PERPETUAL GROWTH IS IMPOSSIBLE: We’ve all heard the story of the clever merchant who asked the King to pay him with grains of wheat placed on a chessboard. On the first square he was to receive one grain; on the second, two grains; on the third, four grains — doubling with every square up to the 64th. The King readily agreed to pay such a small sum; How much could it add up to in just 63 doublings, after all? The answer is that more grain than exists in the entire world would have to be placed on the 64th square. That is “the magic of compound interest” and it is 1) the reason that perpetual economic growth is impossible and 2) the reason that economies based on the creation of money as interest-bearing debt (read: all modern economies) inevitably go into crisis and fail.
THIS YEAR marks the 200th birthday of the great poet and thinker Edgar Allan Poe. Today, October 7th, is the day of his mysterious death 160 years ago in Baltimore. And last month marked the 174th anniversary of his marriage to his beloved Virginia.
Not too long after Poe’s birthday in January of this year, someone very dear to me gave me a surprise present: two gift boxes from the Poe Museum in Richmond, one decorated with a reproduction of the famous Learned portrait of Virginia Poe (pictured, left) and the other (on the right) having on its lid an image of a very young-looking and clean-shaven Edgar Allan Poe — an image I had never seen before. The portrait is oval and in a thin oval gilt frame. Inside the lid of the second box is written “Edgar Allan Poe – Robert Lee Traylor.”
I have been a reader and student of Poe since the age of 11, but this portrait was one I had never seen. The only references I could find to “Robert Lee Traylor” and a Poe portrait were as the owner of a very different Poe picture, a daguerreotype.
And exhaustive searches of the ‘Net, comprising thousands of articles and representations of Poe, didn’t come up with this portrait or any reference to it. It seemed quite a mystery to me.
REVILO OLIVER RECOGNIZED: The well-known commentator for the Spectator newspaper in Britain, Taki Theodoracopulos, has just published an essay in his online magazine which, at least tentatively and partially, attempts to restore the place of the great and Menckenesque writer Revilo P. Oliver in the pantheon of 20th century thinkers. Interestingly, the article is published over the byline “Nesta Bevan,” an obvious nom de guerre, since it is the maiden name of the late writer and partisan of our civilization Nesta Webster.
THIS WEEK Google replaced their normal search page graphic with one depicting Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma (Sanskrit for “Great Soul”) Gandhi, in recognition of his birthday, which is now celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi’s movement of civil disobedience was a significant factor in India’s successful quest for self-determination and the ultimate withdrawal of Britain from the Indian subcontinent.
Barack Obama praised Gandhi on Friday, saying “Gandhi’s teachings and ideals, shared with Martin Luther King Jr. on his 1959 pilgrimage to India, transformed American society through our civil rights movement. The America of today has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence which he led. We must renew our commitment to live his ideals and to celebrate the dignity of all human beings.”
Many people, Obama included if he’s sincere, see Gandhi and his movement in very simplistic and essentially mythological terms: Gandhi’s movement, they believe, was a “struggle for equality” within a multiracial paradigm. Actually it was the opposite of that.