“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

500-Year-Old Machiavelli Arrest Proclamation Discovered in Italy

This week the city of Florence recreated the “Bando,” the official proclamation, which 500 years ago gave any citizen of Florence with any knowledge of the whereabouts of one Niccolo Machiavelli just one hour to report the information to the authorities.
Because at one point Machiavelli was fighting the bad guys!
He lost. And he lost his beloved Florence to the Medici family, aided and abetted by the Pope’s invading army.
So disillusioned, he wrote the political guidebook “The Prince,” declaring that the end justifies the means. That rulers and governments can and should be brutal to defend themselves.
The 500th anniversary of Machiavelli’s book and his arrest is now being marked in Florence.
That’s where we found the man who recently uncovered the “Bando” while researching the role of town criers in Renaissance Italy. Stephen Milner is visiting professor at Harvard’s Center for Renaissance Studies, the Villa I Tatti.


  1. ANTAKYA, Turkey — A surge of rebel advances in Syria is being fueled at least in part by an influx of heavy weaponry in a renewed effort by outside powers to arm moderates in the Free Syrian Army, according to Arab and rebel officials.

    The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent across the Jordanian border into the province of Daraa in recent weeks to counter the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north of Syria by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south, the officials say.

    The arms are the first heavy weapons known to have been supplied by outside powers to the rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad and his family’s four-decade-old regime since the Syrian uprising began two years ago.

    The officials declined to identify the source of the newly provided weapons, but they noted that the countries most closely involved in supporting the rebels’ campaign to oust Assad have grown increasingly alarmed at the soaring influence of Islamists over the fragmented rebel movement. They include the United States and its major European allies, along with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two countries most directly involved in supplying the rebels.

    1. Syria has turned into a (1) proxy battlefield for Sunni (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, ...) vs Shiite (Iran, Iraq) in the region (2) and post cold war failed state Afghanistan scenario is being repeated in Syria. The Syrian opposition and foreign fighters in Syria are turning into pawns in this geopolitical chessboard which is destroying Syria.

      The recent in-fighting between opposition Arabs and Kurds (incited by Turkey) has damaged the opposition's credibility and it shows the escalation of the civil war by the neighbors for their own gains. The irony is that Turkey which has occupied the Hatay province of Syria is now talking of why Syria does not attack the Syrian neighbor which has occupied its territory. Turkish occupation of Hatay is not in Erdogan's patriotic speech. Western governments wonder if an Israel-Syria war is being planned for after the fall of Assad and they will become more reluctant to support the Syrian opposition.

      For the sake of peace in the region, Assad and Syrian opposition need to sit and negotiate a form of power sharing and autonomy for Syrian Sunni, Alawi and Kurds. The Alawis, Sunnis and Kurds should be able to elect their own head of regions and Alawis should be able to elect Assad for their region. A rotating presidency between the three regions can eliminate the current focus on Assad.

      The main focus should be shifted to the borders between the 3 regions. Should Damascus be part of Latakia Alawi region? Should the Kurdish border areas with Turkey in Halab province be part of Kurdish region of Hasakah? Should 36.7E Meridian and 36.3N Par become the borders between Alawi, Sunni and Kurdish regions?

  2. The Washington Post could not figure out who is supplying the weapons.

  3. Their 'Sources' in DC say ...
    'Mum's the Word'

  4. That is actually in the 1st Amendment. The little know mum clause.

  5. What the heck is a modern libertarian? Would the Tea Party be the Libertarian Party if it were actually a party?

    1. You are probably more Libertarian than not. There is no purity test.

    2. 1. The Libertarian Party is working to dramatically reduce Big Government spending, taxes, debt, regulations, bureaucracies, foreign meddling, and invasions of our personal freedoms.
      Not "reform" them. Not "replace" them. Certainly not add to them. That’s what Democrats and Republicans do.

      The Libertarian Party and its candidates are worknig to shrink Big Government. What will this leave? Individual liberty and a small, constitutional government that is limited to defending our lives, liberty and property.
      2. The Libertarian Party takes action to reduce Big Government.
      Not just analysis of what’s wrong with Big Government. Not just news about abuses and increases of Big Government. Direct action to make government smaller than it is today through elections.
      3. Without the Libertarian Party, the pro-freedom activists in the two old parties stand no chance.
      The Libertarian Party gives liberty-lovers within the Democratic and Republican Parties the juice they need to effect change. Neither of the two old parties will budge without the threat of a small-government competitor.
      4. Libertarian candidates take liberty all the way to the General Election.
      The Republican Party is especially notorious for working against and defeating its own small government candidates in primary elections. This was on display at the 2012 Republican national convention where party operatives changed and bent the rules to deny Ron Paul delegates their hard-earned right to nominate their candidate from the floor.

