Tag Archives | Left-Libertarian

News from Philosophy Land

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

1. The Social Philosophy and Policy Center’s latest anthology is out this month (published simultaneously as the current issue of Social Philosophy & Policy and as a stand-alone book titled Freedom, Reason, and the Polis: Essays in Ancient Greek Political Philosophy), with chapters on various aspects of the classical political tradition by Carrie-Ann Biondi, Chris Bobonich, David Keyt, Richard Kraut, André Laks, Tony Long, Fred Miller, Gerasimos Santas, Chris Shields, Allan Silverman, C. C. W. Taylor, and your humble correspondent.

detail from Rapahel's School of Athens My own contribution is an essay titled “The Classical Roots of Radical Individualism,” in which I argue that on a variety of issues, from spontaneous order and the natural harmony of interests to hypothetical-imperative ethics and moralised conceptions of law, the libertarian tradition is developing themes from classical antiquity. Among the classical thinkers I discuss are Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, and Cicero; among the libertarians I discuss are Paine, Constant, Bastiat, Spencer, Andrews, Spooner, Tucker, Mises, Hayek, Rand, and Rothbard. In short, Austro-Athenian frenzy abounds!

2. The Alabama Philosophical Society (for which I’m vice-president this year and webmaster always) will meet about a month earlier than usual this fall, September 21-22, on the Gulf; the deadline for submitting a paper is thus likewise extra-early, August 7th. The keynote speaker is my old friend from IHS days, Andrew Melnyk. Details here. You don’t have to be an Alabamian to participate, so come on down!


Benson, Borders, and Barsoom

A Princess of Mars Three pretty much unrelated items:

  • Online excerpts from the opening chapters of The Enterprise of Law, Bruce Benson’s classic study of nonstate legal systems, are now available on the Mises site.
  • Robert Dunn argues that declining Mexican fertility rates make illegal immigration only a temporary problem. (Conical hat tip to Tom Ford.) I have no idea if he’s right (and I don’t regard illegal immigration per se as a “problem” anyway), but it’s interesting.
  • If you’re a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom stories, you might enjoy this screenplay for A Princess of Mars. No, this isn’t the screenplay for the John Carter flick that’s been flailing around in purgatory for the past few years; this version isn’t attached to any actual film project. But we can imagine ….

Veblen on Iceland

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

A friendly Icelander Check out Thorstein Veblen on Icelandic anarchy; conical hat tip to Joel Schlosberg, who sent it to me with the following note:

Here’s an interesting passage from Thorstein Veblen’s 1917 book An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Peace And The Terms Of Its Perpetuation, chapter 1, pp. 9-14 (available at Project Gutenberg at <http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20694> – in fact, I came across this passage while proofing the book for PG at Distributed Proofreaders). Even though he’s hostile to it and sees it as a failure, he describes it pretty clearly – just to prove that Icelandic anarchy wasn’t the wishful thinking of modern anarcho-capitalists.


Legislator Cheney

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Dick Cheney’s claim that he is not part of the executive branch is silly, but his argument for that conclusion is worth addressing.

Dick Cheney Cheney claims that the Vice-Presidency is unique in embodying both executive and legislative functions (the latter being his Presidency of the Senate with the right to cast tie-breaking votes), thus belonging strictly to neither branch.

What’s wrong with this argument is that there’s nothing unique about the Vice-Presidency in this respect. The President, for example, has the right to veto legislation; why doesn’t that count as his likewise exercising a legislative function? The President also appoints the members of the Supreme Court; does this mean he exercises judicial functions too? Of course the Senate can nix the President’s judicial appointments (thus likewise exercising judicial functions?), as well as nixing, e.g., his Cabinet appointments (thus taking over executive functions?). Congress can also impeach the President (thereby intruding into both the executive and judicial spheres?). The Supreme Court for its part can strike down unconstitutional legislation (thus exercising a legislative function?). And so on. If the Vice-President is not part of the executive branch, then by the same logic the President is not part of the executive, Congress is not part of the legislative, and the Supreme Court is not part of the judicial. Which seems rather a reductio ad absurdum.

The point of all these overlapping exercises of powers is checks and balances, a concept with which Cheney is evidently unfamiliar. Each branch of government is given some voice in the operation of the other two, in order to prevent any one branch from exercising unchecked power. While the Constitution’s version of checks and balances is of course inferior to that found under anarchy, it’s still preferable to complete consolidation. Cheney is trying to use his particular example of overlap to frustrate checks and balances, thus turning it to the opposite of its actual function.


A Show of Hands

According to this guy who was on The Colbert Report tonight, straight men and gay women are more likely to haveMichelangelo's hands ring fingers longer than index fingers, while gay men and straight women are more likely to have index fingers longer than ring fingers. Result: I have gay hands!

Since, according to so many religious conservatives (see, e.g., here and here), we’re supposed to let our bodily parts define our moral obligations, does this mean I’m now morally obligated to become gay?


Spooner Article Resurrected

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

Lysander Spooner was the foremost legal theorist of the 19th-century American individualist anarchist movement. His 1882 open letter to Senator Bayard is fairly well-known among Spooner fans; but an 1884 sequel, A Second Letter to Thomas F. Bayard, which originally Lysander Spooner appeared in Benjamin Tucker’s anarchist journal Liberty, is much more obscure; it was omitted (like most of Spooner’s periodical work) from the Collected Works, and indeed has never (so far as I can determine) been reprinted anywhere else. Now at last I am happy to announce that it is available in the Molinari Institute online library.

I can’t claim that this is one of Spooner’s more important works. Apart from a more than usually irascible tone, it contains little that isn’t already covered in the first letter, or still more fully in other works such as No Treason or Natural Law or the Letter to Grover Cleveland. But hey, it’s Spooner.

And speaking of material from Tucker’s Liberty, hurray for Shawn Wilbur! He’s been scanning issues of Liberty (including the one containing this Spooner piece) and placing the PDFs online. Check out what he’s got so far.


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