Liberty & Power: Group Blog
ADDICTION IS A CHOICE
Professor Jeffrey A. Schaler is the world’s leading disbeliever in ‘addiction’. He is an existential psychotherapist and full time professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. His book Addiction is a Choice (2000) argues:
1. No drug (including alcohol and tobacco) is ‘addictive’.
2. Drugs are not intrinsically safe or dangerous, good or bad.
3. Disease refers to cellular pathology, not behaviour.
4. ‘Loss of control’ is an unfalsifiable, hence unscientific, hypothesis.
5. ‘Addiction’ is ethical, not medical.
6. Focusing on the existential reasons for ‘addiction’ can help drug users address and resolve the problems in living they try to solve with drugs.
Whether you agree, disagree, or are undecided, you are welcome to discuss Professor Schaler’s argument and evidence with him in this important seminar.
Venue: Herringham Hall, Regent’s College, Inner Circle, London NW1
Subscription: Students £88, others £110, by 12 April 2008
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857, E-mail:email@example.com
Who says good things don't come in threes? To finish threeposts on environmentalism, here is, courtesy of Jonah Goldberg, an op-ed from an Austrialian academic and environmentalist arguing that environmental concerns are so important that they should trump both democracy and freedom. Note the last paragraph in particular:
Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is almost sacrosanct and those who indulge in criticism are labeled as Marxists, socialists, fundamentalists and worse. These labels are used because alternatives to democracy cannot be perceived! Support for Western democracy is messianic as proselytised by a President leading a flawed democracy
There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. It is not that liberal democracy cannot react once it sees a threat, for example, the speedy response to a recent international financial emergency. If governments can recognise a financial emergency and in an instant move heaven and earth (and billions of dollars, pounds sterling and euros) to contain it, why are they unable to do the same in response to a global environmental emergency? Quite simply our system is seen to live and breathe by the present economic system; the problem is that living and breathing within the confines of the world ecological systems is contrary to the activity of progress and development as defined within liberal democracy.
The Chinese decision on shopping bags is authoritarian and contrasts with the voluntary non-effective solutions put forward in most Western democracies. We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.
That we must choose between "liberty" and "life" puts a whole different spin on the whole "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" thing now doesn't it? Evidently, when you have the Truth, it must be imposed upon the non-believers whether they want it or not.
Goldberg adds a line from the guy's co-authored book page: "[T]he authors conclude that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power." Has inter-war era scientism ever been more plain in our own time than this?
For Goldberg, by the way, this is a nice bit of evidence for his new book Liberal Fascism, which argues that modern American liberalism, deriving from Progressivism, shares some important features with the political economy of 20th century fascism. Modern liberalism, he argues, is fascism with a smiling face. Their underlying philosophy and many of their institutions are similar to those of the fascists, but their intentions are much more noble. The op-ed above certainly fits that description. Having started reading the book last night, and having seen a draft of the chapter on economics, I can tell you that it's a serious piece of intellectual history that should be taken seriously by precisely the folks who are going to dismiss his argument without reading the book.
Now that we know the outcome of Super Tuesday, let me first ask: What is the real significance of Ron Paul’s candidacy?
It will prove to have begun laying the foundations for a far wider & deeper interest in the principles of liberty. Many who have emerged will undoubtedly retreat -- but the numbers who remain actively interested will add up to something far larger than previously. Ron Paul is a catalyst -- not just for the US but for the people who support the same principles (under his name) in some 26 countries & more throughout the world.
Let me add, on behalf of the scores of millions abroad who suffer from the US govt’s wars, invasions, military adventures, occupations. These hapless victims cannot vote in US elections, yet they cannot avoid the consequences. If they could vote, how do you suppose it would go? Which candidate would win -- overwhelmingly? Their only plea is a common humanity. They will be the silent millions standing behind everyone in the US who follows the principles that Ron Paul espouses.
Let me now set out why it is crucial that Ron Paul run as a third party candidate:
A. Some necessary preliminaries (the real matter begins with point 4):
1. I cannot see the Republican Party machine allowing the nomination of a complete outsider like Ron Paul --witness the Louisiana murk (for one thing.) Almost certainly, McCain will get the job: after all, he’s been part of the political machinery for some 30 years & more. Assuming this is so, it means that in November, his vote will certainly include his hardcore supporters, at a minimum. But large numbers who might otherwise have voted Republican might well stay home -- finding McCain so off-putting. And I cannot see McCain drawing in very many voters who might otherwise have voted Democratic.
2. So far as the Democratic candidate is concerned, I think that he or they, will be sure of the hard core of Democratic voters -- those who would always vote the party line, no matter what. Additionally, Obama or the Clintons (whoever it is) will get the votes of their personal followings; & possibly also those of some/many otherwise-Republican voters.
3. Putting (1 + 2) together: almost certainly a Democratic president for the US in 2009.
B. Having dealt with that, we now come to the critical point:
4. Ron Paul, however, draws in those voters -- NB, who know about him -- who feel strongly on particular issues: War; solid money; sound banking; corporatism; the vast & growing power that govt officials now have over their subjects; subsidies to foreign govts; intergovernmental bureaucracies; bilateral trade pacts between govts; etc. Most significantly, these issues cross party lines, so they draw in a very wide range of voters, right across the spectrum. This includes especially, followers of both major political parties, ‘independents’ & non-voters. True, the groups who have firm views on these points do overlap, of course -- but taken together they should form a distinctly visible minority.
Now, this purely ‘issue-based’ constituency has not been really tested as yet. Voting in primaries & caucuses is constrained in various ways & only relatively small numbers participate. November, however, is ‘open slather’ (as we say in Oz.) Thus the size & strength of this constituency (such as it is) can only manifest itself fully in November (on condition, see further.) -- Yes, yes I know what the polls say. But by November, voters will have been exposed -- thoroughly exposed -- to the two major party candidates: ‘War-crazy’ McCain on the one side, & either the Clintons or Obama on the other. (Dear heaven, what a ‘choice.’)
However: the ‘party’ of issues -- whatever its size & strength -- must remain invisible:-unless its voters have a candidate to vote for in November. They cannot vote for someone who failed to win the Republican nomination. They can vote for a third-party candidate. Such a candidate, moreover, would stand out in stark contrast to the major party candidates. He would be canvassing serious topics -- not repeating the shallow bleat coming from the others: ‘Please vote for me, I so desperately want to be President.’
5. In short, Ron Paul’s candidacy is only a take-off point for something far wider. Should he choose to stand as a third-party candidate, a party of issues will have at least begun to be identified more openly. It is to this that his advertising can now be directed openly (as others have pointed out.) To use economists’ jargon, the Ron Paul product, already somewhat differentiated, can be differentiated further -- as warranted completely by its inherent characteristics.
Ron Paul’s strength in his Congressional constituency, is in the close personal relationships his staff are careful to maintain with his constituents. This strength can now be applied systematically on a far wider scale. The strongest support for the ideas & ideals he expresses are found at local level. Let it be here -- in local papers, TV stations, radio stations & the like -- that efforts be directed. The objective: To maximise the vote -- show the numbers who really support these principles. Let the MSM go hang. Don’t batter at a closed door -- quietly climb in through the roof or up through the floor.
Aeon J. Skoble
Lest you believe that the notion of heretical behavior and other elements of the worst of organized religion within the environmentalist movement are hyperbole, check out what the Canadian scientist David Suzuki had to say about politicians who question the science of global warming (HT: Ron Bailey):
Toward the end of his speech, Dr. Suzuki said that "we can no longer tolerate what's going on in Ottawa and Edmonton" and then encouraged attendees to hold politicians to a greater green standard.
"What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there's a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they're doing is a criminal act," said Dr. Suzuki, a former board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
"It's an intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years."
Deny the faith, go to jail. All the more ironic that he was a former board member of a civil liberties organization. Whatever one's views on climate change, suggesting jailing those who dissent should be beyond the bounds of reasoned discussion and smacks of the mentality of witch hunts, pogroms, and forced conversions.
Amy H. Sturgis
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 6:30pm
Place: Auditorium, United Arts Council of Catawba County in Hickory, NC
At 6:30pm, see a performance by the All Nations Drum and Performers of Cherokee, NC.
At 7pm, see a screening of Four Sheets to the Wind. This Native-produced film had its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where Tamara Podemski (Saulteaux) won the Special Jury Award for Acting. Director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) is a Sundance Institute Annenberg Fellow and a 2006 Renew Media Fellow. Producer Chad Burris (Chickasaw) has been a selected to participate in Sundance Institute's Producers Lab. This film follows the drama of one family living in contemporary Native America and is rated R.
Date: Thursday, February 28, 6:30pm
Place: Belk Centrum, Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC
At 6:30pm, see a scholarly presentation by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis, who will be signing copies of her book, The Trail of Tears and Indian Removal, at the end of the event.
At 7pm, see a screening of The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy. This Native-produced documentary is endorsed both by the Eastern Band of Cherokees and by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It is presented by Wes Studi (Cherokee), and it has won an impressive array of awards, including the Silver World Medal for History (New York Festivals, 2007), the Silver Film Award (Telly Awards, 2007), Best Documentary (American Indian Film Festival, 2006), the Founder’s Award (International Cherokee Film Festival, 2006), and Best Feature Documentary (Native American Music Awards, 2007), among others.
For more information, see the Voices Film Series blog. Check back for additional updates!
Aeon J. Skoble
On the Dem side, Hillary did better than I would have liked. DO NOT WANT. Even though Mass. Gov. Patrick and both Senators endorsed Obama, Hillary's strength with liberal boomer women worked well here, and, evidently, many other places. Fortunately, her lead is slim, where"fortunately" refers only to my sense that Obama is less scary, and marginally more liberty-friendly, than Hillary.
UPDATE: Hmm, I guess it's actually not clear who is ahead in delegates. See here, e.g.
One other thing. If I keep hearing these sloppy, lazy, MSM journalists describe Hillary's victory in New York as"winning her home state," I'm going to have start taking hostages. Even the NYT does this! One correspondent on NPR got it right this morning, referring to her winning her adopted home state. The reality is, she lost her home state, Illinois, to Obama.
David T. Beito
Both explanations are unpersuasive or, at least, incomplete. While the claim that “Americans are not ready for libertarianism" is true as far as it goes, few of us ever believed (except in our less rational moments) that Paul was going to win. At the same time, we thought with good reason that he had a fighting chance to win a respectable block of Republican votes (10-20 percent or higher).
Unfortunately, several major blunders and miscalculations by the campaign itself always seemed to get in the way. A case in point was the Iowa database fiasco. The campaign had produced a get-out-the-vote database showing the names of thousands of people to be called on caucus day and/or transported to the caucus sites. Either becaue of petulance or simple human error however, a volunteer completely messed up the list.
But it was the campaign itself that made the fatal mistake by not making a back-up list, leaving the volunteers unable to carry out the operation on the crucial day. This was no small matter. Only a few thousand votes separated Paul from John McCain and Fred Thompson.
Had Paul come out of Iowa with the momentum of a third place win, the media blackout may well have never happened, at least to the same degree.
The terrible television and radio ads, however, were even more fatal to any hope of a better showing. I suspect that they may have actually lost Paul votes. It is revealing that exit polls showed that antiwar Republican voters last night (as they did in Iowa and New Hampshire) voted for McCain, the most pro-war candidate in the race.
Instead, of appealing to these voters, the campaign's commercials made Paul look like just another Republican candidate and/or stressed immigration, which had essentially become Romney’s issue. Had Paul's commercials stressed his antiwar views and hammered McCain's enthusiasm for the war, he might have reached more of these voters.
"Christian Ash Wednesday: Why not give up carbon for Lent?"
Now the idea was not literally to "give up carbon" altogether, although that would make Rand's characterization of environmentalism as "death worship" much less hyperbolic than I've always believed it to be. Rather, it was an exhortation to reduce energy usage on the margin.
Still, it does serve as a reminder of what many have seen as the disturbing parallels between much of organized religion and popular forms of environmentalism. Seeing them explicitly combined in such a "logical" way makes these points even more telling:
Both are highly moralistic and use the language and strategies of "sinfulness." This also involves an implied and often explicit claim to have monopolized the moral high ground.
Both involve the idea that one must sacrifice now for some undetermined future reward. This makes the Lent connection very logical.
Both have historically been very quick to label and condemn as "heretics" those who disagree with them.
Both have a tendency toward irrationalism and mysticism, e.g. the Gaia strand of environmentalism.
I really do believe that for many young people and for older folks on the left, environmentalism is a way of creating meaning in their very secular lives that in an earlier era would have been fulfilled by religious practice. It brings the notion of living for something larger than oneself, of sacrificing in the name of a better future, and of having a set of certain moral categories by which one can orient one's own behavior and criticize that of others. In these ways it is also a response to the relativism with which many are inculcated growing up and being educated. It also explains, I think, the increasing attractiveness to young people of neo-paganism and other forms of spirituality that are linked to nature. Seeing Lent as a time to reduce carbon usage could be seen as a very clever way of speaking to young lapsed or non-practicing Catholics in the same sort of language.
And to head off a certain line of criticism, my point is not to condemn every form of concern about the environment, nor to suggest that such concerns are incompatible with reason or libertarianism. I think there are interesting and important parallels and interactions between the spontaneous order of nature and that of society that need to be taken seriously by libertarians. However, that perspective is not the one taken in the general public's environmentalism.
It is a challenge for those of us who are skeptical of both organized religion's and environmentalism's claims to being universal moralities that should inform public policy (as opposed to something one practices as a private morality) to find a way to offer people a set of meaningful and universalizable values that are more consistently congenial to classical liberalism. If we cannot offer our own way of filling that gap, it will continue to be filled for us by movements that are not so friendly to liberty and progress.
Aeon J. Skoble
UPDATE: Didn't work.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Case in point: critics of the Mises Institute often imply that it, or various people associated with it, are pro-Confederate in the sense of regarding the Confederacy as a legitimate government or regarding slavery as a defensible institution. As Tom DiLorenzo and Tom Woods point out on LRC today, this charge is completely false, and the critics should stop insinuating otherwise.
On the other hand, though, its a bit silly to act as though thats all the pro-Confederate charge comes to. Surely its true that the overall tone of much that has come out of the Mises Institute on the Civil War has been not just critical of Lincoln and the Union (both well-deserving of criticism) but sympathetic toward and soft-pedaling of the Confederacy. This seems, well, blindingly obvious. To exaggerate this tendency into unproblematic support for the Confederacy, as the critics tend to do, is unfair. To downplay it into nothing at all also seems unfair. (And so on, mutatis mutandis, for most of the other issues dividing the Beltway libertarians and the fever swamp.)
Aeon J. Skoble
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
A nice birthday present came in the mail today: my anthology with Tibor, Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?, hot off the presses. It looks very nice. (Well, at 40¢ a page, itd better!)
The book features contributions from a variety of philosophical perspectives within libertarianism, including consequentialist, deontological, contractarian, Randian, and Hayekian approaches.
PART 1: MINARCHISM
1. Why the State Needs a Justification Lester H. Hunt
2. Libertarianism, Limited Government and Anarchy John Roger Lee
4. Objectivism against Anarchy William R Thomas
5. Reconciling Anarchism and Minarchism Tibor R. Machan
PART 2: ANARCHISM
6. Radical Freedom and Social Living Aeon James Skoble
7. The State: From Minarchy to Anarchy Jan Narveson
8. The Obviousness of Anarchy John Hasnas
9. Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism Roderick T. Long
10. Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism Charles Johnson
It strikes me that four of the ten contributors have some connection to the Auburn Philosophy Department. Tibor and I are Professor Emeritus and Associate Professor, respectively; Aeon was an Instructor here in 1993-1994; and Charles was an undergrad philosophy major here, graduating in 2003.
The larger question goes like this. It's sixty-three years after the Second World War, and seventeen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet the U.S. still maintains a network of bases in the UK. Isn't it time they quit?
Yes, I know the British government should quit as well. But let's leave that up to the residents of the UK.
U.S. policy reminds me of Brezhnev's advice to Dubcek in 1968:"Your frontiers are our frontiers." Enough said.
"Reports that Sarkozy had given Bruni a pink heart-shaped diamond Dior engagement ring, while she gave him a Swiss-made Patek Philippe watch, a total of £63,000 of exchanged precious metal and stone, have fuelled headlines about 'the president of bling'."
At least it spares the Queen's blushes:"The news will come as a mild relief to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen was said to have faced having to decide whether 'speedy Sarko' and his girlfriend should be offered separate rooms in Windsor Castle on a state visit to Britain next month."
My two favorites are Patent no. 863087, issued 1887, Balloon propelled by eagles or vultures, and Patent no. 748284, issued 1903, Method of preserving the dead.
David T. Beito
Put another way, McCain leans in the direction of 1984 while Hillary prefers to give us a Brave New World.