Liberty & Power: Group Blog
If you're not convinced that nationalism is cultish, look up the rules for the proper handling of an American flag. My favorites:
- The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
- The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
Many years ago, in a book I’ve lost along the way (I believe it was A Primer on Social Dynamics), Kenneth Boulding described three basic ways in which a person, in the quest to get what he seeks, can approach other people. He can, as it were, say to them:
(1) Do something nice for me, and I’ll do something nice for you.
(2) Do something nice for me, or I’ll do something nasty to you.
(3) Do something nice for me because of who I am.
The first approach is that of peaceful, mutually beneficial exchange, of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” of positive reciprocity. It is the method by which we conduct the bulk of our economic affairs.
The second approach is that of coercion, of threats to harm others unless they do as we wish, regardless of their own preferences. This is, among other things, the realm of government as we know it. When we say government, we say violence or threats of violence against all who refuse to comply with the rulers’ dictates.
The third approach is that of personal-identity relationships. One person says to another, do what I want you to do because of who I am and who you are—because, for example, I am your father or your teacher or your kinsman.
Boulding argued that all social systems are a blend of these three types of interaction among its individual members. Part of the difficulty of understanding how societies operate arises from the complex...
Proposition: Putative “public demand,” especially as expressed by voting, drives the political-governmental system. Elected officials and hence the bureaucracy subordinate to them may be viewed as perfect agents of the electorate.
Adherence to this proposition characterizes the bulk of all analysis dealing with the growth of government in the West, regardless of analytical tradition or ideological leaning. (Specific citations seem unnecessary, but see virtually any issue of Public Choice, as well as the widely cited articles by Meltzer and Richard [1978, 1981, 1983], Peltzman [1980, 1984, 1985], Becker [1983, 1985], and Borcherding [1977, 1985]. The most recent and most extreme contribution along these lines is by Wittman .)
This approach displays a professional deformity related to the economist’s basic tool of analysis―the theory of markets, with its component theories of demand and supply. Economists, applying their familiar tools to the analysis of politics, immediately look for analogues. What is the “good” being traded? Who is the “supplier,” and who is the “demander”? What is the “price”? The answers seem obvious to economists. Public policy is the good; the elected legislators are the suppliers; the voters are the demanders; votes are the currency with which political business is being transacted. Thus, voters “buy” the desired policies by spending their votes; the legislators “sell” policies in exchange for the votes that elect them to office. (See Benson and Engen 1988 for a straightforward application of such analogues.)
Economists view consumer demand in ordinary markets as ultimately decisive for the allocation of resources; hence, they speak of consumer “sovereignty,” thus importing a political metaphor into...
1. Straight talk cannot get a politician from a current point A to the point B at which he really wishes to arrive.
2. To extend a growth-of-government line, project it indefinitely in a line straight to hell.
3. To describe how politicians approach the real solution to a social or economic problem, trace the circle described by a fixed radius of substantial length from the solution point.
4. All right and left angles are morally equal to one another.
5. Politics and morality are parallel lines and never meet.
6. Democratic and Republican policies that are essentially equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.
7. If equal amounts are added to the government’s debt by Republicans and Democrats, the increases in the debt are equally inconsistent with the general public interest (if any exists).
8. If equal amounts of economic rationality are subtracted from economic policy, then the number of incumbents reelected to Congress is equal to the number reelected in the previous election.
9. Politicians who coincide with one another, such as Republicans and Democrats who support “bipartisan” measures, are equally dishonorable.
10. The whole of society is greater than the part that government officials can comprehend, and much greater than the part that they can manage for the attainment of a desirable end.
11. The path of political evolution is spherical and expanding: any course of political events brings society back to the point at which it started, but upon its return, the problem has been made much worse.
12. The shortest distance between a free society and a totalitarian society passes through war.
Read the Wikipedia page on the United Fruit Company, with particular attention to the sections titled “History in Central America” and “Banana massacre.”
Now read this article about the United Fruit Company on Reason.com. (CHT Sheldon.)
You may notice a certain … incompleteness in the latter’s account.
The Romney Victory Fund is now …. offering dinner with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Celebrity Apprentice television star Donald Trump. … Persons who donate $3 or more to the fund will have their names placed in a raffle. … The winner will be invited to the Romney-Trump dinner event in Las Vegas. … As an added attraction, Newt Gingrich will be dining with Romney and Trump.
What could be more deliriously delightful?
As “everyone knows,” Herbert Spencer was a reactionary defender of capitalism and an opponent of socialism, while Thomas sHodgskin was a proto-Marxian defender of socialism and an opponent of capitalism; so what should one expect from Hodgskin’s review (now online) of Spencer’s Social Statics?
The right answer, it turns out, is almost total agreement: “there are very few conclusions or remarks to which we are disposed to object.” And the one point for which Hodgskin does take Spencer to task is Spencer’s rejection of private ownership of land.
It’s almost as though traditional political categories are mistaken somehow ….
Incidentally, although Hodgskin makes some good points in his discussion of land (some of which are reminiscent of Dave Schmidtz’s work), I don’t think he quite sees the force of Spencer’s arguments. Spencer worries that if private land ownership were permissible, the entire earth could theoretically fall into private hands, whereupon the nonowners would be at the mercy of the owners – since while on other people’s property you have to do as they say or leave, and when leaving is impossible all that’s left is doing what they say. (Note, by the way, that Spencer’s worry is not that this would be a likely result. His worry is rather that the principle of land ownership gives the wrong answer to the...
I remain puzzled at the refusal of civil libertarians to see the dangers inherent in government control of medical care.
So the people get to vote on who may marry? And this pleases conservatives? I thought they disliked mobocracy.
Facts of the case: My wife and I live in an area with one neighbor nearby. One day, I knock on my neighbor’s door and demand that he give me $10,000. He wants to know what the devil I am talking about.
I explain that the people—most of them, in any event—in our area have seceded from St. Tammany Parish, the state of Louisiana, and the United States of America and formed a new government whose territory comprises his property and ours. We have also written and ratified, with our own votes of approval, a constitution for the new country, which we have decided to call Southland. We have also conducted elections in which a 2/3 majority of the eligible voters elected Elizabeth and me to fill all of the new government’s offices, including tax collector (I won this vote myself).
My neighbor protests that he has never heard of any of these developments and wants nothing to do with them, to which I reply that he has no choice in the matter because the constitution of Southland gives its government the power to tax, I am the duly elected tax collector, and he is at fault for not following the news more closely and not participating in public affairs. Moreover, the constitution provides for an army to enforce Southland’s laws (I have been duly appointed chief of staff), and if he refuses to pay his tax, the authorities will have no choice but to use violence against him to compel payment.
He protests that this whole scheme is madness, that I have gone mad, too, and that he will not give us a dime. Elizabeth and I then form up the ranks of Southland’s army: I constitute the infantry, armed with my trusty shotgun, and she leads the army band, which consists of herself with her flute. We march to our neighbor’s house and threaten to kill him...
David Hart and Robert Leroux have released an amazing-looking anthology of French Liberalism in the 19th Century, including several works not previously translated. Check out the table of contents:
Part I: The Empire (up to 1815)
1. Pierre-Louis Roederer: Property Rights (1800)
2. Jean-Baptiste Say: The Division of Labour (1803)
3. Destutt de Tracy: The Laws and Public Liberty (1811)
In the mid-1970s, I began to do consulting work in addition to my academic work. By that time, I had become familiar with how economists generally analyze cooperation and competition, in both the economy and the political realm. Economists put great weight on gains from trade. Nobody, they like to say, walks past a $20 bill he sees lying on the sidewalk. If a situation contains the potential for a trade or other arrangement that will bring gain to a decision-maker, he will embrace that trade or arrangement. This market process leads, in the theoretical extreme, to the happy condition known as the Pareto Optimum—the situation in which all potential gains from trade have been captured.
Notice that this view of mankind causes us think of people as self-interested, but not as vicious. Individuals are seen as, in effect, indifferent to the welfare of their trading or cooperating partners, but intent on making themselves as well-off as possible. They do not seek to harm others, but only to benefit themselves (and those about whom they happen to care).
As I launched into my consulting work, which involved various efforts by Washington state and the U.S. government to resolve disputes and to increase the harvestable resource in the Washington salmon fishery and the federally-regulated offshore salmon fishery in the Pacific Ocean, I quickly learned that the politicians in Olympia did not fit the model I had mastered in my education as an economist. To be sure, they sought to feather their own nests, by hook and by crook. But, in many important cases, they acted simply to hurt their political and personal enemies—whose ranks, in some cases, were quite large. Often, it seemed, Mr. P was clearly “out to get” Mr. Q, and he was not...
Labor (including mental labor) does not bestow utility on an automobile; consumers do that. Rather, labor bestows utility on the disparate factors of production by transforming them into an automobile.
The great thing about competitive markets is not that marginal utility sets prices, but that rivalry among sellers drives prices below the level that approximates many people’s marginal utility. This produces a consumer surplus. (How far below is governed by producers’ subjective opportunity costs, including workers’ preference for leisure.) We all have bought things at a price below that which we were prepared to pay. . . . In a manner of speaking, competition socializes consumer surplus.
On the other hand, in the absence of competition a coercive monopolist is able to charge more than in a freed market, capturing some of the surplus that would have gone to consumers. That’s a form of exploitation via government privilege.
Read the rest of TGIF here.
I always start by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business. Every aspect of [our] lives is directly impacted by global events. The security of our cities is connected to the security of small hamlets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Our cost of living, the safety of our food , and the value of the things we invent, make and sell are just a few examples of everyday aspects of our lives that are direcly related to events abroad and make it impossible for us to focus only on our issues here are home.