Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
I probably did a double take worthy of the great Spanky McFarland when I saw this.
Quite a coup there for LRC.
David T. Beito
Click on the link above this blog to make your nominations and for a description of the contest rules.
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Guest Blogger)
It appears that Judith Miller was a conduit, perhaps wittingly although this is not yet clear, for information the U.S. government was interested in disseminating in the build up to the occupation of Iraq regarding weapons of mass destruction. Her bosses at the New York Times seem to think she developed an unhealthy relationship with Mr. Lewis Libby, the Vice President´s deputy, who might have made of her a tool of the government´s case against its critics in the media. Although this has not been proven yet, many people suspect Mr. Libby told Mrs. Miller the identity of intelligence officer Valerie Plame in order to discredit her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Regardless of one´s take on the war, one has to see a huge irony in all of this. The U.S. government was able to use one of its strong critics, in this case the New York Times, to make the case for the war. But it would be wrong to conclude the reason this happened was Judith Miller´s manipulation of her own newspaper. This may indeed be in part what happened, but the reason it was possible in the first place is a much more important issue. Because of the insecurity felt by Americans after 9/11, public opinion in the U.S. became overwhelmingly predisposed to support anything the government told the nation. In that context-a context it is easy to forget today- no major organization, including as influential a media outlet as the New York Times, felt it could afford to go against the current. In other circumstances, media organizations critical of the government would have been competing for news that would help expose the weakness of the WMD argument for the war. But in the days before the occupation of Iraq, no big media outlet dared make a serious, sustained effort to discredit the government´s case lest it opened itself to the accusation of being less than patriotic. So, how did media organizations compete against each other? They tried to obtain exclusive information from the government. Anyone who, like Judith Miller, had high-level sources in the Administration and was able to obtain scoops regarding the case for war became very valuable. For a while, the mainstream press-including the Administration´s critics-was much more interested in feeding on government information than in holding the government in check.
Whether one supports the war in Iraq or not, surely this constitutes a perversion of the relationship between government and the media. There is something fundamentally wrong when an influential media institution that distrusts a government feels compelled to direct its energy towards becoming a confidant of that very same government because the psychological environment in which it is operating forces it to go against its own convictions. Judith Miller´s stories regarding WMD would have had a much harder time obtaining her editor´s and her paper´s approval in a context in which the sanitary barriers between official truth and real truth had not been blown away by public opinion-and by the failure of civic and political leaders to remind citizens that any government, however popular it is, needs to be checked.
David Hume certainly knew what he was talking about three centuries ago when he wrote, “Though men be much governed by interest, yet even interest itself, and all human affairs, are entirely governed by opinion.” Sometimes, opinion becomes the death knell of government, and sometimes it serves its purposes. But the main point is this: when a people, because of fear and insecurity, gives any government unconditional trust and ceases to place between it and the authorities the kind of skeptical distance without which no government can truly be limited, that society, including its media outlets, becomes hostage to political power and ceases, at least for a while, to be truly free. And when that happens, who is really to blame? Is it the Judith Millers of this world, or is it the overwhelming current of public opinion and those politicians, news organizations, and civic institutions that followed suit and made the likes of Judith Miller especially valuable? ----- End forwarded message ----- --
David T. Beito
Roderick T. Long
Issue 19.3 of the Journal of Libertarian Studies is now out. In this latest issue, Ellenita Hellmer critiques the standard libertarian attitude toward the anti-sweatshop movement, Piet-Hein van Eeghen critiques the legitimacy of the corporation, Enrico Colombatto critiques the Austrian theory of the business cycle, Walter Block critiques Randall Holcombe's argument for the inevitability of government, and Jan Narveson critiques Colin Williams' views on Lysander Spooner and the"virtue of obedience." Also, J. C. Lester reviews Edward Feser's book on Nozick, and Robert Bass reviews Wendy McElroy's book on Benjamin Tucker and the individualist anarchists.
For more details, check out my fuller summary here.
Also, the contents of the previous issue, 19.2, are now online; see the summary here and the articles here.
For summaries of all the issues under my editorship, see here; for all online articles from all past issues see here.
Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen provides some useful links that enable his readers to learn more about the views of Ben Bernanke. Cowen also provides his own assessment of Bernanke, whom he rates “an excellent choice and a first-rate economist.” I don’t doubt that Bernanke isn’t a very smart guy who is well versed in the literature. (That said, where is the evidence he has read either Mises on the impossibility of central planning or Hayek on the pretence of knowledge and drawn the appropriate conclusions for central banking?) I’m not clear, however, that his high IQ and extensive knowledge of recent debates in monetary economics makes him a good, let alone an outstanding, choice. And even were he the best among those whom Bush would consider nominating, that would not make him “an excellent choice” per se. Indeed he could be the best of the bunch and still be pretty awful. Let me explain.
From the point of view of a libertarian or classical liberal who advocates the separation of money and state, none of the likely candidates looks very promising. And even if the question is “Who prospectively looks like doing the least damage?”, I’m not clear that Bernanke who favors inflation targeting (the Fed policy in the 1920s) should be the choice of libertarians or at least those who are aware of the malign consequences of a policy of price stability on the capital structure (remember the Great Depression—even though that depression was made much worse by a subsequent policy of monetary contraction and government price supports). See George Selgin’s"Less Than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy" (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1997).
For this libertarian, a truly excellent choice would be someone who argues consistently for the separation of money and state. Among those who advocate free banking with fractional reserves, two names come immediately to mind: Lawrence H. White and George A. Selgin. And among those who defend free banking with a hundred percent gold standard, Joseph Salerno is perhaps your man.
The ideal nominee would be prepared to freeze the operations of the Fed (its abolition requires, of course, the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913) and thus refuse to exercise government control over the banking system. I realize, of course, this would very quickly lead to calls for his removal by our ever-vigilant Congress (can the chairman of the Fed be impeached?) but before he could be forcibly removed (by court-ordered detention under a mental health act?), it would be my sincere hope that the public debate would have been considerably broadened by consideration of ideas that were once taken seriously by many economists, bankers, and legislators, and, indeed, implemented on both sides of the Atlantic (eighteenth-century Scotland and, to a more limited extent, Jacksonian America, etc., etc.).
David T. Beito
Kudos to Randy Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy for his successful efforts to to get a historical marker placed outside the house in Athol, Massachusetts where Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) was born (see above).
Spooner excelled as a libertarian abolitionist, entrepreneur, and political theorist. He is one of my heroes. Randy also deserves praise for putting together a wonderful website which provides a wealth of information on Spooner's life and writings.
Iraq has been in an interregnum since Saddam was brought down. So long as the occupation lasts, there is no long-term successor regime. Therefore political jockeying for power must continue -- pari passu with the occupation. Therefore -- so long as the occupation continues -- potential rivals for power (& their supporters) will also continue to be killed; -- at _all_ political levels: municipal, provincial, national.
Thus the longer the occupation lasts, the longer the interregnum, & the longer the political killings go on…And the longer ordinary Iraqis have to live with daily, continuing, fear, bombings, shootings, lack of water & electricity…
The occupation _can_ only end when the US politicians involved, feel they have squeezed the maximum political gain from it. At that point, the political benefits come from withdrawal; staying on means political losses. It is to be _hoped_ that this point is reached shortly after the 15 December elections.
At that point, too, the covert war for power amongst the various groups of Iraqi politicians -- Sunni & Shiite, possibly Kurdish & others -- will no doubt come into the open. The length of this power struggle cannot be predicted -- but winners will eventually emerge. Then & then only, will there be any possibility of peace & security for ordinary Iraqis.
Meanwhile the hapless Iraqis remain hostage to _two_ sets of politicians -- their own & the American. All that the Iraqis -- & their friends -- can do, is pray.
David T. Beito
More than once, the bloggers at Liberty and Power have discussed conservative and libertarian critics, such as George S. Schuyler, of Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb.
We can add novelist Zora Neale Hurston to that list. In 1946, Hurston, who later supported the presidential campaign of Robert A. Taft, wrote that she was "amazed at the complacency of Negro press and public" towards Truman's foreign policy actions.
According to Hurston, Truman "is a monster. I can think of him as nothing else but the BUTCHER of ASIA. Of his grin of triumph on giving the order to drop the Atom bombs on Japan. Of his maintaining troops in China who are shooting the starving Chinese for stealing a handful of food....Is it that we are so devoted to a 'good Massa' that we feel that we ought not to even protest such crimes? Have we no men among us? If we cannot stop it, we can at least let it be known that we are not deceived. We can make any party who condones it, let alone orders it, tremble for election time."
Carla Kaplan, ed., Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 546.
“The invasion was merely illegal. The occupation has been the most bafflingly inept venture undertaken by western powers in modern history. I tremble to think what Tony Blair and George Bush would have done with the cold war.”
Jenkins writes, “These men [Blair & co.] have left a British army stranded in an Arabian desert with no apparent exit and no control over its fate. Their only possible redemption is to withdraw that army (other than as advisers) when the next Baghdad government is installed in the new year. Iraq can then be left to the Iraqis. If the Americans want to stay, more fool them.”
Indeed, more fool them.
In all of the nonsense written about the “clash” of Civilizations, it is amazing how little effort is given over to exploring the “borrowing” back and forth, for better and for worse, between cultures and nations.
In viewing, for example, the excellent presentations at the recent Mises Institute conference on Fascism, I saw nothing about Fascism in China or Japan, surely as important as Argentina.
One cannot understand Japanese history since 1945, for instance, without realizing that New Dealers in the Occupation helped bring Fascist bureaucrats back from Manchukuo to run the Finance Ministry in Tokyo because they both hated corporations.
Jonathan J. Bean
David Farber and Jeff Roche, eds. The Conservative Sixties. New York: Peter Lang, 2003. vi + 211 pp. ISBN 0-8204-5548-2. Notes, list of contributors, index. $29.95 (paper)
Reviewed by Jason M. Stahl, Department of History, University of Minnesota.
I agree with the reviewer that intellectual and social histories of conservatism ignore the business stream of conservatism. I confronted this first hand in my research on small business lobbying, which joined hands with corporate elites from the 1970s onward, because they were "mad as hell" about government regulation and taxes. Although a bit
dated, Vogel's assessment that business has remained economically conserative for 125 years remains true (Vogel, "Why Businessmen Distrust Their State: The Political Consciousness of American Corporate
Executives." _British Journal of Political Science_ (January 1978): 45-78) and backed up by more recent polls (Kirkland, "Today's GOP: The Party's Over for Big Business." _Fortune_, 6 February 1995, 50-62.
Kirkland found that 69% of CEOs were Republicans and 98% favored reductions in government spending, 82% for deregulation).
Of course, liberal human resources professionals continue to promote "social responsibility" and racial preferences (see Lynch, _The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the White Male Workplace_), yet we cannot ignore this core identity among businesspeople, large and small. Some of these entrepreneurs and cashed-out CEOs funded think
tanks, which are also treated separately from "studies of conservatism." This is odd, because think tanks were necessary "idea brokers" given the near total exclusion of conservatives from campus
faculty (amply documented by David Horowitz, NAS, and others).
Lastly, I agree with David Horowitz that this is the first social movement that does NOT include movement activists as a wave of scholars poring over its past. Movement conservatives may be biased, but they
are well-versed in what movement cons were actually reading and doing -- and not given over to the presumed triumphalism of liberal historians who see Republican victories as the Rise of the Right, while
movement activists saw defeat in the Reagan Revolution and the "Republican Revolution" of 1994. Read Frum, Niskanen, Stockman, Rector.
Brinkley, Ribuffo, Thomas Frank are certainly not conservatives. I don't believe Andrews was a conservative. Flamm begins his dissertation by describing how he is (or was?) a liberal. I don't know McGirr, Roche or the others but can only identify two historians of conservatism who
are actually conservative. This situation leads to a lot of nonsense about "backlash" and "triumph," ignoring the fatalistic streak in the conservative movement. These themes are the ones trumpeted in college history textbooks, where most "educated" Americans get their recent history. As a movement con myself (yes, I'm outed), I joke that the best I can hope for in my lifetime is repeal of the low flush, low-flow water law. Give me pounding showers, or give me death! That's the level of success libertarian-conservatives have achieved, rendering us "dead"
and the Beltway in the hands of "Big Government conservatives" (Fred Barnes' apt term).
SUGGESTED READINGS (for more see my syllabus of recommended readings at http://tinyurl.com/3xp72). NOTE: Focus on the 1960s and early 1970s.
Anderson, Martin. The Federal Bulldozer (1964)
Cornuelle, Reclaiming the American Dream: The Role of Private Individuals and Voluntary Associations (1965)
Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited (1974)
Bean, "'Burn, Baby, Burn': Small Business in the Urban Riots of the 1960s," The Independent Review (Fall 2000)
Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and the Rise of Grassroots Conservatism (2005)
Decter, Midge. Liberal Parents, Radical Children (1975)
Edwards, Goldwater: The Man Who Made A Revolution (1995)
Edwards. The Conservative Revolution (1999)
Evans, M. Stanton. Revolt on the Campus (1961)
Farber and Roche, ed. The Conservative Sixties (2003)
Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom (1962)
Gerson, Mark. The Neoconservative Vision: From the
Cold War to the Culture Wars (1996)
Glazer, “The Campus Crucible: Students Politics and the University,” Essential Neoconservative Reader, 41-63.
Goldwater, Barry M. The Conscience of a Conservative (1960)
Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
Horowitz, David. Radical Son (1998)
Judis, John. William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (1988)
Kelley, Bringing the Market Back In (1990?)
Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945 rev. ed. (1996)
Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)
O’Rourke, “Second Thoughts about the Sixties,” Give War a Chance (1992), 90-97
Rand, Ayn. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1967)
Rothbard, Murray. Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature and Other Essays (1974)
Rothbard. For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto (1973)
Schneider, Gregory. Conservatism in America since 1930 : A Reader
Those Texas Bar Journal articles Miers wrote (which can be found here) are about as badly written as David Brooks said they were, though I've seen much worse. The managing partner of my old law firm used to write free verse about leadership and service to the client. I remember talking to a colleague about having it translated back into the original German and posting it throughout the firm, but we were both too enervated to follow through.
But the Miers articles are bad nonetheless, as can be seen here [.pdf]:
Two years ago the name"Jim Parsons" became synonymous with"inclusion."
Which must have been confusing for old Jim.
He made specific, sweeping efforts to inform all Texas lawyers that the State Bar of Texas welcomed involvement by all its members, regardless of geography, area of practice, race, ethnicity, or gender.
Those efforts were both specific and sweeping, no mean feat. And one wonders what"area of practice" is doing there amidst"race, ethnicity, and gender," in this inspiring tale of triumph over intolerance, unless there's some longstanding legacy of prejudice against, say, real estate lawyers on the part of the Texas Bar Association.
The outstretched hands of Jim and his wife, Karen, spoke loudly to many lawyers who earlier felt excluded or who had been uninterested.
Why couldn't the talking hands keep it down and leave the uninterested lawyers alone?
But the sentence that makes me regret my pettiness comes a few paragraphs later. It suggests that the Aspens never turned, and the roots never connected, and that there was nothing, nothing ever, beyond the next meeting of the Professional Development Committee. It's a sentence that breaks my heart:
Several weeks ago I looked around the room at the Bar Leaders Conference and felt a great sense of hope.
That may be the saddest thing I have ever read.
I wanted to announce that the ifeminists.net BB (not the ifeminists site) is being closed down. At the same moment, I have just opened another BB forum that focuses more on libertarianism and broad cultural issues and far less on gender discussions. At least two L&P members have joined the fledgling forum already and I cordially invite posters and readers to click on the preceding link to check us out.
Best to all,
Aeon J. Skoble
Roderick T. Long
Few would describe Aristotle as an egalitarian philosopher; and few would describe libertarianism as an egalitarian political theory. In two newly published pieces I commit both these heresies.
The latest (October 2005) issue of The Freeman carries my article"Liberty: The Other Equality." (This article is a companion piece to my 2001 lecture Equality: The Unknown Ideal.)
Mogens Herman Hansen's The Imaginary Polis, the proceedings volume for the Copenhagen Polis Centre conference described here, has just been published; it contains my article"Aristotle's Egalitarian Utopia." So far the collection's not available for purchase through any of the ordinary online venues, but those eager for a copy can go to this link, type the phrase"imaginary polis" (without quotation marks) in the"Title" field, hit the higher of the two"Search now" buttons, hit"Add to basket," and then hit"Shopping list" on the left. (No, I can't link directly to the title. Yes, the Royal Danish Academy's website sucks.)
Both articles turn on the idea that equality in authority is a more fundamentally important kind of equality than either socioeconomic equality or equality before the law.
In other news, the Alabama Philosophical Society website, cui magister sum, has a revised schedule and updated location info for our conference this coming weekend. Be there or B2!
In his generally predictable article complaining about the wealthy favoring influence of K Street Atcheson did manage to make some good points. He told who will really benefit from the Prescription Drug Plan passed in 2003; "The payoff for industry, according to a study by Sager and Socolar of Boston University, is that as much as 61% of Medicare’s costs will be pure profit for the Drug companies, an increase of as much as $139 billion." In addition, Atcheson talked about crony-ladened FEMA and asserted, probably correctly, that recent energy legislation contains $66 billion worth of unnecessary pork.
All well and good, but the piece ultimately irritated me because of the author’s insistence that the sort of wasteful greed described is the sole province of right wing Republicans. He wrote, “The grease that lubricates this new model of government is greed; the fuel that feeds it is money. Lots of it. And overwhelmingly, the hard-line, right-wing conservative branch of the Republican Party are both its architect, and its beneficiary.”
Another article I read today shows just how foolishly biased the above statement is. By Newt Gingrich and Veronique de Rugy it appeared in The Washington Times and informed its readers that the Louisiana congressional delegation headed by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is trying to get $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for their state. The authors provided a long list of items, with enormous price tags, that the money is to be used for. All of them have, at best, a very slight indirect connection with actually helping those in distress and I would be suprised that if the funds were authorized even one percent of the cash ever got to someone who really needed it. They also illustrated the hypocrisy of Senator Landrieu saying that “Louisiana will be rebuilt by Louisianans. New Orleans will be rebuilt by New Orleans" and then demanding everyone else pay for it.
Much gets written these days about the highly partisan political atmosphere with excessive rancor and vicious personal attacks. I think the explanation for this is quite simple, it is because both sides are so very much alike.