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catallaxy in technical exile

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Jacques Chester is a god II

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Following the tech disaster last Monday Jacques is trying to recover as much as he can from web caches etc. Basically where we stand right now is that everything after 2006 is lost. The National Library has a copy of Catallaxy up to October this year, and everything after October needs to be recovered. Even after Jacques recovers what he can, it will need to be programmed to reappear in blog format. So it looks like a huge and complex job ahead.


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December 16, 2009 at 8:22 pm

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There is hope yet

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Tony, what’s your vision for the country?
I mistrust governments that have grand visions that they want to impose on other people. I think that a Liberal government, a Liberal/conservative government should try to help individuals and communities to realise their visions. So I want a country where each one of the 22 million Australians feels that he or she can have a better life and is empowered to go for that better life rather than feeling burdened by intrusive government or oppressed by other people who are getting in their way rather than sustaining them.

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December 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

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with 166 comments

As you can see there has been a sudden and dramatic change to Catallaxy. I discovered this when I received a whole bunch of emails from regulars asking what’s happening. I’m not sure when regular programming will resume. Sorry about this.


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December 14, 2009 at 10:38 am

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Hello world!

with 4 comments

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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November 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm

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'Big man' Rudd?

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As Terje Petersen draws to our attention, Kevin Rudd is going around giving Hayek free publicity again. On one level, all publicity is good publicity. But Rudd’s hackneyed Cliffs Notes ‘understanding’ of Hayek needs to be constantly knocked on the head. The most howling reading of Hayek by Rudd is where he says:

The Prime Minister’s fundamentalism is driven in large part by the neo-liberalism of Friedrich Hayek, who argued that the only determinant of human freedom was the market. In fact, Hayek also argued that any form of altruism was dangerous because it distorted the market. To avoid inefficiencies, altruism had to be purged from the human soul. Hayek described altruism as something belonging to primitive societies that had no place in the modern world.

Rudd succeeds in making Hayek sound like Ayn Rand, the same Ayn Rand who regarded Hayek as ‘real poison’ because she thought him too moderate. Where does Rudd get this from? I surmise that it must be Hayek’s references to ‘the atavism of social justice’. Basically Hayek argued that the idea of social justice was animated by instincts evolved in early human society when people lived in small tribes and therefore societies were governed like families. Under such conditions, people got used to the idea that not only was it important to iron out disparities in wealth within such ‘families’ but that it was feasible to. The other implication of such small tribe living was that laws could be personalised and the idea of ‘the rule of a particular lawgiver’ who had maximum discretion to adjust conditions between individuals living in such small tribes was both accepted and feasible.

Hayek argued that as the boundaries of society expanded beyond those of the small tribe, the sorts of political habits of mind which evolved under such tribal conditions was inappropriate. If Rudd had been reading Hayek properly he would have been aware of all this because he cites the money quote in his speech to the CIS (Note these are quotes by Hayek picked out by Rudd himself):

“When I pass from the morals of the hunting band in which man spent most of his history, to the morals which made possible the market order of the open society, I am jumping over a long intermediate stage…From it date those codifications of ethics which became embodied in the teachings of the mono-theistic religions”.

“As an example, continued obedience to the command to treat all men as neighbours would have prevented the growth of an extended order (i.e. societies within markets). For those now living within (this) order, they gain from not treating one another as neighbours but by applying in their interactions the rules of the extended (i.e. market) order…instead of the rules of solidarity and altruism”.

Now, one may wish to query the anthropological foundations of Hayek’s argument but what he is saying in his comments on the atavism of social justice, which are developed in his later books like Law, legislation and liberty is actually a far cry from saying that ‘altruism is undesirable’. Nothing in what Hayek says is disapproving of people continuing to be altruistic to each other or for them to treat, say, their family members better than any stranger off the street. But that is a different issue from whether or not the laws that govern interactions between members of society should necessarily enforced prescriptive moral codes that, for instance, require individuals to be altruistic by requiring them to do certain things for their neighbours as opposed to merely refraining from doing certain things to their neighbours.

More importantly, what Hayek finds undesirable are the political habits of mind that he thinks were developed under the conditions of living in small tribes such as personalised justice (i.e. the rule of men as opposed to the rule of law which treats individuals impartially regardless of whether the judge is related to the person before the court), excessive discretion being given to the ‘tribal chief’ and xenophobia. So what is Rudd on about? Does he want us to go back to ‘Big Man’ tribal rule with him doling out favours to his mates? If not, he should have no problems with Hayek’s normative conclusions about the implications of ‘small tribe’ political habits though he may choose to argue within the bounds of reason that Hayek’s attempt to categorise ‘social justice’ within these conceptual categories is controversial (I happen to agree with Hayek but that’s off-topic).

So what’s going on? Commenter Scott Wickstein on the ALS thread may be spot on when he says:

I don’t think even Rudd himself is taking his articles about Hayek particularly seriously. He’s just writing them to impress the Canberra Press Gallery that he is smarter then they are, and smarter then Howard to boot.

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December 20, 2006 at 4:05 pm

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Friedman and Pinochet

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Brian Doherty sets the record straight on the late Milton Friedman’s association with the Pinochet regime:

    For years, the University of Chicago had a program in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile providing scholarships to Chileans to study at Chicago. Pinochet’s economic advisers were thus University of Chicago-trained, and known as the “Chicago Boys.” But Friedman’s only direct connection was when he was invited by fellow Chicago professor Arnold Harberger–who was most closely involved with the Chilean program–to give a week of lectures and public talks in Chile in 1975.
    While there, Friedman did have one meeting with Pinochet, for less than an hour. Pinochet asked Friedman to write him a letter about his judgments on what Chilean economic policy should be, which Friedman did . He advocated quick and severe cuts in government spending and inflation, as well as instituting more open international trade policies—and to “provide for the relief of any cases of real hardship and severe distress among the poorest classes.” He did not choose this as an opportunity to upbraid Pinochet for any of his repressive policies, and many of Friedman’s admirers, including me, would have felt better if he had.
    But that was the extent of his involvement with the Chilean regime—and it fit with a recurring pattern in Friedman’s career of advising with an even hand all who would listen to him. It was not a sign of approval of military authoritarianism. Friedman, in defending himself against accusations of complicity with or approval of Pinochet, noted in a 1975 letter to the University of Chicago school newspaper that he “has never heard complaints” about giving aid and comfort to the communist governments to which he had spoken, and that “I approve of none of these authoritarian regimes—neither the Communist regimes of Russia and Yugoslavia nor the military juntas of Chile and Brazil. But I believe I can learn from observing them and that, insofar as my personal analysis of their economic situation enables them to improve their economic performance, that is likely to promote not retard a movement toward greater liberalism and freedom.”

This assessment of the realities facing Friedman is perfectly consistent with my earlier post on this issue here.

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December 20, 2006 at 2:23 pm

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Are libertarian parties a waste of time?

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CL draws to our attention in the Open Forum a recent article by Bruce Bartlett which sets out the kind of arguments which LDP activists will inevitably come against eventually from sceptical observers (putting aside the US specific considerations). I’m sure John Humphreys and others will have perfectly cutting responses to the following comments of Bartlett’s so let’s sort them out here:

    The Libertarian Party is worse than a waste of time. I believe it has done far more to hamper the advancement of libertarian ideas and policies than it has done to advance them. In my view, it is essential for the Libertarian Party to completely disappear before libertarian ideas will again have political currency …

    Furthermore, to the extent that third parties exist, they invariably hurt the party closest to them ideologically …
    Over the years, I have known a great many people who have flirted with the Libertarian Party, but were ultimately turned off by its political impotence and immaturity. C-SPAN runs Libertarian conventions, and viewers can see for themselves how unserious and childish they are. They show that the Libertarian Party is essentially a high-school-level debating club where only one question is ever debated — who is the purest libertarian, and what is the purest libertarian position?
    At times, serious people have tried to get control of the Libertarian Party and make it a viable organization. But in the end, the crazies who like the party just as it is have always run them off. In the process, however, they have also run off millions of voters who have supported libertarian candidates at one time or another. After realizing what a waste of time the Libertarian Party is, many became disengaged from politics and don’t vote at all.
    The result has been that libertarian-leaning activists have been drawn away from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party by the Libertarian Party, leaving the major parties with fewer libertarians. In other words, both major parties have fewer libertarians than they would without the Libertarian Party, meaning that the net result of the party has been to make our government less libertarian than it would otherwise be.

Bartlett’s article does also have some constructive criticism. His proposal for an alternative to a libertarian party is as follows:

In place of the party, there should arise a new libertarian interest group organized like the National Rifle Association or the various pro- and anti-abortion groups. This new group, whatever it is called, would hire lobbyists, run advertisements and make political contributions to candidates supporting libertarian ideas. It will work with both major parties. It can magnify its influence by creating temporary coalitions on particular issues and being willing to work with elected officials who may hold libertarian positions on only one or a handful of issues. They need not hold libertarian views on every single issue, as the Libertarian Party now demands of those it supports.

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December 20, 2006 at 11:26 am

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