A Reviewer's Notebook - 1975/1

With the two hundredth anniver­sary of the American Republic coming up, the publication of Alf J. Mapp, Jr.’s seventeen-year-old The Virginia Experiment (Open Court, $5.95) in an expanded paperback edition will have its purely ceremonial uses. Its theme is "the Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America: 1601-1781." But this reminder that the road from the settlement of Jamestown to Cornwallis’s capitulation at Yorktown took 174 years (prac­tically a half of our existence as a people on the North American continent) is not a ceremonial volume. What it tells us is that our problems hardly change at all from generation to generation.

Nor do the tried-and-true an­swers to the problems change. Britishers came to Virginia in the early Seventeenth Century as heirs to a tradition summed up as "the rights of Englishmen." They had behind them Magna Carta and the Common Law. They were also quickly caught up in the struggle to put a check on the power of any centralized and dis­tant government to tax its citizens without representation. True enough, the early Virginians were not followers of Oliver Cromwell. Unlike New England Puritans, they did not approve of regicides. But quite early they were pushed into becoming supporters of self-rule. Whether it was a Stuart or a Hanoverian court, or the incon­sistent Cromwellian Protectorate itself, that tried to levy taxes by ukase, Virginians objected.

When parliamentary commis­sioners notified the people of Northampton County at the time of the Navigation Acts that they would be subject to a tax of forty-six pounds of tobacco per poll, a committee of Virginians argued that the law that "requireth and enjoineth taxations from us" was "arbitrary and illegal, forasmuch as we had neither summons for election of Burgesses nor voice in their Assembly…" This state­ment, in the very middle of the Seventeenth Century, was the first formal American enunciation of the doctrine that taxation without representation is unjust.

How did a group of planters, men of culture and aristocratic leanings, become leaders of a movement that was ultimately to culminate in the rebellion against King George III? Partly it was the way of life that they led, and partly it was the economic vic­timization of all English colonials everywhere by a mercantilist philosophy that favored the home country. The big planters who dominated the first Burgesses were, many of them, younger sons. They sent their own sons back to England to be educated. They liked ceremony in their capital of Wil­liamsburg. They enjoyed a social life that often welcomed the par­ticipation of the Royal Governor. They could have been King’s Men forever if it hadn’t been for the distance from London and the difficulties of trying to live by one-crop cultivation in an age which insisted that tobacco, the "money" of the Virginia colonists, must be channeled to English ports before it could go to the European con­tinent.

The Habit of Self-Rule

A William Byrd II or a "King" Carter was virtually a government unto himself on his broad tide­water acres. This developed the habit of command. To the West, in hilly country, the smaller planter and the artisan and the iron miner from Prussia had to face the Indian, which was enough in itself to develop wariness and hardihood. So, when the struggle between England and France for the Eighteenth Century version of world domination waxed hot, it was natural for Virginians such as young George Washington to take charge of the local response to the conflict. The Virginians, who had been pushing out into the Ohio Country, were in the middle position in the colonies. They were defenders of what might be called the "salient." So they gladly accepted the main burden of fighting what was vari­ously known as the Seven Years War, the French and Indian War and — intoned with local pride —"Virginia’s War."

But what did they get out of it? After the fighting was over, stupid men in London tried to put the Ohio Country out of bounds for land-hungry Virginian soldiers. The Stamp Act, a notorious example of taxation without representation, was worse. The tax on tea was not particularly oner­ous, since coffee houses were the local rage, but other taxes on goods which agricultural Virgin­ians did not produce were like a red flag.

The forensic education of Vir­ginians, who were used to good libraries, was a factor in the ris­ing tide of rebellion. So, too, was the fact that a redheaded young­ster such as Thomas Jefferson had had the opportunity, under such teachers as George Wythe, to study the history and philosophy of government. Even a hill country lawyer such as Patrick Henry could bring the names of Brutus and Cromwell into inflam­matory speeches warning King George not to go too far. Natu­rally, when the Bostonians re­volted against the East India Company’s mercantilist grip on the tea trade, the Virginians re­sponded sympathetically.

Today’s Application

And the modern application of Mr. Mapp’s book? For tea, read oil. For the Eighteenth Century’s "right of vicinage," read anti-busing. For the non-importation association formed by the Vir­ginians in 1769, read Henry Kissinger’s attempt to organize the oil consuming countries to counter the Arab-Iranian-Venezuelan oil cartel. The circumstances differ, the fundamentals remain more or less identical.

The big lesson of The Virginia Experiment for a bicentennial year is "beware of the politicians." Jefferson, with his philosophy of limited government, said it all even before the "Virginia ex­periment" had merged with the creation of President Washing­ton’s American nation.

The Eighteenth Century Vir­ginians, along with such citizens of Massachusetts as John Adams, believed in a four-fold foundation of the rights of the colonials. Their rights depended (1) on na­ture, (2) on the British constitu­tion, (3) on charters and (4) on immemorial usage (the Common Law). Some of the middle Atlantic colonies differed with the Vir­ginians and the Puritans. The leader of the Pennsylvanians, Joseph Galloway, disagreed with Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on the subject of the "law of nature," from which the doctrine of na­tural rights derives. Galloway would have set up a Grand Coun­cil of the colonies whose acts would be subject to the veto of a Presi­dent-General appointed by the King and holding office at royal pleasure. Together, the Council and the President-General would constitute an "inferior" branch of the British parliament.

But this would have substituted Divine Right, in the person of the King’s appointee, for the na­tural right of the colonists to make their own laws. It would also mean that the King might treat Americans as something less than free-born Englishmen.

Galloway’s plan was rejected. The theory of natural rights, as espoused by Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson, became the undergirding of America’s inde­pendence. Will we desert this theory in our 200th year? Not if the spirit of Virginia prevails.

 

4 ECONOMICS AND MARX: THE FRAUDULENT ANTAGONISTS by Howard Brandenburg (The Hillsdale Press, San Mateo, Cali­fornia, 1974), 277 pp. This book also is available from the Foundation for Economic Educa­tion.

Reviewed by Bettina Bien Greaves

What can a former corporation lawyer, special assistant U. S. at­torney and retired navy captain possibly know about economics? A great deal, if his name is How­ard Brandenburg and if one judges from his recent book, Eco­nomics and Marx: The Fraudulent Antagonists.

Mr. Brandenburg’s formal schooling was in law. He studied economics on his own, so did not waste time, money and energy having to learn, and then unlearn, macro-economic statistics and mathematical formulae which now pass for economics in most col­lege classrooms. Mr. Brandenburg has obviously read widely and well. He understands the major contributions of the sound econ­omists and can spot an economic fallacy at long range. His major whipping boys in this book are Karl Marx and all who wittingly or unwittingly follow in his ideo­logical footsteps.

The author realizes that it is not enough simply to attack Marx’s conclusions. Marx’s foun­dations, his reasoning, his logic, his "epistemology" must be de­molished. And this Mr. Branden­burg proceeds to do forthwith. He starts by explaining that economic theories and laws are all derived, as Mises puts it, "from those principles with which every new­born babe comes potentially equipped." Only on the basis of such irrefutable a priori proposi­tions may a logically consistent science of economics be con­structed.

The longest chapter in the book attacks the idea that economics is "empirical," i.e., based on ob­servation of historical data and statistical aggregates. In refuting this position, Mr. Brandenburg shows that economics is a very different kind of science. It deals with units which cannot be quan­tified, measured, totaled, multi­plied or divided with any mean­ingful results — the conscious ac­tions and subjective values of in­dividuals. Because individuals do not act mechanically, the laws of statistical probability are suspect. "People throw dice," he writes, "but people are not dice." The au­thor comes down hard on persons who try to base economic theories on "what everybody knows," when they should build on "what every­body is." He dismisses "thin-air statistics," saying that "if it is dishonest to get something for nothing, isn’t it slightly dishonest to get something out of nothing?"

The next longest chapter in the book goes after Karl Marx, the labor theory of value and the doc­trine of worker exploitation. The author again reasons from basic a priori and marginal utility theory, arriving at the subjective value theory, thus thoroughly re­futing and demolishing the Marx­ian labor theory.

Mr. Brandenburg quotes widely from the works of empiricists, historicists, socialists and Marx­ists. He often succeeds in turning their own quotations against the very theories they espouse. One of the most outspoken Marxists, Oskar Lange, is quoted as having rejected the Marxian theory of labor and turned of necessity to marginal analysis to explain the determination of prices. The au­thor also cites the work of many leading spokesmen for the free market, marginal utility, subjec­tive theory of value.

When all is said and done, the reader is led to several important conclusions. The socialists have claimed to be empirical and scien­tific, but they are not! They have argued that they can forecast, but they can’t! They have asserted that workers are exploited, but they aren’t! For years they held that nationalizations were neces­sary to socialize an economy, only to be forced to abandon that inte­gral plank in their platform. All their pet doctrines break down for, as Mr. Brandenburg explains, all of us — capitalists and social­ists alike — are forced to conform with the laws of human action and the principles of economics. Peo­ple must act in accord with their subjective values and calculate on the basis of the marginal utility theory to determine market prices. If they don’t they cannot function at all and their whole economic system must break down. Sooner or later the socialists must also recognize that they cannot calcu­late unless consumers in their society are free to purchase or not to purchase as they wish and entrepreneurs are free to do their best to try to satisfy the demands of those free consumers.

Mr. Brandenburg has contrib­uted to the understanding of Marxian fallacies and to the fact that a communist society cannot calculate and plan economic pro­duction rationally. En route to un­derstanding Marxian fallacies, read­ers of his book should come to rec­ognize also that modern empirical "economists" base their elaborate statistical models on similar fal­lacies.

Mr. Brandenburg’s many quota­tions are well chosen and pertinent and his comments sound and help­ful. His book is not light reading but its message is worthy of atten­tion by serious students of eco­nomic theory and especially those interested in the claims that eco­nomic calculation can exist under socialism.

 

4 THE INCREDIBLE BREAD MA­CHINE by various authors. (World Research, Inc., Campus Studies Institute Division, 11722 Sorrento Valley Road, San Diego, California 92121, 1974) 192 pp.

Reviewed by Brian Summers

The Campus Studies Institute has, for several years, supplied college students with superbly written pamphlets on free market economics. Now six members of its student staff (Susan Love Brown, Karl Keating, David Mellinger, Patrea Post, Stuart Smith and Catriona Tudor) have extensively revised and updated R. W. Grant’s The Incredible Bread Machine.

The results are exciting. It is exciting that these young people understand and write so well about economics. And it is exciting to contemplate the effects this book could have on high school and col­lege campuses.

Social security, antitrust, union monopoly privileges, minimum wages, farm programs, civil rights, the business cycle: these are just a sample of the items cov­ered. Of necessity in a work of this length, the coverage of each topic is brief, although often amazingly compact. Few words are wasted. For those readers whose interests are whetted, and I expect there will be many, more than 150 re­ferences have been provided.

This book is firmly on the side of the free market. "What if gov­ernment could only use its power defensively to protect the life, lib­erty and property of its citizens against the initiation of force and fraud from others?" This is the ideal. At no point is this ideal com­promised.

The Incredible Bread Machine is one of the finest introductions to political economy I have seen. Its catchy style made it difficult for me to put down. If enough people pick it up, and live by its message, the winds of change may once again turn toward liberty.

 

WILL THE REAL YOUNG AMERICA PLEASE STAND UP?

by Mark Evans (Stackpole Books, Cameron and Kelker Streets, Harrisburg, Pa. 17105, 1973) 218 pp.

Reviewed by Edmund A. Opitz

Not everyone takes pleasure in discussing a controversial issue on its merits; the line of least re­sistance for many is to blunt the edge of an adversary’s argument by suggesting that his position re­flects self-interest of some sort. Thus the Marxist asserts that only the proletariat can understand communism; the Freudian fends off objections by alleging that cri­tics are motivated by unconscious impulses; speculation as to why a person embraces a philosophy comes to seem more important than the philosophy itself. And by the same token the young are posi­tive that the old are incapable of grasping the true inwardness of youth simply because they are over thirty. The generation gap is no new thing, of course, but today’s gap is somewhat wider than hith­erto. It should be added that there are wide gaps visible among the 20-21 year olds themselves, espe­cially between those who work and those in college. Nevertheless, there is a feeling of strain between young Americans and old; they talk past each other, much of the time. What’s a middle-aged person to make of hard rock, the sex and drug scene, the outlandish getups, the vagabondage? If he tries to get with it he only looks silly to young and old alike. All healing comes from within.

It’s right here that the Mark Evans book is important. Evans is in his mid-twenties, but he al­ready has his Ph.D. from one of the tough graduate schools; he’s a musician and writer. And he tack­les the problems faced by his peers, people under thirty, in terms familiar to them, and from the in­side. Communicating with the young as no outsider can, he dis­sects rock music, analyses the de­basement of standards, comes down hard on drugs and violence. On the positive side he offers a re­storation of sound values and says some excellent things about the basic institutions of every civili­zation: home, school and church. This is a sane and healthy book. 

Further Reading

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