading the people



"democracy is Liberty's little bitch, a useful idiot side-show, not the other way round."

So how do we have liberty without democracy? Does a king just declare us all liberated? Do we all get high and halucinate we're liberated, hippie?


I'd have thought it was pretty plain that some places, under "democracy", descend rapidly into cesspools of corruption -- and not just places that have had it "rammed down their throats by a foreign invader". Think of the former Soviet states, or most of post-colonial Africa, or of Latin America - places that, in many cases, have been autonomous, and ostensibly "democratic", for a century or more.

I'm surprised that you don't find that suggestive as regards "form" and "matter". (I'll add that I'm not saying that "matter" can't change over time. Everything can.)

Perhaps we'll just have to "agree to disagree" on this one.

I'll leave aside, for now, the remarkable idea that liberty is impossible without democracy...

Liberty is possible without democracy, but within a society it probably is not. We can always move to some isolated spot and live alone. Nobody could tell us to do anything then. Of course we might starve or catch some otherwise treatable disease that kills us or something of the like, but we'd die in a state of perfect liberty. I'd love to know the remarkable alternative.

In other words, then, nobody in history ever experienced meaningful liberty in a human society until just now, even under the most enlightened and benign monarchs?

Did democracy produce liberty in Zimbabwe, Haiti, Uganda, Venezuela, or 1930s Germany? Have you read, for example, Stefan Zweig's memoir about life as a Viennese Jew under the Hapsburgs, which he described as the freest society that ever existed? (It was certainly a good deal better than what came later, under a duly elected Chancellor.)

To my friends in the UK or Canada: try expressing in public a heterodox opinion about immigration, race, sex roles, gay marriage, Islam, etc. As your case moves through the courts, at least you can comfort yourself that you live in a democratic system that optimizes your liberty.

Democracy is orthogonal to liberty: neither necessary nor sufficient. And as the framers of the Constitution understood, it has its own set of dangerous liabilities.

Oh and Bob,

"By the way Malcolm, it seems you're advocating keeping "the people" in line via the top-down imposition of religion."

That's crazy. Where did I ever say anything of the sort? You have the whole thing completely upside-down. The point, as Loz said as well, is liberty. How you get there (i.e., what form of government), and what sort of soil is necessary for that seed to sprout (i.e., what form is optimal for the sort of matter you are working with), is a purely pragmatic question.

And SoD,

"The constitution and the constituents are form, form, form, and nothing else. Aristotle schw-istotle.

And therefore, from the constitution's point of view, any old human being will do..."

Ah, the old Blank Slate. Behold the Infinitely Malleable Man, who can assume any form whatsoever! He is the generic base-class human, with no stubborn "qualities" or other distinctions -- and every last one, everywhere on earth, comes fresh from the factory identically equipped with the universal operating system, able to run, with unvarying reliability, any social or political software ever written. Jumble people up however you like, it's all the same, as long as that old piece of paper's correctly installed at the National Archives and the Supreme Court.

Regardless of whether Madison and Franklin and Washington and Wilson and Morris et al. had pulled their little stunt in Moscow, Morocco, the Malay States, or the Maratha Confederacy, no doubt the results would have been quite the same.

Yes, I really do think we'll have to agree to disagree.


I'll repeat: I wasn't referring to democracy as a form of government so much as a principle of society in which the largest number of members possible have a say in how they live their lives. If you think that can be achieved without input from "the people" I'd be fascinated to know how that would be.

Get it? Just because some colonial power forces a nominally democratic form of governmental on a society without the underpinnings to support it doesn't mean it's a democracy. Just because a country calls itself democratic doesn't mean it actually is.

And no, no society has ever lived in a state of liberty according to the basic definition. "Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases."

For example, SoD might want to go into his local copper station high and pantsless and scream at everyone they are communists and Nazis, and he would very likely learn the limits of his liberty in short order.

And you, in your first comment write: "In other words, then, nobody in history ever experienced meaningful liberty in a human society until just now, even under the most enlightened and benign monarchs?", which is yet another defense of monarchy. Then in your second comment you again claim not to be a monarchist. Do you even read what you write?

