Purchase, Power and Persuasion
Essays on Political Philosophy
In Part One of the anthology, the essay topics include the breadth of the Nazi Regime’s propaganda machine, and as well as the nature and ethics of propaganda. In Part Two, the essay topics include the nature and variety of genocides, as well as how the Nazi Regime bought the support of the German citizens, and whether National Socialism was indeed a form of socialism. In Part Three, the essay topics include: what ‘classical liberalism’ means; common myths about the nature of capitalism; the nature of ‘happiness economics’; the basic ideas of Public Choice economics; Adam Smith’s life and work; the legitimacy of secession in America today; and how the American economy compares to European ones. In Part Four, the topics include the ethics of a nation restricting the emigration of trained professionals, Gary Becker’s proposals for immigration reform, and my own proposals for immigration reform. Finally, in Part Five, the topics include business ethics; the nature of American charity today; the economic contributions of Smith, Marx, and Keynes; the spread and value of liberal think-tanks; and the anti-Malthusian economics of Julian Simon.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Part I Essays on Propaganda Theory
- 1 “Total Regime, Total Propaganda,” My Book Review of German Insignia of World War II, Appeared in Liberty, July 03, 2016
- 2 My Book Review of Randal Marlin, Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion, Appeared in Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, 55 (3): 545–547 (2016)
- Part II Essays on Genocide Studies
- 3 “Are We All Little Eichmanns?,” My Review of Abram de Swann’s The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder, Appeared in Philosophia, 44 (1): 1–13 (2016)
- 4 My Review Essay, “Buying Genocide, Part 1,” Appeared in Liberty, July 14, 2017
- 5 My Review Essay, “Buying Genocide, Part 2,” Appeared in Liberty, August 14, 2017
- 6 My Review Essay, “Buying Genocide, Part 3,” Appeared in Liberty, September 26, 2017
- Part III Essays on Classical Liberalism
- 7 My Book Review of Eamonn Butler’s Classical Liberalism: A Primer Appeared in Philosophia 45: 387–395 (2017)
- 8 “Debunking Neo-socialism,” My Book Review Essay of Christopher Snowden’s Selfishness, Greed, and Capitalism, Appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 17 (1): 84–103 (2017)
- 9 My Review Essay of Philip Booth’s … and the Pursuit of Happiness Appeared in Reason Papers 37, no. 1: 148–163 (Spring 2015)
- 10 My Review of Eamonn Butler’s Public Choice: A Primer Appeared in Philosophia, 41 (3): 917–922 (2013)
- 11 My Review of Nicholas Phillipson, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life, Appeared in Philosophia, 40 (4):919–922 (October 2012)
- 12 My Book Review of Donald Livingston, Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century, Appeared in Reason Papers, 34 (2): 211–214 (October 2012)
- 13 My Book Review of Colin Robinson’s Arthur Seldon: A Life for Liberty, Appeared in Liberty, November 2009, pp. 42–43
- 14 My Review of Olaf Gersemann’s Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality, Appeared in Liberty, August 2005, pp. 37–41
- Part IV Immigration and Classical Liberalism
- 15 My Review of Gillian Brock and Michael Blake Debating Brain Drain, Appeared in Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review 56 (1): 196–198 (2017)
- 16 My Book Review of Gary Becker, Immigration: Meeting the Challenge, Appeared in Liberty, October 18, 2011
- 17 “A Classical Liberal Case for Immigration Reform” Appeared in Liberty December 07, 2012
- Part V Miscellaneous Essays
- 18 My Review Essay of Al Gini and Alexi Marcoux’s The Ethics of Business appeared in Reason Papers, 36 (1): 143–161 (July 2014)
- 19 My Book Review of Arthur C. Brooks’, Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, Appeared in Liberty, March 2009, pp. 43–46
- 20 My Review of Mark Skousen’s The Big Three in Economics Appeared in Liberty, July, 2009, pp. 43–44
- 21 My Review of Colleen Dyble (ed.) Taming Leviathan: Waging a War of Ideas around the World, Appeared in Liberty, December 2008, pp. 46–47, 50
- 22 Review of: Simon, Julian L. A Life against the Grain: The Autobiography of an Unconventional Economist, Appeared in Liberty, September 2004, p. 51
In this anthology, I bring together essays I published on political (and economic) philosophy between 2004 and 2018. (By “essays” here I mean journal articles, book review essays, and book reviews). These essays swirl around two diametrically opposed foci—two radically different types of political-economic systems, systems that can be called a totalitarian phalanx regime and a classical liberal society. What do these systems involve?
