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Georg Thomas
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Contrasts of black and white can be wonderful, but they are not a useful pattern to grasp freedom. Image credit. As with a number of other ideological staples of certain brands of demagogic libertarianism, I have come to oppose also their contempt of democracy. Like anarcho-capitalism and crypto-anarchism, both of which many libertarians subscribe to, we are dealing here with bundles of attitudes that purport to favour freedom while, in fact, they are incompatible with her. A free society is unthinkable unless all citizens have access to the processes of (a) government and (b) the control of government. Political participation is as vital to freedom as it is complex, multi-layered, ambiguous and often messy and woefully imperfect. However, these deficiencies are only additional reasons for the need to defend freedom through the political processes of an open, democratic society. Underlying libertarian contempt for democracy is an unwillingness to acknowledge the presence of political scarcity, i.e. the presence of political ambitions that are fiercely rivalrous, that is: the presence of diverging political values and aims that are intensively desired, yet incapable of being met simultaneously. There are vast fields of political scarcity in a modern society, in fact, in any type of society. The libertarian conceit is that markets or market-type bilateral and mutually consenting transactions can successfully overcome political scarcity. The fact of the matter is, however, they cannot. Libertarians of the anti-democratic bent manage to misunderstand both the nature of markets, which are NOT conflict-mitigating institutions, but expressions of the absence of conflict with regard to the specific contents of a certain transaction between trading parties, and political processes outside of and unreplicable by the world of markets, including the political processes of a "composite republic", or to put it differently, a "republican democracy", which are intended to act as conflict-mitigating institutions. The often triumphantly evoked fact that the constitutional texts do not contain the word "democracy" is spurious. The American Constitution is a product of democracy, and it is purposefully enmeshed in a network of democratic processes, or as Akhil Reed Amar writes in his magisterial America's Constitution. A Biography: It started with a bang. Ordinary citizens would govern themselves across a continent and over the centuries, under rules that the populace would ratify and could revise. By uniting previously independent states into a vast and indivisible nation, New World republicans would keep Old World monarchs at a distance and thus make democracy work on a scale never before dreamed possible. See below Philip Pettit's lecture recently held at University College Dublin, in which he outlines the contours and challenges of republican democracy - the lecture itself commencing at time mark 04:00: See also my Liberalism - A Manifesto. Related articles Political Scarcity The Market Is Not a Democracy Continue reading
Posted 12 hours ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Get the thought in your head, and you will find beauty of commercial origin everywhere. The Apple Watch isn't a tech miracle. It requires a phone to work, creating an Occam's-razor moment for the consumer: Do I need another device if I still have to carry my phone around with me everywhere? Samsung has overcome this by offering a smartwatch that doesn't need a phone. The Apple Watch's functionality isn't market-beating. It's a basic fitness tracker that can count steps, measure the heart rate and prompt the wearer to be more active. The device can handle messaging the way its competitors do. The Siri voice assistant makes an expected appearance. Though Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seemed enthusiastic about the watch's useful features, they are too boring to discuss -- particularly in comparison to the Apple Watch's beauty as an object. Read the entire review. See also Freedom and Art. Related articles The Paradox of Freedom Enculturated Poverty Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Oh, that's what it is. I guess we would have called it hard rock, in my days. The 20-year-old sun of a friend of mine has been to a "metal" concert recently, and I want to be sure I know what he is talking about. Not much different from rock as I knew it during the 1970s, "metal" seems to be perhaps more versatile, more eager to interpret different musical styles from classic music to German folklore or soft rock classics such as "Popcorn", though even such diversification was not uncommon in my youth. Related articles The Incorrigible Popcorn Eater Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Until just over a century ago, the idea that a company could be a criminal was alien to American law. The prevailing assumption was, as Edward Thurlow, an 18th-century Lord Chancellor of England, had put it, that corporations had neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned, and thus were incapable of being “guilty”. But a case against a railway in 1909, for disobeying price controls, established the principle that companies were responsible for their employees’ actions, and America now has several hundred thousand rules that carry some form of criminal penalty. Meanwhile, ever since the 1960s, civil “class-action suits” have taught managers the wisdom of seeking rapid, discreet settlements to avoid long, expensive and embarrassing trials. The drawbacks of America’s civil tort system are well known. What is new is the way that regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. For all the talk of public-spiritedness, the agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. And their power far exceeds that of trial lawyers. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law. The source. See also Administrative Creep and Sue and Settle. Related articles The criminalisation of American business - The Economist Corporate settlements in the United States: The criminalisation of American business Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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At The Library of Law and Liberty blog, Michael S. Greve has an intriguing post on "The German Connection". After the collapse of the Third Reich, there was a thorough rejuvenation of the rule of law (Rechtsstaatlichkeit) in Germany, the substantive notion of the rule of law being strongly committed to liberal (European meaning) principles. At a time when progressives continued in renewed waves to turn over the liberal conception of the rule of law in the US, German courts would stubbornly and successfully defend the newly regained liberal legal regime in Germany. In the late 1960s, courts and then Congress institutionalized so-called “citizen suits” against government agencies. Unlike regulated parties, citizen plaintiffs don’t have at stake anything you’d recognize as a right; they represent broad, widely shared values. (Environmental groups are the prototype.) The idea was that agencies were routinely “captured” by regulated industries, so there had to be a counterweight—parties with legal entitlements to make executive branch agencies obey the purposes of Congress, as embodied in statutory law. To that end, statutory citizen-suit provisions typically authorize “any citizen” to sue the administrator for failure to perform a non-discretionary duty. So when the statute says that the Environmental Protection Agency “shall” regulate and the agency falls short, environmental groups have a cause of action. They’re equal participants in the agency rulemaking process and in court. At that time, what was then West Germany was also discovering the issue of protecting the environment. People were apoplectic about pollution. Nuclear reactor sites had to be protected with paramilitary force. A Green Party was beginning to form. And, some lefty law profs trooped to Harvard, learned about citizen suits, and tried to import them into their own country. They penned learned articles about the “enforcement deficit” in environmental law, wrote model statutes, and proclaimed that even Amerika has citizen suits, the better to promote law and democratic participation. Why can’t we have that? Because you can’t, the West German legal establishment responded. The key argument against citizen suits was not that they would disrupt orderly administration, or invite abuse, or overload the courts. It was: what you people are advocating is Nazi jurisprudence. We’ve thought and worked for decades to get rid of that garbage, and you’re not going to undo our accomplishments just because people get upset about—well, garbage. The citizen-suit trial balloon soon shared the Hindenburg’s fate. There’s no trace of the debate in administrative law to this day. To be absolutely clear, I am not calling U.S. public interest groups and citizen-suit advocates Nazis. My point is that a legal instrument that well nigh everyone stateside accepted, often with great enthusiasm, went down in flames over there, as an intolerable assault on a liberal legal order. To rehearse the German professoriate’s key argument against citizen suits: The point of law and especially administrative law (they said) is to protect rights against coercive state interference. To that end, we have independent courts that will perform de novo review on law and facts. If we want to keep that up, we must limit the courts to rights protection. They can’t review the legality of governmental conduct outside that context. A plaintiff who sues for that purpose is asking the court to command the performance of his private idea of how public authority ought to be exercised, and that’s not a right he has or courts can enforce. Likewise, it’s not the business of courts to make government and law more “democratic.” There are institutions, such as political parties and parliaments, to safeguard democracy and participation. Courts, in contrast, guard rights—if need be, guard them against democratic demands. If you want to mobilize courts as engines of law-enforcement and democracy (the argument continues), they can’t be independent. If you want them to do the will of the people, go make them instruments of that will—and stop the pretenses about individuals’ rights. Germany took that path once: in 1934, the Reichstag authorized a version of the allgemeine Buergerklage—the general citizen suit. It did so for obvious reasons. The inherited Weimar bureaucracy might not always enforce the new authorities’ race laws with the requisite speed or resolve. What was needed were actions by private informers or Citizens United for the Separation of Jews and State to enhance public participation and ensure obedience to law. That meant, however—and alongside the enormities recorded by history—the end of an independent judiciary. You cannot surrender the exercise of law to “democracy,” nor can you surrender the Staat to a “movement.” Not if you want to have a liberal Rechtsstaat and a judiciary that is institutionally disposed to protect rights. Make sure to read the entire piece. Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Art is costly, art is scarce -- what capitalism does it drives down costs and it helps reduce and better manage scarcity. As a result, under capitalism we are being inundated with art, with beauty or at least with enormous arsenals of objects and impressions in which to look for and find - based on personal standards - high aesthetic quality in plentiful supply. The greatest contemporary source of art is the free market and the increased wealth derived from it that gives ordinary human beings hugely enhanced options to beautify their environment both by their private activities as well as in their professional capacities. Only, we tend not to notice this wonderful source of art. The artful has become a normal ingredient in serving the masses of consumers; art is used to advertise other goods, and it is an auxiliary service or benefit built into commercial products, rendering obsolete the need to make art itself the object of advertisement. Freedom has largely destroyed a world where art could be enjoyed and produced only by small, privileged elites. However, the modern art establishment endeavours to perpetuate the bygone air of exclusivity. Modern "shock art", as characterised in the video, seems to me to be involved in a losing rearguard battle intended to defend the exclusivity of art in a world that produces beauty en masse, being driven in this commendable tendency by the rewards from supplying the broad population with products of integral or incidental artistic value. Freedom democratised the ability to produce beauty -- just compare what the average house owner/occupier today is able to accomplish to make his dwellings more beautiful compared to a hundred, or two hundred years ago. Modern cities are treasures of beauty. To me, at least, a clean and neat town is a piece of aesthetic delight; how much more dirty and grotty than today were towns only 30 or 40 years ago. I agree with most of what the gentleman in the below short video has to say, though I am not sure I am entirely clear as to what objective standards of beauty may consist of. He does not mention one of them. While I do not have a theory what beauty is, I know that I am surrounded by it more than ever - thanks to freedom. See also Gains Crisis and Gains Enhancement in the Arts. Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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My interest kindled by Ed Steven's post Burke and Paine ... Together Again quite some time ago, I still have not found the time to read Yuval Levin's book. In the meantime, I am glad to take advantage of a short cut to The Great Debate's narrative and some of its messages. Enjoy: Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit, and more on "The River" by Alessandro Sanna. The journey is the reward. In German, we actually say "der Weg ist das Ziel" - "the way is the goal." In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery. Arthur Martine The source. Here is what the philosopher Daniel Dennett calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-of-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps: How to compose a successful critical commentary: You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). You should mention anything you have learned from your target. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism. ... this is actually a sound psychological strategy that accomplishes one key thing: It transforms your opponent into a more receptive audience for your criticism or dissent, which in turn helps advance the discussion. The source. While the entire 4 step procedure strikes me as being overly elaborate and virtually impractical, I'd be ecstatic if I managed to live up to point 1. See also Making the Mistakes as Fast as Possible and An Eye for Freedom. Related articles Gains Crisis and Gains Enhancement in the Arts Reverie Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Click to enlarge. Image credit. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Adagio and Allegro in A flat major for horn and piano, op. 70 UPDATE: A friend just asked me what kind of a connection I might hope to insinuate between the image of the beach and the Schumann piece. When pairing image and content in a blog entry, I always intend a certain suggestiveness. However, the association can be more or less equivocal; and though the linking thoughts can have a precise meaning to myself, they may be impossible to guess for my readers. Thus, in the present instance, I was thinking of slow (adagio) scenes in a sea of vivacity (allegro), such as might be observed on a beach, at the end of summer. Incidentally, since about the middle of a cold and rainy August, we've seen an early autumn slowly colouring this part of Germany. Related articles Debussy - Sonata for Cello and Piano Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Clarence Thomas on boxes: I have never understood that notion that we could continue to focus on race in order to get over race. I've never understood that we have ... to be race-conscious in order not to be race-conscious. Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Listening to some of my libertarian friends, I feel I am being asked to conclude: So, America is a racist police state. And the best you can do about it is to hate and denounce government and its organs. I doubt this is an appropriate way of looking at the USA. In its assiduousness to promote the police state theme, tabloid libertarianism strikes me as implausible. I can't see any constructive efforts on the part of (too many) libertarians to understand the full picture, all sides involved. I continue to assume that America is a great country to live in for its citizens, not least because America's police are working hard to help and protect all Americans, succeeding therein countless times every day. Any reflection of that in the libertarian sterotypes? Any consideration of the fact that a police officer is confronted with difficult-to-handle extreme and border cases - sometimes several times a day - that an ordinary citizen may never encounter during her entire life time? Any appreciation that officers are almost permanently in danger while pursuing their proper duties, in particular being targets of persistent "racism" by virtue of their office? No, the police are part of the state, so they must be evil. Be this as it may, I'm glad to be living in a free country, where with conscious enjoyment I do feel free. An important part of my freedom is this friendly and cooperative, mutually trusting and appreciative attitude between citizens and the police, and my being free from the presumption that something must be wrong with me owing to my showing respect and sympathy for the police. We reap what we sow. I came from poverty, growing up in a black neighborhood. I understand how cops were used as tools of government to oppress black people. However, as a student of history I'm smart enough to know that Democrats were and still are to blame. For my knowledge of the depravity of Democrats, I was deemed a "coon-ass N*igga" by black Liberals, specifically a guy who supposedly was part of the New Black Panther Party, the authority on blackness. The narrative had been established that Michael Brown didn't deserve to die...for any reason; at least not at the hands of a cop. Ironically, if Brown had been killed by a gang-banger or from "beefin'" with some hoodrat, all would be normal in the hood. In the "death by cop" scenario, however, Michael Brown was not to put in a negative light under any circumstances. Because in that scenario, the bigger issue is police brutality and the militarization of police. Those were the marching orders of the Left politburo. Read more about "the real sellouts" at the source. See also Thomas Sowell here, here, and here. See also Slow Down the Denunciation. Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. All in a nutshell, 30 minutes of constitutional law, covering many topics dealt with by Timothy M. Sandefur in his The Conscience of the Constitution. Related articles The Conscience of the Constitution Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Heard this on my Saturday shopping tour. Found it gripping. See also Musical Interlude - Bill Evans. Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Interesting, in identifying another dog, the below encounters would seem to suggest that either dogs do not entirely rely on their sense of smell, or they care more about promising prey than meticulous zoological categorization. No wait, they readily approach the bone, because there is no doggish smell to suggest a battlesome conspecific, but watch for other signs of hindrance and danger. See also Je vous en prie, un éléphant! Related articles Mona Lisel Lucky, Fawn, Martingale, and Stockman Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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I have just finished reading The Conscience of the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty by Timothy M. Sandefur. An excellent book, brief, to the point, a great help in focusing on the essential, and a powerful and incisive refutation of the errors in fashionable/progressive constitutionalism. Though focusing on specific issues like "judicial activism", Sandefur provides a comprehensive account of the basic tasks and features of the Constitution. Particularly interesting are his accounts of the tug-of-war on the issue whether to vest citizenship and sovereignty in the states or on the federal level, how state precedence was an important shield for the anti-abolitionists, how the 14th amendment was intended to bring about an appropriate balance between state and federal power that would give citizens, in Madison's words, "a double security" as "the different governments will control each other," by giving the federal government "power ... to protect by national law the privileges and immunities of all the citizens of the Republic and the inborn rights of every person within its jurisdiction whenever the same shall be abridged or denied by the unconstitutional acts of any State," [p.63], and how "the Slaughter House Court removed the most potent protection against state overreaching and threw that double security out of balance." (p.70) I am looking for similar books, preferably not too voluminous, that give the reader a concise notion of the essence of the American Constitution and the arguments behind it. I will be grateful for recommendations in the comment section. Related articles Taking the Constitution Seriously Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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I would like to see libertarians of all stripes slow down their denunciation of public authorities, without whom we cannot enjoy the ordered liberty that we all prize. Read more at Lessons from Ferguson. I am notorious for being a friend of the police. I venture the hypothesis that many libertarians who engage in the "denunciation of public authorities" are stuck in a doctrinal trap that colours their perception. Unlike Richard Epstein, from whom the above quote stems, they are not usually in the habit of figuring out the often difficult questions of how to fit public authorities into the framework of a free society, let alone appreciating their fundamental role in creating freedom. Instead they work on a strong presumption against the state. From that point on, negative perceptions become a foregone conclusion. Mainstream libertarianism suffers from the lack of a serious theory of the role of politics and the state in an open society, betraying a derivative paucity of interest in the vital minutiae of intermediary conditions between principles and outcomes, i.e. libertarians are not prone to look carefully into the ways in which state agencies work in detail and on a day-to-day basis to buttress the freedoms we enjoy. This attitude encourages simple stereotyping that builds up pent-up demand for events that seem to prove the grim presumption against the state. We urgently need more libertarians in positions of political responsibility. Ours is a theory in desperate need of sobering practice. The Gap of Intermediary Conditions, Forgotten Emergence - The Spontaneous Order of Politics, I Like the Police, Related articles Political Scarcity Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Some beautiful sights to welcome you into a new week. Related articles Paris - How High Is High Enough? Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. 1. The Libertarian Conundrum How do I know which is the proper libertarian policy? Can there be something like THE proper libertarian policy? Or will a spontaneous order emerge from the competitive deliberations and disparate approaches that different parties take concerning the political and technical implementation of their preferred policies? Will policies not be altered by the very process that makes them advance from the visionary stage to open-ended fruition? I would tend to argue that if you do not factor into your policy proposal a realistic account of the intermediary conditions created by scientific and political competition - that is: how to register and analyse these intermediary conditions, how to instrumentalise them, how to deal with opponents and the need for compromise - what you offer is not really a policy proposal, but a mere expression of wishful thinking. Attempts at overcoming hard and manifold theoretical and political resistance are just as important a source of realistically informed policy as is the ability to open up to competition and compromise, to try out, and alter the scheme in operative reality. Successively, Friedrich Hayek supported at least three different, mutually exclusive policies to deal with the overall money system: the gold standard, a commodity-backed-currency, and freely competing private currencies. Which one of these is more libertarian than the others? What this puzzle confronts us with is the peculiar logic of scientific competition as well as political competition. These non-market arenas of competition form a vast delta of path-defining parameters, a system of intricately ramified intermediary conditions from which contingent results emerge that need to be acted upon as they appear. These intermediary conditions cannot be built into and dealt with appropriately in advance by a set of initial premises. Intellectual competition requires and, indeed, forces admission of diverging views, by which dynamic the issues fit to be pursued are defined, i.e. accepted for handling by the political machinery and the public behind it. Political competition is inevitable, if only to organise scientific and economic competition and transform their results into concrete policies. Political competition requires and forces admission of widely diverging views and policy aims, opening up another vast area of contingent ramifications, i.e. intermediary conditions determining the path along which outcomes will be arrived at. This process and its results cannot be preempted by libertarian precepts. They are embodiments of the indeterminacy of freedom, which keeps advancing by bursting her banks. 2. The Hayekian Deficit Although Friedrich Hayek is often credited with initiating the resurgence of research in alternative monetary systems, his own proposal received sharp criticism from Milton Friedman (1984), Stanley Fischer (1986), and others at the outset and never gained much support among academic economists or the wider population. According to Friedman, Hayek erred in believing that the mere admission of competing private currencies will spontaneously generate a more stable monetary system. In Friedman’s view, network effects and switching costs discourage an alternative system from emerging in general and prevent Hayek’s system from functioning as desired in particular. Emphasis added. The source. Hayek simply assumes that a competitive environment "will spontaneously generate" the desired outcome. But he disregards important "intermediary conditions" on which the set of realistically attainable outcomes depends. According to the above paper opponents of Hayek's proposal argue that economic actors are not likely to desert an established money in favour of newly created competing private monies owing to inordinate switching costs, negative network effects, and rational expectations - for more see here. Milton Friedman supports this contention by pointing to a lack of empirical evidence that economic actors would react to the offer of competing monies in the way Hayek predicts (e.g. in the face of a weak and volatile Dollar, Americans did not typically switch to German or Swiss money). Hayek replies that people tend to be discouraged to switch currencies owing to legal restrictions; if the latter were lifted, his predictions would prove correct. Regardless of Hayek's objection being pertinent or not, characteristically, he does not address the essentially political condition on which he expressly claims his policy proposal hinges. 3. The Libertarian Non-Policy Bias The entire spectrum of libertarian thought espoused from anarcho-capitalists to crypto-anarchists to Hayek-type of classical liberals are united in systematically avoiding analysis of politics as a means both representing and structuring intermediary conditions that ultimately link up or decouple initial premises (e.g. competition is good, so currency competition must be good) and final outcome (the operative monetary system). (i) Anarchists live in total denial of the need of politics and the state (henceforth simply "government" or "state"), which is the most convenient and least convincing way of dealing with the issue. When it comes to policy proposals, (ii) crypto-anarchists like von Mises ascribe such a minute role to government that in its reduced night-watchman-format it appears as a factor hardly relevant to the policies in question. The policies can either somehow go ahead without government involvement, or the state's support for libertarian goals is simply assumed to be forthcoming, notwithstanding a view of the state practically incompatible with such compliance or neutral to affirmative midwifery. (iii) Hayek, oscillates between contradictory views of government, which latter he is happy to enlist for the management of his vision of a minimalist welfare state ("Hayek's socialism," in Richard Epstein's provokingly paradoxical formulation), while at the same time figuring out at great effort a system of currency competition whose purpose it is to decouple money from the odious import of government. What is not clear is how it is possible to fruitfully enlist and control government for the one purpose, but not for the other. Why should government not abuse its powers to expand far beyond a minimalist welfare state, when it cannot be trusted with the monetary system? My message in a nutshell: you cannot have an effective policy that is supposed to organise the monetary order of society unless you have the intellectual and practical means to understand and participate in the processes of civic competition through... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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It was an oppressively hot August day, when I heard on the radio that Czechoslovakia had been invaded by Soviet troops. I was 9 years old, and a sense of fear gripped me, as the grown ups seemed unusually worried, suddenly facing the prospect of war again. Mom and Dad, who had gone through the Second World War, had taught me to fear war. When I visited Communist Czechoslovakia in the mid and late 70s, I could sense a mood of resignation and cynicism among the people I got to know more closely. By their own perception, which would prove right with hindsight, those in their best years then were a lost generation, robbed of national pride, humiliated by a farcical socialist Leviathan and utterly lacking in the life chances of a modern Westerner. The illusions that I had entertained about socialism were brutally destroyed by visiting that bleak and grotty planet where people were made to hurry about like puppets so that some intangible anonymous power could have its socialism. The Communist Prague I knew was populated by Kafkas entangled in an absurd play. It is awkward to think that the West was right not to interfere militarily, and that those who decided it was better not to die defending their budding freedom had made a wise choice. We who worry about our freedoms, how much resignation and cynicism are we entitled to? Related articles We the Greedy Pigs Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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The cow on the old wall: Since there was lots of excellent grass on the old wall, some of the citizens of Schilda proposed to let a cow graze on it. A rope was put around the cow's neck and a group of strong men hauled her up. In the process, the cow got strangulated. When the citizens of Schilda saw that the cow was sticking her tongue out, they would jubilate: "Look she's grazing! Following up on Australia Repeals Carbon Tax, let me share with you some words of wisdom concerning investment: The federal government is moving towards abolishing the Renewable Energy Target rather than scaling it back in a move that will cost almost $11 billion in proposed investment and which is at odds with the views of its own Environment Minister. Let’s parse this sentence bit by bit. Scaling back the RET is described as “a move that will cost almost $11 billion in proposed investment”. “Investment” is one of those hurrah words so that anything that can be described as investment is automatically given a warm reception. What cutting the RET will actually do is cut almost $11 billion dollars of waste. Eleven bil on more windmills and solar panels would not get you back ten cents in the dollar. Stopping such expenditure dead in its tracks will only promote future economic growth, or at least it will if the government doesn’t decide to spend the money itself in some other totally useless way. [...] Here is the message: DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON ANY SINGLE INVESTMENT THAT WILL NOT OF ITSELF AND ON ITS OWN PROVIDE A POSITIVE RETURN ON FUNDS EMPLOYED IN A REASONABLE PERIOD OF TIME (LET US SAY THE NEXT THREE YEARS). If you can’t see a return, and prove it in a published cost-benefit study, don’t do it. I don’t say you shouldn’t provide welfare. By all means provide welfare. Let us look after the sick, the aged and the disabled. But here, since the demands are near infinite, judicious allocations of funds will be required. But while welfare expenditures may be important for those who are unable to work or are too old to work, none of these expenditures will promote economic growth and future prosperity. We do not have an infinite pool of productive resources. We must prioritise. Removing renewable energy targets is pure profit for the economy, a 100% benefit. So would getting rid of paid parental leave. Get rid of them both at once. I wish the NBN was also up for grabs since getting rid of it would also be a net positive. And I should finally mention since I am throwing it all into the pot, do not raise taxes on anything in any part of the economy. If the kinds of revenues you are in receipt of are insufficient to pay for everything in the basket, then take some things out of the basket. The source. Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Bad news for the wailing libertarian, bad news for those whose belief in liberty makes them feel menaced and inundated everywhere by arbitrary power and injustice, decline and misery, evil and peril. Depending on how you look at her, freedom is either a concept, or an aspect of reality, a vast and pervasive one, if we are lucky. As a concept it demands perfection and completeness, as part of reality it must accept a position, however prominent, next to other phenomena many of which may not square with the demands of liberty. The best that we can hope to achieve for freedom is an open society which gives her plenty of space to unfold. However, an open society will never be congruent with freedom. An open society will always be a mixed society in terms of liberal and illiberal elements. With their countless different views of freedom, liberals are among the first to feed the blend of contrasting components that make up an open society. "The truly great social catastrophes do not arise from a misapplication of the basic principles of a market economy. They arise from a wholesale disrespect for individual liberty, which is manifested in tolerated lynchings and arbitrary arrest, and from a total contempt for private property, through its outright seizure by government forces intent on stifling its opposition or lining its own pockets. The reason why Great Britain and the USA did not go the way of Germany and the Soviet Union in the turmoil of the 1930s was that the political institutions in both our countries were able to hold firm against these palpable excesses even as they went astray on a host of smaller economic issues." From page 22 of the source. If there are good things happening in this world, we cannot ascribe them to freedom alone, as if all the hindrances in her way no longer matter. If there are good things happening in this world, then this is because of a tolerable, perhaps even felicitous mix of freedom and unfreedom. Thus, a more complete view of freedom ought to accommodate the manner and means by which freedom and unfreedom coexist to bring about a world that gives us Reasons to Be Cheerful. It is easy to pick up a newspaper, watch television or look on a blog and assume the end is nigh. Between foreign affairs crises, demographic time bombs, debt icebergs and having only hours left to save the NHS (more on that another time…), it would not be unreasonable for us all to assume the world has got a lot worse – that capitalism has failed, inequality has sky-rocketed, and we are living shorter, sadder and more violent lives. Happily, this is not so. Thanks to capitalism, free trade and globalisation we live in the most prosperous, healthy, safe, equal and free period in human existence. Across the globe, as liberal economic policy and capitalism have left communism and command economies in the dustbin of history, we are seeing remarkable falls in worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, inequality and (despite current humanitarian disasters) deaths from war and natural disaster. It is worthwhile (as Free Enterprise Award winner Matt Ridley does) looking at the reasons to be happy with our world today and to be optimistic for the future. The source. See also The Blue Gravel Walk of Freedom, Goodbye to Anger ..., The Classical Liberal Constitution, and Cheese and Liberty. Image credit. Related articles The Gregorian Revolutions and the Divisibility of Freedom Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Wilfred Owen wrote Futility in May 1918, just a few months before death on the battlefield on 4 November during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal. Futility documents an event where a group of soldiers discover one of their comrades. He has died and their attempts to revive him by moving him in to the sun fail. The source. See also The Callous Complacence of Those at Home and 28 July 1914 - Outbreak of World War I. Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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To appreciate what gives the pic the meaning I want it to convey, take your eyes off the lady and note that the dog is being naughty. As I try to argue below, a feature adhering to all political convictions is that they are always in danger of being too good to be true. But then this danger (of being inordinately open to fiction) is a matter of dose. Hence, there is hope that the danger may be kept at a manageable level. Last week, Harbinger Capital filed a major lawsuit against the United States government for breach of contract arising out of its March 26, 2010 acquisition of a valuable portion of the spectrum known as the L-Band. The deal originally represented a major breakthrough in telecommunications policy, but now it sadly represents how government misconduct leads to major losses for society. Thus argues Richard Epstein, but he is being challenged by commentators of his article. Writes one of them: A more than somewhat disingenuous presentation here - Lightsquared negotiated for low powered spaceborne emitters in a band adjacent to the GPS band, then tried to move that allocation to high-powered ground-based emitters. That these would interfere with pretty much every GPS receiver installed in every device imaginable - smart phones, personal distress beacons, automotive navigation systems, etc. was a fore-gone conclusion. Lightsquared tried (using political means) to push this conversion through the FCC, who, to it's credit, refused. At issue is "who would accept responsibility for allowing a system that instantly rendered the vast majority of GPS receivers currently in operation useless?" Yes, new receivers could have been designed and built with the required increased filtering (at a significant monetary and volumetric cost), but all the existing receivers would be in trouble. The FCC has made many mistakes over the years, generally whenever politics enters it's arena - but this wasn't one of them. Hartley Gardner's comment on this article by Richard Epstein. I am too far away from the nitty gritty of the issue to count as a qualified participant in the discussion. However, both my initial intuition and my conclusion after reading all comments favour Epstein's opponents. My initial intuition was that the plaintiff had taken business risks that had a good chance of eventuating in a manner "lethal" to him. It made me wonder why anyone would be so reckless. I suppose, there must be ways for businessmen to hazard bankruptcy knowing they will come out of it unscathed or even with some profit. At any rate, over and above the specific case at hand, I enjoyed being a witness to a process whereby controversy widens one's view of the matter, triggering self-reflection and perhaps even an awareness of the inevitably ideological character of one's world view. The Gap of Intermediary Conditions The controversy that unfolds in the comments section reveals what I call "the gap of intermediary conditions", by which I mean: the premises and predictions of your belief system fail to link up conclusively; the consequences of adhering to your principles take a different path than predicted, owing to the influence of overlooked intermediary conditions. Say, you argue that private property is an absolute, in which case your theory of freedom may end up being blind to intermediary conditions under which private property is in actual fact second-best or even dysfunctional and dangerous relative to the specified characteristics of the common weal. Freedom becomes a fetish rather than a way of alleviating the human condition. The devil is in the details, but so is betterment. As Epstein himself explains in Free Markets under Siege one of a million instances of highly intricate intermediary conditions: [I]f the law seeks to determine a very complicated issue such as the optimum duration of a patent, it is easy to identify an infinite set of permutations. The question of patent duration cannot be effectively decided in isolation, without reference to patent scope, itself a highly technical area. To make matters worse, the field of patentable inventions might be too broad for a general solution to the problem. The answer that seems to work well for pharmaceutical patents may not be as sensible for software. But the moment we decide that different patents classes should have different lengths, someone will be faced with the unhappy task of classifying a new generation of inventions that regrettably straddles a pre-existing set of categories established in ignorance of the future path of technical development: such is the case with computer software, for example. Given this shifting background, it is very difficult to authoritatively conclude that one patent length rather than another is the best. Of course, we can make credible arguments that patent duration should be far shorter than copyright duration, but that does not fix an appropriate length for either form of intellectual property. In the end, the best answers rely on educated hunches by persons who work within the field, who may differ substantially in their conclusions. Liberalism's predetermined breaking points ( = unconvincing arguments) derive from one of its strengths: a passion for coherent theory. From which, in turn, springs the ambition to capture the world completely in a system of principles, lemmata and their logical implications. But theories are only approximations, ephemeral stages in the process of accumulating new insight. In the end, theories lead us to discover their dark, uncharted side, calling for their own revision. They make us see and understand intermediary conditions that we had been unaware of before. If a theory can hold its own in the face of new and more intermediary conditions, it has earned itself another lease of life. Otherwise it ought to be discarded or it can survive only in the form of an unreasonable ideology. Freedom as Method These are only preliminary thoughts which I hope to expand into a theory of "freedom as method" - by which I mean a method of looking into genuinely open ended issues in such a way that the presumptions of liberty... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Interesting in its own right, the below lesson in breaking open parmesan cheese strikes me as providing a graphic analogy of how spontaneous order and man-made order interlock fruitfully. To adapt to and use the possibilities of a self-generating order to your advantage you must study and understand its nature, and learn to find an interface between its features and your needs. Respect for and insight into emergent order will tend to enhance the range of wholesome applications for conscious intervention. It would be rather a surprise if people, on being given more liberty, were not to extend their efforts at controlling their environment and making it accord ever more closely with their needs. For that reason alone, politics and freedom are inseparable twins of great potential and ambivalent effects. See also my post on Greed versus Self-Interest, in which I argue that what defines man is the urge to adapt to his environment by developing and satisfying new needs. This fundamental anthropological condition explains the incidence of the entrepreneur and free markets, no less than the presence of political ambition and creativity. Proper stewardship of liberty requires participation in the vast areas in which politics rather than market based activities determine the nature and extent of freedom in a society. Also of interest: Goodbye to Anger - A Christmas Message to Libertarians. Related articles The Blue Gravel Walk of Freedom The Classical Liberal Constitution Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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More on the supermoon here at the image source. Is a 'Supermoon' a global event? Anyhow, I watched a supermoon from my garden, last night. A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. However, the moon never really changes size, and it's simply your brain playing a trick? More at the source. Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2014 at RedStateEclectic