Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand
, by Edmund A. Opitz
, The Freeman
, Jun 1976
Explains mercantilism, the rationales for political power, the proper role of government, Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand", his concept of "equality, liberty and justice" and how a free society allocates economic goods
"From ancient times to the present, every political theorist — except the Classical Liberals — tried to frame answers for three questions. ... Let me repeat these three questions, for they provide an apt key to many political puzzles: Who shall wield power? For whose benefit? At whose expense? One might put this in a formula: Votes and taxes for all; subsidies and privileges for us, our friends, and whoever else happens at the moment to pack a lot of political clout."
, by Sheldon Richman
, 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."
Albert Jay Nock, Forgotten Man of the Right
, by Jeffrey Tucker, 22 Aug 2002
Lengthy biographical essay, with a selection of quotes from Nock's writings
"... it is hardly surprising that he had nothing but contempt for politics, which then and now seeks not to only manage society but manage thought as well: 'My first impression of politics was unfavorable; and my disfavor was heightened by subsequently noticing that the people around me always spoke of politics and politicians in a tone of contempt. ... obviously a decent person could find no place in politics, not even the place of a ordinary voter, for the forces of ignorance, brutality and indecency would outnumber him ten to one.'"
Along Pennsylvania Avenue
, by Murray Rothbard
, Faith and Freedom
, Sep 1955
After some comments on politics and politicians, covers the debate over the TVA from both Republican and Democrat sides and finds a libertarian voice in a young Republican, ending with remarks on regulatory mischief at the Civil Aeronautics Board
"In our television era, politicians—like soap—are 'sold' to the public in attractive and gaudy packages. Unlike soap, however, we never get a chance to unwrap and test the contents of the package. When we gauge an office seeker by his smile or by the charm he gives off, we chase a will-o'-the-wisp. We poor voters, bombarded by press releases and staged TV appearances, can't know a man's true character. We can only judge his policies, for different policies cause different results. So we must learn to tell the difference between a man's smile and his ideas."
Bad Partisanship Drives Out Good
, by Sheldon Richman
, 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. ... A lot can be chalked up to the Myth of the Golden Age ... I’'e read enough history to doubt that politics was really less partisan than it is today. Chris Matthews of MSNBC may believe that veritable demigods walked the halls of power in the 1950s and '60s, but I have some memory of that time and I am skeptical. (On a commercial promoting his program, Hardball, Matthews actually says that the problem with politics today is that the candidates really want to win. Did they not care about that a few decades ago?)"
Begrudging Another Battle of Ballot-Boxing
, by Kenneth R. Gregg, 23 Nov 2006
Explains how those seeking power through politics are led to compromise, even if they are members of a group espousing principles over expediency, and urges others not to ballot-box but instead vote in the marketplace and the social realm
"In politics, your vote publicly acknowledges that the question at issue can be rightfully decided by majority vote, and you tacitly agree to the consequences, whatever they may be. If you participate in voting ... you have acknowledged the justice of the decision-process as well as the outcome. It may have been one vote short of unanimity or one less than a majority, it's your acceptance of the process which provides it with legitimacy."
Black-Market Activism: Samuel Edward Konkin III and Agorism
, by David S. D'Amato, 25 Apr 2015
Overview of Konkin's life and his two main contributions: agorism and the counter-economy
"Agorists believe that by becoming politically engaged, running candidates and attempting to reform governmental structures and lawmaking, libertarians fall into the trap of politics — the delusion that if we only elect the right person or pass the right law, we can attain freedom. For agorists, the processes and institutions of politics are inherently and unchangeably corrupt and coercive. Konkin thus maintained that it was impossible to accomplish 'libertarian ends through statist means, especially political parties.'"
Buchanan, James M. (1919-2013)
, by Peter T. Leeson, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
"The Calculus of Consent ... opened up the theory of public choice, still in its infancy, and refocused the profession's attention on a realistic versus a romantic conception of politics. Against the prevailing tendency in political economy, Buchanan and Tullock argued that private costs and benefits guide individuals' decision making in politics just as they do in markets. Simply moving from the private sphere to the public does not transform interests from those that are self-concerned to those that are devoted to the public good. Depicting politicians as benevolent despots is therefore foolhardy."
Felix Morley: The Journalist Philosopher
, by Oscar B. Johannsen, Fragments
Biographical essay based on Morley's autobiography For the Record
, contrasting the Brontë sisters with the Morley brothers (Christopher, Felix and Frank) but focusing on Felix
"The complexities of modern life are simply too great to admit the blundering controls of mere man acting as a politician. In the political field, the most he might be able to do as far as politics is concerned would be at the lowest possible level-something on the order of the New England townships. Even here, with the exception of ad hoc measures which might be necessary from time to time, the extent of political action would be limited to the leasing of land in the community and the distribution of economic rent thus obtained among the area's inhabitants."
How We Privatized Social Security in Chile
, by José Piñera, The Freeman
, Jul 1997
Explains how the Chilean private pension system works and how the previous government-controlled system was transformed into the current one (the author was the Secretary of Labor and Social Security under Pinochet and designed the new system)
"The Chilean Constitution protects pension savings accounts from government expropriation, because we know that whenever politicians see a huge amount of money accumulated, they become greedy. Taking politics out of the pension system means that pressure groups can't lobby legislators to siphon a worker's money for somebody else. Pension savings accounts cannot be touched even during war. In that event, the government could issue war bonds, but they have no business taking private pension savings accounts."
, by Sheldon Richman
, 22 Feb 2007
Reflects on the coming United States presidential campaign and election and suggests the candidates are running for the job of emperor
"Politics, and presidential politics most especially, is little more than theater. The candidate who can create the right mood and evoke the right feelings in voters has a shot at winning. But a man's or woman's prowess in creating an atmosphere on the campaign trail (who really creates it, the candidate or the consultants?) says nothing about that person's capacity to think seriously, to understand history and moral philosophy, or to run a large organization."
Interview with James Buchanan
, by James M. Buchanan
, The Region
, Sep 1995
Topics include The Calculus of Consent
, public choice theory, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve
"To some extent, people then and now think about politics romantically. Our systematic way of looking at politics is nothing more than common sense. ... I think governments overreached themselves in the '60s, not only in the totalitarian, authoritarian regimes, but also in Western democratic welfare-state nations ... By the early '70s people began to recognize this. They looked about them, and they saw that political programs were failing. Public Choice came along and was there to provide them an explanation—an understanding—of why politics was failing as it extended beyond certain margins."
James M. Buchanan and the Rebirth of Political Economy
, by Peter Boettke
, Economics and its Discontents
Examines Buchanan's contributions in bursting the "romantic vision of political science," advancing subjectivism as a challenge to modern economics formalism and re-integrating moral philosophy into economics
"Many of the major insights of modern political economy flow from these three elementary propositions, including the vote motive; the logic of dispersed costs and concentrated benefits; the shortsightedness bias in policy; and the constitutional perspective in policy evaluation. Politics must be endogenous in any reasonable model of economic policy making, and realistic political processes is not something to be romanticized. But the intellectual spirit of the age (the 1950s and early 1960s) was one of overly zealous optimism about the beneficial nature of politics."
Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty
, by Murray Rothbard
, Left and Right
Inaugural issue essay, reviewing the history of left- and right-wing politics, the short- and long-run optimistic and pessimistic views of various factions and what it may portend for the future of libertarianism
"Soon there developed in Western Europe two great political ideologies, centered around this new revolutionary phenomenon: one was Liberalism, the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservatism, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the Old Order. ... Political ideologies were polarized, with Liberalism on the extreme 'Left', and Conservatism on the extreme 'Right', of the ideological spectrum."
, by Charley Reese, 19 Feb 2007
"I have two phrases that I bet you can't define off the top of your head. They are 'national security' and 'national interests.' Politicians love these phrases precisely because they are both ambiguous and iconic almost in a religious sense. Who, after all, would wish to do anything to harm national security or fail to do what was necessary for our national interests?"
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 1: Pattern and Perception
, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 15 Aug 2005
"This holds true for advice about when and how to deceive people, how to take advantage of religious beliefs, how to betray a trust, how to play off one group against another, how to determine when one should spend money liberally and when the purse strings should be pulled tight, when to instill fear, and when to be merciful."
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 2: Ethics and Creating the Facts
, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 17 Aug 2005
"The lie was the 'constructed' reality ... that war against Iraq was justified by the threat of a smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. The hypocrisy was that the United States, not Iraq, posed a significant threat to world peace — possessing more WMDs than the rest of the world combined."
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 3: Lies and Appearances
, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 19 Aug 2005
Continues examination of Machiavelli's teachings and comparison to recent U.S. presidential promises and actions
"... Machiavelli's appraisal of the 'true believers' and sycophants who surround every power-hungry politician ... must include the following groups: citizens who believe governments can keep them safe from terrorists by stirring up hatred with interventionist foreign policies; ... and, of course, soldiers who believe they are 'fighting for freedom' as they destroy cities, dismiss innocent victims as 'collateral damage,' and bankrupt their own country for a disgraceful bunch of politicians playing a bloody game of global hegemony with other people's lives and treasure."
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 5: War Crimes and Atrocities
, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 24 Aug 2005
"In both wars of aggression just cited ... Neither politicians nor soldiers were acting on the conviction that liberty and free enterprise ultimately triumph over communism and tyranny. Instead, they acted on the shameful presumption that freedom requires the mass murder of people who pose absolutely no threat ..."
"Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss"
, by Sheldon Richman
, 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
"Politics is a poor forum for serious discussion of political philosophy and economics. ... Politics is more like show-biz — specifically, melodrama and soap opera — than anything else. And people behave differently in the political realm than they do in the marketplace. ... politics is a superficial activity in which (most) candidates try to create a mood by pushing buttons expected to stimulate positive responses in significant constituencies. If one button doesn't have the intended effect, you push another and keep pushing until you have assembled a winning coalition. That's all you need to know about electoral politics."
Memoirs of a Simple Honorable Man
, by Charles H. Hamilton, The Freeman
, Nov 1992
Biographical and bibliographical essay, discussing some of the book reviews made in 1950-54 republished in The Turnabout Years
"John's own writing about the 1920s has given a different interpretation of that often maligned period. ... 'Americans, in the twenties, believed that man could be a creative agent by his own free decision. ... He did not have to wait upon permission from a government ...' ... he recalls the essentially anti-political feeling of the time that was so refreshing: 'politics is the least satisfying, the least rewarding, of human preoccupations. The more we intensify our political activities, the less time we have to spend on personal development, or the arts, or creativity in general.'"
Morals and the Welfare State
, by F. A. Harper
Examines five moral principles by which the idea of the Welfare State (described in more detail in an appendix) can be judged; extension of talk given 13 June 1951; later published as "Morals and Liberty" (see The Freeman
, Sep 1971)
"What else dominates the newspaper space ...? It is mostly about the problems of political power; about those who have power or are grasping for power, diluted with a little about those who are fighting against power. Lord Acton said: 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' This dictum seems to be true, as history has proved and is proving over and over again. So we can then translate it into a description of much of the news of the day: News is heavily loaded with items about persons who, as Lord Acton said, are either corrupt or are in the process of becoming more corrupt."
Page Scandal: Political Corruption Precedes Sexual Corruption
, by Sheldon Richman
, 25 Oct 2006
Comments on the U.S. Congress page program, recommending its immediate abolition, and the scandal involving Mark Foley
"As the Post commented, 'Most of all, his [Foley's] interest in the boys coincided with the ambitions of many of the teenagers, who craved contact with members in hopes of fostering political careers of their own.' Political careers of their own! See what I mean? Their susceptibility to sexual corruption by pathetic, lonely, middle-aged male politicians is made possible by their political corruption. Who is teaching them that power is romantic? Sending these kids to Washington only reinforces their budding power lust and makes them marks for political sexual predators."
Piercing through Myths, Lies, and Stupidity
, by George Leef
, Future of Freedom
, Aug 2006
"... the core of the book is about the false beliefs people hold regarding politics. Everywhere he looks — government schooling, regulations, environmental scare-mongering, subsidies, and so forth — Stossel sees that ordinary people have been fed a diet of baloney to cover up the fact that some people use politics to take life, liberty, and property from other people."
Taxation Is Robbery
, by Frank Chodorov
, Out of Step
Chapter XXII; starting with the historical origins of taxation, proceeds to examine its indirect and direct forms and the rationales behind it
"Obscured from public view are the enterprises of political power at the bottom of the economic malady, such as monopoly privileges, wars and taxation itself. ... Thus it has come about that the area of political power has gradually encroached upon more and more social activities, and with every expansion another justification for taxation was advanced. The current philosophy is tending toward the identification of politics with society, the eradication of the individual as the essential unit ..."
The Abstract Concept of Human Liberty
, by Robert LeFevre
, The Freeman
, Dec 1982
Discusses how people may be interested in other people, events or things but only a few are interested in ideas, and how each group of people tends to view liberty from those perspectives
"What is the status of those interested in events within a freedom context? These are the lovers of excitement and their natural arena is politics. Their concept of abstractions is often limited to Machiavellian maneuvering and back door diplomacy. Those concerned with events are most likely to decry the merit of any principle. 'Promise them anything, but win,' seems to be the universal clamor."
The Bastiat Solution
, by Sheldon Richman
, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law
as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of election season
"This principle — that a group can have no rights not possessed by the individual members — is consistent and simple. It defies all challenges. Yet it is radical in its implications for political systems throughout the world. ... But what if it only looks like plunder? If people have voted for the political officeholders who distribute others' belongings by force, doesn't that make it different from crime? How could it? If individuals and the groups they join have no right to take people's belongings by force, then they cannot logically delegate to someone else a right they don't have."
The Case For a Libertarian Political Party
, by David Nolan
, The Individualist
, Aug 1971
A few months before the founding of the Libertarian Party, Nolan presents his rationale for establishing a new political party, after discussing four other libertarian activist strategies and admitting that "political approaches are inherently coercive"
"... one of the major determinants (if not THE major determinant) of the course of events in this country is the political process. Now, one may argue that politics is an 'immoral' game, that political approaches are inherently coercive, that one cannot achieve pure ends by impure means, and so forth. But the fact nonetheless remains that we live in a society whose shape is largely determined by political processes, our chances of achieving our goals are not great."
The Death of Politics
, by Karl Hess
, Mar 1969
Discusses libertarianism, contrasting it with both conservatism and modern liberalism, including specific policy differences
"The most vital question today about politics ... may be stated this way: Will men continue to submit to rule by politics, which has always meant the power of some men over other men, or are we ready to go it alone socially, in communities of voluntarism, in a world more economic and cultural than political, just as so many now are prepared to go it alone metaphysically in a world more of reason than religion?"
Related Topics: Cold War
, War on Drugs
, Barry Goldwater
, Ayn Rand
, Freedom of Speech
The Death of Politics?
, by Ed Crane
, Cato Policy Report
, Nov 1994
Explores trends in politics in the U.S. and other countries, particularly those that show voters are unwilling to support the political status quo
"Voters in nations around the globe are turning out long-established parties in favor of political forces offering more open societies with less burdensome governments. ... In the United States intense disenchantment with government manifested itself in the 20 million votes that Ross Perot garnered in 1992. ... The term limitation movement is a powerful result of the pent-up voter energy that the FECA has created. It is, in effect, circumventing the traditional paths to political change, and the change it promises to bring about is going to be much more than cosmetic."
The Importance of Tools
, by Karl Hess
, Future of Freedom
, Apr 1993
Contrasts scientific and technological discoveries or inventions with political events throughout the history of humankind
"In about 1000 A.D., Venice consolidated its empire in the Adriatic. Ho hum — just more empire building made lofty with some new political rhetoric. ... In the 1660s, there were at least 50 major treaties and wars. Politics was sweeping the earth. ... The United States government announced the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. ... The government gave us the seeds for foreign intervention. ... In 1903, Lenin and Trotsky formed the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party. ... Through their endless quest for more power over the lives of more people, politicians historically have obstructed the progress of humanity."
The Political Hoax Exposed
, by Lew Rockwell
, Mises Daily
, 10 Sep 2006
"Politicians ... affect a know-it-all posture and carry a bag of solutions to every problem, natural, human, and divine. They work to perfect the ability to fob off their solutions as sound reasoning even when they are snake oil or sheer poison. Still, one can only marvel at how successful they are at bamboozling the population."
, by Sheldon Richman
, 22 Sep 2006
Commentary on the perverted logic used in Washington politics, as evidenced by lobbying for and against import tariffs
"Note also that suspensions are temporary, assuring that lobbyists must return periodically to renew them. Of course opponents of suspensions also represent potential campaign contributions. Do you see why politicians tend not to be attracted to freedom? What would they have to do?"
Why is Medical Care so Expensive?
, by Hans Sennholz
, Mises Daily
, 22 Aug 2006
Discusses various explanations given for the explosion in medical expenses and then focuses on some of the more likely culprits behind the increased costs
"Medicare and Medicaid are political handiwork forged by legislators and regulators, fashioned by politicians who recast it in every national election. It is a very popular political issue passed and argued about without ever being settled. Politicians representing the beneficiaries are demanding ever more outlays, others ... are opposing the charges. ... Politics is likely to shape the future of medical care as far as the eye can see. It builds upon popular political ideas, on old habits and predispositions, even resentment and envy. It inflicts pain without end."
Would-Be Rulers without Clothes
, by Sheldon Richman
, 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."