To explain what a totalitarian phalanx regime is, we first need to understand the ways a person—and by extension a government—gets others to comply with his (or its) wishes, i.e., to do what he (or it) wants. It seems clear that there are three basic methods for getting compliance, the names for which comprise the title for this anthology.
The first compliance method is power, which is the use of force, the threat of force, or theft. This method is a method employed by most other animals besides humans, of course. This is the most salient characteristic of any totalitarian regime—its reliance upon raw power to keep the people in line, rather than relying upon their free consent. It is for this reason the common term for a totalitarian regime is “police state.”
The other two methods of compliance are apparently unique to humans. The second compliance method is purchase, which is giving the other person ←1 | 2→something of value to get him to do what you want. The practice of trading peacefully what both participants value is virtually unknown on other animal species. As Adam Smith observed,
Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that ….But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them.1
Whately made the same point:
Man might be defined, ‘An animal that makes Exchanges’: no other, not even of those animals which in other points make the nearest approach to rationality, having, to all appearance, the least notion of bartering, or in any way exchanging one thing for another. And it is this point of view alone that Man is contemplated by Political Economy.2
The third method is to persuade others, that is, to use rhetoric to motivate them. In the commercial realm, this is called “marketing.” In the political realm, this is called “propaganda.” Again, this seems virtually unique to humans: while we often say that a dog is “begging” for food, we don’t see dogs making reasoned cases for sharing our food.
What defines a totalitarian “phalanx” regime is that—just as in the ancient Greek fighting formation called the “Phalanx”—the totalitarian regime has tightly interlocking mechanism of control and compliance. The paradigm case of a totalitarian phalanx regime is of course Nazi Germany. The Regime had large, powerful, and interlocking apparatuses for exploiting all three compliance methods. Regarding coercive power, the Regime had the SS, the SA, the Gestapo, and other military and paramilitary groups with absolute power to control the citizenry and to eliminate or contain all dissidents. Regarding persuasion, it had an amazingly widespread, tightly coordinated and well-funded propaganda machine. And regarding purchase, as outlined in some of my reviews, the Regime devised an apparatus for purchasing the support of the German citizenry.
In the second half of my book, the articles concern the polar opposite type of society from a totalitarian phalanx regime, viz., a classical liberal society. I use the term “classical liberalism” in the sense that Europeans (as opposed to Americans) understand it. That is, I mean a politico-economic system that has some form of democratic political system, but one that has constitutional guarantees for minority rights—especially those of freedom of speech and assembly. And it has an economic system involving reasonably free domestic markets, minimal protectionist measures impeding international trade, and a fair court system for adjudicating disputes. Classical liberalism is thus the antithesis of a totalitarian phalanx regime.
I have divided the essays in this book into five parts. In Part I, I have two essays on the theory of propaganda.
In the 1st essay, I do an extensive review of a relatively unknown book edited by Chris Bishop and Adam Warner, German Insignia of World War II. It is in this review that I first categorize the methods of compliance as purchase, power, and persuasion. I make the point that to the Nazi Regime, propaganda was foundational. All possible propaganda venues—film, art, architecture, music, performance dance, plays, sports events, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, posters, school curricula, TV shows, public festivals and rituals, and radio—were employed, and employed in a coordinated way, viz., to push the Regime’s policies and ideology. For this purpose, it has a separate ministry of propaganda, with seven divisions, a staff of over 2,000 people, and a huge budget.
My point in the review was a simple but important one: if the Nazi regime put such intense efforts into just a tiny portion of their propaganda campaign—namely, the design of insignia, badges, daggers, and other such paraphernalia decorating the various and many uniforms in Nazi society—how much more effort did they put into running youth institutions, say, or the various cultural ones?
The 2nd essay in the propaganda theory set is my review of Randal Marlin’s fine book, Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion (2nd Ed.). Martin’s examines the concept of propaganda, rightly noting that the term has a neutral meaning of just promulgating a point of view, and a pejorative meaning of using deceit to push a point of view. Marlin gives a concise history of propaganda techniques, and propaganda theory—from ancient Greece through WWII—and has a good discussion of the ethical issues involved in propaganda.
Part II of the book is comprised of four articles on genocide studies. In the 3rd essay, I critically review in great detail a major book by eminent sociologist Abram de Swann, The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder. De Swann holds that genocides are in fact quite common in human history. By ←3 | 4→“genocide” de Swann means not just the targeted widespread killing of hundreds or thousands (as in the 9/11 terrorist attack) but rather on the scale of tens of thousands to millions, and unlike war (where the two sides are more or less matched), genocide is asymmetric.
De Swann delineates four kinds of such asymmetrical mass annihilation, but in all cases, he suggests, genocides are initiated and controlled by governments—“genocidal regimes.” He explores the various motives genocidal regimes have for waging genocide, and he discusses in detail the psychology of “genocidaires”—the people (soldiers, police, guards or whomever) who carry out the atrocities. I finish the review by raising a number of objections to de Swann’s account.
The section on genocide studies then presents my three-part essay “Buying Genocide,” an extended essay review of Götz Aly’s seminal book, Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. In essay 4, I take up a paper by Alexander Groth and what I call the Goldhagen Dispute: whether most Germans supported the extermination of the Jews. Groth offers a variety of reasons to doubt this, which I examine in detail.
In essay 5, I take up Aly’s work directly. Aly’s thesis is that the reason the German people were so compliant with the regime up until the very last days it still existed was that the regime systematically looted the Jews, first the Jews in Germany and Austria, there (after war began) from the conquered areas of Western and Eastern Europe. Aly’s account is thus multi-causal. Yes, a culture of anti-Semitism (inflamed and focused by the regime’s propaganda) was a necessary condition for popular support for the regimes targeting of the Jews; however, it wasn’t sufficient. The factor of redistributing stolen wealth was involved.
His book is four parts. The first explores how the regime redistributed plundered wealth to underprivileged “Aryans.” The second part explores how the regime fought a costly war and kept its own citizens well provisions by plundering conquered countries. The third part explores the fiscal side of the Holocaust—the unparalleled plundering of the Jewish people. The fourth part explores how the internal policies of leveling wealth and the external policies of stealing the wealth of the Jews and (then) from the conquered people both worked to solidify popular support of the regime.
The last of the series—essay 6—is focused upon the question raised by the economic historian Andrei Znamenski: was National Socialism really socialist? I lay out his answer—that indeed it was—and explore it. I introduce the notion of neo-socialism as a way to characterize the Nazi regime, and fascist regimes more generally. I explore the key role played in the development of this ideology a number of thinkers called by Jeffrey Herf “reactionary modernists”: Ferdinand ←4 | 5→Tonnies; Werner Sombart; Hans Freyer; Martin Heidegger; Ernst Junger; Carl Schmitt; and (to a lesser degree) Oswald Spengler. I conclude the essay by explaining the role of the uniquely virulent Nazi anti-Semitism—as well as the changes of the breakout of the war in 1939—played in the decision to exterminate the Jews.
I should note here that in another anthology of my essays recently published by Peter Lang Academic Publishing—Cinematic Thoughts: Essays on Film and the Philosophy of Film—I have quite a few essays on film and propaganda studies, as well as on film and genocide studies, that nicely complement those in this collection.
In Part III of the book, I bring together my recent essays on classical liberalism.
The 7th essay is my extended review of Eamonn Butler’s outstanding primer, Classical Liberalism. In his book, Butler notes that the phrase “classical liberal” encompasses wide spectrum of views, from conservatism to libertarianism. Butler lays out 10 principles that characterize classical liberalism, sketches its history, and discusses the value classical liberals place on freedom and toleration. He also examines the classical liberal views of politics, government and society, and some useful compendia for the reader.
Essay 8 is my detailed examination of Christopher Snowden’s book Selfishness, Greed, and Capitalism. Snowden devotes the first part of his book to common strawmen, i.e., misrepresentations of capitalism—for example, that people are motivated by pure greed (a distortion of the view that people are motivated in great measure by self-interest). The second part addresses out-right falsehoods peddled by opponents of the free market—for instance, the immiseration thesis (the view that the average working person is becoming steadily poorer). I make a few suggestions for any future editions of the book.
Essay 9 is my review of Philip Booth’s Wellbeing and the Role of Government. The book is an anthology of original articles by eminent researchers in modern happiness economics, such as: Booth himself; Paul Omerod; David Sacks, Betsey Stephenson, and Justin Wolfers; Christopher Snowden; J. R. Shackleton; Christian Bjornskov; Peter Boettke and Christopher Coyne; and Pedro Schwartz. I conclude by offering several criticisms of the work.
The 10th essay is my analysis of Eamonn Butler’s fine book, Public Choice: a Primer. I suggest that Butler’s book is especially useful for philosophers, most of whom are to this day unfamiliar with public choice theory. This body of economics studies the role that universal self-interest plays in politics. This is an unpleasant truth for many philosophers, who have the Hegelian view of government as the realm of disinterested charity. Butler reviews the history of public ←5 | 6→choice economics, discusses the various schools of the theory, and the major areas of application.
The 11th essay is my brief review of Nicholas Phillipson’s biography of Adam Smith. I discuss the highlights of his treatment of Smith’s fascinating life. Phillipson does a beautiful job of surveying Smith’s academic career. Especially useful is Phillipson’s discussion of the influence David Hume had on Smith’s thought, as well as the influences of Montesquieu, Samuel Johnson, Voltaire, Rousseau, and others.
The 12th essay is my short, critical review of Donald Livingston’s anthology, Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century. The contributors of this anthology all argue for secession as a legal and proper tool for calling the Federal government down in size and power. I critically examine the arguments of the contributors.
In essay 13 I review Colin Robinson’s biography of Arthur Seldon, the brilliant economist who was a key player in formulating many of the neo-liberal policies that Margaret Thatcher’s government enacted in the U.K. Seldon was a prolific writer and editor, whose writings fill seven volumes. But he was also a key director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the premier free market think tank in Britain. Beside his solid academic work, he wrote two very influential popular books.
The 14th essay is my review of Olaf Gersemann’s book, Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality. Gersemann was a reporter for Germany’s largest business weekly magazine, and he came to America to write an expose of the weakness of the American economy. What he found instead—and argued in detail—is that the American economy was robust, for better off than commonly believed in Europe. I finish the review by pointing out some things he overlooked, such as the fact that the U.S. has paid and continues to pay disproportionately more for joint American/European defense, and that no European nation has allowed in the vast number of poor immigrants that America has.
Part IV of the book contains my essays on immigration and immigration reform from a classical liberal perspective.
The 15th essay is my review of Gillian Brock and Michael Blake’s book Debating Brain Drain. This is a well-balanced book, with Brock arguing that it is defensible for countries to restrict emigration of scarce skilled workers (such as doctors and nurses). Blake then advances his case for recognizing the right to emigrate freely, concisely refuting the arguments against it and then giving arguments for it.←6 | 7→
Essay 16 is my brief review of Gary Becker’s short book on dealing with the modern American immigration dilemma. Becker’s idea is characteristically bold and novel. Given that (as his friend Milton Friedman was wont to say) immigration into a welfare state is problematic—it exacts a potential cost on the taxpayers—Becker suggests simply charging all new immigrants a fee to come in—say, $50,000. I critique this ingenious idea.
Essay 17 is my own detailed case for immigration reform. I argue that natural rights ethics doesn’t allow us to quickly show that we should have open borders, as many libertarians suppose. So I take primarily a consequentialist approach. I begin by discussing the sad history of nativism, and lay out honestly the major criticisms that modern opponents of immigration—critics such as: Myron Magnet; Victor Davis Hanson; Heather MacDonald; Robert Rector; Samuel Huntington; and George Borjas—offer, and refute them. I then lay out a positive case for increasing immigration. I then outline a number of detailed policies to allow many more immigrants to come here.
Part V of the book has some miscellaneous articles on classical liberal issues.
- X, 302
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- Publication date
- 2021 (June)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. X, 302 pp.