Archive for September, 2012

Why So Thin Skinned?

Why So Thin Skinned?

Tibor R. Machan

I really don’t get why so many Muslims are so thin skinned. Nearly everyone has experienced ridicule, verbal abuse, what have you, yet in my experience hardly anyone who has strikes out at the abusive people with violence and brutality.

My own viewpoints on innumerable topics have been put down both verbally, to my face, and in print–as a columnist in several newspapers, magazines and on numerous Websites I have received insults galore–yet it would never occur to me to burn down the critics’ homes or automobiles or such. I have lived all around the Western World and in hardly any country is it deemed right and proper to react to verbal or written criticism, or even abuse and ridicule, in any other way but peacefully!

Ordinarily I uphold the idea that people are people, first and foremost–capable of rationality and civility–and are due, in turn, civilized treatment but with all this barbarian conduct in the Middle East and elsewhere I am beginning to suspect that some of these people are seriously afflicted with mental aberrations. Maybe entire cultures suffer from such afflictions. I don’t know but it makes sense to me.

Brief Comment on Benghazi Murders

A Very Brief Comment on the Benghazi Murders

TIbor R. Machan

The fact that objectionable material published on the web is invoked to justify murder shows the sad state of affairs in Benghazi and elsewhere in the region. An expression of an opinion, however offensive or blasphemous, is just no justification for murder. In most of the West people are free to insult the head of the Roman Catholic or any other church, presidents of countries, CEOs, entertainers, etc. It is a mark of civilization that insults are not acceptable grounds for violence. The old adage “Sticks and stones, but not words!” applies here perfectly. That is indeed one reason for the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

These perpetrators are barbarians, one has to conclude, and they should be dealt with accordingly, not diplomatically! They should be arrested and charged and due process should be employed in prosecuting them for their acts.

Also, why is there so little discussion about the right of free expression in connection with this story? When American flags used to be burned, liberals all stood up defending the rights of the perpetrators, as they should have. In Skokie, Illinois, the rights of Nazis were defended even though they marched provocatively in Jewish neighborhoods.

But there is very little about the rights of the film makers to make their point with their movie. In a civilized society citizens are free to express even vile opinions and civil libertarians such as the ACLU usually defend their right to do so. Suddenly no word from these civil libertarians. Why?

Dworkin’s Plain Statism

Dworkin’s Plain Statism

Tibor R. Machan

As is usually the case, The New York Review of Books gives ample room to some Leftist jurists, like Professors David Cole or Ronald Dworkin, to provide the politically correct commentary on a major ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court. And, so unsurprisingly, Professor Dworkin penned such a piece in the magazine’s August 16, 2012, issue. It is a beauty of statist jurisprudence arguing that all in all the Roberts Court’s recent decision to give President Obama’s signature health care program a pass was a welcome thing from the Left’s perspective. (Others, like Professor Randy Barnett, have made arguments from the libertarian side, holding that the ruling isn’t so bad for those who want to advance the cause of human liberty. See the interview with Professor Barnett in Reason, October 2012.)

I leave others to deal with the legal technicalities of Professor Dworkin’s argument and wish to focus on what is actually a sort of sidebar remark he makes about the court’s earlier ruling, in the 2010 Citizens United case, which Dworkin, of course, detests. By his account business corporations–companies of people coming together voluntarily so as to embark upon various commercial projects–are not to be treated as people who can offer political opinions and give support to politicians or to public policies. It is the following passage that jumped out at me:

“The conservative majority’s opinion in that case insisted that such corporate expenditures [in support of championing some public policies or opposing others] would not create even the appearance of corruption. This year the state of Montana pleaded with the Court to rethink that judgment: the state said that the amount and evident political impact of corporate electioneering in the past two years has conclusively demonstrated a risk of corruption…” (NYRB, 8/2012:6).

What stood out to me in this remark is how readily Professor Dworkin refers to the state of Montana, and by implication any other state or country, as if it were a person who can make statements, issues pleas, etc. He has no problem with writing “the state of Montana pleaded,” and “the state said.” Yet the entire point of his piece is that corporations are not persons who can have opinions, views, make statements, etc.

What is important is how readily Professor Dworkin personalizes the state of Montana, and by implication other political bodies, even though such references fly in the face of the plain fact that states, unlike corporations, are comprised of highly diverse citizens and to see them as having one mind and one voice is simply wrong. It reveals the ideology of a statist of treats governments are personas even while refusing to admit that voluntarily assembled business corporations and labor unions can express opinions and champion political causes.

In short, for Professor Dworkin states or governments that are collections of extremely diverse populations, can but companies of human beings who decided to embark upon common projects cannot be regarded as persons. That is the height of collectivism.

In the case of Justice Roberts himself, Professor Dworkin refuses to accept the justice’s argument at face value and contend with it as such; instead he proceeds to speculate on Justice Roberts’ motives—he “must feel threatened” by various elements of the political landscape, etc., etc., and made his ruling because of such facts, not because he judged the case as meriting his ruling.

Such psychological speculations do not belong in disputations about whether a given ruling by a court has or lacks validity and is usually indulged in by people who want to avoid real arguments. But, never mind that. What is more important is how easily Professor Dworkin slips into his statist parlance, endorsing the idea that states, unlike voluntarily assembled companies of people, are persons! It is not surprising, considering that the good professor is a leading opponent of all traces of individualism and voluntarism from our legal system.

Machan’s Paper: “Jobs in a Free Country”

Jobs in a Free Country
Tibor R. Machan∗
*R. C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise, Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University, Orange CA 92866.

Phony Intimacy

Phony Intimacy

Tibor R. Machan

Mrs. Obama was praised for reporting in her speech at the Democratic National Convention that President Obama takes his mission to be a personal one, that he treats the citizenry intimately, attending to the private problems of citizens.

Actually it is a bad thing that Mr. Obama treats his role as president of the USA as a personal one. It is not. He is supposed to be guarding the basic public ideas and ideals of the country and not attend to people’s personal affairs.

Personalizing politics is the road to totalitarianism–it tends to make one into a micro-manager of everyone’s life in the country. Not only is that a futile effort but it is utterly insulting to the citizenry, as if we couldn’t deal with our challenges without the president’s meddling in our affairs. It leads to the strong arm policies of a Stalin, the practices of police states in which the government takes the role of micro-managing the country’s population. That is the way of the police as bully, not as peacekeeper.

The American Founders understood that a free country isn’t the laboratory of master politicians–czars, monarchs, Caesars, etc.

Obama doesn’t get, or more likely doesn’t like, it!*

*Someone I know well sent me a note in response to this brief essay saying “Stupid comment.” She added that Mitt Romney is trying the same thing Mr. Obama is. I disagree but it is irrelevant. If so, plague on both their houses. Politics is not supposed to be personal, be this attempted by Mr. Obama or Mitt Romney. But Mr. Romney has been explicit about wanting to constrain government. Maybe he cannot be trusted but that is what he said, so his message is different from Mr. Obama’s who is and has always been a big government politician and is indeed proud of this. So why not just take him at his word?