by Tyler Cowen
on December 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm
in Books |
Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood, Becoming Right: How Campuses shape Young Conservatives.
Michael Huemer, The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.
The Huemer one sounds interesting, but $30 for a Kindle version?
I agree, it sounds interesting and a good intro to anarchism. I am still skeptical that it addresses the main problem of anarchism: that the critiques of collective authority do not also apply to the individualist authority of anarchism, ie the right to claim authority over ones property.
Until someone solves this rather unsolvable problem we will never have an ordered society. Democracy at least doesn’t require a consistent ideology amongst people living in close geographical proximity. We collectively give the authority to the democratic body to resolve the issues of incompatible ideology and prevent war of all against all. It may not be perfect and small unorganized groups certainly fall through the cracks but it doesn’t seem like anarchy is capable of addressing this issue and most anarchist theorists simply brush it under the rug as they expect us to be so mind blown at their rediscovery of anarchist principles as if its our first exposure to anarchy. I would really like to hope that the author addresses the problem of individualist authority in the book but I remain skeptical.
Having said that, I am really hopeful that cowen or caplan review the book. I haven’t seen anything this interesting in a while.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems * I think Godel’s theorems limit the provability of philosophical wisdom. If you cannot prove simple truths about mathematics, what chance does philosophy have? It all depends on your ‘priors’ and assumptions. (* Gödel’s incompleteness theorems – The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an “effective procedure” (e.g., a computer program, but it could be any sort of algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the relations of the natural numbers (arithmetic). For any such system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system. The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that such a system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.)
Rebecca Goldstein’s book on Godel is a great read. The Huemer book, based on Caplan’s brief review on amazon, is going to find its way on my reading list too. But for a standard defense of government, see my recent critique of Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom,” in which I explain why some form of coercion (either public or private) is unavoidable: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2193913
Huemer, Hayek, at al. always focus on public or state coercion. What about coercion by private actors?
This is the root of the problem, there is no justification for individualist theories of authority (private property) and therefore you cannot derive a rational theory of collective authority. The “solution” is to bootstrap an authority of a legal monopoly in which people receive equal representation. The problem of course is the problem that all monopolies suffer from, they service their owners as much (or more than) they service their customers.
In a democracy this means the state is used to benefit special interest groups as much (or more) than it benefits unorganized voters. The most unorganized voters tend to be future voters which means that democracy tends towards over indebtedness and bankruptcy.
The problem is that Society will always experience economic instability until we solve the problem of the tragedy of the commons created by the legal monopolist. We are basically screwed no matter what as a direct consequence of the fact that you cannot derive an ought from an is and therefore can’t produce a rational set of political philosophies. Everyone kind of just believes what ever benefits themselves the most which leaves to unresolvable conflicts.
‘Becoming Right: How Campuses shape Young Conservatives’
Finally, a book which explores Virginia universities of the same age as GMU – which while technically founded in 1957, did not become an independent institution until 1972 (just a few more days to celebrate the 50th anniversary, by the way).
Liberty University (1971) – the Falwell founded hands down winner, representing what used to be known as the Moral Majority, before he and his brand became thoroughly tarnished. ‘When including the number of people taking its online courses, LU would be ranked as the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world, the nation’s 7th largest four-year university and the largest university in Virginia.’ Impressive. (But cognitive dissonance still appears rampant – ‘The students of Liberty University and all of its colleges must abide by the code of conduct entitled The Liberty Way.’ Liberty through regulation – it’s the American Way, except in the marketplace, where apparently, the reverse is true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_University
Regent University (1978) – well, Baptists can be busy, busy beavers, as Pat Robertson is also represented by an educational institution – ‘The university, founded by Pat Robertson, which began as Christian Broadcasting Network University in 1978, became Regent University in 1989.’ And what an example of conservative synergy – donations being collected through an essentially tax free broadcasting empire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regent_University
Christendom College (founded 1977) is a traditional conservative Catholic institution – which generally fits it into the ‘young conservative’ description, even with its own un-American aspects (theocracy as a stated goal comes to mind), and a likely science based rejection of things like young-earth creationism. And its arts programs sound quite interesting, in an Italian (let’s not restrict it merely to the Vatican or Rome) oriented manner.
Wait, since I didn’t click the link, don’t tell me if the book doesn’t devote at least a chapter on how such institutions helped form (or at least reinforce) young conservatives – after all, it was what they were founded for.
I have a radical thesis: could it be that conservative Christians might be prone to enroll in Liberty, Regent or Christendom rather than Berkeley? Or that right-leaning GMU or Chicago might attract more right-leaning economists than say Harvard? Clustering?
Michael Huemer has written on why ‘natural rights’ are OK (Ethical Intuitionism) but this book at $100 for the hardback is too expensive and it’s not clear why it’s not just a modern remake of Hobbs’ Leviathan.
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