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September 17, 2019

Rothbard Lectures on American History: Lost and Found

The following essay can be found on the Mises Wire; check out the newly available Murray N. Rothbard lectures on "Libertarian Paradigms in American History" and "The Crisis of American Foreign Policy" on that site.

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As Jerome Tuccille famously wrote: "It usually begins with Ayn Rand."

For me, it began in my senior year of high school. I took a year-long "Advanced Placement" course (for college credit) that offered an in-depth survey of American history, from the colonial period to the modern era. My early political views, shaped by both relatives and influential teachers, always tended toward a pro-free market stance. Invariably, the contentious discussions I was having in class were shared at home with my family. One afternoon, after listening to my tirades concerning the current events of the day, my sister-in-law told me that she'd been reading a novel called Atlas Shrugged, and that a lot of what I was saying seemed to echo the themes in this book. When she showed it to me, I took one look at it and saw that it was more than a thousand pages and said: “I have homework. I’ve got no time for that! No way!"

But as I thumbed through the back pages of the book, I noticed that there was an advertisement for a collection of essays by Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. So in lieu of the hefty novel, I bought a copy of that much shorter book—and as I began reading it, I was completely stunned. Here was the most stylized moral, practical, and historical defense of the free market that I'd ever read. So, before I stepped foot into college---and in place of reading a 1000+ page novel---I swiftly devoured all of Rand's nonfiction works before reading a single work of her fiction.

Perhaps the greatest revelation of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal was the vast free-market literature referenced by its contributors. Austrian-school economist Ludwig von Mises was prominently cited throughout the essays, and in the bibliography, no fewer than eight of his classic works were listed. In addition, there were citations to classic works by Frederic Bastiat, Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk, and Henry Hazlitt, along with books by such Old Right thinkers as John T. Flynn and Isabel Paterson.

I had learned that Ludwig von Mises had once given seminars at New York University's Graduate School of Business, and I had applied to New York University partially because of my knowledge that there was actually a program in Austrian economics that had taken shape there. Even though my intended major was history, I eventually took on a triple major in economics, politics, and history. Among the first talks I heard on campus were those given by Richard Ebeling and David Ramsay Steele, who gave me further insight into the remarkable diversity within the libertarian and Austrian scholarly community. It didn't take me long to register for courses with one of Mises's finest students: Israel Kirzner. Courses with Mario Rizzo, Gerald O'Driscoll, Stephen Littlechild, and Roger Garrison would follow later, as did attendance at regular sessions of the Austrian Economics Colloquium (which met weekly) and the once-a-month Austrian Economics Seminar, where I was privileged to see presentations by everyone from Ludwig Lachmann (also a member of the NYU Economics Department) and Murray Rothbard (on "The Myth of Neutral Taxation"). It was at these and other sessions that I met such folks as Don Lavoie, Larry White, George Selgin, Joe Salerno, Roger Koppl, and Ralph Raico. For me, it was as if I'd stepped into Scholarly Nirvana. Even between classes, I could just walk on over to the corner of Bleecker and Mercer Streets and thumb through the literature on display at Laissez Faire Books. And when the academic year was over, there was always a whirlwind summer weekend libertarian conference to go to, sponsored by either the Cato Institute or the Institute for Humane Studies.

History remained my deepest passion. By the spring of my sophomore year, I had been an active member of the NYU Undergraduate History Club and enrolled in the History Honors Program. Hand-in-hand with my scholarly studies, I was a co-founder of the NYU chapter for Students for a Libertarian Society (SLS). With the Soviets bogged down in Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter was calling for a return to draft registration. It was fortuitous that on April 30, 1979, the House Military Manpower Subcommittee voted unanimously to have the House Armed Services Committee consider the resumption of Selective Service registration. A planned protest in Washington Square Park on May Day became that much more prescient, as SLS joined a diverse coalition of groups to resist the growing political support for conscription.

Time spent as a growing libertarian activist took nothing away from my deepening academic studies. When I returned in the Fall of 1979, the beginning of my junior year at NYU, I had already taken courses with some of the finest historians that the Department of History had to offer, including Richard Hull and colonial historians Patricia Bonomi and Gloria Main. Simultaneously, my acquaintance with Murray Rothbard had developed into a collegial friendship; Murray's work had an enormous impact on my growing libertarian perspective and he never hesitated, in countless phone conversations, to provide me with insightful guidance and advice on the development of my professional course of study (see "How I Became a Libertarian"). Virtually every term paper I wrote---covering everything from the colonial era to the Progressive era, from the “war collectivism” of World War I to the Great Depression, from the New Deal to World War II and the postwar emergence of the welfare-warfare state---reflected a maturing libertarian perspective, informed by Rothbard's unique interpretation of American history. This work culminated with my first professional article published in The Historian (the NYU undergraduate history journal) in 1980 on "Government and the Railroads in World War I" [pdf] and in my undergraduate senior honors thesis, directed by labor historian Daniel Walkowitz, "The Implications of Interventionism: An Analysis of the Pullman Strike" [pdf].

In fairness, many years later, I criticized aspects of Rothbard's work in a full scholarly exegesis of its scope, as a segment of my doctoral dissertation, from which I derived Part II of my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, the culminating work of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy" (which began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical). That critique, however, is itself evidence of the impact that Rothbard had made on my libertarian studies---since it was simultaneously my attempt to make visible, and to grapple with, his many contributions, something that too many contemporary scholars had simply ignored.

It was in part my commitment to making those contributions visible that I approached Professor Richard Hull in the fall semester of 1979. At the time, Professor Hull was the amiable advisor for both undergraduate students of history and The Historian. I told him that there was, indeed, considerable interest among the members of the Undergraduate History Society in Rothbard's iconoclastic approach and I urged him to extend a departmental invitation to Murray to speak before students and faculty of the Department of History. The result of that invitation was Murray's talk on "Libertarian Paradigms in American History," a lecture that he gave on December 4, 1979 at 4 pm in room 808 of the Main Building. Professor Hull encouraged me to introduce Murray to a standing-room only crowd of well over 200 people. I highlighted virtually all of Rothbard's historical works, in particular, while cautioning the crowd that it would not be easy to pigeonhole him as a New Right or New Left historian; clearly, I suggested, Murray Rothbard was forging a unique interpretive approach to the study of history.

Virtually all of the department's historians were in attendance that afternoon; Murray knew many of them personally, and after the lecture, he exchanged some warm words with Gloria Main, since he had referred in his talk to Jackson Turner Main, her husband, whose work on the Antifederalists he recommended highly.

The central theme of Rothbard's lecture was the conflict between "Liberty" and "Power" throughout history. He did not deny the complexities of historical events and did not disapprove of alternative approaches to the understanding of history. Drawing from Albert Jay Nock, however, he believed that the contest between "social power" (embodied in voluntary institutions and trade) and "state power" (in which certain interests used the coercive instruments of government to expropriate others for their own benefit) was central to understanding the ebb and flow of historical events. Social power, which reached its apex in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, breeds prosperity, civilization, and culture; state power, which came to dominate the twentieth century, produced the most regressive period in human history—as government expanded its powers through warfare and a maze of regulatory agencies, central banking, and welfare-state bureaucracies. Throughout his talk, he drew on the pioneering scholarship of Bernard Bailyn on the ideological origins of the American Revolution; Jackson Turner Main on the role of the Antifederalists in restraining, through the Bill of Rights, the "nationalist" forces that forged the counter-revolutionary Constitution; Paul Kleppner, who provides an enlightening take on the struggle between "liturgical" and "pietist" cultural forces, the latter viewed as a key element in the emergence of the Progressive Era and the growth of government intervention; and Gabriel Kolko, whose revisionist work on the role of big business in the move toward the regulatory state explains much about the rise of corporatist statism in the twentieth century and beyond.

The entire 90-minute talk, which included a brief question-and-answer session, is peppered with that edgy Rothbardian wit, which entertained as much as it informed. By the end of the lecture, Rothbard was given a standing ovation.

So enthralled was I by the success of that December 1979 lecture that in September 1980, I extended an invitation to Murray to be among the speakers featured in a nearly week-long "Libertython" sponsored by the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society---dedicated to exploring the politics, economics, and philosophy of freedom. On September 23, 1980, he gave the second of six scheduled lectures that day. His lecture focused on "The Crisis of American Foreign Policy," wherein I introduced him to a slightly smaller audience than the event sponsored by the History Department. The size of the audience didn't matter; for Rothbard, there was nothing more important than the issue of war and peace. As he put it, libertarians were usually quite good in opposing the regulations of OSHA or criticizing the destructive effects of price controls. But when faced with the role of the warfare state as the single most important factor in the expansion of government power: "Blank out"---a turn of phrase he used, giving credit to Ayn Rand---was the typical response he'd witnessed from far too many libertarians. By not focusing enough attention on the role of "war and peace," all the other issues concerning price control, free will versus determinism, and so forth, become "pointless ... if we're all washed away" as a species. With a bit of gallows humor, he couldn't resist criticizing the U.S. military's plan that would whisk away politicians to safety as nuclear warfare becomes imminent such that the "goddamn government" will go on in bomb shelters, while the rest of us perish. As the antidote to war, he cited W. C. Fields, who, when asked by the Saturday Evening Post how to end World War II, remarked: "Take the leaders of both sides or all sides, in the Hollywood Bowl, and let them fight it out with sackfuls of guns." The Post didn't publish the comment, Rothbard says, but he yearns for a world that gets back to jousting between the leaders of warring governments, rather than a policy of what Charles Beard once called "perpetual war for perpetual peace," in which twentieth-century technology had made possible mass murder on an unimaginable scale.

Some will have difficulty accepting Rothbard's argument that in any clash between "democratic" and "dictatorial" countries, the latter is not necessarily the source of contemporary conflict. In fact, Rothbard argues, the foreign policy of the "democratic" United States has been at the root of many of the global conflicts in the post-World War II era.

During the Q&A session, folks who are familiar with the voice of Don Lavoie will recognize him instantly. Included here as well are several self-acknowledged "digs" that Rothbard takes at the Libertarian Party's 1980 Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, with some surprising comments on subjects such as immigration policy.

Except for those who were present at these two events, these two lectures have not been heard by anyone since 1979-1980. I had been the only person with recorded copies of these Rothbard lectures and it is remarkable that these recordings survived. Indeed, an apartment fire in October 2013 nearly consumed my library—and my family. Fortunately, we survived, as did most of my books, audio and video cassettes, and other recordings. The "lost" Rothbard lectures were found under two feet of ash and sheetrock. I later digitized them for the sake of posterity and have donated these materials to the Mises Institute, which has become a repository of so much of Rothbard's corpus. I am delighted that they will now be heard for the first time in nearly four decades.

September 07, 2019

Roger E. Bissell's New Book: What's in Your File Folder?

I am delighted to celebrate with my dear friend Roger E. Bissell the publication of his new book What's in Your File Folder? Essays on the Nature and Logic of Propositions. It happens to coincide as well with the day, fifty years ago, that he met his wife, Elizabeth (Becky). I wish them at least another fifty years of love and happiness!

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So let me tell you What's in Roger's File Folder! A foreword written by me! Just an excerpt from that foreword will give readers an indication of what I think of Roger's wonderful new book:

[T]hese essays constitute a shot across the bow to the scoffers that Rand’s philosophy has nothing further to offer our culture---and a fitting example of the kind of body of work that can be built by someone with intelligence, insight, courage, and persistent effort. They are the work of an independent intellectual who acknowledges the ideas of those upon which he builds, while daring to evolve both in self-critical fashion and in terms of "thinking outside the box." They are the work of an original thinker whose contributions have been profoundly underappreciated but whose impact, I predict, will be felt for many years to come.

You want to know more about the book!? Well, then, get to it! Check it out here.

September 05, 2019

In Praise of Footnotes!

For years, I've heard from "fans" and "foes" alike that I had a curious obsession in my scholarly reliance on extensive footnoting. A former professor of mine once said that virtually every footnote in my books was so extensive that each could provide a portal to a whole other book! But my critics dismissed it as "scholarly dressing" for preposterous theses bolstered by the "trappings of scholarship" (in other words: footnotes!).

Not counting in-text "author-date" citations in my books, I count a total of 2,045 notes and 89 pages of bibliographic references in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy" alone: Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (429 notes; 21 pages of references); Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (second edition; 999 notes; 20 pages of references); and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (617 notes; 48 pages of references).

But I have now learned from historian Karin Wulf that the very practice of footnoting is a bulwark of our democracy! In a recent Washington Post essay, "Could Footnotes Be the Key to Winning the Disinformation Wars?" (hat tip to my pal Brandon!), Wulf argues that the practice of footnoting has been aligned with the emergence of the Enlightenment and democracy, important to information transparency, the art of argumentation, and the noble practice of giving credit where credit is due. As Wulf states:

But footnotes do even more: They also teach us how to be active and knowledgeable citizens. The transparent exposure of the evidence being used to make claims puts the reader in charge of assessing their relationship. This is precisely the deliberative process that self-governance asks of us. … Accurate, full and contextualized information is the most important weapon wielded on behalf of accountable and transparent government. That is why despotic regimes want to control and restrict it. It is why we have the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of the press. It is the heart of the Freedom of Information Act. Information itself is democracy’s shield and sword, and the footnote every American’s birthright.

Well, damn! Footnote Fetishists of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your despotic governments---and a world to win!

September 02, 2019

The Paperboys Who Never Were

I recently did a remarkably thorough re-organization of my library and file system, and have an endless number of clippings that I've classified by subject. I'm going to get into the habit of passing on links to articles that I find of interest, and this is one from "New York's Home Town Paper", the New York Daily News. It tells the story of the change from print to digital media and the effect it has had on those young boys and girls who will never have a paper route... or learn the spirit of entrepreneurship it instilled.

For the record, we still get our paper delivered in Brooklyn! Check out "The Paperboys Who Never Were" by John Ficarra.

As I mentioned on Facebook, in reply to FB buddy Scott Schiff, I realize that the paper delivery route began to change in the 1980s, with the rise of small business, but this was a tale from the 1960s.

In truth, my paperboy is more of a paper guy. And he throws the paper from his car each morning, and typically hits my stoop. Sometimes in-between our house and the house next door. Sometimes in the front yard. No, he's not a pitcher for the Yankees, but, as I said, we still get our paper delivered. :)

March 22, 2019

Being Dialectical About Dialectics or Finding Courage Through Criticism

My friend Nick Manley posted this on Facebook:

I still think there is nothing wrong with being cowardly or if there is: you can remind yourself that nobody's perfect or without "sin", but I do really wonder what I could do for left-wing market anarchism were I more courageous and fearless on taking action on behalf of it.
If Chris Matthew Sciabarra could endure what he did in terms of both scholarly and personal critiques to bring the world the notion of dialectical methodology being useful for free market libertarians: why can't I? It isn't like I haven't tested the potentially hostile waters before and came out still alive so to speak.
I didn't get involved in libertarian anarchism to be part of some exclusive social club or cult. I got involved to change the world for the better.

I replied on Facebook, and wanted to share my reply with Notablog readers; I wrote:

Nick Manley, my friend, it saddens me that you put yourself through so much self-torture, worrying about what others might say or think about what you say or think (though with all due respect, you're not inside their minds, and you never really know what other people may be thinking or why they say the things they do).

Understand this: I went through about 35-40 years of criticisms from left and right over "dialectical libertarianism"... but I didn't tie my self-concept to whether I was right or wrong. Instead, I answered the criticisms to the best of my ability, did more reading, and by the time I got to the final book of my trilogy, I tried to address every criticism that was raised with regard to the concept of dialectics that I had endorsed ("the art of context-keeping") and the need to tie that method to the defense of a free society.

Did I succeed? I have no clue. I only know that I welcomed the criticism, even those criticisms that were, for lack of a better phrase, completely idiotic---because they attempted to tie me to certain notions of dialectical method that I had clearly not endorsed. So I spent half of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism literally re-writing and reconstructing the history of dialectics as a concept---in the first three chapters, followed by a whole chapter that developed a definition of dialectics and to unpacking that definition and its implications for social inquiry.

And guess what? I was still criticized, and will be criticized long after I am gone, despite hundreds of footnotes and citations to this or that source. It comes with the territory. I'm still learning. I practically live for the dialogue (after all, the dialectical method was born, in its first manifestations, from the very notion of dialogue---looking at things from different perspectives and on different levels of generality, and not reifying a single one-sided perspective as if it were the whole).

But one really good thing happened. After nearly four decades of being the voice of one crying in the wilderness (and we all know what happened to the last guy who had that voice of one crying in the wilderness), I have now coedited with two colleagues (Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins) a forthcoming volume (The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom) with contributions from 19 scholars (including myself) who are not afraid to utter the words "dialectics" and "liberty" in the same sentence.

But guess what? I don't even agree with what every scholar in the book has done with the notion of a 'dialectical libertarianism'---and I suspect that the contributors to the volume would disagree with one another on the various dialectical applications that each of them has made in their respective essays. But this is a good thing. It shows that the very notion of a dialectical libertarianism includes vigorous differences even among those who adhere to its core premises, which makes it a living research program for future scholarship, going in directions that none of us might be able to predict, given that it will be applied in various contexts and innumerable ways as circumstances change over time.

Welcome the differences! Work on not tying your self-worth to a cause, but on developing your self-worth as an unfolding project of its own. It may or may not include that cause, but be open to the possibility that that cause itself will also unfold and evolve over time.

I know, I know, all this is easier said than done. There will be days that you'll read a criticism of your work in a book or on social media and want to pick up your laptop and throw it against a wall. The real courage that you need to develop is the courage to accept your self-doubt, the courage to question yourself, and the courage to accept the fact that you are growing and will never stop expanding the boundaries of your knowledge. And in order to do that, you need critics---some will be friendly, some will be hostile; some will say worthwhile things, some won't. But none of it is a reflection of who you are, and to me, you've been a kind, supportive, gentle soul who doesn't give himself enough credit for what he knows already.

Mucho love from Brooklyn. Hang in there.

February 10, 2019

Objectivist Contributions to Discussions of Education

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.")

August 29, 2018

The Dialectics of Liberty: A Forthcoming Collection

I am honored to announce that our contract with Lexington Books, a subsidiary of Rowman & Littlefield, has been signed, sealed, and delivered [Hat Tip to Stevie! YouTube link] and that a superb new collection entitled The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom will be published in 2019-2020.

