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!