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Image credit. Continued from Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (3/4) Modular Man Civil Society is populated by modular man. He is a creature that constantly changes himself by his own discretion, adding and subtracting modules to his mode of sustenance, relationships and affiliations, beliefs, station in life and society, and thus ultimately his identity. Contrast this with a society, where a person's occupation is fixed and other-directed, where her relationships and affiliations are defined by kin and tradition, and where her beliefs are assigned to her heteronomously (i.e. under the domination of an outside authority), to be resorted to as an arsenal of non-optional signals serving to authenticate her subservient membership in a community. Explains Gellner: Non-modularity obviates the possibility of choosing techniques simply in terms of clearly defined criteria of efficiency, and of nothing else. Instead it imposes the need to judge practices, if indeed they are to be subject to critical scrutiny at all, in terms of the multiple, imponderable, complex considerations of their participation in an indivisible, 'organic', cultural totality. (Ibid. p. 99) By contrast: Modular man is capable of combining into effective associations and institutions, without these being total, many-stranded, underwritten by ritual and made stable through being linked to a whole inside set of relationships, all of these being tied in with each other and so immobilized. He can combine into specific-purpose, ad hoc, limited association, without binding himself by some blood ritual. He can leave an association when he comes to disagree with its policy, without being open to an accusation of treason. A market society operates not only with changing prices, but also with changing alignments and opinions: there is neither a just price nor a righteous categorization of men, everything can and should change, without in any way violating the moral order. The moral order has not committed itself either to a set of prescribed roles and relations, or to a set of practices. The same goes for knowledge: convictions can change, without any stigma of apostasy. [...] It is this which makes Civil Society: the forging of links which are effective even though they are flexible, specific, instrumental. It does indeed depend on a move from Status to Contract: it means that men honour contracts even when they are not linked to ritualized status and group membership. Society is still a structure, it is not atomized, helpless and supine, and yet the structure is readily adjustable and responds to rational criteria of improvement Modularity of man is the main answer to the question: how can there be [powerful] countervailing institutions and associations which at the same time are not also stifling? (Ibid. p. 102) Consequences of Modularity Modularity means that there is another, a historically new active force involved in defining what is socially valid: the individual and the associations that she forms. Modularity means that there are more peaceful solutions to conflicts, not least because the individual is no longer carrying an entire culture on her back, which is insulted and needs violent retaliation any time a member of that culture feels harassed. Modularity means that there are private ways out of conflict, and be it by seeking environments and personal circumstances that minimise the likelihood of destructive combat. Modularity means that the forces of creativity and intelligent adaptation increase in number to include the majority of people that used to be prevented from a life of initiative and personal striving. Modularity also means that the tools and options available to the creative individual multiply, and with them the hugely pregnant promise of personal freedom and life chances for millions who otherwise would have been excluded from a fuller life or would not even have been born in the premodular world of Malthusian constraints. Unmodular Man Liberalisms - see Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (1/4) - are closer in spirit to Umma than to liberty as she unfolds in a pluralistic open access society. Liberalisms assume a finite and final stock of knowledge concerning the nature and the proper implementation of liberty, subjecting the IS of society to their canonical OUGHT. Unbelievers in the canon of "liberty" are considered not only incompetent to define liberty, but are looked upon as adversaries that should not be given the power to become influential, an attitude that usually finds its expression in the denigration of politics in general and democracy in particular. While liberty is at best a system of (in may ways competing) systems, an open-ended perpetually self-defining process, liberalisms share the idea that liberty is a system - see the Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion and Agonistic Liberalism - The Non-System of Liberty (1/2) and The Idea(s) of Freedom (3/3) - The Mirage of Autonomous Spheres of Freedom - a finite mechanism, impervious to the effects of indeterminate contingencies, that can be fully specified in a manual. Having dominated most of human history, unmodular man does no longer fit into the world of freedom that the inhabitants of Civil Society enjoy. Of all people, nevertheless the proponents of liberalisms seem to seek and embody the obsolete unmodular man. The main point of Durkheimian sociology, and perhaps of the organicist or communalist tradition in social thought generally, is that in most [historical] contexts man is markedly unmodular. He belongs to a given culture and has internalized its values and assumptions: he is like a piece of furniture which is vividly marked by a given style. It is impossible to blend him effectively with men of a different cultural mould. He cannot be bonded into a social organism easily or at will. (Ibid. p. 98) Naturally, votaries of the liberalisms, the various dogmatic ideologies of "freedom," shun politics and denigrate democracy, avoiding the tough environment of open debate that is at the heart of a free society. While they are barricading themselves into their a prioris and necessary truths, I shall continue my quest for the peculiar structure... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Freedom Between Aggravation and Placation (Ernest Gellner) (2/3) The Problem of Violence and Sustenance - Summary of (1/3) and (2/3) In Civil Society, paraphrasing Ernest Gellner, the problem of violence is solved by compartmentalising it, i.e. by taking the coercive instrument out of the hands of the individual subjects that make up the citizenry and placing it in the sole possession of one agent: the state monopolist of power. The problem of sustenance is solved by creating a wide sphere within which competing individuals and their associations are allowed to strive for the realisation of their own ideas and ambitions as to how to make a living. The manner in which the problem of sustenance is solved in Civil Society creates a strong force that countervails the state monopolist of power, which becomes dependent on the wealth creating power of a relatively free economy, and thus faces limits to its ability to interfere with it, while being given incentives to facilitate its functioning. The state relieves the individuals from the need to and the dangers of acting as their own judges, policemen or soldiers. The individuals relieve the state of the burden of procuring sustenance in inefficient ways, that is by robbery, suppression and exploitation on behalf of a predatory elite, or by incompetently micro-managing the process of production. The Problem of Faith Sword and bread having been taken care of, how is man in Civil Society to satisfy his need to know what he cannot know, a fundamental problem of an animal habituated to thinking in the face of a world that cannot be conquered by thought alone. What of the third sphere, ideology? Should it resemble the political sphere in its centralization, or the economic one in its pluralism? Gellner, E. (1994), Conditions of Liberty. Civil Society and its Rivals, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, New York, p. 93) Admittedly, I may be stretching Gellner's answer improperly in interpreting it to suggest that the solution of the problem of faith in Civil Society lies in the production of modularised faiths. This is to be contrasted with Umma, a faith shared by all members of a community and expressed in its laws, a faith that defines social belonging, a faith that restricts personal discretion in the choice of one's place in society, a faith that one is not free to deviate from or even give up altogether on grounds of personal reasoning. Whereas the Umma-type of faith may change only at glacial speed, giving the appearance of perfect constancy to the contemporary observer, modular faith undergoes alteration all the time, being an instrument of adaptation to changing circumstances and changing needs. In Gellner's below statement, I hear echoes of ideas that I have expressed in Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm: [W]hereas a traditional tyrannical order was indeed liable to be based on conviction which was both strong and mistaken, a free order is based in the end not on true and firm conviction, but on doubt, compromise and doublethink. (Ibid. p. 94 - emphasis added, G.T.) Modular faith Gellner seems to be implying that changing and improving standards for the authentication of truth, especially science and its vulgarisation in the form of rationalism, break up the contiguous surface of a common faith into particles that are individually selected and honed, creating modular faiths, pragmatically adjusted by a given person to her needs. Incessantly, society is being sculpted by multiple cross currents of faith. In Civil Society, epistemic authorities such as customs and religion are in decline, or else these sources of intellectual reassurance such as the exact and falsifiable sciences (whose propositions lend themselves to testing and refutation) fail to be pertinent to the contentious issues and the tasks surrounding social order. The enforcement of a religion or any sort of uniform faith has been deleted from the specification sheet defining the tasks of the monopolist of coercion; in fact, the state protects the individual from attempts at subjecting anyone to a faith aspiring to the rank of Umma, and organises well-protected avenues of evergreen dissent (freedom of conscience and expression etc). At the same time, the superior kind of truth available in science is both unstable and largely lacking in any clear social implications. (Ibid., p. 94) What is more, science actually represents a model for creative destruction in the very realm that provides material for cognitive reassurance. The new ideal is conjectural knowledge, knowledge that is constantly in flux, with old elements breaking off and drifting away, while new ones are docking on, perhaps for only a brief spell. If conjectural knowledge is an ideal accepted by relative few specialists concerned with scientific methodology, it is certainly palpable as a strong force in the "lived world" - yet: Its links with the world of daily life, the "lived world", the Lebenswelt, are wobbly. The Lebenswelt now needs to be given a name, precisely because it no longer exhausts the world, it is no longer the world, and can no longer be taken for granted. It is an interim compromise. (Ibid., pp. 94 -95 . emphasis added) In Civil Society, man is confronted with a paradox - the best knowledge available, generated by science and other experimental methods, is unsuited as a uniform basis for social order. Its tentativeness, contestability and competitive multiplicity undermine any hope for a modern Umma, and it keeps bringing about unsettling social change in relentless waves of innovation so powerful as to engulf the entire society, yet Civil Society is predicated on the ongoing production of transformative innovation. The mechanisms underlying that cognitive and technological-economic growth on which modern society depends for its legitimacy, require pluralism among cognitive explorers as well as among producers, and it is consequently incompatible with any imposition of a social consensus. (Ibid. p. 95 - emphasis added, G.T.) The above proposition in bold has great significance for understanding the nature of dissent in... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (1/4) Violence and Sustenance Concerning violence and sustenance, Ernest Gellner summarises: The simplest formula for Civil Society ... is political-coercive centralization with accountability, rotation and fairly low rewards for those manning the political apparatus, and economic pluralism. Maintenance of order is not delegated to sub-units, but concentrated in the hand of one agency or co-ordinated cluster of agencies. The economic pluralism however (reinforced by both the reality and the anticipation of growth) puts limits on political centralism, compelling it to remain within the bounds of its prescribed and restricted role. (Gellner. E. (1994), Conditions of Liberty. Civil Society and Its Rivals, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, NY: New York, p. 93 - emphasis and change of format added, G.T.) Gellner adduces two main factors to explain why economic decentralization ... constitutes a pre-condition of anything resembling a Civil Society. (Ibid. p. 87) He argues that "political-coercive centralization," a concentration of power in the hands of a monopolist of coercion, is indispensable for the functioning of a modern society. This, however, implies that in order for there to be sufficiently powerful countervailing currents vis-à-vis a consolidated power centre, another sphere needs to be established: the field of economic decentralization or in another phrase of Gellner's "economic pluralism," which he defines as: "the existence of genuinely independent productive and property-controlling units in society" (Ibid. p. 88). [...] [Civil Society] can only be plural - and contain countervailing forces and balance mechanisms, which are located in the economic sphere or work by means of economic power - precisely because effective political-coercive centralization is a necessary pre-condition of its functioning; hence there cannot be much balancing in the coercive sphere. (Ibid. p. 87) In traditional societies, the social, the political, and the economic spheres are hardly distinct; to ensure social cohesion and protection against attacks by outsiders, it is necessary to inculcate high degrees of cultural uniformity and to maintain it by invasive rites of intimate affiliation. Independent agency by members of the community is inadmissible, certainly in the form that modern man is accustomed to. As economic and social structures are not separate from political ones, they must have it [the sphere of order maintenance, G.T.] in that joint sphere if they are to have it anywhere. In as far as such political pluralism presupposes eventual or occasional violent conflict, the units which oppose each other and which from time to time enter into conflict must have a hold over the loyalty of their members, sufficient to induce them to fight and to risk loss of life. [...] In modern industrial society, this profound aura attaches only to the total community, the national state, and perhaps to the preservation of its basic political order. It does not attach to sub-units ... A man is not expected to die for his county or borough or his office community. He is not obliged to wear clothes indicating his membership, and he is not even obliged to support the local football team. (Ibid. - emphasis added) In Civil Society, political pluralism in terms of independent or autonomous coercive units is out. Local units simply lack the adequate weight. Liberty, on the other hand, is impossible without pluralism, without a balance of power. As it cannot be political, it must be economic. (Ibid. p. 88 - emphasis added) It is matter of subsidiarity to put coercion in the hands of a suitable specialist rather than duplicating the task innumerably among the citizenry. The centralisation of coercive power is highly efficient in that social energy that would be put to evil or unproductive use when dispersed among the members of society, can flow to the realm of sustenance, where subsidiarity requires competition among sub-units that in pursuing their livelihood are largely independent of the specialists of coercion. Perhaps the biggest challenge in transitioning from a closed access society - where politics is usurped by a small elitist and oppressive coalition of specialists of governance and coercion) to an open access society (i.e. Civil Society) is to find an equilibrium such that power becomes dependent on the wealth provided by economic pluralism and, therefore, tends to protect and expedite the conditions of high-power wealth creation. Thus, Ernest Gellner suggests an interesting hypothesis concerning the division of labour between central bureaucracies and the private economy in Civil Society. Each, agents of the state and agents of the free economy, should be left to pursue those tasks in which they are best at producing desirable results - and ultimately he is saying: the state is (more properly: can be) an efficient administrator of power compared to individuals and private associations that are more capable producers of economic efficiency compared to the state. In this way, Gellner proposes two arguments to explain the essential role of economic pluralism in Civil Society: Firstly, there must be a second power-source next to the state, if sustainable pluralism is to prevail in a free society. Power has a tendency to consolidate; a political authority unchallenged by a counterweight outside of the political sphere is not likely to create and defend an open access society; it is more likely to be exclusive, repressive, and prone to stagnation or violent upheavals, rather than warranting open political competition between members of society from all walks of life. 2. Secondly, it is desirable to avoid a direct coupling of political power with economic agency. That is true for the very reason just presented: an unchallenged power-centre will tend to repel an open process of competition and put the need for power consolidation before any other requirements. By contrast, relatively free economic agents will tend to create (owing to creative and commercial ambition), acquiesce in (owing to a relative lack of power), and observe (owing to state supervision) the prevailing rules of a competitive environment. Free economic agents have the potential to bring about levels of economic attainment that, in turn, make it... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Liberalisms, dogmatic ideology, and the static notion of "freedom" The liberalisms of the libertarian spectrum, i.e. ideological varieties that claim freedom to be their main concern, depart from their purported core value by blanking out one of the most conspicuous hallmarks of liberty: the political emancipation of all adult persons, a fundamental condition of liberty which is tantamount to instituting a permanent open debate on the nature and limits, the costs and the benefits of freedom (and, of course, many other vital issues.) The various liberalisms (mostly sharing the overreaching rationalism found in liberal thinkers from Locke and Kant to Mill) tend to imply a pre-established objective structure of freedom ("freedom as model" or "freedom as blueprint," as I call it in other posts), the correct form of whose components and overall shape being thought amenable to deduction from first principles. In these rationalistic accounts, freedom takes the form of absolute truth. One cannot imagine a more radical deviation from the nature of feasible freedom. Thus, these liberalisms turn freedom on her head, defining unfreedom as a lack of correspondence with their parochial models of freedom, which in fact are inadmissibly static in that they ignore the open-ended process by which feasible freedom is ceaselessly redefined and lived anew by all adult members of society. They simply ignore the practical conditions of liberty, especially her democratic dimension and contingent future. The Role of Politics and the State in the Spontaneous Order of Politics and the State "Conditions of Liberty" is the title of a book written by Ernest Gellner (1925-1995). which I have been recently mining for insights that might help me to make progress on a present research concern of mine: the role of politics and state in the spontaneous order of a free society. The hypothesis that guides my quest is that politics is ubiquitous and absolutely pivotal in a free society, where, indeed, I submit, it is necessarily practised even more extensively than in other societies. If capable of corroboration, my presumption implies that liberal thinking misrepresents liberty in crucial ways. Dissent and Social Cohesion in a Free Society A defining mark of liberty is the enormous political tension that she precipitates by empowering all citizens to participate in the specification and monitoring of governmental competence and power. Clearly, in this respect, liberty is an aggravating force. The question that interests me, then, is how is the high level of political discord that is inevitable in a free society being offset by other features of freedom so that serious disruption is avoided and sufficient social cohesion maintained to warrant the trilateral merits of liberty: peace, productivity, and personal autonomy? At the present stage of my research, I am ultimately concerned with the specific structure of dissent in a free society. How is dissent organised so as to leave room for the unprecedented attainments of liberty? In the above paragraph, I have intimated that the opposite of disruption is social cohesion and explicated the latter as a condition for the hallmark attainments of freedom. What then is social cohesion, and what form may it take in a free society? In this sequel of four consecutive posts, by examining Gellner's "Conditions of Liberty," I hope to address precisely these questions. Freedom Is Civil Society - Coping with Violence, Sustenance, and Faith Society may be conceived of in any number of ways. One approach will fruitfully fix its canvass of society on three poles: violence, sustenance, and faith, three inescapable challenges faced by communities of any size and complexity. The potential for violence is ever present and needs to be dealt with satisfactorily. Human beings need to sustain themselves materially. And men are bound to seek orientation in their environment, human and natural, by certain forms of (leaps of) faith which are inevitable in a universe that leaves us vastly ignorant. How, then, are these elements marshalled and arranged to achieve social cohesion in the naturally disputatious, conflict-seeking community of free people? Continued at Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (2/4), where I examine what Gellner has to say about Violence and Sustenance in Civil Society. Related articles Costs and Benefits of Liberty Immigration and Freedom (1/10) - The Economic Consequences of Immigration - Julian Simon (Part 1) Agonistic Liberalism (1/2) - The Non-System of Liberty Agonistic Liberalism (2/2) - Incommensurables Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (2/4) RedStateEclectic : Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (3/4) Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I like the below thoughts of Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, whose words I reproduce without having had any contact with her about the issue or my intention to publish the excerpt. The Senator responds to a person who asks her to vote according to the will of the people rather than follow her conscience. As for the death penalty, I appreciate the sense that elected officials are not supposed to follow their own conscience, but rather the will of the people. Unfortunately, that sentiment fails to take into consideration two things:1. the difficulty of determining WHAT the will of citizens is, and ; 2. the fact that the American system of government is based on elected representatives not necessarily being direct delegates of their constituents, with specific assignments of votes for every issue, but rather being a "trustee", if you will--elected to make the best choice they can, with the information they have available. In the case of District 32, I received a total of 112 calls and emails from unique citizens IN THE DISTRICT, on the death penalty. 56 of those contacts were FOR repeal, 56 were AGAINST repeal. How should one interpret the "will of the people" then? It's not possible to do a scientifically dependable poll on every issue out there. Legislators try to get a sense of what their constituents want, but ultimately, have to cast the best vote they can--which yes, includes considering their own conscience sometimes. I was honest about my concern with the death penalty and my willingness to see it overturned in a survey that I was asked during the elected. Other than that survey, I had no one ask me about the issue. Finally, I wonder if people really mean it when they say that they don't want senators to follow their own consciences and only "listen to the people." If a poll showed that a majority of the people in Nebraska wanted legalized abortion, for any reason whatsoever, up to the 30th week of pregnancy, should we listen to our conscience, or to the majority? If legislation was introduced which required the euthanasia of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and a majority of those who contacted us was for it, because it would save money on health care expenses, and protect family assets, should we vote in favor of that, or follow our conscience? Would voters prefer that their representatives had no personal convictions or conscience? I suspect not. The source. See also Voices Like That of Senator Ebke,and Living Law -DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Increasingly, I come to hold that a serious concern for liberty will take an eclectic approach rather than rely on adherence to a self-contained ideology. By the latter I mean a vision and attitude (a posture in deliberations) that does not recognise the inevitability, and legitimacy of heterodox partisans, let alone the admissibility of a strong influence or position of power of such partisans within the government structure of a free, an open-access society. When the appreciation of freedom as a central value takes the form of a liberalism, i.e. fortifies itself as an ideological stronghold, we observe the following typical features: Next to an ambition to be able to dominate virtually all issues with a purportedly valid explanation, and the attendant hermetically intolerant posture vis-à-vis other opinions, another distinguishing mark of such ideologies is that they tend to ignore that liberty does not only generate benefits but also produces costs. The acknowledgement that liberty produces benefits as well as costs is not liable to debase the importance of her; to the contrary, it moves freedom away from gray theory and closer to where she belongs: reality. As for the costs of liberty, I have recently scribbled down the below early thoughts: Democracy is an instrument to control the price of freedom. Freedom creates costs. Productive costs and unproductive costs. Usually, the total cost of liberty will consist of both productive and unproductive costs. Democracy can help reduce the contribution of unproductive cost to the total cost of liberty. If political contestability is reduced, unproductive costs are likely to increase. Reduced political contestability (less democracy) enhances the chances of some group(s) to instrumentalise the coercive powers of the state to engage in projects that are desirable to them but generate excessive amounts of unproductive cost. The important thing to note, especially for libertarians, is that in a well working democracy, we may expect to hold down the cost of liberty, especially the unproductive part of it, but we will never be entirely sure in minute detail what the productive and unproductive costs are and how large their share is. In fact, costs and benefits are categories subject to differential perception and weighing, so there will always remain a residual of costs that are real to some of us and imaginary to others. It is quite possible that some of the items that make up the cost of liberty are more expensive than they would be under unfreedom. A recurrent source of high costs of liberty is apt to be found in the intense political experimentation that is a consequence of the accessibility of political power to a wide range of aspirants from all walks of life whose open competition determines the transient personnel and stages of governmental dominance in society, instead of the commanding heights being enduringly usurped by an entrenched elite. But comparative studies do seem to underscore quite impressively that free societies protected by vibrant democracy (mass political participation) tend to be considerably less burdened with the costs of maintaining the incumbent order than systems that curtail pluralism and open political competition. Why? Firstly, (1) free societies are more productive owing to the availability of more wide ranging options for acting out personal autonomy and initiative, and secondly, (2) they afford better opportunities to resist systematic abuse. Combining (1) and (2), in civil society, much that would be attempted under the aegis of the state is filtered out or accomplished more efficiently by spontaneous responses among the members of the population. Related articles Immigration and Freedom (1/10) - The Economic Consequences of Immigration - Julian Simon (Part 1) Agonistic Liberalism (1/2) - The Non-System of Liberty Spontaneous Order of Politics and the State (SO2) Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Preface Borjas gives us both (i) a good synopsis of some of the "facts" of immigration that economists ascertain and work with, as well as (ii) valuable insights into the limits of economic analysis. While his account strikes me as honest and helpful, what resonates particularly strongly with me is the extent of ignorance that we face in looking at a phenomenon like immigration - something that comes out more graphically if you actually watch Borjas' lecture which is embedded at the bottom of this post. In the below text, however, I try to distil as much incontrovertible information as possible. Even though we know so little for sure, "everyone" takes her position in the matter as if knowledge problems were trivial. What this suggests to me is the importance of the institutions of freedom in enabling a peaceful and socially non-disruptive debate and policy making process among uninformed and highly antagonistic members of society. I do not think we can account for such relatively civilised conflict resolution without a theory of how political action triggers not only primary effects - its intended procedures and aims - but also secondary effects that operate behind our backs as if moved by an invisible hand - the invisible hand of politics and the state. This is ultimately, what I am striving for in looking at immigration: to better understand the part played by the invisible hand of politics. I hasten to add that I do not expect to find a self-controlling mechanism, but an order partly grown and partly designed where spontaneous processes amalgamate intricately with planned measures. Let us now turn to some economic insights pertaining to immigration in the US: Summary of Borjas' Lecture Borjas' lecture starts at around time-mark 05:00 (see the embedded video at the bottom of the post). The two core issues of immigration in Borjas view: Time mark 07--30: How many immigrants is a host country willing to admit? (Numerical limit) 08--30: Which immigrants to you want to let in - there are billions to choose from? (Allocation system for limited number of visas) 09--00: These two core issues have never been addressed, at least since 1990. 09--15: The lecture is about looking at answers to these fundamental questions which one may garner from economic theory and empirical research, answers that we may hope allow us to replace sentiment and passion with fact-based rational insight. 10--00: 13,5% of US population was foreign born in 2010, quite in sync with similar percentages in other countries of the industrialised world. 11--45: Two peaks of US legal immigration (by decade), one around 1900, the other around 2000. 11--56: Today, roughly 1 million people entering illegally per year. 12--10: Four historical stages of US immigration policy: Before 1875 - no restrictions 1875-1924 - defined "excludables," comprising Asians, public charges etc. 1924-1965 - national origins quotas (first time application of a numerical limit & allocation by extant proportions of national extraction (if 5% of US pop. Italians, then future eligibles again 5% Italians) Since 1965 - family preference system (in the spirit of the civil rights movement - allocation privileging people with family connections in the US) 15--30: Contemporary classes of admission (2001 - 2010): Legal immigrants (total) - 10.5 Mio., of which Family-preference - 6.8 Mio. Employment-based - 1.6 Mio (including dependants) Refugees/asylees - 1.3 Mio Lottery winners - 453 thousand 17--40: Illegal Immigrants (25% in California, 60% Mexicans) 2000 - 8.5 Mio. 2005 - 10.5 Mio. 2007 - 11.8 Mio. 2008 - 11.6 Mio. 2010 - 10.8 Mio 2011 - 11.5 Mio. There is a big debate about these figures that underlines the enormous number of uncertainties lurking behind the picture we try to draw of immigration reality. Even where data ("facts") are available, they often do not easily make for a consensus on the facts. That is before we turn to issues related to subjective perceptions and convictions. 20--50: Why we have an immigration debate in the US - zero sum assumption of economic impact. Percentage wage gap between immigrants and native men (age-adjusted) declining from 1960 - + 5% 1970 - +- 0% 1989 - - 12% 1990 - -14% 2000 - -18%, to 2010 - -22% 21--10: Borjas: "The fact that there has been a decline in economic performance of immigrants ... really underlies most of the questions at the core what we care about politically." 22--50: Who are the immigrants? What does economics tell us about the reasons why only relatively few immigrate (10% of all Mexicans), while the majority do not emigrate, even in the face of free movement, as in the case of Puerto Rico? 24---00: Countries with a narrow range of income distribution, like Sweden, the highly skilled have a strong incentive to emigrate, as the returns to skills are relatively low (a doctor not making much more than a bus driver); whereas with a wide distribution of income (the rich being very rich and poor very poor - and high returns to skills), the low-skilled have strong motives to emigrate, as they stand to make palpable gains in income. 25--00: Immigrants from countries with a narrow income distribution (such as Sweden) tend to perform economically much better in the US than those from countries with a high Gini coefficient (indicator of income inequality). 25--38: Another strong correlation (between economic performance of immigrants and GDP of the source country) confirms: "Clearly, people who come from wealthier countries have skills that ... tend to be more easily transferable to the US." 26--12: Do immigrants alter the employment opportunities of natives? Talking at a time when strongly limited and discriminatory immigration policy was not contested politically, Paul Samuelson argued in 1964 - just before the 1965 change in US immigration policy: "By keeping labour supply, down, [severely restrictive] immigration policy tends to keep wages high." 28--00: Yet again (as mentioned at 17--40), it turns out incredibly difficult to corroborate the facts (?) that seem so suggestive when applying straightforward supply-and-demand analysis. One... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Freedom and Immigration (2/10) - The Economic Consequences of Immigration - Julian Simon (Part 1) 6. Effect on Natives' Human Capital Utilisation Do immigrants make natives and the economy as a whole more productive or less so? Though the direct effect on industrial productivity is hard to nail down statistically, in the long run the beneficial impact upon industrial efficiency of additional immigrant workers and consumers is likely to dwarf all other effects. (The Economic Consequences of Immigration, p. 370) On the positive side, Simon notes working at the forefront of world technique. American citizens benefit along with others from contributions to world productivity, in, say, genetic engineering that immigrants would not be able to accomplish in their home countries. [...T]here are more persons who will think up productivity-enhancing ideas. Other increases in productivity due to a larger population [...] come from increased production through learning-by-doing, together with other gains from larger industry scale. Also, increasing the number of customers and workers increases investment, which brings more new technology into use, due to immigrants swelling the population. (Ibid.) On the negative side, Simon points to the trade-off between skill levels of immigrants that produce gains from positive comparative advantage (a less skilled assistant may improve the overall productivity of a specialist), and those that drag down the skill level in the receiving country: [I]f there is a huge flood of immigrants from Backwardia to Richonia, Richonia will become economically similar to Backwardia, with loss to Richonians and little gain to immigrants from Backwardia. (Ibid.) 7. Effects on Natural Resources and Environment Simon reasserts his thesis spelled out in the Ultimate Resource: Additional people do increase resource demand and prices in the short run. But in the longer run, when the system has had a chance to find new sources and substitutes, the result is that resources are typically more available and cheaper than if the temporary shortages had never arisen. (Ibid., p. 371 - emphasis added) 8. Aggregate Effects When looked at by natives as an investment, similar to such social capital as dams and roads, an immigrant family is an excellent investment worth somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 to natives, even calculated with relatively high rates for the social cost of capital. (ibid. and here) 9. Labour Market Effects No study has found across-the-board unemployment caused by immigrants [...] And effects on particular groups are surprisingly small or non-existent, even groups (such as blacks and women in California) seemingly at special risk from Mexican immigrants. In short, immigrants not only take jobs, they make jobs. They create new jobs indirectly with their spending. They also create new jobs directly with the businesses they are more likely than natives to start. (Ibid. p. 372) 10. Income Distribution Simon maintains, there is no evidence that immigration widens the income distribution in the US. 11. Illegals While Simon does see problems related to the influx of illegals, economically speaking he notes, representing lower-than-average amounts of human capital, [...] they increase the competition that native unskilled workers face. But the damage to the latter group is far less than is popularly imagined; and the overall effect of the illegals is positive in every manner of influence examined here. [I]mmigrants use very small amounts of public services [...] both because of their favorable age distribution and because they are afraid of apprehension if they attempt to obtain services. At the same time they pay income and Social Security taxes many times the cost of the services that they use. (Ibid. p.373) 12. Policy Recommendation Popular misgivings concerning overloading the welfare system and creating deleterious labour market effects are exaggerated, and, indeed, non-existent or - when occurring in selected areas - overall insignificant, according to Simon. He considers inundation by mass immigration unlikely, and the assessment of its putative impact hard to anticipate with any precision and certainty: Taking immigrants in at a rate equal to, or even far above, our present admission rate improves our average standard of living, on balance. [...] Rather than being a matter of charity, we can expect our incomes to be higher rather than lower in future years if we take in more immigrants. Therefore, increasing the total immigration quota is recommended. (Ibid. 373) He explains further: Therefore, a policy which is both prudent and also consistent with these observations would be to increase immigration quotas in a series of increments of significant size - perhaps half a percent, or one percent, of total population at each step - to check on any unexpected negative consequences, and to determine whether demand for admission ever exceeds the supply of places. (Ibid. p. 376) His ultimate conclusions leave me somewhat uncertain as to the scheme he is actually proposing, as he concedes that mass immigration may alter the positive picture drawn by him disadvantageously, yet he recommends large increases in admission quotas, and then again seems to hedge his position by recommending a system that favours relatively wealthy and highly-skilled applicants: If a country is to ration by the amount of human and financial capital that the potential immigrants will bring to invest, why not go even further and simply auction off the right to immigrate, with the proceeds of the auction going to the public coffers? [...] The key to the efficiency of an auction system is that individuals are likely to assess their own economic capacities better than can an arbitrary point system; the latter process does not take into account many of the most important characteristics because they are not identifiable with demographic criteria. Those persons who will stake their own money upon correct identification of such capacities are ipso facto the best possible bets to be high economic producers in the US. Recommendation: Adopt an auction plan.(Ibid. p. 363) At any rate, the purpose of the first and second part of the present post is to get to know the arguments of the contending schools (here the position taken by Julian Simon) and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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I. Why I Am Interested in Immigration Obviously, there are many good reasons to take an interest in the issue of immigration. Presently, I am interested in immigration as an example case allowing me to study the manner in which public discourse and policies in a free society respond to and shape a highly conflictual issue. Among the criteria by which we identify freedom one that captures the farthest range of consent within and beyond the circle of liberalisms and their derivatives is the idea that free human beings are entitled to express and act upon opposite and conflicting views concerning desirable political outcomes affecting the entire society. From the standpoint of someone investigating the role of freedom in modern life, I feel that far too little attention is being paid to the fact that one polar function of liberty is to tolerate, encourage, and even organise ongoing mass dissent, a discursive process of trial and error and a resultant competition of permanently contestable policies. In fact, mass dissent is one of the most important, if not the most important, guarantor of those robust conditions of freedom that define the difference between a closed access society, in which both the exercise of power and the formation and the policing of permissible views is largely confined to a small hegemonic elite, as opposed to an open access society, where civil society thrives thanks to a high level of autonomy of the individual and the associations that she is allowed to form without permission by society's specialists of governance. A free society is one in which people find themselves empowered to develop very different views of the world and their place in it, while at the same time enjoying the right and being able to draw on an unprecedented range of self-directed options to pursue their specific notions. My thesis is that freedom has evolved to create a balance between centripetal forces of social cohesion (manifested by a resilient web of peace, personal autonomy, and high levels of productivity and wealth) counteracting the centrifugal forces of conflicting multiplicity naturally generated in a civil society and finding expression in a citizenship that is politically involved to an unprecedented degree. Another hypothesis of mine that I wish to look into more carefully asserts that conventional accounts of freedom, especially in the tradition of classical liberalism and its various branches, are not likely to grasp the full picture of freedom's functions in an open access society, as their ideological mission is to advertise the liberal vision as the uniquely preferable variant of the good society rather than relativising the liberal voice as a mere tributary to the open-ended genesis of civil society. The liberal proclivity to underestimate and hence neglect the inseparable connection between pluralism, democracy, and freedom is fuelled by a strong tendency to believe in autonomous spheres of freedom - essentially spheres thought, or hoped to be made, free from the contestation of liberal precepts by opposing political actors -, of which the free market provides the master pattern. In trying to come to grips with immigration, one has got to start somewhere, and it may be just as well to look at its economic consequences. It is moot in this context, and, I admit, perhaps even unfair to Julian Simon, an economist, to wonder why he would confine himself to economics when treating of an issue that is streaked in important ways by non-economic aspects. Perhaps an echo of the libertarian habit of looking for the economic sphere as the master pattern of freedom? II. The Economic Consequences of Immigration The Economic Consequences of Immigration by Julian L. Simon is the last book to be submitted by him before his untimely death in 1998. Below, I shall summarise Julian Simon's findings, whose data sources pertains exclusively to the USA. His account provides an entry into many of the vital issues involved, giving a preliminary structure to what I intend to take a closer look at. At this stage, I will refrain from evaluation. For the time being, I collect impressions of what people seek to know about the subject of immigration and, thus, the kinds of propositions that sustain a lively nationwide contest of pros and cons. Simon's conclusions are presented at the end of the second part of this article. See also Julian Simon's "Ultimate Resource", The Courage to Think, and The Amazing Julian Simon (1937-1998) - (1/3). 11 Findings on Immigration 1. Trade Theory Does Not Apply to Immigration Arguments based on gains from trade as identified by modern trade theory cannot be transferred to immigration. In international trade consumers (in country X, buying at a lower price than domestically possible) and producers (in country Y, selling at a higher price than domestically possible) both enjoy gains. That is due to transferring goods produced in one system with lower relative prices to another with higher relative prices. You cannot usually achieve this effect by transferring people. An Indian taxi driver can offer you a very cheap ride in Calcutta, but she cannot "take that cheap ride with her" by transplanting herself into the structure of relative prices prevailing in Lincoln, Nebraska. Higher wages (consonant with relative prices in Nebraska) benefit the immigrant into Lincoln, but not the local consumers. 2. Size and "Quality" of Immigrant Population By historical standards, the contemporary influx of immigrants into the USA is not exceptional (1901-1910 - 9.6%, 1961.1980 - ca. 2%). In 1910, 14,6% of population foreign-born, 1980 only 6% (1 in 17). Smaller share of foreign-born than Great Britain, Switzerland or France. [I]n contrast to the older US population, immigrants tend to arrive in their 20s and 30s, when they are physically and mentally vigorous, and in the prime of their work lives. Immigrants have about as much eduction as do natives, on average, and this was even true at the turn of the century. [They] are disproportionately professional and technical persons. A great benefit to the US." Simon, J. (1999), The Economic... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Agonistic Liberalism (1/2) - The Non-System of Liberty To Hang Together or Not To Hang Together In order to have a system, things need to hang together. If they do not, you will not possess a system. Incommensurables make things not hang together. Any claim to know the public good depends on the assumption that the public hangs together in a manner that makes its members commonly partake in that good. The approach breaks down, when the members of the community do not hang together in a web of comparable sensitivities enabling them to jointly accept offers of the good. Incommensurables are a threat to any unitary concept of the public, which latter tends to underlie all major ideologies, including liberalism. Incidentally, perhaps, this assumption of the natural cohesion of the populace with respect to being able to commonly partake in an optimal arrangement entitled the public good represents the hidden collectivism of the liberal doctrine. At any rate, in all its variants, liberalism tends toward a unifying, rationalist world view in which the interests of all can be reconciled. John Stuart Mill's posture is a case in point: There cannot, for Mill, be undecidable dilemmas in moral or political life, since that would impeach the ideal of rationality central to classical utilitarianism, and from which, despite his many other revisions of this utilitarian inheritance, he never departed. Gray, John (1995), Isaiah Berlin, p. 61 Note, this shortcoming is not confined to the utilitarian breed of liberalism, it is also found in the traditions deriving from Kant and Locke. The Conundrum of Incommensurables Against this background, Sir Isaiah Berlin radically confronts liberalism with the conundrum of incommensurables, the unconnectedness, the lacunae that divide us, impede communication and put us at loggerheads. His argument rests on three pillars: First, Berlin affirms that, within any morality or code of conduct such as ours, there will arise conflicts among the ultimate values of that morality, which [cannot be resolved on the level of rational discourse]... Within our own liberal morality, for example, liberty and equality, fairness and welfare are recognized as intrinsic goods. Berlin maintains that these goods often collide in practice, that they are inherently rivalrous by nature, and that their conflicts cannot be arbitrated by any overarching standard. Secondly, each of these goods or values is internally complex and inherently pluralistic, containing conflicting elements, some of which are constitutive incommensurables ... Such goods are not harmonious wholes but themselves arenas of conflict and incommensurability. Thirdly, different cultural forms will generate different moralities and values, containing many overlapping features, no doubt, but also specifying different, and incommensurable, excellences, virtues and conceptions of the good. (Ibid., p. 43) This describes the complicated situation that liberty has evolved to come to grips with. While analytically possible, in reality it is not possible to clearly distinguish between liberty-as-aggravator, setting free challenging and dissenting opinion, and liberty-as-peacemaker, mitigating the tendency especially in all-encompassing belief-systems to resolve rivalry by the physical elimination or incapacitation of opponents. Liberty Outside the Purview of Liberalism Liberalism itself assumes the position of a rivalrous alternative vis-à-vis countless conflicting, mutually irreconcilable optional world-views. Liberalism's response to conflict is the same as that from any other system-building ideology: take me wholesale, I am right and good; get rid of competing alternatives, they are wrong and bad. Ultimately, liberalism does not address the stoic mission of liberty - how to make people with incompatible value systems get along with one another. It follows that if we wish to understand liberty, we need to step outside of the purview of liberalism, recognise that liberalism is just one tributary to the intellectual and political competition that makes up a free society. Aporia of the Unprivileged Favourite Berlin is concerned with the aporia that one wants the values of liberalism to succeed in the competition of values, while in a world riddled with incommensurables the values of liberalism can claim no privilege over values favoured by other world-views. In principle, I am less concerned with this question, as I tend to think that robust conditions of freedom provide a resilient platform on the basis of which we are able to figure out which values are to be admitted for the purpose of regulating social interaction, and which are not - while, of course, the working out of concrete solutions will often be difficult, inherently incomplete and leave a residual of inconclusiveness; which is why few people assume the responsibility of becoming politicians and the vast majority prefer - at least by implication - to expect perfection in the politician, whose main job is to deal with urgent issues, most of which, owing to the presence of incommensurables, cannot be resolved in perfect fashion. What I do not find in Berlin is the self-healing aspect of liberty as a balanced play of aggravation and pacification. Berlin seems to be leaving the train, as so many do, at the penultimate station, ending his journey burdened with an inconsolable sense of tragedy, according to which incommensurables make us aliens to one another, imposing on us a fate of alienation that dulls or emboldens us, as the case may be, to pursue acts of the most gruesome inhumanity which reveal the dimension of utter unconnectedness and disregard between human beings. By contrast, notwithstanding deviations from the trend-line, I believe that the natural parallel growth of aggravation-through-liberty and pacification-through-liberty represents a gigantic advance in human civilisation. By being more open to, more admitting of conflict, a free society accommodates experiments and experiences that help us deal with conflict by deflecting and sublimating the intolerably harmful currents of agonistic energy. Deflection and sublimation are strategies of violence reduction and trust building that invite the political theorist to look into areas of "politicking" that are partly removed from the conscious practice of politics. It is the area in which the invisible hand of politics makes those moves that translate our action into beneficial outcomes, "and thus without intending it, without... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. To the extent that I am aware of Sir Isaiah Berlin's academic output, it is hard for me to fathom why he was idolised by a resonant establishment to such an extent as to make him appear to be towering over far greater thinkers. Having said that, there is no doubt, Sir Isaiah Berlin offers messages rich in content and highly pertinent and formative to the philosophy of freedom (thus, the much discussed conceptual pair of negative versus positive freedom is associated with his name - see my Negative Liberty and Positive Liberty (2/2) - A Tug-of-War), some of the best of which I wish to write about in this post. Liberty beyond Rationalist Preconceptions His seems to be a vision of liberty that corresponds in a number of interesting ways with my own: Sir Isaiah's idea of freedom transcends the classical accounts of liberty handed to us by Kant, Locke, Mill or more recent thinkers of liberalism, all of whose reasoning being rooted in some form of rationalist preconception. Berlin rejects, as I have come to do myself, the project whose aspiration it is to erect liberty as a self-contained system, a settled truth, a wisdom received once and for all. Berlin lets enough reality into his theorising to be able to acknowledge that the sum of human imagination, volition and social interaction contains and produces an irreducible pluralism, i.e. fundamental and irreconcilable divergences among human beings - a state of affairs that precludes the harmony and compatibility of interest and views that is required to subsume an entire community under one common concept of the public good. His concept of liberalism, or perhaps better his account of liberty diverges not only from utilitarianism but also from Kantian ethics and from Lockean theories of fundamental rights, in denying that a coherent political morality can be formulated that is expressed in a single principle or an ordered system of principles. Gray, John (1995), Isaiah Berlin, HarperCollins, ( p. 61 - emphasis added) The Stoic Mission of Liberty - A Meta-Scheme to Manage Rival Principles That is not to say that principles do not matter; but they become downright dangerous if they are not worked into a meta-scheme that incorporates rival principles and makes them coexist without cannibalising one another thanks to the jealous energy inhering in their mutually exclusive universal claims. The emphasis that I added to the above quote is on "system." When liberty is construed as a "system," liberalism loses touch with its central ideal, morphing into just another ideology vying for supremacy in the minds of the people. Liberty is fundamentally pluralistic, and characteristically, yet not unconditionally, open-ended as to political perceptions and ideological preferences. She offers a meta-scheme ensuring peaceful coexistence in the form of robust conditions of freedom, which ensure dissension without cannibalisation. The abolition of the welfare state, for instance, may be a demand of liberalism, while at the same time, it may not be a compelling implication of freedom. We may disagree as to the various institutions and practices of the welfare state and in criticising them make reference - with good grounds - to the robust conditions of freedom, but if these latter are kept intact in a welfare state, we cannot claim that all in all liberty is being violated in inordinate measure or even abandoned altogether. We may still be working with principles, with milestones that we are not prepared to remove, other than with the utmost circumspection and against the slackening friction of elaborate procedural inhibitions. First and foremost, these principles of ours are landmarks that delineate a vast playing field in which countless interpretations of a possible free society can be acted out, under the condition that the unresting building stages of a free society are truly open to ongoing revision and do not systematically bar forces from political competition that qualify as non-cannibalising players. Incommensurables and Tolerance For my purposes, what I find particularly valuable in Sir Isaiah Berlin's account of liberty are two aspects: his (1) flair for incommensurables in the way people interpret (a) the world in which they live and (2) the nature of their interrelationships, (for more see Agonistic Liberalism (2/2) - Incommensurables) and his (2) understanding of the need for convictions and mechanisms promoting mutual tolerance which equip us to cope with the inevitable circumstance of having to live with one another in the presence of highly rivalrous, agonistic personal attitudes. When it attempts to establish itself as a system, liberalism becomes part of the problem of dogmatic intolerance. Unlike freedom, which comprises "convictions and mechanisms promoting mutual tolerance," liberalism as a system inevitably tries to crowd out other systems. By the very nature of an all-encompassing, all-purpose system, it is absolutely self-centred and thus ultimately intolerant, and may, indeed, degenerate in ways described in my series Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (3/3) - Catastrophes in the Old World. In fact, it appears that in order to become virulent in reality the vicarious totalitarianism of the radical liberal requires some transformation, a migration into a different ideological environment, as his original conviction prevents him from becoming politically effective. The Dreaded Mark-Down of Liberalism It may be my own, rather than, Berlin's conclusion, though we are close enough to each other in this respect, that by denying liberalism its yearning for being a system, one thereby ascribes to any variant of liberalism only a subordinate role within in the choir of voices that make up the choral singing of a free and therefore pluralistic society. It is this prospect of subordination that makes it so hard for the liberal to give up his passion for system. Renouncing the closure that accompanies the idea of a system eventuates in much dreaded indeterminacy and a smaller, less powerful identity, one full of caveats, one of mere equality or even submission amidst the ado of challenging voices in the choir of freedom. The liberal is no longer admitted as the sole authoritative judge... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. My contention is that we are lacking a theory of the spontaneous order of politics and the state (SO2). This is regrettable because such a theory shows promise to debunk altogether or reasonably attenuate widely held derogatory misconceptions concerning the role of politics and politicians in our free societies. It is also deplorable that Hayek, the great theoretician of self-organising systems, failed to extend the insights of his research into the spontaneous order of markets (SO1) to the area of human political engagement. This could have provided us with an excellent starting point in developing a theory of SO2. After all, Hayek's findings with regard to SO1 yield powerful explanations of how the evolution of social relationships produces extra-somatic auxiliary arrangements (intelligence situated outside the human body which is systematically conducive to human needs) that advance the cognitive capabilities of our species so that we are enabled to better cope with our environment and further our interests and level of comfort. In this post, I shall not explain SO1 beyond insinuating that the concept refers to market-type activities which allow us to generate, disseminate, and productively use information (conveyed in the form of prices) that no human mind or body of rational actors could identify, dispatch, and process with even remotely comparable success. It is all the more surprising that Hayek did not pursue research into the analogous structure of SO1 and SO2. To see the crux of the analogy, let us first briefly consider how SO1 works: Human beings behave in certain predictable ways (largely expressible in terms of specific rules) that create a division of labour amongst them which produces information and preferred economic states of affairs that cannot be brought about in any other way. I cannot "play market" on my own. I need others to play along, according to a set of specific rules. I cannot produce the game's outcome myself, but if I and others play by these specific rules, we engender the outcome, which is a wealthier society. There is no maker of the end result, there are only players, and it is the game played that produces the result. If you look at the comportment of this or that player, not only is it not obvious that he is contributing to a desirable outcome, he may actually be committed to action that is hard for you to fathom or condone, as he may be spending his money in ways you disapprove of or find pointless and so on. Respecting SO2, the situation is similar: as members of a large community, citizens of a nation or inhabitants of a hemisphere, we stumble into and partly recognise and then deliberately apply the advantages of following certain rules of political conduct, thus achieving desirable outcomes that cannot be generated other than by playing a game tied to a set of specific rules. The upshot is a society that condones and mass-produces dissent at the same time that it offers procedures to step down the explosive tension inherent in raw, untransformed diversity. Again: If you look at the comportment of this or that player, not only is it not obvious that he is contributing to a desirable outcome, he may actually be committed to action that is hard for you to fathom or condone, as he may be supporting political groups that you strongly disapprove of. But overall you are moving within an institutional environment that evolved to lower the virulence of or remove altogether circumstances that tend to amplify and trigger the explosive tension inherent in raw, untransformed diversity. Unfortunately, Hayek has ideological reasons to miss the compelling analogy. Though not expressly committed to it, Hayek is effectively wedded to the Lockean idea of autonomous spheres of freedom - for more see my The Idea(s) of Freedom (3/3) - The Mirage of Autonomous Spheres of Freedom -, an attitude probably re-enforced by the experience of the catastrophic effects of massive intervention into the SO of society in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. As against this Hayek emphasises the idealtypal structure of free markets to demonstrate the basic principles and supreme advantageousness of free markets. But he fails to recognise that every economy is a mixed economy and that it is the mixture ratio (between spontaneity and regulation) that is decisive in determining how benign, viable, and efficient a mixed economy is. It is precisely Hayek's disinclination to consider the possibility of a systematically benign role of politics and the state in supporting, in fact, in making possible to begin with, a free society that causes him to overlook the obvious in so far as there is no reason to assume that evolution would drive only one type of spontaneous order, being somehow barred from exerting its effects in the fields of political and governmental institutions and activities. Arguably, in the broadest sense, Hayek does have a theory of spontaneous order pertaining to non-economic spheres. He acknowledges that societies evolve and with them practices and institutions that confer vital advantages on certain groups which make them superior vis-à-vis less well adapted competitors. But he does not offer an account of SO2; he is blocked to take that step as he finds political activism (especially the type insensitive to his standards of liberalism) repulsive - the idea being anathema to him that conscious design, political participation, let alone a highly politicised society constantly interfering with the fabric of social order may actually be a prerequisite of our stage of civilisatory (admittedly, this is not a word of the English language, but I still use it to mean "pertaining to civilisation") advancement and, what is more, the sine qua non of the freest societies we can possibly sustain, at the present stage of human development. Of course, what is positive about politics cannot be reduced to unintended consequences alone; there is any number of reasons to encourage political activism in pluralist democracy under robust conditions of freedom; and a lot that appears incomprehensible, ambivalent or dubious... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. As we have seen in Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (2/3) - The Moral Inversion of Liberalism, Michael Polanyi is saying that from its inception liberalism let two virulent genies out of the bottle. Anti-authoritarian and tolerant of scepticism, it would prove hard to inhibit these two traits of liberalism as they begin to wind their probing way toward nihilism. Nevertheless, in the Anglo-American world, religious freedom (the toleration of distinct creeds) coexisted with continued widespread practice of religion and a vibrant democratic culture, both of which traditions being helpful in shielding long-established moral principles from the morally corrosive effects of relativism or nihilism. Not so in Europe: Both these protective restraints ... were absent in those parts of Europe where liberalism was based on French enlightenment. This movement being anti-religious, it imposed no restraint on sceptical speculations; nor were the standards of morality embodied here in democratic institutions [which keep public debate alive and open, challenging the powers-that-be with defiance and the prospect of political change, G.T.]. When a feudal society, dominated by religious authority, was attacked by a radical scepticism, there emerged a liberalism which was unprotected either by a religious or a civic tradition against destruction by the philosophic scepticism to which it owed its origin. (Polanyi, M. (1998), The Logic of Liberty, Liberty Fund Inc., p. 123) Thus, Universal standards of human behaviour having fallen into philosophic disrepute, various substitutes were put forward in their place. (Ibid. p.123) The first kind of substitute standard comes in the form of a radical hedonism, according to which the creative genius is entitled to act as ... the renewer of all values and therefore to be incommensurable. This claim was to be extended to whole nations; according to it, each nation had its unique set of values which could not be validly criticized in the light of universal reason. A nation's only obligation was, like that of the unique individual, to realize its own powers. In following the call of its destiny, a nation must allow no other nation to stand in its way. If you apply this claim for the supremacy of uniqueness - which we may call Romanticism - to single persons, you arrive at a general hostility to society, as exemplified in the anti-conventional and almost extra-territorial attitude of the Continental bohème. If applied to nations, it results on the contrary in the conception of a unique national destiny which claims the absolute allegiance of all its citizens. The national leader combines the advantages of both. He can stand entranced in the admiration of his own uniqueness, while identifying his personal ambitions with the destiny of the nation lying at his feet. (Ibid. p. 123 - 124) Romanticism's ... counterpart in systematic thought was constructed by the Hegelian dialectic. Hegel took charge of Universal Reason, emaciated to a ghost by the treatment at the hands of Kant, and clad it with the warm flesh of history. Declared incompetent to judge historic action, reason was given the comfortable position of being immanent in history. An ideal situation: "Heads you lose, tails I win." Identified with the stronger battalions, reason became invincible; but unfortunately also redundant. (Ibid. p.124) Marx and Engels arrive at the scene: The next step was therefore quite naturally the complete disestablishment of reason ... The bigger battalions should be recognized as makers of history in their own right, with reason as a mere apologist of the outcome of class conflicts ... [A]s new technical equipment becomes available from time to time, it is necessary to change the order of property in favour of a new class, which is invariably achieved by overthrowing the hitherto favoured class. Socialism, it was said, brings these violent changes to a close by establishing the classless society. Europe becomes inundated with philosophies of violence, and ... the really effective idea of Hitler and Mussolini was their classification of nations into haves and have-nots on the model of Marxian class war. The actions of nations were in this view not determined, nor capable of being judged by right and wrong. [...] Romanticism had been brutalized and brutality romanticized ... The process of replacing moral ideals by philosophically less vulnerable objectives was carried out in all seriousness. [What is going on] is a real substitution of human appetites and human passions for reason and the ideals of man. (Ibid. p. 125) And here is where I disagree with Polanyi, who claims: We can see now how the philosophies which guided these revolutions and destroyed liberty wherever they prevailed, were originally justified by the anti-authoritarian and sceptical formula of liberty. (Ibid. p. 125) Admittedly, it is eerie and truly tragic to see how the liberal impulse has been absorbed into currents that gradually transformed themselves into totalitarian affective patterns and the crude thought that attends them. However, I do not think, Michael Polanyi is right in accusing liberalism of a pathological self-contradiction, whereby its explosive initial twin aspects of anti-authoritarianism (in support of the new natural sciences' struggle against dogmatic authorities), and philosophic doubt (which can hardly be prevented in a world valuing freedom of conscience and expressed thought) were supposedly bound to stoke up the fires of a culture of radical intolerance. After all, in America and England they did not give rise to any such effect. How should it have been possible to arrive at the copious blessings of freedom if men had refrained from letting the genies of anti-authoritarianism and philosophic doubt out of the bottle? Also, it is not clear which alternative formula liberalism should have adopted to avoid its putative authorship of totalitarianism. Polanyi does not propose such a formula. I do not think that a misspecification of the fundamental tenets of liberalism has led to the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century. After all, anti-authoritarianism and philosophic doubt are alive and kicking, whereas totalitarianism is dead. Distressing as the experiences of totalitarianism are, we also have examples of free societies that withstood the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (1/3) - The Seminal Impetus of Liberalism. How was it possible that the liberal impetus of Milton and Locke would be so distorted in Europe as to nourish a "moral inversion" from which eventually issues the totalitarian mindset? And why was the Anglo-American sphere resistant to such "moral inversion?" Explains Michael Polanyi: The argument of doubt put forward by Locke in favour of tolerance says that since it is impossible to demonstrate which religion is true, we should admit them all. This implies that we must not impose beliefs that are not demonstrable. (Ibid. p. 120) When we extend this conclusion to ethical principles: It follows that unless ethical principles can be demonstrated with certainty, we should refrain from imposing them and should tolerate their total denial. But of course, ethical principles cannot be demonstrated: you cannot prove the obligation to tell the truth, to uphold justice and mercy. It would follow therefore that a system of mendacity, lawlessness, and cruelty is to be accepted as an alternative to ethical principles on equal terms. But a society in which unscrupulous propaganda, violence and terror prevail offers no scope for tolerance. Here the inconsistency of a liberalism based on philosophic doubt becomes apparent: freedom of thought is destroyed by the extension of doubt to the field of traditional ideas. (Ibid. p. 120 - emphasis added) When we cannot be sure of the truth of ethical principles and therefore need not heed any, superior strength, ruthlessness and brutality may fill the gap. And surely, this is precisely what happened in the hotbeds of European totalitarianism - Italy, Germany, and Russia. At a time when - with a vengeance - Europe was accepting "a system of mendacity, lawlessness and cruelty as an alternative to ethical principles," how come this transformation, this "moral inversion" would not lay hold of the Anglo-American world? The consummation of this destructive process was prevented in the Anglo-American region by an instinctive reluctance to pursue the accepted philosophic premises to their ultimate conclusions. One way of avoiding this was by pretending that ethical principles could actually be scientifically demonstrated. Locke himself started this train of thought by asserting that good and evil could be identified with pleasure and pain, and suggesting that all ideals of good behaviour are merely maxims of prudence. (Ibid. p. 121) See also: Natural Ends and Prudential Judgement. However, the utilitarian calculus cannot in fact demonstrate our obligations to ideals which demand serious sacrifices from us. A man's sincerity in professing his ideals is to be measured rather by the lack of prudence which he shows in pursuing them. [...] I believe the preservation up to this day of Western Civilization along the lines of the Anglo-American tradition of liberty was due to this speculative restraint ... (Ibid. p. 121) Polanyi believes that two factors of a cultural and historical nature saved liberalism in the Anglo-American world from the "moral inversion" it suffered in Europe: The speculative and practical restraints which saved liberalism from self-destruction in the Anglo- American area were due in the first place to the distinctly religious character of this liberalism. So long as philosophic doubt was applied only in order to secure equal rights to all religions and was prohibited from demanding equal rights also for irreligion, the same restraint would automatically apply in respect to moral beliefs. A scepticism which was kept on short leash for the sake of preserving religious beliefs, would hardly become a menace to fundamental moral principles. (Ibid. p. 122) Furthermore, Polanyi stresses the importance of democratic institutions in avoiding a degenerate turn of liberalism: A second restraint on scepticism ... lay in the establishment of democratic institutions at a time when religious beliefs were still strong. These institutions (for example the American Constitution) gave effect to the moral principles which underlie a free society. The tradition of democracy embodied in these institutions proved strong enough to uphold in practice the moral standards of a free society against any critique which would question their validity. (Ibid. p. 122) See also The Age of Liberalism and especially The Birth of American Freedom - Government and Democrcay. To see what went wrong in Europe read Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (3/3) - Catastrophes in the Old World. Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I have come round to reading at least the conclusion of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms. A Brief Economic History of the World, much praised, even by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who seems delighted to be able to draw (what, I presume, many of us would call) racist conclusions from reading it. See The Great Fiction (2/3). At any rate, I am doing work on immigration at the moment, and found Clark mentioned in a good article on the topic: No Panaceas: Libertarian Challenges to Open Borders. So, I decided to browse A Farewell to Alms and read the short concluding chapter "18: Conclusion: Strange New World." I was surprised and disappointed. The main shortcoming of the chapter is its ill-conceived reliance as the main selling point on certain trite and superficial propositions of happiness research. Quite a let-down for a not so brief "brief economic history of the world". Unfortunately there is little evidence of gains in happiness from gains in income, life expectancy, or health by society as a whole. (Clark, G. (2007), A Farewell to Alms, Princeton University Press, p. 374) But why should we expect evidence to the contrary? After all, there is a finite range of emotional intensity in experiencing inner states that convey happiness or its contrary. The range of emotional intensity is very likely an anthropological constant, which is to say, that Neanderthal man may have felt not much different than you and I upon having his teeth drilled or experiencing delight at the sight of his latest crush. When you come to think of it, we would hardly expect open-ended growth in a person's intensity of experiencing orgasmic bliss as a positive correlate of the steady increase in his income or net worth. Incongruously, Clark prefaces the chapter with a quote from Henry Fielding that appears to be more reflective of my findings: All Nature wears one universal grin. At any rate, Clark goes on to point out that rich interviewees tend to indicate greater happiness than poor ones, but in a footnote he concedes that the amount of variation in reported happiness ... is small, typically less than 5 percent. (Ibid. p. 374) However, Clarke conjectures: Perhaps, we are not designed to be content, but instead to forever compare our lot with that of our competitors, and to be happy only when we do better. (Ibid. p. 376) While I am not sure contentment and happiness make a good synonym, I think, Clark is putting his finger on a crucial point. For I have been arguing for quite some time what makes humans humans and separates them from other animals is their proclivity to adapt to their environment by developing and pursuing new desires. Humans are by definition and biological make-up not content with a situation where this proclivity is frustrated. The propensity to attempt the new (and be unhappy with failure to achieve it) is unlimited in human beings, rather than the ability to feel happy. Envy is a derivative of this more fundamental human drive; while, of course, comparing oneself to others is not necessarily dishonourable, a resentful act or based on a sense of inferiority. We cannot be what we are and we cannot make the best of us without comparing a lot of things with a lot of things, including men with men. For more see my post: Happiness and Freedom. Clark then refers to Robert Frank who argues: [S]ince the gains in happiness from higher income and consumption come only at the expense of the reduced happiness of those who lose out in such status races, much of the energy devoted to achieving higher incomes in any society is socially wasteful. (Ibid.) A false metric that is not even significant is eagerly turned into a self-righteous moral demand, stoking the insatiable greed of the anti-capitalist sentiment: The rich, the winners of the status races, should be heavily taxed to reduce such socially costly activity. (Ibid.) By that reckoning, mankind will never know a farewell to alms - political propagandists and bad economists endeavouring to make sure indigence and beggarliness are as endogenous to our species as is the human grin. However, Clark cautions: But happiness studies so far do not support any such policy conclusion. Greater taxation of the rich might reduce income inequality, but it would not make societies as a whole happier. We lack trustworthy evidence that societies with greater income equality are on average happier. (Ibid. p. 377) Not surprisingly. Related articles Hamlet without the Prince - Of Keynesian Economics Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am reading The Logic of Liberty by Michael Polanyi, which - quite surprisingly to me - turns out to be the source from which Hayek has received some of his best ideas, most notably the concept of spontaneous order. I. Liberty and Contingencies In the present post, however, I wish to dwell on a chapter ("Perils of Inconsistency") in the above book, in which Polanyi casts light on the roots of the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century. It holds another surprise to me, as Polanyi traces a striking linkage between the doctrine of liberty and the totalitarian ideologies of communism, fascism and Nazism. Phrasing can make a big difference. While one could say, as Polanyi does, only with substantial license though, that totalitarianism has its roots in liberalism, it is less misleading to emphasise what he calls "moral inversion", i.e. the process by which certain basic suppositions of the earliest liberals have - thanks to certain peculiarities of European history - become "morally inverted" so as to give rise to the totalitarian mind set. Contrary to Polanyi, I insist that in no way would one be justified in ascribing to liberalism responsibility for the emergence of totalitarianism; but the Polanyian link between the two does tell us something about the contingencies that liberal thought may help trigger. No one has full control over the way in which freedom and her underlying intellectual visions ultimately play out in history. Here is Michael Polanyi's fascinating story. II. The Totalitarian Metamorphosis of the Liberal Impetus Writes Michael Polanyi: Liberalism was motivated, to start with, by detestation of religious fanaticism. It appealed to reason for a cessation of religious strife. This desire to curb religious violence was the prime motif of liberalism both in the Anglo-American and in the Continental area. (Polanyi, M. (1998), The Logic of Liberty, Indianapolis, Liberty Fund Inc, p.116 - emphasis added) However, there appeared momentous differences between the two geo-cultural areas. First, let us look at the Anglo-American sphere: Anglo-American liberalism was first formulated by Milton and Locke. Their argument for freedom of thought was twofold. In its first part (for which we may quote the Areopagitica) freedom from authority is demanded, so that truth may be discovered. The main inspiration of this movement was the struggle of the natural sciences against the authority of Aristotle. Its programme was to let everyone state his beliefs, and to allow people to listen and form their own opinion; the ideas which would prevail in a free and open battle of wits would be as close an approximation to the truth as can be humanly achieved. We may call this the anti-authoritarian formula of liberty. Closely related to it is the second half of the argument for liberty, which is based on philosophic doubt. While its origins go back a long way (right to the philosophers of antiquity) this argument was first formulated as a political doctrine by Locke. It says simply that we can never be so sure of the truth in matters of religion as to warrant the imposition of our views on others. These two pleas for freedom of thought were put forward and were accepted by England at a time when religious beliefs were unshaken and indeed dominant throughout the nation. The new tolerance aimed pre-eminently at the reconciliation of the different denominations in the service of God. Atheists were refused tolerance by Locke, as socially unreliable. (Ibid. p. 117 - emphasis added) The Continental context was rather different: On the Continent , the twofold doctrine of free thought - anti-authoritarianism and philosophic doubt - gained ascendency somewhat later than in England and moved on straightaway to a more extreme position. This was first effectively formulated in the eighteenth century by the philosophy of Enlightenment, which was primarily an attack on religious authority and particularly on the Catholic Church. (Ibid. p. 117 - emphasis added) Michael Polanyi describes his central thesis in this way: I have said that I consider the collapse of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe as the outcome of an internal contradiction in the doctrine of liberty. Wherein lies this inconsistency? Why did it destroy freedom in large parts of Continental Europe, and has not had similar effects so far in the Western or Anglo-American area of our civilization? Ibid. p. 120 Find out about the denouement in the second part: Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (2/3) - The Moral Inversion of Liberalism. Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Negative liberty Among the building blocks of the liberal conception of freedom we find the idea of negative liberty. This notion emphasises that liberty demands the protection of any one agent (individuals and associations created by individuals) against arbitrary interference by any other agent. Negative liberty highlights the role of prohibitions in creating liberty as a bulwark against arbitrariness. In that sense negative liberty may be referred to as freedom from restraints and violence from others. It is based on the expectation that desirable advancement, personal and societal, is best generated within the framework of rights to which its prohibitions refer. Presupposing a fixed set of collectively enforced entitlements - in the form of rights and a license to act in defence of these rights - negative liberty is conservative, defensive, and static in that it recommends by definition the perpetuation of the structure of rights on which it is built, and implies that this structure of rights ensures an optimal modus operandi regarding coercion in society which does not require or provoke alteration. Not all notable liberals subscribe to the idea of negative liberty, among them Kant and Mill, but it is certainly taken to be a fundamental feature of freedom in the eyes of many modern libertarians, including Friedrich Hayek. Positive liberty By contrast, positive freedom conceives of liberty as entitlement and empowerment, emphasising the possibility and the right to overcome actively hindrances to the aims individuals, associations, or a community may wish to arrive at. Positive liberty seeks to support the project of human perfectibility by encouraging efforts at remodelling the apparatus of rights in the light of new and better insights concerning human progress, including insights suggesting differential treatment of diverse members of society . Whereas adepts of negative liberty expect to transcend the status quo from within the given laws, supporters of positive freedom seek progress by transcending the current legal framework. Whereas negative liberty implies that the heeding of generally applicable rules of just conduct ensures the common good and that human potential (ingenuity, entrepreneurship etc.) is most effectively leveraged precisely by faithfulness to these rules, positive liberty implies that human ingenuity, foresight, and other-regarding empathy ought to take the lead in re-engineering the system of laws to expedite new stages of progress. However, the distinction between positive freedom and negative freedom is fraught with problems. If they are to make sense, the concepts must be handled with great analytical care. After all, it is possible to express negative liberty in terms of positive liberty, and vice versa. Negative liberty may express the core of freedom as freedom from arbitrariness. That is to say: enjoying a state of being protected against arbitrariness. However, the same condition can be described in terms of positive freedom, namely as the freedom to actively oppose arbitrary abuse. That is to say: enjoying a state of entitlement and empowerment.Thus, Thomas Hobbes is erroneously referred to as a father of liberalism, simply because he couches his agenda of positive freedom (for the absolutist state) in negative terms, namely "the absence of external impediments." The difference of meaning between negative liberty and positive liberty is certainly useful in emphasising different sides of freedom, which has definite and important requirements of non-interference but also a need for interference in the status quo, including the framework of established rights. Practically speaking, we may distinguish between, say, the negative liberty of free speech, i.e. the prohibition to prevent a person from expressing his views, and the positive liberty of inhibiting free speech, say, on the grounds (deemed compelling by the proponent) that from false or inciting utterances there may ensue severe damage to certain groups or even society at large. Parts, Not the Whole Negative and positive liberty describe important aspects of freedom, but they are not suited to capture the phenomenon of liberty in its entirety. Liberty is not a system, but a system of systems that includes both strands of negative freedom and positive freedom. Nevertheless, in most debates, the terms tend to be juxtaposed as opposites concerning their adequacy to represent the overall nature of freedom, and to serve as blueprints for the implementation of freedom in society at large. On the level of micro-analysis (looking at liberty at work in a specific context) the terms may legitimately coexist, especially to fight out the many difficult and important conflicts at the frontier between good and bad intervention, say, in the economy or the law. But when it comes to macro-analysis of the overall character of freedom in society, both terms become inapplicable, as their partial perspectives cannot but fail to represent the full nexus of liberty, which consists neither of equally applicable prohibitions alone, nor exclusively of unequal impositions that undermine the equality before law (to enhance one parties positive liberty at the expense of another party's liberty), but encloses relational liberty that contains both elements of negative and positive liberty which are mixed and delineated by competition and negotiation, being always subject to designed as well as unwitting development and change. In other words, negative liberty quite simply does not describe the composite manifestations of liberty in the real world, and it is inadequate as a theoretical model of liberty, owing to its negativity (one cannot work with "do nots" alone) and stasis (being, in fact, living creatures, rights are subject to considerable change, and with them the condition of liberty). See also How Law Changes - The Forgotten History of Jaywalking, and The Homestead Act - Politics, Legislation, and Government for Liberty. The liberty that exists - any liberty that may ever exist - cannot be understood without appreciating the element of positive freedom that constantly stirs her movements. To the extent that negative liberty supplements the composite of liberty, it is present in the mix thanks to acts of positive freedom. Positive liberty has enormous toxic potential. It deserves to be Argus-eyed, for their champions are liable to (a) lend too much trust to the wisdom... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "But the practice of negative definition itself has an appeal, since it conduces to a neglect of close examination of situations." Lord P.T. Bauer (1976), in Dissent on Development, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, p. 48) In Negative Liberty and Positive Liberty (1/2) I propose: It is an infelicitous move by liberals to place negative liberty at the front-line of their case for freedom. Not all do - Kant and Mill did not - but many, including Hayek and most libertarians today. Its validity as a vital test criterion for policy implications notwithstanding, the perspective suggested by negative liberty throws into darkness swaths of issues that constitute the most urgent concerns of real human beings and their political representatives. It is a conceit to think that the logic of negative liberty suffices to define such a concept of "the good society" as is likely to be consistently pursued by real human beings. Try to solve the immigration debate by applying the logic of negative liberty. Allow open immigration and there will be substantial discomfort somewhere in society, with its blow-back of political agitation, and social and economic upheaval, academic perplexity and hubris. Restrict immigration and the same effect will make itself felt in a different variant. Outside of the lecture theatre, we will be called upon to patch up the problems with a lot of action that belongs in the pigeon-hole of positive liberty. The advocate of negative liberty places values in the weighing pan that embody wisdom we ignore at our peril; but there are other values to be accommodated as well. The Precedence of Positive Liberty over Negative Liberty Regardless of the libertarian preference for negative liberty, a society based on nothing but "do nots" is not possible. While negative liberty may be highlighted as an important feature of freedom in the real world for purposes of conceptual analysis and political deliberation, from a different vantage point, we discover that workable prohibitions - the workhorse of negative liberty - require us to enlist all kinds of entitlements and empowerments that belong to the sphere of positive liberty. Before rights can be defended, there must be procedures in place or - more broadly - acts performed that represent positive liberty and establish by fiat or single-handed deed the entitlements that constitute rights and the institutions of empowerment that ensure protection of the rights. Liberty and Coercion Identifying the demarcation line between negative and positive liberty is closely related to the question of legitimate coercion. A regime of negative liberty is held by its proponents to be one of non-problematic coercion. But they are facing a nested set of difficulties. The so-called principle of non-aggression postulates that coercion is legitimate only if exerted in reaction to the violation of the rights protected by negative liberty. This leaves unanswered a number of central questions. Firstly, who is entitled to define the rights of negative liberty, and how are they to be practically arrived at? Secondly, is it possible to arrive at these rights without coercion incompatible with negative liberty, or put differently: can we establish rights by "do nots" alone? Could the differences between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists be resolved by acts entirely enclosed within the framework of "do nots"? Thirdly, is it possible to define rights that do not entail an unequal distribution of (effective rights to or states of) coercion among the the law's subjects? Red Cedars and Apple Trees The negative liberty that protects my neighbour's apple trees and my red cedars from mutual encroachment may not rarely contain at least a latent distribution of unequal coercive power or a positive liberty that extends only to one of the two parties. If my red cedars spread a tree disease to my neighbour's apple trees, it becomes clear that under continued non-intervention, I have a right to do something adequate for my purposes - to keep my trees intact while they destroy my neighbour's trees - while my neighbour does not have a right to do something adequate for his purposes - to destroy the disease's source, the assailant of his trees. I may attack his trees, but he is not entitled to attack my trees. We have a situation of unilateral privilege of coercion - whether we do nothing to change the status quo, or weather we create a new option for protection on behalf of the damaged party, in particular, the right to cut my trees. We see that from a situation of negative liberty there may arise a situation of positive liberty, which latter in a way has always been dormant within the structure of negative liberty to begin with. See Red Cedars and Apple Trees - The Political Character of the Economic Process. Moral and Political Scarcity Mankind lives in a world of moral and political scarcity - meaning: there are lots of issues on which people disagree absolutely. Freedom should neither be conceived of in ignorance of moral and political scarcity, nor should she be assumed to be able to do away with irreconcilable attitudes dividing men. The Transrational Function of Freedom The function of freedom is to take political scarcity from its highly explosive original level to another one of lower inflammability, where it is processed for reconciliation. This involves an entire culture and institutional network of compromise, give-and-take, and tiered layers of coercion - by which latter I mean, for instance, taking turns in being able to coerce the other party, as may unfold in elective cycles ("okay, you are coercing me this time, but next time, I will be in the driver's seat,") which may spawn games of relative considerateness, which in turn achieve the transformation of high-tension disagreements into habits of lower-tension coexistence. It substitutes insoluble absolute rational disagreement by a transrational experience of placidity in the presence of divergency. Incidentally, this is what I call the invisible hand of politics. Political participation (democracy) is indispensable for freedom, as it drives the culture of compromise, give-and-take, and tiered layers of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. More on the String Quartet in F here. Enjoy. Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I got a call in December last year from a German television reporter named Peter Onneken. He and his collaborator Diana Löbl were working on a documentary film about the junk-science diet industry. They wanted me to help demonstrate just how easy it is to turn bad science into the big headlines behind diet fads. And Onneken wanted to do it gonzo style: Reveal the corruption of the diet research-media complex by taking part. Testing bitter chocolate as a dietary supplement was his idea. When I asked him why, Frank said it was a favorite of the “whole food” fanatics. “Bitter chocolate tastes bad, therefore it must be good for you,” he said. “It’s like a religion.” “Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on television news shows. It appeared in glossy print, most recently in the June issue of Shape magazine (“Why You Must Eat Chocolate Daily,” page 128). Not only does chocolate accelerate weight loss, the study found, but it leads to healthier cholesterol levels and overall increased well-being. The Bild story quotes the study’s lead author, Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D., research director of the Institute of Diet and Health: “The best part is you can buy chocolate everywhere.” I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website. Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded. Here’s how we did it. Read the rest. Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Collective effects - why do people do things like these? In Permeable Individualism (2/3) - In the Beginning There Were Markets? we have seen that in the course of evolution humans have, in a condition of mutual permeability, become inextricably intertwined with the institutions that make for social order. The individual is surrounded by collective effects, being influenced by them as well as expressing herself through these. Ignorance of such mutual permeability is liable to give rise to imbalance in society and in the theoretical perceptions by which we make sense of (the position of the individual in the) community. As we have argued in Permeable Individualism (1/3) and (2/3), there is a danger of such imbalance clearly contained in the Lockean individual as the point of origin of all moral, legal and political ratiocination, and in the rational actor underlying neoclassic economics in which she appears in another guise. American institutionalism, pioneered by Thorstein Veblen and John R. Commons ("the old institutionalists" below), provides a useful scaffolding from which to tackle the crucial drawback of liberal individualism: its inability to account for the evolutionary and cultural preconditions of rational human action, the interdependence, the cyclical causality and mutual feedback between individual and institution as opposed to the individual's primacy over institutions. Far from being the starting point, the rational individual, the individual involved in sociogenic freedom, emerges from a vast array of preconditions, biotic and social. Thus, writes Geoffrey Hodgson, the idea of the given, rational individual is both unsuccessful, and untenable in ongoing, evolutionary terms. The introduction of habit and instinct provides a consistency between the socio-economic and biotic levels of analysis, and establishes an important link between the socioeconomic and the natural world. Hodgson, p. 189 He goes on to elucidate the basic idea: For the “old” institutionalists, habit is regarded as crucial to the formation and sustenance of institutions. Habits form part of our cognitive abilities. Cognitive frameworks are learned and emulated within institutional structures. The individual relies on the acquisition of such cognitive habits, before reason, communication, choice, or action are possible. Learned skills become partially embedded in habits. When habits become a common part of a group or a social culture they grow into routines or customs (Commons 1934, p. 45). Institutions are formed as durable and integrated complexes of customs and routines. Habits and routines thus preserve knowledge, particularly tacit knowledge in relation to skills, and institutions act through time as their transmission belt. Institutions are regarded as imposing form and social coherence upon human activity partly through the continuing production and reproduction of habits of thought and action. This involves the creation and promulgation of conceptual schemata and learned signs and meanings. Institutions are seen as a crucial part of the cognitive processes through which sense-data are perceived and made meaningful by agents. Indeed, as discussed below, rationality itself is regarded as reliant upon institutional props. The availability of common cognitive tools, as well as congenital or learned dispositions for individuals to conform with other members of the same group, work together to mold individuals goals and preferences. Accordingly, individuals are not taken as given. In mainstream economics, widespread lip-service to notions of individuality and choice may have helped to obscure the degree in reality to which conformism or emulation actually occur, even in modern competitive economies. For an “old” institutionalist, such outcomes are an important part of the institutional self-reinforcing process. [...] The imitation and emulation of behavior leads to the spread of habits, and to the emergence or reinforcement of institutions. In turn, institutions foster and underline particular behaviors and habits, and help transmit them to new members of the group. The additional emphasis here concerns the role of habit both in sustaining individual behavior, and in providing the individual with cognitive means by which incoming information can be interpreted and understood. Our understanding of the durable and self-reinforcing qualities of institutions is enhanced. The thrust of the “old” institutionalist approach is to see behavioral habit and institutional structure as mutually entwined and mutually reinforcing: both aspects are relevant to the full picture (Commons 1934, p. 69). Choosing institutions as units of analysis does not necessarily imply that the role of the individual is surrendered to the dominance of institutions. [...] Both individuals and institutions are mutually constitutive of each other. Institutions mold, and are molded by, human action. Institutions are both “subjective” ideas in the heads of agents and “objective” structures faced by them. The twin concepts of habit and institution may thus help to overcome the philosophical dilemma between realism and subjectivism in social science. Actor and structure, although distinct, are thus connected in a circle of mutual interaction and interdependence. (Hodgson pp. 180 - 181) Individualisms and the Consequences for Freedom Individualism has been criticised by eminent conservatives and classical liberal authors such as Burke, Sumner and de Tocqueville. Their fearful and dismissive view of individualism strikes me as valid regarding its overly pronounced interpretations espoused by anarchism, crypto-anarchism and Rousseauian totalitarianism (egalitarian democracy as the expression of the general will of the collective of free individuals). However, I do not share their misgivings to the extent that individualism is supposed to be either identical with egoism or bound to degenerate into a general selfishness that brings about social atomism, an individualistic fragmentation fatally rupturing social cohesion, a disempowering isolation of the individual that ultimately leaves him helpless in the face of despotic ambitions. There is a different perspective on individualism, which I have in mind when I think of freedom. The robust conditions of freedom which mark modern civil society emphatically signify the wider scope and greater independence of the individual today compared to most of human history: freedom of association and establishment, free choice of occupation, freedom of speech, freedom to participate in politics etc. The extent of freedom available to the individual nowadays is no triviality. This extensive, yet patchy freedom must be guarded, but it also must be recognised in its... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Digging up the invisible hand - understanding spontaneous order - is a large project that those conscious of freedom should take up without fear and reverence. We must look for it not only in the economy, but also in the way in which we interact with one another as political animals and create society by being part of a intermittent process whereby we shape institutions and being shaped by them, in turn. Continued from Permeable Individualism (1/3) - In the Beginning There Were Markets? In the following, I hope to show that the individualism underlying classical liberalism and large tracts of mainstream economics is too minimalist to capture the interactive loops by which humans and institutions form each other (a descriptive defect), and too encompassing in its claim to explain the universal validity of the fundamental norms of liberalism or laissez faire (a normative defect). Individualistic Reductionism G.H. Smith defines Locke's individualistic reductionism (as applied to politics, in the below case) as the doctrine that all rights claimed by government must ultimately be reducible to the rights of individuals. Since the institution of government is itself an association of individuals, it cannot claim rights other than those that have been delegated to it by individuals. [...] This is what it means to say that the natural laws of reason are prior to the positive laws of government. The System of Liberty, pp. 147/148 Locke's fundamental(ist) reductionism places the individual at the base of society, making it the point of origin of the ensuing ethical, political, and legal ramifications. This reductionism is mirrored by mainstream neoclassical economics, from which the libertarian gains his intuition and ideological preference that the individual left to her peaceful and voluntarily acting self is supremely capable of taking care of herself. The prominent idea of the utility-maximizing individual has permitted economists to ignore the procedures and rules that are knowingly or unwittingly employed by agents. Most explanations of behavior, including the role-driven and the habitual, can seemingly be encompassed within the framework of utility maximization. Accordingly, the underlying psychological and other explanatory issues have been largely ignored. The encompassing assumption of the “rational” agent is deemed to be sufficient. Hodgson, p. 185 What I want to concentrate upon in the present blog entry are a number of reasons cogent enough to call into question the Lockean view that an institution by virtue of being an association of individuals ... cannot claim rights other than those that have been delegated to it by individuals. Individualism's Evolutionary Proviso The hub of the argument is that institutions can neither be originated nor managed or developed by human fiat alone. The position of the individual vis-à-vis institutions is not one comparable to a watchmaker's power over the object of his ingenuity and skills. The formation of rules of interaction in human society is far more complicated, and it is advisable to be aware of the complexities, as otherwise arguments made in favour of the core value of classical liberalism - personal freedom - will be ill-founded and widely perceived to be doubtful. Let us consider the core competence of the rational individual: In an evolutionary view of intelligence it is recognized that tacit knowledge and implicit learning of an habitual character are ubiquitous even in higher animals, including humans. This is because higher levels of deliberation and consciousness are recent arrivals on the evolutionary scene, and certainly came after the development of more basic mechanisms of cognition and learning in organisms. That being the case, many of our evolved cognitive processes must be able to proceed below the level of full deliberation and awareness. Ibid. p. 188 To summarise in advance the below extensive quote and its importance for the present serial of posts: Radical individualism operates with human capabilities embodied by the rational actor of standard economics, but introduces these propensities without regard for their presuppositions. However, the rational individual is not a creation of herself, but has evolved within a landscape of biotic and other determinants. Some of these determinants, especially institutions - as we shall see more fully in the third part of this series - have in common with man a mutual permeability; they grow and change by intertwining, by flowing one through the other. Man has not sprung into life as a fully-fledged all-purpose problem solver, but has grown up with his environment to acquire a vast portfolio of adaptation skills resulting from and attuned to specific challenges and opportunities. Cosmides and Tooby (1994a) postulate that the mind is riddled with functionally specific circuits. This contrasts with what they describe as the “Standard Social Science Model,” where the mind harbors general cognitive processes—such as “reasoning,” “induction,” and “learning”—that are “context-independent,” “domain-general,” or “context-free.” They show that this abstract and generalist view of the mind is difficult to reconcile with modern evolutionary biology, giving experimental evidence to support their argument. A key argument is that all-purpose optimizing techniques are difficult to construct and utilize. First, what counts as adaptive or (near) optimal behavior differs markedly from situation to situation. Second: “Combinatorial explosion paralyzes even moderately domain-general systems when encountering realworld complexity. As generality is increased by adding new dimensions to a problem space or new branch points to a decision tree, the computational load increases with catastrophic rapidity” (Cosmides and Tooby 1994a, p. 56). Third, the generality of all-purpose mechanisms undermines their performance: “when the environment is clueless, the mechanism will be too. Domain-specific mechanisms are not limited in this way. They can be constructed to fill in the blanks when perceptual evidence is lacking or difficult to obtain” (p. 57). As a result: “The mind is probably more like a Swiss army knife than an all-purpose blade” (p. 60). In evolutionary terms, time does not “hammer logic into men.” Cosmides and Tooby produced evidence that humans are generally poor at solving general, logical problems. However, when these problems are reformulated in terms of social interactions, our ability to solve them increases markedly, despite... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. In this first part of the present series - Permeable Individualism (1/3) - In the Beginning There Were Markets? - I wish to draw attention to the link between certain preconceptions of classical liberalism and the disappearance of societal reality from a large part of modern economics. Drained in this way of pertinent content, the market order shows promise to satisfy a liberal utopia, if only it were allowed to spread more extensively. While liberal authors like David Hume and Adam Smith insisted on practising political economy understood as a comprehensive theory of man and his interdependencies with the many different institutions of culture and society, the pronounced individualism of other strands of classical liberalism (following John Locke) inspired the pursuit of economics based on a lopsided view of the significance of the individual in establishing social order. In the second part of the series, I shall try to explain what this new (neoclassical) economics is missing, and that freedom proves to be more complex and less determinate than thought by the individualist liberal, if we admit into the picture some of the vital, though now neglected, interdependencies that the earlier political economists had been trying to piece together. Ultimately, my aim is to demonstrate that an overblown individualism inherent in certain classical conceptions of freedom has given rise to a major current in economics that nurtures the mirage of autonomous spheres of freedom on which modern, crypto-anarchist libertarianism rests. We will see that markets are inevitably interlaced with cultural, legal, and political influences that preclude their serving as an alternative to political society (= a politicised world). In that sense, it is true that in a free society there cannot be an economy other than a mixed economy. Inherited Scars Toward the end of my last post, The Idea(s) of Freedom (3/3) - The Mirage of Autonomous Spheres of Freedom, I noted: The liberal bias in favour of natural society [i.e. an autonomous, pristine sphere of freedom, as opposed to political society which is marred at every corner by politics and government, G.T.] has had momentous consequences for the future of liberalism - playing, as I surmise, a significant role in its decline - but also for the development of the social sciences, not least economics, which carries ugly scars from such extraction. Faced with a menacing new social technology - the modern territorial state -, liberalism focusses on the resources, the promise, and above all the moral primacy of the individual as its counter-model to the overweening pretence of absolutism which seeks to concentrate power in the authorities. Creative, path-breaking, and worth heeding in countless ways, liberalism's apologia of the individual is not without its difficulties, especially when the explanatory and moral justificatory power heaped upon the possibilities of the individual becomes excessive so that individualism takes on the character of an intellectual monoculture. Political Economy and the Individualistic Contagion In future posts, we shall have occasion to reflect on the role that individualism assumes in the life cycle of liberalism; for the present, may it suffice to refer to individualism's pre-eminence in classical liberal thought, a hefty dose of which was finding its way into the emerging social sciences, especially into economics. This is the beginning of the end of political economics and the great fortune of an economics often more ambitious to emulate the star among the sciences at the time - Newtonian physics - than to capture an irremissibly complete range of the economic world's determinants. The Misapplication of Individualism A strand of economic analysis appears that takes the individual for granted in an overly pivotal capacity; individuals and their preference functions are assumed to be given, as opposed to being emergent, malleable and interdependent with their institutional environment. Indubitably, individualistic economics proves to be in possession of a heuristics productive of superb insights (think of price theory), nevertheless it is unequipped to make up for the contributions of political economy. Whereas [i]ndividuals and institutions are mutually constitutive of each other [ ... such that] institutions mold, and are molded by, individuals, a connectedness appreciated and carefully looked into by political economy, the new economics turns this two-way street into a one-way street, trying to explain the existence of institutions by reference to a given [a pre-established and primal, G.T.] model of individual behaviour, and on the basis of an initial institution-free "state of nature." The procedure is to start with given individuals and to move on to institutions. (p.181) All quotes are from The Approach of Institutional Economics, by Geoffrey Hodgson: Journal of Economic Literature Vol. XXXVI (March 1998), pp. 166–192 The original individualistic paradigm in economics still informs much contemporary economic thinking such as embodied in the New Institutionalist Economics, one of whose most prominent representatives, Nobel prize winner Oliver Williamson, epitomises the neoclassical spirit in pronouncing this pithy dictum: "In the beginning there were markets." From this original context, some individuals go on to create firms and hierarchies. These endure if they involve lower transaction costs. However, the market itself is an institution. The market involves social norms, customs, instituted exchange relations, and—sometimes consciously organized—information networks that themselves have to be explained (Dosi 1988; Hodgson 1988). Market and exchange relations themselves involve complex rules. In particular, the institution of private property itself requires explanation. Markets are not an institution-free beginning. As if in search of the original, institution-free, state of nature prior to property and markets, Williamson (1983) argues that private property can emerge through “private ordering,” that is, individual-to-individual transactions, without state legislation or interference. (Ibid. p. 182) We shall see in the sequel why the institutions of freedom cannot emerge through "private ordering," and that, quite naturally, liberty is a highly public and political affair. Continued in Permeable Individualism (2/3) - In the Beginning There Were Markets? Related articles The Idea(s) of Freedom - Uniform Meaning versus Dispersed Meanings The Idea(s) of Freedom (2/3) - The Loss of Social Realism The Idea(s) of Freedom (3/3) - The Mirage... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Discrediting Liberty - The Mirage of Autonomous Spheres of Freedom What discredits classically liberal visions of liberty in the eyes of many is the insinuation of autonomous spheres of freedom. By this term, I mean a conception of liberty that excludes from its vision institutions that in fact determine the possibility and degree of freedom in a society, especially political comportment and the role of structures of maximal power in the working out of social order by us human beings. The openly anarchist libertarian believes that it is indispensable to abolish governance structures imposed by politics and the state if freedom is to prevail. Far more important in our day, than the reading of a free society by the anarchist fringe, is the crypto-anarchism on which non-anarchist defences of free markets often tend to be predicated. For, not rarely do defenders of free markets cross inadvertently into the sombre corners of anarchism by sharing the anarchist belief in an autonomous sphere of freedom. What they are up against is the fact that most of us are informed with at least a robust intuition that there are no autonomous spheres of liberty. Hence, arguments based on autonomy-assumption are likely to be received with wide-spread disapprobation; and I suspect that the case for free markets does register substantial collateral damage owing to its association with an apolitical concept of freedom. An Apolitical Concept of Freedom In my first post in this series, The Idea(s) of Freedom (1/3) ... , I have argued that what tears apart Classical Liberalism is its mission to present itself as a uniform, self-contained whole. It trades off intellectual consistency at the expense of recognising the real forces determining the state of freedom in a society. In the second post, The Idea(s) of Freedom (2/3) ... , I hoped to show that Classical Liberalism fails in its effort to define freedom as a social phenomenon, in contrast to Hobbes' mechanistic notion, according to which freedom is the power to remove external impediments of any kind. The failure to fully grasp the social nature of freedom is due to an inability to capture the dynamic conditions of freedom in the real world, where the political character of freedom-defining social relations is pervasive. The result of that condition is that a uniform idea of freedom as sought after by Classical Liberalism will not be able to prevail either in the intellectual realm nor as a popularly credible reflection of the state of liberty in the real world. The Lockean Roots of Crypto-Anarchism In Chapter 8 - The Idea of Freedom - of The System of Liberty. Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism, G.H. Smith offers a number of insights that I feel I may be able to rearrange and resell to my own readers as an explanation of how an unfortunate tradition has sprung into life that weds arguments for liberty to the mirage of autonomous spheres of freedom. In the Lockean paradigm, "natural liberty" refers to freedom as it would exist in an anarchistic state of nature, a condition of equal rights in which there is no political authority or subordination, a society in which all "Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another." (The System of Liberty, p. 145) The crux is that the founding vision of classical liberalism as presented by John Locke does already carry in it an attestation of the feasibility of an anarchist world. Locke's state of nature is essentially peaceful and civilized. People can exercise their natural freedom in an anarchistic society without necessarily lapsing into a state of war, because they are able through the use of reason, to discern the many benefits of social cooperation. (Ibid. p. 148) It is neither clear whether on this point Locke was arguing for tactical purposes - he wanted the Stuart monarchy to be overthrown and wished to diffuse fears of Hobbesian anarchy - nor whether he adhered consistently to a minimalist role of government (ensuring protection from violence and fraud, and no more), but in his vision we certainly find prefigured a perspicuous divide between natural society (human interaction independent of and unhampered by government) and political society (human interaction facilitated by government action). He bequeaths to posterity leads that encourage his successors to keep the divide central to their thinking and to add more weight to natural society than to political society. At any rate, the divide is a grievous error, because the intermeshing of collective action with individual action is a more powerful and more accurate paradigm in the study of human society than is their compartmentalisation and juxtaposition, which ultimately tempts us to believe in the mirage of autonomous spheres of freedom. It is odd for even a tempered apologist of government and suggestive of a preference of natural society over political society that Locke views government as a supplement to social order rather than its indispensable foundation. Government is a convenience rather than a necessity. (Ibid. 148) The liberal bias in favour of natural society has had momentous consequences for the future of liberalism, playing, as I surmise, a significant role in its decline, but also for the development of the social sciences, not least economics, which carries ugly scars from such extraction: Economic science was made possible by the discovery of an autonomous economic order - a society of mutually beneficial exchanges that operates through the spontaneous adjustments of natural liberty rather than through the coercive and cumbersome decrees of a legislator. (Ibid. 151) Liberalism has been eclipsed by the growth of freedom, especially rapidly since the mid-1800s. Why? People are looking for freedom, and perhaps more commonly, people are trying to arrange their affairs in a free society, and thus shaping it, largely by acting on the level of intermediary conditions, rather than on the high plane of abstraction on which liberal theory is almost exclusively situated. People do not find the autonomous sphere of freedom that G.H. Smith describes below. They... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Well worth pondering: We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them… To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. [...] Since our office is with moments, let us husband them. Five minutes of today are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millennium. Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today. Let us treat the men and women well; treat them as if they were real; perhaps they are… Without any shadow of doubt, amidst this vertigo of shows and politics, I settle myself ever the firmer in the creed that we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are, by whomsoever we deal with, accepting our actual companions and circumstances, however humble or odious as the mystic officials to whom the universe has delegated its whole pleasure for us. Make sure to go to the source. Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2015 at RedStateEclectic