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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, December 27, 2013

TGIF: The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom

So I, for one, don’t accept the division of the case for freedom into “the moral” and “the practical.” It’s a mistake, not to mention harmful to the cause.
Read it here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Op-ed: Congress Must Not Cede Its War Power to Israel

I don't want Congress (or the president) to have the power to make war at all, but as long as it has such power, it must not turn it over the Israel (or anyone else).

Read the op-ed here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas Truce of 1914

Kevin Carson relates one of the most remarkable stories I know: The Christmas Truce of 1914, "a spontaneous soldiers’ truce that broke out on Christmas Eve all along the Western Front in France, lasting in places until the day after Christmas."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

TGIF: The Pope Dabbles in Economics

The pope’s concern with the poor and excluded is well-placed. We should not tolerate their condition or its causes. But what the poor and excluded need are freedom and freed markets — really free markets, not “the prevailing economic system” — so they may be liberated from the oppression that holds them back.
Read it here.

Remember This . . .

Soldiers don't die for their country. They die for vain politicians and war profiteers. That's what they kill for too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Op-ed: Mandela Wasn't Radical Enough

He led the effort to end the evil apartheid system, but he left in place the corporate state. It's all here.

TGIF: Crime and Punishment in a Free Society

In the latest TGIF, I argue that there should be no crime and punishment, but only torts and restitution. Read about it here.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Infamy, Indeed

From my 1991 Future of Freedom Foundation article "Pearl Harbor: The Controversy Continues":
At 7:53 am. on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a Japanese force of 183 fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes struck the United States Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Some 4,500 Americans were killed or wounded. As news of the surprise attack spread, William F. Friedman, an Army cryptanalyst who had helped to break the Japanese diplomatic “Purple” code, said to his wife repeatedly, “But they knew, they knew, they knew.”
Read the full article here.

Ethnic-Cleansing Continues in Israel


From Nadia Ben-Youssef's Huffington Post article "Put a Stop to the Displacement of Bedouin Communities in Israel":
The Prawer Plan is specifically targeting the some 70,000 Palestinian-Bedouin citizens of Israel who continue to live in 35 historic villages, which are unrecognized by the state and therefore denied access to all basic services such as water, electricity, sewage, schools and health clinics. The Prawer Plan seeks to destroy these villages and forcibly displace their residents (again, all citizens of Israel). If fully implemented, the Prawer Plan would be the largest confiscation of Palestinian-owned land since the 1950s.
The Bedouin have lived in the Negev since the 7th century, and, while members of the Palestinian people, have retained a traditional, pastoral existence in the desert. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the government has sought to dispossess the community not only of their ancestral lands, but also of their very livelihoods, concentrating them into crowded and impoverished urban towns, unsuited to their way of life. Simultaneously, the government has sought to encourage Jewish settlement and agricultural activity in the same area, developing over one hundred small rural communities (kibbutzim and moshavim) as well as sixty individual single-family farmson confiscated Bedouin land.
The Prawer Plan seeks to legalize Israel's discriminatory treatment of its most vulnerable citizens, through a piece of legislation known as the Prawer-Begin bill. The bill passed its first reading (a critical initial vote of approval) in the Israeli Knesset in June of this year, and is expected to be brought for its final readings in the coming weeks. The Prawer-Begin bill joins the wave of discriminatory legislation to have been proposed or passed in recent years by successive Israeli governments that directly threatens the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, a 20 percent national minority. While not unique in its explicit and exclusive applicability to only a subset of the population in Israel, the Prawer-Begin bill exceptionally proposes a legal regime for the Bedouin citizens of Israel, which is completely separate from the one that applies to their Jewish neighbors....
The Bedouin community, together with civil society, have proposed an Alternative Master Plan that, on the basis of equality, recognizes the Bedouin villages in their existing locations, using the traditional land system as a foundation for future planning. The community has presented the plan to the government several times, but in response, is witnessing an increase in home demolitions coupled with government approval to build new Jewish towns, Jewish National Fund forests, and industrial or military projects on Bedouin land.
This is a monstrous violation of individual rights and a flagrant act ethnic-cleansing based on the presumed superiority of Jews. Friends of liberty everywhere will demand that the plan be stopped.

UPDATE: The Israeli Knesset has shelved the plan under pressure.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Are Journalists More Trustworthy than State Personnel?

Art Silber says no, and he's right. Edward Snowden leaked a ton of documents, but the Guardian says it has published only 1 percent -- and that's all it will publish. Who wins in the end, the people or the national-security state? Silber nails it:
Consider the enormous value of the hugely restricted publication of the Snowden documents to the various States involved. Rusbridger, Greenwald, et al. all trumpet the great triumph represented by the "debate" publication has engendered -- the clamor of public voices demands "reform," so committees will be formed, investigations will be undertaken, and when the dust has settled, life for the States involved will go on almost exactly as before (remember: if the NSA were disbanded today, identical surveillance would continue via other agencies and institutions of power) -- and the States will be able to claim that the public knows the "truth," and their activities now have the full blessing of informed public consent.
Read about it here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Op-ed: Iran: It's Not about Nukes

If you want to understand the U.S.-Iran controversy, know this: It is not about nuclear weapons.
It's all here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Did Sanctions Bring Iran to the Table?

This is a popular view and is constantly reinforced by the news media. But it is not true.

John Glaser addresses the claim in "Four Emerging Myths about the P5+1, Iran Deal":
This ignores the record. Iran offered the U.S. an even better deal back in 2003 and they were rebuffed by a recalcitrant Bush administration who chose to isolate and sanction Iran instead of respond to diplomacy. In response to increasing U.S. sanctions, Iran’s enrichment program expanded and intensified. In 2003, Iran had 164 centrifuges operating and no 20% enriched uranium. After a decade of escalating sanctions, in 2013 Iran had 19,000 centrifuges and a sizable stockpile of 20% uranium. Only when [Hassan] Rouhani was elected and Iran was engaged in secret negotiations with Washington with the prospects of peaceful compromise on the horizon did Iran halt its installation of new centrifuges and put enrichment on hold.

They Died in Vain

In a remarkable exchange on MSNBC, correspondent Richard Engel said the personal investment of individual US troops was part of the calculation regarding what America should do next in Afghanistan. Chief diplomatic stenographer Andrea Mitchell, upped the ante, saying it was the "most important" part of the calculation.

This is called throwing good lives after bad.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Sin of Herbert Spencer

Benjamin R. Tucker
Guest blogger

Liberty welcomes and criticises in the same breath the series of papers by Herbert Spencer on “The New Toryism,” “The Coming Slavery,” “The Sins of Legislators,” etc., now running in the Popular Science Monthly and the English Contemporary Review. They are very true, very important, and very misleading. They are true for the most part in what they say, and false and misleading in what they fail to say. Mr. Spencer convicts legislators of undeniable and enormous sins in meddling with and curtailing and destroying the people’s rights. Their sins are sins of commission. But Mr. Spencer’s sin of omission is quite as grave. He is one of those persons who are making a wholesale onslaught on Socialism as the incarnation of the doctrine of State omnipotence carried to its highest power. And I am not sure that he is quite honest in this. I begin to be a little suspicious of him. It seems as if he had forgotten the teachings of his earlier writings, and had become a champion of the capitalistic class. It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people’s welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. You must not protect the weak against the strong, he seems to say, but freely supply all the weapons needed by the strong to oppress the weak. He is greatly shocked that the rich should be directly taxed to support the poor, but that the poor should be indirectly taxed and bled to make the rich richer does not outrage his delicate sensibilities in the least. Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight.

A very acute criticism of Mr. Spencer’s position has been made recently before the Manhattan Liberal Club by Stephen Pearl Andrews. He shows that Mr. Spencer is not the radical laissez faire philosopher which he pretends to be; that the only true believers in laissez faire are the Anarchists; that individualism must be supplemented by the doctrines of equity and courtesy; and that, while State Socialism is just as dangerous and tyrannical as Mr. Spencer pictures it, “there is a higher and nobler form of Socialism which is not only not slavery, but which is our only means of rescue from all sorts and degrees of slavery.” All this is straight to the mark,—telling thrusts, which Mr. Spencer can never parry.

But the English philosopher is doing good, after all. His disciples are men of independent mind, more numerous every day, who accept his fundamental truths and carry them to their logical conclusions. A notable instance is Auberon Herbert, formerly a member of the House of Commons, but now retired from political life. While an enthusiastic adherent of the Spencerian philosophy, he is fast outstripping his master. In a recent essay entitled “A Politician in Sight of Haven,” written, as the London Spectator says, with an unsurpassable charm of style, Mr. Herbert explodes the majority lie, ridicules physical force as a solution of social problems, strips government of every function except the police, and recognizes even that only as an evil of brief necessity, and in conclusion proposes the adoption of voluntary taxation with a calmness and confidence which must have taken Mr. Spencer’s breath away. To be sure, Mr. Herbert is as violent as his master against Socialism, but in his case only because he honestly supposes that compulsory Socialism is the only Socialism, and not at all from any sympathy with legal monopoly or capitalistic privilege in any form.

Reprinted from Liberty, May 17, 1884

Friday, November 22, 2013

TGIF: Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig

Last week’s TGIF, “One Moral Standard for All,” drew a curious response fromMatt Bruenig, a contributor to the Demos blog, Policy Shop. In reading his article, “Libertarians Are Huge Fans of Initiating Force,” one should bear in mind that the aim of my article was not to defend the libertarian philosophy, but to show that most people live by it most of the time. The problem is that they apply a different moral standard to government employees.
Mr. Bruenig’s article, which will satisfy only those of his readers who know nothing firsthand about libertarianism, charges libertarians with failing to understand that the concept “initiation of force” must be defined in terms of a theory of entitlement. It is that theory which reveals who, in any particular violent interaction, is the aggressor and who is the defender. Thus, he says, an act that a libertarian would call aggression would look different to someone working from a different theory of entitlement. (Strangely, he believes he can validate taxation by this reasoning.)
That Mr. Bruenig thinks this is news to libertarians indicates how much research he did before writing his article. I know of no libertarian who would be surprised by his statement. But Mr. Bruenig goes further and accuses libertarians of circular reasoning in defining entitlement and the initiation of force, or aggression. Is he right? Let’s see.
Read the rest here. By the way, if you're curious about Bruenig's agenda, I believe it is packed into this passage:
So taxing someone, for instance, is only aggressive if you think the amount being taxed belongs to the person being taxed. But if you believe the amount being taxed belongs to whomever the money is going to (say a retired person), then it isn't aggressive. The force involved in extracting the tax when someone resists is simply defensive force.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Predictable

Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and is known not to be seeking to build one, is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and thus subject to rigorous inspections by the International Atomic Energy Administration, which has repeatedly certified that Iran's uranium has not been diverted to weapons production.

Israel, which has at least 200 nuclear warheads (including those launchable from submarines), is not a party to the NPT and is not subject to inspections.

Guess which country's government thinks the NPT is of no use in the Middle East?

Israel, of course. According to PressTV, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the NPT is worthless in the Middle East. He insists that it is Iran, not Israel, that is the aggressor. Or, as Chico Marx said, "Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes?"

TGIF: One Moral Standard for All

Libertarians make a self-defeating mistake in assuming that their fundamental principles differ radically from most other people’s principles. Think how much easier it would be to bring others to the libertarian position if we realized that they already agree with us in substantial ways.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Op-ed: Preventing War with Iran is Top Priority

The best way to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb is for the Obama administration and its nuclear client Israel to stop threatening the Islamic Republic.

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

No Thanks, Veterans and Troops

Justin Doolittle nails it at Salon: "Stop thanking the troops for me: No, they don’t 'protect our freedoms!'”

The Moral versus the Practical?

I've heard libertarians say they would be for freedom even if it had bad social consequences. For me, such a statement doesn't compute. Why not? Because morality is derived from the conditions under which rational social animals can flourish. What else could morality be? A set of arbitrary decrees from a deity?

For more, I highly recommend Roderick Long's article "Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?"

Veterans Day

Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of the shooting in the Great War. The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed a little after 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, but wasn't to take effect until 11 a.m. Meanwhile men continued to kill and die.

"Canadian Private George Lawrence Price is traditionally regarded as the last soldier killed in the Great War: he was shot by a German sniper at 10:57 and died at 10:58." --Wikipedia

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inflation Is the Last Thing We Need

Because Fed-created money enters the economy at particular points (through banks and bond dealers), a select few people get it sooner than the rest of us. Those who are thus privileged are able to buy at the old, lower prices, while the rest of us don’t see the money until prices have risen. That is an implicit tax and transfer.
And the problem isn’t simply a rising price level. Relative prices are what provide entrepreneurs and investors the information required for rational economic calculation and service to consumers. Inflation changes relative prices. Thus, it distorts the price system and, in turn, the multidimensional economic structure. That means any stimulus is unsustainable because the inflationary policy will eventually end and unemployment must follow as the inflation-induced errors are revealed.
Inflation serves the governing class. Honest, hardworking people should abhor it.
Read it all.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kinsella, Tucker, and Me on IP and Obamacare

Here's the video of my Liberty Talk with Stephan Kinsella and Jeff Tucker. I thoroughly enjoyed this.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, Walter Grinder

Today is the 75th birthday of one my mentors, Walter Grinder. I first became aware of Walter in the 1970s through the Center for Libertarian Studies and its annual Libertarian Scholars Conference. But I first saw him in action in 1978, when he lectured at the first Cato Summer Seminar, at Wake Forest University. That gathering had a huge influence on me (and so many others), and Walter was a major reason. Later I worked with him at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University , 1985-91. He has always been a great source of guidance, as well as bibliographic and other intellectual information. He has counseled more young libertarians about their scholarly work and careers than could ever be counted. His contributions to liberty are incalculable.
Happy birthday to a friend and role model. Happy birthday, Walter!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Which Came First?

"It is nationalism which engenders nations, and not the other way around." --Ernest Gellner

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Op-ed: Stop Demonizing Iran

Not everyone wants peace with Iran. Some want war.

Read about it here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monster Mash

To appreciate how monstrous Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's record is, read my latest TGIF: "Treating People like Garbage."

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Goddam State

I just saw a commercial for the Wounded Warrior
Project that brought tears to my eyes. It shows a little girl reading to and helping her young but feeble father, who suffered a severe head wound in Iraq. It outraged me that a young daughter should have to see her father in that condition, and I said out loud, "That is what the state does to families."

See if you have the same reaction.

What Netanyahu Fears from a Warming of Iran-US Relations

Solid analysis from Daniel Levy at Foreign Policy:
Israel's leadership seeks to maintain the convenient reality of a neighboring region populated by only two types of regimes. The first type is regimes with a degree of dependence on the United States, which necessitates severe limitations on challenging Israel (including diplomatically). The second type is regimes that are considered beyond the pale by the United States and as many other global actors as possible, and therefore unable to do serious damage to Israeli interests.
Israel's leadership would consider the emergence of a third type of regional actor -- one that is not overly deferential to Washington but also is not boycotted, and that even boasts a degree of economic, political, and military weight -- a deeply undesirable development. What's more, this threatens to become a not-uncommon feature of the Middle East: Just look at Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or Egypt before the July 3 coup, or an Iran that gets beyond its nuclear dispute and starts to normalize its relations with the West.
There are other reasons for Netanyahu to oppose any developments that would allow Iran to break free of its isolation and win acceptance as an important regional actor with which the West engages. The current standoff is an extremely useful way of distracting attention from the Palestinian issue, and a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran would likely shine more of a spotlight on Israel's own nuclear weapons capacity. But the key point to understand in interpreting Netanyahu's policy is this: While Obama has put aside changing the nature of the Islamic Republic's political system, Israel's leader is all about a commitment to regime change -- or failing that, regime isolation -- in Tehran. And he will pursue that goal even at the expense of a workable deal on the nuclear file.
Also see Scott McConnell's "The Coming Love Affair With Iran."

Op-ed: Can Iran Trust the United States

My latest op-ed, "Can Iran Trust the United States?," points out that the full historical context indicates that Iran is the aggrieved party in its conflict with the U.S. government. It is up to President Obama to demonstrate his peaceful intent. He should start by lifting all economic sanctions.

Read it here.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Traces of Reality Interview

Guillermo Jimenez interviewed me again on Traces of Reality, this time about the illegitimacy of the government's debt. Have a listen.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

TGIF: Lysander Spooner and the National Debt

By what authority do politicians borrow in the name of the American people and presume they may use force to compel repayment of the debt? By no authority whatsoever.

Read about it.

Meanwhile on the Fiscal Front...

Here's what's going on: Congress and the government agencies incurred expenses with the intention of paying the bills with a credit card that they knew would be maxed out before payment was due unless the credit limit was raised. They could do this because of their fallback position: the threat of violence against the taxpayers. You and I can't engage in such behavior without paying a penalty.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

C4SS Under Attack

From Rodrick Long at the Austro-Athenian Empire:
You may have noticed that the C4SS website is down (or possibly, by the time you read this, redirecting). Here’s the story.
The Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) has an associated student group, Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), with affiliates around the world. A couple of weeks ago, S4SS noticed that its affiliate at the University of Ghent in Belgium (S4SS UGent) was being taken over by racists and Islamophobic bigots, so it issued a public statement disaffiliating with the group, and explained why. The explanation included quotations from bigoted comments made on the S4SS UGent facebook page – a page that was public at the time, though it has since been made private. C4SS then put up a link to the S4SS statement.

One of the racists quoted in the statement, a certain Olivier Janssens, demanded that the notice be taken down, alleging that a) his comments were copyrighted and shouldn’t be quoted without his consent, and b) his privacy was violated, and personal safety threatened, since we had made public his comments from a private forum. Since we judged that explaining the disaffiliation, and warning potential comrades against Janssens and his entryist colleagues, created a fair-use context for the quotations – and since, contrary to Janssens’s assertions, the forum in which the comments were made was actually public at the time he made them – we declined his request (with some asperity).
Apparently unaware of the concept of the “Streisand Effect,” Janssens engaged a lawyer – one who publicly brags about the ease of using flimsy DMCA claims to intimidate web hosts into compliance – who thereupon used a flimsy DMCA claim to intimidate C4SS/S4SS’s web host into compliance, and both the C4SS and S4SS websites were shut down.
Read the rest here. Jesse Walker of Reason reports here. See also techdirt.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Op-ed: The Kenyan Massacre’s Roots in America’s Somalia Policy

Last weekend’s hostage-taking — and the murder of at least 61 people — at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has its roots in the U.S. government’s intervention in Somalia, which began in the 1990s. Although there is no justification for killing innocents, it is fair to point out that al-Shabaab, the Islamist group that committed the attack on the mall and that controls parts of Somalia, would probably not be in power if not for the United States.
Read it here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Are They Predicting about War with Syria and Iran?

Tom Tomorrow- Great Moments in Punditry: 
Four Years Later

Friday, September 13, 2013

TGIF: The People Say No to War

The Constitution did not keep President Obama from attacking Syria. The people did. Think about that.

Read about it here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11:

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush, and now Barack Obama, as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people have taken its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: They could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy-makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis (and dead Pakistanis and Yemenis and Somalis and Libyans). What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

11. Politicians will stop at nothing to shamelessly exploit the memory of the American victims of blowback if it will aggrandize their power. No amount of national self-pity, self-congratulation, and vaunting is ever enough.

