More Spencer Nonsense

A recent New York Times article (conical hat tip to Sheldon Richman) repeated the usual guff about Herbert Spencer. I just sent in the following response:

[I just saw that the NYT won’t publish letters previously published, so check back here later.]

[Addendum: Okay it’s later.]


Everything You Need to Know About Comics

Bat Signal 1. Batman got his powers (including his special “batty sense”) through being bitten by a radioactive bat.

2. Robin got his powers through being bitten by a radioactive robin.

3. Man-Bat was a bat who got his powers through being bitten by a radioactive man.

4. Black Canary was a canary who got her powers through being bitten by a radioactive black person.

5. Green Lantern was a lantern that got its powers through being bitten by a radioactive environmentalist.


Ron Paul in the Debate

Those of my readers who didn’t catch tonight’s Republican candidates’ debate may be wondering what Ron Paul said. I imagine there’ll be a transcript online soon, but in the meantime here’s a quick summary. (Keep in mind that with ten candidates on the stage, each answer could only be a few seconds.)

1. (For Paul specifically.) Paul was asked to explain why his fellow Republicans are wrong on the war. Noting that 70% of the American people also oppose the war, Paul said that noninterventionism was the traditional American position; that it had worked politically for Republicans with Eisenhower ending the Korean War, Nixon ending the Vietnam War, and Bush defending a humble, anti-nation-building foreign policy; and that if the country does go to war it should be with a Constitutionally-mandated declaration of war and not for political reasons.

Ron Paul 2. (For everyone.) Should the Constitution be amended to allow non-native-born citizens to be President? No.

3. (For Paul specifically.) Should the IRS be phased out? Yes, immediately; and to do it we need to cut back on spending and policy; no more policing the world.

4. (For everyone.) Should Roe v. Wade be repealed? Yes.

5. (For Paul specifically.) How can the small-government Goldwater side of conservatism be reconciled with its big-government aspects? Paul said we need to be consistently pro-liberty and that overdoing military aggressiveness actually weakens our national defense; we won the Cold War but now we’re worried about third-world countries with no real military.

6. (For Paul specifically.) Do you have any experience making important decisions in crucial situations? Paul said yes, but in medicine more than in politics; his most important political decision has been opposing the war.

7. (For everyone.) What’s your stand on stem cell research? Paul said this is one of the many areas where people think the federal government should either prohibit it or subsidise it, but the Constitution authorises neither.

8. (For everyone.) Name a tax you’d repeal. Paul said since he’d already repealed the income tax he’d now focus on the inflation tax: by increasing the money supply the government transfers money from the poor and middle class to Wall Street; the solution is sound money.

9. (For everyone.) Do you believe in evolution? This was by show of hands, and I couldn’t see whether Paul was one of the ones who raised his hand no or not.

10. (For Paul specifically.) Do you trust the mainstream media? Paul said he trusted some of them but trusted the internet more, and that government should not interfere at all with the internet or with freedom of expression generally.

11. (For everyone.) Do you favour a national ID card? Paul opposed it as inconsistent with a free society; the government is supposed to protect our privacy from itself and not vice versa.

12. (For everyone.) Should Scooter Libby be pardoned? No; he was instrumental in the campaign of misinformation that led to war.

13. (For everyone.) In the Terri Schiavo case, should Congress have acted or let the family decide? Although this question was for everyone, responses were cut off before Paul had a chance to answer.

14. (For everyone.) Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back in the White House? Paul said no, he voted to impeach him the first time.

15. (For everyone.) I missed what this question was, but it seemed to be about what further general policies the candidates would follow as president. Paul said he favoured the traditional noninterventionist foreign policy of Robert Taft; that he would protect privacy and oppose warrantless searches; and that he would oppose any violation of habeas corpus.

The best one-liner of the night, albeit unintentionally so, was from John McCain, who said (with regard to hunting down bin Laden): “I will follow him to the gates of Hell.” I believe it – and they’ll walk in together.


Freeing Slaves and Healing the Sic

In an 1820 letter, English libertarian anarchist Thomas Hodgskin, arguing that economic prosperity and equity depend more crucially on the freedom of labour than on material resources, wrote the following sentence (quoted in Élie Halévy’s book on Hodgskin, p. 78 of the English version):

No circumstances of soil, capital nor ingenuity will ever make the distribution of wealth the same in the United States of America in which slavery is unknown and in our Empire in India.

Evidently taking this passage to make the bizarre assertion that slavery did not exist in the United States in the year 1820, the editor (not Halévy, whose French version leaves the passage as is, but his English translator, A. J. Taylor) has inserted a “sic” in brackets after the phrase “in the United States of America in which slavery is unknown.”

Broken chains In fact this is one of my pet peeves, a false sic. There is nothing wrong with the sentence; contrary to appearances, it does not make the bizarre assertion it appears to make.

Why not? The answer is one that libertarians in particular should appreciate. Hodgskin was writing at a time when the term “the United States of America” was a plural name and not a singular one, applied to a collection of sovereign states joined in federation and not to a unitary, consolidated nation. Thus the phrase “the United States of America in which slavery is unknown” refers not to the entire entity known as the USA but to that subset of states in the USA that had abolished slavery; the “which” is thus restrictive.

As I noted above, there is no sic in Halévy’s French text. That’s because Halévy understood Hodgskin’s phrase perfectly, rendering it into French as “dans ceux des États-Unis d’Amérique où l’esclavage est inconnu” – “in those of the United States of America in which slavery is unknown.”


Three Bad Things in Decreasing Order of Importance, Followed By a Good Thing

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Your tax dollars at work Who are those guys in Guantanamo, and what awful crimes have they committed, really? Check out these interviews: audio here, transcript here. (Conical hat tip to Reed Richter.)

Apparently President Bush was a sex slave during World War II. At any rate, he has accepted the Japanese government’s apology for the treatment of wartime sex slaves, which he could hardly have done had he not been one …. (Conical hat tip to Elizabeth Brake.)

Tom Sawyer’s Island is one of my favourite parts of Disneyland; it’s a nice break from the rest of the park, inasmuch as it has no rides or special effects, just places to play and wander. Well, apparently Disneyland is about to ruin it.

On a brighter note, portions of a lost work by Alexander of Aphrodisias, the foremost ancient commentator on Aristotle and a pretty smart thinker himself (his book On Fate rocks), have been discovered. (Conical hat tip to LRC.)


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes