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.
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.
Many long posts ago, this website hosted a discussion of Michael Greve’s wonderfully illuminating Upside Down Constitution. A key part of the thesis was the degree to which local self-governing political bodies in America have steadily ceded administration to national agencies, not as the helpless victims of a national takeover, but as willing, nay eager participants in the national redistribution of our common wealth.
Without a consideration of basic principles, of basic notions of right and wrong, of moral and philosophic ideals, this transfer of self-governance from the local to the national, becomes very hard to criticize.
In the third volume of Law Legislation and Liberty, Hayek argued that something was amiss with western constitutions. They have failed to contain the growth of government or prevent the encroachments of discretionary power. He thought it was time to rethink the constitutional structures of the free world.
Policy makers and economists of various stripes have had a field day since the onset of the last financial crisis blaming the downturn on market failures and proclaiming new regulatory fixes. Never mind that most of the mainstream either did not anticipate the collapse or had even preached perpetual boom, they were brimming with solutions. That fact has set a few members of the economics profession on edge and in one case, has inspired an important new contribution to thinking about markets. What is the right way of conceiving the relation of public policy and law to economics?