Saturday, March 31, 2007

I just finished Albert J. Nock's

Mr. Jefferson.

The first thing I can say about it is that it looks to me like both Nock and Jefferson were INTPs. INTPs are reclusive but friendly - or, at least disinclined to make enemies - and insatiably curious.

It's also interesting that Jefferson seems to have spent a great deal of his time fighting the centralizing tendencies of the Federal government that I mentioned a few posts back. [I seem to have forgotten to write an important sentence there. I'll have to figure out what it was, though I had other plans for my online time tonight. I can't leave that like that, it looks like I wrote it drunk. I swear I haven't had any booze but a thimble full of wine once a week (at most) in church communion since Sept. 20 last year.]

Nock wrote quite engagingly, with an obvious admiration and affection for his subject. I'll update this with some excerpts tomorrow. The book is upstairs and time is a bit short tonight.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Libertarian Justice

A la Rothbard, from Punishment and Proportionality, excerpted from chapter 13 of The Ethics of Liberty
The idea of primacy for restitution to the victim has great precedent in law; indeed, it is an ancient principle of law which has been allowed to wither away as the State has aggrandized and monopolized the institutions of justice. In medieval Ireland, for example, a king was not the head of State but rather a crime-insurer; if someone committed a crime, the first thing that happened was that the king paid the "insurance" benefit to the victim, and then proceeded to force the criminal to pay the king in turn (restitution to the victim's insurance company being completely derived from the idea of restitution to the victim).

Sounds like we could make a major improvement in that direction by adopting the Irish method and return to a mode of operation more in keeping with human nature.

Fun stuff at BPoMN.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I buy this analogy:

Imagine opening tomorrow's newspaper and reading this: "Citing all-too-frequent child abuse and neglect, Congress has proposed the Parenting Reform Act. Under the proposed law, all parents must swear that they have not 'caused unreasonable physical harm or danger' to their children. To verify compliance, all parents will be required to submit their children to a monthly full-body inspection by the new Parental Oversight Board, and account for every cut, scrape, and bruise that inspectors find. If a parent cannot prove the 'reasonableness' of any injuries to the Board's satisfaction, it could result in a loss of custody and 20 years in prison."

Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley: Sarbanes-Oxley Treats Businessmen as Guilty Until Proven Innocent, by Alex Epstein. [That's where you'll find the article when it hits their page. They make me feel so...ahead of the curve.]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

We Americans need to celebrate the Bill of Rights once a month

I'm thinking we should have First Amendment Day in January, Second Amendment Day in February, Third in March and so on through October - in which we discuss the history and meaning - the original and ongoing debates - of each of the first ten amendments. If I'm not mistaken, Constitution Day is December 15... and I believe the Bill of Rights was ratified in January. Or was it March?

If it was March, it's a good time to bring up the idea.

Tomorrow's the 26th, let's celebrate the Third Amendment. We can work on it all week.

What's the Third Amendment? Thou shalt not quarter soldiers in thy neighbor's house, I think.

Oh, here's my Constitution, "Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of War, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

The Founders had great faith in democratically elected legislators, I see. I think I like my joke version better. America has probably adhered to this one pretty well, though I don't know what the laws are on it.

I've just been mentally ruminating this idea for a while, I haven't done much research for it yet. I felt like throwing it out for discussion tonight.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

I just took an Enneagram test

at I'm mildly annoyed with them. You can't do much there without being presented with one or a dozen market surveys. I got the dozen when I tried to find out what the hell they meant when they said I my "signature color" is "brown." You don't have to take them, and I do do some online surveys now and then, but that's not what I want from Tickle. I already pay for the service.

My Enneagram is 5: The Experimenter. I present that to explain why I signed up with The Experimenter profile jibes well with my Myers-Briggs INTP status, and, frankly, doesn't tell me a helluva lot more than what I've found out about INTPs.

These are the same guys who told me my IQ is 140. Near as I can tell, that's the highest score they allow. Which is probably sensible on their part, because they don't ask hard enough questions to determine a higher score. So if you ace it, you get 140.

Then they advised me to work on my EQ if I want to be the sort of successful person who doesn't feel the need to pay for online psych test. [All right, I added that last part.]

They also told me I should work outdoors. That's the one I paid for, and the most useful one.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Here's an analysis I haven't heard.

[Don't mind the quote of a quote of a quote.]
Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism
by Sheldon Richman
While Ekirch writes glowingly of the rise of liberalism in colonial America (without ignoring the contradictions of chattel slavery and the oppression of Indians), he underscores a "shift in emphasis" that occurred during the Revolution with its "encroachment of a new spirit of nationalism and Americanism upon the older, local frontiers of colonial days. He quotes historian Vernon L. Parrington, who wrote that the Revolution "marked the turning point in American development; the checking of the long movement of decentralization and the beginning of a counter movement of centralization.... The history of the rise of the coercive state in America, with the ultimate arrest of all centrifugal tendencies, was implicit in that momentous counter movement."

I've heard people complain that American Consumer Culture is the natural outgrowth of The Founders' glorification of Property, but I never thought that hit the mark. Of course I think the rights of property are more important than any concept of equality and I am, apparently, uniquely untempted by the sin of envy. [Hubris, on the other hand...]

I've also heard "liberals" decry the birth of this nation in bloodshed (like that's unique), explaining our crime rates and gun-ownship by it. Missing the mark again.

No, I can see this development in history and I also lament it. Nice to have an idea where it came from.

The Veggies are a Bad Influence!

I'm teaching this song to my kids:
Part I
Oh, no, what we gonna do
The king likes Daniel more than me and you
Oh, no, what we gonna do
We've gotta get him outa here
{Repeat throughout}

Part II (after a few repetitions of Part I)
We could throw him in the dungeon
We could let him rot in jail
We could drag him to the ocean
Have him eaten by a whale
{Repeat throughout}

We could throw him in the Tigris
Let him float awhile
Then we'll all sit back and watch him meet
A hungry crocodile

We could put him on a camel's back
And send him off to Ur
With a cowboy hat without a brim
A boot without a spur

We could give him jelly doughnuts
Take them all away
Or we could fill his ears with cheese balls
And his nostrils with sorbet

We could use him as a footstool
Or a table to play Scrabble on
Then tie him up and beat him up
And throw him out of Babylon

Or! [whisper, whisper, whisper]
I like it!
It's sneaky!
And it just - might - work

We could use him as a footstool
Or a table to play Scrabble on
Then tie him up and beat him up
And throw him out of Babylon

I want these comments more closely associated with my posting of the song*:
What's the tune?
ron | Homepage | 03.23.07 - 10:33 pm | #

I was afraid somebody would ask that. Jazzy showtune is the closest I can get you. You've probably sung songs like it, Ron.

Did I not put a link to it?

I'll fix that.

[Here you go... I'll be darned! It was their first one! I had no idea! Where's God When I'm Scared. That's one heckuva first effort!]

I told Rosie and Liina that it's one of the greatest musical compositions ever.

It's got everything I like, anyway.
Old Whig | Homepage | 03.23.07 - 11:50 pm | #

All that talk about Thoreau got me called on the carpet at the Bourgeois Philistines' Union. This'll get me back in good stead.

*I mentioned in here somewhere, my fondness for the dialectical development of ideas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I read Thoreau's "Walking" while walking today

He shamed me a bit. I couldn't find any trackless forests to walk through today.

He wasn't a fan of civilisation. Probably the first great blow to my psyche was the discovery that I couldn't live without it.

Here's the link.

I believe this is where I grew up:
When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable, and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place — a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength — the marrow of Nature. The wild wood covers the virgin mould, — and the same soil is good for men and for trees. A man's health requires as many acres of meadow to his prospect as his farm does loads of muck. There are the strong meats on which he feeds. A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it, than by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township where one primitive forest waves above, while another primitive forest rots below-such a town is fitted to raise not only corn and potatoes, but poets and philosophers for the coming ages. In such a soil grew Homer and Confucius and the rest, and out of such a wilderness comes the reformer eating locusts and wild honey.

Well, perhaps your 1830s and '40s reformer more resembled John the Baptist than later incarnations do. They don't say, "Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh!" anymore. They say, "Be good now and take this medicine. It'll be good for you."

If I had read "Walking" when I was a kid, I'd still be in the woods now. When you find the paragraph with this thought,
As the wild duck is more swift and beautiful than the tame, so is the wild-the mallard-thought, which, 'mid falling dews wings its way above the fens

you be cavorting in a field of wildflowers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Don Boudreaux said

(in Break This Vile Addiction, FEE 1999),
In a free society, even people who recklessly risk self-destruction should be free to do so. (Of course, taxpayers owe such abusers neither aid nor comfort.) Not only is freedom meaningless if the government assumes the paternalistic power to protect us from ourselves, but a wise people will never trust government with that power.

This wisdom motivated Ludwig von Mises to write that “A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.” Without this tolerance for the freedom of others, no one’s freedoms are secure. As the government’s increasingly belligerent “war” against tobacco demonstrates, powers ceded to the state so that it can behave paternalistically on one front will inevitably be abused and extended to other fronts. The reason is that no sound principle is available to constrain these powers. If the state presumes to protect me from destroying my life with heroin or marijuana, why should it refrain from protecting me from tobacco, alcohol, animal fat, or a sedentary lifestyle? Each can ruin lives and upset friends and loved ones.

Emphasis mine. I don't know if Mises ever attacked drug prohibition, but, if a principle is valid, it extends to hard cases. More Boudreaux:
Drug traffickers don’t tell government authorities about their illegal activities. And there are no victims to complain. Seldom is there a participant in a drug deal who has an interest in reporting it. This fact distinguishes drug selling (and other victimless “crimes”) from true crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and robbery.

Because drug dealing involves only willing participants, drug warriors inevitably must guess whether or not an offense is occurring and who is committing it. Such guessing, of course, involves choosing targets according to their racial, sex, and age profiles.

The article explains what's wrong with that, in case you don't get it, and answers a couple more objections beyond what I'm showing. Here's one,
“Drug war” proponents often retort that without this social-engineering effort our society would descend into a grim incivility. They insist that with drug legalization our streets would teem with disgusting junkies and our storefronts would crassly advertise the sale of deadly narcotics.

For various reasons, I dispute these predictions. But let me assume here that these are valid. So what? Would a world with more wasted junkies and crass drug merchants be as vile as what we have now? Today, our prisons are chock-full of non-violent offenders. Our inner-city streets are battle zones. Young blacks and Hispanics are suspected criminals simply because they are young blacks and Hispanics. Our courts permit government to seize and keep properties that are merely suspected of having been associated with drug offenses. Many ill citizens cannot get the drugs they need to cure their illnesses or to relieve their suffering. And U.S. Customs agents kidnap innocent young women and men, chain them to beds, pump laxatives down their throats, and inspect the contents of their stomachs.

These and countless other consequences of the “war on drugs” are vastly more uncivil, grim, vile, degrading, unsightly, dangerous, costly, and immoral than even the worst-case scenario of widespread drug abuse.

The drug war is not like the abolition of slavery, which I have been cheering so much lately, because "drug dealing involves only willing participants." I believe that all harmful actions committed under the influence of drugs must be punished harshly (or, preferably, recompensed justly), but simple possession, use, trafficking, trading and producing intoxicants should not be illegal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Letter to a Young American

Or part of it. The first sentence may be dependent on the context of our correspondence (that's my excuse for the fact that, structurally, it's ugly as sin;)). I felt it stood well enough on it's own, though, not to leave it out.
I could go on and on about the virtues that have to be employed to make, maintain and build a fortune - The Acton Institute at specializes in such things from a Catholic perspective, though I think they have a few Evangelicals on staff (though I haven't noticed them making any big deal out of denominations as long as you're a Christian - they make a big deal about Jesus - and your for freedom and it's necessary corollary responsibility), and they put out several books a year. There is certainly no virtue in squandering a fortune. But I thought I'd get into your last paragraph.

I'm a libertarian. I believe in freedom. In the 19th century, people who believed what I believe were called Liberals. What today's "liberals" are trying to do is remove the natural consequences of foolishness. They also want to impose artificial consequences on acts, like aquiring a fortune, that are naturally the results of prudence.

When you take away people's freedom, you also take away their responsibility and the whole incentive structure that encourages responsible behavior. "It's the government's job to do that." "There oughta be a law," is a corollary to that statement.

As a libertarian, I believe that the government's only job is to keep people from actually harming each other. Harming yourself is a purely moral matter that communities and families - and you yourself - can handle without pulling out weapons. Everything the government does is backed up by the police and/or the military. Very little in life requires that. If they'd stop taking our money to take care of those things for us*, we'd shop around and find the best provider of whatever service we need that we could afford.

*I meant to add, "(or trying to... or pretending to)," but I figured I'd said enough. I try not to write a whole book every time I sit down at the keyboard.

Some thoughts for today:

In observing economic reality and adhering to the logic of the price system, Bauer refuted key propositions of orthodox development economics, the most basic one being the idea of a “vicious circle of poverty.” Poor countries were said to be poor because people had low incomes and could not generate sufficient savings to allow for capital accumulation, one of the prerequisites for economic growth, as spelled out in mainstream growth models. Bauer observed that many people and many countries had moved from poverty to prosperity and that large-scale capital investment is neither necessary nor sufficient for material advance. His study of small holdings in the Malaya (now Malaysia) rubber industry and his observation of the importance of small-scale traders in West Africa convinced him that the reality of development was different from the rhetoric of development experts.

A corollary of the vicious circle is that poor countries cannot become rich without external aid from developed countries. However, the nations that have become rich had no access to foreign aid, while those that have received substantial external aid are for the most part still poor, as in Africa. So Bauer argued that foreign aid is more likely to perpetuate poverty than to alleviate it. And history has borne him out.

Bauer also strongly disagreed with the widely held view that population growth is a drag on development. In his essay “Population Growth: Disaster or Blessing?” he wrote, “Economic achievement and progress depend on people’s conduct not on their numbers.” Unlike many of the development experts who wanted to use government to “help the poor,” Bauer thought that poor people could lift themselves out of poverty through their ownefforts, if only governments would safeguard both economic and personal freedom. When people are free to choose and bear the responsibility for their choices, as they do under a system of private property and free markets, they will be more able to improve themselves and provide for their families—as well as have stronger incentives to do so—than when they are dependent primarily on the state.

From P.T. Bauer's Market-Liberal Vision.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We finally got around to seeing the movie

Amazing Grace today. It was every bit as good as I expected it to be. They well portrayed Wilberforce's Christianity as the source of his heroism in the fight against the slave trade. I wondered, though, why there was no mention of his influence on the final abolition of slavery itself. I would like to have seen a depiction of the deathbed scene when he got the word that slavery was abolished throughout the whole British Empire.

I read a review, before I went saying, "...from a film-making perspective, the movie was a bit on the slow side, punctuated by emotionally moving scenes. These moments carried the movie along, but barely. The scenery was great and the actors were good, but I believe they could have shone more if they had been given better scripts."

I didn't feel that way (though, perhaps I was distracted by the antics of my three-year-old daughter), it seemed to me that the "slow" parts were necessary exposition. (From our perspective it seems necessary to prove that Wilberforce's opponents weren't actually Satan worshippers in order to keep the movie from being cartoonish. What was shown was that the men were, indeed, evil - some of them, anyway; the rest were, to use Hannah Arendt's word, banally accepting of the evil.) Considering which, it may be that Amazing Grace is too cerebral for the masses.

I thought it stuck very well to the facts as I've read them since I first heard about Wilberforce a month ago. It's not just a maudlin tale, as you might gather from the trailers, yet the story itself may be the most dramatic... I can't call it an event, can I? It took place over 25 years. ... It may have been the most dramatic parliamentary battle in history.

Perhaps it should have jerked more tears than it did. The death-bed scene 27 years later would have done it.

Our beloved Mr. Libertarian

Murray Rothbard, gave some advice to the Eastern Europeans in 1992 in an article called, How and How Not to Desocialize. As is my wont, I'll give you the part I liked, but the rest is interesting as prophecy and worth reading to compare and contrast the results of the various nations since that time. Keeping in mind, as you study, the degree to which they took Dr. Rothbard's advice. [Sorry, I've been reading Dickens again.]

Here's the part I liked:
Do Not Crack Down on Black Markets

One route toward freedom that former President Gorbachev had adopted was to crack down on the villains of the black market. We might conclude that the mindset of the Eastern bloc has a long way to go in understanding freedom, except that there are precious few Westerners who understand this problem either. For the black marketeers are not villains; if they sometimes look and act like villains, it is only because their entrepreneurial activities have been made illegal. The "black market" is simply the market, the market which Soviets claim to be searching for, but which has turned "black" precisely because it has been declared illegal. It is the market crippled and distorted, but it is there, in this despised "black" area, that the Soviets will find the market most readily. Instead of cracking down, then, the governments should, immediately, set the black market free.

I don't know if the article ever saw print where anyone in charge over there was likely to look, with the possible exception of Vaclav Klaus, but I expect they all would have rejected it anyway. And, as I say, the degree to which they have done so shows.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I didn't like my third grade teacher.

But she did one thing that I think made a major difference in our lives. After we finished saying the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, she made us quote a Bible verse, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Well, actually, the full verse reads:
Matthew 7:12 (King James Version)

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

That's the one I like, because it's aggressive. The NIV has the more passive: " to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

There's nothing about taxes in there, though.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Since the running season is coming up

I'll post this bunch of questions my sister asked me and my answers:

How consistent were you in your training?
I think I averaged 4-5 runs a week, though, as they got longer I actually ran less often. I went by feel more than anything else. I didn't let fatique stop me, but I was very careful about any other aches and pains. If the pain didn't go away after a few blocks of warm-up I went home and rested until it did.

Did you have to recover from any injuries?
Some blisters and a bleeding nipple. I'm still waiting for my right big toe nail to come off. But for the most part band-aids on the areas I tended to blister protected them. Along with some vaseline and running lube (whatever they call it), and talcum powder. The band-aid came off my left nipple. Hopefully women have better solutions for that one.

Why did you decide to do a marathon?
I ran the TC [Twin Cities] 1 Mile race, run by the same people, on the first of April and got caught up in the hype, but I'd always wanted to run a marathon and I'm getting old, so I figured it was now or never. TCM was my mantra sometimes in my earlier running career.

Also, it was harder to get into the TC 10 Mile than the Marathon.

Did you buy two pair of tennies?

Yeah, but I didn't like the second pair. I burned out a pair training, too.

Did you only run pavement, or did you find another surface to run on?

Generally I ran on paved streets, sidewalks and trails. There are short stretches of wood chips and dirt roads on my favorite routes.

How did the recovery go?

Resting is easy. I'm still resting, really. I've gained 10 pounds back since Christmas. I do a little running, but not enough.

Did you have pain for a few days, and what hurt?

I guess I pretty much covered that. There's definitely a tendency toward heel pain when I get serious about running. And the big blister under the toenail.

Don't forget that I finished in 5 hours, when I was shooting for 4 or 4 1/4. And I quit drinking 10 days before the race. That wiped out a few training runs as well. Either by diminishing the intensity of my effort or making me oversleep. That's drinking not quitting, I mean.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I've been reading, tonight, from

The Book of Daniel Drew. I find this passage (pp. 278-9 in the book, 296-7 as Adobe Reader numbers it) very interesting:
The trouble with Vanderbilt was, he had an idea that the law is the highest power in the land. He now saw his mistake. He never stopped to think that law is no such wonderful thing after all. Law is like a cobweb; it's made for flies and the smaller kind of insects, so to speak, but lets the big bumblebees break through. I showed him in this affair that I was the bumblebee. Where technicalities of the law stood in my way, I have always been able to brush them aside easy as anything. In this Erie war we had judges from New York, Binghamton, Albany and Brooklyn issuing contrary injunctions. It has been called, "The darkest scene in the history of American jurisprudence." I don't know anything as to that. When you're in business you can't split hairs, or bother over technicalities.

This book was presented to me as history. I'm growing suspicious that it may be a brilliantly executed work of historical fiction. Mr. Drew appears to be more of a charicature of a Gilded Age Robber Baron than a real human could be.

Let's see... The Library of Congress number indicates that it belongs to the History of New York. OK.

Bouck White was the "editor" of the book. Who was he?

Hmm. That makes me consider the validity of ad hominem arguments. Follow the ideology?

One thing I find very interesting in this book is the portrayal of Cornelius Vanderbilt as the prototype for Dagny Taggart's grandfather in Atlas Shrugged. [I said that wrong, but I shovelled too damn much snow today to want to mess with it now. I'll figure it out tomorrow.]

Update: Agh! Good enough.

Post based on

Oldsmoblogger's latest.

Thanks for giving me post material. Maybe I'll delve into these more when I write it, but, here goes:

101 Dalmations, before Disney got hold of it.

Bambi - ditto.

Death of a Citizen, by Donald Hamilton and the whole Matt Helm series.

I may have read Conan, The Warrior, before I got out of gradeschool, but maybe not.

And, I'm going to have to put The Bible in there, because I had read the whole thing before the end of 6th grade. And, if you're of a mind to read it at all, you're going to be profoundly affected by it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007