Why I love Lawrence Block's PI Matt Scudder will have to be its own essay somewhere some time. But I've been wishing for a new book for a long time. B...moreWhy I love Lawrence Block's PI Matt Scudder will have to be its own essay somewhere some time. But I've been wishing for a new book for a long time. Block did better. He produced a new story set years back in Scudder's past so that it recalled the earlier more edgy and boozy life of New York City. Some time in the eighties the Scudder stories morphed from mysteries to thrillers. I kept reading and kept enjoying (despite some horrific details I wish he'd left out some times) but I really like going back.
I think this may be my second favorite Scudder novel. Oddly, my favorite, When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes, was also a flashback story.
By the way, Scudder is not remotely Christian. Block has an AA, and somewhat New Age philosophy of life. In some ways he is the opposite of an action hero since he seems to be more acted upon than acting. This book had more discussion of God then I was expecting. And it also dissed an aspect of Buddhism, which, now that I think about it, is shocking.
But I could ramble about likes and dislikes all day. It was a great read. (less)
I wanted to like this book more, but I couldn't. The first half contains a great deal of moralization about America's wanting too much. But that is a...moreI wanted to like this book more, but I couldn't. The first half contains a great deal of moralization about America's wanting too much. But that is a function of economic policy and politics that applies to Greece as much as the US. Bacevich seems confused here. At one point he mentions plunging savings rates, but never mentions intentional monetary policies that have discouraged saving and encouraged debt. How these are related to war is unclear.
One probable link in Bacevich's mind is "energy independence." Bacevich seems like an unreconstructed Carterite at some points in this book (though at other times perhaps critical... I couldn't tell what he thought in any consistent sense). America's want too much oil. But why should any nation be able to produce everything it needs? I see mutual interdependence as a good thing and don't understand how Bacevich's "economic nationalism" (my term; and, again, I'm guessing as best I can) can possibly encourage peace.
In many places I felt like Bacevich flipflopped between a "bad people" analysis and a "structural provlems" analysis (again, my terms). I don't know if he really knows which. Trying to make sense of everything, I think the issue might be that we have embarked on a "national security tradition" that involves recruiting the wrong people to do the wrong thing. Since the positions are somewhat self-selecting, only people who have stupid and nationally degrading ideas about national security want or are allowed into those positions in the national [in]security apparatus.
But as far as I remember I just wrote a much clearer sentence than any you will find in The Limits of Power.
Also, Bacevich will make statements without evidence or argument. I especially remember him saying that our quality of generals is very low compared to ones we have had in the past. But he never proved this point or seemed to think he needed to. In making the comparison he claimed that Grant and Sherman were great generals. I find this hard to believe.
There was a lot of good information and food for thought. So I don't feel the book was a waste. But I remember his Washington Rules being a lot more cogent.
Also, he dismisses re-instituting national service, because it is politically unfeasible. But nothing is really feasible about any of his "solutions." So why limit himself? What does he think he is accomplishing in this book.
And then he ends with a call for saving the planet from climate change. Stealing the internal combustion engine from the developing world will make all our bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan seem like nothing. Anthropogenic global warming is a fraud that will be a eugenic genocide if seriously implemented. Which it never will be because India, China, and other nations are never going to allow us to do that to them.
I have no idea what drives Bacevich's world view. His critique of "pre-emptive war" is quite good, and his analysis of Wolfowitz, and other killer utopians who should never be given responsibility at any level of government, is chilling. But I am no longer going to recommend him. Associating peace with a bunch of pop-moralisms about the environment and energy is not going to be a productive way to wake people up.(less)
Calvin may not have been a bishop, but he didn't operate as a Presbyterian either. His "ruling elders" were state-appointed officers and his consistory was neither precisely a Presbytery nor a Session. It ssemed to function much more like a Family Services department in some ways.
Calvin was never "in power" the way we tend to think, though perhaps after 1555 he got close. When you can get killed and need to worry about being killed in a riot, you are not really in power.
Geneva itself was too small a city to matter as a "power." Rather, Calvin and Geneva were constantly trying to make their friends happy (for protection) while still trying to save some independence.
"Nationalism" or immigration was an issue I had never realized affected Calvin's ministry. Calvin found local pastors mainly inadequate, so he brought in talent from France (arguably, I should write "France" in scare quotes). So Genevans found their personal lives being run by foreigners. Not a welcome situation.
Calvin came to repudiate Bucer's ecumenical attempts of the early 1540s. I had no idea.
Calvin spent much of his time trying to convince French Evangelicals to totally break from the Roman Catholic Church in France and suffer the consequences. Again, Calvin the divider.
Calvin later spent much of his time trying to convince French Protestants to willingly suffer rather than resort to violence and revolution. Weird since he owed his place in a city created by revolution. But it shows that any relationship between Calvin and political resistance is not the result of his own teaching on the matter.
France seemed at first like it would be open to Evangelicals (when Calvin still lived there). But with the break in Germany, French royalty came down on the side of the Roman Catholic establishment. Why? Because the same impulse that led the king to appreciate Evangelicals had led him to win concessions from the Pope that gave him control over the Church in his lands. Opposing the Papacy would make these concessions worthless.
Bullinger thought Calvin's writings on predestination were over-the-top and could imply that God was the author of sin.
For a time Calvin's writings were publicly burned in the Protestant city of Berne.
Calvin actively opposed an ecumenical movement in France in the 1550s because it was trying to use the Augsburg Confession. Though earlier in his ministry he had offended Bullinger by agreeing with it, now he saw it as a tool of Lutheran extremists who would try to hurt the swiss churches and disturb the French Protestants who were not Lutherans.
I haven't finished this book yet, but I have gotten far enough (up to WWII) to see its value in exposing how the American populace is being gamed by s...moreI haven't finished this book yet, but I have gotten far enough (up to WWII) to see its value in exposing how the American populace is being gamed by socialists/monopolists/technocrats/bankers. See this frank admission from the President, as an example.
It seems anomalous that America's most famous financier was a sworn foe of free markets. Yet it followed logically from the anarchy of late nineteenth-century railroads, with their rate wars, blackmail lines [Note: I think the comma between blackmail and lines is a typo], and lack of standardized gauges. To destroy competing lines, railroads could simply refust to transfer freight to roads that abutted theirs. From an engineering standpoint, Pierpont knew little about railroads. What he did know is that they required steady revenues to cover their fixed interest costs on bonds marketed in New York and London. In the mid-1880s, freight rates were declining sharply under the pressur of savage price-cutting.
For Pierpont, the leading symbol of railway monopoly, pure competition was never an option. Years later, he a said, "The American public seems unwilling to admit... that it has a choice between regulated legals agreements and unregulated extralegal agreements. We should have cast away more than 50 years ago the impossible doctrine of protection of the public by railway competition. As we shall see, the House of Morgan always favored government planning over private compilation, but private planning over either.
As the top manufacturer of crude steel, Carnegie decided to branch out into finished products, such as pipe and wire. As the head of the second largest steel group, Pierpont feared a replication of the railroad chaos with overbuilding and price wars. He growled that Carnegie would "demoralize" the entire industry through competition.
Backed by representatives of Barings and Brown Brothers, Pierpont offered the railroad presidents a deal: if they refrained from rate-cutting and cutthroat competition, the financiers would stop underwriting competing railways. It was a clever move, for while Wall Street accused railroads of irresponsible behavior, the railroads blamed Wall Street for floating too many securities and creating the overexpansion that led to price wars.
The populace might dread the power of Pierpont Morgan, but he paid his bills promptly, always stuck by his word, and was almost universally respected among businessmen. He also saw competition as a destructive, inefficient force and instinctively favored large-scale combination as the cure.
Where Pierpont's theorizing was largely nonexistent [partner, Goerge W.] Perkin's was sophisticated. He gave speeches and published pamphlets on every conceivable subject. He was an oddity at the world most cryptic bank. he preached a gospel of industrial cooperation, contending that small-scall business depressed wages and retarded technological advance. Not Wall Street, he said, but steam engines and telephones produced trusts. "What is the difference," he proclaimed, "between the US Steel Corporation, as it was organized by Mr. Morgan, and a Department of Steel as it might be organized by the Government?" He drew a parallel Pierpont wouldn't admit to--that trusts, with their centralized production and distribution, were a form of private socialism. And unlike Pierpont, he saw that they had acquired a public character, and he favored government licensing of interstate companies and extended worker benefits, including profit sharing, social insurance, and old-age pensions. This, he boasted, would be "socialism of the highest, best, and most ideal sort." Although Teddy Roosevelt sometimes wondered whether Perkins simply rationalized a selfish Morgan agenda, there was a striking likeness between their views.
That a Morgan partner should advocate socialism is not so startling. After all, Pierpont, starting with his Railway associations of the late 1880s, espoused industrial cooperation instead of competition. He like his capitalism neat, tidy, and under bankers' control... Perkins wasn't the only one in the Morgan camp to applaud moves toward a planned, integrated economy. Later on, Judge Elbert Gary of U.S. Steel, who held private dinners to fix prices in the steel industry, testified: "I would be very glad if we had some place where we could go, to a responsible governmental authority, and say to them, 'Here are our facts and figures, here is our property, here our cost of production; now you tell us what we have the right to do and what prices we have the right to charge.'"
On why Morgan got along with Teddy Roosevelt progressives:
As we shall see, the mortal attacks on the House of Morgan came not from socialists but from such trustbusters as Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and William O. Douglas, who favored small economic units and sharp competition. This tradition would lambaste the Morgan Money Trust as the biggest and most dangerous trust of all. Because the House of Morgan preached socialism for the rich, it always had a partial affinity for those who preached it for the poor.
Chernow is an advocate and defender for the Morgans, just as his latest book defends and advocates the mercantilism of Alexander Hamilton over against the Constitutionalist, limited-government, vision of Jefferson. So this is no prosecution's case but the testimony of a friend.
So what happens under real Capitalism? Answer: The rich end up giving low-cost goodies to the poor and middle class but often end up rejoining those classes because they lose all their wealth in the process. Capitalism does not lead to concentrations of economic power but constantly threatens them. People who want to keep their economic power go to the government to protect it from the competition of the market. Despite Pierpont's preference for "private planning" his efforts never lasted. He needed the government to get a real cartel going.
People who try to protect us from the concentration of economic power by concentrating economic power are not worth following.
For some more of the history of the cartel Utopia in the oil industry, see these posts: