Saturday, November 26, 2011


A combination of computer problems, looming deadlines and other matters to be resolved requires a period of reduced activity here at Quicksilber. Thanks for stopping by.

Pictured: mandala in a store in Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2009.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Conquered into Liberty

Review copy received: Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War, by Eliot Cohen. We now think of the U.S.-Canada boundary as the epitome of a peaceful border, but there's a long history of conflict on and around it. Looking at the index I notice that George Clinton has some mentions but James Clinton, about whom I wrote recently, is absent. There's a lot of little known or largely forgotten history involving America's early wars, and this book looks like a promising avenue into some of it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gen. James Clinton

My latest look at the confluence of national and family history is up at FrumForum for Veterans Day: "James Clinton, Revolutionary War Hero." Excerpt:

Previously at FrumForum, I wrote about two early American political leaders: DeWitt Clinton, New York governor and mayor and key figure in the nation-building achievement of getting the Erie Canal built; and George Clinton, governor turned vice president, whose efforts to limit federal power culminated in an independent (and erroneous, in my view) decision to terminate America’s first central bank.

Now, I take quill to parchment again, this time regarding James Clinton (1736-1812), a Revolutionary War general who was DeWitt’s father and George’s brother.

Though less remembered today than the other two, James struck important blows for American independence. For me, these figures are of interest for family history as well as national history. James and DeWitt are direct ancestors of my wife, and our son is named DeWitt after his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Veterans Day, which honors veterans living and dead, would be a suitable time to remember James Clinton. Although he had some involvement in politics, he was primarily a military man. One historian described him a few decades after his death as “a plain blunt soldier, born upon the frontiers, and who spent no inconsiderable portion of a long life amid the toils and perils of border wars.”

Whole thing here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

China watch

A couple of items:

"China committing climate blackmail with super-powerful greenhouse gas, say critics," by my friend Christopher Mims at Grist. As I mentioned on Twitter, if U.S. politics were less dysfunctional, a cross-party coalition would be demanding a hard line against China on this. Climate hawks and foreign policy hawks would find common ground. Something like that might happen in a world where the parties were divided to some degree on the environment, but not in one where acknowledging that a greenhouse gas even might be a matter of concern is anathema to a large swath of the political spectrum. This Chinese gambit, moreover, is an example of why cap-and-trade, especially on an international scale, is a sub-optimal approach to carbon regulation.

"The Reckoning Begins." That's a reference to a new blog and upcoming book by Michael Moran, and to the shrinking gap between U.S. share of world output and China's share. I would add some caveats to the stark view Moran presents here. Years ago, Francis Fukuyama told me (in an interview for Insight magazine about his book Trust) that he had some doubts about China becoming as important as many people expected, because it is a "low-trust" society where holding together large organizations and networks is difficult. I'd add that nobody can be sure how much trust to put in China's economic statistics, or that one's rights and investments there will be honored. Having said all that, it's clear that learning Mandarin is not a bad idea in the 21st century.

Live-blogging tonight

I'll be participating in a live chat session about tonight's GOP economics (or Herman Cain scandal) debate over at FrumForum.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Political realignments

Some links I find interesting:

-- Ongoing contretemps between FrumForum and James Pethokoukis. See here and here.

-- John McCain talking up a third party; makes me wonder if 2012 could be Bull Moose time a century later, with McCain on the ticket; probably not but these are turbulent times politically. As also evident in the next item.

-- Walter Russell Mead, in a post titled "Occupy Blue Wall Street?" seeing signs of fraying in the blue coalition. I disagree with his dismissal of a carbon tax (and I don't think something being an upper-middle-class good-government concern is a bad thing as such), but it's a very interesting post overall.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bastiat Prize

Congratulations to Virginia Postrel on winning the Bastiat Prize, in part for her Bloomberg column that showed there is a cogent and non-hysterical argument against the light bulb efficiency standards. Also, congratulations to Tom Easton of The Economist, with whom Virginia shared the $50,000 prize.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Midcentury economic nostalgia

An emerging left-wing meme:

In the 1950s & 1960s when the top tax rate was 70-92%, we laid the interstate system, built the Internet, put a man on the moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thriving, our economy unparalleled. You want that back? Raise taxes on the rich.
Also during that time, the defense budget was around 10 percent of GDP (about twice today's percentage), immigration was relatively restricted, and public-sector unions were largely just beginning to be allowed. That's without mentioning many other factors the OWS people surely don't want, such as the Organization Man ethos of staying with a company your entire career. Leftists who indiscriminately praise the midcentury economy should be careful what they wish for.