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.
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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I am a great admirer of Senator Laura Ebke.
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.
Make sure to visit Senator Ebke's excellent facebook page.
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.
For more see My Response to Triumphalism over Turning the Internet into a Utility, and The Biggest Lie in the FCC's Net Neutering Actions. Make sure to take a look at the comments to these posts.
Freedom is Deliberative Plurality
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).
For more on robust conditions of freedom see King George I - From Anthropocentric Liberty to Sociogenic Liberty, Freedom Limits Liberalism, and Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ...
The Libertarian Conundrum
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.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/28/2015 at 02:09 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Congress, Constitution, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Social Philosophy, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0)
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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 all the media headlines about a new White House report, there's still a big pay gap between men and women in America. The report found that women earn 75 cents for every dollar men make. Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's misleading.
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."
On a radio talk show, Nemko clearly and forcefully debunked that ultimate myth - that women make less than men - by explaining why, when you compare apples to apples, it simply isn't true. Even the White House report: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being explains why. Simply put, men choose higher-paying jobs.
And "An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women" prepared, under contract, for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1/09, sums it up:
"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."
Read more at the source.
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.
Writes the Lincoln JournalStar:
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.
Make sure to read the entire article.
For more background information and a more comprehensive portrait of Senator Laura Ebke, read For Ebke, public service runs in the family.
See also Senator Ebke - First Speech on the Floor.
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.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/01/2015 at 01:22 PM in Books & Media, Current Affairs, Economics, Georg Thomas, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0)
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