Gas attack on the West Front, near St. Quentin 1918 -- a German messenger dog loosed by his handler. Dogs were used throughout the war as sentries, scouts, rescuers, messengers, and more. (Brett Butterworth) - image credit.
The first world war was only two months old, one hundred years ago, a maelstrom gorging on everything living and alive.
Vintage everyday has a fascinating series of black and white pictures showing humans and animals in World War I.
The logic of modern technology underscores the importance of liberty for the advancement of our civilisation.
In an article well worth reading, Larry Downes argues forcefully that "largely absent from the platforms of Republicans and Democrats" there is an urgent
need for a radical shift at all levels of government, from laws and policies that delay and deflect disruptive change to an agenda that maximizes the profound potential of technological inventions to improve the human condition. [...]
There’s a better and safer way to protect and encourage disruptive innovation. First and foremost, governments must recognize severe limits in their ability to shape the destination, if not the trajectory, of disruptive technologies. Technology and policy run at different clock speeds, and the gap is getting wider. Even with the best of intentions, the most nimble regulatory agency still can’t keep up with the pace of change in consumer markets. When they try, the result, more often than not, is the invocation of the law of unintended consequences, where rules intended to encourage such noble goals as enhanced competition or the public interest wind up doing just the opposite.
A pro-innovation agenda begins instead by recognizing that markets are far more likely to resolve market failures than regulators, and to do so at a lower cost. This is not because markets are perfect, or appropriate subjects of uncritical reverence, but simply because markets react more quickly than do governments to the negative but usually short-term side effects of disruptive innovation. The next generation of technology is far more likely to remedy consumer harms than regulatory intervention can, and with considerably less economic friction. [...]
Americans, especially those under the age of 30, are deeply cynical about the political process. They live in a universe where technology can be counted on to make the world better and more interesting every 12 to 24 months, where life is approached as a series of problems to be solved through clever hacks, where even impractical dreams can be realized in weeks through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Why should they trust policy-makers who don’t live in their world, or share their optimism for its future, and who can’t be counted on to do what it takes to maximize its potential? Even if that just means staying out of the way.
Scotland votes on independence on September 18 after centuries of being united with England. The referendum on devolution is being carried out in a constitutional and peaceful way, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
London agreed to the referendum realising that secession is better than forcing Scotland to remain in the union against the wishes of a majority of the Scottish population. A union is only strong if membership is voluntary. London’s response is more reasonable than Madrid’s reaction to the demands of Catalonia. Madrid claims that a referendum on independence among Catalans would be unconstitutional and illegal. It appears the Scottish referendum will be a close call with both sides neck-and-neck, but actual voting is often different to opinions given for a poll. Independence is also a road into the unknown.
Until just over a century ago, the idea that a company could be a criminal was alien to American law. The prevailing assumption was, as Edward Thurlow, an 18th-century Lord Chancellor of England, had put it, that corporations had neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned, and thus were incapable of being “guilty”. But a case against a railway in 1909, for disobeying price controls, established the principle that companies were responsible for their employees’ actions, and America now has several hundred thousand rules that carry some form of criminal penalty. Meanwhile, ever since the 1960s, civil “class-action suits” have taught managers the wisdom of seeking rapid, discreet settlements to avoid long, expensive and embarrassing trials.
The drawbacks of America’s civil tort system are well known. What is new is the way that regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. For all the talk of public-spiritedness, the agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. And their power far exceeds that of trial lawyers. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law.
At The Library of Law and Liberty blog, Michael S. Greve has an intriguing post on "The German Connection". After the collapse of the Third Reich, there was a thorough rejuvenation of the rule of law (Rechtsstaatlichkeit) in Germany, the substantive notion of the rule of law being strongly committed to liberal (European meaning) principles. At a time when progressives continued in renewed waves to turn over the liberal conception of the rule of law in the US, German courts would stubbornly and successfully defend the newly regained liberal legal regime in Germany.
In the late 1960s, courts and then Congress institutionalized so-called “citizen suits” against government agencies. Unlike regulated parties, citizen plaintiffs don’t have at stake anything you’d recognize as a right; they represent broad, widely shared values. (Environmental groups are the prototype.) The idea was that agencies were routinely “captured” by regulated industries, so there had to be a counterweight—parties with legal entitlements to make executive branch agencies obey the purposes of Congress, as embodied in statutory law. To that end, statutory citizen-suit provisions typically authorize “any citizen” to sue the administrator for failure to perform a non-discretionary duty. So when the statute says that the Environmental Protection Agency “shall” regulate and the agency falls short, environmental groups have a cause of action. They’re equal participants in the agency rulemaking process and in court.
At that time, what was then West Germany was also discovering the issue of protecting the environment. People were apoplectic about pollution. Nuclear reactor sites had to be protected with paramilitary force. A Green Party was beginning to form. And, some lefty law profs trooped to Harvard, learned about citizen suits, and tried to import them into their own country. They penned learned articles about the “enforcement deficit” in environmental law, wrote model statutes, and proclaimed that even Amerika has citizen suits, the better to promote law and democratic participation. Why can’t we have that?
Because you can’t, the West German legal establishment responded. The key argument against citizen suits was not that they would disrupt orderly administration, or invite abuse, or overload the courts. It was: what you people are advocating is Nazi jurisprudence. We’ve thought and worked for decades to get rid of that garbage, and you’re not going to undo our accomplishments just because people get upset about—well, garbage. The citizen-suit trial balloon soon shared the Hindenburg’s fate. There’s no trace of the debate in administrative law to this day.
To be absolutely clear, I am not calling U.S. public interest groups and citizen-suit advocates Nazis. My point is that a legal instrument that well nigh everyone stateside accepted, often with great enthusiasm, went down in flames over there, as an intolerable assault on a liberal legal order. To rehearse the German professoriate’s key argument against citizen suits:
The point of law and especially administrative law (they said) is to protect rights against coercive state interference. To that end, we have independent courts that will perform de novo review on law and facts. If we want to keep that up, we must limit the courts to rights protection. They can’t review the legality of governmental conduct outside that context. A plaintiff who sues for that purpose is asking the court to command the performance of his private idea of how public authority ought to be exercised, and that’s not a right he has or courts can enforce. Likewise, it’s not the business of courts to make government and law more “democratic.” There are institutions, such as political parties and parliaments, to safeguard democracy and participation. Courts, in contrast, guard rights—if need be, guard them against democratic demands.
If you want to mobilize courts as engines of law-enforcement and democracy (the argument continues), they can’t be independent. If you want them to do the will of the people, go make them instruments of that will—and stop the pretenses about individuals’ rights.
Germany took that path once: in 1934, the Reichstag authorized a version of the allgemeine Buergerklage—the general citizen suit. It did so for obvious reasons. The inherited Weimar bureaucracy might not always enforce the new authorities’ race laws with the requisite speed or resolve. What was needed were actions by private informers or Citizens United for the Separation of Jews and State to enhance public participation and ensure obedience to law. That meant, however—and alongside the enormities recorded by history—the end of an independent judiciary. You cannot surrender the exercise of law to “democracy,” nor can you surrender the Staat to a “movement.” Not if you want to have a liberal Rechtsstaat and a judiciary that is institutionally disposed to protect rights.
Art is costly, art is scarce -- what capitalism does it drives down costs and it helps reduce and better manage scarcity.
As a result, under capitalism we are being inundated with art, with beauty or at least with enormous arsenals of objects and impressions in which to look for and find - based on personal standards - high aesthetic quality in plentiful supply.
The greatest contemporary source of art is the free market and the increased wealth derived from it that gives ordinary human beings hugely enhanced options to beautify their environment both by their private activities as well as in their professional capacities. Only, we tend not to notice this wonderful source of art.
The artful has become a normal ingredient in serving the masses of consumers; art is used to advertise other goods, and it is an auxiliary service or benefit built into commercial products, rendering obsolete the need to make art itself the object of advertisement.
Freedom has largely destroyed a world where art could be enjoyed and produced only by small, privileged elites.
However, the modern art establishment endeavours to perpetuate the bygone air of exclusivity. Modern "shock art", as characterised in the video, seems to me to be involved in a losing rearguard battle intended to defend the exclusivity of art in a world that produces beauty en masse, being driven in this commendable tendency by the rewards from supplying the broad population with products of integral or incidental artistic value.
Freedom democratised the ability to produce beauty -- just compare what the average house owner/occupier today is able to accomplish to make his dwellings more beautiful compared to a hundred, or two hundred years ago.
Modern cities are treasures of beauty. To me, at least, a clean and neat town is a piece of aesthetic delight; how much more dirty and grotty than today were towns only 30 or 40 years ago.
I agree with most of what the gentleman in the below short video has to say, though I am not sure I am entirely clear as to what objective standards of beauty may consist of. He does not mention one of them.
While I do not have a theory what beauty is, I know that I am surrounded by it more than ever - thanks to freedom.
My interest kindled by Ed Steven's post Burke and Paine ... Together Again quite some time ago, I still have not found the time to read Yuval Levin's book. In the meantime, I am glad to take advantage of a short cut to The Great Debate's narrative and some of its messages. Enjoy: