Archive | March, 2010

Czech Your Premises

Certovka in Prague

I’m in the middle of a break at the ASC, finishing up some last-minute business at the office.

Tomorrow I’m off to anarchise in Prague, and will thus be largely (though probably not entirely) incommunibloggo until the 24th.

Whilst awaiting my return you can relieve the unbearable monotony by clicking on this pretty picture of Čertovka, a section of Prague on the Vltava’s west bank near the Karlův Bridge. I imagine the real thing looks a bit more wintry just now.

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Census and Sensibility

I often see libertarians contrasting (as Walter Block does here, for example) those census questions that the Constitution makes it legally mandatory to answer versus those it doesn’t.

But as I’ve argued elsewhere:

Although as an anarchist I don’t especially care what the Constitution says one way or another, it’s worth noting that all the Constitution authorizes is the mere conducting of a census; it doesn’t authorize mandating compliance, since forcing people to answer is not essential to the conducting of a census. (Private groups conduct surveys all the time without enjoying such power.) So as I read the Constitution (though of course the government doesn’t give a damn about how I read it), even if one accepts the Constitution’s authority there is still no legally binding obligation to answer any of the questions.

Now it might be objected that the Constitution also grants Congress the “power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” its powers – and the power to compel compliance might thereby be taken to be “necessary” to the end of enumerating the citizens.

But even if it is necessary, what’s authorized is legislation that’s necessary and proper; and compelling compliance with the census is not “proper.”

How do we know it ’s not “proper” in the Constitutional sense of that term? By appeal to Spooner’s 7th, 12th, and 14th rules of legal interpretation.

Why should we accept Spooner’s rules? I sing, I dance.

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Headline News

The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News:

To the editor:

Today’s article on Homo floresiensis was given a very misleading headline, saying that the find “challenges the theory of evolution.” Such a claim is quite false, and is not supported by anything in the body of the article.

Pac-Man skeleton (not actually connected to this story)

The article does say that the find may alter “our understanding of human evolution,” i.e., may change the prevailing views about where and in what sequence human evolution occurred; but the basic theory of evolution itself is entirely unthreatened by anything connected with the discovery.

By analogy, if scientists were to discover that, say, the great pyramid of Giza is heavier than previously thought, would you run a headline saying that the find “challenges the law of gravity”?

Roderick T. Long

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Austro-Bohemian Adventures

On Friday the 12th I’m off to Prague for the PCPE (which means I’ll unfortunately miss most of the ASC here in Auburn, though I do plan to drop in on the first day, the 11th).

Kohlmarkt, Vienna

The PCPE doesn’t actually start until the 19th, but its coinciding with my spring break means I can spend a little extra time, so once I arrive in Prague I’ll be off by train to spend a (frustratingly brief) couple of days in Vienna, thus making this trip doubly Austrian.

I’ve been to Prague before, but this’ll be my first trip to Vienna. I’ve wanted to see Vienna for a long time; even before Mises, Hayek, and Wittgenstein entered my life, it was the city of Die Fledermaus and The Third Man (to pick two rather different visions of the city). When I first started the Austro-Athenian Empire, I’d been to neither Austria nor Athens; by next week I’ll have seen both!

Charles Bridge, Prague

After Vienna, back to marvelous Prague and the PCPE, where I’ll be giving a paper on Platonic Pitfalls for Austro-Libertarians – in which I sadden Rothbardians by venting my heresies on fractional-reserve banking and the productivity theory of wages, but then cheer them up with some anarchy at the end. (Readers of my blog have seen most of this stuff before.)

After that I’ll be staying over a couple of extra days for still more anarchy, i.e. to give a talk on the 23rd at the CEVRO Institute (a college run by a free-market think tank and headed up by libertarian activist Josef Šima, who’s also one of the organizers of the PCPE) on Why Classical Liberals Should Prefer Anarchy Over State Power. (No prepared text, but I’ll probably cover much of the same territory as in my ten objections talk.) I’ll return to the u.s. on the 24th.

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