“Occupy Wall Street” rage misdirected

These people are very upset with a particular strip of roadway in Manhattan.

The protesters are ignorant, smelly hippies.  That about sums up my take.  If you want the longer version, here it is:

The protesters are literate, and some are even educated in some specialty, but they don’t seem to understand economics at all.  Some of them blame poverty and unemployment on “Wall Street”; others blame it on rich people.  Either way, they engage in pure fantasy.

First, Wall Street.  I assume they have no beef with the street itself.  Maybe they just call rich people or corporations “Wall Street,” or at least that’s what my understanding of markets leads me to infer.  They can’t be talking about the stock market–that is, they can’t be talking intelligently about the stock market.  If you know what the stock market actually is (not a true entity, but a loose network for the free and open exchange of securitized goods) and who participates in the stock market (hundreds of millions–if not billions–of individual disparate entities, among whom nearly everyone is included, and none of whom can exercise anything close to what could objectively called coercion over the market), and the effects of a stock market on an economy (a great increase in productivity, availability of capital, and gainful employment), then you have a hard time understanding what the hell it is these people are talking about when they express rage toward Wall Street. They don’t even seem to have a workable definition of what “Wall Street” is.

Because rage toward “Wall Street” is utter nonsense, I must assume they have a serious–albeit irrational–problem with corporations and/or high net worth or high income people.  They believe rich people and/or corporations are responsible for any extant hardship experienced by “the 99%.” But the rich, the corporations, the Apples, Disneys and Microsofts have exercised no force against us; on the contrary, we have engaged in voluntary exchange with them.  We have voted with our dollars to make their owners wealthier than we are.  The fact that they become so well-to-do that they escape the hardships of the rest of us is unfair, but it is not unjust.  They have not forced us to give them our money.  Any man who gives money to Apple does so because, marginally, he values Apple’s production more than his own–not because Apple has forced him to do so.  If the people must slay a dragon, there is a convenient and sensible target; it is an entity that forces us to give it money and it has a monopoly on force, but it is not headquartered on Wall Street.

That dragon is of course the federal government, and I can sympathize with these protesters only insofar as interest groups (including corporations) control the government to meet their own ends at our expense.  However, I see no real advantage in egregious (and probably unconstitutional) measures, such as depleting the wealth of interest groups, outlawing their association, or nationalizing corporations, which seem to be the sort of unjust solutions favored by today’s demonstrators.  I do not suggest a new all-powerful leader of the flock, but instead suggest each sheep be allowed his sovereignty.  I know such an individualistic position has never been and probably never will be popular–people like to be led, lest they wander.  My policy to keep interest groups from controlling government is by binding government down under the chains of the constitution (see Jefferson’s “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”), which would make government a thing so small and insignificant–so limited in its powers of appropriation and bestowal–that no corporation would have any interest in controlling it, because it would be unprofitable to do so.

Ancient Roman British English?

It has been nearly 18 months since I last wrote anything here. Now I spend my days exhaustively reading case law, which can be a little heavy, so I will opine today about a lighter matter.

I write of dramatization and a stylistic puzzle, which crosses my mind every time I watch a re-enactment of ancient society. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations dissolved many centuries before the rise of the English language. Thus to advocate the application of one or another of the many English dialects to the ancients is, from a historical perspective, fatuous.

However, the clear impossibility of a valid conclusion has not prevented contemporary performance artists from coming to a consensus on the question of ancient English dialect. They invariably impose a British accent upon the ancient tongue. Why, o muse, is this so?

The translation of Latin or Greek to English is justified as a matter of convenience. Not only would there be great difficulty in producing a film or play in a dead language, the finished production of that endeavor would burden viewers with subtitles, and add a substantial risk of boring them away. I offer no commentary here on our societal aversion to the written word, but it is undoubtedly true that for many in the audience, reading is a prison from which performance is a furlough, and thus a performance that requires the audience to read is unlikely to reach all of its potential audience members.

Although the translation from Latin or Greek to English is sensible, the use of a British accent is not. As a matter of convenience, producers should employ the accent most intelligible to the intended audience. In America, it would be most sensible to give the ancients American accents; in England, British accents; and so on. To many American listeners, the British accent is distracting; to a small minority, it is unintelligible. For the latter, the production may as well use Latin or Greek, but to their detriment, the mysterious tradition of making Romans speak like Englishmen continues. Film producers and directors often pride themselves on breaking rules, but this is one unwritten rule that no one, to my knowledge, has broken.

Who is to blame for this stylistic decision? My first suspect is William Shakespeare. His plays were performed in England, where his
Caesar and Antony adopted the local accent, and we have always heard a distinct British intonation in the words, “friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Another explanation is that there are specific stylistic advantages to presenting ancient characters with a British accent. England is closer to Italy than America, and the two land masses have a common history dating back to Roman times. Moreover, the British accent gives ancient characters an “Old World” tone, and therefore makes the characters seem more genuine to most viewers.

Whatever the reasoning for this practice, I would like to see some bold producer abandon it. I would like, if only once, to turn on the television and hear Antony speaking like Forrest Gump.