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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Defense of John Kerry, Sort of

I hate being in the position of having to defend Secretary of State John Kerry, but defend him I must. Sort of.

Israel's supporters are running around with their hair on fire because of this statement by Kerry:
A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state. Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.
The first thing to note is that no one would be shocked by such a statement in Israel. This view is expressed often, even by some staunch Israeli chauvinists, who don't want to live with Palestinian Arabs. Only in America do people act as though the sky were falling whenever a bad word is uttered about Israel, even if the word is framed within a hypothetical. Kerry said that if Israel maintains control of the occupied territories, it has two alternatives: a fully secular democratic country with a majority Arab population -- but then how can it remain a "Jewish State"? -- or a state in which a minority defined in ethnic or (pseudo-)racial terms rules a majority of people who don't and can't qualify as members of the in-group. Kerry could be faulted for not including in his list of alternatives Bill Kristol's preferred choice: the status quo. But many reasonably doubt that the status quo -- military rule of the West Bank and outdoor-prison status for the Gaza Strip -- is sustainable.

What do Kerry's pro-Israel critics think will happen if the Palestinians are not set free? Do they want them set free under any circumstances? Maybe Sens. Ted Cruz and Barbara Boxer favor the Kristol option of continued occupation and subjugation. If so, they should say so.

Aside from the status quo and an independent Palestinian state, logic seems to dictate that the only other choices, as Kerry says, are a secular democracy -- which means no Jewish State -- and something resembling apartheid. I favor secularism, liberalism, decentralization, real federalism, and local autonomy -- if I can't have market anarchism.

The only correction I'd make for Kerry is that "apartheid" is not the quite right word for what Israel would become, and actually is now: let's not forget that the Arab minority in Israel are treated like second-class citizens and always have been. Israel differs from a South African-style apartheid, as Gilad Atzmon points out, for the following reason: in South Africa, the ruling white minority wanted the majority black population to remain in the country to do the menial and dirty work. The ruling Israeli Jewish view is that Israel would be better off if the Arabs just left. Many Israeli Jews would love to see the Palestinian Arabs expelled (to Jordan), if that could be pulled off without international outrage.

Kerry is hardly a sympathetic character. His so-called peace process was a sham from the start, as we can see in his appointment of former AIPAC figure Martin Indyk as his chief negotiator. No doubt Kerry would like a "peace agreement" for legacy purposes, but if he got his way, it would have nothing to do with justice for the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, he had no reason to apologize for his remarks.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Welfare State Brings Out the Thickness in Thin Libertarians

There are libertarians who apparently feel they must protect the movement from the thick libertarianism that I and others espouse. (It's also been called "humanitarian libertarianism.") Thickness denotes the idea that the same principles which commit us to  nonaggression also necessarily commit us to other values not directly related to nonaggression.

However, some thin libertarians display a surprising thickness from time to time.

Take the welfare state. Libertarians who shun thick libertarianism seem to have no trouble damning the welfare state for its corrupting effects on its recipients. I understand that some thins have even defended Cliven Bundy's "analysis" of the welfare state's harm to black people.

But that is not how consistent thin libertarians should talk about the welfare state -- unless they declare that for this purpose they are taking off their libertarian hats. Why do I say this? Because no one is forced to accept welfare, food stamps, or any other government handout. Being a welfare-state client is entirely voluntary and thus in itself has no thin-libertarian implications. If libertarianism is only about force, as thin libertarians insist, then they should have nothing to say about any bad effects on welfare-state clients. All thins can and should object to is the taxation that produces the revenue distributed to recipients.

Look at it this way. If the welfare state did not harm its recipients, libertarians would still oppose it because it relies on the aggression of taxation. So why do thin libertarians focus so much attention on what they should regard, respecting libertarianism, as an irrelevant feature?

Maybe the thins are thick after all, at least when it suits them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

TGIF: What Libertarians Should Do

If the libertarian movement is to be the vehicle — actually, collection of vehicles — for the advancement of liberty, then libertarians need to master the art of persuasion. That’s hardly news, but it’s easily forgotten.

