C.

Churchill as Man of the State

There’s been a lot of Churchill lately. I’ve been watching The Crown on Netflix and of course post-WWII Churchill is a key character. There’s also the new film Darkest Hour, which is about the heroism of early Churchill, during the Hitler years. In preparation for going to see the latter movie, I’ve opened the great Pat Buchanan book to refresh my mind of the context. And I just read the late Ralph Raico’s dissident take on the man, who he described as follows:

When, in a very few years, the pundits start to pontificate on the great question: “Who was the Man of the Century?” there is little doubt that they will reach virtually instant consensus. Inevitably, the answer will be: Winston Churchill. Indeed, Professor Harry Jaffa has already informed us that Churchill was not only the Man of the Twentieth Century, but the Man of Many Centuries.

In a way, Churchill as Man of the Century will be appropriate. This has been the century of the State — of the rise and hypertrophic growth of the welfare-warfare state — and Churchill was from first to last a Man of the State, of the welfare state and of the warfare state. War, of course, was his lifelong passion; and, as an admiring historian has written: “Among his other claims to fame, Winston Churchill ranks as one of the founders of the welfare state.” Thus, while Churchill never had a principle he did not in the end betray, this does not mean that there was no slant to his actions, no systematic bias. There was, and that bias was towards lowering the barriers to state power.

[…]

Yet, in truth, Churchill never cared a great deal about domestic affairs, even welfarism, except as a means of attaining and keeping office. What he loved was power, and the opportunities power provided to live a life of drama and struggle and endless war.

There is a way of looking at Winston Churchill that is very tempting: that he was a deeply flawed creature, who was summoned at a critical moment to do battle with a uniquely appalling evil, and whose very flaws contributed to a glorious victory — in a way, like Merlin, in C.S. Lewis’s great Christian novel, That Hideous Strength.169 Such a judgment would, I believe, be superficial. A candid examination of his career, I suggest, yields a different conclusion: that, when all is said and done, Winston Churchill was a Man of Blood and a politico without principle, whose apotheosis serves to corrupt every standard of honesty and morality in politics and history.

H.

Hoppe on Milton Friedman and the Drift Toward Statism

From Natural Elites, Intellectuals, and the State:

This seemingly unstoppable drift toward statism is illustrated by the fate of the so-called Chicago School: Milton Friedman, his predecessors, and his followers. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Chicago School was still considered left-fringe, and justly so, considering that Friedman, for instance, advocated a central bank and paper money instead of a gold standard. He wholeheartedly endorsed the principle of the welfare state with his proposal of a guaranteed minimum income (negative income tax) on which he could not set a limit. He advocated a progressive income tax to achieve his explicitly egalitarian goals (and he personally helped implement the withholding tax). Friedman endorsed the idea that the State could impose taxes to fund the production of all goods that had a positive neighborhood effect or which he thought would have such an effect. This implies, of course, that there is almost nothing that the state can not tax-fund!

In addition, Friedman and his followers were proponents of the shallowest of all shallow philosophies: ethical and epistemological relativism. There is no such thing as ultimate moral truths and all of our factual, empirical knowledge is at best only hypothetically true. Yet they never doubted that there must be a state, and that the state must be democratic.

Today, half a century later, the Chicago-Friedman school, without having essentially changed any of its positions, is regarded as right-wing and free-market. Indeed, the school defines the borderline of respectable opinion on the political Right, which only extremists cross. Such is the magnitude of the change in public opinion that public employees have brought about.

Q.

Quote from Guido Hulsmann’s Mises Biography

Guido Hulsmann’s massive biography of Ludwig von Mises, entitled “Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism” is a real gem. Liberalism in the title, of course, refers to the Old Liberalism, or classical liberalism, (pre-American Progressivist/socialist “liberalism.”) which taught the freedom of the individual against statism and political power– and more importantly at a historical level, developed the economic case for free trade and the market system.

The following was pulled from the very beginning of the Preface.  I enjoyed it because it succinctly captures the difficult political context in which Mises developed his socio-economic thought.  The end of the quote makes mention of Mises’ audacious stance on epistemology, which was quite unacceptable during his time with the rise of logical positivism.  And today too, embracing logic to the extent Mises had done is considered “old fashioned” and un-“scientific.”41v+FKNfYyL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

In the summer of 1940, with Hitler’s troops moving through France to encircle Switzerland, Ludwig von Mises sat beside his wife Margit on a bus filled with Jews fleeing Europe. To avoid capture, the bus driver took back roads through the French country- side, stopping to ask locals if the Germans had been spotted ahead—reversing and finding alternative routes if they had been.

Mises was two months shy of his fifty-ninth birthday. He was on the invaders’ list of wanted men. Two years earlier, they had ransacked his Vienna apartment, confiscating his records, and freezing his assets. Mises then hoped to be safe in Geneva. Now nowhere in Europe seemed safe. Not only was he a prominent intellectual of Jewish descent; he was widely known to be an arch- enemy of National Socialism and of every other form of socialism. Some called him “the last knight of liberalism.”

He had personally steered Austria away from Bolshevism, saved his country from the level of hyperinflation that destroyed inter- war Germany, and convinced a generation of young socialist intellectuals to embrace the market. Now he was a political refugee headed for a foreign continent.

The couple arrived in the United States with barely any money and no prospects for income. Mises’s former students and disciples had found prestigious positions in British and American universities (often with his help), but Mises himself was considered an anachronism. In an age of growing government and central planning, he was a defender of private property and an opponent of all government intervention in the economy. Perhaps worst of all, he was a proponent of verbal logic and realism in the beginning heyday of positivism and mathematical modeling.

O.

Only Individuals Can Be Victims

Crimes are those actions which have as their victims actual individual human beings. There is no abstract “crime against society” as the Progressives want you to think; nor is there a “crime against the state” as fascists want you to think. Rather, a crime is something which actually aggresses the person or property of another individual specific.

In this way, actual justice has to do with crimes and there is no such thing as “social justice,” much to the disdain of the socialists, left-libertarians, progressive Christians, and so on. Any crime which, say, aggresses hundreds of people is a “crime against many individuals,” not a “social crime.” Society has no rights, for society is not a thing in itself. We must speak in terms of the individual, lest collectivism creep in unannounced.

With this understanding, we also eradicate the guilt-manipulative thinking of modern Progressives who seek to make certain classes of people feel bad for the treatment of other classes of people, decades or even centuries in the past. Individuals today, of course, are not responsible for the treatment of victims in the past. The state is attracted to deviations from the true nature of criminality and justice because, besides its own systematic deviation from the nature of justice, it also understands that it can leverage for its own power the class conflict created by distortions in justice theory.

U.

Ugh, Doolittle.

Curt Doolittle is the worst. Primarily because he owns Propertarianism.com, but is the worst propertarian I’ve ever come across (for the record, I love the word propertarian, and wish it hadn’t taken the domain– humph!). If it wasn’t for that, I would ignore him completely. He has profoundly and impressively misunderstood nearly everyone in the Austro-libertarian movement and holds himself out to be the Great Corrector of their mistakes, the crusader who has learned somewhat from them, but purified them of their own irrationalities.

Besides this, his writing is unclear and vague. He uses big words in a cringeworthy manner and I’ve rarely been able to truly understand what he is trying to get across. Unfortunately, when I do, I realize just how awful his “contributions” are. If you want to gouge your eyes out, read his “basic concepts” page. If you want to simply pound your head into the desk, read his pieces on the mistakes of Rothbard, Hoppe, and Mises. Apparently, he’s got tips and strategies for a full-fledged revolution. Spare me.

He writes recently:

“Praxeology is a method of testing rational choice and moral reciprocity in economic propositions when people are possessed of information heavily weighted by prices, and when they are rational actors, working from simple stacks of priorities.

Then he counters Mises (or at least the straw man of Mises), with this:

“People act irrationally because of a set of cognitive biases and fragmentary information.”

What. The. Heck.

Praxeology:

1). has nothing to do with testing, much less testing choices and whatever moral reciprocity means;

2) has nothing to do with morals, much less morals that are allegedly “in” economic propositions;

3) is actually a science in which economics is a subset, that is, it doesn’t test economic propositions;

4) is not bound by situations where people are “possessed of information weighted by prices” (whatever that means), but rather observes that men make choices and face tradeoffs in a world of scarce resources;

5) teaches that humans are always rational in the sense that they employ certain means to achieve chosen ends (he is assuming that Mises is saying that men always act logically— which means he never read Mises).

In short, one rarely comes across someone who so obviously and magnificently misunderstands such a simple concept as praxeology. In one sentence, we have the understanding of a third grader who criticizes Mises’ deficient understanding of things without himself understanding Mises 101.

J.

Jim Grant Smashes an Apologist for Negative Interest Rates

What a zinger. Jim Grant obliterates Ken Rogoff’s lousy case for negative interest rates. Grant writes of Rogeff:

As for the campaign for zero cash in the service of negative interest rates, Mr. Rogoff’s brief is best seen not as detached scientific analysis but as a kind of left-wing crotchet. Strip away the technical pretense and what you have is politics. The author wants the government to control your money. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s another great quote:

A positive integer would almost seem inherent in the idea of interest. When most of us want something, we want it now. And if we don’t have the money to buy it now, we borrow. “Present goods are, as a rule, worth more than future goods of like kind and number,” posited the eminent 19th-century Austrian theorist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. He called this behavioral truism the core of his theory of interest.

Interest rates are prices. They impart information. They tell a business person whether or not to undertake a certain capital investment. They measure financial risk. They translate the value of future cash flows into present-day dollars. Manipulate those prices—as central banks the world over compulsively do—and you distort information, therefore perception and judgment.

A.

Alex Epstein Obliterates George Clooney

Alex Epstein, who wrote this book (which I need to read– as this post reminded me), issued a response to the following George Clooney statement on climate change:

Well it’s just a stupid argument. If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up with the 99. You know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?

The-Moral-Case-for-Fossil-Fuels
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Written by Alex Epstein

Epstein writes:

I am something close to terrified about Clooney’s comment: “What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

Clooney is talking about the idea that we should “do something about climate change.” For Clooney’s environmentalist allies, that typically translates into: globally outlaw 80-95 percent of future fossil fuel use and force us to try to subsist on expensive, unreliable solar and wind energy.

And again:

For someone who understands that affordable energy is a life and death issue, this does not translate into “clean up the earth a little bit,” it translates into “making life on earth hellish for billions.” It would mean that the 1.4 billion people around the world who lack electricity—and thus have a life expectancy of 48—would not be lifted out of poverty, but would be joined by billions more.

It would mean a far dirtier environment—only high-energy, highly-developed countries have clean environments. And it would mean a far more dangerous climate. While Clooney makes time to publicly declare his solidarity with the victims, he should take some time to think about what would have actually protected them: industrial development powered by affordable, reliable energy.