Democracy is sacred. But it won't work unless people understand that politics is not supposed to be a career as Thomas Sowell argues. Power must be decentralized to the states and to the community. God wants everyone to understand that free enterprise is sacred. Private property is sacred. Tom Bethell has an excellent book about how sacredness of private property in Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages. At Amazon several people reviewed the book saying: "firstname.lastname@example.org from Prescott AZ , March 18, 1999
All elected officials should read and understand this book. As an elected official I found the opportunity, for that is what it is, to read Tom Bethell's The Noblest Triumph worth much more than the time and effort involved. Not only does Bethell point out correctly the tremendous role played by private property in world history but, by inference and example, the grave threats to that right extant in American society today. For this reason alone elected officials of every stripe need to understand the implications of many of the actions they are daily called upon to undertake. No right, one until recently understood and sadly too often taken for granted, is under greater attack today than private ownership of property. Such concepts as public space, viewsheds, common lands and land use planning intrude daily into the public debate occasioned by new development projects in whatever town they may be proposed. Through application in code of these ideals, property no longer belongs to its owners, but rather to the planners and in many instances, the public at large. Demands for open space, trails, and the like cause owners to part with ever larger portions of their property for "the common good". Fortunately the courts in such cases as Dolan v. City of Tigard have restricted the ability of local governments to demand such extractions. Just as fortunately Bethell has authored a work which expounds the basic value and great benefit derived from protecting property rights. His clear analysis of why this right should be among our most cherished demands its protection by all levels of government.
Don Boudreaux (email@example.com) from Irvington-on-Hudson, NY , February 12, 1999 A remarkable achievement James Bovard comments rightly that no institution in modern society has received as much "intellectual charity" as has the state. With The Noblest Triumph, Tom Bethell helps in a big way to reverse the unfortunate effects of this misbegotten charity. Bethell's book bursts with sound history, first-rate economics, and a subtle and profound philosophical understanding of human society. His is one of the clearest explanations of why the rule of law -- the unbiased application of legal constraints to even the mightiest citizens -- is necessary for freedom and prosperity. Bethell also masterfully lands solid blows against the (sadly widespread) notion that majoritarian democracy is a sound means of making law. Bethell's lesson, in brief, is that a system of decentralized private property rights is far superior to any form of centralized government at ensuring peaceful and productive social relations. While explaining in a variety of ways the role of property rights, The Noblest Triumph is far more than a book about property rights. Read this book and enjoy a first-rate intellectual feast. Bethell's wife wrote a review also at Amazon saying, "DonnaBethell@compuserve.com from Washington, D.C., USA , August 23, 1998 Fascinating reasons why some nations prosper & some don't. How to bolster economies has become a hot topic. Will the euro really help Europe? How can Japan get back on its feet? What must Russia do to establish a real economy? What, in short, is needed for prosperity?
Last year David Landes wrote "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Others So Poor," but as more than one reviewer noted, he never answered the question. Now comes Tom Bethell with "The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages." Bethell not only asks the right questions, he gives convincing answers from the Greeks and Romans to imperial Britain to China in 1998.
Why could the Romans afford to build an empire but not maintain it? Why did the Pilgrims and Ireland starve? What was wrong with the land reforms in Iran, Vietnam, and El Salvador that led to political upheaval? Why are Arab nations persistently underdeveloped? Conversely, what did Britain do right ahead of everyone else? What did America learn from Britain, and then forget to teach others? What is China doing right today and does it need democracy to prosper (did Hong Kong?)? What don't the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund understand?
The answers are given not in an abstract economic treatise but in the engaging stories of individuals and nations living and experimenting and, with surprising infrequency, finding the right formula for prosperity: security of private property, freedom of exchange, enforcement of contract, and equality before the law.
The book title comes from a remark by Jeremy Bentham, that the law that secures property rights is "the noblest triumph of humanity over itself." The society that can guarantee property rights to individuals, rather than yielding to the temptation to share equally by holding property in common, has in fact taken a crucial step in promoting the greatest benefits to all.
As Bethell demonstrates from history and reasons from common experiences we can all recognize, people respond to an innate sense of justice and act rationally in their own self-interest. If they have legal institutions that encourage property development by securing for them the benefits of their labor and investment, then they will behave in ways that lead to economic prosperity. As William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, pointed out more than 300 years ago, people object to working hard and getting no more benefit that those who do little. As long as all property in Plymouth was held in common, the Pilgrims were divided into selfish "free-riders" and disgruntled hard workers. All were starving. It took the Pilgrims only three or four years to realize they had to have individual property rights with each family responsible for its own welfare. Then the colony prospered.
