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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conservative Hypocrisy -- What Else Is New?

I can't stand hypocrites. I can't stand conservatives. But I repeat myself.

Last night Sean Hannity, one of the the heavyweight thinkers at Fox News, went after Barak Obama for being a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ. The Church advocates a "Black Value System," which among other things calls for a commitment to the black community. Hannity suggested that such a commitment is "separatist" and that if a white church used the same kind of language, it would be rightly condemned. Hence, he said, there is a double standard. (Tucker Carlson of MSNBC earlier did the same riff.)

A typical conservative cheap debating point. Where's the separatism? Conservatives love it when Bill Cosby (properly) berates fellow blacks for not disciplining their own community. But when Obama voices a similar position, it's seen as separatist at Fox News. Is this because Obama is a threat to Republican presidential aspirations?

More fundamentally, Hannity's suggestion that the white and black contexts in America are equivalent is absurd on its face. Given the two different histories -- one of domination, the other of subjugation -- there is no double standard involved. Ayn Rand would call this "context-dropping."

I can't t see that radical libertarians and conservatives have anything significant in common.

Why I Like Seymour Hersh

Yesterday MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked journalist Seymour Hersh what worries him most: a U.S. war with Iran, civil war in Iraq, or the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"George Bush," Hersh said.

P.S.: Hersh reports in The New Yorker that the Bush administration is making plans to attack Iran and in the process is aiding Sunni extremists as a way to thwart Iranian and other Shi'ites. Al Qaeda, of course, is Sunni. Hersh writes:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Things just get wackier and wackier.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stop Them!

Do President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have no idea of what made the founding of this country unique? It was the people’s deeply held belief that arbitrary rule by the state is an evil to be resisted at all costs. Even early America’s conservative elements, who hoped to remain in the British Empire, finally went over to the revolutionists’ side when King George III accelerated his arbitrary decrees governing the American people. Nothing indicts Bush-Cheney as profoundly as their displayed contempt for habeas corpus. I have no doubt that if they thought they could get away with it, they’d suspend it for citizens too.

Note well: the Constitution does not distinguish citizens from noncitizens. If the gang-run-amok in the White House can suspend habeas corpus for aliens, it can do so for the rest of us.

The threat to Americans from terrorism is minuscule compared with the threat from these megalomaniacs.
Read the rest of this week's op-ed, "Stop Them!" at The Future of Freedom website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Imperial Hopefuls

[N]one of the "hopefuls" is actually running for president. The job they seek isn’t merely the head of the executive branch of the U.S. government. Given the realities of the world, they are running for emperor. No one is qualified for that job.
Read the rest of this week's op-ed, "Imperial Hopefuls," at The Future of Freedom website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Serving Their President

The news media pride themselves on their objective detachment from the stories they cover, but when the chips are down they are apologists for the state's worst crimes. They carry this off in many subtle ways. Example: television reporters frequently characterize what the U.S. troops are doing in Iraq as "serving their country." Fighting in Iraq can be service to the country only if the war is good for the country. But the allegedly detached media can't say the war is good (or bad) for the country without losing their detachment. So how can they say that Americans fighting the war are serving their country -- assuming that phrase has any meaning at all?

The troops are serving something, but it's not their country. They're serving the dull zealous aspiring autocrat who calls himself President of the United States and the agenda of the Empire lobby. That's what going to war amounts to: serving whatever hack politician happens to occupy the White House.

If Paddy Chayefsky was right when he had his protagonist in The Americanization of Emily say, "We ... perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices," then the news media helps to perpetuate war.

Made Everywhere

In reality there are no imports and exports. There is only what I make and what everyone else makes. Few people would want to live just on what they themselves could make.... The case for free trade is conceded the moment someone eschews self-sufficiency. After that, we're just haggling over the size of the trade area. But if free trade (read: division of labor) is good, then the bigger the free-trade area the better. Globalization should be the worldwide removal of all barriers to the exchange of goods and services -- rather than trade managed through state capitalism and multinational bureaucracies. Unilateral, unconditional free trade is the smartest policy.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column, "Made Everywhere," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Home Run, Brad Spangler

I wish to associate myself with these remarks by Brad Spangler about the fallacy-induced wedge between libertarians and the left. Well put! My only reservation is his call to join the IWW. I'll need to see some good argument on that. Here is the IWW's mission statement. It seems to me the One Big Union makes the same mistake Brad identifies in his post.

Hat tip: Roderick Long.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Know When to Fold 'Em

Hawks such as Sen. John McCain who oppose Senate resolutions against the so-called troop surge in Iraq make a pernicious argument. Such a resolution “is basically a vote of no confidence in the men and women we are sending over there,” McCain said. "We’re saying, ‘We’re sending you — we’re not going to stop you from going there, but we don’t believe you can succeed.'"

McCain is right in one respect: The senators who oppose the escalation should be doing more than pushing a nonbinding resolution. They should be doing everything they can to stop President Bush’s war, even if that requires a constitutional confrontation with the executive branch.

But McCain and his ilk go further than pointing out an inconsistency in the Democratic chicken-doves. They think no one should ever say that U.S. troops cannot prevail in Iraq or in any other military mission.

If they really believe this, they display the mentality of a fanatical nationalist and imperialist. It hardly recommends one for the presidency.
Read the rest of this week's op-ed, "Know When to Fold 'Em," at The Future of Freedom website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Was Spit an Antiwarrior's Weapon?

If you believe the tales that returning Vietnam vets were spat on by antiwar protesters, you need to read Jack Shafer's two recent columns at Slate.com showing that this is apparently a fabrication. "I've have yet to see anything that corroborates the tales told by some vets about being gobbed on by protesters at airports while in uniform during the Vietnam War era," writes Shafer, a dogged researcher if ever there was one. ". . . As I've written before, I'm prepared to believe that returning Vietnam vets were ambushed at the airports by protesters. I just want to see the evidence." (He's written a lot on this, and the links are at the end of the pieces.)

The latest articles are here and here.

I Don't Support the Troops

So the House has passed a "nonbinding" resolution opposing George II's escalation in Iraq. Here's what it says:
(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and (2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
Note the obligatory tripe about supporting the troops. If this means moral support, why are the tools of an immoral war due that? And if it means material support, why would anything but the fare home be appropriate?

Note also the presumptuousness. Not only is Congress's continued support pledged, so is the American people's. Hey, I'm part of the American people. No asked me. I don't support them, unless support means bringing them home forthwith.

As I said in a previous post:
I’m sick of the expression “Support the troops.” Its only purpose is to shut up dissenters against George II’s illegal war. If someone believes the troops are carrying out an immoral purpose, why would he support them? Such a person would want the troops to stop what they are doing and leave the place where they are doing it. He'd hardly want to keep their morale high. If the pro-war crowd must demand illogic on the part of their opponents, something is wrong with their case. The debate should be over the purpose of the war. Leave the troops out of it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

No Hotbed of Laissez-Faire for Labor

From the free-market economic historian Jonathan R. T. Hughes's The Governmental Habit Redux (37):
In addition to controls over wages, entry into trades, apprenticeships, indentured servitude, and black slavery, the labor contract was also subject to nonmarket controls over business enterprise in general. . . . [T]he colonial world was no hotbed of laissez-faire for labor. It was a world well described by A. E. Smith not as a democratic arcadia, but a place where men with money thrived by making the poor work. A tradition was established: "It is a familiar story that mankind, when confronted in America with a vast and trackless wilderness . . . threw off its ancient shackles of cast and privilege and set forth upon the road to freedom. Among the social institutions found most useful in the course of this march were those of African slavery and white servitude."
The reference is to Abbott Emerson Smith's Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607-1776, 1947.

The Rent-Seeking Habit

Wal-Mart's CEO and his chief nemesis, the head of the Service Employees International Union, have joined forces. They recently appeared together at a news conference to endorse "universal health care," sugar-words for medicine by coercive bureaucracy. No, this is not another article about why a government-based medical system is a terrible idea. This is an article about a business leader looking to the state for a bailout.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column, "The Rent-Seeking Habit," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.


Iranian weapons are killing "our" troops? Even George II should be able to figure out how to prevent that: Bring them home!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran

There is something surreal in all this. The U.S. government is warning Iran against meddling in Iraq. But the U.S. government is meddling in Iraq! Is there a clearer case of a pot calling a kettle black?

Neither country should be meddling, but there are important differences. Iraq is next door to Iran but far from the United States. Iraq, backed by the United States, attacked Iran in 1980, leading to a grueling eight-year war, but never attacked the America. Finally, Iran’s next-door neighbor is “hosting” 150,000 U.S. troops. No Iranian troops have been sighted in Canada or Mexico.

There’s something else that’s bizarre about the U.S. government’s warning Iran to stay out of Iraqi affairs. In 1953 the CIA executed the ultimate interference in Iranian affairs by engineering a regime change and restoring to power the brutal and hated shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The rest of my op-ed, "U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran," is at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Health Hazard

Back in the days before America had an income tax (yes, son, I've read there really was such a time), proposals to impose the tax were met with warnings that it would be "inquisitorial." Opponents apparently didn't see its potential for manipulating behavior. But what more effective carrot and stick is there than an income tax?

... The tax system has no doubt distorted the medical industry along with lots of other things. But any piecemeal way out will surely introduce its own distortions by upsetting long-standing plans and depriving people of their money. The early critics were right: The income tax is poison to a society that values freedom and spontaneous order. We should have never gotten started with it.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, February 02, 2007

War with Iran?

While our overlords are contemplating attacking Iran, we should all ponder what it would mean. Click here for some visual aids.

Hat tip: Austro-Athenian Empire and Out of Step.

Inequality Matters

In the controversy now raging over whether income inequality in America is growing a lot or a little, some pro-market people say it doesn’t much matter. This attitude is unjustified, not to mention harmful to the cause of individual freedom because it misses the bigger picture.
Read the rest of this week's TGIF column, "Inequality Matters," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.