Freedom Quote of the Week: 2007 Archives

Week of December 30, 2007

We would like to apologise for the way politicians are represented in this programme. It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak-kneed political time-servers who are concerned more with their own personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government, nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent, nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today. Nor indeed do we intend that viewers should consider them as crabby ulcerous little self-seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices which some people might find offensive.

We are sorry if this impression has come across.

—"Politicians: An Apology," Monty Python's Flying Circus, November 1972.

Week of December 23, 2007

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 not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

— The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. John, 1:1-14 (KJV)

Week of December 16, 2007

Make no mistake: all politicians — even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership — hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it's an X-ray machine. It's a Vulcan mind-meld. It's the ultimate test to which any politician — or political philosophy — can be put.

If a politician isn't perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash — for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn't your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn't genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody's permission, he's a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude — toward your ownership and use of weapons — conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn't trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn't want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

— L. Neil Smith, "Why did it have to be ... guns?"

Week of December 9, 2007

Being a man is the continuing battle of one's life, and one loses a bit of manhood with every stale compromise to the authority of any power in which one does not believe.

— Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself, 1959

Week of December 2, 2007

Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching on one candy bar after another. After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him said, "Son, you know eating all that candy isn't good for you. It will give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat."

Little Tony replied, "My grandfather lived to be 107 years old."

The man asked, "Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?"

Little Tony answered, "No, he minded his own f**king business."

Guns and Dope Party Position Paper #23

Week of November 25, 2007

I believe that my life is my own. I am no one's property or sacrificial animal. I have a right to exist for my own sake, and I don't have to be ashamed of it. I do not exist to be numbered, counted, categorized, stamped, herded, and milked. I am not a cog in a machine, a sheep in a herd, or a number on a census.

I believe that taxation is equal to forced labor. I believe there is no moral or practical difference between taking the wages of a day or a week from a person to pay for a schoolhouse, and ordering them at gunpoint to spend a day or a week building that schoolhouse directly.

I believe that property rights are the basis for all other rights. If I am not free to dispose of the fruits of my labor as I see fit, all other rights are meaningless. Those who deny property rights cannot claim to be defenders of individual rights.

I believe that the term "individual rights" is a tautology. Rights can only ever be individual. ...

I believe that thoughts can never be a crime, nor can they be an excuse for a more severe punishment. I believe that beating a person because you want their wallet is every bit as despicable as beating them because you don't like the color of their skin.

I believe that no group has rights beyond those of any of its individual members. There is no magic or alchemy that gives a mob special rights that trump the rights of the individual. ...

I believe that it is not my right or obligation to raise and educate your children, nor is it your right or obligation to raise and educate mine. ...

I believe that you cannot have a right to anything that necessitates a financial obligation on the part of someone else. You have a right to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, not to any sort of monetary or material thing. The former merely requires your fellow citizens to leave you alone; the latter requires them to work for you free of charge. ...

I believe that the desire to become President should automatically be a disqualifying factor.

I believe that anyone in favor of "free" government services has no understanding of economics. ...

I believe that I am the only person qualified to run my life, that I have the absolute right to be my own master, and that no amount of laws and Constitutions ever written can grant me that right or take it away.

This I believe.

— Marko, This I Believe (excerpts), November 21, 2007.

Week of November 18, 2007

To be an American is a conceptual condition. It's a space of the mind, and it is the thing which made this country, and the people who came here, unique in all of political history. Nobody ever came to America thinking they would be nobody. They came here believing that they would be somebody, and that the "somebody" would be what they - each individual who chose this place - wanted to be. They came here precisely because they couldn't do that in the places where they came from.

It wasn't merely an accident of world history and the discovery of a "new world." Look at the differences between this place and South American countries, which lie on a continent at least as naturally rich and certainly every bit as lightly populated as this one was in, say, the mid-18th century. Why did America lead the world into unprecendented productive achievement while virtually all of South America languished into the "third world"? It was because we were free, while they lived under variations on monarchy and statist imperialism, and that is exactly what people who came here understood.

Being an American doesn't have anything to do with this government. It never has, no matter what they told you in grade-school. The fact is precisely opposite. In order to bring that into precise focus, think about these three items: 1) the principles of individual rights as developed through the Enlightenment, 2) the horrors of slavery in America, 3) the fact that slavery was explicitly sanctioned by government here. The contradiction between items 1 and 3 resulted in item 2, and that could never have happened except by the idea that some men are adorned with the moral authority to dispose of others' lives. That idea is what government is all about, and there is nothing American about it.

The American Idea was about liberty: the ability to choose one's own life. That is what defines an American, and it is strictly a matter of the mind.

— Billy Beck, Immigration: Rootswork, April 5, 2006.

Week of November 11, 2007

In the winter of 1963-64, [Robert] LeFevre organized a winter-and-spring long "Phrontistery" at Colorado to pave the way for transforming Freedom School into a Rampart College. To the Phrontistery flocked some of the nation's leading young libertarians, including Smith, Gaskins, Jackman, Peter Blake, and Mike Helm, many of whom formed for the first time in public an aggressive "Rothbardian" block that stunned the visiting conservative and laissez-faire dignitaries who had been invited to teach there. For the first time in public some of the group also unfurled the "black-and-gold flag," the colors of which we had all decided best represented anarcho-capitalism: black as the classic color of anarchism and gold as the color of capitalism and hard-money.

— Murray Rothbard, The Betrayal of the American Right, 2007.

Week of November 4, 2007

One problem with putting values in the place of philosophy, of course, is that character all too soon replaces values, and it's not long before personality gets put in the place of character — the progression of not a few American intellectuals, radical or otherwise.

— Ross Wetzsteon, Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village, The American Bohemia, 1910-1960, 2002.

Week of October 21, 2007

People devote the better part of their lives to the task of fooling themselves.

— Florence King, "A Marie Antoinette, Just for Us," National Review, July 30, 2007.

Week of October 14, 2007

LCdr Madison: I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades … we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices. My brother died at Anzio — an everyday soldier's death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud.

Mrs. Barham: You're very hard on your mother. It seems a harmless enough pretense to me.

LCdr Madison: No, Mrs. Barham. No, you see, now my other brother can't wait to reach enlistment age. That'll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She's under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave.

— James Garner and Joyce Grenfell, The Americanization of Emily, Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter), Arthur Hiller (director), 1964.

Week of October 7, 2007

An agenda which would qualify for this definition of "federalist" resurrects an issue the New England and Washington power structures thought they had bled to death long ago ... the issue of a state's rights to act with substantial independence. No national party will every be comfortable with this notion, no matter how constitutional it is. Mr. Wolf correctly points out the issue of a hypothetical homosexual marriage not being recognized in another state — and the same notion would exist on many hot buttons ... abortion, parental rights, etc ... So, what would be the answer? Stay in Massachusetts, or Tennessee ... gain a sense of place and value. Learn to love your home like Lee loved Virginia. See whose values produce the better culture. And mind your own business. [ellipses in original]

— Jeff Anderson, in comments posted in reply to "Christian Right Groups Like Thompson, But...", Chicago Daily Observer, September 17, 2007.

Week of September 23, 2007

Society remains primitive insofar as individuals are regarded as agents to butcher for — and to be butchered for — the collective. Society progresses only as the depraved romance of the collective gives way to respect for the individual — the individual whose life and property are never regarded as being at the disposal of the state.

— Donald J. Boudreaux, in a letter to the editor of The Washington Times, quoted on the blog, April 7, 2007.

Week of September 16, 2007

I would add one thing to this: it is not only an illusion of an undifferentiated other that confuses American thinking, but an overwhelming sense that "we" can never have contributed to anything that has ever happened to "us." Not only can you not "blame America first," you are not really supposed to blame America at all, because the nationalist story tells us that "we" as a nation are never really to blame.

This is the story we have told ourselves long before "we" ventured into the Near East or gave much of a thought to the Islamic world.  "We" are always provoked, pushed too far, attacked, insulted, forced into a fight that "we" did not want, etc. Even though the U.S. declared war on Britain first in 1812 and invaded Canada, it is remembered and still taught as a response to provocations (never mind that the most keen War Hawks had little stake in the "free trade and sailors' rights" of war slogan fame and wanted to grab land). The invasion of Mexico was cast in the same light, and was more plainly a land grab. The Spanish War, the Philippine War, and even American participation in WWI fit the pattern of the government launching or entering wars that were quite unnecessary (and, in the case of WWI, opposed by a huge majority of Americans).

Despite what might appear to the outside observer to be a record of a number of poorly justified invasions of other states, the memory is one of being bullied, put upon, victimised and threatened. Someone is always forcing our hand, and there is always the constant lament: "Why are you people doing this to us?" We then provide our own answer when the answers that other people give us are unsatisfactory, because the latter are unflattering and unwelcome. Our answer is that They are essentially and in all ways opposed to our very existence, because nothing else could explain hostility to those as beneficent as "we" are. Delusions about who "we" were and are combine with fantasies about "them" and produce the reliable consensus across most of the political spectrum that gives the same shallow, ill-considered answers to problems of diverse kinds. Thus, "if Hussein does not act, we will" can be easily replaced with "if Musharraf does not act, we will."

The political class in this country always speaks to other governments in what you might call the conditional of hegemony: your country's sovereignty, or perhaps even its existence, is dependent on the degree of your subservience, and failure to comply will merit you the label of "anti-American" or "rogue" or both.

— Daniel Larison, "Get Local," Eunomia, August 3, 2007.
[Paragraph breaks added for ease of reading.]

Week of September 9, 2007

For a century now, instruction in American law schools has focused on the "case method." Prospective lawyers do not study the continental, English, and colonial antecedents of the federal Constitution. Neither do they read the records of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, where the Constitution was written, or the ratification debates that led to its implementation. Instead, they imbibe the latest opinions on constitutional matters from the courts, and particularly from the Supreme Court. Those opinions, and not the Constitution's text as understood by the people when they ratified it, are what law schools teach as "constitutional law."

This "law" is the product, to a large degree, of the political preferences (refracted through the constitutional "theories") of judges and lawyers. It has almost nothing to do with the history or the original understanding of particular provisions. Thus, when asked by a student why his constitutional law class would not be reading any of The Federalist, a famous constitutional law professor at an elite law school responded that The Federalist had nothing to do with constitutional law. The sad thing is that the professor was right, because today's "constitutional law" is not constitutional at all.

— Kevin R.C. Gutzman, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, 2007.

Week of September 2, 2007

To give the Beaver his due, he does things because he has to do them, not because he believes that hard work per se will somehow make him a better Beaver — the Beaver may be dumb, but he is not that dumb!

— Will Cuppy, "The Beaver," How to be a Hermit, 1929.

Week of August 26, 2007

The central idea of the Declaration of Independence is not that all men are created equal but that abusive governments may rightfully be abolished by the governed. Most discussion of the Declaration is designed to falsify this real meaning.

— Clyde N. Wilson, "Almost Forbidden Thoughts III," Chronicles, August 4, 2007.

Week of August 19, 2007

Control is the most addictive drug there is.

— Lizard, "Nanny State Gets Even Sillier," Journal of Applied Misanthropology, August 15, 2007.

Week of August 12, 2007

But with every occasion on which the Christian Right squanders its moral capital, every unjust war it supports, every foolish statement designed to provoke a war between Israel and her neighbors, every ham-handed attempt to keep Christians from taking the environment (and the survival of God's Creation) seriously, that bulwark erodes just a little. Intelligent young people look at the movement which can sanction such irresponsibility, which touts the likes of Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush, and turn away in disgust. Like the Catholics of Spain who associate the Church with Franco's secret police, they shudder and look for something else — a worldview which is not so manifestly juvenile and irrational. ...

The only hope of resisting the partisans of secular intolerance is to clean up the Christian Right (Catholic and Protestant), to purge it of jingoism, anti-intellectualism, and end-of-the world nihilism, then to break up its shotgun wedding to the hacks who run the conservative movement. The Christian Right must become less "Right" and much more Christian, reassert its intellectual and moral independence of partisan politics, and insist on applying its principles consistently. Pastors must stop endorsing torture, public Catholics must choose their pope above their president, and all of us must remember that the real war is not between the Democratic and Republican parties, but between the Church and the World. And the battlefield lies within our hearts.

— F.J. Sarto, "Don't Look Left," Taki's Top Drawer, March 23, 2007.

Week of August 5, 2007

The news today about "atomic bombs" is so horrifying one is stunned.  The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world!  Such explosives in men's hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope "this will ensure peace".  But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in.  Well we're in God's hands.  But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, letter to his son Christopher, August 9, 1945.

Week of July 22, 2007

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

Siegfried Sassoon, Finished With the War: A Soldier's Declaration, July 1917.

Week of July 15, 2007

Realism is the death of progress.

— Thomas J. Peters, "On the Other Hand: No Dreamers, No Progress," July 6, 2007.

Week of July 8, 2007

In the case of American history in particular, the conclusion that students are expected to draw isn't terribly subtle: the private sector is the realm of exploitation and greed, and we should seek relief from the government sector, which is populated by idealistic crusaders for justice. The progovernment prejudice is clear even in the choice of subject matter: students leave school knowing all about how a bill becomes a law, but not the first thing about how markets work.

— Thomas E. Woods, Jr., 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask, 2007.

Week of July 1, 2007

Compared to such stimulating recollections of the belle époque of big spending and the lavish gesture, the degenerate present, despite material abundance on a scale to dwarf the dreams of a Roman proconsul, offers a sorry comparison. Never have material prosperity and emergent good fortune in such radiant dimension crowned a nation's destinies, never have diffidence and timidity suggested their enjoyment on a scale of more debased mediocrity. ...

It may be argued that Texas millionaires are a specially inhibited and unimaginative breed, predisposed from birth to the inanities of football, drum majorettes, and private flying machines, and that elsewhere in the land men rise above this abysmal level of tastelessness and conformity, but the argument, alas, is not valid. Fords, Rockefellers, Morgans, Mellons, and Vanderbilts to a man are given to public good works and private lives of the most revolting probity. Among the inheritors of great names and great fortunes in America it is difficult if not impossible to find a living man who has given a dinner party at which nude chorus girls leaped from the innards of a lamb potpie. ...

There are men in Texas who could buy and sell J.P. Morgan, Jim Hill, and Jay Gould all rolled in none, but they are poltroons to a man, scared beyond measure of having fun. Instead of fancy-dress balls of revolting dimensions at the Waldorf-Astoria, they are a pushover for family foundations.

— Lucius Beebe, The Big Spenders, 1966, xiii-xv.

Week of June 24, 2007

At bottom, a border is nothing more than an imaginary line on the ground, drawn by politicians. What's important are not the lines themselves, but the people on either side of those lines.

— Steve Kubby, "Immigration", 2007.

Week of June 17, 2007

Clinton's presidency was the long-delayed aftershock of the 1960s generation, particularly that sector of the generation absorbed with Pot and Protest. He was followed in office by a president from the competing sector of the 1960s generation, a cohort more concerned with Beer and Beach Parties. This sequence, in part, explains the enormous bitterness of today's politics on the national level. An intra-generational confrontation is taking place between those young conservatives of the 1960s who thought America should be as America had always been, free and bourgeois; and the young radicals, who thought America should be like one or two late 1960s Beatles albums that now are slipping into memory's well. Clinton and the others from this sector of their famous generation — wife Hillary, Dr. Howard Dean, Al Gore, Jean-François Kerry — were troubled adolescents, indignant and self-absorbed. Now despite hair loss and wrinkles, they pretty much remain adolescent, indignant, and self-absorbed.

— R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After the White House, 2007.

Week of June 10, 2007

It is no excuse in a Member of Parliament who is personally honest to plead his personal honesty in defence of the House of Commons as a whole. On the contrary, his very honesty, coupled with his silence, damns the place. If he has not exposed the vile things that now go on there, if he continues to associate familiarly with the actors of them, if he continues to base what he calls his "career" upon a toleration of corruption, then his plea for a merely mechanical reform of the House of Commons is just as insincere as that of his more typical and more guilty colleagues.

— Hilaire Belloc, The House of Commons and Monarchy, 1920.

Week of June 3, 2007

Marx, although a man of broad knowledge, had one blind spot: he was ignorant of the true character of economics. He did not realize that economics can only be understood in close relationship to the other humanities (and certain sciences), and therefore should not be studied in vacuo. Ironically, this very weakness was largely instrumental in making Marxism successful. Marxist economics — yet another instance of a false but clear idea — can be explained to the merest child in a matter of minutes. (Conversely, to explain the workings of the free market economy to an adult would take weeks of hard work.) Because it was easily grasped, Marxism flooded the world within a few decades, as had other simplistic ideologies and religions, such as Islam and the Enlightenment; this same sort of simplicity gave rise to the French Revolution and national socialism. Christianity, on the other hand, took three centuries to triumph.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited

All of May 2007

On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.

— Ezra 8:31 (NIV)

Week of April 29, 2007

For the sad state of the world today, the entry of the United States into two world wars has played a larger role than any other single factor. Some might attribute the admittedly unhappy conditions of our time to other items and influences than world wars and our intervention in them. No such explanation can be sustained. Indeed, but for our entry into the two world wars, we should be living in a far better manner than we did before 1914. The advances in technology since that time have brought the automobile into universal use, have given us good roads, and have produced the airplane, radio, moving pictures, television, electric lighting and refrigeration, and numerous other revolutionary contributions to human service, happiness, and comforts. If all this had been combined with the freedom, absence of high taxation, minimum indebtedness, low armament expenditures, and pacific outlook of pre-1914 times, the people of the United States might, right now, be living in Utopian security and abundance.

— Harry Elmer Barnes, "Revisionism and the Historical Blackout," Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, 1953.
[Note: this book should not be confused with the more recent book with the same title by Gore Vidal.]

Week of April 22, 2007

Although libertarianism is generally considered a radical doctrine, the primary task of the libertarian is to continually reinforce the basic reality that almost everyone already is a libertarian. If we simply keep asking people if they are willing to shoot others in order to get their way, we can very quickly convince them that libertarianism is not an abstract, radical or fringe philosophy, but rather a simple description of the principles by which they already live their lives. If you get fired, do you think that you should hold your manager hostage until he gives you back your job? No? Then you already hold a libertarian position on unions, tariffs, and corporate subsidies. If you find your teenage son in your basement smoking marijuana, would you shoot him? No? Then you already hold a libertarian position on the drug laws. Should those who oppose war be shot for their beliefs? No? Then you already hold a libertarian position with regards to taxation.

Like the scientific method, libertarianism’s greatest strength is its uncompromising simplicity. The enforcement of property rights leads to an immensely complex economy, but the morality of property rights is very simple — would you shoot a man in order to steal his property? The same complexity arises from the simple and universal application of the non-aggression principle. It’s so easy to get lost in the beguiling complexities and forget to keep enunciating the basic principles.

— Stefan Molyneux, "The Gun in the Room,", November 16, 2006.

Week of April 15, 2007

Of course, it may be that certain things are impossible. Trying to test the states' right of secession today would bring disaster upon your people, for instance, because the central state would annihilate you, no questions asked. In the back of every reactionary's mind is the knowledge that the attempts to openly resist the central state (i.e., "doing" something) have resulted in the obliteration or ruin of whole peoples and regions. That doesn't mean that we think the Jacobites or the Confederacy were wrong, but it means that the value of "doing" something has been qualified significantly. Further, since it is not possible to save the whole, it becomes imperative to preserve what you can of your way of life in your own backyard. Thus comes the annoying criticism that we do not "do" anything, since many of us came to the conclusion (it seems difficult to say that it is the wrong one) that our ailments are spiritual and cultural and cannot be solved through the sort of political "doing" and "action" that would satisfy our critics anyway.

This doesn't mean that we don't engage in the political realm to some extent, inasmuch as we still believe it is part of our responsibility to remain informed and aware of what goes on in the centers of power, but there is an awareness that the sources of our ills are elsewhere and cannot in any case be addressed by becoming a retainer to princes. Like Kekaumenos, we keep a close eye on the intrigues of the capital, insofar as it might affect us and ours, but we do everything we can to avoid it as much as possible. For those who have spent (or wasted, depending on your perspective) their lives in the capital fighting political turf wars, while the culture rots all around them and few political victories are won, this is certainly an infuriating attitude, but what can I say?

— Daniel Larison, "I Ride with Kekaumenos," Eunomia, April 12, 2007.

Week of April 8, 2007

The man who has never in his life become lost to all thoughts of time and food in the Charing Cross Road, and at the end of the day has not found himself hugging beneath his arm some book, or books, which he is proud and happy to possess, does not know one of the purest joys which London can afford. The road is a busy one. The traffic rushes one way to Oxford Street and the other to Trafalgar Square. The pavements are always filled with hurrying crowds, and with their backs to the world stand the bookmen, the book readers, the book hunters, the book tasters, the book maniacs — for books, like drink, can affect the brain — completely oblivious that they are not standing in an empty street.

— H.V. Morton, In Search of London, 1951.

Week of April 1, 2007

We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a program which seems neither a mere defense of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical, and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote. The practical compromises they must leave to the politicians. Free trade and freedom of opportunity are ideals which still may arouse the imaginations of large numbers, but a mere "reasonable freedom of trade" or a mere "relaxation of controls" is neither intellectually respectable nor likely to inspire any enthusiasm.

The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote. Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this had rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.

— F.A. Hayek, "The Intellectuals and Socialism," The Chicago Law Review, Spring 1949
(it's a well-known quotation, relatively speaking, but it's always good to re-read it once in a while).

Week of March 18, 2007

Look: everybody gets to make up their own mind about things like this. That's why we have minds. However, "freedom" means that we are not forced to live according to any but our own judgments: in a condition of freedom, we are not bound to live according to someone else's idea of what's good for us, and it's in details like this that this becomes crucially important. People like Beyerstein would forcibly substitute their judgment for mine, in a matter of values which they simply are not competent to judge, because of the individual nature of values. It is nothing for her to dismiss something like my guitar as "insurable", and that's exactly what her judgment means to me: nothing at all.

And there is nothing in the world that she can do about it.

— Billy Beck, "No Choice," Two--Four, March 15, 2007.

Week of March 11, 2007

How? Dear god ... how in the world to make the point that ideas are "real" too?

People stumble through complexions like this as if something like a "health-care crisis" just settled on us out of god's blue sky like a tornado: they take that as their starting-point, call it "reality", and attempt to proceed as if no malignant human concept ever had anything to do with it. They see no point in fighting bad ideas with right ones — ideas that integrate as widely as possible and necessary — just rolling-over, instead, for the ideological fait-accompli that's right up in their faces and willing to surrender it as a fait-accompli without ever looking at its roots in human action: wrong, but nonetheless open to understanding as something that could be set right with the same power of intellect, but only turned in the proper direction.

This is an enormous barrier. It's the mentality that would look at a practical application of "2+2=5", realize that it's wrong, but shrug and say, "Well, there it is, it's 'real', and we have to try to work with it."

The power of ideas (like I said: very bad ones in the case of health-care) is right in front of them at every turn, and their idea is to give up the fight for ideas. Why? Because they're not "real".

I cannot imagine what it's going to take to dissolve this deadly myopia.

— Billy Beck, "Where the Real Power Is," Two--Four, January 10, 2007.

Week of March 4, 2007

Observe that today's resurgence of tribalism is not a product of the lower classes — of the poor, the helpless, the ignorant — but of the intellectuals, the college-educated "elitists" (which is a purely tribalistic term). Observe the proliferation of grotesque herds or gangs — hippies, yippies, beatniks, peaceniks, Women's Libs, Gay Libs, Jesus Freaks, Earth Children — which are not tribes, but shifting aggregates of people desperately seeking tribal "protection."

The common denominator of all such gangs is the belief in motion (mass demonstrations), not action — in chanting, not arguing — in demanding, not achieving — in feeling, not thinking — in denouncing "outsiders," not in pursuing values — in focusing only on the "now," the "today" without a "tomorrow" — in seeking to return to "nature," to "the earth," to the mud, to physical labor, i.e., to all the things which a perceptual mentality is able to handle. You don't see advocates of reason and science clogging a street in the belief that using their bodies to stop traffic will solve any problem.

— Ayn Rand, "The Missing Link," Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1982. 

Week of February 18, 2007

Now all these five characteristics of empire — alliances, subsidies, dislike of neutralism, impatience with domestic criticism and extreme self-righteousness — are actively promoted from Washington today. ... But, in spite of xenophobia, talk about Manifest Destiny and The American Century has now almost completely evaporated. There is widespread recognition that the national talent is not imperial and that an extremely large number of people all over the globe are more disposed to dislike than to admire our much-vaunted "American Way." As problems of every sort increase at home we realize that what happens to Israel or Ethiopia is not our first concern. And this is not to be called a rebirth of "isolationism," but rather a recognition that federalism, even if we misname it democracy, is not adapted or adaptable to the path of empire.

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.

Week of February 4, 2007

Still a fifth characteristic of empire is to dilate in grandiose terms about its blessings for mankind. Pax Romana is the classical version of this trait. After World War II the phrase was: The American Century. There has never been an empire, from that of the Hittites to that of Hitler, that could not and did not justify itself in terms of Manifest Destiny — more manifest to the Imperator than to anyone else.

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.

Week of January 28, 2007

A fourth characteristic of empire is the argument that there should be no political debate over foreign policy. Politics, it is said, should stop at the water's edge, because the intricacies of imperial policy demand the most expert direction and it is dangerous to have them impeded by those without inside knowledge. This theory of nonpartisanship depreciates what we call democratic procedures, by suggesting that these work only in issues of secondary importance. It thereby emphasizes again that once democracy has served to centralize government, the executive will assume the right to interpret "the general will."

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.

Week of January 21, 2007

The need of alliances explains a third characteristic of empire, which is hostility to the theory of neutrality. Thucydides tells how, during the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians demanded a "we or they" decision from the little island of Melos, then seeking to preserve neutrality as between Athens and Sparta. That was in 420 B.C., but twenty-four centuries later it is still a characteristic of empire to dislike neutrality. One strong indication of the American shift to imperial thinking is the way India has been criticized for upholding a neutrality which was a cardinal point in our own foreign policy less than half a century ago. On October 10, 1955, Secretary of State Dulles told an American Legion Convention: "The United States does not believe in practicing neutrality."

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.

Week of January 14, 2007

From the uncertain nature of military alliances springs a second characteristic of empire. Allies must be continuously subsidized from the imperial treasury, both with military and economic aid. Once undertaken, these subsidies can never be stopped and are more likely to require increasing outlay in order to keep the ally bought. As there is no morality in the state as such, so there is no such moral factor as loyalty in the relations between states. An English statesman summed it up neatly when he said: "Great Britain has no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, but only permanent interests."

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.

Week of January 7, 2007

There are several definite characteristics of empire, all more or less connected with the fact that empires get their start from military conquest. This conquest leads to territorial aggrandizement, which is followed by the establishment of military alliances to secure or protect the conquered territory. Alliances, as a device of imperial policy, are as old as recorded history but they are by nature impermanent, and the ally of one empire today may always be the ally of its enemy tomorrow — an elementary political practice on which Marshal Tito has done something to inform us.

— Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism, 1959.