Category Archives: Culture

Independent Institute Publications

I received a message from my friend, David J. Theroux, the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute. I have always found their publications to be thought-provoking, whether one agrees or disagrees with any opinion expressed. Folks should check out some of the following links:

The Crisis in Civil Rights: Best Books and Articles on Race, Police, and the Welfare State, compiled by their Senior Fellow Dr. Williamson M. Evers (someone I’ve known since my undergraduate days as a member of Students for a Libertarian Society):

These are among the most exhaustive, annotated reading lists ever assembled on the issues of civil rights, police reform, race relations, and the welfare state, created for educators and students, business and civic leaders, policymakers, journalists, and the general public. Check them out!



WTC Remembrance: Firefighter Gerard Gorman – Ultimate Survivor

Today marks the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, which, nearly two decades later, continue to affect our lives as New Yorkers, as well as the lives of those whose loved ones were killed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. My annual series returns this year with a remarkable story of resilience in the face of unimaginable horror: Firefighter Gerard Gorman: Ultimate Survivor [link to the article]. Gerard was an FDNY first responder on that day. I can’t thank him enough for sharing his memories—salty language and all—as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a true native New Yorker, something as relevant to 2020 as it is to the spirit of September 11, 2001.

Those who read this year’s installment might recognize the name of John Perry, mentioned by Gerard; I had met John at a regular discussion group run by Victor Niederhoffer in Manhattan.

For those who have not read previous entries in the series, here is a convenient index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

2019: Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories

2020: Firefighter Gerard Gorman: Ultimate Survivor

Never forget. ❤

Julian L. Simon Memorial Award: Steve Horwitz

I wish to congratulate Steve Horwitz for receiving the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. From the Competitive Enterprise Institute announcement:

“This year, CEI is pleased to honor Dr. Steven Horwitz, Director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy and Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University, as the 2020 Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Winner.

“Professor Steven Horwitz extends Simon’s legacy with an exemplary teaching career and thorough empirical investigation of labor saving innovations in the modern economy. He is a testament to the power of open dialogue, the importance of liberal institutions, and the belief that tomorrow can be better than yesterday.”

I am proud to call Steve my colleague—and my dear friend! Way to go, Steve! I have been honored to know you, Steve, and inspired by the depth of your knowledge and the resilience of your spirit!

Pearls Before Swine: 2020 Incarnate!

Stephan Pastis brings us a Slice of 2020 Life in “Pearls Before Swine” today…

7-Day Course Challenge: “Methodology of the Social Sciences” (Course #7)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #7 Course: Methodology of the Social Sciences
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. Investigations into the Methods of the Social Sciences – Carl Menger
  2. The Poverty of Historicism – Karl Popper
  3. The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory – Richard J. Bernstein
  4. Dialectical Investigations – Bertell Ollman
  5. The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom – Edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins [oh c’mon, gimme a break—it’s the very last book recommendation on the very last day of this challenge 🙂 ]
Methodology of the Social Sciences – Selected Readings

7-Day Course Challenge: “Austrian Economics: A Primer” (Course #6)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #6 Course: Austrian Economics: A Primer
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. The Elgar Companion to Austrian Economics – Edited by Peter J. Boettke
  2. The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics – Edited by Edwin G. Dolan
  3. New Directions in Austrian Economics – Edited by Louis M. Spadaro
  4. Austrian Economics, 3 vols. – Edited by Stephen Littlechild

These volumes include selections from writers across the Austrian tradition, from its founders to its contemporary exponents: Bruce Benson, Peter Boettke, Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, Sam Bostaph, Donald Boudreaux, William Butos, Richard Ebeling, Roger Garrison, Steve Horwitz, Sanford Ikeda, Emil Kauder, Israel Kirzner, Roger Koppl, Ludwig Lachmann, Don Lavoie, Peter Lewin, Stephen Littlechild, G. B. Madison, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Gerald O’Driscoll, Dave Prychitko, Mario Rizzo, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Salerno, Joseph Schumpeter, George Selgin, Sudha Shenoy, Mark Skousen, Barry Smith, Friedrich Weiser, and Lawrence White, among others.

Compilations in Austrian Economics

7-Day Course Challenge: “Introduction to American Political Thought” (Course #5)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #5 Course: Introduction to American Political Thought
(For undergraduate students)

  1. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution – Bernard Bailyn
  2. The Federalist Papers – Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  3. The Antifederalist Papers – Edited with an introduction by Morton Borden
  4. The Liberal Tradition in America – Louis Hart
  5. Ideology and Myth in American Politics: A Critique of a National Political Mind – H. Mark Roelofs
Readings in American Political Thought

7-Day Course Challenge: “The Individual and Society: Marxist Perspectives” (Course #4)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #4 Course: The Individual and Society: Marxist Perspectives
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. Reader in Marxist Philosophy – Edited by Howard Selsam and Harry Martel
  2. Essentialism in the Thought of Karl Marx – Scott Meikle
  3. Marx, Reason, and the Art of Freedom – Kevin Brien
  4. Marx’s Social Ontology: Individuality and Community in Marx’s Theory of Social Reality – Carol C. Gould (pdf copy)
  5. Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society – Bertell Ollman
The Individual and Society: Selections from Marxist Perspectives

Postcript (30 August 2020): I added this comment to the Facebook discussion:

These [books] are interpretations of Marx’s work that speak to the theme of the proposed mini-course on “The Individual and Society.” I think they are among the best interpreters of Marx’s social theory out there. Alienation by my mentor (Bertell Ollman) is the best book ever written on that subject and offers the finest, most insightful discussion of that concept in all the secondary literature on Marx. And many folks will be surprised by the themes of the other three books I’ve highlighted in the secondary literature (Gould, Brien, and especially Meikle)—which spend a lot of time uncovering an important Aristotelian dimension to Marx’s understanding of human nature. All very fine, challenging, thought-provoking books.

7-Day Course Challenge: “The Progressive Era: Revisionist Perspectives” (Course #3)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #3 Course: The Progressive Era: Revisionist Perspectives
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. A New History of Leviathan – Edited by Ronald Radosh and Murray Rothbard
  2. The Progressive Era – Murray Rothbard
  3. The Decline of American Liberalism – Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.
  4. The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 – Gabriel Kolko
  5. The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State: 1900-1918 – James Weinstein

(And before Rob Bradley says one word, his essay with Roger Donway is worth a look: “Gabriel Kolko’s ‘Political Capitalism’: Bad Theory, Bad History,” as is Joseph Stromberg’s response in “The Molinari Review” [Autumn 2019]: “The War on Kolko.”)

Revisionist Perspectives on The Progressive Era

Postscript (29 August 2020): I added this point to my post on Facebook:

I think that there are important questions that should be raised about some aspects of Kolko’s work, but even Bradley and Donway admit that his approach essentially changed the whole trajectory of thinking about the Progressive Era. They are concerned about some of the interpretations he offers of the data and also with his political slant, but they do credit him:

“Our reinterpretation of Kolko in light of libertarian thought should not take away from Kolko’s success in amending the simplistic Progressivist interpretation of American history.”

“Unquestionably, Kolko did valuable work in disproving the old stereotypes of Gilded Age businessmen as uncompromising pro-capitalists and Progressive reformers as do-gooders. He showed that industrialists had not been as laissez-faire or reformers as high-minded as Progressivism alleged.”

See here and here. I feature some discussion of Kolko’s work and of the broader revisionist historical perspective in an essay forthcoming in the twentieth anniversary finale issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (December 2020): “Free Market Revolution: Partial or Complete?” — a review of the Yaron Brook/Don Watkins book.

Facebook Fiasco

On August 19, 2020, I was advertising a “Blow Out Sale” for The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom—a trailblazing anthology I coedited with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins. I was corresponding with a few of the contributors to the anthology with regard to steep discount sales of the book. I was literally in the middle of a chat on FB Messenger with one of our contributors, Nathan Goodman, to discuss the discounts. Suddenly, I got a note saying that I couldn’t send the message. After uttering a few expletives, I tried again. This time, all of Nathan’s half of the dialogue was gone. Poof! The display: “This message has been temporarily removed because the sender’s account requires verification.” Huh?

So I clicked into Nathan’s profile, and got one of those “Sorry” messages that the content could not be displayed. Now the expletives were becoming a bit more Brooklyn edgy.

Onto email. Conscientious friend that he is, Nathan apologized profusely for not continuing our dialogue on FB Messenger and said he was having some account difficulties. Funny. I got the same message from another of our contributors, Jason Lee Byas, who informed me that he too was having difficulty with his account.

I joked to myself: “This is obviously a conspiracy against the dialectical libertarian project!”

The joke apparently was on me. In fact, on all of us.

It took a while to sort out, but here’s the gist of it all. On the very day that my announcement went up, Facebook apparently enacted a new policy, which stated in part:

“Today we are taking action against Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, US-based militia organizations and QAnon. We already remove content calling for or advocating violence and we ban organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission. However, we have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior. So today we are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform. While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organize on our platform. … As a result of some of the actions we’ve already taken, we’ve removed over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.”

Well, I have to say, unbeknownst to me, my good friends Nathan and Jason are among those who are now being characterized as “Dangerous Individuals.” And Jason himself has actually been in my apartment! If only I’d known!

The irony of all this is that Facebook has no clue just how “dangerous” dialectical thinking actually is. These two fine young scholars are as dialectical as they come; they are among the vanguard of a growing brigade of freedom-loving thinkers who are unwilling to accept the status quo and who understand that a dialectical method is the apotheosis of radical theorizing. Dialectics demands that we grasp social problems by understanding their interrelationships within the larger context of the system in which they are manifested—and which they perpetuate. It requires that we address these social problems across time, understanding the past, present, and many possible future directions that they might take. And in the end, it aims not merely to go to the root of such problems, which is the essence of what it means to be radical, but to uproot their preconditions and effects and to transform fundamentally the social system in which they are embedded.

If this be treason, make the most of it.

As Kelly Wright (another banned FB friend) and Nathan explain in their essay, “When Facebook Bans Peaceful Anarchists But Not the Violent State” (published on the site of the Center for a Stateless Society), they and two of their colleagues had their “Facebook accounts indefinitely disabled” with no explanation. But it is pretty clear that this blacklisting was a direct result of their having been administrators of an FB page that articulated a ‘leftist’ case for gun rights. In a valiant dialectical spirit, their group—“Leftists for Self-Defense and Firearm Freedom”—whether you agree with its political perspective or not, sought to challenge the false dichotomies in contemporary politics: “On one side, we see center left commentators who profess concerns about marginalized people but support gun control. On the other side, we see right-wing commentators who claim to support gun rights, but favor forms of state violence that undermine gun rights and rights to self-defense, such as the war on drugs. For instance, every no-knock raid is a home invasion that risks turning a gun owner defending their home into either a murder victim or an accused murderer.”

Again, whether or not you agree with the positions taken by the individuals in the group in question, their whole reason for being was to challenge conventional thinking on both the left and the right. And for this, they have now been branded as “dangerous individuals.”

This is unacceptable. In fact, it is downright infuriating and disgusting. We hear more and more about the dangers of “cancel culture”, and yet, right on Facebook, we are now witnessing what it means when a media giant starts to bracket out and cancel any “dangerous” perspective that challenges people to think outside the conventional political box within which too many are intellectually imprisoned.

I can speak directly to the integrity and brilliance of my two young colleagues and friends whose work is a highlight of The Dialectics of Liberty. As our contributor biography page states: “Jason Lee Byas is a Ph.D. student in Philosophy at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). His research focuses on rights theory, alternatives to punishment, and justice beyond the state. In addition to his academic work, he has been a Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society since 2011. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Georgia State University and a B.A. in Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Oklahoma.” And Nathan Goodman is also a “Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics at George Mason University. He earned his Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Utah. He has worked as a research fellow for the Center for a Stateless Society, a program intern for the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University, and a summer fellow at the Fully Informed Jury Association. His research interests include defense and peace economics, Austrian economics, public choice economics, and self-governance.”

Jason contributed an essay to the anthology that focuses important attention on the nature of social change and Nathan penned an essay dealing with the invaluable contribution of Don Lavoie to the project of a “dialectical liberalism.”

Think about the effects of all this. These are not merely brilliant doctoral students. They are our future. They deserve to be heard. In the interests of “public safety,” actions such as those taken by Facebook are now being applied through some bloodless algorithm that will have the effect of deadening rigorous debate and marginalizing those voices we need to hear from most: those that challenge our most precious assumptions and that compel us to think in nontraditional ways.

I have benefitted immensely from my presence here on Facebook; I’ve met people through this social media platform whose friendships I have come to cherish deeply. I have also had an opportunity to use the functions of Facebook to moderate a study group that brought together over 100 members in a structured chapter-by-chapter four-month long discussion of The Dialectics of Liberty, in which seventeen of the nineteen contributors to the volume engaged with readers in a lively and thought-provoking discussion of the contents of their essays. It is not my plan to, as the old adage goes—“cut off my nose to spite my face”—and to leave Facebook in an act of revolt. I plan to stay on this platform until or unless they throw me off. But as long as I am here, I plan to speak up when I see such injustices.

Fix. This. Now.

Postscript (23 August 2020): Check out my friend Irfan Khawaja’s “Fatwa: Death to Facebook” post on his Policy of Truth blog. 🙂