Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Last Friday was the first anniversary of a sad occasion, the day the U.S. Supreme Court said the Constitution permits the politicians who run New London, Connecticut, to throw people out of their homes so the land can become part of a ritzy private waterfront development that is expected to produce more tax revenue than the residences that stand there now. In modern America workers are expropriated for the benefit of" capitalists."Read the rest of my TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.
Cross-posted at Free Association..
Roderick T. Long
In a comment on my recent post on Spencer, Sudha Shenoy quotes from Spencer's 1892 correspondence with Japanese official Kaneko Kentaro (excerpted by Lafcadio Hearn in Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation), advising the Japanese government to forbid foreigners to buy land, to enter certain professions, or -- lest"bad hybrids" ensue -- to intermarry with Japanese. Shenoy asks:"was Spencer a racist, as we now understand the term?"
Well, yes -- like most of his contemporaries Spencer had some racist assumptions. But there's less racism here than meets the eye. I have just placed Spencer's correspondence with Kaneko, warts and all, online so that readers may judge for themselves.
Let's take the economic prohibitions and the marriage prohibitions separately. The economic prohibitions are clearly not racially motivated; Spencer is advising Japan not to allow Europeans to buy land or enter certain professions, and he presumably has no racial prejuice against Europeans. His motivation is rather to protect Japan from Western imperialism:
Respecting the further questions you ask, let me, in the first place, answer generally that the Japanese policy should, I think, be that of keeping Americans and Europeans as much as possible at arm’s length. In presence of the more powerful races your position is one of chronic danger, and you should take every precaution to give as little foothold as possible to foreigners. ... If you wish to see what is likely to happen [otherwise], study the history of India. Once let one of the more powerful races gain a point d'appui and there will inevitably in course of time grow up an aggressive policy which will lead to collisions with the Japanese; these collisions will be represented as attacks by the Japanese which must be avenged; forces will be sent from America or Europe, as the case may be; a portion of territory will be seized and required to be made over as a foreign settlement; and from this there will grow eventually subjugation of the entire Japanese Empire. I believe that you will have great difficulty in avoiding this fate in any case, but you will make the process easy if you allow any privileges to foreigners beyond those which I have indicated.
While Spencer's restrictions may not be racist, they are certainly un-libertarian; laws discriminating against foreigners are clear violations of Spencer's own Law of Equal Freedom. But as Spencer explains his position, it is"impossible that the Japanese, hitherto accustomed to despotic rule, should, all at once, become capable of constitutional government"; hence any"proposed new institutions should be as much as possible grafted upon the existing institutions," so as to ensure"not ... a replacing of old forms by new, but a modification of old forms to a gradually increasing extent." (One suspects that Spencer would have little enthusiasm for contemporary attempts to spread democracy at swordpoint in the Middle East.) Hence the Japanese constitution should not be entirely libertarian in its treatment either of citizens or of foreigners; libertarian policies must be phased in over a period of many generations. In particular, in the interests of national security Spencer thought Japan would be justified in departing from strict libertarian principle in order to guard against Western hegemony; with cynicism born of long experience Spencer viewed his own country as likely to exploit any pretext to extend its imperial rule over Japan -- an opinion he asked Kaneko to keep quiet so as to avoid provoking"the animosity of [Spencer’s] fellow-countrymen." While I think Spencer may be too ready to sacrifice principle here, I don't see anything racist about his argument.
Spencer's assumption that the application of libertarian principle must be qualified in the case of societies with no tradition of self-governance is shared by John Stuart Mill, who states the point, in On Liberty, with overtones actually more racist than Spencer's:
It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine [of liberty] is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.
Mill is generally forgiven for saying things like this, whereas when Spencer says similar things he is consigned to outer darkness. Yet on this point Mill is surely worse than Spencer, since from the alleged"nonage" of non-European peoples Mill inferred the legitimacy of British colonial rule, in India for example (see his Of the Government of Dependencies by a Free State), whereas Spencer remained a lifelong opponent of imperialism and Britain's India policy. From the assumption (be it true or false) that Japan was not ready for freedom, Mill would have been ready to infer that Japan should be subjected to British rule; Spencer on the contrary infers that Japan should do everything in its power to prevent being so subjected.
On the intermarriage question: at the start of the Meiji period many pro-Western Japanese thinkers felt themselves to be genetically inferior to the West and so advocated intermarriage with Europeans as a means of improving the stock -- a kind of self-hating racism. This was the context in which Kaneko inquired what Spencer's opinion was on the matter. Spencer advised against intermarriage, on the grounds that"if you mix the constitutions of two widely divergent varieties which have severally become adapted to widely divergent modes of life, you get a constitution which is adapted to the mode of life of neither." That was perhaps not a crazy hypothesis (and it was widely shared by Spencer’s contemporaries, including even my beloved Molinari), but it was only a hypothesis (a false one, as it turns out), and Spencer's willingness to accept popular prejudices against"the Eurasians in India, and the half-breeds in America" as confirmation of this hypothesis does suggest unwitting racism on his part, as does his assumption that Chinese immigrants to America must form a"subject race" if they do not intermarry, and must contribute to"social disorganization" in any case.
Still further evidence of unwitting racism on Spencer's part is his readiness to use these genetic considerations as grounds for imposing legal restrictions on intermarriage. After all, by his own Law of Equal Freedom consenting adults should presumably be entitled to marry regardless of whether their interbreeding would be best for the racial stock (a purely collectivist consideration). Indeed, in his Principles of Ethics, the writing of which was roughly contemporaneous with the Kentaro correspondence, Spencer describes the"authority ... assigned to the legislator to regulate marriage and the begetting of children" as a" conception of governmental functions developed by militancy, and appropriate to a fighting body," and thus as an example of"ideas, sentiments, and habits appropriate to early stages of development" which"survive throughout later stages, to which they are no longer appropriate; and pervert the prevailing beliefs and actions."
Here Spencer invokes his distinction between militant society (characterised by collectivism, authoritarian hierarchy, and war) and industrial society (characterised by peace, freedom, and commerce), and relegates state control of marriage and breeding to the waning militant phase of civilisation, implying that it is inappropriate to the newly dawning industrial phase. (Indeed, he had at one time opposed state-sanctioned marriage entirely.) But he immediately goes on to add:
There is indeed the excuse that to some extent among ourselves, and to a much larger extent among Continental peoples, the militant life, potential when not actual, still forms so considerable, and in many cases so great, a part of the social life as to render these traditional doctrines appropriate.
Compromise between old and new, which has perpetually to be made in practice, has to be made also in theory; for this must, on the average, conform itself to practice. It is therefore out of the question that there can be generally entertained the belief that governmental action should be subject to certain imperative restraints. The doctrine that there is a limited sphere within which only state control may rightly be exercised, is a doctrine natural to the peaceful and industrial type of society when fully developed; and is not natural either to the militant type or to types transitional between militancy and industrialism.
While this distinction between the principles appropriate to a fully libertarian society and the principles appropriate to a society in transition is already present in Spencer’s earliest work, the amount of liberty for which Spencer felt present-day society was ready steadily diminished as he grew older and more pessimistic. The Justice volume (1891) of Principles of Ethics thus partly retreats from, for example, the pro-feminist, anti-conscription, and quasi-anarchist positions Spencer had defended in Social Statics forty years earlier -- while still remaining far more libertarian than most of his contemporaries. (On the other hand, on some issues, like land ownership and the labour movement, he actually improved over time, at least from my perspective.) Spencer's advice to Kaneko is certainly not his finest hour, representing as it does both a degree of implicit racism and the watering-down of his former libertarian radicalism. In context, though, I think Spencer comes off a bit better than Hearn's excerpt makes his sound -- and his harshest words are for the Europeans and Americans.
Anyway, as I said, you can now read it for yourself.
David T. Beito
Aeon J. Skoble
UPDATE: Amazingly, the anti-First Amendment crowd fell one vote short. Good news for a change, accompanied by more overblown rhetoric. Bill Frist noted, lamenting the bill's failure, that many soldiers had died for the flag. I hope not! I prefer to think they died for what the flag represents, not the flag itself.
Jonathan J. Bean
Professor of History, Southern Illinois University
Your comment was apt and I did not mean to write off black males -- indeed, there IS a crisis and I empathize. The National Urban League has listed the black male shortage among college graduates (2:1 gap between women and men) as one of black America's top problems.
I am not one of those who thinks we can gloss over this terrible educational gap between young black students and others. I have long criticized racial preferences, for example, not simply because of moral or constitutional reasons, but because they take our focus off the K-12 disaster. (I know because many of my former History-Ed students have gone off to teach in the "war zones" of Chicago school district. Moreover, I have witnessed it in my own community). With reservations, I'm an advocate of school choice and radical educational reform.
I also see a place for HBCs--note that I termed them a success. On this point, I think Clarence Thomas may be right: You can get a good education in an all-black HBC. That is partly why Thomas criticized the Brown decision -- because of this condescending attitude that black success in education _necessarily_ requires interaction with whites in all cases. Thomas believed the Court should have struck down the principle underlying segregation, declare our constitution color blind, and leave neighborhood schools alone. If they are mixed, fine. If they are predominantly black, that's OK too. Zora Neale Hurston had the same reaction to Brown when it was announced, and she was no apologist for Jim Crow.
