FrumForum's Ken Silber on Declaration of Independents: "much to contemplate" but "are greenhouse gas emissions just high-carbon experiments in living?"

Over at the FrumForum, Kennth Silber (a Reason contributor over the years; read his archive here), gives Matt Welch and my The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America (buy now!) a respectful though mixed review. Here's some snippets:

A sizable chunk of the book is devoted to “case studies in making life richer, weirder, and better” over the past 40-odd years, ranging from Czech rockers undermining the Soviet Empire, to Southwest Airlines toppling airline regulations, to Fred Eckhardt’s 1970 pamphlet on then-illegal home beermaking paving the way for a thriving craft brew industry. The authors celebrate the maverick career of baseball statistics whiz Bill James as an example of the demise of the mid-20th century organization-man ethos of conforming to some big institution and staying there for decades. They applaud Tiger Woods for bucking ethnic categories by calling himself a “Cablinasian.”

It’s no accident that some of the case studies have little to do with politics. This book, its authors proclaim, is not just a manifesto for independents in politics but also for independence from politics — for shrinking the political realm so more of our lives can benefit from the choice and innovation that government stifles....

I would have been interested, however, to see Gillespie and Welch actually address some “hard choices,” delving into areas where they see exceptions or ambiguities in the application of their guidelines (or where they accept unpalatable outcomes for the sake of holding to them). The book tends not to get into such matters. There’s no analysis, for instance, of whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act was warranted in its limitations on property rights (I say yes; Ron Paul says no).  To choose another unaddressed issue, might some government action to  limit the risks of climate change be justified, or are greenhouse gas emissions just high-carbon experiments in living?...

I hope The Declaration of Independents receives a wide audience, promoting the relatively benign version of libertarianism sketched out by Gillespie and Welch.

Part of Silber's review delves into why he hasn't contributed to the magzine or website since 2007. To be totally honest, I don't know why, though I know it couldn't have been that Ken "had failed some ideological purity test" (if only because such a test would reduce Reason to nearly zero contributors). There's no question we disagree about certain things, but that's not really here nor there. He does talk about communications going dark in "late 2007," which corresponds to my moving over to and Matt Welch taking over the mag, so responsiveness to his queries may well have been a victim of transitional sloppiness.

Personally, I don't think that the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a particularly pressing issue in contemporary America, though I note that to the extent it countered other government actions at the state and local levels, it's hardly the demonic incursion on otherwise inviolate property rights some critics say it was (for various Reason pieces on the subject, go here). Silber's line about greenhouse gases and high-carbon experiments in living is a good one, and I recommend folks to Lynn Scarlett's great 1996 piece on "Evolutionary Ecology," which sketches out how true commons problems can be conceptualized and addressed from an explicitly libertarian perspective.

This isn't the place to argue every criticism in every review, but I will say that Ken's piece provides a good summary of the book's main argument - and I certainly share his hope that Declaration gains a wide audience. 

Whole thing here.

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  • ||

    So basically this review is an excuse for Silber to communicate his butthurtness over not being invited to write stuff for Reason.

  • Ken Silber||

    If only I had the extensive publishing record of a Tulpa.

  • ||

    To be fair i have read more of Tulpa's "published" work then yours.


    1. You left in 2007
    2. You did not use threaded comments.

    I think I know the reason why you left.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I don't think I've ever seen a better comeback to being called defensive.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Oh man, I really hope this is really Ken Silber. How deliciously embarrassing, if so!

  • ||

    You've read more of my work than I've read of yours.

  • ||

    Crap, corning already went there. I have no timing.

    There goes my authorial career.

  • ||

    Hey if it worked for Mike Barnicle etc....

  • DK||

    Maybe I'm too stupid to understand what he means by "high-carbon experiment"; but, if he's calling our use of fossil fuels as an experiment, then he's grossly deluded. The primary reason for our huge technological advances in the past century and a half has been cheap energy.

  • jj||

    The haters of the religion of the Aqua-Buddah and his prophet The Jacket, peas be upon Him, are voting my book review down at All True Believers of freakdom, please head now to the following link and restore some sanity to the world.

  • ||

    There’s no analysis, for instance, of whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act was warranted in its limitations on property rights

    Every libertarianish book ever published must first explain and apologize for Goldwater!!!!!

  • SIV||

    if only because such a test would reduce Reason to nearly zero contributors

    and KM-W would turn it into a food magazine.

  • ||

    Great book, guys. It arrived on my doorstep yesterday and I read it overnight (anybody else have amazon ship it a couple of weeks early?)

    +100000000 for nearly everything in there, but
    -10000000 for "or taking up arms against the Redcoats (the Red Sox are another matter altogether)"

  • sevo||

    Just finished it; 7-8 on a ten scale.
    Since it's an opinion piece, I'll argue with Silber in that I don't think this book was the place for detailed discussion of AGW or the compromises involved in the Civil Rights Act. For the same reason, some of the comparisons that seem a bit of a stretch will get a pass.
    On the postive side, the focus on "prepolitcal" (a-political?) living is refreshing and believe it might change at least a bit of the terms of debate. We should no more be concerned with the antics of politicos than we should be about the stock-folks at the local supermarket.
    Beyond that, I can only hope that the optimism expressed in especially the last couple of chapters is justified. Suffice to say, I'm hopeful but skeptical.

  • Bar Student||

    "To choose another unaddressed issue, might some government action to limit the risks of climate change be justified, or are greenhouse gas emissions just high-carbon experiments in living?"

    Well first you need to show that government can do jack all to affect the climate, that we are "risking" climate change and that carbon emissions have anything to do with that risk. Seeing as how none of those three have been shown yet it is not something our government needs to even be contemplating.

  • ||

    OK, I should have been more careful. Out of the 21 non-quote paragraphs in the piece, 7 paragraphs are on his history with Reason, 5 paragraphs on criticizing Ron Paul. Leaving a full 9 paras addressing the actual book.

  • Rock Action ||

    That's big of you, but his response was unwarranted. He has no idea who you are, nor does he know your capabilities. And it's pretty obvious they trotted him out to at least plant a seed of doubt in the reader's mind that he had been somehow ostracized in a purity test, which sort of reeks. That's what FrumForum seems to trade in -- screaming that everyone is out to ostracize them and they're the only reasonable ones on the right to listen to.

    It's a smear tactic, and actually pretty cynical. And I don't believe any of it is pure belief rather than media self-interest and business, especially considering how he left his last job at a D.C. think tank and the subsequent aftermath.

  • RA||

    By "he," I mean Frum.

  • ||

    Actually I was being a bit sargasmic about the "correction"...9/21 is a pretty poor ratio to actually be talking about the ostensible subject of the article.

  • ||

    And you are right about his response being a bit rash...I actually do have a publication history under my real name, albeit in the field of mathematics rather than the rigorous world of think tanking.

  • Rock Action ||

    I figured that, for some reason. And I was going to write something like that in response to him and say a few other things, but I figured it might not be my place to do that.

    I'm just really skeptical of condescension, probably because in my experience, nobody knows as much as they think, especially in the small world of DC punditry. I have a revulsion to people who are even remotely self-assured in that arena.

  • Rock Action ||

    And I did indeed miss the sarcasm. You know, math and all...too much time in front of bright screens today.

  • ||

    The "extreme fringe" of the right these people are distancing themselves from (moving instead to the "center" where all the cool kids are) may be described the entire staff of Reason magazine. There you can find radical ideas like abolishing the federal education system, privatizing entire roads and city services, legalizing sale of body organs, and etc.

    It's kinda sad to see yuppies use libertarianism only to spite republicans, whom they hate. It's like they're saying "Oh I love libertarians because they're so moderate unlike those lunatic right wingers, but I can't support their position on cutting back medicare, welfare, bailouts, union priveleges, some wars, and stuff." That's Andrew Sullivanish right there.

  • ||

    It's kinda sad to see yuppies use libertarianism only to spite republicans, whom they hate.

    For a refreshing change, check the post on Ann Coulter using libertarians only to spite democrats, who she hates.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Silber really pulled a Weigel -- right down to the passive-aggressive defensive comment in Reason's comment page.

  • scarpe Nike Store||

    is good


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