Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Transcendental Meditation

I love when dichotomies are transcended. The world abounds in false alternatives:

rationalism/empiricism
nominalism/realism
materialism/idealism
analytic/synthetic
deontology/consequentialism
dualism/reductionism

In this holiday season, may all your bogus dichotomies be transcended. (Read more here.)

Things-in-Something Else?

My newest least-favorite phrase in the English language is things-in-themselves. Oh the fallacies packed into that innocuous-looking phrase. There is no such thing as things-in-something else, and it cannot be that to have a specific method of perceiving reality ipso facto means one cannot perceive reality. (See two posts by Roderick Long here and here).

Friday, December 16, 2016

TGIF: What's a Secular Heretic to Do?

Secular and religion-based political systems can bear an uncanny resemblance. Observing their respective dogmas, catechisms, and sacraments, we might even wonder, with William Cavanaugh, whether the divide is as sharp as we commonly think. Recent events certainly call the distinction into question. We see that a secularist can be as much a fanatic who is willing to denounce heresy and impose his will through violence as any religionist.

Read the article here.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ralph Raico, RIP


My old friend and mentor Ralph Raico has died. He was 80. I cannot adequately describe how much I learned from him over the years: about liberalism, about how to be a historian, about how to lecture, about how to be an honest scholar. I will miss his wisdom, his humor, his encyclopedic knowledge. I will cherish many good memories.

Several of his lectures are online. A good place to start is here:

Commerce Promotes Peace, But ...

"They who propose to influence by force the traffic of the world, forget that affairs of trade, like matters of conscience, change their very nature if touched by the hand of violence; for as faith, if forced, would no longer be religion, but hypocrisy, so commerce becomes robbery if coerced by warlike armaments."
--Richard Cobden

Friday, December 09, 2016

TGIF: Trump, Carrier, and the Corporate State

Should free-market advocates applaud the deal Donald Trump brokered to keep some Carrier jobs from being transferred to Mexico? I believe the right answer is no.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Climate-Change Bigotry

If someone is A) skeptical about climate-change alarmist claims and B) favorable to the use of fossil fuels, why do the media and others automatically assume that B is the cause of A rather than the other way around? This is a form of bigotry: no one can doubt alarmist claims without being either corrupt or anti-science.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Trump and JFK's "Fascist New Frontier"

In his speech at Fayetteville, NC, yesterday Donald Trump said:
Our men and women in uniform represent the absolute best of us. We must follow their example working in unison toward a shared goal across every social, racial and economic line. They understand that to accomplish the mission we must all be pulling in the same direction. We have to get together.
Read that carefully and let it sink it. I'm reminded of Ayn Rand's debunking of JFK and what she called the "Fascist New Frontier." (See George Smith's "Ayn Rand on Fascism.")

Friday, December 02, 2016

TGIF: Thank You, Donald Trump

We advocates of liberty owe Donald Trump a great debt of gratitude. Thanks to Trump it is clearer than ever that most people who call themselves conservatives, and not just those who have lined up with Trump, are no cousins of ours. (There are honorable exceptions, but alas far too few.) Freedom is not on their list of priorities. Neither (of course) is free enterprise. Nor civil liberties. And I need not mention war, peace, and empire. (Trump is no dove or anti-imperialist.)

What apparently matters most is National Greatness, that is, rank nationalism -- even among many conservatives who don't like Trump and who opposed his candidacy. (They merely doubt that Trump is really one of them.) But National Greatness is simply shorthand for conservative violations of liberty. As the Jeffersonian Abraham Bishop said in 1800, after witnessing a decade of Federalist (i.e., Hamiltonian) rule: "A nation that makes greatness its polestar can never be free; beneath national greatness sink individual greatness, honor, wealth and freedom."

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

About Flag-Burning

It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. [Emphasis added.]
 --Benjamin Constant

So shouldn't the first question be: whose flag is it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The OSU Assailant's Inspiration

The opinion molders want you to believe that the OSU assailant was "inspired by ISIS." More likely he was inspired by US bombing of Muslims in seven countries. ISIS is just a banner; eliminate it and people upset by US murder-by-drone will find another. Remarkably, US foreign policy never comes up in cable-news discussions of the OSU assault.

A Review of America's Counter-Revolution

My thanks to Winton Bates of Australia for his review of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.
Did the framers of the U.S. Constitution intend it to protect liberty? 
A week ago my answer would have been along the lines that while I could not claim any expertise in American history I had the impression that the natural right to liberty had been recognised in both the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.... 
My view of the libertarian credentials of the framers of the US Constitution has been challenged over the past week by my reading of Sheldon Richman’s book....
Read it all here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Long, Long Way

It's a long way from "End the Fed!" to "Build the wall!"

Friday, November 18, 2016

TGIF: Libertarianism Without the Magic

 I had the pleasure of appearing before the Amherst Political Union (Amherst College) this week to discuss the election of Donald Trump as president and the future of liberty. What perhaps pleased me even more was meeting with a group of young libertarians eager to explore the nature and implications of natural-law free-market anarchism. The students were prepared with many questions about how various hypothetical situations would be addressed in a stateless society. In other words, the students really made me work for my honorarium. It was invigorating, not to mention encouraging.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Interview on Anarchism

On my visit to Amherst College to speak at the Amherst Political Union, Tommy Raskin interviewed me about anarchism. Here’s the short video.
 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

See You at the Amherst Political Union?

I'll discuss the presidential election and the future of liberty at the Amherst Political Union, Amherst College in Massachusetts, on Tuesday night. The lecture will take place in Chapin Hall at 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day, 2016

Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of the shooting in World War I. The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed a little after 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, but wasn't to take effect until 11:11 a.m. (Get it? The 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.) Meanwhile men continued to kill and die.

"Canadian Private George Lawrence Price is traditionally regarded as the last soldier killed in the Great War: he was shot by a German sniper at 10:57 and died at 10:58." --Wikipedia

(Originally posted on Nov. 11, 2013.)

TGIF: How the Ruling Class Created Trump

Mixed emotions over the election are entirely in order. I rejoice at the repudiation of the ruling elite while recoiling from horrific thing that has been embraced. Only about 57 percent of the 231,556,622 eligible voters cast ballots, but many of the stay-at-homes were also repudiating the ruling class. Donald Trump won a just over 60 million votes, somewhat fewer than Mitt Romney won, while Hillary Clinton won 60.4 million votes, far fewer than Barack Obama won four years ago. Hence while Trump won only about a quarter of eligible voters, he won enough actual voters in states that had twice supported Obama to win a majority of electoral votes. The lack of support for Clinton -- including the nonvoters who had previously voted for Obama -- constitutes a repudiation of the establishment.

Some degree of disbelief is also in order (will we be less interested to polls now?), but maybe we should have seen this coming. Trump's victory is an unintended bequest from the bipartisan political establishment that has ruled us all these years. For as long as anyone can remember, the four branches of government (I include the independent agencies, among them the Federal Reserve) have managed "the economy"; that is, in important ways they have set the terms of our peaceful productive transactions. ("The economy" is an abstraction that stands for people consensually producing and exchanging goods and services.) Predictably, because of that top-down management, we have reaped low growth, distorted growth, illusory and discoordinating booms, and brutal but corrective busts, followed by increasingly anemic recoveries due to the cumulative burdens of government in the form of privileges, regulations, mandates, and taxes. Adding to the hardship, especially in the most vulnerable communities, is the ruling elite's control of schools.

As a result, many people (particularly the majority without college education) have it tough and see no prospect of dramatic improvement for themselves or their children. Many have hardly recovered from the Great Recession, the product primarily of bipartisan government housing policy. (No, Wall Street couldn't have done it alone.)

For decades regular people have looked to the political class to save them because that's what they've been taught to do -- by the politicians, the schools, the media, by virtually all "experts" and "authorities." What they haven't realized is that they have looked for help from the very source of their woes: the state.

This suited the politicians of both major parties just fine. They made extravagant promises year after year, assuring the people that prosperity for all required just one more vote of confidence on election day. And for years people believed them and hoped they would finally deliver. But they did not, because they could not. Since government interference with our peaceful exchanges created the problems in the first place, no one should have thought that more or different interference would solve those problem. But to see this requires skill in the economic way of thinking, which most people lack when it comes to public policy. (They largely get it at the personal level.) It takes economic understanding to see what's behind our systemic economic difficulties and to spot the bogus solutions offered by politicians of all stripes.

After decades of broken promises and impotence, a sufficient number of people were bound to become fed up with the arrogant class of politicians, bureaucrats and experts who took their support for granted. Moreover, economic hardship in turn fanned the fear of foreigners, both as traders and immigrants, which the Republican Party in particular exploited; prosperous people tend to have little time or reason to look for scapegoats. So the establishment has given us both insecurity, despair, and xenophobic nationalism. Thank you very much.

The result is Donald Trump, who bashed the elites for their betrayal and/or incompetence. He deftly positioned himself as an outsider who would succor the disfranchised and forgotten, and redress imagined grievances at hands of the world. This, not racism or a backlash against political correctness, is primarily why he won. In fact, Trump was an insider who came from the demand side, rather than the supply side, of the establishment, a fact he acknowledges. His aggrieved-nation shtick, moreover, prevented him from seeing the destructive and economically draining U.S. empire for what it is. But Clinton's shameful career -- which epitomized the ruling elite -- prompted too many people to vote Trump or to stay home.

But what does Trump promise? His signature economic causes are trade and immigration restrictions. He says these would create, among other benefits, high-paying and secure jobs -- as though Americans are suffering from too many low-priced imports and too many immigrants. In fact, they are not. Wealth consists in increasingly easier access to goods and services, and access to goods and services is facilitated by free trade in the widest possible marketplace and the movement of enterprising individuals from low-productivity capital-poor areas to high-productivity capital-rich areas -- in other words, immigration to the United States. Low-skill manufacturing jobs will be done either by low-skilled people in developing countries or, barring that, by robots in the United States (and elsewhere). Trump will not be able to bring back the manufacturing jobs that many Americans held when every industrial nation but the United States was digging out of World War II's rubble. But it won't be because Americans don't make anything anymore. Today U.S. businesses make and export goods at historically high levels, but because productivity has grown so dramatically, they can do it with fewer people, just as agriculture does. (Why doesn't Trump promise to bring back "our" farm jobs? The number of manufacturing jobs has been falling for 40 years, since before NAFTA and the WTO.)

In other words, Trump's presentation and promises are out of sync with reality. He too will fail to deliver, although he has succeeded in feeding people's fear of foreigners, both traders and immigrants. Knowingly or not, Trump misleads people who are on hard times while ignoring what they need: the dynamic entrepreneurship and innovation that a freed economy (that is, freed people) would ignite.

Note that Trump promises to "fix," not free, the economy. His campaign showed no understanding whatever of the spontaneous, emergent nature of economic progress, the fruit of exchanges between free individuals. He merely promises economic management by smarter people -- himself foremost -- but economic management just the same. Thus at the deepest level, the self-styled establishment-slayer reveals himself as a man of the establishment. A true radical who understood what ails us would have promised at least to begin the process of ending subsidies and bailouts (privileges), regulations (including trade and immigration restrictions), spending (especially on the military), and taxes -- all restrictions on freedom -- in order to free people to engage in the exchanges that improve their lives.

Trump is just another flavor in the establishment's ice-cream parlor. (His tax-cut talk is undermined by his humongous military and infrastructure spending plans, and his knee-bend to deregulation sounds more like something fed by the teleprompter.) Trump sees himself as the next CEO of the U.S. economy, indeed, of the country; but governments don't face a market tests because, unlike consumers, taxpayers can't say, "No thank you. I'll take my business elsewhere." Without that feedback, government is simply a bumbling bureaucracy. Trump won't be able to change that.

So here we are, again on the verge of broken promises and, one hopes finally, thoroughgoing disillusionment. The question is whether disillusionment with Trump will translate to disillusionment with the state. That's where we libertarians come in.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Hume on Knaves in Government

"Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controuls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this interest we must govern him, and, by means of it, make him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, co-operate to public good. Without this, say they, we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution, and shall find, in the end, that we have no security for our liberties or possessions, except the good-will of our rulers; that is, we shall have no security at all."

Friday, November 04, 2016

TGIF: Back to Square One?

For those who value liberty and peace, this has been a distressing -- even disappointing -- election season. Neither major candidate gives a hoot about individual rights, and neither shows any sign of understanding the spontaneous cooperation and coordination that society inevitably exhibits when people are free to pursue their interests peaceably.

Of course, disappointment implies positive expectations, and some of us had a few reasons to think this year might have been different. First, the major-party nominations were secured by two of the least respected people in American public life. Neither gets high marks for integrity -- for good reason: both are chronic liars who make stuff up even when catching them at it is easy. I'll here ignore the question who is the bigger liar because I have better things to do.

Second, both are big-government people. They see no problem that coercion -- as opposed to freedom and its emergent social cooperation and coordination -- cannot solve. They are remarkably alike in believing government can fix all things, so long as we have the will and, naturally, the right leaders. Even when they seem to lean toward freedom, its more illusion than fact. One calls for freedom of choice in only one area of life -- reproduction -- and so would compel others to pay the bill. The other vaguely criticizes business regulation, but offers a bizarre proposal: for every regulation passed, two must be repealed. How can that be serious? Shouldn't regulations be judged on their own merits? If the two are worthy of repeal -- as no doubt they are -- why must that await the passage of a new one? If the one is worthy of passage -- as no doubt it wouldn't be -- why must that await the repeal of the others? That's a gimmick, not a commitment to freedom.

I think we can say that neither candidate regards freedom as important, and both must see it as an impediment to their aspirations. People can't be allowed to obstruct the candidates' efforts to make their -- the ambiguous pronoun is used advisedly --- lives better.

Third, for the first time maybe ever, the Republican pays not even lip service to free markets and limited government. True, past major candidates did not mean it, but still they felt they needed to talk that way. Ominously, the Republican has felt no such need.  This could have been significant because it meant that a Libertarian Party candidate would have had that lane all to himself or herself. Most Americans aren't interested in the fine points of political philosophy, so they have had trouble distinguishing libertarians and Republicans, mostly because of the apparent overlap in economic policy or at least in rhetoric. Libertarians are somewhat to blame for this, by the way. Yes, Americans see differences in foreign policy and civil liberties, but that hasn't stopped them from thinking that libertarians are essentially conservative Republicans who like to get high and who are dubious about war.

So this was the year to draw the line in a way that no one could miss. You might think  -- and some libertarians do think -- that on foreign policy the Republican has blurred the line, but let's be serious.

This, then, potentially had the makings of a historic -- even unique, once-in-a-lifetime -- campaign.

Alas it didn't work out that way. Why not?

Only part of the problem was Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. They miscalculated that they could make history by telling people they were nicer and more moderate than the two extremists in the major parties. Maybe a clearer libertarian message would not have resonated -- but this was the year to give it a try. They did not do it.

But as I say, it was not their fault alone. The system is rigged -- against any alternative to the Republican-Democratic oligopoly. This is too obvious to require elaboration. Early on, the cable news operations -- realizing this was an unusual year and not wanting to get caught with their pants down -- paid grudging attention to the Libertarian Party (less to the Green Party). But they seemed to be looking for the first opportunity to ignore it. When Johnson didn't make the cut for the first "nonpartisan" Democratic and Republican Party-sponsored debate, the meager coverage shrank dramatically. When Johnson committed his alleged gaffes (don't get me started on that nonsense), it was basically over. No third-party candidate has a chance in a national election if he or she is not covered seriously rather than as a mere curiosity. The media long ago decided that people aren't interested in, or shouldn't be distracted by, third parties, so that's that.

In other words, I don't think a hardcore Gary Johnson without Bill Weld would have done any better. This is not to forgive them for their shortcomings, but that's the fact, Jack.

So where does that leave those of us who want liberty, social cooperation, and peace? With some exceptions, pretty much back at square one.

The builders of the post-World War II libertarian movement hoped at least to teach a significant part of the American public that economic intervention was 1) a violation of liberty and 2) self-defeating. In essence they sought to instill respect for the price system, so they targeted the minimum wage, rent control, price controls generally, and trade restrictions. Did the lesson take? The major candidates are anti-trade and speak kindly of a higher minimum wage. As I've said before, you could take a clipboard out to any mall and ask people to sign petition to put a minimum-wage increase on the ballot -- and you will have enough signatures in short order. If price inflation were to rear its ugly head, I think we'd see broad support for price controls. Look at the reaction to price "gouging" whenever the weather gets severe and the backlash against Uber's surge-pricing.

I'm not saying we've seen no progress -- in important respects we have -- but I am skeptical that such progress that has occurred is attributable to any new understanding of either liberty or the market process. If I'm right, the perceived benefits of liberty in one area are not intuitively expected in others. Maybe some people think, purely as an empirical matter, that a particular government intervention is ineffective; it's always easy to say, "This case is different. Maybe it will work. We have to try." I see no sign that people get that market forces -- which emerge from our peaceful interaction --  are real and unrepealable. When politicians say, "There's nothing we [i.e., government] can't do if we have the will," most people believe them.

I've given credit to Ron Paul for spreading an understanding of the libertarian program -- that it is regularly mentioned in cable-news conversation is nothing to sneeze at. But where is that understanding in the presidential election? Why do throngs of people cheer at the promise of free stuff? Why don't they show an understanding that "incomes buy more under free trade." It's almost as though Ron Paul never made a splash. Few people seem disturbed by the major candidates' lack of interest in liberty and bottom-up social cooperation. They are content with two trickle-down programs. Think about that.

In foreign policy, progress is also hard to find. Weariness with never-ending war is not the same as opposition to war. The "Vietnam syndrome" was overcome. I have no doubt the current war-weariness, if it still exists, will be too. For the war party, drones are a godsend.

What I'm saying is that the libertarian movement has not succeeded in selling its product -- organizations that boast that they don't compromise do not better than any others. We need a new business plan.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Party of Lincoln?

When Republicans who don't like Donald Trump want to show how much they don't like him, they say he is not worthy of the "party of Lincoln." But the party of Lincoln was the big-government party of protectionism, industrial policy, civil-liberties violations, and war. Lincoln was even ready to enforce slavery even though he knew it was wrong.

[Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.]

The Russians and the Election

According to the New York Times and CNN, the FBI has been looking for links between Donald Trump and the Russians. So far, these news outlets report, no links have been found. Sources also tell the NYT and CNN that Russia's alleged meddling in the election through email hacks has not be intended to help Trump win but only to sow, in CNN's Evan Perez's words, "confusion and chaos."

If that's so, the Russians are incompetent. How would disclosing emails from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta or the Democratic National Committee sow confusion or chaos? We're learning things about the inner workings of the campaign that we all ought to want to know, and so far not one of the emails has been shown to be phony. Considering that Podesta and the DNC have the original emails, it is hilarious that they refuse to confirm or deny the authenticity of the leak materials. I take that as confirmation.

By the way, we have been given no reason to believe the Russian government is the source of the emails that WikiLeaks has disclosed. Clinton may say, and the news media may parrot, that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia and Putin were behind the hacks, but this is untrue -- those agencies have not done so. If you want to see why I say this, read Jeremy R. Hammond's "Is Russia Interfering in the US Election? Why You Can’t Believe the NYT."

It is hard to square two things: 1) that Putin is a crafty ambitious ruler bent on undermining American democracy and 2) that his cyber experts "broke into" the DNC and Clinton campaign and left their "fingerprints" and "calling cards" all over the place. What is more likely: that Putin is trying -- in an insanely obvious way -- to influence the election, or that someone is trying to make it look as though he is trying to influence the election?

As judges tell jurors, don't leave your common sense outside the deliberation room.

[Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.]

Monday, October 31, 2016

Upcoming Appearance

I'll be speaking at the Amherst Political Union on Nov. 15. Details to follow.

Early Voting

Both candidates' motto: Vote early -- quick! Before more information comes out!

Friday, October 28, 2016

TGIF: Clueless Presidential Candidates

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are no friends of liberty. This is not breaking news, of course. In fact, I can’t think of a less controversial statement: unlike past Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, they don’t even pay lip service to liberty. I can’t recall either of them talking about the need to roll back government power to give individuals more room to make their own decisions. Clinton believes in choice only in the matter of ending pregnancies. I don’t disagree, but is that the only freedom of choice worth protecting. Trump says nothing about freedom in any area of life. Even when he talks about curtailing business regulation, he does so purely as a way to stimulate the economy. Like Clinton, he has no ear for liberty.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute website.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Obamacare Continues Its Predicted Slide

All the negatives predicted for Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) are coming to pass. But what would you expect of a program in which the government defines the insurance product that (licensed) companies must offer, sets the terms of coverage, issues strict price rules, subsidizes buyers and sellers -- and calls the resulting crazy-quilt scheme marketplace competition? Obviously, when the scheme finally collapses, it is assuredly will not be a market failure. It will yet be another government failure.

Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute.

Friday, October 21, 2016

TGIF: Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System!

Donald Trump says the presidential election is "rigged." Although he provides no evidence for his charge, lots of things can be said about it. For one thing, he equivocates over the word rigged to include voter fraud along with news-media/polling bias -- two very different things. The former suggests that the outcome is predetermined, the latter only that influential organizations try to move voters in a particular direction. (Ignoring third parties is one flagrant way to do this, but that may redound to Trump's benefit in some cases.)

I might also point out that Trump has helped "rig" the election against himself with his inveterate estrangement from the truth and his braggadocio about and apparent penchant for sexual assault. These flaws have overshadowed what otherwise would have been damaging information about Hillary Clinton's political career and the WikiLeaks disclosures. Compared to Trump's antics and outrages, dry emails about Goldman Sachs speeches and the Clinton Foundation just aren't sexy enough to grab the electorate's attention. Cable TV's quest for ratings may adequately account for the seeming bias; viewers are more likely to reach for the remote when they hear about transcripts of speeches to Wall Street than when they hear "locker-room banter" and insults. Considering that Trump is partly a creature of the media, without whom he might not have won the Republican nomination, the case for sheer anti-Trump bias is not so straightforward.

Trump is also buffoonish, so let's face it: he makes better TV than the robotic Clinton does. A candidate without Trump's abundant baggage might have had an easier time prosecuting the case against his deeply flawed, state-worshiping opponent, even in the face of media bias.

But there's another side to the "rigged election" charge that's bound to go unnoticed. The American political system, like all political systems, requires a good deal of peaceful cooperation to operate. This is obviously relevant to the transfer of power, which gets so much attention nowadays. This cooperation goes on in two respects: first, between the government and the subject population -- government cannot rule purely through force because the ruled always substantially outnumber their rulers -- and second, among the many individuals who constitute the government's branches, agencies, and bureaus. Again, we cannot explain this process purely by the use of force. Even totalitarian states understand this, which is why they invest so much effort in propaganda ministries. Ideas, not force, rule the world.

Why does one government branch or agency or bureau or officer carry out orders from another? The answer cannot be the threat of force alone, for that would only set the question back a step: why would anyone carry out an order to use force against a defiant officer of the government? We can't have an infinitely long line of people with each person forcing the next one up to obey orders.

What ultimately explains compliance, or cooperation, with government is not coercion but ideology: government officers carry out orders because they and a critical mass of the community in which they operate believe the orders are legitimate and ought to be carried out. That's a matter of tacit if not explicit ideology. If those officers and enough members of that community came to have different ideas, the orders might be defied with impunity, if anyone were still giving them. On the other hand, if a private individual started giving the same kind of orders the state gave, no one would regard them as legitimate and sanctions against defiant persons would not be respected. (I briefly explore this idea in "Subjugating Ourselves". Michael Huemer has written the book: The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.)

When enough time is added to ideology, the result is custom -- another reason that people comply with the state without the need for force. As Étienne de La Boétie wrote in The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (1576):"It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to. This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they were born…. [I]t is clear enough that the powerful influence of custom is in no respect more compelling than in this, namely, habituation to subjection."

The point is that government requires an unappreciated degree of cooperation, without which it would break down. Force may be necessary, but it is not sufficient. If enough people refused to regard the outcome of an election as legitimate, it would not be treated as such. Why does a chief justice swear in a president-elect? Why does a former president vacate the White House and make way for his successor? Why does a president order the enforcement of laws passed by Congress? Why are those laws enforced by the people with the guns? The answer to all these questions and more is ideology. This is not to say that no one ever refuses to obey a government order. But an isolated defiant government officer would not herald a change in society's ideology; hence, someone else would be easily found to execute the order and the public would regard this as legitimate.

Now this of course does not mean that anarchists have achieved their goal of a society based purely on cooperation. An individual who refused to cooperate, say, by resisting taxation or regulation, would be subjected to aggressive force without real recourse because the state would be the judge in its own case. Besides that, the "consent" that the state enjoys is manufactured by its tax-financed virtual school monopoly, among other institutions, bolstered by a mystical nationalism and secured by the problem of collective action. (How many people would defy the state if they were fairly certain that many others would do so?) So although the political system can hum along without routinely using force, dissenters can "legitimately" be put back into line violently if necessary. That most people would passively watch this happen believing it was proper, only confirms that the state depends on something other than force for its day-to-day operations. If a freelance would-be tyrant were giving the orders, no sense of legitimacy would hold bystanders back from helping victims to resist.

Thus the much-touted peaceful transfer of power in the United States, which Trump is now said to jeopardize, is not the result of force or the threat thereof, but of ideology and custom.

Why bring this up now? It's relevant to the case for anarchism. Most people who reject anarchism do so largely because they believe (like Thomas Hobbes and to a lesser extent John Locke) that without the state as an enforcer of at least last resort, internally generated cooperation would be inadequate to sustain a peaceful and efficient society. Thus an ostensibly external agency -- the state-- is necessary to impose the minimum degree of cooperation required for society to run smoothly.

We've seen, however, that government also supposes internal cooperation -- there is no superstate to police relations between the government and the people, or among the many individuals who constitute the government. Government is not external agency to society. The standard objection to anarchism is thus blunted by the fact that it applies equally to statism, including minimum statism (minarchism). Ideology and custom are immensely powerful in both contexts. If the public's implicit or explicit ideology can sustain a state, we have no reason to believe it could not sustain a stateless society. If the real constitution of a society is its widely accepted code of conduct and resulting incentives (regardless of words on a piece of parchment, if that even exists), then a stateless society has a constitution fully as much as any other society with a state. The pertinent question, then, is not whether a society has a constitution, but whether the constitution is grounded in natural justice. (I have more to say about this matter in America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited. Also see Roderick Long's "Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism.")

Finally, I think we can say that the elections are rigged but not as Trump would have us believe. They are rigged in the sense that the outcome is predetermined for power and against liberty. It'll take a change in ideology to change that.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Libertarian Institute

The Libertarian Institute is now in full operation. Visit here.

Topsy-Turvy

Of course Hillary Clinton and the rest of the war party are making a big deal about Russia allegedly interfering in the presidential election. In their worldview, only the U.S. government has the right to interfere in other countries’ elections. Heck, it has an organization dedicated to this task: the National Endowment for Democracy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Announcing The Libertarian Institute

I'm honored to be part of a new effort -- that includes Scott Horton, Will Grigg, and Jared Labell -- to spread the case for liberty: The Libertarian Institute. The big announcement is here. Sneak-peak at the forthcoming website here.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Clinton Admits She Plans War Crimes in Syria

Hillary Clinton favors imposing a no-fly zone in Syria. According to WikiLeaks, which posted a transcript of one her speeches to a Goldman Sachs audience, here's what Clinton anticipates if she were to carry out her policy:
To have a no fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we're not putting our pilots at risk — you're going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.

Q&A

How do you silence Donald Trump? 
Give him sodium pentothal.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Condemning Sexual Assault Is Too Easy

It's easy -- costless, really -- to display outrage over sexual assault. Who (besides Trump perhaps) would publicly endorse it? Where are the more costly displays of outrage over Obama's lethal assaults on women, men, and children in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan?

Condemning sexual predators reaps only benefits -- it enables one to proclaim one's virtue. But condemning the government's murder and mayhem (at home as well as abroad) would likely reap the disapproval of friends and family. Opposition to state crimes is expensive, which is why we see so little of it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

TGIF: Donald Trump, Hawk

Donald Trump is no peacenik. Leave aside Trump's proclamation that he "love[s] war" and unpredictability, and that he is more "militaristic" than anyone. Forget that he wants to enlarge the military and that he refuses to forswear first use of nuclear weapons. Ignore his bellicosity toward Iran and China or his promise to support Israel unconditionally. Pay no attention to Trump's 2002 endorsement of the invasion of Iraq and his imploring Obama to invade Libya and overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

All we have to do to see the real Trump is examine his allegedly dovish statements.

Trump takes heat every time he expresses a wish to get along with Russia. This in itself would be good: the United States and Russia could destroy the world with their nuclear weapons. But the ruling elite disagrees. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance, U.S. rulers have provoked Russia by incorporating its former allies and republics into NATO and enabling a coup against an elected Russia-friendly president of Ukraine, jeopardizing Russia's naval base in Crimea.

But would Trump really pursue peaceful relations with Russia? It's not so clear. When asked about his views on Russia at the recent joint appearance with Hillary Clinton, he noted that Russia is "fighting ISIS," which he implied puts the United States on the same side. "I believe we have to get ISIS," he said. "We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved."

Note the words before we can get too much more involved. Trump's statement indicates that working with Russia is merely a matter of priorities. First  ISIS, then ... what? More intervention, presumably against Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad.

After all, Assad is an ally of Iran, which Trump demonizes daily. We have no reason to think that if he presided over the defeat of ISIS, Trump would continue to cooperate on Syria with Russia, which like Iran would still have influence in the Middle East. Thin-skinned nationalist Trump is unlikely to suffer what he regards as impertinences from these nations, which resent having an American president define their places in the world.

Let's dig a little deeper. Trump's wish to cooperate with Russia against ISIS raises the question: why is defeating ISIS a proper function of the U.S. government? Trump would say ISIS is a threat to Americans at home. But this only shows that he has learned nothing from the catastrophic neoconservative foreign policy he claims to repudiate. Terrorist acts against noncombatant Americans, including the 9/11 attacks, have been provoked by U.S. intervention in the Muslim world: support for tyrants, invasions and occupations, bombings of seven countries, and the underwriting of Israel's wars on the Palestinians and Lebanese. This indicates that the best way to eliminate or minimize the (grossly exaggerated) threat of terrorism in America is to replace the bipartisan interventionism that Trump pretends to oppose with the noninterventionism and free trade that Gary Johnson advocates.

Instead Trump wants to "bomb the shit" out of ISIS. He wants to torture suspected terrorists. He wants to kill the relatives of those suspects. That would only inspire more terrorism. Trump has obviously learned nothing from the wars he once supported and now falsely claims to have opposed.

Revealingly, although Trump says the U.S. government should not overthrow Assad (now), he faults President Obama for not attacking Assad's regime in 2013 when it allegedly crossed Obama's red line by using chemical weapons in the war raging in Syria. (Significant doubts exist over the claim that it was Assad who used those weapons.) Obama wisely refused to attack Syria, despite the urging of Secretary of State John Kerry and the war party. But what did he do instead? He took up Russia's offer to work together to destroy Assad's chemical weapons. Shouldn't that have pleased Trump? It might have -- if Trump was a person who engaged in coherent thought rather than anything-goes talking-point opportunism.

How revealing, incidentally, that the war party despises Obama for working with Vladimir Putin to remove the chemical weapons peacefully. The hawks apparently hate to lose any chance to unleash American military power against the people of the Middle East.

Contrary to popular misconception, Trump is a conventional interventionist who merely tries to differentiate himself from the others. With doves like that, who needs hawks?

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Anti-Price-Gouging Cops Are on Patrol in Florida

In memory of the great comedian Myron Cohen:
Shopper to butcher: How much are your lamb chops?
Butcher: Six dollars a pound.
Shopper: Six? Across the street they charge five.
Butcher: So go across the street.
Shopper: They don't have any.
Butcher: If I didn't have any, I'd charge you four!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Gaffe that Wasn't

How is it a gaffe not to have a favorite world leader? A favorite singer? Okay. A favorite author? Fine. A favorite actor? No problem. But a favorite ruler or political hack? Ha! Those who make a big deal of this would seize on anything to marginalize a choice other than the Democrat or Republican.

Friday, September 30, 2016

TGIF: Shimon Peres and 9/11

The death of former Israeli prime minister and president Shimon Peres (age 93), the last major figure of Israel's founding generation, has brought an outpouring of tributes for a man who reputedly had, as President Obama put it in his eulogy, "the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect."

Unfortunately, the Polish-born Peres's life did not display such a capacity. Many Palestinians and Lebanese suffered and died because of him. Considering his prominent role in the founding of the self-declared State of the Jewish People, this should go without saying. Israel was established largely by Europeans on land from which three-quarters of a million Muslim and Christian Palestinian Arabs were expelled. Others were massacred by Zionist paramilitary forces, one of which Peres worked for. The year before Israel declared independence (1948) largely on Palestinian-owned land, Peres was put in charge of personnel and weapons acquisition for the paramilitary force called Haganah. This systematic ethnic cleansing is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. Hundreds of former Arab villages were destroyed to make room for Jewish villages. Zionist and Israeli leaders were not shy about acknowledging this. In their view Jewish land had to be redeemed and restored to its rightful owner -- the Jewish People -- and the "exiled" had to be in-gathered, no matter the cost to others. This was the Zionist project.

As a member of the Labor Party, Peres also played important roles in creating Israel's Mideast monopoly nuclear-weapons arsenal (unlike Iran it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and does not permit international inspections) and in building illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after the June 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Before that war, he helped administer military rule over the remaining Palestinian Arabs inside Israel. He also forged Israel's military and nuclear alliance with apartheid South Africa.

In 1995 Peres, who maintained that the Palestinians had victimized themselves, became prime minister after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish fanatic for entering into the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Rabin, like some other Israeli leaders, feared a loss of a Jewish majority in Israel and so favored a rump Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank. Rabin, Peres, and Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize for this dubious agreement.) In his campaign for prime minister a year later against Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres (who was also defense minister) sought to establish his hawkish credentials by launching a war against Lebanon (which Israel had devastated and occupied for nearly 20 years beginning in 1982). Peres named his war Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk:

"The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.

"A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that 'we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.'

"It was a lie. The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.

"This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana."

Fisk was an eye-witness to the atrocity. "When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire."

Over 100 civilians were killed. Fisk continued:

"There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as 'just a bunch of Arabs' ("arabushim" in Hebrew). 'A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,' he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: 'I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [Israeli] army or for civilians….'"

This atrocious record -- hardly the record of a humanitarian -- has been cited in critical obituaries of Peres. (Besides Fisk's see critical obits here and here.) But much less noted was Peres's role in helping to pave the road to 9/11.

What possible role could Peres have played in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon? Recall Peres's cynical election-year onslaught against Lebanon and the massacre in Qana. It was his Operation Grapes of Wrath that radicalized key individuals who would plan and carry out those attacks.

As Middle East scholar Juan Cole wrote:

"In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage [of the destruction]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation–with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center."

Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, reported:

"On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque. It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response."

The Egyptian Atta was the leader of the cell in Hamburg and then in the United States without whom the hijacking of airplanes on 9/11 almost certainly could not have happened.

Atta was not the only one moved to action. Investigative reporter James Bamford told Scott Horton that Osama bin Laden "frequently mentioned Qana during those times. It was a very inflaming incident in terms of his own development of his hatred for the United States, and as well for other people throughout the Middle East.”

In his 1996 declaration of war against the United States, bin Laden wrote that among other crimes perpetrated against Muslims, "The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory.... All of this and the world watch and hear, and not only didn't respond to these atrocities, but also with a clear conspiracy between the USA and its' [sic] allies and under the cover of the iniquitous United Nations, the dispossessed people were even prevented from obtaining arms to defend themselves.... The youths hold you responsible for all of the killings and evictions of the Muslims and the violation of the sanctities, carried out by your Zionist brothers in Lebanon; you openly supplied them with arms and finance."

Lebanon and Qana, as we see were not the jihadis' only grievances against the United States, but Peres's war was one more count in a long bill of indictment against the United States, whose government has underwritten the Israeli military to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Peres would have had no way of knowing that five years later his war would produce such a dramatic act of revenge against the American people. But that should not lessen our condemnation of him. His mission in life -- Zionism -- required the degradation and destruction of the indigenous people who did not fit into his vision. It was inevitable that some kind of vengeful backlash would result. As usual, the victims were innocent bystanders. Perpetrators like Peres get to die of old age.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

No Thanks on the Favorite World Leader Thing

Oh so now we're all supposed to have a favorite world leader? Include me out.

You're Disqualified!

Helping to destroy several countries isn't disqualifying for the presidency. Being an authoritarian narcissist ignoramus isn't disqualifying either. But failing to recognize, apart from any context, the name of a Syrian city (which sounds like "a leppo") or failing to have the name of an admirable world "leader" on the tip of one's tongue -- now that's disqualifying! What Johnson qualified for? Presiding over a scaling back of the state. For the pundits, of course, that job is not worthy of consideration, nor is any candidate for it.

Johnson's Gaffe

The latest Johnson "gaffe" is a nonstory. The headlines say he couldn't name a world leader  -- MSNBC: "Johnson Struggles to Name One Foreign Leader." No -- he was asked to name the foreign leader he most looked up to. He thought and finally came up with a former Mexican president, but the name Vicente Fox eluded him. Big deal. (Fox has criticized the drug war.)

Having to struggle to think of a leader you admire is a good thing, by the way. Watch the segment in which he discusses foreign policy with Chris Matthews, then tell me why he doesn't put Clinton and Trump to shame.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Debate" Observations

I thought the debate was pretty boring. We've heard and seen this all before.

Trump let Clinton get away with saying that tax cuts caused the Great Recession. It was housing policy, including her hubby's (and Andrew Cuomo's).

Trump forswore the first use of nuclear weapons while vowing to take nothing off the table, including the first use of nuclear weapons.

The pundits think Trump made a strong showing in the first segment of the "debate." That's when he was going on about how trade "steals" manufacturing jobs from Americans. If you must identify the "thieves," they are robots.

Clinton let Trump get away with lying about a fictitious job-drain via NAFTA. Jobs increased and exports to Mexico and Canada are at historic highs. As noted above, robots "stole" most of the jobs.

Trump thinks it's unfair that the US government doesn't use a VAT (value-added tax) to raise the price of Mexican imports while Mexico does so with American imports. In other words, he's asking, why can't America mistreat its consumers the way Mexico mistreats its consumers?

If Trump were more savvy I'd say he secretly supports TPP: it protects American IP (bad in my view), zeroes out tariffs on American manufactured and agricultural goods (good), and targets China (bad). For Trump, what's not to love?

One candidate last night promised to work with high-tech companies to stop ISIS from radicalizing people over the Internet. It was Clinton.

Possibly to be continued...

Friday, September 23, 2016

TGIF: Neither Democracy nor Elitism

Whenever we libertarians point out democracy's perverse incentives (as I do here) we risk being accused of elitism. However, those who assume that the only alternative to rule by the people is rule by an aristocracy reveal a tragically incomplete awareness of the choices before us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trump's Stop-and-Frisk Policy

I suppose Trump intends stop-and-frisk for the nation of Chicago only.

Update: Trump now says that under his stop-and-frisk policy, the police would take people's guns. According to The Hill, Trump said during an interview on Fox:
Basically, they will, if they see — you know, they are proactive and if they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person, and they will look, and they will take the gun away.

US Rewards Israel's Bad Behavior

Benjamin Netanyahu has been perhaps the most anti-Palestinian Israeli prime minister in a large rogue's gallery dedicated to driving the aggrieved Palestinians out of the land they and their ancestors have lived in and worked for millennia. This oppression -- which has included ethnic cleansing, savage war on the people of the Gaza Strip, routine brutality and humiliation, and expanding illegal Jewish settlements on land conquered through aggressive war -- has been underwritten and encouraged by the U.S. government since 1948. It has been rare indeed for an American president to express opposition or even irritation with an official Israeli act of brutality -- and even then the consequences have varied between the symbolic (and short-lived) and nonexistent. The lip-service calls for Israel finally to leave occupied Palestinian land (the two-state solution), like President Barack Obama's latest, count for nothing because no one believes the U.S. government is an honest broker that cares about injustices against the Palestinians. (Obama did not mention the Palestinians in a meeting with Netanyahu this week.)

It is no exaggeration to say that the U.S. government rewards Netanyahu for his regime's bad behavior. For example, as Zaid Jilali reports at The Intercept, "Shortly before Netanyahu took office, 474,000 Israeli settlers were living in these territories. By the end of 2014, the last time the Israeli government released comprehensive statistics on the matter, that number had grown to around 570,000." Yet U.S. military aid to Israel not only continues; it increases.

Israel's rulers have no intention of recognizing the rights of Palestinians to their lives, liberty, and property. Past efforts that appeared conciliatory, such a Yitzhak Rabin's Oslo Accords, were actually aimed at thwarting proposals to have the Palestinians in the occupied territories become citizens of the self-declared state of the Jewish People (the one-state solution). The other alternative to the two states, formal apartheid, is deemed as politically inexpedient.

Today the U.S. government continues to stand firmly in Israel's corner, regardless of what the right wing says. The U.S. government has given Israel more than $3 billion a year in military aid for decades, though this basic assistance was often exceeded for alleged special reasons. Now the Obama administration has agreed to pay Israel a record $38 billion over 10 years. Much of this money, unsurprisingly, benefits the American military-industrial complex, and soon all of it will go to American firms.

Ironically Israel probably has never been so secure (which is not to say it ever faced an offensive existential threat). The Palestine Liberation Organization, Arab League, Iran, and arguably Hamas long ago offered to recognize Israel. (Netanyahu moved the goalpost by demanding that they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People.) The chaos in the Levant serves the Israeli state's interests, which is why Netanyahu has long been receptive to American neoconservative proposals to undermine secular Arab governments with the anticipation that jihadists would prosper in the resulting instability. Top Israeli officials have not been shy about expressing their preference for violent Sunni sectarians (yes, al-Qaeda) over Shiite Iran and its secular Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad. (Until recently, Obama has shared that preference to an extent.) This is telling in light of the incontrovertible fact that Iran, which has an old Jewish community that freely practices its religion, is no threat to Israel whatever. Iran has had no nuclear-weapons ambitions and has signed a strict anti-nuclear-weapons agreement with the West in order to have decades-old sanctions lifted. Israel, meanwhile, is the Middle East's monopoly nuclear-weapons state, which (unlike Iran) refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus (again unlike Iran) is subject to no international inspections. Moreover, recently leaked emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell reveal that Israel's 200 nuclear warheads are targeted at Iran. It is Israel that threatens Iran, not vice versa. (See my writings on Iran here.)

The upshot is that no good grounds exist for U.S. military aid to Israel, much less a significant increase. Nevertheless, instability and the invention of an Iranian threat are useful to the powers that be because the more dangerous the Middle East appears, the more forgiving Americans are likely to be about Israel's daily dehumanization of the Palestinians.

Israel of course remains an American political football, with Democrats and Republican trying to outdo each other in their slavish allegiance to the (so-called) Jewish State. (Zionism is nationalism masquerading as Judaism.) Republicans, with Donald Trump leading the way (his AIPAC speech rivals that of the most fanatical Zionist), brand Obama the most anti-Israel president ever -- which one can see is an absurd lie. So it's no surprise that Republican Senators pledge to increase aid to Israel over its record level. (For the typical complaints about the new aid package, see this.) Meanwhile, a big group of Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, joined Republicans (88 senators in all) in signing a letter published by AIPAC, the chief Israel lobby, urging Obama to veto any "one-sided" UN Security Council resolutions regarding "settlements or other final status issues." The letter said such resolutions would "make it more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict," but that concern is phony since Israel has repeatedly scuttled negotiations by insisting that it has a right to keep taking the very Palestinian land that is supposedly the subject of negotiations. According to Haaretz, the senators' letter was "initiated and sponsored" by AIPAC, "apparently spurred by the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem and Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer." Israel and its American lobby fear that after the U.S. election Obama might move for a Security Council resolution on Israel-Palestine.

The American ruling elite's support for Israel is driven by imperial political and economic interests, as well as electoral financial considerations. But it aligns neither with the freedom and security of the American people (a growing number of American Jews do not identify with Israel) nor with the cause world peace and justice.

Recommended reading:
Jeremy R. Hammond, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Jeremy R. Hammond, The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination
Jeremy R. Hammond, The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel
David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East
Ilan Pappe, Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine
Sheldon Richman, "On Israel's 'Right to Exist'"
Sheldon Richman, "'Ancient History': U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention"
Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People
Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland
For an attempt at a libertarian justification for the founding of the state of Israel (failed in my view), see Walter Block, Alan G. Futerman, and Rafi Farber, "The Legal Status of the State of Israel: A Libertarian Approach"
For critiques of this paper, see Jeremy R. Hammond, "Top Ten Things That Piss Me Off About Anti-Palestinian Libertarians"; "On Libertarianism and the Jews’ 2,000 Year Old Claim to Palestine"; and "On Libertarianism and Land Ownership in Historic Palestine"
Hammond debated Farber on the Tom Woods Show. Listen here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nothing to See There. Move Along

Shall we have heightened government monitoring of Americans who visit countries bombed by the United States?

Cable Noise Network

You could watch CNN all day (and the others, I surmise) and never see domestic terrorism associated with US wars in the Muslim world.

Bulletin

Have You Seen This Man?

An American-born man, Barack Hussein Obama, is wanted for questioning in connection with the continuing destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia, and genocide in Yemen. He's regarded as extremely dangerous and is at all times accompanied by heavily armed men. He may be wearing a Nobel Peace Prize medal.

If you see him, exercise caution.

Do not call the authorities.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Regarding the Presidential Debates

I want to make sure I understand this: The nonpartisan commission created and run by the Republican and Democratic parties won't include anyone but the Republican and Democratic candidates in the debate because the other contenders, who theoretically could win 270 electoral votes, did not meet its arbitrary polling threshold, a gauge that is almost entirely in the hands of the corporate news media. Is that it?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Right and Wrong

Trump is right in thinking the system is rigged. He's wrong in thinking it's rigged against him.

Happy Constitution Day!

It's a good day to read America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.

TGIF: Trade Is a Labor-Saving "Device"

Updated Sept. 22, 2016
Democratic politics makes savvy people stupid, at least when they act politically. This has long been demonstrated, and it applies both to voters and policymakers. Several things account for it: the impotence of one vote, the consequent futility and hence wastefulness of acquiring information, the dispersal of the costs of government, and the resulting theatrical mood-setting farces called election campaigns.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Oops

15 Years

Today is the 15th anniversary of the day that thousands of American noncombatants paid the domestic butcher's bill for US foreign policy. Shame on every interventionist.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

NATO and Its Problems

I recently discussed NATO with Adam Camac on his Wake Up Call Podcast.
 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Politics Imitates Art

From the Jerry Seinfeld episode "The Limo," in which George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld misrepresent themselves to get a free limo ride from the airport, not realizing that the people they are impersonating are leaders of the Aryan Union:
George ("O'Brien"), talking to an assistant: Tim, who's the head of the Aryan Union, you or me? 
Tim: You are. 
George: And who's responsible for making hate mongering and fascism popular again? 
Tim: You are. 
George: Good. I think you forgot something.
Tim: I'm sorry. 
George: Good. Now get out.

Gary Johnson Commercial I'd Like to See

Video clips of Trump and Clinton shouting accusations at each other, building to a horrifying crescendo. Johnson appears and says:
This is how people desperate for power behave. I don't want power because I think you should run your own life. That's why I will shrink the government and free the economy. I won't give you anything, but I will get the government out of your way so you can live peaceful and prosperous lives. Maybe I'm the outsider, but I thought that was the point of America. You in?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trump Supports Legal Status, But Not Amnesty, for "Illegals"

“When I use a word,” Trump said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” (With apologies to Lewis Carroll)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Deal with a Non-Violent Bigot

My article "How to Deal with a Non-Violent Bigot" has been published at Learn Liberty (IHS). In it I discuss the "alt-right's" repugnant response to the excesses of "political correctness" and my view of the proper libertarian perspective on bigotry.

Monday, August 15, 2016

America's Counter-Revolution Reviewed

Independent historian (and old friend) Joseph R. Stromberg reviewed America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited at The American Conservative magazine website. He opens "The Federalists' Revenge" with:
America’s Counter-Revolution, dedicated “To the constitutionalists of all parties,” gives new meaning to the word pithy. In 20 short chapters (most of which were previously columns in the Freeman and elsewhere) Sheldon Richman achieves a remarkable thematic coherence, giving the reader a nice window into American constitutional argument and thus into American history.
Building on Arthur E. Ekirch’s Decline of American Liberalism (1955), Richman concludes that the Federalists gave America a vague constitution having the appearance of limited powers but marred by implied ones: a “living constitution” for conservative nationalists. The Federalists, recall, set imperial greatness above liberty and thought real limits on power “impossible”; so-called Anti-Federalists opposed the rule of self-nominated aristocrats and believed in dispersed power.

Friday, August 12, 2016

National Regulation of Amusement Parks Is Not What's Missing

The potential danger of amusement parks is not that they face state rather than national regulation. It's that people have been lulled by government chimerical guarantees per se. A false sense of security is worse than no sense of security at all. The best assurance would be produced by market competition along the safety dimension.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Is the Government's Budget Equal to GDP?

Memo to news people: tax cuts don't have to be paid for. The money is ours; the government takes it from us by threat of force, i.e., taxation. It's government programs that have to be paid for. Tax cuts are not government programs. So if you want to ask how government programs will be paid for if taxes are cut, fine. I will answer that the programs should be abolished.

The more you think about the notion that tax cuts must be paid for, the more ridiculous it sounds. One might say tax cuts have have to be made up for (by cutting spending), because the government would have less revenue, but not paid for. Moreover, since taxpayers pay for everything government does (sooner or later), the conventional wisdom about paying for tax cuts translates to: How should the taxpayers pay for their tax cuts? To which the only proper answer is: Huh? Say what?

From the taxpayers' vantage, tax cuts cost nothing. We might say they cost the politicians, bureaucrats, and government contractors something--but it's something they had no right to anyway. Securing my wallet "costs" a would-be thief my money. But who cares?

Final point: a hidden premise of this belief is that the government properly owns all wealth and income. In budget-talk when the government gives you a chance to recover or hold onto some of your money, say, via a tax deduction or credit, that is known as a "tax expenditure"; in other words, it's just another way for government to spend (its) money. But under that way of thinking it follows that not taking the money in the first place is also a tax expenditure. What's the difference between, on the one hand, taking money and giving some back and, on the other, not taking the full amount to begin with? Thus the whole GDP must be the government's budget because the politicians, as they see things, "spend" all of it one way or another.

This is pretty absurd. So let's just acknowledge that what you honestly earn is yours and that the government is a thief because taxation is theft.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

71th Anniversary of the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



Today marks the 71st anniversary of U.S. President Harry Truman's atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki took place three days later in 1945. Some 90,000-166,000 individuals were killed in Hiroshima. The Nagasaki bombing killed 39,000-80,000 human beings. (It has come to my attention that the U.S. military bombed Tokyo on Aug. 14--after destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki and after Emperor Hirohito expressed his readiness to surrender.)

There isn't much to be said about those unspeakable atrocities against civilians that hasn't been said many times before. The U.S. government never needed atomic bombs to commit mass murder, but it dropped them anyway. (Remember this when judging the official U.S. moralistic stance toward Iran.) Its "conventional" weapons have been potent enough. (See the earlier firebombing of Tokyo.) Nor did it need the bombs to persuade Japan to surrender; the Japanese government had been suing for peace. The U.S. government may not have used atomic weapons since 1945, but it has not yet given up mass murder as a political/military tactic. Presidents and presidential candidates are still expected to say that, with respect to nuclear weapons, "no options are off the table."

Mario Rizzo has pointed out that Americans were upset by the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11 yet seem not to be bothered that "their" government murdered many more Japanese civilians in two days. Many more died as a consequence of the bombings.  Conservatives, ironically, were among the earliest critics of Truman's mass murder. It's also worth noting that the top military leaders of the day opposed the use of atomic bombs.

As Harry Truman once said, "I don't give 'em hell. I just drop A-bombs on their cities and they think it's hell." (Okay, he didn't really say that, but he might as well have.)

Some people still see the A-bombs as the only alternative to invasion, which would have cost many more civilian lives. Now there's the fallacy of the false alternative in dying color. Why couldn't the U.S. military have called it a day and gone home? Why the assumption that the state must destroy and conquer its "enemy"? Why demand unconditional surrender? (To back up a step, why go to war against Japan at all? Pearl Harbor was the result of systematic, intentional provocation -- as Herbert Hoover and others pointed out at the time) -- perhaps with Roosevelt's foreknowledge. A government less concerned with a rival for its and its allies' colonial possessions might have not gotten involved.)

Rad Geek People's Daily has a poignant post here. Rad says: "As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world."

Other things to read: Anthony Gregory’s “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the US Terror State,”  David Henderson’s “Remembering Hiroshima,”  G.E.M. Anscombe's "Mr. Truman's Decree," and my own "Truman, A-bombs, and the Killing of Innocents."

Finally, if you read nothing else on this subject, read Ralph Raico's article here.

[A version of this post appeared previously.]