Saturday, August 18, 2018

Leftism: A Perfect Track Record of Failure

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

The purpose of this book is to show the character of leftism and to what extent and in what way the vast majority of the leftist ideologies now dominating or threatening most of the modern world are competitors rather than enemies.

This book, published in 1974 by Arlington House Publishers, examines all facets of leftist political ideology, as you can tell from the title.  Hitler a leftist?  Yup. 

EvKL examines leftism throughout Europe and North America; having travelled and taught extensively – and with an understanding of over a dozen languages – he seems eminently qualified to opine on the matter.

Given his background, he can make – with some authority – statements such as:

I think that the nascent United States of the late eighteenth century was already in the throes of warring political philosophies showing positive and negative aspects…. The American War of Independence had an undeniable influence on the French Revolution and the latter, in the course of the years, had a deplorable impact on America.

These two revolutions were not born of right and left; instead the two – one supposedly leading to liberty and the other certainly leading to tyranny – were born of, and developed into, common, albeit not identical, cloth.

EvKL does the reader a service by exposes his biases right up front:

I am a Christian: I am emphatically not a democrat but a devotee to the cause of personal liberty.  I would thoroughly subscribe to the words of Alexis de Tocqueville when he wrote, "Despotism appears to me particularly to be dreaded in democratic ages. I think that I would have loved liberty at all times, but in the present age I am ready to worship it."

I don’t know that this would make him a “libertarian” in the thin NAP sense of the term, but there you have it.  EvKL sees in the unwarranted connection of democracy with liberty the manifestation of the evils to be found in the twentieth century, not to exclude the evils perpetrated by the greatest of all democratic societies: the United States.

We have to remember all the wars, all the propaganda, all the pressure campaigns for the cause of democracy, how every hailed and applauded victory of democracy has ended in terrible defeat for personal liberty, the one cause really dear to American hearts.

This connection and subsequent destruction has continued even to the present day; see Iraq as just one example of many.

The French Revolution; Kerensky’s government in Russia; the Weimar Republic.  The list is endless, and continued long past the time of the publishing of this book.  All initially hailed as victories to the Progressivist cause; all resulting in “grievous disappointments”:

…dictatorships, civil wars, crowded jails, confiscated newspapers, gallows and firing squads, one-party tyrannies, sequestrations, nationalizations, "social engineering."

These failures are not just visible in hindsight; de Tocqueville and many others saw such failures coming in advance – not just the elimination of “liberty and decency,” but also “the democratic evolution towards nonviolent slavery….”

One should not be surprised about this, because the roots of the evil are historically-genetically the same all over the Western World. The fatal year is 1789, and the symbol of iniquity is the Jacobin Cap.

The denial of personality and liberty; all forms of leftism from Marxism to National Socialism:

The issue is between man created in the image of God and the termite in a human guise. It is in defense of man and in opposition to the false teachings which want to lower man to the status of an insect that this book has been written.

Given my oft-stated (and controversial if not ridiculed) view of the kissing-cousin relationship of classical liberalism / libertarianism to communism, this book and some specific chapters will prove, I hope, of invaluable service in clarifying my thoughts and / or disabusing me of certain blasphemous notions.  For example, chapters such as:

·         Right and Left
·         The Historic Origins of Leftism
·         Real Liberalism
·         False Liberalism


Of specific interest to me will be the issue of culture and tradition.  In this, I find a clear element of connection between many libertarians and communists, say a connection between many libertarians and Marcuse – a connection based on the use (or abuse) of the idea of the individual.

While the ends are no doubt different for libertarians such as these (at least for the honest thinkers) and the communists, the means are rather similar.  So, if EvKL can do something to either reinforce my views or disabuse me of same, this will be a worthwhile read.

After all, I am about to invest in a 650 page book.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Last Gasp of a Dying Man

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners."

-          The Godfather: Part II

The New York Times is out with an interesting pleading: A Free Press Needs You. 

Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press.

I don’t know.  I don’t think you ever have to remind someone of your value if you are actually providing value.  So, why is this necessary, you wonder?  Let me help: five letters, starts with a “T” and ends with a “p.”  “Can I buy a vowel?  How about a “u”?

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials.

Solve the riddle yet?

Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right.

Listen, nobody’s perfect.  Why does Trump give the press such a hard time?

News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job.

This is where I would insert the countless corrections that editors have offered on the top 20 stories of the last 50 years.  Like I said, I would insert these…if they existed.

You are the last gasp of a dying age. You breathe the stale air of false hope. How little you understand!

-          Mankar Camoran

But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

Enemy of the people?  Iraq is enough to be found guilty; September 11 is enough to be found guilty; Russiagate is enough to be found guilty; JFK is enough to be found guilty; the Clinton Foundation is enough to be found guilty (well, pretty much anything with the word “Clinton” is enough to be found guilty).

“Fight till the last gasp.”

Enough of that, on to the hundreds of editorials announcing this day of the press, aka the last gasp of a dying man.  I did not and will not read all of the editorials; the Times has offered snippets of several dozens of these editorials on the home screen.  Let’s take a little road trip; how many times does each of the following appear?

o   Trump: 12

o   President: 12 (not double-counting with “Trump”)


All Trump, all the time.  How about the following?


o   Assange: 0

o   Jones: 0


Not so worried about freedom of the press, it seems.  Instead, we read of the heroic local “true news” about the cat saved from the tree, the school district budget, the man needing a kidney transplant, the local high school football game, etc. 

There are many calls for free speech.  Have you read anything from the Times about supporting free speech on climate change or September 11 or Alex Jones or Julian Assange?  Any examples of treating anti-white male vitriol with the same contempt that the press treats…oh, I don’t know…anti-green spotted dillweed vitriol?

One editorial comment is especially delightful:

“Trump is inflicting massive, and perhaps irreparable, damage to democracy with these attacks.”

o   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Let’s hope so.


One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again.

-          Jose Rizal

 Have some dignity; die well.  And do the rest of us a favor: die soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Fatherland of Philosophy

History is the fatherland of philosophy.

-          Diodorus Siculus

Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

EvKL offers that in every analysis of political phenomena, “we should always remain firmly grounded on philosophical soil, yet never lose sight of the historical realities – in the widest sense of the term.”

Citing Don Luigi Sturzo:

Philosophy and history will always remain two branches of one knowledge and speculation of man. If their convergence and reciprocal influence ceases, philosophy becomes sterile tautology and history an incoherent succession of meaningless facts.

I am reminded of Murray Rothbard, who offered:

The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith.

How are we to determine if an ethical ideal is “impractical”?  How would we determine what might be considered “practical”?  Clearly an understanding of human nature is necessary, and it seems to me that a good place to start understanding human nature is to examine man’s history.

In this, as you know, I have struggled through the political philosophy of Classical Liberalism and that of one of its offspring, Libertarianism.  Both ideas are quite impractical – if not dangerous – absent an understanding of, appreciation for, and grounding in the history that brought forth these liberalizing (in the best sense of the term) philosophies.

So, count me in with Diodorus, Sturzo, EvKL, and Rothbard on this one.

Liberty and Religion

We are convinced that religion—or, to be more precise, the character of a culture's religious basis—is the most important element in determining the affinities between nations and political forms. The success of specific political forms depends on the closeness and harmony of such affinities.

This is a very strong statement by EvKL, and, perhaps, not so different than statements that I have made in the past.  EvKL offers other factors that influence political forms: a collective historical experience, the geographic environment (as it affects a people’s psychology), economic realities.  Well lower on the list, EvKL would place “race.”  For those that he places higher (and to include “religion” as the highest), how could these be described other than with terms such as culture and tradition?  Where is culture and tradition to be found other than via an understanding of a people’s history?

Those who advocate that libertarianism is for all, universal, perhaps it is worth considering: religion, historical experience, a people’s psychology as impacted by geography: these are not universal.  So why is it rational to believe that a political philosophy could be applicable universally?

Christianity and Equality

Christianity was by no means egalitarian, but merely established new values and new (physical as well as metaphysical) hierarchies.

Christian equality regards the equality of human souls at the beginning of their existence.  Beyond this?  To suggest that Judas Iscariot at the end of the noose and John the Apostle in his last days on Patmos are somehow spiritually equal runs contrary to any possible human understanding of the words “spiritual” and “equal.”

If we focus our attention upon the biological, characteriological, intellectual and physical status of the individual, the inequalities are even more apparent.

Egalitarianism is, therefore, a hypocrisy (Rothbard does invaluable work in devastating this idea of egalitarianism).  Returning to EvKL: if egalitarianism is accepted and acted upon, its menace is greater:

Then all actual inequalities appear without exception to be unjust, immoral, intolerable.

Keep in mind, this book was published in 1952.

The situation is even worse when brutal efforts are made to establish equality through a process of artificial levelling ("social engineering") which can only be done by force, restrictions, or terror, and the outcome is a complete loss of liberty.

He had the French Revolution to look back on; he also had the future catastrophe of the West in his sights.

Democracy and Liberalism

Democracy, let us repeat, is concerned with the question of who should be vested with ruling power; while liberalism deals with the freedom of the individual, regardless of who carries on the government.

While democracy is the perfect form of government for the “all men are equal” crowd, it really has nothing to do with – and, in fact, almost always runs contrary to – the idea of freedom of the individual.  Does the average man even aspire to liberty?  Those on top certainly do not; those on the bottom may or may not but find no way out of their situation.  Those in the middle are left with resources barely sufficient to struggle through the day, with no energy or time for high-minded ideas like “liberty.”

It should be self-evident that the principle of majority rule is a decisive step in the direction of totalitarianism…. Psychologically, rule stemming from a person considered superior is less oppressive than coercion exercised by equals—not to mention that exercised by those felt to be inferior.)

This is so obvious, an example almost seems a waste of words: merely consider something as simple as work relationships.  It is easy to follow the “rule” of a real leader – often having nothing to do with a formal organization chart; it is a struggle to follow the lead of an incompetent, who happens to hold a title higher than yours.

Direct democracy is feasible in small units, and it still survives in New England town meetings and in certain Swiss cantons.

Contrasted with mass democracy – criticized (then) recently by Pope Pius XII and even Rousseau.  Yet technology has offered ever-increasing possibilities for mass-democracy.

…we have to ask ourselves whether a good (provided it really is a good) can become an evil if it exists in an unadulterated form. Moral philosophy and moral theology, unlike chemistry, admit of no alloys….Valid ethics have to be at least “theoretically practicable."

Again, as offered by Rothbard.

Christianity and Government

From a Christian point of view, the form of government must be judged based on its ethical content.  Yet, EvKL offers:

…the ranks of the philosophic defenders of democracy have been strengthened by moral theologians, not only of the Protestant persuasion, but even of the Catholic Church.

I have offered that there is no possibility to move toward liberty or a libertarian society absent Christian leaders taking up their proper role; in the West, this certainly means denouncing almost everything about the Progressivist agenda (i.e. denouncing almost every action – military, social, foreign policy, and otherwise – taken by Western governments; rightly criticizing the social justice agenda).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Enemies of Liberty

I have been doing pretty well at leaving this topic alone, but I saw something recently that was just too good to resist.

I have written much about left-libertarians and my view that they are carrying the laundry of the Cultural Marxists – while their ends might be different, their means are quite identical.  Sure, I am generalizing, but you can decide if the generalization is reasonably appropriate and descriptive.

The topic here is open borders; there are many libertarians who insist that open borders is the only proper libertarian positions.  Of course, I don’t believe it is a libertarian position at all; the most I can offer is that one cannot derive anything other than managed borders from the NAP. 

After this, the issue becomes who does the managing.  (My far-and-away winner on this is that I manage it; given that I am not allowed to do this…well, I don’t believe this requires me to lie down with my belly exposed.)

For decades, the globalists have subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) been moving us toward a world in which national borders have essentially been made meaningless. The ultimate goal, of course, is to merge all the nations of the world into a “one world socialist utopia” with a global government, a global economic system and even a global religion.

Now…there are many libertarians who also say “no border, no wall….”  Of course, they will scream in objection: “bionic, of course we don’t want a socialist utopia – we just want the freedom to travel; we want liberty.”

Sure…the ends are different, but the means are the same.  I wonder which utopian side will win: liberty or socialism.  Any schoolchild can figure out the first-order impact; it is incumbent on advocates of philosophical / political positions to consider all impacts.

Let’s add this to the mix:

Democratic New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained her belief that abolishing the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is “common sense” during an interview on CNN with John Berman on Thursday morning.

Yes, many left-libertarians as well.  Now…there will be some who accuse me of supporting full body cavity searches and the like, merely by writing anything about ICE.  Don’t change the subject; don’t create strawmen.  Instead, consider: libertarians and one of the more radical socialists with a public stage in the US that hold the same position.  Let’s say “go for it.”  Will liberty win, or will socialism?

Look, I am just asking a question.


Sadly, these leftists ultimately don’t want more liberty and freedom.

Instead, they want a world that they can “transform” into their own image.

Open borders, abolish ICE. A common desire of socialists and left-libertarians.  Say they get what they want.  Will this increase or decrease YOUR liberty?

Based on your answer, ask yourself: who is the enemy of liberty?

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Words of the Prophets

Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)
From the description of the book at the Mises Institute site:
[Kuehnelt-Leddihn] marshals the strongest possible case that democratic equality is the very basis not of liberty, as is commonly believed, but the total state…. He further argues the old notion of government by law is upheld in old monarchies, restrained by a noble elite. Aristocracy, not democracy, gave us liberty.
I will review here the first chapter: Democracy and Totalitarianism: The Prophets.  To properly capture the meaning of the title of EvKL’s book, consider that democracy is the most appropriate, if not only, proper political expression for a society comprised of “equals.”  So, you could consider instead: Liberty or Democracy.
The notion that tyranny evolves naturally from democracy can be traced back to the earliest political theorists…
Aristotle offers a glimpse; Plato's Republic offers “an almost perfectly accurate facsimile….”  EvKL does not rely solely on such ancient sources; he focusses on those from the one or two centuries prior to the totalitarian twentieth century – those who saw the direction that the West was taking since the Enlightenment and could see where this path would lead.
The long gap in examples between Plato and the Enlightenment was because democracy during this intervening time was relatively unknown except for the case of certain city governments.  This changed with the American and French Revolutions.  Some observers saw this movement toward democracy as one which would provide stability and balance; others saw it merely as a step toward tyranny and total servitude.
EvKL offers a long list of such thinkers, concentrated in the first half of the nineteenth century.  Something for me to consider, given statements I have made in the past: about half of these could be called liberals, and these were the most vocal in their denunciation of the pending evil:
Contemplating this list it is certainly no exaggeration to state that, during the nineteenth century, some of the best minds in Europe (and in America) were haunted by the fear that there were forces, principles and tendencies in democracy which were, either in their very nature or, at least, in their dialectic potentialities, inimical to many basic human ideals —freedom being one among them.
Democracy: the god that was destined to fail. 
Standing Naked Before Man
Lord Canning, who had a sharp eye for the signs of the times, stated that “the philosophy of the French Revolution reduced the nation into individuals, in order afterwards to congregate them into mobs."
We saw this idea in Nisbet’s work.  Democracy is based on all men created equal; democracy demands uniformity.  It is this uniformity that threatens liberty and gives rise to tyranny:
Citing Benjamin de Constant, writing in 1814:
[Despotism] has an easier road with individuals: it rolls its enormous weight over them as easily as over sand.
Lower Your Shields
Lower your shields and surrender your ships.
We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
Your culture will adapt to service us.
Resistance is futile.
Continuing with Benjamin de Constant
The same code of law, the same system of weights and measures, the same regulations, and (if one can arrive at it) eventually the same language—this is what one proclaims the perfection of any social organization. . . .
Arguments in favor of liberty that are grounded in universalism cannot stand in the way of the totalitarianism that results from conformity; certainly, universalism demands ever expanding (in geography and scope) conformity, and conformity neuters the individual – more precisely, conformity destroys the intermediating social institutions that stand between man and an all-powerful State. 
Jacob Burckhardt writes, regarding a speech of President U. S. Grant:
The complete programme contains Grant's latest address, which points to a single state with one language as the necessary aim of a purely acquisitive world
In the words of an early example of pop-culture virtue signaling, we are the world.
The Lowest Common Denominator
In one of many observations offered by EvKL that has a very unfortunate similarity to events of our own time, N. D. Fustel de Coulanges offers:

Friday, August 10, 2018

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Property Rights!

What is the objective of a libertarian order?  Is it to secure private property – that is, to apply the non-aggression principle to perfection – or is it to secure freedom?
Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, edited by Jörg Guido Hülsmann and Stephan Kinsella.
Frank van Dun (FvD) offers his view on this question in his essay entitled Freedom and Property: Where They Conflict.  If I may summarize his essay in the form of a question: if the objective of libertarian theorizing is anything other than securing freedom, then why are we wasting our time?  He wouldn’t say it that way, as I suspect he is too much the gentleman.  Such concerns rarely stand in my way!
The question may prompt an obvious retort: what is the difference?  The non-aggression principle, properly and fully applied, will result in freedom.  FvD will disagree.
Libertarian theorists like to trace social and economic problems to coercive, usually government-imposed or sanctioned interventions in the free market or restrictions on the exercise of the libertarian rights of self-ownership, private appropriation and use of material resources, and exchange by mutual consent.
Thus, proper application of the non-aggression principle is all that is necessary for freedom to flourish.
This is fine as far as it goes—but how far does it go? As we shall see below, respect for the above-mentioned libertarian rights is not in itself sufficient to guarantee the freedom of every person. There may be cases where there is a conflict between claims on behalf of one person’s freedom and claims on behalf of another person’s private property.
This is one of those “approach with real caution” essays; if one doesn’t draw an absolute line around private property, where does one end on the slippery slope to full-blown socialism?  By the end of this essay, you will find that I am taking the wimpy way out…at least for this day.
Where there is such conflict, which should prevail: your freedom or my property?  I have in the past, and continue to believe today, that your freedom to have me bake a cake for you doesn’t trump my property rights in my oven.  FvD is working through an issue not as easily solvable as this…but still, the issue of the slippery slope must be recognized and dealt with.
As a libertarian – and for a libertarian – it is difficult to give up on this “freedom as property” notion.  First of all, it is the basis for the most effective arguments against government interventions of all sorts (well, second, perhaps, to moral arguments…but few people listen to these).  Second, it undercuts the idea that libertarian law is nothing beyond the most rigorous application of the non-aggression principle.
But is the objective property or is it freedom?  What happens if there is a conflict, which one wins?  If the winner is anything other than property – in every situation – then where does the line get drawn – and how powerful must the line be to avoid sliding down the slippery slope to hell?
FvD offers the example of hostile encirclement.  To help paint a mental picture, he offers another planet – Quasi-Earth; it is just like our planet, except that every individual recognizes the property of another and every person lives completely by the non-aggression principle.  So, on Quasi-Earth…
…every property owner is free to do with, to, and on his property whatever he likes provided his actions have no significant physical effects on others or their properties….  In short, Quasi-Earth is the very model of a libertarian order according to the “freedom as property” paradigm.
Before moving on, FvD explains his view regarding the term “significant”:
I shall not discuss the problem of drawing a line between significant and insignificant effects, although it is obviously a pervasive practical problem. A libertarian order cannot be viable unless it recognizes that a few particles of smoke crossing the boundary between two properties are different from a thick cloud of black smoke, a faint smell is different from an unbearable stench, and so on.
On the one hand, this is the entire issue: it is not in the black and white (as we classify such things in Western Civilization – and, perhaps, different for other civilizations) where issues are raised; it is in the gray.  I offer that the gray is best handled by culture, tradition, custom.  And, perhaps, the issue of dealing with the slippery slope raised by FvD’s argument can only be dealt with via culture, tradition, and custom.
The issue examined by FvD is one that seems to be quite black and white:
The most obvious case is encirclement. Suppose that every point on Quasi-Earth is privately owned by one or another individual person in such a way that every owner of a piece of the surface of Quasi-Earth finds that his property is surrounded by the properties of other persons, possibly by the property of a single other person.
Look, not every neighbor will be a nice guy.  Some might allow easement for travel; some might make it conditional on a nominal payment; some might make the payment onerous; a few might hate you enough to never let you pass.  Even on Quasi-Earth, they are human, after all.
“Look,” some libertarians will retort, “the surrounded individual could always dig under or fly over the neighbors’ properties.”  Assuming that no one has established property rights in mining or overhead wires, this still offers no solution.  After all, FvD replies, the same options are available to a prisoner.  Yet would we describe the prisoner as having his freedom?
“Yes, but those blockading property owners will be motivated by market forces to allow ingress and egress at some market-clearing price.”
This argument is purely academic. First, we are not talking about people being excluded from one or a few bars or shopping malls but from the only means of access to their own property or to other places where they are welcome.
A somewhat more fundamental issue that being able to enjoy a Jameson Irish Whiskey with a few buddies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Birthing Pains

Tenth century Europe rode in on the collapse of Charlemagne’s empire and rode out as foundational to what would be remembered by many as the high point of the Middle Ages.  Per Paul Collins, it was this century that gave birth to what we know (or once knew) as Europe.  Western civilization – the combination of the Frankish-Germanic people of northwestern Europe and Rome (or, perhaps, an idealized version of Roman civilization) – was formed during this period.

I am about a third of the way through the book.  This is a bit different than many of the books I have read on the topic.  It has little focus on the law, and much focus on the violence, intrigue, invasions, and forced conversions.  Then again, being only a third of the way through, I have not yet come to the “new Europe” part.

Certainly Collins notes that power was diffused; the idea of an absolute monarch didn’t enter Europe until the sixteenth century:

Instead, power in medieval society was noncentralized, consensual, and consultative, even if the consent was limited to the more powerful.

From my earlier reading, while the more powerful had more liberty in their consent, the less powerful were not left naked. 

We are introduced to the raids and invasions of Vikings, Magyars, Saracens – all made the easier due to almost continuous fighting among and between brothers regarding inheritance and kingship. 

While governance was decentralized, there was one thing binding all of the people:

Latin, or Western, Christianity, was the heart and soul of this new culture.  Catholicism totally permeated this society, and there was no distinction whatsoever between church and state in our sense.  They were simply two sides of the same coin.

While Catholicism permeated the society, this did not mean that conflict was unknown between king and Pope.  The Pope used the kings, the kings used the Pope – partners when necessary, conniving when sensing weakness.  In the earlier period, the kings were generally ascendant; in the latter period, the papacy came to challenge this dominance.

It was the Saxons – brought to Christendom in the most violent manner by Charlemagne – that, perhaps, saved Christendom.  Further, Poland and Hungary were eventually converted; even the Vikings came to Christianity.

A few themes from the introduction…

The fallacy of medieval: the Church was intolerant, stoning heretics and burning witches, etc.  Not so.  We read of Archbishop Agobard of Lyon, in the early ninth century, who came across a scene of villagers about to stone two “sky sailors.”

The villagers faced a bad crop, and potentially starvation; it was believed that such conditions were brought on by evil men who served the devil.  These “sky sailors” were, instead, just unfortunate travelers, who happened by at just the wrong time.  It was Agobard – the Catholic Archbishop – that saved these two unfortunates from the anger of the villagers.

The land: everything was tied to the land – it wasn’t just the serfs.  Massive dense forests: the nobles hunting for sport, the peasants hunting for survival.  Peasants holding traditional rights to hunt (although the right to hunt “big game” was reserved to the nobles), gather firewood and other products.  Cleared forest – some of known origin, others from pre-history.  The idea of anyone having full and absolute property rights was unknown. 

Monasteries: cleared land, provided rooms for travelers, maintained and developed tradition and scholarship. 

And now, a story: the Cadaver Synod. 

The Cadaver Synod is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January 897. The trial was conducted by Pope Stephen VI (sometimes called Stephen VII), who was the successor to Formosus' successor, Pope Boniface VI. Stephen accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null.

A picture is worth a few thousand words: