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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, 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!