29 January 2013

He Said It: Buchanan

"The European classical liberal, who is well represented by [F. A.] Hayek, can and perhaps should stress the evolutionary sources of many of the institutions that stand as bulwarks of individual freedom. The American cannot, and should not, neglect the fact that his own heritage of freedom, although owing much to its European antecedents, was deliberately 'constructed' in large part by James Madison and his compatriots. Theirs were no invisible hands."

--James M. Buchanan (1919-2013), "Law and the Invisible Hand" (1976), contained in The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, vol. 17, Moral Science and Moral Order (Liberty Fund, 2001), 109.

28 January 2013

He Said It: Keynes

"The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: Economic Efficiency, Social Justice, and Individual Liberty. The first needs criticism, precaution, and technical knowledge; the second, an unselfish and enthusiastic spirit which loves the ordinary man; the third, tolerance, breadth, appreciation of the excellencies of variety, and independence, which prefers, above everything, to give unhindered opportunity to the exceptional and to the aspiring. The second ingredient is the best possession of the great party of the Proletariat [i.e., Labour]. But the first and third require the qualities of the [Liberal] party which, by its traditions and ancient sympathies, has been the home of Economic Individualism and Social Liberty." 

--John Maynard Keynes, "Liberalism and Labour" (1926)

22 January 2013

He Said It: Collingwood

"Yet these utopian dreams, these rebellions against the sordid aims of the economic life, against the worship of gain and the acquiescence in a competitive system, are not wholly to be condemned. They are both foolish and vicious if they proceed from a desire to enjoy wealth without winning it in the open market. If people who cannot get as high a price as they want for their goods or labor complain that only a ruthless competitive system prevents them from getting more, they are merely throwing a cloak of hypocritical moralizing over their own disappointed greed. The competitive system of which they complain is just the fact that they, and people like them, want all they can get. But the economic life is not everything; and it is right to protest against the assumption that buying cheap and selling dear make up the whole duty of man. Indeed, a renunciation of purely economic aims is the essence, negatively defined, of the moral life." 

--R. G. Collingwood, "Economics as a Philosophical Science," International Journal of Ethics 36, 2 (January 1926): 162-185

21 January 2013

He Said It: John Gray

"The same myth--a hollowed-out version of a religious belief in providence--underpins the abiding appeal of Communism. One of the features that distinguished Bolshevism from Tsarism was the insistence of Lenin and his followers on the need for a complete overhaul of society. Old-fashioned despots may modernize in piecemeal fashion if doing so seems necessary to maintain their power, but they do not aim at remaking society on a new model, still less at fashioning a new type of humanity. Communist regimes engaged in mass killing in order to achieve these transformations, and paradoxically it is this essentially totalitarian ambition that has appealed to liberals. Here as elsewhere, the commonplace distinction between utopianism and meliorism is less than fundamental. In its predominant forms, liberalism has been in recent times a version of the religion of humanity, and with rare exceptions--[Bertrand] Russell is one of the few that come to mind--liberals have seen the Communist experiment as a hyperbolic expression of their own project of improvement; if the experiment failed, its casualties were incurred for the sake of a progressive cause. To think otherwise--to admit the possibility that the millions who were judged to be less than fully human suffered and died for nothing--would be to question the idea that history is a story of continuing human advance, which for liberals today is an article of faith. That is why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many of them continue to deny Communism’s clear affinities with Fascism. Blindness to the true nature of Communism is an inability to accept that radical evil can come from the pursuit of progress." 

--John Gray, "Communism, Fascism and liberals now," Times Literary Supplement, 2 January 2013

15 January 2013

Unique Opportunity: The Tikvah Fellowship

The Jerusalem Post recently ran a lengthy feature article on the Tikvah Fellowship, a New York-based program for which I have served as a lecturer. The Fellowship is a year-long educational program designed, in its own words, "for exceptional individuals interested in the political, religious, and intellectual future of the Jewish people." The Post called the fellowship the "boot camp of Jewish learning," and, as someone who has worked with the program, I can tell you it is that and a whole lot more.

A project of the Tikvah Fund, the Tikvah Fellowship provides its "Fellows" with a paid (!) opportunity to:

(1) Study the great ideas of classical and Jewish thought in areas such as economics, love and family life, and war and morality;
(2) Advance a project related to Jewish life and/or Israeli society;
(3) Learn with an international class of fellow participants; and
(4) Meet and work with leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of Jewish thought and history, Israeli and American politics, religious leadership, journalism, economics, education, and community life.

The roster of faculty members is quite impressive; this year it includes people like William Kristol, Victor Davis Hanson, James Capretta, Ryan Hanley, Russ Roberts, Yuval Levin, Ruth Wisse, and Michael Walzer. Courses offered in the past have included "Religion and State in Modern Democracy," "War, Morality, and Statesmanship," "Political Foundings," and "Wealth and Modern Democracy." The course I taught last year was called "Economics and the Human Good." 

But this program is much more than merely another year spent taking courses. It is really the creation of an intellectual community. The program Fellows are themselves an extraordinary group of people. They are all impressively accomplished, but from an array of perspectives, experiences, disciplines, and places. (Several students of mine from Yeshiva University have been current and past Fellows.) They share office space in midtown Manhattan, take meals together, start reading groups, hatch ideas for scholarly projects, create partnerships for charities or businesses, and on and on. Because it takes place in New York and is supported by the Tikvah Fund, it has considerable resources at its disposal--and the Fellows exploit those resources. I remain in contact with many of the Fellows who have taken my classes or attended my lectures, and they have gone on to do impressive things indeed. 

I know of no other educational program doing anything quite like what the Tikvah Fellowship does. I wish it had been in existence when I was a student! 

The 2013-14 Fellowship Program is accepting applications through January 31. That's only a couple weeks away, so if you or someone you know might be interested in submitting an application, you will have to act quickly. See www.tikvahfellowship.org for further details on courses, work projects, compensation, eligibility, and instructions on how to apply.