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Back to Kenneth Minogue

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It’s one of those days, so this isn’t likely to be extensive.

For those of you who didn’t see, Mique posted the following link


That goes to an Australian magazine which has excerpted a bit from the book I was talking about yesterday.

It’s a good book, and I’m sort of sorry that the excerpt is of one of what I think is its weakest sections.

It’s weak not because the argument is weak, but because Minogue uses what I think of as the European definition of “rights” rather than the one developed in the Anglophone sphere–that is, “rights” as entitlements to things (education, housing, not to be offended) rather than rights (no scare quotes) as negative only, as restrictions on government power.

Rights properly understood–rights as originally defined by Locke and the eighteenth century–have none of the bad effects Minogue complains of, because (as he puts it) they “confer no benefit.”  They simply forbid the government from interfering on our lives in certain specified areas.

Beyond that, this book is written by an Australian living in Britain, and it takes Europe as its focus.  The few times it mentions the US it does so in passing–and in some ways that’s too bad.

Minogue’s critic of the fundamentally anti-democratic project of the European Union would apply equally well to the system of regulatory agencies in the US–unelected, unaccountable institutions empowered to issue legally binding regulations that no one has ever voted for and that the people cannot control since the people who issue them are not subject to election.

Okay.  That was one of those sentences.

At any rate–it’s a good book and I recommend it.

And since he starts off telling us he wants to understand things, not to change them–well, we can’t fault him for not having a solution.

I do, however, have a few suggestions.

Written by janeh

December 8th, 2010 at 6:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Back to Kenneth Minogue'

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  1. I would keep in mind the similarity of the systems. Down to at least WW II, even interventionist government was making rules. Modern government makes exceptions to the rules. (Glass-Steagal was something like 40 pages. The latest financial “reform” better than 2,000.) It’s a great job–if you’re the rule-maker.
    The government by boards we’re probably stuck with, if we continue to support serious interventionist government. Too many day to day decisions for a legislature to debate them all even if they were so inclined. And even if they could and did–well, you might hold a Congressman accountable for three bills, or a particular egregious one, but if he gets to vote on thousands, that still leaves him quite a bit of leeway.
    Reducing the scope of government will not solve the problem, but I don’t see how to solve the problem without reducing the scope.


    9 Dec 10 at 5:50 am

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