Freedom Quote of the Week: 2008 Archives

Week of December 21, 2008

Cities are essentially a Neolithic invention no longer necessary to human survival or well-being. They have not been necessary since the invention of the telephone and the internal combustion engine which their operators hate and fear. Like other obsolete vestiges that our species has outgrown—opera, ballet, railroads—they could not continue to exist without massive volumes of stolen wealth from the federal and state governments. Cities are machines that exist now only to drain the Productive Class and violate the rights of individuals, bottomless cesspool sources of unending bribery, corruption, and extortion.

Incremental reforms, if we are to tolerate them, should begin with the abolition of municipal police departments in favor of sheriff's departments, which are directly correctable by the public. Even then, stringent limits must be applied to the officer/population ratio, in order to eliminate the "standing army" the Founding Fathers worried about, and which has manifested itself in our time as the "thin blue line" that is all that stands between the American people—and their freedom.

— L. Neil Smith "Who Needs City Government?," The Libertarian Enterprise, July 8, 2007.

Week of December 14, 2008

In reviewing the Ten Commandments, my Mom and Dad — who are, I hasten to observe, just like countless other decent people in this respect — saw fit to qualify only one of them, the commandment against murder.

They didn't specifically tell my children that it is acceptable to lie, steal, covet, dishonor one's parents, or commit adultery if the government requires such conduct of them. They did, however, take special care to emphasize that the government can order them to kill other human beings who have done them no harm, in direct contradiction of God's unqualified commandment not to murder. Of course, if government can make a nullity of that commandment, it can revise the others to suit its purposes as well.

Indeed, government — particularly the despicable state that rules us — is little more than a perpetual organized assault on the Ten Commandments. The defining act of a government is extracting wealth from people through the threat of lethal violence, and swaddling such acts in invidious rhetoric about "social justice." Thus at its very foundation, the State institutionalizes violations of the commandments against theft, murder, and covetousness.

The State's fundamental function — killing, or the threat to do so — is intimately connected to a claim of ownership over its subjects. This is revealed in ways both vulgar and oblique. The best example of the former is the practice of conscription. Any government that can "make" an individual a soldier against his will is one richly deserving to be overthrown. A milder version of the same presumption can be seen every time a politician in a storm-threatened community issues a "mandatory evacuation" order to its residents, as if their lives were his, rather than theirs.

— William N. Grigg "Idolatry and State-Sanctioned Murder," Pro Libertate, September 1, 2008.

Week of November 23, 2008

Democracy, in order to appeal, must whisper to every man a fundamentally undemocratic falsehood: that he can choose his government. Therein lies a confusion of democratic thought: the confusion of the power of the people with the liberty of the person. When a man says he is free under a democracy because he can choose his government, already the falsehood is fully grown. He cannot do any such thing. He is given a say in how his country is to be governed, but this degree of power is so tiny as to be almost non-existent; and yet for this, he is willing to give up his fate to an overwhelming power, and he calls his subjection to this power — freedom!

— "Deogolwulf," "The Democratic Tendency," The Joy of Curmudgeonry, September 11, 2008.

Week of November 9, 2008

A government building you regard as a charnel house, which in fact it is; you enter always under duress, and you never demean yourself by curtseying to its living or dead statuary. The stars on the general's shoulders merely signify that the man might have been a useful member of society; you pity the boy whose military garb identifies his servility. The dais on which the judge sits elevates the body but lowers the man, and the jury box is a place where three-dollar-a-day slaves enforce the law of slavery. You honor the tax dodger. You do not vote because you put too high a value on your vote.

— Frank Chodorov, quoted in Bill Kauffman, Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists, 2006.

Week of October 26, 2008

The other night, Barack Obama said, "I think [health care] should be a right for every American." You don’t need to see his membership card to some dinky club. He's a f___ing Socialist. Universal health care is a f___ing Socialist panacea. One of many f___ing Socialist panaceas that Barack Obama turns his noble chin toward every f___ing day of his life.

Is there something hard to understand about any of that?

— Mike Soja, "Just how much of other people's stuff do you have to confiscate to be called a Socialist these days, anyway?," Kayak 2 U Blog, October 9, 2008.

Week of October 5, 2008

Remember this point the next time somebody tells you that "free market madmen" caused the current financial crisis that is threatening to undermine the economy. There is no free market. There is no "laissez-faire capitalism." The government has been deeply involved in setting the parameters for market relations for eons; in fact, genuine "laissez-faire capitalism" has never existed. Yes, trade may have been less regulated in the nineteenth century, but not even the so-called "Gilded Age" featured "unfettered" markets.

— Chris Matthew Sciabarra, "A Crisis of Political Economy," Notablog, October 1, 2008.

Week of September 28, 2008

"Politics, under democracy," Mencken wrote more than 80 years ago, "resolves itself into impossible alternatives. Whatever the label on the parties, or the war cries issuing from the demagogues who lead them, the practical choice is between the plutocracy on the one side and a rabble of preposterous impossibilists on the other." And in a declaration even apter now than it was at the time, he concluded that what democracy "needs beyond everything is a party of liberty."

The trouble is, however, that now, even more than then, the American people have little interest in liberty. Instead, they want the impossible: home ownership for those who cannot afford homes, credit for those who are not creditworthy, old-age pensions for those who have not saved, health care for those who make no attempt to keep themselves healthy, and college educations for those who lack the wit to finish high school. Moreover, they want it now, and they want somebody else to pay for it.

— Robert Higgs, "Ticking time bomb explodes, public is shocked," The Beacon (blog of The Independent Institute), September 10, 2008.

Week of September 21, 2008

Kill six millions Jews in Germany, your name becomes a synonym with evil. Kill between 44 and 72 million Chinese, you get a café named after you. It's a funny old world, eh?

— Jill Murphy, commenter, "Yes but our mass murderers are important to us,", January 15, 2008.

Week of September 14, 2008

Thus the educational free-for-all sentiment got a very powerful endorsement. It was democratic. Poverty-stricken Tom, from the slashes, should go though school, college and university hand in hand with Dick the scion of Wall Street, and toplofty Harry of the Back Bay. Democracy so willed it, in spite of Nature's insuperable differentiations whereby Tom had no first-rate school-ability, Harry had excellent ability in other directions but no school-ability, and Dick was a Dummkopf with no ability of any kind. Privately these differentiations might be recognized, indeed must be, but it was of the essence of democracy that there should be no official or institutional recognition of them. The unspeakable silliness of our truant laws, which make compulsory attendance a matter purely of school-age instead of school-ability, appropriately expresses this limitation.

— Albert Jay Nock, "American Education," Free Speech and Plain Language, 1937.

Week of September 7, 2008

The least depressing conclusion I draw from all the coverage of Britney, Lindsay, OJ, and now Heath is that elections mean nothing. People who care who the next American Idol will be or who will win "Dancing with the Stars" could not be trusted to elect the board members of the Parks Department, much less the temporary dictator of an empire of 300 million people. One small detail. We Americans laugh at the people of India and Pakistan who choose party leaders on the strength of their last names, and then a significant number of us run out to vote for George W. Bush or Hilary Clinton. Benazir Bhutto may be as crooked as Hilary Clinton, but she spoke far better English.

— Thomas Fleming, "Strangers in a Strange Land," Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, January 28, 2008.

Week of August 31, 2008

Think about "The United States." These days, you hear politicians and other mouthy twits rattling on about "unity." Of course, this is part & parcel of the entire socialist theme, but it also has a most unfortunate aspect in its standing in the American political heritage. It's a long-bone in our political lexicon. What's grievously unfortunate is that the only thing about American politics that "united" this country was dying lip-service (known as "the Constitution") to the ideals originally set forth in the Declaration of Independence. It was the essential idea of freedom that was the object of the "union" -- no matter how badly it was served, ever after.

No socialist idea was ever a part of that, and this is the ghastly perversion of the concept of "union" that we face now: the socialists have something in mind that is simply not American. When they talk about "unity", they are not talking about agreement on fidelity to the idea of freedom. They're talking about a hive. <...>

The essential political conflict of our time is between collectivism and individualism. Very few people can see the thing in those truest terms, and this is why most individuals' practical politics can't be distinguished to precisely one or the other of those two sides: the nice lady who wants free meds doesn't know "socialism" from a tuna sandwich, and the gun-toting farmer usually has only the dimmest concepts of "rights" or the implications of his stand on weapons. They don't know the fullest context or implications of their politics. However, the power of principles does not diminish from ignorance.

