Category Archives: Dialectics

“The Dialectics of Liberty”: Reviewed in “The Philosophical Quarterly”

Reviews for The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (Lexington Books, 2019) are slowly appearing throughout the scholarly literature, with more to come.

Today, I’m posting excerpts from a review by Gregory J. Robson (Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Iowa State University) that appears in The Philosophical Quarterly (29 December 2020, Oxford Academic).

Gregory J. Robson writes:

The contributors to this anthology insightfully explore ‘the context of human freedom’. This exploration is ‘dialectical’ because it engages in logical analysis and synthesis of economic, political, and other principles and ideas that often just appear in tension with one another . . . The book’s three parts include contributions from distinguished scholars in economics, law, philosophy, psychology, and related fields. The topics range widely and discussion is sometimes uneven, but this is no surprise in a book whose authors are multidisciplinary and cover considerable ground ably.  . . . The three parts fit together well due to the often complementary arguments of influential scholars such as Gary Chartier, Douglas J. Den Uyl, Steven Horwitz, Roderick T. Long, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, and Douglas B. Rasmussen. Themes emerge such as the value of human relationships unmediated by force and fraud, the disvalue of political coercion, and the potential immorality of taxing some to hand to others.

The reviewer then focuses more extensively on the “complementary” contributions of Billy Christmas (“Social Equality and Liberty”) and Robert Higgs (“Exploring the Interconnections of Politics, Economics, and Culture”). He concludes:

[A] deep virtue of ‘Dialectics of Liberty‘ is its insistence that a free society takes seriously the need to persistently ask and answer—and *re-ask* and *re-answer*—why the state has authority to constrain liberty and the scope of any such authority. A society that does not take such questions seriously fails adequately to respect the personhood of would-be coercees. In principle, adherents of diverse political views do have the resources to take this claim onboard. Yet the essays in this book make a notable cumulative case for why classical liberals . . . and, relatedly, right and left libertarians . . . may be better equipped than supporters of more statist positions to explicate and defend the value of the personal and political liberties. This book has much to recommend it. It will be a valuable resource for teachers and researchers interested in the broad tradition of classical liberalism. And, in the spirit of dialectical exchange, hopefully it will spark responses by proponents and opponents alike.

Nice review! Terrific book! 😉

The Trump “Revolution” in Foreign Policy … Not Quite

Back in July 2016, when I predicted that Donald Trump would win the White House, I wrote about the coming “Trump Revolution,” encouraged by only one thing above all: That Trump might foster a less interventionist foreign policy. He was belatedly critical of the Iraq War and when questioned by Bill O’Reilly about how Russia had interfered in U.S. elections, he replied correctly: “You think our country’s so innocent?” Indeed, the United States government has been responsible for toppling more governments abroad (both covertly and overtly) than perhaps any other government on earth. (The filth that is U.S. foreign policy was first made most apparent by the publication of The Pentagon Papers by the New York Times—through the reporting of Neil Sheehan, who died yesterday, ironically, and the Washington Post. We can thank whistleblowers from Daniel Ellsberg to Wikileaks for having provided so much evidence of this …)

Trump’s distrust of the so-called Deep State was also a breath of fresh air, given the long-standing power that has been exercised by administrative bureaucracies and agencies, all unelected, and embedded in the National Security apparatus, the U.S. intelligence community—and such institutions as the Federal Reserve System and the vast array of regulatory agencies, virtually all of whom operate to protect the very industries being “regulated.” This is in the very nature of the kind of “capitalism” that its advocates have defended with regularity. It is crony by definition—a system rigged in favor of those most adept at using its levers.

The problem, however, for Donald Trump, is that after four years, instead of “draining the swamp,” he became part of it. In fact, in all too many respects, he only deepened it. I’m not going to even begin to touch on what Trump’s years in office have wrought domestically, since I’ve discussed it here, here, here, and here, for example.

As one who favors radically freed markets liberated from the heavy hand of the state—and a culture that would necessarily support such liberation—it is simply a fact that Trump never endorsed freed markets. He remains an economic nationalist, harking back to the beginnings of the Grand Old Party, which championed, way back in the nineteenth century, high tariffs, subsidies for industry, and protectionism, all at the expense of the disenfranchised. Today, too many Democrats who oppose Trump with policies that are called “socialist” are typically advocating shifting forms of state intervention that will benefit a whole slew of other favored industries, be they in “alternative” energy or in healthcare. Neither party is a friend of freedom; the system is rigged to benefit those who are most adept at wielding the levers of power to augment their wealth and influence. Nothing that Trump did in four years has altered that dynamic. Period.

Moreover, those who think that the Trump years brought “peace” in foreign affairs, should check their premises. Like Obama before him, Trump focused on proxying-out military intervention. Sometimes it’s been trumpeted as good for the economy; after all, when the U.S. gives money to the Saudi government, the Saudis spend that money by purchasing U.S.-manufactured munitions, which are then used against countries like Yemen. As reported in Jacobin magazine, Trump’s promise to end “the era of endless wars” has only led to the repositioning of troops rather than their return home. Indeed,


the “endless” wars have not ended. Trump has dropped more bombs and missiles than George W. Bush or Barack Obama did in their first terms, and there are still roughly as many US bases and troops overseas as when he was elected. … Trump has vetoed every bill passed by Congress to disengage US forces from the Saudi war in Yemen and to halt the sales of US-made warplanes and bombs, which the Saudis use to systematically kill Yemeni civilians. … Trump has also backed a coup in Bolivia, staged several failed ones in Venezuela, and targeted even the United States’ closest allies with sanctions to try to prevent them from trading with US enemies. Trump’s brutal sanctions on Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba are not a peaceful alternative to war, but a form of economic warfare just as deadly as bombs, especially during a pandemic and its accompanying economic meltdown. …


[M]ilitary spending for procurement, research and development (R&D), and base construction has risen by 39 percent. This has been a huge windfall for the Big Five US weapons makers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics — whose arms sales revenues rose 30 percent between 2015 and 2019. The 49 percent increase to more than $100 billion for R&D on new weapons systems in 2020, part of the enormous $718 billion Pentagon budget, is a down payment on trillions of dollars in future revenue for the merchants of death unless these programs are stopped.

The Trump record is almost complete; future historians will debate his legacy—the last few days an ugly extension of it—but in the one area that some of us held out some hope, Donald Trump failed.

I do have to say, though, that I find it hilarious that the Democratic leadership is thinking about initiating a second impeachment trial or have expressed support for the invoking of the 25th Amendment to get Trump out of office before Inauguration Day, just 12 days away.

There was a real constitutional question as to whether a sitting President could pardon himself. If these Never-Trumpers succeed, there would be no question should the House of Representatives impeach him and a new Democratically-controlled Senate actually convict him, that the new President, Mike Pence, could very easily pardon Trump, with no constitutional issues clouding things up.

Either way, folks, on January 20, 2021, Mike Pence will be in attendance at the inauguration of Joe Biden as 46th President of the United States (Trump is boycotting the ceremony). In the meanwhile, even long-time Trump supporters are running for the exits in light of the Capitol Catastrophe, an assault on that building the likes of which have not been seen since the War of 1812. Gone are Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Special Envoy to Northern Ireland and Former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Commerce Department John Costello, White House Council of Economic Advisers (Acting Chairman) Tyler Goodspeed, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham, Social Secretary Rickie Niceta, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews and now THIS! Deputy Undersecretary for Stabbing: Jon Schwarz! Have these folks have no sense of decency left!

For those who don’t get the allusion to Jimmy Cagney’s “White Heat” [YouTube link]
Bramhall’s World,
New York Daily News (7 January 2021)
(Yeah, yeah, I know the Republic seems to be in shambles, the Capitol was ransacked, and life is miserable. Each side is accusing the other of treason, and it’s nothing to laugh at. But at some point, you just look up and say: WTF?)

To 2020 (1): Counting My Blessings — But Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out…

Clichés, by definition, are trite and lacking in originality. But you’ll find more than a few in the following post. This year didn’t lack for originality, but it helped to illustrate more than a few clichés.

This week, I’ll be featuring a few hilarious tidbits from my favorite comic strip, “Pearls Before Swine” (created by Stephan Pastis), all centered on a single theme: What a Miserable Year 2020 Was! Today, it’s best captured by yesterday’s featured strip in the New York Daily News:

Courtesy of The New York Daily News (27 December 2020)


So, before we start counting our blessings, let’s review our journey through the utter misery of 2020. I wrote 29 Notablog installments on the Coronavirus pandemic, not to mention umpteen entries on everything from racism and social injustice to civil unrest and a crazier-than-usual election year. (In-between, there were nearly 100 new songs added to my “Song of the Day” series—because music helped to ease the pain of a year like no other.)

Our social fabric has been drowned in so much sadness—in grief, in fear, in pain, in anger—but somehow, we seem to have made it through to the end of 2020. Then again, there are still a few days left to this miserable year, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it is the truth of that other cliché: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” Or as that old poster for “Jaws 2” once declared: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water …” SLAM! The Great White Shark Shows Up Again!

For me, personally, I experienced more sorrow crunched into twelve months than I ever thought possible. I saw mass death and destruction in my hometown on a scale that, after living through 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy, I never could have imagined. I lost neighbors, friends, beloved local proprietors, colleagues, and even a cousin to a virus that hit New York City like a nuclear blast, with the fallout going on for months on end. I saw the ugliness of racial injustice give way to the agony of civil unrest. I saw political actors and political pundits incapable of dissecting, analyzing or helping to resolve complex social problems with intellectual scalpels, as they approached every issue with a sledgehammer, giving expression to yet another old cliché: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

But there was another side to this tale that reveals how many blessings I truly have.

Professionally, I count my blessings to have been here to celebrate the twentieth anniversary volume of a scholarly periodical that I cofounded way back in 1999: The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I also helped to organize and moderate an illuminating four-month Facebook symposium with over 100 members, including nearly all of the contributors to The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (coedited with Roger E. Bissell and Edward W. Younkins; Lexington Books, 2019).

Personally, I count my blessings that I saw compassion manifest itself throughout 2020 as people came to each other’s assistance.

I count my blessings that I have family and even neighbors, who have become like an extended family, offering their love and support through it all.

I count my blessings that I have great doctors who were able to coordinate the squeezing of nearly six months of “elective” surgical procedures into a two-month period, completing (and recovering from) four surgeries by the first week of November.

I count my blessings that I was then able to summon the strength to face a dire medical crisis on November 13th, when I almost lost my sister (to a non-COVID-related illness). In the middle of this, we had to give up our cat Cali for adoption, but I count my blessings that she was adopted by a loving mommy—who had first given her to us!

I count my blessings that I have seen, for months on end, the heroism of first responders, saving the lives of countless people, including my own sister’s life, as EMS workers rushed her to the emergency room on that harrowing morning. After a month in the hospital, my sister returned home on December 12th, brought up the stairs in a wheelchair by a couple of other EMS workers who showed the same depth of care as those who first brought her down.

Through it all, we’ve never lost our sense of gallows humor. When my sister wondered how on earth she would get down the stairs to go for follow-up medical appointments, I told her: “If all else fails, there’s always the Richard Widmark Way!” (For those who haven’t seen the 1947 film, “Kiss of Death,” check it out [YouTube link]!) We have a tough road ahead, but we are here to talk—and to laugh—about it.

I count my blessings that when I wrote about my sister’s ordeal, I saw an outpouring of love and support on Facebook, on email, and elsewhere, attesting to how deeply she has affected the lives of so many people: her colleagues, her friends, and, most of all, those who were her former students.

I count my blessings that at the end of this challenging year, I am here, my sister is here, my brother and sister-in-law are here, my family and dear friends are still here. We are here to lift a glass to the promise of 2021, knowing full well that when we did so at the end of 2019, in the hopes that 2020 would bring greater health and happiness to all, we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into.

We don’t know what lies ahead, but we do know that this too shall pass. Or as my urologist’s office reminded me: “It may pass like a kidney stone. But it will pass.”

Count your blessings, folks. For there is no truer cliché than this one: Where there is life, there is hope. And where there is love, all things are possible.

“Dialectics of Liberty” reviewed in JARS: Thumbs Up …

As I mentioned yesterday, the concluding issue of the twentieth anniversary volume of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies was officially published on JSTOR—as hard copies are on their way to print subscribers.

In this December 2020 issue of the journal, another publication close to heart was reviewed: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, coedited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins. The review essay, written by Allen Mendenhall, can be found on JSTOR here.

It’s always a bit awkward inviting a colleague to review a book you’ve co-edited for a journal of which you are a founding co-editor! But when I approached Allen, I simply told him, in essence: Just because I’m a founding coeditor of the journal and a coeditor of DOL doesn’t mean you have to give us Two Thumbs Up. I asked of him only that he mention those authors in the anthology who were members of the JARS editorial board (Robert L. Campbell, Roderick T. Long, and me) or advisory board (Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen), or contributors to past issues of the journal (Roger Bissell, Ed Younkins, Steve Horwitz, Gary Chartier, and Troy Camplin), which would at least provide us with some context as to why the review is appearing in the journal. Yes, context-keeping applies even to reviews of books about the art of context-keeping!

Then, I told him: “Take no prisoners, and have fun!”

And that he did. Allen gave us a really wonderful review. An excerpt can be found on the book’s home page here. But here’s a key comment:

The … chapters … are broad in scope, treating such expansive and seminal concepts as freedom, reality, and human flourishing and such elemental philosophical fields as logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and ontology. They send a message, namely that the editors are “thinking big,” calling into question whole schools of thought and promoting approaches to inquiry that are primary, essential, and comprehensive. They’re hitting the reset button. …

DOL is a wide-ranging volume colored with the unique voices and personalities of its various contributors. Yet it is united in purpose and models the dialectical method that it celebrates. [Contributor John F.] Welsh registers a memorable line that supplies fitting closure to this review. “A volume dedicated to the ‘dialectics of liberty,'” he states, “provides a wonderful opportunity to explore not only the interstices at which dialectical and libertarian theory overlap, but how the two might enhance each other for the benefit of advocacy for individual freedom, free markets, and minimal government.”

I concur. And The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom is that volume.

Folks looking to pick up a copy of the anthology can still do so at the heavily discounted rate of $5 per softcover book (with a $5 shipping charge no matter how many copies you order). There are only a dozen or so books left at this special rate. Please visit the DOL Discount Page and let Paypal do the rest!

JARS: Our Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Concludes

I am delighted and deeply honored to announce the publication of the second of two issues celebrating the twentieth anniversary of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The December 2020 issue will be making its debut shortly on JSTOR; print subscribers should expect the second of these two historic issues in the weeks thereafter.

Issue #40 (Volume 20, Number 2) – December 2020

As I mentioned back on June 5, 2020, we decided to devote two issues to reviewing those works in the general area of Rand studies, which have never been critically appraised in our pages. The list of works reviewed in this second issue of volume 20 are:

The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, by Nathaniel Branden

Think as If Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures, by Barbara Branden

The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins

Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Foundations of a Free Society: Reflections on Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy, edited by Gregory Salmieri and Robert Mayhew

Culture and Liberty: Writings of Isabel Paterson, by Isabel Paterson (edited by Stephen Cox)

Myth, Meaning, and Antifragile Individualism: On the Ideas of Jordan Peterson, by Marc Champagne

Ayn Rand: An Introduction, by Eamonn Butler

Atlas Rising: Ayn Rand and Silicon Valley by The Atlas Rising Institute

Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed, by Lisa Duggan

Bucking the Artworld Tide: Reflections on Art, Pseudo Art, Art Education & Theory, by Michelle Marder Kamhi

The Soul of Atlas: Ayn Rand, Christianity, a Quest for Common Ground, by Mark David Henderson

The Perfectionist Turn: From Metanorms to Metaethics, by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

***

As is the case with every issue, we have introduced at least one new contributor to the JARS family. This issue brings debut pieces from four new contributors: Onar Am, Alec Mouhibian, Molly Sechrest, and Amos Wollen.

Here is our Table of Contents for Volume 20, Number 2 (the abstracts can be found here; contributor biographies can be found here):

The Man Who Would Be Galt – Dennis C. Hardin

Something That Used to Be Objectivism: Barbara Branden’s Psycho-Epistemology – Robert L. Campbell

The Dialectics of Liberty – Allen Mendenhall

Free Market Revolution: Partial or Complete? – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

From Defiant Egoist to Submissive Citizen: Is There a Bridge? Why the Hell Is There a Bridge? – Roderick T. Long

Goddess of the Republic – Alec Mouhibian

Peterson, Rand, and Antifragile Individualism – Onar Am

Introducing Ayn Rand – Edward W. Younkins

Silicon Rand – Troy Camplin

Ayn Rand: Mean Girl? – Mimi Reisel Gladstein

Bucking the Artworld Tide – Molly Sechrest

Ayn Rand and Christianity: The Virtuous Parallels – Amos Wollen

The Perfectionist Turn – David Gordon

Eudaimon in the Rough: Perfecting Rand’s Egoism – Roger E. Bissell

Index to Volume 20

Those seeking to subscribe to the journal should visit the sites linked here. And—as we march into the third decade of this remarkable journal—those wishing to submit manuscripts for consideration should follow the instructions here.

Once again, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to my co-editors, our board of advisors, our contributors, and most of all, our readers, without whom we would never have been able to publish this grand finale—the longest single issue in the history of our journal—to our twentieth anniversary volume.

As I said in the Introduction to Volume 20, Number 1: “Here’s to another two decades and beyond of JARS triumphs . . . two decades, or until such time as Rand studies have so penetrated the literary and philosophic canon that specialized journals of this nature are no longer required.”

Coronavirus (29): Medical Procedures in the Age of COVID … And I’m Still Alive!

When you walk into my urologist’s office, there’s this sign at the appointment desk. It reads:

This too shall pass.
It might pass like a kidney stone.
But it will pass.


I can’t think of a more fitting description of this past year. Or of my medical experiences throughout 2020—a number that has become an adjective unto itself. As in: “Oh no! Please don’t tell me this is gonna be another 2020 moment!” Though let me hasten to add—for those of you who have said to me, “I can’t wait for 2020 to end! Bring on 2021!”—please don’t rush your precious lives away. After all, 2021 might be better; then again, it might make 2020 look like a picnic by comparison. So count your blessings!

Back on March 28, 2020, in the seventh of what is now 29 installments in my Coronavirus series—29, in keeping with my friend, Thomas L. Knapp‘s “Prime Number Obsession” (that “all sets should consist of a prime number of items”)—I wrote:

As many of you know, I have had a lifelong bout with a serious congenital intestinal disorder, which required life-saving intestinal by-pass surgery in 1974, when I was 14 years old, and which has necessitated 60+ surgical procedures since, to deal with increasingly difficult and complex side-effects from the condition. Have no fear! I intend to be here for a long time to come.

But the Coronavirus outbreak has affected me and my family on a very personal level. I was due to undergo a procedure to pulverize a rather stubborn and large kidney stone on March 13th, but it had to be postponed to March 30th, due to technical difficulties with the lithotripsy machine at the hospital. But by that point, since the procedure was considered “elective” surgery, it was canceled indefinitely. My only hope is that the stone, floating around and growing in size within my left kidney since the summer of 2018, will continue to defy the rules of gravity and stay put—because there is nothing… NOTHING… on earth that I have ever experienced to rival the pain of a lodged kidney stone. And I am a person who has a pretty high threshold for pain tolerance. Nevertheless, on a scale from 1 to 10, the pain level of a lodged kidney stone is about a 13. It’s like giving birth to the Planet Jupiter through a pinhole. Way back in 1995, I suffered agonizing, excruciating pain from a single stone fragment that got lodged in my ureter after a lithotripsy procedure. I was hospitalized for a full week, with routine morphine shots that might as well have been infusions of simple tap water. I had to endure the placement of a stent in me, which stayed there for about a month, before it was removed with the help of nothing but a local anesthetic. I cannot imagine that anything conjured up by medieval torturers could have been worse than that experience; my screams must have cleared out the urologist’s office.

But that was 1995. And this is 2020. And if I can help it, I’m going to will that kidney stone to stay put, so that what is currently considered “elective” surgery doesn’t necessitate an emergency procedure that would require me to go anywhere near a hospital—at a time when the hospitals in NYC are being overloaded by Coronavirus cases. I had two endoscopic surgical procedures scheduled in April, and they too are being postponed, regardless of my wishes, inclinations, or the dictates of my passion.

Since that time, I’ve received countless emails, Facebook messages, texts, and phone calls—from relatives, friends, and colleagues wondering how I’m doing! I’ve kept in touch with many people as often as I can, but decided to write this post so that I can point to it as a way detailing my most recent medical adventures. I do this not merely as a “public service” to describe medical procedures in the age of COVID, but also as a cathartic exercise for myself, and, most importantly, as a way of updating and thanking every person who has expressed their concern and support over these many months.

Though my hometown’s grief has been palpable, the fact is that the hospitalization, infection, and death rates have been crushed throughout New York state (despite a very recent uptick in case numbers in areas of New York City). Fortunately, elective surgeries began again in late June. 

Given this reality, I consulted with each of my doctors and it was determined that I undergo my pre-op testing in July so that I’d complete all three of my (planned) procedures within the first three weeks of August—before the possibility of any substantial uptick in novel coronavirus cases.

But the medical protocols have changed substantially since March and April when I was initially scheduled for these procedures. Three of the most important changes emerged directly from the new realities in which we live:

First, no significant medical procedure goes forth without a COVID screening within 72 hours of the appointment followed by a self-quarantine. You must wear a mask to any facility right up to the point that you are wheeled into the operating room. Since mid-March, I have been used to wearing a mask and social distancing where necessary—though distancing is not possible when doctors are getting intimate with you, so-to-speak.

Second, every procedure is scheduled in such a way as to create an environment in which waiting rooms consist of only one, two, maybe three people awaiting their appointments. And appointments are scheduled so far apart such that every operating room is thoroughly disinfected—they typically are, of course … but not like this. One would be hard pressed to find a visible speck of dust let alone any misbehaving microbe under microscopic analysis.

And finally: Nobody is allowed to accompany you into the waiting room. My sister—who has driven me to virtually every medical procedure throughout my entire life, who has sat with me right up to the point I was taken into the operating room only to greet me in recovery—had to find a place to park her car outside the facility (good luck with that!), and be on call once I emerged from the recovery room to be released from the medical facility. Aware of the emotional strain this might create in patients, medical staff rose to the occasion with the utmost care, compassion, and empathy they could possibly offer, despite—or perhaps because of—the many months they dealt with some of the most horrific conditions any of them had ever witnessed in their entire professional lives. I can’t thank them enough.

So here’s how it all went down over the past 2+ months by way of a mini-diary of events:

July 25: Pre-operative tests: EKG, chest X-rays, bloodwork. Even a consultation with both my neurologist and my cardiologist. I receive a SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) antibody test. Results: Negative. I am approved for all upcoming procedures.

July 31: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Scheduled for first procedure on August 4, 2020. Onward!

August 3: Tropical Storm Warning issued for Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Isaias will be roaring up the East Coast, with high sustained winds that eventually knock down or split thousands of trees throughout the New York City metropolitan area. Power outages are widespread; one person is killed in Queens. Leaving my Brooklyn apartment on the morning of August 4, torrential rain coming down, trees swirling to the right and left of us on the parkway, I turn to my sister while she’s driving into Manhattan and say: “You gotta be kidding me! Just getting to a hospital provides us with yet another 2020 Moment!”

August 4: Colonoscopy, with a double polypectomy, while under Propofol. Clip, clip here, clip, clip there, and a couple of Tra La Las [YouTube link]. Done!

August 5: Esaphago-gastro-duodenoscopy, while under Propofol. Buzz, buzz, buzz, chirp, chirp, chirp, and a couple of La Di Das [YouTube link].  Done!

August 10: ENT appointment. Don’t ask! Done!

August 12: KUB (Kidney-Ureters-Bladder) X-rays. My, my, how things have changed since March! X-ray reveals a Death Star-sized stone inside my left kidney, and a Junior Death Star-sized stone right next to it! And the news is reporting an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn… exactly where I will be going for my pre-op COVID test and lithotripsy. WTF!

August 13: Lower- and upper-endoscopic biopsy results: All negative. I speak to the administrator at my urologist’s office and ask her: “Are you sure that nothing will interfere with my lithotripsy on the 17th?” “Well… maybe a locust invasion? I mean, who knows what can happen in four days,” she says, reassuringly.

August 14: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Onward!

August 17: My surgeon tells me that he doesn’t know if he can destroy both stones, so he’ll aim for Death Star, Sr., because it is, well, Mucho Senior. Sonic blasts proceed, while under Propofol +++ —Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! [YouTube link]. Miraculously, post-op tests indicate that the lithotripsy was so dialectically powerful that it transcends “either-or” and embraces “both-and”: The surgeon succeeds in pulverizing both Senior and Junior due to their close proximity. Fragments remain. But all are passable! Done!

Or not.

“You thought you had three procedures and you’d be finished. Oops!” Purgative preps for each of the three previous procedures result in internal bleeding. I see my colorectal surgeon on September 1 and schedule an infrared radiation coagulation procedure to seal three wounds: two on the right, one on the left. Nothing political implied here, though the surgeon jokes that anytime he has a political disagreement with somebody, he extends to them an invitation to meet him in his examination room, where they are usually put in a position that makes them very agreeable.

September 8: I become very agreeable. The light saber battle begins [YouTube link]. Without Propofol or any other (even local) anesthesia. Don’t ask, don’t tell! Given my intestinal preconditions, recovery is—and continues to be—agonizing. But to paraphrase Master Yoda: “More doctors, see I must.”

September 10: I visit my new dentist (because my old dentist has retired post-COVID), and she finds me in otherwise good dental health, except for a partially impacted wisdom tooth that “bears watching.” I’ll see her for a follow-up in six months! I schedule a dental cleaning on September 26. Done! And Done!

September 24: Flu shot. Done!

September 29: Follow-up with colorectal surgeon; the two wounds on the right have healed; the one on the left requires additional recovery time. Two out of three ain’t bad [YouTube link]. Given my chronic intestinal condition, this, like all things related to it, “bears watching.” Will return for a check-up in six months. On the way home, I stop at my optometrist’s office and get my glasses adjusted. Done! And done!

October 6 (today): Routine visit to my cardiologist. Done!

All I can say is: There has indeed been a noticeable uptick in six hotspots in New York City (primarily in Queens and Brooklyn—including my own neighborhood). I am very happy that all these medical procedures and appointments are now in the rearview mirror. I remain COVID free—and intend to stay that way.

Back on May 6, 2020, I posted a pic of myself to reassure folks that I was alive (self-administered haircut and all). Today, I post another pic documenting that I’m Still Alive (albeit with a haircut provided by my own barber!).

Throughout this period, I refused to allow anything to interfere with my projects. And that includes rooting for my New York Yankees, who, miraculously, took a game from the Tampa Bay Rays last night in the opening game of the American League Division Series, 9-3!

And in terms of my work: I have reviewed, corrected, and submitted to Penn State Press the first set of page proofs for the December 2020 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, the finale to our twentieth anniversary volume, which will be the largest single issue in the history of the journal, for which I have also contributed a 30+ page essay that should raise some eyebrows. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am expecting to sign off on the second set of corrected proofs later this week.

As I said back in March: This “Kid from Brooklyn” intends “to be here for a long time to come.”

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: “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.