Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29_2007 - Even Blind Pigs Find an Occasional Acorn Now and Then

When my father died this past January one of the things I inherited from him was his unfinished subscription to the Wall Street Journal. And I have to say that over the years I have not found the WSJ very much to my liking. And why is that? Well, their business news stories, while usually well written and researched, are pretty commonplace fare; mainly stuff I can find for free on the web, although not as well written perhaps. And ditto with their tables of stock data, currency prices, precious metal values, and such too. And their reliably “vulgar libertarian” argumentation in their right-wing editorials and columns just drive me nuts.

But once in a while, as my maternal grandfather used to say: “Even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn, now and then.” Meaning, the pig got lucky, not that he’s skillful or smart.

And so it was when I read a review in today’s edition of the WSJ of Michael Barone’s New book, Our First Revolution -The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers.

Barone describes and analyzes the coup d’etat by nascent English [Classic] Liberals in
1688 that toppled the last Stuart monarch James II, for fear he’d further erode the traditional rights that most English folk had come to like, and become more like the absolute authoritarian monarchies in continental Europe.

“Although James II stood for Catholic obscurantism,” says the review, “pro-French appeasement, and Stuart paternalism and monopoly--all of which would have held Britain back politically and commercially in the 18th century--it is hard not to sympathize with his Lear-like cries of anguish as both his daughters, Mary and Anne, betray him in order to safeguard their claims to the throne.”

Well, I didn’t, but still, that quibble aside, it’s a good review.

“Yet had James II not made myriad errors after succeeding his brother, King Charles II, in 1683--errors that help to trigger William's later intervention—‘French-style absolutism might really have sprung into life’ in England, Mr. Barone writes, perhaps ‘in late 1688 or early 1689.’ Such absolutism was doing well on the Continent, especially under Louis XIV, and James was busy trying to buy the coming general election and pack the House of Commons. When an heir was born to James in June 1688, establishing the Catholic succession, the moment of decision had arrived.”

And England, America and the whole English-speaking world benefited from the coup’s final result, says Barone’s analysis.

How so?

“Everything that flowed from the Whig victory of 1688--limited government, the Bank of England, tradable national debt, triennial Parliaments, mercantilism, free enterprise, an aggressively anti-French foreign policy, the union with Scotland, eventually the Hanoverian Succession and the Industrial Revolution--combined to make the English-speaking peoples powerful. Mr. Barone proves beyond doubt how much the Glorious Revolution inspired the Founding Fathers to launch their own, with Virginia gentlemen farmers seeing themselves as the heirs of England's revolutionary aristocrats. The 1689 Bill of Rights in Britain thus unquestionably paved the way to the American Bill of Rights of 1791.”

Well, perhaps or perhaps not. Some think that the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution are merely Libertarian Myth, mere fable, and weren’t really any form of genuine progress in political philosophy, in theory or in practice, at all. That view I disagree with. All those developments were positives, the best that could be expected in those times, and Liberal Democracy was an important milestone in human political evolution.

Plus, I like English history, and so I am gonna read it.

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