A Belarussian translation of this essay is here.
Why I Am Not a Libertarian
I thought about entitling this essay “Two Cheers For Libertarianism.” On civil liberties matters, I am perfectly libertarian; in fact, I have just delivered a briefing paper on the pervasiveness doctrine to the Cato Institute, and hope to write more for them on topics such as anonymity and mandatory ratings systems.
But there are other libertarian positions, such as that against anti-discrimination laws, which shock the conscience; like Hayek, I believe that there are things worth doing that the free market cannot do. Here then, is an attempt to outline what is good about libertarianism, and then contrast what doesn’t make sense. The conclusion I draw is that like most human belief systems, libertarianism mixes practicality with some idealism unrelated to human nature. Therefore, as much as I sympathize with most of the diagnoses and some of the prescriptions, I am not a libertarian.
Positions: ( 1 ) A laissez faire economic system works remarkably well at the beginning stage of almost any business, for example computers, but in the past such things as fast food, automobiles, and movies. Freedom to innovate and build business ventures is a great strength of laissez faire.
Corollary: Sometimes government research expedites the process. That is, results from government supported research projects can be borrowed intact and made into successful new businesses, as has happened with the Internet and simultaneously the computer industry itself. This was also true concerning railroads in the 19th century. Corollary: The economic purpose of governance is to create fair markets. This does not always require action by the government per se but often it does because no other system can protect those without access to establishments which hold dominant economic power. Also, government, at least in theory, has a neutral referee function and can act as an impartial adjudicator. While this may sometimes not be the case, the ideal of fair judgement is important in maintaining some semblance of fair play.
( 2 ) In mature industries / businesses, laissez faire has an overwhelming tendency toward monopoly formation and the rise of super-corporations that make it impossible for smaller firms to compete. Hence the dozens of car manufacturers of the early 20th century eventually became just 3, and hundreds of TV enterprises have become just 9 giant businesses today. This happens in every mature industry except businesses that are strictly focused on local markets like restaurants and beauty salons. ( 3 ) A mythology of laissez faire distorts the reality of this system. Proponents of laissez faire tell us , for example, that the Free Market is always fair to all businesses and always self regulates for the common good.
often are false and deceptive. Corollary: According to this mythology, regulations always –maybe a few exceptions are allowed– are harmful to the economy and almost always are motivated by ideology-driven politics that serve the interests of special interest groups, especially labor unions.
( 4 ) Laissez faire, because it is over-lionized by many people, tends to be regarded as almost a God unto itself. Consequently, the market in an advanced Capitalist society tends ( overwhelmingly ) to become outright amoral or even immoral. This harms society generally since all ethical principles are thrown to the winds whenever some unethical “product” is perceived as offering large profits. Hence, marketing of inappropriate goods and services to children, and so forth. Corollary: We can see the effects of immoral market forces in exaggerated form in the functioning of illegal businesses like recreational drugs, “businesses” that indulge in a myriad of criminal activities for the sake of maintaining profit margins. Corollary: Because of worship of the bottom line intrinsic to the laissez faire system even national security may be sacrificed for the sake of quarterly earnings. Hence massive technology transfer to America’s detriment. Hence willingness to agree to business contracts with nations like Saudi Arabia and China which, different as these particular states may be, are alike is seeking advantage in obtaining sensitive military hardware, as in the case of the Saudis, or such things as commercial jet basic assemblies, on the part of the Chinese. Laissez faire economic policy, in other words, can easily result in national disadvantage, which we can now see more clearly than before in the case of auto parts shortages etc, that were the result of the tsunami some months ago. It may be that there is much money to be made through usual laissez faire practices but when this results in national military security or national economic security vulnerabilities, then laissez faire can be seen for what it is, excellent in some ways, terrible in others.
( 4 ) The market simply cannot or will not do some things that are very useful to society. In such cases government may decide to act. Hence, the Interstate highway system, the Intercoastal waterway –the canal system used by Atlantic seaboard states– and Boulder Dam and other hydroelectric projects.
We Need a Conversational Shift
The Present Paradigm
It seems that in most exchanges about politics and issues today, whether they be pundits or shows on TV and radio, debate in Congress, or exchanges among regular folks, the same arguments and accusations are made and impasses reached. Rarely is any new ground covered. Each side is stuck in its perspective.
We tend to look at the other side as the adversary, whose voice we believe must be silenced. And, when we do have an “open” conversation, it’s usually among those who share our thoughts. What I’m describing is the prevailing paradigm of communication, which has been going on for centuries.
Meanwhile, problems keep surmounting, while real solutions remain elusive. Many of the old solutions that once worked, no longer apply. We’re coming to a point in human history, when, in order to come to terms with our problems, we need to shift our thinking and communication to a new paradigm.
• Allegra Stratton and Patrick Wintour
• guardian.co.uk, Sunday 13 March 2011 12.11 EDTNick Clegg has told Liberal Democrat delegates that they are now the party of the “radical centre”, hours after the party voted to commit itself to the traditions and beliefs of social democracy.
In his address wrapping up the party’s two-day conference, Clegg pushed ahead in his attempt to redefine the Lib Dems. His speech rejected the “tribalism of left and right” and instead made its pitch to middle-income earners – “alarm clock Britain”.
Clegg said: “We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre. We are governing from the middle, for the middle.
I explain my unexpected and strange transformation from a right-wing ideologue to a passionate centrist. Please join us—you have nothing to lose but your dogma.
I’ve followed politics for years, but for most of them, I was a dogmatic right-winger. This was not the product of deep thinking; it was probably the natural result of growing up in a conservative household. My parents hated liberals and leftists; they sincerely thought these people were out to destroy America. For most of my life I took a right-wing party line, going as far to join the John Birch Society! I never seriously examined my ideology. I knew that the people on the other side were ignorant and had the worst intentions; there was no point in talking to them.
Incredibly, a baseball (really) book radically changed my thinking. I had been a fan of a writer named Bill James since I was in high school, many years ago. He wrote a book in 1994 called What Happened to the Hall of Fame, and I decided to check it out. Unexpectedly, he discusses his political beliefs on page 28. After reading this page, my thinking changed forever (really). He explained eloquently why he was a moderate. These are the five sentences that changed my ideology forver:
It is my observation, listening to political partisans, that there is some truth in what everybody says, but that they will all distort the truth to defend their position.(emphasis added). In my judgment, everyone on the political landscape,from Rush Limbaugh to Howard Metzenbaum (former liberal Senator from Ohio) is right about some things; I will listen to any of them and think that there is some truth in what he or she is saying. But at the same time, they all B.S. They all wear blinders. They say things they know or should know are not true, but which they feel they must say to defend the extreme positions they have taken. (emphasis added).
Sustainable Capitalism 2.0 is on the march…
CEOs Need a New Set of Beliefs – Raymond V. Gilmartin – HBS Faculty – Harvard Business Review
Raymond V. Gilmartin
In the past 25 years, CEOs of many major corporations have relied on a flawed set of beliefs to lead their organizations. This set has influenced them to place way too much emphasis on maximizing shareholder value and not enough on generating value for society. Today we are mired in the Great Recession, which was brought about by the near collapse of the financial system. This environment and the behavior produced by the prevailing set of beliefs to which CEOs subscribe have deepened a widespread public distrust of corporations and capitalism.
In this blog post, I will offer a new set of beliefs, which can renew and restore faith in corporations and capitalism.
From: “Norman Berdichevsky”
Nazis in Newark 1933-41; a Parallel Universe with Today
by Norman Berdichevsky
Book Review of Nazis in Newark
by Warren Glover
Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ. 2003
The crisis we face today that has resulted in an ever more aggressive and truculent, militant Islam threatening the foundations of Western civilization from without and within, bears an uncanny parallel, almost a parallel universe, with the dreadful anxiety-filled 1930s, when a virulent Nazism intimidated and cowed much of public opinion throughout the United States.
The following annotated list of 10 core Radical Centrist values was initially inspired by Mark Satin’s August 2007 article from his Radical Middle Newsletter, under the title– Post-Partisan Politics: First American Political Ideology?
In that essay Mark detailed his ideas for 10 Radical Centrist “principles.” However, reading the material it struck me that better terminology for what he had written was “values.” Principles, at least as I understand them, have a more operational sense rather than an inspirational sense. To be sure, this is partly a subjective call. Depending on context one can be the other. Yet there already is a set of 10 Principles which are essentially operational in nature which was written for our group in December of 2010. And we could now use a set of values.
By no means did I agree with all of Mark’s ideas; in a couple of cases, especially, I disagreed strongly. And some of what he said has already been expressed at RadicalCentrism.orgin other ways. Regardless, by and large his work is thoughtful and has considerable merit on its own terms. Yet there are other ways to say some of the things he put into words, and none of what follows is a simple duplication of the Radical Middle statements of “principle.” There also was an agenda in this set of 10 RC Values which is uniquely our own. I wanted to integrate into the overall new essay a number of important ideas that have been expressed in our group over the years, or very recently. Hence you will find ideas that Ernie has emphasized in the past, or myself, or David, or others at one time or another. This also includes Doug Johnson, although the subject he is most closely identified with, a Radical Centrist philosophy of education, is only discussed along the way and deserves special treatment. His 2008 essay, “Change from the Radical Center of Education” will need to suffice for now, but is so good as it is that the best I might be able to do by way of picking up on the topic would be to add some considerations. It is very difficult to try and find anything “wrong” with his article.
None, or almost none, of the 10 Values corresponds with the categories in Mark’s essay. The new article only starts from Mark’s work ; everything has been re-thought, with ideas from our group woven into the overall text in different ways in different places.
Doubtless not everyone will agree that these are “the” 10 values of Radical Centrism. Or, more likely, some may agree with half, even with most, but have reservations about the rest or simply think that some items would benefit from revision. Some may wish to add other Values to the set.
This is an attempt to put it all together, the best I could for now. Suggestions are welcome, as are criticisms.
The best exposition I’ve ever heard of what the true Radical Center represents; Ghandi-an but committed to enforcing the rule of law. Powerful stuff.
Fourteenth Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture
Forging a Radical Centre : A Response to Extremism and Intolerance”
14th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture
Delivered by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka
18th January 2007, New Delhi
The Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign affairs of Sri Lanka, delivered the fourteenth Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture on ‘Forging a Radical Center: A Response to Extremism and Intolerance’ on 18th January 2007 at the National Museum Auditorium, New Delhi. Mr. Anil K Shastri, Trustee, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust chaired the event. Hon. A.H.M. Fowzie was also present at the lecture. The text of the lecture is as follows: