Some Monday Links

Burning the witch (New Humanist)

Not as funny as it may sound.

Will nudge theory survive the pandemic? (UnHerd)

From an ex-member of the UK Nudge Unit:

[I]t may be worth reflecting on where we need to draw the line between the choice-maximizing nudges of libertarian paternalism, and the creeping acceptance among policy makers that the state should use its heft to influence our lives without the accountability of legislative and parliamentary scrutiny.

Why Do We Return to the Greek Myths Again and Again? (LitHub)

Olympus, Texas?

French Socialism Embraced Neoliberalism and Signed Its Death Warrant (Jacobin)

The usual disclaimers on the use of term neoliberalism apply.

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021) (Visual Capitalist)

Nightcap

  1. The colonization cost theory of anarchic emergence (pdf) Vladimir Maltsev, QJAE
  2. How Africa made the modern world Dele Olojede, Financial Times
  3. Gorbachev’s Christmas farewell to the Soviet Union Joseph Loconte, National Review
  4. How I did not celebrate Christmas (in Yugoslavia) Branko Milanovic, globalinequality

Some Monday Links

Beyond the Nation-State (Boston Review)

The Failure of a Socialist Dreamer (Law & Liberty)

A New Guild System (The Hedgehog Review)

Our (Mis)represented Digital Rights (CIGI)

From the Comments: India and misunderstanding socialism

This is from Jacques, who is responding to Tridivesh’s recent piece on vaccine apartheid:

I don’t like your title. US firms and other firms based in the West have managed to produce enough vaccines to vaccinate all of the citizens of their respective countries. Governments (democratically elected governments) have decided that the vaccines should be reserved for their own citizens first. That decision might be attacked because it’s a form of govt seizure but it’s not apartheid. India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world. That its government has not been able to provide vaccines even minimally for the Indian people is the Indian government’s fault and more broadly, traceable to the fact that Indian society is a mess. As anyone a little observant who lives in the US can tell, there is no shortage of intelligent and energetic Indians ( I live near Silicone Valley myself). India is a mess largely because of a systemic issues of its own making. My former Silicone Valley Indian colleagues are mostly complicit. The central problem is Indians’ addiction to what they think is socialism, in reality, mostly crony capitalism and a stupefying government bureaucracy. I would like that, I am hoping that, this dreadful crisis will prompt many Indians to reconsider. I am not optimistic though. No, I didn’t read your essay because of its offensive and mendacious title. PS I am married to an Indian woman. I spent more time in India than the average casual visitor. I like India.

Nightcap

  1. NATO, Russia, and bias (values vs. empirics) Rachel Epstein, Duck of Minerva
  2. Leftists loathe libertarians at DC think tank Daniel Lippman, Politico
  3. Free speech, committees, and Georgetown law Jason Brennan, 200-Proof Liberals
  4. Biden and his anti-socialist stimulus legislation Thomas Knapp, WLGC
  5. Contemplating nullification in the U.S. federation NEO, nebraskaenergyobserver

Nightcap

  1. In defense of Jeff Sachs, but… Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
  2. The continuing mystery of the Belt and Road Yuan Jiang, Diplomat
  3. The Silk Road and re-globalization Pechlaner & Thees, global-e
  4. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff and the Great Depression David Glasner, Uneasy Money

Nightcap

  1. Cancelling Dr Seuss Jason Brennan, 200-Proof Liberals
  2. Post-socialist migration Azra Hromadžić, Fieldsites
  3. Presidential war powers Andrew Desiderio, Politico
  4. Cancelling the Muppets Paul du Quenoy, Critic

Nightcap

  1. Fascinating piece on Ming China’s censorial system Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
  2. On the farmer’s protests Jeet Singh, Time
  3. Understanding the rise of socialism Brad Delong, Grasping Reality
  4. Understanding middlebrow Scott Sumner, Money Illusion

Holidays blurb

I hope you have been enjoying the nightcaps. Life has been busy. I read somewhere that so-called “progressives” are pushing to make the executive branch as strong as possible. It’s like they learned absolutely nothing from the Trump years.

Luckily, Joe Biden doesn’t pander to the loudest factions on his side of the aisle. Things are already looking up for 2021.

Andrei has a new book out: Socialism as a Secular Creed: A Modern Global History. I’ll have more on it later. Here’s the link. Y’all stay safe out there.

Nightcap

  1. What’s wrong with “libertarian environmentalism”? Ed Dolan, Open Society
  2. European empire, fractured? Theodore Dalrymple, Law & Liberty
  3. On democracy and the “liberal world order” Manuel Reinert, Duck of Minerva
  4. Why I am a socialist Sam Adler-Bell, Hedgehog Review

AOC doesn’t understand Christianity

I believe I wasted a lot of time some years ago arguing if Venezuela was a democracy or not under Hugo Chávez. The difficulty with this kind of conversation is that people can have very different views on what constitutes a “democracy”. That is part of the reason why North Korea can call itself a “democratic republic”. However, when somebody claims something about Christianity, and specially about what the Bible says, I feel more comfortable to debate.

I understand that it is like flogging a decomposing horse, but some months ago representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supposedly called out the hypocrisy of religious conservatives using their faith to justify bigotry and discrimination in the United States. Her speech can be watched here. I believe her point is this: conservative Christians only care about religion in order to support their so-called “bigotry”. AOC believes that Christians should support socialism, because after all, that’s what Jesus would do.

AOC says some truths: sadly, the Christian Scriptures have been distorted many times over American history to defend political agendas they were never meant to defend. AOC could go even further on that if she wanted: the Cristian Scriptures were completed almost 2 thousand years ago, and they simply don’t talk specifically to many of the political issues we have today. One can say they offer principles of conduct, but it’s really up to us to figure out how these apply to concrete situations we find today. In this case, using Scripture to support political agendas can be not only morally wrong, but also naive and misguided.

AOC is also right when she says that human life is special (although I would question if “holy” applies) and that we should “fight for the least of us”. All these statements and more are true!

What AOC really doesn’t seem to understand (and frankly, this is quite scary) is that Christianity can’t be forced upon people. Yes, biblically speaking, we are to care for the poor. However, the Bible is addressing we as individuals. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says that we are to provide medical care for those who cannot afford via government fiat. Actually, there is nothing in the Bible that says that I can force people to act as Christians when they are not.

One of the great gifts from modernity is separation between church and state. I would submit that this separation was present in Christianity from the start, but the concept was so radically different from everything people were used to that it took some centuries for it to be put into practice, and we are actually still working on it. One of the things we realized in modern times is that we can’t force people to be Christians via government. And in her speech, AOC is trying to undo that. She wants government to force people to do a charitable work that can only be done if it is their choice.

As a Christian, I would say this: I would like to diminish suffering in this world, and this is exactly why I’m against the socialism AOC supports. One doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that the poor are much better off in countries that go further away from what Ms. Ocasio supports. It’s not simply a matter of wanting to help the poor, but of doing it in efficacious way. And also: I want to invite people to look to the example of Jesus, who being rich made himself poor for the sake of many. I do hope that more and more people might have their lives changed by Jesus. But I don’t want to force anybody to do that. I want to invite people to consider what Scripture says, and to make their choice to change their lives. As for now, I believe that capitalism is the most efficient way to help the poor humanity has discovered so far.

Nightcap

  1. The socialist manifesto Robin Hanson, Overcoming Bias
  2. Why Amy Coney Barrett should step down Laura Field, Open Society
  3. There is no expressive duty to vote Chris Freiman, 200-Proof Liberals

The collapse of socialism and the sovereignty gap

When socialism collapsed in the late 1980s-early 1990s, many debates and contentions were settled, but the issue of sovereignty has only grown in importance thanks in large part to more economic integration. The European attempt at federation, undertaken after the fall of socialism, has not gone well precisely because it cannot close the Westphalian sovereignty gap. The bloodshed in the non-liberal world has largely been a product of the inability of states to fragment, an inability which is encouraged by notions of Westphalian sovereignty and institutionalized by IGOs such as the United Nations or World Bank.

If states wish to break away, but are prohibited from doing so by enormous costs (such as violent aggression from the state it wishes to break away from, or hostility from illiberal states that can use IGOs as mediums to act on those hostilities), then a federation which welcomes states into its union, and which is strong enough to deter aggression, would be a welcome, liberal development.

This is from my forthcoming article in the Independent Review. Here’s a sneak peak (pdf) at the whole thing. I’m guest editing a symposium on the subject at Cosmos + Taxis, in case any of you want to write a response, or add to the conversation…

Nightcap

  1. How the anti-communist alliances of the Cold War have ended David Goodhart, Literary Review
  2. The end of interest (and capitalism) John Quiggin, Crooked Timber
  3. The democratic road to socialism Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
  4. Masks, pollution, and implied consent Johnathan Pearce, Samizdata

Nightcap

  1. Communist China’s dream of total information Arunabh Ghosh, Aeon
  2. The romance of American Communism Hannah Gold, Commonweal
  3. The Last Utopians: Four late-19th century visionaries Robert Greer, History Today
  4. The role of science in Enlightenment Universalism Nick Nielsen, Grand Strategy Annex