Liberty & Power: Group Blog
... I think the American military should be used to depose tyrants and promote constitutional democracy. There's obviously got to be a priority structure, since we don't have the means or the manpower to fight the entire Axis of Evil plus the AoE Junior Auxilliary simultaneously, but generally speaking Gulf War II was in line with a foreign policy I was advocating during my wildest and wooliest collegiate Bush-hating days: Stop paying the bastards, and start ousting them. ... How leaving well enough alone in countries ruled by mass-murdering dictators is libertarian is something that continues to escape me ....While this is a conundrum for Sean, it was not one for the proto-libertarians who founded the United States, who, as I'm sure Sean recalls, continually warned of"entangling alliances" and said that America should be a beacon of liberty to the world but the guarantor only of her own. By focusing only on the supposed good the U.S. can do abroad by overthrowing dictators left and right, I'm afraid Sean takes his eye off the ball. Even assuming the U.S. government is somehow better at installing democracies elsewhere than it is running its own, what happens on the home front while all of this nation building is going on? Well, we have a pretty good example right now: Americans get socked with the costs. That means either higher taxes or massive debts (i.e., future taxes). That means the human costs, the soldiers who die or are maimed and the families left behind or forced to care for disabled loved ones. That means increased"security" measures at home, providing very...
According to the Tuscaloosa News , the key complaint of those behind this latest effort is that the unwashed masses keep getting in the way: “One law that Blacksher [an attorney for the plaintiffs] said prevents Alabama from having an adequate tax system is the constitutional requirement that voters must approve all property tax increases. He said over the past 10 years, voters have turned down about 70 percent of all attempts by local governments to raise property taxes.”
It's also worth noting that the attempted secession of well-known resort towns in Vermont can't be good news for Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
I just posted an essay about the Bush administration's cultivation of fear and dependence, by means of both their language and their actions. Here is the conclusion:
But this ongoing" crisis" atmosphere provides many benefits to the administration. As the Spiked article points out, it gets the administration off the hook of blame: we can't say they didn't warn us, even if they didn't do so in any meaningful way. It makes people more likely to believe that those in the administration are genuinely concerned about our safety and well-being (which many individuals in the administration undoubtedly are, even if their methods are mistaken). But perhaps most importantly -- and most dangerously -- it makes the general citizenry look to the government for protection, for action, for the continuation of life itself.
In short: it makes the populace look to the government, in a crucial psychological sense, as their savior. It is the government that will protect us from any and all threats; it is the government that will take any required action; and it is only the government that can be trusted to do all of this, and thus to ensure our very survival. In this kind of atmosphere, it becomes much easier for the government to clamp down on"dissent," should it choose to do so at some point -- and the overall cultural atmosphere already significantly discourages dissenting views. If there is another terrorist attack, or more than one, here in the United States, this is precisely the kind of atmosphere that could easily lead to censorship in some form.
And beyond censorship, which it should be remembered is a requirement for any dictatorship, this is the kind of atmosphere which...
"The top 400 American earners in 2000 provided nearly 7 percent of all the charitable gifts reported on income tax returns for that year, well in excess of their roughly 1 percent share of overall income, according to data released yesterday by the NewTithing Group, a charity that tracks giving.
"The 400 taxpayers with the highest reported incomes in 2000 made an average of $174 million and gave away, on average, $25.3 million that year. Their combined giving totaled $10.1 billion, or 6.9 percent, of the $146 billion in charitable donations that Americans deducted on their income tax returns in 2000.”
Jonathan Dresner thinks that this measure is only “marginally useful” because it does measure charitable giving as a percentage of total wealth rather than just income. He also does not find the comparison to be helpful because “most” of the richest Americans could live off principle and not go broke for the foreseeable future. That is why we have progressive taxation...” Ralph Luker expresses surprise that anyone would be impressed by these figures. He continues: “it wouldn’t take much to show that wealthy Americans use philanthropy, with all of its tax breaks fro them, to persuade middle income Americans proportionately to contribute more to sustain the general welfare in the private sectors.”
