Monday, June 10, 2013
The number of hits on my EYE ON BRITAIN blog has halved over the last year or so. I have therefore discontinued that blog. I infer that the steady focus on the horrors of socialized medicine in Britain has become deterring.
My "Paralipomena" blog is where I put up interesting stories that don't obviously fit on on any of my other blogs. I am quite sporadic in updating it as updates depend on what stories I see. I have however put up a fair bit in recent months. The blog also has a new site. The old site had begun to attract malware, for some reason. The current site is HERE and the old site is HERE
A revisionist history of the first capitalist revolution
BOOK Review of LIBERTY'S DAWN: A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION BY EMMA GRIFFIN (Yale University Press £25). Review by John Preston
The working classes had a thoroughly rotten time of it during the Industrial Revolution - or so history books maintain. Uprooted from their picturesque rural hovels, they were crammed together in filthy factories where they either wheezed themselves into early graves, or else became hideously entangled in their Spinning Jennies.
However, Emma Griffin doesn’t see it like this. As far as she’s concerned, the Industrial Revolution came as a tremendous boom to a lot of working people: they earned far more than they had done before, escaped lives of crushing poverty and for the first time began to exert some measure of control over their lives.
It might be tempting to dismiss this as the ravings of a particularly cranky historian desperate to make a splash - except that Griffin has lots of evidence to back up her claims. For this was also the era in which large numbers of working men and women learned how to read and write.
Remarkably, their testimonies, or ‘autobiographies’, as she calls them, have been sitting - largely untouched - in county archives for the past 200 years.
It soon becomes clear that Griffin has stumbled on an enormous treasure trove. Here are our ancestors, falteringly at first, then with increasing confidence, describing their daily lives.
Just a generation earlier they would have been illiterate. Now, with the world changing at a furious pace all round them, they wanted to set down their experiences for the benefit of their children.
And what unexpectedly jolly times they turn out to have had. One man recalling the seven years he spent working in a Lancashire factory in the early 19th century wrote wistfully that ‘I was never as happy as I was then.’
A hero of the Industrial Revolution: Isambard Kingdom Brunel
A hero of the Industrial Revolution: Isambard Kingdom Brunel
A man called Charles Campbell, faced with a choice between working in a medical practice in a small village in the Highlands, or being a spinner in a Glasgow cotton mill, plumped unhesitatingly for the latter and never regretted it.
Rather than slog his guts out for next-to-nothing in the Highlands, he earned a hefty 30 shillings a week in a mill. ‘We seemed to be rolling in wealth,’ crowed another man who worked weaving cotton shawls in Manchester.
This, though, as Griffin concedes, is only part of the story. Even the sunniest optimist would have a job persuading anyone that the Industrial Revolution brought joy to generations of working-class children.
In most cases, they simply exchanged one form of drudgery for another. One man recalled how, aged six, he’d been sent off to work at a local farm. ‘I sometimes lost my way in a fog, and wandered miles shouting and crying for my mother, half-blind and nearly heartbroken.’
Most children, wherever they lived, started work between the ages of six and ten, sent out by their parents to supplement the family income.
One boy, apprenticed to a carter ‘who used me ill’, ran home hoping his parents would protect him. Instead, his father promptly lashed him to a pony and took him straight back, whipping him all the way.
In textile mills, children usually started off as ‘piecers’, standing by the spinning machines repairing breaks in the thread. There, they worked 12 to 13-hour days, six days a week. A former piecer, Moses Heap recalled being so tired that he was carried to and from work by his father.
It wasn’t just working practices that changed during the Industrial Revolution. Everything did - including sexual behaviour. On the face of it, the stigma of illegitimacy remained as high as it had always done, hence the number of shotgun marriages. By the end of the 18th century it’s estimated that between 30 and 40 per cent of women walking down the aisle were pregnant.
But peer a little closer and the picture changes. Women were now able to earn more working in factories than they had ever done before. As a result they were less dependent on men - and better equipped to look after any illegitimate children they might have. Slowly, attitudes became less rigid. Two sisters called Shaw living in 19th-century Preston both had illegitimate children without anyone in their family being too fussed, let alone turfing them out on the street.
