Archive | August, 2010

Three Shalt Thou Count

The debates in the comments section of my Koch post have gotten me thinking about the different ways in which vulgar libertarianism operates. I think there are three.

Big Business

1) First, there’s the use of libertarian slogans as mere rhetorical covering for corporatist policies. This kind of vulgar libertarianism is standard Republican territory, and in this case “vulgar” acts as an alienating adjective (scroll halfway down); this sort of vulgar libertarianism is not libertarianism at all, any more than counterfeit money is money, a decoy duck is a duck, or a fake Rembrandt is a Rembrandt.

2) Next, there’s the mistake of thinking that libertarian principles justify various big-business-favourable features of the present economy that are actually the result of government privilege rather than market factors (or are so to a greater degree than is realised). This mistake is often made by people who sincerely advocate libertarian policies that would in fact (if we left-libertarians are right) undermine big business more than such advocates realise – and who would continue to advocate them even if they realised this. In this kind of vulgar libertarianism, “vulgar” isn’t alienating; the policies being advocated are genuinely libertarian, but those advocating them have blundered into making their product look less appealing (to ordinary people) than it actually is. In such cases vulgar libertarianism is less like a decoy duck than like a sick duck.

3) The third kind of vulgar libertarianism is a bit more complex. Here the problem is that even if one is advocating the right policies, mistaken views about the likely results of those policies can lead one into mistakes about what counts as a reasonable transitional step toward liberty. For example, suppose that I overestimate the extent to which Megacorp’s success is due to market factors rather than government privilege, and so I mistakenly predict that Megacorp will do much better in a freed market than it is doing now (whereas in fact it would do much worse) . Then I will tend to regard a policy that greatly lowers Megacorp’s tax burden without much lowering anyone else’s as a step in the right direction, and will be inclined to advocate it – whereas if I recognised the extent to which Megacorp is the beneficiary of direct and indirect subsidies at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, I might instead regard the policy as an increased subsidy. Thus conflationist beliefs lead to corporatist practice. (This would be an instance of application thickness.) By contrast with case (2), then, I end up endorsing objectively corporatist policies in addition to libertarian ones; though in contrast with case (1) the libertarian commitments remain sincere. Here the duck is so sick that it’s starting to mutate; how mutated the duck has to get before it no longer counts as a duck is a tricky question.

The boundaries among these three varieties aren’t hard and fast; perhaps they’re best thought of as regions of a spectrum, with (1) and (2) at opposite ends and (3) in the middle. Part of what I’ve been arguing in the Koch case is that it’s a mistake to infer from the Kochs’ not being at (2) that they must be at (1); I find a position closer to (3) at least as plausible a reading, especially given Charles Koch’s declaration that his recent activism is driven by a desire to see some concrete social change in his lifetime. (Admittedly, to the extent that the Kochs’ own economic interests have helped smooth their path from (2) to (3), their (3)-ness may be classified as a bit further toward (1) than would otherwise be the case.) I also find (3) a plausible diagnosis of some libertarian anti-immigration arguments.

Alabama Philosophical Events, Past and Future

Pensacola Gulf Front Hotel

Pensacola Gulf Front Hotel

The schedule for next month’s Alabama Philosophical Society in Pensacola (which looks to be our biggest yet) is now online. Abstracts will be added later.

Auburn University

Auburn University

(I had planned to present a paper on the extent to which the Problem of Good, i.e. of reconciling the existence of goodness with the universe’s having been created by an all-powerful malevolent being, is symmetrical with the traditional Problem of Evil, but then I discovered that more work had been done in this area than I’d realised, and that what I had to add wasn’t sufficiently original, so at the last minute I recycled my piece on Godwin instead.)

Also online is a pair of talks that Kelly Jolley and I gave back in 2002 at an Auburn Philosophical Society roundtable on the subject of The Idea of the University.

C4SS Appeal

Guest Blogs by Brad Spangler and Kevin Carson

PLAN B: Okay, It’s Time to Panic

by Brad Spangler

Dear Supporters of the Center for a Stateless Society,

I blame myself.

When we launched the month-plus long fundraising drive for combined July and August expenses two weeks ago, I tried to convey that because it was for two months worth of expenses (and that those particular months were ones with growing expenses), it was going to be a challenge.

I was right, but I should have been working harder to explain that, again and again, to you over the past two weeks.

Right now, the ChipIn fundraising meter shows only $489 (from only 8 donors) raised out of our goal of $4522. That’s 10% of our total goal raised with the drive almost 50% over with.

Center for a Stateless Society

Because it’s a double-month fundraiser, all of the donations can’t wait until the last minute. We have July expenses to pay now. It’s the 27th of August. We need roughly $600 more than what we even have on hand right now to meet our July payroll.

In the next two days, over the course of this weekend, can we get that fundraising meter up to $1100 mark to pay our people for July?

Between that point and September 17th, can we get the fundraisjng meter up to our $4522 goal?

I’m not betting on it. I’m panicking. I don’t want to ask to much of you. I know times are tough. I’m slashing expenses.

It’s time for PLAN B.

  • I’ve reviewed our finances and found where the expense for Liberty on Tour advertising was already covered by a direct donation. That money could have gone into funding the tiny reserve we’ve been trying to scrape up, which we’re going to need this Autumn, but we’re going to be tapping our existing reserve instead right now. $500 slashed.

  • That September Liberty Radio Network advertising campaign? Cancelled. $620 slashed.

  • Our brand new News Analyst Stacy Litz? We just brought her onboard at the beginning of August, but I’ve had to make the painful decision to send poor Stacy on an unpaid leave of absence in September to give us some financial breathing room. I might be able to bring her back at the end of the month to do some social media work and start writing again in October, but that depends on the success of this fundraising drive.

  • Our heroic Media Coordinator Tom Knapp has pledged to donate $100 of his pay BACK to the Center just as soon as we even CAN pay him in the first place.

  • Faithful supporter and friend of the Center Jock C. has pledged to raise his ongoing monthly donation from $25 to $50 each month if ten more new people sign up for ongoing automatic donations of at least $10 each before August 31st.

Link to sign up:

There you have it. We need about $600 more dollars in the next couple of days and need to have raised a total of just over $3000 during this fundraising drive by September 17th just to squeak by (and preferably much more, as that will leave us with no reserve).

It’s crunch time, folks. We need your help to keep going and keep moving forward aggressively. Our efforts are paying off. Please see Media Coordinator Tom Knapp’s latest report here:

To donate via Paypal, just click on the ChipIn widget on any page of our web site:

Please support our work. Then get your friends to support our work.

Brad Spangler,
Director, Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS)

C4SS Still Needs Your Help

by Kevin Carson

Today C4SS director Brad Spangler posted an appeal for help. It seems the low contributions so far for the July-August fundraiser (only 10% of the target) have him in a panic. He announced plans to cut back on some projected expansions (like cancelling a Radio Liberty advertising campaign in September), and to put our new commentator Stacy Litz on unpaid leave.

Tom Knapp promised to give back $100 of his monthly media coordinator salary – which is hardly even a pittance even as it is, considering he has painstakingly compiled a distribution list of many hundreds of newspapers for submitting each and every new C4SS column. Tom’s doing the kind of stuff people get paid high professional salaries for, and I’d say his performance stacks up very well against that of the pros.

I’m not as dedicated as Tom (business has been slow at my day job, and that $425 really helps with the bills), but I’m gonna subscribe for a regular $20 contribution myself – just as soon as I get some money in the bank so the deduction doesn’t bounce (hint, hint). And contributor Jock C. has promised to up his monthly contribution from $25 to $50 if ten more people sign up for monthly contributions of $10 or more.
Center for a Stateless Society

Now that we seem to be hitting a wall for the time being in terms of limits on our expansion, it would be really great if the monthly subscriber base started catching up with our budget. As it is, that $300 in monthly subscriptions is a nice cushion, as a head start toward each month’s fundraising goals. If we could meet a much larger percentage of our total budget, and smooth out the peaks and troughs a bit with dependable income, that would be even better. And it’s a lot less hassle to have a modest sum like $10 or $20 deducted from your bank account every month, and feel virtuously entitled to sit back and ignore the beg-a-thons (“I already gave at the office, thanks.”).

I’ve said this before, but if enough people subscribe, we might be able to stop these fund-raisers altogether. I’ll bet if everybody who’s ever contributed signed up for $10 or $20 a month, we’d be pretty close to fully funded on an ongoing basis. Imagine – I know, I’m repeating myself – if Jerry Lewis promised to go away forever if enough people subscribed for regular annual donations. The millions of people rushing to put their checks in the mail would probably put him over the top the next day.

Since Brad made his appeal today, the contributions have reached 28% of the goal (for which muchas gracias). That means we have enough now, at the end of August, to pay everybody for the work they did in July. Every month when we start one of these things, I wonder if I’m going to wind up writing for free a major part of the time, if we’ve finally reached the point where people have had enough of coughing up money. And I’d probably keep doing it if the money stopped coming in, as would most of us at C4SS. I may be stingier than Tom Knapp when it comes to giving back money, but I’d still probably keep writing for free.

That’s because we believe in what we’re doing. We’re not giving away prayer cloths like Benny Hinn, and we won’t heal your hemorrhoids if you put your hands on the monitor. No matter how much you contribute, we won’t help you rid yourself of alien engrams and reach a state of “clear.” All we can do is keep producing columns, research papers, radio shows and podcasts promoting the cause of human freedom. If that’s something you also believe in, and you’ve got the means to help us out, please consider doing so.

If you want to sign up for a regular monthly contribution, just click here.

Stop Gramercy Green!

Gramercy Green: tower of terror?

Gramercy Green: tower of terror?

I’m shocked to learn that NYU has a student residence hall called “Gramercy Green” (a misleadingly bucolic name for an intimidating 22-story structure) at E. 23rd St. & 3rd Ave. – just two blocks away from E. 24th St. & 2nd Ave., or “Intersection Zero,” where a student recently assaulted a taxi driver for being Muslim.

It’s remarkably insensitive toward the cabbie community for NYU to operate, so close to the site of the tragedy, a center catering to the very group responsible for causing the tragedy, namely students! That would be like having a McDonalds at Hiroshima.

NYU’s so-called Gramercy Green is less a building than it is a knife at the throat of Manhattan’s yellow rows of taxis. We demand that NYU respect our feelings by demolishing their Intersection Zero School for Assassins.

The Road to Roundabout

Hibbs coughed considerately and said, “Of course all our things came from the East, and” – and he paused, being suddenly unable to remember anything but curry; to which he was very rightly attached. He then remembered Christianity, and mentioned that too.

I’m surprised that none of the right-wing Islamophobes seems to have found his way to G. K. Chesterton’s 1914 novel The Flying Inn (read it online or buy it), the tale of an alliance between Islamic radicals and left-wing progressives to impose Shari‘a law on Britain.

G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton’s target, of course, was the progressives rather than the Muslims; rather than imagining an Islamic Menace, he was simply poking fun at progressives’ enthusiasm for paternalistic legislation in general and alcohol prohibition in particular by comparing it to the Islamic ban on alcohol. The whole book is a satire on what Hayek would later call “constructivist rationalism,” or the impulse to “straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard [i.e., the particularities of local tradition] made.”

The book is excellent fun, and I’m rather glad it hasn’t yet been pressed into the service of evil. My favourite passage occurs in the back rooms of Parliament, between Lord Ivywood, who favours prohibition, and his cousin Dorian Wimpole, who opposes it:

“It’s awfully jolly that we’ve met. I suppose you’ve come up to make a speech. I should like to hear it. We haven’t always agreed; but, by God, if there’s anything good left in literature it’s your speeches reported in a newspaper. … Do let me hear your speech! I’ve got a seat upstairs, you know.”

“If you wish it,” said Ivywood hurriedly, “but I shan’t make much of a speech to-night.” And he looked at the wall behind Wimpole’s head with thunderous wrinkles thickening on his brow. It was essential to his brilliant and rapid scheme, of course, that the Commons should make no comment at all on his little alteration in the law. …

“It’s about this public-house affair of yours, I suppose. I’d like to hear you speak on that. P’raps I’ll speak myself. I’ve been thinking about it a good deal all day, and a good deal of last night, too. Now, here’s what I should say to the House, if I were you. To begin with, can you abolish the public-house? Are you important enough now to abolish the public-house? … You will abolish ale! … The fate of the Inn is to be settled in that hot little room upstairs! Take care its fate and yours are not settled in the Inn. Take care Englishmen don’t sit in judgment on you as they do on many another corpse at an inquest – at a common public-house! Take care that the one tavern that is really neglected and shut up and passed like a house of pestilence is not the tavern in which I drink to-night, and that merely because it is the worst tavern on the King’s highway. Take care this place where we sit does not get a name like any pub where sailors are hocussed or girls debauched. That is what I shall say to them,” said he, rising cheerfully, “that’s what I shall say. …”

Lord Ivywood was observing him with a deathly quietude; another idea had come into his fertile mind. He knew his cousin, though excited, was not in the least intoxicated; he knew he was quite capable of making a speech and even a good one. He knew that any speech, good or bad, would wreck his whole plan and send the wild inn flying again. But the orator had resumed his seat and drained his glass, passing a hand across his brow. And he remembered that a man who keeps a vigil in a wood all night and drinks wine on the following evening is liable to an accident that is not drunkenness, but something much healthier.

“I suppose your speech will come on pretty soon,” said Dorian, looking at the table. “You’ll let me know when it does, of course. Really and truly, I don’t want to miss it. And I’ve forgotten all the ways here, and feel pretty tired. You’ll let me know?”

“Yes,” said Lord Ivywood.

Stillness fell along all the rooms until Lord Ivywood broke it by saying:

“Debate is a most necessary thing; but there are times when it rather impedes than assists parliamentary government.”

He received no reply. Dorian still sat as if looking at the table, but his eyelids had lightly fallen; he was asleep. Almost at the same moment the Member of Government, who was nearly asleep, appeared at the entrance of the long room and made some sort of weary signal.

Philip Ivywood raised himself on his crutch and stood for a moment looking at the sleeping man. Then he and his crutch trailed out of the long room, leaving the sleeping man behind. Nor was that the only thing that he left behind. He also left behind an unlighted cigarette and his honour and all the England of his father’s; everything that could really distinguish that high house beside the river from any tavern for the hocussing of sailors. He went upstairs and did his business in twenty minutes in the only speech he had ever delivered without any trace of eloquence. And from that hour forth he was the naked fanatic; and could feed on nothing but the future.


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