The circus in the Imperial City continues apace, China has produced a possible pandemic, some sportsball guy and his daughter was (sadly) killed in a helicopter crash.
On the other hand, the sun still came up this morning; children are still playing, business is still humming, pretty girls haven’t lost their appeal, and back home in Colorado, the mountains are still there, waiting on my next visit.
Sometimes a fella just has to calm down and remind himself to take an even strain, you know? And, with that said…
Consider the curious case of one Hunter Biden, whose main accomplishments in life have been 1) getting kicked out of the Navy for cocaine use, 2) conducting an affair with his dead brother’s widow, 3) knocking up a stripper, and 4) inexplicably parlaying those previous three assets into a million-dollar-a-year gig with a Ukrainian energy company. I’m sure his family connections have nothing to do with that last bit. Now, if his name was Cheney, that’d be a much different story.
A few years ago, NPR did a fabulous story on China’s rise from the ashes of Mao’s Marxism to allow a modicum of freedom. The story takes place in the small village of Xiaogang in 1978. Several farmers had come together in a dirt-floor shack to sign a secret compact. To these farmers, this contract was dangerous. They still feared the terror of Mao and believed that if this contract were discovered, they could be executed.
The farms had been owned by the collective since private property was abolished in the 1950s. To defy common ownership of any farmland was very risky.
Yen Jingchang, one of the farmers at this secret meeting, said that “back then, even one straw belonged to the group. No one owned anything.”
One of the men present remembers a farmer asking at a local communist meeting, “What about the teeth in my head? Do I own those?” The party official responded: “No. Your teeth belong to the collective.”
Jingchang said in those days, “In theory, the government would take what the collective grew, and would also distribute food to each family. There was no incentive to work hard – to go out to the fields early, to put in extra effort.”
So these Chinese farmers broke the rules:
According to NPR, “In the winter of 1978, after another terrible harvest, they came up with an idea: Rather than farm as a collective, each family would get to farm its own plot of land. If a family grew a lot of food, that family could keep some of the harvest.”
It had been nearly 30 years since anyone had “owned” his or her labor or the fruits of their harvest. This “new” old idea went against 30 years of communist dictates, which is why the farmers met in secret to discuss a new compact.
One by one, they filed furtively into the agreed-upon farmer’s home. As NPR described it, this home was “like all of the houses in the village – it had dirt floors, mud walls, and a straw roof.. no plumbing, no electricity.”
Despite the danger, the farmers agreed to try privatizing the land – they formalized the agreement and wrote it down as a contract. One of them, Yen Hongchang, wrote out the agreement.
In the contract, the farmers agreed to apportion the land between families. The families would not get to keep the entire harvest. There still would be taxes and a portion for the collective, but for the first time in a generation, the vast amount of the harvest would go to the family that grew the crop. The more you grew, the more you and your family would profit.
The contract was kept secret. NPR reported, “Yen Hongchang hid it inside a piece of bamboo in the roof of his house.”
What they couldn’t hide was the dramatically increased harvest. Farmer Hongchang estimated that the harvest was bigger than the last five years together. A miracle occurred, albeit a miracle known at least since the time of Adam Smith: Incentives do matter.
As NPR reported: “Before the contract, the farmers would drag themselves out into the field only when the village whistle blew, marking the start of the work day. After the contract, the families went out before dawn.”
What do you know. Incentives matter! Who knew?
Well, as Senator Paul points out, Adam Smith knew. So did Thomas Sowell, and Ludwig von Mises, and any number of other people.
When they unfettered themselves from the brutally repressive Communist “collective” system, the entire system changed. And why? Because serfs claimed back some of their personhood that the socialist government denied them, and decided that henceforth they would produce not for the “Collective” – whatever that is – but for themselves, for their own families, for their own gain.
And it worked. Wonder of wonders, it worked! That’s the great thing about freedom; it works. The freedom to produce, to profit from your production, to know that the fruits of your labor will be yours, that your property belongs to you and not some bureaucrat in Beijing – or Washington – that will always exceed any reward that socialist central planners could ever promise.
I find stuff like this interesting: Sometime in the next 100,000 years, the star Betelgeuse, which is 640 light-years away in the constellation Orion, will go supernova. Excerpt:
Right now, Betelgeuse is absolutely enormous, irregularly shaped, and with an uneven surface temperature. Located approximately 640 light-years away, it’s more than 2,000 °C cooler than our Sun, but also much larger, at approximately 900 times our Sun’s radius and occupying some 700,000,000 times our Sun’s volume. If you were to replace our Sun with Betelgeuse, it would engulf Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt, and even Jupiter!
But there are also enormous, extended emissions around Betelgeuse from material that’s been blown off over the past few dozen millennia: matter and gas that extends out farther than Neptune’s orbit around our Sun. Over time, as the inevitable supernova approaches, Betelgeuse will shed more mass, continue to expand, dim-and-brighten chaotically, and will burn progressively heavier elements in its core.
All of a sudden, the luminosity of Betelgeuse would spike by about a factor of 7,000 from its previously steady value. It would go from one of the brightest stars in the night sky to the brightness of a thin crescent Moon: about 40 times brighter than the planet Venus. That peak brightness would only last for a few minutes before falling again back to being just about 5 times brighter than it previously was, but then the traditional supernova rise begins.
Over a time period of approximately 10 days, the brightness of Betelgeuse will gradually rise, eventually becoming about as bright as the full Moon. Its brightness will surpass all the stars and planets after about an hour, will reach that of a half Moon in three days, and will reach its maximum brightness after approximately 10 days. To skywatchers across the globe, Betelgeuse will appear to be even brighter than the full Moon, as instead of being spread out over half a degree (like the full Moon), all of its brightness will be concentrated into a single, solitary, saturated point.
What’s kind of cool about all this is that Betelgeuse may have gone supernova 600 years ago, and we still won’t see it until on or about my 100th birthday!
This of course serves to point out how vastly huge, how enormously immense, even our stellar neighborhood is. In the cosmic scheme of things Betelgeuse is a near neighbor; but it takes light, traveling at 186,282 miles per second, 640 years to reach us. That means that Betelgeuse is 3,762,320,000,000,000 miles away.
And that’s a hop, skip and a jump, cosmically speaking. The nearest galaxy from ours is Andromeda, and it takes light 2.5 million years to travel the 1.4696563 x 1019 miles from there to here. When we look at Andromeda, we are seeing fossil light. We are literally looking into the past.
Do these facts have any immediate impact in our lives? No. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that it’s cool.
The dust-up over gun control in Virginia has several counties looking to leave Virginia and join the decidedly more Second Amendment-friendly West Virginia. Excerpt:
West Virginia lawmakers are scrambling to let rural Virginia counties join the Mountain State amid conservative voter anger with the new Democratic majority in Richmond and its push for gun control and other liberal initiatives.
In a building fight that echoes the Civil War-era split of the Old Dominion that created West Virginia in 1863, 40 of 100 West Virginia House delegates have signed on to legislation that would accept revolting Virginia counties and towns.
The effort began after the November elections when urban and suburban voters put the Virginia General Assembly into Democratic hands. Many of those Democrats ran on a platform of restricting and banning guns.
Howell, a Republican, told Secrets that what started off as a long-shot effort “has turned into a real thing.”
He said that Virginia lawmakers and officials along the West Virginia border have cited the Democratic drive for gun control and desire to shift spending to the urban areas near Washington as reasons to leave for West Virginia.
In his bill, HCR 8, Howell and his team wrote about the urban-rural battle: “These tensions have been compounded by a perception of contempt on the part of the government at Richmond for the differences in certain fundamental political and societal principles which prevail between the varied counties and cities of that Commonwealth.”
He also cited gun control, a huge fight on display in Richmond Monday when some 22,000 gun owners protested restrictions sweeping through the state Senate. There is no new push for gun control in West Virginia.
Note that Gary Howell cites the “urban-rural battle” that I’ve mentioned before in these virtual pages.
The thing here is this: A secession into a neighboring state might be the best thing for everyone concerned here, and it could certainly set an interesting precedence. This move would relieve some pressure on Richmond, where the state government is increasingly blue, driven by the huge NoVa enclave of Imperial workers, who tend to see government and more government as the cure to all that ails us. It would make the pro-gun folks in the western counties happier, and would increase West Virginia’s tax base and Congressional influence.
Now apply that to some other places.
What about our own Colorado? Say some of the northeastern counties joined Wyoming or Nebraska?
What if the southeastern California counties moved to join Arizona? Or the northernmost ones and some on southern Oregon realized their goal of a State of Jefferson?
What if eastern Washington seceded and joined Idaho?
How about farther east? Would the counties of southern Illinois, notoriously conservative, be more comfortable as part of Indiana or Missouri?
People can vote with their feet. But moving or not moving isn’t the point; people should also be able to choose the government that suits them. Bear in mind this would exacerbate the “urban-rural battle” in some ways, by redrawing state lines that would exaggerate those divides even further, because, as you may have noticed, the examples I cite mostly involve rural areas separating from urban ones.
Maybe this time we’ll be able to have our secession a little more peaceably, since no one is (yet) agitating to start a whole new nation.
Know how the far left defines a “gaffe?” It’s when one of them accidentally says what they really mean. Case in point. Excerpt:
It has been clear ever since the creation (and later the fall) of the Soviet Union that socialism is an inherently dictatorial, tyrannical ideology. Only those who worship the state and power want to have anything to do with it. Which is why it makes perfect sense that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a passionate Marxist.
As Madam Tyrant put it herself recently:
AOC to billionaires:
To be ethical you need to give up control and power. So I don’t want your money as much as we want your power. The people, not me. pic.twitter.com/cmwlLTPXZm
“To be ethical, if you’re a billionaire today, the thing that you need to do is give up control and power,” Mrs. Stalin said. “So I don’t want your money as much as we want your power,” she went on to say while quickly changing the “I” into “we.” “The people, not me,” she added.
Haha, of course not!
“That’s gonna be cut in clips,” she said after the gaffe.
Here, True Believers, is the naked face of a would-be tyrant. (Or tyrantita.) This stupid, stupid girl, who supposedly has a degree in Economics and yet was working as a bartender before the people in her district stupidly put her in Congress, would cheerfully confiscate the property of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans. Not just billionaires; if she got her way, she could confiscate the property of every billionaire in America, and it still wouldn’t pay for her Utopia. And that’s assuming that not one of those billionaires – people with, you know, the resources of a billionaire – fled for less repressive shores.
And when her failure became obvious, she’d look next to millionaires – then the “very wealthy”, whatever that means – then to you and me.
There can only be one response to this: Fuck off, slaver!
The correct answer is, “who gives a shit?” Seriously, why are so many Americans so fascinated by these “royal” non-entities? Didn’t our ancestors fight a bloody revolution to ensure we wouldn’t have any of those royal nobs nobbing it up over here on our side of the Atlantic?
This long weekend just passed, Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. made a whirlwind trip to bonny old Eire. We took a red-eye flight Thursday night, arriving rather the worse for wear early Friday morning. After picking up our rental car, I had a journey of discovery in which I 1) had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car, and b) navigate Dublin’s rush hour traffic to find our hotel. Continue reading A Tramp Abroad I – Ireland→