Thursday, August 31, 2006

Eternity Road Takes It Up Several Notches

Francis W. Porretto, proprietor of Eternity Road, takes my humble post of yesterday ("Utopian Schemes") and builds upon it a towering edifice of erudition and logic. Go there and read the whole thing. I'm still digesting it, and I may -- or may not -- have more to say on the subject.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Utopian Schemes

In the preceding post I referred to anarcho-capitalism. Anarcho-capitalism rests on the utopian proposition that peace and liberty can reign in a stateless world in which human beings freely contract with each other for all goods and services, including justice and defense. But admitting that justice and defense might be necessary is tantamount to admitting that peace and liberty might not reign, that there are renegades -- potentially powerful ones -- who are uninterested in peaceful cooperation, free markets, property rights, and all the rest of it. From there it is but a step to imagine that such renegades might prevail. And it is but another step to acknowledge that they have prevailed in many places and at many times, up to and including the present.

Anarcho-capitalism is not the only utopian worldview, of course. Consider this definition of utopian: "The ideals or principles of a[n] . . . idealistic and impractical social theory." Communism and socialism also fit that definiton. The difference between anarcho-capitalism, on the one hand, and communism and socialism, on the other hand, is that communism and socialism have reigned in some places and at some times. But they have reigned in name only; like anarcho-capitalism, pure communism and pure socialism are idealistic and impractical.

And it is practicality that matters, not imaginary schemes based on implausible assumptions about human nature. Most persons know instinctively that anarcho-capitalism is nothing but a pipe dream, an ideology not worth their time and attention. Anarcho-capitalism (like its close relative, Objectivism) is mainly the refuge of naïfs, cranks, malcontents, and persons under the age of 25 who are still searching for "the meaning of life." Anarcho-capitalism, in other words, can actually harm the cause of liberty to the extent that it is mistaken for realistic libertarianism.

What is realistic libertarianism? It is Hayekian classical liberalism, which focuses on the maximization of liberty under the aegis of a state that dispenses justice and provides for the common defense. (See this, this, and this, for example.) Our most realistic hope for living in something close to a state of classical liberalism is the realization of the principles of the Constitution of the United States. Those principles more or less held sway for 120 years, until the advent of the "progressive" movement about 100 years ago.

Is the Constitution a perfect statement of libertarian principles? No. Are the principles the Constitution still attainable in practice? Perhaps not entirely. But the Constitution still says what it says -- its words cannot be obliterated. It is therefore a realistic and practical project to restore something like constitutional government to the United States. As I suggested in the preceding post, we may be only a Supreme Court justice or two away from beginning to undo the damage of the past 100 years.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Is the American Constitution?

I recently came across an essay written by Donald J. Boudreaux in 1998: "What Is the American Constitution?" Boudreaux -- who is now a co-blogger at the excellent Cafe Hayek and its companion, Market Correction, and also serves as chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University -- wrote the essay when he was president (1997-2001) of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Boudreaux is an idealistic libertarian who, in my reading of him, seems to be an anarcho-capitalist (a.k.a. stateless capitalist). Eerily, "What Is the American Constitution?" parallels the views of Roger Scruton -- a conservative, statist, monarchist, skeptic of free markets -- as expressed in his The Meaning of Conservatism, which I am now reading. (I won't say more about Scruton's book until I've finished it.)

Here I comment on several excerpts of Boudreaux's essay. In the end I offer a much different view of the American constitution than that offered by Boudreaux.

I begin with Boudreaux's thesis:

The constitution is neither a document nor the collection of words in a document. Instead, the constitution is the dominant ideology within us, an ideology that determines what we permit each other to do, as well as what we permit government to do. No words on parchment, regardless of the pedigree of that parchment or of the men and women who composed those words, will ever override the prevailing belief system of the people who form a polity.

Boudreaux suggests that the constitution is only what "we" allow each other to do. But "we" are, to a large extent, bound by the decrees of government (popular or not) and government's ability to enforce those decrees. That there is not a one-to-one linkage between the "prevailing belief system" of the people and what the people are allowed to do (or not do) can be seen, for example, in the imposition of integration in the South, the legalization of abortion, and the collection of taxes to support for several years what had become an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Moreover, it is far from clear that there is a "prevailing belief system" that enables "us" to agree about what "we permit each other to do, as well as what we permit government to do." Can there be such a monolith in a republic whose citizens are so heterogenous in ethnicity, religion, education, economic status, social status, intelligence, and exposure to the arguments for and against free markets (to name only a few aspects of dissimilarity)? I doubt it. There may be general agreement about such matters as the wrongness of murder and theft, but that general agreement does not translate to a national consensus about what constitutes murder or theft, or how (or whether) they should be punished. (Consider, for example, the disparate ways in which murder and theft are parsed in the laws of the States, the equally disparate sentences that may be applied to those various degrees of murder and theft, and the broad latitude exercised by prosecutors and juries in their application of the law.) The meaning of liberty (and how best to secure it) is similarly surrounded in discord. Thus we inevitably fall back on government as the means by which to reach and enforce compromises about what we permit each other to do and what we permit government to do.

Let us return to Boudreaux, as he discusses the disparity between the written Constitution and the de facto constitution:

We have at hand ready proof that the constitution is ideology rather than words in a document. Read the document popularly called “the Constitution” and ask if it accurately describes the law of the land. Your answer will almost certainly be no. That document clearly gives to the national government only very limited powers for example, to coin money, to operate post offices, and to supply national-defense services. Today, however, Washington knows almost no restraints on how deeply its regulatory arms reach into the lives of American citizens. No species of economic regulation is off-limits to the national government. Likewise, Washington routinely and without a whiff of apology exercises governmental powers clearly intended by the framers of the Constitutional document to be reserved to each state.

Of course, the de facto constitution does not and cannot represent a coherent ideology, for the reasons discussed above. Like the written Constitution, the de facto one represents a compromise among varied interests. It has been shaped willy-nilly by generations of elected and appointed government officials, for the benefit of the shifting coalitions of special interests that have enabled those governors to govern. FDR, for example, was not elected because he promised to nationalize the means of production and institute socialistic schemes -- but that is what he tried to do after he was elected. A majority (but never a super-majority) of citizens then rallied around FDR out of desperation and in the false belief that his methods were effective.

Boudreaux nevertheless tries to salvage a role for "prevailing ideology":

Those instances in which the Constitutional document has teeth (such as the First Amendment’s prohibition of government interference with the press) are those instances in which the prevailing ideology of the American people happens to correspond with what’s written in the Constitutional document. But in those many instances when the prevailing ideology runs counter to the text of the Constitutional document, the document is toothless.

