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Pamphleteers and bloggers

Posted by Richard on November 23, 2005

In his introduction to Carnival of Liberty #20, Eric Cowperthwaite said that bloggers are today’s pamphleteers, and I agree with his analogy to a point. But bloggers (in the aggregate) can do so much more than pamphleteers because of today’s information and communication technology.

Pamphleteering was essentially limited to commentary and discourse on political and social ideas and issues. Blogging also includes original reporting, fact-checking of news sources, and the aggregation, dissemination, and analysis of news from disparate sources.

I think the latter is one of the most important aspects. Ten years ago, I rarely saw a news story or commentary from Britain’s Daily Telegraph or Guardian. Today, the blogs I read routinely point me to stories and perspectives from Qatar, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, Venezuela — not to mention obscure sources closer to home. And frequently, they do more than point — they make connections, compare and contrast, highlight implications and consequences, and so forth.

There’s a quote I’m fond of that’s relevant:

Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a heap of stones is a house.
— Jules-Henri Poincarré

I think the same can be said about any body of knowledge. There’s a difference between data and information. The blogs I find most interesting use today’s communication technology to bring together disparate data, then analyze, relate, and organize it into information, and finally add their own unique insights and commentary. Those are the ones that, for me, are more and more replacing the newspaper and television for keeping up with current events.

Nonetheless, current events aren’t everything, and there’s much to be said for modern-day pamphleteering: commentary and discourse on political, economic, social, and cultural issues, often in a longer and more abstract or theoretical form than you find in current-events-driven blogging.

I certainly understand the need to spout off from time to time, and sometimes that need isn’t driven (directly) by the events of the day. I’ve been known to do it myself. Many of the blogs in the Life, Liberty, Property community (listed on the right) or listed in my blogroll on the left do that sort of thing at least from time to time. 

But with a few exceptions (such as Bill Whittle), most blogger commentary — even when not events-driven — tends to be short-form, just a few hundred words. Eric decided there should be a place for longer-form commentary — pamphleteering, if you will — and from a classical liberal perspective. So he and ten associates have begun a group blog called The Liberty Papers. His introduction explains where they’re coming from:

We are a group of people who hold some very specific beliefs. We believe that the theories of individual, inherent rights and government of what is now known as classic liberal theory are the correct political theory. We believe that failing to understand the reality of market economics, individual motivation, and politics leads to tragedy as the world has seen so many times over in Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia, Cuba, France and many other places around the world. The Declaration of Independence is not just the document that told the British Crown that its American colonies were an independent nation. It is a Declaration that henceforth men would no longer be subject to oppressive government that traded their individual liberties and rights for the paternalism of government. It is the best single expression and declaration of the rights and responsibilities of the individual, including the source of the powers of government. We believe that the United States Constitution is the best attempt by man to take these ideas and turn them into practical, political reality.

The Liberty Papers blog is part of the Life, Liberty, Property community (its contributors come from that community), so you’ll see it listed on the right. Check it out. It won’t be all long essays. Right now, in fact, it’s all short pieces — mostly the contributers introducing themselves. But the goal is to provide a place for pamphleteering about liberty, so expect to see some longer, more theoretical pieces mixed in with the shorter stuff. Definitely worth watching, so plan to drop by there from time to time.

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One Response to “Pamphleteers and bloggers”

  1. Rebellion Coffee Co. said

    You’re right, Eric and the gang have some great stuff coming out at The Liberty Papers. I can see that will be one of my new favorite hang outs over morning coffee.

    If you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving. Please keep up the fight for all friends of liberty.


    Rebellion Coffee

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