Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose

Laffer Curve

Laffer Curve

Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose

Stephen Michael MacLean condemns economic illiteracy

President Barack Obama mounted the bully pulpit last month, to decry the practice of ‘tax inversion’ and those corporations with the effrontery to believe in private property and the profit motive, thus escaping exorbitant tax bills by moving operations out of the United States for the welcoming low-tax jurisdictions of foreign lands.

According to an AP News report:

“Obama called it ‘one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there’ because it shortchanges the country. He said less tax revenue means the government can’t fully spend on schools, transportation networks and other things to keep the economy strong. He said the practice also hurts middle-class Americans because ‘that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.'”

Oh, dear! Where does one begin to enumerate President Obama’s recurring penchant for economic (and constitutional) illiteracy?

A cursory critique would note the President’s assumption that personal earnings belong to the State, whose beneficence allows earners a share — but not more than their fair share.

Also notable is that this reputed constitutional scholar is more than a bit rusty on the actual text of the U.S. Constitution, which nowhere grants to the Executive authority responsibility for the quaint sobriquet of ‘internal improvements’; moreover, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments specifically reserved such public goods to private citizens and the States.

Yet it is on the economic front that President Obama’s jeremiad — sadly shared by most politicians — is most alarming.

Middle-class Americans would be among those most hurt by Washington’s tax grab, as it is corporate revenue that funds capital accumulation, innovation, and economic growth. Tax away profit, and you tax away employment opportunities.

“The old truth still holds,” Margaret Thatcher once told a Conservative conference: “there is much harm and only modest good that governments can do to promote a successful economy. And the more sophisticated the global economy becomes, the truer that will be.”

Moreover, to denote a ‘middle’ implies two opposites; within the political context, the ‘poor’ and the ‘wealthy’. State redistribution affects the three classes disproportionately: Wealth can take care of itself — as in the case of inversion, moving off-shore to escape punitive U.S. tax law … the poor, the dependent clientele of politicians, are taken care of through welfare schemes … while the middle class is left to its own devices. Yale sociologist W.G. Sumner skewered this phenomenon:

“All taxation has the same effect. It presses hardest on those who, under the conditions of their position in life and the demands which are made upon them, are trying to save capital and improve their circumstances. The heavier it becomes, the faster it crushes out this class of persons — that is, all the great middle class…”

The case against the folly of tax-greed was made a century earlier by Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations. “Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible, over and above what it brings into the publick treasury of the state.”

Furthermore, “a tax may either take out or keep out of the pockets of the people a great deal more than it brings into the publick treasury,” Smith wrote. This is the essence of Laffer Curve analysis that proves that taxing beyond a certain point results in less tax collected.

If President Obama were truly interested in American economic well-being, he would be receptive to the reality that high taxes not only depress tax revenues, but starve entrepreneurial innovation of its necessary capital structure. Smith, too, foresaw this tax perversion:

“It may obstruct the industry of the people, and discourage them from applying to certain branches of business which might give maintenance and employment to great multitudes. While it obliges the people to pay, it may thus diminish, or perhaps destroy some of the funds, which might enable them more easily to do so.”

But ideology blinds many of the Washington élite. Not content to tax within the bounds of justice, governments have become gluttonous tax-eaters, feasting upon the sustenance of individual and corporate tax-payers. Like the greedy farmer who axed the goose that laid golden eggs, parasitic states will tax their host-citizens to financial death.

Stephen Michael MacLean is a freelance researcher, residing in Canada. He blogs as the Organic Tory at the Disraeli-Macdonald Institute

 

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America First, by Ilana Mercer

Donald-Trump

America First, by Ilana Mercer

 The Donald puts flesh on his foreign policy

“Unsophisticated rambling,” “simplistic,” “reckless.” The verdict on Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy, unveiled after his five-for-five victory in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut, was handed down by vested interests: members of the military-media-think-tank complex.

People like Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. People that Dwight D. Eisenhower counseled against, in his farewell address to the nation.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Continue reading

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Strange Bedfellows in Canada

 

CCF Saskatchewan Section, Towards the Dawn

CCF (Saskatchewan Section), Towards the Dawn

Strange Bedfellows in Canada

Mark Wegierski detects a convergence of the “Old” Left and Right

One can look at the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada – and its precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) – to highlight the differences between the so-called “Old Left” and the new Left-Liberal consensus.

In the May 2, 2011, federal election in Canada, the New Democratic Party – Canada’s social democratic party – won 103 seats, thus displacing the Liberal Party, and becoming the Official Opposition. However, in the October 19, 2015 election, they were swept away by the Justin Trudeau tide, falling to 44 seats. Some blamed Tom Mulcair’s centrist-tending campaign (especially the promise to keep the federal budget balanced) for this loss.

Tommy Douglas, revered today by many in Canada as the founder of the Canadian Medicare System, was a longtime leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Like many on the “Old Left”, Tommy Douglas was surprisingly conservative on cultural and social issues. For example, medicare was initially adopted in the province of Saskatchewan as part of a pro-natalist, pro-family policy. Tommy Douglas also advocated what later became called “workfare” – appalled by the idea that able-bodied men should receive government money without rendering some kind of constructive labor. And he hated deficits, arguing that fiscal prudence was necessary “to keep the bankers off the government’s back”.

Tommy Douglas, Poletical.com

Tommy Douglas, Poletical.com

While ferociously fighting for equality for the working majority, much of the “Old Left” had no wish to challenge religion, family, and nation. They were thus social-democratic in economics, but socially conservative. Indeed, most of the “Old Left” would have found the concerns of the post-Sixties’ Left as highly questionable, if not repugnant.

One could therefore ask the question – do the genuine Left and the genuine Right converge today as an “anti-system opposition”? A number of social critics across the spectrum, such as U.S. paleoconservative theorist Paul Edward Gottfried, and Frankfurt School-inspired Paul Piccone, the late editor of the eclectic, New York-based, independent scholarly journal, Telos, have perceived the ruling structures of current-day society in terms of a “managerial Right” and a “therapeutic Left”. Piccone’s interpretation of the Frankfurt School was unusual as he saw its members as critics of the managerial-therapeutic regime – as opposed to a more common view that they had in fact significantly aided in the institution of the system.

Telos, www.telospress.com

Telos, www.telospress.com

According to Gottfried and Piccone, there currently exists a pseudo-conflict between the officially-approved Right and Left which in reality represents little more than a debate between managerial styles. The “managerial Right,” typified by soulless multinational or transnational corporations (including the big banks and financial firms that a few years ago received over a trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money) represents the consumerist, business, economic side of the system. The “therapeutic Left,” typified by arrogant social engineers, advocates redistribution of resources along politically-correct lines, and “sensitivity-training” for recalcitrants. Traditionalists and some eclectic left-wingers oppose both the “managerial Right” and the “therapeutic Left,” as together constituting today’s “new Establishment,” or “New Class.”

The Left is also identified today, by some traditionalist and eclectic critics, such as Michael Medved (author of Hollywood vs. America) and Daniel Bell (author of The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism), with the rougher edges of the pop-culture, which similarly seeks to negate traditional social norms. The profit motive of the corporations, and the rebelliousness of the cultural Left and of late modern culture in general, feed off each other. The pop-culture in America and Canada (including certain reckless and irresponsible academic and art trends) and the consumer culture, are tightly intertwined. But the sense of an integrated self and society, where people can hold a meaningful identity, and in which real public and political discourse can take place, is fundamentally in atrophy.

The real division in both the U.S. and Canada, then, is between supporters and critics of the managerial-therapeutic regime. The critics include genuine traditionalists – people who respect religion and concrete, rooted locality, and are able to perceive the assaults of both capitalists and therapeutic experts against them – as well as the communitarian tendency (that was especially prominent in the early to mid-1990s) which emphasizes “real communities” as against corporate and therapeutic manipulations. While some leftists denounce Christopher Lasch as a reactionary, he continued to identify himself as a social democrat to the end of his life.

The possibility of a coalition of the authentic Right and Left against the ersatz Right and Left Establishment conglomerate was anticipated by John Ruskin, the nineteenth-century art critic and social commentator, who – in an age of a pre-totalitarian and pre-politically-correct Left – could confidently say, “I am a Tory of the sternest sort, a socialist, a communist.” G. K. Chesterton, likewise, made pointed criticisms of managerialist and consumerist capitalism, which he presciently noted was based on the premise of unending economic growth which must ultimately destroy nature and thoroughly undermine social mores and human dignity. He defended the broader lower-middle- and working-classes and called for more local and human-scale systems of economy.

In the wake of the financial and economic crises that engulf the planet today, both Right and Left should look to some of their more unconventional thinkers for guidance on how we can emerge in better condition from these troubled times.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher

 

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Everything and more

Thatcher

Everything and more

Margaret Thatcher, the Authorised Biography, Everything she Wants, by Charles Moore, Allen Lane, ISBN 978-0-713-99288-5

Angela Ellis-Jones reviews the second volume of the definitive biography of Margaret Thatcher

This is the second volume of Charles Moore’s projected three volume biography of Margaret Thatcher – ‘the first woman, in the whole of western democratic history, who truly came to dominate her country in her time’. It covers the zenith of her power, from the aftermath of the Falklands War in 1982 – and her subsequent (and consequent) victory in the general election of 1983 – to her third election victory in 1987. The title, taken from a contemporary pop song, is perhaps rather strange given that the author states at the outset ‘only by writing this book did I come to understand just how insecure Mrs Thatcher’s position often felt in these years – not least to her’. Continue reading

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Der Rosenkavalier

Rosenkavalier191314.14

Der Rosenkavalier

Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss, Deutsche Oper Berlin, April 2016. Director Götz Friedrich, Das Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin conducted by Ulf Schirmer. Reviewed by Tony Cooper

First performed in January 1911 at the Königliches Opernhaus (predecessor of Semperoper), Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) was conducted at its première by the maestro of the day, Ernst Edler von Schuch, who also found himself in the pit for the premières of Strauss’ Feuersnot, Salomé and Elektra. And a maestro of eminent importance today, Ulf Schirmer, general music director of Oper Leipzig, spun his magic in the pit controlling a wonderfully-entertaining production featuring a stellar cast that marked the end of a very successful mini-Strauss festival mounted by Deutsche Oper with packed houses every night.

Der Rosenkavalier actually played to a packed house on its première. It was an overnight success but the Dresden authorities were concerned that audiences would find it offensive no doubt worried about the amorous adventures of Baron Ochs who manages to get himself in all kinds of trouble. In this well-directed production by Götz Friedrich (first seen in February 1993) he was up to his old tricks. Albert Pesendorfer portrayed Ochs in the usual coarse and vulgar manner in keeping with his bullish and arrogant character. But gladly he didn’t over-act the role, as so often is the case, and together with his lackeys they made an effective comedy team.

The opera’s working title was, in fact, Ochs von Lerchenau, appropriate enough for in German ‘ochs’ translates as ‘ox’, a word which correctly depicts the strong-minded character of the Baron.

The libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal was partially sourced from Claude Terrasse’s operetta L’Ingénu libertin and Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac but Strauss set to work on what he called a ‘komödie für musik’ well before the libretto was delivered to him.

Strauss was also quick to pick up on the new 19th-century dance craze raging in Vienna and worked several waltz passages into the score as a medium to evoke the atmosphere of Old Vienna. But what we regard as wonderful pieces today was not always the case. When the opera reached La Scala, for instance, steadfast and excitable Italians booed the waltzes which, in their view, were only suitable for the grand society balls of Vienna.

Such great singers as Elisabeth Söderström, Lotte Lehmann and Renée Fleming have been closely associated with the central role of Die Feldmarschallin. Now you can add to this star-studded list, German soprano Michaela Kaune, who, deputising for Anja Harteros at short notice, had no trouble in the role whatsoever. She put in a warm and sincere performance and looked radiant and aristocratic as befitting her station in society.

The opening scene in the Marschallin’s boudoir, decked out with sky-blue sofas and matching bottle-green curtains, sees her cavorting between white satin-covered sheets with the youthful Octavian. Daniela Sindram delivered a well-mannered and detailed performance in this role. She made a triumphant start to a joyous production that never faltered in its pace to its conclusion featuring that gloriously-romantic trio, the highlight of the opera, in which the Marschallin renounces her love for Octavian while offering him reluctantly, but graciously, to her young and beautiful rival, Sophie, brilliantly sung by the Australian soprano, Siobhan Stagg. The richly-textured voices of the three female leads produced a range of colour and purity of tone that was simply a joy to listen to.

When Hofmannsthal sent Strauss the draft copy of the trio, the composer was delighted and dutifully replied: ‘It will set itself to music like oil and melted butter. I’m hatching it already.’ He hatched, indeed, an extraordinary piece which he loved so much that he requested to have it played at his funeral.

Overall the opera – colourfully (and stylishly) set in 1920s Vienna – was well cast and Matthew Newlin, who as the Italian singer in act I, excelled in his big number delivering the flowing and flowery love-song Di rigori armato il senon (Armed rigors of the breast) completely ‘over-the-top’ in a very expressive way while showing contempt for Ochs over his boisterous and constant interruption.

But the formality of the Presentation of the Silver Rose by Octavian, the grand affair in act II, was executed with the pomp and circumstance of a state occasion. The scenario was acted out against a brilliantly-designed set reminiscent of the plush and ornate period of the belle époque comprising café tables, decorative furniture and red carpets while floor-to-ceiling mirrors positioned at various angles offered a distorted but effective reflection of the assembled guests ranging from the lower orders to the landed gentry with Jörn Schörner, Faninal’s Haushofmeister, bossing them about as befits his status as the major domo. In among all this, Octavian and Sophie manifested their love for each other singing calmly and warmly, Wo war ich schon einmal (Where I was before and was so blessed).

Michael Kupfer-Radecky’s fine baritone voice perfectly fitted the role of Herr von Faninal (Sophie’s father) while Patrick Vogel (Valzacchi) and Stephanie Lauricella (Annina) were cunning and devious to the nth degree, bent on revenge against poor old Ochs. And revenge comes in a most satisfying and humiliating way in which Ochs puffs himself up for a rendezvous with Octavian masquerading under the name of ‘Mariandel’. The appointed place for Ochs’ downfall turns out to be a cabaret theatre sporting a great team of brightly-dressed burlesque acts strutting about the stage at random with a celebration party going on in full swing while Ochs is getting ready to entertain Mariandel, looking sweet and very much a ‘Heidi’ dressed in dirndl and braids. But, unwittingly, he soon finds himself propelled on to centre stage and the star act of the night! His intimate and private supper turns out to be a waking nightmare and he is caught with his pants down in full view of the police, cameras and hangers-on.

Octavian and Sophie slip away from the scene of his disgrace but not before delivering the opera’s final aria, Ist ein Traum (It is a dream), sung so passionately by Ms Sindram and Ms Stagg that it perfectly ended a brilliant, heart-warming and satisfying production. And, indeed, ended Deutsche Oper’s mini-Strauss festival which kicked off in a blaze of glory with Salomé and Elektra. All five operas were convincingly staged and extremely well cast. But what one takes away from the festival is seeing for the first time those two rarities: Die ägyptische Helena and Die Liebe der Danae. They were absolutely brilliant pieces and one hopes that they remain – for the foreseeable future, anyway – in Deutsche Oper’s repertoire. They deserve to!

Tony Cooper has been working in the field of publishing and the arts for a number of years writing mainly for Archant newspaper group based in his home city of Norwich. Nowadays, he focuses on opera and classical music. He is a great admirer of Richard Strauss and Wagner

 

 

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Testosterone, Going, Going, Almost Gone…

4_lioness-hunting_l

Testosterone, Going, Going, Almost Gone…

Ilana Mercer celebrates the she male

There are only two men in the 2016 presidential race: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Like or dislike her, there’s no questioning Hillary’s manly bona fides. Mrs. Clinton is as tough as she’s philosophically misguided.

