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Butler Shaffer

Butler DeLane Shaffer (12 Jan 1935-29 Dec 2019) was a professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles from 1977. He was recognized in 2011 with an Excellence in Teaching Award. He also taught at Rampart College in Colorado in 1966-68. He was the author of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival (1985, 2004).


12 Jan 1935, Butler DeLane Shaffer, in Lincoln, Nebraska


29 Dec 2019, in Burbank, California


Mises Institute, Associated Scholar
Eris Society, 2004, "In My Opinion, Everything That We Know Is a Matter of Opinion"

Web Pages

Butler Shaffer | Southwestern Law School
Emeritus faculty page; includes link to memorial tribute, picture, summary profile, and list of publications (books, chapters and articles)
The reasoning and analytical skills that Butler Shaffer developed in law school where he served as associate editor of the law review, have helped him pursue 'the continuous process of inquiry that Socrates referred to as "the examined life."' From the view of a "modern social historian and philosopher," Professor Shaffer has written numerous books and articles on social theory, business and labor law, and has spoken on these topics before a variety of academic and special interest forums. ... Professor Shaffer joined the Southwestern faculty in 1977. ... He took Emeritus status in 2015.

Archived Articles

Butler Shaffer, LewRockwell
Archive of articles from Sep 2001 to Aug 2019, plus book chapters and earlier writings


Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Jan 2014
After describing and providing references on the case against IP laws, reviews Butler Shaffer's monograph "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property" (2013), particularly the point that "IP tends to concentrate wealth in large business firms"
[Butler] Shaffer ... writes,
There are many other costs associated with IP that rarely get attention in cost-benefit analyses of the topic ... the patenting process, as with government regulation generally, is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that tends to increase industrial concentration ... Thus, individuals with inventive products may be more inclined to sell their creations to larger firms ... The current political mantra, "too big to fail," is a product of the dysfunctional nature of size when an organization faces energized competition to which it must adapt if it is to survive.


Alternative Medicine Is Libertarian Medicine, 2 Dec 2006
Discusses several aspects of healthcare, including self-ownership, being responsible for our own care, decentralized information, the collapse of external authorities and the dehumanizing decisions resulting from institutionalized healthcare
How many of you own yourselves? I ask my first year property students this question on the first day of class. I raise the question not simply as an abstract proposition, but to get them to focus on the functional reality of the property concept ... In all aspects of their daily lives, more people are becoming aware of the irrelevance of political systems, other than as a danger to be avoided. Rather than attacking these state agencies of death and destruction, men and women are, in increasing numbers, walking away from their hallowed halls, in search of alternatives that serve their interests.
Another Meaning To September 11th, 19 Sep 2001
Reflects on the attacks of 11 Sep 2001, arguing against top-down poltical systems and in favor of "decentralized, spontaneous systems" such as the marketplace and emphasizing the need for individual responsiblity
The shocking attacks upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have struck far deeper into our conscious and unconscious minds than any of us has begun to imagine. The anger that has now settled into the minds of most of us is certainly understandable, deriving as it does from ... a failure of expectations that our political systems would protect us from such harm. ... Perhaps at no time in recent history has so much clarity of thought been demanded from each of us. The world has an abundance of anger; what it needs right now is our intelligence. There are only two people in the world who can change any of this: you and me ...
The Case for Optimism, 19 Oct 2001
Relates the change in people's behavior after the September 2001 attacks, some standing up for principle whereas others followed the herd, but in the end finding some cause for optimism
One positive feature of the post-September 11th mess has been the discovery of who is, and who is not, devoted to individual liberty. It's all so easy to espouse liberty principles when there are no apparent costs associated with doing so. It becomes much tougher when the costs begin to escalate. ... She and her husband remained seated – as, she told me, they did even before September 11th. A man sitting behind them whapped her husband on the shoulder and asked: 'why aren't you standing for the national anthem?', to which he replied: 'well, you really can't dance to it, can you?'
The Control Cult, 21 Apr 2007
Comments, in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, on those who believe the causal factors can be identified and controlled by the state, and how this extends not just to gun ownership but many other areas such as "global warming"
In the aftermath of the murders of 32 people at Virginia Tech, we are witnessing the collective reaffirmation of the article of faith uniting all politically-minded persons: the belief that the state is capable of identifying and controlling the factors that produce undesirable behavior ... Your ability to defend yourself will always depend upon the actions you take, with the resources you have available. You are more likely to prevail if you have disabused yourself of the notion that the state–or any other established system–will be there to prevent such threats to you.
The Delusion of Limited Government, 14 May 2002
Comments on watching the Cato Institute's 25th anniversary dinner in which speakers held up booklets with the U.S. Constitution while complaining that the document had "not restrained the power of the state"
The other evening, I watched C-SPAN coverage of the Cato Institute's 25th anniversary dinner. It was interesting to observe various speakers pulling from their pockets small, leatherette-bound booklets, published by Cato, containing both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution ... A society will remain as free or as enslaved as the conscious dispositions of individuals determine it shall be ... There are ... no hallowed documents to be revered, to save us the effort of continually challenging those who would presume to exercise authority over our lives.
George Carlin: A Four-Letter Threat to Authority, 24 Jun 2008
A memorial tribute to George Carlin (and Lenny Bruce) on their irreverent attitude towards authority and to Carlin as a "standup philosopher"
When I was in high school, I got into a discussion with a couple of my classmates over the role institutions played in our lives. I had made some comment critical of government, or organized religion, or corporations ... and was asked if I was opposed to all such systems. ... The last comment I heard George Carlin make was in a video of a book-signing, in which a young man asked him if he believed that 9/11 was an 'inside job.' Carlin ... only replied ... that it was a mistake to ever accept consensus-based definitions of reality. What better words to inscribe upon a tombstone or other memorial to this remarkable man!
Related Topics: Entertainment, Humor
Impeach the American People!, 17 Nov 2006
Comments on proposals to impeach (or otherwise bring to justice) George W. Bush and others in his administration, countering that most Americans didn't do their part under the alleged "social contract"
Now that George Bush's marbled columns of support have turned to sand, there is talk of impeachment and, perhaps, even his criminal prosecution, along with that of his coterie of unprincipled administration thugs and advisors who helped turn America into the 21st century equivalent of 1939 Germany ... It is most Americans who ... have utterly failed, not only in their obligations to their children and grandchildren to restrain state power but, what is worse, to give a whit that such a state of affairs has arisen in a country that was once looked upon by the rest of the world as a symbol for peace, liberty, and decency.
Law as 'Reason' or as 'Violence'?, 17 Nov 2001
Compares modern "law" to ancient "law merchant" and describes various rationalizations used to justify the violence in the modern system, highlighting the USA PATRIOT Act and similar legislation
The other day, I received an alumni fund-raising letter from my old law school. It opened with a post-September 11th quote from a present faculty member who praised our current civilization, declaring that one of its most impressive accomplishments has been the development of a 'legal order committed to resolving disputes between humans by reason and not by violence.' ... There are no principles, no matter how carefully articulated, by which the forces of state power can be restrained when they have their 'reasons' for resorting to 'violence!'
The Libertarians' Albatross, 3 Nov 2004
Recounts Shaffer's introduction to objectivism and provides critical analysis of the philosophy's shortcomings, highlighting Objectivists support of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and the "war on terror" and disregard of innocent casualties
My introduction to what is generally referred to as the "libertarian" philosophy did not begin, as Jerome Tuccille wrote it usually does, with Ayn Rand. Lane Lancaster–my undergraduate professor of political theory–was the first to introduce me to philosophers with a decided preference for individual liberty ... If libertarians are ... to help transform destructive and murderous social systems into those based upon peace and liberty, they must free their minds from the albatross of Objectivism, whose moralistic self-righteousness has turned it into everything it purported to oppose: irrationality, collectivism, state violence ...
Memorial Day Alternative, 16 May 2007
Short summaries of anti-war films with rankings (as a number of *'s [1-3]) in terms of importance
I have grown weary of the war-lovers taking over every holiday and exploiting them for their own deadly ambitions. Turning July 4th into a celebration of militaristic statism (see the old Bing Crosby musical Holiday Inn) was bad enough. But then seeing a Santa Claus in a flag-draped Uncle Sam suit on a Christmas card a couple years ago was simply too much. Memorial Day is one holiday on which I often hold an 'Anti-War Film Festival,' inviting a few friends .... You may well have other films you would like to add to the list – and there are other excellent anti-war movies – but these represent my favorites.
More Anti-War Films, 21 May 2007
More short summaries of anti-war films with rankings (as a number of *'s [1-3]) in terms of importance, follow-up to "Memorial Day Alternative"
My previous article – suggesting a number of anti-war films to be watched over the Memorial Day weekend – generated more responses than most of my previous articles. Most of those who e-mailed me had one or two movies of their own to supplement my list. I also realized – after the article appeared – that I had inadvertently omitted two of my favorite anti-war films. ... Should you decide to conduct your own Anti-War Film Festival this forthcoming Memorial Day weekend, you might be interested in including a recitation of one of the most powerful anti-war poems: Mark Twain's The War Prayer.
A Passion for Life, 1 Nov 2003
Discusses how political systems break the human spirit, how to live well one must live with passion, reflecting on the events of the Enlightment and the Industrial Revolution as inspiration and why personal liberty, not just economic freedom, is necessary
Political systems do far more than diminish the material quality of our lives or deprive us of our liberties. To the degree of their power over us, they help to deplete the passion for living that gives meaning to our experiences here on earth ... Might we rediscover how to live with such a constant variety of things to do that we lose all sense of time ... Might our work become as joyous as our childhood play; and might we recapture daydreaming from those who see it only as "dawdling" ...? Might we, in other words, awaken that passion for energized living that we have been conditioned to keep in repose?
Related Topics: Children, Life, George Orwell, Politics
Sy Leon, R.I.P., 11 Sep 2007
Recollections of the life of Seymour (Sy) Leon, who taught at Rampart College with Shaffer, Rampart College and others who taught there, and the libertarian movement of the 1950s/1960s
The late 1950s and early 1960s were the formative years for what has since become known as "libertarian thinking." Those of us who rejected the state, and collectivism in general, were as rare throughout America then as they are today in the District of Columbia ... As for myself, and remembering Sy's wonderful sense of humor, I will choose to remember him in words that I know he would have appreciated. They are those that H.L. Mencken selected for his own epitaph: "If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner, and wink your eye at some homely girl."
'V for Vendetta', 20 Mar 2006
Review of the 2006 V for Vendetta film, praising both the story as well as the cinematography
I have always been a highly-critical moviegoer. I do not attend a film without first learning as much about it as I can, particularly from a synthesis of movie reviews and opinions provided by friends and relatives whose judgments I trust. As a consequence, I am not a 'movie buff'; I have seen only one of the films nominated for major Oscars this year... For those who are serious about living in a society in which peace, liberty, and the inviolability of the human spirit prevail, V for Vendetta provides an opportunity to rethink our social assumptions; to develop new ideas about our relationships to one another.
The Voting Ritual, 24 Oct 2006
Reflects on the U.S. Election Day in 2006 as the 42nd anniversary of Shaffer's "non-participiation in the voting process"
November 7th ... has born witness to birth dates and events with both positive and negative connotations. On the affirmative side, it is the birthday of Albert Camus and Konrad Lorenz. On the other side of the ledger, it is also the birthday of Heinrich Himmler, the date of FDR's election to a fourth term as president ... we have been too well-conditioned ... to look at this system and see it for the vicious and involuntary game that it has always been ... we delude ourselves into believing we control with our ballots. After all, as Emma Goldman reminded us, 'if voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.'
Related Topics: Ron Paul, Politics, Voting
Why Are We Afraid To Be Free?, 27 Nov 2001
Examines the question of how to bring about freedom in individuals' lives, discussing how government influences people to be in conflicted states and how one must look within oneself and act accordingly to begin to be "free"
Why are so many of us preoccupied with the subject of "freedom," and yet seem so unclear about the conditions essential to its existence? The one question that dominates the inquiries I receive from others is this: "what can we do to bring about a condition of freedom in our lives?" It is encouraging that such questions are being asked ... Some may respond that I am only playing "word games," but such a reaction ignores the fact that we have twisted ourselves into the kinds of contradictory, anti-life, conflict-ridden people we have become because of "word games" others have helped us learn to play at our own expense.
Why I Do Not Vote, 14 Nov 2000
After recollecting his early involvement in the Goldwater movement, Shaffer explains why advocates of liberty and social order should refrain from political participation and voting
With the 2000 election behind us – if, indeed, it will ever be behind us – I have now gone 36 years without participating in the voting process. It was not always thus. Upon my graduation from law school, my first full-time job was that of executive secretary of the Nebraska Republican Party. ... Those of us who love liberty should rethink any temptations we might have to rush to the deathbed of statism and attempt to revivify its corpse by giving it a transfusion of our energies. The society upon which statism has fed will doubtless undergo a few headaches, fevers, and upset stomachs in the interim.
Related Topics: Barry Goldwater, Politics, Voting

Books Authored

Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, 1985
Partial contents: Our Well-Organized Conflicts - Pragmatism Doesn't Work - The People Pushers - Fueling the Engines of War - Manipulating Markets and People - Morality: The Guilt-Edged Security - Rediscovering Freedom - Getting Out of Our Own Way