Showing posts from July, 2011

Libertarianism and Violence, II

I decided to move some discussion from this post up to the top level here. Specifically, Watoosh wrote: "Well, if violence is defined as initiation of force (which, of course, presupposes certain property rights), then I think Rockwell is correct..." Well, if we define cats as elephants, then many people keep elephants in their house. More seriously, firstly, violence is not usually defined that way. It's defined as, you know, violence, so that, say, someone may respond violently or non-violently to someone who aggresses against them. Otherwise, it would make no sense to say, for instance, "He punched me, but I did not stoop to violence in response." And, secondly, the libertarian usage of "initiation of force" is very offbeat. If I wander onto someone's meadow, most people would not say I had "initiated force" -- I mean, sure, I used "force" against the earth to push off walking, but that's not force directed against

Those Non-Violent Libertarians

"Libertarianism is the one political theory extant that consistently preaches non-violence in every way..." -- Lew Rockwell Is that so? "However, there is a presumption that all government employees are indeed guilty of a crime against humanity." -- Walter Block "Police may use such coercive methods [as beating and torturing suspects] provided that the suspect turns out to be guilty, and provided that the police are treated themselves as criminal suspects if the suspect is not proven guilty. For, in that case, the rule of no force against non-criminals would still apply. Suppose, for example, that police beat and torture a suspected murderer to find information… If the suspect turns out to be guilty, then the police should be exonerated..." -- Murray Rothbard "Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation

Back in the Ancient Days

I just re-read Colin Dexter's The Jewel That Was Ours . (Mystery fiction is what I usually read for a break.) I looked up the date of the novel, and was kind of shocked to see it was 1991. Things happened seemed so... ancient! The plot centered around a tour of England. One of the characters disappeared from the tour, and people just had to wait for him to show up again. You see, phones were things that sat in fixed locations, attached to walls and such. The chief inspector had to ask to borrow a hotel's phone in order to call back to headquarters. When the British police wanted to find information on the backgrounds of the American tourists, they had to send wires to or phone the US, instead of checking their Facebook page. It felt more like fifty years ago than twenty.

Take the Horn Out You Mouth

Or how to avoid Voegelin-Rothbard  syndrome . A story: I was watching a special on John Coltrane. One of his former musicians was being interviewed. He talked about how long Coltrane could go on with a single number. One show in Philadelphia, they were playing a 3-and-1/2-hour matinee. Coltrane called the first piece, and began, of course, improvising. And improvising. Next thing they knew, the show was over. And they had played one piece for the entire show. The fellow mentioned that Coltrane's predilection used to puzzle Miles Davis. "John," he would say, "why you play so long?" "Miles, I get going, and just don't know how to stop." "John, you just take the horn out you mouth." Sometimes, as a writer, you have to "just take the horn out you mouth." Otherwise you get Voegelin-Rothbard syndrome. Many of you probably know the story of Rothbard and his history of economic thought, where a quick project to do a short tex

"Libertarianism Is an Objective Political Philosophy"

I run across the above sentiment in discussion groups, usually when someone is arguing something like, "Well, if Hoppe is anti-free-immigration, then he is no libertarian!" (Not to pick on Hoppe: it might be Milton Friedman, or Hayek, or whoever, who is not a "real" libertarian.) This idea apparently exhibits a severe misunderstanding of why a word means this or that. It is the community of users of a language that decide what a word means, and they decide it by using it. So if most people call both Hayek and Hoppe libertarians, then libertarianism encompasses both their views. That doesn't mean you can't argue for a more restrictive definition. But then you have to say, "Libertarianism ought to mean X," not "Libertarianism does mean X." You could even continue to use libertarianism in your preferred way, but then you have to declare as much. ("I'm using libertarianism in the restricted sense of...") But, if you fail t

The Role of Ideal Types in Austrian Business Cycle Theory

I've just been alerted to the fact (by Anthony Evans) that this paper is available online .

The Future

"But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now , but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present." -- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Speaking of Dangerous Rhetoric

In the wake of the revelation that the Norwegian terrorist is an anti-jihadist,  Muslim haters certainly ought to do some self-examination on the matter of the rhetoric they've been employing. But is it likely they will? As soon as the recent attacks in Norway became public, one could find posts like this : "No word yet on who is responsible, but it's probably worth noting that Norweigian authorities stopped an al Qaeda plot last year, and just last week filed terror charges against Ansar al-Islam founder Mullah Krekar for threatening Norweigian politicians with death if he is deported." In other words, we don't know anything yet, but that's no reason not to swiftly blame Muslims! Now, if Tabin had ben an investigator charged with finding the perpetrator, it might make sense for him to follow up on those threats and see if they were connected to the bombing. But given he wasn't, why not just pipe down and wait to see what the investigators do fin

We've No Right to Judge Her!