(Adapted and re-posted from 2006.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

US, Israel Prevented Mideast from Being WMD-Free

President Obama boasts that Russia and Syria would not be willing to consider the surrender of Syria's chemical weapons had it not been for administration's "credible threat of military force."


Eight years before the Syrian civil war broke out, President Bashar al-Assad, backed by most of the Arab world, proposed that the Middle East be turned into a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone. Biological and nuclear weapons, as well as chemical weapons, would have been banned and current stockpiles destroyed. Syria proposed this in 2003 in the form of a Security Council resolution, but it was not the first time it floated the idea.

What happened in 2003?

The resolution was tabled after the Bush administration threatened to veto it. Why the veto threat? Because Israel had -- and has -- no intention of giving up its weapons of mass destruction, including its nuclear arsenal of at least 200 warheads. In fact, Israel won't even acknowledge what everyone knows: that it possesses this massive and deadly arsenal. American usually defers to Israel at the UN (and everywhere else). It would be political suicide not to. (Activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are currently swarming the halls of Congress lobbying for a U.S. war against Syria, with Iran next in line.)

Thus many years ago Syria was willing to get rid of its chemical weapons without being under threat of military force. All it asked was that other states in the region possessing unconventional weapons -- such as Israel and Egypt, which are not parties to the various conventions on such weapons -- get rid of theirs.

Would the Obama administration threaten to veto the same resolution today? What do you think?

Friday, September 06, 2013

Sign the Petition to Stop War Against Syria

I urge everyone to sign Alan Grayson's petition against a U.S. war with Syria. Go to Don't Attack Syria..

Kerry a Marxist?

Apparently Secretary of State John Kerry has been reading that great American philosopher Chico Marx in formulating his position that an attack on Syria would not constitute war. In Duck Soup, Chico says,
Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

TGIF: The Cynical U.S. Policy on Chemical Weapons

President Obama says an attack on Syria would send a message condemning Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. But given the U.S. government's curious record on chemical weapons, the world is likely to get a different message.

Read it here.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Op-Ed U.S. Must Not Be World's Policeman

Even if everything Secretary of State John Kerry says about chemical weapons in Syria were true, the evidence would prove only that Bashar al-Assad committed crimes against civilians. It would not prove that the U.S. government has either the moral or legal authority to commit acts of war.
Read it all here.

Monday, September 02, 2013

For the Record

Pictures of children blown up by Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles are pretty either.

What Is War?

The state's essence stripped of all euphemism and obfuscation.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Illiberal Means, Illiberal Ends

This article originally appeared as a TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website, June 8, 2007

The years 1914-1918 must have been lonely for Randolph Bourne. Bourne was a popular writer in Progressive circles, prolifically turning out articles for The New Republic and Seven Arts magazines. But soon the former, along with other publications, lost interest in his writing and the latter ceased operations, leaving Bourne out in the cold.

What happened? Bourne bucked his fellow intellectuals, including his mentor John Dewey, and opposed U.S. entry into World War I. (For a discussion of the origins of the war and U.S. entry, see Ralph Raico's World War I: The Triumph of Statism [pdf].) Bourne stood virtually alone among that group in thinking that participation in the Great War in Europe would be a disastrous error. Before Seven Arts stopped publishing, Bourne had an opportunity to make his views known. His eloquence and logic are worthy of examination.

First, let's see what attracted the Progressives to a war that did not threaten the security of Americans at home, the sort of war America's founders sought isolation from. The so-called liberals around The New Republic, which was founded in 1914, were at first ambivalent about foreign affairs. But as President Woodrow Wilson moved from nominal neutrality to an openly pro-war position (from the start, his tilt toward England was clear), he furnished a rationale that the liberals would embrace: making the world safe for democracy. In intellectual circles the charge to war was led by Herbert Croly, the magazine's editor, who previously was a champion of Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism (Croly's phrase). Croly was one of those thinkers who believed that the Jeffersonian traditions were obsolete in the new twentieth century. On the eve of U.S. entry into the war, he summed up his zeal for government-led collective action by saying, “The American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure.” The lives destroyed or permanently mangled in the orgy of violence taking place in Europe were minor consequences compared to the benign effects Croly foresaw for the nation. He was unbothered that there is a very real possibility that the new Army and Navy will be used chiefly for positive and for aggressive as opposed to merely defensive purposes. He perceptively observed that for the United States no sharp line can be drawn between defensive and aggressive armament.

Croly's ally in promoting U.S. entry was John Dewey, pragmatist philosopher, Progressive intellectual, and education theorist. As described by Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. in The Decline of American Liberalism, Dewey scoffed at the older American tradition of avoiding foreign wars, holding, like a good pragmatist, that it “all depends upon the efficient adaptation of means to ends.” He found in the German nation and mind a mysticism and romanticism that would bring them into conflict with America. But he was intent on seeing that participation in the war achieved bigger things than simply a built-up military. “The first means of preparedness that was needed, Dewey decided, was a truly national and compulsory educational system to counteract the provincialism and isolation of American life,” Ekirch writes. Thus for Dewey, preparedness for war was the chance to consolidate government power in order to produce “a unified mind in a crisis like the present.” War was to be a grand government program.

As Wilson moved toward entry into the war, Dewey's intellectualism yielded to what Ekirch calls “an emotional and pseudo-mystical ode to American nationalism.” America was reluctant to get into the war, Dewey said, because “we have not yet found a national mind, a will as to what to be.” The cure for that deficiency was participation in the fight. He chided the peace movement for failing to realize the great opportunity the war offered: “the immense impetus to reorganization afforded by this war.” He urged liberals to work “to form, at this plastic juncture, the conditions and objects of our entrance.” In other words, if enlightened intellectuals became boosters for American participation, they would have a role in shaping the terms and hence the outcome of that participation. [For the "liberals," war] would have, in Bourne's words, “a world-renovating social purpose” — the statist's dream come true.

Dewey seemed to realize the risks inherent in war fever, but, Ekirch writes, “though he warned against the excesses of war and nationalism, Dewey did not offer any solution as to how the good elements were to be separated from the bad, or as to how the emotional and irrational aspects were to be avoided.”

Enter Bourne

This was all too much for Randolph Bourne, who wrote several articles protesting the betrayal of liberalism by the intellectuals. (One cannot read Bourne without thinking of Leonard Read's “Conscience on the Battlefield" or the essays in Leviathan at War.) In response to Dewey, he wrote, in "A War Diary" (September 1917): “It is only ‘liberal’ naïveté that is shocked at arbitrary coercion and suppression. Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it. A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war.” Earlier, in a June article, "The War and the Intellectuals," he rejected Dewey's siren song promising the intellectual class a say in reshaping the nation and the world in return for its war support:
The realist thinks he at least can control events by linking himself to the forces that are moving. Perhaps he can. But if it is a question of controlling war, it is difficult to see how the child on the back of a mad elephant is to be any more effective in stopping the beast than is the child who tries to stop him from the ground. The ex-humanitarian, turned realist, sneers at the snobbish neutrality, colossal conceit, crooked thinking, dazed sensibilities, of those who are still unable to find any balm of consolation for this war. We manufacture consolations here in America while there are probably not a dozen men fighting in Europe who did not long ago give up every reason for their being there except that nobody knew how to get them away.
He rejected the “realist's” claim that opponents of the war would be “excommunicated” and left without influence.
But the intellectuals whom the crisis has crystallized into an acceptance of war have put themselves into a terrifyingly strategic position. It is only on the craft, in the stream, they say, that one has any chance of controlling the current forces for liberal purposes. If we obstruct, we surrender all power for influence. If we responsibly approve, we then retain our power for guiding. We will be listened to as responsible thinkers, while those who obstructed the coming of war have committed intellectual suicide and shall be cast into outer darkness. Criticism by the ruling powers will only be accepted from those intellectuals who are in sympathy with the general tendency of the war. Well, it is true that they may guide, but if their stream leads to a disaster and the frustration of national life, is their guiding any more than a preference whether they shall go over the right-hand or the left-hand side of the precipice? Meanwhile, however, there is comfort on board. Be with us, they call, or be negligible, irrelevant. Dissenters are already excommunicated. Irreconcilable radicals, wringing their hands among the debris, become the most despicable and impotent of men. There seems no choice for the intellectual but to join the mass of acceptance. But again the terrible dilemma arises — either support what is going on, in which case you count for nothing because you are swallowed in the mass and great incalculable forces bear you on, or remain aloof, passively resistant, in which case you count for nothing because you are outside the machinery of reality.
For Bourne, the liberals who were thirsting for influence in the halls of power had a memory lapse of catastrophic proportions: “The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade.”

Bourne, alas, died in 1918, leaving his final work, The State, unfinished.

Randolph Bourne was an individualist social critic, not an economist. He never realized that laissez faire would have gotten him where he wanted to go. But at least he understood what would not produce the freedom and liberalism he cherished. Liberalism, he said, could not be achieved by illiberal means. Ironically, Woodrow Wilson, whose decision to take the country into war helped make the twentieth century the bloody, totalitarian century it became, agreed. He told New York World editor Frank Cobb, “It was just war and there weren't two kinds of it. It required illiberalism at home to reinforce the men at the front. We couldn't fight Germany and maintain the ideas of Government that all thinking men shared.” The Creel Committee propaganda mill; the Espionage Act of 1917; the Sedition Act of 1918, under which Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for a speech opposing the war; and the War Industries Board, which collectivized the economy, would all reveal Wilson — intervener in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and now Europe — as a self-fulfilling prophet.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

In Search of Monsters to Destroy

Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821 (excerpt):

And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world … should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this:

America … has invariably … held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.

She has uniformly spoken among them … the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.

She has … respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart....

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own....

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scariest Line from Kerry's Syria Speech

"It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations."

Random Thoughts

  • Onion headline I'd like to see: Obama Issuing Troops Nike Footwear to Avoid Accusation He's Putting Boots on Ground in Syria.
  • Who says Obama is not brilliant? He neutralized Hagel, didn't he?
  • Let's take all the tables away from the politicians so they will have no place to put their options.
  • "National interest" is way too vague an idea to be a useful guide for anything.

Now I Understand

I just listened to Secretary State John Kerry's speech on Syria and chemical weapons. He pointed out that such weapons were banned internationally after Word War I. That sheds light on a question that has bugged me for a long time. Now I see why Harry Truman dropped two A-bombs on Japan in 1945: Chemical weapons were illegal.

Two Items Related to Syria

Op-ed: "U.S. Has No Moral Standing To Condemn Assad"
TGIF: "Obama and King" (Portuguese translation here.)

Friday, August 23, 2013

TGIF: Heroic

Chelsea Manning deserves our admiration. Here's hoping her prison stay is short and easy.

Read TGIF: Heroic here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Matthews Demagogues Climate Change ... Again

Chris Matthews does it again: Yesterday's show featured a discussion of the latest report on climate change with a climate scientist who believes that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) is happening (Michael Mann) and ... a Republican consultant (who kept saying, "I'm not a scientist."). Matthews's mission is to make sure his viewers never have to encounter a credentialed climate scientist with evidence against CAGW -- there are such -- so he can maintain the pretense that anyone who denies CAGW must be an anti-science religious fanatic.

Worth reading: Alex Cockburn's "Is Global Warming a Sin?"

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Regarding Bradley Manning's Apology

Bradley Manning was sentenced today to 35 years in prison today, more than the 25 minimum, but less than the 60 the government asked for.

Arthur Silber has written a moving post, "If You Love Martyrs So Much, Then You Be One," about Manning's apology before his court-martial judge. If you are among those who are disappointed in Manning's action, I strongly recommend that you read it. If you understand what Manning did, I also recommend it. Here's a sample:
To express "disappointment" and the like is to confess that you may have grown to adulthood physically, but that you have allowed yourself to become fossilized emotionally in a state one might expect from a pathetically narcissistic, very badly damaged adolescent, with no understanding of how human beings actually live their lives or how societies function. It is also to confess a close to complete ignorance of political matters. It would be sufficiently nauseating if they only wished Manning to become a martyr for whatever cause they think they're serving. But it is beyond obscene that they demand that he willingly climb onto the cross, and drive the nails through his body himself.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Delete the Fed

My latest Future of Freedom Foundation op-ed, "Delete the Fed," summarizes the reasons why no one should succeed Ben Bernanke when his term as chairman of the Federal Reserve expires at the end of January. 
Money was not invented by government. It was the spontaneous creation of people trying to ease exchange in the marketplace. Central banks like the Fed only messed money up, robbing the people while facilitating warfare and welfare spending through irresponsible large-scale government borrowing.
Therefore, the Fed should be deleted.
Read it here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

TGIF: The Phony Trade-Off between Privacy and Security

When we're told that we must trade some privacy to gain security, don't believe it. Read about it here.

Webinar: The Myth of Market Faiilure

Here's the audio for my FFF webninar on the myth of market failure. Enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Libertarian Angle

The latest Libertarian Angle covers the drug war and foreign policy. Enjoy!

Friday, August 09, 2013

TGIF: Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents

Sixty-eight years ago today a president of the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a city full of innocent Japanese. It was the second time in three days that Harry Truman had done such a thing: He had bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The fatalities in the two cities totaled 150,000–246,000. The victims – mostly children, women, and old men – suffered horrible deaths in the blasts and firestorms. Only shadows remained of those who were vaporized. Many more were injured; others later died from radiation sickness.
Appallingly, history has been kind to Truman, and people who profess a variety of political views claim to admire the “plucky” plain-speaking guy from Independence, Mo. As I see it, however, no condemnation could be harsh enough, for if Truman wasn’t a mass murderer, no one was.
Read it here.

The Libertarian Angle

The latest Libertarian Angle discusses the uncompromising nature of libertarianism.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Scott Horton Appearance

Last week Scott Horton and I discussed matters related to the minimum wage and government obstacles to individual advancement. Listen here.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Real Days of Infamy

Today is the 68th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, one of President Harry Truman's acts of mass murder against Japan in August 1945. The anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing is Friday. (It has lately come to my attention that the U.S. military bombed Tokyo on Aug. 14--after destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki and after Emperor Hirohito expressed his readiness to surrender.)

There isn't much to be said about those unspeakable atrocities against civilians that hasn't been said many times before. The U.S. government never needed atomic bombs to commit mass murder. Its "conventional" weapons have been potent enough. (See the earlier firebombing of Tokyo.) But considering how the "leaders" saw The Bomb, its two uses against Japan stand out as especially heinous acts. The U.S. government may not have used atomic weapons since 1945, but it has not yet given up mass murder as a political/military tactic. Presidential candidates are still expected to say that, with respect to nuclear weapons, "no options are off the table."

Mario Rizzo has pointed out that Americans were upset by the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11 yet seem not to be bothered that "their" government murdered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in a few days.

As Harry Truman once said, "I don't give 'em hell. I just drop A-bombs on their cities and they think it's hell." (Okay, he didn't really say that, but he might as well have.)

Rad Geek People's Daily has a poignant post here. Rad says: "As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world."

Other things to read: Anthony Gregory’s “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the US Terror State and David Henderson’s “Remembering Hiroshima.”

Finally, if you read nothing else on this subject, read Ralph Raico's article here.

[A version of this post appeared previously.]

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Bastiat and Subjective Marginal Utility

Frederic Bastiat really was a precursor of the Austrian school. 
Menger was indeed a revolutionary, but that does not mean that no one before him glimpsed ideas that would later blossom into the Austrian school. As far back as Socrates, thinkers grasped the theory of subjective value in the praxeological sense, and we find a nearly complete subjectivist-marginalist framework 20 years before Menger took pen to paper — in the work of Frédéric Bastiat.
In Bastiat’s unfinished magnum opus, Economic Harmonies (1850), he, like Menger, put the spotlight on the choosing individual and what she tries to accomplish through exchange. Trade, for Bastiat, is an exchange of services that will render useful things: I’ll do something for you (furnish a useful thing, for example) if you do something for me. It’s up to each individual to evaluate the terms and decide if the exchange is worthwhile. Methodological individualism, marginalism, and subjectivism are all to be found in Bastiat.
Read about it here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Latest Op-Ed: How to Help Fast-Food Workers

Doubling the minimum wage may seem like a good way to help fast-food workers, but it would hurt them instead. So what should we do? We must sweep away the government-created barriers to income earning, barriers that protect established businesses from competition and rob the most vulnerable people of options.

The Bradley Manning Verdict

Now we know what happens when you embarrass the scoundrels who run the U.S. government.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bastiat Gets It

"Never shall we succeed in preventing the production of something that, since it is in demand, has value." Economic Harmonies

Interview with Guillermo Jimenez

Guillermo Jimenez interviewed me recently for Demanufacturing Consent. Here's the audio.

TGIF: James Madison: Father of the Implied-Powers Doctrine

Don't be fooled by Madison's promise that the Constitution would create a government of "few and defined" powers. Read about the real Madison.

Monday, July 22, 2013

From Articles of Confederation to Constitution

My July FFF webinar was titled "From Articles of Confederation to Constitution." Here's the audio.

The Libertarian Angle

In the latest FFF Libertarian Angle, Jacob Hornberger and I discuss some of the differences between libertarians and conservative/"liberals." Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

TGIF: What an Honest Conversation about Race Would Look Like

Ever since George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin hit the national headlines last year, calls for an “honest conversation about race” have been heard throughout America. (Up until then, apparently, we’ve had only conversations about having a conversation about race.) However, one need not believe that the Zimmerman shooting and verdict were about race — I watched the trial and I don’t — to think that an honest conversation about race is indeed long overdue.

First on the agenda should be the many ways that government policies — either by intent or by palpable effect — embody racism. Let’s call them vehicles for official racism. I have in mind things like the war on certain drug manufacturers, merchants, and consumers; the crusade against “illegal” guns; the minimum wage and related laws; and the government’s schools. All of these by far take their greatest toll on people of color.

Private racism, whether violent or nonviolent, is evil and abhorrent; it is also unlibertarian — yes, even nonviolent racism is unlibertarian, as I point out in “Libertarianism = Anti-Racism.” There I wrote,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Irony of the Zimmerman-Martin Case

Funny, if anyone can be said to have stood his ground rather than retreat, it was Trayvon Martin.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rand Paul, Jack Hunter, and All That

I cringe every time libertarianism is associated with the Confederate States of America. Read Jeff Hummel's Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men to see why you should too.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Scott Horton Show

Scott Horton and I talked about immigration on his show the other day. Here's the audio.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When Is a Military Coup Not a Military Coup?

When calling it such would harm Israel and anger the American Israel (Jewish) Lobby. The ouster of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi has all the characteristics of a military coup, but the Obama administration refuses to label it such. Why? Because under U.S. rules, military aid may not go to a country in which the military coup removed a democratically elected president. Egypt's gets over a billion dollars a year in a deal struck among the Egyptian, Israeli, and U.S. governments under the 1978 Camp David Accord, which constituted a peace treaty between the two Mideast nations that had gone to four war times. Under the deal Israel gets about three billion dollars a year in U.S. military assistance. The Obama administration won't cut the aid to the Egyptian military for one simple reason: Israel and its American lobby don't want the aid ended. Since 1978 the Egyptian military has been a key to Israel's continuing subjugation of the Palestinians, particularly those held in the Gaza Strip. Israeli leaders care about only one thing with respect to Egypt: Will its government continue to honor the Camp David Accord? The Egyptian military can be counted on to do so as long as it is dependent on U.S. aid. (Morsi did nothing to undercut Camp David.)

In other words, the billion dollars that go to the Egyptian military is really indirect aid to the Israeli regime and thus a means of enabling the occupation of Palestine.

Word games are a big part of what goes on Washington, D.C.

Op-ed: What the Immigration Bill Overlooks

My latest op-ed points out that the Senate's "comprehensive" immigration "reform" bill missed a few things.

Monday, July 08, 2013

TGIF: Airbrushing Barbarity

In "Airbrushing Barbarity" I explore the insidious practice of discussing public policy in value-free terms.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Week's Scribblings

Op-ed: "Big Brother, Not Snowden and Greenwald, Is the Story"
Snowden and Greenwald have not “aided the enemy” — unless the American people are the government’s enemy. What they have done is embarrass the Obama administration by exposing criminal activity.
 For the media’s defenders of power against truth, that’s inexcusable.
TGIF: "Is Edward Snowden a Lawbreaker?"
Lex injusta non est lex — an unjust law is not a law.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Media Priorities

If the television talking heads spent half the time discussing NSA spying that they spend sneering at Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, the people might actually get mad at Big Brother.

TGIF: National Servitude

The idea of "national service" never goes away. It just stands in the wings waiting to reappear. Well, it's back, and here is my take.
What do [the advocates of  “national service”] really want: improvement in the lives of people or service to “the nation,” which always translates into service to the state? If it’s the latter, they should remind themselves that earlier attempts to institutionalize that notion of duty weren’t pretty.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Just Wondering

Has the NSA spying ceased pending the debate?

Friday, June 14, 2013

TGIF: It’s Not Edward Snowden Who Betrayed Us

TGIF this week cuts through the NSA fog to show that how one comes down on the controversy depends on whether or not one trusts power.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Op-ed: Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance

My take on the revelations about the NSA's spying.  Bottom line:
Obama says, “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”
That’s wrong. If the politicians’ only response to revelations that they’re violating our privacy is to ask for trust, then we already have problems.


Edward Snowden, Unmasker of Big Brother

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Does He Listen to Himself?

If Barack Obama really "welcome[s] the debate" on the surveillance state, why is his administration pulling out all the stops to find the leaker who's making that debate possible?

Friday, June 07, 2013

TGIF: The Lie Factory

Obama says things are going well in Afghanistan. He lies.
Read all about it.

Caplan on Pacifism

Bryan Caplan defends his antiwar stance against Jan Ling in this Learn Liberty video.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Op-ed: The US Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity

Most Americans know (well maybe not) that the U.S. government has a military base on the island Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. But how many know of the atrocity that occurred to establish that base?

Read about it.

Friday, May 31, 2013

TGIF: So What If Freedom Isn't Free?

My reply to those who admonish us libertarians that freedom isn't free.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Op-ed Obama's Willful Foreign-Policy Blindness

Here's my take on Barack Obama's May 23 major foreign-policy address.

For more on the phony nature of the speech and alleged policy changes, see William Saletan's unmaking.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Readings in Revisionist History

    I've been asked to post my list of readings in revisionist history separately so the link can be distributed. I haven't read all these books, but those I haven't gotten to yet come highly recommended by people I respect. I will add to the list from time to time.
  • We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr.
  • The Failure of America's Foreign Wars, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger
  • America's Second Crusade, by William Henry Chamberlin
  • Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by Ralph Raico
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • WartimeUnderstanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
  • The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, by Jeremy R. Hammond
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe
  • The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
  • Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, by Jim Powell
  • American Empire: Before the Fall, by Bruce Fein
  • Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, by Jonathan Kwitny
  • The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs, by David C. Unger
  • Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, by Nicholson Baker
  • Secrets, by Daniel Ellsberg
  • The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, by Nick Turse
  • War, Peace, and the State, by Murray Rothbard
  • “‘Ancient History’: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention,” by Sheldon Richman

Revisionist History Day, 2013

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to the Scott Horton Show) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of "our freedoms." This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government's policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has "kept us free," and disrespectful of "our troops," in a word, un-American.

To counter this common outlook, which people are indoctrinated in from birth and which is shared by conservatives and Progressives alike, we should do what we can to teach others that the government's version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency.

In that spirit, I quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, 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....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history and watching Emily.

Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order (some of which I've read, some of which I intend to read):
  • We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr.
  • The Failure of America's Foreign Wars, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger
  • America's Second Crusade, by William Henry Chamberlin
  • Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by Ralph Raico
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • WartimeUnderstanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
  • The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, by Jeremy R. Hammond
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe
  • The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
  • Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, by Jim Powell
  • American Empire: Before the Fall, by Bruce Fein
  • Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, by Jonathan Kwitny
  • The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs, by David C. Unger
  • Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, by Nicholson Baker
  • Secrets, by Daniel Ellsberg
  • The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, by Nick Turse
  • War, Peace, and the State, by Murray Rothbard
  • “‘Ancient History’: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention,” by Sheldon Richman
By the way, if you can't help but think of this day as "memorial day," then at least spend part of it remembering how the U.S. government has caused the deaths of so many people.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

TGIF: The Greatness of Peace Activist John Bright

John Bright is one of the great heroes of liberalism for his devotion to free markets and peace. His speeches on peace and nonintervention make good reading for the Memorial Day weekend. Here is a sample.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To Be Governed . . .

“I sure want to do some governing.” --Barack Obama

"To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality." --P.-J. Proudhon

Nakba Day

Today is Nakba Day, the day of remembrance of the catastrophe that befell Palestinians during the aggression-based and unlawful  establishment of the Jewish State of Israel 65 years ago. Over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and villages, and many massacred, in an ethnic-cleansing operation that should shock the conscience. The Arabs who remained in the Israeli state that was imposed on them by Zionist military forces have been second-class citizens from that time. Don't expect much notice of this in the mass media.

The best short introduction to this shameful series of events is Jeremy Hammond's The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination. See also Hammond's "The Myth of the UN Creation of Israel."

Other good reading on this matter: David Hirst's The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, and Jack Ross's Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism.

UPDATE: This has just come to my attention (HT: Mondoweiss): Amjad Alqasis's "The Ongoing Nakba: The continuous forcible displacement of the Palestinian people."

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Op-ed: A Modest Gun-Safety Proposal

The problem with the gun-safety lobby is that it doesn't think big enough. See my modest proposal for gun safety.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Concealed Carry

I wrote this letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after reading that the University of Central Arkansas had decided to forbid faculty members and students from carrying concealed handguns. It was published today.
I see the University of Central Arkansas has chosen to prohibit concealed-carry of handguns.
Why would the school want to make the campus safe for the criminally minded? Nothing is more potentially dangerous than a gun-free zone.

The Essence of Production

There are two ways to produce any good: directly, i.e., by transforming inputs into the more useful form you want; and indirectly, i.e., by transforming inputs into a more useful form that someone else wants and exchanging it for the good you want. Both processes consist in transforming inputs, and hence are two variations on the same theme.

P.S. Money doesn't change the essence of what I've described. It's just roundabout barter, to use a thought from Bastiat.

P.P.S. There are no "exports" and "imports." There are only what I produce and what everyone else produces.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just Wondering

I'm betting the one who radicalized the Tsarnaevs lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Has the FBI paid a visit?

Scott Horton Show

I was on the Scott Horton show last week. You can listen to the conversation here.


Joseph S. Diedrich interviewed me recently. Here are the results.

Friday, April 26, 2013

TGIF: Liberty, Security, and Terrorism

Whether U.S. foreign policy really had anything to do with the Boston Marathon bombings, there are reasons enough to scrap it and to follow strict noninterventionism, since that would cease the daily brutality against Muslims (and others) committed in the name of the American people. One bonus from ending U.S.-sponsored murder and mayhem in the Muslim world is that it would remove a potential reason for violence against Americans.
Read  TGIF: Liberty, Security, and Terrorism

Also see "What if the Tsarnaevs' Motive Was Revenge for U.S. Foreign Policy?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Martial Law in Massachusetts

No lover of liberty can help but be appalled at the display of naked force during the period of de facto martial law in the suburbs of Boston. Here’s a sample:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hypocritical Democrats

So what else is new? But in this post, Glenn Greenwald shows the hypocrisy of Democrats who are criticizing Sen. Lindsey Graham for demanding that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not be treated like a normal criminal defendant, Miranda warnings and all. It turns out that President Obama and AG Holder essentially killed Miranda some time ago.

Slate's Emily Bazelon nails it too.

A Reminder from 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!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Latest TGIF

TGIF: Government Should Stop Its Own Violence First

Stupid Criminals

Maybe not all criminals are stupid but a lot of them are. The apparent Boston Marathon bombers opened the last chapter of their criminal enterprise by robbing a 7-11. How hackneyed can you get?

UPDATE: Latest word is that the Tsarnaev brothers did not rob a convenience store at all. (Someone else did that.) What they did was hijack a Mercedes SUV and force the driver to get money out of an ATM. They then let the driver go unharmed, while taking his car.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frog Supremacy

Frogs are superior to human beings. They do jump out of gradually heated water.

Demagogy on Manchin-Toomey

The Manchin-Toomey expansion of background checks to private gun sales was reasonable legislation, its advocates insist, because it would have forbidden the creation of a federal registry and exempted transfers of guns between family members and between friends.

Those features appear to be in the bill, but why should that matter? The champions of Manchin-Toomey would have us believe that once the bill passed, no more gun laws would ever be proposed again. That is, they’re either naïve or dishonest. I don’t think they’re naïve.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former member of the House and self-styled Second Amendment man who supported Manchin-Toomey, is an egregious example of this dishonesty. He spent weeks mocking opponents for not being mollified by the bill’s compromises. Can he be unfamiliar with the legislative tactic of gradualism? Start a program small to minimize opposition, then expand it in later years when people have become inured.

It’s not as though this tactic has never been used. The income tax started small in 1913 and applied only to the richest Americans. Those who expressed concern that the tax would expand were ridiculed as paranoid. Sen. William Borah, an Idaho Progressive Republican said, “No sane man would take from industry its just reward or rob frugality of a fair and honest return.”

As I wrote in Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax (1999):

The 1913 income tax was put at 1 percent on net income after a personal exemption of $3,000, some credits, and an additional $1,000 exemption for married couples living together. There was also a graduated 2 percent to 7 percent surcharge on incomes from $20,000 to $500,000….

In 1913, the average personal income was $621. Only 2 percent of the population was liable for the tax between 1913 and 1915.

In other words, the tax was introduced as a tax on the rich exclusively.

If the system were in place today, a single person making less than about $45,000 (the bottom 75 percent of filers) would pay no tax. A couple earning less than $60,000 would pay nothing. Incomes up to $300,000 would be in the 1 percent bracket. Someone would have to make $7.5 million before paying the top 7 percent rate. In 1994 dollars, the exemptions of 1913 would be worth $44,776 for a single person and $59,701 for married couples.

But it didn’t take long for the tax to become a tax on the masses. War, as usual, fueled the expansion. The anti-tax prophets were right.

The income tax is not the only example of gradualism. Social Security was also introduced as a modest program with a low tax. (The public was against it.)  Now it and Medicare take about 15 percent of a worker’s income. For details see Charlotte Twight’s Dependent on D.C.

The upshot is that you cannot judge a legislative bill in isolation. The dynamics of politics must be taken into account, especially the politicians’ ability to (in Twight’s words) “manipulate political transaction costs.” This refers to the many methods that government officials have to conceal what they’re doing and to make it costly for people to resist if they find out.

How might this idea apply to Manchin-Toomey? This isn’t rocket science. The bill may promise universal background checks (except for family members and friends), but it can’t keep that promise. Criminally minded people will always find ways to obtain guns outside the system. Theft and the black market will make that a certainty. Gun-running is as old as guns themselves, and nothing is more adaptive than the black market.

So what will happen after the next atrocity occurs with a firearm? The advocates of universal background checks will surely say, “We tried this modest approach, and it failed to keep guns out of the hands of bad people. We must do more.”

“More” could well include national registration. It’s a matter of logic. If I own a gun, how can the government assure that I haven’t sold it without running a background check on the buyer? One way the government might find out is to establish a gun registry and periodically do spot checks to see if people still possess the guns that are registered to them. If people are serious about outlawing sales without backgrounds checks, wouldn’t they be driven to such a proposal? As the ACLU has pointed out, the civil-liberties implications are ominous. Registration makes confiscation feasible.

This is not paranoia. It’s a recognition of the dynamics of demagogic politics. If, as polls purport to show, 90 percent of people favor universal background checks and they prove futile in stopping gun atrocities, what will people favor next? Which way are they likely to go: toward full deregulation of gun ownership or toward more draconian measures?

I know where my money is.