Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I'm in the third year of a three-year administrative appointment and my dean has just begun a campus-wide performance review. He has specifically asked for letters from folks who work closely with me, and will send out a broader campus call for information shortly. That's one way to get accountability I suppose. In a small place, with relatively few layers of administration in academic affairs, that's probably easier to do. In any case, I don't see the systematic threat to tenure, nor do I see Deming's situation as just being about tenure. It certainly points to other problems in higher ed, as Robert rightly notes.
According to the Register, Prof. Terry Fisher of Harvard has calculated that charging $6 a month to each broadband Internet user in the U.S. will generate the $1.67 billion that the RIAA and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) supposedly"lost" last year to Internet downloads.
I'm not an economist, but even I can see four flaws in this scheme.
1. Non-users get screwed. I know many people who have broadband Internet access and don't download any music or movies. These people would now get stuck for an extra $6 per month for a service they don't want and won't use, in order to subsidize others. (We have a similar situation here in Canada, where the"CD-R tax" I pay on my computer backup discs goes to line the pockets of the music industry.)
2. Nowhere to go but up. $6 a month is calculated on the current estimated"loss" of 20 percent of RIAA retail sales and five percent of MPAA. As downloads increase, you can bet the RIAA and MPAA will start screaming for hikes in the tax, until it reaches the roughly $60 a month it would take to compensate all their current retail sales. And then they'll start whining about theoretical sales that they've"lost."
3. It won't stop harassment. Despite our"CD tax" that supposedly compensates the industry for file downloading and duplication, the Canadian Recording Industry Association is already making plans to copy the RIAA's"sue everyone" strategy. So even with a nice juicy slice of broadband revenue, the RIAA may still sue music-sharers.
4. Market mechanisms are inoperative. This is perhaps the most damning criticism of all. With cost unrelated to consumption, there's an incentive for consumers to download more and more. (Think"price controls" or"tragedy of the commons.") Also, consumers can't"shop around" for lower-cost providers, so there are no incentives to improve the quality of the service. (Think U.S. Post Office.) All the RIAA has to do is sit back and rake in the cash. Heck, this even kills the incentive to find and cultivate better artists.
I.e., socialized music will work about as well as socialized steel-making.
I haven't read Fisher's report, so it's possible that he addresses these objections. But to my eyes this looks like a tax, walks like a tax, and quacks like a tax. And I'm not sure how much precedent there is in U.S. law to impose a tax that will be funneled directly to a private enterprise, with no pretense of"public works."
I'm sure there are those who believe that the RIAA should be prosecuted under the anti-trust laws for price-fixing, restraint of trade, anti-competitive behavior, and so forth. I'm not one of them. Crying for government enforcement of government-mandated restrictions on excesses resulting from government-granted privileges has only one certain outcome: more government. Lots more government.
Instead, I say get the government out of the picture entirely.
Brad For more commentary, please see McBlog.
David T. Beito
Laura Bush has used her clout to put more artists on the dole. She is credited with persuading Dubya to propose a twenty percent increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest in twenty years.
This is small potatoes perhaps compared to nationalized health care. Then again, her husband, who took a giant leap toward that goal by signing the prescription drugs bill, seems to be getting along just fine without her help.
This is small potatoes perhaps compared to nationalized health care. Then again, her husband, who took a giant leap toward that goal by signing the prescription drugs bill, seems to be getting along just fine without her help.
Robert L. Campbell
I just wrote a long post in response to Charles Nuckolls' piece,"Bye-bye to tenure." (I've been remiss, in fact, in not acknowledging Charles' previous posts about academia, along with King Banaian's.)
I can see that I must resist the temptation to type my thoughts into a cgi without backup, for my entire post has vanished into the ozone, and I don't have time to reconstitute it today.
I assume, though, that Charles is not referring to legislative enactments that abolish tenure at state universities. Some of these have been introduced in state legislatures (including South Carolina's), but I know of none that have passed.
So what could Charles be referring to?
(1)"Post-tenure review" procedures? (We have those in South Carolina now... and 30 states sounds about right.)
(2) Arbitrary firings of tenured professors, often done in the teeth of institutional rules? (These happen occasionally.)
(3) The longer-term erosion of the system by hiring more and more Instructors and Lecturers who will never be eligible for tenure?
There's lots to talk about here, but first we need to know what our topic is.
As a libertarian, and a political scientist, I'm really fascinated by the bind that Bush has put himself into. There's no way his conservative base can be thrilled with his economics, but his wild, almost drunken, spending on domestic programs doesn't seem to have given him much traction among independents or Democrats. It has, however, cost us all dearly.
The issue came up briefly during the 2000 race because the Democrats thought they could effectively contrast Gore's service with Bush's draft dodging. For whatever reason they couldn't make it stick, and it's unlikely that even a decorated war hero will do much to push the issue this year. Let's all remember that the last time the Democrats ran a war hero it was George McGovern.
But it does remind me how odd I find the GOP's staunch support among military types, even when Republican politicians use privilege and power to avoid military service. I can recall having a rather heated discussion with a friend of mine who is a major in the army about the 2000 election. He was, unsurprisingly, voting for Bush, and I asked him point blank how he could vote for a draft dodger. He gave me a bland policy-based answer, and I dropped the debate after my girlfriend dragged me away from the conversation. In the spirit of full disclosure I'd had a few beers and haven't voted since 1992.
I think the answer is not just self-interest. Obviously Republicans like spending a lot more money on defense spending, and Republicans have tended to avoid wars in the 20th century making them a safe bet for soldiers. But more importantly the Democratic party has done a miserable job of balancing its need to maintain support among its peace-nik base and those of us who live on planet Earth. With regards to the current military activity, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan, the Democrats have completely dropped the ball. Thankfully Libertarians have made a strong case in this regard.
Two trends, this year in fact, could change that. First, the military is increasingly Hispanic and Black. That will eventually lead to more Democratic votes. Second, the last two wars have both been Bush led, and this one is starting to get ugly, especially for Guard members who are getting a lot more than they bargained for. However I hope that some soldiers this year use a very different calculus in determining their votes. I hope they consider that a group of folks who largely shirked military service and lied to the public led us into a bloody and expensive entanglement that had nothing to do with stopping our real enemies and has ended the lives of more than 500 Americans and thousands of Iraqis.
Wow, things are heating up in this little corner of cyberspace! Mark is trying to out-libertarian David Bernstein (I caught the same point in David's op-ed) and Arthur is calling W treasonous for trying to enshrine heterosexual marriage in the Constitution. Hard to argue with either of those positions! For those interested in the same-sex marriage issue, there was quite an intense debate over on the Hayek-L list the week before last that might be worth looking at. The thread headers should be obvious. I will just add, about my own participation in that debate, that my position is identical to Arthur's: ideally the state should be out of marriage, but in the world in which we live where the state is involved, as should be the case with all such involvements, it may not discriminate in its actions.
The conservative animus toward same-sex marriage never ceases to amaze me. It cannot be explained, in my view, by any rational objection. The good news is that I see much less of this animus among my students, including those who are otherwise pretty conservative. In the end, the conservative objection often amounts to philosophically tortured attempts to justify the "naturalness" or "genital compatibility" of heterosexual marriage/procreation, ignoring when such marriages involve infertile persons or placing genitals where they, supposedly, don't belong. If not that, it becomes a really weak attempt to construct evidence and argument where none exists, e.g. Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz's argument has been ably destroyed by Andrew Sullivan, and it's worth repeating that if one of my first-year students tried to make an argument that failed to distinguish causation and correlation and so blatantly over-looked or discounted a dozen intervening variables, I'd make her rewrite the paper.
At the end of the day, the only reasonable objection is one that attempts to address Mill's harm principle: somehow same-sex marriage harms third parties. Kurtz's argument that it undermines the institution of marriage might qualify if there was any evidence, or if it weren't the case that heterosexuals are doing such a good job at undermining it themselves. If someone could make the argument that same-sex marriage meant same-sex couples parenting more frequently and could provide evidence that children raised in such homes are somehow harmed, that would be more persuasive. Unfortunately, the evidence I'm aware of suggests there are no major differences in psychological outcomes for children of same-sex parents as compared to children of opposite sex parents. And we certainly know that the evidence does suggest that, ceteris paribus, two parents are better than one (not to mention the fate of so many children languishing in foster care and orphanages). That those who claim to support "family values" are so eager to prevent people who wish to form familes from doing so, and to thereby reduce the number of families available to take in children who have none, is the height of hypocrisy and makes me sad and angry. In that order.
Dad got the history bug after his parents died. He wasn't much of a book reader, but he did like puzzles and projects."Where did we come from" became his new leading puzzle and hobby. And there were some mysteries here. He knew that his grandfather had murdered a man, and his great grandfather on the other side of the family had come alone from German -- then changed his name.
In fact, dad soon learned that men on both sides of the family had changed their names. One name change is still a mystery -- the other soon was explained by the facts surrounding the murder. But just what those facts were wasn't at all immediately clear.
