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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, December 29, 2006

End Slavery Registration Now!

Whenever U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who will soon chair the House Ways and Means Committee, calls for resumption of military conscription, a host of powerful figures, Republican and Democrat, civilian and military, chime in at once to repudiate his proposal. They respond that the U.S. military doesn’t need or want a draft. It’s good to hear them say that, and let’s hope they mean it. The draft has no place in a free society because it is slavery, the kind that can get you killed or put you in a position where you might kill someone else.

We opponents of the draft, however, would feel more comfortable if the people distancing themselves from Rangel would do something solid to show that they mean what they say. There’s a great way for them to show their bona fides: end draft registration.
Read the rest of my latest op-ed, "End Draft Registration," at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Income Tax Flim-Flam

For those who are interested in the flim-flammery of the so-called "tax protester" movement, i.e., that collection of con men who tell the gullible that the government never passed a tax on wages and therefore they can escape the tax with impunity, I recommend a July 31 New York Times story, "Facts Refute Filmmaker's Assertions," found here ($$).

A few tastes:
Not mentioned in the film is that Mr. [Aaron] Russo has more than $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, California and New York for unpaid federal and state taxes. Mr. Russo declined to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film....

Near the film's beginning Mr. Russo says, and others appear on screen asserting, that the Internal Revenue Service has refused every request to show any law making Americans liable for an income tax on their wages.

Yet among those thanked in the credits for their help in making the film is Anthony Burke, an I.R.S. spokesman. Mr. Burke said that when Mr. Russo called him asking what law required the payment of income taxes on wages, he sent Mr. Russo a link to documents, including Title 26 of the United States Code, citing the specific sections that require income taxes be paid on wages. Title 26 says on its face that it is law enacted by Congress, but Mr. Russo denied this fact....

One tax protester featured in the film, Irwin Schiff of Las Vegas, is now serving his third prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion crimes. Mr. Schiff introduced into his criminal case the notes of his psychiatrist, who wrote that Mr. Schiff was a successful tax shelter salesman until a con artist ripped him and his clients off. The psychiatrist concluded that Mr. Schiff became delusional, believing he alone could properly interpret the tax code, as a way to avoid acknowledging reality.

Later, one of Mr. Schiff's confederates, who was also later convicted and sent to prison, sent e-mail messages to supporters saying that the psychiatrist's notes were introduced as part of a ruse to help Mr. Schiff escape prosecution.

Praise the State

I believe the government-media complex quite likes when an old ex-president dies of natural causes. Short of an attack on our soil, nothing gives the power-worshipers such an opportunity to feed the public big doses of the secular religion we call statism. No matter how big a mediocrity a man (and perhaps soon a woman) may have been, if he has occupied the office of President of the United States, even if only for 2 1/2 years as the result of appointment by cronies, he becomes bigger than life, worthy of having his life examined as a Man of History.

In the case of Gerald Ford, a man who spent most of his adult life "reaching across the aisle" to impose laws on other people and taxing and spending their money, isn't it almost uncanny how destiny happened along and picked just the right man exactly when he was needed? And isn't it remarkable that in hindsight his decision to pardon Criminal-in-Chief Nixon (whose offenses, domestic and foreign, were endless) was the wise decision after all? (Why couldn't we see it back then?!)

I feel so secure knowing the locomotive of history is always on the right track, even when it doesn't appear that way. We can count on the government-media complex to be there to remind us just when we need reminding.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Excellent Income-Tax Information Website

I mentioned this below but I don't want it to get overlooked. For quick refutations of the major contentions of the bogus tax-protester movement, see this website. It's by a professor at the George Washington University Law School. He's apparently not a libertarian or anti-tax per se, but he exposes the baseless assertions made by people who prey on the gullible among libertarians.

Hat tip: Kent Hastings

I Remember Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford is gone. I can think of three positive things to say about him:
  • I'm not sure he ever really wanted to be president.
  • In 2 1/2 years he vetoed 66 bills.
  • He was a pipe smoker.
When Ford took office, I did something I had never done before and haven't done since. I wrote to a president of the United States. In remarks Ford vowed to unite the country (going from memory here): "Christians, Muslims, Jews, and atheists -- if there are any atheists left after what we've been through."

I pointed out that he never would have thought to say "if there are any Jews left after what we've been through" and that atheists were as deserving of not being insulted as Jews were. I noted that there are atheists who believe in individual rights and private property.

I got a form thank-you letter.

Finally, he was the only sitting president I ever saw in person -- not that that's a big deal or anything. But there it is.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Tax-Protester Movement

Updated 12/27/06

In this post I linked to three articles of mine titled "Beware Income-Tax Casuistry," which were first published in Freedom Daily (The Future of Freedom Foundation) and now are posted on FFF's website. In these articles I make several points, namely, that:

1) while the income tax is immoral and illegitimate (in the sense of violating individual rights and natural law), it is not unconstitutional or "illegal" (in the narrow sense of being an enactment of government).

2) the courts have consistently held that the U.S. government -- from the founding -- had a "plenary" and "all-embracing" power of taxation; that is, it had the constitutional authority to tax anything and everything, including incomes, subject to two restrictions.

3) the Sixteenth Amendment had one purpose: to remove one of those restrictions. In other words, the Sixteenth Amendment did not give the federal government a power it did not possess previously. It only let the government impose a tax on some kinds of income (from real and personal property) in a way it was prohibited from doing previously. In still other words, the Amendment was not needed to permit the taxation of income from labor. As a corollary and contrary to popular belief, no Supreme Court ever ruled that a tax on wages was unconstitutional.

4) most of the claims of the so-called tax-protester movement (TPM) are bogus, specifically, the claim that the income tax -- as currently enforced -- is unconstitutional.

Also implied, but not discussed, in the article is that by conventional legal and constitutional (though not by libertarian) standards, the government has indeed imposed a tax on incomes "from whatever source derived." This view is contrary to the TMP, which has turned out reams of paper arguing that in fact there is no income tax on the books and that if there is, it is illegal and unconstitutional.

Having read much of the TPM literature and the relevant court cases, I find no merit to their arguments. I wish it were otherwise. I would love to be able to believe that the government never really passed the tax, or passed it in a way that honest courts would find illegitimate. But it's not true.

This has upset some people. Why do I raise the issue? I do so because, first, I don't want to see gullible and wishful-thinking libertarians led astray. They might go to prison if they pursue courses of action endorsed by the TPM.

Second, the movement discredits serious libertarian objections to taxation and government -- so much so that were I conspiracy-minded, I would suspect the TPM was an IRS front set up to subject libertarians to ridicule. That's how ridiculous its grounds for protest are.

As I say in the article, we won't beat the income tax by legal sleight of hand before some judge. We'll only beat it by convincing a critical mass of people that taxation is theft and that government is organized aggression.

Make no mistake about it: I believe the income tax (like all taxation) is theft and in conflict with natural rights and natural law. But something immoral can be constitutional and "legal." Libertarians shouldn't have to be reminded of that.

For more information see this excellent website.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Our Enemy the State

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek reprints a priceless letter from today's Washington Post. I can't resist:
America's Red Ink

Sunday, December 24, 2006; B06

The largest employer in the world announced on Dec. 15 that it lost about $450 billion in fiscal 2006. Its auditor found that its financial statements were unreliable and that its controls were inadequate for the 10th straight year. On top of that, the entity's total liabilities and unfunded commitments rose to about $50 trillion, up from $20 trillion in just six years.

If this announcement related to a private company, the news would have been on the front page of major newspapers. Unfortunately, such was not the case -- even though the entity is the U.S. government.

To put the figures in perspective, $50 trillion is $440,000 per American household and is more than nine times as much as the median household income.

The only way elected officials will be able to make the tough choices necessary to put our nation on a more prudent and sustainable long-term fiscal path is if opinion leaders state the facts and speak the truth to the American people.

The Government Accountability Office is working with the Concord Coalition, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and others to help educate the public about the facts in a professional, nonpartisan way. We hope the media and other opinion leaders do their part to save the future for our children and grandchildren.


Comptroller General of the United States

Government Accountability Office


It's Good to Be the King

The President gets what he wants. Headline from today's New York Times:

Commander Said to Be Open to More Troops
The American military command in Iraq is now willing to back a temporary increase in American troops in Baghdad as part of a broader Iraqi and United States effort to stem the slide toward chaos, senior American officials said Saturday. . . .

Until recently, the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., has argued that sending more American forces into Baghdad and Anbar Province, the two most violent regions of Iraq, would increase the Iraqi dependency on Washington, and in the words of one senior official, “make this feel more like an occupation.”

But General Casey and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has day-to-day command of American forces in Iraq, indicated they were open to a troop increase when Mr. [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates met with them in Baghdad this week.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

End Draft Registration Now!

When U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel calls for resumption of the draft, everyone else in power says it is unnecessary and would even be bad for the all-volunteer force. George II presumably agrees. (A president running an unpopular war with his approval ratings could hardly afford to support conscription.)

Fine. If they all really mean it, let them end draft registration. Bush can do this by executive order. The incoming congressional leadership should call on him to do it. If there is no need for a draft -- there can't be; it is slavery, after all -- there is no need for registration.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Habeas Corpus Suspended

I wanted to belatedly acknowledge a federal court's acquiescence in Congress's and George II's effective suspension of habeas corpus for noncitizens under the Military Commissions Act. The story is here. The Constitution (for what it's worth) says habeas corpus can be suspended by Congress (not the president) only during an invasion or rebellion. I don't recall either having happened. But that didn't stop the anti-freedom conspirators in Washington from pulling off the feat. There is now probably nothing to stop George II from consigning noncitizens to life imprisonment for any reason whatever, since the courts have been denied jurisdiction over such matters. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly have something to say about this -- but I wouldn't expect it to be anything good.

To Them It's Always Worth It

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Iraq is "worth the investment." That means she's all for having American and Iraqi lives and $8 billion a month blown on George II's harebrained adventure. Here she echoes her predecessor Madeleine Albright, who thought the deaths of hundreds of thousand of Iraq children from economic sanctions was worth "it"-- "it" being regime change. (Whoops! I guess those kids died in vain.) Do these people have no sense of decency?

In other News of the Empire, newly installed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says "we need to make damned sure that the neighbors understand that we're going to be here a long time -- here being the Persian Gulf." How would George II react if, say, the president of Iran sent ships to the Gulf of Mexico and made the same sort of statement?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Today's the first anniversary of Free Association! Whoopee! I just thought I'd mention it. Okay, go back to what you were doing.

Beware Income-Tax Casuistry


The Future of Freedom Foundation has posted at its website my three-part series "Beware Income-Tax Casuistry." In that series I analyze the claim that the income tax is unconstitutional and illegal. The results might be other than you'd expect. Just because the income tax is immoral and illegitimate doesn't mean it is unconstitutional and illegal. See what you think. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

This series has upset more than a few members of the tax-protestor movement. It's gotten me denounced as an impostor and an ignoramus. If I were conspiracy-minded, I'd suspect that the tax-protest movement was an IRS front set up to discredit serious libertarians.

Full Speed Ahead

George II wants to increase the size of the armed forces. I guess that means the Empire won't be winding down any time soon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm Person of the Year!

And so are you. Time magazine says we all are. Why? Because the World Wide Web let's us all determine the shape of the new media. Or something like that. I couldn't read the insipid thing. Anyway, if everyone is person of the year, then no one is. That's fine. It reminds me of W.S. Gilbert's lyric from The Gondoliers:
When every one is somebodee,
Then no one's anybody!
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pinochet and Friedman

Brian Doherty of Reason has a thoughtful piece on the "relationship" between the right-wing Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and Milton Friedman. The typical left and right analyses of Pinochet and the economic policies followed by his regime are inexcusably simplistic. So Doherty's take is a welcome example of care and nuance.

His conclusion:
Undoubtedly, Friedman’s decision to interact with officials of repressive governments creates uncomfortable tensions for his libertarian admirers; I could, and often do, wish he hadn’t done it. But given what it probably meant for economic wealth and liberty in the long term for the people of Chile, that’s a selfish reaction. Pinochet’s economic policies do not ameliorate his crimes, despite what his right-wing admirers say. But Friedman, as an economic advisor to all who’d listen, neither committed his crimes, nor admired the criminal.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Iraq Study Group: Death by Consensus

When John Kerry came back from fighting in Vietnam, he famously inquired, How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake? Regarding the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a lot of people would like to know, How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bipartisan compromise?
The rest of my op-ed "Death by Consensus" is at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Who or What is Heating up the Earth?

From the Telegraph, November 12:
Mankind has had less effect on global warming than previously supposed, a United Nations report on climate change will claim next year.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.

In a final draft of its fourth assessment report, to be published in February, the panel reports that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has accelerated in the past five years. It also predicts that temperatures will rise by up to 4.5 C during the next 100 years, bringing more frequent heat waves and storms.
The panel, however, has lowered predictions of how much sea levels will rise in comparison with its last report in 2001.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Support This

Watch the video below and see if you can figure out why most Iraqis see nothing wrong with killing Americans. Support the troops? Bah!

Hat tip: Rad Geek.

Liberaltarians? Really?

The Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey has caused a stir by proposing, in a New Republic article, an alliance between libertarians and "liberal" Democrats. (The article is here at the Cato site.) The blogosphere has been busy dissecting his thesis, wondering if either libertarians or Democrats really have anything to gain by such an alliance. I'm not sure what a formal alliance would look like, but I am in favor of ad hoc partnerships on particular issues of common interest. I can see joint efforts to beat back Republican proposals to illegalize abortion and gay marriage, to step up the "drug" war, to extend the Empire, etc. Whether liberal Democrats are really with us on these issues is not exactly clear, but they should be given a chance to prove their bona fides.

I'm bothered, however, by other things Lindsey says. For example:
The basic outlines of a viable compromise are clear enough. On the one hand, restrictions on competition and burdens on private initiative would be lifted to encourage vigorous economic growth and development. At the same time, some of the resulting wealth-creation would be used to improve safety-net policies that help those at the bottom and ameliorate the hardships inflicted by economic change. [Emphasis added.]
This really misses the bus. Libertarians need to be investing their energies in demonstrating that the hardships inflicted by economic change would be ameliorated by full economic freedom. In other words, libertarians must emphasize that the current corporate state is shot through with anti-competitive privileges (subsidies, trade restrictions, regulations, and taxes) that raise the cost of starting businesses and in turn limit the opportunities -- including self-employment opportunities -- of average workers, who otherwise are stuck with too few options. Republicans and Democrats tend not to care about such privileges. Democrats who say they bleed for the downtrodden are particularly culpable. They whine about the minimum wage being too low, but they won't lift a finger to do what is really necessary to enable the most vulnerable to advance. These include wholesale elimination of licensing and permitting, and all the other devices that by nature favor incumbent firms over start-ups.

Lindsey writes that "progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally." Assuming he's referring to genuinely good-faith "progressives" and not Democratic pols, there's no mystery to be solved here. Good-faith progressives shun capitalism because historically capitalism has been associated with not laissez faire but state privileges for capitalists. Why shouldn't they resist it? The great nineteenth-century libertarians, such as Benjamin Tucker, called themselves socialists for this very reason. They wanted nothing to do with capitalism.

Until libertarians emphasize their opposition to all corporate welfare kings at least as much as they emphasize their opposition to inner-city welfare queens, they will continue to alienate genuine progressives.

To his credit, Lindsey mentions corporate welfare, specifically farm and energy subsidies. But analysis of the corporate state must go deeper than that. Privilege pervades the economic system. Any regulation or tax is a lighter burden on a large established firm than it is on a small company or not-yet-started company. The system is one big privilege. The government's land holdings and land-use restrictions are part of that system. We have to say it often and say it loud. Laissez faire is anti-privilege in all forms.

I should also mention that so-called government safety nets have historically been used to control the poor. Rather than become a member of a "strengthen the safety net" coalition, libertarians should be talking about mutual aid, both the theory and the rich history. (Here's a good place to start: David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.)

Lindsey writes:
Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don't do it when they're being productive. Tax them instead when they're splurging--by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody's energy consumption.
This isn't a compromise with "liberals." It's a wholesale embrace of social engineering. It's not just that taxation is theft; it's that Lindsey accepts the tax system as an engine of behavioral modification. Why the puritan notion of taxing consumption? What's wrong with consumption? That's why we produce, dammit! As an aside, the first President Bush tried taxing luxury goods, but the Democrats repealed the tax when they realized it hurt workers who build yachts and the like.

What gets taxed is less important that the total take, but on this issue, Lindsey throws in the towel.
With millions already dependent on the current programs, and with baby boomers beginning to retire in just a couple of years, libertarians' dreams of dramatically shrinking federal spending are flatly unrealizable for many years to come.
If libertarians merely forge an alliance to shape the existing level of spending, that dream will never be realizable. The time to talk about slashing spending and taxation is now.

Finally, I note for the record that anti-imperialism is not part of Lindsey's coalition program. He does list "extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and . . . an atrociously bungled war in Iraq"in his indictment of the Republicans, but that falls short of opposition to Empire. Didn't he favor the Iraq war? Yes, he did.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Global Warming and the Layman

Global warming is a divisive issue. People are either believers or skeptics, with each side viewing the other with apprehension. I've sided firmly with the skeptics, but lately I have had a nagging concern. Like most people, I am not an atmospheric scientist. I have no firsthand way to evaluate a scientific claim for or against the existence of global warming. So what grounds have I for believing what one scientist says against the thesis over what another one says in favor of it?

No good grounds at all. . . .

This much I know: these are highly complex empirical questions. They are not a political, ethical, or ideological questions. Thus the answers must be left to the scientific process, preferably untainted by government control.

In the meantime, laymen committed to individual freedom have their own question to attend to: If potentially harmful manmade climate change is occurring, how can it be addressed without violating liberty?
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report

About the Vietnam war, John Kerry wanted to know: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?

About the Iraq Study Group report, I want to know: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bipartisan compromise?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In the Freelance Nuclear Age, the State Is a Liability

Except for government’s coercive monopoly, there is no reason that entrepreneurship couldn’t provide defense against a nuclear threat. If there’s a way to protect ourselves from rogues with nukes, the free market will find it.
Read the rest of my article "In the Freelance Nuclear Age, the State Is a Liability" at the website of the Center for a Stateless Society.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is Any War Civil?

Whether Iraq is embroiled in a civil war is a matter of some controversy. News organizations such as NBC have dramatically announced that, indeed, it is. Pundits solemnly the debate the question on cable news talk shows. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says yes. Present Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says no.

Of course, the president of the United States agrees with Rice. He has two good reasons for doing so. If President Bush admits we have a civil war on our hands, the American people will (1) know that the Bush doctrine is a big flop, and (2) wonder why we should stay in Iraq.

So what sounds like a debate over semantics is really a matter of politics.
The rest of my latest op-ed is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Is It Time to Get Mad Yet?

From the Associated Press (free registration):
Without notifying the public, federal agents for the past four years have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.
See Glenn Greenwald's extended comment here. A sample:
There is more than ample ground for believing that this administration has engaged in all sorts of wrongdoing and lawbreaking. Even if that were not the case, there are all sorts of questions that ought to be publicly debated, not decided by Dick Cheney in the dark. There is no good or even decent argument -- none -- for believing that those matters ought to be simply left unexplored and undisturbed by Congressional Democrats due to some unseemly eagerness to show how "moderate" they are in order to maximize their prospects in the 2008 elections.

Smoot to Hawley to Hoover

From Daniel Gross:
In coming months, we're sure to hear a great deal of talk tarring Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the present-day incarnations of Sen. Reed Smoot and Rep. Willis Hawley, the sponsors of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. But Smoot and Hawley were both Republicans. And so was the president whose signature turned the bad legislation into a disastrous law. The protectionist gene may no longer be dominant among Republicans, but it's still an important part of the GOP's DNA.
Read the rest at Slate.com.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jesse Jackson: Keeper of the English Language

John Ridley:
The big news coming out of this meeting of minds [between Jesse Jackson and Michael Richards] is that Jackson, as supreme leader of all things black, has launched Operation N-word Freedom, a campaign to liberate the nation (finally!) from the dreaded N-word. Jesse now challenges all black people everywhere to "give our ancestors a present." No, not the gift of elevation though education and hard work. Jesse wants us to stop using hurtful words.

Jesse wants this?

Jesse Jackson, the same cat who once referred to Jews as "hymies" and New York as "Hymietown"? This same guy who denied it when the statement was made public, kept up the denial after the journalist who reported his slur had his life threatened, and only under immense pressure finally admitted that, well, perhaps he'd made a slip of the tongue? Twice?

And he wants to lecture us regarding the usage of hurtful words?

I am all for having open and intelligent discourse on the word "nigger." What I am wholly against are hypocrites who sling hate in private, then smile to us while they lie, telling the rest of us that intellectual debate is closed.

Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but the America I support through paying taxes in my over-inflated bracket allows me not to bow down automatically to your linguistic fatwas. Not all of us quake and quiver before mere words.
Read the rest of John Ridley's Los Angeles Times op-ed, "No More Edicts, Jesse," here.

What's Wrong with America

We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.
This is from Diane McWhorter's article "The N-Word: Unmentionable Lessons of the Midterm Aftermath," at Slate.com. Highly recommended.

Recent Writings

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial nicely illustrates how Washington works. The Bush administration has been pushing for a measure to "normalize" trade relations with Vietnam. (Normalize is a Washington term that does not mean free trade.) Congress said no just as President Bush was preparing to visit that country last week, a major embarrassment for the administration. But as the Journal pointed out, "[T]his failure is an even bigger fiasco than it appears because of the White House's pandering to the U.S. textile industry. It's a case study in how protectionists never stay bought."
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.

* * *
The war in Iraq goes on, but we shouldn’t let it overshadow the war at home — one that frequently takes the lives of people who don’t deserve to die. It’s known as the War on Drugs, but it’s really a war on people who themselves are not making war against anyone. Too often individuals minding their own business are killed by government officers. In the name of decency, this war must end.

By now many people have heard that an 88-year-old Atlanta woman who lived alone was shot dead November 21 by police raiding her home on the basis of a confidential informant’s claim that he had bought crack cocaine from a man at that location. However, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the unidentified informant says the police told him after the shooting to lie about the drug buy.

Read the rest of my latest op-ed at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The War on Drugs Claims Another Life

Once again the idiotic and misnamed War on Drugs has claimed the life of someone minding her own business, this time a frail 88-year-old woman who lived alone in Atlanta. A narcotics squad broke into Kathryn Johnston's home the night of November 21. She greeted the intruders with fire from the rusty pistol her niece gave her for protection in her bad neighborhood. Although she wounded three policemen, the officers returned fire and killed her.

The police say they obtained a no-knock warrant after an unidentified informant told them he bought crack cocaine from a man at Johnston's home. But later the informant told a television reporter he was instructed by the police to make up the whole story. See the details here.

What is there to say? Such atrocities almost certainly wouldn't be happening but for drug prohibition, which has turned the police into out-of-control paramilitary organizations.

For the low-down on this alarming development, see Radley Balko's Cato White Paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America." And for updates on the continuing story in Atlanta, visit Balko's blog, The Agitator.

Civil War Or Not?

Is a civil war going on in Iraq? Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow says no. He defines "civil war" as a situation in which "people break up into clearly identifiable feuding sides clashing for supremacy within the land."

According to Snow, that's not what is going on in Iraq, but it does characterize what happened during the American civil war.

What? Will Snow say anything to justify his boss's policies?

By Snow's definition, Iraq clearly is having a civil war, but the United States did not. What we call a civil war in U.S. history was a war to stop a secession. Feuding sides were not clashing for supremacy within the land. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were not trying to conquer Washington and rule the United States. On the contrary, people in one part of the country were trying to dissociate from the other part and set up their own country. How's that a civil war?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Social Justice?

Roderick Long has followed up his post on the potential for a libertarian/green alliance with some comments on social and economist justice prompted by his reading and favorable reaction to Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

The bulk of the book is devoted to a description of the problems [faced by low-income people], and there’s nothing sneerworthy about that. And libertarians will win few supporters so long as they continue to give the impression of regarding the problems Ehrenreich describes as unimportant or non-existent. If you’re desperately ill, and Physician A offers a snake-oil remedy while Physician B merely snaps, “stop whining!” and offers nothing, Physician A will win every time.
Read it here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Can't We All Just Get Along?

A thought-provoking post on the possibility of a green-libertarian alliance is here at Roderick Long's website, Austro-Athenian Empire. There's much to take in here, but I'd like to think Roderick is right.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

So Rush Limbaugh Really Was a Republican Shill

I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.

Misplaced Nostalgia

Before we get too nostalgic about the foreign-policy prowess of the George H.W. Bush administration, we should remind ourselves of what happened from 1989 through 1992. I understand that, compared to the bunch running things now, nearly anyone would look good. But I sense almost a giddiness about the supposed return of the Bush 41 team, primarily through James Baker’s Iraq Study Group and in Robert Gates, who will almost certainly succeed Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. “Giddiness” isn’t an overstatement. About the only criticism of the 41 team is coming from unreconstructed neoconservatives who sense that their messianic worldview is becoming passé.
The rest of my latest op-ed is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Economic Nationalism, Enemy of the People

"With the 2006 election, America appears to have reached the tipping point on free trade. . . . Anxiety, and fear of jobs lost to India and China, seems a more powerful emotion than gratitude for the inexpensive goods at Wal-Mart. The bribe Corporate America has offered Working America -- a cornucopia of consumer goods in return for surrendering U.S. sovereignty, economic security and industrial primacy -- is being rejected." So writes conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan in his post-election analysis. Buchanan may be right. Free traders -- those who reject the bogus idea of a "national economy" -- should be nervous.
The rest of the latest TGIF column is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Take it from a Real Authority

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales contended Saturday that some critics of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program were defining freedom in a way that poses a "grave threat" to U.S. security....

Gonzales told about 400 cadets from the Air Force Academy's political science and law classes that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.

"But this view is shortsighted," he said. "Its definition of freedom one utterly divorced from civic responsibility is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."
From the Associated Press.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

Milton Friedman was the most prominent voice for individual liberty and free markets in my lifetime. I disagree with some of his positions and foundational thinking on economic theory, but there is no denying that for the last half-century, he did more to bring the case for freedom to the public than anyone. He was a beacon, an inspiration to young libertarians and others.

My tribute to Friedman, co-written with Richard Ebeling, is here at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

P.S.: One cannot overstate how important Milton Friedman was in the battle to end conscription during the Vietnam War, both in public and behind the scenes. Many are in his debt without knowing it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bush Logic

If U.S. forces leave Iraq, sectarian violence will kill many people. So U.S. forces must stay and do the killing instead.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Perpetuating War by Exalting Its Sacrifices

On Veterans Day I can do no better than to refer you all to this earlier post, which praised the movie The Americanization of Emily for its honest discussion of war: "[W]e shall never end wars ... by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices. . . ."

When you hear the tributes to those "who gave their lives for their country," be sure to translate that into "who were slaughtered for some bastard politician's glory."

Mixed Day at the Polls

Americans went to the polls on Tuesday not just to pick legislators and governors but also to vote directly on policies. The results were mixed. By and large people voted thumbs up on the minimum wage and thumbs down on eminent domain for private use.
The rest of this week's TGIF column is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

The Repudiation of Bush

“Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton famously said. “And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The voters apparently agreed.

It’s reasonable to conclude from the election results that most voters felt the Republicans had been in power too long. The hopeless war in Iraq, the culture of corruption and incompetence, the spending binge (which includes the war), the grating social conservatism, and the autocratic arrogance approaching the dictatorial — all culminated in a thunderous repudiation of President Bush and the Republican Party. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.

The rest of my op-ed "The Repudiation of Bush" is at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

No Vote, But a Party Nonetheless

I won't be voting Tuesday. I'm not sure if voting is immoral exactly, but it does make me feel dirty. It's one thing to pick someone to represent me, but it's an entirely different thing for me to pick someone to represent you. So I won't be so presumptuous as to do that.

Neverthelelss, I am rooting for a virtual clean sweep of the Republicans (the exception being Ron Paul). Politicians understand only one thing: defeat at the polls. The War Party needs some severe disciplining, so you know what that means.

I suffer no delusions about the Democrats. They have failed to act like an opposition party on the war and related civil-liberty assaults, and their domestic program is horrendous (though not much different from Geroge II's). But I like gridlock when it's the best alternative available. The best government is no government. The second best is divided government.

So go Dems! I'll be ready to celebrate Tuesday night.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fear d'Jour

August 28 headline in the New York Times:

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity

Yesterday's headline in the Boston Globe:

Pay outpaces productivity; inflation feared

Then there's today's headine in the Washington Post:

Jobless Rate Is Lowest Since '01

As Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek points out here, this month's fear that wages are outpacing productivity (and threatening inflation) apparently offsets August's fear that producitvity was outpacing wages. Funny, isn't it?

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Anti-Electorate Manifesto

For an enlargement click here.

From Wally Conger at Out of Step.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Economists Against Economics

Five economists who either won the Nobel Prize in economics or who served as president of the American Economics Association -- and three who did both -- recently joined over 600 other economists in urging the federal government to increase the minimum wage. The signatures were gathered by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which unsurprisingly supports substantial government intervention in the economy.

I guess this is supposed to make us think more of the minimum wage. Instead, it makes me think less of the Nobel Prize in economics and the American Economics Association.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Eminent-Domain Chutzpah

Talk about chutzpah! A development company is thinking about suing Florida and the city of Riviera Beach for refusing to use eminent domain to provide land for upscale condominiums and a marina. Viking Inlet Harbor Properties was assured the city would condemn a number of working-class homes, but the city council had second thoughts. Now the company fears the $50 million it has already spent acquiring other lots will go to waste. “I’m stuck with these properties but can’t develop them because I can’t fill in the puzzle pieces,” said Mike Clark, president of the development company’s real-estate division. Hence the possible lawsuit.
Read the rest of my op-ed "Eminent-Domain Chutzpah" at The Future of Freedom Foundation website

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

He's Another

Whether Sen. John Kerry really botched his joke about George II or was making an impolitic remark about the troops in Iraq, there is a kernal of truth in what he said. It is this: anyone who has studied the history of imperialism or of western intervention in the Middle East should have guessed that the U.S. war against Iraq was an idiotic venture that would become a quagmire.

But that raises this question: why did Kerry vote to give the president a blank check in Iraq?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Who Does He Think He Is?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, I mean. Has he never heard the words "regime change" before? Does he think he can contradict George II and get away with it? First he rejects Bush's timetables; next, he says he could bring security to Iraq in six months if the U.S. would let him control the military. Now Maliki is mad because the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, a Afghani-born Sunni, acts as though he's in charge of the place. Bush likes to say that Iraq is sovereign and that the government there belongs to the Iraqi people. Somehow I don't think he's leveling with us.

As for Maliki, what an ingrate! Who does he think got him where he is today?

Bush Explained

I highly recommend Gene Callahan's article "We're Living in the Dream World of George W. Bush." It's an excellent account of what George II is up to. Here's the opening paragraph:
One of the chief frustrations I have repeatedly encountered of late, both on the Internet and in direct conversations, is that a multitude of people believe that George W. Bush is a conservative, that they are conservatives because they support his policies, and that anyone who criticizes Bush’s agenda must be "a leftist." Nothing could be further from the truth. George Bush has embarked on a radical program designed, in essence, to stop history in its tracks and reach a final resolution to geopolitics.(However, there have been recent indications that even Bush may be ready to face reality in Iraq.) On recently re-reading Eric Voegelin’s book, The New Science of Politics, I gained a far deeper appreciation of the nature of Bush’s crusade, which I’d like to share with you here. (Voegelin, by the way, was a member of the renowned "Mises circle" in Vienna, a group that also included F.A. Hayek, Alfred Schütz, Fritz Machlup, Oskar Morgenstern, Felix Kaufman, and Gottfried Haberler.)

The Libertarian Nobel Peace-Prize Winner

Last week, with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, I underscored the historical-philosophical link between freedom of commerce and peace in classical liberalism. (The article is here.) What I did not know at the time, and what I have since learned thanks to Auburn University philosopher Roderick T. Long, is that one of the first winners of the Nobel Peace Prize was a man who consciously placed himself in the liberal tradition of Frédéric Bastiat and Richard Cobden. He was Frédéric Passy of Paris (1822-1912). The first year the Peace Prize was awarded, Passy shared the honor with Henry Dunant, founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross and originator of the Geneva Convention (which gives him a special relevance today). Passy must have been highly esteemed indeed for the Nobel committee to have awarded him and Dunant the Prize.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website. Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Government Spying Can Be Entertaining

If you haven't already seen this fabulous musical animation about government spying, see it now. You'll get a good laugh about a sad and scary thing being done by George II's government.

Page Scandal: Political Corruption Precedes Sexual Corruption

For the sake of those vulnerable 16-year-old boys and girls who come to Washington each year, we should abolish the congressional page program immediately. I’m not referring only to the danger posed by the sexual predators in Congress. There’s a more widespread danger that hardly anyone cares about: the congressional page program encourages high schoolers to worship and lust for power. In 20 years only three congressmen have been known to engage in sexual improprieties with pages. But nearly all congressmen teach pages that raw government power is a good thing. In a society that thinks of itself as free, this is intolerable.
The rest this week's op-ed is at The Future of Foundation website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peace and Free Trade: "One and the Same Cause"

The Nobel Peace Prize this year went to a different sort of activist. Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economics professor, and his Grameen Bank won the prize for pioneering the concept of microcredit, small loans made to poor producers who because they lack collateral can't get conventional bank loans. "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Nobel committee said. "Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights."

. . . From the beginning (classical) liberalism regarded freedom of commerce and peace as, in Richard Cobden's words, "one and the same cause." As Joseph Schumpeter noted, "Wherever capitalism penetrated, peace parties of such strength arose that virtually every war meant a political struggle on the domestic scene." Leading French and British liberals played important roles in the world Peace Congresses held in the mid-nineteenth century, and American liberals rose up in protest when the United States went to war with Spain in 1898 and then held the Philippine Islands as a colony.

But, sadly, peace and commerce have gotten separated in the public's mind over the years, perhaps because opponents of the market and free trade have been the most visible critics of war.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Foundation website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Watch This...

...commentary by Keith Olbermann on George II and his power grab.

Hat tips: Brad Spangler and Roderick Long.

Free Speech and Antifederalism

My old friend Dave Barry is the center of controversy in a campus free-speech incident at Marquette University. A graduate student taped this Barry quotation to his office door:
As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.
Pretty innocuous, but the department chairman informed the student that the quote had drawn complaints and that he had removed it:
While I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not "free-speech zones." If material is patently offensive and has no obvious academic import or university sanction, I have little choice but to take note.
Patently offensive? No obvious academic import? Read the sad details here.

Hat tip: David Boaz.

The Superpower Myth

What does it mean to be the world’s only superpower? Like Gulliver in Lilliput, the U.S. government is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now faces the emergence of two new nuclear powers in North Korea and Iran. There seems to be nothing President Bush can do about it.
The rest of my op-ed "The Superpower Myth" is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Time to Get Rid of the State?

The practical case for free-market anarchism grows stronger each day. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, which so often is used as a reason for more government power, is actually grounds for abolishing the state altogether. (See this New York Times article, which reports that "atomic officials estimate that as many as 40 more countries have the technical skill, and in some cases the required material, to build a bomb.") As powerful as the U.S. government is, it cannot prevent other governments from obtaining or developing nuclear weapons and it can't prevent their use. The most it can do is reduce the danger by pursuing a noninterventionist foreign policy. But it is not likely to do this in the foreseeable future, and even that wouldn't reduce the danger to near zero.

Free-market anarchism, on the other hand, would necessarily entail a noninterventionist foreign policy, plus it would free up private entrepreneurial innovation to discover and implement methods of protecting us from a nuclear attack and terrorism is general. Decentralization is the key. A big part of this would be the privatization of public -- that is, government-controlled -- property. Nothing is more poorly managed than the government's assets. I'd rather have entrepreneurs than the U.S. government looking for ways to protect us. Not only will the state bureaucracy bungle and corrupt whatever it does, it will violate our liberties in the process. (Habeas corpus is becoming a thing of the past.) It is the very antithesis of what we need now.

For our own safety it's time for free-market anarchists to assume a higher profile. (See the post below about the Center for a Stateless Society.) We uniquely have the solution to the most vexing problem of the day.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Center for a Stateless Society

The Molinari Institute has unveiled a new project: The Center for a Stateless Society, under the directorship of Brad Spangler. Here's the announcement:
AUBURN, ALABAMA – October 10, 2006 – Center for a Stateless Society – The Molinari Institute, a market anarchist think tank, today launched a new media effort aiming to put their agenda to abolish government front and center in US political discourse. Dubbing their project the Center for a Stateless Society (www.c4ss.org), institute officials laid out plans to publish and distribute news commentary written by anarchists with radically free-market oriented views on economics – taking market anarchism out of the realm of academia and obscure internet blogs in order to put it in the public eye.

President Roderick Long explained “For too long libertarians, and I mean anarchist libertarians, have treated market anarchism almost as an esoteric doctrine. It’s time to put market anarchism front and center in our educational efforts, time to start making it a familiar and recognizable position. The Center for a Stateless Society aims to bring a market anarchist perspective to the popular press, rather than leaving it confined to scholarly studies and movement periodicals.”

Naming longtime radical libertarian activist and freelance web developer Brad Spangler as the first Director of the Center, Long unveiled the Center’s new web site at www.c4ss.org for Molinari Institute supporters and the public.

Said Spangler “I’m honored to accept the post. In anticipation of this moment, we’ve developed a database of thousands of US media outlets for email distribution of content which these publishers will be able to use free of charge. Additionally, the c4ss.org web site makes use of stable, reliable and ‘free as in freedom’ open source web technologies. We’ve developed the site in such a way as to make maximum possible use of social bookmarking services, web syndication feeds and search engine optimization techniques. With this site, we aim to awaken more Americans than ever before to the brutal reality that all governments everywhere are essentially nothing more than murderous bandit gangs – and show them the shining light of hope for a world without the State.”

The Center quickly issued two op-eds, one by Per Bylund on the North Korean nuclear test and one by Roderick Long on the Iraq war.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Just Market

Edmund Phelps, winner of this year's Nobel Prize in economics, published an inspiring, yet frustrating article, "Dynamic Capitalism," in the Wall Street Journal the other day. (Read it here.) In the article he seeks to establish the justice of entrepreneurship -- a worthy objective indeed. He spends the first part praising entrepreneurial "capitalism" and the dynamism it produces. Dynamism, he writes, has many benefits for everyone in society. Along the way he commends F. A. Hayek for pioneering contributions to economic thought. "Friedrich Hayek, in the late 1930s and early '40s, began the modern theory of how a capitalist system, if pure enough, would possess the greatest dynamism -- not socialism and not corporatism." While this is not quite satisfying -- doesn't Hayek's mentor, Ludwig von Mises, merit a nod here? -- at least Phelps has some sense of the value of the Austrian school.
Read the rest of his week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, October 06, 2006

History Lesson Lost

Call me nostalgic, but I still have a thing for the Articles of Confederation. Maybe it's the enticement of forbidden fruit. In the government schools I attended little if anything was said about the eight years during which the United States of America were governed under the Articles. The curriculum writers must have had a good reason for not devoting class time to that period. What didn't they want us to know?
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley Hits the Trifecta

It's official now: U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who quit Congress after getting caught sending sexually explicit messages to teenaged male congressional pages, is an alcoholic, mentally ill, and a victim of sexual abuse by a clergyman. In other words, he's hit the psychiatric trifecta. He's now in rehab. But he's not offering any of this as an excuse for his inappropriate conduct. He just thought we'd like to know.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not Deep Enough

The revelations in the new Bob Woodward book, as revealed in the newspaper accounts, are fascinating and instructive. But I fear that the main focus continues to be on competency and honesty about the conditions in Iraq. These are important matters; however, the real issue is the criminality and immorality of the war itself. We mustn't fall for the implicit assumption that the Iraq war would have been fine if only the administration had had a plan and had been more forthcoming. Nothing could have redeemed this imperialist war.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Community without Compulsion

It's easy to make something bad look good. All you have to do is leave out its essential characteristic.

Consider what NPR commentator Bill Harley said recently about taxation and the importance of community. Harley was complaining about the effects tax cuts have had on his town of Seekonk, Massachusetts. Driving to the library one Saturday to return some books, he was disappointed to find it closed. That was the result, he said, of a reduction in the town's taxes.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Don't Get It

The National Intelligence Estimate says that invading and occupying Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for terrorists around the world, making the threat worse not better. The administration counters that this just goes to show how important it is to win the war.

Do they really think we're such morons?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not on Death Row

I'm late in passing the word that Cory Maye has been granted a new sentencing hearing in his murder case. So for now he is off death row. The judge still has to rule in other outstanding issues. This is the case of the young man in Mississippi who fatally shot a policeman as a SWAT team entered his home late at night to conduct a drug raid. If justice is to be done, Maye's conviction should be reversed and he should be set free. No reading of the details can lead to any conclusion other than this was self-defense.

Radley Balko at The Agitator has reported thoroughly and heroically on the case and has brought it much-needed attention. His summary of the case is here, and his posts on the latest developments are here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stop the Presses!

The government finally catches up:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

--New York Times, September 24, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Washington Harmony

We are plagued by cooperation in Washington. Because of this allegedly benign spirit, George II will likely be free to legally wiretap people within the United States without warrants, torture terrorist suspects, and bring them before kangaroo military tribunals instead of real criminal courts.

I long for destructive infighting.

Washington Logic

Washington is a funny place, with its own unique "logic." It's a "company" town, the "company" being the federal government, the "product" being public policy. As a result, an odd sort of "thinking" is encouraged there. It's not like other places. Or it wasn't before the accelerating centralization of power in recent times.

A good example of Washington logic was featured on page one of Wednesday's Washington Post. Here is the headline:
A Quiet Break for Corporations
Tariff Suspensions, Often Initiated by Companies Based Overseas,
Keep Millions of Dollars From Flowing to the Treasury Each Year
The story explained that Congress has the power to pass three-year suspensions of tariffs on specific goods. The bills do not name the companies that would benefit from suspensions, but the Post learned that most of the lobbying is done by large foreign-based multinationals with American affiliates. As it reported, "Lawmakers usually introduce the provisions at the behest of companies in their districts. Many of those companies and their executives have given federal campaign contributions totaling millions of dollars."

Thus the newspaper presents tariff suspensions as examples of special-interest lobbying and legislation.

If you sense something screwy about this story, it's only because you are not using Washington logic.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Libertarian Class Analysis

I'm back from the Czech Republic after a successful two-day FEE seminar, in cooperation with the Liberální Institut, for economics students -- a great group from that country as well as Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Lithuania. Most of our time was spent near the Polish border in Broumov, but the brief time in Prague was fantastic. I had my share of excellent food.

(From the travel headache dept.: Our flight from Amsterdam to JFK was delayed three hours. We had already boarded and had to sit tight all that time. At least I got some reading done: Anthony Kenny's excellent Wittgenstein.)

Back to work.

My article "Libertarian Class Analysis," published by The Future of Freedom Foundation, is now available online.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Don't Download This Song"

Click here to see and hear Weird Al Yankovic's "Don't Download This Song." It's great!

Hat tip: Roderick Long at Austro-Athenian Empire.

Cross-posted at Against Monopoly.

The Political Economy of Fear

First it was foreign invasion and the government itself that the people were to be protected from. All the population had to do was surrender enough liberty and money, and the state would keep it safe from . . . "them." (Considering all the money it has spent, at times its failures have been spectacular.) Later the menu of fears was extended beyond foreign threats.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It Makes No Sense at All!

From Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory:
It's not just that this [Iraq] war is deceitful or destructive or immoral. The whole thing just makes no sense. The longer we stay, the more lives we lose, the more billions of dollars we squander, the best that we can hope for -- the best -- is to solidify Iran's control over this strategically vital country at exactly the time we have decided to decree Iran to be our worst enemy. Who could possibly defend that?
Hat tip: Jude Blanchette

To the Czech Republic

I'm off to the Czech Republic for a week -- most of the time at the Hotel Veba in Broumov, then Prague -- to help put on a FEE seminar for a group of Czech graduate students in economics. I expect to post from there. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Does the Republican Base Know About This?

From today's Washington Post:
For decades, marriages between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq were as ordinary as the daily call to prayer. But the sectarian warfare gripping the country has created a powerful barrier to Sunni-Shiite romances.

Married couples have filed for divorce rather than face the scorn of their neighbors. Fiances have split up as a result of death threats. And, increasingly, young single Iraqis have concluded that it is simply easier to stick to their own kind when it comes to love and family.

In a country where intermarriage was long considered the glue that held a fragile multi-ethnic society together, the romantic segregation of Sunnis and Shiites is more than just a reflection of the ever more hate-filled chasm between the two groups. It is also a grim foreboding of the future.
See what's happening? The Bush policy in Iraq is promoting . . . same-sect marriage!

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Robert Higgs Wins Szasz Award

Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan and other important books, is the 2006 winner of the Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties (general category). Higgs joins a distinguished list of winners that includes Karl Hess, Phil Zimmermann (author of Pretty Good Privacy, the encryption program for everyone), and James Bovard.

Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute; editor of its quarterly, The Independent Review; and a columnist for The Freeman.

Winner of the award in the professional category is Robert Spillane of Australia. Spillane is a psychologist who has fought against psychiatric abuses, particularly the drugging of children. He is the author of nine books.

Szasz of course is the leading defender of individual liberty against the various opppressions that fall in the category he has dubbed the Therapeutic State. (For more information, see my Szasz in One Lesson.)

No one is more deserving of this award. Congratulations, Bob!

(Full disclosure: I am a member of the awards committee.)

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ten Lessons from 9/11

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people take its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: they could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis. What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

(See Roderick Long's take here.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Roderick Long Paper Rules!

Roderick Long's important paper "Rule-following, Praxeology, and Anarchy" has been published in New Perspectives in Political Economy, the journal of the Liberální Institut in Prague. The paper explains and explores some political (and other) implications of Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox. It's well worth reading -- much food for thought. Take a look.

My article "Where Is the Constitution?" discusses Long's paper and what it means for constitutionalism.

One I Missed

As usual, Jesse Walker has an excellent column at Reason.com, this one about the tenth anniversary of "welfare reform": "The Amazing Colossal Poorhouse." Here's a sample:
Ten years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, known more colloquially as welfare reform. The president had promised to end "welfare as we know it," and by signing the bill he did exactly that: In 2006 the welfare state is larger than ever before, but the way Americans think and talk about it has been radically changed. As a function of the government, welfare is thriving. As a culture war issue, it's practically dead....

[F]ew government programs have been created out of sheer munificence. The growth of the welfare apparatus has been linked much more closely to two baser impulses: buying the beneficiaries' support, and keeping the beneficiaries in line.
Hat tip: Kevin Carson.

Inflicting More Pain

When government began controlling narcotics nearly 90 years ago, it assured Americans it would never interfere with the practice of medicine.

Chalk up another in a long series of lies by the state. In theory government serves the people. In practice it does something else entirely.

The crusade to determine what drugs we can and cannot use, and under what conditions, couldn't help but affect medical practice. Someone who wanted a drug controlled by the state had two ways to obtain it: he could go into the black market or go to a doctor. If the drug-enforcement agencies weren’t prepared to watch the doctors, how effective could the anti-drug policy be? So as time went on, they did watch the doctors -- and prosecuted them, ruining careers and sending some to jail in the process.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Well-Fed Subjects of the State

Wally Conger graciously linked to my post "Missing the Boat -- Again." While looking at his site, I found this quotation from Edward Abbey that more or less sums up what I was trying to say:
Never before in history have slaves been so well fed, thoroughly medicated, lavishly entertained. But we are slaves nonetheless.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Missing the Boat -- Again

The blogosphere is alive with discussion of what's been happening to compensation for regular workers over the last few years. See the several posts and comments at Cafe Hayek. I've addressed the issue here, but I want to add some points.

Libertarians constantly miss opportunities to appeal to good-faith left-leaners who are concerned that working people get the short end of the stick. Yes, they are subject to economic fallacies that should be addressed. Yes, they may misuse or misinterpret wage and total-compensation statistics. Yes, they may fall victim to demagogues, such as Paul Krugman. Yes, people generally live far better today than they lived 20 and 30 years ago -- although we don't give enough attention to how the Fed's easy-credit policies can create illusions of prosperity or how the government has inflated the price of housing, food, medicine, education, and energy. (See Jack Douglas's article.) All those things should be explained patiently and clearly.

But I fear that we miss the forest for the trees. We live in a corporate state, not a free economy. What are we arguing about? Whether the corporte state treats workers better than the left says it does? Big deal! What does that do to advance the cause of liberty?

It seems to me that all it does is make us look like corporate-state apologists. No thanks. There are enough of those.

These two statements are consistent:

1) the middle class is doing better than ever (leaving aside the scary debt question);

2) it's not doing as well as it should be doing.

Regarding 2) the question is why. If the lord of the manor comes into some money and raises the living stardard of his serfs, we would hardly tout that fact to show that feudalism is fine. I know the analogy is overdrawn, but many libertarians are doing something similar. They debate the numbers without pointing out what those numbers paint a picture of. It's not a picture of a laissez-faire economy; it's a picture of a corporate state -- the systematic intervention largely on behalf of incumbent business interests that tamps down competition and squelches alternatives, including self-employment, for many workers.

When I say that the middle class, and those below, are not doing as well as should they be doing, I mean simply that if competition were truly free -- if all transactions were voluntary -- these classes would be wealthier. The proper "distribution" of wealth is something only the market should determine. There are no good grounds for condemning the "shares" "allocated" by the unfettered market process, because the market process is just a fancy term for the countless consensual transactions it comprises. There is no actual allocation. To object to the outcome of that process (which is always a snapshot, because it is always in flux) is to favor, at least implicitly, interference with consensual transactions; that is, it is a call for violent inteference with free exchange. That would be immoral, as well as wealth-destroying.

Libertarians: wake up! Make the technical corrections, but be sensitive to how it sounds when you leave things at that. Keep your eye on the ball!

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Addendum: Here's an example of what I mean from the Wall Street Journal. Notice the lack of reference to the constellation of business privileges that constitute the corporate state. Invoking educational reform and pro-growth policies doesn't count.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Eye on the Ball

Like clockwork, the New York Times has produced another page-one story purporting to show that living standards for many Americans have fallen, this time because wages in recent years have failed to keep up with inflation. This has been happening, write Times reporters Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt, despite rising productivity and even taking into account the shift from cash to noncash benefits, such as medical insurance. Meanwhile, profits are up.

In other words, workers aren't getting their fair share of economic growth.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column here.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's the Difference?

Ivan Eland has a column worth reading on why Israel's war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza don't get the attention that other crimes and acts of terrorism get, such as those committed by Saddam Hussein.
In fact, the main difference between Saddam's war crimes and Israel's is that while Saddam denies them, Israeli officials indirectly admit them. Amnesty cites a comment by Israel's top uniformed military official that implied that Israel was trying to punish the Lebanese population and government to get them to oppose Hezbollah. The group noted that Israeli military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz called Hezbollah a "cancer" that Lebanon must expunge "because if they don't, their country will pay a very high price."
Eland concludes:
To justify its ill-advised invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration regularly gripes about Saddam Hussein's war crimes, while cheering on Israel as it does the same thing in Lebanon and Gaza, just using different weapons.
Read the rest here.

Hat tip: Anthony Gregory

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thought for the Day

[M]eaning something is a matter of intending....
Thus in a mere seven words, Anthony Kenny, the Aquinas and Wittgenstein scholar, disposes of materialism and determinism. (The rest of the book shows why mind/body dualism is not a viable alternative.)

Source: The Metaphysics of Mind (Oxford Paperback, 1989, 21).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Wag the Tail

There is increasing evidence that Israel instigated a disastrous war on Lebanon largely at the behest of the United States. The Bush administration was set on crippling Hezbollah, the radical Shiite political movement that maintains a sizable block of seats in the Lebanese parliament. Taking advantage of the country's democratic opening after the forced departure of Syrian troops last year, Hezbollah defied U.S. efforts to democratize the region on American terms. The populist party's unwillingness to disarm its militia as required by UN resolution--and the inability of the pro-Western Lebanese government to force them to do so--led the Bush administration to push Israel to take military action.

In his May 23 summit with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President George W. Bush offered full U.S. support for Israel to attack Lebanon as soon as possible. Seymour Hersh, in the August 21 New Yorker, quotes a Pentagon consultant on the Bush administration's longstanding desire to strike "a preemptive blow against Hezbollah." The consultant added, "It was our intent to have Hezbollah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it."
When it is reported that Israel manipulates the U.S. government, Israelists get offended. What do they say when it is reported that the U.S. government manipulates Israel? I recommend the rest of Stephen Zunes's column at Alternet.org.