Not least because she does what I do not do, so many of us do not do, though we ought to: she puts her convictions to the test of real politics.
I do not refrain from politics because I think it is per se wrong to engage in it, as unfortunately so many libertarians think. I stay away from the fray because it is so tough and gruelling.
Yet we need voices like that of Senator Ebke to be heard in the political arena, voices of those conscious of freedom.
A lot of my writing here at RSE is in defence of politics and the state, an incongruous position, many believe, for someone concerned with freedom.
However, over the years, I have come to realise that politics and the state are vital to our liberty; and when I say this, I think of public personalities like Senator Laura Ebke - undogmatic yet principled believers in freedom, with courage and circumspection in equal measure to defend their views tenaciously and to yield to better insight (of the need of compromise, for instance) when resistance to it becomes unreasonable.
Image credit. This woman is congratulating soldiers for embarking on a disaster. By embracing new net neutrality legislation, might we be facing a much hailed disaster? Or are we going over the top with our fears?
A Closed Reading of Liberty and an Open-Ended Reading of Liberty
One reading of liberty favours political abstention, while another reading insists that political participation is an indispensable condition of freedom.
I would argue that the second reading trumps the first.
We cannot enjoy freedom in the absence of the possibility for every adult citizen to participate in politics, if she is so inclined. But we can have freedom in the absence of some of the many interpretations of freedom to be politically preponderant.
Challenging Net Neutrality
New net neutrality legislation is perceived by some as opening the floodgates to allow massive politicisation, in an area where previously politics had little/considerably less influence. Both this general contention as well as detailed arguments against concrete negative implications of net neutrality may be perfectly valid. It is absolutely vital that such objections can be raised.
Playing on the fear of one narrow issue that would have been easy to legislate (that broadband companies might block or limit access to certain sites), the government used this niche concern to drive through a total takeover of the Internet.
However, objections against net neutrality and accusations of inordinate political influence are contributions to a debate, to which anyone is invited whatever her position relative to the anti-net-neutrality view.
It is perfectly compatible with freedom, in fact, it is a requirement of freedom that people compete to shape the debate and the eventual political decision making so as to conform to their preferences.
We should never forget that in a free society arguments and policies supported by (some faction among) those conscious of liberty are not by rights exempt from loosing the battle for public opinion and political dominance.
Only what I call robust conditions of freedom ought to be exempt from being overwritten by temporal fads and currents in public opinion and political dominance, or to put it differently: the right to compete in the political arena must be absolutely defended and has a higher priority as a publicly protected concern than any particular opinion contributed to the scramble for ultimate political validity (expressed through legislation and enacted policy).
There is a liberal (= libertarian) conundrum that relegates the libertarian to the sideline of real world politics. He wishes no politics, no interventions to take place, while many other players take the opposite stance. For the liberal position to become more prominent, its adepts must organise themselves politically and act in the very world of politics that they feel we ought to be able to do without.
This has two implications: in order to concretely defend liberal positions, the libertarian must engage in practical, pragmatic and hence compromise-accepting politics, i.e. he must contribute to the politicisation of the world, he must become an effective special interest (say, in matters concerning net neutrality).
Or else, the natural and legitimate desire of many of us to take advantage of the possibility of political participation - an indispensable condition of freedom - will be disproportionately utilised by opponents of the libertarians - which is what happens in real life, and has shaped the political face of our societies for at least 150 years.
If this is so, why should we still enjoy the blessings of civil society? I doubt that the libertarian can pride herself of being responsible in the chief for this happy situation. Much rather, the robust conditions of freedom are so deeply rooted in our societies that substantial violations of the framework of freedom are painful to such an extent that we tend to avoid them, at least in the long run, irrespective of people being much concerned with or knowledgeable about freedom.
I suspect, we are free to such a large extent as we are in our historically privileged 20 or so countries supporting advanced civil societies, because freedom works so well, indeed better than anything else, at the level of development attained by us, and people find out about it, by trial and error, rather than some of us understanding freedom supremely well and exerting sufficient influence to protect her.
Macro-Level Freedom and Freedom at the Micro-Level
This assessment refers to the macro level. On the micro level it is certainly very important that the message of freedom is introduced into the various political debates, especially regarding specific issues such as net neutrality and concerning the defence of the robust conditions of freedom.
But again, the message of freedom contains the postulate of open debate--and once you delve more deeply into the net neutrality issue, it is impressive to see the intricate ramifications of the theme, the many layers of issues and the spectrum of competing expertise. I place more trust in this vibrant debate than in any ideologically stream-lined, cut and dried opinions (such as one reducing the FCC to a simple motto "If It Ain't Broke - Break It")--and I am ready to find myself surprised by knowledge I did not have before.
I am almost certain that a very thick layer of argument that is dear to the libertarian's heart is largely irrelevant or even counter-productive in that it alienates large parts of the public from the libertarian core objective of freedom: the false reasons/assumptions underlying the libertarian abstention from practical politics.
Freedom to Act with Public Effect
The libertarian's basic error is to ignore that a free society is one that allows and invites people to get involved in politics, enabling them to express their preferences and fight for their realisation. Ignoring this side of freedom condemns the libertarian to chronically arguing on too high a level of abstraction and within a closed, quasi-proprietary set of assumptions and expectations.
That is to say, libertarians tend to formulate fiercely held convictions concerning the correct and feasible connection between what they propose to do and the expected or desired outcome of such course of action, without regard for the intermediate conditions - to a very large extent brought about in the world of politics - that ultimately determine whether such a connection can be achieved or whether the means and ends actually available will be of a different kind and form of connectedness.
The belief in freedom and the belief in a world with very low levels of political activity are incompatible.
Freedom must find ways of accommodating herself with some of her more complicated and potentially disruptive consequences. In an open society, freedom permanently disrupts and restores the tissue of which she is made.
Almost paradoxically, it is precisely because liberty invites and empowers us to pursue by political means our competing visions of the inevitably partially designed order in our social surrounding, freedom turns out to engender more of a spontaneous order than the libertarian is capable of handling/willing to acknowledge.
We cannot be free and abstain from public action to the extent many libertarian hope for.
The kind of thinking that is conscious of freedom can only make a contribution to the general discussion to which everyone is invited. Freedom as method is a way of influencing the debate, with unevenly successful, unevenly correct, and unevenly attainable results.
In Germany, firms of a certain size are required to employ specialised personnel whose task it is to police gender issues, i.e. to enforce a whole range of privileges intended to protect women against the oppression and exploitation they are with certainty assumed to have to face from men in the absence of such guardianship.
The German gender equality officer reminds me of the Blockwart ("snoop") in olden days, whose task it was to ensure amongst other things that on a certain day of the week all Germans were eating a vegetarian dish, so as to save meat for the soldiers at the front. Or make sure that everyone had a portrait of Hitler on the wall and a neat Nazi flag on the birthday of ze Führer.
I never understood why female as well as male business owners should instigate against themselves a deteriorating profit-and-loss-situation by paying men substantially higher wages for a job than women available to do the same assignment equally well. I thought, "dirty capitalists" were supposed to exploit employees rather than themselves. I do understand, though, why mighty special interests would find it useful to present such a preposterous claim as sheer fact.
I know of no way to reduce the prospective enhancement from greater political power-seeking, but I do know ways to reduce the rewards to market-oriented capitalist competition.
And so, like the Flying Dutchman, recreated by light and water in the above image, the myth that women earn less money than men for the same type of work seems doomed to follow a course of eternal persistence in the disseminations of the media.
According to highly acclaimed career expert and best-selling author, Marty Nemko, "The data is clear that for the same work men and women are paid roughly the same. The media need to look beyond the claims of feminist organizations."
"This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."
A political scientist who has taught American government classes at Southeast Community College and other institutions, Ebke was elected to the Legislature in November and is the student now.
"It's a learning experience," she said during an interview in her Capitol office.
"I thought I was pretty savvy, but now I can see what goes on behind the scenes. It's very interesting, and I enjoy the gamesmanship."
Twelve years on the local school board was good experience, Ebke said, but it "did not really prepare me for the give and take" of the Legislature or the fact that "people actually are interested in what we're doing."
On a recent weekend, the Crete senator's email box filled with 150 messages from Friday night to midafternoon on Sunday. About 10 percent came from within her legislative district.
Image credit. "The blunt truth is that even libertarians and other defenders of small government should support the basic constitutional framework that gives public officials extensive powers to control against infection and disease by devices such as quarantine and vaccination."
Writes Richard Epstein:
The current struggles over sound vaccine policy raise a tension between public health on the one hand and competing versions of individual liberty on the other. This conflict was, if anything, more acute a century ago when infectious diseases cut a wide path for which vaccines and other treatments provided only a limited response. The main constitutional lens through which these issues were viewed at the time was one of police power. This all-pervasive notion has no explicit textual authorization in the Constitution. But a moment’s reflection makes it clear that the Constitution’s various provisions protecting individual liberty must at times give way to government control in response to health hazards.
From the earliest times, therefore, the police power has always been construed to allow public officials to take strong action against individuals who posed threats to the health of others by the spread of communicable diseases. In perhaps the most famous statement of this sort, Justice John Marshall Harlan, himself a champion of limited government, wrote in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that while the Supreme Court had refrained from defining the limits of police power, it had “distinctly recognized the authority of a State to enact quarantine laws and ‘health laws of every description,’” and then proceeded to sustain a Cambridge Massachusetts compulsory vaccination statute against smallpox, a disease for which Edward Jenner had developed an effective vaccine as early as 1796.
