Freecon

Where freedom and economics meet.

Friday, September 20, 2002

LEXICON APPRECIATION:

C.D. Harris IV at Ipse Dixit posted this link to the 100 words everyone should know by Houghton Mifflin. Some tough words included here, but I think it's a fairly good compilation. Dodd's right BTW. "Euro" should not be on this list.

CORPORATE TAX COLLECTION:

John Huddock at Common Sense and Wonder links to a great article about why the coprate tax should be abolished, by Sheldon Richman.

THE SCOURGE OF CLASS ENVY:

An excellent Scourge today by Charles Austin at Sine Qua Non Pundit. I haven't been linking to these as much lately because I figured out that almost everyone who visits here also visits SQNP. But this particular Scorge is quite good, especially given the topic. Incidently, if you don't know what an "eephus pitch" is, you should click through to the article that discusses it.

ISLAMIST CATALYST:

Francis Fukuyama and Nadav Samin have expounded upon the idea that the Islam of bin Laden and his ilk is actually a modernizing, as opposed to traditionalist, force in the Arab world. John Coumarianos, of Innocents Abroad, has some thoughtful comments on the piece. They are both interesting, even if they both suffer from the same misnomer as mentioned in the post below, and offer an excellent review of the development of our enemy's ideology. I must say, however, that a country which is governed through increased centralization of political power is a socialist regime, no matter if that centralizing idea is based on philosophy, the military, or religion. They all differ from liberal democracy in that they eschew the individual in favor of the state. Islamists may indeed provoke a radical modernization of the Arab world, and IMHO there is an evolutionary process to political structure, but I think this will happen in spite of bin Laden instead of because of him. These regimes placate their citizens with the vast wealth that flows under their feet, but every other aspect of their lives is controlled by the ruling elite. Eventually this sort of top-heavy structure crushes itself, either from within (Communism) or from without (Nazism). In other words, I think that bin Laden is a symptom rather than a cause of the evolutionary process taking place in that part of the world.

POLITICAL CONUNDRUM:

Since comparisons to Hitler are just all the rage now, I was hoping that eventually I would see an explanation for how the Nazis and Fascists became known as "right wing." Considering the fact that they were both socialist parties, I'm not exactly sure why they are forever associated with the rightist side of the political spectrum. In fact, back in the 1930's, Germany was lauded as a wonderful example of central planning and often praised as the model of socialism and progressivism by European intellectuals. Hayek didn't let them forget that point in his seminal work The Road to Serfdom. Once Hitler and Mussolini became the mosterthey were destined to be, tose same progressive intellectuals abandonned their praise and ever since then have been referring to those regimes as right wing. I'm curious if anyone can give me even one good reason why these two should be associated with the likes of Reagan and Thatcher instead of their intellectual and political soul mates, Stalin, Lenin and Marx.

**UPDATE: David Adesnik delivers a good history lesson on Hitler's rise to power and explains why the German Justice Minister's comments, alluded to in this post, were so ludicrous.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

THE RAND DEBATE:

Strong reactions to Ayn Rand are not uncommon, and in fact, should be expected. Megan Macardle took some flak for daring to "forgive" Rand:

"she lived through the Russian Revolution. Having witnessed the horrors of communism first hand, she can be forgiven for reacting rather strongly to people she found advocating such a system in the land of the free."

In particular, Bruce Moomaw had some nasty things to say:

"Rand wasn't just 'passionately for voluntary interactions between individuals' -- she said, explicitly, that harming others by actions is evil but that harming others by inaction is NEVER evil. I pointed out just a few hours earlier in this blog that, by her 'moral' philosophy, murderous child neglect is not only not a crime but not even sinful. Since then, I've learned by pure chance that Whitaker Chambers pointed out the same thing -- and also pointed out that not one of Rand's heroes, married or otherwise, has any children. Disgusting dependent little parasites. How dare they depend on others for their survival?"

"I continue to find it absolutely fascinating that Ms. McArdle, or anyone else, finds this malevolent buffoon worth a second's throught."

First of all, I don't see why Rand needs forgiveness of any sort. She would never ask for it and probably wouldn't accept it if offered.

Second, the child-neglect example is inapposite for several reasons, including:

(a) Rand never suggested that an individual's rightful inaction would include shirking a duty. If A agrees to pay B for x amount of work, and B performs said work, but then A does not pay, Rand's philosophy finds this as reprehensible as any normal person. A has shirked his duty to pay B. Similarly, a parent has agreed to the duty of taking care of his or her children, or has made other arrangements (adoption, child care, etc.) in which that duty has been assigned. Any shirking of that duty through inaction would involve harm to another that the parent implicitly agreed to prevent.

(b) Rand never suggested that children were the sort of people who can adequately take care of themselves. They weren't the ones creating legislation in which everyone would live at the expense of everybody else (apologies to Bastiat). Those who attempted to use the coercive power of the state to force specific dependence by some on others were the object of Rand's doctrine. Children were irrelevant to this idea because they do not have the mental or moral capacity (both developed through reason) to independently affect the debate one way or the other.

(c) While it is true that children are absent from Rand's books, there is no reason to expect them to be there. She didn't write novels, she wrote extended metaphors for a way of life. A lot of books don't have children in them, especially ones that purport to offer a way to live -- The Tao Te Ching, The Communist Manifesto, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Old Man and the Sea, etc.

Third, one who considers Rand a "malevolent buffoon" probably hasn't read much of her work, or finds Rand's philosophy cutting a little too close to the quick. Being offended when intelligent disagreement with Objectivism is possible suggests the mirror is reflecting too clearly.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

CRY FREEDOM!:

The Cato Institute's Marian L. Tupy takes on the unsupportable statements of Thabo Mbeki in regard to his call for an end to "global economic apartheid." [link via Liberty Log]

PARADISE LOST - AGAIN:

The latest Florida debacle really doesn't deserve much coverage. But the (predictable) litigious behavior of the Dems has become so downright nauseating that anyone who claims to be a member should be thoroughly disgusted and demanding a policy change. This won't happen of course, and yet another series of breathless reports about "disenfranchisement" and "Republican insensitivity" and downright "racial bias" will grace our airwaves, right up until election day when the idiots in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties screw it all up again. Honestly, why would you want to so loudly proclaim an area chock full of illiterate morons as a "stronghold" for your party? It's because no matter what the outcome, the Dems can blame it on the Republicans. This is the sort of power mongering that has also given Torricelli an actual chance in NJ -- the Dems would rather elect a criminal than a Republican. Lord help us.

Monday, September 16, 2002

WHY ISN'T MORALITY DEMOCRATIC?:

Ask Peter Cuthbertson who explains pretty clearly why we wouldn't want it to be so -- and by "we" I mean "me" and anyone who agrees with me. And by "those who agree with me" I mean only those who have any common sense whatsoever and more than a passing acquaintance with reality. And by "reality" I mean ... nevermind.

EVOLUTION:

At the end of my sophomore year in college, back in 1988, I started to learn how to play the guitar, and I don't think I put it down again for another three or four years. I played with several ill-fated "bands" and a motley assortment of musicians, all in an effort to become insanely competent and versatile on the instrument. I succeeded enough to play live for about a year, although I never become any sort of "artist", nor anyone you'd ever know. I don't play so much anymore. But I can still pick up a guit-fiddle and lay down a raucous tune or two, given enough inspiration (libation?). One of the lasting marks of my musical "education", however, was a deep and abiding love for "roots" music. Once I found the blues, I was off to the races, musically speaking, and even to this day, when I get an urge to practice, I usually run through a series of songs beginning with the blues, moving through some bluegrass and country all the way to some jazz and rock pieces that I know. My fascination with all these types of music, and how they were interrelated, broadened my views on a great many things.

For the past couple of years I've been involved in a similar evolutionary process concerning the pursuit of freedom. This webblog is one stop along the way to what I hope is an equally broad and comprehensive understanding of the roots of liberty, although with more virtuosity in practice than I have in music. One thing I like about this 'blogging thing is that I can mark certain thoughts and ideas that are important to me at a particular time, pegging those moments to contemporary events, thoughts and feelings from around the world. I just hope that when I look back over these pages at some point in the future I can see progress in the maturation of my political philosophy along the same lines as that of my guitar playing. In furtherance of that goal, I will designate this as MILEPOST 1.

THE HOT WAR:

Being an attorney, I love drawing parallels whenever the situation presents itself, and often times when it doesn't. My recent spate of reading* has focused my attention on exactly how and why the current state of world affairs is truly a battle between good and evil. While the War on Terror can be easily described this way -- America vs. maniacal-murders-of-innocents -- the current battle for world opinion over what to do with Iraq does not lend itself so readily to such stark descriptions. However, this struggle to define the objectives of the War on Terror is clearly the same ongoing battle between capitalism and socialism that has been waged for over 200 years now. I'm sure that this is no revelation to most of you, but I think it deserves the defining clarity of articulation. Recently, Collin May and John Coumarianos at Innocents Abroad have highlighted the dichotomy.

Coumarianos does so with his post concerning how the international community is starting to (reluctantly) align itself with American opinion on the Iraq question. Through his Sept. 12 speech, Bush has managed to shape world opinion while "not be[ing] constrained by it." The most interesting point is that there seems to be a persistent denial among the appeasers of the fact that our military has maintained a perpetual presence in Iraq since the Gulf War. Predictions of chaos in the region should an invasion ensue must conveniently ignore that fact. And what praytell is the impetus for such ignorance?

Collin May suggests the likely candidate in his review of French academic Jean-François Revel's new book, l’obsession anti-américaine. The book understands the underlying reason for the anti-american movement to be

a wilful decision to lie on the part of the European anti-American. Noting the ready availability of information on the actual situation both domestically in the US and internationally, Revel bluntly states that only someone driven by an ideological need to twist reality could hold the views of the typical European anti-American.

And what is this ideology? It’s nothing other than the now centuries old movement to undermine liberal democracy by any means, fair or foul. Here Revel shows his French pedigree, taking on the intellectuals on their own turf. Comparing current anti-globalization activists and anti-Americans to communists and fascists bent on destroying democracy, Revel lays bare the underlying dogma fuelling hatred of the US.

Frederic Bastiat, and A.V. Dicey after him, noticed this peculiar tendency of socialists to ignore reality in order to advance "ideals". In regard to the Iraq question, the same forces are at work -- those who want to ignore reality in an attempt to realise utopia through the U.N. policies of "containment" and appeasement vs. those who remember how WWII Germany became a threat to the entire world and that Saddam Hussein has no compunction against using WMD on anyone, including his own people. Why in the world we would want to wait for confirmation that this man possesses the most deadly weapon known on earth is beyond comprehension. Or, more succinctly, it defies reality.

The ability to marginalize and obfuscate facts that undermine the utopian vision is one of the reasons this struggle between capitalism and socialism, between freedom and statism, between good and evil continues to this day. Despite the unparalleled success of capitalism to raise the standard of living for everyone and to ensure and protect even the most basic human rights, it is still countered by the system which has produced such dismal failures as the Reign of Terror, Soviet Russia, Nazism, Stalinism, Fascism, and various other leftist regimes. More recently there is Chinese communism, North Korean dictatorship, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, Mugabe, and basically every muslim nation in the Middle East. So how is it that bataille ancien continues? The only reason anyone would think that adopting socialism in any form would be successful is because they are being deluded, either by themselves or others. The same can be said for thinking that we (the free world) can some how bribe our way through the War on Terror and leave regimes in place that tend to threaten the very existence of democracy (i.e. Saddam Hussein). The truth would dictate otherwise. As the struggle between good and evil continues, the only hope is that the truth will become so blindingly apparent that freedom becomes a national expectation rather than a goal.

*Recent books read: Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman; The Law, Frederic Bastiat; The Dogs of Capitalism, Mitchell Jones -- all of which can be found at Laissez Faire Books.