Medieval Jewish Policy

The standard narrative, with regards to relations between Christians and Jews, is one of constant conflict. The Jews have been subjected to various forms of repression, ranging from marginalization to genocide. The underlying assumption is that the Christian majority was either motivated by religious fanaticism or ignorant bigotry. Of course, the events during World War II loom large in this understanding. The Germans are just assumed to have gone insane and followed an anti-Semitic madman.

That’s what makes the book Early Medieval Jewish Policy in Western Europe such an interesting read. Instead of the modern practice of working backwards to force history into the current narrative, it is a review of the polices toward the Jews, in the centuries following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It’s an old book, published in 1977, by a now retired scholar of the period. It’s also a short book, just 140 pages. The style and brevity makes it a good introduction to the period for the casual reader.

The book starts with a review of Jewish policy under the Visigoths, who ruled what is now Western France and most of what is now Spain. Both Gaul and Iberia had large Jewish populations by the end of the Roman Empire. The Breviary of Alaric was a collection of Roman laws that applied to the Hispano-Roman and Gallo-Roman population, living under Visigoth rule. It was within this body of laws that official policy regarding the Jews was established in the Visigoth kingdom.

Under the Visigoths, the Jews had a great deal of autonomy. They maintained their own courts, were permitted to own slaves and conduct trade within the kingdom. More important, the Jews were rich and powerful, so they played a large role in the internal politics of the kingdom. The main area of conflict was over the Jewish habit of proselytizing to the Christians as well as the pagans. The Church would tolerate the Jews converting pagans, but not the converting of Christians.

That’s the most interesting aspect of the book. Throughout the early medieval period, the Jewish populations in the former Western Roman Empire were endlessly proselytizing to the Christian populations. This was not just under the Visigoths in the early Christian period. This continued through the Carolingian period, despite very strong objections from the Church. Even the Church, however, was forced to overlook these violations of the law, as the Jews had a lot of power.

If one were to search for a starting point of anti-Jewish sentiment in the West, it would not date to the time of Christ, but to the medieval period. Jews not only competed with the Church politically and culturally, they were very aggressive in their approach to Christians. For example, in the Carolingian period, Jews widely circulated the Toledot Yeshu, which is an alternative biography of Jesus. It describes Jesus as an illegitimate child, who practiced magic, was an adulterer, and died a shameful death.

The Church, of course, was not happy about this behavior, but lacked the power to do much about it, other than train better priests. That’s another interesting aspect of the period. Jews and Christians regulars celebrated feats together and Christians tended to prefer the Jewish sermons to that offered by the Church. Many Bishops also had good relations with the Jews in their area. In other words, into the Middle Ages, there was not much in the way of antisemitism, at least not as we understand it.

It was these twin realities that drove the development of anti-Jewish policy in the Church during this period. Many important churchman, individually and collectively, not only feared the proselytizing of the Jews, but worried about the fact Judaism was very attractive to both pagans and Christians. It was in this period that institutional opposition to Judaism developed and evolved, despite the fact that the secular authorities were pro-Jewish in their policies. Antisemitism was a reaction to this.

Another aspect to all of this is the fact that Jews used to be aggressive proselytizers, working hard to convert pagans and Christians. Today, the opposite is true. While anyone can become a Jew, that’s like saying anyone can become a physicist. It is technically true, but conversion is not common. Jewish law requires the rabbi to try three times to discourage the convert. This policy may have been a response to the conflicts with the Church over the conversion of Christians.

Probably the most surprising thing in the book is just how pro-Jewish most secular rulers were in the early medieval period. Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious were extremely favorable to the Jews in their domains. They actively encouraged Jews to immigrate into their lands and gave them special privileges to conduct trade. They also had many Jews serving in administrative roles, holding power over Christians. The Jews were treated better than the Church in many cases.

The reality of the early medieval period is that the secular authorities maintained a very tenuous grip on their holdings. The king relied upon the local landowners and community leaders to maintain control. In many cases, those wealthy and powerful people were Jews within large Jewish communities. As a result, the Church was often the least influential institution. In many cases, the local bishop relied upon Jewish support to maintain his position. The Jews had a lot of power.

Probably the most telling point in this regard is the fact that the most successful monarchs of the period all had pro-Jewish polices. Charlemagne, Theodoric the Great and Gregory the Great pursued pro-Jewish polices. The Jews were literate, wealthy and maintained well-organized, long-standing contacts with Jewish communities throughout the West and East. As such, they were a powerful ally. In return for Jewish support, successful Christian rulers protected Jewish interests.

As much as this reality contradicts the current narrative, it also contradicts many anti-Semitic narratives as well. For example, it is popular with modern anti-Semites to claim the Jews worked with the Muslims in conquering Christian Spain. In reality, the Jews were willing to work with whoever looked like a winner. Jews also worked with Christians against the Muslims and sided with the Viking raiders when they sacked Bordeaux. They also worked with the Franks against the Vikings.

One final bit of interest is it seems that the beginning of Jewish hatred for the Catholic Church began in this period. This hatred turns up today in modern Zionism. In Yoram Hazony’s book, The Virtue of Nationalism, he repeatedly claims that Catholicism was a form of empire, which he condemns. It’s a strange tick, given that the Catholic Church holds little influence in the modern world. It was the Church, however, that managed to reduce Jewish power in the West, starting in the medieval period.

The book does not address this issue, but the fact that Church policy was separate, often at odds with official policy, in the kingdoms of the early medieval period, made it possible for Jews to carve out special privileges. Once Church policy became entangled with official policy, this was no longer possible. Jews were then marginalized and isolated, in order to prevent them from influencing the secular authorities and proselytizing to the Christians. The Catholic Church was bad for Jews.


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A Late Summer Mélange

As we head into the last semi-official week of summer, at least here in America, I wanted to keep it light this week. I had something else in mind, but I realized I was taking next week off and not feeling very serious as a result. I bet a lot of people are in the same place, as the summer winds down. Here in Lagos, the schools start the day after Labor Day this year, so next week is a big vacation week. Parents are prepping for school and non-parents are enjoying family free time at the beach.

Of course, the end of the summer means the news cycle picks up again. The FBI document dump appears to be queuing up, so that means the Left will be turning the sewage hose on full blast in order to distract us. Taking some time off before the lunatics are back at full screech is a good idea. As we get closer to the 2020 Democrat primaries, the lunacies is sure to reach levels we never thought possible. I did a little on this in the show, but I suspect we are in for an interesting autumn.

One of the funny things about doing a lot of traveling in your business life is that vacation often means no going anywhere. When I was a young man, vacation meant going somewhere for sun and fun. Years of traveling and I now look forward to take at least one week a year where I just stay home. I plan to leave Lagos next spring, so I am looking forward to a week of cleaning out closets and making trips to the landfill. It’s not a glamorous way to spend a week, but it beats being in a hotel room.

I’ve also found that the vacation at home is much more relaxing that taking a trip somewhere. These days, you can never get away from work, as something always comes up that you have to address. When I’m on a trip that is always in the back of my mind, especially if I’m in a different time zone. At home, I just leave the e-mail client up and take a look from time to time. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything and I have the peace of mind that I can address anything as it comes up.

Whenever I think about that fact, I wonder how people lived in the age before constant electronic communications. I would imagine most people just assumed you could not reach someone on vacation, so they figured it out on their own. That and there was probably more respect for people’s time away from the office. Not to sound like a Bolshevik, but the technological revolution has led to the enslavement of the population in ways the old Robber Barons never could have imagined.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.


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This Week’s Show

Contents

  • 00:00: Opening
  • 02:00: Gaia News (Link) (Link)
  • 12:00: Tax Farmers (Link)
  • 22:00: The African Invasion (Link) (Link) (Link)
  • 32:00: The Spying Game (Link) (Link) (Link)
  • 42:00: No Red Flags (Link)
  • 47:00: Rogue Judges (Link)
  • 52:00: Cosmopolitan Rock Fights (Link)
  • 57:00: Closing

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The Uncertainty Of Money

Imagine a world in which governments do business with one another only in gold, as in physical gold. They can issue promissory notes to one another, but it has to be backed by verified stores of gold. Governments, however, do not use gold for paying employees or contracting work with private business. In the case of employees, government pays in script, the value of which is set by the government. The vendors, on the other hand, are paid with silver, as in real silver coin or silver notes.

The first part of this thought experiment is not a big leap, as governments still hoard gold and will on occasion pay one another in gold. In our imaginary world, gold would be the exclusive currency of government, so regular people would hold very little of it, other than for novelty. This is not much different from today, as gold is not legal tender in most of the world. It is treated, in the law, as a commodity, like diamonds, barrels of oil, bales of hay, and so on. Gold is a product, not money.

The rest of the thought experiment gets a little weird, as companies do business in the tender of their home country. If they did business with one another in silver, then one of two things would happen. Either the price of silver would be pegged at the value of the legal tender or it would be pegged at the price of gold. Since government would always be willing to buy gold in silver or tender, from anyone holding gold as a store of value, the most likely result is all three would be related in value.

The result of this arrangement would be a world where the credit worthiness of governments would be pegged to their gold reserves, but also the gold reserves of their native companies and populations. A government that could quickly buy up gold from its people would have more flexibility than a government so distrusted that its own people would resist selling its gold to the state. Something similar would apply to the credit ratings of businesses, with regards to the supply of silver.

A well run country with a high trust population and a responsible government would find that the flow of gold and silver would be high, as there would be no reason to hoard them. Similarly, the value of the paper script used for retail transactions would have a steady value, relative to the currency of business and government. This would not just be an internal trust. Outsiders would see it too. In contrast, corrupt states with corrupt people would have low trust and lots of hoarding of gold and silver.

Now, this thought experiment is useful in understanding what is happening with the screaming headlines about negative bond yields. The media hypes these events as if they are the sign of the end times. Most likely, they are triggered by the word “negative” and just assume it is bad news. In reality, what the market is saying is that the German bonds are so safe, the holder is willing to pay for the privilege of holding them. Lenders are literally paying the German state for the privilege of lending to it.

Now, it is tempting for a certain sort of person (libertarians) to say it is ridiculous to compare government debt to gold, as in this analogy. They are right. Government debt is actually more secure. The reason is this. Tomorrow, the government can ban the private ownership of gold. Executive Order 6102 is a United States presidential executive order signed on April 5, 1933, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that effectively banned the private ownership of gold in the United States.

