JULY 30, 2018
Very soon I hope to provide some information on some important resources that will be made available to scholars of the work of Murray Rothbard, thanks to my preservation of them for nearly 40 years.
However, a recent discussion on Rothbard has broken out, especially with regard to his contentious relationship with the inner circle of Ayn Rand, on the FB site of "For the New Intellectual" and I just wanted to bring together, in a single Notablog entry, the various comments I made about Rothbard, especially in light of that forthcoming announcement. I observed that I was
second to none in criticisms of Murray Rothbard; Part Two of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism criticizes him especially for the context-dropping that is inherent in his dualistic view of the triumph of anarcho-capitalism as a panacea for society's ills. But my book also praises his highly dialectical (read: context-sensitive) analyses of the boom-bust cycle, the incestuous relationship of the state and banking, and the class conflicts that arise under a political economy of statism, as well as the emergence of the welfare-warfare state from the Progressive era, and so forth.
But it should be noted that when so few came to Rand's defense in the time after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, it was Murray Rothbard who wrote a rousing endorsement of the book in the magazine Commonweal. In Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand, he would later state that he was "in agreement basically with all her philosophy," and that it was Rand who convinced him of the theory of natural rights that his books would champion.
But there are such things as deep personality clashes and there was a lot of bad blood between Rothbard and Rand when their circles came into contact with one another. Rothbard headed the "Circle Bastiat" which had some intellectual fireworks with Rand's Collective: in the end, Bastiat "members" Robert Hessen and George Reisman hitched up with Rand, while Leonard Liggio, Ralph Raico, and others stayed with Rothbard.
But I don't think it can be denied that Rothbard was a remarkable intellect; his Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market are brilliant re-statements and extensions of the insights of Ludwig von Mises; his various historical works, from his four-volume work, Conceived in Liberty, to The Panic of 1819 to America's Great Depression and a recent collection of his essays on The Progressive Era were path-breaking studies. And his essays in A New History of Leviathan, which he coedited with, then "Democratic Socialist" (now, neoconservative) Ronald Radosh, is one of the great classics of revisionist history. Add to that his two-volume work on The History of Economic Thought, works on The Mystery of Banking, and so many other books---and it is simply hard to dismiss his work as unoriginal or unserious . . .
I also should acknowledge that [Rothbard] was an important figure in my intellectual evolution on "How I Became a Libertarian."
I think Rothbard was imperfect; I have criticized him even in his later years, when he attempted to correct for the obvious hole in his strategy to achieve libertarianism. When he finally recognized the role of culture in the fight for liberty, what he embraced was a kind of social conservatism that, to me, was anathema to the achievement of freedom.
But I don't think he was a nihilist looking to make a name for himself; he was just as much an outsider as Rand. To focus on minor comments he made when Patrick Buchanan was running for President and to dismiss his entire corpus because of it does seem to lose a sense of proportion. It would be like somebody fixating on Rand's idealized picture of William Hickman, using it as the pretext for dismissing everything she later wrote because she seemed to be celebrating a serial killer.
For the record, Rothbard talked much about the importance of the relationship between science and ethics; when folks argued that the state could do things better than the market and that all we needed were those who adhered to more efficient "scientific" policies of state planning, he remarked famously that there was a high-IQ high-culture Western European nation that once embraced more efficient "scientific" policies of exterminating millions of people in gas chambers and that it should not be our goal to have I.G. Farben help the Nazi Germany's of this world to come up with more effective means of mass destruction. I don't think this amounted to denial of the Holocaust at all.
And while I disagree with some of Rothbard's revisionist historical work, I think most of it is spot on: it is eminently clear that it was big business that worked toward destroying the free market by lobbying for and helping to create the entire regulatory apparatus, which they used to destroy entry into whole fields of economic endeavor and to consolidate their profits; I think his view of the rise of "war collectivism" in World War I was key to our understanding of the roots of the creation of the New Deal, which even Mussolini applauded for its corporatist ideal. You don't have to accept all his conclusions to appreciate some of his contributions.
In another post, I acknowledge that Rothbard's personal biases became the basis of raging interpersonal wars even among those in libertarian circles. But for Objectivists to point to this as proof that he was off his rocker is a bit like: Pot. Kettle. Black. The same stuff has happened within Objectivist circles for eons, and Rand's behavior was not exemplary at all times and in all cases. But that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. I also acknowledge my disagreements with Rothbard on such subjects as Gandhi and the strategic use of nonviolence, mentioning that no single theorist has done more for that area of study than the late Gene Sharp, who was a friend and colleague. Check out especially his book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and his many works on Gandhi's political strategies. But the charges that Murray Rothbard was enamored by folks connected to the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review led me to post further on the charges of Rothbard's alleged "anti-Semitism":
I knew Rothbard personally; to my knowledge, his later attraction to some of the ideas in Charles Murray's book ("The Bell Curve") is ironic (in the context of any alleged anti-Semitism), especially since Charles Murray talks so much about the high IQs and cultural commitments to learning among Jews.
It was not so controversial to observe, as Rothbard certainly did, that many Jews were among the intelligentsia of the left. But considering that Rothbard himself was Jewish, as was his mentor Ludwig von Mises, his Austrian colleagues Israel Kirzner and Fritz Machlup, among others, the idea that he was a supporter of anti-Semitism sounds a bit strange to me. For God's sake, the Nazis drove Mises out of Europe and confiscated his library---which they preserved and which, ironically, ended up in the hands of the Soviets, when the secret police recovered the library of a Jewish free-market economist and preserved it under Stalin's directives (See here.) They were later recovered with the help of Richard Ebeling.
Even Rothbard's admiration for some of the work of Harry Elmer Barnes had nothing to do with any Holocaust denial. It was because Barnes correctly characterized America's political economy as one based on "perpetual war for perpetual peace." This was an argument that one could find among revisionist thinkers of the Old Right (John T. Flynn, Isabel Paterson, Albert Jay Nock, and incidentally, Ayn Rand, who opposed U.S. entry into World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam**) and the New Left (Gabriel Kolko, James Weinstein, William Appleman Williams, Ronald Radosh), and even President Dwight David Eisenhower who, in his farewell address to the American people warned of the growing and destructive power and influence of the "military-industrial complex."
I don't know how Donald Trump's foreign policies will ultimately pan out---but this is certainly a guy who stirred enormous controversy with his statements that the U.S. hasn't been "so innocent" in its policies abroad and who has assailed U.S. intelligence agencies, which have corrupted more elections and toppled more regimes abroad than one can count. So I find it odd that [some] Trump-supporter[s] can be so upset with Rothbard, given Trump's own expressed views of the corrupting influences of U.S. policies at home and abroad. I may not be a Trump supporter, but at least his campaign rhetoric to pull back U.S. intervention abroad was, to me, the only thing that I could genuinely applaud. I guess that makes him as revisionist as the America Firsters of the Old Right and the antiwar New Left---the same folks that Rothbard interacted with over his many years of intellectual life.
In a later post, somebody presented anecdotal evidence of somebody else who had a conversation with Rothbard, in which he showed skepticism about the Holocaust. I replied:
Unfortunately, this is also too anecdotal for evidence. I read virtually everything Rothbard ever wrote in preparation for Total Freedom and I have never come across a single published statement that doubted the Holocaust. But there is this classic statement of his from a Free Market essay, "The 'Partnership' of Government and Business":
"In our enthusiasm for privatization, . . . we should stop and think whether we would want certain government functions to be privatized, to be conducted efficiently. Would it really have been better, for example, if the Nazis had farmed out Auschwitz or Belsen to Krupp or I. G. Farben?"
Does this read like the works of a man who denied the existence of the Nazi concentration camps or the producers of the Zyklon-B insecticide that was used to gas millions of people? Not to me it doesn't.
I received some criticism from readers who argued that Murray Rothbard wasn't a very nice guy and that he did things that were not above board, especially in his dealings with Rand, Branden, and others in the Objectivist movement. I replied:
The whole point of the second (and bulkiest) part of my book, "Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism" was to separate what I believed was the dialectical (radical) wheat from the nondialectical (utopian) chaff that formed Rothbard's theoretical worldview. One cannot engage in a study of that worldview without having read it. And what emerged, I think, was a powerful critique that kept what was valuable, tossed what was not, and moved on, in its final chapter, to discuss promising future trends in libertarian scholarship that would avoid the pitfalls of utopian thought in Rothbard and in the works of other libertarians ("utopia" after all, means "nowhere") while moving libertarian social theory to the next, far more radical, far more "dialectical" level.
To be clear, my entire trilogy ("Marx, Hayek, and Utopia", "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical," and "Total Freedom") has been based on the assumption that there is this distinction between utopian and radical thinking, and that utopian thinking---whether it be right or left---leads us down a road to "nowhere", sometimes a very destructive "nowhere", while the more dialectical alternative will provide us with the analytical tools to understand the "root" of social problems (the essence of radical theory) as a means of resolving them.
On that score, Rothbard's works offer us a mixed bag, but that which is valuable, in my view, cannot be denied. This is quite apart from what he was or wasn't as a human being. Karl Marx, as some studies of his personal life have revealed, may not have been that nice of a guy, but I learned a lot by reading him and understanding him. "Take what you want and pay for it," as the Objectivists used to say; precisely what I've done: taken what I have thought of value, from every thinker I've read, giving credit where credit is do, and moved on.
I will have more to say about the forthcoming original resources that will soon be available to Rothbard scholars.
** For those who doubt Rand's opposition to U.S. involvement in the European theater of World War II, I added this note:
Check "The Roots of War" but also check out the discussions of Rand's relationship with Isabel Paterson in Stephen Cox's book The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America. It is there that Cox makes clear that both Rand and Paterson found it obscene for the United States to be sending Lend Lease aid to the Soviet Union in its fight against the Nazis; in their view, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were both evil dictatorships and should have destroyed each other. And then, if the U.S. were forced into the conflict for any reason, it would have faced a much-weakened foe. (Some of the feel of this can also be found in Rand's appearance before HUAC.)
This, of course, was all a moot point after December 7, 1941, when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor---followed by the joint declarations of war by Germany and Italy against the United States in the days that followed thereafter. But for Rand, World War I, the "war to make the world safe for democracy" produced Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy, while World War II handed over Eastern Europe to the Soviets and led directly to an endless "Cold War" that consumed the lives of thousands of Americans in other wars to stop communist aggression and to bring "democracy" to countries that had no concept of either democracy or individual rights.
For that matter, also read what Heller has written (in Ayn Rand and the World She Knew) about Paterson and Rand ("They preferred to let Hitler march unimpeded into Russia and then enter the war against whichever dictator was left standing") and Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand, where she states that "Ayn was passionately opposed to any American involvement in the war in Europe" and "was horrified that Willkie [the candidate she supported against FDR] did not speak out unequivocally against such involvement."
And where on earth does one find in any essay Rothbard wrote about Barnes that he agreed with Barnes that the Holocaust never happened? I've written quite a bit about the contributions of Karl Marx in his application of dialectical method to social analysis. Does my "association" with Marx and Marxist scholarship imply consent to Marxist ideas? It is possible to acknowledge that there are writers in intellectual history who have provided important work without it implying that one agrees with everything the writer ever said on every subject.
My mentor was a Marxist: Bertell Ollman; he provided blurbs for each of the books of my trilogy. I was even the cofounder of a discussion group called "marxism-thaxis" (THeory and praXIS). I consider myself a "known libertarian author"---but I have openly associated myself with many on the left. What does this say about me?
I must be a closet Marxist. And here I thought I was out of the closet all along. :)
In many ways, I believe that Ayn Rand was the libertarian movement's answer to Karl Marx---using that word "libertarian" loosely. But be that as it may, do you realize how many folks in the "America First" movement were smeared as Nazi-sympathizers or anti-Semites? Well, in fact, some of them were (Charles Lindbergh was dogged by those charges for years). But Rand, Flynn, Paterson, Nock, and others were also a part of that "America First" movement. And yet, I didn't see a single one of them as having a soul shaped by the swastika.
It is no coincidence that Trump has resurrected that very phrase, "America First"---and I don't think he's a dumb man; he knows perfectly well what problems that very phrase once caused among those in the establishment. Anyway, Mike, you know I like you a lot, even with the disagreements we've had. I'm willing to just agree to disagree; I've got so much work to do, and it is to your credit for sucking me into this discussion! LOL
JULY 29, 2018
Song of the Day: Love is Like an Itching In My Heart, written by the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was another Billboard Top Ten Hot 100 and Hot R&B hit from "The Supremes A' Go Go" album. The 1966 single was an uptempo dance hit, released in April of that year but making its television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on May 1st. Check out the single version and the television performance as we conclude our Supremes Weekend [YouTube links].
JULY 28, 2018
Song of the Day: You Can't Hurry Love was another #1 hit for the Holland-Dozzier-Holland songwriting team, recorded in 1966 by The Supremes for their album, "The Supremes A' Go-Go." Billboard magazine named this song #19 on their list of the 100 Greatest Girl Group songs of all time! In 1982, Phil Collins would take this song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 yet again. Check out Phil's memorable version and then take a listen to the original Motown hit by Diana Ross and the Supremes [YouTube links].
JULY 27, 2018
Song of the Day: You Keep Me Hangin' On was composed by the Holland-Dozzier-Holland songwriting team for the supreme Motown "Girl Group": The Supremes. The group took the 1966 song (from the album, "The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozzier-Holland") to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was recorded by other acts who also charted successfully: Vanilla Fudge (whose version hit the Top Ten in 1967), Kim Wilde (who hit #1 with her version in 1987), and Reba McEntire (who took the Love to Infinity "Classic Paradise" remix of the song to #2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart) [YouTube links]. But that truly classic Motown sound is still delivered by the original Supremes hit [YouTube link]. And what a nice way to start a Supremes Weekend!
JULY 24, 2018
Song of the Day: Waiting for Tonight, words and music by Maria Christensen, Michael Garvin, and Phil Temple, and was originally recorded in 1997 by the "Girl Group" 3rd Party [YouTube link]. Two years later, it was recorded by Jennifer Lopez, today's birthday girl, who took the song to #1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart, her first chart-topper on that chart. From her album, "On the 6," the song received the MTV Video Award for Best Dance Video. The Latin House arranged-song was critically acclaimed by many as the best of J-Lo's career. Check out J-Lo video version of the song and the Hot Hex Hector extended remix [YouTube links].
JULY 23, 2018
I participated in a recent Facebook thread and wanted to reproduce here what I said there; it is simply a restatement of the publication policies of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:
I'm just going to jump in on one principle with regard to reviews and such that are published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. We are a nonpartisan biannual interdisciplinary double-blind peer reviewed scholarly periodical published by Pennsylvania State University Press. We are indexed by about two dozen abstracting and indexing services; we are print published and electronically accessible through JSTOR and Project Muse, which makes us available to thousands upon thousands of readers worldwide in public, private, not-for-profit, business, and educational libraries and institutions. And as we enter our eighteenth year of publication, we have published the scholarly work of over 160 writers in over 340 essays, that represents a remarkable diversity of perspectives, from left to right, and a remarkable diversity of disciplinary approaches.
To clarify our publication policy: We have published essays of varying lengths, from one-page replies to a previously published essay, to monograph-length opus-like discussions on almost every subject relevant to Ayn Rand studies, including issue-length symposia on everything from the impact of Rand on progressive rock and "Rand Among the Austrians" to "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy." And as a matter of policy, we allow our book reviewers to write essays that might be narrow in their focus or [alternatively] that might provide the reader with an opportunity to understand the book under consideration within the wider context of the larger issues it raises and within the broader scholarly literature on the subject in question. And we encourage replies to all of our articles, and invite the authors to write rejoinders to these replies.
This may be a very alien concept to a self-contained community that refuses to provide its 'sanction' to the outside world, but we remain the only scholarly university-press published journal devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times. Despite the chorus of JARS naysayers who have called for everything from "boycotts" to Fahrenheit 451 exercises, we are here to stay.
In other words: We're Here! We're Dear [to many]! Get used to it!
JULY 22, 2018
Song of the Day: Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) features the words and music of Jerome Brailey, Bootsy Collins, and Geoge Clinton, who was born on this date in 1941. Recorded in 1976 by Parliament-Funkadelic (or "P-Funk" for short) for the album, "Mothership Connection," it was the band's first million-selling single. Check out the original "We Want the Funk" extended album mix [YouTube link].
JULY 21, 2018
Song of the Day: Fascinated, words and music by Ish Ledesma, was recorded by the freestyle "girl group" Company B and spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in March 1987. Check out the single video promo version and the original extended 12" remix.
JULY 18, 2018
On Facebook, James Peron posted an interesting article, "Ayn Rand, Nietzsche and the Purposeless Monster." I shared it on FB, but also commented on a couple of points raised by the essay with regard to Rand's understanding of the wider context and similar themes that showed up in the courtroom presentations of Clarence Darrow. For me, the best fictional representation of the latter comes from the 1960 film, "Inherit the Wind." Here's what I had to say:
A very interesting discussion, Jim. Ironically, it shows that Rand as an individualist was still willing to understand the context within which human beings grew---and how that context either nourished, stunted, or utterly distorted what they might become. After all, "We the Living" is a grand-scale indictment of a social context that crushes the possibility for individual enrichment, since it must necessarily corrupt individuals, leading them to a living death---where even the possibility of escape is robbed as you're shot attempting to cross the border (it's original working title was "Airtight"---since dictatorship, in Rand's view, creates an airtight environment in which all that is possible to the individual is suffocated).
On Clarence Darrow, I have to say that, for me, the best fictional representation of him (as Henry Drummond, played by Spencer Tracy) remains "Inherit the Wind," where in his courtroom questioning of the opposing lawyer (the William Jennings Bryan-based character, Matthew Harrison Brady, played by Frederic March), he presents one of the most powerful tributes to the power of the individual human mind you'll ever see on film. [Check it out on] YouTube.
JULY 16, 2018
Song of the Day: The Way I Am, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin and Charlie Puth, is the opening track to "Voicenotes," where the artist showcases many influences (including even MJ!). This is the concluding track of our Puth survey, as he headlines tonight at Radio City Music Hall. His newest album's first single [YouTube link] "Attention" [YouTube Rolling Stone link] charted on no fewer than six Billboard charts, from the Adult Contemporary to Mainstream Top 40 and the Hot Dance Club Chart, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The song is covered by Pentatonix [YouTube link] on their new 2018 album, "PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol.1.") This "Voicenotes" song sums up Puth's path, sometimes bullied as a child for being different [YouTube interview with Larry King], working through self-doubt, aware of his anxieties [YouTube link], but still announcing: "Ima tell 'em all that you could either love me or hate me---but that's just the way I am." Indeed [YouTube link]. Check the album track, the official video to the song released on July 9th, and a host of remixes: Maylar & Beat Boy, STVCKS and Dim Wilder, IndianBoyz, and Phillip Maizza [YouTube links]. And for New Yorkers lucky enough to see our featured artist at Radio City [YouTube link]: Have a great time!
JULY 15, 2018
Song of the Day: Slow it Down is credited to a host of contributors, and when I first heard it, I said to myself that it sounded like a Hall and Oates composition; my musical instincts were spot on, as among its writers, in addition to Charlie Puth, are Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Sara Allen---of "Sara Smile" fame [YouTube link]. The song actually contains an interpolation of the Hall & Oates hit, "I Can't Go For That" [YouTube link]. Check out the album version of this song [YouTube link].
JULY 14, 2018
Song of the Day: LA Girls features the words and music of Sean Douglas, Jason Evigan, Jacob Kasher Hindlin, and Charlie Puth. Another track from Puth's current---and second---solo album, "Voicenotes," the lyrics reflect this Jersey-born artist's East Coast loves. In this song, he yearns for one particular East Coast love, but is suffering from West Coast blues, "messin' with these LA Girls." He yearns to be back on that "Greyhound to NYC." Well, on Monday, Charlie's back in NYC, but tonight his tour stops at the BMHMC Amphitheater at Bald Hill, in Farmingville, Long Island. Check out the album track [YouTube link].
JULY 13, 2018
Song of the Day: We Don't Talk Anymore, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin, Selena Gomez, and Charlie Puth, is from Puth's debut album, "Nine Track Mind." A child prodigy, Puth was introduced to classical music by his mother, who began teaching him how to play piano at age 4. He went on to study jazz by age 10, and was a participant in the Count Basie Theatre's Cool School summer youth jazz ensemble by age 12. Manhattan School of Music Pre-College and Berklee College of Music came later. His music embraces multiple genres [YouTube link]. In the liner notes to his debut album, Puth wrote: "I want to dedicate this record to my parents. In 2001, we couldn't afford a dining room table, and my mom and dad came up with the money to purchase a Korg Triton Studio Synthesizer for me. We ate dinner on the floor while my 11-year old self tried to figure out how to sequence 808s and make beats on this very complex piece of hardware. I learned how to produce records with this piano. So without that initial investment on their part, I probably wouldn't have been able to make this album in 2015. So Mom and Dad, here is the return on your investment. Thank you for everything you have ever done for me, and thank you for pushing me." In a culture that is sometimes at war with the gifted and talented, Puth's attitude is a breath of fresh air. In 2015, Charlie was somewhat famous for doing covers of other artist's hits (like this BBC cover of Calvin Harris's "How Deep is Your Love?" [YouTube link]). Tonight, Puth touches down at the Blue Hills Bank Pavillion in Boston, Massachusetts, with special guest Hailee Steinfeld, to perform his own hits. Check out this song's video single from that first album, as well as a live performance during Gomez's Revival Tour, a snippet of a live Manchester performance with a jazz curve ball thrown in to surprise the crowd, a Teen Choice solo live performance, and the Outamatic Remix [YouTube links]. [Ed: Also check out Puth's rendition of this song on "The Tonight Show" in the style of the Doobie Brothers [YouTube link at about 4 minutes in]. Hilarious!]
JULY 12, 2018
Song of the Day: Sober is credited to a host of writers, including The Futuristics, Charlie Puth and rapper G-Eazy, on whose fourth studio album, "The Beautiful & Damned," this portrait in darkness appears. This is not the first rap track on which Puth has been featured; his collaboration with Wiz Khalifa for "See You Again" (from the 2015 film, "Furious 7"), a poignant tribute to the late actor Paul Walker, remains among the most streamed videos of all time (over 3.45 billion streams!). Check out today's unsettling offical video and a dance remix of the track [YouTube links].
JULY 11, 2018
For the first time, the first book in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy," is available in e-book form. SUNY Press had long made it available as a Google ebook on Google Play, but it was not a searchable document. Today, for the first time, my book, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, has been made available in a searchable Kindle Edition! Of course, as editor of an academic journal, on these "wages", I can barely afford to purchase it! But it's still nice to know that "MHU" is now available as an e-book. (Special thanks to Janice Vunk at SUNY for making it all happen!)
Soon, I'll have some great news to share about the forthcoming Kindle edition of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, because when that finally happens, with the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical already Kindle-ized, my trilogy will have finally entered the twenty-first century!
Song of the Day: Done for Me, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin, John Ryan, and Charlie Puth and Kehlani, who recorded this duet with Puth for his 2018 sophomore effort, "Voicenotes." A couple of NYC radio stations have declared this Charlie Puth week as he kicks off his first World Tour tonight, beginning in Toronto, Ontario, Canada---on the Budweiser Stage. He will make a Radio City Music Hall stop on Monday, July 16th. In keeping with the spirit of things, I'll be featuring Puth tracks [YouTube link] right through that date. He started doing covers and doing a comic Musical Vlog on YouTube in his early years, and later joined up with young prospects doing covers of his songs [YouTube links]. I am certainly among those who appreciate Perfect Pitch Puth [interview clip with "Kelly and Ryan" on YouTube]. It's been nice watching this child prodigy's musical evolution (perhaps not his "rap" skills or his beatboxing, but certainly his jazz chops) [YouTube links]. So check out the jazz-infused, acoustic version of this song, as well as the video version, and remixes by Syn Cole, James Hype, Oblivious Sound, and a nice mashup with Puth's "How Long" [YouTube links].
JULY 10, 2018
Song of the Day: A Time for Love, music by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, was an Oscar-nominated song from the 1966 film, "An American Dream." It has been treated lovingly by many vocalists and instrumentalists alike, including singer Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans [YouTube links]. One of the most sensitive readings of the song, arranged by Sammy Nestico, was recorded by trombonist Bill Watrous [YouTube link]; it was the title song for his 1993 album in tribute to "The Music of Johnny Mandel." Today, I learned of the death on July 2, 2018, of Bill Watrous, trombonist extraordinaire, whose effortless playing would leave you breathless. He was 79 years old. Whether he was playing a lush standard from the Great American Songbook, like "Body and Soul" [YouTube link] or performing a live rendition of "Spain" [YouTube link], with Chick Corea and an all-star 1976 Downbeat Awards Show line-up that included Hubert Laws (on flute), George Benson (on guitar), Stanley Clarke (bass) and Lenny White (drums), Watrous took us to musical heights for which he will be long remembered.
JULY 07, 2018
I have just learned that on June 29, 2018, Steve Ditko, "the legendary artist who co-created some of the most iconic characters for Marvel Comics"---and even some at DC Comics---died in New York City. He was 90 years old.
I had the great fortune to correspond with Ditko in the months leading up to the publication of an article I was working on for the first of two Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposia celebrating the Ayn Rand Centenary. I had invited Ditko to contribute to the symposium devoted to the subject, "Ayn Rand: Literary and Cultural Impact," but as I expected, he politely declined, stating that he preferred that his work speak for itself.
But he expressed interest in my work and certainly acknowledged his debt to Rand---a debt that showed up in many of his comic book characters, including Mr. A (as in "A is A") and The Question. His most famous creation was among my favorite comic book heroes---if only because he was situated in real-life New York City: Peter Parker, a boy from Queens, who would become Spider-Man (making his debut in 1962).
Ultimately, I wrote the lead-essay to that Rand centenary symposium, "The Illustrated Rand" which is still available on my home website as a pdf file here. The essay devotes a section to Ditko and the impact that Rand made on his work.
I cherish my correspondence with him and celebrate the gifts he left us.
Song of the Day: One Kiss features the words and music of Adam Wiles, Jessie Rayez, and Dua Lipa, who contributes the vocals to this Calvin Harris dance track, which hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart on June 2, 2018. Check out the video single and the Oliver Heldens Remix.
JULY 06, 2018
Song of the Day: Work Bitch is credited to a host of writers, including will.i.am and the woman who recorded it: Britney Spears. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot Dance / Electronic Songs chart and #2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Check out the steamy video of this pulsating dance track, the extended mix [YouTube links], and Britney's recent energetic live Vegas performance of the song on Dick Clark's 2018 New Year's Rockin' Eve [YouTube link].
JULY 05, 2018
What's July 4th without good food, fireworks over the East River, checking out Joey Chestnut set a world record of 74-downed hot dogs in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN [YouTube link, if you can stomach watching it], and watching the Great American Pastime. And yesterday, for this Yankee fan, it was a Yankee victory over the Atlanta Braves, 6-2.
Only Yankee fans will appreciate this Notablog entry, however. John Sterling, who has been in the Yankee broadcast booth for 30 years, tied with Mel Allen, and second only to The Scooter, Phil Rizzuto (who was in the broadcast booth for 40 years!), turned 80 years old yesterday. The Yankee Doodle Dandy sat next to Suzyn Waldman (in her traditional red, white, and blue vest) in the WFAN radio broadcast booth, while Michael Kay and Paul O'Neill were broadcasting from the YES television booth.
Sterling is known for some of his individualized, customized home-run calls for Yankee ballplayers. For last year's Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge, it was: "He's judge and jury. And this is judgement day!" For Alex Rodriguez, it was: "It's an A-Bomb! From A-Rod!" And so forth. So when Giancarlo Stanton had his first Yankee home run, it was "Giancarlo, non si pu� stoparlo! It is a Stantonian home run"---which, roughly translated from the Italian, is "Giancarlo, You can not stop it! It is a Stantonian home run."
Well, in honor of Sterling's 80th birthday, Michael Kay was musing in the TV booth that he wanted to be able to pay a birthday tribute to his long-time colleague by making a Sterling-like call for a home run, should any player hit one out. And wouldn't you know it? It was Giancarlo. And Kay nailed it. Check out the comparative calls in this MLB video clip, where the broadcasters are clearly having a ball (no pun intended).
JULY 04, 2018
Song of the Day: Back in the U.S.A. features the words and music and classic sound of Chuck Berry. It's a quintessential Independence Day song. Check out the original Chuck Berry version and a 1978 hit Linda Ronstadt version as well. The two of them did a live version on the occasion of Berry's sixtieth birthday, with Keith Richards on backup vocals [YouTube links].
JULY 03, 2018
Song of the Day: Self-Control, words and music by Giancarlo Bigazzi, Raffaele Riefoli and Steve Piccolo, was the biggest international hit in the career of singer Laura Branigan, who was born on this date in 1952. Tragically, she died at the age of 52 from a brain aneurysm in August 2004. This was the title track to her third album, hitting #4 on the 1984 Billboard Hot 100, and peaking at #2 on the Hot Dance Club Chart. Check out the extended 12" remix and the video single [YouTube links], which was directed by William Friedkin (director of such films as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist"). The song was also used for a key opening scene to "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace" [YouTube link], with Darren Criss giving an award-worthy unsettling performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan.
JULY 02, 2018
There are a lot of folks out there who are still fighting the 2016 election: those who seem to wholeheartedly believe that Trump is Satan Incarnate and who are typically affected by "Trump Derangement Syndrome" and those who seem to believe there is nothing Trump can do wrong. Let us call this "Trump Worship Syndrome." In my view, both sides of this false alternative fundamentally misunderstand the problem. The problem is that whether Demon or Deity, no one man can alter the trajectory of the system, because the system itself is fundamentally committed to traveling down "the road to serfdom."
Ironically, this morning, I wake to a fabulous quote posted by Anoop Verma, written by Edith Efron, which goes to the core of what I'm driving at. It speaks implicitly to the need to think dialectically, that is, to think in terms of understanding and changing the larger context, upon which political and economic issues depend. Here is that eloquent quote that Anoop has shared with us this morning:
[The libertarian cultist] gulps down a few books by libertarian writers, and rushes to change this society before he has understood either this society or the books. He tends to restrict himself to a shrunken conceptual repertoire. It generally consists of a one-note opposition to the evil of government intervention, and frequently this is the only aspect of social reality of which he seems to be aware. Monumentally important political, social, cultural and intellectual problems leave the cultist indifferent. He is only concerned with government misdeeds. His "thinking", consequently, is eternally out of context, and his value system flattened and hostile. His disconnection from what he often refers to as "the real world" leaves him ignorant of the workings of this society. ~ Edith Efron in Secular Fundamentalism
I know that Anoop and I have had some differences in terms of our evaluation of Trump, but I agree fundamentally with what he is trying to convey in that Efron passage. I shared the post on Facebook, and added a "tongue-in-cheek" comment: "Sounds like the makings of a 'Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy' :) "
I have often argued on the basis of what I have called a "Tri-Level Analysis of Social Relations"---that is a tri-level model of understanding how power is exercised, and, consequently, the kinds of strategies that are needed to fundamentally alter that structure of power. I used it to describe the ways in which Ayn Rand typically approached the analysis of any social problem, but it is a model that one should keep in mind whether or not one accepts Rand's analysis in any specific instance.
The Tri-Level Model of Social Relations of Power
Readers interested in a fuller explication of the model should look at Part Three of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical and throughout my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. But the approach is outlined briefly in my essay, "Dialectics and Liberty." In the context of how Rand used the model, I state in that essay:
In her examination of any social problem, Rand focused on the reciprocal connections among personal factors (Level I), that is, a person�s methods of awareness, or "psycho-epistemology," and ethics; cultural factors (Level II), that is, ideology, pedagogy, aesthetics, and language; and structural factors (Level III), that is, politics and economics. For Rand, each level of generality offers both a microcosm and a differential perspective on the growing statism of the mixed economy that was the object of her criticism. (Rand saw that system as an instance of the "New Fascism.") She traced the mutual implications and reciprocal interconnections among disparate factors, from politics and pedagogy to sex, economics, and psychology.
In terms of the implications for a dialectical-libertarian analysis, the important point here is that Rand never emphasized one level of generality or one vantage point to the exclusion of other levels or vantage points. So, for example, even when she'd focus attention on Level III---the nightmarish labyrinth of government taxes, regulations, prohibitions, and laws constraining trade---she was quick to dismiss those who thought that an attack on the state was a social panacea. In the absence of an alteration of Level I and Level II social relations, which have a powerful effect on the character of political and economic practices and institutions, a change in Level III is not likely to be sustainable. For Rand, then, just as statism exerts its nefarious influence on all the levels of human discourse, so too must freedom be understood as a multidimensional achievement.Think Russia or Iraq---where, in the absence of a culture of individualism, all the "democratic" procedural rules in the world are not likely to bring about a free society.
Much like Hayek, Rand proclaimed herself a radical "in the proper sense of the word: 'radical' means 'fundamental.'" And as a "radical for capitalism," Rand argued that "Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries."
And this is why that passage from Edith Efron's Secular Fundamentalism resonates with me.
Since we have been discussing political and economic issues on the Facebook thread to which I posted, any Level III focus must take into account all that is entailed in the "political" and the "economic" (which is why I label that level "structural"). Even if one is attempting to alter the political and economic trends in this country, these trends cannot be changed without grasping the fundamental structures that both reflect these trends and sustain them.
On the eve of celebrating Independence Day, it might be worth remembering that this was a country "conceived in liberty"; it has traveled so far away from the origins of its conception such that the actions of one man cannot possibly change the systemic and dynamic complexities of a system that has been built up over the last century, one that embraces "perpetual war for perpetual peace" and that requires several key institutions that are only the tip of the "Deep State," unresponsive to the electorate, and firmly entrenched to serve the systems they were designed to protect. Three key institutions that must be mentioned in this context are:
1. The Federal Reserve System, which sustains a "state-banking nexus" that, in its policies of boom and bust, redistributes wealth to the most politically potent debtors (the biggest of which are financiers and big businesses that depend on both inflationary policies and government assurances that they are "too big to fail");
2. A National Security State, which even President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address about the growing power of the "military-industrial complex"; and
3. A regulatory apparatus that, since the late nineteenth century, was designed and maintained to benefit the very businesses to be regulated, who have used its various tools to destroy competition and wield control over markets.
With all this in mind, I reproduce below my comments on the various threads dealing with some of the issues surrounding the Trump presidency---issues that go to the core of why a "welfare-warfare state" will not weaken, whether one believes Trump to be a Demon or a Deity.
My first Facebook musings yesterday were posted in response to an essay written by Jim Peron, which effectively dispensed with some of the more idiotic views of journalist David Brooks: "The Enemies of Individualism: Conservatism, Collectivism, and Tribalism." Brooks essentially argues that it is the "atomism" of individualism that leads to the tribalism that is now consuming our political culture. In fact, it is the exact opposite, as Peron argues. I wrote:
Just an aside, Jim: You mention Nathaniel Branden in your essay and, if I can use the phrase, Branden was among the more "dialectically"-minded thinkers within libertarianism who explicitly and completely rejected the so-called "atomism" with which individualism had been slurred. First, Branden attacked the notion that "efficacy" was some sort of Western-biased term:
. . . the need for cognitive efficacy is not the product of a particular cultural "value bias." There is no society on earth, no society even conceivable, whose members do not face the challenges of fulfilling their needs---who do not face the challenges of appropriate adaptation to nature and to the world of human beings. The idea of efficacy in this fundamental sense (which includes competence in human relationships) is not a "Western artifact." . . . We delude ourselves if we imagine there is any culture or society in which we will not have to face the challenge of making ourselves appropriate to life. (Branden, "The Power of Self-Esteem", 1992)
Branden added further:
There are a thousand respects in which we are not alone. . . . As human beings, we are linked to all other members of the human community. As living beings, we are linked to all other forms of life. As inhabitants of the universe, we are linked to everything that exists. We stand within an endless network of relationships. Separation and connectedness are polarities, with each entailing the other. (Branden, "The Psychology of Romantic Love", 1980)
If anything, Branden argued---as did Rand---it was statism and tribalism, not individualism and tribalism, that were reciprocally related to one another. I discuss the statist-tribalist connection in my essay, "Statism and Tribalism: Fraternal Twins"
I contributed an additional comment to that thread, in response to Jim's argument that Trump suffered from a typical narcissistic disorder that helped to explain his "authoritarian personality":
I agree that Trump has all the markings of a person with an authoritarian personality, but since I can't get inside that mind of his---and wouldn't dare try---I can do the next best thing: Look at his actions, and to me, there is nothing that he has done to fundamentally alter the trajectory of U.S. political economy. As an economic nationalist or neomercantilist, his "pragmatic" approach to policy is fully in keeping with how Rand described the U.S. political economy: a neofascist mixed economy, which has been rigged historically to benefit certain interests (mostly financiers and larger capital-intensive industries) at the expense of others. Moreover, I have always accepted the truth of Hayek's proposition that the more politics comes to dominate social and political life, the more political power becomes the only power worth having---which is why "the worst get on top."
Since the institutions of power---be it the Fed, the National Security State, or the regulatory apparatus---have not (and most likely cannot) be altered fundamentally in the absence of a huge cultural shift in this country, anyone who gets into a position of power (even those who profess commitment to Rand's ideas; see my essay, "The New Age of Rand? Ha!") is more likely to become a very part of the swamp they are claiming to be at odds with. And so it goes with Trump. I have absolutely no trust in him or any other politician to be a part of the solution; and as the old adage goes---if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
On the "narcissistic" aspects of Trump's personality, Jim Peron posted a provocative link, and I understand where he is coming from: all I'm saying is that ultimately, I don't have to wade into the muddy waters of anybody's mind. All I have to do is evaluate what they are doing in practice, and believe me when I tell you: That's enough for me!
A defender of Trump's policies took exception to my placing him in the "neofascist" swamp, in which virtually every politician swims, and I replied:
I think you're missing my point: The point I'm making is that it is the system that needs to be taken down. No one man, not even one with the rhetorical gifts of Ronald Reagan, who made it okay to talk about "free markets" again, and who called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire," and who stood at the Bradenburg Gate and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!", was able to do anything to stop the U.S. path down the "road to serfdom." And he actually liked the works of Hayek!
Reagan appointed a Rand acolyte, Alan Greenspan, to run the Federal Reserve System. A "Rand acolyte" would have acted to dissolve the Fed, rather than embrace its inflationary powers to create a bubble that ended in the "Great Recession." My point is that once you get into a position of power, you are a part of the system, and even though you claim to fight it, you do nothing to alter the locus of control, the "state-banking nexus" upon which the Fed generates cycles of boom and bust, the "National Security State" that even Eisenhower warned against in his farewell speech about the "military-industrial complex," and the institutions of the regulatory apparatus that were created and supported by the very businesses to be regulated, who used that apparatus to crush competition. We have ended up with a "permanent war economy"---"perpetual war for perpetual peace" as Harry Elmer Barnes once described it---and not even a President with a moral compass can dismantle it. I'm afraid that tinkering around the edges will do nothing to fundamentally alter the course of national decay. And that's why I maintain that Mr. Trump, especially in his embrace of neo-mercantilist policies of economic nationalism---even if one wishes to believe that these are actually his way of using the "art of the deal" to compel all countries to embrace "free markets" (highly doubtful)---has crawled into the swamp he seeks to drain.
I also added a note about a newly published collection of essays by Murray Rothbard that dealt with the origins of the modern U.S. political economy in the Progressive Era:
BTW, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that a new collection of essays, written years ago by the late Murray Rothbard, has been gathered in a book called The Progressive Era," with a foreword by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. The book largely confirms your points, Jim, about the illiberal roots of Progressivism, whether it was used to further "conservative" or "liberal" state incursions into the lives of individuals. It follows the emergent history of Progressivism from the age of the railroads, the conflict between Pietists and Liturgicals, the collapse of laissez-faire politics, the rise of corporatism and of "war collectivism"---which ultimately served as a model for many of the welfare state institutions that emerged in the post-World War I era.
Since I'm likely to have more to say in the give-and-take, I'll update my commentary here, as time warrants. But before pursuing any further discussion, I might as well reproduce another comment I made on an entirely different FB thread, initiated by Aeon Skoble, where he bemoans the incivility of the dialogue on many threads, especially those devoted to current political and economic issues:
Well you don't have to convince me about the incivility of posting on public forums, which is why I shut down comments on my blog, never post on any public forums and only cross-post entries from Notablog here, where comments go out to folks who have been "friended"---and I expect that "friended" means civility, or, I'm "movin' out." Life is too short to be aggravated over that kind of incivility.
With that said, I refuse to be dragged into the TDS versus TWS boxing ring. The problems I am focused on here go far beyond the terms of the debate as framed by that false alternative.
Of course, my FB post elicited responses, and I'll devote the space below just to expanding on the comments I have already made on this topic.
On using tariffs as a response to countries that place tariffs on U.S. goods, I replied:
Even when your trading partners erect trade barriers, raising your own tariffs achieves two things: it penalizes American consumers who are forced to purchase imported goods at higher prices, and it artificially raises profits for domestic industries protected by the tariff. The "free market" is not of a bygone era---it is an era that has yet to come.
Don't take my comments to mean that I endorse NAFTA or any other government-arranged trade "deals": the U.S. government has been engaged in large-scale transfers of money to "friends" and "foes" alike, and often, what these programs require is that the money be spent to enrich U.S. producers (that has always been the basis of "foreign aid"---in essence, the global expropriation of American taxpayers to benefit U.S. producers of military hardware and other goods, who receive these funds circuitously). The whole system is rigged.
If Trump can use his "art of the deal" to try to "un-rig" the system, more power to him: But what I've been emphasizing is once you are part of the system, it is the system's dynamics that overtake the man, whether you believe him to be a Demon or a Deity.
With regard to remaining friends on Facebook, despite disagreement, I added:
Oh, for God's sake, I know that [it's okay to remain friends and disagree on issues]. None of us is perfect, and I'd be the last one not to engage in a respectful civil dialogue---or to encourage one---when I advocate something called "dialectical libertarianism", and "dialectic" had its root in the art of conversation, the art of engaging different points of view (long before I defined it as "the art of context-keeping").
If we can't disagree, in good spirit, then what's the point? Life would be very boring. And the moment we can't disagree, it will be a sign that "Time's Up"---in more than one way. I appreciate all this.
With regard to someone who remarked that I went "overboard" in my praise of Reagan and that my post went on a bit long, I responded:
[With regard to Ronald Reagan] I was only talking about the rhetorical Reagan: I think in the long run, he did shift the political culture a bit, but ultimately, the critiques of his administration offered by folks like David Stockman, are spot on. As for length: Jeez... that's to be expected from a guy who had to write three books to make one essential point.
In response to somebody who accepted the irrationality of those suffering from both TDS and TWS, but who argued that the TDS folks were far louder and numerous, I responded:
I think that the TDS folks are louder---but I think this is to be expected. When an administration is in power, it is the opposition that is always louder.
Do a mental experiment. Let's just say that Clinton was elected. Given that the electorate was practically split, do you not think that some folks who chanted "Lock Her Up" at the GOP convention would not be suffering from CDS ("Clinton Derangement Syndrome")---especially since Trump was "trumpeting" that if Clinton had won, it would only be because the election was "rigged"?
I can't offer an alternative reality, but I do suspect that if Clinton had won (and let me make one thing clear: I did not vote for Clinton OR Trump), the GOP-dominated House and Senate would have embarked on committee after committee hearing into everything from her "lost" emails to the machinations of the Clinton Foundation to reopening the Benghazi incident. And given the "Lock Her Up" sentiment among Clinton's opposition, I think we may very well have faced as divided and belligerent a dialogue as we are seeing now.
Song of the Day: I Love Music, words and music by the Philly soul team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, was featured on the 1975 album, "Family Renunion," by the O'Jays. This iconic '70s dance track ("Part One") was a Top 5 Hot 100 hit and a #1 Billboard R&B chart hit. But in its full-length album version ("Part One" and "Part Two"), it spent eight weeks atop the Hot Dance Club chart. It was also featured on the soundtracks to "Carlito's Way" (1993) and "Pride" (2007). A little trivia: The solo bongo intro was played by comedian Bill Cosby and the "Get it On" chorus was sung by Cleavon Little. Check out the album version and the extended 12" version in all their '70s Disco Glory [YouTube].
JULY 01, 2018
Song of the Day: Self-Image [YouTube link], composed by jazz trumpeter David Allan, is featured on one of the landmark jazz guitar albums in jazz history: Sounds of Synanon, an album which was released on this date in 1962. We may be in the middle of a Summer Dance Party---in which case, get close to a partner and feel this music in a jazzy slow jam. As Downbeat writer John Tynan tells us in the liner notes to the album from which it came: "There are times in the ironic drama of Life when happiness and fulfillment bloom out of misery and despair." Tynan explains that "the seeds of [this] music were planted in seven individuals whose lives had been blighted by drug addiction." Among them were pianist Arnold Ross, baritone horn player Greg Dykes, bassist Ronald Clark, drummer Bill Crawford, bongo player Candy Latson, trumpeter Dave Allan, and the man whose career soared to the legendary heights of jazz genius: guitarist Joe Pass. This marked the first vinyl album on which Pass was ever featured, and jazz historian Leonard Feather would say, with no apprehension, in his July 1962 Downbeat review that the Pacific Jazz label had "discovered a major jazz talent" in Joe Pass. In this selection, each of the players reveals a depth of emotion that is deeply touching. Of course, Pass shines, but it is Dave Allan, who composed the piece, who truly provides us with a poignant, heart-breaking "self-image" that will stay with you long after you've listened to it. Check it out on the link above or at this YouTube link as well.