Operating a specific enterprise, whatever its aim or product, requires focusing on measurable quantities of inputs and their measurable effects on outputs. Qualitative factors may enter into that equation, but only as they are necessary to the successful attainment of the specific object in question. That is the mindset of the manager of an “enterprise association,” as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott famously called it, and is to be strictly distinguished from the study of that broader set of social phenomena that, while orderly, are not directed toward one specific goal or product. The economic perspective is really concerned with this latter,…
Carson Holloway’s Liberty Forum essay provides an opportunity to discuss an important historical document with current debates about the American economy in mind. The chief issues that Alexander Hamilton raises in his 1791 Report on Manufactures are the role of manufacturing in the economy and government’s role in encouraging it. It should be remembered that the…
The great insight of Alexander Hamilton is that all serious nations take serious measures on behalf of their own security and prosperity. This is what good governments do. There is a clarity here that is absent from our current partisan debates, if only because Hamilton unapologetically offers good government as a foundation for republican government.…
It is a pleasure to read, think about, and respond to the three insightful and knowledgeable critiques of Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures that have appeared in this Liberty Law Forum. These are also fair-minded critiques, since they all give Hamilton due credit for his many virtues, even as they take him to task for…
William Ruger and Jason Sorens have identified a lacuna in both thought and rhetoric in the current conceptualization of individual freedom on the part of libertarians: an inability or perhaps unwillingness to engage arguments for virtuous self-government.
In response to: Springtime for Schmitt
When Gary Becker put forward his idea of human capital in 1964, it was to address the effects of knowledge and training on individual economic performance. This idea can and should be extended to gauge the productive capacities of society in general.
Cultural patterns of behavior that become engrained over time, such as norms of punctuality, honesty, sobriety, or what others might call social capital, are just another way of speaking about human capital. When Max Weber described the attributes of character that marked the modern bourgeois, he was in fact emphasizing patterns of beliefs that facilitated the operation of markets by enabling individuals to effectively negotiate their social landscape—to engage in commerce and production over the long run.
There is a great and dangerous Trust seeking to form globally. Like any monopoly in days past, or OPEC now, its aim is profit. But its means are far more sinister, and potentially far more effective, than anything ever investigated by the Pujo Committee.
Rather than merely raising revenues on some good or service, this Trust will follow you wherever you might run. Nothing like it has been seen since the days of the fugitive slave acts. It is more controlling than when medieval lords bound their serfs to their estates, or the Roman latifundia forced Romans back to the land. The idea: To attach a uniform worldwide rate upon the surplus of your productive endeavors for the benefit of its members.
Editor’s Note: This excellent post by Hans Eicholz on the need for the Scots to recover their former capitalist and free society enthusiasms if they are to govern themselves is worthy of re-consideration today.
What does it take to secure an independent, self-governing nation? Arguably it takes a self-governing citizenry. And what does that mean? Generally speaking, it means a citizenry composed of persons capable of independent thought and action—capable of sustaining themselves through much of the thick and thin of life through their own voluntary efforts in civil society.
A modern welfare state works directly against that capacity by encouraging ties of hierarchical dependence on political authorities. The modern fallacy is to believe that majority voting is sufficient to prevent the abuse of power; anyone familiar with the workings of government cannot seriously entertain that idea.
The wild increase in laws and more importantly, administrative agency rules, does not translate into the rule of law, but into the selective enforcement of special programs by those entrusted to administer them. That sort of re-feudalization of the economy and society was well understood by Mancur Olson years ago in his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. But Olson was really only further developing the critique of mercantilism first put forward by Adam Smith.