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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Why We Need a Fully Free Marketplace of Ideas

No true seeker of truth can oppose the fully free marketplace of ideas. For details of the hardheaded practical case, you can do no better than to consult chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. If you can't spare the time to read this short chapter and book, here's the money quote: "He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that."

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Our Foolish Politicized Era

It's ridiculous to think you can divine people's politics merely from their views on the pandemic or any given policy response to it. Similarly, it's absurd to rebut a view by referring to the holder's politics.

Monday, October 26, 2020

How to Panic the Public

  1. Disseminate worst-case scenarios, taking care to ignore the dubious assumptions that go into modeling while vilifying anyone, no matter how well-qualified, who refuses to ignore them.
  2. Emphasize the (alleged) benefits of a draconian government response, taking care to ignore the costs while vilifying anyone, no matter how well-qualified, who refuses to ignore them.
  3. Repeat as necessary, preferably often.

An Economy Cannot Be Crippled

Lockdown doesn’t cripple “the economy.” It cripples people who are trying to live. Strictly speaking, there’s no economy. There are people interacting in particular ways regularly.

What the Love of Power Trumps

How interesting that the people most worried about Trump’s authoritarian personality demand draconian government responses to the pandemic. Love of power must trump fear of Trump.

Friday, October 09, 2020

TGIF: Is Socialism Good in Theory?

This is an expanded version of something I wrote for The Freeman, October 2003, during my tenure as the editor.

Socialism has been mortally discredited on economic grounds, thanks to Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and history. But for many people it has not been discredited on moral grounds. You can tell this by how often people say that while socialism doesn’t work in practice, it is good, even beautiful, in theory. (Even Thomas Sowell has said that.)

Strange notion—that a theory which doesn’t work in the world can somehow still be good. Where else is it to be judged? William Graham Sumner, I believe, pointed out the contradiction: there must be a good theory that explains the system that does work in practice, but that theory would conflict with the other theory also held to be good. So we end up with two good but conflicting theories. Something is wrong.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Appearance on Agoric Cafe

The first of my two appearances on Roderick Long's Agoric Cafe is now posted. We discuss a variety of issues. Part two will be posted next Sunday.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Criminal War against Iraq

I haven't read the book yet, but I recommend this review of Robert Draper's How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq by James North at Mondoweiss.

Indisputably, George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003, based on lies and cooked "intelligence," was the worst, most consequential foreign-policy move by an American president in recent history. The Middle East, the United States, and the rest of the world will suffer its effects for many years to come. This is not just a work of history, based on 300 interviews. North writes:

The Iraq tragedy is relevant today. On September 14, Donald Trump made up a new threat from Iran, and tweeted: “Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will be met by an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!” Trump sounds unhinged—until you recall that just this January, he provocatively ordered the assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani—and got little resistance from either the mainstream U.S. press or the foreign policy establishment. Cowardly group-think didn’t end with Iraq.


Stephen F. Cohen: A Rare Voice of Sanity Gone

One of the saddest pieces of news is the death of Stephen F. Cohen at age 81. Cohen, who taught at Princeton and NYU, was an eminent scholar of the history and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. He spent his last years warning against the years-long bipartisan effort to prosecute a new cold war against Russia, with special attention to what has unfortunately come to be known as Russiagate, the groundless allegation, debunked by only a few heroic thinkers, that Trump is an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who--fiction has it--is Stalin-reincarnate intent on reconstituting the Soviet Empire. (Putin has also been called, absurdly, a "new Hitler.")

Cohen's last book was War with Russia?, in which he warned that the new cold war could easily turn hot and even nuclear, thanks to Russiagate and U.S. imperial policy in Ukraine and Syria. His analysis is impeccable--not to mention frightening. “I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen said.

I won't go into detail about Cohen's final intellectual battle because the indispensable Caitlin Johnstone has done the job admirably. I'll close with her words: "In a world that is increasingly confusing and awash with propaganda, Cohen’s death is a blow to humanity’s desperate quest for clarity and understanding." And, I would add, peace.