Thursday, 16 July 2020

"In a fully developed bureaucracy, there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless, we have a tyranny without a tyrant." #QotD


"In a fully developed bureaucracy, there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless, we have a tyranny without a tyrant."
          ~ Hannah Arendt, On Violence
[Hat tip John Whitehead, from his article 'Tyranny Without a Tyrant']
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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

"'Racism' is the belief that another race is inherently inferior. If you don’t believe another race is inherently inferior, you aren’t a racist. Anyone accusing you of being one is stupid, ignorant, brainwashed, or lying. Ignore them, disregard their feelings, and live your life." #QotD


"'Racism' is the belief that another race is inherently inferior. If you don’t believe another race is inherently inferior, you aren’t a racist. Anyone accusing you of being one is stupid, ignorant, brainwashed, or lying. Ignore them, disregard their feelings, and live your life."
          ~ Matt Walsh
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Sunday, 12 July 2020

Duke Ellington: "Non-Violent Integration"


This may be just what the world needs now: A composition by Duke Ellington for orchestra and his swing band -- played together here by the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Hamburg Symphony.
    "A little thing," Duke described it -- a "particular type of tonal hybrid" on which he continually experimented, giving inspiration for the chosen title: "Non-Violent Integration."
    As a pop composer later titled his own piece, "Wouldn't It Be Nice."


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Saturday, 11 July 2020

"The aesthetic corollary to the Bill of Rights is the figurative nude in art. It is the visual voice of independence, of unrepeatable uniqueness, free of agendas and special status, and it is the voice of freedom." #QotD


Newberry, Anticipation, charcoal on Rives BFK paper, 18x24”, private collection
"The aesthetic corollary to the Bill of Rights is the figurative nude in art. It is the visual voice of independence, of unrepeatable uniqueness, free of agendas and special status, and it is the voice of freedom. The left’s culture is of postmodern art and the most powerful antidote to it is figurative art."
          ~ artist Michael Newberry
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Friday, 10 July 2020

Thursday, 9 July 2020

""The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination." #QotD


"The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorise, but so to touchhis imagination as to enthuse him to his very core."
          ~ Dr. Maria Montessori, To Educate The Human Potential
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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

[UPDATED] "If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us." #QotD


A statement signed by 150 people incl. Deirdre McCloskey, Wynton Marsalis, Garry Kasparov, Steven Pinker, Malcolm Gladwell, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Noam Chomsky, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie has expressed concern over the increasing illiberalism in the US and around the world, signing on to speak up for the Enlightenment value of free speech.

Their Open Letter on Justice and Open Debate was released online overnight, and will be appearing in the Letters section of Harper's magazine’s October issue. Astonishingly, even this tepid defence of the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, has managed to flush out on social media the cancel-culture zealots from both "wings" ...
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
    The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
    This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us. 
Elliot Ackerman
Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Martin Amis
Anne Applebaum
Marie Arana, author
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Mia Bay, historian
Louis Begley, writer
Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
Paul Berman, writer
Sheri Berman, Barnard College
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Neil Blair, agent
David W. Blight, Yale University
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author
David Bromwich
David Brooks, columnist
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Lea Carpenter
Noam Chomsky, MIT (emeritus)
Nicholas A. Christakis, Yale University
Roger Cohen, writer
Ambassador Frances D. Cook, ret.
Drucilla Cornell, Founder, uBuntu Project
Kamel Daoud
Meghan Daum, writer
Gerald Early, Washington University-St. Louis
Jeffrey Eugenides, writer
Dexter Filkins
Federico Finchelstein, The New School
Caitlin Flanagan
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
Kmele Foster
David Frum, journalist
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
Atul Gawande, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Kim Ghattas
Malcolm Gladwell
Michelle Goldberg, columnist
Rebecca Goldstein, writer
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
David Greenberg, Rutgers University
Linda Greenhouse
Kerri Greenidge, historian
Rinne B. Groff, playwright
Sarah Haider, activist
Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern
Roya Hakakian, writer
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Jeet Heer, The Nation
Katie Herzog, podcast host
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
Adam Hochschild, author
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author
Eva Hoffman, writer
Coleman Hughes, writer/Manhattan Institute
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute
Michael Ignatieff
Zaid Jilani, journalist
Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts
Wendy Kaminer, writer
Matthew Karp, Princeton University
Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative
Daniel Kehlmann, writer
Randall Kennedy
Khaled Khalifa, writer
Parag Khanna, author
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Frances Kissling, Center for Health, Ethics, Social Policy
Enrique Krauze, historian
Anthony Kronman, Yale University
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
Susie Linfield, New York University
Damon Linker, writer
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Steven Lukes, New York University
John R. MacArthur, publisher, writer
Susan Madrak, writer
Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writer
Greil Marcus
Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center
Kati Marton, author
Debra Maschek, scholar
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
John McWhorter, Columbia University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Yascha Mounk, Persuasion
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Meera Nanda, writer and teacher
Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Olivia Nuzzi, New York Magazine
Mark Oppenheimer, Yale University
Dael Orlandersmith, writer/performer
George Packer
Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University (emerita)
Greg Pardlo, Rutgers University – Camden
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Katha Pollitt, writer
Claire Bond Potter, The New School
Taufiq Rahim, New America Foundation
Zia Haider Rahman, writer
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution/The Atlantic
Neil Roberts, political theorist
Melvin Rogers, Brown University
Kat Rosenfield, writer
Loretta J. Ross, Smith College
J.K. Rowling
Salman Rushdie, New York University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment
Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University
Diana Senechal, teacher and writer
Jennifer Senior, columnist
Judith Shulevitz, writer
Jesse Singal, journalist
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Andrew Solomon, writer
Deborah Solomon, critic and biographer
Allison Stanger, Middlebury College
Paul Starr, American Prospect/Princeton University
Wendell Steavenson, writer
Gloria Steinem, writer and activist
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School
Kian Tajbakhsh, Columbia University
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Cynthia Tucker, University of South Alabama
Adaner Usmani, Harvard University
Chloe Valdary
Lucía Martínez Valdivia, Reed College
Helen Vendler, Harvard University
Judy B. Walzer
Michael Walzer
Eric K. Washington, historian
Caroline Weber, historian
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Bari Weiss
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Garry Wills
Thomas Chatterton Williams, writer
Robert F. Worth, journalist and author
Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Matthew Yglesias
Emily Yoffe, journalist
Cathy Young, journalist
Fareed Zakaria

Monday, 6 July 2020

"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"


On the weekend in which America should have had something to celebrate, a speech by former slave Frederick Douglass reminds us that the birth a nation dedicated to liberty was and still is something to celebrate for every being who aspires to be human ...

In an 1852 speech entitled, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," Frederick Douglass described America's founders and its founding documents thus: 
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was ‘settled’ that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were ‘final;’not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times...
    Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it... take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery...
    Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.
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Thursday, 2 July 2020

"You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth; and that wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated." #QotD

Today's quote is dedicated to the letters I, R and D, and the colour Green ...


"You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth; and that wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated."
~ Thomas Sowell, from Dan Mitchell's post on 'Teacher Unions v Black Children'
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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

"A striking and ironic feature of socialism is its inherent anti-populism. Unlike democracy, socialist governments can afford to ignore and even harm the interest of the majority, often justifying these actions under some grand but empty banner."



"A striking and ironic feature of socialism -- both its advantage and ... its fatal flaw -- is its inherent anti-populism. Unlike democracy, which is forced to be responsible to the average voter, socialist governments can afford to ignore and even harm the interest of the majority, often justifying these actions under some grand but empty banner."
~ Ronald Coase + Ning Wang, from their book How China Became Capitalist.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

"When you destroy art you kill a part of yourself. That part is never replaced. If you continue, piece by piece dies until there is nothing left. You didn’t destroy art but only yourself." #QotD


"When you destroy art you kill a part of yourself. That part is never replaced. If you continue, piece by piece dies until there is nothing left. You didn’t destroy art but only yourself. Even a requiem now will have no meaning to you. Hope is only for those who strive for better alternatives."
             ~ artist Michael Newberry
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Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Does looting really make us all rich?





French economist Frederic Bastiat must be rolling over in his grave because there are still people who think you can boost an economy by destroying wealth. 

The latest ignoramus, as observed by Dan Mitchell, is one Felix Salmon who, in a piece for Axios,  "reveals he still believes in this primitive form of Keynesian economics."
There’s one big non-political reason why luxury stores were targeted by looters [says Salmon]: Their wares can now be sold for top dollar, thanks to the rise of what is often known as the “circular economy.” …Instead of stealing goods they need to live,looters are increasingly stealing the goods they can most easily sell online. …Economically speaking, looting can have positive effects. Rebuilding and restocking stores increases demand for goods and labor, especially during a pandemic when millions of workers are otherwise unemployed. …The circular economy helps to reduce waste and can efficiently keep luxury goods in the hands of those who value them most highly.
As Mitchell responds, it would have been more correct (though thoroughly immoral) to say that the looting had a positive effect on the looters.
But it definitely doesn’t have a positive effect on merchants (who lose money in the short run and probably have higher insurance payments thereafter), on consumers (who are likely to pay more for products in the future), or on the overall economy (because of the unseen reductions in other types of economic activity).
Let’s wrap up with a cartoon on the topic:
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Sunday, 21 June 2020

"And if it offends you, just don't listen to it."


I was reminded over the weekend of Jello Biafra's "Disclaimer" at the start of LA punk band Offspring's album 'Ixnay on the Hombre.'

Astonishing that in 1997 the enemies of free speech, the targets of Biafra's humour here, were in the religious right...

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Thursday, 18 June 2020

"Events in Minneapolis might have initially seemed like a historic lightning rod that could launch a deeper discussion about how to achieve social change, uniting us all in fighting discrimination. Instead, it is fast turning into a quagmire of censorious intolerance." #QotD


"Events in Minneapolis might have initially seemed like a historic lightning rod that could launch a deeper discussion about how to achieve social change, uniting us all in fighting discrimination. Instead, it is fast turning into a quagmire of censorious intolerance. If you want to initiate a broader debate about racism, is it really healthy to create an atmosphere in which it is not only statues that are being toppled but a range of cultural artefacts, TV series, celebrities, columnists and controversial broadcasters."
~ Claire Fox, from her article 'How a Serious Issue With Racism Was Turned Into a Box-Ticking Exercise'

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker." #QotD


"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money.”
                  ~ Frederick Douglass
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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

"Americans shouldn't stand for an out-of-control police, but it is merely the symptom of an out-of-control government." #QotD


"Robert Peel, the British prime minister who established the Metropolitan Police Service, which is considered the template for the modern civilian law enforcement authority, said, 'The police are the public and the public are the police.' He meant that they should be an integral part of the community to which they belong, and he would have been horrified at the division that has arisen between his progeny in America and the people they are meant to serve. [Americans] shouldn't stand for an out-of-control police, but we should [all] realise that it is merely the symptom of an out-of-control government."
    ~ Kiwiwit from his post 'The Real Problem with Police Violence in America'
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Monday, 15 June 2020

The ongoing Captain Cook korero



James Cook (1728-1779), painted by Nathaniel Dance-Holland [public domain]

The insanity has come to New Zealand. At the very time that the number of students studying history are showing a rapid decline, the politicising of history is on the way up.
So it starts with tearing down statues of slave traders and it ends with a school in Sussex ditching its plan to name one of its houses after JK Rowling because she has dared to criticise the cult of transgenderism. What a deranged week this has been. Statues toppled or defaced by middle-class mobs haughtily taking offence on behalf of all black people. Classic comedy shows erased from streaming services. People cancelled for wrongthink on everything from white privilege to genderfluidity. Anyone who thinks this has anything to do with George Floyd needs to give their head a shake. This is the zeitgeist of intolerance intensifying. Enough. Institutions under pressure to censor need to start showing some backbone [says Spiked's Brendan O'Neill], and the rest of us need to offer solidarity to all victims of the woke witch-hunt. Freedom depends on it.

No backbone was shown in Dunedin, where the owner of the Captain Cook pub -- where many a Flying Nun band got their start -- announced that it will be changing its name from The Captain Cook -- one of many reactions worldwide to Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States. That link is as tenuous as the reason for the change: "For some people," said the owner, "Captain Cook is as offensive as a Nazi flag."

It's the owner's perfect right to change the name. It's our's to wonder how a death in the United States ends up with one of the Enlightenment's greatest explorers linked with the Nazi flag. A man who in "ten years, in three voyages of discovery of high risk and prodigious burden, ... achieved what surely ranks as one of the greatest expansions of the known world (superbly chronicled in J.C. Beaglehole’s edition of Cook’s journals)."
The other marker which emerges from the journals is Cook’s humanity.  For a man of initially-limited horizons and trammelled with great responsibility, Cook often showed keen understanding, a remarkably non-judgemental attitude and a willingness to see things from the other person’s point of view.  It made him a shrewd and scientific observer, and gave him a claim to fineness of character.
"Fineness of character." I recommend you read the entire post at that link, to consider whether equating this fine man with a foul flag says more about today's protests (and protestors) than it does about Cook and his achievements.

You would think from reading continuing media reports here about reactions to James Cook however that he did little more in his long life but come to New Zealand to commit "hara or atrocities" -- two words used recently on Radio New Zealand to discuss this man's contribution to history.

The commemoration last year of Cook's first visit here threw up the "worst" of what Cook allegedly did here. In October last year, RNZ recounted how an "expression of regret" on the part of the Crown is to be given, as part of the 250-year commemorations of Cook's arrival to these shores, to "leaders of Gisborne iwi." This is accompanied on the RNZ website (our "public broadcaster") by "related stories" with a headline "He Was a Barbarian," and another recounting how graffiti on a James Cook statue in Gisborne is "an act of activism that prompts debate about New Zealand's history" inciting a "hard but necessary korero.".

If this is a "debate" over Cook's legacy then, if this sort of media coverage were any sort of guide, it began as a very one-sided one -- and it has continued that way.

Acknowledge as you must that the killing of any innocent is a tragedy. And indeed that is just how Cook saw these five deaths, as we will see. But all such incidents happen within a context that, if our "korero" is to be an honest one, must be part of every account.

That First Encounter


It may surprise readers to learn that Cook was down here in the Pacific not to rape and pillage but to carry out astronomical measurements and, while down here, to explore the botany and geography and to map the coastline of this country -- a place of whom the rest of the world knew little about the inhabitants other than that four of Abel Tasman's crew had been killed by them in 1642. This being the main reason for Tasman spending little more time here, scarpering as soon as the slaughter started.

And as fearful as Cook's crew must have been of their imminent first encounter, imagine how it must have appeared to those on land:
To picture how those undreamed-of strangers must have appeared to the Maori, we must imagine what our reactions would be if we suffered a Martian invasion. According to one Maori chief, Te Horeta Taniwha, who as a small boy was present when Cook came to Mercury Bay, the Maori at first thought the white men were goblins and their ship a god. Eighty years later, the old man recalled their astonishment when one of the goblins pointed a walking-stick at a shag and, amidst thunder and lightning, the bird fell down dead. "There was one supreme man in that ship. We knew that was the lord of the whole by his perfect gentlemanly and noble demeanour.' [1]
A startling and wholly unexpected encounter for the locals! So how did this noble and gentlemanly figure oversee the death of (what is said to be) nine men at Poverty Bay? Recall that this was Cook's first encounter with a people of whom little was known other than a slaughter. He had come prepared, inviting on the voyage a friendly Tahitian called Tupia to help with interpretation. Cook's Endeavour arrived in Poverty Bay after first sighting East Cape two days earlier, anchoring "in a deep bay where it was hoped to find wood, water and fresh provisions."
The natives were numerous -- "a strong raw-boned, well-made active people..." as Cook described them -- and their speech was near enough to Tahitian for Tupia to be able to talk with them. Far from being friendly, however, they were insolent and aggressive, and showed little wish to trade. This was their first contact with white men, and they had yet to learn the chastening power of firearms. There were minor skirmishes ashore in which two Maori were killed and several wounded.
    When a fishing canoe came near the ship's boats Cook ordered those in it to be brought aboard, forcibly if need be, so that Tupia could explain to them the visitor's desire for peace and friendship. Not surprisingly the natives resisted. A volley was fired and four were killed. Cook's conscience about the affair was uneasy, and his excuse that otherwise he and his companions would have been "knocked on the head" must have sounded thin even to himself.
    [Ships Botanist Joseph] Banks was shocked. He wrote that it was the most disagreeable day his life had yet seen, and added: "Black be the mark for it." In their brief time ashore he and [his assistant] Solander collected a meagre forty plants, and they were glad to get away from the place. So was Cook. 
    He named it Poverty Bay, "because it afforded us no one thing we wanted," and the unhappy name has stuck. On its shores now stands the town of Gisborne. [2]
So now you have some wider context on which to judge this debate, and the beginning of some context to deduce whether commemorating Cook should be more celebration or commiseration.


An impression by naturalist Alexander Sporing of Endeavour's  1769 
encounter with the defiant occupants of a Maori war canoe,


Could It Have Been Better?


Could things have happened differently? Could that first encounter have been beeter? Of course -- as both Cook and Banks agreed at the time. Indeed, they had hoped fervently it would be so -- and in many later landings on this voyage it was so, especially as Cook discovered (as many rugby-playing nations have since discovered too) that, despite their obvious love of fighting, "the main purpose of the Maori [haka] was to demonstrate their courage by insulting the white man rather than actually to attack them."[3]

And it could have been a whole lot worse -- as it had been for those local inhabitants who had encountered Cortez in Mexico, Pizarro in Peru, or the Belgians in the Congo - or for those Maori who almost at the same time, encountered the likes of French sea captain Jean-Francois Marie De Surville -- or for the crew of Tobias Furneaux, or Marion du Fresne and his crew.

First contacts between two entirely unknown cultures invite trouble. There is no reason to believe Cook wished to kill anyone, and every reason to believe he intended only peace and fervently regretted what happened.

Cook's Legacy


If this is a debate, then let us make a case for this man and his legacy. He is much, much more than the cartoon figure appearing on NZ websites in recent days. To paraphrase George Reisman, "Those who do not understand the place of Cook have been intellectually barbarized by corrupt education."

Cook left New Zealand on this first voyage having observed a people mired in war, slavery and human sacrifice, yet still "deeply impressed with what he had seen of New Zeland and its people." [4]  With this voyage, and his mapping and reports -- and those of Banks and other scientists accompanying him on this voyage -- he left behind a people now connected, through the small amount of trade conducted and the great amounts to come, to the international division of labour. And with it Western Civilisation.

Whatever the accomplishments of Maori in their eight centuries here, what Cook and other explorers brought with them was this link to this wider accomplishment grafted out over many millennia. Over those millennia, savagery was steadily (if irregularly) diminished around the globe. As it has here in New Zealand.

This is not trivial. Without it, human progress on the scale we all now take for granted would not be possible.

To further paraphrase George Reisman,
Those who deny [this] demonstrate that they have not made the knowledge and values that constitute Western Civilization their own. They are self-confessed and self-made aliens living in the midst of Western Civilization yet preferring to all of the knowledge and values that constitute it, the meagre, primitive state of knowledge and values constituting the culture of “indigenous peoples,” who are at a level comparable to that of people who lived many thousands of years ago, with no knowledge of reading or writing, and hardly any knowledge of science, mathematics, philosophy, music, or art.
    Whoever, in the words of Ludwig von Mises, prefers life to death, health to disease, and wealth to poverty, is logically obliged to prefer Western Civilization and its offshoots of individual freedom and capitalism to all other civilisations and cultures that have ever existed.


'The Death of Cook,' 1785, by Francesco Bartolozzi, William Byrne, John Webber [public domain]



Correcting the Debate


Cook himself was killed at Kealakakua Bay, Hawaii, murdered by another misunderstanding, "sacrificed by the priests of Hawaii. They had made a living god of him and had then realised their error, and the only way to prove him mortal in the sight of the people was to kill him. Many great men have died for the same reason." [5] The man known as to Britons as "the ablest and most renowned navigator this or any other country has produced" was dead. It was said that on hearing the news "all Britain mourned,"
and not only Britain but her friends and her enemies and the whole western world. No-one could be sure how the people of his favourite island, Tahiti, would have reacted, for in their eyes he was a demi-god and presumably immportal ...
Cook was essentially a man of peace. He never commanded a ship of the line, and he never fought in a major naval engagement; yet apart from Nelson he remains today the most famous of all Britain's captains ... 
He was a natural leader of men, a peerless seaman and navigator, a superb cartographer, an acute and accurate observer, and the foremost explorer os his own age. He died knowing that his acheivements in three historic voyages made between 1768 and 1779 could never be surpassed or even again be equalled, for he had left comparatively little for others to do.
"It is almost impossible," say the authors of The Voyages of Captain Cook, "to overstate Cook's contribution to geographical knowledge":
On the negative side, he silenced forever those theorists ... who insisted that there must be a great southern continent to counterbalance the land mass of the northern hemisphere, and he disproveed the theory that there existed a practical north-west passage around the top of America...
    On the positive side, he discovered and charted much of the Pacific that we know today, from the west coast of Canada and the Hawaiian islands to New Caledonia; he established, by sailing around it, that New Zealand was no part of a mythical continent but two large, narrowly separated islands; he disproved the Dutch belief that "New Holland" was entirely barren by traversing the whole length of its fertile eastern coast, thus paving the way for British settlement there eighteen years later; and he confirmed that a strait separated New Guinea from what is now Australia.
    He did much more however. He pioneered and perfected the use of the chronometer to determine longitude, and so took a lot of the guesswork out of navigation. He showed by practical example how scurvy, the greatest single scourge of seafarers, could be controlle and conquered. He wrote simply and informatively about the places he visited and with humanity and insight about the people he met and how they lived. His accounts of his voyages, illustrated by the various artists who accompanied him, became best-selling books which not only broadened the knowledge and mental horizons of the many who read them but lent such apparent weight to the theories of Rousseau and other philosophers of teh back-tonature school that it took several decades of earnest missionary propaganda to tarnish the poppular image of the 'noble savage.' And as father of modern marine surveying he esatablished a tradition and fouded a line that extended through Vancouver, Bligh, Broughton, Flinders, Owen, Fitzroy and others far into the nineteenth century.
    It is remarkable enough that any one man could have achieved so much, but in Cook's case it is even more remarkable ... for he came into the world with no advantage at all save his own intelligence and will.[6]
He was a great man, an Enlightenment-era hero,  and a world-historical figure. That an apology is now possible for what he himself abundantly regretted in that first encounter is a measure of how the world and New Zealand's place in it has changed since then, not least because of him and the values he both represented and helped bring here.

And since we can all now share a similar sense of humour, here's Billy T. James' own reconstructions of those historic "first contacts" ...





[1] Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand (1991), p. 32-3
[2] Rex & Thea Rienits, The Voyages of Captain Cook (1968), p.43
[3] Ibid, p. 45
[4] Ibid, p. 50-51
[5] Ibid, p. 152
[6] Ibid, p. 12-14

[NB: This post is based on one made last year at the time of commemorations for Cook's first visit.]meaMeaw
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Sunday, 14 June 2020

"Permanent mass unemployment destroys the moral foundations of the social order. The young people who, having finished their training for work, are forced to remain idle, are the ferment out of which the most radical political movements are formed. In their ranks the soldiers of the coming revolutions are recruited."


"Permanent mass unemployment destroys the moral foundations of the social order. The young people who, having finished their training for work, are forced to remain idle, are the ferment out of which the most radical political movements are formed. In their ranks the soldiers of the coming revolutions are recruited."
~ Ludwig von Mises, from his 1922 book Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 486.
[Hat tip Thorstein Polleit, Julian D.] 

Friday, 12 June 2020

"Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right." #QotD


"Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."          ~ Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism, a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men." #QotD


"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
    "Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas — or of inherited knowledge — which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men."

          ~ Ayn Rand, from her essay 'Racism'

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Wednesday, 10 June 2020

“Youth is a circumstance you can't do anything about. The trick is to grow up without getting old.” #QotD


Frank Lloyd Wright in 1938, presenting a model of his Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma
“Youth is a circumstance you can't do anything about. The trick is to grow up without getting old.”
~ Frank Lloyd Wright, America's greatest architect, born 153 years ago this week [hat tip Price Tower]
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Tuesday, 9 June 2020

"I Want To Be A Consumer, Sir."


You've heard the logical fallacy so many times you've stopped acknowledging it. Yet all the exhortations to "go out and spend" to "save" the economy are mercilessly satirised in this piece of poetic brilliance by Patrick Barrington that appeared in 'Punch' two years before Keynes's encomium to irresponsibility first appeared:
I Want To Be A Consumer 
“And what do you mean to be?”
The kind old Bishop said
As he took the boy on his ample knee
And patted his curly head.
“We should all of us choose a calling
To help Society’s plan;
Then what do you mean to be, my boy,
When you grow to be a man?” 
“I want to be a Consumer,”
The bright-haired lad replied
As he gazed up into the Bishop’s face
In innocence open-eyed.
“I’ve never had aims of a selfish sort,
For that, as I know, is wrong.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the world along. 
“I want to be a Consumer
And work both night and day,
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say,
I won’t just be a Producer,
Like Bobby and James and John;
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the nation on.” 
“I want to be a Consumer
And live in a useful way;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say.
There are too many people working
And too many things are made.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help to further Trade. 
“But what do you want to be?”
The Bishop said again,
“For we all of us have to work,” said he,
“As must, I think, be plain.
Are you thinking of studying medicine
Or taking a Bar exam?”
“Why, no!” the bright-haired lad replied
As he helped himself to jam. 
“I want to be a Consumer
And do my duty well;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists tell.
I’ve made up my mind,” the lad was heard,
As he lit a cigar, to say;
“I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And I want to begin today.”
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Monday, 8 June 2020

"Racism is not dead, but it is on life support -- kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as 'racists'." #QotD



"Racism is not dead, but it is on life support -- kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as 'racists'."
          ~ Thomas Sowell, discussed in the 'Q+A with Thomas Sowell'
[Hat tip Lee Atkins‎]
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Friday, 5 June 2020

"Improper Laws Multiply the Chance for Fatal Police Encounters"


Three perceptive observations on American news:

When you multiply laws excessively, says philosopher Greg Salmieri, when you insist that police can stop and arrest people for the most trivial manufactured offences, you multiply by the thousand the chances for fatal police encounters. "What government does is wield force; and force should only be wielded judiciously and when it's appropriate. And it's deadly dangerous to have it in areas [of life] where it doesn't belong."

Full video here:



And the problem of containing government force is compounded when due process is so routinely ignored. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, Iona Italia reminds us
and even if manifestly guilty the job of a policeman is to secure the perp, not to indulge his sadism. Only enough violence should ever be used to protect people if they are directly threatened & to make a safe arrest. Not an iota more. A policeman is not a judge, nor an executioner. It's not up to him to decide who deserves what treatment. It's vital that the police treat everyone in accordance ONLY with what the situation demands.
Don't expect top-down change either, says Liberty Scott
There is no conceivable way that there will be reform of policing in the US without bipartisan leadership to confront everything from qualified immunity to militarisation to legacy racism to criminilisation of micro-economic regulation [i.e., all the petty intrusions Salmieri is talking about]. And that isn’t remotely Trump or Biden.
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"Politically, there are few ideas more potent than the notion that all your problems are caused by other people and their unfairness to you." #QotD


"Politically, there are few ideas more potent than the notion that all your problems are caused by other people and their unfairness to you."
~ Thomas Sowell, from his essay 'Thanksgiving and Fairness,' collected in his book Controversial Essays
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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

"NZ has so far remained outside the American policing asylum. Adjusting for population size, police here take about 37 years to kill as many people as American police kill every year." #QotD


"New Zealand has so far remained outside the American policing asylum. From 1941 to 2015, police in New Zealand shot and killed 29 people. Adjusting for population size, police here take about 37 years to kill as many people as American police kill every year. ... Said [former] Police Commissioner Mike Bush: "... People tend to join the New Zealand police because they want to help people, not shoot them'."
          ~ Eric Crampton, from his report 'The Outside of the Asylum'
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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

"It's stunning how tribal Americans have become. The Left gets its marching orders from MSM, the Right from Fox and White House. Then they go out and -- repeat, repeat, repeat. No argument, no thinking, just talking points..." #QotD


"It's stunning how tribal Americans have become. The Left gets its marching orders from MSM, the Right from Fox and White House. Then they go out and -- repeat, repeat, repeat. No argument, no thinking, just talking points..."
          ~ Yaron Brook
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Friday, 29 May 2020

"It wasn't outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care beds and few ventilators, NZ was woefully underprepared."


"The nation’s draconian response to the coronavirus was questionable, given it is an island with a massive moat and a small population spread over an area the size of Italy. Despite those obvious advantages, the stringency of its lockdown was higher than practically any other country... Deaths per million were the same as Australia’s — just four.
    "In any case, it wasn't outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care beds and few ventilators ... it was woefully underprepared."

             ~ Adam Creighton, from his oped 'Flightless Economy to Land With a Thud'
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Thursday, 28 May 2020

"Experts are often called in, not to provide factual information or dispassionate analysis for the purpose of decision-making by responsible officials, but to give political cover for decisions already made and based on other considerations entirely." #QotD


"Experts are often called in, not to provide factual information or dispassionate analysis for the purpose of decision-making by responsible officials, but to give political cover for decisions already made and based on other considerations entirely."
          ~ Thomas Sowell, from his book Intellectuals and Society
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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

"From testing, to cures, to developing a vaccine, to creative and practical methods of physical distancing, the solution to the current crises is more innovation, not less. That means more freedom, not less." #QotD


"The penny has finally dropped that there is an effectively infinite number of ways to rearrange the atoms and bits in the world into useful combinations, and that returns can increase forever. At the same time, people have spotted that the societies that do the most innovating are the ones with the most freedom for people to exchange ideas...
    "In a year marred by economic collapse and the worst pandemic in a century, it is more important than ever that we remember this lesson. Top-down, state organisations from the Chinese Communist Party to the World Health Organization to the Food and Drug Administration to Public Health England have repeatedly misled the public and strangled the experimentation and technological innovation needed to react to the COVID-19 outbreak, or to address the economic consequences of the pandemic.
    "From testing, to cures, to developing a vaccine, to creative and practical methods of physical distancing, the solution to the current crises is more innovation, not less.
"That means more freedom, not less."

          ~ Matt Ridley, from his post 'The solution to the current crises'
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