Tag Archives | Left-Libertarian

Economic Inequality: Three Takes

[cross-posted at BHL and POT]

In June 1963, when Nathaniel Branden published a piece on “Inherited Wealth” in The Objectivist Newsletter, he was still the beloved disciple of Ayn Rand, who reprinted his piece in her 1966 collection Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and continued to include it in subsequent editions despite her break with Branden in 1968. As Rand famously did not allow opinions deviating even in the slightest from her own to appear in journals or books that she edited, we can assume Branden speaks for Rand when he writes:

A free, competitive economy is a constant process of improvement, innovation, progress; it does not tolerate stagnation. If an heir who lacks ability acquires a fortune and a great industrial establishment from his successful father, he will not be able to maintain it for long; he will not be equal to the competition. In a free economy, where bureaucrats and legislators would not have the power to sell or grant economic favors, all of the heir’s money would not be able to buy him protection for his incompetence; he would have to be good at his work or lose his customers to companies run by men of superior ability. There is nothing as vulnerable as a large, mismanaged company that competes with small, efficient ones. …

It is a mixed economy – such as the semi-socialist or semi-fascist variety we have today – that protects the nonproductive rich by freezing a society on a given level of development, by freezing people into classes and castes and making it increasingly more difficult for men to rise or fall or move from one caste to another; so that whoever inherited a fortune before the freeze, can keep it with little fear of competition, like an heir in a feudal society.

Here Branden, and by presumption Rand, are endorsing a crucial part of the left-libertarian idea of competition as a levelling force. The quotation makes an interesting pairing with a remark of Murray Rothbard’s in a 1966 letter:

For some time I have come to the conclusion that the grave deficiency in the current output and thinking of our libertarians and “classical liberals” is an enormous blind spot when it comes to big business. There is a tendency to worship Big Business per se … and a corollary tendency to fail to realize that while big business would indeed merit praise if they won that bigness on the purely free market, that in the contemporary world of total neo-mercantilism and what is essentially a neo-fascist “corporate state,” bigness is a priori highly suspect, because Big Business most likely got that way through an intricate and decisive network of subsidies, privileges, and direct and indirect grants of monopoly protection.

Yet if Rand, Branden, and Rothbard all accepted this crucial aspect of left-libertarian analysis, then a) where did Rothbard depart from Rand and Branden, and b) where did all three depart from left-libertarianism as we understand it today? (On the specific issue of economic inequality, I mean – not getting into the various other areas of disagreement.)

A crucial difference dividing Rothbard from Rand and Branden is that Rand and Branden do not seem to fully recognise the implication of their insight that under present circumstances the “unproductive rich” can maintain their position “with little fear of competition.” If they did, they’d have to agree with Rothbard that “bigness is a priori highly suspect” in the present-day economy, given the likelihood that it is the product of “subsidies, privileges, and direct and indirect grants of monopoly protection.” Rand, by contrast, famously declared big business a “persecuted minority,” a formulation ridiculed by Rothbard. While endorsing the premise that government controls insulate the rich from competition and make it difficult for newcomers to rise up, Rand fails to draw the logical conclusion that any firms that do manage to become enormously wealthy in the present-day economy are in most cases likely to have achieved their status at least in large part via government favoritism, and so are proper objects of suspicion, not celebration and defense.

Thus Rothbard is more consistent on this point than Rand and Branden, and so is closer to left-libertarianism. This is presumably in part because he had read and embraced the New Left historical discoveries, by thinkers like Gabriel Kolko, James Weinstein, and William Appleman Williams, of the actual historical role of big business in American history, showing that the Gilded Age magnates that Rand idolised were indeed mostly state-supported parasites too – discoveries that Rand never showed much interest in. (Later Randians eventually got around to discovering Kolko, and responded by going on the attack; see, e.g., here and here. A left-libertarian response to the contemporary Randian critique of Kolko is forthcoming in the Molinari Review.)

Where Rothbard parts company with left-libertarianism is that his suspicion of bigness is limited; while “in the contemporary world” vast concentrations of wealth are suspect, he writes that “big business would indeed merit praise if they won that bigness on the purely free market” – which seems to imply that he thinks enormous, systematic, pervasive, and longterm economic inequalities would indeed be possible in a free market – whereas left-libertarianism denies this, since it would be difficult to sustain such inequalities if producers were free to imitate what others were doing to become rich.

Of course there are differences in talent, as in Nozick’s “Wilt Chamberlain example,” that would serve as a bar to perfect imitation. But a glance at the wealthiest firms and individuals – in popular parlance, the “one percent,” a term actually coined by left-libertarian Karl Hess – shows the persistent role of government privilege in maintaining their status; they did not get there or stay there by talent alone.

In Man, Economy, and State, Rothbard does recognise that a single large firm dominating the entire economy would be impossible in a free market, owing to its insulation from market feedback:

In order to calculate the profits and losses of each branch, a firm must be able to refer its internal operations to external markets for each of the various factors and intermediate products. When any of these external markets disappears, because all are absorbed within the province of a single firm, calculability disappears, and there is no way for the firm rationally to allocate factors to that specific area. The more these limits are encroached upon, the greater and greater will be the sphere of irrationality, and the more difficult it will be to avoid losses. One big cartel would not be able rationally to allocate producers’ goods at all and hence could not avoid severe losses.

But Rothbard does not take the further step of recognising that insulation from market feedback is a matter of degree, so that in a free market diseconomies of scale would begin to kick in well before a single firm dominated the entire market. That is why left-libertarians expect a much flatter free-market landscape than the ones envisioned by Rand, Branden, and even Rothbard.

I Never Had a Secret Chart

In 1965, Murray Rothbard described socialism (or at least state socialism) as a “confused, middle-of-the road movement” that “tries to achieve Liberal ends,” such as “freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war,” but does so “by the use of incompatible, Conservative means,” such as “statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc.”

If that’s right, and I think it broadly is, it suggests a somewhat different grid from the usual Nolan Chart:

An incompatibility between means and ends suggests, further, that the two quadrants I’ve marked in grey are unstable. Attempts to implement the program of the traditional left politically end up sliding in practice into the political right (as is evidenced by the general recognition that Kremlin hardliners were appropriately called “conservatives”); that’s why Marxist ideology can be preferable to Nazi ideology, even if there’s not much daylight between Stalin and Hitler. The Marxist vision of universal cooperation and solidarity is more congenial than the Nazi vision of superior races crushing inferior ones; but implementing the former vision through the centralised, authoritarian state tends to yield something looking more like the latter vision.

Similarly, right-libertarian attempts to uphold conservative, authoritarian goals (such as heteropatriarchy, white privilege, closed borders, hierarchical workplaces, the capitalist wage system, etc.) via free-market means are doomed to fail for the same reasons. Hence we see the breakdown of libertarian-conservative “fusionism,” the transformation of right-libertarians into alt-righters, etc. At the end of the day, as William Gillis says, “everything is philosophically unstable besides fascism and anarchism.”

Spooner Volumes Published

[cross-posted at BHL and POT]

Phil Magness has performed a great service for the history of individualist anarchism by tracking down and publishing some of Lysander Spooner’s hardest-to-find works, in two volumes:

Two Treatises on Competitive Currency and Banking

“Available for the first time in over 140 years, these two ‘lost’ treatises [What Is a Dollar? and Financial Imposters I-IV] by libertarian legal philosopher Lysander Spooner present his vision for a radically decentralized monetary system rooted in privately issued competitive currencies and free-banking. …

Once presumed to have been destroyed in a turn-of-the-century fire, these writings contain Spooner’s most extensive foray into economic theory and reveal new insights into his distinctive and uncompromising free-market vision. …

Spooner’s articulated theory of radically decentralized competitive currencies might be seen as something of an intellectual grandfather to the rise of cryptocurrency in the present day.”

Public Letters and Political Essays

“This collection brings together the political writings and short essays of Lysander Spooner for the first time in a single volume. Spooner’s editorials span topics ranging from abolitionism and the Civil War, to free banking and currency, to the trial of President Garfield’s assassin, to government corruption in Massachusetts during the Gilded Age – all with biting wit and an uncompromising disdain for politicians.

Containing over 40 years of newspaper editorials as well as the complete set of Spooner’s contributions to the magazine Liberty, many of these essays have been out of print for over a century. For any fan of Spooner’s political philosophy, and the idea of human liberty generally, this collection is essential reading.”

Smashing Fences and Fascists

[cross-posted at BHL and POT]

I’m excited to announce the publication of two new anthologies from C4SS (the Center for a Stateless Society): The Anatomy of Escape: A Defense of the Commons (357 pp.; buy at C4SS [$12 plus shipping] or buy at Amazon) and Fighting Fascism: Anti-fascism, Free Speech and Political Violence (479 pp.; buy at C4SS [$14 plus shipping] or buy at Amazon).

The Anatomy of Escape explores the role of common property in a market anarchist system, while Fighting Fascism features debates over the ethical, political, and strategic/tactical considerations that should inform resistance to fascist movements. (Both books include contributions by me – although my piece in the fascism volume is a bit of an outlier, as it concerns fascism in a somewhat different sense of the term from the one addressed in most of the other pieces.)

From the introduction to The Anatomy of Escape: A Defense of the Commons:

Many market anarchists – especially, though not exclusively, those associated with market anarchism’s “right” wing – tend to envision a fully free market as one in which all resources are privately owned. The essays in this book offer a different perspective: that a stateless free-market society can and should include, alongside private property, a robust role for public property – not, of course, in the sense of governmental property, but rather in the sense of property that is owned by the general community rather than by specific individuals or formally organized groups.

From the introduction to Fighting Fascism: Anti-fascism, Free Speech and Political Violence:

Anarchists are, by definition, anti-fascist. They oppose all forms of fascism just as they oppose all forms of statism, domination, and oppression. What’s left to be settled, however, is what our anti-fascist commitment entails in practice. What should our theoretical debates surrounding the nature and danger of fascist ideas imply for our practical strategies for creating the new, anti-fascist world in the shell of the old, fascist one?

More specifically, we need to understand just what fascism is and how it spreads. We need to know why fascism has any appeal at all and how to stem that appeal. We need to see how concepts like freedom of speech figure into anarchist praxis. We need to discuss what free speech is. We need to explore what constitutes mere speech and assembly and what constitutes intentionality and violence. We need to differentiate between self-defense and aggression. We need to seriously interrogate the morality and efficacy of different kinds of political violence. Most importantly, we need internally consistent ethical and strategic insights into replacing fascist ideas with anarchist ones. Failing to clarify these issues could cost us, not only our souls, but any fighting chance for anarchy left in this fragile world.

You can view the tables of contents at the links above.

And for more LWMA (left-wing market anarchist) books and other swag, check out the C4SS Store.

Expand Your Mind

[cross-posted at BHL and POT]

For Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire fans, now that the tv series is winding down, and neither the prequel tv series nor the next book will be here any time soon, the question is what to read and/or watch next. The answer a lot of people are recommending is the science-fiction epic The Expanse, which even gets frequently described (somewhat simplistically, but not entirely unreasonably) as “Game of Thones [and/or Song of Ice and Fire] in space.”

I want to add my own enthusiastic recommendation to that throng; The Expanse isn’t as popular as Game of Thrones, but it deserves to be, because it’s good in many of the same ways (complex politics viewed with a cynical eye; engaging but flawed characters; redemption arcs successful and otherwise; exciting action; willingness to kill off major characters; and a creepy menace growing on the periphery of the known world, to which the main players are initially oblivious). Moreover, while I don’t believe that the authors are either libertarians or anarchists, the series offers a great deal to interest libertarians (especially left-libertarians) and anarchists alike.

WARNING: While I’ll keep my descriptions mostly vague, some minor spoilers do follow.

The Expanse is both a series of books, and a tv series based thereon. Of the books, by James S. A. Corey (the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), eight volumes have been published, and a final ninth volume is on the way. (The authors have been setting a rather faster pace than G. R. R. Martin, averaging a book a year.) There are also a handful of short stories (thus far available only as eBooks) and a prequel comic. (These additional stories are sometimes dismissed as “optional,” but I don’t think they are; they offer vital backstory for the characters and situations in the main books. Plus they contain some of Corey’s most beautiful writing. I offer a guide to reading order below.)

The tv series ran for three seasons on SyFy before being cancelled there (less because of low viewing figures than because of what are being described as “restrictive distribution arrangements”), but it’s been renewed for a fourth season on Amazon Prime, and the first three seasons are likewise now available there. As with Game of Thrones, the authors of the books are more involved in the adaptation than is typical, and the tv series’ degree of fidelity to the books also seems to be about the same as with Game of Thrones (overall the same story and characters but with lots of smaller-scale changes).

The similarities aren’t coincidental; Ty Franck (one half of “Corey”) has worked as an assistant to Martin, and the series began as an RPG in which Martin was a participant. The books in particular follow a structure similar to that of Martin’s books, rotating among different viewpoint characters for different chapters (though without quite so many characters as in Song of Ice and Fire), with each book having a prologue featuring a different viewpoint character from those in any of the later chapters. Moreover, the prologue to each of the first books in each series teases the ominous-threat-from-beyond before initially leaving it behind for the later chapters.

But I don’t want to give the impression that The Expanse is just the saga of Westeros transposed to space. The Expanse is definitely its own thing, and I’d say owes less to GoT than GoT owes to, say, Dune.

While I’ve read all the (thus far extant) books and stories, I haven’t yet gotten very far into the tv series, but what I’ve seen so far is amazing. The setting, for both books and series, is a near-ish future, a couple of centuries out, in which humanity has spread through the solar system but as yet no farther, and the governments of Earth and Mars, settlers of the “outer planets” (the asteroid belt plus the gas-giant moons), and various corporate interests, rebel alliances, and black market actors are all jockeying for power and resources. Earth is an overpopulated, environmentally devastated, over-bureaucratised one-world polity whose wide but shallow welfare state (provider of basic economic assistance, known as “basic”) has ended the threat of starvation but left the bulk of its population with few opportunities, at the mercy of predatory criminal gangs and sex traffickers, and with a kind of spiritual malaise:

Time had not been kind to the city [= Baltimore]. Its coastline was a ruin of drowned buildings kept from salvage by a complexity of rights, jurisdictions, regulations, and apathy until the rising sea had all but reclaimed them for its own. … Sparrows Island stood out in the waves like a widow watching the sea for a ship that would never come home, and Federal Hill scowled back at the city across shallow, filthy water, emperor of its own abandoned land. Everywhere, all through the city, space was at a premium. Extended families lived in decaying apartments designed for half as many. Men and women who couldn’t escape the cramped space spent their days at the screens of their terminals, watching newsfeeds and dramas and pornography and living on the textured protein and enriched rice of basic. For most, their forays into crime were halfhearted, milquetoast affairs – a backroom brewer making weak, unregulated beer; a few kids stealing a neighbor’s clothes or breaking their furniture; a band of scavengers with scrounged tools harvesting metal from the buried infrastructure of the city that had been. Baltimore was Earth writ small, crowded and bored. Its citizens were caught between the dismal life of basic and the barriers of class, race, and opportunity, vicious competition and limited resources, that kept all but the most driven from a profession and actual currency. (“The Churn.”)

This age, this generation, traded its demons for the void. When I was young we were poor, and we are poor again now but differently. When I was young we were afraid to starve, to be without medicines or homes, and the teeth of it gave us meaning. Now we fear being less important than our neighbors. We lost our junkie’s need, and we don’t know what to put in its place. (“The Hunger After You’re Fed.”)

Mars, by contrast, is an independent, prosperous, somewhat militarised, regimented, and gung-ho society collectively dedicated to a multi-generation terraforming project (though some of its citizens dream of a freer lifestyle they might enjoy in their own lifetimes, elsewhere). The denizens of the outer planets, meanwhile, are a decentralised and increasingly resentful underclass who have developed a distinctive culture, language, and (thanks to low gravity) physique, and who have long been exploited by the governmental and corporate powers based on Earth or Mars – yet this oppressed region still represents a desirable frontier for Earth’s underclass yearning for a fresh start:

It was impossible to know how many unregistered men and women were eking out lives on the margin of society …. They congregated in condemned buildings and squats, traded in the gray-market economy of unlicensed services …. all breathing the same air while the plume of the orbital transport marked the sky gold and black above them. … Erich looked up at the sky with a longing he resented. … The blackness of space where merit counted more than the placement on a bureaucrat’s list, where the brothels were licensed and the prostitutes had a union, where freedom was a ship and a crew and enough work to pay for food and air. It called to him with a romance that made his heart ache. (“The Churn.”)

But all of this is background for the main focus of the series, which is precisely on the freedom of “a ship and a crew and enough work to pay for food and air” – specifically the crew of an independent (well, salvaged) (well, sort of stolen) ship called the Rocinante (named after Don Quixote’s horse – as well as, I’m guessing, after the spaceship in Rush’s Cygnus X-1 song series, as the authors are known to be Rush fans). The Rocinante’s crew of misfits, outlaws, and losers, drawn alike from Earth, Mars, and the outer planets, are thrown together by an unexpected catastrophe and initially have little in common, but over time come to bond together into a family even while they become entangled in some fairly massive conflicts and discoveries that will affect the future of all humanity. The story can be quite grim, but also at times quite funny.

With the exception of some ancient and unfathomable alien tech (which follows Clarke’s Third Law), The Expanse goes in for scientific and technological realism in a way that is rare in tv or movie science fiction (though less rare in books). Where many shows treat such details as zero-gravity and its physiological effects, or the lightspeed limit on communication and travel, or the likely inhospitability of alien ecosystems, as impediments to the plot (or, reasonably enough, the budget) – factors to ignore, work around, or drop entirely – The Expanse leans in to them, making them crucial elements of the plot.

Another thing The Expanse does well that was formerly uncommon in science fiction tv series, though it’s rather more common nowadays, is to present our future society as clearly multiracial and multicultural. Admittedly, the series (especially in the books) starts off focusing primarily on two white guys (perhaps not surprising given that the authors are likewise two white guys); but it swiftly becomes an ensemble drama with strong central roles for female characters and characters of multiple ethnicities. (The Expanse definitely features greater racial diversity in its main characters than does Game of Thrones, whose main characters are nearly all drawn from a handful of very white aristocratic families.)

Here’s a helpful video detailing both the scientific realism and the three primary power blocs of The Expanse:

While in its visual look, mournful soundtrack, flawed characters, and political conflicts the tv series is often reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica, the movies and/or tv shows it most brings to mind, for me, are Blade Runner, Alien, Firefly, and Babylon 5: Blade Runner for the noir-detective aspects; Alien and Firefly for the focus on ordinary working stiffs and/or black-market entrepreneurs hauling stuff from planet to planet on a very lived-in spaceship; Firefly and Babylon 5 for the background of interplanetary conflict; and Alien and Babylon 5 for the perilous attempts, by corporations and/or governments, to exploit and weaponise ancient alien biotechnology they’ve discovered but don’t fully understand. (The fact that one female character is a former terrorist wrestling with her past might also be a nod to Deep Space Nine.)

As for literary influences, the authors have mentioned the impact of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination and Frederik Pohl’s Heechee series; and I think I also detect nods to Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. In addition, I’m reminded of Vernor Vinge’s Fire Upon the Deep and Joan Vinge’s Heaven Chronicles, though I’m less sure they’re an influence.

There’s a popular internet theory that The Expanse takes place in the same universe as Andy Weir’s The Martian, based on the fact that one of the Martian ships mentioned in passing in the books is named the Mark Watney. But outer-planet ships named the Dagny Taggart and John Galt likewise get a mention, and nobody thinks this means that The Expanse takes place in the same universe as Atlas Shrugged. (There’s also a ship named the Andreas K, a clear homage to the late Andreas Katsulas, one of the lead actors on Babylon 5 and also an occasional guest star on various iterations of Star Trek.)

Among the various political factions portrayed, none is monolithic; each contains both sympathetic and unsympathetic characters and viewpoints (and those individual characters themselves tend to be a mixture of sympathetic and unsympathetic traits, although there are always a few who are just unredeemable assholes). The authors, while fairly even-handed, clearly favour the O.P.A. (Outer Planets Alliance, the asteroid-belt group resisting centralised control from Earth or Mars) a bit more than the other factions; but the O.P.A. (or certain sub-factions within it, anyway) are also responsible for some of the series’ worst acts of terrorism, and the story’s main protagonists (the crew of the Rocinante), while they’re willing to work with each of the major factions when necessary, prefer to remain independent of any of them so far as possible.

The O.P.A. rebels are likewise politically diverse. Some are described as devotees of “neo-Libertarian property theory” and the idea that “taxation is theft”; but others seem more traditionally left-wing, and in any case most of them certainly show no rigid attachment to the nonaggression principle. The O.P.A. symbol, described rather vaguely as a “split circle” in the books (possibly intended to be a circle representing the solar system, bisected by a line representing the asteroid belt, although this is never made explicit), is made to look more like the anarchy symbol (or even the ALL symbol!) in the tv series:

and there’s also a version floating around on the internet that is even more clearly the anarchy symbol, though I can’t recall seeing this version on the show itself so far:

The O.P.A. does not seem to be an anarchist organisation, however; at least the main, “respectable” faction within the O.P.A. is trying to become a government (though not all of the other O.P.A. factions are on board). Interestingly, Ty Franck himself can be seen wearing an anarchy version of the O.P.A. symbol in this video:

While the books don’t offer clear support to any one political ideology, there are two political morals that get repeatedly stressed. One is that highly centralised authority is generally likely to be a bad idea. The other is that while collateral damage may sometimes be necessary, if you find that the political and/or military objective you’re committed to requires a whole lot of collateral damage, you probably need to find a different objective; or, more briefly, that humanity trumps politics.

One can also find such anarchist-friendly insights in the books as these:

“There has to be a way to come to a final decision.”
“No, there doesn’t. Every time someone starts talking about final anythings in politics, that means the atrocities are warming up. Humanity has done amazing things by just muddling through, arguing and complaining and fighting and negotiating. It’s messy and undignified, but it’s when we’re at our best ….” (Persepolis Rising, p. 394.)

“Governments exist on confidence. Not on liberty. Not on righteousness. Not on force. They exist because people believe they do. Because they don’t ask questions.” (Tiamat’s Wrath, p. 357.)

There’s also a major plot point in the books that turns explicitly (and I mean explicitly, with the standard grid reproduced and everything) on the question of whether iterated prisoner’s dilemma situations can still be relied on to produce cooperation when the impact one side can make by defecting is massively greater than that of the other, as in puny humans versus incomprehensibly powerful alien juggernauts. (I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that the answer turns out to be a very Humean “not so much,” given that the likely outcome is foreseen well ahead of time by every character whose head is not inserted in his or her ass.)

An interesting feature of the books’ titles is that each contains some mythological or historical or literary metaphor that is never referenced in the actual books themselves. For example, Persepolis Rising implicitly compares one of the books’ factions to the ancient Persian Empire, but in the books that faction is instead named “Laconia,” after ancient Sparta, and no Persian analogy is mentioned. (While the historical Spartan and Persian systems were politically very different from each other, and of course were also enemies, both comparisons make sense in context.)

The Books (and short stories):

Below I list the short story “The Hunger After You’re Fed” as part of the series, even though it’s not quite officially so; the authors have described it as “almost … a prequel” to The Expanse. But it coheres well with the overall series, it’s haunting and thought-provoking, and it sheds light on the workings and effects – both positive and negative – of the future Earth’s universal basic economic assistance policy that’s part of the background of the rest of the series. Plus, appropriately to its subject matter, it’s free!

Publication order:

Diegetic chronological order:

My recommended reading order:

The TV Series (so far):

And finally, some videos to give a flavour of the series:

Vernal Venturings

Two weeks ago I was in New Orleans for the PPE conference. I gave a talk at a panel on self-ownership, and moderated two panels I’d organised, one on anarchist legal theory (with [a subset of] the Molinari/C4SS gang), and one on race and social construction. We discovered a great 24-hour Middle Eastern restaurant, Cleo’s (the new one on Decatur, not the old one-inside-a-grocery on Canal).

Last week, back in Auburn, I attended our department’s 11th annual philosophy conference, this one on explanation and idealisation in science. During Q&A I rode my precisive/non-precisive hobbyhorse as usual.

Right now I’m in San Diego for the WPSA, where I’ll be presenting my Shakespeare/Godwin/Kafka talk. Yesterday I stopped by the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore and bought volumes 6 and 7 in the Expanse series (which I’ll be blogging about in due course; just for now I’ll say: it’s good, read it). Had a delicious farfalle al salmone last night at a sidewalk table at Buon Appetito in Little Italy, and enjoyed an omelette-and-bagel breakfast this morning at Harbor Breakfast to the sound of great jazz songs old and new. (I’ve also been violating the laws of physics, because why not?)

(The day before catching my plane from Atlanta to San Diego, I’d planned to drive up early, go to a bookstore in Atlanta, have a leisurely dinner, and then spend the night at a hotel. But the threat of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and two-inch hailstones kept me in Auburn until the evening when the forecast expired, so by the time I got to Atlanta there was time only for a quick bite at the 24-hour Waffle House across from the hotel.)

Next week I’m off to Prague, where I’ll be giving a workshop on praxeology at the CEVRO Institute, and then presenting a slightly revised version of my Čapek/Kafka/Hašek talk (yes, more Kafka!) at the PCPE. (The revision is a very slightly fuller discussion of my suggestion that Kafka’s bureaucratic nightmares are intended to be read at two levels – a political level, where they’re condemned, and a theological level, where they’re not. There’ll be a print version eventually, inshallah.)

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