And for the first time, working-class men noted down their sexual experiences. Some, not surprisingly, got a bit carried away: ‘I swiftly proceeded to attempting a great piece of indecency ... I put my hands under her coats to her knees,’ panted one.
Others were more matter-of-fact - and you can’t get much more matter-of-fact than the man who regularly made the following joyless entry in his journal: ‘I did wife.’
Being crammed together in large cities also helped working-class people educate themselves. They began forming ‘improvement societies’, which in turn gave rise to Sunday schools. By the 1830s, more children were being educated at Sunday schools than day schools. And last of all, the way in which people worshipped changed. In rural Anglican churches, the poor had pews set aside for them - but they had to curtsy or bow to the vicar’s wife before they sat down, while the squire and other notables sat safely cordoned off behind a curtain.
Starting in the mid-18th century, various noncomformist denominations were founded - among them the Methodists - where the poor could go without having to dress up, or kowtow to anyone, and where they were encouraged to talk rather than bury their heads in their hands.
So how did the Industrial Revolution get such a bad reputation? Much of the blame must be laid at the feet of Friedrich Engels, whose book, The Condition Of The Working Class in England, published in 1845, became the definitive work on the subject. But the revolutionary Engels had his own motives for saying how bloody it had all been - and until now no one seems to have bothered examining the first-hand testimonies for themselves.
To Win Millennials, the GOP Needs to Embrace Its Inner Libertarian
The under-30 crowd doesn’t think much of most Democrats, but it’s got an easily lower opinion of Republicans. Nick Gillespie on how the GOP can revive its brand.
Earlier this year, Bobby Jindal, the GOP governor of Louisiana, surveyed the wreckage of Mitt Romney’s sad-sack presidential campaign and told his fellow Republicans that if they ever want to capture the White House again, “we must stop being the stupid party.”
College juniors purchase T shirts during a Rock the Vote bus tour at the University of North Carolina on September 5, 2012, in Charlotte. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty)
While Michele Bachmann’s decision not to run for a fifth term helps the party out on that score, a new report from the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) strongly suggests that another tack would be even more successful: The GOP should embrace its small, youthful, and increasingly influential libertarian caucus that focuses on cutting government spending—even or especially on old-age entitlements—and quit fretting over gay marriage or the need to invade and occupy foreign countries.
Despite its endless small-government rhetoric, such a change may be too radical for a Republican Party whose last two candidates were a combined 138 years old when they ran for the Oval Office. But it’s the best way forward for a GOP that’s even less exciting than your father’s Oldsmobile.
Drawing on August 2012 and March 2013 surveys and focus groups of 800 registered voters ages 18 to 29 from around the country, “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation” observes that it was the youth vote that largely consigned Mitt Romney to the ranks of presidential losers. Romney pulled 2 million more votes than Barack Obama among voters over 30, but the incumbent won a whopping 5 million more votes than the former Massachusetts governor from so-called Millennials. That’s even more stunning given that voters ages 18 to 29 had lost much of their enthusiasm for Obama. In 2008, Obama outpolled John McCain among young people by 34 percentage points, while in 2012, his lead dwindled to just 23 points. “The election reinforce[s] the generational challenge fac[ing] the GOP,” deadpans the report.
What do young voters want? More than anything, a shot at working and thriving in a growing economy. Yet even though only 22 percent of Millennials thought “Obama’s policies had made it easier for young people to get a job” and “only 29 percent thought they were better off as a result of the stimulus package ... Democrats held a 16-point advantage over the Republican Party among young voters on handling of the economy and jobs (chosen as the top issue by 37 percent of respondents).”
That’s because young voters are turned off by the GOP’s emphasis on tax cuts über alles and habit of embracing big businesses rather than scrappy entrepreneurs. They are equally turned off by the GOP’s constant thumping on gay marriage, which more than any other social issue has emerged as a “deal breaker,” or an issue that will cause a voter who agrees on everything else with a candidate to vote for his or her opponent. Abortion, immigration, even health care are less important in this regard, according to the CRNC.
Millennials, says the report, don’t care much about abstractions such as that favorite Republican bogeyman, “big government.” But they are into cutting government spending and reducing the national debt, as they realize both things are strangling their future before it begins. Fully 90 percent agree that Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed now, 82 percent are ready to “make tough choices about cutting government spending, even on some programs some people really like,” and 72 percent want to cut the size of government “because it is simply too big.” Only 17 percent want to increase spending on defense and just 30 percent said that “marriage should be legally defined as only between a man and a women,” with 44 percent saying same-sex marriage should be legal everywhere and 26 percent saying it should be up to individual states.
You don’t need a decoder ring to read the libertarian strain in such responses. Often described as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, libertarians argue for keeping the government out of the boardroom and the bedroom. They tend to favor more-open borders for people as well as goods and services, agitate for legalization (or at least decriminalization) of drugs, and push for choice in whom you can marry as well as where you send your kids to school.
Today’s younger voters—who have grown up in a wild, wired world in which the click of a mouse brings forth endless options in entertainment, commerce, and identity—naturally imbibe an essentially libertarian ethos that privileges individual choice over top-down control. They’re not anarchists: The CRNC report notes that 88 percent support safety-net programs that help people temporarily and 86 percent favor trimming regulations but maintaining ones “that keep us safe.” But Millennials plainly have a spirit of innovation and experimentation that is stymied by centralized government.
These views should provide an opening for Republicans. If Obama once conjured up the audacity of hope, he has pissed it away with a failed economic program, endless new regulatory schemes, and continued wars on terror and drugs that rival or exceed the follies of George W. Bush. During January 2013 focus groups conducted for the study, the CRNC asked respondents to name future leaders of the Democrats. Even Democrats had trouble coming up with one. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rare Democratic champion of school choice who got into trouble with the Obama administration for defending Mitt Romney’s private-equity firm Bain Capital during the election, came up occasionally, but more typical responses were “We don’t have any” and “I can’t think of any.”
The Republicans, on the other hand, seem relatively flush with young studs who are at least partly libertarian in spirit: “Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul were all mentioned” in focus groups, according to “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation.”
Of these, the last two are perhaps most interesting and on point. As governor of Louisiana, Jindal has simultaneously taken a scalpel to his state’s budget—garnering an A grade in fiscal policy from the libertarian Cato Institute—pushed school choice, and, despite being an “unapologetic pro-life Republican” called for oral contraceptives to be made available without a prescription. Whatever the merits of his individual proposals, he is working hard to save the GOP from the “stupid party” label and he is certainly not your father’s Oldsmobile.
Rand Paul, the freshman senator from Kentucky, is already a frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2016, having won the straw poll at CPAC after making a speech in which he called his own party “stale and moss-covered.” He’s made a name for himself by challenging the Obama administration on its terrible civil-liberties record, calling for a non-interventionist foreign policy, and proposing a budget that would immediately trim $500 billion in annual federal spending and theoretically balance the budget in five years. He’s also a proponent of industrial-hemp legalization and drug-sentencing reform, issues on which he’s reached across party lines. While he is himself a socially conservative Christian, he also believes “states should be able to craft their own drug or marriage policies, instead of the federal government.”
Unlike most of his fellow Republicans, he takes seriously the idea of reaching out to a broad cross-section of Americans, telling a New Hampshire audience, “We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with pony tails, without pony tails, with beards, without.” Paul has taken his “hipster outreach program” to historically black colleges and to Silicon Valley. He is one of the few politicians of either party who openly talks about changing old-age entitlements so they no longer rob from the relatively young and poor and give to the relatively old and wealthy.
Characters such as Paul and Jindal suggest that the Republican Party might just have a future with younger voters. Which means it also may have a future with the rest of us, too, by offering an alternative not just to the Democrats but to the old and “stupid party” that fared so poorly in the last two presidential elections.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
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Posted by JR at 12:37 AM