Oh sure, Chris... drop a little tempting tidbit like that and expect me to ignore it. For those who wish to read it, my own contribution to the symposium on progressive rock, Rush, and Ayn Rand that was in Chris's journal can be found here: Rand, Rush, and De-totalizing the Utopianism of Progressive Rock . Here's the abstract:
The music of Rush can legitimately claim to be progressive rock, both during the mid-70s when their music was most clearly related to that tradition and in their less obviously progressive work in the 80s and 90s. Rush's libertarian/Randian lyrics do not, as several authors argue, reduce their claim to progressivity because libertarianism can be viewed as a progressive, utopian social philosophy. Rush's career parallels the rise of libertarian thought, and the band's move away from large, long-song structures parallels libertarianism's critique of the totalizing, centralized utopias of much leftist thought.
And, I should note, Rush is currently on tour celebrating their 30th anniversary. How many bands have made it through 30 years and 18 studio, 5 live, and several compilation albums without any drug arrests/rehab stints, divorces, or major conflicts, all while maintaining the same personnel? This one has and they are still kicking the asses of bands have their age. They put on as good a live show as you'll ever see. For those in NYC, they are at Radio City Music Hall (yes, you read that right) on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Go check 'em out. I'll be in Montreal on Saturday night (my third show of the tour).
We now return to the non-musical portion of the blogging program.
Over at the new blog The Conservative Philosopher, my fellow Hayek scholar and frequent sparring partner Ed Feser raises some interesting questions about conservatives, libertarians, and the family. Ed's a smart guy and has made some of the best cases I've seen for reading Hayek in a conservative way, although I think those cases ultimately fail. I want to respond to some of Ed's argument here. Ed writes:
Still, since conservatives also tend to hold that there are natural ties between human beings far deeper and more important than the sort of contractual ties definitive of market society, they do not make a fetish of the market. This often distinguishes them from libertarians, who frequently exhibit a tendency to want to reduce all human relations to the contractual or economic sort.
Well, "frequently" and "tendency" fudge things a bit, but I'm not convinced this is as true as Ed thinks.
Chief among these non-contractual ties are those definitive of the family, and the family is that institution that conservatives are most keen to conserve, for they not only regard it as a natural institution, but as the arena within which the fellowship human beings need for their well-being exists, or ought to exist, to the fullest extent. ... The family is the place where we learn, or ought to learn, that we have obligations that we did not choose and needs that cannot be satisfied if we insist on having things our own way. It is where we learn that there are greater things in the world than our own narrow interests and a greater good for us than the mere pursuit of those interests.
One can be a libertarian, including with respect to the family, and believe that people have bonds and obligations "deeper" than the sort that appear on the market. One can, from a libertarian perspective, and specifically a Hayekian perspective, argue that families are, and should be, hotbeds of altruistic commitment in just the way Feser describes. What Feser says here might be true of the sub-species libertarianus Randianus, but need not be of the species more broadly. In fact, in a paper forthcoming in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, I compare Hayek's and Rand's views of the family. An online excerpt can be found here.
I think the problematic place Ed goes with this argument below is the weight he puts on the family being a "natural' institution. For example:
This is why conservatives and libertarians are, I believe, increasingly going to part ways in coming years. If you believe that the family is an institution we did not create (either because it has a divine origin or, a la Hayek, a cultural evolutionary one) and have no right to tinker with; that our deepest obligations are those we do not choose to take on but are given to us by nature; and that a good and happy life requires a humble submitting of oneself to those obligations, then you are going to take a decidedly conservative attitude toward matters of public policy concerning the family.
Note several things here. First, saying that family is an institution we did not create does not mean that it is a static institution. The whole point of the Hayekian argument is that it's about cultural evolution. The family, as we know it today, did not appear from nothing; it evolved over time as well. We would surely never make parallel arguments about other institutions we did not "create," e.g., money, law, the market. Money as we know it today has evolved and changed in a variety of ways (and would have even if government had been absent). The mere fact that we didn't "create" something doesn't mean that it is or should be static. (What about the evolution of language? Don't we expect that language will continue to evolve, just as perhaps the family has and might?) And the use of the word "tinker" is interesting as well: is any change "tinkering"? After all, from a Hayekian perspective, these institutions are the result of human action but not human design. Is Ed arguing that human action is ruled out of court, lest it change the institution? Ed's static perspective here seems to equate even marginal evolutionary changes with social engineering.
Second to note is the invocation of the "natural." Is natural here meaning "part of any human society" or is it more literal, in the sense of our biology implies certain obligation and institutions? Is the "natural" the raising of children inside a family unit (certainly all human societies need an institution to do that), or is it something more? Is it that certain familial arrangements are "natural" because biology "made us that way?"
One way to frame this is that Ed is sliding here between function and form. There is no doubt that the functions families serve need to be tackled by some institution in any human society. In that sense, the family is a "natural" institution. However, the question of whether any particular form of the family is uniquely suited to perform those functions is a very different question. That question is even more interesting when linked to the historical fact that the family has evolved and changed over time. Might those changes (which certainly have been affected by government policy) be changes in form that have resulted from social and economic changes that have affected the functions families can, or have to, perform? That is, perhaps the changes in the form of the family we've seen are responses to changes in other institutions that "we did not create." If so, why is it okay for those other institutions to change and evolve (be tinkered with?) while not the case for the family, especially if such changes are responses driven by the changes elsewhere?
My take on the functions of the family, from a Hayekian perspective, are in a paper forthcoming in the Cambridge Journal of Economics that can be found here.
Ed ends with:
And while it is true that conservatives and libertarians have much in common where the defense of the market and the critique of big government are concerned, it is also true that for conservatives, issues touching on the family and its well-being must necessarily always trump issues of tax policy, government spending, and even war and peace. Tax rates, government programs, wars, and the like come and go, and however long-lasting and significant are their effects, they simply cannot equal in their significance radical changes to the structure of the family. The family is forever, and far more basic to human well-being. For the conservative, if we don’t get that right, nothing else matters.
And here, Ed gets to the heart of the matter by talking of "radical changes to the structure of the family." Two points to make in response. First, at least now we know what we're talking about. It's all about structure. Note that Ed doesn't say that he's concerned about changes in the functions that families perform, or, directly, how well or how poorly they work. Rather he is concerned about "radical" changes to the "structure," which seem to be equivalent in his mind to a loss of functionality. If we radically change the form of families, they will function less well. But why identify form with function? What's missing here is the argument that says that changes in the structure will reduce functionality. To me, that argument is non-obvious. It's a case to be made and Ed doesn't make it, at least not here. The implicit premise that the (current? recent? how recent?) structure of the family is the most/only functional one is unargued for.
Second, what radical change is he talking about here? Again, it's not named, but it seems clear it's same-sex marriage, though perhaps other things as well. The use of "natural," the notion that marriage/family is all about self-interest and contract, and the use of the word "radical" are all evidence of that view, especially given that the stereotype of the selfish, libertine homosexual is as old as the hills. I feel no need to rehash arguments on these questions that have been raised in other places by many others. However, I do find it interesting that, if same-sex marriage is the real driving issue here, Ed has hitched libertarianism to that star. The underlying suggestion is that libertarianism is ultimately a form of libertinism, and because same-sex couples are really only interested in their own pleasure not the obligations of a family, the common cause between libertarianism and the advocacy of same-sex marriage is, shall we say, "natural." In a cynical reading, it's an attempt to smear libertarians in the eyes of conservatives by painting us with the same caricature of self-interested libertines that has been used by conservatives use for gays and lesbians. I don't necessarily think that was Ed's intention, but it is not an implausible reading of the text.
Of course, why we should care about what conservatives think about libertarians in general, and especially if they are accepting of the insulting view of gays and lesbians that this argument rests on, is a whole other question.
1. I tend to call myself a "radical libertarian" as well. I prefer that to "anarchist" or "market anarchist" or even "anarcho-capitalist" for two reasons. One has to do with the rhetorical problems the anarchist label raises, but the other is that whether or not I'm an anarchist depends upon my mood that day. More seriously, I don't think the case for anarchism is completely convincing. My disposition is to accept it but I'm not completely convinced enough to use that label (rhetorical problems aside). Understand, of course, that I think the set of issues where government might be justified is pretty small, hence my comfort with "radical libertarian." The fact that I see myself as a person of the left who happens to believe that markets and other voluntary institutions are the best means to the left's ends also makes me comfortable with the "radical" label. (Having been called a "PC libertarian" and a "neo-conservative," not to mention a fraud and a liar, in the last 48 hours, labels are kind of fun these days.)
2. In my "Comparative Economic Institutions" course, I spend part of a very early class day explaining why I will NOT use the terms "capitalism" and "socialism" in that class (a promise I keep to a large degree). My reasoning is Hayek's - the terms were both invented by those sympathetic to socialism. Moreover, the very terms bias the debate. To add some more meat to Chris's argument, look at the words themselves. "Capitalism" suggests a "belief in capital" and it puts capital as the central organizing principle around which the system is built, or at least around which "the goods are delivered." By contrast, "socialism" suggest a "belief in society as a whole" and puts society as the central organizing principle or recipient of the benefits in that system. I would suggest that both implications are incorrect (i.e., capitalism [truly free markets] doesn't primarily benefit capitalists, and socialism benefits the few at the expense of the many).
More important, though, is that neither term speaks to the institutional arrangements that each system requires. Thus, I prefer the language of "markets" and "planning" to "capitalism" and "socialism." Although these are not without their problems, they have the advantage of allowing us to talk about how social coordination will take place in each system and what varieties of arrangements those fundamental coordination processes might produce. For example, we can talk about markets in which there is worker ownership or not. And with planning, we can talk about the differences between, and challenges facing, democratic planning institutions versus more centralized, autocratic ones. This dichotomy forces us to ask questions about how social coordination takes place and what sorts of institutions forward it. It should lead us to ask "how do/would markets work?" and "how does/would planning work?"
It also gives us room to talk about real world systems as being neither purely markets nor purely planning, and to explore whether the coordination processes can be combined, or whether one will tend to crowd out the other (or at least cause unintended undesirable consequences) when they are significantly mixed. It provides an institutional analytic framework for doing applied work, including exploring economic history.
In any case, Chris's post is right on, both as a question of how to talk to the Left and as a really serious question of how libertarians understand our own worldview.
As folks may have seen in the news yesterday, a NY state judge has ruled that NY City must give marriage licenses to same-sex couples (barring the inevitable appeal). Jonathan Dresner has a few thoughts nextdoor. You can find a PDF of the full, long decision here.
I took a quick skim through the decision this morning and I think it's a pretty good piece of legal reasoning, although I don't know the NY state constitutional precedents in the way I know the federal ones. I just wanted to highlight two parts of the decision.
The phrase "the traditional institution of marriage," which defendant quotes from Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence (539 US at 585), appears to refer not to marriage as a “ traditional institution” (a formulation that would leave the nature of marriage open to new forms thereof), but rather, to the traditional form of the institution of marriage [SH – emphasis mine] - confined to opposite-sex couples. In dictum, Justice O'Connor implied that the preservation of that traditional form could be a rational reason to bar same-sex marriage. Id at 585. The issue of same-sex marriage, however, was not before the Court. Nonetheless, the three justices who dissented in Lawrence, and who were the only justices to address Justice O'Connor's parenthetical remark, pointed out that the phrase "‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State's moral disapproval of same-sex couples." Lawrence, 539 US at 601 (Scalia, J., the Chief Justice, and Thomas J. dissenting) (emphasis in original). It is clear that moral disapproval of same-sex couples or of individual homosexuals is not a legitimate state purpose or a rational reason for depriving plaintiffs of their right to choose their spouse. See Romer v. Evans, 517 US 620 (1996). In weighing the significance of the traditional institution of marriage, one must take into account the Supreme Court’s rejection of the elements of distaste or moral disapproval. See Lawrence, 539 US at 583.
First, note the references to Lawrence, the last sentence in particular. Scalia's dissent remains prophetic about the ways in which the Lawrence decision would be used to bolster the case for same-sex marriage even though Kennedy's opinion explicitly says it shouldn't have any such implications. See my earlier posts on these issues here and here.
Second, I can't help but note the highlighted passage where Judge Ling-Cohan makes the distinction between the functions of marriage as an "institution" and the various forms marriage might take, which is one that I have been harping on in earlier posts (here and here) as well as in my scholarly work and teaching on the family. It will be very interesting to see what happens with this decision.
Finally, Jonathan's post on this topic included a link to an excellent piece
in the Harvard
Magazine that explores these issues of the evolution of the
American family very effectively.
Julian Sanchez over at Hit & Run has picked up on a piece in Psychology Today that I read awhile back and had thought about blogging on, but never got to. The article is called "A Nation of Wimps" and explores the multiplicity of ways in which parents of young people today are so over-involved and over-protective that kids are simply not used to failing and coping with that failure. I can't really capture all the nuance of the piece, but I heartily recommend it for anyone who deals with adolescents and college-aged students. You will find much in this piece that explains the behavior of your students, and especially some of the changes that those of us teaching for a decade or more have seen. It certainly helps to understand the heightened demand for counseling services and mental health medication by this generation of students.
One of the more interesting observations in the piece is the role played by cell phones (and I would add Instant Messenger and text messaging) in keeping a sort of digital umbilical cord between students and parents. As the author says:
Think of the cell phone as the eternal umbilicus. One of the ways we grow up is by internalizing an image of Mom and Dad and the values and advice they imparted over the early years. Then, whenever we find ourselves faced with uncertainty or difficulty, we call on that internalized image. We become, in a way, all the wise adults we've had the privilege to know. "But cell phones keep kids from figuring out what to do," says Anderegg. "They've never internalized any images; all they've internalized is 'call Mom or Dad.'"
I would further add that it also provides an excuse for first-year students to not have to get out and make new friends and new connections on campus. Between the cell and IM, they are still in touch with their friends from home and in touch with them through the same media as they were when they were geographically closer. The effects of this technology on their ability to adjust and deal with the realities of college life, especially on a residential campus, are just beginning to be felt. (Add to this the problem that the vast majority of incoming college students have never had to share a bedroom before college, and you can only imagine how hard it is for many students to adjust to life in a college residence hall.)
The Psychology Today piece is long, but well worth the effort. Share it with your friends, especially those who are parents.
A little more on my ongoing favorite subject of the causes of leftist numerical dominance of academia:
Some of you may have seen this Jonathan Chait LA Times piece (requires quickie registration and hat tip to PrestoPundit). There are some decent points in this piece, but this paragraph caused me to reach for the Maalox:
The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don't particularly want to be professors. To go into academia — a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches — you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else — a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. — conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It's not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.
Of course the notion that conservatives/libertarians are so strongly interested only in their financial well-being and don't care anything about a cleaner environment or better health care, etc., is offensive enough, but we've seen that before.
What strikes me more this time is that Chait and other lefties tempted to make this argument need to remember the other side of their brain's focus on the "vast right-wing conspiracy," which is full of all of these "corporate-funded" think tanks all over the place. Well just who the hell is it who is working at those places for $30K/year? Lots of people who would prefer the world of ideas and policy to the business world and its higher incomes. Those of us here know many of them. Numerous conservatives and libertarians have chosen the world of ideas (and its associated relative poverty), but they didn't make that choice in academia. The world of the think tanks (and the blogosphere) are among the most intellectually exciting places I've ever been, and are filled with people committed to the importance of intellectual activity without being too concerned about how it increases their bank accounts.
Not only is Chait's answer wrong, he's not even asking the right question. The question to be answered is not why are there no conservative and libertarian intellectuals, but why they are engaged in that activity in places other than academia. Whether it's accurate or not, the perception of many of those folks is that academia is not open to them, and it's not because they don't have the "chops."UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge raises many of the same points in a TCS column from earlier this week.
