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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Who Cares if Trump Went to the Western Wall?

Why all the hoopla about Donald Trump's being the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem? It's considered one of the holy sites in Judaism, but classical Reform Judaism regarded the adoration of objects and soil, even a temple wall. as idolatry, a counterfeit form of Judaism that violated the spirit of the prophets. Moreover, the wall was not actually a wall from the temple, which was built by the Roman agent Herod the Great, but "part of a perimeter retaining wall" that Herod also built.

Finally, in 2007 Israeli archaeologists found evidence that, in the words of Ehud Nesher of the Authority, "the site was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves." The first temple, Solomon's Temple, was also built with slave labor.

Friday, May 19, 2017

TGIF: The Real Danger from Trump Is Ignored

While the chattering classes spend all their time rehashing Donald Trump’s alleged — there’s a word you don’t much see in the media anymore — coordination with Russians over their alleged — there it is again — hacking of the Democrats’ email, a story with far more ominous implications is being ignored. I refer to Trump’s trip, beginning today, to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Read TGIF 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, May 18, 2017

Who Wrote the Book on Election Meddling?

The United States, of course -- including Russian elections. Writes Markar Melkonian:
Does the USA meddle in the presidential elections of other countries?
Our friends in South America might have insights here—hundreds of cases of economic and military blackmail, election fraud, assassination, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected leaders. So too in Europe (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Georgia, Ukraine, etc.), east Asia (Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, etc.), north Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco), and dozens of other countries on five of the six inhabited continents. (Joshua Keating, “Election Meddling Is Surprisingly Common,” Slate.com, 4 Jan., 2017; Tim Weiner, CIA: Legacy of Ashes, 2008; Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy, 1992, 2006.)... 
In the welter of red-faced indignation, the torrents of denunciations from Senate hearings and press conferences, talk shows and podcasts, one might have expected someone to pose the rather obvious question whether American agencies have ever meddled in Russian presidential elections. And yet (surprise surprise!) America’s corporate-owned press of record, an institution that constantly flaunts its “objectivity,” has failed to raise that straightforward question. 
So, let us raise it here: Has the USA engaged in this sort of meddling? And if so, what effect has it had on Russia? 
The answer to the first question, of course, is a resounding Yes. [Emphasis in original.]
This all brings to mind Tom Lehrer's musical analysis from the 1960s, "Send the Marines":
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Till somebody we like can be elected.
Americans will live in a perpetual war state as long as they remain historically illiterate about the state they labor under.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Nakba Day 2017

Palestinian_refugees

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

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

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

Hammond

Additional reading: "Why the Inconvenient Truths of the Nakba Must Be Recognized," by Tom Pessah; "The Anti-Semite's Best Friend," by Jonathan Cook;  "Israel Must Recognize Its Responsibility for the Nakba, the Palestinian Tragedy," by Saeb Erekat; and "The sacking of Jaffa during the Palestinian Nakba, as narrated by three Omars," by Allison Deger.

(Another version of this post appeared previously.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

TGIF: The Debate Over Taxation Cannot Be Value-Free

Lenin reportedly said, "The best way to destroy the capitalist system [is] to debauch the currency." If by "capitalist system" we mean only what Adam Smith called "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty," we could improve on the quote: the best way to destroy it is to debauch the currency of thought and communication, language. Orwell understood this and made it the centerpiece of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Read TGIF 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!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Separate State and State!

The tricky thing about separating church and state is that the state is a kind of church. Other churches are allowed to exist as long as they do not pose serious competition to the official one.

Friday, May 05, 2017

TGIF: The War Party Talks Nonsense on Korea

The Really Serious People — you know, the politicians and pundits who have been wrong on every call on foreign policy in recent memory — think that talking to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un would be foolish because it would “legitimate” him and his brutal regime. This war caucus is ably represented by retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, formerly the mouthpiece for the Obama administration’s Pentagon and State Department and now a CNN contributor.

But I call that the Really Stupid Argument against seeking a peaceful resolution of this unnecessary standoff and finally bringing an end to the 67-year American war against Korea.

Read TGIF 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, May 03, 2017

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Trump and Nearly Everyone Else Are Wrong about the Civil War

Memo to just about everyone: secession does not equal war. The Lower South of the United States seceded over slavery, but Lincoln's war was about holding the Union together no matter how many deaths it took. He said that he had no legal authority to end slavery and that if keeping the Union intact required the freeing no slaves, that's what he would do.

Thus had the Lower South been allowed to leave, no war would have followed. Logically, then, the Civil War was not about slavery, as everyone on TV is saying. It was about compulsory perpetual union. (For details see Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.)

Slavery was abolished in many places peacefully. How many times was a national union preserved peacefully?

It's so funny to listen to the ignorant lecturing the ignorant.

The Biggest Gaffe at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

During his monologue At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, comedian Hasan Minhaj criticized Donald Trump for not understanding the First Amendment -- and in doing so, showed he -- Minhaj -- does not understand the First Amendment. He said:

“The man who tweets everything the enters his head, refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.”

No, the amendment does not allow him or us to do anything. In theory it does nothing more than recognize a natural right to freedom that exists independent of the Constitution and of the state.

I've yet to hear that anyone in the media, which so reveres the First Amendment, corrected Minjah.

Friday, April 28, 2017

TGIF: Talk to, Don't Provoke, North Korea

There’s little more we can do than hope that some cool heads around Donald Trump are telling him he’d be nuts to attack North Korea. I don’t know who they might be. Still, we must hope.

Read TGIF 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!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Government Fuel-Economy Standards: A Big Mistake

My latest article for the American Institute for Economic Research is "Government Fuel-Economy Standards: A Big Mistake."

Humpty Trumpty and His Wall

Humpty Trumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.
Because the wall was a figment of his imagination.

Media Economic Illiteracy

Observe the media's economic illiteracy: reporters and pundits wonder why the nominal 35 percent corporate tax rate should be lowered when corporations pay a real rate that is so much lower. What those reporters and pundits don't see is that many actions that corporations take to lower the real tax rate are nonproductive actions that would not be taken were it not for the high nominal rate. This constitutes a waste of resources to society.

PS: Corporate taxation is at least double taxation. So even a believer in taxes ought to oppose it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

TGIF: The Only Solution to the Trumps’ Conflicts of Interest

Pundits at CNN and other news outlets are much distressed over the report that Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories company won trademark recognition from the government of China just as that country’s president was sitting down with President Trump and the First Daughter for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

Read TGIF 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!

Dodd-Frank Only Makes Things Worse

My latest article at the American Institute for Economic Research is "Dodd-Frank Only Makes Things Worse."

Friday, April 14, 2017

TGIF: What a Perverse Presidential Incentive System!

All I can say is, we’ve got a hell of a political system on our hands when the surest way for a president to win the adoration of those who thought him a dangerous, ignorant, narcissistic, erratic, and bullshitting blowhard yesterday is to drop a bomb or fire a cruise missile today.

Read TGIF 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, April 13, 2017

Will Grigg: Principled, Committed, Indefatigable

Unfortunately, I never met Will Grigg, our managing editor at The Libertarian Institute. I will always regret that. Our only direct contact was by phone during several conference calls in which he, Scott Horton, Jared Labell, and I hatched our little conspiracy on behalf of liberty. We also had some exchanges on Facebook, long before The Libertarian Institute was a twinkle in Scott's eye. Before that, I knew of him only through Scott's interviews with him and his blog, Pro Libertate.

But despite the paucity of personal contact, Will certainly make a lasting impression on me. He had that effect on people. How could he not? His work shines forth with unrelenting research, deep understanding, immovable integrity, and precise, compelling prose. He inspired readers with every meticulously chosen noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. He enriched our lives.

Will's love of liberty, justice, and truth knew no bounds. No one exposed the outrages of the "criminal justice" (sic) system better than he. No one worked harder to uncover the facts. No one was more implacable in judging those facts in the light of the goodness of freedom and the evil of the state. He is gone now, but I will continue to learn from him and the great work he left us.

Will Grigg will be missed by many. We honor him best by continuing his work.

Goodbye, friend.

Will Grigg (1963-2017)

Will Grigg, RIP

Will Grigg, a great friend of liberty and justice, and a co-founder of The Libertarian Institute, not to mention a loving husband and father, died yesterday at 54. He will be missed.

See tributes here, here, and here.

(More to come.)

Understanding Trade

My latest article at the American Institute for Economic Research is "Understanding Trade." Please check it out.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Chesterton on the Maniac

And if great reasoners are often maniacal, it is equally true that maniacs are commonly great reasoners. When I was engaged in a controversy with the CLARION on the matter of free will, that able writer Mr. R.B.Suthers said that free will was lunacy, because it meant causeless actions, and the actions of a lunatic would be causeless. I do not dwell here upon the disastrous lapse in determinist logic. Obviously if any actions, even a lunatic's, can be causeless, determinism is done for. If the chain of causation can be broken for a madman, it can be broken for a man. But my purpose is to point out something more practical. It was natural, perhaps, that a modern Marxian Socialist should not know anything about free will. But it was certainly remarkable that a modern Marxian Socialist should not know anything about lunatics. Mr. Suthers evidently did not know anything about lunatics. The last thing that can be said of a lunatic is that his actions are causeless. If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
--G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy 

Friday, April 07, 2017

TGIF: The Bogosity of Trump's "America First"

It says something about the complexity of language (and me perhaps) that I took so long to realize that Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan, which I found off-putting from the start, consists of the same words as the name of the pre-World War II organization I’ve respected for decades.

The same phrase coming from Trump and John T. Flynn, author of the must-read anti-fascist work As We Go Marching, has two different meanings for me, as though the very words were different.

Read TGIF 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, April 05, 2017

Trump Changes His Mind about Assad

In his news conference with King Abdullah of Jordan today, President Trump said that since the chemical attack in Syria, "my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much." He boasted of his "flexibility" in the face of change. All of this suggests his willingness to destroy President Bashar al-Assad's regime, something he has opposed until now. In other words, it will be war

He also bashed President Obama again for not solving this problem when Assad was believed to have crossed Obama's red line with the use of chemical weapons. Trump has yet to acknowledge that in 2013 via Twitter he warned Obama not to attack Syria because it would have disastrous consequences.

At any rate, Trump seems to have boxed himself in. If he doesn't attack, his current criticism of Obama will look ridiculous. Can he allow that?

Meanwhile, the bin Ladenites in Syria and ISIS are licking their chops.

Hey, wait a minute!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Latest Articles

My latest articles, "Separating Culture and State" and "Abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," appear at the website of the American Institute for Economic Research.

A Day that Should Live in Infamy

It's been 100 years since Woodrow Wilson committed the blunder of the 20th century by taking the United States into what was then known as the Great War in Europe. Enabling the Allies to win what would later become known as World War I, and to dictate humiliating terms to Germany at the Paris Peace Conference, set the stage for Hitler and the Nazis less than 20 years later and a new world war six years after that. It was really just one war with an intermission.

I wrote about what US entry meant domestically here.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Getting It Straight

“Production is the sole end and purpose of all consumption.”
–Donald Trump (not in so many words)

TGIF: Trump Never Was a Noninterventionist

Can Donald Trump’s foreign policy “doctrine” and presidential actions accurately be described as noninterventionist? Strangely, Glenn Greenwald thinks so. In “Trump’s War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised,” Greenwald writes, “Trump explicitly ran as a ‘non-interventionist’ — denouncing, for instance, U.S. regime change wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (even though he at some points expressed support for the first two). Many commentators confused ‘non-interventionism’ with ‘pacifism,’ leading many of them — to this very day — to ignorantly claim that Trump’s escalated war on terror bombing is in conflict with his advocacy of non-interventionism. It is not.”

I’m a big fan of Greenwald’s work, but I believe he is among the confused here.

Read TGIF 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!

Friday, March 24, 2017

One More Flaw in Conservative Health Care Reform


Conservatives oppose federally mandated health insurance benefits (maternity, etc.), but they favor states having the power to mandate such benefits, which they already have. But conservatives (e.g., the Heritage Foundation) say they also favor a nationwide insurance market, that is, competition across state lines, which is not the case today.

The problem is that you cannot have free competition nationwide and state-mandated benefits. Would someone who lives in a state with lots of mandates be free to buy a basic catastrophic policy from a company in a no-mandate state? If not, then there is no nationwide market. If so, then the mandates aren't really mandates.

TGIF: Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault

President Trump’s budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level.  According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries — China and Saudi Arabia — spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Read TGIF 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!

Friday, March 17, 2017

TGIF: Things to Keep in Mind During the Health Care Debate

As the debate proceeds over what should succeed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), here are a few basic ideas to keep in mind.

Read TGIF 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!

Op-ed: American Church

The op-ed version of my article "Donald Trump Assumes Command of the American Church" appears this morning in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Friday, March 10, 2017

TGIF: The Religion of the State


In 1912 the pioneering French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) published The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, which presented his findings (not without controversy) on primitive clan-based religious culture. Durkheim sought to identify the nature of religion by studying it in what he took to be its pristine form. In the course of his work, he realized that modern secular societies had many important similarities to the societies he was observing. For Durkheim, religion satisfied a need for social solidarity and identification that would also require satisfaction in a secular scientific epoch. His observations are pertinent to the proposition that religion and purportedly secular ideologies like nationalism, rather than being opposites, are actually two members of the same family. One implication of this insight is that the West’s proud determination to separate church and state has overlooked the dangers of joining ostensibly nonreligious worldviews to the state.

