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Image credit. In an editorial entitled Say no to 'lazy policymaking', the Omaha World-Herald portrays Senator Laura Ebke's efforts at maintaining the nature of policy formation as a duty pursued in the service of the public: Ebke, known at the State Capitol for her energetic committee work and well-informed comments during floor debates, said she wants to approach policymaking responsibly rather than having her stance dictated to her upfront according to a party’s or the governor’s particular needs. Describing the pressure applied by partisans to Republican senators to vote a certain way, she wrote: “There is no discussion about ideas, and little negotiation — if a bill is controversial, the teams are supposed to split up, and everyone is expected to ‘fly right.’ I believe that’s lazy policymaking.” She added: “Those who want my vote on a controversial issue will have to make the case based on solid reasoning — not on manufactured partisan hyperbole.” Well-considered decision-making, she wrote, isn’t compatible with being “held hostage to partisan considerations.” Plus, she noted, maintaining the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches is a fundamental doctrine in American government. The source. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Hit & Run reports: The Daily Beast reported yesterday that the vice chair of the Washington, D.C. Republican Party, Gary Teal, has announced that he's voting for the Libertarian and therefore resigning his post within the GOP. He was joined by three other D.C. delegates to the RNC: Justin Dillon, Kris Hammond, and Peter Lee—who were wearing #NeverTrump buttons—spoke to The Daily Beast in the hallway of Quicken Loans Arena, just minutes after Donald Trump finished his keynote speech on Thursday night. "The RNC has bungled this nomination process by having bad rules," Teal said, referring to a controversy over nominating rules that caused chaos on the convention floor Monday. "And now at this convention, they've sacrificed integrity in favor of unity." Prior to the convention, Rhode Island Republican State Sen. Dawson Hodgson, who is described as "prominent" by The Providence Journal, resigned as a delegate and pledged his support to Johnson. Other elected officials supporting Johnson include: * Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke (R). * Nevada Assemblyman John Moore, who was elected as a Republican but switched to Libertarian. * New Hampshire State Rep. Max Abramson (R). Montana State Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (at least as listed on the Johnson/Weld endorsements page and on Wikipedia; Schwaderer's June 28 Facebook post extolling the virtues of the L.P. ticket concludes with less decisive language: "I recommend that you hear what they have to say and genuinely take on board their perspective. In a cycle of vitriol I believe that this ticket deserves a slot on the Presidential debate circuit; if anything the[y] elevate the rhetoric on the stage and entice all three candidates to bring this debate back to policy." I have emailed Schwaderer for clarification.) * Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen (R). Anthony Fisher found other Utah delegates who said they were leaning Johnson, and when Nick Gillespie and I interviewed a bunch of Millennial delegates at the RNC, it was hard to find any who didn't prefer Gary Johnson to Donald Trump. Still, the big endorsement gossip yesterday was about whether Johnson was going to get the nod this week from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The source. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at RedStateEclectic
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Nebraska's name is derived from transliteration of the archaic Otoe words Ñí Brásge, or the Omaha Ní Btháska, meaning "flat water", after the Platte River that flows through the state. [Platt in German means flat - so, are we behind this, too?] Nebraska is a state that lies in both the Great Plains and the Midwestern United States. Its state capital is Lincoln. Its largest city is Omaha, which is on the Missouri River. The state is crossed by many historic trails and was explored by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The California Gold Rush brought the first large numbers of non-indigenous settlers to the area. Nebraska was admitted as the 37th state of the United States in 1867. Check out these stunning color pictures ... and see what life of Nebraska looked like in the 1960s. The source. See also Willa Cather of Nebraska. Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Senator Laura Ebke's move to join the Libertarian Party after decades of dedicated political work as a member of the Republican party is eliciting media coverage, including this report at Reason. As a subscriber to her regular newsletter, I have received the below statement, which I would like to share with the readers of RedStateEclectic: June 1, 2016 Dear Georg, Yesterday, Tuesday, May 31, I sent a letter, primarily to folks in the district, who had supported me financially in my campaign for the Legislature in 2014. The purpose of the letter was to give them the courtesy of a "heads up" before a more general announcement. I am now providing you with most of that letter, because I want you to hear this from me before it hits the presses. Based on phone calls I'm getting, it would appear that rumors are out there, and before I talk to the press, I want you to know what's going on. Late last week, I initiated a change of political party registration online. I have switched from Republican affiliation, to Libertarian. PLEASE take the time to read my reasons below. My reasons for making this switch are many, and it was not made without many months of consideration. Let me tell you a little bit about the thought process I’ve been through—and assure you that my basic view of the world has not changed. First, I have always considered myself to be a conservative. I was born into a conservative Republican family in 1962, heard talk of politics from an early age (I’m not sure I believe the family lore that my first word was “Goldwater”). I idolized Nebraska’s late Senator Carl Curtis while I was still in elementary school in Fairbury. For most of my childhood, someone in my family—either my father, grandfather, or mother, was chair of the Republican Party in Jefferson County. When I turned 13, I joined the then-active Teen Age Republicans (TARs). In 1976, at the age of 14, I watched the Republican Convention in Kansas City on TV with my dad, cried because Ronald Reagan lost the nomination to President Ford, and then went out to the family cars the next morning, and changed the bumper stickers from Reagan to Ford. By the time I was 16, I was the Nebraska TAR Chair. I’d knocked on doors with Congressman Doug Bereuter in his first campaign. I was a political activist, a proud constitutional conservative, and a proud Republican. I have, as I write this, a collection of about 40 Frankoma elephant mugs, in my home office, which were sold beginning in 1968 until the early 2000’s, primarily as fundraisers for local Republican Women’s clubs. I’m only missing a few in the total collection. I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and my second one for him in 1984. I voted for George Bush, senior (although I probably would have preferred Jack Kemp as a more visionary alternative); I voted for Bob Dole, even though his approach was not really what I yearned for; George W. Bush got my vote in 2000 and 2004, even though I became increasingly disillusioned with the “conservatism” of the Party and its leaders. My view of conservatism has always been a Goldwater-Reagan based view: smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, respect for constitutional rights—and on the national scene, a strong military, but not an overly aggressive one. In other words, I believe in a constitutionalism which looks to the principles of our founders as a guide. By 2008, I was feeling like “movement conservatism” that I’d grown up a part of, was becoming largely absent in the Republican Party. I saw a glimmer of hope in the presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul. He was, perhaps, a little too eccentric and even too ideologically pure, for the Republican Party, but after attending one of his rallies in Kansas City in the summer of 2007, I saw hope for a party that could attract young people who actually had a philosophy of government that I could match up with. A group of Ron Paul supporters (mostly) and I chartered the Republican Liberty Caucus here in Nebraska. The RLC is a national organization, founded in the early 90s, for the purpose of promoting the cause of liberty within the Republican Party. Some welcomed the activism of the RLC in Nebraska—others didn’t. But we persisted, and for anyone who saw the significant crowds of people who walked with me in most of the parades in 2014, most of those folks—in addition to family—were my RLC friends. Although the Legislature is a constitutionally NON-PARTISAN body, and many would never know—based on election filings or ballots—that I had changed parties, I think it’s important for you to understand why I’ve made the decision to do so at this time. Let me just give you the highlights: As a partisan activist who was part of an insurgent group of volunteers (the RLC), it was easy to wear the occasional disdain of establishment partisans as a badge of honor; as a state legislator, the pressure to “vote the ‘party’ way”—even if that way is contrary to one’s firm beliefs—is immense. I am happy to discuss and take responsibility for the votes I cast with my constituents and those of you who are getting this letter. We will not always agree, but you deserve to know why I voted the way that I did. But the pressure—sometimes near bullying—by some of my colleagues, and outside forces—to vote a particular way because “that’s the Republican way” has disheartened me. There is no discussion about ideas, and little negotiation—if a bill is controversial, the teams are supposed to split up, and everyone is expected to “fly right.” I believe that’s lazy policymaking. As a Republican, the pressure to vote with the Republican governor is significant. The truth be told, on the vast majority of issues I agree with Governor Ricketts, and will continue... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. A surprise prima facie that will not surprise anyone for long who knows Laura Ebke, the Nebraska State Senator who keeps attracting many supporters thanks to her conscientious reasoning and her honest and upright political conduct. Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete left the Republican Party and registered as a Libertarian Party member two weeks after Gov. Pete Ricketts called out state senators who are Republicans by name for not supporting him or the GOP on some contentious legislative issues. "I'd been thinking about changing for several months," she said Wednesday, "but I suppose that was sort of the final push." Ebke, who always had identified herself as a Republican whose political philosophy was Libertarian, changed her registration online last week. "I'm not willing to bend my principles to go along or cast a vote just for the sake of party unity," she said during a telephone interview. Ebke was sitting in the back of the room at the Republican state convention in Omaha last month when Ricketts criticized more than a dozen state senators who are Republicans for votes they cast, arguing for the need to elect "platform Republicans" to the nonpartisan Legislature. "The governor is entitled to call people out," she said, "but that was an interesting time to do that." Ebke has cast votes to override several of the governor's vetoes, including his rejection of bills to repeal the death penalty, authorize Nebraska driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants who have lawful presence in the United States and grant the right for those young people to acquire professional and occupational licenses to work in the state. "I agree with the Republican Party on many things and I have many friends in the party," she said. "Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility, but they tend to place not such a high emphasis on civil liberties." Ebke said the approaching nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presidential choice affected her decision "maybe a little (because) I can't imagine myself voting for him." "But it's less about Trump per se than what that reflects about the Republican Party," she said. Now, she said, she has a presidential nominee she can support. The Libertarian Party last weekend chose former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as its nominee and paired him with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as the party's vice presidential nominee. Ebke said she has "great respect" for Republican Sen. Ben Sasse because of his determination to "stand his ground" in refusing to support Trump despite growing pressure from his party. "The negative ramifications for me may not be as great as they are for him," she said. Ebke was elected to the Legislature in 2014 and is midway through her first term. As reported by Don Walton of The Lincoln Journal Star Related articles In the Arena Now Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Discrediting Liberty - The Mirage of Autonomous Spheres of Freedom What discredits classically liberal visions of liberty in the eyes of many is the insinuation of autonomous spheres of freedom. By this term, I mean a conception of liberty that excludes from its vision institutions that in fact determine the possibility and degree of freedom in a society, especially political comportment and the role of structures of maximal power in the working out of social order by us human beings. The openly anarchist libertarian believes that it is indispensable to abolish governance structures imposed by politics and the state if freedom is to prevail. Far more important in our day, than the reading of a free society by the anarchist fringe, is the crypto-anarchism on which non-anarchist defences of free markets often tend to be predicated. For, not rarely do defenders of free markets cross inadvertently into the sombre corners of anarchism by sharing the anarchist belief in an autonomous sphere of freedom. What they are up against is the fact that most of us are informed with at least a robust intuition that there are no autonomous spheres of liberty. Hence, arguments based on the autonomy-assumption are likely to be received with wide-spread disapprobation; and I suspect that the case for free markets does register substantial collateral damage owing to its association with an apolitical concept of freedom. An Apolitical Concept of Freedom In my first post in this series, The Idea(s) of Freedom (1/3) ... , I have argued that what tears apart Classical Liberalism is its mission to present itself as a uniform, self-contained whole. It trades off intellectual consistency at the expense of recognising the real forces determining the state of freedom in a society. In the second post, The Idea(s) of Freedom (2/3) ... , I hoped to show that Classical Liberalism fails in its effort to define freedom as a social phenomenon, in contrast to Hobbes' mechanistic notion, according to which freedom is the power to remove external impediments of any kind. The failure to fully grasp the social nature of freedom is due to an inability to capture the dynamic conditions of freedom in the real world, where the political character of freedom-defining social relations is pervasive. The result of that condition is that a uniform idea of freedom as sought after by Classical Liberalism will not be able to prevail either in the intellectual realm nor as a popularly credible reflection of the state of liberty in the real world. The Lockean Roots of Crypto-Anarchism In Chapter 8 - The Idea of Freedom - of The System of Liberty. Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism, G.H. Smith offers a number of insights that I feel I may be able to rearrange and resell to my own readers as an explanation of how an unfortunate tradition has sprung into life that weds arguments for liberty to the mirage of autonomous spheres of freedom. In the Lockean paradigm, "natural liberty" refers to freedom as it would exist in an anarchistic state of nature, a condition of equal rights in which there is no political authority or subordination, a society in which all "Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another." (The System of Liberty, p. 145) The crux is that the founding vision of classical liberalism as presented by John Locke does already carry in it an attestation of the feasibility of an anarchist world. Locke's state of nature is essentially peaceful and civilized. People can exercise their natural freedom in an anarchistic society without necessarily lapsing into a state of war, because they are able through the use of reason, to discern the many benefits of social cooperation. (Ibid. p. 148) It is neither clear whether on this point Locke was arguing for tactical purposes - he wanted the Stuart monarchy to be overthrown and wished to diffuse fears of Hobbesian anarchy - nor whether he adhered consistently to a minimalist role of government (ensuring protection from violence and fraud, and no more), but in his vision we certainly find prefigured a perspicuous divide between natural society (human interaction independent of and unhampered by government) and political society (human interaction facilitated by government action). He bequeaths to posterity leads that encourage his successors to keep the divide central to their thinking and to add more weight to natural society than to political society. At any rate, the divide is a grievous error, because the intermeshing of collective action with individual action is a more powerful and more accurate paradigm in the study of human society than is their compartmentalisation and juxtaposition, which ultimately tempts us to believe in the mirage of autonomous spheres of freedom. It is odd for even a tempered apologist of government and suggestive of a preference of natural society over political society that Locke views government as a supplement to social order rather than its indispensable foundation. Government is a convenience rather than a necessity. (Ibid. 148) The liberal bias in favour of natural society has had momentous consequences for the future of liberalism, playing, as I surmise, a significant role in its decline, but also for the development of the social sciences, not least economics, which carries ugly scars from such extraction: Economic science was made possible by the discovery of an autonomous economic order - a society of mutually beneficial exchanges that operates through the spontaneous adjustments of natural liberty rather than through the coercive and cumbersome decrees of a legislator. (Ibid. 151) Liberalism has been eclipsed by the growth of freedom, especially rapidly since the mid-1800s. Why? People are looking for freedom, and perhaps more commonly, people are trying to arrange their affairs in a free society, and thus shaping it, largely by acting on the level of intermediary conditions, rather than on the high plane of abstraction on which liberal theory is almost exclusively situated. People do not find the autonomous sphere of freedom that G.H. Smith describes below.