Thursday, December 31, 2009

Next Year's Resolution

Dear Old Self,

What gives you the right, presumptuous resolution maker, to bind me with your oaths? Is it possible that you have not yet learned that a promise poisons everything? Well! Permit me to spread the poison evenly! I will make a promise to you as recompense for your hubris and conceit in thinking yourself qualified to command me, your self-evident superior: I will foil all your best laid plans and break in pieces all your pretty pictures! 'Your' New Year belongs to me. Do not forget it!

Your Ghost of Ego Future

Friday, December 4, 2009

Santa Loves Freedom

I have been on vacation in Washington, D.C. for a couple of weeks to visit my sister Neicy. On Thursday, at her invitation, I attended a Christmas party hosted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she is currently working as in intern in their Occupational Therapy program. I wore a shirt from the Mises Institute with a picture of Jean-Baptiste Say on it and the subtitle: Markets Clear.

The party was going nicely. There was food and karaoke. Neicy and I had eventually ended up in a corner talking with some of her co-workers, when I noticed that Santa was working his way across the room in our direction. He stopped in front of me, and exclaimed, "Jean-Baptiste Say!! Fantastic!" I was shocked. I had no idea that Santa loved freedom.

I suppose I should have known. All the clues were there. Could it be mere coincidence that Santa's workshop is located at the North Pole, in an area where - under international law - no state can claim ownership over the territory or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it? Would it not require a regulation-free environment in order to produce the staggering variety and output of toys required by his international operation? Who better than this man without a country to understand the idiocy of statism and patriotism? Indeed, could any living individual possibly be better acquainted with the human condition than Santa himself, intimately acquainted as he is with the secret actions and desires of all, whether asleep or awake? I learned that Santa has two sons who both work as videographers - one for Reason and the other for the Cato Institute. Santa "cut his teeth" as a young man on the works of Albert Jay Nock and cited as his favorite works from that author his 1935 book, Our Enemy, the State and his 1936 essay, Isaiah's Job.

Curious to learn more, I asked Santa about his political views and got a surprisingly refreshing reply. Santa told a story about a man named Otanes in Persia in the 6th century BC, mentioned in Herodotus' Histories in Book III ch 80-83. It seemed that Otanes took part in a coup, along with Darius and five others, to overthrow the king of Persia. Following the murder of the king, the conspirators argued amongst themselves over what kind of government should be established. One, named Megabyzus argued in favor of oligarchy. Darius argued for monarchy, and the other four conspirators agreed with him. Otanes was opposed to all of this. Herodotus quotes him as reasoning,

"How can monarchy be a fit thing, when the ruler can do what he wants with impunity? Give this power to the best man on earth, and it would stir him to unaccustomed thoughts."

Still, the call for a monarchy carried the day. Otanes, seeing he was defeated, then addressed the others,

“Fellow partisans, it is plain that one of us must be made king (whether by lot, or entrusted with the office by the choice of the Persians, or in some other way), but I shall not compete with you; I desire neither to rule nor to be ruled; but if I waive my claim to be king, I make this condition, that neither I nor any of my descendants shall be subject to any one of you.”

To these terms the six others agreed. Otanes did not participate in the contest to rule others - content to rule himself - and Herodotus noted that to the day of his writing, the house of Otanes remained free.

Added Santa: "That's about as close to anarchy as you can get."