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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Classical Liberalism: from Locke to the US Constitution

Napoleon's barbarity overcome by the Scottish Enlightenment

by StFerdIII

Limiting state power and extolling the preeminence of individual and property rights became the foundations for Classical Liberalism and its main modern architect John Locke who lived from 1632-1704. Locke fused many principles together in a definitive manner, providing a thorough foundation upon which later minds could build. Locke’s main importance is that he ‘proves’ that political sovereignty comes only from the consent of the governed in allowing their rulers to govern. Locke maintains that a government's breach of the contract between the state and the citizens in which they agree to be under its authority, gives the people the right of revolution to reject and overthrow tyranny or a government that does not observe natural law and property rights. Interestingly Locke defined private property to include not just money and land, but also religious beliefs, political ideas, and a person’s ‘self’. This means that knowledge, spirituality and freedom of association should not be regulated by government. Obvious examples of limited government coercion would include freedom of speech and the freedom to form or belong to political, social or community groups of all descriptions.

Locke’s ideas were overshadowed in the early 18th century by the widespread mercantilism rampant in Europe’s political-economy. Luckily for civilization the Scottish Enlightenment unfolded in the 18th century providing one of the greatest periods of human achievement ever recorded. This revolution in theory and practice was anti-mercantilist and was founded upon the ideals of capitalism, free-trade, rational scientific thought, innovation in the pursuit of profit and political liberalism and a parliamentary division of powers. The 100 or so years of Scottish Enlightenment influence [1750-1850] allowed the philosophical, economic and political restructuring of British society and most importantly – the improvement of the human condition. It is not an understatement to reference Voltaire who said that civilization looked to Scotland for its ideas. The British empire became the most successful and richest empire on earth thanks to the benefactions of the Scottish Enlightenment.

A key pillar of the Scottish revolution was of course Adam Smith. Smith was the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Smith amongst many others recognized that self-interest motivates all individuals, yet he sees a natural manner in which this could serve everyone's needs. He explains this in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776): ‘Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me what I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest (119).’

In the atmosphere of free domestic and international trade, Smith argues, a division of labor leads to prosperity. He focused on describing this division and the market processes that allow and enhance it. While doing so he discredits the ideas of mercantilism such as the belief that hoarding money or gold, made a nation wealthy. In critiquing this widely held perspective, Smith joined the French Physiocrats to one of whom, Francois Quesnay, he dedicated Wealth of Nations. He also articulates the theory of absolute advantage, stating that the country with the lowest production costs for a given product will produce that good, which another scribe of the Scottish Enlightenment David Ricardo, would later alter and refine in On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation [1817].

In Europe the English reforms and Scottish Enlightenment paralleled the development of the European Enlightenment movement and the two of course fed each other. In Europe the great struggle epitomized by the Protestant revolution and various revolts, was freedom, rationality and individuality, pitted against feudal authority and corrupt, oppressive regimes. The attempt to break free of such statist, feudalist power caused Enlightenment reason and classical liberal individualism to progress together, providing mutual support and reinforcement. Several of the giant French philosophes such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Condorcet are examples of Europe’s 18th century reaction against arbitrary despotism and feudalism.

Montesquieu for instance deeply admired the British system as the changes wrought in Britain’s political-economy by Enlightenment ideals propelled the island to the front rank of nation states. In his great work The Spirit of the Laws (1748) he describes the British system as a series of checks, balances, and separations of power. Montesquieu’s famous categorization of governments comprised republics, monarchies, and despotisms. The last rests on arbitrary power instead of law and natural rights. His insights concerning governmental structure inspired the United States' constitutionalist James Madison and the US founding fathers. Other notable 18th century French thinkers such as Voltaire and Condorcet added to Montesquieu’s analysis of what constitutes proper governance the reiteration of individual rights, reason and the morality of self improvement, individual egoism to build up the public good and the limited rights of government in respect to natural and property right law.

During the mid 19th century heyday of the French Enlightenment an economic movement added its voice to that of the ‘philosophes’. The Physiocratic movement [1759-1776] produced according to Smith, ‘perhaps the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of Political economy’. Its roots rest with Cantillon, whose pre-Smith Essay on the Nature of Commerce (written in the 1720s but not published until 1755) first systematized a comprehensive view of economics. He notes that money flow creates different effects depending on how it is injected into the economy; exportation surpluses eventually prove more beneficial than increased domestic production, for example.

The Physiocrats arose in response to French mercantilism, best personified by Louis XIV's Controller General of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert. It was Colbert that created modern protectionism. Colbert’s idea was to increase taxes on land and agriculture to fund industry and subsidize expansionist, statist war on rich neighboring lands. Colbert’s rabid statism led of course to crushing taxation, impoverishment, reduced trade, increased warring, mass military conscription and widespread corruption. It did nothing to improve France’s economy or the life of its citizens. But the glory of Versailles which effectively bankrupted the French Treasury and led to the French revolution mesmerized Europe and provide a glitter to the poor policies of the first modern statist governor and an excuse for others to emulate French mercantilism. Yet thanks to Colbert’s reckless and immoral set of socialist and statist policies the French economy and military were no match for England in a series of wars and France was left a secondary power after it lost the Seven Years' War which ended in 1763. After this defeat it was clear that France needed solutions. The Physiocrats provided intellectual support to renounce trade restrictions, focus on competitive advantages in agriculture, reduce all taxes to a single rent tax and employ governmental and parliamentary reform.

Though the Physiocrats enjoyed some influence they made little imprint upon the French elite and almost none on the systemic causes of French weakness. Arrogant French etatism and royal prerogative showed little signs of faiblesse during the mid-18th century. The inability to enact democratic, institutional, economic and monetary reform led directly of course to the 1789 French revolution and the destruction of the French monarchy. The perversity of the French revolution was that the overthrow of despotic monarchical feudalism, which had only led to corruption, weakness and the destruction of citizens wealth, gave rise to an absolute dictatorship, in which all aspects of individuality, rational economics, transparent and representative politics and the aspirations of the lower classes would be crushed until the brutal boot of the state.

The Napoleonic empire was a disaster for both France and Europe. By 1815 thanks to the illiberal and anti-rational regime of Napoleon, statism and state power took precedence over freedom and wealth creation. Trade dropped, economies stagnated, war accelerated and millions were left dead not to mention the vast plundering of Europe and North Africa by the French which impoverished whole jurisdictions. The French Revolution and Napoleon’s rule was a disaster of the same magnitude as the 30 years religious wars of the 17th century and World Wars I and II. It retarded European growth by two generations. Civilisation owes as much to the defeat of Napoleon's criminal regime by the British and its allies; as it does to the destruction of Nazi and Russian Communist power by the Anglo-Saxon nations and their coalition of the brave and free.

However it was left to the New World and in particular to the American Revolution to further the classical liberal gains that had taken root in Britain. Many great American statesmen and thinkers pushed the ideals of Classical Liberalism along. The American Revolution provided a seminal moment in human history. Commencing in 1775 and ending in 1783 this surprising victory by the New World over the British empire produced a Constitution with a division of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the administrative branches of government, state and local political power counterbalancing that of the Federal government. States rights, human rights, and a marketplace of ideas and economics were the natural outcomes of the US Constitutional state. It is this republican spirit which still preserves the essence and core of freedom and hope encapsulated in the US state and its political-economic and military power.


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