Why Study History?


‘The answer is because we virtually must, to gain access to the laboratory of human experience. When we study it reasonably well, and so acquire some usable habits of mind, as well as some basic data about the forces that affect our own lives, we emerge with relevant skills and an enhanced capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking, and simple awareness. The uses of history are varied. Studying history can help us develop some literally “salable” skills, but its study must not be pinned down to the narrowest utilitarianism. Some history—that confined to personal recollections about changes and continuities in the immediate environment—is essential to function beyond childhood. Some history depends on personal taste, where one finds beauty, the joy of discovery, or intellectual challenge. Between the inescapable minimum and the pleasure of deep commitment comes the history that, through cumulative skill in interpreting the unfolding human record, provides a real grasp of how the world works.’

– Peter N. Stearns (1998) Why Study History? American Historical Association Continue reading

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Necrocracy and the Eternal President


North Korea displays all the trappings of a fundamentalist theocracy (Tellis, Wills. 2007). It has long been established that the North Korean culture of government has taken the shape of a leadership cult with special reverence for its founder Kim Il-sung. This worship became particularly apparent in the 1990s when its founder – the first in the current trinity of Kims – passed away.

‘Under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people will hold the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung in high esteem as the eternal President of the Republic and carry the revolutionary cause of Juche through to completion by defending and carrying forward the idea and achievements of Comrade Kim Il Sung.’

– Preamble to the Constitution of North Korea (1972, revised 1998)

In 1998, four years after the death of the so-called beloved and dear leader, it was established that Kim Il-sung would hold the office of President of the Republic for the rest of time.

Subsequent North Korean leaders (a hereditary privilege of the Kim family since the founding of the state) have been made head of the party and of supreme commander of the army, but the office of president is still held by the man who died in 1994. This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president; effectively, the only necrocracy in the world.

Jus Ad Bellum


The Just War Theory also known as the Jus ad Bellum is a dubious theory on the basis of which, through the ages, nations have sought to legally and morally justify the taking up of arms. The foundation for the Just War Theory was laid by Augustine in the 4th century. About eight centuries later, during the high middle ages, Augustine’s reflections were codified into the distinct criteria by Thomas Aquinas. These criteria remain the basis of the Just War Theory as it is known today. They are:

  • Just Authority: Also known as Competent Authority, Just Authority states that a just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice.
  • Just Cause: In order to produce a justification, an authority must be able to show that some wrong has been committed by one nation for which war is thought to be the proper response.

“I strongly believe that there is a Christian doctrine of just war.”
– Ron Paul

  • Just Intention: A warring state is prevented from going beyond the boundaries of its justification by acting according to its justified intentions.
  • Last Resort: War is morally permissible only when there is no other course of action open. This means that the nation considering war has exhausted all potential solutions, including political and diplomatic.

– Courtesy of oregonstate.edu

“Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men.”
– Pope John Paul II

Plutocracy versus Oligarchy


In both a plutocracy and an oligarchy a relatively very small group of people wields all the power; majority rule, if it exists, occurs only in token form. Furthermore, both governmental systems do not require a parliament nor a constitution, although these are not obstacles either. There are, however, a few nuanced differences between the two governmental systems:

Oligarchy is the system in which a nation is governed by a few powerful people. The basis of this power is unspecified but sticky; it can be passed on by means of elections as well as inheritance.

“A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors.”  ― George Orwell

Plutocracy is the government of the wealthy, who are powerful because of their wealth. As opposed to oligarchies, plutocracies usually enjoy elective successions – in one way or another.

‘Reagan’s story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control — a Jeffersonian ideal at the roots of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and license to buy the political system right out from everyone else.’ ― Bill Moyers, in his “For America’s Sake” speech (12 December 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 17

The Economics of Digging a Hole


‘If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.’

– Keynes. J.M. (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Book III: The Propensity to Consume London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan p. 129

Ceremonial Officers of England


In modern-day Britain, there are a great number of governmental, judicial and servile positions which are largely representational; that is to say, they are mainly or wholly ceremonial and have no function outside the upholding of a certain tradition – often at great financial cost to the public.

All the offices which are discussed below are related in some way to the British monarchy, and although historically they were some of the most powerful positions in the British government, the holders of the majority of these offices do not have any political power today – which, arguably, makes their upholding even more indefensible.

“Any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don’t believe it when somebody else tells you.” – Mark Twain

Great Officers of State (incomplete)

  • Lord High Steward
    The officer who carries St. Edward’s crown during the coronation of the British monarch.
  • Lord High Chancellor
    The custodian of the Great Seal of the Realm.
  • Lord President of the Council
    The minister who presents new business to the Privy Council (the council which advises the British monarch about affairs of state).
  • Lord Great Chamberlain
    The officer in charge of Buckingham Palace.
  • Lord Privy Seal
    The custodian of the monarch’s Privy Seal.
  • Lord High Constable of England
    The ceremonial chief of the Royal Army.
  • Earl Marshal
    The officer who is charge of organising Royal funerals and coronations.
  • Lord High Admiral
    The titular head of the Royal Navy.

Ceremonial Officers (incomplete)

  • Lord Lieutenants (and their Deputies)
    The monarch’s personal representative in a Lieutenancy.
  • High Sheriffs (and their Undersheriffs)
    The monarch’s judicial representative in a Reeve.
  • Stewards, Chancellors, Admirals, Keepers, Receivers, Solicitors, Wardens, Surveyors, Auditors and Heralds of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall
    The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall are the rental properties of the British Monarch and the Prince of Wales respectively.
  • Kings of Arms, Heralds, Pursuivants and Inspectors
    The officers of arms manage heraldic and armorial matters and participate in Royal ceremonies.
  • Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
    An officer who is titularly responsible for the defence of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich.
  • Warden and Marker of the Swans
    These officers concern themselves with swan welfare on behalf of the British Monarch, who holds the title ‘Seigneur of the Swans’, and owns all mute swans in Britain.

Royal Household Officers (incomplete)

  • Royal Bodyguards, Yeomen and Archers
    These are the ceremonial bodyguards of the British Monarch. Their commanders are known as Gold Stick and Silver Stick.
  • Chief Butler of England
    This office organises the coronation banquet for each newly crowned British Monarch.
  • Mistress of the Robes
    This office manages the clothes and jewellery of the Queen of England.
  • Pages of the Backstairs, Presence and Honour
    These are titles given to the people who serve dinner to the British monarch, announce guests at events at Buckingham Palace, and carry the Queen’s train at official occasions.

“One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense

The Fallibility of Written Codes


‘The court considers it has obligation to add comment to its verdict. By the force of evidentiary conclusions you, Captain William Bligh, stand absolved of military misdeed. Yet officers of stainless record and seamen, voluntary all were moved to mutiny against you. Your methods, so far as this court can deserve showed what we shall cautiously term an excess of zeal. We cannot condemn zeal. We cannot rebuke an officer who has administered discipline according to the Articles of War, but the Articles are fallible, as any articles are bound to be. No code can cover all contingencies. We cannot put justice aboard our ships in books. Justice and decency are carried in the heart of the captain or they be not aboard. It is for this reason that the Admiralty has always sought to appoint its officers from the ranks of gentlemen. The court regrets to note that the appointment of Captain William Bligh was, in that respect, a failure. Court is dissolved.’

– Rosenberg. A. (Producer), Milestone. L. (Director). (1962). Mutiny on the Bounty [Motion Picture]. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Lese-majesty


Lese-majesty is a crime (as treason) committed against a sovereign power or an offence violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power.

At the time of writing, article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” – Denis Diderot