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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

America’s Foreign-Policy Makers Endanger Us

American politicians frequently declare that the government’s first duty is to protect us from foreign threats. If that’s so, why have they embroiled us in the Middle East?
Instead of keeping us safe, they seem to strive to put us in harm’s way by provoking one side or the other in sectarian, ethnic, tribal, and political conflicts. With one glaring exception -- Israel versus Palestine -- the U.S. government has been on almost every side of these complicated conflicts at one time or another, depending on the geostrategic context.
Considering that record, maybe we should reassess this thing called government. Perhaps if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t need it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

TGIF: How Many Rights?

So, libertarians, how many rights do people have? One (say, the right to life, albeit with countless applications)? Three (life, liberty, and property)? Or an unlimited number (the right to do this, that, and the other, ad infinitum)?
Because part of any strategy to achieve a fully free society presumably includes persuading nonlibertarians to be libertarians, formulating a clear answer to my question seems worthwhile. The simpler the answer the better (other things equal), because getting people to think about moral and political philosophy, especially when we appear to be challenging the reigning view, is tough enough without needlessly making it tougher.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mandatory Voting: A Bad Idea

President Obama thinks that forcing us to vote might be a good idea. That he could favor punishing people for not voting -- which means taking their money by force and imprisoning or even shooting them if they resist -- is unsurprising. The essence of government is violence -- aggressive, not defensive, force. Government is not usually described in such unrefined terms, but consider its most basic power: taxation. If you can’t refuse the tax collector with impunity, you are a victim of robbery. It doesn’t matter that government claims to render “services” if you don’t want them.

Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF: Rethinking the U.S.-Israeli Relationship

The Benjamin Netanyahu on display in the days before and after Tuesday’s Israeli election is the same one who has been in power all these years. Right along, he was there for all to see, so no one should have been surprised by his performance. I seriously doubt that anyone really is surprised. Americans who slavishly toe the Israeli and Israel Lobby line may act surprised, but that’s really just their embarrassment at having to answer for the prime minister of the “State of the Jewish People.” (If Israel is indeed the State of the Jewish People, it follows that the lobby may properly be called the Jewish Lobby, though that seems to offend some people. The term need not suggest that every person identifying as Jewish is pro-Israel or pro-Likud. I have known religious Jews who are severely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist.)
Democrats especially are in a bind. They can’t afford to distance themselves from Netanyahu and alienate Jewish sources of campaign donations, yet they are visibly uncomfortable with his so openly racist fear-mongering about Israeli Arab voters -- “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” The Democrats' defense of that ugly appeal as merely a way to get the vote out is disgraceful. (Imagine something equivalent happening in the United States.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

TGIF: Another Would-Be Critic of Libertarianism Takes on a Straw Man

We must face the fact that criticism of the libertarian philosophy in the mass media will most likely misrepresent its target, making the commentary essentially worthless. That’s painfully clear from what critics publish almost weekly on self-styled left-wing and progressive websites. How refreshing it would be for someone to set forth the strongest case for libertarianism before attempting to eviscerate it. Is the failure to do so a sign of fear that the philosophy is potentially appealing to a great many people?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Senate Republicans Push for War with Iran

Iran has its hardliners on the United States, and the United States has its hardliners on Iran. It’s understandable if you think they are working together to thwart detente between the two countries. Neither side wants its government to negotiate a nuclear deal and thaw the cold war that’s existed since 1979.
This week hardliners in the U.S. Senate took another step toward thwarting detente by writing to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei that if he and President Obama negotiate a “mere executive agreement” on Iran’s (civilian) nuclear program that is not approved by Congress, it will bind neither Obama’s successor nor a future Congress. The letter comes on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bellicose speech about Iran before Congress. Like that speech, the senators’ letter is intended to sabotage the P5+1 talks now in progress.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Ben Carson Inserts Foot in Mouth

Ben Carson, a conservative hopeful for president, made headlines last week by proclaiming that being gay or lesbian is "absolutely" a choice. His evidence? "A lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight and when they come out they're gay," Carson said on CNN. "So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

QED, apparently.

Friday, March 06, 2015

TGIF: The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 2

As the War of 1812 with Great Britain approached during the Republican administration of James Madison, the War Hawks saw silver linings everywhere. (See part 1.) “Republicans even came to see the war as a necessary regenerative act — as a means of purging Americans of their pecuniary greed and their seemingly insatiable love of commerce and money-making,” historian Gordon S. Wood writes in Empire of Liberty. “They hoped that war with England might refresh the national character, lessen the overweening selfishness of people, and revitalize republicanism.” The money cost of war was dismissed as insignificant compared to national honor and sovereignty. Indeed, the war was called the “Second War of Independence.” Wood quotes the newspaper editors of the Richmond Enquirer: “Forget self and think of America.”

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Support Free Association

I plan to make Free Association bigger than ever. Starting Friday, March 13, my TGIF column will originate here, along with my other commentary on current events and elaborations of the libertarian philosophy as I see it.

You can support this effort. You'll see a PayPal button to the right, and I have set up a Patreon page, where you can help finance Free Association directly by pledging a specific amount per article produced.

I hope you find my work worthy of your support. I appreciate your consideration.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

America Must Reject Netanyahu’s War Cry on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington this week to prepare the American people for war against Iran. Backed by American neoconservatives, the Israel lobby, and assorted other war hawks, Netanyahu insists that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon and thus is an “existential threat” to Israel. He has no confidence that President Obama will negotiate an agreement that once and for all will end Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions.
Thus the prime minister’s objective is nothing less than to wreck the current negotiations and push America into a regime-changing war against Iran.
Netanyahu’s narrative is a fabric of lies and omissions.
Read it here.