Available Now! (click cover)

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, December 31, 2010

Should Labor be Paid or Not?

Good stuff from Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, April 28, 1888; reprinted in Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One (1893/1897):
In No. 121 of Liberty, criticising an attempt of Kropotkine to identify Communism and Individualism, I charged him with ignoring the real question whether Communism will permit the individual to labor independently, own tools, sell his labor or his products, and buy the labor or products of others. In Herr Most’s eyes this is so outrageous that, in reprinting it, he puts the words the labor of others in large black type. Most being a Communist, he must, to be consistent, object to the purchase and sale of anything whatever; but why he should particularly object to the purchase and sale of labor is more than I can understand. Really, in the last analysis, labor is the only thing that has any title to be bought or sold. Is there any just basis of price except cost? And is there anything that costs except labor or suffering (another name for labor)? Labor should be paid! Horrible, isn’t it? Why, I thought that the fact that it is not paid was the whole grievance. Unpaid labor has been the chief complaint of all Socialists, and that labor should get its reward has been their chief contention. Suppose I had said to Kropotkine that the real question is whether Communism will permit individuals to exchange their labor or products on their own terms. Would Herr Most have been so shocked? Would he have printed that in black type? Yet in another form I said precisely that.(131 ¶ 1)

If the men who oppose wages—that is, the purchase and sale of labor—were capable of analyzing their thought and feelings, they would see that what really excites their anger is not the fact that labor is bought and sold, but the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labor, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labor by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labor, and that, but for the privilege, would be enjoyed by all gratuitously. And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labor, and then, when there will be nothing but labor with which to buy labor, the distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and every man will be a laborer exchanging with fellow-laborers. Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and to secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury.

But, says Herr Most, this idea of a free labor market from which privilege is eliminated is nothing but consistent Manchesterism. Well, what better can a man who professes Anarchism want than that? For the principle of Manchesterism is liberty, and consistent Manchesterism is consistent adherence to liberty. The only inconsistency of the Manchester men lies in their infidelity to liberty in some of its phases. And this infidelity to liberty in some of its phases is precisely the fatal inconsistency of the Freiheit school,—the only difference between its adherents and the Manchester men being that in many of the phases in which the latter are infidel the former are faithful, while in many of those in which the latter are faithful the former are infidel. Yes, genuine Anarchism is consistent Manchesterism, and Communistic or pseudo-Anarchism is inconsistent Manchesterism. "I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The More Things Change...

From the Washington Post:

The president's recently departed budget director is joining Citigroup.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank's derivatives expert is joining Goldman Sachs.

And numerous investigators from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are joining Wall Street's top law firms.

The vast overhaul of financial regulations and the renewed intensity of investigations into white-collar crime has been a boon for regulators, prosecutors and financial policymakers looking to cash in on their government experience and contacts.

In recent months, prominent officials from the White House, Justice Department, SEC, banking regulators and other agencies, both federal and state, have been walking through the proverbial revolving door to join Goldman, Citi, other financial companies and top law firms in Washington and New York.

The corporate state is alive and well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Did I Mention...


... that the January-February issue of The Freeman is now online? Contributors include James Bovard, Wendy McElroy, Joseph R. Stromberg, David K. Levine, Warren Gibson, Isaac Morehouse, Douglas Rogers, and a cover story on war as economic stimulus by Steven Horwitz.

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Peace & Anarchy on Earth.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Well, Mr. Moore?

See update below.
Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

The rest of the Guardian's story is here.

UPDATE: Moore replies:
Sounds convincing, eh?! There's only one problem -- the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of 'Sicko' were set up in towns all across the country. In Havana, 'Sicko' screened at the famed Yara Theater.
The lesson? Be skeptical of anything originating within the U.S. government. It's also fair to ask why the Guardian did not check the veracity of the cable.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beware the Campaign for War against Iran

The American people were stampeded into war against Iraq through a shameless propaganda and disinformation campaign led by government officials and facilitated by prominent newspapers. We must not let the same thing happen with Iran.
Read the full op-ed here.

TGIF: A Boost for the Managed Economy

More important, all players in the game have revealed themselves to be interventionists. (Okay, we knew this already but confirmation is nice.) Regardless of party, they see the economy as something to fix by turning a knob here, pulling a lever there, and stepping on a pedal over yonder in order to get the desired performance: higher consumer spending, lower unemployment, increased investment, and so on. It’s as though the economy were a machine in need of adjustments and a few quarts of oil. But an economy is not a machine. It’s a network of people engaged in myriad exchanges of goods and services –pursuing end-oriented activities informed by subjective values and expectations. Such information is largely unavailable to politicians, bureaucrats, and their economic advisers.
Read the full TGIF here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

About Those English Student Protests

The best thing I've read about the English student protests against reduced government subsidies for higher education is here. In "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," Kevin Carson writes:

Aren’t these just a bunch of spoiled brats, throwing a tantrum when they’re cut off from the taxpayer teat?

Not exactly.

British students, like those in America, are hit from two directions under the state capitalist model: First, by government interventions that inflate the amount of the “education” commodity they’re forced to consume in order to make a decent living. And second, by government interventions that inflate the cost of procuring it.

So government has placed students in a double bind in which relying on government tuition subsidies is the only way out.

What does Carson propose?

The answer, first, is to eliminate all state-mandated licensing and credentialing, all college and technical school accreditation, and to dismantle higher education as a conveyor belt for processing human raw material for delivery to the appropriate HR department.

Educational offerings should be driven, on a demand-pull basis, by the desires of students, while all the state-created artificial scarcities that cause the wage labor market to be a buyer’s market should be eliminated.

Second, we should eliminate the high-overhead, cost-plus culture that predominates in the university (as in all other large institutions of state capitalist society).

There's more. So read the full article.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF: "F" as in Fed

The Federal Reserve, America’s fatally conceited monetary central planner, is not terribly popular these days – which is cause for hope – and now we have a report card on the entire Fed era that strongly supports the view that we’d be better off without it. At the very least, as the authors suggest, the burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of those who would retain the Fed.

The report card comes in the form of a working paper from the Cato Institute: “Has the Fed Been a Failure?” by George A. Selgin, William D. Lastrapes, and Lawrence H. White.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Anarchists Launch WikiLeaks Mirror, Assistance Program

For Immediate Release

12/05/10
POC Thomas L. Knapp

Media Contact:
media@c4ss.org
530-618-C4SS

Technical Contact:
admin@c4ss.org

ANARCHISTS LAUNCH WIKILEAKS MIRROR, ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

December 5th — “Censorship has always been wrong and irresponsible,” says Brad Spangler. “Now it’s another thing: Impossible.”

Spangler, director of the Center for a Stateless Society, announced on Sunday that the Center is now mirroring Wikileaks — an international whistle-blower site which reactionary elements in the US government have worked assiduously to suppress over the last week — and encouraging and assisting others in doing likewise.

“I feel [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton’s pain,” says Spangler. “Wikileaks’ release of 250,000 diplomatic cables previously hidden behind a state secrets wall has been tremendously embarrassing to her, not to mention implicating her in an international identity theft scheme that looks a lot like Watergate and the Zimmerman Telegram rolled into one.

“But embarrassment or not, state officials have no right to hide their misdeeds from the people who foot the bill, in money and blood, for government actions. Nor, now, do they have the power to do so.”

Using custom software developed by C4SS web administrator Mike Gogulski, the mirror site (wikileaks.c4ss.org) updates daily from Wikileaks’ servers regardless of where those servers are located.

C4SS is also making the software publicly available and encouraging others to mirror Wikileaks as well. “This is an opportunity for those who support freedom of information to take action,” says Gogulski. “We particularly hope to see people and organizations with greater resources than we dispose of — the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, or US Representative Ron Paul’s IT staff — making use of those resources, and of the tool we’re offering, to settle this issue once and for all.”

“The toothpaste is out of the tube and we intend to keep it out of the tube,” says Spangler. “This information will remain publicly available to anyone who cares to look it over.”

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why the Latest WikiLeaks Leaks Matter

Why should anyone care about diplomatic cables? So what if State Department bureaucrats say unflattering things about other world “leaders"? Some people may be asking this in response to WikiLeaks' latest disclosures. Okay, they say, leaks about atrocities on the battlefield (such as the first WikiLeaks disclosure, “Collateral Murder,”) tell us something we should know about – the gross misconduct by U.S. military forces, condoned by the command all the way up to the president of the United States.

But diplomatic cables? Who cares?

We all should care. The 250,000 documents serve as a timely reminder that the people who call themselves “the government” are professional liars. Lying is what they are paid to do. The biggest lie of all is that they do it in the people's interest. U.S. government officials have reacted to the latest document dump as though Julian Assange has struck at the very heart of the State. No surprise there -- because he has! When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the disclosures are an "attack on the world," she is really saying it's an attack on her world -- the world of power, of legal murder and plunder.

When American (mis)leaders profess confidence in the Afghan president and his government, while saying privately they are incompetent and corrupt -- stealing hundreds of millions of Americans' dollars -- that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll the government’s lethal adventures.

When American (mis)leaders praise and encourage the Mexican government’s efforts in the criminal “war on drugs,” while privately believing they're practically worthless, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that evil crusade, which harms Mexicans and Americans.

When American (mis)leaders bomb Yemen while conspiring with the Yemeni dictator to portray the murderous campaign as the act of Yemen’s government in order to make it more palatable to the Yemeni people, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that imperialist policy.

When other countries' officials implore American (mis)leaders to bomb Iran, that is the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll militarism and suffer the “blowback” such an action would produce.

And on and on and on.

Sure, the American people already “know” at some level that their (mis)leaders and (mis)representatives are liars. Everyone laughs at the riddle asking how you know when a politician is lying: “His lips are moving.” But that knowledge too often fades deep into the background as the people are distracted or put to sleep by the solemn mendacity that issues from the politicians mouths on a daily basis.

So WikiLeaks performs a critical service by reminding us what those sanctimonious mountebanks really are. (The Guardian lists the key points of the cables here.)

Some will say that government couldn't exist without duplicity. I take them at their word.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Inflation Doesn't Pay the Government Like It Used to

Jeff Hummel and I have an opinion piece at Forbes.com by that title. Read it here.

TGIF: "A Free Market in Banking? Not Even Close"

Between the state and national governments, there has always been substantial regulation of money and banking in the United States.
Read TGIF: "A Free Market in Banking? Not Even Close" here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why Not, Indeed!

 If all our emails, however personal, are to become subject to the scrutiny of the government, why shouldn’t all the government’s emails, however sensitive, become subject to the scrutiny of us? If we can’t plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament without their knowledge, why can they and Saudi Arabia plot to blow up Iran without ours?

Allan Baker

Kettering, Northamptonshire

Published in the Guardian.

HT: Jim Bovard

Op-ed: TSA Intrusion Is One Price of Empire

How gratifying to see Americans increasingly angry at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for using offensive full-body scans and frisks in its latest production of what security expert Bruce Schneier calls “security theater.”
The rest of the op-ed is here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks: Bradley Manning Is No Criminal

My take on WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, and the cost of Empire is in today's Christian Science Monitor.

Op-ed: Afghanistan Digging In

President Obama once said withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011 — maybe, conditions permitting. But then he backed off that date. Now NATO, echoing American officials, says security won’t be fully turned over to the Afghan government any earlier than the end of 2014 — again, maybe; the alliance has signed a long-term security agreement with the Afghan president. Allied troops thus will remain in Afghanistan — as occupiers always say — in a supporting role beyond 2014 and even 2015. Calling the December 31, 2014, an “aspirational goal,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “It does not mean that all U.S. or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date.”
The full op-ed is here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010)

I do intend to post a tribute to Chalmers Johnson, one of the most thoughtful critics of the American Empire, who died last weekend. All I'll say here is that his 2000 book, Blowback, is amazingly prophetic in its warning that the price of empire would be a major attack on American civilians by aggrieved people seeking revenge, as well as the economic problems and limitations on Americans' freedom set in motion by the U.S. government's response. The other two volumes of his Blowback Trilogy delve into the history and nature of America's brutal interventions abroad, along with the historical parallels of Rome and Great Britain. Johnson was a learned man who understood that imperialism threatens both its foreign target populations and the home population. Every advocate of individual liberty will want to be familiar with his rich body of work.

Listen to Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio interview with Tom Engelhardt here. Engelhardt was Johnson's friend and editor for many years. Horton interviewed Johnson several times. Search on his name here for the MP3s. Here is Engelhardt's brief Antiwar.com blogpost about Johnson's passing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TGIF: The Many Impositions of Government

Belatedly:
Not that I’m keeping score, but just in the last few weeks the news has overflowed with examples of how much we are at the mercy of government edict. The three stories I’m thinking of, quite unrelated on the surface, are: the spreading but so far futile protests against airport body scans and frisking verging on sexual assault, the Federal Reserve’s announced second “quantitative easing” (QE2), and the FDA’s order that makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages remove the caffeine or take their products off the market.
The rest of TGIF: "The Many Impositions of Government" is here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bush: More Lies

The incomparable Bruce Fein on George W. Bush's memoir:
Former President Bush’s selective memoir is a little like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. With the exception of authorizing waterboarding, a form of torture, Bush neglects his serial vandalizing of the Constitution and the federal criminal code: five years of illegal surveillances of Americans on American soil; a war against Iraq without proper authorization by Congress; illegal detentions of enemy combatants without accusation or trials; hundred of unconstitutional signing statements professing an intent to refuse to faithfully execute the laws; unconstitutional defiance of congressional subpoenas; and, employing unilateral executive agreements to circumvent the treaty authority of the Senate over military commitments.”

Despite his constitutional literacy, President Obama has balked at faithful execution of the laws against torture, warrantless spying on Americans, or obstruction of justice perpetrated by Bush and his servile minions. On that score, Obama resembles President Nixon, who was impeached by the House Judiciary Committee and forced to resign for sneering at his constitutional obligation to enforce, not ignore the laws.

If Obama believes exculpatory circumstances justify non-prosecution of Bush-Cheney,” Fein continued, “then he should pardon them as authorized by the Constitution. A pardon must be accepted by the recipient to be effective, and acknowledges guilt and the inviolability of the rule of law. Ignoring lawlessness at the highest levels like Obama wounds the rule of law, and creates a precedent that lies around like a loaded weapon ready to destroy the Constitution. Obama himself is thus violating his oath of office by nonfeasance.
From "Bush at Large," by Ralph Nader.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blast from the Past



In earlier, stupider, days I thought he was a bad guy.

Scan or Frisk?


Let's stop the imperial provocation that makes us targets of vengeful "terrorists" (who might have lost family in the last drone attack) and turn security over to competitive airlines that have incentives to find more customer-friendly ways to protect their valuable businesses.

It's time to say, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Op-Ed: Blood on His Hands

One need not have been a fan of Saddam to see that the invasion/occupation has been a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. Large numbers of them are not better off because of Bush’s illegal actions — millions are either dead, victims of torture, or refugees...

Are we to believe “the decider” — the man who boasts of approving torture for American prisoners — was unaware of that U.S./Iran-supported bloodletting?
The full op-ed is here.

Well Said!

When people have to obey other people's orders, equality is out of the question.
--Dick Deadeye (W.S. Gilbert), "H.M.S. Pinafore"

Friday, November 12, 2010

TGIF: Help for the Downtrodden Corporate Exporter

The Ex-Im Bank grows out of the mercantilist belief that the wealth of nations is determined by a “favorable balance of trade.” Therefore the level of exports is crucial and government promotion is paramount. All balderdash, of course. In reality mercantilism functioned as a cover for polices that catered to special business interests at others’ expense. It’s time we got rid of the bank.
The full TGIF: "Help for the Downtrodden Corporate Exporter" is here.

Op-ed: Republican Phonies

It’s time for some honesty from the Republicans. Either give up the empire and the conceit of “American exceptionalism” or give up the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility. Stop playing the American people for fools.
Read the full op-ed here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reason TV and Me

When I was at Libertopia last month, Reason TV caught up with me. Here's the result.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Charge Him

George W. Bush writes in his new memoir that he authorized the water-boarding of war-on-terror prisoners. Water-boarding is a crime under US and international law. When will he be charged with war crimes? And let's not forget his accomplices. Barack Obama will be one if he doesn't tell his attorney general to get moving.
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Jonah Goldberg and Julian Assange

Jonah Goldberg, who claims to be against fascism (at least when it originates on the left), wants to know why Julian Assange of WikiLeaks "isn't dead." In case you missed it, he asks again, "Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?"

Why would he expect (and apparently approve of) Assange's assassination? Because Assange has the nerve to provide the public information about the U.S. government's illegal wars -- information the government doesn't see fit to share with the American people or the world. So Goldberg reveals himself (if he had not done so earlier) as a State worshiper, with war as the State's most glorious activity.

Which prompts me to ask: Why would anyone be interested in anything Goldberg has to say from here on out?

The Robber Barons

I'm finally reading Matthew Josephson's The Robber Barons, a book I never felt I needed to read. That was a bad decision. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but I can tell this is a book worth reading because it will shed some needed light on the alleged golden era of laissez faire, roughly 1865-1890. Here's yet another case where libertarian revisionist history needs to be revised. So far it confirms a suspicion that has grown on me only recently (I must confess): Much of what went on in that era appears to have been the fruit of the poisonous tree, namely, Civil War contracting and currency speculation. Civil War is the health of the State and privileged partners in the business world. This was capitalism as it played out historically -- but it was not the free market.

By the way, the 1962 reprint I found has a blurb on the back by none other than Henry Hazlitt, who reviewed the book in the New York Times Book Review. Hazlitt wrote that Josephson "is particularly to be congratulated upon the lucidity with which he sets forth the complex financial transactions and the uncanny legerdemain by which most of the barons built up their fortunes." Did Hazlitt know something Ayn Rand did not?

More to come as I make my way through the book.

Friday, November 05, 2010

TGIF: Budget Mice

Getting started on the task of dramatically shrinking government’s spending — that is, control of resources — will require much bigger thinking. Entitlements and “security” (which is far more likely to create insecurity) must be on the chopping block.

If not they are not on the block, then the opposition is just performing a vacuous pantomime aimed at only one thing: procuring political power.
The of TGIF: "Budget Mice" is here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Don't Hold Your Breath for the Spending Cuts

Republicans last night made it clear that there will be no spending cuts to write home about. Various GOP members of Congress said they would like an across-the-board cut in "discretionary spending." This is spending that is explicitly authorized each year, as opposed to so-called mandatory (entitlement) spending that is on automatic pilot and whose level depends on how many people become eligible for Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps.

Discretionary spending constitutes just one-third of the federal budget, so the Republican sights are fixed on only that much spending ... except that the party vows not to touch military and "homeland security" spending.

With so much spending off limits, the potential for cuts is not great.

Therefore I ask: Except for those expecting new patronage and consulting jobs, why is anyone excited about last night's election results?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Elections

The opiate of the people. Cast your vote, feel good, then zone out till the next one. The politicians will look out for you while you're sleeping it off.
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Shameful

The foreign occupations and threats to civil liberties played no role in the elections. That's a disgrace.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

TGIF: Is Freedom a Radical Idea?

Throughout history, and with only the rarest of exceptions, freedom has been far removed from the center of political events — even during that ostensibly exceptional period, say, 1776-1901.
This drawn from my remarks at Libertopia. Read the rest of TGIF here.

Op-Ed: Thank Goodness for WikiLeaks

Thanks to WikiLeaks we know more now than we did before about the the consequences of the U.S. government’s criminal conduct. Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama administration would rather have the American people ignorant of the truth about its military operations. But we have a right to this information. If the government won’t give it up, we are justified in getting it by other means.
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Op-Ed: Hypocrisy’s Coming Election-Day Triumph

By nearly all accounts, Republicans are poised for a big win, even by historical midterm standards, in the November 2 congressional elections. Many candidates backed by the Tea Party should have a big day.

But what will these victories mean for people who are alarmed by the growth of the welfare-warfare state? Not much, I’m sorry to say.

Read the rest of my op-ed here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Now Online: The Freeman, November 2010

Juan Williams: Who Cares?

Must I wade into this? Do I care what NPR does? I don't get nervous when I see people dressed in Muslim garb. The 9/11 hijackers wore western clothes. Wouldn't hijackers be expected to? No one has pointed out that Williams, like so many others, misrepresented the remarks of would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Williams and Bill O'Reilly are jerks. Dash it, these guys aren't worth my scarce time.

TGIF: Obamacare Reality Bites

One might think that letting government officials exercise discretion in the enforcement of bad regulations would be a good thing. I’m not so sure.
Read the rest of TGIF: Obamacare Reality Bites.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Libertopia Rocked!

Cheryl and I spent four great days in Hollywood attending Libertopia, the first in what I hope will be a long series of top-notch conferences. I'll try to write more in the coming days about this memorable gathering.

On the personal side, it was great being around people I "see" in cyberspace but rarely or never see in person. They included (alphabetically) Less Antman, David Beito, Bruce Benson, Gary Chartier, Brian Doherty, Fred Foldvary, David Friedman, Angela Keaton, Roderick Long, Tennyson McCala, Jim Peron, Sharon Presley Butler Shaffer, Brad Spangler. Hope I didn't forget anyone.

Hats off to Sky Conway and Joyce Brand for putting on such a great event.

TGIF: The Charade

The political establishment, helped by the mass media and intelligentsia, has long played a game in this country. It consists in depicting the competition for power as between two blocs: one hostile to business in the name of social justice, the other friendly to business in the name of “the free market.” Each bloc’s talking points and pet projects are calculated in superficial ways to reinforce its signature theme. Whenever the blocs need to rally their respective bases, they accentuate their surface differences. The “anti-business” bloc accuses its opponents of being, say, Wall Street lackeys, while the “pro-free-enterprise” bloc accuses its opponents of being, say, socialists.

It’s all a sham that serves both side’s interests.
Read the rest of TGIF: The Charade here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

TGIF: Presidential Hubris

If we were going to spend $700 billion, it seems it would be wiser having that $700 billion going to folks who would spend that money right away.

Barack Obama said those words in defense of his opposition to extending the soon-to-expire 2001 and 2003 tax-rate reductions for people making more than $200,000 a year.
Read the rest of TGIF: Presidential Hubris here.

Op-ed: War Doesn't Produce Prosperity

[H]ave a look at what the leading Progressive Keynesian, Paul Krugman, and leading conservative Keynesian, Martin Feldstein, agree on: a big war is apparently the only way left to get the U.S. economy out of its doldrums....

[T]hank goodness we don’t need a war to prosper. Shame on those who say we do.
Read the rest here.

The Lying Media and the "War on Terror"

Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison the other day for trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square last May. At his sentencing Shahzad said what almost every Muslim says when he pleads guilty to or is sentenced for committing or attempting to commit violence against Americans:
We are only Muslims trying to defend our religion, people, homes and land, but if you call us terrorists, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing you until you leave our lands and people at peace.
The Associated Press reported the quote in full.

But that's not what the Washington Post wanted you to read. So it gutted the quote leaving: "We are only Muslims . . . but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing you."

The Washington Times, doctoring the AP story, did the same thing.

Ditto USA Today.

The New York Times did a better job, sprinkling the quote throughout its story but burying "
we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace."

Why won't the mass media let the American people see the full story? Muslim violence is not aimed at American freedom. It is retaliation for decades of U.S. government crimes against Muslims.

The establishment media are lapdogs of the warfare state, as slavish as any publication in the old Soviet Union.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Military Keynesians Are the Worst Keynesians of All

From the National Journal this week:

Two wars are not enough.

America's economic outlook is so grim, and political solutions are so utterly absent, that only another large-scale war might be enough to lift the nation out of chronic high unemployment and slow growth, two prominent economists, a conservative and a liberal, said today.

Nobelist Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, and Harvard's Martin Feldstein, the former chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, achieved an unnerving degree of consensus about the future during an economic forum in Washington. Their views were shared by a third economist, Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs, who said the only economic scenarios he could visualize were either "pretty bad" or "very bad." ...

Krugman and Feldstein, though often on opposite sides of the political fence on fiscal and tax policy, both appeared to share the view that political paralysis in Washington has rendered the necessary fiscal and monetary stimulus out of the question. Only a high-impact "exogenous" shock like a major war -- something similar to what Krugman called the "coordinated fiscal expansion known as World War II" -- would be enough to break the cycle. "I don't think we're about to launch a war against anybody," Feldstein said with tongue-in-cheek regret at the left-leaning forum, "America's Fiscal Choices," sponsored by four think tanks. "But Paul is right. That was the fiscal move that got us out" of the last downturn comparable to this one, the Great Depression.

Krugman is the leading Progressive Keynesian, Feldstein the leading conservative Keynesian. (That is not a contradiction in terms. See my article on the subject.) What unites them? Military Keynesianism.

Both mistakenly think World War II ended the Great Depression, a claim soundly debunked by Robert Higgs. (See Art Carden's discussion.) How could the war have ended the Depression? The economy was mostly devoted to making things that would blow up and destroy other things -- including life. Living standards certainly did not rise during the war: The purchase of consumer goods was restricted through an elaborate rationing system. Government directed production. It owned the economy.

Economists point to improved wartime aggregates, such as GNP, investment, or employment. But who cares about statistical aggregates? They only shroud what's going on at ground level. Government spending is a component of GNP; so increases bore no necessary relationship to individual well-being. Ten million men were drafted into the military, so what did the improved unemployment rate have to do with consumer welfare? Besides, Higgs shows the statistics are suspect for a variety of reasons.

Economists often give reckless advice to governments. But when they declare that only a major war will lift the economy out of recession, we really need to start worrying. Military Keynesianism kills.

(See Steve Horwitz's recent column on the subject.)

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Truth about the Welfare State

I can't recommend too highly Kevin Carson's latest at the Center for a Stateless Society. "Giving Back With a Spoon, Taking With a Shovel" is a brief but excellent introduction to the American political economic system and the fundamental short-coming of most right-wing "free market" analysis. Choice quote:
The main effect of most government policies is to increase entry barriers, minimum capital outlays, and overhead cost of small-scale production, and to reduce the amount of idle land and cheap capital, so as to minimize the number of self-employment opportunities that wage employers are forced to compete with for your labor. And by putting a floor under the cost of subsistence, the regulatory framework increases the size of the minimum revenue stream the average household needs just to break even, hence increasing workers’ demand for hours of employment relative to the supply....

I believe the overwhelming trend of income transfer is upward (but more indirect and less visible), and that the direct and visible downward transfers involve just the least possible fraction of this enormous sum required to reduce outright homelessness and starvation below politically destabilizing levels.
Read the entire article and you'll have an idea of what left libertariansism is about.

While you're at it, also read Carson's "Labor Struggle: A Free Market Model" (pdf) for excellent revisionist history on the labor movement.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Op-ed Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy

Each act of the empire provokes a response that serves as a pretext for further imperial action. The battlefield is the world, and the “war on terror” can go on forever. Except for the dead, the maimed, the malnourished, and the taxpayers, it’s a sweet deal all around.
The rest of my latest op-ed, "Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy," is here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TGIF: The Anti-anti-authoritarians

It’s easy to point out flaws in the Tea Party. What is getting old quickly is the political elite’s criticism, which exhibits an intolerance and bad faith that it often attributes to the tea partiers. You don’t have to read too much of this criticism to see that the powers that be and their fawning admirers in the media and intelligentsia dislike one thing in particular: the movement’s apparent anti-authoritarianism.
Read the rest of TGIF: "The Anti-anti-authoritarians" here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

D'Souza Goes Off the Edge

Dinesh D'Souza has written one of the most ridiculous articles ever published, "How Obama Thinks," in Forbes. Naturally, Newt Gingrich thinks it's one of the most brilliant.

To give you an idea of how slipshod the article is, look at this:
Obama's foreign policy is no less strange. He supports a $100 million mosque scheduled to be built near the site where terrorists in the name of Islam brought down the World Trade Center. Obama's rationale, that "our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable," seems utterly irrelevant to the issue of why the proposed Cordoba House should be constructed at Ground Zero.
Yes, I too wondered what this has to do with foreign policy.

D'Souza has been trying to figure out what makes Obama tick, and now he thinks he has:
It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. [whom young Obama met twice] is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America's power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe's resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
All I can say is, would that Obama did believe that! Barack Obomber's military policies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and a dozen other Muslim countries hardly suggest an anti-colonial mindset. Shooting Hellfire missiles at civilians from aerial drones strikes me as an odd way to express solidarity with oppressed people in the Third World.

As for politician economy, in a corporatist economy, where people make fortunes as government contractors, profits can indeed be a measure of plunder. There is a ruling class that takes advantage of the rest of us.

Yes, the U.S. government is the world's bully. D'Souza is in denial, but is it really necessary to demonstrate that? It seem rather obvious.

D'Souza writes,
Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.
You can't write such drivel without being a either nut or a cynic hoping to whip up anti-Obama sentiment among the gullible. I vote for the latter.

All I can say is, I'd rather be ruled by a dead Kenyan anticolonialist than by a live American politician, least of all Newt Gingrich.

Another clue to how D'Souza thinks is this: "Colonialism today is a dead issue. No one cares about it except the man in the White House. He is the last anticolonial."

Wrong. Colonialism is far from dead, and some of us do care about it. Not only is the U.S. actively intervening in lots of other countries overtly and covertly, partly for economic reasons, it is also engaged in a much less obvious form of neocolonialism. Every trade pact, bilateral or multilateral, compels less-developed countries (LCD) to adopt stringent U.S.-style intellectual "property" laws the upshot of which is to force indigenous producers to pay heavy tribute to American patent holders before they can produce goods for their internal markets or for export. This is the new colonialism. We don't demand that they buy our consumer goods; actually, we buy theirs. Rather we demand that they pay us for the right to use technological ideas that properly are not ownable by anyone.

Obama is such a conventional, establishment politician that I cannot figure out why he drives the right-wing so crazy that they have to portray him as some kind of alien. D'Souza and Gingrich are even too much for some of their allies.

For more on D'Souza's idiotic article, see Shikha Dalmia's takedown.

TGIF: The Grasping Macroeconomic Managers

A tax cut for the top 2 percent is “just not a good use of limited resources.”

That’s what Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on television the other day. Sorry, but I can’t get my mind off taxes. So even though I wrote about them two weeks ago, I must do it again. Call me a masochist, or a sadist.

Read the rest of TGIF, "The Grasping Macroeconomic Managers," here.

Op-ed: They Died for Iran

More than 4,400 Americans have died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nearly 32,000 Americans have been wounded. And despite what President Obama says, it’s not over yet. What did those men and women sacrifice for? Some war critics say it was in vain, but that’s not true. It was for Iran. Iran is the big winner in Operation Iraqi Freedom (and now Operation New Dawn).
Read the rest of the op-ed, "They Died for Iran," here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Op-ed: Obama: Neoconservative

President Barack Obama was far from candid when he announced the end of combat operations in Iraq last month, but he did nothing to hide the fact that he is a neoconservative when it comes to the American empire.
The rest of the op-ed, "Obama: Neoconservative," is here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ten Lessons

In my flurry of posts yesterday, I forgot to reprise this one:

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush, and now Barack Obama, as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people take its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: they could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis. What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

(Adapted and re-posted from 2006.)

9/11 and the Israeli Government

For all the remembering of 9/11, you'd think there would be more demands for the full story. If you want a dramatic demonstration of what the U.S. government thinks of "its" people, follow these links about the activities of Israeli agents in the United States before and after the September 11 attacks. There is hard evidence that Israelis tracked the 9/11 hijackers' activities in the United States -- but apparently did not tell the FBI what was going on. Some even watched the Twin Towers being hit, and danced a celebratory dance when it happened. This is not fringe conspiracy stuff. It is hard news reported by ABC, Fox, The Forward (a major Jewish paper in the United States), and Israeli newspapers.

The American people have a right to know, but of course the government has locked up the information and pressured news agencies to keep it under wraps. This is intolerable.

Read and get mad:

What Did the Israelis Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?
Israel Is Spying on and on the U.S.? (Carl Cameron, Fox News) Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
The Israeli "Art Student" Mystery
US Arrests 200 Young Israelis in Spying Operation
Next Door to Mohammad Atta

The Israeli government and the Americans who are complicit in its U.S. espionage are playing with fire -- and jeopardizing many innocent people in the process. The U.S. government should open up the records (fat chance) so the American people have finally have the truth. If there was no spying -- if there was no foreknowledge of the 9/11 events -- what is to fear from coming clean?

(HT: Justin Raimondo for the links)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gingrich: Shut Up

Newt Gingrich says both Koran-burning and the building of Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan "should be stopped."

Why does anyone take this clown seriously?

Pastor Nutcase v. U.S. Foreign Policy

To hear all the serious politicians and pundits tell it, burning Korans is worse than burning Muslims.

See Chris Floyd and Glenn Greenwald on this.

Ted Koppel Begins to See the Light

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned....

In a 2004 video message, [Osama bin Lalden] boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. "All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written 'al-Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses."...

Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched his relatively tiny and all but anonymous organization of a few hundred zealots turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald's. Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less?
The rest is here.

"Never Forget": What Does that Mean?

It can't mean merely: "Remember the day big buildings fell down when planes slammed into them and a lot of people died." Who could forget that? There's no need for admonition. We also remember major hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

I think when people say that they mean: "Remember the day poor old good-for-the-world 'America' was victimized out of the blue by people who hate our way of life, our freedom, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Founding Fathers." That, frankly, is bullshit. A herculean ignorance of recent history or nationalistic self-blindness is required to see things that way. Anyone who says 9/11 shows the United States (i.e., the government) cannot practice noninterventionism in foreign affairs in this dangerous world has no idea what he is talking about. (For details see this and this.)

September 11 should be remembered as the day the biggest flock of chickens, to date, came home to roost. Blowback Day. A better slogan would be: Never Again. And the way to make that come true is to heed George Washington:
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible....

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world;... Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.

September 11, 2010

I can think of no more fitting way to observe 9/11 than for the U.S. government to halt the mass murder by drone it perpetrates throughout the Muslim world. What must the people there think of us Americans, who do nothing to stop the indiscriminate killing? I shudder at the question. I fear the whirlwind we will reap. We can't say we weren't warned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

TGIF: Not All Choices Are Equal

Opponents of the freedom philosophy never run out of insipid rebuttals.
Read TGIF: Not All Choices Are Equal here.

Minarchists Are Ultimately Hobbesians

In the Hobbesian tradition of political thought, the likelihood that conventions of property and contract will spontaneously emerge and be protected by the voluntary defensive action of those benefiting from the conventions is never envisaged, and the task is entrusted to Leviathan, despite ample evidence that such conventions have since time immemorial been deeply anchored in people’s consciousness and conduct. Hume, I believe, was the first to recognise that conventions, including those regarding property and the keeping of reciprocal promises (i.e. contracts), exist and are the outcome of spontaneous rational conduct. He implicitly but clearly scotches the Hobbesian idea of a need for Leviathan when he says “…the stability of possession, its translation by consent and the performance of promises. These are…antecedent to government.”

The complete set of conventional rules banning torts against life, limb and property, nuisances, and incivilities is neither imposed nor sponsored by authority. Nor is it the outcome of bargaining. It constitutes ordered anarchy.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Op-ed: The Dishonor of Militarism

[T]he U.S. government has committed the greatest imaginable betrayal of American values as professed in the Declaration of Independence: Born in rebellion against an empire, America now is the empire against which others rebel.
The rest of my op-ed, "The Dishonor of Militarism," is here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

TGIF: Trading for Security

Americans tolerate a costly global national-security apparatus in part because they believe the country would be economically vulnerable without it. After all, we use resources from all over the world – oil being only the most prominent example. What if an embargo cut us off from supplies?
Read the rest of TGIF: Trading for Security here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Balfour Declaration: One Deceit Among Many

Yesterday I started reading Jonathan Schneer's new The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. I learned something in the first few pages. I already knew that Britain's promise to support establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine conflicted with its earlier promise of independence to the Arabs in return for their revolt against the Turks in World War I. Here's what I did not know:
Britain's prime minister and his agents were engaged in secret maneuverings to detach the Ottoman Empire from the Central Powers. They were offering, among other inducements, that the Turkish flag could continue to fly over Palestine. [Emphasis added.]
In other words, Britain promised sovereignty over the same land to three different groups. Lord Balfour surely knew of that which he wrote when he stated in a memorandum to Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1919:
[S]so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.
As I say, most of our foreign policy problems today can be traced back to British imperialism.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Op-ed: Persecuting a Conciliator

If a YMCA or a YMHA were planned for 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, two blocks from the Twin Towers’ former site, who would have noticed?

Instead, the equivalent of a Muslim Y (without the implied male exclusivity) is to be built there. What’s the big deal?

Read the rest of the op-ed here.

Gandhi on the State

"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." --Gandhi

(HT: Shikha Dalmia)

Who's Got More Blood on Their Hands?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Islamophobes, Shut the Hell Up

Updated 8/30/10

An American Muslim has been knifed. A Rev. Nutcase has declared Sept. 11 Burn A Koran Day. A Muslim center construction site in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is struck by an arsonist. Will the bigots and cynical right wingers who inspire this crap just go away? Get the hell away and let the rest of us live in peace.
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The Last Word on the "Mosque" Controversy?

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Nobel Prize in Physics for George W. Bush


He invented a perpetual motion machine: the war on terror. Prosecuting the war produces new "terrorists" who in turn justify further prosecution of the war, and so on forever. Brilliant!

Back on Antiwar Radio

My latest appearance on Scott Horton's great Antiwar Radio is here. We talked about several issues, including Islam, the Cordoba Initiative, and conservatives.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Understating the Deficit

The Associated Press reports that the current fiscal year’s federal budget deficit will fall short of a record, coming in at over $1.3 trillion, but below last year's record $1.4 trillion, when the year ends September 30. But something is wrong with the AP’s information.

The U.S. Treasury says the national debt at the end of last fiscal year was $11.9 trillion and a year earlier was $10.02 trillion. Let's do the math: 11.9 - 10.02 = 1.88. That means last year's deficit was $1.88 trillion, not $1.4 trillion.

Did the AP get its incorrect number from the Office of Management and Budget?

HT: Ken Sturzenacker

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Contradiction of a Conservative, continued

News Corp. (Murdoch, WSJ, Fox) gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association because the company "has always believed in the power of free markets and in organizations like the RGA, which have a pro-business agenda...."

Not only are those not the same things, they are in conflict with each other. You can have a pro-business agenda or a free market, but not both.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Contradiction of a Conservative

The respected conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick died Sunday. Here's his summary of his political philosophy as reported in the New York Times obituary:

Conservatives believe that a civilized society demands orders and classes, that men are not inherently equal, that change and reform are not identical, that in a free society men are children of God and not wards of the state. Self-reliance is a conservative principle. The work ethic is a conservative ethic. The free marketplace is vital to the conservative’s economic philosophy.

Note the contradictory endorsement of orders, classes, inequality -- and the free market. As Mises and others have long pointed out, the free market respects none of those other values. Freedom means social and cultural evolution, unguided by coercive authority. It means the constant potential for the upsetting of tradition as people discover new ways to live and do things.

Amazingly, conservatives still have not learned that lesson, which is why at best they are poor advocates of economic freedom. For evidence, see the hassle over gay marriage.

Read more on this issue in my review of the movie Chocolat and Steve Horwitz's discussion of the evolution of marriage and family.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why the Evasion on Same-Sex Marriage?

[See update below.]

I'm appalled at the mental gymnastics some libertarians have undertaken to avoid having to acknowledge that the State has no valid grounds for refusing to recognize same-sex marriage. This is truly a disgrace. The reasons they give for not embracing the California ruling (pdf) striking down the ban on same-sex marriage on equal-protection grounds look more like evasions than good-faith objections.

