Saturday, May 16, 2009

Potpourri XL

This isn't an "extra large" Potpourri, just Potpourri #40. Being a pompous git on occasion, I thought I'd use Roman numerals because I can.

Interested in starship engineering? Tip o' the fedora to Stu for point out Zero Point Frontiers, Inc. as a starting point for developing a national ability to build vehicles capable of leaving the solar system. Works for me.


I just finished Neil Schulman's Alongside Night on the Kindle. It's akin to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged in that it depicts the U.S. collapsing from socialism and its own shortsightedness (in this case, inflationary monetary policy, combined with out-of-control spending--sound familiar?). It also depicts an underground libertarian economy and the members of that economy fighting back against the system.

The depressing part of these libertarian fantasies for me is that they are utterly believable in their depiction of the socialist collapse, but they fall flat when it comes to reasserting the gold-currency, civil-law world the libertarians seek to create. We have enough examples in Western history to show us what happens when currencies become devalued and governments overtax and overspend. But the result has never been a libertarian revolution and a return to sane, bounded capitalist practices. Here's why: when people see money being overspent, they don't call for better money, they call for an end to money. And if an elected government won't provide them with sane prices and incomes, they'll demand that a dictator come forth and save them from the cacophony of representative government and an unregulated marketplace.

Another worrisome aspect of the libertarian-cabal-as-savior story line is that these organizations are inevitably run along quasi-fascist lines themselves. Examples include Rand's hidden capitalist sanctuary; Heinlein's "Families" in Methuselah's Children or post-nuclear family in Farnham's Freehold; or Schuman's "Agorist Cadre." The capitalists-in-hiding are believers in the gold standard and personal freedom, but they accept top-down rule like a bunch of Marxist guerrillas until that great day when they can come out into the open and reveal themselves as humanity's economic saviors. I don't have an alternate solution (or I would've written it by now), but perhaps this explains why I'm a conservative with libertarian tendencies rather than a full-blown libertarian. I still think government has a place in the affairs of men.


Protests are heating up at Notre Dame University in advance of President's anticipated commencement address there. This is the same guy who asked that any Christian symbols be hidden during his recent address at Georgetown University. If the ND administration knew all this going into it, why did they invite him?

You might have to be an English major to appreciate this, but I thought this cartoon on was frickin' hilarious.

Darlene the Science Cheerleader has a couple of fun articles on her site this week: one on the anniversary of getting her Master's Degree (Science History & Policy), another on her friendship with eminent astronaut Story Musgrave. Speaking of Dar, I believe she's hosting a benefit on behalf of our little buddy Morgan this evening. I helped out a little by translating some stuff into a Word document for her.

And that's about all I have for this evening. I'm trying to get back into the swing of my foreign language lessons, but find that a) I can't play on the computer and concentrate on the course simultaneously, and b) even if I focus only on the language lessons, I'm only useful for about 60-90 minutes, tops, before my brain turns to multilingual mush. This might explain why those two-hour classes never quite worked in college.


PlanetaryJim said...

I agree that the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre described in Neil's book has some top-down features. I especially don't like the idea of going into any place where I'm not allowed to be armed. Anyone who doesn't trust me with guns isn't a friend of freedom.

Of course, Neil was describing a New York based cadre and underground center. New Yorkers are weird. They've lived with their idiotic Sullivan law for almost a century. I think he was striving for some realism.

There are actually several instances of hyperinflation of fiat money that did not end in dictatorship. You might want to research the topic more. Consider the Continental currency, for example.

The question is not whether we are going to have economic calamity, increased socialism, a diabolical authoritarian government, and a fight for freedom. We have those things now, and we can be certain that they'll continue and get worse.

The only question for me is: given that we need to organise to oppose the authoritarian government, withdraw support from it, and make plans to rescue our friends from death camps, do you want to be a part of that effort? If so, click on over to

If not, then what do you suppose is going to happen?

J. Neil Schulman said...

Bart, thanks so much for your review of Alongside Night.

To reply on your main point:

You wrote that the Cadre "accept top-down rule like a bunch of Marxist guerrillas."

This author disagrees.

The tension between the rights of the Cadre's clients and the Cadre's security methods is a feature of the novel. Dr. Vreeland himself compares the Cadre to a government, and Lorimer has a run-in with Cadre guards.

But note that the Cadre do not hide behind sovereign immunity and submit disputes to binding arbitration ... and at the end of the novel they decline to rule.

No revolution is perfect and the perfect is the enemy of the good.