Operating a specific enterprise, whatever its aim or product, requires focusing on measurable quantities of inputs and their measurable effects on outputs. Qualitative factors may enter into that equation, but only as they are necessary to the successful attainment of the specific object in question. That is the mindset of the manager of an “enterprise association,” as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott famously called it, and is to be strictly distinguished from the study of that broader set of social phenomena that, while orderly, are not directed toward one specific goal or product. The economic perspective is really concerned with this latter,…
Carson Holloway’s Liberty Forum essay provides an opportunity to discuss an important historical document with current debates about the American economy in mind. The chief issues that Alexander Hamilton raises in his 1791 Report on Manufactures are the role of manufacturing in the economy and government’s role in encouraging it. It should be remembered that the…
The great insight of Alexander Hamilton is that all serious nations take serious measures on behalf of their own security and prosperity. This is what good governments do. There is a clarity here that is absent from our current partisan debates, if only because Hamilton unapologetically offers good government as a foundation for republican government.…
It is a pleasure to read, think about, and respond to the three insightful and knowledgeable critiques of Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures that have appeared in this Liberty Law Forum. These are also fair-minded critiques, since they all give Hamilton due credit for his many virtues, even as they take him to task for…
William Ruger and Jason Sorens have identified a lacuna in both thought and rhetoric in the current conceptualization of individual freedom on the part of libertarians: an inability or perhaps unwillingness to engage arguments for virtuous self-government.
Jeremy Rabkin has captured a good sense of Carl Schmitt in his Liberty Forum essay. Like him, I agree that it is difficult to grapple with the author’s exceedingly abstract prose. But there is a certain urgency that requires us to try, if only because, as Rabkin has also shown, the allure is proving all too powerful for a certain set of intellectuals for whom Schmitt, precisely because of the taboo quality of his oeuvre, projects an “enduring fascination.” As much then as we might like to ignore him, that won’t do. We have to unpack the arguments and their…
In response to: Springtime for Schmitt
At the outset of his provocative Liberty Forum essay, Jeremy Rabkin notes that the most remarkable thing about Carl Schmitt is “his appeal to contemporary academics in the English-speaking world.” Schmitt’s literary afterlife and the current level of interest in his works are, indeed, surprising given his infamous political trajectory and his ambiguous and unconvincing…
Encountering Carl Schmitt for the first time is a shock, especially if one is raised to respect what Jeremy Rabkin, in his Liberty Forum essay, correctly describes as the liberal pieties. But if one cares about liberalism it would be a mistake to write Schmitt off as a Nazi, a nihilist, or a promoter of…
When Gary Becker put forward his idea of human capital in 1964, it was to address the effects of knowledge and training on individual economic performance. This idea can and should be extended to gauge the productive capacities of society in general.
Cultural patterns of behavior that become engrained over time, such as norms of punctuality, honesty, sobriety, or what others might call social capital, are just another way of speaking about human capital. When Max Weber described the attributes of character that marked the modern bourgeois, he was in fact emphasizing patterns of beliefs that facilitated the operation of markets by enabling individuals to effectively negotiate their social landscape—to engage in commerce and production over the long run.
There is a great and dangerous Trust seeking to form globally. Like any monopoly in days past, or OPEC now, its aim is profit. But its means are far more sinister, and potentially far more effective, than anything ever investigated by the Pujo Committee.
Rather than merely raising revenues on some good or service, this Trust will follow you wherever you might run. Nothing like it has been seen since the days of the fugitive slave acts. It is more controlling than when medieval lords bound their serfs to their estates, or the Roman latifundia forced Romans back to the land. The idea: To attach a uniform worldwide rate upon the surplus of your productive endeavors for the benefit of its members.
Editor’s Note: This excellent post by Hans Eicholz on the need for the Scots to recover their former capitalist and free society enthusiasms if they are to govern themselves is worthy of re-consideration today.
What does it take to secure an independent, self-governing nation? Arguably it takes a self-governing citizenry. And what does that mean? Generally speaking, it means a citizenry composed of persons capable of independent thought and action—capable of sustaining themselves through much of the thick and thin of life through their own voluntary efforts in civil society.
A modern welfare state works directly against that capacity by encouraging ties of hierarchical dependence on political authorities. The modern fallacy is to believe that majority voting is sufficient to prevent the abuse of power; anyone familiar with the workings of government cannot seriously entertain that idea.
The wild increase in laws and more importantly, administrative agency rules, does not translate into the rule of law, but into the selective enforcement of special programs by those entrusted to administer them. That sort of re-feudalization of the economy and society was well understood by Mancur Olson years ago in his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. But Olson was really only further developing the critique of mercantilism first put forward by Adam Smith.
To whom does Jefferson belong in today’s political debates? The reality, it seems, is everyone. Quotes can be found on almost any topic expressing virtually any sentiment, in large measure because unlike so many others of his day, Jefferson saved everything.
That’s why I am rarely bothered by either side of the political spectrum quoting him. What does bother me, though, is when people who ought to know better think they can claim Jefferson, exclusively, enlisting his pen in their ideological causes.
Richard Eskrow ought to know better.
As David Conway has noted in this space, the past week has seen quite a brouhaha in the United Kingdom over the Law Society’s decision to issue guidelines for sharia-compliant wills.
The controversy has sparked commentary here as well. But there appears to be considerable confusion on this matter, resulting in some very ill-considered assertions—ones that could backfire on time-honored conservative principles. The message here must remain: “Look before you leap.”
In reflecting further on the issues raised by Ted McAllister’s emphasis on the American historical experience of liberty in this month’s Liberty Law Forum, I find myself returning again to consider the meaning of a particular phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “the pursuit of happiness.” I have written about this before in other places, but McAllister’s highlighting of historically lived experience, brings out the significance of this passage even further.