I read the response by Doug Rasmussen to Daniel Klein and Daniel J. Mahoney with great enthusiasm for the skill they both convey in representing their positions. What I take from Klein and Mahoney is that liberty is important as an outcome for judging a good political order, but what Rasmussen adds is the observation that political and ethical institutions, while overlapping, are not built of the same thing. Instead, I argue that a principle like toleration should be understood as a way to both increase liberty and leave a space for the ethical.
Klein and Mahoney point out a role for the ethical when they claim that religious institutions have a major advantage of appreciating complexity. They write, “People who learn religious patterns of thought often have less hubris about outsmarting the complexities of life.” The pay-out here is that those that have a religious orientation are going to be skeptical of centralization of power, particularly the temporal power that reminds them of a Rome that would be such an effective supplier of martyrs. This allows for a dialectic, a mutual skepticism between religious groups sufficient to provide a check on each one’s hubris. A moderation of extremism is an important feature of the res publica.
Acknowledging a limit to expertise and the profound complexity of social organization is a starting point for understanding the Scottish Enlightenment. A concept of liberty becomes central in this tradition for political institutions, especially through its influence on the U.S. Founding. I was surprised to see that there is no mention of tolerance in either Rasmussen’s or Klein’s and Mahoney’s essay because it is toleration that creates the conditions for liberty. Tolerance is the institutional form and liberty is the result. In the tradition of Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, I would expect that toleration and not liberty would be the supreme principle of a political order, which would more closely approximate the historical period captured by Smith and his contemporaries.
Thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico are without power after Hurricane Fiona roared through last week. Idling off the island’s coast is a ship that reportedly carries 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel from Texas. Yet unloading that fuel is illegal without a Jones Act waiver, which the Biden Administration hasn’t granted.
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is protectionism at its worst. The law says waterborne cargo between U.S. points must be carried by ships that are primarily built, owned and crewed by Americans. This raises shipping prices, while shifting cargo to trucks, which are less efficient and worse for the environment. The law also explains why wintry Boston imports Russian liquefied natural gas.
Food insecurity is a gauzy measure that overstates how many Americans don’t consume enough calories. One irony is that ferocious grocery-store inflation may be driving Americans to eat more fast food, which is more affordable but often less healthy. How about making food more affordable by reducing the 11.4% annual pace of food inflation?
It is interesting but depressing to me that the more eminent a college or university is perceived to be, the more outrageous are efforts by administrators to stifle individual expression and enforce a numbing conformity of ideas reminiscent of universities in the old Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.
The most prestigious group of schools in America is no doubt the Ivy League, eight elitist and highly selective institutions in seven Northeastern states. In the last decade, Yale attacked and hounded from campus two scholars who dared to defend the right of students to wear Halloween costumes similar to what grade-schoolers don to Trick or Treat. Princeton revived ancient (and already adjudicated) charges of inappropriate sexual conduct against distinguished classicist Joshua Katz in order to punish him for more recent anti-woke criticisms of campus happenings.
The campaign against [U. Penn law professor] Amy [Wax] began when she co-authored an op-ed in 2017 that defended bourgeois values and argued that civilizations are successful to the extent that they adopt them. Students and fellow faculty members expressed outrage at such provocative thoughts.
Arnold Kling reflects interestingly on reactions to the movie, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. (DBx: Unlike Arnold, I have seen this movie and enjoyed it.)
Here’s the abstract of a newly published paper by Art Carden, Vincent Geloso, and Phil Magness:
In her 2017 book Democracy in Chains, historian Nancy MacLean identifies John C. Calhoun as the “lodestar” of public choice theory and argues that the conservative Southern Agrarian poets (Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and others) were influential in the formation of 1986 Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan’s worldview. We test this argument with reference to the scholars cited in Buchanan’s collected works and elsewhere. The evidence for any direct or even indirect influence of Calhoun and the Agrarians is very scant, and we conclude that Buchanan’s intellectual program was shaped far more by Knut Wicksell, Frank Knight, and the Italian public finance tradition than by Calhoun or early twentieth-century segregationists.
(DBx: Indeed. As I noted in this July 2017 blog post, if it is valid for MacLean to argue that Jim Buchanan’s worldview was determined by the vile views of fellow southerners John C. Calhoun and Donald Davidson, then it’s valid to argue that MacLean’s worldview was determined by the vile views of Joe McCarthy.)
The California bill AB2098 aims to silence doctors who dissent against destructive public health directives. Its supporters like @NLFD_org slander doctors and dissidents and seek to jail those who disagree with them.