Available Now!

Available Now!
What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shame on You, Donald Trump

He hates the media. But aren't you supposed to worship your creator?

Friday, February 26, 2016

TGIF: The Constitution and the Standing Army

The U.S. Constitution can reasonably be seen as a massive tax and mercantilist trade-promotion program. However, there's a third leg to this stool. It was a national-security program as well -- almost a proto-PATRIOT Act. Indeed, these three elements formed an integrated project: it gave the new central government independent power to raise revenue by taxing individuals directly and to establish an army and navy in order to advance, by force if necessary, American trade. This, I submit, was not exactly a libertarian project. It let a terrifying genie out of the bottle ostensibly in order to contain it. Or, as James Madison put it, "You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sanders and Trump Are Too Establishment on Syria

Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton both want the U.S. government to set up a "safe zone" in Syria to care for refugees from the raging civil war. You may assess their judgment by noting that Secretary of State Clinton and Sen. Rubio also pushed for bombing and regime change in Libya, which was crucial in spreading bin Ladenite mayhem far and wide, and that Rubio thinks knocking out the Sunni Islamic State would hurt Shi'ite Iran.

Madison on Government and Force

While we have no evidence that George Washington said, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master," we can report that James Madison did say this:
[There] never was a Government without force. What is the meaning of Government? An institution to make people do their duty. A Government leaving it to a man to do his duty, or not, as he pleases, would be a new species of Government, or rather no Government at all. 
Quoted in Max M. Edling's A Revolution in Favor of Government, and attributed to the Virginia ratifying convention, Doc. Hist. v. 10, I 302.

Thus Madison would have understood that libertarian minarchism without taxation is incoherent.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hey, Trump

Let's not make America great. Let's make Americans free. Greatness will take care of itself.


FDR, progressive hero, locked up the Japanese Americans this day 74 years ago. Donald Trump would have approved.

TGIF: Trump Backs Off Iraq Charge; Admits He Favored the War

Alas, Donald Trump has backed off from his charge that the Bush administration lied the country into war against Iraq, telling a CNN town-hall broadcast Thursday night that he doesn't know why Bush invaded. "I'm not talking about lying. I'm not talking about not lying," he said. "No one knows why we went into Iraq." But Trump restated the obvious: that Saddam Hussein and Iraq did not fly planes into the World Trade Center. And he again, to his credit, said the war "may have been the worst decision any president has made in the history of this country.... Whether [George W. Bush] lied or not, it was a horrible decision." (See video.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Can We Finally Understand the Three-Fifths Clause?

Considering how often the original Constitution's three-fifths clause is invoked in the fight against racism, you'd think people would look it up. Its point was not that African-American slaves were three-fifths human. How could it be? The slaveholders wanted them counted as five-fifths human! The clause related to apportionment for determining the states' representation in the new House of Representatives. Naturally, the slaveholders wanted slaves counted as whole persons because that would maximize the slave states' political power. But because of push-back by the Northern states, the slaveholders had to settle for three-fifths. It was a compromise from their demand for five-fifths. Zero, which the abolitionists would have wanted, was not a live option.

The flaw in the slaveholders' position was that they wanted captive African Americans to be counted as whole persons only for representation purposes. The abolitionists wanted them counted as whole persons in every respect; that is, they wanted them freed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sanders Over the Others

If I had the energy for writing about electoral politics, I might have written something like Will Wilkinson has written. (I might still manage to do it.) So read his "Thinking through Your Libertarian Vote." And watch for his Chris Sciabarra-style dialectical analysis. A sample:
I am fairly confident that if I unpacked all of my assumptions in a treatise on the nature of liberty and the dynamics of political economy and democratic public administration, laid out all of my theories of the candidates’ genuine priorities, modeled the likely course of public policy under each contender’s presidency, then ranked all of the candidate’s platforms on my carefully calibrated freedom index, Bernie Sanders would come in first place.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bush, 9/11, and Iraq: Trump Gets It Right

Donald Trump, for all his obnoxious demagoguery, is adding value to the presidential campaign by calling former President George W. Bush to account for 9/11 and the Iraq war, which set in motion the growth and spread of al-Qaeda and the rise of the Islamic State. Former U.S. rulers rarely face consequences for the horrible things they do in office. Condemnation is considered impolite.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Privacy as Property Right

In 1993, while working at the Cato Institute, I published an article in the institute's Policy Report that is relevant to discussions occasioned by the death of Antonin Scalia. "Dissolving the Inkblot: Privacy as Property Right" attempts to show that the conservative and progressive constitutional approaches to the right of privacy are both flawed and proposes an alternative approach rooted in the right to property, beginning with self-ownership.


Friday, February 12, 2016

TGIF: Obama Suspends TV Coverage of Middle East

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced today that the government will forbid the television news media from covering the conflict in the Middle East because "displays of U.S. military operations there have the potential to radicalize Americans against the Obama administration's foreign policy and provoke terrorism in the United States."

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

End, Don't Extend, Draft Registration

This past week demonstrated with blinding clarity that 1) Republicans, contrary to their rhetoric, oppose individual liberty, and 2) the establishment news media really couldn't care less about the presidential candidates' views.

After the last Republican debate, the media continued its obsession with the reality-TV and horse-race sides of the election. News readers, correspondents, and "analysts" droned on about Marco Rubio's robotic repetition during the debate and the insult swaps by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. You had to read the cable channels' "news tickers" running right to left along the bottom of the screen to find out that at least some Republican candidates think young women should have to register with Selective Service in case the military draft is reinstituted. On CNN, at least, this story was not deemed worthy of further attention.

Which is more important? Rubio's short-term memory problem, the Trump-Bush mud-wrestling match, or registration for the draft?

Here's a clue: the draft is slavery. It is short-term slavery at best, but it's possibly debilitating and even fatal. Thus registration with Selective Service is -- surprise! -- registration for possible enslavement. Anyone who supports individual liberty against state power would oppose conscription. This is no close call.

The draft ended in 1973 during the Nixon administration. (Classical-liberal economist Milton Friedman played a key role in its demise.) In 1980, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation requiring 18-26-year-old men -- but not women -- to register with Selective Service, supposedly as a signal to the Russians that Carter had noticed their invasion. But the draft was not revived. (We later learned that the Carter administration helped to provoke the invasion by aiding jihadis, hoping Afghanistan would be the Soviets' "Vietnam." The 9/11 attacks were blowback from Carter's operation, and Afghanistan would become America's second "Vietnam.")

Ronald Reagan, Carter's opponent in 1980, criticized draft registration on grounds that it "destroys the very values that our society is committed to defending," but in office Reagan changed his mind because "we live in a dangerous world."

According to Selective Service: "Failing to register ... is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or a combination of both." (Counseling "another to fail to comply ... is subject to the same penalties.") Failing to register can also result in loss of government benefits, such as student aid, federal jobs, and job training. 

With military combat roles now open to women, the question of extending compulsory draft registration to them has come up. The New York Times reports that "the Marine Corps commandant, the chief of staff of the Army and one of the top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee [Claire McCaskill] said ... that women should be required to register. Two days later, two Republican members of the House who are military veterans -- Duncan Hunter of California and Ryan Zinke of Montana -- introduced legislation that would require women to register."

That set the stage for the question at the Republican debate. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie endorsed compulsory registration of women. Christie, strangely, said not forcing women to register constituted discrimination against them. Bush said he did not expect the draft to be resumed, but hastened to add that he opposed ending registration.

The remaining candidates said nothing. No one objected to registering women. (Later Ted Cruz said the idea is "nuts." More revealing, no one called for ending draft registration for men. The candidates of the party that insists it alone favors liberty and limits on government power favor draft registration!

Few people call for a new draft; military leaders reportedly oppose conscription because it fills the armed forces with people who prefer to be elsewhere. So why continue draft registration? The usual answer is that it would promote readiness in an emergency. But that is no reason to violate liberty. The practical value of a quickly dated list of registrants is also doubted.

Some misguided people will argue that if men must register, then fairness dictates that women must register too. It's an odd notion of fairness or justice, however. Compulsory draft registration is unfair because it violates young people's rights. Therefore, extending the unfairness cannot be fair. The only fair measure would be to abolish registration and never draft anyone again.

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Societyand a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a patron today!

Monday, February 08, 2016


The Distinguished Woman Stumping for Hillary Clinton

President Bill Clinton later promoted Madeleine Albright from ambassador to the UN to secretary of state, the first women to hold the office. While speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton recently, she said "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Clinton's Wall Street Red Herring

In response to Bernie Sanders's stigmatizing her as an establishment candidate who takes big bucks from Wall Street, Hillary Clinton challenged Sanders to show that she ever changed a vote or a position because of a campaign donation or speaker's fee.

That's a red herring.

Sanders's concern presumably is not that she was or is for sale, but that Wall Street operators see her as already friendly to their interests. If so, they did not need her to change her position or disposition. Rather, they like what they see and want her in charge.

For some reason, Sanders is reluctant to go in for the kill. Maybe he's not very sharp on his feet.

Friday, February 05, 2016

TGIF: Justice, Not Amnesty, for "Illegal" Immigrants

It speaks volumes that the dirtiest word in the Republican and conservative lexicon is amnesty. At a minimum, it exposes as a flagrant lie the claim that Republicans and conservatives want to expand liberty and limit government power. One cannot consistently praise the principle, central to the supposedly beloved Declaration of Independence, that "all men [that is, persons, not only Americans] are created equal" while also demanding that the government control some people's freedom to move.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cruz and Rubio: Heirs to Bush-Obama Militarism

I see no point splitting hairs over whether Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio is the more egregious warmonger. Both love the bloody and costly U.S. empire. Both believe in American exceptionalism. (Rubio arrogantly calls for a "New American Century.") Both want to make war in the Middle East (and beyond) and "stand behind Israel," though such policies provoked the 9/11 attacks. Both want to pour money into the military, as though America were militarily threatened. (The U.S. military budget equals the budgets of the next seven highest spending nations.) Both want to prevent detente with Iran, which poses no danger. Both hype terrorism as an existential threat. Both want the government to spy on Americans, especially Muslim Americans. Both want to "control the border," code for violating the natural right of people to move freely and make better lives without government permission.