The book, co-edited by Roger E. Bissell, Edward W. Younkins, and yours truly, features the contributions of eighteen extraordinary scholars in fields as diverse as aesthetics, business, economics, higher education, history, the humanities, law, philosophy, politics, psychology, and social theory. Despite spirited disagreements among them, and the diversity of perspectives represented, all of our authors work under the Big Tent that is "dialectical libertarianism"---a form of social analysis that seeks to understand the larger dynamic and systemic context within which freedom is nourished and sustained.

The homepage we have developed is sparse right now, because we are in the process of collecting, editing, and organizing essays from our contributors and integrating them into an organic unity; in other words, you might say that the very creation of this trailblazing volume will be an unfolding dialectical process---so, for now, we are purposely not providing a list of our contributors. That will come in time; indeed, very soon, we'll unveil our stellar cast of authors.

But the news of the book's acceptance for publication was just too wonderful not to share with you. I look forward to filling in the blanks very soon. But most importantly, I look forward to the publication of the volume itself.

And speaking only for myself, as a person who felt as if his was the voice of one crying in the wilderness over the past forty years, in championing the very notion of a "dialectical libertarianism" with my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy" (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism), I have immense personal satisfaction in having played a part in bringing together this remarkable group of contributors from whom I've learned so much---and who have honored us with their presence in what promises to be one of the most important and provocative contributions to the scholarly literature of its generation.

June 02, 2018

The Beginning of the End for NYC's Specialized Public High Schools

I don't usually write on matters of local politics, but this particular matter has gotten me so incensed that I felt an obligation to say something public about it.

I will put my biases upfront so that there is no question as to my knowledge of the NYC public schools, as I, myself, was a product of the largest public school system in the United States, serving over 1.1 million students. I am an alumnus of John Dewey High School, which was, in its time, one of the finest high schools in the system, offering a highly individualized curriculum within which students could pursue their academic passions guided by teachers of the highest caliber.

I should also mention that my sister, Elizabeth A. Sciabarra, has been a lifelong and gifted educator within the system, and has fought for years to provide quality education to the thousands of children whose lives she has touched. She was a teacher of English and an Assistant Principal at Brooklyn Technical High School, a principal at New Dorp High School on Staten Island, the Deputy Superintendent of Brooklyn and Staten Island High Schools, and then the Superintendent of Selective Schools. Under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she became the founder and CEO of the Office of Student Enrollment in 2003, a job that she held until her retirement from the system in 2010. She helped to augment educational choice in the public schools (which now includes a promising movement toward enterprising Charter Schools). Elizabeth is currently the Executive Director of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.

Anything that I say in this blog entry is a reflection of my own views and I take full responsibility for them; in no way should they be interpreted as being an echo of my sister's views, whatever they might be.

Suffice it to say, I have always taken a radically libertarian stance on the state of public education in this country (something that is being addressed by such organizations as the Reason, Freedom, Individualism Institute, of which I am an advisory board member). But I've always been one to think dialectically; we live in a context in which public education is the primary vehicle for the education of children in the United States. Given this reality, it is all the more encouraging when one finds that there are certain institutions of learning within the current system that should be nurtured. It is in the interests of gifted and talented students to be nourished as potential candidates for entrance into these schools.

For years, students gained entry into the specialized high schools of New York City via a single admissions test (known as the SHSAT or "Specialized High School Admissions Test"). In 1971, the Hecht-Calandra Act institutionalized this test as the sole determinant for entrance into these schools, via ranking.

Now, I've never been a fan of specialized tests; my own test scores on such tests have varied immensely. I once considered going into a joint degree program in History and Law, which required me to take the LSAT, which lasted eight hours, and was more of an endurance test than a test of my intelligence. The following weekend, I took the three-hour GRE, a kind of graduate-level SAT. I had applied to the joint degree programs at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and New York University, which would have led to a J.D. and a Ph.D. in history. As it turned out, my scores on the LSAT weren't high enough to be accepted to any of the law schools of those universities, but my GRE test results were so high that I was accepted to the graduate schools of those universities. In the end, I did not go into a joint degree program, and decided to pursue my interests in political philosophy, theory, and methodology with a graduate and doctoral program at New York University, from which I had received my B.A. in economics, politics, and history (with honors). Those GRE test results ultimately enabled me to get my degrees in higher learning virtually free of charge, since I was rewarded full scholarships to pay for my education. Given the cost of education in this country, I figure that I received three college and graduate level degrees that, in today's dollars, would be over $400,000 in tuition and fees. I did receive, as an undergraduate, one $450.00 National Direct Student Loan, which I paid back on the day I got my BA. Otherwise, my education was fully funded and paid for by New York University, which explains why I bleed "violet," as they say.

And to make matters clearer, I graduated with a Grade Point Average of 3.85 overall as an undergraduate (with a 3.9+ in each of my majors, except economics, which was 3.7+), and a 3.84 GPA overall as a graduate and doctoral student. So, I don't believe that specialized tests are necessary indicators of how well one will do in the larger scheme of things.

But standards there must be, and for state law to require the taking of a specialized admissions test in which students are ranked according to their scores and placed in various specialized high schools, based on the ways in which students prioritize their schools and the number of seats available at such schools, seems an eminently reasonable way to proceed.

Well, not according to the Diversity Police. A new bill, Bill No. A10427, is being introduced by New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron that spells the beginning of the end of the last remaining gems in the New York City Public School System, among them: Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School and the Bronx High School of Science. These high quality educational institutions have among their gifted and talented alumni an array of Nobel laureates in biology, chemistry, physiology and medicine, physics, and economics, Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award winners, and an almost countless number of accomplished leaders in politics, law, business, science, technology, athletics (including Olympic gold medalists), music and the arts.

To attack the admissions test as the basis by which students gain entrance into these schools is a misplaced priority. If certain students are not scoring high enough in their rankings, the blame should be placed on their pre-high school educations, which are not preparing them well enough to have the opportunity to enter these institutions. The priority should be on improving the quality of pre-high school education, not on eliminating the one 'objective' standard by which students gain entrance into the system's preeminent high schools.

Those who are most concerned about the relative decrease in the number of African American students in the specialized high schools ought to consider one statistic. Back in the 1980s, to take a single example, Brooklyn Technical High School had a student population that was approximately 46% African American. These gifted and talented students all ranked high enough to get into one of the great specialized high schools. And back then, there were only three specialized high schools (the ones mentioned above) that based their entrance requirements on the test. So, if anything, that statistic shows that African American students were doing well enough in an environment that was even more competitive, since there were fewer schools and fewer seats to fill.

What happened? We can argue all day and all night over the reasons for the changing student demographics in the specialized high schools, but clearly something has happened to the quality of pre-high school education that must be addressed. For Mayor de Blasio and his new chancellor, Richard Carranza, to advocate the abolition of the test for entrance into NYC specialized high schools is hypocritical at best. As Chalkbeat, an online education publication put it, "[a]fter a long wait," De Blasio, who has always advocated for more "equity" in school placement, is now looking to scrap the test entirely.

How convenient. I wonder if the mayor waited to launch his long-promised attack on the specialized high schools until his son Dante had graduated from Brooklyn Tech. The mayor is married to an African American woman, Chirlane McCray, and Dante was not admitted to the school based on either his race or ethnicity or his relationship to the man who would become Mayor of New York City. Dante de Blasio got in because he scored and ranked high enough on the SHSAT to earn admission into Tech. He had an outstanding record as a student of one of the city's most prestigious schools. He and one of his Tech classmates captured the state high school debate championship in March 2015, and he is now a student of Yale University.

So, with one of his own children having benefited from the high quality education offered by one of the city's "elite" high schools, our "progressive" mayor can now attack the institutions that certainly nourished his own son's academic excellence. What the mayor now proposes is to begin the process of eroding the key entrance requirement for the specialized high schools, the first step toward destroying the high quality that they offer to students who qualify. He should concentrate his energies on raising the standards of the public school system in toto---particularly education in New York City's elementary and middle schools---rather than attacking its gems at the high school level. Achievement is not a matter of quantity or quotas, but of quality and enrichment.

The fact that this amended bill was introduced last night, right before an early June weekend, preceding a Sunday press conference by the Mayor and the Chancellor, gives us an indication of the kinds of strategies that are being used by the opponents of quality education.

These politicians need to be put on notice: We do not raise the quality of education by attacking standards; we raise standards to generate and nourish quality.

Postscript (4 June 2018): On Facebook, I expanded on my Notablog post. Here is what I had to say:

DeBlasio and his new chancellor were sloganeering yesterday at their press conference, saying "It's the system, not the student."
Well, they got that much right. It is the system, not the student. It is a system that has to be fixed from the root up. And the root begins in the elementary and middle schools. These schools are failing the kids---whether it is due to destructive pedagogical techniques that undermine the development of young minds, or to the horrific social conditions within which certain schools are situated, making them incapable of delivering a quality education, or any number of other factors. Resources need to be shifted toward the elementary and middle schools to prepare children for the kind of quality education that is offered by the specialized high schools in New York City. You can't hope to fix the system at the level of the high schools, when the damage has already been done at the pre-high school level.
And you can't raise the quality of education, by eliminating quality standards altogether. If you don't have a single test that might provide for at least one objective measure for a ranking of students, then what you will see is the liquidation of all standards, and the substitution of a host of "subjective" factors---including, by the way, favored treatment of particular schools by the politically powerful who will ask the administrators of these schools to give entrance to this student or that student, if they want to retain their "specialized" status. Don't kid yourselves: This has been attempted in the past, but the practice has been thwarted fundamentally because there is a legalized process that was put into place to guide entrance into the specialized high school curriculum.
Now with regard to specialized tests: One point I made in my Notablog entry was that clearly a single test does not always predict the level of achievement for any particular student, and I used myself as an example. So, if the NYC Department of Education wants to compel the specialized high schools to look at a broader range of criteria by which to measure entrance into these schools, that's one thing. It is something entirely different to seek the total elimination of the specialized high school exam.
But then another factor will have to be addressed: Many of these specialized high schools have benefited from donations from their most prestigious graduates---those who have achieved greatness in their careers and who seek to "give back" to the specific schools that nurtured them. If the politically powerful seek to destroy specialized education, I suspect that private donations to these schools that have nurtured the gifted and talented will eventually dry up. Because of limited state and local funding of education, the effects of the proposed policy changes could be catastrophic for specialized education.
In the end, it is typical of political "solutions" to pit class and ethnic groups against one another. We are hearing a lot about whites versus African Americans and Latinos. Interestingly, however, the "solution" being offered by this administration will ultimately disadvantage Asian students, who come from "minority" immigrant groups in New York City and who make up by far the greatest proportion of students in these specialized high schools at this time. So this politically charged issue is indeed full of potholes, and it will only exacerbate ethnic and racial division.
Finally, let's talk a bit about one specialized high school that does not base its admissions policies on the specialized test rankings: LaGuardia High School, which owes its origins to an integration of the High School of Music and Art and the High School of the Performing Arts. Children are admitted into this school based on their auditions and portfolios, taking into account academic and attendance records as well.
Nobody has suggested---at least not yet---that students must be admitted by not auditioning at all. Or that students must be admitted even if they have shown absolutely no experience or accomplishment in the areas of music (whether instrumental or vocal), art (whether the fine arts or the technical arts), drama, dance, or theater. These are as essential to a good education as any of the other subjects students are compelled to take in their pre-high school years. Music and art were requirements when I went to elementary and middle schools here in NYC, back in the stone age. It was one way of helping to discover and nourish the artistically talented among an amazingly diverse student population.
By the time De Blasio and his cronies are finished, the first casualties will be the children---whose talents are stunted by a system that is incapable of raising them up, because it is so busy crushing their dreams.

April 15, 2018

Great Connections: Light Your Own Path

I wanted to alert folks to a wonderful introduction to The Great Connections Program, an outgrowth of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute (of which I am an advisory board member). It is written by my very dear friend and colleague, Marsha Familaro Enright. "Light Your Own Path: The Science and Educational Principles of the Great Connections Program" can be accessed (in PDF format) here.

It is a call to creativity, inspiration, and the importance of pedagogical integration as essential to education. Bravo, Marsha!

January 21, 2018

Folks Interview: Postscript

I have been utterly overwhelmed by the public and private response to the Robert Lerose-conducted interview of me that appeared in Folks magazine here, which has already had over 160 shares from the Folks page alone (and climbing rapidly). [Ed.: As of 26 August 2019, the interview went from 307 shares to 414 shares from the "Folks" site, partially as a result of this post! Will update when appropriate.]

