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Image credit. Continued from The Age of Liberalism: I have progressed to page 178 of "The Evolution of Modern Liberty," George Scherger's book published in 1904, 111 years ago. It is an excellent history of the thinking that underlies the great American documents of freedom. I made two striking observations - well, they are striking in so far, as I am still somewhat influenced by the triumphant tone in which many libertarians tend to emphasise that the Constitution does not mention democracy. My own research into liberty has convinced me of the importance of government and democracy for a free society; and in this way, my own intellectual growth has alienated me from the anti-democratic ("Democracy - the God That Failed") fervour and crypto-anarchist demonisation of the state that have become the affective badge of membership among so many libertarians. 1. Observation Scherger demonstrates convincingly - without this being his objective, I suppose, but still evident in the filters of my reading - that the intellectual mentors most formative to the pioneers of American freedom regarded both the state as well as democracy an indispensable tools for the creation of a free society. As I scribbled in the margin: Looking at the liberalism of the Whigs, of its leading political philosopher, John Locke, and of Blackstone and others, Milton perhaps, who profoundly influenced the convictions of the American Revolution, I detect no anti-democratic or anti-state inclinations, but instead an ardent belief in government and public sovereignty and the need to cultivate these institutions responsibly and to protect them from neglect and abuse. Writes Scherger: The foundation of [John Locke's] political system is the sovereign power of the community. The end of all government is the good of the people. Institutions can be founded on the consent of the people alone. In America the principles of the Whigs fell upon a more fruitful soil than in England.The Whig platform became the platform of the colonists. Its doctrines were embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the American Bills of Rights. (p. 149) It appears that the libertarian emphasis on government abuse has gradually come to crowd out the underlying raison d'être for such concern - the insight that a certain form of government is requisite to liberty, and hence, deserves the most attentive management and protection. 2. Observation Now, let us turn to the colonists: They held the most liberal religious and political views of their time. Many were Independents who opposed the union of Church and the State and demanded liberty of conscience as a sacred right. Their democratic principles of church government gave rise to a democratic political spirit. Each congregation was a miniature republic, electing its pastor and church officers, and, while independent of all others, having absolute control over its own affairs. There were many other dissenters besides the Independents throughout the colonies-Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and others. [...] Religious liberty and political freedom have ever gone hand in hand. There is but a step from religious dissent to political opposition. [They] were not likely to submit to oppression and infringement of their political liberties. (p. 164 - all emphases here and below added) Furthermore: They acknowledged their allegiance to the Crown, but they would not admit the controlling power of Parliament. They considered the Colonial legislatures sovereign within their territories. They were composed of representatives of all the citizens of the colony. The democratic nature of their political institution and the extent to which they enjoyed the right of self-government could not but breed in the colonists a love of freedom and of individual liberty. (p. 166) As for the colonists predisposition for democratic ways, consider that the compact theory (the idea that men consent to form a common government) had a special meaning to them: It was the Congregationalist Church covenant applied to civil society. The congregation of John Robinson had entered into a covenant before leaving England for Holland. Before disembarking from the Mayflower those of that Church who had come to America, drew up and signed a compact whereby they constituted a body politic. (p. 167) Finally: Many factors worked together to generate a democratic spirit in the colonists [...] To them the principle that all power is derived from the people was more than a theory. [...] The ideas of Milton, Sydney, Hooker, and Locke were familiar to them as Englishmen; but they had among themselves since the beginning of their history ardent champions of democratic views, viz.: Hooker, Roger Williams, Penn, and others. In the American colonies the conditions existed which engendered democratic views [...] The character of the colonists, their surroundings and form of life, their free political institutions, their democratic form of church government, as well as their past history, bred in them a spirit of individualism. The theory of the sovereignty of the people lay at the basis of their institutions-the doctrine which, as a ray of white light contains the various prismatic colors, embraces in itself all the so-called Rights of Man. (pp. 176/177) Image credit. Related articles The Age of Liberalism Competing for Liberty (1/3) The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion Competing for Liberty (5/6) - Crusoe-Freedom vs. Multi-Person Freedom Competing for Liberty (6/6) - Coercion, Real Weath, and Efficiency 'British values' are about more than flag-waving Modern Magna Carta: the original and still the best Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am reading a fascinating little book published in 1904, "The Evolution of Modern Liberty. An Insightful Study of the Birth of American Freedom and How it Spread Overseas," by George L. Scherger. The writer makes me jump from one interesting idea to another, either taken directly from the book or inspired by it. I do not know with which idea to begin. For starters, I shall confine myself to a simple, yet momentous observation, namely that liberalism has changed significantly since the era of its heyday in the 19th century. In its contemporaneously dominant adoption by global social democracy, many, indeed, too many inhibitions, taboos, and reservations of classical liberalism are being breached, burdening the economy, jeopardising a balanced political system (one ensuring that no single force in society exerts absolute dominance), and undermining personal freedom - all of which being important pillars of the robust conditions of freedom. Crude ideological stereotypes of socialist origin - above all, the chimaera of inequality - are being used to leverage insufferably invasive and collectivist attacks on our free societies. In no small measure, I conjecture, however, these social democratic excesses are being invited by an inability, and - perhaps more deeply causative - a long-standing unwillingness of the classical liberal to enter the political fray so as to delineate his position from social democratic conceit, on the one hand, and anarchist utopianism, on the other hand. The challenge is that many of the social democratic policies are quite compatible with (robust conditions of) liberty, while some of these have tremendous popular appeal (like certain elements of the welfare state), though there may be other and far better approaches to the respective issues. But if there is no politically vital force to represent these better, genuinely liberal approaches, social democracy is destined to become the dominant political force. It would probably take an entire book to retrace the many roads that have led to a world in which liberals have become either social democrats, or crypto-anarchists sporting an anti-political attitude that incapacitates them to use the powerful tools of politics and the state to turn liberalism into a living thing, rather than a pious creed for personal edification with no public significance. As Scherger seems to imply convincingly, the liberalism of the 19th century did include great expectations for and a vision of the state as a liberating force - why this vision has vanished, why modern libertarians have practically reversed the original liberal view of politics and the state remains a puzzle, that I think, we should pay more attention to, so as to regain the ability to see freedom where she exists and not only complain about her being absent or violated: These declarations of the Rights of Man [most importantly in America, but also in France and later in Germany and other places, so far as they were American-inspired] mark a new ear in the history of mankind. The humanitarian spirit underlies them-the conception that each individual citizen is entitled to the concern of the State; that this personality is of infinite worth and is a purpose of creation; that he should be recognized as an individual, as a man. The principles they contain became the creed of Liberalism. The nineteenth century war pre-eminently the century of Liberalism. (Scherger, G. (1904), The Evolution of Modern Liberty ..., pp. 5 - 6, Skyhorse Publishing-empahisis added) Note that the great achievements of the age of liberalism rely on state enforcement, political mobilisation and, hence, increasingly on a thoroughly democratic public. See Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty, The Invention of the Modern Public, Modern Liberty's Model of the Public. Writes Scherger: Perhaps no other century witnessed greater and more numerous reforms and a greater extension of individual liberty. This century is marked by the abolition of slavery in all civilized countries, by the extension of the elective franchise, by the emancipation of woman, by the popularization of government, and by countless other reforms. (Ibid, emphasis added) See also Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) - Illiberalism Within Liberalism - The Liberal Virus of Pessimism, Freedom Limits Liberalism, Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm. Continued at Birth of American Freedom - Government and Democracy. Related articles Competing for Liberty (6/6) - Coercion, Real Weath, and Efficiency Voices Like That of Senator Ebke The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion Learning the History of Liberty from the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism Competing for Liberty (4/6) - Two Functions of Law, and Liberty as Method vs Liberty as Blueprint Competing for Liberty (5/6) - Crusoe-Freedom vs. Multi-Person Freedom Competing for Liberty (1/3) voteronpaul: Liberty & EqualityTwo central values of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am a great admirer of Senator Laura Ebke. Not least because she does what I do not do, so many of us do not do, though we ought to: she puts her convictions to the test of real politics. I do not refrain from politics because I think it is per se wrong to engage in it, as unfortunately so many libertarians think. I stay away from the fray because it is so tough and gruelling. Yet we need voices like that of Senator Ebke to be heard in the political arena, voices of those conscious of freedom. A lot of my writing here at RSE is in defence of politics and the state, an incongruous position, many believe, for someone concerned with freedom. However, over the years, I have come to realise that politics and the state are vital to our liberty; and when I say this, I think of public personalities like Senator Laura Ebke - undogmatic yet principled believers in freedom, with courage and circumspection in equal measure to defend their views tenaciously and to yield to better insight (of the need of compromise, for instance) when resistance to it becomes unreasonable. Make sure to visit Senator Ebke's excellent facebook page. Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. 1. Freedom as Real Wealth As we have seen in Competing for Liberty (3/6) ... , Stigler suggests that freedom ought to be measured in terms of real wealth, i.e. the maximisation of the set of desirable opportunities open to an individual. If by real wealth we mean purchasing power in an exchange economy, we face two difficulties. First, it is conceivable that a person with less purchasing power may be able to maximise the set of opportunities desirable to him to a larger extent than a person with more purchasing power (happy pauper vs. desolate billionaire). Second, Stigler's proposition does not contain criteria that filter out opportunities that we do not wish to be available under a regime of freedom. If by real wealth we simply mean utility, i.e. maximising freedom is the same as maximising real wealth and the latter is the same as maximising utility (personal satisfaction in the broadest sense), freedom again loses specific meaning, especially the ability to exclude meanings that we positively do not associate with freedom - for instance, the ability to torture children -, and in addition ascertainability, for not only is it often impossible to ascertain whether a person is actually maximising utility, but it is for the person in question often impossible to know whether she is actually maximising utility -- maybe it would have been better for her to become a computer scientist rather than a teacher of English. No doubt, freedom in the classical liberal sense will tend to increase real wealth in accordance with both denotations of the word - purchasing power and utility maximisation. That is, freedom tends to make us more wealthy, and she tends to expand the choices at hand as well as the scope we have to choose freely from alternatives. But these benefits of freedom depend on the type of acts of coercion that we treat as admissible and those that we suppress. 