Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Downsizing

We are not visionaries. By “we” I include all those living, born of woman/women, but exclude “extraterrestrials” such as the Angels, and the dead who have perhaps gone to Heaven. I can’t deny that some of these may be visionaries, but when the claim to more than natural eyesight is made, especially by scruffy characters, all of my powers of scepticism are excited. For I insist, scepticism is not a “visionary” property; it necessarily excludes visionary apprehension. I am not sceptical of the Angels, for I have not been in a position to examine them. But men I know, from being one.

Those who have visions — such as, arguably, the beloved Kit Smart (1722–71) — suffer visions of a different sort from the “normal” men and women of industry and politics, and are sometimes privileged to receive the attention of such eleemosynary institutions, as St Luke’s Asylum in Kit’s case. Indeed, his most “visionary” work, the Jubilate Deo, was written almost entirely in there. I recommend it for its hebraic poetical thrum, and secretly sane passing insights, but note that he never presented himself as a candidate for public office.

Adolf Hitler should have been confined, however, once he began broadcasting his visions. This would have been better for him, and for the German-speaking peoples, everywhere. But he was perhaps a too-extreme example. The mental ward, today, calls out for those who have visions of “global warming,” and other alarming prospects, as well as extensions of the welfare state. They have in common with Herr Hitler the belief that we should do something, and a kampf, or militant programme. Nein¬†should be our “particular” response.

By contrast, there is no vision in downsizing. The politician, who wields a toy buzz-saw while on campaign, may be colourful, but does not need locking up. To accuse those who categorically oppose gleaming statist ambitions, of nursing statist ambitions, is unreasonable. For downsizing is the opposite of upsizing, and requires no visionary enthusiasm.

Publishing & perishing

Ludwig von Mises was not, to my mind, strictly an economist. He was a moralist, and a practical philosopher, his chief object being the destruction of bureaucracy. It is not a “necessary evil,” but necessarily an evil, done like the others under cover of good. Mises is understandably hated by all socialists and progressives. In addition to its rhetorical attack, his book Bureaucracy (1944, revised 1962) documented the rise of bureaucratic agencies controlling public life throughout Europe and America. It showed that the “profit motive” paradoxically advances the public interest, in almost every case; that the “non-profit motive” is not only counter-productive, but apparently, politically ineradicable. Over time, bureaucracy stifles not only individual freedom, but the adaptability of society itself, leading to its decline and ruin.

This, and Mises’ chef-d’oeuvre, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, fell into my hands as a teenager, and made me an exponent of the “Austrian School.” Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (1944) was another guide along the road not taken, or rather taken only briefly, by the allies after World War II. Such books helped to make me continuously unpopular, among budding Leftoids, from the age of fifteen. Since, I have done some supplementary reading, to make my attitudes more ghastly to them. My preference for liberty, beauty, goodness, truth, have cost me many popularity contests: for the “progressives” invariably prefer plausibility, subterfuge, and lies.

But there are rewards for resisting them: for instance, the satisfaction one feels that Javier Milei is eradicating the bureaucracy of Argentina (where it had been laid on especially thick), and others in their stations (Nayib Bukele, Giorgia Meloni, Geert Wilders) dispatching bureaucracies elsewhere. This is encouraging, as is the rightwing sweep in trans-European elections yesterday. Note: the method of “cutting back bureaucracy” consists not of a few minor trims, but of the permanent, outright closure of entire government departments.

Even more I enjoy subtle developments in “science,” where bureaucratic takeover has made most public scientific enterprises dishonest and innately alarmist. The international “global warming” climate fraud continues to be Exhibit A; the Wuhan Batflu event, Exhibit B. Both monstrosities are the product of self-interested government strategy and funding.

More generally, the “non-profit” pursuit of academic science produces crooked, fund-grubbing results in the overwhelming majority of cases. I am delighted to see that the big American publisher, Wiley, has had to shut down nineteen of its scientific journals, and withdraw 11,500 scientific papers, to cut its losses from lawsuits. For it is, sometimes, still possible to expose falsity in the courts.

We look forward to an age that follows “follow the science.”

Defensive strategies

The best defence is a good offence, I was told by an ice hockey coach when I was learning the elementary ice hockey skills. As I had been cast as a goaltender, it seemed to me that with the best defence, a good offence wouldn’t be necessary. Unlike fussball, and other team sports, the game that ended in a zero-zero tie was generally the most exciting to watch; even when it was decided by a single goal in the fifth overtime period. By then, one would have had one’s fill of hockey, no matter how well the game had been played.

But it appears one can’t get one’s fill, any more, for I just checked, and the NHL playoffs are still running, in June. It goes without saying that the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t in them; I gave up on them, shortly after the late Johnny Bower retired. This was just after his forty-fifth birthday, which made him the oldest player in the NHL whom I had ever loved. His last game was in 1969 — coincidentally the same year the Americans landed men on the moon. (I suspect they released some cosmic demon, thereby, who flew back to earth with them, and has caused no end of trouble since. So many things went to Hell, after 1969.)

As the Swiss have taught, the best sort of military defence is impenetrable. Imperial powers take a pass on invading, once they see how the Swiss have their mountains rigged. This arrangement has preserved their neutrality for the last five hundred years; and even though Switzerland is between Germany and Italy, France and Austria — which take turns having the best offence. I am a reactionary myself, or a “fascist” according to some of my correspondents, because I favour a domestic policy of rule-of-law and maximal freedom. But my foreign ideal is to be left alone. And so, even very small countries ought to invest in goalie-pads.

Eight decades on

I once wrote a column on an anniversary of the Battle of Verdun (February through December, 1916). This was a memorably destructive event in the Great War, in which Germany and France combined to eliminate more than 300,000 of their respective soldiers, and maim another half-million or so. The Germans struck first; the French eventually “won.” I was defending, not so much the French, but the willing sacrifice of French youth, fed into a (highly efficient) German meat grinder.

It would have been better if the generals on both sides had not been so wasteful of human life. But they were very wasteful, and as “Jerry” ascended the Meuse Heights — at incredible cost — “Marianne” replied, not for liberty, equality, and fraternity, but for everything.

Our Canadians on Juno Beach in Normandy also understood the meaning of, “No price too high!” They also triumphed when they had no option, among many incidental deaths.

Readers of the newspaper with my Verdun column (the Kingston Whig-Standard) were scandalized, as they often were, by me. (It’s a commie town.) How dare I advocate for the deaths of so many, especially when an Iraq war was approaching, and “NBC” weapons might be used? Not for the first time, I was hazed on the street, by pacifist ninnies. Perhaps I encouraged this by calling them “poofters.” All had missed my delicate reasoning; I was not defending war for the sake of war. I was not half-cracked, like them.

There are times when you just have to fight. There may even be times when you are in the right. Operation Overlord was a good example; we must be ready to go there again. For there are times when the man who is running from danger lives a worthless life, compared to the man who gets killed.

The joy of sexagesimals

For a person who loathes statistics, and in particular social (including financial) statistics, one of my more eccentric interests is in weights and measures. This has relaxed over the years of my maturity: at age sixteen it was an incurable obsession. For, as with others who have obsessions (baseball statistics; alcohol), I have never entirely escaped from it, and even the slightest indulgence will lead me back into slavery, as it were.

An example occurred yesterday, while consulting an older edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (The eleventh, 1911 — always more reliable than the Wicked Paedia.) As everyone should know, the roundness of the world was known even to ancient man, especially the seafarers. The philosophers in Alexandria-by-Egypt even measured its circumference. They calculated by comparing the sun shadows at different locations. Mediaeval man of course inherited this information through Ptolemy; only in XIXth-century America was it lost (by Washington Irving, father of the Flat Earth).

Now, put this together with our archaeological record of Egyptian rulers. Not, their heads-of-state, but rather the marked strips of wood or metal used (e.g.) in schools. We have found plenty of rulers among the ruins, and the older (pre-Muslim and even pre-Christian) show that the Egyptian “cubit” was slightly over 20 British inches. So were the cubits in ancient Sumer, and elsewhere, apparently. Trade, after all, has been global for quite a few millennia. The Sumerians taught the Babylonians, who taught the Egyptians, and everyone else, the Joy of Sexagesimals.

Sexagesimals are written (invisibly) all over our planet, in for instance the lines of latitude and longitude. Indeed, the earth’s known circumference is precisely 21,160 nautical miles, which is sixty times 360 degrees. Only clowns, to my mind, would use the viciously decimalical metric system (invented in Revolutionary France) when we had a universal system of mensuration at the ready, all along. This was, and is, the nautical mile, its multiples and parts — in Babylonian, sexagesimal terms — not yet retired from shipping and aviation.

My realization yesterday is that the cubit is not merely the approximate distance from a man’s fingertip to his elbow, as the dictionaries insist. This ancient cubit is also, nearly precisely, the 60th part, of the 60th part, of the nautical mile. Everything fits together!

We may then reconstruct the “foot” as two-thirds of this, and break it down hexidecimally, as the classical Greeks, or classical Chinese, would do — into sixteen “digit” or “dactyl” units to replace the “inches” or (God help us) “centimetres” on our contemporary rulers. This longer foot (about 13.5 Anglo-American ¬†inches) will prove more useful in ergonomic design. Trust me.

William Blake: “Bring out number, weight & measure in a year of dearth.”

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POSTSCRIPTUM. — My cybernetophile son defends “metric” as a system of hard precision for use with machines, for the very reason that “base ten” is so fraction-averse. He concedes, however, that “beautiful sexagesimal relationships” are more appropriate for the humans, who think in fractions and approximations.

Lauds

The poor and the feeble, the halt and the lame — the maimed, in body and spirit, the blind — all have been invited to the Feast. And many have made their excuses. Our task is, first, with those who will come; it is to feed His people. And second, to renew the invitation, to those apparently well, and sound, and otherwise occupied.

Ecce iam noctis. …

“To have mercy on those guilty of sin, to banish all distress, to bestow health and to give us the good blessings of everlasting peace” … let us beseech the Lord of creation.

Trial by sleaze

I took the week off in a location remote from Vallis Hortensis, hoping to forget about the politics that had fragmented my attention recently, but upon my return to the High Doganate, I looked in the Internet again. My anger was restored. I can imagine many million Americans are very angry, too, though millions more exhibit smug satisfaction. The incident of course was the conviction of President Trump, on all 34 counts of invented felonies, by a kangaroo court in the rogue district of Manhattan, operating on instructions that came down from the White House.

The conviction will of course be overturned at the first appeal, but Trump will be called a “convicted felon” in Democratic talking points. This, and stuffing ballot boxes, is their only way to win. Worse, Republican hacks will assuredly take revenge at their first chance. President Biden, who is even more corrupt than he is senile, can be tried for innumerable crimes, along with all senior congressional members of his party.

This will be unwise, however. It makes the United States unambiguously a “Banana Republic,” in which politicians retire only at death. They will cheat and brazen to avoid passing out of power and into the hands of their enemies. Peaceful transitions are impossible, in the chaos of public unlawfulness. This is, as I have argued in these Idleposts before, how all democracies have ended. A fourth American Civil War (1775–83; 1812–15; 1861–65; 2024–?) seems inevitable unless some angelic agency intervenes.

The United States was not a Democracy, in conception. It was founded explicitly as a Republic, under the Rule of Law, and Our Lord. “In God We Trust.” Voting was carefully tamed: basic rights could not be overturned by legislation. But agnostic rule, by the manipulation of laws, is dear to the heart of every progressive — and sadly, the USA is a full democracy now.