The apparent survival of freedom of the press has little to do with prevailing ideology, such as it is, and much to do with political power -- not the power of "the people" but the power of special interests. Freedom of the press is fiercely defended by parties with a strong interest in the enforcement of that prohibition (e.g., the press and the liberal elites for whom the press is a mouthpiece), and by courts eager to check executive power. By the same token, a provision of the Constitution that might seem to be of interest to the people -- namely the First Amendment's prohibition of governmental interference with political speech -- has been gutted by campaign-finance "reform" in the service of the nation's most powerful special interest group: members of Congress. (I have just demonstrated public choice theory, which has several proponents and exponents among GMU's economics faculty.)

Returning to Boudreaux:

In the past, when I got furious at the government for doing things clearly prohibited by the Constitutional document, I would declare “That’s unconstitutional!”

I was wrong. Those innumerable government actions that are at odds with the Constitutional document as well as with the principles of a free society are in fact constitutional. These actions are constitutional because the constitution is the actual legal framework of our society—and the actual legal framework in America today grants to government extraordinarily vast powers for intruding into the lives of peaceful people.

And yet, if President Bush were to appoint one or two more Supreme Court justices in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the government might suddely find itself with fewer of those "extraordinarily vast powers." The successful appointment of another Roberts or Alito would come about not through the osmotic application of a mythical "prevailing belief system" but, rather, through politics as usual (e.g., public relations "blitzes," horse-trading with Democrat senators, and the enforcement of party discipline among Republican senators.)

Boudreaux proceeds to a hypothetical illustration of the power of "prevailing ideology":

[A]sk what would happen if Congress enacted legislation banning interstate travel by Americans. Can you imagine Americans today respecting such an odious statute? Of course not despite the fact that the Constitutional document does not explicitly prevent Congress from passing such legislation. To avoid enforcement of this statute we wouldn’t have to wait to throw from office the bums who enacted it. Because of the prevailing American ideology, which is hostile to such legislation, this statute would be a nullity from the moment the President signed it.

Here, Boudreaux conjures another Prohibition. He appeals (if only subconsciously) to the popular but misguided notion that Prohibition didn't work. In any event, Prohibtion, which lasted for 13 years, resulted from a century-long campaign against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It wasn't a sudden, broadly unpopular legislative whim of the type suggested by Boudreaux's example.

There would have to be strong but far from unanimous support for a ban on interstate travel (e.g., among environmentalists, their allies on the Left, and paternalistic politicians of the McCain-Feingold ilk), which such ban would certainly grant exceptions for certain interest groups (e.g., truckers and bus companies). Lobbying and clever media campaigns could do the rest. In any event, even legislation that is not broadly popular will be honored broadly (if not by everyone) if it is seen to be enforced. (Consider, for example, the integration of Southern schools and the registration of black voters, both of which came to be the rule rather than the exception in spite of broad popular opposition to those measures.)

In any event, Boudreaux's resort to an extreme and implausible example tells us nothing about the piecemeal subversion of the Constitution, which owes little to a mythical prevailing ideology and much to leadership, opportunism, political alliances, elite opinion, lobbying, media manipulation, interest-group log-rolling, pork-barrel legislation, judicial fiat, and the "followership" tendencies of most Americans.

Boudreaux next exalts the power of ideas:

It follows that ideas matter enormously. Ideas, not words, are the principal ingredient of the American constitution. If ideas change, so does the constitution. And the only way really to change the constitution is to change the ideas accepted by the great swath of citizens.

Yes, it does matter if ideas change. But it especially matters whose ideas change, and whose interests are served by adopting new ideas. I refer you to the final paragraph of the preceding discussion.

Boudreaux closes with this:

Liberty cannot be secured by asking its foe-the state-for more respect. Liberty cannot be secured at ballot boxes or in courtrooms. Liberty must reside in the hearts of people if it is to reign. And the only way that liberty can find its way into the hearts of people is through the promulgation and circulation of the ideas of liberty. In these ideas lies liberty’s only hope.

The promulgation of the right ideas is necessary but far from sufficient. Anti-statist ideas have gained much respectability in America since the advent of Ronald Reagan, but I cannot see that we have gained liberty as a result. Elected and appointed officials who are dedicated to liberty must come to the fore and lead the way. And then we must be lucky enough to avoid, for a very long time, another Great Depression or similar national trauma, so that the idea of liberty can sink deep roots and withstand the attempts of demagogues and power-hungry politicians to diminish liberty by appealing to fear and building coalitions of anti-liberty interests.

What, then, is the American constitution? It is whatever our governors make it out to be, regardless of the written Constitution. The people, by and large, seem willing to acquiesce in almost any unwritten constitution, as long as they retain the illusion that their particular interests are being served. Most Americans harbor that illusion because they focus on the special benefits which with their votes are bought, while failing to grasp the very high price they pay (in money and liberty) for the benefits received by others. Contrary to the proponents of campaign-finance "reform," the money that corrupts politics flows from the governors to the governed, not the other way around.

It will take more than ideas to reform the unwritten constitution so that it passingly resembles the written one. It will take acts of moral courage and leadership. Those acts must come mainly from generations that have yet to enter the political arena. And those generations must embrace liberty in spite of the misconceptions, propaganda, and outright lies that emanate from the media, the academy, special-interest organizations, the vocal Left, and -- most of all -- from the governing classes, the elites whose agenda they serve, their entourages, and their constituencies.

In the meantime, the best we can hope for is another good Supreme Court justice, or two.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Remembering Katrina

It is au courant to observe the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi. But there is more to the observance than the recounting of a natural disaster and its attendant human and material cost. Katrina has been translated from a natural phenomenon to a political one. Katrina has become the weapon of choice for those who willingly embrace government as "big brother" (except when it legitimately seeks to defend them against foreign enemies), and those who like to characterize their political opponents as "uncaring" and "bigoted." (But I repeat myself.)

Well, my way of remembering Katrina is to link to the several posts that the weaponizing of Katrina caused me to write:

Katrina's Aftermath: Who's to Blame? (09/01/05)
"The Private Sector Isn't Perfect" (09/02/05)
A Modest Proposal for Disaster Preparedness (09/07/05)
No Mention of Opportunity Costs (09/08/05)
Whose Incompetence Do You Trust? (09/10/05)
An Open Letter to Michael Moore (09/13/05)
Enough of Amateur Critics (09/13/05)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Conspiracy Theories

Wikipedia offers a thorough discussion of conspiricism and a long, annotated catalog of conspiracy theories that have been popular at one time or another. The final theory in the catalog goes a long way toward explaining the present state of affairs. It also justifies the use of the somewhat controversial term "Islamic fascists." Here it is:

Islamic-Fascist Axis

Radio talk show host David Emory claims that Nazi leader Martin Bormann never died and has built a global empire involving, among many others, the Bush family, Hassan al Banna, Grover Norquist, Meyer Lansky, and Michael Chertoff. This may have sprung from the factual World War Two alliance between Nazi Germany and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a religious and political leader of the area then known as Palestine.

There's a conspiracy theory for you: a Nazi, the Bushes, an Arab-Muslim extremist, an anti-tax conservative, a Jewish gangster, and a Jewish lawyer-prosecutor-cabinet secretary.

I can't wait for the movie.

P.S. On a serious note, check out this piece about the "9/11 "Truth" movement.

P.P.S. In the same vein, there's this at RightWingNutHouse.

Don't Marry a Career Woman

Michael Noer, writing at, says "Don't Marry a Career Woman." Here's a career woman who exemplifies the wisdom of Noer's advice.

P.S. A related post is here. There's another one here.

Fire Ward Churchill

PirateBallerina has posted a petition to fire Ward Churchill:

Fire Ward Churchill

We, the undersigned faculty members of US institutions of higher learning, in order to protect and ensure the integrity of academic scholarship, applaud and support the efforts (however belated or inept) of the University of Colorado at Boulder to terminate the employment of Professor Ward Churchill, a documented historical fraud and serial plagiarizer.

The petition may be signed only by academics who teach (or taught) at U.S. institutions of higher learning. Two college professors have had the courage to identify themselves and sign the petition. If you qualify as a signatory, get in on the action. Follow this link for more information.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Anti-Phillips Curve

The Phillips Curve, as you probably know, depicts an inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment: Inflation abates as the unemployment rate rises, and vice versa. That inverse relationship, however, holds only in a stagnant or slowly growing economy. In an economy with robust gains in productivity, inflation can abate even as the unemployment rate falls.

As Lawrence Kudlow notes, in a post at Kudlow's Money Politic$, "over the last 25 years, unemployment and inflation have actually moved in tandem and they have both moved down." That's exactly right. From 1929 until the early 1980s, when inflation was brought under control, inflation (as measured by the GDP deflator) tended to move in a direction opposite that of the unemployment rate. Since the early 1980s, both inflation and the unemployment rate have been moving generally downward, that is, in the same direction:

Expectations of higher inflation, ceteris paribus, drive up interest rates and make capital investments less attractive; expectations of lower inflation, by the same token, make capital investments more attractive. Expectations of lower and then consistently low inflation since the early 1980s have encouraged investments that, in themselves, help to contain inflation by making it possible to produce goods and services at lower (real) cost. Those investments also have fueled more rapid (and less volatile) economic growth than that experienced from the end of World War II to the early 1980s. As a result, job creation has tended to outpace the growth of the labor pool; thus the downward trend in the unemployment rate. The postive frame of mind caused by lower inflation, coupled with more robust economic growth, has been reinforced by having had two tax-cutting presidents (Reagan and Bush II) and the Republican-enforced fiscal discipline of the Clinton presidency. It's all a virtuous cycle.

Thus endeth the Phillips Curve, unless and until our "masters" in Washington decide, once again, to stifle economic growth by raising taxes and reinstituting the regulatory excesses of the Clinton era.

The Price of Liberty

Justin Logan, one of Cato Institute's nay-sayers, asks: "What Would You Rather Have, The War in Iraq or $1,075?" He notes, "That’s how much you’ve spent on it so far."

Well, I know his answer: He'd rather have the $1,075. That's because he's one of those paleo-libertarians who'd rather wait until he sees the whites of his enemy's eyes, that is, until it's too late.

My answer: I'd rather have a successful war in Iraq, even if it costs me a lot more than $1,075. World War II cost the average American more than $20,000 in today's dollars, not to mention the vastly greater number of casualties inflicted on American forces in that war than in Iraq.

Regardless of what paleo-libertarians and their Leftist allies may think, the war in Iraq is a facet of a larger effort to defeat terrorism, in part by neutralizing its state sponsors. It is not an exercise to slake the blood-lust or power-lust of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis.

It is imperative to win in Iraq, just as it is imperative to keep the airways safe, even if that means inconveniencing travelers. Terrorists win when they kill us, not when we thwart them. They certainly do not win when a flight is diverted or canceled, as whiners and scoffers (of all political stripes) would have it.

Related posts:
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service
I Have an Idea

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Have an Idea

Let's just pack up and go home. That's what the paleos (conservative, libertarian, and liberal) want us to do. So let's just do it:

  • Let's pull all of our armed forces back to the United States and its territorial waters. (Better yet, let's disband the armed forces: threats to the U.S. are merely illusory.)
  • Let's leave Western Europe to rot in its own socialistic, Muslim-infested juices.
  • Let's leave the Turks, Kurds, sheikhs, Jihadists, and others to fight it out over the fate of the Middle East and North Africa and their vast reservoirs of oil. (Though we should ensure that Israel is well-stocked with nuclear weapons before we leave.)
  • Let's leave Central and South America, with their oil and other natural resources, to Hugo Chavez and his ilk.
  • Let's leave China, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan to fight it out over the fate of East Asia.
  • Let's leave India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan to fight it out over the fate of South and Southwest Asia.
  • Let's allow the resurgent imperialism of Vladimir Putin to feast on Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the "Stans," and who knows what else.
  • Let's just pretend that everything will turn out all right: that someone else will deal with the predators out there; that natural resources won't be monopolized by despots; and that international trade will flow apace.
  • Let nothing stand between us and the Stalins, Hitlers, and Maos of the 21st Century.

Let's just do it -- and leave this legacy for our descendants:

  • More widespread poverty than at any time since the Great Depression. (Not the "simple but happy" life of the Luddite Left's imagining.)
  • A garrison state, devoting a large share of a reduced national output to the (perhaps futile) task of keeping predators at bay.

Is that what the paleos want? That's what they seem to want, given their inability either (a) to find a real threat to our existence or (b) to offer a coherent strategy for dealing with those enemies whose existence they are willing to acknowledge.

Related posts:
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Meaning of Conservatism: A First Reaction

I am reading Roger Scruton's The Meaning of Conservatism. I have finished the first two chapters. There is, thus far, much with which I agree and that I have said already: here and here, for example.

That is all for now. I will say no more about the book until I get deeper into it. Perhaps not until I finish it and have mulled it thoroughly.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006


When it comes to athletic events, I do not root for an underdog just for the sake of doing so. An underdog is an underdog for a good reason -- he, she, or it has compiled a record that is not as good as that of the athletes or teams he, she, or it is up against. I may root for an underdog because the underdog is (for some other reason) an athlete or a team that I favor. But that's the end of it.

I prefer enduring excellence. That is why, for example, I enjoy watching Tiger Woods play golf. It will be a sad day for me when his skills diminsh to the point where he is no longer the golfer that he has been for most of the past ten years. I just hope that he is succeeded by another electrifying talent, not by a "committee" of also-rans.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Victim Disarmament

Tom W. Bell of Agorophilia proposes "victim disarmament" as an alternative to "gun control," and he asks his readers to help spread the use of the alternative. I hereby vow to do my part.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Defense as the Ultimate Social Service

After posting "Not Enough Boots" I remembered Strategy for the West, by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor. There, Slessor says:

It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditures on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Not Enough Boots

Mike Rappaport of The Right Coast despairs about Iraq:

[I]t does seem to me that we are now clearly losing in Iraq in large part because the President and Secretary of Defense refused to put enough troops in a couple of years ago. Hardly the first time people will have heard this, but it is the first time that I feel convinced of it.

Perhaps it is not even too late now militarily to put more troops in, but politically the White House seems unlikely to do so. They don't seem to understand that when it comes to war, it is essential to win. And they are not doing that.

Combined with the Lebanon situation, it is enough to make you despair. Five years out from 9-11, and things look pretty dangerous.

Rappaport, like many another conservative, seems to have been hypnotized by the incessant drumbeat of defeatism in the mainstream media. But he points, nevertheless, to a significant truth: At a time when our forward military strategy requires a larger ground-combat force than it did after the end of the Cold War, that force (i.e., the Army and Marine Corps) remains at the low, post-Cold War levels reached during the Clinton era. Here, courtesy of infoplease, is a history of active duty manpower levels since 1940:

Active Duty Military Personnel, 1940–20061

Year ArmyAir ForceNavy Marine Corps Total
1940 269,023 160,997 28,345 458,365
1945 8,266,373 3,319,586 469,925 12,055,884
1950 593,167 411,277 380,739 74,279 1,459,462
1955 1,109,296 959,946 660,695 205,170 2,935,107
1960 873,078 814,752 616,987 170,621 2,475,438
1965 969,066 824,662 669,985 190,213 2,653,926
1970 1,322,548 791,349 691,126 259,737 3,064,760
1975 784,333 612,751 535,085 195,951 2,128,120
1980 777,036 557,969 527,153 188,469 2,050,627
1985 780,787 601,515 570,705 198,025 2,151,032
1990 732,403 535,233 579,417 196,652 2,043,705
1991 710,821 510,432 570,262 194,040 1,985,555
1992 610,450 470,315 541,886 184,529 1,807,177
1993 572,423 444,351 509,950 178,379 1,705,103
1994 541,343 426,327 468,662 174,158 1,610,490
1995 508,559 400,409 434,617 174,639 1,518,224
1996 491,103 389,001 416,735 174,883 1,471,722
1997 491,707 377,385 395,564 173,906 1,438,562
1998 483,880 367,470 382,338 173,142 1,406,830
1999 479,426 360,590 373,046 172,641 1,385,703
2000 482,170 355,654 373,193 173,321 1,384,338
2001 480,801 353,571 377,810 172,934 1,385,116
2002 486,542 368,251 385,051 173,733 1,413,577
2003 490,174 376,402 379,742 177,030 1,423,348
2004 494,112 369,523 370,445 177,207 1,411,287
2005 488,944 351,666 358,700 178,704 1,378,014
2006 (June) 496,362 352,620 353,496 178,923 1,381,401
NOTE: Figures for 1998 through 2006 include cadets/midshipmen.

1. Military personnel on extended or continuous active duty. Excludes reserves on active duty for training.

Source: Department of Defense.

Information Please® Database, © 2006 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

The problem isn't so much with the present administration (though it can be faulted) as it is with the unwillingness of adminstrations and Congresses since the end of the Cold War to provide adequately for the common defense.

More generally, the problem lies in the mindset that takes the end of a war as a signal to demobilize -- as we did after World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War. It is considered dangerous to prepare for the last war. But it is even more dangerous to assume that the next war will not happen, or that it will be easier than the last.

Englishman Douglas Jerrold, speaking to the Empire Club of Canada in 1949, put it this way:

"But", say the strategists, "what is the use of attempting to build up ground forces, because who knows what the next war is going to be like, and anything we do now will be out of date?" That is always the argument used in progressive circles for doing nothing. It is what the politicians call "statesmanship", but statesmen call it by a harder name. There is no record in history of a war which has been lost by preparing for the last war; on the contrary, wars are always lost by those who, failing to do this, inevitably make no preparation at all. If we take the last two great wars, 1914 and 1939, the immense initial successes of the German forces were due solely to the fact that they, and they alone had prepared for the last war. In 1914 they had prepared for the Russo-Japanese War, the war of entrenchments and massed field artillery, and in 1939 they had prepared for the new mechanized war which was used by the British in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. Had the British and French in 1940 had even half the number of tanks that they employed at Cambrai in 1917, the battle of France would have been won and not lost.

We have got to realize that we have imperative obligations in this matter. The whole of history is one long lesson of the fatal and irrevocable consequences of not being prepared militarily, and there is no technical, financial or other reason why we should not be adequately prepared. Today it is a matter of will power and will power only, and a matter of instructing public opinion in the elements of the necessities of the case.

Hear, hear!

An Opportunity for Libertarian Relevance

Republicans should do the wise thing and back the Libertarian Party's candidate for Tom DeLay's seat, as Don Luskin suggests. Such a move -- if successful, or nearly so -- might encourge the LP to follow some sage advice and back those major-party candidates who are closest to their views, instead of wasting time and money by running LP candidates, who are almost always doomed to defeat. A Republican-LP rapprochement would be good for the libertarian cause, in that it would push the Republican Party back toward its limited-government tradition. Only die-hard libertarian purists could object.

Conspiracy Theorists' Cousins

The nut-cases who believe that 9/11 was an "inside job" won't be deterred or converted by facts and logic, but perhaps their paranoia will not spread too far if Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up To The Facts is well publicized. Austin Bay writes about Debunking at TCS Daily:

[It] expands to book-length a collection of articles Popular Mechanics published in March 2005. The book contains new appendices and updated analyses. . . .

[T]he book follows a "Claim" and "Fact" format. Here are excerpts from the section entitled "Melted Steel":

"Claim: ... 'We have been lied to,' announces the Web site 'The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel.' The posting is entitled 'Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC.' ..."

"FACT: ... Jet fuel burns at 1,100 to 1,200 degrees Celsius ... significantly less than the 1,510 degrees Celsius typically required to melt steel. . . . However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength -- and that required exposure to much less heat..."

The "Fact" section includes analysis from structural engineers, a professor of metallurgy and explosives experts.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories have overt and covert promoters. Some are more nuisance than threat. Howard Dean verbally toyed with 9/11 conspiracy theories when he was playing primary election footsie with hard-left constituencies. . . .

[Popular Mechanics editor-in-chief James] Meigs analyzes eight 9/11 conspiracy-spinner techniques. I'll mention two:

  1. Attempts to "marginalize opposing views." Meigs says thousands of eyewitness 9/11 accounts and the analyses of numerous universities and professional organizations (including Underwriters Labs and the American Society of Civil Engineers) are dismissed as "the government version."
  1. Circular reasoning. Meigs writes that " ... among 9/11 theorists, the presence of evidence supporting the mainstream view is also taken as proof of conspiracy." He concludes: "Like doctrinaire Marxists or certain religious extremists, conspiracists enjoy a world view that is immune to refutation."

Meigs' analyses of "demonization" and the "paranoid style" are particularly crisp and compelling.

That should be that, but . . .

Bay's mention of Howard Dean's pandering to "hard-left constituencies" leads me to the conspiracy-theorists' cousins:

  • First, there are the Leftists, who will seize on any excuse to bash a Republican administration. Such Leftists are not true conspiracy-theorists; they would not countenance an "inside job" theory were Al Gore or John Kerry in the White House. They are merely unprincipled, and unhinged in their own way. (See this and this, for example.)
  • Then there are the radical libertarians, who do not subscribe to "inside job" theories. No, their conspiracy theory runs on a parallel track: The undeniably evil state is interested only in power, and it seizes on every opportunity to accrue more power. Thus it overblows the threat of terrorism and takes away our liberties, a slice at a time. (See this, for one example.)

Radical libertarians would be a greater threat to liberty than conspiracy nuts and Leftists, were there more than enough rad-libs to fill a high-school football stadium. Why? Because they seem more plausible than conspiracy nuts and Leftists; that is, they do not foam at the mouth.

Rad-libs are quick to assign evil motives to the state, without examining the evil motives of our enemies or acknowledging the necessity of state action against those enemies (given that we do not live in the stateless nirvana to which rad-libs aspire). Rad-libs are quick to minimize the dangers of terrorism by comparing the risk of being killed by terrorism to such risks as dying in an auto accident or falling off a ladder -- as if one could nullify terrorism by driving or climbing ladders more often.

Finally, rad-libs fail to acknowledge the likelihood that the low risk of being killed by terrorism is owed to those very actions that rad-libs assail as inimical to liberty (e.g., NSA surveillance, "sneak and peak" warrants). They prefer death in a pure state of liberty, which is not liberty at all.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Good News Sometimes Comes in Small Packages

It's not headline news, but it's good news for employers and for employees -- who benefit when their employers are allowed to operate their businesses for a profit. has the story:

Courts in [California] had been in the forefront of chipping away employers' right to terminate employees at will, a process I documented in my book The Excuse Factory some years ago. But the trend has been in retreat in recent years, and earlier this month the state Supreme Court delighted employers with a ruling declaring that when a company tells a worker that employment is at will, it means just that. . . .

The California Supreme Court . . . threw out the appellate precedent which had creatively conjured a tenure promise out of the very effort to deny one. . . .

Being offered a job, with no guarantee of getting to keep it forever or of it never changing its character. Imagine that.

Yes, imagine that. It might be an incentive to do a good job, help your employer turn a profit, and earn more money as a result. The chipping away at the doctrine of at-will employment by the courts has enabled the "worst and the weakest" to keep jobs for which they are not qualified or that they do poorly, to the detriment of their fellow employees.

The Purpose-Driven Life

The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, by Rick Warren, has been on The New York Times's list of best-sellers (in the Hardcover Advice category) for 184 weeks. I hadn't heard of the book until today, when I happened to channel-surf by an interview with the author. The title of his book flashed on the screen and piqued my curiosity. I didn't linger to watch the interview, but instead turned to the web for enlightenment. Here is's review:

The spiritual premise in The Purpose-Driven Life is that there are no accidents---God planned everything and everyone. Therefore, every human has a divine purpose, according to God's master plan. Like a twist on John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural address, this book could be summed up like this: "So my fellow Christians, ask not what God can do for your life plan, ask what your life can do for God's plan." Those who are looking for advice on finding one's calling through career choice, creative expression, or any form of self-discovery should go elsewhere. This is not about self-exploration; it is about purposeful devotion to a Christian God. The book is set up to be a 40-day immersion plan, recognizing that the Bible favors the number 40 as a "spiritually significant time," according to author Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, touted as one of the nation largest congregations. Warren's hope is that readers will "interact" with the 40 chapters, reading them one day at a time, with extensive underlining and writing in the margins. As an inspirational manifesto for creating a more worshipful, church-driven life, this book delivers. Every page is laden with references to scripture or dogma. But it does not do much to address the challenges of modern Christian living, with its competing material, professional, and financial distractions. Nonetheless, this is probably an excellent resource for devout Christians who crave a jumpstart back to worshipfulness

That's all well and good if you like your self-help with a heavy dose of Warren's brand of religiosity. For those of you who are not inclined in that direction, I recommend Victor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, which I read (and re-read) some 20 years ago. Frankl survived a Nazi concentration camp, and he uses his experiences there to introduce what he calls "logotherapy," or "meaning-therapy." As Frankl puts it, logotherapy

focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, the struggle to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man.

I will not try to summarize Frankl's psychotherapeutic approach, which he outlines in the second half of the book, except to say that he addresses such topics as the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, the meaning of love, and the meaning of suffering.

Even if you're not interested in logotherapy, the first half of this inexpensive book ($6.99 in paperback at -- which recounts Frankl's experiences in the concentration camp -- is well worth the price. The story is candid without resorting to graphic sensationalism, and it sets the stage for Frankl's explanation of logotherapy in the second half.

The Feds and "Libertarian" Paternalism

President Bush today signed into law the Pension Protect Act of 2006. Why the federal government -- or any government in the U.S. -- is in the business of regulating and insuring pension plans is another whole story, as they say. (See this for a general treatment of the erosion of the Constitution's meaning. See this about liberty of contract, which applies to the States.)

In reading McGuireWoods's detailed summary of the act, I am especially struck by this:

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has permitted automatic enrollment of employees in 401(k) plans since 1998. The PPA adds a number of provisions to the Code and ERISA to facilitate and encourage automatic enrollment.

A victory of sorts for "libertarian paternalists." A defeat for liberty and, in particular, liberty of contract and the right to make decisions and learn from their consequences.

Related post: Another Voice Against the New Paternalism (with links to several other related posts)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Carnival of Links

I collect interesting links, group them by topic, and dump each related set of links into a draft post. Then, using the links as a starting point, I convert the draft to a full-blown post, as I have time.

I still have many interesting links in my collection that I probably won't build into full-blown posts. Rather than hoard or discard those links, I present them here, organized by topic and with brief descriptions.

Liberty and the State

Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard: Agree or not with the author's premises and conclusions, it's an informative comparison of the two main schools of libertarianism.

Anarchism: Further Thoughts: An analysis of the varieties of anarchism and the faults of each.

Tax Rates Around the World: A brief post about the disincentivizing effects of high tax rates.

Paternalism and Psychology: A different look at the wrongness of "libertarian paternalism."

Principles and Pragmatism: Why one libertarian blogger prefers idealism to pragmatism.

Lochner v. New York: A Centennial Perspective: (go to download link for full paper) The author of this long paper suggests that Lochner's much reviled "substantive due process" holding is in fact the basis for key Supreme Court decisons (e.g., Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, and Lawrence v. Texas).

Terrorism, War, and Related Matters

Apply the Golden Rule to Al Qaeda?: Why it makes no sense to apply Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to terrorist detainees.

Captain Ed's archive on Saddam's Documents: A collection of posts about Saddam's WMDs and terrorist ties.

The ACLU and Airport Security: How the ACLU is trying to depict behavior profiling as racial profiling.

Infinite Hatred: Considers and rejects the idea that it is futile to kill terrorists.

They, the People: An essay that parses the degrees of conflict and suggests that all-out war is the best way to change the hearts and minds of the enemy.

The Brink of Madness: A Familiar Place and The Mideast's Munich: War with the Mullahs Is Coming: Two persuasive arguments that the West's present mindset is like that which prevailed at the time of the Munich Agreement in 1938.

Sustaining Our Resolve: A sober but upbeat assessment of the prospects for the Middle East and the war on terror, by George P. Schultz.

Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?: An analysis by Norman Podhoretz.

Code Red: In which the writer tackles several anti-war and anti-anti-terror shibboleths.

Presidential Signing Statements

Bush's Tactic of Refusing Laws Is Probed: An article about a panel of the American Bar Association's so-called probe of Bush's signing statements. (This WaPo article is anti-Bush, of course, but it sets the stage for the next two links.)

Enforcing the Constitution: A brief post defending signing statements.

The Problem with Presidential Signing Statements: A longer analysis of signing statements that also defends them.


The Fifty Worst (and Best) Books of the Century: A distinguished panel of libertarian-conservatives compiles a list of the worst and best. The lists of worsts seems about right. The list of bests includes too many boring "classics."

"Fake but Accurate?" Science: A scathing indictment of the "hockey stick" curve -- which purports to show that global warming is only a recent phenomenon -- its author, and its coterie of defenders.

The Problem of the Accuracy of Economic Data: An exposition of the spurious precision of economic statistics and analyses based on them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Taking On Torture

There is a reason for the United States to abjure torture. That reason can be summarized thusly: We could allow torture in exigent circumstances (e.g., to save the life of a kidnapped child who has been buried in a sealed container, where the perpetrator is in custody and is unwilling to disclose the child's location). But if we do that, it is likely that the precedent will result in the use of torture in circumstances where an innocent person is tortured to no avail.

As an answer to that objection, there is Alan Dershowitz's proposal to legitimate and regulate torture (as summarized at Wikipedia):

Although [Dershowitz] claims to be personally against the use of torture, he believes that authorities should be permitted to use non-lethal torture in a "ticking bomb" scenario, regardless of whether international law permits it, and that it would be less destructive to the rule of law to regulate the process than to leave it up to the discretion of individual law-enforcement agents. Under his proposal, the government would not be allowed to prosecute the torture subject based upon information revealed under that interrogation method. "If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice". [A CNN interview of Dershowitz on this subject is here.]

Relatedly, Tom Bevan of the RealClearPolitics Blog writes about an exchange between Charles Krauthammer and Michael Kinsley:

Last December Charles Krauthammer argued the following in a Weekly Standard cover story:

However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you've established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that's left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.

Michael Kinsley responded the following week, calling Krauthammer's argument a case of "salami-slicing:"

You start with a seemingly solid principle, then start slicing: If you would torture to save a million lives, would you do it for half a million? A thousand? Two dozen? What if there's only a two-out-of-three chance that person you're torturing has the crucial information? A 50-50 chance? One chance in 10? At what point does your moral calculus change, and why? Slice the salami too far, and the formerly solid principle disappears.

If the reports out of Pakistan are true [that Pakistan used torture to develop the intelligence that led to the breakup of the plot to take down 10 UK-U.S. flights], this theoretical debate just became much more interesting, because we now have a very real slice of salami. If more than four thousand lives were saved as a direct result of intel obtained using torture, does that make it justified? I think it's clear what Krauthammer would say. But what about Kinsley? Are four thousand innocent lives a big enough slice of salami for him?

Krauthammer seems to subscribe to something along the lines of Dershowitz's proposal. Kinsley does not, because he is worried about proportionality. In Kinsley's case, the proportion must be, say, tens of potential victims saved for every act of torture. That's akin to the foolish notion that it is better that ten [or 100] guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. But, as I put it here,

Better for whom? It's better for the guilty, who may claim more victims, but certainly not better for those victims. [See also this post.]

With respect to torture, the right proportion, under the right circumstances, is one to one. Why should the life of, say, one kidnapped child be sacrificed because we are unwilling to condone the torture of one known perpetrator? Where's the morality in that?

It seems to me that given the circumstances now surrounding the United States, we should openly adopt a policy along the lines of Dershowitz's proposal, as opposed to posturing piously about torture à la John McCain.

Other related post: A Rant about Torture

Monday, August 14, 2006

An Argument Against Abortion

Don Marquis, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas, is the author of "Why Abortion Is Immoral" (Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 4 (Apr., 1989), pp. 183-202). The full text of Marquis's paper seems to be unavailable on the web, except for a fee (here).

This post gives a thumbnail version of Marquis's argument, based on an interview of Marquis by Hugh LaFollette, host of the (defunct) program Ideas and Issues at WETS-FM. The interview, which lasts about 25 minutes, was broadcast on February 8, 1997. Here's a synopsis:

To understand what's wrong with abortion, start by asking what's wrong with murder. It is depriving a person of a future of value, if a person has such a future. That is the best explanation of why we think it's wrong to kill except in exigent circumstances. For example, it would be merciful to kill a person who is trapped in a burning car and dying in agony. (Presumably, killing murderers in the service of justice and enemies self-defense are similarly defensible because such acts protect lives of value.)

Given the wrongness of killing (in most circumstances), it's wrong to kill an infant because it deprives the infant of its future of value. Similarly, it's wrong to kill a fetus, for the same reason.

What about the objection that an adult has interests but a fetus does not? A fetus is an undeveloped human being that will have interests.

What about the objection that an adult is conscious and aware, whereas a fetus in early stages of development is not. The fetus will be conscious and aware, just as a person in a termporary coma will be conscious and aware. If killing the person in a coma is wrong, killing an early-stage fetus is wrong for the same reason.

What about contraception? Contraception does not end the life of a definite individual with a future. There is an individual after conception, but not before.

What about the status of the mother who is carrying a fetus. Isn't her life worth consideration? Shouldn't she have a choice? Liberty always is constrained by moral considerations. In this instance, it is right to restrict the liberty to abort, because abortion is wrong.

More detailed summaries of Marquis's argument against abortion can be found here and here.

Related posts:
I've Changed My Mind
Next Stop, Legal Genocide?
Here's Something All Libertarians Can Agree On

It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening
Creeping Euthanasia
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade
Flooding the Moral Low Ground
The Beginning of the End?
Peter Singer's Fallacy
Taking Exception
Protecting Your Civil Liberties

Where Conservatism and (Sensible) Libertarianism Come Together
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Public Morality
The Threat of the Anti-Theocracy
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die
The Slippery Slope in Holland
The Slippery Slope in England
The Slipperier Slope in England
The Slippery Slope in New Jersey

If Liberty Depends on Democracy, We're Doomed to Slavery

Seven dwarfs more famous than US judges: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Show White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices, according to a poll on pop culture released on Monday.

Democracy is "Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives." LIberty is "Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control." Yet, as we know very well, "the people's representatives" have piled one and another form of unjust and undue governmental control on us since the advent of TR and his cousin, FDR.

The conflation of "democracy" and "liberty" must stop. They are most decidedly not the same thing.

An Un-Happy Birthday to Social Security

Social Security turns 71 today. It's still unconstitutional.

Related post: Social Security: The Permanent Solution

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Leni Riefenstahl Redux

Mike Wallace does for Iran's Ahmadinejad what Leni Riefenstahl did for Hitler.

Testing, Testing

From the Associated Press:

Chertoff says U.S. needs more authority

WASHINGTON - The nation's chief of homeland security said Sunday that the U.S. should consider reviewing its laws to allow for more electronic surveillance and detention of possible terror suspects, citing last week's foiled plot.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stopped short of calling for immediate changes, noting there might be constitutional barriers to the type of wide police powers the British had in apprehending suspects in the plot to blow up airliners headed to the U.S.

But Chertoff made clear his belief that wider authority could thwart future attacks at a time when Congress is reviewing the proper scope of the Bush administration's executive powers for its warrantless eavesdropping program and military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information," he said. "We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that. It's not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants."

The outcry from "civil libertarians" is bound to be loud and shrill. "Civil libertarians" are focused exclusively on the protection of "rights" for the sake of, well, protecting "rights." They take no interest in actually protecting fundamental rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

P.S. Score one for the defenders of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in their battle against the American "Civil Liberties" Union. The right not to be bombed triumphs over the "right" not to be searched in NYC.

Related post: Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Baseball Managers: A Recyclable Commodity?

It's a commonplace that major league managers are fired by one team only to be hired by another. The managerial history of the current crop of managers is given below. Here's an overview:

  • 12 of the 30 managers have managed only 1 team
  • 9 have managed 2 different teams
  • 6 have managed 3 different teams
  • 3 have managed 4 different teams.

A closer look:

  • 40 percent (12) of the present managers have managed only 1 team
  • the other 60 percent (18) have managed an average of 2-2/3 different teams (a total of 48 managing stints)
  • 8 of those 48 managing stints have spanned 10 or more seasons; 17 stints have spanned 5 or more seasons
  • the 18 team-switching managers have switched 30 times (1-2/3 times per manager)
  • the average gap between stints has been 3 seasons
  • 40 percent (12) of the switches were immediate (during a season or in consecutive seasons)
  • the immediate switches involved 50 percent (9) of the managers who have managed 2 or more teams.

Are major-league managers a recyclable commodity? I report, you decide.

The managers and their teams and seasons (including partial seasons):

Felipe Alou

Montreal Expos, 1992-2001
San Francisco Giants, 2003-

Dusty Baker

San Francisco Giants, 1993-2002
Chicago Cubs, 2003-

Buddy Bell

Detroit Tigers, 1996-1998
Colorado Rockies, 2000-2002
Kansas City Royals, 2005-

Bruce Bochy

San Diego Padres, 1995-

Bobby Cox

Atlanta Braves, 1978-1981
Toronto Blue Jays, 1982-1985
Atlanta Braves, 1990-

Terry Francona

Philadelphia Phillies, 1997-2000
Boston Red Sox, 2004-

Ron Gardenhire

Minnesota Twins, 2002-

Phil Garner

Milwaukee Brewers, 1992-1999
Detroit Tigers, 2000-2002
Houston Astros, 2004-

Joe Gerardi

Florida Marlins, 2006-

John Gibbons

Toronto Blue Jays, 2004-

Ozzie Guillen

Chicago White Sox, 2004-

Mike Hargrove

Cleveland Indians, 1991-1999
Baltimore Orioles, 2000-2003
Seattle Mariners, 2005-

Clint Hurdle

Colorado Rockies, 2002-

Tony LaRussa

Chicago White Sox, 1979-1985
Oakland Athletics, 1985-1995
St. Louis Cardinals, 1996-

Jim Leyland

Pittsburgh Pirates, 1986-1996
Florida Marlins, 1997-1998
Colorado Rockies, 1999
Detroit Tigers, 2006-

Grady Little

Boston Red Sox, 2002-2003
Los Angeles Dodgers, 2006-

Ken Macha

Oakland Athletics, 2003-

Joe Maddon

California/Anaheim Angels, 1996, 1999
Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2006-

Charlie Manuel

Cleveland Indians, 2000-2002
Philadelphia Phillies, 2005-

Bob Melvin

Seattle Mariners, 2003-2004
Arizona Diamondbacks, 2005-

Jerry Narron

Texas Rangers, 2000-2001
Cincinnati Reds, 2005-

Sam Perlozzo

Baltimore Orioles, 2005-

Willie Randolph

New York Mets, 2005-

Frank Robinson

Cleveland Indians, 1995-1997
San Francisco Giants, 1981-1984
Baltimore Orioles, 1988-1991
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, 2002-

Mike Scioscia

Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, 2000-

Buck Showalter

New York Yankees, 1992-1995
Arizona Diamondbacks, 1998-2000
Texas Rangers, 2003-

Joe Torre

New York Mets, 1977-1981
Atlanta Braves, 1982-1984
St. Louis Cardinals, 1990-1995
New York Yankees, 1996-

Jim Tracy

Los Angeles Dodgers, 2001-2005
Pittsburgh Pirates, 2006-

Eric Wedge

Cleveland Indians, 2003-

Ned Yost

Milwaukee Brewers, 2003-

Friday, August 11, 2006

Two Views of Liberty

1. The purist:

Liberty -- the right to do as one wishes as long as one does not harm others -- is an inherent right, something that humans are born with. Therefore, no one need prove than liberty is superior to statism or other totalitarian philosophies (e.g., Islamism). Liberty would reign in a world of statelessness, where all relations and transactions are consensual.

2. The realist:

The precise contours of liberty depend very much on agreement about harms, which are defined through politics (interpersonal and intergroup bargaining). Liberty, thus defined, is sustained by defending it politically and, as necessary, with force. The justification for liberty (or more rather than less of it) depends very much on evidence that it is superior to statism or other totalitarian philosophies.

Not all nations and peoples subscribe to the notion of liberty. Those who do must be prepared defend it against those who do not, even to the point of acting preemptively. Moreover, the government of a nation must be prepared to defend liberty over the objections of some of its citizens -- and by means that not all will applaud.

Liberty -- like economic and scientific achievements -- requires leadership as well as cooperation, it does not simply "happen." The ideal world of stateless consent is just that: an ideal. The real world is fraught with predators, persons of ill will (e.g., persons whose allegiance is to party rather than nation), and dupes. Predators succeed in crushing liberty where a nation's politics are dominated by dupes and persons of ill will.

Related: Consent of the Governed and the many posts linked therein, especially these:

Practical Libertarianism for Americans (links to a series; see especially The Origin and Essence of Rights)
The Meaning of Liberty (a series gathered in a single post)
Actionable Harm and the Role of the State
Varieties of Libertarianism

Also: Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Message to Our Domestic Enemies

Yesterday I quoted Alan Furst. In light of last night's events in the UK, I repeat what Mr. Furst said:

[G]ood people don't spend much time being good, mostly they want to mow the lawn and play with the dog, whereas bad people spend all their time being bad, or thinking up ways to be worse. Then, one day, the good people have to turn around and do something, or the whole thing will go off the cliff.

Any person or institution who stands in the way of detecting and preventing terrorism is traitorous. Do you read me, George Soros, Mikhail Moore, Cindy Sheehan, The New York Times, and the ACLU?

UPDATE: There should be a special place in hell for leakers.

Related post: Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Problem of Good vs. Evil

[G]ood people don't spend much time being good, mostly they want to mow the lawn and play with the dog, whereas bad people spend all their time being bad, or thinking up ways to be worse. Then, one day, the good people have to turn around and do something, or the whole thing will go off the cliff.

Alan Furst, author of several best-selling novels about espionage, set in Europe before and during World War II. From an interview posted at TCS Daily.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts

This post isn't about compatriots, who are persons who happen to be citizens of the same nation. This is about com-patriots -- persons who happen to be citizens of the same nation and who share a moral commitment to the defense of that nation and its ideals. This post is necessarily also about anti-patriots -- citizens who do not evidence the same moral commitment. The nation in question, of course, is the United States.

What, then, is American com-patriotism? I begin with this definition of patriotism:

Love of and devotion to one's country.

Which I expand to get American com-patriotism, which is decidedly not mere flag-waving. It is:

  • A devotion to the ideals of life, liberty, and property, to which the nation was dedicated by the Declaration of Independence.
  • An understanding that the attainment of the Declaration's ideals is served through the Constitution's essential principles: (a) a limited role for government in the affairs of citizens; (b) mutual defense of the life, liberty, and property of citizens.
  • Defense of the nation's ideals against enemies -- foreign and domestic -- by upholding the principles of the Constitution.

There are many legitimate ways by which a citizen may contribute to the defense of the nation's ideals; for example: reasoned questioning of the aims, policies, and actions of government; honorable service in the armed forces; or reasoned challenges to those who seek to use the levers of government to deprive their citizens of liberty and property. Such are com-patriotic acts.

But it is not com-patriotic to speak or act in blatant disregard of the nation's founding ideals and principles of governance; for example:

  • It is reprehensible to publish in The New York Times (or any other newspaper) detailed accounts of various necessarily secret efforts to combat terrorism. (Some would, with justification, call it treasonous.)
  • It is hypocritical to profess love of country and then to oppose efforts to combant terrorism -- without offering feasible alternatives -- simply because you abhor Republicans generally and the Republican president particularly.
  • It is arrogant of the fat-cats who inhabit Congress to cry crocodile tears about the plight of this year's fashionable underdog, and then to make that underdog's supposed plight yet another excuse for assuming powers not granted by the Constitution -- at the expense of all diligent non-underdogs.
  • It is abhorrent that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court subvert the clear meaning of the Constitution, as they acquiesce in the arrogance of Congress and commit their own feats of arrogance, solely for the purpose of assuaging their personal (non-legal) preferences) and in complete disregard of the rule of law.

Such acts endanger the lives, liberty, and property of peaceable, honorable Americans. Such acts flout the Constitution. They are not to be tolerated. They must be called what they are: anti-patriotic. That is what I will call them at every opportunity.

Related reading: American Exceptionalism (Wikipedia), Points of No Return (Eternity Road)

Related posts:
Patriotism and Taxes
Why Sovereignty?
Shall We All Hang Separately?
Foxhole Rats
Treasonous Speech?
Foxhole Rats, Redux
Know Thine Enemy
The Faces of Appeasement
Whose Liberties Are We Fighting For?
Words for the Unwise
More "McCarthyism"
More Foxhole Rats
Moussaoui and "White Guilt"
The New York Times: A Hot-Bed of Post-Americanism
Post-Americans and Their Progeny
Certain Unalienable Rights
The First Roosevelt
American Royalty
"Peace for Our Time"
Anti-Bush or Pro-Treason?
Consent of the Governed
Kelo, Revisited
Parsing Peace
Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death Spiral of Liberty

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Alma Mater in (Typical) Action


The Center for Naval Analyses has just released a report on "Managing Civil Strife and Avoiding Civil War in Iraq." A senior military analyst emailed me his take after reviewing the report:

There are two interesting things about this report, in my view. First, although the panelists identified the power vacuum [see here for more on the roots of this vacuum) as the greatest factor contributing to the rise of militias on both sides, they assume, apparently without much discussion, that the US can do nothing to fill this vacuum. Second, they focus almost entirely on recommending solutions that rely on improvements in things we have the least control and leverage over. . . .

The discussion about what to do in Iraq is spinning off into never-never land as people focus ever more on irrelevant theories and propose solutions that can't be implemented. . . .

This piece by Dexter Filkins in today's New York Times seems to confirm much of the above.

Typical. It's just what you'd expect from an institution which is headed by a self-described "Carter Democrat," and the staff of which comprises too many political non-scientists, whose idea of finding the truth is to convene "balanced" panels of bloviators. Yet one more bit wasteful exercise in self-aggrandizement, at the taxpayers' expense.

P.S. The first link in the block quotation takes you to the home page of the Center's parent organization, The CNA Corporation. The conference report in question is here.