Dr. Johnson said that to write a book, a man must turn over half a library. Bethell has done it, drawing on monumental research to multiply the examples across centuries, continents, and cultures. He is dealing with fundamental human nature. Circumstances may differ from Aristotle's Athens to Zemin's Beijing, but the human quality remains constant. We recognize ourselves in both the disgruntled hardworkers and the selfish free-riders. We have to admit that we all want to be the secure property owner.
Bethell argues convincingly that with the appropriate legal institutions, property owners will work to improve what they have and maximize its value by making it more productive and protecting it from harm. They need to be protected by the law from the predations of others, especially governments. They need a judicial system that will enforce contracts and treat all as equally subject to the same rule of law. With the incentive of reward, the freedom of exchange, the predictability of contracts, and the security of ownership, property of all kinds will flourish.
For these principles apply not only to the fundamental form of property, the land and its produce. They extend to livestock, housing, factories, air and water, forests and wildlife, and even that quintessential hallmark of the Information Age, intellectual property. Bethell addresses all these many aspects of property in modern life. The lessons are as immediate as the economic crisis in Asia and as practical as chicken soup for a cold.
Dr. Johnson also said that no one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. Maybe Bethell did, but as his wife, I hope not. Buy the book.
Donna Fitzpatrick Bethell Richard A. Epstein's Principles for a Free Society: Reconciling Individual Liberty With the Common Good. Amazon has the following reviews: The term common good makes libertarians cringe, because they view it as a catch-all excuse for governments to increase the power of the state. America's foremost libertarian legal mind, Richard Epstein, addresses these worries, acknowledging a tension between personal freedom and social goals, while suggesting that they can be mutually reinforcing: "Laissez-faire is best understood not as an effort to glorify the individual at the expense of society, but as the embodiment of principles that, when consistently applied, will work to the advantage of all (or almost all) members of society simultaneously."
Epstein is a powerful reasoner, and even skeptical readers will find themselves slowly drawn down a libertarian path. Principles for a Free Society contains a storehouse of detailed information about human nature and the motives of state authority. Epstein deserves a place on the bookshelf beside Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. --John J. Miller
The New York Times Book Review, Paul A. Weissman A common reaction to the writings of the conservative legal scholar Richard A. Epstein is that they are simultaneously outrageous and completely convincing.
From Booklist , September 1, 1998 A generation of social activists has seen in economic liberty merely a license for greed and aggression. Legal scholar Epstein sees much more: he finds a proven safeguard against state tyranny and an engine of social prosperity. But to defend laissez-faire against its critics, he must demonstrate that individual liberty in the use of private property can foster the common good, while still permitting government action--in regulating monopolies, for instance--when private initiative will not suffice. It is indeed the nuanced concessions that make the overall defense of free enterprise compelling, just as they give strength to the critiques of misapplied state coercion. In sketching out the proper limits for state power, Epstein opens exceptional insights into why society depends on cultural norms and family loyalties that neither courts nor legislatures can replace. The rigorous reasoning buttressed by exhaustive scholarship ensures sustained demand for this book among serious students of legal philosophy. Bryce Christensen Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved
Synopsis One of the country's leading libertarian scholars sets forth the essential principles for a legal order that, in an age of limited government, balances individual liberty against the common good. Richard Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and author of a number of books.
In Principles for a Free Society, distinguished legal scholar Richard Epstein staunchly defends the principles of limited government, showing how it can and will work to the advantage of almost all of our society. But the balance between a powerful economic engine and individual liberty requires careful dilution of pure laissez-faire policies. A seminal theoretician, Epstein carefully analyzes the interaction of law and social norms and highlights the handful of restraints that provide a moral foundation to a resilient, adaptive capitalist system. His central mission is "to explain how a concern with the common good does not eviscerate the traditional protections otherwise provided to individual liberty and private property." Laissez-Faire Books has this review: http://laissezfaire.org/ll7846.cfm?CFID=4337&CFTOKEN=35104491
How a just society works
PRINCIPLES FOR A FREE SOCIETY Reconciling Individual Liberty with the Common Good by Richard A. Epstein reviewed by Jim Powell
Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, has had a growing influence on law professors and judges across the country. Here he addresses fundamental issues, continuing the great project which began with his 1995 book Simple Rules for a Complex World.
He's concerned to develop "principles that, when consistently applied, will work to the advantage of all (or almost all) members of society simultaneously . . . principles capable of ordering a just society." The subtitle "referring to the reconciliation of individual liberty with the common good, is designed to show how best to resolve the central tensions that remain once the basic commitments are made . . . my central mission is to explain how a concern with the common good does not eviscerate the traditional protections otherwise provided to individual liberty and private property."
Epstein discusses natural, common, legislative, and constitutional law in terms of their effects--you might say he's a free market utilitarian. He finds that "most of the simple rules of the classical natural lawyer are justified not as self-evident or prepolitical truths, but for their desirable social consequences. In so doing, I offer a consequentialist defense for the principles of individual autonomy, private property, and freedom of contract."
Then he talks about the interaction of law & social norms as they influence human relationships. "Voluntary associations thrive only if allowed a needed breathing room, which is denied them when the legal system backs every social convention with public coercion." While there is a case for government intervention when some people use force or fraud to harm others, Epstein explains how government intervention backfires when the aim is to remedy more types of harm. He discusses harm due to competition, discrimination and pollution. "If employers can be sued for their deliberate failure to offer jobs to workers, then workers may be sued for their unwillingness to accept job offers. Interviewing two candidates would guarantee, at best, one job and one lawsuit. The entire job market would come to a grinding halt. It is to (just about) everyone's long-term advantage to allow hiring and firing to take place only on grounds of mutual consent."
What about the "social safety net," the rationale for so much government intervention? Epstein says government is incapable of determining who has suffered because of bad luck and who has suffered because of risky behavior. Moreover, public policies are blunt instruments. He cites health-care taxes which act as incentives for people to take above average risks, with terrible consequences.
Epstein focuses on unmanageable complications that arise as government undermines private property rights. He also tackles altruism head-on. Altruism within a family or close-knit community is fine, he says, because you get satisfaction from it, and you're in a position to curb abuse. But altruism is a disaster when government tries it:
"The strong system of individual property rights is dismantled; and in its place is substituted a collective structure whose bywords are public participation and disinterested deliberation. While it would be silly and ungracious to insist that intelligent deliberation on public issues is nowhere found in modern communities, it would be naive to imagine that wise deliberation can survive the constant pounding from self-interested political behavior. Benevolence in public institutions has a short half-life no matter how noble its original intentions."
He makes clear how the political process turns good intentions into nightmares. "Once the program is in place, its day-to-day administration falls into the hands of a professional cadre besieged by powerful interest groups whose influence grows as public interest wanes. . . . A slow process of disintegration and reconfiguration sets in, transforming and expanding a program from within."
A masterful companion volume to Simple Rules for a Complex World, affirming Epstein's position as a major thinker.
SIMPLE RULES FOR A COMPLEX WORLD by Richard A. Epstein (reviewed by Jim Powell, April 1995)
This book is a bombshell. While Congress considers tinkering with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society giveaways and devolving school lunch programs back to the states, University of Chicago Distinguished Service Professor of Law Richard Epstein takes a giant step to radicalize the debate. In his book bearing the prestigious imprint of Harvard University Press, Epstein spells out an elegant case for dismantling the welfare state. He goes after not only the Great Society, but also Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the so-called Progressive Era and much more besides.
Epstein affirms that it is private enterprise, not government, which makes a society harmonious and successful. The more complicated a society becomes, the less government officials know about how everything interacts, and the more laws backfire badly. Epstein presents a compelling case that the fewer and simpler the laws, the better.
He proposes a legal framework based on six principles--about as stripped down a government as you will see, short of trashing it altogether. His principles:
(1) individuals own themselves;
(2) individuals may appropriate unowned property, so virtually everything ends up belonging to someone;
(3) individuals are free to make contracts with others;
(4) tort law provides remedies when individual rights are infringed, as by fraud, theft, robbery, rape or murder;
(5) private property rights may be violated in a few cases of overwhelming necessity such as to relieve starving people during a famine;
(6) in all cases when government violates private property rights, through regulation or outright seizure, government must pay the owner just compensation.
Then Epstein shows how these six principles, alone or in combination, cover the great bulk of disputes which arise--and why, therefore, thousands of outrageously complex, costly, intrusive and counterproductive laws should be scrapped.
His radicalism gains intellectual power as he tackles one category of laws after another. He explains how the present morass of environmental laws and regulations have resulted in consequences which are the opposite of what was intended. Then he shows why environmental laws often aren't even needed. He favors a market for "pollution rights" which would help limit pollution while encouraging technological improvements, unlike the EPA's discredited "command and control" regulations.
