A Parliament of Lawyers and Rights

One of the great advantages of the ever-increasing plethora of rights conferred upon us by government (except that of keeping the product of our own labor) is that it requires lawyers to adjudicate between them when they conflict, as they so often do. It prevents unemployment among the ever-increasing number of lawyers: and you have only to consider the career of Robespierre to know where the disgruntlement of lawyers may lead.

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Power Tends to Corrupt

Power Tends to Corrupt

Christopher Lazarski comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his deep inquiry into Lord Acton's attempt to understand the dimensions and nature of liberty as it unfolded in Western history. In this podcast, Lazarski underscores Lord Acton's historical quest to find the conditions of liberty, as well as his formal understanding of what constituted liberty. The conditions of Acton's ordered liberty we can describe as "arbitrary law," national history, and a bottom-up development of positive law. Arbitrary law was Acton's way of describing divine and natural law, which he believed a pillar in support of political liberty because it was law…

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Libertarian Wars

One of libertarianism’s more admirable traits is its spiritedness, a welcome addition in a grey world. My blogging colleague Mike Rappaport adds thoughtfulness to spiritedness in his various elaborations on libertarianism. Lately he has asked what a libertarian immigration policy  might be and has responded to Michael Lind’s provocation that there are no libertarian countries.

Mike’s responses raise questions fundamental to the adequacy of libertarian thinking. I speculate that a kind of universalism originating in the Declaration of Independence underlies his thinking, but that a decisive Lincolnian correction is needed.

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Kenneth Minogue’s The Liberal Mind at 50

In his autobiography, John Stuart Mill relates the mental crisis that he experienced as a young man when he asked himself whether he would be happy if all the reforms that he thought necessary were granted or achieved. Would they necessarily fulfill him?

The answer, obviously, was ‘No,’ and Mill, having been nothing if not a man of the most complete integrity, suffered a nervous collapse. ‘The end had ceased to charm,’ he wrote, ‘and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.’

Few people, however, are as intelligent or scrupulous as Mill; but like him, they need something to live for. Indeed, the struggle for existence (or subsistence) having been more or less won – how, without a great deal of determination, do you starve in a modern society?

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Fat, Stupid and in Debt

In the New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein reviews Sarah Conly’s Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, just out from Cambridge University Press. I haven’t read the book, and I do not intend to do so. I already own two other books, and this one is $95—the equivalent of two cartons Camel Filters.(Not even close, in terms of marginal utility.) In contrast, Professor Sunstein’s laudatory review arrived for free, via internet, and I have read it with great profit.

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On the matter of Dalrymple and French Book Shops

Some have questioned or criticized this website over the past few days for posting this short essay by Theodore Dalrymple, where he made, to my mind, an interesting argument about the variety of book shops still evident in small towns and villages in France. Such book shops are not, in Dalrymple’s judgment, as nearly abundant in his native Britain despite its more open book market. France, he noted, has a law mandating that book retailers cannot charge under a certain price for books. Could this, strangely, be the reason why there are more French book retailers, and more variety and…

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Bleeding Heart Libertarianism, Utilitarianism, and Statism

Do bleeding heart libertarians have an argument against statism? My concern is that they do not. Take Mike Rappaport. He writes that “[1] I have always been a Bleeding Heart Libertarian who is concerned about the effects of liberty on the poor and … [2] I now base my political views on a utilitarian approach.” This post shows how (1) and (2), taken together, keeps one always open to (3) statism, which Rappaport says is “similar to other negative ‘isms’ like racism and sexism.” (I.e., it’s a bad, bad thing.)

Here’s the problem in a sentence: If (1) bleeding heart libertarianism acquires its moral standing from (2) utilitarianism, which relies on an account of human welfare in terms of pleasures and pains, then bleeding heart libertarianism has no principled argument against (3) statism; it has at best a pragmatic objection.

So we’re clear, Rappaport himself, in “Statism I,” defines statism and decries it. He is not a statist; he is against statism. Agreed.

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Freedom of Speech Wanes in Britain

When last month during an FA Cup quarter-final, the 23 year old Zaire-born former under-21 England international footballer, Fabrice Muamba, collapsed after a heart attack, a palpable wave of sympathy broke out for him among supporters of both teams at the north London stadium where the match was being played.

Unfortunately, that wave of sympathy did not extend to one inebriated 21 year old British biology undergraduate who had been following the match. He promptly tweeted a disgusting and highly abusive comment about the incident, followed by still more disgusting responses to those who tweeted to him in protest at what he had written.

His original tweet ran: ‘LOL [Laugh out loud) **** Muamba, He’s dead!’

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