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Booksellers versus Bestsellers

  • Meet the new cat

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    We have a new cat. Our large luxury cat, Bea Geste, is slowly adapting to the presence of an interloper, and if you come in, please offer him reassurance that people still love him, don't just heap love on the small new sports cat, Joan Jett.

  • Patriarchy versus liberalism, a war of tradition and reason

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    The most remarkable thing about patriarchy is that after millennia of organizing societies around it, we have now become uncomfortable with it.

    A remarkably large number of human societies treat people as things. It is a foundation  patriarchy, a system in which dominant males treat women and children as property. There is even a debate about whether such behavior is innate or socially conditioned (full disclosure, I come down on the socially conditioned side of the debate.)

    Abraham Lincoln was rented out as a laborer by his father for 10 cents to 31 cents an hour, and wages earned by him were paid to his father. "I used to be a slave," is the way he described the situation in an early political speech.

    The legal situation that allowed this was part of what we now call patriarchy. While American society never allowed men to buy and sell children or wives, fathers and husbands have long held a dominant property position in the family. Under the doctrine of coveture, when a woman married a man, they became, for purposes of property, one person, and that person was the man. Any property the woman had passed to the man, and in event of a divorce, would remain property of the man unless there were an ironclad prenuptial agreement. This meant that for a very long time, divorce meant ruin for a woman.

    Being, essentially, property, meant that you were not treated as fully human. Neither slaves nor women got to vote until they got property rights, and the first property right is to own yourself. And who would not want to own themselves? I'm not aware of any slaves that wished to remain a thing used by others. I am aware that a few women prefer traditional gender roles. Perhaps it is comforting to know your place and not have to invent your own place in the world, but it seems to be a comfort few wish to avail themselves of.

    Patriarchy played a role in the justification of monarchy, and is perhaps part of what attracts people to all autocratic forms of government. No one needed to justify the right of kings to rule until it came into question, but when it did, some of the justifications founded the king's authority in parental authority. In fact, a book some considered the definitive defense of the divine right of kings was titled  Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings. In it, Sir Robert Filmer argued that Adam had complete power over his descendants, including the power of life and death, and it was from this basis that kings could trace their power. Filmer had a son, who seems to have survived his parenting.

    John Locke, who never married or had children, seemed to have a better understanding about how families work. He pointed out that the father shares his authority over the children with their mother, and his power is not absolute. Locke argued that we are all born owning ourselves, and that fathers do not have the power of life and death over their children, because such authority is not needed for the purpose of the relationship, which is to care for and nurture children until they reach the age of reason, and can be responsible for themselves and embrace their freedom.

    It is fashionable to study the ethics John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, who addressed the question of how we may know right from wrong directly, attempting to codify behavior that was already accepted. But Locke's ideas changed the way we conceive of people, and changed the way we treat them. He changed what we regard as ethical in a way no ethicist could.

    Once we encounter Locke's idea that we are all born owning ourselves, and cannot sell the rights to ourselves as property, it seems intuitively obvious. A pot has no mind to care who cooks with it, or whether the food is good or bad, a chair cannot resent the weight it bears, but we cannot help but care how we are used. Once we understand this about ourselves, we cannot escape a natural human empathy to others who are used as objects are used, and we sympathize with their plight. Slavery, an institution probably as old as war, becomes an abomination. Coveture, and parallel institutions in other patriarchal cultures, becomes absurd.

    The process of the logic of liberalism spreading through human institutions has not been terribly rapid, but it has been inexorable, and the effects of its logic continue to change traditional elements of our society.

    Consider Locke's theory of property. We apply our labor to nature, and this makes property. Now consider the patriarchal way of life. A man plants his seed in the land, and makes it fruitful, he plants his seed in a woman and makes her fruitful. In each case, the land and the woman, both the thing he plants his seed in and the fruit of his planting becomes his.

    Clearly, this is more a founding myth than how the world has ever worked, but myths are the way we understand the way the world is supposed to work. The patriarch is supposed to build a little world in which he owns the land, governs his family, and provides for all. This is a model for the larger society, as well.

    Not all men could do this, particularly in a world where most of the land was already owned. One solution to this was to have disenfranchised men who had little or nothing, and wealthy men with many acres, cattle, chattel, and wives. The entire system was based on perpetuating little empires of property, and the relationship to most of the things in a household was one of the patriarch's ownership. Traditional institutions of law and government existed, to a great extent, to adjudicate and enforce this system of property, and thereby bring order to society. Men of property wielded great power in such societies. Women of property, and therefore women of power, in many societies did not exist. Instead of owning property, they were property.

    Not owning yourself, of course, has a spiritual side, but more obviously, it has a physical side. If you do not own yourself, you do not own your body, and you do not control what is done with your body. When Ohio Republicans blocked an amendment that would have made it illegal to rape one's spouse while they are drunk, drugged, or incapacitated, this was part of the same philosophy that caused them to pass a law banning all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, if a heartbeat can be detected (usually around six weeks after conception, often before the mother is aware of the pregnancy.) In either case, the object is to keep women from having control of their bodies.

    I'm not sure to what extent there is a conscious realization among the people doing these things about the connection between women controlling their bodies and and women owning themselves and having agency and power in the world. One would think that people who find abortion abhorrent would favor availability of birth control, which makes abortion less necessary, but this is not the case. Nor is it the case that they consistently advocate for society to provide better prenatal care for the unborn or for children after they are born. The logic of their actions does not support the notion that what they care about is mainly children. However, in matters of birth control, abortion, and marital rape, the same group of people act on a unified theory that women should not control their bodies.

    Granting them control of their bodies grants them ownership of themselves, which in turn means granting them agency and power in the world. Changing who owns the woman's womb challenges the entire traditional edifice of a society based on a system in which women and children were property.

    And if men of property really should wield great power in a society, power over women, over those who have less property, and over those who previously were property, that at last explains the mystery of why poor whites have been voting for a political party that gives benefits mainly to those who have a lot of property. They are voting for a traditional society in which patriarchs run things, because something deeply embedded in our society tells them this is how it should be.

    Locke's idea that we are all born owning ourselves is deeply subversive, even more subversive than he realized in his lifetime (and Locke knew it was explosive enough that it could cost his life or liberty, which is why he never allowed his Treatises on Government to be published under his own name during his lifetime.) Property, after all, is not things, it is the set of rules about how we use things, about our rights and responsibilities in relation to them. When you decide that a person is not property, you change a great deal about how that person is to be treated. And when you do that, you change the very structure of society.

    We are in the midst of a slow-motion revolution that is changing first our minds, then changing everything else. We must not underestimate the disruption this is causing, or the resistance it will engender. The imperatives of a society in which we each own ourselves are very different from those of traditional societies, and we will find ourselves reinventing ourselves and our societies.

    Liberalism, therefore, is not for the faint of heart. There is no certainty that what the logic of liberalism leads to is even possible. This reinvention of society is a product of the enlightenment, and it will require courage and persistence to avoid sinking back into the dark age in which we were governed by force, faith, and custom.

  • The Outlaw John Locke is published!

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    Long-time followers of this blog will know that I've been working on a book about liberalism for several years. It is now available on Kindle.


    This is a book on political economy, about the most successful large Utopian experiment ever attempted, liberal democracy.

    None of America's founding fathers would have called themselves capitalists, because capitalism was in its gestation while liberalism was already producing revolutions. The Ur text of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, was published in 1776, and I would say that capitalism was not fully developed as an ideology until the marginal revolution of the 1870s, when it finally got a working value system. Liberalism became complete as an ideology with the publication of A Letter Concerning Toleration and Two Treatises of Government, both by John Locke, in 1689.

    Locke fled England in 1683, a wanted man. He had been implicated in the Rye House Plot, a plan to kill King Charles II. He was unable to return to England safely until he could do so in the company of an invading army, during the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

    We don't teach this much anymore, but Locke argued for the right to revolution, when a terrible leader could be removed by no other means, and apparently he practiced what he preached.

    His ideas continue to change our society. In his day, many people were treated as property, not just slaves, but wives and children as well. He introduced the notion that we are all born owning ourselves, and cannot ever stop owning ourselves -- that's what 'inalienable' means, as in 'inalienable rights.' This idea upended such ancient institutions as slavery and marriage.

    The notion that government should rule for the good of the people would have been an unfamiliar notion to leaders through most of human history. Kings served God (or Gods) with the blessing of whatever church they belonged to. Many parts of the world are still ruled by force, faith, and custom.

    And while liberalism has held sway in much of the developed world, industrialization has changed the way we live, and with industrialization has come capitalism. It used to be that increasing wealth required controlling more resources, such as land, minerals, and labor. Under capitalism, the key to increasing wealth is wealth itself. Capitalism has shown it can function under dictatorships and kleptocracies, but it seems to produce the most wealth in liberal democracies. The relationship between the ideologies has always been an uneasy one, with democracy often acting as a check on capitalism.

    These are some of the themes I explore in The Outlaw John Locke & why liberalism is worth fighting for.  I've priced it low -- $2.99 -- in hopes at least a few people will read it.



  • The move is under way!

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    We have now been working on the move for one full week, and we've made great progress.  The books are at the new store, and we've got some shelves up, and we're getting books up.

    Those of you who have volunteered, thank you! Those who haven't, you've got a standing invitation to help out. Just give me a call on my cell, two O six, nine three one, thirteen thirty one.

    Beau is coming with us, but he's very nervous right now. As near as he can tell, the world is slowly disappearing around him. I believe he is contemplating going feral.

    Soon, we will move him, and all will be well.

  • We have found a new spot for the store!

  • A society without money

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    In this post, we explored what money is. Short version, money is a sign that the holder of it is owed favors. But what if you had a society that didn't have money?

    Money is an ancient institution, Standardized coinage goes back almost 3,000 years, commodity money, representing a given weight of a commodity such as copper, further than that. But most people living in ancient civilizations never saw money. Most were peasants who paid their taxes in commodities and labor, or slave who labored without pay and we given what little they had by their masters, or serfs who were in some cases little better off than slaves.

    Some societies, such as the Inca civilization, had no money system at all. The Inca had a centralized system of government, and people worked for the government and were given what they needed by the government. Ancient Egyptians paid their taxes in grain and labor. While we use money to track almost all of our economic obligations, these societies kept track of peoples' obligations largely without the use of money.

    The problem is, if you don't have money, you have to keep track of peoples' obligations somehow, and that's easiest to do by defining their obligation very rigidly. If you were an Inca, you labored, and all you produced went to the state, and all you got back came from the state. If you were an Egyptian, you labored on land surveyed by the priests, your obligation depended on your relationship with the state, in time of famine you looked to the state for sustenance, and when the country needed a new pyramid, you got in the harvest, then worked on the pyramid.

    There wasn't a lot of freedom in a society like this, because freedom made it hard to know what your obligations were, whether you had met them, and what was owed to you. It was just simpler to have a regimented society in which you were told what to do.

    Perhaps most people in these societies liked it that way. They had a place in the world, and they didn't need to go through the business of inventing themselves.

    But then, the world started changing too fast for this system to thrive. The late bronze age collapse started about 1200 BCE, and the first standardized coinage showed up on the Anatolian Peninsula about 600 BCE. Instead of the unchanging life promised by the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the kingdom of Lydia, which occupied most of what is now Turkey, arose during the chaos of the late bronze age collapse as one of the new iron age kingdoms. The Lydians needed a system that worked better than barter and could deal with shocks better than the system of bondage to the land that Egypt used.

    Trade goods such as grain or copper are not ideal media of exchange, although their use is sometimes referred to as 'commodity money.' We see something similar in prisons, where tins of tuna or packs of cigarettes have been used as media of exchange. Real money is a much more abstract, and has not got the value for use that a bushel of grain or a tin of tuna has. Eating hundred dollar bills might be extravagant, but it would hardly be nutritious.

    Using coinage allowed for a much more flexible system, in which trade could follow whatever patterns the current harvest suggested was best, and a stranger could do business in a new town without building the kind of relationship the Egyptians had to their god-king and his representatives.

    It also made it a lot easier to cheat. Pirates who stole grain could eat, but pirates who stole money could have whatever they wanted. Instead of conning people for a meal, you could con them for enough money to buy many meals.

    Institutions had to adapt. The rule of law had once dealt mainly with stolen animals and such, now it had to deal with new ways of stealing the more abstract thing that was money. Some even said money was the root of all evil.

    That saying gives too little credit to the inventiveness of the ancients, who I'm sure found plenty of ways of being evil before money came along. Human beings have never been angels.

    The evil of concentrated wealth and power was as much a part of the pre-money civilizations as of those that used money. In fact, without the regimented systems many of these civilizations employed, and the centralized power of the god-king, it would have been impossible to have a large civilization.

    So, let's count our blessings. And our money. The concentration of power and wealth that we decry is as old as civilization, and much, much older than the humble coin.

  • The deep state and democratic institutions


    The Drawbridge, from Imaginary Prisons, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1750.by John MacBeath Watkins

    Does a 'deep state' threaten a republic, or actually strengthen it?

    One of the complaints of Trump supporters is that the deep state -- a sort of Praetorian Guard that controls who will rule and how -- has frustrated Donald Trump's efforts to remake American government.

    This is a fascinating claim. The Praetorian Guard was an elite corps of the Roman army tasked with protecting the emperor. Over the centuries, their power increased, to the point where they were either killing emperors and naming their successors (Caligula, dead, Claudius, emperor) or signalling their support for who would rule after an emperor died (Claudius poisoned, Nero supported for emperor.)

    But these were not bureaucrats, nor were they equivalent to the lightly-armed Secret Service. In the reign of Tiberius, there were nine cohorts of 4,500 soldiers each in the Praetorian Guard, three of them stationed in Rome and the others nearby.

    The deep state of our time is supposed to be the staff of the U.S. government, whether in the Justice Department, State Department, or intelligence services. The idea is that they may lack loyalty to the president.

    One problem with this is that we are a country ruled by laws, carried out by our elected and career government, not a nation ruled by the will of a leader. John Locke, whose writing inspired many of the ideas for the American experiment, said that if the people cannot rid themselves of an oppressive and arbitrary ruler by any other means, they had a right to revolution.

    So, our founding fathers decided we needed a republic, which would be governed at the highest levels by people who could be voted out of office.

    But if a new regime is to take over, how is it to govern? Won't the personnel of the old regime frustrate the new?

    The first answer to this was the spoils system, which allowed each new government to replace large numbers of government workers with people chosen for their loyalty, rather than their skills.

    The result was powerful political machines with the ability to reward or punish people according to their loyalty, and a great deal of corruption.

    In the late 19th century, the progressive movement started changing this. Their idea was that they could eliminate much of the power and the corruption of political machines by replacing the political hacks with professionals chosen for their skills, and protect those professionals from the corrupting influences of political machines by ensuring they could not be arbitrarily fired.

    This was in keeping with the concept of the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution includes this language:
    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.Note that these officials do not swear to support the president. This is the current federal oath of office:
    I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.Donald Trump is reportedly upset that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation of Trump's campaign, and blew his top over the issue, saying that he "needed his Attorney General to protect him."

    But Sessions -- and for that matter, Trump -- took an oath to protect the constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. This means that if even the president becomes an enemy of the constitution, his attorney general (and, paradoxically, the president himself) is obligated to defend the constitution from him.

    The U.S. Constitution lays out a system of government designed to work, within a set of parameters, for successive governments chosen by the electorate. For that system to work, it has to be a professional government that can work for whichever people get elected.

    But this is not how Donald Trump conducts business. He demands absolute loyalty of those around him, and has always relied on his lawyers to clean up any messes he may have with the law. Right now, his main fixer, Michael Cohen, is in trouble for the way he went about cleaning up those messes.

    You can run a business this way, especially a small family firm without the reporting or legal requirements of a publicly held corporation. As a system of government, the Germans had a word for it: fuhrerprinzip, usually translated as the leader principle. Under that system, at each level of government, the person in charge has total control, and that person's will overrides any written law. The person at the top of the hierarchy is the Fuhrer, whose will overrides any written law and any orders by subordinates.

    President Trump, with his admiration for dictators, has shown a preference for the leader principle. Now, the proper control on this behavior is not the democratic norms embedded in the professional standards of the civil service, which has no role described in the constitution for constraining the authoritarian ambitions of a president. The proper control is congress, which passes the laws the executive is charged with putting into action and has the power to remove the president.

    There's a problem with that. Not only are most Republican legislators scared of the power Trump holds over the Republican base electorate, many of them agree with his anti-democratic instincts.

    From a Sam Tanenhaus article in the July, 2017 issue of The Atlantic:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/the-architect-of-the-radical-right/528672/
    (Economist James McGill) Buchanan's theory found another useful ally in the budget-slasher and would-be government-shrinker David Stockman, who idolized Hayek and declared that "politicians were wrecking American capitalism." But Stockman also discovered that restoring capitalism to a purer condition would mean declaring war on "Social Security recipients, veterans, farmers, educators, state and local officials, the housing industry." What president was going to do that? Certainly not Reagan. As Stockman reflected, "The democracy had defeated the doctrine."Tanenhaus was writing about Nancy MacLean's book, Democracy in Chains, which explores the influence of Buchanan's public choice theory on American politics. Essentially, the argument is that when it appeared that democracy was a threat to the pure form of capitalism Buchanan favored, his doctrine said that the value system of capitalism should be the one to triumph.

    If democracy defeated the doctrine, the solution was to defeat democracy.

    We live in a democratic republic. Republics can be undemocratic: The Roman Senate operated more like the English House of Lords than the House of Commons. America's founders thought the best way to have a peaceful and well-governed country was to have its leaders democratically elected, so that if they governed poorly, they could be peacefully replaced.

    Over time, we have recognized the humanity of groups like women and former slaves and their descendants by granting them the vote. Rousseau defined freedom as living under a law of your own making. Widening the franchise recognized that previously disenfranchise people were their own masters, and should have a role in determining the laws under which they lived.

    Buchanan's theory seems like a throwback to the times when one had to own property to have the right to vote. John Locke theorized that we each are born owning ourselves, and can never sell that property right to anyone else. If you own your own soul, should that not be property right enough to shape the government that rules you?

    Buchanan said he was applying economic theory to politics. The problem is that he, and those who have financed the political movement that has drawn on his ideas, also applied economic values to politics, privileging economic assets and market value above all else.

    Buchanan does stipulate that there can be just constitutional arrangements in which people can be rightly taxed. He only stipulates that this arrangement requires unanimity in agreeing to the terms of the constitution. From Chapter 6 of his book, Limits to Liberty:

    Under a unanimity rule, decisions if made at all are guaranteed to be efficient, at least in the anticipated sense. Individual agreement signals individual expectation that benefits exceed costs, evaluated in personal utility dimensions, which may or may not incorporate narrowly defined self-interest. With a purely public good, the individually secured benefits, as evaluated, must exceed the individually agreed-on share of costs, measured in foregone opportunities to secure private goods. From an initial imputation of endowments or goods, the multiparty exchange embodied in public-goods provision moves each individual to a final imputation, which includes public goods, that is evaluated more highly in utility terms. Each person in the collectivity moves to a higher position on his own utility surface, or thinks that he will do so, as a result of the public-goods decision reached by unanimous agreement.No such results are guaranteed when collective decisions are made under less-than-unanimity rules...(A couple of paragraphs later:)
    ...We are assuming that the same persons participate in the conceptual constitutional contract and in postconstitutional adjustments. From this it follows that, if a constitutional contract is made that defines separate persons in terms of property rights, and if these rights are widely understood to include membership in a polity that is authorized to make collective decisions by less-than-unanimity rules, each person must have, at this prior stage, accepted the limitations on his own rights that this decision process might produce.Now, that's a slightly different position than the "all taxes are theft" position taken by some other theorists, but note that none of the factors that would make the last quoted paragraph apply to the American tax system do in fact apply. While all the states ratified the constitution, they did not do so by unanimous vote. Massachusetts, for example, ratified it by a vote of 187 to 168. While Buchanan theorized that there could be just taxes, no government I know of meets his standards for justice.

    Charles Koch became interested in his work, and in 1997 donated about $10 million to finance Buchanan's think tank, the Center for the Study of Public Choice, which is associated with George Mason University.

    Public choice theory did much to destroy the idea of "the public good," as understood by political theorists prior to the 1960s. Public choice theory assumes that the people who make up government have their own self-interest. Therefore, any time someone claims to be acting in the public interest, we should assume that whoever is making these claims is acting in their own interest.

    Now, consider the first paragraph in section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:
    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;James Monroe claimed the phrase "...and general Welfare..." was meaningless, Alexander Hamilton claimed it was crucial. Hamilton was a mercantilist who believed in government taxing and spending to develop the nation.

    The welfare clause became the justification for the Supreme Court's 1937 ruling in Helvering v. Davis that held the government had a right to levy Social Security taxes and pay pensions. After all, if Social Security doesn't provide for the general welfare of the country, what does?

    Well, who says what the general welfare of the country is? Is it any better defined than "the public good?" Aren't the people promoting the idea just acting in their own interest?

    One of the problems with the tools of economics is that it is a discipline that makes certain assumptions about human nature, that humans are rational and self-interested. It is a discipline with a decent but mixed record of analyzing behavior in a restricted part of human endeavor, the economic part. It is not really designed for analyzing altruism, heroism, or even the sacrifices a parent will make for a child, seeking to explain all these things in terms of individual self-interest.

    The self-optimizing individual isn't necessarily selfish. One may have a preference for as much money as possible, or one may prefer to spend a lifetime trying to save the world from whatever you feel threatens it. Economics treats these preferences as equal, making no judgments as to the moral value of preferences. However, many on the right seem to treat all preferences as selfish, because they are the preferences of individuals. Perhaps this is because they have fallen under the sway of a far more widely known thinker, Ayn Rand, who wrote:

    Man--every man--is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.This takes the economic assumption in the commercial sphere that people will try to optimize their financial well-being, expands the "virtue of selfishness" to all of life, and changes it from an empirical assumption into a normative judgment.

    But we have more than one way of organizing society. There are spheres of human endeavor in which the market is simply not competent to deal with our problems. In fact, markets cannot exist without these other spheres of endeavor. Attempts to run an economy without a properly-functioning legal system have resulted in poor economic performance, and societies only satisfactory to those with enough influence to make sure the courts rule in their favor. Markets were never intended to deal with the problems of those who cannot work.

    What sort of parent would fail to sacrifice their sleep to a wailing infant, or their time and money to the education, both academic and moral, of their children? Rand had no children, in keeping with her philosophy that she was an end in herself, but a society of such people would disappear in one generation.

    Even in obviously financial decisions, like what one does for a living, people are not financially optimizing creatures. That's not a problem for economics, it just means that the preferences being optimized are not necessarily financial. The problem is with the way this economic explanation is interpreted. The default assumption on the right seems to be that unless one's motives are Evangelical Christian or military, they are selfish, therefore those who seek a profession that gives their lives meaning, like taking a job in the Environmental Protection Agency in the hope of working toward a better world, are really motivated by selfishness.

    And if that's the case, the people working for the government cannot be altruistic. Any claims that they are acting for the good of the country can be discounted. People working at agencies because they agree with the purpose of the agencies and the laws that established them are, to this way of thinking, just as selfish as those who want to tear down those agencies so that corporations can make more money.

    One of the more troubling ways conservatism has become corrupt is this belief that there are no altruistic people, just hypocrites pretending to have moral standards.

    These assumptions would staff your deep state with morally corrupt people whose agenda is not that of the governed, but only of their own corrupt ends. And the solution to this problem would be to elect the Great Man, and make the government subject to his will. The checks and balances built into our government by people who believed there was such a thing as "the general welfare" are useless in this world view, and serve only to frustrate democracy.

    But we've seen this movie before, and the ending wasn't funny. In fact, it's a story thousands of years old. About 2,500 years ago, Aristotle wrote the following in Politics:
    "When states are democratically governed according to law, there are no demagogues, and the best citizens are securely in the saddle; but where the laws are not sovereign, there you find demagogues. The people become a monarch... such people, in its role as a monarch, not being controlled by law, aims at sole power and becomes like a master."Plato, his contemporary, thought societies went through a natural progression from oligarchy, to democracy, then tyranny, each stage representing the breakdown of the previous stage.  To be ruled by a tyrant is to be subject to the will and the whims of that ruler. Plato said the tyrant arrives as the peoples' champion, telling them only he can fix their troubles, but cannot even govern himself because there is no constraint on his whims and urges. Moreover, because all his relationships are built on domination and submission, the tyrant "never tastes of true freedom or friendship."

    If you cannot know friendship, can you know empathy? Trump is Ayn Rand's ideal man, always looking after number one and as a result treating others like number two. He wants to wield the kind of power held by the people he admires, men like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un. He does not want a government of laws, he wants a government that will do his will.

    When his followers refer to organizations such as the Justice Department as the "deep state," they are saying they do not want Trump constrained by the laws of our country. You might think this is just an animal urge on the part of his supporters, most of whom have never heard of James Buchanan, but that would mistake the nature of influential ideas. People who couldn't spell John Locke's name and have never read his work hold his ideas about each of us being born our own master sacred. You don't have to read The Second Treatise of Government to feel that way, the idea is embedded in our culture.

    The ideas of people like Buchanan and Rand have become embedded in the hive mind of the right, and have become part of their culture.

    The concept of the deep state also made some inroads on the left, particularly the far left, where faith in democracy has always been weak. Public choice theory has always had less appeal to this group, because its assumptions are those of capitalist economics. Whereas Buchanan might be said to have made the argument that money doesn't run everything, but it should, the far left tends to think that money does run everything. The deep state of liberal nightmares is the military-industrial complex. The deep state understood by adherents of Buchanan's ideas is government based on laws passed by the people's elected representatives.





  • We have nine months to find a new spot for the Ballard store



    by John MacBeath Watkins

    Some of our customers are already aware that the building the Ballard Twice Sold Tales is in will be torn down to build a 173-unit apartment building. Today, I got the termination notice for our lease.

    When I signed the lease, I insisted on nine months to find a new place after they give notice, so the lease will terminate March 31, 2019. I had thought they would give me more time, since they aren't likely to demolish the building for about a year and a half, but apparently they wanted more freedom of action.

    It's hard to find a location with enough foot traffic to support a bookstore that has low enough rent for a bookstore's revenues to cover it. I've been in business since 1992, so if you know a landlord who anticipates an opening, let them know that we're a solid business with an international reputation, and we've never missed a month's rent. I'd like to stay in Ballard, but I'm open to suggestions.

    The whole thing is a bit of bad luck, I had hoped that Ballard Transfer would not sell the building so soon, and the the new owner would not act so quickly. Moving a bookstore is difficult and expensive, so when the time comes, anyone who wishes to volunteer help is welcome.


  • The increasing division between racing and daysailing sailboats

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    The evolution of planing sailboats has favored the fast over the pleasant, at least in development classes.

    Here, for example, is an interpretation of current trends in planing sailboats:

    Hull B. Illustration by John MacBeath Watkins


    This is quite moderate compared to a modern Merlin Rocket, which would have a beam at the deck of about 7 feet and a waterline beam of less than 3 feet. The entrance angle is a little over 10 degrees, and it has the same U-shaped sections forward as its narrower cousin, flattening aft to help it plane. The flare allows the boat to gain some stability before it reaches the point where capsize is inevitable, but this is still based on the idea that stability should be minimized to reduce the drag of the hull. It's just the same set of priorities applied to a boat that more people could successfully sail around a race course.

    Compare this to the older planing types.

    The first type to plane regularly during races seems to have been the sharpie, as rigged for racing in the 1870s:

    Uffa Fox-type hull. Illustration by John MacBeath Watkins


    This type is deeply Veed forward. This allowed these boats to be fast in choppy conditions that hit the scow bows and impaired their progress to windward. The deep Vee forward produces too great a deflection angle for planing, which means that in planing conditions, the crew must move aft. The type was more stable than the U-sectioned boats that preceded it in the International 14 class and similar classes. To sail it fast, you needed to sail it flat, but the inherent stability of the type made it forgiving. They are fastest sailed flat, but if you failed to sail them flat, they simply became less efficient. You could capsize them, but not as easily as the modern types.

