Liberty & Power: Group Blog
As was the case two years ago, Glen Whitman, Tom Bell and I are teamed, this time along with Jan Narveson and John Majewski. We won't have Flossie with us, but we'll have fun. I'll try cross-post some here.
This event prompted Kent to write an open letter to Coleman reminding him of his past position on marijuana which had included a forceful call for legalization. Kent pointed out that, “You never said then that pot was dangerous. What was scary then, and is as frightening now, is when national leaders become voices of hypocrisy, harbingers of the status quo, and protect their own position instead of the public good. Welcome to the crowd of those who have become a likeness of which they despised. “
Faithful readers of this space may well understand Norm Kent’s anger at Coleman since there is no scientific evidence that when used sensibly and in moderation marijuana causes adverse health effects. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s own Administrative Law Judge, Francis L Young found that “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Nor is marijuana a highly addictive drug. None of the great objective commission reports from the 1894 British Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report to the recent study by the Canadian Senate and all those in between have ever found marijuana to be addictive.
Also, there is no causal relationship between marijuana and respiratory illness, including lung cancer. Indeed, Dr. Donald Tashkin of the UCLA School of Medicine, a staunch opponent of cannabis use, presented a large case-control study which showed an inverse correlation between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. And, attempts to link marijuana use with mental illness such as increased anxiety are false too.
In addition, there is little creditable evidence, despite widespread belief to the contrary, that marijuana use makes people more dangerous drivers. However, there is evidence that the opposite may be true. Certainly, we must take into consideration that marijuana prohibition encourages the consumption of more alcohol and that without doubt makes transportation, schools, and workplaces more dangerous.
Norm Kent ends his eloquent open letter with some good advice, for Norm Coleman and many others in the political class as well, saying, “How about you looking back at your past and saying: ‘What I did was not so wrong and not so bad and not so hurtful that generations of Americans should still, decades later, be going to jail for smoking pot -- nearly one million arrests for possession last year.’ Can't Norm Coleman come out of the closet in 2007 and say ‘These arrests are wrong -- that there is a better way, and we need to find it.’ You might find more integrity and honor in that then adopting the sad and sorry policy of our Office of National Drug Control Policy. You might find the person you were.”
Hat tip to Kenny Rodgers
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
David T. Beito
Amy H. Sturgis
"Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job"
The flag is supposed stand for freedom, you know, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So if it makes someone happy to buy an American flag manufactured in Taiwan who are they or the government for that matter to stand in that person's way? Their discussion presents us with a snapshot of what is so wrong with much of American culture these days, the triumph of symbolism over substance.
The sponsor of this law, State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL, those who voted for it, and those who voice support for its passage desecrate the substance that the flag symbolizes far more than anyone who burns it ever could. In fact, those who burn the American flag in protest actually are honoring that substance and it is a sign of our strength not weakness that we continue to allow that.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
A brief excerpt:
Political theory and, I suggest, most political practice is dominated by a myth to the effect that the state is necessary. ... Such is the power of being first in the field (positioning in advertising terms) that the State can literally get away with murder if it can foster the notion that it is legitimate. ... Irish society, organised on anarchical principles, lasted for almost 2,500 years! During that time it showed a capacity, vital to any organic and developing system of social organisation, to absorb alien elements and internalise them.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
The document whose anniversary we celebrate today declares:
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
- that all men are created equal
- that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
- that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
- that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
- that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. ...
For most libertarians these words are what Independence Day is all about. But in an LRC editorial Kevin Gutzman takes on a number of what he regards as myths about the Fourth of July, and one of these myths is that the chief legacy of the 4th of July is the political philosophy set out in the Declaration of Independence.
Part of the reason for Gutzmans animus against this view is that political radicals have argued for understanding the Declaration as a general warrant for government to do anything it likes to forward the idea that all men are created equal. I note in passing that this is not a good reason to downplay the Declarations political philosophy because that political philosophy does not authorise governments to do anything they like to forward anything. On the contrary, it denies governments any right to act in ways that deviate from the consent of the governed or violate their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and lays it down as a duty to overthrow and destroy any government that does so. The fact that statists have misinterpreted or distorted the Declarations words is no objection to those words themselves. (As for the true meaning of equality in the Declarations sense, see here and here.)
But what, in any case, is Gutzmans argument against the importance of the Declarations political philosophy? Here it is:
The Declaration of Independence was the work of a congress of representatives of state governments. Congressmen were not elected by voters at large, but by state legislatures, and their role (as John Adams, one of them, put it) was more akin to that of ambassadors than to legislators. They had not been empowered to dedicate society to any particular political philosophy, but to declare as the Virginia legislature had told its congressmen to declare that the colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent states. In other words, the Declaration was about states rights, not individual rights, and the Congress that adopted it had no power to make it anything else. All the rest of the Declaration was mere rhetorical predicate.
In short, Gutzmans position is that the Declaration of Independence derived its delegated authority from the state legislatures, and that the statement of principles in its preamble, insofar as it goes beyond that delegation, has no legal standing.
It seems to me that this gets things completely reversed. Under positive law, the state legislatures had no authority to declare independence, because they were established by colonial charters, charters that of course made no provision for independence; and the state legislatures could hardly delegate to the Continental Congress an authority they never possessed. Under natural law, the state legislatures had no authority to do anything, because states, as claimants of territorial monopoly, are inherently illegitimate; and once again, they could not delegate what they did not have. Thus the Declarations only source of authority, the only aspect of it that has any legal standing, is its political philosophy. The Declaration did not because it could not derive its authority from the state legislatures; they had none to give. The source of authority it does name is the only legitimate political authority it could possibly claim: the Natural Law under which all rational beings are free and equal. (Against my claim that the positive law provided no basis for independence, it might be objected that references to the authority of natural law were often incorporated into positive law itself, as per Blackstones famous declaration that under English law anything contrary to natural law is illegal positively as well. But this argument could hardly be used to downplay the importance of the Declarations preamble.)
Spooner, as usual, says it best:
The governments, then existing in the Colonies, had no constitutional power, as governments, to declare the separation between England and America. On the contrary, those governments, as governments, were organized under charters from, and acknowledged allegiance to, the British Crown. Of course the British king never made it one of the chartered or constitutional powers of those governments, as governments, to absolve the people from their allegiance to himself. So far, therefore, as the Colonial Legislatures acted as revolutionists, they acted only as so many individual revolutionists, and not as constitutional legislatures. ... It was, therefore, as individuals, and only as individuals, each acting for himself alone, that they declared that their consent that is, their individual consent, for each one could consent only for himself was necessary to the creation or perpetuity of any government that they could rightfully be called on to support. ... Thus the whole Revolution turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived.
What, then, is the real meaning of the Fourth of July? It is that you not as a citizen, whether state or federal, but as an individual are entitled under natural law to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that you need be subject to no authority to which you have not consented; and that it is your right, indeed your duty, to throw off any putative authority whether you have consented to it or not if it proves systematically oppressive.
And this idea that all authority rests on the consent of the governed achieves its fullest revolutionary potential when coupled with La Boéties insight that all power rests on the consent of the governed also. The revolution will come when enough of us realise our right, duty, and ability to ignore the state.
Declare your independence! Withdraw your consent! Free your mind, and the rest will follow ....
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
1. The Social Philosophy and Policy Centers latest anthology is out this month (published simultaneously as the current issue of Social Philosophy & Policy and as a stand-alone book titled Freedom, Reason, and the Polis: Essays in Ancient Greek Political Philosophy), with chapters on various aspects of the classical political tradition by Carrie-Ann Biondi, Chris Bobonich, David Keyt, Richard Kraut, André Laks, Tony Long, Fred Miller, Gerasimos Santas, Chris Shields, Allan Silverman, C. C. W. Taylor, and your humble correspondent.
My own contribution is an essay titled The Classical Roots of Radical Individualism, in which I argue that on a variety of issues, from spontaneous order and the natural harmony of interests to hypothetical-imperative ethics and moralised conceptions of law, the libertarian tradition is developing themes from classical antiquity. Among the classical thinkers I discuss are Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, and Cicero; among the libertarians I discuss are Paine, Constant, Bastiat, Spencer, Andrews, Spooner, Tucker, Mises, Hayek, Rand, and Rothbard. In short, Austro-Athenian frenzy abounds!
2. The Alabama Philosophical Society (for which Im vice-president this year and webmaster always) will meet about a month earlier than usual this fall, September 21-22, on the Gulf; the deadline for submitting a paper is thus likewise extra-early, August 7th. The keynote speaker is my old friend from IHS days, Andrew Melnyk. Details here. You dont have to be an Alabamian to participate, so come on down!
It's good to see another libertarian publishing at Counterpunch. I write"another" because Jesse Walker, managing editor of Reason magazine, has also published there.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
In the latest (August 2007) issue of Liberty, Bruce Ramsey writes:
A libertarian blog considered the argument, raised by antisecessionists, that a region cant secede without paying back some common liability to the nation. The most obvious one is the national debt.
The blogger asked the reader to accept that argument for a moment, and apply it to the individual. Would we ban an individual from moving out of his country because he hadnt paid his share of the national debt? No. It would be barbaric to do that. East Germany used an argument like that for why it wouldnt let citizens cross the barbed wire. And so, if we would not apply that to an individual, logically we cannot apply it to a region. Therefore, a region can secede, irrespective of any liability to the country it is part of.
And I thought: here is an argument wholly uninterested in consequences such consequences as what the liability is, how big it is, who was supposed to pay it, and who will have to pay it now. Such arguments absolve libertarians from having to think about any of that stuff. The principle is all that matters though it occurs to me that if your principle allows you to get away with all that, maybe you have the wrong.
The argument also implies that quantity doesnt matter. If one person can do a thing, 5 million can. But life isnt like that. One dog defecates on your lawn and you are annoyed; 5 million do it, and you are inundated. Your problem is of a different quality. Quantity becomes a quality.
And yes, I know, there is the problem of drawing a line. The philosophers ask how many grains of sand it takes to make a heap, and I do not have the answer. But the fact is, there are grains and there are heaps, and they are not the same.
First: I certainly do not regard consequences as irrelevant to political conclusions. As Ive argued here and here, consequences are among the factors to be taken into account in framing general principles. But thats precisely where consequences need to be taken into account in the initial framing of the principles. Waiting until principles are already in place and then suddenly throwing them out when the consequences go the wrong way is inconsistent with the concept of principles and incidentally is a policy with reliably bad consequences. Now, are the potential consequences of secession so horrendous that in framing our principles we should abandon self-determination and allow prohibition of secession? If so, Mr. Ramsey owes us an argument for that remarkable conclusion, rather than simply an unsupported assertion that anyone who favours the right to secession must be indifferent to consequences.
Second: I also certainly dont regard quantity as irrelevant either. On the contrary, Ive endorsed Marilyn Fryes birdcage argument in the comments section of this post. My observations above apply here as well, however.
But, perhaps most importantly, third: Mr. Ramseys invocation of consequences and quantity is a complete red herring. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand. My argument was that if a certain argument worked against permitting secession, it would also work against permitting emigration. Mr. Ramsey spins this into a contrast between single individuals and large groups. But what do numbers have to do with it? Mr. Ramsey seems to be assuming that emigration involves single individuals while secession involves large numbers. But where does this assumption come from? The would-be secessionist region might be a township of 50 souls, while the number of would-be emigrants might be in the millions. If Mr. Ramsey really thinks that the numbers matter so much here, then he is logically committed to forbidding emigration if the numbers get high enough. But I suspect that he would, to his credit, be reluctant to embrace such a blatant enslavement of his fellow citizens. Yet if so, then his opposition to prohibiting emigration turns out not to depend on consequences and/or quality after all. And so my original question remains: if prohibiting emigration is unacceptable, what is the difference between emigration and secession that supposedly makes prohibiting secession acceptable? For as weve seen, it cant be the numbers.
"From the Great Depression, to the stagflation of the seventies, to the burst of the dot.com bubble; every economic downturn suffered by the country over the last 80 years can be traced to Federal Reserve policy. The Fed has followed a consistent policy of flooding the economy with easy money, leading to a misallocation of resources and artificial 'boom' followed by recession or depression when the Fed-created bubble bursts."
It's too bad some"free market" economists have no understanding of what's happening. Perhaps they should read Counterpunch and learn something.
David T. Beito
Times they are a changing, my friends), but I would like to point to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio as the king of Internet Radio. His list of guests is stellar, and it's a testiment to his broadcasting skills that I disagree with the premise of several of his Libertarian positions, but I cannot possibly turn off his show.
For links to Scott's past and present shows, see here.