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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.

Friday, January 26, 2018

TGIF: The Voice of American Workers Is a Charlatan

Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed voice of American working people, has decreed that the prices of washing machines and solar panels shall rise.

So it is written. So it is done.

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, January 25, 2018

Protectionism, Freedom, and a Frustrating Day at the Pipe Shop

One of my haunts is a local tobacco shop, where I regularly drop in to smoke a few bowls of fine pipe tobacco and talk to a fine group of friends and acquaintances. I go there to relax, which is what pipe smoking is all about, but part of yesterday's visit was anything but relaxing.

I happened to bring up Trump's new tariffs on washing-machine and solar-panel imports, pointing out, of course, that the tariffs are a tax on American consumers and a slap at all Americans who don't make their living in the washing-machine and solar-panel industries. In other words, the special interests triumphed over individual and general welfare.

To my (naive) surprise, the small group of people sitting around what we affectionately call "the table of knowledge" couldn't believe what I was saying. They favored the tariffs because they believed Trump's action would help all Americans and punish the Chinese. That's all they "knew" or needed to know.

When I tried to explain that their belief was mistaken, they would not hear it. It had apparently never occurred to them that the action would harm consumers and Americans who make things other than the targeted goods, that is, the vast majority of the people in the country. (Some America First policy, right?)

It also never occurred to them that we live in a world of scarcity. If Americans and resources are employed to make washing machines and solar panels, they can't be employed to make other things. (That's physics as well as economics.) So my friends did not see that if we buy washing machines and solar panels from somewhere other than America, we can have them plus the other things Americans would produce. But if the government raises the prices of the imports to keep domestic firms going -- which is the point of tariffs -- we won't get those other things.

In other words, along with scarcity, my tobacco brotherhood had no appreciation of the division of labor.

They also did not see that if we have to spend more money on washing machines and solar panels, we'll have less money to spend on other goods and services, harming us both as consumers and as producers of those other goods and services. Nor did they grasp that tariffs reduce the number of dollars foreigners have with which to buy American exports or that an ensuing trade war would also harm American exporters.

To use Paul Heyne's expression, my friends were strangers to the economic way of thinking. They are hardly unusual in that respect. Most people have had no contact with the economic way of thinking when it comes to government policy, although they engage in it whenever they shop.

Think of what this means for the theory of representative democracy? Much of what the government does is interfere with our economic pursuits. Therefore, most of what "our" so-called representatives -- I call them misrepresentatives -- do is enact legislation consciously designed for such interference. That means candidates for office ought to be judged on what they know about basic economics and the consequences of interference. How can we expect people to be competent participants -- informed voters -- in this system if they don't understand the most basic economic principles?

Needless to say, the matter of individual liberty made no difference in the discussion. All they saw was Trump helping "Americans" and slamming foreigners.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Is Trump Planning a Tactical Nuclear Strike on Kim Jong Un?

From Business Insider:
The US has been quietly amassing firepower in the Pacific during a lull in tensions with North Korea, but recent developments on an under-the-radar nuclear weapon suggest preparation for a potential tactical nuclear strike. [Emphasis added.] 
The US recently sent B-2 stealth bombers to Guam, where they joined B-1 and B-52s, the other bombers in the US's fleet. 
While the B-2 and B-52 are known as the air leg of the US's nuclear triad, as they carry nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, a smaller nuclear weapon that has undergone some upgrades may lend itself to a strike on North Korea.
Color me skeptical, even in the Trump context. This is too crazy on many levels.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Friday, January 19, 2018

TGIF: Trump versus the World

According to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, somewhere President Donald Trump, instead of saying, “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries…. We should have more people from Norway.,” said, “Why don’t we allow more people from shithole countries to come here? They need a decent place to live and work and succeed. Their rulers hold them back. The Norwegians don’t need America as badly. After all, Norway ranks 25th in the Index of Economic Freedom. Let’s be compassionate toward the world’s poorest and most subjugated people. Besides, we’d also benefit from their coming to America.”

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, January 12, 2018

TGIF: Trump and No Silver Lining

I confess I was indulging in wishful thinking when I thought I detected a silver lining to Donald Trump's election as president. That's what comes of being an optimist and a libertarian romantic. Beware apparent silver linings; they may be fool's gold instead.

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!