More on McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues ( Law & Legal Issues ) by David Boaz

Following up on Radley's mention of Deirdre McCloskey's article on bourgeois virtues, here's what I just posted at the Guardian's "Comment is free" site: 
At Cato Policy Report the brilliant economist Deirdre McCloskey of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Erasmus University of Amsterdam (formerly the brilliant economist Donald McCloskey) writes about "bourgeois virtues," the subject of her new book. McCloskey says that in Western civilization we have traditionally recognized two kinds of virtues — the aristocratic virtues such as courage, and the peasant or Christian virtues such as faith, hope, and charity. But, she argues, these virtues were developed for a pre-capitalist world of defined social classes. In the United States and an increasing part of the world, very few people are aristocrats and no one is condemned to peasant life. Rather, we are all bourgeois now. We live in commercial society, mostly in towns (the root of the word bourgeois). We're mostly middle class and engaged in business, as entrepreneurs, investors, managers, or employees, and also as customers. And since the beginning of bourgeois society, the vocabulary of virtues has been used to berate and denounce capitalism. We're told that business is based on greed, not on virtue. It may be necessary to modern life, but businessmen are still expected to accept their dubious moral standing. Wouldn't sharing be more virtuous than selling? Isn't it better to serve society than to produce wealth? Read more...

Posted on July 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Shameless ( General ) by David Boaz

From the July 13 issue of The Hill
The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will hold a reception next week to honor a select group of lawmakers "for their hard work, service, time and the sacrifices made in upholding the office with which they were entrusted." One of the people slated to receive such accolades is former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). The disgraced ex-legislator, of course, can't make the July 19 event or any other social gathering in the near future because he's serving a prison term of eight-plus years for a bribery scandal you may have heard about.... Another honoree is former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).... The co-hosts of the event will include members of leadership, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

(Cross-posted from my one-line blog "To Be Governed . . . ")

Posted on July 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

I’d Vote for Grendel over Al Gore ( General ) by David Boaz

So I suppose it's no surprise that as Gore's movie is getting credulous reviews from coast to coast, a new opera opens in New York that makes Grendel "likable."

Posted on July 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Orrin Hatch Backs Drug Legalization ( General ) by David Boaz

Who would've thunk it? Turns out that former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) doesn't believe in jail terms for drug users. At least I guess that's what this story means:
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a musician in his own right, helped secure the release of Atlanta R&B producer Dallas Austin from a Dubai jail after a drug conviction, the senator's office confirmed Saturday. In a statement released through his staff, the conservative Republican said he was contacted by Austin's attorneys, then called the ambassador and consul of the United Arab Emirates in Washington on Austin's behalf. A Grammy winner who has produced hits for Madonna, Pink and TLC, Austin was arrested May 19 and convicted of drug possession for bringing 1.26 grams of cocaine into Dubai.
Surely Hatch thinks regular old Americans are due the same consideration as a Grammy-winning singer. He'd advocate the release of any American convicted of possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine, right? Or are politicians hypocrites? Could it be that they think average Americans like Richard Paey should go to jail for using large amounts of painkillers, but not celebrities like Rush Limbaugh? Could it be that they laugh about their own past drug use while supporting a policy that arrests 1.5 million Americans a year, as a classic John Stossel "Give Me a Break" segment showed? (Not online, unfortunately, but you can read a commentary here.) Putting people in jail for using drugs is bad enough. Putting the little people in jail while politicians chortle over their own drug use and pull strings to get celebrities out of jail is hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Posted on July 11, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Let the market decide

Again and again, individuals insist on making their own decisions - much to the frustration of governments and planners.

Posted on July 11, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Rick Santorum: Left, Right, and Wrong ( General ) by David Boaz

The New York Times reports that Sen. Rick Santorum...
...distributed a brochure this week as he worked a sweltering round of town hall meetings and Fourth of July parades: "Fifty Things You May Not Know About Rick Santorum." It is filled with what he called meat and potatoes, like his work to expand colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries (No. 3), or to secure money for "America's first ever coal to ultra-clean fuel plant" (No. 2).... He said he wanted Pennsylvanians to think of him as a political heir to Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York, who was known as Senator Pothole for being acutely attuned to constituent needs.
So . . . the third-ranking Republican leader in the Senate wants to be known as a porker, an earmarker, and Senator Pothole. Santorum had already dismissed limited government in theory. He told NPR last year:
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can't go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we've had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
He declared himself against individualism, against libertarianism, against "this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea that people should be left alone." Now he's also against the conservative idea that taxpayers matter, that the federal government has a limited role. No wonder Jonathan Rauch wrote last year that, "America's Anti-Reagan Isn't Hillary Clinton. It's Rick Santorum." Rauch noted:
In his book he comments, seemingly with a shrug, "Some will reject what I have to say as a kind of 'Big Government' conservatism." They sure will. A list of the government interventions that Santorum endorses includes national service, promotion of prison ministries, "individual development accounts," publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, economic literacy programs in "every school in America" (his italics), and more. Lots more.
Rauch concluded,
With It Takes a Family, Rick Santorum has served notice. The bold new challenge to the Goldwater-Reagan tradition in American politics comes not from the Left, but from the Right.
At least Santorum is right about one thing: sometimes the left and the right meet in the center. In this case the big-spending, intrusive, mommy-AND-daddy-state center. But he's wrong that we've never had a firmly individualist society where people are "left alone, able to do whatever they want to do." It's called America.

Posted on July 10, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Ron Paul in the Post ( General ) by David Boaz

The Washington Post profiles libertarian congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) -- in its Sunday Style section, which is sort of a throwaway placement. It's one of those 1970s-style laundry list stories:
The amiable Texas congressman would do away with the CIA and the Federal Reserve. He'd reinstate the gold standard. He'd get rid of the Department of Education.
Rather than really try to present the argument for individual rights and limited constitutional government, drawing on public choice economics and the failures of government programs, the reporter just lists one out-of-the-mainstream position after another. Still, she does make it clear that he's philosophically principled and not your typical Bush-supporting JFK-lookalike 21st-century congressman. Here's an interesting point about Ron Paul that I haven't seen anyone make: As far as I know, Ron Paul is the only member of Congress who has been elected three times as a non-incumbent. Two of those times he beat an incumbent. He first won a special election in 1976, then lost that fall. Two years later he came back and defeated incumbent Bob Gammage. After three terms he ran for the Senate, losing the Republican nomination to Phil Gramm. The really bad news was that he was replaced by Tom DeLay. In 1988 Paul was the Libertarian Party nominee for president. Then in 1996, 20 years after his first election and 12 years after he had last won election to the House, he ran again in a differently configured district. He had to beat Democrat-turned-Republican incumbent Greg Laughlin in the primary -- against the opposition of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Rifle Association, former attorney general Ed Meese, Senators Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Gov. George W. Bush. Given that kind of firepower and the incumbent reelection rate of about 99 percent these days, Ron Paul has a remarkable political record. He must be doing something right back in Texas.

Posted on July 10, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Better than Investing ( Foreign Policy ) by David Boaz

Former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham had a bribe menu for lobbyists who wanted government contracts. Amazingly, it wasn't just an understanding between friends, or a general concept. He actually wrote it down on his congressional stationery. As Brian Ross reported for ABC News:
The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe. The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.
I love the volume discount. And I especially love the fact that Cunningham didn't think his customers could handle the math involved in "it's $50,000 for each million." Instead, he wrote down each increment with "50" next to it. (See the card here.) Read more...

Posted on July 7, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Mexico’s Thin Margin ( Foreign Policy ) by David Boaz

NPR keeps reporting that conservative Felipe Calderon seems to have won the Mexican presidential election "by the thinnest of margins." Thin, yes. But I wouldn't call it "the thinnest." At this writing, Calderon leads by 243,000 votes, about 0.5 percent in an electorate of 40 million. John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960 by about 118,000 votes out of 69 million cast, or 0.15 percent. (And that's if you give Kennedy about 320,000 Democratic votes in Alabama, even though only five of Alabama's 11 Democratic electors intended to vote for Kennedy. If you don't credit the Alabama votes to Kennedy, then he would win the electoral college vote while losing the popular vote.) Nixon got his revenge eight years later, defeating Hubert Humphrey by about 500,000 votes, or 0.70 percent in an electorate of 73 million. And then of course there was George W. Bush, whose popular vote margin was about minus 500,000 in 2000. Calderon's margin is thin, but it is "the thinnest" only by Mexican standards, not when compared to U.S. presidential elections.

Posted on July 7, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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