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Do As I Say...

Once getting past the head-scratching first sentence of his post, a Democratic Underground poster sporting an Al Gore photo chastises libertarians, saying that "we wouldn't be in such a pickle with regard to global warming if it weren't for these people."

Though I suspect he may want to reconsider his Gore-worship. Read more »

\"With Us or Against Us\"

George Bush made this pronouncement at a news conference in November 2001 (as did Anakin Skywalker, apparently). In the wake, many criticized this remark, and to a degree, rightfully so. The valid points made behind the criticism is that the world is too complex and holds far too many shades of gray to draw a thick, black line in the sand. Both sides can have its good points and both sides can have its demons, so goes the argument.

However, I believe many of the same bellowers may need to heed the same advice. To wit...

It is possible to be opposed to the Iraq War, its dubious reasons and wayward nation-building, the administration's scandals, politico meddling, infractions of prisoners' right to due process, and Bush's infractions of domestic civil rights AND recognize that Islamic militants are indeed the top current threat to Western Civilization's cherished liberal freedoms, more irrational than their legions of western apologists give them credit for, and that jihadists have broader - and more toxic - reasons and ambitions well beyond merely being disgruntled at "imperialism/colonialism". Read more »

Brits Bust Another Plot

Charles in Charge

I almost forgot to tip my hat to Little Green Footballs and its administrator Charles Johnson for having nailed Reuters for doctoring a photo of an Israeli strike to make it seem more, shall we say, gruesome. Read more »

But... it\'s free!

If I come across one more MSM column gushing over how wonderful Fidel Castro's Cuba is because of "free" health care and "free" education, I might spew my half-digested dinner all over my keyboard.

Boston Red Sox' Mike Lowell, meanwhile, expresses his feelings toward the dictator of the workers' utopia.


As word spread this morning about Fidel Castro possibly uttering his last breath (won't happen quite yet... he's the Red Energizer Bunny), I come across news reports of both elation and sadness. Neither of which I fully understand, for different reasons.

First, there are the celebrations. I'm not Mr. Glass Half Empty guy, but will Cuba really start its rampant transport from a closed tyrannical state to an island of liberal freedoms, based on the death of Fidel Castro? I don't claim to know the inner-workings of Havana's power lineup, but something tells me little bro Raul is keen on perpetuating the Fidel-Che revolucion. And once Raul takes his dirt nap, there's someone else waiting, then someone else, then someone else. There's got to be a long line of Party thugs just waiting in line, right? Hence, I'm not quite ready to break out the bubbly quite yet.

Then, of course, are the Castro apologists at best, and the Castro worshippers at worst. There are many places to find them, but one doesn't have to look much further than BBC's Have Your Say, where Castro-Love is flying high with a number of posters (who are generally not Cubans or ex-Cubans, I might add). Read more »

Read Kofi\'s Lips

From Lou Dobbs (scroll nearly halfway down the page):

DOBBS: You may support the United Nations fervently, or you may think it's a waste of money and time and real estate. But whatever you think, the United Nations is considering a number of proposals to tax you. The U.N. is fighting to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in new global taxes to fund the United Nations and make the U.N. even less accountable to the United States. [...]

The War for Oil

Lot of hot air in the Windy City lately. Read more »

Boiling Point

Though I've been quite busy lately and haven't been as in-tuned to news events unfolding on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, I - like most others - am left perplexed over the situation in the Middle East. Well, I suppose there's always a "situation" in the Middle East, but the new dimensions of the latest horror story take on new significance.

I've been feeling for the ordinary Lebanese citizens - many of whom are no great fans of Hezbollah, mind you - caught in the middle of Israeli jets roaring overhead and Hezbollah lackeys roaming the southern border (and influential posts in government). Not to mention the bizarre thug triangle involving likely behind-the-scenes support from Damascus and Teheran sponsors. Read more »

Off-Target in the Windy City

The political/left war on "big box" stores has claimed more victims:

Target Corp. is halting plans for new stores in Chicago in response to a proposed city law that would set minimum wage and benefit levels for employees of big-box retailers.


The measure would require that retailers with stores of 90,000 square feet or more pay employees who work there at least $10 an hour and provide minimum benefits of $3 an hour.

Getting Lonely

Whenever I see Kim Jong-Il making waves in the headlines, I'm constantly reminded of this jewel from three years ago.

The poor guy is just so lonely.

Kim Jong-Il forms boy band

How many is \'countless\'?

And at what point does a display become a "mega-display"?

Today we have a front-page article in the Washington Post about the fraud allegations in Mexico's presidential election.

I couldn't help notice the colorful adjectives used in the phrases peppering the news article: "frustration and rage of the poor", "a mega-display of street power", "outrageously loud communal venting", "countless voices joined in the rallying cry", etc, etc. Read more »

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

From the BBC:

France hopes to soften hostile attitudes towards capitalism by promoting financial know-how and greater enterprise through the media.


[Some senior ministers] are worried about what they see as an over-reliance on the state and a lack of entrepreneurial dynamism.

Bonnes nouvelles.


I'm torn.

When Marilyn Mostek, a senior living in a subsidized apartment, heard she could save $20 on a carton of cigarettes by ordering from an out-of-state Indian reservation, she thought she had found a clever way to save money.

Welcome to Catallarchy’s Mill-fest: the Bicentennial Edition

Two Hundred Years Later: The State of Liberalism After Mill

Joe Miller is a professor of philosophy at University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He maintains a blog at Bellum et Mores.

At the John Stuart Mill Bicentennial Conference in London last month, Peter Singer, in his keynote address, made a few comparisons between his own work and Mill. Such a talk may smack of hubris (it’s not, really, as one of the conference organizers specifically requested the topic), but the comparison may well be apt. We’ll know more in another 200 years. Regardless, it’s safe to say that Singer’s influence on contemporary moral and political philosophy is probably at least as great as was Mill’s influence on his own contemporaries.

Now I am far from playing in the same league as Mill—or Singer’s either, for that matter. But I’m going to go out on a limb and offer my own small connections to Mill: after spending more years than I like to admit writing a dissertation on Mill’s moral and political philosophy, in one of those great cosmic coincidences, I received my Ph.D. on 20 May 2001, Mill’s 195th birthday. Oh, and my first name is also John. That’s all I’ve got. But enough about me. This is Mill’s big day. Well, I guess it’s not so much his big day, what with him being dead and all. Still, we’re here to read about Mill.

So what, then, is the legacy of John Stuart Mill? That’s really hard to say. He’s claimed by nearly everyone—or at least by nearly everyone in the liberal camp. Isaiah Berlin offers remarkably sympathetic readings of Mill, while hugely influential liberals such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin incorporate (or import wholesale) portions of On Liberty into their own work. Joel Feinberg, in fact, has made the Harm Principle the centerpiece of his magnum opus, the four-volume set on the moral limits of criminal law (Harm to Others, Offense to Others, Harm to Self, and Harmless Wrongdoing).

It is not only contemporary liberals who claim Mill; indeed many interpreters see him more as the spiritual father of libertarianism. Hayek (at least the Hayek of the ‘40s and ‘50s) wrote somewhat approvingly of Mill. More recently, Nick Capaldi argues that Mill is best understood as a libertarian. Aeon Skoble offers a similar reading here. Or, if you’re not up for reading long academic papers, see here for a more concise summary of Mill’s claims to libertarian credentials. Read more »

<i>The Subjection of Women</i>: J.S. Mill on Equality of Women

Jimi Wilson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religion, and a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in journalism, both earned at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in South Asian Religions at the University of Florida at Gainesville, and writes part time for The News-Journal in Raeford, NC.

I wish John Stuart Mill the happiest of birthdays. His contributions toward the furthering of philosophical discourse and human wellbeing are incalculable. (Okay, not entirely incalculable—there is felicitous calculus—but it’s a pretty big project.)

While Mill’s works have, over time, been subject to criticism for the occasional fallacy; the errant empirical misstep; and the just plain wrong-headed, muffin-esque tendencies—observable among the works of the other brilliant thinkers from Aristotle to Newton to Einstein—modern readers will surely note the freshness of many of his ideas and the crispness of his prose. Indeed the very soundness of much of his philosophy, coupled with a genuine humanness in his response to the world around him, lends his work an immediacy and poignancy, uncommon to philosophers of his day, that modern readers can not only appreciate, but from which we can learn from and apply to ethics today. And while many of his proposals seem self-evident to modern readers, this is precisely because so many of his suggestions were successfully applied.

Of course we have Mill to thank for the formalization of the pleasure and harm principles, as well his improvements on the fuzzy and politically impractical Benthamite conception of utilitarianism—created in a historical and sociological vacuum, as it were. Less celebrated are Mill’s writings in favor of women’s emancipation—works which were no doubt largely influenced and/or co-written by his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill.

This essay isn’t meant to make a philosophical argument—as Joe Miller does here—so much as it is meant to give credit where I believe it is due. Read more »

Secure the Borders for the Birthday Boy

Richard Clancy is a double major in Philosophy and Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He just returned from an internship with Sen. Richard Burr during the spring semester.

In light of his bicentennial birthday, let us afford to Mr. Mill the opportunity to express his views regarding the debate over border security and illegal immigration. Unfortunately, Mill has very little to say on the subject of immigration, legal or not. During his time, the fluctuations in the English population (those not due to natural birth and death) were mainly from the practice of emigration and colonization- England is a dreary place and people wanted to leave. He did, however, make clear his position on national character and national security.

For Mill, the bounded nation-state was essential for a free, liberal society to flourish. Underlying this was an assumption of the necessity of a shared political culture. In his Considerations on Representative Government he said:

Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they speak different languages, the united public opinion necessary to the working of representative government cannot exist.

While we accept legal immigrants of many different nationalities, we do expect that they assimilate themselves into their new culture and identify with their new nation. (It is our own fault that we have not declared English as our official language.) And in all but a few dual-citizenship situations, we even demand that immigrants renounce their foreign citizenship to be recognized as a citizen of this country. If a country doesn’t have the right to decide with whom it shares its people, then it has no rights at all. Illegal immigration not only denies the right of our country to decide with whom we share our people, our culture, our way of life, and our freedoms, it is a direct threat to them.

One might expect, from his Utilitarian viewpoint, that Mill would be little concerned with borders when it came to how one should act towards his fellow man. In fact his mentor, Jeremy Bentham, espoused a view of universalism. But Mill criticized Bentham’s universalism claiming that it was superseded by national character. He says:

That which alone causes any material interests to exist, which alone enables any body of human beings to exist as a society, is national character: that it is, which causes one nation to succeed in what it attempts, another to fail; one nation to understand and aspire to elevated things, another to grovel in mean ones; which makes the greatness of one nation lasting, and dooms another to early and rapid decay… A philosophy of laws and institutions, not founded on a philosophy of national character, is an absurdity. (“Bentham”)

J.S. Mill and the Case for Liberal Intervention<sup>1</sup>

Joe Miller is a professor of philosophy at University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He maintains a blog at Bellum et Mores.

Inspired by Rick’s application of Mill to contemporary controversies, I’d like to examine a somewhat neglected, though these days quite relevant, aspect of Mill’s writings, namely, his case for colonialism. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not at all interested in defending Mill’s account of colonialism. And I realize the oddity of defending the idea of armed humanitarian intervention in this particular forum, particularly when much of my discussion is going to focus on intervention in failed states. What I am going to argue is that Mill’s arguments for colonialism can be usefully resuscitated as a guide for liberal intervention in states that have utterly failed, not in the anarcho-capitalism-private-institutions-have-replaced-the-state David Friedman kind of way, but rather in the people-are-butchering-each-other-in-the-streets Hobbesian kind of way.

As a number of posts have already mentioned, Mill’s Harm Principle famously prohibits the state from interfering with self-regarding actions. Less well known is that in 1859 (the year which saw the publication of On Liberty), Mill also wrote a short essay entitled “A Few Words on Non-Intervention.” There Mill applies the Harm Principle to international relations, arguing that the citizens of a nation cannot be forced to be free, and that liberty can flourish only where people “are willing to brave labour and danger for their liberation.” Mill argues that only those who are capable of seizing liberty for themselves are ready for free institutions; history has shown that those who are given freedom by outsiders rarely keep that freedom for long. Thus, for Mill, intervention in the internal affairs of despotic nations is almost always prohibited.

But, as with OL, what Mill gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. Mill’s claims about non-intervention are not meant to apply to those he terms “barbarians.” (Mill, 1859a: 408-9). Tellingly, Mill makes a similar move in On Liberty, claiming there that the harm principle “is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties.” For Mill, nations have sovereignty by virtue of the fact that nations are collections of individuals. Since individual liberty is to be protected, for better or for worse, state sovereignty should likewise be protected. But Mill holds that some individuals, because of their particular circumstances, are not properly governed by the harm principle. Given this commitment, it is hardly surprising that Mill would also deny sovereignty to a state composed of individuals to whom the harm principle does not apply. Barbarians, for Mill, “have no rights as a nation, except a right to such treatment as may, at the earliest possible period,” fit them for becoming one (A Few Words).

Mill’s own account of who counts as a barbarian is plagued by a number of racist assumptions that were not uncommon in Mill’s social circles. For Mill, northern Europeans (along with their colonies and former colonies) were the pinnacle of civilization with societies becoming steadily more barbaric as one moved south and east. I’ve no desire whatsoever to defend Mill’s racism. What I propose is that we consider anew Mill’s distinction between ‘barbarian’ and ‘civilized’ nations. Although we are right to be wary of the colonialist implications of Mill’s choice of terms, the distinction that those terms represent is one that does have some plausibility. Mill’s error lies in his conflating ‘civilized’ with Europeans and ‘barbarians’ with pretty much everyone else. But Mill’s misuse of his labels is not in itself reason for rejecting the labels. Read more »

Booted from Buffet

While we are on the subject of food today...

Had the amusement of reading about a Des Moines family that was kicked out of a Chinese buffet restaurant for wasting too much food.

Says employee Lin Huyen: "They just take one bite and throw it away. They take four egg rolls and crab rangoon, take one bite of egg roll and throw the whole plate. That is wasting food." Read more »