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The Tension in Classical Liberalism - A Rigid System with Dynamic Elements In the previous post The Idea(s) of Freedom (1/3) - Uniform Meaning versus Dispersed Meanings, I emphasised what I consider a fatal internal contradiction in the classical liberal system of liberty: the ambition to offer a set of principles that establish exhaustively the meaning, the one and only valid conception of liberty. This gives rise to a contradiction, since liberty is defined in terms of building blocks (rights, property, justice) which are subject to deliberative contestation, different degrees of political support and thus constant historical change. The general concept ("the system") of liberty is not congruous with the dynamism of the elements from which it is built. It is telling that the great scholars of natural rights, Grotius (1583 - 1645) and Pufendorf (1632 - 1694), especially the latter, were considered the most respected writers on natural law at the time, earning John Locke's (1632 - 1707) admiration, while [n]either [...] could be called liberal individualists; on the contrary, both reached conclusions that were more favourable to absolutism [i.e. the unconditional sovereignty of the ruler, G.T.] But as (Locke indicated) Grotius and Pufendorf presented a theory of natural rights and obligations that could be used to solve the fundamental problems of political philosophy. They provided a conceptual structure, a way of thinking about political problems, that promised to bring system and coherence to a difficult discipline. Smith G.H. (2015), The System of Liberty, Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism, Cambridge University Press, p.145 The Loss of Social Realism Smith presents Locke's concept of freedom as an advancement compared to the mechanistic idea of freedom offered by Hobbes. For Hobbes, freedom is the ability to do as one wills without external impediments of any kind. For Locke, in contrast, freedom is the ability to do as one wills with one's own without the coercive intervention of other people. (Ibid. p. 138) Under Hobbes' conception, we arrive at paradoxical outcomes; for instance, a robbery may be both a violation and an exercise of freedom, i.e. a violation of the freedom of the person robbed, and an exercise of the robber's freedom. However, there are two provisos not taken into account by Smith: (1) To define freedom as the ability to remove ANY external impediment is certainly less than satisfactory. However, by rejecting such a wide definition of freedom, we have not yet settled the issue of whether it may still be advisable to remove impediments on specific occasions that necessitate the partial violation of freedom-defining rights. Which brings us back to the dynamic, case-driven character of rights, property, and justice. And it brings us to another objection to Smith's argument: (2) While Locke's view of freedom is expounded by Smith to be a "social concept," defining freedom as a pattern of admissible/inadmissible human interaction, on closer inspection, it does not deserve such characterisation. For, in Locke's view, writes Smith, a condition of perfect freedom can said to exist when property rights, both in one's person and in external goods, are fully recognized and protected. Thus to the extent that a legal system approximates this goal, it can be said to preserve and enhance liberty. (Ibid. p. 138) The unfortunate theme of "system" recurs in the notion of "a condition of perfect freedom," against which we are supposed to measure the degree of desirable approximation to liberty attained by the legal order. But it is not "a condition of perfect freedom" that drives the real life process of developing and defending freedom. It is not an intellectual construct that "can be said to preserve and enhance liberty," but social interrelationships that comprise far more weighty and efficacious factors than a doctrine claiming perfection. In this sense, Locke's classical liberalism presents us with a static notion of liberty that does not do justice to the dynamic conditions of freedom in the real world, where the political character of freedom-defining social relations is pervasive. For more see: Red Cedar and Apple Trees - The Political Character of the Economic Process. The original post. Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I am reading The System of Liberty, Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism by G.H. Smith. The author writes in a pleasantly lucid way that demonstrates his superb command of the subject-matter. Smith elicits erudition free from arrogance or bookishness. At least to me, themes in the history of something sounds suggestive of rather lower-ranking, miscellaneous issues, in stark contrast to the promise of the title: the system of liberty. The textual tension between title and subtitle captures a degenerate feature of classical liberalism. Owing to liberalism's magisterial ambition to reign in our minds and hearts as an all-encompassing world-view - a system of liberty - this family of more or less cognate doctrines has soon after its political ascendancy and rather abruptly lost touch with the march of time which, by now, it is part of only as a somewhat exotic accessory tinkling and twinkling on the fringes. A Uniform Concept of Freedom In fact, I contend, the most fundamental reason for the eclipse of liberalism - and ultimate ascension in different form, on that more in an another post - lies precisely in its stubborn, ultimately rationalist ambition to be a system, a conclusively connected, coherent, and complete whole. But why should that be so? First note, freedom has a strong capacity to attract wide-spread concurrence and admiration. As she embraces a large number of phenomena that distinguish our very recent modern civilisation, freedom is a term that is naturally situated on a high level of abstraction, hiding constituent elements that can only be made appraisable in terms of truth and moral preference by disaggregation. On the highest level of abstraction, it is natural for people to flock around the term, and it is quite possible to give a valid definition of freedom capable of subsuming partisans with very different understandings of the concept. Personally, I like Hayek's general definition, according to which freedom is, in my words, the absence of arbitrary interference by others in a person's protected private domain (or even more tersely: "Unabhängigkeit von Willkür," as he writes in German: independence from arbitrariness). Many will be happy to accept this definition of freedom, including people that may not be regarded by certain votaries of classical liberalism as even being capable of genuine appreciation of freedom. Indeed, matters get more tricky and divisive if we probe just a level deeper and ask questions like these: What counts as arbitrary interference? How do we wish to define a person's protected private domain? How is that domain to be protected? By whom? What competences does the protector possess? Dispersed Meanings - Contextually Defined Freedom It turns out that even a clear definition of liberty always makes reference to dynamic concepts. These constitutive concepts of liberty are dynamic in a duplex sense. Firstly, they are open to interpretation and invite dissent and pluralism, whose orderly pursuit is a main aim of freedom. Secondly, they are being practically contested for, in the process of which they change or assume differential validity (my concept may only be allowed to be proposed in the general discourse, while somebody else's is accepted as operationally valid, serving as the foundation of laws issued by a legislative body). In a free society, which the classical liberal definition of freedom is obviously trying to cover, the auxiliary terms by which freedom is being contextually defined – justice, rights, property etc. – are naturally variable. In large measure, freedom’s purpose (more neutrally: functional achievement) is to empower people to negotiate the meaning of these auxiliary terms, and hence the working connotations of freedom, the meaning and operative content that people are giving to freedom. According to classical liberalism, freedom is supposed to have only one, unambiguous meaning. By contrast, whatever the expectations of the classical liberal, in practice freedom persists and is only possible as a texture of different meanings and practices. Even if these convictions and deeds are contradictory and mutually exclusive to some extent, it is in their pursuit that humans are weaving the real texture of freedom. It is a violation of the logic of freedom to conceive of her as a uniform and closed SYSTEM. Liberty is open-ended, she is a process with plenty of indeterminate future ramifications. The greater the insistence on liberty as a system, the more liberalism becomes an exercise in intellectual vanity rather than a single-minded pursuit of the theme of freedom. The rationalistic pretence of the classical liberal tempts her to ultimately give in to the lure of corruption. Most notably, her view of politics is corrupted by a hidden rationalist agenda in which there is no place for the hard-to-control ferment of competing political concepts, interpretations, and uses of the idea and potential of freedom. She disavows politics and democracy. Ironically, classical liberalism has lost its import in the same measure as it has given clear precedence to doctrinal closure over a concern for the real state of liberty. Under these conditions, whatever one may think of contemporary liberals (i.e. Democrats, or say German social democratic liberals, or modern British liberals), the transition of the political name of freedom (liberalism) to other factions than the classical liberal one was an accident urgently waiting to happen. Continued at The Idea(s) of Freedom (2/3) - John Locke and The Tension in Classical Liberalism. Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Accompanying Freedom and Ancient Greece - Reprise (6), take a look at the below redux post: --- The 5th century BC is generally looked 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. 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) Of further interest: A Modern Story - Politics and the State in Ancient Greece. 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 Freedom and Ancient Greece Good Old Times? A Look at the Web Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The significance of the below redux post on Freedom and Ancient Greece derives from the insight it granted me into the democratic character of freedom, which in turn implies another consequence rather unpalatable to the run-of-the-mill libertarian: instead of being an unfortunate side effect of freedom, politics is absolutely central to freedom: --- 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, being part of the community and contributing to it in a way that makes for a strong, like-minded, even 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 well-cemented social whole capable of extraordinary martial prowess. 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 military strength and concordance. 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 is so unbearable as to upgrade in the eyes of many even the option of a tyrant in person. The ancient Greek understands the dangers of the tyranny, and he understands the protective role of democracy, but he 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 and 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 he is part of the political debate, adding his bit to the crowd's "happy versatility." In Athens, politics and the state are insufficiently integrated 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 of a 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 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.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Relaxing to think on a Sunday afternoon. Reason TV sat down with Georgetown Law's Randy Barnett to talk about his new book "Our Republican Constitution" and a number of other issues. Related articles Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom We the People? Constitutional Legitimacy Without Unanimous Consent? Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Watch the first part: My score card accords the winner of each segment 3 points, the runner up 2 points, the third-place-finisher 1 point - with cumulative points behind candidates' names: I do not necessarily agree with the candidates' views, so my judgement is a mixture of assessing reasonableness (even in a person of different opinions), coherence, communicative effectiveness, and, where applicable, concurrence. Introduction : McAfee (3), Petersen (2), Johnson (1) Terror., Military, Foreign Policy : Petersen (5), McAfee (5), Johnson (2) When to go to war? : Johnson (5), Petersen (7), McAfee (6) Dealing with Welfare State : Johnson (8), Petersen (9), McAfee (7) Terrorism, ISIS : Johnson (11), Petersen (11), McAfee (8) Foreign aid : Johnson (14), Petersen (13), McAfee (9) Personal Questions : Johnson (17), Petersen (15), McAfee (10) Appeal to Democrats : Johnson (20), Petersen (17), McAfee (11) Abortion : McAfee (14), Johnson (22), Petersen (18) Death Penalty : McAfee (17), Petersen (20), Johnson (23) Gay Marriage : McAfee (20), Petersen (22), Johnson (24) Gender Pay Gap : Petersen (25), Johnson (26), McAfee (21) Vote For Other Pres. Candidate : Petersen (28), McAfee (23), Johnson (27) If my counting is right, the winner by a small margin is Petersen, one point ahead of Johnson. Nonetheless, if I had to decide who I would vote for, ultimately, Gary Johnson would have my support. McAfee strikes me as a bit of a black horse. He leaves me with the impression that some of his views are not too well thought through. Petersen is personable, a good communicator, with an aura of deep conviction, but his palpable faith comes with the downside of rather a mechanical approach to the issues. Johnson is the one who convinces me that his principles do not cut him off from reality and people with other beliefs. Related articles The Age of Liberalism Forgotten Emergence - The Spontaneous Order of Politics Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Matthew Parris tells the story about devouring the book that made him become a Tory at the age of ten. Older readers may remember this series. Younger readers should know that Pookie was a small winged rabbit with blue trousers, rescued in distress by a loving, poor but honest girl called Belinda, who lived alone in the wood, made Pookie a padded bed in a sort of shoebox, and helped him grow wings. The pair became the greatest friends. One late autumn day, Winter — drawn as a scary giant with icicle fingers — arrives. There’s a great storm. Trees blow down. Burrows flood. All the animals in the wood (Pookie’s friends) are devastated; homes destroyed, food stores ruined, wings and paws wounded. Pookie and Belinda take in the casualties, warm them by the fire and feed and tend to them. But Pookie (with whom I identified) strides out into the storm in a rage and, shaking his little paw at Winter, tells him to stop being so cruel, go back to the North Pole and never return. And to Pookie’s shock, Winter withdraws. Pookie is briefly feted. Autumn is followed by spring. Then all nature is thrown into confusion. Flowers have no time to prepare to flower again; dead leaves and branches have not been cleared, nor animals refreshed by hibernation. Now all the woodland folk protest, and Pookie becomes a figure of hate. So, in the biggest adventure of his life, Pookie flies all the way to the North Pole, nearly perishing in the attempt. He confronts Winter a second time (this full-page picture was so frightening I kept it under my pillow to sneak glances in the night). Pookie confesses he had been wrong, apologises, and begs Winter to return. The little rabbit now realises that the seasons have a purpose, that lazy or foolish animals with ill-sited burrows or nests have to be shown their folly, and every creature given an incentive to work hard, prepare and store. Admiring Pookie’s courage, Winter relents, agrees to return, and wafts the exhausted bunny home on a storm cloud. The source. Being a confirmed enemy of winter as we all know it and a believer in directing human ingenuity toward a tightening of winter to the length of one month and a radical reduction of the shortened winter event to immaculate winter wonderland conditions, I would tend to extend the lesson to be learned from the above story to approximate more of a conservative-progressive compromise: let us respect personal responsibility as a pivotal means for changing the world in unheard-of ways. Let us not just brave what is, but achieve what is not yet. And let us not be too shy to do it collectively. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit - including another interesting article on Realpolitik. The story behind the name-dropping: The concept emerged when liberal nationalism in Germany failed during the revolutions of 1848. The domestic political challenge, writes Bew, was how to build a stable and liberal nation state in a fragile, rapidly changing environment without either violent revolution or harsh repression. Germany’s internal fragmentation, along with its vulnerability to external pressure from its lack of geographically defensive natural frontiers, set the context. Realpolitik proposed that statecraft must first identify the contending social, economic, and intellectual forces to achieve some kind of equilibrium so they would not hinder the nation state’s development. Only then could the project of liberating Germany to form a united realm succeed. Ludwig von Rochau (1810-1873) coined the term “realpolitik” in 1853. His two-volume Foundations of Realpolitik offered a liberal response to the challenge of power politics that had swept aside constitutionalism in Germany just a few years before. Accepting power as the fundamental determinant of politics, Rochau separated natural or legal right from sovereignty, which he treated as the consequence of power. Political arrangements had to reflect the social forces within a state as harmonious balance among them minimized internal conflict while drawing more effectively upon their intrinsic strength. Ideas mattered, but less for their intrinsic virtue (or viciousness) than for the wider support they attracted. Cynics might rate an idea’s usefulness above its truth. Rochau focused instead on the power an idea exercised. Whether right or wrong in themselves, ideas had influence that any political assessment must consider if it was to match reality. Modernity, Rochau believed, made public opinion the key factor in national politics. Statesmen had to engage rather than attempt to suppress it. Realpolitik aimed to strip away illusions, whether grounded in sentiment, ideals, or ambition. Understanding reality made serving higher ideals possible. Critics later charged Rochau with succumbing to obstacles that blocked change, but he sought to work around barriers rather than push through them. German unity, from a realpolitik standpoint, opened the possibility of a liberal agenda of self-government, expanded political participation, and freedom of expression. Nationalism offered a unifying ideal to overcome differences stemming from religious sectarianism, region, or social class. Since neither Germany’s old order nor the conservative internationalism epitomized by Klemens von Metternich could share power with rising groups or adapt to change, Rochau believed both were doomed to fail. Make sure the entire article. It strikes me that Realpolitik in the sense defined by Rochau seems an indispensable aspect of modern liberty. The latter replaces the tutelage by kin, lord, or priest with vastly expanded personal latitude and responsibility. People represent themselves more than a community of rigid, anti-individualistic cohesion. Compare what I have written about modular man in Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion (Ernest Gellner) - (4/4). In seeking accommodation with his fellows, the individual is led by different motives and strategies than the tribesman subservient to a culture that treats him as a faithful reflection, an enactor of its rites and rules. Liberty gives rights to people with varying notions of justice and other fundamental convictions. If the they are to coexist peacefully, new forms of compromise and toleration need to be instituted. Realpolitik has a role to play in that. Related articles Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (2/4) Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. What a great experience: this morning, I was privileged to witness the flying visit of the Nebraska Supreme Court to US Air Force base Ramstein, Germany, expertly organised by Senator Laura Ebke. The Court was holding oral arguments at the newly inaugurated Kearnsey Poisson d'Avril Law School over here in Landstuhl, Germany, an institution founded to encourage the harmonisation of US and European law with a long-term view to a gradual replacement of US law by the musical scores of German composers. A "poisson d'avril" (april's fish) is a joke made on April 1st. In France, children try to stick a fish picture on their friends' back. When the joke is discovered, they shout "poisson d'avril !" The source. Related articles The Age of Liberalism Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly celebrated his first holiday back on Earth after his #YearInSpace by sharing a photo of a bunny rabbit plush toy in space, taken inside the ISS. In the background you can see the blue marble we all call home. ...from space. In the meantime, down here we are enjoying the cheapest Easter "since Lehman". Image credit. Happy Easter to Everyone. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. 8. The black-and-white aspect of politics also encourages people to think in black-and-white terms. Not only do political parties emerge, but their supporters become akin to sports fans, feuding families, or students at rival high schools. Nuances of differences in opinions are traded for stark dichotomies that are largely fabrications. Thus, we get the “no regulation, hate the environment, hate poor people” party and the “socialist, nanny-state, hate the rich” party—and the discussions rarely go deeper than this. No doubt, partisanship can be exaggerated to the point of becoming dangerous and destructive. I am not going to repeat what I said above about political dichotomies being the very rationale (among other rationales) of practising politics, and the many features of a modern political order dedicated to attenuating the most detrimental effects of radical antagonisms. My purpose is not to reject out of hand the authors misgivings about politics, but to show that in their criticism they are looking at only one side of the overall story. We tend to indulge in a rationalistic perception of politics, which is natural as we are apt to assess most political arguments in as rational a way as we are capable of. For this reason, we may not feel particularly inclined to recognise "the sense in the nonsense" that much of politics may bring about, the symbolic, ritualistic and sublimational functions of politics which help build and structure, maintain and develop multi-ideological communities. See my The Symbolic Function of Politics. Symbols and rites can serve the function of ordering society, i.e. keeping it in a working condition especially by preventing violence and oppression. The symbols and rites of bipartisanship may well serve the purpose of a war dance that replaces the need for outright war. I believe, it is necessary to focus far more than is customarily done on the spontaneous order of politics and the state, which may well contain features that turn politics into a valuable part of modern civilisation without anyone intending the system to work and have effects as it does, thanks to overall results achieved by human action but not by human design. As in the spontaneous order of the economic world, ignorance is a key challenge that needs to be met by the political order for a modern civilisation to emerge. We are hugely ignorant vis-à-vis the countless topics that tend to occupy the political mind. Some of that vacuum of ignorance can never be filled with secure knowledge. We resort to unreliable, woolly, and non-scientific ways of filling the void. Sure, we begin to tell one another stories that may be well on their way to scientific respectability, but many of them may have no hope to ever become more than just-so stories. See my Just-So Stories in Economics and Politics - Consequences for Liberty. 9. Politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans, and often worse because politics is more morally charged. Most Americans find themselves committed to either the red team (Republicans) or the blue (Democrats) and those on the other team are not merely rivals, but represent much that is evil in the world. Politics often forces its participants into pointless internecine conflict, as they struggle with the other guy not over legitimate differences in policy opinion but in an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice. Again, in human communities, especially in large ones, we cannot help but face fundamental differences of some kind or other in our views and objectives. We shall hardly be able to ever get rid of that phenomenon. In fact, freedom encourages diversity of opinion and vision. I cannot see how anyone, including us libertarians, should be able to determine for the rest of us what counts as legitimate differences in policy opinion - it is part of politics to compete over this question. Also, I cannot see that we libertarians refrain from an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice. We are part of the symmetric pattern that is being formed by opposing discussants. Political opposition has an experimental side to it. We need to find out, what it is that we disagree about and what avenues may open up to resolve differences. Furthermore, political opposition has a ritualistic side to it (see also my remarks under section 8 above). There are a number of powerful reasons to form partisan groups (see below), and if a population is divided among two or three major, traditionally viable camps, this may be a sign of stability, especially if being part of a camp means that (a) one's strongest convictions and political feelings are powerfully represented in the political system and that (b) therefore there are overwhelming incentives to keep the competition non-violent, non-oppressive, and open for challenges and new developments. Being part of a very strong camp can be a "relaxing" experience, i.e. encouraging trust in the prospects of non-violent negotiations, alternating preeminence (in government) and compromise (on the level of the operative bureaucracies in which political fiat is ultimately hammered out). So what matters is how we deal with antagonisms. The principles of liberty are one of the means by which we attempt to keep the level of tension reasonably low among millions of people with different and even incompatible preferences. Why do we become partisans? A political agent that is powerful - intellectually and in the exercise of influence - can be helpful in reducing (subjectively experienced) rational ignorance and strengthen one's sense of responsibility and engagement - "alone I cannot do anything about outrage X, but as member of a larger group, I can." In that way, partisanship creates leverage that people will always seek, for better or worse. Having said that, we should expose such leverage to criticism where it malfunctions, but we should also be sensitive to instances of success, which certainly exist - a partisan community improving ones's knowledge and furthering a worthwhile cause. Also, there are natural and legitimate reasons to feel drawn to this group rather than... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The late Sir George Martin [producer and arranger of The Beatles] created substantial British exports. Had the import of his music to America been banned to save the jobs of US musicians, Britain would have missed out on some revenue but the American consumer would have been the biggest loser, missing out on the music. Trade benefits the importing country: that’s why it happens. Frankly, we might as well be living in the 17th century, so antiquated are our current debates over trade, both here over Brexit and in America over the presidential nominations. Many current assumptions about trade were debunked more than two hundred years ago and then tested to destruction in the mid-19th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries European governments were in thrall to “mercantilism”, the belief that the purpose of trade was (roughly) to push exports on to other countries in exchange for cash and so build up a surplus of treasure with which to pay armies to fight wars. So they sought to restrain imports with tariffs and bans, while encouraging exports with monopolies and gunboats. Britain’s Navigation Acts after 1651, and the chartering of companies such as the East India Company, were part of this policy. Along came Adam Smith and made a different argument, that mercantilism punished consumers and the poor, while rewarding producers and the rich; that imports were a good thing because they raised people’s standard of living by giving them what they wanted at lower prices. With money to spare, consumers bought more things from producers, creating jobs and generating prosperity. If bread was cheaper, people could afford more textiles. Gradually, with the help of David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Britain was persuaded of this and by the time Robert Peel, William Ewart Gladstone and Richard Cobden were in charge, Britain had declared unilateral free trade and dared the world to follow. [...] It is true that unilateral declarations of free trade, while benefiting everyone as consumers, can hurt those producers who have previously been protected from competition by tariffs and other barriers. Because the pain is more concentrated than the gain, their voice is louder, and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been amplifying it. (America has never been as convinced by the free trade case as Britain: its infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s worsened the depression and hastened war.) Yet the effect of trade on jobs is no different from the effect of innovation. Just as imported Chinese goods have destroyed the jobs of British manufacturers, so threshing machines destroyed the jobs of farm labourers, washing machines destroyed jobs in laundries and Uber will destroy the jobs of taxi drivers, yet everybody was net better off. [...] Governments should certainly compensate people for locally destructive effects of changing trade or technology, but not by raising barriers against imports. That just punishes consumers and stifles economic growth. Ridley denies that the ... European single market is a free trade area. It’s not: it’s a customs union — a fortress protected by an external tariff. And it’s shrinking as a share of world trade. Ridley thinks, the UK would be better off after a Brexit: Professor Patrick Minford of Cardiff Business School argues in a recent study that the single market distorts Britain’s economy, making us “produce more of what we are worst at and less of what we are best at, while our consumers have to pay excessive prices”. If Britain left the EU it would gain about 4 per cent of GDP as a result, he calculates. The source. Related articles Liberalism - A Manifesto The Harm Principle and the Benefit Principle Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. 4. But do we really want to live in a world where politics is so important to our lives that we cannot help but be politically involved? Many, both on the left and the right, answer yes. A politically engaged citizenry will not only make more decisions democratically but also be better people for it. From communitarians to neoconservatives, there’s a sense that civic virtue is virtue—or at least that individually we cannot be fully virtuous without exercising a robust political participation. Politics, when sufficiently unconstrained by crude individualism and sufficiently embraced by an actively democratic polity, makes us better people. If I grew up and lived a life facing no prospects of punishment and other forms of resistance constraining my behaviour, it would be rational and natural for me to steal, kill, and lie, just when it suits me, and do a lot of other things that under the real circumstances of my life I find abhorrent and would never engage in. Politics is about organising, defending, enforcing, and changing the constraints that we must observe while living with other human beings. Sure, tradition and other evolutionary processes play an important role, but man is always faced with the challenge to establish by conscious effort which values and taboos are to count as socially preeminent. People cannot take a permanent holiday from working on the normative frame by which to live. There are no super-markets with products on their shelves like a can of "being nice to everyone" or a bottle of "total mutual agreement in America." The forms of political participation are multifarious (especially in a civil society), they can be expected to be shaped by tendentially efficient structures such as a division of labour among more or less politically active members of the community, and, most importantly, political participation ought to be free for every citizen inclined to join the competition for political influence. It is not unreasonable to assume that an open access political order is an important prerequisite for conditions that induce and constrain people to treat each other as if by this they have become better people than in a society less concerned with the individual's desire to be represented or otherwise effective in the political world of her community. It is mankind's lot to live in a world where politics is so important to our lives that we cannot help but be politically involved. We cannot change that condition, but we can hope that he who has a need for it will be free to get involved in politics. No less than the free market, politics is all about competition; you must get engaged and fight hard to get your objectives recognised and acted upon as intended. If you want something of a political nature to happen, there is got to be someone who cannot help but be politically involved. Too many terms are used as if they had only one meaning, when, in fact, they can be used to point at very different situations. Political apathy is one such term. Some of the political apathy that people remark upon may indeed be regrettable, but a lot of it is to be welcomed, as it is an indication that the political system works reasonably well and that there are hard workers at it, so called politicians, that practice political participation in a way that leaves us more content than we are willing to concede. The political division of labour works - tolerably well. It is intrinsically difficult to seek for a political system where (a) high levels of active mass political participation are not required, leaving people free to pursue other goals, AND (b) expect that politics must be free from decisions that any given non-participant among that huge majority may feel not to be representing her. In a word: you cannot have suitably low levels of mass political participation without systematic and chronic attacks on the fairness and effectiveness of the political system - which is one of the lasting imperfections in politics. More direct democracy has limits of feasibility that make themselves felt quickly as a study of the counterproductive outcomes of direct democracy in the Greek polis reveals. In a bad political system, you must put up with politicians who do not always do what you want. In a good political system, you must put up with politicians who do not always do what you want. Yet, there is a huge difference between both systems. 5. Yet the increasing scope of politics and political decisionmaking in America and other Western nations has precisely the opposite effect. It’s bad for our policies and, just as important, it’s bad for our souls. The solution is simple: when questions arise about whether the scope of politics should be broadened, we must realistically look at the effects that politics itself has on the quality of those decisions and on our own virtue. We might need a new epithet to describe the partisan propensity to regard an instance of what appears to them an important political defect as being part of a chain reaction that inexorably leads to a dystopian state which is bad for our souls. How about the domino illusion? True, there are dominoes that fall, but they do not fall in a perfect and fatal cascade, some remain errect, some are being picked up again, and new ones are set up as well. In paragraph 3 above, I have already tried to convince my readers that the increasing scope of politics and political descisionmaking in America has aspects to it that no one of us would wish to miss. So this is a real option, too: politics may increase in scope and the world is getting better for it. It is not helpful to ignore this important fact. Indeed, there can be no good political theory that does not take cognizance of the full range of significant effects achieved by politics. As for the effects that politics itself has on... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, research fellows at the CATO Institute, have written an article entitled Politics Makes Us Worse. Below I shall comment on each of the thirteen paragraphs of which their article consists. Powell and Burrus are making many valid points, but they spoil their take by over-generalisation, which is the cardinal defect underlying the libertarian presumption against politics. In that way, the arguments displayed in Politics Makes Us Worse are almost a mini primer containing many of the central misconceptions of politics entertained in libertarian circles. First, it is in order to comment on the title the authors have chosen: Politics Makes Us Worse. It can be inevitable, and in some cases even useful, to introduce phrases that come over more strongly than the wider message they are intended to support - such as, say, in a socially well-understood and accepted exaggeration (like "Americans are great people.") Such is the case with the title of my present post - I do not believe that politics makes us better; rather I think politics can make us better, but it also can make us worse. Moreover, politics can have functions and effects that do not relate to the issue of people becoming better or worse. Hence, in the text I qualify the title's bait. The authors do not make any such qualification whatsoever. I am therefore entitled to take the statement - politics makes us worse - as an absolute. And precisely therein lies the difficulty with their position, which is representative of the attitude maintained by a large number of libertarians. In the below text, the authors' phrasings are indented and completely in italics, followed underneath by my comment (without emphasis): 1. Increasing the sphere of politics leads to bad policy and increased vice. By and large, the freer a country, the more likely it is to allow political engagement by any citizen interested in such activity, increasing the sphere of politics compared to a closed access society where the privilege of participating in politics is reserved to a small ruling elite. It appears that the absence (as in Mabutos's Kongo) or the retraction (as in Nazi Germany) of such freedom leads to increased vice, rather than the other way around. An interesting special case might be provided by a class of countries that do not have a democratic political order, yet enjoy the status of favourites in the eyes of many libertarians, such as Hong Kong or Singapore. To begin with, the absence of a Western-type democratic political order does not mean that politics, with all its pluses and cons, is not happening in such countries. The relevant processes may be less familiar to the Westerner, naturally more opaque, or it may be the case that in order for the political goings-on to become more transparent to an observer, she must seek intimate and enduring participation in the social life of the respective countries. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that Hong Kong and Singapore have benefited from other people having done politics in their stead - namely the British people, who exported practices and institutions of a modern civil society to these two places. Excellent conditions for commercial advancement (enabled by the imported model of a modern Western civil society) combined with an impoverished population eager to take advantage of the opportunities to grow materially more comfortable, the people of Hong Kong and Singapore may have had low demand for democratic politics for a number of decades. They certainly had strong governments whose political orientation and political decisions were decisive for the economic success of both places. Indubitably, politics has made Hong Kong and Singapore better (places to live in). 2. Even if we try to ignore it, politics influences much of our world. For those who do pay attention, politics invariably leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather. Politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect. What the authors want their readers to focus on is a part of politics fraught with problems and unpleasant challenges: the divisiveness in politics, the ways in which politics creates division, and enhances or exploits it. What the authors do not see is that politics is the only way in which we can hope to deal with issues that drive us apart. What the authors do not see is that we cannot ignore politics - understood as dealing with the inevitable fundamental disagreements that the social order of a viable community must come to grips with. Politics communicates, resolves or attenuates strife resulting from the manifold sources of significant disagreement among human beings. Bashing politics in total is like rejecting tragedy and drama in human affairs as a needless luxury willfully created by the bored and playful. Of course, try as we may, we cannot ignore politics - it is part of the human condition. Of course, politics influences much of our world - which is full of dissent and potential for oppression and violence that needs to be kept under control. The compromises of politics will tend to be imperfect, because the more fundamental disagreements among human beings will not go away, when our political arrangements help us to avoid the crassest, bloodiest, and especially destructive forms of battle. 3. It’s not difficult to understand why politics plays such a central role in our lives: political decision-making increasingly determines so much of what we do and how we’re permitted to do it. We vote on what our children will learn in school and how they will be taught. We vote on what people are allowed to drink, smoke, and eat. We vote on which people are allowed to marry those they love. In such crucial life decisions, as well as countless others, we have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people. Does political decision-making really increasingly determine so much... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. On 10/06/2013 I posted these ideas on the death of the Republican party. I wonder whether what is happening in America parallels the social democratisation of the dominant parties long prevalent in Germany. If the below author is right, cannot what he argues be interpreted to mean that the political system of the US is effectively shedding the non-social-democratic fringe? Democrats and Republicans are vying for support by the social democratic majority. That, of course, assumes that the author's statistical estimates of the number of anti-establishment Republicans are exaggerated: The Republican Party died during the struggle over Obamacare. Its most vital elected officials chose to represent their voters. This left their erstwhile leaders to continue pursuing acceptance by the ruling party, its press and its class. The result is a new party that represents the roughly three fourths of Republican voters whose social identities are alien to those of the ruling class and whose political identity is defined by opposition to the ruling party. These voters are outsiders to modern America’s power structure. Hence the new party that represents them is a “country party” in the British tradition of Viscount Bolingbroke’s early eighteenth century Whigs, who represented the country class against the royal court and its allies in Parliament. The forthcoming food fight over the name “Republican” is of secondary importance. [...] This has been a long time coming. Obamacare was a trigger, not a cause. While a majority of Democrats feel that officials who bear that label represent them well, only about a fourth of Republican voters and an even smaller proportion of independents trust Republican officials to represent them. [...] Rather than defending their voters’ socio-political identities, they ignore, soft-pedal, or give mere lip service to their voters’ concerns. It chooses candidates for office whose election only steadies America on a course of which most Americans disapprove. [...] The issue groups’ joint endeavor to de-fund Obamacare, their joint rejection of the Republican Party’s leadership, and the collaboration of Republican legislators who had been endorsed by some but not others of these groups, effectively forms a new party. The question is not what the Republican Establishment will do with these dissidents but what the dissidents will do with the Establishment. Make sure to read the entire article. I started the Reprise series with this post here. Related articles The Conscience of a Senator Catching Up (or not), Filing Deadlines, The Race is On Secret Votes Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Former presidential candidate Ron Paul explains his stance on Trump. Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. While the affordability of immigration may be waning in the recipient countries, it is increasing precipitously among the people prone to emigrate. When a poor country starts to become richer, its emigration rate soars – until it’s a middle-income country, like Albania. Only then does extra wealth mean less migration. [...] ‘As the benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico,’ Bill Clinton once assured Americans, ‘there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.’ When José Manuel Barroso led the European Commission, he made the same argument, saying that third world development would tackle the ‘root causes’ of migration. In fact, the reverse is true ... [...] [G]lobal poverty has halved over 25 years. The poor world is becoming richer, so people are on the move. War acts as a catalyst; far more of those affected by violence have the means and inclination to flee. But globally, there is less war and less poverty than at any time in our history. The Great Migration should be understood as the flip side of the greatest triumph of our age: the collapse in global poverty. Study after study shows this to be the case. When aid was given to poor rural Mexican villages in exchange for occupants attending school and health clinics, it led to them leaving rather than staying. Theresa May is right in saying that when middle-income countries become richer, the migration rate falls. But even the politicians who make this caveat talk as if this process a short-term thing. In fact, it takes generations. [...] In 1948, the UK government passed the British Nationality Act allowing all 600 million of Commonwealth subjects to live and work in Britain. Here’s Andrew Marr, in his superb History of Modern Britain:- “It was generally assumed that the Black and Asian subjects of the King would have no means or desire to travel to live in uncomfortable, crowded Britain. Until the fifties, so few black of Asian people had settle in Britain that they were often treated as local celebrities. Officially, it was not even considered worth while trying to count their number.” Indeed, hardly anyone took up this offer; even during the partition of India, which claimed a million souls and displaced ten times as many, there was no clamour to seek refuge here. The Indians and Pakistanis were far, far poorer than they are today – but that’s the point. They were so poor that not many could afford to come to Britain, not many had means of finding out that a better life was available. Why go to this cold, wind-battered island – which itself was losing people to the New World? In 1951, the UK signed the UN Refugee Covention saying that we’d shelter anyone–anyone!—with a well-founded fear of persecution. Such offers were easy to make, then, because no one really had been showing up [...] The entire article. Writes Dan Hannan: Official policy in Europe is based on a misdiagnosis. The migrants are treated as refugees, [they hail] from countries that we never bombed — except with aid money. Vast as the numbers are, this is just the start. More than a million settlers — some estimates say a million-and-a-half — entered Germany in 2015. [...] The European Commission says that 60 percent of those entering the EU illegally are economic migrants rather than refugees; but it has no idea how to return hundreds of thousands of sans-papiers — or where to return them to. Sweden admitted 163,000 entrants last year. Its interior ministry now says that more than half of them are not genuine refugees. The entire article. See also Immigration and Freedom (6/10). Related articles Immigration and Freedom (3/10) - Borjas on Implications of Economics for Immigratiion Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The above image might be entitled "The Innocence of the Dinosaurs". Are the times always so kind as to march lock-step with us? We live in an era so free and therefore so dynamic that we are just as prone to be ahead of the curve on some issues as we are likely not to keep pace with the times on other matters. A circumstance not to be taken personally. After all, it is unexpected, and not rarely unpleasant, things that remind us of the need to adapt, to change, to rebuild. I am in no way suggesting that the political protagonists discussed below deserve support when I simply recognise that they are instrumental in expressing and bringing about changes that affect all of us. However unpalatable the candidates in question may appear to some of us, it is more helpful to analyse the conditions that make them catalysts of changing times, than to focus on the scandal of their holding views wildly different from ours. Recently, I have written: Say what you may, it strikes me as a healthy sign that the American political system remains prone to be shaken up thoroughly every once in a while by outsiders like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Do not jump to conclusions as to how I think about the mavericks in question. Having said that, I feel the below thoughts are well worth reading: Yet if nothing were politicized, there would be no civilization. Precisely because we live together, there are issues on which policies must be adopted that will affect us all, even if satisfying everyone perfectly is impossible. Examples include national defense, controlling epidemics, and traffic rules. On such matters, finding the best balance among many tradeoffs requires everyone to be open about their knowledge, aspirations, apprehensions, and expectations. Disappointments are easier to accept if everyone has been heard and conflicting agendas have been reconciled through meaningful compromise. When these ideal conditions are met, the imperfections of adopted policies will be viewed as the costs of accommodating diverse constituencies fairly. Even individuals who dislike specific policies will consider the political process legitimate. Politics loses legitimacy insofar as it excludes from consideration certain preferences and thoughts. When the fear of being ridiculed, belittled, and stigmatized makes certain groups censor themselves, disappointing policies are no longer acceptable. Yes, open conflict may be avoided, at least for a while. It may seem to groups with a voice in the political process that social problems are being solved through the triumph of superior ideas. In certain cases, the apparent harmony might even become genuine over time; absent public support, the concealed preferences may wither away. The American “melting pot” is replete with examples of old-world preferences that gradually lost appeal after disappearing from public view under pressures to appear “American.” To fit in, immigrants grudgingly gave up authenticity; their children would not even contemplate living differently from their native peers. For the second generation, authenticity meant living like an American, not clinging to ancestral customs. But when core economic and social interests are involved the truncation of public discourse is unlikely to end as happily. Consider jobs, government subsidies, or wealth redistribution. On such matters, preferences are far more resilient, and disappointments are felt far more deeply than on those involving ancestral customs. Because perceived indignities and injustices are relived repeatedly, excluding them from public discourse breeds sustained anger, and political insiders draw growing resentment. Conspiracy theories that demonize some conception of the “establishment” start to circulate more or less clandestinely, usually through media that the politically connected scorn as backward, reactionary, and misinformed. On the surface, politics will seem relatively calm, but this situation cannot last forever. At some point, the frustrations will spew out, like lava from a long-dormant volcano. When that explosion occurs, the elites accustomed to ignoring the masses will be unprepared to counter the populist leaders who emerge to fill the void. The fates of many so-called establishment candidates in the 2016 Republican primary illustrate the point. So does the degree to which establishment candidates in both parties have had to pander to newly energized constituencies. As Sean Trende notes, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not the first American presidential candidates to champion outsider causes. If they have been far more successful than their predecessors, this is partly because they have gone much farther in dissociating themselves from the establishment. Continue to read the entire article. Related articles Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse - Thirteen Conjectures on Politics (1/3) Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Immigration and Freedom (1/10) - The Economic Consequences of Immigration - Julian Simon (Part 1) Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery Liberty and Totalitarianism - Michael Polanyi (2/3) - The Moral Inversion of Liberalism Reagan Alive In India - A Lesson for Republicans? Why Worry about Inequality? A Reflection on Self-Ownership The Miracle of Freedom Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2016 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit - see source below. The author of the below article reckons: The parallels to today are easy to see. Whatever one thinks of the stands Donald Trump has taken on the issues, they have resonated strongly with a large enough fraction of the GOP primary and caucus electorate to make him the presumptive nominee. Establishment candidates are not united, and GOP orthodoxy has proved to have too little appeal. Like Willkie, Trump has run as an insurgent populist, challenging the elitist wing of the GOP that has long dominated the nominating process. And like Willkie, Trump will find winning enthusiastic support from Republicans who supported establishment candidates very difficult, because they denounced him as an unqualified interloper during the primaries and caucuses. Neither the Willkie nor the Trump candidacies has destroyed the GOP, but both disrupted it. The consequences were lasting 76 years ago, and I would predict they will be so this time around also. In Willkie’s case, his nomination helped reorient the GOP away from a strongly anti-New Deal position to one that accommodated the most popular New Deal stands on matters foreign and domestic, such as support for Social Security and aid to Britain during World War II. Trump appears to be doing something similar, in the sense that his nomination will likely push the GOP to do more to improve life for working- and lower-middle-class Americans, who have seen their quality of life decline in important ways over the past generation. More on the rise of Willkie here. Related articles Scarce Justice - When What Is "Just" Is Not Known The Miracle of Freedom Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (4/4) Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2016 at RedStateEclectic