Cactus Club August 1999

2 August 1999.................a positive account of property rights

Let's begin our August Dialogue with an interesting paper by David D.Friedman explaining the derivation of property rights from the perspective of economics rather than moral philosophy. Click here. Question: What do you think of Friedman's explanation of the congruence of what is, what is just, and what is efficient? (PD)

5 August 1999.........................regarding the 2 August 1999 input

I found David Friedman's piece to be a magnificent philosophical and logical argument for secure property rights. Friedman's paper is an airtight exposition of man's progression from the Hobbesian war of every man against every other to peacable traders maintaining civil social and economic ties for maximum returns to all participants, and maximum efficiency for society as a whole.

The downside of Friedman's work is that we can extrapolate this progression into the future in light of recent political and social developments, and that future is bleak indeed. For today their are two destructive forces at work that will undo the progress man has made through the developments Friedman traces.

The first of these is the pernicious growth of interventionist government. Friedman outlined the past development of both societal norms and laws that served as a framework for the evolution of more peaceful and efficient means of human interaction. Such rules, whether informal or legislative, were meant to enforce the contracts that allowed for increasing efficiencies, and to give everyone equality of opportunity to pursue such efficiencies. Today, however, interventionist governments pursue twin agendas: to circumvent informal rules by involving itself in every facet of human interaction; and in doing so, to promote equality of outcome (also called "social justice" or "the common good"), which results not in increasing but decreasing efficiencies. We therefore move back toward a more Hobbesian state -- though in this case, it's not a war of all against all, but of each special interest group against each other for a slice of the largesse pie.

The second is the outlandish litigation explosion. In many ways a natural result of the growth of interventionist government, the litigation industry also moves us backwards in the progression traced by Friedman. For the rules and laws cited by Friedman were necessarily broad ones, which allowed for more specific local and regional rules to hold sway over the particulars. As pointed out by Virginia Postrel in her recent book, *The Future and Its Enemies,* this allows for the most efficient allocation of resources, since those closest to and most knowledgeable about the specifics of a given issue are able to reach the wisest decision. Today's litigators, however, seek cookie-cutter decisions about every dispute, regardless of very real differences in locale or situation. The end result is another form of interventionist law, this one driven by the courts; the result is another Hobbesian war, one between those looking for easy money and those wishing to keep what they've earned.

In his book, *America's 30 Years War,* Balint Vazsonyi points to the steady erosion of the very liberties that have made the American economic miracle possible. Today, the indications are that our seemingly tireless and marvelously inventive entrepreneurs -- who are the engine driving our wealth creation -- have thus far managed to stay ahead of the forces, such as those I've outlined above, that would otherwise have us reversing course. But if we look at the economic stagnation of Europe, which has suffered from interventionist government far longer and to a far greater extent, one must wonder how long our creators of wealth will be able to withstand the assault. (JV)

8 August 1999..............too many rights make a wrong

Here is a column (August 9, 1999) by editorialist Vin Suprynowicz. Yours truly once gave a presentation he titled "Too Many Rights Make A Wrong" (January 27, 1997). The basic idea was that the proliferation of "rights", even though it does benefit certain groups in society such as lawyers and politicians, is detrimental to harmonious social organization. Question: Do most college educated students understand the concept of rights or at least have a healthy skepticism concerning the creation of new rights? (PD)

In 1993, 17 employees of Mexican or Latin American origin sued Avis Rent-a-Car in California, contending company managers were creating an "abusive work environment" at the firm's San Francisco International Airport facility.

The employees contended they were being subjected to "verbal racial harassment." Managers called them "derogatory names and continually demeaned them on the basis of their race, national origin and lack of English language skills," the plaintiffs asserted.

A San Francisco jury awarded eight of the workers $135,000 in damages based on a manager's repeated use of racially tinged obscenities and ethnic slurs deriding Hispanics. Moreover, Superior Court Judge Carlos Bea ordered the manager to stop using such language and ordered Avis not to permit it in the future.

The car rental company appealed Judge Bea's order, arguing that such an injunction amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.

But demonstrating how today's "politically correct" liberal orthodoxy can trump the former principles even of those traditionally known as defenders of the Bill of Rights -- "in an odd twist on its 79-year tradition of championing freedom of expression," in the words of the Los Angeles Times -- the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California chose to weigh in on the side of the Hispanic workers. In a 1997 amicus brief, the ACLU supported "limits on the unrestrained speech of bigots in the workplace, particularly when they are in positions of authority on the job."

On Aug. 2, the ACLU got its way, as a deeply divided California Supreme Court ruled that judges do not violate First Amendment rights by prohibiting, in advance, the use of racial slurs on the job.

Thus does the government take a further step toward eliminating any privacy of contract or behavior in the workplace.

Both the U.S. and California constitutions ban "prior restraint." But the order upheld by the California Supreme Court Monday "constitutes just such a prior restraint," wrote Justice Stanley Mosk in a stirring dissent. "It impermissibly restricts speech based on the mere assumption that these words will invariably create a hostile and abusive work environment amounting to employment discrimination."

Eugene Volokh, law professor at UCLA, warns that under such a ruling, media outlets could now face similar prior restraints: "After this case, it seems much more plausible for someone to sue a newspaper asking for an injunction barring publication of something he considers libelous," Prof. Volokh says.

Thought you had a right to pen a letter to the editor, objecting to a government plan to place a halfway house for convicted child molesters in your cul-de-sac? Not for long, especially if the federal government objects to some of the uncomplimentary terms you might want to use to describe your new "neighbors."

Yet Michelle Alexander, director of something called the "racial justice project" for the ACLU of Northern California, Monday applauded what she called an "appropriate and modest effort" to protect workers from discrimination.

Even though it supersedes the First Amendment?

Of course it's boorish to insult someone's ethnic heritage. But here we see a clear example of the current strategy to denigrate and erode the core rights to secure which (as Mr. Jefferson's Declaration reminds us) "governments are instituted among men" -- rights like freedom of speech.

The tactic is simple: Erect a new "right," invented out of thin air, like the "right" to be well-fed, or to receive free medical care, or to live without fear that your neighbor might own a gun or consume a consciousness-altering drug without your permission -- even the "right" simply not to be called nasty names.

Place this new "right" in competition with actual rights, like the right to teach your religion to your children without interference, the right to be safe in your home or car from warrantless search and seizure, or simply the right to free speech without some government nanny poised in readiness to wash your mouth with soap should you violate her list of naughty words.

Then, have a bunch of liberal windbag jurists agonize over how to strike a proper "balance" between the real and the new, fake, made-up rights.

Presto: It no longer matters that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech."

We'll just let the courts do it.

12 August 1999................ Rawls' veil of ignorance

For some information about John Rawls, click here. Questions: Would implementation of the "veil of ignorance" (aka "original position") concept promote or impede harmonious social organization? Is the pursuit of justice more important than the pursuit of harmonious social organization? (PD)

13 August 1999................regarding the 12 August 1999 input

There is no way to implement the veil of ignorance provision since those taking part have no individual identities -- they are abstractions, possessing nothing but their very general human attributes (and without their individuating aspects). So no one is like those folks. One way to tell is that behind the veil of ignorance everyone has the same intuitions about the requirements of justice -- fairness -- whereas in real life intuitions vary over the ages and places of the globe. (One of the things wrong with intuitionism as a metaethics.)

Some many years ago someone pointed out in The Personalist that in fact there is only one human being behind the veil of ignorance, namely, John Rawls himself (at the time he wrote A Theory of Justice). Indeed, one of the central flaws in Rawls's theory is that individuals qua individuals count for nothing much. He is very Platonistic in his approach to justice in that the very broad abstraction of humanity is taken as a clue as to what people must have secured for themselves in a just society. This is why property rights have hardly any role in Rawls' theory -- private property rights make the realization of individuation possible in practical terms. (TM)

15 August 1999............egoistic rights

Quoting from MORAL RIGHTS AND POLITICAL FREEDOM by Tara Smith--------------"The concept of rights frequently has been denounced as eqoistic. Jeremy Bentham condemned declarations of rights as fostering our ' selfish passions.' Karl Marx alleged that ' the so called rights of man ' are actually rights of ' egoistic man, man separated from other men and the community.' Rights protect the freedom ' of a man treated as an isolated monad and withdrawn into himself.' The right to property is ' the right to enjoy (one's) possessions and dispose of the same arbitrarily, without regard for other men.......the right of selfishness.'

In recent years, communitarians and gender ethicists have launced similar attacks, contending that the rightholder of traditional liberal theory is but a fictional construct. No one is, could be, or should be as independent an agent as rights theorists posit. Such ' atomistic ' individuals are not us. People are dependent upon and defined by an intricate web of relations with others.