I've come across at least four such evasions:
  1. The State should have nothing to say about marriage, so approval of the ruling implies acceptance of the State's role (and by implication, the State).
  2. Aren't there more pressing issues?
  3. Marriage is about procreation.
  4. Federal courts have no jurisdiction over state matters.
My quick answers:
  1. Of course the State should get out of marriage. But it's in it now, so it should not be permitted to discriminate invidiously. If the State barred gay people from driving on the roads, would demanding that such discrimination cease imply approval of State roads or the State itself? Of course not.
  2. To people denied the normal benefits of marriage -- regarding custody of children, hospital visitation, medical decision-making for an incapacitated partner, next-of-kin matters -- there may be no more pressing issue. Liberty is not an abstraction; it's about living the life you want to live. It's easy for heterosexuals to see this is no big deal. (Jim Crow was similarly no big deal -- to whites.) Besides, the ruling has been made. How does praising it distract from whatever is "more pressing"? We're capable of multitasking.
  3. Marriage has never been exclusively about procreation. If that were so, couples that were infertile, elderly, and uninterested in having children wouldn't have been allowed to get married. Many other values have been at the core of marriage: economic security, love and emotional fulfillment, and more. A good place to start reading about this subject is Steven Horwitz's article on the evolution of family. A related objection to the ruling is that heterosexual intercourse has been the criterion of marriage consummation. So what? Institutions evolve. And besides, even if consummation were somehow essential, the reasonable mutatis mutandis principle is available. This objection is particularly absurd.
  4. When people ignore the existence of the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments, those interested in freedom generally get annoyed. So how can they ignore the existence of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says, in part, "nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"? Like it or not, that amendment exists. So I see no argument against federal jurisdiction. For excellent discussions of this issue, see Roderick Long's writings here and here.
Update 1: In the original post I did not take up the objection that courts shouldn't overrule public referendums or legislatures (which is slightly different from #4) because that constitutes judicial tyranny and a nullification of democracy. I left this out because I hear this from conservatives rather than from libertarians. It seem clear that if government exists, then there is nothing wrong with courts thwarting the public or the legislature when either oversteps the limits we hope are set for government and violates liberty. Need I elaborate?

Friday, August 13, 2010

TGIF: Who's Afraid of Socialism?

It’s not obvious to me a priori that the American variant of the welfare state is superior in every respect to the European variant. One variant may indeed cushion the victims of political privilege-granting better than others. Considering who writes the rules over here, I see no grounds for thinking that we necessarily have it better than the Germans do in every possible way.

The rest of TGIF is here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We Are Being Stampeded into War with Iran

It's 2002 all over again. Big Lies are being repeated every day -- without any evidence offered or even skeptical questioning from alleged news people -- about a grave threat to our society from a Middle Eastern Muslim nation. This time it's Iran and its alleged nuclear-weapons program. Unless the United States or Israel bombs that country and effects regime change, we're doomed.

It's all nonsense. The quickest way to see this is to watch this video, in which the heroic Scott Horton, host of Antiwar Radio, debunks the empty claim that Iran is building nukes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"All Options" Means ALL Options

President Obama says that with respect to Iran, "all options are on the table." And chief of staff Rahm Emanuel reinforced this, saying, "The expression 'all options are on the table' means 'all options are on the table.'"

Last I checked, "all options" included mass murder via infrastructure demolition and conventional carpet bombing -- and even nukes.

Have we had enough of these thugs yet? Progressives, what say you?

Op-Ed: What They Do in Our Name

The U.S. government goes to appalling lengths to deny this truth. It is about to try before a military commission a young Canadian, Omar Ahmed Khadr, who was taken into custody in Afghanistan eight years ago when he was 15 years old. The charge? War crimes, among them “murder in violation of the rules of war,” which lawyer Chase Madar calls “a newly minted war crime novel to the history of armed conflict.”
The rest of the op-ed is here.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The A-Bomb 65 Years Later


Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, one of President Harry Truman's two acts of butchery against Japan in August 1945. There isn't much to be said about those unspeakable atrocities that hasn't been said many times before. The U.S. government never needed atomic bombs to commit mass murder. Its "conventional" weapons have been potent enough. (See the firebombing of Tokyo.) But considering how the "leaders" saw The Bomb, its two uses against Japan stand out as especially heinous acts. The U.S. government may not have used atomic weapons since 1945, but it has not yet given up mass murder as a political/military tactic. Presidential candidates are still expected to say that, with respect to nuclear weapons, "no options are off the table."

The anniversary of the Nagaski bombing is Monday.

Mario Rizzo has pointed out that Americans were upset by the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11 yet seem not to be bothered that "their" government murdered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in a few days.

As Harry Truman once said, "I don't give 'em hell. I just drop A-bombs on their cities and they think it's hell." (Okay, he didn't really say that, but he might as well have.)

Rad Geek People's Daily has a poignant post here. Rad says: "As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world."

Finally, if you read nothing else on this subject, read Ralph Raico's article here.

[This post appeared previously. It has been amended.]

You Might Be One, 2

If you're glad there's no supergovernment monitoring your relations with the U.S. government, you might be an anarchist.

Fareed Zakaria, the ADL, and the Cordoba House

Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Newsweek has returned the First Amendment Freedoms Prize and $10,000 he received from the ADL in 2005 because of the organization's opposition to the Islamic Cordoba House planned for a site two blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.

Zakaria said:
If there is going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed institute. We should be encouraging groups like the one behind this project, not demonizing them. Were this mosque being built in a foreign city, chances are that the U.S. government would be funding it.
Zakaria rejected the ADL's position as bigotry, saying, "Does [ADL National Director Abraham] Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they're victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?"

Hats off to Zakaria for his principled action.

Friday, August 06, 2010

You Might Be One

If you favor free world trade and oppose world government and the American Empire, you might be an anarchist.

TGIF: Austrian Exploitation Theory

Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914), the second-generation giant of Austrian economics, famously refuted the theory, most commonly associated with Marx, that the employer-employee relationship is intrinsically exploitative. Less well known is that Böhm-Bawerk had an exploitation theory of his own.
The rest of TGIF: Austrian Exploitation Theory is here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

FreedomFest Talk MP3

My FreedomFest talk, "Libertarianism = Anti-Racism," can be listened to here.

What Can You Possibly Say?

Leonard Peikoff wants the U.S. government to bomb the Cordoba House, an Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan -- two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center -- once it is built. (Howard Roark, call your office.)

But it's private property, isn't it? "Property rights are limited and they are contextual," he says. "...
. In any situation where metaphysical survival is at stake all property rights are out."

If you haven't heard, our metaphysical survival has been declared at stake by Dr. Peikoff. It looks more to me as though the metaphysical survival of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalians, and Iranians is what's at stake these days. American society doesn't appear to be in any great danger (except from U.S. occupation forces).

Peikoff is clearly calling for terrorism -- what else would you call it? (Oh, sure he'd evacuate the center before bombing it.) Have any Objectivists denounced him? I think a few have.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Jail to the Chief

I was commenting on Facebook about how "Hail to the Chief" is a symbol of all that's wrong with America. Try thinking of the opening fanfare without picturing the entrance of a Roman emperor.

My old friend David Hart posted the lyrics, which are faithful to the Fuhrer Prinzip:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shame on the ADL

The Anti-Defamation League has come out against the building of an Islamic center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero because it will hurt the feelings of the survivors of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Why would it hurt their feelings? The perpetrators of the attacks are said to represent an extreme distortion of true Islam. If so, why this meddling with mainstream Muslims?

The ADL says it exists to fight bigotry. Well, not this time. I finally agree with Paul Krugman: The ADL's position is "Shameful — and stupid."

BTW, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich also oppose the building of the center. Figures.

TGIF: National Insecurity

There’s a country that earlier generations might not recognize in which the national government’s criminal investigative agency can execute its own warrants without court approval; present them to private companies and demand information about people who are not necessarily suspected of criminal wrongdoing; and — if that were not enough — forbid those companies from telling anyone — not even the target of the investigation.

The country I have in mind is not a Latin American banana republic or a Middle Eastern dictatorship. It’s the United States of America.

Read the rest of "TGIF: National Insecurity" here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All in Favor?

All in favor of giving Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, say aye.

$37 Billion More for War

The House, of course, voted to sink $37 billion -- that's thirty-seven thousand million dollars -- more into maintaining the Empire's evil operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seventy more Democrats than last time voted against the spending. Twelve Republicans did too. (More Republicans than Democrats voted for the bill.) At that pace U.S. forces will be killing Afghans and Iraqis for another two years.

“The president is taking a wise and balanced approach in Afghanistan, and it deserves our support,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat and majority leader.

Do people still buy this shit?

Where is the pro-peace, anti-Empire party? When will Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich get together and begin to rally antiwar folks across the political spectrum? The time is now!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remember Furkan Dogan

Furkan Dogan was the 19-year-old American fatally shot five times by Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara headed for Gaza -- without a peep from the Obama administration, which has time to get involved with everything else happening in the world. Dogan was a bright young man with a promising future. But because he was defying Israel and had a Muslim-sounding foreign name, he is apparently unworthy of notice. The congressman in the New York district in which his family lived had no comment.

Read Roger Cohen's op-ed, "The Forgotten American," here.

Op-ed: Government Has Run Amok Since 9/11

Those who understand the exploitative nature of big government suspected that the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks had little to do with the security of the American people and much to do with power and money. Still, the magnitude of the scam, as revealed by the Washington Post last week, is astonishing.
Read the full op-ed here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stop the Lies! Stop the Aggression!

The massive documentation about the bloody occupation of Afghanistan, made available by Wikileaks, once against makes abundantly clear that the government -- no matter who's in power -- will lie shamelessly to the American people in pursuing the Empire's objectives. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way. The truth is deadly to its aims, so the truth must be kept from the people.

Well, the truth is now out. Your move, people.

Heroes Walk Among Us

Bravo, Wikileaks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Other than That, How's It Going?

[A] report by an independent international think tank, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, has found that the number of civilians being killed in the violence has increased, the number of attacks is rising and the counter-insurgency strategy is showing no sign of succeeding.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Bibi & Obama Show


I presume Barack Obama's Likud membership card is in the mail. No doubt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has seen to it. After all, Obama has now paid his dues. After a few idle negative statements about expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank/East Jerusalem, Obama caved at the slightest push-back from the Israel lobby -- election year, you know -- and now he's apparently fine with them. He went from saying the settlement expansion "could end up being dangerous [!]" to saying, "I think that he [Netanyahu] is dealing with a very complex situation in a very tough neighborhood." We can be sure that Netanyahu will not permanently stop the expansion and Obama will not take any action -- such as cutting off the money -- to bring that about. (Even Gen. David Petraeus fears the lobby.) "[T]he pace of settlement building in the West Bank has been barely affected by the 10-month freeze, due to end in September," Jonathan Cook of The National writes.

Obama also quickly folded on the matter of Israel's signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. ("Israel has unique security requirements.") Everyone knows Israel has upward of 600 nukes, but the official position is to neither confirm nor deny their existence. That's known as "nuclear ambiguity."

The security relationship between the Obama administration and Israel is said to be stronger than ever -- the Pentagon, the Israelis, and at least some neoconservatives agree. More military aid is in the works, on top of the annual $3 billion transfusion.

Netanyahu has expressed concern that U.S. forces may someday leave Iraq but he need not worry: That day is no doubt far off. Even after "withdrawal" there still will be 50,000 troops, bases, and an embassy the size of a small country.

The one thing Netanyahu apparently hasn't gotten (yet) is Obama's promise to bomb Iran back to the stone age because of its nonexistent nuclear weapons program. (Iran, unlike Israel, is regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.) Thank goodness U.S. military leaders are reluctant to take on another mission, which would kill many innocent people and perhaps light up the rest of the Middle East. The military is stretched rather thin after all.

Netanyahu applauded the new UN and U.S. sanctions against Iran -- isn't that an act of war? -- so that probably means any attack has been postponed for a year or more.

What's remarkable is that the President and Prime Minister managed to keep straight faces when they said a nuclear Iran would be intolerable. Is hypocrisy no longer a vice? The allegations about an Iranian weapons program are completely unsupported, but still I have to wonder: Is it so mysterious that Muslim countries are uneasy with Israel as a nuclear monopolist? You'd think that Israel had never launched a war against a neighbor. And last I checked, the U.S. military had Iran virtually surrounded. But never mind.

So far no word from Obama about the continuing brutality against the Gazans in their open-air prison camp (oh sure, he's pleased a few more goods are getting in, as if that addresses the matter), the death of the American citizen on the Mavi Marmara at the hands of Israeli commandos, or the wall being built through the West Bank that divides Palestinian homes from Palestinian farmlands and creates myriad other hardships.

Obama praised Netanyahu for his alleged willingness to negotiate with the approved Palestinian "leaders" (Hamas excluded, of course). But you have to keep in mind that when Israeli politicians say they favor a two-state solution, or "land for peace," they do not mean a real independent homeland for the long-abused Palestinians but rather a series of Bantustans within an essentially apartheid state under Israeli control. This is the point of the wall and the expansion of settlements. Obama seems okay with that.

In regards to Netanyahu's true views on dealing with the Palestinians and the United States, see this article and video. The video of Netanyahu proves, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy said, that he is a "con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes."

So the "special relationship" endures. And yet, is all that talk about shared values really valid? In theory America belongs to all Americans, all its citizens. But Israel -- in theory and practice -- belongs not to all holding Israeli citizenship (which includes Arabs) but only to the "Jewish people" wherever they may be -- which means (according to Israel's view of things) I -- born in Philadelphia, residing in Arkansas -- have a better claim to full Israeli citizenship than a Palestinian whose family has lived in Jerusalem for a millennium or more. How can that make sense?

(The Knesset has given at least preliminary approval to a bill to make denying Israel's status as a Jewish State a crime punishable by imprisonment. The cabinet will consider a resolution to force new citizens to take a loyalty oath to Israel as the Jewish State.)

Let's not forget that the American taxpayer is the enabler and underwriter. None of this could be going on without massive U.S. infusions of money.

And some people think "they" hate us for our freedoms.