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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Glenn Greenwald Shows What Progressives Fear Most of All in the Election

It’s themselves.

Paul’s candidacy forces progressives to face the hideous positions and actions of their candidate, of the person they want to empower for another four years. If [Ron] Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views….

Paul scrambles the comfortable ideological and partisan categories and forces progressives to confront and account for the policies they are working to protect. His nomination would mean that it is the Republican candidate — not the Democrat — who would be the anti-war, pro-due-process, pro-transparency, anti-Fed, anti-Wall-Street-bailout, anti-Drug-War advocate (which is why some neocons are expressly arguing they’d vote for Obama over Paul). Is it really hard to see why Democrats hate his candidacy and anyone who touts its benefits?

Read it all here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Whole World Is Watching

From the incomparable Kevin Carson:

In 1649 at St. George’s Hill in England, as recounted in the revolutionary anthem “The World Turned Upside Down,” a band of landless peasants who called themselves the Diggers tore down enclosures, built themselves cottages, and began spading up land to grow food. Their goal was to set an example for the people of England, to throw off their chains and reclaim their ancient birthright. They were eventually driven off by the local Lord of the Manor, but they survive in memory as heroes in the bloody five thousand year war between those who claim to own the Earth and those who live and work in it.

Thus it always has been, in this age-old war, going back to the time when the first landed aristocracies, by supposed right of conquest, forced those working the land to pay rent on it. We saw it reenacted throughout the twentieth century. Whenever the people of a Third World country like Guatemala or El Salvador tried to restore the land to its rightful owners, the cultivators, the United States would openly invade or secretly train and arm death squads to leave “disappeared” activists in ditches with their faces hacked off. Most starvation in the world today results not from insufficient production of food, but from enclosure of land that previously fed the people working it — by landed oligarchs in collusion with Western agribusiness — to raise cash crops for export.

Today another groups of heroes, of whom the Diggers at St. George’s Hill would be proud, are making their own stand for justice. Thousands of villagers at Wukan, in China’s Guangdong province, are protesting the theft of their communal land by a corrupt local government in collusion with developers.

The rest is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Obama and the End of the War in Iraq

I hope to say more about this, but I wanted to draw attention to this passage in Barack Obama’s remarks to troops regarding the end of the war in Iraq.

The war in Iraq will soon belong to history.  Your service belongs to the ages.  Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries –- from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you –- men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.

You’d never know that a signature of Obama’s 2008 campaign was his assertion that the invasion/occupation of Iraq was a bad mistake. (Actually, it was a crime, but let that go.) This was the main way he sought to distinguish himself as a candidate from Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize George W. Bush to use force against the Iraqi people. True enough, you didn’t have to scratch very deep before discovering a waffle. At one point he said he didn’t know how he would have voted on the authorization of force had he been in the Senate in 2002-03.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable to see Obama talking about the war this way. It is also remarkable that he can praise the troops without acknowledging the mind-numbing mess that Iraq has been left in. It is estimated that over 100,000 people died direct violent deaths from the war. A million excess deaths are also attributed to the invasion, war, and occupation. Over four million Iraqis are refugees, about half of whom left the country, and have yet to return to their homes. Obama noted the American casualties in his remarks, but of course omitted any mention of Iraqi casualties. They don’t matter. War crimes abounded, like the ones in Fallujah, Haditha, and Abu Ghraib – horrors that forever will be remembered – if not in the United States then certainly throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds -- as will the U.S-supported sectarian cleansing of Baghdad. 

Obama concluded his remarks with the standard propaganda about sacrifice and American exceptionalism:

[L]et us never forget the source of American leadership:  our commitment to the values that are written into our founding documents, and a unique willingness among nations to pay a great price for the progress of human freedom and dignity.  This is who we are.  That’s what we do as Americans, together….

All of you here today have lived through the fires of war.  You will be remembered for it.  You will be honored for it -- always.  You have done something profound with your lives.  When this nation went to war, you signed up to serve.  When times were tough, you kept fighting.  When there was no end in sight, you found light in the darkness.

And years from now, your legacy will endure in the names of your fallen comrades etched on headstones at Arlington, and the quiet memorials across our country; in the whispered words of admiration as you march in parades, and in the freedom of our children and our grandchildren.  And in the quiet of night, you will recall that your heart was once touched by fire.  You will know that you answered when your country called; you served a cause greater than yourselves; you helped forge a just and lasting peace with Iraq, and among all nations.

I could not be prouder of you, and America could not be prouder of you.

This is pretty disgusting stuff. Their “country” didn’t call. That was just some hack politician on the line. There was no great cause – Empire is not a great cause. A lot of people died and otherwise had their lives ruined, and the country was left a shambles. Sectarian violence is already erupting in the wake of the U.S. departure. To be sure, Saddam Hussein was a nasty dictator, but left in his place is a sectarian-cleansed state ruled by an authoritarian prime minister under a constitution that bears little resemblance to a protector of freedom.

I think of the line from Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily: “We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices.” Make war look noble and many will be eager to be sent to war. And many “leaders” will be eager to send them.

Heck, even in the Empire’s own terms there’s nothing to brag about. The Iraqi government is allied to Iran. The U.S. military got none of the permanent bases it wanted, and even the American oil companies lost out.

(Harper’s chronicle some the lowest points since 2003 here.)

Obama will campaign on how he ended the war (as Tim Lynch notes, the war began in 1991, not 2003; the U.S. government has been tormenting the Iraq people for 20 years!), and the conservatives will attack him for it, but both sides will conveniently forget that 1) the U.S. government was obligated to leave under an agreement signed by Bush and 2) Obama tried his damnedest to get the Iraqi leaders to ask the U.S. military to stay. (See Gareth Porter’s “How Maliki and Iran Outsmarted the US on Troop Withdrawal.”)

It’s not even as though the exit from the Iraq constitutes an exit from the Middle East. Hardly. The troops moved down the road to Kuwait where they will be “repostured.”

And the sabers are being rattled in the direction of Iran and Syria, where covert warfare is already being waged.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

I'm confident the surviving parents and children of Iraq are not mourning Christopher Hitchens's passing. (Also see this.)

Discussing Newt Gingrich and the Palestinians on Antiwar Radio

I spoke with Scott Horton about Newt Gingrich, the Palestinians, and Israel on Antiwar Radio recently. Here’s the audio.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Collectivist

When Newt Gingrich declared the Palestinians an "invented people," his purpose was to delegitimate their aspirations for justice and freedom. I guess for Gingrich, individuals don't have rights to those things unless they comprise a people in his eyes.


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Friday, December 16, 2011

Rabbi Outcast Honored

On December 8 Jack Ross’s excellent biography of Rabbi Elmer Berger, Rabbi Outcast (also on Kindle), which chronicles the life one of the leading Jewish anti-Zionists of the second half of the twentieth century, was honored with a panel discussion at the National Press Club. Here’s the video of some of the proceedings.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iraq

Anyone who thinks there's anything to celebrate about the U.S. involvement in Iraq hasn't been paying attention. Even the "exit" is essentially a lie. The Pentagon calls it "reposturing."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingrich & the Palestinians: The Short Answer

Of course the Palestinian people were invented. That's what colonization does to an oppressed population.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Newt Gingrich: Demagogue, Pseudointellectual

Updated December 12
Newt Gingrich says the Palestinian people were invented. That’s very funny coming from a man who has reinvented himself a few times in his life. We didn’t need more evidence of Gingrich’s status as a rank demagogue and pseudointellectual, but he’s furnished it anyway.

Gingrich, in his typically arrogant manner, says this:
And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places.
By “chance to go many places” he means that while being expelled from their homes by Zionist/Israeli forces in 1947-48, they were free to relocate in any Arab country they chose. If I were to mimic Gingrich’s style, I’d say that’s a pro-FOUND-ly racist statement. Since these people are generic Arabs, why should it matter that someone else decides that they may no longer remain in Palestine where they and their families have lived and worked for a thousand or more years? (In the early twentieth century, incidentally, leading Zionist activists and scholars thought the Palestinians Arabs were descendants of the ancient Hebrews.)

We could as easily say:
And I think that we've had an invented Pennsylvanian people, who are in fact Americans, and were historically part of the American community. And they had a chance to go many places.
Even if we concede, contrary to the evidence, that Palestinian consciousness is a rather late development, so what? It would not be the first time that oppression of a group of people has forged group consciousness. Indeed, Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, was an assimilated Jew in Austria until the trial of Alfred Dreyfus in France. Herzl’s response to that spectacle was to say, in effect: It’s the anti-Semites who make us Jews.

In other words, Gingrich makes no sense when he suggests, as he did at the December 10 debate, that since the Arabs of Palestine didn't call themselves Palestinians until the 1970s, their uprooting from the land was perfectly okay. How does that follow?

On the particular historical question of Palestinian consciousness, Wikipedia is instructive. Also see Jeremy Sapienza's blog post on the subject. And here's something Gingrich might want to ponder: the dialect known as Palestinian Arabic. The invented people have their own language!

Here's what the Encyclopedia Brittanica has to say:
Although the Arabs of Palestine had been creating and developing a Palestinian identity for about 200 years, the idea that Palestinians form a distinct people is relatively recent. The Arabs living in Palestine had never had a separate state. Until the establishment of Israel, the term Palestinian was used by Jews and foreigners to describe the inhabitants of Palestine and had only begun to be used by the Arabs themselves at the turn of the 20th century; at the same time, most saw themselves as part of the larger Arab or Muslim community. The Arabs of Palestine began widely using the term Palestinian starting in the pre-World War I period to indicate the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people. But after 1948—and even more so after 1967—for Palestinians themselves the term came to signify not only a place of origin but, more importantly, a sense of a shared past and future in the form of a Palestinian state. [Emphasis added.]
Not to pile on, but in 1921 -- more than 50 years before the Palestinian people were supposedly invented -- something called the Syrian-Palestinian Congress met "to influence the terms of the proposed League of Nations mandate over the region." The word Palestine (or a form of it) goes back to ancient times.

As the Washington Post's fact-checker put it:
But Gingrich’s claim that “Palestinian” did not become a common term until 1977 is bizarre. The very [1921] League of Nations mandate that he mentions was called “The British Mandate for Palestine.” The text of the declaration mentions the word “Palestine” 45 times and “Palestinian” twice.
Speaking of inventing people, Gingrich might pick up Shlomo Sand’s excellent book, The Invention of the Jewish People. Sand, a professor history at Tel Aviv University, shows that most national groups were essentially invented.

See Richard Silverstein's excellent commentary.

Here’s the video of Gingrich’s balderdash.



Those who think Palestine was a “land without a people” before Israel, should watch this video.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I Like This Guy

Spinoza

Were Amb. Gutman’s Remarks All that Controversial?

The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, a Jew whose father eluded the Nazis, has caused quite a row with remarks at a recent conference in which he distinguished classic anti-Semitism from anti-Jewish sentiment stemming from the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. (See also this.) The Republican presidential candidates (except for Ron Paul) have demanded Gutman’s head (the sort of thing Jon Stewart calls a “tuchus-kissoff”), and the Israel lobby wants him fired.

Is such an observation really controversial? Read the transcript of Gutman’s remarks. Commentary magazine claims the transcript is not quite the same as his oral remarks and thinks this is a big deal. Judge for yourself.

Friday, December 09, 2011

TGIF: Fearing Hayek

I’m sensing some panic in the air. Certain people seem mighty concerned that other people are . . . discovering Hayek. As a W. S. Gilbert character might say, Oh horror!

Read the full TGIF here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The REAL Reason to Fear an Iranian Nuke

This from a leading neocon intellectual, Danielle Pletka, vice president, foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute:
The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it's Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don't do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, "See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you that Iran wasn't getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately." And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.
In other words, if Iran were to build a nuke (by the way, Iran is not doing so), it might act responsibly, which would be interpreted to mean that Iran is in fact a responsible power in the Middle East.

And that would be bad -- because the U.S. government would then lose a major rationalization for dominating the Middle East. Take away the Iranian “problem” and there goes a lot of prestigious and profitable power opportunities for U.S. officials and government contractors. So Iran must be stopped from developing a weapon that 1) it is not developing, and 2) that it wouldn’t use if it were developing it.

See the Pletka video for yourself.




Pletka's colleague Thomas Donnelly agrees: "We’re fixated on the Iranian nuclear program while the Tehran regime has its eyes on the real prize: the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East."

When will these arrogant people realize that managing a balance of power is a dangerous mission (though lucrative for special interests, to be sure). They might consult the foreign-policy speeches of Richard Cobden and John Bright, whose analysis of Britain's attempt to manage the European balance of power are as relevant today as they were in the nineteenth century. Then again, the power elite would have to have real people's interests at heart for this line of thinking to have any effect.

Top Israeli officials also say they wouldn’t expect an attack from a nuclear Iran. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic quoted defense minister Ehud Barak as saying:
The real threat to Zionism [from an Iranian bomb] is the dilution of quality. Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here…. Our young people can consciously decide to go other places. Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice.
So Israel might have to attack Iran not because Iran might attack Israel first, but rather because young people won’t want to live in the country otherwise. Outward migration from Israel exceeds inward migration. The country’s leaders fear that continued regional tension will accelerate this exodus. Has it occurred to them that young people might not like being citizens of an increasingly isolated occupier and apartheid state that exists in constant tension with its neighbors?

