Archive | June 17, 2008

Subversive Signage

Anyone who’s planning to protest the Democratic and/or Republican conventions and is looking for a poster slogan is welcome to this one:

Abolish the Presidency

Or a talkier one, if you prefer:

Abolish the Presidency - Grown-Ups Don't Need A President

Of course we’re against all government, not just the presidency; but this might be an interesting conversation-starter (and, to borrow a beloved phrase of the gun-control crowd, a “reasonable first step”). And if people ask you “But without a president, who would run the country?” the very fact that people say things like that is yet another argument for abolishing the presidency.

Sudha Shenoy R.I.P.

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

Sudha Shenoy preparing to rip your argument to shreds I was very sad to learn of Sudha Shenoy’s death [see here and here]. I didn’t know her well, but we spoke a few times at Mises Institute events (or on the Atlanta airport shuttle) and interacted on the L&P blog. She was a terrific economic historian, a radical libertarian, an inexhaustible fount of information (ask her a question and she would reply with a meticulous bibliography), with a witty and incisive mind disinclined to let b.s. pass unscathed.

In particular, I owe to Sudha the two following bits of information about her mentor Hayek:

1. Late in life Hayek once said that if he were younger, he would be a free-market anarchist.

2. Trusting Hayek’s notoriously unreliable memory, most writers have taken at face value his claim that he was never Mises’ student in the official sense, i.e., never enrolled in his university courses. But Sudha pointed out to me that Hayek’s grade book (reproduced on p. 13 of John Raybould’s Hayek: A Commemorative Album) bears the signatures of his professors, including Mises.

Sous les Pavés, la Plage!

Orange Beach The Alabama Philosophical Society will be meeting in Orange Beach, September 26-27. For information about paper submissions, hotel registration, or the undergraduate essay contest, see the website.

Get Your Hands Off My Spencer!

Herbert Spencer and Jonah Goldberg Joel Schlosberg tells me I’m cited in Jonah Goldberg’s one-sided screed Liberal Fascism (a book that, I gather, quite correctly points out the fascist aspects of the statist left but studiously ignores those of the statist right). Apparently Goldberg has some kind words for Herbert Spencer on pp. 257-8:

Herbert Spencer, the supposed founder of social Darwinism, was singled out as the poster boy for all that was wrong with classical liberalism. Spencer was indeed a Darwinist – he coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” – but his interpretation of evolutionary theory reinforced his view that people should be left alone. In almost every sense, Spencer was a good – albeit classical – liberal: he championed charity, women’s suffrage, and civil liberties. But he was the incarnation of all that was backward, reactionary, and wrong according to the progressive worldview, not because he supported Hitlerian schemes of forced race hygiene but because he adamantly opposed them. To this day it is de rigeur among liberal intellectuals and historians to take potshots at Spencer as the philosophical wellspring of racism, right-wing “greed,” and even the Holocaust.

And then there’s a footnote to my LRC article “Herbert Spencer: The Defamation Continues.”

I’m glad Goldberg likes Spencer, I guess; but I’m not sure why he does. As a cheerleader for war, censorship, colonialism, torture, and dictatorship, and an inveterate foe of libertarianism (incidentally, the libertarian he refers to in that last article was my student), Goldberg ought to hate everything Spencer stood for.

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