Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Objective Standard Summer 2008 Issue

This past Friday I received the Summer 2008 issue of The Objective Standard (TOS) in the mail. I finished it last night. All right, actually I had started reading it some time earlier online, since approximately Mid-June a little after Craig Biddle, the editor and publisher, announced the forthcoming issue. At that time I read Property Rights and the Crisis of the Electric Grid by Raymond C. Niles. The excellent article describes the origin of the electric utility companies and why the regulations that currently pervade the industry, far from being some kind of natural necessity, were in fact an unfortunately by-product of early attempts to by-pass more local regulations.

Generally I try to wait for the print issue before reading too many articles but I couldn't quite resist glancing at the new book review section. First I read John Lewis's review of Sun-tzu: Art of War. Dr. Lewis regards Sun-tzu as a rational observer of the art of warfare, concerned with enabling generals to understand the facts and act accordingly. It is interesting to me to what extent rationality is present in Chinese thought. Clearly the Chinese must have had some rational ideas in their culture, otherwise they would never have achieved as much as they did during some of their historical periods. And yet, unlike the Muslims, they did not have any contact with the Greeks. I am curious as to what the Chinese equivalents of Aristotle might have been and what their limitations were.

Having read the first review, I couldn't resist reading the other two, starting John P. McCaskey's review of Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society, by Laura J. Snyder, a fascinating account of the intellectual conflict between John Stuart Mill and lesser known William Whewell on the nature of scientific induction and the implications for ethics. According to McCaskey, Snyder's book does an excellent job of putting to rest the notion that Mill "was a champion of commonsense realism, inductive science, or individual liberty." Then I proceeded to Larry Salzman's review of The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, by Steven M. Teles. Teles's book is a history of how Conservatives have managed to penetrate the legal profession and institutions after being mostly absent between the 1930s to 1970s. This has had some limited beneficial effects -- after all, free market ideas are a lot more acceptable now than they were between 1930 and 1970. Still, as others have pointed out, since the defense of free markets is not conducted on moral grounds, it seems that the beneficial effect is temporary. Furthermore, the Salzman points out that Teles admittedly did not cover the rise of the Christian-Conservatives along with the economic conservatives, as a result "the darker side of the conservative legal movement gets an unfortunate and undeserved pass."

Finally, when I got the physical issue, I read the remaining two articles Alex Epstein's excellent essay laying to rest of the myths about Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, and David Harriman's fascinating and enlightening account of the developments that lead to the Proof of the Atomic Theory. Both are highly recommended and ought be read by anyone interested in the history of business and science respectively.

It is difficult to express how much it means to have a subscription to such an excellent Objectivist journal. And now, according to the editor, the journal should be available at your local bookstores -- so what are you waiting for? Go out and get it.

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