Sunday, July 31, 2011

Marriage Equality in New Zealand?

Research New Zealand did a poll of Kiwis asking them about their support of same-sex marriage there. Currently Civil Unions are allowed but marriage is restricted and regulated to opposite sex couples only. The most recent poll found that 60% of Kiwis said they were accepting of same-sex marriage, only 34% said they opposed the idea. Two percent felt there was no difference between marriage and civil unions and 4% were not sure what they thought.

The numbers showed that women, more than men, supported marriage equality, with 66% of all females supporting it where 54% of men supported marriage equality.

As all polls in the United States indicate as well, there is a clear and strong difference in support according to age. Kiwis between the ages of 18 and 34 support marriage equality 79% to 19%. Even among those between the ages of 35 and 54 support exceeds opposition by 61% to 32%. Only older Kiwis, over the age of 55 oppose marriage equality and even there they are close to being evenly split: 44% to 49%.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Classical liberalism as a Form of Progressivism

The following is by Prof. Steve Horwitz. These are notes from a speech he gave on the role of classical liberalism as a form of progressivism. This is not a finished essay but the material is in sufficient form that it is easily understood by the average reader. His views represent well the views of the Moorfield Storey Institute and are added here you consideration and distribution.

My title is meant to provoke.  I want to make a case for what has recently been termed “bleeding-heart libertarianism.”  Or, put differently, I want to argue that libertarians should more consciously attempt to think of themselves as “on the left” rather than “on the right.”  Some libertarians say we should be “neither,” but I want to argue that history suggests we have a home on the left and that many of our ideas suggest that too. I also want to take a short detour to ask how “progressive” the Progressives of 100 years ago really were. 

Who really IS on the side of the poor?  Who really IS on the side of African-Americans or women?  Who really IS on the side of the innocent victims of American imperialism?  I’m going to try to argue that historically classical liberalism was and so was libertarianism for much of its history, and I’m going to argue that we SHOULD be and need to recapture that spirit of progressivism.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Commerical Culture and Its Critics: Why Conservatives Are Wrong.

The argument is made that the media is responsible for the alleged decline in moral standards. There is nothing new in such an assertion. The media of the day, for centuries, has been attacked for precipitating moral decline.
Dominican Friar Filippo di Strata lamented that the printing press allowed the production of "cheap" books for the general public. He argued that these books drove morally uplifting books from the market, and allowed the lower classes the illusion of believing that they could think for themselves. Even worse, books promoted immorality. He noted that the world had gotten along for millenniums without books, and he saw no reason to change that. A common phrase of the day was, "The pen a virgin, the printing press a whore."
Even in colonial America similar statements were made. The royal governor of Virginia, in 1671 wrote: "I thank God that are no free schools nor printing" and he hoped such things would not come to his colony for hundreds of years. His reasoning was simple: "learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world." When Omar burned the great library at Alexandra in 642 AD, using the books as fuel to heat water for baths he built, he was unconcerned about the loss of knowledge. He said that the books were either in accordance with God's will, as revealed in the Koran, or not. If they were in accordance, they are useless since God's word is sufficient. And, if they were not in accordance, they deserved to be burned.
The moral pessimists will concede that not a generation has been born that didn't eventually conclude that the next generation was making things worse. The mere presence of the phrase "the good old days" is indicative of how pervasive this tendency has been. Yet, by any objective and measurable standard, people tend to be better off today than at any time in human history.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bastiat: A Liberal Against Socialism

 In the history of classical liberalism Claude Frédéric Bastiat is a unique figure. He was only productive in liberal causes for a period of a few years. But he was the preeminent advocate of liberal thinking in France during a crucial stage of history. His efforts for free trade are directly linked to major legislative changes in France, which took place after his untimely death. Within a few decades Bastiat sank into obscurity only to have his works and ideas resurrected a century later.
Frédéric Bastiat was born in Bayonne, a tiny French town on the Bay of Biscay. The exact date of his birth is in dispute but it is known that he was born in June of 1801. After the death of his mother in 1808, Frédéric moved, with his father, to Mugron, a small town near the Spanish border. His father too, as was common in those days, died while Bastiat was just a boy, in 1810. Again various biographies dispute what happened next. Some argue that Bastiat became a ward of his grandparents, while others say he was left under the guardianship of an Aunt.
While no one doubted Frédéric's intelligence he didn't seem particularly interested in his academic work. He enrolled at the Benedictine College of Soreze but never finished his degree. His father had once lamented that he had "a lazy streak that is without equal."
Frédéric went to work with an uncle in Bayonne and the family trading business peaked an interest in Bastiat to study political economy and philosophy. He read the works of Jean-Baptist Say, Adam Smith, Destutt de Tracy, Charles Dunoyer, Charles Comte and other liberal thinkers. He seriously considered returning to academia to finish his schooling, but his grandfather's death in 1825 changed that. Frédéric was now the heir to a large estate and his interest in modern technological methods of farming inspired him. But efforts on his part to persuade others that new technology could help French farmers fell on deaf ears, a trend in France that has not changed much in the last 150 years.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Beware of Your Inner Fundamentalist

Are you a fundamentalist? The mere question would shock some readers, especially those of a more secular, libertarian bent who would think that rather impossible.

We are used to the idea of fundamentalism being associated with religion. After all it originated with the hateful, intolerant, small-minded Protestant sects that clung to a literalistic interpretation of the Bible in spite of overwhelming evidence against that view. We are used to seeing the fanatical terrorists as part of fundamentalist Islam. The anti-Semitic rants of Mel Gibson, and his even more hateful father, fit well with fundamentalist Catholicism.
But, as noted already, the strict definition of fundamentalism applied only to the Protestants sects defending “the fundamentals of the faith.” But the word took on a broader definition; one that described an attitude held by an individual believers.

Still many are reluctant to apply it outside of religious circles. Yet I see no reason to restrict the use of the term to only religious beliefs. A fundamentalist attitude can be found in numerous ideological circles as well. There are fundamentalist Marxists, fundamentalist Objectivists, fundamentalist liberals, fundamentalist libertarians, etc. No belief system is immune to the fundamentalist virus.
I want to outline a few of the traits of the fundamentalist mind. I do not claim that this an exhaustive description, I only wish to highlight a few of the more obvious thought patterns of the fundamentalist believer of all stripes.