I mentioned Dorothy Day in passing in yesterday’s post. Specifically I named her as part of the Catholic pacifist-anarchist tradition. A couple of readers asked about whether or not Day was actually an anarchist, as they had always heard she was a socialist. I referred one reader to a short article on Day that noted her status as an anarchist, but I didn’t feel that was adequate.
By chance, my wife who is working on an unrelated research project about feminism, happened to pick up some books about Day at the library today. One of the books is The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day: A Feminist Perspective by June E. O’Connor. I thumbed through it and found the following passage, which I think provides a far more satisfying explanation of Day’s views:
Although she preferred the words libertarian, decentralist and personalist to anarchist, Day’s attraction to anarchism was an enduring one. With Peter Maurin and others, most notably Ammon Hennacy and Robert Ludlow, Dorothy Day sought fundamental changes in the structure of society by minimizing the presence and power of the state and by arguing on behalf of personal initiative and responsibility expressed in direct action.
Whether acting alongside of or in spite of Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day believed in the power of the person as the starting point for the good society. Day described anarchism as being “personalist before it’s communitarian: it begins with living a disciplined life, trying to be what you want the other fellow to be.” Day admitted that although one must assume responsibility oneself, the fact is that many others will not. When they do not, one must simply try to understand them, given their sufferings and their backgrounds, and accept them.
…Anarchists are not so much politicians or sociologists as they are moralists; their stand is not so much political and economic as it is spiritual and ethical.
[Well, anarchists aren't politicians at all, but this is still a nice observation about anarchism.]
A few years ago in honor of Arthur C. Clarke’s then-recent birthday, I wrote on my own blog that he must never have read Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard,
because according to this quote cited by Gregory Benford in his happy-birthday letter in Locus Magazine (January 2008), he claims that “there are some general laws governing scientific extrapolation, as there are not (pace Marx) in the case of politics and economics.” Well, far be it from me to disagree that Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but Clarke is wrong here. Sir Clarke, you may be 90 years old now, and happy birthday by the way, but it’s never too late to acquire a firm grasp of sound economic theory.
As disappointing as it is, it’s not surprising that he had a natural-scientistic bias against economics. Sadly, he died only a few months after my post.
In a more recent article in the Sri Lanka Guardian, more of Clarke’s economic ignorance is on display:
While researching for this article I came across a searing indictment by Clarke on the American capitalist system. After observing that the structure of American society may be unfitted for the effort that the conquest of space demands he continued, “No nation can afford to divert its ablest men into essentially non-creative and occasionally parasitic occupations such as law, insurance and banking”. He also referred to a photograph in Life Magazine showing 7,000 engineers massed behind a new model car they had produced as ‘a horrifying social document’. He was appalled by the squandering of technical manpower it represented. All this indeed makes one wonder whether he really was a closet socialist.
As noted on my media page, I’ll be delivering a speech entitled “How Intellectual Property Hampers Capitalism” at the Mises Institute Supporters’ Summit 2010, Oct. 8-9 2010, Auburn Alabama. The conference’s theme is “The Economic Recovery: Washington’s Big Lie.” There’s a dynamite list of speakers. The heroic Jim Rogers will be awarded the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize, “For lifetime defense of liberty, given every year, awards $10,000 to a public intellectual or distinguished scholar.” I am looking forward to the entire event, especially the black-tie-optional reception and dinner honoring Mr. Rogers.
Understanding basic economics is crucial for all libertarians. No other field offers as clear and irrefutable a case for liberty. Indeed, statism draws much of its support from the public’s flawed understanding of economics. Even libertarians are occasionally led astray by flawed economic reasoning. A friend recently brought a book designed to combat such flaws to my attention: Geoffrey E. Wood’s Fifty Economic Fallacies Exposed.
Someone sent me a link to this paper yesterday.
Prof. Harris argues that skilled traders, who consistently profit, do so by taking money from people who trade for extrinsic reasons, to hedge risks, increase their savings, or simply to gamble for entertainment. He then points out an interesting implication:
If gamblers do indeed contribute to market quality in the long run by subsidizing information acquisition, an intriguing argument can be made about public lotteries. Lotteries would appear to compete with financial markets for gamblers willing to lose money. Lottery gamblers subsidize the state through their voluntary participation in a negative-sum game. Financial market gamblers subsidize productive information acquisition. Perhaps prices, and ultimately economic production, would be more efficient if gamblers gambled exclusively in the financial markets.
So there you have it — state lotteries make us worse off by wasting gambling money that would otherwise be productively spent.