Cultural Appropriation

I have been reading Polybius’ histories lately – these are in many ways centered on the Punic Wars (which were a defining conflict of the day), and thus on the illustrious Barca family: Hamilcar Barca, his son Hannibal and Hannibal’s brothers (Hasdrubal and Mago). Now, what can we tell about these people: The word Barca is the same semitic word as Barak. Hamilcar means “brother of Melqart”, the latter being the patron god of Tyre (the word is again Semitic, and composed of Melekh (king) and qart (which still means City in Hebrew).
. The word for brother is exactly the same as the modern Hebrew word.  The word Hannibal means “Grace of Ba’al” (the word Ba’al still meaning “master” in Hebrew to this day). Hannibal’s name would be Yohanan (so, John) in Hebrew – “Yo” (for Yahweh) replaces “Ba’al” , the rest of the name is the same. Hasdrubal is the mangling of AzruBa’al (God Helps), which is the exact analog of Azariah (with Ya again replacing Ba’al – another cognate is Ezra). Finally,  Mago means the same as Matisyahu (Matthew) – God’s gift. The also sound similar. Let us now look at the pictures of some of these gentlemen (Mago’s countenance seems to not have been preserved for posterity). It appears that Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and their dad were immortalized in coinage, as follows. First, Hamilcar:

Dishekel_hispano-cartaginés-2

Now, Hasdrubal:

Hasdrubal_coin

And finally, Hannibal:

Carthage,_quarter_shekel,_237-209_BC,_SNG_BM_Spain_102

All of these gentlemen look like close relatives – Hamilcar and Hasdrubal look like my granfather Израиль Борисович (Israel ben Baruch), Hannibal like my cousin Daniel. I am sure any other Jew reading this can find similar resemblances, while any anti-semite will find a close resemblance between the schnozzes of the Barcas and those of the caricatured money-grubbing Jews.

Interestingly, the resemblance does not end at the Schnozz. It seems that, apart from the general staff, the Carthaginians outsourced their fighting to Numidians (Berbers), Spaniards, Celts, and other such, preferring to concentrate on business themselves. This did not work out in the end, because the completely unwarlike denizens of Carthage itself were easy prey for the Romans (this was their undoing in all three Punic Wars). Interestingly, this methodology was used  by Jews, off-and-on for two millenia, with variable success (the most famous, though not the most important, being the Jewish leadership of the Khazars).

You would think that at this point it will be clear that the Carthaginians (and in particular the family of Hannibal) were a Semitic people, culturally close to their cousins the Jews (this may, perhaps, explain why the Romans took their struggles against the Jews two-to-three centuries later so seriously).

But no. There seems to be a bizarre appropriationist streak trying to claim Hannibal was a Mandingo warrior.

Another reference, in addition to strange ethnological claims (about which see below) flying in the face of all evidence, points out that there is not one but two movies coming out about Hannibal, one starring Denzel Washington, another Vin Diesel.  Neither of these gentlemen bear any ethnic resemblance to the Barcas whatever (this, in addition to the other minor detail that Hannibal was in his late twenties at the beginning of the second punic war, so some forty years younger than Washington, and about thirty years younger than Diesel. But we will let that slide, because, well, acting. Anyway, this continued attempt to steal other people’s history is about the most pathetic display of racial insecurity I have seen…

Ethnological claims This claims that Phoenicians (and Canaanites in general) were black negroid people. This claim stems from the biblical story of Noah, where Canaan is a son of Ham. However, the Bible at no point claims that Ham was black, and his blackness was a much later uneducated invention (designed to justify black slavery). For more on this (and the Caucasian aspect of the Hamites) see the ever-trusty Wikipedia.

A follow-up to the follow-up

In my recent post I discussed  Alessandro Strumia’s CERN talk, where he provided statistical evidence for discrimination in favor of women in Physics (except in China, where women are, apparently, discriminated against). Curiously, the very next day more anecdotal support came for Strumia’s thesis. The Nobel Prizes in Physics were announced, and this year they were awarded 1/2 to Arthur Ashkin and 1/2 to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland, the third woman in history to receive the award. It was immediately noted that Strickland was, at the time of the award (though obviously not for much longer) an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo Physics department. There was immediate wailing, gnashing of teeth, and talk of glass ceilings.

However, the truth is, in a way, much worse. The standard metric in the hard sciences (less so in pure mathematics, which is a much smaller field) is the h-index. The h-index of a researcher equals N if he has N papers each of which has at least N citations (so, notice that the number of citations thus counted is equal to the square of N). Typically, prominent scientists (in physics and chemistry) have h-index in the forties and above. This year, Ashkin has an h-index of 52 (a little low, but then, but he is an industrial physicist), Mourou has an h-index of 110. Other relatively recent Nobel prize winners have h-index at least in the sixties. Dr. Strickland has an h-index of 15 (all numbers according to the Web of Science), which is consistent with still being an associate professor in a decent department. I have no expertise in photonics, so I don’t know the extent of Strickland’s contribution to her joint work with Mourou, but recent comments by the Nobel  Prize committee about the insufficient number of female Nobelists cannot help but come to mind.

Remark: Of course, the citation numbers in Mathematics (while less relevant) are also interesting: most recent Fields medalists have h-index around 16. The two notable exceptions are the late Maryam Mirzakhani (9) and C. Birkar (suspected by some as a political medal, being a refugee from the middle east) (also 9) [note, this is according to MathSciNet, since the Web of Science makes a mess of mathematics journals). Make of this what you will.

Fatwas-r-us

After what seemed to be a civil exchange of opinions on Lior Pachter’s blog post concerning Ted Hill’s paper (OK, Pachter was not civil, but I tried to be as civil as possible), I was amused (and a little shocked) to find that a fatwa was proclaimed against your humble author. And not only me, but all those who have anything to do with me. In other words, some people who I actually respected (at least as mathematicians) have decided to excommunicate me and the journals I was editorializing for (in perpetuity – even employing me once is deemed a mortal sin). Enjoy, but ponder that this is what we have come to.

 

andyputain

A follow-up to Hill’s paper or – is free speech dead in the West?

Things seem to come in bunches, and just (under) three weeks after Ted Hill’s Quillette.com article, and much discussion in the various blogs (Tao’s, Gowers’ and others) an even bigger fight has broken out.  Alessandro Strumia, a theoretical physicist at University of Pisa gave a talk at a “gender equality” conference at CERN where he cast doubt on gender equality in physics.  The result was that he was instantly booted out of CERN, and the Rector of the University of Pisa announced a disciplinary proceeding against him. The reader can read the slides (which, by the way, were immediately removed from the CERN repository, in a misguided attempt to send this work down a memory hole – that trick never works these days where information travels with blinding speed) above (click on “talk”), and decide whether or not Strumia is actually Hitler.  The reader can also make up her own mind as to whether she (or he) agrees with Strumia’s analysis. This writer would be doing the reader a disservice if he tried to make the reader’s mind up for her/him.

Progress creeps on

The (generally quite lefty) Chronicle of Higher Ed has come out with a generally sane article on the intellectual fascism in the academia, with political correctness requiring equality of outcomes and identify politics, as well as the self-righteousness of seeing “our side” (the left) as being on the side of the angels, and the other side as evil. Of course, this last is the last stage before an actual shooting civil war (since the other people are evil, it is OK to kill them), but in the meantime leads to a complete breakdown of communication – just as in the (ongoing, as of this writing) Kavanaugh circus, the left’s allegations are primarily not credible because of their avowed “by any means necessary” attitude (these points are not simply philosophical – Blasey Ford came to Dianne Feinstein, not the Committee; Feinstein did not communicate with her colleague or the nominee (which would have given plenty of time for a non-public investigation and, if any truth were found, quiet withdrawal); the  democratic party is NOT perturbed by the extensively documented allegations against their own – Keith Ellison. I could go on).

Getting back to the Chronicle of Higher Ed piece, I was amused to see that the authors still need to sacrifice at the altar of political correctness:

 

Examples of this include the 2017 decisions of two mathematics journals to backtrack after initially accepting a paper on the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis, which asserts that men are overrepresented both among geniuses and among people of very low intelligence.

We emphasize that we are not advocates of the hypothesis; we believe that the distribution of genius is uncorrelated with gender (or race, etc.).

 

(boldface mine). In addition to the well-documented GMVH, there is plenty of completely uncontroversial data on race and gender differences in intelligence (both in the general levels and, particularly important for gender differences, differences in aptitudes for different kinds of skills). The authors (the second of whom is a sociologist) know better, but they are afraid of being pilloried. Sort of like all the “conservative” pundits, who say:

I would never watch Alex Jones. And if I did watch him, I would find him horrible. But still, it is a shame about his deplatforming.

 

The preamble is necessary to stop the listener/reader/watcher from thinking that the author is the kind of a, how to say,… oh, yes – Deplorable person who might watch Alex.

 

So, we are still pretty deep in the woods, and a complete breakdown seems likely, but there are some rays of sunlight shining through the dense PC canopy – more on this in the next post.

A remark on Hill’s work on the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis

Many of us are now familiar with the sad tale of Ted Hill’s encounter with censorship. The article has has caused a furore, and has been discussed at some length in a number of blogs, among them Terry Tao’s, (Sir) Tim Gowers’ in Mathematics, and also in some blogs by self-proclaimed experts in evolutionary biology, among them Reed Cartwright’s and Lior Pachter’s. Cartwright proclaimed the paper “hot garbage”, and Pachter could not wait to agree, and produced several pages of “debunking” of the paper, while also spewing pages of absurd accusations against Igor Rivin (the handling editor of the paper) [to his credit, Pachter stopped short of claiming that Rivin was actually Hitler].

While there is much to be said about the wisdom of trying to justify the unpublishing of a paper peer-reviewed in the accepted way and accepted, this is not the goal of this short post. Instead,  this writer was troubled by the question of whether the paper was, in fact, “hot garbage”. A short session with Dr Google revealed the Heterodox Academy post of a year or so ago (the post was occasioned by the famous Damore memo). While the Heterodox Academy article is very interesting in and of itself (it is mostly concerned with the data supporting the GMVH), what was most interesting was the comment by Rosalind Arden (a researcher at the London School of Economics), which I am taking the liberty of giving in its entirety here (I hope Dr Arden looks kindly upon this pilferage):

Rosalind

What is interesting about this post is that Dr Arden states that the explanation Hill proposes is, indeed, the front-runner in the evolutionary biology community. I then looked at the paper by Rowe and Houle, which, in the framework of the Life History Theory, develops the biological underpinnings in some depth. The paper, as Dr Arden mentions, is in under the rubric of the Lek Paradox. The Lek paradox is the following: in many species, males put on group “plays” (“lek” means play in Swedish) and the more spectacular males get to mate with the ladies, but mate is pretty much all they do, and do not participate in the raising of the offspring. The paradox is that the traits responsible for their good performance should, one might think, become more and more exaggerated (reducing variability), but they do not. Instead, variability increases. The short explanation (in this context) for the lek paradox is that these traits are actually a burden on the animal in other ways, so going too far would actually impede the survival prospects of the animal involved. Variability, however, is just the ticket. In any case, the paper is very interesting, once one gets past the jargon,  and seems to be the culmination of a long search by the authors and other researchers in the field.

In any case, the conclusion is that far from being “hot garbage”, Hill’s model is very sensible (indeed, more than just sensible) from the evolutionary biology perspective, and since the biologists did not actually state an explicit mathematical model, is clearly a contribution to the field, though, perhaps not quite as great a contribution as Hill thought, given that the mechanism is not new. I think that the hot garbage (or at least the egg) is covering the faces of Professors Cartwright and Pachter, who really should be ashamed of themselves.

 

Lysenko comes to Providence

For the annals of academic freedom. A physician by the name of Lisa Littman, who is an assistant professor at the Brown University School of Public Health published a paper in PLOS ONE (a highly regarded journal) on “rapid onset gender dysphoria”. You can read the paper yourself, but to summarize quickly, what the article finds is that social pressure can cause teens and young adults to self-identify as transgender. Not exactly a surprise, but interesting. What is, perhaps, more interesting is Brown’s reaction to the paper: it pulled the paper from its own news feed, giving the Orwellian reason that: It may “invalidate perspectives of the transgender community,” and the uni is committed to “diversity & inclusion”. In other words, Brown is repudiating the research of one of its faculty members because it does not suit its agenda. This is Lysenkoism, pure and simple. Brown’s statement babbles about PLOS ONE evaluating the study further, but the paper was and remains published (I just got it a few minutes ago from the PLOS ONE site). 

To be completely clear: Brown is explicit about changing the mission of a university from opening the minds of its students (as an educational institution) and search for truth (as a research institution) to indoctrination and propaganda for its political agenda (which is the usual Cultural Marxism).

Populism and Nomenklatura

This meditation was prompted by the recent arson epidemic in Sweden and the Swedish government’s completely lame response to it. The question I asked myself was: who is the Swedish government? To put the study in context, I decided to compare it with the “populist” Hungarian government, especially as the two governments could not be more different when it comes to their views on (im)migration, while the populations of the two countries are roughly similar (around five million each).  The standard liberal view is that the Swedish policies are “enlightened”, whilst the Hungarian policies are backward-looking and obviously promoted by benighted thugs. Here is what I found (note: I do not list experience in politics).

 

Prime Minister

Sweden: Stefan Löfven

Trained as a welder, dropped out of university, where he majored in Social Work for a year. Quickly became a trade union operative, advancing to be the head of the Metalworkers’ Union.

Hungary: Viktor Orbán

Has a law degree from Eotvos-Lorand University (the premier university  in Hungary). From 1987-89, he lived in Szolnok but
commuted to Budapest, where he worked as a sociologist at the Agriculture and Food Industry”s Director
Training Institute from November 1987 – March 1988. From April 1988, he was a research fellow at the Central
European Research Group sponsored by the Soros Foundation. In 1989, he received a scholarship through the
same foundation to study at Pembroke College, Oxford about the history of English liberal political philosophy.
In 1983, Viktor Orbán was one of the founding members of the Juridical Sociological Collegium (which was
renamed István Bibó Collegium in 1988). With several members of this collegium, Orbán helped establish a
journal of sociology entitled „Századvég“ and was one of the editors.

Justice Minister

Sweden: Morgan Johansson

BA in Political Science, worked as a journalist for three years.

Hungary: László Trócsányi

Undergraduate degree and a doctorate in Law, practiced as a lawyer for a many years, worked as a professor of Law, did research at the Hungarian Academy.

Minister for Home Affairs (Ministry of the Interior)

Sweden: Morgan Johansson  (see above). The previous Minister for Home Affairs was

Anders Ygeman

Ygeman has no higher education, except for a semester in criminology, and was excused from military service after a few days (for incompetence.)

Hungary: Sándor Pintér

Pinter is a career police officer. Graduated from the Police Academy,  and also has a law degree. He served in the police force for 25 years, the last 5 as National Police Commissioner (top law enforcement officer in Hungary).  He also operated a private security company.

Minister of Defence

Sweden: Peter Hultqvist

No higher education (seems to have a one year degree in social sciences). Worked as a journalist for 12 years.

Hungary: Tibor Benkő 

Career  (forty years) military officer, rising to Chief of Defence Staff, studied in the USSR AND the USA (Army War College), has a doctorate in Military Studies.

Foreign Affairs

Sweden: Margot Wallström No higher education. Worked as a bank teller for three years.

Hungary: Péter Szijjártó Degree in Foreign Affairs.

Higher Education and Research

Sweden: Helene Hellmark Knutsson Does not have a university degree. The only non-politics job is in the trade union system (as Ombudsman).

Hungary:  László Palkovics. Mechanical engineer, PhD, University professor, Full member of the Hungarian Academy. During his professional career, Palkovics held numerous managerial positions in companies like Thyssen-Krupp Presta Hungary, Knorr-Bremse Group and Bosch Budapest. Meanwhile, he has worked as editor for the International Journal of Vehicle Design, Heavy Vehicles and the Journal of Automobile Engineering.

Conclusion

The Swedish government is pure Soviet-style nomenklatura, It is run on pure patronage, and not any discernible skill. The Hungarian government is run by professionals, who have dedicated their lives to their respective areas of competence, and have achievements at the very top of their professions. The results are plain to see: Sweden is in ruins. Hungary is not -Orban and his team have done very well by their people, naysayers be damned. I hope they keep it up. I am not sure what hope I have for Sweden.

Whither Sarah Jeong?

In the last several days there has been considerable hue and cry about the vile racism of Sarah Jeong – a new hire at the New York TImes. The egregious aspect of the case has not been so much Ms Jeong’s overt racism, but the New York Times’ bizarre decision to dig in its heels, and not reverse the hire. This was loudly praised by the left, and decried by the conservatives as hypocrisy (given the recent defenestration of Roseanne Barr.)

Now, it is the opinion of this author that “racism” is an invented (and pernicious) concept. In the entire corpus of Greek and Roman history,  skin colour is never mentioned.  What is mentioned frequently (and continued to be so for two thousand years) was national identity. There was no “White Race”, there were Romans, Greeks, Medes, Lydians, Kurds, Numidians, etc, etc. (note that Plutarch [or Gibbon, for that matter]) never mentions the skin pigmentation of the Numidians, or of the Carthaginians (the former were Berber, the latter Canaanite).. Later, there was a millennium of chaos, out of which emerged the Italians, the English, the Germans, the French, the Turks, and so on. Skin colour was never even mentioned until the Democratic Party in the USA used it to disingenuously justify why slavery was compatible with the US constitution (read Dinesh D’Souza’s book). Even so, the idea never caught on elsewhere, until post-WWI Germany (when Hitler attempted to justify his theory of German exceptionality by making the Germans into a separate biological race [to which he himself visibly did not belong, but that’s another story]), and thus unleashed three quarters of identity politics upon us.

That said, are “White People” a myth? No. Just as in the twentieth century there was only one World War (despite being separated in WWI and WWII), the “White People” are the Romans, and we are living in the sequel to the Roman Empire.  In the original version, Romans conquered by the sword, but later, the instruments of conquest became quite diverse – they included the sword, but also science, art, philosophy, and so on. The Europeans (the latter-day Romans) created this civilization and dragged the rest of the world (often kicking and screaming into it. The rest of the world includes the East Asians (who  had stagnated for two millennia before the Europeans appeared on the scene), the Africans (who still live in what President Trump correctly characterized as “shitholes”), the West Asians (who stagnated for only one thousand years under Islam and the Ottoman rule), the Jews (who, while in Europe were not of it – those who see the spectacular intellectual accomplishments of the Jews, forget that the only Jews anyone had heard about in a non-religious context were Spinoza and Josephus, and the latter was a Roman general – it is the melding of Jews’ national talents with the European culture that created the explosion of intellectual accomplishments), the natives of America, and others. These various people, while benefitting greatly the new Roman Empire, are resentful – they are not driving the train, they are but passengers, and so the lack of control and the perceived lack of respect engenders not entirely positive feelings, and a desire to show that they, too, are important. The resentment is very much tinged with envy.  Like children, though, the likes of Ms Jeong (see, we were going to come around to her), as well as Black Lives Matter and other identarian organizations believe that they can do it by throwing a tantrum (or worse – destroying the dominant civilization). This does not engender respect. At least not in this author.

Monty Python summarized it rather well in the famous scene from “The Life of Brian”.

From Machiavelli to Trump

In Machiavelli’s  “The Prince”, Chapter IX (Concerning a Civil Principality), Machiavelli writes:

 

But coming to the other point—where a leading citizen becomes the prince of his country, not by wickedness or any intolerable violence, but by the favour of his fellow citizens—this may be called a civil principality: nor is genius or fortune altogether necessary to attain to it, but rather a happy shrewdness. I say then that such a principality is obtained either by the favour of the people or by the favour of the nobles. Because in all cities these two distinct parties are found, and from this it arises that the people do not wish to be ruled nor oppressed by the nobles, and the nobles wish to rule and oppress the people; and from these two opposite desires there arises in cities one of three results, either a principality, self-government, or anarchy.

A principality is created either by the people or by the nobles, accordingly as one or other of them has the opportunity; for the nobles, seeing they cannot withstand the people, begin to cry up the reputation of one of themselves, and they make him a prince, so that under his shadow they can give vent to their ambitions. The people, finding they cannot resist the nobles, also cry up the reputation of one of themselves, and make him a prince so as to be defended by his authority. He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him.

Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed. It is to be added also that a prince can never secure himself against a hostile people, because of their being too many, whilst from the nobles he can secure himself, as they are few in number. The worst that a prince may expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned by them; but from hostile nobles he has not only to fear abandonment, but also that they will rise against him; for they, being in these affairs more far-seeing and astute, always come forward in time to save themselves, and to obtain favours from him whom they expect to prevail. Further, the prince is compelled to live always with the same people, but he can do well without the same nobles, being able to make and unmake them daily, and to give or take away authority when it pleases him.

Therefore, to make this point clearer, I say that the nobles ought to be looked at mainly in two ways: that is to say, they either shape their course in such a way as binds them entirely to your fortune, or they do not. Those who so bind themselves, and are not rapacious, ought to be honoured and loved; those who do not bind themselves may be dealt with in two ways; they may fail to do this through pusillanimity and a natural want of courage, in which case you ought to make use of them, especially of those who are of good counsel; and thus, whilst in prosperity you honour them, in adversity you do not have to fear them. But when for their own ambitious ends they shun binding themselves, it is a token that they are giving more thought to themselves than to you, and a prince ought to guard against such, and to fear them as if they were open enemies, because in adversity they always help to ruin him.

Therefore, one who becomes a prince through the favour of the people ought to keep them friendly, and this he can easily do seeing they only ask not to be oppressed by him. But one who, in opposition to the people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above everything, to seek to win the people over to himself, and this he may easily do if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their benefactor; thus the people quickly become more devoted to him than if he had been raised to the principality by their favours; and the prince can win their affections in many ways, but as these vary according to the circumstances one cannot give fixed rules, so I omit them; but, I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity.

Nabis,(*) Prince of the Spartans, sustained the attack of all Greece, and of a victorious Roman army, and against them he defended his country and his government; and for the overcoming of this peril it was only necessary for him to make himself secure against a few, but this would not have been sufficient had the people been hostile. And do not let any one impugn this statement with the trite proverb that “He who builds on the people, builds on the mud,” for this is true when a private citizen makes a foundation there, and persuades himself that the people will free him when he is oppressed by his enemies or by the magistrates; wherein he would find himself very often deceived, as happened to the Gracchi in Rome and to Messer Giorgio Scali(+) in Florence. But granted a prince who has established himself as above, who can command, and is a man of courage, undismayed in adversity, who does not fail in other qualifications, and who, by his resolution and energy, keeps the whole people encouraged—such a one will never find himself deceived in them, and it will be shown that he has laid his foundations well.

     (*) Nabis, tyrant of Sparta, conquered by the Romans under
     Flamininus in 195 B.C.; killed 192 B.C.

     (+) Messer Giorgio Scali. This event is to be found in
     Machiavelli's "Florentine History," Book III.

These principalities are liable to danger when they are passing from the civil to the absolute order of government, for such princes either rule personally or through magistrates. In the latter case their government is weaker and more insecure, because it rests entirely on the goodwill of those citizens who are raised to the magistracy, and who, especially in troubled times, can destroy the government with great ease, either by intrigue or open defiance; and the prince has not the chance amid tumults to exercise absolute authority, because the citizens and subjects, accustomed to receiving orders from magistrates, are not of a mind to obey him amid these confusions, and there will always be in doubtful times a scarcity of men whom he can trust. For such a prince cannot rely upon what he observes in quiet times, when citizens have need of the state, because then everyone agrees with him; they all promise, and when death is far distant they all wish to die for him; but in troubled times, when the state has need of its citizens, then he finds but few. And so much the more is this experiment dangerous, inasmuch as it can only be tried once. Therefore a wise prince ought to adopt such a course that his citizens will always in every sort and kind of circumstance have need of the state and of him, and then he will always find them faithful.

 Now, of course, the US being a republic and not a principality, the context is not exactly the same, but it is not entirely different, either (especially as the Founding Fathers thought of the President as a kind of a temporary monarch).
Machiavelli speaks of the “popular” and the “oligarchic” princes, but there is a subtlety that he himself was very well aware of  — the nobles (what we now call `the elites’) usually draw on the support of their client rabble. In other words, in many ancient as well as modern societies, the population would be naturally segmented into
  1. The nobles (in ancient times this would be primarily the military aristocracy, now it is the bureaucratic, military, commercial, and academic elites).
  2. The people – in ancient times the productive members of society – the highly trained blue collar workers, small merchants, professional military and so on.
  3. The rabble: the slum-dwellers, the criminals,  the slaves, the gladiators in ancient times, and the systemically unemployed, the ghetto dwellers, the criminals in modern times.

Historically, the first group employed the third group to counteract the second group (which was, and remains, much more numerous than the first, and usually more numerous than the third). The third group generally lacked the education and leadership to act on its own behalf.

Now, if we examine the modern political landscape, we see how little things have changed in two millennia.  On the one side we have the “liberals” (the quotes are there to distinguish them from traditional pro-liberty small government liberals), represented by the Democratic party, and representing the elites (notice that the left is universally backed by the Press, and the vast majority of academia, as well as the currently dominant Silicon Valley commercial aristocracy, as well as the majority of the financial aristocracy of Wall Street). The elites have co-opted the rabble (the ghetto blacks and Hispanics, the illegals, the disaffected youth) and have put themselves in opposition to “the People” (capitalized, because group number 2 is exactly who the Founding Fathers had meant by the term). The power of the elites is so great that the very word “populist” has become pejorative. And yet, here we are with a “populist” president (himself a member of the elites, just like the populists of ancient times).  The People are oppressed, and part of their oppression is the punitive taxation to keep the rabble in bread and circuses (and Obama phones). Other oppression is more ideological – the People are made to sing paeans to the latest perversions of reason by the elite.

Enter Trump, the civilian prince. I now encourage you to go to the beginning of this article and read Machiavelli’s summary. While I am not certain Trump has read Machiavelli, his strategy aligns closely with what this last proposes. Notice that Trump speaks directly to the public, and not through magistrate – this is what causes the uproar about his constant tweeting – the Trump’s administration IS Trump (Louis XIV would have approved), the “magistrates”, as Machiavelli calls them, are clearly secondary, and the rather high turnover in the Administration keeps them that way. People understand that if they are not to be oppressed, then Trump is their best and only hope.

By contrast, the opposition is squabbling, just as the elites always have – it is more important for them to maintain primacy in their circle than to fight for the common cause, and in the event of the (frequent) failures of their policy they fall back on blaming each other (something Trump cannot do even if he wanted to, since he has taken all the responsibility, just as Machiavelli suggested).

All this fills me with hope (as well as with wonder).