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The New Rankin-Bass Hobbit DVD Is a Fraud

Famously, when the DVD version of the 1977 Rankin-Bass Hobbit was released, the soundtrack was missing lots of sound effects that had been included in both the original broadcast version and the VHS release. You can probably still find a correct version (with video from the DVD and audio from the VHS) downloadable online under the title “Hi-Fi Hobbit.” The sounds make a surprisingly large amount of difference to the ambience of the film; it’s especially noticeable in the Erebor flashback.

When a “remastered deluxe” edition of the DVD was announced this year, I naturally assumed that the soundtrack screw-up that fans have been complaining about for years would be fixed. I mean, isn’t that what “remastered deluxe edition” suggests?

Guess what? Not so much. The new edition has not restored the missing sounds. Remastering, my ass. They’ve just given us the same old crappy screwed-up soundtrack as on the previous DVD release. Just with uglier cover art.

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Andromeda Strain

Here are some pictures of Andromeda, the princess that Perseus rescued from a sea monster and then married. Notice anything about her?

Yes, she’s naked and in chains. I’m sure you noticed that right off. But what else?

She’s white.

What’s wrong with that? Well, Andromeda was an Ethiopian princess. “Ethiopian” comes from a Greek word meaning “burnt face.” In other words, the Greeks knew perfectly well that Ethiopians are black, so the correct colour of the woman whose beauty so stunned Perseus would have been traditionally understood by ancient audiences. Modern depictions have erased a fairly important woman of colour, and a fairly important interracial marriage, from Greek mythology.

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This Self Is Mine

There’s an objection to self-ownership that I’ve never understood; it runs something like this:

Self-ownership assumes that the self contains two aspects; the mind that does the owning and the body that gets owned. But there is no such radical dualism within the self.

But this objection is just weird. It not only presupposes that ownership has to be a relationship between nonidenticals, it attributes that view to the self-ownership proponent, and so infers that the self-ownership proponent must really be talking about some relationship between different parts of the self and so must hold some controversial metaphysical theory. But clearly anyone who believes in self-ownership obviously does not regard ownership as necessarily a relation between nonidenticals.

Thus self-ownership does not assume any position whatever about the relation between mind and body. You can think mind and body are identical; or distinct but nonseparable; or distinct but separable – it’s just completely irrelevant to the self-ownership question. Self-ownership isn’t supposed to be a relation between two parts of you, it’s supposed to be a relation between you and yourself.

So even if the objectors think ownership must be between nonidenticals, the first mystery is why they would attribute this view to self-ownership proponents – the very people who by definition do not accept it. But the second mystery is why the objectors think ownership must be between nonidenticals in the first place. To own something is just to have certain rights of decision-making over that thing, including the right to exclude others from such decision-making over it. There’s nothing in that definition that rules out bearing that relation to oneself. To own yourself is simply for you to have certain rights of decision-making over yourself, including the right to exclude others from such decision-making over you.

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The Four Freedoms

This is some good shit I’m smoking here.

In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand writes:

Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state – and nothing else.

What Rand seems not to have considered is that the coercive power of the state, by promoting the artificial concentration of capital and land, plays a central role in explaining why so many people are dependent on landlords for their housing and on employers for their income. Indeed, inasmuch as economic progress involves the steady increase in the amount of production that can be achieved without effort, the state, by obstructing this progress, is to a considerable extent preventing the laws of nature from providing us with automatic prosperity too.

The choice Rand offers us is thus an artificial one. The libertarian commitment to freedom from government coercion is ipso facto a commitment to freedom from the landlord, from the employer, and from the kärgliche Ausstattung einer stiefmütterlichen Natur as well.

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Cordial and Sanguine, Part 63: From the Unthinking Depths

[cross-posted at BHL]

Mike Munger maintains that libertarians should stop being “reflexively opposed to government”; should recognise that “in some instances, it is possible that the State is useful for advancing liberty”; and should give “empirical claims about consequences … a central place in the debate.” But he warns that this will require libertarians to “actually … think about stuff,” a requirement that he suggests will be unwelcome to his “Austrian colleagues.”

As one of his unthinking Austrian colleagues, let me offer three points in rebuttal:

1. The state is anti-liberty (and anti-equality) not just in its consequences but also inherently. After all, the state is by definition a violent monopolist. This isn’t some eccentric definition that libertarians came up with; this definition, or some variant thereof, is the standard mainstream sociological account. If the state claims for itself certain rights of action that it forcibly denies to others, then freedom of competition and equality of legal status are already curtailed in virtue of that fact alone, regardless of what further consequences this institution has.

2. As regards the state’s consequences, however, the Austrian tradition has never opposed empirical research. The traditional Austrian position (not universally accepted even among Austrians, however) is that the principles of economics – what Misesians call the province of praxeology – are a priori rather than empirical. (I defend this position here.) But the application of those principles to particular contingent circumstances – what Misesians call the province of thymology – has never been regarded by any Austrians as a priori. Mises and Rothbard are perfectly clear on this, as is Hayek in The Counter-revolution of Science.
Empirical methods are perfectly in order in determining which principles apply to particular situations, and where and how they do so; admittedly the Austrian conception of empirical method, with its debt to the Verstehen tradition, is somewhat broader than, say, the mere use of statistics, but it does include the latter. And in fact, accordingly, Austrians have been doing empirical work all along, as is obvious from the briefest glance at Austrian publications. (See, e.g., the archives of the QJAE and the RAE.) To suggest that Austrians have simply been sitting on their butts intoning “the state is bad, apodictically bad” and offering no evidence, is to fly in the face of … well, empirical evidence.

3. Mike closes by urging libertarians to “attract people who mistrust concentrations of power in any setting, whether corporate or governmental.” On this point I thoroughly agree with him (hence my enthusiastic support for the work of the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and for writers like Kevin A. Carson); and this is indeed an area where the Austrian tradition is sometimes (not always) lacking. But surely the way for libertarians, Austrian or otherwise, to win over those who mistrust concentrations of power both corporate and governmental is to increase our critical scrutiny of corporate power, not to relax our critical scrutiny of governmental power. After all, empirical research – including Austrian empirical research – has shown that these two forms of power are mutually reinforcing far more than they are mutually antagonistic.

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