      In contrast, most Libertarians make it to the general election to challenge Big Government – when voters are listening.
      5. The Libertarian Party is consistent and principled.
      Libertarians work for everyday taxpayers, workers and voters - not Special Interests. Not to be part of the machinery of Big Government. Not to get government jobs. Not to grab “our share” of the goodies.

      Make government small, allow free markets to thrive, uphold personal liberties and keep our nation at peace. This will produce economic prosperity, safety, and opportunity - and make possible widespread, generous charity.
      6. The Libertarian Party is the greatest liberty educator in America. Every election year.
      Libertarian candidates reach everyday voters and taxpayers who never read liberty literature – and don’t even know it exists. Libertarian candidates show how low taxes, low government spending and much less government authority make life better for Americans.

      In 2012, over 9 million votes were cast for Libertarian candidates by voters who liked what they heard and said "Yes" to liberty.
      7. The Libertarian Party is the best-leveraged liberty investment in America.
      Ballot access is the key to legitimacy in elections. For decades, the Libertarian Party has jumped through hoops to place more candidates on the ballot in more states and at the lowest average cost of any political party in America. Highly cost-effective activism for liberty.

  6. No, ash.

    The Tea Party is actually the Medicare and Social Security Party.
    Just folks afraid of cut to 'Their' benefits.

    Wanting the 'Others' to feel the budget bite.

    Like the Idaho farmer wanting the government to guarentee public access to the forests, but not the hospitals.

    Tea Partiers are Republicans, disaffected to be sure, but Republicans none the less.

  7. There are two corporate DC parties. Pick any of the past members of Congress and the e administrations and see what they do for a living. It is very revealing. The Tea Party guys that are in Congress. How many of them have already migrated to the dark side.

  8. More hearts and minds…

    The Afghan government has ordered all US special forces to leave one of Afghanistan's most restive provinces, after receiving reports from local officials claiming the elite force is behind several cases of Afghan civilians being tortured or disappeared.

    Officials in Maidan Wardak, a province which borders Kabul and where security has deteriorated over the past year, had presented evidence to President Hamid Karzai and other security officials alleging that nine people had disappeared after being seized by US special forces in raids on their homes.

    US special forces were also accused of involvement in the death of a university student whose tortured remains were found days after he went missing.

    “People have been complaining about US special forces units torturing and killing people in that province and nine individuals were taken from their homes recently and they have just disappeared and no one knows where they have gone,” said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for the president.

  9. A modern Librarian, ash, would support a pullback from foreign adventures. A much more diminished military footprint in Europe and the Middle East. Withdrawal or the Marines and Army from Korea and Japan.

    Would support a Fair Trade policy, where bi-lateral trade is encouraged, but the US should not be subsidizing Korean manufacturers by carrying the costs of their "defense".

    In my own case, an Americas First foreign policy would be advocated for, rather than the current Middle East First policies.

    Most direct government subsidies would be eliminated, Amtrack passenger rail service comes to mind
    Airlines and passengers would carry the costs of the FAA.
    Direct payment subsidies to farmers would be ended.

    The Federals would relinquish control of the National Forests, either to the State, private control or both.

    Stuff like that.

  10. The problem is, repeated polls have shown that the only program that the plurality of Americans would cut is foreign aid. All other programs were either "keep the same," or "increase."

    The big winner is always "education." The latest Pew Poll showed about a 70% Majority were in favor of "Increasing" spending on that.

  11. The thing is, people form governments for a reason.

    As for votes, any party (and, I mean any party) could get 9 Million votes. I suspect the "UFO's R Us" Party could get 9 Million votes out of 100+ Million.

  12. Sure, rufus, and that could be done locally.
    There is no reason for the Federals to be in the "Education" business.

    No reason for the Feds to be in the teaching business, on any level. The grade schools have been funded locally, colleges by Counties, universities by the States or private endowments.

    1. Could be, Rat. But tell that to a Black Mother in Mississippi. Wasn't for the Feds they would not only still be uneducated, they would be uneducated slaves.

