Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I understand that O'Connor dated Rehnquist when they were students together at Stanford Law School. He graduated first in his class (ahead of O'Connor).
David T. Beito
Happy birthday, H.L. Mencken.
Aeon J. Skoble
"The vast majority of people who were looting in New Orleans were doing so to feed their families or to get resources to get their families out of there. If I had a store with an inventory of insured belongings, and a tragedy happened, I would fling my doors open and tell everyone to take what they need: it is only stuff."
Dan notes that"the implication is that she would not give away the store, so to speak, if she had to pay for it, but if an insurance company were footing the bill, she'd be more than generous with the carrier's money." That does seem to be what she's saying. Most people are more generous with other people's money. It also struck me as less than credible that the"majority" of looting was about survival necessities. As far as I could tell, an awful lot of it was TVs and jewelry and designer sneakers. I was already negatively disposed towards Sheehan for her anti-semitic remarks, but now I see she also has no respect for private property.
For historian Arthur A. Ekirch Jr., the decline of American liberalism tracked the rise of nationalism and the corporate state, the intimate alliance between business and government. He equates liberalism -- libertarianism -- with economic freedom and property rights for the common citizen, not just for an aristocracy. From the relative, though imperfect, laissez-faire periods of the Jefferson and Jackson presidencies, the United States moved almost unswervingly to become what Albert Jay Nock would call a"Merchant-state" in which the central government heavily intervened on behalf of particular business interests, hampering the independence and progress of upstart competitors as well as workers. For most people, this is what the word" capitalism" would come to denote. (See "TGIF: Arthur A. Ekirch Jr.,'s The Decline of American Liberalism.")Read the rest of this week's TGIF column,"Jeffersonianism Interred," at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.
The Civil War was the great impetus in this direction....
Cross-posted at Free Association.
The BBC carries an interesting update about the Lancet peer-reviewed survey of the number of victims of violence in Iraq published last October. The report suggested that 655,000 Iraqis had died but was severely criticized by the Iraqi government and by Tony Blair and George Bush ("I don’t consider it a credible report"—but then who considers GWB a credible president?).
The BBC World Service made a Freedom of Information Request last November 28 and the information was released on March 14. In a memo dated October 13, 2006 the Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson stated:"The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to 'best practice' in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."
Of course, even if one accepts either Iraqi Health Ministry figures that put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the Lancet survey, or perhaps the range stated on Iraq Body Count, where the confirmed civilian death toll is currently reported as between 59,801 and 65,660, the number who have died is still huge and far exceeds the number of deaths attributed to Saddam Hussein in the last several years of his rule.
David T. Beito
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Im currently in the middle of the third volume of John Julius Norwichs Byzantine trilogy (a generally fascinating work, I should specify, since Im about to be critical), wherein he naturally enough attempts to explain the Byzantine Empires gradual decline and eventual fall. His explanations invariably focus on the personal qualities of various emperors and generals; indeed he seems to agree with the assessment of Emperor Ioannes VI, whom he quotes on page 293:
There is nothing more conducive to the destruction of a nation, whether it be republic or monarchy, than the lack of men of wisdom or intellect. When a republic has many citizens, or a monarchy many ministers, of high quality it quickly recovers from those losses that are brought about by misfortune. When such men are lacking, it falls into the very depths of disgrace. That is why I deplore the present state of the Empire which, having produced so many excellent men in the past, has now been reduced to such a level of sterility that todays governors possess nothing to elevate them above those whom they govern.
Yet in passing, four pages later, Norwich mentions a rather different fact which one might think has some relevance to Byzantiums decline:
Such wealth as existed in the impoverished Empire had ... become concentrated in the hands of the aristocratic few, while the majority of the population could feel only indignation and resentment. In most Western societies, the cities and towns had gradually produced a flourishing bourgeoisie of merchants and craftsmen [but] in the Byzantine Empire this had never occurred ....
Surely Byzantiums increasing economic desperation, inability to pay its mercenaries, and so on, has something to do with its failure to develop a prosperous middle class. What explains this difference between the Byzantine Empire and its Western neighbours? What features of Byzantine law, society, or culture were blocking economic progress? One might think that any historian attempting to explain Byzantiums fall would show an interest in such questions.
But not Norwich. As he explains in the preface to the second volume:
If I tend to give economic considerations less than their due, this is because I am not an economist and a three-volume work is quite long enough already. Similarly, if I concentrate on the personalities of Emperors and Empresses rather than on sociological developments, I can only plead that I prefer people to trends.
Well, hes perfectly entitled to focus on what interests him (though his contrast between personalities and trends strikes me as rather artificial). But the price of neglecting economic and sociological considerations, or treating them as some sort of optional add-on, is that one will inevitably fail to understand the events one is writing about.
Aeon J. Skoble
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
For instance, despite (or because of?) scant familiarity with the recent secondary historical literature, Hoffmann gets the Jacksonians with their commitment to hard money exactly right, putting her book alongside Major L. Wilson's classic THE PRESIDENCY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984) as among the few that refrains from distorting the Jacksonians by trying to shoe-horn them into modern ideological categories. She is similarly sensitive to the political differences between the structures of the First and Second Banks of the United States. Having had occasion to read the charters myself, I also had noted that the First Bank was more private and less political, having no government-appointed directors, whereas the president appointed five of the twenty-five directors of the Second Bank. Although some older secondary accounts were aware of this difference, more recent accounts seem generally to overlook it. Indeed, one Federal Reserve historical pamphlet falls into the careless error of treating the two charters as absolutely identical except for the size of the institutions.
Hoffmann also introduces her book with a nice survey of what she considers to be the five "public philosophies," all variants of liberalism, that have battled over banking regulation in American history: classic liberalism, neoliberalism, populism, progressivism, and utilitarianism. She suggests a provocative distinction between the classic liberalism of Jefferson and Adam Smith versus the neoliberalism of modern defenders of the free market. Classic liberals viewed the corporation as an unnatural creature of the State that violated the private/public boundary, but neoliberals have embraced the corporation as "arising naturally in the private sphere." Indeed, she contends that a primary cause of divergence among the five versions of American liberalism is their reaction to the rise of the corporation. She carries the story forward through modern financial deregulation, and libertarians will not find all her arguments congenial. But I cannot recommend this book too highly.
She should also be taken to task for a lack of substance in her questions. The interview was almost entirely devoted to the politics of the situation, with no discussion of the disease itself and its possible treatment. There was certainly no mention of medical marijuana’s value in combating the intense nausea which accompanies chemotherapy. The piece represents another lost opportunity to examine an important and woefully neglected issue this time with a major presidential candidate who now has a unique perspective.
In contrast, another Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has a strong public position in favor of medical marijuana. He will shortly sign a bill legalizing that medicine in his state, saying "So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do." Not only will Richardson sign the law but he was instrumental in securing its passage.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
David T. Beito
In the Republican race, Giuliani holds big leads among both men and women, but women are much more on the fence. Among men, he leads with 33%, followed by McCain with 17%, Thompson with 12%, Romney with 9%, and 19% unsure. Among women, Giuliani wins 22%, while McCain wins 9%, Romney wins 8%, and Thompson and Ron Paul win 6% each. Fully 38% of Republican women are undecided on who they would support for their party’s nomination.
Jonathan J. Bean
It has run in NY Sun, SF Chronicle, Human Events and elsewhere.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
I recently heard from Matt Jenny who, with a few of his libertarian friends, runs a small German left-libertarian groupblog named paxx:blog, which includes a webzine, paxx:zine. The webzine has already published translations of articles by my Liberty & Power Group Blog colleagues, Roderick T. Long (a German translation of"Beyond the Boss: Protection from Business in a Free Nation") and Sheldon Richman (a German translation of"U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran").
This week I join Roderick and Sheldon with a German translation of"Dialectics and Liberty" (links to the English PDF), which appeared in the September 2005 issue of The Freeman. The German translation can be found here.
Cross-posted to Notablog.
Amy H. Sturgis
Aeon J. Skoble
I like revisiting classic, and unfortunately forgotten, works in the (classical) liberal, or libertarian, canon. This pays several dividends. For one, it brings great books to the attention of people who never knew they existed. Moreover, old books often contain insights and information you can find nowhere else. Murray Rothbard was fond of pointing out that, contrary to what people assume, knowledge does not advance inexorably"onward and upward." Important things can be omitted, overlooked, and forgotten. Consequently, later books on a subject can be less complete than earlier books. So it is wrong to think that the older books need not be consulted because subsequent work incorporates everything of value from the past.
I first became acquainted with the late Arthur A. Ekirch Jr.'s The Decline of American Liberalismin my college days. The book was first published in 1955, then reissued in 1967. It was a History Book Club selection and, I've been told, a contender for a national book award. Ekirch wrote nine other books, including Ideologies and Utopias: The Impact of the New Deal on American Thought (1971)and The Civilian and the Military (1972), especially relevant today....Ekirch wrote for the intelligent nonspecialist, and his work sets the standard for accessible scholarship. The Decline of American Liberalism is a great place to start because it provides a readable look at the whole of American political-economic-intellectual history in under 400 pages. I highly recommend it.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column,"Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra