Monthly Archives: January 2009

No moral right to rule us

I’m not a libertarian, but I like libertarians, and I listen to them. My best counterargument is often just a sheepish “people would never accept it”. I think big government fulfills a desire in people, like religion. If we got rid of it, it would just be reinvented, and who knows in what form? I’m just happy my government isn’t trying to kill me, and is run on well-meaning principles. That is rare enough.

Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism – A Freewheeling History of the American Libertarian Movement surveys the libertarian landscape, highlighting its fascinating thinkers and characters, from near-respectable economists to mystics and hippies. He paints the picture of a movement that is as infuriatingly impractical and stubbornly fractured as communism was, – except not evil, and never in power.

Radicals for Capitalism has only one dark chapter, the story of how Objectivism turned into a cult. Radicals for equality have killed people by the thousands and millions. The worst libertarianism has done is turn bright young people into assholes.

My favourite libertarian thinker remains Friedrich Hayek, whose pragmatic approach makes him relevant to all ideologies. (It also makes him repelling to purist libertarians). It’s bad enough that mainstream parties want the government to be involved in everything, but if they read Hayek (and Hazlitt) they might do it more efficiently.

(Correction: I have just been informed that libertarianism is Dead, because it’s to blame for all the banks and governments behaving like idiots. Never mind the above, then. Now how about a blogger bailout?)

Isn’t this beautiful?

Some would call this a stack of books. It’s really a queue. New books go in at the bottom, and they’re read from the top. I’ve learned that when you tend to have 20 unread books lying around at any time, you need to organize your reading.

I used to follow the “just put them wherever and pick them up from wherever” system, but it was too stressful. I’d begin on one book, but then a more interesting book would arrive in the mail, and I’d begin on that one too, meaning to go back to the first one later. But then a third book would arrive, and so on. So I ended up with a lot of half-read books that I meant to finish some day, and really felt I ought to. Reading stopped being fun.

The queue solved everything. I either finish the book at the top, or give it up, and put it away for good. I might put it back in the queue later, but I don’t keep half-read books lying around. One book at a time. Finish it or stop. Goto next.

I try not to reorganize the queue, but I do make exceptions. Right now, the bottom of the queue is a bit heavy on fantasy, quite by accident. I’ll probably thin it out with a different kind of book, to create variety. The point is to make it fun.

What, you don’t have fun when you’re reading? Well there’s your problem right there.

Running over it again and again with a lawnmower

One hears – often – that [Atlas Shrugged] changed a reader’s life; yet you can also hear of people, upon discovering a copy in a loved one’s room, throwing it out of a window “for their own good” – and someone in the yard, seeing what the offending book was, running over it again and again with a lawnmower, shredding it, ensuring that this copy at least could wreak no more harm, pollute no more minds.


[When Henry Hazlitt] intimated that “I do not pretend to agree with you in every point and in every statement; I do not imagine that you expect that kind of agreement”, the libertarian newsman was merely advertising his lack of imagination. Isabel Paterson responded that “it isn’t a question of agreement” with [God of the Machine]. “I tried to set forth axioms, principles, facts and deductions of a logical nature. They are either true or not true, but they don’t depend on agreement; they are so per se. Do you ‘agree’ with Euclid’s statement that a ‘straight line is the shortest distance between two points?’”


Tom Marshall ultimately embraced an even more radical and individualistic version of the Preform idea, which he dubbed Vonu – an invented word meaning a life outside the reach of any who could oppress you. In practice, it meant hiding in the woods of Oregon, where he managed to disappear from the sight or knowledge of anyone who ever knew him – his ultimate fate is unknown.

- Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism

30′s movies marathon – part 15

Fury (1936, USA) – Spencer Tracy, a stranger innocently arrested for kidnapping, faces the insane rage of a small town. This is a shocking movie about mob rule and revenge, with many unforgettable scenes. Fury is essentially an indictment of the masses for the murder of Justice. Its outlook is so cynical that even the somewhat happy ending, (whether forced on Fritz Lang by the studio or not), doesn’t resolve anything.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936, USA) – Errol Flynn was the Lord Flashheart of old Hollywood. The good thing about him starring in this movie is the hope that his character will die in the charge. The bad thing is that one fears he will somehow find a way to lead the light brigade to victory at the battle of Balaklava. Watched: 18 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where Errol Flynn dies(!!), although in an annoyingly glorious manner.

After the Thin Man (1936, USA) – Nick Charles is an alcoholic ex-detective, back when this was a sign of sophistication. In this second Thin Man movie based on Dashiell Hammett’s novels, there are further horrible relatives, farcical crime plots, and Clues liberally sprinkled everywhere. Watched it all.

The Dark Hour (1936, USA) – A murder mystery with no good qualities. One of the worst movies in the marathon so far. Watched: 13 minutes.

Sweeney Todd (1936, UK) – I didn’t like Tim Burton’s version, and this one isn’t even pretty – or audible. Watched: 16 minutes.

Den vakre politikerforakten

Det er en del av meg som gleder seg over alle de smålige lovene vi har som ikke lar seg håndheve, så som når regjeringen nå ønsker å utvide forbudet mot hatefulle ytringer til å gjelde “kvalifiserte angrep” på religion og livssyn. Forslaget er dårlig, men det er også meningsløst. Kommer du til å tenke på dette neste gang du skriver om religion? Ikke jeg heller. En slik lov er mest egnet til å skape forakt for lovverket og for politikere. Og det er bra.

Det finnes en farlig politikerforakt. Det er den du får når folk føler at de står utenfor politikken, og ikke blir hørt. Når de fleste av oss godtar at landet i blant styres av våre politiske motstandere, er det fordi vi vet at neste gang kan det bli vår egen tur. Uten denne tilliten faller alt.

Den gode politikerforakten handler om å innse at politikerne ikke vet alt, og at det finnes en høyere moralsk standard enn lovverket. Hvis alle politikere var smarte, og alle lover gode, ville dette være lett å glemme. De smålige lovene vaksinerer oss, så vi står bedre rustet den dagen de virkelig farlige ideene våkner opp igjen.

Jeg vil derfor oppfordre alle til å ignorere dårlige lover når du kan, og le av dumme politikere, med god samvittighet. Nå får vi i tillegg håpe at det ikke blir noe av lovendringen om religionskritikk, (signer her!) – en dårlig lov er fremdeles en dårlig lov – men det ville altså være trist om de forsvant alle sammen.

30′s movies marathon – part 14

Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936, USA) – A small town guy inherits millions in New York, where he outwits swindlers and cynics by being so simple he’s clever. In the war of city against town, I’m on the side of the city, and Mr Deeds is wish fullfilment for people who think that living in a small town makes them honest and real. But .. I love it, it’s adorable. It’s so simple and nice that it outwits clever analysis. Watched it all.

Sabotage (1936, UK) – What could it be, it’s a mirage / You’re scheming on a thing, that’s sabotage. But as for this movie, Hitchcock must have still been learning at the time. Watched: 17 minutes. IMDB reviewers say it’s one of his most underappreciated movies, which is a stupid thing to say.

One Fatal Hour (1936, USA) – A decent family woman finds her murderous past turned into a radio play, which is bad for some reason. Only Humphrey Bogart is interesting in this comedy, he plays the radio manager like a hardboiled detective. Watched: 21 minutes.

Wife vs Secretary
(1936, USA) – Wealthy New Yorkers flirt and banter. It’s all fun and games in the magazine publishing business, and although I expect a minor crisis two thirds into the movie involving Clark Gable’s wife learning a new emotion called “jealousy”, it will no doubt all be resolved in a sophisticated manner. Watched: 38 minutes, then fast-forwarded to the crisis. (It’s actually four fifths in.)