My Crime Family Connections

I just got back from Brunswick GA for a Liberty Fund conference on Frank Knight. I’d never read much of Knight before beyond the risk vs. uncertainty stuff, but his methodological, ethical, and (though he wouldn’t have used the term) praxeological writings turn out to connect nicely with a number of my areas of concern: Plato and Aristotle, Frege and Wittgenstein, Collingwood and Winch, Mises and Hayek.

The conference was at the Jekyll Island Club on Old Plantation Road. It’s like a fusion of the sins of the Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian factions! (And given that Knight taught at Chicago, it seems appropriate that there’s a connection between Jekyll Island and Hyde Park.)

For photos of the venue, see my Facebook page.

Speaking of Jekyll Island: my grandfather Charles Roderick McKay (1873-1954), although he wasn’t at the famous Jekyll Island meeting, was one of the people involved in setting up the Federal Reserve; he worked with Paul Warburg et al.

From a poverty-stricken childhood in Prince Edward Island, he became a runner for a bank while visiting Chicago relatives with his mother, and eventually worked his way up to the position of Transit Manager for the First National Bank of Chicago, in which position he developed the numerical check-clearing ABA system which would be adopted by the Fed. Once the Fed was established he became Deputy Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, though he was really more of a co-governor; when the various Fed Governors went to DC to meet with FDR, the Chicago gov was the only one who brought his deputy with him.

By way of partial mitigation of his role in the Fed, I note that when the central Fed began artificially lowering interest rates, which on the Austrian analysis was a major cause of the Great Depression, it was in large part thanks to my grandfather that the Chicago branch resisted the policy until finally overridden by the central; and in later retirement he felt betrayed by the direction the Fed had taken. (My grandfather’s economic and political views were broadly speaking “Old Right.” I never met him; he died a decade before I was born.)

I found his photo online in this periodical. From my mother’s stories I gather he was as much fun as he looks.

Molinari Society Location Update

According to the printed program, the Molinari Society’s session at 9:00 tomorrow morning is in Seminar A.

This is a cruel lie.

We are actually in Phillips Boardroom 3.

Okay, no problem, we turn to the map of the hotel that’s included in the program, and – oimoi, there’s no Phillips Boardroom 3 listed.

But I have tracked it down. It’s on the lobby level, at the top of the carpeted ramp at the far right of the lobby as you come in the main entrance.

I figure we may want to start a little bit late tomorrow to accommodate bewildered stragglers.

Molinari Review I.2: What Lies Within?

The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!

You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.

(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)

So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown: Continue reading

Quote of the Day

One of the tragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom, the land – their means of production and of life, their land was retained under the ownership of their feudal masters. The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, for under the homestead principle they had tilled the land and deserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to a host of reparations from their masters for the centuries of oppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remained in the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for the Bolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed the serfs remained unfinished.

The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but the land, the plantations that they had tilled and therefore deserved to own under the homestead principle, remained in the hands of their former masters. Furthermore, no reparations were granted the slaves for their oppression out of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition of slavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolt have remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, the great importance of the shift in Negro demands from greater welfare handouts to “reparations”, reparations for the years of slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant the Negroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist’s call for “40 acres and a mule” to the former slaves. In many cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs and descendants of the former slaves can be identified, and the reparations can become highly specific indeed.

Murray Rothbard, 1969

Anarchy in Philadelphia

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Philadelphia, 8-11 January 2020. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
New Work in Libertarian and Anarchist Thought

G5E. Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Philadelphia 201 Hotel, 201 N. 17th St., Philadelphia PA 19103, room TBA.


Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)


Zachary Woodman (Western Michigan University), “The Implications of Philosophical Anarchism for National Identity

Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “What Is Violence?

William Nava (New York University), “The Causal Case Against Contributing to Public Goods

Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “Ayn Rand’s ‘New’ (Posthumous) Critique of Anarchism: A Counter-Critique

Have You Been Saved?

Imagine there’s a reset button
that would restore those you love
to an earlier, saved state
before they left you
suddenly in anger
or slowly drifting away in boredom
before they betrayed you
or you betrayed them
or they thought you had
before they went mad
and forgot your name
or before they died
turned to rotting flesh underground
or incomprehensible ashes in a cardboard box

Imagine there’s a reset button
but someone else has it
and is about to delete
everything you’ve thought, felt, and done
since your last save point
someone who loves your past self so much
they’re willing to kill your present self to get it

Perhaps it has already happened

Islamic Wine-Goblets and Christian Adultery

Wine and the nectar of the beloved’s mouth entail no sin or crime
Except for heretics who have swerved from our (rightful) creed.
— Ibn Rāfi’ Ra’sah (early Islamic poet; quoted in J. A. Abu-Haidar, “The Muwashshahāt and the Kharjas Tell their Own Story,” p. 57; Al-Qantara 26.1 (2005): 43-98)

Avicenna was fond of wine, and, on being reproached for his defiance of the Koran, replied: “Wine is forbidden because it excites quarrels and bad passions, but I, being preserved from excesses by my philosophy, drink wine to sharpen my wits.”
— George Henry Lewes, The History of Philosophy From Thales to Comte, vol. 2 (1867)

The Mahommedan and Christian Arabs of Asyut get on admirably together. They smile at the mistaken (as they suppose) opinions of each other; and the educated Arab smiles at both. But there is no intolerance, no ill-will, no anathematising. I remember offering a glass of wine to an Arab at Tunis, chiefly with the mischievous object of seeing how he would refuse it. Quaffing it off, to my surprise, he drank my health. “I thought,” said I, “that wine was forbidden by your religion?” “Drunkenness, not drink, is what is meant,” he replied with a smile.
— Wordsworth Donisthorpe [yes, that Wordsworth Donisthorpe], Down the Stream of Civilization (1898)

Some years ago, I attended a dinner at Princeton University where I witnessed a revealing exchange between an eminent European philosopher who was visiting from Cambridge, and a Muslim scholar who was seated next to him. The Muslim colleague was indulging in a glass of wine. Evidently troubled by this, the distinguished don eventually asked his dining companion if he might be so bold as to venture a personal question. “Do you consider yourself a Muslim?” “Yes,” came the reply. “How come, then, you are drinking wine?” The Muslim colleague smiled gently. “My family have been Muslims for a thousand years,” he said, “during which time we have always been drinking wine.” An expression of distress appeared on the learned logician’s pale countenance, prompting the further clarification: “You see, we are Muslim wine-drinkers.”
— Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (2015)

That of which a large amount intoxicates, a small amount is forbidden.
— The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith, quoted in Ahmed, op. cit.

Reference to an ‘Islamic wine goblet’ makes about as much sense as talk of ‘Christian adultery.’
— Thomas Bauer, quoted in Ahmed, op. cit.

Islamic wine goblet (Uzbekistan, 15th century)

Drink Wine and Look at the Moon

I recently finished reading What Is Islam? (available on Amazon here, and free to read online or download here) by the late Shahab Ahmed (note: not to be confused with the Australian murderer of the same name!). I wasn’t convinced by all of it, or by the author’s slightly postmodern frame of reference (while Ahmed pokes fun, in a footnote, at another scholar’s prose style as “unnecessarily complicated and none-too-transparent,” I fear the same charge could be brought against much of Ahmed’s own book too), but I think it’s nonetheless a terrific book that makes a persuasive case, backed up by a wealth of historical detail, for, at the very least, the following important claims:
Continue reading

Atlas Shruggoth

… [T]here were double meanings in
Necronomicon of the mad Arab
Abdul Alhazred which the initiated
might read as they chose ….

Sometimes two terms can be the same in reference but different in sense, like “the morning star” and “the evening star,” or “Mark Twain” and “Samuel Clemens,” or … “John Galt” and “Cthulhu.” Continue reading