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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Power to the Individual, Not to the State

How can you tell an American progressive from an American radical? A progressive laments the condition of working people and proposes to further empower the government. A radical laments the condition of working people and proposes to empower individuals by diminishing the power of government.

Friday, April 24, 2015

TGIF: A Freed Society Would Not Be Problem-Free

Modified April 28, 2015

In 1970 country singer Lynn Anderson had a hit recording of a Joe South song that opened with the line:
I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden.
I often think of that song in connection with the libertarian philosophy. You may be asking: for heaven’s sake, why?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Equal

For leaking classified documents to his mistress/biographer, former general and CIA director David Petraeus gets two years' probation  -- because some animals are more equal than others.

Megalomaniacs

My article "US Foreign Policymakers Can't Be Trusted," written for the Independent Institute, is in today's spotlight at Antiwar.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Obama Wades Further into Yemen

“The U.S. Navy … has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt toward the waters off Yemen to join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the rebels, U.S. officials said,” the Chicago Tribune reported on Monday.
Thus does the Obama administration risk war with Iran while embracing the mischievous agendas of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Israel

Iran has not been found shipping arms, but you won’t learn that from mainstream news accounts. Nor do the media ask why the United States and its allies -- but not Iran -- may intervene in Yemen.
The Tribune, like all mainstream news outlets, refers to “Iran-backed Shiite rebels,” that is, the autonomy-minded and long-burdened Houthis, who are portrayed without evidence as agents of the Islamic Republic. The media are mere conduits for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab Gulf states, which have an interest in falsely portraying the turmoil in Yemen, long racked by civil war, as an instance of Iranian expansion. The Sunni Arab states don’t want Shiite Persians playing a prominent role in the region and becoming friendlier with the United States, while Israel uses Iran to take the world’s mind off the Jewish State’s brutality against the Palestinians. All this goes on while the United States negotiates curbs on a nonexistent Iranian nuclear-weapons program -- to Saudi and Israeli consternation.
While the media fill American minds with almost nonstop propaganda about Iran’s ambitions, the U.S. intelligence agencies have their doubts. Why don’t the media report this, considering that Obama has facilitated the Saudis’ naval blockade against Yemen and its off-again/on-again bombing campaign? As a result of this war, Yemen suffers a humanitarian catastrophe, complete with refugees, food shortages, and the slaughter of civilians.
Fortifying doubts about Iranian backing of the Houthis, the Huffington Post, citing “American officials familiar with intelligence around the insurgent takeover,” reports that “Iranian representatives discouraged Houthi rebels from taking the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last year” (emphasis added).
This conflicts with the popular belief that the Houthis, who practice a Shiite offshoot that differs significantly from Iranian Shiism, moved on the capital under orders from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“The newly disclosed information casts further doubt on claims that the rebels are a proxy group fighting on behalf of Iran,” continue the authors, Ali Watkins, Ryan Grim, and Akbar Shahid Ahmed, “suggesting that the link between Iran and the Yemeni Shiite group may not be as strong as congressional hawks and foreign powers urging U.S. intervention in Yemen have asserted.”
Do congressional hawks and foreign powers, that is, Israel and Saudi Arabia, care what the facts show? Facts have nothing to do with this. Iran is the bogeyman, so all troubles must be traced to its door. Nothing -- especially the truth -- can be allowed to stand in the way.
The article adds that “the revelation that the Houthis directly disobeyed Iran gives credibility to the White House's argument that Iran is not directing the rebels” (emphasis added). It quotes Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, who says, “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen.”
To drive the point home, the authors quote a U.S. intelligence official: “It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran.”
So why does Obama help the Saudis murder Yemenis?
Directing the Houthis and aiding them are two different things, of course, but Iranian support in the face of long-standing Saudi and U.S. intervention hardly seems remarkable. Reuters reported in December 2014 that “exactly how much support Iran has given the Houthis … has never been clear.” Moreover, the ships “suspected” of carrying arms are probably part of Iran’s anti-piracy patrol. (See Gareth Porter's "Houthi arms bonanza came from Saleh, not Iran.")
And let’s face it: the U.S.-backed Saudi war creates opportunities for al-Qaeda in the Iraqi Peninsula (AQIP) and ISIS, which the Houthis oppose.
The United States risks unlimited war with Iran by interfering in a civil war on behalf of malign outsider objectives. (It’s been droning Yemen since 2001.) By seeing the conflict through the Saudi and Israeli lens, Obama magnifies the human catastrophe.
Sheldon Richman keeps the blog "Free Association" and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society.

Friday, April 17, 2015

TGIF: Patience and Empathy: Keys to Presenting the Freedom Philosophy

It goes without saying -- I hope -- that we libertarians should be patient and empathetic when we talk political economy with nonlibertarians. Patience and empathy are generally virtues, of course, but libertarians have an additional reason to practice them in their political lives: they are keys to effectively presenting new ideas.
We ask a lot of people when we ask them to appreciate the merits of our political philosophy. (I’m assuming the goal is persuasion and not mere self-gratification.) We should think back to when we first encountered the philosophy. None of us started out understanding it. We had to read, think, and talk with people more advanced in their understanding than we were. Even a fledgling libertarian who starts out favorably inclined intellectually and emotionally to the philosophy needs time to digest the ideas. I can recall running newly acquired, but not-yet-well-understood, libertarian ideas by friends, parents, and siblings -- only to be stumped by their questions and objections. I had to go back to the books or my libertarian teachers for further study and contemplation. The process takes a long time. Leonard Read used to say it takes a lifetime, and I believe him. Keeping this truth in mind will help shape our approach to nonlibertarians. Don’t underestimate the persuasive power of empathy.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What the Hell Are We Doing in Yemen?

The U.S. government has charged into another civil war in the Middle East. When you find yourself repeatedly asking, “Will they ever learn?” the answer may be that the decision-makers have no incentive to do things differently. What looks like failure may be the intended outcome. Quagmires have their benefits -- to the ruling elite -- if American casualties are minimized.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yemen: Who's Who?

If you want to understand what's going on in Yemen, the location of the latest civil war into which the U.S. government has inserted itself, see Jonathan Marshall's excellent "How Washington Adds to Yemen's Nightmare" at Consortiumnews.com.

Friday, April 10, 2015

TGIF: Libertarians Must Get History Right

Understanding history as best we can is important for obvious reasons. It’s particularly important for libertarians who want to persuade people to the freedom philosophy. In making their case for individual freedom, mutual aid, social cooperation, foreign nonintervention, and peace, libertarians commonly place great weight on historical examples most often drawn from the early United States. So if they misstate history or draw obviously wrong conclusions, they will discredit their case. Much depends therefore on getting history right.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Real Nuclear Threat in the Middle East

To get a sense of how badly the regime in Iran wants sanctions relief for the Iranian people, you have to do more than contemplate the major concessions it has made in negotiations with the United States and the rest of the P5+1. Not only is Iran willing to dismantle a major part of its peaceful civilian nuclear program, to submit to the most intrusive inspects, to redesign a reactor, to eliminate two-thirds of its centrifuges, to get rid of much of its enriched uranium, and to limit nuclear research -- it must do all this while being harangued by the nuclear monopolist of the Middle East -- Israel -- which remains, unlike Iran, a nonsigner of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and faces no inspections or limits on its production of nuclear weapons.
This is something out of Alice in Wonderland. The Islamic Republic of Iran, born in 1979, has not attacked another country. (With U.S. help, Iraq attacked Iran in 1980.) In contrast, Israel has attacked its Arab neighbors several times its founding, including two devastating invasions and a long occupation of Lebanon, not to mention repeated onslaughts in the Gaza Strip and the military occupation of the West Bank. Israel has also repeatedly threatened war against Iran and engaged in covert and proxy warfare, including the assassination of scientists. Even with Iran progressing toward a nuclear agreement, Israel (like the United States) continues to threaten Iran.
Yet Iran is universally cast as the villain (with scant evidence) and Israel the vulnerable victim.

Friday, April 03, 2015

TGIF: Libertarian versus Welfare-State Property Rights

Last week I set out Auburn University philosopher Roderick Long’s argument that libertarianism can’t be reasonably dismissed as strange. (A modest objective, to be sure.) After all, Long writes, mainstream libertarianism holds that each individual has a right not to be aggressed against, aggression being defined descriptively (not normatively) as the initiation of physical force. What’s weird about that? To those who object that libertarians believe in only that right and no others, Long responds that other alleged rights, say, positive welfare rights, would have to conflict with the right not to be aggressed against, making for an incoherent theory. As I summed up the argument:
If people had rights in addition to the right to be free from aggression, that would indicate that they had enforceable claims against others whose alleged rights violation did not entail the use of aggressive force. (If it did entail the use of aggressive force, we would ... not be talking about an additional right.) That would in turn indicate that the one whose alleged other right is violated could legitimately use force to compel others to act in a certain way. (Remember, that’s an important part of what it means to have a right.) But since by stipulation those others had not used aggressive force, the force used against them in defense of the alleged other right would itself entail aggression.
In other words, Smith’s right to be free from aggression would clash with Jones’s proposed other right. That is incoherent, unless we dump the right not to be aggressed against -- which would open up a horrendous can of worms.
But that was only one half of Long’s paper. It’s worthwhile to look at the second half.