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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, July 29, 2015

Obama and Kerry Play with Fire on Iran Agreement

Barack Obama and John Kerry are playing with fire. They presumably want Congress and the American public to accept the nuclear agreement they and four other governments struck with Iran, but they work against their own objective by accepting the false premise of their opponents: namely, that Iran's regime is untrustworthy, dangerous, bent on becoming a nuclear power -- and containable only by a U.S. readiness to wage war.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another Iranian Non-Threat


This image tweeted by Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has a lot of people upset. Is it supposed to be Barack Obama holding a gun to his own head?

What if it is? The picture is hardly threatening or aggressive in any way. After all, it's not a picture of Khamenei holding a gun to Obama's head.

And look at the text:
We welcome no war, nor do we initiate any war, but if any war happens, the one who will emerge loser will be the aggressive and criminal U.S.
That is not aggressive in the least. On the contrary, it rejects war. Who's been threatening war against whom? The U.S. government (along with Israel) has been threatening war against Iran. Even after the nuclear agreement was signed, Secretary of War Ash Carter reiterated that war against Iran is still an option. So all Khamenei is saying is that if the U.S. government starts a war, it will lose. It will be as though Obama had pointed a gun at himself and pulled the trigger.

In the past, Iran's pledges to retaliate if attacked have always been presented by the news media and politicians as though they were threats to initiate war. This is happening again.

When will the media and the hack politicians be straight with the public? Iran has threatened to attack no one, but the U.S. and Israeli governments, both with nuclear weapons, routinely threaten to attack Iran. Who is the criminal?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trump & the Establishment

Trump outrages the establishment because he's a caricature of it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

TGIF: Thought Crimes, Domestic "Terrorism," and Police Bullying

Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners because they were black has been charged by the central government with committing hate crimes. Words cannot adequately express the evil of Roof’s actions at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and no decent person would want to say anything that be could possibly be construed as sympathetic to this despicable human being. Still this must be said: the concept thought crime has no place in a proper system of law.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Free Association -- The Webinar

Lucy Steigerwald and I converse on topics of interest to libertarians every other Tuesday evening at Liberty.me The latest one was on the Iran nuclear deal, Israel, and U.S. hegemony. Listen here. The archive is here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No "Compensation" to Israel for Iran Deal

In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defined chutzpah as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan." Today we have a new paradigm for chutzpah: the Israeli government's demand for "compensation" from the American taxpayers for the Iran nuclear agreement.


Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Times of Israel that during U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter's visit the Israeli government would discuss the compensation that Israel deserves in order to maintain its qualitative [military] edge” over Iran. The Obama administration of course is amenable.

Why does Israel deserve compensation (in addition to its $3 billion in U.S. aid every year)? If anything, Israel should compensate American taxpayers!

Iran is not -- and was not going to become -- a nuclear threat. American and Israeli intelligence have said so repeatedly. 

But even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were right about Iran's intentions, he should be rejoicing at the agreement, under which Iran will get rid of nearly all of its enriched uranium and two-thirds of its centrifuges. Its nuclear facilities will be open to even more intrusive inspections than they have been under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Even its non-nuclear military sites will be subject to inspection, an intrusion no other government -- particularly the United States -- would accept. And that is just the beginning. Uranium-enrichment research will be restricted, and construction of a heavy-water reactor, which would yield plutonium, will be scrapped.

The term for these various restrictions begin at 10 years and lengthen from there, but this does not mean that Iran will later be free to do what it wants. As an NPT party (unlike nuclear monopolist Israel), it will always be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which certifies that Iran has not diverted uranium to military purposes. 

What did Iran get in return for those concessions? Iranian money frozen since the 1979 Islamic revolution will be released and the economic warfare perpetrated by the United States and the rest of the world -- euphemistically called "sanctions" -- will eventually be ended. 

In other words, Iran can rejoin the world economy -- its people relieved of cruel economic warfare -- if it gives up a weapons program it never had, never wanted, and did not plan to pursue. Those crafty Iranians! They acquired thousands of centrifuges as bargaining chips to be traded away for peaceful commercial relations with the world.

Israel's rulers, like their American supporters, say they have another reason to hate the agreement. (For my own far different reservation, see this.) "Giving" Iran all that cash (it belongs to Iranians) will let the Islamic Republic pursue its aggressive aims in the Middle East, which include helping Israel's enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Balderdash. Iran is not pursuing an aggressive policy in the Middle East, and it is sheer projection for an American or Israeli to make that charge. George W. Bush handed Shia-majority Iraq to Iran when he overthrew Iran's nemesis, Saddam Hussein. Barack Obama is siding with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq. Iran's ally, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, is under assault by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the United States. And the Houthis in Yemen, who get some Iranian help and are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have long struggled against the central government for self-rule, in response to which U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia is waging a bloody war of aggression. 

Iran has supported Hamas, although the Palestinian group (like Israel) opposes Assad. But Hamas exists to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Likewise, Hezbollah arose to resist Israeli occupation of and periodic attacks on southern Lebanon. While some of Hamas's and Hezbollah's tactics have indeed been atrocious, their raison d'être is opposition to Israeli aggression -- not terrorism.

There is no Iranian imperialism.

Nuclear Israel faces no threat. In the current turmoil it sides with Sunni Arabs, including al-Qaeda affiliates, against Iran, because turmoil serves Israel's interests and Iran is a ready-made bête noire. Why does Israel need a manufactured threat? Because if Americans knew the truth, they might focus on the Palestinians' plight. Israel and its Lobby cannot have that.

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog "Free Association" and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Key to Almost Everything

If Americans knew that Israel faced no threat, they might focus on the Palestinians. Can't have that.

Friday, July 17, 2015

TGIF: Rothbardian Thoughts on Strategy


In thinking about libertarian strategy, I find it useful to revisit the framework set out by Murray Rothbard in For a New Liberty (FNL). What counts here is not that Rothbard, a builder of the modern libertarian movement, was the author, but that it is an eloquent statement of a reasonable position on how libertarians should grapple with political reality as they strive for a totally free society.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Two Cheers for the Iran Agreement

The nuclear agreement with Iran is good for two reasons: it reduces the chance of war, and it promises relief from sanctions for the Iranian people.

Although American officials still say that war is an option, the chance has now shrunk. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that his military alone cannot deal a death blow to Iran. For that he needs America, and he’s far less likely to find a willing partner now.

That the Iranians will have sanctions lifted is something all humane people will welcome. President Obama says the sanctions “crippled the Iranian economy…. Their economy has been cratering as a consequence of the sanctions.” But he is wrong. “Economy” is an abstraction; it cannot be crippled or cratered. What has been crippled and cratered are the lives of innocent Iranians, who have had a difficult time obtaining food and medicines. The sanctions regime is a form of warfare against noncombatants. Moreover, as Gareth Porter shows, it did not even achieve what Obama says it was intended to achieve.

The good that will come out of this agreement cannot be overstated. The radically diminished prospect for war -- which would set the Mideast aflame and inflict hardship on the rest of the world as well -- and the improvement in the everyday lives decent Iranians are causes for rejoicing.

But the agreement has a significant downside too, in that it reinforces American hegemony. It does so by the very fact that the U.S. government is regarded by the media and others as the legitimate prosecutor, judge, and probation officer of Iran's government. The U.S. government, of course, commands overwhelming military power, and in that respect alone it has the ability to impose demands on others. But that does not mean an American president has the moral authority to do so.

By what standard of a morality may a government make demands on others when it has wreaked death and destruction on countless societies with its military might, including the dropping of two atomic bombs on innocent Japanese noncombatants; launched wars of aggression; supported some of the worst dictators in recent times; made possible the use of death squads and other forms of terror; tortured people; overthrown governments (including Iran’s in 1953) in order to install puppet regimes; underwritten aggressive wars (such as Iraq’s war, complete with chemical weapons, against Iran in the 1980s; Israel's against Lebanon, which spawned Hezbollah; and now Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen); facilitated or waged covert, proxy, and cyber wars (e.g., against Iran); and backed the occupation of innocent people’s land (most relevantly, Israel’s occupation of Palestine through ethnic cleansing and military conquest, which spawned Hamas)?

Iran never threatened the United States or Israel. It has not tried to build a nuclear bomb, and even if it were to do so, the weapon would be of no value except perhaps as a deterrent. Yet the nuclear-armed United States, and its ally Israel -- the Mideast’s nuclear monopolist -- haughtily presume to tell Iran what it may and may not do. The system of state sovereignty we suffer under is illegitimate, but as long as it exists, the U.S. government will only cause mayhem by violating the “sovereignty” of other nations. Under prevailing rules, Iran is a sovereign nation, so the U.S. government should have no more authority to demand that Iran open itself to inspections of its military and scientific facilities than Iran has to make that demand of the U.S. government. (Actually, maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing.)

It’s especially outrageous for Israel, which has aggressed against its neighbors, to stand in judgment of Iran. Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and was subject to inspections before the latest negotiations. Israel will not sign the treaty. It won’t even admit what has long been known: that it has hundreds of nuclear weapons, which were built with smuggled components thanks to the connivance of law-breaking American officials and supporters. Israel, like the United States, also opposes making the Mideast a nuclear-free zone, which Iran supports.

So lift a glass to the agreement. But let's not rest until the American hegemon is caged.

[Related articles: My "Can Iran Trust the United States?"; Richard Lachman, Michael Schwartz, and Kevin Young, "Why They Hate the Deal with Iran."]

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog "Free Association" and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What a Deal: Thoughts on the Iran Agreement

Those crafty Iranians. In return for relief from America's devastating economic warfare, they will give up a nuclear ambition they did not have. Boy did we get taken!

Damn, we didn't even get a chance to humiliate them! What's happening to America?

The necons fear that if Iran's assets are unfrozen, it will behave like the United States.

It's worth it to see the Lobby and necons go berserk.

While Obama brags about stemming nuclear proliferation, let him explain why he, like Israel, opposes making the Mideast nuclear-free. (Hint: Israel is the nuclear monopolist, having achieved that status by smuggling the components and breaking U.S. law with the connivance of American officials and other influential people.)

How dare Iran think it can destabilize the Middle East! That's America's role!

Next agenda item: dismantling the US nuclear arsenal.

Friday, July 10, 2015

TGIF: Libertarian Strategy and Incremental Change

My first job in the libertarian movement, beginning in 1979, was as research director for the long-gone Council for a Competitive Economy (CCE). It was an organization of business owners who opposed the sorts of government interventions that business owners typically favor: tariffs, import quotas, eminent domain on behalf of corporations (and anyone else, really), and bailouts. In other words, it was to be a principled -- pure -- pro-free-market presence in Washington, D.C, financed by business people. (In case you are wondering: yes, it was an early Koch-backed organization, and no, business people did not rush to join.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Thomas Friedman and the Wish for War with Iran

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times op-ed-page representative of the foreign-policy elite, is unhappy with how the soon-to-be-completed Iran nuclear talks are going. He says President Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, hasn't been tough enough. Obama holds all the cards, Friedman says, but somehow the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dictating terms. He writes:

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Anarchy Day


Stop compromising
Embrace the logic of 1776
Individualist Market Anarchism

Friday, July 03, 2015

TGIF: Clarence Thomas's Confused Notion of Freedom

Compared to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, his colleague Clarence Thomas is well regarded by at least some devotees of liberty. This is not totally unjustified. Thomas has demonstrated a familiarity with the philosophy and history of natural law and natural rights, which he (at times) sees rooted in individual persons. For this reason, in some areas he has opposed expansion of government power; for example in U.S. v. Lopez, he broke long precedent and held that the commerce clause of the Constitution is not a blank check to the government.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Scalia's Anti-Enlightenment Anti-Individualism

Conservatives warn that the so-called liberals on the Supreme Court endanger our liberties. This is certainly true, although not exactly as the conservatives mean it. Now it’s time for them to acknowledge that the court's conservatives do the same.

Case in point: Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges (PDF), the case that declared state laws forbidding legal recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional. Scalia’s opinion is worth examining apart from the particulars of Obergefell. As he points out -- let’s take him at his word -- what he objects to in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion has nothing to do with same-sex marriage per se. What concerns him is not the content of the opinion but the activity the majority engaged in to arrive at it.