Liberty & Power: Group Blog
President Bush’s State of the Union address was one odd speech indeed. Besides his silly statement about our being “addicted to oil” and his messianic declarations in response to the “call of history,” he referred to isolationism four different times. Who favors isolationism?The rest of my latest op-ed,"Where Are the Isolationists?," is here at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Is legally objecting to the forced groping of your genitals a false accusation? I don't see how...unless, of course, you believe that putting on a uniform excuses the wearer from all personal responsibility of respecting the human rights of others. That is a popular view these days, I admit. Put on a police, military, or some otherwise governmental uniform and you are somehow given a"right" -- no, make that word"privilege" -- to break the laws of common decency and non-agression. So, in response to critics, I say...GO PENN! GO REED! Thanks for making my person a bit safer from the thugs and their attack-dog apologists who wish to grope the genitals of reluctant others in order to make the world a better place. How bright the future they envision must shine!!
Check out my libertarian discussion BB!
Kenneth R. Gregg
George Washington's Will is a valuable document to examine. One of his first concerns in the will is to free his slaves and to take care of the elderly in whatever way possible:
m Upon the decease my wife, it is my Will & desire th all the Slaves which I hold in own right, shall receive their free . To emancipate them during life, would, tho' earnestly wish me, be attended with such insu ble difficulties on account of thei ixture by Marriages with the er Negroes, as to excite the most pa ful sensations, if not disagreeabl onsequences from the latter, while descriptions are in the occupancy the same Proprietor; it not being my power, under the tenure by which e Dower Negroes are held, to man t them. And whereas among e who will recieve freedom ac ding to this devise, there may b me, who from old age or bodily infi ities, and others who on account of ir infancy, that will be unable to pport themselves; it is m sire that all who & second descrip tably cloathed & they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the ag of twenty five years; and in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The Negros thus bound, are (by their Masters or Mistresses) to be taught to read & write; and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of Orphan and other poor Children. and I do hereby expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my Executors hereafter named, or the Survivors of them, to see that th use respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the < u>ncertain provision to be made by individuals. And to my Mulatto man William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom; or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which ha e befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so: In either case however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, whic shall be independent of the victuals and cloaths he has been accustomed to receive, if he chuses the last alternative; but in full, with his freedom, if he prefers the first; & this I give him as a test ony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War. As the notes state in the online version:At about the same time that he was drawing up his will, Washington made a list of the adult and child slaves on each of the Mount Vernon farms, usually giving ages, occupations, and other pertinent information. His list of 317 slaves, includes the names of 124 who belonged to him outright and were to be freed when Martha Washington died, 153 who were Martha Washington's dower slaves and at her death would go to the Custis heir-at-law, her grandson George Washington Parke Custis, and forty others leased by GW from his neighbor Penelope Manley French. Of the 277 slaves belonging to Washington in his own right or by marriage, 179 were 12 years old or older, eighteen of whom were"Passed labor." The remaining ninety-eight were children under the age of 12. Of those twelve years old and over, ninety-five were females and eighty-four were males. Shortly after Washington's death, Bushrod Washington recommended to Martha Washington that she get" clear of her negroes" at Mount Vernon. According to Eugene Prussing, she"was made unhappy by the talk in the [slave] quarters of the good time coming to the ones to be freed as soon as she died." He reported that"many did not wait for the event" but took off at once. In any case, all the slaves that Washington owned outright were freed after Martha's death, and the accounts of the executors of Washington's will show an expenditure by 1833 of more than $10,000 to the pensioned former slaves who remained at Mount Vernon or lived nearby (Bushrod Washington to Martha Washington, 27 Dec. 1799, in Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 328-31; Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 158-60).He was not particularly trusting of lawyers and desired that any disputes over his will be settled privately through ADR (alternative dispute resolution):In the construction of which it will readily be perceived that no professional character has been consulted, or has had any Agency in the draught--and that, although it has occupied many of my leisure hours to digest, & to through it into its present form, it may, notwithstanding, appear crude and incorrect. But having endeavoured to be plain, and explicit in all Devises--even at the expence of prolixity, perhaps of tautology, I hope, and trust, that no disputes will arise concerning them; but if, contrary to expectation, the case should be otherwise from the want of legal expression, or the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the Devises to be consonant with law, My Will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and good understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants--each having the choice of one--and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by Law, or legal constructions, declare their sense of the Testators intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the Parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States.These both indicate the civil nature of Washington: his desire to free his slaves without any legal interferences by the existing slaveholding state of Virginia (which could have contested his will if manumission were done prior this time) and the desire to keep the courts out of his affairs.
Tip of the hat to Joel Schoenmeyer and Blawg Review #43.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 18:11
David T. Beito
Monday, February 6, 2006 - 03:09
David T. Beito
Here is another reason that I don’t like what David Horowitz is up to:
We do not go to our doctors' offices and expect to see partisan propaganda posted on the doors, or go to hospital operating rooms and expect to hear political lectures from our surgeons. The same should be true of our classrooms and professors, yet it is not. When I visited the political-science department at the University of Colorado at Denver this year, the office doors and bulletin boards were plastered with cartoons and statements ridiculing Republicans, and only Republicans. When I asked President Hoffman about that, she assured me that she would request that such partisan materials be removed and an appropriate educational environment restored. To the best of my knowledge, that has yet to happen.
Monday, February 6, 2006 - 03:02
Since this was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's day at the Senate to defend George II's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, I thought it might be instructive to revisit his previous attempt at defending the indefensible. Remember the rendition controversy? That's the administration's policy of sending suspected terrorists (or so they say; there have been"errors") to countries (e.g., Egypt and Syria) with governments not reluctant to inflict a little pain during interrogation. When the press got wind of this, the administration was, shall we say, embarrassed. In an interview almost a year ago Gonzales said,"Our policy is not to render people to countries where we believe or we know that they're going to be tortured." But he added,"We can't fully control what that country might do. We obviously expect a country to whom we have rendered a detainee to comply with their representation to us. If you're asking me, 'Does a country always comply?' I don't have an answer to that."
Remember the doubletalk when you read his defense of eavesdropping on Americans.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Monday, February 6, 2006 - 20:25
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Two recent Randian skirmishes:
- As best I recall, I first encountered Robert Bidinotto at ISILs Rome conference in 1997. His main contribution at that time was a very nice speech urging mutual understanding and cooperation between Objectivists and (other) libertarians; my friend Bobby Emory in his FNF report called this extension of the olive branch on Mr. Bidinottos part an important turning point for the movement.
In more recent years, unfortunately, Mr. Bidinottos tone in dealing with libertarian adversaries has grown increasingly hostile, but I was still able to have a fairly civilised debate with him on the anarchist question two years ago (see here, here, and here).
But then came last month, when he sent me a link to a blog post in which he bade adieu to any canons of civility by denouncing anyone unwilling to support U.S. troops in Iraq as scumbags. Apparently the notion that the U.S. military policy of mass civilian homicide might be unjust, and that criticism of it might extend to criticism of those who carry it out, falls by his lights into a class of inherently dishonest ideas, sufficient to damn anyone who holds them as a scumbag without further discussion. (I can only infer that if Mr. Bidinotto ever read David Kelleys Truth and Toleration, his memory of it has comfortably faded away.)
Mr. Bidinotto also misleadingly equated not supporting the troops with despising the troops, which amounts to a smear of his opponents. (If a basically decent person has been unfairly manipulated into carrying out an unjust policy, despising that person is hardly an appropriate response. But neither is support.)
Not being overfond of seeing myself and my allies smeared or called scumbags, I responded with some asperity, prompting Mr. Bidinotto to add the lunatic label on top of the scumbag label.
What earned me this last was my supposedly amazing characterisation of his position as malevolent tribalism. But if this jingoistic dont-you-dare-criticise-the-troops brand of patriotism doesnt count as tribalism, what does? Tribalism also seems a fair description of Bidinottos dismissal of all criticism of America as criticism of Americas founding ideals of individualism and freedom; by thus identifying these ideals with a particular nation, Mr. Bidinotto evidently blinds himself to the possibility that the nation might not be living up to those ideals and the result is that allegiance to the ideals get shifted instead to allegiance to the nation, even when this means discarding the ideals and attacking those who are actually defending them. (As for malevolent, the tone in which he talks about collateral damage speaks for itself.)
Well now, turns out the latest person to be consigned to outer darkness is my comrade-in-arms Charles Johnson, who just got banned from commenting on Mr. Bidinottos blog for having the temerity to point out the logical inconsistencies in Mr. Bidinottos arguments. Check out Charles latest post for the details.
As youll see, throughout his exchange with Charles Mr. Bidinotto is persistently unwilling to acknowledge basic principles of logic. I know from experience how frustrating he can be on this point: some time after our anarchy debate, I was having an exchange with Mr. Bidinotto on a discussion board (archived here and here) when he suddenly announced that he did not accept one of the basic principles of logic; specifically, he denied that there can be deductively valid arguments with false premises. (I note in passing that this would make reductio arguments impossible; since reductio is Randians favourite argument form, that seems a tad awkward.) Anyway, I withdrew from the discussion on the grounds that I didnt see how it was possible to continue a fruitful philosophical discussion once the basic principles of logic have been rejected. (Much Randian abuse followed in response to this, but I declined to step back into the mire.)
- Enough on that subject. In related news: In my November 24th post A View to a Kill I suggested there was an inconsistency among these three quotations from Rand on the permissibility of killing the innocent:A. Ayn Rand says: hell yes, kill the innocentIf we go to war with Russia, I hope the innocent are destroyed with the guilty. ... Nobody has to put up with aggression, and surrender his right of self-defense, for fear of hurting somebody else, guilty or innocent. When someone comes at you with a gun, if you have an ounce of self-esteem, you answer with force, never mind who he is or whos standing behind him. (p. 95)B. Ayn Rand says: hell no, dont kill the innocentWhatever rights the Palestinians may have had – I dont know the history of the Middle East well enough to know what started the trouble – they have lost all rights to anything: not only to land, but to human intercourse. If they lost land, and in response resorted to terrorism – to the slaughter of innocent citizens – they deserve whatever any commandos anywhere can do to them, and I hope the commandos succeed. (p. 97)C. Ayn Rand says: gee, theres no right answerEven as a writer, I can barely project a situation in which a man must kill an innocent person to defend his own life. ... But suppose someone lives in a dictatorship, and needs a disguise to escape. ... So he must kill an innocent bystander to get a coat. In such a case, morality cannot say what to do. ... Personally, I would say the man is immoral if he takes an innocent life. But formally, as a moral philosopher, Id say that in such emergency situations, no one could prescribe what action is appropriate. ... Whatever a man chooses in such cases is right – subjectively. (p. 114)Diana Hsieh responds in Ayn Rand on Total War (conical hat tip to Chris Sciabarra). Here are her main points, interspersed with my responses:In the first [quotation], Ayn Rand is speaking of war of self-defense with Russia. The innocent in question were the passive supporters of the Soviet Union, i.e. the vast majority of Russians who accepted the horrors of the communist government without significant protest. Those people were morally responsible for their decision not to fight the communists, for their willingness to live as slaves to the Bolsheviks. Without them, the Bolsheviks never could have retained their iron grip on power. Such people were not innocent, but guilty albeit perhaps less so than active supporters of the communists. Given their choice to live without any rights whatsoever under the Soviets, they have no grounds on which to protest their death by an American bomb rather than a KGB interrogator. The genuine innocents in Soviet Russia were the opponents of the regime and those people would have welcomed an invasion from the US, despite the risk of being caught in the crossfire.So according to Ms. Hsieh (or Rand, or both), anyone who lived under the Soviet regime without significant protest was effectively a supporter of the regime, and so not innocent, and so fair game for killing. As Chris Sciabarra has pointed out, this claim bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Ward Churchuills suggestion that the office workers in the World Trade Center were little Eichmanns who had it coming because of their participation in neofascist corporatism.
In any case, the claim that refusing to rise up against a tyrant counts as de facto consent to the tyranny embodies a collectivist fallacy: confusing the individual with the group. Its quite true, as La Boétie and Hume famously pointed out, that tyrannical governments cannot survive without the acquiescence of their subject populace. But to suppose this means that the individual members of this acquiescing populace have consented in some straightforward and unproblematic fashion ignores the collective action problem (see here and here) involved. If we all resist the tyrant, the tyranny will fail; but if I resist the tyrant first, without sufficient support, Ill just be martyring myself for nothing. Coordinating simultaneous and effective resistance is, notoriously, no easy task.
In an article in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (or The Return of the Primitive, as her heirs have chosen to rename it), expressing empathy for some dissidents on trial in the Soviet Union, Rand wrote: I do not mean that I would have been one of the accused in that Soviet courtroom: I knew enough, in my college days, to know that it was useless to attempt political protests in Soviet Russia. Doesnt that make Rand herself one of those Soviet citizens who made no significant protest against the regime and so are allegedly morally culpable? A reductio ad absurdum, surely.
Anyway, the notion that one should be happy to be blown to bits by an invading army so long as ones country is liberated is a rather odd notion frankly, a Soviet-sounding notion for an egoist to uphold. And even if we grant it, the fact that someone should consent to being killed does not make it okay to kill her if she has not actually consented. As Rothbard points out, anyone who wishes is entitled to make the personal decision of better dead than Red or give me liberty or give me death, but he is not entitled to ... make these decisions for others, as the prowar policy of conservatism would do. What conservatives are really saying is: Better them dead than Red, and give me liberty or give them death which are the battle cries not of noble heroes but of mass murderers.
Ms. Hsieh continues:In contrast, the second quote concerns actual innocents, namely the ordinary Israelis conducting their daily, peaceful business within a fundamentally lawful, civilized society who are suddenly blown to bits by Palestinian terrorists. If the Palestinians had legitimate complaints against the Israelis, they ought to have settled them in a peaceful manner consistent with some measure of respect for law. They were not fighting a dictatorship and so had no grounds upon which to inflict such senseless death and destruction.I certainly agree that Palestinians ought not to be killing innocent people; but I have a hard time seeing how this case differs from the first one. Can anyone claim with a straight face that Israel has really been a fundamentally lawful, civilized society for its Palestinian citizens (the fact that its not so bad for non-Palestinian Israelis hardly seems relevant), or that the Israeli legal system has been even remotely hospitable to Palestinian grievances (until so compelled by the intifada)?
And how was the average Soviet citizen more complicit in Soviet tyranny than the average Israeli citizen is in the Israeli governments oppression of the Palestinians? (If anything youd expect Soviet citizens complicity to be less, since Israeli citizens are freer than Soviet citizens to protest injustices committed by their respective governments.) As far as I can see, both Soviet citizens and Palestinians are oppressed, both have a right to resist the governments oppressing them, and neither has a right to blow up innocent people as part of that resistance.
Ms. Hsieh continues:The context of the third quote is substantially different from that of the first two, in that it concerns an ordinary person attempting to escape dictatorship, not a political conflict of any kind. It might be psychologically difficult for an ordinary person to kill under those circumstances, but that has nothing to do with the propriety of killing innocents (whether genuine or supposed) in war.This strikes me as another irrelevant distinction. Whats the deep moral difference between a so-called ordinary person trying to escape from a tyranny, and a so-called political agent trying to overthrow a tyranny? Dont they both count as self-defense? If so, how can killing innocents be clearly permissible in one case but not clearly permissible in the other?
The distinction between political and ordinary activities seems anyway oddly un-Randian. After all, isnt the whole point of Rands political theory to subordinate political activity to the same moral rules that apply to ordinary persons? In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, for example, she contrasted the traditional view that morality was a code applicable to the individual, but not to society society thus being placed outside the moral law with her own advocacy of individual rights as means of subordinating society to moral law.
In short, there may be some interesting moral differences among these three cases that could justify Rands differing treatments if them, but if there is, Ms. Hsieh hasn’t shown it.
In conclusion, I want to address a couple of further points that Ms. Hsieh makes:The same assessment applies to the rationalistic libertarians claiming that the non-initiation of force principle prohibits self-defensive action against anyone other than a voluntary agent of a force-initiating regime. On that view, if Hitler ever invaded the US, US soldiers would be forbidden from defending the borders, since at least some of the enemy soldiers were unwillingly drafted.Here Ms. Hsieh has simply misunderstood the position she is criticising. That rationalistic (i.e., principled) position states that force is justified against aggressors. A soldier invading the US is an aggressor, whether or not she has been drafted, and so force is certainly a legitimate means of repelling the invader. The objection to killing innocent civilians is that they are (ordinarily) not aggressors. (To be precise, I think killing nonaggressors can be justified, but only under certain fairly rare circumstances; for elaboration, see here and here.) So the analogy with an invasion by Hitler doesnt hold.Similarly, the US military couldnt bomb Hitlers concentration camps and thus save millions of genuinely innocent lives by destroying the machinery of the Holocaust because we might kill or maim some of those innocents.This is a trickier case than the first one, but its still not analogous to the cases Ms. Hsieh is using it to defend, because the people in the concentration camps are presumably going to be killed anyway, so saving some of them by killing the others seems less clearly indefensible. Im not saying that it is the right thing to do thats a famously difficult moral question but it doesnt involve the objectionable feature of sacrificing some noninvasive lives lives that would otherwise not have been lost in order to save someone else. Its the latter case that seems most blatantly to violate Rands prohibition on treating human beings as sacrificial animals.The pacifist libertarians fail to appreciate the philosophical context of the non-initiation of force principle, particularly the fact that its purpose is to protect human life by making peaceful co-existence in society possible.As an Aristotelean, I must of course reject the utilitarian idea that the sole purpose of the ban on initiatory force is to protect human life by making peaceful co-existence in society possible. Justice is part of the good life, not just a strategy for promoting it. (For the unresolved tension in Rands own thought between utilitarian and Aristotelean conceptions of virtue, see Neera Badhwars Is Virtue Only A Means To Happiness? and my own Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand. For the superiority of the Aristotelean approach, see both of the above plus my discussions here, here, here, and here.)
The reference to pacifist libertarians is a red herring, by the way; while there have of course been some pacifist libertarians (e.g. Robert Lefevre), the libertarians that Ms. Hsieh is mainly arguing against are people who firmly believe in the legitimacy of using violence in self-defense against aggressors.
I should add that Ms. Hsieh has not called me a scumbag or a lunatic, so I dont means to be lumping her with Mr. Bidinotto. I discuss both in the same post only because theyre both Randians defending a position on military policy that I regard as incompatible with an individualist, libertarian ethic.
Monday, February 6, 2006 - 20:54
Sunday, February 5, 2006 - 10:25
David M. Brown at Blogcritics.org writes,"Whatever the full explanation may be, anyone who reads these stories and continues to claim that murderous Islamo-fascist antipathy toward the West and America is all or mostly about foreign policy, and would evaporate if only the governments of the West never acted militarily overseas, is not being altogether honest."
Impugning the honesty of those of us who see U.S. foreign policy as the chief instigator of Islamic violence against the West doesn't seem the best way to launch a debate salvo. But there you are. Brown contends that threats across the Middle East and Europe against the countries in which newspapers have published negative cartoons about Muhammad prove that the problem is Islamo-fascist culture, not merely Western intervention in the Middle East for the past 50 years.
"So, it's all about foreign policy? Tell it to the recipients of the latest Islamo-fascist death threats," Brown writes
A few points. Threatening violence against cartoonists, newspapers, and whole populations is monstrous, entitling potential victims to be on heightened guard against efforts to carry out such threats. Religious people who were really confident about their beliefs wouldn't react that way to satire. Why is it not enough to believe that their just god personally will inflict divine retribution in the afterlife, if not sooner? I guess that's why they call it"faith."
But Brown has not proved his point. This inexcusable response to the cartooning comes against a backdrop of decades of war, bombings that killed innocents, and intervention at times openly on behalf of tyranny. Wars currently rage in two Muslim countries, and threats loom against others. Can we really be so sure that in fact it's not largely about foreign policy? It would be naïve to suggest that ending intervention in the Middle East would overnight bring the evaporation of anti-Western violence. Geniis are not returned to bottles so easily. But that does not mean that Western intervention has not been the chief factor in the origin of that violence.
Maybe Brown's right. But he'll have to do more to demonstrate it.
Hat tip: Kn@ppster.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Sunday, February 5, 2006 - 13:43
Penn Jillette, the talkative half of the magic-comedy team Penn and Teller, is the subject of this article on Slate.com. Here's how he describes his late-night bull sessions with friend Paul Provenza, with whom he collaborated on the documentary The Aristocrats (which is about humor, not libertarianism):"We talk an awful lot about whether you have to stop at libertarianism or go onto to anarchocapitalism."
Hat tip: Jude Blanchette.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Sunday, February 5, 2006 - 13:45
Go here to read an obituary that goes behind subscription 7 pm (EST) Monday. It contains interesting insights into Benito Mussolini and jazz in fascist Italy."Romano and [his brother] Vittorio loved jazz in their youth despite their father's regime heavily censoring it. During Fascism, recordings by American artists, especially black ones, were released with the musicians given Italian names. Louis Armstrong was known as Luigi Fortebraccio."
And go here (htm) or here (pdf) for David Ramsay Steele’s wonderful essay on Benito Mussolini’s political career from Marxism to fascism and what fascism was really about.
Sunday, February 5, 2006 - 20:00
David T. Beito
The double standard of the Bush administration continues to amaze. Is this the same administration that conservatives and neocons want to entrust to bring"liberty" to the distant corners of the planet?
Washington on Friday condemned caricatures in European newspapers of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, siding with Muslims who are outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.
"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question.
"We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."
Saturday, February 4, 2006 - 19:30
A pre-Super Bowl news weekend special:
Baseball insiders say they knew Dubya was nuts when in 1989 he traded Sammy Sosa to the Cubs. What with running Harkin Oil into the ground, and then the US, its been downhill ever since.
The Seattle Times indicates the War in Iraq is now costing $100,000 per minute, totaling half a trillion $, about what the 13 year Vietnam War cost. This is, of course, conservative when compared to the analysis done by the Nobel Laureate in Economics, George Stiglitz. And the CB's have now left New Orleans and are back in Iraq building our permanent air bases there as part of the Pentagon's 20 year plan. And, I thought only the Soviets developed such centralized, long range plans!
The Independent, UK, reports another leaked Memo about how Bush and Blair talked about a plan to provoke the War early on. and Bush opined,"it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups" afterwards. Right!
Meanwhile Rummy, Negroponte and Condi are spending millions to support Venezuelan groups apposing Chavez. Rummy complains that, like Hitler, Chavez was popularly elected. Speaking of elections, 13 of the elected Palestinians are in Israeli prisons, but then it appears that much of so-called Palestine is a rather walled-in place anyway. One might suggest that the most apt comparison with Hitler is Dubya, trying to provoke a war, as Adolf did in 1939 dressing up the Wehrmacht in Polish uniforms.
PS: Dabya says he wants to conserve oil. Has anyone told him that our tanks in that War he declared"victory" in, in May, 2003, when re-armored against bombs, get ONE mile to the gallon? Another comparison with Adolf's Tiger Panzer tank, which was also a fuel guzzler.
Saturday, February 4, 2006 - 07:37
David T. Beito
The first picture is of George Washington and his cabinet and the second of George Bush and his cabinet. Any questions?
Friday, February 3, 2006 - 23:34
Kenneth R. Gregg
The young Tadeusz (or Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (pronounced KOS-CHOOS-KO, 2/4/1746-10/15/1817), born near Brest (now in Belarus) studied military engineering in Paris with the intent of serving in his native Poland. However, in 1772 Prussia, Austria and Russia had partitioned Poland, seizing around 30% of its territory and forcing governmental changes through bribes, threats and arrests. There was no place in the Polish Army for Kosciuszko, and he left in 1775 to France where, at some point in late 1775, he heard about the American rebellion against the British and was recruited by Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin.
Like many young Europeans of his time, he was enthralled with the Revolutionary activity in the New World. Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia in 1776, Kosciuszko read the Declaration of Independence and he recognized everything in which he truly believed. When he discovered Thomas Jefferson was responsible for drafting the Declaration, he had to meet him. A few months later, while moving south with the Continental Army, Kosciuszko stopped in Virginia to meet with Jefferson. The two men spent the day comparing philosophies and became the best of friends.
The colonists were desperate for engineers, even those who had only just arrived from abroad with no knowledge of America, and on October 18th 1776 Kosciuszko became Colonel of Engineers, Washington's chief engineer and strategist. The thirty-year-old began planning forts along the Delaware. His first duty was to help fortify Philadelphia from naval attack. Kosciuszko centered the defenses on a new fort, Mercer, while setting up aquatic blockades designed to force British ships closer to both the shore and bombardment. Kosciuszko moved on to help with the defense of Fort Ticonderoga. Partly due to disregard of Kosciuszko's advice, Ticonderoga was toppled. Kosciuszko's forces felled pine trees and flooded fields to slow the pursuit of the British. This gave the rebels time to prepare for their first major victory of the war: Saratoga. At Saratoga, Kosciuszko fortified Bemis Heights overlooking the Hudson. His ingenious design contributed to the surrender of 6,000 troops under General John Burgoyne.
Kosciuszko then undertook the defense of the Hudson at West Point in 1778. So thorough were his fortifications, that the British never mounted an assault. One of the more imaginative links in the colonel's defensive plan was a 60 ton chain stretched across the Hudson to block British ships. Kosciuszko went on to lead troops and, by 1783, he had been promoted to Brigadier General. Of the foreign subjects who came to the revolution's aid, Kosciuszko's contribution was perhaps only second to Lafayette (with Charles Lee and von Steuben far behind). Kosciuszko learned how to win battles with a militia of untrained and poorly equipped men, as well as how to apply his years of study, often quite brilliantly, in the field, abilities he would use in his later career.
Kosciuszko developed a strong dislike for slavery and serfdom based on his belief in individual rights and Republican government. These applied not just to the newly independent colonies, but to his homeland.
Following the Revolutionary War, Kosciuszko returned to Poland to fight for independence from the occupying Russians. In 1789, he became Major General of the Polish forces. The reforms of the May Constitution of Poland, the first modern constitution in Europe and second in the world after the American, were seen by the surrounding powers as a threat to their influence over Poland. In, 1792 a Russian army of 100,000 crossed the Polish border and headed for Warsaw, now that Russia and her imperial allies were no longer battling the Ottoman Empire; thus began the War in Defence of the Constitution. the Polish Army was well-trained and prepared for the war. After the betrayal of Prussian allies, the Army of Lithuania could not stop the advancing Russians. The Polish Army was too weak to oppose the enemy advancing in the Ukraine and withdrew, regrouped, counter-attacked, and was victorious. In the ensuing battles, Kosciuszko repelled the numerically superior enemy and became the most brilliant Polish military commander of his time. In 1792, King Stanislaw joined the Targowica confederation and surrendered to the Russians and, in 1793, Prussia and Russia signed the Second Partition of Poland. Such an outcome was a blow for the Targowica Confederation who saw their actions as defence of centuries-old privileges of the upper classes, now regarded by the majority of Polish population as traitors. After the partition, the Targowica confederation evaporated.
Kosciuszko prepared a plan of an uprising and led the Polish-Lithuanian uprising of 1794 (known as the Kosciuszko Rebellion), winning key conflicts before being defeated by the vastly superior forces of Prussia, Russia and Austria.Kosciuszko at Raclawice by Jan Matejko. Krakow National Museum. Events of April 4, 1794. Kosciuszko, on horseback, reviews his formations. He is greeted enthusiastically by peasants, armed with pikes made from reshaped scythes, who contributed significantly by their valor to a stunning victory in a battle against superior Russian forces during the initial phases of the Kosciuszko Uprising.Kosciuszko drew popular support from peasant classes as well as nobles and magnates. Wounded during the battle of Maciejowice, Kosciuszko was taken prisoner. After two years' incarceration, the Czar granted him amnesty on the condition he never return to Poland.
He set off once more to America in 1797. Throngs of Philadelphians lined the wharves to welcome their Revolutionary War hero back to the United States. The mob carried him on their shoulders while bands played and cannons fired fusillades of homage.
Yellow Fever was ravaging Philadelphia, so Kosciuszko left to visit with friends in New York. Upon return to Philadelphia, Kosciuszko convalesced while receiving admirers daily. Jefferson came by frequently and Philadelphia ladies had their pictures sketched by Kosciuszko himself. Kosciuszko was awarded back pay from Congress and 500 acres of land along the Scioto River in what is present-day Columbus, Ohio.
Restive, Kosciuszko left in 1798 for Europe, involved in agricultural pursuits near Paris. Still devoted to the Polish cause, Kosciuszko took part in creation of the Polish Legions. He remained active in the Polish emigré circles and in 1799 was a founder of the Society of Polish Republicans (precursor to the Polish Democratic Society). In 1806, Napoleon asked for him to join in the invasion of Poland, but he refused. He distrusted Napoleon and would not fight for him, despite the Emperor's offer of command of the Polish Legion. Kosciuszko instead demanded a commitment to Polish sovereignty, believing Napoleon only sought French domination. Consequently, Kosciuszko was not involved in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a puppet state set up by Bonaparte in 1807.
He was invited to the Congress of Vienna, the great gathering of European leaders which redrew Europe in the aftermath of Napoleon's defeat. Here, Emperors courted Kosciuszko, and Tsar Alexander planned a Poland under Russian dominion, possibly headed by Kosciuszlo, which he refused.
The idea of revolution drove Kosciuszko, and he wrote several texts on rebellion, analyzing uprisings and guerilla warfare. In 1815 Kosciuszko moved to Switzerland, dying of a fall in 1817.
He was a hero of both the American Revolution and European republican movements. The American Revolutionary War's success changed the modern world and, while the revolution in Poland failed, the monarchical forces diverted to the destruction of the Polish Republic gave the French Revolution sufficient time to establish more durable institutions. After the final partition in 1795, the Polish Commonwealth ceased to exist. It was not until World War I after the Allied victory in November 1918 that Poland was able to regain its independence, only to later lose to the Soviet Union. The renaissance of Poland has much to do with the efforts of those like Kosciuszko.
Just a thought.
Friday, February 3, 2006 - 00:12
David T. Beito
Fifty years ago today, Autherine Lucy began classes on the campus where I teach. She was the first black student at the University of Alabama, attending seven years before George Wallace's infamous stand in the schoolhouse door.
Soon after she started classes, hundreds of whites formed into a mob to drive her out. They carried Confederate Battle Flags and sang Dixie. They chanted slogans like “Lynch the nigger,” “Keep Bama White,” and “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Autherine’s gotta go.” As Lucy walked to classes, members of the mob splattered her with eggs and attacked blacks in Tuscaloosa.
In the face of this violence, university administrators acted like administrators usually do. They caved. They expelled her for “own safety.” She had attended only three days of classes.
In 2002, it was my pleasure as president of the Alabama Scholars Association (ASA) to invite Autherine Lucy (now Autherine Lucy Foster) to speak at the University of Alabama in 2002. She was delight to work with in every way. Although the ASA persuaded the university to pay her a modest honorarium, I have little doubt that she would have done it for free.
She gave one speech each at Stillman College (in an event arranged by Linda Royster Beito) and at the University of Alabama. She attracted overflow and enthusiastic audiences at each event. They were won over by a down-to-earth style that was refreshingly free of the ideological jargon favored by current civil rights activists. Instead of the typical “multicultural” themes, for example, she focused on the Wright Brothers to illustrate the importance of initiative and creativity
Friday, February 3, 2006 - 01:42
Some reactions to George II's State of the Union address:
He still can't say nu-cle-ar.
He says,"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. [Only 11 percent comes from the Persian Gulf.] The best way to break this addiction is through technology." I don't like to see the word"addiction" applied even to drugs because it implies passivity. So it is inappropriate for the American use of oil. The fact is that by a combination of oil's nature and U.S. government intervention, Americans use oil because it appears economically sensible to do so. It's hardly an addiction. Let's fully deregulate the economy, adopt a noninterventionist foreign policy, and internalize all costs -- and we'll see what happens. In fact, we don't know what a truly free energy and transportation industry would look like. So Bush shouldn't be trying to imagine it and bringing his vision to fruition through subsidies and whatnot. That will be a disaster, although it will make big bucks for the well-connected companies that get the contracts.
He's only partly right when he says technology is the best way to end the use of oil (assuming that's really a good idea). But he left out the most important part: free, unsubsidized competition. Give someone enough taxpayer money and he will come up with a technological alternative to oil. Big deal. The real trick is to come up with an alternative that makes economic sense. The only way to know which technologies make economic sense and which do not is to let the market process play out without state regulation or benefit. In other words, no privileges for anyone. All costs internalized. Laissez faire, laissez passer.
Obviously George II has something else in mind. Did you see all the subsidies in his speech? Take a look. Okay, I'll save you the trouble.So tonight I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.
We must also change how we power our automobiles.
We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen.
We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.
Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.
The government contractors are licking their chops. Corporatist central planning is alive and well.
I know all presidents do this, but I -- I! -- was surprised by how aggressively nationalist, tribal, and collectivist George II was in the speech. Some samples:We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy. . . .
The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership. So the United States of America will continue to lead.
Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.
In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India. [Emphasis added; what does he mean by"we"? If a Chinese or Indian firm wants to sell me things I value, it is not my competitor.]
Tonight I will set out a better path: an agenda for a nation that competes with confidence . . . . [Emphasis added; the nation is not an economic entity.]
Americans should not fear our economic future, because we intend to shape it. [This sounds ominous. What if others don't wished to be shaped?]
Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. [The history of the U.S. government's opening of foreign markets is not pretty.]
With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker. [Unpacking that ominous sentence would take a dissertation. Does he really believe no non-American can out-produce any American?]
Well, you get the idea. And I didn't even cover the national-security part of the speech.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 08:31
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Today is Ayn Rands birthday.
Last year, for her centenary, I wrote about Rands legacy for libertarians generally. This year I want to write about her legacy for left-libertarians in particular.
Rands legacy? For left-libertarians? Such a proposal might well engender skepticism. Sure, Rands critical attitude toward religion, tradition, and family values has sometimes led paleolibertarians to view her as a lefty; but on a broad range of other issues she is easily viewed as decidedly right-leaning. Consider:
Yes, alas, all that is true; but its not the whole story. There is another side to Rands legacy that should not be lost sight of.
- On issues of war and peace, Rand denied that the U.S. was an imperial power; dismissed the military-industrial complex as a myth or worse; advocated censoring antiwar activists; favoured entangling alliances with Israel, Taiwan, and other tripwire regions; and saw no moral problem with bombing innocent civilians. (In fact she wrote an unproduced screenplay celebrating the development of the atomic bomb.)
- On the domestic front, Rand cooperated with HUAC; sided with cops and bureaucrats against the 60s student movement; defended copyright censorship and patent protectionism; said she wished she could do for McCarthy what Zola did for Dreyfus; and despite the corporate classs secure hold on state power called big business a persecuted minority.
- In cultural matters too, Rand could often be profoundly conservative: she attacked feminism and homosexuality; declared environmentalism per se to be anti-civilisation; denied value to nonwestern cultures (calling Arabs savages, for example); promoted male supremacy (e.g., declaring man the metaphysically dominant sex, insisting that only men were qualified for the Presidency, and glamorizing rape in her fiction); and even assailed abstract art.
It transpires, then, that there are in effect two Rands, or two strands in Rand: a left-libertarian, feminist, anti-militarist, anti-corporatist, benevolent, experimental strand, and a conservative, patriarchal, homophobic, flag-worshipping, boss-worshipping, dogmatic strand. Which strand represents the true Rand? Well, both of them; she just is precisely the person who tried to combine these two strands.
- At a time when many libertarians tended to think of their movement as a sub-variety of conservatism, Rands insistence that she was not conservative but radical, her break with the Buckleyite right (five years before Rothbards), and her recognition that mainstream liberalism was fascist rather than socialist were important factors in laying the groundwork for libertarians ideological awakening and re-emergence as a movement separate from conservatism.
- On foreign policy: Rand was less hawkish than she sometimes sounds and certainly less hawkish than the Institute that today bears her name for she opposed U.S. involvement in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; and Rands analysis of the interconnection between militarism and interest-group politics (see Chris Sciabarras discussion) amounts to a quite keen understanding of the military-industrial complex, whatever she preferred to call it.
- Likewise, the popular image of Rand as an apologist for big business obscures the fact that the majority of businessmen in her novels are unimaginative conformists, arbitrary and tyrannical toward their subordinates, and eagerly running to government for favours; the Hank Reardens and Dagny Taggarts are decidedly portrayed as exceptions. And her discussions of the rise of neofascism in America show that she recognised the sins of the business class in reality as well.
- Rand understood and emphasised the interlocking, systemic connections between governmental and cultural factors (see Chriss book on this), recognising, as left-libertarians traditionally have, that activism directed toward changing government is futile without a more broadly based cultural transformation; and her analysis of tribalism and the anti-conceptual mentality is invaluable in understanding how racism, sexism, and nationalism operate.
- On feminism, Rands attitudes appear conflicted; yes, she said some very anti-feminist things, but she also championed womens choice of career over domesticity; firmly defended the right to abortion; created one of the strongest independent heroines in literature (particularly for 1957!); and endorsed one of the founding classics of second-wave feminism, Betty Friedans Feminine Mystique. The 19th-century left-libertarians understood the role of the ethics of self-sacrifice in maintaining the subjection of women, and Rand deserves credit for reviving, however incompletely, that diagnosis.
- As for art: in an early draft of We the Living, Rand wrote admiringly of the infiltration of Western abstract imagery into Soviet Russia: laughing, defiant broken lines and circles cutting triangles, and triangles splitting squares, the new art coming through some crack in the impenetrable barrier. So it seems she was not always immune to the expressive power of abstract art. Indeed, the entire Fountainhead could be seen as a hymn to abstract art a fact that reportedly (and unfortunately) led her in later and more rigidified life to repudiate the account of architectural art she had defended in the novel. In short, the young Rand was a good deal less culturally conservative than the later Rand. (In fact, I have the impression that in earlier years she was generally more open-minded; would she have become such a fan of the egalitarian socialist Hugo or the Christian existentialist Dostoyevsky if she had first read them in 1960?)
A better question is: which strand most accurately expresses her fundamental principles? And here it seems to me that the answer is: the left-libertarian strand. The conservative strand, as I see it, is in large part (not entirely human psychology and intellectual development are complex matters, and I dont mean to be offering some sort of reductionist account) an expression of Rands understandably hostile reaction to the Soviet environment in which she was raised. I suspect that she tended to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything (well, almost anything not atheism, obviously, or contextual analysis) that reminded her of Soviet propaganda or was associated in any way with pro-Soviet sympathies. Hence anything that championed labour against capital, or denounced the United States as imperialistic, or otherwise savoured of left-wing critiques, was likely to trigger her ire. (Maybe this is the story with regard to art also. In the 1920s and 30s, when the Soviets were denouncing abstract art as an expression of western decadence, she liked such art and even found it liberating; in later years, living in the west where leftists had embraced abstract art, she came to detest it. Might it really be that simple? Certainly the Rand who wrote The Fountainhead was eminently equipped to answer the objections to abstract art raised by the later Rand.)
But if we leave aside the influence of anti-Soviet sentiment and simply consider in what direction a radical, contextual-analysis-oriented, secular, individualist, anti-traditionalist, anti-sacrificial libertarian ethic is most naturally developed its left-libertarianism, man.
Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 01:47
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
It is no longer news that Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., passed away this week. She was 78.
An advocate and practitioner of nonviolent resistance, Martin Luther King Jr. once uttered a classic statement:"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
While a lot of discussion has ensued over the nature of the"love thine enemy" philosophy that seems to underlie King's statement, I think there is a truth therein, which was made even more apparent by King's wife. Coretta Scott King often repeated her husband's maxim:"Hate is too great a burden to bear." But she added:"It injures the hater more than it injures the hated."
I've talked about the effects of hating in other posts dealing with everything from Yoda to my articulation of"The Rose Petal Assumption," so I won't repeat my reasoning here. Suffice it to say, there is an internal relationship between hatred, fear, anger, and suffering, and, often, the transcendence of one brings forth the transcendence of all.
I think what the Kings focused on was not"loving one's enemy" per se, but the practice of a positive alternative in one's opposition to evil. Nonviolent resistance is not equivalent to pacifism. It is not the renunciation of the retaliatory use of force; it entails, instead, the practice of a wide variety of strategies—from boycotts to strikes, which remove all sanctions of one's own victimization. One refuses to be a part of a cycle that replaces one"boss" with another. One repudiates real-world monsters, while not becoming one in the process. For as Nietzsche once said:"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
Nonviolence is not a social panacea, and sometimes it is absolutely necessary to use violence in one's response to aggression. But much can be learned about how to topple tyranny from the lessons provided by the theoreticians and practitioners of nonviolent resistance.
It's fitting that today I've marked Ayn Rand's birthday, for Atlas Shrugged is one of the grandest dramatizations in fiction of the effectiveness of fighting tyranny through nonviolent resistance. It is no coincidence that, while writing her magnum opus, Rand's working title for Atlas was"The Strike." Of course, Rand was no theorist of nonviolence, but her novel is instructive.
For further reading on the subject of nonviolence, let me suggest first and foremost the books of Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution. See especially Sharp's books, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and Social Power and Political Freedom.
Cross-posted to Notablog.
Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 11:58
Did anyone notice that George II admitted that his Middle East policy will fail? It was right there near the beginning of his State of the Union address, when he said,"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." He then promised to lay thick subsidies on corporations so they can find us alternatives to iffy oil.
But isn't his policy of shock, awe, and regime change supposed to bring all things wondrous – including stability – to the oil states? Did he let something slip here? Maybe the Hamas electoral victory had an effect on him.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 19:30