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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who?

A good way to get me to read a book is to warn me not to read it. Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics falls into that category. Atzmon is thought-provoking at many levels and therefore controversial. Moreover he makes a valid point -- correction: several of them! I commend the book to anyone interested in the Palestine/Israel conflict, the Middle East in general, Jewish identity, and -- on principle -- fearless open discussion of important matters, especially matters of war and peace. (He answers critics here; need I add that I don't agree with everything he has written?) Atzmon also happens to be a top jazz saxophonist whose music I am just now getting to know. I hope to see him perform someday.

TGIF: Social Cooperation, Part 3

Twelve years after publishing his pioneering Principles of Economics, in 1883 [Carl] Menger issued his Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics. In this book Menger sought to establish the study of society, especially economy, as a legitimate intellectual discipline in contrast to the German Historical School, which denied the existence of social or economic “laws” applicable to all human beings at all times and places. Late in the book, and consciously following Plato and Aristotle, Menger draws “the analogy between social phenomena and natural organisms.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Markets Not Capitalism

This new book, Markets Not Capitalism, edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson is definitely worth checking it out. Contributors include Kevin A. Carson, Roderick Long, Charles W. Johnson, Joseph Stromberg, Brad Spangler, Shawn Wilbur, William Gillis, Joe Peacott, Jeremy Weiland, Mary Ruwart, and classics from Karl Hess, Roy A. Childs Jr., Benjamin Tucker, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Voltarine DeCleyre. Oh, I'm in there too.


I'm in San Diego for the second Libertopia. I'll be speaking on "The Articles of Confederation versus the Constitution" on Friday at 11 a.m. On Friday at 5 p.m. I'll be on a panel with Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, and David Friedman. That should be a blast.

See you there!

TGIF: Destroying Value

In case anyone missed it, here's a link to last week's TGIF: "Destroying Value."

The Most Dangerous Derivative: Power and Privilege in the Corporate State

Here's the latest from FEE.tv, a mini lecture by me on "The Most Dangerous Derivative."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obama's UN Veto Threat Supports Occupation of Palestine

The Obama administration’s hypocritical vow to block full UN membership for Palestine shames America. Only a hypocrite could proclaim support for the Arab Spring while opposing this step toward realizing the Palestinian aspiration to be free from the 44-year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank and subjugation of Gaza.

The Palestinians have been under brutal and degrading occupation since the 1967 Six-Day War, which they did not start. Their daily lives, when not punctuated by shootings, beatings, and bulldozing of homes and olive groves, are scarred by routine humiliation: military checkpoints, road blocks, arbitrary searches, unpredictable delays, and an inhumanely disruptive “security” wall. No one should have to live like that, yet two generations of Palestinians have been subjected to this cruelty. Some Palestinians, mostly in Gaza, have responded with attacks on Israeli civilians. However comprehensible, it is nonetheless vicious, criminal action.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Wall Street Couldn’t Have Done It Alone

To Occupy Wall Street:

Wall Street couldn’t have done it alone. It takes a government and/or its central bank, the Federal Reserve System, to:

  • Create barriers to entry for the purpose of sheltering existing banks from competition and radical innovation, then "regulate" for the benefit of the privileged industry;
  • Issue artificially cheap, economy-distorting credit in order to, among other things, give banks incentives to make shaky but profitable mortgage loans (and also to grease the war machine through deficit spending);
  • Make it lucrative for banks – and their bonus-collecting executives -- to bundle thousands of shaky mortgages into securities and other derivatives with the knowledge that government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other companies, all subject to powerful congressmen looking for campaign contributions, would buy them after a government-licensed rating cartel scores them AAA;
  • Inflate an unsustainable housing bubble by the foregoing and other methods, enticing people to foolishly overinvest in real estate.
  • Work closely with lending companies to establish a variety of programs designed to lure people with few resources or bad credit into buying houses they can’t afford;
  • Attract workers to the home-construction bubble, setting them up for long-term unemployment when the bubble inevitably burst;
  • Implicitly guarantee big financial companies and/or their creditors that if they get into trouble they would be rescued;
  • Compel the taxpayers to bail out those companies and/or creditors when the roof finally fell in.

No bank or group of banks could do these things on its own in a freed market. It takes a government-Wall Street partnership – the corporate state -- to create such misery and exploitation.

So demonstrators, you are right. Something is dreadfully wrong. But your list of culprits is far from complete. So go ahead and protest outside Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. But also spend some time outside the White House, the Fed, the Treasury, and the Capitol Building. Together they are responsible for our current economic woes. These are the entities that control our fate and over which we have no real say. It's time for things to change.

Greed without political power is boorish. Greed with political power is dangerous.

The freed market is the alternative to what you properly despise.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

TGIF: Occupying Wall Street

Government power ultimately will be influenced and controlled by those whom the occupiers despise. So, protesters, rail against Wall Street. But rail, too, against its indispensable partner – government, with its unique legal power to wield aggressive force – and realize that the genuine antipode of the system you oppose is the freed market.
The rest of TGIF: Occupying Wall Street is here.

A Reminder from Sir Thomas More

From A Man for All Seasons by Robert Boldt:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!