Showing posts from May, 2010

Rothbard "on" Hegel

This morning I was re-reading The Idea of Nature and found Collingwood writing:

"Hegel, nailing to the counter in advance the lie that he regarded his own philosophy as final, wrote at the end of his treatise on the philosophy of history, 'That is as far as consciousness has reached.'"

I put down the book and thought to myself, "Hmm, I bet Rothbard didn't like Hegel, and when there is a thinker Rothbard didn't like, and a common lie told about him, you can make a lot of money betting that Rothbard repeated that lie."

So I fetched my copy of Classical Economics from the shelf and looked up Hegel. Yep, right there on 355: "According to Hegel, the final development of the man-God [an idiotic phrase made up by Rothbard that Hegel never uses], the final breakthrough into totality and infinity, was at hand." (Although it might not seem so at a glance, this is the same claim as Collingwood is calling a 'lie', since Hegel's philosophy …

My Principle on Principles

"I have no horror of principle -- only a suspicion of those who use principles as if they were axioms and those who seem to think that practical argument is concerned with proof. A principle is not something which may be given as a reason or a justification for making a decision or performing an action; it is a short-hand identification of a disposition to choose." -- Michael Oakeshott

Who Wrote It? When?

Try to guess the year this was written, before you Google for the quote:

"You have learned from astronomical proofs that the whole earth compared with the universe is no greater than a point, that is, compared with the sphere of the heavens, it may be thought of as having no size at all. Then, of this tiny corner... take away... the seas, marshes, and other desert places, and the space left for man hardly even deserves the name of infinitesimal."

Are They Trying to Mock Us?


Kobe Has Heard

Canadians are hung like donkeys; decides to check it out:

Look at the Violence Inherent in the System!

So, someone is quietly sunbathing in the corner of a field I own, but am not using at the moment. I spot him, and call in security. When they tell him to leave, he says, "Hey, I'm just having a little nap in the sun! I'm not hurting anything -- I'll be gone in a half hour."

Security goes to drag him away, and when he struggles, hit him on the head with clubs.

Now, surely, I wouldn't go so far in the "strawman" arguments against libertarianism that people keep accusing me of making as to contend that any libertarian would say that the sunbather had "initiated violence" against me and that I was just responding in "self defense," would I? No one could really hold a position that stupid, so what would motivate me to make up crap like that?

Well, I don't have to, because Geoffrey Allan Plouche did it for me:

"Throwing out trespassers who refuse to leave is not initiating physical force. It is retaliatory physical force. Defe…

Another Lap Around the NAP

Now, I am not the first one to point out the fact that libertarian (in fact, all liberal) arguments are circular in that they assume libertarian (liberal) premises to reach their conclusion. It was, in fact, Alasdair MacIntyre who first convinced me this is so. So imagine my delight when I discovered a libertarian, Geoffrey Allan Plauché, who had denied libertarians made these circular arguments, completing a lap around the NAP in the space of a single paragraph, and doing so in addressing... Alasdair MacIntyre!

Now, what MacIntyre claims is that liberalism is not the "tradition-neutral" umpire it claims to be, but is itself a tradition, a tradition intolerant of other traditions, and one that will use force to bring them into the liberal order. What does Plauché make of MacIntryre?

"What MacIntyre is ultimate objecting to is the prohibition on violence and other forms of initiatory force. Is this the sort of community tradition he has it in mind to preserve? Perhaps he…

Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me

So, let's take a look at John Locke's famous homesteading principle, the foundation of many libertarian theories of property rights. Locke begins by stating that in the commons, whatever one has mixed one's labor with is his: "Thus the law of reason makes the deer that Indian's who hath killed it." Well, the law of reason may make it thus, but this is not the way hunter-gatherer societies work. Instead, we find a traditional manner of dividing up the deer amongst the tribe, with the hunter perhaps getting a prize portion, or something of the sort. And this traditional division might cite a "law of reason" of its own: without the tribe, the hunter wouldn't have lived past a day. Without the tribe, he would have no idea how to hunt. Without the tribe, he would not have a bow and arrow. I could go on, but you get the point.

Furthermore, ownership in land almost never came about in the way Locke contends give the institution its justification. Hunte…


Hah! That got your attention, didn't it? But, as Aquinas taught us long ago, pornography is not essentially about sex -- it is a corruption of art, one that tries to sell us some emotion instead of merely portraying it. (I'm simplifying Aquinas' theory here, but not, I hope, mangling it!)

I thought of this while watching Two for the Money. Al Pacino plays a, well, dickhead, engaged in a thoroughly immoral business, manipulating his wife and friend, and unable to control his gambling.


As I was watching, I thought, "Well, the proper ending here is that we see this in-some-ways-likeable guy destroyed by his tragic flaws. But that's not what's going to happen."

And right I was. At the end, for no apparent reason, his wife forgives him, and a huge bet he never ought to have made goes his way. This is porn for the reprobate: you don't have to live right to live well! No, whatever you've done, at the end, the director will figure out…

Aristotle and Ideology, II

To continue:

It seems to me that Aristotle was, in fact, responding to the first 'rationalist in politics', Plato, who had initially confused theory and practice, in, for example, the myth of the cave, where the philosopher, because he has mastered theory, is entitled to come back to the masses and dictate practice to them. As Oakeshott commented upon this:

"The cave-dwellers, upon first encountering the theorist after his return to the world of the shadows [very well might be impressed] when he tells them that what they had always thought of as ‘a horse’ is not what they suppose it to be… but is, on the contrary, a modification of the attributes of God [and they will] applaud his performance even where they cannot quite follow it. [The cave-dwellers can appreciate the exotic pronouncements of the theorist, as long as he confines those pronouncements to their genuine field of applicability, ] but if he were to tell them that, in virtue of his more profound understanding o…

It's What He Did Afterwards!

this fellow, who strangled his wife then faked text messages to him from her cell phone, was just convicted recently. CBS News Radio was covering the story, and they played an audio clip of the prosecutor saying, "Of course, the murder was awful, but what he did afterwards..." and then stopping, speechless. So, apparently, murder is pretty bad, but pretending you're a dead person when texting is abominable!

Aristotle and Ideology

The discussion of θεωρια and φρονησισ (roughly meaning theory and practice) in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is very helpful in understanding what critics mean by 'ideological politics' and how non-ideological politics is even possible (something ideologues often doubt).

I'm working from a translation that renders 'φρονεσισ' as 'prudence,' which is fine, as long as one understands what is meant by that is practical sagacity, and not timidity or an unwillingness to take risks. Aristotle differentiates theoretical and practical knowledge: the former is about universals and gives us necessary truths, while the latter has more to do with particulars than universals and its truths are less certain:

"Scientific knowledge is supposition about universals, things that are by necessity... Prudence, by contrast, is about human concerns, about things open to deliberation... Nor is prudence about universals only. It must also acquire knowledge of particulars, …

Karen DeCoster: Halfway There

This post about dog poop caught my attention at the end, where DeCoster writes:

"Or you can just pass costly, crazed, DNA doggie laws which 'respect property rights,' such as the article described. And then here’s the question: how will you enforce those mandates? By force? If it is truly 'voluntary,' you can turn your back on the condo mobocracy and refuse their Orwellian mandates."

The answer is "by force," of course -- the same way all "voluntary" private property rights are enforced. If private property were truly voluntary, I could just turn my back when some property owner tells me to get off his land.


"Contemporary libertarian individualism and statist collectivism created each other and are locked in a fatal embrace that destroys the civic middle and the life and economy of the associative citizen." -- Phillip Blond

NAPping at the Wheel

Now, to be very clear, in many of my recent post, such as this one, I have been concerned with a narrow topic: does the "non-aggression principle," employed as libertarians typically employ it, somehow point to libertarianism as a uniquely correct political stance? Is it true that all other political doctrines are "in favor of aggression"?

The reason I note the narrowness of my concern here is because of the startling number of times, as I've made these posts, that someone has responded something like, "Why do you claim libertarians have no reasons for their beliefs?"

Say what?! I have been pointing out that this one argument is circular, and therefore flawed. The response above is as if, when you tell your friend, "The fact you eat tunafish is not really evidence you love your wife," he responds, "Oh, so you're saying I don't love my wife!" No, maybe you do; I'm just saying the tunafish argument is a bad argument.

A va…

Is There "Libertarian History"?

Find out here.

The Libertarian Running Track

I have suggested that this is the logical form of the argument anarcho-capitalists make against the legitimacy of the State has the following form:

1) The State is unjust.

2) Private property is just.

3) True, both institutions involve coercion, but the difference is:

4) The State’s coercion is aggressive, which is what makes it unjust.

5) The coercion required to maintain private property is only defensive, which is what makes it just.

6) How do we differentiate this defensive nature of coercion that protects private property from the aggressive nature of the coercion that maintains the State?

7) See 1) and 2)!

When I point out that this is a bit circular, the only answer I have been given is that I should try a few more laps around the track, and see if I don’t get it then. To be fair, some people also have suggested I attempt starting my laps from a different part of the track; one ancap, for instance, just suggested to me that I might like starting from around 4) and 5) better tha…

The Nature of Ideology

I’ve been re-reading Temple Grandin’s wonderful book, Animals in Translation, and it has some important things to say about ideology and abstraction. For those of you who don’t know Grandin, she is the top designer of animal handling facilities in the world, a PhD with over one hundred published papers in both biology and psychology, and autistic. She attributes her success to being ‘detail-oriented’, and claims that most people cannot see the problems she sees because they are too ‘abstractified.’ Interestingly, she, much as the British Idealists did, relates abstraction to ideology, and complains that, rather than plainly seeing the situation with which they are asked to deal, many of the people she encounters substitute an abstract, ideological view of the situation, thereby falsifying reality, often with bad results. She offers an example of a woman who owned a fair number of dogs. Some of the ‘pack’ she had created were naturally more dominant, and others more submissive. She was…

The Lesson Is Unmistakable

Colin Barr, who has a bee in his bonnett about high-frequency stock trading, writes, of the turmoil in the market last week: "The exact causes of Thursday’s stock market short-circuit remain unclear, but the lesson is unmistakable."

This is a very weird thing to say. It strikes me as akin to a case where, say, someone's wife wants him to stop drinking. Then, when some mysterious medical ailment strikes him, well before the doctors know the cause, she says, "The lesson is unmistakeable: you need to stop drinking."

What would you think if you went to the doctor with a mysterious ailment, and she told you, "I have no idea what is causing your problem, but the lesson is clear: We need to amputate your leg."

The point being that, without knowing the cause, how can any lesson at all be drawn from any incident?

And the point here is not whether Barr is right or wrong about high frequency trading. The point is, rather, that until he knows the cause of yester…

Troublemakers, Defined

Amy Meyers Jaffe lets us know who the "troublemakers" on the world stage are here:

"It will throw world politics for a loop—putting some longtime troublemakers in their place and possibly bringing some rivals into the Western fold.

"Again, remember that as their energy-producing influence grew, nations like Russia, Venezuela and Iran became more successful in resisting Western interference in their affairs..."

You see, a troublemaker is someone who resists my interfering in his affairs!

Confessions of a Recovering Ideologue, Part I

This is the first of a perhaps interminable series I might call “How I Went So Wrong.” Now, I happen to be quoting below from Thomas Knapp and Roderick Long, but I don’t mean to be picking on them. In fact, I am explaining my own mistakes here – reading Knapp and Long recently just happened to have brought them to mind.

OK, so the first quote from Knapp I will note has to do with immigration, about which he writes:

“Let me get straight to the point: there is no difference in principle between a ‘national border’ and the turf claim of a street gang. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.”

Well, since these things are quite obviously very different in many, many ways, we have to suss out what Knapp means by “in principle,” since obviously different things may always be the same “in principle” if one just selects the proper principle. Dying peacefully in one’s bed and being slowly eaten alive by fire ants while buried neck deep in desert sand are no different “in principle” if the principle in qu…

TNT OT Lextra

Man, I'm trying to watch the Suns and Spurs on TNT OT Extra (because I don't own a TV), and it is like watching a game shot by a cameraman who is a nitwit who has never watched a basketball game. Jason Richardson just took a shot, and instead of following the ball, the cameraman followed Richardson backpedaling towards the Suns defensive end! Yes, that's what I wanted to see -- not whether or not the shot went in, but how Richardson runs backwards.

Cheap Trick

Michael Moore is sometimes an entertaining filmmaker, and sometimes he has something interesting to say. But he just doesn't seem to be able to resist using cheap tricks to try to bolster his case. For example, in Capitalism: A Love Story, he includes a scene where he tries to demonstrate that the United States is not an intrinsically "capitalist nation" by pawing through the U. S. Constitution looking for the word 'capitalism.' However, 'capitalism' was not used to describe an economic system until about 1850. So the fact that the drafters of the Constitution did not use a terminology that lay 70 years in their future is hardly surprising, and proves exactly nothing.

UPDATE: Here is another word that doesn't occur in the U. S. Constitution, which certainly did exist to describe a political system at that time, and which is Moore's favored alternative to capitalism: 'democracy.'

Libertarian Class Analysis and Methodological Individualism

Chidem Kudras discusses a paper by Ralph Raico over at Think Markets.What this paper, and similar class analysis by, say, Murray Rothbard, illustrates is the actual way that methodological individualism functions in many libertarians' thinking: it is an ideological weapon with which to dismiss social explanations that one doesn't like, to be picked up when handy but dropped whenever another weapon will suit better. Thus, when, say, someone makes the point that individuals preferences themselves are often not a matter of their own choosing but are, as it were, handed to them by their social environment, including marketing, then such libertarians can load and fire methodological individualism and avoid having to really address the issue. On the other hand, when class analysis might serve to advance a case against the State, then methodological individualism is put back in the closet and ignored.