Schedule of Topics

Socionomic EducationJanuary
Complex Adaptive SystemsFebruary, May, August, November
The Mechanics of Civil SocietyMarch, June, September, December
Human Nature and Social OrganizationApril, July, October

TCC Year 2

TCC Year 1

To read past Dialogue click above on TCC Year 1 or TCC Year 2 or the months for TCC Year 3.

5 February 2000..............ghostly forms serving as invisible templates

Quoting from CHAOS by James Gleick---------------------------"Apart from D'Arcy Thompson, not many modern biologists had pursued the undeniable unity of living organisms. ' Few had asked whether all the patterns might be reduced to a single system of generating forces, ' as Gould put it. ' And few seemed to sense what significance such a proof of unity might possess for the science of organic form. '

This classicist, polyglot, mathematician, zoologist tried to see life whole, just as biology was turning so productively toward methods that reduced organisms to their constituent functioning parts. Reductionism triumphed, most thrillingly in molecular biology but everywhere else as well, from evolution to medicine. How else to understand cells but by understanding membranes and nuclei and ultimately proteins, enzymes, chromosomes, and base pairs? When biology finally broached the interior workings of sinuses, retinas, nerves, brain tissue, it became unamusingly quaint to care about the SHAPE of the skull. D'Arcy Thompson was the last to do so. He was also the last great biologist for many years to devote rhetorical energy to a careful discussion of CAUSE, particularly the distinction between final cause and efficient or physical cause. Final cause is cause based on purpose or design: a wheel is round because that shape makes transportation possible. Physical cause is mechanical: the earth is round because gravity pulls a spinning fluid into a spheroid. The distinction is not always so obvious. A drinking glass is round because that is the most comfortable shape to hold or drink from. A drinking glass is round because that is the shape naturally assumed by spun pottery or blown glass.

In science, on the whole, physical cause dominates. Indeed, as astronomy and physics emerged from the shadow of religion, no small part of the pain came from discarding arguments by design, forward-looking teleology--the earth is what it is so that humanity can do what it does. In biology, however, Darwin firmly established teleology as the central mode of thinking about a cause. The biological world may not fulfill God's design, but it fulfills a design shaped by natural selection. Natural selection operates not on genes or embryos, but on the final product. So an adaptationist explanation for the shape of an organism or the function of an organ always looks to its CAUSE, not its physical cause but its final cause. Final cause survives in science wherever Darwinian thinking has become habitual. A modern anthropologist speculating about cannibalism or ritual sacrifice tends, rightly or wrongly, to ask only what purpose it serves. D'Arcy Thompson saw this coming. He begged that biology remember physical cause as well, mechanism and teleology together. He devoted himself to explaining the mathematical and physical forces that work on life. As adaptationism took hold, such explanations came to seem irrelevant. It became a rich and fruitful problem to explain a leaf in terms of how natural selection shaped such an effective solar panel. Only much later did some scientists start to puzzle again over the side of nature left unexplained. Leaves come in just a few shapes, of all the shapes imaginable; and the shape of a leaf is not dictated by its function.

D'Arcy Thompson's intuition about the forces that shape life came closer than anything in the mainstream of biology to the perspective of dynamical systems. He thought of life as LIFE, always in motion, always responding to rhythms--the ' deep-seated rhythms of growth ' which he believed created universal forms. He considered his proper study not just the material forms of things but their dynamics--' the interpretation, in terms of force, of the operations of Energy. ' He was enough of a mathematician to know that cataloguing shapes proved nothing. But he was enough of a poet to trust that neither accident nor purpose could explain the striking universality of forms he had assembled in his long years of gazing at nature. Physical laws must explain it, governing force and growth in ways that were just out of understanding's reach. Plato again. Behind the particular, visible shapes of matter must lie ghostly forms serving as invisible templates. Forms in motion." Questions: Why does the world-wide continuum of social organizations based on natural rights start so far up the scale toward totalitarianism? Is there a final cause for this outcome? Beyond this teleological explanation are there physical forces at work that will influence the outcome (the shape of the leaf) in the future as the evolution of social systems progresses? --PD--

8 February 2000..................a similar situation

Quoting from COMPLEXITY by M.Mitchell Waldrop--------------------"To Cowan, it seemed like an incredible opportunity. So why weren't scientists out in the universities jumping on it? Well, to a certain extent they were, here and there. But this really broad view he was looking for seemed to be falling through the cracks. By its very nature, it lay outside the purview of any one academic department. True, universities were full of "interdisciplincary research institutes." But so far as Cowan could tell, these institutes were rarely much more than a bunch of people who occasionally shared a common office space. Professors and graduate students still had to give their loyalty to their home departments, which held the power to grant degrees, tenure, and promotions. Left to themselves, thought Cowan, the universities weren't going to pick up on complexity research for a generation at least.

Unfortunately, Los Alamos didn't seem likely to pick up on it, either. And that was too bad. Ordinarily, a weapons laboratory is a much better environment for this kind of broad, multidisciplinary research than the universities are. That fact is something that visiting academics always find startling. But it goes right back to the laboratory's founding, says Cowan. The Manhattan Project started with a specific research challenge---building the bomb---and brought together scientists from every relevant specialty to tackle that challenge as a team. Granted, it was a pretty remarkable team. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, John von Neumann, Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, Eugene Wigner---one observer at the time called them the greatest gathering of intellects since ancient Athens. But that's been the laboratory's approach to research ever since. The big job for management was to make sure that the right specialists were talking to each other. ' I sometimes felt like a marriage broker,' says Cowan.

No, he thought, there was really only one way. Cowan began to imagine a new, independent institute.


Another visitor was David Pines, who had started sitting in on the discussions at Metropolis's invitation in the midsummer of 1983. A theoretical physicist from the University of Illinois, Pines was editor of the journal REVIEWS OF MODERN PHYSICS and chairman of the advisory board for the Los Alamos Theory Division. He also turned out to be someone who resonated strongly with Cowan's idea of a grand synthesis in science. After all, much of his own research, starting with his Ph.D. dissertation in 1950, had been focused on innovative ways of understanding ' collective ' behavior in systems of many particles; examples ranged from the vibration modes of certain massive atomic nuclei to the quantum flow of liquid helium. And Pines had been known to speculate aloud that a similar analysis might lead to a better understanding of collective human behavior in organizations and societies. ' So I had an intellectural predisposition to the idea, ' he says. Pines was likewise an enthusiast for Cowan's vision of a new institute. He'd had quite a bit of experience along those lines himself, having been founding director of Illinois' Center for Advanced Study, and a longtime regular at the Aspen Center for Physics in Colorado. Go for it, he told Cowan; he coud hardly wait to get going on this one. ' I always find it great fun to bring together very able scientists to talk about something quite new,' says Pines. ' It can be as much fun to start an institution as to write a good scientific paper.'

And so it went. The fellows had a great time with the institute idea, to the point of occasionally getting a bit giddy. There was the day, for example, when they all got very excited about the thought that they might be founding ' the New Athens'---a center for intellectual inquiry on a par with the city-state that gave us Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. On a more practical level, they debated innumerable questions. How big should the place be? How many students should it have---or should it have any? How closely should it be tied to Los Alamos? Should it have a permanent faculty, or should people rotate through and then go back to their own institutions? And gradually, before they fully realized it, this hypothetical institute began to become more and more real in their minds.

The only problem, unfortunately, was that everybody had something different in mind. ' Every week, ' sighs Cowan, ' We'd go back to first base, and go round and round again.' " Question: Is the study of socionomics facing a similar situation? --PD--

12 February 2000...........................dissipative systems vs stasis

Quoting from CHAOS, MANAGEMENT AND ECONOMICS by David Parker and Ralph Stacey----------------------" What direction any one cell takes depends upon small differences in the conditions that existed as the cell was formed. As further heat is applied to the liquid, the symmetry of the cellular pattern is broken and other patterns emerge. Eventually the liquid will reach a turbulent state of chaos. Movement from a perfectly orderly state to one of more complex order has occurred through a destabilising process. The system has been pushed away from a stable equilibrium toward chaos. The process is clearly one of destruction making way for creation of the new, in much the same sense as Joseph Schempeter (1942) described ' gales of creative destruction ' in economics.

Ilya Prigogine established that non-linear systems are changeable only when they are pushed far from an initial equilibrium, as in the case of liquid subject to heating. Non-linear systems can import energy or information from the environment which is then dissipated through the system, in a sense causing it to fall apart. But the system still has a structure (Prigogine's ' dissipative structure ' ) in the form of irregular patterns capable of renewal through self-organisation. Dissipative systems have the following properties:

  • They use positive feedback to amplify fluctuations in their environment so as to disrupt existing patterns of behaviour. The result, eventually, is irregular or fractal or chaotic patterns of behaviour. So there is great individual variety within a structure.
  • There is structure as well as variety. The structure takes the form of correlations or communication between individual components of the system. This is self-organisation in much the same sense as F.A. Hayek (1948) used the term in his explanation of how societies change.
  • They make choices at critical points. A system may have qualitatively different behaviour due to a small change in the control parameters (like turning up the heat slightly). The system suddenly flips from one type of behaviour to another. The old idea that small changes have small effects is no longer universally valid. Dissipative systems have multiple choices and the consequences of making one choice rather than another may be large and unpredictable.
  • They evolve sometimes in unexpected and sudden ways, becoming increasingly complex. Time and space matter. The system's history is important and NEW ORDER EMERGES WITHOUT PRIOR INTENTION. Emergence means that outcomes are a surprise. For example, there is nothing in the nature of a stable liquid to indicate how it will perform under intense heat. Similarly in the financial markets, tens of thousands of man-hours of effort and millions of pounds have been spent on both computer systems and the analysts who feed them. Yet no one has found a way of reliably predicting movements in stock prices and foreign exchange rates. Similar efforts go into attempting to improve the forecasting of economies over the longer term (in terms of inflation, employment and economic growth rates, for example). Again, there is no evidence of sustained success.

    Social organisations which are non-linear and have the capacity to behave as dissipative structures exhibit fractal-like qualities (Zimmerman and Hurst, 1992; Tsoukas, 1991; Stacey, 1991). Since human systems, including business organisations and economies, are non-linear feedback systems, the lessons from chaos are profound. Our contention is that business organisations and economies are essentially dissipative structures exhibiting both stability and instability AT THE SAME TIME. The spontaneous self-organisation of economic agents leads to unpredictable and emergent outcomes. Clearly, the implications of all this are dramatic for they rule out any notion of useful long-term planning, in the sense of achieving specific, predicted outcomes. Instead, they make the case for establishing structures and processes that promote maximum adaptability.

    Economic systems, in order to be changeable, must operate far from equilibrium where it is impossible for anyone to predict reliably the long-term outcomes. Consequently, no one can be in control of an economy. To be in control it would be necessary to have detailed knowledge of the complicated mathematical relationships of the system. There seems, however, to be no way such knowledge can be gleaned (Medio, 1992, p.85). Furthermore, because of the presence of SENSITIVE DEPENDENCE ON INITIAL CONDITIONS it would be necessary to measure all change with infinite accuracy. Clearly this is impossible.

    The long-term future is not simply difficult to see, it is inherently unknowable because of the nature of the system itself and not because of change going on outside it and having impacts on it. Such random factors add even more complexity. Consequently, decision-making processes that require reliable forecasts - even those based upon making assumptions about long-term future states - are called into question. Those applying such processes in conditions of bounded instability are engaging in fantasy.

    There is no fundamental problem, at least in principle, in controlling the movement of a system to a fixed point in the future provided that it is an equilibrium system. To control movement to a future, distant point when the system is boundedly unstable is far more problematic. It would be essential to specify with complete accuracy each event and each action required to reach that future state. If there was a tiny error in specification, the system could amplify it, leading to a far different outcome from that planned.

    In other words, it is not simply a matter of discovering the actions required to take a business or economy from one point to another. It is impossible to measure or record in such infinitely accurate detail for this to happen. Nor could some distant point be fixed upon and necessarily reached by trial and error because the errors would not cancel out. Some desirable end-state, a utopia, can be imagined and aimed for, but there is an infinitely small chance that it will ever actually be achieved. Unsurprisingly, world history is replete with failed attempts to create such utopias.

    Making assumptions about the future state is also rather pointless because the assumptions would have to keep changing. It is not possible to envisage the precise future, let alone plan it in detail. The future of a chaotic system is open-ended and inherently unknowable. The system moves in a seemingly random way over the longer term, though it is in fact deterministic. The future emerges through spontaneous self-organisation. It is not possible to establish how the system wil necessarily move before a policy change is made. THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO MAKE THE CHANGE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS - to discover where it is going as it is gettin there.

    The short-term future of chaotic systems is, however, more predictable because it takes time for the system to amplify tiny changes into important changes in patterns of behaviour. It is therefore perfectly possible, indeed essential, for people to design and plan their NEXT actions. As explained in Chapter 1, we have no argument with the notion of planning sequences of actions. It is the long-term outcomes of these actions that cannot be predicted in any useful sense. Instead, people have to learn as they go along and from that learning decide their next actions. Thus the future emerges.

    The problem is not just the difficulty of forecasting, the longer-term future accurately, given current knowledge or technology. Increasing the sophistication of forecasting methods and ever greater computer power are not the answers. In a chaotic system, no matter how much information about a system we have collected in the past, and no matter how much number crunching of the data occurs, the specific future cannot be predicted. A chaotic system is prone to sudden and unheralded qualitative changes, which may sometimes be of a dramatic nature. Clearly, chaos is more than simply a mathematical or scientific curiosity (Loye and Eisler, 1987; Cartwright, 1991). A common feature of its application is that it reveals the essentially unknowable future of creative systems." Questions: In Virginia Postrel's new book THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES she posits a dichotomy between dynamist and stasist thinking (Note:and perhaps also feeling) with the former embracing the unpredictable future and the latter trying to maintain the status quo or control and manage change ( Given the reality of ' dissipative systems ', is the pursuit of stasis likely to have an impact but not the one intended? The second word after stasis in the dictionary is state. What is the relationship between stasis and state? --PD--

    13 February 2000...........................regarding the 12 February input

    The utopian (statist) idea of society is a reductionism from Newtonian mechanics, namely an equilibrium or a stable state of affairs in a "linear" system (linear in the pure mathematical sense of the term). Examples: balls resting at the bottom of a bowl, cream on top of milk, the Earth in orbit around the Sun, the king in his castle, the servants in their quarters, the general on his horse, the soldiers in their barracks, the taxpayers on their knees, etc. In other words, everything in its "proper" place. No surprises. Perfect order and elasticity: strain is proportional to stress and there is no elastic limit, hysteresis or other embarrasing hitches to reality.

    Indeed, the etymology of the words "stasis" and "state" reveals that these words are the ancient Greek and Latin terms for position, status, station, standing, etc. Standing means stagnation, not action, whereas action (as in "human action") is dynamic, a perturbation to any kind of equilibrium and an irreversible one at that.

    I'm not too sure Prigogine's so called 'dissipative structure' is properly construed here. The sense of it regarding the uptake of energy from the environment is more of a "distributive" notion. Who is to say if it is dissipative or wasted. Recall Prigogine was one of a few who conceived of negative entropy as a property of self-ordering systems in permanent disequilibrium like human society. To refer to such conditions or processes as "chaos" seem somewhat pejorative, like calling self-government "anarchistic" and economic progress "creative destructiveness." I think such negatively persuasive terms as dissipative, destructive, chaotic, anarchistic, etc. are a dead giveaway for a nostalgia for a status quo that never was and never can be.

    From the etymology, the pursuit of stasis IS statism, statecraft is the pursuit of stasis, the STATE is the status quo, and vice versa. Thus, statists are those who wish to perfect, protect, defend and preserve a status quo of some sort. It seems all statists are conservatives. But given the non-linear nature of things, theirs is a false hope regardless of the power and dedication they can bring to bear on the world. Their schemes are as futile as Humpty Dumpty's. --AL--

    16 February 2000................the sources of order

    Quoting from AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE by Stuart Kauffman---------------------------"I will spend much of this book unpacking the grounds to think that a deep theory for such ceaseless change can be found. I suspect that the fate of all complex adapting systems in the biosphere---from single cells to economies---is to evolve to a natural state between order and chaos, a grand compromise between structure and surprise. Here, at this poised state, small and large avalanches of coevolutionary change propagate through the system as a consequence of the small, best choices of the actors themselves, competing and cooperating to survive. I will suggest that, on small and large scales, we all do the best we can but will eventually be hustled offstage by some unanticipated consequences of our own best efforts. We will find a place in the sun, poised on the edge of chaos, sustained for a time in that sun's radiance, but only for a moment before we slip from sight. Untold many actors come and go, each, as a fine playwright once said, strutting and fretting its hour upon the stage. A smiling irony is our fate.

    We all make our living---frog, fern, bracken, bird, seafarer, or landed gentry. From the metabolic mutualisms of legume root and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, by which each makes a nutrient needed by the other, to the latest research partnership between drug giant and small biotech firm, we are all selling and trading our stuff to one another to get our daily bread. And somehow, the burgeoning diversity of the Cambrian---where each new species offers a novel niche or two to the others that feed on it, flee from it, or share with it---looks rather like the burgeoning diversity of an economic system in which each new good or service affords a niche or two for other goods or services, whose providers thereby make a living. We are all trading our stuff to one another. We all must make our living. Might general laws govern all this activity? Might general laws govern phenomena ranging from the Cambrian explosion to our postmodern technological era, in which the exploding rate of innovation brings the time horizon of future shock ever closer?_____

    If this idea is true, then we must rethink evolutionary theory, for the sources of order in the biosphere will now include both selection AND self-organization." Questions: In her new book THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES, Virginia Postrel calls the social edge of chaos "on the verge". How important is this verge to the process of self-organization and evolution? Is the verge between politics and mutually beneficial social activity just another source of unpredictable interaction? --PD--

    18 February 2000..................Carl Menger,complex adaptive systems, and Bionomics

    Quoting Carl Menger from INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE METHOD OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ECONOMICS, edited by Louis Schneider, translated by Francis J. Nock, in AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS: A READER, edited by Richard M. Ebeling----------------------------"We might ask now about the general nature of the process to which those social phenomena owe their origin which are not the result of socially teleological factors, but are the unintended result of social movement. This is a process, which in contrast to the genesis of social phenomena by way of positive legislation, can still be designated as 'organic.' The answer to the above question can scarcely be in doubt any longer.

    The character element in the socially teleological genesis of social phenomena is in the intention of society as such directed toward establishing these phenomena, under the circumstance that they are the intended result of the common will of society, thought of as an acting subject of its rulers. The social phenomena of ' organic ' origin, on the other hand, are characterized by the fact that they present themselves to us as the unintended result of individual efforts of members of society, i.e., of efforts in pursuit of individual interests. Accordingly, in contrast to the previously characterized social structures, they are, to be sure, the unintended social result of individually teleological factors.

    But in the preceding we believe we have not only presented the true nature of that process to which a large part of social phenomena owe their origin, a nature which has up to now been characterized merely by vague analogies or by meaningless phrases. We believe we have also come to another result which is important for the methodology of the social sciences.

    We already alluded above to the fact that a large number of the phenomena of economy which cannot usually be viewed as ' organically ' created ' social structures, ' e.g., market prices, wages, interest rates, etc., have come into existence in exactly the same way as those social institutions which we mentioned in the preceding section. For they, too, as a rule are not the result of socially teleological causes, but the unintended result of innumerable efforts of economic subjects pursuing INDIVIDUAL interests." Question: Did Carl Menger, the first "Austrian" economist, anticipate the sociological applications of the theory of complex adaptive systems (and the book BIONOMICS) when he wrote this material over one hundred years ago? (PD)

    20 February 2000......................Bionomics, Austrian Economics, and Socionomics

    Quoting from BIONOMICS by Michael Rothschild------------------------------"Consequently, just as ancient bacteria joined together in collaborative associations that evolved into the modern cell, most individuals work in cooperative economic cells. Employing from two to about six people, these work cells are the primary organizational unit of the economy. A proprietor who gives up the solitary life and becomes part of a work team is, in effect, making a transition from economic bacterium to organelle.

    Like interdependent organelles, cooperating workers enhance the overall efficiency of the cells in which they labor. The crucial difference between organelles and workers is that human workers can learn new skills and take on new duties. Organelles cannot. Even when an organization or some of its cells die, displaced workers can adapt and join organizations that are building new cells. Despite their manifest differences, workers and organelles play similar roles in the structural hierarchies of the economy and the ecosystem.

    The germination phase of a new organization is an extraordinarily delicate period. Most business ideas never become operating organizations. Of the firms that are born, one-half die within five years. Of those that survive infancy, few grow beyond a handful of work cells. Small companies make products that are beyond the capabilities of sole proprietors, but the niches they inhabit cannot sustain large firms with their high coordinating costs. Small multicelled firms range from building contractors to pizzerias to architectural firms. A sixth of all Americans work in firms with fewer than 20 employees, so microscopic organizations are essential players in the economy.

    At the top of the organizational pyramid are the economy's titans, giant firms that simply could not perform their productive roles if they were not so large and complex. Automakers, pharmaceutical houses, and jetliner manufacturers are all huge because the inherent task complexity in these businesses overwhelms tiny firms. Intel presently employs about 25,000 people, organized in several thousand specialized work cells, because it takes a massive and sophisticated organization to handle all the duties involved in producing millions upon millions of state-of-the-art microchips. As in nature, the size and structure of an organization must be appropriate to the specific requirements of its niche.

    Because conditions in every market niche keep changing, no organizational design is permanent. Large firms are reorganized endlessly because their managers keep struggling to find the right balance between the benefits of coordinated corporate action and the cost savings that flow from decentralization. Oscillating between centralized and decentralized designs, companies seek but never find the perfect organizational structure." Comment: I once had a long conversation with Richard Ebeling, a scholar on Austrian economics and the editor of one of the books on our RRL. Among other things we talked about moral philosophy and the book Bionomics. He had not read the book but was aware of it. I got the impression that he saw little relationship between Austrian economics and Bionomics. Question: What do you think? Is Rothschild's biological approach with reference to evolution and niches, etc. a good fit with the ideas of Austrian economics or is there little relationship between the two? Michael Rothschild was invited to be a member of The Cactus Club but was unavailable. The director of the Bionomics Institute, Steve Gibson, was for a time a member, but he recently asked to be removed from our Membership List. Why is Bionomics an integral part of the socionomic perspective? Or is it? -PD-

    21 February 2000 (President's Day)......................America's "Greatest" Social Engineer

    Comment: We all live in a complex adaptive system called society which organizes and integrates, in an unpredictable way, our cultural and economic activities. Sometimes the consequences of this organization seem to lack what Thomas Sowell has called the quality of cosmic justice. It is at these times that the social engineer mentality takes over and tries to make things better. But we always need to ask ourselves, "Are we really making things better?" Here is an unconventional analysis of one of those times. Note:The book EMANCIPATING SLAVES: ENSLAVING FREE MEN by Jeffry Rogers Hummel is on our Recommended Reading List and can be ordered at your TCSR Bookstore. Question: Does the President of the United States have to be a social engineer to get elected? -PD-


    THE LIBERTARIAN, By Vin Suprynowicz
    Celebrating America's first Bolshevik

    A survey of 58 historians "from across the political spectrum" released by C-Span Feb. 21 ranked the "leadership qualities" of American presidents, placing Lincoln first, followed by Franklin Roosevelt. Needless to say, presidents who avoided warfare, obeyed their oath of office, and concentrated on preserving American liberties were awarded little distinction by this poll: Among them, Jefferson ranked highest at seventh. In "America's Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861" (in which the author argues that the just cause in 1861, just to keep the record straight, was that of "Southern Independence,") Murray Rothbard, intellectual heir to Ludwig von Mises and late of the UNLV Department of Economics, describes the onset of Republicanism under Lincoln

    "Lincoln signed no less than 10 tariff-raising bills during his administration. Heavy 'sin' taxes were levied on alcohol and tobacco, the income tax was levied for the first time in American history, huge land grants and monetary subsidies were handed out to transcontinental railroads (accompanied by a vast amount of attendant corruption), and the government went off the gold standard and virtually nationalized the banking system to establish a machine for printing new money and to provide cheap credit for the business elite. ... A huge army was conscripted, dissenters and advocates of a negotiated peace with the South were jailed, and the precious Anglo-Saxon right of habeas corpus was abolished for the duration."

    Slavery? "In every other part of the New World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders," Rothbard asserted in the1994 talk on which this essay is based. (Actually, Haiti was the other violent exception.) "But in these other countries ... there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody work, armed with a gun in one hand and a hymn book in the other. ... The Yankee fanatics were the Bolsheviks of their era."

    Lincoln's "character"? Rothbard notes that Lincoln was the perfect model of the modern " 'reform liberal' ... whose heart bleeds for and yearns to 'uplift' remote mankind, while he lies to and treats abominably actual people whom he knew.

    Lincoln declared that the Union was "a family, bound indissolubly together by the most intimate organic bonds," Rothbard points out, while meantime acting "viciously toward his own humble frontier family. He abandoned his fiancee in order to marry the wealthier Mary Todd ... he repudiated his brother, and he refused to attend his dying father or his father's funeral, monstrously declaring that such an experience 'would be more painful than pleasant.' "

    But Rothbard is gentle on Our Massa Lincoln compared to Libertarian novelist L. Neil Smith, who has made a second career researching and writing fictionalized alternative histories of the United States, such as his new "The American Zone." Smith points out in his classic essay "The American Lenin" that the War of 1861-1865 was really about imposing the highest protective tariffs in the nation's history -- a payback to the northern industrialists who had financed the daring if somewhat unusual plan to elect the Illinois Central Railroad's attorney as president of the United States. Unfortunately, southern planters quickly realized they'd be the main victims of this protectionist racket, being effectively banned from importing British manufactured goods, and required instead to pay more for shoddy merchandise from Pennsylvania. It was "in support of this 'noble principle' ... that Lincoln permitted an internal war that butchered more Americans than all of this country's foreign wars -- before or afterward -- rolled into one," Smith writes. Lincoln "oversaw the systematic shelling and burning of entire cities for strategic and tactical purposes. ... The fact is, Lincoln didn't abolish slavery at all, he nationalized it, imposing income taxation and military conscription upon what had been a free country before he took over -- income taxation and military conscription to which newly 'freed' blacks soon found themselves subjected right alongside newly-enslaved whites. If the civil war was truly fought against slavery ... then clearly, slavery won.

    "Lincoln brought secret police to America, along with the traditional midnight 'knock on the door,' illegally suspending the Bill of Rights. ... To finance his crimes against humanity, Lincoln allowed the printing of worthless paper money in unprecedented volumes, ultimately plunging America into a long, grim depression -- in the south, it lasted half a century," as the South was taxed to repay the Union's war debts.

    "In the end, Lincoln didn't unite this country -- that can't be done by force," Smith concludes. Instead, "he divided it along lines of an unspeakably ugly hatred and resentment that continue to exist almost a century and a half after they were drawn. ... "The troubling truth is that, more than anybody else's, Abraham Lincoln's career resembles and foreshadows that of V.I. Lenin, who, with somewhat better technology at his disposal, slaughtered millions of innocents -- rather than mere hundreds of thousands -- to enforce an impossibly stupid idea which, in the end, like forced association, was proven by history to be a resounding failure."

    The most thoroughly researched and documented fresh look at Mr. Lincoln's War is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men" ($14.95 from Laissez Faire Books at 800-326-0996.)

    In the book, Hummel notes: "The Lincoln Administration imprisoned at least 14,000 civilians throughout the course of the war. ... The federal government simultaneously monitored and censored both the mails and telegraphs. ... It also suppressed newspapers. Over three hundred, including the Chicago Times, the New York World, and the Philadelphia Evening Journal, had to cease publication for varying periods."

    Former Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, running for governor, "delivered a speech in May 1863 that accused the President of unnecessarily prolonging the conflict. The Union commander in Ohio" -- never a war zone -- "rousted Vallandigham from his home at night and jailed him. A military court handed down a sentence of confinement for the war's duration, but public indignation forced Lincoln to commute the sentence to exile behind Confederate lines."

    Yet C-SPAN's 58 historians assure us Lincoln ranks first in our history when it comes to "pursuing equal justice for all"!

    Slavery? Hummel concludes: "Slavery was doomed politically even if Lincoln had permitted the small Gulf Coast Confederacy" (the states that had seceded by the time of his inauguration) "to depart in peace. The Republican-controlled Congress would have been able to work toward emancipation within the border states, where slavery was already declining. In due course the Radicals could have repealed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. With chattels fleeing across the border and raising slavery's enforcement costs, the peculiar institution's final destruction within an independent cotton South was inevitable."

    So the war wasn't even necessary to end slavery -- while Lincoln never tired of offering to let the southerners keep their slaves, if only they'd stay in the union. Lincoln revered "all across the political spectrum"? Someone must be out to prove that historians are, indeed, "the camp followers of a victorious army." What Lincoln and his party achieved was to convert this land from a Jeffersonian republic of limited government to a monstrous and ever-growing welfare/police state, taxing and regulating everything in sight, dreaming up monopoly government licensing schemes for everything from the practice of law and medicine to peaceful travel of the highways, and most insidiously creating a vast tax-supported bureaucratic cadre to propagandize the nation's youth -- education being an arena in which no role for government had previously been contemplated -- teaching them precisely that their heroes should be none other than those most successful betrayers of the American Revolution, Lincoln the First and Roosevelt theSecond!

    The messianic "reform" movement which began with the Whig-Republican coalition of the 1860s has never really gone into eclipse. This is the gang who still seek to use the usurped powers of the central state to ban outright such previously well-accepted forms of commerce as prostitution, gambling, and the traffic in alcohol, medicines, and pain-relieving drugs, with the result that America today has the highest rate of incarceration -- slaves to the state, a whopping plurality of those rotting behind bars being black men who have never committed a violent crime -- ever seen in the history of mankind.

    Yet we are assured, in the ironic words of Broadway librettists Ragni and Rado: "We's free now, thank to yo Massa Lincoln, emancipator of the slaves!"

    Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    22 February 2000...................rating the U.S. Presidents

    Comment: Jeff Hummel rates the U.S. Presidents based on how little social engineering was done on their watch. Question: Don't social problems need social engineers? How can someone be a great leader without proposing solutions to problems like poverty, discrimination, the environment, education, urban blight, retirement income, medical expenses, etc.? -PD-


    THE LIBERTARIAN, By Vin Suprynowicz
    Well then, who was America's greatest president?

    My February column on America's greatest mass murderer, Abraham Lincoln, launched a welcome dialogue with historian Jeff Hummel (from whose great and recent book on the tyrant, "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men," I quoted) on the topic of just how freedom-loving Americans should rank our 40-odd chief executives, to date.

    Jeff referred me to his article in the Fall, 1999 edition of The Independent Review (published by the Independent Institute, Oakland, Cal.), titled "Martin Van Buren, The Greatest American President." While conceding Van Buren's continuation of Jackson's ruthless program of Indian removal, culminating in 1838's Cherokee "Trail of Tears," Hummel details the dedication with which Van Buren otherwise rejected opportunities to expand the size and authority of the central government, especially the numerous "opportunities" to field an army to annex Canada, meantime courageously resisting the endless badgering of Whigs like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster to use federal power and funds to create a federally controlled and subsidized, credit-expanding and inflationary banking system.

    Hummel credits Van Buren's rigorous refusal to meddle in the economy as the major factor that prevented the panic and deflation of 1839-1843 from becoming the same kind of national tragedy that busy meddlers like Hoover and Roosevelt managed to make of the startlingly similar slump of 1929-1933, when federal interventions scorched the earth by preventing wages and prices from falling.

    American schoolchildren today are routinely fed a diet of the Great Emancipator claiming he fought the Civil War to protect "government by the people" (in fact, in an 1848 speech, Congressman Lincoln had included secession among the inalienable rights of any people.) Imagine if instead our children were encouraged to memorize Van Buren's message to the special congressional session of 1837, in which he warned:

    "All communities are apt to look to government for too much. Even in our own country, where its powers and duties are so strictly limited, we are prone to do so, especially at periods of sudden embarrassment and distress."

    But to yield to such temptation would be a mistake, Van Buren reminded the Congress, pointing out that "All former attempts on the part of government" to "assume the management of domestic or foreign exchange" had "proved injurious."

    Instead, what Van Buren called for was a "system founded on private interest, enterprise, and competition, without the aid of legislative grants or regulations by law," one that embodied the Jeffersonian tenet "that the less government interferes with private pursuits the better for the general prosperity."

    What a sharp contrast to the "Let's track and control every dollar in every bank account" approach of our current crop of heavy-handed puppet-masters. "Though traditional historians have subjected this era of relatively unregulated banking to trumped-up charges of financial instability," Hummel concludes, "many economists are coming to agree that it was probably the best monetary system the United States ever had."

    In private correspondence, Hummel volunteers "I would put Grover Cleveland a close second" among the great leaders of a free America, while "tied for third and fourth place would be Calvin Coolidge and Warren G. Harding, who "with the brilliant fiscal policies of Andrew Mellon, did roll back tax rates significantly from the highs of Wilson and World War One, and very few presidents can claim even that. ...

    "As for George Washington, the country would have gotten along fine without his two terms, although the counter-revolutionary Constitution may not have survived. Which is why, along with suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, setting up the first tariffs, approving of the First National Bank, appointing Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury, going along with Hamilton's excise taxes, plus Washington's aggressive militarism in the west, the first president definitely belongs toward the bottom (though maybe not quite among the worst ten).

    Jeff Hummel's list of our 10 greatest presidents?

    Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Garfield, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    The 10 worst at obeying their oath of office and preserving our precious liberties?

    Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bush, Herbert Hoover, John Adams, and William McKinley ... just edging out James Madison.

    History taught from this perspective would surely be a lot truer to America's founding principles than what the little inmates of our unionized government propaganda camps receive today, though I did feel obliged to challenge the estimable Mr. Hummel on one inclusion in his list of "best" presidents.

    Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    24 February 2000.......................the order of society

    Quoting from TOWARDS A FREE SOCIETY by Cactus Club member Gary Wolfram-----------------------"According to Hayek, the American colonies were the first to put into writing the concept of a higher law which directed the establishment of the laws which governed everyday life. Of course, over the centuries several writers had suggested that there was a higher authority than man or a man-made institution. The suggestions for a higher authority included God, Nature, and Reason. But no society had a written document which set forth the principles which would limit their legislative body's authority to create laws.

    A constitution is very different from an ordinary law because the constitution binds the legislature when that body is making particular laws. This means that the legislature should be constrained from altering the constitution. Otherwise, a constitution could be amended whenever the legislative body felt constrained, and thus the document would not serve its function. As the constitution reflects the basic beliefs of society, it should be established and amended only by the citizenry at large if and when that citizenry has altered its basic principles.

    If the legislature does not follow a general principle when passing legislation, it will establish such a principle in an ad hoc fashion. Every time a similar situation presents itself, it will be difficult for legislators to vote differently than they did the first time. As an example, suppose the automobile dealers association gets a law passed which says that the auto companies must buy back any unsold inventory from the auto dealers. When the lobbyist for the boat dealers association show up at the legislator's fundraiser, it will be hard for the legislator to refuse to support a bill that would require boat companies to buy back unsold inventories from their dealers. Next, in will come the lobbyists for the farm implement dealers, the book dealers, and all the rest. The principle will have been inadvertently established that the government should set the terms of contracts between producers and their dealers.

    A constitution establishes the general principle that is agreed upon by the majority of the population and which binds all future majorities until such time that the majority no longer agrees with one of the basic principles. The current majority in the legislative branch is bound by the majority that existed in the past. This entails a division of authority between those who write and approve of the constitution and those who make laws based upon the constitution. It presupposes that there is a recognition of generally accepted principles over ad hoc solutions to problems, and that there is an underlying agreement in society of what these generally accepted principles are.

    Power is maintained, not by physical force, but by the underlying agreement of the members of society. This was pointed out at least 400 years ago when Etienne de La Boetie wrote THE WILL TO BONDAGE. In this little book, written about the time Machiavelli was writing THE PRINCE, Boetie wondered why people allowed themselves to be ruled by dictators. A ruler can only maintain power as long as the majority of people allow him to use that power. In the short run, military force may keep someone in power, but in the long run a person or government can maintain power only (by) having the acceptance of those ruled. In the same fashion, the constitution documents the commonly accepted principles and limits under which the power of government is to be exercised.

    Limitations place upon a temporary majority are not undemocratic. Rather, they preserve democracy by protecting the people against those who have been granted the power of coercion. The limitations written down in a constitution determine the order of society. The United States constitution is called a constitution of liberty by Hayek because it protects the individual against arbitrary coercion by the government." Questions: Does the average citizen understand the intended function of the constitution and the relationship between it and the laws passed by the legislature? Does the average citizen believe that the constitution creates rights? Can a constitution constrain the outcome of a complex adaptive system like society or is it bound to become a part of that system subject to the evolving beliefs or memes that become prevalent in each society? Comment: Next month we will move on to an analysis of a society based on natural rights (with or without a constitution). To understand how this society would function takes us beyond the concept of a society organized from above (hierarchy) to the more complicated concept of social organization without an a society that is the result of human action but not of human design. While evolutionary psychology teaches us that group organization and social leadership is natural, the theory of complex adaptive systems teaches us that the paradox of spontaneous order is also natural. Which force of nature will prevail? --PD--

    27 February 2000..................private property and the U.S. constitution

    Comment: Here is a case study of the conflict that may arise between a system of natural rights and a system with a constitution subject to interpretation and thus evolution. Question: What is the relationship between natural rights, private property, and complex adaptive systems? Is the constitution an example of social engineering and the common law an example of spontaneous order? --PD--


    THE LIBERTARIAN, By Vin Suprynowicz
    High court lets an injustice stand

    Moscow rarely makes the list of the beautiful cities of the Old World. Why? Communism -- in polite society, "socialism" or "collectivism" -- is the doctrine that there's no such thing as private property. For most of the last century, visitors could find Russian intellectuals living in charming apartments, inside buildings that appeared virtually derelict from the outside.

    "Why don't you fix up the stairs, plant some flowers and give this old building a coat of paint?" the naive visitor would ask. "What, so some party member should drive by and notice it?" their horrified hosts would cry. "What if his niece is getting married and looking for a nice place to live? One phone call, and we'd be out in the street!" Under such a system, any property valuable enough to draw the attention of the armed thugs currently in uniform is immediately "placed into the collective care of the state for the good of the people." And then looted. A further refinement, developed in the 1920s, allows private individuals to retain theoretical title while granting government bureaucrats final veto power over any actual use. This system -- avoiding the more brutal appearance of outright seizure, while delivering the same result -- was dubbed in Germany "national socialism," and in Italy "fascism."

    Americans feel superior to such nonsense. Here, one of the realizable dreams of the middle class has long been private property ownership -- with private owners also financially motivated to keep up their properties, to increase re-sale value.

    But do we still have private property in America, really?

    Take San Francisco. Please. Housing prices now exceed the reach of the average working person, in part because the political class bars private development of much of the land. (Wouldn't want to turn over the old Presidio to some greedy private home developer. He might use it to make a profit. Then, property taxes -- "rents" to the government for land supposedly privately held -- are jacked up, supposedly punishing only "the greedy rich." Try to pass the levies on to the tenants, and the landlord quickly faces the further refinement of "rent control." Finding all your capital thus tied up, in a locale quickly falling under the heavy hand of state socialism (pardon me, "enlightened land-use policy") what would you do?

    Claude and Michelline Lambert had an idea. The Lamberts own a small Victorian rooming house in San Francisco, which currently houses long-term renters. The Lamberts decided they could do better converting the building into a small tourist hotel. Of course, they had to apply for a city "permit." Always deft at counting votes, the politicians decided it would be nicer if the Lamberts were to continue renting to their current tenants.

    But California is not an outright communist state, so the city fathers couldn't simply seize the Lamberts' property, or outright forbid them a legal land use. Instead, the city informed the couple there would be a modest "permit fee" for converting their premises to a small hotel -- $600,000.

    The Lamberts offered $100,000, but no more. With the help of the The Pacific Legal Foundation, they then sued the city under the Fifth Amendment, which forbids the government from taking private property without paying just compensation. Pitifully, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 this week not to review the case (Lambert vs. City of San Francisco), allowing the extortionate $600,000 fee to stand -- with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas in dissent.

    Recently, the high court had issued some encouraging rulings, holding that when building or zoning codes become so onerous as to effectively prohibit an otherwise legal use, a regulatory "taking" -- whole or partial -- has occurred. In such circumstances, the court has encouragingly held (that) the government entity in question must compensate the land owner -- pay for what it takes.

    This has evoked much squawking from the central planners along America's Main Streets, who were quick to realize how very many property rights they routinely crush, and how long a line might soon form at the cash register. While this week's high court vote does not undo those good rulings, it does indicate the court may be stepping back from its earlier, forceful defense of property rights. Those who favor such restraint brand such rulings "judicial activism." But activism in reducing illegitimate state power is precisely what the court is supposed to practice.

    At least, so long as our elected officeholders keep taking their cues from the former occupants of the Kremlin, the Reichstag, and the Palazzo Venezia. It appears Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor led this week's cowering. Let us hope they soon regain their courage -- or that an enlightened new president soon finds the opportunity to place the court under the guidance of a firmer defender of the Bill of Rights -- someone more like Clarence Thomas.

    Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    28 February 2000.................regarding the 24 February 2000 input

    One of the great problems with an educational system in which 90 percent of students attend government schools at the K-12 level, and 80 percent at the college level, is that there is little incentive for the government to teach its constituents about the limitations placed on it by a constitution. It is abundantly clear to any college professor that students come in to the classroom with extremely little knowledge of what is in the constitution, almost no knowledge of the debates regarding the constitution as detailed in the Federalist Papers, no knowledge of the anti-federalist position, and no sense of why we have a constitution. The idea the federal government only has enumerated powers is so far from their thought process that we might as well ask them to believe the earth is flat. John C. Calhoun probably had it right when he argued that all governments will outgrow their constitutional boundaries. Where does one find constitutional authority for a federal government role in education, pensions, nuclear power, automobile fuel mileage, etc.? The only way to save the market process and individual liberty is to write popular literature and film that makes the nt. --GW--

    29 February 2000.......................regarding the 24 February 2000 input

    One of the great problems with an educational system in which 90 percent of students attend government schools at the K-12 level, and 80 percent at the college level, is that there is little incentive for the government to teach its constituents about the limitations placed on it by a constitution. It is abundantly clear to any college professor that students come in to the classroom with extremely little knowledge of what is in the constitution, almost no knowledge of the debates regarding the constitution as detailed in the Federalist Papers, no knowledge of the anti-federalist position, and no sense of why we have a constitution. The idea the federal government only has enumerated powers is so far from their thought process that we might as well ask them to believe the earth is flat. John C. Calhoun probably had it right when he argued that all governments will outgrow their constitutional boundaries. Where does one find constitutional authority for a federal government role in education, pensions, nuclear power, automobile fuel mileage, etc.? The only way to save the market process and individual liberty is to write popular literature and film that makes the nt. --GW--

    29 (A) February 2000...................regarding the 22 February 2000 input

    Let's accept, for a moment, the premise that "social problems need social engineers." With respect to such "engineers" solving a single problem for the entire United States, I simply imagine myself, a mechanical engineer, assigned the task of ensuring, with a single design, that nobody is ever injured by a tornado again. So I set out to design for the worst imaginable case a structure that will withstand the incredible forces generated by 300 mile per hour winds. With such a design in hand, I must then see to it that enough such structures are built -- and hooked to both the best weather alert systems available, as well as alarms sufficient to let people know of an impending storm -- to house each and every citizen of the nation. Yet I still fail, since I can never force people to avail themselves of my solution. After more people are injured and killed, the cry once more goes up that not enough has been done, despite the billions of dollars I've spent.

    Therein lies the problem in a nutshell. The "social engineers" simply can't design a solution suitable for each and every locale; indeed, they usually cannot design a solution at all, since they lack real data (as opposed to statistics, which are quite a different thing) with which to do so. And regardless of their design, they will fail to solve anything, since people simply cannot be manipulated in the way materials, power sources, and the earth itself can be manipulated in the realm of real engineers. So we end up in many cases with a "solution" designed to work for the worst-case scenario, and forced upon our whole land, appropriate or not. Our government robs its people of billions of dollars of wealth to at best do little good, and at worst make the original problem even worse.

    The reason liberty works, and free markets are the most efficient means of both distributing wealth and solving problems, is that "social engineers" aren't engineers and can't solve problems. Free people solve their own problems, with their own money. The solutions are never perfect. But with the liberty to discard failed attempts and try new solutions, rather than pouring more money into past failures, market solutions can usually come as close to perfect as is possible in our imperfect world. Unfortunately, they fail to support the legions of talentless and power-hungry "social engineers," so they usually don't get the chance. --JV--