Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Historical Notes

Subversive Book Asserts Rule By Law, Not King

In 1644, Samuel Rutherford, a Presbyterian theologian, published Lex, Rex, the now excessively scarce, enormously important treatise on limited government and constitutionalism. Only four copies have fallen under the hammer within the last thirty-five years.

Lex, Rex is the first treatment of rule by law, not by men, based upon the separation of powers and covenant between king and subjects, (foreshadowing the social contract). It laid the foundation for the later thinking of political philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. As such, this volume sowed the seeds for modern political systems, including that of the United States.


Alas.

Port in a storm

WINNIPEG - When it comes to fixed income investments, the name says it all. Whether they’re bonds or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), investors know they will receive a regular payment as long as they hold the security.

But fixed income investments evolved out of the most unstable of all human endeavours: war. Their origins date back to the Italian Renaissance when city states began funding wars by issuing debt that paid the creditor a fee. At the time, payments could not be called interest because the Church had banned usury (money-lending). Soon enough, though, almost every European nation wanting to wage war was raising money in this manner.

These investments, however, were anything but secure, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson writes in The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. The Spanish monarchy, for instance, defaulted on its debt almost ten times during the 16th and 17th centuries, making even the most badly managed nations of the modern world look credit-worthy by comparison.


A constitutional presidency? Heads of state vs. heads of government

In many American minds, the system of constitutional monarchy has always appeared more similar to ours than it would seem at first glance. Despite the “window dressing” of kings and queens, we imagine that constitutional monarchies have a political culture rather similar to our form of a republic, all else being equal.

Yet there is one key difference at the highest level. A constitutional monarchy does not invest its head of government with the same prestige as its head of state. It has become clear in recent years that the modern news cycle has turned such intangible royal authority into a very real component of the national life.

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