I found this sentiment expressed over at Roderick Long's RIP for Amy Winehouse. Well, let's distinguish at least three quite different senses in which we might "judge" her: 1) We might (try) to judge that state of her soul. This is obviously (I think) an symptom of awful hubris. We do not know whatever, perhaps terrible, hardships she may have faced in her life, and how adequately she rose to their challenge. To try to do 1) is to declare oneself God. 2) We might try to pass some political judgment on her life. Given that she is dead, there are obvious difficulties with doing this, but while she was alive, this was the kind of thing drug warriors sought to do. I think such efforts are dumb: the effects of such prohibition are far worse than are the (genuine) problems they seek to solve. While I would not object to communities regulating, for instance, the marketing freedom of drug dealers or the places where drug sales might be allowed, I think prohibition is suc

My Strawman Has Another Firstname, It's 'W' 'A' 'L' 'T' 'E' 'R'...

and the last name is Block . Right in the first paragraph, what does Dr. Block say? "In [libertarianism], there are only negative obligations." Damn that Block and his hatred of libertarians, always setting up "strawmen" to try to "smear" their good name !

Most Annoying Error Message on the Internet?

"You 404’d it. Gnarly, dude. Surfin’ ain’t easy, and right now, you’re lost at sea." Yes, the link you put up on your web site doesn't work, so I get a sarcastic message about how I'm lost?!

Excellent Post on Hayek

R.H. Murphy notes : "Of course, Hayek’s primary target is socialism, but Hayek never once says we should tear down all of our institutions which relate to the state and let people spontaneously order themselves to solve these problems. The state and our current criminal justice system were among the things that evolved through group selection."   Just so !

Is It OK to Say "I Told You So," When I Really Did Tell You So?

When I wrote this post , I was accused of being dishonest and uncharitable. While I may not have made my point a clearly as I wished, what I was trying to say was, "OK, I know Oliva does not want the head of the FTC assassinated, but by calling him a tyrant in the context of a blog post the title of which is about assassinating tyrants, he is encouraging those less temperate than he to act as if his words really mean something." And, lo and behold, a week after I post that cautionary note, a Norwegian nutjob killed 93 people , while citing three articles from in his "manifesto" explaining his actions. Look, I don't mean to condemn all libertarians as violent fanatics. My dear friend Bob Murphy is a pacifist, and would not, as I understand his position, even lift a finger against someone walking out of his house with his TV. My dear friend Sandy Ikeda is one of the most thoroughly decent human beings I have ever met, and I cannot imagine him advocat

The Greatest Theologian of Our Time

As Eric Voegelin noted, real theology can only ever be done in mythic form, as we are trying to talk about what is beyond any words, and myth is the best we can do in that regard. As such, I believe J.R.R. Tolkein was the greatest theologian of our age. " The Music of the Ainur " presents the relationship between God and creation in a way that has left me in awe ever since I first read it. Of course, creation is not really a giant symphony: that is why this is a myth. But this portrayal of it in poetic form is the best modern theology of which I am aware. If you haven't read it, do so!

Bob Marley, Augustinian

The song from which the title of my recent Augustine post was drawn -- and what a gorgeous song it is! (Go download it if you've never heard it -- I know the version from Babylon by Bus .) No chains around my feet, But I'm not free, oh-ooh! I know I am bound here in captivity; G'yeah, now - I've never known happiness; I've never known what sweet caress is - Still, I'll be always laughing like a clown; Won't someone help me? 'Cause I (sweet life) - I've got to pick myself from off the ground (must be somewhere for me), he-yeah! - In this a concrete jungle: I said, what do you cry for me now, o-oh! Concrete jungle, ah, won't you let me be, now.


In my summer town of Milford, PA, there is a small, ill-maintained road that hardly goes anywhere. It's name? Constitution Avenue.

No Chains Around My Feet, But I'm Not Free

"My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me. For of a forward will, was a lust made; and a lust served, became custom; and custom not resisted, became necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I called it a chain) a hard bondage held me enthralled." -- Augustine, Confessions

Berkeley's Criticisms of Absolute Space

PSH, take note!