The basic soundness of the constitutional recognition of a police power to deal with communicable diseases is beyond dispute. Even in a free state, quarantines are the only reliable remedy to protect the health of the public at large from the spread of disease. It is sheer fantasy to think that individuals made ill could bring private lawsuits for damages against the parties that infected them, or that persons exposed to imminent risk could obtain injunctive relief against the scores of persons who threaten to transmit disease. The transmission of disease involves hidden and complex interconnections between persons that could not be detected in litigation, even assuming that it could be brought in time, which it cannot. Public oversight should be able to achieve the desired end at a far lower cost.
In making his broad defense of the police power, Justice Harlan did not mean to eradicate the substantive protections otherwise afforded by the Constitution. Thus, only three years later in Adair v. United States, he struck down a mandatory collective bargaining statute on the ground that its interference with the contractual liberties of the employer and individual employees could not be justified on grounds of either health or safety.
That said, the categorical defense of compulsory vaccination statutes raises serious questions of its own. [Emphasis added.]
"The idea of wind chill indicates how cold it feels on the skin's surface as opposed to the actual temperature," explains Steve Cleaton, forecaster for BBC Weather. "Wind chill relates to a combination of three things - wind speed, moisture content or humidity and the air temperature. Conditions feel coldest on your skin when they are particularly windy and dry. This is because the moisture on our skin evaporates readily in dry air compared to moist air, causing evaporative cooling on the surface of the body. Our bodies work harder to maintain its core temperature, leading us to feel colder."
Rightly, in my opinion, Arnold Kling is unhappy with the mainstream
ultra-Keynesian treatments of the financial crisis and its aftermath,
all-purpose causal variable is a glut of savings and a dearth of government spending.
By contrast, he favours the explanation offered by Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus in their book Engineering the Financial Crisis:
The Friedman-Kraus story is one in which regulators suffer from the socialist calculation problem. With risk-based capital regulations, regulators determined the relative prices of various investments for banks. The prices that regulators set for risk told banks to behave as if senior tranches from mortgage-backed securities were much safer than ordinary loans, including low-risk mortgage loans held by the bank. The banks in turn used these regulated prices to guide their decisions.
In 2001, the regulators outsourced the specific risk calculations to three rating agencies–Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch. This set off a wave of securitized mortgage finance based on calculations that proved to be wrong.
Friedman and Kraus challenge the basic mindset not only of DeLong but of 99 percent of all economists. That mindset is that the socialist calculation problem, if it matters at all, only matters for full-on socialists, not for regulators in an otherwise capitalist system. In the conventional view, regulators can fail for ideological reasons, or because they are manipulated by special interests. But Friedman and Kraus offer a different thesis. When information discovery is vital, regulators, like socialist planners, are doomed to fail because they are unable to mimic the market’s groping, evolutionary approach to learning.
Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by entrepreneurship, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for the entrepreneur.
Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by oil, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for oil - try and find an image in the Internet with a positive message concerning oil.
I am not sure which impresses me more, the enormity of the daring deception at hand, or the thrilling suspicion that our political order is remarkably good at having people let off steam by engaging in cheap talk, while the scapegoat - here the oil economy - is left alone in sufficient measure to do its job, despite its misrepresentation in the political discourse.
I suppose, by a lot of rent-seeking and other forms of political competition, it is possible to achieve in many vital areas of human survival a roughly workable equilibrium between figment and reality, even for extended periods of time.
It may well be that we are facing a precarious balance between the (widely unacknowledged) costs of ideology and the benefits of realism and reality, but humankind always depends on both, myths and facts.
Every culture is based on the most preposterous assumptions that will be gradually revealed in their delusion, and every culture survives only by avoiding too hard a bumping into the limits of reality.
Can it be possible that the marginal cost of producing oil was $110 per barrel in June 2014 and is only $50 per barrel in January 2015?
Here is how: in the first half of June 2014 oil consumption was very high relative to the then-existing world oil production capability. In addition, existing oil production capability is always declining as producing fields deplete. The marginal cost of a barrel of oil under such tight market conditions has to cover the capital cost of developing new resources as well as the operating costs.
Toward the end of 2014 additions to world oil production capability exceeded growth in consumption, meaning additions to production capability were no longer necessary, meaning the marginal cost of producing the last barrel of oil no longer needed to cover that capital cost. Sure, some oil company somewhere had to make the capital investment necessary to develop the resource, but most of those costs are sunk and competition in the market means they cannot make some consumer cover those costs. The market price under today’s looser market conditions only needs to cover the operating costs of production.
Between Japan, the US, and now Europe, the world's central banks are printing money like crazy to inflate securities values around the world -- debt securities directly by buying them but indirectly a lot of the money spills over into stocks as well. This has been a huge windfall for people whose income mostly comes from capital gains (i.e. rich people) and institutions that have access to bond and equity markets (i.e. large corporations). You can see the effects in the skyrocketing income inequality numbers over the last 6 years. On the other end, as a small business person, you sure can't see any difference in my access or cost of capital. It is still just as impossible to get a cash flow loan as it always was.