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.
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
to trace from an element immediately known to us
its hidden consequences as they play out in the vaster system to which it belongs.
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.
I prick up my ears when I hear of claims that certain expressions in one language cannot be rendered in another language. Often there is merely self-important half-knowledge behind such insinuations. English-speaking academics like to puff themselves up by claiming that German terms such as Realpolitik ("politics in reality," as opposed to some ideal political vision) or Ersatz ("substitute") or Schadenfreude (enjoying pain and other harm affecting others) have no equivalent in English. They do. Perhaps it takes a sentence or two to make the meaning clear, but translation is no problem. Sure, it may be more handy to use one word instead of a sentence, and occasionally that one word may be more readily available in German than in English. And such is the case, I presume, with the German word "freiheitlich" - "freedomly."
"Freiheitlich" might be translated as "freedom-regarding."
The term's charm: it does not ascribe concern for freedom to one party, political school or ideological trend. And, indeed, freedom is not the prerogative of its self-appointed libertarian trustees.
2. Freedom as Blueprint - the Illiberal Ambition in Liberalism
The key misconstruing of freedom that is common to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists lies in their tendency to think of liberty as a predefined set of principles that is capable of orienting those in the know infallibly about all issues that might turn up to be decided along the line: good or bad for liberty. Put differently: these doctrinaires of liberty feel equipped to decide at any moment and under any circumstances what is conducive to and compatible with freedom and what is averse to her. This approach I call freedom as model or better, perhaps, freedom as blueprint.
This approach is fundamentally illiberal. It is authoritarian and paternalistic. Only an elite, the select few in the know, are entitled to decide what liberty is. Of course, liberty just does not work that way, and, hence, the doctrinaires of liberty are always a tiny moping minority that is politically ineffective and rather given to the intolerant bigot's passion for sectarianism.
3. Freedom as Method - Democracy, Law, and Freedom, a Cross-fertilising Dependency
By contrast, freedom is an evolved and powerful, yet imperfect method adapted to
improving society by expanding personal freedom so as to include every citizen in the ameliorative project.
Freedom as method applies the critical method to the concerns of the human being in his capacity as a social actor in a large, populous society.
Democracy is one method of building freedom to trace and try social amelioration and progress. The other method is law.
Thus, freedom is indispensably a democratic project, a bulwark of protection against the cartelisation or monopolisation of political competition in favour of an elite-minority characteristic of the limited access society that has dominated human history until very recently. Freedom presupposes the possibility of political participation by every citizen, i.e. every adult person.
Helpfully, the German constitution - das Grundgesetz ("the basic law") - is referred to as "die freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung" - Germany's "freedom-regarding-democratic basic order."
Freedom is a public affair, not just a matter of first principles and their implications, but one concerned with what we may achieve by both rivalrous and cooperative human encounters; hence the pivotal station of democracy, which invites all citizens to speak up at society's open fora, where we vent and negotiate our concerns and ambitions, and from where democracy sends impulses for change and shifting power.
Law and Democracy
The law helps define what the public is and what its organs are allowed to do to the citizens, and what these, in turn, are allowed to do to the public and its organs. The law informs, filters and collates democracy's impulses for change and shifting power.
Together, democracy and law form institutions designed to improve the search for societal amelioration and progress without admitting inordinate negative repercussions from efforts at improvement.
space for movement (democratic demands for change and shifting power), and she needs
brakes and channels (legal guidelines and restrictions) to ensure that the overall system is not damaged by the (intended) changes in its vital working parts.
If freedom is to thrive, emphasising the mutually dependent and cross-fertilising connection between freedom, democracy, and law is of the essence. In denying and even fighting this vital triple linkage, the doctrinaires of liberty are actually working against freedom.
There are areas of life where no such thing as the good old times exists.
The IT sector seems to be such a field.
If you do not put restrictions on human curiosity and creativity, the natural thing happens: continual change and progress.
Man is a natural innovator. Transforming the world is an anthropological constant, a fundamental need inextricably tied to the human condition.
Liberty is about ensuring conditions that allow man to act out this natural human need. Liberty is about making sure that government facilitates this human propensity rather than hindering it. Obstructing the drive to change our world is a way of dehumanising men.
that man must and ought to strive for ever growing wealth. If this desire for more wealth is crudely equated with greed (which is silly) then greed is morally desirable - as one might argue for rhetorical effect, while correctly speaking greed is bad, of course, and self-interest good in the above sense. In fact, what is bad about greed is that it represents an overdoing, a transgression of the right measure of something, an excess beyond the harmless or wholesome, whereas an excess of self-interest does not make conceptual sense as defined above, since it would imply a violation of self-interest by self-interest.
The crux: the way in which human beings adapt to their environment is by having and satisfying desires/needs. The greater the variety, variability and degree of differentiation of a specie's ability to have and satisfy needs/desires, the greater its ability to fit successfully with the wider environment. So the ability to constantly renew, extend and grow this ability is key to survival and advancement.
Now, what is wealth? Wealth consists of things and practices that enable man to satisfy his desires/needs. Hence, if an open-ended development of desires is an anthropological sine qua nonand the key to continuous successful adaptation to a changing and changed environment, then incessantly growing wealth is just as important.
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.
Most likely, freedom survives - with or without the support of the classical liberal - because [in] civil society as it has emerged in some 25 countries or so in the last 300 years [...] we have grown accustomed to practice freedom as method as opposed to relying on her in the form of a monolithic and socially predominant political creed.
A momentous implication of this is that even if there were only one liberalism possible or extant in reality it would still not be the voice of freedom but one of the voices contending to shape our society and the face of liberty within our social order.
We compete with our liberal opponents as well as our non-liberal political rivals (a) to define what liberty means and to try (b) to determine what impact she may exert on us.
At the end of the day, the kind of liberty that proves feasible in the real world will be the result of interaction between many parties holding different views as to what liberty means and which elements of her deserve emphasis and support.
(1) a disposition to check whether our rivals tend to diminish or violate the robust conditions of liberty, i.e. the arrangements, devices, and rights that make for civil society, and
(2) an ambition to advertise further, perhaps more specific substantive visions of liberty (for instance a world void of the welfare state),
liberty as method requires also that
(3) we reflect the tension between our concept of liberty and the latitude that freedom provides for the supporters of alternative views that - in order to uphold the robust conditions of liberty - must be recognised as legitimate (contributions to the process of political competition) even though they deviate from our political ambitions.
Take the issue of marriage licensing, which a liberal may oppose on the grounds that government is not entitled to authenticate a valid marital relationship, leaving such power to individuals and the institutions they form under the right to free association--one of the rights that constitute the robust conditions of freedom.
Under such a provision one may choose to treat marriage as a holy sacrament to be dispensed by a church--a grand tradition that has been formative of social order for hundreds of years.
But even within the Christian tradition, marriage, the features of morally acceptable marital status and behaviour, have left a trail of very different patterns including concubinage, and other arrangements alien to the contemporary Christian. (See Roman Church Pioneer of Liberty and Free Markets.)
Asserting the various rights that constitute the robust conditions of liberty, not only does freedom defend the practice of a diversity of faiths and denominations, she also protects the heterodox and unbelievers, who, incidentally, in some important ways are the upshot of communities embracing greater freedom.
Like Christians themselves or believers of other confessions of faith, non-Christians subscribe to differing concepts of marriage, including secularised variants in which government may take a significant role, perhaps even entirely ousting ecclesiastical institutions from the authentication of marital status.
My point is that while it is perfectly legitimate to champion a Christian understanding of marriage in the Great Western tradition, this can only be done in the context of an open pluralistic competition to which all other exponents of matrimonial concepts are given equal access.
Thus, there may be this or that Christian-and-liberal concept of marriage, but there cannot be a certain concept of marriage uniquely implied by freedom.
One is not entitled to appeal to freedom as the justifying ground for a certain concept of marriage, but one may appeal to her as the justifying ground to take a certain position on the issue and add political weight to it, i.e. to vie for social acceptance of one's conviction in the matter.
Freedom is the framework within which we come to settle - often with considerable latitude - the issue of socially valid features of marriage (and other vitally important social institutions, which is not to deny that marriage may be more than a social institution).
Historically, liberalism has been closely tied to the Christian faith; ultimately, however, the Christian liberal impulses have been the pioneer of freedoms which have served to contest and undermine the Christian faith, and establish rival world views equally protected under the robust conditions of freedom.
So what freedom accomplishes is the subjection of modern society to something like the analogue of creative destruction in the field of morality and social norms.
Freedom defends the rights of our fellows to question what we believe in and persuade the community to tend toward cultural values that conflict with ours.
Freedom is also an environment that ensures open access to the political process and conditions furthering peaceful reconciliation for those at strife. Which is why politics and democracy are inextricably built into the blueprint of freedom.
Freedom has privatised religion. By the same process she has enabled the broader populace to interpret and manage in new ways social institutions once monolithically administered by the ecclesiastical(ly influenced) powers-that-be. The advance of religious freedom has been accompanied by the advance of secular freedoms. In fact, the former could hardly be achieved without giving rise to the latter.
People have come to use the worldly technology of government, whose power has grown with freedom, to define and foster social institutions such as marriage. Therefore, it is likely to be very difficult, even impossible, to cut through the manifold ties between marriage and the social technology called the state. Freedom has empowered people to revolt against oppression by religious authority or at least experience the possibilities of dissent and alternative approaches. Next to the great Christian tradition, freedom has placed a temporal reading of wedlock, which has become a deeply rooted tradition in its own right. Both deserve respect and the dignity of mutual reconciliation.
Any one view of liberty held and pursued by a person or a group is only an input into the process supplying the fleeting frames that make up the film of freedom.