I've also had scores of questions that have been asked of me about the 60+ surgical procedures I've had through the years. Without putting my entire medical history online, let me just give a more detailed picture of the effects of Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMAS), and the intestinal by-pass surgery that was required in order to save my life. The "blind-loop" or so called "dumping" syndrome that can sometimes result from such a procedure has caused side effects that nobody could have quite predicted. Obviously, I do not regret having had the surgery; I would not be here today to talk about any of this, if I had not had the initial operation at age 14.

But to give a very brief summary of some of what this has led to, I'll provide a checklist:

o Chronic dehydration from the condition led to the chronic formation of kidney stones, which has required countless lithotripsies over the years to break up the stones. (In my very first lithotripsy, back in 1995, a stone fragment got lodged in the ureter and after a week of being in utter agony, despite a morphine drip, a stent was placed within to dilate the ureter---under general anesthesia---and was later removed under local anesthesia. NOTHING on earth compares to the pain of a lodged kidney stone or the medieval removal of a stent. Passing such a stone is like giving birth to the planet Jupiter through a pin hole. Hmmm... I see some of you folks crossing your legs. So, end of story!)

o Chronic internal bleeding led to such severe anemia and iron deficiency, that I was required to undergo countless blood transfusions and IV iron supplementations, before I underwent more than two dozen ligation procedures to stop the bleeding. I am no longer anemic.

o Intestinal strain has led to many hernias requiring surgical repair.

o Bouts of everything from impactions to minor perforations to acute diverticulitis, all outgrowths of the condition, have required treatment.

I have used all of the tools of Western medicine and Eastern medicine (including biofeedback, meditation, herbal and nutritional supplements, acupuncture, "energy" meridians, you name it!) to combat these side effects. No stone has been left unturned. I exercise to the best of my ability and try to maintain a healthy diet (but all restrictions be damned, for pizza will always be a part of the special "Brooklyn" diet I practice!). I also surround myself with a positive support network.

Ultimately, however, as so many doctors have said, it is less about "what" I eat, than the fact that I eat, because this is a motility problem, and everything ingested is going to go through the same screwed up mechanics. Fortunately, there are ways of combating the side effects; unfortunately, the underlying cause of all those side effects, rooted in the initial SMAS condition and the by-pass created to save my life, is something for which there remains no cure.

Some folks, with other medical conditions, including both mental and physical health problems (we are integrated beings of mind and body, after all), have debated in various Facebook threads, who has it worse?---folks with gastro-vascular issues or neurological issues or cancer or countless number of other health problems.

Let me just be a little theoretical at this point. As I stated in one of the Facebook threads, this is not about "I've got it worse than you." Economics teaches us that there can be no interpersonal comparisons of utility or disutility---that is, in this context, there is no single scale upon which to measure one person's problems versus another. Or in more philosophical language: everything is agent-relative. Everything is embedded in our personal contexts. Most folks on this planet have some "cross to bear," to use an old metaphor. That's the nature of life, which is why Ayn Rand once claimed that life is the standard of moral values. But this is not a matter of merely taking those actions that further one's survival; it is about surviving and flourishing as human beings---with all that goes into the very definition of being human.

What matters is that you do not lay down and crucify yourself on any cross you might bear. What matters is how you rise to the occasion to combat it---how well you deal with it, using all the medical and personal resources at your disposal, including the nourishing of social networks of support.

If the interview at Folks does anything to bring attention to the SMAS condition that nearly killed me, that's great. But the message was more universal than that: it is that we all have to develop survival skills that emphasize our personal worth and that nurture a healthy sense of self-esteem. For me, the works of the late novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand and the late psychologist Nathaniel Branden, articulated in a more detailed fashion that which I understood on a "gut" level, if one can pardon the pun.

I no longer have a terminal disease; I'm still kickin', and I'm a warrior. I allow myself the grace of owning my condition, but not allowing it to define who and what I am. I own my emotions, and allow myself to be happy, to be sad, to laugh, to cry, but mostly to revel in the fact that where there is life, there is hope. Celebrate the fact that you are alive, and focus on all those things that help you not merely to survive, but to flourish. Celebrate your individual creativity and productivity. Celebrate your connections to all things that are living on this wonderful planet.

Once again, I want to thank each and every person, probably more than a hundred "folks", who have responded with such support, admiration, and affection. It's not about sympathy. It's all about embracing and nourishing life-affirming values---values that both sustain life and are reflections of a life worth living.

A big Brooklyn hug to all!

January 20, 2018

Folks Interview: "How the Queen of Selfishness Taught Me to Accept My Disability"

Freelance writer Robert Lerose recently interviewed me for Folks, an online magazine "dedicated to telling the stories of remarkable people who refuse to be defined by their health issues." The interview is featured in this week's edition and can be read here---though for some reason, it also appears here. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the title of the essay or the accompanying links provided at either site.)

The piece focuses on my lifelong medical adventures with the congenital gastro-vascular disorder, Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMAS); an intestinal by-pass (known as a duodenojejunostomy), performed by the gifted surgeon, Dr. Bochetto, saved my life at the age of 14.

I was diagnosed with this extremely rare condition when I was literally near death. It was my family physician, Dr. Karounos, who did a GI Series in his office (they did that back then!), and who suggested after years of misdiagnosis, that I might have SMAS. It was the great Japanese doctor, Hiromi Shinya, who nailed the diagnosis with an upper tract endoscopic procedure known as an esaphagogastroduodenoscopy. As the pioneer of gastrointestinal endoscopic and colonoscopic techniques, Dr. Shinya developed and taught its most fundamental principles to a whole generation of doctors who, to this day, stand on his "Atlas"-like shoulders (including the utterly brilliant, affable, terrific, musical[!], Dr. Mark Cwern, one of Dr. Shinya's proteges, who has supervised so much of my quality healthcare for nearly three decades now).

There have been severe complications caused by this condition and the body's manner of coping with the surgical changes that were necessary to my survival. Today, on the eve of my 58th birthday, with 60+ surgical procedures since that 1974 surgery, I am alive and kickin', thanks to the efforts of so many wonderful physicians and the love and support of family and friends.

Interestingly, in all my years on this planet, I have never heard this condition mentioned anywhere. It was only recently that I saw its potentially devastating effects dramatized in Episode 2 of the first season of "The Good Doctor," starring Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a brilliant surgical resident at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, who just so happens to have autism and savant syndrome. In the episode, Murphy is able to visualize in his mind certain troubling symptoms present in one of his young patients. It sends him running to the child’s house, banging on the door in the middle of the night to the consternation of the child’s parents. He refuses to leave unless he can see the child to make sure she is okay. As it turns out, he saves the child’s life because he correctly diagnoses her as having a terminal condition in which the small intestine is twisted around the Superior Mesenteric Artery.

This was the first time in my entire life that I ever saw anyone in any medium—be it film, television, radio, or literature—even mention or suggest the condition known as Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome. The disorder is that rare. It is my hope that the mere mention of SMAS on national television might bring more attention to its causes, treatment, and perhaps, someday, to its complete eradication from the human condition.

My deepest appreciation to Robert Lerose for making "folks" aware of this medical problem---and of the possibility that individuals can survive and flourish despite the limitations that they may face from health issues. Again, check out the interview at Folks.

I'd also like to express my gratitude to my friend Don Hauptman, who thought my story was worth telling, and who put Robert Lerose in touch with me. (Only once before this interview, back in 2005, had I discussed the impact of Ayn Rand on my capacity to deal with---and transcend some of the limitations of---a lifelong disability. See here.)

Postscript: Various folks shared my Facebook post of this interview, and there have been so many wonderful comments from so many caring people. Some of the comments have been hilarious. My friend Steve Horwitz, for example, picked up on one of the phrases in my interview and said: "I am amused that Chris Matthew Sciabarra chose this turn of phrase to describe his inner life: 'I am constitutionally incapable of keeping anything in.'" As I remarked in my reply to Steve, I chose that phrase quite consciously. I guess my inner life or my way of dealing with things emotionally is a reflection, in part, of, uh, the nature of my physical disability.

But one comment that I found interesting came from a discussion with regard to an individual who, like Dr. Shaun Murphy in "The Good Doctor" (mentioned above) is on the autism spectrum. Some folks think there is just no comparison between a person suffering a neurological disorder versus a person like myself, who has had 60+ surgeries for a congenital gastro-vascular condition. I responded:

I've learned one thing about the nature of disability, and perhaps it is a lesson that comes from economics: one cannot make interpersonal comparisons of utility or disutility. If you have a disability, the nature of that disability is almost irrelevant, from the perspective of "Mine is worse than yours." If it is your disability, it is something you must come to terms with, and it is as much a 'burden' for a person who has a gastro-vascular disorder as it is for a person who has a neurological one.
I would like to think that my interview has a more universal message: that it is possible to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities, regardless of the limitations that one faces, and to make the most of them.

I emphasized that point of "interpersonal comparisons of utility" in another comment in the same Facebook thread, where I declared that there was no room for shame in thinking that one's problems seem to be minute in comparison to the problems faced by others:

We all can be Stoic in the face of life's difficulties, but no amount of pretending can cover the real pain each of us feels carrying the burdens of health and other problems that are unique to each of us in our own lives. To use an old metaphor, we all seem to have some cross that we are carrying---the trick is not to allow yourself to be crucified on it. But as long as it is your cross that you're carrying, it is still your cross---and each person knows how heavy the burdens can be. Economists are correct: No room for interpersonal comparisons of utility or disutility; let us just be happy that we can have friends and build a community around the idea that there is something heroic about celebrating that which is good, creative, and productive inside each of us. That's one of the gifts I got from Rand's work.
As I said in another thread, I'm, uh, constitutionally incapable of keeping anything in, including the words that come flowing out of my own mouth! Best to get it off your chest, your gut, your mind, whatever! It's positively unhealthy to hold back, especially with those who can be empathetic and supportive.

The Facebook post has been shared by quite a few people, and the Folks story has over 150 shares already. My friend David Boaz remarked: "I am amused to discover that my good friend Chris Sciabarra first encountered the work of Ayn Rand in his days at John Dewey High School. This is an interesting interview about how Rand and Nathaniel Branden helped him deal with a congenital illness that has plagued him throughout his very productive life." I replied:

I chuckled at your opening remark. :)
Regarding having discovered Rand at John Dewey High School (and we all know how much Rand loved Dewey as a pragmatist philosopher), I do have to say that the school was truly the embodiment of individualism in education---we were able to construct our major around five 6-week cycle semesters, which were specialized courses in virtually every discipline, with vigorous independent study. Back then, it was truly one of the gems of the NYC public school system!

January 14, 2018

RIFI: The New Great Connections

The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute (RIFI), on which I serve as one of the members of the Board of Advisors, has launched its dynamic new website. As the Founder and President of the Great Connections Seminars, Marsha Familaro Enright tells us:

When we think of free societies, we often think of industry, free markets, and minimal government. But real freedom starts within, with self-understanding, self-responsibility, self-direction, determination, and a nimble ability to adapt to life’s challenges. Autonomous people do not easily tolerate being ruled.
Yet, the modern classroom, from grade school to graduate school, relies heavily on a top-down structure of a single arbiter of knowledge, often in the position of lecturer and discussion leader as well as knowledge and moral authority. This structure embodies collectivist ideals of social control and strongly helps to foist their ideas and values onto students, such as: social justice, moral relativism, and limiting free speech. By controlling the ideas and the way they are taught to young people, the collectivists have come to control the ideas in the culture.
This educational structure needs to be examined, questioned---and overthrown. . . . where do individuals learn how to live autonomously and use that information in their lives? The free future requires an educational---a psychological---technology that suits the needs and reflects the aims of the free human being.
The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute (RIFI) has developed and implemented such a psychological technology in our Great Connections programs.

Take a tour of this new exciting "Great Connections" website, starting here.

September 22, 2005

Teaching from Your Textbooks

There's a raging debate going on at Liberty and Power Group Blog and the Volokh Conspiracy (discussion here). Aeon Skoble posted a very thoughtful discussion entitled, "A Textbook of Cluelessness," in which he criticizes Law Professor Ian Ayres, who argues that it is "borderline unethical for profs to assign textbooks they have produced."

Here is how I replied to this assertion today on L&P:

My, my, I've just looked at all these comments and the ones at Volokh too! Some are calling for Aeon's prosecution now for "profiting" from the pittance he makes in royalties if he assigns his books to his students.
Frankly, I'm at a loss.
If you teach a course on Marx's concept of alienation, and you happen to have written the book on Marx's concept of alienation, what's wrong with assigning the book to the class? That's what Professor Bertell Ollman did when I took his course on Marxism. And I profited enormously.
And when I teach cyberseminars on my own work, I have to assign my books. I'm teaching them! In a sense, what could be more fulfilling than reading and studying a text that your own professor has written? If you have questions about the book, what better source to ask?
I realize this is not the issue at hand: People are just ticked off that somebody somewhere might be making 4 cents in royalties. Clearly those who are upset over this have no clue about the standard academic contracts that require an author to sell 1000 or 5000 books before even making a dime on anything, on a sliding scale that nets you a couple of hundred dollars a year if you are lucky! (There are exceptions to this, of course, but they are exceptions). If some think we're in this for the money, well... we picked the wrong profession, folks!
As an aside, I've done some work on pre-Bolshevik education in Russia, prior to the Communist takeover. One of the things that really irritated Narkompros (the "Commissariat of Enlightenment") [once the Bolsheviks took over] was the fact that Old Guard professors were... HORRORS!... lecturing and using their own books as texts in their classes. Such books projected the individual professor's interpretation of history or philosophy, rather than the politically correct and approved version. As the Old Guard was exiled or shot, the requisite PC texts slowly replaced everything else. If you happen to have been an approved Marxist, you could teach your own PC text at that point. Otherwise, fuhgedaboudit!

Comments welcome.

August 18, 2005

My Interview at Sunni's Salon

The tenth anniversary celebrations continue this afternoon with the publication of my interview at Sunni's Salon. I have known Sunni Maravillosa for a long time, and she's a total sweetheart. Her interview of me is comprehensive, wide-ranging, sometimes intimate, and always entertaining.

The 8-page interview starts here.

Comments welcome.

August 04, 2005

The Art of Cyber-Pedagogy

Yesterday, I read a really interesting article by Michael J. Bugeja in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled "Master (or Mistress) of Your Domain" (shades of Jerry), with the descriptive subtitle: "Creating a Web site for your latest book can showcase the work and aid your case for tenure and promotion."

I'll put aside the issue of aiding one's case for tenure and promotion. I'd like to suggest that it might actually aid one's cause (which might not actually aid one's tenure or promotion). And I think more classical liberal and libertarian scholars should consider doing it.

First, let's take a look at Bugeja's points. He writes:

For better or worse, the Internet is playing a larger role in editorial decisions about books and in promotion and tenure evaluations. It is commonplace for external reviewers to Google Web sites or troll databases before rendering their decisions on behalf of publishing houses and institutions.
Search committees also are using the Web to evaluate the writing or scholarship of job applicants before inviting them to on-campus interviews. ...

I advise authors to create a Web site with the title of their texts as the domain name and to assemble other sites with domain names identifying their scholarship. ... Authors are responsible for getting their books reviewed, purchased by libraries, and adopted by professors for use in research or in the classroom. In the past, that required an author to fill out a questionnaire for the publisher, identifying editors, book reviewers, and colleagues who might have interest in the work. The Internet has changed that.

Bugeja explains how he marshalled his own resources to promote his own work. Who is a better salesperson than the person who authors the work and knows it, inside-out? He "e-mailed reviewers and technology columnists, directing them to the Web site" he had established for his book, "asking if they would like a copy. Several said yes, generating reviews and citations that I added to my site under 'latest news.' Without the site, the book would have died along with the trees that gave it life at the printing press. Instead, it went on to win a research award with reviews in top publications. That's the benefit of a book site."

Bugeja tells us that his book site boosted classroom sales too. He reminds us that those who surf the web expect some things for free. The Internet may not be a "medium for professors concerned about copyright issues or intellectual property," but Bugeja encourages authors "to share [their] pedagogies or methodologies," giving readers, potential teachers and students alike, "all manner of free information, including lectures for each chapter; sample syllabi for large, middle-range, senior, master's, and doctoral classes; end-of-chapter materials; forms for paper assignments, journal exercises, and presentations; sample midterms and final exams; a bibliography; and an index." He even provides

a 103-page instructor's manual in both Word and PDF formats. Online manuals save the publisher printing costs and allow potential users to manipulate syllabi, lectures, and other downloads. The most popular free feature on my site is a twice-monthly teaching module meant to stimulate classroom discussion. To date, I've added more than two dozen such modules to the site on content too topical to include in a new edition but nonetheless related to the concept of the work.

I especially like Bugeja's suggestion that authors archive "reviews, recent articles, and information about" themselves. I've been doing such things for over ten years now on my own site, and I've had URL forwarding for the titles of all of my books. Just try typing totalfreedomtowardadialecticallibertarianism.com or, more simply, marxhayekandutopia.com, and see where that takes you. I'll never forget how my pal and colleague, Lester Hunt, once characterized my site. Linking to it from his site, he wrote: "Chris is a true liberal. In the interest of provoking dialogue, he puts some very adverse criticisms of his controversial work on his site, together with his replies." I think that's actually very important. And I think more liberal/libertarian scholars should be doing it precisely because it documents the history of a discussion of a particular work, while also providing the basis for future dialogue.

The one thing authors should not supply, of course, is: the book. But links to services where you can order the book online are always helpful. As Bugeja puts it: "That's the point of the site, and all links lead to that outcome."

I've not yet put a syllabus for my books online, but I do have one available for use in a cyberseminar that I give now and then on my "Dialectics and Liberty" trilogy. But Bugeja has given me a good idea about developing more study guides and syllabi for my various publications so as to facilitate their use in the classroom.

It would be a good idea, I think, if those in the liberal/libertarian academy do more to develop these kinds of web resources in a more formal manner. It is one way to develop a "parallel institution" of learning, while at the same time providing a blueprint for the use of such materials in established institutions of learning. Additionally, it gives each of us, as authors of the works, a chance to frame the discussion in a way that is most likely to generate further interest in our own contributions and the contributions of our colleagues in the libertarian academy. I've seen some development of this model on the sites of some of my colleagues; in the light of Bugeja's essay, I think this is something that can benefit each of us individually and the cause of liberty more generally.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P, where comments are posted here.