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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, March 24, 2017

One More Flaw in Conservative Health Care Reform


Conservatives oppose federally mandated health insurance benefits (maternity, etc.), but they favor states having the power to mandate such benefits, which they already have. But conservatives (e.g., the Heritage Foundation) say they also favor a nationwide insurance market, that is, competition across state lines, which is not the case today.

The problem is that you cannot have free competition nationwide and state-mandated benefits. Would someone who lives in a state with lots of mandates be free to buy a basic catastrophic policy from a company in a no-mandate state? If not, then there is no nationwide market. If so, then the mandates aren't really mandates.

TGIF: Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault

President Trump’s budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level.  According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries — China and Saudi Arabia — spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, March 17, 2017

TGIF: Things to Keep in Mind During the Health Care Debate

As the debate proceeds over what should succeed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), here are a few basic ideas to keep in mind.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Op-ed: American Church

The op-ed version of my article "Donald Trump Assumes Command of the American Church" appears this morning in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Friday, March 10, 2017

TGIF: The Religion of the State


In 1912 the pioneering French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) published The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, which presented his findings (not without controversy) on primitive clan-based religious culture. Durkheim sought to identify the nature of religion by studying it in what he took to be its pristine form. In the course of his work, he realized that modern secular societies had many important similarities to the societies he was observing. For Durkheim, religion satisfied a need for social solidarity and identification that would also require satisfaction in a secular scientific epoch. His observations are pertinent to the proposition that religion and purportedly secular ideologies like nationalism, rather than being opposites, are actually two members of the same family. One implication of this insight is that the West’s proud determination to separate church and state has overlooked the dangers of joining ostensibly nonreligious worldviews to the state.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Some Israelis Understand the Monstrous Injustice their Country Commits

Cable Noise Network: Mouthpiece for the War State

CNN and its Pentagon stenographer, Barbara Starr, are shameless mouthpieces for the war state. In an article touting the Pentagon's unverified claim that last month's special-ops raid in Yemen, greenlit by Donald Trump, has yielded actionable intel, we find this astounding sentence:

"AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] is considered by many analysts to be al Qaeda's most capable affiliate, and the organization has been able to carve out a safe haven in Yemen amid the ongoing civil war there between government loyalists and Houthi rebels."

Missing from the story is the fact that it is Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies -- enabled by the U.S. military -- that are warring against the Houthis and "carv[ing] out a safe haven" for the disciples of Osama bin Laden. The merciless Saudi bombing campaign and naval blockade -- which could not be taking place without U.S. assistance -- threaten mass starvation in the Middle East's poorest country. The Obama administration joined the Saudi effort nearly two years ago apparently to placate the Gulf states, which were upset by the Iran nuclear deal. Donald Trump, who's obsessed with Iran, shows no sign of ending that war. The Houthis, who practice a form of Shi'ite Islam, are wrongly portrayed as Iranian agents.

So while Navy SEALs kill al-Qaeda operatives and others -- including unaffiliated tribesmen, women, and children -- the U.S. government also helps al-Qaeda because of its obsession with Iran and its alliance with the cradle of "radical Islamic terrorism": Saudi Arabia.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF: Trump Assumes Command of the American Church


As Donald Trump demonstrated in his first address to Congress, no matter how loathsome a ruler may be, he can bring an assembly of politicians to its feet and disarm critics simply by invoking the quasi-secular faith -- Americanism -- and eulogizing the latest uniformed war-state employee to sacrifice his life for it. Trump has indeed shown he can fill the job expected of any president: supreme head of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Liberal Islam

Part of the West's ideology holds that Islam is irredeemably illiberal. So if "we" have to use violence against Muslim societies, so be it: they are too medieval to be reasoned with. But of course it ain't so.

Writes Christopher de Bellaigue, author of The Islamic Enlightenment, in The Spectator:
In fact, rarely has there been a better time to test the belief — widespread in the Trump White House, among Europe’s rising populists, and the Kremlin — that Islamic society is incapable of reforming because it hates progress. Wouldn’t it be awkward if proof were adduced to show that, on the contrary, for long periods in their recent history the central and most influential lands of Islam, having been confronted by dynamic western modernity, embraced that modernity in spades and only lapsed into Islamist recalcitrance after the first world war obliterated them physically and the victorious allies tried to subjugate them politically? But this is what happened in Turkey, Egypt and Iran during the ‘long’ 19th century until 1914.... 
Now, amid the beastliness of Isis and its fellow travellers, and the tendency of a growing number of westerners to demonise not Islamism or the terrorists but Islam tout court, it seems vital to recall that hopeful century when the lands of Islam engaged lustily with modernity in the hope that something of it can be recaptured — as, indeed, it briefly looked as though it might during the Arab Spring. The alternative is to perpetuate the self-fulfilling consensus around which the Isis ideologues and our own populists unite: a story of inevitable conflict and alienation based on a historical fallacy.
Read the details here.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hayek on Rules, Tradition, and Freedom

There is advantage in obedience to such [moral and other social] rules not being coerced, not only because coercion as such is bad, but because it is, in fact, often desirable that rules would be observed only in most instances and that the individual should be able to transgress them when it seems to him worthwhile to incur the odium which this will cause. It is also important that the strength of the social pressure and of the force of habit which insures their observance is variable. It is this flexibility of voluntary rules which in the field of morals makes gradual evolution and spontaneous growth possible, which allows further experience to lead to modifications and improvements. Such an evolution is possible only with rules which are neither coercive nor deliberately imposed -- rules which, though observing them is regarded as merit and though they will be observed by the majority, can be broken by individuals who feel that they have strong enough reasons to brave the censure of their fellows. Unlike any deliberately imposed coercive rules, which can be change only discontinuously and for all at the same time, rules of this kind allow for gradual and experimental change. The existence of individuals and groups simultaneously observing partially different rules provides the opportunity for the selection of the more effective ones. 
F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960: 62-63) 

Trump Nation

#1:
The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials at a Florida airport, a family friend told the Courier-Journal.
Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, [both American citizens] were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini. 
Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo. Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"
#2 (Huffington Post):
Customs and Border Protection officers requested identity documents from passengers disembarking a domestic flight at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport on Wednesday. 
Passenger Kelley Amadei told New York’s local NBC News station that as Delta flight 1583 was taxiing to the gate around 8:30 p.m, an attendant told travelers to get their identification documents ready for review. 
Before passengers even stepped onto the jet bridge, they were met by two officers from CBP.... 
In a statement that New York Times reporter Eli Rosenberg posted on Twitter, CBP said it was assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in locating a person they believed may have been on the flight.
Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Is the Intel Complex Trying to Sabotage Trump?


One need not be a Trumpster to be concerned by the apparent campaign of the intelligence community (sic; does it have an HOA, golf course, and pool?) to block what may be Trump's wish for detente with Russia. See Gareth Porter's detailed dissection of the matter in "How 'New Cold Warriors' Cornered Trump." Teaser:
Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power. But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for US intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia. 
Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials. 
Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.
Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Friday, February 24, 2017

TGIF: In Defense of Extreme Cosmopolitanism


Cosmopolitanism is under assault from across the political spectrum, both in the United States and abroad. Just yesterday President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, alt-right leader and self-described economic nationalist Steve Bannon, told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “the center core of what we believe [is] that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy in some global marketplace with open borders, but we’re a nation with a culture and a reason for being,” This is a false alternative of course, but Bannon’s preference for nationalist tribalism is revealing.

The rejection of cosmopolitanism is bad for liberty, peace, and prosperity because they all go hand in hand.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!