July 29, 2007 1 Comment
individualism for the masses
July 27, 2007 Leave a comment
Sheldon Richman on the great hero of “individualism, liberty, free markets, and — the indispensable framework — peace”:
[E]xpansion and imperialism are at war with the best traditions, principles, and interests of the American people, and that they will plunge us into a network of difficult problems and political perils, which we might have avoided, while they offer us no corresponding advantage in return.
These might be the sentiments of a contemporary left-wing intellectual whose notion of America’s traditions, principles, and interests would differ markedly from those held by advocates of the freedom philosophy. But they’re not. They were written 108 years ago by William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), who, if he gets any attention at all, is usually castigated for his evolutionary (Social Darwinist) and laissez-faire views. Sumner, a founder of American sociology and a distinguished professor at Yale University, was an uncompromising champion of economic freedom, unfettered international trade, individual liberty, and limited government. It is fair to say that in his time he was the best-known American exponent of individualist, classical-liberal ideas.
July 24, 2007 Leave a comment
Two and a half years ago, I posted this:
(And I just noticed that Lew Rockwell did, too.)
Here I show the original paperback book cover as I remember it when I first read this book around age 14. This was one of the books that got me to finally start reading.
All of MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels have a color in the title, which McGee-as-first-person-narrator eventually works into his narration. What Wallace doesn’t mention is what this title means — a title which I can never forget because it’s so connected to this book cover. The Green Ripper is how McGee and his girlfriend refer to Death personified. Their in-joke is based on a story they heard of a kid who had terrible nightmares about “The Green Ripper” coming to take him away. Eventually his parents figure out that he’s misheard some grown-up talk about The Grim Reaper. When McGee loses his girlfriend to a domestic terrorist ring (this book was written in the late 1970s!) McGee infiltrates the ring to exact his revenge, wishing he could take on The Green Ripper himself.
It’s the birthday of mystery novelist John D. MacDonald, born in Sharon, Pennsylvania (1916). He wrote a series of novels, including The Deep Blue Good-By (1964) and Nightmare in Pink (1964), featuring Travis McGee, a beach bum detective who lives on a houseboat that he won in a poker game.
While he was serving in the army during World War II, MacDonald entertained his wife by writing her fictionalized stories in his letters. She liked one story so much that she typed it up and sent it to the magazine Story, where it was published. MacDonald was so surprised and happy that he devoted himself to writing.
He had four months of severance pay when he came home from the Army, so he spent those four months writing seven days a week, 14 hours a day. Everyone but his wife thought he was shell-shocked. By the end of the year, he was making a living selling short stories to pulp fiction magazines. He published 73 stories in 1949 alone.
He used his mystery novels to criticize what he called American junk culture: fast food, bad TV, and land development. He wrote, “I am wary of a lot of things, such as … time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants … pageants, progress, and manifest destiny.”
Wary of land development and progress, hm? Oh well. Travis McGee’s sidekick was a retired economist whose houseboat was called “The John Maynard Keynes.” I guess that says plenty.
July 23, 2007 Leave a comment
About the man who was my favorite writer when I was a teenager, the Writer’s Almanac says
It’s the birthday of crime novelist Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago, Illinois (1888). He’s known for his novels about the private detective Philip Marlowe such as The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye (1954). He started out writing second-rate poetry and essays, but couldn’t get much published, so he gave up and took a bookkeeping class, got a job at a bank, and went on to become a wealthy oil company executive.
He lost his job when the stock market crashed in 1929. So at the age of 45 he began writing for pulp fiction magazines, which paid about a penny a word.
Chandler was one of the first detective novelists to become known for the quality of his prose, and he became famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.” In another he wrote, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
Chandler said of Dashiell Hammett, “He took murder out of the parlor room and put it back in the streets where they’re good at it.” Chandler could have said the same of himself. Ross Macdonald, the man who figured out how to make hard-boiled detective fiction work in the era of the Counter Culture, said of Chandler, “He wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a wonderful gusto and imaginative flair.”
July 18, 2007 1 Comment
Tom Woods, author of 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Suppose to Ask, has this to say at Mises.org:
“The traditional story is familiar to American schoolchildren: the American Indians possessed a profound spiritual kinship with nature, and were unusually solicitous of environmental welfare. If we are to avert environmental catastrophe, the not-so-subtle lesson goes, we need to recapture this lost Indian wisdom. As usual, the real story is more complicated, less cartoonish, and a lot more interesting.” FULL ARTICLE
If you happen to have been reading this blog forever, you might remember that left-anarchist lawyer lady wrote me a few years back to disagree with my philosophical individualism and my advocacy of private property.
She wrote, “I look to the American Indians, who couldn’t understand the idea of ‘ownership’ of the land.”
My reply to her is here.
I showed the exchange to Tom Woods after I prepared this article for Mises.org. He said, “Right. I can’t speak for all of them, but I know that anthropologists have not found a single New England tribe that held land in common and knew nothing of private property.”
There’s so much schooling to unlearn.
July 13, 2007 1 Comment
Most people, writes Murray Rothbard, including most political theorists, believe that once one concedes the importance, or even the vital necessity, of some particular activity of the State — such as the provision of a legal code — that one has ipso facto conceded the necessity of the State itself. The State indeed performs many important and necessary functions: from provision of law to the supply of police and fire fighters, to building and maintaining the streets, to delivery of the mail. But this in no way demonstrates that only the State can perform such functions, or, indeed, that it performs them even passably well. FULL ARTICLE
July 13, 2007 Leave a comment
Only Spooner realized that it would be compounding crime and error to try to use government to right the wrongs committed by another government, writes Murray Rothbard. And so, among his pietistic and moralizing anti-slavery colleagues, only Spooner was able to see with shining clarity, despite all temptations, the stark difference between vice and crime.
He saw that it was correct to denounce the crimes of governments, but that it was only compounding those crimes to maximize government power as an attempted remedy. Spooner never followed other pietists in endorsing crime or in trying to outlaw vice. FULL ARTICLE
July 11, 2007 Leave a comment
Tom Woods, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, has written another volume of corrective American history. I look forward to reading it. Sounds like he was able to go into some things in greater depth.
He writes about it at LRC.
What I find interesting about Woods’s approach is that he is not doing revision, technically speaking.
Revisionism is reinvestigation of the Establishment’s pro-state (and usually pro-war) narrative.
What Woods does, it seems to me, is address the rift between that which is generally accepted by history scholars and that which is taught, repeated, and reinforced by schools, the mainstream media, and popular culture more generally.
(See, for example, this recent bit of ahistorical propaganda from Newsweek: “China today resembles nothing so much as the United States a century ago, when robber barons, gangsterism and raw capitalism held sway. Now as then, powerful vested interests are profiting from murky regulations, shoddy enforcement, rampant corruption and a lack of consumer awareness.”)
Now some of Woods’s positions are still at odds with Establishment historians, such as his Austrian School approach to the Great Depression. This is because any analysis of economic history will require more than just facts; it will require theory to interpret the cause and effect behind those facts. But most of what he focuses on are generally accepted facts among historians that are extremely inconvenient to the historical narrative most of us have been taught.
One of the absurd criticisms of his Politically Incorrect Guide was the claim that he was pretending controversy where there wasn’t any. To paraphrase: What professional historian would disagree that the Civil War was caused, in part, by a complex combinations of factors, including economic concerns other than the question of slavery?!
Well, the answer is probably that no respectable historian would deny a complex array of factors behind any big event in history. But that argument is a straw man. Woods wasn’t saying that his claims would be considered controversial among historians; he was saying that they would be considered controversial among almost everyone else, and he was clearly correct, as proven by all the fallout from both the old Left Establishment and the neocons. The history we all think we know is not the history that historians know, and it’s that very discrepancy that Woods addresses in his books.
Here’s Tom’s reaction to this post:
By and large I think that’s what I’m doing, though while reading it I think you’ll find that in some cases I’m doing both the things you describe here. The Establishment’s pro-state narrative is extremely shaken, I think, by the time the book ends.
Now I’m even more anxious to receive my copy of the book.