Archive | March 23, 2007

Smoke and Mirrors

According to Wikipedia:

When Katee [Sackhoff, who plays “Starbuck”] decided to quit smoking just before shooting started for Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica, the writers for the show decided to have her character also stop smoking. Both were in response to fan mail from young girls who said they wanted to be just like Starbuck when they grew up.

Oh please. Now it’d be great if these girls grew up to emulate Starbuck’s positive qualities while avoiding her negative ones. Starbuck smokingBut as far as the latter go, does anyone think smoking is anywhere near the top of the list of Starbuck’s self-destructive traits? Ahead of the binge-drinking, moody surliness, picking pointless fights, taking needless risks, wrecking all her personal relationships, etc., etc.? Not to mention deliberately crashing her ship in what looked like suicide a couple of episodes ago?

In fact nearly all the characters on Galactica, despite their many virtues, are self-destructive or otherwise seriously screwed-up; that’s part of what makes the drama so compelling. For that matter, the cylons on the show commit suicide as a handy form of transportation (Sharon) or enlightenment (D’Anna)! If the show’s writers were really to suppress all depiction of behaviour whose emulation might be inadvisable, they’d have to wreck the entire show. So why single out smoking, apart from its being politically correct to do so? (I’m reminded of when Marvel Comics decided to make Wolverine give up smoking, lest impressionable youngsters take him as a role model. Wolverine still leaps into fights and slashes away at people with sharp steel claws built into his knucklebones, however.)

In any case, I vaguely recall seeing an interview where Sackhoff said the reason her character gave up smoking cigars (which is the only thing I can recall the character smoking) is that Sackhoff herself has never liked cigars. So I have my doubts about the whole story!

Sometimes giving up a cigar is just giving up a cigar.

Anarchy Among the Austrians

As aforementioned, I spent last weekend at the Austrian Scholars Conference. Here’s a list of some of the presentations most likely to be of interest to readers of this blog:

  • Irish anarchy Irish philosopher Gerard Casey argued that recent historical research has largely confirmed Joseph Peden’s theses (see here and here) concerning the stateless or near-stateless character of ancient and medieval Ireland.
  • Those who admit that stateless legal mechanisms might work for small tribes often deny that they could be effective in an advanced economy; Ed Stringham countered this objection by explaining how various sophisticated financial transactions in 17th-century Amsterdam received no protection from the state but nevertheless secured compliance via reputation effects.
  • Vedran Vuk presented a paper detailing how a free-market military defense might operate, and in particular how it could avoid the free-rider problem.
  • Gil Guillory presented a plausible and attractive business model for a private security agency.
  • Gerrit Smith Geoff Plauché defended Aristotelean liberalism, whatever that is.
  • Laurence Vance lectured on the libertarian ideas of Gerrit Smith, the 19th-century abolitionist, feminist, free-trader, and land reformer. (Laurence has also reprinted one of Smith’s books, The True Office of Civil Government; go to this page and scroll down to no. 123.)
  • Tom Woods lectured on the significance for Austro-libertarians of the work of Seymour Melman, New Left critic of the military-industrial complex.
  • Tom also described a forthcoming posthumous book by Murray Rothbard, Betrayal of the American Right, which apparently is as much an autobiography as it is a critique of the increased sidelining of libertarian ideas in the 20th century conservative movement.
  • Joe Salerno argued that Lionel Robbins’ classic quasi-praxeological 1932 Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (1st edition here; 2nd edition here) was not only influenced by Ludwig von Mises but, more controversially, was also an influence on Mises.

A few of these talks are online as audio files here.

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