Very roughly, the "sort" is taking place along the individualist/collectivist divide. It has all kinds of distortions (for instance: instinctive individualists joining pressure groups -- e.g., NRA) compounded by cultural geography, etc., but I say that what you're really seeing is the last stand of the American idea.

— Billy Beck, "Right Bloody Hell," Two--Four, July 17, 2008.

Week of August 24, 2008

[Barack Obama's] agenda is an admirable one. Yet to imagine that installing a particular individual in the Oval Office will produce decisive action on any of these fronts is to succumb to the grandest delusion of all. The quadrennial ritual of electing (or reelecting) a president is not an exercise in promoting change, regardless of what candidates may claim and ordinary voters believe. The real aim is to ensure continuity, to keep intact the institutions and arrangements that define present-day Washington. The veterans of past administrations who sign on as campaign advisors are not interested in curbing the bloated power of the presidency. They want to share in exercising those powers. The retired generals and admirals who line up behind their preferred candidate don't want to dismantle the national security state. They want to preserve and, if possible, expand it. The candidates who decry the influence of money in national politics are among those most skilled at courting the well-heeled to amass millions in campaign contributions. ...

Paradoxically, the belief that all (or even much) will be well, if only the right person assumes the reins as president and commander in chief serves to underwrite the status quo. Counting on the next president to fix whatever is broken promotes expectations of easy, no-cost cures, permitting ordinary citizens to absolve themselves of responsibility for the nation's predicament. The same Americans who profess to despise all that Washington represents look to — depending on partisan affiliation — a new John F. Kennedy or a new Ronald Reagan to set things right again. Rather than seeing the imperial presidency as part of the problem, they persist in the fantasy that a chief executive, given a clear mandate, will "change" the way Washington works and restore the nation to good health. Yet to judge by the performance of the presidents over the past half century, including both Kennedy and Reagan (whose legacies are far more mixed that their supporters will acknowledge), a citizenry that looks to the White House for deliverance is assured of disappointment.

— Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, 2008, pp. 170-172.

Week of August 17, 2008

Whenever I speak of Chinese collectivism, given their communist legacy in the 20th century, I often am met with a response like "Oh, China... sure they're ruled by a communist party, but they're not really communists. Look at all of their economic reform and liberalization!" This response seems to miss the mark altogether. The distinctive feature of communism was the view that individual interests could be curtailed for the sake of promoting class interest. Under Mao and his communist successors, collective interests took priority over individual rights and the liberties they secure. This view is precisely the same view held by the current Chinese regime, though they're replaced "class interest" with "national interest." The principle that one can see manifested everywhere throughout contemporary Chinese politics and public policy is the same collectivist principle invoked by the communists: that individuals exist to serve the state, that the interests of the state take priority over the interests of the individual.

It was indeed China's coming out party, and the opening ceremony was supposed to communicate a message of friendship, cooperation, and human unity. It was supposed to show how China was willingness to engage in civilized participation with the rest of the world. It included a performance by 810 figures in Han-dynasty era clothing, who joined together to communicate the question "Isn't it great to have friends coming from afar?" and sent "All men are brothers within the four seas."

Despite the inclusion of elements like this, I couldn't find myself convinced that the opening ceremonies should be viewed positively. Regardless of all the razzle-dazzle, what we witnessed was a calculated attempt by an oppressive government to justify itself through a mesmerizing performance on the world stage. It's a variation on the old Roman "bread and circuses" theme, except, of course for the bread (think how many capital goods $300,000,000 could buy to increase worker productivity and thus help to alleviate the wide-spread poverty in China). The ceremonies were a debut ball for China as a nation, with all this implies for a country ruled by a nationalistic authoritarian regime; they were a thinly-veiled celebration of the state. In this respect, I found the 2008 opening ceremonies eerily similar in tone to the 1936 games in Berlin.

All this is to say, I found China's ceremonial pleas for friendship and cooperation to be disingenuous. To the extent that a person, culture or political system preaches collectivism, its hostility to individual human life makes it necessarily "unfriendly" (to say the least). A friend is someone who shares our values, and one cannot genuinely befriend anyone who advocates the destruction of individual liberty for the sake of the state. A friendly nation is one that does not oppress and censor its citizens. No amount of fireworks or electronic displays could change that.

— Brandon Byrd, "China, Collectivism, and the Opening Ceremonies," NoodleFood, August 13, 2008.

Week of August 10, 2008

The only thing I want to know about a man is which side he would like his ancestors to have fought on at Marston Moor.

Isaac Foot (by way of The Monarchist)

Week of August 3, 2008

Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

— H.L. Mencken

Week of July 27, 2008

Let me state this as plainly as possible. The enemy is the state. There are other enemies too, but none so fearsome, destructive, dangerous, or culturally and economically debilitating. No matter what other proximate enemy you can name — big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, or even bankers and arms merchants — none are as horrible as the hydra known as the leviathan state. If you understand this point — and only this point — you can understand the core of libertarian strategy.

— Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., "The Enemy is Always the State," Mises Institute Daily Article, May 20, 2008.

Week of July 13, 2008

The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women's civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to the "household" of which he has proclaimed himself the "head:" by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his "protection." The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamed "national interest" by the self-proclaimed "representatives" of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.

— Charles Johnson, "Quidditative Essence," Rad Geek People's Daily, May 11, 2006.

Week of July 6, 2008

There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.

— Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and The Arts, 2007.

Week of June 29, 2008

Love with your heart. Use your head for everything else.

Captain Disillusion

Week of June 22, 2008

What kind of culture defines "maturity" as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and "realism"? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses. Powell's excuse—that he did not want to betray the ethic of the loyal soldier—was precisely the one used by the defendants at Nuremberg, and if you say that the analogy is a reckless one, that Colin Powell is no Rudolf Hess but a generally decent man — an A student, a team player, a loyal employee, a good soldier — I'll agree, and say only this: God save us from men and women like him, for they will do almost anything in the name of "loyalty." Something to consider, perhaps, as the nation contemplates electing to the presidency John McCain, a member of our warrior class for whom loyalty constitutes the highest possible virtue.

What we require most in America today are bad soldiers: stubborn, independent-minded men and women, reluctant to give orders and loath to receive them, loyal not to authority, nor to any specific company or team, but to the ideals of open debate, equality, honesty, and fairness.

— Mark Slouka, "Democracy and Deference," Harper's Magazine, June 2008

Week of June 8, 2008

I tend to agree with Ross that the survey of historians that concluded Bush to be the worst President in history cannot be taken very seriously. First of all, it is almost impossible for contemporaries to give a balanced assessment of a President, especially one who has become as unpopular as this one, and as historians we should know that the full effects of Bush's decisions will not be known for decades. Second, most presidential historians are big fans of Presidents who usurped power, waged wars, abused their offices and did Big Things, so it is really unfair to laud all the others who did this and then disregard Bush, whose "accomplishments" in these areas are remarkable.

— Daniel Larison, "Judgements of History," Eunomia, April 7, 2008

Week of June 1, 2008

An enduring mystery to me: I do not understand why anyone in this country stacks so much as one brick on top of another. Observe:

"The Bush tax cuts, more than any other policy, are crippling the government financially." [New York Times editorial: "The tax debate that isn't," December 13, 2007]

Sometimes, dear reader, the fnords blow away and you can see right through the clear sky to the naked, evil premise. The Comfy Commissariat is not concerned with you. Take them at their words.

— Billy Beck, "The Peoples' Soviet of Eighth Avenue," Two--Four, December 13, 2007

Week of May 25, 2008

Whatever the specifics of the case in question, socialism always means overriding the free decisions of individuals and replacing that capacity for decisionmaking with an overarching plan by the state. Taken far enough, this mode of thought won't just spell an end to opulent lunches. It will mean the end of what we all know as civilization itself. It would plunge us back to a primitive state of existence, living off hunting and gathering in a world with little art, music, leisure, or charity. Nor is any form of socialism capable of providing for the needs of the world's six billion people, so the population would shrink dramatically and quickly and in a manner that would make every human horror ever known seem mild by comparison. Nor is it possible to divorce socialism from totalitarianism, because if you are serious about ending private ownership of the means of production, you have to be serious about ending freedom and creativity too. You will have to make the whole of society, or what is left of it, into a prison.

In short, the wish for socialism is a wish for unparalleled human evil. If we really understood this, no one would express casual support for it in polite company. It would be like saying, "you know, there is really something to be said for malaria and typhoid and dropping atom bombs on millions of innocents."

— Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., "Everything You Love You Owe to Capitalism," delivered at the "Capitalism the Creator: The Mises Circle in Seattle" event, May 17, 2008

Week of May 18, 2008

The chief point I wish to make in this introduction — the core of my position — is that there is a crucial difference between the initiation of aggression and all other acts which, while they may displease us, do not involve such aggression. It is only the act of aggressive violence that violates man's rights. Refraining from aggressive violence must be considered a fundamental law of society. The people dealt with in this book ["the pimp, prostitute, scab, slumlord, libeler, moneylender, and other scapegoats in the rogue's gallery of American society"], though reviled by the media and condemned out of hand by almost everyone, do not violate anyone's rights, so they should not be subject to judicial sanctions. It is my belief that they are scapegoats — they are visible, they are available to attack, but they must be defended, if justice is to prevail.

— Walter Block, Defending the Undefendable, 1976, republished 2008

Week of May 11, 2008

The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with the faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. He — or she — is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America's shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He's also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.

— Gene Healy, The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Presidential Power, 2008

Week of May 4, 2008

A Christian will consider a tyrannical person bossing a city brutally a lesser evil than a whole city lynching one man. In the first case there is one sinner and thousands of sufferers, in the latter case thousands of sinners and one sufferer. The materialist will look at the problem the other way round. He is never interested in sin, but as a humanitarian only in suffering. His final logical conclusion is euthanasia and the sacrifice of individuals to the whim of the masses.

— Francis Stuart Campbell (Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn), The Menace of the Herd, 1943

Week of April 27, 2008

To follow Nock, what traits must a man of the Right have? He must be both fiercely independent and believe in the power of social authority; he must love tradition but hate the state and everything it does; he must believe in radical freedom while never doubting the immutability of human nature and natural laws; he must be antimaterialist in his own life while defending economic freedom without compromise; he must be an elitist and antidemocrat yet despise elites who hold illicit power; and he must be realistic about the dim prospects for change while still retaining a strong sense of hope and enthusiasm for life.

— Jeffrey A. Tucker, "Albert Jay Nock: Forgotten Man of the Old Right," October 10, 2007

Week of April 20, 2008

My land is bare of chattering folk;
     The clouds are low along the ridges.
And sweet's the air with curly smoke
     From all my burning bridges.

— Dorothy Parker, "Sanctuary," 1931

Week of April 13, 2008

A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.

— Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine

Week of April 6, 2008

A European finds that this phenomenon needs in its turn to be explained, for in the free countries of Europe brilliancy, be it eloquence in speech, or some striking achievement in war or administration, or the power through whatever means of somehow impressing the popular imagination, is what makes a leader triumphant. Why should it be otherwise in America? Because in America party loyalty and party organization have been hitherto so perfect that any one put forward by the party will get the full party vote if his character is good and his "record," as they call it, unstained. The safe candidate may not draw in quite so many votes from the moderate men of the other side as the brilliant one would, but he will not lose nearly so many from his own ranks. Even those who admit his mediocrity will vote straight when the moment for voting comes. Besides, the ordinary American voter does not object to mediocrity. He has a lower conception of the qualities requisite to make a statesman than those who direct public opinion in Europe have. He likes his candidate to be sensible, vigorous, and, above all, what he calls "magnetic," and does not value, because he sees no need for, originality or profundity, a fine culture or a wide knowledge.

— James Bryce, "Why Great Men are Not Chosen Presidents," The American Commonwealth, 1921

Week of March 30, 2008

The lie [Hillary Clinton's about "sniper fire" in Bosnia] tells us something important about American political culture. It shows, unfortunately, to what extent militarism has become the dominant political ethic in that country. No other democracy regularly apostrophises the head of its executive as "the commander in chief," and the rather primitive and exaggerated admiration for the capacity to inflict violence which is encapsulated by this phrase has become a decisive factor in the ups and downs of every American presidential campaign. John McCain, the real "Manchurian candidate," is campaigning heavily on the basis of his war record, and Hillary’s fantasies about her trip to Bosnia were presumably an attempt to counter this.

— John Laughland, "The Art of Political Lying," Brussels Journal, March 26, 2008

Week of March 23, 2008

I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy and liberals at bay. And the nation free.

— William F. Buckley, Jr., Up from Liberalism, 1959.

Week of March 16, 2008

War is the second worst activity of mankind, the worst being acquiescence in slavery.

— William F. Buckley, Jr., "On the Right," April 1, 1965.

Week of March 9, 2008

Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.

— William F. Buckley, Jr., National Review, January 11, 1965.

Week of March 2, 2008

I am obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University. Not, heaven knows, because I hold lightly the brainpower or knowledge or generosity or even the affability of the Harvard faculty: but because I greatly fear intellectual arrogance, and that is a distinguishing characteristic of the university that refuses to accept any common premise. In the deliberations of two thousand citizens of Boston I think one would discern a respect for the laws of God and for the wisdom of our ancestors such as doesn't characterize the thought of Harvard professors -- who, to the extent that they believe in God at all, tend to believe He made some terrible mistakes which they would undertake to rectify; and, when they are paying homage to the wisdom of our ancestors, tend to do so with a kind of condescension toward those whose accomplishments we long since surpassed.

— William F. Buckley, Jr., "A Reply to Robert Hutchins: The Aimlessness of American Education," Rumbles Left and Right, 1963.

Week of February 17, 2008

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by "our" side. ...

Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.

— George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism," Polemic: A Magazine of Philosophy, October 1945, reprinted in Essays.

Week of February 10, 2008

In fact, that growth in government that so many fans of cooperative bipartisanship so obviously favor may itself be a cause of the vitriol they profess to despise. Having expanded the state to the point that it reaches into every home, every wallet, every business and even personal relationships, political contests have become such high-stakes affairs that nobody can really afford to lose.

When the consequences of losing an election are that government may insert itself into your bedroom (bans on recognizing same-sex marriages), exert potentially ruinous control over your health care (calls for a single-payer system), criminalize your recreational pursuits (outlawing Internet gambling), regulate your menu choices (foie gras and trans fats) and send your kids off to die in foreign lands (do I have to say it?), how do you prevent political debate from turning into a cage match?

In fact, the best most of us can hope for is that government really will be paralyzed by partisanship.

I'll tell you what: If you really want people to play nice and let the political elites go about the important business of governing without all that unpleasant discord, the only way to get what you want is to make government so small that it really doesn't matter.

Until then, I'll be toasting partisanship and paralysis.

— J.D. Tuccille, "Can't we politicians all just get along?" Disloyal Opposition, November 28, 2007.

Week of February 3, 2008

Liberalism [i.e., "classical liberalism" or libertarianism] is no religion, no world view, no party of special interests. It is no religion because it demands neither faith nor devotion, because there is nothing mystical about it, and because it has no dogmas. It is no world view because it does not try to explain the cosmos and because it says nothing and does not seek to say anything about the meaning and purpose of human existence. It is no party of special interests because it does not seek to provide any special advantage whatsoever to any individual or any group. It is something entirely different. It is an ideology, a doctrine of the mutual relationship among the members of society and, at the same time, the application of this doctrine to the conduct of men in actual society. It promises nothing that exceeds what can be accomplished in society and through society. It seeks to give men only one thing, the peaceful, undisturbed development of material well-being for all, in order thereby to shield them from the external causes of pain and suffering as far as it lies within the power of social institutions to do so at all. To diminish suffering, to increase happiness: that is its aim.

— Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, (Ralph Raico, trans.) 1962.

Week of January 27, 2008

What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Gasoline is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict.

— Simone Weil, The Need for Roots, 1949

Week of January 20, 2008

Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity. ... We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance.

— A. Edward Newton

Week of January 13, 2008

Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that economics cannot remain an esoteric branch of knowledge accessible only to small groups of scholars and specialists. Economics deals with society's fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.

— Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, 1949.

Week of January 6, 2008

The ideals which drove the American Revolution are stone dead in the hearts and minds of the American people, who have been trained to view subservience and obedience as virtues. The following are the words of a current leading contender for the Presidency: "Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do" [Rudy Giuliani]. And millions would vote for him.

— Larken Rose, "Wave It or Burn It?", July 5, 2007.