Monday, November 25, 2002


One question: The extent to which tradition and its representative authorities - be they person, books, or works of art - ought to be deferred to or heeded without full comprehension of their grounds. The next question is Which traditions and authorities ought to be heeded? Finally, there is the question of the extent to which the state ought to reinforce this authority. Clearly, all children in America ought to be required to go to school and to study history. Most Americans can't say why, but they still support this requirement. Should there be state funding of arts, such as symphonies and museums? If we elect representatives because they are wise (senators and presidents, the natural aristocracy John Adams spoke of), which cultural values should these representatives decide ought to be funded by the state? Or should they fund none and let the market decide? We all know what the market tends to support. Should kids be required to study Latin or Greek? They obviously should not be required to be Christian. People are often stupid and wicked, and stupid and wicked people should heed wise authorities. But governments are sometimes stupid and wicked, since they are made of people. So, there is some doubt about the extent to which we should empower government with authority. Nevertheless, unless anarchism is in principle correct, there is no reason to judge a priori that the state should not support cultural authority. Again, we all want kids to be required to learn history in school. So, the question now is where to draw the line.

Another question: Security v. liberty. We already have a large military and a police force under control of the government. These forces have not compelled our enslavement yet. Unless anarchism is in principle correct, there is no reason to judge a priori that the state should not go even further, for example, with the Homeland Security program. There is a real chance that St. Louis will be obliterated by a suitcase nuke. How real is the chance that the U.S. government will use recently installed surveillance techniques to enslave Americans? There is evil coming at us from Arabia, and there is potential evil in the U.S. government. This is a matter of risk management. The philosophical question has already been answered: anarchism, or strong libertarianism, is false. Only someone who advocates getting rid of the military and the police can coherently take issue with that. The question now is how far we should let the government go. To say that just on principle it should go no further is to refuse to offer an argument. We need to see the risk management details.