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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, May 29, 2015

TGIF: The Choice Is between Government and Liberty

An article by George H. Smith from a few years ago makes a distinction about freedom that seems worth pursuing. In “Jack and Jill and Two Kinds of Freedom” (also a podcast), Smith distinguishes between (as the title indicates) two kinds of freedom, or between freedom and liberty. He tells the story of Jack, who wants to climb a hill to fetch a pail of water and needs Jill’s help to bring the heavy pail back down. Being a “moral nihilist,” Jack is just as willing to force Jill to help him as he is to persuade her. It all depends on his cost-benefit calculation at the time. In Smith’s story, Jack chooses persuasion and succeeds, so he does not need to resort to Plan B, compulsion. Jill, by the way, does not know that Jack would have forced her.
Jill, on the other hand, is a libertarian who believes in rights and justice. Had the tables been turned and she needed Jack’s help, her only acceptable course would have been persuasion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let the Clock Run Out on the NSA

Regarding the feverish effort either to reauthorize, “reform,” or abolish the National Security Agency’s collection of our phone and email data, two things need to be said:
First, thank you, Edward Snowden.
Second, isn’t it great to see the ruling elite panicking?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

John Nash, RIP

Updated May 29, 2015
John Nash, the mathematician who won the Nobel Prize in economics and who was the subject of the 2001 Academy Award-winning biopic A Beautiful Mind, died last week along with his wife in a car crash. As editor of The Freeman, I published two articles on Nash and the movie based on the biography by Sylvia Nasar, in August 2002, one by Sandy Ikeda, "A Beautiful Movie, Lousy Economics," and one of my own, "Was the Beautiful Mind Sick?," which I reproduce below.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Revisionist History Day, 2015

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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

TGIF: Magna Carta and Libertarian Strategy

UPDATED June 2, 2015
The middle of next month will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. My knowledge of the “great charter” is modest, to be sure, but lately I have been reading about it and its legacy. (See the “Liberty Matters” discussion, in which I have a small editorial role, going on this month at Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Liberty. Also listen to Nicholas Vincent’s conversation with Russ Roberts on EconTalk. Vincent is the author of Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Phone Surveillance Must End

You probably are not a terrorist. Chances are the government doesn’t even suspect you of knowing a terrorist. Even so, the National Security Agency (NSA) — without a warrant — collects information about your — and every other American’s — phone calls. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on this bulk-data-collection program.
Read the rest of my article "Phone Surveillance Must End," written for the Independent Institute, at The Daily Caller.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who, Whom?

"Bill and I have been blessed," Hillary Clinton says about their big speaking fees. Yes, but blessed by whom?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marco Rubio: Reactionary Big-Government Man

Republican presidential aspirant and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio gave a major foreign-policy speech recently, and the best that can be said is that he did not claim to favor small government and free markets. What he wants in a foreign policy couldn’t possibly be reconciled with any desire to limit government power. Rubio is for big government no matter what he might say on the campaign trail.
He acknowledged this when he said, correctly, “Foreign policy is domestic policy.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Nakba Day, 2015


Today is Nakba Day, the day set aside to remember the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 in connection with the creation of the “Jewish State” of Israel. Over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and villages, and many massacred, in an ethnic-cleansing operation that should shock the conscience. Hundreds of villages were erased and replaced by Jewish towns. The Arabs who remained in the Israeli state that was imposed on them by the UN and Zionist military forces have been second-class citizens, at best, from that time.

Since 1967 the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of whom were refugees from the 1948 catastrophe, have lived under the boot of the Israeli government. Their day-to-day lives are under the arbitrary control of the Israeli government. Gaza is an open-air blockaded prison camp subject to periodic military onslaughts (the latest was last year), while the West Bank is relentlessly gobbled up by Jewish-only settlements and violated by a wall that surrounds Palestinian towns and cuts people’s homes off from their farms. For the Israeli ruling elite, the so-called peace process is a sham. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now embarking on an unprecedented fourth term as prime minister, rejects any realistic plan to let the Palestinians go -- that is, have their own country on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He insists that they must recognize Israel as the Jewish state, that is, as the state of Jews everywhere, even though it sits largely on stolen property (PDF) -- which raises an interesting question: Is subjugation of the Palestinians an instantiation of Jewish values or is it not? If it is (as apparently most of its supporters believe), then what does that say for Jewish values? If it is not, then what does that say for Israel's purported status as the Jewish State?

Again, I note that the best short introduction to the catastrophe is Jeremy Hammond’s The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. Further, Hammond debunks the myth that the United Nations created the state of Israel.


Additional reading: "Why the Inconvenient Truths of the Nakba Must Be Recognized," by Tom Pessah

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Emperor Lies

Four years ago the late great journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote, “Alas, the actual story of ‘our history’ is an unrelenting ability to lie about everything, while simultaneously claiming America’s superior moral worth.”
It so happens he wrote that sentence in closing a column on President Obama’s elaborate story about the Navy SEALs’ May 2, 2011, assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Friday, May 08, 2015

TGIF: Clinton v. Bush in 2016

The more I think about the coming presidential election -- it’s not unreasonable to ask why I think about it at all -- the more I am convinced that the best contest for libertarians would be Hillary Clinton versus Jeb Bush.
Why? Because all we libertarians would need to do is point to the ballot and ask, “Here’s our argument against politics. Need we add anything?”

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fiorina Is Not the Anti-Hillary

As an advocate of a stateless society, I don’t want anyone to be president. Nevertheless, someone will be chosen to live in the White House next year. Will it be a woman?
Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina hope so. But these two women are essentially indistinguishable from each other and from their male rivals. Style must not overshadow substance. Really, what’s the point?

Monday, May 04, 2015

"Cowardice Will Save the World"

I discovered I was a coward. That's my new religion. I'm a big believer in it. Cowardice will save the world. War isn't hell at all. It's man at his best; the highest morality he's capable of. It's not war that's insane, you see. It's the morality of it. It's not greed or ambition that makes war: it's goodness. Wars are always fought for the best of reasons: for liberation or manifest destiny. Always against tyranny and always in the interest of humanity. So far this war [WWII], we've managed to butcher some ten million humans in the interest of humanity. Next war it seems we'll have to destroy all of man in order to preserve his damn dignity. It's not war that's unnatural to us, it's virtue. As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers. So, I preach cowardice. Through cowardice, we shall all be saved.
--Paddy Chayefsky, The Americanization of Emily 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Friday, May 01, 2015

TGIF: Avoiding Vietnam Without Regrets

Hard to believe that 40 years ago the U.S. war in Vietnam ended. Actually, the war was against Indochina: remember Cambodia and Laos. (With previously unexploded ordnance from American cluster bombs killing people in those countries to this day, did the U.S. war really end?)
It’s hard to believe because I can remember when I and the people around me thought the war would never end. It seemed like a permanent part of life. Night after night we’d turn on the network news and watch the reports of body counts -- always more of “theirs” than of “ours” -- yet we had no sense it would ever really end, despite talk of “victory.”