Archive for History

Quotation of the Day

Dave Killion — December 28, 2012

“As for “un monde” I stand with Bertrand de Jouvenel, who said he believed in world government until the day he crossed the Swiss border ahead of the pursuing Nazis.” 

John Robson, Dec. 28, “Eye On The Hill”

A sentiment shared by many Syrians, I’m sure.

Anybody’s son will do

G — December 22, 2012

Quotation Of The Day

Dave Killion — December 10, 2012

“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.”

Frederick Douglass, “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress” (1857)

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.

Human Alarm Clocks Of The Industrial Revolution

Dave Killion — December 2, 2012

Wakey – wakey!

This is an image of Mary Smith, taken in 1931, carrying out her job as a Knocker – up. From Wikipedia –

“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’.

Happy Laurier Day!

Antony — November 20, 2012

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.

Social Contracts And The Amish

Dave Killion — September 7, 2012

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 –


The whole video is well worth watching.

Looking Back On Looking Forward

Dave Killion — August 10, 2012

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.

Props To My Man Warren

Dave Killion — July 13, 2012

I Want You... to look after yourselves for a change

Neatorama lists 10 Presidents Nobody Remembers, and is pretty tough on Warren G. Harding –

“… Harding ran the White House like a kind of boys’ club, where he and some friends known as the “Ohio Gang” enjoyed drinking, playing golf, and cheating on their wives…

After admitting to friends that he felt overmatched by the job of president, Harding gave his Cabinet free reign and treated the presidency as more of a ceremonial post.”

Look at almost any historical ranking of US presidents, and you’ll find Harding in the bottom ten, and Lincoln sharing the top spots with both of the Roosevelts. But is this fair? I think not. Consider the case as made by historian David Beito –

“…Warren G. Harding (was) a president who successfully promoted economic prosperity, cut taxes, balanced the budget, reduced the national debt, released all of his predecessor’s political prisoners, supported anti-lynching legislation, and instituted the most substantial naval arms reduction agreement in world history. Go figure.”

Perhaps if Harding had gotten America involved in a major conflict that destroyed massive amounts of wealth and spilled lakes of blood, he would be better remembered and more admired, like most of the other highly ranked presidents. Sadly, we voters seem to be electing one potentially “great” leader after another, instead of looking to someone dedicated to peace and prosperity. Or better yet, looking to ourselves.

Repeal Day: Now Twice a Year!

Dave Killion — June 4, 2012

Although I have reminded readers to celebrate December 5th (the anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution which repealed Prohibition), I was unaware that Canada has a Repeal Day all its own. Thankfully, my recent discovery of yet another Canadian libertarian blog has delivered me from my ignorance. From Freedom is My Nationality –

“85 years today prohibition of alcohol ended in Ontario. This was a great moment in Ontario’s history and a restoration of our freedoms. I encourage everyone to at some point tonight raise a glass to the freedom to consume alcohol.

At the same time you should keep in mind that the legacy of prohibition lives on in Ontario. The LCBO and the Beer Store were both created as a political compromise between prohibitionists and freedom lovers. These monopolistic powers restrict consumer choice and make it difficult for producers to sell their wares. Often Ontario law treats alcohol consumers like idiot children who need a stern lesson, instead of treating them like the responsible adults that they are.

Neo-prohibitionists want to not only keep these antiquated laws and institutions but to also expand them. There is a constant struggle to strip alcohol consumers of the freedom to do what they enjoy. The puritanical streak in people is very resilient.”

So, yes indeed,by all means, raise a glass for the sake of freedom.


Just Try and Stop Me!

Dave Killion — April 3, 2012

If it becomes possible to one day ride a triceratops, and the government prohibits the riding of triceratops, that will surely be the last straw. After all, if it was good enough for the US founding fathers, it is good enough for us.

Seriously though, I was on a triceratops when I was a child visiting the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History in the early 70s. Sadly, the US government deprives today’s children of the same joy.