Category Archives: Politics (theory, History, Now)

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.

7-Day Course Challenge: “The Roads to Serfdom: Readings” (Course #2)

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 #2 Course: The Roads to Serfdom: Readings
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

After two weeks of political conventions, whatever your political persuasion, I think a course offering different perspectives on “The Roads to Serfdom” is in order. Your readings:

  1. The Origins of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt
  2. The Mass Psychology of Fascism – Wilhelm Reich
  3. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World – Barrington Moore, Jr.
  4. Nationalism and Culture – Rudolf Rocker
  5. The Road to Serfdom – F. A. Hayek
Perspectives on the Roads to Serfdom

Postscript (29 August 2020): This Facebook post led to quite a few comments and I’ll just take a few excerpts of some of the additional comments I made.

The case of Hayek is … complex; I think he certainly raised important issues about the dynamics of market processes, and the nature of both the dispersion knowledge and the importance of its tacit component (not captured by articulated “data”). Without opening up a Pandora’s box of discussion on this thread, I think it can’t be denied that at the very least Hayek’s work continues to challenge the left, and in its wake, there has been some fine scholarly work from folks as diverse as Hilary Wainwright (Arguments for a New Left) and Ted Burczak (Socialism After Hayek). Heck, even my mentor, Bertell Ollman, was a Volker fellow under Hayek at the University of Chicago–and learned much from him. It was Bertell’s encouragement that led me to author a dissertation on Marx, Hayek, and Murray Rothbard, the first two parts of which resulted in my own Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (SUNY Press, 1995) and the Rothbard portion of which appeared in expanded form as the second part of my Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (Penn State Press, 2000). And while we’re at it, check out the recently published Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom.

I think that Road to Serfdom was Hayek’s most “popular” and therefore most polemical work. The more dialectical themes in that work are his insistence on an organic relationship between political and economic freedom. But his chief dialectical sensibility shows up in his critique of utopianism, which shares much with Marx’s own critique of utopian socialism, and of course, his understanding not only of the role of knowledge (which … is as applicable to large corporations as it is to the state; even Rothbard said something similar with regard to the “One Big Firm” and its calculational problems)… but also his fine take-down of conservatism (“Why I Am Not a Conservative”).

I also think the Hayekian impact on contemporary left-libertarian anarchists can’t be emphasized enough.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to veer away from the -isms… I long ago rejected using the term “capitalism” (given its “known reality“): … and I’m pretty sure that at this stage too many folks are talking past each other because the -isms are so historically loaded. The “communism” of the USSR, in my view, had little or nothing to do with Marx’s vision of communism, and the “capitalism” of the US had almost nothing in common with Ayn Rand’s “unknown ideal.” I have thought more in terms of how relations of power manifest themselves across several dimensions (as I’ve argued in my “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy”: the personal, the cultural, and the structural), and though, as a social theorist I focus much on the statist aspects of those relations of power, I have long argued that those extra-political aspects of oppression are both preconditions and effects of the broader statist system that I oppose.