Isn’t it ironic how our society, with all its talk of inalienable rights, bans the one true inalienable right – the right to choose the moment of one’s ending?
Much ink has been spilled over the years bemoaning the fact that American’s don’t save, more even than the ink poured over the inverse propensity of the Japanese. The recent “haircut” being imposed on depositors in Cyprus, however — and all the reassurances of how exceptional this move is and how unprecedented — only makes sharper the long-standing policy, now in full overdrive, of the US central bank of keeping interest rates too low for savers to get ahead of the inflation that erodes the value of their money.
In effect, the Federal Reserve has been funding growth since at least the 1980s by doing in darkness what Cyprus has so rashly decided to make explicit: that is taxing savings by reducing their real value. Cyprus had no choice — it does not control its own currency, and so induced inflation, concealed or otherwise, is plainly not an option. The Fed does have a choice, but poisoned as it is with long-falsified Keynesian ideas it persists in taking our money for the sake of growth that manifests itself increasingly in a succession of asset bubbles.
Even the most casual of glances at the map of Eurasia reveals the smallness of that area that we call Europe, and in particular the Western Europe that has had such an outsize influence on recent history.
Indeed the Western Europe its grudgingly acknowledged cousin in the area of world affairs, which is Central Europe, are little more than a smallish protuberance; a mere peninsula on the landmass that is really more Asia if it can be called anything. It is a wonder of world-historical development that this West became so influential, but it does raise the question of what precisely do we mean by Western heritage.
In our Anglophone it is easy to ascribe all Western influence to Great Britain and her offshoot that we are pleased to style as the United States, but that would give too short a shrift to nations on whose innovations was Britain’s greatness based: the Netherlands, for instance, with her commercial and naval breakthroughs; France with her centralizing drive; the German states who later taught us all the truly massive scales that industry can reach.
It is a truism that, once free of Anglocentrism, we fall back on definition of the West as Christendom, particularly the non-Greek Christendom that prevailed in Europe’s outermost regions, forgetting how ironic such a definition really would be from a broad-enough perspective for Christianity to be the West’s defining feature for the past two hundred centuries or so, given how very profoundly Eastern that religion is at its root — not less so than its sister Abrahamids. In fact, on reflection, the only heritage that is distinctly Western is that which we inherit from Hellenes and their Mycenean and Doric predecessors. Today, of course, we are almost prepared to altogether eject Greece from the European family, to have her join her enemy and bedfellow Turkey — which herself bestrides ancestral Greek lands and still is largely populated by the Greeks’ descendants. If there be a guiding hand to history, it must surely be attached to the most ironic of postmodernists.
The persistent mantra of the call for limiting the size and power of government that has so captured the imagination of a certain segment of the American body politic sounds very well to those of us who would do what we will in our own personal and economic spheres, but no amount of suasion is very likely to have significant effect, aside from the occasional lip service when the country’s mood requires it, to the actual trajectory of growth of governmental power.
The sad fact is that the law of government is that it must grow, not less than it is the nature of rabbits and of entropy to increase. The simple reason for the growth is the natural reluctance of those in authority to relinquish it but rather always to increase the power they hold. What bureaucrat, after all, has ever volunteered to reduce his budget or his reach?
If we are to examine the trajectories of governmental institutions throughout history, we likewise find that once a governmental system has emerged from the infighting, it promptly will commence to establish and shore up its power position. We see this pattern, for example, in the emergence of strong monarchy in Europe in the Middle Ages, just as we do in the rise of empires of the East and of the ancients.
Only when a governmental power is overthrown, by war, disaster or even revolution does it give up the growth of its reach, only to be replaced by the next emerging government which next begins its own power-agglomeration cycle.
Despite our well-attested distaste for pseudo-scientific historic theories, for once I must come to the defense of the usually very fatuous Mr. Diamond, at least when it comes to his claim that civilization reduces violence. Conflicting claims of clashing anthropologists notwithstanding, there is little doubt that men pursue violence against one another at the slightest provocation and that in the absence of the apparatus of civilization in the form of law and its enforcement, such violence tends to only escalate.
The fact is that there are no paleolithic tribal societies still in existence that remain untouched by contact with our civilization, and — even if there were, in an ironic parallel to quantum theory – we could not study them without changing what we see. It is thus an exercise of most utter of futilities to claim, based on very spotty, often over-interpreted and — to begin with — circumstantial evidence that the original human social structures were free of war-making. Perhaps we could ask their contemporaries, the Neanderthals, for some corroboration?