Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Michael Lind writes at Salon.com: “Having denounced liberals as crypto communists for half a century during the Cold War, the American right now routinely accuses the center-left of being fascist.” Lind goes on to wonder why “American conservatives and libertarians” have avoided discussion of their own “heroes” who seem to have been soft on fascists. He specifically mentions Ludwig von Mises’s remarks about the Italian Fascists in the 1920s (in his book Liberalism) and F. A. Hayek’s and Milton Friedman’s alleged approval of Augusto Pinochet’s “free market” dictatorship in Chile.
The first thing I want to say is that by putting libertarianism on the right and linking it with conservatism, Lind indicates that his knowledge of the libertarian movement is rather superficial. Philosophically the differences are too fundamental to permit such a mistake in a conscientious observer. If libertarianism belongs anywhere, it is on the left.
Lind’s article contains much to comment on, but here I want to make just one or two points. Even if Mises, Hayek, and Friedman really approved of fascist regimes (one can disagree with them while maintaining that things aren’t quite so simple), it would take more than that to indict libertarianism. Lind never explains why this alleged record doesn’t merely reflect on the particular named individuals who for one reason or another departed from their stated libertarian principles.
After all, what is there in libertarianism that would incline an adherent to feel the least sympathy for fascist dictators? Certainly nothing obvious.
The closest Lind gets to answering that question is his pointing out that libertarians dislike democracy, the implication being that one who dislikes democracy necessarily likes autocracy. That’s a strange argument indeed, as Roderick Long points out here. As Long writes, “[L]ibertarians don’t oppose democracy (in the conventional sense) because they hanker after autocracy; they oppose democracy because it is too much like autocracy.” Mises agreed: "There is really no essential difference between the unlimited power of the democratic state and the unlimited power of the autocrat" (Socialism, 1922).
It’s not as though there are no alternatives to democracy and autocracy. How about market anarchism, where majorities don’t rule minorities and minorities don’t rule majorities? And libertarian minarchists can say to Lind that they accept democratic decision-making but only in the smallest area necessary, while otherwise opposing rule by both majorities and minorities.
Lind commits a major gaffe by taking democracy at face value; it seems not to have occurred to him that democracy might not be exactly what it is purported to be. Indeed, it has long been argued that a façade of majoritarianism typically masks a form of aristocracy, or minority rule. The historian Edmund Morgan refers to this as the fiction of representation. I discuss Morgan’s thesis here.
Had Lind not swallowed the civics-book hype and understood that democracy is not actually rule by the people, he might have sized libertarianism up differently.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Only individuals value, choose, and act, of course, but in an important sense the resulting social whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Thus the defense of personal liberty is the defense of society. Let’s hear our opponents criticize that.
While inflation hawks understandably keep a close watch on the Federal Reserve’s money-creation activities, an equally worrisome Fed activity is taking place right under their noses. Under cover of addressing the financial crisis and recession, the Fed has become the central allocator of credit.
As San Jose State University economics professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel points out in The Independent Review (Spring 2011), Fed chairman Ben Bernanke “has so expanded the Fed’s discretionary actions beyond merely controlling the money stock that it has become a gigantic, financial central planner.... [T]he Fed that emerged from the crisis is no longer the same as the Fed before the crisis.”
Read the full op-ed, "Federal Reserve Grabs New Powers."
Monday, August 22, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
You can almost see the panic on their faces. The politicians, central bankers, and court economists seem to be thrashing around like bad swimmers caught in a riptide. Despite all attempts — stimulus spending, increased borrowing, the Fed Reserve’s low-interest-rate policy, presidential jaw-boning — the economy refuses to recover. Unemployment remains over 9 percent, investment is stagnant, and even the previous paltry growth is fading. People increasingly see the government as impotent.
If it weren’t for the innocent victims, this would be satisfyingly entertaining. After all, these are the reputed best and brightest, who assured us they know how to fix and run an economy. Now they are at wits’ end, and they’re running out of time.
Read the full op-ed, "Politicians in a Panic," here.
At FEE’s Advanced Austrian Economics Seminar last week, more than one speaker mentioned that Ludwig von Mises considered a different title for the book we know as Human Action. The other title? Social Cooperation.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Today is the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, one of President Harry Truman's two acts of butchery against Japan in August 1945. The anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing was Saturday.
Mario Rizzo has pointed out that Americans were upset by the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11 yet seem not to be bothered that "their" government murdered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in a few days.
As Harry Truman once said, "I don't give 'em hell. I just drop A-bombs on their cities and they think it's hell." (Okay, he didn't really say that, but he might as well have.)
Rad Geek People's Daily has a poignant post here. Rad says: "As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world."
Finally, if you read nothing else on this subject, read Ralph Raico's article here.
[This post appeared previously.]
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Friday, August 05, 2011
Were it not for the Tea Party, the debt-ceiling controversy might never have taken place. Kudos on that count alone.