Reading Wittgenstein

It's always an adventure, primarily, I think, because the texts we have are mostly in the form of notes Wittgenstein was jotting to himself. They are not put together into a continuous stream of thought, so it can be difficult to discern the gestalt of what Wittgenstein is up to. Nevertheless, even while struggling with the issue of the big picture, one finds many little gems scattered throughout. For instance, one of my favourites is Wittgenstein's demonstration of why, in order to determine that someone is wrong about some specific thing, we must recognize him as being mostly right in that area. Let's say, for instance, my friend says to me, "Snakes are mammals." Well, I ask him to show me a snake, and he points out a garter snake in the grass. He generally is right about snakes, but wrong about in which order they belong. But imagine that he says to me, instead, "Snakes are four-dimensional, vermillion hypercubes." Well, in this case, I hardly kno

I Feel Like I Really Need to...

But nothing is happening.

Do Not Waste Electricity!

Do not waste paper! Do not waste gasoline! Do not waste water!

Wittgenstein on Following a Rule

"I have further indicated that a person goes by a sign-post only in so far as there exists a regular use of sign-posts, a custom... To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess, are customs ... no course of action could be determined by a rule [in the absence of a custom] because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule... And hence... 'obeying a rule' is a practice." -- "Following a Rule," The Wittgenstein Reader , p. 98-99.

JK Rowling's Greatest Creation

is, I believe, Snape. The way she maintained the tension over his true character for the entire seven books is remarkable. And Harry's gesture regarding Snape at the end (of the last book -- I haven't seen the movie yet) is incredibly poignant.

Gardening for Real People, Part I

What Edibles to Grow So, you've started gardening, and you want to grow some things you can eat. You should: It's a wonderful thing to eat something you've grown yourself, and if you have kids, it's very good, I think, that they have some idea that food does not merely appear on the grocer's shelf. (If they've ever heard of a "grocer," that is.) Now, if you have the time and space, grow anything and everything your climate supports. But even then, it's not a bad idea to start small, and, for the rest of us, it's a necessity. So what should you grow in the portion of your garden devoted to edibles? I suggest two categories of plants: 1) Those that taste much better fresh-picked. Here, my favourites right now are peas and lettuce in the spring, and tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer. (A cucumber just off the vine is really a different animal than one bought from the store.) 2) Those that can't be had in realistic quantities in the

Libertarians, My Libertarians!

Cruel to be kind means that I love you . Because, while I think you are mistaken, your hearts are in the right place -- yes, even you, Silas --  unlike some people . This Breitbart fellow (discussed in the link above), by all appearances, deliberately doctored a video of Shirley Sherrod to make her remarks appear virulently racist, when they had, in fact, the opposite import. I heard that at a recent Austrian conference, some folks were talking about "Callahan's conservative turn." While that description is not entirely inaccurate, I must say that a lot of these people who today call themselves conservative give me the heebie-jeebies.

Augustine and the Platonists

Several commenters have tried to claim that "God" as used in Plato is something totally different than "God" as used by Christians. So, let's see what Augustine found in the pagan followers of Plato: Thou procuredst for me, by means of one puffed up with most unnatural pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin. And therein I read, not indeed in the very words, but to the very same purpose, enforced by many and divers reasons, that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the Same was in the beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made: that which was made by Him is life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. And that the soul of man, though it bears witness to the light, yet itself is not that light; but the Word of God, being God, is that true light that lighteth every man that come

Let's Walk Through This Really Slowly

UPDATE: Oliva has withdrawn his accusation that I am "lying." In the interest of peace, I take down what were the contents of this post.

Well, That's Plato's Opinion!

It's funny how many people responded in some such fashion to this post . Kind of barreling right over the distinction between doxa and episteme.

Thought Experiment II

IN THE FUTURE: Nantucket has seceded from the US and established "Nancapistan" on the island. The US is sending a few ships out with a bunch of marines to handle this "little rebellion." If they land, they will surely re-take the island. But the residents have gotten together and have a plan: There is a hill overlooking the certain landing spot from which they could shell and sink the boats before they land. This victory will gain them international support, and the US will back down. They go to set their guns in position, but the owner of the hill in question stops them. "I really don't like guns," he says. "You can't use my hill." If they listen to him, the landing will take place and Nancapistan will be conquered. What to do?


"“Doing natural science, we are pantheists; writing poetry, polytheists; and ethically, monotheists." -- Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

OK, Once I Get Them All in There, Then What?


A Thought Experiment

IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE, NEXT SUNDAY AD: Ancapistan has been established in what is today Switzerland. There are competing defense agencies, but they have formed a defense cooperative to fend off a potential attack from, let us say, France, the government of which is highly disturbed to have an example of successful anarchy right next door. The "Swiss" defense plan involves elaborate traps set along the "non-borders" for any invading army. They ought to work, but whether they will do so depends greatly on their being unknown to the enemy. A French invasion looms. On its eve, a resident of Swisscapistan informs you that he has (through legal but perhaps sneaky means) obtained the entire Swiss defense plan. Furthermore, he hates this anarchy crap, longs for a good old-fashioned boot on his neck, and intends to send the plans to the French, meaning the certainly Swisscapistan will fall to the upcoming invasion. Are you, or anyone else in Swisscapistan, just

Some Startling Data on American Cities

Commented on by Scott Sumner . The fact that really was news to me: Cities NOT in the top 50 in population include New Orleans, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. But they have NFL football teams! How could this be?

Has Ever Heard of This Site Called

While some libertarians claim that "[libertarians] do not condone aggression [against government officials] whatsoever," others write articles calling for the death of the head of the FTC . (Yes, Oliva is smart enough not to come right out and say it in so many words, but follow the logic: Tyrants should always end the way Charles I did: killed. The head of the FTC is a tyrant. Therefore...) Mr. Horn, if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Caring About Causes, Not People

Here are a bunch of nuts whose chief interest is in seeing themselves as the sort of righteous people who "deeply care" about issues like rape, and who don't actually, apparently, care much about people themselves. Check out these quotes: 'Virginia Montague, who leads the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women, called the unidentified maid "courageous" for coming forward to file charges against Strauss-Kahn.' So even if she was lying in an effort to blackmail Strauss-Kahn, she is still courageous! Why? "We're talking about the face of women (who) have been victimized, too often judged by the media and public on rumors and innuendos..." The maid is not of any interest to Montague as a person. She is a type ("the face of women who have been victimized") and Montague wants to show us she is the sort of person who is outraged by the treatment of this type. Or how about Salamishah Tillet? "They may be troubling but it doe

In the Cathedral

In addition to those listed as buried here: The mafia managed to stuff in a couple dozen more during construction.

A Little Later, Cathedral of St John the Divine


Afternoon, Columbia University


Pocono Dawn


Survey Says, Percentage of Philosophers Who Are Atheists Equals Zero

A survey of Plato, that is, the man who created the discipline. That is because, for Plato, to be a philosopher meant to be one who had turned one's soul ( periagoge ) away from the merely phenomenal world of shadows on the cave wall, and had climbed up into the light of the truth of the forms, especially the truth that, at the "height" of the journey, one sees that the form of the good, the form of justice, the form of beauty, and the form of truth all come together as one. That one, of course, we call God, as did Plato. To have failed to make that turning of the soul was to be stuck in the world of shadows, about which there was opinion ( doxa ), but no true knowledge ( episteme ).  Thus, thus who lectured and taught without having made the turning were lovers of opinion ( philodoxos ), or sophists, and not philosophers. Plato explicitly said the main defining characteristic of the philodoxer was the denial of the One, i.e., atheism. So philosophy was defined, by its

On the Ladder

You stumble Down the steps Of a ladder In a well That ladder Has a base That base Is in hell That hell Is in your mind As it stumbles Down the steps Of a ladder

Dan Klein on Callahan

Oh, and a little bit about Kirzner as well .

Another Refutation of "Zipf's Law" When Applied to Cities...

is the population of cities in the Netherlands . According to Zipf's Law , the population of Apeldoorn should be 1/12 that of Amsterdam. Instead, it is about 1/5.

The Loss of the Concrete

"The loss of the concrete is substantially a spiritual disease. With the thinning out of faith into a reverential attitude toward symbols, the meaning of the symbols themselves is thinned out to propositions the truth of which has to be demonstrated by rea­son." -- Eric Voegelin, Revolution and the New Science

Aquinas on Property

Private property is a useful invention that serves human needs: "Two things are competent to man in respect of exterior things. One is the power to procure and dispense them, and in this regard it is lawful for man to possess property. Moreover this is necessary to human life for three reasons. First because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants. Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of t

Spell Checker Gone Mad

I was trying to write "towards" on my iPhone. It first suggested I meant to write "roasted," and then thought it must be "dowager" that I was after. What the hey?

It's Nippy Today

At our swim meet today, my kids spotted what they took to be a Filipina mother of one of the other swimmers and went to discover if it was so. (Their mother being Filipina.) During the conversation, the woman told them that her husband is Norwegian-Irish, so she calls her daughter her little NIP (Norwegian-Irish-Pilipino). "That's a little odd," I said when they told me, "but thank God her daughter is not Norwegian, Irish, German, Greek, English, and Romanian!"

Swim Practice

Gold Key Lake, Poconos