36th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

Conservatism, fuddy-duddy it is not, in fact it is the opposite.




36th Edition! I must be a glutton fer punishment and any reader who’s come along with me must be, as well. Warning, this is my longest yet. Perhaps stop fer refreshments or take a nap half-way.




‘Fuddy-duddy.’ Serf definition – ‘stick-in-the-mud resistance to change,
–anti-dynamic, unable to adapt, non-innovative.’





I’m making a case that trial and error conservatism, compared to other political processes, has proved to be adaptable to challenge and supportive to innovation. Take a walk through western history, compare the evolutionary development of Britain with those clean-slate, blue-print attempts, in the 18th and 20th centuries, to create Utopian societies or fascist dynamos based on myth. See where they get ya’

So what makes for fuddy-duddy-ness? If we’re going exploring, might as well begin with land and sea, discover how geography impacts on a country’s development. There’s a book by Thomas Sowell, ’Wealth, Poverty and Politics,’ (NY. 2015) that examines the see-saw of dynamic societies and what Sowell calls ‘lagging groups’ in history, development disparities of place and time, sometimes anomalies even within national borders.




Mountains, rivers and over the sea.


In the first chapter of ‘Wealth, Poverty and Politics’, Sowell looks at the kinds of geographical factors that limit or stimulate innovation. Happens a common handicap of lagging groups around the world is geographic isolation, whether separation from access to the rest of the world by desert, or by living on an island or a mountain. Living on a mountain in hill-billy isolation has severe negative impact. There’s a Catalan saying –‘always go down, never go up.’ Seems apt, even in the 21st century most of the mountain peoples of the world still practise subsistence farming. Switzerland, with its wide valleys, mountain passes and deep lakes is a notable exception.

Waterways, important for agriculture that makes city development possible, are also vital as arteries of trade. Lack of navigable rivers and of animals suitable for transporting people and goods from place to place impede the human interactions that stimulate innovation. Western Europe’s deep navigable rivers that flow to the sea and its twisting coastline that provides safe harbours for ports were an impetus to development and trade. Africa’s few navigable rivers or safe harbours were a handicap to development and trade. No level playing field where Nature’s concerned.

Once oceans, like deserts, were a barrier to communication, but with the development of ship building and navigation by the stars and by compass, the sea became an open gateway for maritime societies.




Phoenician_ship






Historically significant in the evolution of western development is the heritage derived from maritime Greece, two and a half thousand years ago. When the Greeks took to the sea and began to trade and build colonies around the Aegean Sea, coming into contact with other cultures, the old tribal certainties began to break down. The philosopher Heraclitus developed the idea of change, that all things are involved in some form of movement. Another philosopher, Democritus, formulated the doctrine that human institutions, language, customs and laws are man-made, a sea-change from the belief by tribal societies that social customs are god-given immutable regularities.

In the revolutionary 5th century B.C. Athenian experiment in democracy, the philosopher Socrates taught that we are responsible for our individual actions and argued in the spirit of scientific criticism, that we should have faith in human reason but avoid dogmatism. While this noble open-society experiment did not survive long, attacked by Sparta and enemies within Athens and by an outbreak of the Plague, from these beginnings in Greece evolved philosophic and scientific traditions unique to Western civilization.

One of the enemies of democracy in Athens was the philosopher Plato, who rejected the faith in an open society expressed by earlier philosophers. Born into a period of political turmoil, the Peloponnesian Wars and their aftermath of civil war and epidemics, Plato sought to arrest all change. Through his theory of immutable essences, Plato was able to extract something permanent from the Heraclitean process of flux and historical corruption. In his ‘Republic’ Plato argued for a return to a golden age of the past that might stem the tide of change through leadership by a philosopher king and an entrenched hierarchical social system based on Plato’s necessary ‘noble lie’ of the metals in men.

Utopianists since Plato have similarly argued for clean-slate political change, revolutionary overture to create blue-print, static societies stuck in a centrally directed golden age, well, stuck in the mud, really, so a fuddy-duddy experiment, you might say. I’d call it philosopher-king hubris. Those societies based on Marxist ideology have not encouraged their citizens’ freedom to innovate.




Nature – Nurture – Culture.


While natural landforms and waterways play a significant role in economic development of peoples, geography as an influence is not predestination. Even physical advantages are of little use without the cultural prerequisites to exploit and maintain them. We’ve just seen the clash of cultures, open society versus closed society in fifth century B.C. Athenian Society, despite the shared geographical environment. Some cultures encourage innovation, and some inhibit, or prohibit innovation.

As Thomas Sowell argues, ‘nature’ doesn’t rule, culture is a significant player. A country’s development cannot simplistically be attributed to geographic or genetic factors. Northern Europe now leads the south in dynamic development but once it was the opposite. Remember Athens – same people, changed culture. Then there’s Spain, today one of Europe’s poorer countries, once one of its richest. The vast wealth that poured into Spain in its ‘golden age‘ could have been invested in its economy or its people, but it wasn’t. Spain’s economy is now surpassed by natural resource poor countries like Norway and Japan.




Decision Making from Above.


Japan was a lagging economy in the 17th and 18th centuries under governments that enforced isolation policies, but quickly adopted new practices after Commodore Perry’s warships broke down the barriers of isolation. Within a century Japan had achieved economic parity with leading Western nations.

Cultures that enable free interchange of ideas and experiment are key to a nation’s development. There was a time when China, a lagging economy on the 20th century, might have engaged with the rest of the world. In the period when the Tang Empire came to an end, and the Five Dynasties and the Ten Kingdoms fought incessantly China experienced its most spectacular burst of development. By the late 11th century, Chinese were masters off silk, tea, porcelain production, paper and printing and made coke from coal to smelt high grade iron. Industrious peasants were working for cash as well as subsistence and using their cash to buy goods.

Then came the calamity of the Mongol Invasion. The Ming Emperors nationalized industry and created state monopolies for salt, iron, tea, foreign trade and education. The first of these emperors, Hong Wu, forbade all trade and travel without official permission, forced merchants to register an inventory of their goods and permitted peasants to grow food only for their own consumption.

Before the Ming period China had been extending its sea power for three hundred years. Chinese merchants had developed a trade network in spices and raw materials with Indian and Muslim traders. By the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, China ad reached a peak of naval technology that was unsurpassed in the world. The second Ming Emperor, Yong Le wishing to impress Ming power on the world, had a massive treasure fleet built, greater than the Spanish Amada, which made seven voyages, sailing as far as East Africa.

The Chinese people were ready to trade with the world but Yong-Le’s successor brought an end to China’s maritime history by banning ship building and trading abroad. This was steered by the Emperor’s officials who instinctively distrusted innovation as a threat to their own positions. Henceforth, China’s sophisticated bureaucratic civilization, while periodically challenged by peasant rebellions that substituted one dynasty for another, remained an inert hierarchical social order that was never able to free itself from the historical fabric of a society opposed to change.

Isolation is a negative, closes the door to the potentialities of change. Freedom‘s a positive – opens the door to trial and error problem solving.




Trial and Error, Nature’s Way.


If you’ve read Nassim Taleb’s book, ‘Antifragile, Things that Gain from Disorder,’ you’ll recall his advice to us to follow nature regarding adaptive response to stresses and information in the environment. Nature, the epitome of trial and error, non-fuddy-duddy evolution, making do with what’s to hand, like fins to legs, ( or wings ) four legs to two legs and arms, claw into hand evolution, so empiric, so dynamic.

Following Nature’s mode, you see trial and error development at work in cities, in Jane Jacobs’ insightful analysis of innovation and the rise of cities, in two books, ‘The Economy of Cities,’ and ‘Cities and the Wealth of Nations.’ ( Vintage Books, 1970 and 1985. ) Jacobs describes, after the fall of Rome, the significant development of Venice in the marshes, from a humble beginning, trading with Constantinople what was at hand, salt and timber, then later manufacturing sophisticated import replacements, Venetian glassware, lenses, telescopes. (Ch 10. J.J. 1985. ) Unexpected developments evolved from this small beginning, chain growth of new Italian import replacing cities, creation of the Renaissance, artistic achievements of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Galileo and the beginning of the scientific revolution.




aug25galileotele




Jacobs’ analysis of the development, in the twentieth century, of the car industry in the United States, had similar modest trial and error beginnings. When Henry Ford began his successful firm in 1903, he had already failed as a car manufacturer. This time he changed his strategy assembling parts that other people were manufacturing elsewhere, then starting to manufacture repair parts himself, part after part, until he was ready to put the first Model T Ford into production.

The repairing of things is often the older work to which the newer work of making the same thing as added. The Japanese used this method when they began imitating western goods imported into Japan in the nineteenth century. Bicycles were enormously popular in Japan. Repair shops sprung up to repair them in the big cities. In Tokyo the repair work was done in one-man, or two-man shops. Imported spare parts were costly and many repair shops thus found it worthwhile to make particular replacement parts themselves. In this way, groups of repair shops were doing the work of manufacturing entire bicycles. Far from being costly to develop, bicycle manufacturing in Japan paid its way through its own development stages.

The Japanese got more than a bicycle industry. Its method of manufacture via repair shop was soon adapted to the production of many other goods. Sony, the enormous Japanese manufacturer of communications equipment began in a similar way as a small parts shop. (Ch 2 .J.J 1970. )

Take away message – seems that a culture that enables people the freedom to adapt in trial and error ways to their environment, by definition is not fuddy-duddy. Let’s take a look at Great Britain, regarded as a conservative nation, see how Britannia meets the criteria of fuddy-duddy-ness.




Constitutional Monarchy, Liberty and Conservativism.


After the last Roman soldiers departed England in 407 AD, the polytheist tribes gradually began to consolidate into larger groups and adopt Christianity as a religion. Monks sent from Rome converted the king of Kent, and later, the kings of Mercia and Sussex to the Catholic religion. Invasions by pagan Angles, Saxons and Jutes did not prevent the spread of Christianity through the land.

Battle with invaders from the north, and among competing kingdoms were a way of life, but in 927AD a gathering of British monarchs recognized Aethelstan as king of the English. By 954 AD unification of England had been achieved. A way of life was established, a monarchical Christian society that was to continue to modern times.

Under a monarchical system of government the king usually must consult and seek a measure of acceptance for his polices if he is to maintain broad acceptance by his subjects. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the laws of the Crown could not have been upheld without the support of the nobility and clergy. To gain this consent, kings called up their Great Council consisting of barons and earls, archbishops, bishops and abbots. This Great Council was to evolve over time into the Parliament of England.




Chameleon Conservatism.


’Conserve,’ as in conserve your energy – not to be confused with Plato’s idealized Utopia ‘to arrest all change.’

There is no single conservatism but rather a spectrum in British history. The spectrum includes classical liberal, free market, libertarian, Christian evangelical and other varieties, fifty shades of grey, you might say.. What is common to all is respect for liberty and the individual protected by non- arbitrary rule of law for all and respect for the trial and error evolution of the British institutions that underpin these values – a political order under law allowing the exercise of freedom from arbitrary coercion.




Reflecting on the French Revolution – etcetera.


Edmund Burke, writing in 1791, his cautionary letter ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France,’ saw threats to the basic principles whose observance sustained western constitutional government and free society. Burke recognized the problem of cavalier exercise of authority demonstrated by events in Paris that were based on Rousseau’s doctrine of natural rights, a doctrine that Burke perceived as gaining ground in England. Burke wanted to shake the complacency of those who believed that the French were simply imitating the modest English Revolution of 1688, which he argues was restorative of constitutional and established rights and very different from the clean-slate reconstructing of society from scratch, which was taking place in France.

Wary of the untutored and unsocial impulses that lie beneath men’s acquired civility, Burke considered that the social institutions that have evolved in a complex, historical process and have stood the test of time are what allow men to live together in any degree of peace and freedom. The political creed to which Burke subscribed, an off-shoot of the ‘Glorious Revolution of 1688,’ was united by hatred of arbitrary power and by a wish to be guided by and governed by the certain rule of law. The Revolution of 1688 did not seek to overthrow constitutional law but to preserve ‘ancient indisputable laws and liberties, and that ancient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty.’ (‘Reflections,’ Oxford Press, P31.)

Burke argues that without the means of some change the State is without the means of its conservation. Without such means of correction it might even risk the loss of what it most wishes to conserve and these ‘two principles of conservation and correction acted strongly at the two critical periods of the Revolution and the Restoration.’ (R. P22.)

In the famous law of Charles 1, called the Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, ‘Your subjects have inherited this freedom, ‘claiming their franchises, not on abstract principles ‘as the rights of men,’ but as a patrimony derived from their forefathers, whereas,’ says Burke, ‘ the revolutionaries in France, operating from first principles rather than empiric study are so taken up by their principles that they totally forget man’s nature. To legislate on the principle of human rationality is to present a one dimensional picture forgetting that men may also be irrational, self serving and violent.’ R. P32.)

With regard to the excesses and social misery brought about by the revolutionary government’s ad hoc decisions, Burke argues that ‘if the parliament had been not been dissolved, it may have acted as a balance and corrective of the excesses of the National Assembly and its judiciary owing its place to the National Assembly, not knowing by what law it judges nor under what authority it acts. ( R.PP 208/9.) .

From Burke to modern conservatives, these concerns of conservation and correction by trial and error are found in the writings of British and other conservative thinkers.

Modern day British conservative Roger Scruton, (Quadrant, ‘The Philosophy of Roger Scruton,’ ) describes the May Day event in Paris when anarchic leftist students took to the streets. Scruton watched transfixed as a violent battle between students and police unfolded beneath his attic window until abruptly “the plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground”.

In this moment, at the centre of an archetypal 1960s event, it appears that Scruton experienced a sudden intuitive insight into the advent of the nihilistic postmodern era, characterised by the collapse of representation, and the fragmentation, violence and iconoclasm that Scruton later claimed in A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism (2006), provided the context for the conservative philosophical response of which he has since propounded.

Earlier that day, reading de Gaulle’s Memoires, Scruton had been struck by the Gaullist insight that a nation is defined “by language, religion, and high culture [and that] in times of turmoil and conquest it is those spiritual things that must be protected and reaffirmed”, and now he saw this sacred dimension under threat by the profane Dionysian forces that had been unleashed below him, “throwing away … all customs, institutions and achievements, for the sake of a momentary exultation which could have no lasting sense save anarchy”.( Q P 2.)

Later, Scruton was visited by a friend, who had spent the day on the barricades. The May events appealed to her as the high point of an anarchic assault on the absurdity of bourgeois life. She and her comrades were convinced, “the Old Fascist de Gaulle and his regime would be begging for mercy” as the student insurrection escalated into a new French Revolution. In fact, she was wrong although for a few critical months it appeared that the bourgeois world they so despised was about to be overthrown But what, Scruton asked his visitor, do you propose to put in its place? “What vision of France and its culture compels you?’ To which she replied with a book, Foucault’s ‘Les mots and les choses’ the avant-garde of social theory for radicals, despite the fact that Foucault’s structural determinism reduced people to ’the status of elements in a gigantic system ’ and justified any transgression as rebellion against bourgeois power. Now treated by former friends as a pariah, Scruton went on to explore the law, and discovered the answer to Foucault in the common law of England, which he saw as proof that there is a real distinction between legitimate and illegitimate power, that power can exist without oppression, and that authority is a living force in human conduct. (Q.P4.)

Scruton abhorred the modernist reduction of life to abstract categories and insisted on the centrality of contextual and localised “social knowledge” once embodied in the common law, political and social conventions, manners, customs, morality and civility of traditional English culture, and which arose as by an “invisible hand” from the innumerable social transactions, age-old negotiations and compromises perpetuated by custom to restrain and channel conflicting interests and passions. In this he found support in Burke, who celebrated the thriving variety and uniqueness of traditional life but also explored its political implications, persuading Scruton that “the utopian promises of socialism go with a wholly abstract vision of the human mind … that has only the vaguest relation to the thought and feelings by which real human lives are conducted”, a theme he explored in The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope (2010).

Burke persuaded him that “societies are not and cannot be organized according to a plan or a goal, that there is no direction to history”, while all attempts to pretend otherwise must decline into “militant irrationality” as the proponents of such visions struggle to impose their abstract template onto an intractable world.

These views, common to conservatives, belief in trial and error reform to achieve non-arbitrary protection of rights under the law and respect for individual liberty are demonstrated in the evolution of Magna Carta to modern parliamentary democracy.




0671-Magna-Charta-Manuscript-1




Case Study of Magna Carta.


From conservative empirical Britain came the Magna Carta, the founding institution of democracy world-wide, beginning the process of securing the rights of the people under the rule of law against the power of kings and/or executive.

The first of several versions of the Magna Carta was signed by King John in June 1215. Faced with rebellion that he couldn’t suppress, brought on by his exploitation of revenue raising powers, the king agreed to a negotiated peace with his nobles and affixed his seal to the Magna Carta. The rights set out in Magna Carta were not expressed in a codified way but came and went in new versions of the Great Charter and also the important Forest Charter, both revoked, but surviving in amended form.

Though a king’s promises were not usually kept, the Magna Carta was a significant document in establishing the fundamental precepts of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. It lays the claim that the king is not above the law. He is obliged to keep his executive actions in line with the law, and to respect the rights of the people. If the king is subject to law, so is everybody else in society, society is therefore ruled by law and not men. Magna Carta is the constitutional moment when the rule of law enters the modern world.

The other source of contention, the Forest Charter, was a significant example of a sphere where the king exercised his royal prerogative to the detriment of society. The Royal forests were established for hunting by William the Conqueror irrespective of prior rights on the land. By the time of Henry 11, up to a third of England, encompassing arable land and villages, public commons, lands held by barons and free men, were subject to the Forest Charter. Such land could not be used for productive purposes without the king’s permission. Negotiated promises by various kings to return some of these lands to their owners were not kept, but in 1301, King Edward 1, needing funds for war campaigns, was obliged to reconvene parliament. Parliament refused further grants until prior promises to return land were kept. Edward was obliged to surrender what he called his hereditary rights’ under great stress of necessity.’ ‘When the Charter was enforced, says James Spigalman in Quadrant, ( July/August 2015.) thousands of acres were returned to their communities, probably the most significant single restraint on the exercise of the royal prerogative in the medieval era.’

Other reforms were to come. Magna Carta is the focus of reform. Much of the document restores specific liberties like fishing rights, for example, that the king had usurped in earlier periods but from the Magna Carta evolved a society based on liberties, the trial and error creation of British democracy, Reform Acts of 1832, 18647and 1884, extending manhood suffrage, 1864 Bill enacted by Benjamin Disraeli and the Conservative Party, the others by Liberal Governments of Earl Grey and William Gladstone. The vote for women had to wait until later, universal women’s suffrage was first enacted in British Commonwealth countries, New Zealand, in 1893, and South Australia the following year, and in Britain at the end of the First World War.




Science and Technology.


How to explain the vigorous enquiry and investigation of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Great Britain? Maybe the inheritance law of primogeniture had something to do with it, the swelling of the gentry, middle-class by the educated younger sons and relatives of the landed aristocracy. In philosophy there are the empiricists of the Scottish Enlightenment, John Locke’s and David Hume’s enquiries into human rationality, Adam Smith’s enquiry into the wealth of nations, gentleman farmer James Hutton studying the geology of his region to question the biblical age of the Earth, Charles Darwin on ‘The Beagle’ studying species in the context of Malthus and coming up with his evolutionary theory. Common to all investigators is the empirical approach. A giant among scientists, Isaac Newton,’ in 1687, who published his ‘Principia Mathematica,’ formulating the laws of motion and universal gravitation, developed the mathematics of Calculus to assist his measurement. For his discoveries in optics he built the first reflecting telescope, solving problems of materials and shaping and grinding his own mirrors.




Second Test Case Study. The Industrial Revolution.




Maquina_vapor_Watt_ETSIIM




The Industrial Revolution that revolutionized human productivity and within decades put an ended seasonal famine in the West, owed less to scientists than to solutions to problems by workers on the factory floor. John Kay’s flying shuttle, James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny and Richard Arkwright’s water frame were responses to speeding production in spinning and weaving cotton and linen. The three inventors were all of humble origin, Arkwright, an entrepreneur who revolutionized the factory production system became Sir Richard Arkwright. Invention leads to invention. The developer of the work engine of the Industrial revolution, James Watt was an instrument maker in Glasgow who adapted the model of Thomas Newcomben’s steam engine to solve the problem of inefficiency from wasted steam. Watt laboured over the engine problem for more than a year. Then out walking one afternoon, in 1765, he passed by the old washing house.

‘I was thinking upon the engine at the time,’ he wrote later, ‘when the idea came into my mind that as steam was an elastic body it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication were made between the cylinder and an exhausted vessel, it would rush into it and thereby be condensed without cooling the cylinder … I had not walked further than the golf-house when the whole thing was strong in my mind.’ ( ‘ The Scottish Enlightenment. The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World.’ Arthur Herman. Ch 12.)




Invention leads to invention. Trevithick’s locomotive on rails, Stephenson’s steam engine …

I’m stopping now, I’ve run out of steam … but trial and error conservatism does not. Like Nature, it keeps on keeping on, no fuddy-duddy in evolutionary terms.

34th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

THE FOUR SEASONS.

Part 4.




Season of wild winds and cruel frosts.




2





Thought for the season by The Bard:

‘Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The season’s difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly tell me what I am.’


As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 1.



Western Wind


West wind, when will thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.


Anon. About 1500.




1280px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Hunters_in_the_Snow_(Winter)_-_Google_Art_Project








Hunters in the Snow.


In Brueghel’s masterpiece
‘Hunters in the Snow,’
Though peasants skate upon
The frozen river, no
Winter wonderland is this.
Silhouettes of leafless trees
Stand stark against a leaden sky
That matches matt-grey river.
Exhausted dogs, hunters with meager prey,
Peasants laboring on the snow fields,
Each trying to survive the Little Ice Age.



The Darkling Thrush.


I leant upon a coppice gate
When frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy
The wind his death lament,
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, full gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing doom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.


Thomas Hardy.






By the Fire.


… where with a sweet and velvet lip
The snapdragons within the fire
Of their red summer never tire.


Edith Sitwell.






The Flowering Flame.


Tsuneyo: How cold it is! And as the night passes, each hour the frost grows keener. If I had but fuel to light a fire with, that you might sit by it and warm yourself! Ah! I have thought of something. I have some dwarf trees. I will cut them down and make a fire of them.

Priest: Have you indeed dwarf trees?

Tsuneyo: Yes, when I was in the World I had a fine show of them; but when my trouble came I had no more heart for tree fancying, and gave them away. But three of them I kept – plum, cherry and pine. Look, there they are covered with snow. They are precious to me; yet for tonight’s entertainment, I will gladly set light to them.

Tsuneyo goes and stands by the dwarf trees. Then he brushed the snow from them and looked ;

‘I cannot, cannot,’ he cried.’ O beautiful trees, must I begin?
You, plum tree, among bare branches blooming
Hard by the window, still on northward face
Snow sealed, yet first to scent
Cold air with flowers, earliest of Spring;
‘You shall first fall.’
You by those boughs on mountain hedge entwined
Dull country folk have passed and caught their breath,
Hewn down for firewood. Little had I thought my hand so pitiless!’

‘You cherry, (for each Spring your blossom comes
Behind the rest) I thought a lonely tree
And reared you tenderly, but now
I, I am lonely, left, and you cut down,
Shall flower but with flame.’

‘You now, o pine, whose branches I had thought
One day when you were old to lop and trim,
Standing you as a post in the field, such use
Shall never know, tree whom the winds
Have ever wreaked with quaking mists,
Now shimmering in the flame
Shall burn and burn and burn.’


Seami. From Hakchi No ki.
Translated, Arthur Waley.





1









Food in Winter.




Hot Cake.


Winter has come, fierce is the cold;
In the sharp morning air new-risen we meet.
Rheum freezes in the nose,
Frost hangs about the chin.
For hollow bellies, for chattering teeth and shivering knees
What better than hot cake?
Soft as the down of spring.
Whiter than autumn floss.
Dense and swift the steam
Rises, swells and spreads.

Fragrance rises through the air,
Is scattered far and wide,
Steals down along the wind and wets
The covetous mouth of passer-by.
Servants and grooms
Cast sidelong glances, munch the empty air.
They lick their lips who serve;
While lines of envious lackeys by the wall
Stand dryly swallowing.


Shu Hsi. ( C AD 265-306.)
Translated Arthur Waley.







The Pudding!




Christmas Dinner with the Cratchits.


… But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone – too nervous to bear witness – to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it while they were merry with the goose – and supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered – flushed by smiling proudly – with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half – a – quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest successs achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it. but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.


Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol.






Noël.




I sing of a maiden.


I sing of a maiden
That is makeless,
King of all Kings
To her son she ches.

He came all so stille
Ther his moder was,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the grass.

He came al so stille
To his mouderes bour,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the flour.

He came al so stille,
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the spray.

Moder and maiden
Was never non but sche;
Well may such a lady
Godes moder be.


Anon. 15th century.




4





‘On the way to Bethlehem.’ Music of the Medieval Pilgrim.
Ensemble Unicorn.










Seasons Greetings to ye all from a serf.

34th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

THE FOUR SEASONS.

Part 3.




Autumn leaves start to fall.


Thought for the season by The Bard:

‘Ripeness is all.’ *


King Lear, Act 5, Scene 2.




* That’s all folks!



Claude_Monet._Haystack._End_of_the_Summer._Morning._1891._Oil_on_canvas._Louvre,_Paris,_France (3)








To Autumn. John Keats.


‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss-cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden-head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day too,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.’




…Guess that just about covers it, but always room for nuance.







Herman Melville. ‘Moby Dick.’ Chapter 28, ‘Brit.’


‘Steering north-eastward from the Crozettes, we fell in with vast meadows of brit, the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right whale largely feeds. For leagues and leagues it undulated round us, so that we seemed to be sailing through boundless fields of ripe and golden wheat.

On the second day, numbers of Right whales were seen, who, secure from the attack of a sperm whaler like the Pequod, with open jaws sluggishly swam through the brit, which adhering to the fringing fibres of that wondrous Venetian blind in their mouths, was in that manner separated from the water that escaped at the lip.

As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance their scythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads, even so these monsters swam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving behind them endless swathes of blue upon the yellow sea.’






Haiku by Masuo Basho


‘On a withered bough
A crow is perching :
Autumn evening now.’








秋雨叹三首 (二) Poem by Du Fu.


阑风长雨秋纷纷 Ceaseless wind and lengthy rain swirl together this autumn,
四海八荒同一云 The four seas and eight deserts are covered by one cloud.
去马来牛不复辨 A horse going, an ox coming, cannot be distinguished,
浊泾清渭何当分 How now can the muddy Jing and cleat Wei be told apart?
禾头生耳黍穗黑 The standing grain begins to sprout, the millets ears turn black,
农夫田妇无消息 Farmers and the farmers wives have no hopeful news.
城中斗米换衾绸 In the city, a bucket of rice can cost a silken quilt,
相许宁论两相直 And both the buyer and seller have to agree the bargain is fair.

qiū yǔ tàn sān shǒu (èr)

lán fēng cháng yǔ qiū fēn fēn
sì hǎi bā huāng tóng yī yún
qù mǎ lái niú bú fù biàn
zhuó jīng qīng wèi hé dāng fēn
hé tóu shēng ěr shǔ suì hēi
nóng fū tián fù wú xiāo xī
chéng zhōng dǒu mǐ huàn qīn chóu
xiāng xǔ nìng lùn liǎng xiāng zhí





Figures in a Landscape.


In Hokusai’s woodblock-print
Ejiri in Suruga Province,
Nature in playful mood
blows the leaves from trees,
sends scribes’ papers sailing
sky-wards, snatches hats
from the heads of peasants
who react with strange contortions,
clutching flailing clothing,
grimacing into the wind.






1280px-Ejiri_in_the_Suruga_province








Past High Noon.


Autumn so autumnal,
so betwixt and between,
the last stage-coach-post to
No-Return; so seize the day,
take on board what goods you may
before High Noon’s forgotten,
do not forsake me, oh my …






That’s all folks …

35th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

EVERYTHING STOPS FOR THE MELBOURNE CUP –


Serfs love it!





Everything stops fer the Melbourne Cup, down south, in the great continent of Oz That’s right, down south, in the State of Victoria, everything stops, a public holiday, not in commemoration of a battle, not celebrating the birthday of some high dignitary, not in memoriam fer a religious event, but fer a horse race! … Lotsa’ history behind that.






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Here’s a Story.

On Tuesday, 2nd of November, a day ter remember, this week as I write, Anno Domini 2015, in the 3200m long Melbourne Cup, before a stunned crowd of more than 100,000 spectators, a female jockey on a one hundred to one odds gelding beat the world’s crème de la crème horses ridden by the world’s top jockeys.


The Horse. Prince Of Penzance, bought for $50,000 in New Zealand, and trained in the Victorian coastal town of Warrnambool by local trainer, Darren Weir, had to over come serious illness and injuries, including two joint operations, before shaping up as an outsider to win the Melbourne Cup. Few believed that the six year old bay would win the prestigious event. Trainer Darren Weir hoped that he’d finish in the top ten, but jockey Michelle Payne and brother Stephen, the horse’s strapper, believed Prince Of Penzance could win.

Michelle Payne, first female rider to win the Melbourne Cup, felt that her win was pre-ordained: ‘I actually really had a strong feeling that I was going to win, but I thought, ’Ah, don’t be stupid, it’s the Melbourne Cup.’

When Stephen Payne, who has Down Syndrome, was given the honour of making the barrier draw and handed his team barrier one, the possibility of a win came that little bit closer.

The Jockey. The youngest of ten children born to Paddy and Mary Payne, a family steeped in racing history, Michelle was raised in rural Victoria near historic gold town Ballarat. When Mary Payne was killed in a car accident, the family looked after each other. Sixteen year old Brigid Payne helped raise Michelle, only six months old when her mother died. Under the guidance of their canny father, the girls, like their brothers, learned to ride race horses and eight of the children, including the girls, becoming licensed jockeys. At age seven Michelle announced her dream to become a successful jockey and win the Melbourne Cup.

If the story was all fairy-tale ending, Michelle’s oldest sister should have been at the race track on November 2nd urging her young sister on to victory. But Brigid, mother of a fourteen year old son, died of a heart attack in 2007 after a heavy fall from a young horse.

Michelle Payne too, like Prince Of Penzance, had to battle injuries, two horror falls, one in 2004 when she fractured her skull, another fall in 2012 that left her with four fractured vertebrae and broken ribs.

In the man’s world of horse racing female jockeys are light on the ground. Given the opportunity to show her worth by famous horse trainer Bart Cummings, winner of twelve Melbourne Cups, therein a story in itself, Michelle Payne won her first Group 1 race at Caulfield on Cumming’s horse Allez Wonder. In the same year she also rode Allez Wonder in the Melbourne Cup but was unplaced. Six years later, a different story.

The Race. Michelle describes her experience riding in the 2015 Melbourne Cup: ‘Once the Melbourne Cup starts it is hard to explain, it’s not like any other race. It sort of feels like an out of body experience – you’re in there, you’re doing it, horses are racing so close together. But I knew at the 600m that I would be very hard to beat and I hadn’t even asked Prince Of Penzance to go yet. He was just ambling.

Then at the 300 m I thought, ‘I don’t think anything can beat me now.’ I couldn’t believe we were about to win the Cup.’





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Here’s a history.

The History of the Melbourne Cup is tied in with the discovery of gold in Victoria in the 1850’s. When rich sources of gold were discovered a few days ride from Melbourne, an influx of prospectors more than doubled the population of Victoria, between 1850 and 1858.

During these years Victoria mined more gold than King Solomon had ever seen and set in motion an economic and social revolution. ( ‘Shorter History of Australia.’ Geoffrey Blainey. Ch 6.) Boom town Melbourne outgrew rival city Sydney and embarked on an impressive building program including a remarkable public library, churches, theatres and a race track at Flemington near the road to Ballarat goldfields. The first Melbourne Cup race was run in 1861 in front of an estimated crowd of 4,000 spectators.

Says Geoffrey Blainey:

‘It is not hard to find reasons why, from the Gold Rushes until the eve of World War 1, sport pervaded Australian life more extensively than the life of perhaps any other land. Australia then had the ingredients of the sporting life which other nations would later foster, often artificially. Cheap or free land was plentiful for sports such as horse racing, football, and cricket that required large spaces lying not far from the heart of a city , and long arms of sheltered water – uninterrupted by steam vessels – were available for professional sculling in Sydney. In most Australian towns the climate favoured outdoor activities. An exceptionally high proportion of the population lived in two large cities, and so even before Australia’s population passed three million in 1891 it could muster large crowds for events in Melbourne and Sydney.

A high standard of living made it possible to set attractive prize money and fine facilities for sport. The rather masculine culture, with a high percentage of single men in the population, also favoured sport. Above all, spectator sports depended on public holidays and free Saturday afternoons, and it so happened that Australia was becoming the land of abundant leisure for city people, though not for those who worked the soil.’ (G.B. Ch 9.)

Australia was in the forefront of the movement by trade unions for the shorter working week, and Melbourne and Sydney were probably the first cities in the world where work stopped at two o’ clock on Saturday afternoon for the majority of wage earners. Cricket was a popular sport. The size of crowds watching cricket matches was a surprise to visiting English teams, the first of which arrived in 1861. ‘Australian Rules’ football also became a popular sport.The first Victorian football clubs, Melbourne, (1858) and Geelong, (1859) are older than any club in the four divisions of the English Football League.( G.B Ch 9.)

The Melbourne Cup.


‘In a land where grass was virtually free, horse racing was a natural sport for Victorians,’ says Geoffrey Blainey, ‘tens of thousands of people owned horses and often rode them.‘

Melbourne’s first Melbourne Cup was a local affair but the annual event soon attracted horses from distant towns and growing crowds of spectators. The Cup quickly became as popular as a carnival with picnic parties and sideshows. By 1865, government offices and banks in Melbourne gave their employees a half holiday so that they could attend the Thursday Cup event, the date changed to Tuesday in 1875. The 1883 Melbourne Cup was reportedly attended by one third of Melbourne’s population.

As in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, its history has stories of courage, controversy and tragedy. Probably the most popular horse to win the Melbourne Cup was the great Phar Lap, winner of the 1930 Cup. In Phar Lap’s racing career plenty of the above dramatic elements.

The great Phar Lap.


Like Prince of Penzance, Phar Lap was another New Zealand horse with an inauspicious beginning. Bought by trainer Harry Telford for an American client, Telford himself couldn’t afford the one hundred and sixty-five guineas the scrawny yearling cost, an unimpressed client allowed Telford a three year lease on the horse.

Phar Lap began his racing career in 1929. He was unplaced in his first five starts but then began winning races, four on end in that same year. In 1930, ridden by new jockey Jim Pike, Phar Lap won every race he was entered in, often sprinting away from the other horses over the last five hundred metres. No horse could beat him. He became a hero to the Australian public. This was the era of The Great Depression and thousands of people were unemployed. People identified with battler Telford and his wonder horse. Everyone, except the bookmakers, wanted him to win the Melbourne Cup.

On the Saturday before the Cup, coming back from track work, Tommy Woodcock diverted an attempt made from a passing car to shoot Phar Lap. The whole nation was shocked and turned up in the thousands on the day of the Cup to cheer on their favorite. Over 40,000 people, who couldn’t afford the cost of a ticket into the racecourse gathered to watch the race from Scotchman’s Hill overlooking the race on the Ballarat road.

Carrying the unprecedented handicap weight of 68 kilograms in today’s measurement, ten kilograms more than the top weight in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, Phar Lap won by three lengths to the delight of the crowd.

Phar Lap continued his amazing career, winning races and breaking records. He was so good that the rules were changed to give other horses the chance of beating him. Prize money was low because of the Depression so in 1932 it was decided to send Phar Lap to the United States to race. The horse and his strapper set sail on 20th March, 1932. Phar Lap won his first event in Mexico, breaking the track record. Then went to Los Angeles where he succumbed to a mystery illness. A few days later Phar Lap died in the arms of Tommy Woodcock. The front page of every newspaper carried the news of the death of Phar Lap and a nation mourned the death of the champion.






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Phar Lap was brought home to Australia. His skin was mounted and became the most visited exhibit at the National Museum in Melbourne. His mighty 6.3 kilogram heart, much larger than a normal horse’s, is kept at the Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra.

There’s an interesting postscript here regarding Phar Lap’s large heart. It has often been said that some horses have the X Factor – but what does this mean? Over the years it’s come to mean big – hearted, literally, the endurance to outrun other horses over long distances. Interest in the size of a horse’s heart goes back to the champion stallion Eclypse. In the 1700’s. The tradition of the time, was to bury just the head, heart and hooves of the horse. When Eclypse died, the surgeon was surprised at the size of the horse’s heart at 6.36 kilograms, double the weight of the normal racehorse.

Overtime the large heart X Factor has been traced back to Eclypse passed on through the female line to daughter Pocahontas. Many famous racehorses have been found to have this X Factor, passed on from Eclypse through the mare Pocahontas. They include record breaking Secretariat, in the 1970’s, an American champion racehorse that won the Belmont Handicap by 31 lengths, and in Australia, Phar Lap.

Lotsa’ stories involving the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s richest handicap race and one of the richest horse races in the world. Wonder what’ll win the next one?

34th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

THE FOUR SEASONS.

Part 2.




Summer time and the livin’ is easy…


Thought for the season by The Bard:

‘Oh how shall Summer’s breaths hold one
Against the willful siege of battering days.’


Sonnet 65.










This is Just to Say. William Carlos Williams.


‘I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold’








Sydney Harbour on a Summer’s Day.


Light glancing off the water below
the bridge, overhead a sky of endless
blue – what is it about blue that merges
mind and eye in a hazy journey into
infinity? Here’s ‘sublime’ without fierceness
of storms, the peaceful heavenliness of
Sydney Harbour on a summer’s day.
Sublime combines with the familiar,
a colourful ferry with revelers churns
its way towards the north shore, white
wake furrowing irreverently the sea’s blue
opacity, yachts skittering like gulls, houses
crowding the harbour, eager for a glimpse of
heaven – Sydney Harbour on a summer’s day.




Sydney-Seaplane-Harbour-Flight-728x5011






















Moby Dick. Herman Melville


In ‘Moby Dick,’ in the chapter entitled ‘The Mast-Head,’ Herman Melville describes the experience of the young look-out at the mast-head, immersed in transcendentalist reveries occasioned by that ‘mystic ocean’ beneath him:

‘Lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is the absent-minded youth by the blending cadences of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep blue bottomless soul pervading mankind and nature; and every half-seen beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly discovered, uprising fin of some indiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it …

There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship, by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hand at all: and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps at mid-day in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through the transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise forever.’








From the sublime to … the holiday rituals of Monsieur Hulot..











To Robert Frost, the last word regarding seductive summer.






The Silken Tent. Robert Frost.


‘She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when a sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys’ it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound

By countless silken ties of love and though
To everything on Earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taught
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.’

34th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

THE FOUR SEASONS.

Part 1.




It’s Spring!


Thought for the season by The Bard:

‘When proud pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’


Sonnet 98.


Forestwander.com


















Perverse Spring.


Perverse Spring, always changing
Like a moody teenager, by the hour,
Now maverick sunshine, now passing shower.

Full moon to crescent waning,
Last month’s blossom trees a cherry-pink riot,
This month’s are snow drifts of transient white.




Small epmty bird's nest made of twigs and dried foliage on a white studio background


















The Nest.


A nest has fallen to the ground.
Though so cunningly made it could not withstand
The sudden Spring storm that brought it down
From its niche in a tall pine.

See how meticulously its maker has woven
Each separate blade of grass in and out, each
Blade brought in by air and stitched together
With cob-web by the small beak, the nest
Then shaped by the bird’s round breast and
Inlaid with its feathered down. Already
Ants are investigating the broken
Egg-shells scattered on the ground.




… and Spring is potent.



Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer.


‘Whan that April with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which virtu engendred is the flour;
When Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heath
The tender croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smalle fowles maken melodye
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
So priketh hem nature in hir corages;
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondrey londes …’




… and pagan.




 

botticelli-primavera






















[In Just – ] e. e. cummings.


In Just –
spring when the world is mud –
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch snd jump-rope and

it’s
spring and

   the

      goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee.




Summer comes next …

33rd EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

DEFENCE OF A FREE SOCIETY…

Part 3.


Decline of Cities, decline of Liberties. The Enemy Within.


Serfs understand that reference ter aims and means requires having the wealth ter adapt ter what ever black swans come yer way. And acquiring that wealth in the first place, well, that don’t come via top-down planning but by human innovation and trial and error responses ter particular circumstances, kinda’ like in nay-chur.

Have ter say I’m a bit of a fan of Jane Jacob’s two books on cities and wealth creation, ‘The Economy of Cities,’ and ‘Cities and the Wealth of Nations.’ See my 21st and 23rd Editions of Serf Under_ ground Journal, regarding her theory and case studies of wealth production in cities. And the following:

Fergit Adam Smith’s macro assumptions that nations are the basis unit of analysis fer economic life, argues Jacobs, economic life develops by grace of import- replacing and chain reactions that take place in cities and nearby regions that are artifacts of opportunist cities:

‘The economic expansion, derived from import-replacing, consists specifically of these five forms of growth: abruptly enlarged city markets for new and different import; … abruptly increased numbers and kinds of jobs in the import-replacing city; increased transplants of city work into non-urban locations as older enterprises are crowded out; new uses for technology, particularly to increase rural production and productivity; and growth of capital.’ (Cities & Wealth of Nations. pp 42,43.)

Jane Jacobs explores this process of city-generated production from the time after the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the West, when Europe descended into the period of economic stagnation known as the Dark Ages. A bright future for Europe was probably touch and go, argues Jacobs, a new city requires one or more initial cities to begin its initial trading.

Luckily for Europe, there was a settlement in the marshes at the head of the Adriatic which discovered a market for salt and later timber with nearby Constantinople:

‘But Venice, the pioneer city of the European economy, did not remain a mere supply depot. By diversifying its own production, starting on the basis of salt and timber production, it proceeded to develop and thereby, to provide a Venetian city market for depot settlements of the north and west – which then built up city production of their own, each in its turn.’ (Cities & Wealth of Nations, p133.)


Hooray fer Venice, Venetian glass, lenses, telescopes!




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Say, do as the Venetians do.

And some of them did. Even fragile little London, exporting salt fish, then using cheap British leather to imitate objects of much finer Cordovan Leather and selling them to nearby regions.

The development process in Europe was later duplicated in the northern parts of the United States during colonial times, and more rapidly after American Independence. Boston, which started by exporting timber, and Philadelphia, which exported grain, ‘were the first cities to start wriggling like Venice.’ Ibid p 145.)

In the 1870’s, when Japan began developing its modern economy using trade in silk as a springboard, Tokyo also behaved like Venice:

‘Instead of remaining content with what its silk exports could buy from more highly advanced economies, it copied such imports as it could and exported them to other Japanese cities, which in turn did not remain content with that trade, but replaced many of Tokyo’s new exports to them with their own production and cast up new exports to sell to Tokyo themselves.’ (p 148.)

To the south, Hong Kong:

‘Hong Kong, only two generations ago,’ says Jacobs,’ was an economically backward colonial depot city … It has played the role of Venice on the pacific rim, exporting its producers’ goods and services to Singapore.’ (p 147.)

Efficiency and industry transplants found wanting.

‘Only in stagnant economies does work stay docilely within given categories. And wherever it is forced to stay within prearranged categories – whether by zoning, by economic planning , or by guilds, associations or unions – the process of adding new work to old can occur little at all.’ (The Economy of Cities.’ P 61.)

For example, the electronic hand was not developed by the prosthetics industry but by technicians serving the Soviet Space Program. Development of masking tape and many innovative adhesive tape varieties were developed by a small sand mining, crushing and sales company.

Jane Jacobs compares the histories of two cities of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester and Birmingham. Manchester, poster city for the Industrial Revolution, pouring its economic energy into efficient repetition of the same work, Birmingham a muddle of all sorts of hardware and tool work. When other import replacing cities challenged Manchester’s export dominance Manchester had no other industries to fall back on. Whereas Birmingham continued adapting to challenges. Jacobs argues a similar problem in the US for Detroit, an innovative success story in the 1920’s , failing to develop new goods and services, it’s status as a company town discouraging breakaway enterprises by its work force.

Regarding development by loans, grants and subsidies, some short term ‘relief’ but in the end you are just bleeding productive economies for no long term benefit to stagnant economies.

Jacobs presents a detailed account of the Shah of Iran’s attempt to buy development via US Company, Textron, using oil money to build a helicopter Industry in Isfahan. Costs sky rocketed, the government borrowed money from overseas, fell behind with payments and work stopped. Just before the Shah was deposed the Iranian Government cancelled the Textron contact.

Development benefits of city-based currencies.




UFWCmonete09






Argues Jacobs, there’s a built in design advantage possessed by Italian cities of the Renaissance and by modern Singapore and Hong Kong, oddities today, in having the advantage of their own currencies instead of one-size-fits-all national currencies that as feed-back mechanism best serves the dominant export city:

‘The city with that edge probably gets cheaper foreign imports, and probably gets an automatic tariff and export subsidy (with respect to foreign trade only) just when it needs such help.’ ( p 172.) …

‘Individual city currencies indeed serve as elegant feedback controls because they trigger specifically appropriate corrections to specific responding mechanisms.’ ( p 168.)

‘with falling exports a city needs a declining currency working like an automatic tariff and automatic export subsidy – but only for as long as they are necessary. Once its exports are doing well it needs a rising currency to earn the maximum variety and quantity of imports it can.’ (p168.) [The grist a city needs for its vital process of import-replacing.]

Jane Jacobs points to the decline of city after city in America, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Seattle, Detroit, that she attributes to the structural flaw of poor feedback mechanisms by national currencies. Writing before the advent of European Economic Union she states:

‘’We must be grateful that world government and a world currency is only a dream … as far as I can see, there are no remedies at a city’s or nation’s command whatever, short of separation in the pattern of Singapore, for correcting the flaw. ‘( W of N p180.)

Problems of The European Union.

‘A machine from Hell,’ writes Andrew Stuttaford, in Quadrant Magazine, (July – August, 2015,) describing what the Euro has wrought to European nations’ economies. And if she were writing today, what would Jane Jacobs say about the transference of powers, some small, some large, from the nation state to an unaccountable supranational authority based on a fantasy that the nation state is not only dangerous but archaic?




Eurozone-crisis-topples-l-001







Procrustean Logic and the EU.

The view that ‘one size fits all’ was the brain child of technocrats in Brussels who believed that fluctuating economies were untidy expressions of market mechanisms that needed to be fixed by government experts . The management tools these technocrats devised to achieve their goals were the top down control of exchange rates and creating a shared currency. Although the votes for shared currency were not there, the machinery of integration ground on. The experts had a plan. With targets:

‘Only those countries that had ‘converged’ could sign up for the single currency. Convergence would be proved by the ‘tests’ – the ‘Maestricht Criteria’ – demonstrating that these countries’ economies were so sufficiently in sync that they could share a currency without the safety net that political (or at least fiscal) union would have provided. These tests included low inflation, exchange rate stability, and (in principle) public debt and deficit ratios that would not alarm frugal Germans too much.’ (Stuttaford p 39.)

Hey, grandiose delusion, maintaining that a collection of very different economies converge on the basis of a series of snapshots. Germany is Greece?

But look, – answer the technocrats, – in the Maestricht we’ve set out strict criteria; no Eurozone member or the EU will be responsible for the debts of any other. The European Central Bank and the now subordinate national central banks are barred from financing any country’s budget deficit. No bail-outs to feckless nations. All good to go.

The illusion that convergence was real paved the way for a financially convenient delusion;

‘Interest rates across the currency union moved down to German levels … in the early 1990’s ten-year government bonds carried a coupon at least fifteen percentage points above their German equivalent. Ten years later the spread was close to zero. Germany was Greece.’

These low interest rates should have been used by the Eurozone’s weaker countries to reduce excessive borrowing and help develop their economies achieve international competitiveness. Instead they spent like there was no tomorrow, consumption booms in Greece and Portugal, asset bubbles in Ireland and Spain.

Hubris followed by Nemesis.

The European crisis was on. Greek Prime Minister Papandreo confessed that his country’s budget deficit was more than double the already bad enough 6% of GDP projected by his predecessors. Greek interest rates splurged. EU technocrats recognized that if Greece tumbled, there were plenty more dominoes to fall. Let the bail-outs begin. After Greece, a Portugal bail-out, then a second Greek bail-out followed by a partial Spanish bail-out and a Cypriot banking collapse complete with bail-out. And it appears that the European Central Bank was alsostretching its authority to allow local central banks to ‘print’ new Euros… Says Christine Lagarde in 2010, ‘We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the Eurozone.’ ( A.S.p 41.)




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Says Andrew Stuttaford:

‘Regardless of what the continent’s repeatedly snubbed voters might actually want, the EU’s ruling class will push integration forward. As ever the process will be step by step. Beyond the bailout funds and the ECB’s manoeuvrings, various debt mutualisation schemes have been floated… But the pace will be slow enough to ensure that the pain in much of the Eurozone’s periphery will persist, sometimes acute, sometimes merely chronic. One size will not fit all. The vampire currencywill linger on, draining democracy and prosperity as it does so, but no one will put a stake through it.’ (p p 42, 43.)

Well dear reader(s) here endeth me tri-partite post on the debauch of free society, on- going argument from me first SU_g Edition on the open society and its enemies, authoritarian attempts ter impose homogeneity on us serfs. It – jest – don’t – werk.

Thank you and good-night. Beth – the – serf.