Thursday, March 19, 2009

Statism & Cultural Property Nationalism


Before I go any further, I want to thank my friends and colleagues Wayne Sayles, Dave Welsh and Peter Tompa for always sticking up for me and encouraging me - even when it ticks off the 'powers that be'. Every so often my name gets dragged through the mud by the CPN crowd and I am not always around to defend my good name or to clarify what I said.

This article is in reply to an leading statement made by Nathan Elkins about 2 weeks back on his blog. Name calling has become a standard problem in the discussions (better described as arguments) that take place between private collectors and a certain brand of archaeologists. I grew tired of the banter, particularly from a certain Brit residing in Poland (who shall remain nameless) who has no interest in dialogue, just setting up straw men and tossing about red herrings. I have better things to do.

But I usually had better luck with Nathan Elkins. Well, Nathan recently took something I said which was very philosophical and turned it into something else:

"It was not my purpose to “name names,” but if you insist I was thinking particularly of some of the uninformed and alarmist statements made by Mr. Welsh (Chair of the ACCG’s International Affairs Committee), who is listed among the ACCG’s top officers on its webpage and who recently won an award from the group for his valued contributions and voice supporting “collectors rights.” I also note that on his blog, Mr. McGarigle, another dealer who has been honored by the ACCG for advancing “collectors rights” in Wisconsin, seems to be comparing the current situation in Germany with the fascism of the 1930’s and 1940’s and Nazism. That seems a bit over the top and alarmist to me. On the discussion lists, many collectors and ACCG members themselves have been very panicked by the events in Germany and have made some very outlandish and alarmist statements. In my view, it seems telling that rather than rationalizing the dialogue, certain individuals associated with the ACCG seem to be stoking it. In the midst of the current state of the alarmist discussions, you only made a plug for ACCG membership on the Unidroit list. If the ACCG has in its leadership people who are engaging in alarmism and has honored valued members who are now doing likewise, I would hope the organization would kindly rein them in if they are in fact misrepresenting the position, goals, or values of the ACCG." emphasis mine

Here is what I said,

"I'm not shocked or surprised to see this happening with China which is a communist (and therefore statist and totalitarian regime) government do this, for their government it is par for the course. Nor am I shocked that it is happening in Germany because they have flirted with fascism and gone back and forth with mild forms of socialism over the years. But it is still disturbing nonetheless because of the precedent it sets for other governments to follow, they can point to Germany now and say, "they do it, why not us?"

There was more but the point is I did not use the words 'Nazi' or 'National Socialism' and what I said was said in passing and philosophically - and it was a statement of fact. What Nathan probably fails to understand is that here in America we have high standards of personal liberty. To the average American, a government that would actually come into a person's home and confiscate something like a coin collection sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel or a kooky conspiracy theory, to some of his archaeological colleagues it sounds like a rational remedy to private collecting.

Not to beat a dead horse, but one of America's legal norms, the right to privacy in one's person and property and from the police is part and parcel of our constitution and the 3rd article was born out of American colonists disdain for the way British soldiers behaved during the Revolutionary War. Experiences like that have given Americans a perspective that there are some things a government just should not do.

Germany has had fascist and socialist governments. That is simply a fact. Fascism and Socialism are forms of Statism. In America citizens have Rights and Liberty but government is limited. In much of Europe the converse is true.

My post which made a passing reference to Germany's unfortunate history did not use the words 'Nazi' or 'National Socialism' or any other inflammatory terms. Nathan hypocritically called for reason and civility then placed words in my mouth that were never spoken and called me an alarmist. What a crock. I used to think Nathan was a cut above the likes of his colleague in Poland but now I consider them both at an impasse for serious discussion.

Elkins has clearly decided his meal ticket is in being a cultural property crusader and has abandoned rational discourse for partisan spin.

And this is why I have put these jerks on *Ignore*

Jim McGarigle
Polymath Numismatics

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