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Showing posts from October, 2010

The Perils of Confusing Liberty with Freedom

Liberty is not synonymous with freedom. It is a sub-species of freedom, but a rather limited one. The slogan of the French Revolution, for example, is a slogan that is closer to freedom than the slogan of the American Secession. "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" is really only a definition of liberty , but "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" is a closer definition of freedom - as long as we add "Sorority" or substitute "Fraternity" with "Camaraderie." In any case, some rather absurd definitions of "freedom" result from believing it is defined as "liberty." This is mainly why libertarians continue to exist, philosophically speaking: their entire ideology is based on category mistake. ( Philosophically speaking : they also continue to exist because as long as there are selfish jerks there will be libertarians.) 1. Taxes that lead to public services violate my "freedom" This one is the mo

The VAST Rightwing Stupidity

Because I like to make myself angry and annoyed, I often waste time reading conservative sites and blogs (sometimes I go so far as to read libertarian/objectivist blogs!). I justify this waste of time as educating myself on the enemy. The nascent fascist movement south of the border is growing in influence; in some ways it is imperative for leftists to be aware of this danger. At the same time, however, a lot of the blogs I read are so ludicrous that I find myself close to banging my head on the computer screen, frustrated that people actually believe this crap. The winner of this week's Rightwing Stupidity Award goes to the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force blog that is managed by James Lafferty. Yes, in Virginia there is a group of concerned U.S. patriots who possess an anti-Shariah task force! They are VAST!!! James Lafferty and his fellow VAST members, according to this mission statement, actually believe that there is an Islamic conspiracy to take over the legal syst

Cell 16

Recently, at my doctorate-completion party, my generous and thoughtful friends/comrades gifted me with a complete set of Cell 16's journal No More Fun and Games! . (They also gifted me with three bottles of awesome whiskey, because now that I have my PhD I am expected to have a bourgeois whiskey collection.) Since Cell 16 was founded in the late 1960s by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (at that time just "Roxanne Dunbar"), and I used later work by Dunbar-Ortiz for my dissertation, my friends decided that this would be an appropriate gift - and it was. For those who don't know, Cell 16 was a radical feminist organization with Maoist overtones that emerged in the midst of the American leftist explosion in 1968. In many ways, the women behind Cell 16 are responsible for originating radical left feminism (intentionally setting themselves apart from Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem who they saw as "liberals"), and many of their ideas (such as the analysis of pornography

Not "Tyranny of the Majority" but "Tyranny of the Wealthy Minority"

The cliche about democracy being a possible "tyranny of the majority" was gibbered in my vicinity recently, reminding me again of how I hate this supposed nugget of "wisdom" almost as much as I despise the spurious appeals to human nature that are used to defend capitalism . What is it about these pitiful aphorisms that makes them so popular? The cliche is taken as an argument in and of itself: "Golly it must be so because I have this cool quote I picked up somewhere that I can't remember." This time the "tyranny of the majority" nonsense was uttered by someone who thought he was an authority on the matter simply because he had a doctorate. Of course, the fact that his doctorate concerned the philosophy of science apparently did not disqualify him from making truth statements about areas outside of his expertise. Nor did his vaunted love of formal logic prevent him from using a cliche as an argument. The idea that democracy, especially thi

"Human Nature" & "Failed Communism"

I'm thoroughly exhausted by the "human nature" argument that I consistently encounter, while teaching or in random debates, whenever the possibility of communism is raised. You know the one: that supposed epiphany that forms the basis of the good-in-theory-bad-in-practice argument. "Oh sure it sounds sensible, but obviously it can't work because it fails to understand human nature." Human Nature? If they mean the boy band "Human Nature" that was responsible for the 2005 hit single "Reach Out (I'll be there)" then no, my arguments for communism have not understood human nature. Clearly human nature is meant to indicate something like this: Look out! I'm a human and this is just how I behave when I'm outside the normal laws of society that are meant to stop me from swinging chainsaws and killing and being true to my vicious human nature! Human nature, then, meaning that humans are essentially

American Intellectual Freedom

Apparently, several weeks back, the American Library Association (ALA) organized a "Banned Books Week" campaign to draw attention to the problem of literary censorship. For a country where the most vocal patriots, whether liberal or conservative, love to yammer on about how they are the "greatest free country in the world," and then go to great lengths to bomb other people out of some desire to spread this freedom, it's somewhat amusing to know that American freedom implies intellectual censorship. There is a reason that Banned Books Week is not an organized campaign in other so-called "free" countries - the problem is very American. The ALA has mapped the books that have been challenged and/or banned across the U.S. in public school libraries, public libraries, and sometimes academic libraries. They estimate that 70-80 % of banned books go unreported every year. And since banning books goes all the way back to the declaration of independence, b

People who don't believe in the Labour Theory of Value are STILL stupid

Some time ago, I wrote an entry called " People who don't believe in the Labour Theory of Value are stupid ." I still believe this and maintain that any scientific analysis of capitalism has to begin with the Labour Theory of Value. And yet I keep encountering economic "scientists" who not only hold the most idealist notions about value, but who are willfully incapable of understanding the Labour Theory of Value. Take for example this supposedly authoritative analysis from (surprise, surprise) a libertarian site: "According to intrinsic theories of value, value is inherent in objects; remains constant despite changing demand, the passage of time, and other factors; and can be "objectively determined" by calculations based upon some fundamental scientific principle. The labor theory of value is clearly an intrinsic-value theory. [...] The other approach is the market-exchange theory. According to this theory, value is not inherent in objects