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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, July 31, 2006

"Respecting Lebanon's Sovereignty

From Ran HaCohen:
Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago, then, it hasn't given its northern neighbor even a single day of quiet. . . . And just as Israelis wonder about the purpose of Hezbollah's missile arsenal, so could Lebanon, and so should we all, wonder what was the purpose of the thousands of Israeli overflights and sonic booms in Lebanon's sky: was it to gather some information not available to Israel's satellites anyway, or, much more likely, just to terrorize Lebanon's population by showing them that we violate their sovereignty "whenever we deem it necessary"?
Read the rest of "Respecting Lebanon's Sovereignty" here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Where Is the Constitution?

The question in the title is not like "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?" The answer isn't the National Archives. I mean the real constitution -- the set of attitudes that reflect what Americans will accept as legitimate actions by the people in government. Those tacit "rules" are the real constitution, not a piece of parchment behind glass somewhere or a booklet in someone's pocket. This real constitution more or less makes the written Constitution what it is at any given time. When Peter Finley Dunne's Mr. Dooley said that "th' Supreme Court follows th' illiction returns," he was only a little off.
Read the rest of my latest TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not World War III

When a war breaks out somewhere, two sound principles for civilized people are: (1) demand an immediate ceasefire and, failing that, (2) keep the war contained--do not broaden it, do not join in.

We can gauge the civility of the Bush administration's neoconservative boosters by the fact that they reject both principles.
My op-ed "Not World War III" appears today in the Baltimore Chronicle & Herald. It was distributed by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Anti-Semite Is Born

On CNN today I saw a woman in Tyre, Lebanon, whose apartment had fallen in on her thanks to Israeli bombers, shout, "Death to Israel. God punish Israel."

No doubt an anti-Semite, like the young men chanting the same thing as they stood amid the rubble that was once their town.

I am reminded of Karl Kraus's aphorism: "The psychiatrist unfailingly recognizes the madman by his excited behavior on being incarcerated."

Likewise, the Israel supporter unfailingly recogizes the anti-Semite by his excited behavior on having his home destroyed by the IDF.

* * *

Some things worth reading:
"Morality Is Not on Our Side," Ze'ev Moaz, Haaretz, July 2
"Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes," Jonathan Cook, Antiwar.com, July 26

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.


People often ask, "Doesn't Israel have a right to defend itself?" As phrased, this question serves to evade fundamental issues and to legitimate a moral, political, and military blank check for the Israeli government. (It's like asking, "Don't you support the troops?") Israelis have the same right to self-defense that Palestinians and Lebanese do, namely, the right to protect innocent life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. It does not include the right to threaten and destroy those things.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences

From analyst Leon Hadar:

In many ways, American intervention in the Middle East set the stage for the these clashes. In ousting Saddam Hussein, the U.S. empowered Iraqi Shiite parties with ties to Tehran, shifting the Middle Eastern balance of power in the direction of the Iranian clerics who support Hezbollah. In fact, the U.S. intervention in Iraq has inadvertently contributed to Shiite power rather than liberal democracy.

At the same time, the administration pressed Syria to pull its troops from Lebanon while promoting parliamentary elections there. These elections lent legitimacy to Hezbollah, and strengthened its influence in a government that lacked the will and the power to disarm it.

Finally, against the better judgment of Israelis and moderate Palestinians, the administration insisted that free parliamentary elections be held in the West Bank and Gaza, which resulted in a victory for Hamas. Jerusalem and Washington have refused to deal with the first-ever elected leadership of the Palestinians, making a mockery of U.S. overtures about democratic reform in the Middle East.

In short, American intervention in the Middle East has emboldened Hamas and Hezbollah and their regional sponsors, encouraging them to challenge the Israelis, and by extension the U.S.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Maximum Efficiency

If Israel were trying to create a new generation of Palestinian and Lebanese militants, it couldn't do a better job than the one it's doing now. See this.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nearly One-Third of Casualties Are Children

Nearly one third of all casualties in the Lebanon-Israel conflict have been children, according to the United Nations’ emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland.

He said it appeared neither Hezbollah nor the Israelis seemed to care about civilian suffering.

Nearly a third of the dead or wounded were children and the wounded could not be helped because roads and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes.

“It is nearly impossible in southern Lebanon to move anything anywhere because it is too dangerous. It is too dangerous for our people to move things,” Egeland said.

Without a truce allowing aid agencies to begin the relief effort there would be a “catastrophe“.

Minimum-Wage Follow-up

It occurs to me that something Roderick Long wrote on the male-female wage gap ("Platonic Productivity") is relevant to my recent discussion of the minimum wage. The main economic argument against the minimum wage is that in the market, workers are paid their marginal revenue product. Therefore, mandating a wage above that level will result in unemployment. The advocates of the minimum wage resist this argument, insisting that some people are not paid what they worth. As I pointed out in my article, part of the answer to the minimumists is that we don't have a free market and that if we did, the problem that concerns them would largely disappear. I say largely because according to Long there is a sense in which the minimumists have a valid point:
I certainly agree with Mises and Rothbard that there is a tendency for workers to be paid in accordance with their marginal revenue product, but the tendency doesn’t realise itself instantaneously or without facing countervailing tendencies, and so, as I see it, does not license the inference that workers’ wages are likely to approximate the value of their marginal revenue product – just as the existence of equilibrating tendencies doesn’t mean the economy is going to be at or near equilibrium. I would apply to this case the observation Mises makes about the final state of rest – that although “the market at every instant is moving toward a final state of rest,” nevertheless this state “will never be attained” because “new disturbing factors will emerge before it will be realized.”

First of all, most employers do not know with any great precision their workers’ marginal revenue product. Firms are, after all, islands of central planning – on a small enough scale that the gains from central coordination generally outweigh the losses, but still they are epistemically hampered by the absence of internal markets. (And I’m rather skeptical of attempts to simulate markets within the firm à la Koch Industries.) A firm confronts the test of profitability as a unit, not employee by employee, and so there is a fair bit of guesswork involved in paying workers according to their profitability. Precisely this point is made, in another context, by [Walter] Block [pdf] himself: “estimating the marginal-revenue product of actual and potential employees .... is difficult to do: there are joint products; productivity depends upon how the worker ‘fits in’ with others; it is impossible to keep one’s eye on a given person all day long; etc.” But Block thinks this doesn’t much matter, because “those entrepreneurs who can carry out such tasks prosper; those who cannot, do not.” Well, true enough, but an entrepreneur doesn’t have to solve those problems perfectly in order to prosper – as anyone who has spent any time in the frequently insane, Dilbert-like world of actual industry can testify.

A firm that doesn’t pay adequate attention to profitability is doomed to failure, certainly; but precisely because we’re not living in the world of neoclassical perfect competition, firms can survive and prosper without being profit-maximisers. They just have to be less crazy/stupid than their competitors. Indeed, it’s one of the glories of the market that it can produce such marvelous results from such crooked timber....

I should add that I don’t think my skepticism about the productivity theory of wages is any sort of criticism of the market. The tendency to which Austrians point is real, and it means that markets are likely to get us closer to wages-according-to-productivity than could any rival system. (Since neoclassical perfect competition is incoherent and impossible, it does not count as a relevant rival.) If employers have a hard time estimating their workers’ productivity (the knowledge problem), or sometimes cannot be trusted to try (the incentive problem), that’s no reason to suppose that government would do any better. Employers are certainly in a better (however imperfect) position to evaluate their employees’ productivity than is some distant legislator or bureaucrat, and they likewise have more reason to care about their company’s profitability (even if it’s not all they care about) than would the government. So there’s no reason to think that transferring decision-making authority from employers to the State would bring wages into any better alignment with productivity. People in government are crooked timber too, and (given economic democracy’s superior efficiency in comparison with political democracy) they’re even less constrained by any sort of accountability than private firms are....

I would also add that even if there are persistent problems – non-governmental but nonetheless harmful power relations and the like – that market processes do not eliminate automatically, it does not follow that there is nothing to be done about these problems short of a resort to governmental force. That’s one reason I’m more sympathetic to the labour movement and the feminist movement than many libertarians nowadays tend to be. In the 19th century, libertarians saw political oppression as one component in an interlocking system of political, economic, and cultural factors; they made neither the mistake of thinking that political power was the only problem nor the mistake of thinking that political power could be safely and effectively used to combat the other problems.
The upshot is that a worker whose marginal revenue product is more than $5.15 may still be making only the minimum. An increase in the minimum wage would benefit him. This doesn't mean a minimum-wage law is just. It relies on physical force, interferes with freedom of contract, and has the other costs noted in my original article. As for those who are underpaid (relative to their product), that problem should be addressed as I suggested: repeal of all business privileges, which narrow workers' employment and self-employment options, along with voluntary worker organizations to provide labor-market information and publicize abuses, etc.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Orwell Lives

From Thomas Friedman, the New York Times' venerable fount of wisdom (Friday):
The only way this war is going to come to some stable conclusion any time soon is if The World of Order — and I don’t just mean “the West,’’ but countries like Russia [!], China [!], India [!], Egypt [!], Jordan [!] and Saudi Arabia [!] too — puts together an international force that can escort the Lebanese Army to the Israeli border and remain on hand to protect it against Hezbollah....

Israel does not like international forces on its borders and worries they will not be effective. But it will be better than a war of attrition, and nothing would set back the forces of disorder in Lebanon more than The World of Order helping to extend the power of the democratically elected Lebanese government to its border with Israel....

It is time that The World of Order got its act together....

The Bush team needs to convene a coalition of The World of Order.
The operative term here is "The World of Order."


From the news services:
American officials said Friday that the Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precisionguided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. The shipment’s disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The new American arms shipment to Israel was not announced publicly, and the officials who described the administration’s decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity.

Friday, July 21, 2006

George II Gets Clear

Sometimes it requires tragic situations to help bring clarity in the international community.

President George W. Bush on the G8 Summit
I suppose people see things more clearly as they draw their dying breath just before they blown to bits by bombs. And I'm sure they would die happy knowing they brought clarity to the geniuses who run our world.

A Failure to Communicate:
The Case of the Minimum Wage

Many of us have been trying to teach the public that the laws of economics operate no matter what anyone thinks of them. They grow out of the nature of human action. But the message hasn’t gotten through. Around the country people are enthusiastically voting in referendums to raise their state's minimum wage above the federal $5.15 level. Petition campaigns to put the question on state ballots never fail, says the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. As NPR's Mara Liasson reported on "Morning Edition" recently, "It's not hard to get people to sign."

What's going on?

. . . Our work is cut out for us advocates of the free market. Since the educational strategy we have pursued until now has failed with large numbers of lay people, I suggest a modified strategy: It is essential that principled opponents of the minimum wage not appear insensitive to the plight of low-income workers. Some people of course are responsible for their economic plight, but many others are put at a disadvantage by the mercantilist, mixed economy we live in. (Let's not forget, it's not laissez faire out there.)
Read of rest of my latest TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Bush Countenances Middle East Violence

If you want to understand the evil here, imagine assembled in a large room all the hundreds or thousands of Lebanese and Israelis who will die or be injured in the next several weeks that Israel says it needs to achieve its goals. Now imagine President Bush addressing them:

"Ladies and gentlemen, you and your children will be killed or maimed in the coming weeks. I’m sorry about that, but the conditions are not conducive to a ceasefire. I’m sure you all understand."

. . . Mr. Bush might tell the assembled future war casualties, "Yes, the hostilities could stop immediately, and you would be spared — but only until war broke out again, maybe months or years from now. So I’m sure you can see why we don’t support a ceasefire until it can be permanent."
Read the rest of my latest Future of Freedom Foundation op-ed here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ARI Update

Perhaps someone drew ARI's attention to the fact that the stem-cell bill George II vetoed was about government funding, not private efforts. Whatever the reason, ARI issued this:

Government vs. Science
July 20, 2006

IRVINE, CA--"The political fighting over embryonic stem cell research is the inevitable result of government funding of science," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

"It is only because science today is so dominantly funded by the government that restrictions on federal funding can wreak the devastation they have--severely hindering a promising area of potentially life-saving medical research."

"If science were left free, as it should be, funded solely by private sources, a scientist would not have to plead the merits of his work before a majority of politicians, however ignorant or prejudiced by religious or other dogmas they might be.

"The government should get out of the business of funding science. But so long as it is involved, it must scrupulously respect the separation of Church and State. Its funding decisions must be made on rationally demonstrable, not faith-based, grounds. Bush's veto clearly violates this principle."

Better late than never, but there are still problems. I am not sure that Bush's position violates the separation of church and state (assuming that's what the Bill of Rights even guarantees). Why doesn't it violate that principle to force taxpayers to pay for research they believe is morally forbidden? This argument cuts both ways. That's why we should oppose government funding and not encourage it as Brook has done.

Moreoever, Brook missed the Public Choice point. One can argue that as long as government is already funding scientific research, why not one more area of science? The answer is that this will create a new lobbying group for increased government funding. Brook's position is equivalent to feeding the beast.

ARI Favors Legal Plunder?

Ayn Rand Institute Press Release
Bush Vetoes Medical Progress

July 20, 2006 IRVINE, CA--"President Bush's veto of a bill to remove restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is immoral," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "It is revealing that Bush has used his first veto to oppose potentially life-saving research in the name of the dogma that microscopic embryos are sacred. Clearly, Bush and other 'compassionate conservatives' are not concerned with the well-being of humans, but with sacrificing them to clumps of cells in the name of religion. Such opposition is rooted in the perverse worship of human suffering. "Anyone who truly cares about human life must condemn this religious assault on medical progress."
Hold on -- this was a bill to make the taxpayers finance the research. It did not legalize private ressearch because that research is already legal. Does ARI now endorse legal plunder for the projects it regards as enlightened and scientific? One can take issue with George II's reason for the veto, but not with the veto per se.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More Bad Stuff ARI

Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, starts an op-ed this way:
To achieve peace in the Middle East, as in any region, there is a necessary principle that every party must learn: the initiation of force is evil. And the indispensable means of teaching it is to ensure that the initiating side is defeated and punished. Decisive retaliatory force must be wielded against the aggressor. So long as one side has reason to think it will benefit from initiating force against its neighbors, war must result.
This is undeniably true. Unfortunately, since Ghate doesn't know history, he has cast the roles incorrectedly. The Palestinians and Arabs generally did not initiate force when the Jewish statehood, or Zionist, movement got started in the late nineteenth century. The Arabs were largely on the receiving end of the coercion, as they were terrorized and dispossessed of the land they and their ancestors had worked for generations. The great myth is that the Zionist movement was ever weaker than the Arabs. Moreover, as Paul Johnson wrote in Modern Times, the Irgun (a Zionist guerilla organization that had Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir as members) attack on the King David Hotel (British headquarters) in Jerusalem in 1946 was "the prototype terrorist outrage for the decades to come."

(Ghate's column gets worse as it goes along. E.g.: "Israel is a free country, which recognizes the rights of its citizens, whatever their race or religion, and which prospers through business and trade. It has no use for war and no interest in conquest." Don't you just love when someone does an a priori analysis of an empirical matter?)

This history does not justify Arab violence against innocent Israeli civilians -- such as Hezbollah is committing in northern Israel -- but we ought to keep the context in mind when we size up events there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ARI Endorses Slaughter of Palestinians

From the Ayn Rand Institute:
Israel Should Wage War on the Palestinians

July 18, 2006

Irvine, CA--Results from a recent poll indicate that 77 percent of Palestinians support their government's kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and 60 percent support the continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel--this despite Israel's withdrawal of its troops and removal of its citizens from Gaza just a few months ago.

"Israel should wage war not only against the Palestinian leadership but also against the Palestinian people," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

The inevitable deaths of a few truly innocent Palestinians should not stop Israel from doing whatever it takes to eliminate its enemies; any deaths of innocents would be the moral responsibility not of Israel but of the guilty majority of Palestinians who seek to destroy it.

George II and Condoleezza's Moral Depravity

Surely this is a new low for the Bush adminstration. Any decent person would demand an immediate end to the murder and mayhem now taking place in the Lebanon and Israel. But George II and his foreign minister, Condoleezza Rice, insist that the time is not right for a ceasefire. When will the time be right? Here's what Rice told a press briefing today:
We all want a cessation of violence. We all want the protection of civilians. We have to make certain that anything that we do is going to be of lasting value. . . . We have to deal with underlying conditions so that we can create sustainable conditions for political progress there.
In other words, a ceasefire will have to wait. And in still other words, men, women, and children will have to continue being blown to bits.

When Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, standing with Rice, disagreed, saying, "A ceasefire is imperative. . . . We have to bring it [the fighting] to an end as soon as possible," Rice wouldn't let that be the last word. She added,
We all agree that it should happen as soon as possible -- when conditions are conducive to do so.
Translation: The killing and maining of Lebanese and Israelis shouldn't stop until Israel is ready for it to stop.

That is moral depravity, if anything is.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Libertarian Party R.I.P.

Re the destruction of the Libertarian Party qua libertarian party, I commend this post by Kevin Carson at Mutualist Blog.

"The Tariff is the Mother of Trusts"

In articles such as Roy Childs's "Big Business and the Rise of American Statism," Murray Rothbard's "War Collectivism in World War I," and Joseph Stromberg's "The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire," advocates of the freedom philosophy have laid the blame for big government largely at the door of business. This may conflict with the way we'd expect things to be, but ultimately this is a historical matter is to be settled empirically.

Besides, why should we expect business people to favor laissez faire and to abhor government intervention? Few people outside of business do so. Why would people in business be different? As Albert Jay Nock noted long ago, people tend to favor the path of least exertion. If a business owner can increase his profits with a tax, regulation, or import quota on his domestic or foreign competitors, why not go for it? You and I may expect his ethical governor to stop him. But what if he, like most other people, doesn't equate government action with plunder? In that case he won't see himself as a hooligan once removed. Rather, he'll seem himself as a citizen in a democracy petitioning his government for badly needed relief, which, as it happens, will also serve the general welfare.
The rest of my "Peripatetics" column in the June issue of The Freeman is here at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why Left-Libertarian?

I have a hunch that not everyone is clear on what "left-libertarian" means. There are several ways to approach a description, but here's mine: The Left has always phrased its program in terms of its concern for the most vulnerable elements of society. For some leftists this no doubt is a cynical pose designed to gain power. But that can't be true for all. Many leftists are motivated by a sincere wish to see the people with the fewest options get a better deal. These include people with the least education and resources, and those who have little choice but to make their living by working for -- and taking orders from -- others.

The problem is that most leftists have a muddled analysis of the problem. They get part of it right, but also part of it wrong. They grasp that the government-business partnership -- corporatism or mercantilism, what they call (with justification) capitalism -- is at fault, but they go wrong in thinking that the solution lies in government not in partnership with business but with the vulnerable. For the Left the only problem is business and the things they identify with it: property rights, free exchange, the pursuit of profit, and the laws of economics. So while they have a pretty good grasp of the evils of corporatism, they don't grasp the essence of the state, which is legal plunder, violence, and exploitation. The vulnerable haven't done very well under regimes that claimed to champion them. Nor do most leftists see that fundamentally benign things -- property, free exchange, the pursuit of profit, and the laws of economics -- are turned against regular people the moment the state gets involved with them.

The Right historically has identified with the powerful, the comfortable, and the well-connected, and has belittled the plight of the vulnerable. In a commercial society this has meant support for big business. In the Right's defense of property, it has been a matter of indifference that many fortunes were amassed through the political means. (When has a rightist supported land reform in an undeveloped country?) This has given a bad name to legitimate property rights. Rightists may formally oppose subsidies to business, but they spend far more time opposing welfare for low-income people than corporate welfare. The disparity is striking -- and revealing. They defend major corporations as though they were market actors, forgetting that the business regulations and taxes they complain about function as privileges for big business against small firms and self-proprietorships.

Left-libertarians share the leftists' concern for the vulnerable and wish not to be mistaken for rightists, but go one better by correctly identifying the source of the vulnerability -- corporatism -- and the solution: an unfettered competitive market void of any sort of privilege.

Greek, Not Meek

During recent flights to and from Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., for FEE seminars, I spent the time well by listening to podcasts of Roderick Long's excellent Mises Institute seminar on the praxeological foundations of libertarian ethics, availble as audio and video files here. I highly recommend it. As Professor Long, one of my favorite contemporary philosophers, discussed the Aristotelian, and more generally, Greek, approach to ethics, it occurred to me that contrary to the frequent claim that we Americans live in a Christian culture, in fact we live in a Greek culture. I'd be willing to bet that if a random sample of people was asked to read a brief description of the Greek [revision: Aristotelian] approach to ethics (virtue conceived in terms of golden means and one's own flourishing and happiness, a notion that incorporates the intellectual, emotional, and physical aspects of life, along with a concern for the legitimate interests of others), most would endorse the approach as common sense. That description would lack any reference to meekness, self-sacrifice, or renunciation of this world. Of course, people don't hold this ethical orientation explicitly or apply it consistently, but it does seem to provide the tacit moral compass that guides most people's conduct in their day-to-day living.

All of which gives more meaning to the "A" pendant my wife, Cheryl, gave me as a gift last year. I take it to stand for Atheism, Anarchism, and Logic (A is A). But now I see that it stands, more generally, for Aristotle.

By the way, this is the best place for me to acknowledge that it was Cheryl who came up with the title "The Goal Is Freedom" for my Friday column at the FEE website. I had racked my brain trying to find an appropriate title using the letters T G I F, where F would stand for Freedom. When I asked her, she came up with the perfect title in about one second. Thanks, darling!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Invisible Line

It's comforting to hear George II urge the Israeli government to "limit" civilian casualties and damage to Lebanon's infrastucture. That rule has worked so well for us in Iraq. I wonder what the official upward limit on collateral damage is, beyond which Israel goes from self-defender to aggressor. Evidently a blockade is not over the line; nor is the bombing of civilian areas resulting in the deaths of innocents, including children. Not to worry: Bush and Rice know where the line is.

U.S. efforts to reshape the Middle East are proceeding nicely, just as many of us expected. The key to misunderstanding the region is to ignore the context, namely, the long-standing Israeli violation of the rights of Palestinians with the full backing of the U.S government. This doesn't justify indiscriminate violence, but it does shed light on much that happens there. When we abhor the continuing abominable treatment of Palestinians the way we abhor the shelling of Israelis in northern Israel, we will have made some significant progress.

Advocates of U.S. policy in the Middle East might want to comment on this report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
Iraq's parliament speaker Thursday accused "Jews" of financing acts of violence in Iraq in order to discredit Islamists who control the parliament and government so they can install their "agents" in power. . . .

"I can tell you about these Jewish, Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq . . . ."

"No one deserves to rule Iraq other than Islamists," he said.

Hat tip: David Beito at Liberty and Power.

Government the Exploiter, Not Protector

If you begin with an incorrect premise, you are bound to arrive at bad conclusions. Nowhere is this more true than in matters of government. The debates over the “war on terror,” the Iraqi occupation, and the Bush administration’s casual approach to civil liberties are premised on the idea that the primary mission of the government in Washington is to protect the American people from harm.


None of the governments we are familiar with was established primarily to protect the general population.
Read my latest op-ed at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Soaring Revenue Is Nothing to Cheer

Why cut taxes? Judging by the popping corks at the White House this week, taxes are cut to increase government revenues so the budget deficit can be shrunk without reducing government spending. Tax cuts are good, but this justification leaves me cold.
The rest of my latest TGIF column is at The Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's an Iraqi Life Worth?

For all the talk of Iraq being a sovereign nation, foreign occupiers are the ones deciding what an Iraqi life is worth. And although President Bush has remarked in a different context that "every human life is a precious gift of matchless value," our actions in Iraq continue to convey the impression that civilian lives aren't worth all that much.
This is from a worthwhile article by Andrew Bacevich in today's Washington Post. Read it here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Theodore Roosevelt Is No One to Emulate

We shouldn’t be surprised that President George W. Bush’s Svengali, Karl Rove, is an admirer of Theodore Roosevelt. TR is hot these days. He made the cover of Time magazine, heralding a series of hagiographic articles, including Rove’s, that make him out to be the first modern American president. In Time’s view, that means he saw the country’s potential for big intrusive government at home and abroad — the first Imperial New Dealer.
Read the rest at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, July 07, 2006

For Equality; Against Privilege

The freedom philosophy can be boiled down to two phrases: for equality, against privilege.

Intuitively, this should sound uncontroversial. We just finished celebrating the Fourth of July, which commemorates the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson's elegant statement of the freedom philosophy proclaims: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." But since then the idea of equality has acquired many meanings that either work against the freedom philosophy or give it weak support. So how can it be a pillar of liberty?
Read the rest of my latest TGIF column at the website of The Foundation for Economic Education.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Time for a new one?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Government Keeps People Poor

Washington reruns are boring. A Democrat beholden to Big Labor proposes an increase in the mandated minimum wage. Republicans beholden to Big (and small) Business defeat the bill. End of episode. Each side has thus reestablished its bona fides with its respective constituency and thus can return to what it really cares about — spending the people’s money on war against this, that, or the other.

Both sides will claim to care about the poor, but “caring” means they can be counted on to utter the “right” words on cue. That’s Washington for you — nothing more.
Read the rest here at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.