Two Different Words For Two Different Concepts

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Sohrab Ahmari is a young journalist, and his latest book is our Amazon Product du Jour. Although I don't recommend you buy it. Because, as Paul Mueller describes, Ahmari makes a fundamental error in Confusing Liberty with Power.

Sohrab Ahmari recently published a provocative book called Tyranny, Inc.: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty – and What to Do About It. My colleague Samuel Gregg has already reviewed it at length. But I want to accentuate Ahmari’s abuse of the word “liberty” because it undergirds his entire argument and is in the very title of the book.

This abuse or confusion about liberty is widespread. We can see it in James K. Galbraith’s favorable review advocating “countervailing power” in the market. We can also see it in the Rebuilding American Capitalism report. These authors are concerned about uncertainty, limited choices, power, family formation, and inequality, not liberty. As Hayek notes, the oldest and fullest sense of liberty means freedom from coercion – that is, freedom to act according to your own plans and goals rather than according to someone else’s.

That’s it. Liberty does not equal happiness. Nor does it guarantee it.

You might also want to check out Reason's Stephanie Slade for her take on Ahmari's book: 'Tyranny, Inc.' Blames Private Actors for Government Failures. Excerpt:

[Ahmari's] book's goal is to show "that private actors can imperil freedom just as much as overweening governments," and his central claim is nothing if not bold: "Private tyranny precisely describes the world we inhabit today: a system that allows the asset-owning few to subject the asset-less many to pervasive coercion."

In the face of this nightmare, Ahmari says, the way forward is clear: reject unfettered markets and shift from the current "neoliberal" system to a different arrangement. Call it "social democracy," "socially managed capitalism," or—Ahmari's preference—"political-exchange capitalism": a sort of light democratic socialism in which "the state" takes "a far more active role in coordinating economic activity for the good of the whole community."

Ms. Slade's criticism is also devastating.

Also of note:

  • And should be impeachable too. Charles C. W. Cooke looks at the latest effort to Do Something™ and finds it wanting: The New Mexico Governor's 'Suspension' of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is Both Illegal and Stupid.

    The governor of New Mexico has decided to “suspend” the right to bear arms for 30 days:

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will enact a temporary ban on carrying firearms in any public space across Bernalillo County. The governor made the announcement during a news conference Friday.

    Sitting alongside the Albuquerque Police Chief and Bernalillo County Sheriff. The governor says part of this new order is a 30-day suspension on open and concealed carry on public property for anyone other than law enforcement or licensed security. “I’ve warned everyone that we expect a direct challenge, probably as you’re writing this we’re getting a challenge, and that’s the way it should work. But I have to take a tough direct stand, or basically I’m just ignoring the fact that we lost an 11-year-old, another child,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

    This is not how the law works in America. As far as I can see, there’s nothing in any New Mexico statute that gives the governor the power to declare an emergency suspending the right to carry, and there’s certainly nothing in the U.S. Constitution that does. If our elected officials were allowed to shelve our unalienable rights every time they believed that those rights were being abused by outlaws, then they wouldn’t be unalienable rights; they’d be privileges. Lujan Grisham knows this — which is why she has said not only that she has “warned everyone that we expect a direct challenge,” but that the arrival of such a challenge is “the way it should work.” Those are the words of a person who knows she is breaking the law but has resolved to do it anyway. “I have to take a tough direct stand,” she insists, giving the game away. Actually, she does not. She has to uphold her oath of office.

    To amplify that last point: Governor Grisham's oath of office explicitly demands that she "support the constitution of the United States". Did she have her fingers crossed when she was sworn in?

    Jacob Sullum's Reason article, New Mexico Governor Suspends Gun Rights, Says Second Amendment Is Not 'Absolute', notes that the "I" word is, indeed, being bandied about:

    State Reps. Stefani Lord (R–Sandia Park) and John Block (R–Alamogordo) on Saturday said Grisham's order was grounds for impeachment. "This emergency order violates the Governor's oath to protect and defend the rights of New Mexicans," they said in a press release. "The legislature has a duty to intervene when the government is overstepping its boundaries, and Governor Grisham's order and comments disqualify her from continuing her tenure as Governor." Lord called the order "an abhorrent attempt at imposing a radical, progressive agenda on an unwilling populace."

    And the local law enforcers are leery:

    Grisham said state police would be charged with enforcing the order, which prescribes a fine of up to $5,000 per violation. The Associated Press reports that Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina "said he won't enforce it, and Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said he's uneasy about it because it raises too many questions about constitutional rights." In a statement issued on Friday, Allen said "the temporary ban challenges the foundation of our Constitution, which I swore an oath to uphold."

    So another empty act of symbolism, which will only be obeyed by … well, I'm not sure anyone will take it seriously enough to obey.

  • You'll pay up, one way or the other. Allison Schrager looks at one aspect of Bidenomics: Biden's Costly Medicare Drug Price Caps.

    When it comes to the cost of prescription drugs, the numbers are maddening. Just ten drugs account for nearly a quarter of Medicare’s spending on prescription medicines. Meantime, Americans pay more than double the amount, on a per capita basis, that citizens of many other wealthy nations pay for drugs. So President Joe Biden’s plan to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the prices for those ten drugs—and a few dozen more, eventually—might seem like common sense.

    But this negotiation is neither ordinary nor reasonable. The sheer size of Medicare, which makes up most of the U.S. market for prescription drugs, means that the government is effectively acting as a monopsonist—that is, the sole buyer—and using that market power to put a price cap on drugs. These caps will produce short-term savings, but they may end up costing the government and consumers even more in the long run.

    First, it’s not entirely true that U.S. retirees’ drug prices are not subject to negotiation. Most drugs get purchased as part of Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs. Part D is operated by private insurers, which negotiate prices with drug firms and make use of generics. And they do so effectively.

    The costs will be well hidden in the life-saving and misery-reducing drugs that won't be brought to market in the future.

  • It's a safe bet that Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies to Jeff Maurer's article: Will Republicans Learn From the Democratic Primary Like Democrats Learned From the Republican Primary?.

    Let’s return to the dark days of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary. It’s late February. The candidates have spent the campaign debating whether everyone’s medical expenses should be paid in full until the end of time, or paid in full merely until the sun burns out. Those who took the latter position were deemed “moderates”. There had also been sharp exchanges over race and gender, with candidates like Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand scoring major Twitter points before realizing that election boards don’t count Twitter points, they count votes, and nobody wanted to vote for them.

    In late February, there were six serious candidates in the race (if you don’t count Tulsi Gabbard, and nobody except Tulsi Gabbard counted Tulsi Gabbard). The six were: Cranky Ol’ Coot Joe Biden, Charlie Brown Stand-In Michael Bloomberg, Precocious Li’l Lad Pete Buttigieg, Generic Sitcom Mom Amy Klobuchar, Filthy Beatnik Bernie Sanders, and Lady-Who-Hands-Out-Pencils-on-Halloween Elizabeth Warren. Four states had voted; Sanders had won the most votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Biden’s big win in South Carolina had resurrected his campaign. Bloomberg seemed to be there just to be a punching bag, Buttigieg had a not-embarrassing delegate count, and Warren and Klobuchar’s delegates could fit into a Dodge Caravan. Fifteen states and territories were about to vote on Super Tuesday.

    It really looked like Bernie Sanders might win. He was leading the delegate count and polling fairly well in the Super Tuesday states. This was troubling to Democrats like me, and also to Democrats who know people and matter. We could debate Bernie's prospects in the general election (dear God let's not), but I’ll simply summarize my view by saying that if I were doing a word association test, and the word was “electability”, my response would not be “79 year-old Jewish socialist from Vermont”. My opinion and the opinion of many Democrats was that Bernie was probably the least-likely candidate in the field to beat Trump.

    Well, I should stop there, lest I quote the whole thing. Yes, Maurer's a Democrat, but I love his writing, and I think his analysis is spot on.

  • Well, I can always vote for the Libertarian, right? Well, unfortunately, there's a nasty schism in the LP. And, worse, both sides are nuts. Kevin Langston looks at one side: Libertarian Party leader peddles message that 'what the Democratic Party is doing' is 'generally good'.

    According to the media, the Libertarian Party is now split into two factions — the “bad,” alt-right libertarians who now control the Libertarian National Committee, and the “good” libertarians like [Nicholas] Sarwark who hope to unseat them. But the “good” libertarians like Sarwark are rather bad at following traditional libertarian precepts such as fiscal conservatism. They like government handouts.

    Sarwark defended Joe Biden’s student loan bailout, which would cost taxpayers at least $427 billion, and perhaps well over $1 trillion. It was blocked by the Supreme Court as illegal, but Biden is trying to do it again using a different legal pretext. Democratic Party leaders used to admit that Biden lacks the power to forgive student loans, the very ones who denounced the Supreme Court decision, such as Nancy Pelosi.

    Yeah, sorry Nick, but all that's kind of a deal-breaker for me.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 4:45 AM EDT