My point, which was a bit flippant because of the nature of the story, is that here we have Afrocentric professors teaching diversity theory when we ought to be doing the basics. God knows our Colleges of Education need a major overhaul in this and other respects (I spent two solid years on a task force to "reinvent" teacher education at SIU. The problems are so insoluble they require cutting some Gordian knots).
On HBCs (Ralph taught at one, Morehouse)*:
I had a student, and now good friend, who came from an HBC in North Carolina, and he said that there was more openness, and less nonsense (e.g., "diversity theory") at his HBC than at SIU and UNC (where his wife attended). Ralph, did you find that there were advantages to HBCs? Are they less prone to some of the fads that afflict the rest of higher education?
So, if I came off flip, it's because of the silliness that attracts attention, while a Bill Cosby, the Thernstroms (_No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning_), and others are demonized by the academic "deep thinkers" for trying to address the problem you and I care about.
Visiting Scholar (Summer 2006)
Social Philosophy and Policy Center
Bowling Green, OH
*Morehead was a slip -- my sister-in-law went there in Kentucky. Of course, I meant Morehouse.
Jonathan J. Bean
Here are the numbers for Hunter College (available from www.collegeresults.org and based on government's IPEDs six-year graduation rates; every school in the country is required to report this data -- look up your own school to see for yourself). Graduation rates are over six-years:
White Female: 48%
White Male: 27%
Black Female: 37%
Black Male: 28% (actually higher than the white male figure).
Women have much higher graduation rates across other ethnicities as well. These numbers are very close to my institution's (SIU).
Clearly, there is a "male" crisis that is not limited by race. What is at the bottom of this? Christina Hoff Sommers has a book on the topic but it's on my "to read when I finally get time" list.
Aeon J. Skoble
RP 28 is a special issue on war and liberty, 90% of which was guest-edited by Carrie-Ann Biondi and Irfan Khawaja, and it looks great. It predominantly features a symposium on Angelo Codevilla's No Victory, No Peace (and a future issue will include his reply), and it also includes the proceedings of the 2003 AAPSS symposium on war and liberty, which featured papers by myself and by L&P co-blogger Roderick Long (and which I’ve been promising L&P readers I’d make available – now done!) Rounding out the war section is an essay by Timothy Sandefur on the Civil War. RP 28 also includes part 2 of the 2-part Walter Block opus which began in RP 27. The book section features reviews of Roger Kimball’s book on art and Hilary Putnam’s book on the fact/value dichotomy, plus a longer essay by Steven Sanders on Stephen Hicks’ book on postmodernism. While you’ll have to buy the issue to see most of this without waiting, there are a few pieces available for free download now. Big thanks to Stephan Kinsella for mad skillz with the PDFs.
Aeon J. Skoble
Roderick T. Long
Im back from San Diego, but once again Im too busy to blog about it. (My backlog of things I want to blog about my b(ack!)log? has grown to monstrous dimensions.) But Im not too busy to engage in a bit of shameless self-promotion:
Tomorrow I start my philosophy seminar on the praxeological foundations of libertarian ethics. To quote the prospectus:
On the one hand, the subjective-value approach to economics characteristic of the Austrian school might seem inhospitable to objective theories of ethical value. Yet on the other hand, philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Aquinas based their objective conceptions of ethics on something rather like a praxeological analysis of subjective valuation; indeed, subjectivist economics and natural law ethics both originated from this common tradition. Can an objective ethics in a broadly Aristotelean tradition be grounded in praxeological considerations? And if so, what shape might a radical libertarian political theory take if built on such foundations?A live webcast of the seminar will be available here, presumably followed eventually by archived recordings here.
The first half of the seminar will deal with the praxeological foundations of ethics. Topics include: do human beings have an ultimate end? can we knowingly choose the bad? how are morality and self-interest related? why should we care about other peoples interests? ...
The second half of the seminar will explore the implications of praxeological, Aristotelean ethics for such issues as property rights, contracts, land ownership, punishment and restitution, military policy, stateless legal systems, utilitarian vs. rights-based considerations, and the cultural preconditions of liberty.
There will also be two bonus lectures by David Gordon, on Narveson and Nozick. Be there or B2!
Jonathan J. Bean
"One professor from CUNY’s Hunter College tells AmNews that he can attest to the diminishing Black male presence, specifically in his school, and begs to have at least one Black male in his classes each semester.
“In my classes alone, if I have a Black male - one a whole year, I’m happy - I am serious,” declares Henry L. Evans, who teaches Diversity Theory and Philosophy of Education at Hunter College.
One black male a year and "I'm happy." Whoo. Throw a party. I suppose teaching "diversity theory" is not possible if the human objects in the room don't match the rainbow plot in the professor's mind?
Ironically, the article goes on to praise all-black schools for benefiting black males. But, wouldn't the racial homogeneity hurt "diversity?" Are they happy if they get one white male each year in a "Diversity Theory" class at Morehead? Do they even have such ridiculous courses at HBCs? Perhaps that is the key to their success.
A recurring element of much analysis is the claim that "Islam needs a Reformation" or that "Islam is waiting for a Luther". What we have here is an analogy, between the state of Islam today and that of Latin Christianity in the later fifteenth or early sixteenth century, which leads to a diagnosis, that what is needed is a movement within Islam similar in nature to the Protestant upheaval of the sixteenth century. This analogy is deeply misleading in a number of ways. In particular it misunderstands the nature of the actual events of the sixteenth century and of mainstream Protestantism. It leads to a fundamental misreading of the nature of Islamist movements and ideas, and of their likely consequences. However, a corrected version of this analogy, which draws upon more recent developments in our understanding of the history of Latin Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and later, not only gives an insight into the nature of the ideological conflict that has been going on since at least the 1920s, but also provides hints as to what strategy should be adopted to deal with Islamist movements and ideas.
The notion of contemporary Islam standing in need of a Reformation reflects a particular view of both Protestantism and pre-Reformation Catholicism that has become part of the folk memory of the educated in most of the historically Protestant nations, particularly the US and UK.
In this perspective the late medieval Church was backward, obscurantist and dogmatic. The Reformers burst open this closed system of thought and opened up dogma to individual judgment and criticism. The Reformation is thus connected with freethought, individualism, and the decline of religious authority in the secular sphere. To this way of thinking there is a direct connection between Protestantism and the later emergence of modern liberalism.
In fact this radically misunderstands the nature of mainstream Protestantism and the motives and ideas of the majority of Reformers. It also caricatures the actual condition and quality of late medieval Catholicism. It makes more sense to see the Reformation, not as a 'progressive' movement but as a conservative reaction to the humanism, rationalism and scepticism of the Renaissance, and also as a response to the increased contact between Europe and other parts of the world. The Reformers saw the Church as too worldly, contaminated by pagan survivals and philosophy, and too interested in abstract reason rather than faith. They wanted literally a Re-Formation, a restoration of the church to its original pristine and apostolic condition. They also wanted to purify society and to use the secular power to enforce Christian practices and ethics upon the general population. Where they had power, as in Geneva, the result was a theocracy. They did argue against the need for a distinct clergy, but this did not mean support for unrestrained individual judgement. Rather it meant submission to the consensus of the learned and the rule of the 'Elect'.
In fact, far from contemporary Islam being like the late medieval Church and in need of a Reformation, it makes more sense to apply the analogy in a different way. Islam, we may say, is having a reformation right now. Islamists like Sayyid Qutb are in the same position as Luther or Calvin (or perhaps Jan Hus, given Qutb's fate) and if there is an analogy to be made it is between contemporary Islamism and sixteenth and seventeenth century Protestantism. The Islamists' view of contemporary Islam and the historical mainstream of Islamic civilisation is very similar to the view of Catholic Christianity taken by reformers such as Calvin. Like the Reformers, they wish to restore an imagined pristine and uncorrupted original version of their faith. There are other similarities as well, such as the fervent iconoclasm, the stringent personal morality and the demand that it be imposed by the civil power, and the declaration that many nominal believers are in fact infidels. If we apply this kind of analogy, what conclusions might it lead us to?
One is that the most likely consequence of this movement is dissension and civil war within the Islamic world as much as conflict between the Islamic world and the rest of humanity.. The desire to create a purified version of the religion, free from what are seen as accretions, leads to a rejection of many actually existing practices and forms of worship which then have to be suppressed. It also means that there will be increasingly bitter divisions within the Islamist movement itself as well as between it and both the mainstream of Islam. Moreover the example of the impact of the Reformation on European thought suggests that one consequence will be a subsequent reaction within the Islamic world against literalist and strict versions of the faith, with an emphasis instead upon personal piety, in the way the reaction against the religious enthusiasm of Reformation and Counter-Reformation led to the appearance of pietism and natural theology among groups such as the 'Moderates' who came to dominate the 18th century Church of Scotland.