Through its varied incarnations over the years, the thrust of the egoism charge has been that acceptance of rights condones self-interest. Rights protect individuals turning away from the needs of others. Recognition of rights thereby sanctions individuals' devotion to their own needs and desires. Such egoism, these critics urge, is a grave defect of rights." Comment: Evolutionary psychology theory teaches us that there is a genetic factor which leads us to desire group membership and to have sympathy for others. Thus we have an innate tendency to be "communitarians". Rights are based on reason whereas wanting to be a sympathetic member of a group comes from our evolved emotions. Questions: Is it possible to have it both ways, i.e., strong property rights and a strong community or are these goals mutually exclusive? Would a better understanding of economics, such as Hayek's ' extended order ' concept, be helpful in addressing the question of whether property rights promote ' atomistic ' individuals who do not participate in the workings of society? Must we have leaders known collectively as ' THE STATE ' in order to suppress eqoism for the good of the community? Isn't civil society a complex adaptive system which can develop community without resorting to an invasion of private property to accomplish the task? (PD)

16 August 1999..................regarding the 15 August 1999 input

If we are going to discuss matters of ethics and normative politics, evolutionary biology has no place in it. Evolutionary biology is fully deterministic in its thrust and leaves no room for ethics and rights and such. At best, EB could be used to explain why the human species evolved with free will and the capacity to choose between right and wrong conduct. If EB is supposed to drive us to act this or that way, choice is out and ethics and politics become irrelevant.

There really is nothing wrong with rights having an egoistic aspect to them. Because there is nothing wrong with a certain form of ethical egoism -- self-interested conduct understood in terms of the classical sense of the self. To strive to become the best human individual one can be could well be (and I argue in my Classical Individualism [Routledge, 1998] in fact is) the best moral theory and thus the best guide to how we ought to live our lives. So the right to the pursuit of happiness, for example, correctly acknowledges that pursuing our happiness is a good thing to do.

Of course, this right, as do all negative rights, also presupposes that no one may stop me from being narrowly selfish, from pursuing only hedonistic goods or even to waste away my life. But the price to be paid for the right to liberty is that many forms of conduct that are wrong may not be stopped by others and must be combatted via persuasion and such, not vice squads.

Finally, your question seems to assume rather simply that all egoist ethics are identical and that those like Bentham and Marx have a valid point to condemn rights because they make egoism possible. But rights also make altruism possible and those who find altruism wrong do not lament this fact! Rights are a necessary social implication of any moral agent -- such agents require what Robert Nozick called "moral space." (TM)

17 August 1999................ regarding the 12 August 1999 input

Irrespective of Rawl's thesis, your question deserves some thoughtful consideration in its own right. Clearly, there is no social harmony in a situation where the individuals who comprise the society lack integrity. However, even if justice, consisting of individual integrity (Make me whole!!!) is completely satisfied somehow, this alone cannot explain the development of harmonious social organization, e.g. markets.

In his reply to you, Tibor R. Machan ( Re: 12 August 1999................ Rawls' veil of ignorance, 8/21/19 ) made the pregnant statement:< private property rights make the realization of individuation possible in practical terms.> Presumably, by individuation Machan means to include the personal integrity of the whole human being--each and every, specific and hypothetical--in both inclusive and exclusive matters. For example, "property" enables the definition of insults to personal integrity in the common law tradition such that disputes over such conflicts as "trespass" may be resolved without war. But "property" is also used to define responsibility and authority in customary commercial intercourse whereby goods and services may be and are priced and exchanged voluntarily, even at a distance, perhaps gleefully and impersonally as well.

So to advance the inquiry suggested by Ferguson beyond Machan's statement, I would add an observation of Spencer Heath's, namely that "property" as the subject matter of contract, harmonizes exchange. Hence, "property" is the basis of social organization because it facilitates proprietary administration. Now with this technology in hand, we can begin to come to grips with social organization that is compatible with the individual participants in their quest for a better life for themselves as they see it.

So we may say that a form of justice is served when "property" has integrity in all human dealings. But we KNOW that "property" is the medium of expression in all social life. Now who wants to venture forth with a complete and operational definition of "property" in this context? Moses couldn't do it. Can you? (AL)

18 August 1999............regarding the 15 August 1999 input

I weary almost beyond recovery (already, at my youthful age of 34 years!) of those who accuse me of selfishness when I wish my desires to be seen to fruition, while they perceive themselves as the selfless servants of all mankind for desiring the same thing.

Ludwig von Mises pointed out that only individuals act. Groups of individuals may act in concert toward some common goal, but it is still the individuals within that group who act; the group does not act. Usually, when those such as Bentham and Marx state the lofty goals of "society" or "social justice" or "the common good" toward which we all ought to work (or else ought to be forced by government to work), it is their own individual goals of which they speak. My goals are evil because they are mine; their goals are righteous because they are theirs.

As Mises said in Human Action: "Liberty and freedom are the conditions of man within a contractual society. Social cooperation under a system of private ownership of the factors of production means that within the range of the market the individual is not bound to obey and to serve an overlord. As far as he gives and serves other people, he does so of his own accord in order to be rewarded and served by the receivers. He exchanges goods and services, he does not do compulsory labor and does not pay tribute. He certainly is not independent. He depends on the other members of society. But this dependence is mutual. The buyer depends on the seller and the seller depends on the buyer."

Those who desire government to impose their self-proclaimed morally superior views upon others must do so because those views won't sell in a free market. Mises has fully illuminated their spurious claim that free men are somehow immorally independent. And I reject utterly their claim that I am selfish because I don't want to allow them the status of overlord. (JV)

20 August 1999...................awaiting the results of demonstration

For some long forgotten thoughts by Josiah Warren about how to facilitate harmonious social organization, click here. Questions: Who was Josiah Warren? What was the social context of these ideas? Why would some people want to establish this form of social system while other people strongly oppose it? Is the difference based on education, ability to reason, instinct, or what? Why can't we all, as Rodney King once asked, just get along? (PD)

22 August and crime

Quoting from the Preface of THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY by Murray N. Rothbard------------------"The key to the theory of liberty is the establishment of the rights of private property, for each individual's justified sphere of free action can only be set forth if his rights of property are analyzed and established. ' Crime ' can then be defined and properly analyzed as a violent invasion or aggression against the just property of another individual (including his property in his own person). The positive theory of liberty then becomes an analysis of what can be considered property rights, and therefore what can be considered crimes. Various difficult but vitally important problems can then be dissected, including the rights of children, the proper theory of contracts as transfers of property titles, the thorny question of enforcement and punishment, and many others. Since questions of property and crime are essentially legal questions, our theory of liberty necessarily sets forth an ethical theory of what law concretely should be. In short, as a natural-law theory should properly do, it sets forth a normative theory of law - in our case, a theory of ' libertarian law '. " Questions: Proudhon said that ' Property is theft '. Rothbard said that there is such a thing as just property. Can we ever get people to agree on a definition of property and crime? Should we be having more of a debate on this issue than is currently taking place? (PD)

24 August 1999.................a fatal and illogical social perversion

Quoting from THE LAW by Frederic Bastiat---------------"This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all, and there are only three ways to settle it:
1. The few plunder the many.
2. Everybody plunders everybody.
3. Nobody plunders anybody.
We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three. Limited legal plunder: This system prevailed when the right to vote was restricted. One would turn back to this system to prevent the invasion of socialism. Universal legal plunder: We have been threatened with this system since the franchise was made universal. The newly enfranchised majority has decided to formulate law on the same principle of legal plunder that was used by their predecessors when the vote was limited. No legal plunder: This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic. _____________

And, in all sincerity, can anything more than the absence of plunder be required of the law? Can the law----which necessarily requires the use of force---rationally be used for anything except protecting the rights of everyone? I defy anyone to extend it beyond this purpose without perverting it and, consequently, turning might against right. This is the most fatal and most illogical social perversion that can possibly be imagined. It must be admitted that the true solution---so long searched for in the area of social relationships---is contained in these simple words: Law is organized justice.

Now this must be said: When justice is organized by law---that is, by force---this excludes the idea of using law (force) to organize any human activity whatever, whether it be labor, charity, agriculture, commerce, industry, education, art, or religion. The organizing by law of any one of these would inevitably destroy the essential organization---justice. For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose?" Questions: Are political contributions an indication in themselves that our use of law is against the principles of justice? If the law was actually organized justice, as defined by Bastiat, would it matter who voted or if anyone voted? What should we make of the fact that voter participation is steadily declining and was less than 50% in the last presidential election? (PD)

25 August 1999...............regarding the 22 August 1999 input

Provocative as usual, you ask: Questions: Proudhon said that ' Property is theft '. Rothbard said that there is such a thing as just property. Can we ever get people to agree on a definition of property and crime? Should we be having more of a debate on this issue than is currently taking place? (PD)

Regarding the possibility of any broad agreement among people that WHAT HAPPENS TO "PROPERTY" DETERMINES A CRIME, I note that people in the English-speaking world have long enjoyed a fairly broad consensus regarding property and crime despite differences in ethnicity along with differences in the perception of the term "property." That consensus is called Anglo-Saxon Common Law and it is little more than a tradition developed out of a common quest for "fairness," "justice" and "equity" in the conduct of everyday life. Over the years, common law emerged out of the give-and-take between persons--community dwellers of equal moral standing--involving much trial-and-error in a manner reminiscent of science. Slowly, in the absence of legislation (dictation from presumed higher authority and other forms of coercive regimentation), social rules based on preserving the integrity of "property" evolved to the point where there is some semblance of "natural law" operating among ordinary people acting under their own recognizance. This regime is characterized by a high degree of spontaneity, joy and mobility among autonomous, self-governing persons who are readily observed engaging themselves in peaceful and productive, albeit stressful, social intercourse that is not kinship limited. This phenomenon is loosely known as community.

Oddly enough, at its best, "official" government can only mimic common law protocol and substance. This it does to avoid looking totally ridiculous and irrelevant. But statute-making, regardless of even accidental consistency with human nature, will remain an essential practice of political government as long as people mythologize that kind of government as their imagined "must-do-something" protector from the consequences of life in an uncertain world. While people delude themselves that such government can relieve them of the burdens of risk, their delusions have further consequences, namely the institutionalization of conquest and subjugation of themselves to the arbitrary rule of others. They cling to the belief this outcome is for their own good even though they know better. They are in deep denial that the state they sanction is in reality nothing more than a protection racket. They ignore recurrent experience showing that the statutes devised and promulgated by the state are socially dysfunctional and culturally mischievous. That this is so results from the fact that the state's legislature is bound to rely exclusively on political processes and thereby remain at odds with natural science.

I fervently believe there should be more discussion and very likely debate on the notion of property as the unifying principle of a successful theory of humane society. That was the distinguishing feature of Galambos' program back in 1960. Things were not so simple for academicians like Rothbard at that time. They were slow to realize that such a simple theory of property and ownership is not only adequate intellectually for advancing human civilization but dependable for practice by participating individuals. Now we know it is not enough to postulate laissez faire--one needs to understand where it comes from as well as how it operates, on a collective as well as an individual basis.

There is bound to be debate and argument even among those of us who are already convinced of the fundamental importance of some sort of "property principle" operating among men. This would be true if only because the word "property" is inadequate to convey the entire meaning of the concept. For example, I find it curious that social scientists use this word in a singular sense whereas scientists in other fields recognize their objects of study have many "properties." No wonder then how social scientists become vulnerable to moralistic distractions over the nature of a domain of phenomena that has a solitary fundamental "property" that was conceptually rigidized long ago in the Torah. More accurately, we try to come to grips with a phenomenon (society) that actually has many properties (attributes) but we lump them all together under the term "property" and then lose track of what it is we are dealing with except the destruction of it (crime). No wonder then that "property" is more polemic than precise.

As you know, I find moral philosophy inadequate to deal with this question because it cannot get past the negative. I call this Bastiat's Lament because he complained of being so preoccupied with the refutation of vulgar fallacies--all violations of "property" for the so-called public good--that he could never get around to dealing with what he called "social harmonies."

I repeat myself when I point out that even the most eloquent, comprehensive and poignant dissertations on the consequences of property violations will fail to provide a scintilla of evidence to support understanding of the workings of spontaneous society, the only kind there is. You don't have to know a whole lot about "property" to see what happens when it is transgressed. Nobody wants to live under those brutish, non-social conditions and arrogance often passes for knowledge when the concentration is on crime and punishment. On the other hand, you have to know more than is known to be able to treat "property" with integrity in all the varied ways and situations that arise in the social world considering the exchange phenomenon. Yet, this very complex process involving "property" is what makes social history (as opposed to political history). Concentration on the complexities of the positive aspects of "property" leads to humility and tolerance.

As the Research Director, I propose to add a new research topic to the agenda of TCSR's Phoenix Forum, say something like "Property--what is it and how does it relate to spontaneous social order." In the interim, may I suggest TCSR add to its list of recommended readings a collection of books, papers and journal articles on the subject of "property." One member of the Cactus Club--Spencer MacCallum--is expert on this subject, especially from the anthropological standpoint as well as from the perspective of evolved social institutions such as contracts. Spencer could and would provide us a bibliography if asked. Tibor Machan's grasp of "property" as a moral principle is impressive and I believe he might provide us a bibliography of such readings from that viewpoint, which is probably the predominate one in the literature on the subject. I also recommend reading Galambos' first book recently published under the title "Sic Itur Ad Astra" (This is the way to the stars) by Universal Scientific Publications Company, Inc., San Diego. Galambos is dealing with what he called volitional science in which "property" as he defines it is the unifying principle. This work comes closest to a treatise on property as a principle of social organization. You can look this title up on the web at Another work that comes close to being a treatise on "property" as a principle of social organization is Spencer Heath's "Citadel, Market and Altar." However, this 1956 book is now out of print. (AL)

26 August 1999..................zoning, mobile home parks, and unintended consequences

Quoting from THE ART OF COMMUNITY by TCC member Spencer H. MacCallum--------------"The industry, however, has experienced for more than a decade a shortage of sites for placement of new homes. Chiefly responsible are zoning ordinances, which are commonly drafted to exclude mobile home parks of any kind but which, ironically, have the effect of protecting from competition the unattractive operations of the older parks that predate the zoning measure. As many of these parks, thus protected, continue their outdated mode, this seems to further underscore the "need" for continuing or extending the restrictive ordinances. However intended, zoning has slowed the process by which mobile home parks have outgrown their "ugly duckling" stage---a stage paralled in the growth of modern motels by the early days of tourist courts and roadside cabins." Questions: Why is it that government programs always backfire? Welfare creates poverty, ADC creates more dependent children, minimum wages create unemployment, and rent control laws lower the quality and quantity of available housing (to name a few). Is there another law at work here? Why is "the vision of the annointed" so poor when it comes to seeing the consequences of their policies and programs? Are all government "solutions" at best a zero-sum game with winners and losers and is that why political contributions are not hard to solicit? (PD)

27 August 1999...............regarding the 24 August 1999 input

You quote some of Bastiat's best and ask:

Questions: Are political contributions an indication in themselves that our use of law is against the principles of justice? If the law was actually organized justice, as defined by Bastiat, would it matter who voted or if anyone voted? What should we make of the fact that voter participation is steadily declining and was less than 50% in the last presidential election? (PD)

Your first question deserves some systematic research to show the connection between political contributions in either cash (a la trial lawyers) or kind (a la labor unions) and legal privilege. Politics is a game for bully gangs where the winner takes all and bully-ing is legitimized.

The answer to your second question comes from Jonathan Swift, a keen observer of the misapplication and misuse of English Statute Law in 18th Century Ireland: "Some have no better idea of determining right and wrong than by counting noses." This issue is my main focus in my unpublished monograph "Scientific Method--In Search of Legitimate Authority in Society." I anticipated your third question in an addendum to my email to you on 7/29/99 entitled "political encounter," repeated in part as follows: AVOIDING THE BALLOT BOX By and large, Americans don't vote. That is leading some observers to question whether we can any longer call ourselves a democracy. In the last election, only 36 percent of voters went to the polls -- meaning that winning candidates might assume office with the backing of only slightly more than 18 percent of their constituents. Even before that, in 1997, the Swedish-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reported that voter participation rates in the U.S. were the lowest of any advanced democracy and lower than most fledgling democracies. In voter turnout, the U.S. ranked 139 out of 163 countries. The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate hypothesizes that Americans' sense of civic responsibility is dying. That group points out that large segments of the electorate don't feel at home in either party. Moreover, a majority of the young are growing up in homes where parents don't vote. They attend schools which don't emphasize civics or citizenship. The emphasis on multiculturalism and assaults on our history further rend the national fabric -- leaving people less and less aware of a civic culture. Source: Paul Craig Roberts, "No-Shows Vaporizing Democracy," Washington Times, February 24, 1999. For more on Elections.

As reported above, only 36 percent of voters went to the polls in the last election. Allegedly, the winning candidates assumed office with the backing of only slightly more than 18 percent of their constituents, a deduction based on a democratic fiction--the majority rules. Actually, this outcome is unlikely because political government in the U.S. is the result of a pluralistic rather than democratic process. In all likelihood, less than 1% of the population (comprised of the leaderships of unions, parties, corporations and other collectives or interest groups) regimented the outcome, for better or worse.

Mr. Roberts provides the orthodox editorial lament of declining voter turnouts. While political voting (ritualistic pandering to the state) is in decline, economic voting (chosing among unlimited options by buying and selling in the marketplace) is growing by leaps and bounds. The blessing I see remains in disguise: political democracy and the demogoguery it fosters is indeed in decline while economic democracy and the prosperity and freedom it brings is burgeoning.

Few of us can appreciate the truly progressive import of the trend Roberts reports. Few understand how vaporizing political democracy condenses economic democracy, that civil culture lives in the marketplace, not at city hall, the court house or the legislature. Few realize that political democracy brought to the world such scourges as Jacobins, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Roosevelt, Mao and the like; that it is diminishing political participation that tempers the zeal and ambition of despotism, not loyalty to the system that produced it.

If the matter of understanding civil society is left to the likes of the "The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance" and "The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate" (whoever they are), the world will remain deceived and ignorant regarding how their society works and grows. Yet it does so in spite of such handicaps as government schools and regardless of "help" from the "enlightened" political midwives of adacdemia and journalism.

All I know is that if salvation depends on political participation, we are all out of luck. But I believe we have a fortuitous future by virtue of the intellect and innovativeness manifest by the race in getting to this point in history. Think of it thus--humans have never before been so resourceful and politics less prominent in human affairs, the magnitude of political fund-raising to the contrary notwithstanding. (AL)

29 August 1999............heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas

Quoting from THE ABOLITION OF MAN by C.S. Lewis-----------------"The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. I am not here speaking of the corrupting influence of power nor expressing the fear that under it our Conditioners will degenerate. The very words corrupt and degenerate imply a doctrine of value and are therefore meaningless in this context. My point is that those who stand outside all judgments of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse. We may legitimately hope that among the impulses which arise in minds thus emtied of all ' rational ' or ' spiritual ' motives, some will be benevolent. I am very doubtful myself whether the benevolent impulses, stripped of that preference and encouragement which the TAO teaches us to give them and left to their merely natural strength and frequency as psychological events, will have much influence. I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently. I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned. Though regarding as an illusion the artificial conscience which they produce in us their subjects, they will yet perceive that it creates in us an illusion of meaning for our lives which compares favourably with the futility of their own: and they will envy us as eunuchs envy men. But I do not insist on this, for it is mere conjecture. What is not conjecture is that our hope even of a ' conditioned ' happiness rests on what is ordinarily called ' chance ' --the chance that benevolent impulses may on the whole predominate in our Conditioners. For without the judgement ' Benevolence is good '---that is, without re-entering the TAO---they can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing their benevolent impulses rather than any others. By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance. And Chance here means Nature. It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas, that the motives of the Conditioners will spring. Their extreme rationalism, by ' seeing through ' all ' rational ' motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour. If you will not obey the TAO, or else committ suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere ' nature ' ) is the only course left open.

At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ' natural '---to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. Every victory we seemed to win has led us, step by step, to this conclusion. All Nature's apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when whe was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever. If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its TAO a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt againtst her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness. Ferum victorem cepit: and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold." Questions: Are social engineers and central planners our Conditioners? What is Lewis trying to tell us in this lyric assault on the consequences of a planned society? (PD)

30 August 1999................regarding the 29 August 1999 input

Anyone who claims that acting out of one's "value system" is just a gauche and biased thing to do, and that the REALLY hip way to be is not to HAVE a value system, and be above such petty things, is, well, a loose cannon, not to be trusted, and a liar to boot. They darn well DO have a value system, as demonstrated by the fact that they're running around trying to convince everyone else that they, too, should be so cool as they themselves are, in being above such a provincial thing as a value system. If they didn't value anything above any other thing, they wouldn't be objecting to anything that goes on, nor would they be trying to persuade anyone of anything. There is, in truth, no room for a true total moral neutral. Dante's Inferno: "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a moment of crisis, refused to pick a side." Or something like that.

C.S. Lewis may have been a blow-hard at times, but he got this one right! (TS)