Can someone explain to me how conservatives can look themselves in the mirror after they say things like this?
What was determinative is that the two political parties view the American people very differently. The Republican Party has become the party of individualism, believing that free enterprise, market economies, and individual choices give people the best chance of a good life; that if ordinary Americans are left alone to make their own decisions, they will generally be good decisions, so they--not the government--should have the power to make them.
That's Pete Du Pont in today's Wall Street Journal. It's beautiful rhetoric, but too bad it has little to do with the reality of most Republicans today.
Aside from the obvious fact that government has grown enormously in the last four years, and that very few Republicans have actually supported clear moves in the direction of more free enterprise, I'd sure like to know when the Republicans have let me alone to decide what substances I can ingest, whether to continue a pregnancy, who I can marry, whether or not my tax dollars should subsidize God's presence in the public schools, what sorts of things I can watch/listen to on broadcast TV or radio, not to mention that whole "war is the health of the state" thing.
In a point I've made before, the wall that conservatives attempt to build between the market and the culture is completely a product of their imagination. If you really believe in free enterprise and individual choice, then you have to recognize that the growth of wealth and evolution of the marketplace is bound to produce cultural change in their wake. In the example I know best and seems most obvious, the changes in the American family, from the increase in female labor force participation rates to the increased visibility of gays and lesbians, to the current debate over same-sex marriage, to the higher divorce rate, are all to some large degree a consequence of the dynamic change that a market economy generates. (I'll be happy to spell out those arguments in detail if anyone wishes.) To imagine that one can unleash the unpredictable forces of economic change yet turn back the cultural clock is utopian in the worst sense of the term.
For this reason alone, we should all doubt claims by social conservatives to be champions of the marketplace. They simply cannot have it both ways: either you really do believe in free enterprise and thus recognize and accept its unpredicatable feedback on the culture, or you really believe in "traditional values," which entails that you attempt, probably in vain, to intervene in the market to squeeze the toothpaste back in the tube. I think this is just another way to cut Virginia Postrel's "dynamist vs. stasist" framework.
Of course this argument is also a challenge to those on the left to recognize the "capitalist underpinnings" of cultural change. So much of the cultural change that the left applauds has been made possible by the growth in wealth that can be, in my view, attributed to the forces of free enterprise. Capitalism is, on this argument, a highly progressive force, while attempts to squelch it are ultimately reactionary. One good piece to read on this, for my friends on the left, is John D'Emilio's "Capitalism and Gay Identity." In that essay, he gets at why capitalism has made gay identity possible, yet spends the last two pages with the obligatory "of course, this doesn't mean 'we' should support capitalism" and he then goes on to the usual laundry list of bogus problems with capitalism. (Here's another nice blog piece that includes some discussion of D'Emilio's argument.)
What's nice about Postrel's "dynamism" is that it gives us a language to start to build conversation and coalitions across the usual ideological boundaries that could help those who claim to support markets see why they of necessity produce (desirable) cultural change and help those who like the changes see why this a crucial good thing that markets do and that other economic systems can or do not.
In the meantime, someone hit Pete Du Pont over the head with the ever-expanding Federal Register and the FCC fine list.
I've been thinking a lot about the Kerry v. Bush question, especially given the discussion between Aeon Skoble and Jacob Levy, both of whom I think highly of. Let me start by saying that I'm a "conscientious abstainer," and that if I were to vote, I would still vote Libertarian. However, if I was coerced into voting and could only vote for one of the two major party candidates, I think at this point I would, in fact, vote for Kerry. Or perhaps more accurately, as of now, I'll be rooting for the Democrats to win come November. This line from Andrew Sullivan is as good a place as any to start my argument:
But what is a "Bush Republican"? I think it has to be a combination of the social policy of the religious right (the FMA, bans on embryo research, government support for religious charities, etc), the fiscal policy of the Keynesian left (massive new domestic spending combined with "deficits don't matter"), and the foreign policy of liberal moralism (democratization as a policy in the Middle East).
There it is: Bush has governed as a social conservative and a fiscal liberal - precisely the opposite of what a libertarian would like to see (couched in the language of conventional politics). Add on to it a war that looks increasingly problematic, and you have a bad package.
From where I sit, Kerry will be no worse on fiscal matters including health care (and, as Tyler Cowen points out, possibly better if he is gridlocked with a Republican Congress). He can't possibly be worse and will likely be better on many of the social issues where Bush is in bed with the religious right. And, best as I can tell, his position on the war (or is it positions, plural?) is more or less indistinguishable from Bush, making that a wash. Kerry is grown-up enough to more or less recognize the seriousness of the terrorist threat, but hopefully less willing than Bush to go find it where it isn't. In the end, I think a world with Kerry as president and a GOP-controlled Congress is the least of all evils. Gridlock rules!!!
Let me finally add a caveat that Jacob raises as well: the trade issue. Edwards is really bad on trade and if the Democrats run as protectionists, my earlier calculus is upset. Protectionist policies could survive a divided goverment (apply your good old public choice here) and would have devastating consequences not just for Americans but for so much of the rest of the world who really needs free trade a lot more than "we" do. I would have a hard time even verbally supporting a presidential ticket that was willing to keep the third world immiserated for the sake of a few votes in swing states.
Consider this an argument for just how bad the Bush administration has been. I so cannot stand both Kerry and Edwards on a personal level - the thought of a smarmy, elitist, faux-child of the 60s paired with a greasy, blow-dried, trial lawyer is making me reach for a bucket - that the idea of even verbally supporting their victory fills me with immense psychic trauma. (Only Al Gore would be worse.) However, my analytical side tells me that little could be any worse than the incumbents and that the 90s showed the power of gridlock. So I swallow hard and silently root for a split decision. For now.
"Commerce is to the left as sex is to the right."
This little thesis is developed nicely, with the following wonderful, and I think oddly apropos, punchline:
"Of course, by this model, libertarians suddenly become godless, amoral hedonists and Marxist gender-theorists become elitist, puritannical killjoys."
Indeed. I'm proud, in fact very proud, to proclaim myself a godless amoral hedonist with respect to both sex and commerce (and rock and roll for that matter)!
Seriously, I do find this an interesting way to cut the issues and it does explain the way in which I find both the Left and Right to be "puritans" of one sort or another.
It's been awhile since I blogged about bias in academia. Some of you may have already seen the story in today's New York Times in links from Hit & Run or Volokh. The focus is a study by Dan Klein and Charlotta Stern (yes, the Dan Klein that many L&Pers know and love) that explores the voting patters of faculty and finds the usual lopsided results favoring Democrats. Whatever one thinks of the causes and seriousness of the problem is one thing. What galls me is the transparent hypocrisy of faculty and administrators in either dismissing or explaining the findings. For example there's this from the Chancellor at Berkeley:
"The essence of a great university is developing and sharing new knowledge as well as questioning old dogma," Dr. Birgeneau said. "We do this in an environment which prizes academic freedom and freedom of expression. These principles are respected by all of our faculty at U.C. Berkeley, no matter what their personal politics are."
Every single one of them? Every single one? Might be worth asking the students behind the conservative newspaper there if they agree.
But what galls me even more is this comment:
A Democrat on the Berkeley faculty, George P. Lakoff, who teaches linguistics and is the author of "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think," said that liberals choose academic fields that fit their world views. "Unlike conservatives," he said, "they believe in working for the public good and social justice, as well as knowledge and art for their own sake, which are what the humanities and social sciences are about."
This is the sort of attempt to monopolize the moral high ground that drives me insane. I'm sorry Professor Lakoff, but American-style liberals do NOT hold a monopoly on caring about the public good and social justice (in the most general sense), nor on caring about knowledge and art for their own sake. There are numerous conservative and libertarian academics who care deeply about all of those things. We just think the policies and institutions that serve the common good and help those who need it most are not the same ones you do. And we're in the teaching business because we care deeply about knowledge. After all it's precisely more and better knowledge that will help us to discover whether your ideas or ours will better serve the public good.
Instead of trying to rule us out of the discussion by definition, how about actually engaging in dialogue with us about which policies and institutions do, in fact, better serve the common good? Members of the academic left who claim a monopoly on the moral high ground avoid the need to ever bring their ideas into debate with those who see the world differently. If that isn't a good definition of "dogmatic," I don't know what is. How hard is it to believe that those you disagree with believe the things they do with the same good faith and concern about the world that you claim for yourself? If you really believe they don't, then your credibility in claiming that hiring and tenuring practices in academia are unbiased is near zero.
From my perspective, the only worthwhile definition of "political correctness"
is precisely this sort of attempt at monopolizing the moral high ground. I
don't care about how many faculty come from what part of the political spectrum,
or whether conservative students aren't brave and confident enough to speak
up in class. What I care about is having the legitimacy of libertarian
and conservative ideas ruled out a priori by this sort of argument. I'm
totally confident that my world view can hold its own in any good-faith dialogue
with any colleague. What I'm not confident about is how many can sincerely
enter such a dialogue.
These mortgages have also posed some complications for regulators and insurance companies, who have to be persuaded to treat them like standard mortgages (the key difference being that the bank really does own the property not the residents). However, these seem to be getting resolved.
I'd argue that this sort of thing is an excellent example of how market capitalism is not a destroyer of unique cultures creating one"McWorld," but rather a flexible, dynamic set of institutions that can adapt to changes in the culture. It is only within the dynamism of the market that one can adapt ways of doing business that are"traditional" to one culture to the needs of another culture when those needs arise. So not only do we have US banks altering their practices to accommodate a distinct minority demand (something defenders of markets have long argued as one of their strengths), we also have a potential blueprint of how market institutions and practices can emerge in Muslim societies with very different ethical principles.
The best part to me is that these sorts of changes can happen in the market in small pockets and spread through imitation. They don't require extensive discussion and debate. They don't require a political voting process where the majority has to be persuaded to agree with the change. Can you imagine what it would take to make such a change in a world where banks were run by the state? The ecosystem of the market makes it much easier for a thousand flowers to bloom, and to accommodate the needs of a religous group whose numbers remain pretty small within the US.
Oh yeah, it's also another example to combat the belief that Muslims are being systematically discriminated against post 9/11.
The prize committee consists of:
Peter Boettke, George Mason University
Emily Chamlee-Wright, Beloit College
Steven Horwitz, St. Lawrence University
David Prychitko, Northern Michigan University
Deadline for submissions is September 1, 2005. Decisions will be made by September 15.
All questions and submissions should be sent, either electronically or by mail, to:
Department of Economics
George Mason University, MSN 3G4
Fairfax, VA 22030
More information on the SDAE can be found here.
I know that many L&P contributors and readers knew and admired Don. Feel free to pass this announcement on to other blogs or websites, or communicate it to colleagues and students at your schools.
This is a question that I find to be particularly fascinating. In a recent contribution to a symposium on"Ayn Rand Among the Austrians" in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, I tried to argue that Hayek's work suggests that the organizations of the micro-cosmos (like firms or families) not only are, but in some sense should be, organized along collectivist, altruistic lines. This differs from Rand's belief that the principles of individualism and self-interest should go"all the way down."
Another recent contribution along these lines is a fascinating article by the economist Donald Wittman, entitled"The Internal Organization of the Family: Economic Analysis and Psychological Advice" that was published in the journal Kyklos in February 2005. Here's the abstract:
This article shows that therapeutic advice for behavior within the family is to create a functioning property-rights system and to emulate voluntary transactions within a competitive economic market. The optimal organization of the family requires that relations are structured so that non-cooperative game playing is minimized and transaction costs are reduced. The article employs economic analysis to explain why 'setting limits' is preferred to punishment (Pigouvian taxes). It also explains why there is conflict between children and their parents even when the parent's utility is the present discounted value of the child's utility function.That abstract undersells how good this article really is. I read this article and said"Yes!! This perfectly articulates my own tacit understanding of why I parent the way I do." Wittman's running example is the middle school kid who keeps forgetting his lunch every day. The"punishment" parenting strategy is to yell at the kid or take something away, but only after bringing that lunch to school for him. Wittman argues that a more efficient and effective solution is to simply say"you forget your lunch, you don't eat," which internalizes the cost back on the child and relieves the parent of having to bear the costs of bringing the lunch and enforcing the punishment, all of which are deadweight losses in comparison to the"Coasean" solution. It should be noted that more"libertarian" sorts of parenting strategies are more effective the older the child is. The"Coasean" solution requires children of an age to understand the costs and benefits of the choices in front of them.
Tying it to Tom's lecture, Wittman is arguing that the libertarian political also works in the personal. To be clear, Tom is not saying that it is always the case that the political works in the personal, but that we should at least think about the ways in which it might and might not.
* the transformation of family life (from being a political/economic unit to an emotional one)
* the shift from a "Christian civilization" to a civilization with a lot of Christians in it
* the shift from agriculture to industry
This lecture nicely brings together a number of themes from Steve's previous lectures as well as ones by the other faculty here.
Steve is wrapping up with some of the implications for our current global situation. Right now, he's addressing the sort of conservative critique of modernity (money is icky, there are no chances for true "heroism", etc.). This resistance to modernity also characterizes fundamentalist Islam, and Steve has just sketched the connection between the historian Werner Sombart (one of those opponents of modernity) and that Islamic tradition.
He's now nicely pointing out that "modernity" does not equal "the west." Or better yet, "modernization" does not equal "westernization." Having said that, he notes that there are elements that are necessary to modernity, while others may be optional. Specifically, any attempt at modernization must include these three elements:
* rule of law
* personal liberty
* critical rationalism
This is, to me, a crucial point. As we talk about the "spread of western ideas" and as libertarians talk about a desire to see other parts of the world enjoy the freedoms we aspire to in the US and elsewhere, we need to walk a careful line in distinguishing the sine qua nons of a free society from those elements that can vary. It is when libertarians come across as trying to make every other society look just like the west (even when not through military force!) that we might find our message falling on deaf ears. If we can find ways to clarify what is needed and to also encourage local/indigenous variations on those themes, I think our ideas will be more successful.
If you want to follow the live-blogging of my colleagues here, you can follow the whole show (including their thoughts on MY lectures) over at Agoraphilia.
My own view is that a substantial subset of libertarians are" contrarians." Whatever the"mainstream" view of a topic is, they take the opposite, somehow justifying the way in which their heterodox view of the topic is the"real" libertarian position. I will provide examples if requested. I find this"Libertarian Contrarianism" to be both trememdously annoying and horrifically bad strategy, not to mention frequently wrong about what is and is not"libertarian." I keep meaning to write a long essay on it, but just never seem to find the time.
Right now, Tom is singing the"Interstate Commerce Blues", complete with guitar, to the tune of"House of the Rising Sun". And we're now getting a new verse, in French, dealing with the EU.
What's especially nice about Steve's lecture is that he links together the early feminists' critique of state intervention in the market, their support for voting rights and other forms of political equality, and their opposition to the"traditional" marital relationship under which men were the complete and total masters of the household. In all cases, women were treated as second class citizens, comparable to slaves, and saw these changes as providing them with the demand for equal treatment that is at the bottom of the first wave of feminism. In the US, as Steve points out, the individualist feminist movement was linked with the abolitionists, often via Quakerism.
For me, teaching history, or listening to it being taught, is a form of magic, as modern students are often so ignorant of elements of history that have direct bearing on their current beliefs and you can literally see their eyes and minds opening up when they learn things of which they were previously unaware. This is particularly true for libertarian students, who have often suffered through college courses where the parts of history that offer information about, and support for, their own intellectual traditions are frequently omitted or caricatured. Good history gives students something the desperately need: intellectual ammunition (to use an old Randian phrase). Frankly, if I were a student at an IHS seminar, the history lectures would be the ones I'd be paying rapt attention to, jotting notes furiously, as a way of preparing for returning to campus with new material for class discussions and research papers. Even as a faculty member, I always come home from these seminars with new bits of history that I previously didn't know.