28 March 2012

He Said It: Macaulay

Another quote from the great Thomas Babington (Lord) Macaulay, from an 1845 speech:
"It is not one single cause that makes nations either prosperous or miserable. No friend of free trade is such an idiot as to say that free trade is the only valuable thing in the world; that religion, government, police, education, the administration of justice, public expenditure, foreign relations, have nothing whatever to do with the well-being of nations."
[Quoted in Douglas A. Irwin, Free Trade Under Fire, 3rd. ed. (Princeton, 2009), 69. I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Irwin give a talk yesterday.]

11 March 2012

He Said It: Frederick Douglass

The one-time slave Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to his former slave master, Thomas Auld, explaining why he fled. The letter was publshed in The North Star on September 8, 1848. The following excerpt comes from that letter:

"From that time, I resolved that I would some day run away. The morality of the act I dispose fo as follows: I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both, and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bond to you, or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine to depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons, and are each equally provided with faculties necessary to our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. Your faculty remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner. I therefore see no wrong in any part of the transaction. It is true, I went off secretly; but that was more your fault than mine. Had I let you into the secret, you would have defeated the enterprise entirely; but for this, I should have been really glad to have made you acquainted with my intentions to leave." --Frederick Douglass, "To My Old Master, Thomas Auld" (1848; reprinted in The Oxford Frederick Douglass Reader, ed. William L. Andrews (Oxford, 1996))

I am currently writing a book examining the arguments given on behalf of socialism. This one paragraph from this one letter captures,  more eloquently and movingly than anything I could manage, several of the points I hope to make.

Students for Liberty Webinar

I am pleased to report that I will be taking part in the first-ever Students for Liberty "Adavanced Academic Webinar." It will take place entirely online, on Monday, March 12, 2012. Fifteen graduate students were selected from among the applicants, and we will discuss my paper, "Markets and Order: The Contribution of the Scottish Enlightenment."

Students for Liberty is an extraordinary organization. It was created by students, is entirely organized by students, and it has now grown, in just a few short years, to encompass chapters throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Africa. Its main purpose, as I understand it, is to encourage the study of liberty. Here is a five-minute video from them discussing their purpose:


I have given a talk to SFL in the past; this webinar will be my second time to work with them. I hope it is not the last.

09 March 2012

He Said It: Adam Smith

An early statement of Adam Smith's nascent theory of unintended order, from a now lost manuscript Smith wrote at the age of 33:


"Man is generally considered by statesmen and projectors as the materials of a sort of political mechanics. Projectors disturb nature in the course of her operations in human affairs; and it requires no more than to let her alone, and give her fair play in the pursuit of her ends, that she may establish her own designs."

--Adam Smith (1755), quoted by Dugald Stewart in his Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LLD (1793), reprinted in Essays on Philosophical Subjects

01 March 2012

He Said It: Macaulay

"Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed have to wait forever."

--Thomas Babington (Lord) Macaulay (1800-1859), "Milton" (1825)