I just finished reading Rick Perlstein’s “The Stock Ticker and the Super Jumbo”:http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-0976147505-0 yesterday (an earlier version of the essay and the various responses is available “here”:http://bostonreview.net/BR29.3/contents.html, but buy the book if you can for extra post-election analysis goodness). It’s a great read, and a smart essay, but I think it buries its real argument.
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Scruton on Sartre

by Chris Bertram on June 24, 2005

Roger Scruton has an “immensely enjoyable”:http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php?id=6290&page=4 , sometimes insightful, occasionally brutally stupid, and often deleriously silly article on Jean-Paul Sartre in the latest Spectator (registration required). After reading it you could always revisit Paul Jennings’s splendid “Report on Resistentialism”:http://www31.brinkster.com/yewtree/resources/resistentialism.htm .

Early Draft of the Kelo opinion surfaces

by Kieran Healy on June 24, 2005

An anonymous correspondent (signing himself only as “The Moor”) sends me two snippets from what he assures me is a section of the majority opinion in “Kelo vs New London”:http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZS.html that was cut at the last minute:

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend. From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes. You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

And another:

bq. In fact, this proposition has at all times been made use of by the champions of the state of society prevailing at any given time. First comes the claims of the government and everything that sticks to it, since it is the social organ for the maintenance of the social order; then comes the claims of the various kinds of private property, for the various kinds of private property are the foundations of society, etc. One sees that such hollow phrases are the foundations of society, etc. One sees that such hollow phrases can be twisted and turned as desired.

Shameless

by Chris Bertram on June 24, 2005

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked by any of the garbage that appears on TechCentralStation. Nevertheless, the shameless gall of some of their writers continues to astonish. One of their latest offerings is “My Grandfather and the Gulag”:http://www.techcentralstation.com/062405.html by Ariel Cohen, which – surprise, surprise – is an attack on Amnesty and Senator Durbin for the Guantanamo/Gulag comparison. Cohen’s article can stand as an exemplar of a whole genre of Amnesty-bashing that has been flourishing recently. Since the whole point of the piece is to insist on the virtues of truth and accuracy and to rubbish Amnesty and Durbin for the alleged betrayal of those standards, one might expect Cohen to exhibit at least a minimal level of concern for the correctness of his own claims. But such expectations would be misplaced.

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Public-sector commercialization

by Chris Bertram on June 24, 2005

Over at “Urbandriftuk”:http://urbandriftuk.blogspot.com/2005/06/soz-been-away-for-while.html , Mizmillie has been pondering the recent explosion in commercial operations by the British public sector, so, for example, the “North Wales police have been running a massive driving school for profit”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4563161.stm . She writes that “insidious blurring of the public and private is likely to be one of the current [British] government’s enduring legacies” .

She asks:

bq. Are there any principled moral reasons against public bodies carrying out private business?

bq. Or are they mainly consequential concerns, e.g. leads to two-tierism?

bq. If they trade should they be treated as private businesses and have their profits taxed in the same way? Or should they be exempt from tax since the monies get ploughed back into public coffers?

Part of my reaction to this is to look at things in historical perspective. After all, there have been many commercial operations, such as docks and airports, that have, up until recently, been run by local authorities in Britain. But on the matter of tax, I guess there has to be an question of equity. After all if the police are allowed to open an driving school next door to mine but can do so on more favourable terms, I’m going to go out of business pretty quick.