Saturday, April 30, 2011

A great Royal occasion

Detractors often speak of the fragility of the British monarchy and predict its demise but on every great Royal occasion we see the falsity of that. The huge enthusiasm with which Prince William and his bride were greeted by a million onlookers in London would surely be the envy of any politician.

Winston Churchill once said: "Not for a thousand years has Britain seen the campfires of an invader". One consequence is that the British army has retained its traditions. And the splendid uniforms are part of that. We see in the picture above the particularly splendid dress uniform of the Blues & Royals worn by Prince Harry.

It might almost be a comic opera uniform but there is nothing comic about the regiment concerned. It sees active service in war zones and in fact traces its origins all the way back to Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army. And Prince Harry is no chocolate soldier. Both he and William are members of the British armed forces and Harry is particularly devoted to the army. He loved his posting to the dirt and dust of Afghanistan. And the Blues and Royals is the regiment he joined when he enlisted in the British army.

Prince William, heir in due course to the throne of 16 countries, also enlisted initially in the Blues and Royals but now serves in the Royal Air Force. In the picture above he wears the uniform of the Irish Guards, of which he is honorary Colonel. By wearing that uniform he honours the regiment concerned. Guardsmen will be proud to see THEIR Colonel so prominently honoured.

And also above we see the rather splendid 1902 State Landau in which the couple left Westminster Abbey. I gather that it is not the most comfortable of rides but it gives admirers a good view of those in the carriage and enables them to be clearly seen when they wave back.

It all does my old monarchist heart good. And I was pleased to see the Queen looking well after her recent minor health scare -- JR.


The Entrepreneurs' Princess

From across the pond, I have watched with interest the debate and speculation on the significance of Prince William's wedding to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton.

Much has been made of the fact that Kate is a "commoner"; her mother and father started out their careers working as a flight attendant and flight dispatcher for British Airways, respectively. Yet she has known many of the privileges of aristocracy, because her parents built a multimillion-dollar business that supported elite educations for her siblings and her.

Some have asked if Kate will be a "people's princess," in the mold of Prince William's late mother, Diana. But Kate and her family actually embody a noble, if relatively modern, tradition of their own, a tradition of bettering oneself and one's family while improving the lot of society at the same time.

The tradition that Kate and her parents and siblings embody so well is that of entrepreneurship. For centuries in Britain, commercial activities were looked down upon by many in the aristocracy, whose wealth lay in landownership and who would not deign to dabble in trade. This week's wedding can be seen as the culmination of a long process of elevating the social status of entrepreneurship itself.

The story of the Middletons' rise to wealth has been told, but its significance and its implications for British culture and public policy have been little explored.

When Kate was five, her mother, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, saw a niche that could be filled to help others in her situation. As described on the website of the family business,, "Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces in 1987 after finding it difficult to source fun, simple party products for her children's parties."

Somewhat like successful American firms from Microsoft to Google that had their beginnings in residential garages, Party Pieces started out in a shed in the Middletons' garden. There, mail orders were taken for boxes with pre-selected party favors to fit a certain theme.

The Middleton's business really took off with the advent of the Internet, and today, one can go on the web site and order plates, cups and napkins themed from Barbie to the Transformers. If one of the royal duties is to ensure the happiness of subjects, Kate's family has given her a head start by bringing joy to so many British parents and children.

And happiness through individual initiative is something Kate could encourage once she joins the royal family, by pointing to her family's entrepreneurial background and championing Britain's innovative firms, many of which have origins similar to that of Party Pieces. Margaret Thatcher has written that "however pervasive an enterprise culture is, most people are not born entrepreneurs." But the Middletons, through the story of their success before Kate even met William, will serve as a constant reminder of what enterprising men and women can achieve.

Over the three decades that span the lifetimes of Kate and Prince William, the commercial classes have attained newfound respect in British culture. The idea of ordinary people building successful businesses—a concept often called the "American Dream"—is now idealized in British programs such as BBC's "Dragons' Den."

If the royal family were to utilize Kate's background to help encourage and spread this culture of entrepreneurship, the effects in Britain—and possibly much of the world—could be incredible. The people of the United Kingdom would be much richer, and not just in material terms. "Earned success gives people a sense of meaning about their lives," writes the social scientist Arthur Brooks, who is president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

Indeed, studies show that in both the U.S. and U.K., many blue- and white-collar workers prefer to have the opportunity to advance, even if this means a less equal income distribution. A study of thousands of British employees by Andrew Clark, associate chair of the Paris School of Economics, found that measures of these workers' happiness actually rose as their demographic group's average income increased relative to their own.

These findings suggests that as people see members of their peer group gain wealth—even surpassing them—it gives them hope that they can improve their lot as well. As Mr. Clark put it in his study of British workers, "income inequality . . . need not be harmful for economic growth" if it "contains an aspect of opportunity."

The Middletons symbolize the opportunity that exists in a free-market system for those who take advantage of it. It is worth noting that they founded Party Pieces during the Thatcher era, when the Conservative government focused on lifting barriers to entrepreneurs through lower taxation, less regulation and privatization. Coincidentally or not, the year Kate's parents started their business, 1987, was also the year that their longtime employer British Airways was sold off, with shares of stock going to its workers.

Even though Kate's family has long been in the spotlight due to her relationship with Prince William, recent comments by Carole Middleton show that she still sympathizes with the small entrepreneur. In an interview on the Party Pieces website, she says: "I still work through to the early hours to hit a deadline and never take our success for granted."

