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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

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