Liberty & Power: Group Blog
What would an American defeat in Iraq mean? Would evil Iraqis conquer the United States, force us all to speak Arabic, and convert us to Islam? Hardly. There is no threat whatsoever to the American people from the sectarian fighters in Baghdad or elsewhere in that country. Even the Iraqis who form the local al-Qaeda chapter have no designs on the United States. Indeed, they have their hands full in their own country. And their hands would be even fuller if the United States should withdraw. Even most Sunnis in Iraq despise the al-Qaeda types and their brutal methods. If anything holds the disparate Sunni factions together, it’s their common animosity to the U.S. occupation. So in what sense would “we” lose? From the standpoint of the American people, it would be no loss at all. Rather, it would be a victory.Read the rest of my latest op-ed, "What's to Lose?" at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
I think there are many strands to the problem, but one was a fateful simplifying of liberalism that arose in response to its fragmenting over the new developments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This simplification led to a dichotomizing of liberal perspectives into 'ours' and 'theirs.' The result blinded all too many to similarities with many on the "other" side and contradictions with so-called allies against "the left." (or, at one time, ‘the right’.) I want to explore this topic below.
Over and over these past few years I have heard the crimes and horrors of the contemporary Republicans defended or belittled by so-called “friends of freedom” as amounting to little because “the democrats are worse” or “the left is still a threat” and similar imbecilities. Anyone who still believes this and considers themselves a friend of liberty needs psychiatric help more than rational argument. They are like the Reds who continued to look the other way as evidence for Stalin’s or Mao’s crimes became more and more obvious. Of course Bush is not Stalin – but the evidence is far less ambiguous than Stalin’s or Mao’s was in its early years, and the society being assaulted a far freer one to start with.
The origin of belief in a domestic enemy so bad that Republican crimes were small change by comparison was rooted in splits originating in the Progressive period – and among “classical liberals” the view that it divided people into true and false liberals, by means of some deep moral failing. (One of the best of these intelligent but flawed analyses in Schambra’s)
Last year I finally began a disciplined reading of the Progressives or myself – especially Addams, Dewey, and Croly, contemporaries such as W. J. Bryan and Henry George, and some standard histories of the era – Ekirch, Hofstader, Link, etc. At a minimum I found that the earlier liberal tradition seemed to split into three separate semi-coherent branches, each powerfully influenced by ONE of the emergent orders that arose as a result of the triumph of liberal principles especially in the US and Britain: science, democracy, and market order.
There were the “Techno-liberals” captivated by the successes of science and of corporate management. Then there were the “Egalitarian liberals who focused on the democratic process and increasing citizen equality. Finally there were the “Classical liberals” who emphasized the creativity and voluntary character of the market and fear of the state. Even this leaves important people out – such as Henry George. But it seems to better capture the complexities than a dichotomy does.
The blind nationalism strengthened by WWI added a new poison to this complexity.
But away from the extremes, all three of these approaches are still liberal, but with different emphases. The distinction between them was scarcely back and white. Milton Friedman supported government paying for education. Hayek supported a safety net and national parks. Von Mises supported the Vienna State opera. Liberal democrats generally supported civil liberties more than the right wing “allies” of classical liberals. When Bob Barr joined the ACLU his fellow members were disproportionately egalitarian and techno liberals. Paul Krugman is no socialist, Brad DeLong admires Hayek. This is in sharp contrast to “left” liberal thinking when I was an undergraduate in the 60s, when an econ professor of mine gave as his reason for ignoring the Austrians: “Mises is an old man.” Most environmentalists support markets over central control and favor government more for setting taxes or standards than mandating control. Most feminists support equality under the law. All these people have more in common with one another than they do with the most extreme representatives of positions with which they are associated. Jeff Greenwald, certainly associated with “the left” wrote a recent piece in Salon on why requiring doctors’ permission to get prescription drugs is an abuse of power. I doubt Pete Boettke could have made a stronger case – or given many different reasons.
My point is not that all these positions are right – or wrong – but that there is no deep dichotomy till you reach the extremes – and the extremes often ally themselves with anti-liberals and pull their more moderate fellows along with them into alliances made in Hell.
I would argue that a one sided emphasis of any single one of these responses takes their adherents into anti-liberal territory. (I define liberalism as the view that individuals are the fundamental moral and ethical unit of the human world.) Techno liberals all too easily became rabid nationalists and in some cases played footsie with communists and socialists or blurred into similar positions. Think Croly and Tugwell. Egalitarian liberals tended to be the least powerful nationally, though effective at the state level of progressive reforms. They can morph into radical egalitarians (Robert Dahl for example) or in another guise, silly or even poisonous multi-culturalists or McKinney style “feminists.”
But in my opinion and experience, classical liberals are not much better. Classical liberals all too often forgot the interests of free markets and businesses are often contradictory, seeing only government as a problem. Big business has been perhaps the strongest force for centralization in our history. Further, despite claims to the contrary, market rules are biased and as the market becomes more impersonal and all embracing it becomes more coercive. Civil society is squeezed between the impersonality of the market order and the hierarchy of the government. Finally, the one sided emphasis on economics made the satisfied consumer the controlling model of human well being. One symptom that something is incomplete in classical liberalism – I have heard ‘voluntary’ slavery defended three times in my life – always by “libertarians.” As if slavery could ever be voluntary. I know I am giving assertions without much argument in this case (as I did with less detail for techno and egalitarian liberals) but I am writing something in some detail on all this that some list members may enjoy trying to rebut once it is done and published.
Techno liberals too often supported socialists against the core of liberalism. They have mostly learned their lesson now. Now classical liberals have made the same error with the theocrats and neo-con fascists – while also becoming infected with the nationalist virus. The divisions that opened up during the Progressive era seem central to both tragic phenomena – hence the need to re-think it.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]In his 1967 book Containment and Change, New Left leader and former SDS president Carl Oglesby (about whom Ive blogged previously) wrote the following still all-too-timely passage. (If it sounds a bit like Rothbard, well, Rothbards Transformation of the American Right shows up in the footnotes.)
The corporate state has effective control of key elements of the communications system, exclusive control of the primary ganglia of political and economic power, and access to a matured nationalist ideology pregnant with violence and capable of justifying any reasonably sophisticated or adroit authoritarian action against organized dissent. ... [T]he central feature of the fascist state is the political alliance or identity of big government and big business, and the power of such an alliance to work its will without significant restraints ....
The one and only basic question which Americans now have to ask themselves is whether or not they want to be politically free. ... The superstate ... may give of its bounty to those who will ritually humble themselves before it. But the state cannot give political freedom. It is neither in the nature of the state that it can give political freedom nor in the nature of political freedom that it can be given. Political freedom is not a license to be purchased or petitioned from a higher power. ...
This central question is not clarified, it is obscured, by our common political categories of left, right, and center; it is not clarified, it is obscured, by the traditional American debate about socialism versus capitalism versus the Keynesian mixed economy. The socialist radical, the corporatist conservative, and the welfare-state liberal are all equally capable of leading us forward into the totalized society. Whether central planning should be conducted by government or corporate hands is a question whose realism has disappeared. The urgent question is about the locus of power in the community: Is it in the state or is it in the people? And in our American time, our American place, the main principle of the radically humanist politics is this: Any decision not made by the people in free association, whatever the content of that decision, cannot be good. ... The primary task of the humanist is to describe and help to realize those political acts through which the power of the central authoritarian monolith can be broken and the political life of man reconstituted on the base of the associational, democratic, nonexclusive community. ...
This is not merely a leftists challenge to other leftists. As much as it is in the grain of American democratic populism, it is also in the grain of the American libertarian right.
The right wing in America is presently in a state of almost eerie spiritual disarray. Under one and the same banner, joining the John Birch Society, out on the rifle range with the Minutemen, chuckling through the pages of the National Review, the conservative right wing of imperialist, authoritarian, and even monarchist disposition enjoys the fraternity of the libertarian right wing of laissez faire, free-market individualism. These two groupings could not possibly have less in common. Why have the libertarians conceded leadership to the conservatives? Why have the traditional opponents of big, militarized, central authoritarian government now joined forces with such a governments boldest advocates?
They have done so because they have been persuaded that there is a clear and present danger that necessitates a temporary excursion from final values. They should know better. They should know that for the totalitarian imperialists there is always a clear and present danger, that it is pre-eminently through the ideology of the Foreign Threat, the myth of the tiger at the gates, that frontier and global imperialism and domestic authoritarianism have always rationalized themselves. ...
It would be a piece of great good fortune for America and the world if the libertarian right could be reminded that besides the debased Republicanism of the Knowlands and the Judds there is another tradition available to them their own: the tradition of Congressman Howard Buffett, Senator Tafts midwestern campaign manager in 1952, who attacked the Truman Doctrine with the words: Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. ... We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics. There is the right of Frank Chodorov, whose response to the domestic Red Menace was abruptly to the point: The way to get rid of communists in government jobs is to abolish the jobs. And of Dean Russell, who wrote in 1955: Those who advocate the temporary loss of our freedom in order to preserve it permanently are advocating only one thing: the abolition of liberty. ... We are rapidly becoming a caricature of the thing we profess to hate. Most engaging, there is the right of the tough-minded Garet Garrett, who produced in 1952 a short analysis of the totalitarian impulse of imperialism which the events of the intervening years have reverified over and again. Beginning with the words, We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire, Garretts pamphlet unerringly names the features of the imperial pathology: dominance of the national executive over Congress; subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy; ascendency of the military influence; the creation of political and military satellites; a complex of arrogance and fearfulness toward the barbarian and, most insidiously, casting off the national identity for an internationalist and historic identity the republic is free; the empire is historys hostage.
This style of political thought, rootedly American, is carried forward today by the Negro freedom movement and the student movement against Great Society-Free World imperialism. That these movements are called leftist means nothing. They are of the grain of American humanist individualism and voluntaristic associational action; and it is only through them that the libertarian tradition is activated and kept alive. In a strong sense, the Old Right and the New Left are morally and politically coordinate.
Yet their intersection can be missed. Their potentially redemptive union can go unattempted and unmade. On both sides, vision can be cut off by habituated responses to passé labels. The New Left can lose itself in the imported left-wing debates of the thirties, wondering what it ought to say about technocracy and Stalin. The libertarian right can remain hypnotically charmed by the authoritarian imperialists whose only ultimate love is Power, the subhuman brown-shirted power of the jingo state militant, the state rampant, the iron state possessed of its own clanking glory. If this happens, if the new realities are not penetrated and a fundamental ideological rearrangement does not take place, then this new political humanism which has shown its courage from Lowndes County to Berkeley will no doubt prove unworthy of more than a footnote in the scavenger histories of our time. And someone will finally have to make the observation that the American dream did not come true, that maybe it was quite an idle dream after all and the people never really had a chance. The superstate will glide onward in its steel and vinyl splendor, tagging and numbering us with its scientific tests, conscripting us with its computers, swaggering through exotic graveyards which it filled and where it dares to lay wreaths, smug in the ruins of its old-fashioned, man-centered promises to itself.
"A casualty of globalisation has been a growing intolerance of political diversity, diversity not just of national personality but also of ideology, political priority and system of government. I may not share France's view of the world and may believe it wrong to deny the Thatcherite reformation, as in varying degrees do all today's candidates. But as Voltaire, the greatest of Frenchmen, insisted, the right that most needs defending is the right to be wrong.
"On this day of the French election, long live difference."
And, I should add, not least because it is a bulwark against U.S. hegemony.
"The Progressive movement, which dominated the American scene in the years from the turn of the century to United State entrance in World War I, was not primarily a liberal movement," writes Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. in his magisterial work The Decline of American Liberalism."[I]n contrast to former American efforts at reform, progressivism was based on a new philosophy, partly borrowed from Europe, which emphasized collective action through the instrumentality of government."Read the rest of my latest TGIF column,"Progressive Illiberalism," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.
Cross-posted at Free Association.
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
David T. Beito
Kirsten Dunst, who plays Mary Jane in"Spider Man," argues that more pot-smoking is good for America. She adds: "I'm not talking about being stoned all day, though. I think if it's not used properly, it can hamper your creativity and close you up inside. My best friend Sasha's dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius."
Hat tip Micha Ghertner
"I'm not talking about being stoned all day, though. I think if it's not used properly, it can hamper your creativity and close you up inside. My best friend Sasha's dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius."
Hat tip Micha Ghertner
Aeon J. Skoble
Here's my thoughts on Waco, OKC, and the other mid-April massacres at Columbine and VA Tech.
"Ali Manzarpour, a Brighton-based businessman, is in jail in Poland awaiting extradition to the United States, despite never having visited the country. He is charged with trying to export an experimental single-engine aircraft to Iran. This is not believed to have contravened any British or European law, but because the aircraft originated in the US, the Americans are claiming jurisdiction.”
“Cases being brought by the US Department of Commerce against companies breaching export rules indicate that, apart from rare cases, such as that of ITT, nearly all involve small operations. Companies such as Shell, which is planning a £5 billion liquid natural gas venture in Iran, and Halliburton, which had an office in Tehran for years, appear to be of less concern to authorities in Washington than an individual allegedly attempting to sell a light aircraft.”
Mr Manzarpour was arrested in Poland in February 2005. Questions were raised in the House of Lords on the 26th February & then the 30th March 2006. Members were furious at the Americans’ ‘excessive demands’, especially since Mr Manzarpour could not have been extradited from Britain, where his activities were perfectly legal:
“Lord Goodhart : My Lords, is this not an example of the US Government's aggressive use of the powers to obtain extradition and of the submission by too many countries—including, in other cases, our own—to those excessive demands?”
“Lord Waddington: My Lords, is it not correct that, in exporting the goods to Iran from Britain, Mr Manzarpour broke no British law and, if he had remained in Britain, there would have been no question of his being extradited to the United States? If that be correct, why are we not protesting vigorously to the American authorities at their attempt to have Mr Manzarpour sent to America from Poland to stand trial for acts that took place in Britain and that were not contrary to our law?”
Every empire in world history has had definite borders within which its writ ran. If its armies crossed those borders it was at least in defence of those borders. Only the US govt has so arrogantly claimed jurisdiction over a foreign national, whose actions all occurred in a foreign country, where those actions were completely legal. And only the single hapless individual is thus pursued. This is just simple bullying -- on a world scale.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Aeon J. Skoble
Second, the gun-control issue. As David and Lester have noted, we have here a clear example of how disarming the people makes everyone less safe. The NYT letters-to-the-editor this morning (go look, no reg nec) are interesting. While some are of the predictable “guns should be banned” variety, others make the case that calling something a “gun-free zone” doesn’t mean anything, and that disarmed people are defenseless people, and that the responsibility lies with the deranged character of the perpetrator rather than some abstraction like “gun culture.” See especially the third and sixth letters. (Bonus: that #3 letter is by L&P reader Daniel Schumtter. Kudos!)
David T. Beito
Though it will not contain much that will be news to my colleagues at L & P, what I say there might be of some interest.
David T. Beito
Answer: John Kerry.
Yes, he dropped out of the race but, according to the latest news, he still leaves the door open to getting back in so by that standard he qualifies as a candidate.
Amy H. Sturgis
The third theme gets to the real point of the report: ''Marriage seems to be particularly important in civilizing men, turning their attention away from dangerous, antisocial, or self-centered activities and towards the needs of a family.''
Excuse me, but did you just suggest that men of color are uncivilized? Indeed they did, on top of ''dangerous,'' ''antisocial'' and ''self-centered.'' The report's fourth theme elaborates these ideas in a manner I can only describe as bizarre: ''Marriage influences the biological functioning of adults and children in ways that can have important social consequences. For instance, marriage appears to drive down testosterone levels in men, with clear consequences for their propensity to aggression.''
My question is this: Are we equally concerned with the testosterone levels of other men, say, aggressive stock traders or the paladins orchestrating the war on terrorism?
Read "No bliss in feds' marriage initiative" by Scott Richard Lyons here.