Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Infantilization of Our Youth

While doing research for my up coming post for the birthday of Washington, I came across the following which I present because It makes a point I want to address. What follows is part of a longer piece on Valley Forge

"Lewis Hurt, age 17, a private from Connecticut. Benjamin Blossom, age about 31 years, a soldier from Massachusetts. George Ewing, age 23, an Ensign of the Seventh Company in the Third New Jersey Regiment. Joseph Plumb Martin, age 15 when he enlisted in Connecticut's Third Company on July 6, 1776; age 16 when he arrived at Valley Forge. They came from Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey...They represented every state in the new union. Some were still boys -- as young as 12 -- others in their 50s and 60s."

The point is that once upon a time young people in our society had a lot more independence and responsibility than they do today. They were out fighting for their freedom and the nations independence. Today, all to often, young people are kept-act like children into their 20s.

At Common Law young people had more independence than they do today. While it is true that majority was not until 21, at 14 a boy or girl was able witness deeds and contracts, testify in court, select their own guardian, bequeath personal property by will, own land, and apprentice themselves. With their guardian’s permission, they could marry. They could even enter contracts for necessities and in theory could sell land, but since they had a right to void the contract on turning 21, most buyers would not buy land from minors. However, their guardian could take such action for them if he or she agreed with them.

Basically turning 21 meant that a person not longer needed a guardian, could vote, and that their contracts would henceforth be enforced whether they were in their interests or not. This meant that the period from 14 to 21 was a period of quasi adulthood were the young person could make many important decisions but had training wheals so to speak in the form of his legal guardian and the courts.

Now one may question some of the details of the common law scheme, for example the sexual inequality where by young women of 12 were accorded the “training wheels” stage that young men had to wait until 14 to be given. One might also question whether 21 was an appropriate age of majority. However the over all idea of having a training period where young people can make some but not all of their own decisions is a good one.

If we want superior performance from our young people, we need to both give them more independence and responsibility. (more info on the common law rules here)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Other “Mercenaries"

Arkin’s use of the word mercenaries to describe U.S. forces in Iraq (type his name in yahoo to find, I'm not spreading his bilge) reminds me of two things, first A. E. Houseman’s Epitaph On An Army of Mercenaries, here and secondly of the “mercenaries,” formerly known as volunteers before our Orwellian friends decided that volunteer might send the wrong message, who have played such a prominent roll in the history of our people.

After all it was volunteers that made parliament’s victory in the English Civil War possible. It was volunteers who formed the core of the Continental Army that won the American War of Independence. Volunteers by the millions carried the American republic on their bayonets through four long hard years of war.

In this last context one might point to the politicization of the Union Army, those dreadful mercenaries, who voted overwhelmingly for one party during the election of 1864 but if I noted who they voted for and which party against, I might be accused of “questioning the patriotism” of Arkin or even of waving the bloody shirt.

Nor is this the end of volunteers in the history of our people. The Spanish American war was fought by “mercenaries” most famously the Rough Riders a.k.a. the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The Boer War was fought by “mercenaries” from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape Colony and Natal.

Among the English Speaking People the draft is an innovation first seen (briefly) in the American Civil War and more frequently during the 20th Century. It is my hope that aside from militia forces for local defense, conscription will never be seen again among our people. Lets leave conscription to the French who invented it and the Germans who perfected it.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Today is the 198th anniversary of the birth of a great leader of our people, Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States. I could write much about him, but I will just let his own words, spoken at the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery durring the third anglosphere civil war speak for him.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Eton Wall Game, Making a Mystery of the Commonplace

I am taking keyboard in hand today to write about a rather off beat subject, the Eton Wall Game. I want to start by saying that the title of this little post is not meant to put down the Eton Wall Game, but to explain it. Not the rules of the game, those I barely understand, in fact I am not sure you could understand the published rules (here) without looking at the wall and field where it is played and seeing a game or having it described by a player, and that is the point of this post.

From my own experience and from what friends from various back grounds have told me of their own childhood, it is safe to say that young people adopt, mix, and create games that fit their specific circumstances. Tag, soccer, baseball, rugby, American football, when they are played by actual boys (and girls to) on a particular playing field, have their rules adopted to the circumstances of the playing field and of the players. These adoptions are often so extensive as to make the game very different often nearly non understandable to outsiders.

This, it is obvious, is what the Eton Wall Game is all about, a rugby-soccer type game played on a particular field, at a particular school, in Berkshire, the United Kingdom. To prove this point the goals are at one end of the sport’s only playing field, a door and at the other end a tree. (more details here) There is nothing weird about this, on the contrary it is wonderful that the boys at Eton have cared enough about themselves and their school to perpetuate a tradition of play over more than two hundred years and to write down the rules.

However to read some articles about the Wall Game you would think it was either a) something special that only those superior beings who go to Eton could play or b) something foolish that only the under brained off spring of those with more money than sense would play, and in either case mysterious and non understandable. It is neither, it is one of probably 50,000 (or more) different games played on specific lots or fields around the world by a limited number of specific children.

What is interesting about the Eton Wall Game is that by the fame of the school, it draws ones attention to a commonplace phenomenon. It is at once an example of Hayekian spontaneous order (the boys didn’t set out to start a great tradition, they just wanted to have fun) and of Burke’s particularism (it would be pointless to try and make the Wall Game a widespread game with a fixed type of playing field like soccer) It reminds us both that social order does not have to be externally imposed and that general principals however true and important must develop in their own organic way in each specific context.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Letter to the globe re AGW

I wrote the following as a letter to a writer at the Boston Globe

I was really shocked to read the following in your column, “ I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

This is simply not true. (What is denying the factuality of future events? They haven’t happened yet so theories that claim to describe them can’t be true or false) (note: the theory could be, but we couldn't tell until the future occured) However, the differences in evidence for the two events is instructive.

I have seen movies of the newly liberated camps, the corpses of those who died after liberation stacked like wood. I have meet survivors of the camps, my friends and relatives have meet others. I have read in part, the record and evidentiary documents of the Nuremburg trials. I have meet some of the prosecutors, doctors, and guards who served at Nuremburg and who spoke with the perpetrators. The holocaust undeniably happened. It is a fact of history.

The theory of human caused global warming is an opinion. While I am a non scientist, I have meet scientists, (none employed by the oil industry) who do not believe the earth is getting warmer. I have meet ones who are unsure if the earth is getting warmer. I have meet ones who are sure the earth is getting warmer, but are not at all sure that it is cause by humans. I have meet ones who believe it is getting warmer and that humans caused it. Is this consensus? (Leaving alone the value of consensus in science)

I am of course, not a scientist, but as a citizen of the Republic and as a human being, I take my responsibility to keep abreast of the debate on global warming seriously. I try to figure out what would be happening if this or that explanation was true. What I have read and observed leads me to believe that the earth may be getting warmer, but it may not. The cause (if there is global warming) is to my mind far from clear. CO2 is undoubtedly a greenhouse gas, but is it the cause of the warming that has been observed, (which is far from global by the way, mostly observable in the northern hemisphere) that is not certain. As I say, I am not a scientist, but I am trying to figure out what is going on.

From the above, I conclude that we need to spend a great deal of money on research to figure out what is happening. (I also recommend real estate investment in more northerly climes as a hedge against the possibility of global warming)

I am not impressed by a political statement that is allegedly based on a scientific document that has yet to be released. (Why weren’t they released at the same time? Desire to make the later conform to the former?) The fact that the report is released by the UN and under the approving sponsorship of 100 governments makes me the more nervous. The UN and governments have a huge interest in finding warming. It gives them a reason to expand their power. Have we learned nothing from the 20th century? Then there is the whole religious angle, global warming lets atheists (of which I am one) get in on the whole fire and brimstone act. Also look at the very real religious aspects of the environmental movement and look at its historical roots in the 20s and 30s.

The last thing that I want to say (which I hope you will not take to personally) is that while I am now a law student, I was for three years (Nov. 2000- Nov. 2003) a reporter. I saw the crap that came into the newsroom from all sorts of organizations in their press releases. I, trying to sort the wheat from the chaff would do a quick bit of research and call up the sender and ask a few critical questions. While most senders were full of it, three groups stand out in my mind, corporations, governments and environmental groups. The last were by far the worst offenders. They had the most slender evidence and made the most of what they had. I can’t be alone in this experience. Why, when a document (basically a press release) that is produced by a collaboration of governments and the environmental movement comes out, is meet with so little critical examination?

Very Sincerely Yours,

Stephen W. Houghton II

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Birthday AR

Today is the 102nd Aniversery of the birth of one of the 20th Century's heros, Ayn Rand.