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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, October 15, 2018

Interview on the Scott Horton Show

I talked about Trump's Middle East delusions with Scott Horton. Listen to it here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

TGIF: Trump's Middle East Delusions Persist

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump’s No. 2 special envoy to the Middle East behind son-in-law Jared Kushner, assures us that his boss’s plan to settle the Palestine-Israel “conflict” once and for all is still in the works and is going to be great.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, October 05, 2018

TGIF: Anarchism and Kavanaugh

Regarding Brett Kavanaugh, I’ve been wondering how I can blame the state for what we’ve endured these past weeks. I can safely say that without the state, we would have been spared the Kavanaugh episode.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Monday, October 01, 2018

Latest Interview

Scott Horton and I talk about Benedict Spinoza here.

Friday, September 28, 2018

TGIF: Spinoza – A Man for Our Troubled Times


In these interesting times, we all need someone to admire. I have found such a one in Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677), the 17th-century rationalist liberal philosopher who advocated freedom of thought and expression, toleration, and simple kindness.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, September 14, 2018

You Might Be an Anti-Semite

Kenneth Marcus, head of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, is the Jeff Foxworthy of the American Israelist movement. When he says, "If you do X (call Israel a racist endeavor, express sympathy for Palestinian self-determination, support BDS, and so on ad infinitum), you might be an anti-Semite," he means: "You're definitely an anti-Semite."

TGIF: Are We Sure It Can’t Happen Here?

One runs a risk whenever one cites the 20th century’s great terror states while discussing current ominous developments in the western democracies. Apparent comparisons of the United States or western and central European countries to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia will inevitably be hooted down with accusations of alarmist conspiracy-mongering and worse, shameful ahistoricity. Nevertheless, that must not keep us from noticing and pointing to contemporary events that bear an eerie resemblance, however slight, to things that went on in those totalitarian terror states. Such regimes don’t spring up overnight. They emerge, and looking at history, we can see that their more or less gradual emergence have telltale signs that we would do well to keep an eye out for. We can’t rest comfortably with the cliche that “it can’t happen here.” Yes, we risk overinterpreting events, but perhaps that is better than underinterpreting them.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Whom to Read Next?



When I am working on deciding on my next course of reading, it's as though the authors are standing before me to make their cases. Right now, Spinoza and Arendt are debating. Arendt is the more persuasive at the moment. I love Spinoza, but something in Arendt makes my core vibrate. It is something like excitement -- with a dash of fear. It's very odd.

I can accept a world of scarcity in all things except time.

Friday, September 07, 2018

TGIF: Trump, Spinoza, and the Palestinian Refugees

As though we had any ground for doubt heretofore, we can now clearly see — in light of his end to $350 million in annual humanitarian assistance to five million Palestinian refugees — Donald Trump’s cruel and spiteful nature.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Tyranny and Cooperation

Social phenomena -- both good and bad -- cannot happen without cooperation -- that is, without people doing things uncoerced. This is especially clear with bad phenomena. How much havoc could a Stalin, a Hitler, a Mao Zedong, or a Pol Pot wreak alone or with just a few trusted deputies? Obviously, a ruler needs many others to cooperate with him. Importantly, cooperation does not require understanding. Most people will not grasp the tyrant’s project, much less endorse it. But one way or another they will go along actively and passively (abstaining from resistance). Why? Because they have learned -- from parents, teachers, youth-group leaders, peers -- that that is just what one does: one respects the “law of the land,” which is seen as the will of the legitimate ruler(s) or of the people, depending on the reigning ideology, but is in fact merely a series of decrees (statutes, executive orders, etc.) widely believed to be authoritative. So coercion is unnecessary. But even when it is required, the tyrant still needs the cooperation of those called on to enforce the decrees. Should they defy their orders, the cooperation of others will be relied on to have those orders carried out. Etc. The ruled always outnumber the rulers. If no one cooperates, the tyrant must abandon his project or do his own dirty work. But that means the damage he could inflict would necessarily be small-scale. Moreover, acting alone, the tyrant would be exposed as a fraud, a mere freelance thug. In the end, evil systems can exist only because enough unthoughtful people cooperate with authority, unthoughtful in Hannah Arendt's sense, that is, in the sense that they never ask themselves if they have a better reason to respect the authority's decrees than “it’s the law.” I think this is what Arendt meant by “the banality of evil.”

(For more, see my "Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System!" and the chapter "The Constitution of Anarchy" in my book America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

American Herald Tribune Interview

Mohsen Abdelmoumen of the American Herald Tribune interviewed me recently on a variety of timely subjects. Read it here.

Friday, August 31, 2018

TGIF: Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism: The Invidious Conflation

I and others have warned that enactment of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act now before Congress would threaten free speech and free inquiry on America’s college campuses and beyond. As I’ve explained, this bill incorporates a conception — a “definition” plus potential examples — of anti-Semitism that conflates criticism of Israel’s founding and continuing abuse of the Palestinians with anti-Semitism for the purpose inoculating Israel from such criticism. Anti-Zionist Jews and others have objected to this conflation for over 70 years. 
What makes us so confident in predicting a threat to free speech?
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

TGIF: Defining Anti-Semitism, Threatening Free Speech


In May the benign-sounding Anti-Semitism Awareness Act appeared before the U.S Congress “to provide for consideration a definition of anti-Semitism for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws concerning education programs or activities.” 
No big deal? Let us see.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

TGIF: For the Love of Reason


Far be it from me to divide humankind in two, but were I so inclined, I’d divide it into those who love reason and those who are indifferent if not outright hostile to it. Members of the first group adore the reasoning process and their own reasoning faculties. The others find the process burdensome and discomforting, something that threatens long-held beliefs and intuitions. When I say the members of the first group adore their own reasoning faculties, I do not mean that they are arrogantly confident in their intelligence or immunity from error. Quite the contrary: a Spinozist love of reason contains within it humility, doubt, an awareness of one’s limits and fallibility, and a recognition of the inherently social nature of reason (and language) and the growth of knowledge.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Latest Bits

Just to catch up on a few things:

This is my latest appearance with Scott Horton; we discuss Khaled Al Sabawi's efforts to establish property rights for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Here is an audio version of my TGIF "A Glimmer of Hope in Bleak Palestine."

Here is my appearance with Scott Horton in which we discuss the historical and continuing dehumanization of the Palestinians.


Friday, August 03, 2018

Andrea Rich, RIP

The libertarian movement lost a giant this week, Andrea Rich, age 79, after a long battle with cancer. Working mostly behind the scenes, she accomplished more for the advancement of individual liberty than dozens of others combined. Andrea epitomized the strong, energetic, indefatigable, smart, principled, and entrepreneurial human being. She was also a long-time friend. I was honored to work with her on several fronts: the Foundation for Economic Education, Laissez Faire Books, the Libertarian Party, the Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, and more. She was one of the best people I've ever known. My deepest condolences to her husband, Howard Rich.

She will be badly missed.

Here are the obituaries at Cato and Reason.

TGIF: A Glimmer of Hope in Bleak Palestine

Khaled A Sabawi

The Palestinians' deteriorating conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip makes even long-term optimism difficult. Neither a one-liberal-state nor two-state resolution seems in the offing because (if for no other reason) either would seem to spell political suicide for any foreseeable Israeli government. The one-staters have a good argument against the two-staters and vice versa. Would it really be easier for an Israeli prime minister to evict 400,000 Israeli Jews from the West Bank (leaving aside the more than 200,000 in formally annexed East Jerusalem) than it would be to agree to one secular democratic state in which non-Jews would soon outnumber Jews if they don't already? I don't see it.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

TGIF: Depopulating Palestine, Dehumanizing the Palestinians

One might have thought that after the Nazi crimes against humanity in the 1930s and 1940s, dehumanization would have become abhorrent for once and for all. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. It has shamefully continued unabated, the various perpetrators including, with tragic irony, those who themselves were victims of Nazi dehumanization.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, July 20, 2018

TGIF: Trump and Putin – How about Getting Rid of Your Nukes?


The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of NATO, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), upgrading their nuclear arsenals, and eschewing arms control negotiations.
--"It's Two Minutes to Midnight," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
I, for one, was much disappointed by the Trump-Putin summit -- but not for the reasons most others were. I was not hoping that Trump would punch Putin in the nose or insult him or declare new sanctions. Nor was I hoping he would cancel the meeting.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Palestine Lost

To appreciate the enormity of the crimes against the Palestinian people, one must understand that while persons are certainly individuals, they are something more as well. That's what we mean when we use words like society,  culture, and people. What has happened to the Palestinians is not simply that some individuals were killed and others were driven from land their families had lived on and worked for 1,500 years. Those horrible things amount to only part of the atrocity that befell them.

The other part is the cultural genocide that has been perpetrated. Palestine was a vibrant cultural and economic center, with thriving cities and lush farms. It wasn't a "land without a people" or a savage-filled desert waiting for European Jews to make it bloom. We cannot understand current events in the Middle East without understanding that the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which began before 1948, meant so much more than just driving people from their homes. It meant eradicating the record and memory of a beautiful place (where, incidentally, Jews also could and did live in peace).

This documentary shows what has been lost.

TGIF: Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses

 
The Trump administration's "Deal of the Century" for the Palestine-Israel has, predictably, gone over like a lead balloon. So it's shifting gears. The Washington Post reports, "With President Trump’s promised Middle East peace plan stalled, administration officials are focusing on improving conditions in the impoverished Gaza Strip — a move that could put political pressure on Palestinian leaders to come to the negotiating table." 
Don't hold your breath.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, July 06, 2018

TGIF: The Trump-Kushner Delusion on Palestine

Here's a shocker: Donald Trump and his Palestine-Israel fixers think they can buy a peaceful and permanent settlement of the 70-year conflict by getting Arab governments to pressure the Palestinians into forgetting the "politicians' talking points" -- you know, superficial things like independence from the routine abuses and indignities of colonial oppression (that's right; the same trifles Americans celebrated on Wednesday) -- and focusing instead on what really matters: money, roads, and jobs.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, June 29, 2018

TGIF: Why Palestine Matters


Why does Palestine matter? It's a question I ask myself nearly every day. Another way to put it is, "Is the devotion of major attention to the plight of the Palestinians an obsession worthy of suspicion or an appropriate response to a grave historic and continuing injustice? 
No one will be surprised when I reply that major attention is an appropriate response. Palestine matters and should matter. I will try to explain why.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, June 22, 2018

TGIF: What Does Trump Have Against Children?

 
I hate the children being taken away.
--Donald Trump
Finally, a tweet we can believe. He does seem to hate those children. Trump does seem to hate those immigrant children; he must because they’re part of the “infestation” he’s so alarmed about.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fiddler on the Roof with a New Ending


Tevye the dairyman is packing his family's belongings because the tsar has just expelled the Jews from Anatevka. As he prepares to leave, a younger resident of the shtetl says, "Reb Tevye, look at the bright side. Beginning in about 50 years, our descendants will do the same thing to the people of Palestine. Won't that be wonderful?"

 Tevye smacks the kid in the face, sheds a tear, and heads for New York.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Logical Flaw in Immigration Law

Apart from the obvious rights violation, I see a serious flaw at the very root of immigration law. Let's begin with an indisputable point: no law passed by Congress and signed by a president applies to people on the far side of a US border. Logically, that must include laws against entering the US. Since the US government has no jurisdiction over people in, say, Mexico, someone who crosses the southern border cannot do so illegally because the law in question did not apply to that person when he or she was crossing. No jurisdiction, no illegal entry. That's just logic.

Well, the immigration-control enthusiast may respond, we can change the law to say that no one can stay in the US without papers signifying permission to do so from the proper authorities. (Leave aside the general question of proper authority.) Now we have a new problem. According to this position, Person A, having been born here, needs no permission, but person B, having been born elsewhere, does need permission and can be expelled without it.

But that's discrimination by the government and thus a violation of equality under the law, a core liberal value (as long there are governments making laws). On what basis is that discrimination perpetrated? On the basis of birthplace -- hardly one that can withstand rational scrutiny. No one is harmed -- in the sense of having his or her rights violated -- merely because someone who was not born here resides in the US without government permission. No harm, no foul. The policy is simply vicious discrimination.

I remind the constitutionalists that their beloved document makes no reference to birthplace in its clauses related to rights. Rights and protections against their violation are said to apply to persons, not citizens. See the Fourth Amendment. All persons, no matter their birthplace, have the same rights.

Therefore, all legislative diktats relevant to immigration control fail the test of reason and should be stricken forthwith. No US law could have been broken by the entry, and on the matter of who can stay here, the government has no good grounds to discriminate between people who were born here and people who were not.

Friday, June 15, 2018

TGIF: Trump, North Korea, and Iran

As one of the original settlers of the sparsely populated territory situated between the deranged and warring states of Antitrumplandia and Philotrumplandia, I'm breathing easier today. 
Anyone who longs for peace can only welcome what Trump and Kim did in Singapore this week. It's just the beginning, of course, and things could go south at any time, but -- and this shouldn't have to be said -- it's preferable to the other available alternatives. Trump's earlier threats were insanely reckless and risky, and I stand by that judgment. One cannot point to Tuesday as proof that Trump's initial stance was reasonable. No person with a gram of historical knowledge -- not to mention moral decency -- can think that peace-making required a threat to visit "fire and fury" on an entire society. In fact, Trump's threat did not get Kim to the table; on the contrary, Kim's nuclear tests
and South Korean President Moon got Trump to the table.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, June 08, 2018

TGIF: Separation, Not Association, Requires Force

Whenever I write about Palestine, Israel, and Zionism -- especially when I point out that American Reform Jews en masse gagged on the thought that America was not their "homeland"; they insisted they were Jewish Americans not American Jews -- I am lectured on Facebook about how "keeping to one's own kind" is a natural inclination and that inclusion, not exclusion, requires aggression. We shouldn't be surprised, then, that alt-right-types who may dislike Jews nevertheless respect their expressed desire to live among themselves in a Jewish State. Why wouldn't the alt-right take this position? Israel is a (pseudo)ethno-state. It is identitarianism run amok.
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

51 Years of Israeli Occupation


This is the 51st anniversary of Israel's 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinians. The so-called Six-Day War began the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai peninsula, which was eventually relinquished by Israel. It also continued the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began around 1948.

After more than half a century, should we continue to call this an occupation? Israel has annexed the West Bank, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem for those the state regards as Jews. The Gaza Strip is a prison camp into the which the guards do not go, preferring to gun down protesting prisoners and medics from a safe distance outside the fence while the authorities fully control the ingress and egress of people and goods like building materials, medicines, and other vital things. Every so often the Israeli Air Force bombs Gaza to smithereens.

Contrary to popular myth, it was not a defensive war on Israel's part. The top Israeli political and military leaders knew there was no existential threat to the country. For one thing, the leading Arab power, Egypt under President Nasser, was embroiled in a civil war in Yemen, not an opportune time to start a war with Israel.

But rather than rehearse the facts, I list here some pertinent articles I published in the early 1990s.

"Israel's 1967 Attack Was Aggression; Israel's Current Occupation Is Illegal"

 "The Golan Heights: A History of Israeli Aggression"

"US Journalists Consistently Ignore Israeli State Terrorism"

"'Who is a Jew' Matters in Israel"

 Here's a more recent account from Zena Tahhan, "The Naksa: How Israel Occupied the Whole of Palestine in 1967." See also Ramzy Baroud, "The Colonization of Palestine: Rethinking the Term 'Israeli Occupation.'"

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Decent Must Weep

Razan al-Najjar, 21
Razan al-Najjar, 21, a paramedic helping injured protesters in the Gaza Strip, was murdered by what Benjamin Netanyahu insists the Palestinians recognize as the State of the Jewish People.
How, in these conditions, can individuals who are not religious believers but simply humanists, democrats and liberals, and endowed with a minimum of honesty, continue to define themselves as Jews? 
--Shlomo Sand, How I Stopped Being a Jew
Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.
--Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu'a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population. 
--Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan

Friday, June 01, 2018

TGIF: How the US Created Israel and a Whole Lot of Trouble

Calvin Coolidge Signs Bigoted Immigration Act of 1924

Shlomo Sand, a remarkable scholar who studies how "peoples," including the Jewish people, have been invented through myths propagated by court historians and politicians, makes a startling yet obvious connection in his book The Invention of the Land of Israel (2014):

In fact, it was the United States' refusal, between the anti-immigration legislation of 1924 and the year 1948, to accept the victims of European Judeophobic persecution that enabled decision makers to channel somewhat more significant numbers of Jews toward the Middle East. Absent this stern anti-immigration policy, it is doubtful whether the State of Israel could have been established. [Emphasis added.]

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

TGIF: The Abused Jews of Iraq

From April 1950, two years after the Zionists in Palestine unilaterally declared the independence of the state of Israel, to March 1951, three bombs exploded among Jews in Baghdad, Iraq: one each outside a cafe on Abu Nawwas Street; at the US Information Centre, a popular reading place for young Jewish Iraqis; and outside the Mas'uda Shemtov synagogue, where Kurdish Jews worshiped. Suspicion was immediately directed at "an extremist Iraqi organization," David Hirst writes in The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East. These acts of terrorism, however, "were the work not of Arab extremists," Hirst continues, "but the very people who sought to rescue [the Jewish Iraqis]"
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thoughts on Palestine

Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump gestures as she stands next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun[/caption]
  • For the record, the children of Abraham didn't exactly acquire Canaan through Lockean homesteading. Joshua (assuming the fable is true) was a genocidal conqueror.
  • Revs. Robert Jeffress and John Hagee opened and closed the U.S. embassy dedication in Jerusalem. What's that make Netanyahu?
  • The Jewish and Christian Zionist alliance: for each side, a pact with the devil.
  • When you humiliate or ignore your nonviolent victims, don't act appalled or surprised when some of them turn violent.
  • When one group mistreats another group as the Israeli Jews have mistreated the Palestinians, the first group probably wants to cultivate extremism. The reason is no mystery.
  • If it quacks like a canard and waddles like a canard, chances are it's a canard.
  • Blaming the victim: the last refuge of a scoundrel.
  • Meet the new swamp, same as the old swamp.
  • Murder in Gaza, American groveling in Jerusalem.

Friday, May 18, 2018

TGIF: Shabbos with Zaide

In March 1989 the estimable magazine The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) published my article "Grandfather Sparks Interest In Debate Over Zionism" in its "Seeing the Light" series. (It was subsequently included in the WRMEA book Seeing the Light: Personal Encounters With the Middle East and Islam, edited by Richard H. Curtiss and Janet McMahon.)

The surrealism of this week's contrasting scenes in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli soldiers were murdering dozens and maiming many hundreds of unarmed Palestinians, and Jerusalem, where smarmy representatives of the Trump administration -- led by Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law -- flattered Israel's rulers while dedicating the new U.S. embassy, prompted me to post my 29-year-old article (plus an afterword), with the gracious permission of the Washington Report.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nakba Day, 2018

Palestinian_refugees

Yesterday was Nakba Day, the day set aside to remember the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 in connection with the creation of the “Jewish State” of Israel. Over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and villages, and many massacred, in an ethnic-cleansing operation that should shock the conscience. Hundreds of villages were erased and replaced by Jewish towns. The Arabs who remained in the Israeli state that was imposed on them by Zionist military forces have been second-class citizens, at best, from that time.

Since 1967 the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of whom were refugees from the 1948 catastrophe, have lived under the boot of the Israeli government. Their day-to-day lives are under the arbitrary control of the Israeli government. Gaza is an open-air blockaded prison camp subject to periodic military onslaughts (recently the Israeli miltary has been shooting unarmed Palestinians who get too close to the fence but also bombing), while the West Bank is relentlessly gobbled up by Jewish-only settlements and violated by a wall that surrounds Palestinian towns and cuts people’s homes off from their farms. For the Israeli ruling elite, the so-called peace process is a sham. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now in his unprecedented fourth term as prime minister and who has the full backing of the Trump adminisration, rejects any realistic plan to let the Palestinians go -- that is, have their own country on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He insists that they must recognize Israel as the Jewish state, that is, as the state of Jews everywhere, even though it sits largely on stolen property (PDF) -- which raises an interesting question: Is subjugation of the Palestinians an instantiation of Jewish values or is it not? If it is (as apparently most of its supporters believe), then what does that say for Jewish values? If it is not, then what does that say for Israel's purported status as the Jewish State?

Again, I note that the best short introduction to the catastrophe is Jeremy Hammond’s The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. Further, Hammond debunks the myth that the United Nations created the state of Israel.

Hammond

Additional reading: "Why the Inconvenient Truths of the Nakba Must Be Recognized," by Tom Pessah; "The Anti-Semite's Best Friend," by Jonathan Cook;  "Israel Must Recognize Its Responsibility for the Nakba, the Palestinian Tragedy," by Saeb Erekat; and "The sacking of Jaffa during the Palestinian Nakba, as narrated by three Omars," by Allison Deger.

(Versions of this post appeared previously.)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?



George Carlin was a brilliant observer of and commentator on our times. He was also a brilliant analyst of American English. But he didn't get everything right. No shame there.

In his funny routine about time he said we "invented" it -- that before we invented it, time did not exist: "We made that whole thing up. There is no time."

I can't agree. It is true we invented something relevant to time, but it wasn't time itself. What we "invented" was a labeling system, conveniently synced with the movement of the earth and moon, so we could organize our lives. Now it's light; whoa, now it's dark. It's not both at once. (No reason to belittle that, which I think Carlin wanted to do.) It is no point in his favor that different civilizations have had different labeling systems. They are all labeling the same thing; they just started at different points or had different methods of labeling.

But what we all label is real because even without a labeling system, there would still be past, present, and future; then, now, and not yet. Did we invent dogs because we "invented" the word dog? Would dogs not exist because a civilization had no word for them? Does it matter that different languages have  different words that mean "dog"? I don't think so.

We don't get born, live our lives, and die all at once. Each show Carlin did, like each of his bits, had a beginning, middle, and end. At every one of his appearances, there were jokes he told, was telling, and would tell. We didn't imagine that. Who would have paid big bucks for tickets if everything had happened at the same -- dare I use the word? -- time? There was a kind of real "space" (but not physical space) between each of the things I've mentioned.

Many things happen in sequence; that is, they require time. Even light has a speed limit, which means instantaneity is not absolute; as Einstein showed, it is relative to one's frame of reference. By the way, if time slows down as the speed of light is approached, it must be real.

Duration can be too small to notice, but it is there. I don't mean to say that things can't happen at the same time. You and I drop can watermelons at the same time, but they will need time to reach the ground.

Time is real, George, not an invention. I love you and miss you, but in this case you uncharacteristically sacrificed the truth for a laugh, for which I am happy to forgive you.

PeterMac Show Interview

The other day I was on the PeterMac Show. We discussed a most important topic: the source, or lack thereof, of political authority. We also discussed how to talk to nonlibertarians.

Listen here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

TGIF: To UBI or Not to UBI?

My son, Ben, asked for my take on Scott Santens's article "If You Think Basic Income is 'Free Money' or Socialism, Think Again," so here it is. 
Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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Friday, May 04, 2018

TGIF: A Public Choice Perspective on Trade

Let's say you could make a strictly economic case for government interference with people's trading activities, that is, with their ability to cooperate freely with others across the world. (I have no idea what "strictly economic case" even means, but stay with me.) Would we free traders have to give up? No way.

Why not? Because we could deploy solid persuasive public choice arguments against such interference. I like to think of the Public Choice school of political economy (Buchanan, Tullock, et al.) as emphasizing the incentive problem inherent in government policymaking. Where the Austrians emphasize varieties of the knowledge problem -- policymakers cannot know what they must know to plan our economic activities intelligently -- the Public Choice school focuses on, among other things, the perverse incentives that policymakers, bureaucrats, and citizens face.

Before public choice came along, people tended to operate on a public-interest model of policymaking. They simply assumed that when a man or woman moved from the profit-seeking private sector to the (misnamed) public, or political, sector, he or she suddenly became single-mindedly devoted to the public interest. Egoism gave way to altruism. (Note the additional assumptions that there is such a thing as the public interest and that "public servants" know what it is.) This devotion need not be examined or even questioned; it was axiomatic. If a politician was exposed as corrupt, he was merely an outlier, like the supposed lone "bad apple" who slaughtered noncombatants at My Lai during the U.S. government's war in Vietnam.

The Public Choice school questioned the hitherto unquestionable. Perhaps, its proponents said, if we assume that people acting politically are similar to people acting privately, we could make better predictions about outcomes. This simple move exposed the conventional perspective as naive. Of course, people are people, whether acting privately or politically. All are interested in looking after themselves -- in raising their incomes, influence, and prestige. Political actors are not issued halos and wings when they enter government jobs. But the resistance to the public choice orientation has persisted, and you can detect the opposing model every day -- most especially from newscasters and pundits.

I should add that Robert Higgs makes an important point on this matter. Yes, people are indeed people, but people who are attracted to power are not exactly like the rest of us. Lord Acton famously said that "power tends to corrupt," but Higgs adds, in effect, that power also lures the already corrupted. This makes the public choice case even stronger.

Thus the public choice and Austrian critiques together deliver a one-two knockout punch to government interference with social cooperation. Contrary to the civics textbooks and pundits, politicians and bureaucrats lack 1) insight into what's really good for us who constitute the public and 2) the incentive to pursue it even if they knew what it was. Even if voters sincerely intend to benefit all of society and not just their own personal interests (as Bryan Caplan suggests), that doesn't mean those good intentions will be carried into policy. Human beings enact and execute policies.

Now let's talk about trade. Gather round, folks, and I'll tell you the story of the great Chicken War of the 1960s. In response to lobbying by special interests, France and Germany raised tariffs on cheap American chicken imports. To "retaliate," the U.S. government put a 25 percent tariff on (all countries') light trucks, potato starch, dextrin, and brandy. The truck tariff, which was known as the "chicken tax," was specifically targeted at Germany. The chicken war lasted from 1961 to 1964, and then it ended -- except for one aspect. The tariff on light trucks stayed in place and exists to this day. (For an accounting of the significant unintended consequences of this tariff, see Bryce Hoffman's "If You Aren't Worried about a Trade War, You Don't Know about the Chicken Tax.")

If the truck tax was retaliation for the European chicken tariff, and the chicken tariff disappeared, why does the truck tax still exist?

It's not hard to answer that question. Behind the truck tax was a powerful lobby that didn't give a hoot about America's chicken farmers. That lobby enjoyed its protection against foreign pickup trucks, not only German but also Japanese. So why would the automakers want to let go of their shelter from competition merely because the chicken farmers were freed from their foreign tax? They wouldn't, and they didn't. As a result, Americans pay more for pickups than should have to. (Bryce Hoffman notes that the tariff would have disappeared with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

Note the public choice lesson. Bad unintended consequences will likely flow from government policy, regardless of intentions, because it will be driven by concentrated and well-organized special interests and politicians who usually will be more sensitive to those interests, which can deploy money and votes, than to consumers, who are diffuse and unorganized. (We might say that the consumers' interest is the best approximation of the public interest.)

That's only part of the picture. Whenever the government has the power to interfere with our trade, it also has the power to exert leverage on others, including other governments, that may have nothing to do with trade. Thomas Jefferson loved to impose trade embargoes, which he called "peaceful coercion." This week Donald Trump delayed for 30 days the imposition of new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. He also moved toward canceling those tariffs for Australia, Brazil, Argentina. Is he seeking something in return for scrapping the tariffs? Is he telling the Europeans that if they do not support his hawkish position on Iran, he will go ahead with the trade restrictions? What did he get in return from the other countries?

We don't know. But if Trump has the power to restrict trade, he has the power to forgo restrictions in return for other things he wants -- and those other things are unlikely to be good for most Americans, not to mention the rest of the world.

David Hume said that in proposing government policy, we should assume that the people who will carry them out are "knaves." That of course means trade policy too.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, April 27, 2018

TGIF: Trump and Syria

Let's face it: no one knows what Donald Trumps really wants to do in Syria. On a couple of occasions he's said he intends to withdraw U.S. military forces. Does he mean it? Or does he say such a thing only when he's in the mood to strike a populist pose? Who knows? (We know where his national-security staff and his new secretary of state stand: they want to stay in Syria in order to overthrow Bashar Assad and strike out at Iran and Russia. So why does Trump appoint keep them on if he really wants to withdraw?)

In true Trumpian fashion, after saying he wants out, he has contradicted himself. Just the other day, standing with France President Emmanuel Macron, he said, “We want to leave a strong and lasting footprint” in Syria. By what authority? Congress has not authorized it, and no authority exists under the UN bylaws. Obviously, the Syrian government has not invited the U.S. presence.

The AP reports that Macron said that "he and Trump now agree that the Syria problem involves more than Trump’s priority of ridding the country of Islamic State extremists." Translation: they want regime-change in Syria, something Trump campaigned against. The AP commented, "The two leaders indicated that they see Syria as part of a broader problem of instability in the Middle East, which includes Iran’s role in Syria and Iraq." I'm sure Russia is on their minds as well. The AP added, "That kind of strategic thinking bears little resemblance to Trump’s words in late March when he said it was time to leave Syria to others."

Sowing further confusion, according to the AP, "The White House stressed that Trump’s plans had not changed and he still wanted U.S. forces to 'come home as quickly as possible.'" Right.

Anyone who sees coherence here isn't paying close enough attention. But who expected coherence from Trump?

And of course Trump has twice launched cruise missiles at sites in Syria after undocumented claims that Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb. Other U.S. military action has taken the lives of Russians, which puts the lie to the claim that Trump is Vladimir Putin's puppet.

It's worth noting that both alleged chemical attacks occurred shortly after Trump declared his intention to withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria. This naturally raises the possibility that those attacks, if chemical weapons were actually used, were perpetrated by forces that wanted the Americans to stay -- that is to say, the attacks were not committed by Assad but by those who are trying to overthrow him and want American help. That would be al-Qaeda-related militants. After all, Assad is winning the civil war; at the time of the last alleged chemical attack, only one pocket of rebels remained in the suburban enclave. Why would he want to inflame world opinion, and Trump in particular, at a time like this? It makes no sense. Yes, people sometimes do things that seem to make no sense, but Assad has not acted suicidally in the past; why start when the U.S. president is talking about getting out?

Trump has never shown much understanding of the Middle East, or of anything else for that matter. During his presidential campaign he proposed restrictions on Muslim travel and even on American Muslims "until we can figure out what the hell is going on." To say such a thing in 2016 and beyond demonstrates supreme ignorance and a lack of curiosity. At least since 2001, well-informed individuals, including Ron Paul during his presidential primary campaigns, explained that U.S. intervention (such as is now occurring in Yemen, among many other places) is what inspires the wish to harm Americans. Trump would know this if he cared and was paying attention. But he does neither.

Trump might "think" (if this verb can even be applied to him) that a U.S. presence in Syria is necessary to protect the American people, but this idea has been debunked many times. U.S. brutality against Muslims is what explains Muslim violence against Americans. Intervention endangers Americans; it doesn't make them safe. If Trump believes U.S. intervention in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, etc. is necessary to prevent safe havens for terrorists, he need only do a little reading -- all together now: LOL -- to see otherwise. He could consult, for example, Scott Horton's "War Without a Rationale," in which he writes:
The September 11 hijackers, none of whom were Afghans, gained entry to the United States under regular tourist and student visas. The terrorists launched the attacks from Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey. They had planned them in Malaysia, Germany, Spain, California, Florida, and Maryland.
By Trump's (and many others') "logic," the safe-haven argument implies the U.S. military must occupy every country. I should be careful about giving them ideas, shouldn't I?

Trump could learn from recent history, but he has time for neither history nor learning. Nevertheless, it was intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria that converted a small group of terrorists (see Horton) into larger, even more-militant offshoots in a variety of countries, not to mention the horrific Islamic State.

We should stop trying to figure out what Trump wants with Syria because that is a pointless exercise. All Trump wants is power and adoration. At any given moment he does whatever he believes will achieve that.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Thomas Szasz: An Appreciation


Thomas Szasz (sass), the most underrated libertarian in modern times, was born this day in 1920 in Budapest, Hungary. He came to the U.S. at 18 and died in 2012. A psychiatrist by training and a practicing therapist and professor, Szasz was the world's leading critic of organized psychiatry and its coercive powers (involuntary commitment, forced drugging, etc.), as well as the most incisive opponent of drug prohibition and, generally, of what he called the "therapeutic state." He opposed political power because he believed in self-ownership, individual liberty, and human dignity.

Szasz burst on the scene nearly 60 years ago with his pathbreaking book, The Myth of Mental Illness, which argued that the mind, not being an organ, cannot be diseased; thus the term "mental illness" is a category mistake. What is stigmatized by that "diagnosis" is the "patient's" behavior that disturbs someone else. The switch from "mental illness" to "brain disorder" did not change the fact that what is typically bothersome is behavior (which may indeed be objectionable and even coercive). The attribution of such behavior to a brain state is an unproven and even unprovable inference. Human action has reasons, not causes, Szasz would say.

At Amazon.com you'll find a cornucopia of books demolishing the case for the state's deputization of physicians, particularly psychiatrists. A good book to start with is Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences, his magnum opus. You should also search his name at FEE.org for the columns he wrote while I edited The Freeman.

Meanwhile, to get a sense of what Szasz was about at the deepest level, see my "Szasz in One Lesson" and watch this interview I did with him.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

It Can't Be Said Too Often

When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.
--Herbert Spencer

Friday, April 13, 2018

TGIF: The Dangerous Deficit in Trade Understanding

I was chatting with my tobacconist the other day -- I have no rabbi, no priest, no minister, no imam, no chiropractor, and no lawyer, but I do have a tobacconist -- when it struck me that my trade deficit with him is astronomical.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, April 06, 2018

TGIF: Who's Afraid of Russian Propaganda?

If the reader will indulge me, I want to relate some further thoughts about the concern over Russia and the American political system. For the sake of discussion I will assume that expressions of this concern are sincere, that "Russia" did what it's alleged to have done, and that the American political system, over which officialdom is fretting, is generally wholesome. (In fact, I believe those assumptions to be rubbish.)

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, March 30, 2018

TGIF: Cambridge Analytica -- Bogey of the Week

The panic over Cambridge Analytica looks like an acknowledgment that Russiagate is a losing horse. 
CA is the latest excuse for Hillary Clinton's ignominious loss to Donald Trump, following "the Russians" and former FBI Director James Comey. Since those others haven't exactly carried the day -- still no evidence given against Russia and plenty of unflattering stuff came out about Trump when Comey was grandstanding -- it must have been time for a new tack. CA's psychographic microtargeting appeared to fill the bill.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, March 23, 2018

TGIF: The Iraq Invasion after 15 Years

On the 10th anniversary of the U.S. government's criminal, catastrophic, and still-to-this-day consequential war against Iraq in March 2003, I wrote:
It is no exaggeration to say that most news operations were little more than extensions of the White House Office of Communications. Abandoning even the pretense of an adversarial relationship with the government, the media became shameful conduits for unsubstantiated and outright false information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged threat to the American people. Included among the falsehoods were reports that Saddam had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, had trained al-Qaeda fighters, and had attempted to obtain uranium ore and aluminum tubes for nuclear bombs. 
Put bluntly, the disastrous invasion of Iraq, which was sold on the basis of lies told by President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, [CIA Director George Tenet,] Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and others might not have happened without the enthusiastic help of the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and others. The blood of more than a hundred thousand — perhaps more than a million — Iraqis and 4,500 [now nearer to 5,000] Americans is on their hands too.


TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Presumption of Innocence: Not Just for the Courtroom

Journalist Peter Hitchens wrote the following in the connection with the events in Salisbury, England, involving a former Russian double agent and his daughter, but it is worth keeping in mind always:

The presumption of innocence is not just a great liberty and defence against state power. It can also help investigators avoid the obvious conclusion, and carry on pursuing other lines of inquiry which might otherwise escape attention.

After all, isn’t the point of almost every detective story we read and see on the TV that the police tend to arrest the obvious suspect, and it is hardly ever the right one? As Sherlock Holmes used to say, as he began work with his magnifying glass, and his clients pressed him for an instant verdict ‘It is a capital error to theorise without data’. Also, it is amazing how wrong the obvious solution can be. I take the opportunity, yet again, to urge everyone to read Josephine Tey’s severely brilliant novel ‘the Franchise Affair’, in which dogged, sceptical inquiry reveals that something apparently impossible is true, and that the obvious, unpopular suspects in a crime are (in that particular case) wholly innocent of it. Once you have read it you will never view a criminal case or trial in the same way.