More Timely Than Ever!

Friday, February 25, 2011

TGIF: The Wisconsin Labor Brouhaha

[E]ven free-market advocates with a natural sympathy for labor in the corporate state find it hard to side with government employees. How can one sympathize with state school teachers when the government should have nothing to do with education? This doesn’t mean teachers are bad people, but they do the work of a bad system, and their unions are among the most powerful lobbyists in any state capital.

Would the working conditions of state workers become intolerable if their unions were restricted? Not likely. But if they did, would it really be so bad if state governments had trouble finding employees?

The rest of TGIF is here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Op-ed: When Will George W. Bush Be Tried for His War Crimes?

We should take a small measure of satisfaction in former President George W. Bush’s cancellation of his trip to Switzerland after human-rights groups threatened to bring legal action against him for authorizing torture.
See the full op-ed here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Law of Cost, cont’d.

More from Philip Wicksteed, The Common Sense of Political Economy:

We can now see how "cost of production," which is simply and solely "the marginal significance of something else," directly affects the quantity of anything produced, and thereby indirectly affects its price, so that there is a constant tendency for prices to conform to cost of production; that is to say, for the price of the thing I make and the price of the thing I might have made instead of it to coincide….

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another U.S. Veto of Palestinian Rights

From the New York Times:
The Obama administration vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Friday condemning Israeli settlement building in occupied territory as illegal, choosing not to alienate Israel and risking the anger of Arabs... But the American ambassador, Susan E. Rice, said the veto should not be misconstrued as American support for further settlement construction, which the United States opposes [!]. The issue should be resolved through peace negotiations, she said, and not mandated by a binding resolution.
What nonsense! Israel has shown no interest in negotiations that take the rights of Palestinians seriously. It hasn't even been willing to halt all settlement construction during negotiations. Its occasional so-called freezes were never more than slow-downs. Keep in mind that the settlements are being built on stolen land. (Also see this.)

The Obama administration, like its predecessors, sure has a funny way of showing it supports freedom and human rights in the Middle East. We can be sure that the Egyptian people and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world is paying attention.

Friday, February 18, 2011

TGIF: There's Got to Be a Better Way

What’s so remarkable about events in the Middle East is that a significant number of people who had felt powerless looked around at what they’d seen every day of their lives and thought for the first time: “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

When will Americans do that?
Read the rest of TGIF here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Law of Cost

For anyone who thinks that costs do not govern value and price, hear Philip Wicksteed, the British "Austrian," thoroughgoing subjectivist, and critic of Alfred Marshall (not to mention admired by Mises). From The Common Sense of Political Economy:
In no case can the cost of production have any direct influence upon the price of a commodity, if the commodity has been produced and the cost has been incurred; but in every case in which the cost of production has not been incurred, the manufacturer makes an estimate of the alternatives open to him before determining whether, and in what quantities, the commodity shall be produced; and the stream of supply thus determined on fixes the marginal value and the price. The only sense, then, in which cost of production can affect the value of one thing is the sense in which it is itself the value of another thing. Thus what has been variously termed utility, ophelemity, or desiredness, is the sole and ultimate determinant of all exchange values.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Glenn Beck, Call Your Office

"We as a nation must move towards God, not away from God."
No, not the Muslim Brotherhood. Tim Pawlenty at CPAC.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt Today

Good to see the tyrant, Mubarak, out of there. It is something to celebrate, indeed. But now the army is in charge. Here's hoping the Egyptians "won't get fooled again." Do they fully appreciate what they've experienced the last few weeks? They peacefully abolished the government. Must they institute a new one? They shouldn't assume the answer is yes.

As Americans, our task is to do what we can to stop the U.S. government from further interference in Egypt and the region. Forty years of backing Egyptian autocrats is quite enough. But there is little doubt the U.S. government will work hard to influence the writing of a constitution in order to exclude the Muslim Brotherhood and others it does not like. It will also meddle with whatever elections are held. Keep an eye on the National Endowment for Democracy, an arm of the government that exists almost entirely to influence other countries' elections. (Imagine if a foreign government were doing that here!)

The U.S. government of course will dangle big sums of money in front of the new powers that be to get them to toe the line, and the treasure will be hard to resist. Ideally, the Egyptians will tell the Americans to keep their filthy money (which is also a tax-subsidy for the U.S. military-industrial complex), institute radical free-market reforms (including land reform and dispossession of crony capitalists), and go their own independent way. We can dream, can't we?

I know it is not to be expected any time soon, but the U.S. government should end all economic and military subsidies to each country in the region, starting with Israel (which did not want to see Mubarak or Suleiman go) and Egypt. Such an infusion of wealth has many bad effects, and one of the worst is that it enables the recipients to disguise their failings and escape responsibility (at least for a while). They should all have to stand on their own feet and rectify the injustices they have perpetrated. This of course includes the Israeli government's crimes against the Palestinians. Justice for the Palestinians would remove a huge obstacle to tranquility and progress in the region. Moreover, as long as the U.S. government is seen as an accomplice to those crimes -- which it is -- the American people will be associated with the oppression of Arabs and Muslims. We must not tolerate that any longer.

Good luck to the Egyptians. I rejoice in their triumph. How remarkable that they could drive out the dictator without firing a shot. Ideas do indeed rule the world. Even in the United States.

Friday, February 11, 2011

TGIF: What Egyptians Are Teaching the World

In Egypt the powers that be continue to defy the peaceful throngs in the streets. Yet their rulers’ clumsy efforts to mollify the courageous people remind us of something usually overlooked about the nature of political power, namely, that ideas, not force, ultimately rule, for as Jeffrey Rogers Hummel says, ideas determine the direction in which people aim their guns.

This was well known to the sixteenth-century French political philosopher Étienne de La Boétie, author of The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, in which he wrote that to rule, tyrants require the cooperation of their subjects. It is doubtful that many Egyptians have read Boétie, but in filling Tahrir (Liberation) Square unarmed, they seem to have grasped his thesis. Here is an appropriate excerpt for the occasion...

Read the rest of TGIF here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

TGIF: Wrong Lesson from Egypt

Looks like I forgot to post a link to last Friday's TGIF. "Wrong Lesson from Egypt" is here.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Danger in Egypt

The biggest danger facing the Egyptian people now is the real possibility that the U.S. government, in collusion with the ruling goons and key Egyptian "opposition" figures, will hijack the nascent revolution in order to "protect American interests." Of course, that means the interests of the ruling elite, Israel, and the Israel lobby. The good of the Egyptians themselves counts for squat. The Americans hope to permit enough window-dressing "reform" to placate the people without really changing anything. Forms and faces may be altered, but substance would be the same. The people will be screwed, the American taxpayer will keep paying, and U.S. policy will continue along its merry imperialist path, with all the risks to innocents that entails.

Let us hope that the Egyptians see through this fraud and resist. How soon before we see American flags burned in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria?

Obama and Clinton again show themselves as loyal guardians of the Empire.

It's Not Really a Peace Treaty

Throughout the Egyptian uprising, the 1979 American-brokered deal between Israel and Egypt has been called a "peace treaty." This is highly misleading. While Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 and 1967 (not to mention many border incursions), Egypt never sought war with Israel. Egyptian King Farouk's belated and half-hearted action (with ill-trained and poorly equipped forces) when Israel declared independence in 1948 -- after the UN created the state in defiance of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population -- was aimed partly at protecting Palestinians from violent expulsion from territory coveted by Israel's leaders. (Three quarters of a million Arabs were driven from their homes. Many defenseless villagers were slaughtered. The UN plan included an inferior Palestinian state, but Israel and the king of Transjordan made sure that did not happen. Egypt's entry into the war was also intended to thwart Transjordan's territorial ambitions.)

Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser made several attempts to normalize relations with Israel in the 1950s but was rebuffed. His successor, Anwar Sadat, offered to talk peace in the early 1970s but also was rebuffed. The October 1973 war was Egypt's modest attempt to regain a foothold in the Sinai, which Israel had conquered in 1967. The operation was not aimed at Israel itself. Sadat realized war was too costly for his poor country, and he sought better relations with the United States, having expelled Soviet advisers a few years earlier.

Israel was the recalcitrant party, since it did not intend to give up the Palestinian territories seized in 1967 or recognize the rights of Palestinian people to their own country. But President Jimmy Carter badly needed an accomplishment for his fading presidency and saw an opening: a "peace treaty" between Israel and Egypt. He bribed the two parties, pledging close to $5 billion a year (much of it in military aid) to the two of them, and got his photo-op with Sadat and Israeli PM Menachem Begin shaking hands.

The result was a "peace" that would have most likely existed anyway, since Sadat did not want war. (The deal likely sped up Israel's exit from the Sinai, which Israeli leaders didn't want anyway.) But there were other, not so good results: Egypt's betrayal of the Palestinians and its subordination to the Israel-influenced U.S. Congress, which now held the purse strings to Egypt's annual aid package. The largest country in the Arab world now could be counted on to do America's/Israel's bidding, including torturing people for the CIA and policing the the Gaza Strip border. It also gave Israel assurance that Egypt would not interfere with its periodic onslaughts against Lebanon and the Palestinians, and its land seizures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem..

The deal cost Sadat his life, but Hosni Mubarak picked up where his predecessor left off, toadying to the U.S./Israel. The next president of Egypt will probably not be eager to be a junior member of that alliance. That is American and Israeli officials are in no rush for change, despite what the throngs in the Egyptian streets want.

See more details by Alison Weir. On the nature of the Palestine/Israel dispute see this.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Supreme Irony

How ironic that the U.S. and Britain once saw the Muslim Brotherhood as the religious-right counterweight to secular Arab nationalism and leftism.

Obama Backs Dictator

From Al Jazeera:
Frank Wisner, a special envoy for Barack Obama, the US president, has said Hosni Mubarak "must stay in office to steer" a process of gathering "national consensus around the preconditions" for the way forward.

This Revolution Will Do Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer warn that the popular uprising against U.S.-financed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak could easily become a victory for radical Islamists. The neoconservatives scoff at assurances that the Muslim Brotherhood has traded violence for a constructive role in Egyptian society and democratic politics. Indeed, the neocons argue, the Brotherhood, as the best-organized force in Egyptian society (representing up to 30 percent of the population), is in the ideal position to seize the popular movement, betray the people, and install a theocratic state in the post-Mubarak era. With Egypt as a base of operation, goes the narrative, the Islamists would spread their ideology to the rest of the region through terror and subversion, with terrible consequences for the West.

Is there any merit to this analysis? Perhaps. No one can predict such things; revolution is a radically uncertain process. Nevertheless, one should not casually assume that Egypt is like Iran of 1979 or Afghanistan post-Soviet invasion. That sounds more like neoconservative fear-mongering than hard-headed speculation. (The more fevered of that ilk see the Egyptian uprising as the first step toward constructing a global caliphate that would include the United States. See Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity for details On the Brotherhood, see this and this.)

To be sure, revolution has its risks. Yet the neoconservatives seem oblivious of the risks in the “solution” they would like the Obama administration to impose on the Egyptians. Krauthammer prefers “an interim government led by the military.” He writes in “Toward a Soft [sic] Landing in Egypt”:

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months. Whether it does so with Mubarak at the top, or with Vice President Omar Suleiman or perhaps with some technocrat who arouses no ire among the demonstrators, matters not to us. If the army calculates that sacrificing Mubarak (through exile) will satisfy the opposition and end the unrest, so be it.

The overriding objective is a period of stability during which secularists and other democratic elements of civil society can organize themselves for the coming elections and prevail.…. The key is the military.

Krauthammer's confident tone is no comfort. Is there no danger in an army takeover? Has there never been a brutal military dictatorship? The Egyptian military may be respected by the people, but it has also been the source of dictators, including the hated Mubarak. And why should the Egyptians accept Suleiman in the “interim”? He was Mubarak’s chief torturer and a tool of the U.S. government’s criminal “extraordinary rendition” policy. How easy it is for Krauthammer, sitting safely in the United States, to propose that the Egyptians submit themselves to any U.S.-conceived plan. Can he guarantee it will deliver freedom? One can’t help suspecting that freedom for the Egyptians is not his priority. In fact, he knows the risks his proposal entails, but he calculates that they all fall on the Egyptian people. What he seeks to avoid is risk to "U.S. interests," that is, to the American government's domination of the Middle East.

In calling on the U.S. government to work behind the scenes to impose such a “resolution,” the neocons display the same big-power presumptuousness that has caused most of the problems that emanate from the Middle East today. The imperialist mentality endures, with each incident of blowback furnishing the excuse for the next oppressive manipulation.

The dangers that admittedly loom in Egypt stem from the moderate nature of the Egyptian people’s aims. They seek merely to change the structure and personnel of the government. The essence of the State – the apparatus of organized violence – would remain intact. As long as the State exists, there is a danger it will be seized by a military strongman, by theocrats, or by some other brand of oppressor.

In other words, the only true revolution is one aimed at abolishing the State – an anarchist revolution. (Peaceful, of course.) That’s the best hope for avoiding a revolution gone wrong.

Of course the Egyptians do not yet have an antistate mindset, so in throwing off the Mubarak dictatorship they indeed run the risk that something worse could follow. Yet they apparently think it’s a risk worth taking. Under the circumstances, that position seems reasonable. The American people can help them by demanding that "their" government keep hands off.

This revolution will have to do until the real thing comes along.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The American Conservative: Libertarian Left:

My article "Libertarian Left: Free-Market Anti-Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal" is now online at The American Conservative.

Op-ed: The Unraveling of U.S. Mideast Policy

The blow to U.S. foreign policy by the popular uprising in Egypt cannot be overstated. The Egyptians’ demand that Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand and billions of American taxpayer dollars, step down is unquestionably a major setback to the U.S. governing class and its plans for the Middle East. Since the end of World War II, critics of U.S. policy have warned that defying the people of the region in favor of authoritarian ruling elites was doomed to failure. As things now begin to unravel, we see that those critics were right.
Read the rest of the latest op-ed.