Epstein tells how U.S. labor laws--including such sacred cows as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act-- provoke bitter, violent disputes. He urges that such laws be repealed. He makes clear how labor disputes can be resolved by applying his principles.
Epstein covers the failure of product liability laws which have increased the cost of many products and given companies strong incentives to withdraw other useful products from the market. Epstein talks about the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966) which disrupted the auto industry but didn't have any apparent effect on the death rate from auto accidents.
Epstein attacks laws which attempt to pin liability for every imaginable loss on corporations. The ultimate consequence, he warns, will be fewer corporations, smaller corporations and less technological innovation which has contributed so much to improved safety. He cites good reasons to believe his principles would produce better results than current corporate laws.
Epstein expands his case against antidiscrimination laws, discussed at length in a previous book, which require equal treatment of employees involving very different costs. Such laws, he shows, provides perverse incentives for employers to reduce the number of jobs and harm the very people who are supposedly helped.
Epstein chronicles the futility of policies aimed at redistributing income from rich to poor. For example, he tells why laws intended to help the homeless have increased the number of homeless. He talks about graduated tax rates which, promoted to "soak the rich," fail to do that while limiting the amount of capital available for new jobs desperately needed by the poor.
While Epstein doesn't categorically reject income redistribution, he insists that the costs should be borne by all taxpayers. A small group shouldn't be stuck with the costs. This is the case, for example, with rent control laws which force landlords to subsidize tenants (rich and poor alike) with below-market rents. Rent control laws, Epstein says, effect a taking, and landlords are entitled to just compensation paid by all taxpayers through government revenues. Requiring all taxpayers to bear the costs of redistribution, he believes, will make them less likely to pursue it.
Epstein notes that his six principles don't promote virtue as many conservatives would like, but he says: "Law's stock in trade is the use of collective might, and the sanctions that it imposes must be reserved for the most serious social violations--which typically involve using force and not keeping serious contractual engagements. A legal system is not a complete social system, and we should not reflexively invoke legal remedies to enforce whatever conduct we think to be socially desirable."
Epstein's obvious intelligence, his honored position, the compelling logic of his case and the reasonableness with which he presents it seem sure to help this book become an enormously influential classic. Don't miss it.
Anatomy of Power
In The Anatomy of Power John Kenneth Galbraith writes that he has "been involved with the subject of power ... for some forty years." His book covers "economic, political, military, and religious power and the power attributed to the press, television, and public opinion." In his chapter on religious power he says, "The power of personality is still present in certain contemporary religious leaders -- in the United States the Reverend Billy Graham, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, the Reverend Oral Roberts, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon." He writes that though there are a few powerful religious leaders like the ones he mentioned society does not give churches as much power as they had in the past. I agree. Power has shifted toward the secular.
Galbraith writes, "Few words are used so frequently with so little seeming need to reflect on their meaning as power, and so it has been for all the ages. In association with kingship and glory it was included in the ultimate scriptural accolade to the Supreme Being; millions still offer it every day. Bertrand Russell was led to the thought that power, along with glory, remains the highest aspiration and the greatest reward of humankind." Russell wrote Power: A New Social Analysis. He said, "Of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires for power and glory." Russell was not religious but we are and when you think of it isn't our number one goal to see God and True Parents have power and glory instead of Satan and his ideology? We want goodness to win. We want the good guys to have more power than the bad guys.
Galbraith continues, "Not many get through a conversation without a reference to power. Presidents or prime ministers are said to have it or to lack it in the requisite. Corporations and trade unions are said to be powerful. Newspaper publishers...Reverend Jerry Falwell"...etc. are all said to have power. He comments on the history of men having power over women: "male power and female submission have relied on the belief since ancient times that such submission is the natural order of things. Men might love, honor, and cherish; it was for long accepted that women should love, honor, and obey." He says the women's movement has gained power to confront this thinking. He says that power can be for good or bad: "There can be suffering, indignity, and unhappiness from the exercise of power. There can, as well, be suffering, indignity, and unhappiness from the absence of its exercise."
The key to success is leadership. Leadership means vision as discussed in all books on leadership such as Warren Bennis in Leaders: The Strategies For Taking Charge and Burt Nanus in Visionary Leadership. A few other famous writers on leadership are James McGregor Burns, John Gardiner, and Ken Blanchard. There are no colleges that give a major in Leadership.