    The same year Avenger came out in England, Ted Geary designed a planing dinghy for the Seattle Yacht Club. That design, originally called the Flattie and now called the Geary 18, had a sharp bow and sharpie-type construction, but the bow was well clear of the waterline and the hull was clearly a scow type. The class added more sail area and a trapeze as time went on, but no spinnaker. They have a faster Portsmouth Yardstick rating than the Jet 14, which combines a 1950s-era International 14 hull with a Snipe rig, with a spinnaker added, but no trapeze.

    All of these older types were planing racing boats that could be used for daysailing. Few classes made this as explicit as the Lightning class, which sent a design brief to Olin Stephens asking for a boat sailors could take their families out in, but also occasionally race.

    These are the types of vessel that led to the great age of dinghy sailing from the 1950s through the 1970s. We now see the best racing sailboats as something unsuitable for taking the family sailing in. The older classes are still suitable for use as daysailers and as racing boats.  To some extent, the older one-design classes have mitigated the effect of trends toward a division between daysailers and racing boats, but some have allowed costs to skyrocket.

    The Optimist Pram, the most popular sailboat in the world, no longer allows homebuilt boats, and allows carbon fiber spars.

    Now, I've built a 9' 6" dinghy for less than $500 in materials that will easily out-perform the 7'9" Optimist, but I can't buy an Optimist new for less than $3,000, and can easily spend $4,500 for one with carbon spars and a boat cover.

    The problem for one-design classes is that the most avid racers are likely to be the most active participants in running the class, and they will want to be allowed to use the latest go-fast items. It's easy for a class to become as expensive as the latest racing designs without matching their performance.

    We are likely to continue to see a division between daysailers and racing boats as time goes on and the older designs are left behind. The classes trying to continue to provide a more stable boat, such as the JY 15, tend to be those which are aimed at youth sailing programs, not at families. There are still companies providing kit boats, but these tend not to be the sort of racer-daysailer that kit boats tended to be in the 1960s. Chesapeake Light Craft, one of the more successful kit providers currently, produces not one racing dinghy class.

    Not everyone likes to race, but it would be nice if people could experience the handling of a nice planing dinghy without either getting a boat that is difficult to sail, or one that harks back to the 1930s.

    Let's see where the logic of this situation takes us. We want a dinghy that is stable enough to that most sailors can handle it. We want enough carrying capacity for a mom, a dad, and a child. Current practice says that it should have a narrow entry, U-shaped sections forward, a flat area aft of the mast and ahead of the transom on which to plane, and enough flare that the crew gets some extra leverage for hiking, but not so much that it's difficult to get on and off it from a dock.

    I'd also like to see simple construction so that the home builder can make it out of plywood without a huge amount of skill.

    So, it's going to be either V-bottomed or flat bottomed. Let's explore both options.

    The V-bottomed boat will be simplest. You can't have U-shaped sections with a V or a flat-bottomed shape, but you can touch some of the points that describe a U:

    Hull D. Illustration by John MacBeath Watkins
    I'm showing this one in color to make its waterlines easier to read. This is a more stable, forgiving boat, because of the second chine above the waterline. It will plane more easily because it has a lower deflection angle and straighter run. I've had to use a transom bow to get the bilge panels to develop without excessive stress, and the entrance angle is twice that of the first hull we considered in this post, the narrow one with hiking racks that would be impossible for most people to sail.

    Finally, let's consider an even more stable and forgiving boat:


  • Trump's denials about his sex life must be taken with a pillar of salt

    by John MacBeath Watkins

    Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, has invented the term "peeliever" for those who believe the notorious "pee tape" of President Trump watching hired prostitutes pee on each other on the bed that President Obama and his wife had slept on during their visit to Moscow.

    There's plenty of levity about this, and a twitter hashtag for 



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