Name me the society in which everyone can do as they please. I never implied there is one. The closest we can get is with a democratic society. The US government founders stated that in far more places than Federalist 10.

Monarchy has a history. Show us where and when it's ever formed a society based on liberty.

Bob, the question, as far as this conversation is concerned, is not whether I even read what I write (I do, or else there'd be many more typos), but whether you read, and more importantly, understand, what I've written before responding.

You aren't talking about "forms of government", but rather "having a say"? Well, it all comes down to sovereignty, or it's meaningless. In a non-democratic system with a secure sovereign, for that matter, you are easily as likely to be able to say whatever you like as in a modern "democracy", as such a sovereign has little reason to care what you say. (Contrast that with the divided sovereignty and illiberality of modern, "democratic" Britain, where you can get yourself arrested for crimespeak.)

I quite agree that forcing democracy on places where the "underpinnings" aren't suitable is idiotic, and doomed to failure. But those "underpinnings" are no more or less than the very "matter" I've been talking about -- the cultural and other qualities of the nation and people attempting to instantiate democracy -- and democracies have failed all over the world for exactly this reason even without anyone forcing it on them.

As for my position on monarchy: it hasn't changed, it isn't hard to understand, and frankly I am beginning to despair of getting through to you here.

Monarchy and popular government (or democracy, or whatever you want to call it) are just two sides of one coin. There will always be a sovereign, whether it's the King or "the People", and democracy is nothing more than an inverted monarchy. In monarchies the courtiers flatter and woo the King; in democracies they flatter and woo the People. Both systems have advantages and liabilities, but it seems, in the modern West (and in this conversation!), that if one doesn't profess exclusive enthusiasm for Democracy, one is immediately assumed to worship at the altar of Monarchy, or even Fascism.

I don't worship either monarchy or democracy. What I want is to be governed well. How to find the "sweet spot" that maximizes liberty, public order (those two go hand in hand, of course), prosperity, stability, and human flourishing generally, is a question that has vexed mankind's finest minds for thousands of years, and to imagine that one can simply hang the gold medal around the neck of Democracy without regard to the other variables that, in practice, make all the difference, is absurdly simplistic. Some nations and peoples can manage popular government quite well. For others it is a steep and slippery slope to factional chaos, mob rule, and Big Man tyranny. Some nations have done very well indeed, for very long periods of time, with liberty and happiness, under monarchy.

So what is the best system to live under? You can't answer that question without asking: For whom? Where? When?

As for my comments about liberty, let's review: You wrote:

"Liberty is possible without democracy, but within a society it probably is not. We can always move to some isolated spot and live alone."

This clearly implies that no non-democratic society ever provided meaningful and sufficient liberty. When I pointed this out, you fell back on a caricature of liberty -- absolute freedom to do whatever one wants, no matter how offensive or destructive -- that has never existed in any society anywhere. Then you demanded that I produce an example for you. Why even bring such a thing up?

Next you assume, because I have in fact merely defended monarchy as not incompatible with liberty, that, rather that being someone who sees advantages and disadvantages of both systems, depending upon context, I am simply "a monarchist". (In other words: if you aren't with us, you're against us!)

"Name me the society in which everyone can do as they please. I never implied there is one."

Nor did I ever say you had. Where on earth did you get that from?

Finally: yes, monarchy has a history. (Indeed, it is almost the entire history of mankind.) You seem to imagine that nowhere in all that time have there ever been people living under a King or Queen who felt themselves free and happy and well-governed!

It's all well and good to sit down to form a "society based on liberty". The Jacobins, for example, did just that in the French Revolution. But alas -- all that liberty, equality, and fraternity soon gave way to the Terror.

What matters is results -- and results depend on a great deal more than constitutions and abstract principles.

So please, Bob: stop trying to pin me down as one thing or another. The problem of good government -- government that maximizes liberty and happiness -- is ancient, subtle, and complex, and there is no universal "right answer".

"Monarchy and popular government (or democracy, or whatever you want to call it) are just two sides of one coin."

A glaring false equivalence. We can't engage in a discussion if you constantly change the premise. I see no point in any more of this.

A devastating, unanswerable riposte. I withdraw from the field.

I am rather good at devastation.

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