Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

The Cult of Rand

Monday, March 10th, 2008

There is much I admire about the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Sure, it’s one dimensional, but her emphasis on individual liberty was worthy of respect. It’s not necessarily pro-virtue, but it is pro-liberty.

However, personally Ayn Rand was a rather bizarre and contradictory figure. For a philosopher who espoused such radical notions of individualism, she sure demanded conformity from her followers. This predictably created a quasi-religion around Rand in which she is seen as something of a messianic figure.

A good example of this cult can be seen in this editorial by Harry Binswanger rejoicing at the death of William F. Buckley:

Buckley, more than anyone else, is responsible for subverting the “conservative movement,” turning it into its current, depraved status as the anti-reason, anti-man, welfare-statist “religious right.” The world is well rid of him.

Arguments aside about the proper role of religion in the conservative moment, it takes a certain kind of zealot to take such pleasure (He beings the editorial with “William F. Buckley, Jr. is finally dead.”) in the death of what was a decent man. It appears that Buckley didn’t grant the proper reverence to the messiah of “Objectivism”, and Biswanger responded emotionally, much as a fundamentalist Christian might to an attack on his faith. So much for reason.

William F. Buckley, 1925-2008

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I’m saddened to learn that William F. Buckley, one of the intellectual fathers of modern conservatism, has passed away at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 82.

Buckley hosted Firing Line from 1966-1999 and founded National Review, and was also the author of several spy novels. Buckley was also a fusionist who sought to unite conservatives and libertarians which helped lay the groundwork for the Reagan presidency. His brand of conservatism was intellectual, not the emotion-based partisanship of most of today’s conservative pundits on cable news and talk radio, and conservatives of today would be well served to read some of his writings.

A great man has passed. RIP.

Liberty is Unpopular

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Do all humans yearn to be free? Bret Stephens thinks not. He makes a strong argument.

Government = Conflict

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Walter Williams is, as usual, exactly right:

Government allocation of resources enhances the potential for human conflict, while market allocation reduces it. That also applies to contentious national issues such as Social Security and health care. You take care of your retirement and health care as you please, and I’ll take care of mine as I please. If you prefer socialized retirement and health care, that’s fine if you don’t force others to participate. I’m afraid most Americans view such a liberty-oriented solution with hostility. They believe they have a right to enlist the brute forces of government to impose their preferences on others.

Hastert to Retire

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Former GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert is leaving Congress:

Hastert served as speaker from 1999 to 2007. The longest serving speaker was Democrat Sam Rayburn of Texas, who held the post for over 17 years. In mid-2006, Hastert became the longest serving Republican speaker, surpassing fellow Illinoisan Joseph “Uncle Joe” Cannon, who ruled the House from November 1903 until the Democrats regained the majority in March 1911.

Hastert took over as Speaker following the fall of Newt Gingrich, but unfortunately backed away from many of Gingrich’s policies. Under Hastert leadership, the House passed massive budget after massive budget, and government grew at an unprecedented rate. Fiscal conservatism went MIA. He also presided over a time of increased government meddling in private lives. His legacy will also suffer due to his handling of the Mark Foley situation and Republican losses in the 2006 midterm elections that ultimately cost him his speakership.

In spite of all this, I get the impression that he is a genuinely nice guy. Hastert served as the Gerald Ford to Gingrich’s Richard Nixon: a mild mannered, unassuming leader who was far more difficult to demonize than his predecessor. But unfortunately, it seems he stayed in power for too long.

Libertarians and the War

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Randy Barnett takes an interesting look at libertarian divisions over war and foreign policy. Money quote:

Many libertarians, and perhaps most libertarian intellectuals, opposed the war in Iraq even before its inception. They believed Saddam’s regime neither directly threatened the U.S. nor harbored or supported the terrorist network responsible for Sept. 11. They also feared the risk of harmful, unintended consequences. Some may also have believed that since the U.S. was not attacked by the government of Iraq, any such war was aggressive rather than defensive in nature.

Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.

Read it all.

Rockefeller Republicans Return?

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

DaveG, examining polling data and some recent trends, suggests that the Rockefeller Republicans, a minority in the GOP for over 40 years now, may be on the rise again. I hope not, but clearly the warning signs are present.

Goldwater Liberals

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Just finished reading Barry Goldwater’s autobiography, and it got me to thinking… Barry Goldwater was pro-choice, pro-marijuana legalization, and pro-gay rights. Would one of the fathers of modern conservatism stand a chance in a Republican primary today?

On the Road to Serfdom

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Sigh. It certainly looks that way.

Conservatism Defined by JNB

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Two weeks ago Glen Dean defined conservatism, and then asked numerous other bloggers to do the same. I was one of the bloggers he asked, so I will do my best to explain what conservatism means to me.

First of all, I believe in a small, limited government. This is the core of conservatism in my opinion. I am not anti-government. I recognize the need for a government. Unfortunately, our current government has become far too big; it meddles in areas it has no constitutional right to. In my view, the federal government should only do the tasks outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Once we start ignoring the Constitution, we essentially descend into anarchy. This, I would argue, is happening now.

I believe that capitalism is the most moral and just economic system. I recognize that it is not perfect, but it is as close as any human system is likely come. Capitalism, for example, makes it possible for a person to become wealthy serving your fellow man. Other systems, such as socialism, rely on government force to achieve their ends. Capitalism leaves individuals to their own devices. It encourages competition and helps ensure that the best and brightest are rewarded, and has helped the U.S. become the most wealthy nation in human history. Problems with education, the environment, and healthcare (and numerous other problems) could be addressed far more effectively by allowing more capitalism and free market forces to do their work, and less government intervention.

In this regard, some might call me a Constitutional libertarian. I am not what some would call a purist conservative. I do not an immigration restrictionist; I think that immigration is generally good for the economy, and thus favor increasing current levels (although I do recognize the need for greater immigration security and favor increased border patrols as well as an orderly guest worker program). Studies by restrictionist groups usually cite the strain immigration places on the welfare state as reasons to oppose immigration, but these studies always fail to get at the real problem – the welfare state itself. Most objections to immigration can be traced directly to socialism. Curtail socialism and most problems with immigration evaporate.

I am also generally not a social conservative. When it comes to abortion I am pro-life, but beyond that I think social conservatives error in their desire to limit individual liberty. The mythical “homosexual agenda” is little more than an opportunity for demagoguery among politicians. I am sympathetic to social conservatives in many ways however; I think that stronger families are good and traditional ideals concerning morality and faith are positives for society. I just feel that imposing them at the barrel of a gun defeats their purposes. In short, social conservatism is a very valuable personal philosophy for living one’s own life (and one which I try to live my life based upon), but it is not a good governing philosophy.

So far I may sound libertarian, but on foreign policy I tend to side more with the neoconservatives (although not completely; I am not lusting for war with Iran, for example). I believe that radical Islam poses a very real and serious threat and needs to be confronted. I understand the value of multilateralism and think that we should work with as many allies as possible, but don’t think they should hold veto power over our interests (although, a minor criticism is that I think more could have been done in the past few years to convince other nations to join us). For this reason, I favor a strong military as it is one of the legitimate roles of the federal government.

Ultimately, conservatism for me is all about the role of government. A small federal government that provides for the basic security of its citizens while allowing matters that can be resolved by the free market to be resolved in such a manner is a government that I could respect.

Elsewhere, A.C. , Clark Stooksbury, and Mark Rose offer their definitions