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Is this true? In Nebraska, it is illegal for a mother to give her daughter a perm without a state license? How do "crazy" laws come about? I suppose, they all have their own story. Mind you, like every other country, the US may have some "crazy" laws, but it certainly is not a nation of crazy laws. And even among the "crazy" laws below not all are quite that crazy: in Ohio it is illegal to get a fish drunk, and in Oregon it is illegal to go hunting in a cemetery. The Source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am starting a new series entitled "reprise" - featuring older posts of mine that might deserve another appearance before my esteemed audience. The "reprise" pieces will be accompanied by short musical "reprises" such as the one below. The great American physicist J. A. Wheeler contends in his A Septet of Sybils: Aids in the Search for Truth: "Our whole problem is to make the mistakes as fast as possible." The flip side of our unrivalled success in making the world ever more conveniently inhabitable for us, is our constitutive ignorance. We are so incredibly good at adapting to our environment because our ignorance forces us to keep on searching for more light. We - at least the wisest and the best thinkers and scientists among us - are aware of the limits of our knowledge, unlike the omniscient crocodile that thinks it knows all there is to know. There are many reasons why we are necessarily ignorant, probably the most important one is this: our brain is an organ that evolved primarily to make us survive, serving at best secondarily to map truth accurately (truth being correspondence with the facts). Sure, had our precursors not developed a pretty good ability to adapt to, say, a three dimensional world, they would have dropped from the trees to their death and we would not exist. But the fit between human cognition and the real world is no guarantee for command of the truth, not least because much of what is to be known and much of what affects us lies outside the mesocosmos (the world of medium dimensions to which we are adapted), this outside having evolved (1) prior to, (2) independent of, and (3) with no need to be immediately accessible to our mesocosmic faculty of cognition. A situation somewhat analogous to the epistemological fate of Lucky, the Dalmatian I dog-sit, who is fantastically well adapted to our mutual slice of the world, without knowing much about it. The assumptions he works on are often spectacularly erroneous, a circumstance that I amply exploit to create joy and harmony between us. Adaptive competence (like following the right rules and behaving in a certain way) is an alternative to insight, especially when we are to deal successfully with information impossible to be collected and processed by the unaided human brain: markets are such an extension of the brain, they are indeed a veritable prothesis of the brain. So, we cannot overcome our ignorance ever altogether, but we can reduce it incrementally and improve our conjectural knowledge of the world, by constantly calling into question what we think we already know. This is precisely what markets do, and what science does. We achieve progress by incessantly discovering the flaws in our present and provisional knowledge. The faster we discover the flaws the more advancement we achieve in the course of our unending quest: "our whole problem is to make the mistakes as fast as possible." All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Hayek, F.A. (1978) The Constitution of Liberty, p.30 From the first page of Karl Popper's autobiography Unended Quest, which is available as a free download here: When I was twenty I became apprenticed to an old master cabinetmaker in Vienna whose name was Adalbert Pösch, and I worked with him from 1922 to 1924, not long after the First World War. He looked exactly like Georges Clemenceau, but he was a very mild and kind man. After I had gained his confidence he would often, when we were alone in his workshop, give me the benefit of his inexhaustible store of knowledge. Once he told me that he had worked for many years on various models of a perpetual motion machine, adding musingly: “They say you can’t make it; but once it’s been made they’ll talk different!” (“Da sag’n s’ dass ma’ so was net mach’n kann; aber wann amal eina ein’s g’macht hat, dann wer’n s’ schon anders red’n!”). A favourite practice of his was to ask me a historical question and to answer it himself when it turned out that I did not know the answer (although I, his pupil, was a University student—a fact of which he was very proud). “And do you know”, he would ask, “who invented topboots? You don’t? It was Wallenstein, the Duke of Friedland, during the Thirty Years War.” After one or two even more difficult questions, posed by himself and triumphantly answered by himself, my master would say with modest pride: “There, you can ask me whatever you like: I know everything.” (“Da können S’ mi’ frag’n was Sie woll’n: ich weiss alles.”) I believe I learned more about the theory of knowledge from my dear omniscient master Adalbert Pösch than from any other of my teachers. None did so much to turn me into a disciple of Socrates. For it was my master who taught me not only how very little I knew but also that any wisdom to which I might ever aspire could consist only in realizing more fully the infinity of my ignorance. These and other thoughts which belonged to the field of epistemology were occupying my mind while I was working on a writing desk. We had at that time a large order for thirty mahogany kneehole desks, with many, many drawers. I fear that the quality of some of these desks, and especially their French polish, suffered badly from my preoccupation with epistemology. This suggested to my master and also brought home to me that I was too ignorant and too fallible for this kind of work. So I made up my mind that on completing my apprenticeship in October, 1924, I should look for something easier than making mahogany writing desks. For a year I took up social work with neglected children, which I had done... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Democracy as Enhancer of Public Intelligence John Stuart Mill was a passionate believer in public debate, and felt with Spinoza that the "collision" of ideas sharpens the minds of all parties, yielding suggestions no one would have lit upon in isolation and producing decisions more adequate than any proposal presented at the outset. Public opinion is a progressive force only when it is formed in a free-for-all public debate. Without institutional inducements for public criticism and opposition, in fact, political unanimity is likely to be a sign of irrational conformism. Thus writes Stephen Holmes in his masterly Passions and Constraint. On the Theory of Liberal Democracy. Fallibility He continues: Beneath these political claims lies an epistemological principle that later came to be known as fallibilism. [See also Socrates - Understanding Understanding] Often there is no simple correspondence between reality and the perceptions of our minds. So how can we know if our beliefs are true? Mill's trenchant answer was that "the beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded." [...] The Political Representative - Delegate or Trustee? This fallibilist epistemology inspired many of Mill's political proposals. Consider, for example, his support of a trustee as opposed to a delegate theory of representation. A delegate is a mere agent, sent to parliament to express the opinions of his constituents and subject to immediate recall if he deviates an iota from his mandate. A trustee, by contrast, has ampler room for maneuver. He can vote as he thinks best, using his discretion, disregarding occasionally, if only temporarily, the opinions of his electors. The delegate model is objectionable, according to Mill, because it implicitly rejects the epistemology of fallibilism. It implies that a representative has nothing important to learn from an uninhibited give-and-take with fellow deputies. But this assumption is unrealistic: "If he devotes himself to his duty," a representative "has greater opportunities of correcting an original false judgement, than fall to the lot of most of his constituents." The decisive superiority of deputies over citizens lies not in higher intelligence, virtue, or education, therefore but in the unusual nature of the legislative situation itself, a situation which, according to Mill, fosters self-correction. Voters are parochial. They are seldom exposed to the clashing viewpoints of fellow citizens which live in remote parts of the country. No one is ever invited to prove them wrong or rewarded for disclosing their follies. Voters should defer to representatives, therefore, although only in the short-run, not because members of an elected assembly are likely to be especially virtuous, but rather because representatives enjoy the eye-opening benefits of exposure to stinging criticism and relentless debate. [...] A modern legislative assembly is a machine for public learning because it guarantees that rival political proposals will be "tested by adverse controversy." Deputies are encouraged not only to uncover each other's errors but also to change their own minds whenever they become convinced that they have been laboring under an illusion. If recanting is intelligent, then it can be justified publicly, even to the voters back home, at least eventually. Accountability requires that deputies explain their decisions to their constituents. Because explanations of difficult issues take time, however, a system of immediate recall would make a mockery of government by discussion. Far from being antidemocratic, the trustee theory of representation simply recognizes that public learning, or the collective correction of collective mistakes, can never be instantaneous. (p. 180 - 182) Related articles Agonistic Liberalism (2/2) - Incommensurables Freedom as Method - Harm Principle, Benefit Principle, and the Good Politician Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Thomas Sowell's dictum may be overly trenchant, but the point he is trying to make is cogent. Also, I do not condone the insult expressed at time mark 02:25, but otherwise Rushdie's argument strikes me as sound. Writes Richard Larsen: America has a rich history as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and religion. Those who have come here over the past couple hundred years have sought a better life through the freedoms and liberties assured by our Constitution and the free enterprise system that fosters their “pursuit of happiness.” They’ve brought their culture, customs, and language with them, but they became Americans: learned English, learned our customs and conventions, and became encultured into the American way. America is great in large part because of the diversity of our people, and the richness of our cultural elements brought here. But multiculturalism has become much more than that, and is now more destructive than ameliorative, to American culture. Make sure to read the entire article. Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. For a number of reasons, I have decided to anonymise the below RSE-post, which I have written almost exactly 3 months ago to deliberate on my getting barred from commenting on a certain blog. It would be hard for me to prove that, at the time, I had been wilfully precluded from writing at the blog in question. My claim could be simply denied by the blog's host, explained in terms of a transient technical glitch, and the barring could be lifted at any time to "prove" me wrong. More importantly, I do not wish to draw RedStateEclectic into a personal skirmish between another individual and myself. Also, I am far more interested in publishing my personal findings concerning the twinning of micro-freedoms and macro-freedoms than in complaining about the conduct of any particular individual. How fitting, X. bars me from commenting on his W-post entitled "Y," at the Z-blog. (The title included a politically charged term used to describe the policy of keeping people from different groups, especially different races, separate.) The state protects my right to free speech, whereas the libertarian X. denies it to me. If it came to a court hearing (which would be ridiculous for me to contemplate), presumably, it would turn out that the state is willing to protect X.'s privacy/personal rights by protecting his right to segregate at his whim those who may enter comments at his blog from those who may not. Mind you, in principle, a court, and more cogently a legislature, might rule in such a way as to demand the admission of all and any comments to a blog - in which case coercive advantage of one party over another would simply reverse. In fact, it is hard to predict what consequences such a ruling would have, and whether it would, as I surmise, cause many blogs to shut down, or whether blogs would adapt to it and more or less continue as before or even show increased activity. Anyhow, the libertarian values of (a) protected privacy and (b) freedom of expression prove rivalrous. They can only be reconciled or rather coordinated by credibly committing to exercise coercion - if need be - in favour of interests attached to one value (a), and thus, at the same time, at the expense of interests attached to the other value (b). Shutting up a critical voice, is a poor and illiberal reaction in a libertarian or anyone else expressly inviting comments. At the same time, I think, the state is laudably honouring liberty in defending, as it probably would, X.'s right to suppress my views. I should add that, for what my testimony is worth, I have never been uncivil or digressive in my comments, but I have been persistently critical of X.'s posts, especially by pointing out flaws in libertarian patterns of argument. Free citizens coercing one another X.'s decision to suppress my freedom of expression demonstrates an instance of what I have called the ongoing rearrangement (or negotiation via political competition, judicial contestation. media-using influencing) of "micro-freedoms and micro-unfreedoms" in a free society. Within the framework of liberty there is plenty of room to redefine relationships of asymmetrical power among free human beings, with one party (A) exerting coercion over B. and the other (B) correspondingly suffering coercion by A. One Man's Micro-Freedom Is Another Man's Micro-Unfreedom X. used to afford me the micro-freedom of expressing my opinion in his blog, presumably until he felt I was dealing out too much micro-unfreedom to him in terms of restricting his comfort as the blog's host. He then changed his policy to establish for himself the micro-freedom of being protected against an inconvenient voice, while simultaneously erecting a barrier of micro-unfreedom for me, by curtailing my right to express myself on his blog. A perfectly legal move to make, and one compatible with liberty at large. Yet coercion has been applied/redistributed/rearranged, furthering the interest of one party and damaging the interest of the other party. The Warren-Samuels Constellation, as I have termed it, denotes the fact that while a free society is characterised by institutions that serve, or at least intend, to minimise unnecessary or unproductive or socially disruptive coercion - the state's monopoly of coercion being an example -, a free society is still one in which we exercise coercion against one another in millions of ways. We assert our micro-freedom at the expense of another person's micro-unfreedom; we practice coercion and make others suffer oppression, but in small doses that are not liable to undermine the robust conditions of freedom which ensure we are living in a society still deserving to be called free. Extensive coercion is part and parcel of the microstructure of freedom. And freedom is an improved way of dealing with ubiquitous coercion among human beings. The rights of which freedom is made up, are relational, not monadic. They are established, maintained, and removed by a process through which we define the relations in which we stand vis-à-vis one another. Contrary to classical liberalism's presumption, the rights that define freedom cannot be attached to the individual monadically, i.e. in a way insulated from the processes by which we keep defining and redefining our mutual relationships. For every free citizen has the right to take the initiative in defining his position vis-à-vis his fellow citizens and enter into the competition for enforceable social rules. That is the way in which slaves become citizens in a free society, women become voters and full participants in the Constitution's scope etc. The robust conditions of freedom represent a framework that is itself subject to orderly change and inner rearrangement. Rights are a means, among other things, of bringing about orderly progress concerning the interpretation and ultimately the socially valid meaning of rights. Rights are dynamic, an instrument of freedom in her implacable capacity as the engine of creative destruction in our culture. Granting the citizen a private domain, as freedom does, opens up space for individual creativity and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Freedom is an Open-Ended Discovery Procedure Discovery through political competition is not without risks, and it cannot guarantee the absence of severe error, but it is still the best way (1) to incorporate knowledge generated in civil society, (2) to keep politically dominant views exposed to ongoing corroboration, and (3) to include the largest possible number of interest groups in the permanent sequel of repeated games that produce effective trust in society, thus bringing about the dynamic equilibrium of dissension and pacification which defines feasible freedom. Monadic Rights versus the Constant Rewriting of the Social Contract Classical liberalism tends to misunderstand or ignore the political logic of freedom, owing to a monadic conception of the rights underlying personal freedom. In theory, these rights are absolute, immutable, and monadic, i.e. attached to and owned by the individual in inalienable form. Under feasible freedom, however, people, in exercising their liberty, negotiate and renegotiate these rights, both in politics and in private transactions. Free citizens constantly renegotiate new permutations of feasible freedom, thereby constantly rewriting the social contract. Open Discovery Processes Underlying Economic and Political Freedom We detect an unexpected and rather incongruous similarity of deficiency in socialist ambitions for central planning and liberal calls for a depoliticised society. Both desiderata are based on incomprehension of a vital spontaneous order which concerns politics and the state in the case of liberalism and also the economy in the case of socialism. Both political camps underrate or misconstrue the need and the logic of the indispensable discovery procedures required for strong economic performance (socialism's defect) and the feasibility of civil society at large (classical liberalism's defect). Search by Free Persons versus Automatisms As there is no single person or group of persons capable of registering all inputs needed to calculate an efficient allocative distribution, Hayek suggests inclusion of all citizens in a free economy to approximate far better the needed range and quality of information. Analogously, no single person or group of persons is capable of registering the inputs needed to take better political decisions than are available from a regime that guarantees the possibility for all citizens to make their contribution to political decision making. Incongruously, liberalisms akin to Hayek’s insinuate the equivalent of an impersonal central planer by suggesting that observance of certain rules activates automatisms in a free society, notably the market mechanism and the rule of law, that reduce the need of politics to such an extent as to render freedom a state of affairs distinguished by the absence of significant levels of politicisation - a visionary predilection that amounts to the disenfranchisement of the public. Decentralisation versus Disenfranchisement A free society, I contend, is akin to a free economy, in so far as only the mobilisation of dispersed knowledge lodged in decentralised units (citizens and their organisations) can bring about a discovery process capable of sustaining human relations that make freedom feasible. Freedom's Boundaries of Contingencies Liberalism cannot fulfil its role in a free society unless it acknowledges that its leadership in matters of constitutional integrity does not carry over into the area of legitimate political discretion. And liberalism must recognise that within the boundaries of constitutional integrity there is substantial leeway for political discretion by players of quite distinct emphases of vision. Freedom remains an open-ended project. Feasible Freedom - A Dynamic Equilibrium Balancing Dissension and Peaceableness In order to establish her meaning and detailed shape, liberty depends on a political infrastructure that engages contestants in a competitive discovery process that is likely to result in eclectic policy outcomes deviating from puristic ideological positions. Adaptability is a survival requirement for any agent participating in the political discovery process. Puristic ideologies fail to stay in touch with the diversity of interests and views that push toward concrete policies. Feasible freedom may be conceived of as a dynamic equilibrium balancing dissension and peaceableness. Approximating the balance requires that the competing agents continuously search for new information about the prospects of their agendas, swiftly adjusting the latter to sustain support and the power to exercise influence. Precise and consistent accounts of freedom such as endeavoured by classical liberalism play an important role in clarifying the rules of the discovery game and the inalienable contours of freedom, but they are too abstract and too general to be able to prejudge the differing aims that people ought to be free to pursue within the competitive political framework of an open access society. Ideologies lend impetus to freedom’s sine qua non: discovery by political competition, but they do so fruitfully only when being capable of changing and renewing themselves in response to the findings elicited by the search. The success of politics under feasible freedom is to be judged by the ability to balance dissension and peaceableness under the auxiliary conditions of high levels of personal autonomy, productivity, and wealth. We may register good performance and even progress along these lines in the very presence of states of affairs that appear insufferable from a classical liberal point of view. But it should not be forgotten that classical liberalism is just a set of hypotheses, some of which are rejected by freedom. Freedom is not identical with liberalism. Freedom is not identical with liberalism‘s account or expectations of her. Related articles Competing for Liberty (1/3) The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (1/4) The Miracle of Freedom Immigration and Freedom (10/10) - III. Feasible Freedom and Early US Immigration Politics (1776 - 1900) Just-So Stories in Economics and Politics - Consequences for Liberty Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. While recognising the merits in Gaus' theory of freedom, I shall hold back my reservations for a later post. First let us get to know this modern variant of political philosophy in the vein of original liberalism. In the last forty years, political philosophy has witnessed a plethora of visions of the just society ... Each of the dizzying variety of philosophical sects presents itself as possessing the truth about the just political organization and tells its adherents that the other sects either are recommending injustice, are not truly liberal, or have committed a heresy ... This understanding of political philosophy—as the theorist’s vision of the perfectly just society based upon her “intuitions” or controversial “theory” of justice—is facing a crisis of credibility. Perhaps the original hope was that the systematic use of human reason would lead enquirers and citizens to converge on the truth about “distributive justice” or “the role of the state,” but any impartial observer must conclude what should have been obvious all along: as in so many matters, the free use of human reason leads to sustained disagreement and a proliferation of sects. This is not a mere episode on the way to consensus and enlightenment, but “a permanent feature of the public culture of democracy.”[1] Such was the deep insight of the greatest political philosopher of the twentieth century, John Rawls. Because the use of our reason on these matters is inherently controversial, political philosophy must, as he tells us, apply the principle of toleration to philosophy itself. Liberalism’s founding insight was the recognition in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that controversial religious truths could not be the basis of coercive laws and public policies. The task is now to apply this insight to philosophizing about justice itself. This is an extraordinarily difficult lesson for many. Can it really be that I should not endeavor to ensure that my society conforms to my “knowledge” of justice? (Compare: can it really be that my “knowledge” of God’s will should not structure the social order?) Public reason liberalism seeks to respond to this crisis in the credibility of political philosophy by grounding public rules and institutions in the reason of all. Political institutions, social structures, and basic social rules are politically or morally justified only if they can be endorsed from the perspective of each and every free and equal “reasonable and rational” person. Public reason liberalism sets aside the illiberal dream of founding social and political order on a shared truth about the nature of justice, replacing it with the aspiration of finding terms of association on which good-willed and reasonable citizens, disagreeing about basic aspects of the good life and the ideally just society, can converge. This conception of liberalism is literally revolutionary—it seeks to return liberalism to its founding insight that we must live together without sharing our deepest visions: that liberalism is an alternative to sectarianism, not simply a form of it. The source. Related articles Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (3/3) - Catastrophes in the Old World Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (1/3) The Seminal Impetus of Liberalism Birth of American Freedom - Government and Democracy Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Interesting. Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Hat tip: The Reference Frame. The Interview is available here, starting at time mark 01:50. http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/10997918455-mimoradne-porady-ct24/215411034000172-rozhovor-s-basarem-asadem/ Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another. Madison, Hamilton and Jay, Federalist Papers (Madison, Federalist 55), 346. Related articles Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Writes Tim Ball: Volkswagen’s deception was a self-deception because with some of the best engineers and scientists, they chose to accept the claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Clearly they did not look at the IPCC reports because if they had they would discover what Klaus-Eckart Puls discovered. “Ten years ago I simply parroted what the IPCC told us. One day I started checking the facts and data—first I started with a sense of doubt but then I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements. To this day I still feel shame that as a scientist I made presentations of their science without first checking it.” ”Scientifically it is sheer absurdity to think we can get a nice climate by turning a CO2 adjustment knob.” If they looked at the IPCC Reports and didn’t reach the same conclusion, then they are grossly incompetent, or the corporation took a political decision with their tacit approval. They, like all automotive producers chose to pursue CO2 reduction as a marketing tool rather than examine the science and make the proper decision. Figure 2 shows their, now laughable, attempt to exploit the marketing opportunity. Volkswagen was not alone in the decision to capitulate to the green lobby and government deception about climate change. Almost all industry chose to cow and beg forgiveness for their sin of using fossil fuels. [...] They surrendered to the eco-bullying even promoting what they had to know, or could easily discover, was bad science. They abjectly backed away despite simple and plausible options – they became appeasers. Like all appeasers, they only created bigger problems for themselves and society. The crocodile is now eating them. Consider the case of Exxon. They totally surrendered to the ridiculous charge that they spent $16 million on climate change research. A simple comparison with government spending on climate research offsets the charge of bias as Joanne Nova so ably exposed. Couple this with the legitimate argument that understanding climate and climate change is basic research and development essential for any energy company. No sensible investor would put money into a company that was not doing such research. Now compare Exxon’s behavior with that of the insurance industry. They spend millions, to great praise, funding documentaries and promoting and exploiting severe weather threats for the sole purpose of selling more products. The source. See also Freedom and Science, Science Sick ..., and Lunch with the Heretics. Related articles Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Ensuring high quality politics is a public concern of the first order. Everyone, especially those with partisan leanings, is called upon to look for and acknowledge common ground in the political community where it is warranted. Resisting the bad habits of partisanship is one of the great merits in those actively participating in politics. With her various current initiatives and throughout her political career, Senator Laura Ebke figures as a protagonist of high quality politics, as the below observations confirm. Writes Vic Berardelli in an article worth reading: Some months ago I wrote about the experience of Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke, who is a Republican activist in private life but had to run without a party label on the ballot and serves in a legislature without political party caucus. Without party discipline, she said, lawmaking is accomplished by coalitions around specific issues instead of a party line. Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy demonstrated clearly in a recent essay how clear thinking on specific issues gets skewed by the lens of party affiliation, which fails to discern even basic facts. “Alas, political tribalism warps people’s perceptions of basic reality, convincing partisans they’re entitled to their own facts. That’s not new, nor is it limited to one side of the political spectrum,” he wrote. Healy gave a striking example: In a 1988 survey, more than half of self-identified “strong Democrats” believed that inflation had increased under Republican President Ronald Reagan when, in fact, it had actually come down by 10 percent. In a 1996 survey half of the self-identified “strong Republicans” believed that Democrat President Bill Clinton had increased the deficit, although it actually had dropped during his terms in office. Knee-jerk partisanship blinded the respondents to the facts. “In the battle between facts and partisanship, partisanship always wins,” noted Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science professor Adam J. Berinsky. We see this in the news all the time. Partisan blinkers prevent real negotiations based on a common set of facts in both Washington and Augusta. Often, the political affiliation of the author automatically dooms a bill to the scrapheap without any discourse or investigation. The problem is exacerbated when society is not exposed to the same set of facts from which to apply their personal approach. Make sure to read the entire article. See also Senator Laura Ebke Pushes for Historic Legislation. Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. In an unpublished paper entitled "The Paradox of Freedom - Austrian Thought and the Crisis of Liberalism," I argue as follows below. In this preface-comment, I refer to the quote by Armen Alchian, in the second paragraph below. Political Overload versus Irreducible Politics In arguing that markets need politics to be viable, I recommend that we differentiate between illicit or inefficient political blockages to the market order such as rent control, let us call it "political overload," and the fact that economic activities are always embedded in and permeated by outcomes from political action, which circumstance one might call "irreducible politics," as when, say, a new market (in securities or fish) is established, requiring innumerable political decisions: who is to be admitted to it - as supplier, as consumer, as arbiter etc - which rules are to be adhered to, by whom, who is entitled to ratify any such rules and so on. The distinction between "political overload" and "irreducible politics" is important. Unlike Armen Alchian seems to insinuate below, it is not true that there is a unilateral, ongoing, and irreversible displacement of economics by politics - political errors such as rent controls do get revoked, and large areas of economic activity are constantly kept free from political blockage. Markets Depend on Outcomes of Political Contestation At the same time, the very feasibility of markets depends on the outcomes of political contestation, which is not only true for the detailed structure of, say, a stock exchange (which may be favoured by securities firm A more than by securities firm B) but also for the return of a rent-controlled housing sector to a situation where market forces have more room to operate (a situation which may have become possible only because ways have been found to negotiate new legislation concerning the obligations and duties of landlords and tenants.) So, we had better discern market roll-back via dysfunctional "political overload" from inevitable and seminal constitution of markets by acts of "irreducible politics." Good markets depend on "irreducible politics," and they are damaged by "political overload." 7.1 Why Markets Are No Substitute for Politics A market transaction presupposes not only that two parties have recognised a mutually advantageous trading opportunity, but also that there is no internal or externally imposed conflict between them that inhibits exchange. A market transaction does not create concordance between the trading parties; rather it presupposes the compatibility of their respective interests and the possibility of peaceful exchange. Market transactions are not a means to overcoming conflict, instead they are being engaged in to take advantage of mutually complementary benefits already present, when no conflictive circumstances prevent them from transacting with one another. By contrast, elections, for instance, though in principle they may register (not create) unanimity, i.e. complete concordance, are preponderantly a procedure resorted to in the face of conflict and disagreement, and are intended to serve as a means of mitigating rivalry. Political scarcity occurs when concordance is scarce. Elections are one of the means tried to attenuate the inconvenience, nuisance, or blatant danger of unresolved disagreement in a group of people. In a large class of cases, when we are faced with political scarcity, we cannot help but apply non-market procedures. These may be rather imperfect, but comparing them to a spurious ideal is not helpful. Politics is about managing rivalry and compromise. Markets are about bringing together perfectly fitting interests. Politics and the state are more fundamental than economics in that they are instrumental in controlling more factors vital to individuals and humankind than can be achieved by “well-behaved” market transactions. The options for economic behaviour are set by politics and the state. Writes Armen Alchian: “I know of no way to reduce the prospective enhancement from greater political power-seeking, but I do know ways to reduce the rewards to market-oriented capitalist competition. Political power is dominant in being able to set the rules of the game to reduce the rewards to capitalist-type successful competitors. It is rule maker, umpire, and player … But I have been unable to discern equivalently powerful ways for economic power to reduce the rewards to competitors for political power!” Economic Reason versus Political Reason I am no longer sure I can accept the apodictic tone of Alchian's conclusion. As if there had never been an election dominated and decided by the electorate's economic preferences (in favour of greater market orientation). Moreover, while e.g. the advantages of short-term populism may provide a strong incentive for politicians to disregard economic rationality, government has also strong motives to foster or preserve its economic base. The political infrastructure of a free society is intended to and capable of resisting encroachment through "political overload." Thus, I know of cases, where firms were able to get politics to revoke legislation that would have killed a market or made its inception impossible. And, of course, not every market that gets established is a good thing or free from unseen repression (of competitors and better market arrangements etc). In areas where private firms negotiate the political framework of a market (say, by defining a worldwide standard for certain electronic gadgets), there is no intrinsic advantage in being a non-public entity as far as political conflict is concerned. There are plenty of "private" reasons to wish for a standard different from that favoured by one's competitors. Also, as Adam Smith would readily confirm, privately established "markets," are subject to insalubrious temptations to collude or harm outsiders or the public in other ways. And then, there is the wide field of pluralistic indeterminacy, the fact that we must come to final policy outcomes in the face of irreconcilable differences among the many concepts defining economic desiderata. "Keynesians" argue that "Neo-Liberals" seriously harm the public by non-intervention in markets, adhering thereby to a wider definition of markets that incorporates hallmarks which the "Neo-Liberals" disapprove of, and vice versa, with "Neo-Liberals perceiving Keynesian "Public Goods" as "Public Bads" and Keynesian "markets" as "non-markets." Under any circumstances, we will... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Yesterday, in an autumn of uncommonly mild temperatures, I had lunch at the restaurant Au Pont M. in Wissembourg (France), right at the German border, where most of our friendly neighbours speak German and French, often changing language in the middle of the sentence. At 29 € the "cheapest" menu, I thoroughly enjoyed along with a wonderful pinot gris: Velouté de potimarron, accras de crevettes et chantilly au curry Cream of pumpkin soup with shrimp crullers and curry flavoured whipped cream **** Paleron de veau confit 8h, blinis de pomme de terre et embeurrée de chou vert aux noisettes Braised piece of veal shoulder, potato blinis, kale with hazel nut **** Tiramisu aux poires bio pochées et pain d'épices, sorbet chocolat Nut'Alsace Tiramisu with poached pears and honey bread with Alsatian chocolate-and-nut sorbet I had not realised that it was armistice day (11 November) in France, a holiday. Not so in Germany, where the day has not made it into the schedule of holidays, presumably because it took Germans longer to see in the armistice the advantages of peace rather than feel the pain of defeat. Wissembourg is a small city full of thrilling beauty. We continued to the Rhine watching birds of passage preparing for departure in the nature park of Northern Alsace. Back via Lauterbourg, the town in France the farthest from the coastline (once defiantly home to one of the best fish restaurants of France), where we watched the Martin's parade, which I so enjoyed as a child. Further on to Schweigen at the southern end of the German wine route. And then in no time back home. Related articles Holiday guide to Alsace, France, including Strasbourg Wine Regions: Alsace " All About Wine Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Immigration and Freedom (9/10). 4.0 New Strategies for a Paradigm Shift (1850 - 1900) - Economising Justice and the Machinery of Legitimation In a free society, attempts at spurring innovation of the political infrastructure are an important part of the discovery process supported by politics and the state. A formative outcome of political innovation specific to an open-access society is the shift in the relative weight of decisions or policies designated as “just” compared to those categorised as “legitimate.” In traditional, culturally uniform societies with little value diversity, the minutest details of life may be regulated in terms of being “just” or “unjust.” In a complex and populous society that grants considerable personal autonomy, there is a need to economise on absolute judgements. Justice as an absolute value becomes reserved to authenticate fundamental requirements of coexistence, the constitutive rules of the game. Many other contentious issues are processed by the political infrastructure to classify them as “legitimate” or “not legitimate.” Once a policy proposal has passed the various tests of legitimacy it may still not be regarded as “just” by sizeable numbers of players, but it will be tolerated as “legitimate,” i.e. legitimately arrived at. For instance, legislation concerning abortion may be countenanced as “legitimate” by the same people who view it as “unjust.” The political construct of legitimacy provides a peaceable diversion around a deadly battlefield where absolute concepts of justice collide unforgivingly. Again, we encounter a case of repeated games helping to transcend rational impasses by showing promise to improve the odds for mutually advantageous long-term conditions of coexistence. It is for this reason that the machinery of legitimation figures as a prime target for political innovation in a free society. When by the mid-1800s restrictionist interest groups found themselves cut off from effective political support by the dominant parties, and emerging third parties congenial to their cause foundered, they poured energy into developing innovative ways to influence the machinery of legitimation. By (1) aligning themselves with trendy intellectual developments favourable to their cause and (2) pioneering extra-party and non-electoral forms of political influence they came close to bringing about a shift of paradigm in the public outlook on immigration. As for intellectual developments, one needs to bear in mind that for many people it used to be second nature to think of certain other humans in racial, quasi-racial or otherwise discriminatory terms. The inviting attitude in regard to immigration was largely a form of favourable racial discrimination confined to males hailing from the Northwest of Europe. At the time, the Darwinian revolution was acquiring new guises in the social sciences, some influential variants of which would lend the dignity of science to blatantly racist taxonomies. Eugenics, founded by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, was beginning to gain popular credibility and scientific respect. “In an outpouring of scholarly articles published during the 1890s, several of the countries most respected intellectuals fundamentally recast the American immigration debate.” (p.77) The new paradigm spawned a multi-variant arsenal of reasons for excluding aliens, such as differentiating between old immigrants, needful at the time and of hardy stock, and new immigrants, depraved, effeminate and unneeded in the face of an allegedly lessened demand of unskilled labour. The movement was spearheaded by the Immigration Restriction league (IRL), an organisation founded by Harvard alumni fearing for their political and economic clout, and drawing support “from the ranks of upper-class academics, businessmen, politicians, and various professionals who saw themselves as the last line of defence for Anglo-Saxon traditions.” (p.76) Taking