2. Coercion as an Inverse Index of Freedom Liberty has a purpose: the simultaneity of peace, productivity, maximal personal autonomy as equally applicable to all members of the community, as well as the best possible support of human collaboration, and human cooperation. Obstacles to the attainment of this bundle of simultaneous purposes to which freedom is geared may be regarded as forms of illegitimate coercion, which in turn, may be removed or prevented by the kind of coercion that is legitimate under a regime of freedom. We cannot achieve freedom by successfully excluding the possibility of damaging storms, insect infestation, and other acts and events that lie outside the purview of human interaction. Freedom is a set of rules concerning the legitimate forms of conduct among human beings. Thus the kind of coercion to be minimised and the kind of coercion admissible under a regime of liberty is confined to certain characteristics of human behaviour capable of being addressed by laws and other rules. 3. Freedom as Efficiency While freedom is not real wealth, but can momentously foster the generation of real wealth (see first section), she demands efficient execution. Freedom is attended by efficiency, but she is not conterminous with it. We will and ought to strive to achieve freedom as efficiently as possible. In suppressing certain repudiated forms of coercion by other legitimised forms of coercion we seek to be efficient in achieving the underlying objectives, the bundle of purposes that define freedom. Most importantly, efficiency is a facilitating practice, whose moral quality is exogenous to it. Whether or not we wish a practice to be pursued efficiently, indeed at all, depends on the use to which the efficient practice is put. Depending on goal-defining tastes and preferences, maximum efficiency can be at work in human societies of very different moral ambitions. Freedom is not unaffected by this. Any manifestation of a free society is the result of forces competing more or less consciously for the prevalent meaning or practice of freedom. I would argue that the purpose of freedom is to create a playing field for the competitive design and development of freedom. To make sure I am not accused of circular reasoning, let me rephrase the last sentence: The purpose of robust conditions of freedom is to create a playing field for the competitive design and development of alternative arrangements of specific freedoms compatible with robust conditions of freedom. Owing to differing initial conditions, tastes, and preferences, two countries may come up with different specific arrangements of restrictions and freedoms, having derived them from respecting the same robust conditions of freedom. Every human being is subject to his own characteristic of loyalties and traditions, group affiliation, inventiveness, acumen, local conditions, life circumstances, values, endowments and cost perceptions/scenarios. In a world where freedom comes at a price, different people can be expected to layout different scenarios for listing and prioritising traits of freedom that they wish to invest in as private actors, as political principals, or as political agents. For all those, who believe that shared decision-making (politics) is a deluded aberration from freedom as fully producible by market transactions, they ought to consider that economic scarcity and the attendant need to ration possessions, goods, and services produces political scarcity, the lack of value-unanimity and the attendant need to ration the implementation of ideological desiderata in society. As she frees people to practice ideological autonomy, freedom is more productive of political scarcity - measured as the number of different views that may be expressed and practically pursued - than any other societal arrangement. Therefore, freedom must also be the project that ensures the peaceful pursuit of pluralism. In a word: freedom is a political enterprise - for more see Freedom as Method, Harm Principle, Benefit Principle, and the Good Politician. See also Competing for Liberty (1/6) - Libertarian Paternalism and the Contestability of Freedom, and Competing for Liberty (2/6) - Harold Demsetz on "The Meaning of Freedom." Related articles Competing for Liberty (3/6) - Coercion as an Inverse Index of Freedom and Freedom as... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Following up from Competing for Liberty (4/6) - Two Functions of Law, and Liberty as Method vs Liberty as Blueprint, read more below on why liberty can never be the preserve of one school, faction, or an outstanding personality. Crusoe-Freedom vs. Sociogenic Freedom Freedom as Property Rights Let us start off by conceiving of the freedom of the INDIVIDUAL quite simply as the absence of personal or social restraints on his behaviour. Crusoe ... is a free man according to this definition ... [which] sees all limitations on a person's freedom as emanating from individual or collective actions by others. (Demsetz, H., The Meaning of Freedom, p.286, emphasis added) Now, let us try to extend the definition of freedom for a single person ("hermitage-liberty") to a multi-person environment ("sociogenic liberty," i.e. liberty engendered by the interaction of more than one person). To this purpose, Harold Demsetz argues: [W]e may begin by basing the freedom of a society of persons on two conditions: (1) all rights to act are private, which means not to be interfered with by the state, and (2) all all persons enjoy the same rights ... [F]or brevity, denote a society satisfying them as privatized. (p.286) In order to arrive at a reasonably unambiguous model of freedom, we must also grant the assumption that freedom-via-privatization can be achieved without incurring any costs. Why this assumption is required to ensure non-ambiguity, we shall see in a moment. In this model, all rights are simply assumed to be private, symmetric, known, and respected. No problems of defining and enforcing private rights arise. Each person ... is a Crusoe whose interactions with others are guided by impersonally set prices and whose domain of action is determined by his (acknowledged by others) wealth. The trade-offs available to him are determined by the non-collusive aggregate of wants and preferences, the given state of technology, and the relative abundance of resources. (p. 287) The above is a neat summary of the mostly unacknowledged assumptions inherent in the politics-and-democracy-averse libertarian vision of markets-as-social-order, i.e. the idea that all human affairs can be settled in the market place, rather than requiring also forms of reconciliation and enforcement other than those attainable by way of bilateral transactions. In this model, coercion in Hayek's sense [see Competing for Liberty (3/6) ... ] is absent ... since no one controls price or any other parameter of choice. Perfect decentralization also satisfies Stigler's real-wealth maximization criterion [people (i) have consistent tastes, (ii) make correct cost calculations, and (iii) take decisions that maximise utility]. (p. 287) Assumed to prevail are diseconomies of scale (and hence, dispersed ownership of substitutable resources), full information, zero transaction cost, and implicitly, costless privatization. the implied dispersal of these rights deprives any one of the ability to impose costs on others. Zero information and transaction costs imply real-wealth maximization ... Coercion is absent, real wealth is maximized, and rights are private. Perfect decentralization seems very much like a leading candidate for modelling the state of liberty. (p. 287) But then Demsetz warns: Extending the definition of freedom to a society of individuals is not straightforward. Individuals necessarily impinge on each other because resources are scarce ... Our [above] definition of individual freedom is inadequate to describe the freedom of a society of persons. (p. 286) [...] Weaken the assumption that private rights are freely known and respected, and ambiguities immediately cloud the relationship between privatization and freedom. How private is a private rights system that is less than completely enforceable ... How secure must private rights be for us to conclude that we are dealing with a society of free persons? (p. 287) Now it becomes more difficult to define a society of free persons unambiguously, because of the the potential trade-offs [that these questions] imply, trade-offs that would be unnecessary if privatization could be defined and secured costlessly. (p. 287) [...] The connection between privatization and freedom, which can be given fairly clear meaning in the context of perfect decentralization, becomes opaque in the face of positive costs of privatization. Full privatization us not attainable inn the face of positive implementation costs, and the degree of privatization that is attainable by persons free to choose is that which privatizes only to the degree that they judge efficient. (p. 289) No matter whether you subscribe to the small government approach to liberty (with a night-watchman state) or whether you support the idea of a society of free persons conceived of as relying strictly on private means to define and enforce rights [p. 288] there is an important problem that both alternatives fail to resolve: that of defining a state of liberty in a regime of scare resources. Given that there are costs of improving the reliability of private rights, what degree of certainty in the exercise of private rights characterizes this state? ... [E]ach person will consider what other goals must be sacrificed to improve the reliability of his private rights. Suppose that persons who populate a society place a very low value on improving the reliability of private rights and a very high value on other goals. is the state of liberty appropriately characterized by by the level of privatization chosen in this society? What values must a people attach to freedom before their chosen degree of privatization meets the requirements of a state of liberty? Defining the state of liberty in terms of private rights (defended privately or by the state) offers no answer to this question. (p. 288) - emphasis added. Free choice, the very precondition of free markets, engenders political scarcity, i.e. different strategies that people apply to form an attitude toward freedom that appears to them morally, religiously, or otherwise ideologically desirable and economically and otherwise practically feasible. This is the root cause of the natural contestability and faction-transcending competitiveness of liberty. See in particular the first post iin the present series: Competing for Liberty (1/6) - Libertarian Paternalism and the Contestability of Freedom. Elementary Errors of Anarchism... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I like to make the distinction between "freedom as method" and "freedom as blueprint." Freedom as method is akin to classically liberal law, with its two functions: the stoic function and the conservative function of law (again two terms of my own inspiration). The stoic function is to ensure that people committed to disparate belief systems can coexist peacefully while forming a productive community. The conservative function is to filter out practices and principles that efficiently serve all members of the community. While these functions are very useful and cover large parts of human life, they do not constitute a blueprint. i.e. a gap-less ground-plan, where all elements of "the good society" are registered in their exact functions, proportions and relationship to one another, but rather a method to improve social relations by trial-and-error-elimination and procedures of orderly contestation and reduce in piecemeal fashion conflict and inefficiencies in social interaction. Liberty is an open system, whose evolution is unpredictable, as it depends upon the free access of the entire population to whatever agencies of institutional change may be available. Particular doctrines and ideologies, including certain liberalisms and anarcho-capitalism, tend to overlook the competitive nature of liberty and attempt the reduction of "liberty" to a uniform blueprint that is intolerant of deviant visions or contributory elements. These get pruned and sorted out by liberty's partly grown, partly designed procedures of pluralistic selectivity. The incentives of people with real life concerns to interfere with reality are stronger than the arm-chair ambition to be right thanks to a world view that falsely makes a boast of being self-contained and free of contradictions -- not even mathematics fulfils the latter two conditions while nonetheless working with powerful effectiveness. And liberty too, gathers her powers from being an open system, geared toward permanent improvement and accommodating all creative sources as represented by each and every member of a free society. In order to understand why liberty is a competitive enterprise that naturally over-arches doctrinal factions one needs to throw into clear relief the tendency amongst libertarians to ignore the fundamental difference between freedom in a one-person-world (from which much of libertarian philosophy is derived - see my Elementary Errors of Anarchism (2/2)) and freedom in a multi-person environment (which is the condition under which freedom develops in reality). I am examining the issue at greater length in Competing for Liberty (5/6) - Crusoe-Freedom and Multi-Person Freedom. In this serial of posts on "Competing for Liberty" see also Competing for Liberty (3/6) - Coercion as an Inverse Index of Freedom and Freedom as real Wealth. Related articles Modern Liberty's Model of the Public Competing for Liberty (1/3) Competing for Liberty (2/3) - Harold Demsetz on "The Meaning of Freedom" Jeff Berwick interview: How the Government is Utterly Destroying Our Liberty The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion A Culture Lifted Up by Question Marks Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. On what terms are we agreed or allowed to trade. Which types of assets are cleared to be legitimately tradeable? Which ever way we decide, we are likely to face contention on these issues, and ultimately we can achieve freedom only by exerting a fair measure of coercion. Then what is the nature of coercion that is compatible with liberty? In his magisterial The Constitution of Liberty, Friedrich Hayek writes: We are concerned in this book with the condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as is possible in society. This state we shall describe [...] as a state of liberty or freedom. (p.11) Hence, freedom and coercion are inversely related. Furthermore, Hayek emphasises that in talking of coercion he wishes to confine the concept to human action, whereby one human (A) forces another human (B) in such a manner that B becomes, against his own will, a means used to fulfil A's ends. Thus coercion occurs when one man's actions are made to serve another man's will, not for his own but for the other's purpose. (p.133) This is contrasted by certain types of enforceable restrictions voluntarily stipulated. Thus, in his paper The Meaning of Liberty, Harold Demsetz notes: Hayek's attempt to distinguish his notion of coercion from "the terms on which our fellows men are willing to render us service" signifies an effort to associate coercion with costs whose source is not the impersonal workings of the market but in the personal decisions of men. (p. 283) So, Hayek seems to distinguish between coercion correlated with impersonal power as exerted by outcomes brought about by free markets and coercion correlated with personal power as exercised by, say, a monopolist, who, as the owner of a spring in an oasis, can exercise enormous power over others wishing to survive. The difference is related to the purpose of suppressing certain forms of coercion in a free society, where suppression is confined only to coercive acts that quash the network of win-win relationships among all citizens that freedom brings about. I shall return to this point at once. However, reminds us Demsetz: Stigler asks, What purpose is served by Hayek's attempt to distinguish personally imposed costs from those that are determined impersonally? Costs restrict freedom by restricting the degree to which persons can achieve their goals. Behaviour responds similarly to costs without regard to their source. [...] We make no distinction between the differences in the responses to different naturally caused costs. Why put the human who pursues a monopoly return beyond the pale of nature but not the insect who seeks gratification of a large appetite? The essential equivalence of costs leads Stigler to argue for defining freedom as wealth. (pp. 284/285) I do not think that Hayek's characterisation of the relationship between coercion and freedom is contradictory. In what follows, I hope to explain why and hope to defend Hayek against Stigler's objections. 1. "Costs restrict freedom by restricting the degree to which persons can achieve their goals." True. However, consider a rich man and a poor man, the former passionately desiring a yacht costing $ 1 billion, which, though he is rich, he cannot afford, while the poor man has no such desire and is reasonably happy with what he can afford. Is the rich man, languishing for a yacht he will never be able to get, freer than the poor man who is content with what he has got? Lottery winners often complain about the burden of their newly acquired wealth. Rich business men feel an overload of obligations and end up dying from a heart attack. Living on a small wage but with plenty of time at hand, I may ensure to myself a far greater richness of personally valued opportunities than a rich man drowning in commitments. What is most important is that freedom increases my chances to successfully seek the level of richness of personally valued opportunities that suits me. In historical stages of advanced freedom, we seem to encounter a condition whereby there is a relatively small, yet sufficient number of wealth creating entrepreneurs who are able to support much vaster numbers of people with less tolerance for risk and less ambition for material advancement. Incidentally, an entrepreneur may neither be particularly aware of the risks she is taking nor significantly motivated by prospects of enhanced wealth, but simply follow the path that leads her to a level of richness of personally valued opportunities that makes her feel content and excited about life. This may also explain why extremely rich people often continue entrepreneurial activities long after passing the point of diminishing returns from increasing wealth. While everyone is free to maximise personal utility/psychic income, even in ways that do not maximise real wealth (sellable assets and ultimately purchasing power in an exchange economy), the overall level of real wealth will tend to grow in a free society. Why? Because those who embark on a course of increasing real wealth purposefully or as a side effect to their activities face incomparably better conditions to do so than under alternative arrangements. The pursuit of productive, value-adding projects enjoys effective protection. While we, the barbers, do not increase our productivity, over time we get higher wages and enjoy a better standard of living created by the relatively few engaged in productivity-enhancing entrepreneurial activities. For more see my Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Freedom. 2. "Behaviour responds similarly to costs without regard to their source." Granted, some people (buyers) may respond in the same way to an identical increase in the price of timber, irrespective of whether it is due to a forest fire or caused by the emergence of a monopolist. However, the immediate, nilly-willy identical behaviour of buyers of timber under these differing scenarios is not the point. If the source of costs is one systematically incompatible with the win-win character of free markets (as is the case with monopolistic usurpation)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I have just been reading Harold Demsetz' paper "The Meaning of Liberty," contained in his "Ownership, Control, and the Firm - The Organization of Economic Activity, Volume I. Basil Blackwell, 1988" In this paper, Demsetz addresses a feature of liberty that I find especially intriguing -- namely, the fact that liberty empowers people to generate different visions of freedom. In other words: liberty generates her own indeterminacy and serial and parallel renewal. In which way she remains a living concept, and roots herself in the discourse of an open society. (p.281) This important condition is insufficiently dealt with in the libertarian literature, whose contributors tend to be more inclined to set out a certain dogmatic conception of freedom and defend it, often with acrimony, outrage and despair, against a world daring to proffer deviant attitudes toward liberty. Against this Demsetz notes (emphases added by me): For some libertarians, a free society bars restrictions that others may place on the use of legitimate private rights, counting among such restrictions not only state-imposed limitations but also privately imposed limitations, such as the "invasion" of private air space with smoke and soot from distant private factories. Defining legitimacy, of course, is part of the problem of defining freedom. On this latter issue see my Why Worry About Inequality? A Reflection on Self-Ownership, where I explain that the famous non-aggression principle amounts to a rather unhelpful position begging the question as to what is to count as aggression and what not. For conservatives, a free society bars prostitution, narcotics consumption, and commerce on Sunday, because they view such activities in the same way as libertarians view smoke and soot, as restrictions to which they are legitimately entitled. [...] Notions of legitimate rights are as varied as are the origins of restrictions to such rights, and the costs of reducing restrictions are as varied as the shades of meanings that different peoples seem tp attach to freedom. This casual empirical observation seems at odds with the belief ... that freedom can be given a precise meaning. (p.281) For certain purposes, I believe, it is possible and useful to give freedom a precise meaning. However, giving freedom a precise meaning is not the way in which freedom is achieved. She is much rather attained by a complex play of cultural-intellectual exchange and political negotiations among a democratic public, each member of which being entitled to her own position regarding the meaning and implications of freedom. In fact, a certain openness, incompleteness, and indeterminacy of the meaning of freedom is an essential requirement for liberty to work as best as possible, otherwise she would depend on the prevalence of an intellectual and political elite and the dropping out of the vast majority of free citizens from the level at which admissible freedom is being defined. The debate about freedom has taken place as if a constitution of liberty could be written on the basis of abstract principles relating to coercion, private property, and so forth. [But this is insufficient, for:] Scarcity implies cost, and cost implies subjective values, and not everyone shares a common set of values. It is therefore possible for different persons to disagree as to whether a course of action promotes or diminishes freedom, and certainly, to disagree about whether it is "worth" its "cost." (p. 291) So, when you are "free to choose," as your are in historically unprecedented measure in a modern free society, you are free to choose views, values and trade-off-strategies that establish political scarcity in the sense of disagreement concerning admissible forms of liberty, dissonant patterns of (restrictions and rights defining) freedom. In the measure that liberty promotes freedom of thought, expression, and choice she is required to incorporate institutions and practices that are capable of avoiding conflict-overload and creating a level of social reconciliation (institutions of violence prevention, political compromise, and trust) that compensates for the level on which social reconciliation cannot be expected (personal belief systems). So, one of the functions of the political system of liberty is to sustain incentives and institutions that make it worthwhile for everyone to tolerate unpalatable ideological commitments and value preferences in others. See also Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ... (1/3), and Trust and Democracy. Related articles The Invention of the Modern Public The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion Modern Liberty's Model of the Public The Meaning of Politics Is Fredom (Hannah Arendt) Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. An awkward implication of (some radically laissez-faire readings of) libertarianism suggests that it is fine for people to compete in markets, but they are better precluded from competing in the political field. The yoke of market discipline takes care of people's irresponsible propensities. Yet, in politics there seems to be no such harness available that would restrict the inevitable overreach to which people are predisposed. The hope and advice of certain libertarians that access to the political sphere should be barred or voluntarily relinquished in a free society is just another form of paternalism. A paternalism based on the intolerant fear that a view of freedom other than one's own may win the day. It is a demand by those purporting to promote freedom that seems to me incongruous in three ways : (1) Market discipline does not just happen, but requires forces to prevail in political competition that are prepared to demand and defend laws, customs, and regulations making for market discipline. Thus, it is hardy convincing to claim that the internet used to be unregulated and unaffected by politics and the state - when in truth the drivers of the internet are associations protected by and compliant with the sort of laws that make a free society possible. We appear to be faced with a special type of "what-is-seen-and-what-is-not seen," that for some reason libertarians do not like to look into more carefully: by enforcing property rights, the state becomes the strongest protector of a private-property-based civil society. Put differently, the state is the most efficacious limitation on the process by which government might crowd out private social arrangements. However, when we think of the state, we do not normally picture the billions of state-enabled, state-protected transactions, objects, and forms of behaviour that represent private property and from which the tissue is weaved out of which a free society consists. (2) Political emancipation of the adult population used to be one of the most important demands of (classical) liberalism. It would be a fatally truncated variant of "personal freedom" that does not allow for the individual's right to affect public affairs, i.e. influence decisions that do not conform to the pattern of bilateral exchange. (3) It is not true that free individuals have not been able to create a political order that largely complies with robust conditions of freedom. Our societies are peaceful, productive, even rich, and offer unlimited access to those wishing to defend or improve political conditions supportive of robust conditions of freedom. For liberty to be resilient in such a way, she must have room to accommodate the inevitable diversity of conceptions of freedom and legitimate forms of defining her. We must remain free to disagree about freedom and experiment with varying approaches to her. Freedom is defined by restrictions on arbitrary action. The number of such restrictions held to be sensible is unlimited, and to learn about and test more appropriate restrictions, we must allow people to compete for the acceptance and enforcement of their differing conceptions. This is why we should not expect to ever achieve more than robust conditions of freedom. The latter are the smallest common denominator of criteria whose fulfilment ensures an open access society. What makes freedom resilient and a powerful substratum underlying our societies is the fact that she is a composite of different visions of freedom. She is not the application of the vision of any single faction, which very fact is the trigger of unending outrage in all the factions there are. Why libertarians consider the individual exceedingly fit for competition in the market, yet incapable of political competition that produces acceptable outcomes, I have a hard time to fathom. However, I am confident their oblivion in this matter is related to their inability to conceive of politics as a spontaneous order which may have evolved, like markets, in an interplay of unwitting growth and conscious design, to bring about stable regions of dynamic near-equilibria in human interaction, including mechanisms of the kind that Adam Smith referred to as "the invisible hand." By "dynamic near-equilibria in human interaction" I mean communities that are stable enough to be enduringly peaceful and productive, yet at the same time capable of change and adaptation. It is beyond the purview of this post, but we should keep in mind the possibility of a close intertwining between "the invisible hand of the market" and "the invisible hand of politics." The business of defining liberty in practice is vitiated by the fact that there will typically not be perfect solutions available but compromises and trade-offs, and any number of loopholes for manipulation, opportunism and egotism. But these difficulties remain virulent in any kind of political order, while it should be the task of the libertarian to promote arenas, channels, and locks by which political activities are subjected to robust conditions of freedom. Incidentally, competition is naturally messy, which anyone will confirm who has ever been involved in real markets as an entrepreneur or a key employee of a competitive firm. Why should we expect political competition to be as orderly pre-arranged as the re-enactment of a stage play. The problems and shortcomings of politics are a price we must pay for a free society. It would be interesting to retrace the moments in the history of liberalism when the core demand of liberty for political emancipation, for political freedom, and free access to the practice of politics for everyone turned into a doctrine that places such practices under a taboo. Continued in Competing for Liberty (2/3) - Harold Demsetz on "The Meaning of Freedom". See also The Blue Gravel Walk of Freedom, Related articles The Invention of the Modern Public The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion The Meaning of Politics Is Fredom (Hannah Arendt) Modern Liberty's Model of the Public Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Libertarians Ignoring Liberty Let me state it upfront: many mainstream libertarians do not understand liberty as a grown framework that has evolved to become a firmly entrenched feature of modern society. Consequently, they are unwilling to support liberty in its modern form. The chief reason for this odd deviation from liberty's trail is that libertarians do not endorse the model of the public that effectively underlies freedom in today's world. Libertarians show great concern for certain fragments of the liberal vision, but they do not embrace the full framework in which the modern practice of liberty unfolds. Their model of social order is inaccurate, and the public punishes the libertarians' incongruous stance by depriving them of attention and support. Indeed, it is not surprising that the public ignores libertarians by and large, considering that libertarians ignore the public in respects most vital to their exercise of freedom. Unique Concept of the Public Underlying Modern Liberty Under conditions of liberty in contemporary civil society the public is conceived of as a network of bearers (a) of equal rights, (b) equally barred from special privileges, and (c) equally protected against arbitrary violations of (a) and (b). I cannot think of any other conception of the public as radically individualistic, egalitarian, and democratic as this one. Other conceptions of the public are invariably either divisive or paternalistically hierarchical, or both -- as seems evident from kinship-based communities, feudal-aristocratic-monarchical forms of society or the socialist paradigm with its divide between bourgeoisie and proletariat and its prospect of a machine-society run by an engineering elite that commands a population serving as small cog wheels. Liberty and the Comprehensively Inclusive and Systematically Connected Public So, liberty as observable in countries with advanced civil societies is effectively based on a historically unique notion of the public according to which each adult is to be granted free scope for autonomous personal action to the largest possible extent, subject to each individual being considerate of anyone else's same entitlement to personal autonomy. Two features stand out: (1) the full inclusion of all (sane and non-criminal) adult participants in society as members of the public sphere, and (2) the assumption of a systematically connected relationship between the members of the public in the sense that empowering every citizen in the same way to act autonomously, and restricting such empowerment by an equal requirement of mutual considerateness, will affect each person in such a way as to enhance the public interest more than by any other arrangement. That is: (a) granting freedom to everyone and (b) restricting such freedom only to protect the equal freedom of all, implies that everyone is an equally important contributor to the common weal. Under this arrangement, no one is being forced to contribute to the common weal (except for contestable requirements of resource pooling through taxation and other takings); but any less inclusive constitution of the public is thought to be less productive of the common weal. It is historically unprecedented to define the public by (a) inclusion of all adults, (b) endowing all adults with the same rights and subjecting them to the same restrictions, and (c) a set of relationships generated under (a) and (b) that are supposed to systematically further the common weal beyond the means of any alternative arrangement. Obviously, these properties of the democratic public are foundational for modern liberalism/libertarianism. Contradictorily, however, not a few liberals/libertarians do not recognise these properties and their consequences in the political realm. Yet, the robust conditions of freedom (freedom of speech and association etc.), which are - with other implications in mind - highly regarded by libertarians, do ensure the right for every citizen to demand, design, and participate in shared decision-processes producing decisions (public choices) by which all are bound. There are no good grounds to restrict the provisions of freedom to the context of private bilateral transactions of the market type. While the libertarian is strongly inclined toward such restriction, he thereby contradicts the epistemological argument for freedom, which accords the individual its central position in a free society with a view to her being the irreducible source of creativity, invention, discovery, and innovation in society. These sources of social advancement inherent in the free individual are no less significant in the public realm, whose participants should be protected against political abuse, instead of being deprived of politics altogether. Libertarian Denial of the Public Combining an unreasonably strong presumption in favour of private bilateral transactions with an unreasonably strong presumption against public choices, considering the former feasible and better substitutes of the latter, the modern libertarian paints herself in a corner, where the preponderance of public choices over private choices appears to her to be inordinate and driven by acts of bad faith that systematically undermine the possibility of a better society. Built into the public-averse vision of the libertarian is a perspective that views the substitution of private decisions by democratic decisions (including cases where private decisions are impossible or unwise to resort to) as attacks on freedom. She ignores the essential role that public choices play in a community practising freedom. In this way, the libertarian subscribes to a distorted vision of society that seems to her to be (a) run by evil special interests and (b) constantly approaching new lows in terms of violations of liberty. Instead of an enduring trend toward the loss of liberty, what is at play here is the repetitive application of a mistaken interpretation of public life. However, people need to act in the public dimension and they will do so, as long as freedom prevails, irrespective of libertarians trying to convince them not to. Of their own accord, in refusing to participate in politics and public choices, but also by appearing to large sections of the population as impractical and lacking in realism, libertarians suffer and accept a debilitating lack of power and intellectual significance. By privatising politics, i.e. withdrawing to embittered armchair-heckling, they disappear from the political scene, leaving the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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The 5th century BC is generally look upon as the heyday of the Athenian polis. The peak is preceded by centuries of strife, rapprochement and fusion among distinct tribes that will eventually make up the polis and remain visible as members of the political order of Athens. This post is related to Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty - [Image credit] Ancient Greece is a melting pot of very different cultural traditions, religious commitments and outlooks of the world. In addition, the seafaring and trading elements are constantly exposed to the challenges and insights of dealing with alien people and their peculiar cultures. Finally, the gods of the Greek are considered more knowledgeable than ordinary mortals, but it is thought within the purview of the assiduous to work out and come close to acquiring the knowledge of the gods. This creates a strong incentive to research and strive in other ways for genuinely new insights. Thirst for Knowledge and the Impulse for Freedom Taking all this together, Athens incubates a culture, probably the first culture, in which critical thinking is a prominent feature in the lives of its citizens. To many among the ancient Greek, it is a virtue and a passion to try to discover whether things are actually different from what they hitherto had been held to be. Custom, tradition, cultural and religious dogma are not hermetically shielded from critical examination, and different points of view that seep in thanks to contact with other Greek tribes and strangers contribute to the Greek mission of re-examining the world. The emerging attitude of critical thought represents a fundamental paradigm shift that will be decisive in the breakthrough of a new concept of the community. When everyone is thought capable of piercing with his mind the world's superficial phenomena to get closer to their essence and real structure, you create a totally new notion of who people really are and what station they deserve within the community. You create a public consisting of human beings equally endowed with powerful capabilities to conquer the world with their brains. This is the birth of the democratic public. At this point, the inquisitive, ever researching Greek mind, takes a seminal cue from former attainments in the study of the physical world. The Greek natural philosopher is deeply convinced that there is to be found measure, proportion, and harmony in the depth structure of nature. The helter skelter around us may be actually reduced to basic elements (atoms), a substratum from which variety is derived in a way that is orderly and open to explanation. This atomistic theory is carried over to a new realm of intellectual curiosity. [T]he Greeks of the fifth century had become familiar - through their contacts with foreign peoples and through rapid changes of legislation in their own states - with the variety and the flux of human custom. What more natural, then, than that they should find in custom and convention the analogue of fleeting appearances and should seek again for a "nature" or a permanent principle by which the appearances could be reduced to regularity? The substance of the physical philosophers reappeared as a "law of nature," eternal amid the endless qualifications and modifications of human circumstance. If only such a permanent law could be found, human life might be brought to a degree of reasonableness. Thus it happened that Greek political and ethical philosophy continued along the ancient line already struck out by the philosophy of nature-the search for permanence amid change and for unity amid the manifold. (A History of Political Theory, G.H. Sabine, 1961, p.28) The Inquisitive Demos Under the umbrella of this paradigm, a people is gathered to examine their natural and human universe, to come up with hypotheses and challenge one another, and debate as intellectual equals their understanding of matters. The search for harmony, measure, proportion is not only the guiding presumption of the curious Greek mind, but also the highest value for the member of the polis. As I wrote in Ancient Greece and Freedom: [T]he participation of the individual [in the public sphere] is paramount, but not for his own sake in the modern sense of personal freedom, rather in order to create a harmonious social whole. Property and family are secondary concerns. Freedom is serving the community, freedom is assuming a role, fitting into the community so as to preserve its capacity for harmony. Intellectual factions emerge which prefigure in astounding ways contemporary disputes (including those among libertarians), but what matters most for the present purpose is that two indispensable elements to be found in modern liberty are making their appearance: the right to question the world before your eyes, and the endowment of an entire population with this right. This is the creation of an egalitarian demos, whose every member is invited to apply his critical faculty to trace the laws which, if understood, would tell why men behave as they do and why they think some ways of doing are honorable and good, others base and evil." (Sabine, p.29) See also Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty, Summing Up the Universe - Sir Karl Popper's Three Worlds, The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion. Related articles A Culture Lifted Up by Question Marks The Meaning of Politics Is Fredom (Hannah Arendt) Freedom and Ancient Greece The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. In order to look for and understand freedom, it is useful to zoom in on four areas of human activity where she is particularly vital and a powerful shaper of society. These four areas concern the generation and handling of knowledge, economic sustenance, justice, and the public. Of these four areas, the prevalent model of the public may be considered the most elementary criterion by which to judge the quality and degree of liberty in a society. It is no accident that the highest degree of freedom ever attained is inseparably linked up with a particular model of the public. Namely, the democratic model of the public, in which every citizen has the right to participate in the competitive efforts at defining and influencing public concerns. It is this radically egalitarian, democratic framework of the public that determines in open access societies how we handle knowledge, how we act in the economic sphere. how we delimit the scope and competences of the public, protect ourselves against excesses of power and coercion and keep entry to political contestation open, and how we practice law. For its is this democratic model of the public that includes all citizens which is requisite to bring to fruition (1) the principle of equality before the law, (2) the even and comprehensive spread among the entire population of those rights and entitlements to protection that we associate with the idea of personal freedom, (3) the possibility of leading a private life and pursuing private initiatives including the free formation of organisations (associations, parties, firms etc.), that is: the emergence of vast areas of action, within which the individual can act autonomously, according to his volition, and independent of tutelage and arbitrary interference by government, (4) the free use of the knowledge accumulated and circulating in society, and the ability to contribute to this knowledge, say, by founding a newspaper or by unimpeded research, by propagating inventions and discoveries, or by participating in a monetary exchange economy, whose members engage in an informationally most effective exchange concerning their choice of preferences in the face of the relative scarcity of goods. It is inappropriate to speak of freedom unless there is an inclusive and egalitarian demos, i.e. a notion of the public whereby every mature, sane, and non-criminal adult is equal to every other such adult with respect to the non-privileging application of the law, the right to a protected private sphere, the right to acquire and disseminate information (subject to certain qualifications), the ability to form associations, including firms, i.e. participate in the formation and use of economic and political institutions, including the right to propagate one's views concerning arrangements binding on the entire community and compete for (a) the establishment of the legal validity and (b) the practical implementation of such views. The robust conditions of freedom listed above may be incomplete, and some of them may overlap - however what I wish to emphasise is the high degree of egalitarian content that inhere in them. Freedom enables the individual to become the driver of change in all dimensions of human life, from the cultural and political to the economic, rather than the select few. Freedom can only prevail when her robust conditions are operative. At the same time, there are innumerable conditions of freedom more special than those contained in the set of robust conditions. What makes these conditions special-and-non-robust is that they are compatible with freedom, while at the same time their absence does not destroy freedom. The libertarian is inclined to ignore the distinction between robust and non-robust conditions of freedom. It is for this reason that she tends to subscribe to a form of alarmism, according to which freedom is compromised and violated more systematically, more comprehensively, and more ominously than she actually is in a world of fairly well-entrenched robust conditions of freedom. The main reason for libertarian alarmism arises from (1) a reliance on principles that may be called (too) rigid in that they are held to be in need of insulation from social and political negotiation and, obviously, (2) a lack of awareness of the role of political negotiations in the practice of freedom. The trade-off involved here is one between the degree of completeness of a theory of society ("if my principles are heeded we shall have a society of maximum freedom"), and the admittance of contingency and indeterminacy in the development of a free society (" if any views and principles may be contested - under robust conditions of freedom - we cannot be sure of, decree, or foretell the development of a free society, especially regarding the set of special-and-non-robust conditions of freedom that remain unobserved and violated. If freedom is captured in a set of fixed principles, she is brought about simply by the observance of these principles. However, this overlooks that freedom makes possible and practically encourages the on-going contestation and revision of the state of freedom by the members of her demos. The point of liberty is to empower her demos to define the scope and nature of liberty and to compete for alternative ways of restricting freedom. After all, the only way to define freedom is to restrict her. Why the State Persists, The Gap of Intermediary Intermediary Conditions, The Market Is Not a Democracy, Forgotten Emergence - The Spontaneous Order of Politics, Related articles The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion The Meaning of Politics Is Freedom (Hannah Arendt) Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Back home in my cosy house after a long day. Lots of problems, lots of quick solutions. A good day. For days I had felt something is wrong with my car's steering; the cause turned out to be a tyre that was gradually losing pressure. Just when passing my auto repair shop, I noticed I had a flat tyre. About to close, the owner of the garage gave me a replacement vehicle, so I could do all the evening shopping I needed to get done - imagine: no more beer in the house -, plus an overdue haircut. Related articles A Little Perspective Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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The modern mainstream libertarian fails to recognise three basic pillars of freedom in the modern world, which incongruously puts her in opposition to a regime representing the highest degree of freedom ever attained: The three corner points of the libertarian triangle of oblivion are robust conditions of freedom, the egalitarian demos, and the invisible hand of politics. Robust Conditions of Freedom (1) The libertarian does not understand that liberty depends on a number of robust conditions, rather than a set of perfect conditions; as long as these robust conditions are operative, many different permutations of restrictions on personal freedom may be enforced without destroying or endangering a free society. Civil society is not jeopardised by a mandate requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, notwithstanding the question of whether such a mandate is wise or the best solution to the problem at hand. Those conscious of freedom have no end of good points to make that are likely to prevent nonsensical decisions and detriment, but many of these considerations may be ignored at the end of the day, while freedom is still not anywhere near being abrogated. A good description of the robust conditions of freedom is found in the Oakeshott-quote in A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3). Egalitarian Demos (2) The libertarian does not understand that an egalitarian demos is the very model of the public on which the idea of personal freedom rests. A free person is one that is allowed to develop and canvass her own preferred ideas as to how the public is to be defined and regulated. Within the inalienable fence of robust conditions of freedom a host of very different notions of what is conducive to the common weal will develop in a free society. The Invisible Hand of Politics (3) The libertarian does not understand that in order for unrestricted pluralism - a fundamental requirement of freedom's egalitarian demos - to prevail without destroying the robust conditions of freedom, we need all sorts of (designed and evolved) rituals and other mechanisms that ensure mutual reassurance, violence prevention and ultimately effective trust among the participants in the political competition of a free society. By "effective trust" I mean, that even though we may be highly indignant about our political opponents, we will (effectively) trust them not to kill us or do other intolerably severe harm to us, and vice versa. (I know an American couple who think I am a racist simply because they put me in the Republican box, but I am sure they will never stab me for that reason. In fact, even though many of their political views are utterly revolting to me, we are on genuinely friendly terms when we meet as we occasionally do in a certain restaurant. I feel, this "effective trust" is a marvel of institutional evolution, and it is the fruit of the invisible hand in politics. We do not see how we are led to effectively trust one another as if guided by an invisible hand. Precisely because in a pluralistic, i.e. in a free society we are given a high degree of autonomy and thus the ability to work out, advertise, and pursue our own ideas and plans, unanimity is likely to be scarce in many vital ways. A rational consensus is hard to attain on many decisive issues, so we need transrational layers of public exchange that allow us to signal and practice tolerance, productive tit-for-tat, long run give-and-take. Our political institutions and practices have secondary, unintended benign consequences as analogous to those of the invisible hand in the economic sphere that the libertarian rightly keeps praising. Just as it is frustrating to talk to people who do not comprehend the invisible hand of the market, it is vexing to notice that the libertarian is incapable of looking for spontaneous order and the invisible hand in politics. Grotesquely, the libertarian opposes the best form of feasible freedom ever attained. Averse to "voice" (the expression of the political intent of free citizens) and "public choices" (publicly ratified action binding on the community), the libertarian tends to discount or be oblivious to what democratic messages tell us about libertarianism, namely that it has little appeal to the modern demos, who is hardly inclined to give up democracy - the very substratum of liberty -, ignore the need to take collective decisions, and the many ways in which government can be used to act in the common interest. Related articles Competing for Liberty (1/3) Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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The resourceful and dynamic Anderson & Roe duo, known to our readers from A Kiss?, have an amazing new piece: See also The Classical Liberal Constitution (1/2). Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Question marks are often depicted as a symbol of burden, confusion, or perplexity. Obviously, we like to have answers, and hate to be worried by the unknown. Yet, our civilisation is being lifted to its advanced levels by a relentless barrage of question marks. The answers are only the top of the iceberg - and answers with exclamation marks are often only dots of pollution on the iceberg's top that can grow so large as to constrict the vital effervescence of doubt, conjecture and corroboration. Civilisation begins with the question mark. Advanced civilisation - freedom - is first and foremost the defence of the question mark, and the environment of its most productive use - for more on this, see my Summing Up the Universe, Sir Karl Popper's Three Worlds. The pillars of developed freedom are (a) free science, (opinion and expression), (b) free markets and (c) free political participation, each of which representing an industry of question marks asking (i) whether it is possible to improve our knowledge of nature and man (science), (ii) whether there are better ways of providing man with goods and services (markets), and (iii) whether there is room for new and better ways to advance social interaction so as to foster the ability of human beings to coordinate and cooperate peacefully and productively (politics). Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a question mark. To show that a question was being asked, the word question would be written. In Latin - quaesto. The reason that it was in Latin was because that was the universal scholastic language of the time. However, paper was not cheap and so to allow space to be saved, it was over time shortened to qo. That eventually posed another problem – qo could be confused for the ending of another word rather than an indication that a question was being posed. So, the q was placed on top of the o. Again, this had the added benefit of saving space. What happened next was that the q turned in to a squiggle and the o became a dot. What do you get then? Exactly! Here is the evolution. The source. I am not so fond of the exclamation mark. I consider myself a question-mark-liberal, rather than an exclamation-mark-liberal. The exclamation mark is what political schools and parties have in common, and with it the conceit of perfect solutions and the abandonment of unprejudiced analysis in favour of caricatured scapegoats. The exclamation point (or mark) has a similar history to that of the question mark. An exclamation point is used to give a certain punch to a sentence – and is used most injudiciously in a million text messages a day. Originally, an exclamation was represented by the Latin word io. This literally means “exclamation of joy” and is short itself for iocundia or iocundum. Once again, over time, the i was placed above the o. So the mark that we use and abuse so often (an overuse for which it was not – and is not – intended) is descended from a Latinate “yeeeees!” Goal! The source. See also Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm. Related articles The Meaning of Politics Is Fredom (Hannah Arendt) Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Political theory begins with the ancient Greeks. And with it turns up the hiatus between political ideals and political reality. Entirely neglected by libertarians, there is a spontaneous order of politics and the state. It is this spontaneous order that produces theoretical efforts and the attempts at political attainment in reality that often deviate substantially from one another. Freedom grows in complicated ways. Freedom in Ancient Greece The political picture of ancient Greece is confusing. The city states are formations of astounding compromise. They are the result of associations between formerly separate tribes, clans, kinship groups. In ancient Greece, the element of deliberative democracy appears to stem from the need to arrive at negotiated arrangements among tribes with varying creeds and values. For the free member, i.e. the citizen of the city state, the most supreme attainment, duty and privilege is to participate in the common handling of public affairs - (originally to make sure that one's clan or tribe is strongly represented). Bear in mind, this understanding of freedom does not stress the individual's rights, but the need and bliss of finding a station in the community, of being part of the community and contributing to it in a way that makes for a harmonious union of the members. From the point of view of the individual, this creates an awkward tension between empowerment and submission - the participation of the individual is paramount, but not for his own sake in the modern sense of personal freedom, rather in order to create a harmonious social whole. Property and family are secondary concerns. Freedom is serving the community, freedom is assuming a role, fitting into the community so as to preserve its capacity for harmony. Mind you, a faint echo of this resonates in the basic idea of liberal consequentialism, where personal freedom is considered instrumental in achieving "the good society." According to consequentialism, we approve of certain liberal precepts because ultimately they ensure the most beneficial consequences for all, i.e. the best we can achieve in terms of an approximately ideal social whole. Political Reality in Ancient Greece Be this as it may, the political reality in ancient Greece is very different from the ideal of social harmony. The desire to implement a democratic system with meaningful grass-roots participation, creates democratic processes capable of mind-boggling interference and arbitrariness. Time and again, the tyrannical character of Athenian democracy upgrades even the option of a tyrant in person. The ancient Greek understands the dangers of the tyranny, and she understands the protective role of democracy, but she has difficulties in fine-tuning the democratic institutions -- perhaps owing to the legacy of unifying large numbers of tribes, all of whom are to be given a voice in the public choir. "The spirit of the amateur, both for good an ill, is written large upon Athenian political practice." (Sabine, p.15) The miraculous capabilities that the modern libertarian ascribes to the individual left to his own devices without a political framework are confidently expected by the ancient Greek of the individual once she is part of the political debate, adding her bit to the "happy versatility." In Athens, politics and the state are insufficiently enclosed in the general division of labour, a drawback painfully felt in the area of law. In the absence of a legal profession and its attendant independent institutions, the law is as fluid and fickle as the fads and strands in an ongoing discussion carried out by a changing group of discussants. It is at this point that I would feel inclined to argue that ancient Greece did not know freedom, certainly not in our contemporary sense. Greece lacked at least one of the robust conditions of freedom - the rule of law. The Epistemic Revolution of Ancient Greece - Birth of a Critical Demos At any rate, with everyone being given a voice, the genie is out of the bottle. For the most significant ancient Greek contribution to the growth of thoughts and institutions relating to freedom is the indelible belief in discussion as the best means to frame public measures and to carry them into effect - this faith that a wise measure or a good institution could bear the examination of many minds - that made the Athenian the creator of political philosophy. The Athenian never believed that the customary code was binding merely because it was ancient. He preferred to see in custom the presumption of an underlying principle that would bear rational criticism and be the clearer and more intelligible for it. [Of the greatest import for Europe's future history is the passionate] Greek faith that government rests in the last resort upon conviction and not on force, and that its institutions exist to convince and not to coerce. Government is no mystery reserved for the Zeus-born noble. The citizen`s freedom depends upon the fact that he has a rational capacity to convince and to be convinced in free and untrammelled intercourse with his fellows. (A History of Political Theory, G.H. Sabine, 1961, pp 17-18) Thus, in ancient Greece, an indispensable element of freedom as method is born, only to be preserved in the tradition of the critical method which prevails precariously through darker ages and finally reappears and converges in the relentless doubt characteristic of modern science. What lends to political reality in ancient Greece an unbalanced quality is that one element of freedom - the ability to challenge everything - is insufficiently channelled by another one - the stability of law and the restraint of governmental interference and arbitrariness. However, we record a moment in the evolution of freedom when a political experiment gives rise to a new concept of the public, one that will take a long time to mature - a public that consists of all citizens empowered to apply their critical faculties to the task of defining the subject matters of public affairs and how to handle them. This is one decisive condition in the emancipation of the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Man as His Own Ultimate Resource Even the most highly developed and intelligent animals are mainly drawn to the resources that support their life and welfare by instinct and a very limited ability to learn. Man's situation is totally different - practically all resources that maintain and improve human life must be created by man, i.e. he must employ his intelligence to discover, invent, and engineer the way in which a something can be linked to human needs so as to serve as a so-called resource, a means of satisfying human needs. Oil is not by itself a resource (for a human being), man