Liberty & Power: Group Blog
A fraction of that amount could fund a Sunni insurgency indefinitely.
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
The POTUSites now include an ideologically diverse group of distinquished historians as Joan Hoff, Julian Zelizer, Alonzo Hamby, Alan Lichtman, Alonzo Hamby, Stanley Kutler (who teaches at my alma mater).
Hat tip, Ralph Luker at Cliopatria.
David T. Beito
Oh, how times change. Today we can put “smart” bombs through the window of an office building. Along with greater accuracy has come a growing impatience with “collateral damage.” A bomb that goes astray and hits a foreign embassy or a wedding party now causes international outrage, whereas 60 years ago the destruction of an entire city was a frequent occurrence.
Does this make us more enlightened than the “greatest generation”? Perhaps. We certainly have the luxury of being more discriminating in the application of violence. But even today, there is cause to doubt whether more precision is always better. During the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. was so sparing in its use of force that many Baathists never understood they were beaten. The butcher’s bill we dodged early on is now being paid with compound interest.
David T. Beito
Judging from the tributes pouring in from fellow politicians, anti-war groups, and around the world, you'd think he was Jesus Christ and Winston Churchill rolled into one. Although I salute his resignation over the decision to wage War on Iraq, I for one remember his support for deadly sanctions against Iraq and the bombing of Yugoslavia, and his complicity in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians—all in pursuit of what he called an “ethical” foreign policy-and I don't like it one little bit.
This is my first hit on the WaPo op-ed page, so I'm kinda ' jazzed.
Roderick T. Long
On the other hand, collegiality is a powerful cultural force in many colleges and universities, and its stultifying or comforting effects (take your pick) often have nothing to do with politics in any sense. A conservative or libertarian who is a mensch about his or her views and research may well be admired, even beloved, by liberal or left colleagues, and fondly regarded as valuable because of their views. On the other hand, someone like Daniel Pipes who is running around picking broad-brush fights with everyone whom he perceives as a bad academic, usually based on a paper-thin reading of their syllabi or even just the titles of their research, is going to be loathed, but as much for his behavior as his political views. A liberal or leftist who plays Stalinist Truth Squad in the same way is going to be equally loathed and avoided.
Money quote number two:
12. Kieran Healy rightfully observes that conservatives talking about this issue are making an interesting exception to their general tendency among conservatives to assume that results in the market are probably based on some real distribution of qualifications rather than bias or discrimination. It might be fair to assert in response that academic hiring is a closed or non-market system, and this is precisely what is unfair about it. But if so, it requires that one demonstrate that there is a class of potential, qualified individuals who are being discriminated against at the time of hiring, or that these individuals are being discriminatorily weeded out at the time of initial acceptance for training. If not, then the argument that conservatives are being discriminated against in academic hiring practices is exactly comparable in its logics and evidence to the logic of most affirmative action programs and many other antidiscrimination initiatives, that there is a subtle systemic bias which is producing unequal results that prevents a “normal” sociological distribution of candidates in particular jobs. It behooves conservatives who want to claim this to either concretely explain why this argument only applies to conservatives in academia, or to repudiate the standard conservative argument against affirmative action and other public-policy programs designed to deal with subtle bias effects.
13. On the other hand, most of the people mocking or disagreeing with the claim that conservatives are treated poorly in academia seem to me to be equally at odds with many standard representations of bias effects that are widely accepted by liberals or leftists, namely, that bias is often subtle, discursive, and institutionally pervasive, and that “hostile environments” can exist where no single action or statement, or any concrete form of discrimination can be easily pointed to as a smoking gun. Most of those claiming a bias against conservatives in academia are pointing to exactly these kinds of hostile-environment incidents and moments, and seeing them as causing the same kinds of psychological and inhibitory harms that this type of discrimination is said to cause in other contexts. I accept that people edging away from you in an elevator is a type of bias-effect that is harmful—an often cited instance of the kinds of subtly pervasive discrimination that African-Americans may suffer from in mostly-white institutions. I’ve never experienced myself because I’m white, and had I not read of it in the personal, anecdotal accounts of many African-Americans, I truthfully would never have noticed it. Same here. I don’t understand why it is so hard to accept that self-identified conservative undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty report experiencing many similar forms of pervasive, subtle bias. What I'm seeing from many of those who dismiss these claims is a collective eye-rolling, a sort of "big deal, so your professor sneered at you, get over it". And yet few of those doing that eye-rolling would say the same to a student of color or a woman reporting similar experiences. The grounds on which many critics are doubting that such bias exists would have to, in all honesty, extend to all anecdotal, experiential or narrative claims of bias. The only way to salvage such claims would be if they could be profitably correlated with quantifiable evidence of discrimination—but in this case, we have some evidence to that effect. The only other way to salvage this point is to say, "It's wrong to be biased against people because of their race, gender or sexual orientation, but not because of their politics". A few seem willing to say just that: I can only say I think that's a big, fat mistake on a great many fronts.
All I can say is "I wish I'd written this."
I haven't blogged much about the war here because my opposition to it is less strong than most of my co-bloggers. I described myself as "marginally opposed" to the War in Iraq from the start, with the "marginally" mostly due to not wanting to be associated with the variety of other questionable causes of the anti-war movement. I did and still do share the skepticism of many of you about the ability of the US gov't to rebuild a nation when it can't even deliver the mail. However, I also believe that the demise of Saddam Hussein, taken in isolation, was a significant step forward for human freedom, and was willing to be convinced it might be worth it. I also have more sympathy for the plight of Israel in the turmoil of the mid-east than perhaps others here do (obligatory note: that does not let Israel off the hook for its many wrongdoings).
In the last few weeks, however, I find myself becoming increasingly radicalized in my opposition to the war. It's not just that the costs of the activity that deposed a dictator are rapidly increasing, especially the body counts of both American soldiers and innocent Iraqis, nor prison abuses in and of themselves, nasty as they are. It's more a sense that this whole operation was done on the fly, with no framing ethical or philosophical concerns (of course why I or anyone should expect war to have such concerns is a good question, as I awake from my slumbers...). Now, as more prison abuse stories come out (see especially this one on the treatment of women prisoners), I'm more and more convinced that we don't, and never did, know what we're doing there, and the result of that ignorance, as it frequently is with state action, is that the "worst get on top" to paraphrase a chapter title from Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. In the absence of the requisite knowledge to do what is "right," those with a comparative advantage in the making of war without concern about what's "right" will rise to the top. When agents of the US government begin to use the same sorts of justification for the inhumane treatment of prisoners that totalitarian regimes do, even if it's only a small fraction of the military as a whole, then it's time to step back and ask just what it's all about. If this is the road away from serfdom... no thanks.
To quote one of the great philosophers of the 20th century:
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Don't know about others, but I'm refusing, on principle, to see the eco-disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. I'm not in the mood to drop money in the hands of folks who are clearly trying to score political points with highly dubious science. Same reason I've never watched a minute of Bowling for Columbine (although Moore is worse for not acknowledging his film is fictional).
Were I to say to friends that I'm not seeing the movie on principle, I can already hear them saying "Oh come on, it's just a movie." That response just drives me crazy. No it's not "just" a movie; it's ideas in the form of a narrative, and those ideas matter. Perhaps it's the old Randian in me, but whatever the cause, I just cannot abide supporting forms of art that project ideas that I find fundamentally in error, or morally wrong. To think that I could somehow shut off the "ideas" part of my brain and just "enjoy the action" strikes me as so anti-rational and anti-intellectual that I don't know where to begin to respond to it. It's the same way I feel when I'm in class and talking about serious, if abstract, ideas, and the students give me the "roll of the eyes" look like "here he goes again...". I guess I expect more from adults, but having had the "oh, it's just a movie" reaction before, I'm sure I'll get it again.
I have always admired him for having the courage of his convictions, for not caring too much what others thought about him, and most of all, for maintaining his sense of humor and optimism about himself and the world around him.
Too many conservatives, and libertarians for that matter, are seen as, and some really are!, humorless or pessimistic (see Robert Bork for example). Reagan convinced many that it was possible to be a happy, optimistic, and funny conservative. That alone was probably responsible for a tremendous shift in the perception of conservativism in the US and the rise of the current generation of baby boom conservatives. He was also a man of ideas. He was much better read than people have given him credit for, and more important, he believed in the power of ideas. That sets him apart from every president since World War II, at least. The combination of idealism and optimism and humor was also important in getting things done despite significant opposition. He was, for better or for worse, a good model of leadership.
I have often used a quote that Reagan kept on his desk, although he didn't write it: "There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." Another fine model for leadership.
Love him or hate him, he changed the world, and he'll be the last man of ideas to run for president.
Mainstream economics has a lot of answers for how we attack the first - namely, the idea of "search." But it has fewer answers for the second: how do we "discover" that which we don't know we don't know. The Austrian argument is precisely that markets are better at the second than the various alternatives.
Distinguishing between the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns is a very important step in any decision making process, as is thinking about the best methods for making either type of unknown into a known. I have no love for Rumsfeld, but making fun of him for that comment isn't fair. He is making perfect sense.
I'm in the midst of re-reading Hayek's The Road to Serfdom for a roundtable discussion at the History of Economics Society meetings next weekend. What a wonderful, prescient book. It's also very interesting to see, as Hayek notes in his introduction to the 1976 edition, how much that was in there foreshadowed later work he engaged in. The chapter "Why the Worst Get on Top" has always been one of my favorites, and it remains so after re-reading it. Given the recent events in Iraqi prisons by both Saddammites and the US military, I couldn't help but note this passage (pp. 150-1), which I reprint here:
But where a few specific ends dominate the whole of society [e.g., the War on Terror or a cult of personality - SH], it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty; that acts which revolt all our feeling, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, should be treated as mere matters of expediency; that the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousand should be come an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims.... There is always in the eyes of the collectivist a greater goal which these acts serve and which to him justifies them because the pursuit of the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual. ....
There will be jobs to be done about the badness of which taken by themselves nobody has any doubt, but which have to be done in the service of some higher end, and which have to be executed with the same expertness and efficiency as any others. And as there will be need for actions which are bad in themselves, and which all those still influenced by traditional morals will be reluctant to perform, the readiness to do bad things becomes a path to promotion and power.
The chapter on "The End of Truth" also is well worth reading in light of the War on Terror.
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.
At the end of a story about Marines who dislike Kerry, the NY Post throws in this little comment:
In Harrisburg, Kerry noted that there was more bad news coming out of the financial markets yesterday, with oil prices reaching new highs and economic growth limping along at three percent.
"Limping" along at three percent? Yes, that was short of the 3.7 percent that was the consensus prediction by economists who make their living predicting stuff like this, but "limping"? Most countries in the world would kill for three percent annual growth, and that growth rate dwarfs the average annual growth rates throughout human history, even throughout the last 200 years. It is about dead average for US history. It's fine to say that three percent is "disappointing" compared to expectations, but it is still a robust rate of growth that, if continued over time, would significantly enrich any country who had it in fairly short order. Income and output would double in just under 25 years at that rate.
Now if "limping" was Kerry's word, then I suppose I could say that's just politics, but I'm not willing to let him off that easily. Again, disappointing and limping are two different things and some historical context is always useful. If the word was the Post's, well then, I'll just let that be.