Freedom, Love, and the Vision of Edith Wharton

– June 12, 2018

Wharton was the mind that gave the most rich and complex expression of the glory and failings of this fascinating time and place. She clearly loved freedom, and despised impositions on the human personality, which is why she was one of the few literary giants of her time to see the power of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. At the same time, there is no form of freedom that can stamp out the failings of human nature; freedom is a beginning – a necessary foundation with which no human community can do without – for the development of a truly civilized society.


The Sock Slider, It Turns Out, Is a Godsend

– May 16, 2018

As it turns out, many people have needs that cannot be appreciated or discerned in advance by intellectuals. Many times, they cannot even understand them. This has been obvious since the late 19th century, when the socialist critique of the capitalist market underwent a huge shift. The Marxists had predicted that capitalism would impoverish the working class while enriching the class of capital owners. When that turned out to be obviously false, the critique shifted: now the system was being attacked for providing too much in the way of frivolous luxury goods to the middle class.


Beware the Friend/Enemy Binary of Politics

– May 14, 2018

Markets require that people play nice. Give these same people a forum in which to argue politics and they become barbaric. Why is that?


The Miracle of Canned Tuna Salad

– May 4, 2018

Here is what is so amazing. It all happens without any central direction from the top down. In fact, we can go further to say that it could not happen under central direction. No government bureaucrat made this possible. They only get in the way. You need owners, marketers, manufacturers, prices, markets, banks, millions of people, and thousands upon thousands of rounds of trading across dozens of countries, plus many years, decades, and centuries of economic development, all ending in a sweet little healthy snack just for me.


American Pianos Vanished but the Music Didn’t Die

– May 2, 2018

The years between 1890 and the Second World War were the golden age of the American piano. Pianos were the biggest-ticket item on every household budget besides the house itself. Everyone had to have one. Those who didn’t have one aspired to have one. It was a prize, an essential part of life, and they sold by the millions and millions. Then it all went away. 


Kant was a Friend of Classical Liberalism

– April 23, 2018

Individual freedom plays a central role in Immanuel Kant’s moral and political philosophy. He writes, “Freedom (independence from being constrained by another’s choice, insofar as it can coexist with the freedom of every other in accordance with a universal law, is the only original right belonging to every man by virtue of his humanity.” Kant’s moral and political philosophy both center on freedom.


Something to Celebrate: New CAFE Regulations

– April 10, 2018

The car was the foundation of the second industrial revolution. Encroaching government regulations are robbing it of its future. We once dreamed of a flying car. The regulators are putting us in the position of just dreaming about returning to the glory days of the 1970s. That’s just pathetic.


Power and the Main Threat to Liberty

– April 2, 2018

It used to be a cliche to observe that libertarianism is neither left nor right. I don’t hear that much anymore, so it needs to be restated. Mostly it needs to be understood. Left and right emerged in the 19th century as a revolt against liberalism. They each favored different forms of statism to push back against the progress liberty was making possible. It remains the same today. 


Labor Markets Work When They Are Free

– February 28, 2018

Yes, I’m suggesting a series of dramatic changes to the way employment works. No more payroll tax. No more withholding. No more health-care mandates. No more mandates of any kind. And no more policing of either hiring or firing by the state. In other words, free the market. Economic exchange is about equal power between negotiators, which only means that the same rules should apply to everyone. The more we mess with the freedom of contract, the more we privilege one party over another, with sometimes unpredictable results.


Centrally Planned Security Doesn’t Work Either

– February 25, 2018

If not armed teachers, if not gun-free zones, if not gun bans, if not granting to the government an exclusive domain for security and the threat of violence, what is the answer? The least satisfying answer is actually the right one: we do not know precisely how to secure schools. We – “we” as in intellectuals, pundits, or society in general – do not know how to secure banks, jewelry stores, shopping malls, or casinos. How can we find out? By devolving that responsibility to institutions themselves, you allow the emergence of security solutions that are adaptive to the particular conditions of time and place.


What’s Wrong with Copyright and How to Fix It

– January 28, 2018

To my mind, Creative Commons is an imperfect solution to a major problem, while the best solution would simply leave the whole problem of production, ownership, and attribution to the market itself. But that is not the world we yet live in. Until then, it’s a beautiful thing that the market has found a stop-gap solution to the intractable problems caused by one-size-fits-all standards of legislative imposition.


What Has Government Done to Our Bathrooms?

– January 10, 2018

The net effect of all of this has been to ruin our bathrooms. You might not realize it because the change has been slow, extending over 25 years. Only by encountering a bathroom with original fixtures from the 1940s can you perceive the full horror of what has happened. Our showers are lame, our toilets don’t work, our pipes are dirty, and everything is less sanitary. Chalk it up as yet another thing that government has ruined.