Archive | January, 2007

Anarchy Is Loosed Upon the World

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power and Mises Blog]

Anarchy and the Law My copy of Ed Stringham’s anthology Anarchy and the Law just arrived in the mail. (Amazon insists that the paperback isn’t available yet, but they’re wrong.)

This nearly 700-page book is quite simply the definitive collection on free-market anarchism. Its forty chapters include contributions from Randy Barnett, Bruce Benson, Bryan Caplan, Roy Childs, Anthony de Jasay, David Friedman, John Hasnas, Hans Hoppe, Jeff Hummel, Don Lavoie, Murray Rothbard, the Tannehills, and many more, including even your humble correspondent. It also features historical classics by Voltairine de Cleyre, Gustave de Molinari, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker, among others. It covers both moral arguments and economic ones; it ranges over both abstract theory and historical examples. It even includes important criticisms of market anarchism, like Tyler Cowen’s and Robert Nozick’s, along with anarchist replies. Check out the full table of contents.

Are there any regrettable omissions? Well, of course. Any self-respecting anarchist geek could easily cite another thousand pages’ worth of “absolutely essential” additional material, additional authors, additional perspectives. But never mind: this, here and now, is it. Wonder no more what is the market anarchist book to recommend to the anarcho-curious or wave menacingly at the statist heathen; it’s this one.

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Boston or Baghdad? Philadelphia or Fallujah?

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

I just saw Senator Lindsey Graham, as part of the televised post-mortem on Bush’s blather, downplaying the lack of progress in Iraq by saying (wording not exact), “Well, we had our revolution in 1776, and we didn’t have a constitution until 1789.”

Sorry, no. The United States’ first constitution was adopted provisionally in 1777, and formally ratified in 1781. What is conventionally called “the” U.S. Constitution was the second one.

(I’m also not sure why Graham picked 1789 as the date of the (second) constitution. The minimum number of states needed for ratification of the second constitution was either nine (according to the second constitution) or all thirteen (according to the first); the former number was reached the year before 1789, and the latter the year after.)

And if Graham is suggesting that the level of civil chaos in Iraq today is comparable to that of the United States in the 1780s, I think the historians among us might venture a dissent.

Paine and Burke I don’t mean to suggest, of course, that 1780s U.S. was more peaceful and orderly than Iraq because it had a functioning constitution. On the contrary, the American colonies were pretty orderly during the complete suspension of governmental institutions, as Thomas Paine relates:

For upwards of two years from the commencement of the American War, and to a longer period in several of the American States, there were no established forms of government. The old governments had been abolished, and the country was too much occupied in defence to employ its attention in establishing new governments; yet during this interval order and harmony were preserved as inviolate as in any country in Europe. There is a natural aptness in man, and more so in society, because it embraces a greater variety of abilities and resource, to accommodate itself to whatever situation it is in. The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act: a general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.

And Edmund Burke, Paine’s archenemy, confirms Paine’s point:

Pursuing the same plan of punishing by the denial of the exercise of government to still greater lengths, we wholly abrogated the ancient government of Massachusetts. We were confident that the first feeling, if not the very prospect, of anarchy would instantly enforce a complete submission. The experiment was tried. A new, strange, unexpected face of things appeared. Anarchy is found tolerable. A vast province has now subsisted, and subsisted in a considerable degree of health and vigor for near a twelvemonth, without Governor, without public Council, without judges, without executive magistrates. How long it will continue in this state, or what may arise out of this unheard-of situation, how can the wisest of us conjecture?

So the early United States didn’t really need a constitution. But anyway, need one or not, they had one (and in many ways a better one than the second one). Senator Graham’s strained analogy between Iraq and 1780s America won’t work. (Maybe he should have tried a different tack: “After our revolution we still had slavery ….”)

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Feeling Safer Already

painting of bread A couple of news items:

  • Here’s a gem of New Deal history I didn’t know. From “Today in History,” Opelika-Auburn News, 18 January 2007:

    In 1943, a wartime ban on the sale of pre-sliced bread in the U.S. – aimed at reducing bakeries’ demand for metal replacement parts – went into effect.

    Governmental micromanagement: best thing since sliced bread!

  • According to the FBI and Interpol, art fraud is currently “the world’s third-largest crime problem behind drugs and weapons dealing.”

    You ever get the feeling these guys’ priorities may not be your own?

 

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F. — I.W.

Okay, this story is the exact opposite of the last one. A planeful of passengers willing to sit on the tarmac for eight hours without water or toilet facilities, and a flight crew willing to keep them there, just because American Airlines told them to. Stanley Milgram, call your office!

There will once again be lemon-scented napkins .... To those who wonder why we advocates of “thick libertarianism” or “dialectical libertarianism” keep insisting that the triumph of liberty depends on promoting the right cultural values – look no further. People who bow, sheeplike, to the commands of American Airlines are unlikely candidates to resist the commands of a government or would-be government.

What we need to promote is a culture of disobedience: a culture in which the natural response of passengers held captive on an airplane by bureaucratic incompetence will be to calmly but firmly move to the door, or to the emergency window exits if necessary, and walk away. A culture in which the thought “oh no, I couldn’t disobey the orders of the flight crew!” will be as much the exception as today it is the rule. (And a culture in which no air marshal would dare to respond threateningly to such disobedience, knowing that the other passengers would quickly take him down.)

Such a culture may be tough to achieve, since it requires both independent individual thinking and group solidarity. But that’s the attitude we need to promote and encourage.

Finally: a cheer for the heroic pilot who finally disobeyed orders, pulled in to the gate, and released his passengers from captivity. More like him, please.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what the title of this blog post means, read Eric Frank Russell’s And Then There Were None and/or The Great Explosion.

(And great acclaim goes to the reader who figures out what the graphic is referring to ….)

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We the Liver

Howard the Duck Whatever you may think about the ethics of foie gras (my own view is that producing it violates a duty, that producing it nevertheless violates no right, that consuming it violates no duty, and that refraining from consuming it is nevertheless a permissible specification of an imperfect duty – but like I said, never mind), there’s something heartening about the insouciantly defiant attitude of these lawbreakers. They’re not storming the citadel, they’re treating the citadel as irrelevant.

Oh, to see the State’s edicts cheerfully ignored en masse, La Boétie style, on issues more important than foie gras!

In completely unrelated news, this is unwelcome.

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