Happy New Year

I wish I were more enthusiastic but I still wish everyone a good year. The “fiscal cliff” talks have ended about as I expected. The Republicans have pretty much rolled over. The House has yet to vote and I wonder how that will go. If they all grew a spine (or some other anatomical parts) they would vote “present” and let the Democrats pass the bill. Drudge has a link to the Breitbart story.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.

When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.

“In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,” Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

“In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”

This will be another such fake compromise. However, The Gods of the Copybook Headings are coming.

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

It’s too long to post all of it and, for those who are unsure of the source of the title, copybooks were supplied for all school children in England, when it was still England. The copy books had traditional aphorisms on each page that children were expected to learn.

Another expression that relates to the books was someone “blotted his copybook.” This meant making an error that was difficult to correct.

The “copybook headings” to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, extolling virtues such as honesty or fair dealing that were printed at the top of the pages of 19th-century British students’ special notebook pages, called copybooks. The school-children had to write them by hand repeatedly down the page.

The work has been described as “beautifully captur[ing] the thinking of Schumpeter and Keynes.”[2] David Gilmour says that while topics of the work are the “usual subjects”, the commentary “sound better in verse”[3] while Alice Ramos says that they are “far removed from Horace’s elegant succinctness” but do “make the same point with some force.”[4]

I don’t think I would agree that Keynes is an example of the copybook headings’ wisdom although his recommendations have been wildly distorted by politicians.

We are coming to a period when math will be far more determinant than wishful thinking in terms of our lives.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Hopefully, not this year. Happy New Year.

Tags: , ,

5 Responses to “Happy New Year”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Dr K, here’s wishing you and your readers a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. I’m looking forward to another year of your thought-provoking writing. Fond regards from scary, yet still sunny, South Africa.

  2. norcal says:

    Hey Charlotte,

    Glad to see you here. I remember you from Cathy Seipp’s blog. I recall Cathy liking your comments so much that she would sometimes promote them to a blog post.

    Are you still living in the South African countryside?

  3. Charlotte says:

    Howdy Norcal,

    Great to hear from you. Yes, I’m still living in the mountains outside of Cape Town, but now I have 3G internet so no more hourlong trips to get online! I’m in regular contact with several of the commenters from Cathy’s World, and lurk at Patterico and other sites where some of the regulars still comment. I have so many fond memories of those days.

  4. norcal says:


    I’m glad you have easier access to the internet now. Your life over there seems very quaint and charming. I picture you as the 1980s version of Meryl Streep! Dana told me about the little group you guys have going. Good to know.

    I, too, miss those days. Cathy’s blog was awesome. I loved her style, and the fact that she didn’t talk politics all the time.

    That’s why I enjoy Mike’s blog. He has a lot of personal stories and history to share.

    I visit Patterico, but that site is almost always hard-core politics, which I can only take in limited doses.

  5. Charlotte, it’s so nice to hear from you. I’d love to see some discussion from you about post-Mandela SA.