Anyone seriously interested in liberty ought to read both books which are perfectly accessible to the layman.
I have always felt like someone looking in from the outside when it comes to issues concerning the American constitution - there is so much talk assuming profound an full knowledge of constitutional matters, when in fact there is rather little comprehension of that type in the debates around you.
Thanks to Barnett, I do feel I am beginning to know what is being talked about, and what I am talking about.
Perusal of the two books gives one a sense of just how incredibly naive, unrealistic and incompetent much libertarian reasoning is, especially as espoused in the anarcho-capitalist corner. Despite their confident tone and their clear and convincing messages, the tomes leave me with a heightened awareness of the formidable, fallible and unfinishable task that all down-to-earth endeavours at liberty add up to.
Emotionally, reading the two books has had me swaying between euphoria and sadness. The classical liberal conception of law is such a well thought out and wise system - acquainting oneself with it more intimately is quite simply an euphoriant experience. However, its wisdom is ignored, misunderstood, and mostly pushed aside by a multitudinous rush of shortsightedness, superficiality and politically incited greed and ruthlessness.
Two things are sure, I think: we will never get as close to the sensible ideal as is desirable, while it will always be a worthy enterprise to defend and get closer to the classical liberal conception of justice and the rule of law.
Being packed with difficult concepts and legal stories, Barnett's lecture might actually leave you with a false impression of the book, which is perfectly organised, with every term carefully explained, and each thesis most transparently presented.
The most unnerving experience for a critically inquiring mind today is the overpowering regime of "truth" by repetition, a regime based on the habit of turning untruth into truth simply by uttering a proposal at a frequency exceeding by several orders of magnitude the number of occasions to refute it. It's a matter of quantity trumping quality. Combine this with an uncontrolled explosion of supposed rights, and what you get is large-scale corruption in the service of greed. Avaritia for all, ranging from privileged access to sought after jobs for women to billions in indulgence payments to unecological ecologists.
The reason this case is so important is because it very nearly didn't happen. Though environmental activists like Michael Mann, James Hansen and Al Gore often like to claim that their enemies are in the pay of Big Oil, the truth is the exact opposite.
Few corporate entities pump quite so much money into environmental causes as the Big Oil companies - Shell sponsored the Guardian's environment pages; BP invested heavily in renewables as part of its Beyond Petroleum rebranding under the card-carrying greenie CEO Lord Browne - because for years they have been running scared of the green movement, because they're big enough to wear the additional costs of green regulation and because it suits them to "greenwash" their image.
What none of them seems to have learned is that when you pay Danegeld to your natural enemy it only makes him greedy for more of the same.
This is why we should all be applauding the decision by Chevron's CEO John S Watson ... to fight this case.
Taking the Constitution seriously is not a trivial exercise. Randy Barnett is one of the best sources for insight and orientation concerning fundamental issues of US law and the constitution.
Apart from the constitutionality of Obamacare, Randy Barnett covers a whole range of interesting issues in the below interview. Of particular note I find his contention toward the end of the video that the abolitionists were the precursors of modern libertarians.
From what I know, the natural law tradition originates in Greece in ca. 300 BC. Philosopher's of the Stoic school reacted to the break down of the classic Hellenic world. The imperialism of Alexander the Great inundated Greece with a large variety of alien cultural influences. This gave rise to a new concept of law, a trans-cultural law intended to create conditions in which people of the most diverse values and goals, and religious convictions, could live together peacefully and to mutual advantage. In a word: natural law started as a pragmatic effort at productive tolerance. It was neither tied to any particular religious (or at least theistic or Christian) creed - as in the Scholastic tradition - nor was it constructed as a self-contained axiomatic system - which later would become the hubristic ambition of secular rationalistic accounts of natural law.
I have always been sympathetic to the idea that human conduct and interaction are constrained by circumstances some of which can be described as being analogous to natural laws as we use the term in the physical sciences.
Of course, ascertaining and corroborating such laws ought to be an open ended process, and one that should always be amenable to revision and new insight.
Put differently: I have always been opposed to authoritarian or dogmatic accounts of natural law and natural rights.
What do I mean by authoritarian or dogmatic accounts of natural rights? I think of two types, one utterly unacceptable, the other respectable by my personal standards but incapable of scientific authentication or general consensus.
The first is based on the mistaken notion that natural rights can be logically deduced from certain premises that are true and valid a priori, in the manner of a logical algorithm. This approach ignores the need to establish and probe the subject matter empirically. Unsurprisingly, all efforts to present a self-contained calculus of natural rights can be shown to fail.
The second approach relies on religious faith. It is perfectly respectable to accept this faith-based grounding of natural rights - as a matter of personal experience. Unfortunately, it cannot be generalised, i.e. it is not possible or even legitimate to expect everybody to share this experience.
So, I have not been able to accept accounts of natural rights that are removed from or insulated against critical debate and scientific challenge and corroboration. I suppose these were the motives for Hayek, a Popperian like myself, to stay away from the corpus of natural rights reasoning.
However, in his important contribution (below), Randy Barnett is right to point out that natural rights may well be conceived in a way entirely compatible with the framework of critical rationalism, the Popperian conception of scientific and intellectual progress, which regards man's fallibility as being his most powerful and beneficial tool, and seeks to expose any theory to critical examination and the possibility of refutation and succession by a better theory.
In addition, Barnett presents the best explanation of the role of prices I have ever come across.
Giants causeway is one of the nicest places I ever visited, maybe because the weather was felicifically sun-drenched, and I had a lovely trip on a warm September day from beautiful Donegal, through martially fortified Strabane, on the world's best roads, oddly to be found in Northern Ireland, to the lushly verdant, surprisingly small world wonder.
Kevin Vallier has a readable piece on a debate between an atheistic evolutionist and a creationist.
I tried to resist, but I must admit to having watched the “Ham on Nye” debate in full. I find debates between creationists and atheist evolutionists tiring and deeply upsetting because I, as a theistic evolutionist, feel completely excluded and silenced while two groups of people I regard as deeply misinformed about the nature of the world beat up on each other. I argue here that the debate reinforces this dichotomy, one which pretty much everyone has reason to resist. I will also score the debate (Nye won, big time – and 92% of voters at Christian Today thought so too).
Despite being a Christian, I find the creationists far more off-putting, in part because they frequently imply that theistic evolutionists are imperfect Christians and that they’re the real Christians.
Make sure to read the entire article at the source.
In June 2013, I had an opportunity to get to know H.S.H. Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein. We had fruitful discussions on the nature of the state and its relationship with freedom. I didn't realise that he had written a book dealing with these issues which I happened to study with great intensity at the time of our encounter. It was a fascinating experiece to be talking to a person versed both in the practice of statesmanship and in the theory of the state. From our two one-on-one exchanges, I remember him as a spirited and fair discussant, and a man of natural dignity, radiant warmth and deep concern for freedom.
In "Intellectuals and Society" Thomas Sowell quotes T.S. Eliot:
Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
(p.184, Intellectuals and Society, 2011, Basic Books)
Sowell comments - rather charitably:
In many ways, on a whole range of issues, the revealed preference of intellectuals is to gain moral authority -- or, vicariously, political power -- or both, over the rest of society. The desires or interests of the ostensible beneficiaries of that authority or power -- whether the poor, minorities, or criminals in prison -- are seldom allowed to outweigh the more fundamental issue of gaining and maintaining the moral hegemony of the anointed.
Consult the first two of the below links to see if I am right in saying: Richard Epstein, the gentlemen, and the lady interviewed in the above video clip share essentially the same assessment of Obama:
The Coyote draws our attention to a spreading practice that amounts to malfeasance in disguise.
Congress has ceded far, far too much legislative power to Administration agencies like the EPA. The only check that exists for that power is process -- regulators have to go through fairly elaborate and lengthy steps, including several full stops to publish draft rules and collect public comment. A lot of garbage gets through this process, but at least the worst can be halted by a public or Congressional outcry to draft rules.
But like most government officials, regulators resent having any kind of check on their power. Just like police look for ways to conduct searches without warrants, and even the President looks for ways to rule without Congress, the EPA wants to regulate unfettered by public comment process.
The EPA has found a clever and totally scary way around this. In short, they collude with a friendly environmental group which sues the EPA seeking certain rules that the EPA believes to be too controversial to survive the regulatory process. The EPA settles with the friendly group, and a consent decree is issued imposing the new rules, entirely bypassing any rules-making or public comment process. The EPA then pretends that they were "forced" into these new rules, and as a kicker, the taxpayer funds the whole thing by making large payoffs to the environmental group who initiated the suit part of the settlement. Larry Bell describes the process: