Pierre Desrochers sums up much of what is wrong with locavorism, the fetishisation of local agriculture as the magic bullet that will solve our food problems.
See also Freedom and the Environment.
Pierre Desrochers sums up much of what is wrong with locavorism, the fetishisation of local agriculture as the magic bullet that will solve our food problems.
See also Freedom and the Environment.
"In 1862, when Congress passed the celebrated "Homestead Act" that gave 160 free acres to any settler willing to live on the land for five years and develop it, it was only sanctioning what settlers had already done by themselves." (de Soto, H. (2000), The Mystery of Capital, Missing Lessons of US History, Basic Books, p. 147)
Regarding the interaction of freedom, politics, government, and the state, a number of facts related to the Homestead movement should be noted that are diametrically opposite to what many libertarians would claim.
Left to their own devices and faced with an old legal order (British common law) that refused to take account of the special situation in the New World, American settlers were seeking acceptance through the help of politicians and a state willing and capable of pulling them into a legality to be newly defined. Politicians, legislators and government authorities played a key role in accommodating the dire need of a legally recognised and secure new identity for millions of Americans.
Quite in keeping with the attitudes of the great thinkers of early liberalism, freedom in America was driven by a movement toward sensible laws and government. The free settlers fought ardently for it.
[The Homestead Act signified] the end of a long, exhausting, and bitter struggle between elitist law [British common law protecting the property of establishment's select few] and a new order brought about by massive migration and the needs of an open and sustainable society. (Ibid. p. 148)
What is still a woefully unfinished task in most countries of the Third World today, was accomplished in America by the second half of the 19th century thanks to an open political order capable of absorbing the demands of millions of Americans that were inhabiting a social reality insufficiently reflected in the country's incumbent legal base:
The recognition and integration of of extralegal property rights was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world. (p.148)
This was a huge and protracted political task, involving difficult conflicts. It took political, not economic activity alone, to gradually accommodate more and more of the needs of the new times. In this way:
The Americans gradually legitimized extralegal property norms and arrangements created by the poorest Americans and integrated them into the law of the land.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, information about property and the rules that governed it were dispersed, atomized, and unconnected. [...] [It was] related only to the local community and was not available within any consistent network of systematized representations. [...] American officials [...] when they constructed national laws such as the preemption and mining acts [...] were creating the representational forms that integrated all this loose and isolated property data into a new formal property system. (p. 148/149)
All the great attainments of American freedom, like the Constitution or the land's vital capitalist economy, have been brought about in significant and indispensable measure by non-market action, i.e. by political competition and negotiation. No one seriously looking at the phenomenon of freedom can overlook this fundamental fact, one would expect. However, many libertarians prefer to withdraw into a haze of figments about a world in which freedom is generated (historically and prospectively) by a happy absence of struggle and assertion of the political kind. In reality one has to fight for one's rights, fight to organise and maintain them, and always be prepared for the onslaught against and the revision of one's preferred world by others pursuing their own cause.
In passing laws to integrate the extralegal population, American politicians expressed the revolutionary idea that legal institutions can survive only if they respond to social needs. The American legal system obtained its energy because it built on the experience of the grass-roots Americans and the extralegal arrangements they created, while rejecting those English common law doctrines that had little relevance to problems unique to the United States.
In the long and arduous process of integrating extralegal property rights, American legislators and jurists created a new system much more conducive to a productive and dynamic market economy. This process constituted a revolution born out of the normative expectations of ordinary people, which the government developed into a systematized and professional formal structure. (p.150 - my emphasis)
In any advanced society, there is a division of labour - the more highly differentiated the freer society - that will sensibly encompass and structure a division of labour of consumers and producers of politics and social change. It is time that libertarians open their minds to comprehend this fundamental condition of freedom.
Explains Senator Laura Ebke in her fun fact of the day: "Nebraska has had two official state names: the "Tree Planters' State" and the "Cornhusker State" Nebraska was designated the "Tree Planters' State" by legislative action in 1895. Nebraska's claim to tree-planting fame includes the founding of Arbor Day in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City, the Timber Culture Act of U.S. Sen. Phineas W. Hitchcock in 1873 and the millions of trees planted by early settlers as windbreaks, woodlots and orchards. The 1945 Legislature changed the official state name to the "Cornhusker State.""
Freedom means progress, thus freedom means an environment more adequate to humankind - and there cannot be any other standard for judging environmental quality.
Pierre Desrochers reminds us:
Last month [written in November, 2006] our southern neighbours welcomed the arrival (or birth) of their three-hundredth million citizen. While the news should have been welcomed, a number of environmental activists and journalists viewed it as cause for concern. They had no reasons to, because a rising population in a prosperous economy is entirely consistent with a higher quality of life and improved environmental amenities. As Dan Griswold of the Cato Institute pointed out, even though the U.S. population is today four times larger than it was a century ago, during this time period "life expectancy at birth has grown from 48 to 78 years, infant mortality rates have plunged, a host of deadly diseases have been conquered, and the air we breathe and the water we drink are far cleaner than when we were a less populous country."
The idea that economic growth generates pollution problems, but simultaneously provides the means to clean up most of them and even to improve on earlier conditions, is probably too counterintuitive to be readily accepted by most people. It is nonetheless backed up by much historical evidence. A brief discussion of the causes underlying forest regrowth and improvements in air and water quality in advanced economies can be illustrative in this respect.
Take, for instance, the case of forest cover:
It is a common misconception that deforestation is a recent occurrence, with the bulk of it taking place in the tropical regions of the world in the last five decades. As Williams (2002) points out, possibly as much as nine-tenths of all deforestation occurred before 1950, as people cleared forests for shelter, food, warmth and to create a multitude of implements. Beginning in some European countries in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, these trends have long been reversed in virtually all advanced economies and in some developing economies (including China and India). Among other factors explaining this rebirth of forests in over fifty countries is the fact that farmers and foresters became increasingly efficient in their capacity to grow more food and fiber on ever-decreasing areas, with the resulting abandonment of pasture and cropland paving the way to afforestation and reforestation.
Meanwhile, wood users became increasingly adept at extracting more value out of their input, while development of substitute products, ranging from electricity to plastics and metals, reduced the demand for wood (Ausubel, 2000; Williams, 1989). Rudel et al. (2004) also point out that economic development and urbanization has created better paying non-farming jobs in urban areas, causing a number of agricultural workers to abandon their land. In places with stable or growing populations and little ability to import forest products, continued declines in forest cover spur increases in prices of forest products, causing landowners to plant trees instead of crops or pasture grasses. Disastrous floods in deforested watersheds have also motivated government officials in developing, but now prosperous, countries to implement reforestation programs.
Make sure to read the entire short piece.
See also Desrochers' Free Market Ways to Solve Environmental Problems, Millions from Waste - How Capitalism Saves the Environment, and Liberty's Vacant Preserve - the Environment, When Economists Were Still Economists.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/25/2015 at 12:56 PM in "Goin' Green", American Culture, Books & Media, Economics, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, History Lessons, Laura Ebke, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Odds & Ends, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Continued from The Age of Liberalism:
I have progressed to page 178 of "The Evolution of Modern Liberty," George Scherger's book published in 1904, 111 years ago. It is an excellent history of the thinking that underlies the great American documents of freedom.
I made two striking observations - well, they are striking in so far, as I am still somewhat influenced by the triumphant tone in which many libertarians tend to emphasise that the Constitution does not mention democracy. My own research into liberty has convinced me of the importance of government and democracy for a free society; and in this way, my own intellectual growth has alienated me from the anti-democratic ("Democracy - the God That Failed") fervour and crypto-anarchist demonisation of the state that have become the affective badge of membership among so many libertarians.
Scherger demonstrates convincingly - without this being his objective, I suppose, but still evident in the filters of my reading - that the intellectual mentors most formative to the pioneers of American freedom regarded both the state as well as democracy an indispensable tools for the creation of a free society.
As I scribbled in the margin:
Looking at the liberalism of the Whigs, of its leading political philosopher, John Locke, and of Blackstone and others, Milton perhaps, who profoundly influenced the convictions of the American Revolution, I detect no anti-democratic or anti-state inclinations, but instead an ardent belief in government and public sovereignty and the need to cultivate these institutions responsibly and to protect them from neglect and abuse.
The foundation of [John Locke's] political system is the sovereign power of the community. The end of all government is the good of the people. Institutions can be founded on the consent of the people alone.
In America the principles of the Whigs fell upon a more fruitful soil than in England.The Whig platform became the platform of the colonists. Its doctrines were embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the American Bills of Rights. (p. 149)
It appears that the libertarian emphasis on government abuse has gradually come to crowd out the underlying raison d'être for such concern - the insight that a certain form of government is requisite to liberty, and hence, deserves the most attentive management and protection.
Now, let us turn to the colonists:
They held the most liberal religious and political views of their time.
Many were Independents who opposed the union of Church and the State and demanded liberty of conscience as a sacred right.
Their democratic principles of church government gave rise to a democratic political spirit.
Each congregation was a miniature republic, electing its pastor and church officers, and, while independent of all others, having absolute control over its own affairs.
There were many other dissenters besides the Independents throughout the colonies-Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and others. [...] Religious liberty and political freedom have ever gone hand in hand. There is but a step from religious dissent to political opposition. [They] were not likely to submit to oppression and infringement of their political liberties. (p. 164 - all emphases here and below added)
They acknowledged their allegiance to the Crown, but they would not admit the controlling power of Parliament. They considered the Colonial legislatures sovereign within their territories. They were composed of representatives of all the citizens of the colony.
The democratic nature of their political institution and the extent to which they enjoyed the right of self-government could not but breed in the colonists a love of freedom and of individual liberty. (p. 166)
As for the colonists predisposition for democratic ways, consider that the compact theory (the idea that men consent to form a common government) had a special meaning to them:
It was the Congregationalist Church covenant applied to civil society.
The congregation of John Robinson had entered into a covenant before leaving England for Holland. Before disembarking from the Mayflower those of that Church who had come to America, drew up and signed a compact whereby they constituted a body politic. (p. 167)
Many factors worked together to generate a democratic spirit in the colonists [...] To them the principle that all power is derived from the people was more than a theory. [...] The ideas of Milton, Sydney, Hooker, and Locke were familiar to them as Englishmen; but they had among themselves since the beginning of their history ardent champions of democratic views, viz.: Hooker, Roger Williams, Penn, and others.
In the American colonies the conditions existed which engendered democratic views [...] The character of the colonists, their surroundings and form of life, their free political institutions, their democratic form of church government, as well as their past history, bred in them a spirit of individualism. The theory of the sovereignty of the people lay at the basis of their institutions-the doctrine which, as a ray of white light contains the various prismatic colors, embraces in itself all the so-called Rights of Man. (pp. 176/177)
I am reading a fascinating little book published in 1904,
The writer makes me jump from one interesting idea to another, either taken directly from the book or inspired by it. I do not know with which idea to begin.
For starters, I shall confine myself to a simple, yet momentous observation, namely that liberalism has changed significantly since the era of its heyday in the 19th century.
In its contemporaneously dominant adoption by global social democracy, many, indeed, too many inhibitions, taboos, and reservations of classical liberalism are being breached, burdening the economy, jeopardising a balanced political system (one ensuring that no single force in society exerts absolute dominance), and undermining personal freedom - all of which being important pillars of the robust conditions of freedom.
Crude ideological stereotypes of socialist origin - above all, the chimaera of inequality - are being used to leverage insufferably invasive and collectivist attacks on our free societies.
In no small measure, I conjecture, however, these social democratic excesses are being invited by an inability, and - perhaps more deeply causative - a long-standing unwillingness of the classical liberal to enter the political fray so as to delineate his position from social democratic conceit, on the one hand, and anarchist utopianism, on the other hand.
The challenge is that many of the social democratic policies are quite compatible with (robust conditions of) liberty, while some of these have tremendous popular appeal (like certain elements of the welfare state), though there may be other and far better approaches to the respective issues. But if there is no politically vital force to represent these better, genuinely liberal approaches, social democracy is destined to become the dominant political force.
It would probably take an entire book to retrace the many roads that have led to a world in which liberals have become either
As Scherger seems to imply convincingly, the liberalism of the 19th century did include great expectations for and a vision of the state as a liberating force - why this vision has vanished, why modern libertarians have practically reversed the original liberal view of politics and the state remains a puzzle, that I think, we should pay more attention to, so as to regain the ability to see freedom where she exists and not only complain about her being absent or violated:
These declarations of the Rights of Man [most importantly in America, but also in France and later in Germany and other places, so far as they were American-inspired] mark a new ear in the history of mankind.
The humanitarian spirit underlies them-the conception that each individual citizen is entitled to the concern of the State; that this personality is of infinite worth and is a purpose of creation; that he should be recognized as an individual, as a man.
The principles they contain became the creed of Liberalism. The nineteenth century war pre-eminently the century of Liberalism.
(Scherger, G. (1904), The Evolution of Modern Liberty ..., pp. 5 - 6, Skyhorse Publishing-empahisis added)
Note that the great achievements of the age of liberalism rely on
Perhaps no other century witnessed greater and more numerous reforms and a greater extension of individual liberty.
This century is marked by the abolition of slavery in all civilized countries, by the extension of the elective franchise, by the emancipation of woman, by the popularization of government, and by countless other reforms.
(Ibid, emphasis added)
Continued at Birth of American Freedom - Government and Democracy.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/11/2015 at 12:24 PM in American Culture, Books & Media, Constitution, Film, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Libertarians Ignoring Liberty
Let me state it upfront: many mainstream libertarians do not understand liberty as a grown framework that has evolved to become a firmly entrenched feature of modern society. Consequently, they are unwilling to support liberty in its modern form.
The chief reason for this odd deviation from liberty's trail is that libertarians do not endorse the model of the public that effectively underlies freedom in today's world.
Libertarians show great concern for certain fragments of the liberal vision, but they do not embrace the full framework in which the modern practice of liberty unfolds.
Their model of social order is inaccurate, and the public punishes the libertarians' incongruous stance by depriving them of attention and support. Indeed, it is not surprising that the public ignores libertarians by and large, considering that libertarians ignore the public in respects most vital to their exercise of freedom.
Unique Concept of the Public Underlying Modern Liberty
Under conditions of liberty in contemporary civil society the public is conceived of as a network of bearers
(a) of equal rights,
(b) equally barred from special privileges, and
(c) equally protected against arbitrary violations of (a) and (b).
I cannot think of any other conception of the public as radically individualistic, egalitarian, and democratic as this one.
Other conceptions of the public are invariably either divisive or paternalistically hierarchical, or both -- as seems evident from kinship-based communities, feudal-aristocratic-monarchical forms of society or the socialist paradigm with its divide between bourgeoisie and proletariat and its prospect of a machine-society run by an engineering elite that commands a population serving as small cog wheels.
Liberty and the Comprehensively Inclusive and Systematically Connected Public
So, liberty as observable in countries with advanced civil societies is effectively based on a historically unique notion of the public according to which
Two features stand out:
(1) the full inclusion of all (sane and non-criminal) adult participants in society as members of the public sphere, and
(2) the assumption of a systematically connected relationship between the members of the public in the sense that empowering every citizen in the same way to act autonomously, and restricting such empowerment by an equal requirement of mutual considerateness, will affect each person in such a way as to enhance the public interest more than by any other arrangement.
That is: (a) granting freedom to everyone and (b) restricting such freedom only to protect the equal freedom of all, implies that everyone is an equally important contributor to the common weal.
Under this arrangement, no one is being forced to contribute to the common weal (except for contestable requirements of resource pooling through taxation and other takings); but any less inclusive constitution of the public is thought to be less productive of the common weal.
It is historically unprecedented to define the public by
(a) inclusion of all adults,
(b) endowing all adults with the same rights and subjecting them to the same restrictions, and
(c) a set of relationships generated under (a) and (b) that are supposed to systematically further the common weal beyond the means of any alternative arrangement.
Obviously, these properties of the democratic public are foundational for modern liberalism/libertarianism. Contradictorily, however, not a few liberals/libertarians do not recognise these properties and their consequences in the political realm.
Yet, the robust conditions of freedom (freedom of speech and association etc.), which are - with other implications in mind - highly regarded by libertarians, do ensure the right for every citizen to demand, design, and participate in shared decision-processes producing decisions (public choices) by which all are bound.
There are no good grounds to restrict the provisions of freedom to the context of private bilateral transactions of the market type. While the libertarian is strongly inclined toward such restriction, he thereby contradicts the epistemological argument for freedom, which accords the individual its central position in a free society with a view to her being the irreducible source of creativity, invention, discovery, and innovation in society. These sources of social advancement inherent in the free individual are no less significant in the public realm, whose participants should be protected against political abuse, instead of being deprived of politics altogether.
Libertarian Denial of the Public
Combining an unreasonably strong presumption in favour of private bilateral transactions with an unreasonably strong presumption against public choices, considering the former feasible and better substitutes of the latter, the modern libertarian paints herself in a corner, where the preponderance of public choices over private choices appears to her to be inordinate and driven by acts of bad faith that systematically undermine the possibility of a better society.
Built into the public-averse vision of the libertarian is a perspective that views the substitution of private decisions by democratic decisions (including cases where private decisions are impossible or unwise to resort to) as attacks on freedom. She ignores the essential role that public choices play in a community practising freedom. In this way, the libertarian subscribes to a distorted vision of society that seems to her to be (a) run by evil special interests and (b) constantly approaching new lows in terms of violations of liberty. Instead of an enduring trend toward the loss of liberty, what is at play here is the repetitive application of a mistaken interpretation of public life.
However, people need to act in the public dimension and they will do so, as long as freedom prevails, irrespective of libertarians trying to convince them not to.
Of their own accord, in refusing to participate in politics and public choices, but also by appearing to large sections of the population as impractical and lacking in realism, libertarians suffer and accept a debilitating lack of power and intellectual significance. By privatising politics, i.e. withdrawing to embittered armchair-heckling, they disappear from the political scene, leaving the public to those who cherish the options that freedom holds for political self-expression.
Freedom cannot be planned, she must be played out and found out about, by private initiative in markets as well as in the public sphere.
Related posts: Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty, The Invention of the Modern Public, The Libertarian Triangle of Oblivion, Freedom and Ancient Greece, Summing Up the Universe - Sir Karl Popper's Three Worlds, Why Law (1/2), Why Law (2/2), Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm, Freedom as Method, Freedom Limits Liberalism.
The 5th century BC is generally look upon as the heyday of the Athenian polis. The peak is preceded by centuries of strife, rapprochement and fusion among distinct tribes that will eventually make up the polis and remain visible as members of the political order of Athens.
This post is related to Demos and Freedom - Robust and Non-Robust Conditions of Liberty - [Image credit]
Ancient Greece is a melting pot of very different cultural traditions, religious commitments and outlooks of the world. In addition, the seafaring and trading elements are constantly exposed to the challenges and insights of dealing with alien people and their peculiar cultures. Finally, the gods of the Greek are considered more knowledgeable than ordinary mortals, but it is thought within the purview of the assiduous to work out and come close to acquiring the knowledge of the gods. This creates a strong incentive to research and strive in other ways for genuinely new insights.
Thirst for Knowledge and the Impulse for Freedom
Taking all this together, Athens incubates a culture, probably the first culture, in which critical thinking is a prominent feature in the lives of its citizens. To many among the ancient Greek, it is a virtue and a passion to try to discover whether things are actually different from what they hitherto had been held to be. Custom, tradition, cultural and religious dogma are not hermetically shielded from critical examination, and different points of view that seep in thanks to contact with other Greek tribes and strangers contribute to the Greek mission of re-examining the world.
The emerging attitude of critical thought represents a fundamental paradigm shift that will be decisive in the breakthrough of a new concept of the community. When everyone is thought capable of piercing with his mind the world's superficial phenomena to get closer to their essence and real structure, you create a totally new notion of who people really are and what station they deserve within the community. You create a public consisting of human beings equally endowed with powerful capabilities to conquer the world with their brains. This is the birth of the democratic public.
At this point, the inquisitive, ever researching Greek mind, takes a seminal cue from former attainments in the study of the physical world. The Greek natural philosopher is deeply convinced that there is to be found measure, proportion, and harmony in the depth structure of nature. The helter skelter around us may be actually reduced to basic elements (atoms), a substratum from which variety is derived in a way that is orderly and open to explanation. This atomistic theory is carried over to a new realm of intellectual curiosity.
[T]he Greeks of the fifth century had become familiar - through their contacts with foreign peoples and through rapid changes of legislation in their own states - with the variety and the flux of human custom.
What more natural, then, than that they should find in custom and convention the analogue of fleeting appearances and should seek again for a "nature" or a permanent principle by which the appearances could be reduced to regularity? The substance of the physical philosophers reappeared as a "law of nature," eternal amid the endless qualifications and modifications of human circumstance. If only such a permanent law could be found, human life might be brought to a degree of reasonableness.
Thus it happened that Greek political and ethical philosophy continued along the ancient line already struck out by the philosophy of nature-the search for permanence amid change and for unity amid the manifold.
(A History of Political Theory, G.H. Sabine, 1961, p.28)
The Inquisitive Demos
Under the umbrella of this paradigm, a people is gathered to examine their natural and human universe, to come up with hypotheses and challenge one another, and debate as intellectual equals their understanding of matters.
The search for harmony, measure, proportion is not only the guiding presumption of the curious Greek mind, but also the highest value for the member of the polis. As I wrote in Ancient Greece and Freedom:
[T]he participation of the individual [in the public sphere] is paramount, but not for his own sake in the modern sense of personal freedom, rather in order to create a harmonious social whole. Property and family are secondary concerns. Freedom is serving the community, freedom is assuming a role, fitting into the community so as to preserve its capacity for harmony.
Intellectual factions emerge which prefigure in astounding ways contemporary disputes (including those among libertarians), but what matters most for the present purpose is that two indispensable elements to be found in modern liberty are making their appearance:
This is the creation of an egalitarian demos, whose every member is invited to apply his critical faculty to trace the laws
which, if understood, would tell why men behave as they do and why they think some ways of doing are honorable and good, others base and evil."
Political theory begins with the ancient Greeks. And with it turns up the hiatus between political ideals and political reality. Entirely neglected by libertarians, there is a spontaneous order of politics and the state. It is this spontaneous order that produces theoretical efforts and the attempts at political attainment in reality that often deviate substantially from one another. Freedom grows in complicated ways.
Freedom in Ancient Greece
The political picture of ancient Greece is confusing.
The city states are formations of astounding compromise. They are the result of associations between formerly separate tribes, clans, kinship groups. In ancient Greece, the element of deliberative democracy appears to stem from the need to arrive at negotiated arrangements among tribes with varying creeds and values.
For the free member, i.e. the citizen of the city state, the most supreme attainment, duty and privilege is to participate in the common handling of public affairs - (originally to make sure that one's clan or tribe is strongly represented). Bear in mind, this understanding of freedom does not stress the individual's rights, but the need and bliss of finding a station in the community, of being part of the community and contributing to it in a way that makes for a harmonious union of the members.
From the point of view of the individual, this creates an awkward tension between empowerment and submission - the participation of the individual is paramount, but not for his own sake in the modern sense of personal freedom, rather in order to create a harmonious social whole. Property and family are secondary concerns. Freedom is serving the community, freedom is assuming a role, fitting into the community so as to preserve its capacity for harmony.
Mind you, a faint echo of this resonates in the basic idea of liberal consequentialism, where personal freedom is considered instrumental in achieving "the good society." According to consequentialism, we approve of certain liberal precepts because ultimately they ensure the most beneficial consequences for all, i.e. the best we can achieve in terms of an approximately ideal social whole.
Political Reality in Ancient Greece
Be this as it may, the political reality in ancient Greece is very different from the ideal of social harmony.
The desire to implement a democratic system with meaningful grass-roots participation, creates democratic processes capable of mind-boggling interference and arbitrariness. Time and again, the tyrannical character of Athenian democracy upgrades even the option of a tyrant in person.
The ancient Greek understands the dangers of the tyranny, and she understands the protective role of democracy, but she has difficulties in fine-tuning the democratic institutions -- perhaps owing to the legacy of unifying large numbers of tribes, all of whom are to be given a voice in the public choir.
"The spirit of the amateur, both for good an ill, is written large upon Athenian political practice." (Sabine, p.15)
The miraculous capabilities that the modern libertarian ascribes to the individual left to his own devices without a political framework are confidently expected by the ancient Greek of the individual once she is part of the political debate, adding her bit to the "happy versatility."
In Athens, politics and the state are insufficiently enclosed in the general division of labour, a drawback painfully felt in the area of law. In the absence of a legal profession and its attendant independent institutions, the law is as fluid and fickle as the fads and strands in an ongoing discussion carried out by a changing group of discussants.
It is at this point that I would feel inclined to argue that ancient Greece did not know freedom, certainly not in our contemporary sense. Greece lacked at least one of the robust conditions of freedom - the rule of law.
The Epistemic Revolution of Ancient Greece - Birth of a Critical Demos
At any rate, with everyone being given a voice, the genie is out of the bottle. For the most significant ancient Greek contribution to the growth of thoughts and institutions relating to freedom is the indelible
belief in discussion as the best means to frame public measures and to carry them into effect - this faith that a wise measure or a good institution could bear the examination of many minds - that made the Athenian the creator of political philosophy.
never believed that the customary code was binding merely because it was ancient. He preferred to see in custom the presumption of an underlying principle that would bear rational criticism and be the clearer and more intelligible for it.
[Of the greatest import for Europe's future history is the passionate] Greek faith that government rests in the last resort upon conviction and not on force, and that its institutions exist to convince and not to coerce. Government is no mystery reserved for the Zeus-born noble. The citizen`s freedom depends upon the fact that he has a rational capacity to convince and to be convinced in free and untrammelled intercourse with his fellows.
(A History of Political Theory, G.H. Sabine, 1961, pp 17-18)
Thus, in ancient Greece, an indispensable element of freedom as method is born, only to be preserved in the tradition of the critical method which prevails precariously through darker ages and finally reappears and converges in the relentless doubt characteristic of modern science.
What lends to political reality in ancient Greece an unbalanced quality is that one element of freedom - the ability to challenge everything - is insufficiently channelled by another one - the stability of law and the restraint of governmental interference and arbitrariness.
However, we record a moment in the evolution of freedom when a political experiment gives rise to a new concept of the public, one that will take a long time to mature - a public that consists of all citizens empowered to apply their critical faculties to the task of defining the subject matters of public affairs and how to handle them.
This is one decisive condition in the emancipation of the individual, which is precluded if you bar some of us from political participation. Gradually, when further conditions of liberty come to fruition, the emancipated individual lifts man's natural talents to a new level, where everyone is allowed to become a resource provider for himself and for others to the fullest possible extent.
For more on this last aspect see my Summing Up the Universe - Sir Karl Popper's Three Worlds.
Kelvin Kemm asks what are the lessons learned from Fukushima? Once you pierce through the propaganda to the facts, the answer is: nuclear energy is amazingly safe. Indeed, thanks to events that have occurred at Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear power has been proven to be much safer than anyone had previously imagined.
Read the entire article at the source.
Continued from Why Law (1/2):
1. Freedom as Method and the Social Space
On my smart-phone, I have noted:
Freedom as method is the ongoing endeavour to corroborate the hypothesis that by working out a consistent notion of the public we are able to comprehend more fully the consequences of our actions than by following ideas invoked in ad-hoc fashion.
I am not sure, whether the analogy is a good one, but perhaps we should think of an astronomical object whose large mass causes curvature in space -- by which I mean to suggest that extra human effort that allows us
I have further noted on my smart-phone:
Freedom as method is the attitude whereby we construe the community as an order systematically connected by costs and benefits (or other interrelated effects).
Certain types of individual or isolated action bring about changes in the distribution of costs and benefits in the community, thereby causing curvature, as it were, to the social space.
2. Law and the Social Space
Man being a social animal, characteristics of the human community (on which each of us depends) are always significant objects of personal and cultural self-perception. This being-together, interacting and constantly-affecting-one-another is like an elemental condition, like wind, rain, and climatic states that impose themselves upon us and challenge us to react to them. In that way, the idea of the public is ever present in the life of mankind. In other words, we are permanently facing puzzling questions such as:
What is the public, how should it be defined, how ought we to organise it? What sorts of relationships between the public and its members are admissible, desirable and deserve to be enforced?
Is it possible for us to relate to one another in such a way as to improve common objectives - in other words: is there a common weal? How is the common weal to be achieved? Do we have to deal with different groups and individuals differently to achieve the common weal? Or are there circumstances such that we have to require all members of the community to be dealt with equally?
It is the function of law to come up with enforceable answers to these questions.
3. Fundamental Elements of Modern, Freedom-regarding Law
Ancient law comprises in large measure social norms dictated by custom, religion, tribal and kinship mythology, and other belief systems supported more by tradition than by rational investigation.
Modern law embraces methods of rational corroboration. It becomes freedom-regarding law when larger sections of the population are ensured the right to rational corroboration -- the poor farmer proving the king wrong, and winning the case against the authorities.
What makes modern, freedom-regarding law possible are three ingredients:
(1) a theory of the relationship between the individual and the public,
(2) the widening of the concept of the public, to include the entire adult population, and
(3) the introduction into law of the basic heuristic of modern science - the critical method - an open-ended subjection of legal propositions to the method of hypothesis-testing.
This latter approach implies the possibility of rational contestation of law, its finding and alteration by approximation, i.e. by piecemeal probing and change.