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Georg Thomas
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Heard this on my Saturday shopping tour. Found it gripping. See also Musical Interlude - Bill Evans. Continue reading
Posted 13 hours ago 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 13 hours ago 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 4 days ago 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 5 days ago 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 6 days ago 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 7 days ago 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
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Image credit. Relax for a moment. See also Blue in Green. Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I find David Glasner's blog post at Uneasy Money interesting for his discussion of (1) the role of axiomatic reasoning - much hailed by libertarians especially in the praxeological tradition (von Mises, Rothbard), (2) the aberrations of neoclassical economics, and (3) the concept of precision which is not infrequently used to rule out by denigration methods more appropriate to the social sciences, especially economics, than methods preferred because they yield the spurious appearance of supporting an "exact science". The way I read Glasner, he is saying that axiomatization in economics has become a fetish, a misguided promise of more profound and more certain knowledge, and that modern economics in its immature ambition to be considered "an exact science" and by overemphasising mathematical formalization has lost the subject-matter of economics out of sight. Glasner summarises: [...] that it is important to understand that there is simply no scientific justification for the highly formalistic manner in which much modern economics is now carried out. Of course, other far more authoritative critics than I, like Mark Blaug and Richard Lipsey (also here) have complained about the insistence of modern macroeconomics on microfounded, axiomatized models regardless of whether those models generate better predictions than competing models. Their complaints have regrettably been ignored for the most part. I like the way in which Glasner looks beyond the foreground and middleground, probing into the remoter roots of fetishistic illusions about precision and exactness in science. Thus, the author argues [...] the concept of precision is itself hopelessly imprecise, and to set precision up as an independent goal makes no sense. He backs up his view with quotes from Karl Popper's enlightening discussion of the historical development of calculus despite its lack of solid logical axiomatic foundation. And concludes: [...] However, the absence of a rigorous and precise definition of the derivative did not prevent mathematicians from solving some enormously important practical problems, thereby helping to change the world and our understanding of it. Writes Popper, the terms "exact" or "precise" [...] strongly suggest that there exists what does not exist – absolute exactness or precision – but also because they are emotionally highly charged: under the guise of scientific character and of scientific objectivity, they suggest that precision or exactness is something superior, a kind of ultimate value, and that it is wrong, or unscientific, or muddle-headed, to use inexact terms [...] [...] the demand for precision is empty, unless it is raised relative to some requirements that arise from our attempts to solve a definite problem. [...] [...] the attribute of exactness is not absolute, and that it is inexact and highly misleading to use the terms “exact” and “precise” as if they had any exact or precise meaning [...] [...] a lesson taught by the whole history of science: that absolute exactness does not exist, not even in logic and mathematics (as illustrated by the example of the still unfinished history of the calculus); that we should never try to be more exact than is necessary for the solution of the problem in hand [...] The source. Related articles The Great Fiction (3/3) - Fundamentum Inconcussum and Performative Contradiction Philosophical Weekend - The A Priori in Science Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The two major problems with modern liberalism (European meaning) are a lack of (1) theoretical fortitude to generally deal with the vast fields of contingency and indeterminacy opened up by greater freedom, and more specifically, a lack of (2) doctrinal maturity to guide it in political participation. Both deficiencies have a common source. The model of social order underlying modern liberalism is the market. But the market is only a subset within the broader social order. Hume or Smith were never in danger of reducing the system of liberty to a mechanism that describes free markets. But when Hayek speaks of spontaneous order, he is already propagating the narrower vision. I do not know when and why it occurred, at any rate, the tragic turn of liberalism looms when sight is increasingly lost of the spontaneous order of society at large. Why would liberalism suffer such constriction? Maybe because its roots lie in a precapitalist world, and more importantly in a world where government could not possibly be anything but very small by later standards. Maybe because its heyday coincided with the breakthrough of commercial society. Small government and commerce looked like the essence of liberalism. They appeared to offer liberalism's ultimate formula for success. Now, let me explain what I mean by "the vast fields of contingency and indeterminacy opened up by greater freedom." (1) Freedom brought about capitalism. (2) Capitalism