Author Archive | Roderick

Molinari Review I.2: What Lies Within?

[cross-posted at C4SS, BHL, and POT]

The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!

You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.

(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)

So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown:

  • Anarchist communists reject not only the state but the market as well, arguing that private property and market exchange are as much a source of domination as the instrumentalities of the state. In “Supplying the Demand of Liberation: Markets as a Structural Check Against Domination,” philosopher Jason Lee Byas argues, to the contrary, that individualist anarchism, precisely because of its reliance on markets and the greater plasticity they offer, satisfies the anarchist commitment to non-domination more successfully than communism does. Byas highlights the potential dangers of anarchist communists’ proposed alternatives to markets, arguing that these dangers become even more serious when the dynamics of race, gender, sexuality, and other systems of privilege and oppression are factored in, while the market process can be shown to be a powerful engine for addressing such problems.
  • The economic regulations of the American Progressive Era have long been viewed – whether with approval or with disapproval, depending on the political perspective of the viewer – as a powerful blow against big business. In the 1960s, Gabriel Kolko and other New Left historians argued, to the contrary, that the corporate elite were the major beneficiaries of these regulations – a revisionist thesis soon enthusiastically embraced and promoted (much to the dismay of Kolko himself) by a number of free-market libertarian thinkers, including Murray Rothbard and Roy Childs. In recent years, however, Roger L. Bradley Jr. and Roger Donway have argued (see here and here) that Kolko’s account of the relationship between business and the state during the Gilded Age and its aftermath was flawed by a mistaken conceptual framework and a misleading use of evidence through selective quotation of his sources; for Bradley and Donway, what Kolko made to seem like corporate support for regulation was in most cases merely a matter of corporations adapting to regulation as a form of self-defense. In “The War on Kolko,” historian Joseph R. Stromberg defends Kolko against both the charge of misinterpreting the motives of corporate leaders and the charge of distorting the textual evidence, concluding that Kolko’s work remains “quite unscathed.”
  • Is there any connection between liberty in the political sense and liberty in the sense at issue in the free will debate? John Stuart Mill, in the first sentence of his treatise On Liberty, famously replied in the negative. But in “Libertarianism and Hard Determinism,” Thomas Lafayette Bateman III and Walter E. Block argue that if a human being were “no more than a moist robot, subject completely to nature’s laws,” then political institutions to protect such an entity’s freedom of choice would be pointless, abstract principles of rights would be meaningless, and seeking to control individual behaviour through totalitarian manipulation and the judicious application of stimuli would seem optimal. Hence political libertarianism and hard determinism are incompatible; a consistent adherent of the first must reject the second.*
  • For the past thirty years, philosophers Jan Narveson and James P. Sterba have been debating whether a commitment to liberty entails welfare rights or instead rules them out. For Narveson, those who acquire property by innocent means are entitled to it, and anyone who tries to take it from them without their consent is violating their liberty; whereas for Sterba, preventing the poor from making use of the excess property of the affluent is a violation of the liberty of the poor to access resources they need, which is a more important liberty than that of the affluent to maintain control of such resources. In “Liberty vs. Welfare Rights – Continued,” Narveson marshals the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use to defend the right of the first user as more consonant with the requirements of peaceful and productive human cooperation than the right of the neediest user; in “A Response to Narveson: Why Liberty Leads to Welfare and Beyond,” Sterba argues that a more defensible formulation of the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use instead favours the neediest user over the first user.
  • In our previous issue, Gus diZerega argued that contemporary libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. The present issue features an exchange among diZerega, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and myself on these matters, with particular attention to the interpretation of Ayn Rand, in contributions titled (from Sciabarra) “Reply to Gus diZerega on His Essay, ‘Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism’,” (from diZerega) “Response to Chris Matthew Sciabarra,” and (from me) “It Ain’t Necessarily So: A Response to Gus diZerega.”

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.

* Incidentally, I welcome Walter Block’s conversion to thick libertarianism – and look forward to his explanation of why his position here doesn’t really count as thick-libertarian. 😛

Quote of the Day

[cross-posted at BHL and POT]

One of the tragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom, the land – their means of production and of life, their land was retained under the ownership of their feudal masters. The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, for under the homestead principle they had tilled the land and deserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to a host of reparations from their masters for the centuries of oppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remained in the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for the Bolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed the serfs remained unfinished.

The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but the land, the plantations that they had tilled and therefore deserved to own under the homestead principle, remained in the hands of their former masters. Furthermore, no reparations were granted the slaves for their oppression out of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition of slavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolt have remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, the great importance of the shift in Negro demands from greater welfare handouts to “reparations”, reparations for the years of slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant the Negroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist’s call for “40 acres and a mule” to the former slaves. In many cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs and descendants of the former slaves can be identified, and the reparations can become highly specific indeed.

Murray Rothbard, 1969

Anarchy in Philadelphia

[cross-posted at C4SS, BHL, and POT]

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Philadelphia, 8-11 January 2020. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
New Work in Libertarian and Anarchist Thought

G5E. Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Philadelphia 201 Hotel, 201 N. 17th St., Philadelphia PA 19103, room TBA.


Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)


Zachary Woodman (Western Michigan University), “The Implications of Philosophical Anarchism for National Identity

Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “What Is Violence?

William Nava (New York University), “The Causal Case Against Contributing to Public Goods

Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “Ayn Rand’s ‘New’ (Posthumous) Critique of Anarchism: A Counter-Critique

I Get Ink

[cross-posted at BHL, POT, and Facebook (1, 2, 3)]

A good thing just arrived by mail – a first edition of Francis Dashwood Tandy’s 1896 free-market anarchist classic Voluntary Socialism, autographed by the author. And for only $25! Usually those go for over $400, even if not autographed. I’ve grossly exploited some online bookseller, and I’m fine with that.

Full disclosure: I’d intended this as a gift (I won’t say for whom) but I’ve selfishly decided to keep it. (Tandy, as a Tuckerite egoist, would no doubt approve.)

“W. Irving Way” might be Washington Irving Way, founder of Way and Williams Publishers. (And he has an Oz connection.)

This Tandy volume is now one of my three favourite autographed-libertarian-classics-by-dead-authors in my possession. (I specify “dead authors” because if I own an autographed copy of one of YOUR works, dear reader, then naturally I cherish it far more. Possibly.)

The other two are this very pro-mercantile mediaeval-era historical novel by Isabel Paterson …

(The “John Farrar” to whom Paterson signs the book is presumably the one mentioned here.)

… and this copy of Gustave de Molinari’s book on compulsory education:

(It’s not by Napoleon III. It’s just bound together with Molinari’s book on Napoleon III, for no obvious reason. But the autograph occurs at the opening of the education book – a debate with Frederic Passy, who is incidentally useful as an answer to the trick trivia question “who was the first libertarian economist to win a Nobel Prize?” – a trick question because it wasn’t the economics prize.) (I don’t think the seller noticed it was autographed, since it’s not at the beginning.)

I can’t quite make out to whom Molinari has signed the book. First name Henry, but what is that last name? Logh?

(Sorry for title page blurring, but at least no autograph blurring.)

Vox Clamantis

Today is the 250th anniversary of the founding of Dartmouth College, and I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for its role in my life. I spent my high school years (1977-1981) in Hanover NH, and Dartmouth was an amazing and wonderful cultural presence for me during that time.

For starters, Dartmouth provided an endless variety of high-quality live performances – music, drama, dance – ranging from the ultra-traditional to the ultra-avant-garde, as well as movie showings (classic films, foreign films, a terrific Orson Welles festival, etc.) – and most at relatively low prices (generally a much better bargain than Auburn’s new Performing Arts Center offers).

But Dartmouth offered opportunities not only to spectate but to participate. I got to play the role of the Swaggering Soldier in Plautus’s Bacchides (translated by James Tatum and directed by Bill Cook; my slave was played by my high school compatriot Josh Gert, who is now also a professional philosopher, like his father and his sister), and multiple roles in the Christmas Revels – acting (I played Dr. John Brown in the Mummers’ Play), singing, and dancing.

As an Advanced French student at Hanover High School, I also had the opportunity to take Dartmouth classes in French literature (where I was introduced to such works as Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, Montaigne’s Essais, Madame de La Fayette’s La Princesse de Clèves, Racine’s Bajazet, Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, and Proust’s Un amour de Swann, as well as to Renaissance poets like Ronsard and Du Bellay, who permanently screwed up my ability to spell French correctly) and French philosophy (e.g., Sartre, Lacan, Saussure, Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, Foucault – in French! tough going!). (My French philosophy teacher accused me of intellectual dishonesty for disagreeing with Sartre, but no experience is perfect. My Renaissance poetry teacher was great, though. She also had us all over to her apartment for dinner.)

In addition, Hanover High had a hook-up to the Dartmouth main computer (two Pleistocene-era terminals with endless rolls of paper instead of screens, and a shrieking modem with a giant phone). One of my classmates, Miken Bean, taught me how to program a bit in BASIC (a language created by Dartmouth president John Kemeny), and I was soon able to get a college account allowing me to use not only the two high school terminals (with their limited hours) but various computing labs all over the Dartmouth campus, where I would spend many hours working on a D&D-style adventure game.

During most of my four years in Hanover, Dartmouth was my natural goal for college. And although in the end I was seduced away from Dartmouth by Harvard, a switch I’ve never regretted (Fight fiercely, Harvard!), my gratitude and affection toward Dartmouth remain undimmed. Happy birthday, Dartmouth!

My French classes were in the white building with green roofs, center left.

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