BUY MY BOOK OR ELSE!  Roderick T. Long

Archives: February 2006

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Moments of Transition

Andreas Katsulas, who played G’kar so unforgettably on Babylon 5, has died.


Read Straczynski’s comments here.

Hear G’kar break your heart here. And here.

Posted February 28th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#16
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Andrews and Walker: Anarchist Classics Online

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

Two more additions to the Molinari Online Library:

This is the first appearance of either work online.

Posted February 28th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#15
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Wieser and Smart: Austrian Classics Online

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

The latest additions to the Molinari Online Library are two early classics of the Austrian School:

Wieser’s Natural Value has been available online previously, but only in an incomplete, error-ridden, and de-formatted ASCII version. (I don’t promise that my version has no errors, only that it has fewer errors.) Smart’s Introduction to the Theory of Value, as far as I know, has never been previously available online (in either edition).

Posted February 24th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#14
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Exit to Grow in Wisdom

Lawrence Summers, Harvard’s anti-feminist, pro-militarist, pro-corporatist president, is resigning under pressure from a fed-up faculty. Seems like the best resolution to me. If Summers wants to air his views as a faculty member, that’s certainly within the bounds of academic freedom; but someone who aggressively promotes genetic fantasies about women’s innate inaptitude for science is simply the wrong person to be running an educational institution – or at least one with female faculty and students. By analogy, if you want to be a Jehovah’s Witness, go for it, but you shouldn’t expect to be put in charge of the bloodmobile. The job of a university president should be to facilitate the work of the university community, not to undermine it. (Actually I’m not even convinced that there should be university presidents – the University of Bologna got along fine without any “administration” at all – but that’s another story.)

Posted February 21st, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#13
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Spooner on Rent

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Benjamin Tucker famously held that property in real estate depends on continued personal occupancy, so that when a landlord undertakes to rent out a plot of land or a building to a tenant, the “landlord” actually surrenders ownership to the “tenant,” who – despite whatever contract she may have signed – has no obligation, enforceable or otherwise, either to keep paying rent or to return the property at the expiration of the lease.

I think Tucker’s view on this subject is mistaken, but debating its merits is not my present concern. (For a defense of Tucker’s position, see Kevin Carson’s critique of absentee landlordism; for the contrary view, see my forthcoming reply to Carson in the next issue, 20.1, of the JLS.) Rather, for purposes of this post I want to ask a historical question: what was Lysander Spooner’s position on this issue?

It’s often assumed that it must have been similar to Tucker’s; in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, for example, Rothbard treats the abolition of rent as part of the “Spooner-Tucker doctrine.” But while Spooner and Tucker were certainly aligned on many issues, they had some important disagreements as well – most notably on intellectual property (Spooner was pro, Tucker con) and on the ethical foundations of libertarianism (Spooner favoured natural law while Tucker favoured Stirnerite egoism). So it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that Spooner and Tucker must have agreed about rent.

Perhaps it’s assumed that Spooner and Tucker were both anti-rent because they both supported the Irish movement to resist paying rent to landlords. But in Spooner’s 1880 Revolution: The Only Remedy for the Oppressed Classes of Ireland, the only reason Spooner gives for impugning the property title of landlords in Ireland is not that the landlords have failed to maintain personal occupancy, but rather that their holdings “were originally taken by the sword” from the native cultivators – an argument perfectly consistent with Lockean/Rothbardian views on rent.

I can’t claim to have scoured every inch of Spooner’s texts for remarks on this issue, but what I have found convinces me that Spooner’s position on rent was in fact the Lockean/Rothbardian one and not the Tuckerite one at all.

So there’s my brief for dehomogenising Spooner and Tucker on the land issue. Perhaps I should add by way of clarification that I don’t mean to be offering the fact that Spooner agrees with me against Tucker about rent as any sort of argument for the truth of my position! (That should be obvious, but I know from experience that if I don’t make it explicit some insightful reader is likely to send me an email saying “So Spooner agrees with you against Tucker; so what? That doesn’t prove that he’s right! You are such a moron.”)

In any case, I agree with Tucker against Spooner about intellectual property, so it’s not as though I can consistently exalt one above the other. In his Law of Intellectual Property Spooner tries to show that if you agree with him about land you’re thereby committed to agreeing with him about copyrights and patents also. Obviously I think his arguments on that point fail, for reasons I plan to address in a future post; my line of attack would be a development of the approach I sketch here and here. But as I said above, my concern in the present discussion is not to offer a theoretical defense of any particular view about property rights, but simply to make the historical, interpretive point that Spooner’s view on rent was not the same as Tucker’s. (Well, to the extent that there’s any polemical payoff I suppose it’s this: those anarcho-socialists who grant the title of “anarchist” to Tucker and Spooner but deny it to Rothbard and other so-called “anarcho-capitalists” on the grounds inter alia of the latter’s disagreement with Tucker about land will find their position at least somewhat harder to maintain to the extent that the distance between the “saved” Spooner and the “damned” anarcho-capitalists is narrowed.)

Well, it’s 3:00 a.m. Tuesday, and my sleepless Sunday night is starting to reassert itself against the temporary reinvigoration from my Monday-afternoon nap, so I’m off to bed.

Posted February 21st, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#12
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San Franarchy

I’m back! The conference was great – with some interesting connections made between the attempts by our authors to tame the political power of religious extremism in the 17th century, and the need to deal with militant Christian and Muslim extremism today.

I also had a marvelous time in San Francisco – wandering around Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, and the Mission District; riding the Powell Street cable car; enjoying delicious dinners (for free!) at Ponzu, The Slanted Door, and Il Fornaio; and buying obscure anarchist tomes at City Lights Bookstore (of Kerouac and Ginsberg fame) and Bolerium Books (of imperial road kill fame).

Alas, things took a less enjoyable turn on the way home, when my twice-delayed flight, which should have gotten me back to Atlanta at 7:30 last night, didn’t get me in till 6:30 this morning, leaving me in a somewhat zombified state all day today. (Happily I only had to give midterms today rather than lecture; and I’m just now somewhat refreshed from a brief nap.) But at least my twelve hours in the San Francisco airport gave me plenty of time to read some of my new books! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Though it isn’t on anarchism and I didn’t get it in San Francisco, I also recently read and enjoyed a book of Early Stories of Jules Verne, including his novella on Peru’s colonialist heritage, The Pearl of Lima (a work clearly modeled on Victor Hugo’s novella on the Haitian slave revolt, Bug-Jargal). I was struck, though not especially surprised, by the contrast between Verne’s (relatively) sensitive and nuanced attitude toward Peruvian natives and his tiresomely stereotyped prejudices regarding Jews. (Remember, Verne also sided against Dreyfus, at least initially.) Evidently, in Verne’s eyes some oppressed peoples were more equal than others.

Posted February 20th, 2006
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From Wilderland to Western Shore

I’m off to San Francisco for a Liberty Fund conference. Topic: the oft-skipped biblical-interpretation passages in Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke.

Back next week!

Posted February 15th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#10
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Bang Bang He Shot Me Down

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

I’m sure the running dogs of statism will be rushing to use His Excellency’s recent misadventure as another argument for increased gun control.

If so, the case will be a poor one. In the world the gun controllers are building, people like Cheney will always have access to firearms.

Posted February 12th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#09
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Moon Man

For fans of Jules Verne (about whom I’ve blogged a fair bit lately), check out Ken Gregg’s interesting post.

Posted February 12th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#08
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Who’s on First?

I’m sometimes asked why I label (or likewise why Rothbard labeled) Gustave de Molinari the “first market anarchist” or the “founder of market anarchism.” Weren’t there anarchists before Molinari who were pro-market?

Certainly there were; the clearest cases are William Godwin in England, Josiah Warren in America, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France. Some would deny that these thinkers count as pro-market, since they were “socialists”; but we shouldn’t let ourselves be confused by terminology. While these thinkers’ views on property may fall short of Rothbardian purity – or, heck, even Tuckerite purity (Proudhon and Tucker definitely need some dehomogenising) – they all clearly favoured some form of private ownership and free market exchange.

So if they were anarchists who liked the market, why am I reluctant to call them market anarchists? Well, it seems to me that what Molinari pioneered, in 1849, was an explanation of how market mechanisms could replace the traditional “governmental” function of the State – protection against aggressors. If one looks to Godwin and Warren for an analogous discussion, there’s precious little on this topic at all; their solution to the problem of aggression seems to consist primarily of converting potential aggressors to anarchism. As for Proudhon, whenever he starts talking about administrative arrangements under anarchism he ends up describing centralised institutions whose difference from the monopoly State is difficult to discern.

Thus I don’t see anything properly describable as market-based anarchism (as opposed to merely market-friendly anarchism) prior to Molinari.

What’s not clear to me is how much influence Molinari exerted on the subsequent market anarchist tradition. (He certainly influenced de Puydt and possibly influenced Bellegarrigue, but de Puydt’s competing jurisdictions operate within the framework of a monopoly state, while Bellegarrigue is vague about administrative details, at least in the writings I’ve seen.) Benjamin Tucker and his associates certainly defended market anarchism in terms reminiscent of Molinari’s arguments; but while they were unquestionably familiar with and indebted to Godwin, Proudhon, and Warren, Liberty’s review of a work from Molinari’s later semi-anarchist period apparently shows no awareness of his early fully anarchist writings. So they may well have developed the same ideas independently.

Posted February 11th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#07
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Wear the Future


MOLINARI INSTITUTE T-SHIRT #1


MOLINARI INSTITUTE T-SHIRT #2


You know you want one.

Posted February 7th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#06
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Randians on the Warpath

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Two recent Randian skirmishes:


Posted February 6th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#05
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The Empire Victorious

The blog contest at Liberty & Power is over, and I’m pleased to announce that Austro-Athenian Empire was declared the winner in the category of “individual libertarian/classical liberal academic blog.”

To everyone who voted for me – thank you!

To everyone who voted against me – you have been declared enemies of the Empire, and my agents will be hunting you down without mercy.

Posted February 6th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#04
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Farewell and Thank You

 Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006; Betty Friedan, 1921-2006; R.I.P.

Posted February 5th, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#03
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Tarzan’s Burden

I was around age 11 when I first discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs. (See his two entertaining autobiographical sketches, one true and one invented – I’ll let you decide which is which.) I believe I started off with the second and fourth Venus novels – a rather disorganised way to begin. I started writing comic books about Barsoom, Amtor, and Pellucidar, and was especially fascinated by the concept of a hollow earth (as my comments on Wally Conger’s blog show).

Unfortunately, most people know Burroughs’ work – including his most famous creation, Tarzan – only through the movie versions, and Burroughs has not been well-served by Hollywood (though hopefully the upcoming John Carter flick will be an exception); indeed, I’ve never seen any screen depiction of Tarzan, even in some of the better films, that bore any similarity to Burroughs’ character. (Who would guess from the movies, for example, that Tarzan’s dominant characteristic is intelligence – or that his first spoken human language was French?)

All this is by way of introduction to an interesting article I just came across, by F. X. Blisard, about race relations in the Tarzan novels and in Burroughs’ work generally – fairly enlightened for Burroughs’ era, it turns out, and far superior to Hollywood’s treatment. Read it here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

Posted February 3rd, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#02
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Ayn Rand’s Left-Libertarian Legacy

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Today is Ayn Rand’s birthday.

Last year, for her centenary, I wrote about Rand’s legacy for libertarians generally. This year I want to write about her legacy for left-libertarians in particular.

Rand’s legacy? For left-libertarians? Such a proposal might well engender skepticism. Sure, Rand’s critical attitude toward religion, tradition, and “family values” has sometimes led paleolibertarians to view her as a lefty; but on a broad range of other issues she is easily viewed as decidedly right-leaning. Consider:

Yes, alas, all that is true; but it’s not the whole story. There is another side to Rand’s legacy that should not be lost sight of.

It transpires, then, that there are in effect two Rands, or two strands in Rand: a left-libertarian, feminist, anti-militarist, anti-corporatist, benevolent, experimental strand, and a conservative, patriarchal, homophobic, flag-worshipping, boss-worshipping, dogmatic strand. Which strand represents the “true” Rand? Well, both of them; she just is precisely the person who tried to combine these two strands.

A better question is: which strand most accurately expresses her fundamental principles? And here it seems to me that the answer is: the left-libertarian strand. The conservative strand, as I see it, is in large part (not entirely – human psychology and intellectual development are complex matters, and I don’t mean to be offering some sort of reductionist account) an expression of Rand’s understandably hostile reaction to the Soviet environment in which she was raised. I suspect that she tended to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything (well, almost anything – not atheism, obviously, or contextual analysis) that reminded her of Soviet propaganda or was associated in any way with pro-Soviet sympathies. Hence anything that championed labour against capital, or denounced the United States as imperialistic, or otherwise savoured of left-wing critiques, was likely to trigger her ire. (Maybe this is the story with regard to art also. In the 1920s and 30s, when the Soviets were denouncing abstract art as an expression of western decadence, she liked such art and even found it liberating; in later years, living in the west where leftists had embraced abstract art, she came to detest it. Might it really be that simple? Certainly the Rand who wrote The Fountainhead was eminently equipped to answer the objections to abstract art raised by the later Rand.)

But if we leave aside the influence of anti-Soviet sentiment and simply consider in what direction a radical, contextual-analysis-oriented, secular, individualist, anti-traditionalist, anti-sacrificial libertarian ethic is most naturally developed – it’s left-libertarianism, man.

Posted February 2nd, 2006
Permalink: praxeology.net/unblog02-06.htm#01
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