The Victoria Libertarian Book Club is meeting tonight to discuss the first of six essays that make up Thomas Sowell’s remarkable work, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“. If you neither own a Kindle nor use a Kindle reading app, you might not know that one feature of those products is a list of those sections most often highlighted. We will almost certainly be discussing these, so I thought to share with you those popular highlights from this first essay (whose title is the same as the book). Enjoy –
“The burgeoning of the American welfare state in the second half of the 20th century and the declining effectiveness of the American criminal justice system at the same time allowed borrowed and counterproductive cultural traits continue and flourish among those blacks who had not yet moved beyond that culture, thereby prolonging the life of a chaotic, counterproductive, dangerous, and self–destructive subculture in many urban ghettos.”
“White liberals, instead of comparing what has happened to the black family since the liberal welfare state policies of the 1960s were put into practice, compare black families to white families and conclude that the higher rates of broken homes and unwed mother hood among blacks are due to “a legacy of slavery.” But why the large–scale disintegration of the black family should have begun 100 years after slavery is left unexplained.”
“By projecting a vision of the world in which the problems of blacks are consequences of the actions of whites, either immediately or in times past, white liberals have provided a blanket excuse for shortcomings and even crimes by blacks.”
“More generally, a pro-black stance by white intellectuals enhances the latter’s moral standing and self-esteem, whether or not the particular manifestation of that stance helps or harms blacks on that balance.”
“By cheering on counterproductive attitudes, making excuses for self-defeating behavior, and promoting the belief that “racism” accounts for most of blacks’ problems, white intellectuals serve their own psychic, ideological, and political interests. They are the kind of friends who can do more harm than enemies.”
If you have any thoughts on these, please share them with us in the comments.
“Based on true events and laced with wry humour, STILL MINE is a heartfelt love story about an 89-year-old New Brunswicker (James Cromwell) who comes up against the system when he sets out to build a more suitable house for his wife (Geneviève Bujold) whose memory is starting to go. Although Craig Morrison is using the same methods his father, a shipbuilder, taught him, times have changed. Craig quickly gets on the wrong side of an overzealous government inspector, who finds just about everything unacceptable, including the unstamped wood Craig has milled from his own trees. As Irene becomes increasingly ill and amidst a series of stop-work orders Craig races to finish the house. Hauled into court and facing jail, Craig takes a final stance.”
This just has ‘libertarian’ written all over it! It’s showing in Victoria, which means it might be showing in your town, too. Is it any good? I can’t say, but the reviewers at Tribute.ca love it. If you’ve seen it, please comment and let us all know.
The Victoria Libertarian Book Club has set aside books for awhile, in favour of discussion of pre-selected topics. We’ve had a look at corporate personhood, and technology and liberty, and drones. We’re going to have a movie night in a couple weeks, but if you (like me) enjoy having a book on the go, let me recommend to you the graphic novel “How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t”. Here’s a sample page –
True fact: author Irwin Schiff (85) is the father of well-known-to-libertarians Peter Schiff, and is also a noted tax protester. Sad to say, he is currently serving a 13-year sentence for “tax crimes,” and not due for release for another 3-4 years.
Read this work online here, or download a PDF here.
My son and I are going to go see “Oblivion” tonight, so I won’t have time to compose anything original, but here’s a brief-and-interesting review of the film for you –
“What will we do when earth is no longer habitable, either because of environmental pollution or because of an annihilating war? Several films this season imagine a dystopian future in which humans have to leave the earth to survive: Oblivion, with Tom Cruise; After Earth, with Will Smith; and Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. All have seemed promising. The first to be released is Oblivion, and it is satisfying in all the ways you want a film to satisfy — the acting is good, the special effects are thrilling, and the story is meaty enough to maintain the interest of philosophical viewers.”
And Tuesday’s are cheap movie night! The rest of the review is here.
“… despite all the efforts of many good people, (Detroit) has lost most of its population and is now the poorest, most dangerous, most run down city in America.
Detroit needs a game changer. The 982 acre island of Belle Isle can be that game changer for Detroit. The book Belle Isle is about that vision.
The setting is Belle Isle, 30 years in the future. Twenty nine years prior (2014), Belle Isle was sold by the city of Detroit for $1 billion dollars to a group of investors who believed in individual freedom, liberty and free markets. They formed their own city-state, with innovative systems of government, taxation, labor and money. People soon came from all over the world to be part of this culture of unlimited opportunity. Belle Isle became the “Midwest Tiger,” rivaling Singapore as an economic miracle. Although numbering only 35,000 citizens, it generated billions of dollars in desperately needed economic growth and became a social laboratory for the western world.”
As of this writing, “Belle Isle“ has an average customer review of 3.5/5 at Amazon.com, with only two negative reviews. Both negative reviews come from people who have not read the book, but rather simply don’t like the idea. Well, Detroit is facing some big problems, and there are a lot of other U.S. cities lining up to follow them down the same path. Under the circumstances, it’s probably wise to consider trying out even those ideas you might not like.
The Victoria LBC is currently reading ‘A Mencken Chresomathy‘, a title we were very excited to select. Mencken is frequently quoted by libertarian scholars, particularly concerning his contempt for democracy, government, and politicians, and I had come to see him as dependably libertarian. Imagine my horror to read this –
“Few professional criminals are able to withstand a really brisk third degree. They may hold out long enough to be somewhat severely mauled, but by the time the ceiling begins to show bloodstains and their bones begin to crack they are eager to betray their friends and get to hospital. Many a time such a session in camera has yielded enough evidence to fill the death-house. Thus, while the third degree is clearly illegal, it is justified by the national pragmatism, for it undoubtedly works.”
This quote can be found about 1/5 the way into the book, and is so at odds with everything that comes before or goes after that I can scarcely believe it comes from the same man. I suppose I’m all the better for having seen it, though. The shock alone reminds me of the foolishness of hero-worship, against which I aim to be more vigilant.
Matt Damon’s new film “Promised Land” has drawn some criticism thanks to a conservative think-tank. The Heritage Foundation has raised concerns about the movie’s financing –
“A new film starring Matt Damon presents American oil and natural gas producers as money-grubbing villains purportedly poisoning rural American towns. It is therefore of particular note that it is financed in part by the royal family of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates”….”While left-leaning Hollywood often targets supposed environmental evildoers, Promised Landwas also produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, according to the preview’s list of credits. A spokesperson with DDA Public Relations, which runs PR for Participant Media, the company that developed the film fund backingPromised Land, confirmed that AD Media is a financier. The company is wholly owned by the government of the UAE.”
Like everyone else, I have my biases. Even so, although I may approach material with a presumption that it is wrong (or right) depending on its source, I judge that material on the strength of its arguments. To dismiss material because of its source is, I think, a form of intellectual bigotry, and unsuited to any serious scholar. And I don’t think I ever concern myself with the motives of the material provider, which is largely irrelevant. Now, there are obviously things wrong with “Promised Land” (chiefly, that it stinks), but I think Heartland is kicking up more of a fuss than this merits.
Henry Hazlitt’s novel Time Will Run Back explores the subjects of capitalism and free society from first principles, by looking at them from the naive perspective of a world in which they are unknown concepts.
The novel is set about 100 years in the future, in a world in which the Soviets won the cold war. The entire world is run as a communist dictatorship with a centrally planned economy. Through a series of chance events, a young man named Peter comes to lead the nation. Peter, unlike everyone else in the society, has been raised without being indoctrinated into the communist ideology, and thus is able to approach the problems he faces as leader without any preconceptions.
The novel describes how Peter tries various methods of organizing the production and distribution of goods in society. In trying to solve his immediate problems, he keeps running into new problems as unintended consequences of his different economic interventions. These problems include both calculation problems, where the central planners are unable to obtain the information necessary to properly allocate resources, and motivation problems where the workers have no incentive to be productive. Through a series of trial and error steps, Peter comes to discover that a system of private property ownership with free exchange is the only way to properly organize an economy.
Although the book does an excellent job in its treatment of economic principles, it overreaches a bit when Peter goes on to sort out the political setup of the country. He basically ends up re-creating a democratic republic similar to the United States, but the reasoning for for this setup is not convincing. It seems contrived, and influenced by the author’s preconceptions, in contrast to the parts dealing with economic reform, in which the reasoning was logical, and various pitfalls with non-free market arrangements were well explained.
Overall, this book is well worth reading. The premise of a person naively trying to solve economic problems is an excellent thought experiment to explain the pitfalls of various forms of central economic planning. The novel was apparently inspired by Hazlitt’s reading of Socialism by Ludwig von Mises, and it does a good job of outlining the socialist calculation problem in a fun and accessible manner.
Movie reviewers give the new ‘Atlas Shrugged’ movie 6%, while your friends and neighbours give it 81%. Well, it’s not like we haven’t seen this kind of disconnect before. But let’s not be hasty. Perhaps movie reviewers aren’t mostly big-government, anti-freedom types. It could just be that the works of Ayn Rand translate into works that simply don’t appeal to more refined, discriminating cinephiles. It’s entirely possible that a film could be made in which regular, everyday people successfully struggle against powerful government institutions and special interests, and critics will find that film just as praise-worthy as do the masses.
“The seasteader-in-chief is headed ashore. Patri Friedman (that’s Milton Friedman’s grandson to you), who stepped down as the chief executive of the Peter Thiel-backed Seasteading Institute in August, has resurfaced as the CEO of a new for-profit enterprise named Future Cities Development Inc., which aims to create new cities from scratch (on land this time) governed by “cutting-edge legal systems.” The startup may have found its first taker in Honduras, whose government amended its constitution in January to permit the creation of special autonomous zones exempt from local and federal laws. Future Cities has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to build a city in one such zone starting next year.”
“Citing laissez-faire entrepots such as Hong Kong and Singapore as examples, the company’s founders believe that strong property rights and business-friendly regulation are key to creating jobs, stimulating investment, and lifting millions out of poverty, a la China’s special economic zones. “
This won’t just be an economically free city… since residency in the new cities will be voluntary, no one will be subject to regulations on behaviour to which they have not previously agreed. Competition between the three cities for good workers will help insure such regulation is not overly restrictive.
Having a libertarian personality at the forefront of one of these projects is an exciting and promising development. Stay tuned for further development on what continues to look like a Very Big Deal.