It was known that the man's original name had been Boon -- changed to Brown -- and that he'd come from North Carolina. The murder had involved a bar fight and some ill-chosen words about Boon's mother. So, at least, the official record indicates. Murder, escape, cross-country journey, a new wife, a new child, a new identity in Oregon.
Boon. With that name, an some letters indicating a wife and children left behind in a small town in North Carolina, dad set about reconstructing the history of the paternal side of his mother's family. It wasn't long before folks in North Carolina confirmed that the Boons were part of a family which sometimes went by the name Boone. Boone. Hmm. But North Carolina, not Tennessee. And then came one of dad's significant discoveries, made the old fashioned way with research in church and government archives. These Boone's were directly related to the most famous of all American Boone's -- Daniel Boone. In fact, dad discovered that he was a direct descendent of Daniel Boone's father. Indeed, Daniel Boone had raised the children of dad's ancestors when Daniel Boone's older brother and wife were killed by TB.
By chance and hard work dad had anchored his little story of family drama into one of the great iconographic stories of American history. Not bad for a man once better know for leaving most books unread ..
I'll pick up this thread in a later post.
(cross posted at my PrestoPundit blog).
And Google has embarked on an ambitious secret effort known as Project Ocean, according to a person involved with the operation. With the cooperation of Stanford University, the company now plans to digitize the entire collection of the vast Stanford Library published before 1923, which is no longer limited by copyright restrictions. The project could add millions of digitized books that would be available exclusively via Google.
cross posted at PrestoPundit.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
It's the day after the Super Bowl. The Pats won in a Thriller. The nation is abuzz with talk about Janet Jackson's exposed breast. (Bravo to Arthur for putting all of this in perspective!) And it's Groundhog Day, and we have 6 more weeks of winter ahead!
It's also a day on which President Bush is apparently green-lighting an inquiry into the intelligence-WMD fiasco; it will be interesting to see just how cooperative the administration will be in this endeavor. How many pages will be blotted out from how many documents? How many restrictions will be placed on access to classified material? How many guidelines will be issued on the timing of the release of this material after Election Day?
In any event, as we ponder today's intelligence gaps, it is interesting to read a bit about the intelligence efforts during the Cold War. As a postscript to yesterday's Randian point that"authoritarian states enshrined the rule of mediocrity and incompetence, surviving as parasites on freer nations," here's an interesting article by William Safire on"The Farewell Dossier." Whatever your views of CIA sabotage, the story makes one point very clear: The Soviets needed to engage in systematic stealing in order to get"the radar, machine tools and semiconductors to keep ... nearly competitive with U.S. military-industrial strength ..." (On the general impotence of the Soviet Union, see another fine Silber post, here.)
So much for innovation and creativity under communism.
It'll be interesting to see how the President plans to make headway on half-a-trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see by cutting nondefense, non-homeland-security discretionary spending--which is $362 billion, or less than 20 percent of the federal budget. There's some talk of program cuts, but my guess is that they'll boldly go after that old standby "waste, fraud, and abuse."
"As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady... And I certainly want a dynamic, out-spoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world and for universal single-payer health care and a full employment economy. If you are out there call me."
PoliticsNH.com has decided to serve as Kucinich's personal Match.com. Click here to check out the 80 bachelorettes waiting for a chance at Dennis.
Charles W. Nuckolls
Tenure is more than simply under threat. It has already been eliminated, in all but name, in more than thirty states. Will faculties who still have tenure wake up to their potential loss, or will they, like faculties elsewhere, remain the docile and compliant wage-laborers their"administrators" want them to be?
Alabama, where I am, still protects tenure, but its days are surely numbered. The surrounding states all got rid of it some years ago, as administrators tried to pander to"elected officials" in the state house and beef up their standards of"accountability." The current chancellor of the Alabama System,"Mack" Portera, presided over the elimination of tenure in Mississippi when he was University President there. The same is true of Mr. Witt, currently president of U of Alabama: he raised no voice of protest when Texas gutted its tenure provisions a few years ago.
But we all know where all the beefing up went, do we not? Into increasing the ranks of the administrators, of course, and into providing them with hefty"executive" salaries.
But faculties remain as they have been for years: timid and anxious to please their masters. Will they ever wake up?
Not until their heads reach the chopping blocks -- but if you ask me, I consider that the optimistic scenario.
"The whole policy of Roosevelt II, whether in domestic or foreign affairs, was founded upon the fanning of hatreds -- the first and last resort of unconscionable demagogues, at all times and everywhere. This fanning, or course, was done to the tune of loud demands for tolerance."
A remark Mencken chose to cut from his Minority Report. And there is a bit of news right there. Mencken did the edit on MR himself -- post-stoke -- althought the jottings had been completed by 1948, the year of his debilitating stroke. It was another 7 years -- 1955 -- before Mencken's secretary rediscovered the typscript for Mencken's final book (including completed preface), manuscripts which had been complete erased from Mencken's memory. But when the typscripts were found, Mencken -- at age 75 -- went to work, sifting through his box of collected remarks, and chosing those acceptable for publication.
Oh, before I forget, here are"the only two things you need to know" about H.L. Mencken:
1. Read Mencken. First. Then, if you're still interested, read a Mencken biography.
2. Start with H.L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism.
Roderick T. Long
Murray Rothbard in several of his works refers favourably to an article on property rights by the 19th-century French economists Louis Wolowski and Émile Levasseur. (Rothbard sometimes refers to Wolowski as Léon Wolowski, perhaps confusing him with the Léon Faucher who wrote a rather similar article on property for Charles Coquelin's 1852-53 Dictionnaire de l'économie politique.) I thought the article deserved to be placed online, so I decided to track it down.
Rothbard usually cites the article from Lalor's Cyclopedia of Political Science. I had trouble tracking the volume down until I tried the alternate spelling Cyclopædia, and started treating"Lalor" as the editor's name rather than as part of the title. Then it turned out that my own university library possessed a copy. Joseph Lalor's Cyclopædia turns out to be a massive work -- three volumes of about 1000 pages each, in tiny print -- of mostly classical liberal opinion on a variety of subjects. Many of the entries are by prominent French libertarians of the day, including Frédéric Bastiat, Charles Dunoyer, and Gustave de Molinari. These entries, an introduction informs us, are mainly excerpted from various French reference works, most of which are not named; the translators are usually not credited either. (Lalor seems to have been a bit cavalier with sources.) Rothbard seems to have assumed that the Wolowski-Levasseur piece was written expressly for the Cyclopædia, but I began to suspect that this was not the case.
Two of the French reference works the introduction does deign to mention as sources are Coquelin's above-mentioned Dictionnaire and Maurice Block's Dictionnaire général de la politique (1st edition 1863-4, 2nd edition 1884). I already knew the piece wasn't in the Coquelin Dictionnaire, but wondered whether it might be in the Block. Happily, the Bibliothèque Nationale website turns out to carry an online PDF version of the second volume (only) of the second edition (only), and I was able to confirm that this did indeed contain the Wolowski-Levasseur article"Propriété." Since Wolowski (1810-1876) would have been deceased by 1884, I surmise that the article first appeared in the original 1863-64 edition, though I have not confirmed this.
On examining the original French version I discovered that the English translation, the version Rothbard knew, was greatly compressed by comparison with the French version, which contained, for example, an interesting critique of intellectual property absent from Lalor’s English version, as well as a note from Wolowski providing important iformation about the article’s authorship:
"At the moment when we began the drafting of this article, a serious indisposition prevented us from devoting to all the necessary time to it. Our friend, M. Levasseur, kindly agreed to come to our aid with his invaluable assistance; the form given to the expression of thoughts common to both of us belongs to him." [Translation mine – RTL]The Lalor version of the article is now available in the Molinari Institute online library, at: http://praxeology.net/LW-EL-PLV.htm. We plan in the future to post the complete version, both in the original French and in a new English translation; but until then, at any rate the version that Rothbard read and recommended is easily accessible for the first time.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
With bombings in the Kurdish sections of Iraq killing more than 50 people, and another US soldier killed near Baghdad, Super Bowl Sunday is not off to a good start. There were, however, some words of wisdom spoken on"This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
Among those joining regulars Farid Zakaria and George Will were former Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
With the whirlwind surrounding the David Kay pronouncements on the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Hussein's Iraq, Zakaria emphasized that the US"made worse-case assumptions." Sounding a bit like Ayn Rand, who always argued that evil was impotent, that authoritarian states enshrined the rule of mediocrity and incompetence, surviving as parasites on freer nations, Zakaria stated:"We assumed that because this was an evil regime, they must be incredibly competent. They must be so smart. This was, in a way, a mirror of the mistake we made with regard to the Soviet Union." It turns out, of course, that the Soviet Union was collapsing internally, from a massive brain drain, just as the right Iraqi hand didn't know what the left one was doing.
Given the current political atmosphere, however,"the truth of the matter has been [that] for the last thirty years, the CIA has been battered by neoconservatives for being soft on the Soviets, for being soft on the Chinese," Zakaria argued."It turned out that in most cases, the CIA estimates were not as far off as the neoconservative fantasies about Soviet strength and Chinese military strength."
Holbrooke, who supported the President's calls for"regime change," now questions the rush to war and the timing of the Iraqi incursion."Had we known the truth," Holbrooke stated,"I would have still supported efforts to change regime. But I and many other critics of the administration always thought the timetable was weird; it was based on weather-driven factors. They had the build-up in the desert too early. They didn't want to leave the troops at a cost of $2 billion a month sitting in the desert for the long, hot summer. All of that was, in retrospect, a tremendous error in judgment. And it has left the administration with a fractured alliance, a growing anti-American sentiment in the whole Muslim world, from Iraq to Indonesia. ... And now ... the whole premise of preemptive war has been shattered, 'cause it must be based on iron-clad empirical data. 'We gotta hit them before they hit us.' It turned out they couldn't have hit us."
For those in the administration who now argue that the Iraqi campaign has put fear in the hearts of Libyans, Iranians, and others, Geoge Will says that the massive blow to credibility over WMDs has also been a massive blow to the strategic doctrine of preemption. Potential rogue nations will question whether the US will ever again have the willingness to engage in a preemptive strike. For"the doctrine of preemptive war, whatever else it presupposes, presupposes a certain threshold of certainty about what you're preempting." And the US, says Will, has not reached that threshold.
Holbrooke interjected that now that"the weapons of mass destruction assumptions [have been proved to be] completely wrong," fundamental changes must take place. The central problem is that the"people who got this wrong are the people still doing it in regard to the other members of the 'Axis of Evil' [Iran and North Korea]." They were claiming"the discovery of a weapons system which didn't exist, on the basis of which the President asked us to go to war."
And so, Holbrooke has called for an independent commission"to get to the bottom" of this intelligence failure. Good luck, Richard! The administration is looking to pull the plug on the 9/11 commission; they aren't going to be too happy to set up another commission during an election year to investigate this fiasco. But Holbrooke is right; this kind of investigation"must be done rapidly and openly. It is of the highest importance because we cannot afford to have an intelligence community that can make this kind of mistake. ... We mustn't let this happen again."
All of this, of course, is based on the assumption that"mistakes were made." It begs a more troubling question: Did the administration"sex-up" the data simply because it had every intention of invading Iraq, even prior to the horror of September 11th? On this issue, it would take more than a commission to reveal the truth.
George Will points to two ironic implications of the Iraq incursion. First, Will says,"the big winner from all this is the U.N., not just because the weapons inspectors may have done better than we thought. But also because, ineluctably, the Bush administration is now driven to say: 'Never mind the weapons of mass destruction. The war was justified because [the Iraqis] were in violation of umpteen-million UN resolutions.' Which means: A conservative administration has gone to war saying it was justified to strengthen the UN as the arbiter of international behavior."
Second, George Bush has bared his Wilsonian soul. Indeed, Will characterizes the Bush presidency as"the third-term" of the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Both Bush and Wilson have ultimately justified war"to install a transformative regime." Bush thinks this new"democratic" regime"is going to transform the region. Now, that's ambitious," says Will."I think it's mistaken."
The discussants agree that, with mounting Kurdish and Sunni problems, and with opposition growing from the Ayatollah Sistani and the Shi'ites, the situation is close to"spiraling out of control," as Zakaria put it. The short-term goal for transference of power by July 1, as outlined by the Bush administration, is most likely unreachable. As Will puts it, the political pundits couldn't grasp the reality of the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primaries; there's no possibility that they'd be able to grasp the immense complexity of the political situation in Iraq. It took the US a while to write its own constitution, Will reminds us, after having had a long experience with the Articles of Confederation, and the whole thing nearly unraveled in the 1790s. Sounding ever like the Hayekian, Will worries that the US policy planners are exhibiting a bit too much intellectual hubris in the democratic nation-building department.
Let's hope that those Hayekian unintended consequences don't make today's deaths a picnic by comparison.
R. Reid McKee
Not to boast, but I think I've assembled a great lineup of talented and thoughtful"small government conservatives" (cf. Sheldon Richman's recent post on George Will) to blog along with me. Consequently, I suspect that all vistors to our site will be suitably entertained or, at the very least, otherwise provoked.
I'd like to include a word of thanks to my fellow bloggers here at L&P, especially my friend Dave Beito. I'm certain that I never would have launched The Mote if I hadn't enjoyed blogging at Liberty and Power so much.
But don't worry (or don't start celebrating yet), loyal readers! I plan to keep blogging here, and I hope that having my own blog will only lead to my posting more material here at L&P in the future.