Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Ain't We Got Troubles? Some thoughts from Randy Barnett.
One of my pet peeves is the trope, "In these troubled times...." A few weeks ago, I was at a conference also attended by a much younger and quite pessimistic professor of English. I tried to buck him up by telling him that things were not going to hell in a hand basket. Indeed, politically speaking, things were looking up. Mine was a comment, not on current party politics, but on the revival of classical liberalism, the more radical variant of which is libertarianism. He tried to take solace from my going back from decade to decade in search of one where times were less troubled than today.

The 70's? (Vietnam, boat people, gas lines, stagflation, Iranian hostage crisis, the cold war)

The 60's? (Cuban Missle Crisis, assassinations, race riots, Vietnam, but an excellent sound track, the cold war)

The 50's? (Korea, global Communism, Mutual Assured Destruction, Selma, the cold war)

The 40's? (WWII, the Holocaust)

The 30's? (the Great Depression, the rise of National Socialism and Fascism, War in Europe)

The 20's? (Prohibition and the attendant rise of organized crime with its widespread violence and corruption, stock market collapse)

The 10's? (WWI and the "lost generation")

Too much before then and I lose my sense of the decades, but we had the savagery of Southern reaction to Reconstruction followed by a racial apartheid that lasted until the 1960s, and legal slavery before that--not to mention a Civil War in between that killed more Americans than any other and the Indian Wars that followed. The antebellum decades were not all that terrific either.

To all this you can add the lack of antibiotics.

He ends:
Of course, much remains to be done on the field of ideas, but I think we who love liberty should pause to appreciate the progress that has been made and that continues apace.
It's nice to read some optimism from time to time. I'm not sure I agree that liberty is on the ascendant. It's more of a mixed bag. Worth a turn in the grey cells, though.

By the way, after reading Barnett's stuff for years, it was odd to see his picture. I always pictured him a bit like the long-haired liberty lawyer James Woods played in whatever movie that was, or at least a bit like Steven Pinker. Nope. You could argue that one has to polish up to go before the Supreme Court, but that never stopped David Boies.

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