Can Emancipated Slaves take Care of Themselves?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

In 1862 the New York Times republished a piece from the Friends’ Intelligencer, itself an abridged version of a piece from the Cincinnati Gazette from 1943, asking, Can emancipated slaves take care of themselves?

Mr. MCDONOUGH, finding that his slaves worked for themselves on Sunday, for want of time on other days, proposed to give them Saturday afternoon to work for themselves, if they would keep the Sabbath.

He was soon struck with the amount of labor they performed during the half day they had to themselves, and with the sums of money they contrived to derive from it.

It occurred to him that it would be a good plan gradually to sell them the remaining days of the week, on condition of their paying him certain sums out of their wages, at appointed periods. So far as appears, the plan was suggested solely by financial policy, uninfluenced by any conviction of the wrongfulness of taking other people’s wages. He called his slaves together, eighty in number, and proposed for them to work for him on Saturday afternoons at small wages, instead of working for themselves.

He advised them to draw upon these wages as little as possible, and leave the remainder in his hands to buy Saturday for themselves. That the terms he offered them were pretty hard, is evident from the fact that he told them he calculated it would take them seven years to buy one day. But he reminded them that the first part of the process would be the most difficult; for when they had the whole of Saturday to work for wages, they could, in less time, buy Friday for themselves; and the facility would go on increasing with every day of the week they succeeded in purchasing.

He told them that according to the terms he could offer, and the calculations he had made, it would take them nearly fifteen years to buy their entire freedom.

Undismayed by the tediousness of the process, the slaves seized his offer with eagerness. They went to work so zealously that they bought the whole of Saturday in less than six years. Friday was bought in four years, Thursday in two years and a quarter, Wednesday in fifteen months, Tuesday in one year, and Monday was bought in six months.

In fourteen years and a half they had purchased their freedom, besides working diligently for their master on the days that still legally belonged to him. It would have been done sooner, but during the later years they expended more than they had formerly done for comforts and conveniences for their families The labor of their little boys and girls had not made up the sum required for them by their master, so that there was a balance due on their account which they worked five additional months to pay.

Mr. MCDONOUGH, describing his experiment, says “They had always been well disposed and orderly, but, from the day I made the proposal, a great change took place in them. A sedateness, a care, an economy and industry took possession of them, to which there appeared to be no bound, but their physical strength. They became temperate, moral and religious, setting an example that was admired by all They performed for me more labor and better labor than slaves usually perform, and in addition to that earned money enough to buy themselves. From the time the experiment began to its completion, besides paying for themselves, they gained me money enough to enable me to buy a gang of slaves, nearly twice their number, at the prices in Carolina and Virginia, This I state from exact accounts kept by me, which I am ready to attest to in the most solemn manner at any time.”

The steadiness and industry of these slaves attracted the attention of the neighborhood, and also in the adjacent city of New-Orleans, where twenty or thirty of them were led out to work under the superintendance of a head bricklayer, named JIM. The public were not informed of the stimulus which prompted these slaves to unusual activity and diligence. Perhaps Mr. MCDONOUGH did not consider it prudent to talk much about it.

That sounds like a simple yet powerful lesson in incentives.

(Hat tip to commenter Alex J.)

Revolutions Always Harm

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Reformations always do good, Fitzhugh says, but revolutions always harm:

All old institutions in time become incrusted with error and abuse, and frequent reforms are required to keep them in good working order, and to adapt them to the gradually changing circumstances of mankind. This is equally true of religious institutions as of political ones, for there is much in the machinery and external manifestations of the former, that is of mere human origin and contrivance, — and everything human is liable to imperfection and decay.

Total changes, which revolutions propose, are never wise or practicable, because most of the institutions of every country are adapted to the manners, morals and sentiments of the people. Indeed, the people have been moulded in character by those institutions, and they cannot be torn asunder and others substituted, for none others will fit. Hence reforms result in permanent change and improvement. Revolutions, after a great waste of blood and treasure, leave things to return soon to the “status quo ante bellum.” English statesmen, fully alive to these great truths, have for centuries past anticipated and prevented revolutions, by granting timely reforms. Mr. Jefferson, when we separated from Great Britain, wished to effect a total revolution, “laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms, as,” &c. Fortunately for us, the practical men who framed our government saw the wisdom and necessity of adopting English institutions (to which we had been accustomed), with very slight modifications, to adapt them to our circumstances. Our separation from England was a great and salutary reform, not a revolution. Scotland is now attempting a reform less in degree, but the same in character — she is trying to get back her parliament and to establish a separate nationality. We have no doubt it would redound to the strength and the glory of Great Britain, if both Scotland and Ireland had separate parliaments.

Bad Boys

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Thirteen female prison guards handed over control of a Baltimore jail to gang leaders:

Four corrections officers became pregnant by one inmate. Two of them got tattoos of the inmate’s first name, Tavon — one on her neck, the other on a wrist.

The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair. One gang leader allegedly used proceeds to buy luxury cars, including a Mercedes-Benz and a BMW, which he allowed some of the officers to drive.

Steve Sailer makes a number of observations:

Have you ever noticed that white prison gangs are always described as “white supremacist,” but black prison gangs and Mexican prison gangs are never described as “black supremacist” and “Mexican supremacist?”


In another account, Jane Miller of WBAL-TV in Baltimore reports that none of the 13 female guards named in the indictment has been fired.


I knew a guy once who had a job as head of a maintenance department at one of the huge prisons outside of Chicago. He said that lots of the guards were paid off by prison gangs to smuggle stuff in. He suggested that small rural towns that imagine that having a prison built there would be a great employment opportunity for their young men and women should think twice about what being a prison guard and being around prisoners all day does to a normal person’s morals. He told me this while we were sitting in his lovely and quite lavish house. Hey, wait a minute …


Speaking of the Black Guerilla Family, I strongly suspect that the primateprison gang scenes in 2011′s clever Rise of the Planet of the Apes were inspired in part by this phrase “Black Guerilla Family.” It’s not the kind of thing the screenwriters can admit in public, but the more I read up on the once-famous history of the Black Guerilla Family, the more it sounds like one of the inspirations for the movie (along with the brilliant “Patient Zero” ending).

Rise, like many of the original Planet of the Apes movies, is in part a Black Power allegory. The Black Guerilla Family was the most intellectual of the prison gangs, founded in Northern California by George Jackson in 1966 as a Marxist revolutionary movement.

Jackson went on to be the prison boyfriend of Professor Angela Davis — they first met on visiting days, but exchanged passionate love letters. (Chicks dig guys on Death Row.) After the Jackson Brothers killed some guards in various escapes with guns she had bought, Professor Davis was put on trial for first degree murder. She was famously acquitted.

The whole story of George Jackson is just insane, but I don’t recall anybody else noticing any connections between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Black Guerilla Family. David Horowitz knew most of these folks so I wonder what he would think of Rise.


Imagine that you are a Chechen Mafia vor sitting around in the rubble of your Grozny strip club, and a Yakov Smirnoff-type underling rushes in to announce, “TV say black vor in American prison had five babies with four lady guardettes! In Obama America, girls guard you!”

Being a rational mafioso, you would have to conclude that you owe it to your crime family descendants to get out of the Chechnya-Dagestan-Russia rackets rat race and come to America, so rich and so stupid, today.

Colleges as country clubs

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

We’ve entered an era of colleges as country clubs:

Princeton’s dormitories were the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the university before he entered politics. Wilson worried about campus elitism and felt that too many students were housed in off-campus “eating clubs,” which divided students from one another and diverted them from the life of the mind. So he reconfigured the campus as “a walled city against materialism and all of its works,” as one architect wrote, built around solid but austere student residences.

At all-female Smith College, meanwhile, modest living quarters would illustrate “what the human spirit can do when unhampered either by deprivation or by excess,” as one dean of the college wrote.

After World War II, when the GI Bill allowed millions of returning veterans to attend college, they lived in hastily constructed Quonset huts or trailer parks. And when postwar prosperity and federal loans sparked another enrollment boom in the 1960s and 1970s, universities built drab cinder-block and concrete buildings to house newcomers.

Only in recent years did colleges start to resemble country clubs, with a few classrooms thrown in. Competing for students, universities also competed to see who could build the nicest dorms, gyms and stadiums. The expenses were passed on to students, of course, who met rising tuition costs by taking out more loans. Student debt has doubled in the last decade, topping $1 trillion, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.

To be sure, some of the new college construction is bankrolled by individual donors, who often prefer to fund buildings that can bear their names rather than scholarships or research. But private gifts to universities plummeted after the 2008 recession, while construction picked up. Between 2010 and 2012, colleges and universities spent $22 billion on new facilities, or twice as much as they were spending a decade earlier. And with fewer private donations, some colleges are taking on debt to fund construction, debt that is likely to be passed on to students and their families.

Free Trade Prevents the Growth of Civilization

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Fitzhugh finds the standard arguments for free trade as false as they are specious:

The usual and familiar arguments in favor of this policy are, that it is cheaper to buy abroad good manufactured articles in exchange for agricultural products, than to buy them at home, where more indifferent articles would be obtained for a larger amount of agricultural products.

And again, that we, having no skill or spare moneyed capital, but possessing a rich soil, fine climate, and suitable labor for farming, should follow farming, whilst other nations, without these advantages, but having a large moneyed capital, and great artistic and mechanical skill, should produce manufactured articles, and exchange them for our grain and other products, that thus both we and they would be benefited. The argument is specious, but as false as it is specious.

If an agricultural people were found without any manufactures, by a manufacturing one, the effect of free trade would be to prevent the invention and practice of all the mechanic arts, for “necessity is the mother of invention,” and trade would remove the necessity of home manufactures. But, in truth, there never was a people, however savage, without some knowledge of manufactures and the mechanic arts. When that knowledge, as in the instances of Africans and Indians, is very slight, and the processes of course very tedious, laborious, and inefficient, the immediate effect of contact with a civilized nation by trade, is to extinguish the little knowledge they have, and to divert them to fishing, hunting, searching for gold and similar pursuits, which savages can practice almost as well as civilized men. The African ceases to smelt iron when he finds a day’s work in hunting for slaves, iron or gold, will purchase more and better instruments than he could make in a week, and the Indian pursues trapping, and hunting, and fishing, exclusively, when he can exchange his game, his furs and fish, for blankets, guns, powder and whiskey, with the American. Thus does free trade prevent the growth of civilization and depress and destroy it, by removing the necessity that alone can beget it. Its effects on agricultural countries, however civilized, are precisely similar in character to those on savages. Necessity compels people in poor regions, to cultivate commerce and the mechanic arts, and for that purpose to build ships and cities. They soon acquire skill in manufactures, and all the advantages necessary to produce them with cheapness and facility. The agricultural people with whom they trade, have been bred to exclusive farming, by the simplicity of its operations, its independence of life, and the fertility of their soil. If cut off like China was, and Japan yet is, from the rest of the civilized world, they would have to practise at home all the arts, trades and professions of civilized life, in order to supply the wants of civilized beings. But trade will supply everything they need, except the products of the soil. As they are unskilled in mechanic arts, have few towns, little accumulated capital, and a sparse population, they produce, with great labor and expense, all manufactured articles. To them it is cheaper, at present, to exchange their crops for manufactures than to make them. They begin the exchange, and each day the necessity increases for continuing it, for each day they learn to rely more and more on others to produce articles, some of which they formerly manufactured, — and their ignorance of all, save agriculture, is thus daily increasing. It is cheaper for a man, little skilled in mechanics, to buy his plough and wagon by the exchange of agricultural products, than awkwardly, clumsily and tediously to manufacture them of bad quality with his own hands. Yet, if this same man will become a skilful mechanic, he will be able to procure four times as much agricultural products for his labor, as he can now secure with his own hands. His labor too, will be of a lighter, less exposed, more social character, and far more improving to his mind. What is true of the individual, is true as to a nation, the people who buy their manufactures abroad, labor four times as hard, and as long, to produce them, as if they made them at home. In the case of the nation, this exclusive agriculture begets a sparse and poor population; sparse, because no more people can be employed, than are sufficient to cultivate the land, — poor, because their labor, though harder and more exposed, produces in the aggregate about one-fourth what the same amount of lighter labor would, in a purely mechanical and manufacturing country. Density of population doubles and quadruples the value of labor and of property, because it furnishes the opportunity for association and division of labor, and the division of charges and expenses. When one man has to bear the expense of a school, a church, a mill, a store, a smith’s shop, &c., he is very apt to let his family go without religion and education, and his farm without many of the necessaries and conveniences that properly appertain to it. Where a few have to bear these expenses, the burden on each is very heavy, but where, as in manufacturing countries, with a dense population and many villages, these expenses are sub-divided among many, the burden is light to each, — so that their property and their labor is vastly more available and valuable.

The sparsely settled agricultural country makes by its pursuits, one-fourth what the manufacturing country does, and the money that it makes is probably, in general, if spent at home, capable of purchasing one-half only of the pleasures, comforts and luxuries of life that the same amount of money would in countries engaged in other pursuits. The pleasures of society are seldom indulged in, or if indulged in, at much expense of time and inconvenience, in merely farming countries, where people live at considerable distance from each other. There is no occasion for towns or cities, and not enough of the rich to support places of recreation and amusement. The rich are, therefore, all absentees. Some go off for pleasure, some to religious conventions and associations, some for education, and those who remain at home, do so not to spend money and improve the country, but to save it, in order that they too may hereafter visit other regions. The latter class are no less absentees, in effect, than the former classes.

Visualizing Neoreaction

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

The Habitable Worlds blog recently came into being with a visualization of the neoreactionary blogosphere:

Dark Enlightenment 2

Clerestorian recommended a few more blogs, including this one.

Nick B. Steves also recommended this blog, classifying it as unclassifiable reactionary science reportage. Indeed.

Speed-Shooting the M1 Garand

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

When I think of speed shooting, I don’t typically think of the M1 Garand, the US Army’s service rifle during World War 2 — but it certainly works for Jerry Miculek:

(Skip ahead to 11:06, when he gets to the range.)


Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Nothing has more perplexed political economists and mankind at large, Fitzhugh says, than the subject of usury:

That it was right, proper, and laudable for every man to get the highest market price for the use of his money, as for the use of every other article, was an obvious deduction from the axioms of the economists. The instincts and common sense of mankind, whilst admitting the premises, stubbornly denied the unavoidable conclusion. Convicted in argument, but not convinced; they still fought on. In truth, the error lay in the premises, in the axioms and first principles of political economy. That systematic selfishness that inculcates the moral duty to let every man take care of himself and his own selfish interest, that advises each to use his wits, his prudence, and his providence, to get the better of those who have less wit, prudence and providence, to make the best bargains one can, and that a thing is worth what it will bring, is false and rotten to the core. It bears no sound fruit, brings forth no good morality. “Laissez nous faire,” and “Caveat Emptor,” (the latter the maxim of the common law,) justify usury, encourage the weak to oppress the strong, and would justify swindling and theft, if fully carried out into practice. But it is not safe or prudent to swindle or steal; one incurs the penalties of the law; and it is not politic, for one scares off customers and subjects. The man who makes good shaving bargains, will in the long run grow rich; the swindler and the thief never do. Mankind have ever detested the extortionate usurer who takes advantage of distress and misfortune to increase his profits, more than a Robin Hood who robs the rich to relieve the poor. There is always at bottom some sound moral reason for the prejudices of mankind. Analyze their motives, their feelings and sentiments closely. The man who spends a life in dealing hardly and harshly with his fellow men, is a much worse and meaner man than the highway robber. The latter is chivalrous, and where there is chivalry there will be occasional generosity.

The law should protect men, as well from the assaults of superior wit as from those of superior bodily strength. Men’s inequalities of wit, prudence, and providence, differ in nothing so much, as in their capacity to deal in and take care of money. This creates the necessity for laws against usury. Under occasional circumstances, a heavy rate of interest is morally right, but it is generally wrong, and laws are passed for ordinary and not extraordinary occasions.

I think he has made a better case against complex contracts and financial derivatives than against high interest rates.

How to Overthrow an Empire – and Replace It with Your Own

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Peter Turchin explains how to overthrow an empire and replace it with your own — using Dune as his example:

Paul’s enemies are enormously powerful and wealthy. He can’t defeat them by himself (even helped by his mother). His individual power is not enough; he needs others — thousands, ultimately millions of others — to succeed in his quest. In short, he has to acquire social power.

The first decision fork he comes to is right after the disaster strikes, and the House Atreides is all but destroyed. Should he become an urban guerilla, by organizing and leading an uprising in Arrakeen and Cartag? There are a lot of advantages to this course of action. It is extremely difficult to winkle out urban guerillas from the population that supports them, even if passively.

The other route is to become a desert warrior, which means recruiting the Fremen to your cause. So, which road to take?

Ibn Khaldun says that you should put your money on the Fremen, and Cliodynamics concurs.

Who is, or rather was, Ibn Khladun? This great Arab historian and sociologist was born in Tunis in 1332 and died in Egypt in 1406. He served as ambassador, prime minister, and supreme justice in various North African states, and traveled from Spain to Middle East. He was imprisoned by rulers, and he led an uprising of desert Fremen against those rulers.

Maghreb Satellite

Satellite view of Northwest Africa: If you wrap this landscape around a ball, you will get Arrakis.

Oops, I mean, Berbers, not Fremen. But it’s the same thing, so we should listen closely to his advice.
One of the most important concepts in Ibn Khaldun’s theory of history was asabiya, the social glue that binds individuals into cohesive social groups. Groups wielding greater asabiya impose their will on (if not defeat outright) groups possessing lesser asabiya. But how do groups acquire asabiya and why do they lose it?

Ibn Khaldun argued that the Desert was the crucible of asabiya. Only groups that have high asabiya can survive and thrive in this harsh environment. In contrast, in the urban civilization asabiya is gradually degraded, until they lose their ability for concerted collective action.

This is why Ibn Khaldun says, go to the desert. (This is what he himself did — when he decided to rebel against one of the rulers of North African states, he went into the desert and organized a Berber uprising.)

The Fremen live in a very harsh environment. What’s most important is not the harsh physical environment, but the harsh social environment. Before the Atreides acquired Arrakis, it was brutally governed by the Harkonnens, who “hunted the Fremen like animals.” The Harkonnen goal was to exterminate the Fremen. Instead what happened was that they imposed a selection regime under which only the toughest, most capable, and most cohesive Fremen tribes survived. The Harkonnens also inadvertently imposed a regime of shared pain and suffering that, as recent research shows, leads to social ‘fusion.’

To cut the long story short, the Fremen on Arrakis evolved into tough, even fanatical warriors. Given some additional training they are quite capable of matching, and even surpassing the dreaded Sardaukar. The Fremen have a lot of asabiya.

But there is a problem for Paul. While tribal-level asabiya is a great social glue, making each tribe an effective war machine, Paul needs to unify all desert tribes to defeat Shaddam and the Harkonnens. In order to bind the Fremen into a single force, tribal asabiya is not enough. Another kind of social glue is necessary.
Ibn Khaldun says (and Cliodynamics concurs) that Paul Muad’Dib needs religion. It is religion that has the potential to weld disparate tribes (and more generally, ethnic groups) into a cohesive force. Perhaps the most famous example is the rise of Islam, when Prophet Muhammad united the tribes of Arab Bedouins, which his successors lead to conquests from Spain in the West to what is now western China in the East.

Fortunately for Paul, the Bene Gesserit missionaries have already prepared the ground by planting among the Fremen prophecies of a messiah to come. Somewhat reluctantly, Paul assumes the role of the Mahdi (the prophet) in the new religion, which unleashes the Fremen Jihad across the universe.

The final ingredient that’s needed is a charismatic leader. This is the easiest, because he is, as I said before, a pretty awesome human being. Interestingly enough, although Frank Herbert devotes a lot of attention to how wonderful Paul is as a fighter, historically speaking, a great martial capability is not a particularly important requirement for a successful leader. Muhammad, for example, was not an accomplished martial artist.

What is more important is charisma, ability to fire up followers. Equally important is just plain luck. It is critical for the potential leader to win the first two or three engagements. Especially if he is a religious leader. Victory validates his claim to divine support.

During World War I the British officer T. E. Lawrence organized Arab irregular troops and led them in guerrilla operations against the Ottoman Empire.

During World War I the British officer T. E. Lawrence organized Arab irregular troops and led them in guerrilla operations against the Ottoman Empire.

It is also important that the leader comes from outside the social system. It is extremely difficult for one of the tribal leaders to unify the tribes by imposing himself as an overarching authority. The other tribal leaders are liable to say: why you and not me? This quickly leads to bickering and things falling apart. This is why great unifiers, such as Muhammad, Chinggis Khan, and Paul Muad’Dib, were relative outsiders (but at the same time, they were attuned to the culture of the people they ended up leading).

Instinct and Common Sense

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Instinct and common sense deny the economic proposition that a nation gains nothing by selling more than it buys, Fitzhugh says:

They say, that the way for individuals or people to get rich is to sell more than buy. Philosophy beats them all hollow in argument, yet instinct and common sense are right and philosophy wrong. Philosophy is always wrong and instinct and common sense always right, because philosophy is unobservant and reasons from narrow and insufficient premises, whilst common sense sees and observes all things, giving them their due weight, comes to just conclusions, but being busied about practical every day matters, has never learned the process of abstraction, has never learned how to look into the operations of its mind and see how it has come to its conclusions. It always judges rightly, but reasons wrong. It comes to its conclusions by the same processes of ratiocination that abstract philosophers do, but unaccustomed and untrained to look into its own mental operations, it knows not how it arrived at those conclusions. It sees all the facts and concludes rightly, — abstract philosophers see but a few, reason correctly on them, but err in judgment because their promises are partial and incorrect. Men of sound judgments, are always men who give wrong reasons for their opinions. They form correct opinions because they are practical and experienced; they give wrong reasons for those opinions, because they are no abstractionists and cannot detect, follow and explain the operations of their own minds. The judgment of women is far superior to that of men. They are more calm and observant. Every married man knows that when he places a scheme before his wife and she disapproves it, he conquers her in argument, goes away distrusting his own opinion, though triumphant, and finds in the end his wife was right, though she could not tell him why. Women have more sense than men, but they want courage to carry out and execute what their judgments commend. Hence men, although they fail in a thousand visionary schemes, succeed at last in some one, and are dubbed the nobler sex. An old bachelor friend of ours, says: women are great at a quarrel, bad at argument.

The Enabler

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Edward Luttwak condemns South Korean as an enabler of North Korean tyranny:

A “palace system” drives the entire regime and its policies: To keep the Helots in isolated servitude cut off from the outside world, a stance of relentless bellicosity is kept up by the rulers year after year, decade after decade. Even though there has been no war for two generations, North Korean life is shaped by nonstop war propaganda, war censorship, martial law, and above all, a centrally planned war economy in which resources are allocated not exchanged.

But the inward projection of bellicosity is not enough, because the North Korean economy is so unproductive, especially in earning foreign exchange. To feed the palace system, North Korea must also extract payoffs from the outside world: some from enabling NGOs (food aid from which allows domestic food production to be used for army rations), some from the United States and Japan in exchange for Pyongyang’s nuclear promises (never kept), but most from the fellow Koreans of the South (whose payoffs are won by sheer intimidation). South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his unprecedented reconciliation summit with Kim Jong Il, a moment when peace and even unification seemed imminent. Only later did the truth leak out: The summit had been purchased for $100 million in cash. Unsurprisingly, it led to nothing.

Unwilling to deter North Korea — which would require a readiness to retaliate for its occasionally bloody attacks and constant provocations, thereby troubling business and roiling the Seoul stock market — South Korea has instead preferred to pay off the regime with periodic injections of fuel and food aid, but most consistently by way of the North-South Kaesong industrial zone, in which some 80,000 North Korean workers are paid relatively good wages by South Korean corporations. The workers themselves receive very little of their salaries, of course, the majority of which gets funneled back to Pyongyang and makes up the North’s largest consistent source of foreign currency. Even under supposedly “hard-line” South Korean presidents, the Kaesong transfer has continued. It was not shut down when the North sunk South Korea’s Cheonan warship, killing 46 sailors; nor when the North opened artillery fire on a South Korean island, killing two soldiers and two civilians; nor when the North tested a nuclear device and launched a long-range ballistic missile. Even as the present crisis has unfolded, it was the paying South that feared an interruption of production at Kaesong, not the North, which reaps the benefits. And when media in South Korea noted with much relief that Kaesong was still open, the North Koreans promptly shut it down.

Having successfully extracted payoffs so consistently through threats and occasional attacks, the North is naturally at it again. Even though another nuclear test and the threatened launch of a mobile long-range ballistic missile appear imminent, a payoff from the South, not war on the Korean Peninsula, is the likely outcome. And Pyongyang knows this.

Government without Religion

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Despite the Constitution, there is scarcely a state that would permit any gross violations of Christian morality, Fitzhugh says — again, writing in 1854:

Mormons and Oneida Perfectionists would no sooner be tolerated in Virginia than Pyrrhic Dances and human sacrifices to Moloch. Even Catholics would not be permitted to enact a Parisian sabbath, or Venitian carnival. Christianity is the established religion of most of our States, and Christianity conforming itself to the moral feelings and prejudices of the great majority of the people. No gross violation of public decency will be allowed for the sake of false abstractions.

Women may wear paddies or bloomers, but if they carry the spirit of independence so far as to adopt a dress to conceal their sex, they will soon find themselves in a cage or a prison.

We wished to try the experiment of government without religion, we failed in the attempt. The French did try it, and enthroned the goddess of Reason hard by the reeking guillotine. Moloch might have envied the Goddess the number of her victims, for the streets of Paris ran with blood. The insane ravings of the drunken votaries of Bacchus, were innocency and decency personified, when compared with the mad profanity of Frenchmen, cut loose from religion, and from God.

Soon, very soon, even French republicans discovered the necessity of religion to the very existence of society and of government, and with a profanity more horrible than that which installed the goddess of Reason, they resolved to legislate into existence a Supreme Being. On this occasion, the cruel Robespierre pays one of the most beautiful and just tributes to religion we have ever read. We quote it as a continuation of our argument and an elucidation of our theory — ”That religion is a necessary governmental institution.”


We have not a solitary example in all history to countenance the theories of our ancestors, that a people may be moral, or that a government exist where religion is not in some form or degree recognised by law. What latitude shall be allowed to men in the exercise and practice of religion, is a question for the people to determine when the occasion requires it. It is best not to lay down abstract principles to guide us in advance. Of all the applications of philosophy none have failed so signally as when it has been tried in matters of government. Philosophy will blow up any government that is founded on it. Religion, on the other hand, will sustain the governments that rest upon it. The French build governments on a priori doctrines of philosophy which explode as fast as built. The English gradually and experimentally form institutions, watch their operation, and deduce general laws from those operations.

That kind of philosophy, which neither attempts to create nor account for, is admissible and useful. An extensive knowledge of the history of the various moral philosophies that have succeeded each other in the world, is useful, but only useful because it warns us to avoid all philosophy in the practical affairs of life. If we would have our people moral, and our institutions permanent, we should gradually repudiate our political abstractions and adopt religious truths in their stead.

SimCity’s Evil Twin

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Dwarf Fortress is SimCity’s evil twin, Gabriel Winslow-Yost says:

Dwarf Fortress puts the player in charge of a fledgling Dwarven colony, initially comprising seven dwarfs — a number that can, with the births and immigration that come with successful play, rise into the hundreds, but just as easily plunge to one or zero. You watch from above, pausing the action at will to give orders using a byzantine array of menus, but never directly controlling any of the dwarfs. The central principle of the game is an attention to detail that is frankly obsessive. Dozens of plants and animals are simulated, and hundreds of types of ore are modeled in the soil. Every dwarf has individual character traits, religious beliefs, affections, moods, and skills, and every limb and tissue layer of their bodies is modeled and tracked. (For a while, the melting point for the fat layer of the dwarves’ skin was set too low, resulting in instant death for any creature that got damp and then entered a warm room — baroque and violent bugs like this are very much in the spirit of the game).

Your dwarves can marry and reproduce; suffer from P.T.S.D.; bond with pets; or be taken by “fey moods” and lock themselves away to create artworks. They need constant alcohol intake to remain happy, and if they stay underground for too long will become allergic to sunlight (leading to the classic F.A.Q. entry, “Why is my fortress surrounded by vomit?”). Just starting up a new game requires a few minutes for the computer to randomly generate miles of terrain and thousands of years of local history. And this is it in its embryonic, alpha incarnation. Adams keeps an elaborate public to-do list for the game, whose entries vary in scale from the minute (“Wheelbarrows to haul more objects than can be carried”) to the truly grand (“Have religions in the game correspond to forces or deities and let you play one”), and estimates that version 1.0 won’t be finished for another twenty years.

As in SimCity, there is no real way to win the game. Instead of a series of comfortable equilibria, however, a game of Dwarf Fortress tends harshly, inevitably, toward ruin. The colony is overrun by invaders, or succumbs to disease, starvation, blood-feuds, or madness; a dragon takes up residence in the dining-hall, slaughtering every dwarf but one, who waits out the winter sealed in his room; a vast lava trap, constructed to deal with these threats, malfunctions, killing everybody; and so on. It is played alone, but its brutality, complexity, and unpredictability give its players a need for community — an urge to bear witness, to commiserate, to trade tips for using kittens as poison-detectors. Elaborate written accounts of Dwarf Fortress games, sometimes incorporating art or even animation, have become popular Internet reading material, perhaps more popular than playing the game itself.

One especially successful dwarf fortress demonstrates two important aspects of the game:

The first is that, for all his success in the game — and FlareChannel is about as successful as any Dwarf Fortress creation yet seen — QuantumSawdust does still not feel it is secure. He writes in the Dwarf Fortress forum that the vast families his dwarves have created make him “see the danger of tantrum spirals” — a well-known phenomenon in which an injury to one member of a family causes the rest of that family to run amok with grief and anger, potentially injuring members of other families, and so on — and that “I just have to hope my amenities for the dwarves make up for any disasters that occur.”

The second is that the game is so intricate that many of the events it creates were intended by neither the player nor the designer. In one of the online accounts of FlareChannel’s history, the fort’s creator relates his “favorite story,” which he calls “The Fable of Catten and Eagle.” He tells of a single semi-tame giant eagle — one of many that fill the fort — who took an intense, inexplicable liking to Catten, a particularly competent dwarf, but also one entirely indifferent to the eagle. Twelve game-years later, Catten was caught outside during a dragon attack. The eagle rushed to his aid, blinding the dragon and then helping him kill it. They became friends, eventually died of old age, and “during the finishing of the Temple to Armok, Catten’s clothes were mysteriously found on the roof, where no path could possibly have led.” The writer theorizes that “on a rare night when others were asleep, Catten would climb aboard his old friend, strip naked, and fly around the towers.” Though some part of all this was no doubt embellished in the telling, this account is still, crucially, more a report than a story; its origins are behaviors generated by the game, and observed and interpreted by the player.

Slavery Without Domestic Affection

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Slavery without domestic affection would be a curse, Fitzhugh says — and so would marriage and parental authority:

Historians and philosophers, speculating upon the origin of governments, have generally agreed that the family was its first development. It has ever been, and will ever be, its most common form. Two-thirds of mankind, the women and children, are everywhere the subjects of family government. In all countries where slavery exists, the slaves also are the subjects of this kind of government. Now slaves, wives and children have no other government; they do not come directly in contact with the institutions and rulers of the State. But the family government, from its nature, has ever been despotic. The relations between the parent or master and his family subjects are too various, minute and delicate, to be arranged, defined, and enforced by law. God has in his mercy and wisdom provided a better check, to temper and direct the power of the master of the family, than any human government has devised.

Sun Gym Gang

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The TV show 48 Hours is covering the Sun Gym Gang, the inspiration for the new movie, Pain and Gain, featuring the Rock and Mark Wahlberg.

This lengthy Miami New Times story (parts 1, 2, 3) goes into the gruesome details of the original crimes, which took place in the mid-1990s.

An anonymous conservative returned to the story recently and didn’t find it nearly as comical as he’d remembered:

This was a case study in how stupid, mentally-damaged people can take down the smart, by exhibiting a level of stupidity that is not plausibly believable. You would never think someone would do things that are so stupid. You can walk out the door with them, thinking they would never kill you, because they were just seen with you in front of your neighbors, your cleaning lady, and your personal mechanic. Who would kill you after being seen with you in front of all those witnesses? The answer is, they would, because when dealing with the mentally damaged, there are no rules, and there is no logic. Next thing you know, your headless torso is sticking out of a chemical drum, while these tools argue over whether the chainsaw which is clogged with all your hair is returnable, since it did advertise that it would handle all of a customer’s cutting needs, and it clearly failed to effectively dismember your body.

You don’t want the attention of the wrong kind of people.