Today is the 116th anniversary of the birth of F. A. Hayek, one of the greatest scholars of the 20th century.
David Boaz writes: Back in 2010, as the tea party movement was on the verge of delivering an electoral rebuke to President Obama’s big-government policies, the New York Times derided the movement for reviving “long-dormant ideas [found in] once-obscure texts by dead writers.” They meant Hayek especially. But a more astute journalist might not have regarded Hayek as obscure.
Who was Hayek? He was an economist born and educated in Vienna. After the Nazi conquest of Austria, he became a British citizen and taught there and at the University of Chicago for most of his career. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974. President Ronald Reagan called him one of the two or three people who had most influenced him, and so did some of the dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. President George H. W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Margaret Thatcher banged his great book “The Constitution of Liberty” on the table at Conservative Party headquarters and declared “This is what we believe.” Milton Friedman described him as “the most important social thinker of the 20th century.”
But respect for Hayek extended far beyond libertarians and conservatives. Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard and a top economic adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama, called him the author of “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today” — that markets mostly work without plans or direction. He is the hero of “The Commanding Heights,” the book and PBS series on the battle of economic ideas in the 20th century. His most popular book, “The Road to Serfdom,” has never gone out of print and saw its sales explode during the financial crisis and Wall Street bailouts. John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker that “on the biggest issue of all, the vitality of capitalism, he was vindicated to such an extent that it is hardly an exaggeration to refer to the 20th century as the Hayek century.”
In much of his work Hayek explored how society can best make use of “the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.” Read the rest of this entry »
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivers opening statement before a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Role of Judges under the U.S. Constitution. Remarks delivered 5 October 2011.
Once again, President Trump has come to Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s defense by throwing America under the bus.
From Our Partners: Asked About Russia Sanctions, Donald Trump Says ‘We Ough…
“He is the leader of his country,” Trump said, adding the usual boilerplate about wanting to have good relations and help fighting Islamic State.
O’Reilly interjected, “Putin’s a killer.” And a vexed Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?”
This was no gaffe. A similar conversation played out between MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Trump in December 2015. Scarborough asked about Trump’s bromance with Putin and Trump responded, “When people call you brilliant, it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”
Putin “kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries,” objected Scarborough. “Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said, referring to then-President Obama.
“But, again, he kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” protested Scarborough.
“Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,” Trump said.
In July, Trump said something similar in response to questions from the New York Times about the bloody repressions and mass arrests by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”
One might expect to hear that kind of logic from a dorm room full of Marxists. And if Obama had ever suggested the same, conservatives would have pounced. Of course America isn’t without sin. But ethically speaking, America has towered above Russia – including Russia under Putin. Read the rest of this entry »
A video crash-up covering the political landscape of the 1960’s, featuring MLK, RFK, JFK, Malcom X, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater.
Born 225 Years Ago, Tocqueville’s Predictions Were Spot On
Arthur Milikh writes: We often boast about having attained some unimaginable redefinition of ourselves and our nation. How odd then, that someone born 225 years ago today could understand us with more clarity and depth than we understand ourselves.
Back in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville accurately foresaw both much of what ails us and our remarkable uniqueness and strengths.
“Despots of the past tyrannized through blood and iron. But the new breed of democratic despotism ‘does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body and goes straight for the soul.’”
Tocqueville’s deservedly famous book, “Democracy in America,” was the product of his nine-month excursion throughout Jacksonian America. The purpose of this trip was to study our country’s political institution and the habits of mind of its citizens.
America’s Place in the World
Tocqueville correctly thought the then-developing America was the way of the future. As such, he foresaw that Europe would never be restored to its former greatness—though he hoped it but could serve as the cultural repository of the West.
He also predicted Russian despotism, thinking that Russia was not yet morally exhausted like Europe, and would bring about a new, massive tyranny. In fact, he conjectured that America and Russia would each “hold the destinies of half the world in its hands one day.”
“The majority’s moral power makes individuals internally ashamed to contradict it, which in effect silences them, and this silencing culminates in a cessation of thinking.”
He therefore hoped America would serve as an example to the world—a successful combination of equality and liberty. And an example of this was needed, since equality can go along with freedom, but it can even more easily go along with despotism.
“Tocqueville feared that the majority’s tastes and opinions would occupy every sphere of sentiment and thought. One among many illuminating examples is his commentary on democratic art.”
In fact, much of the world did go in the direction of democratic despotism—wherein the great mass of citizens is indeed equal, save for a ruling elite, which governs them. In a strange sense, Tocqueville would think that North Korea is egalitarian.
Despite his hopes for America, Tocqueville thought grave obstacles would diminish our freedom—though he didn’t think them insurmountable.
The Power of the Majority
Most alarming to him was the power of the majority, which he thought would distort every sphere of human life.
“The majority reaches into citizens’ minds and hearts. It breaks citizens’ will to resist, to question its authority, and to think for themselves.”
Despots of the past tyrannized through blood and iron. But the new breed of democratic despotism “does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body and goes straight for the soul.”
That is, the majority reaches into citizens’ minds and hearts. It breaks citizens’ will to resist, to question its authority, and to think for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Of Course They Do
Adam Taylor writes: As America stumbles its way through the early stages of Donald Trump’s unlikely and uncomfortable bid for the presidency, some here are wondering what exactly Trump says about the nation.
“Do other national cultures create men like Donald Trump?” Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg asked on Twitter. “Asking for the United States.”
Goldberg probably asked that question in jest, but there may be real concern behind it. To many, Trump’s political career seems to combine three ugly undercurrents of US politics: the outsize role of money, the never-ending campaign season, and America’s embrace of reactionary celebrity figures.
So do other countries really have their own Donald Trumps? Well, yes, of course they do. When Goldberg asked his question, there was a flood of responses from foreign readers, who pointed to their own rich and rude political figures. Some comparisons don’t quite seem fair (you may dislike Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Nigel Farage, but their faults and virtues are different from Trump’s), many, many other suggestions did seem apt.
Trump is a product of American society, but he’s not unique. His mixture of murky wealth, extreme arrogance and vulgar chauvinism can be found all over the world, albeit with local spins. Here are just a handful of the world’s other Donald Trumps.
One of the best-known examples of a foreign Trump might be Silvio Berlusconi, the business magnate who was Italy’s prime minister for about nine years in total. Berlusconi, like Trump, espoused an entrepreneurial spirit but soon became better known for his misdemeanours and odd behaviour: One time, he hid behind a monument and jumped out to scare German leader Angela Merkel, shouting, “Coo-coo” (“She enjoyed it,” Berlusconi later said). Like Trump, he even has an intriguing hairstyle….(read more)
Clive Palmer, an Australian billionaire, certainly creates Trump-size headlines. He has plans to construct a replica of the Titanic. He wants to open his own “Jurassic Park.” He has accused his political opponents of being funded by the CIA. He has called Chinese officials “mongrels” (and later apologised).
The similarities between the two go beyond headlines and money, however….(read more)
China is a country full of very rich people, and often these very rich people have deep political ambitions. However, it’s possible that Chen Guangbiao is the only one who can match Trump for sheer arrogance.
There are numerous examples of how big Chen’s ego is, including his audacious and doomed attempt to buy The New York Times and his insistence on singing at media events. Perhaps the best example of Chen’s ego, however, is a business card he handed to me in 2013….(read more)
While Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the loud-mouthed Russian politician who founded the Liberal Democratic Party in 1990, may lack the business credentials of Trump (his background is in the military), he has a habit of making statements that suggest a kinship with the American businessman.
For example, he suggests arming every single person in Russia so they can kill birds….(read more)
In many parts of Central and Eastern Europe, business success and political populism mingle, creating fertile grounds for local variants of Trumps. Read the rest of this entry »
Brilliant item from Rat’sRight! Re: Navy Yard Shooting:
‘Clear Confirmation of American Exceptionalism’
RAT writes: Following the Monday shooting at the Navy Shipyard, Russian Foreign Affairs committee member Alexey Pushkov couldn’t resist taking a shot at Barack Obama and the United States, tweeting:
“A new shootout at Navy headquarters in Washington – a lone gunman and 7 corpses. Nobody’s even surprised anymore. A clear confirmation of American Exceptionalism.”
James Pierson writes: Members of the Washington establishment were quick to denounce Vladimir Putin’s op ed article in Thursday’s New York Times questioning the legitimacy and legality of a U.S. attack on Syria. The White House quickly dismissed his column as “irrelevant” and a sideshow to the real issues at stake. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that Putin’s column made him want to “vomit.” Several other members of Congress, including Sen. McCain and Rep. Boehner, have denounced the column. Pundits have also weighed in against Mr. Putin’s intervention into the American debate over Syria. Many tweeters and “texters” have criticized the Times for daring to publish a column by the Russian President that is critical of President Obama and U.S. policy abroad.