brought about wealth. (3) Wealth required and enabled mass political participation, and wealth made possible government endowed with unprecedented resources. (4) Mass political participation brought about unheard of demands on the state. (5) Unheard of demands on the state brought about big government. Freedom brought about big government. It is useful to think outside the usual box, for a moment, and admit that there are not only silly and objectionable grounds for a larger state to happen. At least from stage (3) on, the delta of implications deriving from mass political participation and unprecedented publicly available wealth becomes much too broad and complicated, too contingent and indeterminate to simply wipe away any consideration of larger government as an expression of base doctrinal dazzlement. However, this is exactly the error committed by the liberal movement. By its very structure, the liberal doctrine was conditioned, or at least predisposed to heavily underweight political processes and the dynamics of state institutions and government. Liberalism yields to this propensity at a time when these are becoming the most powerful forces in society, next to free markets and civil society, by which latter I mean the growing independence of humans and organisations from the tutelage of the powers-that-be. The irony, nay, the tragedy is that liberalism becomes a creed of political abstention, just at the time when liberty is taking off in the biggest possible way. This is the dawn of the era of the paradox of freedom. Liberty proliferates and grows all over the world, but liberals hardly participate in shaping her fate. Those among them ready to accompany liberty in the political realm quickly amalgamate with other political schools uninhibited to regard politics as a welcome tool to bring mankind advances that the smaller governments of yesteryear were utterly incapable of. This is the reason why, for instance, the German liberal party has become yet another branch of social democracy a long time ago. A liberal party, a strong liberal force in politics is simply not conceivable under the core paradigm. A liberal must cheat or desert in order to become politically effective. I must use the word for the third time: it is a tragedy that the audacious vision of perhaps the greatest liberals ever, and the unparalleled success of their political activism have not become the guiding light of modern liberalism. Instead, liberals live estranged from and often embittered by a time characterised by more freedom than has been experienced in any period before ours. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are for ever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. (Federalist 1, par. 1) Emphasis added. The answer to this puzzle is not a foregone conclusion - it is an ongoing process of political activity producing partial answers. See also Political Correctness as Positional Good, The Market Is not a Democracy, Alchian on Politics. Related articles Liberalism - A Manifesto Liberty - Always a Political Attempt Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Edward Elgar publishers, in association with the Institute of Economic Affairs, are about to launch a revised Second Edition of the must-read-book by my favourite economist Steven Kates: Free Market Economics. An Introduction to the General Reader. Find my review of the first edition here. The author gives us a little personal background information on the book's cover: That is very likely the mill from which the plaque has been modelled. I wished to have a cover that showed a water mill made of clay because the two most important influences on me have been John Stuart Mill and the English economist, Henry Clay. My wife, bless her, found just such a combination on the net as the plaque was being sold just then. I therefore bought it, photographed it and now the clay representation of a mill is on the cover. I also like it because it is both nineteenth century and part of the productive apparatus of an economy. And it fits in with my understanding of Jean-Baptiste Say whose factory producing textiles was driven by a water mill. Finally, I just think it’s beautiful. I could not think of a better cover. My profound thanks to Ant for conjuring the origins up. The source. Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Make sure to read the article to which the image credit links. Economic reinvention is at the heart of business cycle recovery and economic dynamism. In the depths of an economic downturn, entrepreneurs take advantage of cheap, used capital facilities and idle workers to launch them in new uses. The productive supply-side reinvention leaves behind the broken economic model and unveils a creative venture of greater social value. The failure to appreciate this core economic dynamic lies behind the failures of big-government attempts to micromanage the economy. Discretionary Keynesian stimulus is built on the notion of propping up the existing firms, labor market relationships, and purchase patterns. In the aftermath of the Great Recession and Obama Administration stimulus efforts, new-firm creation dropped dramatically in the U.S. and the recovery proved modest at best. This is not a coincidence. Interfering with the core mechanisms for reinvention harms the capacity of the economy to transform itself for the future. [...] Flexible markets, a ceaseless commitment to innovation, the capacity to organize and reorganize skills, risk capital, and technologies are the mechanisms of economic reinvention. Personal freedoms, religious freedoms, and small non-intrusive government are the mechanisms of social, cultural, and personal reinvention. Our policy future should be built on these principles, and not on top-down, one-size-fits-all regulatory and discretionary fiscal approaches. The source. Related articles A Binge of Non-Value-Adding Spending A Keynesian Archipelago of Old Age Homes Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The inequality scam One of the most destructive popular myths is the idea that inequality is a severe problem and needs to be replaced by some state of enhanced equality - which always turns out to be inequality dysfunctionally rearranged according to the preferences of those with sufficient political clout. Why is the myth so popular? To like it you only need to regurgitate bromides that make you instantly likable and respected; to not like it you must think and look beyond appearances and face distrust and moral outrage. Be that as it may, to some extent everyone reroutes the flow of information from a lecture like the below one by Richard Epstein through the filters of his personally preeminent themes. For me these were self ownership and first possession, which I happen to do some reading on at the moment. A reflection on self-ownership Let us concentrate on self-ownership, which is a concept I find awkward, maybe because one tends to associate ownership with inanimate objects or non-human creatures, and only odiously with humans (slavery). What self-ownership really means is a bundle of rights that legally entitle you to do certain things by applying your mind and body as you see fit. I have discussed the errors underlying the concept of absolute self-ownership in Elementary Errors of Anarchism (1/2) - explaining that self-ownership can have legal and moral meaning only as a relational concept, i.e. one reflecting and defining social relationships, for which reason it will always be constrained and conditional so as to allow for the necessary give and take between human beings. Absolute self-ownership (doing whatever one likes) and no self-ownership (being unable to ever apply ones mind and body as one sees fit) are two extremes that can never serve as modes of structuring social order. So self-ownership lies somewhere on a continuum between these extremes. The attempt to qualify self-ownership by the so-called non-aggression principle fails. The principle posits never to violate a person's (bundle of rights called) self-ownership unless that person initiates aggression against you - which is why anarchists consider the state illegitimate, as it does initiate or threaten to initiate violence against people who have not initiated aggression against the state or anyone else. But this reasoning is remarkably naive, begging the all-important question: what is to count as illegitimate aggression? First, we have to settle what a person is allowed to do and what not; only then can we discern aggression from non-aggression. The challenge then is to find a (more differentiated) system of command [a strong term admittedly, bear with me] generating rules that produce optimal outcomes from self-ownership. It appears that now only three such systems of command remain to be considered: The first two treat self-ownership as a residual outcome subject to communal or governmental approval, the second is based on a legal framework that seeks to leave as much discretion as possible to the individual regarding what she can or cannot do with the help of her mind and body. (1) Communal determination of residual self-ownership - i.e. all human beings negotiating instantly and simultaneously with each other the content of self-ownership of each person, as in a Rawlsian world, where talents and other personal advantages that may be ascribed to luck are considered the property of all those not so advantaged, or the task is delegated to (2) central determination of residual self-ownership - i.e. an authority endeavouring (a) to approximate either the end specified under (1), or (b) to impose a regime of rules that purport to serve an even better or morally more valid end, best known to and enforced by that authority. Instead of self-ownership we could just as well use the term public ownership, as there will always be precepts within the bundle of rights that constitutes self-ownership which reflect public constraints on the individual - even anarchists admit this by conceding the non-aggression proviso. The term self-ownership, I surmise, is chosen to express strong support for a preponderance of decision making options delegated to the individual rather than to public discourse or public authorities. The best system of command, the liberal would argue, occurs under a strong presumption in favour of (3) determination of self-ownership under rules that represent a supra-jurisdiction, if you will, establishing in its turn a vast sub-jurisdiction for the individual to determine the content of self-ownership, i.e. the rule of law which enforces individually delegated decision making under common constraints, as opposed to the rule of man which is based on unconstrained decision-making by central authority. This third approach to self-ownership amounts to an extensive privatisation of law. Rather than approval by the public or authorities, what is needed in order to act in a way covered and protected by the law is compliance with general rules that circumscribe broad areas of discretionary decision making by the individual. In fact, the modern state is the largest privatizer of law ever seen in history, enabling an unprecedented independence of decision making by individuals and organisations from the discretion of rulers - which is what we mean by civil society. Under a law conceding extensive sub-jurisdiction to the individual, we can achieve more things and achieve them more readily and more peacefully. Ultimately, the extent of (a) delegation empowering the individual and (b) its benign efficacy are a matter to be empirically established. The whole belief in individual freedom is only as good as our ability to see where personal liberty ought to be fostered and where it must be enclosed. Now, this is where Richard Epstein's lecture comes in instructively. He gives an outline of the reasons and conditions that make a preponderance of individual decision making power desirable, and indicates how liberty is strengthened by the very limits we put on her. He also explains how forcing equality damages the common weal brought about by self-ownership. All in all, the lesson that I take away from thiinking about Epstein's belowlecture is that the key concepts... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Itself a great and wonderfully versatile source of reading, the Hit&Run blog has the below recommendation for your summer beach read: English majors may fondly recall novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne for enthralling works like The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. But few seem to have read Hawthorne's brilliant 1852 satire The Blithedale Romance, which draws on his frustrating experiences with the short-lived utopian community called Brook Farm. [...] The Blithedale Romance is by turns laugh-out-loud funny and darkly tragic, and its ending packs a wallop. In a world where so-called intentional businesses, foundations, and communities built around shared moral purposes are all the rage, the novel should be required reading. It reminds us that even the best intentions are rarely strong enough to overrule either the longings of the human heart or the basic laws of economics. Read the whole thing here (shouldn't require log-in or subscription). The source. Or you may try these reads by Ed Stevens. See also Willa Cather of Nebraska, Best Novels ... Part I, and Best Novels ... Part II. Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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George Reisman discusses Piketty's misconceived notion of capital and expounds his own view of the matter. The article is long, difficult, but a must-read, I am afraid. I couldn't say, I'm yet in a position to extemporise an account of Reisman's full argument. However, I am sure, trying to come to grips with it is a worthwhile exercise. Over the course of several generations, the US government has taxed away trillions upon trillions of dollars that otherwise would have been saved and invested and thereby added to the capital of the American economy. Capital is the wealth owned by business firms, which is used for the purpose of earning sales revenues and profits. It consists of farms, mines, factories, machines, tools, materials, components, semi-manufactures, means of transportation, warehouses, stores, merchandize of all kinds, and more. It includes the funds used to pay wages to the employees of business firms, and the funds used to finance the purchase of expensive consumers’ goods, such as houses, automobiles, and major appliances. The trillions have been taken away through the progressive personal income tax, the corporate income tax, the estate tax, the capital gains tax, and the social security system and its taxes. In addition, the US government has diverted trillions of dollars of savings away from investment, and into its coffers, in order to finance its chronic budget deficits. And its policies of chronic inflation and credit expansion have caused the waste of a substantial portion of the greatly reduced supply of capital that remains. Make sure to read the rest at the source. Anyone looking for immediate as well as long-term reward in reading a book on economics that helps you to understand both the big picture and its vital components, read Free Market Economics. An Introduction to the General Reader by Steven Kates, my favouritre economist. See also Rickety Economics and What Do Savings Really Consist In? Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Curiosity is the mother of philosophy and science, and looking out into the world with an open mind is the commendable talent of the entrepreneur. In fact, the scientist and the entrepreneur are really the same type, they go for the new and the better. For no particular reason, my glass is half empty, today. So, I see the clip as symbolising the victory of the square conformist over the hero type, which latter to me is the seeker of truth and improvement. But then, what do we know of the further life paths of the two frogs; maybe the frog in the bottle is only at the outset of a great, adventurous and fulfilling life. I am sure, if we had a commenting readership, we would witness an amazing variety of perceptions as to what is going on in that clip. See also Happiness and Freedom. Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the "Great War" – World War I. This is how the catastrophe unfolded: So then, we have the following remarkable sequence of events that led inexorably to the 'Great War' - a name that had been touted even before the coming of the conflict. Austria-Hungary, unsatisfied with Serbia's response to her ultimatum (which in the event was almost entirely placatory: however her jibbing over a couple of minor clauses gave Austria-Hungary her sought-after cue) declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Russia, bound by treaty to Serbia, announced mobilisation of its vast army in her defence, a slow process that would take around six weeks to complete. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary by treaty, viewed the Russian mobilisation as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, and after scant warning declared war on Russia on 1 August. France, bound by treaty to Russia, found itself at war against Germany and, by extension, on Austria-Hungary following a German declaration on 3 August. Germany was swift in invading neutral Belgium so as to reach Paris by the shortest possible route. Britain, allied to France by a more loosely worded treaty which placed a "moral obligation" upon her to defend France, declared war against Germany on 4 August. Her reason for entering the conflict lay in another direction: she was obligated to defend neutral Belgium by the terms of a 75-year old treaty. With Germany's invasion of Belgium on 4 August, and the Belgian King's appeal to Britain for assistance, Britain committed herself to Belgium's defence later that day. Like France, she was by extension also at war with Austria-Hungary. With Britain's entry into the war, her colonies and dominions abroad variously offered military and financial assistance, and included Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. United States President Woodrow Wilson declared a U.S. policy of absolute neutrality, an official stance that would last until 1917 when Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare - which seriously threatened America's commercial shipping (which was in any event almost entirely directed towards the Allies led by Britain and France) - forced the U.S. to finally enter the war on 6 April 1917. Japan, honouring a military agreement with Britain, declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914. Two days later Austria-Hungary responded by declaring war on Japan. Italy, although allied to both Germany and Austria-Hungary, was able to avoid entering the fray by citing a clause enabling it to evade its obligations to both. In short, Italy was committed to defend Germany and Austria-Hungary only in the event of a 'defensive' war; arguing that their actions were 'offensive' she declared instead a policy of neutrality. The following year, in May 1915, she finally joined the conflict by siding with the Allies against her two former allies. The source. See also World War I, The World of Yesterday, World War I and the Aftermath. Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit and more on another green blob. Again, let me emphasise that participation in political competition, political engagement, and hence the work of politicians are of the essence in defending the system of liberty that underlies our civilization. Just ponder these words of a politician: …However, I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of - to coin a phrase - the Green Blob. By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely. Local conservationists on the ground do wonderful work to protect and improve wild landscapes, as do farmers, rural businesses and ordinary people. They are a world away from the highly paid globe-trotters of the Green Blob who besieged me with their self-serving demands, many of which would have harmed the natural environment. I soon realised that the greens and their industrial and bureaucratic allies are used to getting things their own way. I received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland… The source. Related articles Eco-Theocracy Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2014 at RedStateEclectic
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Chris Berg of Australia's Institute of Public Affairs discusses "Too Big To Fail", and comes to a different conclusion than I do. He argues that the problem cannot be solved because it is an inherent concern of politicians to protect certain companies or institutions from terminal collapse. I would argue, that only politics can change the present state of affairs. However, if libertarians are unwilling to participate in politics, eschewing the competition for political dominance of the state, matters are indeed bound to linger on in their unsatisfactory condition. "Too big to fail" describes financial institutions, mostly banks, which have become so large and so deeply integrated into the financial system that if we let them collapse they would take everything else with them. If a corporation is too big to fail, then, it follows, taxpayers have to bail them out. It's quite a problem. A market economy is supposed to be dynamic, full of entries and exits. Firms that add economic value thrive. Those that do not go broke. So bailing out failed companies makes the economy less efficient. More gallingly, it redistributes money from the poor to the rich. And it creates "moral hazard" - a belief by management that ultimately they won't have to pay for their mistakes. Moral hazard is a particularly severe problem for banks. Banks trade on risk. A bank's basic job is to transform short-term highly liquid deposits into long-term extremely illiquid loans. Too much of the latter will prevent redemption of the former. Too big to fail encourages banks to make riskier loans. Why wouldn't they? They're not the ones bearing the cost of failure. Taxpayers are. So it would be great to get rid of too-big-to-fail. Or at least limit it somehow. The Murray Inquiry has a few ideas: higher capital requirements for bigger institutions, for instance, or new procedures for when banks do fail. But the question isn't what should we do about too-big-to-fail but what can we do about it. And the answer to that question is almost certainly nothing. Make sure to read the entire article. Hat tip to Sinclair Davidson. Related articles You Can Always Tell Them Not To Jump Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2014 at RedStateEclectic