FEBRUARY 27, 2019
It is my distinct honor---and pleasure---to formally announce a forthcoming book: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, a trailblazing collection of essays by a diverse group of scholars, coming from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. The anthology has been coedited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins. It is slated for publication by Lexington Books in June 2019 and it is sure to be a provocative read for anyone interested in liberty and the contexts that nourish---or undermine---it.
Readers can find the book's home page here (which is redirected from both Dialectics of Liberty.com and Dialectics and Liberty.com). As we state on our abstracts page:
These essays explore ways that liberty can be better defended using a dialectical approach, a mode of analysis that grasps the full context of philosophical, cultural, and social factors requisite to the sustenance of human freedom. The contributors represent a variety of disciplines and perspectives who apply explicitly dialectical tools to a classical liberal / libertarian analysis of social and cultural issues. By conjoining a dialectical method, typically associated with the socialist left, to a defense of individual liberty, typically associated with the libertarian right, this anthology challenges contemporary attitudes on both ends of the political spectrum.
Abstracts for all the articles that are included in the anthology can be found here and contributor biographies can be found here. For those who just can't wait to read through those links, here is a glimpse of what to expect:
Table of Contents
Introduction - Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Edward W. Younkins
Part I: Foundations and Systems of Liberty
Chapter 1: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism - Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Chapter 2: Freedom and Flourishing: Toward a Synthesis of Traditions and Disciplines - Edward W. Younkins
Chapter 3: The Unchained Dialectic and the Renewal of Libertarian Inquiry - John F. Welsh
Chapter 4: Whence Natural Rights? - Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
Chapter 5: Dialogical Arguments for Libertarian Rights - Stephan Kinsella
Chapter 6: Dialectical Psychology: The Road to Depassement - Robert L. Campbell
Part II: Government, Economy, and Culture
Chapter 7: Don Lavoie's Dialectical Liberalism - Nathan Goodman
Chapter 8: Free Speech, Rhetoric, and a Free Economy - Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Chapter 9: Exploring the Interconnections of Politics, Economics, and Culture - Robert Higgs
Chapter 10: Context Matters: Finding a Home for Labor-Managed Enterprise - David L. Prychitko
Chapter 11: The Dialectic of Culture and Markets in Expanding Family Freedom - Steven Horwitz
Chapter 12: Up from Oppression: Triumph and Tragedy in the Great American Songbook - Roger E. Bissell
Part III: Justice, Liberation, and Rights
Chapter 13: Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors - Roderick T. Long
Chapter 14: Radical Liberalism and Social Liberation - Gary Chartier
Chapter 15: Social Equality and Liberty - Billy Christmas
Chapter 16: Formal vs. Substantive Statism: A Matter of Context - Kevin A. Carson
Chapter 17: The Political Is Interpersonal: An Interpretation and Defense of Libertarian Immediatism - Jason Lee Byas
Chapter 18: Aesthetics, Ritual, Property, and Fish: A Dialectical Approach to the Evolutionary Foundations of Property - Troy Camplin
About the Editors and Contributors
Anyone taking a look at the contributors to this book might be scratching their heads a bit, wondering how some of the authors associated with the volume may very well not associate themselves with the views of other authors herein represented. Let me say by way of introduction, that this collection falls under the category of "Big Tent" classical liberalism / libertarianism: It is not presented as a monolithic view of what a dialectical approach to human freedom must be. Rather, it is a sign of the fruitful interplay of ideas and theories that might result when classical liberal and libertarian thinkers adopt a context-sensitive dialectical approach, making their political project a living research program that will necessarily generate a variety of perspectives, united only in their ideological commitment to freedom and their methodological commitment to a dialectical sensibility.
I should just add that this is purely an announcement: I'd like to save the debates for when the book is published and folks actually have a chance to read the essays, before passing judgments, either positive or negative on the contents of the volume. I know that our authors would greatly appreciate critical feedback; but nothing advances human knowledge when judgments are reached on the basis of reading short abstracts or brief biographies. Suffice it to say: We are going to have plenty of time and many forums in which to debate the contents of this book.
For now, I would simply like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my hard-working fellow editors, and our remarkable group of superb scholars, whose commitment to the project has been a delight to behold.
So many more Notablog posts with further information on the forthcoming book to come ...
Postscript: This Notablog announcement was shared on Facebook by quite a few people, reaching potentially thousands of readers. I'm delighted by the response, and added a few points in several threads. The most important point I made, however, was in response to some folks who criticized the inclusion of people whose views they oppose. Here was my response:
If I may add a point: One of the reasons that folks as diverse as Stephan Kinsella and Kevin Carson are in the same volume is because each applies a dialectical sensibility to the topic of their essays; we wanted a volume that would represent the wide range of perspectives and disciplines that might be engaged in a genuinely radical classical liberal / libertarian research program.
And if I may be so bold: I think that the volume constitutes a virtual paradigmatic shift in its explicit embrace of a dialectical sensibility in furtherance of a radical libertarian social theory. From the early 1980s through to the publication of my Dialectics and Liberty trilogy (from 1995 to 2000), I felt like "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." But I argued that many classical liberals and contemporary libertarians had already embraced a dialectical approach to libertarian social theory, even if they had not named it as such. That today, 30+ years after I started this project, I am a co-editor of a volume that features such talented scholars who are not afraid to utter the words "dialectic" and "liberty" in the same sentence is of great significance to me. I'm very proud to be associated with this project, and prouder still of the work that each author contributed to it. It's a Big Tent folks: Get under it! :)
Postscript II: The debate over the contents and its contributors has continued, so I made the following observation on one of the Facebook threads:
I have to admit that if this is how worked up folks are getting over the list of contents and contributors, i just can't imagine what will happen when the book is actually released and its contents are actually read, comprehended, and commented upon.
As a matter of fact, even I don't agree with every essay in the book; this is of little consequence, however. What was more important to me was to amass a group of writers from every discipline and a variety of perspectives, who demonstrated an attention to the larger context within which freedom might be nourished---or undermined. There is not a single author in this book who does not qualify on those grounds. I may disagree with the way some folks apply certain dialectical tools of analysis to their subject matter, but in a sense, the book itself is an example of the very "dialectics" of liberty it proposes, at least in terms of its original intent of meaning: that in viewing the issues at hand, we look at them from as many different vantage points and on many different levels of generality as is possible, to reveal relationships that might be obscured by one-dimensional readings.
Even in disagreeing with this or that author, it is my hope that folks, especially those who adhere to classical liberal / libertarian ideas, might actually embrace the "rivalrous" readings offered in this volume, in much the same way that they embrace the "rivalrous competition" they extol as one of the virtues of free markets. Embrace the differences; you don't have to agree. But celebrate the fact that the editors had the audacity to put this volume together and that the contributors, even those that found themselves on opposite sides of certain issues, were courageous enough to be a part of what is sure to be a provocative, trailblazing anthology.
As I said: If this is the reaction we're getting from a Table of Contents, abstracts, and biographies, I can only imagine what might happen when the volume comes out in June! Mount Vesuvius ain't got nothin' on us! :)
This post was shared on quite a few Facebook pages, and also noted on several blogs, including that of Center for a Stateless Society, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Austro-Athenian Empire, and StephanKinsella.com.
FEBRUARY 25, 2019
Song of the Day: The Monkees ("Main Theme" or "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees"), words and music by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, was the theme song of the TV show "The Monkees," that I regularly watched as a child. On February 21st, Peter Tork, one of the quartet's original members, passed away. Check out the memorable theme [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 24, 2019
Song of the Day: Yentl ("Papa Can You Hear Me?") features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the music of the late Michel Legrand, who would have turned 87 today. I still feel the sadness of his passing. How apropos then to conclude our Film Music February tribute on Oscar Day with a song from this man who died on January 26th, days before our annual tribute began. He gave so much to the art of the score throughout his illustrious career. This song comes from the 1983 film, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, who became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Directing Award (for a Musical or Comedy), as the film itself took home Globe honors for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy). This particular song, along with "The Way He Makes Me Feel," was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song, but lost out to "Flashdance: What a Feeling." But Legrand and the Bergmans took home the Oscar for Best Original Score (Adaptation). Tonight, composers and lyricists will take home awards for scoring and songs at the 91st Annual Academy Awards. And we'll be back next year for another Film Music February tribute. For now, check out this song as heard in the 1983 film [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 23, 2019
Song of the Day: Sharky's Machine ("High Energy") [YouTube link] was composed by Bob Florence for the jazz-infused soundtrack to this 1981 thriller, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds. Reynolds is sure to be among those mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment of tomorrow night's broadcast of the Academy Awards. This particular track from the film is performed with blazing heat by the Doc Severinsen Band.
FEBRUARY 22, 2019
Song of the Day: Christmas in Connecticut ("The Wish That I Wish Tonight"), music by M. K. Jerome, lyrics by Jack Scholl, is heard over the opening credits to this 1945 film, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. Check out the music in the title sequence and as sung by Dennis Morgan in the film. The song was also a hit for the Ray Noble Orchestra with vocalist Trudy Erwin and Jo Stafford [YouTube links].
FEBRUARY 21, 2019
Song of the Day: The Godfather, Part III ("Promise Me You'll Remember"), words and music by Carmine Coppola and John Bettis, was the love theme from the concluding part of the Francis Ford Coppola "Godfather" trilogy. Nominated for "Best Original Song" at both the Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Awards, it was performed on the film's soundtrack [YouTube link] by Harry Connick, Jr.
FEBRUARY 20, 2019
Song of the Day: To Catch a Thief ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Lyn Martin, provides a lively opening to this visually stunning 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. This was one of four films that Grant did with Hitchcock and one of three films that Kelly did with Hitchcock. The pairing of Grant and Kelly in a Hitchcock [YouTube "Dick Cavett" interview clip] film with the French Riviera as backdrop thrills audiences with romance, suspense, and literal fireworks [YouTube link]. Today is the 100th anniversary of my mother's birth; she passed away in 1995, but not even a five-year bout with lung cancer could dull the intensity of her love for Cary Grant (she would practically fall over from excitement, watching Cary run in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" famous crop-duster scene! [YouTube link]). So this one's for Mom... and for Cary!
FEBRUARY 19, 2019
Song of the Day: Airport ("Emergency Landing") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, is a musical highlight from the 1970 film that originated the "disaster genre" that would come to dominate the decade. This was the last film Newman scored prior to his death on February 17th of that year, a month before he would have turned 70 and less than a month before the release of this film (on March 5, 1970). Nominated for forty-five Oscars throughout his scoring career, Newman would go on to win nine Academy Awards for Best Original Score, third behind Walt Disney, with twenty-six, and art director/production designer Cedric Gibbons, with eleven.
FEBRUARY 18, 2019
Song of the Day: El Cid ("Palace Music") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is a gentle theme for flute and guitar for the soundtrack to the 1961 Anthony Mann-directed epic (which was lovingly restored by Martin Scorsese in 1993), starring Charlton Heston in the title role and Sophia Loren as Dona Ximena. For his gorgeous cinematic soundtrack,Rozsa received an Oscar nomination as well as for Best Original Song ("The Falcon and the Dove"), losing to Henry Mancini in both categories (who won for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Moon River," respectively).
FEBRUARY 17, 2019
Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Anno Domini") [YouTube link] composed by Miklos Rozsa, comes immediately after the "Overture" in the 1959 Biblical epic, which still holds the all-time Oscar record with 11 Academy Awards, including "Best Picture" (tied by "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" except "Ben-Hur" is the only one among these that includes two Oscars for acting categories). This cue opens with the score's famous three-note motif and serves as the backdrop for the narration [YouTube link], which tells us the story of Rome's occupation of Judea, a prelude to the Nativity scene [YouTube link]. Director William Wyler bookends this "Tale of the Christ" with the birth and crucifixion of Jesus [YouTube link], whose presence is felt throughout the film, without ever seeing his face or hearing his voice---except through the expressions and experiences of the other characters. Known as the first "intimate epic" [pdf], this film remains my all-time favorite with my all-time favorite score, and it's become a tradition of sorts for me to highlight a cue from this soundtrack on this date, my birthday. Unlike the film, however, I'm not yet 60! Not that there's anything wrong with that [YouTube link]. For those who haven't seen the finest film version of the classic Lew Wallace tale, it will be shown as part of TCM's 31 Days of Oscar tomorrow afternoon.
FEBRUARY 16, 2019
Song of the Day: Love, Simon ("Roller Coaster"), words and music by Jack Antonoff and John Hill, can be heard on the soundtrack to this endearing coming-of-age 2018 film. The Bleachers' song (not to be confused with that great jazz track [mp3 track] by that illustrious duo Carl Barry and Joanne Barry, my jazz guitar brother and jazz vocalist sister-in-law, nepotism aside) is a retro-80s-sounding rock track [YouTube link]. It first appeared on the Bleachers' debut album, "Strange Desire" and was also heard in the second season finale of the Netflix series, "13 Reasons Why."
FEBRUARY 15, 2019
Song of the Day: Home Room ("Going Home") [site link] was composed by my colleague and friend, Michael Gordon Shapiro, for a 2002 film, starring Erika Christensen, Busy Phillips, and Victor Garber, dealing with the traumatic psychological effects in the aftermath of a school shooting. It is a phenomenon that continues to haunt American society (yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting), and Shapiro brings to it an understated poignancy that reflects the tragic, numbing sense of loss that one would expect in a score of this nature.
FEBRUARY 14, 2019
Song of the Day: Dr. Zhivago ("Lara's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Maurice Jarre for his Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1965 film, remains one of the most famous, sprawling romantic melodies to emerge from the cinema. From the David Lean-directed epic, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie and based on the Boris Pasternak novel, with the Russian revolution as backdrop, the theme can also be heard with accompanying film clips and in a jazz arrangement by the Harry James Band [YouTube links]. But it was by request of singer Connie Francis that a vocal version (with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) materialized as "Somewhere My Love" (nominated in 1967 for Grammy Song of the Year). It was recorded first by Ray Conniff and the Singers (who took it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100), and also by Connie Francis and Andy Williams [YouTube links]. Whatever melancholy one might find in the lyrics, I want to wish a Happy Valentine's Day to all!
FEBRUARY 13, 2019
Song of the Day: Two for the Road ("Something for Audrey") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is only one of the lush, romantic tracks from the utterly gorgeous score for this 1967 film, starring Audrey Hepburn, with whom Mancini had a musical love affair. Mancini received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score, and long considered the title song [YouTube links] from the film his all-time favorite and it's one of my all-time favorites too!). The film also stars the late Albert Finney, who passed away on February 7, 2019 at the age of 82 [YouTube links from one of Finney's best moments in "Erin Brockovich," for which he received one of his five Oscar nominations]. The Stanley Donen-directed flick was experimental for its day, since it told its story of a twelve-year marriage (the principals played by Hepburn and Finney) in a nonlinear fashion. This was Hepburn's third Donen-directed film (the others were "Funny Face" and "Charade," the latter featuring another great Mancini score [YouTube link]). Today's Film Music February entry is just preparing you for a romantic tomorrow.
FEBRUARY 12, 2019
Song of the Day: Soldier in the Rain ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is one of the maestro's most beautifully orchestrated film themes. It can be heard in this 1960 film starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, an unlikely pair, indeed. Adapted from the William Goldman novel by Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin, the film has a lot to say about the special bonds of friendship that can be forged between folks who often march to a different beat. Today begins a two-day appreciation for Mancini's melodic movie music.
FEBRUARY 11, 2019
Song of the Day: The Adventures of Robin Hood ("Main Title") [YouTube link] is the rousing opening composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold for the truly wonderful 1938 film, starring the great swashbuckling Errol Flynn and his steadfast co-star Olivia de Havilland, with whom he appeared in eight films. She is still going strong at 102 years of age. I highlighted a classic cue from this Korngold Oscar-winning soundtrack back in 2007, but the Main Title still shines as memorable movie music.
FEBRUARY 10, 2019
In another Facebook thread, Jack Criss discusses Leonard Peikoff's course (turned into an edited, transcribed book), "Teaching Johnny To Think: A Philosophy of Education Based on the Principles of Ayn Rand's Objectivism." I commented on the course and on other Objectivist contributions to discussions of education and pedagogy:
I remember the audio lectures (of Peikoff's Education course) from years ago. [They are a] good companion piece to Rand's essay on "The Comprachicos" and Barbara Branden's lectures on "Principles of Efficient Thinking" (published as "Think as If Your Life Depends On It").
Whatever your views of Barbara as a person (and she and I were dear friends), that course was an authorized course under NBI and is pure gold. I also wrote the foreword to its print version. Though the Objectivists don't speak the language of "dialectics", I think the course offers gems on how to think dialectically (that is, contextually). It is really a terrific book to finally see in print. I think Barbara made a very real contribution. It is really the first book ever written on Objectivist psycho-epistemology, an area of study that she brought to the attention of both NB and AR.
[It is true that] every person who gave lectures at NBI had to get the approval of Rand, which is why Rand made it a point of saying that all the works, lectures, etc., given by the Brandens prior to 1968 were still among the only "authorized" sources on Objectivism. But to my knowledge, Barbara authored that course, certainly with Rand's editorial oversight. Let's not forget, however, that Barbara did earn a graduate degree in philosophy under Sidney Hook, the same NYU philosopher who was the mentor to Leonard Peikoff. Barbara's graduate thesis on free will was a gem. (I also remarked that Peikoff's doctoral thesis under Hook was "a fine dissertation--though LP distanced himself from it, unnecessarily in my view. While we are on the subject, I think the best course Peikoff ever gave was his "Understanding Objectivism.")
The NB "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course was the first systematization of Rand's philosophy and on that basis alone is of prime historical interest. But it also offers some very fine material that is not covered in Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" presentation, especially the material on self-esteem. BTW, the sad part about the "Understanding Objectivism" book is that it is edited; Edith Packer gave two very good lectures in that course, but given Peikoff's falling out with George Reisman (and Packer, his wife), none of that material is in the book. And the book, of course, lacks the interesting Q&A discussions.
Unfortunately, the online course that is currently available cuts out those two lectures by Packer. I don't know if it also cuts out the Question and Answer sessions, but Peikoff does a very good job of discussing the various problems that emerge within Objectivism when it is infected by "empiricist" or "rationalist" elements; he even makes a good case against the split between emotion and reason, and against the use of moralizing and psychologizing in Objectivism. (Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, I don't believe the important points he made quite sunk in; and in many respects, some of his comments with regard to the errors that some Randians make in their application of Objectivism were first examined by Nathaniel Branden in what was, perhaps, his finest post-Randian work, "The Disowned Self.")
No, I'm not the next Ann Landers or Dear Abby, but I figured I'd pass on this advice, given on a Facebook thread, to Notablog readers as well. My friend Nick Manley who started a Facebook discussion on the difficulties of being in relationships when one is a "radical political type" who tends "to categorize whole groups of people as friends or enemies to a degree that more centrist and less conflictual minded political types generally don't." I dispensed a little personal advice (which pertains to friendships as much as it does to romantic relationships):
All I can say is that I have rarely been in relationships with folks who agreed with me ideologically (it's not as if there is a multitude of "dialectical libertarians" out there); I tend to have a live-and-let-live attitude in this area. There are many areas where people can find commonality: "sense of life", likes and dislikes on a wide palette that goes from food to film to music, etc.
So, being "dialectical" about it: Don't 'reify' any single aspect of any single person and let it represent the whole person. Look at the person's whole context in conjunction with your own; I tend to look for commonality on a very wide scale. Life does not have to be an intellectual dog fight. If you are going to make friends or enemies on a strictly ideological litmus test, you'll be a very lonely person---for absolutely no reason at all. Complementary or even deep ideological differences should not be "deal-breakers" in human relationships; people are much more than what they believe (or claim to believe). Why seal yourself off from folks just because you disagree over politics?!
In New York, our very own "Democratic Socialist," Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has been a vocal proponent of a so-called "Green" New Deal, aimed at solving the problem of "climate change" with massive government intervention. I replied to a Facebook question on the issue, and will share what I said with Notablog readers:
I think there are two very real issues that need to be examined with this climate change question. Let us assume that every point by those who argue for the validity of climate change is correct.
With regard to pollution issues, why assume that the government has any more "knowledge" in resolving the issues than actors in a competitive market system in which there are different players acting on their differential "know how" of the market for clean energy? Central planning didn't work for any other issue, so why assume it will do anything but shift billions of dollars in taxpayer money to industries created or favored by a government-sanctioned scientific and technological elite? Typically, the only "products" that governments have been been good at "creating", in league with scientific and technological elites, are weapons of mass destruction.
And secondly, folks who advocate stronger government involvement in this area should focus on the so-called "tragedy of the commons" (which has been a principal cause of much pollution) and the need to allow courts to take on class action suits against corporate polluters (many of them already politically-privileged monopoly energy utilities).
To simply hand over billions of dollars of taxpayer money to favored industries allegedly committed to resolving the problems caused by climate change is to think that, somehow, government will change its stripes and not be what it has always been: a dispenser of privilege to those who are most adept at grabbing and using political power. That's what happened with the New Deal (which was based on the corporativist model of "War Collectivism" from World War I and was praised by Benito Mussolini for its fascistic character); why will it be any different with a "Green" New Deal?"
With regard to the view that "government has only been good at 'creating' weapons of mass destruction," one reader asked: "What about the space program, interstate highway system, NIH. the internet, etc.? I responded:
It is very good at socializing the costs for building large projects that are typically related to 'national defense': typically, it takes market actors to take these projects and to develop them for the benefit of consumers.
And with regard to the issue of fossil fuels and oil, it has had a primary role in developing a foreign policy of war and interventionism to benefit Big Oil, whether it has been in propping up "friendly" autocratic regimes, like that in Saudi Arabia, or in benefiting ARAMCO, with which Exxon-Mobil has always been intimately involved.
I added the following point when a reader proposed that a government, freed of corporate power, could act in the public interest:
But in my view, the government will always be captive to corporate power. On this point, I think Hayek was right when he said that the more politics comes to dominate economic and social life, the more political power will be the only power worth having---which is why those most adept at using political power get the most privileges. Which is "why the worst get on top."
Another reader rejected my view as a libertarian article of faith, to which I responded:
[Giving the government the power to make decisions about climate change] still does not solve the essential knowledge problem or class problem. Talk about an article of faith: Why would you put faith in a single institution (the state) to come up with the necessary knowledge (which is not simply "data" but both articulated and tacit, and tied to differential contexts) to introduce a whole "Green New Deal" that would cost trillions of dollars and benefit specific industries?
And if we are living in a state capitalist-corporatist system, how do we avoid the central problem of state-generated privileges being handed over to whole industries invested in "alternative" energies (if you actually believe that the energy industry wouldn't just seek to cash-in on the newly generated expropriated funds to take advantage of the instituted changes)?
P.S. - And I didn't say central planning never works; I just said that it is typically best at producing weapons of mass destruction or socializing the costs and risks of a political economy in a way that does not take into account the tragedy of the commons.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example, where the
government subsidized the great expansion of "infrastructure" long before any
private investment would have taken the risk, some of that expansion didn't
really work out. The railroads "benefited" from this kind of subsidization but
were, of course, eventually undermined by the lack of market support. The
results were fairly typical: eventually these railroads went bankrupt and were
Typically, "crony" state capitalists are at the forefront of getting the government to make the big "infrastructure" investments because it does socialize the costs of their expansion. But it doesn't always work out in the long run. (The experience of World War I was also typical in this regard; see my article on "Government and the Railroads During World War I.")
The reader rejected my reasoning and argued that the state was the only institution available that could make the changes required to save the planet from climate catastrophe. To which I replied:
Well, then all I can say is we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't see how effective it will be to institute the kind of massive shifts you envision in the current state-capitalist context, whose class character will be fundamentally the same. No change of the sort you envision comes to this country without a massive amount of under-the-table deal-making where the worst seem to always get on top and profit the most.
I don't think of this as a libertarian article of faith; I think of it as a simple fact of reality.
The discussion continued and I shared a link to a post by my dear friend and colleague, Steve Horwitz, on the timeline of the thread:
Steve Horwitz['s post] ... speaks to the effects of such a massive state expansion, which is what would be required to achieve the kind of change that is being advocated here. These kinds of expansions amount to the militarization of the economy, and given what we have seen in other such militarizations (from the War Collectivism of World War I to the original New Deal to the War Collectivism of World War II, and so forth), I do not see how a Green New Deal avoids the problems inherent in the proposed 'solution'. As Steve puts it:
The irony of the supposedly anti-militaristic Left selling the Green New Deal as the economic equivalent of the mobilization for World War II is not lost on me, anyway.
Whenever you hear the rhetoric of "We need a war on X" or "this is the moral equivalent of war," run the other way. That rhetoric is just a mask for a grab for power reflecting the common belief on both the left and right that we can only accomplish great things when we have a collective end and structure society from the top down to achieve it. That belief is the most fundamentally anti-liberty argument there is, whether the war rhetoric is about actual or metaphorical war. Replacing the market with economic planning has always been about replacing freedom with militaristic and hierarchical rule by an elite. Both actual and metaphorical wars require that we give up pursuit of our preferred ends united by agreement on means for a society where any means are justified for the common end.
As Don Lavoie wrote 34 years ago: "Planning does not accidentally deteriorate into the militarization of the economy; it is the militarization of the economy....When the story of the Left is seen in this light, the idea of economic planning begins to appear not only accidentally but inherently reactionary. The theory of planning was, from its inception, modeled after feudal and militaristic organizations. Elements of the Left tried to transform it into a radical program, to fit it into a progressive revolutionary vision. But it doesn't fit. Attempts to implement this theory invariably reveal its true nature. The practice of planning is nothing but the militarization of the economy." (National Economic Planning: What is Left?, p. 230)
I should add that Don Lavoie's work, especially his Rivalry and Central Planning and his National Economic Planning: What is Left, is among the most radical and highly dialectical work in the Austrian tradition. His integration of hermeneutics, his use of Hayek's work on knowledge (especially the Polanyi-Ryle 'tacit' dimension of knowledge), and a dialectical understanding of the interrelationships of politics, economics, and culture, make his contributions all the more significant and worthy of study. He was a fine scholar and a dear friend, and Steve's quoting of him is "spot on" indeed!
Song of the Day: The Wind and the Lion ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is a highlight from the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated Best Original Score, from this 1975 film, starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. Tonight the Grammy Awards will present yet another Original Score award. Today would have been Goldsmith's 90th birthday and it is only fitting that he is among the illustrious composers who have been honored by the Recording Academy with nominations in this category.
FEBRUARY 09, 2019
Song of the Day: The Detective ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the 90th anniversary of whose birth we honor over the next two days. This cue opens the 1968 neo-noir film version of the Roderick Thorp novel. It stars Frank Sinatra, and the title theme has a touch of that Sinatra swagger.
FEBRUARY 08, 2019
Song of the Day: The Post ("The Presses Roll") [YouTube link] was composed by John Williams for the 2017 Steven Spielberg-directed film, focusing on the controversial publication of "The Pentagon Papers," which revealed the extent to which the U.S. government had engaged in a systematic policy of disinformation in its conduct of the Vietnam War. Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Katharine Graham) give fine performances as the principals who published these classified documents in The Washington Post, which, with The New York Times, went on to win its First Amendment case in a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Today, our birthday boy, John Williams, turns 87 years old. He is the consummate maestro whose cue, here, can make even the functions of a printing press sound heroic.
FEBRUARY 07, 2019
Song of the Day: Cactus Flower ("The Time for Love is Anytime"), words and music by Cynthia Weil and Quincy Jones, is delivered with sass by Sarah Vaughan. This song opens the 1969 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Walter Matthau, and Goldie Hawn, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Check out the Divine One's vocals for the film's main theme [YouTube link].
FEBRUARY 06, 2019
Song of the Day: The Firm ("The Death of Love and Trust") [YouTube link], composed by pianist Dave Grusin, is one of the jazziest, most sensual cues from the Oscar-nominated soundtrack to this 1993 film, directed by Sydney Pollack and based on the John Grisham novel. The film stars Tom Cruise and a strong supporting cast.
FEBRUARY 05, 2019
Song of the Day: The Red Shoes ("Ballet of the Red Shoes") [YouTube link] was composed by Brian Easdale, who went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Score for this highly stylized 1948 film, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Easdale was the first British composer to win in this category. The film also earned a well-deserved Oscar for Art Direction. The wonderful Moira Shearer plays the role of Victoria Page [YouTube link from "The Birdcage"], and her dancing in this particular ballet, choreographed by Robert Helpmann, influenced a generation of people who were inspired to become professional dancers. An adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, this iconic film underwent a magnificent restoration in 2006, and has been praised by directors as diverse as Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese.
FEBRUARY 04, 2019
Song of the Day: Furious 7 ("See You Again"), words and music by Andrew Ceder, Justin Franks, Cameron Thomaz, and Charlie Puth, who provides the vocals to match Wiz Khalifa's poignant rap tribute to Paul Walker, who had portrayed the protagonist in the series (Brian O'Conner), and who tragically died in an automobile accident before this 2015 film was released. This lead single from the film's soundtrack spent 12 nonconsecutive weeks at #1, tying Eminem's Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself" and the Black Eyed Peas "Boom-Boom-Pow", as the longest-running rap track atop the Billboard Hot 100. It is among the most streamed and most viewed videos (exceeding three billion views) in history, and was among the best-selling singles of 2015. We did a Puth spotlight this past summer. Check out the video single and a live performance of it at Berklee by Charlie and in concert (at 01:23:10).
FEBRUARY 03, 2019
Song of the Day: Bohemian Rhapsody ("We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions") are two separate songs that have often been paired when heard on the radio, going all the way back to their 1977 debut on the Queen album, "News of the World." The first song is credited to Brian May, the second to Freddie Mercury. With its "Boom, Boom, Clap" beginning, and its anthemic sound, "We Will Rock You" has probably become the most sampled track in history for use at sports-stadium events. It was also part of the last medley performed by a reunited Queen at the Live Aid charity concert at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985 [YouTube link]. In 2005, Queen's 20+ minute set [YouTube link] was voted by sixty artists, journalists, and music industry executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock. It is also only one of the highlights of this 2018 Oscar-nominated Best Picture, one of the most emotionally-wrenching paeans to the tortured soul and artistic genius of Freddie Mercury, played courageously and poignantly by the Oscar-nominated Rami Malek, who has already won Best Actor Awards for his performance from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. I confess that the film often left me a slobbering mess, in terms of its emotional impact, which speaks to its powerful cinematic portrait of Mercury. Check out this remarkable side-by-side comparison of the Live Aid performance and its depiction in the 2018 film [YouTube link]. And also check out the original album recording [YouTube link]. Today, in Atlanta, where the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots will be vying for the Super Bowl Championship, one team is going to rock the other and declare "We Are the Champions."
Postscript: Love them or hate them, Brady does it again, as the Pats win their Sixth Super Bowl Title (with Brady wearing five of those rings). And celebrating the 50th anniversary of his own Super Bowl win, former New York Jets QB Joe Namath brings the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the podium.
FEBRUARY 02, 2019
Song of the Day: Groundhog Day ("I Got You Babe"), words and music by Sonny Bono, was a huge hit for Sonny & Cher, peaking at #1 for three weeks in August 1965. It is also the song heard over and over again in this 1993 film that TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) wakes up to every morning in a seemingly endless time-loop, covering the findings of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, which just so happens to be today! (In New York, we rely on Staten Island Chuck, who has had a habit of biting past NYC Mayors.) Here's to the Groundhogs that do not see their shadows; we can use an early Spring!
FEBRUARY 01, 2019
Song of the Day: Call Me By Your Name ("Mystery of Love"), words and music by Sufjan Stevens, was a 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Original Song. Based on the Andre Aciman novel, this coming-of-age drama, starring the young and talented Best Actor-nominated Timothee Chalamet (a graduate of Brooklyn's LaGuardia High School) will tug at your heartstrings. The film also features wonderful performances by Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg (whose scene with his son near the end of the film is itself worth the price of admission) [YouTube link, spoiler alert!]. Check out the song, accompanied with film clips [YouTube link]. So we begin this year's 15th Annual Film Music February en route to the Oscar Awards on February 24, 2019 with a song from one of last year's "Best Picture"-nominated films. Let's remember that Film Music February includes not only film score cues and original songs featured in film, but also songs previously recorded that found life again in film soundtracks. So be prepared for a very wide variety of music over the next 24 days! Today also begins TCM's annual 31 Days of Oscar!