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no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Bastiat’s Enduring Wisdom

December 12th, 2008

If you have not read any Bastiat, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

I re-read (probably for the third time in English) Bastiat’s The Law a few weeks ago.

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them. The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing… [M]any persons have erroneously held that things are “just” because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred… it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it.

Bastiat is one of my favorite political philosophers: the clarity with which he writes, the ease with which he exposes his theses is unrivaled. You could draw a thousand parallels from this, or any other passage of his.

If everyone had read some Bastiat, and really taken his advice to heart, I think this world would be a much better place for everyone in it.

Absolved

September 11th, 2008

I’ve been reading Absolved, piece by piece.

It starts with Absolved.

It is, in my opinion, a tad on the preachy side, and occasionally, overwhelmingly paleo-nationalist (in a good, “don’t tread on me” sort of way), but hey, that’s just my opinion. I’d recommend giving it a whirl, if you’re not squeamish.

Why I’m Glad Player Piano is a Work of Fiction

July 18th, 2008

A while back, I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, and had honestly meant to write a critique/review of the novel.  Time passed, and the draft got lost along the way somewhere.  The idea was revived when I was thinking last night about how all of our productivity is wasted.

My first impression was that Piano is vaguely reminiscent of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Vaguely.

Vonnegut paints a dystopian picture of a future where machines handle nearly every task known to man, which sounds pretty nice, at first. The kicker is that if you’re not smart enough (and the machines will determine who is smart and who not), you might be lucky to be able to service the machines – so long as there isn’t a machine for that, yet – and nothing more. Of course, were you not an Engineer or a Doctor, you would join the Army or you may join the R&R, both of which are essentially “make work” programs that do little in the way of making work. Both the Army and the R&R appear to be the opiates, keeping the common man dependent upon the State.

Now, the commoner earns very little money for the very little work that he does, and what little he earns is spent on drink, or on trinkets for his mistress.  But the businesses who own & operate the machines are heavily taxed  in a sort of State-Socialist wet-dream.  From these revenues, the powerful government is able to provide everything for the commoners. Besides the serious misgivings I have about the economic framework of Vonnegut’s fictional future (i.e., nobody earns anything, yet businesses are heavily taxes and the State provides nearly everything?), I have a more serious point to address.

Player Piano embraces vulgar primitivism; it is a romanticism of times past – arduous times when men were unaided by machines. The common complaint from the citizens and rebellious engineers is not John Galt’s desire for freedom, rather it is a more ethereal plea for a “meaningful” life. Unfortunately, according to Vonnegut’s characters, the only activities which are capable of imbuing a life with meaning seem to be extramarital affairs, and back-breaking or mind-numbing labor.

There is nothing more anyonmyzing, more emotionally bankrupting, than being just one of a thousand human cogs in a machine, is there?

In the absence of a need for hard labor, would we toil nonetheless? Would we still show up to work in factories and office-buildings and strip malls? Is it really part of the human condition, to swap one monotony for another?

no third solution

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