skilfully advantage of (1) the newly acquired scientific semblance of discriminatory theories, and (2) frustration with corruption in politics, the IRL also pioneered new ways to benefit from (3) the growth of the federal state and the increased bureaucratic complexity of government. Aware of the expansion of congressional administrative tasks and tools, protagonists of the IRL realised that the new standing congressional committees resembled what Woodrow Wilson was to designate as “little legislatures” and “the most essential machinery of our government system.” (p.76) They set out to advocate Progressive notions of “scientific government” and “direct democracy,” capturing the bureaucracies’ natural need for and susceptibility to direct input by those successfully presenting themselves as experts. Given the intellectual climate and their direct connection with policy makers, restrictionists had the edge over expansionists, especially over the new targets of anti-immigration initiatives: politically unorganised newcomers from eastern and southern Europe. IRL activists became integral part of a national immigration policy network, supplying the pertinent House and Senate committees with a welcome stream of statistical material, research papers, and expert witnesses. In this way, the IRL was able to seize the initiative in shaping policies and providing rationalisations that reform-minded lawmakers were happy to ponder or even adopt. The lynch-pin of the envisioned shift in the national policy paradigm was a bill requiring a mandatory literacy test for all immigrants. In 1898, the bill won passage in the Senate, its success owing “much to the endorsement of the immigration committee, prominent support from social scientists, and the relative absence of interest group opposition.” (p.82) But when House and Senate conferees met to discuss the bill, increasingly organised interests, pro-immigrant business and ethnic groups, began to build a formidable front of resistance. The bill’s fate showcases how under political freedom different interests compete over the right to change the social contract. In the face of mounting opposition, the IRL ultimately failed to rally significant additional support for the bill, notably from organised labour, while key ethnic constituencies of the Democratic party exerted pressure on president Grover Cleveland to veto the literacy test bill. The president complied. However, the bill’s sponsors were confident that a large Republican majority in Congress would override the presidential veto. But the oppositional forces from business groups, German organisations, Jewish, Italian and Catholic leaders, the Chamber of Commerce and other organisations were relentless, demonstrating a cautious Congress the determination and prowess of a whole phalanx of pro-immigration interests. At the end of the day,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Immigration and Freedom (8/10): Studying politics and the state from an angle that reveals them as an emergent order may be instrumental in overcoming the liberal’s or indeed anybody’s sweepingly hostile presumption against them. A change of perspective of this kind may enable us to discern among the tangle and turmoil of politics moves as if by an invisible hand, bringing to the fore the benign effects of practices habitually dismissed as corrupt or underhanded. Consider political opportunism. 2.1 The Indeterminacy of Freedom and Heuristic Opportunism What lends the system of political freedom an often sordid and even corrupt quality, namely the opportunism of shifting and duplicitous positions, makes it also more flexible and representative. After all, in an adaptable political order, there is a need for trial, error, and error elimination, demanding a kind of responsiveness that leaves behind patterns both of apparent and real opportunism. Introducing erratic and unpredictable conduct into politics and thus dividing contestants, such patterns of opportunism may eventually mark a path that brings foes together or at least allows for pacific competition. There is a fine line between genuine opportunism, on one hand, and political learning and experimentation, on the other. In large measure, politics is about reconciling the irreconcilable. Indeed, politics is the art of finding compromises and forms of power sharing suitable to sustain repeated games that, in turn, produce a durable atmosphere of effective trust. 2.2 Opportunism, Political Learning and Effective Trust Effective trust is attained when people act as if they trusted one another, without entering into relationships of personal trust. Entrusting one’s political enemy with a high political office is a case in point. Effective trust is brought about not by personal encounters and the subsequent discovery of mutual congeniality but rather by virtue of the constraining effects of institutions that ensure fairness and prevent vicious and costly retribution. Office and person become separable. The political and the private personae are assigned distinct spheres. People cooperate peacefully and productively in one sphere - say as employer and employee - while being fundamentally at odds with each other in a different sphere where they act as political partisans. The classical liberal expectation that social order may be derived from observing firm principles and certain generally applicable rules of just conduct represents a necessary, yet not a sufficient condition for citizenship in civil society. The classical liberal’s overly pronounced confidence in static rules is unrealistic because patterns of apparent and real opportunism play a key role in balancing (1) the right to disagree with one another in a free society against (2) the need to establish effective trust and peaceable conditions. Political reality is subtle. Behaviour that gives the appearance of opportunism and duplicity may be beneficial in helping to feel one’s way in unchartered terrain, sound out the popular consensus and its tolerance for innovation and nonconformity, forge alliances on issues of lesser weight to gain support on questions deemed more significant, withdraw from or reduce the impact of infelicitous political experiments etc. Political manoeuvring is not exhaustively captured when viewed solely under the aspects of mischief and bad faith. Moreover, a measure of deviousness on the part of the politically active may be inevitable and even required to effect the benefit of living in a society that supports (1) high levels of rivalry alongside (2) a condition of robust pacification. 3.0 Path Dependent Consolidation (1800 - 1900) – Establishing Effective Trust, the Invisible Hand of Politics, and Feasible Freedom From a divisive plurality of views on immigration emerges in the 18th century a range of conditions ensuring a preponderance and continuity of policies that favour immigration in the U.S. While ineffective in terms of asserting their preferred policies in that period, as becomes clear with hindsight, nativist and other restrictionist forces always maintained a significant presence in the political process and never ceased to search for opportunities to gain the upper hand. Before we look at the factors supporting the path dependent unfolding of a pro-immigration consensus in early U.S. policy regimes, three fundamental starting conditions merit attention. While the Constitution (1) outlines the framework for political competition and the political discovery process in the new republic, it is (2) parsimonious in regard to specific substantive issues, avoiding preconceptions on controversial subjects like immigration. Add to this that (3) the Constitution has been prepared, ratified and actualised in a manner highly democratic by historical comparison and, in that way, inclusive of the main interests and protagonists invested in immigration. As a result, political competition and discovery were made credible as fair processes. creating an environment for trust-building repeated games and credible commitment, which, in turn, encourage loyalty to the political order not only by the winners but also by the losers in a given episode of political decision making. By reinforcing trust in the rules of the new political game, it was possible to meet the defining conditions of feasible freedom: namely the ability of strike a balance between the two pans of the scales of liberty: maximal dissension, on the one side, and, on the other, peaceableness during competition and later in the face of policy enforcement. This is a result that is as subtle as it is important and powerful: it reflects the transrational mechanisms of politics in a free society – an aspect that falls in the category of “moves by the invisible hand of politics and the state.” Having reached an insurmountable impasse on the rational level, with neither of the parties willing to give up on their views concerning immigration (abortion, capital punishment etc.), irreconcilability and emotional tension are reduced by converting them into effective trust in a repeated game that may yield disappointing outcomes on individual issues but promises a net gain in terms of long-term overall coexistence. While Jeffersonians steadfastly continued to translate “pro-immigrant polices into foreign-born votes” (p. 55), the Federalists, later the Whigs and still later the Republicans grappled with a legacy of nativism and other... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. From the draft of an unpublished paper that I have recently presented at a Conference on immigration: 1.1 Classical Liberalism, Feasible Freedom, and Immigration Politics in the US (1776 – 1900) While the classical liberal tradition from Locke to Hayek is united by an emphasis on the self-organising features of free societies, it entirely fails to account for politics and the state as a spontaneous order, thus missing the political nature of liberty. Hayek correctly describes economic competition as a discovery procedure, yet neglects to appreciate that politics too is a discovery procedure, in the absence of which freedom is impossible. Thus, owing to an inability to understand that political practices and institutions lie at the heart of freedom, classical liberalism suffers from nothing less than a misconception of her central value, its normative vision of liberty being blind to the conditions of feasible freedom. In this paper we wish to highlight some of the pivotal features of freedom overlooked by classical liberalism and sketch the contours of a theory of feasible freedom. To this purpose, we are drawing upon evidence from immigration politics as it was to unfold during the first 120 years after the founding of the United States of America. The history of the new American republic, which was strongly inspired by the ideas of classical liberalism, promises to yield interesting insights into the advancement of feasible freedom. 2.0 Trend Finding (1776 - 1800) – Political Competition as a Discovery Process “Americans have been ambivalent about immigration since the earliest days of their republic. The founding generation grew up in British North American colonies that had contrasting traditions of governing European immigration. Some colonies were routinely hostile to outsiders; some granted entry and equal membership to immigrants who shared their ecclesiastical goals; some recruited immigrant labor but limited the rights newcomers enjoyed; and still others extended generous terms of immigration and membership to all white male settlers […]” (p.49f.) This and all subsequent page references in the present selective draft paper refer to Tichenor, D.J. (2002), Dividing Lines. The Politics of Immigration Control in America, Princeton and Oxford, Princeton Paperbacks. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson expressed apprehension about European immigration doubting that newcomers would be able to renounce their Old World loyalties to “absolute monarchy.” He did not believe that new waves of immigrants were capable of honouring republican principles, individual liberty and self-government. In order to avert the danger, he advocated constraints on future admissions. By contrast, Thomas Paine urged “the nation to adopt the cosmopolitan individualism of Pennsylvania, where the equal membership of English, Dutch, Germans and Swedes showed that <we surmount the force of local prejudice as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world>.” (p.51). Paine’s universalist cosmopolitanism was echoed in George Washington’s pronouncement of 1783 that “America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions.” (p.51) In a summer of closed meetings in Philadelphia, when America’s leading statesmen were deliberating the Constitution which they finally published in the same year on September 17, 1787, the debate revealed significant differences of opinion and among them also rather ambiguous positions. George Mason, for instance, hailed the economic benefits of alien labour, while opposing broad political rights to “foreigners and adventurers.” (p.52) By contrast, James Madison was worried that denial of public office to immigrants would “give a tincture of illiberality to the Constitution.” (p.52). In the end, the delegates to the convention struck a compromise by determining the foreign-born to be ineligible only for the presidency, while resolving on modest residency requirements for congressional office. (p.52) The framers did not touch on the subject of immigration in the text of the Constitution (except indirectly, as noted above). It was wise of them not to prejudge the issue, as, we conjecture, their restraint kept the political discovery process open, a condition vital to political stability in the early years of the new republic. At the time, however, the founding fathers had tactical options to consider. To all intents and purposes, practical immigration issues were handled by the states, which the framers did not wish to alienate by pre-emptive constitutional determinations. Also, it appears, in remaining seemingly neutral, they effectively relied on the expectation that the states would continue to pursue policies of pragmatic leniency toward immigrants. Only a few years later, the first Congress in 1790 enacted a uniform rule of naturalization that made citizenship very easy to acquire for European men. It provided that <free white persons> who resided in the United States for as little as two years could be naturalized by <any common law court of record in any of the States.> (p.53) At once, the restrictionists prepared to strike back. During the 1790s, the atmosphere for immigration grew inclement. The Anglo-French conflict fuelled support for restrictionist demands. One of the two leading parties at the time, the Federalists denounced French and Irish immigrants for putatively aligning themselves with the ideals of the French Revolution and fostering factionalism by participating in democratic clubs. What is more, the Federalists were alerted by the fact that in large cities, Irish and other immigrants would tend to cast their votes in favour of the other large party: the Democratic Republicans. Thus, taking advantage of congressional majorities, the Federalists enacted laws curbing access of European aliens to citizenship and enfranchisement. In 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts which increased the residency requirement for eligibility to citizenship to 14 years, and allowed the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" at any time. An effort at forestalling the political decline of the Federalists, the Acts did not have the intended effect, and strengthened the bond between foreign-born voters and the Democratic-Republican party. With their help, Jefferson won the presidential election in 1800, and proceeded quickly to rescind the restrictionist legislation of the Federalists. He presided over the return of control of alien... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke, 1729-97) Time to think of liberty not as a partisan good, but as a tradition whose defence requires co-operation beyond party lines. See also Senator Ebke Pushes for Historic Legislation, and Mark Levin - The Liberty Amendments. And Steven Kate's feisty Living in a Postmodern World. And: Related articles Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) The Miracle of Freedom Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "Negotiable freedom" sounds like a phrase used in selling out to the enemies of liberty, when in fact it points to a fundamental feature and one of the biggest advantages of liberty. In preparation of a conference paper, I have recently noted down these ideas: Classical liberalism has been politically ineffective and intellectually marginalised since declining precipitously from its zenith of influence in the mid 19th century. At the same time, liberty has prospered along with the political opponents of liberalism. This constitutes the paradox of freedom, the phrase chosen for the title of our paper presented at the first X conference: “The Paradox of Freedom – F.A. Hayek and the Crisis of Liberalism.” We have identified an inability to comprehend the role of politics and the state in a free society as the chief reason why classical liberalism has failed to marshal the popular support requisite to achieve substantial political weight. Among the robust conditions of freedom - the conditions indispensable if feasible freedom is to be attained - is political freedom, the possibility for every citizen to participate in the political processes through which many of the most important forms of social governance are being shaped. Classical liberalism does not appreciate that the spontaneous order of politics and the state drives the future shape and meaning of liberty. Classical liberalism is inclined to overlook the political nature of the forces and processes that define feasible liberty for two reasons in particular: [In the present post, I am concerned with only the first of the two reasons, G.T.] Robust Conditions of Freedom – A Pool of Elements with (Re-)Negotiable Relations and Alterable Mutual Effects In the first place, classical liberalism tends to be inspired by the presumption that liberty (1) is rooted in a number of inalterable and non-negotiable basic premises and demands, and (2) is to be achieved only to the extent that these fundamental precepts are being honoured in human interaction. While it is true that feasible liberty depends on the presence of certain indispensable conditions, the latter represent nonetheless a set of features that are relational to one another, being subject to mutual trade-offs rather than absolute, complete and immutable in their meaning and implications. Within the set of robust conditions of liberty, we address different subsets and seek different relative weightings of the relevant conditions depending on (1) the specific nature of an issue, and (2) the outcomes of our political handling of them. For instance: on introducing minimum wages, we witness a stronger weighting of political freedom vis-à-vis contractual freedom. The supporters of national minimum wage laws having prevailed in the process of political legitimisation, are entitled to override certain aspects that otherwise would be protected under contractual freedom. In a different context, say, the question of using employer resources to express one’s political preferences, there tends to be a stronger weighting of contractual freedom than political freedom, i.e. the wish of the employer not to be forced to support with his company's resources (other than indirectly by wage payments) an employee's political activism is generally protected by contractual freedom and unenforceable by appeal to political freedom. The set of robust conditions of freedom is constantly reshuffled, whereby its elements assume different relations and proportions vis-à-vis one another, depending on the issue at hand, as well as the political acumen and dexterity of the negotiating parties. The dynamism and negotiability of the permutations formed by the indispensable conditions of freedom is not recognised in classical liberalism. Hence a large number of policies and significant social developments based on internal trade-offs among robust conditions of freedom are perceived by classical liberals as violations of freedom. The fact that we still enjoy high levels of freedom in societies permeated by such violations (from a classical liberal perspective) speaks to the resilience of freedom in the face of changing permutations of relative weightings among her robust conditions. Mechanisms That Aren’t Mechanisms – But Politically Induced Outcomes The most seminal shared heritage in classical liberal thought over a period of 300 years has a modern name: spontaneous order. From John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith to Friedrich Hayek, the belief that order can be achieved in human society by observance of appropriate rules rather than by authoritarian fiat is the differentia specifica of the classical liberal vision of “the good society.” This vision gives rise to an entirely new paradigm of the ideal society. If by following the correct set of generally applicable rules we can ensure a better outcome for all members of society than by bowing down to the edicts and whims of a ruler or a ruling elite, we are faced with an entirely new model of society, one in which there is a standard by which to rationally criticise and limit the discretion of authorities; one in which, every person matters, for she is a welcome and integral part of a community whose collective compliance with rules of a certain nature produces a better world. This is tantamount to an enormous upgrading of the individual and her emancipation in a number of important aspects, not the least of which being her right to take part in the ruling of society. The individual becomes a player in a game whose outcome is freedom. She is tied to the game through rights, individual rights. How exactly the individual is related to her rights proves contentious and decisive concerning the view one holds of liberty. Monadic "Freedom" Versus Relational Freedom In using subsequently the term monadic, I mean: "relating to the individual alone," as opposed to "relational, i.e. regarding the relationship between two or more individuals." In their monadic construal, rights defining liberty are absolute and inhere solely in the individual. That is, by virtue of vesting a right in the individual, it can no longer change or loose its meaning simply owing to an alteration in the relationship of that individual with other individuals. Thus, if the individual has an absolute right to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit, where you may read more about the struggle for parliamentarian transparency. What appear to be welcome and promising developments in Tunisia have been drawn to my attention by the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace prize. An event that should remind us of the need to keep the political process and the debate within our constitutional framework vibrant in our own countries. Nothing produces peace better than a domestic constitutional process in which elected representatives of stakeholders negotiate patiently to reach consensus. Read more on the Tunisian accomplishment at the source. For the announcement of the prize click here. See also A Civilizational Crisis. Related articles Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Reading Hoppe's below paper on the correct anarcho-capitalist approach to immigration leaves me with a sense of duplicity, as if the author was alternately swimming in two different rivers (of explanation), one of which being particularly muddy. At the bottom of the post, find a short summary of my findings. The Argument In his paper "The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration," Hans-Hermann Hoppe promises to demonstrate that free trade and restricted immigration are not only perfectly consistent but even mutually reinforcing policies. (p. 221) In his view, free trade and free immigration are not analogous, since (a) goods and services require a prior voluntary invitation under free trade, while (b) ... free in conjunction with immigration does not mean immigration by invitation of individual households and firms, but unwanted invasion or forced integration ... (p. 226) Thus: ... in advocating free trade and restricted immigration, one follows the same principle: requiring an invitation for people as for goods and services. (p. 227) Hoppe concludes: ... population movements, unlike product shipments, are not per se mutually beneficial events because they are not always—necessarily and invariably—the result of an agreement between a specific receiver and sender. There can be shipments (immigrants) without willing domestic recipients. In this case, immigrants are foreign invaders, and immigration represents an act of invasion. Surely, a government’s basic protective function includes the prevention of foreign invasions and the expulsion of foreign invaders. Just as surely then, in order to do so and subject immigrants to the same requirement as imports (of having been invited by domestic residents), this government cannot rightfully allow the kind of free immigration advocated by most free traders. (p. 227) It is interesting that Hoppe seems to be adopting a minarchist rather than an anarcho-capitalist position in that he assigns government "a basic protective function" and the ability to act "rightfully," and identifies its primary function as protector of its citizens and their domestic property." (pp.227/228) Like Caplan, here and here, he seems happy to draw on governmental resources in order to have his preferred policy enforced. Is immigration turning anti-statists into friends of government? Be this as it may, Hoppe insists: The guiding principle of a high-wage-area country’s immigration policy follows from the insight that immigration, to be free in the same sense as trade is free, must be invited immigration. (p. 228) Next, Hoppe seems to get into a bit of a muddle. He refers to the "anarcho-capitalist model" to make the central point of his preferred immigration policy, putting it like this: As every product movement reflects an underlying agreement between sender and receiver, so all movements of immigrants into and within an anarcho-capitalist society are the result of an agreement between the immigrant and one or a series of receiving domestic property owners. (p. 229) But then he adds: ... if for realism’s sake the existence of a government and of “public” (in addition to private) goods and property is assumed—it [his anarcho-capitalist (ac) model, G.T.] brings into clear relief what a government’s immigration policy would have to be ... (p.229) Let me try to summarise: the ac-solution may be unrealistic, concedes Hoppe, while in a world that is more realistic because it contains the institution of government, the latter ought to pursue a policy that is unrealistic under ideal conditions, which are of the ac-type. I feel a little confused. Hoppe continues to argue that any one who intends to sojourn in a free country must be invited to do so by a property owner with citizen status, who assumes responsibility for the visitor much as a parent or grown up does for a a minor. In addition, an invitee under such tutelage may eventually become a citizen of the country by acquiring property. This being a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one, as citizenship may require that the sale of residential property to foreigners be ratified by a majority of or even all directly affected local property owners. (p.233) A remarkable option as it embraces collective decision-making with the attendant politics and thus admits lots of inroads into the private property regime which otherwise Hoppe portrays as unaffected by arrangements of a non-trading variety. An Assessment In fact, Hoppe is characteristically ambiguous in this paper: he has doubts as to the feasibility of his policy under anarcho-capitalist auspices, yet demands its realisation by the very state whose total denunciation is the main tenet of anarcho-capitalism. He admits forms of collective deliberation and political (as opposed to market-based) decision-making (for the purpose of determining entitlement to sojourning and naturalisation) that anarcho-capitalism does not normally condone. At the same time, in a spirit of affirmation, he employs a substantially truncated notion of property (see below), one that is cleansed of the social concessions and provisos that surround private property in real life, contrasting it against conditions of immigration - disliked by him - that are not based on bilateral deals between private citizen and immigrant. However, no allowance is made as to the fact that making visits by and naturalisation of foreigners depend on individual initiative and judgement (by an established citizen) alone is highly inefficient - and contradicts his incongruous admission of collective arbitration (see last quote above). Now, would I want to visit such a country or conduct business with its citizens? Not unless I had pressing grounds. The country in question seems to expose itself to a considerable competitive disadvantage. Who decides what kind of property and how much of it one needs to acquire so as to qualify for citizenship? Who is supposed to ratify the Hoppean rules for visitors and new citizens. Who is assigned the duty of policing these rules? How do we deal with citizen-property owners, who deviate from the rules? What will happen in the absence of collective means of legislating and policing a society free from "forced integration and foreign invaders." (p. 231) We encounter the recurrent petitio principii - pretending to have explained... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am not always particularly conscious of a logical link between the images at the top of my posts and the written content underneath them, though mostly, I think, I would be able to explain some sort of association. The present picture has been chosen as an allusion to the wishful thinking underlying Bryan Caplan's immigration policy proposals. Once one assumes a certain depth of conviction, the belief system one subscribes to tends to develop a logic with its own dynamic. For instance: if you believe in advantageous spontaneous processes firmly enough, it might appear perfectly reasonable that immigration can be turned into a spontaneous order, upon which exhilarating prospect one may develop a selective fervour in search of data and theories that confirm the vision so beautifully in sync with one's dearest presumptions. I suspect, this is the psychological backdrop to Bryan Caplan's wishful thinking on immigration, in which regard it is indeed of a libertarian nature -, being, at the same time, not philosophically, but practically almost identical with Angela Merkel's recent political whim to declare Germany and Europe an area of open borders - err, to Syrians, err to who exactly is not really clear. Like Caplan, she proposes a general invitation, only to be qualified, when reality replaces rhetoric, by a mess of arbitrary ad hoc conditions. The Indeterminacy of Immigration In a recent post, I maintain that Bryan Caplan's libertarian take on immigration is flawed. In the meantime, I have had second thoughts as to whether it is accurate to describe Caplan's policy proposal as libertarian at all. My doubts are of a duplex nature: first, Caplan does not seem to derive his position from libertarian principles. Rather, his stance is based on a wish, namely that unconditionally open borders ought to be recognised as (1) a moral necessity, and (2) a doable way of alleviating world misery superior in its outcomes both for the guests and hosts to any other outcome. In explaining his "solution," Caplan is strangely confident in the well-functioning and benignity of the state. Suddenly, the state is unproblematic in that host countries are not inhibited in their immigration-qua-deliverance by government-induced deficiencies that might frustrate the absorption of unlimited numbers of immigrant. Suddenly, Caplan happily relies on government as it is to provide the kind of environment in which it is possible to easily cope with the migration of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions of immigrants. While in all other respects the government is held to be a botcher of catastrophic import. Suddenly, to top it all, he insists that should problems occur - a state of affairs which Caplan precludes, but toys with in a thought-experiment intended to assuage his critics - we have a state at our disposal that can be used to add any number of ad-hoc laws and policies capable of amending what difficulties may emerge. In a word: Caplan relies on an enormous amount of confidence in the governmental status quo to be able to carry out his vision of immigration. In this sense, his proposal is hardly congenial to the libertarian or minarchist ethos, but rather of pronounced leftist pedigree - à la: since I have a good idea - which, I am sure, makes me morally superior to my opponents, - my proposition must be feasible, into the bargain. There Is No Such Thing as a Uniquely Valid Libertarian Position on Immigration These sceptical observations inspired in me another doubt: namely, that there cannot be any such thing as THE LIBERTARIAN POSITION on immigration. Why not? Consider this historic scene - borrowed from Borjas: US president Carter and Dengxiao Ping meet in the oval office - a great act of rapprochement between the US and communist China. Carter comes in heavily laden with folders documenting anti-humanitarian cases detected in China. The American president loses no time to explain his Chinese counterpart that China must not keep its population as if in a prison, and should rather open its borders, so that those unhappy with the bad state of human rights in China are free to leave the country and come to the US. Upon this reproach, Dengxiao Ping turns pensive for a while, before suddenly a smile appears on his face, and he replies: "You are right, absolutely right, Mister President. Just tell me, how many Chinese do you plan to welcome to your country? 20 million? 50 million? 200 million? We shall be happy to oblige." And that is not even considering billions of other people living in countries with a gruesome human rights record. Little wonder, Carter quickly changed the subject. To cut a long story short: the issue is how many people is a host nation willing to and capable of absorbing, and which people are to be invited? And what is easily overlooked: whatever decision is taken, inumerous ramifications and consequences are making themselves felt as soon At this point, it transpires that there cannot be any such thing as THE LIBERTARIAN POSITION - as no one is able to provide us with a set of libertarian premisses that deliver a unique answer to these questions: how many people, and who to include and who not to include, subject to which conditions. If there is not a unique libertarian answer to the question of immigration, then neither - by implication is there a state of liberty uniquely corresponding with THE right immigration policy. This holds true when we go on to admit any doctrine that claims to represent the requirements of freedom. Careful, this is not tantamount to saying that all immigration policies are equally good. What I am saying is that there cannot be any such thing as an immigration policy uniquely determined as right and indispensable in terms of this or that doctrine outlining the needs of a free society. Freedom is more about the way in which we ought to play the game of political dissent so as to ensure we cope with the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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The various "branches of government have their roles, but it's time to give us some of our government back, to embrace our heritage, and to breath life back into our constitutional system," thus argues Mark Levin, whose book "The Liberty Amendments" Ed Stevens has recommended to me to better understand the LR 35 initiative. It seems to me an exceedingly commendable initiative, for nothing is more important than keeping the public aware of and actively participating in the constitutional framework of American politics. You may disagree with Levin on this or that issue, or not; in any case, the initiative offers an excellent opportunity to compete politically in the context of a set of needful and constructive categories such as living federalism and true subsidiarity. And it is recognised across party lines that we need to engage in a discussion that restores the respect for the fundamental principles of a constitutional republic: Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. It would seem to me that there is a difference between a well thought-through, responsible immigration and refugee policy and the wilful, wantonly negligent importation of a civilizational crisis. Reports Steve Kates on Europe an the influx of refugees, THE European Union has lost control of its borders and risks total collapse if they are not sealed, a senior Brussels diplomat has warned. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, warned the EU was now facing a “critical point” and that the migrant crisis hadn’t even reached its peak. As he chaired an emergency meeting of EU leaders in Brussels last night Mr Tusk painted a bleak picture of the EU’s future, saying the 28-member bloc was on the verge of breakdown with “recriminations and misunderstanding” pitting nations against one another. The future of free movement was at stake, he said, as the continent had lost control of its borders as well as a “sense of order”. He added: “The most urgent question we should ask ourselves…is how to regain control of our external borders. “Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to even speak about common migration policy.” He appeared to lay much of the blame with Germany, accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of exacerbating the problem by sending the signal to desperate Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland that Germany had no limit on the number of migrants it would accept. The source. Another Canadian offers this take on Angela Merkel's position concerning the refugee issue: The source. See also A Civilizational Crisis, Immigration and Freedom (5/10) - Caplan's Libertarian Case for Open Borders, Immigration and Freedom (4/10) - Violence and Political Collapse Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Fish derive many benefits from shoaling behaviour including defence against predators (through better predator detection and by diluting the chance of individual capture), enhanced foraging success, and higher success in finding a mate. It is also likely that fish benefit from shoal membership through increased hydrodynamic efficiency. More. I am working on a presentation about "The Paradox of Freedom - Hayek and the Crisis of (Classical) Liberalism." Spontaneous Order - The Core Concept of Classical Liberalism In designing the introductory slides, I wish to convince my audience that spontaneous order is THE PIVOTAL CONCEPT that gives cohesion to classical liberalism over a period of 300 years from John Locke to perhaps the last of the Mohicans, F.A. Hayek (1899 - 1992). To be sure, the term spontaneous order comes into play at a late stage - I understand it was Michael Polanyi (1891 - 1976) who coined the term perhaps sometime during the first half of the 20th century. The new expression was eagerly taken up by F.A. Hayek, whose work is nowadays generally associated with the concept. Spontaneous order means order that comes about by the observance of evolutionarily selected rules. Well, that is not entirely correct as (some of) the rules - whose abidance engenders spontaneous order - may be consciously chosen - as an act of imitation or insight into the working of a certain spontaneous order - for instance, the Prussian ruling elite copied British capitalism, and Ludwig Ehrhard set the course for West German post-war success in using his understanding of the capitalist spontaneous order. Here we are touching upon the complicated relationship between spontaneous order and conscious design, which has been unsatisfactorily accounted for by Hayek, and tends to be the weak point in classical liberalism, as we shall show in the sequel to this post. The hallmark of a spontaneous order, however, is that it cannot be achieved in its essential entirety by conscious design. In other words, it is not possible to consciously choose all of the rules that govern it, in contrast to a mechanism that is fully determined by human design. To be more precise, what I mean by "its entirety" is: spontaneous order evolves without a designer responsible for its essential features, and by playing according to its rules we keep initiating the constantly evolving stages of a spontaneous order. It may be possible to copy the rules of a well-tried spontaneous order (as Ludwig Ehrhard did) or even kick-off a spontaneous order (as a gardener does), but the overall working and outcome of this order is not under the full control of the initiator. Ehrhard could not possibly predict the future detailed performance of post-war capitalism in Germany, and the gardener is surprised by the way "his" garden develops, and how it reacts idiosyncratically to foreseen and unforeseen events, not to mention the fact that the growth of the plants is itself an emergent phenomenon rather than a form of conscious construction by a human author. A spontaneous order consists of the orderly interaction of its elements which may be animate or inanimate and therefore do not have to be aware of their complying with the order's rules. For instance, the genesis of the universe may be described as a spontaneous order. A School of Fish A school of fish is an example of spontaneous order. The school's orderly behaviour is not the result of an orchestrating mind. There is no such thing as a boss-fish who anticipates a strategy and directs the rest of the school to follow suite. The order is entirely due to all members of the school honouring certain rules - which ability evidently is part of their instinctual make up. They react to certain stimuli in ways that can be described in terms of rules. It is this rule-following that makes them bring about order as a school. The crucial point is that human interaction can also be of the type of spontaneous order - and that is a good thing, because spontaneous order can achieve far higher levels of complexity (as in the interactions of a modern economy) than man-made order, and thus accomplish feats that humans depending on their talents for design are incapable of. Why? Because the number, kind and range of experiments taking place in the universe, part of which we are, is unlimited or at least considerably larger than any creative attempts attainable by human imagination and experimentation/corroboration. To the extent that our knowledge is imperfect and limited, we are always unaware of countless options that only continued evolution will bring to the fore. Locke - Hume - Smith - Hayek - The Arc of Unity Hume I contend that all great classical liberals believed in spontaneous order, certainly David Hume, the co-inventor of the evolutionary paradigm (together with other classically liberal proto-social-scientists and other "Darwinians before Darwin"). There are good grounds to think that Darwin was inspired by writers like Hume and Smith, coming up 150 years later with the application of evolutionary concepts pioneered in the study of human social phenomena like language, law, morality, money etc by classically liberal thinkers. Smith In Adam Smith, the idea of spontaneous order is epitomised by his famous notion of the invisible hand. We pursue our self-interest (following the laws of our nature) respecting certain commonly applicable rules and thereby create a beneficial order, of which none of us is the author. An order that allows us to serve the needs of (largely anonymous) others by observing our own needs. Locke And even John Locke, the originator of classical liberalism, though hardly acquainted with modern evolutionary thought, did surely think in terms of spontaneous order, as implied in the scholastic natural law tradition to which he adhered: the compliance with natural laws makes for a good order, in fact, an order pleasing to God, as these laws express the will of God. There is a human nature that conforms with the will of God, and he who... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic