Lord Acton on Liberty in 2016

Lord Acton
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Great men are almost always bad men.”

  The phrasing of ‘tends’ left Acton some wiggle room, just in case we happened to find someone who attained power but was uncorrupted. It’s questionable whether he needed to include that, but since he was a historian and politician, I assume his views reflect that world.

  We have certainly seen this opinion verified not only in politics but all to often in the business world. Combined with the teaching of Niccolò Machiavelli, it goes a long way toward describing the success of some terrible people.
Continue reading

We owe it all

…to six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.

  I have PC software that makes any image into a puzzle, and I enjoy putting them together in idle moments. One photo I’m particularly fond of depicts the ruins of what was once an elaborate castle perched on the side of a mountain in France. Another favorite puzzle is the Western Wall in Jerusalem, with blocks of stone weighing up to 30 tons. It boggles my mind to contemplate the sheer physical effort required to build these structures, the power of men and animals dedicated to such work; the logistics of supplying the workers who quarried the stones, those who transported them, those who put them in place, the men and women patiently cultivating the food that sustained them. And it is with a sense of unease that I contemplate the power wielded by those in command, those who could order the building of castle, temple and Great Wall, of skyscrapers, cities and empires. Continue reading

Plutocracy In Action

The Spectator interviews Michael Lewis on the 2008 financial crisis.
01/23/2016

      The author of The Big Short weighs in:

“Not nearly enough has been done — the regulatory response has been totally inadequate. The big banks have blocked serious reforms, meddling in the process so incentives haven’t changed enough to attack the heart of the problem — which is why it could happen again.”

“We still have the same short-term-oriented compensation, the same big bonuses at year-end…”

“I’ve never gotten over the feeling when I learnt Goldman Sachs had designed securities that would fail, so they could then short them.”

“The 1997 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act was part of the problem [] but it goes back even before that. The earlier transformation of investment banks into public corporations was a big mistake — with bankers using shareholders’ money to bet, rather than their own.”

“It isn’t just the big campaign contributions. Anyone at the table talking about financial reform is a potential hire and likely to end up working in the financial sector for huge sums, so they get captured.”