Category Archives: political-economy

Evidence that John Jay was no prophet

The JUST causes of war, for the most part, arise either from violation of treaties or from direct violence. America has already formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations, and all of them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and injure us. She has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain, and Britain, and, with respect to the two latter, has, in addition, the circumstance of neighborhood to attend to.

It is of high importance to the peace of America that she observe the laws of nations towards all these powers, and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by one national government than it could be either by thirteen separate States or by three or four distinct confederacies.

Because when once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it; for, although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or executive departments, yet more general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government,–especially as it will have the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States. Hence, it will result that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious than those of individual States, and consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as well as more SAFE with respect to us.

via Federalist Papers: FEDERALIST No. 3.


Perhaps Jay would defend himself by saying the thirteen states would be worse than what we have experienced.

But I would reply that the thirteen states worrying about each other, would be less likely to play hegemon on other continents.

Of course, reading the predictions made in the Federalist Papers is a forceful reminder of the foolishness of trying to shepherd the wind, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes. While it matters not on the question of whether the thirteen states needed a new, stronger, government at the time, the fact is that no generation can guarantee anything for the next.

The pyramid always looks stable when you put the widest part on the ground

It is a well known concept–the architectural analogy for the totalitarian state guiding all of society.

The few at the top guide the rest beneath them.

But the power of the image relies on a hidden reversal. The pyramid is supposed to represent a stable society in which the top directs the rest.

But where does the stability of the pyramid come from? It comes from the distribution of weight on the wider layers of brick.

If the concept of elite management were to be accurately represented by the pyramid, it should picture the structure standing on its point.

The pyramid is used as a metaphor to promote what is really an upside down pyramid.

The Federal Reserve, for example, is supposed to promote growth and prevent recessions or depressions, or at least mitigate them. So what does it do? We now know it rolls up and suppresses all the possible small disturbances in the country and mashes them together into a massive economic meltdown that occurs at the end of a generation that is entirely unfamiliar with economic hardship.

What if, instead of expecting the Fed to “take care of” the economy and provide high growth (that turns out to be actually undermining the economy), the American population expected “hard times” to be a regular feature in normal life? What would they do?

Wouldn’t they make sure they saved a lot of money during the good times? Wouldn’ millions of families with stores of cash itself help the economy remain stable?

The welfare state is another example. Awhile back I asked what kind of society will be able to help those in need. I answered:

I’m not capable of listing every quality of such a society. But I do know one prerequisite:

Each individual must, all things being equal, believe it is a duty, privilege, and/or virtue to produce more than he/she consumes.

Is there any chance at all that such a society can continue to exist under the rule of a welfare state?  When politicians forcefully take from some and give to others (in the hopes of their continued support in voting and propaganda) what kind of society is formed?

Not the kind that will actually support the needy.

Here again, the point is that the pyramid illustration hides what is really going on. A free and un-managed society with an understood code of conduct is more like a pyramid in which every brick is able to bear proper weight and keep the structure balanced.

Oh, those poor rich people forced to offer us such low prices…

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern FinanceThe House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t finished this book yet, but I have gotten far enough (up to WWII) to see its value in exposing how the American populace is being gamed by socialists/monopolists/technocrats/bankers. See this frank admission of his views made by President Obama, as an example.

It seems anomalous that America’s most famous financier was a sworn foe of free markets. Yet it followed logically from the anarchy of late nineteenth-century railroads, with their rate wars, blackmail lines [Note: I think the comma between blackmail and lines is a typo], and lack of standardized gauges. To destroy competing lines, railroads could simply refust to transfer freight to roads that abutted theirs. From an engineering standpoint, Pierpont knew little about railroads. What he did know is that they required steady revenues to cover their fixed interest costs on bonds marketed in New York and London. In the mid-1880s, freight rates were declining sharply under the pressur of savage price-cutting.

For Pierpont, the leading symbol of railway monopoly, pure competition was never an option. Years later, he a said, “The American public seems unwilling to admit… that it has a choice between regulated legals agreements and unregulated extralegal agreements. We should have cast away more than 50 years ago the impossible doctrine of protection of the public by railway competition. As we shall see, the House of Morgan always favored government planning over private compilation, but private planning over either.

As the top manufacturer of crude steel, Carnegie decided to branch out into finished products, such as pipe and wire. As the head of the second largest steel group, Pierpont feared a replication of the railroad chaos with overbuilding and price wars. He growled that Carnegie would “demoralize” the entire industry through competition.

Backed by representatives of Barings and Brown Brothers, Pierpont offered the railroad presidents a deal: if they refrained from rate-cutting and cutthroat competition, the financiers would stop underwriting competing railways. It was a clever move, for while Wall Street accused railroads of irresponsible behavior, the railroads blamed Wall Street for floating too many securities and creating the overexpansion that led to price wars.

The populace might dread the power of Pierpont Morgan, but he paid his bills promptly, always stuck by his word, and was almost universally respected among businessmen. He also saw competition as a destructive, inefficient force and instinctively favored large-scale combination as the cure.

Where Pierpont’s theorizing was largely nonexistent [partner, Goerge W.] Perkin’s was sophisticated. He gave speeches and published pamphlets on every conceivable subject. He was an oddity at the world most cryptic bank. he preached a gospel of industrial cooperation, contending that small-scall business depressed wages and retarded technological advance. Not Wall Street, he said, but steam engines and telephones produced trusts. “What is the difference,” he proclaimed, “between the US Steel Corporation, as it was organized by Mr. Morgan, and a Department of Steel as it might be organized by the Government?” He drew a parallel Pierpont wouldn’t admit to–that trusts, with their centralized production and distribution, were a form of private socialism. And unlike Pierpont, he saw that they had acquired a public character, and he favored government licensing of interstate companies and extended worker benefits, including profit sharing, social insurance, and old-age pensions. This, he boasted, would be “socialism of the highest, best, and most ideal sort.” Although Teddy Roosevelt sometimes wondered whether Perkins simply rationalized a selfish Morgan agenda, there was a striking likeness between their views.

That a Morgan partner should advocate socialism is not so startling. After all, Pierpont, starting with his Railway associations of the late 1880s, espoused industrial cooperation instead of competition. He like his capitalism neat, tidy, and under bankers’ control… Perkins wasn’t the only one in the Morgan camp to applaud moves toward a planned, integrated economy. Later on, Judge Elbert Gary of U.S. Steel, who held private dinners to fix prices in the steel industry, testified: “I would be very glad if we had some place where we could go, to a responsible governmental authority, and say to them, ‘Here are our facts and figures, here is our property, here our cost of production; now you tell us what we have the right to do and what prices we have the right to charge.'”

On why Morgan got along with Teddy Roosevelt progressives:

As we shall see, the mortal attacks on the House of Morgan came not from socialists but from such trustbusters as Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and William O. Douglas, who favored small economic units and sharp competition. This tradition would lambaste the Morgan Money Trust as the biggest and most dangerous trust of all. Because the House of Morgan preached socialism for the rich, it always had a partial affinity for those who preached it for the poor.


Chernow is an advocate and defender for the Morgans, just as his latest book defends and advocates the mercantilism of Alexander Hamilton over against the Constitutionalist, limited-government, vision of Jefferson. So this is no prosecution’s case but the testimony of a friend.

So what happens under real Capitalism? Answer: The rich end up giving low-cost goodies to the poor and middle class but often end up rejoining those classes because they lose all their wealth in the process. Capitalism does not lead to concentrations of economic power but constantly threatens them. People who want to keep their economic power go to the government to protect it from the competition of the market. Despite Pierpont’s preference for “private planning” his efforts never lasted. He needed the government to get a real cartel going.

People who try to protect us from the concentration of economic power by concentrating economic power are not worth following.

For some more questions about the history of the cartel Utopia (mainly in the oil industry), see these posts:

“Progresive” Cartelization
Are we trying to get more oil or create a shortage
“Conservation” for cartels

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Monopoly & censorship in your food and environment! (Here’s something that might be worth discussing at Occupy Wall Street)

Most of my career as an environmental consultant has been involved in helping commercial and industrial clients comply with the various regulations in a way that allowed them to still be profitable. About 15 years ago we were working on a nationwide study for a trade association. In our research for that study, we came upon a process that was used during WWI that could possibly benefit many of our clients. We performed some laboratory studies and confirmed that this procedure would indeed be beneficial to our clients and reduce the potential for certain pollutants leaching from a waste material. We published the results of our investigation in a report distributed nationwide (which places the procedure in the public domain). After our report was public, a large corporation filed for a patent for this process. The U. S. Patent Office granted the patent in spite of the fact that the process had been placed in the public domain and was, in fact, merely a different application of a process used during WWI.

We contacted a patent attorney and learned that it would cost us between $250,000 and $500,000 to contest the patent. Our intention was to put this process in the public domain so that people could use it without paying our company, or anyone else, any license fee. We obviously could not afford to contest the patent and so many of our clients are paying an outrageous license fee every year for a process a high school chemistry student could assemble in his back yard. This is similar in principle to what Monsanto has done with the genetically altered soybean seeds. Monsanto now controls over 90% of the soybean seed market. These seeds are patented and it is illegal for the farmers who grow the crops to collect and clean the seed for next year’s crop. We should pause and consider this a moment. Farmers purchase seed with their money; plant the seed on their land; work the fields with their equipment using fuel they have purchased; and, at the end of the season they harvest their crop but are forbidden to use a part of the harvest (seeds) to continue the process next year. What a travesty our government and its legal system have created. Shame on us for allowing this to happen.

The thing in the movie that sent me over the edge was the realization that more than a few states have enacted laws forbidding people to publically criticize the food suppliers. In the movie a mother who lost her toddler son to E Coli won’t mention the names of the fast food outlets where her son ate because she has been threatened with lawsuits that would bankrupt the family. In the state of Colorado it is a felony (with prison time attached) to criticize the beef or pork producers for their animal management practices. Is this not unbelievable? Yes, maybe it is time for another revolution if we are going to save what is left of the American way of life. The government corruption that has lead to this situation transcends parties.

Read the whole post at: Reluc Tant.


I know the writer and can vouch for his integrity and honesty. I don’t always agree with him, however (nor does he agree with everything in Food, Inc, the movie he is writing about). He goes on to talk about electing “trust-busters” but I don’t see how that could ever work. People who directly profit from lobbying are always going to have more resources to do so then the rest of the plundered and exploited population. The entire concept of “intellectual property” (the only kind of private property the modern state seems to respect) needs to be declared a fiction and a rationalization for robbery and serfdom. The entire situation is Feudal, with lives being destroyed to protect “the king’s deer.”

I’m pretty much an unapologetic abolitionist on the entire arrangement. Even though I’d love to make money as an author.

But notice how corporations now work. There are companies that work honorably. The author works for one that came up with a way to benefit everyone. But those companies are in a system designed to make them the losers and pirates the winners. Corporations are the antithesis of freedom and a market economy. They are the Iron Curtain. And the system is government coercion with Corporations as the Feudal barons.

God grant us an end to these horrors and mercifully release our planet to the freedom of trade and respect for real property rather than tyranny in the name of fake property.

Tolkien’s monarchic anarchism (or anarchic monarchism?)

The only thing I know that J.R.R. Tolkien and Salvador Dalí had in common—or rather, I suppose I should say, the only significant or unexpected thing, since they obviously had all sorts of other things in common: they were male, bipedal, human, rough contemporaries, celebrities, and so on—was that each man on at least one occasion said he was drawn simultaneously towards anarchism and monarchism.

via Anarcho-Monarchism | First Things.

This is well worth reading! Readers of my biography will be familiar with Tolkien’s “politics” as it stands out in this article.

I may want to interact with (and perhaps disagree with) some things in this article, but for the moment, I’ll just commend it as worth reading.

One way in which Tolkien can transform the political imagination, by the way, is to inspire a study of history that reveals the line between “public sector” and “private sector” was not as obvious or self-evident to our ancestors as we seem to think it should be. Royal dynasties inherited political rights and duties as their private possessions.

But more later.

So what will the good ol’ boys be drinking the day the internet dies?

We already know that today’s SOPA hearings for the House Judiciary Committee are totally stacked in favor of the bill. But with the hearings getting underway, we wanted to dive in and look at what’s about to be said. Most of the testimony leaked out yesterday, allowing us to spend some time going through it — it’s all embedded below. However, here’s a taste of what’s going to be said… with some additional commentary (of course).

First up, the most troubling of all: Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights (aka, Head of the US Copyright Office). She should be here to defend the public and to make sure that massive regulatory capture by a couple of stagnant industries doesn’t happen. But, that’s not how the Copyright Office rolls. Instead, her testimony is basically the US Chamber of Commerce’s key talking points (perhaps not a surprise, since the main lobbyist at the US Chamber who’s in charge of shepherding this bill into law only recently worked at the US Copyright Office). If you had hoped for some reasoned argument about pushing back on the massive excesses of SOPA and the broad definitions, you’re not going to get it from Pallante.

via A Look At The Testimony Given At Today’s SOPA Lovefest Congressional Hearings… With A Surprise From MasterCard | Techdirt.

Please go read it and check out all the other material at Techdirt. They are all over this.

IP is a concept that permits the establishment to nullify any real benefit of the First Amendment. If Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube are shut down, how many news stories will ever go viral? Who will report on Congress?

And if they are not shut down, it will be because they make the Establishment happy. This tool can and will be used ideologically, like the Kennedy Administration used “the Fairness Doctrine,” to neutralize opposition.

It is wrong on so many levels and it looks like it is going to happen.


Calvin knew that money wasn’t “sterile”

Over time, however, Christians grew more careful in defining usury. The Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) defined usury as “nothing else than gain or profit drawn from the use of a thing that is by its nature sterile, a profit acquired without labor, costs, or risk.” This meant that if the lender lent money with labor, cost, or risk to himself he could charge interest without being guilty of usury. Likewise, Calvin talked about acceptable and unacceptable kinds of usury. Making money off the poor is one thing, but “if we have to do with the rich, that usury is freely permitted.” Surely, he argues, “usury ought to be paid to the creditor in addition to the principal, to compensate his loss.” In short, “reason does not suffer us to admit that all usury is to be condemned without exception” (Commentary on Exodus).

via Is It Wrong to Charge Interest on a Loan? – Kevin DeYoung.

This is an excellent summary by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. But I want to point out that Calvin was a more revolutionary thinker on the issue. Here is what an economist (one hostile to Calvinism and to Calvin especially) had to say about Calvin’s economic reasoning about interest:

Calvin’s main contribution to the usury question was in having the courage to dump the prohibition altogether. This son of an important town official had only contempt for the Aristotelian argument that money is sterile. A child, he pointed out, knows that money is only sterile when locked away somewhere; but who in their right mind borrows to keep money idle? Merchants borrow in order to make profits on their purchases, and hence money is then fruitful. As for the Bible, Luke’s famous injunction only orders generosity towards the poor, while Hebraic law in the Old Testament is not binding in modern society. To Calvin, then, usury is perfectly licit, provided that it is not charged in loans to the poor, who would be hurt by such payment. Also, any legal maximum of course must be obeyed. And finally, Cal vin maintained that no one should function as a professional money-lender.

So Calvin was much better than the Lateran Council, which looks rather superstitious when compared to him. And, if Calvin could be improved upon, then other Calvinists did so.

The honour of putting the final boot to the usury prohibition belongs to the seventeenth century classicist and Dutch Calvinist, Claude Saumaise (latinized name, Claudius Salmasius) (1588-1653). In several works published in Leyden, beginning with De usuris tiber in 1630 and continuing to 1645, Salmasius finished off this embarrassing remnant of the mountainous errors of the past. His forte was not so much in coining new theoretical arguments as in finally willing to be consistent. In short, Salmasius trenchantly pointed out that money-lending was a business like any other, and like other businesses was entitled to charge a market price. He did make the important theoretical point, however, that, as in any other part of the market, if the number of usurers multiplies, the price of money or interest will be driven down by the competition. So that if one doesn’t like high interest rates, the more usurers the better!

Salmasius also had the courage to point out that there were no valid arguments against usury, either by divine or natural law. The Jews only prohibited usury against other Jews, and this was a political and tribal act rather than an expression of a moral theory about an economic transaction. As for Jesus, he taught nothing at all about civil polity or economic transactions. This leaves the only ecclesiastical law against usury that of the pope, and why should a Calvinist obey the pope? Salmasius also took some deserved whacks at the evasions permeating the various scholastic justifications, or ‘extrinsic titles’, justifying interest. Let’s face it, Salmasius in effect asserted: what the canonists and scholastics ‘took away with one hand, they restored with the other’. The census is really usury, foreign exchange is really usury, lucrum cessans is really usury. Usury all, and let them all be licit. Furthermore, usury is always charged as compensation for something, in essence the lack of use of money and the risk of loss in a loan.

Salmasius also had the courage to take the hardest case: professional money-lending to the poor, and to justify that. Selling the use of money is a business like any other. If it is licit to make money with things bought with money, why not from money itself? As Noonan paraphrases Salmasius, ‘The seller of bread is not required to ask if he sells it to a poor man or a rich man. Why should the moneylender have to make a distinction?’ And: ‘there is no fraud or theft in charging the highest market price for other goods; why is it wrong for the usurer to charge the heaviest usuries he can collect?’

Empirically, Salmasius also analysed the case of public usurers in Amsterdam (the great commercial and financial centre of the seventeenth century, replacing Antwerp of the previous century), showing that the usual 16 per cent charge on small loans to the poor is accounted for by: the costs of the usurers borrowing their own money, of holding some money idle, of renting a large house, of absorbing some losses on loans, of paying licence fees, hiring employees, and paying an auctioneer. Deducting all these expenses, the average net interest rate of the money-lenders is only 8 per cent, barely enough to keep them in business.

Of course, I hate the way this stuff is misused to justify consumer debt, but it is still quite right and it shows that Calvinists have nothing to be embarrassed about when they refuse to condemn the practice of lending money at interest.

Some provisional thoughts from studying John Calvin’s life

  • The French Evangelicals were initially protected by Francis I against persecution from the provincial parlemonts. There was no reason at all for Calvin to associate republicanism with safety for Protestantism and monarchy with persecution of Protestantism.
  • And, in any case, Calvin had no problem respecting monarchs. The Institutes was written to Francis I, and the Bible said lots of good things about hereditary kings.
  • Nor did Calvin invent a doctrine of “interposition.” It was already there. Medieval Europeans knew how to overthrow tyrants and had done so. Frederic the Wise didn’t have Calvin to tell him he should protect Luther and he didn’t need Calvin to tell him so. He already knew he had the right and duty to resist higher magistrates when they attempted evil.
  • Calvin’s belief that local congregations should “choose” their pastors means exactly nothing about how rulers should be chosen to run a commonwealth. Oddly, people who insist that Calvin was jus divinum seem to want to also claim that his view of church polity dictated his view of how the commonwealth should be ruled. (I use quotation marks because it is not clear how the congregation was to determine its own will in calling a pastor.)
  • Historically, the idea that government should be “by consent” has never dictated democratic or republican procedures. The point is not that governments should be run by popularity contest, but that the people have the right to overthrow tyrants and establish just rulers, including new dynasties. Even Thomas Jefferson, as late as the declaration, uses the phrase to justify revolution, not the establishment of democracy as the only legitimate form of government. So Calvin’s traditional medieval belief in the right of the people with lesser magistrates to overthrow tyrants does not mean he was a father of democratic governance.
  • Ironically, France became an enemy of Protestantism because the kings had already resisted the Papacy. That success made the Pope an assett to support the pretensions of the monarchy. What would be the point of gaining concessions from the Pope to rule the French churches if the Reformation gave them back to the Bible?
  • When one is measuring Calvin’s place in the trajectory of history, one might bear in mind that, historically, the rise of representative legislatures has coincided with the extinction of resistance to civil government.

    … But as American interest in England’s “revolution principles” increased, those ideas slowly retreated into obsolescence for the most influential Englishmen. It was symptomatic of this change that Sir William Blackstone tried to explain away Locke’s fundamental assertion that “there remains… inherent in the people supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.” However just this may be “in theory,” the jurist wrote in early editions of his Commentaries on the Law of England, “we cannot adopt it, nor argue from it, under any dispensation or government at present actually existing.” His statements reflected the effect of a century of complex change in England. Blackstone had to reconcile traditional English notions of limited government with his more modern belief that “so long … as the English constitution lasts … the power of parliament is absolute and without control. He did this, in effect, by resigning revolutionary beliefs to the purer realm of philosophy, denying that the people in real life had the right to resist a legislative power that abust its trust–denying, in effect, the notion that public officials ipso facto surrendered legal authority by violating their trust. For Blackstone and many other contemporary Englishmen, that conception had become otiose by the mid-eighteenth century. Parliament had, in effect, replaced the people as the repository of sovereignty (source).

    So it simply does not make sense to claim that preaching the right to resist is the same as preaching for government by popularly elected officers.


A part of the legal heritage of Calvin’s Geneva that is entirely alien to me

(From: Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 2 East India Co.; link below)

LAWS, Sumptuary, laws designed to repress or moderate the expenditures of private citizens. Such laws existed in almost all the ancient republics and in most of the modern states.

—The ancient republics were based, as we know, on equality of conditions. [The error of this statement appears from the writings of Aristotle. Vids Blanqui’s Hist. of Polit. Econ., chap. ii., p. 10.—E. J. L] As soon as that equality was in a certain measure changed, the very existence of the state was in peril. Legislators, then, to avert the danger, had recourse to agrarian laws, sumptuary laws, laws to favor marriages, and laws ordering the employment of free men in field labor. All these laws, so diverse in the nature of the subjects to which they applied, were inspired by one single idea and tended to the same end, to prevent the extinction of the free population, from which the national armies were recruited. These laws, which to-day seem strange to us, show how the ideas of the ancients on liberty different from ours, and how different was their social condition from that which exists among us.—”The Romans,” says Plutarch, “thought the liberty ought not to be left to each private citizen to marry at will, to have children, to choose his manner of life, to make feasts; in short, to follow his desires and his tastes, without being subject to the judgment and supervision of any one. Convinced that the deeds of men are manifest in these private actions, rather than in public and political conduct, they had created two magistrates charged with keeping guard over morals, and reforming and correcting them, so that no one should allow himself to be enticed from the path of virtue into that of voluptuousness, or should abandon the ancient institutions and established usages.”

—But the censure instituted at Rome was only one particular form given to the exercise of a right which all antiquity recognized in the state. They thought that by prohibiting the use of articles of luxury, they would repress the avidity of the great and diminish the general consumption of society, that impoverishment would be retarded; that men of the middle class would be prevented from falling into indigence, from which they could emerge only by labor; for we must remember the fundamental principle of the military republics, that labor was dishonorable. Public opinion excused the Roman patrician for having poisoned and assassinated; it would not have pardoned him for engaging in commerce or working at a trade: hence a whole economic system that was artificial and against nature.

—At Rome, we find sumptuary tendencies in even the law of the Twelve Tables. “Do not carve the wood which is to serve for a funeral pile. Have no weeping women who tear their cheeks, no gold, no coronets.” People never regarded these prohibitions. The Oppian law. passed almost immediately after the establishment of the tribunate, forbade matrons to have more than a half ounce of gold, to wear clothing of diversified colors, or to use carriages in Rome. Soon, in the year 195 before our era, the abrogation of that law was demanded, and the demand supported by a revolt of women, as described by Titus Livy. In spite of the opposition of Cato, who, in his speech, showed the intimate relation of that law to the agrarian laws, its abrogation was decreed.

—Fourteen years later, under the inspiration of the same Cato, the Orchian law, limiting table expenses, was promulgated. Twenty years later the Faunian law was passed for the same end. It fixed the expense of the table at about ten cents for each individual on ordinary days, and at less than thirty-one cents for the days of festivals and games. It was prohibited to admit to one’s table more than three outside guests, except three times a month, on fair and market days; prohibited to serve at repasts any bird, were it merely a fatted chicken; prohibited to consume more than fifteen pounds of smoked meat per year, etc. Soon the luxury of the table passed these narrow bounds, and Sylla, Crassus, Cæsar and Antony, in succession, caused now decrees to be issued against gluttony.

—It is true that, by a singular coincidence, most of these men who made laws against luxury at the table, were conspicuous in history for their excesses. The infamy of the feasts of Sylla, Crassus and Antony has come down to us through all these centuries; and if Cæsar was less addicted to gluttony than these famous personages, he introduced no less luxury at his repasts. This circumstance likewise proves clearly that all these statesmen, whatever course they followed themselves and whatever were their personal tastes, considered sumptuary laws a political remedy in some sort applicable to a people in a bad condition. It was not through regard for morals, for private integrity, that they had recourse to sumptuary laws; it was to preserve, if it was still possible, the Italian race, which was rapidly disappearing under the two-fold action of pauperism and civil wars. But private expenses can not be regulated either by laws disregarded by the very persons who make them, or by physical means; the change must be effected through public opinion, religion and morals. When public opinion is so corrupt as to honor theft and despise labor; when all religion is destroyed; when it is honorable among the great to eat and drink immoderately, and to vomit in order to eat again, laws can have no efficacy. Sumptuous banqueting also, incredible as it may seem, increased under the emperors. The emperors then also made sumptuary laws at the same time that they were presenting the spectacle of the most scandalous excesses. Some of them, however, gave what was better than laws, grand examples of abstinence and sobriety, but without result, without power to arrest society on the declivity down which it was precipitating itself. It is as impossible to regulate the employment of wealth acquired by conquest and robbery as that of wealth acquired by gaming.

—The sumptuary laws in all ancient countries were of no avail. Sometimes evaded, sometimes openly despised, they did not arrest the increase of luxury, and did not retard the downfall of the military republics founded upon equality. It seems to us, however, that J. B. Say has treated them with a little too much disdain in the following passage, where he has, however, clearly brought out the difference between the sumptuary laws of antiquity and those of modern states: “Sumptuary laws have been made, to limit the expenditures of private individuals, among ancient and modern peoples, and under republican and monarchical governments. The prosperity of the state was not at all the object in view; for people did not know and could not yet know whether such laws had any influence on the general wealth. * * The pretext given was, public morality, starting with the premise that luxury corrupts morals; but that was scarcely ever the real motive. In the republics the sumptuary laws were enacted to gratify the poorer classes, who did not like to be humiliated by the luxury of the rich. Such was evidently the motive for that law of the Locrians which did not permit a woman to have more than one slave accompany her on the street. Such was also that of the Orchian law at Rome, a law demanded by a tribune of the people, and which limited the number of guests one could admit to his table. During the monarchy, on the contrary, sumptuary laws were the work of the great, who were not willing to be eclipsed by the middle classes. Such was, doubtless, the cause of that edict by Henry II., which prohibited garments and shoes of silk to any others than princes and bishops.”

—There were, in ancient times, other motives for the enactment of sumptuary laws than desire to gratify the poorer classes, and in feudal monarchies the laws originated in other causes than a jealousy of the great: These monarchies were also an artificial creation, founded “on ancient institutions and received usages”; these institutions, these usages, tended to entail property in some families, and to settle rank permanently; and if antiquity had its agrarian laws, which meant equality, feudal society, we must not forget, had its own, which meant inequality and hierarchy.

—The advent of movable wealth and of luxury profoundly disturbed feudal society, where all was founded on the pre-eminence of that property considered especially noble, viz., real estate. A system of agriculture which had become fixed by tradition did not allow the nobility to increase their revenues, while the profits of commerce, navigation and the industries, and the possession of movable capital, elevated the middle class. The luxury of this class, who were eager to imitate the style of the great, disturbed the harmony of society: it deranged a hierarchy without which people saw only disorder. Hence arose sumptuary laws, which distinguished classes by their garb, as the grades in an army are distinguished by the uniforms.

—The vanity of the great, perhaps, called for the sumptuary laws of modern nations, as the jealousy of the lower classes had welcomed those of the ancient republics. But, in antiquity as in feudal monarchies, the legislator was inspired by state considerations, by a desire to prevent innovations which he considered as fatal. From the time when the plebeians came into competition with the luxury of the nobles, from the moment that they were their rivals, it was evident that, if the way was left open for such competition, wealth would finally gain the victory over birth in the opinion of the people, i.e., over the nobility themselves. Now, as feudal monarchies were founded on the right of race, everything that could diminish the authority of this right, tended to subvert the constitution of the state. Even those who did not clearly perceive the import of the luxury of the bourgeois, and who, bourgeois themselves, could not be wronged by it, nevertheless felt that this luxury disturbed the established order, and they supported the sumptuary laws.

—These laws, then, were at all times inspired by the desire of arresting an irresistible movement resulting from the very force of things, from the development, disordered perhaps, but logical, of human activity. They were, moreover, powerless, and were always evaded by a sort of tacit and general conspiracy of all the citizens, without any one daring or being able to find fault with the principle, without any one thinking of contesting the power of the legislator on this point in the very least. In fact, we must remember that in monarchies in modern times, the law-making power was scarcely less extended than in antiquity. People did not recognize the right of every man to work, and still less, the right to work when he pleased; and, what was of much more consequence, they professed that the king held a strict control over his kingdom, and would not allow one class to encroach on the rights of another, or to change the rank assigned to it by ancient custom. “The said lord the king,” we read in an ordinance of 1577, “being duly informed that the great superfluity of meat at weddings, feasts and banquets, brings about the high price of fowls and game, wills and decrees that the ordinance on this subject be renewed and kept; and for the continuance of the same, that those who make such feasts as well as the stewards who prepare and conduct them, and the cooks who serve them, be punished with the penalties hereunto affixed. That every sort of fowl and game brought to the markets shall be seen and visited by the poulterer-wardens, in the presence of the officers of the police and bourgeois clerks to the aforesaid, who shall be present at the said markets, and shall cause a report to be made to the police by the said wardens, etc. The poulterers shall not be allowed to dress and lard meats, and to expose the same for sale, etc. The public shall be likewise bound to live according to the ordinance of the king, without exceeding the limit, under penalty of such pecuniary fines as are herein set forth against the innkeeper, so that neither by private understanding nor common consent shall the ordinance be violated.”

—The world to-day lives in a different order of ideas, and when we read the ordinances of French kings, we find them no less strange than the ancient laws: they seem to us to apply to a social condition in which each laborer was a civil officer, as in the empire of Constantine. These ordinances are nevertheless the history of but yesterday, the history of the eve of the French revolution, and we are still dragging heavy fragments of the chain under which our fathers groaned. But ideas and sentiments have gone far in advance of facts: we have difficulty in comprehending the intervention of the government in the domestic affairs of families, and in contracts which concern only private individuals. As to luxury, it can not disturb classes, in a society where all are on a level, and it can not do much harm if the law of labor is respected, if rapine can not become a means of acquiring property.

—Since the revolution, no sumptuary law has been enacted in France, and yet the luxury of attire which formerly distinguished the nobility has disappeared. A duke dresses like anybody else, and he would be ridiculed if he sought to distinguish himself by a manner of dress different from others. Such is sumptuary law in our time. Any one who should try to make himself singular by particular garments or an exceptional mode of life, would be immediately noted, not as a dangerous citizen, but as a ridiculous fellow. Opinion has undergone an entire revolution. Private expenses are meanwhile increasing, and this increase, too, is pretty rapid. They can not, however, depart far from uniformity vain prodigalities can not be a title to glory in a society where the law of labor is recognized, and the one who will surrender himself to them, however rich he may be, is forced by public opinion to wear a certain modesty, even in his greatest excesses. Sumptuary laws can no longer be proposed. We need not think the honor of the change is due to our wisdom, to our pretended superiority to the ancients; let us simply recognize, (and it is in this that progress consists), that the essential principle of society has changed: the world moves on another basis.

—When the Roman people had, in despite of the observations of Cato, abrogated the Oppian law against the luxury of women, Cato, who had become censor, attempted to have it revived in another form. He included in the census, that is, in the valuation of the wealth of the citizens, jewels, carriages, the ornaments of women and of young slaves, for a sum ten times their cost, and imposed a duty on them of 3/1000 or 3/100 of the real price. He substituted a sumptuary tax for a sumptuary law. The moderns have done as did Cato. After the sumptuary laws had become a dead letter, they imposed taxes on the consumption of luxuries. England has taxes on carriages, on servants, on armorial bearings and on toilet powder. So far as political economy is concerned, these taxes are irreproachable; but they bring little into the treasury, and have scarcely any influence on consumption or on morals.