It may seem reasonable to the power elite that a military attack on Iran would create an atmosphere hospitable to young people looking for a better future. But if that’s what Israel’s rulers think, they need to open their eyes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UN Partition of Palestine

UPDATED Feb. 25, 2014
Today is the 64th anniversary of the shameful UN vote to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. [CORRECTION: As Jeremy Hammond documents, the UN General Assembly had no authority, even under its own bylaws, to partition any territory. It merely recommended partition.] Needless to say, the land worked and genuinely owned by Palestinian Arabs for centuries was not the UN member states' to give; nor did the UN have the moral authority to dictate that more than a million Muslim and Christian Palestinians would henceforth be ruled by a government that claimed to belong exclusively to the Jewish people (defined in a secular, biological, not a religious, sense) no matter where in the world they live. Thus not even in theory would the new state belong to all of its citizens. Very little of the land had been legitimately purchased by European Jews. (See the details of land purchases here.) The partition set the stage for the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes, to which they have never been able to return, the land having been "redeemed" in the name of the Jewish people. Many Palestinians were slaughtered by the Zionist forces. This is known in the Arab world as the nakba, or catastrophe. It also created the conditions under which the state of Israel in 1967 would conquer and occupy further territory that belonged to Palestinians. The grinding and humiliating oppression of occupation goes on to this day.

Eminent Jewish voices opposed the partition and the policies of the Israeli government, but they were ignored if not worse. (See more here.)

Of course no Palestinian state ever came into existence. For one thing, the Zionist authorities and the King of then-Transjordan did not want an independent Palestinian state and colluded to prevent its emergence. The Israeli authorities claim to be committed to a just two-state solution (assuming such a thing is possible), but their actions have always belied their words, particularly the relentless building of residential areas in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Meanwhile since June 2007, the Israeli government has maintained a blockade of Gaza that imperils the lives of its inhabitants.

In light of this historical context, Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state as a precondition to negotiations only adds insult to monstrous injury.

This is truly the anniversary of a day of shame.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Myth of an Israel-Centered Jewish Vote

I highly recommend this article by Allan C. Brownfeld, editor of the American Council for Judaism’s publication Issues.  The gist:

The fact is that there is no Jewish vote — only the votes of millions of individual Jewish Americans. These ballots are cast on the same basis as are those of Americans of other faiths. It is a dangerous challenge to our democracy to try to divide voters on the basis of religion, and to do so on the basis of a false picture of U.S. Middle East policy is harmful to all — to Israel, to the Palestinians, to American interests in the region and, perhaps most important, to the truth itself.

Bachmann Endangers the World with Her Lies

It’s way past time for Michele Bachmann to be ridiculed into the obscurity she so richly deserves. Nothing could be more irresponsible – indeed, pernicious – than her routine peddling of the lie that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has  said that "if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America." (This is far from her only venture into idiocy.)

Iran has said that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, and quarterly inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency support this claim. Moreover, two National Intelligence Estimates, compiled in 2007 and 2011 by America’s dozen and a half intelligence agencies, say Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003. Finally, according to Wikipedia:
On ideological grounds, a public and categorical religious decree (fatwa) against the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons has been issued by the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic Ali Khamenei along with other clerics, while it is supported by others in the religious establishment.
(As president Ahmadinejad has no authority over Iran’s military.)

Bachmann of course has zero chance of getting the Republican presidential nomination, but her repetition of this vicious lie could be effective in scaring the American people into supporting the other forces drumming up support for war against Iran. These include the neoconservatives, Israel, and the Israel lobby.

Bachmann should be challenged on this matter at every opportunity. It is disgraceful that she was allowed to get away with her reckless statement at the debate the other night. But who’s surprised? Wolf Blitzer, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute would all love to see a war with Iran.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Arrogance of Power

National Security and the GOP Presidential Wannabes

Last night’s Republican presidential debate demonstrates yet again that one will never think sensibly about the safety of the American people until one acknowledges that the U.S. government has perpetrated, directly and indirectly, a long train of atrocities from the Americas to the Far East. (Behold the latest example.) Hosannas about “American exceptionalism” and the “greatest nation in the history of the world” sound like desperate attempts at self-reassurance in light of this shameful history.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Journalist Suspended from National Press Club after Questioning Saudi Regime’s Legitimacy

Journalist Sam Husseini has been suspended from the National Press Club for allegedly violating its rule against “boisterous and unseemly conduct or language.” What did he do?

He asked the following of Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia:
There's been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have -- other than billions of dollars and weapons?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Regarding that IAEA Report on Iran’s Alleged Nuclear Weapons Program

The war drums are getting louder in the wake the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But how significant is the report?

This is from investigative reporter Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker:

Friday, November 18, 2011

TGIF: Putting Bureaucracy First: Rachel Maddow’s Progressivism

Maddow
Today’s TGIF examines the political thought of the likes of Rachel Maddow:
Progressives today say people should come before profits. Now in a privilege-ridden corporate state, that’s a worthy goal, though Progressives have no clue how to achieve it. How nice it would be if they were equally committed to putting people before bureaucracy. Here they fall down rather badly because their signature ideas would subordinate regular people to the dictates of the power structure.
Read it here. Reason.com is now posting TGIF. You can see the latest here.
Some other recent writings:
TGIF: “Back to Basics” – No volition, no discourse. No discourse, no denying volition. Ergo volition.
Op-ed: “What Immigration Problem?”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I’m Talking about You, Romney

Any presidential candidate who threatens to attack Iran if elected is a monster. Nothing could be more reckless or despicable than to promise to carry out a policy that would kill thousands of innocent people, set the Middle East afire, and invite retaliation against Americans—all in an effort to gain political power by showing how tough he can talk. Romney did this the other night, showing what an evil man he is.

I suppose we’ll hear the same bullshit from Gingrich, Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and Santorum if we haven't already. What a contemptible bunch of reprobates. I’m glad Ron Paul is there to provide some rationality.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Close Enough for the Politicians

The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed a little after 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, but wasn't to take effect until 11 a.m. Meanwhile men continued to kill and die. "Canadian Private George Lawrence Price is traditionally regarded as the last soldier killed in the Great War: he was shot by a German sniper at 10:57 and died at 10:58." --Wikipedia

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Iran, Israel, and Rice

The U.S. government says it expects Iran to fulfill its IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) obligations. And what about Israel? Oh, that's right. It has no IAEA obligations -- unlike Iran, it never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is not subject to inspections, despite its possession of a few hundred nukes.

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the very fact people are discussing Israel's rumblings about attacking Iran shows how dangerous ... Iran is. She really said that.

Me in DC

I'll be conducting two breakout sessions at the AFPF "Defending the American Dream Summit" today in Washington, D.C.:
  • 2:30: Economic Growth and the Growth of Government
  • 3:45: Free Trade

Catching Up

My output this week dealt with Occupy Wall Street:
Enjoy!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Barack Obama Is Not the Most Dangerous Person in the World

This man is. From Sky News:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally support in his cabinet for an attack on Iran, according to government sources.
The country's defence minister Ehud Barak and the foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are said to be among those backing a pre-emptive strike to neutralise Iran's nuclear ambitions.
But a narrow majority of ministers currently oppose the move, which could trigger a wave of regional retaliation. 
The debate over possible Israeli military action has reached fever pitch in recent days with newspaper leader columns discussing the benefits and dangers of hitting Iran.
Mr Lieberman responded to the reports of a push to gain cabinet approval by saying that "Iran poses the most dangerous threat to world order."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Just Wondering

Would Bernie Madoff's prospective victims have been better or worse off had they lived in a world with no government oversight of investment matters whatsoever?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who?

A good way to get me to read a book is to warn me not to read it. Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics falls into that category. Atzmon is thought-provoking at many levels and therefore controversial. Moreover he makes a valid point -- correction: several of them! I commend the book to anyone interested in the Palestine/Israel conflict, the Middle East in general, Jewish identity, and -- on principle -- fearless open discussion of important matters, especially matters of war and peace. (He answers critics here; need I add that I don't agree with everything he has written?) Atzmon also happens to be a top jazz saxophonist whose music I am just now getting to know. I hope to see him perform someday.

TGIF: Social Cooperation, Part 3

Twelve years after publishing his pioneering Principles of Economics, in 1883 [Carl] Menger issued his Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics. In this book Menger sought to establish the study of society, especially economy, as a legitimate intellectual discipline in contrast to the German Historical School, which denied the existence of social or economic “laws” applicable to all human beings at all times and places. Late in the book, and consciously following Plato and Aristotle, Menger draws “the analogy between social phenomena and natural organisms.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Markets Not Capitalism


This new book, Markets Not Capitalism, edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson is definitely worth checking it out. Contributors include Kevin A. Carson, Roderick Long, Charles W. Johnson, Joseph Stromberg, Brad Spangler, Shawn Wilbur, William Gillis, Joe Peacott, Jeremy Weiland, Mary Ruwart, and classics from Karl Hess, Roy A. Childs Jr., Benjamin Tucker, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Voltarine DeCleyre. Oh, I'm in there too.


Libertopia!



I'm in San Diego for the second Libertopia. I'll be speaking on "The Articles of Confederation versus the Constitution" on Friday at 11 a.m. On Friday at 5 p.m. I'll be on a panel with Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, and David Friedman. That should be a blast.

See you there!

TGIF: Destroying Value

In case anyone missed it, here's a link to last week's TGIF: "Destroying Value."

The Most Dangerous Derivative: Power and Privilege in the Corporate State

Here's the latest from FEE.tv, a mini lecture by me on "The Most Dangerous Derivative."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obama's UN Veto Threat Supports Occupation of Palestine

The Obama administration’s hypocritical vow to block full UN membership for Palestine shames America. Only a hypocrite could proclaim support for the Arab Spring while opposing this step toward realizing the Palestinian aspiration to be free from the 44-year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank and subjugation of Gaza.

The Palestinians have been under brutal and degrading occupation since the 1967 Six-Day War, which they did not start. Their daily lives, when not punctuated by shootings, beatings, and bulldozing of homes and olive groves, are scarred by routine humiliation: military checkpoints, road blocks, arbitrary searches, unpredictable delays, and an inhumanely disruptive “security” wall. No one should have to live like that, yet two generations of Palestinians have been subjected to this cruelty. Some Palestinians, mostly in Gaza, have responded with attacks on Israeli civilians. However comprehensible, it is nonetheless vicious, criminal action.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Wall Street Couldn’t Have Done It Alone

To Occupy Wall Street:

Wall Street couldn’t have done it alone. It takes a government and/or its central bank, the Federal Reserve System, to:

  • Create barriers to entry for the purpose of sheltering existing banks from competition and radical innovation, then "regulate" for the benefit of the privileged industry;
  • Issue artificially cheap, economy-distorting credit in order to, among other things, give banks incentives to make shaky but profitable mortgage loans (and also to grease the war machine through deficit spending);
  • Make it lucrative for banks – and their bonus-collecting executives -- to bundle thousands of shaky mortgages into securities and other derivatives with the knowledge that government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other companies, all subject to powerful congressmen looking for campaign contributions, would buy them after a government-licensed rating cartel scores them AAA;
  • Inflate an unsustainable housing bubble by the foregoing and other methods, enticing people to foolishly overinvest in real estate.
  • Work closely with lending companies to establish a variety of programs designed to lure people with few resources or bad credit into buying houses they can’t afford;
  • Attract workers to the home-construction bubble, setting them up for long-term unemployment when the bubble inevitably burst;
  • Implicitly guarantee big financial companies and/or their creditors that if they get into trouble they would be rescued;
  • Compel the taxpayers to bail out those companies and/or creditors when the roof finally fell in.

No bank or group of banks could do these things on its own in a freed market. It takes a government-Wall Street partnership – the corporate state -- to create such misery and exploitation.

So demonstrators, you are right. Something is dreadfully wrong. But your list of culprits is far from complete. So go ahead and protest outside Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. But also spend some time outside the White House, the Fed, the Treasury, and the Capitol Building. Together they are responsible for our current economic woes. These are the entities that control our fate and over which we have no real say. It's time for things to change.

Greed without political power is boorish. Greed with political power is dangerous.

The freed market is the alternative to what you properly despise.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

TGIF: Occupying Wall Street

Government power ultimately will be influenced and controlled by those whom the occupiers despise. So, protesters, rail against Wall Street. But rail, too, against its indispensable partner – government, with its unique legal power to wield aggressive force – and realize that the genuine antipode of the system you oppose is the freed market.
The rest of TGIF: Occupying Wall Street is here.

A Reminder from Sir Thomas More

From A Man for All Seasons by Robert Boldt:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Purpose of Government

I pause when people write, "The purpose of government is to protect life, liberty, and property." What are those words worth? If we judge by history, it appears that the purpose of government is exploitation of the industrious classes for the benefit of some ruling class. The root of the confusion is that governments traditionally have accorded some measure of protection for life, liberty, and property through police, courts, and defense against invaders. But this is perfectly consistent with the exploitation theory. Why wouldn't the ruling class want the industrious classes to be dependent on government for protection against criminals and for peaceful resolution of disputes? And why wouldn't it want to keep out invaders so that it may have unrivaled access to the revenue extracted from the subjugated population?

So why overlook the fundamental and seek government's purpose in secondary things?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Israeli Foreign Minister Wants Palestinians Punished

From the Middle East Monitor, September 22:
Israel's Foreign Minister has warned Benjamin Netanyahu that the governing coalition will fall part if the Prime Minister doesn't take punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority for its decision to bid for independent statehood at the United Nations. A report in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper claims that Avigdor Lieberman has demanded that Netanyahu responds to the unilateral Palestinian step by cancelling the Oslo Accords, annexing the large West Bank settlement blocs and withholding tax transfers to the Authority.

Earlier reports said that Lieberman had threatened the Palestinians with "very serious" consequences in the event of a UN vote in favour of an independent state. Israel, claimed Lieberman, "won't stand still" if a Palestinian state is recognised by the UN. Lieberman's deputy, Danny Ayalon, backed the call for punitive measures, although he expects the UN to reject the Palestinian application.

According to Netanyahu's deputy, Silvan Shalom, the Palestinian bid constitutes a violation of the agreements signed between the two sides.

Antiwar Radio Interview on Palestinian Statehood

[UPDATED September 27, 2011]

Scott Horton, the great host of the great Antiwar Radio, interviewed me last week about the Palestinian bid for UN recognition as a state. Download the MP3 here.

[CLARIFICATION: I am reminded by Joe Lauria that Palestine is not seeking recognition as a state by the UN but only full membership as a state. Since Palestine declared independence 23 years ago, 128 countries have formally recognized it as a state, including nine current members of the UN Security Council, the number required, in the absence of a veto by a permanent member, to win recommendation for full membership to the General Assembly. The United States does not recognize Palestine, which today has only "observer mission" status at the UN.]

I'd like to amplify a few points and fill in a gap or two. First a correction: I misstated when the Palestine Liberation Organization, in its Declaration of Independence, relinquished claim to 78 percent of Palestine, that is, what today is Israel. That Declaration, which concomitantly and formally recognized the State of Israel, was made in November 1988, not earlier, as I state in the interview. This relinquishing of the claim was no morally empty gesture on the PLO's part. In the creation of Israel in 1948 and the War 0f Independence that followed, over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs (out of 1.3 million) were driven from their homes in response to the violence the Hagannah and other Zionist military forces inflicted on the inhabitants of Arab villages in the future Israel. Hundreds of towns and villages were wiped from the map, their names buried and their place taken by Jewish villages with Hebrew names. (Read about the Deir Yassin massacre, a key event.) Those refugees and their children had hoped to return; many still carry the keys to their former homes. But they were forbidden to return. (Meanwhile, any Jew, no matter where he or she was born, may instantly become an Israeli citizen.) Thus for the Palestinians' purported representative organization to agree to settle for just 22 percent of their former homeland was no minor concession. Israel's supporters constantly talk about Israel's generous offers to the Palestinians, but this major Palestinian concession is ignored and unappreciated on the rare occasions it is acknowledged. (I must leave aside here the libertarian objection that no organization can relinquish an individual's valid claim to his or her property.)


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Op-Ed: Peace Prize-Winner Obama Savages Somalia

A human catastrophe is taking place in Somalia, the result of drought, famine — and the savage war conducted by the Obama administration, complete with a CIA training facility and prison....
The catastrophe is often attributed to natural conditions, but neighboring areas are not experiencing the same threat.

The difference is Obama’s war. In the guise of fighting terrorism the U.S. government, beginning under George W. Bush and continuing with a vengeance under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama, has turned Somalia into a hellhole. If Americans knew what was happening in their name, they would hang their heads in shame. Or would they?

Read the full op-ed: "Peace Prize-Winner Obama Savages Somalia" here.

TGIF: Elizabeth Warren's Non Sequitur

If you spend any time on a social network, you’re bound to come across this video of Elizabeth Warren, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. In her remarks she says:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Just goes to show, you can start with a valid premise and end up with an invalid conclusion.

Read the full TGIF: "Elizabeth Warren's Non Sequitur" here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Constitution Day


NO TREASON

NO. VI.

THE CONSTITUTION OF NO AUTHORITY

Lysander Spooner
I.

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but "the people" then existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves. Let us see. Its language is:


Read the rest here.

TGIF: "Government Is Force"

Some pundits really don’t understand why libertarians dislike government and therefore want it to do little, if anything at all. Unable to grasp the reason, the pundits assign bad motives to those who disparage government: They don’t like poor people, or workers, or the sick, or education.

But what’s so hard to understand? Government is significantly different from anything else in society. It is the only institution that can legally threaten and initiate violence; that is, under color of law its officers may use physical force, up to and including lethal force — not in defense of innocent life but against individuals who have neither threatened nor aggressed against anyone else. “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence,” George Washington reportedly said. “Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant — and a fearful master.”

That’s not a controversial description of the State. Even people enthusiastic about government would agree.

Given this unique feature, then, why isn’t everyone wary of the State?

Read the full TGIF: "Government Is Force" here.

Op-Ed: "Stimulus II Won't Work, Either"

President Obama won’t use the “stimulus” label to describe his nearly half-trillion-dollar jobs bill, but that refusal can’t hide the fact that he has no idea how economies recover from recessions. “Stimulus” is a tainted label because his $800 billion bill in 2009 was a failure. His economic team promised that passing that bill would keep unemployment from exceeding 8 percent. The bill passed, and unemployment climbed to more than 9 percent and has stayed there ever since.

With election day only 14 months off, one can readily see Obama’s desperation for a job program.

Read the full op-ed, "Stimulus II Won't Work, Either," here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Limbaugh’s Creative Accounting

I understand Rush Limbaugh has nominated George W. Bush for the next vacancy on Mount Rushmore because “the United States” has not been attacked since 9/11.  Okay, if you ignore the fact that more Americans have been killed in aggressive foreign wars since 9/11 than were killed on the day the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit and that Osama bin Laden got what he was after: American imperial overreach and a financial hemorrhage that won’t be stanched.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Lessons Plus

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11:

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 have taken 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 (and dead Pakistanis and Yemenis and Somalis and Libyans). 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.

11. Politicians will stop at nothing to shamelessly exploit the memory of the American victims of blowback if it will aggrandize their power. No amount of national self-pity, self-congratulation, and vaunting is ever enough.

(Adapted and re-posted from 2006.)

Friday, September 09, 2011

It Makes One's Head Spin

President Obama’s jobs program calls for cuts in both sides of the payroll tax. That tax finances Social Security and Medicare. Social Security and Medicare are already taking in less money than they need to pay retirees. So they will have to cash in more of the Treasury IOUs left behind when previous surpluses were used to finance general expenditures. But the Treasury is also already running a trillion-dollar-plus deficit. So it will have to borrow more in the capital markets in order to pay back the Social Security and Medicare funds. Unless Obama makes up the lost revenue by changing the tax code. But then money will be withdrawn from the economy in the form of higher taxes so it can be put back into the economy through the payroll-tax cut. Somehow that’s supposed to stimulate the economy.

Got all that? There’ll be a quiz later.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ron Paul & Immigration: A Speculative Theory

Ron Paul’s position on what I’ll call unauthorized immigration—or immigration sans government permission--is indeed strange. He calls for “secure borders” but opposes employer sanctions, Real ID, and a border wall (which he says could be used to keep people in as well as out). He also minimizes the importance of unauthorized immigration by saying it wouldn’t be such an issue if the economy were healthy (people are worried about jobs now) and the welfare state didn’t exist.

That odd mix leads me to wonder if Ron Paul is actually for open borders but doesn’t want to say it. (He was for open borders when he was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 1988.) True, there are arguments against my speculation. His website says, “A nation without borders is no nation at all,” he’s against birthright citizenship, and he opposes amnesty, which it claims “will only encourage more law-breaking.” (I oppose amnesty too. There’s no need to forgive people for doing what they have a perfect right to do.)

But can one really be against unauthorized immigration if one opposes steps that seem necessary to even begin to stop it? Who wills the end, wills the means, it is said.

Hence my suspicion that Ron Paul secretly favors open borders. That may be the good news. The bad news is that if it is so, it doesn’t speak well of the candidate. Why not say what you think—that people, no matter where they were born, have a natural right to move in freedom? Imagine what a splash he would make with such a statement at a debate.

What does he have to lose? He's not even running for reelection to Congress.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Better Fit

For the life of me, I can't see why "capitalism" fits the hitherto-unrealized free market better than it fits the actual American system of business privilege favored by Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln, and their successors up to the present.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day: Not What You Think

Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States, has the lowdown on Labor Day here. It's not what you think. Clue: President Grover Cleveland, who sent the military to Illinois, over objection of the governor, to break the Pullman strike, signed the bill. (Several workers were killed "at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals."
[Cleveland] and its sponsors intended it not as a celebration of leisure but as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.
I note that Wikipedia says:
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 after the [Pullman] strike when President Grover Cleveland and Congress made appeasement of organized labor a top priority. Legislation for the holiday was pushed through Congress six days after the strike ended. Samuel Gompers, head of American Federation of Labor, which had sided with the government in its effort to end the strike by the American Railway Union, spoke out in favor of the holiday.
As Russell writes:
When President Cleveland signed Labor Day into existence in 1884, the conservative American Federation of Labor endorsed the new holiday. In deliberate contrast to “slackers,” union members used their government-approved day off to march in their work clothes alongside floats showing off the tools of their trades. They carried signs declaring the “honor” and “nobility” of work. Labor Day marches were praised by the press as “sober, clean, quiet” demonstrations of “the honest American workingman.”
Bottom line: Labor was being co-opted with promises of a junior partnership in the corporate state long before the New Deal and National Labor Relations Act.

TGIF: Ponzi Unmasked

Social Security: Ponzi scheme or not? I think we have to say it once was, but is no more, because Social Security was unmasked as a coercive transfer scheme long ago and critics remind us of that fact constantly. If everyone knows (or can easily find out) something is a Ponzi scheme, it’s no longer a Ponzi scheme. Anyone who thinks Social Security is insurance just isn’t paying attention.

Caveat adsiduus. Taxpayer beware.

Read the full TGIF: Ponzi Unmasked.

Op-ed: Libya Is Nothing for Obama to Be Proud Of

Barack Obama will no doubt list the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya as one of his foreign-policy triumphs. But anyone paying close attention will realize that Obama should be ashamed of what he did. Indeed, Congress should be inquiring whether he committed an impeachable offense.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mises and Mussolini

In fairness to Ludwig von Mises (whom Michael Lind uses, cynically and dishonestly, as example of libertarian softness on fascism; see post below), you have to look at the historical moment he was writing about. Mises understood that the choice in Italy was between Mussolini and the Leninists. In real terms, there was no third choice at that point. He did not accept the Fascist program in the least and condemned its inherent violence. But in the short run he thought it was better to keep the Leninists from imposing their monstrous regime. He made a choice between two forms of totalitarianism, and took what he saw as the lesser. (Given what was going on in the Soviet Union, was he wrong? It was an abattoir in which entire classes of people were being exterminated.) Liberalism was not an option.

See Mises's full treatment here. Also see Ralph Raico's article on the matter here (pdf).

Postscript: There is a big difference between what Mises wrote and any nice words Hayek and Friedman may have had for Pinochet and his economic program. Mises had nothing good to say about Mussolini's program, nor did he have hopes that autocracy could usher in free markets. Lind shamefully lumped all three together.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Michael Lind’s False Alternative

Michael Lind writes at Salon.com: “Having denounced liberals as crypto communists for half a century during the Cold War, the American right now routinely accuses the center-left of being fascist.” Lind goes on to wonder why “American conservatives and libertarians” have avoided discussion of their own “heroes” who seem to have been soft on fascists. He specifically mentions Ludwig von Mises’s remarks about the Italian Fascists in the 1920s (in his book Liberalism) and F. A. Hayek’s and Milton Friedman’s alleged approval of Augusto Pinochet’s “free market” dictatorship in Chile.

The first thing I want to say is that by putting libertarianism on the right and linking it with conservatism, Lind indicates that his knowledge of the libertarian movement is rather superficial. Philosophically the differences are too fundamental to permit such a mistake in a conscientious observer. If libertarianism belongs anywhere, it is on the left.

Lind’s article contains much to comment on, but here I want to make just one or two points. Even if Mises, Hayek, and Friedman really approved of fascist regimes (one can disagree with them while maintaining that things aren’t quite so simple), it would take more than that to indict libertarianism. Lind never explains why this alleged record doesn’t merely reflect on the particular named individuals who for one reason or another departed from their stated libertarian principles.

After all, what is there in libertarianism that would incline an adherent to feel the least sympathy for fascist dictators? Certainly nothing obvious.

The closest Lind gets to answering that question is his pointing out that libertarians dislike democracy, the implication being that one who dislikes democracy necessarily likes autocracy. That’s a strange argument indeed, as Roderick Long points out here. As Long writes, “[L]ibertarians don’t oppose democracy (in the conventional sense) because they hanker after autocracy; they oppose democracy because it is too much like autocracy.” Mises agreed: "There is really no essential difference between the unlimited power of the democratic state and the unlimited power of the autocrat" (Socialism, 1922).

It’s not as though there are no alternatives to democracy and autocracy. How about market anarchism, where majorities don’t rule minorities and minorities don’t rule majorities? And libertarian minarchists can say to Lind that they accept democratic decision-making but only in the smallest area necessary, while otherwise opposing rule by both majorities and minorities.

Lind commits a major gaffe by taking democracy at face value; it seems not to have occurred to him that democracy might not be exactly what it is purported to be. Indeed, it has long been argued that a façade of majoritarianism typically masks a form of aristocracy, or minority rule. The historian Edmund Morgan refers to this as the fiction of representation. I discuss Morgan’s thesis here.

Had Lind not swallowed the civics-book hype and understood that democracy is not actually rule by the people, he might have sized libertarianism up differently.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TGIF: Social Cooperation, Part 2

Only individuals value, choose, and act, of course, but in an important sense the resulting social whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Thus the defense of personal liberty is the defense of society. Let’s hear our opponents criticize that.

Op-Ed: Federal Reserve Grabs New Powers

While inflation hawks understandably keep a close watch on the Federal Reserve’s money-creation activities, an equally worrisome Fed activity is taking place right under their noses. Under cover of addressing the financial crisis and recession, the Fed has become the central allocator of credit.

As San Jose State University economics professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel points out in The Independent Review (Spring 2011), Fed chairman Ben Bernanke “has so expanded the Fed’s discretionary actions beyond merely controlling the money stock that it has become a gigantic, financial central planner.... [T]he Fed that emerged from the crisis is no longer the same as the Fed before the crisis.”

Read the full op-ed, "Federal Reserve Grabs New Powers."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chris Matthews Takes Two Hits

Hey, I neglected to post my two latest offerings, both of which show my favorite cable talking head is full of baloney:

"TGIF: Progressive Intolerance" scolds Chris Matthews for pretending that those of us who reject Keynesian economics hate science.

"Conservatives Don't Hate Government" is an op-ed that debunks Matthews's absurd claim about conservatives by showing how committed they are to using government for all kinds of things.

I really should stop watching Hardball.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You Hear That?

Media message to candidates: It's okay to oppose government spending and debt, but if you oppose war and empire, we'll marginalize the crap out of you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Budget Cutting, Washington-Style

HT: John Stossel

Op-Ed: Politicians in a Panic

You can almost see the panic on their faces. The politicians, central bankers, and court economists seem to be thrashing around like bad swimmers caught in a riptide. Despite all attempts — stimulus spending, increased borrowing, the Fed Reserve’s low-interest-rate policy, presidential jaw-boning — the economy refuses to recover. Unemployment remains over 9 percent, investment is stagnant, and even the previous paltry growth is fading. People increasingly see the government as impotent.

If it weren’t for the innocent victims, this would be satisfyingly entertaining. After all, these are the reputed best and brightest, who assured us they know how to fix and run an economy. Now they are at wits’ end, and they’re running out of time.

Read the full op-ed, "Politicians in a Panic," here.

TGIF: Social Cooperation

At FEE’s Advanced Austrian Economics Seminar last week, more than one speaker mentioned that Ludwig von Mises considered a different title for the book we know as Human Action. The other title? Social Cooperation.
Read all of TGIF: Social Cooperation here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Face It

Unless you want world government, you're already an anarchist. We're just haggling over the level.
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Days of Infamy 66 Years Ago



Today is the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, one of President Harry Truman's two acts of butchery against Japan in August 1945. The anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing was Saturday.

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."

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.]

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Entrepreneurial Anarchy

There are security problems in anarchy and outside it. The difference is that in anarchy solving those problems earns entrepreneurial profit. Outside it aggravating those problems earns political profit.
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Saturday, August 06, 2011

AA+

There are worse things in the world than fear of lending to the US government. Here's one: eagerness to lend.
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Friday, August 05, 2011

Op-Ed: A Cheer and a Half for the Tea Party.

Were it not for the Tea Party, the debt-ceiling controversy might never have taken place. Kudos on that count alone.
The rest of the op-ed, "A Cheer and a Half for the Tea Party," is here.

TGIF: The Debt Sky

Since the sky is now apparently the limit, I rechristen the debt ceiling “the debt sky.” But seriously — no, that was serious.
The rest of TGIF: The Debt Sky is here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

TGIF: The New Fed

“Things are seldom what they seem.” –W.S. Gilbert, “H.M.S. Pinafore”

Nowhere is this more true than in government – which means we have to watch it closely. Unfortunately preconceived notions can make us impervious to events right in front of us and lead us to colossal misperceptions.

Take the Federal Reserve System. (All together now: Please!) Since the central bank controls the money supply, advocates of free markets and market-based money are understandably wary of its power to generate inflation. It’s inflated in the past and has the capacity to do so in the future. So attention naturally goes in that direction.

The problem is that while we’re watching for inflation, we might be missing the Fed’s real mischief elsewhere.

Read the rest of TGIF: The New Fed here.

Op-Ed: “Shared Sacrifice”: Obama's Demagoguery

The most offensive claim made during the debt-ceiling controversy is that there’s a moral equivalence between cutting government spending and raising taxes.
Read the rest of the op-ed here.

Default ... or Renege?

Via Don Boudreaux, Roger Garrison notes that one cannot choose to default.

As he wrote to Boudreaux:

You mention, though, that the government could “choose to default.” Well, if default means that you’re unable to pay, then “choosing to default” must mean that you “choose to be unable to pay.” Hey, that really does sound like government-speak. But I think a more accurate and more revealing term is “renege.”

Speaking for myself, reneging in this case would to some small extent liberate the taxpayers from an unchosen obligation, so it would not carry the moral taint that private reneging on debt obligations does

I've Figured It Out

The bond rating is a gauge of taxpayer docility.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

How I Feel about the Government's Debt

From the incomparable Lysander Spooner:
This business of lending blood-money is one of the most thoroughly sordid, cold-blooded, and criminal that was ever carried on, to any considerable extent, among human beings. It is like lending money to slave traders, or to common robbers and pirates, to be repaid out of their plunder. And the men who loan money to governments, so called, for the purpose of enabling the latter to rob, enslave, and murder their people, are among the greatest villains that the world has ever seen. And they as much deserve to be hunted and killed (if they cannot otherwise be got rid of) as any slave traders, robbers, or pirates that ever lived.
If you like that, read Jeffrey Rogers Hummel 1981 article on why the U.S. national debt should be repudiated (pdf).

HT for the quote: Jeff Hummel

Monday, July 25, 2011

More on the Debt Crisis

A government that is too big to fail is too big.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greatest Commercial Ever?

I can't resist sharing this classic Coca Cola commercial. It brings a tear to my eye. Watch the men's faces closely. The spot says so much -- far more than Coke intended, I'm sure -- without a word spoken.



HT: Roderick Long

Bryan Caplan on Pacifism

I highly recommend listening to Bryan Caplan's debate with Ilya Somin on the question of pacifism (i.e., opposition to war, not opposition to violent individual self-defense). Listen or download it here. I found the debate an illuminating discussion of theory and history, and -- admitting my bias forthrightly -- I believe Bryan carried the day. Some relevant matters did not come up -- such as the deep domestic effects of a national security state, the structural consequences of a military-industrial complex, and Public Choice considerations regarding rent-seeking and mission creep -- which strengthen Bryan's case.

In my view Somin's plea to "give war a chance" fails.

If you are interested in war and peace, you should listen to this debate.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Cory Maye Update


This just in from Radley Balko on Facebook regarding Cory Maye:
Wonderful news from Mississippi: Cory Maye was offered, and accepted, a manslaughter plea this morning. He was sentenced to time served. He'll be free and home with his family in a matter of days. More details to come.
Balko has details at The Huffington Post.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

TGIF: Of Malice and Straw Men

We libertarians must be onto something. Why else would critics work so hard to construct straw men to demolish rather than contending with our actual arguments?

Right from the top you could tell that Stephen Metcalf’s recent blast in Slate would be no different.
Read the full TGIF here.

Op-Ed: The Unchanging Imperial Paradigm

Despite President Obama’s trumpeted force drawdown in Afghanistan, by the end of next summer more than twice as many U.S. troops will be fighting in that country’s civil war as there were when he became president in 2009. His soothing words notwithstanding, a force of about 70,000 will remain there at least until the end of 2014. We can be sure, however, that that won’t stop the president from campaigning for reelection on a peace platform.

One problem: Not much is changing.
Read the full op-ed here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

TGIF: Obama's Economics Lesson

President Obama apparently thinks that until the latest recession, no business realized it might reduce its workforce by substituting machines and other high-tech devices. When asked by NBC’s Ann Curry why he hasn’t been able to convince business owners to hire more people (as if the question makes any sense), Obama explained:

There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.

It is astounding to hear Obama invoke the old argument that technological advances create permanent idleness among workers. I haven’t heard that one in years.

Read the full TGIF here.

Op-Ed: Obama's War Is Peace

President Obama demonstrates his utter contempt for the American people — and the law — when he says the War Powers Resolution does not apply to his intervention in Libya because, as the White House put it, “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”

Apparently bombing military forces and government facilities while taking sides in a foreign country’s civil war no longer constitutes participation in hostilities. Obama apparently read Orwell’s 1984 ... and learned the wrong lesson.

Read the full op-ed here.

Update: This op-ed was written before the New York Times revealed that Obama ignored the judgment of top Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers that the Libyan adventure indeed falls under the War Powers Resolution.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Killing Them Softly

The White House says the Libya intervention is not subject to the War Powers Resolution because what the U.S. government is doing there -- sending killer drones and providing intelligence for other NATO air assaults on Qaddafi's forces and residence -- doesn't constitute "hostilities."

Really. The spokesman said that. With a straight face. Read about it here.

As I've long said, if you want to make sense of government statements, keep one thing in mind: They think we are morons.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

TGIF: Affording It All

People who don’t understand — or who don’t care about — economics say funny things. Well, they would be funny if they weren’t so damaging when translated into government policy. Take Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
Read TGIF: "Affording It All" here.

Op-Ed: The Media Distract the Public from War

If one is to judge by the tone of the television commentators, America must be deep in a crisis. Long stretches of cable time are devoted to the breaking news. Each detail is presented as more grave and consequential for the republic than the last. The fate of the country surely hangs in the balance.

What is it? War? Fiscal crisis? Mass unemployment? A double-dip recession?

No. A congressman was caught sending lewd photographs of himself to women over the Internet.

Read the full op-ed here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism

I arrived home last night to find on my doorstep a copy of the new book Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism by Jack Ross. How thrilling! I knew Rabbi Berger, who died in 1996, and admired him greatly for his courageous work on behalf of what he called “emancipation and integration” and against Jewish nationalism, or Zionism. (I’ve been reading his book The Jewish Dilemma, published in 1945, a well-reasoned yet passionate critique of Theodor Herzl’s program and beyond.) He was truly the last great Classical Reform Jewish rabbi – Classical Reform Judaism having been founded in opposition to nationalism, to the ideas of diaspora and return to Zion. (“We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.” –from The Pittsburgh Platform, 1885) Berger was a founder and long time director of the American Council for Judaism, which opposed formation of the state of Israel, and later of American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism. Among ACJ's members were Frank Chodorov and Murray Rothbard. (ACJ was the subject of Thomas Kolsky’s 1992 book Jews Against Zionism.)

Berger

Here is the publisher Potomac Books’ description:

Dramatic changes have taken place in the last decade with respect to the views of the American Jewish community toward Israel and Zionism. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, the involvement of the Israel lobby in precipitating the Iraq War and promoting war on Iran, and Israel’s widely condemned wars in Lebanon and Gaza, large swaths of the American Jewish community have been disenchanted with Israel and Zionism as at no other time since the founding of the State of Israel.

However, anti-Zionism in America has a long history. Elmer Berger was undoubtedly the best-known Jewish anti-Zionist during most of his lifetime, particularly from World War II through the 1967 Six-Day War and its aftermath. A Reform rabbi, Berger served throughout that period as the executive director of the American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist organization founded by leading Reform rabbis.

Author Jack Ross places liberal Jewish anti-Zionism (as opposed to that of Orthodox or revolutionary socialist Jews) in historical perspective. That brand of anti-Zionism was virtually embodied by Rabbi Berger and his predecessors in the Reform rabbinate. He advocated forcefully for his position, much to the chagrin of his Zionist detractors. The growing renaissance of liberal Jewish anti-Zionism, combined with the forgotten work of Rabbi Berger and the American Council for Judaism, makes a compelling case for revisiting his work in this full-length, definitive biography.

Bravo, Jack Ross!