A Misesian for a Statesman
From Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the General Debate of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 24, 2022:
The West is now in a temper tantrum over the referendums in Ukraine’s Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye regions. However, people there are simply reacting to the advice from the head of the Kiev regime, Vladimir Zelensky. In one of his interviews in August 2021, he advised all those who consider themselves Russians to leave for Russia for the benefit of their children and grandchildren.
This is what people living in the regions I have mentioned are doing, taking the land where their ancestors had lived for centuries with them. (Emphasis added)
I really appreciate the way Lavrov put this. The land under the people belongs to the people, not to the state that governs the people.
It is a great statement, at least in this case. Unfortunately, neither Lavrov nor Russia feel the same about, for example, Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh – a situation where Russia can have similar influence if it chooses to do so. But let’s take what we can get.
From Ludwig von Mises, The Right of Self-Determination:
It must always be possible to shift the boundaries of the state if the will of the inhabitants of an area to attach themselves to a state other than the one to which they presently belong has made itself clearly known.
The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with.
It is the only path to peace in many of the current conflicts faced throughout the world today.
The Degeneration of Beauty
Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.
I was visiting in a university town, noticing that the university orchestra would be performing during my stay. Now, even though this was your typical university – where truth, objective values, open dialogue, etc., are, at best, irrelevant if not treated with disdain – I thought, “how could they mess up the orchestra?”
Ha! The opening song was unique, but at least it was recognizable as music. I say unique because it was very much in the form of progressive music. Given my fandom of progressive bands like Dream Theater and Rush, I was able to appreciate it: time signature changes, varied chord patterns, etc.
But now, time for some Mozart or Beethoven…or not.
For the next hour, the most discordant music I had ever heard. It was as if each section – violins, trombones, cellos, drums – was playing a different song in a different time signature in a different key. Well played, to be sure, but ugly.
I thought to myself: God didn’t need to give us the Bible. He could merely have offered Bach on the one hand and this monstrosity on the other – Bach to be heard in heaven and this monstrosity in hell. The straight and narrow path would have more joining in than coming out of all of the Billy Graham meetings combined. Really, I thought that this could be the music played in hell – and it would be worse than burning in fire.
It is an ancient view that truth, goodness, and beauty cannot, in the end, conflict. Maybe the degeneration of beauty into kitsch comes precisely from the postmodern loss of truthfulness, and with it the loss of moral direction.
The loss of truth – the hallmark of the modern university – must result in the loss of beauty. I wish I understood this before sitting in hell for an hour.
Better Than the Alternative
Then there is the other side. A proposed new university, The University of Austin. Compared to much of western academia, potentially a breath of fresh air. Niall Ferguson, Heather Heying, and Bari Weiss are founding trustees. The board of advisors includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Glenn Loury, and Jonathan Haidt, (among a few crazies…but I will come to this). Peter Boghossian is a faculty fellow. In other words, many who have been cancelled by “respectable” academia.
What do they have to say of themselves: