G. K. C. on the paradox of reform

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’ [Read more…]

Jonah Goldberg on the limits of compromise

If I say we need one hundred feet of bridge to cross a one-hundred-foot chasm that makes me an extremist. Somebody else says we don’t need to build a bridge at all because we don’t need to cross the chasm in the first place. That makes him an extremist. The third guy is the centrist because he insists that we compromise by building a fifty-foot bridge that ends in the middle of thin air? As an extremist I’ll tell you that the other extremist has a much better grasp on reality than the centrist does. The extremists have a serious disagreement about what to do. The independent who wants to split the difference has no idea what to do and doesn’t want to bother with figuring it out.

—Jonah Goldberg, The Tyranny of Clichés

On bureaucracy

In another forum, on which a commenter offered an impassioned defence of bureaucracy, I countered with this:

In practice, bureaucracy is a way for petty officials to take the lemon of the rule of law, and turn it into the lemonade of the rule of men. This they do by making the rules so vexatious and difficult to obey that nothing can be done except by circumventing them through influence.

There is, or was, an office in Paris which is the sole source of a certain permit required to do a certain kind of business. In order to apply for this permit, you must have a properly filled-out form, obtainable from another office. The office that issues the form is only open in the afternoon. The office that issues the permit is only open in the morning. And the form itself is only valid on the date of issue. If you get the form on Monday afternoon, you cannot take it to the permit office until Tuesday morning, by which time it has expired. There is literally no way to obtain the permit, except by bribing the officials, or by being so rich and powerful that they dare not refuse you.

That, Sir, is why most people hate bureaucracy.

Aristotle on tyrants

In 1925, as a protest against the new and virulent strains of dictatorship then beginning to infect the world, Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King, which is now celebrated in the Novus Ordo Missae, and by many Protestant churches, on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, viz. today. This quotation caught my eye as appropriate to the occasion:

[T]he greatest crimes are caused by excess and not by necessity. Men do not become tyrants in order that they may not suffer cold; and hence great is the honour bestowed, not on him who kills a thief, but on him who kills a tyrant.

—Aristotle, Politics

Russ Nelson on economics

The difference between an economist and a politician is that the economist is sure that he doesn’t understand economics, and a politician is sure that he does.

Russ Nelson

George F. Will on means and ends

It is infantile to will an end without willing the means to that end.