The full article is here.

Op-ed: Obama Plays with Fire in Ukraine

How many American parents would proudly send their sons and daughters off to kill or be killed in Slovyansk or Donetsk? How many young men and women aspire to be the first American to fall in Kramatorsk?

Read it here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF: What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

If I were compelled to summarize the libertarian philosophy’s distinguishing feature while standing on one foot, I’d say the following: Every person owes it to all other persons not to aggress them. This is known as the nonaggression principle, or NAP.
What is the nature of this obligation?
Read more.

Op-ed: The Ayatollahs' Overlooked Anti-WMD Fatwas

Why aren't the American people told that the Islamic Republic of Iran's two supreme leaders issued fatwas against chemical and nuclear weapons long ago. Even mere possession, they said, is sinful and contrary to Islam.

Read about it here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Things Frederic Bastiat Did Not Write (But Obviously Thought)

1. Paris gets fed.
2. If goods don't cross borders soldiers will.
(HT: David Hart of Liberty Fund)

John Quincy Adams's Benign Theory of Anarchism

While John Quincy Adams, in his famous speech in which he said America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy, used the word anarchy to mean chaos, he seems to have had a benign theory of statelessness. From the same speech:
From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American union, and of its constituent states, were associated bodies of civilized men and christians, in a state of nature, but not of anarchy. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. They were bound by the principles which they themselves had proclaimed in the declaration. They were bound by all those tender and endearing sympathies, the absence of which, in the British government and nation, towards them, was the primary cause of the distressing conflict in which they had been precipitated by the headlong rashness and unfeeling insolence of their oppressors. They were bound by all the beneficent laws and institutions, which their forefathers had brought with them from their mother country, not as servitudes but as rights. They were bound by habits of hardy industry, by frugal and hospitable manners, by the general sentiments of social equality, by pure and virtuous morals; and lastly they were bound by the grappling-hooks of common suffering under the scourge of oppression. Where then, among such a people, were the materials for anarchy! Had there been among them no other law, they would have been a law unto themselves.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

No It Isn't

It's frustrating, to say the least, that many libertarians appear to believe that what went on at Monty Python's Argument Clinic really was argument.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Eyes Wide Shut

Are those who charge me with the mortal sins of being PC and being a panderer so blind that they cannot see I am showing progressives that disliking something is not a legitimate reason for resorting to state violence?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Deir Yassin, April 9, 1948

Today is the 66th anniversary of the slaughter of Palestinian men, women, and children by Zionist paramilitary forces at the village of Deir Yassin. For details see my post of a year ago.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Again on Thick Libertarianism

Obviously one cannot define "the initiation of force" by reference to the initiation of force. A good definition will invoke facts and values that will then be relevant to judging whether preferences are conducive to or destructive of the conditions required for libertarianism to prevail in a society.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Foolproof Method

There's a great time way to prevent war veterans from killing themselves or others: stop creating war veterans.

TGIF: In Praise of "Thick" Libertarianism

I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force.

Read the rest here.

Op-ed: The Roots of Iran's Nuclear Secrecy

Iran has had an innocent reason to develop its civilian nuclear industry largely in secrecy: The United States.

Read about it here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

GM: More Evidence against the Regulatory State

I've long said that government regulation gives people a false sense of security, which is worse than no sense of security at all. Latest evidence: GM's ignition-switch failure.

Obamacare: The Wrong Test

The core objection to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was never the glitchy website or the deficient number of sign-ups. (It you subsidize it, they will come.) It was the predictable harm of combining government-subsidized demand, controlled supply through administered pricing, and mandated standardized insurance products (i.e., a "market" without entrepreneurship and full, free competition). These consequences will take time to reveal themselves, but they will do so in due course. The laws of economics guarantee it. (Note: Obamacare merely intensified the antimarket features of the reigning corporatist system.)

Ignoring the real objection has distorted the debate and set the success bar absurdly low.