Misunderstanding Machiavelli

In the course of my life I have engaged in two major discussions with people who have completely misunderstood Machiavelli, in both cases thinking that he argues for the acquisition of power for its own sake in politics. To be fair, one of these people was an idiot sandwich, who would go on to win the aus.politics Net Kook of the Year award, apparently revived just for their benefit. But the other, more recent, was far more disappointing. With a doctorate in the natural sciences and an interest in ensuring public policy was better informed by scientific knowledge, one cannot doubt the honour of their motives. But what was common between both was in astounding inability that they had completely misunderstood Machiavelli, misunderstood his book on the power-hungry, "The Prince", and misunderstood how social institutions are positive and normative. Misunderstandings, of course, are acceptable if one makes the effort to correct one's self. Our interpretations may be incorrect, or memories might be faulty. But also in common with the two encounters was their absolute refusal to admit error, even when direct, checkable, empirical evidence was provided. It is understandable that the idiot sandwich would do this. It is utterly tragic that the otherwise intelligent person would lack the humility to recognise when they have it wrong. In either case, the following is a few notes on how Machiavelli is misunderstood, and how honour can be restored to his name.

If one wants to reference "The Prince" itself, a multitude of editions are available online. Project Gutenberg has the Marriot edition, the first modern English translation. Wikisource offers the Hill Thomson translation. The Bennet translation is available on Early Modern texts, the Burd translation, with an introduction by Lord Acton via the Online Library of Liberty (Mises Institute), IULM University has the Parks translation, Monoskop has the Soares edition, in Italian, and there is the ever-useful Annotated Prince website.

2020 Isocracy Annual General Meeting

The Isocracy Annual General meeting will be held on Saturday 15th of August at 1300 AEST on the Jitsi video-conferencing system (which is the easiest out there to use). Just select the following link.

https://meet.jit.si/2020isocracyagm

In addition to the usual reports and elections of the committee, this AGM will have a round-table discussion on COVID-19 Economics

The Pandemic of Racism - Black Lives Matter

The COVID-19 pandemic of coronavirus disease affects the respiratory system. While death is not always the outcome, an infection will create lifelong health problems. To minimise the social and economic impact within this country, borders were closed, social behaviour was criminalised, and as of 1 July, 2020 over $176 billion was made available to Australian residents. As individuals, our focus is on protecting those who need it most. If we need to leave our homes we use hand sanitiser and cover our nose and mouth, or wear a face mask.

Covering our face and wearing a face mask is a constant reminder that there is a deadly virus living among us. The discomfort of wearing a mask is challenging. A visual barrier that hides a smile, fogs glasses, and muffles our voice, it further isolates us from human connection. Having the mask covering our nose and mouth makes taking in air difficult. When we exhale, the hot moist air mixed with the carbon dioxide in our breath makes for a fetid environment. For those of us outside the medical world, we look forward to relinquishing our mask-wearing responsibilities.

COVID-19 Fake News: From Melbourne's BLM Protests to Global Hydroxychloroquine Tests

In late June Essential Research conducted a survey of over a thousand people[1]. From that survey, some 42% asserted that "Many of the new cases of Covid-19 in Victoria have been from people who attended the Black Lives Matter protest"; in contrast, only 37% of those surveyed disagreed. Prior to this survey there had been hysterics from conservative politicians (including the Prime Minister) who apparently thought that going to sporting events is acceptable and healthy, but political protests is not, going as far as saying that those who attended should be charged [2], whilst he flings around his scarf at a sporting event like a holy virus sprinkler.

In reality, it turns out, that one protestor "may have been infectious at the rally", and two others have tested positive that was not infectious at the rally. There is no evidence that they contracted it at the rally [3]. The rally, attracting some ten thousand people, was not something I was particularly in favour of at the time, even given the importance of the topic, for the health reasons raised. But it turns out that the combination of low outdoor infectiousness and what was then a low community rate worked in Melbourne's favour.

Biden and Bernie's Unity Task Force Recommendations

Biden and Bernie's Unity Task Force released their recommendations yesterday. They generally avoid more controversial areas, but there's still some pretty good stuff in here. Let's look at the section on climate change:

"We agree with scientists and public health experts that the United States—and the world—must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050."

This is the correct way to approach net zero. There's not a specific year where everything will be fine if we reach net zero before then but everything will collapse if we don't. The sooner we get to net zero, the less environmental repair work we'll have to do during the second half of the century.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: The Shape of Things To Come

For much of the world, it is obvious that this situation is not improving. Just over three months ago your author (when there were a "mere" 425,000 cases and 19,000 deaths) warned that the cases and fatalities "will double, and then double again, and then double again". If there was an error in that remark it was that it didn't continue for several more iterations. Now, at the time of writing, there are over 11,179,000 cases and over 528,000 deaths. And the previous iterations will continue; it will double, and then double again, and then double again. But even when the world reaches 90 million cases and 4 million deaths, there will be those who, despite all the evidence, will place ideology above reality in their mad worship of power and authority. Simply put, "the worst is yet to come".

At the time the United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom were identified as three countries that were particularly susceptible to the virus due to political leadership that placed ideology above reality. Predictably, these three countries have suffered catastrophic failures. Continental Europe was, as we know, the first region to be hit very hard and the figures still show that that region as the deaths per million indicates, and whilst San Marino, Belgium, and Andorra still hold the unenviable position of the highest values in that regard, new cases in the EU have flattened whereas in the US, the UK, and Brazil, they continue to rise, to the extent that the US is facing a travel ban to the EU and, in an act of madness, Brazil re-opens its cities.

Isocracy is an Antifa Organisation

A few days ago, in the midst of massive protests against the killing of George Floyd, US President Donald Trump has claimed that he will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organisation. Naturally enough, plenty of people have pointed out that "antifa" is an adjective, not a noun, and there is no "antifa" organisation. Still, if to be "antifa" is to be stridently, even militantly, anti-fascist, then the Isocracy Network, Inc., is an antifa organisation (and as so approved by our committee of management on June 4, 2020). We would encourage other organisations, from those mild-mannered liberals and social democrats to the ultralefts to do likewise; if the organisation is dedicated to individual freedoms and a democratic commonwealth, the bottom-left of the political compass, then you're already the polar opposite of fascism, i.e., anti-fascism. To use the definition of Antifa Lexico: a political protest movement comprising autonomous groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology.

Of course, it is necessary at this stage to define fascism. The Isocracy Network has done this in the past with the discussion on Left-Wing Fascism: A Senile Disorder. Drawing upon the actual defining characteristics expressed by self-identified fascists themselves (e.g., Mussolini, Olivetti, Panunzio, Rossoni, Maurras). Murras, a leader of Action Française provided a very helpful pithy definition: What in fact is Fascism? A socialism emancipated from democracy. As the previous Isocracy article stated: Fascism is any political ideology that requires the suppression of individual or co-operative rights to collective ideals (whether a religion, a nation, a class, an ideology). In practise it means the destruction of the private sphere, where dissidends are tortured and executed, where freedom of association is suppressed, where independent unions and political parties are suppressed, where the economy is tightly controlled, collectivised, and corporatised. Whilst commonly associated with the far-right, given the ideal of nationalistic collectivism, the tendancy towards collectivism and authoritarianism also exists in the left, and a point can be made when the left is especially authoritarian and nationalistic, it is very easy for it become part of a "Red-Brown" alliance, such as Strasserism, National Bolshevism, or, on a lesser scale ideologically but a grander scale geo-politically, the Peoples' Republic of China (especially evident in the notorious Document Number Nine.

Libertarian Distributist Social Democracy

Libertarianism is the belief that the goal of civil society ought to be to maximize human liberty. What "libertarianism" looks like will differ significantly depending on how one defines liberty. There are two main traditions of thought on liberty: republicanism and liberalism. Liberalism defines liberty as lack of interference, whereas republicanism defines it as lack of domination. The opposite of freedom, according to liberalism, is interference. The opposite of freedom, according to republicanism, is slavery.

In it's most extreme form, libertarianism becomes anarchism. Liberal-tradition libertarians (descending from classical liberalism) tend towards anarcho-capitalism. Republican-tradition libertarians (descending from classical republicanism) tend towards social anarchism. Anarcho-capitalists want to abolish government and replace it with privatization of everything and pure laissez-faire. Social anarchists want to abolish government and replace it with direct democracy. These are the extremes of libertarianism, but there are many places in-between. For instance, minarchists propose minimal government rather than no government. And there are different libertarian positions as to what the role of the State ought to be (if any). There are numerous centrist libertarian positions that one could hold.

Pandemic Economics

The COVID-19 pandemic has now reached over three million confirmed cases, with almost two hundred and twenty thousand deaths. For the United States, which has shown a not-unexpected failure of policy, there are now more American deaths than the Vietnam war, keeping in mind that the United States had fewer than sixty cases and zero deaths as late as February 28. Whilst some countries - such as Australia, New Zealand, and even China - have had a high degree of success in significantly "flattening the curve" of new cases, the sickness opens up new fronts - now we see the numbers climb in Russia, Brazil, Turkey.

The pandemic still represents an existential risk for much of the world, and of course, that comes with a particular and special priority. But there is also a secondary battle that is being fought; and that is not just to save lives, but also to save livelihoods, with around half the world's workers at risk. That reified abstract noun, the economy, is also subject to critical care attention. As the best form of protection has been the graduated levels of social isolation, to restricted movements, to partial lockdowns, economies have come under enormous strain. Let us consider a report from the respected Grattan Institute in Australia:

Researcher Brendan Coates said the institute's analysis found between 14 and 26 per cent of the entire Australian workforce will lose their job, if they haven't already, as a result of government shutdowns and physical distancing rules... This week, Federal Treasury forecast unemployment would rise to 10 per cent in the June quarter - a figure which hasn't reached double digits since 1994.

Challenges often provide opportunities, and this is no exception. Revolutionary situations, as the name implies, a return to reconsider fundamentals, and in this case, the way that we protect and enhance our economic welfare and security. It is obvious that under our shared radical circumstances that continuing as were did not provide sufficient protection against the shocks that are being experienced. Some new thinking is required, even if this is disruptive to existing vested interests who will inevitably move to protect their power and privilege. The opportunity is taken here to explore some of the approaches being used or advocated around the world; (a) stimulus packages, (b) Universal Basic Income (UBI), and (c) a Job Guarantee (JG).

The Case for a Land-Based Income Tax

A while back, it had come to my attention that the imposition of a conventional land value tax would require a Constitutional Amendment in the United States since there are Constitutional constraints upon the federal government with regard to imposing direct taxes. (Cf. U. S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 & Section 9) However, the 16th Amendment allows the federal government to tax income from any source whatsoever without those same constraints. The conclusion that I reached was that a tax on income derived from land — a land-based income tax (LBIT) — may be a more feasible alternative to conventional land value tax (LVT). I discussed this idea in my article The Holy Trinity of Taxes. Recently, it has come to my attention that the case for an LBIT as an alternative to an LVT may actually be much stronger than I originally thought.

The LBIT proposal has four main strengths relative to conventional LVT:
(1) It does not require a Constitutional Amendment and, therefore, would be easier to pass.
(2) It could be used to tax banks on income they derive from mortgage interest.
(3) It would exempt owner-occupants and, therefore, would encounter little popular resistance.
(4) It would effectively constitute a differential tax on land value. The amount of the tax and the rate would be higher on rentiers than on owner-occupants and charitable organizations.

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