I saw this piece from the Manchester Union-Leader on Wes Clark and couldn't help but notice this comment:
The retired four-star general said he will discern a prospective judge's position on abortion not with a litmus test, but by reading his previous decisions to ensure that the judge has never upset existing judicial precedent.
"I don't believe people whose ideological agenda is to burn the law or remake the law or reshape it should be appointed whether they are from either side,"; he said during an interview with editors and a reporter.
"I just want good, solid people with judicial temperament who respect the process of law that we have in America."
Does he really mean, abortion aside, that he'll only appoint people who never upset precedent? Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't a key part of a judge's job to discern whether new circumstance produce good reasons for new law? After all, precedents came from somewhere. Doesn't respecting"the process of law" include recognizing that sometimes precedent is wrong? Too bad the reporter didn't ask him if his view suggests that the judges who comprised the majority in Lawrence v. Texas should be removed from the bench! Seems to me this view of judges is itself a dangerous precedent.
What's also disgusting is the Hillary-in-S & M-gear graphic that graces the Spectator front page today. Mmmm: thanks for that image, guys.
The media made much of President Bush’s “axis of evil” -- much as administration “spinners” had hoped. The excessive demonization of the admittedly autocratic Iran, North Korea, and Iraq allowed the administration to build public support for an aggressive invasion of Iraq as well as hard-line policies toward these “rogue” states. But a more appropriate moniker might be “axis of exaggeration.” The Bush administration has failed to find unconventional (nuclear, biological and chemical) weapons in Iraq or to provide convincing evidence that the crude and limited super weapons programs in any of these three nations actually constitute a threat to a superpower half a world away. Perhaps as shocking as the administration’s exaggeration of the threat from these three “rogues,” is the unacknowledged real danger posed by snuggling up to “friendly” despotic countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- the Bush administration’s “axis of expediency.”
Pakistan, a U.S. “friend,” may be the most dangerous country on the planet. It is believed to have between 24 and 48 nuclear weapons -- as opposed to North Korea’s estimated handful -- that could easily fall into the hands of radical Islamists if the unstable government of Pervez Musharraf falls. The two recent assassination attempts against him -- perhaps with the support of elements of the Pakistani military -- make this a real possibility. Although Kim Jong Il of North Korea, is quirky and unpredictable, he is unlikely to pass such weapons on to terrorists that can’t be deterred -- the biggest threat facing the United States. North Korea has not been actively sponsoring terrorist attacks since the 1980s. The same cannot be said of Pakistani radicals, who are more likely to pass nuclear weapons on to radical Islamic...
Peter Jennings reported on ABC"World News Tonight" that Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged today that he has seen"no smoking gun or concrete evidence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda. Last February, Mr. Powell told the United Nations that Iraq was harboring terrorists with ties to Osama Bin Laden and warned of a sinister nexus between Iraq and the terrorist network."
So, let's see: A 400-member military team of weapons inspectors has been withdrawn by the Bush administration because there are no discernible weapons of mass destruction. There is"no smoking gun" linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. But the world is safe for democracy now that Saddam Hussein has been deposed, even though Hussein was never an imminent threat to American security.
Of course,"we" actually have to build this"democracy" with a recipe that includes big helpings of crony capitalism and even bigger helpings of US taxpayer dollars.
Oh, uh, nine more troops were killed in another Black Hawk Down incident in Falluja, and a transport plane carrying 63 passengers was hit with a surface-to-air missile out of the Baghdad airport.
While Queen Elizabeth II christened the Queen Mary II today, Iraq is starting to feel more and more like the Titanic.
In his 1998 book, A World Transformed, George H.W. Bush describes his reason for not going after Saddam at the end of the first Gulf war:"Extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq . . . would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. . . . We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad . . . [and] rule Iraq. . . . Under those circumstances there would have been no viable exit strategy . . . the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
"U.S. advisers and Iraqi oil officials, now studying how to organize Iraq's vast but dilapidated oil industry, are leaning heavily toward recommending the formation of a large state-run petroleum company. If adopted, the move could sharply curtail the role of international oil corporations for years.
Officials of the U.S.-led occupation have been pushing liberalization in most parts of the Iraqi economy. But in the politically sensitive oil sector, occupation advisers say they strongly support establishing a state-owned company similar to those in neighboring Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
U.S. and Iraqi oil officials say they believe such a model can attract the massive foreign investment the industry needs. But international companies have been stymied by other state-controlled oil producers in the region, where political sensitivities about foreign interference in the oil sector have kept them out."
Meanwhile, someone claiming to be Osama Bin Laden continues to spread disinformation about Al Qaeda's alliance with Saddam Hussein, calling the deposed Iraqi dictator the Gulf states'" comrade in treason and agentry to the United States."
"Today, we do from about Reconstruction to as close as we can get to present day. I'm going to tell you that's a hustle."That's 130 years. And why start at Reconstruction? Well, it's because it's not important to know Appomattox, Grant and Lee.
"If all kids are asked to do is to memorize facts, not many of us are good at that. They say, 'I don't memorize well,' and I say, 'You shouldn't have to. You should understand it.'Her department head concurs:
"If you don't know the names and the dates, well that's OK if you can understand the significance of, say, the Civil War, and how the ramifications are affecting current history."
"What's the point in memorizing it if you don't understand it? Yes, the facts are important, but you have to be able to apply those facts with meaning, knowledge and understanding."What is their of understanding, though, when they know no facts? Is it fear of a standardized exam that troubles these teachers? Critical thinking is not a substitute for core knowledge -- it needs knowledge as a building block.
UPDATE: In a comment on this post at SCSU Scholars,
Now, why do I bring this up here, you ask?
This seems to me like yet another example of artists not grasping economics and insisting that the market adjust to what the artists want to produce rather than the artists producing what the market wants to buy. And in this case, we're not even talking about artistic content, just the format in which it is delivered to consumers.
It is no wonder, as Mises observed, that so many artists are anti-capitalistists.
Rand seems to go to great lengths to distance her theory from John Locke's, trying to avoid the idea that mixing one's labor with an unowned resource transforms that resource into owned property. Instead, Rand always speaks of property as the"product of man's mind," not his physical labor.
Now, in most cases, this is a trivial distinction. Obviously, all physical labor is driven by thought; we are not zombies. But the distinction does become relevant when you think of intellectual property: music, stories, movies, etc. Because in a very real sense, Rand sees all property as intellectual property. A poem is as much a product of"intellectual labor" as is a building.
This, I think, helps explain why Objectivists are, among libertarian-minded folks, the ones most inclined toward the legitimacy of intellectual property, while libertarians who get their property theory straight from Locke (or from Locke via Nozick or Rothbard) tend to view"intellectual property" as suspect, as not really property at all, because it lacks any tangible existence.
For my part, I tend to side with the pure Lockeans, but I think Randians may find this an interesting area to explore.
Robert Theron Brockman II thinks the passage I quoted from Adam Smith earlier this week (see here and here) is"overly optimistic." Pointing to Smith’s line"All men, even the most stupid and unthinking, abhor fraud, perfidy, and injustice, and delight to see them punished," Brockman writes:
This is demonstrably untrue. If said fraud, perfidy, or injustice is perpetrated by themselves, their clan, their tribe, their race, or their nation, men’s tolerance (and often enthusiasm) for such things is greatly increased. This is most easily observed at the national level. Most people (including and especially Americans) consider the people of other nations largely expendable, and are willing to justify exceptional amounts of betrayal and" collateral damage" to the extent it furthers"national greatness." Any loss of life on one's"own soil" (hundreds of miles away owned by strangers), justifies massive (poorly targeted) retaliation and collective punishment.I agree with everything that Brockman says here (see, e.g., my article Thinking Our Anger) – except his evaluation of Smith.
The values of Secular Humanism (or even Christianity) are very, very rare. Most of the planet operates under either tribalism or that scaled-up form of tribalism we call nationalism. I think it's despicable but there you are.
Smith was by no means unaware of the fact that when"said fraud, perfidy, or...