Read TGIF 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!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Some Israelis Understand the Monstrous Injustice their Country Commits

Cable Noise Network: Mouthpiece for the War State

CNN and its Pentagon stenographer, Barbara Starr, are shameless mouthpieces for the war state. In an article touting the Pentagon's unverified claim that last month's special-ops raid in Yemen, greenlit by Donald Trump, has yielded actionable intel, we find this astounding sentence:

"AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] is considered by many analysts to be al Qaeda's most capable affiliate, and the organization has been able to carve out a safe haven in Yemen amid the ongoing civil war there between government loyalists and Houthi rebels."

Missing from the story is the fact that it is Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies -- enabled by the U.S. military -- that are warring against the Houthis and "carv[ing] out a safe haven" for the disciples of Osama bin Laden. The merciless Saudi bombing campaign and naval blockade -- which could not be taking place without U.S. assistance -- threaten mass starvation in the Middle East's poorest country. The Obama administration joined the Saudi effort nearly two years ago apparently to placate the Gulf states, which were upset by the Iran nuclear deal. Donald Trump, who's obsessed with Iran, shows no sign of ending that war. The Houthis, who practice a form of Shi'ite Islam, are wrongly portrayed as Iranian agents.

So while Navy SEALs kill al-Qaeda operatives and others -- including unaffiliated tribesmen, women, and children -- the U.S. government also helps al-Qaeda because of its obsession with Iran and its alliance with the cradle of "radical Islamic terrorism": Saudi Arabia.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF: Trump Assumes Command of the American Church


As Donald Trump demonstrated in his first address to Congress, no matter how loathsome a ruler may be, he can bring an assembly of politicians to its feet and disarm critics simply by invoking the quasi-secular faith -- Americanism -- and eulogizing the latest uniformed war-state employee to sacrifice his life for it. Trump has indeed shown he can fill the job expected of any president: supreme head of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer.

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, March 01, 2017

Liberal Islam

Part of the West's ideology holds that Islam is irredeemably illiberal. So if "we" have to use violence against Muslim societies, so be it: they are too medieval to be reasoned with. But of course it ain't so.

Writes Christopher de Bellaigue, author of The Islamic Enlightenment, in The Spectator:
In fact, rarely has there been a better time to test the belief — widespread in the Trump White House, among Europe’s rising populists, and the Kremlin — that Islamic society is incapable of reforming because it hates progress. Wouldn’t it be awkward if proof were adduced to show that, on the contrary, for long periods in their recent history the central and most influential lands of Islam, having been confronted by dynamic western modernity, embraced that modernity in spades and only lapsed into Islamist recalcitrance after the first world war obliterated them physically and the victorious allies tried to subjugate them politically? But this is what happened in Turkey, Egypt and Iran during the ‘long’ 19th century until 1914.... 
Now, amid the beastliness of Isis and its fellow travellers, and the tendency of a growing number of westerners to demonise not Islamism or the terrorists but Islam tout court, it seems vital to recall that hopeful century when the lands of Islam engaged lustily with modernity in the hope that something of it can be recaptured — as, indeed, it briefly looked as though it might during the Arab Spring. The alternative is to perpetuate the self-fulfilling consensus around which the Isis ideologues and our own populists unite: a story of inevitable conflict and alienation based on a historical fallacy.
Read the details here.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hayek on Rules, Tradition, and Freedom

There is advantage in obedience to such [moral and other social] rules not being coerced, not only because coercion as such is bad, but because it is, in fact, often desirable that rules would be observed only in most instances and that the individual should be able to transgress them when it seems to him worthwhile to incur the odium which this will cause. It is also important that the strength of the social pressure and of the force of habit which insures their observance is variable. It is this flexibility of voluntary rules which in the field of morals makes gradual evolution and spontaneous growth possible, which allows further experience to lead to modifications and improvements. Such an evolution is possible only with rules which are neither coercive nor deliberately imposed -- rules which, though observing them is regarded as merit and though they will be observed by the majority, can be broken by individuals who feel that they have strong enough reasons to brave the censure of their fellows. Unlike any deliberately imposed coercive rules, which can be change only discontinuously and for all at the same time, rules of this kind allow for gradual and experimental change. The existence of individuals and groups simultaneously observing partially different rules provides the opportunity for the selection of the more effective ones. 
F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960: 62-63) 

Trump Nation

#1:
The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials at a Florida airport, a family friend told the Courier-Journal.
Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, [both American citizens] were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini. 
Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo. Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"
#2 (Huffington Post):
Customs and Border Protection officers requested identity documents from passengers disembarking a domestic flight at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport on Wednesday. 
Passenger Kelley Amadei told New York’s local NBC News station that as Delta flight 1583 was taxiing to the gate around 8:30 p.m, an attendant told travelers to get their identification documents ready for review. 
Before passengers even stepped onto the jet bridge, they were met by two officers from CBP.... 
In a statement that New York Times reporter Eli Rosenberg posted on Twitter, CBP said it was assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in locating a person they believed may have been on the flight.
Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Is the Intel Complex Trying to Sabotage Trump?


One need not be a Trumpster to be concerned by the apparent campaign of the intelligence community (sic; does it have an HOA, golf course, and pool?) to block what may be Trump's wish for detente with Russia. See Gareth Porter's detailed dissection of the matter in "How 'New Cold Warriors' Cornered Trump." Teaser:
Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power. But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for US intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia. 
Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials. 
Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.
Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute.

Friday, February 24, 2017

TGIF: In Defense of Extreme Cosmopolitanism


Cosmopolitanism is under assault from across the political spectrum, both in the United States and abroad. Just yesterday President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, alt-right leader and self-described economic nationalist Steve Bannon, told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “the center core of what we believe [is] that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy in some global marketplace with open borders, but we’re a nation with a culture and a reason for being,” This is a false alternative of course, but Bannon’s preference for nationalist tribalism is revealing.

The rejection of cosmopolitanism is bad for liberty, peace, and prosperity because they all go hand in hand.

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!

Friday, February 10, 2017

TGIF: "Isolationist" Trump Rattles His Saber

A few libertarians and other principled opponents of the warfare state assured us we likely would sleep easier with Donald Trump, rather than any neoconservative or humanitarian interventionist, in the White House. How's that working out? Not so well. I'm hoarding melatonin and buying stock in Lunesta.

Read TGIF 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!

Friday, February 03, 2017

TGIF: Trump's Blueprint for More Government

Donald Trump remains blinded -- willfully or not I cannot say -- by his absurd narrative of America as an aggrieved nation. It's a narrative that will stimulate the growth, rather than the diminution, of government power.

Read TGIF 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, February 01, 2017

Nationalism and Religion

Nationalism is religion -- or, to put it in a less-biased form, nationalism and religion are two members of the same family. Is there reason to prefer violence in the name of the former over violence in the name of the latter? (See William Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religion Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict.)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Podcast Interview

Liam Cardenas interviewed me for his podcast. Watch it here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

TGIF: Trump Nation

Did Donald Trump on Inauguration Day intend to remind us of the European despotisms of the last century?

Who could miss signs? They adorned from the speech from brim to dottle with its invocations of solidarity, unity of purpose, devotion, patriotism, "loyalty to our country ... and to each other," "total allegiance," national striving, nationalism, and assurances that the state would protect us from enemies -- including even those would bestow low-priced goods on us. Then, to boot, he followed it all up with a decree that the day be known as the “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.”

Where the hell are we? And what year is it?

Read the full TGIF 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, January 26, 2017

Trump's Wall and the Assault on Private Property

The Washington Post's article on Donald Trump's border wall does something unusual: it takes into account Trump's planned assault on property owners along the Mexican border. Note:
In Texas, almost all of the land along the border is privately owned. When former President George W. Bush tried to build border fencing starting in 2006 he faced stiff opposition from local ranchers and farmers, many of whom took the government to court on plans to use their land.   
In many areas along the Rio Grande the fencing is built well inside the United States, as far as a mile north of the Rio Grande, to ensure that the structure doesn’t interfere with the flow of the river or is built on solid ground.... [Emphasis added.] 
A popular golf course near the border in Brownsville was cut off from the rest of the city by border fencing and was forced to close in 2015.
Trump's wall will face the same facts, but Trump doesn't regard this as an obstacle. Let's remember that he has tried to use eminent domain for his own projects, and he praised the Kelo case, when the U.S Supreme Court said government's may take private property to benefit private companies. The article quotes Republican Rep. Will Hurd, "whose sprawling West Texas swing district encompasses more than 800 miles of the border. 'Many areas in my district are perfect examples of where a wall is unnecessary and would negatively impact the environment, private property rights and economy.'" (Emphasis added.)

 Trump is a nationalist -- and therefore no friend of liberty.

 See John Oliver's deconstruction of Trump's proposal.
 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

On this day of all days America’s priestly political class can extol the great glory of the Almighty State without restraint — but Donald Trump is the one being crowned.

TGIF: A Principle for All Seasons


Despite my utter disdain for Donald Trump, I am uneasy about many who oppose him. My specific concern is that they apparently believe that, because of the kind of person Trump is, they may dispense with all constraint when fighting him. Thus the common-sense rules of just conduct and decency that are normally honored at least by lip service, if not by strict observance, are not regarded as binding when Trump is the target. It is a bad -- not to mention shortsighted -- idea.

Read the full TGIF 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, January 19, 2017

With Trump You Get Military Parades

Donald Trump says:

“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country. And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.

“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

This is just one way, he says, he'll show he's making American great again.

Heaven help us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

He Bombed the Poorest People on Earth

John Pilger has some choice words for those who worship Barack Obama and now fear the end of civilization with the coming of Trump.

Obama "bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan," Pilger writes.

Where was the progressives' indignation the last eight years?

Read Pilger's article here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

TGIF: The Man Behind the Curtain


Although the Grateful Dead told us that "every silver lining's got a touch of grey" (lyric by Robert Hunter), it's my nature to look for one anyway. At the risk of being accused of gross naivete, I'd like to hope that the Trump presidency (I still can't believe I have to type those words) will once and for all sour people on government and politics.

Read the full article 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, January 12, 2017

US Created Cyberwarfare

One can reasonably argue that Washington started the practice of cyber-warfare and has been a long-time practitioner of both regime change and election tampering in its relationship with much of the world…. Stepping back a bit, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that anything Russia did or is suspected of doing in 2016 pales in comparison to what the United States has been doing for much longer and on a much wider scale.”

Your Tax Dollars at Work

“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” — “Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” Annex B, Estimative Language

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Batchelor and Cohen Counter Anti-Russian Hysteria

Hats off to John Batchelor, the radio talk-show host and podcaster, who has countered the raging Russophobia and Cold War revival by regularly interviewing the eminent Russian scholar Stephen F. Cohen. (Links to the podcasts are here.) Cohen, who taught Russian history and politics for many years at Princeton and New York universities and who is affiliated with the pro-detente American Committee on East-West Accord, is a rare voice of calm good sense on Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta email accounts. Batchelor is a hero for having Cohen on his program about once a week.

Friday, January 06, 2017

TGIF: NPR Blows a Chance to Teach Sound Economics

This week, thanks to the Independent Institute (which lists me as a research fellow), I was interviewed by NPR's Marketplace for a piece on Donald Trump's threat to impose tariffs on goods that come from China. (It's the first story for the January 3 show here at 2:44.) The interviewer wanted to look back at the effects of the Reagan administration's protectionist policies against Japan. (In 1988 I wrote a paper for the Cato Institute on Reagan's appalling protectionism.)

I've done many media interviews, but this one really drove home the media's lack of interest in informing their listeners and viewers on important economic topics. Of course, the producers of the show would themselves have to understand economics in order separate what's important from what's unimportant. This may be a case of the blind leading the blind. At any rate, what follows is a lightly edited transcript of the interview and what was aired from the interview.

Read the full article at The Libertarian Institute. It's also posted at the Independent 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!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Prof. Wittgenstein, Please Call Your Office

President-elect Trump complains that trade with China is "one-sided." Does he speak English or what? One-sided trade is like one-sided triangle: you can say it, but you can't mean (think) it. Chinese folks deliver goods to Americans (through Walmart, etc.), and we willingly buy them. The Chinese then invest some of their proceeds in the United States. Well, I guess that is one-sided -- but wait! They later reap rewards from their successful investments.

It's two-sided after all, isn't it?

Perhaps Trump means that the United States has fewer barriers to Chinese goods than China has to American goods, i.e., American consumers' freedom to buy is better respected than Chinese consumers' freedom to buy. Since Trump favors tariffs (which would raise prices to Americans and push Chinese goods out of our market), I guess he thinks respect for our freedom is bad and the denial of their freedom is good.

(Cross-posted at The Libertarian Institute. Check it out!)