Irenic Intentions

Irenic. Adj: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation. Notes from a Politics and Economics undergraduate just back from somewhere in the MidWest. "You said you were going to Ohio? Where the Hell's that?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Divergent Themes in the MPs Expenses Row

The telepublic outrage at the revelations of British MPs' fraudulent expenses claims seems too earnest to be real but it's surely charming. It's certainly a pleasant distraction from the news that deflation is at record high and Standard & Poor's have put UK government debt on 'downgrade watch'.

Whilst the Daily Telegraph drip-by-drip release of these stories continues and before the anger in the country finds articulate expression (neither the BNP nor Esther Rantzen qualify in my opinion), I wish to address two themes of the public discontent that appear divergent.

The first cropped up at least two weeks ago when Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Health Secretary, was roundly condemned by a television audience for having a job outside of Westminster. Apparently people were upset that he spent 12 days a year as a non-executive director of a small company. The message for aspirant MPs seemed to be: part-timers need not apply.

So apparently Joe Public wants the establishment of a full-time political class whose entire earnings would be funded by the taxpayer. Doesn't sound like the Joe Public that's angry with the frivolity and largesse of those expenses claims, does it?

However these two themes in the politics of envy that seems to thrive in recessions don't have to conflict. If MPs were already so wealthy that they didn't have to take directorships in the first place they could fund the job of representation out of their own pocket. What could be more public-spirited than that, especially in these hard times?

What is more, it usually takes a few years to build up a bit of cash so MPs would automatically have experience to boot. If some youth were desired we could insert those born into wealth and prestige to sit alongside the parvenus. Sound familiar?

Therefore I propose a temporary equilibrium solution to reconcile this apparently divergent public anger. Place a property and income restriction on all House of Commons candidates and, meanwhile, govern the country from the House of Lords.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What St Pius X and University of York students have in common

I encourage you to read this essay by James Kalb, introducing his new book "The Tyranny of Liberalism". Here's an extract:

Today all things are justified on the grounds that they help men get what they want. Those who recognize an authority superior to human purposes are seen as dangerous bigots who want to oppress others in the name of some sect or arbitrary principle. As a consequence, fundamental political discussion no longer exists. Politics today is divided between an outlook that presents itself as rational and this-worldly, and absolutely dominates public discussion, and a variety of dissident views that speak for goods higher than human desire but are unable to make effective their substantial underlying support. The conflict is never discussed seriously since it is considered resolved; the ruling liberal view is accepted as indisputable, while dissent is considered confused or worse.

I recently had a conversation with a non-Christian student friend of mine about the Catholic Church and General Franco. I mentioned that The Tablet supported the Generalissimo for a time and suggested the liberal catholics who now run that paper are ashamed of their publication's history. "Liberal catholics!", he interrupted, "surely that's a contradiction in terms?"

I couldn't but resist a broad smile when I heard those words. I wasn't chatting to an altar server outside an SSPX Mass centre here, just a plain old University of York student. I thought of all the ways liberals have tried to make the Church seem non-controversial since the Second Vatican Council: dissenting from Humanae Vitae, not speaking up about abortion, attacking John Paul II, womynpriests, rushing through marriage annullments, trendy sisters, "Justice & Peace" ... The list goes on. And on.

And yet! This ordinary non-Christian liberal student friend of mine thinks all these things are of no account. Furthermore, so does contemporary society. So do I: liberalism and religion are opposites. As long as Catholicism speaks to those higher goods beyond this world with which our rational politics of consumption cannot cope, as long as it preaches self-control in the face of hedonism, Liberalism will always regard it with distrust. No matter how hard the trendy sisters try.

St Pius X said "liberal Catholics are wolves in sheeps' clothing". Contemporary Liberalism agrees.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Evil Episcopalian: Priestess of the Culture of Death?

I saw this on Rod Dreher's excellent Crunchy Con. The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts has appointed a new Dean, The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale. This is what she said in a recent sermon:

... When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.

Mr Dreher calls her "evil" but there is an opportunity for us to use God's grace here. We should be thankful that she, unlike most of her allies in the abortion industry, is so spine chillingly honest. These people wish to put the interests of the powerful - the educated, the employed, the able, the born - above those of the most vulnerable in society, the unborn. As simple as that. When the language of Christianity is invoked in the cause of this agenda by a senior member of the Episcopalian Church ... well, one wonders if the Anglican Communion is making even a pretense of being a Christian church anymore.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Q. How can you learn to respect Muslims? A. Read the BNP website

I know this happened a while ago but I've just read an irate attack on the BBC by one of the bloggers on the British National Party website after the corporation reported on a BNP protest rally in Stoke-on-Trent back in September.

I must say I do rather like the graphic they've made!

One of the things the BNP pick up on is how the BBC report a young Muslim fellow in Stoke as saying

"The BNP has support in this city because of a decline in Christian values. That makes people more materialistic and selfish and they don't care about their community.

"Also, people here aren't educated. Ask them if they've read a book in the last year, the last five years. A lot of them haven't.

I can't help but agree with this man! I can well imagine that plenty of ordinary people in Stoke haven't read a properly bound book in years. That the BNP refuse to accept this is a tactical error. With the mass of Labour and David Cameron's Conservatives, not to mention the Lib Dems, succumbed to secular humanism, there is a space for a muscular, even militant, political defence of Christianity in Great Britain. I suspect the reason that the BNP can't see this is the same reason terrorists wanted to blow up the Ministry of Sound nightclub: BNP members have, like almost 99% of the working class, given in to the immoral lifestyles foisted upon them by elites working out of places like the BBC!

In order to defend a culture from the apparently adverse effects of immigration one has to accept that there is one to defend in the first place. The ordinariness of BNP members in Stoke and elsewhere should be proof that there isn't. Indeed, how can we as a nation defeat Islamism if they've got God and we haven't? England is well in to injury time and even the BNP players are scoring own goals.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Patricia Bozell (née Buckley), 1927-2008, Requiescat in pace

Somehow, despite reading the Washington Post every day this summer, I failed to notice the passing of a great lady. Mrs Patricia Bozell was the wife of L. Brent Bozell, Jnr. and sister of arguably the most important American conservative of the 20th century, William F. Buckley, Jnr., Bozell's best friend at Yale. According to the obituary, Mrs Bozell wasn't scared of rolling up her sleeves to defend the Faith:

Mrs. Bozell was less public than many in her family, but in March 1971 she attracted press attention with an attempted physical confrontation with radical feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson at a Catholic University forum.
Before an audience of 800, Atkinson said the Virgin Mary was more "used" than if she had participated in a sexual conception.
"I can't let her say that," Mrs. Bozell yelled, as she ran toward Atkinson and tried to slap her. Her hand struck a microphone.
Afterward, Mrs. Bozell told The Washington Post: "If it comes down to violence for social protest, I do believe in it if there's adequate provocation. I went in there, heard blasphemy and acted."

Brent Bozell, along with William F. and James Buckley, led early efforts to stop the murder of innocent children by the fashionable procedure of abortion. The following is from Rick Perlstein's excellent new book, "Nixonland: the Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America", which I'm reading at the moment.

In 1970, when National Review co-founder L. Brent Bozell Jr's group Los Hijos de Tormenta—Sons of Thunder, after the Spanish fascists—learned that George Washington University hospital was performing abortions they marched there in khaki uniforms and red berets, carrying Papal flags and rosaries: " are daggering to death your unborn tomorrow," a priest intoned. "The very cleanliness of your sterilized murder factories gives off the stench of death." They smashed a plate glass window in the ensuing scuffle with security guards.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Did the Millennium Bug help cause the Credit Crunch?

The view that the Credit Crunch is all a bit hyped up, like Bird Flu and the "Millennium Bug", is common at the moment, not least in the US House of Representatives. But the FT's John Authers, writing in Saturday's "Long View" column makes a substantive link between Y2K and the current financial crisis:

Other long-ago technical decisions now loom large. When computers were in their infancy, programmers saved space by feeding only the last two digits of the year into computers’ clocks; that prompted widespread fear that the world’s computer infrastructure would collapse at the turn of the millennium; that prompted the Federal Reserve and other central banks to flood the market with cheap money, just in case; that fuelled the boom and bust in technology stocks; that prompted fears of a downturn and led to even cheaper money from the Fed; and that made all kinds of manoeuvrings in the credit market possible that would not have made sense had base rates been higher. We are learning about the consequences of that one too.

Is this really true? Did the Fed systematically lower interest rates for fear of a worldwide meltdown should PCs fail to wake up at 00:00 on 01/01/00?

It certainly makes sense that fears about Y2K could have led to a liquidity crisis. Worries about cash machines not working on January 1st led deposit banks to fear mass withdrawals at the end of 1999. Companies may have had similar fears and could have been reluctant to buy other corporations' short term commercial paper, especially if it came due at the turn of the millennium. In a bid to have cash on hand to satisfy both retail and corporate customers, banks may have sought to exchange illiquid, long term securities for shorter term government bonds.

Such fears are nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, a very similar set of concerns is responsible for the subzero conditions in the money markets at the present moment. However, the evidence suggests the Fed's policy in 99/00 was well off-trend. This graph shows the growth in the monetary base since 1985:

Source: Von Mises' Institute (

You can clearly see a sharp rise in the growth of the monetary base in 1999 and a correspondingly sharp contraction in the year 2000. That is to say, the Fed lowered rates and then returned them to almost exactly their pre-Y2K fear levels. Indeed, target levels were actually rising throughout the period. If Authers is right, what central bankers thought was a surgical intervention to allay a specific concern clearly had an unintended consequence, for which only now are we paying. If nothing else, this suggests using monetary policy in such a way is fraught with danger.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"The Lewes Pound"

Residents of my home town of Lewes, East Sussex, have decided to issue their own currency.  Not content with the creaky wheels of Britain's lending machinery, local busybodies have decided to apply a small dollop of WD40 onto the finances of Lewes' small businesses.  While the idea might at first glance look like an economic lubricant - "Let's keep money in the town!" - the Lewes pound should soon serve only to illustrate why we abolished local currencies in the first place: retailers do not only sell products from their local area and nor do consumers buy them.  A shop in Lewes paid in "Lewes pounds" can't pay cash to suppliers who don't want the infant currency.  Small businesses will be forced to go to one bank for convertibility, increasing costs all round.