Friday, October 03, 2008
Dear Subscribers and Friends of TOS,You can preview the seven main articles and five book reviews of the Fall 2008 issue at the TOS web site. Being in the process of relocating to Boston due to my wife's medical residency there, I'm particularly interested in Paul Hsieh's "Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America". In fact, the topic came up indirectly when I was on the phone with Mrs. Van Horn last night.
I'm pleased to announce that TOS is now on 310 newsstands (primarily Barnes & Noble) nationwide. Next time you're in your local bookstore, check to see if it's there. If it's not, let the manager know about the journal (you might even show him a copy), and suggest that he order it, which he can do through Ingram Periodicals. Mention that the journal presents a unique and vital perspective on cultural and political issues, elaborate on that perspective as you see fit, and point out that such a journal might sell well today.
Also, we are now selling downloadable PDFs of single articles and book reviews for $4.95 and $2.95 respectively. To purchase PDFs, or to browse what is available, click on "Single Issues" in the navigation bar of our website. And if you know anyone who might appreciate one of our articles, please let him know about this new option.
Thank you for your continued business and support.
Editor and Publisher
If you see TOS during your shopping trips in Boston or Houston, where I'll be through the end of the year, let me know!
I'd Last Longer Tied to a Bedpost with a Velociraptor!
Having work to do yesterday evening, I missed meeting with my home brewing club, and worked at home instead. Breaking for dinner, I figured that this week's episode of The Office might be on, so I turned on the boob tube, only to find that the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden had preempted it. It must have been around the same time Dismuke tuned in. Sez he:
I listened to part of it on the radio. When it started, I was actually rooting for Palin - not because I like McCain (I don't) but because of the slime and sludge that has been thrown at her by the Walter Duranty media.He may have lasted longer than I. I heard her say this, or something very like it, adding something to the effect of "John McCain is known for advocating tough regulations." She cited campaign finance reform -- a primary reason I simply can not vote for the man -- as an example. As if that were a good thing!
Her AGREEING with Biden that it was a lack of regulation (!) that caused the current economic mess - well, I wanted to puke. The Democrats and the Walter Duranty Media have been trying to lay the blame for the situation on capitalism. Here was a chance for someone who ought to know better to bypass the Walter Duranty media filters and educate the public on what REALLY caused the mess. But instead she merely echoed the media and the Democrats. That is pretty close to treason in my book. Was it her own doing - or was she simply following the wishes of her boss, John McCain? I am not really sure that it matters one way or another. The damage has been done.
I turned off the tube immediately. You'll have to go to the Man with the Iron Stomach, Myrhaf, for a detailed analysis of the debate....
I will say a couple of things, though. First, I thought that Biden trounced Palin in terms of sounding like he knew what he was talking about, but that in terms of likability, it was even more heavily skewed the other way. Second, if you want to know how long you'd last tied to a bedpost with a velociraptor, go here!
Opting Out of Making a Principled Stand
On several occasions (esp. links in first paragraph), I have discussed the pernicious idea of "libertarian paternalism", which is especially appalling when governments apply it to make unwitting citizens into organ donors by default, as some have in Europe:
A "social good?" American defaults could "just" be flipped around? That's my body, asshole, and possibly my life you're talking about like it's a damned toggle switch! Whether I part myself out is up to me. The "difference" between the United States and "parts of Europe" is not so much that "the defaults" are different, but why they are different: In the United States, the government is designed to protect individual rights by default, not infringe upon them. The argument against the government applying "libertarian paternalism" in cases like this, and in getting it away from more benign instances like the one I cited above, is that the government should respect individual rights.Given my obvious moral opposition to that idea, as well as to libertarianism, it stands to reason that I would take a gander at this libertarian critique of libertarian paternalism (a review of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein) I found at Arts and Letters Daily.
I was not disappointed, at least in the perverse sense of finding only weak objections where unsparing attacks should have been. Will Wilkinson offers the following objections to applying libertarian paternalism to a couple of policy questions.
Suppose President John McCain were to implement a policy of opt-out national service. We might reasonably object on the grounds that it would all too clearly communicate that individuals need reasons not to serve the state. If allowed to stand, such a policy could shape social expectations and individual preferences in a direction at odds with individual liberty. Soon enough we might find ourselves asking, "Why should you be able to opt out at all?" The initial paternalistic nudge may "leave the choice open," but accepting the legitimacy of certain nudges may eventually diminish the value we place on liberty. [bold added]The point about choice withering away when we hand all power over to the state is well-taken, but the state's ability to even be in the position of being able to offer such a "choice" already depends on the violation of individual rights on such a massive scale as to make the question a bad thought exercise at best! Why not kill two birds with one stone by morally opposing national servitude -- and the massive welfare state that has acclimated the public to being told what to do, and makes it easier to implement than it would be otherwise? We remain somewhat free even now: Our descent into tyranny is preventable, but on the cultural level, which is to say, on the level of the philosophical ideas held by the general voting public.
And then we get back to my favorite, the practice of the state harvesting organs from the incapacitated without their actual consent:
Thaler and Sunstein's suggestion to increase the supply of transplant organs by changing the default rule to "presumed consent" instead of nondonation may leave you with similar thoughts. To say that an individual's body is common property by default is to make a statement with cultural consequences that reach beyond the policy's immediate effects. Anyway, why not just legalize markets in organs and tissue, a genuinely libertarian form of choice architecture likely to have even better results? [bold added]Again, a good point in the last sentence, but has Wilkinson ever felt the palpable rage that such a suggestion can draw from a religionist who doesn't want "us" "playing God"? And speaking of rage, where is his? What Thaler and Sunstein propose is wrong, and beyond the pale, and yet all Wilkinson can muster against it is that it "has cultural consequences beyond the policy's immediate effects"!?!?
Thaler and Sunstein are wrong, but they're pikers. It isn't so much the fact that they are implying that we don't even own our own bodies that is the problem, but the fact that they can get away it so easily. Our culture is saturated with the notion (in many ultimately inconsequential variants) that man does not exist for his own sake. Failing to take a stand against that very idea -- and instead feebly offering as Wilkinson does that it might have unpleasant consequences -- is not going to stop such an idea from being implemented.
People generally buy into the idea that the moral and the practical are often at odds and, when they see a clash, they will favor the "moral" if they are decent. If they are not, they will permit themselves to be "nudged" into doing what they feel is expedient, which ultimately means that decent, mistaken people and range-of-the-moment pragmatists all end up doing the same foolish things.
Libertarian paternalism is, as Wilkinson puts it, "no source of ideological realignment", but that's not the issue here. The issue is that it is a symptom of the fact that our culture needs a massive ideological realignment, one away from the altruism and collectivism that makes serious proposals to steal the liberty of the conscious and the very bodies of the unconscious possible in the first place. Such a realignment cannot occur when, in the face of such obscenities, one fails to call a spade a spade. Altruism is not just something with unpleasant "cultural consequences": It diminishes and ends human lives. As such, it is immoral and must be exposed as such at every opportunity.
The facts of reality make a proper morality a necessity. There is no way to opt out.
(I note with interest that there is a review of Nudge by Eric Daniels in the upcoming Objective Standard.)