Hay You

“The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.” ― Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions 

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American Founding Father, John Adams (1735 – 1826):

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

American politician, Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865):

“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”

English historian, Arnold Toynbee (1889 – 1975):

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

French philosopher, Jean-Francois Revel (1924 – 2006):

“Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”

Epictetus the Stoic


Epictetus[1] summarized the Stoic attitude of taking responsibility for what was within one’s control thus: “I must die. If forthwith, I die; and if a little later, I will take lunch now, since the hour for lunch has come, and afterwards I will die at the appointed time.”

Milton Friedman summarized the role of the government thus: Continue reading “Epictetus the Stoic”


“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

Viktor E. Frankl, (1905 – 1997), Man’s Search for Meaning

In 1991, Man’s Search for Meaning was listed as one of the ten most influential books in the U.S. by respondents in a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club.

Nations Die — Will Durant

“Nations die. Old regions grow arid, or suffer other change. Resilient man picks up his tools and his arts, and moves on, taking his memories with him. If education has deepened and broadened those memories, civilization migrates with him, and builds somewhere another home. In the new land he need not begin entirely anew, nor make his way without friendly aid; communication and transport bind him, as in a nourishing placenta, with his mother country. Rome imported Greek civilization and transmitted it to Western Europe; America profited from European civilization and prepares to pass it on, with a technique of transmission never equaled before.”

Will & Ariel Durant. The Lessons of History (1968). Pg 94.

Bonus: Download the brief book epub, pdf.

On Servitude

To me it appears to be true that servitude of the masses have to be largely voluntary because the serfs always outnumber the masters. Two quotes on servitude follow but first a bonus quote from Ayn Rand.

“A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment … is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule.”

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Only Organized Violence Please

People condemn disorganized violence but are filled with pride and honor if violence is organized at the national level and projected internationally. That’s funny. Here’s Armen Alchian (1914-2013) in his book college economics textbook Exchange and Production:

Before condemning violence (physical force) as a means of social control, note that its threatened or actual use is widely practiced and respected—at least when applied successfully on a national scale. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and was honored by the Romans; had he simply roughed up the local residents, he would have been damned as a gangster. Alexander the Great, who conquered the Near East, was not regarded by the Greeks as a ruffian, nor was Charlemagne after he conquered Europe. Europeans acquired and divided—and redivided—America by force. Lenin is not regarded in Russia as a subversive. Nor is Spain’s Franco, Cuba’s Castro, Nigeria’s Gowon, Uganda’s Amin, China’s Mao, our George Washington.

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the rich

I think envy drives more people to do bad stuff than ambition or greed ever did. And politicians regularly depend on envy to motivate the masses to elect them on the promise that the wealthy are evil and therefore deserving of the pain that they are sure to suffer. Naturally the crookedest of the politicians proclaim loudly that they are just common folks (aam aadmi, chowkidar, etc) who are just like the rest of us, and therefore need not be envied or feared.

I listen skeptically to people who speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I suspect that vices are invented or exaggerated when profit is expected from their punishment. An enemy is a bad witness; a robber is a worse. — Edmund Burke, 1790 Continue reading “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the rich”

Strangling the Politicians

In my last post, On the Distress of Farmers, I wrote “that Indians will never be free until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last bureaucrat.” I was echoing the European Enlightenment figure Denis Diderot (1713-1784) who wrote:

La nature n’a fait ni serviteur ni maître;
Je ne veux ni donner ni recevoir de lois.
Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,
Au défaut d’un cordon pour étrangler les rois.

Which in English is:

Nature created neither servant nor master;
I seek neither to rule nor to serve.
And its hands would weave the entrails of the priest,
For the lack of a cord with which to strangle kings.

[Source: Did Diderot say that.]

Isn’t that a most apposite quote in the context of politicians (the masters) and the people (the servants)?

What is Socialism?

Robert Heilbroner (1919 – 2005) defined socialism as “a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production.”

Why is Heilbroner worth quoting on this matter? Because he knew what he was talking about. He was a committed socialist all his life. He was a best-selling author. His book The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (1953) sold over 4 million copies. Clearly he was not stupid. And when he could not deny the evidence, late in his life he came to recognize that socialism had failed and was honest enough to admit that he had been wrong. Continue reading “What is Socialism?”

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