However the most important conclusion that we might draw from a revised analogy of this kind is that what the Islamic world actually needs is an Enlightenment rather than a Reformation. One of Bertrand Russell's favourite remarks, which he made in several of his works, was that Christianity was a religion that had 'lost its nerve'. By this he meant that it had made critical concessions to the universalist and rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment and above all that it no longer took seriously some of its central claims, in particular the claim that the Christian faith was the only way to salvation with the only alternative eternal damnation. This should lead to the conclusion that the thing to do is to argue for secularism and rationalism and most importantly, to encourage the critical analysis of the text of the Quran. The Islamist movement in politics and ideas is best thought of as a reaction within the Islamic world against the main elements of modernity, which responds to the challenge posed by modernity and the Enlightenment in the same kind of way that Reformers responded to the impact of the Renaissance.
David T. Beito
Several studies document that beauty plays a role in the labor market: beautiful people earn more than others. Three economists are conducting a study to see whether there is a beauty premium in politics as well, such that beautiful candidates have greater electoral success. You are hereby invited to participate in the study, run by Associate Professor Niclas Berggren (The Ratio Institute), Dr. Henrik Jordahl (Uppsala University) and Professor Panu Poutvaara (University of Helsinki).
For information on how to participate, see here. Please write LIBERTY&POWER when asked about where you heard about the study.
Wishful thinking, always a temptation, is hazardous. Example: An awful lot of people think the income tax as it applies to private-sector wage earners is illegal -- even unconstitutional -- and they assume that if they can only come up with the right legal arguments, judges will strike down the tax and make America a free society once more. Many such people are in prison today.Read the rest of my latest TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.
It would be nice if their wish came true. But it's not going to happen, for reasons I will discuss here. This is another example of Richman's Maxim: There's no shortcut to a free society.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Aeon J. Skoble
(HT to one of Paul's commenters)
Aeon J. Skoble
Hat tip: Frank Stephenson at Division of Labour, who has been posting a lot of great stuff the last couple days. (Yes, I'm actually hat-tipping another blogger for reminding me to post links to my own writing.)
Aeon J. Skoble
First of all, the fact that a professor writes an essay about Seinfeld, or even makes a reference to Seinfeld in class, isn’t the same thing as “teaching Seinfeld.” Now I realize that there are college courses on TV – typically in mass comm., or lit, and even sometimes in philosophy, but I think what’s more prevalent is the incorporation of popular culture reference points into otherwise-standard courses. For instance, if I were teaching a straightforward intro-to-ethics class, using Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and the other usual suspects, I might nevertheless illuminate a particular point by referring to a Seinfeld episode. (Yes, I’ve written on this.)
Second of all, it’s not necessarily bad to teach a course involving a TV show, provided that it’s done responsibly – e.g., by using an analysis of the show as means to hook into the same universal themes and ideas that any fiction does. I myself do this infrequently, but I know folks who do it more regularly, and I can tell from their syllabi that they’re doing real work. Any particular prof could, of course, be an idiot, but that’s not an indictment of an entire methodology. Watman might have been more justified showing how pomo silliness trivializes all literary studies, but it’s not just pomo studies of TV which do this, pomo studies of any art form have this effect. In other words, the proper objection to nihilistic pomo TV studies isn’t that it’s about TV, it’s that it’s nihilistic pomo omphaloskepsis.
Even if Watman is right about this book, why should that mean that college professors should, as a rule, not discuss popular culture in the classroom or write essays about it? Often, the essays on popular culture subjects can be used to introducereaderstomoresubstantiveareasofinquiry. Other times, the popular culture item can be an excellent subject for a particular exploration. Not to get all tu quoque or anything, but Watman’s claim to fame is a book on horse racing – why is there something potentially profound and interesting about horse racing, but not TV?
Again, I haven’t read this book – maybe it’s as bad as Watman says. In that case, he would have done better to pan the book for its own flaws, rather than try to score trendspotting points by lumping together all the recent work on popular culture.
An afterthought – since he’s writing for a conservative magazine, he might have been hoping to hook into some generalized “we don’t like left-wing academics” meme among the readership, but as it happens, many of the people writing on the intersection of their disciplines with popular culture are conservatives or libertarians. So the moral of the story is: review the book you were assigned to review, and don’t think it’s necessarily part of some trend.
I have a feeling that this war is going to be for the Right what the Alger Hiss case was for the Left. Twenty years from now, they're still going to be trolling through the online docs, occasionally seizing on one of them and screaming"You see? You see?!" to an audience of 12.
Roderick T. Long
For questions about where we should be going from here, see Austro-Athenian Empire guest blogger Phil Jacobson's piece Failed Hurricane Response Is an Opportunity for Libertarians.
Aeon J. Skoble