My friends at the libertarian Niskanen Center kindly gave me a forum to meditate on the President’s recent executive order about immigration. The post is here. The think tank has been publishing terrific critiques of the administration from a libertarian and center-right perspective, though it’s contributors are wonderfully hard to classify, forging a new political and ideological space—do keep an eye on these folks!
Posts Tagged ‘libertarianism’
Two items were published this week that brought me away from thinking about documentary film and back to The Rule of the Clan.
The first was a blog post titled “Why Libertarians Should Champion Social Liberty,” by Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center. Taylor advances a position that at first glance seems to run counter to core libertarian principles: he argues that “freedom is advanced by [government] preventing private racial discrimination.” This view is anathema to many libertarians, Taylors notes, who believe that government action to prevent private discrimination is “flatly immoral no matter how well-intentioned or worthwhile the consequences might be.”
But Taylor suggests that this is a misunderstanding of the libertarian tradition—one of whose patron saints, John Stuart Mill, had this to say in the first chapter of On Liberty:
Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.
Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
Taylor then goes on to suggest—here’s the kicker—that “Mill’s heir on this matter might well be Mark Weiner.”
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There’s a symposium this month about The Rule of the Clan on Cato Unbound, the online journal of the Cato Institute. My contribution is now online. In coming days there will responses by Arnold Kling, on March 12; Daniel McCarthy, on March 14; and John Fabian Witt, on March 17. I hope readers will join in the conversation, which promises to be lively and controversial.
In other news, I’ll be speaking tomorrow at Yale Law School beginning at six o’clock, and the paperback of The Rule of the Clan is now available from the good folks at Picador.
I’m pleased that The Rule of the Clan has received this thoughtful review by economist Arnold Kling, writing in the Library of Economics and Liberty—which is hosted by the libertarian group Liberty Fund. Kling writes that The Rule of the Clan “makes a libertarian case for a strong central state,” and that it “directly challenges what many libertarians currently believe.” In an earlier notice on askblog, Kling called The Rule of the Clan “the best book I have read this year.”
Update 5/9/13, 9:30 a.m.:
Although I disagree with most libertarians, I have long forcefully maintained that Liberty Fund, Inc. has a fantastic book bag (I have two):
I was interviewed today by Krys Boyd for her program “Think” on KERA, a National Public Radio affiliate for North Texas based in Dallas. Krys was an excellent and intelligent interviewer, and she clearly had read my book carefully. We had a lively, wide-ranging conversation for about an hour. You can download a podcast of the show here. A streaming version is available here. Or—just use this audio player:
I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas—in Austin, in the Rio Grande Valley, and in East Texas—and I love the state, so I was especially happy to appear on KERA. Plus there was an added treat. As soon as my interview ended, I learned that the next author to be interviewed, immediately up, was Anne Lamott! Her book Bird by Bird was really important to me when I read it back in 1995, and I happened to take it off the shelf and put it on my desk just two days ago.