Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
Another addition is Positive Liberty, a new group blog managed by L and P's own Jason Kuznicki. The members include Liberty Magazine writer Timothy Sandefur. Good luck to Jason and the rest of the Postive Liberty crew.
In a recent Newsweek poll, President Bush and the War in Iraq did not fare well. 61% of those polled disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war in Iraq, and a stunning 64% of those polled stated that they believed the War in Iraq did not make the US safer from Terrorism.
The war obviously is an emotional issue that demands rational discourse. As a libertarian, I have been against US intervention from the start. But I understand the argument that those who advocate military action tried to make. It is just that they were wrong on the political economy and social analysis of the situation.
Christopher Coyne defended his dissertation this past spring at GMU and the subject of his thesis was After War. Chris’s work on the subject has been published in Constitutional Political Economy, The Review of Austrian Economics and his thesis has been accepted as a book with Stanford University Press. Chris addresses the issues of post-war reconstruction in the 20th century and shows that outside of Japan and Germany US-led efforts must be judged a failure in terms of establishing sustainable democracies with a vibrant economy. Chris’s reasons are straightforward economics and, in presenting his argument in this manner, Chris is able to address these pressing issues in public policy with reason and evidence, rather than just with the passionate ideological rhetoric of someone against the war effort. The stated goals of US efforts might well be lofty (e.g., modernization, political freedom, economic prosperity), but the means chosen (US-led military confrontation) are simply ineffective in terms of achieving those ends.
Chris’s work is available at his web-site here.
I was actually invited to contribute to this blog over a year ago but I wasn't able to do so due to various demands, notably writing a book. However over the last few months I have taken to diving in and out of the blogosphere. What I have found has led me to two conclusions. The first is that blogs are proving to be hugely subversive of the kind of calcified orthodoxy found at many conventional media outlets of both left and right - a well worn point by now but made well again by Jeff Jarvis at http://www.buzzmachine.com/ .
A second point is that the world of blogs reveals subterranean movements and realignments in the world of politics and ideology. I have been arguing for some time now that we are seeing is a major realignment of ideologies and political positions. This is particularly true of the 'left', but it is increasingly happening on the 'right' as well. Two questions in particular are helping to bring this about. The first is the whole question of how to respond to 'globalisation', which is increasingly dividing the left between those who accept or welcome globalisation (often including former Marxists who remain loyal to much of Marx's vision of history) and those who in rejecting it are now articulating views that are pretty near indistinguishable from those of nineteenth century reactionaries. Essentially the question intelligent socialists and social democrats have to face is "Given that the traditional notion of socialism has been shown to be incompatible with modernity, how do you feel about the modern, interconnected world?". Many have effectively decided to give up on modernity, and are becoming ever closer in their arguments and analysis to modernity's traitional enemies on the right. Others are starting to reaffirm the traditional 'left' support for the Enlightenment ideals of rationalism, cosmopolitanism, and progress, along of course with ideas such as egalitarianism and an active role for government.
The second issue is of course the war in Iraq and, more generally, the question of what, if anything, should be the Western response to the ideas and movements of radical Islamism. Here there is an increasingly vocal movement on the left in favour of the war and of an aggresive response to Islamism. The people who take this view tend to also belong to the part of the left that is more comfortable with globalisation and the course that the modern world is clearly taking. Meanwhile opponents of the war are starting to move closer to the kind of critical position articulated by many on the right. My own position, which I'll no doubt elaborate, is that radical Islamism is indeed a threat that requires a robust response, but also that the policy followed by the US and Britain is not only mistaken but positively counterproductive.
The last time we saw a major ideological realignment was in the period between roughly 1880 and 1900, which saw the move from a division between classical liberals and traditional conservatives to one between socialists of various varieties and an alliance between modern conservatives and the remaining classical liberals. I think that in just a few years we will look back and realise that there has been another, equally sweeping reshuffling of the ideological pack.
Hugh Barnes, Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (2005).
"By what criteria should recherche historical figures be plucked from obscurity and granted a fresh lick of paint for a modern audience? Insofar as the reputation of Gannibal endures, it is chiefly because he is known for being the greatgrandfather of Russia’s national poet, Alexander Pushkin. Hugh Barnes, journalist and Russian scholar, wants to make amends for that, and succeeds brilliantly in his task.
The boy Abram Petrovich Gannibal, from humble origins in Ethiopia, became a godson to the Russian tsar Peter the Great via the unusual route of being bought as a child slave in Constantinople. He was initially regarded as nothing more than a curiosity; he was brought to Russia at a time, as Barnes records, when black people were routinely depicted as alien bogeyman figures. Very soon, however, Gannibal became much more important than that. By the age of 12, he was a soldier in the Russian army and was winning garlands for his courage in fighting in the war against Sweden. Very soon, he became Peter’s adviser and house-intellectual, as well as one of his most educated officers.
Peter hoped to introduce Russia to the outside world to create a more cosmopolitan kind of Russian, and his exotic godson became the perfect ambassador for his reformist ambitions. Gannibal became, says Barnes, “a polymath in the Enlightenment mould, a man of eclectic skills: a linguist, a diplomat, a cryptographer, a spy, and also on occasion an able military commander”.
The philosopher-soldier Gannibal was soon talking differential calculus with Leibniz and philosophy with Voltaire. His intellectual and practical career, Peter wrote proudly, “furnished the most striking proof of the injustice of that odious prejudice which assigns to the Negro race a reputation of intellectual and moral inferiority. He has immense spirit, a prodigious facility for study... [and] was blessed with a mobile and elevated character and an incorruptible probity”.
Gannibal’s chief talent, however, was for military strategy and intrigue. In a brilliant career he fought as a commissioned officer for the French against the Spanish, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-engineer.
He became the tsar’s spy in Paris, and even used his engineering genius to build a wall of fortifications around Russia from the Arctic Circle to China.
That a black slave should have shot up so high in the Russian elite is in itself a marvel. But Barnes wants to use the breadth of Gannibal’s experience as a foil for a much larger story, one which takes on everything from Russian literature to the geopolitics of Muslim slave-trading in Africa. For an essentially military man, Gannibal’s fate was supremely intertwined with Russia’s literary culture. Following his death, he seems to have pricked the conscience as well as the muse of Russian writers - his greatgrandson Pushkin, for example, wrote an unfinished and rather sentimental account of his ancestor, titled The Negro of Peter the Great. In the 20th century, Nabokov was moved to write an essay about Gannibal’s life. Even the man who first bought him from a slave market in Constantinople, the Russian ambassador Pyotr Tolstoy, was an ancestor of the novelist and author of War and Peace, Barnes points out. In an attempt to further enhance his mercurial hero, Barnes wants to make a case for him as the “Russian Othello” - a literary allusion too far, possibly. But then Gannibal’s personality, at least in Barnes’ telling, does resemble that of a Shakespearean hero - he was an insomniac who worried ceaselessly about his ancestry and his place in posterity.
Gannibal died in 1781, at the plum age of 85, in relative obscurity after having fallen foul of shifting court loyalties. His tombstone pays tribute to “a Russian mathematician, a builder of fortresses and canals”, but makes little mention of his military career.
In Barnes’ story, Gannibal appears as a self-shaper nimble enough to make a myth out of his own circumstances. It was only during his time in France, for example, that he began signing his name Gannibal, a Russian variant of Hannibal. Like other former enslaved Africans who made their way to the top of western societies, such as Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho, Gannibal was something of a canny operator - he seems to have played his colonial hosts at their own game, alternately revelling in his exoticism and suggesting the nobility of his African origins, a claim which he never managed to corroborate.
That this former slave eventually became the owner of slaves is a delicious irony for a biographer. But Barnes makes it clear that even Gannibal’s formidable presence could do little to overturn intellectual racism. Even Montesquieu, he records, who tended towards the view that Africans were lazy and immoral, was impressed by Gannibal. Among friends such as Voltaire and Richelieu, says Barnes, “it was as if Gannibal’s wit bleached the pigment of his skin”.
Barnes has dug himself up a most engaging subject. He carries his story along in an unpretentious fashion, wearing his research lightly and never failing to intrigue. Only when it descends into travelogue - when Barnes walks around the places associated with Gannibal trying to sound reflective - does the pace begin to falter. The story is so rich that it has no need of being dressed up in this way.
Gannibal’s life made for an almost unique encounter between Europe and Africa. His story is all the more relevant, Barnes argues, because of the recent resurgence of racism in post-Soviet Russia. Nowadays, he says drily, many ordinary Russians take a rather dim view of the dark-skinned Muslim peoples of Chechnya and other republics. They are known disparagingly as the chorniye, or the blacks, of Russia. Among some Russian scholars, too, it remains controversial to point out their national poet should have had a negro ancestor.
While this may sound a little worthy, what Barnes has written is an intelligent Boy’s Own story, an adventure stuffed full of encounters with history - a ripping good yarn which has the merit of being entirely true."
David T. Beito
Defenders of Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb sixty years ago have typically presented the dilemma he faced in these terms: either order a bloody invasion of the Japanese mainland or “end the war and save lives“ by dropping the bomb.
I have a question: why couldn’t Truman have ended the war and saved even more lives by pursuing the third alternative of a conditional rather than an unconditional surrender?
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.
But was Novak's temper tantrum and walk out staged to allow him to avoid being asked about the Plame scandal? For those who have lived in a cave for the last year or so, Valerie Plame was a CIA operative whose identity was disclosed in one of Novak's columns in July 2003. It is widely assumed that the disclosure was intended to punish or discredit her husband -- Bush-critic and former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Arizona Central states,"Two other reporters connected to the case openly fought the revelation of their sources, and Judith Miller of The New York Times has been jailed for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors. Novak has repeatedly refused to comment about his role in the federal investigation. After Novak walked off on Thursday, Henry said that Novak had been told before the segment that he was going to be asked on air about the CIA case." Indeed, Henry stated that he had been just about to ask when the explosion occurred and cut off that possibility.
Or, rather, according to the Los Angeles Times, after uttering the expletive, Novak"appeared ready to continue the discussion. But after another moment he rose from his chair, removed his microphone and walked off the set." If it was Carville's needling he was trying to avoid or protest -- rather than Henry's impending question -- then wouldn't he have left immediately after uttering"Bullshit". (That was the expletive BTW.) Moreover, a lot of bloggers, who seem to have poured over clips of the incident which are already posted across the Internet, have remark on how mild Carville's needling of Novak actually was...at least, compared to exchanges on other shows during which Novak's posterior managed to stay solidly in his seat.
My opinion: Novak staged the walk out BUT his co-host James Carville is so damned annoying that the"blow up" theory cannot be fully discarded. And I echo a question asked by another blogger: will the Federal Communications Commission fine Novak for indecency? And, as usual, I like the Wonkette's take on the incident:"Novak Takes His Lack of Balls and Goes Home."
For more commentary, please see McBlog.
Aeon J. Skoble
Problem is, each time I come close to joining, the ACLU takes some public, statist position on the ADA, affirmative action, speech codes, or tries to defend a positive right -- a right to education, for example, or a right to access to the welfare state.
Last night I was flipping through the channels, and happened on the beginning of Bill O'Reilly's show just as we was ticking off his "Talking Points" segment. O'Reilly jumped off on the ACLU's oppposition to New York City subway searches, then ran off a list of anti-terror measures the ACLU has opposed since 9/11. This was supposed to make me hate the ACLU. As it turns out, I oppose just about every anti-terror proposal on O'Reilly's list of outrages.
Then, O'Reilly went off the deep end. Excerpt:
"Talking Points" could go on and on, but you get the picture. If the ACLU ever wants money, it should contact the Al Qaeda fundraisers. No organization in America enables terrorism as much as the ACLU, period. It is putting your life in danger. And that is no exaggeration.That was more than enough for me. This morning, I became one of those people Bill O'Reilly wants you to stop doing business with.
Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about it. No way to stop it. The ACLU operates within the law and uses the legal system to oppose the war on terror. And there are enough loony judges around to give that organization power, especially here in New York City and in San Francisco.
The only thing we can do is hold people who raise and give money to the ACLU accountable. In the weeks to come,"The Factor" will tell you who these people and organizations are, so you can decide whether or not you want to do business with them.
I am now a card-carrying member of the ACLU. And it's thanks to Bill O'Reilly.
“Hiroshima wasn't uniquely wicked. It was part of a policy for the mass killing of civilians.”
Read the rest of the article here.
America's historical amnesia allows it to forget the quartering of the British standing army in Boston in 1768.
The great feminist republican, Mercy Otis Warren, who, in 1805 published her multi-volume History of the American Revolution because she feared Americans had already succumbed to a pursuit of wealth, called this October "Day of Infamy," the day upon which the American Revolution began. FDR's speech writers on December 8, 1941, never bothered to give her credit for the phrase!
We do unto others what we would not allow done unto us. But, then, no one has ever accused the American Empire of consistency, even in its immorality, although many still deny its hypocrisy.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Yesterday, I read a really interesting article by Michael J. Bugeja in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled"Master (or Mistress) of Your Domain" (shades of Jerry), with the descriptive subtitle:"Creating a Web site for your latest book can showcase the work and aid your case for tenure and promotion."
I'll put aside the issue of aiding one's case for tenure and promotion. I'd like to suggest that it might actually aid one's cause (which might not actually aid one's tenure or promotion). And I think more classical liberal and libertarian scholars should consider doing it.
First, let's take a look at Bugeja's points. He writes:
For better or worse, the Internet is playing a larger role in editorial decisions about books and in promotion and tenure evaluations. It is commonplace for external reviewers to Google Web sites or troll databases before rendering their decisions on behalf of publishing houses and institutions. Search committees also are using the Web to evaluate the writing or scholarship of job applicants before inviting them to on-campus interviews. ...
I advise authors to create a Web site with the title of their texts as the domain name and to assemble other sites with domain names identifying their scholarship. ... Authors are responsible for getting their books reviewed, purchased by libraries, and adopted by professors for use in research or in the classroom. In the past, that required an author to fill out a questionnaire for the publisher, identifying editors, book reviewers, and colleagues who might have interest in the work. The Internet has changed that.
Bugeja explains how he marshalled his own resources to promote his own work. Who is a better salesperson than the person who authors the work and knows it, inside-out? He"e-mailed reviewers and technology columnists, directing them to the Web site" he had established for his book,"asking if they would like a copy. Several said yes, generating reviews and citations that I added to my site under 'latest news.' Without the site, the book would have died along with the trees that gave it life at the printing press. Instead, it went on to win a research award with reviews in top publications. That's the benefit of a book site."
Bugeja tells us that his book site boosted classroom sales too. He reminds us that those who surf the web expect some things for free. The Internet may not be a"medium for professors concerned about copyright issues or intellectual property," but Bugeja encourages authors"to share [their] pedagogies or methodologies," giving readers, potential teachers and students alike,"all manner of free information, including lectures for each chapter; sample syllabi for large, middle-range, senior, master's, and doctoral classes; end-of-chapter materials; forms for paper assignments, journal exercises, and presentations; sample midterms and final exams; a bibliography; and an index." He even provides
a 103-page instructor's manual in both Word and PDF formats. Online manuals save the publisher printing costs and allow potential users to manipulate syllabi, lectures, and other downloads. The most popular free feature on my site is a twice-monthly teaching module meant to stimulate classroom discussion. To date, I've added more than two dozen such modules to the site on content too topical to include in a new edition but nonetheless related to the concept of the work.
I especially like Bugeja's suggestion that authors archive"reviews, recent articles, and information about" themselves. I've been doing such things for over ten years now on my own site, and I've had URL forwarding for the titles of all of my books. Just try typing totalfreedomtowardadialecticallibertarianism.com or, more simply, marxhayekandutopia.com, and see where that takes you. I'll never forget how my pal and colleague, Lester Hunt, once characterized my site. Linking to it from his site, he wrote:"Chris is a true liberal. In the interest of provoking dialogue, he puts some very adverse criticisms of his controversial work on his site, together with his replies." I think that's actually very important. And I think more liberal/libertarian scholars should be doing it precisely because it documents the history of a discussion of a particular work, while also providing the basis for future dialogue.
The one thing authors should not supply, of course, is: the book. But links to services where you can order the book online are always helpful. As Bugeja puts it:"That's the point of the site, and all links lead to that outcome."
I've not yet put a syllabus for my books online, but I do have one available for use in a cyberseminar that I give now and then on my"Dialectics and Liberty" trilogy. But Bugeja has given me a good idea about developing more study guides and syllabi for my various publications so as to facilitate their use in the classroom.
It would be a good idea, I think, if those in the liberal/libertarian academy do more to develop these kinds of web resources in a more formal manner. It is one way to develop a"parallel institution" of learning, while at the same time providing a blueprint for the use of such materials in established institutions of learning. Additionally, it gives each of us, as authors of the works, a chance to frame the discussion in a way that is most likely to generate further interest in our own contributions and the contributions of our colleagues in the libertarian academy. I've seen some development of this model on the sites of some of my colleagues; in the light of Bugeja's essay, I think this is something that can benefit each of us individually and the cause of liberty more generally.
Cross-posted to Notablog.
Drum writes in Washingtonmonthly.com
EMINENT DOMAIN....Stephen Bainbridge reprints a graphic from today's Wall Street Journal showing that in the wake of the Kelo decision, which ruled that the constitution doesn't prohibit governments from using eminent domain to take land for economic development, states are beginning to enact laws that restrict the use of eminent domain for the purpose of economic development.
Without taking a specific stand on any of the proposed statutes, this strikes me as the best possible result. The Supreme Court shouldn't have invented a new constitutional restriction on eminent domain, but state and local governments should enact laws that limit land grabs designed solely to increase tax revenue. And if different states want different rules, and want to apply those rules differently in different areas, that's fine too.
So far, this all seems to be working out pretty well.
David T. Beito
It has been my pleasure to work alongside Steve in several venues, most notably seminars sponsored by the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies. As a scholar, he is a renaissance man of the first rank. He is one of the knowledgable people I know, whether the question at hand concerns the Sung dynasty or the history of Middle Eastern religions. He has written extensively on the private provision of services in Britain such as police, fire protection, and welfare, British individualist feminism, and the development of markets in urban history.
About two weeks ago, the FBI admitted in federal court to collecting thousands of documents on non-violent activist groups, including the ACLU, Greenpeace and various antiwar organizations.Read the rest.
The ACLU, suing under the Freedom of Information Act, requested to see its files, but the FBI insists it cannot turn over its 1,173 pages of documentation on the ACLU for another eight or more months, as it needs that time to “process” them. Ironically, this same agency, which can apparently only “process” about five documents a day, is also supposed to protect Americans against terrorism.
"Financial Times News alert: Qinetiq acquisitions set to double US revenues
The acquisition, which is expected to be announced with a smaller deal to acquire Planning Systems Inc., a privately held US engineering group, will nearly double Qinetiq's sales coming from the US to $600m, or about a third of group revenues.
The company has been emphasising its push into the US ahead of an expected £1.1bn public offering in November. Qinetiq and its shareholders, the defence ministry and US-based private equity group Carlyle, sent letters to a dozen banks last week to gauge interest in an IPO.
Privately held Apogen, based in suburban Washington D.C., is a provider of software and IT systems to both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security and generated $205m in revenues last year a technology services group created by Apogen.
"This has been part of our strategy for a while," Sir John said.
"We have enormous technological capabilities here in the UK, and the US is the largest market for what we have to sell."
Sir John would not rule out further acquisitions in the US, saying the company continued to talk to "all sorts" of potential take-over targets.
Following the two latest acquisitions, which must be cleared by US security agencies, Qinetiq would have more than 2,500 employees in the US, compared with 10,000 in the UK."