John Galt Shrugs! John Gray Slides! JLS Rules!
The two latest issues, 21.3 and 21.4, of the Journal of Libertarian Studies will be the last (at least in a print version) for a while, as the journal is going on hiatus. (Watch this space for updates.) This fact makes these two issues collector’s items, and you will naturally want to buy extra copies in enormous quantities!
So what’s in the issues? First, 21.3:
- Since libertarian philosophy professor Richard Sharvy’s death in 1988, his entertaining anti-relativist polemic “Who’s to Say What’s Right or Wrong?: People Who Have Ph.D.s in Philosophy, That’s Who” has circulated for years as an undergrad classic among academic philosophers, since it says all the things that most philosophers secretly think but are too polite to voice. This, at long last, is its first publication in print, and its first textually complete publication anywhere; and it is already stirring controversy once again.
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe has argued that libertarians’ traditional support for open borders is based on a mistaken application of libertarian principle, and that, so long as states and state-owned resources exist, immigration restrictions are less of an injustice than the forced integration involved in a governmental policy of open borders. In “On Immigration: Reply to Hoppe,” Anthony Gregory and Walter Block dispute Hoppe’s claim that immigration restrictions serve as a check on state power, and argue that the Hoppean position, if taken to its logical conclusion, would also require the rejection of free trade.
- According to Lockean theories of property rights, we are entitled to ownership over the products of our labor. Why doesn’t this imply that women own their children? In her book Justice, Gender, and the Family, Susan Moller Okin raises this question as a reductio ad absurdum against Robert Nozick’s account of just acquisition in his classic libertarian treatise Anarchy, State, and Utopia. In defense of Nozick, Anna-Karin Andersson argues in “An Alleged Contradiction in Nozick’s Entitlement Theory argues that Okin’s critique fails – first, because it is not clear that parents produce their children in the relevant sense, and second, because even if it is granted that parents produce their children, there are non-arbitrary reasons for treating products with a capacity for rational agency differently from products without.
- Given French social theorist Raymond Aron’s state-socialist background, one might not expect to find much in his thought congenial to libertarianism. But in “Raymond Aron and the Intellectuals: Arguments Supportive of Libertarianism” James R. Garland argues that Aron’s critiques of political rationalism and authoritarianism (and the role of court intellectuals in promoting these) point most naturally in a libertarian direction.
- Over his career John Gray has shifted from Hayekian classical liberal to right-wing communitarian to left-wing communitarian. (For a sense of the shift, compare the original, emphatically pro-Hayek 1984 text of Gray’s Hayek on Liberty with the virulently anti-Hayek postscript added in 1998.) In “Gray’s Progress: From Liberalisms to Enlightenment’s Wake,” Jeremy Shearmur traces the evolution of Gray’s thought from 1989 through 1995. He finds much that is valuable in Gray’s work, but worries that Gray tends to attack simplistic straw-man versions of the rather more nuanced positions he formerly held; and Shearmur concludes that while Gray’s criticisms of epistemological foundationalism are well-founded, his further inference that Enlightenment liberalism must fall along with foundationalism is not.
- While the late Jane Jacobs was not a libertarian, her work in urban theory – and most notably her books The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities, with their critique of the arrogant rationalism of urban planning – have won her a following in libertarian circles. In “The Death and Life of a Reluctant Urban Icon,” Pierre Desrochers reviews Alice Sparberg Alexiou’s recent study Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary, and finds that while it contains much interesting material, it shows little appreciation of Jacobs’ Canadian background or semi-Austrian economic insights.
- It is widely assumed that during the Middle Ages, education was a) primarily religious and b) confined to a tiny elite. In a Review of Nicholas Orme’ Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England, Thomas E. Woods, Jr. finds that Orme offers a convincing case for pre-university education’s being far more widely available, and far more secular, in medieval England, at any rate, than is ordinarily supposed.
What about issue 21.4?
- The first half of 21.4 is devoted to a symposium in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged, a book whose influence on the libertarian movement has been incalculable. Simultaneously a mystery, a love story, a science-fiction adventure, a philosophical treatise, an ethical and political manifesto, a moral vindication of commerce and industry, and a dramatization of libertarian class analysis (as the industrious classes go on strike against the parasitic state and its privileged beneficiaries), Atlas Shrugged offered a powerful and inspiring case, both intellectual and emotional, for libertarian ideas at a time when such resources were thin on the ground. While the relationship of Rand and her ideas to the broader libertarian movement would often be a controversial and troubled one, Atlas Shrugged undeniably played a crucial role in helping both to create new advocates of laissez-faire and to radicalize existing ones, as well as encouraging libertarians to view their standpoint as an alternative to, rather than a branch of, conservatism, and to base the case for liberty on moral principle and not on pragmatic economic benefits alone.
“Atlas Shrugged at Fifty,” a retrospective from Rand’s former associate Barbara Branden (author of the pathbreaking biography The Passion of Ayn Rand), conveys something of the initial excitement produced by the book's publication, as do a pair of contemporary “Letters to Ayn Rand” – essentially fan letters about Atlas Shrugged – from Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, two of the leading figures in the Austrian School of economics and indeed the libertarian movement more broadly. (The eventual rupture of Rand’s relations with Rothbard and Branden casts a discernible shadow over their contributions – as presentiment in the former and memory in the latter. And it should be said that Rothbard’s later assessment of Rand’s ideas and influence was significantly less positive than the unbridled enthusiasm expressed in his 1957 letter.) An additional early piece by Rothbard, “Romanticism and Modern Fiction,” manifests his appreciation not only for the political ideas expressed in the novel but for Rand’s aesthetic theories as embodied in its composition. Both Rothbard pieces are previously unpublished.
(I would like to add that if, as a New Hampshire teenager beginning my exploration of libertarian literature, I had known that I would one day be editing and introducing a volume containing pieces by Mises, Rothbard, and Branden commenting on Rand, I would have been giddy!)
Rounding out the symposium are a pair of essays on Atlas Shrugged and its ideas by two rising libertarian scholars: Geoffrey Allan Plauché’s “Atlas Shrugged and the Importance of Dramatizing Our Values” explores the novel’s relation to genre fiction, Randian aesthetics, and Étienne de la Boétie’s theories of voluntary servitude, while Jennifer Baker’s “Money is the Product of Virtue: Tensions in Rand’s Invocation of Market Success” strives to separate the more from the less defensible aspects of the novel’s portrayal of the relationship between virtue and worldly accomplishment.
- The second half of 21.4 begins with Robert Higgs’s article “If Men Were Angels: The Basic Analytics of the State versus Self-Government.” James Madison famously quipped that if men were angels, governments would be unnecessary. Mancur Olson has added that life without government would be economically counter-productive, as the need to guard against theft would lower incentives to produce. In response to Madison, Higgs argues that, given our non-angelic nature, we should expect far worse results from governments than from anarchy; while against Olson Higgs maintains that the threat of theft by the state itself is far more harmful to production than the forms of theft that the state succeeds in suppressing.
- Economists John Hartwick and Robert Solow have recently developed a suggestion from philosopher John Rawls in A Theory of Justice to the effect that government should intervene to ensure that the present generation’s use of resources follows investment rules designed to secure an adequate consumption level for future generations. In “Rawlsian Investment Rules for ‘Intergenerational Equity’: Breaches of Method and Ethics,” John Brätland offers two kinds of criticism of the Hartwick-Solow proposal. First, Brätland argues, on Austrian grounds, that the formal constructs with which Hartwick and Solow work are incompatible with economic subjectivism; second, he charges that their policy prescriptions illegitimately presuppose a governmental origin for property rights.
- Contemporary approaches to the theory of international relations are generally empirical. But if, as Austrians such as Mises and Hoppe have argued, it is possible to identify a systematic body of a priori truths about human action, then, Mark R. Crovelli suggests, it may be possible to place the theory of international relations on an aprioristic basis as well. In “Toward an A Priori Theory of International Relations,” Crovelli considers the implications for international relations of such basic praxeological principles as time-preference and the ex ante benefits of trade, concluding that state intervention necessarily lowers social welfare and that democratic societies will tend to be more militarily aggressive.
- Friedrich Hayek stresses that the spontaneous evolution of benign social coordination depends on a liberal framework of abstract rules; but the characteristics that Hayek attributes to a liberal framework, Frank Daumann worries, do not seem to support individual freedom as directly as Hayek supposes, as they are consistent with some quite illiberal content. In “Evolution and the Rule of Law: Hayek’s Concept of Liberal Order Reconsidered” Daumann argues that this deficiency can be remedied by game-theoretic considerations, as the incentives associated with prisoner’s-dilemma situation will tend to favour the emrgence of rules with liberal content.
- A broken window is socially beneficial, it may seem, because the need to repair it provides work for the glazier, whose added income benefits those whose goods and services he in turn purchases, and so on throughout the entire economy. Such reasoning has famously been criticized by Frédéric Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt, who argue that such social benefits are illusory, since they depend on ignoring the alternative purchases that the owner of the window would have made, likewise spreading throughout the economy, had the window not been broken. In “Bastiat’s ‘The Broken Window’: A Critique,” Louis Carabini charges that Bastiat and Hazlitt have not gone far enough – that they have given the impression that the broken window has merely made society no better off, when in fact it has made the community worse off by necessitating expenditure that merely restores social welfare to its pre-breakage point rather than advancing it beyond that point.
Copies of either or both issues may be purchased here.