Restoring Sanity

Sorry Jon, the truths are told at the comedy houses, not at political rallies. No politician would ever dare go near the truth tellers. Bill Hicks, George Carlin, you are not.

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Jonah Goldberg: Why isn’t Julian Assange Dead?

Jonah Goldberg thinks the fact that Julian Assange is still breathing poses a serious question to the left-wing world view. Why isn’t he dead?

While I don’t consider myself a member of the conspiratorial “international left,” I will nonetheless ask a simple question in reply. Is it part of the job description of the CIA and the US Intelligence apparatus to kill journalists?

And I will ask Goldberg another question in return. It isn’t Assange who is leaking the documents. The institutions themselves are the source of the leaked documents. They only have to merely stop themselves. Why is it that they can’t?

Btw, conspiracies spun from the “international right,” for example, blaming it on the infiltration of islamofascists or the sinister plots of liberal fascists, are not allowable answers…otherwise I might have to compose a post rebutting the conspiracies of the international right: “If there is an islamofascist plot, why isn’t Barack Obama a Muslim?” 🙂

The Limits of Hayek

Peter Boettke briefly blurbs about the brilliance and limits of Hayek:

I have long argued against libertarian critics of Hayek, that they need to distinguish between what Hayek himself argued, and where a Hayekian argument could be taken…

Boette points to this video of Hayek and Thomas Hazlett discussing anarchy and the rule of law.

I addressed this topic in some older posts at Freedom Democrats.

Evolution of the Sixth Sense and the Application of Hayekian Order to Law

In Hayek’s view, dealing with strangers makes a “hayekian order” in market law unfeasible. In a 2 player repeated game, tit for tat can usually be invoked to explain the evolution of cooperative behavior. However, in social systems where the number of agents is large and transactions can largely be impersonal and transitory, tit for tat is not particularly applicable as a strategy. Hence, the basis for Hayek’s contention that some sort of “constitutional framework” is necessary to host the dynamics of his social theory. However, what if humans had a “sixth sense” that immediately informed them whether a stranger was friendly or not–by “friendly” it is meant that any dispute arising from an exchange or trade could be settled peaceably. In the event of such “extra sensory perception,” Hayek’s skepticism toward impersonal transactions with strangers without a uniform(monopoly) law would have to be reconsidered. That is to say, Hayek’s objection to applying his social theory to a market based law would have to be reexamined.

read more.

A second post, Spontaneous Order and Common Law, discussed a Cato Unbound topic, Hayek and Common Law.

As is well known, Hayek refined and extended the Scottish tradition of “spontaneous or emergent order” to cast the “knowledge problem” critique of the price-setting Walrasian Auctioneer(socialism). As Hayek’s life progressed, he became more and more consumed intellectually with taking the concept of “spontaneous order” to it’s logical conclusion, within a modern evolutionary framework, for both economics and law. The Hayekian paradigm in law can be summarized as:

The explanation relies on three fundamental ideas: the idea of a rule (and rule-following), of spontaneous order, and of evolution. The three ideas are interdependent parts of a single, integrated explanatory scheme, designed to show that key elements of social life are ordered — not the product of some designer, but rather the unintended consequences of impersonal and external forces operating on behavior and thought of human beings directed to other ends and purposes. Hayek’s theory of social evolution tells a story of rule-formation, rule-transformation, rule-transmission, and group rule-adoption.

Within such a framework, Hayek argued against the construction of “intentional and purposive institutions” to coordinate individual actions toward some end(justice). The role of legal institutions,such as legislature, should be constrained to a limited number administrative services and correcting(i.e., regulations) the occasional flaws or disputes arising in the emergent social order.

read more.

The name of this blog is “Liberal and Libertarian,” which essentially means liberal ends through libertarian means. The term “libertarian means” has an explicit meaning: the rejection of the social contract, a liberal political philosophic concept that nonetheless does not survive the class theory critique. In it’s stead, at least in the radical individualist libertarian tradition, is the market contract. Yes, for any modern liberals out there, this means the rejection of force behind any contractual basis for justice as an end. The market contract constricts “law as a force” to it’s proper sphere, which is the correction of injustice. From a Hayekian methodological approach, one is then interested in spontaneous order evolution of both market law and, yes, positive law in such a system. Liberalism, then, is an emergent property of a complex system of human cooperation. If history teaches us anything, it is that it is not an emergent property of politics and political institutions.

Contra Don Boudreaux, the Boot does not have a Soft Sole

Donald Boudreaux predicts his recent article in the Freeman, The Power of Freedom, will raise the ire of some libertarians. Boudreaux’s thesis is based on an empirical observation that the regulatory, bureaucratic state has not yet led to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four; indeed, we are, in his words “better fed, clothed, housed, informed, educated, medically cared-for, traveled, rested, and entertained” compared to either, say 1930 or 1980. Boudreaux’s conclusion is that “the power of Freedom” is such that economic and social conditions can withstand or at least adapt to the predatory state. In short, the regulatory, bureaucratic state is not necessarily a “Road to Serfdom.”

It should be pointed out this is not new argument. It’s one made all the time by the political left in discounting Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” although the political left has a much more sanguine view of the “Regulatory State” than Boudreaux. I addressed this issue in older post, Hayek, Social Insurance, and Serfdom. If you don’t feel like reading the post, here’s a summation:

Hayek’s argument in “The Road to Serfdom” was specifically against State Socialism, that is, centrally planned regimes that planned against competition. The argument really being made, in the historical context, is that Fabian Socialism and National Socialism led to the same thing, in the end. The likes of George Orwell, who was a man of the left, was in part influenced by Hayek’s work in composing the Socialist dystopias of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four.

To understand Hayek’s more general argument requires one to distinguish between “planning against competition” and “planning for competition.” In the latter sense of planning, things like Social Insurance are not antithetical to a liberal order. In the Hayekian conception, the welfare state itself, if constructed around planning for competition, is not a threat to liberalism. The problem, however, is that politics is not really about the art of “planning for competition.” The state that has the power to plan for competition also has the power to plan against competition. It is the latter which is the direct threat against liberalism.

To bring up Orwell again, I would note he also thought Capitalism would lead to to totalitarianism. His literary works addressed the Socialist path to tyranny. For the capitalist version, we will have to turn to how real life is writing this scenario.

On a number of previous occasions, I have used the term “catastrophic liberal institutional failure.” What I mean by this is the political status quo of permanent war. Liberalism may be compatible with some degree of the welfare state, and may be able to adapt to some degree of political rent-seeking, but it cannot survive the rent-seeking permanent war state. “War is the Health of the State” means simply that war is is the ultimate expression of collectivism. With perpetual war, you have the purest and most naked form of class conflict.

The “permanent war state” is not hyperbole. It is very real. There is a massive intelligence Stasi police apparatus in place. Utterly unaccountable and growing. And it’s not difficult to trigger experiencing the brunt of this. Boudreaux writes we are better-traveled than ever before. Well, I would encourage Boudreaux to assert his civil rights the next time he encounters the TSA when flying or US customs when traveling abroad. I imagine he probably just obeys. To do otherwise would threaten detention and could threaten one’s entire livelihood, if such depends on one’s ability to travel. When we talk about inalienable rights, we surely mean, among other things, the right to travel and the right to work without having to suffer cumbersome duties, restrictions, and permissions. In the National Security State, you have to have permission to travel and to work. This where we are heading and there going to be plenty of people who are going to get very rich from enforcing this.

In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, slogans like “Ignorance is Strength” and “War is Peace” are examples of DoubleThink but they also have empirical meaning. You have to read the tract “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” to discern their empirical meaning. “Ignorance is Strength” explains how a restricted vocabulary called NewSpeak, which is a limited political vocabulary of invented words that have mutually contradicting meaning based on political context, enforces a doublethink reality. However, the tract itself is not written in NewSpeak, and we learn that “War is Peace” has a clear empirical meaning. That slogan means Peace for the ruling classes. Continuous war is not a war of nation-state ruling classes set against one another. Rather, continuous war is unabated war of the ruling classes against their own subjects.

In a previous post, Modeling Capitalist Regime Change, I made the case that moral hazard will eventually force a regime change in the political framework of markets. I noted the previous two regimes were Keynes/Bretton Woods and Chicago/Washington Consensus. The loss of resiliency of the Chicago framework demands a new political economy framework. It is this regime uncertainty that is the source of the current economic depression. But intellectually, there isn’t any new framework to transition to, at least one that doesn’t involve tearing down the State. So what we are seeing by default is the oligarchicalization of money and credit to enforce an artificially stable equilibrium that has little resiliency. This is why, for example, the US is heavily involved as of late in brokering a deal for increased political control of the currency markets. To enforce an artificial stability of a regime that has little resiliency will require more and more command and control and planning against competition. And in this way, one can see how (political) capitalism can converge to an authoritarian point. And Boudreaux’s empirical observations, which are drawn from previous regimes, are not applicable to the current regime.

On a final note, I would point out that Orwell did not include “Freedom is Slavery” in his little tract within Nineteen Eighty Four. Chapter 2 is missing in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.” In a sense, “Freedom is Slavery” doesn’t quite fit in with the empirical paradigm of the other two slogans(to do so, it would have to be reversed, “Slavery is Freedom”). I would merely point out, in an empirical sense, not to conflate capitalism with freedom. Boudreaux’s argument, logically extended, could be applied to China as a demonstration of the “power of freedom” at work. When freedom means “the freedom to obey,” the only power it represents is the power of the ruling class.

Comrade Joe Biden: “Every Great Idea the Past 3 Centuries has Required Government Vision and Incentive”

The intrepid vice-president on the campaign trail:

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”

Oh, the irony. In one hypertrophied moment of campaign propaganda, Biden managed to undercut the entire historical progressive critique against laissez faire. After all, how could Progressivism, historically, be a movement to tame the “excesses of laissez faire” when every great idea the past three centuries has been the result of government intervention? In Biden’s own words, private enterprise could not have completed the transcontinental railroad until the 20th century. So, we apparently have Lincoln to thank for the post-civil war Robber Baron era that otherwise could not have happened if private enterprise would have been left to it’s own devices. No transcontinental railroad, no robber baron era.

This is classical politician doublethink. In one context, to justify political intervention, we are told of the utter inertness of the private market in comparison to the power of the State. In another context, we are warned of the need for intervention to restrain the powerful unbridled, unregulated market. In doublethink, there is never any need to reconcile these contradictory statements. Which one is true simply depends on the political objective to be had at the given moment.

Of course, we don’t quite live in an Orwell or Huxley novel where doublethink political reality is the only reality or where historical reality is subsumed by complete distraction. There have been several great technologies–steam engine, telegraph/telephone, AC(alternating current) Electricity, automobile, airplane and transistor–that I would classify as having the greatest impact on civilization over the last three centuries. Most, at the outset at least, had little or nothing to do with government intervention. The transistor is debatable, but like anything significant that has come off the drawing board since the early to middle part of the 20th century, it’s going to be ambivalent/murky because the government is so involved in the control of the economy and funding the nexus of corporate/university research.

What’s not debatable, however, is that, in the end, everything becomes incorporated into the political economy. For the politician, an idea is only great if it can be monetized by artificial rents. So, in empirical political reality, it is empirically true for the politician that every great idea the past three centuries indeed has required government intervention. No doubt….