At the first Democratic debate, on October 14, 2015, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee shuffled meekly to their respective podiums.

Only Jim Webb and Mrs. Clinton strode onto that stage like soldiers. Continue reading

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Traditionalism and Ecology

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

Traditionalism and Ecology 

Timely reflections from Mark Wegierski, on Earth Day, 2016

This is a sketch of a synthesis of ecological issues with notions of culture and tradition. What are some of the affinities between traditionalist and ecological thinking?

The United States and Canada participate today in the worldwide trends to technology (sci-tech); urbanization and migration; media; tribalism; and violence.

These trends constitute the ongoing crisis of national sovereignty and meaningful democracy. Continue reading

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Die ägyptische Helena

Helen by Gustave Moreau

Helen, by Gustave Moreau

Die ägyptische Helena

Die ägyptische Helena, Richard Strauss, Deutsche Oper Berlin, April 2016. Director Marco Arturo Marelli, Das Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin conducted by Andrew Litton. Reviewed by Tony Cooper

Following on from Strauss’ well-loved operas, Salomé and Elektra, Deutsche Oper continued their five-day mini-Strauss fest offering a rarity with Die ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helena), a two-act opera set to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal who, for inspiration, sourced material from Euripides and Stesichorus.

Strauss wrote the title-role for the celebrated Czech-born soprano Maria Jeritza but creating quite a stir at the time, the Dresden management refused to pay the large fee she demanded and, therefore, cast Elisabeth Rethberg instead as Helena of Troy. Continue reading

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Die Liebe der Danae

1904_Richard_Strauss

Die Liebe der Danae

Die Liebe der Danae, Richard Strauss, Deutsche Oper Berlin, April 2016. Director Kirsten Harms, Das Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin conducted by Sebastian Weigle. Reviewed by Tony Cooper

German soprano, Manuela Uhl – who delivered a fine performance as Elektra’s sister, Chrysothemis, in Elektra – found herself back at Deutsche Oper within a couple of days to take on the demanding title-role of Die Liebe der Danae, the penultimate work in Strauss’ output of 15 operas which received its première at the Salzburg Festival in August 1952.

Arrangements were actually made for it to be staged in 1944 but following the July plot to assassinate Hitler, Joseph Goebbels closed all theatres within the Third Reich resulting in the opera not being allowed a public staging. He did permit a single dress rehearsal in Salzburg conducted by Clemens Krauss performed in the company of Strauss and an invited audience.

During the rehearsal Strauss walked down to the orchestral rail in order to listen closely to the beautiful final interlude in the last act which contains the opera’s finest music. Contemporary accounts tell that Strauss raised his hands in a gesture of gratitude and spoke to the orchestra in a voice choked with tears: ‘Perhaps we shall meet again in a better world.’ He was unable to say any more. Silent and deeply moved, everyone present remained still as he left the auditorium.

Set to a German libretto by Joseph Gregor, the opera – which could be considered a morality play in which true love triumphs over lust for material wealth – is based on Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Danae – The Marriage of Convenience written in 1920.

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Sadly, it is not often performed nowadays. One reason seems to be the complexities of its stage directions but Kirsten Harms didn’t seem to encounter any such problems in this respect. She delivered a remarkable production using very few props but still made good use of Deutsche Oper’s large stage mainly with the movement of the opera’s extremely forceful 78-strong chorus who gave the bankrupt king, Pollux, a run for his money (no pun intended!) in the opening scene as outraged citizens wanting to know where he has squandered all the wealth of his kingdom. Following the second act they were treated to their own curtain-call and, deservedly, lapped up every second!

Bizarrely, one of the main props was a grand piano hoisted to the rafters and left hanging upside down for the rest of the opera. Was it meant to represent Pollux’ throne? If so, was the upturned piano meant to represent Pollux in complete disarray and being made to dance to a new tune while giving way to the new order? And in act II, Danae’s recollection of a dream being showered with golden rain was also confusing portrayed with reams of sheet music raining down upon her.

The central character of Danae is a taxing role and Manuela Uhl put in a brilliant and assertive performance. She harbours the right kind of voice for Strauss: strong, bright and forceful one minute, tender, lyrical and sonorous the next. She was suitably attired, too, looking regal in a ravishing gold-lamé dress with a long train which, surprisingly, didn’t hinder her stage movement.

Baritone Mark Delavan (Jupiter) and Belgian tenor Thomas Blondelle (Mercury) fitted their parts admirably well while American tenor, Raymond Very, Midas, who first appears in disguise as Chrysopher, the donkey-driver whose identity gets confusingly entwined with Jupiter, added a touch of humour to the overall proceedings while British tenor, Andrew Dickinson delivered an entertaining performance as king Pollux.

But distraught Pollux is relying on his daughter, Danae, to save the day. She dreams of a wealthy husband in terms of that shower of golden rain and royal envoys return with news that Midas, who can turn all things into gold, is coming to woo her.

The scene when Danae receives the stranger – confusingly, Midas in disguise as his own messenger – was beautifully portrayed. They seemed drawn to each other but slightly distant, too. As they proceed to the harbour to welcome the supposed king Midas, Jupiter sneaks into his place in pursuit of another female conquest and greets Danae instead.

As Jupiter prepares for his marriage to her he fears being found out by his wife Juno so he forces Midas to deputise for him at the ceremony. More confusion! But when Danae and Midas embrace, she’s turned into a golden statue (a magical moment!) and Jupiter claims her as his divine bride. Magic was everywhere in this production and it reappeared when Danae calls out to the mortal Midas for help. He duly obliges and she’s instantly returned to life. As the lovers disappear into the darkness, Jupiter throws his weight around conjuring up a storm and igniting a few explosives for good measure cursing Danae to a poverty-stricken life.

The opera, especially in the last act, has strong Wagnerian overtones. Strauss evidently equated the role of Jupiter with that of Wotan and we see him old and washed up and disillusioned with life in his last tête-à-tête with Danae who seems to harbour the same sadness and melancholy that confronted Brünnhilde at the end of Götterdämmerung.

In the end, Jupiter pays off Pollux’s creditors and realising that Danae’s far more than a passing amorous fancy he makes one last desperate attempt to win her back. But to no avail and as she gives him a hair-clasp, her last golden possession, he accepts his loss with a moving farewell. Danae then admits that it was her love for Midas rather than his golden cloak that really won her heart.

There was some fine singing from four queens – Semele (Nicole Haslett), Europa (Martina Welschenbach), Alkmene (Rebecca Jo loeb) and Leda (Katharina Peetz) – who could have jumped out of Das Rheingold especially when frolicking and teasing Jupiter to distraction on a satin-covered bed. And let’s not forget the four kings either: Paul Kaufmann, Clemens Bieber, Thomas Lehman and Alexei Botnarcluc. Their contribution was invaluable.

Overall, an excellent production and one sincerely hopes that it is kept in Deutsche Oper’s repertoire for the foreseeable future. It is worth a trip to Berlin just to see it.

Midas Bathing by Bartelemo Manfredi

Midas Bathing by Bartelemo Manfredi

Tony Cooper has been working across the field of publishing and the arts for a number of years writing mainly for Archant newspaper group based in his home city of Norwich. Nowadays, he focuses more on opera and classical music and he greatly admires the works of Richard Strauss and Wagner

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High Priestess of Paleolibertarianism

Ilana Mercer

Ilana Mercer

High Priestess of Paleolibertarianism

Ilana Mercer gets personal

The reader should know that I cringe as I write this first-person account.

Why the disclaimer?

Opinion differs about how often to use the first person pronoun in various genres of writing. Certainly its overuse in opinion writing is a cardinal sin. To get a sense of how bad someone’s writing is count the number of times he deploys the Imperial “I” on the page.

Abuse “I” when the passive-form alternative is too clumsy. Or, when the writer has earned the right to, because of her relevance to the story. The second is my excuse here.

Righting two wrongs I must. Continue reading

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