9/11 Could Have Been Prevented
, 21 Apr 2004
Counters the claim that Islamists hate the U.S. because Americans love freedom
"The question now is, when will the American people understand? The crimes of 9/11 should have focused attention on the policies that made Arabs willing to commit such heinous acts here. ... 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."
A Bogus Libertarian Defense of War
, Future of Freedom
, Oct 2007
Criticizes Randy Barnett's Wall Street Journal
article "Libertarians and the War" and a follow-up 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. .... Barnett's ahistorical and rationalistic 'libertarian' defense of war turns out to be nothing of the kind. 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."
Abolish the Income Tax and IRS
, 28 Oct 2014
Comments on New York Times
article describing IRS asset forfeiture of bank accounts of ordinary people merely on the suspicion of avoiding reporting requirements
"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."
A Foreign Policy by and for Knaves
, 10 Oct 2014
Further thoughts on "Does Freedom Require Empire" prompted by Daniel McCarthy's counterpoint article
"Even if we accept (for argument's sake) McCarthy's vision as desirable, the odds of its adoption as he intends it are nil. The private interests of the political class — and those in the 'private' sector for whom the political class acts — virtually guarantee that the power to police the world will be put to perverse objectives. McCarthy's criteria for a good intervention may be impeccable, but what grounds have we for confidence that the policy makers and their patrons will share those criteria?"
Again, the Isolationist Smear
, 17 Jul 2014
Comments on the targeting of Rand Paul by Rick Perry, Dick Cheney and other Republican hawks on Paul's stance about sending ground troops to Iraq
"Someone who simply doesn't want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. The proper word is 'noninterventionist.' ... The wish to isolate the government from foreign wars does not translate into a desire to isolate the American people from commerce and other peaceful exchange. ... The noninterventionist case boils down to this: U.S. aggression abroad makes enemies and provokes blowback."
, 5 Jul 2013
Demonstrates how politicians and pundits twist the meaning of terms to support their desired ends while concealing true purposes
"Think of common political terms and how they obfuscate: Social Security, national security, border security, zoning, licensing, intellectual property, deficit spending, quantitative easing, civil forfeiture, civil commitment, taxation, subsidy, free elections, public schooling, farm policy, foreign policy, free coverage, drug war, and many more. All entail forcing individuals to do or not do something against their wishes. These euphemisms are intended to diminish our awareness of that truth."
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. He has no confidence that President Obama will negotiate an agreement that once and for all will end Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions. ... 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."
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" stance
"The theme of the Obama-goading is that Putin wouldn't have dreamed of intervening in Ukraine had America not 'retreated from the world.' The problem with this claim is that it is utterly without foundation. ... Not only is the U.S. government exerting influence, however ineptly, in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, it's been heavily involved in the very location under examination, Russia's backyard."
Americans Should Be "Anti-American"
, 21 Jun 2006
Comments on Robert Kagan's statement that the Iraq War "made anti-Americanism respectable again"
"What exactly do anti-Americanists dislike? There are several possible candidates: the people, the culture, the tradition of freedom, the commercial spirit, the U.S. government's foreign policies. That leaves only one real object of foreign hostility, U.S. foreign policy. And let's face it, what's not to dislike? Since the end of World War II, a succession of American presidents and their diplomatic and military minions have treated much of the world like slow, pitiable stepchildren badly in need of their guidance."
"And the Pursuit of Happiness": Nathaniel Branden, RIP
, 12 Dec 2014
Memorial essay, including some personal recollections, with emphasis on Branden's work on self-esteem and self-responsibility
"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."
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. Many more have been seriously injured. As British journalist Robert Fisk reports from Baghdad, 'Every day, Iraqi civilians are wounded or shot dead by US troops.' ... 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."
An Unstimulating Idea
, 25 Jan 2008
Examines the economic "stimulus" proposals being made by candidates and incumbent politicians
"The most objectionable side of the stimulus frenzy is the assumption that government can and should run the economy. ... Most people still believe the economy is a vehicle and the government the driver, precisely adjusting the gas pedal and brake as needed. But really there is no 'economy.' There are only people pursuing ends and the property they use and exchange in the process. If the government tries to 'run the economy' it has to run us."
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
"Today the federal government takes a record amount of the people's income, more than 20 percent. ... 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. The plans that the politicians make to spend your money are outrages against liberty. We've come a long way since small tea and stamp taxes bred revolutionary thoughts in our forefathers."
A Real Free Market Benefits Workers
, Future of Freedom
, Nov 2006
Discusses arguments from both progressives and their antagonists as to whether workers are losing ground, in terms of inflation-adjusted incomes, and argues that the blame is not on the so-called free market
"Considering that for a couple hundred years local, state, and federal governments in America have intervened in the economy largely in behalf of business interests, we may reply that whatever we call it, it is not a free market. If the outcome in recent years has been unfair (however that may be defined), then the blame is on government intervention. ... The corporate state, by design, inhibits competition and makes average workers worse off than they'd otherwise be. "
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
"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 at the lowly fellow. ... Finally, one cannot help but suspect that the animosity against scalpers is fueled by sheer snobbery. ... The crushing of scalping comes from the same impulse as occupational licensing and minimum wages. Oh, fie on those with the audacity to try to make it on their own!"
Atlas Shrugged and the Corporate State
, 12 Oct 2007
Explains how Ayn Ran's Atlas Shrugged
properly depicted some businessmen as privilege seekers
"... liberty is threatened by business owners who seek privileges from the state in order to gain protection from open competition ... Those privileges ... encourage others to seek countervailing privileges. If businesses are protecting their market positions with protectionist licensing, taxes, regulations, subsidies, trade restrictions, patents, and the like, why shouldn't labor and other interest groups also seek protection?"
, Future of Freedom
, Nov 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. The history of political thought will never be the same. ... The Bush plan, like the Democrats' alternative, still has government in the middle of the medical system. A bureaucracy will control the money. A bureaucracy will set the standards. ... When the plan doesn't work — when costs skyrocket — there will be a clamor for more controls."
Bad Partisanship Drives Out Good
, 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 (now inactive) Unity08 group
"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. I’ve read enough history to doubt that politics was really less partisan than it is today. ... 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?"
Barack Obama: Corporatist
, 17 Apr 2012
Reviews Obama's corporate-friendly (and hypocritical) actions, particularly towards banks like Bank of America
"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 community
"In a competitive marketplace with advancing technology, as the effort required to produce and, hence, acquire things diminishes, the price of gaining utility falls. ... Thus, progress through the market order consists in ever more people satisfying more of their wants with less and less effort. Bastiat calls this a move from private property to common wealth because he roots property in effort, and greater wealth is available to all with less effort. What makes that possible? Technological innovation."
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 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: 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. ... Finally, why were Israel's leadership and American supporters so determined to put Iran at the center of U.S. foreign policy, especially when Israel's government had previously, if covertly, cooperated with the Shiite Islamic Republic on the grounds that both countries had a common enemy in Sunni extremism?"
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 support government military actions
"... tune in to the three major networks' newscasts or consult the American cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. There you'll find stage actors conveying the Obama administration's neoconservative line about the ISIS threat to the American people and the need for government military action to counteract it — never noting that there was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Iraq before the Bush war they helped make possible. Reporting 'news' without providing the context is a surefire way to mislead viewers."
Bush as Fake Free-Trader
, 28 Nov 2003
Comments on President George W. Bush's claim to being a free-trader while at the same time imposing quotas and tariffs on products from China
"Here's what the counterfeit free-traders don't want you to know: We should open our markets not primarily to get others to open theirs, but rather to enjoy the fullest array of the world's products. Our standard of living is determined by the accessibility of the goods and services we want. Opening our markets means that we are free to buy what we want from whomever we want. In that way we can get the most from our incomes. That's the route to prosperity."
, 19 Jan 2007
Analyzes President Bush's statements and possible implications, of a speech made on 10 Jan 2007
"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. ... 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 on whether the United States can trust Iran by examining the covert and proxy war led by former against the latter
"As one can see, the Iranians are the aggrieved party in the conflict with the United States. ... But, some will say, Iran is building a nuclear bomb. The problem is that this is not true. Twice the American intelligence complex (more than a dozen agencies) has concluded that Iran abandoned whatever weapons program it had in 2003, the year the U.S. government eliminated its archenemy, Saddam Hussein."
Central Planning of Electricity Must Fail
, 20 Aug 2003
Explains why deregulation (or the "free market") was not responsible for the Northeastern U.S. blackout of 2003
"California, the land of alleged power deregulation, is often used to indict free markets. There the authorities froze retail electricity prices even when wholesale prices were rising. (Other stifling regulations were also imposed on every stage of the industry.) ... When higher demand would have raised prices, signaling to end-users that they should conserve, government price controls kept those users from getting the message. Demand continued to rise, squeezing utilities, whose prices were not capped, until a crisis hit."
Congress Must Not Cede Its War Power to Israel
, 26 Dec 2013
Examines the reasons behind the U.S. Senate bill proposed as "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013"
"Netanyahu and Israel's American supporters in and out of Congress loathe the prospect of an American-Iranian rapprochement ... The Israeli government, AIPAC, and the Republicans and Democrats who do their bidding in Congress are on record opposing any agreement that would leave intact Iran's ability to enrich uranium, even at low levels for peaceful civilian purposes. But insisting that Iran cease all enrichment of uranium is equivalent to obliterating any chance of a peaceful settlement with Iran and making war more likely."
Crime and Punishment in a Free Society
, 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")
"At one time, an 'offense' that was not an act of force against an individual was not an offense at all. ... before the royal preemption, customary law prevailed in England. ... In such a system of law, one was not likely to see 'offenses' without true victims. ... This arrangement worked out fairly well — until would-be rulers, who needed money to finance wars of conquest and buy loyalty by dispensing tax-funded jobs, discovered that there was gold to be had in the administration of justice."
Crime and Punishment in a Free Society
, Future of Freedom
, Apr 2014
Expanded version of the TGIF article of 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
"... I want to draw 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. We're so used to this distinction, and the priority of the criminal law over tort law, that most of us don't realize that things used to be different. ... In a free society the category torts would fully replace the category crimes, and restitution would fully replace retribution."
Default Circus — er, Crisis — Averted?
, 18 Oct 2013
Examines the U.S. government's possibility of default vs. what it takes from its residents
"It would be better if the politicians couldn't borrow. Americans probably would not put up with the taxation required to balance a nearly $4 trillion budget. ... the government’s ability to fulfill its financial obligations depends on its ability to use force against productive members of society. All its obligations, that is, are founded on a pledge to engage in, as Lysander Spooner would put it, criminal activity — specifically, the theft we call taxation. But no binding obligation can rest on an immoral act."
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
"... government policy and Fed manipulations can create the very recessions that the Fed then tries to reverse. If the politicians and their court economists would get over their hubristic belief that they are stewards of the economy, macroeconomic crises would disappear. Besides, the Fed cannot set interest rates, not even its narrow federal-funds rate for overnight interbank loans. At most, it targets that rate by buying and selling government securities, but it doesn't always hit its target. The idea that the Fed can even heavily influence mortgage and other interest rates ignores important facts."
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 attaining a real solution
"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. ... As noted, charter schools and vouchers are objectionable because the taxpayers are forced to support them. 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 implicit secular statist-democratic religion and their concomitant belief that government represents their true interests in education."
Did Team Obama Blunder or Conspire in Ukraine?
, 20 Mar 2014
Discusses whether the 2014 Ukraine/Crimea situation 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 ... 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 ..."
Does Freedom Require Empire?
, 5 Sep 2014
Critiques an essay by Daniel McCarthy justifying 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 magazine ..., writes, 'Successive British and American empires created and upheld the world order in which [classical] liberalism could flourish.' In other words, as he writes in 'Why Liberalism Means Empire,' 'Liberalism and empire reinforced one another in manifold ways.' ... Reality offers no security guarantees. 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."
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 President 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.) Moreover, even if it did build one, Iran would be deterred from offensive action by America's and Israel's overwhelming nuclear arsenals."
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?"
Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire
, 25 Feb 2015
Comments on threats against Americans from al-Shabaab and recounts U.S. intervention in Somalia
"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. ... We can live without the fear of terrorism — but only if the U.S. government stops antagonizing foreign populations that have never threatened us."
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
"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. ... In light of the real causes of inflation and depression, 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. "
Don't Fund Religious Groups
, Jun 2001
Argues against President George W. Bush's proposal to give taxpayers' money to religious organizations
"He heaps high praise on those groups. But has it occurred to him that their success may have something to do to with their distance from government? Yet he proposes to close that distance. We already know what happens when private groups get too close to government. They lose their autonomy. ... Moreover, there is no way that the program can avoid funding religion — which is anathema in a free society. The Bush folks assure us the money won't be used this way, but they are being disingenuous."
Don't Get Out the Vote
, 14 Feb 2014
Examines the writings of Michael Huemer and Bryan Caplan on whether get-out-the-vote campaigns are in any way beneficial
"... a mass democratic system encourages voter irresponsibility. Because the consequence of any single vote is negligible, individuals have an incentive to vote on some basis other than an understanding of current issues ... Urging voters to do their homework is a waste of time, Huemer writes, because most will find that task prohibitively expensive and, anyway, the question 'Who is the best candidate' may have no answer."
Don't Look for Grown-Ups in Government
, 16 Oct 2013
Responds to those demanding adult, i.e., responsible, behavior from politicians
"Politicians also fail to operate at a responsible adult level to the extent they believe society can be molded according to their whims. Societies aren't made of clay. ... Social engineering is people manipulation backed by force, which requires a level of hubris that no mature person would possess. Yet politicians engage in it every day, free of responsibility for the consequences that come from disrupting people's lives."
Don't Repeal the Sixteenth Amendment!
, 23 May 2008
Analyses various court cases regarding income taxation and suggest the only way to eliminate taxation is by educating and changing people's minds
"Repealing the Sixteenth Amendment would be a waste of time because its disappearance would change nothing. Alas, Congress could continue to tax incomes (and anything else). ... 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
, 3 Jan 2014
Questions advocates of mandating employers to pay for "insurance" coverage of contraceptives
"It is the government's decree — not the employers who object to it — that violates religious liberty. Those who favor the mandate say repeatedly that employers who would refuse to pay for their employees' contraceptives because of religious scruples would be denying women access to contraception. That is obviously a lie, sheer demagogy. No woman would be prohibited from obtaining contraceptive products because her employer refused to pay."
Economic Nationalism, Enemy of the People
, 17 Nov 2006
Explains the benefits of free trade and the perils of protectionism and economic nationalism
"Free traders — those who reject the bogus idea of a national economy — should be nervous. Free trade has never been big with the public or Congress. The benefits of free trade are rarely recognized as such, so it gets no credit. On the other hand, temporary disruptions and adjustments are highly visible ... 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."
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."
, 30 Oct 2006
Comments on an eminent domain case in Riviera Beach, Florida where a developer is threatening to sue the city council for reneging on a supposed deal
"The victims of eminent domain are usually working-class people who are forced to sacrifice their homes for the sake of luxury homes and shops. Sure, they get paid something, but it's not a true market price and some of these folks don't want to move at any price. Fortunately, the [Kelo vs. New London] Court ruling unleashed a public backlash against eminent domain, and in response, over 20 states, including Florida, passed restrictions on their cities' power to take people's homes for private development."
Empire on Their Minds
, 14 Mar 2014
Comparing recent Russian and U.S. imperialistic behavior, then delves into the imperial tendencies of the Founding Fathers and early Presidents
"... in the eyes of the Founders, the American Revolution was largely a war between a mature empire and a nascent one. (Many — but assuredly not all — Americans of the time would have cheerily agreed.) ... Some American figures glimpsed that empire and liberty might not easily so fit together. ... The problem was that even many who opposed empire, sometimes quite eloquently, wanted ends that only an empire could procure."
End Draft Registration!
, 29 Dec 2006
Comments on the proposal by Rep. Charles Rangel to resume military conscription
"... a draft ... concentrates the burden [of military service] on those who don't want to bear it, while those who would have volunteered must accept a draftee's wages. ... Rangel says the draft would ensure that unpopular wars would provoke public opposition, as it eventually did in the Vietnam War. ... A far better way to enable people to effectively object to wars is the volunteer army. At the very least, a society with pretensions of freedom should recognize the right of people to abstain from fighting wars they disapprove of."
End the Other War Too
, 1 Dec 2006
Discusses the case of a woman killed by police based on a false report from an informant and recommends ending the War on Drugs
"The fact is, without the War on Drugs atrocities such as the killing of Kathryn Johnston wouldn't be happening. It is the very nature of victimless crimes that pushes the police to use unscrupulous tactics. In a victimless crime, such as an illegal drug transaction, there is no complaining witness, no one with an interest in reporting the crime to the police. ... the only way the police can detect the criminal activity is to set it up themselves or encourage informants. But the opportunity for corruption in these tactics is immense."
Escape from Responsibility
, May 1996
Discusses a number of cases where victims attempt to hold third-parties responsible for crimes or other harms
"In a free society, a basic distinction is made between acts and words. Furnishing information on how to kill a human being is not the same as killing a human being. Many novels and movies, not to mention technical nonfiction works, provide information on how to kill. That information could be used to murder. Are novelists, movie producers, and technical authors to be held responsible for the use to which their information is put?"
Examining Reagan's Record on Free Trade
, The Wall Street Journal
, 10 May 1982
Analyzes several actions 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 someone whose property laid partly in the area
"A contract is a contract, says Mark Tulis, attorney for the Village. There's just one problem: Didden was not a consenting party to the contract. The Village made commitments on his behalf without his permission. ... Local planning entities and politically connected developers have been running roughshod over property rights for years. It has become so common that it's hardly controversial anymore. It's just the way things are done. Most people think economic development couldn't happen without such practices."
, 19 Nov 2014
Examines Hillary Clinton's review of Henry Kissinger's World Order
"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."
Farm Subsidies Must Go
, 30 Apr 2004
Discusses the response to a World Trade Organization ruling that U.S. subsidies to cotton farmers violate WTO rules
"Farm subsidies have been on the rise. The 2002 farm bill boosted them to $19 billion a year. Both political parties are at fault. ... The real injustice caused by the subsidies is not to Brazilian cotton growers, but to American taxpayers. Why should they have to cough up money for rich cotton farmers? If cotton is so important, it'll be produced without compulsion. Not all crops are subsidized. How do unsubsidized farmers manage?"
, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
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 ..., fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie. Fascism substituted the particularity of nationalism and racialism—'blood and soil'—for the internationalism of both classical liberalism and Marxism."
Fear Not China
, 8 Jun 2005
Counsels Americans not to be afraid of China's economic activities, debunking concerns over 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, and although China still has a communist-inspired authoritarian government, this is not your father's Red nemesis. Much has changed in the world's most populous country. ... The new anti-Chinese hysteria makes less sense than the old did. When will we get it through our heads that it is good for others to get rich? It makes us even richer."
Fighting Discrimination without the Government
, Future of Freedom
, Jun 2014
Comments on an Arizona amendment about discrimination by non-government individuals or groups
"... the refusal to serve someone ... is nevertheless an exercise of self-ownership, property rights, and freedom of nonassociation. It is both nonviolent and nonviolative of other people's rights. If we are truly to embrace freedom of association, logically we must also embrace freedom of nonassociation. The test of one's commitment to freedom of association, like freedom of speech, is whether one sticks by it even when the content is objectionable."
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere
, 17 Feb 2015
Reviews what several decades of American intervention around the world has wrought
"Despite President Obama's assurances that America's combat role in the unceasingly violent Afghanistan is over, we know it is not. ... There was no ISIS in Iraq or Syria before America invaded the former and called open season on the regime in the latter. ... Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine ... has not had the intended effect ... Despite the current ceasefire, a war between nuclear powers Russia and the United States is not impossible."
Frédéric Bastiat: An Annotated Bibliography
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."
Frédéric Bastiat and Subjective Marginal Utility
, 2 Aug 2013
Explains marginal utility as presented by Menger and examines Bastiat's writings on how exchanges take place
"We might call Bastiat's theory a labor-spared theory of value. But when you recall that for Bastiat a thing has to be found useful for it to be a valuable good, there is perfect harmony with the theory of subjective marginal utility: Given that I find a good useful, what's the best way for me to obtain a unit of it? If someone is willing to furnish it to me, what service must I render in return to that person? Can I obtain the unit on better terms either by making it myself or by exchanging services with someone else?"
Free Cory Maye
, Future of Freedom
, May 2006
Further discussion and commentary on the case of Cory Maye (see "More Drug-War Victims", Dec 2005)
"Maye, 25, is sitting on death row in Mississippi, the latest victim of the government's indefensible war on drug makers, sellers, and consumers. ... Such tragic events will keep occurring as long as the government asserts power to determine what we may and may not ingest. In a truly free society it would have no such power. Individual rights include the right to take any peaceful action, no matter how ill-advised. ... When government enforces laws against consensual activities, police terror is inevitable."
Freeing the Education Market
, 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. When Kennedy's office released the paper, it was at 91 percent, although if the 'functional illiterates' were removed, the rate would have been much lower. ... The urgent solution to the education crisis is the complete separation of school and state."
Free Markets Aren't Conservative
, Nov 2001
Explains why businesses, especially the larger and well established ones, favor business regulations and taxes
"Businessmen, going back at least to the era of mercantilism 400 years ago, have typically embraced government as an effective tool to protect themselves from competitors. ... Taxes that make it difficult to accumulate capital to expand or set up businesses clearly favor established business leaders even if they have to pay the same taxes. The same is true for regulations. Older and bigger firms can more easily contend with such burdens than newer, smaller ones can."
, 14 Nov 2014
Counters the caricature of libertarians as hyperindividualists and explains the benefits that could be gained from truly freed markets
"Nothing about libertarianism commits its adherents to what critics call 'atomistic individualism.' That would be a curious descriptor for people who love the ideas of trade and the division of labor, even among perfect strangers at great distances. ... Libertarians, to the extent that they grasp the fundamentals of their philosophy, care about social dynamics, which accounts for their fascination with economics, especially the Austrian school."
, The Freeman
, Apr 2006
Explains why it is essential to be aware that the existing corporatist economy does not equate to the free market
"What today is called rent-seeking, exploiting others through political means, was as common in earlier times as it is now. It was a rare business proprietor who favored laissez faire. ... Most business people were uninterested in moral philosophy, economic theory, and ideology. ... No knowledgeable champion of free markets will be surprised by any of this."
Getting Away with Torture
, 17 Dec 2014
Examines some of the responses to the report on the CIA's post-9/11 use of "enhanced interrogation techniques"
"No excuse for torture is acceptable. Apologists for the CIA, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, may use all the convoluted arguments they can muster to claim that EITs do not constitute torture. But they cannot change the facts. Any government unfriendly to the American empire that had used these techniques would have been condemned by the U.S. government as barbaric."
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."
, 11 Feb 2008
Reviews conservatives' criticisms of John McCain and his positions in his 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 and for going as far as promising to vote for Hillary Clinton if she's the alternative to the Arizona senator. ... 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."
, 5 Oct 2007
Examines the validity of the concept of "market failures" as an argument for government intervention, reviewing arguments made by David Friedman against such meddling
"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 — that is, a high degree of interpersonal coordination that is remarkably pleasing to consumers. ... 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 and the facts that contradict his statements
"We didn't use a political double standard in ruling on tax-exemption requests from nonprofit organizations. We didn't try to frighten government whistle-blowers by subpoenaing reporters' phone records, reading their email, and even naming one journalist (Fox's James Rosen) as a co-conspirator under the Espionage Act. We didn't ask the NSA to gather data on us. We did none these things. They did. Who are they? The wielders of power and the interests for whom they front."
Government Keeps People Poor
, 28 Jun 2006
Enumerates five ways by which government keeps people in poverty
"... if the politicians really wanted to help poor people, they long ago would have done what it is in their direct power to do — namely, eliminate all the ways that government blocks people from climbing out of poverty. ... low-income people pay various taxes ... government does many things that make the cost of living higher ... government occupational licensing is a devastating one-two punch against low-income people ... government has steadily eroded the value of the dollar ... minimum-wage prices low-skilled workers out of the labor market ..."
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
"None of the governments we are familiar with was established primarily to protect the general population. Rather, they were set up to enable a privileged class to extract wealth from the general population. They taxed the people to provide subsidies and restricted trade to create monopoly advantage. To keep a good thing going, of course, rulers afforded the people some protection, lest an outside power horn in on the action."
Happy Birthday, Thomas Szasz!
, 15 Apr 2010
Short tribute to Dr. Szasz on his ninetieth birthday, including a list of many 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. ... Emeritus professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center/Syracuse, Szasz is the author of some 25 books, most famously The Myth of Mental Illness, a 50th anniversary edition of which has just been published, hundreds of scholarly and popular articles, and a column in The Freeman."
Health Insurance Scam
, 13 Nov 2009
Explains why "health insurance" is not about health care, but rather medical care, is not insurance, how it came about, and why it has resulted in rising medical care costs
"When 1940s wartime economic controls prohibited pay increases for factory workers, the government allowed employers to provide medical coverage instead. Unlike wages, noncash benefits were not taxed and soon became part of labor negotiations. The tax advantage given to insurance versus cash wages brought forth ever more elaborate packages, which included coverage for uninsurable events, such as routine physical and dental exams."
Here's How the U.S. Can Help Rid the World of Chemical Weapons
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. ... Here's something else the U.S. government could do: ratify the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans cluster bombs, those nasty weapons that can spread hundreds of unexploded bomblets that are capable of indiscriminately killing innocent children and adults years after the initial bombing. ... American presidents love to brag about their world leadership. Here are concrete ways to lead that would actually bring constructive results."
, 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
"As long as the death and mayhem are over there — and never graphically portrayed in the news media — most Americans couldn't care less how the U.S. military is employed. The deaths and oppression of others is unimportant. ... Americans aren't about to be outraged, much less moved to action, by a mere video — 'Collateral Murder' — showing 'our boys' murdering Iraqi civilians and wounding children from the safety of an Apache helicopter."
, 1 Sep 2006
Discusses the July 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, which resulted in 800 dead and 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. ... 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
Comments on Merrill Jensen's 1940 book about the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitutional Convention
"The Articles of Confederation, Jensen writes, were the radicals' triumph over the conservatives in the Continental Congress ... But the conservatives did not give up their nationalist aspirations. After years of denigrating the confederation and attempting to amend the Articles, they finally got their way in 1787 and used the Constitutional Convention to scrap them in favor of a strong central government."
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 Obamacare 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!"
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
"Respecting the freedom to move would not only help the individuals who choose to exercise it; it might also have benefits in Ukraine itself. The kleptocrats of all parties, who have used Ukraine like their personal milch cow, might finally realize their folly if they witnessed an exodus of their most enterprising and ambitious residents. ... So forget guaranteeing loans to corrupt government officials. Forget facing down the Russians over Crimea."
How to Help Fast-Food Workers
, 1 Aug 2013
Discusses the strikes by fast food workers demanding doubling of the minimum wage, the economic realities behind wages and alternatives that would truly help
"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. ... 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. Only a radically freed market can."
I Can't Help That I'm a Libertarian
, 1 Aug 2014
Excellent essay on why libertarians hold their beliefs and why they can't be sitlent about them
"My understanding of what it means to be human, of the conditions under which reason-bearing, language-using social animals can flourish, of the nature of violence, and of the essence of the state all lead me to conclude that individuals should be free of aggression, essentially the initiation of physical force. And that means all persons should be unmolested as they peacefully go about their lives, formulating plans and aspirations, justly acquiring possessions ..., and engaging in voluntary cooperation — such as trade — with other persons."
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)
"Let's remember what the police say Garner was doing: selling cigarettes that had not been subjected to the high taxes imposed in New York City and State: $5.95 in all. (The feds add another buck.) Thus, a pack costs at least $14. ... The fact is that Eric Garner was a threat to no one. He was just a guy trying to make a few bucks by selling loose cigarettes — loosies — to low-income smokers harmed by the state's and city's tax collectors."
, 23 May 2014
Examines reasons for the continued acceptance of Keynes' economic prescriptions and contrasts them with those of Hayek and others
"A related aspect of the Keynesian response to the Great Depression ... is the stunning lack of interest in what causes hard times. ... Paul Krugman praise[s] Keynes for not concerning himself with why the economy fell into depression in the first place. All that mattered was ending it. ... Hayek, Robbins, and Mises ... could explain the initial downturn in terms of the malinvestment induced by the central bank's creation of money and its low-interest-rate policies during the 1920s."
, 22 Feb 2007
Reflects on the coming United States presidential campaign and election and suggests the candidates are running for the job of emperor
"The U.S. government has been building an empire for decades. ... the underlying theme has been ...: America, because it is exceptionally enlightened and has been anointed by history, must lead the world. To do so it must maintain a worldwide network of political and economic interests, client states, and allies. Those interests must be continuously protected and nurtured, preferably through local leaders, but if necessary by direct intervention."
In Afghanistan, They Died for No Good Cause
, 5 Dec 2013
Critiques an exchange by Richard Engel and Andrea Mitchell on the rationale for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan
"What good is there to show for that loss and shattering of life? Nothing. Afghanistan remains a violent place, nominally ruled by a corrupt and repressive propped-up government that will remain precarious no matter how long the U.S. military stays. President Karzai regularly gets bags of CIA cash, the illegal drug trade thrives with official connivance, and stoning is about to be introduced as the penalty for adultery."
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
"If an individual owns his life, he has the right to choose with whom he'll deal. That right to choose logically entails the right to use whatever criteria the person wishes. No rights are violated if he should abstain from dealing with a particular person. That statement remains true regardless of what criteria he uses. No rights are violated, simply because no one has a right to deal with him (absent, of course, some previous contractual obligation)."
Inflation Is the Last Thing We Need
, 31 Oct 2013
Responds to promoters of an inflationary environment by explaining the monetary and its effects
"A wage increase might make up some lost ground, but people on fixed incomes don’t get wage increases, so they're out of luck. Also, prices typically rise faster than wages during an inflationary period. The advocates of inflation say it will raise business profits. Aside from the fact that raising profits is not the government's job, does that really make sense? While businesses will be able to charge more for their goods during an inflation, they will also have to pay more for the things that they buy, including labor. Where's the real gain?"
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. The corollary is that 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 or those who peddle war materiel, but certainly for those who bear the brunt in the target countries and the Americans who kill, die, and pay the economic cost."
In Memory of the Charlie Hebdo Victims
, 9 Jan 2015
Comments on the executions at the Charlie Hebdo
newspaper and the ensuing mainstream commentary
"Countless American officials and commentators have denounced these crimes as an attack on freedom of the press and speech, which they surely were. But the Obama administration hasn't exactly been respectful of those freedoms, as its pursuit of a record number of whistleblowers and harassment of reporters demonstrate. According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States now ranks 46th in press freedom, a fall from 33rd. (The United Kingdom is 33rd and France is 39th.)"
In Praise of "Thick" Libertarianism
, 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. (Fraud is conceived as an indirect form of force ...) ... 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
, 10 Jan 2014
After describing and providing references on the case against IP laws, reviews Butler Shaffer's essay "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property"
"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, and no doubt more. ... This is truly a new industrial revolution. Yet 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."
Iran: It's Not about Nuclear Weapons
, 26 Nov 2013
Examines the U.S.-Iran 2013 temporary agreement and the rationale of the deal's main opponents: the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel
"Thus the Iranians, who have made repeated peace overtures, are portrayed as an “existential threat,” which is absurd ... 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."
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 — this wasn't the Salvation Army, after all — 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 attempt to recant, in her memoirs, on her 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?' To which Ambassador Albright responded, 'I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.' ... 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 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings and on the first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq
"It's got to be embarrassing to anyone who backed the war that terrorism is spreading, not receding, since the world's mastermind of all evil, Saddam Hussein, was deposed and arrested. Iraq itself is writhing from the violence, now aimed at civilian social workers and missionaries. ... No matter how devastating the evidence against the administration's policy — no weapons of mass destruction, no Iraqi alliance with bin Laden — the president and his people have only clichés to offer."
Is Any War Civil?
, 4 Dec 2001
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
"If President Bush admits we have a civil war on our hands, the American people will (1) know that the Bush doctrine is a big flop, and (2) wonder why we should stay in Iraq. So what sounds like a debate over semantics is really a matter of politics. ... it doesn't matter whether Iraq is having a civil war nor not. In either case that country is in a situation that the U.S. presence can only make worse. Why? Because the U.S. military is a foreign occupier, and it is perceived as such."
Is Edward Snowden a Lawbreaker?
, 28 Jun 2013
Considers whether Edward Snowden "broke the law" by his disclosures of NSA telephone and internet data collection
"Auburn University philosopher Roderick Long points out that the principle lex injusta non est lex — an unjust law is not a law ... The great American libertarian political philosopher Lysander Spooner (1808–1887) applied this principle in his characteristically consistent and rigorous manner. Indeed, Long notes that Spooner took the principle further than his predecessors 'because traditional natural law theory recognises positive law as an additional source of obligation,' while Spooner's post-Civil War writing 'maintains that legislators cannot add any new obligations to the body of law.'"
Is Free Trade Obsolete? Part 1
, Future of Freedom
, Apr 2004
Critiques a Paul Craig Roberts and Charles Schumer article arguing against free trade, 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 and Middle East countries 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 Islamic State, a product of idiotic U.S. actions, controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, effectively erasing the border between them. In response, Obama wants to obliterate the Islamic State (by air) without helping Iran or Assad or alienating Sunnis. Talk about squaring the circle! If recent history is any guide, arming the Iraqi army and the phantom moderate rebels against Assad amounts to arming the Islamic State."
Is This Really War?
, 16 Jun 2006
Discusses the Haditha killings and argues that U.S. troops in Iraq are acting more as a police force for the new Iraqi regime, which is incompatible with 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
, 14 Jun 2013
Discusses statements 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 (with notable exceptions), and even some who have identified themselves as libertarians. ... 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 "decisive ideological struggle" by contrasting it to what happened during World War II
"President Bush tells us that in the 'war on terror' our very civilization is at stake. ... he has not asked for 'sacrifices.' He realizes that if he imposes sacrifices, the fragile support for his 'war on terror' will evaporate. ... 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. "
James Buchanan's Subjectivist Economics
, Apr 2013
Reviews Buchanan's writings in What Should Economists Do?
, 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
, 26 Jul 2013
Examines whether James Madison intended the U.S. federal government to have "expressly delegated" powers vs. "powers by implication"
"Thus, the man who promised that the powers of government under the new Constitution would be 'few and defined' now said that any constitution must have unenumerated implied powers. His colleagues should not have been surprised. In Federalist 44 Madison had written that 'No axiom is more clearly established in law or in reason than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.'"
Jane Cobden: Carrying on Her Father's Work
, 25 Jul 2014
Biographical essay on Jane Cobden, daughter of Richard Cobden, who continued her father's advocacy of free trade and other libertarian issues
"... Cobden did not see free trade in a vacuum. He and Bright linked that cause with their campaign against war and empire, arguing that trade among the people of the world was not just beneficial economically but also conducive to world peace. Unlike other liberals of his time (and since), Cobden understood that free trade means trade free of government even when it pursues allegedly pro-trade policies."
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 no more than a high-school diploma, but also 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. In other words, The Plan should not be allowed to overrule people's own plans. ... Jacobs's work will inspire for many generations to come."
Know When to Fold 'Em
, 19 Feb 2007
Discusses the attitudes of Sen. John McCain and other hawks who opposed a non-binding resolution against a troop "surge" in Iraq
"Guerrilla warriors have many times humbled great powers. The Shias and Sunnis in Iraq are highly motivated, and they have the home-field advantage. What offsetting advantage do invading and occupying troops have against that? ... 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)
, 17 Oct 2014
A 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' ..."
Let's Have Candor from the NATO Summit
, 4 Sep 2014
Comments on an article by foreign policy scholar John Mearsheimer about the crisis in the Ukraine
"After the Soviet empire fell, Ukraine had governments friendly to the West, but in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, who did not view Russia as an adversary, was elected president. ... When Yanukovych balked at an economic offer from the European Union in favor of a deal with Russia, antigovernment demonstrations, encouraged by U.S. officials who wanted regime change, took place in Kiev, and pressure ratcheted up until Yanukovych fled the country."
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 and taxes
"Licensing is one way that freedom is limited on behalf of special interests. The licensing regime is overseen by the current practitioners, giving them the power to limit the number of their competitors. This is a double whammy. It locks people out of occupations, and it raises prices to consumers. We're told that licensing exists to protect consumers from shoddy work, but licensing does not protect consumers."
Let the Immigrants Stay
, 9 Jul 2014
Discusses the plight of Central American children migrating to the U.S. who face deportation by the Obama administraition
"Our rights can be expressed in many ways, but they boil down to just one: the right to be free of aggression. We have this right not by virtue of being American, but by virtue of being human. It is a natural, not national, right, so these young Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans have it too. Locking them up and deporting them should offend Americans, who claim to believe in the natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
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 writings of J. B. Say
"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 properly on the Left of the spectrum
"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: The Moral and the Practical
, Future of Freedom
, May 2014
Explores whether libertarian policies ought to be based on moral or practical bases, with insigths from Aristotle, Adam Smith, Tibor Machan, 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. ... I hope I've said enough for now to justify seeing the moral and practical cases for freedom as one and the same."
Libertarianism Rightly Conceived
, 2 May 2014
Responds to criticisms made by Walter Block and Lew Rockwell about Richman's "What Social Animals Owe to Each Other"
"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. ... Where are the self-styled thick libertarians who call for ameliorative state measures or advocate the use of force except to counter aggressive force? There are none. ... 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."
Liberty in America during the Great War
, 15 Aug 2014
Examines how various areas of American society were influenced by Woodrow Wilson's decision to enter the First World 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. ... Eastern 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."
Lysander Spooner on the National Debt
, 27 Sep 2013
Column examining the context of raising the national debt limit by considering what Spooner wrote in "The Constitution of No Authority"
"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. ... As he has each time this issue has come up, President Obama emphasizes that increasing the debt would only permit the government to pay expenses already incurred and would not finance new spending. To which I again reply, rhetorically: Why is Congress allowed to spend money that it knows it won't possess unless the debt limit is raised? "
Lysander Spooner on the National Debt
, Future of Freedom
, Jan 2014
Revision of TGIF column of 27 Sep 2013; analyzes how Spooner trounced 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."
Marry and Let Marry
, 3 Mar 2004
Comments on President George W. Bush's proposed amendment to forbid same-sex marriage licenses
"To put it bluntly, this amendment would sully the Constitution. What was supposed to protect us from government power will have been used to threaten and restrain. ... Even if one believes that the definitions of words are set in stone (a dubious proposition) and that marriage for all eternity means a joining of a man and a woman, it is not clear how marriages so defined are threatened by same-sex unions called 'marriages' by the civil authority."
Medicare Rx Reform: The Road to Medical Serfdom
, Health Freedom Watch
, 23 Jun 2003
Criticises the proposed (and later passed) addition of prescription drug coverage to Medicare and predicts the nationalization of health care
"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. 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."
"Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss"
, 11 Jan 2008
Examines politics, including themes such as "hope" and "change" of the 2008 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 to explore what's right or wrong with a candidate's ideas on medical insurance, energy policy, or war. Most people apparently like it that way. Politics is more like show-biz — specifically, melodrama and soap opera — than anything else. ... Will a large enough mass of people ever demand freedom?"
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
"Milton Friedman, who died last month at age 94, was one of the twentieth century’s most influential champions of individual liberty and free markets. The 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and an early associate of FEE, Friedman did more than any single person in our time to teach the public the merits of deregulation, privatization, low taxes, and free trade. His work inspired the economic agendas of President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as well as the liberalization of economies in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union."
Mission Creep in Iraq
, 21 Aug 2014
Examines how the initial Aug 2014 "humanitarian" intervention in Iraq keeps morphing into something bigger
"The safe bet is that the mission in Iraq will continue to grow. 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. Mission creep is only one reason why intervention in foreign wars is never a good idea."
Monopoly and Aggression
, 19 Dec 2014
Argues that monopoly and aggression are intimately related and that IP laws are currently the main monopolistic interventions
"Intellectual-property laws — patents, copyrights, and the like — have a similar effect by hampering competition through prohibitions on the use of knowledge and forms that people possess mentally. The creation of an artificial property right through patents is practically indistinguishable from a franchise or license. Its harm to consumers is the same. ... So-called intellectual property is the dominant engine of monopoly in modern economies."
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 to our intelligence came in his big speech seeking to jump-start support for his 'war on terror.' ... To be fair, we can't be sure if Bush presumes we are morons or if he is sincerely ignorant. For Muslims, Arabs, and many Americans, U.S. intervention in Iraq had been an issue for 10 years before September 11, 2001."
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 (Maye was released in July 2011)
"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. ... Nothing is more corrupt than the police-informant relationship in drug enforcement. Countless times informants have fingered innocent people ... Drug raids are notorious for leading to the deaths of people, often cases of mistaken identity, who tried to defend themselves against late-night visits from militarized SWAT teams."
More U.S. Intervention in Libya?
, 22 May 2014
Discusses the 2014 state of affairs in Libya, three years after Obama's "humanitarian intervention"
"The American public has been led to believe that except for [the 2012] terrorist outburst, things have been going pretty well in the country formerly ruled by Muammar Qaddafi. ... American officials assured us that 'moderates' would succeed the cruel and unpredictable dictator, who had become a U.S. ally during the Iraq war. However, it turns out that the moderate victors were not so moderate; in fact they resembled al-Qaeda."
More Victims of Immigration Control
, 18 Jan 2008
Discusses how employers and property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border are also victims of U.S. immigration controls
"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 because their illegal status denies them access to justice. ... And the secretary wants no back talk from the mere landowners. He's a busy man. ... Say what he wants to hear or realize the awesome power of the state. It's the Wizard of Oz blustering about eminent domain."
Motives Aside, the NSA Should Not Spy on Us
, 18 Jun 2013
Examines a couple of reasons for rejecting the surveillance state, even if well-intentioned
"Since we're assuming pure motives, we'll ignore the specter of deliberate abuse. ... Pure motives, however, do not rule out error. ... Julian Sanchez ... points out that a person who has nothing to hide from government officials — if such a person actually exists — would still not have a good reason to tolerate NSA surveillance ... Is that the kind of society we want, one in which we assume a government official is looking over our shoulders?"
Mr. Bush, Mind Your Own Business
, 21 Oct 2005
Criticizes George W. Bush's 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."
, 21 Jun 2013
Discusses calls for "national service", contrasts them to insights from Frédéric Bastiat and Adam Smith, and counters possible objections
"' ... 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, writing at Politico under the title 'National Service Is Key to National Strength.' ... 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."
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."
No Right to Remain Silent
, 25 Jun 2004
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision compelling people to identify themselves if requested to do so by police
"Nevada and 20 other states have criminalized remaining silent in the face of a policeman's question 'What's your name?' By a 5-4 vote the U.S. Supreme Court said that's okay — it's no violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches ... It should make the citizens of a putatively free country uncomfortable to know that the police can have the authority to stop and demand identification on the basis of a 'reasonable suspicion' ... "
Nothing Is More Local than the Individual
, 31 Oct 2014
Powerful commentary on an Arkansas referendum to end county-level prohibitions on liquor sales
"... so-called local control actually constitutes a violation of the most local prerogatives of all: those of the individual. By what right does anyone prohibit an individual from engaging in peaceful commerce? If a minority of the residents of a county want to buy or sell alcohol, why should their neighbors—no matter how many—have the legal power to stop them? (And how long would a liquor store last in a town where no one drinks?)"
Obama and Kerry Jeopardize Peace with Iran
, 30 Jan 2014
Discusses pronouncements by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama that put in doubt their intentions of reaching a peace agreement with Iran
"... investigative reporter Gareth Porter points out that Kerry repeatedly says the agreement obligates Iran to 'dismantle' nuclear equipment, such as centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani protests that this is incorrect. ... Obama himself told the New Yorker's David Remnick there's less than an even chance of a permanent agreement, which is worse than the odds he gave late last year."
Obama and King
, 30 Aug 2013
Contrasts Martin Luther King Jr.'s 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
"This sort of radical analysis was rare among Vietnam War opponents, who preferred mostly to talk of policy blunders and miscalculations, rather than criminal opportunism. It was particularly courageous of King, for he was working with Johnson and other key politicians on the civil-rights agenda. ... 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'?"
Obama Follows Bush's Iraq Playbook
, 10 Sep 2014
Examines the validity of Obama's arguments for going to war against ISIS/ISIL based on the beheadings of two American journalists
"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 decent person is anything but appalled by those executions. But are they grounds for the United States to go to war? ... No al-Qaeda affiliate existed in Iraq before George W. Bush launched his invasion and occupation in 2003. ... 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 on top of sanctions on Russia over the 2014 Crimea crisis and the implications of having the NATO alliance continue to exist and even expand eastward
"How many American parents would proudly send their sons and daughters off to kill or be killed in Slovyansk or Donetsk? How many young men and women aspire to be the first American to fall in Kramatorsk? Those towns are in eastern Ukraine ... 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 coup in Kiev being just the latest example. In 1998, 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 2014 situation in Ukraine, pronouncements from President Obama and effects of potential intervention
"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
, 28 Mar 2014
Examines, in detail, Obama's 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. I am so appalled by what Obama said in Europe the other day, however, that I must break my promise. ... The upshot is that one need not condone Vladimir Putin's ham-handedness to see that 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."
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 of online activity and telephone calls
"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." That's wrong. 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."
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?"
One Hundred Years of the Federal Reserve
, Future of Freedom
, Dec 2013
Examines the Fed's record since its inception, quoting the 2010 Cato paper "Has the Fed Been a Failure?" as well as Rothbard, Timberlake and Hummel
"It's a sobering thought that in the 100 years since the Fed's creation, the dollar has lost 95 percent of its value. Had the Fed never been created, America would be dotted with Nickel Stores (other things being equal) instead of Dollar Stores. ... 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."
One Moral Standard for All
, 15 Nov 2013
Postulate 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
"If I can't legally impose mandates on people, as the Affordable Care Act does, why can Barack Obama and members of Congress do so? If I can't forcibly forbid you to use marijuana or heroin or cocaine, why can DEA agents do it? Those officials are human beings. You are a human being. I am a human being. So we must have the same basic rights. Therefore, what you and I may not do, they may not do."
Our Elective Monarchy
, 16 Jun 2004
Comments on the seemingly royal funeral for Ronald Reagan and the similar treatment given to other U.S. Presidents, contrasting them to British Prime Ministers
"Great Britain's government is a parliamentary system under a monarchy. Thus the head of state and the head of government are different people. ... The Parliament's vigorous questioning of the prime minister is the most public manifestation of this feature of the British government. ... notwithstanding the jabber about 'of the people, by the people, for the people,' the State is in charge. ... What we [Americans] have is an elective monarch who, if we are to believe the current wearer of the crown, rules by divine right."
Our Patience on Iraq Should Be Exhausted
, 4 Apr 2007
Comments on George W. Bush's request that the 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 and the Senate set to consider the same legislation. ... 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?"
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
"European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations. ... It's no exaggeration to say that virtually every current problem in the region stems at least in part from the imperial double cross and carve-up that took place after the war. And the immediate results of the European betrayal were then exacerbated by further acts of intervention and neocolonialism ..."
, 29 Sep 2006
Discusses the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian and Syrian citizen sent to Syria for interrogation (and torture), due to erroneous information from Canadian law enforcement that he had ties to al-Qaeda
"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
, 12 Sep 2014
Critiques some statements by Murray Rothbard 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 that be consistent with the natural right to be free from aggression? How would it be consistent with the right to ownership through homesteading and other legitimate acquisition?"
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. There's a more widespread danger that hardly anyone cares about: the congressional page program encourages high schoolers to worship and lust for 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
Discusses comments made by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal
about Ron Paul's call for 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,' he writes. Leave it to an interventionist to think that the opposite of imperialism is pacifism."
, 25 Apr 2008
Discusses the revelations about TV news analysts briefed by the Pentagon and connected to military contractors, large and small
"As we now know, thanks to the New York Times, the military-industrial complex is well represented in the daily television news coverage of the Iraq and Afghan occupations. Those former generals who seemed generously to have come out of retirement to 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."
Pleasing Consumers Isn't Easy
, 12 Jan 2007
Comments on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, in particular those selling "high-tech gadgets", before the release of 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. ... We don't know what else we want our phones or music players or PDAs 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."
, 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
"That provocative sentence is found in an article by Belgian liberal legal scholar Frank Van Dun, published in Reason Papers in 1986 ... how is it relevant to economic and political freedom? ... it is relevant because libertarians are sometimes accused of putting the rabbit in the hat; that is, loading their terms so that the concept freedom contains all that they like and the concept coercion contains all that they dislike. ... the statist cannot maintain his truth-seeker credentials while also advocating government interference ... The rug has been yanked out from under the statist's feet."
Power to the Individual, Not to the State
, 29 Apr 2015
Discusses the progressive movement to increase the minimum wage to $15 and proposes a more radical solution
"Why do people forget the Law of Demand when low-skilled labor services are under discussion? Doesn't it stand to reason that if the government mandates a higher price (wage) for low-skilled labor, buyers (employers) will demand smaller quantities of it (hire fewer workers)? Why would this particular law of human action be different in just this one area? That makes no sense. It at least requires an explanation."
Preventing Opposition to War
, 13 Apr 2007
Explains why the George W. Bush administration has not gotten more people directly involved in its foreign wars, such as by conscription, war bonds or demanding "sacrifices"
"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. ... Thus, in one respect it's good that most of American society has avoided the ugliness and spiritual rot that war wreaks. But in another respect, 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."
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. ... On the other hand, North Korea has nuclear weapons, and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un appears safe from any regime change sponsored by the U.S. government and NATO. ... it follows that not threatening a foreign regime is a good way to keep it from following the yellowcake road. ... The warmongers must be thwarted. Peace is the priority."
Privatize the Airwaves!
, 26 Apr 2004
Cites several incidents of FCC attempts to enforce "broadcast decency standards" and questions the rationale for nationalized airwaves
"Another gap in the debate is the failure to question the status of the airwaves, or broadcast spectrum, as government property. ... just because we call them 'the public's airwaves,' it doesn't mean that's what they are. Anything said to be owned by the public is actually controlled by the government — politicians and bureaucrats. If you think you are a real part-owner of the airwaves, try selling your 'share.'"
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 hurricanes
"Prices are not determined by past costs. ... To replace the gas sold today, the station will have to pay the new higher price. That fact will and should influence his conduct, not yesterday's price, which has no relevance today whatsoever. . A fair price is one a seller and buyer agree to. ... 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."
Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig
, 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
"... how do we get from the right to one's body to the right to one's (justly acquired) possessions, including land? A person's possessions are extensions of his life and labor. ... Flourishing requires the use of physical objects, including shelter and other uses of land, in an environment of respect for and from others. Thus to violate a person's property is to violate that person. (Again, violations can be de minimis, and the response must be proportionate.)"
Pundit in Wonderland
, 28 Sep 2007
Critiques a Washington Post
op-ed about the supposed increase in the "have-nots" in American society
"We can expect the widest diffusion of wealth in a truly free market because government wouldn't be discouraging production or granting privileges to the well-connected. Working people, who often feel they are without economic power, would have maximum bargaining clout if government kept hands off. Clout comes from having alternatives, and government intervention reduces alternatives, including self-employment options."
Real Liberalism and the Law of Nature
, 10 Aug 2007
Examines 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
"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') and the vital institutions it spawned. ... the heart and soul of liberalism is — and remains — the natural law. The philosophy would be impoverished without it. Thomas Hodgskin ... well understood this. He deserves to be better known than he is. ... Where are those such as Thomas Hodgskin when we really need them?"
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
"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
, 17 Jan 2014
Discusses criticism of "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration" in the larger context of rights violations
"What I'm arguing for is a commonsense category of noninvasive moral offenses, wrongful acts that do not involve force. ... forced-backed remedies are not the only — or even the best — remedies available. Nonviolent responses, including boycotts, shunning, and gossip, can be highly effective. Libertarians ought to beware of embracing such a narrow view of morality that only forceful invasions of persons and property are deserving of moral outrage and response. Think of all the cruel ways people can treat others without lifting a hand. Are we to remain silent in the face of such abuse?"
Rothbard's For a New Liberty
, 16 May 2014
Review of For a New Liberty
with emphasis on Rothbard's discussion of the nonaggression axiom (or principle, or obligation) 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
, 9 May 2014
Review of The Ethics of Liberty
with emphasis on Rothbard's 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. ... Many of these quotations indicate that Rothbard believed that under natural law, binding moral constraints can be rationally identified. Respect for other people and their just possession is one such binding constraint; it does not require explicit or implicit consent."
Rule of Law Damaged by Schiavo Bill
, 23 Mar 2005
Discusses the implications of the hurried legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, to allow the parents of Terri Schiavo to have federal courts another look at her case, after state courts had ruled
"In the end, the bill probably won't prolong Terri Schiavo's life. But it may well cut short the rule of law. It is no defense of the Republicans to say that a young woman was being starved to death. Congress has no constitutional authority to exercise arbitrary power any time an emergency catches its attention, especially where there are no federal or constitutional issues at stake. That it is legally restrained from doing whatever it wants is part of what we mean by the rule of law."
Self-Deception about Medical Care
, 15 Feb 2006
Discusses comments made by Christine Cassel, a geriatric medicine specialist, arguing for public support of Medicare
"Long before there was Medicare and Medicaid, many people of modest and low income received decent medical care through fraternal organizations. Lodges would sign contracts with doctors, in effect buying services in bulk that, throughout the year, would be distributed to members and their families at affordable prices. The system made medical care accessible while maintaining self-responsibility and cost-consciousness."
Sgt. Bergdahl and the Fog of War
, 4 Jun 2014
Reviews the history of U.S.-Afghanistan relationship since Reagan to the present release of Sgt. Bergdahl
"On the surface, the war in Afghanistan seems easy to understand. The Taliban government gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which attacked American targets in the 1990s and on September 11, 2001. But things are not so simple. ... When Haqqani, a celebrated freedom fighter during the Soviet war, turned down a deal from the Americans because it included detention, the U.S. military attacked his home province and other areas, killing his brother-in-law and innocent children."
Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War
, 27 Jun 2014
Review of United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler's War Is A Racket
"Butler proposed ways to make war less likely. ... he suggested three measures: (1) take the profit out of war by conscripting 'capital and industry and labor' ... before soldiers are conscripted; (2) submit the question of entry into a proposed war to a vote only of 'those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying'; (3) 'make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.'"
Social Security Has to Go
, Future of Freedom
, 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
"Each pay period, workers are forced make what are called 'contributions,' and when they retire, they are to receive benefits. The system is riddled with dishonesty. First of all, when the government forces a citizen to make a contribution, it's a tax and nothing else. Second, the money is not put away or invested in order to earn interest and yield benefits for retirement later on. From the beginning, the money was used to pay benefits to current retirees."
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
, 11 Jul 2014
Suggests an approach by which libertarians can try to persuade others of the benefits of freed markets
"... people’s attraction to government-provided social services is not the problem (they believe they pay for them through taxes), because similar services offered in the voluntary sector (for-profit or mutual) would be not only unobjectionable but salutary. ... the libertarian approach should focus on the flawed political method by which the services are provided, not the purported objects of the services themselves — security."
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
"U.S. rulers have waged aggressive genocidal wars (against the Indians and Vietnamese, for example), have brutally put down colonial rebellions (against the Filipinos, for example), facilitated genocidal policies carried out by client dictators (in Indonesia, for example), underwritten repressive dictatorships and brutal occupations (in Egypt and Palestine, for example), and instigated in antidemocratic coups (in Iran and Chile, for example). When has an American official been placed in the dock to answer for these crimes?"
Stay Out of Haiti
, 5 Mar 2004
Commentary on U.S. intervention after the Feb 2004 coup d'état
"Guy Philippe, the leader of the rebellion against now-exiled despotic elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has declared himself the military ruler of Haiti. ... Given the history of U.S. intervention in Haiti, which began with a 19-year stint of outrageous meddling in 1915 at the behest of economic interests, and given the violently intractable nature of the place (in part thanks to that meddling), who can be optimistic?"
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 previous bad policies
"... 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. ... Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department carries out the [stop-and-frisk] policy in a manner that violates the Fourth Amendment rights of blacks and Hispanics."
Stop Demonizing Iran
, 9 Oct 2013
Examines Iranian government efforts to cooperate with the Bush administration, as reported in 2006 by Gareth Porter
"... after the 9/11 attacks, the Iranian government tried to cooperate with the Bush administration on a number of fronts. The two sides actually began working together at the end of 2001 ... We rarely hear about the previous offers, perhaps because they conflict with the mainstream media's dominant narrative of Iran as an implacable threat. Apparently those who want war with Iran ... make better news copy than would-be peacemakers."
, 26 Feb 2007
Commentary supporting a New York Times
editorial advocating repeal of habeas corpus provisions in the Military Commissions Act and outlawing use of evidence obtained through torture
"... the Democrats who now control Congress ... could start by passing a bill introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter to repeal the habeas-corpus section of the Military Commissions Act, the infamous law that lets the president seize noncitizens anywhere in the world, proclaim them suspected terrorists, hold them indefinitely without access to the courts, and even send them off to foreign torture chambers."
Stop Those Who Would Stop Uber
, 11 Nov 2014
Explains how the Uber and Lyft services work and describes the local government reaction when Uber started offering its service in Little Rock, Arkansas
"... Uber (and its competitor, Lyft) is a company whose smartphone app efficiently matches riders and drivers. When Uber enters a market, it carefully recruits and certifies local drivers. Then, using the app, people who need a ride can quickly find drivers to get them where they want to go. Customers are told fares in advance and how long they'll wait to be picked up. After the trip, driver and rider are asked to evaluate each other."
, 7 May 2010
Examines key passages from La Boetie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
and criticises 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 ... was establishing the undeniable but overlooked truth that in any political system the ruled vastly outnumber the rulers. Brute force cannot be the key to maintaining despotism because the subjects always hold the potential to overwhelm the prince. Actually, they need not do anything except stop acquiescing."
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
"What people like Terrell don't realize — or perhaps realize too well — is that the fundamental point in dispute is not whether the individual is a social animal or a creature best suited for an atomistic existence. No libertarian I know of subscribes to the latter notion. The point in dispute is whether proper social life should be founded on peaceful consensual cooperation or on compulsion."
Take the Constitution Seriously in the Second Term
, 8 Nov 2004
Suggests a plan of action for George W. Bush upon election for a second term as U.S. President
"According to the Constitution the presidency is a modest office. The powers are rather few. ... he executes the laws passed by Congress, which is also bound by a small number of powers. The president can spend money only as appropriated by Congress. ... He is not our commander in chief, as people seem to believe , and second, being commander does not include the power to declare war. That power was reserved, exclusively, to the Congress."
Tear Down the Trade Walls
, 22 Apr 2005
Reflections on free trade sparked by Ukrainian president Yushchenko's remarks to the U.S. Congress
"As noted, trade issues are simple. We produce so we can consume. Everyone knows that. Likewise, we sell so we can buy. National boundaries do not change that truth. Thus we export so we can import. And that means an open American market is, first, a benefit to American consumers. Of course, foreign sellers also benefit. But that is the nature of trade. Two parties to an exchange expect to benefit or they do not trade."
Thank You, Milton Friedman
, 20 Nov 2006
In memoriam highlighting the many contributions of Milton Friedman
"... he opposed discretionary power, understanding that politicians and bureaucrats could never know enough to run an economy. He also understood that inflation was purely a government creation. ... Friedman was an indispensable part of the effort to end the military draft in the 1970s. At the height of the Vietnam War, when the government was forcing young men to fight, kill, and die thousands of miles from home ..., Friedman put his prestige on the line and demanded that conscription be stopped."
That Mercantilist Commerce Clause
, 11 May 2007
Reviews the Oct 2004 paper "The Panda's Thumb: The Modest and Mercantilist Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause" by law professor Calvin Johnson
"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 of both the Clause and the Constitution as a whole. ... Considering the daily panic of pundits and politicians about the 'trade deficit,' one has to wonder what Johnson is talking about here."
The 100th Anniversary of the Great State Crime
, 8 Aug 2014
Reflections on the start of the Great War, 100 years ago, the second act (World War II) and wars in general
"I think what gets overlooked is that ... war is the clearest possible lesson about the omnipresent danger of government power. Governments — politicians and monarchs — went to war, some perhaps more reluctantly than others. All shared responsibility for the carnage and devastation. ... At every stage, fallible persons operating under perverse incentives (they'd never be on the front lines) made choices — poor choices with respect to most people. War was never inevitable. It was a product of human agency."
The Affordable Care Act Doesn't Go That Way
, 1 Nov 2013
Examines the consequences of Obamacare from the perspective of basic economics (human action) and its unintended consequences
"Barack Obama and his allies saw a problem: some people can't afford or qualify for medical insurance. But instead of investigating how market forces might currently be thwarted from addressing this problem, they used government (the blunt weapon of aggressive force) to decree that insurance companies — which are already largely creatures of the state — must accept all applicants regardless of their health (guaranteed issue) and must charge the unhealthy the same price as they charge the healthy (community rating); that is, premiums may not reflect actual risk, converting insurance into a covert transfer program."
The American Disease
, 21 Mar 2014
Citing examples in the Ukraine and Russia, explains how U.S. government meddling in foreign countries 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. (This should surprise no one familiar with other government programs.) 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. I call this taint the American disease. ... 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."
The American Sniper Was No Hero
, 28 Jan 2015
Considers whether Chris Kyle was a hero or a competent government-hired killer
"Kyle was part of an invasion force: Americans went to Iraq. Iraq did not invade America or attack Americans. Dictator Saddam Hussein never even threatened to attack Americans. Contrary to what the George W. Bush administration suggested, Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. ... The only reason Kyle went to Iraq was that Bush/Cheney & Co. launched a war of aggression against the Iraqi people. Wars of aggression, let's remember, are illegal under international law."
The Antimilitarist Libertarian Heritage
, 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. Libertarianism, to say the least, is deeply skeptical of state power. ... 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."
The Ayatollahs' Overlooked Anti-WMD Fatwas
, 16 Apr 2014
Additional review of Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis
, focusing on Ayatollah Khomeini's 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. Aboutalebi served as an occasional translator for the hostage-takers ... In early 2003, Khamenei 'began to couch his anti-nuclear weapons stance in terms of Islamic principles.'"
The Banker's Bank
, 8 May 2009
Reviews the pre-history of the Federal Reserve and its origins in the Progressive Era
"There has hardly ever been anything we could call genuine free banking in America, even when a gold standard was in effect. States and the national government regulated the banks ... So, concerned about 'inelasticity' and the rivalry of state and private banks and private trust companies, the national banks (Wall Street), led by J. P Morgan, turned their attention at the end of the nineteenth century to the establishment of a central bank."
The Bastiat Solution
, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law
as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of 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?"
The "Boomerang Effect": How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy
, 26 Sep 2014
Reviews the essay "Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Controll" by Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall
"Advocates of foreign intervention—whether conservative or progressive—seem to believe that foreign and domestic policies can be isolated from each other and that illiberal methods used in foreign lands, such as bombing and military occupation, need not disturb domestic policy. ... Coyne and Hall demonstrate that this is no more than wishful thinking that is contradicted by experience, both past and present ..."
The Bright Side of War
, 24 May 2004
Comments on a Washington Post
article on the 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 throughout the United States. ... Even truly defensive wars entail destruction, not production. Wars of aggression, such as the U.S. war in Iraq, add insult to injury."
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 immigrant
"By what moral theory must Chavez get a bureaucrat's okay before she invites an abused and impoverished Guatemalan woman to stay in her home for however long she wishes? The same folks who rhapsodize about freedom of association went berserk at Chavez's benevolent act. ... The immigration issue, freed of its grandiloquent pronouncements about national sovereignty, is nothing more than a matter of freedom of association. Chavez violated no one's rights by what she did."
The Consequences of Liberty
, 30 Jan 2015
Compares consequentialism to deontological ethics, also mentioning virtue ethics, and reviews Roderick Long's essay "Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?"
"As I say, this discussion is hypothetical. Freedom (or justice) can be counted on to produce good outcomes, in a eudaimonistic way, for everyone. But is this just a lucky break? Or is there a more solid explanation? ... [Long] finds that the prima facie content of justice ... is represented by libertarianism, that is, the principle that each person is an end in himself and therefore is equal in authority to everyone else."
The Constitution or Liberty
, 21 Sep 2012
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 of the latter document (revised version of article published 7 Dec 2007)
"'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, America's first constitution. ... 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
, 18 Aug 2006
Questions the validity of constitutions by relating how James Madison behaved during the debates over the U.S. document and later his introduction in 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. The real constitution is within — each of us. If the freedom philosophy is not inscribed in the actions of people, no constitution will help. ... 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 minority opinions on the D.C. law that bans handguns in private homes
"Scalia ... reminds us that when the Constitution was drafted, many people feared that the powerful central government would disarm the militias, which at the time comprised all able-bodied white men, in favor of a standing army ... Citing the importance of private gun ownership to a capable militia was meant to allay such fears. But ... the militia reference did not impose a restriction on who has the right to keep and bear arms."
The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting
, 8 Feb 2008
Reviews the "Voting Versus the Market" chapter of Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law
"I like Wheaties more than Cheerios. So I go to the store and buy Wheaties. Except for the rare occasion went the store has run out, I will bring home Wheaties. ... If I vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, I have to wait to see if I am in the majority before I know if I get what I want. If 50 percent plus one voted as I did, great -- I get my choice. But what if 50 percent plus one vote for Sen. Clinton? I'm out in the cold."
The Cruel Joke of Sacralizing Voting
, 7 Feb 2014
Comments on an MSNBC TV spot implying that voting is the only way to express oneself that really counts
"Of all the ways to express oneself, voting is the way that counts least! Candidates typically hold a grab bag of vaguely stated positions (implied promises, actually), often contradictory, that they may not really believe or ever attempt to keep. ... If your voting can't determine the outcome of an election, attempting to determine it is a poor reason to vote. Plus, it takes time and money ... that could have gone to something that would have actually made a difference."
The Cynical U.S. Policy on Chemical Weapons
, 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
"... note that while Syria is not a party to the CWC, neither are U.S. allies Egypt and Israel, which receive billions of dollars each year in military equipment. ... Israel, like Egypt, is considered to have stockpiles of chemical weapons; it also has biological and nuclear weapons. ... Zunes's article also discusses the Reagan administration's provision of thiodiglycol, which is used to make mustard gas, and other chemical precursors to Iraq's Saddam Hussein ..."
The Danger Is Intervention, Not "Isolation"
, 29 May 2014
Reflects on pronouncements by President Obama and Defense Secretary Hagel on Americans turning more "isolationists"
"A lot of people are warning against America turning 'isolationist.' We can dismiss the warnings—special pleadings, really—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? Not that we should mind if they do, but they should not look to us to pick up any slack. ... Danger, then, 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."
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."
The Economics Lesson Obama Needs to Learn
, 25 Jul 2013
Explains economics in simple terms that even a statist politician ought to understand
"We live in a world of scarcity. At any given time our ends outnumber the means to achieve them. Hence we economize so that we can achieve as many of our ends as possible. Resources, labor, and time devoted to one purpose can't also be used for other purposes, and the alternative forgone is the true cost of any action. We individually choose among competing ends after assessing the trade-offs, because we don't want inadvertently to give up something we prefer in exchange for something we don't value as much."
The Economic Way of Thinking about Health Care
, 20 Feb 2015
Discusses the voicing of opinions on economic subjects without having knowledge of economics, the state of the health care and insurance industries and posits possible solutions
"... just because government can't provide universal high-quality health care, that doesn't mean there's no other way to achieve it. The way to do that is to remove all the impediments to the production and provision of medical and insurance services that have accumulated over many years in the form of privileges that restrict competition. This includes occupational licensing and accreditation, facility permits, protectionist and market-narrowing regulations (such as FDA requirements), patents, tax distortions, and more."
The Ferguson Distraction
, 4 Dec 2014
Argues that the lack of an indictment on the death of Michael Brown distracts us from the more important "racist police brutality that ravages America"
"The ultimate cause of this problem is that the police are the domestic armed troops of America's rulers — falsely called 'representatives' — and the rest of us are the ruled. They know it, and we are increasingly coming to know it. Most of the 'laws' they enforce against us violate our natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The chasm between rulers and ruled exists everywhere in the country, but it exists on a spectrum from the barely noticeable to the extreme."
The "Good-Government" Attack on Free Speech
, 1 May 2001
Discusses the freedom of speech implications of McCain-Feingold (which became the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002)
"What would you call a law that would prohibit corporations and labor unions from placing television and radio advertisements that clearly identify candidates during the final 60 days of a general election? McCain-Feingold would do that. Yet it is a clear violation of the First Amendment. ... The Constitution makes no exception for corporations and labor unions. The only requirement should be that those organizations obtain their money through voluntary means. If they do, they should be free to place any ads they like. They are collections of persons and therefore have the same rights as their members."
The Greatness of Peace Activist John Bright
, 24 May 2013
Commentary on John Bright's opposition to war and interventionism. with relevant excerpts to several of his speeches
"... 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 ... Bright passionately opposed war — however popular — whenever it threatened to rear its ugly head. Free trade (free markets generally) and peace were not separate matters for Bright. On the contrary, they were (in Cobden's phrase) 'one and the same cause.'"
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."
The Inherently Humble Libertarian
, 13 Feb 2015
Defends libertarianism from those who charge its advocates of "know-it-allness"
"To put it succinctly, libertarianism has humility baked in at the most fundamental level. Humility is not to be conflated with radical doubt, however. One can be humble while also believing it is possible to know things. And some things, including the nature and market implications of human action, can be known conceptually. One can know, for example, that intelligently planning an economy or even a particular market is beyond anyone's, including one's own, capacities."
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
, 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 those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. ... No wonder Iran turned to covert channels, most particularly A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who 'was selling nuclear secrets surreptitiously.'"
The Kenyan Massacre’s Roots in America's Somalia Policy
, 24 Sep 2013
Commentary on the 21 Sep 2013 Westgate shopping mall shooting in Nairobi, based on reporting 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, the Islamist group that committed the attack on the mall and that controls parts of Somalia, would probably not be in power if not for the United States. ... How many times do we have to experience what the CIA calls 'blowback' before the American people cry, 'Enough!'"
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. ... Horrific as the Iraq story is, consider what's happening today in Laos, in southeast Asia. ... Thus, 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."
The Lie Factory
, 7 Jun 2013
Contrasts Obama's 23 May 2013 statements regarding the continuing conflict in Afghanistan vs. an analysis by Conn 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."
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.'"
The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit
, 20 Jun 2014
Describes how the seeds of the current turmoil in the Middle East were planted a century ago by British and French imperialism
"This is a story about arrogant Western imperialists who thought enlightened, civilized Europeans should govern the Arabs (and Kurds) rather than let them determine their own destiny. ... When they achieved the elevated condition of their overlords, they will have earned the right to be free. This view was voiced by men representing countries that had just engaged in over four years of savage trench warfare in the 'war to end war,' not to mention the previous centuries bloodied by Europe's religious and political wars."
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 British created the states of Iraq and Transjordan (later Jordan). What was left of Palestine (it had different boundaries at different times) would not be designated a state but would be administered by Britain. France took Syria, out of which it created a separate Lebanon. The arbitrarily drawn 'national' boundaries cut through sectarian, ethnic, and tribal lines, planting the seeds of future conflicts that continue to this day. (The imperialists had done the same thing in Africa.)"
The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom
, 27 Dec 2013
Considers whether it is reasonable to make distinctions between ethical and practical arguments for freedom
"... we must inquire whether libertarian concerns are really divisible into a concern with duties (deontology), say, regarding individual rights and a concern with practical consequences. ... Some libertarians often say they would favor freedom even if it did not promote good things like prosperity because people have a right to freedom that is unrelated to its consequences. (Of course, they don't believe that freedom could have bad consequences. But is that just a happy coincidence? ...)"
The Natural Right of Property: Not to be confused with government-created artificial rights
, 17 Aug 2007
Examines Hodgskin writings in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted
"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, was quoted and deferred to by Marx [and] described by Sidney and Beatrice Webb as Marx’s master.' How could any libertarian claim Hodgskin as a mentor?"
The Neoconservative Obsession with Iran
, 14 May 2014
Discusses how Dubya, Cheney and their neocon advisors exacerbated the manufactured U.S.-Iran crisis
"Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton ... thought America needed an enemy, and Iran filled the bill. President George W. Bush['s] ... 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."
The Noninterventionists Told You So
, 18 Jun 2014
Analyses the 2014 Iraqi situation from the vantage point of noninterventionism, contrasting it with those who still want the Obama administration to intervene
"... 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. ... There was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Saddam Hussein's Iraq before the U.S. invasion. ... No one can grasp the complexity of one's own society, ... much less a society with Iraq's unique religious, sectarian, and political culture and history."
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
"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."
The Open Society and Its Worst Enemies
, 16 Jan 2015
Considers the January 2015 events 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, some of whom will seek revenge against those who tolerate, finance, and symbolize that government and its policies. ... 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."
The People Say No to War
, 13 Sep 2013
Commentary on how the American people stopped, at least momentarily, the Obama administration from attacking the Syrian people
"The pundits blame 'war-weariness' for the public's opposition. I regard that as an insult. ... Apparently, favoring war is a sign of thinking clearly. I don't believe people are war-weary. Instead, as someone has said ..., they are war-wary. They've been burned too many times by their (mis)leaders and (mis)representatives. ... Americans have had enough, and it's about time. Their 'no' to war is the best news we've had in a long time."
The Phony Trade-off between Privacy and Security
, 16 Aug 2013
Examines the claim that, in a dangerous world, a balance must be struck between privacy and security
"... in the freed market I would find the right 'balance' for myself, and you would do the same. ... The market would cater to people with a range of security/privacy concerns, striking the 'balance' differently for different people. ... we can say that there would be no trade-off between privacy and security at all, because the information would be voluntarily disclosed by each individual on mutually acceptable terms. ... But that sort of situation is not what Barack Obama, Mike Rogers, Peter King, and their ilk mean when they tell us that 'we' need to find the right balance between security and privacy. They mean they will dictate to us what the alleged balance will be. We will have no real say in the matter ..."
The Phony Trade-Off between Privacy and Security
, Future of Freedom
, Nov 2013
Examines the argument that a balance must be struck between security and privacy and the directive creating the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies
"... in the freed market I would find the right 'balance' for myself, and you would do the same. ... The market would cater to people with a range of security/privacy concerns, striking the 'balance' differently for different people. ... Obama ... meant he and his co-conspirators in Congress and the national-security apparatus will dictate to us what the alleged balance will be. We will have no real say in the matter, and they can be counted on to find the balance on the 'security' side of the spectrum as suits their interests."
The Poison Called Nationalism
, 6 Feb 2015
Discusses nationalism as exhibited by those who defend sniper Chris Kyle as a hero
"This integral relationship between nation and state is why nationalists reject claims that one can love one's country while despising the government. That's impossible by their definition of country. To oppose the government is to oppose the country. You may oppose a particular president, but don't dare oppose the military. Now, you can try to redefine country to make it something properly lovable, but you won't persuade a nationalist. It's no accident that governments never fail to call on their flocks to 'love their country,' by which they mean: be willing to make any sacrifice on its behalf, with 'sacrifice' defined by politicians."
"The Police Force Is Watching the People"
, 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. But the philosophy can't identify the aggressor and victim in particular cases; relevant empirical information is required. ... I see potential in the approach spelled out by one of my favorite libertarians, Karl Hess ... We have to do something — soon."
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 ...""
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
"If in a republic the people are the ultimate check on government power, a gullible, easily frightened public is a disaster waiting to happen. Where is the derisive skepticism Americans are reputed to feel toward politicians? ... Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for example, goes to absurd lengths to frighten Americans. ... He forecast the deaths of hundreds of millions of Americans if something drastic is not done."
The Pope Dabbles in Economics
, 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. ... When 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,' one must suppress the urge to laugh. When have states ever looked out for the common good?"
The Pretense of Regulatory Knowledge
, 3 Oct 2008
Contrasts the free market vs. regulation and central planning
"Calling regulators bureaucrats is not just an insult; it's also a description. Bureaucrats are not in the profit-and-loss game, as entrepreneurs in a (truly) free market are. They don't gain financially from producing value, and they have no capital at risk. As we've learned from the Food and Drug Administration, they tend to be overcautious because if they might err, it's better to err on the side of not letting something happen."
The Price of Empire
, 26 Apr 2006
Discusses U.S drug warriors' unfruitful efforts to eradicate coca production in some Andean countries and the consequent migration of cultivation elsewhere
"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. This can range from major moves to establish spheres of influence to sticking a thumb in the empire's eye."
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.'"
The Repudiation of Bush
, 10 Nov 2006
Comments on the results of the November 2006 U.S. elections and on the Bush 41 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."
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
"Handguns offer the otherwise defenseless a convenient, practical, inexpensive method of safeguarding themselves and their families. Banishing handguns — even if the big and the strong were also denied them — would leave the small and the weak defenseless. The big and the strong aggressors have other tools of violence at their disposal; the small and the weak do not have other effective means of self-defense. Thus, outlawing handguns is a denial of the right of self-defense and, perforce, the right to life."
The Roots of Iran's Nuclear Secrecy
, 2 Apr 2014
Further commentary 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
"Porter acknowledges that Iran did not always keep the IAEA fully informed. Is this proof that Iran was preparing to make nuclear warheads? Porter provides overwhelming evidence that the answer is no. ... What possible reason could Iran have had for working in secrecy? Simply put, from the 1980s onward the U.S. government was determined to thwart Iran's efforts to build even modest a civilian nuclear program."
The Social Security Fraud
, Future of Freedom
, Sep 2001
Discusses comments made by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill indicating that the Social Security Trust Fund has no tangible assets
"O'Neill is right. The Trust Fund is a figment of our collective imagination. ... Every cent that the American people pay in FICA payroll taxes is immediately spent. Anything left over after the current retirees are paid off goes into the general treasury where it is used, first, to make up any operating shortfall, and then to pay the government's creditors. The Social Security Trust Fund is credited for that money in the form of nonnegotiable bonds that purportedly earn interest."
The "Stable Bulwark of Our Liberties"
, 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. ... 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
, 24 Oct 2014
Discusses how the state interferes with setting wage rates and quotes Thomas Hodgskin on how to reward workers properly
"The surest way to eliminate wage discrimination is to keep government from impeding the competitive process with such devices as occupational licensing, permits, minimum product standards, so-called intellectual property, zoning, and other land-use restrictions. ... Being able to tell a boss, 'Take this job and shove it,' because alternatives, including self-employment, are available, is an effective way to establish the true market value of one's labor in the marketplace."
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."
The Supreme Court Repeals the Constitution
, Future of Freedom
, Sep 2005
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London
, 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. That is the only reasonable conclusion to draw from the 5-4 decision last June in Kelo v. City of New London, the landmark eminent-domain case. ... 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 "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."
The U.S. Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity
, 4 Jun 2013
Describes 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
"Vine has written a book ... about the savage treatment of the people of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Americans may know Diego Garcia as a U.S. military base. It 'helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA's secret "rendition" program for captured terrorist suspects,' ... '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."
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
"The United States has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for a dozen years, but not because the former rulers are a direct threat to the American people. ... Al-Qaeda doesn't need Afghanistan. Bin Laden wasn't found there. Al-Zawahiri presumably isn't there. And the latest alleged unspecified threat comes from Yemen, 2,000 miles from Kabul. Doesn't that expose the 12 years of American-inflicted death and destruction, not to mention the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, as a monumental waste of life and treasure?"
The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba
, 6 Aug 2014
Commentary on the 2014 disclosure that operatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development attempted to incite opposition to the Cuban government
"That makes the U.S. government's 53-year-long campaign for regime change in Cuba a perfect failure. Repeated efforts to spark an anti-Castro revolution or to kill the revolutionary-turned-dictator did nothing but strengthen the government's power. The embargo that the U.S. government imposed on Cuba in 1960, and which remains in force today, has given the Castros an excuse for the chronic hardship that Cubans suffer and has brought the people no closer to freedom."
The U.S. Isn't Leaving Afghanistan
, 20 Nov 2013
Reviews the terms of a 2013 draft agreement between the U.S. and Afghan governments to maintain U.S. troops stationed indefinitely
"The Afghan government, at U.S. insistence, would waive jurisdiction over U.S. military and civilian personnel who commit war crimes. ... What's clear from the negotiations is that the United States is not close to ending combat operations in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001. ... Further U.S.-inflicted bloodshed will do nothing but make matters worse. It's time for the U.S. military to leave."
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 1
, 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.' ... An earlier group of Americans would have agreed, although they would not have shared Bourne's horror. These are the men who sought war with England in 1812. ... I will explore neither the justifications for the war nor the terms of the Treaty of Ghent. ... Instead I'll focus on how the war eroded liberalism in the United States by concentrating power and interest in the national government."
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 2
, 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, of course, had previously warned of the dangers of war, including high taxes, debt, corruption, a big military, and centralized power. Madison himself famously said that war contained the 'germ' of 'all the enemies to public liberty.' So now the party set out to prosecute a war while avoiding the evils they held were intrinsic to it. ... Randolph Bourne was right: war is indeed the health of the state."
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
"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, while admonishing against 'pointless' recriminations. ... 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?"
Thinking about Foreign Policy
, Future of Freedom
, Dec 2006
Analyses why most people tend to think about foreign policy as if it were decided upon by "the people" and attempts to correct the misunderstandings
"America' s geographic position and wealth made nonintervention highly practicable and low-risk, yet successive governments refused to abstain from meddling in foreign affairs, which served only to endanger the people they claimed to protect. Keeping in mind the full context of how foreign policy is formulated, we can easily see through the popular fallacies that undermine so much thinking about war and peace."
Toying with the Free Market
, Future of Freedom
, Dec 1998
Discusses the 1998 Toys "R" Us restructuring announcement and earlier disclosure that it had engaged in monopolistic practices
"But if 'abusive practices' means practices that harm consumers, we can see that consumers are perfectly able to take care of themselves. When they (or their kids) decided that Toys 'R' Us did not keep pace with the new toy technology or that the stores were unpleasant, they went to Wal-Mart or Target instead. They didn't need anyone's prompting or permission. They didn't need to petition a government agency. They just found a store they liked better. That sounds like real power to me."
Trade Restrictions Show Hypocrisy
, 12 Sep 2003
Discusses how U.S. and European tariffs and quotas harm farmers in the developing world
"American consumers would love to buy low-priced clothing, shoes, and agricultural products from abroad. Producers in the developing world would love to sell them those things. But these exchanges never come to fruition. Why? Because the U.S. government forbids it. And why does it do that? Because domestic producers and farmers have the political pull. Thus, tariffs raise the price of low-cost foreign products so that they are less attractive to Americans than domestic alternatives. And import quotas suppress supply, forcing Americans to pay more for fewer goods."
Treating People Like Garbage
, 4 Oct 2013
Prompted by the "closing" of the U.S. government during the first week of Oct 2013, examines two examples of how the state behaves towards people: an Iraq war veteran and his familty, and the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Bengalis in Mar 1971
"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. ... 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 the Republican-controlled Senate approval of a provision outlawing Internet gambling
"There is also no reason to think that people generally act irresponsibly in their private affairs. Some do, but most don't. If we don't trust people to conduct their own lives responsibly, I see no reason to trust them with the vote. In fact, I'd sooner trust them in their own affairs than in my affairs and everyone else's. Running one life has to be easier than choosing on behalf of everyone. At least the errors will have less-widespread consequences."
Trivial Dispute: Obama versus the Interventionists
, 30 May 2014
Examines the scant differences between President Obama 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, especially if you think the premises are wrong. ... Licensing the U.S. government to police the world — Obama calls it "leadership" and "American exceptionalism" — is a surefire path to disaster, even if it means only enlisting local proxies to do the dirty work. History demonstrates this."
Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents
, 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 can 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 fatalities in the two cities totaled 150,000–246,000. The victims – mostly children, women, and old men – suffered horrible deaths in the blasts and firestorms. ... 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
"Political-economic systems throughout the world ... are in fact built on deeply rooted and long-established systems of privilege. ... political-economic inequality is unjust ... These interventions and more protect incumbent firms from conditions that would lower prices to consumers, create self-employment and worker-ownership opportunities, and improve bargaining conditions for wage labor."
Understanding the Paris Violence
, 14 Jan 2015
Examines the statements of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed several people at a kosher grocery in Paris
"... judging by the recording, what was on Coulibaly's mind was not his hostages' religion but their support for the French government's violence against Arabs and Muslims. ... Coulibaly responded that 30 percent of tax revenues go to France's military. He also said that if a march could be held for Charlie Hebdo, why not one to oppose France's foreign intervention. ... The way to end Muslim violence in the West, therefore, is for the West to end its violence against Muslims."
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."
U.S.-Egyptian "Historic Partnership" Reeks with Hypocrisy
, 25 Jun 2014
Examines events in Egypt from 2011 to 2014, in view of continued U.S. military aid
"... in 2011, ... Egyptians took to the streets to demand an end to the decades-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak ... The Egyptian people’s uprising led to their first elections and a victory for candidates associated with the Muslim Brotherhood ... All this was topped off this past spring by the election of former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president, with a suspicious 95 percent of the vote."
U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Shambles
, 7 Jan 2014
Examines the 2014 status of United States foreign policy in various Middle East countries
"McCain and Graham, who never saw an opportunity for U.S. military intervention they didn't like, continue to operate under the absurd illusion that American politicians and bureaucrats can micromanage something as complex as a foreign society. Their hubris knows no bounds, but, then, they never pay the price for their foolishness. Who pays? The Americans they cheer off to war, but even more so, the people in foreign lands who are on the receiving end of American intervention."
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. ... Obama's previous intervention is what has brought us to this point. Instead of steering clear of this regional conflict, he declared that Assad must go; ... and armed and otherwise aided Assad's opposition, which is dominated by al-Qaeda-style jihadists who have no good feelings toward America."
U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran
, 14 Feb 2007
Discusses the hypocrisy of Bush administration pronouncements about Iran "meddling in Iraq", considering the U.S. intervention in Iran in 1953
"'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. ... perhaps the Iranian seizure of the U.S. embassy and its personnel in 1979 wasn't so malicious. Contrary to D'Souza, the troubles did not begin in the 1970s. 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."
Variations on a Corporatist Theme: The people lose
, 13 Apr 2012
Contrasts the rhetoric on both sides of the 2012 U.S. presidential contest
"Genuinely freed markets won't make the list of feasible options. That will leave us with mere variations on a statist theme, namely, corporatism. How will voters choose among them? Most of those who abhor 'socialism' (however they define it) will rally round Republican corporatism because of the pro-market rhetoric, while most who abhor the cruel 'free market' ('Look at the hardship it created!') will rush to Democratic corporatism because of its anti-market rhetoric."
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 education entrepreneurs, free from government interference, can provide real choice and innovation
"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. ... 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
, 24 Jan 2014
Dissects article by Princeton professor Sean Wilentz criticizing Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange
"Wilentz seems to live in fear that the baby — the welfare/warfare state — will be thrown out with the bathwater — the admitted 'abuses' by the NSA. ... Both the establishment Left and the establishment Right offer flawed package deals ... In practice, the two are hardly different except for their rhetorical emphases. The point is to hold various constituencies in line by having them believe they must accept the whole package. Neoliberalism is corporate statism, not the freed market."
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 to suppress secessionists in South Ossetia
"Georgia has been angling for membership in NATO for years. President Mikheil Saakashvili's Russian policy was nothing short of a pro-American in-your-face policy strategy. The Bush administration encouraged it by training and equipping the Georgian military. All of this stirred Russian suspicions about U.S. objectives in its 'backyard.' In return, Georgia sent troops to assist in America's misguided mission in Iraq."
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 Poli cy & Civil Liberties”
"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. There's a great allegory about how states operate. They made it very literal, where they actually created reality by basically hooking people up to these elaborate technological devices and making people, in effect, imagine the reality they want you to imagine. And of course, some people are able to break through. And it's a great story for that reason. There was a great Libertarian point there, a great symbolic point."
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."
, 22 Sep 2006
Commentary 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. ... If you sense something screwy about this story, it's only because you are not using Washington logic. Elsewhere, the negation of a true statement is false. ... But things are different in Washington. There negation does not have the same logical implication."
Was the Constitution Really Meant to Constrain the Government?
, 8 Aug 2008
Explains how attempting to revert to the "original meaning" of the Constitution or appealing to the writings of the framers will not lead 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. If only we could get back to the Constitution as it was written, people say. ... My message is not one of despair. But 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."
We Aren't Children
, Nov 2001
Discusses the freedom implications of three recent alcohol regulations in the state of Arkansas
"This is the phenomenon that economist Bruce Yandle calls 'Baptists and bootleggers.' It refers to the alliance inevitably struck between those who oppose some consensual activity for moralistic reasons and those who oppose it out of economic interest. Thus both the Baptists and the bootleggers favored Prohibition — the Baptists because drinking is sinful; the bootleggers because legal booze cut into their profits."
We Can Oppose Bigotry without the Politicians
, 28 Feb 2014
Explains why the state is not necessary to ensure that people or businesses don't discriminate against others on the basis of sexual orientation or some other reason
"Should the government coercively sanction business owners who, out of apparent religious conviction, refuse to serve particular customers? ... In other words, 'Libertarians need not shy away from the question, "Do you mean that whites should have been allowed to exclude blacks from their lunch counters?" Libertarians can answer proudly, "No. They should not have been allowed to do that. They should have been stopped — not by the State, which can't be trusted, but by nonviolent social action on behalf of equality." 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 against the goverment of Bashar al-Assad are justified from moral and 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. ... 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"
"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. President Clinton supported the governors' position ... 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 not a standard set by someone else but rather liberty ..."
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
"Free trade often requires adjustment to new conditions. Perhaps this will be true of hitherto secure computer programmers and other knowledge workers, who may see their incomes fall. But keep in mind that, while nominal wages may fall, real wages may not. That's because free trade and the resulting increased productivity of labor and resources will translate into more and lower-priced goods and services."
We Were Warned about the Rise of Empire
, 13 Jun 2014
Revisits Garet Garrett's 1952 essay "The Rise of Empire" discussing Garrett's five traits "that belong only to 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? ... We're told, however, that American empire is unique because it is dedicated to freedom and peace. This claim cannot withstand scrutiny: 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."
What an Honest Conversation about Race Would Look Like
, 19 Jul 2013
Argues that government policies, such as drug prohibition, gun control and mandatory schooling, are enablers for racism
"... things like the war on certain drug manufacturers, merchants, and consumers; the crusade against 'illegal' guns; the minimum wage and related laws; and the government's schools. All of these by far take their greatest toll on people of color. Private racism, whether violent or nonviolent, is evil and abhorrent; it is also unlibertarian — yes, even nonviolent racism is unlibertarian, as I point out in 'Libertarianism = Anti-Racism.'"
What Are Libertarians Out to Accomplish?
, 23 Jan 2015
Reviews a Nathaniel Branden speech, 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; on the other hand, I find it hard to believe that I had anything more important to do during that hour. ... 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 Geral 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
Analyses the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the PGA Tour should allow disabled golfers to ride a golf cart
"The real issue at hand is not whether the PGA should voluntarily change its rules so people like Martin, whose degenerative circulatory disease precludes his walking the golf course, may use a golf cart. ... Reasonable people may disagree. Reasonable golfers do disagree. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who know a thing or two about the game, testified for the PGA at the trial. But the issue is ... whether any branch of the government should sit in judgment of the PGA."
What Is the Constitution?
, Future of Freedom
, Jun 2002
Discusses constitutional interpretation, in particular the ninth and tenth amendments, in light of comments from Antonin Scalia about a national ID card
"James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, said that the central government was delegated powers that are few and defined. This is backed up by the Constitution itself. Article I, Sec. 8 contains a short list of powers given to the Congress. To reinforce this point, the Tenth Amendment (in the Bill of Rights), ... was adopted at the urging of those who thought the Constitution would allow the government to grow too powerful ..."
What Is the Enemy?
, Future of Freedom
, Apr 2006
Discusses why corporatism, mercantilism and Big Business are 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?
, 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
"If the libertarian movement is to be the vehicle — actually, collection of vehicles — for the advancement of liberty, then libertarians need to master the art of persuasion. That's hardly news, but it's easily forgotten. ... Our objective is not merely to find libertarians or to persuade people to hold pure libertarian policy positions. Rather, it is to help people to understand the freedom philosophy so they will be the best possible advocates 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."
What Social Animals Owe Each Other
, Future of Freedom
, Jul 2014
Revised version of TGIF 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, or NAP. ... I'm sure libertarians do not have to be reminded that 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."
What Social Animals Owe to Each Other
, 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"
"Every person owes it to all other persons not to aggress them. This is known as the nonaggression principle, or NAP. ... The NAP is an implication of the obligation to treat persons respectfully, as ends and not merely as means. ... Nonaggression is simply one application of respect. Thus a libertarian society in which people generally thought that nonaggression was all they owed others would be a society that should fear for its future viability qua libertarian society."
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
"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
, 25 Mar 2005
Excerpt from chapter 2 of Separating School & State: How to Liberate Americas Families
"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. It must be stressed that one cannot take the schools as given, inquire how they are performing, and then sift through countless studies to come to a conclusion. The public school system must be investigated from the inside out. Only then can the performance studies be evaluated intelligently."
What the Immigration Bill Overlooks
, 9 Jul 2013
Discusses the 2013 immigration reform bill approved by the Senate and how it disregards basic human rights
"First, by nature all individuals — not just Americans — have rights. Specifically, they have a natural right to engage in any peaceful activity, that is, any conduct that does not aggress against other people. Among those rights, therefore, is the right to travel and settle anywhere, so long as no one else's rights are violated. ... Third, the free-enterprise system ... necessarily includes the freedom of business owners to hire whoever is willing to work for them. "
Where Free-Market Economists Go Wrong
, 1 Feb 2008
Discusses the economic stimulus proposals and the failure of many free-market economists to point out that the current economic system is not truly a free market
"What we have is corporatism, an interventionist system shot through with government-granted privileges mostly for the well-connected (yes, who tend to be rich). This system is maintained in a variety of ways: through taxes, subsidies, cartelizing regulations, 'intellectual property' protections, trade restrictions, government-bank collusion, the military-industrial complex, land close-offs, restrictions on workers, and more. As a result, people can get rich at the expense of the government's victims."
Where Is the Constitution?
, 28 Jul 2006
Discusses the varying legal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and what is meant by "obeying rules"
"I mean the real constitution — the set of attitudes that reflect what Americans people will accept as legitimate actions by the people in government. ... words faithfully recited, or inscribed on parchment and hung in the National Archives, will never be enough to assure liberty. ... 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
Chapter 1, made available online on tenth anniversary of the book's publication; 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. Whichever way they lean, people generally believe that the schools are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. ... 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 fascinating story from Gareth Porter's book about Iran: how the George H. W. Bush administration bungled the opportunity to improve the U.S. relationship with Iran
"The Bush administration took steps toward normalization, and Iran went to work on freeing the [US] hostages [being held by a militant group in Lebanon]. ... the last American was freed [in Dec 1991]. ... Then suddenly, in April 1992, the administration changed course. ... Porter also provides ample evidence that the main reason for the about-face was fear at the CIA and Pentagon that their budgets and staffs would be slashed with the end of the Cold War."
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"
"American foreign policy has treated foreign populations like garbage, beginning with the brutal repression of the Filipino uprising against American colonial rule from 1899 to 1902. ... Since that time American presidents have intervened, directly or by proxy, in countless places, including Cuba, Haiti, Colombia (Panama), Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan."
Will 2016 Be a Good Year for the Corporate State?
, 13 Dec 2013
Considers the prospective 2016 U.S. presidential contenders, 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
Analyses President Obama's statements, made on 17 Sep 2014, regarding the anti-Islamic State strategy
"As for Obama's emphasis on coalition building, let's not be fooled. This is a U.S.-led operation, and that is how the inhabitants of the bombed territories will see it. ISIS recruitment will soar. But even if other coalition members shouldered most of the burden, why should Americans feel any better about the operation? The objection to a new U.S. war in the Middle East should not be that America would go it alone. Rather, it's that America cannot police the world without doing a variety of harms. Bringing a posse of nations along doesn't change that."
Woodstock May Have Saved Sen. McCain's Life
, 7 Nov 2007
Discusses John McCain's comment regarding Hillary Clinton's proposal for funding a Woodstock museum
"While McCain undoubtedly suffered beyond imagination, the full context of his situation needs to be maintained. ... He and his defenders would respond that he was serving his country and protecting Americans' freedom. He wasn't. North Vietnam never attacked the American people. The public was told it had attacked an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, but the U.S. government knew that was not true."
, 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
"The message was that work is not just an honest and proper way to obtain the necessities of life without mooching off others. ... the moralists were joined in their labor evangelism by employers, who needed uncomplaining workers willing to spend long hours in unpleasant factories. ... We get a different picture of labor from the economists. ... It follows that the penchant for economizing effort — the preference for leisure — is a beneficent feature of human nature."
Would-Be Rulers without Clothes
, Future of Freedom
, May 2008
Examines Hillary Clinton's assertion about "wanting" a universal health care plan
"But when a politician advocates forcing people to go along with his grand plans, the normal rules are suspended and different rules take their place. In the political world, people who have never bothered anyone may be coerced into participating in a politician's scheme for no reason other than that the scheme allegedly won't work if there isn't universal participation. ... It's a measure of how far removed politics is from normal morality that even to raise this issue seems slightly peculiar."
Zimmerman Case Is No Grounds for Gun Control
, 16 Jul 2013
Argues against those who, based on the outcome of the George Zimmerman 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. They push 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, which are on the books in many states. ... Ironically, Martin's actions look more like a case of 'stand your ground.' The prosecution's account is that Martin saw Zimmerman following him."