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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, February 29, 2008

Health-Care Cons

The economist Joan Robinson (1903-1983) wrote, "The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of readymade answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."

A better reason to study economics is to avoid being deceived by politicians; they are the far greater threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you consider that the typical political campaign is little more than a series of confidence games, understanding basic economics is a matter of survival. Without such an understanding one is an easy mark.

The rest of this week's TGIF, "Health-Care Cons," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr., RIP

William F. Buckley Jr. died yesterday. Looking over his rich biography, I can't help but take away the impression that one of his goals in life was to make the pro-liberty, anti-state movement safe -- unthreatening to the establishment. This partly explains his early efforts to "purge" Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard from the ranks of "respectable" champions of freedom. He was particularly hard on anti-militarists (Rothbard and John T. Flynn), although anti-militarism and anti-imperialism are integral to the historical movement for individual liberty.

I realize he expressed admiration for the work of Mises and Hayek, but even if Buckley had gotten everything he wanted politically (perhaps with the exception of drug decriminalization), the status -- statist-- quo would have been left fundamentally intact. He was distinctly unradical, despite the fact that individual liberty has always been and remains a radical idea. While he occasionally and inexplicably embraced the word "libertarian," he advocated totalitarian U.S. government during the Cold War, a showdown with the Soviet Union (which his own early mentor, Frank Chodorov, said would extinguish liberty), and compulsory national service, among other anti-libertarian positions. On top of all this, his pretentious elitist manner, which attracted so many young conservatives, was unbearable.

The primary consequence of his long career (which included a stint in the CIA) was to seduce budding radical libertarians into an insipid "hip" conservatism that functioned largely as a defender of big business and the intrusive national-security state. We are eternally grateful.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Damn Nationalism

Several days of news coverage were taken up this week by Michelle Obama's remark to the effect that for the first time in her adult life she is "proud of her country." Predictably, the right-wing came down on her with maximum force. Bill O'Reilly said he might join a "lynching party" for her (good choice of words, Mr. O'Reilly) if she meant what he feared she meant.

According to our civic religion -- nationalism/state-worship -- nothing is worse than confessing that one lacks, or at one time lacked, such pride.

Excuse me, but what the hell does it mean to have pride in one's country?

I know what the right wing means: pride in the government's record of foreign and domestic aggression. So let me declare here and now: I have no pride in that whatsoever!

If the right means something else, let it say so. I, for one, want nothing to do with nation or state worship. The last thing I would be proud of is a country. (I admire what some people in the country have done and said, but that's something else.) That you can send people into apoplexy by saying this speaks volumes.

Why don't they grow up?

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Delegitimating the State

I'm traveling again this week, so I have only have time for a quick thought, a teaser. Any libertarian strategy that has any hope of succeeding must seek fundamentally to delegitimize the state, that is, to persuade people that government does not deserve the unique and privileged moral status it has been accorded throughout history. This leads to the curious insight that even those who favor limited government should advocate statelessness (free-market anarchism) because people will move to severely restrict the power of the state only when they believe it is illegitimate. Conceding its legitimacy one iota inevitably works against liberty.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I don’t usually come to the defense of conservatives, but I am perplexed that they are being attacked because they don’t support John McCain’s presidential bid. Self-anointed Voices of Responsibility are chiding conservative spokesmen and spokeswomen for criticizing McCain on several counts and for going as far as promising to vote for Hillary Clinton if she’s the alternative to the Arizona senator.

Would these conservatives really promote a Democratic victory in November in order to initiate a reform of the Republican Party, the allegedly more mature McCain supporters want to know.

Well, why not? Shouldn’t principle count for something?

The rest of my latest op-ed, "GOP, R.I.P?" is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting

The hoopla over Super Tuesday reminded me of an essay I read long ago by Bruno Leoni (1913-1967), an Italian legal scholar and great champion of liberty. I've been meaning to discuss the many important themes in his book, Freedom and the Law (expanded third edition), and will surely return to it in the near future. But for now I'll focus on the final chapter, "Voting Versus the Market."
The rest of this week's TGIF, "The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

McCain's the One

All you need to know about John McCain:

One more thing you should know: he was bombing civilian infrastructure in Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, a country that had done nothing to him or his country, when he was shot down and taken prisoner in 1967.

There's a big difference between "hero" and "war hero."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Whining Empire

My article "The Whining Empire" appears on Counterpunch today. Click here.