Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Roderick T. Long
David T. Beito
For these same reasons, of course, Cleveland was universally hated by the populists who sought massive inflation and other big government initiatives such as a confiscatory income tax, central banking, nationalization of railroads, and massive economic regulation. Before 1896, though not necessarily later, most populists also promoted a war-like foreign policy.
In what has to be the worst misuse of American history by a major journalist in quite some time, Paul Greenberg mangles the facts to claim that Ron Paul is a modern version of the very populists who so despised Paul's hero, Grover Cleveland!
There is no longer a Populist Party that I know of, but populism itself is alive and deliriously well. One can hear its old delusions whenever Ron Paul speaks....
Dr. Paul is as American as a tintype, a reincarnation of a once familiar type — the money crank — who had a simple, single-cause explanation for any and all problems with the American economy. Namely, that a small, insidious group is manipulating the money supply. To any taxonomist of American radicalism, Ron Paul is a familiar type — genus Conspiracist, species Populist. He fits right in with a mentality that hasn’t changed all that much since Arkansas’ own great money crank, William “Coin” Harvey, was all the vogue in the 1890s. His “Coin’s Financial School,” at a mere 155 pages, may have been the most popular and influential American manifesto since Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” It overran the American South and West like a contagious fever.
He was a tireless advocate of scientific rationalism when it came to the study of and policy towards marijuana. This approach produced an invaluable resource, the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts which he co-wrote with Lynne Zimmer and published in 1997. It remains the most reliable source of scientifically accurate information on marijuana yet written.
While he did not claim marijuana to be 100 percent harmless, he did argue that the evidence showed cannabis to be one of the most benign psychoactive drugs known to man. However, when he pushed for the legalization of marijuana he made it clear that it was not because the drug was largely safe but rather because there were some hazards that prohibition was ill advised. Morgan believed that a regime of regulation and control offered the best way minimize these dangers.
Dr. Morgan offered us a much needed rational, humane, courageous, authoritative voice and he will be missed.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
In commemoration of Presidents Day (or of the possible alternative holiday No-Presidents Day) I offer these thoughts from William Godwin on the problems with elective and limited monarchy since an elective limited monarchy is essentially what the Presidency is:
ON ELECTIVE MONARCHY
Having considered the nature of monarchy in general, it is incumbent on us to examine how far its mischiefs may be qualified by rendering the monarchy elective.
One of the most obvious objections to this remedy is the difficulty that attends upon the conduct of such an election. There are machines that are too mighty for the human hand to conduct; there are proceedings that are too gigantic and unwieldy for human institutions to regulate. The distance between the mass of mankind and a sovereign is so immense, the trust to be confided so incalculably great, the temptations of the object to be decided on so alluring, as to set every passion that can vex the mind in tumultuous conflict. ...
The design with which election can be introduced into the constitution of a monarchy must either be that of raising to the kingly office a man of superlative talents and uncommon genius, or of providing a moderate portion of wisdom and good intention for these functions, and preventing them from falling into the hands of persons of notorious imbecility. To the first of these designs it will be objected by many that genius is frequently nothing more in the hands of its possessor than an instrument for accomplishing the most pernicious intentions. ... If then genius can, by temptations of various sorts, be led into practical mistake, may we not reasonably entertain a fear respecting the effect of that situation which is so singularly pregnant with temptation? If considerations of inferior note be apt to mislead the mind, what shall we think of this most intoxicating draught, of a condition superior to restraint, stripped of all those accidents and vicissitudes from which the morality of human beings has flowed, with no salutary check, with no intellectual warfare, where mind meets mind on equal terms, but perpetually surrounded with sycophants, servants and dependents? To suppose a mind in which genius and virtue are united and permanent is also undoubtedly to suppose something which no calculation will teach us to expect should offer upon every vacancy. And, if the man could be found, we must imagine to ourselves electors almost as virtuous as the elected, or else error and prejudice, faction and intrigue, will render his election at least precarious, perhaps improbable. Add to this that it is sufficiently evident, from the unalterable evils of monarchy already enumerated, and which we shall presently have occasion to recapitulate, that the first act of sovereignty in a virtuous monarch whose discernment was equal to his virtue would be to annihilate the constitution which had raised him to a throne.
But we will suppose the purpose of instituting an elective monarchy, not to be that of constantly filling the throne with a man of sublime genius, but merely to prevent the office from falling into the hands of a person of notorious imbecility. Such is the strange and pernicious nature of monarchy that it may be doubted whether this be a benefit. Wherever monarchy exists, courts and administrations must, as long as men can see only with their eyes, and act only with their hands, be its constant attendants. But these have already appeared to be institutions so mischievous that perhaps one of the greatest injuries that can be done to mankind is to persuade them of their innocence. ... To palliate the defects and skin over the deformity of what is fundamentally wrong is certainly very perilous, perhaps very fatal to the best interests of mankind. ... If I lived under an elective monarchy, I certainly should not venture to give my vote to a fickle, intemperate or stupid candidate, in preference to a sober and moderate one. Yet may it not happen that a succession, such as that of Trajan, Adrian and the Antonines, familiarizing men to despotism, and preparing them to submit to the tyranny of their successors, may be fraught with more mischief than benefit? It should seem that a mild and insidious way of reconciling mankind to a calamity, before they are made to feel it, is a real and a heavy misfortune. ...
ON LIMITED MONARCHY
I proceed to consider monarchy, not as it exists in countries where it is unlimited and despotic, but, as in certain instances it has appeared, a branch merely of the general constitution.
Here it is only necessary to recollect the objections which applied to it in its unqualified state, in order to perceive that they bear upon it, with the same explicitness, if not with equal force, under every possible modification. Still the government is founded in falsehood, affirming that a certain individual is eminently qualified for an important situation, whose qualifications are perhaps scarcely superior to those of the meanest member of the community. ...
But, if we consider the question more narrowly, we shall perhaps find that limited monarchy has other absurdities and vices which are peculiarly its own. In an absolute sovereignty, the king may, if he please, be his own minister; but, in a limited one, a ministry and a cabinet are essential parts of the constitution. In an absolute sovereignty, princes are acknowledged to be responsible only to God; but, in a limited one, there is a responsibility of a very different nature. In a limited monarchy, there are checks, one branch of the government counteracting the excesses of another, and a check without responsibility is the most flagrant contradiction. ...
An individual is first appointed, and endowed with the most momentous prerogatives; and then it is pretended that, not he, but other men, are answerable for the abuse of these prerogatives. ... Having first invented this fiction, it becomes the business of such constitutions, as nearly as possible, to realize it. A ministry must be regularly formed; they must concert together; and the measures they execute must originate in their own discretion. The king must be reduced, as nearly as possible, to a cypher. So far as he fails to be completely so, the constitution must be imperfect.
What sort of figure is it that this miserable wretch exhibits in the face of the world? Everything is, with great parade, transacted in his name. He assumes all the inflated and oriental style which has been already described .... We find him like Pharaohs frogs, in our houses, and upon our beds, in our ovens, and our kneading troughs. ... A limited monarchy... might be executed with great facility and applause if a king were, what such a constitution endeavours to render him, a mere puppet regulated by pulleys and wires. But it is among the most egregious and palpable of all political mistakes to imagine that we can reduce a human being to this neutrality and torpor. He will not exert any useful and true activity, but he will be far from passive. The more he is excluded from that energy that characterizes wisdom and virtue, the more depraved and unreasonable will he be in his caprices. ... A king does not fail to hear his power and prerogatives extolled, and he will, no doubt, at some time, wish to essay their reality in an unprovoked war against a foreign nation, or against his own citizens.
David T. Beito
The Huffington Post reports:
“The presidential candidate who sang"Bomb bomb Iran" is already looking towards the war after the war in Iraq. Sen. John McCain told a crowd of supporters…,"It's a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away. There's going to be other wars." [H]e repeated…:"I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.""
“McCain did not elaborate who the United States would be fighting. But he did warn the crowd to be ready for the ramifications of current and future battles."And right now - we're gonna have a lot of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] to treat, my friends," he said."We're gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe wounds. And my friends, it's gonna be tough, we're gonna have a lot to do." ”
The above prompts the following reflections. Altho’ I’ve made some of these points before, I now consider directly, the mindless militarism expressed so clearly & so well by Sen. McCain:
As I’ve pointed out previously, the US is (a) the world’s most prosperous country (b) its third largest in terms of population (c ) surrounded by 3-4000 miles of empty, stormy ocean on two sides; by Canada to the north & impoverished Latin American countries to the south. _No_ govt therefore has been insane enough to suppose it could successfully invade & occupy the US.
For the US military, therefore, the perennial problem is: how to secure contd tax revenues, domestically? Given the military realities above, their only avenue: some sort of overseas‘threat’. Now, the same three facts that render the US invulnerable to any foreign attack, also mean that the world overseas is dim, distant, vague, & mostly completely unknown to its population. This profound ignorance in turn means that, when their officials & politicians speak with the utmost assurance about a foreign ‘threat,’ Americans generally have no way of assessing such confident assertions.
Pearl Harbor was not, & could never have been, a precursor to invasion & occupation of even Hawaii, never mind the mainland US. At most, it was occasion for a major reprisal. But this would not have been grounds for a major military expansion. Only entering WWII could supply that excuse. So by 1945 the US govt included a very extensive military establishment, with troops deployed in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan & Korea. The military (be it noted) are a branch of govt -- so naturally they wished to continue receiving tax revenues, & even expand their empire. This is what all govt officials want.
So after 1945:- ‘occupation’ of the territory of a defeated enemy supplied the excuse for retaining American troops & bases in Germany & Japan. The Korean War gave a ‘reason’ for troops & bases in the south of the peninsula. It was around this time, in the mid-1950s, that former Gen. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the ‘military-industrial complex’ which had already emerged.
The American military & politicians then quickly seized on continuing political rivalry with the Soviet Union & with China, as a rationalisation for continuing to maintain military forces in various parts of Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, etc. Over the following decades, this excuse eventually resulted in some 700 US military bases around what to the overwhelming bulk of Americans is the dim, distant, fuzzy, unknown world, somewhere beyond the Atlantic & Pacific oceans. The Soviet bugaboo collapsed in 1991, so further foreign occasions had to be, & were discovered, to keep domestic American tax revenues flowing into American military hands.
Over these decades, what was the point of all these military ‘alliances’? During the Soviet era, no doubt the Soviet Union may have had enough missiles to damage parts of many American cities -- but to what end? The Soviets were not so stupid as to try & invade Western Europe, right on their very doorstep: they had enough to do, to hold on to the territories they invaded & occupied during WWII. What gain then, from attacking unconquerable American territory, several thousands of miles away? And did the Western European govts propose to help stop such totally pointless missile attacks on the US?
Similarly with South Korea. No doubt the North Korean govt was once a menace -- of sorts -- to the govt of South Korea. But its danger diminished rapidly as the South Korean economy took off. A country (like North Korea) which suffers from famine -- in the late 20th century! -- cannot offer any threat whatsoever to a country which is the world’s twelfth largest economy & the world’s largest producer of electronic parts -- & which therefore feeds as well as South Korea does (it is the largest single importer of Australian beef.)
[This night-time satellite photo says it all: that totally black hole in the centre, surrounded by the blazing lights of Japan, South Korea, & even mainland China -- is North Korea.]
So what was & is this military ‘alliance’ between the US & the South Korean govt about? The danger of a North Korean or a Chinese invasion of the US? Against which the South Korean govt has promised military assistance?
The same goes for the American counter-invasion of Kuwait in January 1991, after Saddam Hussain’s invasion in August 1990. No doubt Hussain wished to add to his oil revenues, but this was hardly any sort of menace to American oil imports. To whom could he have sold the oil? NB, which was only a fraction of total oil production anyway. Had he refused to sell to American oil companies (thus cutting off his nose to spite his face) -- some intermediary would’ve stepped in, & American companies would’ve still obtained any supplies they wanted from the Kuwait oil-fields.
Finally, the 11th September 2001. Patently, this was not, & could never have been, a preliminary to an invasion & occupation of the US -- by whom? Rather, ‘entangling foreign alliances’ brought on this disaster.
The identities of the men who took over the planes make it clear that the whole was part of an intra- Saudi Arabian/Islamic political quarrel. The instigator was a man who aspired to obtain the oil revenues of Saudi Arabia for himself. He denounced the current rulers of Saudi Arabia precisely for their alliance with the infidel Americans, & for allowing infidel troops on Arabia’s sacred soil. The men themselves came from tribes in the Yemen whose rulers had been displaced by the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Or else they belonged to ultra-Islamic political movements in Egypt, whose leaders sought to replace the rulers of Egypt, & then impose a stricter, more ‘Islamic’ regime on their fellow-Egyptian Muslims. Because the US govt was allied with the Saudi Arabian govt, therefore the enemies of that last govt attacked a major American landmark. ‘If I wound my enemy’s friend, I wound my enemy’.
And so on….To summarise:- The US is the third most populous country in the world, and its richest. It is protected even further by 3-4,000 miles of open ocean, east & west. Thus it is totally impregnable to invasion & occupation. Therefore the only way the American military can obtain large & growing tax revenues is through:- maintaining some 700 military bases round the world; fighting foreign wars; invading & occupying small, poor countries. They have done this for some 60 years now. American taxpayers have handed over trillions of dollars in taxes so ‘their’ military can embark upon all sorts of military adventures overseas.
And why must this military maintain & enlarge those 700 bases, & build more? Fight, invade, occupy small, poor territories? --- How else to obtain trillions of dollars in tax revenues? Thus the whole process feeds on itself -- it can continue indefinitely -- there is no built-in check of any sort….And so McCain can confidently promise more wars, more suffering for an indefinite time to come…
As is now clear, what people find so attractive & compelling, are the genuinely liberal ideas & ideals that Paul articulates so well. This is why his voters cross party lines & so many were previously a-political. But only a minute fraction of all these will be able to travel to DC. Can I suggest, therefore, that this march be only the first prong in a two-pronged attack: Let there be a Ron Paul write-in, in November. This will be a better & a permanent register of the true numbers of those who still hold to a genuine liberalism, one of tolerance & peace, of markets & people’s actions.
Paul has already categorically refused to support McCain. A write-in, therefore, will accomplish at least one impt aim of a third-party run: it will demonstrate the numbers who support true liberalism, the ideological foundation of all the DCs.
Thus a Ron Paul write-in will make clear the numbers -- whatever they are -- of those who:-
(a) favour peace -- rejecting the warmongers of both major parties
(b) favour popular choice & self-responsibility -- rejecting the decrees of tax-consuming officials -- whether in relation to the monetary system, health-care, drugs, self-defence, etc.
Amy H. Sturgis
Off the top of my head, I might start my list with these titles...
"The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster (1909)
The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells (1910)
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin (1937)
Anthem by Ayn Rand (1938)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (1949)
Gather, Darkness by Fritz Leiber (1950)
Limbo by Bernard Wolfe (1952)
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth (1952/1953)
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (1955)
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller (1960)
"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
334 by Thomas Disch (1972)
The Dispossessed bu Ursule K. Le Guin (1974)
Shockwave Rider by John Brunner (1975)
Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
The Gate to Women's Country by Sherri S. Tepper (1988)
Children of Men by P.D. James (1992)
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2004)
(Note: I'm not counting disaster/post-apocalyptic novels that focus more on the disaster/apocalyptic event than on the world that follows it.)
Amy H. Sturgis
Just in time for the holiday, The City Paper reflects on the recent history of popular culture, celebrating "Women of the Years: 20 Babes Whose Babeness Matters."
Amy H. Sturgis
* On Tuesday, February 19, I will be a guest on the "First Talk with Hal Row" radio program from 8-9am (Eastern) on 1290AM WHKY in Hickory, North Carolina. The show is streamed live online here. Questions can be submitted before the show online here. I will be interviewed along with Lisa Miller, Executive Director of the Women's Resource Center, about the First American: Voices event we are producing at the end of the month (free and open to the public). I will also be talking about my presentation and book signing at that event, and my work in Native American and Science Fiction/Fantasy studies in general.
* On Thursday, February 28, I will be the sole guest on the "Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins" radio program from 9-10am (Eastern) on 90.7FM WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina. The show is streamed live online here and is also available in downloadable podcast form here. I will be talking about my work in both Native American and Science Fiction/Fantasy studies. Listeners can join the conversation by calling 704-926-9323 or emailing email@example.com.
One thing that Star Parker forgot to add is that the government mandated plan, which takes a third of your paycheck, will probably stink. Let us face facts here, when it comes to your grandmother's hip replacement or a defense contractor's profits you know who will win that battle in a Clinton administration. After all, she has taken more money from the defense industry than any other candidate from both parties.
Universal health care or single payer would not be nearly as popular if we called them what they were, government rationed health care. Neither Clinton nor Obama are proposing to deal with the real medical care problem, the fact that it is paid for by third parties. Because people do not feel like they pay themselves for their own health care, the insurance company or the government does, there is no incentive to hold down costs. If people are forced by the government to buy insurance there will be even more incentive to maximize use.
You can put out all of the ideological rants against the free market that you want but there is one thing you can not deny that it does every time, it reduces costs and improves quality. Both the Democratic candidates and probably McCain for that matter want to move us in the opposite direction.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
On Thursday through Saturday I and several of my colleagues will be attending SEASECS, an interdisciplinary conference on 18th-century thought. The paper I plan to present is titled No Matter, No Master: Godwins Humean Anarchism. Heres an abstract:
William Godwin is often regarded as essentially a Berkeleyan in his metaphysics and a Rousseauvian in his social philosophy. I argue that in both areas the influence of David Hume is far more fundamental than is ordinarily recognised, and ultimately more decisive than that of Berkeley or Rousseau though the relation is more one of Godwins creative repurposing of Humes ideas than of his passive receptivity to them.
With regard to metaphysics, although immaterialism is a Berkeleyan rather than a Humean thesis, Godwins version of immaterialism is flatly incompatible with Berkeleys, and in both its epistemological foundations and its role in our reflective life owes far more to Hume than to Berkeley.
With regard to social philosophy, while Hume might seem an unlikely precursor for Godwins socialist anarchism, in fact Godwin, in his Enquiry and other writings, takes precisely Humean arguments for the rule of law and prevailing institutions of property and turns them in the opposite direction; and inasmuch as Humes account of the role of public opinion in sustaining social order inadvertently provides Godwin with grounds for the present-day feasibility of anarchism (by contrast with Rousseaus relegation of anarchism to an irretrievable golden age), it is actually Hume, not Rousseau, who proves the most useful source for Godwins political program.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
I know its a book because Worldcat says so. But its really an 11-page paper I wrote for a course in college back in 1983. (Google Books calls it 22 pages, but thats because theyre counting the blank back sides.) So how did it get listed in these various venues?
Initially I saw only the Amazon listing, and was mightily puzzled; but I eventually figured it out. (I would have figured it out sooner if Id seen the Worldcat listing.) This paper (a fictional dramatisation of the implications of Boltzmanns views on probability) was submitted by my professor (astrophysicist David Layzer) to an undergraduate essay contest called the James Bryant Conant Competition in Natural Science that year; it won, which Im guessing caused a bound copy of it to be shelved in the Harvard library archives, which in turn caused it to be listed as a book in various databases. But its just an undergraduate paper, and its never been available for sale anywhere. Weird.
If I come across my copy (no doubt buried in a box somewhere) Ill post the thing.
In vaguely related news, I also stumbled across the existence of an I Love Roderick Long t-shirt. I am not responsible for this and have no idea who is! Double weird.
David T. Beito
Despite the fact that he was a jazz enthusiast of the first rank, Jack Webb turned his character Joe Friday into a laughably simplistic crusader against the drug that was a mainstay of the musicians Webb so admired.
By contrast, Bring Crosby, who, like Jack Webb, is regarded as a cultural icon of Middle America during the same period, not only used pot but casually promoted its virtues to others.
According to Bing Crosby’s Wikipedia entry, "Louis Armstrong's influence on Bing"extended to his love of marijuana." Bing smoked it during his early career when it was legal and"surprised interviewers" in the 1960s and 70s by advocating its decriminalization, as did Armstrong. According to Giddins, Bing told his son Gary to stay away from alcohol ("It killed your mother") and suggested he smoke pot instead. Gary said,"There were other times when marijuana was mentioned and he'd get a smile on his face." Gary thought his father's pot smoking had influenced his easy-going style in his films.
Aeon J. Skoble
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Guess who wrote this:
Legislation, as it has been usually understood, is not an affair of human competence. Immutable reason is the true legislator, and her decrees it behoves us to investigate. The functions of society extend, not to the making, but the interpreting of law; it cannot decree, it can only declare that which the nature of things has already decreed, and the propriety of which irresistibly flows from the circumstances of the case. ... Men cannot do more than declare and interpret law; nor can there be an authority so paramount as to have the prerogative of making that to be law which abstract and immutable justice had not made to be law previously to that interposition.
David T. Beito
At a time when libertarians and libertarian-conservatives, such as George W. Schuyler, a pioneer in the Harlem Renaissance, and newspaper publisher, R.C. Hoiles, were criticizing the internment of Japanese Americans as a violation of fundamental individual rights, Eleanor Roosevelt was penning this article making the case on the other side. Here are some selections:
In an effort to live up to the American idea of justice as far as possible, the Army laid down the rules for what they considered the safety of our West Coast. They demanded and they supervised the evacuation. A civil authority was set up, the War Relocation Authority, to establish permanent camps and take over the custody and maintenance of these people, both for their own safety and for the safety of the country.
To many young people this must have seemed strange treatment of American citizens, and one cannot be surprised at the reaction which manifests itself not only in young Japanese American, but in others who had known them well and been educated with them, and who bitterly ask:"What price American citizenship?"….
Many difficulties have had to be met, but the War Relocation Authority and the Japanese themselves have coped with these remarkably well. There were unexpected problems and one by one these were discovered and an effort made to deal with them fairly. For instance, these people had property they had to dispose of, often at a loss. Sometimes they could not dispose of it and it remained unprotected, so as the months go by it is deteriorating in value. Some business difficulties have arisen which had to be handled through agents, since the Japanese could not leave the camps.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report