On the other hand, no government anywhere could ban the private ownership of government debt. In fact, no government could risk the hint of not paying its outstanding debts, as that would make all debt worthless. Since, in the case of Western countries, those government bonds are the basis of the financial system, public trust in the credit worthiness of government is vital. That’s why people are literally willing to trade gold at a loss for the privilege of holding German bonds right now.

Now, that does not mean negative rates are all puppies and sunshine. Going back to our analogy, a world where everyone trusts government, but is not willing to trust companies, would result in a disequilibrium in the relationship between gold, silver and the paper script used in retail. The “price” in terms of script for silver would collapse, while the price of gold would soar. After all, why hold silver when business is bad, when you can hold gold or even cash, which has a higher value?

In our age, government debt is the gold in the analogy, but corporate debt is the equivalent of the silver. Modern business works off debt, as it is the currency of the modern age. In prior ages, government debt and corporate debt was captive to the supply of gold and silver. Today, the relationship between sovereign debt, municipal debt, corporate debt and legal tender is enabled and managed by central banks, primarily the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank.

This is why borrowing rates across the West remain at historic lows. The whole point of this arrangement was to prevent the ups and downs, the booms and busts that plagued industrial economies since the steam engine. The trouble is, the system also allows for the easy manipulation of the economy through the money supply. Inevitably, that worked one way and we are now in a place where no one is willing to pay the price of getting things back to something close to historic norms.

This system has also been based on certain assumptions about America that are starting to unravel. One is that America would continue to operate like a giant shopping mall, willing to buy on unfavorable terms. Both Europe and China based their economic models on this assumption. Trump has abandoned that and that’s why we see problems in China and now economic uncertainty in the heart of Europe. The uncertainty of world political arrangements is now showing up in the money.

It also suggests the markets are slowly coming to terms with the fact that the Trump economic model is the new normal. The election is fourteen months away, so if his loss in 2020 was the safe bet, the markets would be responding now. Instead, the global economy seems to be slowly coming around to the fact that either Trump wins in 2020 or his polices will be carried on no matter what happens. America as problem solver for the world’s money problems may be coming to an end.


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The Problems Of Design

Whenever the subject of Intelligent Design turns up, it is always in the context of believers in ID attacking evolutionary biology. The ID’ers have a list of claims about “Darwinism” that they insist make evolution impossible. A popular one now, for example, is that there is not enough time for natural selection to produce enough gene mutations to explain the fossil record. A fair description of ID is that it is a list of arguments and assertions about evolution wrapped around a set of central claims.

One of those claims is that creation, as we observe it, must be the result of design and therefore a designer. They never describe the designer, as most people just assume they mean God, but the designer could be space aliens, in theory. A certain type of self-described Christian finds this appealing. They assume the designer is God, as they have an understanding of God that is much more personal. They believe God is highly involved in the granular details of human existence.

Now, it should be pointed out that this understanding of God is outside Christian tradition and perhaps even anti-Christian. Early Christians, like the Jews of the period, were highly influenced by the Greek understanding of the world. For them, the universe was an orderly place operating by fixed rules. You can’t have a covenant with God, after all, if the universe is a lawless place controlled by a fickle creator. That would make God’s covenant with man just another trick played by him on mankind.

Intelligent Design is occasionalism. While the natural world seems to operate along a set of knowable rules, God often intervenes to change results. He is always in that space between cause and effect, ready to alter the relationship according to his design. God created the platypus for reasons only known to God. If he chooses, he can make the Nile flow south or the sky turn pink. The proof of this, according to Intelligent Design, is the variety of species alive today, as well those no longer in existence.

In fairness to the ID’ers, occasionalism did creep into Christian theology in the Middle Ages, as the Christian West came into contact with Islam. Nicholas of Autrecourt was a 14th century French theologian, who was a critic of the orderly view of the natural world and a proto-occasionalist. David Hume dabbled in the ideas, but stopped short of claiming a creator or designer. Modern ID’ers can therefore claim they are not way outside Christian tradition, but they would have to defend against it.

Another central claim of Intelligent Design is that the natural world is either the result of chance or design. This is the keystone of their theory, as Intelligent Design is not an affirmative argument in favor of a designer. Instead, they frame the debate as between two competing theories. Therefore, if one is shown to be invalid, by default the other must be true. It is a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand to avoid the central problems of Intelligent Design, which of course is that it can never be proven.

This aspect of Intelligent Design relies on a characterization of natural selection as random chance, like rolling of dice. It’s the claim that a football game is either the result of random chance or the game is fixed by the officials, either in advance or as the game proceeds to its conclusion. Obviously, this is ridiculous. The result of a sports match is not random and it is not predetermined or fixed. The result of a sportsball game, is the result of the players acting and reacting to one another, within a known set of rules.

That’s the case with evolutionary biology. Random mutations in the genome are one aspect of the evolutionary process. Environment obviously plays a role here.  Sexual selection is another. Human intervention is another. After all, people have killed off whole species. People have killed off whole groups of people. Like the sportsball game, there are multiple actors, acting and reacting, within a set of rules that science does not fully understand. Evolution is not an argument in favor of chance.

The point here is Intelligent Design is built, in part, on a false dichotomy. Natural selection is not random chance, at least not how most people understand what random chance means. Further, even if natural selection is unable to explain everything, there are other forces, like sexual selection, that come into play. Even if everything about evolutionary biology is wrong, it does not make Intelligent Design true. It simply means we have no good answer understanding the natural world.

This again comes back to the question as to whether Intelligent Design is at odds with Christian theology. The Sphynx cat exists and we know why. The ID’ers would argue that it is an example of design, but that presupposes the breeders were either directed by God or compelled by God to create the breed. That means man has no agency and that sin cannot truly exist. This argument for Intelligent Design comes dangerously close to the argument that man has no free will, which is heretical on its face.

This is why ID’er focus all of their energy on the negative argument, making various claims about evolutionary science. That way, the discussion is always on the science, rather than the theology. This rhetorical sleight of hand is also dishonest, which raises another theological problem for ID’ers. How can something be in line with Biblical teaching if it is based on a falsehood? Maybe the ID’er have a way to explain this, but it is not something they choose to address in their books and articles.

The most serious issue with Intelligent Design is what it implies about God. A designer that is endlessly tinkering with his creation is not a designer with foresight. Alternatively, it is a designer that is a fickle trickster, tinkering with his creation for his own amusement, without regard for his creation. It is a designer that purposely makes flawed creations that harm his other creations. This is a designer burning army men with a magnifying glass and blowing up the model train trestle. That’s not God. That’s the Devil.

From a mainstream Christian perspective, Intelligent Design has some serious theological problems, with occasionalism being the main one. The one way to solve the theological problems is to move the designer back to the beginning, where the Bible writers preferred to place him. The classic watchmaker model, where God sets the universe in motion, according to a fixed set of rules, with evolution possibly being one of them. That leaves room to debate evolution, but does not make God a villain.


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Civic Anti-Racism

In modern America, there are two things that are on display simultaneously in the realm of public debate. One is the celebration of the fact that white people and the interests of white people are in sharp decline. The other is a growing fear of white people. It is a strange combination at first glance, as this should be a time for the coalition of the ascendant to celebrate their looming hegemony. Instead, they endlessly talk about themselves, but in the context of a prophesized white backlash.

The root of this is the strange obsession with racism that has become a religion of its own over the last two decades. The anointing of Obama as the completion of the Second Founding, the event that was supposed to wash the stains of slavery, segregation and racism from America, instead ushered in an era of race panic. The Left is in a near frenzy over racism, which they now see everywhere. It is an obsession to the point where even the so-called Right is infected by it.

The recent outbreak of hysteria over white supremacists allegedly plotting a violent revolution is a good starting point. This post at Reason Magazine, after the El Paso shooting, is a good example. The libertarians used to take a pass on the race issue, preferring instead to obsess over weed and sexual deviance. They avoided it because preaching about free association regarding race would get them in trouble. Today, they are right there with Left hooting about white supremacy.

Now, libertarianism was always just a Progressive heresy, but it attracted a lot of conservatives. Operations like Reason had to pretend to be on the Right. That’s no longer the case, as actual conservatives have abandoned libertarianism for dissident politics. Perhaps they now feel free to let their guard down. The Koch Brothers have abandoned the GOP and are now backing left-wing candidates, so maybe this is part of their scheme. Still, the turn to berserk anti-racism is notable.

The so-called conservatives are not being left out of the panic. Right-wing goblin Ben Shapiro has been all over the white supremacy scare. He is working his tiny little fingers raw explaining why his grift has nothing in common with those really bad people to his Right. As is always the case with this guy, he takes the latest Progressive bogeyman and assigns it to his competition on the Right, so his motives always suspect. Even so, it feeds into the general hysteria over race.

Confidence men like Shapiro may not be the best examples, but it is clear that unhinged anti-racism is becoming a conservative principle. A rising star among conservatives is a guy calling himself Joshua Tait, a doctoral candidate at North Carolina, who is fashioning himself as a historian of conservatism. He turns up all over posting articles about various aspects of conservative intellectual history. Of course, he is an enthusiastic anti-racist and obsessed with those bad people to his Right.

That’s the remarkable thing about his writing. It is infected with a weird obsession about race that used to be cringe inducing when done on the Left. This piece reads like a panic attack over Amy Wax noticing the realities of immigration at the National Conservatism conference. This piece reads like a sobbing apology for the fact that people on the Right used to hold sensible opinions about race. The fact they have been proved correct over the last few generations goes unnoticed.

Now, to most readers, Joshua Tait is an unknown, but he is being groomed to be the next generation of so-called conservative intellectuals. Like we see with the more pedestrian stuff from Ben Shapiro, the so-called smart conservatives will be every bit as hysterical about race. The religion of anti-racism will be a core conservative value. Put another way, a rhetorical trick to rally the tribes of the Democrat coalition is quickly being turned into the organizing ethos of the new political class.

An interesting aspect of this new civic religion of anti-racism is it is mostly built on the assumption that whites, at any minute, will go bonkers and start attacking black bodies, while erecting old statues. The anti-racism of Joshua Tait is not rooted in something practical like greed, as in the case of Ben Shapiro. It’s not the product of cowardice, as you see with the Reason Magazine crowd. It’s a genuine sense that whites are a ticking time bomb that have to be monitored.

In this sense, the new anti-racism is like the old communist obsession with opponents of the revolution. With commies, the opponents of the revolution did not have to exist, but they must be made to exist. That is, if they could not find real counter-revolutionaries, they invented them. Something similar is going on with the anti-racists. They can’t find actual white supremacists, at least not in quantity, so they hunt for signs of it, like an evil spirit lurking on the fringes. The price of anti-racism is eternal vigilance.

It is tempting to think that this all about rallying the tribes of the Left, but it is probably the symptom of a different problem. What’s happening is white people are disengaging from the ruling Left. The old game of Team Blue fighting Team Red, where whites cheered for Team Red, is falling part. The cheering section of Team Red is shrinking. The over-the-top anti-racism is an effort to draw those disaffected fans of Team Red back into the game in order to maintain the old dynamic.

The problem, of course, is that Team Red has been designed to keep as little space between themselves and Team Blue as possible. They are children that can never be out of sight of their mother. As Team Blue races shrieking into the darkness of multicultural fanaticism, Team Red is racing after them. The old political arrangements, animated by hyper-anti-racism is a civic religion of the ruling class that is based on a hatred of sixty percent of the people over whom they rule.


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The Mad Hater

In modern America, it is generally assumed that intelligent people are smart about everything, not just a narrow specialty. It is also assumed, with regards to social policy, that smart people are on the “right side” of the issue. Taken together, smart people are general experts, who agree and amplify the current Progressive fads. Whenever the television chats shows want to add weight to some claim, they roll out credentialed experts to repeat what the left-wing presenter just said.

The flip side to this, of course, is that critics of the current Progressive fads are ignorant and primitive. They oppose the current trends because they lack the intellect or proper education to understand the issue. There is an oriental quality to it. The experts are talked about as enlightened, as if years of focus have allowed them to ascend to a high plane of existence. The critics, in contrast, are unenlightened, unaware there is a higher plane and thus ignorant of their own ignorance.

It is a useful social control mechanism, as it puts a tremendous moral burden on the intellectual class. No one, especially smart people, wants to be considered ignorant, so the natural tendency is to conform to the latest trends. Social pressure is a powerful weapon, as humans are social animals. To live as a pariah is the worst punishment in a status seeking community like academia. The result is the people who know better tend to keep quiet, while the rage heads and cranks run free.

There is an exception to this. There are people who seem to be smart, but they also go against the current trends, usually in a flamboyant way. Today that means acting like a crazy homeless guy on-line, screaming about stuff to no one and everyone. A good example is someone like Nicolas Taleb, the popinjay of probability. His latest thing is to gainsay evolutionary biology, by claiming all of it is all bunk. It usually involves attacking people. Here he picks out people at random and calls them names.

Taleb has a special animus for psychometry. Here is a long essay where he claims that IQ is largely a pseudoscientific swindle. This is ironic, given he made his money in a field that does not rise to the level of pseudoscience. Finance is just a swindle, where the “winners” have found a way to swindle the losers. Putting that aside, his essay is typical of his work. Heavy on complicated graphs and meandering logic, all of which is intended to make the reader think the writer is a super genius.

Of course, this is the stock and trade of the intellectual grifter. A pretty good rule is that a graph in an essay better be a highly simplified representation of what the preceding text just explained. If on the other hand, it is a complicated splatter chart following a pile of spaghetti language, the writer is trying to run a con on you. There are exceptions and complex topics can sometimes defy simple explanations. Still, the Feynman Rule and its natural derivatives is good to keep in mind with guys like Taleb.

Another interesting aspect of the Taleb act is that he is extremely ethnocentric. In fact it is his ethnocentrism that drives many of his Twitter tirades. This one is a good example, as it reveals a couple of things. The first thing is he does not know much about fascism or localism. He seems to think the fascists were internationalists. Of course, he assumes fascism is a synonym for bad. Therefore, it must have an opposite, as all bad things are bad because they are the opposite of the good things.

He picks localism as his good opposite of fascism and then makes the claim that the Phoenicians were localists. A popular thing with Lebanese nationalists (Christian) is to claim they are descendants of the Phoenicians. What he is up to here is a sideways celebration of his people. They were the first anti-fascists! Put another way, the root of his political analysis is an extreme pride in his people and culture, real or imagined, not a desire to understand the motivations of those making public policy.

It may be that his attacks on psychometry are driven by his ethnocentrism. Lebanon is a curious place. It is blessed with many natural resources and an ideal location between Europe and the Middle East. Yet, Lebanon is pretty much the ghetto of the Levant. If not for the Palestinians, the Lebanese would be at the bottom of the status pole. Israel, Syria and Iran use Lebanon as a staging area for their proxy wars. The Lebanese live as perpetual victims of their more powerful neighbors.

For a Lebanese nationalist, it is easier to look outside Lebanon for reasons why their country is such a mess. To admit that the Lebanese smart fraction abandoned the place a long time ago, which is mostly true, leaving the less able behind, is not going to fit well with ethno-nationalism. From an ethno-nationalist perspective, it is better to just deny there can be such a thing as a smart fraction. That obviates the need to explain a lot of Lebanese history, as well as Taleb’s personal history.

Now, it is possible that the real motivation behind these frequent rants against biology is just good old fashioned attention seeking. Taleb is a bit of gasbag and he certainly likes himself a lot. On the other hand, he could simply be a great example of someone with one good insight and not much else. Intellectual history is littered with people who had one great insight and a bunch of crackpot ideas. There were a lot of brilliant physicists in the last century, who were convinced international communism was the future.

Regardless, Taleb is a good reminder that smart people are right about things more often than dumb people, but they are still wrong about a lot of things. The further they stray from their narrow specialty, the more certain they seem to be in their wrongness. That and intelligence is a different from morality. Holding the right ideas is a different thing from holding the correct ideas. A guy like Taleb, in addition to providing free entertainment in Twitter, is a good example of how dumb smart people can be when they try.


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The un-Americans

A popular argument from the Judeo-Christians, mostly in response to people like Ilhan Omar and other anti-Israel advocates, is that one cannot be anti-Israel without also being anti-Semitic. Now, in this context, “Judeo-Christian” applies to the Jewish pundits, who are primarily pro-Israel, but have an exclusively Christian audience. People like Ben Shapiro and Dennis Prager. Both of whom are tireless advocates for Israel and promiscuously use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” in their arguments.

Their claim works as follows. It’s not that being anti-Zionist is just a ploy by the anti-Semites. It’s that the very nature of Jewishness is tangled up in the existence of Israel, which transcends the current state of Israel. According to their argument, Israel the idea, as well as the country, is what defines Jewishness. To oppose Israel, especially its right to exist, is to oppose that which makes being a Jew possible. Therefore, opposing Israel, by definition, makes that person an anti-Semite.

It is a curious argument, when you examine the implications. There is no doubt that Israel the concept is an inextricable part of Jewish identity. Anyone who has watched the move The Ten Commandments gets that. The Judeo-Christians, however, take this further and move beyond the concept of Israel to the physical country itself. It is hard to know if this is something Jews accept, but we do have example of Jews that have opposed Zionism, so some Jews oppose some aspects of Israel.

Let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that Prager and Shapiro are right about this and Israel and Jews are one in the same. The first conclusion, the most obvious one, is that Israel is an ethno-state. Sure, anyone can become a Jew, but that is like saying anyone can become a physicist. It may be true in theory, but in reality the conversion rate to Judaism rounds to zero. Jewish law requires the rabbi to strongly discourage gentiles from converting to Judaism.

The other conclusion from the Shapiro-Prager argument is that Jews are, by nature, primarily loyal to Israel. For a Jew to oppose the very essence of what makes him a Jew is an unsolvable paradox. In order to be authentically Jewish, a Jew has to adhere to that which makes one Jewish. If loyalty to Israel comes before everything else, that means all diaspora Jews are guests. They can and do work with their hosts, but in the end, their first loyalty has to be to Israel and the Jewish people.

This is, the argument Hazony makes in his book The Virtue of Nationalism. He does not apply it to Jews in the diaspora, but that is the implication. If Jews are a nation, then the primary loyalty of all Jews must be to that nation. He tries to run the “anyone can be a Jews” line through his argument, but that would invalidate all of his claims about Zionism, so it must be decoration. The implication here is clear. Jews are a nation, spread out around the world, but their ancestral land is Israel.

Another implication of this link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is that Ben Shapiro is lying when he says ideology trumps race. After all, if Zionism is just another ideological viewpoint, then so is anti-Zionism. Yet, Shapiro insists that being opposed to Zionism immoral on its face. The only way that can be true is if Zionism is based in biology, rather than ideology. Therefore, opposing Zionism is the same as racism, which means that Shapiro thinks race transcends ideology after all.

A possible way around this problem of Jews being a guest population is the claim that America is the new Israel or an extension of Israel. This is something that sells to the Christian Zionists and solves the problem of loyalties. America, according to this theory, is a both a defender of Israel and a staging ground for Jews who will one day return home during the ingathering of the Jewish diaspora. Aliya, the return to Israel, is a core idea of Zionism and it is included in Israel’s Scroll of Independence.

This has appeal to Christian Zionists in America, who believe that the gathering of the diaspora in Israel is in accordance with Bible prophecy and a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. Christian Zionism has its roots in the 17th century America with the Puritans. It turns up in the 18th century and especially the 19th century with the abolitionists, so it has a long history in America. As a result, there is a large audience for this form of Zionism among American Christians.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it means America is not really a nation or even a country. It’s just a temporary staging area. Loyalty to America, therefore, is contingent on American policy toward Israel. That is as un-American as you can get, as it denies the very existence of America as a country, much less a nation. Even here, the end result of the Judeo-Christian model is one where the Zionist can have no loyalty to America, as America does not exists, outside its role in Zionism.

This logical problem is why smarter Jews have always opposed this line of reasoning with regards to Israel and especially Zionism. In fact, Jews in the diaspora have tended to oppose Israel. The ADL, for example, has steadfastly rejected the argument that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. They argue that Israel is just another country without any special claims upon Jews. Whether they are sincere or not is debatable, but at least their logic allows them to be loyal Americans and Jewish.

That is, fundamentally, the problem with people like Prager and Shapiro. In their zeal to inculcate pro-Israel sentiment, they define themselves as both un-American and opposed to the very concept of America. Worse yet, they encourage Christians to sublimate their national loyalty to the ends of another nation. In order to sell this, they have to lie about their own intentions and their own beliefs. They demand you place ideology over biology, while they place biology ahead of ideology.


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House of Cards

One of the things that was revealed in the 2008 mortgage crisis was the fragility of the global financial system. The system that was born of the Louvre Accords was supposed to be robust and resilient, unlike the previous arrangements. The masters of finance would be able to keep a steady hand on the tiller, guiding the world economy through each storm, rather than have a free-for-all ever time there was a little turmoil. Up until 2008, everyone knew something like the mortgage crisis was impossible.

A credit based financial system was supposed to get around the problem of currency devaluation to solve political problems. That’s been a problem since the advent of coinage. When the state gets in trouble, the easiest ways to solve it is to spend money on the public. Whether it was debasing the coinage or printing paper money, the solution to spending money that did not exist was the create it. That always created new and bigger problems for the society down the line.

One way of looking at the mortgage crisis is as a form of currency devaluation. The global financial system is based in credit. That’s the base unit of value. Government debt and to a slightly lesser degree, corporate debt, is the foundation of the global financial system. Government issues debt, which increases the supply of money in the system, as that debt is used as collateral in the system. Central banks can buy and sell debt to control the supply of money in the system.

What no one thought much about, it seems, is how players in the system could devalue credit, in the same way governments devalued currency. That’s exactly what the mortgage brokers were doing. By lowering credit standards for borrowing, they were debasing a fundamental unit of currency in the system. This went unnoticed for a long time until everyone started noticing at the same time. The panic to unload the debased currency – those bad mortgages – set off the mortgage crisis of 2008.

That’s something to keep in mind as the next crisis appears on the horizon. The Wall Street Journal ran a story on General Electric’s financial issues. It’s based on a report by independent watchdog Harry Markopolos, who got famous sounding the alarm over Bernie Madoff’s scheme. For those familiar with global corporate finance, it is an interesting read, as GE is the exemplar of corporate legerdemain. It is not unreasonable to say that GE exists to exploit gaps in the regulatory system.

General Electric is one of those companies that looks like one thing, but in reality is just a financial scheme masquerading as a legitimate business. For example, their stunning growth in the 1990’s was not due to great manufacturing innovation. It was the result of GE Capital, a banking arm of the company. This arm not only financed their clients, who bought GE products, it financed GE’s expansion through acquisition. Without GE Capital as its credit creation vehicle, there would be no General Electric.

When you dig through the report, there are the familiar signs from the 2008 crisis. The allegation is GE is exaggerating one side of the balance sheet and minimizing the other, in order to make its liquidity appear much higher than reality. The whole point of this is to maintain a credit rating that allows it to borrow at competitive rates. Those lenders are not all that interested in the facts behind those numbers, as they have no incentive to examine the credit worthiness of General Electric.

Now, GE is one firm and maybe this is both exaggerated and isolated. That’s not the way to bet though. One of the ignored aspects of global business is that even tech oligopolies rely on a financing arm to exist. Apple, for example, is really a hedge fund that makes phones. Braeburn Capital is a wholly owned asset management company based in Reno, Nevada. Other tech giants are far less transparent, but every bit as wedded to the credit system to maintain their positions.

In theory, having global corporations as nodes in the global credit system is not a bad thing, because it makes them easier to regulate. In reality, as we saw with the mortgage crisis and now with General Electric, it also encourages everyone to overstate their credit worthiness. It also encourages opacity. The more complex and opaque the financial statement, the more costly the audit. Again as we saw with the credit agencies in 2008, the simple answer it to take the statements at face value.

That was the other thing revealed in the mortgage crisis. The system was a black box, even to the people inside it. The decisions makers in the big banks were unaware of what was happening upstream to pollute their asset pools. Of course, they had no incentive to care, so they never looked. Those people upstream had no way of knowing what they were creating downstream, but they had no reason to care. Regulators, of course, had no skill to examine the system and they did not care either.

Global debt, which includes government, corporate and household, is now 50% higher than it was at the time of the 2008 financial crisis. Due to the massive expansion of government debt, the stated quality of the overall debt is higher than in 2008, but this assumes government never runs out of money. Given that government solvency is tied to corporate and household solvency, that’s not an indisputable assumption. All anyone can really know is the world is awash in debt at all levels.

One read of the 2008 crisis was that it was a proof of concept. Instead of the system collapsing the world into depression and war, it withstood a huge blow and slowly eased the world out of the crises. The other read is that it was a warning about the internal logic of the system. A credit based economy is a house of cards. If the wrong card falls, the whole system collapses. It could be that the warning over GE is like the warning over mortgage lending. A warning to the house of cards.


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Corrections & Clarifications

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while now and I think it is starting to catch up with me. When I started to think about topics for the podcast this week, I was coming up blank. I kept thinking about various ideas I’ve had for posts, based on comments I’ve seen over the last few months. Since I was struggling to come up with content for the show this week, I decided to take up those blog post ideas and use those for the podcast, rather than save them for future writing projects.

One of the things that happens when you have an audience growth is new people come along, who are unfamiliar with your past positions. Something that happens when you have around for a while is you tend to say everything you have to say about a subject and then move onto other things. Put the two together and the new people often assume you have not tackled their favorite subject. That’s part of the motivation for the show this week. Going back and addressing some old topics.

As I was getting into it, I started thinking about other topics that I could include, but I was going long for some reason, so they were will have to wait. One that I will take up in a blog post is the issue of drug taking and drug policy. Like the issue of community activism, this is one where you see the defeated nature of whites. The nation’s drug policies and the debate over them does more to foster white guilt than all of the lectures from emotionally disturbed feminists on twitter.

Just a quick note on upcoming events. I will be attending the Scandza Forum in Copenhagen this October. If you are in the area or want to be in the area, details for attending are here. I’ll be at the Mencken Club conference this November. For those looking to get an idea what these conferences are like, Mencken is a good first event as it is well done and at a convenient location. BWI is a cheap airport to fly to and the event is at hotel that is reasonably priced. It is a good time.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.


For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!


This Week’s Show

Contents

  • 00:00: Opening
  • 02:00: The Needs of The Many
  • 17:00: Gatekeepers & Allies
  • 27:00: The Usual Suspects
  • 42:00: The Great Chain of Causality
  • 57:00: Closing

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Full Show On Spreaker

Full Show On YouTube

Monsters and Heroes

A common plot for a heroic tale is one where a people are under threat from a supernatural monster or maybe a person possessed by great evil. The king is either unable or unwilling to defend the people from the threat, so a great hero emerges to do that which the king is supposed to do. The hero then goes off to face the threat, defeats it thus saving the people and writing his name in the book of heroes. Probably the oldest existing version of this is the Old English epic poem Beowulf.

Now, more sophisticated versions of this plot will bring the king into the story line by exploring the reasons he cannot or will not defend his people. Maybe the king is playing a double game, where he hopes to summon the hero, who he sees as the greater threat, in order to get him killed by the monster. Alternatively, the king is weak or incompetent, thus he represents failed leadership. His character in the story is a reminder of the risk of to a people tolerating bad leaders.

Now, with that in mind, fast forward to the current age and consider what is happening in American public life. For starters, we have an economic system that cannot be described as anything but predatory. The issue has become so acute, even The Wall Street Journal has had to take note. The reason for the collapse of the America middle class is well known. The active efforts to suppress wages, while maintaining a usurious financial system, is draining the life out of the middle-class.

Again, the reasons for this are fairly well understood and, more important, we know who is behind the policies causing it. People have been writing about the financialization of the economy since the 1970’s. Way back when Wall Street convinced Congress they should auction off the manufacturing base, analysts on the Right and Left identified the prime mover behind this phenomenon. The monster that is savaging the people is well known, yet the king does nothing to defend his people.

Concomitant with the financial collapse of the middle-class has been the spiritual and cultural collapse. Probably the most symbolic aspect of this is the opioid crisis, which has put its icy hand on every shoulder of society. It’s not just an urban thing like prior drug epidemics or a class thing like crime. Look at the number of high profile people who ended up in a rehab facility after getting hooked on pain killers. Every week, the nation’s obituaries are full of stories about opioid related deaths.

Again, this is not some great mystery. On the one hand, you have people like the Sackler family who basically got a license to kill. They used it to flood the nation with legal drugs and induced doctors to hand them out like candy. Similarly, the flood of fentanyl from Mexico is well understood. We know who is doing this to the American people, yet the people in charge barely acknowledge it. The monster that is savaging the people is well known, yet the king does nothing to defend his people.

We have spent three years being lectured by our betters about those clever Russians and their Facebook ads, threatening our democracy. It was a giant hoax, of course, and we know why the hoaxers perpetuated it. They were covering up a seditious plot to subvert the 2016 election. The fact that it was a hoax does not mean there are no threats to the political order. We know, for example, that the tech giants are deliberately trying to subvert the democratic processes.

Again, this is not some mysterious thing that is just coming to light. It has been happening for a long time now. Here we have Silicon Valley trying to bully British media outlets to not interview Farage. Here we have a former Google exec explaining how his former employer interferes in elections. What’s happening with these tech oligopolies is not some great puzzle that has just coming to light. The monster that is savaging the people is well known, yet the king does nothing to defend his people.

The pattern is unmistakable. Time after time the people come under threat from a well understood enemy of bourgeois order and time after time the people in charge do nothing about it. Only the most naive think the Epstein affair or the massive corruption in the FBI will be addressed. At this point, everyone knows the plot. The flow of stories will slow to a trickle and then the whole thing will be forgotten. In time, Epstein’s plotters will be partying with the FBI plotters at Lois Lerner’s Vineyard mansion.

The people are under threat by a variety of monsters. It’s not just Grendel, but Grendel’s mother and the whole extended family. The people in charge, whether out of fear, avarice or degeneracy do nothing about these threats. People thought the Orange Knight was the hero, who could slay the monsters and bring peace to the people, but thus far he has remained under his desk, posting insults on Twitter. In fact, the king sees the hero as a greater threat than the monsters that savage his people.

If our version of this tale is to be recounted in future generations, the plot will have to take a different turn. Ours will have to be the version where the people, seeing the king undermine and plot against the hero, finally realize that the real monster vexing them is the one who rules over them. Every society is under threat from monsters, often ones they created or allowed to develop in their ranks. The people who survive are those who figure it out and either find a hero to slay the monster or do the job themselves.


For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!