  13. There is little reason for Federalizing Education, except for shifting the costs to the future, through increasing Federal debt.

    1. Actually, one reason for federalizing education is to try to limit regional disparities in the education system. If you don't limit the disparities the 'rich' areas tend to do well while the 'poor' areas continue their downward spiral.

    2. Lawmakers in Texas are trying to approve the teaching of "Creationism" as "Science," as we speak.

  14. How do the Libertarians view things such as banking regulation? Should the banks be left to do as they wish? I'm thinking, in particular, of the headline (I haven't actually read the article yet) on of the banks lurking behind the exploitive payday loan companies. Will Libertarians let the individual fend for themselves against the big corpses?

    1. The Libertarian Party is, basically, the "Lord of the Manor" Party. Or, the "Government by Warlord" Party.

  15. Big banks are bad for free markets. Far from being engines of free enterprise, they are conducive to what might be called “crony capitalism,” “corporatism,” or, in Jonah Goldberg’s provocative phrase, “liberal fascism.” There is a free-market case for breaking up large financial institutions: that our big banks are the product, not of economics, but of politics.

    There’s a long debate to be had about the maximum size to which a bank should be allowed to grow, and about how to go about breaking up banks that become too large. But I want to focus instead on the general objections to large banks.

    The question can be examined from three perspectives. First, how much economic efficiency would be sacrificed by limiting the size of financial institutions? Second, how would such a policy affect systemic risk? Third, what would be the political economy of limiting banks’ size?
    It is the political economy that most concerns me. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae represent everything that is wrong with the politics of big banks. They acquired lobbying prowess, their decisions were distorted by political concerns, and they were bailed out at taxpayer expense. All of these developments seem to be inevitable with large financial institutions, and all are deeply troubling to those who value economic freedom. Unless there are tremendous advantages of efficiency or systemic stability from having large banks, their adverse effect on the political economy justifies breaking them up.

    If we had a free market in banking, very large banks would constitute evidence that there are commensurate economies of scale in the industry. But the reality is that our present large financial institutions probably owe their scale more to government policy than to economic advantages associated with their vast size. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were created by the government, and they always benefited from the perception that Washington would not permit them to fail — a perception that proved accurate. Similarly, large banks were viewed as “too big to fail,” which gave them important advantages in credit markets and allowed them to grow bigger than they otherwise would have. In 2007 and 2008, Lehman Brothers was able to obtain substantial short-term credit from what otherwise would have been risk-averse money-market funds, notably the Reserve Primary Fund, which “broke the buck” after Lehman’s collapse, greatly intensifying the subsequent financial panic. It is difficult to view Reserve Primary’s large position in Lehman debt as anything other than a bet that the government would engineer a bailout. It probably would have parked its funds elsewhere had Lehman been considered small enough to fail…


  17. In Texas the politicos may "try" to make Creationism a Science.

    In DC they've made Climate Change a religion.

    "Poor" and "Rich" areas exist within those areas that are the DIRECT responsibility of the Federals.
    These test locales, Washington DC and the Indian Reservations acrossthe land. Both are the direct responsibility of the Federals. None of those Federal systems are worthy of emulation.

  18. To semi-quote Dan Jenkins: Nothing's "Dead Solid Perfect."


  19. No, but we all know that the Democrats will never change and the Republicans cannot be trusted to be true to small government and minding our own business at home. Bush finished off the Republicans.

  20. Real whirled, the Federal Socialists are in a symbiotic relationship with global corporatism.

    The Federals control upwards of half the West and is slowly strangling the small rural communities that have existed servicing those industries the Federals have closed. Logging and ranching on the Federal lands have been restrained and eliminated. Access once guaranteed, now restrained.

  21. I think most people believe, deep down, that the only thing worse than their government is "no government."

  22. How about we settle on less governmeent? They don’t teach you about “gray” in Missississsippi?

    1. :)

      Okay; we'll cut "your" programs.

    2. Conservatism, Liberalism, Libertarianism, Socialism, Communism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Antidisestablishmentarianism. Isms is Isms. They always end up putting you in a bad place.

      Democracy works pretty good.

      Better in some places, and times, than others.

      But, Democracies will always lead to "more" government; not less.

    3. Democratic Government is how the Serfs level the playing field with the Lords of the Manor.