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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

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?