Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: Freedom, Choice, and Social Stability - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2
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I: Freedom, Choice, and Social Stability - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Freedom, Choice, and Social Stability
The following set of summaries present a diversity of viewpoints recommending the virtues of pluralism, freedom, and individual choice as indispensable values for achieving the good society. Some thinkers, including Locke and the America Antifederalists, were passionate advocates in the political arena urging the rights of individuals against “lawless” governments which conducted themselves as antisocial “beasts of prey.”
Other thinkers treated in this section—Adam Smith, Isaiah Berlin and Paul Feyerabend—likewise stress the need of a humane tolerance for a plurality of competing values and traditions. Both Berlin's “moral pluralism” and Feyerabend's “pluralist methodology” defend individual freedom, while rejecting dogmatic absolutism and intolerance as antagonistic to the liberal and open society.
Against these individualistic emphases, it is instructive to contrast Kinser's analysis of the Fernand Braudel's vaster historical “structures” that operate beyond the “circumstantial individual.” Finally, the theme of individual choice and diversity is picked up again, this time in the field of education, in E.G. West's controversial endorsement of educational vouchers as a device to break up the government monopoly on education and thus promote greater individual choice and pluralism.
Locke as a Revolutionary
“Revolutionary Politics and Locke's Two Treatises of Government: Radicalism and Lockean Political Theory.” Political Theory 8 (November 1980): 429–486.
Was John Locke (1632–1704) a political philosopher or revolutionary (and pamphleteer)? Richard Ashcraft answers that Locke was a revolutionary and gives as evidence an interpretation of The Second Treatise of Government.To understand why Locke wrote his Second Treatise, it is necessary to know when he wrote it. According to Laslett, the project commenced sometime in 1679–80, during the early stages of the Exclusionary Crisis (the effort to prevent James from succeeding Charles to the throne of England). If Laslett is right, then Ashcraft is wrong; for at this point, the opposition (led by Locke's patron Lord Shaftesbury) hoped to achieve their ends by orderly, constitutional means (via passage of the Exclusionary Act in Parliament). It was not until March, 1681, after Charles dissolved the Oxford Parliament, that the opposition set a revolutionary course directed, not just against the Catholic James, but against the “lawless” King Charles.
Could Locke have begun the Second Treatise before 1681? No says Ashcraft, since during this period: (1) he was continually traveling or otherwise occupied with a work on the growth of vines and olives; and (2) he did not then possess key works cited in the Treatise.
Granted that Locke began his project only after the opposition decided upon a radical course, this alone does not link the man or the work to the revolutionary movement. Other arguments are needed—and provided. Thus Ashcraft seeks to establish a double-barreled guilt-by-association.
First, there is Locke's association with the plotters themselves: his sixteen-year stint as Shaftesbury's “assistant pen” (the two collaborated on The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina and other celebrated causes, including toleration); his well-documented dealings with other celebrated rebels of the realm; his personally summoning the Earl of Essex to a meeting of the revolutionary cabal late in April, 1683; and his hasty departure for Holland (once the plot was discovered), where he took up residence at Dare House, home of many other “visiting exiles.” If he “really wished to convey to the outside world that he was politically innocent,” Ashcraft concludes, “then, in selecting his numerous ‘disaffected’ friends, Locke appears to have had the poorest judgement of any man who ever lived.”
On a deeper level—the level of ideas—Ashcraft argues that Locke's Treatise shares a common “language” of rebellion with innumerable other tracts of the period. The radical writers spoke with a single voice of “lawless” governments, “the invasion of rights,” “dissolved compacts” and of monarchs turning themselves into “wolves,” “lions” and sundry other “beasts” of prey. Moreover, the Lockean inquiry into the “Original, Extent and End of Civil Government” is virtually indistinguishable from the “philosophical” formulations self-consciously employed by the intellectuals of the revolutionary movement such as Algernon Sidney, Robert Ferguson, etc.
No detached philosopher, curiously unaware of the revolutionary implications of his theoretical researches, Ashcraft's Locke is implicated in conspiracy. And it is precisely as a revolutionary tract, a 17th Century “Declaration of Independence” that the Second Treatise of Government must be read.
Smith, Commerce & the Common Good
“Adam Smith and the Commercial Republic.” The Public Interest No. 61 (Fall 1980): 106–122.
By far the most common diagnosis of ‘the American sickness’ is that the U.S. polity is suffering because of the undue influence of “special interests.” The usual cure recommended involves replacing the spirit of selfish striving with a disinterested devotion to the public good which is praised as one of the foundation stones of American republican virtue.
In Prof. Miller's judgement, however, the proper relation of “special interests” to American democracy, as the Founding Fathers conceived it, is not so simply put. In Federalist 10, Publius (pseudonym of Madison, Hamilton, and Jay) speaks of the beneficial “necessity” of diverse commercial interests in a civilized, progressive society. Publius' sentiments closely paralleled those of Adam Smith, an author read carefully by all “enlightened statesmen” of the time. However, the real Adam Smith was a much more complex figure than (as conventional wisdom would have it) the unflinching exponent of the market system. In fact, neither Publius nor Smith would have supported nineteenth-century dogmatists such as E.L. Godkin, who regarded all deviations from laissez-faire as an assault on republican government.
The full title of Smith's book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, might mislead the casual reader. The work is less a treatise on developmental economics than a disquisition on what might be called the political philosophy in order to dignify the calculations of profit and loss in the eyes of thinking men.
Like Hume and Hobbes, Smith feared the instability that “factions” would engender under a regime of liberty. He thought, nonetheless, that violent factions were probably a thing of the past in Great Britain. The expansion of commerce, he reasoned, had made it less likely that Englishmen would embroil themselves in religious controversy, less likely that they would join parties of principle rather than parties of interest. Thus, according to Smith, special interests may bolster the stability which is essential to a liberal polity.
Despite his praise of the market economy's “invisible hand,” Smith conceived a wide and elastic range of activities for government. He was prepared to extend these activities if government proved itself worthy of increased public trust and if the private sector was not performing adequately in areas vital to the common good.
Smith, of course, favored free trade, but only because he was “proconsumer.” Business assured the real prosperity of the commonwealth (goods, not gold), including that of the poor. Despite this position, Smith continually attacked businessmen. Merchants and manufacturers, he argued, are not naturally proconsumer or free traders. More likely than not, they harbor protectionist sentiments, preferring short-term gain to their real interests, which closely correspond with the public good.
The wisdom and breadth of vision of the legislator would substitute for the narrowness and expediency of businessmen. Smith, Hamilton, and Madison all believed in what may be called a “two-track” polity, consisting, on the one hand, of a “natural aristocracy” of hero ic and disinterested virtue and, on the other, of a commercial class characterized by such pedestrian, but highly necessary qualities as moderation, thrift, calculation, and compromise. This sober, somewhat hopeful, though hardly compelling vision was scorned in the nineteenth century by such thinkers as Nietzsche and Marx, who propounded theories of societies untainted by the motive of self-interest. In the twentieth century, we have seen those dreams turn into the nightmares of Nazi and socialist man. By contrast, the considerably less ambitious views of Smith and the Founding Fathers have fostered the unprecedented prosperity and political stability enjoyed by the American people for more than two centuries.
Antifederalism: Military & Civilian Concerns
“Antifederalism and Libertarianism.” Reason Papers 7 (Spring 1981): 73–94.
The Antifederalists of the eighteenth century opposed ratification of the federal Constitution in 1787–88, and espoused a brand of libertarianism that is frequently misunderstood by students of American political philosophy. In their arguments against the Constitution, the Antifederalists repeatedly warned that the establishment of a strong, centralized national government would result in coercion, the erosion of state and local governments, and a loss of civil liberties. Their rhetoric is often shrill and sometimes even paranoid, but these “true radicals” were largely responsible for the amended Bill of Rights that further defined and limited the role of government.
When one considers the Antifederalist view of the course of the Revolution, their logic and fervor become more intelligible. The Antifederalists believed the federal Constitution to be an outright repudiation of the goals and ideals of the American Revolution. For the Antifederalists, the Revolution had been fought as a direct challenge to strong, centralized authority, the authority of the British crown. The legacy of the Revolution was thus antiauthoritarianism—a belief in democratic, local control and a subservient national government. Though they admitted the weaknesses and need for change in the Articles of Confederation, the Antifederalists were appalled at the degree of control allowed of government in the Constitution. The “undemocratic pects” of the Constitution—the absence of compulsory rotation in office, of recall, and of annual elections; the vast and important powers of the presidency; and the proposed powers of the Supreme Court—spelled trouble to the Antifederalists. They predicted that the “Federal City” would be filled with “officers, attendants, suitors, expectants, and dependents” all safely out of the reach of the people.
One power granted the federal government under the proposed Constitution and vehemently opposed by the Antifederalist party was the power of taxation. Again, this position was rooted in the Revolutionary experience, as was the Antifederalists' advocacy of federal external taxation (tariffs, import duties, etc.) as opposed to the internal taxation proposed by the Federal Constitution. The Antifederalists believed that the ability to tax “is the most important of any power that can be granted; it connects with it almost all other powers, or at least will in proces of time draw all others after it.” They were afraid that federal taxation would take vital revenue away from the states and eventually eliminate the importance of state government.
The final thorn in the side of the Antifederalists was the creation of a professional standing army, believing that “standing armies are dangerous to the liberties of a people.” They warned that the “power vested in Congress of sending troops for suppressing insurrections will always enable them to stifle the first struggles of freedom.”
An intriguing aspect of the Antifederalists' opposition to a standing army is their prediction that civil liberties might be violated in the raising of such an army. One Antifederalist accurately predicted the draft resistance problems that were to mark American history from the Civil War to Vietnam, when he warned that the proposed Constitution would allow the central government to “impress men for the Army.”
The Antifederal party refused to ratify any plan of government without a “Sacred Declaration, defining the rights of the individual.” They were disturbed that a document that granted the national government so much power did not, at the same time, specifically enumerate the inalienable rights of the citizenry. The Antifederalists agreed with Jefferson's criticism of the Constitution—that a “bill of rights is what a people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse or rest on inference.” The powers granted the central government in the proposed Constitution were so broad that the Antifederalists feared for the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, jury trial, habeas corpus, arms and religion—freedoms that they had just fought a long and trying Revolutionary War to secure.
There were two distinctly opposing sides in the debate over the “crisis” of the Confederation. The Federalists claimed that America was beset by chaos and bankruptcy and was on the verge of anarchy because of the impotent Confederation government. They advocated a great strengthening of the coercive powers of the national government via the proposed federal Constitution. Their opponents, the Antifederalists, advocated amendments to the Articles of Confederation but violently opposed such a radical departure from state and local sovereignty as the Federalists were advocating. As it turned out, the Federalists won and the Antifederalists lost their one great battle, but their ideas have endured. The Jeffersonian and Jacksonian parties of the early national period had direct ideological roots in the Antifederalist persuasion, and American classical liberalism of the nineteenth century was a direct descendant of Antifederalism. There is a small libertarian third party in the United States today, and vestiges of Antifederalism can be found in the civil libertarian strain in twentieth century American liberal thought.
Isaiah Berlin: Pluralism vs. Rationalism
“Reason, Development, and the Conflicts of Human Ends: Sir Isaiah Berlin's Vision of Politics.” The American Political Science Review 74 (March 1980): 38–52.
At the root of the conflict between Isaiah Berlin's political philosophy and his critics is the controversy over the possibility of certainty and over the relation of human ends to politics. Berlin denies that any of us can demonstrate that one particular way of life is morally superior to any other. He draws from this the liberal conclusion of our need to tolerate one another.
Berlin's “moral pluralism” is a fairly unique defense of tolerance and freedom. For Berlin, accepting the belief that every question has only one true answer leads to the dogmatic absolutism of forcing everyone to live by the light of “reason.” Calling this belief “rationalism,” Berlin seeks to expose its mischievous intolerance as at the heart of various political theories: “One belief, more than any other is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals.... This is the belief that somewhere, in the past or in the future...there is a final solution.” Two rival approaches thus divide our views of politics and society. Theorists of the first group are called rationalists, monists, or “hedgehogs”; the second group includes empiricists, romantics, pluralists, and “foxes.”
Berlin's account of moral pluralism encounters difficulties since it rests on “rationalist” assumptions of its own. Berlin's view of human nature insists that there is one eternal a prioristic truth: to be human, men must be capable of living life for their own purpose. Berlin's “emphasis on freedom and choice requires that we act in such a way as not to deny others the possibility of making their own choices about life.” Berlin exhibits a compelling vision of liberal politics. Despite logical flaws, his vision is inspiring: to deny humans the right to choose their life plans for themselves is a violation of their personhood.
Professor Kochis believes that by considering Berlin and his critics, we can gain insight into the nature of politics. “Most of Berlin's critics fail to deal with Berlin's central claim. Either they concede his equation of rationalism, dogmatism, and despotism; or they fail to deal with the tendency of rationalistic views to entail unitary, coercive plans. This conflict is basic to considering the controversy between the rival claims of “negative” and “positive” liberty. According to Berlin positive liberty means implementing some single vision to which all humans must conform and so denies the pluralist vision of the freedom of humans to choose their own varied ends.
Berlin's critics include the following who criticize his vision of liberty either “for including too much politics” or for excluding politics.
On the one hand, we find MacCallum and Macpherson. Gerald MacCullum reduces Berlin's belief about the political nature of human freedom to a question of formal logic. MacCullum's overformalist criticism “obscures the political question of whose value a free person is at liberty to pursue.”
C.B. Macpherson desires to terminate liberal politics and install participatory economic planning and thus denies that his “positive” liberty is “rationalistic” or “political” in Berlin's invideous sense. But Macpherson's reasoning fails because he confuses liberty with its conditions and also assumes a rational pattern for human moral development.
On the other hand, Berlin's defense of negative liberty is believed to be too apolitical by Bernard Crick (in “Freedom as Politics”) who understands politics as active participation in the polis to achieve the good life for all.
Finally, Professor Kochis shows that Berlin's conceptions of politics as a form of human interaction (to bring about the conditions of human dignity in a situation where we disagree about the ends of life) is an effort to liberate individuals to live life for their own chosen purposes. But Berlin's defense of liberty is incomplete and too skeptical. We need “a non-teleological yet developmentalist account of human nature and a weakly hierarchical account of human values.” Liberty is of special importance, but, for Kochis, it is not the highest or most important of values. “Liberty, then, is a true and humane ideal because it provides people with the...assurance that no one will be able to dictate their goals to them.”
Feyerabend on Freedom and Diversity
“Freedom, Reason, and Tradition.” Review essay on Paul Feyerabend's Against Method and Science in a Free Society. Reason Papers No. 6 (Spring 1980): 83–91.
In the humanistic and nondogmatic tradition of Protagoras, Socrates, and Nietzsche, philospher Paul Feyerabend has expanded our understanding of the meaning of reason and its bearing on a free society. Feyerabend's two major works, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1976) and Science in a Free Society (1979), pose the important question: What is the reasonable and humane stance (epistemology) for mankind to take regarding rival beliefs and competing “truths”? The ideals of a humanitarian, free, and progressive society require us to “keep all our options open” and, in Socratic fashion, to welcome an evolving, self-critical, and tolerant attitude to any belief or tradition.
In terms of human knowledge, Feyerabend believes that “nothing is ever settled.” Since “science, history, and human beings are evolving, adhering to a strict system of rules is detrimental to learning and human freedom.” We should not start out with the unreasonable assumption that the tradition of Western science and Enlightenment rationalism have more rational methods than, say, history, myth, or literature. A humane openness to a variety of competing traditions, cultures, and approaches to truth is better calculated to allow for the growth of objective knowledge than any rigid or closed system that asserts its monopoly on truth.
As individuals we are fallible and have to admit our relative human ignorance in a universe that is largely unknown to us. Freedom consists in expanding our options and recognizing that there is no single, immovable Archimedes' citadel of objective, static truth outside the “ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives.” We need to honor a “pluralist methodology” and seek out a method of knowledge that encourages variety as “the only method that is compatible with a humanitarian outlook.”
It follows that Feyerabend views rationalism, scientism, and traditional philosophical standards as embedded in a particular tradition and thus can't be expected to neutrally judge other traditions. His pluralist methodology favors combining different views in a Hegelian-style synthesis. His “interactionism” would combine the “ocean of alternatives” in an unending process of temporary shifting, and relative constructs. Much as a traveller to a foreign country wisely keeps an open mind rather than provincially interpreting the wider world by the standards of his village's traditions, the free and philosophic person accepts truth in all its varieties.
Feyerabend defines a free society as one “in which all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centers of power... A tradition receives these rights not because of the importance it has for outsiders (“observers”) but because it gives meaning to the lives of those who participate in it.” Freedom is a higher value than one limited tradition's notions of truth or reason. Feyerabend combines his critique of any one tradition having the scientific version of the “One True Religion” with arguments against cultural chauvinism and western imperialism. He seeks a world where divergent cultures and peoples can live with freedom and humanitarian tolerance of one another.
Braudel, History, and Patterns
“Annaliste Paradigm? The Geohistorical Structuralism of Fernand Braudel.” American Historical Review 86 (February 1981): 63–105.
Fernand Braudel gained international renown with the appearance in 1949 of his monumental study La Mediterranee et le monde mediterrane a l'epoque de Philippe II, a “seminal work” of the “Annaliste” historical school for at least two decades. Braudel considered his work to be, above all, an example of “structural” history. Thus, the Annales “paradigm” during the twenty years of his leadership might seem related to the structuralist models which have captivated the minds of French social scientists. But such an interpretation is misleading. Braudel's colleague Ernest Labrousse has emphasized the relation of Braudel's work to the old historiographical tradition of geohistory rather than to the new vogue of structuralist thinking.
La Mediterranee is divided into three parts which Braudel described, in the first edition, as dealing with three sorts of time: geographical, social, and individual. Three types of historiography correspond to the study of these three varieties of time. The first type, forming the “geohistory” of Part 1, seeks to grasp the “almost immobile history of man's relations with the milieu surrounding him.” The second part, dealing with social time, attempts to represent “a slowly rhythmic history...of groups and groupings” of people. Finally, the third part portrays a “history of short, rapid, nervous oscillations” of “traditional,” “eventful history,” which is comprised of the twists and turns of politico-military history. The order of these three histories, ranged in diminishing importance, emphasizes Braudel's disinterest in and scorn for the narrow history of diplomacy.
Braudel's work echoes and broadens the most important ideological directive of the earlier annalistes Bloch and Febvre—the directive to synthesize history with the other social sciences. A social science (as opposed to the outworn history of political events and leaders) collectivizes its object. As a result, Braudel sought a socially embedded but naturally generalized man. He saw the Mediterranean as a privileged area in which to pursue this search, since it is “a meeting place, an amalgam, a human unity.”
No longer self-determining or even collectively determining, the human individual shrinks and fades away in Braudel's pages before the grandeur of the environment. The geographical milieu assumes an all-consuming individuality. In a more than metaphorical sense, it becomes the only real actor and shaper in history. Man's short-sighted “free” actions to control the environment inevitably prove ineffectual in the face of the deep currents of history embodied in the might of the milieu.
The ideological assumptions underlying Braudel's geohistory closely resembles the “structural history” of Gaston Roupnel, as outlined in his History and Destiny. “The history of a people,” Roupnel wrote, “is determined...at the level of the soil, in its down-to-earth life.” Similarly, Part 2 of La Mediterranee stresses the concrete, repetitive, and enduring patterns (“structures”) which have marked social life in the area over centuries, i.e. the determining effects of routes (as in the pepper trade) and the placement of cities, the slowness of communication and transport, the inflexible cultural frontiers, etc. Thus, even human activities are considered in as long-range perspective—freed from the limitations of the “circumstantial individual.”
In Prof. Kinser's view, Braudel's heavy emphasis on long-range “structures” caused him to treat superficially or to neglect events that break such patterns. For example, the sixteenth century witnessed numerous insurrections, both urban and rural, which seemingly had few consequences—which “failed” in Braudel's terms. Given his bias, however, Braudel overlooks the deep connection between these “failed” revolts and the epoch-making revolution that was the Reformation.
Nevertheless, in general, Kinser sees in La Mediterranee a “rhetoric of space with its intoxicating vastness, of exchange with its ceaseless activity, and of life with its alluring warmth have inspired many others to construct equally new and compelling visions of the past.”
Vouchers, Education & Choice
“Choice or Monopoly in Education.” Policy Review (Winter 1981): 103–118.
Educational vouchers, one of the political and academic novelties of the 1980s, have recaptured public interest as a possible alternative to current modes of educational funding.
The “full” voucher scheme first proposed by Milton Friedman in 1955 would provide parents with certificates equal to the current average cost of educating a child in the public sector—today about $2,000 per year. Under Prof. Friedman's system, parents would be allowed to “add on” marginal funds of their own and to use vouchers at both private and public schools. Education would thus no longer be “free”, since all participating schools, public or private, would charge tuition at full cost.
Prof. West's article spells out reasons for the educational establishment's opposition to various voucher plans and goes on to explain the advantages of the Friedman proposal. On the basis of the newly developed economics of bureacracy and politics, West contends that in the absence of such consumer input as the voucher plan, three general predictions may be made concerning the future development of our educational bureaucracy.
First of all, there will be a tendency toward continual expansion of public education bureaus' monopoly on the teaching process (“bureaucratic imperialism”). The rapid “consolidation” of school districts in the U.S., as well the increasing state and federal share in educational financing, already bear out this prediction.
Secondly, alliances will emerge between these bureaus and the “factor supplies” (teachers, for example) which they employ. In fact, teacher organizations have generally supported the establishment of a central monopoly bureau (a Department of Education) since the very inception of the idea. These organizations have now joined in a tacit alliance to resist the threat to monopoly that vouchers represent.
Thirdly, a national education bureau will want to offer a total output in exchange for a total budget with no alternatives to its own program, an “all or nothing” choice. Voucher proposals strike at the heart of this instinct for monopoly financial control, since they would provide the money for as diverse an educational system as “customers” were willing to pay for.
Among many criticisms levelled against vouchers, it has been charged that this individualized financial arrangement would allow parents to place their children in schools which would merely be narrow ideological extensions of the home. Students would thus lack the contact with a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints which is essential to the democratic process. Prof. West finds it ironic that, in the name of democracy, “enlightened” bureaucrats would deprive parents of the right to educate their children as they see fit.
Critics have also charged that “addons” to vouchers by the wealthy will foster a wide educational disparity between rich and poor. First of all, this charge assumes that poorer parents will not add on money themselves for the sake of their children's future—a condescending supposition belied by the experience of U.S. parochial schools. In addition, a large disparity already exists between rich and poor public school districts. For example, $8,600 was spent per child in a year in one New York suburb, while $3,115 was spent in the city itself.
Besides contributing to freedom and diversity in education. Prof. West views a voucher system as a means of correcting the financial waste of the public school system. During the 1977–1978 school years yearly expenditures per pupil reached $819 in private schools versus $1,736 in public schools—or more than double. Competition encouraged by vouchers would, in West's opinion, halt the profligacy of an entrenched educational monopoly.