A great book about the political and economic nature of the Incan empire.

A great book about the political and economic nature of the Incan empire.

Yesterday, when not reading Democracy in America for one project, I scoured the Net, in service of other projects. A few interesting stories I stumbled upon:

  • A Phalanx of Lies,” by Mark Steyn. He identifies “government health care” as fundamentally redefining “the relationship between the citizen and the state into one closer to that of junkie and pusher.”
  • The Climate Inquisitor,” by Charles C. W. Cooke. This National Review Online story covers the Michael Mann libel suit against the above-mentioned Mark Steyn and NRO itself. I haven’t finished reading it, but it looks interesting enough to go back to. In my opinion, public intellectuals don’t get to sue each other over disagreements like this. Steyn has a great case in defense of the ludicrous lawsuit. And Mann should be ashamed of himself.
  • What Private Builders Build,” by Paul Jacob. I actually entered into the comments section of this short opinion piece. I used to do this a lot, commenting all over the Web, usually under my initials “TWV,” as here. Perhaps I don’t do this very often, any longer, because of a tendency on the Web for people to behave like anal openings, repeatedly spewing mean-spirited and poorly reasoned diatribes of a personal nature. I tried to move the discussion into a respectful territory, something to do with the facts of the history in question. But this sort of thing is probably futile. Haters gonna hate.

Interestingly, while grabbing text for this post, I just found on Paul Jacob’s site a great quotation from one of my favorite social philosophers, Herbert Spencer:

It is not … chiefly in the interests of the employing classes that socialism is to be resisted, but much more in the interests of the employed classes.… Under that compulsory cooperation which socialism would necessitate, the regulators, pursuing their personal interests with no less selfishness, could not be met by the combined resistance of free workers; and their power, unchecked as now by refusals to work save on prescribed terms, would grow and ramify and consolidate till it became irresistible. The ultimate result … must be a society like that of ancient Peru, dreadful to contemplate, in which the mass of the people, elaborately regimented in groups of 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000, ruled by officers of corresponding grades, and tied to their districts, were superintended in their private lives as well as in their industries, and toiled hopelessly for the support of the governmental organization.

Here we find an acknowledgment of the basic realism of Public Choice economics: that folks in government are as selfish as anyone else, and their behavior should be explained in similar terms as, say, “greedy” market participants. We also find a reference to Incan socialism, something I first encountered from conversation with the late R. W. Bradford, but later heard from French economists Yves Guyot and Louis Baudin. For more rumination on this subject, read my foreword to Laissez Faire Book’s recent re-publication of Baudin’s classic on the Inca empire. Or Mises’ introduction. Or, best yet, the book itself. It’s magnificent.

Well, I have to go back to reading De Tocqueville. But it’s not one of my random readings, as when I take up Evelyn Waugh or a science fiction author. Nope, this is part of actual work. Other books, for the next year, that add onto this project list include

  • Fiat Money Inflation in France, by Andrew Dickson White
  • The Man vs. The Welfare State, by Henry Hazlitt
  • On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
  • The Production of Security, by Gustave de Molinari
  • The Outcome of Individualism, by J. H. Levy

A great list of interesting books. I will no doubt write more about them, later.