State intervention

The White House appointed “car czar” threatened an investment bank that was delaying the US government’s “plans” for Chrysler-

Perella Weinberg Partners, Lauria said, “was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under the threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight. That’s how hard it is to stand on this side of the fence.”

This post (via K.M.) compares it to fascism, and I agree. I like the language the author has used, and have no doubt this is how the conversation must have taken place-

Who the fuck do you think you’re dealing with? We’ll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.

As someone wondered, what are the czars doing in USA.


A guest post at Cynicus Economicus, by Lord Keynes, discusses the philosophical justification for state intervention. Among other things, he writes-

Natural law as a theory can be traced back to Plato…

Natural law was famously attacked by the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham as “nonsense on stilts.”

One of the main weaknesses of natural law theory is that its main historical justification was the belief in a “divine order” and a divinely-created human nature that makes us conform to “natural law.”

[…]

In the early modern period, rationalist European philosophers like Grotius tried to defend natural law theory by removing God and the previous supernatural justification for it.

However, in doing so, they destroyed the only convincing explanation for belief in natural law.

Thus anyone who accepts an atheistic and naturalistic scientific view of the universe, and who rejects all religion, has no reason to believe in natural law or natural rights.

It follows that all modern types of libertarianism or free market economics based simply on a “natural law” or “natural rights” foundation are severely flawed systems (e.g., the systems of Adam Smith or Murray Rothbard).

There is no reason to believe that the “natural law” that justifies placing inviolable property rights at the centre of our modern political or economic systems has any validity whatsoever.

He horribly misstates the case. From “An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law”-

It is significant that Greek thinkers always couple custom and enactment; things which today we contrast. These were the formal bases of legal authority. So Aristotle considers, not natural law and positive law, but what is just in itself—just by nature or just in its idea—and what derives its sole title to be just from convention or enactment. The latter, he says, can be just only with respect to those things which by nature are indifferent.

[…]

It must be borne in mind that that “nature” did not mean to antiquity what it means to us who are under the influence of the idea of evolution. To the Greek, it has been said, the natural apple was not the wild one from which our cultivated apple has been grown, but rather the golden apple of Hesperides. The “natural” object was that which expressed most completely the idea of the thing. It was the perfect object. Hence the natural law was that which expressed perfectly the idea of law, and a rule of natural law was one which expressed perfectly the idea of law applied to the subject in question; the one which gave to the subject its perfect development.

“Natural law” and “natural rights” emerge from the nature of man, and his relationship with society, and are connected to the concept of “justice.” Its a perfectly sound concept. What isn’t sound is Kantian deontological ethics, and (rule) utilitarianism, or the bastard child – “Utilitarian Kantian Principle” – emerging from their marriage. I can see how “rule utilitarianism” and Kantian ethics fit. Both are, to quote Bentham, “nonsense on stilts.”

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Comments

  • gravityrestatement  On May 6, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Bentham was a major philosopher, to be sure, but utilitarianism has its limits.

    According to the utilitarian ethos, if the millions benefit when the innocent man is executed, then it is regrettable but acceptable.

    It’s the same logic used 2,000 years ago when another famous philospher was executed. Must we repeat history?

    You won’t, on the other hand, find me giving a plug to Chrysler.

    Kant was excellent, too, in my opinion. Did you Einstein read “Critique of Pure Reason” (Kant) at thirteen? Einstein must have had those ideas in his intellectual baggage when he formulated Relativity Theory.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On May 6, 2009 at 4:46 am

      # “utilitarianism has its limits…”
      I say utilitarianism has no basis. The “calculus” is baseless because every individual is different and one can’t assign “values” to them.

      # “Kant was excellent, too, in my opinion.”
      I have been reading a book on him for the past few months, and also bits and pieces of CPR. I don’t think too highly of his ethics, or his metaphysics and epistemology. The first can be used to defend any political system, and the second kills any chance of an objective interpretation of the world. Doesn’t help at all, and that’s an understatement.

      # “Einstein must have had those ideas in his intellectual baggage…”
      Relativity and Quantum Mechanics has Kant written all over them.

      • gravityrestatement  On May 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm

        In fairness to Immanuel Kant, I think one should read his other work, “Perpetual Peace”, lest one fall into misinterpretation of his work. As I remember it, the object of law according to that writing is, as the name indicates, perpetual peace.

        Hegel, a student of Kant, presented uncontroversial ideas when he wrote at length about dialectic analysis. To my mind, his work on that issue simply reminds one to be thorough with logic and language. Dialectic analysis has been around since the Greeks, and similar forms of argument were known to other ancient cultures as well. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic )

        Marx, a student of Hegel, is the philosopher that betrays the philosophic school because he advocates violence. With Marx, one leaves the Aristotelian world of debate and civil change, and one reverts to the world of violence, bloodshed (usually) and cult worship.

        • Aristotle The Geek  On May 8, 2009 at 12:26 am

          I am not misinterpreting anything. I know of his liberal politics. My problem is with the philosopher (any philosopher actually) and his ideas. If he says that we can have no knowledge of “things in themselves” and builds an ethical system on duty, as also context-independent deontology (thou shall not lie under any circumstances?), its only a matter of time before some one like Hegel will come with his Idea and then trash philosophy and logic (I don’t find Hegel non-controversial – he can’t invent a “new” system of “contradictory” logic to suit his philosophy). And its a matter of time before Marx comes and bases his crazy ideas on Hegel.

          As von Mises said

          This opposition to freedom, the Marxian attitude, is typical of those on the “left” or “progressive” side. People are surprised to learn that the so-called “liberals” are not in favor of freedom. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [1770–1831], the famous German philosopher, gave rise to two schools—the “left” Hegelians and the “right” Hegelians. Karl Marx [1818–1883] was the most important of the “left” Hegelians. The Nazis came from the “right” Hegelians.

          Ayn Rand believed on the power of ideas. Bad ideas, even if purveyed by a “good” man – especially by a “good” man – can cause serious damage. That’s why she called Immanuel Kant the most evil man in the history of mankind. More here.

          You simply have to see the people who claim a Kantian influence, the “egalitarian” Rawls among others, and the influence of philosophy on the real world to realize why its insufficient to look at philosophers as mere scholars, or consider only a part of their system.

          # “because he advocates violence…”
          Violence and coercion are not bad on their own. Only their initiation is. That’s what Marx advocated, and that’s one of the reasons he needs to be condemned.

      • gravityrestatement  On May 7, 2009 at 11:09 pm

        The New England Transcendental movement – which included figures like Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson – grew out of ideas like Kant’s Transcendentalism.

  • warthog  On May 6, 2009 at 11:10 am

    look at this

    sc orders to ave gps tracking of all cars
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/SC-grants-three-months-to-implement-high-security-registration-plates/articleshow/4488008.cms

    total violation of fundamental right to privacy.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On May 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

      Indians do not have any “fundamental” rights. The SC is aware of that, and supports the position.

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