The union of Prince William and Kate has been called a modern royal marriage, and in many ways it is. But it will also fulfill the traditional function of merger of families in a new way. When this couple says their "I dos," the royal family will officially be wed to the dreams and aspirations of millions of entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom and throughout the world.



Americans depend more on federal aid than ever

Americans depended more on government assistance in 2010 than at any other time in the nation's history, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds. The trend shows few signs of easing, even though the economic recovery is nearly 2 years old.

A record 18.3% of the nation's total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income — 51.0% — since the government began keeping track in 1929.

The income data show how fragile and government-dependent the recovery is after a recession that officially ended in June 2009.
The wage decline has continued this year. Wages slipped to another historic low of 50.5% of personal income in February. Another government effort — the Social Security payroll tax cut — has lifted income in 2011. The temporary tax cut puts more money in workers' pockets and counts as an income boost, even when wages stay the same.

From 1980 to 2000, government aid was roughly constant at 12.5%. The sharp increase since then — especially since the start of 2008 — reflects several changes: the expansion of health care and federal programs generally, the aging population and lingering economic problems.

Total benefit payments are holding steady so far this year at a $2.3 trillion annual rate. A drop in unemployment benefits has been offset by rises in retirement and health care programs.

"What's frightening is the Baby Boomers haven't really started to retire," says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes of the 77 million people born from 1946 through 1964 whose oldest wave turns 65 this year. "That's when the cost of Medicare will start to explode."

Accounting for 80% of safety-net spending in 2010: Social Security, Medicare (health insurance for seniors), Medicaid (health insurance for the poor) and unemployment insurance.



"Progressives" are Reactionaries

Tibor R. Machan

The simple answer to why progressives are reactionaries is that they tend to want to empower governments to solve all of the problems that face people in their social lives and that is just the authority that kings, tsars, pharaohs, and other rulers have claimed for themselves throughout history.

The literally progressive position is that no one gets to rule anyone else without that other’s permission. So a football coach or physician or orchestra conductor may rule only because he or she is permitted by those being ruled. But no one else has such authority without such consent. Today’s pseudo-progressives, however, want to assign such authority to governments without anyone consenting to being ruled about a great many matters that their favored governments want imposed on the citizenry.

More generally, governments that rule people have been the norm throughout human political history. Here and there and now and then this practice hasn’t prevailed but mostly it has. In contemporary times the term “ruler” is still used in, say, Libya and Dubai. It was the American Founders, or the majority of them, who demoted the English king and along with him all monarchs–no longer were they deemed the sovereign but a servant of the citizenry.

It is true that American conservatives, often associated with traditional values, have embraced much of what the Founders installed here and this may make it appear that what the Founders believed was itself conservative or traditional. Not so. In American it is the distinctive tradition to champion limited government and not the bloated state. So that is why American conservatives are really more radical than their modern liberal, welfare statists opponents.

The confusion is understandable but foes of the fully free society like to engage in discrediting what they do not like instead of arguing about it. In any argument there is no question that the political vision of the American founders wins hands down. It is a superior system to all those that went before which have all been more or less statist, gripped by the governmental habit. It is just this habit that modern liberals have reaffirmed, what with their wish to make government the caretaker of society, the nanny and ruler of us all. That is the old idea of politics and there is nothing truly progressive about it at all. Let’s just get this straight.

Sure the statism embraced by contemporary liberals, socialists, fascists and the like is somewhat different from the older kind, from mercantilism, from monarchism, from the rule of Caesars and tsars. Not all statists are the same. But what is crucial about all of them is that they are statists. They do not favor certain particular version of statism such as monarchism that had been demoted, overturned by way of the American revolution.

The Founders were nearly libertarians except for some matters they probably didn’t know how to handle without some coercive laws, such as the funding of law enforcement and maintenance via taxation. But taxation is the feudal kin of serfdom–the treatment of those in a society as if they and their resources belonged to the government.

That idea is not knew at all, nothing progressive about it whatever. It is however the idea that is close to socialism in which system all the major means of production are publicly owned, belonging to government (which goes by the euphemism of “the public”). And what does socialism see as the major means of production in a society? Human labor. So human labor–which is to say every human being–is owned by the state. The hallmark of serfdom and slavery.

Progressive my foot. This is thoroughly reactionary, taking contemporary politics back to an era that was prominent before the American revolution challenged it good and hard. This is crucial not just for purposes of political rhetoric, which can delude people who are not all that well versed in political history, but also for dealing competently with public policy. Any such policy that treats the citizen as a subject–subject to the will of the government, that is–must be rejected without any compromise.




MA: Curb on use of welfare cash okayed: "House lawmakers voted unanimously last night to ban welfare recipients from spending their cash benefits on alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets, reigniting an issue that flared during Governor Deval Patrick’s reelection campaign last year. The House approved the ban, as part of a larger amendment to the state budget, on a 155-0 vote. The measure not only targets welfare recipients, it also bans store owners from accepting welfare debit cards for purchases of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets."

Obamaflation arrives: "President Obama will not be re-elected. Period. Why? Obamaflation has arrived, and this is what it looks like: Milk. A gallon of skim. At the local Giant in Central Pennsylvania: January 11, 2011: $3.20; February 28, 2011: $3.24; March 6, 2011: $3.34; April 23. 2011: $3.48. That would be a 28 cent rise in a mere 102 days, from January to April of this year. The third year of the Obama misadventure. Then there's the celery. Same sized bag. Same store. January 11, 2011: $1.99 a bag; March 6, 2011: $2.49 a bag."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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