On the 104th day after the winter solstice (April 3,4,5), there is a traditional Chinese holiday; the Qingming Festival. In it’s origins we find a warning against self-sacrifice on behalf of the politically ambitious -
“The festival originated from Hanshi Day (寒食节, literally, Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui (介子推). Jie Zitui died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin(晉文公) before he became a duke. Once, during Wen’s 19 years of exile, they had no food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie had obtained the soup. It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup. Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day. However, Jie was not the type of person who sought rewards. Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become king. Once Wen became duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from him. Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decades, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother. Duke Wen went to the forest, but could not find Jie. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie. However, Jie died in the fire. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honour Jie’s memory. The city where Jie died is still calledJiexiu (介休, literally “the place Jie rests forever”).”
Oops! Didn’t mean to kill you in my determination to demonstrate my gratitude to you… my bad.
The preceding quote came from Wikipedia, a source to which I turn constantly in my effort to spread . It is a bottomless trove (try starting with libertarian, or liberty), and worthy of support. In keeping with my New Year’s resolutions, I am sending them $50 this month.
In Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading The People’, Liberty is depicted wearing a Phrygian cap. From Wikipedia -
“The Phrygian cap is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia. In the western provinces of the Roman Empire it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, perhaps through a confusion with the pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome. Accordingly, the Phrygian cap is sometimes called a liberty cap; in artistic representations it signifies freedom and the pursuit of liberty.”
Reviving the Phrygian cap as a fashion statement may prove a challenge, given its modern depiction as Smurf apparel, however, the truly determined can find patterns here, or buy one ready-made here and here. In any case, should you acquire a liberty cap only to find it doesn’t suit you, simply mount it atop a flagstaff to create a liberty pole. Either way, you have a guaranteed conversation piece, and yet another means by which to spread the libertarian philosophy.
Current federal regulations require all lifeboats be stocked with snacks.
A cruise ship near the Canary Islands recently lost five crewmen to drowning, and not long ago, the Costa Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy, with more victims. And in 1915, the SS Eastland rolled over in the Chicago River, killing over 840 people. The most surprising contributor to these losses? Lifeboats -
“The 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic arrives on April 14. We will hear a great deal about the importance of government regulations to ensure that every ship has enough boats for its whole company of passengers and crew.
Since the Titanic, this kind of regulation has been in effect. But as with most regulations, the effects have been mixed, to use a conventional kind of understatement. When American total-lifeboat regulations came in, two things happened. One was the ruin of America’s passenger steamship lines to the Orient. The owners couldn’t afford to meet the new standards (which, admittedly, included labor-protectionist provisions only notionally connected with safety). The other was the sinking of the steamship Eastland. The Eastland capsized in the Chicago River, with immense loss of life, because it had been overloaded with lifeboats.”
That government safety regulation would have mixed results will be no surprise to libertarians. But lifeboats? In a million years, it would never have occurred to me that the coercive state would threaten my existence with lifeboats. And I live on an island! I have to ride a ferry three or four times a year. Truly, there is no place where we are safe from government.
“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Thanks to the wonders of the market, you can purchase the kindle version of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” for $1.00, and you don’t even need a Kindle to read it. Amazon makes available (for free!) Kindle reading apps for your computer or mobile device, right here. This may be one of the most important American autobiographies, and you oughtn’t miss it.
“A Knocker-up (sometimes known as a knocker-upper) was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the Industrial Revolution and at least as late as the 1920s, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable. A knocker-up’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time.
The knocker-up used a truncheon or short, heavy stick to knock on the clients’ doors or a long and light stick,often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors. At least one of them used a pea-shooter. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until sure that the client had been awoken.
There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such asManchester. Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols.“
For this work, Ms. Smith purportedly earned about sixpence a week. For this, she was required to wake as early as 3 A.M. each day, and to carry out her duties in all weathers. I doubt sixpence was much money. It was, however, reward for the type of honest work that could be carried out by dependable (albeit otherwise unskilled) persons, thereby sparing them the indignity of receiving welfare. Sadly, in today’s environment of minimum wages and state-supplied welfare, people like Ms. Smith are denied the chance to make a positive contribution to society, and are instead relegated to being supplicants. This is not the sort of development I would call ‘progress’.
Today is officially Laurier Day, in honour of Canada’s seventh Prime Minister. It is an excellent opportunity to promote and celebrate of Canada’s libertarian heritage.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier was known for vision of Canada as a land individual liberty and decentralized federalism. Among his notable quotes are: “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality”, and “Nothing will prevent me from continuing my task of preserving at all cost our civil liberty”. He worked to secure autonomy for Canada within the British Empire based on “absolute liberty, political and commercial”.
In many ways Canada has a strong libertarian heritage, but it has been largely neglected. So let’s take this opportunity to rekindle awareness of Canada’s culture of liberty, and work to move our country towards a land of freedom and prosperity that we can be proud of.
Having completed our last book (“The Market For Liberty“), but not quite ready to start our next (“For Your Own Good“), the Victoria Libertarian Book Club has taken a slight detour into a draft by David Friedman (“Legal Systems Very Different From Our Own“). Last night we discussed the chapters on Amish law, and on Gypsy law. They are both very brief reads, and I had only one quote from each that grabbed my attention. I’ll share the Gypsy quote tomorrow, but for now, here is the quote from the chapter on the Amish -
“Twice a year, all members of the congregation gather to take communion. Two weeks before, each is asked “whether he is in agreement with the Ordnung, whether he is at peace with the brotherhood, and whether anything ‘stands in the way’ of his entering into the communion service.” Communion does not take place until all members agree.”
What Friedman is talking about here is an example of a social contract to which the participants explicitly consent. Perhaps because libertarians have to spend so much time defending against arguments that there exists a social contract to which we all implicitly consent, the idea of of a voluntary social contract often goes unconsidered. I found the quote striking because the existence of such agreements only recently came to my attention. You can hear Cato Institute Senior Fellow Tom G. Palmer describe them, starting around the 11:00 mark of this video -
As Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” Caleb Bennet demonstrates just how true that is by revisiting the April 1964 edition of The New York Times Magazine, and its predictions for the year 2000. I am sorry to say that the prognosticated appearance of flying cars (not to mention the disappearance of racial and religious discrimination) have yet to be realized, but it is some comfort to find the errors in one particular chart and to imagine what that error portends for the next fifty years -
U.S. GNP in 2000 was actually over $10 trillion. This is not an increase of four times, but twenty. It may well be that we are entering a point in human development where poverty is not only no longer the norm, but perhaps even experienced only by ascetics and a portion of the self-destructive.