Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
In 1849, Frances leading spokesman for libertarian capitalism (Frédéric Bastiat) and Frances leading spokesman for libertarian socialism (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon) exchanged a series of public letters debating the nature and legitimacy of charging interest on loans.
In 1879, American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker translated most of the letters, which were then published serially in the Irish World and American Industrial Liberator whereupon, apart from a few excerpts, they vanished henceforth from human sight.
Ive managed to track down a copy of the Irish World in microform and transcribe Tuckers translation. Where the microform was too dark to read (it was really a lousy copy) I made educated guesses based on the French original, marking my conjectures in brackets. Ive also translated two additional letters not included in Tuckers translation, and thrown in an anonymous public-domain translation of Bastiats earlier criticism of Proudhon (which was what sparked off the debate to begin with). As of today, the whole thing is now, finally, online as The Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest.
Most of this debate has not been widely available in English since 1879; and parts of it (including Bastiats final reply to Proudhon) have never been translated into English until now.
So who wins? Well, in my view, neither one the two thinkers persistently talk past each other. Ive posted a fuller analysis here; Ill also be presenting this material at the Austrian Scholars Conference later this week.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Ive put the first half of Dyer Lums 1890 The Economics of Anarchy online. More to follow!
I first heard of Dyer Lum from Frank Brooks, best known in libertarian circles today for his 1994 anthology of selections from Benjamin Tuckers Liberty. When I met Frank, around 1986, we were both grad students at Cornell (he in political science, I in philosophy), and we carpooled together down to my first IHS conference as he told me about this oddly named fellow he was writing his dissertation on. (Though in a movement that includes Lysander Spooner, Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Anselme Bellegarrigue, and Voltairine de Cleyre, perhaps Dyer Lum isnt such an odd name.)
Lum was a mutualist anarchist along lines broadly similar to Tuckers, a kind of fusion of Spencer and Proudhon, though Lum had a more optimistic view of the prospects for unions as vehicles of the labour movement. (He also preferred Buddhism to Stirnerism the Absence-of-Ego and Its Own? but that aspect of his thought doesnt come out in this work.) Apparently Lum and de Cleyre collaborated on a long anarchist novel, the manuscript for which has been maddeningly lost. Judging from The Economics of Anarchy, I find Lum a less clear writer than either Tucker or deCleyre but still a fun read.
Coming tomorrow: the Bastiat-Proudhon debate!
David T. Beito
The season finale of Breaking Bad is tonight. It is well worth watching both for entertainment value and subversive implications. The hero is a kind-hearted high school teacher who opens up a crystal meth lab and a chief villain is his boastful, stupid, and abusive narc brother-in-law. All the previous shows can be downloaded here.
The book is published this Tuesday in the U.S. and on May 6 in the UK. I await further reviews with some interest and I'm sure there'll be many. That said, having read Kurlansky’s review and David Pryce-Jones' review entitled"Immoral Equivalence" in the March issue of Commentary, I’m satisfied that Human Smoke is NOT the book that needs to be written and, indeed, will likely discredit revisionism. Reading between the lines of the two reviews, it strikes me that the quotations Nicholson Baker has dug up are neither as unknown as he believes nor are his interpretations as obvious as he implies. For example, historians of the period are well aware of what Churchill said about the Jews, Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s. Consequently, Baker doesn't make a convincing case, even from a pacifist perspective, let alone from any other viewpoint. Pryce-Jones, of course, roots for Churchill and FDR and he faces a pretty easy job of debunking the book.
As most of those who know me are aware, I'm a thorough-going revisionist on war in general, and on the Second World War in particular, but I regret to say that Human Smoke doesn’t cut it. This book may cause some more discerning readers to question some of their perceptions about particular persons and events in twentieth century history and, more importantly, to read more about the interwar period, but it is not the book that needs to be written. Until that book is published, inquiring minds should read Francis Neilson's The Churchill Legend (C. C. Nelson Pub. Co., 1954), Bruce M. Russett's No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the United States Entry into World War II (Harper & Row, 1972), and Simon Newman's March 1939: The British Guarantee to Poland: A Study in the Continuity of British Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 1976), to mention but three among a great many revisionist books on the Second World War. And here's a thoughtful essay from James Heartfield questioning received opinion about that war.
Several years ago I skimmed Sven Lindqvist's A History of Bombing (New Press, 2001). My guess is that Lindqvist does at least as good a job as Baker does on the history of aerial bombing.
It seems to me that Nicholson Baker should probably go back to writing novels and his heroic campaign against libraries destroying original books and newspapers. In this regard, I encourage you to search out his book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (Random House, 2001) and his justly celebrated article entitled"Deadline: The Author's Desperate Bid to Save America's Past" published in The New Yorker (July 24, 2000).
Aeon J. Skoble
In threerecentposts, I offered some thoughts about the parallels among environmentalism, religion, and authoritarianism. I want to continue that line of discussion for a moment with a weather report. It's been a very snowy winter here in Canton, over 100 inches actually, which is 50% above our average of about 66. Ottawa to our north has had over 400cm, or 157 inches. We are both nearing our snowiest winters ever. It has been cold, though none of those -30F nights that we usually have a couple of each winter. Still, it's been a "real" winter like we haven't seen for years up here. Thus it's tempting to make all kinds of snarky remarks about global warming. But I'm not going to do that because I'm always quick to criticize people who use every heat wave or warm summer to make claims about a phenomenon whose reality is a matter of decades or centuries, not weeks or years. However, this winter does raise another point that I will get to below.
First, I'll admit that I'm a global warming agnostic. I'm pretty convinced that the planet has become warmer in the last couple of decades (although recent controversies about measuring equipment and whether the warming is more localized keep me skeptical). I'm less convinced that the cause of the warming is human activity. I can't dismiss the possibility, but I'm not as convinced as fellow libertarian Ron Bailey. Here too, recent arguments about solar activity keep me skeptical. Finally, even if global warming is real and human-caused, that says nothing about whether it's: a) something we can do anything about; b) if so, what we should do about it; and c) whether any proposed solutions create more costs to humanity than benefits. It's a long way from a warming world to getting rid of the internal combustion engine. Whatever the reality of the science, the policy solutions will also require some social scientific thinking.
What is troubling me today though, and here's the connection with religion, is the change in the rhetoric by those who believe global warming is real, human-caused, and that it requires a major change in the way we live. For fun, start a discussion with such a person about the current snowy, cold winter and do make the joke about how it is evidence against global warming. My bet is that their reaction will be something like this: "Oh no, it's evidence in favor. You see it's not about 'warming' per se; it's about 'global climate change.' Thus the fact that some areas are having cold, snowy winters is something that 'global warming' would predict, just as it predicts more and stronger hurricanes and all other kind of things. We should expect a more varied climate."
One smaller observation about this line of argument is that it seems to fit the more general "fear of change" that we see among many on the left and right about all other kinds of issues, mostly economic. The earth's climate has "changed" for billions of years, long before humans walked it. Why would we expect it to stop changing because we're here (and as if "we" as human animals aren't part of the earth's ecology anyway)? And how much hubris does it take for us to think we can stop such change? George Carlin got this right years ago.
We've also seen the human costs of a similar hubris in 20th century "socialism." Why would we expect this to be any different?
But that's not the big problem here. The big problem with the "climate change" hypothesis is a very simple issue of the philosophy of science: is the hypothesis of global climate change/warming falsifiable? A much better question to ask your environmentalist friends is this one:
"What climatological or meteorological evidence would convince you that your belief in global warming is wrong?" (Of course they have the same right to ask this of skeptics - what evidence would convince you that the world is, in fact, warming?)
I've tried this and the reaction varies from indignation at having to answer it, to lots of hemming and hawing about possible answers, to serious and thoughtful replies. The point, however, is that those who assert the truth of the hypothesis of global warming have a scientific obligation to have a legitimate answer to that question. If they do not, or if they reject the idea that they must, they are ruling themselves out of the science business and into the religion business. Global warming becomes the equivalent of "it was God's will." The hypothesis that event X was "God's will" is unfalsifiable and is thus purely a matter of faith. Of course, in our best Seinfeldian voice, we might say "not that there's anything wrong with that." Indeed, faith and religious belief are fine, but they aren't science. (Note to my philosophically-inclined readers: I'm not advocating a full-bore Popperian philosophy of science here. I do, however, believe that falsifiability is a necessary condition for a statement to be considered a scientific hypothesis.)
If those who believe that the earth is warming and that humans are the cause want the claim to Science rather than Faith, they had best be prepared to show that their hypothesis (and, like everything else in science, it remains a hypothesis subject to being rejected) is falsifiable and what the evidence would be that would falsify it. When an increased frequency of cold and snowy winters is claimed to be evidence in favor of the hypothesis of global warming, the set of observations that could falsify it seems to shrink dramatically. And my agnosticism and skepticism expand accordingly.
David T. Beito
When asked in an interview about motivation for making the film auteur Kevin Booth replied, “when my mom was dying from liver failure, she was in an ICU unit with several others facing the same fate, all from a life of hard drinking. I was hit with this horrible smell that sickened me so deeply that I instantly lost my appetite for alcohol. After attending my third funeral in a row, I realized that the corporate culprits, Smirnoff, Dewar's, RJ Reynolds, DuPont and others, would never be punished.” You can view the entire film here.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
To place the first story in context, read this interview."It was at that stage that I knew I couldn't carry on. I was very angry, and still am, at the way the politicians in this country and America have lied to the British public about the war. But most importantly, I didn't join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy."
To place the second story in context, read this summary of Israeli law."THERE IS no Basic Law guaranteeing freedom of the press in Israel. There is, however, Section 9 of the Law and Administration Ordinance of 1948, which gives the government the power to enact the draconian WWII-era British regulations when a state of emergency is declared. And that's exactly what the Ben-Gurion government did in May 1948, giving rise to, among other illiberal institutions, the IDF censor. Fifty-five years later, with the War of Independence long over, the country is still under an official state of"emergency.""
War is indeed the health of the state.
David T. Beito
While only a fraction of the results are in, Paul is ahead in every county which has reported returns. See here for regular updates.
PAUL WINS IN A LANDSLIDE! The snarky Wonkette, which gleefully predicted otherwise, is deeply saddened.
David T. Beito
Hat tip to Oscar Goldman at The Stress Blog.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
This passage from Voltaires Letters on England is well-known:
Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. There the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends on the Quakers word. At the breaking up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the synagogue, and others to take a glass. This man goes and is baptized in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that man has his sons foreskin cut off, whilst a set of Hebrew words (quite unintelligible to him) are mumbled over his child. Others retire to their churches, and there wait for the inspiration of heaven with their hats on, and all are satisfied.
But this similar panegyric from Voltaires older contemporary Joseph Addison deserves recognition alongside it:
There is no place in the town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and in some measure, gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly of countrymen and foreigners consulting together upon the private business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for the whole earth. I must confess I look upon High-Change to be a great council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world; they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several Ministers of Commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages: sometimes I am jostled among a body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy my self like the old philosopher, who upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that he was a citizen of the world. ...
This grand scene of business gives me an infinite variety of solid and substantial entertainments. As I am a great lover of mankind, my heart naturally overflows with pleasure at the sight of a prosperous and happy multitude, insomuch that at many public solemnities I cannot forbear expressing my joy with tears that have stolen down my cheeks. For this reason I am wonderfully delighted to see such a body of men thriving in their own private fortunes, and at the same time promoting the public stock; or in other words, raising estates for their own families, by bringing into their country whatever is wanting, and carrying out of it whatever is superfluous.
Nature seems to have taken a particular care to disseminate her blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind, that the natives of the several parts of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common interest. Almost every degree produced something peculiar to it. The food often grows in one country, and the sauce in another. The fruits of Portugal are corrected by the products of Barbados: the infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippic Islands give a flavour to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of a hundred climates. The muff and the fan come together from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the Torrid Zone, and the tippet from beneath the Pole. The brocade petticoat rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Hindustan.
If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share! Natural historians tell us, that no fruit grows originally among us, besides hips and haws, acorns and pig-nuts, with other delicacies of the like nature; that our climate of itself, and without the assistances of art, can make no further advances towards a plum than to a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater a perfection than a crab: that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots, and cherries, are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of our sun and soil. Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world, than it has improved the whole face of nature among us. Our ships are laden with the harvest of every climate: our tables are stored with spices, and oils, and wines: our rooms are filled with pyramids of China, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan: our mornings draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth: we repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies. ... Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life, but traffic gives us greater variety of what is useful, and at the same time supplies us with every thing that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness, that whilst we enjoy the remotest products of the north and south, we are free from those extremities of weather which give them birth; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the Tropics.
For these reasons there are no more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the Frozen Zone warmed with the fleeces of our sheep.
When I have been upon the Change, I have often fancied one of our old kings standing in person, where he is represented in effigy, and looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that place is every day filled. In this case, how would he be surprised to hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his former dominions, and to see so many private men, who in his time would have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating like princes for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the Royal Treasury! Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional Empire: it has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as valuable as the lands themselves.
Now from a left-libertarian perspective it is true, of course, that much that went on in these commercial transactions was less than entirely innocent. Much that was traded was attained by partially or wholly compulsory rather than wholly voluntary means, both domestically (e.g., against the British proletariat) and abroad (e.g., against the colonised and often against the colonisers too, for that matter); and of course in many cases it was human beings themselves who were so traded. The commerce that Addison celebrates was thus a tangled mixture of economic means and political means as Addison must himself have been aware, writing as he did of the slave trade: what colour of excuse can there be for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species; that we should not put them upon the common foot of humanity ...? (But despite his considerable influence on the liberal movement, Addisons own liberalism was fairly tepid.) Recognising this mixed context lends Addisons phrase additional Empire an uncomfortable ambiguity: an empire based on mutual consent and benefit, by contrast with the empire based on armed force? or a colonialist/mercantilist empire representing an extension of the empire based on armed force?
Nevertheless, taking Addisons encomium as a tribute to the economic strands alone rather than to the whole mess, its true enough. And I especially like the cosmopolitanism of the first paragraph and the implicit criticism of aristocracy in the last.
Amy H. Sturgis
The movie is based upon the 1971 novel Prisoners of Power, a political satire of the Soviet regime written by science fiction legends Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
View the trailer.
Visit the official film website.
To me, the most suprising fact that Brzezinski relates to support his argument is that, ”a recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.” This has to be considered a classic example of the governmental tendency to produce useless products.
Hat tip to Kenny Rodgers