must first recognise its suitability for a certain human purpose and consciously develop strategies to instrumentalise the potential. This is a cumbersome condition, but it has its upside - contrary to what most people think, man will never run out of resources. He certainly never has. What is more, mankind has grown its resource base incessantly to mind-boggling degrees of availability and effectiveness. Man and World 3 Leaving aside, whether the below vision may not cover all dimensions, such as the religious sphere, or whether it can be made compatible with them, I find Popper's threefold distinction between world 1, world 2, and world 3 exceedingly insightful as it is. Immersed into, exposed to its effects, and productive of world 3, in exercising our intellect, we keep creating unforeseen and unintended consequences, which are powerful and consequential enough to force us to permanently challenge the way we look at the world. In this way, man is uniquely the intellectually alert animal, a kind of being that is destined to constantly discover new events and structures. Owing to this propensity, we are the only animal that adjusts to the environment by constantly creating and trying to satisfy new demands and desires. We have to, owing to our deep involvement in world 3. The history of man is a journey towards our becoming the ultimate resource (Julian Simon) for ourselves. That is to say, ever more comprehensively and effectively, we become the creator of the resources that we need for our survival and well-being. Freedom is a state of affairs that greatly supports and improves this fundamental human drive toward becoming our own ultimate resource. In fact, I venture to surmise that the history of freedom, the unfolding of advanced forms of liberty is a direct consequence of man's relentless drive toward becoming his own ultimate resource. This reading of mine of the human condition involves no hubris: man is clearly recognised as being highly limited, vulnerable, and fallible; becoming his own ultimate resource is simply the natural and apparently best way for him to cope with his tremendous insufficiency. Man has not resolved to take this path, he is pushed on it. “To sum up, we arrive at the following picture of the universe. There is the physical universe, world 1, with its most important sub-universe, that of the living organisms. World 2, the world of conscious experience, emerges as an evolutionary product from the world of organisms. World 3, the world of the products of the human mind, emerges as an evolutionary product from world 2. In each of these cases, the emerging product has a tremendous feedback effect upon the world from which it emerged. For example, the physico-chemical composition of our atmosphere which contains so much oxygen is a product of life – a feedback effect of the life of plants. And, especially, the emergence of world 3 has a tremendous feedback effect upon world 2 and, through its intervention, upon world 1. The feedback effect between world 3 and world 2 is of particular importance. Our minds are the creators of world 3; but world 3 in its turn not only informs our minds, but largely creates them. The very idea of a self depends on world 3 theories, especially upon a theory of time which underlies the identity of the self, the self of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow. The learning of a language, which is a world 3 object, is itself partly a creative act and partly a feedback effect; and the full consciousness of self is anchored in our human language. Our relationship to our work is a feedback relationship: our work grows through us, and we grow through our work. This growth, this self-transcendence, has a rational side and a non-rational side. The creation of new ideas, of new theories, is partly non-rational. It is a matter of what is called ‘intuition’ or ‘imagination’. But intuition is fallible, as is everything human. Intuition must be controlled through rational criticism, which is the most important product of human language. This control through criticism is the rational aspect of the growth of knowledge and of our personal growth. It is one of the three most important things that make us human. The other two are compassion, and the consciousness of our fallibility.” The source: (Popper 1978: 166–167). Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Either I thought the USA smaller or Russia bigger - see below video. Africa is a bit of a surprise. Also, the relatively small size of Italy compared to Alaska is somewhat unexpected to me. Mind you, I didn't realise Italy, at 301,336 km2 73rd largest country in the world, is so much smaller than Germany, whose 357,114 km2 (137,882 sq mi) make it the 63rd largest of 249 countries, with the Vatican City the smallest of all, just behind Monaco. By comparison, not vastly smaller than the United Kingdom (242,900 km2), Nebraska extends over 77,355 sq mi (200,349 km2), which places it between Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. The source. Related articles Put the size of countries in perspective by comparing them to US states Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit: Hannah Arendt: "Freiheit neu denken," ("Thinking Freedom Anew.") In my recent research into the features and conditions of liberty, I find myself strongly focussed on concepts of "the public." Ultimately, I am interested in the relationship between freedom and the law. Not least because I feel we can learn much about freedom as method by studying the law. In looking at freedom-regarding concepts of the law, I discovered that liberal law depends on a particular model of the public, in fact, an exceedingly egalitarian and democratic notion of the public; a public that is supposed to include all sane and non-criminal adults in order to bring about the common weal in its most supreme form. Two things strike me at this point: (1) just how important, I am beginning to realise, having a public and handling its affairs is for freedom. And (2) the disregard of or strong reservations vis-à-vis the public sphere (democracy, politics) elicited in liberal thought, when in fact an active democratic public appears to be indispensable to any regime of freedom, being both a precondition and the natural fruit of a free society. The Meaning of Politics Is Freedom "Der Sinn von Politik ist Freiheit," writes Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), no doubt inspired by Immanuel Kant: "The meaning of politics is freedom." Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was one of the first to argue that it is in the public realm, too - i.e. in the arena of politics - that notions of justice and moral appropriateness are formed and tested. Kant's seminal intuition points to a new, the modern idea of politics and the public: In this perspective, politics is a form of human interaction that creates a deliberative public, a dimension of the social world where we can voice our ambitions and complaints, design and make use of shared decision processes, while holding one another accountable for our contributions to this process. Politics is no longer allowed to be the unqualified, direct exercise of power. Rather, politics becomes a field of application for the critical method, of Popperian objectivity, of calling one another's ideas into question to detect the sooner what is dubious and debatable about them. The Democratic Culture of Freedom The modern public is based on the full inclusion of the adult population, the protected right to criticise political opponents and designated powers, and the enforcement of meaningful accountability. The modern meaning of politics is that personal freedom extends beyond the private domain to the public realm, replicating in the public sphere the scope that liberty brings with her in personal life as well as the restrictions that ensure viable freedom among individuals. The meaning of politics is that the free individual is being empowered to shape the public realm in accountable manner. The meaning of politics is that no longer shall the important issues affecting the community be left to be shaped and decided upon by a set of (usually rather few) higher human beings of a status, prestige, and power denied to the remainder. Personal freedom sets the individual free to use with unprecedented completeness and positive social effect two mighty sources of creativity inhering in her: her imagination and her critical faculty (her ability to examine matters critically). The meaning of politics is to unleash the individual's creative and critical power for the purpose of taking responsibility for public affairs. Personal freedom for all creates a democratic public that has the ability to put all public matters under high scrutiny. At the same time personal freedom demands mutual considerateness, to prevent the exercise of personal freedom in ways that infringe upon somebody else's freedom. The democratic public deriving from a general regime of personal freedom requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to be considerate and aware of the limits of one's rights and ambitions. We become morally accountable to one another, owing to the radically other-regarding implications of a regime of personal freedom that includes all citizens. Personal freedom becomes a standard that protects daring new demands on the public while disallowing ambitions that go too far. The meaning of politics is to limit one's freedom to ensure that everyone enjoys freedom. Writes Hannah Arendt It so happens that human beings do not appear in the singular, but in the plural [...] The moment I start to act, I find myself in the company of the many. [...] Politics is based on the fact of human plurality. Politics is about handling the being-together of humans that differ from each other. [...] The meaning of politics is to see to it that people consort with one another in freedom, in the absence of violence, coercion and domination, equals among equals, [extreme emergencies and wars aside] handling all of their affairs by talking to one another and by convincing each other. Politics in this sense is centred around freedom, whereby we conceive of freedom - in a negative sense - as a state of neither being dominated by someone, nor dominating anybody else, and - in a positive sense - as a space that can only be built by the many, who are strictly equals. (My translation - The source) What Hannah Arendt is telling us succinctly is that the democratic concept of the public, in short: democracy, is a demand, a requirement, and a consequence of personal freedom. The meaning of politics is freedom. Why, then, is the libertarian so uncomfortable with politics? Why is politics to him a game largely usurped by evil players who mostly pile up freedom-destroying outcomes? Why does he not see that the games played in the public sphere are complicated, of imperfect quality, and prone to awkward improvisation and failure -- but the games, notwithstanding their often messy upshot, must be played to keep freedom ticking? Not to mention the good that is brought about by them: Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ... See also: Freedom as Method ..., Making the Mistakes as Fast as Possible,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. In Germany, alcohol is freely available; it can be bought virtually round-the clock (with petrol stations serving as 24/7 supermarkets, and ordinary supermarkets being open until at least 9 PM). There is an age limit, but it is easily circumvented. Why is the kind of special interest opportunism identified by the Coyote below not happening in the German market? Living in AZ, I have come to expect that I can buy some tequila at my grocery store, but apparently this is a very limited freedom in the US: There are two reasons. First, this is where you get one of those left-right coalitions, with Republican social conservatives wanting to limit liquor availability and Democratic big government types wanting to keep sales to a small group that can be tightly regulated (and strip-mined for campaign donations), or even better, to state-run liquor stores. The second reason is that once any regulation is in place that restricts sales, the beneficiaries of those restrictions (e.g. liquor stores or unionized employees at state-run stores) fight any liberalization tooth and nail to protect their crony rents. The source. What makes the difference, I suspect, are inertia and US-specific tradition. By inertia I mean: it may be that impeded access to alcohol is a nuisance for many US citizens, but not one significant enough to take serious action against. By tradition I mean: substantial strands of the American society tolerate or support the extant alcohol regulation. The Coyote is probably right in suggesting that religious paternalism ("the right") and statist paternalism ("the left") are mighty forces that buttress the status quo. My main point, however, is that we seem to be facing a political situation analogous to a(n economic) market that is dominated by a leading player while being open to new entrants, which latter condition is what matters most. I see no insurmountable impediments to those who would like to change the present situation of alcohol regulation in the US by political means. In the meantime, we ought to appreciate the status quo as a reflection of broad public support, being a legitimate expression of the social conventions supported by our political order. Indeed, the variety of regulatory regimes in the US, even on the local level, does seem to point to the possibility of competition and change in alcohol regulation. I cannot make out a conspiracy against freedom. In a free society, special interests will organise themselves to succeed politically, some of whom will prevail with policies unpalatable to the classical liberal, without however destroying society's framework of freedom. There is (a) no prohibition of alcohol in the US, (b) only purchasing of it is restricted for certain age groups and (c) vending is subject to hindrances and privileges. Personally, I am in favour of getting rid of restrictions under (c) and support the creation of an open market for the production and sale of alcohol. In addition, I would favour a reduction of the age limit to 18 or even 16 years, emphasising socialisation of responsible conduct in an age group effectively exposed to alcohol consumption. Especially regarding the last point, I am not sure that I am right; conservatives and progressives opposing my preference may take the more convincing and more responsible stance. In a future post, I shall try to explain more fully why unfortunately classical liberals or libertarians suffer chronic alienation from democratic processes and outcomes and the pluralist variety in which the public manifests itself under conditions of freedom. Freedom is all about making possible countless things that we do not like at all. PS Incidentally, my sense is that religious fervour takes different forms in Germany than in the US. It is almost hilarious to listen to educated, well-situated Germans ripping the Christian faith and churches to pieces, only to turn in the next minute to soulful contemplation of a persons karma and the fateful presence in our lives of our remotest ancestors, not to mention their devotion to green myths and a belief in the miraculous powers of the state. I may be wrong, but I seem to detect that Germans lacking a firm rootedness in Christianity and the attendant church communities and relying instead on a woolly and wonky multicultural mysticism (based on vulgarised fragments of exotic creeds, not unlike the mumbo jumbo of Nazism, in some respects), have a strong preference for state regulation. In the absence of firm moral convictions, public/civic courage is not their strength; they prefer to look the other way (say, when youngsters buy alcohol illicitly), but come back with a vengeance when the state has ruled on what may have plagued them as a wrong or a nuisance, or begin to perceive such a wrong or nuisance because the state has decreed it into existence. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. This woman is congratulating soldiers for embarking on a disaster. By embracing new net neutrality legislation, might we be facing a much hailed disaster? Or are we going over the top with our fears? A Closed Reading of Liberty and an Open-Ended Reading of Liberty One reading of liberty favours political abstention, while another reading insists that political participation is an indispensable condition of freedom. I would argue that the second reading trumps the first. We cannot enjoy freedom in the absence of the possibility for every adult citizen to participate in politics, if she is so inclined. But we can have freedom in the absence of some of the many interpretations of freedom to be politically preponderant. Challenging Net Neutrality New net neutrality legislation is perceived by some as opening the floodgates to allow massive politicisation, in an area where previously politics had little/considerably less influence. Both this general contention as well as detailed arguments against concrete negative implications of net neutrality may be perfectly valid. It is absolutely vital that such objections can be raised. Playing on the fear of one narrow issue that would have been easy to legislate (that broadband companies might block or limit access to certain sites), the government used this niche concern to drive through a total takeover of the Internet. For more see My Response to Triumphalism over Turning the Internet into a Utility, and The Biggest Lie in the FCC's Net Neutering Actions. Make sure to take a look at the comments to these posts. Freedom is Deliberative Plurality However, objections against net neutrality and accusations of inordinate political influence are contributions to a debate, to which anyone is invited whatever her position relative to the anti-net-neutrality view. It is perfectly compatible with freedom, in fact, it is a requirement of freedom that people compete to shape the debate and the eventual political decision making so as to conform to their preferences. We should never forget that in a free society arguments and policies supported by (some faction among) those conscious of liberty are not by rights exempt from loosing the battle for public opinion and political dominance. Only what I call robust conditions of freedom ought to be exempt from being overwritten by temporal fads and currents in public opinion and political dominance, or to put it differently: the right to compete in the political arena must be absolutely defended and has a higher priority as a publicly protected concern than any particular opinion contributed to the scramble for ultimate political validity (expressed through legislation and enacted policy). For more on robust conditions of freedom see King George I - From Anthropocentric Liberty to Sociogenic Liberty, Freedom Limits Liberalism, and Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ... The Libertarian Conundrum There is a liberal (= libertarian) conundrum that relegates the libertarian to the sideline of real world politics. He wishes no politics, no interventions to take place, while many other players take the opposite stance. For the liberal position to become more prominent, its adepts must organise themselves politically and act in the very world of politics that they feel we ought to be able to do without. This has two implications: in order to concretely defend liberal positions, the libertarian must engage in practical, pragmatic and hence compromise-accepting politics, i.e. he must contribute to the politicisation of the world, he must become an effective special interest (say, in matters concerning net neutrality). Or else, the natural and legitimate desire of many of us to take advantage of the possibility of political participation - an indispensable condition of freedom - will be disproportionately utilised by opponents of the libertarians - which is what happens in real life, and has shaped the political face of our societies for at least 150 years. Self-Correcting Freedom If this is so, why should we still enjoy the blessings of civil society? I doubt that the libertarian can pride herself of being responsible in the chief for this happy situation. Much rather, the robust conditions of freedom are so deeply rooted in our societies that substantial violations of the framework of freedom are painful to such an extent that we tend to avoid them, at least in the long run, irrespective of people being much concerned with or knowledgeable about freedom. I suspect, we are free to such a large extent as we are in our historically privileged 20 or so countries supporting advanced civil societies, because freedom works so well, indeed better than anything else, at the level of development attained by us, and people find out about it, by trial and error, rather than some of us understanding freedom supremely well and exerting sufficient influence to protect her. Macro-Level Freedom and Freedom at the Micro-Level This assessment refers to the macro level. On the micro level it is certainly very important that the message of freedom is introduced into the various political debates, especially regarding specific issues such as net neutrality and concerning the defence of the robust conditions of freedom. But again, the message of freedom contains the postulate of open debate--and once you delve more deeply into the net neutrality issue, it is impressive to see the intricate ramifications of the theme, the many layers of issues and the spectrum of competing expertise. I place more trust in this vibrant debate than in any ideologically stream-lined, cut and dried opinions (such as one reducing the FCC to a simple motto "If It Ain't Broke - Break It")--and I am ready to find myself surprised by knowledge I did not have before. I am almost certain that a very thick layer of argument that is dear to the libertarian's heart is largely irrelevant or even counter-productive in that it alienates large parts of the public from the libertarian core objective of freedom: the false reasons/assumptions underlying the libertarian abstention from practical politics. Freedom to Act with Public Effect The libertarian's basic error is to ignore that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. In Germany, firms of a certain size are required to employ specialised personnel whose task it is to police gender issues, i.e. to enforce a whole range of privileges intended to protect women against the oppression and exploitation they are with certainty assumed to have to face from men in the absence of such guardianship. The German gender equality officer reminds me of the Blockwart ("snoop") in olden days, whose task it was to ensure amongst other things that on a certain day of the week all Germans were eating a vegetarian dish, so as to save meat for the soldiers at the front. Or make sure that everyone had a portrait of Hitler on the wall and a neat Nazi flag on the birthday of ze Führer. I never understood why female as well as male business owners should instigate against themselves a deteriorating profit-and-loss-situation by paying men substantially higher wages for a job than women available to do the same assignment equally well. I thought, "dirty capitalists" were supposed to exploit employees rather than themselves. I do understand, though, why mighty special interests would find it useful to present such a preposterous claim as sheer fact. Reminds me of Armen Alchians dictum, quoted in my Property Rights, Alchian on Politics, and Why the State Persists: I know of no way to reduce the prospective enhancement from greater political power-seeking, but I do know ways to reduce the rewards to market-oriented capitalist competition. And so, like the Flying Dutchman, recreated by light and water in the above image, the myth that women earn less money than men for the same type of work seems doomed to follow a course of eternal persistence in the disseminations of the media. According to all the media headlines about a new White House report, there's still a big pay gap between men and women in America. The report found that women earn 75 cents for every dollar men make. Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's misleading. According to highly acclaimed career expert and best-selling author, Marty Nemko, "The data is clear that for the same work men and women are paid roughly the same. The media need to look beyond the claims of feminist organizations." On a radio talk show, Nemko clearly and forcefully debunked that ultimate myth - that women make less than men - by explaining why, when you compare apples to apples, it simply isn't true. Even the White House report: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being explains why. Simply put, men choose higher-paying jobs. And "An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women" prepared, under contract, for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1/09, sums it up: "This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers." Read more at the source. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Not the best sound quality, but still highly enjoyable. Sonata for violoncello and piano in f-major, op. 6, by Richard Strauss: Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Kelvin Kemm asks what are the lessons learned from Fukushima? Once you pierce through the propaganda to the facts, the answer is: nuclear energy is amazingly safe. Indeed, thanks to events that have occurred at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power has been proven to be much safer than anyone had previously imagined. Read the entire article at the source. See also Fukushima - Sobering Up in Japan, and further links contained in that post. Of interest also: Hormesis ... and Hiroshima Victims Live Longer. Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic