Saturday, January 13, 2018

Updates



At the top of this page are several tabs; I have just updated the following:

Timeline to War (through 1938; beginning 1939)

This timeline offers specific dates / events leading up to World War II (although since I began this series I have gone beyond WWII for certain topics) – with the earliest entry in 1793 and the establishment of the East India Company through the last entry in 1975 with the end of the Vietnam War.

I have gleaned these dates and events from several of the history books that I have read – at this moment, the sources include 15 books; there are also several entries that link to websites.


This post offers my version of revisionist history.  I identify what I was “brought up to believe,” and offer a link to a post that debunks this belief.  Virtually all of the linked posts are bionic mosquito originals, a handful are of outside sources.  As of this moment, I have exploded something close to 100 of my childhood fairytales.


I begin by flushing out the idea of thin-libertarianism and continue to examine the connection of culture, custom, and tradition to a society that respects the non-aggression principle.

My writing on this topic has generated both the most valuable conversation and also the most frustrating conversation.  Certainly this has been my most satisfying intellectual journey (within the universe of this blog) – and it truly has been and remains a journey.  I have come a long way on some of the aspects of this topic; I might not like being reminded of some of my earliest thoughts!


This post identifies a) the books I have read that thereafter b) resulted in one or more blog posts.  Currently I am up to something over 50 books, with anywhere from one to a dozen blog posts on each.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Modern Heresy



The Great Heresies, by Hilaire Belloc

Belloc offers his view of the transitions that occurred in the west after the Reformation and the modern heresy that followed – the heresy that we, in fact, are currently living through.  It will be my last post on this book.

The Transition

In the aftermath of the Reformation, men of Europe would come to regard religion as a secondary thing; at the same time, the dissolution of the Catholic position in Europe would unleash energies that Catholicism restrained – especially in competition and commerce. 

Both Catholic and Protestant cultures advanced in physical sciences and colonization, but the Protestant cultures were more vigorous:

To take one example: in the Protestant culture (save where it was remote and simple) the free peasant, protected by ancient customs, declined.  He died out because the old customs which supported him against the rich were broken up.

The rights (protected by custom) that the peasant previously held in property were lost, leaving such men without substance in difficult times.  I have examined before the position of the serf in the Middle Ages (and, more broadly, the classical liberalism of the time); in many ways, the serf of the time enjoyed more rights in his property and life than do the “free” men of the west today.

But the great, the chief, example of what was happening through the break-up of the old Catholic European unity, was the rise of banking.

Usury was practiced everywhere, but in the Catholic culture it was restricted by law and practiced with difficulty.  In the Protestant culture it became a matter of course.

Belloc identifies the merchants of Holland and England as introducing the practices of “modern banking.” 

I am certainly no expert on the history of modern banking, however I do believe the concepts of fractional-reserve banking and central banks were legitimized and institutionalized in these two Protestant countries (along with Sweden, also a Protestant country).  While I do not want to put words in Belloc’s mouth, it seems possible that when he speaks of “usury” and modern banking, what he means is this idea of charging interest on air.

[In an attempt to gain some understanding of this topic of usury in the traditional Catholic view, I read several examinations online using a search on the terms: usury Catholic tradition.  I found absolute statements against the practice, statements of conditional acceptance, different practices at different times driven by expanding foreign trade, etc.  So…this is why I concluded the last sentence in the preceding paragraph – I just don’t know what else Belloc could have meant given the context in which he makes this statement.]

Confidence was on the Protestant side, and waning on the Catholic.  The Protestant countries had superiority in financial, military and naval power.  This was drastically exaggerated with the establishment of the Protestant America. 

Italy, Spain, and Portugal in decline; England, Germany (led by Prussian Protestants) and America on the rise; France, confused and in constant turmoil after the Revolution.

The Tide Turns

Belloc sees the tide turning against this Protestant wave at around the turn of the last century (“somewhere between 1885 and 1904”; coincidentally – or not – the start of the Progressive era).  Not toward re-establishment of the Catholic Church, but in terms of the breakdown of ideas that gave the Protestant culture its strength.

Protestantism was being strangled at its root, at its spiritual root; therefore the material fruits of that tree were beginning to wither.

Belloc identifies two causes.  The first, perhaps less important, was a certain level of confidence reappearing in at least some nations of Catholic Europe – specifically in the wealthier classes of these nations.  More important was the decline of the Protestant culture from within, “the great internal weakness of the Protestant culture as opposed to the Catholic.” 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Principle and Tradition



I offer one of my replies to Nilo Pascoaloto in the comment thread of the post The One True Faith?  As noted, it is one of several comments in our dialogue, but it well sums up the dialogue – at least up until this point; it is possible Nilo will still reply, as he has in the past taken some time to consider my comments and read what I have also linked for clarification.

My comment, as presented below, is slightly modified for clarification (you will find the original at bionic mosquito January 6, 2018 at 7:06 PM).  I will follow with a few additional thoughts.

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And while your immediate worry is over the nasty effects of simple principle without tradition, mine also include the opposite.

Nilo, I don’t merely suggest simple tradition without principle. When I have written of “tradition,” it has been in the context of a few ideas, for example:

The “old and good law”; the law of the Middle Ages. The “old,” of course, is the “tradition” part. But what is meant by the “good”? It was a “good” grounded in the Christian faith. I will suggest that this is the “principle” part.” Of course, this principle is not the NAP, but I will come to the connection shortly.

A few examples of “good”?  Slavery was virtually unknown; serfs had rights, protected by courts specifically established for the benefit of grievances; things like witch-burnings were rare. All quite compatible with the NAP.

So, when I write of tradition, it is this tradition of which I write – an “old” tradition that existed because of this “good” principle. I don’t write as if any tradition is acceptable, e.g. child sacrifices, mutilations, etc.

What does this principle have to do with the NAP? The “old” and “good” law was also about as close to an NAP-consistent law that I have found in history. In other words, the tradition of which I write is one that respected the NAP more so than any other tradition I am aware of involving real human experience.

Both principle and tradition are, after all, useless if these do not recognize human reality and the value of human life.

I realize you've crossed that bridge already - for you, rationalism has nothing to do with, and cannot be reconciled, with the "good" part of Western tradition.

It is not clear to me why you write this.

Was the time of the Middle Ages irrational? It was not – it was a time when reason alone was not satisfactory, and was considered incomplete without faith. I find nothing irrational about this – man still incorporates faith with his reason today, unfortunately the “faith” in which man places his trust today is corrupt.

The men of the time used reason to bound tradition (while also using tradition to bound man’s “reason,” meaning bounding man’s ability to create new laws from whole cloth) – as I have described above. One balanced the other.

Post Renaissance and Reformation, man walked down the path of eliminating tradition and applauding reason alone. We are living through the end times of this transition, with the Cultural Marxists as the current high priests.

It gets worse – society, now without tradition, is today is destroying rationalism – Jordan Peterson ascribes this to postmodernist philosophy. One example should suffice – we are now meant to suffer an infinite number of made-up, artificial genders, each allowed into any public restroom of their choosing. There is nothing rational about this; it does not conform to reason.

I have written, perhaps not often enough, that there is much in the western liberal tradition that is good – however, what I believe to be correct: the primary advantage has been economic. I cannot say that it is true regarding our social, religious, cultural, or political lives. I have struggled with how to sort all of this out – as I have written before, I much prefer the law of the Middle Ages, while also preferring air conditioning of today (meaning, even the poorest among us lives better than anyone alive 700 years ago).

Is it possible to have the “old and good law” of the Middle Ages with the air conditioning of today? I don’t know, but I will keep thinking on it.

However, there is no doubt: today the state controls far more of my life and takes far more of my wealth than occurred during much of the Middle Ages – even to a serf. Tradition has been destroyed and now even reason is being destroyed.

And we are the poorer for it, as relative wealth and poverty cannot be measured solely in terms of the availability of air conditioning.

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So much for my original, slightly edited, comment.

As long-time readers know, bionic cut his teeth on the non-aggression principle.  So, what started me down this path of examining culture, custom and tradition?  It came from reading and considering “libertarianism” from some of its strongest advocates.  I will not name them; my descriptions will have to be enough for your curiosity:

1)      The property owner is free to choose any punishment he likes in retaliation for a violation of the NAP.  To suggest anything else makes one a thick libertarian.
2)      The non-aggression principle allows for every manner of libertine behavior.
3)      Culture, tradition and the patriarchy must be destroyed if we want to achieve a libertarian society.

While offering critiques of some of these positions, someone challenged me to take on Hoppe with the same venom.  Well, I took on Hoppe, but found I could not muster the same venom…because he actually made sense.

I return to one of my comments to Nilo, from above:

I have written, perhaps not often enough, that there is much in the western liberal tradition that is good – however, what I believe to be correct: the primary advantage has been economic. I cannot say that it is true regarding our social, religious, cultural, or political lives.

The non-aggression principle is “good” law.  But from where does law come if not society?  And I am left to wonder: can “good” law arise from a society that is either unconcerned with (at best) or actively works to destroy (the current situation in the west) “our social, religious, cultural, or political lives”?

I know some will say that if we lived under the NAP, such culture-destroying behaviors would diminish as they would no longer be subsidized.  This is likely true. 

There is just one problem: that is a big “if.” 

For this reason I focus on culture and tradition when I consider the application of the non-aggression principle.  Someone has to do it, as there are many libertarian writers today who ignore it – to the detriment of advancing the philosophy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tribe for Me But Not for Thee



I am following up on my post, Israel: 7 Percent Legitimate, analyzing the arguments made by Alan Futerman, Rafi Farber, and Walter Block in their paper, The Libertarian Case for Israel.  I felt at the time I was writing that I was seeing only a summary of a much more detailed examination but I was unable to find anything more online.  I wasn’t too worried about this – given how error-laden the summary is when viewed through a libertarian (or even just plain logical) lens; I didn’t believe it would get any better in the details.

There was one point that I thought would be worth further investigation, when the authors wrote:

…if modern day Jews can prove descent from the original Jewish homesteaders, which we demonstrate they can both culturally and genetically…

This cultural and genetic connection, the authors claim, can be made from Roman times – 2,000 years ago!  If the authors demonstrate this is the formal paper, I want to see it.

Well, I didn’t even have to ask, and yet I received – a link provided in the comments section: The Legal Status of The States of Israel: a Libertarian Approach (PDF).

It is 119 pages – and there is no chance I am going to dissect 119 pages.  I do want to focus on the one specific topic – the cited sentence above.  The authors begin this cultural and genetic analysis on page 521 of the journal (page 87 of the PDF).

It is now time to make our case that the Jewish purchase of land, the ownership of which is under dispute, was unnecessary. Why? Because the Jews were and are now the rightful owners of it. It was stolen from them some 2000 years ago, and the Hebrews are merely repossessing what would have come down to them in ordinary inheritance practices, from parents to children.

An overview of some of the ground covered by the authors: They acknowledge the controversy about the genetic connection between Jews of 2,000 years ago and Jews in Israel today; they also address the idea of a statute of limitations; they claim that the Palestinians in 1947 were not forced out; they paint a tribal roadmap, beginning 3,300 years ago; the tribes that occupied the land prior to 2,000 years ago don’t count (unless it was the Jews); the tribes who occupied the land after 2,000 years ago don’t count (unless it was the Jews); Palestinians of 1947 didn’t really have good title; the tribes in North America before the white man came really don’t count, so don’t try this same stunt in that case.

Yes, I am embellishing some of these a little, but not out of whole cloth.  Go ahead and read it for yourselves if you don’t believe me – the entire section on the tribal connection is ten pages. 

In each of these above-mentioned topics, the authors fall on the side of the land rightfully belonging to the Jews; in each case there are equally valid (or more valid) arguments to the contrary – both libertarian arguments and just plain-old logical arguments.  In any case, all of this effort is a waste on the authors’ part from a libertarian standpoint, as they readily point out:

We readily admit that there is no single Jew who can trace his ownership rights over any specific piece of land from 2000 years ago.  And this, indeed, would be the criterion for transfer of land titles if we were discussing individual rights.  But we are not now doing so. 

Please let that paragraph sink in a moment, before we move on.  Read it as if you are a libertarian.

No…let it sink in some more; I don’t think you really got it yet.

Instead, we are discussing tribes, not individuals.

Please let that sentence sink in a moment, before we move on.  Read it as if you are a libertarian.

No…let it sink in some more….wait…wait…wait…OK, let’s move on.

Why are we departing from strict libertarian principles at this point? 

At least they admit they are departing…but they aren’t departing from “strict” libertarian principles – they are departing from the entire basis for the non-aggression principle.  And why are they doing this?

We do so in order to insert ourselves into the “mainstream” discussion that takes place in the United Nations, in negotiations between various countries, etc. 

I am speechless.

So, let’s be clear: the entirety of this 119 page essay is a smokescreen, as the entire libertarian argument boils down to a tribal argument.  And the authors’ admit that a tribal argument is not a libertarian argument. 

So much for their “libertarian approach.”

Some Closing Thoughts

Random, each distinct from the other…

I will not repeat any of my criticisms from my first post on this essay; they all survive and are even strengthened by what I have read here.  To be clear, I am analyzing the paper on the authors’ own terms – through a libertarian lens; there might be other arguments that better defend the Israeli position, but I am playing by the rules that the authors selected.

The authors make a 2,000 year old tribal claim, on what they say are libertarian grounds but end up admitting that the claim is not on libertarian grounds. 

I can think of several far more recent tribal claims that these authors could take on.  I will suggest only one; how about taking on this one?

So far I have no takers to my “libertarian open borders for Israel” contest; instead, I find a “libertarian case for tribe – but only for Israel” essay.

What a mess. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Devil is in the Details




The Great Heresies, by Hilaire Belloc

No one can deny that the evils provoking reform in the Church were deep-rooted and widespread.  They threatened the very life of Christendom itself.

In this post I will examine Belloc’s treatment of the Reformation.  As has been the case for all of my posts on this general topic, I will not examine or discuss the theological issues (beyond the historical impacts).  In this post, I will not even examine the impacts on the culture and tradition. 

Instead, I will examine the story itself, the history of the Reformation as seen by Belloc.  Through this history, one might find a window to our own times – a window, perhaps, to the roots of every reform movement that has the potential to evolve into one that is revolutionary.

Now, both Catholics and Protestants today tend to commit a capital historical error.  They tend to regard Catholicism on the one side, Protestantism on the other, as two mainly opposed religions and moral systems, producing, from the very origins of the movement, opposed and even sharply contrasted moral characters in their individual members. (Emphasis in original.)

This was not how the primary actors thought of themselves at the time.  To summarize: Belloc offers that from 1517 until about 1600, the movement known as the “Reformation” was seen as a quarrel within Christendom; a debate that would come to some kind of ultimate decision resulting in general religious peace and unity. 

Failing this, and after the Thirty Year’s War and the Eighty Years’ War – wars pitting Catholics against Protestants – the Peace of Westphalia was an attempt to make the best of the disunion; the separation was made complete about fifty years after these treaties, by about 1700.  Belloc describes the time since 1700 for the Catholics as one of increasing doubt and even an anti-Catholic spirit; for the Protestants as one of accepting all forms of religious differences.
                                                 
Only a few of the most ardent Reformers had an intention to destroy Catholicism; even fewer had the objective to set out a counter-religion.  The majority of the “Reformers” had as their objective to “reform.” 

You might put it this way: there was no one born between the years 1450 – 1500 who did not, by the critical date of 1517, when the explosion took place, see that something had to be done, and in proportion to their integrity and knowledge were men eager that something should be done….

On the other side, the objective of those defending orthodoxy was in restoring unity.  Unfortunately, as is the case in many reforms movements that butt up against powerful interests with different objectives, the devil is in the details.

The stages of the revolution – and, perhaps, of all reform movements that are unable to avoid catastrophe: first, “reforms which are manifestly just and necessary” are proposed – in order to correct “innovations which are criminal and mad”; second, the thing to be reformed necessarily resists; third – the stage when proposed reform turns to revolution:

…there appear among the revolutionaries an increasing number who are not so much concerned to set right the evils which have grown up in the thing to be reformed, as filled with a passionate hatred for the thing itself – its essential, its good, that by which it has a right to survive. (Emphasis in original.)

The origins of what is now known as the Reformation can be traced perhaps two-hundred years before Luther’s infamous act:

Many have taken as the starting point of the affair the abandonment of Rome by the Papacy and its establishment at Avignon, more than two hundred years before Luther’s outbreak.

Belloc describes this view as having some truth, but an imperfect truth.  Instead, he sees as the main starting point the plague, “the Black Death” of 1348 – 1350.  The origins might even be traced to an event thirty years after this, with the opening of the great schism (Western Schism) – a struggle of Popes and anti-popes.

Let’s take each of these in turn:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Israel: 7 Percent Legitimate



The Libertarian Case for Israel, by Alan Futerman, Rafi Farber, and Walter Block.

As a follow-up to my review of Alison Weir’s book, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel, I would like to examine this essay regarding the libertarian case for Israel. 

After noting the anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab world, the authors comment:

What is much more vexing is that a similar attitude is pervasive among the libertarian community (and, even, shonda, amongst, happily, a very small percentage of Jews) where Israel is often picked out as a particularly pernicious state relative to almost all others.

I had to look it up: Shonda: shame, disgrace.  It is interesting – one might consider such descriptors from a nationalist or religious viewpoint, like “what a disgrace that some Jews hold an anti-Israel position”; but why would this be true from a libertarian standpoint?  Just because a libertarian happens to be Jewish, does that preclude him from looking negatively on the creation and / or existence of the state of Israel? 

The authors note that, of course, libertarians are against all states – but why do some libertarians hold a special hatred of the Israeli state?  It is “troubling” to the authors that this is so.  They point to an essay by Rothbard as perhaps being the root of this libertarian hatred, with Rothbard pointing to the Six-Day war. 

Going far beyond blaming Israel for the Six Day War though, Rothbard insists that the entire State of Israel is illegitimate… What is peculiar about Rothbard’s article is that he finds the State of Israel “uniquely pernicious” in that it was supposedly founded on massive land theft and expropriation from Arabs.

Well, it wasn’t “supposedly” founded in such a manner – it was specifically founded in such a manner.  In this massive land theft there is nothing necessarily unique about Israel, the authors point out (although few examples are both as recent and as egregious and continue to drive war even to the present day); they neglect to point out the terrorism that was also present in the founding. 

Our thesis…is that Rothbard did not go far back enough in time in analyzing legitimate land claims….

Yes; the Six Day War isn’t the issue.  The year 1948 is the issue.

Much of the land currently under dispute was homesteaded by Jews before the territory was even called “Palestine,” when it was in fact called “Judea”.

What?  The authors look back to the time of Christ (they do not refer to the time as this; they refer to it as Roman times), and offer that somewhere up to 3 million Jews populated the land today known as Israel.

These Jews were unjustly murdered or expelled from their lands and sold into slavery after rebelling against the Roman Empire. Since there can be no man-made statute of limitations in libertarianism…

This is going to be interesting…

…if modern day Jews can prove descent from the original Jewish homesteaders, which we demonstrate they can both culturally and genetically…

The authors do not demonstrate this 2000 year descent in this article, but I believe I am citing only from a summary; I cannot find another, more detailed examination by these authors online.

In any case, I will not take this point seriously.  Culturally?  What on earth does this mean?  Westerners share certain cultural characteristics with ancient Greeks.  What does this prove about land claims?

Genetically?  I am quite certain that virtually everyone of Mediterranean ancestry (including the Palestinian Arabs) has traces of Jewish genes going back to the time of Christ; throw in the expanse of the Ottoman Empire in more recent years and you pretty much cover all of Southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.  Do they all have claim to this land?

This is nonsense; correction, this is nonsense on stilts.  To lay claim, an individual must demonstrate prior ownership by an ancestor – a specific ancestor; ownership of property that was stolen.  Can you imagine the chaos if culture or genes over thousands of years is sufficient to establish a claim? 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The One True Faith?



As you know, occasionally I write a rambling post – a post where I am just putting a bunch of things out there, trying to make some sense of my thoughts.  Of course – to varying degrees – I guess all of my posts are like this.  Let’s just say this one is at the far left tail of the bell curve – a bell curve with a very long left tail.

Let Me Take You Back to Where it All Began

-        California Nights, Neal Morse, Testimony

I have been thinking about this post for a month.  Even after a month, I really don’t know what to do with it.  So let’s just start at the beginning.  Walter Block wrote a blog post at LRC; the important part is to be found in the title: “Converting the Heathen to the One True Faith: Libertarianism…

The details of the post are unimportant; the part I could not let go of is the “one true faith” part.  Regular – and careful – readers will note that I have taken a shot at this idea two or three times in the last few weeks.

I have many reasons why I have poked at this phrase, reasons that I will explore by stumbling through this post.  One of these reasons is all of the undefendable things that libertarianism defends.  From the chapter titles of Walter Block’s book, Defending the Undefendable, we find the following defended by this theory regarding the appropriate use of aggression:

The Prostitute, The Pimp, The Male Chauvinist Pig, The Drug Pusher, The Drug Addict, The Blackmailer, The Slanderer and Libeler, The Denier of Academic Freedom, The Advertiser, The Person Who Yells “Fire!” in a Crowded Theater, The Gypsy Cab Driver, The Ticket, The Dishonest Cop, The (Nongovernment) Counterfeiter, The Miser, The Inheritor, The Moneylender, The Noncontributor to Charity, The Curmudgeon, The Slumlord, The Ghetto Merchant, The Speculator, The Importer, The Middleman, The Profiteer, The Stripminer, The Litterer, The Wastemakers, The Fat Capitalist-Pig Employer, The Scab, The Rate Buster, The Employer of Child Labor.

I have no doubt that Walter defends each of these with impeccable libertarian logic.  Yet, I ask…Can one find “faith” in the future, any possibility of long-term adherence or success, in a society that adheres to these tenets?

I offer my thoughts on this question via the aforementioned Neal Morse:

I woke up in motel rooms under western skies
When I think of the things I did
On those party nights
It's only by the Grace of God that I'm still alive
I believe God's grace kept me alive


One can safely assume that “the things” Morse did involved regularly living several chapters of undefendable practices that are allowable under the NAP.  Multiply this lifestyle by a few million people and imagine the liberty you will have as a result of those millions enjoying their liberty; imagine the long-term future – if not for you, for your children and grandchildren.

What is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

If we leave it at this, I guess one can say that libertarianism is a faith; this does not automatically lead us to conclude that it is the one true faith.

The society I have found that has come closest to what one might describe as living under law that reasonably approaches law conforming to the non-aggression principle was the society of the European Middle Ages.  It was a law that came not from man, but from custom and tradition; a law that was constantly refined to conform to the “old” and the “good”; it was a law that the king could enforce, but not create; it was a law that allowed any noble to veto the king’s decision, if the veto was based on the old and good law.

Most interesting: it was a law sworn to by oath, a three-party oath involving the two parties and God; it was a law that worked in a society grounded in the custom and tradition of the Church.  If you prefer, you can say it was a law that worked in a society grounded in the custom and tradition of what worked well to support and sustain life; law that conformed to natural realities.  Call that “good” law. 

The Stages of Faith

What are the stages of faith?

James W. Fowler (1940–2015) proposes a series of stages of faith-development (or spiritual development) across the human life-span.

He offers six stages; for my purposes, I need only offer the first two:

Intuitive-Projective: a stage of confusion and of high impressionability through stories and rituals (pre-school period).

“A stage of confusion”: given the wide spread, and even contradictory demands, of what libertarian thinkers insist we must all accept if we are to be considered libertarian, libertarianism could still be considered as not yet advancing past this stage.  But I will give the benefit of the doubt and move on: