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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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why Assad Isn't "Our Son of a Bitch"

While Franklin Roosevelt may not have said that Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza "may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch," he probably thought it -- just as other presidents have had similar thoughts about myriad brutal rulers.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Trump's 9/11 Recollection

No, Muslims in New Jersey were not celebrating the Twin Towers attacks, but someone was. Writes Grant F. Smith:
[T]he highly documented five celebrants – later joined by two more from the same company apprehended after giving false information to law enforcement – were not Arab or Muslim.
The celebrants were – as noted here – all Israelis.
Also see this.

Not So Outside

We have to stay with Israel. Israel has been our one reliable partner in the Middle East. Israel has been terrific to us. Obama has treated Israel horribly. We have to stay with Israel and stay with them big time.... I’d really call up Bibi [Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu], who is a friend of mine and I’d call up some people and be very dependent on what Israel wants. You know if they really want certain things and they are deserving of certain things.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Competition, Cooperation, and Conformity

The opposite of competition is not cooperation (which is a complement of competition) but conformity.

My Trump Post Makes Newsweek

Click image

My post about Donald Trump's immigrant-deportation proposal was picked up by Newsweek. This screen shot is featured in an anti-Trump ad produced by presidential contender John Kasich. The ad, suggesting a comparison between Trump and the Nazis, has been widely discussed by news outlets and other sites. (HT: Joel Schlosberg.)


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Foreign Policy Comes Back to Haunt Us

From the start, opponents of the American empire warned that the government could not violate the rights of foreigners without eventually violating the rights of Americans. An excellent example is William Graham Sumner's post-Spanish-American War classic "The Conquest of the United States by Spain." The anti-imperialists were spot-on, and the evidence for their case keeps piling up.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

TGIF: Let the Refugees In

Hysteria over the Islamic State is now focused on the refugees seeking to escape the violence in Syria and Iraq. Predictably, the Republican-controlled House yesterday voted to increase background checks on potential refugees, a demand for omniscience that would amount to exclusion. The bill faces trouble in the Senate, however, and President Obama, who wants to admit 10,000 refugees over the next year, has threatened to veto it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Respond to the Paris Attacks

Look, even authoritarian and totalitarian states can't prevent domestic terrorism. What hope do relatively open societies have? Open societies abound with "soft targets," that is, noncombatants going about their everyday lives. They are easy hits for those determined to inflict harm, especially if the assailants seek to die in the process.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Uproot the Tree of Empire

The horrendous attacks in Paris are more fruits of the tree of empire and colonialism. Needless to say, this is not to absolve the immediate perpetrators but only to acknowledge that they did not act in a vacuum. They murdered, maimed, and terrorized innocents; however, they did not initiate the violence.

If you abhor the harvest, work to uproot the tree.

Friday, November 13, 2015

TGIF: Trump's Operation Police State

If elected president, Donald Trump says he would create a "deportation force" to carry out his pledge to expel more than 11 million people from the United States merely because they lack government permission to be here. "We have no choice if we're going to run our country properly and if we're going to be a country," he said during the Republican debate Tuesday night.

Wrong on both counts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Armistice Day, 2015

Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of the shooting in World War I. 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 11:11 a.m. (Get it? The 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.) 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

(Originally posted on Nov. 11, 2013.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Campaign Needs a Radical, But Sanders Isn't It

We could use a radical in the presidential race -- someone who really challenges the status quo -- but Bernie Sanders isn't it. Sanders of course calls himself a democratic socialist, but that tell us almost nothing. One gets the impression the socialist label was pinned on him and after resisting it, decided socialist sounded romantic and embraced it.

Nevertheless, whether you like socialism or not, Sanders's is not a socialist: he calls neither for nationalizing the means of production nor for replacing the market economy with central planning. Yet that is what socialism came to mean in the mid-20th century. Democratic socialism meant that socialism would be achieved through the ballot box.

It is worth noting that in late 19th- and early 20th-century America, socialism was an umbrella term that was also used by radical free-market, or individualist, anarchists like Benjamin R. Tucker and Francis Dashwood Tandy, who called his 1896 book Voluntary Socialism. A socialist then was anyone who objected that workers were cheated out of their full reward and that prices of goods were fixed above the cost of production; in contrast to state socialists, free-market socialists attributed these evils to "capitalism," by which they meant the system of government privileges for well-connected owners of capital.

What Sanders favors is an expanded welfare/regulatory state, i.e., more of what we have. When asked about socialism, he praises Medicare. Medicare, however, is not socialism, nor would single-payer for all be socialism. Under state-socialized medicine, government would own and operate the hospitals, and doctors and nurses would be government employees -- like the post office without competition. Under single-payer, government would pay the bills for private-sector medical care and impose controls that powerful interests would inevitably manipulate to their advantage. Sound familiar?

The welfare state was established by western ruling classes to tamp down discontent among the powerless that had the potential to turn revolutionary. The father of the modern welfare state, Otto von Bismarck, intended government-administered social insurance to keep the Prussian working class loyal to the regime and out of the Marxist and liberal (libertarian) camps. In England workers initially resisted the welfare state because it was seen as a move by the aristocracy to co-opt the labor movement, which sought to redress its grievances directly.

Sometimes Sanders says that being a socialist means merely that he's neither a Democrat or a Republican. That's not terribly informative. At other times he says it signifies concern about gross income disparities, the high cost of college, and the lack of access to medical care. Again, this doesn't tell us much since radical libertarians share those concerns. What's matters are the solutions. Two people can look at the same social problem and argue over whether the best approach is more government, less government, or no government at all. Sanders's preference, more government, would mean expanded bureaucratic control and special-interest "capture," i.e., more of what already ails us.

In 1986, Sanders said, "All that socialism means to me, to be very frank with you, is democracy with a small 'd.' I believe in democracy, and by democracy I mean that, to as great an extent as possible, human beings have the right to control their own lives." Considering that Sanders's program would empower bureaucrats rather than people, one could consistently endorse Sanders's objective while opposing his proposals. (See my "Free-Market Socialism.")

He also said, "What being a socialist means is … that you hold out … a vision of society where poverty is absolutely unnecessary, where international relations are not based on greed … but on cooperation … where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire."

Again, these are objectives that any radical free-market libertarian could embrace. Where Sanders goes wrong is in aiming to empower bureaucrats and politicians.

Sanders cannot or will not see that expanding the welfare/regulatory bureaucracy would not help those outside the ruling elite. Beefing up the state won't liberate us. Despite his intentions, Sanders is an unwitting defender of the status quo.

Where is the radical who will make the case for individual liberation and purely voluntary social cooperation through freed markets?

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!

Friday, November 06, 2015

TGIF: Who Supports the Troops?

A huge sign outside a local tire store really irritated me a couple of weeks ago. Its large letters blared: "WE SUPPORT THE TROOPS." I was tempted to get out of the car and demand that the owner tell me what he was actually doing besides displaying the sign, which probably didn't cost much in money or effort. I suspected that posting the sign was the extent of his "support," but I restrained myself and kept going.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

That Was Then

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

America's Non-representative War Government

"The success of government...," the late historian Edmund Morgan wrote, "requires the acceptance of fictions, requires the willing suspension of disbelief, requires us to believe that the emperor is clothed even though we can see that he is not.”

Representation is chief among those fictions.