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The Statute of Frauds and the Power of a Handshake *

The English Parliament has passed a law requiring that all agreements (especially regarding real estate transactions) must be set down in writing, dated and signed in order to make it easier for courts to determine the rights of a plaintiff. This ends the honor system of using witnesses with presumed good character who are well-known to the local community. When transactions span oceans and are between people of different customs, they must put things down in writing so that a judge can have a baseline for determining what the two parties had in mind in the first place. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Well... transactions based on a handshake can work but where a great deal of money is involved, the temptation to cheat can be overwhelming. I knew a man (distantly) who went through this. Chuck had an agreement with his boss to grow the business and to become a partner if he was successful. The problem was that Charlie became too successful. His percentage of the partnership had grown to half a million dollars. Chuck's boss was sweating. His promise was based on a handshake but it was just too much money. Chuck could have taken his boss to court and won, eventually, but instead, Chuck started a new business in competition with his old boss. His boss's old business contacts lost faith in him and switched to Chuck. Chuck did not limit his vision to half a million dollars. He found a new pair of glasses. He retired a multi-millionaire and when he died, his friends laid him to rest with joy. His life had become his monument and in some ways, I owe what I am today to that man. So my life has become his monument too. [3]

The Essentials of Enlightenment Philosophy

Benedict Spinoza has established the baseline philosophy for the Age of Enlightenment this year. He also dies this year at the age of 44, possibly due to inhaling too much glass dust. He made his living grinding lenses, but his fame will come from his book, "Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order," that is published this year after his death. He uses Euclid's methods to explore the existence of God, the mind of Man and our place in the Universe as if each proposition were a proof in geometry. Philosophers will look back to this work and gasp in admiration. In fact, Hegel will say in 1896 "... to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy." [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I've read Spinoza's Ethics and found it tedious, but what seems like mundane thinking in the modern day, was the bright light of reason at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment.

To reveal my own prejudice... Spinoza was Jewish and the Dutch Jewish authorities issued the punishment of shunning against him for his heretical views. As an Orthodox Jew, I can report that this was extremely serious since the loss of connection to the Jewish community usually meant a death sentence for any unprotected Jew at the hands of the Christians, but he lived in Amsterdam. The Dutch (and especially Amsterdam) were tolerant of the Jews individually and as a community. I disagree with his philosophy which boils down to a pantheism: the idea that everything is God. Traditional Jewish religious thought depends on the assumption that God has made room for His creation. Even though a spark of the Divine is within me, I am not God... especially not at home. [7] [8] [9]

Paris Just Became Cool and Terrible

Ice cream has become popular in Paris. While ice confections have been around for years, fads tend to bring certain foods to the attention of the public. Coffee came to Paris a few years ago. Tea has recently become popular in England and coffee shops are popular places for conducting business. People of the 17th century don't have iceboxes. Certainly they have ice houses where meat and fish are stored, but there is no cooling device for the individual kitchen. The United States won't begin shipping ice for commercial purposes until 1799 when they will begin moving ice from New York to Charleston. [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was looking forward to writing about Paris and ice cream long before the recent terror attacks there. I am deeply saddened at the deaths of innocents at the hands of Muslim terrorists. I feared it would happen when Europe allowed refugees across the border without vetting. Europeans have a problem greater than one dubious decision to help so-called refugees. Europeans no longer believe that European culture is good so they are trying to buy an indulgence... a get out of jail free card... by helping so-called refugees. Now it is biting them in the backside. The United States is about to do the same thing. No country is perfect, but if we cannot make the argument that America is best for Americans, we have conceded that our destruction is all for the best. We have not reached European-level foolishness yet, but we are well on that road and I have not seen the off-ramp. [12]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1677, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Statute of Frauds - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 15 November 2015. “The Statute of Frauds (29 Car 2 c 3) (1677) is an Act of the Parliament of England. It required that certain types of contracts, wills, and grants, assignment or surrender of leases or interest in real property must be in writing and signed to avoid fraud on the court by perjury and subornation of perjury. It also required that documents of the courts be signed and dated.”
  2. Plaintiff - definition of plaintiff (2015). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “The party that institutes a suit in a court.”
  3. Alex Shrugged notes: This story comes from my memory of a story told to me but written in the book "A New Pair of Glasses" by Chuck C. My poor memory may have some of the details wrong, but the general idea is correct. Chuck was a great man and I'm glad I met him if only briefly. Chuck reached out to save the life of my friend. Because my friend lived, he reached out to save mine, and now I reach out to save others. Chuck's life counted more than for his business ethic, but his business ethic was a reflection of his character. How could it be otherwise? It is said that when we are judged by God the first thing He will ask is "How did you treat others in business?"
  4. Ethics (Spinoza) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 15 November 2015. “The book is perhaps the most ambitious attempt to apply the method of Euclid in philosophy. Spinoza puts forward a small number of definitions and axioms from which he attempts to derive hundreds of propositions and corollaries, such as 'When the Mind imagines its own lack of power, it is saddened by it', 'A free man thinks of nothing less than of death', and 'The human Mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the Body, but something of it remains which is eternal.'”
  5. Baruch Spinoza - Wikiquote. en.wikiquote.org (1896). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “This Idea of Spinoza's we must allow to be in the main true and well-grounded; absolute substance is the truth, but it is not the whole truth ; in order to be this, it must also be thought of as in itself active and living, and by that very means it must determine itself as mind. But substance with Spinoza is only the universal and consequently the abstract determination of mind ; it may undoubtedly be said that this thought is the foundation of all true views — not, however, as their absolutely fixed and permanent basis, but as the abstract unity which mind is in itself. It is therefore worthy of note that thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy. For as we saw above … when man begins to philosophize, the soul must commence by bathing in this ether of the One Substance, in which all that man has held as true has disappeared ; this negation of all that is particular, to which every philosopher must have come, is the liberation of the mind and its absolute foundation. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, comparing Spinoza's philosophy to that of the Eleatics, in Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1896), Vol. 3, Ch. I : The Metaphysics of the Understanding, § 2 : Spinoza, p. 257”
  6. Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order. Gutenberg.org (1677). Retrieved on 16 November 2015.
  7. Pantheism - definition of pantheism (2015). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “any doctrine that regards God as identical with the material universe or the forces of nature”
  8. Alex Shrugged notes: Although Orthodox Jews will reject pantheism, a number of years ago I read an article in Reform Judaism (a liberal Jewish magazine) by a Reform rabbi arguing for a position similar to Spinoza, essentially a pantheism. I doubt all of his fellow Reform rabbis would agree with him, but Reform Judaism magazine was an official publication of Reform Judaism in America.
  9. About Us. Reform Judaism Magazine (2015). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “Reform Judaism magazine was the official voice of the Union for Reform Judaism, linking the institutions and affiliates of Reform Judaism with every Reform Jew. Covering developments within the Reform Movement while interpreting world events and Jewish tradition from a Reform perspective, it was received quarterly by nearly 300,000 member households (members of 860 Union congregations) as a benefit of their synagogue's Union affiliation. It ceased publication in 2014, after the printing of the Fall 2014 edition.”
  10. Ice - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “There were thriving industries in 16th/17th century England whereby low lying areas along the Thames Estuary were flooded during the winter, and ice harvested in carts and stored inter-seasonally in insulated wooden houses as a provision to an icehouse often located in large country houses, and widely used to keep fish fresh when caught in distant waters.”
  11. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 308-309. “Ice cream becomes popular as dessert in Paris” 
  12. What motivated the terror attacks in Paris?. pbs.org (2015). Retrieved on 16 November 2015. “The deadly acts of terror ISIS claims it executed in Paris on Friday were motivated by a need to seek revenge, polarize Europe and garner support within the terrorist organization, according to Professor Peter Neumann of King’s College in London, who joins William Brangham from London with more.”

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