Archives: January 2005
But They Still Say “Frak”
The original 1970s Battlestar Galactica series was pretty hokey (though not as hokey as its jaw-droppingly godawful and mercifully short-lived sequel, Galactica 1980). But the Sci-fi Channel’s recent revamp has come as a pleasant surprise. Apart from the groan-inducing silliness of one cybernetic subplot (featuring “Six of Twelve,” an evil, nymphomaniac version of, gee, I dunno, maybe some Star Trek character), the new series is dark, serious, edgy, and unpredictable. (Plus, the new female Starbuck is to die for.)
To date only three episodes have aired (in addition to last year’s two-part pilot), but from what I’ve seen so far this looks like the best sf on tv since Babylon 5.
Free At Last
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
All hail George W. Bush, the Liberator!
deification inaugural address today, our Prince President announced: “America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling.”
Well, golly. As an anarchist, I’m one of the unwilling. And finally, an American President has promised that the American government will stop imposing itself on me, as well as on all similarly unwilling persons!
In short, the American state has peacefully withered away, and a purely voluntary association now stands in its place. This has got to be the best second term ever.
Reclaiming Libertarian Feminism’s Radical Legacy
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
(Apologies to Chris Sciabarra for this post’s title.)
The paper that Charles and I presented at the APA is already stirring up controversy – even among folks who haven’t had a chance to read it yet!
But now the latest draft of Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? is available online.
“Back to the 19th century!” doesn’t sound promising as a feminist slogan; but for those seeking to close the gap that currently exists between feminism and libertarianism, we argue that the 19th century is the place to look. We also argue that, in many ways, the natural complement to libertarianism is not mainstream liberal feminism but the radical feminism often maligned as “gender feminism.” Check it out!
Happy New Year to all! I’m back from the APA. I’m pleased to report that the Molinari Society’s inaugural symposium in Boston was a success; we had an excellent turnout, and the papers provoked lively discussion on the relation between libertarianism and feminism. I got particular satisfaction out of the affinities we identified between Herbert Spencer (much maligned and mischaracterised by leftists who’ve never bothered to read him – see, e.g., here and here) and Andrea Dworkin (much maligned and mischaracterised by rightists who’ve likewise never bothered to read her – see e.g., here). Thanks to Charles Johnson, Jennifer McKitrick, Elizabeth Brake, and Aeon Skoble for getting us off to a great start!
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
This past week I also caught the new film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, one of my favourite musicals of all time (sorry, Arthur). The film does a great job, for the most part, of capturing the haunting beauty of the stage musical, but I do have a couple of complaints. First, the Phantom himself: his voice just can’t match the emotional nuance of Michael Crawford’s, and making him young and handsome rather misses the point of the character (even sans mask he doesn’t look creepy enough). Second, many lines that were originally written to be sung end up spoken instead; why?
Brian Doherty’s article on the Free State Project – the one that quotes your humble correspondent (see my earlier post) – is now available online.
For those libertarians who are still tempted to romanticise the Confederacy, Michael Gaddy’s article on LRC today serves as a useful reminder that even if we leave aside the issue of slavery (and we shouldn’t), the Confederacy was just one more goddamn bloodthirsty militarist state, just like the Union. (For my own take on the Civil War see here.)
There’s good news and bad news at the Justice Department. The good news is that the Justice Department has repudiated the Bush régime’s pro-torture policy. The bad news is that the creep who wrote that policy is still the nominee to run – the Justice Department.
On July 25, 1993, Lloyd Bentsen, President Clinton’s first Secretary of
the Treasury, argued on Meet the Press that recent destructive flooding in
the Midwest would stimulate the economy, because “lots of concrete will be
poured .... You have to look at all the jobs that will be created to
repair the damage.”
On September 14, 2001, three days after the destruction of the
World Trade Towers, economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times
that “the terror attack could even do some economic good. Now, all of a
sudden, we need some new office buildings. ... Rebuilding will generate at
least some increase in business spending.”
And now – on December 29, 2004 – C. Fred Bergsten of the Institute for International Economics has opined on NPR’s Morning Edition that the recent catastrophic tsunami in South Asia – which by the latest estimates has killed fifty times as many people as the 9/11 attacks – will bring economic benefits to the countries affected:
Like any disaster, you get negative effects through destroying existing property and people’s health, but you do get a burst of new economic activity to replace them, and on balance, that generally turns out to be quite positive.
(Conical hat tip to Christopher Westley for the Bergsten quote.)
Over time, properties that have been destroyed will be fully replaced, and probably by better and newer substitutes, so at the end of the reconstruction process, the countries will probably be wealthier.
If it weren’t a violation of the nonaggression axiom, I’d be tempted to favour requiring, at gunpoint, anyone who seeks to pontificate on economic subjects to first read Frédéric Bastiat’s essay What Is Seen and What is Not Seen (along with Henry Hazlitt’s elaboration thereon). It’s bad enough when people fall for the Broken Window Fallacy in one of its comparatively subtle forms, as in the arguments for protectionism, public works, wartime prosperity, or Keynesian macro policy; but when distinguished “experts” happily swallow it in the blatant and naked form of that very absurdum to which Bastiat and Hazlitt sought to reduce the subtler versions, some sort of public shaming seems called for.
With regard to the controversy over Lew Rockwell’s New Year’s editorial The Reality of Red-State Fascism (see, so far, here, here, here, and here), I strongly agree with Lew that the libertarian movement needs to rethink its sometimes kneejerk anti-leftism and to consider “extending more rhetorical tolerance leftward.” (I do think Lew is too harsh on Cato, which despite the passage he quotes has in fact been largely critical of the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, etc., but that’s another issue.)
For me the case is not primarily strategic, since I’m far more in inherent sympathy with the left’s economic and cultural concerns than most libertarians are (and part of the point our panel were making in Boston is that libertarians have done too little justice to such concerns); but it certainly is at least strategic. The statist right, which now controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and much of the media, is, as Lew rightly observes, “the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time,” and it’s in the interest of libertarians to build bridges with the left, who have been “solid on civil liberties” (at least by comparison) and “crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration.”
While there are, admittedly, plenty of authoritarian types on the left (as everywhere else), there are also plenty of people whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian but who have been lured into supporting state socialism because it’s been sold to them as the only effective counterweight to state capitalism. These leftists are our potential allies, but no alliance will be forthcoming so long as we continue to confirm most leftists’ impression of libertarianism as a variant of conservatism.
As I’ve written elsewhere:
The 1960s, too, were a time of political confusion, cultural conflict, ideological disappointment, and an unpopular war; but back then, libertarian scholars were a tiny remnant, much of their output confined to mimeographed broadsides of small circulation, and so were unable to take full advantage of the opportunities for libertarian education that such a situation offered. Today our numbers are rapidly growing, and our potential audience is as wide as the internet.
This time around, we are much better positioned to make a success of the left/libertarian coalition that Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, Leonard Liggio, and others sought to build four decades ago. Let’s get to work!