Who Is That Masked Man?

As a mid to late twentieth century young woman, steeped in the mores and tropes of my time it was always shocking to talk to my late-Victorian grandmother.

Shocking as in having your head held under the water pump when you’re drunk.  And in the same way, sobering.

There are a lot of myths running around our culture (usually with pants on their heads screaming coo coo) one of them being for lack of a better term “the highwayman with a heart of gold.”  Only sometimes he is a second story man (in Portugal’s notable case) and sometimes he is a pirate or a musketeer or someone of that sort.

I grew up with “romantic” literature in the sense where it has nothing to do with male female love, but with high adventure and wounded protagonists who have suffered and are looking for the redemption they know they’re beyond.

That’s a very powerful mythos, one most people can’t resist.

But talking to grandma was always bracing.  She would bring the reality of all that sort of people.  Guys who ran around with swords or pistols getting in duels were bad people, not to be trusted.

Pirates were evil pillagers and despoilers.  And don’t get started on highwaymen and second story men, no matter how dressed up by legend.  Hell-bound evil people.

The way she talked about it was so sensible, so clear, that you immediately knew she was right.  No matter how much you wanted to believe, no matter how romantic books made it seem, when Grandma painted pirate bands and loose living, heartless murderers, turning even on their own number and said that no, no amount of suffering could justify taking to that life, it cut through the entire fog of romanticism.

Part of it is that grandma was sane as a brick, or perhaps a cornerstone.  You could build entire civilizations on her, and arguably ours was built on minds like hers.  Part of it is that she was born in late Victorian times and in Portugal.  Not only had the pendulum of morality swung away from the “high romance” that generated really bad things like the French revolution, but Portugal was not that well off nor was the village that rich that she could stray from what was obvious and go in search of crazy notions.

In fact the romantics, though always a strain in human thought — which romanticizes the outcasts, the no-castes and the ones who behave outside of society — only took hold of society at large at the same time the industrial revolution was giving people enough distance from “root, hog or die” to go in search of outre ideas and those that wouldn’t benefit the immediate acquisition of money.

Medieval society tended more to the conformist and the established and anyone who stood outside it particularly in a dangerous way being considered harmful, and his motives not at all examined and certainly no sympathy spared for him.  This of course was shifting somewhat by say the 15th century, when people were living a little better.

In fact the non conformist and the quaint are valued in proportion to how well off the society is.

Now, I’m not going to tell you I’d love a society of rigid conformism.  As an Odd, I always stuck out and societies of rigid conformism don’t distinguish between “strange” and harmful.  All nails will get pounded down, even if one is an ornamental silver nail with a cute little triangular top.  Their job is to fasten things, and in a rigid, (and endangered) society everyone must just fulfill his role.

I also wouldn’t like to live that close to the bone, because you know, I like comfort as I think we’ve established.

But perhaps it is that we are the most comfortable society the world has ever spawned, and western society the most wealthy it’s ever been, but I think the myth, the romance of the “evil doer who is really good” has gone a bit far.

Look, I’m as susceptible as anyone else to the exiled nobleman who took to the seas as a pirate fighting the way into a citadel to rescue the body of his brother (he arrives too late to prevent the hanging) and bringing him to burial at sea, and promising to avenge him, as a way to start a book.  I read that one when I was eight and see how it stuck with me.

Mind you, at least in England, many pirates were noblemen, but they were at it not from high outraged honor but from greed, and they did things that would make you blanch.  As for the ones who were in it to survive… it partook a lot of our homeless culture, with a roster of pathologies from drug abuse to various psychological dysfunctions just as our homeless culture has.  Nothing romantic about it, just as there isn’t about vagrants and homeless.  And yeah, those get romanticized too.  Note someone the other day saying they would like it, just once, just for variety, if a homeless character were a horrible person.

No, I don’t want a return to a rigid society.  And I reserve the right to create a character or two who aren’t as bad as people think and who are more sinned against that sinners.  But perhaps also one or two that are highly romanticized and EXACTLY as bad as you think.

Because you know what?  We are rich, we are successful.  Some of the romantic insanity is dissipating, so people are saying less “it was the fault of society” but they still act like it to a great extent.  They still try to justify how people go that bad.  The entire “self esteem” industry is part of this, and also a piece of nonsense, as few people have as much unearned self esteem as juvenile delinquents, or a sense of the respect “due” to them as gang members.

Sometimes I just feel the entire society could benefit from taking a time machine to go to tea with grandma, and having her pour some common sense over their crazy heads.  Sure, there are people who reform.  Western civilization embraces the tale of Saul of Tarsus as a pretty dramatic example, but there are others.  There were even pirates who escaped the law, set up respectably and lived a decent life.  More often their descendants do.  Grandma had… interesting tales about the rich families in the village.

But those are the exceptions.  Most people who live an evil life be it simply squandering everything, or actually robbing others or extorting from others (money or sex or whatever) are never going to reform.  They like what they do, they’re successful at it, why would they stop?  Investing them with a patina of romance and undeserved suffering doesn’t help that one bit.  Psychopaths are VERY good at putting on the motley and playing the part you expect them to.

Why?  Who knows?  Why are some people just evil?  Whose fault is it?

Mostly theirs.  We all have evil impulses and trains of thought.  If you encourage them and allow them to grow, they become an habit, till you couldn’t do anything else even if you tried.

And sure, some people might be more susceptible to it than others.  And sure, having a bad childhood doesn’t help.  But blaming poverty or a bad childhood for later crimes, the way Marxists do, is an insult to every poor, abused child who chooses to grow up decent and a credit to society.

In the end bad people are bad.  Not romantic.  Not cute.  Not sufferers and suffering at the hands of an unusual world.

Just people who chose to fall to the dark.

Keeping that in mind cuts through a lot of romantic fog, and if society at large could do it, we’d spend a lot less money and time wringing our hands and trying to fix what can’t be fixed.

In the end, each of us is entitled to go to hell in the manner of his choosing.  He’s not entitled to dragging western civ along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

348 responses to “Who Is That Masked Man?

  1. My first semester of Literature in college had a section on Dante’s Inferno. One of the things the professor pointed out was that thieves were on a very low level of hell, lower even than the murderers. He asked us to consider why this was the case, and pointed out that almost every sin in the Ten Commandments could be understood as some form of taking what isn’t yours. Even murder is taking of another’s life. So thieves were so far down because of the essential moral failure to understand the concept of “not yours.”

    • “… thieves were on a very low level of hell … because of the essential moral failure to understand the concept of “not yours.”

      This failure of understanding means that those who the ideology that holds that the fruits of your labor are not yours but belongs to the state and you should be thankful for anything you get to keep are not going to fare well in hell.

    • Bingo. Your professor has an understanding of the Ten Commandments nearly identical to my own.

  2. I think I’d like your grandmother. People who talk sense have become incredibly rare in the world today.

    • There are probably more than we know. People who are sensible generally are polite as well, not forcing themselves upon others, therefore they often go unnoticed in the midst of the loud and insistent speakers of nonsense who demand our attention.

  3. I think some of this may be the result of a comfortable society (or maybe a progressive one) taking exceptions and making them the rule. Note the “normalization” of 1-5% of the population – as if they were the norm. Or, the anecdote-defeats-the-bell-curve mentality of gender argument. (“Well, I know a woman who could beat up every guy she ever met, so women should be in the SEALs.”) It’s much the same with ex-con-starts-business-saving-orphans and such.

    In all cases, it’s taking the special case and pasting it over the general crowd. So, if you take a single rogue and give him a heart of gold, and write a great story of redemption, all of a sudden every man on death row is a wrongly-convicted-soul-of-pure-gold.

    It’s crazy, is what it is.

    • Note the “normalization” of 1-5% of the population – as if they were the norm

      The danger is we are now treating the norm as we used to treat those outside.

      While there is some social value in recognizing the need for a buffer between respectable and unacceptable in terms of behavior, an Outlined Desertion Destination (we might call those in it ODDs) there is absolutely no social value in telling those inside the respectable society section they are the lowest of the low.

    • The other case of the wrongly-convicted-soul-of-pure-gold I’m seeing become common in police procedural TV shows is the really poor guy who confesses to a crime he didn’t commit cause the rich guy who did it paid him a lot of money to confess, and he’s using the money to support a struggling family member (college/terminally ill/etc. etc.).

      The first time I saw it (in an episode of Castle, IIRC), it made for an interesting plot twist. Once. But it got old quickly, and it seems to be popping up more and more. Lethal Weapon had it in a recent episode, and if my memory isn’t failing me, Lucifer had a couple of uses of that storyline last season. They’re really pushing the innocent poor guy and evil rich (usually, but not exclusive white) guy meme the last few years. The Lethal Weapon episode I mentioned it was a poor white guy taking the fall for a Mexican drug cartel leader.

      Tangentially, I have to say, I’m in favor of women SEALs, at least as a general concept. Provided a woman is crazy enough (I was plain ol’ ordinary Army, so I tend to think all the special forces people have to have a certain level of crazy, even above marines-baseline level of crazy) to want to do it on her own impetus, and she can meet the extremely rigorous standards, then sure, let her do it. Where I object to the idea is lowering the standards to make it easier so more than just extreme-edge-of-the-bell-curve women can make it.

      • The point of female SEALS isn’t women who want to do it being able to but women who want the status being able to get it regardless of fulfilling the requirements.

      • I was baseline crazy as USMC infantry. But when I arrived at 29 Palms (think Mojave if you’re not familiar) in the summer (most days over a hundred degrees in the shade, which there wasn’t any), I was rather surprised to see STA (scout-snipers) thought a good use of their lunch break was to don gas masks and go for a three mile run. For fun. It was purely voluntary. Just something the enlisted decided to do. (They tried to convince me to join them. I don’t recall if I laughed, or just stared in blank incomprehension.)

        Three years later (right after Mattis left), they were shifted from Weapons Company to Headquarters because the new CO wanted to bring up the Physical Fitness Test average.
        Immediately the chowderheads at HQ started trying to make them less elite, tying them down with countless threads of regulation and constant supervision.
        Since then, their school has been stomped on for “hazing”, and they’re a pale shadow of what they used to be.

        That’s without the whole problem of women, btw. Which is a topic in and of itself. I have many stories about women in the military. Not a single one is positive. They ranged from forced prostitution rings (mean girls in a position of authority jumped right off the slippery slope to evil. This happened repeatedly.) to stopping a Regimental live fire exercise, having the entire regiment get on line and face one direction lest someone inadvertently see the Colonel’s driver pee.

        • “Why do you go on three-mile runs with masks? Is there something wrong with your faces?”

          “Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”

          As for the incident of the Colonel’s driver’s pee, it is a widely recognized* fact that jihadis will not attack if they see a woman urinating, so the interruption of the live fire exercise is actually good training.

          *Unfortunately, this fact has yet to be recognized by jihadis.

    • “Look at Pedro here, his parents brought him here illegally when he was 4 and now he’s been accepted into Harvard. This is why we need the DREAM act.”

      “Well what about Miguel, whose parents also brought him here illegally when he was 4 and now he’s an enforcer for MS-13?”

      “THAT’S RACIST!”

  4. And I reserve the right to create a character or two who aren’t as bad as people think and who are more sinned against that sinners. But perhaps also one or two that are highly romanticized and EXACTLY as bad as you think.

    Having been following the Darkship and the companion Earth Revolution books I would never have thought it — NOT!

  5. What’s a “second story man”? I’ve never run across that term before.

    As far as the larger point goes, yeah, very much so. It was never really something I bought into; I have to have been the only one who read the poem “The Highwayman” and thought, “The Redcoats shouldn’t be sexually harassing Bess like that, but overall, they’re probably the closest thing this story has to good guys.”

    Part of it, I think is the “all girls want bad boys” trope, only they don’t want boys who are actually bad. No one wants to play Isabel to a psychopathic Heathcliff. Part of the bad boy fantasy is that deep down, he’s really an angel, and aren’t special for seeing that, being able to bring it out, and you’ll be rewarded with the fabulous man in the end. Beyond that, I think there’s also the fantasy of being the “bad boy,” the adventurer who lives outside society, is bound by nothing, and who’s only rules are his own inner code. Only, again, usually you don’t actually want to be evil (at least not in your own mind). Hence, the insistence that there must be many good and noble people amongst the outcasts who just couldn’t manage within societies rules.

    • Merriam-Webster: second-story man: a burglar who enters a house by an upstairs window.

    • I would argue Western women, or at least American women, have succeeding in building a society where bad boys are a bigger proportion of the available men (both directly by incentivizing bad boys and indirectly by pushing the “teach men not to X” think well past the point of any positive return and making a significant proportion of men deciding the risk of a failed approach are too high along several different vectors).

      How is that working out for them.

      Back to your “they are really angels theory” a great example is the 50 Shades books where by freed he isn’t into that S&M stuff anymore. A related thing all these men are is rich. As friends like to say, if 50 Shades was set in a trailer part and not a millionaire’s mansion it wouldn’t be the biggest selling erotic novel of the teens but a Criminal Minds two parter.

      Psycho/sociopaths are a lot sexier when they are rich.

      • Almost *anybody* is a lot sexier when he or she is rich.

      • I did notice that in both 50 Shades of Grey and its source material, one of the heroine’s “problems” was that her boyfriend kept buying expensive presents and forcing them on her.

        (Not that that can’t be a sign in real life of a guy who’s coming on too strong, but in fiction, it definitely comes off as a “flaw” along the lines of “she’s so beautiful it’s a curs.”)

        • Oh, in the movie version of 50 Shades (which is excellent for the Rocky Horror treatment) it is down right creepy such as buying her a new car and having her old one sold before she even knows.

          I have joked women will be mad when men don’t learn to be “millionaires who can be fixed by a good woman” but “chicks dig stalkers” from that movie.

      • I don’t think it’s actually most men who are looking, but between hook-up type culture and at-will single party divorce, the bad ones are a much higher relative proportion of those who are “in the market” at any one time!

        How many folks here have mentioned that they weren’t even shopping when they ran into their Other?

        • I don’t think they are a majority but I do think, as you do, they are an abnormally high proportion of the market and more so than when my day learned how to date (which he taught me).

          As for meeting my SOs, my first wife not really, my second wife a play partner yes but a long term partner no, and my girl absolutely not and even if I was not in that environment.

          • It isn’t that there are more, but that incentives to be otherwise are non-existent.

            Just as there are few remaining incentives encouraging females to be good partners.

            Instead, all cultural messages seem to be that the secret to success is to screw-over the other guy first.

            • That and a corresponding issue where people who just can’t be that evil start plain opting out so one end of the bell curve on behavior starts melting away.

    • What’s a “second story man”? I’ve never run across that term before.
      You need to read more Rex Stout and Mickey Spillane.

      • I read it in Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys when I was a kid.

        • How old were your books?

          Those are series that change a LOT from edition to edition.

          • Heh. Power Line’s Ammo Grrrll, last Friday, recounting an experience from the Seventies:

            A bunch of us were standing around a table staffed by some younger activists and a couple of older ladies. It soon became obvious from their rhetoric that they were either members of or influenced by the Communist Party. (It’s a bit “inside baseball,” but, trust me, the rhetoric of all the political sects at the time had various verbal tics and “tells.”)

            One of the older ladies started talking about Papa Joe Stalin – I do not make this up – and what a wonderful, kind leader he was and how much his people loved him. One of the younger activists looked embarrassed and said, “No, Ethel, that’s not right. Where did you get that?” and she said, “It’s in all the books.”

            And then came the money shot and the theme of this column: “NO, HONEY, THOSE ARE THE OLD BOOKS.” Oh, how quickly those “books” are updated, expunged, airbrushed and condensed. Or just plain burned, if necessary. Along with their authors.

            http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/10/thoughts-from-the-ammo-line-189.php

            • At least some of the Nancy Drew books changed so much between editions that the Communist airbrushers were slackers compared to these editors.

          • They were the yellow and blue 1950s reprints where they shortened them and updated the stories from the originals. They were still popular and circulated a lot. Our libraries actually still have those editions.

            • Probably slightly newer than mine, which would explain why I never heard the term.

              With Nancy, at least, the 50s editions did a lot more than “update” the stories. For many of them, they wrote entirely new novels and published them under the same name.

      • Interestingly, I’ve been (finally) reading my way through the Sherlock Holmes “Ultimate Collection”, and hadn’t thought about it until now, but I don’t recall seeing that term in any of the stories. Surprising, in retrospect.

    • bound by nothing, and who’s only rules are his own inner code

      Typically that inner code can be summarized as “What’s innit for me?”

    • Beg pardon, but I think the, “Good girl reforms bad boy,” trope is VERY strong in American young women. The reality being that the bad boy drags the former good girl into the gutter.

      • The reality being that the bad boy drags the former good girl into the gutter.
        Then gets all he can out of her, and tosses her like a used tissue.

        • Which is the reason I call Grease a morality play. Not one about good morals, but still . . .

          • It is a common trope in Broadway musicals …


            In this case the “sadder but wiser girl” proves to be neither, and the bad boy gets reformed … but the smart money is always the other way.

            • In this case the “sadder but wiser girl” proves to be neither, and the bad boy gets reformed … but the smart money is always the other way.

              My father’s comment on watching The Music Man for apparently the first time (I really thought he’d seen it before): “This is supposed to be a happy ending?”

              I hadn’t thought of it that way, but he’s absolutely right. In real life, Harold would be cheating on Marian within the year.

          • And that right there is why I hated Grease. My friend that saw it with me thought it was great! I was horribly disappointed with Sandy’s choice. Angry, actually. I was only about 14 when I saw it but I didn’t like it even then. I married a “bad boy” the first time around and he wouldn’t change. Never did til the end of his life. I couldn’t remain somewhat respectable without leaving. So I left. Then, of course, I still found myself attracted to bad boys. Until I just gave up after seeing them all for what they were. Just immersed myself into improving me. That’s when the respectable boy showed up and we’ve been married 22 years now.

          • Marie Osmond saw it that way, too, which is why she turned down the part.

          • Never saw it, but that might explain (even more) why a friend refers to it as Lipids.

      • It’s the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale trope.They forget about Blue Beard.

        • They also forget that the Beast doesn’t get the girl until AFTER he has a change of heart. It’s not getting the girl that gives him the change of heart.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Yep, the “Bad Boy Saved By Love” only works when it’s His Love for the girl not “Her Love of him”.

    • I think the “bad boy” thing is a defect in the “dangerous guy” search perimeter– and that is only because anything strong enough to help you is strong enough to hurt.

      My Elf freaked me out, the first time we met— but he was honorable, and fair, and worked his butt off to make sure deals were fulfilled, and promises kept.

      • That was the conclusion I came to as well: that women are looking for leadership qualities, and that the part of the hindbrain that measures attractiveness is not very good at thinking rationally. (In both women and men; I’ll get to the male example in a bit).

        A good man will say, “To hell with what the world thinks I should do; I’m going to do what’s right!” A bad boy will say, “To hell with what the world thinks I should do; I’m going to do what I want!” But the woman’s hindbrain only sees the “To hell with what the world thinks” part, and persuades her that he’s attractive because he has the qualities of a good man. If she’s smart, she’ll let her forebrain have its say, and realize that the bad bay’s attitude and the good man’s attitude are not at all the same, even if they look superficially similar. But many women don’t (or won’t) listen to their forebrains, and let their hindbrains do the deciding. And then, when her “bad boy” is beating her up, she exhibits classic battered-woman syndrome and says “But he loves me” and all that.

        The male side of this looks a little different, but it’s the same thing in the end. Men’s hindbrains tend towards the visual: when a man sees a women with a generous chest, a narrow waist, long hair, and so on, his hindbrain goes “Wow, she’s hot”. It’s his forebrain that will tell him “She just divorced her fourth husband, who was richer than you; what are the odds that she’d stay married to you?” Or, conversely, “And not only is she hot, she’s a faithful Christian who has committed to waiting for marriage; if she does fall in love with you, the odds are good that you’ll have a good marriage.” (The latter, of course, assumes that the man himself is a Christian who agrees with those values; if he isn’t, then that woman won’t be a good marriage prospect for him, even though she would be an excellent marriage prospect for someone else.)

        I’ve started summing this up as, “The hindbrain is stupid.” The attraction generated by the hindbrain is an important part of looking for a spouse, of course. But if people only listen to the hindbrain, they’ll often screw themselves up.

        • I believe I’ve mentioned before that John “Dress For Success” Molloy did a study on how men ought dress/act to attract women. His preliminary survey determined that women expressed a desire for men who are “self-confident” and thus he dressed and instructed actors accordingly, without noticeable effect. He then told the same actors to behave arrogantly and the women flocked to them.

          This suggests two things:

          1. women don’t use the correct words for describing what they want (neither do men, but that’s a different study)

          and

          2. women (nor men, but, again, that’s a different study) can’t recognize what they’re seeing.

          I blame a lack of proper male role models acting self-confidently rather than arrogantly.

          • Hm…. arrogance is confidence in something you ain’t got.

            Showing up doesn’t mean they’ll stay– and even I’d be tempted to see something with fifteen foot tall letters in neon rather than a more modest but accurate label, I just wouldn’t STAY.

            • Thank you for that definition of arrogance. I have had a hard time describing it concisely before.

            • The problem is that so many now mistake the facsimile for the real thing, similarly to the way we confuse the candy flavor known as “strawberry” for the tang of the real fruit.

  6. I think the modern notion to blame society comes from an idea that we lack free will. The advocates may not own up to that, but their argument is that anyone would do the same in identical circumstances. Except it ignores those in as bad as or worse circumstances who do not engage in crime.

    My only quibble is that stories such as Robin Hood are older than the Industrial Revolution, and the English pirates for a while were privateers, and that may have shaded the narrative – until Edward Teach steps on deck, the fuses burning in his beard and a pistol and cutlass in his hands. Just as the idea of the “noble savage” probably didn’t survive having one try to lift your scalp.

    It does raise the question of where do these things come from, and why.

    • Robin Hood’s legend was QUITE different, if you go to the oldest ones. Almost a “trickster” persona mythologically speaking.

      • Also, if memory serves, earlier in time than our version, under William or his son William, and more of a Saxon resistance.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, I think the “Saxon Resistance” version is later than what Sarah mentioned

          • It’s been used more recently, but even in Richard’s time, that undercurrent was there. See also Ivanhoe.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              According to Wiki (yes I know) the “Saxon Resistance” version of Robin Hood started in the 19th century. Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe was written in 1819.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Hereward the Wake is considered a forerunner of Robin Hood:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereward_the_Wake

          • Yes, and he’s certainly a source — most noticably “Hereward and the Potter” for “Robin Hood and the Potter.” But the Saxon resistance got filtered out first. (Before Sir Walter Scott put it back in.)

            And the medieval Robin Hood was just a plain robber, not giving to the poor until about Tudor times.

            • Terry Sanders

              Yep. The peasants liked him because of who he robbed. Not so much “he’s my friend” as “they deserve it, and he does it with *style.*”

          • Although it applies to a lot of comments I’ll say it here, that’s a big part of why I love the Huns…I always learn more about things, even (especially) those I thought I had at least a partial clue about.

      • Especially given the target of unjust abusers who were beyond the reach of other powers.

    • “…we lack free will.”

      This.

      An absence of universal agency implies both the need for close supervision and direction by society’s “betters,” and the perfectibility of the proletariate if only the proper outside incentives are applied by the sufficiently enlightened. And when that does not work, it can only be the fault of evil outside influences, never the innate and natural enlightened self interest of the individuals that the enlightened are helpfully perfecting. So the enlightened naturally have to track down and eliminate those who are hoarding, and wrecking, and sabotaging that perfection that the enlightened are selflessly trying to help happen.

      And then the enlightened need more laborers to dig more mass graves.

      If on the other hand your philosophy grants agency and self interest to everyone, and denies perfectibility as an achievable human goal, you only end up with fast food outlets, cell phones for nearly everyone, and near universal air conditioning.

      • An absence of universal agency implies both the need for close supervision and direction by society’s “betters,”

        If we lack free will how do our betters have the free will to make improvements instead of following their ingrained patterns of abuse and privilege which they claim is the essence of all rulers?

        • Because they’re special. And Speshul, too.

          • The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it.

            He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.

            Adam Smith

        • In my experience the argument over lack of Free Will is quickly resolved by a punch in the mouth or a boot to a sensitive spot. Recipients of such rebuttals seldom continue to insist you lack Free Will, and certainly not after the third or fourth iteration.

          • I’ve been greatly tempted to that approach myself a time or two.

            Unfortunately the desire to win an argument in that fashion by forcing my opponent into a philosophical self-contradiction has never quite outweighed the desire to stay out of jail.

            • Police and many juries seem predisposed to believe in Free Will. That this severely hampers effective rhetoric and philosophical argument seems entirely lost upon them.

        • That’s why they are better. Just ask them.

          And if those betters actually view others as people, just not so agency-ful ones, you get the best case socialist paradise – i.e. a slower decline into the abyss. If they see others as objects to be manipulated into outcomes instead of really being people, you get the worst case right away, and the road to heck is steeply pitched teflon.

          That’s why a society predicated on checks and balances that work to counter the baser impulses of the powerful works so much better in actual practice than a society predicated on perfectibility of the masses under guidance from the anointed: If an individual of the sociopathic or psychopathic persuasion sees that path to power, they will naturally rise to the top of those systems, and once anointed, it basically takes losing to a worse psychopath to take them down.

  7. Ronald R Zukowski

    In early 1980s a book came out stating that as early as age ten, some incarcerated had chosen to be troublemakers, stealing, bullying (physical and verbal assault) _graduating_ to heavy duty grand theft. They don’t change unless _something_ happens that completely alters their outlook.
    I’ll start searching for that tome on the morrow but I have a bad feeling I won’t have an easy time finding it. I know it is NOT called _The Insanity Offense_ though that gives an interesting insight into homeless people.

    • Actually, if you watch the Jordon Peterson series on personality he argues the stats should hyper-aggressive kids at 2 who haven’t tamed it by 4 are on the fast tract to being outcasts with poor outcomes. The one sentence please watch the whole thing to get all the parts is by 5 or so peers have as much to do with socialization as parents because of the requirement to learn to negotiate social agreements and 5 year olds will not allow a 5 year old still acting like the terrible twos into those negotiated groups.

      Interestingly, he also argues a lot of the college issues today is these students at the big universities are the first group truly helicoptered through life with all or nearly all time structured and adult supervised. He argues they never had to learn to negotiate a social setting among peers as there was always an adult to make things work. He points to all the calls to the uni administrators to fix things as the running to get the teacher to make people be nice continuing well past kindergarten.

      • That makes a horrible kind of sense – that young adults have never had to negotiate a social setting with their peers. That adults always came in to manage it all.

        • It was one of the things he said that got me watching all his videos. It borders on genius which I often define as “realizing something that everyone says is obvious AFTER you explain it but no one figured out before”

          • It might also be explained by those who thrive in a daycare environment will demand that the next Daycare– college– do the same things.

            This would suggest that there is a population that is filtered out of the sample because they go “hm….heck with that” to college.

            It could be tested by finding kids who went to day care from at least 3 years on and find those who aren’t in college, and ask them….

            • It can also depend on the daycare. There are a lot of home daycares in my area, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were run on the principles of “these are the hard-and-fast rules, like ‘don’t break things’, and aside from that, go to it.”

      • I read story in The Atlantic maybe six or eight years ago called ‘How To Land Your Kid In Therapy’ and it explained ever so well what is happening with kids in public school and why they are unhappy adults.

        Self esteem movement is causing much damage because kids are being taught they are terrific at everything when that is just not possible, obviously.

        • Self esteem movement is causing much damage because kids are being taught they are terrific at everything when that is just not possible, obviously.

          Mostly it teaches kids that adults who say something nice are lying.

          • According to article, psychologists see many people who have had parents and teachers blow smoke up their arse for first twenty years of life and now they are not happy as adults.

            • Go figure, no learning how to achieve by struggling over small then progressively larger obstacles bites you in the ass when that big obstacle known as real life shows up.

          • Yeah, what they managed with my sons was convince them if they don’t have 100% they’re stupid.
            We recently found out older son has something that has been affecting his alertness and cognition to the point it’s a minor miracle he hasn’t flunked medschool. He did HOWEVER have to ramp up his study habits, etc. and kept losing ground, because that is the nature of this issue.
            We thought it was nerves because it started slowly a year before medschool and kept getting worse. But we didn’t know his full list of symptoms. When we found those out we said “And you didn’t see a doctor, because?” “Oh. I thought I was just too stupid for medschool and the rest were just excuses.”
            This from a kid who graduated with pretty much 4.0 (one of his professors gave him ONE A-, so he had 3.9999999) and departmental honors, with two bachelors in five years. BUT you know, he thought he was really, fundamentally stupid.
            And when we said “But son, we’ve told you you are brilliant. So have other people.” Shrug “People say that stuff.”
            SERIOUSLY. Even us, and we never praised anything, from a kiddy drawing to a story unless it really was very good. (About 5% of the time.) BUT this is what they’ve done.

            • Um… I never got the self-esteem crap, but I managed the “everybody saying good stuff about me is obviously less important than the nasty insulting self-criticism in my head.”

              It’s a depression meets perfectionism thing. You just have to learn to call BS on your own brain.

              Half the family pulls this crap on ourselves. Science Fair season and the night before turning in projects was always a festival of moaning about inadequacy.

              However, we were always pretty vocal and drama drama about it, pounding walls and such. Your son apparently kept quiet about it.

              Have him look up “Automatic Negative Thoughts.” Like I say, you have to call BS on your brain, sometimes, but there are better and worse ways to step on the ANTs.

    • We had a real life case of that out here. It ended with an elderly nun murdered, and the perp going to Old Sparky after one of the shortest jury deliberations in regional history. There was rumor that they didn’t even get as far as the jury room before they cast their votes. He’d started out as “that kid” in grade school, the one everyone stayed away from. And pets in the neighborhood disappeared in greater and greater numbers as he got older.

  8. A few random thoughts which lack meat enough to be comments on their own:

    1. In fact the non conformist and the quaint are valued in proportion to how well off the society is. – I wonder if this is a bi-directional thing. While too far non-conformists is harmful as is often discussed here Odds are often the source of the new and valuable, as a popular Heinlein quote also teaches. I suspect over time this is a feedback loop that needs to be very delicately balanced. Excessive undervaluing cuts wealth created and leads to more undervaluing the odd. However, excessive wealth created by odds leads to over valuing the odd adding even more out there behaviors.

    2. Perhaps the root of the romanticizing is the “Saul of Tarsus of Pirates” (or highwaymen, etc) taken as not just an interesting character but attempts at moral lessons. Overtime the romance overran the morals.

    3. In a counter to #2, as romantic as the poem is Noyes’s titular highwaman got what he deserved.

    • Another interesting thought. To begin with, the religious refugees that colonized America were generally known as non-conformists in legal documents and taxes because they refused to “conform” to the state religion. They were taxes, persecuted and eventually allowed to leave once there was a place they could go to. The number of burnings, riots, etc. for heresy went down dramatically when there was a place to send the religious troublemakers. (Yes, I know there is way more to it than that, but having the outlet probably helped.)

    • 1) If the culture has a spot for “strange but not malicious,” then a fairly high level of conformity can be a plus– you identify the malicious before they cause serious harm, rather than them being able to hide in the “eccentric” because nobody dares say anything.
      One of the big ways to demonstrate you’re not a danger is to try to blend in– and I just realized this could be a practical reason/benefit for detraction being a sin. It short-circuits the “I am trying to be good” effect. Meanwhile the town oddball will get a lot of eyeballing, but “everyone knows” they’re a bit odd so it takes higher harm to trigger a malice response.

      2) Oh goodness yes. Sort of like how suddenly everyone in movies can throw knives– even though it’s a total pain in real life. Soemone did it as an awesome thing, once, and now it’s EVERYFREAKINGBODY.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        One “romantic comedy” (Romancing The Stone?) had the female character (an author) make her story character throw a knife to “take down the (in-book) bad-guy”.

        However, the author later tries it and the “real” bad guy is able to avoid the knife. 👿

        • I spent one summer practicing throwing hatchets.

          It was REALLY HARD to get one to stick in the tree…but it was really easy to do major damage to the tree.

          Contrast with throwing a knife– uh, no. Total value was freak-out.

          • Throwing a knife depends a LOT on the knife. You don’t throw most kitchen knives, and a pocket knife is right out. In fact, few knives that are useful tools are good for throwing. The handle is too heavy for the blade, if it’s a belt knife, and the blade is generally too big on a kitchen knife. You really need one that is balanced for throwing.

            Distance is a strong factor, too, because the knife (or hatchet, axe, pick, army combo-tool [which I was told some guy used for his weapon throwing, and was very good at it], etc) rotates at a certain rate, which is hard to alter, so it needs a certain distance in order to rotate the right amount to stick the end of the blade into the target. Which is likely why throwing stars are pointy all over.

            • Big advantage of “chuck a hatchet” is that even if you miss, it’s a freaking 5lb chunk of steel.

              • I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing both knives and axes (hatchets), but yes, you really don’t want to be hit with the back of the head of a hatchet. It might not hurt as much as getting hit by the blade, but it sure wno’t feel good.

                Aside: Recently, one of my friends made some “hurlbats”, which are basically hatchets made of a single piece of flat metal, handle and all, here the end of the handle sticks up beyond the blade and has a point, the back of the blade sticks out to a pint, and the base of the handle is sharpened to a point. You almost ALWAYS hit with a pointy bit. I want a set badly.

                • I saw something where the Franks tended to bounce their throwing hatchets along the ground because even if a sharp bit didn’t make the hit you tripped your enemy and at the least smacked the hell out of them, and as the flew at the enemy they tended to be a bit unpredictable making dodging them a touch harder.

                  Many of the “Tactical” tomahawks I have seen are pointy all over, and pretty much any hit is going to have a point on it somehow

                • the back of the blade sticks out to a pint
                  Now *that* is a handy tool!

            • Pocket knives are NOT right out. It’s just a different technique, and a lot of practice.
              I could never throw a balanced throwing knife worth a darn, but I could generally cut the twine on the next bale of hay with a folder.

              The trick to throwing a folder is to hold it at the extreme end, and snap your wrist at the release. You want it to twist while it spins. You’re looking to maximize the rotational speed. With the center of gravity so far back, a fast spin means the point spends relatively more time forward, and is farther away from the center of rotation. If the angular momentum is greater than the forward momentum, the point will reliability strike first.
              (Yes, this is exactly backwards from how you throw a balanced knife. But try to minimize spin on a folder, and you’ll hit hilt first every time.)

              • Curious – are you referring to a single-bladed lockblade knife? That would be far easier, in my opinion. I was remembering my attempts to reliably throw a three-bladed penknife, which is all I had at the time.

                • Exactly that.
                  Yeah, throwing one of my old timers would be a exercise in futility. And very quickly result in a broken knife.

              • Terry Sanders

                The other way to throw a knife is to let it sit in the palm of your hand (hold it there with your thumb) and throw it *underhand,* letting it slide off your palm. It doesn’t rotate at all–point-first all the way to the target.

                The big disadvantage is range–without the tumble it’s unstable, so you can’t expect to stay point-first more than ten or twenty feet, and ten is more likely. But within that range it’s almost useful as a combat move–if you’re that excited about throwing away your weapon in the middle of a fight.

      • Yep. One of the issues is that the nefarious can hide in the odd. See psychopaths hiding in our community or pedophiles amid gays.

        • Trust me, I know all about how psychopaths, mainly predatory ones, can hide in a community.

          And how labeling every bad experience a consent violation makes everyone a predator and gives the real ones even more cover.

          • PRECISELY. All the “me too” covers for the real Harvey Weinsteins.

          • Given the number of women who will prostitute themselves for a good gig and the times I’ve seen “piling on” once a target has been tackled, I’m a bit suspicious about mee-too-ism. That’s not to say that rape and the threat of rape aren’t present in Big Media, but these things tend to go both ways when moral standards are lax or absent. Nagina isn’t exactly an unknown type either.

      • Patrick Chester

        Oh goodness yes. Sort of like how suddenly everyone in movies can throw knives– even though it’s a total pain in real life.

        Well, it’s all in the reflexes…

    • I suspect that the monastic orders were formed as refuges for medieval era odds.

      • Definitely not a minor aspect of it– for both sides.

        I think part of the success of Christianity is that it embraces (or at least can do so) the power of Odds.

        I mean, seriously, an adult man fooling around in the garden growing DIFFERENT COLORS OF PEAS?!?! WHiskey tango?

      • Me too. Of course, it winnowed us away more than even the fact it’s hard to find a mate in a village. We’ve never had it so good for finding mates/marrying/reproducing. I wonder what that will mean in future.

        • Look to the “second” or “third” generation geeks– I’m a third, although I only figured that out later on. Dotto Elf, from talking to his grandma. (she’s a norm– he was Odd.)

          We need more manners, but when we work…we’re REALLY good.

          The internet makes it easier, but stuff like the Feds sending out folks to work on power systems, phones, dams— they put new odds dead center of local odds, and we crossed.

    • “3. In a counter to #2, as romantic as the poem is Noyes’s titular highwaman got what he deserved.”

      So did Bess, by certain standards: better to stick with the stablehand than dally with the bad boy who’ll get you killed.

      • True…Bess picked the kind of boy she wanted and got the consequences of it. You can choose your actions or your outcomes but you can’t choose them independently of each other.

    • The highwayman indeed got what he went back asking for, but I always thought it so very unfair of him to have wasted Bess’s sacrifice so selfishly.
      My more “romantically” inclined son could understand the impulse, but I never could.
      But I love reciting the poem anyway.

  9. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I’ve thought that the nasty truth behind “takes from the rich and gives to the poor” was that Robin the Hood paid off the “poor” near his hide-out so they wouldn’t lead the Sheriff’s men to his hide-out. 😈

    Of course, Robin the Hood might also “promise” to painfully kill anybody who betrayed him but a smart criminal might use the “pay-off” as well as threats. 😉

    • Carrots work. Sticks work.

      Carrots plus sticks are often greater than the sum of each individually.

    • Except that Robin Hood didn’t rob from the rich – he robbed the tax collectors, and gave back to the taxees. It’s somewhat easy to hide in the local populace when the people you’re hammering are the people that are also hammering the locals.

      • I’m sorry, that narrative is too libertarian and doesn’t meet current approved media narratives. You comment must be racist or something.

      • Long before reading Ayn Rand’s campaign to take down the Robin Hood myth I had realised that the end effect of Robin Hood’s efforts was higher taxes, raised to offset the losses and costs increases for the larger troops of soldiery required to accompany tax collectors.

        The net effect of Robin Hood’s intrusions was a larger burden on the broader populace in exchange for some unearned financial boost for a few conveniently located peasants.

        • Wouldn’t that require that the costs involved in taxes be for fixed expenses, rather than the known value of the taxes being variable on a cost/reward basis for a large part of the charge?

          In English– for modern taxes, yeah, but for old-style “go where the money is” taxes where only a small part when to needed expenses, not so much.

      • That wasn’t until the movies.

        • No, that was very much part of the stories going a long ways back. It was always a bit of a resistance story. And never really about socialism.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            What’s the difference between a “trickster story” and a “resistance story”?

            Many “trickster stories” involve a “weaker person” getting the better of a “stronger person” (with higher status equaling stronger).

            The Saxon Robin Hood vs Norman over-lords starts in the 1800’s while Robin Hood stories go back 500-600 years prior to those versions.

            For that matter, at least one of the early Robin stories have him losing to everybody he meets except for the Sheriff which is very much the meme of “the trickster tricks himself”.

            • I didn’t think Mary was replying to the “trickster” part, but to my claim about robbing the tax collectors.

              I think you make an interesting point, though.

              (BTW, having access to this much varied opinion on Robin Hood thirty-mumble years ago would have made my high school final senior paper a much better product. And even more fun to write. 🙂 )

            • Trickster stories are more “unorganized” and less moral, often shading to outright evil.

              • And a proper Trickster gets into trouble at least once from his own actions. See Coyote stories for some of the best examples.

                • Loki and Anansi are two versions of the Trickster, both fall into the “so sharp he cuts himself” camp.

                  I am wondering now whether Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese were aware of native American Coyote tales …

                • You mean like how Robin Hood met Little John? or Friar Tuck? or ended up trading buffets with King Richard.

                  • I was rather under the impression that royalty preferred sit-down dinners, with formal service, in those days. I suppose, in deference to the difficulties of maintaining quality dining furniture in the forest, it is possible Richard offered his in exchange for Robin’s.

          • Which ballads are you referring to?

    • With Robin Hood, you also have an underlying idea that what you are actually dealing with is a civil rebellion caused by a corrupt government, or else (with the ones set earlier than Richard Lion-Heart) essentially resistance to an occupying Norman army by the natives.

      Which is why you read quotes from the Domesday Book about the sheriff / foresters / etc. spotting an outlaw “killing the King’s deer”, trying to raise the “hue-and-cry”, and having entire villages saying basically “nobody saw noffink, milord Sheriff”.

      With the privateers / pirates, again, people probably weren’t entirely unsympathetic to privateers who were legally fighting the country’s enemies one minute and “pirates” the next due to a shift in court politics.

      It all gets back to that concept called “legitimacy”: a government that has at least implied “consent of the governed” has more people who won’t sympathize with outlaws. We’ve been headed that way for 25 years or more, and it’s not going to end well.

      • With the privateers / pirates, again, people probably weren’t entirely unsympathetic to privateers who were legally fighting the country’s enemies one minute and “pirates” the next due to a shift in court politics.

        There may be a cowboy/rustler effect, too– that is, they’re privateers when they can get hired, and pirates when nobody is paying the bills.

        • Oh, absolutely…. and another popular trick was for someone like the East India Company to hire pirates to go after competitors.

          Happened in this country too; there’s a pretty fair body of evidence that what happened in Tombstone was basically a gang war, Clantons vs Earps. Clanton’s had the Sheriff; Earps had the city council and mayor make them town marshals.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      This is the tack that Angus Donald took with Robin in his Outlaw Chronicles.

    • Agreed. In the last city I lived in they had what became known as the Robin Hood program. They took a lot from the richest school district and spread it out to the poor ones. That’s not how this works! A little bit kicked in from every higher income school I can see somewhat. But the folks living in the richest district weren’t happy, as you can imagine, because they were now running short of funds. They took almost 40% from that particular school system. The parents revolted and sent their kids to private schools until they knocked it off. They ended up reaching a compromise.

      • We home school.

        Imagine my response to seeing that our rural district is looking at a 50% increase in property taxes, because they in their 95% Spanish language programs thing are “falling behind” in metrics.

        …you force folks whose parents speak English to learn in horrible Spanish, and they fail. Gosh. Figure.

    • The first ballad with any allusion to such giving to the poor is (IIRC) one where a poor old woman helps him hide because he had given her something.

  10. Your grandmother, my grandfather. He absolutely loathed the Woody Guthrie song romanticizing Pretty Boy Floyd, because he’d actually met the man. His attempts to describe him were slightly hindered by the fact that he didn’t know the word “psychopath,” but the idea came through.

    • My grandma and your grandpa were
      Sit-tin’ by the fire. – My grandma told
      Your grandpa “I’m gonna set your flag on fire.”
      Talk-in’ ’bout, Hey now ! Hey now ! I-KO, I-KO, un-day
      Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-n?. – Jock-a-mo fee na-n?
      Look at my king all dressed in red
      I-KO, I-KO, un-day. I betcha five dollars he’ll kill youdead
      Jock-a-mo fee na-n?
      Talk-in’ ’bout, Hey now ! Hey now ! I-KO, I-KO, un-day
      Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-n?. – Jock-a-mo fee na-n?

      • One Mardi Gras, one of the “Big Chiefs” didn’t get his headdress finished in time for the festivities and knew he’d lose to a particular rival.
        So he had a plan.
        The one with the Full Getup had his spyboy report back that (Tootie?) was without headgear. So once the two met in the street, he came a strutting up, all confident of a glorious win, when suddenly his rival pulled a sawed-off shotgun decorated with a few of the unused feathers, no less, and blew the headdress off his head.

    • The resistance thing carries a lot of weight. Jessie and Frank James made use of it and the Robin Hood lesson. Knew of someone who’s father used to get a silver dollar for looking after the horses when Jesse James and a member of their gang stopped in to stay a while.

      OTOH, I may be distant kin to Champ Ferguson, and the way the old matrons dropped their voices when they uttered the name “Champ,” they weren’t proud of it.

      • Er, make that the Robin Hood legend.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        It wasn’t just Robin Hood. A fair amount of that sort of activity was fairly explicit ‘South Will Rise Again’ stuff. I knew a guy who, among other things, looked for loot some of those gangs had hidden with the local Klan/Democratic Party for that purpose.

  11. They still try to justify how people go that bad. The entire “self esteem” industry is part of this, and also a piece of nonsense, as few people have as much unearned self esteem as juvenile delinquents, or a sense of the respect “due” to them as gang members.

    One, in this case, could make a very supportable argument that it some of our problems are society’s fault for pushing such nonsense.

  12. All indisputably true.

    Nevertheless, The Count of Monte Cristo remains one of my favorite stories.

    In fact, family history dictates that I view smugglers and moonshiners as just normal folks, getting by (and helping others get by) as best they can.
    Sure, pirates and highwaymen are black-hearted rogues.
    But with privateers, mercenaries, and rebellions, there’s space for an awful lot of grey.

    • Ah, but smugglers and moonshiners are deliverers and producers, not burglars or thieves. A gov’t might consider them “tax thieves” but outside that? They’re productive, unlike actual burgling types.

    • Michael Brazier

      Edmond Dantes doesn’t steal from or kill people in “The Count of Monte Christo” – he’s not really an outlaw. He exposes the crimes of the people who had him sent to prison, and lets the law punish them for him.

    • Found out recently that my grandfather used to run moonshine from the Carolinas down to Florida back during Prohibition.

      • I know I’ve mentioned before, but– my great grandfather was a highway man, or a coach robber, not quite sure… his wife, up until she figured it out, worked at a stage stop.

        She found out, and went from Kansas to somewhere in (I think) Oregon. I think she filed divorce paperwork, too.

        Absolutely zip idealization of the “romantic” thing there, although her son (papa!) was in a post WWI motorcycle gang.

        They road around doing seasonal labor. A hazard, but not exactly your Hells Angels here.

        • country you almost never hear on a country station outside of the Blue Ridge area.

          • Really? Geez, that was on continuous play for a while, here in Dayton. (Of course, there are times when Dayton is just the up-north suburb of Kentucky and Tennessee… heh, that’s the auto business and WWII for you.)

            • There are times it feels that way down here in Cincinnati, too, even in the suburbs. So many immigrants from Appalachia it makes telling Kentucky or even West Virginia jokes dangerous.

            • Most of its airplay now is non-country stations, or like where I hear it regularly, internet radio. Same as Johnny Cash’s American Recordings albums, it isn’t looked on favorably by the Wannabe-Pop management foisting pap onto the populace. Stuff like Wilco, Sun Volt, a lot of Neko Case’s solo countryish tunes, ain’t gonna be on their station, by gum!

          • Cadillac, Cadillac
            Long and dark, shiny and black
            Open up your engines let ’em roar
            Tearing up the highway like a big old dinosaur

            James Dean in that Mercury ’49
            Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline
            Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans-Am
            All gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch


            Let it be noted that Burt’s black Trans-Am was running wingman for a load of bootleg beer.

  13. But those are the exceptions. Most people who live an evil life be it simply squandering everything, or actually robbing others or extorting from others (money or sex or whatever) are never going to reform. They like what they do, they’re successful at it, why would they stop? Investing them with a patina of romance and undeserved suffering doesn’t help that one bit. Psychopaths are VERY good at putting on the motley and playing the part you expect them to.

    Recently I have been more than usually disgusted by the news.

    While Mr. Weinstein is responsible for his despicable actions he have certainly been enabled by society. Turning a blind eye to the misbehavior of certain men because they hold the correct political positions and give generously to the proper causes. Dismissing it as it is just the way things are and have always been with powerful men. Taking the position that all men are awful and that is what we can expect of them. (It is men like him that give men a bad name.)

    (I don’t know the pathology of Mr. Weinstein, but his quick trip in and out of rehab will not change my opinion of him. He knows that he is in major hot water and the modern way out is to go into therapy, so into therapy he has gone.)

    I recall a conversation with the mother of a classmate of The Daughter during the Clinton scandals. She was uncomfortable with the news. Like many parents at the time she found it disconcerting to explain what the news was reporting to her elementary age child. Still, she could not really bring herself to condemn him, referring to him as her President. I asked, ‘But what kind of example has he set for your son?’ That knocked her for a loop.

  14. I come from a family that want to whitewash their past. 🙂 Need I say more?

    • And now I picture Tom Sawyer somehow conning other genealogists into doing it.

    • I’ve run in to that some. I find a “skeleton” story and I think it is pretty cool, so I share it with some of the older generation and I get an “Oh. Interesting.” and the conversation drops for a bit. Part is the generation they grew up in just didn’t like to face difficult things. I found out that the lady I am named after was arrested briefly for the murder of her husband (turned out to be suicide) and she had left another husband for the drinking and abuse. But we know nothing about those things. I had to uncover them through other documents. She was a Southern patrician lady and those things were not talked about.

      • Yea– I found some interesting births that were healthy strapping babies at two months. That story of your namesake is very interesting… and sounds like she was a strong lady.

  15. I don’t get where the romance of the bad boy comes in. I always thought that husband material was: A nice guy who earns a good living. Then again both my parents lived through the Depression.

  16. Even liberals like Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Lenard Bernstein in the late 1950s still understood that it was not all society’s fault.

    Really, how could it not be posted with this blog?

    • The odd thing is that song is clearly lampooning the idea and less than a decade later Bernstein would have his famous Bad Panther fund raiser.

      • Yes, well, the human mind is an incredible and complex creation — known to believe two equal and opposite things at the same time and deliberately set out to learn six impossible things before breakfast.

      • Terry Sanders

        As John C. Wright would put it, his Muse was wiser than he.

    • Deep down inside, he’s no good!
      I’m no good!
      We’re no good, we’re no good, we’re no Earthly good, the best of us is no damn good!

      Some of my favorite lines.

    • While we’re on the subject of songs that ought to be posted with this blog:

    • Danged well-dressed punks.

  17. Gracious; only yesterday I was thinking about the Dread Pirate Roberts franchise being a model for such modern terrorist groups as ISIS. al-Qaeda in the Magred and so on. Although, to be fair, I expect the concept precedes the Princees Bride, with examples such as “The People’s Democratic Republic of Fillintheblank.”

    • It did always bother me that to have fulfilled the role Wesley had to kill or ordered killed hundreds if not thousands. Of course, with that said it also made no sense to surrender to the Dread Pirate Roberts as he never left survivors.

    • It really is amazing how things line up– on Friday I spent about an hour of cleaning-the-house brain-cycles musing on Long John Silver and how he was an awesome villain who was redeemed juuuust enough to make you not feel bad about liking him, even while staying a freaking evil dude, no gloss.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        It’s been a while since I read Treasure Island but wasn’t Long John Silver a case of “Even Evil Has Standards”?

        IE He helps out the “Good Guys” because his fellow pirates were “going too far”.

        • Yep.

          He wasn’t willing to kill the puppy.

        • …I know I read it, but the Disney and Muppet versions stuck with me much better.

        • More that he sided with whichever group currently looked like it was going to win.

          • I couldl’ve sworn he changed sides when pragmatism required he kill the boy.

            • That may merely reflect a sentimental streak and not any sense of morality or ethics.

            • I went and re-read that section of the book, and although Robert Louis Stevenson makes it deliberately ambiguous, I think you’re right. When Jim Hawkins shows up again and walks into the pirates’ fort thinking it’s still occupied by his friends, Silver protects him. You could make a good case that Silver is just being pragmatic — since Jim knows where the ship is, Jim’s his only hope of getting off the island with the treasure, and so Silver needs to keep Jim alive. OTOH, the truly pragmatic-but-evil solution to that dilemma (which Silver mentions, so you know it’s crossed his mind) is “Torture Jim until he gives up the ship’s location, then kill him now that he’s no longer useful”. But after Jim’s courageous speech, Silver tells him, “I was going to let them have you, but after that speech of yours, I’m on your side.” Yes, he’s a completely unreliable source (he clearly would have switched sides again had the pirates actually found the treasure), but I think that is the “Refuse to kill the puppy” that moment that you mentioned, which gives juuuust enough redemption that you don’t feel bad about liking him.

    • The other day I mentioned Princess Bride, and got one response of “I’m not sure I like that movie; no female role models.” Besides that the entire point of the movie got missed there, I wound up responding that *nobody* is a role model. Westley is dashing and swoony…and a murderous pirate who never bothered to send a message to his girl. He gets by on his charm. Fezzik is the nicest. Only the Witch (Carol Kane) resembles a role model, since she plays Truth-teller and Voice of Conscience. Well, her and the Ancient Booer. So in fact the only role model at all is a female one.

  18. Sir Francis Drake was a complete a**hole, who was only interested in putting gold in his pocket. He’d ditch anyone and anything that got in the way of him getting more stuff.

    I love a good pirate or Robin Hood movie (or even a well done heist movie), but I’ve always firmly viewed those characters as the wholly fictional creations they are. In real life, people like that are pretty much always murderous, horrible scum.

    • Well, yes, but when they are “our a**holes” they can still be quite useful. American privateers were putting a serious hurt on British sea trade by the end of the War of 1812 and before did enough to the French to get them to stop conscripting our sailors without having to go to war.

      • That is true, but if the history bit of a book (novel) I recently read was accurate, Drake had no problem leaving his own countrymen in the lurch to starve/die/be stranded just so he could go chase loot. (This is specifically referring to the Portugese expedition.)

    • Patrick Chester

      I suspect villagers hate it when a pirate or Robin Hood movie gets made. The opening credits are bad for property values…

      • Terry Sanders

        Pretty much the only scene in that movie I liked.

      • That pretty much sums up a lot of medieval history for the average person. As I tell students, “If you happened to be in the route of one of the invading peoples, the Dark Ages really were pretty dang dark.”

  19. When I was in my teens, I read a lot of Tony Hillerman, and spent several weeks each summer out on teh Colorado Plateau and surrounding areas. One thing I learned is that the Navajo take skinwalkers—their witches—very, very seriously. Anyone who knows what is good and what is evil, and makes the conscious decision to walk the evil path, has a sort of psychological power. Call it a glamour, call it “I don’t give a d-mn” or whatever, but people who knowingly choose evil… There are dang few redemption stories for those sorts of people.

    • I’m still rather freaked out by the correlation between traditional werewolves and skinwalkers.

      Human mental hardware?

    • One of my foster sisters was Navajo. She used to tell us those stories. They are the scariest stories I have ever heard. Plus there are people that evil and who enjoy that kind of power over others.

  20. Think of how kids in a couple hundred years will be dressing up like Gangstas and have Talk Like A Gangsta day, throwing around stereotypes and n words that would horrify peopke today.

  21. *mournful* I wish I could make folks like it when I am a buzz kill…..

  22. And sure, some people might be more susceptible to it than others. And sure, having a bad childhood doesn’t help. But blaming poverty or a bad childhood for later crimes, the way Marxists do, is an insult to every poor, abused child who chooses to grow up decent and a credit to society.

    If you’re going to go the “you have no choice” route, go the “you have no choice but to be good”– that is at least helpful.

    The “you have no choice but to be evil” means that if someone seems to be good, they MUST really be evil…and anybody thinking they should be good will think it’s hopeless.

  23. My paternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother both emigrated to Canada because they were part of underclass in Britain and wanted to break the cycle of poverty and criminality.

    Both my grandmothers thought it was their duty to civilize me when I was young because I have barbarian or hooligan genes, according to them.

    • I have barbarian or hooligan genes, according to them.

      Hannah Arendt once said, “Every generation, Western civilization is invaded by barbarians – we call them ‘children.’”

    • As I said, one thing is to have the tendencies (keep in mind the same is true if you have noble genes, because for most history the nobility were those who would fight, etc) the other to give way to them.

  24. Lenny Bruce said it all …


    Mask man, wait a minute!

  25. I don’t have a problem with the anomalous criminal of whatever sort who, for whatever reason, got into the criminal life and now can’t leave it, as long as it’s clean that he IS anomalous, and the story doesn’t imply that it’s a normal state of affairs, because there WILL be outliers in all groups, and it’s likely that in such a large group, there will be a few who are that far outside the norm.

  26. I’ve pretty much quit watching the Legends of Tomorrow TV show, largely because losing both Arthur Darvill and Wentworth Miller in one season took out the only characters I enjoyed watching, but there was one priceless exchange between Miller’s Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart and Dominic Purcell’s Mick “Heatwave” Rory that I’ve always remembered and which seems very applicable here:

    SNART (brooding): “Why did we become criminals?”
    RORY (matter of factly): “Because we hate working and we love money.”
    SNART: “Ah. Right.”

    • They also lost Victor Barber.

      • They lost me, too, when it was announced they were adding Isis to the group. It was borderline watchable, but Darvill, Miller & Purcell gave it some interest, and a few inside baseball jokes livened it up, but it was clearly headed down the CW drain … I could, with effort, forgive the mucking about with history only so long.

        IMDb and show descriptions (as well as the requirements of Firestorm’s dual nature) seem to indicate Victor is still there. Not that they ever gave him much of interest to do.

        • Yeah, but it’s not the real Mighty Isis. It’s the stupid new Mighty Isis. Ptui.

          OTOH, I really have never been able to watch Legends of Tomorrow. There will be a good scene, followed by immense amounts of crap. If I wanted that, I’d be watching the new Doctor Who.

          Get off my lawn, kids!

        • I stopped watching it when it became your typical millenial dramedy.

  27. For those who have read “Wiseguy”, or seen Scorsese’s film of the book “Goodfellows”, both make the point that the mafia crews love what they do.
    They get to be special, respected, feared in their communities. They get to live the big money lifestyle, with lots of laughs.
    But, it’s hollow- you’re still an outlaw dealing with criminals. In his commentary track, Scorsese points out that most wiseguys usually earned on average the same amount of money as the regular working guys they looked down on.

  28. Professor Badness

    I hear ya!
    I’m personally tired of the plethora of TV shows where everyone is a bad guy, usually with a few redeeming quality. Those qualities are supposed to make us sympathetic, but they make me hate them more in the face of the evil things they do.
    He’s a family man…who’s a hit man.
    He’s a vampire..who’s trying to create clean energy.
    He’s a sociopathic killer…but he only kills other murderers.
    The redemptive qualities of these characters is not enough to offset the evil they do!
    It’s one thing when a scoundrel becomes a good guy, it’s something else entirely when the bad guy continues being bad.

  29. You can do a sympathetic Dark Hero…someone who does the necessary-but-dirty work. But he pays a price. He’s a defender of society, but never quite an accepted part. The Matt Helm novels play this idea to the hilt, if you think about it.

    Although these days, you could do a really good story about a Hero and Heroine who are struggling to keep a spark of Civilization lit amid a sea of darkness. For that spark is the key to the future…

    • See also: The Searchers, Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, that one movie with Clint Eastwood, nearly all the other movies with Clint Eastwood…

      • “He’s a defender of society, but never quite an accepted part.”

        “The sheep would be far more comfortable with a sheepdog if he didn’t have fangs.” Possibly a paraphrase, but it points up why soldiers are always looked down upon by parts of a society.

        • Terry Sanders

          The sheepdog doesn’t just protect the sheep. He also herds them. And nobody likes being bullied, even when it really is for their own good.

          • There’s a Louis L’Amour novel set in a mining town in which a “town tamer” is forced to step up, eliminate the lawless and impose order … after which he has to move on, leaving his claim because all of the “decent” town folk, while grateful for his achievement, cannot help but think he was excessive in his approach.

            I forget the title of the book, but I think the MC’s name was Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani.

      • And 24. But they managed to turn Dark Hero into torture porn and utter incompetence. (The premise of the show was decent, but watching the DVDs, I commented, “If they weren’t such screw-ups, the show would be called ‘8’.”)

  30. Christopher M. Chupik

    It’s easy to romanticise someone you don’t personally have to deal with.

  31. OK, I got here from “the Lieutenant wouldn’t like it” over in PJ media. I’ll be back here a lot; anyone who respects Heinlein is someone I would like. Interesting thread but there is a point to the “bad man” character that I haven’t seen here. An intelligent woman knows that in a direct confrontation she is most likely to come in the loser. She is attracted to a man who can defend his wife and family. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 48 years. I’ve been looking after her for a bit longer and, as a true Texas lass, she has had my back on a few close encounters of the worse kind. Amazing what a lady with a laser equipped firearm can do to distract the bad guys!
    I got into science reading Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke all of the greats. I joined the Army because of Heinlein, few combat helicopters in RVN, medically retired, worked for the Phoenix Police, went to work for NASA as an astrophysicist, learned first hand the bad results of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy and am now retired. At my age, defending the family means firearms. “God created all men, Sam Colt made them equal”.
    I’ve leaned Mother Nature wants to kill you, most nations are NOT democracies nor are their rulers interested in peace, and that anyone who yells to prevent me from being heard is admitting they don’t have a logical leg to stand on. I’m a scientist with a genius IQ, a combat vet and have a lifetime of experience dealing with the world so obviously I don’t have anything to say to a college professor who has gone to school, quite literally, his whole life and has no experience with governments who murder their own citizens because those citizens were inconvenient. In this world, I keep my firearms cleaned, ammo near to head and I don’t go into places where I can not personally get my bride out in case of emergency. The concert in Las Vegas as a case in point.

    • Interesting thread but there is a point to the “bad man” character that I haven’t seen here. An intelligent woman knows that in a direct confrontation she is most likely to come in the loser.

      As a matter of fact, that point has been brought up on this site before (but of course you wouldn’t know that if you just found the site), and I have been somewhat surprised to see that it hasn’t been brought up yet in the comments on this article.

      • I believe that Foxfier brought that up in her 8:26 PM comment, when she talked about the “dangerous guy” search parameter. Though she hadn’t yet posted that comment when Capt. Bart commented, as his comment is from 6:39 PM.

  32. My grandfather had no use for “self esteem”. Self-respect, yes, and he always said we should be the kind of people we would happily invite home for dinner.

    His usual example was Bonnie and Clyde, whom he met during the Great Depression when they stopped at his drug store to buy something (he later was one of the people called in to identify their bodies). He said that Bonnie was a small cute redhead, and Clyde looked rather distinguished, and he added that while he was around them he’d felt much the same way he’d felt when he almost stepped on the rattlesnake, which was also attractive and could have killed him without proper handling.

    But he said that you could tell they felt good about themselves.

  33. And then you get Billy The Kid as one of those difficult cases. I am not saying that Billy was a nice guy – he wasn’t – but he stayed on the right side of the law and did his nine-to-five. So what happened. A rich guy got into corruption, then intimidation to keep the marks in line, and so on to legally sanctioned muder. Billy got into community organising and started shooting back. The government stepped in with troops. Billy as the community leader was declared outlaw. As for the corrupt officials and businessmen who started all of this, the government looked at them sternly, and … come on guys, this is the real world. Little brown baggies were exchanged and they all went back to business as usual. So, Billy – victim, hero, outlaw, then vicious thug lashing out at everybody.

    • Billy the Kid … he was one of those guys who might have gone either way.
      I did a bit about him here: I thought he was at least half a victim of circumstance and an affinity for bad company.
      http://www.celiahayes.com/archives/2097

      “An impulsive sociopath, or just an unfortunate teenager with extremely bad luck in choosing friends? Even his name and date of birth are open to considerable question; his given name was William Henry, later shortened to Billy, but his surname varied between McCarty, Antrim or Bonney, depending on the year and circumstance. His mother was an immigrant Irishwoman, Catherine McCarty, either a single mother or a Civil War widow. After the War, Catherine married, or married again – to William Antrim, who took his wife and her son west to Wichita and then to Silver City, New Mexico. Catherine McCarty Antrim kept a boarding house there until she died of tuberculosis in 1874. It appeared that William Antrim had no interest in family life; Billy and his younger brother were left more or less to their own devices.
      The young Billy McCarty/Antrim was not seen as juvenile hell-raiser by anyone in Silver City at first. He was described as being no more of a handful than any other boy his age; bright and rather charming, fond of music and books. Curiously enough for the time and his station in life, he was also literate and had good handwriting. Billy made friends easily, especially with the ladies. Everyone wanted to think the best of him; long afterwards one of his friends wrote that he “seemed as gentlemanly as a college-bred youth … because of his humorous and pleasing personality grew to be a community favorite.” He also was a very good shot with a revolver – only to be expected of someone who had a natural skill and practiced a lot.”

    • …huh?

      Billy the Kid, the guy who shot like half a dozen guys who “crossed” him? As a decent guy?

      WTF?

      • Why is Billy a difficult case? He started out as a law abiding citizen (not nice, but law abiding). Only after being threatened, intimidated, and then shot at (by legally sanctioned thuglies who did not like the victims objecting to being robbed) did he organise vigilantes to start shooting back. Only after all the bad guys were given pardons and he was declared outlaw did he become bitter, twisted, and hating the whole wide world. So when you say “victim of society” he comes forward as exhibit A. If the law had worked he would never had ended up being a criminal or hurting anyone.

        • You realize there are different versions of Billy the Kid and hes’ one of those problematic people where if you get one side of his biography you’ll think he’s a total psychopath, another you’ll think he was an angel. But we don’t KNOW.

          • Heck, how many decades did people mistakenly think he was a lefty?

          • This was not intended to be a meet you with references at ten paces type thing. Victims of society – mostly an excuse made after the fact, but then there are cases where you find people who need structure get mulched and they react badly. I used Billy as a well known controversial case, but plenty of others. If Billy did not have inherent “problems” he would simply have simply have said “meh” and departed for other climes – instead he went postal. What then not of people failing to cope in a normal society, but when they fail to cope with being abused by the authorities charged with maintaining law and order? Does an active abuse by society provide any mitigating arguments for a (insert your favourite case here)? What about a Bundy (armed stand off with the authorities, with someone being shot dead)?

            • “Why doth Treason never prosper? Because, sir, if it prosper, none dare CALL it treason!”

              “History is written by the victors” and “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” are simply describing how real life actually works. George Washington was never called “Father of his Country” in Lord Cornwallis’ officers mess.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well Washington as “father of his country” came much later in his life so Lord Cornwallis’ officers mess wouldn’t call him that but apparently there were people praising Washington in England early after we won. 😉

                For that matter, there were factions in England supporting us even after the fighting started. IIRC some of the English generals didn’t want to fight Americans (of course some of them were willing to fight the French forces who were fighting on our side).

                • What he was called* in Lord Cornwallis’ officers mess, loosely translated, was the idiomatic equivalent of “Father of His Country.”

                  *Technically, accused of.

            • He was a murderer and a thief.

              In contrast, Bundy is a rancher whose range was re-defined from under him, and he didn’t shoot anybody. Just keep going.

              • Ok – so Foxifier believes that Bundy being victimised by the authorities should not be taken into account when considering his actions in trying to hold off a judicial confiscation of his property. I have more sympathy for him than you do – but you are entitled to your opinion.

                • You might want to re-read what I actually said.

                  • If you would in turn do so for me. “Does an active abuse by society provide any mitigating arguments for a (insert your favourite case here)?”

                    • Ah. One of those.

                      To quote our hostess- behold my middle fingers.

                    • Yeah fine, whatever. I do not reciprocate as I respect your right to have an opinion and am happy that if we disagree on something it is a disagreement, not something personal.

                    • ….right, and that’s why you ignored what I actually wrote, then tried to flip my noticing that around and demand I respond in exactly your terms.

                      Not a higher detail one.

                      Totally respectful….

                    • Seriously? In my prior comment I acknowledged that Billy had problems, that I did not want to get hung up on that case, said that there were other cases of victims of society that could be used, and then used the Bundy case. Again, we disagree on Billy and I am happy to say I have the wrong viewpoint if it pleases you.

                    • You seem to be under the strange impression that the issue is disagreement, rather that misrepresentation of what I said.

                      Communication can survive (great!) with the former, but not the latter.

                    • You’re lying about what she said. That’s not an opinion. That’s slander. She let you off lightly. You are right now treading the ban hammer line by behaving like the drunk uncle at a wedding.

                    • Depends. There are usually a ton more options than “kill a lot of people.” Also “Every murderer claims to be abused”

                • Excuse me: WHY ARE YOU PUTTING WORDS INTO FOXFIER’S MOUTH? THAT’S NOT WHAT SHE SAID AT ALL.

          • Don’t know how faithful “Chisum” was historically, but it was an interesting movie portrayal of the Lincoln County Cattle War.

          • Why not both? Jessie James and his buddy were pretty nice to the locals when they visited, but the two had a serious falling out when the latter tried to turn him in. And no, the buddy wasn’t Ford. I’d have to look though my notes for his name, but he ended up dying in a Confederate Veterans Home IIRC, one of the last living members of the gang.

            IIRC, there is a psychological condition where a person operates on an internal code but has little regard for the laws of society. They can act like the best person you’ve ever met, a regular angel if you don’t cross them. But do them wrong by their internal code, and they become a pure demon. That’s sounds like a lot of these outlaws.

  34. Last in line.

    This is a very readable book about the pirate economy. They were actually a constitutional democracy.
    —————
    The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

    Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

    The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates’ search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy–a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers’ compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice–their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.

    Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history’s most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates’ trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I read H Beam Piper’s Space Viking last week and this sounds very much like the non-fiction version.

    • SOME of them were. It’s more complicated than that.

      • Lots of cases don’t fit into neat little boxes.

      • The whole era gets somewhat confusing, between pirates, privateers, and former privateers whose letters of marque were invalidated.

        I do have to change my schedule around to the morning for you, though. An image of an ornamental silver nail with a cute triangular head – and a great rack – has the family wondering why I’m chuckling so much while cooking dinner.

    • Ol’ Edward Teach, running aground, telling a good portion of the crew he’d come back for them, and left them to die or be captured. What he was doing was trimming his crew to increase profits. He was downsizing. Had he lived in our times, he’d probably be a CEO.

      Right now I’m trying to think of the town in the Caribbean or Central America that came under siege from pirates. The governor ordered a scorched earth policy before retreating to the fortified town so that the pirates would have to sail away or starve. The pirates did neither – they ate their dead.

      Tangent: Was Captain Flint based on an actual pirate? Stevenson has Flint dying calling for rum in Savannah. There’s an actual tavern in Savannah known as The Pirate House due to it’s association with pirates. There’s a tunnel that once ran to the wharf, and a shanghai operation ran out of it at one time. And the story goes that this is where Flint died – except Flint was a fictional character.

      Ah, but if Flint was based on a real pirate, things get interesting.

    • I have it on good^h^h^h^h not too bad authority that piracy around the Gulf Coast ended very suddenly when they figured out they could make even more money as harbor pilots. And still do today.

    • Perhaps more despicable to me than even piracy was the practice of at least one town on the coast of the Carolinas. According to the local historian when times were hard the locals would go out to the coast near the rocks and tie a mule or two up on the beach with a lantern on their backs. The swaying of the light at night would look like the lights on a ship. Cargo ships unfamiliar with the area and looking for a safe harbor would see the ‘other ships’ anchored there and sail in to anchor as well. Then they’d crash on the rocks and drown. In the morning the locals would go out to collect whatever goodies had washed up on shore.

      • Wreckers. There were others in the British Isles and probably elsewhere.

        • I think that scheme has been tried everywhere there’s a coast with the right mix of bad weather, coastal conditions, and foreign shipping that couldn’t be expected to know the local waters very well.

          • G. K. Chesterton used a variation on that scheme as the plot for one of his Father Brown mysteries: it was a planned murder attempt, that Father Brown foiled by figuring it out beforehand and preventing the murderer from carrying out his scheme. The murderer was planning to kill a whole shipful of people in order to kill one man: as I recall, the only relative standing between him and a lucrative inheritance of some kind.

        • Everywhere in the world. And yes, it’s despicable.

          • It is simple justice, payback against those vile traders who exploit arbitrary imbalances in distribution of the world’s resources, taking advantage of abundances in some areas to buy cheaply and then transporting those goods to areas where they are scarce and to make windfall profits! This kind of shore activity is merely an attempt at redistributive fairness. The truly despicable ones are the traders who take obscene profits simply for transporting goods they haven’t produced.

            Excuse me – more coffee required as I almost convinced myself with that nonsense.

          • More despicable than piracy even, because as a pirate, you take the risk of someone’s sticking a sword into you.

  35. Christopher Chantrill

    Sarah:
    I just got my Great Enrichment page up. ‘Cos in the last 200 years per capita income has gone up by 30 times. In real dollars.
    https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_great_enrichment

  36. Any thread involving pirates needs this:

  37. Pirates, smugglers, aristocrats? You mean, like the Kennedys?

  38. Regarding a time machine back to the Victorian age, I’ve long held that high school graduates should be given a 30 day round trip out of the country to anywhere in the world by the .gov. The caveat being no English speaking first world countries – except maybe the formerly great Britain. I figure most of them would be ready to come back the second or third day of the trip; and kiss the ground as they got off the plane.

    • As a former exchange student, you need more than 30 days. The adjustment comes around Christmas, when you go in summer. SERIOUSLY.
      Also, o groups, no social media. Hard to enforce if no groups and taking them out individually.
      Otherwise you just committed tourism.

  39. “blaming poverty or a bad childhood for later crimes, the way Marxists do, is an insult to every poor, abused child who chooses to grow up decent and a credit to society.” Oh, hells yes. THIS.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I wouldn’t say I was poor or abused. I also made the choice to attempt decency, and sometimes I even remember it.