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Image credit. You do not get the point of liberty if you tell only half of the story. Whatever the benefits derived from adhering to a dogmatic belief, the price for it is paid in units of dishonesty. Or shall we call it more charitably: inconsistency. Much to the discreditation of liberty-leaning ideas, many libertarians are no less (scientifically underinformed) dogmatists than many of the left. A case in point is Don Boudreaux, a master of tendential reporting. His approach echoes the fundamental shortcoming to be found in Public Choice, a branch of the social sciences not inappropriately referred to as the theory of government failure, which analyses self-serving or anti-public behaviour by government agents. Public choice is valuable to the extent that it helps identify and understand malfunction in government relative to its legitimate tasks; unfortunately, Public Choice is at the same time self-discrediting in that it answers the question "what do we know about an elephant" by listing elephant diseases, pretending thus to exhaust the full story. Boudreaux's trick is to put the spotlight on the wonderful achievements brought about by voluntary transactions taking place in free markets, completely ignoring the vast areas where such behaviour cannot be practiced, especially in the realm of political competition which logically and technically precedes market transactions. Always. Naturally. First we must compete politically and win that competition before we can hope to establish the legal framework without which fair market competition is impossible. Anyone who understands that, will reject anarchism (or anarcho-capitalism, or Boudreaux's crypto-anarcho-capitalism, for that matter) as incapable of understanding the fundamental social challenge that gives rise to the need of liberty: the ineradicable ambiguity of politics and its enforcer the state. As much as we may succeed in pre-market political competition, we will never accomplish an all-out victory, but rather a fickle state of relative strength vis-à-vis (a) agents with creeds and intentions based on premises similar to ours but arriving at different conclusions or (b) agents starting from totally different premises and ending up with different conclusions. And one of the finest features of liberty is her unfaltering defense of an incessant supply of agents such as described in (a) and (b). It is highly characteristic of Boudreaux's attitude that he holds back the fact (even from himself?) that the thinkers Alchian and North (see the below quote), frequently quoted by him (suggesting conversance with their work), do not support his crypto-anarchist economic imperialism, while he parades them as if they did. In truth, Alchian and North offer sound explanations (see the below links) that help us understand the inevitability and need of politics and the state, the inescapable plying (the twisting-together) of freedom and unfreedom to form the main yarn in the texture of our political culture, and the resultant tension between the hopes and the reality of liberty. We need to read, again, Armen Alchian (1950) to understand this. In a world of uncertainty, no one knows the correct answer to the problems we confront and no one therefore can, in effect, maximize profits. The society that permits the maximum generation of trials will be the most likely to solve problems through time (a familiar argument of Hayek, 1960). Adaptive efficiency, therefore, provides the incentives to encourage the development of decentralized decision-making processes that will allow societies to maximize the efforts required to explore alternative ways of solving problems. The source. In as much as adaptive efficiency is generated by the market, it requires political empowerment and protection. Moreover, adaptive efficiency is not confined to strictly market-based transactions, the entirety of civil society is involved. Civil society itself depends on political and legal institutions, not on markets alone. It is a tragedy that people purporting to be in favour of freedom are not willing to defend liberty on the grounds that our society - like any other conceivable form of society - can only sustain liberty in highly imperfect form. A few people can make a living from this kind of grumpy abstention (from fighting for a better quality of democracy, politics and politics-enforcing state institutions). Many libertarians unfortunately feel attracted and emotionally enhanced by a position of armchair heckling. It may help them in some ways, it certainly does not help liberty. To put it differently, anarchists and crypto-anarchists - and hence many libertarians - simply do not understand freedom, and are a danger to the cause of liberty. See also Alchian on Politics, Why the State Persists, Property Rights, Prelude Concerning the State, Concerning Legitimacy, Ludwig von Mises - Telling It Like It Is. Continue reading
Posted 13 hours ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. On the occasion of my 2,000th post at RedStateEclectic, here is a little act of celebration, a humble allusion to the intellectual armchair-acrobatics that I have been allowed to hazard publically here since 2008. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at RedStateEclectic
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An economist used to be a person who was able to explain why the economy works well without interference by the state, and fares, indeed, much better without such meddling. Nowadays, an economist is a person who affirms that the economy can only work properly thanks to interventions by the state. The economist – versed in knowledge about the invisible hand – has metamorphosed into a staunch proponent of economic policy, the politician’s advisor ambitious to steer the visible hand. Steve Kates writes in his superb Free Market Economics. An Introduction to the General Reader: The approach taken to teaching economics has become one in which the market mechanism is ... taught only so that there is a basis for explaining why markets ... [do] not operate properly. The market mechanism is seldom explained as what it is: the sole means to achieve prosperity and the basis for a continuing improvement in living standards for an entire population [p.284]. ... [F]ew are any longer taught that economies have major properties for self-adjustment and are able to recuperate on their own without major government involvement. [p.287] One of the great dangers of a state monopoly in education is that it provides inordinate leverage for uniform patterns of thought. The massive distortions in the leading modern economies do seem to be intimately related to the prevalence of the politically both subaltern and ambitious(-for-power-and-status) "economics" of market failure and dirigiste conceit. See also 60 Years of Public Policy Hegemony. Kyle Bass' presentation commences at time mark 7:47 Japan's problems are formidable, but there are many other heavy-weight countries in deep water, it would seem. Next week we will be told by Wall Street stock peddlers that what are just having a healthy correction and that it will soon be time to “buy the dip”. Don’t believe them. We are perched precariously at the top of one of the greatest financial bubbles ever because it is global—-the handiwork of world-wide central bank driven credit expansion and drastic interest rate repression. Just recall some of the numbers. At the turn of the century, the US had about $25 trillion of credit market debt outstanding; now it is pushing $60 trillion. About 14 years ago, China had debt of $1 trillion; now its nearly $25 trillion. And similar credit explosions occurred in much of the rest of the world. It was all central bank enabled, and it caused world wide investment booms and asset inflations which defy every law of sound money and economics, and which cannot be sustained indefinitely. The bottom line of those destructive policies is that “cap rates” are artificially low and so their reciprocal, asset values, are enormously inflated. Likewise, nearly zero money market interest rates in virtually every major economy of the world have fueled the most fantastic expansion of “carry trades” ever imagined. As I have frequently pointed out, the short-term market for repo and other wholesale funding represents the cost of goods (COGS) for financial gamblers; its what they use to fund their speculations in higher yielding currencies, corporate debt, equities, and every manner of derivatives and OTC concoctions that Wall Street trading desks can engineer. So when the central banks drive the money market rates to just 5-50 bps, they are offering ZERO-COGS to speculators. This is a massive incentive to bid up the price of anything that has a yield north of 50 basis points or a short-run appreciation prospect of the same—in order to capture the spread. This is what has turned the so-called capital markets of the world into dangerous casinos. This is what led speculators this week to gorge on $4 billion in Greek debt carrying the lunatic coupon of just 4.75%. The latter is not even a remotely plausible pricing of the risk of a government with a 170% debt to GDP ratio—- sitting atop an eviscerated economy that has shrunk by more than 20% and has nothing much left except tourism, yogurt plants and a 27% unemployment rate. Instead, it evidences the fast money traders who swooped in to buy a 475 bp coupon funded by free money from the central banks, and who did so in the confidence that the ECB will do “whatever it takes” to prop up the price of member country sovereign debt. Needless to say, the minute that the millions of gamblers who have been enabled by the ZERO-COGS gift of central banks loose confidence in their ability to prop up asset values, the panic will set in. Then a great dumping stampede will start. It will be the mother of all margin calls—-a repeat of the dumping panic on Wall Street that occurred in September 2008 when toxic mortgage securities which had been funded by overnight repo were forced into fire sales by wholesale lenders refusing to roll their repo. Only this one will be much grander because the carry trades have gone more global then ever before. Even pig farmers in China have their sties loaded with copper because through a roundabout trade it can be repo’d for cash. Indeed, the global financial system is land-mined with time-bombs–some hidden and others transparent. But what is certain is that when huge distortions like the newly booming market for dollar-denominated junk bonds being issued by EM companies increasingly parched for cash craters, there will be a ricocheting chain reaction that will spread far and wide. The source. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. ... or, as I prefer to call them, the modern Galileos, unrelenting defenders of the best evidence and theories they are capable of coming up with. Ever since watching The Great Global Warming Swindle, I think, in 2007, I have followed and admired the work of Nir Shaviv and Richard Lindzen, who appear in the documentary. The ideas of Henrik Svensmark play a central role in the film. Soon I also became aware and appreciative of Henrik's pathbreaking research, recounted in Svensmark: The Cloud Mystery. Yesterday I had the extraordinary privilege and pleasure of having lunch and wonderful conversations with the three of them, at a climate conference in my city of birth, Mannheim. See also The Vision of the Anointed and Science in the Public Square, Global Warming - Best Summary, Scientists Not Intersted in Science, One of the Most Bizarre Collective Dellusions to Ever Grip the Human Race, Green Metamorphosis, Science Sick from Too Much Bad Politics, Man-Made CO2 Does Not Drive Climate Change, Liberty's Vacant Preserve - the Environment. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Adorable grassroots activism. Humans can be pretty useful fellows at times. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Environmental issues are the natural preserve for the (classical) liberal. Yet, this is not well understood among us "on the right". In countless contributions to this blog, I have argued that ecological order is emergent order. The idea of evolution has been discovered by (classically) liberal thinkers. It underlies their ecological vision, according to which not only extra-human nature but human society too represents an ecological habitat. The species of free, peaceful, and affluent humans is a constantly endangered species; it is in need of environmental protection. Looking after and protecting our free society is a matter of environmental awareness. 'The environment' has no meaning independent of human conceptions of it. A free society is the best basis for (i) a genuine discourse about the environment as well as (ii) responsible and effective comportment vis-à-vis nature, whose central and most important agents are human beings capable of understanding, demanding, and practicing freedom. If man does not assert his role as integral part of nature, the rest of nature will not do the job for him. Extra-human nature is indifferent to the fate and well-being of man. In fact, it is remarkably hostile to human needs, unless man subjects extra-human nature to his requirements. In the modern world, this task requires us to realise that the ecological order of a free society is supremely capable of keeping the entirety of nature (i.e. men amongst themselves and their relationship with extra-human nature) in proper balance. Yet: For many people, “conservative environmentalism” sounds oxymoronic. Since the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s, the Left has mostly managed to claim the moral high ground. They get to be for clean air, clean water, and saving the whales; for harmony with nature; and against pollution, deforestation, species extinction, and other bad things. In response, conservatives have often let themselves be cast as the heavy in the Left’s morality tale, stuck talking about cost-benefit analyses and questioning whether low level exposure to some unpronounceable chemical compound is really so bad. But while these arguments and intellectually sounds and even controlling, they sound cold and bloodless. The idea of a “conservative environmentalist” can raise skeptical hackles from those on the Right as well. All too often, self-described conservative environmentalists have quickly devolved into Me Too-ism, in which liberal policy prescriptions are simply repackaged as conservative, with an occasional quote from Burke or Hayek thrown in for flavoring. Yet there is also a tradition of authentic free-market environmentalism, represented by such notables as Terry Anderson, Julian Simon, Bruce Yandle, and Robert Gordon. They have sought to use free market principles and insights to address and solve pressing environmental concerns. Furthermore, in addressing free market solutions to environmental challenges, Jesiah Neely presents an argument analogous to my position with regard to civil society and art expressed in Gains Crisis and Gains Enhancement in the Arts. It’s an economic commonplace that people tend to take better care of things they own. There is a reason why cattle, unlike the buffalo, are not at risk of extinction. Entrepreneurship, innovation, and response to consumer demand have historically proven to be much better at meeting people’s needs than government command and control. That is as true when it comes to environmental goals as when it comes to economic goals. While new technologies and increased efficiency contributed to massive declines in harmful pollutants in the U.S., the old Soviet Union created some of the world’s greatest environmental calamities. The free market is such a superior system, that oftentimes it can beat government regulation without even trying. In 2009, the U.S. Congress declined to pass a massive cap and trade bill. Yet the U.S. is now on track to meet the reduction targets contained in the Kyoto Protocol not through any government action, but through ordinary market developments. By contrast, the European Union’s cap and trade scheme has been beset by numerous problems. Conclusion Despite a sound theoretical and empirical case, many are reluctant to apply market principles, as well as Public Choice insights into government failure to environmental policy. Today, more than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water and reliable electricity. This is not because of industrial pollution, but because those services are provided by corrupt government-run monopolies. There’s a reason millions in the developing world have cell phones (a late 20th Century technology) but not reliable electricity (a late 19th Century technology). One is provided chiefly by the market, while the other is provided (or not provided) chiefly by government. This must change. Conservatives and libertarians should not be afraid to stake out the moral high ground on environmental issues, and to show how their principles can produce a positive vision that is both environmentally friendly and authentically free market. The source. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. One of the most exciting, but highly neglected areas of inquiry for those concerned with freedom is staked out by the persistent fact that liberty grows and remains prominent even in the absence of pronounced mass awareness of her need and requirements. The time from 1850 onward is the era when (classical) liberalism declines precipitously (at least in Germany, but I suspect in other western countries including the USA, too). It is the age of the rise of Marxism and socialism, which gradually get reconciled with the needs of freedom in what might be called the social democratic alloy which reigns supreme to this day. To the extent that deliberate human action plays a role, it seems that often, perhaps even predominantly the protagonists of liberty-producing institutions are not convinced classical liberals but highly pragmatic power-holders who more or less stumble into liberty-enhancing arrangements. Certainly, like all of the larger patterns of history (feudalism, the modern age, capitalism etc.) the ascendancy of freedom is an unplanned event, an instance of emergent order. So what is the role of those who are conscious of the characteristics and the need of liberty in the unfolding genesis of freer societies? In what way does liberty force or convince her infidels to comply with her needs? Over three-quarters of the overall progress in economic liberty [since 1850, G.T.] in the OECD up to 2007 had been achieved before World War I. From the mid-nineteenth century to the eve of World War I steady advancement of economic liberty took place across the board, peaking in 1913 (although it is up to early 1880s when most of the action happened). Over three-quarters of the overall progress in economic liberty in the OECD up to 2007 had been achieved before World War I. During the first half of the twentieth century economic freedom suffered a severe reversal. After a dramatic decline during the war and its aftermath, the recovery was fast and peaked in 1929, reaching the level of the late 1890s. The Great Depression pushed down economic freedom again and the post-Depression recovery did not imply a rebound of economic liberty so, by the eve of World War II, it had shrunk to the level of the early 1850s. Economic freedom improved in the second half of the twentieth century and peaked in 2007. However, in between two expansionary phases – a quick recovery in the 1950s and a post-1980 expansion – economic freedom came to a halt, stabilising during the 1960s around the late 1920s level, and declining in the early 1970s. From the early 1980s to the eve of the current recession, a sustained expansion took place, overcoming the 1913 peak by 1989 and reducing the early 1980s shortfall to half by the mid-2000s. In the last two decades the highest levels of economic freedom have been reached. The source. UPDATE Daniel Mitchell chanced on the same source and comments in his post Why Did Western Nations Continue to Prosper ... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Increasingly, I see myself as a defender of the state, or as I prefer to call it an advocate of the dignity of the state. While the state is an indispensable precondition for freedom - the source of its dignity -, it is being abused in countless ways. It behooves the classical liberal to defend the state against efforts at denaturating its proper functions as when it is instrumentalised as the monopolist of education or the patron of the arts, incidentally both capacities that may have been socially conducive in the past. As for the latter, I never looked at the issue quite the way Tim Worstall does - see below. But I do feel that the public purse should not be in the business of subsidising art and playing the generous patron effectively at the expense of large parts of the public. Take, for example, the mythical Vermeer, "Girl who has lost her ears let alone her pearl earring". This is worth, in these days of Russian oligarchs, $100 million. It is also hanging in a public museum in London, owned by some arm of the State. So, how much does it cost for people to look at this picture? A reasonable discount rate might be 5%. That's what we could get if we flogged the piece and stuck the money into a stock market fund concentrating on yield. Maybe 3% for FTSE as a whole. But with 5% that means that not selling it costs us £5 million a year. Or £13,700 a day, which if museums are open for 10 hours a day means £1,370 an hour. A period of time in which this one picture might have, what, 10 people look at it? Thus, the cost to us of this one picture hanging in a gallery in London is £137 per viewer. At which point we have to ask whether this is worth it. And we've a method of working that out to. Do we think that we could charge those 10 people an hour £137 each to be able to view the painting? No, clearly and obviously, we do not. Therefore the costs to us as a whole of our possession and display of this painting are less than the benefits that come from our owning and displaying this painting. Having costs higher than benefits is also known as destroying value, something which is properly known as "making us all poorer". We should therefore sell off all such art and close down the museums. If those who purchase it then wish to show it to the public all well and good. But they'll be doing that on their dime, not our. The source. My argument in favour of leaving activities in the areas of art, culture and leisure largely to civil society is based on a long-term evaluation, rather than a case by case cost-benefit assessment. Let us discern two terms: "gains crisis" and "gains enhancement". By gains crisis I mean a situation whereby there is a notable net loss or reduction in gains for the public if we switch from one regime (of dealing with arts e.g.) to another. Gains enhancement denotes the opposite, i.e. an increase in gains to the public. The typical argument in defense of massive state involvement in cultural affairs picks out personal favourites that are not certain to be provided in the same way by civil society - say, the perennially loss-making theatre in my home town. The defenders of the present system can point to what they have and ennoble it by feeling better off in its presence, while the opponents are at pains to make their case with the help of counter-factual arguments. Mind you, the internet beats any public library, in fact, it represents a cultural revolution of epochal dimensions; not to mention the connection between great, now canonical art and the rise and reign of capitalism which has directly produced or made possible the ascendancy of art as we tend to see and admire it today. But these aspects are of no great currency. The defenders of the present system tend to have a considerable advantage, especially among people who prefer the concrete to the speculative - or worse: the abstract. There are countless other ways in which the status quo is easier to defend, not least because the state does have resources and privileges that make it easier for it to play the magic fairy - i.e. present itself as the benefactor of the public, subsidising yet another museum or concert hall etc. At the same time, it is easy to insist on forms of special treatment (unprofitable public swimming pools in every town) that possibly only the state can enforce, owing to its ability to ignore the type of economic constraints every private firm is facing. Public benefactions look nice or impressive or are simply regarded as inalienable parts of "our culture", but who gains from such "bestowals" at whose expense is not clear at all. It is hard, impossible or impractical to sum up gains and losses on a case by case basis. Instead, you have to look at the big picture. I would argue, in a broader context, there is no need to fear a gains crisis in cultural matters when the state withdraws from the scene of cultural bestowals. There will be change; some things will be provided in better ways, there will be new offers, and some things will disappear. But if culture is returned to civil society it would be surprising if the overall result would differ from the pattern set by a comparison between civil capitalist society and state-run socialist society. Civil capitalist society is notable for a far better performance in terms of figuring out and serving human needs. We should expect considerable gains enhancement rather than a gains crisis. However, in a free society, the state is a complex set of institutions that are courted and contested by many disparate groups. It is unlikely, and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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What exactly is high frequency trading? Is it as bad as some people claim it to be? As I understand it, when an order to buy, say, 10,000 shares of Exxon gets placed, the purchase will get pieced together by searching across multiple servers where offers are listed and putting together the 10,000 shares in bits and pieces from these various servers. What HFT's are doing (and I am sure this is grossly oversimplified) is that once it sees this order pinging a server, it runs ahead at high speed to other servers and buys up blocks of Exxon at price A and then offers it up to the pokey buying search when it finally arrives at those servers at A+a bit more. That "a bit more" may be less than a penny, but the pennies add up and if done right, there is almost no trading risk. This is bad, though generally not for us small investors but for our mutual fund companies. For my little trade of 100 shares that might be cleared on the first server, HFT's have no opportunity to play. Moreover, I may not even notice a penny or two difference in the price I get. This is a much bigger deal for mutual fund companies and large investors clearing larger trades, where a few pennies can add up to a lot of money. An exchange always has to be really careful to maintain its image of fairness, and systematically allowing such behavior, called front-running, is not good for the health of the market. Which is why you are hearing a lot about this. Here is what you are not hearing ... [about what may not be all that bad about it, after all, G.T.] Make sure to read on at the source. Consider also Is the Stock Market really Rigged? Personally, to the extent that the above description is exhaustive, I don't see a moral problem. If the trading arrangements are voluntary and open to competition, what's wrong with efforts to best utilise them for the participants' and their clients' purposes? It looks as if some are benefiting by bringing superior technology to bear on the system, while at the same time I can't see how others are precluded from defensive action or withdrawal from the HFT infrastructure. UPDATE In a lengthy review of the book that triggered the recent HFT debate, the "Mercenary Trader" (Jack Sparrow) argues: If you imagine that HFT came out of nowhere and started stealing at the speed of light, then okay, it is outrageous. If you imagine that HFT is a “tax” on markets that some jerks just decided to impose for zero economic give-back, then okay that is outrageous too. But if you understand that liquidity provision is a benefit, and that 21st century technology can allow for liquidity provision at a lower cost than the old system, you start to understand that all this talk about market “rigging” is a bunch of red herring garbage. The entire review. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The harm principle, originally associated with John Stuart Mill is best explicated, not as an expression of the simple relationship between two individual parties, but ... as an indirect way to advance overall social welfare. Harms by aggression and harms by competition are too easily treated as parallel violations of the single prohibition against harm to others; and their profound differences are not grasped solely by reference to the fate of the immediate parties to any dispute, but by their overall social consequences. The prohibitions against force and fraud block destructive "negative-sum-games" [ = gain of the one is the loss of the other, G.T.] that impoverish society. In contrast, harm by competition, which so often prompts extensive state regulation, fosters positive-sum-games [ = where all parties win, G.T.] that make maximum use of both human and natural resources. Now, consider the benefit principle under which I must compensate you for the benefits you confer upon me against my will. The principle is something of an anomaly: normally by first making a gift to you, I cannot force you to make a gift to me. But the usual autonomy principle is suspended in some limited settings, chiefly those in which necessity and mistake undermine the effectiveness of voluntary agreement. When voluntary transactions are bocked, private parties may initiate forced exchanges that allow them to demand compensation tomorrow by providing assistance today. This innocuous principle of the common law finds its most potent application in "social contract" theory. Social contracts are not just convenient legal fictions that allow the state to pile endless obligations on individuals without their consent. Rather the term contract presupposes that the desirable social arrangements imitate private contracts by allowing all parties to be better off through the imposition of reciprocal obligations on all citizens. The term social then reminds us that these arrangements are imposed from above to overcome the transactional difficulties that stand in the path of comprehensive voluntary arrangements. Quoted from Epstein, R. (1998) Principles for a Free Society. Reconciling Individual Liberty with the Common Good, Cambridge, MA, Basic Books - pp 6-7. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Following up on Equality - The Robber's Excuse, consider this brief clip: Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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There is more than meets the eye. Rationalism leads to sophocracy, the rule of the (supposedly) wise. Of course, it's a travesty of the idea of wisdom to equate its meaning with possession of ultimate truth or exclusive access to superior insight. However, in a rationalistic culture a voice tends to enjoy popular authentication when it appears to be the voice of an expert. In this way, we are being inundated by a deluge of expert voices crowding out the limited, genuine expertise of which we are capable. See also The Cult of Experts, and Sapere Aude. See also The Tyranny of Experts by Matt Ridley, and Opponents. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Richard Epstein offers a convincing account of the way in which the original natural law approach can be fruitfully reinterpreted in the light of new scientific results. And so, in this lecture Epstein looks at the way in which natural law has slowly been able to migrate forward to become a much more complicated [..] body of law today than it was at the time ... (19:25 - 19:40) Having started his academic career as a student of Roman law, Epstein would come to realise that he had a tool at hand that allowed him to respect tradition on the one hand, but bring to it a kind of intellectual rigour which depends upon every one of the modern intellectual developments which takes [sic] place outside the law which you could use to understand those things which occur inside the law. (17:50 - 18:00) Epstein concludes: essentially the lesson is: unless you can master the ancient conceptions of natural law, you'll never be able to do modern public policy well. (52:32 - 52:43) The nitty-gritty part starts at time mark 14:05. See also An Eye for Freedom, and The Classical Conception of Natural Rights. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Enjoy the art of looping. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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For some reason, in my posts, I tend to avoid contractions like isn't, don't, won't, I've, she's. Generally, my impression is that even in rather formal texts it is not uncommon to use contractions nowadays. Skillful writers and journalists use them all the time. So, I have grown uncertain about my habit. However, considering the below advice, I feel encouraged to stick to it, at least some of the time. Though, I do acknowledge that more contractions might make for greater correspondence between text and tone in a number of posts that are clearly informal. I shall work on the contextual fit - after all: The answer lies in the formality of the document that you are preparing. If you are engaged in formal writing, I would suggest that you avoid using all contractions. This includes cover letters, résumés, theses, essays, etc. Because the use of contractions seems more informal, you should avoid them in any instance in which you want to portray a professional, respected image. However, some types of text benefit from the inclusion of contractions. Specifically, if you want your text to have a more informal, conversational tone, sprinkling some contractions throughout your writing can help you accomplish this. These types of text may include fictional stories or novels, dialogue, or personal letters or emails. The source. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The whole spying issue is a lot more complicated than many people seem to accept. Yesterday, I participated in a debate featuring as the central speaker the new boss of the German Liberal Party (FDP - Freie Demokratische Partei), Christian Lindner. (European sense of liberal, as opposed to American sense of "liberal = social democratic). Interestingly, it turns out that the German secret service is heavily dependent on the NSA to do its job - not least because German law makes it difficult or impossible for German information agencies to gather information thankfully available from the NSA. Spying is one of these issues that are fundamentally problematic, and can never be resolved to the fullest satisfaction. Which is why it is important that we keep an eye on it, and argue - to the best of our abilities - from a position of competence and discernment, rather than emoting and jumping to conclusions that rational reflection and research within our means would prove inappropriate. The main point I had to make vis-à-vis the results of the discussion: I am far more concerned about, indeed afraid of the arbitrary acts perpetrated by the European Commission against Germans (and other Europeans) than by the potential of arbitrary acts that may be committed by the NSA against my fellow citizens and myself. That is not to trivialise the spying issue; however as long as an attack on and a perversion of freedom and democracy as large-scale and powerful as the European Union is not even identified as a threat to Europeans, I have a hard time accepting that people are getting their priorities right at all. Secret services will always give rise to problems of civic adequateness, but they become epidemically dangerous only when people lose interest in the non-totalitarian quality of the political order in which they live. Try telling someone from the US why we Germans have no problem sitting in a sauna full of naked people but get nervous when the Google camera-car rolls by and takes digital images of our houses. I gave it my best shot, but let's just say this: Our concept of the private sphere is not immediately clear to people abroad. I've also learned that it is no easy task to clarify to Americans why Germans are more than happy to consign their children to state care when they are just one year old but would go through hell and high water to keep their personal information out of state hands. In most cases, Americans don't like the state nosing into their personal affairs. But, when it comes to internal and external security, they have resigned themselves to the necessity of government meddling. For some reason, we Germans have taken the exact opposite approach: We delegate things to the state that we could take care of ourselves. But when it comes to issues we can't do alone, we don't trust the state to do them either. Make sure to read the entire essay, whose author prominently figured in yesterday's debate. Also pertinent, this interview with a former NSA director. And here is what Richard Epstein thinks about the matter. See also my post Snowden and Civil Courage, most notably the comments. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The power of myths is as strong today as it has ever been. One of the great catastrophes of our lifetime is the demonisation of nuclear energy and the attendant neglect of research and technological development in this area of science. However, things may be changing. Researchers in California made a great leap toward creating a source of virtually unlimited energy this past year as they strive to harness the power of nuclear fusion—the same process that powers stars like our sun. Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announced that in the last year “for the first time the energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel.” This is a significant step toward an energy source that would be plentiful and environmentally friendly. Currently, nuclear energy is produced through fission, where the nucleus of an atom is split apart, releasing enormous amounts of energy. In nuclear fusion, the nuclei of atoms fuse together and create massive amounts of energy. While scientists can create fusion; for example, a hydrogen bomb which is also known as a fusion bomb uses the power of nuclear fission—so, a nuclear bomb—in order to achieve fusion. The holy grail in nuclear fusion research is to find a method of causing fusion that takes less energy than the fusion reaction creates, which they call “ignition.