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Executive editor of The Libertarian Institute, former editor of The Freeman and former vice president of the Future of Freedom Foundation

Sheldon Richman is an American writer. He is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He was vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom and was formerly the editor of The Freeman. He is an advocate of left-libertarianism and market anarchism.

Born

26 Dec 1949, in Philadelphia

Associations

Advocates for Self-Government, Board of Advisors
Cato Institute, Senior editor, -1996
The Freeman, Editor, December 1997-October 2012
The Future of Freedom Foundation, Vice President, 2012-2015; Senior fellow, 1996-2012
Independent Institute, Research Fellow

Web Pages

Foundation for Economic Education
Includes photograph, short profile and links to his many articles
Sheldon Richman is the former editor of The Freeman and TheFreemanOnline.org, and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families and thousands of articles.
Future of Freedom Foundation
Includes photograph, short profile and links to his articles
Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State.
Sheldon Richman - Online Library of Liberty
Includes short profile and links to "Liberty Matters" events, an online discussion forum edited by Richman and David M. Hart
Sheldon Richman runs the blog Free Association and is a frequent columnist for several websites. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Abolish the Welfare State (all from The Future of Freedom Foundation.) He also contributed to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics and has written for the OLL Bastiat: An Annotated Bibliography.

Blog

UpdFree Association: Proudly delegitimizing the state since 2005
Over 2400 posts, including his weekly TGIF "The Goal Is Freedom" commentary

Articles

"All I Think Is That It's Stupid": An Interview with Dave Barry, by Dave Barry, Glenn Garvin, Reason, Dec 1994
Lengthy interview where Barry describes how he met Richman and later interactions between the two
Reason: How did you become a libertarian?
Barry: I can tell you the person responsible. His name is Sheldon Richman and he is still something of a wheel in libertarian circles. He's at the Cato Institute now. Sheldon and I were working for competing newspapers when we met in suburban Philadelphia in the early '70s. We were at municipal meetings, which were hell for Sheldon. He was a libertarian way, way back. ... Sheldon was wonderfully patient and had a excellent sense of humor and never lost his temper, which is not true of me. I'd yell at Sheldon and get furious at Sheldon, but we were still friends.

Writings

The 100th Anniversary of the Great State Crime, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 Aug 2014
Reflections on the start of the Great War, 100 years ago, the second act (World War II) and wars in general
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the four-year bloody nightmare that claimed 16 million lives — 7 million of them noncombatants — and wounded over 20 million people. That would have been bad enough, but the conflict was merely Act One in a much bigger war ... War was never inevitable ... The world should keep this in mind as the politicians make choices today with respect to mythologized Ukraine and demonized Russia. This time the great powers have nuclear weapons. Who can be confident that these similarly flawed "leaders" learned anything from the Great War?
9/11 Could Have Been Prevented, 21 Apr 2004
Counters the claim that Islamists hate the U.S. because Americans love freedom and suggests that a non-intervenionist foreign policy could have prevented the Sept 2001 attacks
From Richard Clarke to Condoleezza Rice, the security establishment agrees on one thing: there was no sure way to stop the attacks of September 11, 2001. Maybe, maybe not. But ... it doesn't get the Bush administration and its predecessors off the hook. The very inability to prevent terrorism is a powerful argument against the interventionist policies ... The horrors at the World Trade Center could not have been prevented by actions taken between January 20 and September 11, 2001. The real issue is whether they could have been prevented had U.S. administrations followed the noninterventionist advice of the Founding Fathers.
Abolish the Income Tax and IRS, 28 Oct 2014
Comments on a New York Times article describing the IRS practice of seizing bank accounts of ordinary people merely on the suspicion of avoiding reporting requirements on deposits of $10,000 or more
For some time now we've lived with the scourge of civil asset forfeiture, under which the police can seize a person's property on the mere suspicion it was used in a crime and without having to charge the owner with an offense. Since the authorities have no burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proving innocence falls on the hapless citizen who wishes to recover his property ... All taxation is robbery, but the income tax is the most egregious form of all because of this invasion of privacy. Modest reforms will not be enough. Only uprooting the tax system and abolishing the evil IRS will do.
Related Topics: Banking, Iowa, Taxation
The Affordable Care Act Doesn't Go That Way, The Goal Is Freedom, 1 Nov 2013
Examines the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from the perspective of basic economics and its unintended consequences
Web problems can be fixed. The problems inherent in the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are another story. Let's stipulate that most people who favor the ACA have honorable intentions: they want everyone, including people in ill health, to have access to good and affordable medical care. All decent people should want that ... The radical libertarian position is not the status quo ante, but a radical freeing of society ... Good-faith advocates of the Affordable Care Act or of a single-payer system should see that they can only achieve their humanitarian objectives through freed markets.
Again, the Isolationist Smear, 17 Jul 2014
Comments on the targeting of Rand Paul as "isolationist", by Rick Perry and other Republican hawks, based on Paul's stance about sending ground troops to Iraq while not ruling out air strikes
It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, ... and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie, and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. ... The war party believes that the 9/11 attacks and Pearl Harbor refute the noninterventionists ... The noninterventionist case boils down to this: U.S. aggression abroad makes enemies and provokes blowback. That's the lesson of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
Airbrushing Barbarity, The Goal Is Freedom, 5 Jul 2013
Demonstrates how politicians and pundits twist the meaning of terms to support their desired ends while concealing their true purposes
Statism — in the sense that government can do good things for people — depends on lies, or base rhetoric, that is, language that conceals the truth in order to persuade. Proponents of statism cannot easily win others to their cause if they fail to obscure the fact that, in its essence, the state is physical violence and that ultimately its rule consists in intimidation ... What Thomas Szasz wrote about the language of the mental-health industry ... is true of the language of public policy ... Thus, he added, that type of language "is, necessarily, anti-individualistic, and hence a threat to human freedom and dignity."
America Must Reject Netanyahu's War Cry on Iran, 4 Mar 2015
Counters Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the U.S. Congress about Iran's nuclear weapons intentions, discussing reasons behind his push for war
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington ... to prepare the American people for war against Iran. Backed by American neoconservatives, the Israel lobby, and assorted other war hawks, Netanyahu insists that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon and thus is an "existential threat" to Israel ... Israel's rulers oppose any development — such as an Iranian-U.S. detente — that could diminish Israel's U.S.-financed hegemony in the region. War with Iran would be a catastrophe all around. Netanyahu and his hawkish American allies — the same people who gave us the disastrous Iraq war and ISIS — must be repudiated.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, Middle East, War
The American Disease, The Goal Is Freedom, 21 Mar 2014
Explains how U.S. government meddling in foreign countries (citing contemporaneous examples in the Ukraine and Russia) is generally counterproductive, even when genuinely attempting to advance liberty
If the purpose of U.S. intervention in the affairs of other countries is really to help suffering people, the program has a fatal flaw ... The flaw is that the U.S. government does opposition movements no favors when it gives credibility to the charge that those movements are tools of foreign — particularly American — interests ... We ... cannot live in liberty with a government equipped to meddle in foreign countries ...The only thing I'd add is that the appearance of a worthy cause is just that: an appearance. In fact, U.S. intervention is motivated by the ruling elite's hegemonic and economic interests.
American Hawks Risk Escalating the Ukrainian Crisis, 5 Mar 2014
Discusses the potential expansion of the 2014 Ukrainian conflict due to those who advocate a "get tough" on Russia stance while claiming the U.S. has "retreated from the world"
With Russia and the United States confronting each other over Ukraine, the world is at a dangerous juncture. While the chances of war between the two behemoths seem small — these are, after all, nuclear powers that have avoided war for over 60 years — nothing can be taken for granted. No one wanted the Great War that began in central Europe a century ago this year either ... Imagine if Georgia had been a member when it fought with Russia over South Ossetia in 2008. Imagine if Ukraine were a member now. It's unlikely any good would come from more U.S. intervention. Obama should pull back and resist the confrontationists.
Related Topics: Foreign Entanglements, Russia, War
The American Sniper Was No Hero, 28 Jan 2015
Considers whether Chris Kyle, depicted in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, was a hero or a competent government-hired killer
Despite what some people think, hero is not a synonym for competent government-hired killer. If Clint Eastwood's record-breaking movie, American Sniper, launches a frank public conversation about war and heroism, the great director will have performed a badly needed service for the country and the world ... Conservatives, supposed advocates of limited government, sure have an odd notion of heroism. Excuse me, but I have trouble seeing an essential difference between what Kyle did in Iraq and what Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It certainly was not heroism.
Related Topics: Conservatism, Iraq War
Americans Should Be "Anti-American", 21 Jun 2006
Examines Robert Kagan's statement that the Iraq War "made anti-Americanism respectable again" and what "anti-Americanism" is supposed to mean
"The Iraq war has also made anti-Americanism respectable again, as it was during the Cold War but had not been since the demise of the Soviet Union." Those words come from Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, writing in the June 18 issue of the Washington Post ... The apologists for empire count on you not to examine the matter too closely, because if you did, you might see the merit in what the foreigners are saying. America once signified the ideals of individual freedom, peace, and nonintervention. But if, as Kagan believes, Americanism now means imperialism, then good Americans should be "anti-American" too.
"And the Pursuit of Happiness": Nathaniel Branden, RIP, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Dec 2014
Memorial essay, including some personal recollections, with emphasis on Branden's work on self-esteem and self-responsibility, and a preamble on the quoted phrase in the Declaration of Independence
Libertarians and others have wondered why Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence concludes its explicitly incomplete list of unalienable rights with the pursuit of happiness rather than property ... I, like Albert Jay Nock, believe that freedom is the great teacher of virtue because one cannot force others to suffer the consequences of one's irresponsible actions. So we need not begin with a population of virtuous people before a free society can be achieved. Nevertheless, a free and vibrant society will have its best chance to remain such only when people cultivate the psychological traits that Branden elaborated.
Annotated Bibliography of Frédéric Bastiat, Jul 2000
Opens with a biography, then discusses Bastiat's major works and concludes with a current perspective; includes short list of works about Bastiat and links to other sites
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) merits a hallowed place in the annals of political economy. A member of the French Liberal, or laissez-faire, school of economists that included the great J. B. Say, Bastiat marshaled logic, clarity, and exuberant wit in the cause of understanding society, prosperity, and liberty ... Bastiat was neither the first nor the last political economist to recommend a free society. Others from Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek have done so ... These and other literary gems constitute Bastiat's genius, making his works a treasure trove that can still instruct and delight readers who happen across them today.
The Antimilitarist Libertarian Heritage, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Sep 2014
Reviews writings by Herbert Spencer, "Government Colonization" and "Patriotism", on the subjects of war, militarism, colonization and patriotism
With the United States on the verge of another war in the Middle East — or is it merely the continuation of a decades-long war? — we libertarians need to reacquaint ourselves with our intellectual heritage of peace, antimilitarism, and anti-imperialism. This rich heritage is too often overlooked and frequently not appreciated at all. That is tragic ... Spencer was second to none in his antimilitarism and anti-imperialism, that is, his love of universal individual liberty and all forms of voluntary social cooperation. With heads held high, libertarians can claim him as one of their own.
April Is the Cruelest Month, Apr 2001
Discusses the income tax and how government acts as a transfer machine from the majority to various interest groups, while keeping incumbent politicians in power
Taxes. Fiscal force. It's that time again. This is the month you are ordered to reduce your financial life to a series of complex tax forms and get them in to the IRS (which, by the way, can't keep its own records in order). The authorities are waiting to hear from you. Don't be late. Don't fail to tell all. Don't err ... In all the public discussion of the income tax, the key fact gets lost: It's your money. You work for it. You earn it. It's your property. Only you have a right to it. You never freely agreed to surrender it. We've come a long way since small tea and stamp taxes fueled revolutionary thoughts in our forefathers.
Related Topics: Government, Taxation
A-Scalping We van Gogh, Future of Freedom, Feb 1999
Explains the economics concepts of opportunity cost, money, prices and entrepreneurship, based on analysis of scalping of "free" tickets for a Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Art
One of the most reviled characters in urban America is the scalper. He's the guy who buys tickets to an event, not for his own use, but to sell to others on the street. He is indeed reviled — until a person realizes that he's the only source of a coveted ticket. Then he's a lifesaver. After the event, the buyer goes back to sneering ... Who are the typical scalpers? A goodly number are street people. The elites may love "the poor," but they have scant affection for low-income individuals trying to hustle their way out of that condition ... Oh, fie on those with the audacity to try to make it on their own!
Atlas Shrugged and the Corporate State, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Oct 2007
Explains how Ayn Ran's Atlas Shrugged properly depicted some businessmen as privilege seekers, but some of her non-fiction was mistaken about big business being a "persecuted minority"
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand's stunning novel, Atlas Shrugged. So many words have been written about the book that the task of saying something new is daunting. It is a celebration of the creativity that is required for the production of material goods no less than for the production of music, art, and literature ... The message of Atlas Shrugged is that human creativity and the good life it provides require freedom and that state coercion, always justified in terms of self-sacrifice, is contrary to our rational interests. If you haven't already done so, read the book.
The Ayatollahs' Overlooked Anti-WMD Fatwas, 16 Apr 2014
Additional comments on Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis, focusing on the Ayatollahs' position on the use of chemical and nuclear weapons, prompted by the Obama administration visa denial to the Iran ambassador to the United Nations
When the Obama administration refused to grant a visa to Iran's designated ambassador to the United Nations, Hamid Aboutalebi, it was continuing a long-running hostile U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic. After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, a group of Iranians held 52 Americans hostage in the former U.S. embassy for more than a year ... In early 2003, Khamenei "began to couch his anti-nuclear weapons stance in terms of Islamic principles." Of course this was entirely consistent with his predecessor's fatwa against chemical weapons — as well as with all the hard evidence anyone has been able to produce.
Related Topics: Iran, Iraq, Barack Obama
Bad Medicine, 21 Mar 2003
Discusses the differences between Democrat and Republican policies for government schooling and proposals to add prescription-drug coverage to Medicare
Those who have been hungering for a real political debate in this country can't help but be deliriously overcome with the news that CBS's 60 Minutes will feature 10 face-offs between former Democratic President Bill Clinton and former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole ... A bureaucracy will enforce its expectations. When the plan doesn't work — when costs skyrocket — there will be a clamor for more controls. This is far different from the free market, in which entrepreneurs prosper by satisfying consumers. Whichever plan gets the nod, it'll be bad medicine.
Bad Medicine, Future of Freedom, Nov 2003
Discusses the potential effects of passing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, signed into law in Dec 2003
It's a good thing that President Bush is a conservative advocate of small government. Can you imagine what his Medicare-expansion proposal would be like if he favored big government? ... despite roadblocks, it appears Congress will pass a bill to enact a monumental expansion of Medicare ... and that President Bush will sign it ... government control through licensing and prescriptions cartelize the entire medical profession. If the reformers were really interested in lowering medical costs for retired people and everyone else, they’d be addressing those issues instead of paving the road to medical serfdom.
Bad Partisanship Drives Out Good, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 Nov 2007
Differentiates between superficial and profound partisanship (loyalty to a party vs. to a set of principles) and discusses the goals of the group Unity08 that during the 2008 U.S. presidential elections was seeking candidates that could "reunite America"
People routinely bemoan excessive political partisanship in America. You can hardly look at an op-ed page or cable news-talk show without encountering this complaint. A lot can be chalked up to the Myth of the Golden Age, the belief that we live in terrible times compared to some earlier idyllic period ... In my view, there can't be too much profound partisanship. Superficial partisanship distracts us from what we really should be arguing about. The proper question is not "Who should lead?" but rather, "What makes us think any political leader can make things better than people interacting freely can?"
The Banker's Bank, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 May 2009
Reviews the pre-history of the Federal Reserve and its origins in the Progressive Era, with various quotes from The Mystery of Banking (1983) by Murray Rothbard
The Federal Reserve System does more than conjure up money from thin air. (That would be enough!) The Fed is also regulator/protector of the American banking industry. Indeed, as recent events amply demonstrate, we may think of the industry as a government-organized protectionist cartel, with the Fed as the hub ... fiat money inflation ... knocks the economy out of alignment with [people's] preferences, allocates incomes politically, robs people of their purchasing power, and throws them out of work when the inevitable bust comes. In this libertarian "class struggle," the special interests prevailed.
Barack Obama: Corporatist, 17 Apr 2012
Reviews Obama's corporate-friendly actions, particularly regarding donors and lobbyists and towards banks like Bank of America, while saying that government needs to be "responsive to the needs of people, not the needs of special interests"
Last November, President Obama stood before an audience and said government needs to be "responsive to the needs of people, not the needs of special interests." He added, "That is probably the biggest piece of business that remains unfinished." ... This is just one of the many ways in which Obama reveals himself as a friend of big, well-connected business interests — that is, as an advocate of the corporate state. Considering that Mitt Romney also favors having government as business's ally, we can look forward to an election between two variations on this corporatist theme.
Bastiat on the Socialization of Wealth, Future of Freedom, Dec 2014
Explains what Bastiat meant when saying that real wealth is constantly passing from the realm of (private) property to that of the "communal domain" (communauté, or community in the original French)
Wealth marvelously passing from the private to the communal domain? It sounds like a state socialist’s redistributionist fantasy! But wait — Frédéric Bastiat, the great laissez-faire radical, wrote those words in his book Economic Harmonies, chapter 8, provocatively titled "Private Property and Common Wealth." ... Before those people [who have an aversion to free markets] can be persuaded by libertarian arguments, we must get their attention, and the best way to do that is to present the free market as a process that embodies social cooperation and, à la Bastiat, the "socialization" of wealth.
The Bastiat Solution, The Goal Is Freedom, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law (Dean Russell's translation) as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of the election season
The election season, which — sigh — is only just beginning, makes me want to reread Frederic Bastiat's The Law. It is the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery that issues forth from across the political spectrum. ... Luckily, we have Bastiat to turn to for solace. But even more important, we have Bastiat's implicit strategic advice. Our family, friends, and neighbors would never think to threaten force to get their way because they know it is wrong. We just need to show them that the rules are the same for politicians. With logic and moral sense on our side, how can liberty not prevail?
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 1, Future of Freedom, Aug 2006
Discusses the differences between direct and indirect taxes, pointing out that even James Madison and Alexander Hamilton could not agree unambiguously on definitions
For many opponents of the income tax the name Brushaber is magical. It comes from Frank R. Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., the 1916 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the 1913 income-tax law passed under the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ... I will point out that while American legal authorities have regarded taxation of income generally as an indirect (excise) tax not requiring apportionment, the British have long regarded it as a direct tax. This issue as it affects income taxation came to a head in 1894, when Congress passed the first income tax since the War Between the States.
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 2, Future of Freedom, Sep 2006
Reviews the income tax laws passed between 1861 and 1894 and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. (1895) that challenged the constitutionality of the 1894 law
The United States got its first income tax during the War Between the States, again demonstrating that war harms ordinary people in more ways than militarily. During any war government becomes an especially voracious consumer of the people's resources and dissent is stifled or suppressed ... the Court seems to have gotten it mostly wrong ... It has been speculated that the conservative Court ruled the way it did because it was partial to the capitalists and did not want income from capital taxed. Who knows? Its ruling was law, leaving to the proponents of full income taxation only one recourse, a constitutional amendment.
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 3, Future of Freedom, Oct 2006
Reviews the wording and ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the first income tax law after it, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad (1916) and the Constitutional debates back in 1787
In 1895, when the U.S. Supreme Court knocked out an income-tax law in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., the champions of income taxation in America suffered a big setback. To reiterate what I said in part two of this series, the Court, contrary to what many people think, did not rule income taxation per se unconstitutional. Quite the opposite ... If we want to be free of income taxation (and all the rest) we will have to effect an intellectual revolution that will convince people that no one, no government, has the right to deprive peaceful people of their property. There is no shortcut to freedom.
Big Brother, not Snowden and Greenwald, Is the Story, 27 Jun 2013
Examines the reaction from various media pundits and talking heads (Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, etc.) both progressive and conservative to the Snowden and Greenwald revelations about NSA data collection
"Instead of being adversaries to government power ... [the media of Washington, D.C., are] ... servants to it and mouthpieces for it." So said the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of Edward Snowden's disclosure of NSA spying on the American people, after Greenwald's confrontation with Meet the Press's David Gregory ... Snowden and Greenwald have not "aided the enemy" — unless the American people are the government's enemy. What they have done is embarrass the Obama administration by exposing criminal activity. For the media's defenders of power against truth, that's inexcusable.
Bill Clinton and the Bogus Iranian Threat, 8 May 2014
Another chapter in the Iran "manufactured crisis" saga (based on Gareth Porter's book): how the Clinton administration was influenced by Israelis in framing U.S. policy towards Iran
Tragically, President George H.W. Bush passed up a chance for a rapprochement with Iran because, after the Soviet Union imploded, the national-security apparatus needed a new threat to stave off budget cutters in Congress. Iran became the "manufactured crisis," according to author Gareth Porter's new book by that title ... Porter ... concludes, "... both [Israeli] governments deliberately exaggerated the threat from Iran, in sharp contradiction with the Israeli intelligence assessment. The ruse served a variety of policy interests, most of which were related to the manipulation of US policy in the region."
Related Topics: Bill Clinton, Iran, Israel, Terrorism
A Bogus Libertarian Defense of War, Future of Freedom, Oct 2007
Criticizes Randy Barnett's Wall Street Journal op-ed "Libertarians and the War" (17 Jul 2007) and his follow-up post "Antiwar Libertarians and the Reification of the State" (20 Jul 2007) at the Volokh Conspiracy blog
Many conservatives dubiously insist that a robustly interventionist foreign policy can coexist with a free-market domestic policy. That's why they have no compunction about supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while claiming to support limited and unintrusive government at home .... This is reinforced by the fact that he neglects the libertarian insight that war fortifies everything libertarians abhor: taxes, debt, jobbery, and violations of civil liberties such as privacy. No one has put it better than the anti-World War I writer Randolph Bourne: "War is the health of the state." How can any libertarian defend it?
The "Boomerang Effect": How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy, The Goal Is Freedom, 26 Sep 2014
Reviews the essay "Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Controll" by Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall, published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Independent Review
The late Chalmers Johnson, the great analyst of the American empire, warned that if Americans didn't give up the empire, they would come to live under it ... indeed, several important thinkers have furnished sound theoretical and empirical evidence for the proposition. Now come two scholars who advance our understanding of how an interventionist foreign policy eventually comes home ... Coyne and Hall have performed a welcome service for all who value liberty and therefore distrust the state. Read their excellent work and deepen your knowledge of how foreign intervention threatens freedom at home.
Borderlands: What’s Happening to America?, 30 Jul 2014
Discusses the extension of border patrol activities in the United States well beyond (100 miles) the traditional country and coastline limits
A man, an American citizen, sits in his car as a U.S. Border Patrol agent insists that he roll down his window. He refuses. Agents use battering rams to smash the windows. Still, the driver refuses to leave his car, so he is hit with a Taser from two sides. He screams. It would be bad enough if this scene, captured on video ... had happened right at a U.S. border. But it happened far from the border ... This intolerable condition should outrage every American. Have we been reduced to a society of scared children who would rather have government agents harassing us wherever we go than take our chances with freedom?
Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War, 10 Feb 2015
Comments on the mainstream broadcast and cable TV network "journalists" who unquestioningly supported and support government military actions around the world
The scandal of the week is NBC anchor Brian Williams's shabby bid for self-glorification by falsely claiming he was in a U.S. military helicopter forced to land in the Iraqi desert after being hit by ground fire in 2003. Of course so-called news people shouldn't make up stuff to look good, but there's something much worse ... Recently, Joe Scarborough ... one-upped this reckless gang by asserting that Iran has "promised to get a nuclear weapon and then has promised to use the nuclear weapon to annihilate Israel." He then repeated this double lie. Compared to Joe Scarborough, Brian Williams is a piker.
Related Topics: Iran, Iraq War, Television Shows, War
The Bright Side of War, 24 May 2004
Comments on a Washington Post article on the presumed economic benefits of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
In case you didn't realize it, there's a bright side to the death, destruction, and prisoner abuse going on in Iraq and Afghanistan: they're good for the American economy. War creates jobs. At least that's what lots of people think. The Washington Post recently helped to spread that impression with a report on the war's beneficent effects on textile, automotive, and other firms ... jobs created by government activity ... cannot be considered productive in an economic sense ... Even truly defensive wars entail destruction, not production. Wars of aggression, such as the U.S. war in Iraq, add insult to injury.
Bush as Fake Free-Trader, 28 Nov 2003
Comments on George W. Bush's claim to being a free-trader while at the same time imposing quotas and tariffs on products from China
President Bush is the most protectionist president since Ronald Reagan. And that's saying something, because Reagan was the most protectionist president since Herbert Hoover, who signed the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff and helped turn a recession into the Great Depression ... To be sure, China doesn't fully practice free trade, although imports are rising faster than exports. But the United States is in no position to cast stones. The U.S. government maintains a host of protectionist barriers, and the trend is toward more not less. Keeping trade promises isn't its strong suit.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, China, Free Trade
Bush's Doublethink, 19 Jan 2007
Analyzes President Bush's most salient statement and possible implications, of a speech made on 10 Jan 2007 announcing a troop "surge" plan
The most peculiar passage in President Bush's much-dissected "surge" speech was this: "I have made it clear to the prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." What could the president have meant by that? ... Then there's Iran and Bush's open threats. Did he really not know that taking out the barrier to Iran's expansion would pave the way for its regional hegemony? Does anyone think a move or two ahead in that administration?
California's Blow Against Property Rights, Dec 1997
Discusses the concepts of private property and property rights in view of California's law forbidding smoking in bars, beginning in January 1998
California likes its reputation as the trend-setter of the nation, but let’s hope it won't be true this time. On New Year's Day, it will become the first state where smoking is forbidden in bars. Most people don't smoke, so they may be pleased with this news. But that would be short-sighted ... Why aren't nonsmokers content to leave the issue to contract and voluntary exchange? After all, if enough people want smoke-free bars, entrepreneurs will oblige. The attempt to deny smokers bars in which they can smoke brings to mind H. L. Mencken's definition of Puritanism: the haunting fear that somewhere someone is happy.
Can Iran Trust the United States?, 2 Oct 2013
Turns around the question of whether the United States can trust Iran, by examining the "covert and proxy war" led by former against the latter
People ask whether the United States can trust Iran. The better question is whether Iran can trust the United States. Since 1979 the U.S. government has prosecuted a covert and proxy war against Iran. The objective has been regime change and installation of a government that will loyally serve U.S. state objectives ... Ask yourself: What would Iran do with a nuclear weapon when Israel has hundreds of them and America has thousands? Despite the peace overtures from President Rouhani, which echo those of his predecessors, Obama is on a course for war. He should spurn the warmongers and choose peace.
Central Planning of Electricity Must Fail, 20 Aug 2003
Explains why deregulation was definitely not responsible for the widespread power outage in Aug 2003 in the northeast and midwest United States, also examining deregulation effects in California
Central economic planning was discredited in the old Soviet Union and every other country that attempted it. What the great economist Ludwig von Mises showed in theory in the 1920s was then demonstrated in practice in subsequent decades: central economic planning is impossible ... Well, the anti-economists have had their way in the electric-power industry for many years. It's the same industry they now claim is inadequate for 21st-century America. But what do they blame? The free market, of course. And what do they propose? A more intensive form of the very central planning that got us into this pickle.
The Chavez Tragedy, Future of Freedom, Mar 2001
Comments on the disclosure that Linda Chavez, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor, had harbored an "illegal alien" and perhaps employed her to do household chores
President Bush's first choice for secretary of labor, Linda Chavez, was forced to withdraw when it was learned that 10 years earlier a Guatemalan woman who was then in the United States illegally lived in her home. Chavez caused herself trouble by saying she did not know until later that the woman was an "illegal alien." ... The results for working people were something less than satisfactory. There shouldn't be a Labor Department, and Linda Chavez is full of philosophical inconsistencies. But her political demise at the hands of people who have no regard whatsoever for freedom is a tragedy nonetheless.
Congress Must Not Cede Its War Power to Israel, 26 Dec 2013
Examines the reasons behind the U.S. Senate bill proposed as the "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013"
The American people should know that pending right now in Congress is a bipartisan bill that would virtually commit the United States to go to war against Iran if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic. "The bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel," ... Iran expert Gary Sick wrote to Sen. Chuck Schumer ... Though Iran champions the Palestinians, who live under Israeli occupation, it has not threatened Israel, which, remember, is itself a nuclear power. But even if Iran were a threat to Israel, that would not warrant letting any foreign government dictate when we go to war.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, War
The Consequences of Liberty, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 Jan 2015
Compares consequentialism (or utilitarianism) to deontological ethics, also mentioning virtue ethics, and reviews Roderick Long's essay "Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?"
Consistent free-market advocates — and not just professional economists — are not only enthusiastic about their preferred system of political economy; they are very enthusiastic. At least part of that enthusiasm is fueled by a well-grounded conviction that the general level of prosperity would be unprecedentedly high if people were free to engage in peaceful production and exchange without forcible interference by the state ... It may be an interesting exercise to imagine how we'd feel about freed markets if the consequences were generally bad, but we need lose no sleep over the question. And now we know why.
The Constitution or Liberty, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Dec 2007
Contrasts Article II of the Articles of Confederation with the Tenth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and discusses the implied powers doctrine (a revised version was published in The Freeman, Jan/Feb 2008)
Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
We might think those words—or words to the same effect—are in the U.S. Constitution. But they are not. They are from Article II of the Articles of Confederation ... As Lysander Spooner in 1870 wrote, the Constitution "has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it." Liberty's champions have to come to terms with that logic.
The Constitution Within, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 Aug 2006
Questions the validity of constitutions by relating how James Madison behaved during the debates over the U.S. document and later after his introduction in the first Congress of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights
In recent columns I've argued that a free society depends ultimately on people having a proper sense of just conduct. This means more than the words they recite or put on paper. Most crucial is how they act and expect others to act. For this reason it is futile to put undue emphasis on written constitutions as the key to liberty ... As Madison himself warned, "parchment barriers" inspire little confidence. For the sake of freedom there is no substitute for getting right the constitution within. And for that, there is no substitute for self-education and an articulate passion for liberty.
The Court Almost Gets It Right on Guns, Future of Freedom, Oct 2008
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions on the D.C. law that banned handguns in private homes
Advocates of freedom barely dodged a bullet when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the right to keep and bear arms ... is an individual not a collective right. Opponents of gun ownership have long maintained that the Amendment's reference to the militia indicates that the right does not apply to private individuals ... Well, excuse me, Justice Breyer, if protection of our freedoms imposes a ... potentially dangerous mission on the Court. Talk about wagging the dog! It would be far more dangerous — to the people — if firearms were banned. Criminals would get them anyway. But the law-abiding among us would be left vulnerable.
The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 Feb 2008
In the wake of Super Tuesday 2008, reviews the "Voting Versus the Market" chapter of Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law (1961)
The hoopla over Super Tuesday reminded me of an essay I read long ago by Bruno Leoni (1913-1967), an Italian legal scholar and great champion of liberty. I've been meaning to discuss the many important themes in his book, Freedom and the Law (expanded third edition), and will surely return to it in the near future. But for now I'll focus on the final chapter ... In other words, politically one size fits all. If you lose this time, you'll have another chance later to impose your will on everyone else. The upshot? Anyone who values his or her liberty should favor replacement of government by the market wherever possible.
Crime and Punishment in a Free Society, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Dec 2013
Describes how customary law and the principle of restitution were corrupted by English kings into a system of government laws and punishment of crimes (originally, violations of the "king's peace")
Would a free society be a crime-free society? We have good reason to anticipate it. Don't accuse me of utopianism. I don't foresee a future of new human beings who consistently respect the rights of others. Rather, I'm drawing attention to the distinction between crime and tort — between offenses against the state (or society) and offenses against individual persons or their justly held property ... In a free society, crimes against person and property would be treated like torts. This would be a welcome change in a society that imprisons more people than any other, often for nonviolent and victimless "crimes."
Related Topics: Bruce L. Benson, England, Law
Crime and Punishment in a Free Society, Future of Freedom, Apr 2014
Revised and expanded version of "The Goal Is Freedom" column dated 6 Dec 2013
We're so used to [the] distinction [between offenses against the state and offenses against individual persons or their property], and the priority of the criminal law over tort law, that most of us don't realize that things used to be different. Not so long ago, an "offense" that was not an act of force against an individual was not an offense at all ... In a free society the category torts would fully replace the category crimes, and restitution would fully replace retribution. That would be a welcome change in a society that imprisons more people than any other, often for nonviolent and victimless "crimes."
Related Topic: Roderick T. Long
The Cruel Joke of Sacralizing Voting, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Feb 2014
Comments on an MSNBC TV spot implying that voting is the only way to express oneself that really counts
By now we're used to MSNBC's state adoration, expressed not only on its programs but also through in-house promotions. These are often heavy-handed, such as Rachel Maddow's spots asserting that only governments can accomplish "great things." Sometimes the promos are more subtle, such as one currently running ... In the Progressives' view, the worst thing you can do to people is impede their ability to vote ... It follows that there is no virtue in getting out the vote. A large turnout gives legitimacy to rulers and sedates the people, but it's unlikely to roll back power and expand liberty.
The Cynical U.S. Policy on Chemical Weapons, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Sep 2013
Discusses evidence of what is known and not so known about countries involved in the Middle East and chemical and nuclear weapons, referencing findings from Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco
"I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line." That was President Obama's response this week to those who believe he wants to attack Syria in order to defend his own credibility. Secretary of State John Kerry said the same thing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They were referring to the 88-year-old Geneva Protocol ... Zunes [writes] "... Washington uses the alleged threat from chemical weapons as an excuse to target specific countries whose governments are seen as hostile to U.S. political and economic interests." We're witnessing the latest episode in that longstanding pattern today.
Related Topics: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
The Danger Is Intervention, Not "Isolation", 29 May 2014
Reflects on pronouncements by President Obama (at West Point) and Defense Secretary Hagel (at a Chicago foreign affairs forum) on Americans turning more "isolationist"
A lot of people are warning against America turning "isolationist." We can dismiss the warnings ... emanating from other countries, where people have free-ridden on American taxpayers for decades. If Europeans are worried about defending themselves, why are they cutting their military budgets? ... NATO's air strikes in Libya spread arms and battle-trained jihadis into west Africa. The law of unintended consequences makes fools of so-called leaders. Danger ... lies not in "isolationism"—a misnomer if global trade and travel are freed. Rather, it lies in a rogue and delusional U.S. government that tries to police the world.
Default Circus — er, Crisis — Averted?, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 Oct 2013
Examines the U.S. government's possibility of default on its debt and other obligations, with some side remarks on handling of Social Security funds
Even the sagacious Mencken might be amazed by what’s happening these days. Wherever we look, there are hobgoblins. The latest is — insert horror music stab here — DEFAULT. Oooooo. Apparently the threats of international terror and China rising aren't enough to keep us alarmed and eager for the tether ... When the exploited industrious classes catch on ..., those creditors will find their bonds, bills, and contracts in jeopardy — and properly so. It could happen sooner than that, if ... our (mis)leaders realize that repudiation of the debt is the least bad way out of the fiscal morass they've created.
Delete the Fed, 20 Aug 2013
Asks who should run the Federal Reserve after Bernanke's term expires and argues the Fed is unnecessary to stabilize the economy or to prevent unemployment, but harmful in other ways
Who should run the Federal Reserve System when chairman Ben Bernanke's term expires next year: Vice Chair Janet Yellen or former Obama adviser Lawrence Summers? ... The fact is, we need the Federal Reserve like we need a hole in the head. Contrary to folklore, the Fed is not needed to stabilize the economy or to prevent unemployment ... Money ... was the spontaneous creation of people trying to ease exchange in the marketplace. Central banks ... only messed money up, robbing the people while facilitating warfare and welfare spending through irresponsible large-scale government borrowing. Thus the Fed should be deleted.
Democracy and Government Schools, Future of Freedom, Jan 2007
Discusses the current state of government education, including "creative solutions" such as charter schools and vouchers, and the influence of the "religion of democracy" in achieving a free market in education
Let's be frank. We advocates of a completely free market in education are making little progress. I think I know why. Before I get to that, let's look at where we are. Roughly 90 percent of American children attend government schools. That share has not changed substantially in the last 20 years ... The proper solution is to end government schooling, repeal school taxes, and let parents spend their money on education as they see fit. No schools should receive tax money. But that day will come only when people give up ... their concomitant belief that government represents their true interests in education.
Did Team Obama Blunder or Conspire in Ukraine?, 20 Mar 2014
Further analysis of the 2014 Ukraine and Russia situation after the latter annexed Crimea, considering whether this was engineered by the Obama administration purposely or with unwanted consequences, as an example of U.S. meddling in foreign nations
While no one ever lost money overestimating the capacity of the U.S. government to blunder, we cannot rule out that American officials knew exactly what they were doing when they helped provoke the crisis in Ukraine ... Meddling in other countries' affairs is nothing new for America. We can learn much from Secretary Nuland's husband, neoconservative brain-truster Robert Kagan, whose 2006 historical work, Dangerous Nation urges Americans to realize that their country is an empire now and always has been ... Kagan wants us to embrace the empire with gusto. Instead, we should reject and liquidate it.
The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy, 6 Jun 2014
Considers the effect of U.S. involvement in the Middle East in the past two decades, in view of the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner exchange, and reflects on the practical effect of killing Osama bin Laden
We live in angry times. For evidence, turn on any news program. An awful lot of people, led by right-wing politicians and radio and TV entertainers, are angry at Barack Obama for trading five Taliban officials, who have been held for years without charge in the Guantánamo prison, for an American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ... The policymakers didn't go into Afghanistan to win — no one could have been that delusional so soon after the Soviet defeat. They went in to show the American empire's power and resolve, and to reestablish political and economic dominance in that part of the world. They failed on all counts.
Does Freedom Require Empire?, The Goal Is Freedom, 5 Sep 2014
Critiques Daniel McCarthy's "Why Liberalism Means Empire" (July 2014), which attempts to justify British and American imperialism by insisting that "power is the basis of the peaceful order upon which liberal democracy rests"
In a startling article, Daniel McCarthy, the admirable editor of The American Conservative ..., writes, "Successive British and American empires created and upheld the world order in which [classical] liberalism could flourish." In other words, ... "Liberalism and empire reinforced one another in manifold ways." ... A radically free society that had no means to threaten other societies might be conquered by a malevolent power, despite its ideological commitment to freedom, its wealth, its technological advantages. On the other hand, as we've seen, even a well-intended empire holds the seeds of domestic tyranny.
Does Obama Have the Courage to Pursue Peace with Iran?, 23 Oct 2013
Examines how the warmongers in the U.S. Congress as well Netanyahu's government put pressure on Barack Obama not to reach a peaceful agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue
Settling the nuclear controversy with Iran peacefully will require courage on President Obama’s part. Does he have what it will take to resist those who prefer war? While Obama has yet to stake out a promising unequivocal position, if he does, the obstacles would remain formidable ... U.S. and Israeli intelligence says Iran has no plans to build nuclear weapons. (Its leadership has issued a fatwa against weapons of mass destruction.) ... even if it did build one, Iran would be deterred from offensive action by America's and Israel's overwhelming nuclear arsenals. Obama must stand up to Netanyahu and the war party.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, Barack Obama
Does Obama Want an Agreement with Iran or Not?, 18 Dec 2013
Ponders the sincerity of Obama and his administration's actions after negotiating an interim agreement with Iran regarding sanctions
What are President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry up to with Iran? First they boasted of a historic interim agreement with Iran regarding its civilian nuclear program — an agreement which demonstrates that the Islamic Republic won't be making nuclear weapons — something it has shown no inclination to do anyway ... "Millions of lives are at risk in Iran because western economic sanctions are hitting the importing of medicines and hospital equipment, the country's top medical charity has warned," reports the Guardian ... How can we let this go on in our name?
Related Topics: Iran, Barack Obama
Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire, 25 Feb 2015
Comments on threats against Americans and Canadians from the Somali al-Shabaab organization and recounts U.S. intervention in Somalia since the 1990s
If you find no other argument against American intervention abroad persuasive, how about this one? When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments' invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans ... Had the ICU been left to govern, we might never have heard of [al-Shabaab], whom the Obama administration now uses to scare American shoppers.We can live without the fear of terrorism — but only if the U.S. government stops antagonizing foreign populations that have never threatened us.
Related Topics: Foreign Entanglements, Somalia
Don't Blame the Thermometer for the Fever, Future of Freedom, Jan 1999
Discusses President Clinton's calls for worldwide regulations limiting capital movements and for a global regime similar to the New Deal, comparing his views on private property with those of Hitler
When communism collapsed a few years ago, people thought that the last grand ideological debate over political economy had finally ended. Supposedly, we were all capitalists now. But this is clearly not the case. The world's political leaders show no signs of a commitment to capitalism, if by that term we mean truly free markets and individual liberty ... what we need is the repeal of central banking everywhere, deregulation of capital, and full respect for property rights, without which no human rights are possible. The world today suffers not from too much capitalism, but from far too little.
Don't Fund Religious Groups, Jun 2001
Argues against George W. Bush's proposal to give taxpayers' money to religious organizations, rather than ending similar subsidies to secular groups
President Bush just doesn't get it. He may say, repeatedly, that the surplus belongs to the people and push for a modest tax cut, but if he really believed his own words, he wouldn't be proposing to spend the taxpayers' money on social-welfare activities performed by religious organizations ... Nothing good can come out of this program ... Bush is getting high marks from conservatives, but one suspects they are marking on a curve. Subsidizing religious social-welfare organizations, rather than ending the subsidies to secular groups, is nothing to rave about. It goes against every principle conservatives say they support.
Don't Get Out the Vote, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Feb 2014
Examines the writings of Bryan Caplan and Michael Huemer to determine whether get-out-the-vote campaigns are beneficial in any way
A seminar student once became upset with me for suggesting that instead of running get-out-the-vote campaigns, the government should keep the dates of elections and the locations of polling places secret so that only people with enough initiative and interest to ferret out the information could vote. It was not a serious suggestion ... Instead of neglect, I'd say the government should get out of the way and let people solve problems through free social cooperation, a good part of which would occur in the freed market. Thus, politicians, don't just stand there. Undo something!
Don't Look for Grown-Ups in Government, 16 Oct 2013
Responds to pundits demanding adult, i.e., responsible, behavior from politicians, in particular with regard to lifting the debt ceiling (which kept the U.S. government partially closed in early Oct 2013)
With the government partially closed for over two weeks now and the debt-ceiling deadline upon us, the pundits are demanding that the "grown-ups in the room" finally put a stop to the childish goings-on in Washington. That would be nice — except there are no grown-ups in the room ... Can you sue politicians for damages? Can you prosecute them for theft? Of course not. So where is the real accountability? There is none. The upshot is that politicians are more irresponsible than children — children don't have credit cards. So if you're looking for grown-ups, look anywhere but government.
Related Topics: Children, Economics, Society, Voting
Don't Repeal the Sixteenth Amendment!, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 May 2008
Prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court denial of review of Murphy v. IRS, analyzes various court cases regarding income taxation and suggests the only way to eliminate taxation is by educating and changing people's minds
Surely any champion of freedom wants to get rid of the income tax. And surely the way to really get rid of the income tax is to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Right? Wrong. Repealing the Sixteenth Amendment would be a waste of time because its disappearance would change nothing. Alas, Congress could continue to tax incomes ... As the Anti-federalists warned in 1787 — and the courts have affirmed — the Constitution empowers Congress to tax whatever it wants. If we are ever to get rid of the income tax, we'll have to do it by amending the real constitution — the one in the hearts and minds of the people.
Dump the Contraception Mandate and All the Rest, The Goal Is Freedom, 3 Jan 2014
Questions the logic of advocates of mandating employers to pay for "insurance" coverage of contraceptives
In the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees' contraceptives, you are the one contemptuous of religious freedom. As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, "the threat to religious liberty comes from employers trying to impose their religious views on workers." ... The only thing any of us can be legitimately required to do is abstain from initiating force and fraud against others. Enforceable decrees that go beyond that simple prohibition violate our rights and have no place in a civil society.
Economic Nationalism, Enemy of the People, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Nov 2006
Considers the outcome of the 2006 U.S. congressional elections and explains the benefits of free trade and the perils of protectionism and economic nationalism
"With the 2006 election, America appears to have reached the tipping point on free trade. ... Anxiety, and fear of jobs lost to India and China, seems a more powerful emotion than gratitude for the inexpensive goods at Wal-Mart ..." So writes conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan in his post-election analysis ... No government action that makes it more difficult to obtain products can be good for us. Henry George had it right: "What protectionism teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war." Let's hope that bit of wisdom finds its way to the new Congress.
The Economics Lesson Obama Needs to Learn, 25 Jul 2013
Explains economics (scarcity, the marketplace, entrepreneurship) in simple terms and contrasts government projects and "services" to those undertaken or provided subject to the market test of the consumers
President Obama is again turning his attention to the elusive economic recovery. His "pivot" will be for naught, however, as long as he continues to ignore two important points: first, government is a major squanderer of scarce resources, and second, its regulations are impediments to saving and investment ... Uncertainty about future taxation and regulation, for example, increases the risk of investment and hence reduces it. An indispensable prerequisite of economic well-being is humility on the part of politicians. How about it, President Obama?
The Economic Way of Thinking about Health Care, The Goal Is Freedom, 20 Feb 2015
Discusses voicing of opinions on public policy, as exemplified by Mike Lupica's comment on "health insurance for all", without having knowledge of economics, the corruption of the meaning of "insurance" and the goal of universal and affordable healthcare
I realize Mike Lupica is a sports columnist — and that Howard Cosell called sports "the toy department of life" — but maybe that's what makes Lupica's recent declaration about Obamacare all the more representative a reaction ... Lupica declared that "health insurance for all is a noble idea." ... Yes, universal and affordable health care is both a noble objective and a practical goal. All we need do to achieve it is sweep away the political privileges and free people from the impositions of politicians, bureaucrats, and their "private sector" patrons. Understanding the economic way of thinking is the beginning of wisdom.
Election 2014: The Good News and Bad, 6 Nov 2014
Sobering comments on elections, governments, democracy and why voting is of so little consequence to the individual voter
The 2014 midterm election delivered both good news and bad. The good news is that the losers lost. The bad news is that the winners won. Journalist Mike Barnicle says he's never seen an election in which the people feel so distant from the government. I wish his diagnosis were right, but I suspect it is not ... In the end, democratic representation—the opiate of the masses—is just a way to stop us from complaining. The people in Washington aren't our representatives. They are our rulers. But fear not. The alternative isn't dictatorship. It's individual freedom, responsibility, contract, and voluntary mutual aid.
Eminent-Domain Chutzpah, 30 Oct 2006
Discusses a case in Riviera Beach, Florida where a developer was threatening to sue the city council for reneging on a supposed deal to use eminent domain on an area for private redevelopment
Talk about chutzpah! A development company is thinking about suing Florida and the city of Riviera Beach for refusing to use eminent domain to provide land for upscale condominiums and a marina. Viking Inlet Harbor Properties was assured the city would condemn a number of working-class homes, but the city council had second thoughts ... "... More often than not, governments justify these private-to-private transfers by making bogus 'blight' declarations ... But if that can be a justification for taking someone's property, then no home, small business, farm, or church will be safe from this kind of government land-grab."
Empire on Their Minds, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Mar 2014
First compares recent Russian and U.S. imperialistic behavior, then delves into the imperial tendencies of the Founding Fathers and early U.S. Presidents
The conflict in Ukraine has prompted several level-headed commentators to point out that, of all governments, the U.S. government is in no position to lecture Russia about respecting other nations' borders. When Secretary of State John Kerry said ... "This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up ..." ... This history doesn't excuse Russia, but it does put Putin's actions in perspective. It also accounts for the less-than-awed reception for President Obama's and Secretary Kerry’s sanctimonious utterances. To the extent that Obama and Kerry imply that Russia threatens our "peace and safety," they look like fools.
End Draft Registration!, 29 Dec 2006
Comments on the proposal by Rep. Charles Rangel to resume military conscription and examines the history of the draft and the registration requirement
Whenever U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who will soon chair the House Ways and Means Committee, calls for resumption of military conscription, a host of powerful figures, Republican and Democrat, civilian and military, chime in at once to repudiate his proposal. They respond that the U.S. military doesn't need or want a draft ... Advocates of the draft harbor a premise that has no place in a free society — that the individual belongs to the state. Every American should find that idea revolting. It's time to end draft registration.
Related Topics: Jimmy Carter, War
End the Other War Too, 1 Dec 2006
Discusses the case of an 88-year old woman killed by police based on a false report from an informant, quoting from a Radley Balko report covering the increasing use of SWAT teams in drug war raids
The war in Iraq goes on, but we shouldn't let it overshadow the war at home — one that frequently takes the lives of people who don't deserve to die. It's known as the War on Drugs, but it's really a war on people who themselves are not making war against anyone ... In a free society adults have the right to ingest whatever they want. It's no business of the government. But if it makes such peaceful private activity its business, law enforcement will inevitably turn to measures that jeopardize the lives of people who have harmed no one else. Let's end this madness now.
Escape from Responsibility, May 1996
Discusses legal cases where victims attempt to hold third-parties (e.g., book publishers, gun manufacturers, tobacco companies) responsible for crimes or other harms
The welfare state teaches the implicit lesson that you are not responsible for yourself. You will be taken care of. The "safety net" will catch you if you fall. And because of that, you may be required to do certain things and prohibited from doing other things — all in the name of taking care of you and others ... The only way to avoid that trap is to reject the safety net in the first place. The best argument against Medicare and Social Security is that they rob people of their independence. An old Spanish proverb goes: "God said, take what you want, and pay for it." Good advice.
Examining Reagan's Record on Free Trade, The Wall Street Journal, 10 May 1982
Analyzes several actions taken by the Reagan administration that belie Mr. Reagan's alleged pro-free trade stance
Hardly anyone was surprised when the Reagan administration imposed quotas on sugar imports last week ... It's remarkable because Mr. Reagan wants to be known as a free-trader. Indeed, he lists as heroes some of history's foremost free-traders: Frederic Bastiat, Richard Cobden, Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, all of whom would find import quotas odious ... Free trade, not nationalistic exclusionism, is now the respectable position among economists across the spectrum. But what one hears more and more today are protectionist statements prefaced with, "Of course I'm for free trade, but ..."
Extortion in Port Chester, 5 Jan 2007
Relates the case of the Village of Port Chester, New York which granted exclusive rights to a development area and then overrode the rights of Bart Didden whose property laid partly in that area
The least appreciated form of tyranny in the United States goes by the names redevelopment and government-business partnership. While everyone knows about the threat of development-oriented eminent domain, ... local tyranny goes much deeper than the mere taking of property in order to give it to another private party ... Didden does not shrink from using it: "My case is about extortion through the abuse of eminent domain ... It took me years of hard work to buy that property, pay off my mortgages and really feel like I own it. How dare the Village of Port Chester and this developer threaten me in this way."
Familiar Bedfellows, 19 Nov 2014
Examines Hillary Clinton's review of Henry Kissinger's World Order (2014)
Hillary and Henry sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G-E-R! It says a lot about former secretary of state and presumed presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton that she's a member of the Henry Kissinger Fan Club. Progressives who despised George W. Bush might want to examine any warm, fuzzy feelings they harbor for Clinton ... The suggestion that Kissinger cares what ordinary citizens anywhere think is ridiculous. What he cares about is states, which he puts in one of two categories: those that buckle under to the Indispensable Empire and those that do not. Henry, er, Hillary in 2016? You might want to rethink that.
Related Topic: Barack Obama
Farm Subsidies Must Go, 30 Apr 2004
Discusses the U.S. response to a World Trade Organization ruling on a Brazilian complaint that U.S. subsidies to cotton farmers violate WTO rules
In Washington, hypocrisy knows no bounds. The latest example is the U.S. government's response to the World Trade Organization's preliminary ruling that subsidies to American cotton farmers distort international trade and violate WTO rules. The first response from U.S. officials was that Brazil ... should address the issue through multilateral negotiations, rather than by filing a grievance ... America is in no position to teach the world to embrace the free market as long as its government sticks to this obviously two-faced position. But this is an election year, and no year is far from the next election year.
Related Topics: Brazil, Farming
Fascism, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2008
Defines fascism, contrasting it with other ideologies, identifying Mussolini's Italy and Nazi Germany as its two main exponents and discussing its influence on the New Deal
As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer. The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism ... Hugh Johnson, head of the National Recovery Administration, was known to carry a copy of Raffaello Viglione's pro-Mussolini book, The Corporate State, with him, presented a copy to Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and, on retirement, paid tribute to the Italian dictator.
Fear Not China, 8 Jun 2005
Counsels Americans not to be afraid of China's economic activities, debunking concerns over "job losses" and the trade deficit
China. Why has that word for so long struck fear in the hearts of Americans? During the Cold War people harbored terrible fantasies about hordes of Chinese swarming over them and imposing a virulent Oriental communism. Now the Cold War is over ... China ... is not your father's Red nemesis ... Anyone who is concerned about China’s being a creditor should direct his wrath at the U.S. government. It's the one engaging in deficit spending and selling Treasury bills to the Chinese. If none were sold, none could be bought. The new anti-Chinese hysteria makes less sense than the old did.
Related Topics: China, Free Trade, Labor
The Ferguson Distraction, 4 Dec 2014
In the wake of Michael Brown's shooting death, points out the unequally kept statistics on the number of people killed by police vs. police officers killed and suggests Americans should rethink the police force "experiment" began in 1829 in London
Ironically, the shooting death of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson, MO, police officer Darren Wilson is a distraction from the racist police brutality that ravages America. Whether or not Wilson shot Brown unjustifiably, and whether or not Brown provoked the shooting by grabbing for Wilson's gun, the police — and the government officials who employ and arm them — are a big problem ... Repealing victimless-"crime" statutes is imperative, but we also must rethink the top-down model of policing. After all, London didn't get a police force until 1829. We could declare the experiment a flop and move on.
Related Topic: Rights
Fighting Discrimination without the Government, Future of Freedom, Jun 2014
Comments on an amendment to Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), about discrimination by non-government individuals or groups
Should the government coercively sanction business owners who refuse to serve customers because of their race or ethnicity? While such behavior is troubling ... the refusal to serve someone on such a basis is nevertheless an exercise of self-ownership, property rights, and freedom of nonassociation ... invidious, collectivist discrimination, however peaceful, corrodes the foundations of a free society. The historical radical liberal project strove for human flourishing through individual freedom, tolerance, and social cooperation. The right to be a nonviolent ogre was merely a logical, uninteresting implication.
A Foreign Policy by and for Knaves, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Oct 2014
Further thoughts on Richman's "Does Freedom Require Empire" (5 Sep 2014) prompted by Daniel McCarthy's counterpoint article as well as David Hume's and Leonard Read's writings
David Hume (1711-1776) was no hardcore libertarian, but he was a provocative thinker and a key figure in the development of liberalism. Hume helped make the Scottish Enlightenment the important period it was. He also can be fun to read. Observe this from his essay "Of the Independency of Parliament" ... Even with the best intentions, the administrators of the world hegemon must suffer a critical and insurmountable ignorance ... the case for liberal empire also must fail. If we wish to achieve and maintain liberalism at home, we'll have to find means other than offensive military power.
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere, 17 Feb 2015
Examines the results of several decades of American intervention in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere
If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil? ... As over two centuries show, American hegemony — "exceptionalism" — is in the nation's political DNA. Even the opening of foreign markets to American producers was always seen as a government program backed by a navy with global reach. It's well past time for us to think about what horrifies our rulers: nonintervention.
Frédéric Bastiat and Subjective Marginal Utility, The Goal Is Freedom, 2 Aug 2013
After discussing marginal utility as presented by Menger and the Austrian school, examines how Bastiat anticipated many of the same concepts in his writings
In the 1870s economics took a radical turn in what is known as the "marginal revolution." Whereas the classical economists, beginning with Adam Smith, cleaved use-value from exchange-value and thought in terms of the total utility and total supplies of goods, Carl Menger, William Stanley Jevons, and Leon Walras realized that people act at the margin ... A double inequality of value must exist for a trade to take place. Bastiat partly grasped the point implicitly but would not explicitly recognize it, insisting that "two services that are exchanged are equal to each other." He was a great theorist nonetheless.
Free Cory Maye, Future of Freedom, May 2006
Further discussion and commentary on the case of Cory Maye (see Richman's article "More Drug-War Victims", Dec 2005)
Where are all the celebrities and human-rights activists? Where are Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon? ... I watch cable news a lot, but I have yet to see one word about death-row inmate Cory Maye. Why not? You haven't heard of Cory Maye? Few people have, despite the best efforts of blogger-journalist Radley Balko ... From the looks of things, Maye acted to protect his daughter and himself. The government put them and Ron Jones in jeopardy by its senseless persecution of drug consumers. Let's hope the Mississippi supreme court keeps this horror from getting worse. Free Cory Maye!
Freeing the Education Market, Future of Freedom, Mar 1993
Examines the effects of compulsory public education on literacy rates and suggests market alternatives
Many a profound word is spoken unwittingly. Senator Edward M. Kennedy's office once issued a paper stating that the literacy rate in Massachusetts has never been as high as it was before compulsory schooling was instituted. Before 1850, when Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to force children to go to school, literacy was at 98 percent ... The urgent solution to the education crisis is the complete separation of school and state. The public schools should be sold to the highest bidder, school taxes scrapped, and compulsory-attendance laws repealed.
Free Markets Aren't Conservative, Nov 2001
Explains why businesses, especially the larger and well established ones, favor regulations and taxes, and why a free, unregulated or "self-regulating" market protects consumer better
One of the great myths of the Industrial Age is that businessmen generally like free markets. That myth has deep implications and consequences. For example, someone who buys into it will tend to believe that proposals to deregulate markets are simply favors for special interests and inimical to the interests of most people ... Behind virtually every regulation is a businessman trying to win what consumers refuse to award him. Capitalism has been harmed by its invalid association with established conservative interests, when in fact it is a force for exploration, evolution, and progress.
Free-Market Socialism, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Nov 2014
Counters the caricature of libertarians as hyperindividualists or atomistic and explains the benefits that could be gained from truly freed markets
Libertarians are individualists. But since individualist has many senses, that statement isn't terribly informative. Does it mean that libertarians are social nonconformists on principle? Not at all. Some few libertarians may aspire to be, but most would see that as undesirable because it would obstruct their most important objectives ... the freed market would give traditional leftists what they say they want: a society in which free, voluntary, and peaceful cooperation ultimately controls the means of production for the good of all people. What well-wisher of humanity could ask for anything more?
Full Context, The Freeman, Apr 2006
Explains why, when arguing against government interventions, such as an oil windfall-profits tax or labor market regulations, it is essential to be aware that the existing corporatist economy does not equate to the free market
In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith ... wrote, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices." It may seem strange that history's best-known advocate of the free market would cast such aspersions on business people ... Context-holding is not just of academic interest; it has strategic implications. If we keep in mind that the current threat to liberty is the centrist corporate state, we will see that a top priority is the repeal of all corporate subsidies, even the most subtle kinds.
Getting Away with Torture, 17 Dec 2014
Discusses some of the responses to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, declassified in Dec 2014
Now we have it straight from the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible." ... Regular Americans are held accountable for their actions. Why are not government officials? As long as the American people overlook government's criminal acts, the state will continue to commit crimes.
Give America a Raise?, 5 Feb 2014
Reflects on a remark in the 2014 State of the Union address and explains why legislating a minimum wage tends to harm those it supposedly intends to help
President Obama said something especially perplexing when he implored Congress during his State of the Union address to "Give America a raise." Since when does Congress have the power to do that? ... The only way to maximize the market's tendency to accurately reward people for their productivity is to remove all government barriers to competition and self-employment. This includes occupational licensing, land-use restrictions, permitting, intellectual property, and more. Alternatives, not political machinations, are what maximize workers' clout and ensure their just reward.
The "Good-Government" Attack on Free Speech, 1 May 2001
Discusses the freedom of speech and individual liberty implications of McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill (which later became law as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002)
I keep waiting for a swell of sanity to wash Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold's campaign finance "reform" bill away once and for all. But I am beginning to despair that there isn't that much sanity around anymore. The polls show that most people don't care about campaign finance issues ... As for what the politicians are afraid of, that's an easy question. They are afraid of losing their jobs. Any limits on contributions would perforce harm lesser-known challengers more than incumbents, who have many ways to get free publicity. McCain-Feingold is an incumbent-protection act plain and simple.
Related Topics: Government, Freedom of Speech
GOP, R.I.P?, 11 Feb 2008
Reviews conservatives' criticisms of John McCain and his positions in his 2008 presidential campaign as well as what the criticism may mean for the Republican Party
I don't usually come to the defense of conservatives, but I am perplexed that they are being attacked because they don't support John McCain's presidential bid. Self-anointed Voices of Responsibility are chiding conservative spokesmen and spokeswomen for criticizing McCain on several counts ... McCain is a fan of Theodore Roosevelt, who was an unabashed imperialist and lover of war. Who'd want such a man in the White House? I agree with the conservatives in this respect: a Republican party that nominates John McCain for president is unfit to exist. The sooner it is demolished, the better.
Government Failure, The Goal Is Freedom, 5 Oct 2007
Examines the validity of the concept of "market failures" as an argument for government intervention, reviewing arguments made by David Friedman in the article "Do We Need Government?", Liberty, Dec 2005
A popular academic rationalization for having government forcibly override people's economic decisions is the theory of market failure. Advocates of the free market have long emphasized that the countless self-regarding actions individuals perform daily in the marketplace generate a larger complex spontaneous, or undesigned, order ... it is imprecise to call it market failure. Maybe it's simply a social failure. Whatever we call it, let's avoid the qualifier market, for it only prejudices the case and lends an illusion of credibility to the statists' arguments.
Government Is the Problem, Future of Freedom, Aug 2013
Discusses a spring 2013 speech by Barack Obama, the facts that contradict his statements and delves into "our experiment in self-government" and the problems of representation dating even to the Founding Fathers
Last spring Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University, "Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems ..." ... At a news conference, Obama reflected on the gridlock that keeps things from happening in Washington, D.C., "I sure want to do some governing." Let's take him at his word recalling how Pierre-Joseph Proudhon defined "governing": "To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated ..."
Government Keeps People Poor, 28 Jun 2006
Enumerates five ways in which, although politicians claim to care about the poor, government keeps people in poverty
Washington reruns are boring. A Democrat beholden to Big Labor proposes an increase in the mandated minimum wage. Republicans beholden to Big (and small) Business defeat the bill. End of episode. Each side has thus reestablished its bona fides with its ... constituency and thus can return to what it really cares about — spending the people's money on war against this, that, or the other ... Government is and has long been the enemy of low-income people. The next time you hear Republicans and Democrats shed tears for the downtrodden, remember that they refuse to give up the power that keeps those folks poor — and dependent on them.
Government the Exploiter, Not Protector, 14 Jul 2006
Argues that, contrary to popular belief, the primary goal of government is not to protect the citizens but rather to exploit them though taxes and a system of privileges that favors those with political connections
If you begin with an incorrect premise, you are bound to arrive at bad conclusions. Nowhere is this more true than in matters of government. The debates over the "war on terror," the Iraqi occupation ... are premised on the idea that the primary mission of the government in Washington is to protect the American people from harm ... Rulers have long played the security card with great agility. Don't watch us too closely or put restrictions on us ... People with a penchant for trusting politicians will find that persuasive. But those with some knowledge of the history of government see through the charade.
The Greatness of Peace Activist John Bright, The Goal Is Freedom, 24 May 2013
Commentary on John Bright's opposition to war and interventionism. with relevant excerpts to several of his speeches
As we approach Memorial Day — or what I like to call Revisionist History Day — it's fitting to contemplate the words of one of the world’s great peace activists, John Bright (1811–1889). Bright, a Quaker and Nonconformist, is best known for leading (with Richard Cobden) Britain's Anti-Corn Law League, the organization that fought successfully to abolish the tariff on grain imports, which had benefited the landed aristocracy by raising the price of food for working people. He was also a manufacturer ... and an eloquent orator ... Perhaps Memorial Day would be a good time to ponder Bright's stirring words.
Related Topics: John Bright, Ethics, United Kingdom, War
Happy Birthday, Thomas Szasz!, 15 Apr 2010
Short tribute to Dr. Szasz on his ninetieth birthday, including a list of most of his books
Thomas Szasz, the great champion of liberty and critic of what he has dubbed the "Therapeutic State," is 90 today. For the last 50 years, no one has worked harder or more eloquently to defend the individual from the State-medicine complex than Szasz. His specialty — so-called “mental health” issues — puts him virtually in a class by himself among libertarians. These issues include civil commitment ..., forced drugging and other "treatments" ... I first met Tom in the 1970s. Since then he has been a constant inspiration to me. I am proud to know him. All lovers of liberty should be familiar with is heroic life.
Related Topic: Thomas Szasz
Health Insurance Scam, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Nov 2009
Analyzes how what is called "health insurance" is not about health nor is it insurance, how it came about from "wartime economic controls", and why it has resulted in rising medical care costs
It is fitting, on several levels, that the debate over de facto nationalization of "health care" may hinge on abortion. To get her bill through the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to accept an amendment that would forbid the use of taxpayer money to buy insurance policies that pay for abortions (except for rape, incest, and danger to the mother) ... We need not question anyone's motives. It should be enough to point out that the logic of government control of medical care and insurance must, sooner or later, entail interference in our most personal affairs. How can we be letting this happen?
Here's How the U.S. Can Help Rid the World of Chemical Weapons, 11 Sep 2013
Argues the U.S. government could set a better example by destroying all its chemical weapons, encouraging Israel and Egypt to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, and itself ratifying the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (which bans cluster bombs)
If President Obama is serious about ridding the world, and not just Syria, of chemical weapons, he and America's closest allies in the Middle East should lead the way. Although the United States has ratified the 20-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention, it has not destroyed its entire arsenal, as required under the CWC ... the United States manufactures cluster bombs and recently sold ... them ... to Saudi Arabia ... Israel, Indonesia, and Pakistan. American presidents love to brag about their world leadership. Here are concrete ways to lead that would actually bring constructive results.
Related Topics: Israel, Syria, United States, War
Heroic, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 Aug 2013
Discusses the inspiring yet naïve actions of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning when she realized she could no longer participate in the atrocities of war
Bradley Manning (who wishes to be known as Chelsea Manning) sure was naïve. During the sentencing phase of Manning's court martial, Alexa O’Brien reports, a forensic psychiatrist said, "Well, Pfc Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ..." ... Obama pronounced her guilty before the court martial. But we can hope that Manning's term is as short and easy as possible. (Let's not forget the cruel treatment she has already undergone at the hands of her captors.) Thank you, Chelsea Manning. You are an inspiration.
Related Topics: Ethics, Iraq War, War
Hidden Government, 1 Sep 2006
Discusses the July 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, which resulted in 800 dead and which, according to Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, was carried out with assistance and approval of the Bush administration
Americans pride themselves on "self-government." But when significant policies are undertaken without their notice, much less consent, self-government is a cruel hoax. Reporting by Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and other sources indicate that the Bush administration actively helped the Israeli government plan an attack on Lebanon ... Where did President Bush find this blank check? Do the American people have any idea what is being done in their name? Are they aware that wars in Iraq and Lebanon appear to be preludes to a war in Iran? Can anyone keep a straight face while calling this self-government?
History Lesson Lost, 6 Oct 2006
Discusses the Articles of Confederation, based mostly on The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 (1940) by Merrill Jensen
Call me nostalgic, but I still have a thing for the Articles of Confederation. Maybe it's the enticement of forbidden fruit. In the government schools I attended little if anything was said about the eight years during which the United States of America were governed under the Articles ... The Articles of Confederation, though hardly perfect, embraced those principles. The plan that took its place exchanged those principles for the promise of checks and balances within a strong central government. It's fascinating to ponder how things would have turned out had that exchange not taken place.
Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short, 2 Jul 2014
Dissects the good and bad parts of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ruling against the Affordable Care Act provision that required employers to pay for contraceptives
As far as it went, the Supreme Court generally got it right in the Hobby Lobby-Obamacare-contraception case. Unfortunately it didn't go nearly far enough. The court ruled that "closely held corporations" whose owners have religious convictions against contraceptives cannot be forced to pay for employee coverage for those products ... This libertarian principle means that a person would not only be free to opt out of a contraception mandate on religious grounds but would also be able to opt out of any mandate on any grounds—moral as well as religious—or no grounds at all! That's freedom.
The Housing-Financial Meltdown Revisited, 11 Oct 2013
Examines the history behind the 1933 Glass-Steagall act, its repeal in 1999, and the causes behind the 2008 financial meltdown, with quotes from "The Rise and Fall of Glass-Steagall" (2010) by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel and Warren C. Gibson, and other sources
Five years after the housing and financial meltdown, self-styled progressives are still peddling their pseudoexplanation: that it was largely the fault of the 1999 repeal of a provision of the New Deal–era Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated the separation of commercial and investment banking ... Many people are determined not to see the government's central culpability in the crisis that produced and continues to produce so much hardship. They rather believe that deregulation and greed were the culprits. But the fact remains: Wall Street couldn't have done it alone.
How Americans Can Help Ukrainians, 13 Mar 2014
Suggests opening U.S. borders to allow Ukrainians (and others) to immigrate and thus help defuse the situation in their country with respect to Russia and the Crimea
It can't be easy living in Russia's shadow, and I envy no one in that position. Given its long history and, consequently, the temperament of its leaders (and a good part of its population), Russia for the foreseeable future will be a regional power with an attitude. Thus it will ever be concerned with what happens on its borders. Like it or not, that's how it is. America can't change this situation ... Unsurprisingly, justice would have good consequences ... So forget guaranteeing loans to corrupt government officials. Forget facing down the Russians over Crimea. Open the borders!
Related Topics: Free Trade, Russia, Ukraine
How to Help Fast-Food Workers, 1 Aug 2013
Discusses contemporaneous strikes by fast food workers seeking a doubling of the minimum wage, the economic realities behind wages and alternatives that would truly help the workers
Doubling the minimum wage may seem like a good way to help fast-food workers, but it would hurt them instead. So what should we do? We must sweep away the government-created barriers to income earning, barriers that protect established businesses from competition and rob the most vulnerable people of options ... All this and more shrink the options of those with limited skills and meager resources ... This gives an unfair advantage to employers, who know there are others eager to take the place of any "troublesome" worker. A higher minimum wage granted by a condescending ruling elite can't help people trapped in this situation.
I Can't Help That I'm a Libertarian, The Goal Is Freedom, 1 Aug 2014
Explains why libertarians hold the beliefs they do, in contrast to political conventional wisdom, and why they cannot be silent about them
It's not easy being a libertarian. I am not looking for sympathy when I say that. I just mean to point out that rejecting the conventional wisdom on virtually (do I really need this adverb?) every political question, current and historical, can be wearying. Life could be so much simpler if it were otherwise ... Innocent people — so many children — are killed and maimed, their homes and communities shattered, with the bombs, bullets, mortar shells, ... and drones paid for by you and me through a government that claims to act in our names ... Who can know these things and not speak out — no matter how wearying that may be?
Related Topics: Libertarianism, Logic, The State, War
I Love Loosies and the People Who Sell Them, 10 Dec 2014
Explains how New York cigarette taxes contributed to the police crack down that led to the Eric Garner confrontation (and subsequent death) and suggests doing away with the pursuing of nonviolent persons for "victimless so-called crimes"
The cops who ganged up on Eric Garner, got him into a chokehold, and mashed his face into the sidewalk didn’t intend to kill him. They intended only to show him who's boss on the streets of Staten Island — and show him in a way he would never forget. As a ... friend of mine put it, instead they showed him in a way he will never remember ... Low-income minority neighborhoods experience what the rest of us can usually grasp only abstractly: the police force is an occupying army ... what it does day to day is monitor everyone with a suspicion that the sovereign's decrees are not being respected.
Immortal Keynes?, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 May 2014
Examines reasons for the continued acceptance of Keynes' economic prescriptions, surveying Lawrence H. White's The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years (2012)
Whatever you may think of Keynesian economics, you have to give it credit for one thing: its staying power. You can't watch a news program without hearing pundits analyze economic conditions in orthodox Keynesian terms, even if they don't realize that's what they're doing ... [Lawrence H.] White shows that Keynes was not the first economist to reject the idea that when people are left free, their activities create orderly processes that serve individual and social well-being. White also shows that the body of knowledge discovered by early 19th-century economists, ... refuted Keynes long before he came on the scene.
Imperial Hopefuls, 22 Feb 2007
Reflects on the 2008 United States presidential campaign, likening it to show biz and suggesting the candidates are running for the job of emperor
As the parade of presidential wannabes grows longer, the people paying attention this early are probably asking themselves, "Can I picture so and so as president?" This is a bad question on many levels. Politics, and presidential politics most especially, is little more than theater ... When these people talk about using government power in behalf of education, health, prosperity, and the like, you are listening to imperialists who want to maintain the government's conquest of you. So as you watch the presidential campaign unfold, remember what these people are really running for. You'll see the candidates in a whole new light.
In Afghanistan, They Died for No Good Cause, 5 Dec 2013
Critiques an exchange by NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on the rationale for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Last week a remarkable exchange about the future role of the U.S. military in Afghanistan took place on the MSNBC program Andrea Mitchell Reports. In a discussion of the U.S. government's uncertain negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai ..., Richard Engel, pointed out that ... the Obama administration has a daunting task ... American forces should be withdrawn at once, for the sake both of the Afghan people and of the U.S. personnel, who are abused by America's rulers. We can only hope that Karzai refuses to sign a new agreement with the Obama administration, so that this long nightmare can come to an end.
Individual Rights or Civil Rights?, Future of Freedom, Dec 1995
Contrasts the right not to be discriminated against with the right of freedom of association and concludes that one of them is invalid, also discussing private vs. government discrimination
Civil rights and affirmative action are getting their closest reexamination in years. Unfortunately, the reexamination is not close enough. With scant exception, no one is willing to go to the core of the issue and condemn the entire rotten regime for what it is — massive violation of individual rights ... Civil rights today means government interference with the private, noncoercive decisions of citizens. Thus, civil rights today are phony rights. To the extent they are enforced, individual rights are denigrated. We cannot have both. The best protection of minorities is individual rights ...
Inflation Is the Last Thing We Need, 31 Oct 2013
Responds to promoters of an inflationary environment by explaining price inflation as a consequence of monetary inflation and examines the effects claimed by inflation advocates
"Some economists say more inflation is just what the American economy needs to escape from a half-decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment," the New York Times reports. One is Harvard economist Kenneth S. Rogoff, quoted in the Times ... He favors an annual rate of 6 percent ... Inflation ... distorts the price system and ... the multidimensional economic structure. That means any stimulus is unsustainable because the inflationary policy will eventually end and unemployment must follow as the inflation-induced errors are revealed. Inflation serves the governing class. Honest, hardworking people should abhor it.
Related Topics: Business, Inflation, Prices, Wages
In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is the Thing to Do, 24 Jul 2014
Comments on the arrogance of those who believe the President of the United States should intervene in any crisis around the world
The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here's one Americans shouldn't miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict ... when a president tries to manage it, things will usually get worse ... Ignorant intervention begets bad consequences — unintended or not — perhaps not for American politicians ... but certainly for those who bear the brunt in the target countries and the Americans who kill, die, and pay the economic cost. Managing world conflict is beyond the power of any mortal. Don't demand that a president do it.
The Inherently Humble Libertarian, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Feb 2015
Defends libertarianism from those who charge its advocates of "know-it-allness"
You would think that the advocates of a philosophy of political economy that embraces spontaneous social order, bottom-up rule-making based on peaceful voluntary exchange, and even competing polycentric law at least at some level would be safe from the charge of conceit ... Those who respect individual liberty, understanding that free association, like the justice on which it is based, has good consequences, or those who call on the state to interfere violently with free association because they presume to know which outcomes are superior to those they imagine will emerge through peaceful cooperation.
In Memory of the Charlie Hebdo Victims, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 Jan 2015
Comments on the Jan 2015 attack and killings at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the ensuing mainstream commentary
Words can hardly convey the grief and disgust felt at Wednesday’s executions of the editor, cartoonists, and others — 10 people in all — at France's satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Two policemen also were killed, and 11 other people were wounded by the three fanatics who reportedly declared they were avenging the prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam ... Finally, it ought to go without saying that the victims would be dishonored if their murders became an excuse to further restrict civil liberties, subject Muslims to bigotry and harassment, or justify more war against Muslim societies.
In Praise of "Thick" Libertarianism, The Goal Is Freedom, 4 Apr 2014
Examines "thin" and "thick" libertarianism, explaining how being noncomittal about racism undermines the principle of non-initiation of force, contrasting libertarian and progressive views on dealing with racism
I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force. According to this view, the philosophy sets out a prohibition on the initiation of force and otherwise has nothing to say about anything else ... we should be wary of the principle "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Libertarians should have no trouble condemning racism in terms of their political philosophy while emphasizing that nonviolent racism can and, under appropriate circumstances, should be met only by nonviolent — and specifically, nonstate — countermeasures.
Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Jan 2014
After describing and providing references on the case against IP laws, reviews Butler Shaffer's monograph "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property" (2013), particularly the point that "IP tends to concentrate wealth in large business firms"
The modern libertarian case against so-called intellectual property (IP) has been building steadily since the late 1980s, when I first encountered it. Since then, an impressive volume of work has been produced from many perspectives: economics, political economy, sociology, moral and political philosophy, history ... we know that entrenched business interests, fearing the loss of market share and profits, will use state power through IP law to crush this potential for widespread economic secession from the corporate state. Support for freedom and independence, then, requires opposition to intellectual property.
Iran: It's Not about Nuclear Weapons, 26 Nov 2013
Examines the 2013 Joint Plan of Action agreement between Iran P5+1 countries and the rationales of the deal's main opponents: the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel
If you want to understand the U.S.-Iran controversy, know this: It is not about nuclear weapons. You're thinking: Of course it's about nuclear weapons. Everyone says so. Well, not everyone does. But it isn't a numbers game ... The Iranian people, which includes a large, educated middle class, would welcome friendship with America. Both they and the American people would prosper from trade, tourism, and other personal contact. As a bonus, such friendship would inevitably weaken Iran's theocracy – which is why the hardliners on all sides are determined to prevent it.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia
The Iranian Threat That Never Was, 26 Mar 2014
Introductory review of Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014), covering the period from the 1950's to the 1979 revolution and early interference from the Reagan administration
If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that ... No wonder Iran turned to covert channels, most particularly A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who "was selling nuclear secrets surreptitiously." ... however, Porter writes, "there is no indication that [Khan's Iranian contact] exhibited any interest in the technology for making a bomb."
Related Topics: Electric Power, Iran, Ronald Reagan
Iraqi Death by Political Abstraction, 5 Jun 2006
Examines the causes of the 2005 Haditha killings, reflecting on Leonard Read's notable essay "Conscience in the Battlefield"
Try as they might, apologists for the war in Iraq won't be convincing when they insist that, at worst, the Haditha "incident" (or was it a mishap?) was the unfortunate work of a few bad Marines. It was something much worse. When men trained to kill on a battlefield ... are ordered into civilian areas where many residents see the troops as an occupying force rather than as liberators, what would you expect to happen? ... For too long we have sought escape from responsibility in political clichés. For too long innocents have died at the hands of phantom political abstractions. Enough is enough.
Iraqi Sanctions: Were They Worth It?, Future of Freedom, Jan 2004
Analyzes the sanctions imposed on Iraq during the 1990's, and Madeleine Albright's memoirs, Madam Secretary (2003), where she attempted to recant on her 1996 statement that the sanctions were "worth it"
In May 1996 Madeleine Albright, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the UN, was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, in reference to years of U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq,
We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
... Could that be because her initial answer was sincere and that her belated apology was issued with her legacy in mind? We can be sure of one thing: word of her original response spread throughout the Arab world. Maybe even among some of the 9/11 terrorists.
Iraq: One Year Later, 19 Mar 2004
Comments on the first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, including statements by the White House and Donald Rumsfeld, as well as the outcome of 2004 Spanish elections which took place after the Madrid train bombings
Islamist terrorism, the eradication of which President Bush listed among his reasons for invading Iraq, has now made its way to Spain. Good show, Mr. Bush. When he says the world is safer one year after the war, one must wonder which world he means ... Perhaps the ones who enlisted out of a desire to defend their homes would have skipped the Middle East adventure if given the chance. Ask Army Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, who refused to return to his unit after being on leave from Iraq. "I am saying no to war; I have chosen peace," he said ... Citizen Soldier estimates that 600 other servicemen have done what Mejia did.
Related Topics: Iraq War, Spain
Is Any War Civil?, 4 Dec 2006
Considers the controversy over whether Iraq was engaged in a civil war in 2006, and Tony Snow's comment contrasting the situation with the American 1861-1865 conflict
Whether Iraq is embroiled in a civil war is a matter of some controversy. News organizations such as NBC have dramatically announced that, indeed, it is. Pundits solemnly the debate the question on cable news talk shows. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says yes. Present Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says no ... Bush is so deeply invested in his mistake that he can't even hint that something is gravely wrong ... Everything about the Bush policy is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. If the opinion polling is accurate, the people aren't as stupid as the administration thinks.
Is Edward Snowden a Lawbreaker?, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Jun 2013
Considers, in the light of the writings of Lysander Spooner in his "A Letter to Grover Cleveland", whether Edward Snowden "broke the law" by his disclosures of NSA telephone and internet data collection
Most people believe that Edward Snowden, who has confirmed that the U.S. government spies on us, broke the law. Even many of his defenders concede this. While in one sense the statement "Snowden broke the law" may be trivially true, in another, deeper sense it is untrue ... The "laws" that prohibit Edward Snowden (or anyone else) from telling us that the NSA routinely collects our telephone data and has access to our Internet records are decrees of the kind that "forbid any man to do anything, which justice could permit him to do." They are therefore "criminal invasions of his natural and rightful liberty."
Is Free Trade Obsolete? Part 1, Future of Freedom, Apr 2004
Critiques a Paul Craig Roberts and Charles Schumer article arguing against free trade due to a "new economic era", introducing first the law of comparative advantage
In the last several decades, areas of the developing world, particularly Asia, have become politically more stable and free, more open to foreign investment. The populations there are better educated and have access to modern technology, including the Internet. They are thus more productive ... This principle is uncontroversial among people who understand economics. But here's the rub: According to Paul Craig Roberts, the indispensable condition for the operation of the law of comparative advantage no longer applies. Thus, he says, the case for free trade has evaporated.
Is Free Trade Obsolete? Part 2, Future of Freedom, May 2004
After providing a numerical example of the law of comparative advantage, defends it from the argument (made by Roberts and Schumer) that movable factors of production make the law no longer applicable
Is it time to throw out all the textbooks that defend free trade? Some people — including one former free trader — think so. Last month we saw how Ricardo's law of comparative advantage, operating through the price system and the phenomenon of opportunity cost, induces people and groups to specialize in the production of things they are "most best" at making and buy the rest of what they want from other people ... No society ever got richer by having its government increase the price of goods and services or by stifling the expansion of the division of labor that enables us to get ever more wealth out of scarce resources.
Is Obama Trying to Alienate Muslim-American Youth?, 7 Oct 2014
Examines the Obama administration's contradictory stances on the Islamic State (ISIS) and its outreach efforts towards young American Muslims
A 19-year-old Chicago-area man was arrested last weekend for attempting to help the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The U.S. government says Mohammed Hamzah Khan, an American citizen, faces 15 years in prison because he was at an airport with a ticket to Turkey and had left references to ISIS and a note to his parents saying he was going to Syria ... Once again the administration is trying to have its cake and eat it too ... The best way to keep Americans safe and to prevent the growth of sympathy for ISIS in America is to stop bombing people in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Is the Foreign-Policy Elite Clueless?, 17 Sep 2014
Examines the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in Iraq and Syria that led to the rise of the Islamic State
The American foreign-policy elite seems to have no idea what it's doing. Americans may believe the government — especially the foreign-policy side — is at least minimally competent, but when one surveys decisions from the last few decades, one has to wonder. The current crop of policymakers, like earlier ones, know what they want to do: make the world safe for American leadership ... Obama warns that the Islamic State could threaten Americans at home, yet American airstrikes make that more likely; the Islamic State's murders of two American journalists were committed in retaliation for the first U.S. strikes.
Is This Really War?, 16 Jun 2006
Discusses the Haditha killings and argues that U.S. troops in Iraq were acting more as a police force for the new Iraqi regime, which was incompatible with their military training
In 1985, Wilson Goode became the first U.S. mayor to bomb his own city. In an effort to rid a West Philadelphia neighborhood of a ragtag, violent, back-to-nature organization called Move, which had engaged in a shootout with police, Goode ordered explosives dropped on the Move house from a helicopter ... If you are going to engage in urban warfare in someone else's country, what would you expect a fighting force to do? The crime is not the rules of engagement but the mission itself: the invasion and policing by a foreign occupying army. The culprits are those who ordered these things and those who carried them out.
It's Not Edward Snowden Who Betrayed Us, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Jun 2013
Discusses commentary from progressive and conservative apologists for the NSA surveillance disclosed by Snowden and constrasts them to writings by David Hume and Lord Acton
When you cut through the fog, the NSA controversy is about whether we should trust people with institutional power. Edward Snowden's courageous exposure of massive secret surveillance separates those who say yes from those who say, "Hell no!" The trusting attitude can be found among progressives and conservatives alike ... One could quote the early liberals all day long on this subject, but you get the point. Those who today apologize for the NSA, the Obama administration, and their enablers in Congress betray the deepest ideals of Western civilization. They, not Edward Snowden, are the traitors.
It's Not War, 9 Oct 2006
Counters George W. Bush's contention about a the "war on terror" being a "decisive ideological struggle" by contrasting it to how Americans behaved during World War II
Last weekend I watched my daughter Emily perform in a play about women who replaced men in factory jobs during World War II. The theme of "American Rosies" is that the war was such a dominant fact of life that these women were determined to participate. Going to work making military equipment was their best opportunity ... America is not under siege. There is no threat to its integrity as a society. No barbarians stand at the gates ready to overrun and subjugate us. What we call terrorism is not war, but criminal action. It becomes war only if we make it so. But war exacts a terrible cost on the country that prosecutes it.
James Buchanan's Subjectivist Economics, Future of Freedom, Apr 2013
Reviews Buchanan's writings in What Should Economists Do? (1979), a collection of several of his essays
James Buchanan, the Nobel laureate who died at 93 in January, was well known for his pioneering work in Public Choice (the application of economic principles to politics), constitutional economics (as a device for limiting government power), and many other key subjects in political economy. His voluminous work has long been of interest to libertarians and classical liberals for what it tells us about political behavior ... Buchanan's body of work is not entirely immune from libertarian criticism. But at its core is something invaluable for the case for freedom. He was always someone from whom one could learn.
James Madison: Father of the Implied-Powers Doctrine, The Goal Is Freedom, 26 Jul 2013
Examines whether James Madison intended the U.S. federal government to have "expressly delegated" powers vs. "powers by implication"
James Madison famously wrote in Federalist 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined." Strict constructionists are fond of this quote, and often cite it in defense of their view that the Constitution established a government of strictly limited powers ... There must be implied powers — and that's the danger of any constitution. Implied powers of course must be inferred, and inference requires interpretation. Who is likely to have the inside track in that process: those who seek to restrict government power or those who seek to expand it?
Jane Cobden: Carrying on Her Father's Work, The Goal Is Freedom, 25 Jul 2014
Biographical essay on Jane Cobden, daughter of Richard Cobden, who continued her father's advocacy of free trade and other ideals
Among libertarians and classical liberals, the name Richard Cobden (1804–1865) evokes admiration and applause. His activities — and successes — on behalf of freedom, free markets, and government retrenchment are legendary. Most famously, he cofounded — with John Bright — the Anti–Corn Law League, which successfully campaigned for repeal of the import tariffs on grain ... Jane Cobden, who died at age 96 in 1947, still has a place in modern culture. She was made a character in the BBC television series Ripper Street, and her portrait hangs in Britain's National Portrait Gallery.
Jane Jacobs: The Spontaneity of Cities, Future of Freedom, Jul 2006
Memorial commentary, in particular about Jacob's books against urban planning and about her activism
Lovers of freedom, cities, and spontaneous social processes lost a great champion April 25 when Jane Jacobs died at age 89. She was truly a remarkable woman. With ... a keen eye for what other people miss and the ability to turn a phrase, she single-handedly demolished orthodox urban planning in the United States. To the "planner knows best" advocates she responded, People living their everyday lives know better ... What makes her important for libertarians is her realization that cities have an "underlying order" that is discernable if one looks for it ... Jacobs's work will inspire for many generations to come.
Related Topics: Jane Jacobs, New York City
The Kenyan Massacre’s Roots in America's Somalia Policy, 24 Sep 2013
Comments on the 21 Sep 2013 Westgate shopping mall shooting in Nairobi, based on reporting on Somalia's situation by Scott Horton and Jeremy Scahill
Last weekend's hostage-taking — and the murder of at least 61 people — at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has its roots in the U.S. government's intervention in Somalia, which began in the 1990s. Although there is no justification for killing innocents, it is fair to point out that al-Shabaab ... would probably not be in power if not for the United States ... [This] has the news media abuzz over possible terrorist threats to "soft targets" ... we should realize that this is a threat made in Washington, DC. How many times do we have to experience what the CIA calls "blowback" before the American people cry, "Enough!"
Know When to Fold 'Em, 19 Feb 2007
Discusses the attitudes of Sen. John McCain and other war hawks who opposed a non-binding resolution against a troop "surge" in Iraq
Hawks such as Sen. John McCain who oppose Senate resolutions against the so-called troop surge in Iraq make a pernicious argument. Such a resolution "is basically a vote of no confidence in the men and women we are sending over there," McCain said. "We're saying, 'We're sending you — we're not going to stop you from going there, but we don't believe you can succeed.'" ... Eisenhower called the arrangement the military-industrial complex ... Bravado and messianism won't turn the loss in Iraq into a win. Bush, McCain, and the other hawks should know when to fold. A defeat for them would be the real victory for America.
Leonard P. Liggio (1933–2014), The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Oct 2014
A memorial tribute to Richman's "favorite teacher"
I lost one of my favorite teachers this week, as did so many other libertarians, not to mention the freedom movement as a whole. Leonard P. Liggio, 81, died after a period of declining health. Leonard was a major influence on my worldview during the nearly 40 years I knew him. While I had not seen him much in recent years, I have a hard time picturing the world — and the noble struggle for liberty — without him. ... I cannot find the words to do him justice. So I'll end with the words Benjamin Tucker used to close his obituary to his friend and teacher, Lysander Spooner, "Our Nestor Taken From Us" ...
The Lethal Legacy of U.S. Foreign Intervention, 12 Feb 2014
Presents examples of the deadly lasting effects of U.S. foreign intervention: continuing sectarian conflicts in Iraq and unexploded bombs in Laos
Americans seem to believe that once the U.S. military exits a foreign country, its moral accountability ends. But the deadly consequences — and culpability — continue long after the last soldier leaves. Take Iraq, which the U.S. military left at the end of 2011 ... Violence is flaring in Iraq, as Sunni Muslims ... have mounted new resistance ... 40 years after America's war of aggression against the people of Southeast Asia, American munitions continue to kill people. Remember this the next time you hear antiwar advocates smeared as isolationists and American foreign intervention lauded as a blessing to mankind.
Let's Have Candor from the NATO Summit, 4 Sep 2014
Comments on the article "Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West's Fault" by foreign policy scholar John Mearsheimer, about the 2013-2014 Ukrainian crisis
Don't hold your breath, but it would be refreshing if NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week spoke candidly for once about Ukraine. They could start by embracing this observation by John Mearsheimer, the distinguished foreign-policy scholar at the University of Chicago ... "Great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory. After all, the United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less on its borders." Yet another manufactured crisis ... It could be brought to a speedy end if Barack Obama would give the word.
Related Topics: Russia, Ukraine
Let's Make 2014 the Year of Freedom for Low-Wage Workers, 2 Jan 2014
Examines various hindrances to economic independence, in particular occupational licensing, but also zoning, intellectual property, taxes and regulations
The federal budget deficit was big in 2013, but not as big as the freedom deficit. We should all resolve to make 2014 the year that we secure our freedom from government, the biggest threat we face. We can start with freedom for low-wage workers. Hundreds of occupations are closed shut unless one has a license ... Are progressives ignorant of economics, or are they beholden to special interests? The working poor don't need crumbs from the power elite’s table. They need independence, which means they need freedom, the path to prosperity.
Let the Immigrants Stay, 9 Jul 2014
Discusses the plight of unaccompanied Central American children migrating to the U.S. who face deportation by the Obama administration
Virtually all commentary about the influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the United States, which some say could rise to 90,000 this year, misses the point: no government has the moral authority to capture these kids and send them back to the miserable situations they have escaped ... While immigrants don't use the welfare system as much as people think, free immigration might help bring the end of government transfers. Private aid would take their place. Even today, Americans are humanitarian enough to finance care for these children if people did not assume the government would do it.
Related Topics: Children, Government, Rights
Libertarian Class Analysis, Future of Freedom, Jun 2006
Examines the class analysis of Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer and Augustin Thierry and its basis on the work of J. B. Say, drawing on writings by Ralph Raico, Leonard Liggio, David M. Hart and Walter E. Grinder
Say the words "class analysis" or "class conflict" and most people will think of Karl Marx. The idea that there are irreconcilable classes, their conflict inherent in the nature of things, is one of the signatures of Marxism. That being the case, people who want nothing to do with Marxism quite naturally want nothing to do with class analysis ... They must not shy away from it because it was hijacked by the Marxists. Second, they should use whatever influence they have to raise the class-consciousness of all honest, productive people. That is, the industrious must be shown that they are daily victims of the ruling political class.
Libertarianism: Left or Right?, Future of Freedom, Jun 2007
Examines the origin of the political terms "left" and "right" and makes the case that libertarianism is "planted squarely on the Left"
Is libertarianism of the Left or of the Right? We often avoid this question with a resounding "Neither!" Given how these terms are used today, this response is understandable. But it is unsatisfying when viewed historically. In fact, libertarianism is planted squarely on the Left, as I will try to demonstrate here ... A search on the Internet will quickly turn up a great many relevant writings by modern libertarian writers, besides Carson and Long, on libertarianism's left-wing roots. Suffice it to say here that if the movement is to again inspire the victims of government power, it will need to rediscover those roots.
Libertarianism Rightly Conceived, The Goal Is Freedom, 2 May 2014
Responds to criticisms made by Walter Block and Lew Rockwell about Charles W. Johnson's "Libertarianism through Thick and Thin" (July 2008) and Richman's "What Social Animals Owe to Each Other" (April/July 2014)
The debate on thick and thin libertarianism continues, and that's a good thing. Libertarians can only gain by the discussion. Often one comes to appreciate one's own philosophy more fully in the crucible of intellectual argument. So I, for one, welcome the debate — so long as it is a real debate and not merely a series of unsupported denials of the proposition on the table ... Rockwell need not lose sleep worrying that these libertarians might choose some other value over other people's freedom. No one understands better than they that no rational value can be achieved by violating individuals' rights.
Libertarianism: The Moral and the Practical, Future of Freedom, May 2014
Explores whether libertarian policies should distinguish between moral and practical concerns, with insigths from Aristotle, Adam Smith, Tibor Machan, Henry Hazlitt, Roderick Long and others
If I say that a government activity — "public" schooling, perhaps, or the war on selected drug merchants and users — helps turn the inner cities into hellholes and otherwise makes people's lives miserable, is that a moral objection or a practical (utilitarian or generally consequentialist) objection? ... This "suggests that most professed deontologists and consequentialists are actually, to their credit, crypto-eudaemonists," Long writes elsewhere. This is a big subject ... Thus, lots more could be said. I hope I've said enough for now to justify seeing the moral and practical cases for freedom as one and the same.
Liberty in America during the Great War, The Goal Is Freedom, 15 Aug 2014
Examines how various areas of American society were influenced by Woodrow Wilson's decision to enter the First World War, including Supreme Court cases decided after the war
There's always plenty for libertarians to complain about in our troubled world, but ... things could be much worse. I'm thinking particularly of how the U.S. government punished dissent before, during, and even after America's participation in World War I ... Progressives supported Wilson's war hoping it would advance reform while avoiding the domestic excesses that war can produce. They miscalculated, however. Dewey was wrong. Bourne was right. The devotees of Barack Obama, who has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the same Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined, still have not learned their lesson.
The Lie Factory, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Jun 2013
Contrasts Obama's 23 May 2013 statements regarding the continuing conflict in Afghanistan vs. an analysis by indepedent journalist Conn M. Hallinan and other reports
In his latest major address on foreign policy, President Obama said this:
So after I took office ... we pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces ... In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country's security ...
... Hallinan asks, "If the United States couldn't smother the insurgency during the surge, how can it do so now with fewer troops?" The lesson? Fish swim, birds fly, and people who run governments lie. They will say anything to achieve their political objectives. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.
Lysander Spooner on the National Debt, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Sep 2013
Examines contemporaneous warnings about Congress not raising the national debt limit by considering what Spooner wrote in "The Constitution of No Authority" about the legitimacy of the debt
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling — or, as I call it, the debt sky, because apparently the sky is the limit — the government won't be able to pay all its bills starting October 17. The Congressional Budget Office says that dire condition won't set in until sometime between October 22 and 31 ... The debt ... was and is illegitimately incurred. The lenders ... should have known that. Perhaps the lenders should sue those officials ... but it seems more accurate to think of them as Spooner did: as accomplices in crime ... At any rate, they can have no proper claim against the rest of us.
Lysander Spooner on the National Debt, Future of Freedom, Jan 2014
Revised version of "The Goal Is Freedom" column of 27 Sep 2013; analyzes Spooner's severe criticisms of the arguments given for the legitimacy of the United States' public debt
Once again, last autumn we were inundated with dire warnings about what would befall the American people and the world economy if Congress did not raise the debt ceiling — or, as I call it, the debt sky, because apparently the sky's the limit. ... The debt, then, was and is illegitimately incurred. The lenders, who voluntarily entered into this relationship with government officials, should have known that. Perhaps the lenders should sue those officials and collect damages from the officials' personal property, but it seems more accurate to think of them as Spooner did: as accomplices in crime.
Mandela Wasn't Radical Enough, 11 Dec 2013
Examines conservative and progressive views about Nelson Mandela and apartheid, finds them lacking and contrasts them with the writings of W. H. Hutt
I suppose we will forever be subjected to incomplete accounts of the life of Nelson Mandela and the evil he struggled against. Both the Right and the Left (as conventionally defined in America) are too busy pushing agendas to provide the full story ... This horror ended in the early 1990s, with credit due to Mandela. But he and his movement were not nearly radical enough, because although they eliminated apartheid, they left in place a government powerful enough to control the economic system to the detriment of working people. The market still needs to be freed.
The Market Is a Beautiful Thing, Future of Freedom, Jul 2013
Explores whether most people's aversion to the market is aesthetic and explains the beauty in the dynamics of the (freed) market, with quotes from Bastiat and Adam Smith
Market advocates tend to respect the intellect of their fellow human beings. You can tell by their reliance on philosophical, moral, economic, and historical arguments when trying to persuade others. But what if most people's aversion to the market isn't founded on philosophy, morality, economics, or history? What if their objection is aesthetic? ... Bastiat commented, "We should be shutting our eyes to the facts if we refused to recognize that society cannot present such complicated combinations in which civil and criminal law play so little part without being subject to a prodigiously ingenious mechanism."
Marry and Let Marry, 3 Mar 2004
Comments on George W. Bush's proposed constitutional amendment to forbid same-sex marriage licenses
President George W. Bush has amply demonstrated that he is a stranger to the U.S. Constitution. He's meddled in education, about which the Constitution has not one word. He aspires to give taxpayers' money to religious groups doing social work, despite the First Amendment's barrier to state entanglement with religion ... Put marriage in the private realm, and then respect people's freedom to recognize or not recognize same-sex marriages as their convictions dictate. As for governments, they should not tread on individuals as long as they are peaceful and respectful of the rights of others.
Medicare Rx Reform: The Road to Medical Serfdom, Health Freedom Watch, 23 Jun 2003
Criticizes the proposed (and later passed) addition of prescription drug coverage to Medicare and predicts the eventual nationalization of health care
A 30-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis was prescribed the drug Avonex by her neurologist. Her husband was trained to administer the weekly injections, because her poor vision prevents her from doing it herself. A state program helped pay for the drug. They were satisfied with this setup because it met their family's needs ... There's been no free market in medicine for many years. Dubious patent laws interfere with competition. The Food and Drug Administration grossly raises the cost of developing new medicines. And government control through licensing and prescriptions cartelize the entire medical profession.
Related Topics: Bureaucracy, Health Care, Prices
"Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss", The Goal Is Freedom, 11 Jan 2008
Examines politics, including slogans such as "hope", "change" (Barack Obama) and "straight talk" (John McCain) in the 2008 United States presidential campaigns, and explains why politicians cannot be expected to lead the way to liberty
FEE has long stayed above the electoral fray, and for darn good reasons. Politics is a poor forum for serious discussion of political philosophy and economics. Complicated ideas don't fit well into sound bites, and the news media and learned pundits are too busy interpreting the latest poll results ... Don't expect this to happen the other way around, with politicians leading the way. Without plenty of people insisting on liberty and limits on power, there will be nothing to gain for a politician who wants to win above all else. Will a large enough mass of people ever demand freedom? That's where FEE and its supporters come in.
The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit, The Goal Is Freedom, 20 Jun 2014
Describes how the seeds of the current turmoil in the Middle East were planted a century ago by British and French imperialists
The wall-to-wall coverage of the disintegration of Iraq ought to carry this credit: This bloodshed was made possible by the generosity of British and French imperialists. The stomach-wrenching violence in Iraq ... are direct consequences of the imperialist acts of the British and French governments at the end of World War I, the history-altering catastrophe that began 100 years ago this August 4 ... As Edward Woodward's character, Harry Morant, says in Breaker Morant just before being executed by the British army during the Second Boer War, "Well ... this is what comes of 'empire building.'"
The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit, Future of Freedom, Sep 2014
Recounts the history of foreign intervention in the Middle East since World War I to the present (expanded version of 20 June 2014 essay)
The story has been told many times. The government of Great Britain wanted to disrupt the Ottoman Empire's ability to help Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Great War. So the British dispatched personnel, most famously T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), to persuade the Arab leaders to revolt against the Turks ... As we view the violence today in Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, Egypt, and elsewhere in the region, we should remember that it all might have been avoided had the European powers not launched World War I, or if, in the event of war, the British and French had let the Arabs chart their own course.
Related Topic: Middle East
Milton Friedman (1912-2006), by Richard Ebeling, Sheldon Richman, 17 Nov 2006
Memorial tribute, highlighting Friedman's role in opposing Keynesianism, and his books and other public activities (a revised version appeared in The Freeman Dec 2006)
FEE's staff and trustees mourn the passing of Milton Friedman, one of the twentieth century's most influential champions of individual liberty and free markets. He died Thursday at the age of 94. The 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics ..., Friedman did more than any single person in our time to teach the public the merits of deregulation, privatization, low taxes, and free trade ... Friedman co-wrote (with George Stigler ...) one of the first publications FEE released ... Sadly, Friedman is gone from us now. But his legacy and devotion to liberty will inspire freedom lovers for many generations.
Mission Creep in Iraq, 21 Aug 2014
Examines how the initial Aug 2014 "humanitarian" intervention in Iraq, following the Sinjar massacre, keeps morphing into something bigger
There are several reasons not to intervene militarily in another country's conflict, even modestly. One is the potential for mission creep. We already could detect the signs of mission creep in Iraq. Now, with the stepped-up U.S. airstrikes after the Islamic State's horrific execution of American reporter Jim Foley, the signs are clearer than ever ... Few people believe that airpower alone will defeat the justly abhorred Islamic State or that the Iraqi military can get the job done on the ground. So Obama could be tempted to up the ante in order to prevent any touted gains from being squandered.
Related Topics: Iraq War, Militarism, Barack Obama
Monopoly and Aggression, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Dec 2014
Argues that monopoly and aggression are intimately related and that intellectual property laws are currently the main monopolistic interventions
The concepts monopoly and aggression are intimately related, like lock and key, or mother and son. You cannot fully understand the first without understanding the second. Most of us are taught to think of a monopoly as simply any lone seller of a good or service, but this definition is fraught with problems ... So-called intellectual property is the dominant engine of monopoly in modern economies. Fortunately, cheap technology makes enforcement increasingly difficult, and we may look forward to the day when it disappears entirely ... to rid society of monopoly we must rid society of aggression.
The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Dec 2013
Considers whether it is reasonable to draw distinctions between moral and practical arguments for freedom
If I say that a government activity — "public" schooling, perhaps, or the war on selected drug merchants and users — helps turn the inner cities into hellholes and otherwise makes people's lives miserable, is that a moral objection or a practical (utilitarian or generally consequential ist) objection? ... This "suggests that most professed deontologists and consequentialists are actually, to their credit, crypto-eudaemonists," Long writes elsewhere. ... lots more could be said. I hope I've said enough for now to justify seeing the moral and practical cases for freedom as one and the same.
More Bush Insults, 12 Oct 2005
Comments on George W. Bush's nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court and on his speech asking for support on the "war on terror"
Everybody is good at something, and George Bush is good at insulting our intelligence. As if he hasn't provided enough evidence, he recently obliged with two more demonstrations. First came his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court ... Bush's second insult ... came in his big speech seeking to jump-start support for his "war on terror" ... The U.S. air force routinely bombed the country [Iraq] and killed innocent people, while a U.S.-led embargo took hundreds of thousands of children's lives and created great hardship. Whether insult or ignorance, this really has to stop.
More Drug-War Victims, 28 Dec 2005
Relates the case of Cory Maye, who killed a policeman while defending himself and his 18-month old daughter during a late night raid from a narcotics squad (his case went back and forth, but he was released in July 2011 after serving 10 years)
Opponents of the so-called war on drugs (it's a war on people) have long cautioned that enforcement of victimless-crime laws is by nature a mockery of justice. We have a vivid example in Cory Maye. You haven't heard of Cory Maye? Few people have, despite the best efforts of blogger-journalist Radley Balko (TheAgitator.com) ... From the looks of things, Cory Maye acted to protect his daughter and himself. The government put them and Ron Jones in jeopardy by its senseless persecution of drug consumers. Let's hope the Mississippi Supreme Court keeps this horror from getting worse.
More U.S. Intervention in Libya?, 22 May 2014
Discusses the situation in Libya in 2014, three years after Obama's "humanitarian intervention" that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the subsequent attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi
Except for the 2012 deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya has dropped out of American news coverage since President Obama and NATO's so-called humanitarian intervention in 2011. The American public has been led to believe that ... things have been going pretty well ... regime change produced a flow of weapons and jihadi training opportunities that in turn led to violence in Mali and the horrific abductions in Nigeria by Boko Haram ... The first rule governments should follow is, "Do no harm." The second rule is, Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.
Related Topics: Foreign Entanglements, Libya
More Victims of Immigration Control, 18 Jan 2008
Discusses how, aside from actual immigrants, American employers and particularly property owners along the United States-Mexico border are also victims of U.S. immigration controls, in the government's attempt to build a fence along the border
Consistent advocates of individual liberty often point out that government restrictions on free immigration violate the rights of people not born in the United States. Not only are they denied their freedom to move and improve their lot in life, but if they make it into the United States, they are subjected to police-state raids and exploitation ... And the secretary wants no back talk from the mere landowners. He's a busy man. His patience is limited. Say what he wants to hear or realize the awesome power of the state. It's the Wizard of Oz blustering about eminent domain. Ignore the little men behind the curtain.
Motives Aside, the NSA Should Not Spy on Us, 18 Jun 2013
Examines a couple of reasons for rejecting the surveillance state, even if "government officials sincerely believe that [collecting] data is vital to the people's security"
You need not suspect the motives of those responsible for NSA surveillance to detest what they are doing. In fact, we may have more to fear from spies acting out of patriotic zeal than those acting out of power lust or economic interest: Zealots are more likely to eschew restraints that might compromise their righteous cause ... politicians generally can't be expected to play watchdog to other politicians. Therefore, at the least, we need institutional constraints and transparency: No secret warrants. No secret courts. No secret expansive interpretations of laws and constitutional prohibitions.
Mr. Bush, Mind Your Own Business, 21 Oct 2005
Criticizes George W. Bush's unsolicited advice to Americans that they should drive less in order to conserve gasoline
So President Bush wants us to conserve gasoline by driving less. Cut out the nonessential car trips, he says. It seems to me that the quintessential American response is simply this: With all due respect Mr. President, mind your own business. You see, in America (why doesn't he know this?) each of us is supposed to be free to decide for himself what's essential ... When I was growing up, my father ... didn't need a president to tell him to conserve. He was too busy saving money. Presidential exhortations to consumers may seem harmless, but they are not. They are noxious. Mr. Bush, mind your own business.
National Servitude, The Goal Is Freedom, 21 Jun 2013
Discusses calls for "national service", contrasts them to insights from Frédéric Bastiat and Adam Smith, and counters possible objections
To make citizens, we must facilitate the shared experiences that cultivate civic pride and responsibility.
This should mean a period of full-time national service as a rite of passage for every young American, ages 18 to 28 ...
So exhort John Bridgeland and Alan Khazei, co-chairs of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute ... What do they really want: improvement in the lives of people or service to "the nation," which always translates into service to the state? If it's the latter, they should remind themselves that earlier attempts to institutionalize that notion of duty weren't pretty.
The Natural Right of Property, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Aug 2007
Examines Thomas Hodgskin's philosophy, in particular his writings on property rights in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832)
Thomas Hodgskin (1787-1869), the English economics writer ..., is an enigma — until his philosophy is seen in its entirety. He was an editor at The Economist of London from 1846 to 1855, during the period author Scott Gordon called "the high tide of laissez faire," yet he is considered a Ricardian socialist ... Locke's commonwealth, says Hodgskin, has not lived up to its theory. "The natural right of property far from being protected, is systematically violated, and both government and law seem to exist chiefly or solely, in order to protect and organize the most efficacious means of protecting the violation ..."
The Neoconservative Obsession with Iran, 14 May 2014
Discusses how Bush, Cheney and their advisors exacerbated the U.S.-Iran crisis, as documented in Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare
Americans could be enjoying cultural and commercial relations with Iranians were it not for U.S. "leaders," who are more aptly described as misleaders. Because of institutional, geopolitical, and economic reasons, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were not about to let that happen ... the Bush administration did everything in its power, including lying, to stop the more realistic British, French, and Germans from reaching agreement with an Iranian government eager to ensure the transparency of its nuclear program and, in return, have economic sanctions lifted.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran, Middle East
News Coverage Misinforms Americans on the Bergdahl Swap, 10 Jun 2014
Discusses the distorted news about the five Taliban officials released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, quoting sources —including the former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo prison— that discredit the "official" story
In national-security matters, the news media couldn't do a better job misinforming the public if they tried. The latest example is their portrayal of the five Taliban officials traded for Bowe Bergdahl. The media of course have an incentive to accentuate controversy. In the Bergdahl deal, this includes portraying the five Taliban prisoners as ... "hard-core jihadis responsible for 9/11." ... The U.S. invasion-occupation of Afghanistan was a war of choice not necessity. American forces made it worse by indiscriminately placing a price on the head of any Afghan whom someone else was willing to destroy.
Related Topics: Afghanistan, Barack Obama
A Nightmare in Iraq, 24 Sep 2003
Examines the situation in Iraq six months after the March 2003 invasion, including the Bush administration reportedly "considering using Israel as a model for managing an occupied people"
Americans soldiers are killing innocent Iraqi civilians almost on a regular basis. In recent days and in separate incidents they killed eight Iraqi policemen, an Iraqi interpreter working for the U.S. occupiers, a woman and her child at a wedding, and a young teenager at another wedding ... Although the administration brags about its "coalition," the fact remains that American troops bear the brunt of the threat and American taxpayers are paying for the privilege ... This is and will remain a U.S. occupation. It will go on for a long time. The administration is in no hurry to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq War, Israel
The Noninterventionists Told You So, 18 Jun 2014
Analyzes the 2014 Iraqi situation from the vantage point of noninterventionism, contrasting it with those who still want the Obama administration to intervene
Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, "I told you so." This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one's stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father's war on Iraq in 1991 and the sanctions enforced through the administration of Bill Clinton — were right ... neither American troops nor diplomats can repair Iraq. The people themselves will have to work things out. As for terrorism, it is U.S. intervention that makes Americans targets.
Related Topics: Iraq, Iraq War, Barack Obama
No Right to Remain Silent, 25 Jun 2004
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, that compelling people to identify themselves if requested to do so by police does not violate the Fourth or Fifth Amendments
You have the right to remain silent — unless you're asked your name when you aren't even charged with a crime. That's right: it can now be a crime to refuse to tell a policeman your name. What's happening to America? Nevada and 20 other states have criminalized remaining silent in the face of a policeman's question "What's your name?" ... When another character, William Roper, says he'd abolish the protections of law to nab the Devil, More replies, "... This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — ... Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."
Nothing Is More Local than the Individual, The Goal Is Freedom, 31 Oct 2014
Commentary on the 2014 Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Amendment referendum to end county-level prohibitions on liquor sales (which was voted down)
On Tuesday the voters of the state in which I dwell, Arkansas, will be asked to vote yes or no on this: "A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to provide that, effective July 1, 2015, the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors is lawful within the entire geographic area ..." ... No one really believes people will drink less if they can't buy alcohol in their home county ... As a libertarian, of course, I believe there should be no need for a referendum on liquor sales because there should be no prohibition to abolish. But given prohibition, I'm hoping that "yes" prevails.
Obama and Kerry Jeopardize Peace with Iran, 30 Jan 2014
Examines pronouncements by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama that put in doubt their stated intentions of reaching a peace agreement with Iran
Barack Obama and John Kerry should make up their minds: Do they want war or peace with Iran? We should hope for peace, but Obama and Kerry make optimism difficult. Ideally, the Obama administration would simply exit the Middle East, taking all its military and economic aid with it ... Obama himself told the New Yorker's David Remnick there's less than an even chance of a permanent agreement ... And while he reminded Americans that it was the United States that overthrew a democratic Iranian government in 1953, he called on Israel and Saudi Arabia to focus on their common bond against Iran.
Related Topics: Iran, Middle East, War
Obama and King, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 Aug 2013
Contrasts Martin Luther King Jr.'s April 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War with Obama's actions (planning to bomb Syria) on the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech
The irony was striking. There was President Barack Obama on Wednesday, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarkable "I Have a Dream" speech. The irony lay not in Obama’s banality, but in the fact that as he spoke, his war council was planning to bomb Syria ... King had been pressured not to denounce the war, but he ignored that advice. How could he preach nonviolence at home, he asked, while remaining silent about "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government"? How, indeed?
Obama Follows Bush's Iraq Playbook, 10 Sep 2014
Examines the validity of Obama's arguments for going to war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in response to the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Aug/Sep 2014
U.S. politicians are exploiting the gruesome beheadings of two American journalists to whip up war fever against ISIS, the "criminal gang" masquerading as an organization of devout Sunni Muslims that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. The American propaganda campaign seems to be working if recent polls are accurate ... No doubt those murders were intended also to goad Obama into sending American forces ... Bin Laden did the same thing, bragging he would bleed the United States bankrupt through long years of war. He succeeded. Hold on tight: Obama is about to replicate Bush's folly.
Obama Plays with Fire in Ukraine, 23 Apr 2014
Discusses Obama's decision to send troops to Poland and Baltic states in addition to sanctions on Russia over the 2014 Crimea crisis and the implications of having the continued existence and expansion of the NATO alliance
"The U.S. is sending about 600 ground troops to Eastern Europe ... to 'reassure' allies there as Washington resumes its campaign of pressure on Russia over the Ukraine standoff." ... How many American parents would proudly send their sons and daughters off to kill or be killed in Slovyansk or Donetsk? ... The U.S. government's and news media's demonization of Putin ... should not ... overshadow ... that America's rulers have needlessly provoked the Russians ... the architect of the postwar containment policy, George Kennan, warned that humiliating Russia by expanding NATO "is a tragic mistake." Must we learn this the hard way?
Obama Should Steer Clear of Ukraine, 26 Feb 2014
Discusses the situation in Ukraine in early 2014, including pronouncements from Barack Obama and the effects of further potential intervention by Europe, NATO, Russia or the U.S.
President Obama insists he does not regard the conflict in Ukraine "as some Cold War chessboard in which we are in competition with Russia." He'd be more credible if he were not following his predecessors in acting as though the Cold War still exists. Although the Soviet empire ... disbanded beginning in 1989, Republican and Democratic presidents have pursued aggressively anti-Russian policies up to the present ... Despite what Americans have believed for over 200 years, the United States was not placed on this earth to right the world. Intervention is more likely to make things worse than better.
Obama's Iraqi Fairy Tale, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Mar 2014
Examines, in detail, Obama's 26 March 2014 remarks about the 2003 Iraqi invasion compared to Russia's annexation of Crimea
I promised myself that I would no longer comment on what Barack Obama has to say, because it's just not worth the time and effort. Obama's public remarks are comprehensible only if you keep one thing in mind: he, like other politicians, thinks most people are morons ... Obama has no leg to stand on when he contrasts Russia's essentially bloodless and provoked annexation of Crimea with America's unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq. Unfortunately, the Americans who committed this cold-blooded mass murder and societal destruction are less likely to face justice than Putin is for his crimes in, say, Chechnya.
Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance, 11 Jun 2013
Compares contradictory claims by Obama and his administration regarding Edward Snowden's disclosures of NSA monitoring, discusses the obstacles of challenging the surveillance in court and the lack of oversight
It's bad enough the federal government spies on us. Must it insult our intelligence too? The government's response to Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency's secret monitoring ... is a mass of contradictions ... Obama says, "If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here." ... If the politicians' only response to revelations that they're violating our privacy is to ask for trust, then we already have problems.
Obama Still Does a Good Imitation of Bush, 22 Oct 2014
Considers President Obama's continuance of the torture policies of his predecessor, in spite of having supported legislation as a Senator that confirmed U.S. obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture
We really should be used to this by now. After almost six years in office, President Obama is far more like George W. Bush in national-security matters than he led the American people to believe ... Charlie Savage reports that Obama has yet to decide whether the international ban on torture applies to U.S. government conduct outside the United States ... officials told Savage that regardless of the treaty interpretation, Obama's position is unmistakable. But Appendix M shows that this is not the case. Anyone who voted for Obama thinking his foreign policy would be different from Bush's should have learned a hard lesson.
Obama's Willful Foreign-Policy Blindness, 30 May 2013
Analyzes President Obama's 23 May 2013 speech at the National Defense University, later comments on Memorial Day and the reactions from Republicans
Republicans are upset about President Obama's May 23 foreign-policy address, yet politics aside, it's hard to say why. "We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Sunday. But four days later in his Memorial Day remarks, Obama said, "Our nation is still at war." ... This all looks more like legacy preparation than real change in policy. Witness Syria and Iran. So why are Republicans fussing? Obama said, "We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root." For Republicans, that's un-American.
The Ominous Republican Hold on Congress, 7 Jan 2015
Comments on what may be expected with respect to war and foreign intervention from the Republican-controlled Senate in 2015, considering also the inconsistent policy stances of Barack Obama
As we face the new year, the biggest concern for peace lovers is Republican control of the U.S. Senate. While Republican votes don't reach the key number 60, members of the GOP will still be in a strong position to push their belligerent global agenda. I don't mean to overstate the danger ... The national-security state is rotten to the core, having inflicted incalculable death and misery on many foreign populations. Much hard work has to be done to free the world of this monster. In the near term, fortunately, some good things can be done at the margin — if the new Republican majority doesn't get in the way.
One Hundred Years in Iraq?, 4 Apr 2008
Discusses John McCain's comments, made in Jan 2008, about staying in Iraq for 100 or more years and his previous comments on Iraqi reaction to the occupation, made during an interview on Charlie Rose in Nov 2007
John McCain, the Republican candidate for president who dubiously claims the status of war hero because he was imprisoned and beaten after bombing civilian targets in North Vietnam 40 years ago, apparently wants other young men to have the chance to become war heroes ... Note his reference to the nature of Iraqi society and its religious aspects. McCain seems to be saying that the Iraqis will never accept a U.S force and that therefore America perhaps could never count on an occupation without casualties, regardless of what goes on in South Korea. Which is it, Mr. Straight Talk? Is a long occupation acceptable or not?
Related Topics: Iraq, Barack Obama
One Hundred Years of the Federal Reserve, Future of Freedom, Dec 2013
Examines the Federal Reserve's record since its inception, quoting the 2010 Cato Institute paper "Has the Fed Been a Failure?" by Selgin, Lastrapes and White, as well as Rothbard, Timberlake and Hummel
Two days before Christmas 1913, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, creating America's latest and current central bank, the Federal Reserve System. It's a sobering thought that in the 100 years since the Fed's creation, the dollar has lost 95 percent of its value ... Central banks like the Fed only messed money up, robbing the people of their purchasing power while facilitating warfare and welfare spending through irresponsible large-scale government borrowing. Thus the Fed should not be allowed to see a new century. It should be deleted.
One Moral Standard for All, The Goal Is Freedom, 15 Nov 2013
Postulates that most nonlibertarians agree that initiation of force is wrong, but they have to be shown that the same moral standard should hold for private individuals and government personnel
Libertarians make a self-defeating mistake in assuming that their fundamental principles differ radically from most other people's principles. Think how much easier it would be to bring others to the libertarian position if we realized that they already agree with us in substantial ways ... "Lockean equality involves not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police." One moral standard for all, no exceptions, no privileges. That's a fitting summation of the libertarian philosophy.
The Open Society and Its Worst Enemies, The Goal Is Freedom, 16 Jan 2015
Considers the 7-9 January 2015 attacks in Paris and contrasts the choice between an open, free society and imperialistic, militaristic foreign intervention
Last week's bloody events in Paris demonstrate yet again that a noninterventionist foreign policy, far from being a luxury, is an urgent necessity — literally a matter of life and death. A government that repeatedly wages wars of aggression — the most extreme form of extremism — endangers the society it ostensibly protects by gratuitously making enemies ... Let us finally understand who created this danger (however exaggerated), and let us understand the choice that confronts us. We can have a truly open society or we can have a militarist foreign policy. What we can't have is both.
Our Elective Monarchy, 16 Jun 2004
Comments on the "fit for a king" funeral for Ronald Reagan and the similar treatment given to other U.S. Presidents, contrasting them to the treatment of Prime Ministers in Great Britain
One of the myths Americans live by is that they rejected monarchy when the British left ... Had a Martian been visiting ... last week, he never would have believed it. Witnessing the state funeral and worshipful wall-to-wall cable-television coverage, our Martian would have sworn that Ronald Reagan had been the king of America ... It's hard to imagine now what a presidential funeral would be like had the government maintained its intended constitutional dimensions ... It probably would resemble that of the president of free, prosperous, reclusive, and cantonal Switzerland. Can you name him?
Our Patience on Iraq Should Be Exhausted, 4 Apr 2007
Comments on George W. Bush's request that the 2007 Iraqi troop "surge" be given a chance and on congressional efforts to impose a 2008 withdrawal deadline
President Bush started the fifth year of his war in Iraq by pleading with the American people for patience. Give the escalation ("surge") a chance to work, he said. He sees signs of success already, but the Democrats in Congress are showing their impatience, with the House attaching a 2008 withdrawal deadline to the war appropriations bill ... They are not fighting for the Iraqis' freedom either. Is anyone surprised that public-opinion polls show that Iraqis believe things have gotten worse for them since the fall of Saddam Hussein? Once again, foreign intervention has given America a black eye. When will we learn?
Out of Iraq, Etc.!, 13 Aug 2014
Examines the origins of the arbitrary country subdivisions in the Fertile Crescent after World War I and the continuing problems in the region
Nearly a century ago, after four bloody years of World War I, British colonialists created the state of Iraq, complete with their hand-picked monarch. Britain and France were authorized — or, more precisely, authorized themselves — to create states in the Arab world, despite the prior British promise of independence in return for the Arabs' revolt against the Ottoman Turks, which helped the Allied powers defeat the Central powers ... The U.S. government must get out of Iraq (etc.). Intervention not only violates the rights of Americans; it is sure to exacerbate the violence in that pitiable region.
Outsourcing Torture, 29 Sep 2006
Discusses the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian and Syrian citizen sent by the Bush administration to Syria for interrogation and torture, due to erroneous information from Canadian law enforcement that he had (unproven) terrorist ties
If you want to see the bare essence of the Bush administration, behold its policy of "rendition." The innocuous-sounding word signifies a policy under which American officials send terrorist suspects — detainees never convicted of crimes — to countries where they will be tortured, keeping the U.S. government's hands clean of the monstrous treatment ... The Bush administration has held mere suspects in secret prisons ... We know at least some of them are innocent victims ... This is America under George W. Bush. It's not the America we learned about growing up. Something has gone badly wrong. When will we do something about it?
Ownership and Ideas, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Sep 2014
Critiques some statements made by Murray Rothbard, in For a New Liberty (1973), about ownership of created products and the appropriateness of others copying such products
Like many libertarians, I've learned a lot from Murray Rothbard on a wide variety of subjects. Of course, no one gets everything right, especially someone as intellectually ambitious, multidisciplinary, and prolific as Rothbard. Nevertheless, reading the work of the man who left such a mark on the modern libertarian movement is as profitable as it is pleasurable ... How would it be consistent with the right to ownership through homesteading and other legitimate acquisition? ... For the sake of justice and freedom, we ought not to falsely found ownership on ideas and creation.
Page Scandal: Political Corruption Precedes Sexual Corruption, 25 Oct 2006
Comments on the U.S. Congress page program, recommending its immediate abolition, and the scandal involving Mark Foley
For the sake of those vulnerable 16-year-old boys and girls who come to Washington each year, we should abolish the congressional page program immediately. I'm not referring only to the danger posed by the sexual predators in Congress ... The Foley scandal is instructive because it exposes the risks that young people take whenever they go to Washington to work in the seat of power. We certainly must condemn congressmen who take advantage of that power and impose themselves on those kids. But the more fundamental danger is that Washington teaches them that power over their fellow human beings is something worth having.
Pathetic Arguments for Foreign Intervention, 25 Jan 2008
Criticizes comments made by Bret Stephens about Ron Paul's call for a full U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East
Republican presidential contender Ron Paul certainly deserves credit for putting the foreign policy of noninterventionism into the public debate. It's about time. For decades U.S. presidents have sought to manage the world in behalf of what they call "American interests," and all it has brought is death, mayhem, anti-Americanism, and a price tag that would blow the average citizen's mind if he fully grasped it ... "There is a not-incidental connection here between libertarianism and pacifism," [Bret Stephens] writes. Leave it to an interventionist to think that the opposite of imperialism is pacifism.
Pentagon Conduits, 25 Apr 2008
Discusses the revelations by The New York Times about TV military analysts, appearing to be independent observers, but briefed by the Pentagon and connected as lobbyists, executives or consultants of sundry military contractors
As we now know, ... the military-industrial complex is well represented in the daily television news coverage of the Iraq and Afghan occupations. Those former generals who ... provide disinterested analysis of the Bush administration's military adventures are neither generous nor disinterested ... The analyst scandal shouldn't surprise anyone. The American people were deceived into supporting the Iraq invasion, from claims about WMD to hints that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. So why wouldn't the administration continue the deception by disguising its propagandists as objective analysts?
The People Say No to War, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Sep 2013
Comments on how the American people, through calls and emails to Congress and opinion polls, stopped, at least momentarily, the Obama administration from going to war with Syria
The Constitution did not keep President Obama from attacking Syria. The people did. Think about that. Obama, his top advisers, and many of his partisans and opponents in Congress insist that the president of the United States has the constitutional authority to attack another country without a declaration of war ... Many people have been killed, maimed, and psychologically scarred; over a trillion dollars has been squandered with no end in sight — for what? The military-industrial complex grows fat, and the economy sputters. Americans have had enough ... Their "no" to war is the best news we've had in a long time.
The Phony Trade-off between Privacy and Security, The Goal Is Freedom, 16 Aug 2013
In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations and subsequent policy directives by Barack Obama, examines the claim that, in a dangerous world, a "balance" must be struck between privacy and security
Most people take it for granted — because they've heard it so many times from politicians and pundits — that they must trade some privacy for security in this dangerous world. The challenge, we're told, is to find the right "balance." Let's examine this. On its face the idea seems reasonable. I can imagine hiring a firm to look after some aspect of my security ... We should reject the phony debate, the phony trade-off, and the phony "balance" that will be struck. There is a fundamental conflict of interest between the American people and the U.S. government. The sooner we learn that, the safer we'll be.
The Phony Trade-Off between Privacy and Security, Future of Freedom, Nov 2013
Revised and expanded version of "The Goal Is Freedom" column dated 16 Aug 2013, with additional details on the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies
I can imagine hiring a firm to look after some aspect of my security. To do its job the firm may need some information about me that I don't readily give out. It's up to me to decide whether I like the trade-off ... In a freed market, firms would compete for my business, and competition would pressure firms to ask only for information required for their services ... It appears that the panel's priority indeed will be to create public trust rather than protecting the public ... We've seen so-called independent civil-liberties review boards appointed before. Their records are nothing to write home about.
Pleasing Consumers Isn't Easy, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Jan 2007
Comments on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, in particular those selling "high-tech gadgets", shortly after Steve Jobs announced the first Apple iPhone
I love electronic gadgets — not just for their functionality or the toy factor, important as those things are. (Ideally, a good gadget combines both.) I also love them because, for me, they underscore the market's uncertainty and consumer orientation. I'm an unabashed high-tech-gadget market watcher ... We don't know what else we want our phones ... to do. But if you, Mr. Entrepreneur, get it wrong, you're fired. All the more reason to rid the economic system of all government intervention and privilege, which primarily serves to stifle competition, protect incumbents, and reduce entrepreneurs' ability to please us.
The Poison Called Nationalism, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Feb 2015
Discusses nationalism as exhibited by those who defend sniper Chris Kyle as a hero (in response to the earlier article "The American Sniper Was No Hero", 28 Jan 2015)
The reason for the venom directed at those of us who question American sniper Chris Kyle’s status as a hero can be put into one word: nationalism. Nationalism is a poison. It attacks the mind, short-circuits thinking, and makes self-destruction look appealing. Nationalism sows the seeds of hate and war ... I understand the love of virtuous principles as expressed in historical documents ... That kind of love does not ignite hate for the Other or create admiration for the warrior who enjoys killing the Other on order. That takes the poison of nationalism and an obsession with the nation it creates.
"The Police Force Is Watching the People", The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Aug 2014
Argues that the facts are crucial when identifying "the agressor and victim in particular cases" such as occurred in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and separately, that the role of police forces must be re-examined
Political philosophy — the libertarian philosophy included — can take you only so far. The libertarian philosophy provides grounds for condemning aggression, that is, the initiation of force, and along with some supplemental considerations, it identifies in the abstract what constitutes aggression, victimhood, and self-defense ... I see potential in the approach spelled out by ... Karl Hess ...
Libertarianism is a people’s movement and a liberation movement it means the freedom to have a community-based and supported judiciary where wanted, none where not, or private arbitration services ...
We have to do something — soon.
Political Science, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 May 2007
Reviews Frank Van Dun's 1986 paper titled "Economics and the Limits of Value-Free Science" and its implications for making an objective case for ethics, freedom and private property
"[I]t would be quite illogical to believe that a scientist may without inconsistency subscribe to any value-position whatsoever...." That provocative sentence is found in an article by Belgian liberal legal scholar Frank Van Dun, published in Reason Papers in 1986 ... The appeal of Van Dun's argument should be clear. Any statist intellectual will eagerly claim the mantle of truth seeker. But the argument shows that the statist cannot maintain his truth-seeker credentials while also advocating government interference with any individual's peaceful pursuits. The rug has been yanked out from under the statist's feet.
The Political Sterility of Jon Stewart, 7 Nov 2014
Laments the dearth of poltical satire, as evidenced by Jon Stewart's backtracking on his answer about not having voted and recanting a 2009 comment about Harry Truman being a war criminal
Political satire has a long and honorable history: Aristophanes, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift; W.S. Gilbert; Mark Twain; George Orwell; Lenny Bruce; Dick Gregory; Tom Lehrer, David Frost, and That Was the Week That Was; George Carlin; Spitting Image, Yes, Minister; the Smothers Brothers; the early Saturday Night Live, Dave Barry, The Onion, South Park, Family Guy, and so many more ... Here's how Carlin handled politics: "... I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain ... If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians ... you are responsible for what they have done ..."
Related Topics: Humor, Vietnam War, Voting, World War II
The Politicians Are Scaring You Again, 16 Oct 2014
Comments on scaremongering efforts by Obama administration as well as opposition offiicials in order to gain support for military action against the Islamic State
They are doing it again. "They" are the war-party politicians, Democrats and Republicans. "It" is scaring you into supporting another war in the Middle East. When will the American people learn? If in a republic the people are the ultimate check on government power, a gullible, easily frightened public is a disaster waiting to happen ... Homeland Security warns that "lone wolf" terrorism by "self-radicalized" Americans is more to be feared than an ISIS plot. The best way to avoid terrorism is to stop dropping bombs on Muslims. Meanwhile, everyone should take a deep breath. The risk of being a victim of terrorism is miniscule.
The Pope Dabbles in Economics, The Goal Is Freedom, 20 Dec 2013
Examines the economic premises of Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, explaining where the Pope has a point and where he is wrong
Pope Francis wrote in his recent apostolic exhortation, "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality." He's right — but not in the way he intends ... the pope laments that the prevailing ideologies "reject the right of states [i.e., governments], charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control" ... When have states ever looked out for the common good? It is states and their elite patrons that preserve the exclusion and inequality ...
UpdPower to the Individual, Not to the State, 29 Apr 2015
Discusses the various arguments and counter-arguments between progressives and radicals due to the former's movement to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour
How can you tell an American progressive from an American radical? A progressive laments the condition of working people and proposes to further empower the government. A radical laments the condition of working people and proposes to empower individuals by diminishing the power of government. Of course government power and individual power differ in kind ... there are the myriad barriers to self-employment and neighborhood enterprises ... To raise wages for low-skilled people we must eliminate these barriers, forcing bosses to face tougher competition for workers. Power to the individual, not to the state!
The Pretense of Regulatory Knowledge, The Goal Is Freedom, 3 Oct 2008
Written shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, amidst calls for "re-regulation" of financial markets, contrasts regulation and central planning vs. the market discipline
Advocates of the free market are sometimes parodied for their seemingly all-purpose answer to any problem: Let the market handle it. What may sound like a simplistic answer, however, is actually the most complex prescription imaginable. In the modern world, the workings of any particular market are so complicated, they are beyond the grasp of mere mortals ... The public does indeed need protection. What the free-market advocate understands, however, is that regulation is not protection but merely a shoddy, deceptive substitute for the only real protection available: market discipline.
Preventing Opposition to War, 13 Apr 2007
Explains why the Bush administration has not gotten more people directly involved in its foreign wars, such as by demanding "sacrifices" or re-instituting conscription, and points out the paradox that increased involvement could cause more war opposition
The idea, discussed by me and others, that it is good that most Americans are not directly touched by the President Bush's wars is of course not the whole story. Our rulers could have forced us to be more involved. They could have passed a special war tax ... it's good that most of American society has avoided the ugliness and spiritual rot that war wreaks. But ... it has permitted the war party to continue its imperialist policy of occupation and murder largely unmolested, while milking the people in covert ways. Paradoxically, there might be more war opposition if the empire imposed on the home population more heavily.
Related Topics: Joseph Salerno, The State, War
Preventing War with Iran Is Top Priority, 13 Nov 2013
After a brief look at Iraq, Libya, Syria and North Korea, examines the 2013 situation between the Obama administration and Israel on one side and Iran on the other
The best way to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb is for the Obama administration and its nuclear client Israel to stop threatening the Islamic Republic ... In 2003 Iraq's government had no nuclear weapons (or other WMD) ... In 2011 Libya's government had no nuclear weapons ... North Korea has nuclear weapons, and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un appears safe from any regime change ... One gets the feeling that they will never take yes for an answer to the question of nuclear weapons; they want war and regime change, no matter what the Iranian government does. The warmongers must be thwarted. Peace is the priority.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, War
The Price of Empire, 26 Apr 2006
Discusses U.S government efforts to end coca production in some Andean countries by funding crop eradication programs, and the consequent increases in cultivation in neighboring countries
Empire — sorry, benevolent hegemony — has its price. Terrorism is one. Every empire in history probably had terrorism directed at it, because it's one of the few weapons available to relatively weak nonstate adversaries. Another, less dramatic price is the determination of other countries' rulers to go their separate ways ... It is not enough that the government officials who would deny Americans some recreational drugs (but not others) destroy the freedom and privacy of Americans. They must also become partners in the oppression of foreign peasants. Is it any wonder that foreigners despise us ...?
Related Topics: War on Drugs, Imperialism, Peru
Privatize the Airwaves!, 26 Apr 2004
Comments on various incidents of FCC attempts to enforce "broadcast decency standards" and questions the rationale for nationalized airwaves
The Federal Communications Commission has begun a new crackdown on "indecency" on radio and television. While the baring of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show created a stir, the FCC has mainly focused on "shock-jock" radio. Someone called Bubba the Love Sponge lost his job for explicitly sexual material ... You'd think someone would point out that it is strange for a reputedly paradigmatic capitalist country to have nationalized airwaves. I sympathize with parents who don't want their children exposed to a lot of what's broadcast today. But government control of what should be private property is no answer.
Profiting from Misfortune, 5 Oct 2005
Reflects on the fairness of those who profit from the "misfortune of others", such as medical doctors and farmers, in view of gas price hikes due to the hurricanes of the 2005 Atlantic season
Amid the shrieks of price gouging as hurricanes ravaged the Gulf coast were a few voices of good economic sense. They correctly pointed out that when supplies of vital goods are disrupted, nothing matches the price system for restoring normalcy as quickly as possible. It does so by encouraging conservation and attracting additional supplies ... A fair price is one a seller and buyer agree to. If you have trouble seeing this, ask yourself whether you intend to sell your home for the price you paid rather than the higher price you might be able to get. I think I know the answer.
Related Topics: Farming, Fuels, Health Care, Prices
Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig, The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Nov 2013
Responds to blogger Bruenig's criticism of the essay "One Moral Standard for All"; with quotes or examples from Roderick Long, Murray Rothbard, Gary Chartier, David Hume and Karl Hess
Last week's TGIF, "One Moral Standard for All," drew a curious response from Matt Bruenig, a contributor to the Demos blog, Policy Shop. In reading his article, "Libertarians Are Huge Fans of Initiating Force," one should bear in mind that the aim of my article was not to defend the libertarian philosophy, but to show that most people live by it most of the time ... As Karl Hess wrote in "What Are the Specifics?": "The truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend, willy nilly, all property which now is called private."
Pundit in Wonderland, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Sep 2007
Critiques a Washington Post op-ed about the results of a survey showing an increase in those who consider themselves the "have-nots" of American society
In one of those boilerplate articles about the deteriorating American middle class, ... Harold Meyerson points out that a new Pew Research Center survey reveals that an increasing number of people think we live in a country divided into "haves" and "have-nots" and that more people now put themselves in the second group ... Meyerson naively places a great deal of weight on people's self-description as "have-nots." Such surveys tell us little about objective reality ... We need no proxies to assess the justice of U.S. economic system. We can evaluate it directly by observing the extent to which individual rights are respected.
The Reagan Record On Trade: Rhetoric Vs. Reality [PDF], Policy Analysis, 30 May 1988
Analysis of Reagan's stance on free trade and protectionism, contrasting what he and those in his administration said with a lengthy list of actual quotas, tariffs and trade negotiation results
When President Reagan imposed a 100 percent tariff on selected Japanese electronics in 1987, he and the press gave the impression that this was an act of desperation. Pictured was a long-forbearing president whose patience was exhausted ... After trying for years to elicit some fairness out of them, went the story, the usually good-natured president had finally had enough ... The vision Schumpeter was referring to—of a free, humane, and prosperous society—is one that Ronald Reagan often invokes. But his vision must be impaired because it surely has failed to assert itself "in all departments of national and international life."
A Real Free Market Benefits Workers, Future of Freedom, Nov 2006
Discusses The State of Working America: 2006/2007, a report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and arguments from both progressives and their opponents as to whether workers are losing ground in spite of increased productivity
Hands are wringing over bleak reports that despite increased productivity, workers generally are losing ground: real median income — adjusted for government-caused inflation — is said to be falling. Meanwhile, corporate profits are skyrocketing, and the wealthiest are doing fine ... the benefits of economic growth are said to be distributed unfairly ... The issue is freedom and autonomy, not the absolute improvement in material conditions. The corporate state, by design, inhibits competition and makes average workers worse off than they'd otherwise be. Thus the truly free market is the worker's best friend.
Real Liberalism and the Law of Nature, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Aug 2007
Examines Thomas Hodgskin's introductory letter to Henry Brougham, a Member of Parliament (later Lord Chancellor), written in 1829, published in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832)
Is government the source of our rights? I fear that today many people would say yes. Not infrequently it is said that the government or the Constitution grants us freedom of speech or press or the right to own property. This offends the natural-law tradition that was essential to the genesis of classical liberalism ("liberalism") ... Natural-law liberals, such as Thomas Paine, saw government, at best, as a necessary evil. Not so the utilitarians, Hodgskin says ... If this be the basis of the political system, Hodgkin wanted no part of it ... Where are those such as Thomas Hodgskin when we really need them?
The Repudiation of Bush, 10 Nov 2006
Comments on the results of the November 2006 U.S. mid-term elections and on replacement of Donald Rumsfeld by Robert Gates, formerly in the George H. W. Bush administration
"Power tends to corrupt," Lord Acton famously said. "And absolute power corrupts absolutely." The voters apparently agreed. It's reasonable to conclude from the election results that most voters felt the Republicans had been in power too long ... Let's keep our fingers crossed that what some people are saying is true: that the Iraq Study Group ... is actually a device to give the current President Bush cover for getting out of Iraq soon. The voters might have thrown Bush out of office if they had the chance. Maybe that knowledge will motivate the president to begin undoing his many mistakes.
Revisiting a Libertarian Classic: Nock's Our Enemy, the State, Future of Freedom, Mar 2006
Examines some of the major themes of Nock's Our Enemy, the State (1935)
We're spied on by the federal government, often without even a warrant from the submissive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The government has gathered information on anti-war groups and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The president is angry — that ordinary people have found out about this. He is planning not to stop these obnoxious activities, but rather to find out who gave him away ... Nock represents a radical strain of modern libertarian thought that gets insufficient attention today. While he did not get everything right, he was more often on the mark than off.
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Jan 2014
Discusses criticism of Richman's article "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration" (10 Jan 2014) in the larger context of rights violations
More than a few libertarians appear to hold the view that only rights violations are wrong, bad, and deserving of moral condemnation. If an act does not entail the initiation of force, so goes this attitude, we can have nothing critical to say about it. On its face, this is strange ... The erroneous belief that only conduct for which a coercive response is appropriate — that is, rights violations — may be condemned leads too easily to the corollary error that if some conduct is deserving of condemnation, it must somehow be a rights violation. The initiation of force is not the only bad thing in the world.
The Right to Life Equals the Right to Possess Firearms, Future of Freedom, Jun 1994
Discusses U.S. legislation or proposals to restrict, register, license or ban gun ownership, countering that these controls go against the basic right of self-defense, itself a corollary of the right to life
In the opinion of the pundits, the tide has turned on the gun-control issue. After years of successful opposition to federal gun control by the National Rifle Association and others, the public is said to be ready for limits on gun ownership ... "An armed society," wrote libertarian science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein, "is a polite society." ... David Kopel reports that 81 percent of the "good Samaritans" who help victims of violent crime are gun owners.The state has failed to protect us — we should never have expected it to. The time is now for us to take control of our own destiny.
The Roots of Iran's Nuclear Secrecy, 2 Apr 2014
Further commentary based on Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, discussing why the Iranian government wanted secrecy for its civilian nuclear program
For years we've heard the steady drumbeat of news stories like this: "Over 18 years, Iran secretly assembled uranium enrichment and conversion facilities that could be used for a nuclear energy program or to construct an atomic bomb." [Washington Post, Nov. 16, 2004] And this was among the least alarmist stories ... Yet, even with Iran's concealment, the IAEA concluded in 2003, "To date, there is no evidence that the ... activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons programme." Comments Porter, “But the Bush administration ridiculed that conclusion, and news media coverage tended to support its skepticism."
Related Topics: Iran, Israel
Rothbard's For a New Liberty, The Goal Is Freedom, 16 May 2014
Review of For a New Liberty (1973) with emphasis on Rothbard's discussion of the nonaggression axiom and natural rights
In 1973, nine years before he published his magnum opus in political philosophy, The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard issued a comprehensive popular presentation of the libertarian philosophy in For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, first published by the mainstream publisher Macmillan ... Rothbard played a larger role than most in shaping the modern libertarian movement. Alas, he's been gone nearly 20 years, but his work deserves attention today. Anyone eager to understand the rich libertarian philosophy and heritage could do no better than to begin with For a New Liberty.
Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty: Still Worthy after All These Years, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 May 2014
Review of The Ethics of Liberty (1982) with emphasis on part 1, covering his arguments for the validity of natural law
In 1982 Murray Rothbard published his magnum opus in political philosophy, The Ethics of Liberty. It is a tour de force, a remarkable presentation of the moral case for political freedom. What a complement to Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market, Rothbard's towering contributions to our understanding of free markets! ... Rothbard ... likely believed that a complete ethics had already been formulated by others ... So why reinvent the wheel? My questions aside, The Ethics of Liberty is a great book that deserves the attention of anyone interested in the good society and human flourishing.
Rule of Law Damaged by Schiavo Bill, 23 Mar 2005
Discusses the implications of the hurried legislation, which became known as the Palm Sunday Compromise, to allow the parents of Terri Schiavo to have federal courts another look at her case, after state courts had ruled against them
The events surrounding the life of Terri Schiavo are tragic enough. Now congressional Republicans and President Bush have made things worse. In one weekend they disabled federalism, the separation of powers, and the rule of law. These principles were embraced by the Founding Fathers because they tend to protect individual liberty ... Any time they pass and sign a law thinking they will leave the matter of its constitutionality to the courts, they violate their oaths. The American system has a division of powers, which was violated in this case, but when it comes to abiding by the Constitution, there is no division of labor.
Self-Deception about Medical Care, 15 Feb 2006
Discusses comments made by Christine Cassel, a geriatric medicine specialist, arguing for public support of Medicare; pointing out that long ago people of modest means were able to obtain medical care through "lodges" (fraternal organizations)
Sloppy thinking can make intelligent people say stupid things. Take Christine Cassel. She has been a physician specializing in geriatric medicine for 30 years and recently published Medicare Matters, a brief against privatization of the huge, brittle government program. Interviewed recently on National Public Radio ... It was so successful that other doctors, fearing that competition would reduce their incomes, got their government-backed medical societies to crack down on "lodge practice." Who would argue that today's precarious method of providing medical care and insurance — through government and bosses — is superior?
Related Topics: Government, Health Care
Sgt. Bergdahl and the Fog of War, 4 Jun 2014
Reviews the history of U.S.-Afghanistan relationship since Reagan to the 2014 release of Sgt. Bergdahl
The "fog of war" is a reference to the moral chaos on the battlefield as well as the rampant confusion. Individuals kill others for no other reason than that they are ordered to. Things deemed unambiguously bad in civilian life are authorized and even lauded in war. The killing and maiming of acknowledged innocents — in particular children and the elderly — is excused as "collateral damage." ... If he wasn't with the Americans, he was against them, and therefore it was open season. In this whirlwind of cynicism and relativism, can anyone be blamed for wondering what the point of the war was?
Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Jun 2014
Reviews U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler's writings, particularly War Is a Racket (1935) and the constitutional "Amendment for Peace"
From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps's highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine ... on reading Butler today, who can resist thinking it? As we watch Barack Obama unilaterally and illegally reinsert the U.S. military into the Iraqi disaster it helped cause and sink deeper into the violence in Syria, we might all join in the declaration with which Butler closes his book: "TO HELL WITH WAR!"
The Social Security Fraud, Sep 2001
Discusses comments made by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill indicating that the Social Security Trust Fund has no tangible assets and the response from Rep. Charlie Rangel
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill upset some people recently simply by telling the truth. He had the temerity to say that the Social Security Trust Fund has no tangible assets. It's empty. Such candor is not rewarded in Washington, D.C., the balderdash capital of the world. One of those who got upset was Rep. Charles Rangel, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee ... As the government consumes more and more scarce resources, how will Americans respond to the resulting slower economic growth or even stagnation? These vexing questions are what FDR and his New Deal bequeathed to us.
Related Topics: Social Security Tax, Taxation
Social Security Has to Go, Jan 1998
Examines the U.S. Social Security system, including the employee and employer "contributions", the "trust fund" and how it may fare in the future
President Clinton has jumped on the Social Security reform bandwagon. As a believer in government-sponsored pensions, he thinks he can fix the system. He is wrong. Social Security cannot be fixed. There is only one thing to do: junk it. The financial problems with the system have been recited many times ... How else are we being bamboozled? We can make a long-needed start toward throwing the welfare state off our backs by repealing Social Security and letting people look after their own retirement plans. Leave them the money they make, and they will be able to do so.
So What If Freedom Isn't Free?, 31 May 2013
Examines the "Freedom isn't free" assertion from the viewpoint of free will, negative or positive rights, resource scarcity and common usage
"Freedom isn't free." We've all heard this glib line. It usually is uttered as an admonition to those who criticize some government imposition that is defended in the name of national security. The last time I heard it I had just condemned military conscription — the draft — as slavery. It's also brought out to rebut those who refuse to support any given war ... The biggest threat to Americans has always been "their" own government. Countries don't call men and women to war. Hack politicians with agendas do. The next time someone says, "Freedom isn't free," you might simply respond, "What's your point?"
Speaking to Nonlibertarians, The Goal Is Freedom, 11 Jul 2014
Suggests an approach by which libertarians can try to persuade others of the undesirability of government-provided services and the benefits of free markets
If libertarians want to change how nonlibertarians think about government, they will need to understand how nonlibertarians think about government. By "nonlibertarians," I mean the majority of people who spend little if any time pondering political theory, or what Murray Rothbard called political ethics ... Libertarians understand these things, or ought to, but most other people don't. Instead, they see government as a vast mutual-aid society ... Advocates of individual freedom are unlikely to make progress if they don't educate other people on what's wrong with this picture.
The "Stable Bulwark of Our Liberties", The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Jun 2008
Reviews the Supreme Court majority opinion in the decision of the Boumediene v. Bush case, holding that Guantanamo Bay detainees can use the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday struck a blow for the separation of powers and dealt the Bush administration a big setback by ruling that suspects held without charge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to contest their imprisonment under the doctrine of habeas corpus ... defenders of liberty must be especially wary of claims to extraordinary powers. As the Irish statesman John Philpot Curran said, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
The State Is No Friend of the Worker, The Goal Is Freedom, 24 Oct 2014
Discusses how the state interferes with setting wage rates and quotes Thomas Hodgskin on how to reward workers properly
The election season is upon us, and we're hearing the usual political promises about raising wages. Democrats pledge to raise the minimum wage and assure equal pay for equal work for men and women. Republicans usually oppose those things, but their explanations are typically lame. ("The burden on small business would be increased too much.") ... So-called progressives who look to the state to set wages do a disservice to those who fare worst in the corporate state, because while progressives work on behalf of measures that must price marginal workers out of the market, truly radical reforms are overlooked.
The State of Humanity: Good and Getting Better, by Sheldon Richman, Julian Simon, 11 Nov 1996
Contrasts the pessimistic 1980 prediction, made in the Global 2000 Report to the President, about the probable state of the world in the year 2000 with the actual state in the mid-1990's.
The introduction to The Resourceful Earth (edited by Julian Simon and the late Herman Kahn) revised that passage: "If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be less crowded (though more populated), less polluted, more stable ecologically, and less vulnerable to resource-supply disruption than the world we live in now." ... Our message certainly is not one of complacency. The ultimate resource is people — especially skilled, spirited and hopeful young people endowed with liberty — who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit and inevitably benefit the rest of us as well.
Related Topics: Economic Resources, Life
States, United States: America's James Bond Complex, 4 Feb 2015
Argues that the doctrine of American "exceptionalism" means U.S. officials appear to have a de facto licence to kill and wonders why officials are treated so deferentially instead of being brought to judgment for their aggressive actions
Today, American politicians of both major parties — conservatives, “moderates," and so-called liberals alike — insist that the United States is an "exceptional," even "indispensable" nation. In practice, this means that for the United States alone the rules are different ... Will Barack Obama ever have to defend himself against murder counts for his drone kills? Will former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bear consequences for the havoc she unleashed in Libya? Of course not. The United States is the Double-O nation. Its rulers need not fear judgment. They have a license to kill.
Stay Out of Haiti, 5 Mar 2004
Comments on the U.S. intervention in Haiti after the Feb 2004 coup d'état, recalling past meddling in the early 20th century and the 1990s
Let's just get it over with. Let's make Haiti the 51st state and pump billions of dollars of welfare into it. Then at least the insertion of U.S. troops there, the third time in almost a century, won't be an unconstitutional act of foreign intervention. But seriously, what the heck are we doing there? ... The [Haitian] Constitution "worked" on the two occasions Aristide was elected president. That didn't stop him from engaging in violence and corruption. After so many years of American governments' aiding corrupt elements in Haiti, who seriously believes that this time it will come out all right?
Stop-and-Frisk: How Government Creates Problems, Then Makes Them Worse, 14 Aug 2013
Considers two recent decisions, from the Justice Department and from a Federal judge, that attempt to ameliorate bad policies enacted in the past, without getting to the root of the problems
Two recent law-enforcement decisions illustrate yet again that when government sets out to solve a problem it created, things get much worse. This week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will keep nonviolent small-scale drug sellers who have no links to criminal organizations from getting caught in the mandatory-minimum-sentence trap ... And maybe what Thomas Paine said about wars also applies to the war on drugs: "a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes."
Stop Demonizing Iran, 9 Oct 2013
Examines Iranian government efforts to resolve differences with the U.S. government, as evidenced by 2013 proposals, and recalling previous efforts to cooperate with the Bush administration, as reported in 2006 by Gareth Porter
Not everyone wants the United States to improve relations with Iran. Some prefer war instead. Not because Iran is a threat to the American people, or the Israelis, but because a friendly Iran would no longer furnish the convenient enemy the hawks in the United States and Israel need ... According to Muhammad Sahimi, an Iran expert at the University of Southern California, President Rouhani and his foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, "played key roles in the 'grand bargain' proposal." All that stands between America and Iran are those who are bent on war.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran, Middle East
Stop Them!, 26 Feb 2007
Commenty supporting a New York Times editorial advocating passage of bills to repeal the habeas corpus provisions in the Military Commissions Act and to outlaw the use of evidence obtained through torture
What is going on in America? The Bush administration's own National Intelligence Estimate says the situation is so bad in Iraq that the term "civil war" is inadequate to describe it. A government inspector confirms ... that serious doubts about Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction and connections to al-Qaeda were shunted aside ... Note to the administration: 24 isn't a reality show. That such a bill is necessary just shows the utter contempt with which this administration holds simple decency. Democrats, right now you're all we've got. Stop this administration before it kills, tortures, and imprisons again.
Stop Those Who Would Stop Uber, 11 Nov 2014
Explains how the Uber and Lyft services work and describes a typical local government reaction when Uber started offering its service in Little Rock, Arkansas
The nerve of some people! Imagine coming to a city and doing business without first asking permission from local officials! That's what Uber has done in cities all over the United States and Europe, and it's created quite a storm among politicians and licensed taxi drivers, who have held up traffic in, among other places, Boston, London, and Paris just to stamp their feet at the high-tech competition ... Americans live under the delusion that enterprise here is both private and free. It may be nominally private, but it's anything but free. Unfortunately, most people don't know what freedom is ... Land of the free? In your dreams.
Related Topics: Arkansas, Monopoly, Transportation
Subjugating Ourselves, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 May 2010
Examines key passages from La Boetie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude and criticizes newspaper editorial writers (with a recent example) for preaching to the people to acquiesce and submit to government
In The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, the sixteenth-century French poet, judge, and political philosopher Étienne de La Boétie wondered "how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him ..." ...Dionne's ahistorical assertion that government's "central task" is to "stand up for ... the less powerful against the more powerful" might be naivete. But he's too smart a guy, so it's more likely just another day at serving up the myths that keep us acquiescing in our own subjugation.
The Supreme Court Repeals the Constitution, Future of Freedom, Sep 2005
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London (2005), with emphasis on the dissenting opinions of O'Connor and Thomas
An unidentified New York Surrogate Court judge famously said in 1866, "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court we now know (if we needed reminding) that life, liberty, and property are in peril even when the legislature is not in session ... But that means we can never know how the Court will claim to understand the Framers' limits on government power. Which means: there are no limits on government power. We’ve been in postconstitutional America for some time now. Kelo adds an ominous P.S.: There's no turning back.
The Surveillance State Lives, 21 Jan 2014
Examines Obama's 17 Jan 2014 speech "Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence" announcing some "reforms" to surveillance programs
President Obama has some nerve. He opened his speech on NSA spying by likening his surveillance regime to Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty. How insulting! They were helping people resist government tyranny, and the British spied on them to put down the coming rebellion ... Freedom and security require no trade-off, because genuine freedom includes security against government snooping. Obama asks for trust, but we have too much experience to grant him his wish. Yet even if government officials had pure motives, they still should not be trusted with the power to spy.
Tackling Straw Men Is Easier than Critiquing Libertarianism, 5 Dec 2014
Counters John Edward Terrell's critique of libertarianism using quotes from Adam Smith, Vernon Smith and Herbert Spencer
Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I think it behooves a critic to understand what he's criticizing. I realize that tackling straw men is much easier than dealing with challenging arguments, but that's no excuse for the shoddy work we find in John Edward Terrell's New York Times post, "Evolution and the American Myth of the Individual." ... I welcome the day that someone writes a serious criticism of liberalism/libertarianism that reflects a real understanding of what is being criticized. Terrell and like-minded folks would expect that of their critics. How about applying the Golden Rule, guys?
Take the Constitution Seriously in the Second Term, 8 Nov 2004
Suggests a plan of action for George W. Bush upon being inaugurated (and swearing his oath of office) for a second term as U.S. President
Should President Bush declare a mandate and push ahead with his agenda or extend an olive branch of conciliation to his opponents? This is a typical false alternative that American politics often presents. He should do neither. Instead, he should do what on January 20 he will declare he is obligated to do ... While the Constitution does grant the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, trade restrictions help only special interests at the expense of everyone else and therefore violate the general-welfare clause. If Bush sets his mind to taking his oath seriously, he will surely keep out of mischief in his second term.
Tear Down the Trade Walls, 22 Apr 2005
Reflections on free trade sparked by Ukrainian president Yushchenko's remarks to the U.S. Congress asking them to remove trade restrictions that prevent Ukrainians from selling to Americans
"Please tear down this wall," the president said. No, it wasn't President Reagan challenging Soviet President Gorbachev about the Berlin Wall in the 1980s. It was the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, recently addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Yushchenko was asking the senators and representatives to remove the wall that keeps nearly 49 million Ukrainians from freely selling their metals, minerals, electronics, chemicals, and vegetables to Americans ... let's grant President Yushchenko his wish. Let him believe it's a favor to his people. We know it's really a favor to ourselves too.
Related Topics: Free Trade, Ukraine
Thank You, Milton Friedman, 20 Nov 2006
In memoriam, highlighting the many contributions of Milton Friedman both to the economics profession and as a public intellectual through his columns and his television series
Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who died at 94 last week, told the economics profession and the public many things they needed to hear. After World War II, thanks to the theories of John Maynard Keynes, most economists and policymakers believed that government should manage the economy through broad discretionary powers over the money supply and the budget ... His advocacy of the all-volunteer army was powerful and perhaps even crucial. The draft was abolished and hasn't been revived. Everyone to this day who would have been at risk of being drafted should say "thank you" to Milton Friedman.
That Mercantilist Commerce Clause, The Goal Is Freedom, 11 May 2007
Reviews law professor Calvin H. Johnson's "The Panda's Thumb: The Modest and Mercantilist Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause", William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol 13, Issue 1, October 2004
The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution has been used to justify a wide expansion of government power, from antidiscrimination laws to drug prohibition to a ban on guns near schools. In objecting to use of the Commerce Clause for such remote purposes, some constitutionalists rely on a particular historical interpretation ... Johnson's point is that from mercantilist beginnings, the Commerce Clause evolved into something else very different: That the power to regulate commerce was once a mercantilist clause, regulating commerce by restricting it, should not bother us very much. We are no longer mercantilists.
They Don't Mean Well, 15 Jan 2014
Reviews Barry Lando's article "The American Legacy in Iraq", which describes U.S. government intervention in Iraq since 1990 as well as Lando's interview with Scott Horton discussing earlier meddling
Americans have a strange need to believe that their "leaders" mean well. Even when the horror of some government operation is revealed (usually after being kept from the American people), solemn pundits and elder statesmen will drone on about unintended consequences and the fog of war ... The resulting deaths of Iraqis, including half a million children, were not unintended consequences ... The officials who devised and carried out these policies, like those before and after them, committed, not well-intended errors, but crimes against humanity. When will Americans care enough to rein in this rogue government?
Related Topics: Foreign Entanglements, Iraq
Thinking about Foreign Policy, Future of Freedom, Dec 2006
Analyzes why most people, even libertarians, tend to think about foreign policy as if it were decided upon by "the people" or at least with their interests in mind, rather than the "ruling elite" and its desire "to preserve and augment its own power"
The reason there is so much sloppy thinking about foreign policy among libertarians (not to mention nearly everyone else) is that most people don’t know how to approach the subject. You can see this whenever someone uses analogies such as the bully on a playground or the madman with a baby strapped to his chest drawing his machine gun in a crowded mall ... Americans rarely see their government's policies through the eyes of those who suffer them. If libertarians are to be consistent, they must never forget that the noninterventionist principle applies to foreign as well as to domestic policy.
Toying with the Free Market, Future of Freedom, Dec 1998
Discusses the 1998 Toys "R" Us restructuring announcement and the 1996 Federal Trade Commission complaint that the firm had engaged in monopolistic practices
Here's a noteworthy story from the Washington Post last September: "Toys 'R' Us Inc., the world's largest toy retailer, announced a major restructuring yesterday in an effort to shore up the chain's sales and profits, which have flagged as a result of growing competition from discounters and changes in the way children play." ... In that light, Toys "R" Us's attempt to keep certain toys off the discounters' shelves appears perfectly rational and in harmony with the interests of consumers. The latest news about Toys "R" Us reminds us, however, that consumers always have the last word.
Trade Restrictions Show Hypocrisy, 12 Sep 2003
Discusses how U.S. and European agricultural tariffs and quotas, established at the behest of wealthy farmers in those countries, harm farmers in the developing world as well as others in the developed nations
A lesson in government hypocrisy — as if one were needed these days — is to be found in the agricultural policies of the rich nations of the world, including the United States. The U.S. government incessantly proclaims its desire to help the world's poor. Empty words ... Globalization is under attack from a motley crew of socialists and phony anarchists (who want governments to stifle trade). A defense of true globalization — unfettered free trade — cannot be made by hypocritical protectionist governments beholden to special interests. Free traders of the world unite. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Related Topics: Brazil, Farming, Free Trade, Government
Treating People Like Garbage, The Goal Is Freedom, 4 Oct 2013
Prompted by the "closing" of the U.S. government during Oct 2013, examines two examples of how the state behaves towards people: an Iraq war veteran and his family, and the genocide of Bengalis in March 1971, with the support of Nixon and Kissinger
The government "closed" this week. The quotation marks are meant to indicate that the worst parts of the government remain open at some level. It would be preferable to keep the monuments and national parks, like the Grand Canyon, going while closing the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, ICE, FBI, ATF, and all related so-called national-security agencies ... Does any of this sound familiar? ... The historian Ralph Raico observes that critics of the libertarian world view complain that the market treats people like commodities. Maybe, Raico replies. But the state treats people like garbage.
Treating Us like Children, Future of Freedom, Nov 1998
Comments on an amendment to an appropriations bill that would outlaw Internet gambling, overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, and discusses the "democratic paternalism" evinced by this action
It's getting harder to imagine a Republican keeping a straight face while proclaiming the GOP to be the party of limited government and personal liberty. The latest reason? The Republican-controlled Senate recently voted 90-10 to outlaw gambling over the Internet. The prohibition ... would impose a penalty of three months in prison ... Democratic paternalism, then, is based on a contradiction. If we can trust people with the vote, we can surely trust them to make decisions for themselves and their children. Saving the children, and saving adults from their own folly, is a bad reason for restricting liberty.
Trivial Dispute: Obama versus the Interventionists, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 May 2014
Examines Barack Obama's speech at the 2014 West Point graduation and points out the scant differences between him and those advocating military intervention, in arguments for continued U.S. meddling in other countries' affairs
American politics is largely a series of debates over unimportant details. These debates are conducted far above the fundamental level because the supposed contenders share the same premises. Where they disagree is at the level of application, and so the disagreements end up being fairly minor ... The government will always keep secrets about its activities abroad, and that secrecy will shroud from public view inevitable operations to benefit special interests ... and to support brutal and corrupt regimes that are useful to the policy elite's objectives. Government simply cannot be trusted with such power.
Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 Aug 2013
Written on the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki, discusses whether the bombing and that of Hiroshima were really necessary and whether they should be considered war crimes
Sixty-eight years ago today a president of the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a city full of innocent Japanese. It was the second time in three days that Harry Truman had done such a thing: He had bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 ... The bombings – and other atrocities ... during World War II ... should have been enough to destroy forever any perception of moral authority in the U.S. government ... Until Americans come to see the mass murder in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the war crimes they are, it's hard to be optimistic that they will ever see U.S. imperial foreign policy for the aggression it is.
Two Kinds of Income Inequality, 22 Jan 2015
Differentiates between market (or inherent) and political-economic inequalities and recommends elimination of legislation enforcing the latter, such as intellectual property laws, regulations and licensing
Income inequality is back in the news, propelled by an Oxfam International report and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The question is whether government needs to do something about this — or whether government needs to undo many things. Measuring income inequality is no simple thing, which is one source of disagreement between those who think inequality is a problem and those who think it isn't ... Instead of symbolically tweaking the tax code to appear to be addressing inequality — the politicians' charade — political-economic inequality should be ended by repealing all privileges right now.
Understanding the Paris Violence, 14 Jan 2015
Examines the statements of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who, in the wake of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, killed four people and held others hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris
Contrary to American officialdom and its stalwart "manufacturers of consent" — the intelligentsia and mainstream media — we will never comprehend the reasons for the slaughter of 17 innocent people in Paris as long as we ignore the history of Western violence against the Muslim world ... Coulibaly must not be excused for his crimes. But we harm ourselves if we ignore what he and others in his position have said. (The Charlie Hebdo killers were similarly "radicalized.") Muslims and Arabs have legitimate grievances against the U.S. government and its allies — even if some of their responses are illegitimate.
Related Topics: Foreign Entanglements, France
Unjust Immigration Law Is Not Law, 21 Nov 2014
Discusses President Obama's decision to defer deportation of some undocumented immigrants, although three years ago he had said he lacked such authority
So President Obama is going to defer deportation of five million people without government papers, mostly parents of children whom the government deems citizens or legal permanent residents. Under his executive order, most will get permission to work. Obama will also increase the number of "dreamers" ... who will be made safe from deportation ... I know better than to think that Obama's executive order is the start of something big. But that is no reason not to rejoice.Because of his action, some human beings won't be torn from their children by jackbooted immigration thugs. I can't see how that's not a good thing.
An Unstimulating Idea, The Goal Is Freedom, 25 Jan 2008
Examines the economic "stimulus" proposals being made by "everyone and his uncle" during the 2008 United States elections
"It's like taking a bucket of water from the deep end of a pool and dumping it into the shallow end. Funny thing — the water in the shallow end doesn't get any deeper." That's how ... economist Russell Roberts describes the logic — rather, illogic — of the economic "stimulus" proposals ... We are in our present position because government has burdened us with taxes, spending, debt, regulations, subsidies, guarantees ..., trade restrictions, fiat money, and other impositions. Between the endless domestic schemes and war, we are being crushed by the weight of the state. We don't need a stimulus. We need freedom.
The U.S. Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity, 4 Jun 2013
Describes the disheartening and shameful story of the forced evacuation of Diego Garcia's native inhabitants by Great Britain during 1968-1973, so that the United States could set up a Navy base, as well as current efforts to redress those actions
The largest criminal organizations in the world are governments. The bigger they are, the more capable of perpetrating atrocities. Not only do they obtain great wealth through compulsion (taxation), they also have an ideological mystique that permits them uniquely to get away with murder, torture, and theft ... "A day after the European court ruling, the Obama administration rejected the demands of an online petition signed by some 30,000 asking the White House to 'redress wrongs against the Chagossians.'" The British were adequately looking after the matter, the administration said. Here is government in all its glory.
U.S.-Egyptian "Historic Partnership" Reeks with Hypocrisy, 25 Jun 2014
Examines events in Egypt from the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak to the 2013 coup d'état that removed Mohamed Morsi and the 2014 announcement by the Obama administration of continued military support for General el-Sisi
Largely overshadowed by events in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration is dropping its pretense at displeasure with the military junta in Egypt and restoring full support for the regime that so recently quashed the country's faltering attempt at democracy ... Palestinians ... received the news of the coup against Morsi with apprehension. But the coup — which the Obama administration was reluctant to identify as such — served U.S. government interests. Its alliance with Egypt's military dictatorship shows the hypocrisy of Barack Obama's paeans to freedom and self-government. Americans should be embarrassed.
Related Topics: Egypt, Israel
The U.S. Empire Provokes Terrorism, 8 Aug 2013
Examines the claims and behavior of the Obama administration in response to "terrorist chatter" supposedly intercepted by them and counsels changing the interventionist foreign policy
Perhaps we'll never know if intercepted chatter between al-Qaeda leaders — which prompted the U.S. government to close dozens of diplomatic missions in the Muslim world and to issue a worldwide travel alert — was serious or not. But mischief shouldn't be ruled out ... U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, in which noncombatants are killed, don't win friends. They recruit enemies bent on revenge. It follows therefore that the best way to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the threat of terrorism is to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy — from imperial intervention to strict nonintervention.
U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Shambles, 7 Jan 2014
Examines the 2014 status of United States foreign policy in various Middle East countries
With al-Qaeda affiliates wreaking havoc in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to lament that no U.S. troops are on the scene to get in on the action. "The Administration must recognize the failure of its policies in the Middle East and change course," McCain and Graham said ... Kerry won't condemn this flagrant undermining of "peace" talks because he ... is beholden to Israel's powerful American lobby. Then there's Libya and Syria — but you get the idea. U.S. foreign intervention aggravates conflicts and puts America on the side of oppressors. No wonder it's falling to pieces.
The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba, 6 Aug 2014
Comments on the 2014 disclosure that operatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development attempted to incite opposition to the Cuban government
When I saw the headline about the U.S. government and Cuba in my newspaper the other day, I thought I’d awoken in 1961. It was a Twilight Zone moment for sure: "U.S. program aimed to stir dissent in Cuba." I expected Rod Serling to welcome me to "another dimension." But it was 2014 ... News of the USAID operation reminds us of some of the U.S. government’s most despicable acts during the Cold War ... After all that, you’d think Obama and Clinton would have learned that the best way to liberate Cuba is for the United States to normalize relations, complete with free trade and free travel.
Related Topics: Cuba, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama
U.S. Has No Moral Standing to Condemn Assad, 28 Aug 2013
Questions the propriety of the U.S. government's moral pronouncements (and potential military actions) in response to allegations that Syria's government used chemical weapons
Whether or not Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, President Obama has no legitimate grounds to intervene. U.S. airstrikes, intended to punish and deter Assad and degrade his military but not overthrow his regime, would deepen the U.S. investment in the Syrian civil war and increase the chances of further intervention ... the Obama administration bankrolls Egypt's military government, which massacred over a thousand street demonstrators, and Israel's repression of the Palestinians. The U.S. government should get its own house in order and quit lecturing others.
Related Topics: Barack Obama, Syria, War
U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran, 14 Feb 2007
Discusses the hypocrisy of Bush administration pronouncements and actions about Iran "meddling in Iraq", considering the U.S. intervention in Iran in 1953 and the U.S. invasion and continued occupation of Iraq
"It has been clear for some time that Iran has been meddling in Iraq," says White House spokesman Gordon D. Johndroe. "We don't believe that [Iran's] behavior, such as supporting Shia extremists in Iraq, should go unchallenged," John Negroponte, the U.S. intelligence boss, added ... So perhaps the Iranian seizure of the U.S. embassy and its personnel in 1979 wasn't so malicious ... It is typical of too many Americans to be ignorant of the U.S. government's foreign misconduct and then to think that any hostility toward America must be unjustified. With Bush's warnings to Iran, U.S. hypocrisy has reached a new low.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Iran, Iraq
The U.S. Isn't Leaving Afghanistan, 20 Nov 2013
Reviews the terms of a 2013 draft agreement, due to go into effect in Jan 2015, between the U.S. and Afghan governments to maintain U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan "until the end of 2024 and beyond"
If a draft agreement between the Obama administration and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is finalized, U.S. troops will remain in that country indefinitely — instead of being withdrawn at the end of 2014, as the administration has said. This is a confession of failure. America's longest war is nowhere near its end ... Thousands of Afghan noncombatants have died in the 12-year war, yet Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and reports of U.S. progress are not merely gross exaggerations, but outright lies ... In other words, the U.S. government has lost a war it never should have begun.
Related Topics: Afghanistan, War
Variations on a Corporatist Theme, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Apr 2012
Contrasts the rhetoric on both sides of the 2012 U.S. presidential contest, finding it fundamentally alike
So the presidential campaign is shaping up as a contest between a Democrat who says we had a free market from 2001 through 2008 and a Republican who ... agrees—he says "[w]e are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy." You can't cease to be something you never were ... When Obama and Romney argue over whether taxes should be raised on the rich, bear in mind that such disagreements are nothing new among factions of the ruling elite. (Besides, the rich can always find ways around higher rates). No matter which faction wins, the people will lose.
Vouchers or School Choice?, 12 Nov 2007
Examines the vote in Utah that refused ratification of a bill on school vouchers, and explains how only entrepreneurs, free from government interference, can provide real choice and innovation in education
The voters of Utah said no to school vouchers on Tuesday. More than 60 percent of voters refused to ratify a bill passed earlier by the state legislature. It would have provided taxpayer-funded vouchers for each government-school student, ranging from $500 to $3,000, depending on family income ... government schools inhibit true education reform ... Education liberated from government wouldn't only be more efficient. It would also be more in keeping with a free society. Where did the people inspired by the Declaration of Independence ever get the dangerous idea that government should teach their children?
Warfare/Welfare/Corporate State: All of a Piece, The Goal Is Freedom, 24 Jan 2014
Dissects article by Princeton professor Sean Wilentz criticizing Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange due to their libertarian sympathies
If I understand Princeton historian Sean Wilentz correctly, progressives ought not to be grateful to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Glenn Greenwald for exposing government spying because they are not card-carrying progressives ... Apparently they have ... supported a libertarian, or said something sympathetic to some part of the libertarian philosophy — which cancels out anything they might have gotten credit for ... So in the end, despite his errors and calumnies, Wilentz is right in a way he doesn't know. One cannot critique the surveillance state without critiquing the rest of the existing political apparatus.
War in Georgia Shows U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Bust, 15 Aug 2008
Examines how NATO and the U.S. implicitly encouraged the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to suppress secessionists in South Ossetia
The tragic events in the nation of Georgia show that U.S. foreign policy is a bust. In particular, NATO must go. This may seem counterintuitive, but this relic of the Cold War has nothing to contribute to peace. On the contrary, it is a destabilizing tool of America's provocative imperial foreign policy ... The message of Georgia is clear. We need a top-to-bottom rethinking of American foreign policy. The American people's interest lies in peace and free trade. Let others work out their own problems. Most of all, let's keep the U.S. government from making the world's problems worse than they already are.
Related Topics: Georgia, Russia
War Is Peace and Other Things the Government Wants You to Believe [PDF], Jun 2008
Transcript of speech given at The Future of Freedom Foundation's June 2008 conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties”, including audience questions
The state has to propagate a lot of myths, because if it told the straight truth to us we wouldn't put up with it anymore. So that goes without saying. And, there've been movies—there's been a lot of fiction, and movies and novels, that try to make this point. I don't know if most people get it. But think about The Matrix, for example ... I think the whole War on Terror is a distraction from the real war, from the real war that we ought to be waging. And here I'm using war metaphorically, not in the military sense. But by that I mean the war on the ruling elite, and their policy which has gotten us into this fix to begin with.
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 1, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Feb 2015
Examines the sentiments of the founding fathers and other leading figures and some of the events that led to the War of 1812, and argues that "dangerous precedents were set" that led to imperialism and further wars
In 1918, having watched in horror as his Progressive friends gleefully jumped onto Woodrow Wilson's war wagon, Randolph Bourne penned the immortal words: "War is the health of the state." As he explained it, "The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man's emotions ..." ... Jefferson called this response, which was highly divisive because it disrupted so many Americans’ means of earning a living, "peaceful coercion" and an alternative to war. Wood adds, "The actual fighting of 1812 was only the inevitable consequence of the failure of ‘peaceful coercion.'"
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 2, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Mar 2015
Discusses how James Madison's conduct of the War of 1812 led to changes in American attitudes, including mercantilism, militarism, imperialism and centralization
As the War of 1812 with Great Britain approached during the Republican administration of James Madison, the War Hawks saw silver linings everywhere ... "Republicans even came to see the war as a necessary regenerative act ..." historian Gordon S. Wood writes in Empire of Liberty ... Moreover, the War of 1812 reinforced the executive branch's de facto monopoly over foreign policy. Within a few years the Monroe administration ... would defend Gen. Andrew Jackson's invasion of Spanish Florida ... after which dissenting members of Congress could do nothing but gripe. Randolph Bourne was right: war is indeed the health of the state.
War, Peace, and Murray Rothbard, 18 Jul 2014
Review and commentary on Murray Rothbard's 1963 essay "War, Peace, and the State"
With wars raging in the Middle East, it seems like a good time to revisit a classic work by Murray Rothbard (1926–1995), the economist, historian, and political philosopher who had a lot to do with the birth and evolution of the modern libertarian movement. His "War, Peace, and the State" is something that all peace advocates ... ought to be familiar with ... This essay contains much else of interest — on revolution, foreign aid, and more — so I highly recommend it, as well as Murray's other writings on war. I don't say that he anticipated and addressed every hard question ... But "War, Peace, and the State" is a great start.
Washington Logic, 22 Sep 2006
Comments on the perverted logic used in Washington politics, as evidenced by lobbying for and against import tariffs
Washington is a funny place, with its own unique "logic." It's a "company" town, the "company" being the federal government, the "product" being public policy. As a result, an odd sort of "thinking" is encouraged there. It's not like other places. Or it wasn't before the accelerating centralization of power in recent times ... Some crusader for good government will wave the clipping as he implores Congress to further restrict political donations and spending ... Once again the point will be missed: special interests would have nothing to buy if government had nothing to sell.
Was the Constitution Really Meant to Constrain the Government?, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 Aug 2008
Explains how attempting to revert to the "original meaning" of the Constitution or appealing to the writings of the framers is not a shortcut leading to a free society
There's no shortcut to a free society. I find myself repeating this because looking for shortcuts is tempting, and thinking is easily overtaken by wishful thinking. A shortcut favored by most advocates of limited government is restoration of the Constitution ... we will not cause the freedom philosophy to prevail merely by invoking a political document written by men who thought the main problem with America was too little, not too much, government. Rather, we must cut to the chase and convince people directly that our concepts of freedom and justice best accord with logic — and their own deepest moral sense.
We Aren't Children, Nov 2001
Discusses the implications of three recent alcohol regulations in the state of Arkansas and explains the phenomenon of Baptists and bootleggers
Theoretically this is the Land of the Free, but don't you believe it. In the Land of the Really Free, adults wouldn't be treated like children. Yet all levels of government treat us like the youngest, dumbest children you can imagine. Here are some examples, all from one state ... and involving only one thing: alcohol ... And speaking of voting, if we grownup Americans are so incompetent when it comes to making decisions about alcohol, why does anyone expect us to vote for the best people to hold political office? Either we are adults capable of regulating our lives or we are children. Make up your minds.
Related Topics: Arkansas, Prohibition, Voting
We Can Oppose Bigotry without the Politicians, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Feb 2014
Explains why the state (as in the case of Arizona's Senate Bill 1062) is not necessary to ensure that people or businesses don't discriminate against others on the basis of sexual orientation or other reasons
Should the government coercively sanction business owners who, out of apparent religious conviction, refuse to serve particular customers? While such behavior is repugnant, the refusal to serve someone because of his or her race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is nevertheless an exercise of self-ownership and freedom of nonassociation ... As I wrote in connection with the public-accommodations provision (Title II) of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, private action is not only morally superior to government action, it is also more effective ...
... The libertarian answer to bigotry is community organizing.
We Must Not Be the World’s Policeman, 4 Sep 2013
Considers whether United States government actions. such as bombing, against the goverment of Syria's Bashar al-Assad are justified from moral or constitutional perspectives
Even if everything Secretary of State John Kerry says about chemical weapons in Syria were true, the evidence would prove only that Bashar al-Assad committed crimes against civilians. It would not prove that the U.S. government has either the moral or legal authority to commit acts of war ... The law of unintended consequences cannot be repealed ... At home, a perpetual war footing drains our pockets, puts us at risk of retaliation, violates our privacy, and distorts our economy through the military-industrial complex. James Madison understood well: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
We Need Freedom, Not School Standards, Jun 1996
Compares the levels of education of Americans before and after 1840, when Horace Mann and others architected "public schools" and various levels of government got involved in education
Academic standards are all the rage. Nearly everyone thinks they are the key to improving the dismal state of American education. The nation's governors recently affirmed their intention to hold the children of their states to high standards ... We must rediscover the idea that education is not for the glory of the nation, the good of society, or the health of the economy. It is for the growth of the child into a free and independent adult. What the American people need is ... liberty, so that they can set their own standards ... The only way to get that is to separate school and state.
We Need Real Free Trade Now, 4 Feb 2004
Responds to an article by Paul Craig Roberts and Sen. Charles Schumer arguing that free trade is no longer tenable due to outsourcing of jobs to Asian countries made possible by the "easy mobility of software and data"
People in parts of the developing world are becoming more free, better educated, and increasingly dexterous with modern communications, such as the Internet. As a result, they are more vigorously participating in the world economy. They are in a position to make things and do things for us that they could not have done a short time ago. They are even making and doing things — for lower wages — that Americans do ... The worst thing would be even more interference in the form of new trade restrictions. What we need is full free trade — domestically and internationally.
We Were Warned about the Rise of Empire, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Jun 2014
In light of calls for U.S. re-intervention in Iraq, revisits Garet Garrett's 1952 essay "The Rise of Empire" discussing Garrett's five traits that are "the true marks of Empire" and their applicability to the United States in 2014
American critics of U.S. foreign policy (as well as some neoconservative supporters) often refer to the United States as an empire. This is not an emotional outburst but a substantive description of the national government's role in the world. But what exactly is an empire? ... look at the regimes American administrations have supported and support today. But Garrett said that even if this claim were granted, the case for empire would be self-defeating because its price is bankruptcy. So even if "this is Imperialism of the Good Intent," he wrote, it would also have to be the "Empire of the Bottomless Purse."
What an Honest Conversation about Race Would Look Like, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Jul 2013
Argues that in order to have an "honest conversation about race", it must first be recognized that many government policies, such as drug prohibition, gun control and mandatory schooling, are enablers for racism
Ever since George Zimmerman's fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin hit the national headlines last year, calls for an "honest conversation about race" have been heard throughout America. (Up until then, apparently, we've had only conversations about having a conversation about race.) ... Most tragically, all these government inventions, which serve to create dysfunctional communities, feed the private racists' poisonous narrative. This hardly exhausts the discussion of official racism. So, yes, let's have that honest conversation about race. And let's begin with the biggest enabler of racism of all: the state.
What Are Libertarians Out to Accomplish?, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 Jan 2015
Reviews the Nathaniel Branden speech "What Happens When the Libertarian Movement Begins to Succeed?", given at the 1979 Libertarian Party national convention, about the manner in which libertarians communicate with non-libertarians
When I was researching my recent article on Nathaniel Branden, who died last month, I came across an audio file of a talk Branden gave at the 1979 Libertarian Party national convention in Los Angeles. I was at the convention, but I don't remember attending the talk. I might have been busy with other things ... Branden went on to note that some libertarians "cannot seem to come off the level of extreme generality" and that this could indicate that martyrdom, not persuasion, is their goal ... Through this speech Branden once again demonstrated his value to the libertarian cause. We would all profit by taking his advice.
What Exactly Did Gerald Ford Heal?, 5 Jan 2007
Counters the argument that Gerald Ford, by pardoning Richard Nixon, "healed the nation"
Over the last several days former President Gerald R. Ford has been repeatedly praised for "healing" the nation in the aftermath of Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal. Democrat, Republican, and solemn pundit alike paid extravagant tribute to the man who, in their view, saved the American people from "disaster." ... In his eulogy, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised Ford for "[restoring] the strength of the presidency." After six years of autocratic War President George W. Bush and Ford protégés Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, can anyone honestly believe that was a good thing?
What Is Golf?, Jul 2001
Analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin that, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PGA Tour must allow disabled golfers to ride a golf cart
So now the courts are writing the rules for professional sports. What's next? Will they soon tell us that sometimes two of a kind beats a full house? On May 29 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the PGA Tour has to let Casey Martin ride in a golf cart despite its walking rule ... While it may be nice, as well as good business, to accommodate people with handicaps, it is not a legal obligation under our traditional ... idea of individual rights ... to which we owe our freedom and prosperity. When will we learn, as someone once put it, that a government that can do anything for you can do anything to you?
Related Topics: Golf, Law
What Is the Constitution?, Future of Freedom, Jun 2002
Discusses constitutional interpretation of allowed governmental powers and restrictions on such powers, in particular the ninth and tenth amendments, in light of comments from Antonin Scalia about a national ID card
Justice Antonin Scalia is probably the smartest man on the Supreme Court. That makes him a living example of how bad political and philosophical premises can put great talent in the service of an evil cause, namely, the destruction of individual liberty. In November ... Scalia was asked what he thought about proposals to impose a national ID card on the American people ... Jefferson knew of what he spoke when he said, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." If we are to restore our liberties and get government under control again, it behooves all Americans to understand what Charlotte Twight has to say.
What Is the Enemy?, Future of Freedom, Apr 2006
Discusses why corporatism, also known as state capitalism or political capitalism, is the "the great institutional threat to liberty"
As libertarians, what should we view as the great institutional threat to liberty? The most common answer is socialism. But that is far too general to be helpful because it leaves unspecified what kind of socialism and in the service of whose interests. In one sense the answers to those questions are unimportant: any (state) socialism threatens freedom ... While it is true that the system has become more pluralized, ... it is still a system that aims to be amenable to the concerns of the corporate elite. Thus the chief opposition for libertarians is the business establishment that refuses to operate in a free market.
What Should Libertarians Do?, The Goal Is Freedom, 25 Apr 2014
Examines what libertarianism requires of people, e.g., an understanding of economics, and suggests focusing on the liberal insight that "societies run themselves" spontaneously, with example quotes from Thomas Paine and John Quincy Adams
If the libertarian movement is to be the vehicle ... for the advancement of liberty, then libertarians need to master the art of persuasion. That's hardly news, but it's easily forgotten ... we don't want merely to feel good by making hard-core libertarian declarations about abolishing this or that government violation of liberty ... It's not enough to be able to recite the bottom-line position on any particular matter. We have to understand why that position is the right one. That requires a deep understanding of liberty and society. And that’s why the striving for liberty is a life-long commitment.
What Social Animals Owe Each Other, Future of Freedom, Jul 2014
Revised version of "The Goal Is Freedom" column dated 18 Apr 2014
If I were compelled to summarize the libertarian philosophy's distinguishing feature while standing on one foot, I'd say the following: Every person owes it to all other persons not to aggress against them. This is known as the nonaggression principle ... One last question remains: Is the obligation broadly to treat other persons as ends and not merely as means a libertarian matter? It is, at least in this way: The obligation broadly to treat other persons as ends and not merely as means is validated by the same set of facts that validate the nonaggression principle. Nonaggression is simply one application of respect.
Related Topic: Non-aggression Principle
What Social Animals Owe to Each Other, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 Apr 2014
Delves into the meaning and justification for the non-aggression principle, with insights from Roderick Long's "Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand"
If I were compelled to summarize the libertarian philosophy's distinguishing feature while standing on one foot, I'd say the following: Every person owes it to all other persons not to aggress against them. This is known as the nonaggression principle, or NAP ... nonaggressive affronts against persons may be responded to only in nonaggressive ways. Neither governmental nor private force may be deployed to counter peaceful offenses. Why not? Because the rule of proportionality dictates that force may be used only to meet force. In other words, some obligations are enforceable and others are not.
What's to Lose?, 20 Apr 2007
Explains the benefits to most Americans if the U.S. government would admit defeat and withdraw its troops from Iraq, contrary to George W. Bush's claims
The other day President Bush charged the congressional Democrats with wanting to "legislate defeat" in Iraq. It's a standard political ploy to smear one's opponents, but maybe we should follow this line of thought (if that's not too dignified a word) and see where it leads ... Other losers will be the government contractors who have made out like bandits in this war ... The American people may pay lower gasoline prices because of this subsidy, but maybe they'd prefer higher prices and lower taxes instead. Finally, the losers will be anyone else who prefers empire to republicanism, limits on government power, and freedom.
What's Wrong with Public Schools?, Separating School & State, 1994
Excerpt from chapter 2 of Separating School & State (1994), published online on 25 March 2005
To have reasonable expectations about the public schools, we must be clear about what they are and how they operate. It is necessary to look at how they are funded and controlled and what implications those aspects of the system have for the service being provided ... Even if people might like to spend lots of time studying ... the school system ... most simply cannot do it ... Those who can ... usually have a special interest in doing so—members of the teachers' union, for example. In the end, school policy will be inordinately influenced by a small group of activists, not by the mass of taxpayers or parents...
What the Immigration Bill Overlooks, 9 Jul 2013
Discusses the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (approved by the Senate, but not considered in the House) and how it disregards basic human rights
In passing the monstrosity known as immigration "reform," the Senate overlooked a few things of importance. This is unsurprising. A bill on immigration that is backed by leading Republicans and Democrats, big business, and government-co-opted unions is bound to have missed some things ... When individuals move from capital-poor to capital-rich societies, their productivity increases, enabling them to better provide for themselves and their families ... It is cruel and hypocritical for America not to do the one thing that would best lift the fortunes of the world's poor and oppressed.
Related Topics: Free Market, Law, Rights
Where Free-Market Economists Go Wrong, The Goal Is Freedom, 1 Feb 2008
In view of the early 2008 economic stimulus proposals, admonishes free-market economists and libertarians who fail to point out that the current economic system is not truly a free market but rather a corporatist, government interventionist system
As the stimulus juggernaut steams through Congress, advocates of freedom would profit by studying the case closely. Try not to get depressed by the spectacle. Politics, alas, trumps economics. There's nothing new in that, but we ought to learn some lessons and adjust our strategy accordingly ... F.A. Hayek never spoke more wisely than when he said, "What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions) ..."
Where Is the Constitution?, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Jul 2006
Discusses the varying legal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, what is meant by "obeying rules" and suggests that to effect change in a pro-liberty direction, the "hearts and minds" of people must change
The question in the title is not like "Who's buried in Grant's tomb"? The answer isn't the National Archives. I mean the real constitution — the set of attitudes that reflect what Americans people will accept as legitimate actions by the people in government. Those tacit "rules" are the real constitution, not a piece of parchment behind glass somewhere or a booklet in someone's pocket ... If liberty and free markets are to be established, government power must be rolled back. And if government power is to be rolled back, the real constitution — people's hearts and minds — must be pro-liberty.
W(h)ither Public Schools?, Separating School & State, 1994
Chapter 1, made available online on 19 May 2004 to celebrate the tenth publication anniversary; discusses how even mild "public school" reforms are treated as "deadly threats", why a new vision is needed and the role of the family in educating children
Is anyone happy with the public schools? It seems not. Those with no financial stake in the schools have translated their unhappiness into various reform proposals, such as charter schools or voucher plans. Those who do have a stake in the current system—the teachers' union, for example—point to the schools' bad condition as a reason for the government to appropriate more money ... the young people in primary and secondary schools are much more impressionable than those in the institutions of higher education. That is why the matter with respect to public schools is so urgent. Our children's lives are at stake.
Why the U.S. Blew a Chance to Reconcile with Iran, 1 May 2014
Another story from Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis (2014): how the George H. W. Bush administration bungled the opportunity to improve the U.S. relationship with Iran
In the late 1980s the U.S. government had an opportunity to change its relationship with Iran from hostile to nonadversarial. It had been hostile since 1979, when the Islamic revolution overthrew the brutal U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Iranians held 52 Americans hostage ... "The CIA leadership had begun the search for substitutes for the Soviet threat as early as 1988." Would these government agencies really manufacture a threat merely to protect themselves from budget cutters in the wake of the Cold War? Anyone who knows anything about bureaucracies knows the answer to that question.
Related Topics: Cold War, Iran
Why They Hate Us, Future of Freedom, Feb 2008
Examines the myth that the United States is hated because Americans "are free and represent democracy", suggesting Americans ought to "get curious" about what their government has done to foreigners over the last century
What's more obnoxious than a person who constantly whines about the real and imagined injustices committed against him while ignoring his own injustices against others? A country that does the same thing. One of the great myths accepted by the American people is that historically, the United States — more precisely, the U.S. government — has been a gentle giant ... Reputable scholars and journalists have turned out a library full of books in the last six years documenting the U.S. government's record as an international bully ... Let's stop whining and get curious. As Walt Kelly's Pogo put it, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Will 2016 Be a Good Year for the Corporate State?, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Dec 2013
Considers the prospective 2016 U.S. presidential contenders preferred by "Wall Streeters", Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, and how they line up with the aims of the corporate state, and further comments about South Africa under Mandela
If you share my belief that the major obstacle to the free society is the national-security/corporate state, 2016 is shaping up to be a year of apprehension. The Wall Streeters, who are among the biggest advocates of partnership between big government and big business, are looking forward to a presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, a contest the bankers can't lose ... The results? Some economic growth, but lately nothing spectacular ... Too bad Mandela never learned there is a radical alternative to both plutocracy and statocracy. I hope it's not too late for us.
Will American Ground Troops Be Sent to Fight ISIS?, 25 Sep 2014
Analyzes Barack Obama's statements, made on 17 Sep 2014, regarding his anti-Islamic State strategy of (a) not sending American ground forces and (b) being merely a part of "a broad coalition"
With the United States dropping bombs on yet another Muslim country, we might benefit from a close look at President Obama's anti–Islamic State strategy. Obama and his spokespeople are always quick to make two points: first, that no American ground forces will be sent into combat against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and second, that the United States will merely be part, albeit a leading part, of a broad coalition ... In declaring war against the ISIS insurgency (with no congressional declaration), Obama has set the country on a course of intervention in two Muslim civil wars. It can't turn out well.
Woodstock May Have Saved Sen. McCain's Life, 7 Nov 2007
Critiques John McCain's comment regarding Hillary Clinton's proposal for taxpayer funding of a Woodstock festival museum
John McCain scored a standing ovation at the last Republican presidential debate when he attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton for proposing — unsuccessfully — to spend a million taxpayer dollars on a museum commemorating the 1969 Woodstock festival, saying "Now, my friends, I wasn't there ..." ... if the Woodstock war position had prevailed, McCain wouldn't have been dropping bombs on Hanoi and wouldn't have been shot down, imprisoned, and tortured. Moreover, as one blogger speculates, had it not been for the anti-war movement, McCain might have been executed rather than eventually released by the North Vietnamese.
Related Topics: Taxation, Vietnam War
Work!, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Mar 2014
Contrasts the "gospel of work" and "joy of labor" espoused by moralists and state socialists with the views of economists such as Adam Smith, Bastiat, John Stuart Mill, Mises and Rothbard
From the start, Americans have had a love-hate relationship with work. We tend to rhapsodize about labor, but, at least in our personal lives, we praise labor-saving devices and condemn "make-work" schemes. ... Emerson and other pillars of American culture — whom for these purposes I will call the moralists — associated work with dignity and purpose ... Rothbard's mentor, Mises, made a fundamental point about human action when he wrote, "Even if labor were a pure pleasure it would have to be used economically, since human life is limited in time, and human energy is not inexhaustible."
Would-Be Rulers without Clothes, Future of Freedom, May 2008
Examines Hillary Clinton's assertion, in a debate with Barack Obama, about "wanting" a universal health care plan and dismissing the option of voluntary medical insurance
In a presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama in Texas, Sen. Hillary Clinton scoffed at the idea that buying medical insurance should be voluntary. "It would be as though Social Security were voluntary [or] Medicare, one of the great accomplishments of President Johnson, was voluntary.... We would not have a social compact with Social Security and Medicare if everyone did not have to participate. I want a universal health care plan," she said ... the politicians intent on exploiting us like that arrangement just fine. Where is the courageous youth who shouts that the emperor — or empress — has no clothes?
Zimmerman Case Is No Grounds for Gun Control, 16 Jul 2013
Analyzes and argues against those who, based on the outcome of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, push for bans of all private guns and for repealing "stand your ground" laws
From the beginning, people who would ban all private guns if they could have used the George Zimmerman case to push their agenda ... on two fronts: First, they argue that Zimmerman's 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, who had no gun, demonstrates that guns are an unmitigated evil. Second, the antigun lobby is using the case to agitate for the repeal of "stand your ground" laws ... Ironically, Martin's actions look more like a case of "stand your ground." The prosecution's account is that Martin saw Zimmerman following him ... "Stand your ground" is reasonable law. The Zimmerman case provides no reason to repeal it.

Interviews

Sheldon Richman on Almost Everything - From a Libertarian Standpoint, by Sheldon Richman, Anthony Wile, 19 Jan 2014
Topics discussed include Obamacare, the U.S. Constitution, the Middle East, politicians, whistleblowers, central banking, the Tea Party, Bitcoin and global warming
I think a good deal of the push comes from something that seems much more petty. Namely, from the president on down you have a lot of people who want to 'make a difference.' They think, 'This is good for my career, my legacy, prestige,' and they will not pull out because, 'Gosh, what would I do then? If we didn't have some grand policy, what good is my life?' There are people who think that way and it sounds trivial but I think that's a very big reason for why the US gets involved in places.

Books Authored

The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat, Sheldon Richman (Foreword), Walter E. Williams (Introduction), Foundation for Economic Education, 1850
Translated by Dean Russell. Partial list of headings (added by translator): Life is a Gift from God - What is Law? - A Just and Enduring Government - The Complete Perversion of the Law - A Fatal Tendency of Mankind - Property and Plunder
Related Topics: Law, The Law
Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families
    by Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994
Partial table of contents: W(h)ither Public Schools? - What's Wrong With Public Schools - Why There Are Public Schools - Opponents of Public Schools - Without Public Schools - Appendix: The State of Public Schools
Related Topic: Educational Freedom
Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State
    by Ron Paul (Foreword), Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom Foundation, 2001
Partial table of contents: What the Welfare State Really Is - Didn't We Vote For it? - How It Started - The Idea of the Welfare State in America - What About the Poor? - Time to Abolish the Welfare State
Related Topic: The State
Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax
    by Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1999
Partial table of contents: The Permanent War - The Immorality of the Income Tax - Who's the Master? Who's the Servant? - The Income Tax Makes You Poorer - How We Got the Income Tax - Let's Abolish the Income Tax - Appendix: Beware Income Tax Casuistry
Related Topic: Taxation

Videos


War as Government Program, 3 Jun 2007
Speech the Future of Freedom Foundation's conference "Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties"
Related Topic: War

We Don't Need No (Public) Education: Sheldon Richman on the Separation of School and State, Reason TV, 25 Apr 2011
Sheldon discusses unschooling, home schooling, private schools and criticizes school "choice"
Related Topic: Educational Freedom

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sheldon Richman" as of 10 Feb 2015, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.