Friday, March 31, 2006

Thomas Woods and War

Thomas Woods, who earned a bit of blogospheric notoriety for his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (which I own and have read), later endorsed "Neoconned and Neoconned Again, two new collections of essays that make just about every argument you can think of against the war in Iraq." Woods's endorsement of the Neoconned books is unsurprising, given his indiscriminate embrace of the non-aggression principle, so beloved of paleo-libertarians.

I am not here to rehash the non-aggression principle, having thoroughly dismissed it in several earlier posts. (See this, this, this, this, and this.) Suffice it to say that Woods adheres to the principle with deranged fervor. (In addition to Politically Incorrect, read his oeuvre at Woods's embrace of the fatuous, suicidal, non-aggression principle fatally undermines his credibility as a critic of the war in Iraq. A review of Politically Incorrect at History News Network concludes with this:

Woods condemns Roosevelt, with much justice, for his concessions to Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences. He seems to be aware that not only did Soviet domination of Eastern Europe create unspeakable misery for its inhabitants, but that it was not in American interests. But a Europe run by Prussian militarists or the SS? That'’s something we could have happily coexisted with, apparently.

Conversely, he praises Reagan for having "challenged the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall and defeated Communism, while hardly firing a shot." Reagan didn't have to fire a shot because he had challenged the USSR by more meaningful measures than his plea to Gorbachev to tear down the Wall. Among other things, in a provocative, interventionist act roundly condemned by Paleos and Liberals alike, he placed intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Politically-correct history is offensive not because it seeks to celebrate the accomplishments of privileged groups, but because, in ignoring or denigrating the accomplishments of others and exaggerating or inventing their crimes, it does violence to the historical record. Particularly in his discussion of events in Europe in the 20th century, Woods's contempt for the evidence is as thoroughgoing as that of any p.c.-textbook-writing hack. It does students no service to expose one set of myths if youÂ’re going to substitute another.

The conclusion of a review of Politically Incorrect at reason sums it up:

Woods is a bad ally for libertarians, though his message may appeal to those who can'’t distinguish the flaws of America from those of outright despotisms. Decentralization is an important libertarian value, but surely our first principle is individual liberty; and nothing is more inimical to liberty than slavery or totalitarianism. The Civil War may not have begun as a war for abolition, but it nonetheless led to the end of slavery and to fuller enfranchisement of blacks in the North. And U.S. intervention in World War II and the Cold War may have been vital to defeating totalitarianism. On those two crucial battles, Woods is wrong.

I enjoyed Politically Incorrect for its irreverence and feistiness, but Woods's deep cynicism about the wars America has fought had become tiresome and whiny by the time he reached World War II. (As for the Civil War, about which Woods is unhinged, read this.)

Given the reality of German, Japanese, Soviet, North Korean, Chinese, Iraqi, and Islamist aggression, it is simple-minded sophistry to paint America as a war-crazed, militaristic, imperialist, aggressor. America's presidents and Congresses haven't always been right in their decisions to go to war, but it's better to be wrong at times than to be foolishly, consistently, against war when liberty is at stake -- as it always is in a world crawling with real aggressors.

Selected bibliography:

Incorrect History (a review of Politically Incorrect by Max Boot, posted at The Weekly Standard, 02/15/05)
The Purgatory of an Inadvertent Public Intellectual (an article by Woods, posted at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, 03/16/05)
Final Thoughts on Thomas Woods and His Critics (a post by "william" at Southern Appeal, 03/21/05)
A Factually Correct Guide for Max Boot (an article by Woods that ran in the 03/28/05 issue of The American Conservative)
Response to My Critics (an article by Woods, posted at, 04/12/05)
Behind the Jeffersonian Veneer (a review of Politically Incorrect by Cathy Young, which ran in the June 2005 issue of reason)
Political Correctness in The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (a review of Politically Incorrect by Jeff Lipkes, posted at the website of George Mason University's History News Network, 06/06/05)
The Case Against This Monstrous War (Woods's review of Neoconned and Neoconned Again, posted at Lew, 11/09/05)

Related posts:

Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over?
My View of Warlordism, Seconded
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
Anarcho-Libertarian "Stretching"
More Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
QandO Saved Me the Trouble
Comrade Gorbachev, Sore Loser
What If We Lose?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Footnote about "Eavesdropping"

My rather long post about "Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty" includes a reading list that I update from time to time. Here's the current version:

President had legal authority to OK taps (Chicago Tribune)
Our domestic intelligence crisis (Richard A. Posner)
Many posts by Tom Smith of The Right Coast (start with "Thank You New York Times" on 12/16/05 and work your way to the present)
Eavesdropping Ins and Outs (Mark R. Levin, writing at National Review Online)
The FISA Act And The Definition Of 'US Persons' (Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters)
A Colloquy with the Times (John Hinderaker of Power Line)
September 10 America (editorial at National Review Online)
A Patriot Acts (Ben Stein, writing at The American Spectator)
More on the NSA Wiretaps (Dale Franks of QandO)
The President's War Power Includes Surveillance (John Eastman, writing at The Remedy)
Warrantless Intelligence Gathering, Redux (UPDATED) (Jeff Goldstein, writing at Protein Wisdom)
FISA Court Obstructionism Since 9/11 (Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters)
FISA vs. the Constitution (Robert F. Turner, writing at OpinionJournal)
Wisdom in Wiretaps (an editorial from OpinionJournal)
Under Clinton, NY Times Called Surveillance a Necessity (William Tate, writing at The American Thinker)
(U.S. Department of Justice)
Terrorists on Tap (Victoria Toensing, writing at OpinionJournal)
Letter from Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee, to Chairman and Ranking Member of Senate Judiciary Committee
Letter from H. Bryan Cunningham to Chairman and Ranking Member of Senate Judiciary Committee
Has The New York Times Violated the Espionage Act? (article in Commentary by Gabriel Schoenfeld)
Point of No Return (Thomas Sowell, writing at RealClearPolitics)
Letter from John C. Eastman to Chairman of House Judiciary Committee
FISA Chief Judge Speaks Out, Bamford Misinforms (a post at The Strata-Sphere)
DoJ Responds to Congressional FISA Questions (another post at The Strata-Sphere)

To that list I now add two posts at Power Line, in which John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson assess the testimony of five former judges of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court who testified recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee. From the transcript (as quoted in Hinderaker's post):

Chairman Specter: I think the thrust of what you are saying is the President is bound by statute like everyone else unless it impinges on his constitutional authority, and a statute cannot take away the President's constitutional authority. Anybody disagree with that?

[No response.]

Chairman Specter: Everybody agrees with that.

The president's inherent constitutional authority includes the use of surveillance against foreign nationals -- even if a U.S. citizen in the U.S. happens to be on the other end of the phone line or e-mail exchange. That point is reinforced by this passage from Johnson's post:

Senator Hatch . . . pursued a series of hypothetical questions that he posed to Judge Kornblum regarding the admissibility in criminal trials of evidence obtained indirectly from the NSA surveillance program:

Judge Kornblum: To be admissible, the evidence would have had to have been lawfully seized or lawfully obtained and the standard that the district judge would use is that, depending upon where this is, is the law in his circuit. In most of the circuits, the law is clear that the President has the authority to do warrantless surveillance if it is to collect foreign intelligence and it is targeting foreign powers or agents. If the facts support that, then the district judge could make that finding and admit the evidence, just as they did in Truong-Humphrey.

(Emphasis added.) Judge Kornblum's reference to Truong-Humphrey is to the federal appellate cases that acknowledge[s] [a] president's inherent authority to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance, previously discussed by John here.

So, let's knock off this nonsense about "illegal wiretaps" and get on with finding the bad guys. Actually, I'm sure that's precisely what Bush and company are trying to do, in spite of the ankle-biters in the media and Congress.

Brian Leiter, Academic Thug

That's the appropriate title of this blog, which has moved to a new location. Proprietor Keith Burgess-Jackson explains:

As if to prove that he is a thug (should anyone have doubted it), Brian Leiter has threatened PowerBlogs with a lawsuit if it doesn't change the URL of my blog devoted to exposing his abusiveness. I don't care what the URL is, and I don't want PowerBlogs to risk liability, so I changed it. Here is the new address. Please reset your shortcut, bookmark, or favorite, and spread the word. This thug—Leiter—needs to be shown that he can't control others.

My take on Leiter (thus far) is at these posts:

Brian Leiter Is an Idiot
Through the Looking Glass with Leiter
The Illogical Left, via Leiter

P.S. Here's the threatening letter from Leiter -- as reprinted at Brian Leiter, Academic Thug -- which prompted Burgess-Jackson to change the URL of Brian Leiter, Academic Thug:

Dear Mr. Landsown [sic]:

I am writing to put you and your company, American Powerblogs Inc., on notice that a user of your service, Powerblogs, has engaged in tortious misappropriation of my name in order to advertise and draw attention to his web site. Keith Burgess-Jackson, who runs the site in question (, has not received my permission to register my name, or any variation of my name, or to otherwise utilize my name, or any variation of my name, in order to promote or otherwise identify his site. Please close down that particular URL immediately. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,
Brian Leiter
Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law,
Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Law & Philosophy Program
The University of Texas at Austin

It's the sort of sissiness one would expect of an "intellectual" bully whose stock in trade is abuse, not logic and facts. Leiter's abusiveness is probably an attempt on his part (subconscious or otherwise) to compensate for a felt inferiority. Here's Leiter:

Source: B. Leiter's homepage.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A True Libertarian Speaks

In an article at, David Gordon replies to Edward Feser's recent series of posts at Right Reason about paleoconservatism and the war in Iraq. Feser, posting again at Right Reason ("Rothbardians [anarcho-capitalists: ED] and Iraq: A Reply to David Gordon"), observes that

libertarians, including most Rothbardians and probably also including the Nozick of part III of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, would allow that it is in principle possible for a community to develop on a purely voluntary basis that prohibited all sorts of consensual activity among its members. For instance, they would allow that a Puritan commonwealth might require, by law, all of its members to refrain from fornication, drug use, reading of anti-Puritan tracts, etc., and that if everyone who joins this commonwealth does so voluntarily then no one has a right to complain. We can imagine that such a commonwealth eventually grows into a large city or even country, that all non-Puritans who decide to settle within it are required as part of the deal to abide by its “blue laws,” and that all the children raised in it might also be required to abide by those laws and will have to emigrate if they refuse to do so. The result would be a society that to most people would seem radically “un-libertarian,” but which would in fact be perfectly acceptable from the point of view of a Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist or maybe even a Nozickian.

Since this sort of paternalist society seems perfectly possible even on a Rothbardian or Nozickian view, and since the specific position I developed in the article cited by Gordon [link added: ED] still rests on the idea of self-ownership, at the time I wrote the article I thought it was reasonable to characterize it as a broadly “libertarian” position. It seemed to me then that I was not moving that far beyond what many libertarians would already accept as in principle possible within a libertarian society. To be sure, I would now no longer characterize my view as libertarian, but part of the reason I wouldn’t is that I now think the arguments I have presented, both in the article Gordon cites and elsewhere, show that “libertarianism” just isn’t anywhere near as determinate, straightforward, or even coherent a view as its advocates assume it to be.

My only quibble with Feser's position is this: He should continue to characterize himself as a libertarian for the very reason that libertarianism isn't "anywhere near as determinate, straightforward, or even coherent a view as most of its advocates assume it to be." As I argue in "The Meaning of Liberty,"

liberty and happiness cannot be found in the abstract; they must be found in the real world, among real people (or totally apart from them, if you're inclined to reclusiveness). Finding an acceptable degree of liberty and happiness in the real world means contending with many subsets of humankind, each with different sets of social norms. It is unlikely that any of those sets of social norms affords perfect liberty for any one person. So, in the end, one picks the place that suits one best, imperfect as it may be, and makes the most of it. Sometimes one even tries to change it, but change doesn't always go in the direction one might prefer.

Think of the constrasting visions of liberty and happiness represented in a hippie commune and a monastic order. The adherents of each -- to the extent that they are free to leave -- can be happy, each in his and her own way. The adherents of each are bound to, and liberated by, the norms of the community, which set the bounds of permissible interaction among the adherents. Happiness is not found in the simplistic "harm principle" of John Stuart Mill; happiness is not found in a particular way of life; happiness is found in the ability to choose (and exit) a way of life that, on balance, serves a person's conception of happiness.

In sum, there is no escaping the fact that the attainment of something like liberty and happiness requires the acceptance of -- and compliance with -- some social norms that one may find personally distasteful if not oppressive. But it is possible -- in a large and diverse nation where each social group is free to establish and enforce its own norms -- to find a place that comes closest to suiting one's conception of liberty and happiness. The critical qualfication is that each social group must free to establish and enforce its own norms, as long as those norms include voice and exit. . . .

Contrary to libertarian purists, the path to liberty is not found in Mill's simplistic "harm principle," which is a formula for atomism. The path to liberty winds tortuously through the complexity of human nature, which shapes -- and is shaped by -- a society's mutual striving to survive and prosper. To give a stark but apt example: If you will kill an unborn child for your convenience, why should I trust you not to kill me for your convenience when I am old? And if I cannot trust you, why should I subscribe to the defense of your life, property, and pursuits?

Edward Feser is a libertarian, even if he chooses not to call himself one. That is, he is dedicated to the practical pursuit of liberty, as opposed to the impractical pursuit of ideological purity that evinces itself in anarcho-capitalism. Feser is absolutely right to find parallels between Rothbardism and Marxism, as he does here:

One of the many striking things about this [Rothbardian] worldview is how closely it parallels Marxism. . . . Marxist and Rothbardian alike regard human history as a long nightmare of oppression from which we are only now awakening thanks to the advent of a sound economic theory, the application of which is our only hope for liberation.

Indeed, Rothbard and his followers seem in other ways too to ape standard Marxist themes. Despite their fervent adherence to capitalism, they regularly denounce large corporations (Halliburton, big oil, big media, etc.) as government’s partners-in-crime, manipulating its officials to their own ends and beholden to its favors; they speak and think in capitalized abstractions, substituting “The State” for “Capital” and endlessly analyzing “its” motives and actions; they divide society into inherently hostile classes, the exploiters (government officials and recipients of governmental benefits) and the exploited (taxpayers and those subject to governmental regulations); they have a tendency to reduce all social and political problems to economic ones; they believe that when a “stateless society” is finally achieved, many of the social problems previous generations regarded as an inevitable part of the human condition will disappear, having in reality been generated by state oppression; they constantly attribute selfish financial interests and other hidden motives to those expressing dissent from the Rothbardian line and/or support for American policy; and they often evince a greater sympathy for what the Marxist would refer to as the “objective allies” of their cause than for those who might seem notionally closer to them. Hence, just as certain Stalinists were quite happy to ally with Hitler against the capitalist West while vilifying Trotskyites and other heretical communists, so too are Rothbardians constantly excusing or minimizing the crimes of various dictators as long as they oppose the United States, while excoriating less extreme libertarians and free-marketers for “selling out” to “The State” and its officials. (See here for discussion of several examples.)

Related posts:

A Political Compass
Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over?
My View of Warlordism, Seconded
Anarcho-Libertarian Stretching
QandO Saved Me the Trouble
The Meaning of Liberty

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Today's Recommended Web Reading

At LegalAffairs Debate Club, John Robertson and Barbara Katz Rodman debate "Choosing Your Child's Sex?" The question for debate: Should it be unlawful for parents to select an infant's sex through abortion or in vitro techniques and, if so, under what circumstances should it be legal? Robertson offers the usual liberal cant ("we prize individual autonomy and reproductive choice") and tries to cajole fellow liberal Katz Rodman into going along with him. She won't:

In this "more choice is better" argument, the children that are never created (whether as fetuses aborted or embryos unselected or sperm washed away) can hardly be said to be harmed by the fact of their non-being. So then there are the children who are "chosen," the selected ones, chosen for their sex. I think there really is the potential for harm there—any time we give parents reason to think they can control the kind of people their children are, I think we are doing damage to the child, the parent, the relationship. . . .

A woman with one or two daughters will face more, not less pressure to produce a son if sex selection becomes part of ordinary practice. The new "choice" will probably pretty quickly become an obligation.

And as to whether "family balance" will inevitably lead to sex selection in the first place: you know the "slippery slope" argument? Think greased chute.

Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek explains once more (this time in "Mental Experiment") why international trade isn't a zero-sum game or a threat to the well-being of Americans:

A lot of people are worried about China as an economic threat to the United States. I'm not. China's economic success is good for Americans. When Americans buy toys and clothes and iPods made in China it means that we have more people and capital available to make other things.

A variation on the Chinese threat is that someday, if they keep growing, they'll pass us. This is the view that economics is like the Olympics. If you don't finish first, you're stuck with the bronze or silver medal or worse, you don't even get to the medal stand. But economic success is not like the Olympics. It's not a zero sum game. . . .

What if you woke up one more morning and discovered . . . . [that the] Chinese had mismeasured their national income information and it turned out that the Chinese, in fact, had a per capita income many times that of the United States. . . . . How would it change your well-being? Would it make any difference whatsoever?

Maxwell Goss at Right Reason points to a story about

Dutch MP Sharon Dijksma [who] proposes fining women with college degrees who choose to stay at home instead of entering the paid workforce. Dijksma explains: "A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work -- that is destruction of capital. If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at the cost of society, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."

The first mistake, of course, is the subsidization of education, which encourages persons who will not use it (or use it well) to partake of it at taxpayers' expense. The second mistake is to assume that it is a "waste" to educate women who choose not work outside the home. Mothers are the main civilizing influence in society -- or they were before they went "to work" in droves. It makes a lot more sense to have college-educated mothers than it does to have college-educated pharmaceutical salesmen (to take but one of many examples of "wasted" education).

The Federal Election Commission has decided -- more or less -- to go along with the First Amendment. Tongue Tied reports:

The very idea of rules for the internet is anathema to me but America's FEC does not seem to think so. The rules they have just handed down have no terrors for bloggers at the moment but as sure as night follows day, more and more regulations will follow.

The Tongue Tied post then links to a story that includes a recap of some of the main points of interest to bloggers:

Feds' Internet rules

The FEC's final Internet regulations adopted on Monday are less onerous than an earlier version. Here's what they say:

• Paid political advertising appearing on someone else's Web site would have to be reported, regardless of how little or how much it costs. But that responsibility would lie with the candidate, political party or committee backing the ad--not a Web site accepting the ads.

• All ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or solicit donations would have to carry disclaimers.

• Bloggers and other individual commentators wouldn't have to disclose payments received from candidates, political parties or campaign committees--but those groups would have to report payments to bloggers.

• No one except registered political committees would be required to put disclaimers on political e-mailings or Web sites. The e-mail requirement would kick in only if the committee sent out more than 500 substantially similar unsolicited messages at a time.

• The media exemption enjoyed by traditional news outlets would be extended to "any Internet or electronic publication," which could include everything from online presences of major media companies to individual bloggers.

Thanks to the FEC -- for nothing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bare Ruined Choirs

Yesterday's post about "Red-Brick Buildings" reminds me of "Memories of a Catholic Boyhood," Chapter One of Garry Wills's Bare Ruined Choirs.* There, Wills could be writing about my boyhood. I hasten to add that I don't agree with Wills's politics or his juvenile attitude toward the Church, the many traces of which I have excised from the following excerpts of his "Memories."
We grew up different. There were some places we went; and others did not -- into the confessional box, for instance. . . .

We "born Catholics," even when we leave or lose our own church rarely feel at home in any other. The habits of childhood are tenacious, and Catholicism was first experienced by us as a vast set of intermeshed childhood habits -- prayers offered, heads ducked in unison, crossings, chants, christenings, grace at meals, beads, altar, incense, candles . . . churches lit and darkened, clothed and stripped, to the rhythm of liturgical recurrences . . . .

One lived, then, in contact with something outside time -- grace, sin, confession, communion, one's own little moral wheel kept turning in the large wheel of seasons that moved endlessly, sameness in change and change in sameness, so was it ever, so would it always be . . . .

We came in winter, out of the dark into vestibule semidark, where peeled-off galoshes spread a slush across the floor. We took off gloves and scarves, hands still too cold to dip them in the holy water font. Already the children's lunches, left to steam on the bare radiator, emanated smells of painted metal, of heated bananas, of bolgna and mayonnaise. . . .

Or midnight Mass -- the first time one has been out so late . . . . The crib is dimmed-blue, suggesting Christmas night, and banked evergreen trees give off a rare outdoors odor inside the church . . . .

The bigger churches, with windows of a richly muddied color -- fine gloom up behind the altar . . . .

Bells at the consecration . . . .

Certain things are not communicable. One cannot explain to others, or even to oneself, how burnt stuff rubbed on on the forehead could be balm for the mind. . . .

All these things were shared, part of community life, not a rare isolated joy, like reading poems. These moments belonged to a people, not to oneself. It was a ghetto, undeniably. But not a bad ghetto to grow up in.
St. Stephen Church, where I was a parishoner in the late 1940s and early 1950s, occupied an entire block in my home town. Behind the church and rectory (left and right) was the school where I took catechism lessons on Saturday mornings.
* Wills takes his title from a phrase in Shakespeare's Sonnet 73:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Red-Brick Buildings

I went to these (barely) post-Civil War schools for grades K-5:
And I was a parishoner of these churches in the 1940s and early 1950s:

The first two of the schools were razed more than 50 years ago; the third was converted to an apartment building about 50 years ago. The second of the two churches was razed more than 40 years ago. They just don't make them like they used to.

(All photos courtesy of Port Huron in Pictures, from the Port Huron Museum Collection.)

More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left

In a recent post, “A Black Bigot Speaks,” I noted the tendency of Leftists (even black ones) to denigrate black Republicans and conservatives. The Leftists say, in so many words, that

black conservatives are too “dumb” to know that conservatism is bad for them. And/or they’re just power-seeking Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas who suck up to powerful whites in return for access to power and the perks of high office. [The Left] is unwilling to credit . . . black conservatives with having a principled attachment to conservatism.

Now comes today’s New York Times Magazine, with a story about black Republican Michael Steele. Steele, who is Maryland’s lieutenant governer, is running for the U.S. Senate. The headline of the story:

Why Is Michael Steele a Republican Candidate?

I need say no more, except that it’s long past time for blacks to tell the Left where to put its condescenscion.

(Hat tip to Betsy’s Page.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Finding Liberty

This is the concluding installment of a series. The other entries are "Liberty as a Social Compact," "Social Norms and Liberty," "A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact," and "Liberty and Federalism." The series is an elaboration of an earlier post, "The Paradox of Libertarianism," which could be read as an introduction. The entire series can be read as a single post, here.

Exit Is the Key

Exit -- the ability to flee a highly taxed and regulated State (that is, one of the United States) for a somewhat less taxed and regulated State -- remains an option, and those who avail themselves of it are sending a message that is lost in the tumult and shouting of electoral politics. Despite the erosion of local and regional differences in governance -- owing to the centralization of power in Washington and the general expansion of government power at all subordinate levels -- there is net migration from the Northeast and Midwest toward the "sun belt" States of the South and West (excluding California), which generally have lower tax rates and less unionism than the Northeast and Midwest. (Summary statistics on internal migration are here, at Table H on page 14. An index of economic freedom, by State, is here.)

It is therefore no coincidence that the mean population center of the U.S. has since 1960 moved smartly southwestward, from southern Illinois into south central Missouri. Incentives matter; that which enhances economic liberty also enhances personal liberty, for the two are indivisible. The urge for liberty drives people out of high-tax States and toward (relatively) low-tax States, as illustrated by this graphic from "Revolution on Wheels" (Barron's Online, February 13, 2006):

The lesson here is simple: As long as there is meaningful exit there can be a race to the top. Exit serves liberty because it enables each person to find that place whose values come closest to his or her preferred way of life. Places deemed among the most attractive will grow in numbers and prosper; places deemed less attractive will wither, economically if not in terms of population. Under the right conditions (to which I will come), the balance will tilt toward liberty, that is, toward a modus vivendi that seems, for most people, to offer happiness. That is the essence of federalism, as it was envisioned by the Framers.

But, today, the 50 States (and their constituent municipalities) are incompatible with the kind of federalism envisioned by the Framers. Today's State and municipal governments are too bureaucratic and too beholden to special interests; they have become smaller versions of the federal government. A devolution of power to the States would advance liberty in some States, but it would fall well short of reversing the depradations of liberty that began in earnest with the New Deal. For, in today's populous States and municipalities, coalitions of minority interests are able to tyrannize the populace. (The average State today controls the destinies of 25 times as many persons as did the average State of 1790.) Those Americans who "vote with their feet" do not escape to regimes of liberty so much as they escape to regimes that are less tyrannical than the ones in which they had been living.

The kind of federalism envisioned by the Framers -- and the kind of federalism necessary to liberty -- would require the devolution to small communities and neighborhoods of all but a few powers: war-making, the conduct of foreign affairs, and the regulation of inter-community commerce for the sole purpose of ensuring against the erection of barriers to trade. With that kind of federalism, the free markets of ideas and commerce would enable individuals to live in those communities and neighborhoods that best serve their particular conceptions of liberty. (To grasp this critical point, please read or re-read the preceding installments of this series: here, here, here, and here.)

A "Modest" Proposal for an Experiment in Liberty

Unfortunately, most proponents of federalism remain fixated on the State as the common denominator. Consider the Free State Project,
an agreement among 20,000 pro-liberty activists to move to New Hampshire, where they will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property. The success of the Project would likely entail reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms at all levels of government to expand individual rights and free markets, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world.
Why New Hampshire?
After obtaining 5,000 committed members, the FSP membership voted and chose New Hampshire. The vote was conducted in accordance with the Participation Guidelines; detailed results of the vote may be found here. The FSP membership selected New Hampshire because of its many political, economic, and cultural advantages, which can be seen in our NH Info page. In addition, New Hampshire's low population ensures that each individual can have an effect on the political system.
Why not Missouri, which has an excellent index of economic freedom, celebrates an early tax freedom day, and generally has better weather than New Hampshire (except for skiing). Better yet, why not a county or city in a State like Missouri? Best yet, why not convince the federal government and a State to perform an experiment by allowing the establishment of a "zone of liberty" within a State -- an experiment in liberty, if you will. If it succeeds, others will flock to it or demand the establishment of similar zones of liberty. If it fails . . . well, that seems unlikely.

What do I have in mind? A zone of liberty would be something like a "new city" -- with a big difference. Uninhabited land would be acquired by a wealthy lover (or lovers) of liberty (call him or them the "developer"). The zone would be populated initially by immigrants, who would buy parcels of land from the developer, and who would be allowed to build the home or business of their choosing on the land that they buy. Sub-developers would be allowed to acquire large parcels, subdivide those parcels, and attach perpetual covenants to the use of the subdivided parcels -- covenants that initial and subsequent buyers would knowingly accept. Absentee ownership would be prohibited.

Infrastructure would be provided by competing vendors of telecommunications and transportation services. Rights-of-way would be created through negotiations between vendors and property owners. Any resident homeowner or businessperson could import or export any article from or to any place, including another country; there would be no import controls, duties, or tarrifs; the only restrictions on commerce would be those that are imposed by outside governments.

A zone's government would comprise an elected council, a police force, and a court (all paid for by assessments based on the last sale price of each property in the zone). The police force would be empowered to keep the peace among the residents of the zone, and to protect the residents from outsiders who come into the zone without permission from a resident and/or who breach the peace. Breaches of the peace would be defined by the development of a common law through the court. The elected council (whose members would serve single, four-year terms) would oversee the police force and court, and would impose the assessments necessary to defray the costs of government. The council would have no other powers, and it would be able to exercise its limited powers only by agreement among three-fourths of the members of the council. The members, who would not be salaried, would annually submit a proposed budget to the electorate, which would have to approve the budget by a three-fourths majority. The electorate would consist of every resident who is an owner or joint owner of a residence or business (not undeveloped land), and who has attained the age of 30.

A zone of liberty would not be bound by federal, State, or local statutes, except that the federal government could impose a per-capita tax on residents of the zone that is sufficient to defray the zone's per-capita share of the national budget for defense and foreign affairs. The actions of the zone's government would be reviewable only by the U.S. Supreme Court, and then only following the passage of a bill of particulars by two-thirds of the number of U.S. Senators and Representatives, which must be signed by the President. (A zone could be abolished only with the approval of four-fifths of both houses of Congress and the President.)

Absent such an experiment, I fear that organized minorities will continue to constrain liberty, mooting even the modest degree of inter-State migration that now prevails. Our only hope for liberty -- albeit a slim one -- would then rest in the hands of the Supreme Court.

I am being realistic in my assessment of what it would take to attain something like liberty in the United States: either an upheaval of the Supreme Court or the creation of something like zones of liberty. Politics as usual will only take us further down the road to serfdom. Frankly, I see little chance of averting serfdom. All I can do is propose an alternative -- unlikely as it is -- and pray.

The Moral of the Story

The bottom line of this series:
  • Liberty suffers when a central government does more than make war, conduct foreign affairs, and regulate inter-State commerce for the sole purpose of ensuring against the erection of barriers to trade.
  • Liberty suffers when a central government imposes rules on all at the instigation of the majority or coalitions of minorities.
  • Liberty thrives when the rules that govern relations among the members of a group are agreed among the members of the group -- even if those rules vary from group to group. One group's liberty may be another group's strait-jacket, and vice versa.
It is easy to say that liberty consists of doing what we please as long as what we do does not bring harm to others. It is very hard to say what will and will not do harm. Socially evolved norms offer the best guide. We ignore and summarily reject those norms at great peril to liberty.

The simplistic definition of liberty -- do as you please but do no harm to others -- is superficially appealing. But it glides over the definition of harm, which may vary widely from group to group. Those who advocate abortion and same-sex marriage, for instance, may see those practices as harmless, but they fail to take into account the downstream effects of those practices on civility, without which life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Those who wish to live the simplistic libertarian life of "do no harm to others" are welcome to it, if they can find it in a group of like-minded persons. There is no such thing as a neutral or objective definition of "harm." Simplistic libertarians merely have a particular conception of "no harm" that they should not be able to impose on others who disagree with that conception. I, for example, do not wish to be bound by the simplistic libertarians' blind adherence to the non-aggression principle, which is both fatuous and suicidal. (See this, this, this, this, and this.)

That is why it is so important to devolve most governmental power to small groups. Doing so enables exit and makes it more likely that leaving will be rewarded by finding membership in a more congenial group. (For that reason I would constrain the size and membership of each zone of liberty, creating more of them instead of allowing any one of them to grow beyond the size of a small village -- perhaps not exceeding a population of 150.)

In conclusion, true liberty can be found in these four rules:
  1. A group's behavior must be governed by norms that have evolved among its members, rather than being forced on them through executive, legislative, or judicial edict. (Though legislation, if backed by a super-majority of the populace, may reflect evolved norms.)

  2. The norms must be susceptible of further, unforced change.

  3. Dissidents must be free to state their dissent openly, without fear of coming to physical harm at the hands of society or the state. (One must accept the possibility of disapproval, and even ostracism, but disapproval and ostracism are much less likely if one begins as an accepted member of a social group.)

  4. Dissidents must be free to leave, without paying any penalty other than the cost of leaving.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Political Compass

From a post that is almost two years old, but still on-target:
The left-right, liberal-conservative taxonomies of the political spectrum fail because they are linear and lacking in subtlety. My alternative is a . . . taxonomy with these four major points arrayed on a circular continuum:
• Anarchy -- "might makes right" without an effective state to referee the fight

• Libertarianism -- the minimal state for the protection of life, property, and liberty

• Communitiarianism -- the regulation of private institutions to produce "desirable" outcomes in such realms as income distribution, health, safety, education, and the environment

• Statism -- outright state control of most institutions, reached either as an extension of communitarianism or via post-statist anarchy or near-anarchy, as in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, and Mao's China.
Think of anarchy, libertarianism, communitarianism, and statism as the North, East, South, and West of a compass. The needle swings mostly from anarchy to statism to communitarianism, and occasionally from communitarianism toward libertarianism, but never very far in that direction. . . .

The communitarian state is simply too seductive. It co-opts its citizens through progressive corruption: higher spending to curry favor with voting blocs, higher taxes to fund higher spending and to perpetuate the mechanisms of the state, still higher spending, and so on. Each voting bloc insists on sustaining its benefits -- and increasing them at every opportunity -- for one of two reasons. Many voters actually believe that largesse of the communitarian state is free to them, and some of them are right. Other voters know better, but they grab what they can get because others will grab it if they don't.
I remembered that post as I ruminated on the naïveté of anarchism, which is only a way-station to statism. Anarchy is an inherently unstable régime, favored by naïfs who probably wouldn't last more than a few days in it. As for modern "liberalism," it has become nothing more than statism.

Related posts:

Calling a Nazi a Nazi

Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over?
My View of Warlordism, Seconded
Anarcho-Libertarian Stretching
QandO Saved Me the Trouble
Liberty as a Social Compact
Social Norms and Liberty
A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact
Liberty and Federalism

Panic Attacks

I wasn’t panicking about bird flu, but many were. Now, there’s this (from Scientific

Bird Flu Resides Deep in Lungs, Preventing Human-to-Human Transmission

I predict that bird flu will go the way of man-made global warming: two (among many) instances of premature panic owed to the scientific-media herd mentality.

The tendency to panic about every dire possibility causes undue anxiety and plays into the hands of those who seek expensive and burdensome government “solutions” to problems. Will we ever learn? Probably not.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Euthanasia in Asia

Reuters reports:

North Korea has no people with physical disabilities because they are killed almost as soon as they are born, a physician who defected from the communist state said on Wednesday.

Ri Kwang-chol, who fled to the South last year, told a forum of rights activists that the practice of killing newborns was widespread but denied he himself took part in it.

“There are no people with physical defects in North Korea,” Ri told members of the New Right Union, which groups local activists and North Korean refugees.

He said babies born with physical disabilities were killed in infancy in hospitals or in homes and were quickly buried.

Here, we call it partial-birth abortion.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Residue of Choice

The saying goes: Luck is the residue of design. My version: The life one leads is — in the main, for most persons — the residue of choice.

There is a kind of person: one who drinks too much, who drives too fast, who spends money that he or she doesn’t have (or has little prospect of acquiring) on gadgets instead of useful things, who will not accept or hold onto a menial job because it is “beneath” him or her, who selects a mate for superficial reasons. Such a person is likely to lead a chaotic life — one filled with tension, frustration, and failure. Such a person is not deserving of charity because he or she is likely to squander it. And yet, the welfare state squanders tax-supported “charity” on such persons, thus encouraging their self-destructive behavior.

The road to hell is paved with unintended — but foreseeable — consequences.

What If We Lose?

Today’s featured article at OpinionJournal is “What if We Lose? The consequences of U.S. defeat in Iraq.” It’s a good reminder that those who clamor for withdrawal from Iraq haven’t thought through the consequences of their position. They want the “benefits” — no more American casualties (though the Americans are volunteers), a smaller defense budget, and the “good will” of “allies” like France — but they fail to address the costs. The OpinionJournal piece does a pretty good job of addressing the costs.

Whiny Kids

There’s a dubious study which claims to show (according to a journalist) that

the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints . . . grew up to be a conservative.

There’s no need to rely on an ill-designed study to identify the ideological leanings of whiners. Just watch the news and surf the web and you will find them in abundance — mainly on the Left. For more, read this, and follow the links therein.

P.S. Republicans Happier than Democrats, Independents

P.P.S. One of Michelle Malkin’s readers adds this thought:

It would seem that there is a limited amount of whiny childishness that each person expends in a lifetime. Conservatives use theirs up as children while liberals get older and then become whiny children.

P.P.P.S. Malkin has more.

American History Since 1900

I have completed Part One of “American History Since 1900.” I am writing the series for my grandchildren, as an alternative to the standard history texts, which extol the virtues of big government and ooze political correctness.

Part One, which is about the Presidents of the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries, is organized chronologically. It discusses the major events during each President’s time in office. Part Two will give more details about major world events that have affected the United States, and will then focus on major political, social and economic trends in the United States. Part Three will discuss the major technological advances that enable Americans of today to live much better than Americans of 1900. Part Four will explain how the growth of government power since 1900 has made Americans much worse off than they should be.

A major theme of this history is the role of government in the lives of Americans. The increasing role of government has been the major development in American history since 1900. Many Americans today take for granted a degree of government involvement in their lives that would have shocked Americans of 1900. There are other important themes in this history, but the growth of government power overshadows everything else. Why is that? It is because the growth of government power means that Americans have less freedom than they used to have, which is far less freedom than envisioned by the founding generation that fought for America’s independence and wrote its Constitution.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Gist of It

A good portion of my post on “Trade, Government Spending, and Economic Growth” is about the meaning of the trade deficit. This post, by Donald Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek, gives the gist of my argument:

My friend Jack Wenders, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Idaho, notes this passage in a recent AP report:

The U.S. must borrow more than $2 billion per day from foreigners to finance its huge trade deficits.

Jack’s reaction to this typical way of framing the so-called ‘trade deficit’ is noteworthy:

Maybe a better way of putting this would be to say: “Foreigners must sell the U. S. more than $2 billion per day in goods and services to finance their huge purchases of U.S. assets.”

Exactly correct.


Monday, March 20, 2006

A Black Bigot Speaks

If anything exemplifies Leftists' condescenscion to blacks it's this op-ed piece* in the L.A. Times by Erin Aubry Kaplan (right). The op-ed is about former White House staffer (and black Republican) Claude Allen, who recently was charged with theft. The most telling bits:
I don't support conservatism in its current iteration, and I support black conservatives even less . . . .

Here is a man who, like most black conservatives, has had to do an awful lot of personal and political rationalizing to pay dues . . . .
In so many words, Allen and other black conservatives are too "dumb" to know that conservatism is bad for them. And/or they're just power-seeking Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas who suck up to powerful whites in return for access to power and the perks of high office. Kaplan (like her compatriots on the Left) is unwilling to credit Allen and other black conservatives with having a principled attachment to conservatism.

Kaplan's own blackness doesn't excuse her profound bigotry. It merely underscores her status as a "house black" at the Left-wing L.A. Times, where she spouts the party line in the hope of keeping blacks "in line" -- that is, voting for Democrats in order to perpetuate the regulatory-welfare state that has done so much, for so long, to undermine black families and stifle the initiative of young blacks.
* Free registration required. Try as a username and password as a password.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Alternative to Sprawl . . .

. . . is to cram everyone (in the whole world) into the Province of Alberta. It could be done. Dean Esmay explains.


A few days ago I left a comment on a post whose author bemoaned sprawl in the Atlanta area. I wrote:
How awful. Tasteless people want to live in the exurbs of Atlanta in houses that may be faux mansions but are probably good value, compared with the prices they’d pay for the same space and features in or near Atlanta. The developers have the county commissioners in their pockets, eh? How awful that owners of land are “allowed” to build houses on that land to meet the needs of consumers. If you and the crunchy cons don’t want to live amongst the “unwashed” don’t. I wouldn’t want to live amongst them either, but I don’t begrudge their their right to live where it suits them. I certainly don’t begrudge them the right to flee the big city, even if it’s for a McMansion. What’s your alternative? Force people to live cheek-to-jowl in the “friendly confines” of Atlanta — just so you drive through the countryside without being offended by their abysmal taste in architecture? Or perhaps you’d like to make birth control and abortion mandatory so the population stops growing. There’s lots of countryside out there. If you don’t like what you see in one spot, go to another spot. Better yet, buy some for yourself and set up covenants that will preserve it in its natural state, for your enjoyment and that of your heirs. Nothing wrong with that, either.
Today, at The Weekly Standard, I find a review by Vincent J. Cannato of Robert Bruegmann's Sprawl: A Compact History. Toward the end of the review, Cannato says this:

While suburban sprawl might not be everyone's cup of tea, (including mine) sprawl-like communities seem to afford a large number of people the kinds of lives they wish to lead. Sprawl critics have yet to convince large numbers of Americans that their solutions for engineering private choices about how and where to live and work will result in greater social benefits or happiness.

Sprawl is messy, chaotic, and sometimes annoying. In short, it is everything one expects from a free and democratic society. Leave the neat and clean societies for totalitarian regimes. Sprawl creates problems, just like every other social trend; but to damn it for its problems is akin to outlawing the sun for causing skin cancer.

Robert Bruegmann reminds us that much of the anti-sprawl crusade is a result of a rising level of prosperity, and the complexity of millions of individual decisions made on a daily basis by millions of citizens. Better to have to deal with long commutes and strained infrastructure than malaria, cholera, or declining life expectancy.

In terms of problems, I'd take sprawl any day.

Me, too.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Trade, Government Spending, and Economic Growth

That's the title of a new and very long post I've put up at Liberty Corner II. Here's the executive summary:

One reason for continued economic growth and the resurgence of productivity is the trade deficit, which is not a form of debt. A trade deficit offsets government spending and therefore alleviates the "crowding out" effect that government spending has on private-sector consumption and investment. American consumers and businesses are better off than they would be in the absence of a trade deficit. For the trade deficit is nothing more than a manifestation of voluntary exchange, which -- by definition -- benefits both parties. In the case of international trade, foreigners (on net) are selling us goods and services while we are selling them a combination of goods, services, stocks, bonds, and mortgages. The so-called deficit, then, is nothing more than foreigners' purchases of U.S. stocks, bonds, and mortgages.

Thus, instead of using resources to produce goods and services and sending them overseas in exchange for goods and services of equal value, some resources remain in the U.S. And some of those resources are then converted into capital investments that help make American businesses more productive and profitable. In effect, some foreigners are using the income they receive from Americans to "invest in America," just as some Americans use some of their income to "invest in America." There is no difference.

Nevertheless, when there is a trade deficit we are treated to gloom-and-doom-saying about "foreign "ownership" of U.S. assets and the "exportation" of American jobs. But foreign ownership of U.S. assets is not a threat to Americans; rather, it gives foreigners a stake in America's economic growth. The threat of job "exportation" is just as bogus; when foreigners "do jobs that Americans could be doing" they are enabling Americans to make more productive use of their abilities. If you don't care (and you shouldn't) whether your car in made in Detroit or Tennessee, why should you care whether a computer technician works in the U.S. or overseas? What you should care about is the value you receive when you buy a car or use a computer help line.

The real villain of the piece is government spending, not government deficits. Government deficits are simply the result of government spending. It is government spending -- not government borrowing -- that threatens Americans' prosperity.Through spending (whether it is financed by taxes or borrowing), government confiscates resources and puts them to generally wasteful and counterproductive uses.

Where does the trade deficit fit in? It doesn't create government spending or government deficits. To the contrary, the trade deficit helps to offset the essential wastefulness of government spending by enabling Americans to enjoy and benefit from goods and services that government spending deprives them of.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Cultural Divide

In Chicago, "Diversity lacking in crowds at large museums." And blah, blah, blah. The museums -- operating in their liberal-guilt mode -- are shouldering the blame for low attendance by minorities:

At the Museum of Science and Industry, officials already have a name for the phenomenon -- "the Glenview effect,'' after the largely white suburb that represents its highest single ZIP code attendance, said Valerie Waller, the museum's vice president of marketing.

"We see it on the floor -- our audience is not as diverse as what we see in the city of Chicago or the surrounding area,'' said Waller.

Speaking Wednesday at the Cultural Center, where the study was unveiled, Waller said, "The number of people not engaged in our institutions, with all the variety of programming and opportunities we have for them, is shocking.''

Waller wondered if minorities and the poor aren't aware of the institutions or not interested. "Is price a factor? Many of our institutions were free 15 years ago,'' she said. "Is it the hours we're open? [Are people] overscheduled with soccer practices and everything else?''

The real culprit -- which dare not speak its name -- is the bias within minority cultures against "acting white."

(Thanks to Tongue Tied for the pointer to the article about attendance at Chicago's museums.)

Progress on Iraq

Now that the al Qaeda-Saddam link has been revealed, can the truth about Saddam's WMD be far behind?

For more, see Malkin.

A Test of Morality

Anyone who opposes the death penalty for terrorist scum and favors euthanizing innocent life is depraved.

Dealing with Moussouai

Almost a year ago
Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty . . . to taking part in a broad al Qaeda conspiracy that resulted in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying Osama bin Laden personally instructed him to fly an airplane into the White House.
It now seems possible that Moussaoui may not be sentenced to death. (You can follow all the action here.) There must be options; for example:
1. Imprison Moussaoui but do not sequester him.

2. Drop him off outside the gate of a U.S. military encampment in Iraq, armed with an empty Uzi -- and wearing his orange jump suit.

3. Announce that he will be released from custody at Ground Zero at a certain time, and that he will be wearing his orange jump suit (with leg-iron accessories).
It would only be fair to let Moussaoui choose from among the options.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Slippery Slope in England

All I have to do is repeat "The Slippery Slope in Holland," but change one link:
I once ended a post with this comment: "The slippery slope of eugenics is here and we are sliding down it."

Indeed we are: Holland to Allow Infant Euthanasia.
The parents of a terminally-ill little boy at the heart of a unique court case have expressed their delight after a judge decided their son should be kept alive.
Why should a judge be involved in that decision?

Related posts:
I've Changed My Mind (08/15/04)
Next Stop, Legal Genocide? (09/05/04)
Here's Something All Libertarians Can Agree On
It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening (09/11/04)
Creeping Euthanasia (09/21/04)
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade (11/17/04)
Flooding the Moral Low Ground (11/19/04)
The Beginning of the End? (11/21/04)
Peter Singer's Fallacy (11/26/04)
Taking Exception (03/01/05)
Protecting Your Civil Liberties
Where Conservatism and (Sensible) Libertarianism Come Together (04/14/05)
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Public Morality (04/25/25)
The Threat of the Anti-Theocracy (05/03/05)
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade (06/08/05)
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise (07/14/05)
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence (07/21/05)
Law, Liberty, and Abortion (10/31/05)
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope (11/09/05)
Abortion and the Slippery Slope (11/20/05)
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die (11/29/05)

Weather Wisdom

Earlier today I read this subjective (and incorrect) assertion at Wired News:
The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that unchecked growth in fossil fuel use throughout the next half-century will produce a global climate catastrophe.
I was thinking about writing a post that lists all the debunking of the "evidence" of which I am aware. But World Climate Report comes to the rescue with data:

For over a century, a national network of “weather nerds” (for lack of a better term) have monitored backyard weather stations where they kept track of daily maximum and minimum temperature and precipitation using standardized instruments and measurement techniques. Called the U.S. Cooperative Observer Network (co-op for short), these data, which were submitted monthly for many decades on paper logs, were often used to fill in gaps from the more comprehensive observations taken by trained weather service employees at far fewer locations. But the utility of the co-op records to climate analysis was limited by their cumbersome, paper format. However, recently the interest in climate change spurred the government to digitize these paper records, thus adding many new stations to the existing network. With the addition of the co-op data, the number of stations from roughly 1890 to 1947 doubled or tripled relative to the previous baseline.

These updated records shed new light on the behavior of U.S. extremes. . . . The data since 1950 shows a clear positive trend that seems to be getting more extreme later in the record, with the last few years showing the greatest extremes. This fits very nicely with common journalistic sentiments that our climate is obviously in never-been-to-before territory. But inclusion of the pre-1950 data paints quite a different picture. Not only did the frequency of extremes vary markedly in the early 20th century days of very low greenhouse gas levels, but the frequency of extreme events in the late 1890s was at least comparable to that in our current climate. . . . [S]tatistical tests demonstrat[e] that the most recent period (1983-2004) was not statistically different from the earliest period (1895-1916) for many combinations of event severity and return period, although a few were significantly different. The bottom line here? The assumption that U.S. rainfall is clearly getting more extreme because of global warming is hardly obvious based on the new and improved record. . . .

The heat wave record . . . is dominated by the huge spike during the 1930s “Dust Bowl” era. In fact, the recent period is hardly noticeable in the longer-term context, even though the number of heat waves has increased recently compared to the cool summers of the 1960s and 1970s. . . .

If more cold waves are harbingers of global warming, then the peaks that dominated that 1980s have completely disappeared. And if we should expect fewer cold outbreaks, then how does one account for all the cold air outbreaks 1980s when the atmosphere had plenty of greenhouse gases? The cold wave record shows some interesting long-term variability but no obvious trend. . . .
The post at World Climate Report is much longer and includes some excellent charts. Read the whole thing.

Related posts:

Global Warming: Realities and Benefits
Words of Caution for the Cautious
Scientists in a Snit
Another Blow to Climatology?
Bad News for Politically Correct Science
Another Blow to Chicken-Little Science
Bad News for Enviro-nuts
The Hockey Stick Is Broken
Science in Politics, Politics in Science
Global Warming and Life
Words of Caution for Scientific Dogmatists
Hurricanes and Global Warming
Global Warming and the Liberal Agenda
Debunking "Scientific Objectivity"
Hurricanes and Glaciers

Book Beat

For unremittingly clever wordplay and a tantalizingly tortuous plot, you must read Reginald Hill's Dialogues of the Dead. It's another Dalziel and Pascoe mystery -- the best of the many I've read. The bonus: Dalziel's hilarious, politically incorrect ruminations and interjections.

The Heart of the Matter

From Mark Steyn's appreciation of the late Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005):
Forty years after McCarthy’s swift brutal destruction of the most powerful Democrat in the second half of the 20th century [LBJ], it remains unclear whether his party will ever again support a political figure committed to waging serious war, any war: Carter confined himself to a disastrous helicopter rescue mission in Iran; Clinton bombed more countries in a little over six months than the supposed warmonger Bush has hit in six years, but, unless you happened to be in that Sudanese aspirin factory or Belgrade embassy, it was always desultory and uncommitted. Even though the first Gulf War was everything they now claim to support – UN-sanctioned, massive French contribution, etc - John Kerry and most of his colleagues voted against it. Joe Lieberman is the lonesomest gal in town as an unashamedly pro-war Democrat, and even Hillary Clinton’s finding there are parts of the Democratic body politic which are immune to the restorative marvels of triangulation. Gene McCarthy’s brief moment in the spotlight redefined the party’s relationship with the projection of military force. That’s quite an accomplishment. Whether it was in the long-term strategic interests of either the party or American liberalism is another question. Yet those few months in the snows of New Hampshire linger over the Democratic landscape like an eternal winter.
As I once put it, the
Democrat Party began its veer to the hard left in 1968, with Eugene McCarthy's anti-war candidacy. McCarthy didn't win the party's nomination that year, but his strong showing made reflexive anti-war rhetoric a respectable staple of Democrat discourse.

The Democrats proceeded in 1972 to nominate George McGovern, who seems moderate only by contrast with Ramsey Clark and Michael Moore. Since McGovern's ascendancy, the left-wing nuts generally have dominated the party -- in voice if not in numbers. Nominees since McGovern: Carter (a latter-day Tokyo Rose), Mondale (Carter's one-term accomplice), Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry -- all well to the left of the mainstream (to borrow some Democrat rhetoric). Bill Clinton (of the failed plan to socialize health care) became a moderate only because he faced Republican majorities in Congress. Clinton lately [in his comments about the war in Iraq] has been showing his true colors.
(Thanks to Ed Driscoll for the pointer to Steyn's piece.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

True Confessions

One of my favorite passages from W. Somerset Maugham's The Summing Up:
From time to time I have asked myself whether I should have been a better writer if I had devoted my whole life to literature. Somewhat early, but at what age I cannot remember, I made up my mind that, having but one life, I should like to get the most I could out of it. It did not seem to me enough merely to write. I wanted to make a pattern of my life, in which writing would be an essential element, but which would include all the other activities proper to man, and which death would in the end round off in complete fulfillment. . . . I had . . . an instinctive shrinking from my fellow men that has made it difficult for me to enter into any familiarity with them. I have loved individuals; I have never much cared for men in the mass. I have none of that engaging come-hitherness that makes people take to one another on first acquaintance. Though in the course of years I have learnt to assume an air of heartiness when forced into contact with a stranger, I have never liked anyone at first sight. I do not think I have ever addressed someone I did not know . . . unless he first spoke to me. (Pocket Book edition, 1967, pp. 34-5)
Related post: IQ and Personality

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Calling a Nazi a Nazi

UPDATED, 03/18/06

Steven Pinker (quoted by AnalPhilosopher) says:
The ideological connection between Marxist socialism and National Socialism is not fanciful. Hitler read Marx carefully while living in Munich in 1913, and may have picked up from him a fateful postulate that the two ideologies would share. It is the belief that history is a preordained succession of conflicts between groups of people and that improvement in the human condition can come only from the victory of one group over the others. . . . It doesn't matter whether the groups are thought to be defined by their biology or by their history. Psychologists have found that they can create instant intergroup hostility by sorting people on just about any pretext, including the flip of a coin.
So say I:
Hitler was "conservative." The canard that will not die. Hitler was a statist Leftist who would have been at home in today's Democrat Party.
Do I exaggerate about Nazism's affinity with the Democrat Party? The common ground between Nazism and Democrats spans eugenics (Democrats: abortion and euthanasia), class/race warfare (Dems: reverse racism, "soak the rich"), state control of business (Dems: if it moves, regulate it; if it doesn't move, tax it), the suppression of opposing views (Dems: campus speech codes, disruption of conservative speakers, efforts to muzzle the blogosphere). Those strike me as rather fundamental similarities.

Consider this quotation about the founder of the modern Democrat Party and today's regulatory-welfare state:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932. Faced with the Great Depression — a depression which had been caused by government itself — Roosevelt's "solution" was to implement the socialist-fascist economic system under which Americans now suffer. Under the banner of "saving America's free-enterprise system," FDR was directly responsible for the abandonment of America's 150-year history of free enterprise.

Arguing that the American people could no longer be trusted to be charitable to others, FDR claimed that government — the organized means of coercion and compulsion — was needed to help those in need. And to effect this claim, he secured the passage of his New Deal for Americans. Roosevelt used the disastrous results of one governmental intervention — political manipulation of money — to justify another — the socialist ideal of using government to steal from those who have in order to give the loot to those who need. . . .

[I]t was through the income tax and the power to expand money and credit that Roosevelt was able to accomplish effectively his political plundering and looting, not only from the rich but from everyone in all walks of life.

But Roosevelt did more than just enshrine into the American political and economic system the ideas of Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin (the mass murderer FDR affectionately referred to as "Uncle Joe"). Greatly admiring Benito Mussolini's fascist system in Italy, Roosevelt proceeded to implement the same type of economic system in the U.S. For example, his National Recovery Act gave him virtually unlimited dictatorial powers over American business and industry. And any American citizen who did not do his "patriotic" duty by supporting the NRA and its "Blue Eagle" soon found himself at the receiving end of FDR's vengeance and retaliation.

And it was during this period of time that such alien schemes as the Social Security Act, the FDIC, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Emergency Banking Relief Act the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Federal Securities Act, and the National Labor Relations Act came into existence — all with the aim of taking control of people's lives as well as absolving them from responsibility for errors and foolhardiness by giving them the political loot that had been stolen from others. . . .

And what was the reaction of the American people to the evil, immoral, and tyrannical acts of FDR? Like people in other parts of the world who were suffering under dictatorial rule — Russians, Germans, and Italians — most of them reacted like sheep — meekly going along with their own slaughter and, in many instances, ardently supporting it. . . .

For several years, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by four justices — Sutherland, Butter, Van Devanter, and McReynolds — declared FDR's socialist and fascist New Deal policies in violation of the United States Constitution — in violation of every principle of individual liberty and limited government on which this nation was founded.

But the end came in 1937. In what many judicial scholars say was a result of Roosevelt's disgraceful and pathetic attempt to pack the court with some of his cronies, a fifth justice — Owen J. Roberts, whose vote had helped to invalidate much of the New Deal — shifted his vote in favor of Roosevelt's policies. And with Roosevelt thereafter being able to replace dying and retiring justices with ones who would do his bidding, the era of American economic liberty came to a sad and tragic end.

More than economic liberty came to a sad and tragic end under FDR:
[E]conomic and personal liberty are inseparable: We engage in economic activity to serve our personal values, and our personal values are reflected in our economic activity. When the state restricts economic liberty, it necessarily restricts personal liberty, and vice versa. The state simply cannot make personal and economic decisions more effectively than individuals operating freely within an ever-evolving socio-economic network.
FDR didn't believe that. Neither did Hitler or Stalin. Neither do a lot of Democrats.

I am sick and tired of hearing Leftists (i.e., a lot of Democrats) call conservatives and libertarians "fascists" and "Nazis." It's time to call Democrats what they (or a lot of them) are: Hitler's (and Stalin's) brothers and sisters under the skin. Fascist, Socialist, Communist, Nazi, Leftist -- they're all pretty much the same thing as far as I'm concerned. Different in degree, perhaps, but not in kind.

UPDATE: David N. Mayer says that
those people on the left-side of the traditional left-right political spectrum who call themselves and their policies “progressive” are abusing the word. Progressive, according to most dictionaries, means “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are,” “making progress toward better conditions, employing or advocating more enlightened ideas,” or “going forward or onward.” Rather than being truly “progressive,” those who label themselves by that word are, in fact, reactionaries: they adhere to, and they advocate a continuation and expansion, of the failed policies of the 20th-century regulatory/welfare state.

There’s nothing “progressive” about the socialist, paternalistic policies that American leftists advocate. The 20th-century regulatory/welfare state they want to expand was itself based on the 19th-century statist policies of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck; and Bismarck’s statism was the old European wine – the paternalism that for centuries had been the dominant public policy of the feudal monarchies of Europe – rebottled in 19th-century packaging. Like the conservatives (those on the right side of the traditional left-right political spectrum) whom they claim to oppose, left-liberal “progressives” are really advocates of paternalism and collectivism. Left-liberals and conservatives differ only in the type of 19th-century paternalism they want to continue or expand. Conservatives (paternalists/collectivists of the right) seek generally to use the coercive power of government to impose Victorian-era morals, while their brethren on the left seek generally to use the coercive power of the government to redistribute wealth. Both sides would willingly sacrifice individual freedom and self-responsibility in order to advance their collectivist agenda, their notion of the so-called “common good” of society.

That's just the beginning. There's a long bill of particulars. I don't agree with all of it, but it's mostly on target. Go read it.