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The History of Early Military Airplanes (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The History of Early Military Airplanes (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 29, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay received over 600 views on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 29, 2014


In 1900, the first Zeppelin airships made their successful flights in Germany, and, in 1903, the Wright Brothers designed the first airplane powered by an internal combustion engine. Not long after, the military advantages of aircraft became evident.

The first use of airplanes in combat occurred in 1911, when the Italian Army used a German monoplane to drop grenades on Turkish fortifications in Libya. In 1912, the Italians also initiated the practice of using Zeppelin airships as bombers. In November, 1912, the Vickers company in Britain equipped its “Experimental Fighting Biplane 1” with a Vickers machine gun, thus creating the first fighter plane.

Despite these advancements, the value of aircraft was greatly underrated at the beginning of the First World War, when great powers such as France only had 140 functional aircraft, most of them serving only reconnaissance roles and not equipped with any weapons powerful enough to engage in air-to-air combat.

During the course of the war, this would change dramatically. By the end of the war, France had produced some 68,000 aircraft, 52,000 of which had been lost in battle, giving an indication as to the immense danger of early air combat and the pitiful life expectancy of early aircraft pilots.

During the war, the British began to field the first efficient bombers, the Handley-Page O/400 planes, which could carry 900 kilograms of explosives and fly at 156 kilometers per hour for as long as eight hours, rendering these planes immensely useful at bombarding strategic German positions and even cities far beyond the front lines.

The early air wars required immense dexterity, marksmanship, and luck on the part of the pilots, and expert pilots were prized by all sides. An “ace,” or someone who had downed five planes or more, was given immense honors and publicity, no matter what side he fought on, and names such as that of Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” who had shot down 80 Allied planes during the war, achieved the status of legend.

Despite the extreme dangers of piloting aircraft, the task became seen as an extremely prestigious assignment by soldiers, especially given the “clean” nature of the fighting and the prospects of each night returning to comfortable accommodations near the airfields. Compared to the muck and mass carnage of trench warfare, as well as the expendability of individual ground troops, the daily lives of aircraft pilots were indeed far more pleasant, if only relatively so.


The History of Mortars, Hand Grenades, and Tanks During the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The History of Mortars, Hand Grenades, and Tanks During the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 29, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay received over 3,600 views on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 29, 2014


Innovations in weapons technology produced improved designs of mortars and hand grenades during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The tank emerged as a weapon during World War I and, from its modest beginnings, would emerge as a formidable force on the battlefield.

The Mortar

Though mortars, muzzle-loading cannons firing low-velocity projectiles at short ranges, had been used since the 15th century, early mortars were primitive, unwieldy (often too heavy to move), and fired at impractically slow rates.

The first portable mortars saw action in the American Civil War, especially in defense of Union railroad and supply lines. During World War I, the mortar’s size was further adjusted to enable a single individual to carry and operate it, thus leading to mass production, distribution, and use of these weapons. Due to their high angle of fire, mortars could often penetrate into narrow trenches close by, which artillery had no chance of hitting, thus being effective means of capturing enemy positions without sending infantry in costly head-on assaults.

Hand Grenades

Primitive hand grenades first saw use in the 15th century, but their employment largely ceased after 1750, as they were quite cumbersome to manage and damaged their users as often as their enemies. As the objectives of war became more closely identified with the infliction of mass casualties in close combat, the grenade was reintroduced and used on a large scale during the Russo-Japanese War and in World War I.

At first, the grenade’s safety record remained atrocious, as there was no mechanism to protect the thrower, and early grenades were even nicknamed “jam bombs,” as they were often constructed by soldiers on the front lines from tin cans formerly holding jam, which the soldiers then filled with stones and gunpowder and attached a fuse at the end. In 1915, the Englishman William Mills invented the Mills Bomb, the first grenade with a safety pin to protect the user. During World War I, the French also invented the “pineapple” design of the grenade largely prevalent today, while the Germans manufactured the “stick” grenade, elongated for more effective throwing.

The Tank

During World War I, the tank was not an optimally efficient weapon, due to the early tanks’ lack of firepower, armor, and maneuverability in the rough terrain of no man’s land. However, the basic concept of the tank was devised during that time and later improvements in tank equipment, speed, and armor would render trench warfare obsolete. The first tank, the Mark I, was developed by the British Army in 1915 and saw action in the Battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916. The first French tank, the Schneider CA1, was developed in 1917.

The British and French first used a mass combination of tanks in a successful attack during the Battle of Cambrai on November 20, 1917. Germans did not extensively pursue tank technology in World War I, but did design armor-piercing bullets that could demolish the flimsy metal coverings of early tanks. Early tanks also lacked the gun turrets typically associated with them and usually had several smaller guns embedded in their main body. Later Allied tanks were given a rhomboid shape and stronger armor to allow them to deflect or stop German bullets with greater ease. Tanks were part of an emerging new technological paradigm that transformed wars of stalemate and attrition to wars of maneuver, speed, and even greater mechanization during the mid-20th century.


The History of Big Guns in World War I (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The History of Big Guns in World War I (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published  on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 5,400 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014


Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of the increase in the sheer force that could be unleashed on the battlefield due to technological improvements of the early 20th century can be seen in the development of the large-scale artillery pieces up to and during the time of World War I.

The “big guns” of the time period were immensely heavy, needed to be transported in multiple parts (each part often occupying the equivalent of several train wagons), and time-consuming to assemble on the site of firing. Nevertheless, their range, far exceeding the extent of a human being’s sight and reaching many kilometers past the enemy’s front line, as well as the sheer impact wrought by their massive shells, was thought to compensate for their size and awkwardness.

The most famous of the big guns of World War I were employed by the German Army and manufactured by the Krupp family firm, the largest German weapons producer, owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world. The Krupp firm produced numerous models of howitzers, or long-range, large-caliber artillery capable of firing both at high and low trajectories.

The famous howitzer, Big Bertha, was designed 1904 for the Krupp firm by the inventor Louis Gauthmann. The Big Bertha was a movable siege mortar capable of firing projectiles weighing 820 kilograms for as far as 15 kilometers, at as high a trajectory as 80 degrees (thus explaining the mortar designation). Four Big Berthas were produced in all, and used in the German offensive of 1914. Their most distinguished use, however, was in August of 1916, during the German assault on the twelve-ringed fortifications at Liege, Belgium. Over the course three days (from the 12th to the 15th of August) two Big Berthas were installed within firing range of the fortress and inflicted such massive devastation as to bring about either the destruction or surrender of all the Belgian defensive positions in the area.

While the Big Bertha was renowned for its sheer mass and firepower, other German big guns of the time period also focused on achieving firing distances that far exceeded that of Big Bertha. These weapons were called “railway guns,” as they were designed to be mounted on and supported by railroad tracks for greater stability and more efficient assembly, since their parts were delivered to the battlefield by train and could be put together on the precise spot of arrival.

A common railway gun design was known as the “Long Max,” which the Germans used to shell French positions some 25-30 kilometers behind the front lines. However, the Germans were able to modify the Long Max design to create a far longer-ranged weapon, the famous Paris Gun (or the Kaiser Wilhelm Gun), which could fire on the city of Paris itself from the German front lines. Though its shell was substantially smaller than that fired by the Big Bertha, weighing only 92 kilograms, it could be hurled 130 kilometers from the gun, and reached heights as far as 40 kilometers above ground level, thus making the shells fired by the gun the first man-made objects to reach the stratosphere and there encounter minimal air resistance, enabling them to travel at supersonic speeds.

ParisGunThe Paris Gun was first installed on March 21, 1918, and required some 80 crewmen to assemble and operate. It fired some 320-367 shells during its lifetime, killing 250 people, injuring 620, and causing considerable property damage in Paris. Though its shells were fairly small and could not be aimed precisely at targets smaller than city size, the gun’s primary purpose was psychological, to convince the French government and citizens that they were not safe from the German army even in their capital. The gun proved powerless to stop the Allied advance of 1918, however, and the Germans destroyed it during their retreat, to prevent its design and parts from falling into Allied hands. The Paris Gun was the largest weapon ever built up to its time and would only be exceeded in caliber by German railway guns of World War II.


The Debate Regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The Debate Regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in four parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 14,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014

Mid-1798 was the culmination of a development of heated antagonisms which had entangled the United States on both the domestic and the foreign scenes. The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in June and July of that year was met with a myriad of responses by various influential individuals and political movements within the country, thus adding fuel to a multifaceted dispute. Key areas of intense disagreement included relations with European powers, the nature of acceptable political dissent, and the distinction between loyalty to the Constitution and the present wielders of power.

This essay will examine the historical events and controversies central to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts and the debate regarding them.

American Diplomacy with Britain and France


In 1793 France, engulfed by a bloody revolution, declared war on Holland, Spain, and its archrival, Great Britain. The United States encountered a dilemma; it maintained key ties with both France, its principal ally by the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, and Great Britain, its chief commercial partner and the source of much of its overseas revenue.

In April 1793, Citizen Edmond Genet, a representative of the French government, employed the alliance with the United States as the pretext for recruitment of Americans on American soil to fight the British in the Western hemisphere (Norton 219). Genet also sought to entangle America in the war with Great Britain, facing instead a neutrality proclamation by President Washington, who strove to retain friendly impartiality between the United States and each of the warring powers.

Meanwhile, in hopes of averting war with England and resolving matters such as the stationing of British troops in the American Northwest and the British seizure of American merchant ships with French wares from the West Indies, Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate a treaty in 1794-95. The treaty satisfied a substantial portion of the United States’ requests and set its relations with Britain on a stable footing (Norton 221).

In the meantime, however, the Jay Treaty provoked a reaction by France, manifested by the Directory’s order to intercept American vessels that transported British goods. Upon the deployment of John Marshall, Elbridge Gerry, and C. C. Pinckney for the purpose of negotiating an end to these violations, the American envoys were met by three agents of Foreign Minister Talleyrand, who demanded a bribe, a loan, and an apology for President Adams’ anti-French remarks before the negotiations could even begin. Their extortionist approach was publicized in the “XYZ Affair,” which sparked a severe attitudinal backlash against France within the United States (Norton 224).

Federalists’ and Republicans’ Views of Britain and France


As fighting between American and French navies in the Caribbean developed into an unofficial war, the ruling Federalist Party in the United States saw the volatile situation as a pretext for implementing domestic controls. Hence, the Alien and Sedition Acts, legislation that lengthened immigrants’ naturalization period (Naturalization Act), gave the President almost unlimited power to detain (Alien Enemies Act) or deport them (Alien Friends Act), and rendered any criticism of government policy a virtual crime (Sedition Act), came into being. The Federalists hoped thereby to kill two birds with one stone, to actively resist France and to crush their primary political rivals, the Democratic-Republicans.

The dispute over foreign affairs was one of the key issues which separated the advocates of the Alien and Sedition Acts from their opponents. The rampant Reign of Terror during the French Revolution horrified many Federalists, and the effrontery of Commissioners X, Y, and Z even further intensified their hostilities toward France.

James Madison wrote concerning President John Adams’s opinion of France that Adams considered the French and American revolutions to be diametrically opposite in principle. Alexander Hamilton added that it would be treason for an American to sympathize with France and thereby offend his own government, which had been so callously mistreated. Hamilton and the High Federalists especially constantly urged for an official declaration of war against France during 1798-99 (Norton 226).

The Republicans, on the contrary, sympathized with the French Revolution and viewed the XYZ affair as exploited out of proportion by the Federalists to advance the ulterior motives of the latter. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison that the XYZ papers were revealed to the American public in a misconstrued format, for the purpose of creating an intentional “shock” and arousing animosity against France.

While the Federalists sought stable commercial and cultural relations with Britain, the Republicans sensed danger in all things British. Jefferson, writing to Phillip Mazzei, explicitly mentioned the Federalists’ association with England and English monarchy, and the purported desires of the Federalists to re-impose British-style government on the United States. While the Federalists perceived the integrity of America as threatened by French extortion, the Republicans saw a radically different menace in British-imitating aristocracy. Whereas the Federalists persecuted French sympathizers because of the alleged threat to national security that the latter caused, the Republicans saw the threat in the Federalists’ persecution itself.

Arguments About the Permissibility of Political Dissent


Aside from issues of desirable American foreign policy toward Britain and France, the arguments over the Alien and Sedition Acts also encompassed issues of free speech and political dissent.

For the Federalists, the acts were an opportunity, explicitly acknowledged by Senate whip Theodore Sedgwick, to eliminate factionalism and opposition within the country. Fifteen indictments and ten convictions resulted from the Acts, the victims including outspoken Republican newspaper editors and Matthew Lyon, a Republican congressman (Norton 224).

The Federalists did not consider the silencing of critics to be in opposition to the First Amendment; John Allen, a Federalist congressman, expressed the generally prevailing view within his party that the freedom of the press did not imply the right to slanderous smearing or incitement toward subversion of lawful government. Allen’s statement assumed that the integrity of Federalist policies was beyond question, and anyone who doubted their validity was automatically a liar and an insurrectionist.

In short, the Federalists did not see a distinction between forceful revolution and peaceful denunciation of government policies. The Republicans, on the contrary, recognized the philosophy behind the Sedition Act to be a foundation for dictatorial oligarchy and the antithesis of a free society.

Representative Edward Livingston, for example, noted that the Acts invested in the President (and his Federalist-packed courts) the authority to determine what constituted a crime under them, whom to convict, and how to punish the convicted. Thus, the Acts violated the balance between the various branches of government and tipped the scales in extreme favor of the executive.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison undertook a campaign against the Acts on a state level, drafting the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which proclaimed the laws unconstitutional due to the fact that state approval of the measures had been bypassed. The Constitution and the Federal Government, it was argued, were the products of a compact amongst the states, and the Federal Government’s legislation possessed no legitimate connection to the interests of the people unless verified by more direct representatives thereof (Norton 225). Thus the Republicans, far from espousing any anti-American rhetoric, actively condemned Federalist policy using the principles of the American revolution and of a limited government that safeguards, not violates, the sacred liberties of man.

It is fortunate that the Republicans won the debate over the Alien and Sedition Acts, thereby setting a strong precedent against government suppression of criticism which has lasted to this day. Free political speech came under attack in the United States during the first decades of the country’s existence, and it thankfully withstood that attack.

Loyalty to the Constitution Versus Loyalty to the Government


In the political disputes over the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the distinction between loyalty to the Constitution and loyalty to the established government further separated Federalists and Republicans in the controversy over the Acts.

Representative Albert Gallatin criticized the Federalists for equating the two loyalties and, in contraposition, the two disloyalties. The idea that an opposition to the temporary majority of the present day is an opposition to the Constitution was, according to Gallatin, “subversive of the principles of the Constitution itself.”

The Federalists, by rendering criticism of their measures illegal, would thereby institutionalize their regime into a force-backed behemoth that would no longer be susceptible to the interests and displeasures of the people. With the press silenced, both sides of an issue would not be able to be transferred to the public, who would thus be manipulated by the government into favoring the incumbency. How, then, would the First Amendment apply? This perversion of the public’s electoral right was, stated the Republicans, the gateway to dictatorship.

Both the Federalists and the Republicans viewed each other as traitors to the American essence. The former categorized treason as dislike of the political status quo, whereas the latter saw the status quo as a form of treason in itself.

On the foreign front, the Quasi-War with France was resolved during the Convention of 1800, canceling the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 and freeing America from all binding foreign obligations (Norton 226).

Domestically, the Alien and Sedition Acts proved to be the Federalists’ undoing. Matthew Lyon, arrested during the Federalist reign of censorship, would cast the deciding ballot in favor of Republican Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Jefferson would pardon all persons convicted under the Sedition Act.

The Acts themselves expired in 1801, and the newly empowered Republicans had no intention of renewing them. The controversies over foreign affairs, political dissent, and the nature of Constitutional adherence were ultimately resolved in the Republicans’ favor; war with France was averted, freedom of speech reinstated, and loyal opposition forces encouraged in American politics up to the present day. Since the death of the Alien and Sedition Acts, America has remained a haven for spirited and vibrant ideological dispute.

To this day, it is urgent for Americans to keep in mind that loyalty to the United States and to the Constitution does not necessarily imply loyalty to the government currently in power, which can and often does trample on America’s founding principles and neglect the proper nature and limits of its operation.


Norton, Katzman, et. al. A People and a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Illiberal Belief #25: Immigration Must Be Restricted – Article by Bradley Doucet

Illiberal Belief #25: Immigration Must Be Restricted – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
September 15, 2013
Those of us who believe in the rightness and the benefits of free markets spend a good deal of time defending free trade between countries. But aside from the free movement of goods and services across international borders, augmenting the free movement of people across those borders would, I believe, greatly increase the peace and prosperity of people the world over. Opening up our borders to increased immigration is in fact demanded both by considerations of economics and of justice.Unfortunately, immigration is not very popular. The Economist reported in 2008 on a November 2007 poll of Europeans showing that only 55% of Spaniards and 50% of Italians considered migrants a boon to their economies—and that’s the good news. The number for Brits and Germans was only 42%, and for the French it was a dismal 30%.

One reason we fail to appreciate the economic benefits of immigration is that we are predisposed to see the world in zero-sum terms. We assume, for instance, that there are a limited number of jobs available. Immigrants, we worry, will steal “our” jobs and depress the wages of those who manage to hang on to theirs. This worry is especially prevalent with regard to the poorest, least-skilled workers. In fact, there is little evidence to support this worry. Even the least-skilled migrants do not just suck up jobs; they also help create jobs, since as consumers they raise demand which itself gets translated into more jobs. They can also free up skilled workers to re-enter the workforce by providing childcare, for instance. According to The Economist, the numbers tell a similar story: “Studies comparing wages in American cities with and without lots of foreigners suggest that they make little difference to the income of the poorest.”

Fear of Foreigners

We humans also seem predisposed to fear those who are different from us, and events in recent years have not exactly been reassuring. From riots in France to devastating terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere causing massive damage and loss of life, we see people from different cultures causing various levels of mayhem, and our natural xenophobia is reinforced.

But the unrest in France is not so much evidence of a deep cultural divide between Western hosts and Eastern immigrants. There do exist important cultural differences, but it is also the case that France’s sclerotic employment regulations deserve much of the blame for recent unrest. By making it extremely difficult to fire employees, those regulations discourage the hiring of employees— especially the hiring of foreigners of whom one might already be suspicious. Sky-high rates of unemployment in an immigrant population, while not excusing violent demonstration, surely help to explain it.

As for terrorism, it is clearly just a fanatical fringe of Islamists who are so fervent in their beliefs that they would commit suicide and murder hundreds or thousands of innocents for their cause. There is no reason for a free society to fear the average Muslim immigrant. Nevertheless, the War on Terror will continue to be used to justify such projects as the building of fences along the Mexican border, despite the lack of Hispanic suicide bombers and fact that the September 11 terrorists did not sneak across the Rio Grande. And while fences will not keep many out, they might keep many in. As The Economist points out, “After all, the more costly and dangerous it is to cross, the less people will feel like leaving. Migrants quite often return home for a while—but only if they know it will be relatively easy to get back in. The tougher the border, the more incentive migrants have to stay and perhaps to get their families to join them instead.”

Be Our Guest

If there is little chance that developed countries will just throw their borders open anytime soon, guest-worker plans seem like a practical compromise. For one thing, our Ponzi-style welfare schemes, to which we are still very much attached, cannot support the whole world. Temporary migration, in which foreign workers come for a limited time just to work without drawing on government benefits, would still be appealing to those workers while alleviating concerns about breaking the welfare bank. So why are they not more popular?

Well, there is the concern that some guests might overstay their welcome. As The Economist Report reminds us, “The old joke that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary migrant has more than a grain of truth in it.” The historical record is mixed, with some countries running guest worker programs that function smoothly, and others failing to enforce the temporary nature of their arrangements.

The more serious problem is that even supporters of more open immigration, especially those to be found among well-intentioned elites, as often as not oppose guest worker programs. These critics lament the creation of a second-class of citizens. It is not right, they argue, to withhold welfare benefits from guest workers. They worry also about the possibility of those second-class citizens being taken advantage of and abused by unscrupulous employers. But is the answer to keep people out altogether, holding out for true open borders some day?

Harvard economist Lant Pritchett is the author of Let Their People Come. In an interview with Kerry Howley in the February 2008 issue of Reason magazine, he addresses concerns about second-class citizens: “The world now is divided into first-class citizens of the world and fifth-class citizens of the world.” He adds that, ironically, in places like the Middle East where people are not so concerned about denying migrant workers all the benefits of citizenship, immigration is high but far less controversial. “One of the awkward paradoxes of the world is that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and Nepalis are enormously better off precisely because the Persian Gulf states don’t endow them with political rights.” [Emphasis in original.]

Internal Dissent

There are in fact some libertarians, most notably Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who argue against opening the borders to greater immigration. Hoppe has a case to make, but I don’t think it gets him nearly as far as he thinks it does. First, he points out that a truly free society would have no single, national immigration policy. Rather, the many private owners of land along the “border” would decide whom to allow onto their land, resulting in a patchwork system in which some areas would tend to restrict entry and others would throw their gates wide open. Under current conditions, though, Hoppe sees immigration as “forced integration” because, given existing anti-discrimination laws, people are forced to associate with others they might not wish to associate with. In a truly free society, people would be free to choose with whom they wanted to associate.

Until they are, however, governments should come up with second-best, least-bad national immigration policies. Hoppe argues that in order to minimize the harm to the rightful owners of the land in America (i.e., the current American population) the American government should follow a policy “of strict discrimination.” Immigrants should have “an existing employment contract with a resident citizen” and demonstrate “not only (English) language proficiency, but all-around superior (above-average) intellectual performance and character structure as well as a compatible system of values—with the predictable result of a systematic pro-European immigration bias.”

Of course, we all have an interest in keeping out hardened criminals and terrorists. The main problem I see with Hoppe’s logic, though, is that if America (or Canada) were a truly free society, many hard-working foreigners (and not necessarily Europeans or those of above-average intellect, either) would have bought into ownership of some of the land in North America. A system that tries to minimize harm to the rightful owners of the land should also minimize harm to these multitudes who would have been owners if the society were truly free. This suggests to me far more immigration than Hoppe envisions, and far more than is currently allowed into sparsely populated North America.

Slow But Sure

Lant Pritchett asserts that holding out for more sweeping change is the wrong way to go. “I think we’re going to move ahead on migration; people are going to become more and more exposed to the fact that people from other places in the world are, in very deep ways, human beings exactly like us; and eventually, in an unpredictable way, the attitude toward this will shift.” Small changes will beget more changes—with the added benefit of slower change being less disruptive for host countries.

Removing immigration restrictions, even if only a little at a time, is an excellent way to help the world’s poor. Immigrants themselves benefit, of course, but so do their families back home, through remittances. Says The Economist, “For most poor countries remittances are more valuable than aid. For many they provide more than aid and foreign direct investment combined.” And because money is remitted directly to families, it neatly sidesteps the problem of corrupt government officials siphoning off aid money to enrich themselves.

In the end, those who oppose more open borders must ask themselves by what right they would deny the freedom of movement of others? Put differently, by what right would they deny the freedom of association of those of us who want more open borders? Increased immigration would help the world’s hard-working poor, and without entailing the negative consequences we fear. But most of all, it’s just the right thing to do.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.
Reflections on Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” – Article by Edward W. Younkins

Reflections on Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” – Article by Edward W. Younkins

The New Renaissance Hat
Edward W. Younkins
February 18, 2013

This essay is not a review of Tom Hooper’s recently released film of the tremendously popular 1980s stage musical. However, the release of this film has given me the occasion to read and to reflect upon the original text of Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic, Les Misérables, a mosaic of social indictment, history, social philosophy, sentimentality, and spirituality.

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862) is the great prose epic of the nineteenth century. Interweaving the social and spiritual threads of human life, the novel has been influential in making people desire a more just world. In Les Misérables the author condemns the unjust class-based social structure in nineteenth-century France for turning good people into criminals and beggars. He makes a case that crime and poverty can be eliminated through universal education, a criminal justice system that is flexible and focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and the more equal and humane treatment of women. Despite these broad recommendations, Hugo offered no practical solutions for reforming schools, the police, the courts, and the prisons. Les Misérables is a call for a wiser and nobler civilization. When it was released, it inspired a great deal of sympathy for hapless people oppressed by the state. It was also viewed as a celebration of revolution against tyranny.

Les Misérables is an epic novel focused on characters fighting against their exploitation and oppression. We see the injustices and disproportionate sentences piled upon Jean Valjean, the abuses suffered by Fantine, the brutality foisted on Cosette, the maltreatment of Enjolras  and his fellow revolutionaries, the plight of homeless children, and so on. All of these are examples of society’s injustice toward the lower classes. Through these stories, the novel exudes sympathy from the reader for the most wretched in society. The message is that, if men murder and steal and women fall from grace out of desperation, it is not their fault because they can find no honorable path to sustainability within the constructs of society. Rather, it is the fault of society and its creations, the state and the law. The state and its legal system are shown to be disinterested in the conditions of the dangerous classes. Society is thus culpable for dehumanizing the poor and for the crimes committed by the dregs of society. Les Misérables chronicles the corruption of police power, shows that society gives the convict no chance for redemption, and illustrates how France’s prison system not only continues, but also accelerates, the downward spiral of criminals. On the one hand, Valjean represents suppressed and destitute people whose place in life is determined by positive laws created by society’s elite in order to perpetuate their own superiority. On the other hand, Valjean illustrates that it is possible for men to rise above their circumstances.

Bishop Myriel is not a typical bishop or even a conventional Christian. He operates on his own innate sense of morality—it is not provided by Christianity. True morality is higher than, and separate from, any particular religion. Religions pass away but God remains. Myriel acts out of genuine sympathy and caring for the weak and the downtrodden. The Bishop has chosen a consistent belief system and life path and has dedicated his life to the active service of humanity by performing good deeds and engaging in heartfelt charity. Myriel believes that it is each man’s duty to perform good acts despite the fact that he may never know if the good acts he has performed for people will lead them to change their lives for the good. His religious humanism is far from orthodox Christianity.

When Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, forgives Jean Valjean for the theft of the silver, he offers him his initial opportunity for redemption. After this incident, Valjean has a choice to make. He could either continue on a path of crime or he could follow the example set by the Bishop. Having learned from his past, Valjean goes on to help the poor and the wretched. He adopts a new life, identity, and mentality. His new life includes honesty, love of neighbor, love of enemy, and love of God. Throughout his life, the Bishop is always with him as symbolized by the candlesticks. Myriel acts as a model and an inspiration for Valjean for the rest of his life. Throughout the novel, Valjean imitates more and more the Bishop’s asceticism, renunciation of worldly pleasures, and emphasis on sacrifice.

The moral duty to help the poor that Valjean accepts does not come from any social institutions. Rather, it flows from an expansive notion of God. Valjean illustrates that reason is inadequate in the resolution of moral problems. However, thought does direct Valjean toward the consideration of a dilemma, but at every decision point his emotions serve as the guide to right behavior. The hero performs good deeds intuitively as if he is acting in response to an inner voice. This Kantian perspective is that each person has an inner voice (perhaps his conscience), the source of moral laws, that tells him what his duties (i.e., moral obligations) are. The message seems to be that faith can transform one’s life. For Valjean, merely believing in God is not enough. He does not just contemplate the divine. Having learned from his experiences, he goes on to act to help people by his own initiative. For him, God, fulfillment, and salvation are attainable without the help of any organized religion.

Choice is difficult for Valjean who has a double nature—he has the experience of a convict and the instincts of a saint. He is a product of the social conditions that led him to steal a loaf of bread for his sister’s family and his prison time for punishment of that crime. Despite that, he still has the potential for good in him. Over and over he has to choose between doing what is right and doing what is safe and secure. At virtually every turn Valjean doubts and questions himself before making the morally correct choice. Les Misérables is very much a story of a man’s conscience at war with itself. After meeting the radiantly spiritual Bishop Myriel, Valjean’s life becomes a continuing struggle between his activated moral sense and his life-long criminal tendencies.

As Monsieur Madeleine, Jean Valjean redeems himself by becoming an innovative entrepreneur who creates a successful manufacturing business that brings about progress and prosperity for an entire region. This successful and kind person voluntarily does good deeds to help the less fortunate. Valjean’s actions exhibit justice to individual people rather than observance of the requirements of some abstract legal order. In addition to providing a reasonable standard of living for his employees, he builds schools and hospitals with his own money and distributes a large share of his wealth to the poor. Then, of course, he takes care of Fantine and rescues, raises, and protects Cosette. Ironically, the tolerant Valjean sympathizes with others but is unable to sympathize with himself. He understands that, although a person can repent of a crime, he can never escape the dishonor from committing it.

Inspector Javert cannot accept transgressions of the law regardless of circumstances. He represents the idea of punitive secular justice and is solely concerned with detection and retribution. Javert is absolutely committed to rules and to their administration. As a defender of France’s legal system, he is dedicated to following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. The well-intentioned, rigid, and dogmatic Javert wants to protect society from the criminal element and has total faith in the system of laws that he represents. Javert, the personification of public authority, contends that theft is wrong regardless of mitigating factors. Myriel, representing morality, would say that theft should be forgiven in the case when one acted to keep people from starving. Of course, our hero, Valjean, is caught between these two worldviews. Toward the end of the novel, Javert comes to understand that Valjean is concerned with a moral law higher than positive state law. At the end he empathizes with Valjean and comprehends that divine law has supremacy. Javert commits suicide because this realization disaffirms everything in his life that he believed in. The story of Javert provides a lesson about the limitations of the law of men. At the end of his life, Javert understands that Jean Valjean’s resistance to Javert’s tyranny is rooted in a belief in a higher power and law than the laws of men.

Enjolras and his diverse band of revolutionaries have a dream of a better world and do all they can to make that world a reality. They love man, tend to reject organized religions (including Christianity), and attempt to overturn the existing social order. Enjolras, the leader of the ABC (the Abaissé or the abased) Society wants to elevate men. The ABC’s 1832 revolt demanded legislation that would make possible liberty, justice, equal education, equal opportunity, and so on. Enjolras is a devoted, purposeful, political idealist who inspires others with his utopian vision of future progress. The other revolutionaries turn to Enjolras for the meanings behind their actions.

The novel teaches that individual men are dignified, honorable, and benevolent, but that social institutions are not, the result being the corruption of individual human beings. Like Rousseau and Turgot, Hugo subscribes to the idea of the natural goodness of man. All three believed in progress and in the perfectibility of man. They viewed progress as a basic law of the universe. Created by God, man has the capacity to become a civilized moral person if he is not corrupted by society. It is the corrupting influence of society that is responsible for the misconduct of the individual. If individuals are properly educated then they would not want to do evil.

Hugo maintains that society must be changed, but also that it is individuals who must first be transformed. It is these transformed individuals who can then foster the advancement of society. Accepting the Platonic idea that the individual’s soul is noble but the body is degraded, the author of Les Misérables teaches that one must achieve spiritual grandeur and a virtuous character in order to battle for justice in the here and now. Some individuals have the ability to triumph over evil both in themselves and in society and its institutions if they are willing to actively respond to the divine. In Les Misérables the life of each character influences others. It follows that, if each individual comprehends and accepts his influences on other persons, then society may become more just, caring, and merciful. Hugo contends that the requisite love of humanity can only come from faith in the divine. Faith in God is thus placed at the heart of this work. For Hugo, belief in God by acting people of good will is necessary to instill the social order with kindness and to make society more humane. Like Pascal, Hugo urges his readers to bet in favor of the existence of God and perhaps even in the possibility of an afterlife for the soul. In Les Misérables there are only a few exceptional virtuous individuals such as Myriel, Jean Valjean, and Enjolras, who can attain this level of existence. It follows that rehabilitation and elevation of the social order is most likely impossible given the above requirement and reality.

The novel’s ethic of social service emphasizes the alleviation of poverty. It portrays poor people being helped by the charitable works of a private individual (Valjean) rather than by government. Depicting the abject poverty of the poor, Les Misérables questions the morality of a political and economic system that permits children to be orphaned and homeless, mothers dying in the streets, and good men imprisoned for minor transgressions committed to feed their families. Hugo’s goal was to elicit his readers’ compassion and to stimulate their moral sensibilities by portraying how poverty brutalizes and dehumanizes people and how strict and relentless law enforcement creates the savages that it wants to eliminate. He wanted to educate the bourgeois and to awaken their consciousness and concern for France’s social problems. Hugo wanted people to take action to ease the burden of the less fortunate through good deeds and through changes in the social system. Les Misérables is Hugo’s plea for social change that vacillates between human and institutional reality and his hope for, and vision of, a better world.

In Les Misérables Hugo depicts that society is nothing more than the collection of individuals whose lives affect one another. For example, it is clear that Jean Valjean is concerned only with the individuals who make up society. In the novel, the circumstances and conduct of various seemingly randomly introduced characters converge and become intertwined with the struggles of Valjean. From the beginning of the story, there is a web of influence that builds as characters affect one another. Early on we see G______, a representative of the assembly during the French Revolution that dissolved the monarchy, humbling Bishop Myriel who recognizes his moral devotion to humanity and progress prompting the Bishop to redouble his own tenderness and love for the weak and the suffering. The network of interconnections grows as characters such as Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Javert, Fauchelevant, the Thénardiers, Marius, M. Gillenormand, Colonel Pontmery, Champathieu, Enjolras, and others appear. The author brings many of these characters together toward the climax of the novel.

Les Misérables illustrates that in every idea, and that for every person, perspective is partial and, therefore, insufficient by itself alone. Hugo shows that the complexity of life requires that no one philosophy, perspective, emotion, tradition, or behavior is capable of providing a total picture of what it means to be human. Like Kant, Hugo laments the fact that a person can only perceive and comprehend things through his own consciousness. According to Kant, man’s knowledge lacks validity because his consciousness possesses identity. For Kant, knowledge, to be valid, must not be processed in any way by consciousness. Hugo, like Kant, seems to be looking for knowledge that could be called absolute, unqualified, pure, or diaphanous. Kant maintains that identity, which itself is the essence of existence, invalidates consciousness. To know what is true, a man would have to abandon his own nature, which is an absurd impossibility. It follows that for both Hugo and Kant, reason must be forsaken and the emotions must be embraced, if one wants to deal with the fundamental concerns of existence. Hugo does seem to imply that knowledge can be enhanced by dialectically relating each perspective with opposing viewpoints. However, he realizes that, even with this dialectic interaction, one’s knowledge would still be limited. Even when many angles of perspective can be coordinated simultaneously, one’s understanding of a process, experience, or event is still limited.

Les Misérables is a fascinating maze of characters, emotions, ideas, paradoxes, and antitheses. The novel co-mingles ever-shifting and blurred shades of criminality, heroism, misery, resilience, good, evil, irony, pathos, poetry, free will, providence, action, the social, the spiritual, and much more. Hugo thus deals with the emotions, hopes, fears, passions, and doubts that are reflective of people’s common humanity. Les Misérables is a detailed reporting of men’s feelings and ideas that transcend time and place. It follows that this great novel is as relevant today as when it was published more than 150 years ago.

Dr. Edward W. Younkins is Professor of Accountancy at Wheeling Jesuit University. He is the author of Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise [Lexington Books, 2002], Philosophers of Capitalism: Menger, Mises, Rand, and Beyond [Lexington Books, 2005] (See Mr. Stolyarov’s review of this book.), and Flourishing and Happiness in a Free Society: Toward a Synthesis of Aristotelianism, Austrian Economics, and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism [Rowman & Littlefield Pub Incorporated, 2011] (See Mr. Stolyarov’s review of this book.). Many of Dr. Younkins’s essays can be found online at his web page at You can contact Dr. Younkins at

The Importance of Subjectivism in Economics – Article by Sheldon Richman

The Importance of Subjectivism in Economics – Article by Sheldon Richman

The New Renaissance Hat
Sheldon Richman
October 3, 2012

After many years, Frédéric Bastiat remains a hero to libertarians. No mystery there. He made the case for freedom and punctured the arguments for socialism with clarity and imagination. He spoke to lay readers with great effect.

Bastiat loved the market economy, and badly wanted it to blossom in full—in France and everywhere else. When he described the blessings of freedom, his benevolence shined forth. Free markets can raise living standards and enable everyone to have better lives; therefore stifling freedom is unjust and tragic. The reverse of Bastiat’s benevolence is his indignation at the deprivation that results from interference with the market process.

He begins his book Economic Harmonies (available at the FEE store) by pointing out the economic benefits of living in society:

It is impossible not to be struck by the disproportion, truly incommensurable, that exists between the satisfactions [a] man derives from society and the satisfactions that he could provide for himself if he were reduced to his own resources. I make bold to say that in one day he consumes more things than he could produce himself in ten centuries. What makes the phenomenon stranger still is that the same thing holds true for all other men. Every one of the members of society has consumed a million times more than he could have produced; yet no one has robbed anyone else.

The Existence of Privilege

Bastiat was not naïve. He knew he was not in a fully free market. He was well aware of the existence of privilege: “Privilege implies someone to profit from it and someone to pay for it,” he wrote. Those who pay are worse off than they would be in the free market. “I trust that the reader will not conclude from the preceding remarks that we are insensible to the social suffering of our fellow men. Although the suffering is less in the present imperfect state of our society than in the state of isolation, it does not follow that we do not seek wholeheartedly for further progress to make it less and less.”

He wished to emphasize the importance of free exchange for human flourishing. In chapter four he wrote,

Exchange is political economy. It is society itself, for it is impossible to conceive of society without exchange, or exchange without society. …For man, isolation means death….

By means of exchange, men attain the same satisfaction with less effort, because the mutual services they render one another yield them a larger proportion of gratuitous utility.

Therefore, the fewer obstacles an exchange encounters, the less effort it requires, the more readily men exchange.

How does trade deliver its benefits?

Exchange produces two phenomena: the joining of men’s forces and the diversification of their occupations, or the division of labor.

It is very clear that in many cases the combined force of several men is superior to the sum of their individual separate forces.…

Now, the joining of men’s forces implies exchange. To gain their co-operation, they must have good reason to anticipate sharing in the satisfaction to be obtained. Each one by his efforts benefits the others and in turn benefits by their efforts according to the terms of the bargain, which is exchange.

But isn’t something missing from this account?

Austrian Insight

Indeed, there is: the subjectivist Austrian insight that individuals gain from trade per se. For an exchange to take place, the two parties must assess the items traded differently, with each party preferring what he is to receive to what he is to give up. If that condition did not hold, no exchange would occur. There must be what Murray Rothbard called a double inequality of value. It’s in the logic of human action–which Ludwig von Mises christened praxeology. Bastiat, like his classical forebears Smith and Ricardo, erroneously believed (at least explicitly) that people trade equal values and that something is wrong when unequal values are exchanged.

Perhaps I am too hard on Bastiat. After all, he was writing before 1850. Carl Menger did not publish Principles of Economics until 1871. Yet the Austrians were not the first to look at exchange strictly through subjectivist spectacles, that is, from the economic actors points of view. The French philosopher Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780) did so a hundred years before Bastiat wrote:

The very fact that an exchange takes place is proof that there must necessarily be profit in it for both the contracting parties; otherwise it would not be made. Hence, every exchange represents two gains for humanity.

Bastiat Unaware?

Well, perhaps Bastiat was unaware of Condillac’s argument. That is not the case. He reprints the quote above in his book and responds:

The explanation we owe to Condillac seems to me entirely insufficient and empirical, or rather it fails to explain anything at all. . . .

The exchange represents two gains, you say. The question is: Why and how? It results from the very fact that it takes place. But why does it take place? What motives have induced the two men to make it take place? Does the exchange have in it a mysterious virtue, inherently beneficial and incapable of explanation?

We see how exchange . . . adds to our satisfactions. . . . [T]here is no trace of . . . the double and empirical profit alleged by Condillac.

This is perplexing. Clearly, the necessary double inequality of value is not empirical or contingent. Contra Bastiat, the double inequality explains quite a lot, and his questions all have easy answers.

Yet more perplexing still is Bastiat’s statement in the same chapter: “The profit of the one is the profit of the other.” This seems to imply what he just denied.

Consequential Failure

Bastiat’s failure to grasp this point had consequences for his debates with other economists. For example, he and his fellow “left-free-market” advocate Pierre-Joseph Proudhon engaged in a lengthy debate over whether interest on loans would exist in the free market or whether it was a privilege bestowed when government suppresses competition. Unfortunately, the debate suffers because neither Bastiat nor Proudhon fully and explicitly grasped the Condillac/Austrian point about the double inequality of value. As Roderick Long explains in his priceless commentary on the exchange,

[E]ach one trips up his defense of his own position through an inconsistent grasp of the Austrian principle of the “double inequality of value”; Proudhon embraces it, but fails to apply it consistently, while Bastiat implicitly relies on it, but explicitly rejects it. . . .

Proudhon’s case against interest seems to depend crucially on his claim that all exchange must be of equivalent values; so pointing out the incoherence of this notion would be a telling reply. But Bastiat cannot officially give this reply (though he comes tantalisingly close over and over throughout the debate) because elsewhere–in his Economic Harmonies–Bastiat explicitly rejects the doctrine of double inequality of value.

How frustrating! Bastiat has so much to teach. But here is one blind spot that kept him from being even better.

Sheldon Richman is the editor of The Freeman and, and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.