This is Georg Thomas's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Georg Thomas's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Georg Thomas
Recent Activity
Image
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 5 days ago at RedStateEclectic
Image
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) She 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) She 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 lead 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. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at RedStateEclectic
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
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
Image
Image credit. Continued from Why Law (1/2): 1. Freedom as Method and the Social Space On my smart-phone, I have noted: Freedom as method is the ongoing endeavour to corroborate the hypothesis that by working out a consistent notion of the public we are able to comprehend more fully the consequences of our actions than by following ideas invoked in ad-hoc fashion. I am not sure, whether the analogy is a good one, but perhaps we should think of an astronomical object whose large mass causes curvature in space -- by which I mean to suggest that extra human effort that allows us to trace from an element immediately known to us its hidden consequences as they play out in the vaster system to which it belongs. I have further noted on my smart-phone: Freedom as method is the attitude whereby we construe the community as an order systematically connected by costs and benefits (or other interrelated effects). Certain types of individual or isolated action bring about changes in the distribution of costs and benefits in the community, thereby causing curvature, as it were, to the social space. 2. Law and the Social Space Man being a social animal, characteristics of the human community (on which each of us depends) are always significant objects of personal and cultural self-perception. This being-together, interacting and constantly-affecting-one-another is like an elemental condition, like wind, rain, and climatic states that impose themselves upon us and challenge us to react to them. In that way, the idea of the public is ever present in the life of mankind. In other words, we are permanently facing puzzling questions such as: What is the public, how should it be defined, how ought we to organise it? What sorts of relationships between the public and its members are admissible, desirable and deserve to be enforced? Is it possible for us to relate to one another in such a way as to improve common objectives - in other words: is there a common weal? How is the common weal to be achieved? Do we have to deal with different groups and individuals differently to achieve the common weal? Or are there circumstances such that we have to require all members of the community to be dealt with equally? It is the function of law to come up with enforceable answers to these questions. 3. Fundamental Elements of Modern, Freedom-regarding Law Ancient law comprises in large measure social norms dictated by custom, religion, tribal and kinship mythology, and other belief systems supported more by tradition than by rational investigation. Modern law embraces methods of rational corroboration. It becomes freedom-regarding law when larger sections of the population are ensured the right to rational corroboration -- the poor farmer proving the king wrong, and winning the case against the authorities. What makes modern, freedom-regarding law possible are three ingredients: (1) a theory of the relationship between the individual and the public, (2) the widening of the concept of the public, to include the entire adult population, and (3) the introduction into law of the basic heuristic of modern science - the critical method - an open-ended subjection of legal propositions to the method of hypothesis-testing. This latter approach implies the possibility of rational contestation of law, its finding and alteration by approximation, i.e. by piecemeal probing and change. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Why Law? (1/2) Freedom as Method Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. 1. Freiheitlich - freedom-regarding I prick up my ears when I hear of claims that certain expressions in one language cannot be rendered in another language. Often there is merely self-important half-knowledge behind such insinuations. English-speaking academics like to puff themselves up by claiming that German terms such as Realpolitik ("politics in reality," as opposed to some ideal political vision) or Ersatz ("substitute") or Schadenfreude (enjoying pain and other harm affecting others) have no equivalent in English. They do. Perhaps it takes a sentence or two to make the meaning clear, but translation is no problem. Sure, it may be more handy to use one word instead of a sentence, and occasionally that one word may be more readily available in German than in English. And such is the case, I presume, with the German word "freiheitlich" - "freedomly." "Freiheitlich" might be translated as "freedom-regarding." The term's charm: it does not ascribe concern for freedom to one party, political school or ideological trend. And, indeed, freedom is not the prerogative of its self-appointed libertarian trustees. 2. Freedom as Blueprint - the Illiberal Ambition in Liberalism The key misconstruing of freedom that is common to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists lies in their tendency to think of liberty as a predefined set of principles that is capable of orienting those in the know infallibly about all issues that might turn up to be decided along the line: good or bad for liberty. Put differently: these doctrinaires of liberty feel equipped to decide at any moment and under any circumstances what is conducive to and compatible with freedom and what is averse to her. This approach I call freedom as model or better, perhaps, freedom as blueprint. This approach is fundamentally illiberal. It is authoritarian and paternalistic. Only an elite, the select few in the know, are entitled to decide what liberty is. Of course, liberty just does not work that way, and, hence, the doctrinaires of liberty are always a tiny moping minority that is politically ineffective and rather given to the intolerant bigot's passion for sectarianism. 3. Freedom as Method - Democracy, Law, and Freedom, a Cross-fertilising Dependency By contrast, freedom is an evolved and powerful, yet imperfect method adapted to improving society by expanding personal freedom so as to include every citizen in the ameliorative project. Freedom as method applies the critical method to the concerns of the human being in his capacity as a social actor in a large, populous society. Democracy is one method of building freedom to trace and try social amelioration and progress. The other method is law. Thus, freedom is indispensably a democratic project, a bulwark of protection against the cartelisation or monopolisation of political competition in favour of an elite-minority characteristic of the limited access society that has dominated human history until very recently. Freedom presupposes the possibility of political participation by every citizen, i.e. every adult person. Helpfully, the German constitution - das Grundgesetz ("the basic law") - is referred to as "die freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung" - Germany's "freedom-regarding-democratic basic order." Freedom is a public affair, not just a matter of first principles and their implications, but one concerned with what we may achieve by both rivalrous and cooperative human encounters; hence the pivotal station of democracy, which invites all citizens to speak up at society's open fora, where we vent and negotiate our concerns and ambitions, and from where democracy sends impulses for change and shifting power. Law and Democracy The law helps define what the public is and what its organs are allowed to do to the citizens, and what these, in turn, are allowed to do to the public and its organs. The law informs, filters and collates democracy's impulses for change and shifting power. Together, democracy and law form institutions designed to improve the search for societal amelioration and progress without admitting inordinate negative repercussions from efforts at improvement. Freedom has space for movement (democratic demands for change and shifting power), and she needs brakes and channels (legal guidelines and restrictions) to ensure that the overall system is not damaged by the (intended) changes in its vital working parts. If freedom is to thrive, emphasising the mutually dependent and cross-fertilising connection between freedom, democracy, and law is of the essence. In denying and even fighting this vital triple linkage, the doctrinaires of liberty are actually working against freedom. Continued at Why Law? (2/2) See also Socrates - Understanding Understanding, Socrates - Objectivity, Socrates - Sciences and Politics. Of interest too: Freedom as Method, Freedom Limits Liberalism, and Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. There are areas of life where no such thing as the good old times exists. The IT sector seems to be such a field. If you do not put restrictions on human curiosity and creativity, the natural thing happens: continual change and progress. Man is a natural innovator. Transforming the world is an anthropological constant, a fundamental need inextricably tied to the human condition. Liberty is about ensuring conditions that allow man to act out this natural human need. Liberty is about making sure that government facilitates this human propensity rather than hindering it. Obstructing the drive to change our world is a way of dehumanising men. See also Greed versus Self-Interest, where I argue that man must and ought to strive for ever growing wealth. If this desire for more wealth is crudely equated with greed (which is silly) then greed is morally desirable - as one might argue for rhetorical effect, while correctly speaking greed is bad, of course, and self-interest good in the above sense. In fact, what is bad about greed is that it represents an overdoing, a transgression of the right measure of something, an excess beyond the harmless or wholesome, whereas an excess of self-interest does not make conceptual sense as defined above, since it would imply a violation of self-interest by self-interest. The crux: the way in which human beings adapt to their environment is by having and satisfying desires/needs. The greater the variety, variability and degree of differentiation of a specie's ability to have and satisfy needs/desires, the greater its ability to fit successfully with the wider environment. So the ability to constantly renew, extend and grow this ability is key to survival and advancement. Now, what is wealth? Wealth consists of things and practices that enable man to satisfy his desires/needs. Hence, if an open-ended development of desires is an anthropological sine qua non and the key to continuous successful adaptation to a changing and changed environment, then incessantly growing wealth is just as important. See also The Courage to Think, and The Amazing Julian Simon (1/3). Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm How Law Changes - The Forgotten History of Jaywalking Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Writes the Lincoln JournalStar: Laura Ebke is in the arena now. A political scientist who has taught American government classes at Southeast Community College and other institutions, Ebke was elected to the Legislature in November and is the student now. "It's a learning experience," she said during an interview in her Capitol office. "I thought I was pretty savvy, but now I can see what goes on behind the scenes. It's very interesting, and I enjoy the gamesmanship." Twelve years on the local school board was good experience, Ebke said, but it "did not really prepare me for the give and take" of the Legislature or the fact that "people actually are interested in what we're doing." On a recent weekend, the Crete senator's email box filled with 150 messages from Friday night to midafternoon on Sunday. About 10 percent came from within her legislative district. Make sure to read the entire article. For more background information and a more comprehensive portrait of Senator Laura Ebke, read For Ebke, public service runs in the family. See also Senator Ebke - First Speech on the Floor. Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. "The blunt truth is that even libertarians and other defenders of small government should support the basic constitutional framework that gives public officials extensive powers to control against infection and disease by devices such as quarantine and vaccination." Writes Richard Epstein: The current struggles over sound vaccine policy raise a tension between public health on the one hand and competing versions of individual liberty on the other. This conflict was, if anything, more acute a century ago when infectious diseases cut a wide path for which vaccines and other treatments provided only a limited response. The main constitutional lens through which these issues were viewed at the time was one of police power. This all-pervasive notion has no explicit textual authorization in the Constitution. But a moment’s reflection makes it clear that the Constitution’s various provisions protecting individual liberty must at times give way to government control in response to health hazards. From the earliest times, therefore, the police power has always been construed to allow public officials to take strong action against individuals who posed threats to the health of others by the spread of communicable diseases. In perhaps the most famous statement of this sort, Justice John Marshall Harlan, himself a champion of limited government, wrote in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that while the Supreme Court had refrained from defining the limits of police power, it had “distinctly recognized the authority of a State to enact quarantine laws and ‘health laws of every description,’” and then proceeded to sustain a Cambridge Massachusetts compulsory vaccination statute against smallpox, a disease for which Edward Jenner had developed an effective vaccine as early as 1796. The basic soundness of the constitutional recognition of a police power to deal with communicable diseases is beyond dispute. Even in a free state, quarantines are the only reliable remedy to protect the health of the public at large from the spread of disease. It is sheer fantasy to think that individuals made ill could bring private lawsuits for damages against the parties that infected them, or that persons exposed to imminent risk could obtain injunctive relief against the scores of persons who threaten to transmit disease. The transmission of disease involves hidden and complex interconnections between persons that could not be detected in litigation, even assuming that it could be brought in time, which it cannot. Public oversight should be able to achieve the desired end at a far lower cost. In making his broad defense of the police power, Justice Harlan did not mean to eradicate the substantive protections otherwise afforded by the Constitution. Thus, only three years later in Adair v. United States, he struck down a mandatory collective bargaining statute on the ground that its interference with the contractual liberties of the employer and individual employees could not be justified on grounds of either health or safety. That said, the categorical defense of compulsory vaccination statutes raises serious questions of its own. [Emphasis added.] Read more at the source. Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. "The idea of wind chill indicates how cold it feels on the skin's surface as opposed to the actual temperature," explains Steve Cleaton, forecaster for BBC Weather. "Wind chill relates to a combination of three things - wind speed, moisture content or humidity and the air temperature. Conditions feel coldest on your skin when they are particularly windy and dry. This is because the moisture on our skin evaporates readily in dry air compared to moist air, causing evaporative cooling on the surface of the body. Our bodies work harder to maintain its core temperature, leading us to feel colder." The source. More on evaporative cooling and calculating wind chill. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. L'Arroseur Arrosé. Rightly, in my opinion, Arnold Kling is unhappy with the mainstream ultra-Keynesian treatments of the financial crisis and its aftermath, whose all-purpose causal variable is a glut of savings and a dearth of government spending. By contrast, he favours the explanation offered by Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus in their book Engineering the Financial Crisis: The Friedman-Kraus story is one in which regulators suffer from the socialist calculation problem. With risk-based capital regulations, regulators determined the relative prices of various investments for banks. The prices that regulators set for risk told banks to behave as if senior tranches from mortgage-backed securities were much safer than ordinary loans, including low-risk mortgage loans held by the bank. The banks in turn used these regulated prices to guide their decisions. In 2001, the regulators outsourced the specific risk calculations to three rating agencies–Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch. This set off a wave of securitized mortgage finance based on calculations that proved to be wrong. Friedman and Kraus challenge the basic mindset not only of DeLong but of 99 percent of all economists. That mindset is that the socialist calculation problem, if it matters at all, only matters for full-on socialists, not for regulators in an otherwise capitalist system. In the conventional view, regulators can fail for ideological reasons, or because they are manipulated by special interests. But Friedman and Kraus offer a different thesis. When information discovery is vital, regulators, like socialist planners, are doomed to fail because they are unable to mimic the market’s groping, evolutionary approach to learning. The source. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. I. In Freedom Limits Liberalism (European, not American meaning of liberalism) I note: Most likely, freedom survives - with or without the support of the classical liberal - because [in] civil society as it has emerged in some 25 countries or so in the last 300 years [...] we have grown accustomed to practice freedom as method as opposed to relying on her in the form of a monolithic and socially predominant political creed. A momentous implication of this is that even if there were only one liberalism possible or extant in reality it would still not be the voice of freedom but one of the voices contending to shape our society and the face of liberty within our social order. We compete with our liberal opponents as well as our non-liberal political rivals (a) to define what liberty means and to try (b) to determine what impact she may exert on us. At the end of the day, the kind of liberty that proves feasible in the real world will be the result of interaction between many parties holding different views as to what liberty means and which elements of her deserve emphasis and support. Liberty as method (see my Freedom as Method) is not only (1) a disposition to check whether our rivals tend to diminish or violate the robust conditions of liberty, i.e. the arrangements, devices, and rights that make for civil society, and (2) an ambition to advertise further, perhaps more specific substantive visions of liberty (for instance a world void of the welfare state), liberty as method requires also that (3) we reflect the tension between our concept of liberty and the latitude that freedom provides for the supporters of alternative views that - in order to uphold the robust conditions of liberty - must be recognised as legitimate (contributions to the process of political competition) even though they deviate from our political ambitions. II. Take the issue of marriage licensing, which a liberal may oppose on the grounds that government is not entitled to authenticate a valid marital relationship, leaving such power to individuals and the institutions they form under the right to free association--one of the rights that constitute the robust conditions of freedom. Under such a provision one may choose to treat marriage as a holy sacrament to be dispensed by a church--a grand tradition that has been formative of social order for hundreds of years. But even within the Christian tradition, marriage, the features of morally acceptable marital status and behaviour, have left a trail of very different patterns including concubinage, and other arrangements alien to the contemporary Christian. (See Roman Church Pioneer of Liberty and Free Markets.) Asserting the various rights that constitute the robust conditions of liberty, not only does freedom defend the practice of a diversity of faiths and denominations, she also protects the heterodox and unbelievers, who, incidentally, in some important ways are the upshot of communities embracing greater freedom. Like Christians themselves or believers of other confessions of faith, non-Christians subscribe to differing concepts of marriage, including secularised variants in which government may take a significant role, perhaps even entirely ousting ecclesiastical institutions from the authentication of marital status. My point is that while it is perfectly legitimate to champion a Christian understanding of marriage in the Great Western tradition, this can only be done in the context of an open pluralistic competition to which all other exponents of matrimonial concepts are given equal access. Thus, there may be this or that Christian-and-liberal concept of marriage, but there cannot be a certain concept of marriage uniquely implied by freedom. One is not entitled to appeal to freedom as the justifying ground for a certain concept of marriage, but one may appeal to her as the justifying ground to take a certain position on the issue and add political weight to it, i.e. to vie for social acceptance of one's conviction in the matter. Freedom is the framework within which we come to settle - often with considerable latitude - the issue of socially valid features of marriage (and other vitally important social institutions, which is not to deny that marriage may be more than a social institution). Historically, liberalism has been closely tied to the Christian faith; ultimately, however, the Christian liberal impulses have been the pioneer of freedoms which have served to contest and undermine the Christian faith, and establish rival world views equally protected under the robust conditions of freedom. So what freedom accomplishes is the subjection of modern society to something like the analogue of creative destruction in the field of morality and social norms. Freedom defends the rights of our fellows to question what we believe in and persuade the community to tend toward cultural values that conflict with ours. Freedom is also an environment that ensures open access to the political process and conditions furthering peaceful reconciliation for those at strife. Which is why politics and democracy are inextricably built into the blueprint of freedom. See In Defence of Democracy and Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse - Thirteen Conjectures on Politics (1/3). III. Freedom has privatised religion. By the same process she has enabled the broader populace to interpret and manage in new ways social institutions once monolithically administered by the ecclesiastical(ly influenced) powers-that-be. The advance of religious freedom has been accompanied by the advance of secular freedoms. In fact, the former could hardly be achieved without giving rise to the latter. People have come to use the worldly technology of government, whose power has grown with freedom, to define and foster social institutions such as marriage. Therefore, it is likely to be very difficult, even impossible, to cut through the manifold ties between marriage and the social technology called the state. Freedom has empowered people to revolt against oppression by religious authority or at least experience the possibilities of dissent and alternative approaches. Next to the great Christian tradition, freedom has placed a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by entrepreneurship, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for the entrepreneur. Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by oil, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for oil - try and find an image in the Internet with a positive message concerning oil. I am not sure which impresses me more, the enormity of the daring deception at hand, or the thrilling suspicion that our political order is remarkably good at having people let off steam by engaging in cheap talk, while the scapegoat - here the oil economy - is left alone in sufficient measure to do its job, despite its misrepresentation in the political discourse. I suppose, by a lot of rent-seeking and other forms of political competition, it is possible to achieve in many vital areas of human survival a roughly workable equilibrium between figment and reality, even for extended periods of time. It may well be that we are facing a precarious balance between the (widely unacknowledged) costs of ideology and the benefits of realism and reality, but humankind always depends on both, myths and facts. Every culture is based on the most preposterous assumptions that will be gradually revealed in their delusion, and every culture survives only by avoiding too hard a bumping into the limits of reality. Can it be possible that the marginal cost of producing oil was $110 per barrel in June 2014 and is only $50 per barrel in January 2015? Yes. Here is how: in the first half of June 2014 oil consumption was very high relative to the then-existing world oil production capability. In addition, existing oil production capability is always declining as producing fields deplete. The marginal cost of a barrel of oil under such tight market conditions has to cover the capital cost of developing new resources as well as the operating costs. Toward the end of 2014 additions to world oil production capability exceeded growth in consumption, meaning additions to production capability were no longer necessary, meaning the marginal cost of producing the last barrel of oil no longer needed to cover that capital cost. Sure, some oil company somewhere had to make the capital investment necessary to develop the resource, but most of those costs are sunk and competition in the market means they cannot make some consumer cover those costs. The market price under today’s looser market conditions only needs to cover the operating costs of production. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. I use the term liberalism to refer to political schools that like classical liberalism, libertarianism, and anarcho-capitalism, do not or hesitate to recognise that freedom is of necessity productive of a highly politicised society. Only a narrow view of liberalism creates the impression of a monolithic ideology as the one true faith. Liberalism is not a voice, but a many-voiced choir within a much larger choir of innumerable choirs, all of which are legitimate participants in the process of political competition, unless ... Well, see below: Freedom is ultimately a political phenomenon, for she is uniquely characterised by the possibility of political participation by every citizen who chooses to take part in politics. (For special cases like Hong Kong, see section 1 here.) (1) The Pluralist Proviso and the Limits of Liberalism Any citizen is entitled to participate in the political competition of a free society, with the exception of those who undermine this pluralistic condition of liberty ("the pluralist proviso"). In an open society, a communist is perfectly entitled to join the political race, but he is not allowed to hinder others from participating in that race or obstruct or even abolish open political competition. This being so, liberalism faces natural limits to its ambitions. And these limits are set by liberty herself. Liberals will tend to condone a set of policies that is only partially, perhaps even hardly congruent with the set of policies approved by other partisans equally entitled to pursue their policy variants under the pluralist proviso. If a party B campaigns under the slogan "no welfare state," whereas another, ultimately victorious party A promises to introduce the welfare state, A is perfectly entitled to implement her campaign promise, as long as A does not violate the pluralist proviso. This is a fundamental and unalienable requirement of freedom. Non-liberals tend to dominate the corridors of political power for at least two reasons: (2) Freedom Demands, Enables, and Protects Political Action The pluralistic proviso, i.e. freedom herself, admits far more political action than is palatable to the classical liberal. Within that margin people will try out all sorts of policies rejected by the classical liberal. In this manner, not only will they discover popular and successful arrangements, but they will also create a delta of path dependency in such a way that soon novel political action will be genuinely needed to react upon past political action. The simple fact of the matter is that the number of people expecting politics to take action is larger than the number of people who reject such action on classical liberal grounds. So the experimental work of politics will be dominated by non-liberals. They will tend to build the political order, the infrastructure of political participation that freedom demands and protects. Sure enough, there are policies that are blatant dangers to freedom, but it simply is not true that all or even most of the policies not condoned by liberals are in that class. Furthermore, (a) the political system has safety arrangements to deal with severely malignant policies, (b) notably a robust pluralism, and, not least, (c) there is freedom's corridor of success, which is difficult to leave once the institutions of liberty have taken root: (3) Freedom as Method and Mean Reversion toward Liberty Most likely, freedom survives - with or without the support of the classical liberal - because civil society as it has emerged in some 25 countries or so in the last 300 years is (a) hard-wired to grow around the rough contours of freedom, and (b) in an open society we have grown accustomed to practice freedom as method as opposed to relying on her in the form of a monolithic and socially predominant political creed. [C]apitalism-and-freedom survive because they work so much better than anything else. Sooner or later, people find out about it, adapt to this condition, and avoid the pain that afflicts them when they move away too far from robust conditions of freedom. In this way, we travel within a corridor of success whose middle lane may be thought of as its most workable and efficacious part. The farther you veer away from the centre section, the more the deviation begins to hurt - and people tend to return to the middle, as the Germans did after 1945. The source. Liberalism, as I absorb it into my world view, is not a doctrine whose adepts know all the answers to everything, including a perfect blueprint of the way the world should be. My liberalism is perhaps best described as the application of Sir Karl Popper's critical method to societal affairs. My liberalism is thus rather a way of questioning and probing into claims of how society works or should be run. My liberalism is a method by which we test policy proposals by investigating their remoter consequences. The more people revert to such testing, the better the outcome, that is: the lesser the damage from zealotry, myopia, and superficiality. Related articles Freedom as Method How Law Changes - The Forgotten History of Jaywalking A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (2/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. "Liberty as method" is a catchword that I have come to use in the course of my studies of liberty; it is meant to signify the fact that those conscious of liberty must compete with many other ideologies, and that to the extent that liberal pluralism admits of rival political views and policies, and their (relative) dominance in government and real life, liberty may still have a decisive role to play as a method of questioning and challenging these rival political beliefs, and thus still be a very influential part of reality, though not overly visible. For example: to the extent that the classical liberal system of law is being honoured in everyday legal practice, liberty may be rather strongly enmeshed in the goings-on of our society, even though classical liberals may not be very prominent politically ("the paradox of freedom"). Yet, liberty is present as method - and in this way she may be a very important corrective and guarantor of "robust conditions of freedom" - which do not bring about an ideal world of freedom, but still one with substantial liberty in place. Freedom as method may also be an important early warning system, when society is deviating too strongly from the legal requirements ("robust conditions") of freedom. In arguing this way, my concern is to encourage a more willing participation, intellectually and practically, of those conscious of liberty in politics and the state, so as to be able to advertise and defend freedom not only by denouncing politics and staying away from it, but by taking part in it, learning from it, discovering freedom and her conditions in it. See also The Corridor of Success and A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3). Related articles A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
Image
Image credit. The Coyote on the left's fishy dollars: The Left spends a lot of time railing against the rich and large corporations. But in practice, they seem hell-bent on lining the pockets of exactly these groups. Today the ECB announces a one trillion plus euro government buyback of public and private securities. Between Japan, the US, and now Europe, the world's central banks are printing money like crazy to inflate securities values around the world -- debt securities directly by buying them but indirectly a lot of the money spills over into stocks as well. This has been a huge windfall for people whose income mostly comes from capital gains (i.e. rich people) and institutions that have access to bond and equity markets (i.e. large corporations). You can see the effects in the skyrocketing income inequality numbers over the last 6 years. On the other end, as a small business person, you sure can't see any difference in my access or cost of capital. It is still just as impossible to get a cash flow loan as it always was. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic