David R. Henderson  

Nelson Mandela, RIP

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UPDATE BELOW:

I just heard from a KQED news producer a few minutes ago that Nelson Mandela has died.

Mandela was a great man. The obvious reason was his courage and persistence in fighting against Apartheid. The somewhat less-obvious reason was his willingness to forgive. I'm assuming, of course, that the movie Invictus was relatively accurate in that respect. I remember sitting through the movie and being on the edge of tears for almost the whole movie, so moved was I by his willingness to forgive. A little bonus: His favorite poem, "Invictus," has been my favorite poem since middle school.

In some ways just as impressive, if not more so, was his willingness to learn at a relatively old age. He was a long-time socialist but, by the time he got out of prison, much of the world had learned that socialism didn't work. He became persuaded of that and, although, as president of South Africa, he expanded the welfare state, he did not make a large move in the direction of socialism. His willingness to reject his wife Winnie's violent ways was also impressive.

Incidentally, the best short piece I have read on the economics of apartheid is the Thomas Hazlett entry, "Apartheid," in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Here's the opening paragraph:

The now-defunct apartheid system of South Africa presented a fascinating instance of interest-group competition for political advantage. In light of the extreme human rights abuses stemming from apartheid, it is remarkable that so little attention has been paid to the economic foundations of that torturous social structure. The conventional view is that apartheid was devised by affluent whites to suppress poor blacks. In fact, the system sprang from class warfare and was largely the creation of white workers struggling against both the black majority and white capitalists. Apartheid was born in the political victory of radical white trade unions over both of their rivals. In short, this cruelly oppressive economic system was socialism with a racist face.

UPDATE:
See my comments responding to Max below. Also, I came across this, "Nelson Mandela: A Libertarian's View From the End of Apartheid," by Jim Peron, who lived in South Africa under Apartheid. I think it's also an effective response to Max.


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Labor Market , Obituaries



COMMENTS (48 to date)
Steve Sailer writes:

There was an old saying in South Africa that apartheid was fascism for the blacks, capitalism for the Brits and Jews, and socialism for the Boers.

Tracy W writes:

His personal courage, dignity and forgiveness is inspiring.

Max writes:

I hadn't realized EconLog was a supporter of terrorism and mass murder. This is certainly an unsettling revelation.

David, I strongly suggest that you avail yourself of more information on Mr. Mandela before praising him to high heavens. And Apartheid may have been an economic basket case, but if you compare the crime rates in South Africa then and now, I think you'll be forced to at least consider the possibility that it was on net a positive thing. Similar comments could be made about Jim Crow and segregation in America; after looking at the havoc wreaked upon black communities and families in the aftermath of the Civil Rights era, haven't you ever had a moment of doubt about whether the whole thing was worth it?

Max writes:

Figured I'd check Ilana Mercer's blog to see if she had something to say, even though I don't usually read it. Sure enough:

http://barelyablog.com/nelson-mandela-the-che-guevara-of-of-africa/

Johnathan Pearce writes:

Max: This is a blog that operates in the classical liberal tradition so it is fair to suggest that a system that treats a class of persons as being second-class (banning them from certain occupations, etc on the grounds of race or some other unchosen trait) is an abomination to its authors. You want a blog that lauds slavery, serfdom and bigotry, well you should go somewhere else, such as Stormfront.

That the removal of the Jim Crow laws, or the apartheid system, has not been followed by sweetness and light does not disprove those points. It is also hardly obvious that the removal of apartheid somehow caused the rise in crime rates, unless you are making the racist assumption that black people are incapable of running their lives unless treated like serfs. Maybe that is your view.

Countries such as South Africa need to be successful; a middle class is growing in the continent, and it is a factor that is often not fully remarked upon in the media. I hope in time to come the odious prejudices that underlay apartheid, and similar regimes, fade away.

MikeP writes:

Incidentally, the best short piece I have read on the economics of apartheid is the Thomas Hazlett entry, "Apartheid," in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

And the best long piece is Walter Williams' South Africa's War against Capitalism.

Max writes:
This is a blog that operates in the classical liberal tradition so it is fair to suggest that a system that treats a class of persons as being second-class (banning them from certain occupations, etc on the grounds of race or some other unchosen trait) is an abomination to its authors.

Can one not be a classical liberal without also being an insane religious fanatic? People who use the word "abomination" in a sincere fashion are generally not the sort one should model their beliefs after.

Furthermore, it's probably trivial to demonstrate that your views are internally inconsistent and thus hypocritical. How would you feel about a system that treats a class of persons as being second-class (banning them from using property as they desire, etc on the grounds of racism or some other unchosen trait)? Do you support the right of store owners to refuse service to members of groups they don't like? What if, instead of "racial minorities," the group in question is "KKK members wearing their hoods"? Do you support the right of business owners to hire whomever they want to, even if this results in a "disparate impact" on members of racial minorities? Should landowners be permitted to create restrictive covenants in order to create the sort of communities they want to live in?

You want a blog that lauds slavery, serfdom and bigotry, well you should go somewhere else, such as Stormfront.

But I don't want a blog that lauds slavery, serfdom and bigotry, because I don't laud those things either. I like EconLog because I'm a libertarian. I just don't like Nelson Mandela, because he was a terrorist and a murderer. And although both Apartheid and Jim Crow (and borders in general, really) make me uncomfortable, I'm starting to become persuaded that such policies might be best, in certain (not all) social contexts, for human flourishing.

That the removal of the Jim Crow laws, or the apartheid system, has not been followed by sweetness and light does not disprove those points.

Of course not, but it's hardly evidence in the other direction either, is it?

It is also hardly obvious that the removal of apartheid somehow caused the rise in crime rates, unless you are making the racist assumption that black people are incapable of running their lives unless treated like serfs. Maybe that is your view.

That is not my view. But again, http://xkcd.com/552/

Countries such as South Africa need to be successful; a middle class is growing in the continent, and it is a factor that is often not fully remarked upon in the media.

The genocide going on in South Africa is also something that is often not fully remarked upon in the media.

I hope in time to come the odious prejudices that underlay apartheid, and similar regimes, fade away.

To what odious prejudices do you refer? Is it "odious" to recognize the reality of racial differences?

Max writes:

btw, the message I wanted to convey with the xkcd link is found in the alt-text, in case that was unclear.

Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there'.
David R. Henderson writes:

@Max,
after looking at the havoc wreaked upon black communities and families in the aftermath of the Civil Rights era, haven't you ever had a moment of doubt about whether the whole thing was worth it?
Max, Yes, I do have strong doubts about the whole thing. I take you literally. But getting rid of Jim Crow and forced segregation were worth it. I posted on that a few years ago. Here’s an excerpt:
"The fact of the matter is that this country moved from segregation required by law to segregation forbidden by law without trying freedom of association for a millisecond.”
Also, Max, I have a question for you, given that you apparently oppose terrorism:
Do you think the American Revolution was good or bad?

I admire Nelson Mandela for how he behaved himself. He tried to be considerate. And succeeded in leading a transition with less violence than most would have predicted.

From his autobiography as I recall it, Mandela resorted to force, striving to destroy property but not lives, only after he became convinced that other means would not budge the prevailing regime. In this way Mandela consciously deviated from the path prescribed by Mohandas Gandhi. As I read this history, Mandela was one step more savvy than Gandhi.

I must forgive Mandela for his ignorance of economics, for saying he leaned toward socialism.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Max,
Thank you for the cite of Ilana Mercer. It’s worth reading.

Watchman writes:

Max,

Since when did the concept of abomination limit itself to religion? Are you telling me that you do not believe the Bosnian genocide (to take a less charged example than many) was an abomination? The word may have religious roots, but so do many others. It is also a part of language.

But to clear up doubt, apartheid was an abomination to my liberal beliefs. And I have no religion.

Do you support the right of store owners to refuse service to members of groups they don't like? What if, instead of "racial minorities," the group in question is "KKK members wearing their hoods"? Do you support the right of business owners to hire whomever they want to, even if this results in a "disparate impact" on members of racial minorities? Should landowners be permitted to create restrictive covenants in order to create the sort of communities they want to live in?

I suspect most liberals support this. I am not sure of its relevance. Those same liberals also support the right of others to therefore protest at this behaviour and drive trade away/marginalise the idiots. South Africa seemed to have one side of this common expression of freedom missing, through government intervention. This was therefore evil, akin to facism. It was not people making a decision and living with the consequences (freedom) but a state-imposed decision forced on everyone (tyranny).

As to the terrorist and murderer bit, I do not remember him killing anyone. He supported those fighting those who sought to oppress him - is that something that should not be allowed. Are you, an apparent libertarian, really saying Mr Mandela should not have fought against the government who oppressed him?

And it is odious to recognise racial differences if they are anything other than cosmetic. Because the core of liberty is that we are all free humans, and any division that can be imposed from outside, on any basis, is a tool of tyranny. Skin colour is real (for the record, mine is in the pink-brown range) but it does not tell us anything about the individual. To assume it does is to engage in the modernistic statist view that creates identity groups, or apartheid. So if you see people whose skin is shaded differently to yours as a group, rather than as individuals, may I suggest you question your ability to be a libertarian. You may be qualified to be a survivalist however...

Oh, and correlation does not imply causation. It may imply common cause, or coincidence, or causation, or something else (preferably beginning with c...). So whilst correlation may be tentatively suggesting causation, there is no more reason to believe it than there is to believe the old drunk at the bar who always blames things on 'our black friends'. If you are going to try analysis, you have to learn that analysis needs to explain a correlation, not rely on nudge-nudge.

Max writes:
Max, Yes, I do have strong doubts about the whole thing. I take you literally. But getting rid of Jim Crow and forced segregation were worth it. I posted on that a few years ago. Here’s an excerpt: "The fact of the matter is that this country moved from segregation required by law to segregation forbidden by law without trying freedom of association for a millisecond.”
That's a great response and a great quote. I strongly agree that a norm/policy of free association would be preferable to either forced integration or forced segregation. My concern, however, is that this norm/policy does not seem to be a historically stable equilibrium. Assuming a world where free association can't exist, then, should I prefer forced integration or forced segregation? This is a rhetorical question btw, I won't ask you to answer it publicly given that you're posting under your real name and I'm not. For the record, I am NOT convinced that forced segregation > forced integration; I'm simply much more open to the idea than I feel like is considered socially acceptable.
Also, Max, I have a question for you, given that you apparently oppose terrorism: Do you think the American Revolution was good or bad?

Almost certainly bad. My thoughts on the subject pretty much mirror the neoreactionary view espoused by people like Mencius Moldbug (Curtis Yarvin). You can find a fair summary of this position (with pictures!) here: http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/american-rebellion/

MikeP writes:

I strongly agree that a norm/policy of free association would be preferable to either forced integration or forced segregation. My concern, however, is that this norm/policy does not seem to be a historically stable equilibrium.

Citation needed.

Max writes:
Citation needed.
Are you aware of someplace on the planet that has a presently-existing policy of and continued commitment to upholding the right to freedom of association? Please believe me, I have no vested interest in being right about this.

I'm unsure how one would go about citing the absence of a policy, however. Am I meant to give an exhaustive list of every country on Earth and explain their attitude towards free association? A single counterexample would be sufficient to weaken my doubt.

Max writes:

re: the update, I think TonyWestover's comments on the article serve as an effective response to it. I reprint them here:

"So he was a Communist terrorist who murdered people, and he never repented any of it. And you think that's okay."

This is an incredible first hand account that adds much needed context and nuance to a debate that sorely needs it. Conservatives and libertarians sound ridiculous when they spout off on Mandela being a communist and a terrorist without acknowledging the historical context in which he was operating.
"Yeah, we sounds so ridiculous stating all those facts about how he was a Communist terrorist who murdered people."
MikeP writes:

Are you aware of someplace on the planet that has a presently-existing policy of and continued commitment to upholding the right to freedom of association?

Actually, given the restrictions on free migration enforced by every government, I'd have to say no. But if we limit your question to legal residents of nations, I'd say free association dominates most people's relations in most countries.

In the United States, for example, the degree of forced segregation that remains is paltry compared to the degree of free association. And peoples from all over the world come here and never face or imagine questions of forced segregation or forced integration.

Max writes:
Actually, given the restrictions on free migration enforced by every government, I'd have to say no.

Then it sounds like you agree with me. I am fully convinced by Bryan Caplan's argument that immigration restrictions are substantively identical to Apartheid and Jim Crow and find it difficult to imagine how one could consistently oppose one of these policies without also opposing the others. I do not think, however, that support for a restriction on the freedom of association in one context renders it logically necessary to support all restrictions on free association. So, for example, it might be reasonable (or at least not logically inconsistent) to support immigration restrictions but oppose Apartheid/Jim Crow, or support immigration restrictions and Apartheid but oppose Jim Crow.

But if we limit your question to legal residents of nations, I'd say free association dominates most people's relations in most countries.

Could you expand upon this? What does it mean, in your view, for free association to "dominate" "most people's" "relations"? Perhaps a better way of asking this question might be: What sorts of restrictions on freedom of association would need to be in place before you would say that free association does not dominate the relations of most people in a country? Where exactly do you draw the line?

In the United States, for example, the degree of forced segregation that remains is paltry compared to the degree of free association.

How might we go about quantifying this claim?

And peoples from all over the world come here and never face or imagine questions of forced segregation or forced integration.

Have you ever owned or operated a business or been responsible for hiring employees in a company subject to the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Are you married? Do you have children? Have you ever thought seriously about where you would want to live and send your kids to school and what you would like the demographic makeup of their school to be?

Max writes:

Another thing I just thought of:

Are you familiar with the Community Reinvestment Act?

Max writes:

Sorry to keep making new comments rather than posting all of this in one, but I just thought of another.

Have you heard of California Proposition 187?

MikeP writes:

Indeed, the great majority of Americans can readily choose exactly where their kids go to school. I remember the 70's. In sharp contrast today, a search across the nation for "desegregation" or "busing" would find virtually nothing.

Hiring and "public accommodations" are indeed the big exceptions. But, frankly, society has moved on here as well. Most people and companies -- vastly most -- don't care to discriminate in hiring or service.

How might we go about quantifying this claim?

Ask every person, "Do you feel compelled by the state to either integrate or segregate your relations against your will?"

You could even refine it: "To what percentage do you feel compelled by the state to either integrate or segregate your relations against your will?"

If 20% answer the first question "Yes", when multiplied by the sub-30% answer they would likely give for the second question, we're down to much less than 10% of "most people's" "relations" being materially dictated by the state. That's pretty free association.

Again, modulo the tens of millions of people whose free association is prohibited by immigration law.

MikeP writes:

Indeed, the great majority of Americans can readily choose exactly where their kids go to school.

I should refine this thought. Most people can choose the neighborhood they are in, within reason, and thus choose the school. But they may trade off a worse commute to choose a better school.

Private schools without mandated "public accommodation" would of course be better and would allow perfectly free association. But the fact remains that people who desire segregated schools can go a great length toward that goal by paying for a selective school or moving to a de facto segregated neighborhood.

Steve Johnson writes:

Max,

You forgot section 8.

Watchman,

But to clear up doubt, apartheid was an abomination to my liberal beliefs. And I have no religion.
And it is odious to recognise racial differences if they are anything other than cosmetic. Because the core of liberty is that we are all free humans, and any division that can be imposed from outside, on any basis, is a tool of tyranny.

What about if racial differences that aren't just cosmetic are real? (they are - plainly and obviously)

You sure you're not religious? (you are - it's an article of faith that "all men are created equal" and no amount of evidence will sway you from this belief)

Max writes:
Indeed, the great majority of Americans can readily choose exactly where their kids go to school.
With respect, I must flatly deny this claim. In order to send one's children to a good school, one must live in a good school district, where real estate prices are prohibitively high for the great majority of Americans.
I remember the 70's. In sharp contrast today, a search across the nation for "desegregation" or "busing" would find virtually nothing.
What is your opinion of affirmative action in university admissions?
Hiring and "public accommodations" are indeed the big exceptions. But, frankly, society has moved on here as well. Most people and companies -- vastly most -- don't care to discriminate in hiring or service.
Again, with respect, I must say that you are simply mistaken. A slightly modified claim would be correct - most people and companies don't care to discriminate in hiring out of animus or prejudice against any race or gender. However, because men and women (and members of different races) are different, virtually every person and company would prefer to "discriminate" in hiring (that is, select the best person for the job without regard for race or gender), but they are not permitted to by law. Instead, one is forced to discriminate against whites and/or men when making hiring/firing decisions, or else one is subjected to legal harassment and extortion.
Ask every person, "Do you feel compelled by the state to either integrate or segregate your relations against your will?"

You could even refine it: "To what percentage do you feel compelled by the state to either integrate or segregate your relations against your will?"

If 20% answer the first question "Yes", when multiplied by the sub-30% answer they would likely give for the second question, we're down to much less than 10% of "most people's" "relations" being materially dictated by the state. That's pretty free association.


I'm afraid I can't endorse this methodology, and I'm pretty sure you would never endorse it for anything of actual importance.
Again, modulo the tens of millions of people whose free association is prohibited by immigration law.
This seems like pretty big caveat. One might almost be tempted to say that this on its face overwhelms any other possible conclusion one might draw from a survey.
Max writes:
I should refine this thought. Most people can choose the neighborhood they are in, within reason, and thus choose the school.

No they can't. Most people have less money than they'd like and less ability to choose where they live than they'd like. You can't just hand-wave this fact away by throwing in the phrase "within reason." That's cheating.

Most white people want to send their kids to schools that are predominantly filled with white people. That's what "good school" means. But this opportunity is denied to everyone not rich enough to afford a house in a neighborhood that is predominantly white.

Private schools without mandated "public accommodation" would of course be better and would allow perfectly free association. But the fact remains that people who desire segregated schools can go a great length toward that goal by paying for a selective school or moving to a de facto segregated neighborhood.

Also, people who want to own a Lamborghini can go a great length toward that goal by paying for one.

MikeP writes:

What is your opinion of affirmative action in university admissions?

That it is becoming less and less predominate as time goes by.

Instead, one is forced to discriminate against whites and/or men when making hiring/firing decisions, or else one is subjected to legal harassment and extortion.

Only if you are hiring a truly commodity worker -- a rarer and rarer thing these days.

This seems like pretty big caveat. One might almost be tempted to say that this on its face overwhelms any other possible conclusion one might draw from a survey.

If you want to agree to agree that immigration restrictions represent the greatest abrogation of rights perpetrated by the US government today, I wholeheartedly agree.

Max writes:
Private schools without mandated "public accommodation" would of course be better and would allow perfectly free association. But the fact remains that people who desire segregated schools can go a great length toward that goal by paying for a selective school or moving to a de facto segregated neighborhood.

Just thought of a better response.

"Also, slaves in the antebellum South who wanted to not be slaves anymore could go a great length toward that goal by working hard and being polite in the hopes that their masters would free them in their wills."

MikeP writes:

But this opportunity is denied to everyone not rich enough to afford a house in a neighborhood that is predominantly white.

Most white people live in neighborhoods that are predominantly white.

Max writes:
If you want to agree to agree that immigration restrictions represent the greatest abrogation of rights perpetrated by the US government today, I wholeheartedly agree.

"Rights" do not exist except insofar as they are granted by people (usually governments), so it's a bit silly to speak of governments violating "rights" as if they could somehow exist in the absence of an ability to violently claim and defend them.

Might makes "rights."

Max writes:
Most white people live in neighborhoods that are predominantly white.

That's true enough. Most white people also live in countries that are predominantly white. For now.

MikeP writes:

Might makes "rights."

No surprise there.

Motoko writes:

I don't want to associate with poor people. This essentially means that I don't want to associate with minorities (and many other types of white people). So, at least indirectly, I want my institutions to discriminate on the basis of race and class.

I shop at Whole Foods. I would feel like I lost at life if I had to buy food from walmart (I still go when I need some nick-nack and it is always a circus). Similarly if I had to send my kid to a regular public school, or if I had to live next door to welfare recipients, etc...

I am glad that de facto segregation exists and plan to take advantage of it. I wish every human the most happiness regardless of race or creed, but I don't have to like them or respect their choices.

Steve-O writes:

Max,

If most white people want to send their kids to white schools, why does every school that's 2% black stick those black kids in all their marketing materials?

My sense is that white urban sophisticates want at minimum, a small percentage of brown faces in their classroom.

I'm not sure that they want their kids to date them, though.

AMW writes:

Most white people want to send their kids to schools that are predominantly filled with white people. That's what "good school" means.

No, that's what "average school" means. "Good school" tracks closer to "school with plenty of East and South Asians and Jews."

Max writes:
No surprise there.

Note that you're not disputing the factual claim in question, because on some level you must recognize that it would be absurd to do so. Instead, the reason for rejecting it is understood to be moral - or more properly stated, religious - and so no argumentation is necessary other than to label the arguer a heretic or blasphemer.

"Rights" are not physical things that exist in the world. Much like laws passed by legislatures, they have no meaning, significance, or impact in the absence of an enforcement mechanism designed by human intelligence. Nature does not provide one.

Hence it is absolutely, undeniably, 100% true that might makes right. To claim otherwise is to espouse a more radical faith in the unseen than any churchgoer.

Max writes:
No, that's what "average school" means. "Good school" tracks closer to "school with plenty of East and South Asians and Jews."

That's a good point. And I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords. =P

MikeP writes:

Hence it is absolutely, undeniably, 100% true that might makes right. To claim otherwise is to espouse a more radical faith in the unseen than any churchgoer.

Indeed, I fully recognize that there are exactly two kinds of people: those who believe that human interactions should be held to normative standards, and those who believe that might makes right.

There is no point for either to try to convince the other. The only position they actually agree on is that, as they are led together to the gas chambers, the former will say "this is wrong" and the latter will say "this is right".

MikeP writes:

The only position they actually agree on is that...

To be fair, they might also both like bacon.

Max writes:
If most white people want to send their kids to white schools, why does every school that's 2% black stick those black kids in all their marketing materials?

My sense is that white urban sophisticates want at minimum, a small percentage of brown faces in their classroom.

I'm not sure that they want their kids to date them, though.


I suspect that preference for racial diversity v homogeneity tracks pretty closely with one's neurological propensity towards liberalism (not the classical kind) v conservatism.
Max writes:
Indeed, I fully recognize that there are exactly two kinds of people: those who believe that human interactions should be held to normative standards, and those who believe that might makes right.
Am I to understand that you are ignorant of the third kind, then? I consider myself one who both believes that human interactions should be held to normative standards and that there is nothing in nature that can or will hold us to those standards other than ourselves. Thus, those normative standards that will actually be enforced are decided upon by those with the might to enforce them, and nothing else.
There is no point for either to try to convince the other. The only position they actually agree on is that, as they are led together to the gas chambers, the former will say "this is wrong" and the latter will say "this is right".
I disagree with your deeply cynical view that recognizing the way reality actually is will necessarily result in innocent people being taken to gas chambers. On the contrary, I believe that most improvements in our understanding of reality will lead to improvements in our enjoyment of it.
MikeP writes:

Max, that's what I believe -- not what someone who says "'Rights' do not exist except insofar as they are granted by people" believes.

Might makes consequences. Might does not make right, and might does not make rights. Might does not define the normative standards: it defines only what actually happens.

I disagree with your deeply cynical view that recognizing the way reality actually is will necessarily result in innocent people being taken to gas chambers.

That was not the point of that example at all. My point was, regardless of whether you or I believe in normative or positive morality, someone else could have the might. If you believe that might makes right or rights, then you must believe whatever the consequences are to be just, or at least just fine. Apparently you don't, so we'll both believe "this is wrong".

Christopher Chang writes:

Looks like there are several people in this thread who don't quite understand what "freedom of association" means.

Freedom of association includes the right to exclude, at least when there are plenty of other associations to choose from. If, say, the US enforced unreasonable restrictions on its own citizens re: leaving for any other country, that would violate freedom of association. But, as an association itself, there is nothing wrong with the US admitting the outsiders it wants and excluding the rest; there are over 200 other countries for the latter to choose from.

Some loose international coordination is justified re: minimizing the chance a decent person is rejected by every single country; that's why there are e.g. treaties on refugees. But it's the current "open borders for the US" crowd which threatens to inflict serious damage to freedom of association by eliminating the right of American citizens to exercise it as a group, not the other way around. Any individual American citizen who wants to associate with a foreigner in a manner not permitted by US immigration law is still free to either go to the foreigner's country, or if that doesn't work, they can both leave for a more laissez-faire third country. The US is very liberal re: letting people leave either temporarily or permanently, as it should be.

Note that, if you succeed in convincing enough Americans to *want* to open the borders, open US borders would no longer violate freedom of association. However, it is undeniably a gross violation under the status quo of >70% opposition.

Max writes:
Max, that's what I believe -- not what someone who says "'Rights' do not exist except insofar as they are granted by people" believes.
No, MikeP, that's what I believe -- not what someone who says "Might does not make right" believes.
Might makes consequences. Might does not make right, and might does not make rights. Might does not define the normative standards: it defines only what actually happens.
"Only" what actually happens, you say? As if there could ever be anything more important than what actually happens?

What I'd like you to understand if you do not already is that "right" and "rights" have no intrinsic or objective meaning whatsoever. One man may think a thing is right and another may think it's wrong. What determines whose view of how things ought to be will become reality is might/power, and nothing else. No particular view of how things "ought" to be is any more or less correct than another; there is only what will be, and nothing else.

That was not the point of that example at all. My point was, regardless of whether you or I believe in normative or positive morality, someone else could have the might. If you believe that might makes right or rights, then you must believe whatever the consequences are to be just, or at least just fine. Apparently you don't, so we'll both believe "this is wrong".
I fear the phrase "might makes right" may have been misleading. Its purpose is not to claim somehow that a person possessing power somehow magically obtains the ability to determine objective moral truths. Instead, its purpose is to highlight that there are no objective moral truths and therefore that what will become of reality depends entirely on what the people with the most power want.

There is nothing whatsoever about this undeniable fact which obligates one to somehow agree with the moral judgments of those in power. Were we being led to a gas chamber, I would say neither that it was right nor that it was wrong, because both claims would be incorrect. Instead, I'd simply say, "This sucks."

Max writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address and for rudeness. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

MikeP writes:

I consider myself one who both believes that human interactions should be held to normative standards and that there is nothing in nature that can or will hold us to those standards other than ourselves.

The question then is how do you determine these normative standards? If there is anything whatsoever objective about them or any presumption that they are in any way universal or any normative arguments you can actually make to support them, then might does not make right. The fact that one person's normative standards differ from another's and can be imposed through might does not at all imply that there is not an objective right -- or at least a pretty good approximation of one -- that can be discovered through "improvements in our understanding of reality."

Massimo writes:

I understand that blacks were oppressed and Mandela fought for important issues, but every mass murderer was oppressed in some way or had some valid grievance.

David Henderson, how do you excuse Nelson Mandela's direct involvement with civilian bombings or support of other oppressive dictatorships? How do you excuse his involvement and pardoning of his wife who pioneered "necklacing" and other extreme techniques of torture and intimidation. How do such excuses not apply to every other mass murdered with his own set of grievances?

The public wanted a hero, a black hero specifically, and the ruling class chose Mandela. Why not Desmond Tutu instead?

(Bravo Max!)

Magus writes:

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Olivier Braun writes:

Dear Prof. Henderson,

A balanced view of Mandela requires, from my point of view, both a recall of his actions, together with ANC, to fight Apratheid but also to gain access to power for his party (and that includes the "People's War" learned in Vietnam), and, an examination of his action toward reconciliation after he came to power.

I think I have a balanced view here:
http://blog.turgot.org/index.php?post/Braun-Mandela

for the Turgot Institute (for those who read French).

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