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, attempting to replicate the condition inside of a star has been no easy task for scientists. If they can find a way to utilize the power of nuclear fusion, however, the implications for human progress are greater than the power of a thousand nuclear bombs. First of all, nuclear fusion would be effective; Just one gram deuterium and tritium—the fuel used in fusion— produce nearly 10 million times the amount of energy a gram of fossil fuels produces and there’s enough deuterium (found in water) on earth for tens of thousands to millions of years. By all accounts, fusion is a safer form of energy production, as there is virtually no chance of a meltdown and radiation is non-issue. As Dr Alejaldre, a researcher working at Iter—a French project attempting to produce controlled fusion, described it “a Fukushima-like accident is impossible at Iter because the fusion reaction is fundamentally safe. Any disturbance from ideal conditions and the reaction will stop. A runaway nuclear reaction and a core meltdown are simply not possible.” Additionally, the radiation produced by fusion is many orders of magnitude less than with nuclear fission and unlike with fission, fusion requires no shipments of radioactive material into or out of the plant—it is created and burned within the power plant. Furthermore, while the waste produced by nuclear fission remains dangerously radioactive for millions of years, fusion reactions produce no radioactive waste and the radioactive elements used in fusion have a much shorter half-life—only 12.3 years. The researchers at the Lawrence Livermore lab aimed the world’s most powerful laser at a pea-sized target containing nuclear fuel and created a fusion reaction, but only for a fraction of a second: The NIF uses a system of 192 laser beams to heat deuterium and tritium atoms held inside a capsule the size of a ball-bearing, which is placed inside a cryogenically cooled, pencil-eraser-sized cylinder called a “hohlraum” (German for “hollow room”). The energy from the laser’s pulse subjects the deuterium-tritium fuel to pressures and temperatures approaching the conditions at the center of the sun. In essence, they created a mini star in their lab. While they weren’t able to produce more power than the experiment consumed—they didn’t achieve ignition—they are getting closer with each experiment. Whether it’s the United State’s project, the French experiments, or another country, creating a viable controlled fusion reaction would be a huge leap forward for all of human kind. The source. See also Turn out the Stars, and Fukushhima - Sobering Up in Japan. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I keep getting anonymous messages from the NSA, who congratulate me on my posts. These people are intelligent, educated and civil. They assure me that there are practically no more readers in total of the RedStateEclectic-blog than the few that show up in the counter. But they tell me not to worry, as my following at their agency is large. While initially forced to read the blog, typically agents soon enjoy the task and even become eager to introduce co-workers to the treat. In a recent message, some of my friends at the NSA suggested I should take up again the habit of posting pieces concerned with architectural issues. Topically, some orientation is needed, they tell me, for those among them involved in a dispute over the aesthetic qualities of the agency's premises. I am happy to oblige, and so, let's set foot in the pantheon of the God's of architecture, and visit the great Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier was born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, in the small French-Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, where his father was an engraver of watchcases and his mother a musician. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps; but as an adolescent, Le Corbusier showed precocious artistic ability, attended the local school of fine arts for a time, and then wandered Europe for several years in a program of aesthetic self-education. His extraordinary abilities were evident in the brilliant draftsmanship of his early (and conventional) drawings and watercolors. He also made furniture of great elegance before the bug of intellectual and artistic revolutionism bit him. Le Corbusier adopted his pseudonym in the 1920s, deriving it in part from the name of a distant ancestor, Lecorbésier. But in the absence of a first name, it suggests a physical force as much as a human being. It brings to mind the verb courber, to bend, and, of course, Le Corbusier was a great bender of townscapes to his own will. It also brings to mind le corbeau, the crow or raven, not a conventionally beautiful bird in plumage or song, but one that is simple and unornamental in both and therefore, metaphorically speaking, honest and undeceiving, as Le Corbusier claimed his architecture to be. In French, le corbeau has a further meaning: that of a bird of ill omen—and perhaps that is the architect’s little joke upon the world. He was certainly of ill omen for the cities of Europe and elsewhere. Read more of Dalrymple's essay on le Corbusier at the source. Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Enjoy, relax, remember. Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. One of the prominent themes in Michael Oakeshott's work is the indissoluble enmeshment of freedom and unfreedom - that is the interwovenness of processes and states of affair that we would class with freedom and those we would attribute to unfreedom. In Oakeshott's view both total freedom and total unfreedom are conceptual and factual impossibilities. There is rather a constant tug-of-war going on between freedom and unfreedom. In fact, I would widen the image by suggesting a vast areal with innumerable tugs-of-war matches going on at the same time. More: one cannot be without the other. Freedom springs into life in opposition to unfreedom. Freedom creates countless incentives, occasions, and zones of freedom apt or designed to make us try out options that may turn out to produce problems of unfreedom. Even people committed to freedom may have disparate ideas of freedom and hence differ in their perceptions of what belongs in the area of freedom and what in the opposite camp. Liberals (throughout I use the term to mean European type of liberals) including libertarians, tend to underestimate the intricate patterns of neighborhood and mutual penetration of freedom and unfreedom, and their intrinsic concurrency. I dare suggest that liberty without liberalism (in the European sense) is rather the rule rather than the exception -- a dramatic fact incredibly overlooked by liberals. That is to say, only tiny minorities have sufficient awareness of liberalism to act as conscious defenders and lovers of liberty - yet we live in enormously free countries. Why? Liberty is so deeply seated in the institutions of our societies and our ways of human interaction that liberty can happen in a big way without people consciously seeking liberty. That's not the whole story, but a big part of it, and an almost totally overlooked aspect of the full narrative. Important as it is, we must not only focus on violations of liberty and ignorance of her, we must also learn to see liberty where she is efficacious, even though in ways that may not be obvious. For instance, if you look at law and its practice more closely, you will find oceans of daily respect for liberty. Also, if you look more closely at what your political opponents believe in, you will often find a whole lot of attachment to liberty. Stephen Holmes, a social democratic scholar of liberalism, provides an interesting piece on this important feature: The Liberal Idea. I do not concur with all of his claims and conclusions, but he does bring out some of the layers of liberal convictions in those who may not pass as thoroughbred liberals. At A View from the Middle Border, Ed Stevens has yet another readable post: Burke and Paine ... Together Again. Ed discusses a book that investigates the birth and early years of the indissoluble twinning of freedom and unfreedom in the modern mind. Tracing and appreciating this tradition, I feel, will be a more fruitful exercise than digging the trenches of incomprehension and indignation ever deeper that keep us politically apart from our contemporaries. Actually, Laura Ebke, the hostess of our blog, has attracted me from the first moment back in 2007 by her ability to act as a principled lover of liberty, while being always prepared to and graciously capable of communicating with people who have different notions of liberty, as I did when I decided to become a contributor to RedStateEclectic rather than contributing to blogs closer to the views then held by me. Laura Ebke strikes me as displaying the kind of sensitivity and realism that I meant to address in this post. I am proud to be associated with her. Needless to say, none of my posts, including the present one, have ever been previewed, vetted, or coordinated in any form with her. But we did have the benefit of disagreements. See also Goodbye to Anger - A Christmas Message to Libertarians and Enculturated Poverty. Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Quite in keeping with his community organising superior knowledge, the president offers advice on how people ought to conduct themselves instead of inflicting stupid problems on themselves. Here's a rant of a reply from the quarters of the unwashed that I have redacted for the expletives: Marie Antoinette would have blushed in shame: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56xE-sogSTM (the video won't embed for some reason). Blame Texas, because the solution to your wonderful, amazing new law pricing people out of being able to afford health insurance is obviously to take what were previously self-supporting citizens and put them on the dole? If I were the man to whom Marie up there was talking to, my response to his passing of the buck to the State of Texas would be “I don’t want to BE on the dole! I was paying my own way – I was HAPPILY paying my own way – until you came along and fXXXXXX my chances of being able to do so all to hell with your misnamed “affordable” healthcare act, and now your solution to having destroyed my ability to pay my own way and be a net contributor to our society is to put me on the dole? To strip me of my dignity and make me a parasite? THAT is your grand solution, you fXXXXXXX self-worshipping neophyte!?” Then, of all things, suggest that the man cancel his telephone service so that he might be able to afford your new, improved, insanely expensive healthcare plans? If that isn’t the “let them eat cake” moment of the 21st century, I don’t know what is. Good [...] lord, man, I am absolutely at a loss. How did this man even learn how to potty train, much less manage to elevate himself to the most powerful position in the free world? As if it is Marie’s place, or any person in the government’s place to dictate priorities in bill payment to private citizens – to have health insurance or to be able to communicate with people (possibly a pre-requisite for the man’s job, to begin with). This man is absolutely convinced that he has life figured out for everyone else; that no one's life deviates from his narrow views of what life should be one iota. No wonder socialism always fails - you get men like this in charge, who have these myopic, one size fits all views about life, and can't for the life of him figure out why anyone would want to live a life different from the one he proscribes. The source. The original quote from Rousseau - and more on its story: Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: "Let them eat brioche." Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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... by Déodat de Sévérac. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
Thanks for the enlightening comment. Since the second half of 2012, I've become much more aware of my classical liberal instincts, moving away from radically libertarians positions and closer to doable efforts at supporting freedom. Inevitably, my perception of politics has changed - regarding it as something that we need to engage in, rather than writing it off as an intrinsically evil activity. Wearing new glasses, it is interesting to revisit and judge anew political characters such as Sarah Palin.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2014 on Palin Endorsement at RedStateEclectic
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From a distance - I wonder what this means? The race in Nebraska for the seat of retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R) has divided tea party groups. Sasse has the support of the Club For Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Former treasurer Shane Osborn is backed by Freedomworks. Regardless of who wins the primary, the seat is expected to remain in GOP hands. "I asked Governor Palin to join our campaign, and I am grateful for her support today," Sasse said in a statement. The source. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Concludes Richard Epstein: Our limited use of coercion is done with the paradoxical intention of expanding the scope of individual freedom. It is always dangerous business, but it is only with a conscious awareness of how we must both use and limit government power that we shall find the intellectual tools to resist a descent into the all-powerful welfare state. The practical success of our endeavors depends on the ability to avoid not only the dangers of the all-powerful welfare state but also any categorical reluctance to use coercion to initiate forced exchanges that benefit us all. Below find an instructive exchange in which Richard Epstein (classical liberal), Randy Barnett (libertarian), David Friedman (anarcho-capitalist) vie with one another for the best approach toward understanding and practicing liberty. Coercion vs. Consent. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2014 at RedStateEclectic