The IRS Loves Anarchy!

The Molinari Institute is delighted to announce that it has been declared by the IRS to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organisation; hence donations to the Molinari Institute – and thus to the Institute’s media center, the Center for a Stateless Society – are tax-deductible.

To quote from the IRS’s determination letter, dated 2 April 2015:

We’re pleased to tell you we determined you’re exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3). Donors can deduct contributions they make to you under IRC section 170. You’re also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under Section 2055, 2106, or 2522. … We determined you’re a public charity under the IRC section [509(a)(2)].

dovegirl-cz

The mission of the Molinari Institute is to promote understanding of the philosophy of market anarchism as a sane, consensual alternative to the hypertrophic violence of the State. The Molinari Institute hosts an online open-access library of rare libertarian classics, including new translations of 19th-century French works, and publishes two periodicals: a magazine, The Industrial Radical, and an academic journal, the Molinari Review. The Molinari Society, a daughter organisation, hosts annual symposia at the Eastern and Pacific Divisions of the American Philosophical Association.

The Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS), an autonomous extension of the Molinari Institute, develops and publishes timely written commentary on current events, research pieces and other content from a market anarchist perspective. Each week the Center submits several op-ed pieces to thousands of newspapers and other media outlets globally, and has received about 2500 mainstream media pickups since 2010. The Center’s student affiliate network, the Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), offers opportunities for campus outreach and activism.

Future projects for both the Institute and the Center include book publishing (both classic and original works), conferences, courses (online and otherwise), new translation projects, and media presentations.

Both the Institute and the Center are part of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, which opposes statism, militarism, cultural intolerance, and the prevailing corporatist capitalism falsely called a free market. The Alliance’s Distro, in partnership with the Institute and Center, produces and distributes zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation.

You can donate to support the work of the Molinari Institute here, and the work of the Center for a Stateless Society here.

Continue Reading · 1

Pronoun Problem

From the Beverly Hills Hotel website:

Many of our bungalows have interesting histories as well: Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned with six of her eight husbands; Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, among others, enjoyed them as well.

Okay, I know how they meant that to be read. But I like my reading better.

Continue Reading · 1

In My Eyes Only

For a long time I’ve vaguely assumed that Elektra Natchios, a character introduced by Frank Miller during his run on the comic book Daredevil, was inspired by Melina Havelock, a character in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (played by Carole Bouquet).

I mean, they’re both Greek, they’re both assassins, they both use retro weapons, and they’re both avenging their parents’ murder. Each’s commitment to revenge puts her at odds with her nominally anti-revenge but kinda-hypocritical-on-the-subject male love interest and story protagonist. They look something alike (frankly more than comic-book Elektra and later movie-Elektra Jennifer Garner do). And Melina even compares herself explicitly to the original Greek mythological figure Elektra, an avenger-of-a-slain-father after whom Miller’s Elektra is evidently named.

melina-elektra

Alas for my theory, Miller’s Elektra made her first appearance six months before the Bond film was released. So Melina couldn’t have influenced Elektra; and given the timing, influence in the other direction isn’t feasible either. So it’s just a coincidence type thing deal. Drat!

melina-elektra2

Continue Reading · 2

And Tell It Strong and Clear If He Has Not

Two Arthurian knights you never read about in grade school:

The African one, “black as pitch” but “naught unsightly,” and graced with “all that men would praise in a knight,” who fights Lancelot to a standstill, from the medieval Romance of Morien.

The female one, a “beautiful creature … raise[d] as a boy,” “conducting [her]self like a man,” and “of all the knights … most skillful with shield and lance,” who manages to outsmart Merlin, from the medieval Romance of Silence.

Continue Reading · 0

Justice to Antiquity

In a book review of Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual (which I confess I haven’t read), Roger McKinney – evidently following Siedentop – trots out the hackneyed claim that individualism is a product solely of the West, and specifically of the post-pagan West.

In response to the first claim, I’ll simply point to the many anticipations of libertarian ideas that are to be found in ancient China, particularly among the early Confucians. Ideas of liberty, equality, universal justice, and the value of commercial activity – all of which McKinney rightly associates with individualism – can also be found in ancient India and the medieval Islamic world.

But for present purposes I want to focus on what McKinney says about ancient Greece and Rome. To deny the Greeks and Romans a conception of individualism seems startling, since many of the most individualistic features of modern law have their roots in Greco-Roman traditions, and because most Greek and Roman philosophers made the pursuit of one’s own happiness and self-realisation the core of their ethical outlook. (Of course Greco-Roman individualism was not atomistic or antisocial; but that’s surely a feature, not a bug.) So what does McKinney have in mind?

To start with, he writes:

[In Morocco] cheating others is not considered unethical at all but a sign of an astute businessman. … Moroccan business ethics might be appalling to westerners, but ancient Greeks and Romans would have understood and applauded them ….

CiceroI’m not sure how appalling such conduct is to my business ethics students, many of whom readily agree with Albert Carr’s defense of relaxed ethical standards for business life as opposed to family life. In any case, the applause from ancient Greeks and Romans would hardly have been universal. One of Rome’s leading thinkers, Marcus Tullius Cicero, wrote a whole book, De Officiis (usually translated either as On Offices or as On Duties), which is essentially a treatise on business ethics. In it he records some of the leading debates among Greek and Roman thinkers as to what sort of conduct is and is not permissible in commercial transactions. While a variety of views are canvassed, none of them fits McKinney’s description; and Cicero himself insists firmly that justice and fair dealing are owed to all human beings. (Cicero also argues in the same work that each of us has a responsibility to fulfill the demands not just of universal human nature but of our individualised nature, which certainly seems like a kind of individualism.)

Like Moroccans, ancient Greeks and Romans cared little for non-family members. Those “… outside the family circle were not deemed to share any attributes with those within. No common humanity was acknowledged, an attitude confirmed by the practice of enslavement.”

The attitude described here certainly existed (and continues to exist today; indeed it fairly describes u.s. foreign policy), but the suggestion that this view was all-pervasive and unchallenged in Greco-Roman antiquity is a mistake. The Cynics and Stoics defended a vision of all humanity as a single community, a cosmopolis; and even the less cosmopolitan Aristotle, who defended slavery on the basis of bullshit theories of racial inferiority, insisted that foreign races that were not inferior (and he granted that there were some) could not justly be conquered or enslaved. On this basis Aristotle condemned societies with aggressive foreign policies. Aristotle also insisted (NE 1108a9-28, 1126b19-1127a2, 1155a16-31) that we have duties of friendship toward strangers and foreigners. The legitimacy of slavery was also challenged by thinkers from Alkidamas to Zeno of Citium.

For the ancient Romans and Greeks society consisted of a collection of extended families. The heads of the families, including family-based clans and tribes, held all the power and made all of the decisions. Only the heads of families could become citizens in the polis.

Sure, for the most part – though again hardly confined to antiquity, since even the supposedly egalitarian John Rawls in the first version of his 1971 Theory of Justice had “heads of families” as the contracting parties behind the Veil of Ignorance. But likewise again, this perspective was not exactly unchallenged; Plato famously advocated an independent political role for women in his Republic, as well as the abolition of the family; and similar views were defended by the Cynics and early Stoics (and arguably Xenophon to some extent).

Antiquity had no notion of the powers of the government being limited by the rights of individuals, even for family heads.

The entire Athenian legal system was a vast contrivance to limit governmental power. Ancient constitutional thought focused heavily on the idea of structuring the balance of power between different classes so as to prevent any one class from being in a position to impose injustice unchecked on another. And the idea that individuals have claims of justice that states are bound to respect was defended by nearly every ancient political theorist, including Aristotle and Cicero. (For Aristotle, see Fred Miller’s book Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle’s Politics; for Cicero, see his discussion of natural law in De Republica and De Legibus.)

Consider also Pericles’ funeral oration, as recorded or invented (or some of each) by Thucydides, in which tolerance and respect for individual choice are lauded: “in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes.” Of course Athens did not live up consistently to this ideal (nor do modern so-called liberal societies live up to it today), but the ideal was clearly recognised and formulated.

The ancients had no concept of the equality of man, either. Even for Plato and Aristotle, a natural hierarchy of humanity existed, much like the caste system of India. Some were born to rule, others to serve or fight.

Certainly Plato and Aristotle believed in political hierarchies based on allegedly natural inequalities. But they were not the only political thinkers of Greco-Roman antiquity. The Cynics and early Stoics (such as Zeno of Citium) defended a vision of society in which all hierarchical distinctions of rulers and subjects, masters and slaves, males and females would be abolished. Some Epicureans (like Diogenes of Oenoanda) held similar views. (And turning our gaze momentarily eastward: the caste system in India had its early critics as well, notably among Buddhists.)

Politics and war became the noblest occupations while commerce was held in contempt.

Held in contempt by whom? Successful merchants enjoyed enormous social prestige in Greece and Rome; and Hesiod’s praise of industry and commercial competition is justly famous. As for the philosophers, Plato and Aristotle did disparage commerce (though Aristotle disparaged warfare as well – as did the Epicureans), but again, they were not the only philosophers in classical antiquity. The Stoics in particular were vigorous defenders of commerce, as was Xenophon; and then of course there’s Cicero, whose book on business ethics I’ve previously mentioned. I challenge anyone to read Cicero and come away with an impression of a thinker who is valorising warfare and downgrading commerce. Individualism may not have reigned supreme in antiquity (nor does it today), but its basic concepts were formulated and defended by a good many influential thinkers.

For more on classical Greek and Roman individualism, see my various discussions here.

Continue Reading · 10

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes