A Viking Thing

by | Feb 8, 2023

It’s not often a State of the Union Address passes and I walk away with hope.

Not that I ever despair. I’ll get along just fine no matter what the system. But my typical reaction to this ritual acknowledgement of bread and circus for the masses is contempt for a system run amok as well as for the voters, bureaucrats, and politicians that sustain it.

Last night wasn’t any different.

It was all about what that system can do for you and not a word about getting that system out of the way of individuals. In the eyes of politicians, voters are nothing more than beggars with tin cups. 

In turn, voters respond by getting caught up deciding between the choices presented and never realize all of those choices only leave them worse off.

However, amidst Biden’s inane babbling and self-fawning insistence that the trillions of dollars wasted in the bills he pushed through Congress represent progress, he lashed out obliquely at a policy proposal that would spell complete and utter doom for always-more-government political parasites like him.

Now, I didn’t catch the significance until scanning this morning’s Wall Street Journal. Therein, I learned one of his barbs referred to a policy proposal forwarded by Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott. A proposal that, to me, provides a key to salvaging our political system after all.

But before I describe that key, I want to show you how my maternal ancestors, the Vikings, handled politics.

For starters, throw out everything you think you know about Vikings.

What’s That Thing?

Yes, they raided. Yes, they sacked, pillaged, and plundered. So did everybody else. Vikings were just better at it.

But life within Viking society was far more orderly and peaceful than the rest of Europe. Vikings were farmers and traders first. 

And the legendary Viking Sagas were more about how level-headed leaders got along than about how Bjorn the Bear Headed cut three men in half with one stroke (though they describe events like that too. I mean… who wouldn’t?).

But that wasn’t the rule. The rule was stability and peace.

And the Vikings “Law of the Thing” was how they achieved that peace while everyone else at the time failed.

Rules, Not Rulers

The Law of the Thing refers to the legal and justice system used by the Vikings during the Viking Age (793-1066 AD).

The “Thing” was the annual assembly where legal disputes were resolved and laws were created and enforced. It was a decentralized form of governance, where local communities gathered to make decisions on legal matters and disputes.

The laws dealt with a wide range of issues, including property rights, compensation for injury, and trade.

It was based on the concept of consensus, with the goal of reaching a decision that was acceptable to all parties involved. 

It wasn’t a written code of law, but rather a set of traditions and customs that had developed over time and were passed down from generation to generation. 

Think of it like the common law that evolved in Britain and formed the basis of the legal system we have today.

Unlike us poor saps that unwittingly commit three felonies a day, all Vikings knew the law. And central to maintaining the law was the Law Speaker.

He memorized the entire body of law and custom. And to keep the laws relevant and manageable, every four years, the Law Speaker had a chance to clean house.

A Pristine Nordic Glade Instead of a Festering Swamp

Every four years the Vikings held a special Thing called the “All Thing” where the Law Speaker would recite the law in front of all attending.

During the recitation, the audience had the opportunity to object if they felt that a law was outdated or no longer relevant. Also, if the Law Speaker left out a law and no one in the assembly raised an objection, it was considered that the law had fallen out of use and was no longer in force.

This process of reviewing and updating the laws allowed the legal system to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional legal code.

Now, I learned about this fact a few years ago and have since felt putting all laws under regular scrutiny provided a solution to the metastasized candy machine we call the U.S. government. 

And it’s this idea that Biden whined about last night.

A Less-than-Desperate Measure

Our bloated, counter-productive, increasingly centralized and autocratic government is a result of Democracy’s Original Sin

My solution is an 80% majority which, to be sure, is a pipe dream. No one would like it (because it would work). 

Even if Americans got behind such a radical proposal it would probably require a constitutional convention to put it in place.

Ultimately, it would require desperation to pass. Though we may just get there…

But maybe we don’t have to wait… Senator Scott suggested a simpler path to getting government back in the box – sunset all federal legislation every five years and require Congress to pass each law again.

No wonder Biden called it out. His raison d’etre is more government. And it’s hard to build-up government when every five years you get a chance to tear parts of it down again.

And that a politician is thinking exactly that fills me with hope.

However it all plays out, you can expect more turmoil ahead in the markets. 

Whether it’s Fed policy error, Biden threatening the oil patch, China sending warships to Taiwan instead of trial balloons over the U.S., or the rapid and unpredictable rise of AI, there’s a lot for independent traders to keep an eye on.

Roger Scott, Jack Carter, Fausto Pugliese and I covered these topics and more on my “Roundtable” earlier today. You can watch it right here. 

I host “Roundtable” every Wednesday at 10am ET. You can join me, Jeffry Turnmire, Garrett Baldwin and Roger Scott at this link next week, February 15. 

Think Free. Be Free.

Don Yocham

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