The routine was familiar…
Up at 5:30am…out the door by 6:00am…
Find a cab: ‘À la Gare du Nord, s’il vous plaît’.
For years, we lived in Paris, near the house in Passy where Benjamin Franklin lived when he was representing the ‘terrorists’ in the American colonies and seeking French aid.
Each week we commuted to London. Up on Tuesday, back on Friday.
At the station, we raced up the steps to the Eurostar. Something new: Our ticket was on our cell phone. We just held it against the sensor; the turnstile opened. Then we got in line at passport control. The whole thing took about five minutes, just like it always did.
It’s been at least five years since we made the trip. The Eurostar has upgraded its cars. But some of the faces looked familiar.
We settle down to wait for the train in the business lounge. Again, we needn’t think about it: Grab copies of the Financial Times, Le Figaro, and Libération. Get a cup of coffee. Sit down and get to work.
‘Trump vs. Clinton,’ said a big headline in Le Figaro.
‘Clinton, Trump square off in historic debate,’ says another.
Newspapers — in Paris and London — led off the week with big headlines on the US presidential election.
The whole world is captivated…enthralled…on the edge of its seat, watching two Americans make public spectacles of themselves.
‘The big debate will be watched by 100 million Americans,’ says a typical story.
Ms Clinton is ‘nervous,’ we are told. She has the better grip on the details, but Mr Trump is ‘unpredictable.’
Will he be calm and presidential? Or will he go on the attack, trying to destabilise the Democratic standard bearer?
Ms Clinton should be able to ‘put him away,’ says one pundit. ‘Don’t be too sure,’ says another; Newt Gingrich claims Trump is the best debater in the world.
The candidates try for a ‘gotcha’…a ‘zinger’…a knockout blow to their opponents. Our favourite was President Reagan’s reply (in his contest in 1984 against Walter Mondale) to an interviewer’s question about his age.
Reagan was 73. Mondale 56. The moderator asked, ‘Would Reagan have the stamina to stay alert, as Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for days on end?’
‘I’m not going to make an issue of the age problem,’ Reagan replied, smiling. ‘I won’t exploit the youth and inexperience of my adversary for political gain.’
Even Mondale laughed.
Appalled and disheartened
‘I am appalled and disheartened,’ said a French friend last night.
She recently wrote a book about Lafayette and the American Revolution.
‘To think that this is what has become of the great country founded by Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Washington. Neither of the candidates is worthy to even shine their shoes.’
Her views are shared by millions of Americans. And by us, too, of course. Jefferson and Franklin were geniuses.
Franklin ‘invented’ electricity and the Franklin stove. He set up the first public libraries. He was a colourful writer…a self-made man…an accomplished diplomat.
Jefferson introduced Palladian architecture to the colonies. He founded the University of Virginia and designed its campus. He wrote and spoke several European languages, studied Native American culture and languages, and created his own version of the Bible.
He was a scholar, a statesman, the author of the Declaration of Independence, a scientist…the list goes on and on.
Better put away the guns and lock the ammunition before comparing Trump or Clinton to the Founding Fathers; you are just inviting serious depression.
But long-term Diary sufferers know the whole thing is a rollicking, entertaining scam.
The US in not controlled by the president or by Congress. Voters merely flatter themselves in believing they elect the people who run the country. The important decisions are made by the profiteers, the insiders, the Parasitocrats — that is, by the Deep State.
It doesn’t matter what you call the government — a monarchy, a theocracy, or a dictatorship; they all function in more or less the same way.
The insiders get control and use the government’s monopoly on violence to suppress their enemies and rob their fellow citizens. Unaccountable and unelected, these insiders include cronies, chisellers, anglers, and hangers-on.
It didn’t happen overnight. As we told our French friend last night, it took more than 200 years for these ‘foxes’ (the name Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto gave to the finagling insiders) to get where they are — nested comfortably in Washington and crony industries.
And what would they think of it, the Founding Fathers?
Thomas Jefferson…Benjamin Franklin…George Washington — would any of them recognise in the United States of America any trace of the country they tried to establish?
Washington warned against ‘foreign entanglements’. But now the US is tangled up all over the world.
Jefferson charged that British king George III had ‘sent forth a swarm of agents to harass the people and eat out their substance.’ But the tax rate then was less than 5%. Today, for residents of California or Maryland, it is about 50%.
Then, the ‘swarm’ of agents was so thin on the ground that an American — especially one on the frontier — might live his entire life without ever meeting an employee of His Majesty’s government.
Today, he can hardly go a single day without running into a bureaucrat who is giving him orders:
‘Take off your shoes…put your laptops, tablets, and smartphones on the belt… You must fill out this 1022-X form… You must have a permit… You could face a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail…’
Imagine Jefferson standing in front of 100 million Americans tonight.
Imagine his ghost standing awkwardly in his breeches and buckled shoes. Pausing…hesitating…thinking deeply.
What would he say?
What zinger would he come up with?
For The Daily Reckoning, Australia