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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, February 27, 2015

TGIF: The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State

 Even a war that appears justifiable — Britain conscripted Americans into its navy and interfered with commerce — had enduring illiberal domestic consequences beyond the immediate transgressions of taxes, debt, and trade embargoes — dangerous precedents were set.
Read it here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire

If you find no other argument against American intervention abroad persuasive, how about this one? When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments’ invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans. 
Is the American empire worth that price? 
We should ask ourselves this question in the wake of the weekend news that al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organization that rules parts of Somalia ISIS-style, appeared to encourage attacks at American (and Canadian) shopping malls.
Read it here.

TGIF: The Economic Way of Thinking about Health Care

I realize Mike Lupica is a sports columnist — and that Howard Cosell called sports “the toy department of life” — but maybe that’s what makes Lupica’s recent declaration about Obamacare all the more representative a reaction. Appearing on a morning cable news program, Lupica declared that “health insurance for all is a noble idea.” He repeated this a few times, apparently to make sure we all heard it. 
What’s curious is that it was all he felt he needed to say. It’s a noble idea. Period. If you can’t say something nice about it, say nothing at all. 
Apparently it’s of no interest to him what the term health insurance actually represents today. Of even less interest is how this noble idea is to be achieved under the Affordable Care Act, namely, through the exercise of force, specifically the government’s taxing power.
Read it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere

If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil?
Read it here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

TGIF: The Inherently Humble Libertarian

You would think that the advocates of a philosophy of political economy that embraces spontaneous social order, bottom-up rule-making based on peaceful voluntary exchange, and even competing polycentric law at least at some level would be safe from the charge of conceit. How conceited can someone be who forswears compelling other people to live in certain ways, expressing a willingness — no, an eagerness — to leave that to peaceful cooperation among free individuals? Making the “knowledge problem” a centerpiece of one’s worldview is hardly the mark of arrogance. Quite the contrary.
Yet critics of the libertarian philosophy throw the charge of know-it-allness at its exponents all the time. It’s the go-to criticism. When counterarguments fail, accuse the libertarian of hubris.
Read it here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War

The scandal of the week is NBC anchor Brian Williams’s shabby bid for self-glorification by falsely claiming he was in a U.S. military helicopter forced to land in the Iraqi desert after being hit by ground fire in 2003. Of course so-called news people shouldn’t make up stuff to look good, but there’s something much worse: uncritically passing along official lies intended to prepare the American people for war.
Read it here.

Sunday, February 08, 2015


On Twitter I asked Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC's Morning Joe, why she referred to "American hero Chris Kyle" rather than "alleged American hero Chris Kyle." Of course I received no answer, but I am reminded of newsman Don Fulsom. He was a rookie news reader at a Buffalo, N.Y., radio station when he was fired after beginning his Easter-morning broadcast with these words:
Today, millions of Christians around the world are celebrating the alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not that I think Brzezinski said what she said for fear of being fired. She probably believes that Kyle was a real hero.

Friday, February 06, 2015

TGIF: The Poison Called Nationalism

I understand the love of the place one knew as a child. I understand the love of home, of family, of community, of neighbors, and of people with whom one has shared experiences and beliefs. I understand the love of virtuous principles as expressed in historical documents (such as the Declaration of Independence). That kind of love does not ignite hate for the Other or create admiration for the warrior who enjoys killing the Other on order. That takes the poison of nationalism and an obsession with the nation it creates.
Read it here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

States, United States: America's James Bond Complex

Today, American politicians of both major parties — conservatives, “moderates,” and so-called liberals alike — insist that the United States is an “exceptional,” even “indispensable” nation. In practice, this means that for the United States alone the rules are different. Particularly in international affairs, it — the government and its personnel — can do whatever deemed necessary to carry out its objectives, including things that would get any other government or person branded a criminal.
Read it here.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Liberty.me Interview

I'll be discussing Chris Kyle with Naomi Brockwell at Liberty.me on Wednesday at 6 p.m. eastern. The details are here.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Kyle and Lanza: The Comparison

Kyle and Lanza
My article on Chris Kyle, “The American Sniper Was No Hero,” understandably upset many people, especially the penultimate sentence:
Excuse me, but I have trouble seeing an essential difference between what Kyle did in Iraq and what Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I can see a case for omitting that sentence. The strongest argument, which is strategic not substantive, is that it might anger readers so much that they would forget everything else I said in the article. I grant that could be so, although I’m inclined to believe that people whose anger moved them to answer me in the crudest possible manner would have been just as angry at the mere words “the American sniper was no hero.” We’ll never know.