Liberty & Power: Group Blog
My town recently had an election to fill a vacancy among the selectmen. Three selectmen make town policy -- there is no mayor -- so they have a lot of power. They especially have a lot of power right now because they are debating two moronic and extremely expensive proposals that will waste taxpayer money. (One is building a desalinization plant, although we are in New England and our occasional summer water shortages are addressed easily by restricting the watering of lawns. The other is to install sewerage in an already developed town in which, in my opinion, waste disposal is quite effectively handled by a private property septic approach.)
On to my main point. . . .
The election ended in a tie. After a non-controversial recount, Candidate X won by two votes (and I think he was the one who supported the cockamamie proposals mentioned above.) If my wife and I had voted, Candidate X would have lost. If X called for a recount, there would have been a tie, and then another election in which X might have lost (I'm sure the turnout would be higher!) If I could have convinced some of my non-voting neighbors to support Y in the first election, X would have lost and that would have been the end of it.
Supporters of the above proposals estimate the cost of the projects to each homeowner to be $20,000 and $40,000, respectively. One can safely assume that the actual cost will be two or three times that. (I live in the Big Dig state.) So my decision to ignore the election could end up costing me quite a bit.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
1. More about my Krakow trip soon (really!). But in the meantime, heres the Spooner paper I gave at the Krakow conference. Its also the paper Im going to present at the Molinari Society meeting in December.
2. Speaking of the Molinari Society, itll be holding its fourth annual Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the
American Philosophical Association
in Baltimore, December 27-30, 2007. Heres the latest schedule info:
GVIII-4. Saturday, 29 December 2007, 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.Also check out the schedules (happily not conflicting) of the AAPSS and ARS.
Molinari Society symposium: Anarchy: Its Not Just a Good Idea, Its the Law
Falkland (Fourth Floor), Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna Street
Session 1, 11:15-12:15:
chair: Jennifer McKitrick (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
speaker: Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute)
title: A Place for Positive Law: A Contribution to Anarchist Legal Theory
commentator: John Hasnas (Georgetown University)
Session 2, 12:15-1:15:
chair: Carrie-Ann Biondi (Marymount Manhattan College)
speaker: Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)
title: Inside and Outside Spooners Natural Law Jurisprudence
commentator: Geoffrey Allan Plauché (Louisiana State University)
3. The schedule for the Alabama Philosophical Societys September 21-22 meeting in Orange Beach is also online; Charles and I will be attending that as well, speaking on Vegetarianism and Norms on the Margin and On Making Small Contributions to Evil respectively. Itll be good to be back at our old venue; Orange Beach and Gulf Shores have been slowly recovering from the onslaught of Hurricane Ivan three years ago, and the conference has been held elsewhere the past three years. (Planning to attend? Tomorrow is the last day to make your hotel reservations at the conference rate.)
David T. Beito
Did NeoCon icon Winston Church advocate that the Brits" cut-and-run" from Iraq? Decide for yourself:
"Winston S. Churchill to David Lloyd George (Churchill papers: 17/27) 1 September 1922
I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible. Our forces are reduced now to very slender proportions. The Turkish menace has got worse; Feisal is playing the fool, if not the knave; his incompetent Arab officials are disturbing some of the provinces and failing to collect the revenue; we overpaid £200,000 on last year's account which it is almost certain Iraq will not be able to pay this year, thus entailing a Supplementary Estimate in regard to a matter never sanctioned by Parliament; a further deficit, in spite of large economies, is nearly certain this year on the civil expenses owing to the drop in the revenue. I have had to maintain British troops at Mosul all through the year in consequence of the Angora quarrel: this has upset the programme of reliefs and will certainly lead to further expenditure beyond the provision I cannot at this moment withdraw these troops without practically inviting the Turks to come in. The small column which is operating in the Rania district inside our border against the Turkish raiders and Kurdish sympathisers is a source of constant anxiety to me.
I do not see what political strength there is to face a disaster of any kind, and certainly I cannot believe that in any circumstances any large reinforcements would be sent from here or from India. There is scarcely a single newspaper - Tory, Liberal or Labour - which is not consistently hostile to our remaining in this country. The enormous reductions which have been effected have brought no goodwill, and any alternative Government that might be formed here - Labour, Die-hard or Wee Free - would gain popularity by ordering instant evacuation. Moreover in my own heart I do not see what we are getting out of it. Owing to the difficulties with America, no progress has been made in developing the oil. Altogether I am getting to the end of my resources.
I think we should now put definitely, not only to Feisal but to the Constituent Assembly, the position that unless they beg us to stay and to stay on our own terms in regard to efficient control, we shall actually evacuate before the close of the financial year. I would put this issue in the most brutal way, and if they are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. That at any rate would be a solution. Whether we should clear out of the country altogether or hold on to a portion of the Basra vilayet is a minor issue requiring a special study. It is quite possible, however, that face to face with this ultimatum the King, and still more the Constituent Assembly, will implore us to remain. If they do, shall we not be obliged to remain? If we remain, shall we not be answerable for defending their frontier? How are we to do this if the Turk comes in? We have no force whatever that can resist any serious inroad. The War Office, of course, have played for safety throughout and are ready to say 'I told you so' at the first misfortune.
Surveying all the above, I think I must ask you for definite guidance at this stage as to what you wish and what you are prepared to do. The victories of the Turks will increase our difficulties throughout the Mohammedan world. At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having."
From Martin Gilbert, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL IV, Companion Volume Part 3, London: Heinemann, 1977, pp. 1973-74.
Hat tip, Juan Cole
"The programme was designed to loot the defeated country's intellectual assets, impeding its ability to compete while giving a boost to British business.
"In a related programme, German businessmen are alleged to have been forced to travel to post-war Britain to be questioned by their commercial rivals, and were interned if they refused to reveal trade secrets."
Read the rest of the story here.
Simon Jenkins explains all.
Amy H. Sturgis
E Pur Si Muove!
Our son, Nat, is about to go away to college, so yesterday I thought it would be a good time to view his favorite movie with him. It's out on DVD. (Later that evening, his buddy Matt came over to help him upgrade the memory on his laptop -- and watch the same movie ... again!)
One thing that makes this movie, about King Leonidas and 3oo Spartans holding off many thousands of Persians at Thermopylae, interesting to watch is the amount of hatred -"hatred" is surely not too strong a word - that was directed toward it when it first came out. It was hated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the President of Iran. Even Norman-Lear-type liberals begin to shake all over and holler when they think about this movie.
As the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson pointed out, the main objections seemed to be these:
• “300” is not sufficiently ironic. It takes its themes (duty, loyalty, sacrifice, the preservation of Western civilization against enormous odds) too seriously to, well, be taken seriously.
• “300” is campy — meaning that many things about it can be read as sexual double entendres — yet the filmmakers don’t show sufficient awareness of this.
• All of the good guys are white people and many of the bad guys are brown. (How this could have been avoided in a film about Spartans versus Persians is never explained....)
Then too there was the complaint that it was historically inaccurate in ways that are favorable to the Spartans.
Some American leftists seemed fixated on the possibility that it might be pro-Bush.
Up to a point, this movie was what I thought it would be: just the sort of thing that would be hated by people who have the values that these particular people have. What none of the vituperative reviews prepared me for, what came as a complete surprise, was that it was about ideas (and, no, I don't regard being pro- or anti-Bush as ideas). And what were these ideas? That was even more surprising.
Repeadedly, Leonidas says in conferences with the enemy that he is appealing to their "reason." One of them tells him with a sneer that you Greeks are so "logical." The film lays great emphasis on the fact that the Ephors oppose marching out against the Persian invaders because it would profane a religious festival, the Carneia. It depicts the Ephors as if they were mystical priests, and not elected politicians (which is what they were). At the climax, Leonidas tells Xerxes that the Spartans are taking a stand against "mysticism and tyranny." More than once, the Persians tell the Spartans that their criticisms of Xerxes are "blasphemies." Leonidas is told many times that his campaign is a violation of both Spartan religion and Spartan law. Thus, events place the movie's hero in opposition to both (so to speak) church and state.
I take all this to mean that freedom and reason are good, while religion (or at least mystical religion) and tyranny are bad. Further, freedom is connected to reason in some important way, and religion, or at least irrational religion, is likewise connected to the lack of freedom.
(So much for the movie's being pro-Bush! As everyone knows, W is opposed to modern biology because it's agin the Bible. It should be obvious what side of the reason/mysticism divide he is on.)
All this is quite obvious to any comic-book-reading teenage boy (the target audience of this film). But the many critics who loathed the movie never seemed to notice this. Why, I wonder? Come to think of it, every single religious reference in the film is negative. Any time it rears its head in this movie, religion is nasty and oppressive. I haven't seen anyone mentioning this at all.
It does seem to be worthy of mention. I can't think of too many movies that are both pro-freedom and pro-"reason," and that even show some awareness of what reason is. (Leonidas seeks to convince others by giving evidence. He does not subject his own judgment to to political authority or to religious revelation, nor does he ask others to do so.) And it's hard to think of other Hollywood movies with the guts to even hint at a critical attitude toward religion.
If you want to make an action movie in which the good guys represent reason, I suppose the Greco-Persian wars are a pretty good choice of subject. This is where the Greeks pushed back the expansionist Persian empire. Some historians think that this, as much as any other single event, prevented Europe from becoming a mere peninsula of Asia. It permitted the West to become the West. As it happened, the Greeks invented logic and the rudiments of scientific method within the century and a half after Thermopylae (480 BCE). If the Persians had succeeded in imposing autocratic rule on them, I'm not at all sure this would have happened.
On the other hand, I have to admit that using the Spartans as symbols of freedom is a less fortunate choice, for the obvious reasons. If this were just a matter of a historical inaccuracy that has no effect on the meaning of the film as a narrative, I would be able to ignore it. But as a matter of fact it enables the filmmakers to dodge a crucial political issue: is it possible to be the sort of brilliant fighting machine the Spartans were and also represent reason and freedom (which the real Spartans did not)? Still, the film's philosophical virtues are so striking and so unique that I suppose this problem doesn't bother me that much.
So I guess I don't mind that this is Nat's favorite movie. The basic values from which his love of it comes seem sound to me. But of course I admit I'm biased.
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL ASSOCIATION
ONE HUNDRED FOURTH ANNUAL MEETING PROGRAM
DECEMBER 27-30, 2007
BALTIMORE MARRIOTT WATERFRONT AND OTHER HOTELS
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, DECEMBER 29, 2007
GROUP SESSION IX - 2:45-5:45 P.M.
GIX-1. American Association for the Philosophic Study of Society
2:45-5:45 p.m., Iron (Fourth Floor)
Topic: Two New Books on Justification and the State
Chair: Douglas Rasmussen (St. John's University)
1: Daniel Shapiro, Is The Welfare State Justified?
Critics: Jerry Gaus (University of Arizona)
James Sterba (University of Notre Dame)
Author: Daniel Shapiro (West Virginia University)
2: Aeon Skoble, Deleting the State
Critics: Stephen Kershnar (State University of New York-Fredonia)
Aaron Garrett (Boston University)
Author: Aeon Skoble (Bridgewater State College)
VOLUNTARYTRADE: Paul is the primary sponsore of HR 1094, the "Sanctity of Human Life Act," which states, in relevant part: "The Congress finds that present day scientific evidence indicates a significant likelihood that actual human life exists from conception....The Congress declares that human life shall be deemed to exist from conception, without regard to race, sex, age, health, defect, or condition of dependency." So where in the Constitution does Congress have the authority to make either of these findings/declarations?
ANOTHER MEMBER'S RESPONSE: No where --- and most certainly not in any part of Art.I Sec.8! But then, how long has it been since the `minor detail' of "un-Constitutionality" has stopped the majority of members of Congress from voting to pass a Law? however, arguably what the authors of this Bill are trying to do is to extend 14th Amendment Protection to the "pre-born." Such a Bill would provide a legal "fig leaf" for anti-Abortion legislation --- notwithstanding the fact that Congress was never delegated the power to make such legislation, unless perhaps one wants to try to argue that the "Necessary and Proper" clause granted them that Power after the 14th Amendment was passed (which would make the entire argument circular).
VOLUNTARYTRADE: Funny you should bring up the 14th Amendment. Paul wants it applied to zygotes, but not certain (*cough* Mexican) children actually born in the United States. He's proposed the following constitutional amendment: "Any person born after the date of the ratification of this article to a mother and father, neither of whom is a citizen of the United States nor a person who owes permanent allegiance to the United States, shall not be a citizen of the United States or of any State solely by reason of birth in the United States." So the great libertarian saviour opposes individual rights to brown-skinned infants and those who don't "owe permanent allegiance" to a government. Wow.
David T. Beito
Iraq is suffering about double the number of war-related deaths nationwide compared with last year — an average daily toll of 33 in 2006, and 62 so far this year.
•Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. The AP accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006.
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
During my research, I happened on this article from Jet (February 9, 1956, 6) on the free market road not taken:
"Faced with wholesale arrests of Negroes on minor traffic charges as a result of Mayor W.A. Gayle's 'get tough policy,' five Negroes filed an application with the Montgomery City Commission asking for a franchise to operate jitneys to serve Negro areas. Officials of the newly-organized Montgomery Transit Lines said they will use 1956 station wagons. Mayor Gayle's reaction to the proposal was prompt: 'If Negroes want to ride a public vehicle, they can ride city busses.'"
In the next paragraph Williams does indirectly acknowledge that the difference between then and now is a far larger and much more lucrative mayhem inducing inner city drug trade. However, he does not take this train of thought to its logical conclusion; that the most effective step that could possibly be taken to lower the murder rate among black people would be to legalize drugs thereby ending the violence generated by this black market.
Instead, Williams suggests a possible solution from the example of the Mayfair neighborhood in Washington D.C. where Black Muslims began to patrol causing a subsequent drop in gang activity and drug dealing. There is no doubt that violence in this area of the city did decline after the Black Muslim began their activity there. There is also little doubt that drug sales increased in other District neighborhoods at about the same and that the overall level of violence in that city was probably greater than it would have been without the relocation of the illegal trade and its inevitable often deadly struggle for control of new turf.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
According to Misra, Britain came perilously close to losing its most prized possession: India. He claims that although conventional histories have counted only 100,000 Indian soldiers who were slaughtered in savage reprisals, none have tallied the number of rebels and civilians killed by British forces desperate to impose order.
Misra's casualty claims have been challenged in India and Britain."It is very difficult to assess the extent of the reprisals simply because we cannot say for sure if some of these populations did not just leave a conflict zone rather than being killed," said Shabi Ahmad, head of the 1857 project at the Indian Council of Historical Research."It could have been migration rather than murder that depopulated areas."
Misra sees the events as the first war of Indian independence, a story of a people rising to throw off the imperial yoke, and his analysis breaks new ground by claiming the fighting stretched across India rather than accepting it was localised around northern India. Misra says there were outbreaks of anti-British violence in southern Tamil Nadu, near the Himalayas, and bordering Burma."It was a pan-Indian thing. No doubt." He also claims that the uprisings did not die out until years after the original mutiny had fizzled away, countering the widely held view that the recapture of Delhi was the last important battle. Critics say the intentions and motives were more muddled: a few sepoys misled into thinking the officers were threatening their religious traditions. In the end British rule prevailed for another 90 years.
The debate isn’t just about history but also the character of Indian nationalism today. Misra asks Who killed India’s 1857 legacy? Readers may also be interested in his article, A Million Mutinies, which is based on his book.
Blogger Kanjisheik looks at the Revolt of 1857 and reviews Misra’s new book.
Amaresh Misra has written three other books: a history of Lucknow, India (HarperCollins, 1998); a biography of Mangal Pandey (Mangala Pande, d. 1857), who led the Sepoy Mutiny (Rupay, 2005), and a novel, The Minister’s Wife (Penguin, 2002).
This is a quote from a fascinating AP story about how the use of cell phones is skyrocketing in Africa. According to the story:
The mistake, providers say, was to make plans based on gross domestic product figures, which ignore the strong informal economy, and to assume that because landline use was low, there was little demand for phones.
Harun is one of a rapidly swelling army of wired-up Africans — an estimated 100 million of the continent’s 906 million people. Another is Omar Abdulla Saidi, phoning in from his sailboat on the Zanzibar coast looking for the port that will give him the biggest profit on his freshly caught red snapper, tuna and shellfish.Just another lesson showing that capitalism raises living standards and is capable of overcoming some pretty formidable barriers put in its way by the state.
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"The power of official bodies to influence the sales of books should not be underestimated. At the beginning of July, Tintin in the Congo was selling an average of seventy copies a week throughout the land. Then the Commission for Racial Equality stepped in, with a hideously worded statement which branded the comic strip"racist claptrap" and called for its removal from shops to prevent damage to young minds. The result, according to the August 3 issue of the Bookseller, is that Tintin in the Congo is now the fastest selling Tintin title. Last week, an estimated 1,300 copies were sold--one-tenth of the total since the book's republication in 2005."
I visited the website of Egmont Books, the publisher of Hergé's book, to find they have included this caveat:
"First published in book form in 1931, Tintin in the Congo reflects the colonial attitudes of that period in its depiction of African people. Hergé himself admitted that he was influenced by the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period."
You can't be too careful with the Commission for Racial Equality breathing down your neck.