End Federal Prohibitions of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms

End Federal Prohibitions of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms

05/08/2019Ryan McMaken

UPDATE: As of late Wednesday, the de-criminalization measure managed to close the gap of what had earlier been a 55 to 45 percent loss. It looks like the measure has now narrowly passed, and voters' laissez-faire attitudes toward mushroom consumption apparently (barely) overcame other concerns. The article has been modified to reflect this outcome.

Denver's municipal election this year featured a ballot measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms — or as the Phish groupies called them back in high school — "shrooms." The measure was narrowly approved by 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent.

Denver, of course, is a place that voted in the majority for the legalization of marijuana in 2012's successful statewide ballot measure — with 65 percent voting for legalization in Denver. Denver voters also voted in 2016 in favor of a city-wide ordinance allowing businesses to have designated areas for public consumption of marijuana.

So why did the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms barely pass this year?

Well, based on my thoroughly un-scientific survey of Denver voters, part of it may have been fear over the risk of mushroom enthusiasts flocking do Denver to enjoy local mushroom freedom.  In other words, given the lack of any other jurisdictions de-criminalizing psilocybin, some voters may have been less concerned about increased ease of access to mushrooms, and more concerned about attracting the sorts of people who use them.

This sort of thing was a relatively common complaint after marijuana legalization. Local residents rarely complained about the legality of marijuana, and few believed the hysteria of federal government agents — such as this guy — who maintained marijuana legalization would lead to a public health disaster.

On the other hand, many local residents were less than thrilled at the idea that potheads from across the nation would flock to the city primarily in to sit in their newly rented basements and smoke up all day.

Few had a problem with letting the existing local potheads be potheads, and few ever believed the propaganda that people otherwise uninterested in marijuana use would suddenly become addicts because of legalization. And there's still no evidence that has ever happened.

The problem stemmed from the perception that the proportion of potheads in the general population would increase substantially through in-migration from other states.

In the first few years following legalization, many local pundits and politicians asserted population growth and real estate prices were being driven quickly up by marijuana enthusiasts who were relocating solely to hit the bong, legally. The image this was intended to conjure up was one of scores of potheads pulling up in moving vans and moving in permanently.

It's unclear to what extent that was ever really true, though. And now that Massachusetts, Nevada, and the entire West Coast (including Alaska) have similarly overturned prohibition, few share this concern anymore.

However, when it came to de-criminalizing psilocybin mushrooms, fewer Denver voters may have been unenthusiastic about being pioneers this time around. Of course, even if the measure had passed, the situation would not have been very comparable to marijuana legalization. The city's DA noted "only 11 of more than 9,000 drug cases referred for possible prosecution between 2016 and 2018 involved psilocybin." Moreover, as a de-criminalization measure — as opposed to legalization — there wouldn't be any dispensaries popping up at the local strip mall.

Nevertheless, the prospect of local liberalization attracting more drug users is an unrecognized ace in the hole used by federal agents and regulators. Psilocybin remains a Schedule 1 drug  under federal law. By using nationwide federal policy to both mandate illegality — and to encourage similar state and local ordinances — federal agents can more easily isolate and fear-monger within communities considering legalization or de-criminalization within what is otherwise a uniform landscape of prohibition. Were state and local authorities truly left on their own when it comes to prohibitions of psilocybin mushrooms and similar substances, we'd likely see far more regional variation, and at least a notable minority of communities with varying degrees of laissez-faire.

As it is, federal policy sets the tone in favor of nationwide prohibition, and this makes it harder for any single community to break away from established federal policy, even if the voters don't fear the direct effects of the prohibited substance itself.

Image source:

JLS: Are Pay Equity Policies Justified?

09/19/2023Bruce Gilley

ABSTRACT: This article identifies the lack of policy analysis as a major research gap in pay equity policies. Applying a policy analytic approach, the article applies comparative empirical evidence to the tasks of problem structuring and policy prescription as well as to three different evaluation methods: effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and benefit-cost analysis. The results show that pay equity policies lack fundamental justification as public policies. Implications for research and policy revision follow.

Read the full article at the Journal of Libertarian Studies. 

Janet Yellen Needs to Brush Up on Her ABCT

09/19/2023Doug French

“I am feeling very good about that prediction,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Bloomberg when asked whether the U.S. would avoid a recession while still containing inflation. “I think you’d have to say we’re on a path that looks exactly like that.”

Tell that to the 39,000 Americans who filed bankruptcy in August. That number is an 18% increase from a year ago and with unemployment now just 3.8%, imagine when more people are laid off with over $1 trillion in credit card debt outstanding.

At the same time commercial bankruptcies increased nearly 17% in August compared to July, reports Fortune.com, marking the 13th consecutive month that total bankruptcies, including families and individuals, have logged year-over-year increases, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Chapter 11 filings surged 54% from the same month from a year ago. US bankruptcy courts recorded six new, large filings ($50 million +) last week alone. At least 23 big filings happened last month. The jump in business failures, especially for big firms, is clear, Ed Flynn, a consultant with ABI who studies bankruptcy statistics told Fortune. “I think a lot of it is interest rates,” said Flynn. “There have been an unusually large number of large cases.”

If that’s the case more bankruptcy filings are on the way. The September 11th treasury note auction produced the highest yield since before the great financial crisis, 4.66%. 

“Treasury yields also have also been pushed higher by growth in the supply of new notes and bonds to finance the US government’s widening budget gap. The three-year tenor increased by $2 billion this month and last month,” Elizabeth Stanton reported for Bloomberg.

If Secretary Yellen was familiar with the Austrian Business Cycle Theory she’d know the ongoing increase in interest rates means the landing will not be just hard, but historic in its brutality.

Why the American Revolution Still Matters

09/19/2023Ryan McMaken

Late last month, the administrators at a Colorado public school—with the grandiose name "the Vanguard School"—tried to force a 12-year-old boy named Jaiden to remove a Gadsden flag patch from his backpack. The Gadsden flag may be more familiar to readers as simply the rattlesnake flag with the words "don't tread on me" on it. People who are at all familiar with the American revolution know the flag is a revolutionary-era flag with a message designed to repudiate the imperial despotism imposed on the Americans by British elites. 

Teachers and administrators at the Vanguard School, however, were absolutely sure the flag has "origins with slavery, and the slave trade." Of course, this is exactly the kind of historical illiteracy and social-democratic revisionism we'd expect from public school teachers and administrators. "Teaching" at your average public school is mostly about running a taxpayer-funded propaganda mill and daycare center, and has little to do with the dissemination of any factual material. Thus, it is likely that the staff at this school saw on MSNBC once that the Gadsden flag is "racist" because some American conservatives wave it. The leap from this slur to the idea that the flag is a symbol of slavery is brief indeed. 

 This whole narrative is part of the story pushed by the "1619 Project" at the New York Times which would have us believe that the American Revolution itself was all about racism and slavery. Meanwhile, the real themes and facts of the revolution—secession, natural rights, radical liberalism, violent revolution, and extreme decentralization—have all been swept aside to serve Progressives' current ideological projects.  The regime's propagandists—which includes most public school employees—naturally seek to destroy and discredit all symbols of the American Revolution beyond bland slogans about "taxation without representation." This framing of the revolution makes it all very safe and does not encourage any opposition to the current regime. After all, we have "representation" now—the millionaire gerontocracy in Congress "represents" you, don't you know—so there's no reason to think revolution can be justified. If you don't like something, just vote harder. 

This sterile pro-status-quo interpretation of the revolution is exactly what we should expect to be taught in a government school because the correct interpretation is far too dangerous and inconvenient for the regime. 

The reality of the revolution, of course, is that a sizable portion of the population—from intellectual elites in cities to ordinary farmers in the countryside—grew tired of the British yoke. Animated by a radical ideology of natural rights—which we now call "classical" liberalism or libertarianism—Americans declared the established government illegitimate and seceded. It didn't have to be that way. At first the Americans had asked politely for more freedom. They even sent the Olive Branch Petition to the King. For their efforts, the Americans were declared "traitors"—that epithet so often used by despots and their useful idiots everywhere. 

When the British state eventually launched a war against the Americans to prevent their secession, the Americans were forced to take up arms and killed government soldiers and officials until they packed up and left the country. The revolutionaries only wanted peace and self-determination. The British refused to let them have it. The British got their response, and got it good and hard. 

It was all morally justified, of course: the secession, the rebellion, the disdain for the British idea of "law and order." Parliament and the Crown had attempted to destroy the Americans' human rights—the rights of life, liberty, and property as outlined by the libertarian Leveller revolutionaries in England a century earlier. As a result, the revolutionaries were entitled to protect their rights by using violence in self-defense. 

Naturally, today's elites ignore those parts of the American Revolution. It also now appears the Progressives have moved on to the next phase which is to discredit the revolution altogether. Thus, symbols of the revolution must be denounced as symbols of slavery, and all modern rebellion and secession declared to be "treason" or "sedition" or some other political "crime." It's okay to "rebel"—i.e., in the style of Antifa or Black Lives Matters—so long as the "solution" is always more state power. Real independence, secession, and rebellion are absolutely not allowed. The 1619 Project thus assures us the whole enterprise of the American Revolution was suspect. We're told those ill-mannered Americans should have listened to their betters in the imperial metropoles of Britain! 

For those who actually respect human rights, however, any attempt to craft or promote this Progressive anti-revolutionary narrative must be met with enthusiastic opposition. In the case of Jaiden at the Vanguard School, there is a happy ending. The teachers were humiliated and Jaiden's backpack remains bedecked with the Gadsden flag. It's a small victory, but a necessary one. For obvious reasons, the regime doesn't want Americans to think secession or revolution—as so well described by Thomas Jefferson—is ever an option. Ever since the counter-revolutionaries got their new centralist-nationalist constitution in 1787, the American regime has been about the maintenance and spread of federal power. The revolution, however, acts as a beacon in the opposite direction, and Rothbard has explained why: 

The Americans had always been intractable, rebellious, impatient of oppression, as witness the numerous rebellions of the late seventeenth century; they also had their own individualist and libertarian heritage, their Ann Hutchinsons and Rhode Island quasi anarchists, some directly linked with the left wing of the English Revolution. Now, strengthened and guided by the developed libertarian natural rights ideology of the eighteenth century, and reacting to aggrandizement of the British imperial state in the economic, constitutional, and religious spheres, the Americans, in escalated and radicalized confrontations with Great Britain, had made and won their Revolution. By doing so, this revolution, based on the growing libertarian idea pervading enlightened opinion in Europe, itself gave immeasurable impetus to the liberal revolutionary movement throughout the Old World, for here was a living example of a liberal revolution that had taken its daring chance, against all odds and against the mightiest state in the world, and had actually succeeded. Here, indeed, was a beacon light to all the oppressed peoples of the world!

Javier's Milei's Populist Strategy in Argentina Is Working

09/14/2023Philipp Bagus

The Austro-libertarian movement has the better ideas. They continue to be discussed, elaborated, and intellectually defended. But how can the right ideas be implemented? What good is it to be right if the reality is left-wing? In fact, most of the population, or at least public opinion, seems to be drifting further and further to the left, with cancel culture, climate hysteria, a sprawling welfare state and ever higher taxes and levies.

The right ideas and theories are there, but they have not yet been put successful in practice. How can this be changed? Of course, ideas are important, they must also be disseminated, from below, from the grassroots up. It's an arduous process. And there has been undeniable progress in recent years. Nevertheless, the left-wing zeitgeist is rolling over the freedoms of citizens almost unhindered; most shockingly during the Covid crisis. The left tries to paint anyone who stands in the zeitgeist´s way as an extremist or even a Nazi.

Against this background, what can a successful strategy look like? Murray Rothbard addressed this question in an article in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report entitled Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement. His contribution is groundbreaking and forward-looking. He anticipates the successes of Donald Trump in the United States and, more recently, of Javier Milei in Argentina.

Javier Milei is making a splash on all sides, because on August 13, 2023, he won the primaries for the presidency in Argentina. In the German media, he is described as ultra-right and ultra-libertarian. Recently, the Financial Times dealt with the self-confessed anarcho-capitalist in a column, in which the author insinuated that the libertarian Milei would follow the strategy of right-wing populism designed by Murray Rothbard in 1992. This gives rise to the question if that claim is true and what exactly is this right-wing populism?

According to the paleo-libertarian Rothbard, the program of right-wing populism includes 8 main points:

  1. Radical tax cuts
  2. Radical reduction of the welfare state
  3. Abolition of privileges for "protected" minorities
  4. Crushing criminals
  5. Getting rid of bums
  6. Abolition of the Federal Reserve
  7. A program of America First (anti-globalist and isolationist)
  8. Defending traditional family values

Indeed, Milei's election manifesto is very much in line with Rothbard's right-wing populism and paleo-libertarianism. Milei wants to radically reduce taxes. He never tires of calling taxes what they are, theft. He also wants to radically grind down the welfare state and likes to illustrate the reduction in government spending and his proposal of reducing Argentinian ministries from 18 to 8 with a chainsaw. His "Chainsaw Plan" is intended to radically trim the state.

Milei repeatedly speaks of equality before the law as a fundamental liberal principle and wants to abolish privileges for minorities. As a result, he repeatedly clashes with radical feminists who defend legal privileges for women.

The imprisonment of criminals is also on Milei's agenda. Gun freedom is in his program so that victims can defend themselves against criminals. Those who refuse to work are no longer supported by the state in his Argentina.

Milei also has the 6th of Rothbard's points in his agenda: Milei wants to abolish the central bank of Argentina. Using right-wing populist rhetoric he aims to physically blow up the central bank. In doing so, he would wipe out the power of one of the most inflationary central banks, which willingly financed all Peronist and Kirchnerist spending programs. He wants to dollarize the country and open it up to currency competition.

Milei also puts his own country first: Argentina first. Right-wing populism opposes the globalist agenda. It cuts development aid, climate programs and military adventures. Milei likes to point out that Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to classical liberal policies and was destroyed by socialism in the 20th century. In 35 years, Milei promises, Argentina can be a superpower again. The prerequisite for this to happen is a return to libertarianism.

Finally, Milei also defends traditional family values and opposes the state takeover of family responsibilities. The vehement opponent of abortion has defended the right to life several times in debates with radical feminists.

Milei used to be chief economist at various institutions and a professor of economics. He is a follower of the Austrian School of Economics. One of his dogs is named Murray. He contributor a chapter two-volume Festschrift in honor of Jesús Huerta de Soto edited by David Howden and myself. A couple of years ago he was guest via zoom in my seminar in our Master's degree in Austrian Economics that we offer in Madrid, and spoke about his strategy.

In short, Milei is one of us. And he can win the election. He can become president of Argentina. An Austrian. An anarcho-capitalist. With an openly radical libertarian election program. In a country that has paid homage to socialism for decades. Amazing.

Milei has been very present in the public debate in Argentina for years. He gained fame as a polarizing and fiercely arguing talk show guest. Later, he decided to create his own party to lead the culture war against socialism and statism more effectively and to bring the right ideas to more people.

His rhetorical strategy in debates is vociferous, belligerent, and is sometimes perceived as offensive (if the truth can be offensive at all). He does not allow himself to be intimidated or belittled by left-wing opinion-makers. In a debate, he simply shouts louder than the leftists, whom he calls "Zurdos", and interrupts them to tell them to their faces that they are saying an absolute stupidity and have no idea what they are talking about. You should read Hayek, Mises and Rothbard first, Milei recommends to them. He also calls leftists and politicians parasites and thieves, in a debate. For taxes are theft. 

In keeping with Rothbard's strategy of right-wing populism, he clearly names the profiteers of the state apparatus. He rails again and again against the caste of politicians and bureaucrats. He calls them parasites that live at the expense of the hard-working and decent citizens. Politicians are completely useless and could not live without the productive Argentinians. Politics is not the solution, but the problem. And politicians form part of the problem. In this way, Milei wins over those decent Argentinians who suffer most from the yoke of the state. Equally clear are his remarks on the concept of social justice. So-called social justice is a monstrous injustice because it means unequal treatment of people before the law. It is a fig leaf for envy and resentment.

Milei's emotional and polemical nature resonates with many, especially among young people. After winning the primaries in mid-August, he has legitimate hopes for the Argentine presidency.

Milei's successes have become a topic of everyday conversation, especially in the Hispanic world. One speaks of Milei with astonishment and appreciation. Acquaintances and friends send short videos of his rhetorical gems. Libertarian ideas are back in vogue. People are venturing forward with libertarian opinions, everywhere and unexpectedly. The window of public and permissible opinions is shifting in the direction of freedom. Thanks to Milei.

Regardless of whether the charismatic Milei ultimately wins the election, his campaign has sparked a young and powerful libertarian movement. His triumph in the primaries may be more significant than the Ron Paul Revolution of 2008 and 2012. The incredible fact is that he is successful. With a right-wing populism that Rothbard recommended, in a run-down country, with his charismatic personality, with aggressive rhetoric. Nothing is impossible. Even a libertarian can win a democratic election. It's the strategy that counts. ¡Vamos Javier! ¡Viva la libertad, carajo!

Image source:
Ilan Berkenwald via Flickr

The Suspect Was Already in Handcuffs. Then Police Assaulted Him.

09/14/2023Ryan McMaken

A member of the Fort Lupton, Colorado Police Department was fired last month after she was found guilty of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault. Former Officer Jordan Steinke had arrested Yareni Rios-Gonzalez for suspected menacing and put her in the back of the patrol car of Platteville police officer Pablo Vasquez. Vasquez had parked his cruiser on railroad tracks. Moments later, the car was struck by a passing train with Rios-Gonzales inside. The victim—who has never been convicted of any crime related to the incident—and can thus be presumed innocent—suffered life-threatening injuries as a result. She barely survived. 

The incident helps to illustrate the risks faced by suspects in custody when at the mercy of indifferent, incompetent, or hostile law enforcement officers. 

The matter of police aggression toward persons already in handcuffs is also notable for being central to the George Floyd case. Floyd was subject to deadly force by police officers even though he was cuffed and posed little-to-no threat to the safety of officers or the public at large. 

Indeed, we can point to many, many cases across the country of police assaulting persons who were in handcuffs. In most of these cases, police convicted of offenses receive slaps on the wrist such as job loss or probation. When lawsuits are pursued against the police officers or their respective departments, it is the taxpayers who pay the bill.  Police attacks against handcuffed victims provide interesting case studies because they cannot be justified by the usual claims about the use of force by police. When law enforcement officers use violent tactics against others, it is often said this is justified because the officers were in danger of harm themselves, and thus acted in self-defense. These claims are often correct. In cases where suspects are already restrained, however, suspects do not pose a deadly threat to police and police assaults cannot be justified. 

Unfortunately, protections for police such as qualified immunity and pro-police bias in law courts often prevents victims from receiving sufficient restitution from their attackers.

Murray Rothbard noted that the deck is already stacked against those who are taken into custody by police, and a legal double standard clearly exists. Rothbard writes: 

The policeman who apprehends a criminal and arrests him, and the judicial and penal authorities who incarcerate him before trial and conviction—all should be subject to the universal law. In short, if they have committed an error and the defendant turns out to be innocent, then these authorities should be subjected to the same penalties as anyone else who kidnaps and incarcerates an innocent man.

In the Western world, the principal that government agents must be subject to the same law as everyone else is many centuries old. The reality faced by police, however, is something far different. Police can arrest, restrain, and imprison persons who have been convicted or no crime of offense. If police are wrong, and have imprisoned the wrong person, they rarely face any sanctions that an ordinary person would face for similar behavior. Rothbard goes on to note that in a truly just world, police 

must observe the critical libertarian rule that no physical force may be used against anyone who has not been convicted as a criminal— otherwise, the users of such force, whether police or courts, would be themselves liable to be convicted as aggressors if it turned out that the person they had used force against was innocent of crime.

Of course, many will argue that this simply isn't practical and some suspected violent criminals must be detained until their guilt can be ascertained. 

Even if we grant that claim for the sake of argument, we can see that depriving people of their freedom when they have yet to be convicted of anything is very serious business and offers many opportunities for abuse. Thus, one would think that taking non-convicts into custody—i.e., people still presumed innocent—requires the utmost care from police officers to preserve the health and safety of those who have been rendered unable to protect themselves or see to their own safety when in transit. Put another way, people in restraints have been deprived of exercising self-ownership and so it falls to the arresting officers to guarantee the suspects' safety. 

Moreover, even those people in custody who are later found guilty of some offense must not abused while in custody. Punishments are to be dispensed by the law courts, not by arresting officers. 

Unfortunately, many police officers don't see it that way. 

On the matter of George Floyd, for example, Floyd already had his hands cuffed behind his back when police officer Derek Chauvin saw fit to kneel on his neck for several minutes. Why did Chauvin decide to use deadly force on a man already in restraints? This question was posed during Chauvin's trial to Minneapolis homicide lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, who is Minneapolis's longest-serving sworn officer. Zimmerman testified that Chauvin's use of deadly force on Floyd was "totally unnecessary" and that the use of deadly force would only be justified if the officers felt their lives were threatened by Floyd. Zimmerman testified it's hard to see how Chauvin could possibly come to this conclusion since the threat level posed by handcuffed suspects is very low. (Police Sergeant David Pleoger also testified that Chauvin used unnecessary force and violated policy by pinning Floyd on the ground.)

Chauvin's defenders naturally attempted to come up with excuses for Chauvin's incompetence and aggression. Although it has never been established that Floyd actually used a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill, some claimed that Floyd was arrested while stealing and thus—for some unexplained reason—deserved to have a man kneel on his neck while handcuffed. Others noted Floyd may have been on drugs, as if this was in any way relevant to the question of whether or not a police officer ought to be able to attack a handcuffed suspect.

The truth is that Chauvin likely assaulted Floyd simply because Floyd was being uncooperative and Chauvin felt Floyd was wasting Chauvin's time. We see this often. Suspects in handcuffs—i.e., people who have been convicted of no crime—have often been the target of police abuse because police grow impatient. 

For example, police officers in Yuba City, California threw an elderly handcuffed man to the ground and paralyzed him because he wasn't complying fast enough to suit the short-fused police officers. In East Point, Georgia police shocked handcuffed Gregory Towns with a taser 14 times because he wasn't walking fast enough for police. In Clayton County, Georgia, a sheriff's deputy held a gun to a man's head while the man had his hands cuffed behind his back. The deputy wanted the man to comply with her orders more quickly. Officers in West Valley City, Utah shot and killed a man who was in handcuffs and detained inside a police station. Near Trinidad, Colorado, deputies barked conflicting orders at a handcuffed man who had parked in a place police didn't like. When the man couldn't figure out the deputies' incoherent demands, the police tased him in the face. Police in Castle Rock, Colorado allowed a police dog to attack a handcuffed man sitting on a curb. Police used a similar tactic in Alpharetta, Georgia

Sometimes police abuse handcuffed suspects to extract information. In Roswell, Georgia, police locked a handcuffed 13-year old boy in the back of a police cruiser with the windows down in sub-freezing temperatures. The child wouldn't answer questions, so a police sergeant concluded "he's not going to say anything if he's warm." Police decided to freeze the boy until he talked. 

These are all just cases that have been recently resolved, reported, or subject to legal proceedings. A longer timeline, of course, shows a long history of police abusing people in custody who are restrained and unarmed. These are also just the more egregious cases where police met with some level of legal accountability. Lesser cases often just bring acquittal or docked pay for abusive police. For example, when a Miami police officer kicked a handcuffed man in the head while he was lying on the pavement, the only punishment for the officer was a lost job. After an Atlanta police officer kicked a handcuffed woman in the head, he was fired but faced no legal consequences.  Moreover, because most states protect officers from any personal liability due to "qualified immunity" laws, most legal settlements are extracted not from individual officers or police pension funds—as should be the case—but from taxpayer funds. 

Yet, even when we recognize that policing can be a dangerous business and suspects are often unpredictable, how police treat people in custody is an indication of just how much police consider themselves to be above the law. It's one thing to react violently against armed and unrestrained suspects. That is often justified. It's something else entirely when police assault people who are on the ground with their hands cuffed behind their backs.  Or, as in the case of Rio-Gonzales, the police may take away a person's freedom, but can't be bothered to ensure that person is not parked in the path of an oncoming train. Police are very good at taking advantage of the extra power and privileges that come with a gun and a badge. But they are apparently much less concerned with the added responsibilities and obligations that come with taking people into custody. 

Rothbard was right that these abusers ought to be treated the same as any private citizen who attacks a person in handcuffs and is unable to defend himself. Police must be held personally liable for the harm they caused. Instead, under the status quo, these offending officers often enjoy free legal services from the police unions and can hide behind immunity laws. It's a two-tiered justice system, after all.

Current CPI Inflation is Worse than Reported

09/14/2023Jonathan Newman

Last year, Joseph Salerno cautioned against the use of year-over-year CPI inflation rate calculations.

This way of calculating the annual inflation rate is backward looking, because the most recent monthly rate is heavily outweighed by the previous eleven months' rates.

In contrast, calculating the annual inflation rate by compounding and annualizing the most recent monthly or quarterly rate of change in the CPI gives a better idea of what inflation currently is and how it may be trending.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just recently announced a new CPI statistic (which has many flaws on its own) for August 2023, and it was reported by them and the broader economic and financial news media as a 3.7 percent increase since last year. Consider this boilerplate reporting from CNBC: “The August 2023 consumer price index rose 3.7% on an annual basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday.”

While 3.7 percent exceeded expectations, it understates the current rate of price increases. Using, as Salerno suggests, the compounded annual rate based on the July to August percent change results in a whopping 7.8 percent.

You won’t find this figure in the official CPI release, but it is easy enough to calculate on your own or with the St. Louis Fed’s CPI graph and data series.

This way of presenting CPI inflation is not mere manipulation to make inflation look worse than it is. Salerno explains:

Now this may seem like merely a technical matter, but some forms of data presentation are clearer and more useful than others, especially during a time of rapid inflation. Presenting the inflation rate as a year-over-year calculation obscures shorter-term but substantial fluctuations that may occur and what they portend for the future, especially if inflationary expectations are beginning to become unhinged.

Read Salerno’s full article here.

Why Are We in Niger?

09/12/2023Ron Paul

The July military coup in the west African country of Niger has once again brought attention to the fact that the US government runs a global military empire that serves Washington’s special interests, and not the national interest.

Before the coup made news headlines, most Americans - including many serving in Congress - had no idea the US government maintains more than 1,000 troops stationed on several US bases in Niger. But it’s even worse than that. A recent report in The Intercept suggests the Pentagon repeatedly misled Congress about the extent and the cost of the US presence in Niger. 

According to The Intercept, “in testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in March, the chief of US Africa Command described Air Base 201 (in Niger) as ‘minimal’ and ‘low cost.’” In fact the US government has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on the base since construction began in 2016.

So when did Congress declare war so as to legalize US military operations in Niger? They didn’t. But as Kelley Vlahos writes in Responsible Statecraft, US troops have been “training” the military in Niger since 2013 and the US government has constructed a number of military bases to “fight terrorism” in the country and region.

Does that mean that the Pentagon is operating in Niger under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) meant to track down those who attacked the US on 9/11? It’s a good question and thankfully one being asked by Sen. Rand Paul in a recent letter sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Senator Paul first pointed out in the letter, “the Administration’s limitless interpretation of the 9/11 AUMF and frequent use of Title 10 authorities results in military operations abroad conducted with little Congressional oversight and even less public scrutiny.” Such actions “undermine our Constitution,” he writes as he asks, “in how many countries are US forces conducting operations authorized by the 2001 AUMF.”

Ironically - or maybe not - one of the coup leaders in NIger had been trained by the Pentagon at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. What is the US government training foreign military officers to do, exactly? Overthrow their own governments?

Whatever the case, it appears the coup government in Niger may be seeking a withdrawal of foreign military on its soil. Mass protests against French military presence has led the French government to begin talks with the coup government on withdrawal. There are rumors that the coup government may next request US troops to leave the country.

We should pre-empt their possible request by withdrawing all US troops immediately from Niger (and the rest of Africa) and closing all military bases. The claim that the US government is fighting terrorism in the area is doubtful. After all, in both Libya and in Syria the US government backed terrorist groups against governments it sought to overthrow. President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan famously wrote to his then-boss Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 that, “in Syria, al-Qaeda is on our side.”

Congress must step up and exercise its oversight authority to end the counter-productive US military presence in Africa. Our military empire is bankrupting us and turning the rest of the world against us.

Lew Rockwell's Prophetic Warning About 9/11

09/11/2023Tho Bishop

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, LewRockwell.com was established as one of the most important blogs in American politics. In the late 90’s, the blog was a unique voice against the tyranny of the Clinton administration, keeping alive the spirit of the printed Rothbard Rockwell Report earlier in the decade. While the site became a home for a number of talented libertarian voices, including a young Ryan McMaken, the work of Rockwell himself stands out for continuing clarity and relevance.

In the late 90s, LRC's antiwar message found common cause with many conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, who wanted to dismantle the American empire in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It looked like conservatives and Rothbardian libertarians might find unity on foreign policy for the first time in decades.

This changed following the events of 9/11 and the rise of George W. Bush’s War on Terror. With the images of the collapse of the World Trade Center and the charred hole on the side of the Pentagon, the American right shifted away from the growing 90’s era skepticism of the American regime and became the loudest advocates for the Republican president’s construction of a new national security state.

This result is one that Lew Rockwell predicted.

In an article published on December 24th, 1999, Rockwell warned that the successful execution of a terrorist plot blamed on Middle Eastern terrorists would eliminate the gains of the 1990s.

Rockwell began the article, titled “Memo to Terrorists of the World”, with this:

The U.S. State Department and every other official agency is telling us to be on the lookout for terrorist attacks from you guys. The attacks could come in any form, say the press releases, from a letter bomb to a truck bomb. Security at airports and U.S. borders is tighter than ever. But it is not just you swarthy foreign types who are under suspicion, but also regular Joe citizens. We are all suspects.

It’s hard to know what to make of these warnings. You might not be plotting anything at all. This could just be propaganda designed to instill fear in the American people. All governments know that people living in fear of attack are more likely to be obedient. Or it could just be an excuse to step up violations of civil liberties.

Rockwell also warned about the fruits of US foreign policy, driving the anger to provoke such an attack:

On the other hand, these warnings may indeed be justified. Because of its foreign policy, imperial military reach, and global arrogance, the U.S. government is the most hated in the world. It’s not surprising that some of you might want to vent your anger. But before you do so, you should consider this: what the U.S. government has done to you and to everyone else in the world has nothing to do with the American people. Don’t blame us for the actions of the government.

You are undoubtedly outraged at the bombings and ongoing sanctions against Iraq. It’s true that these actions are grossly contrary to morality. It’s also true that tens of thousands of civilians have died because of them. But these actions were undertaken by the dictatorial executive branch, and with only the tacit approval of the Congress. No one asked the American people if we wanted this. Thanks to the long, progressive seizure of power by the presidency, the Clinton administration can act on its own, and pursue its own agenda apart from the will of the American people.

The same goes for the bombing of that pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. It’s true that this was a ghastly crime. It’s an outrage that the Clinton administration has still not issued a formal apology or offered to compensate the factory’s owner for the property damage. But here again, the American people were not asked if they wanted to lob bombs on innocents. The decision was undertaken at the highest levels, in consultation with half a dozen un-elected bureaucrats.

Rockwell went on to consider a different path from the one the US would be on just less than two years later:

What can be done about it? You may propose violence, but that would be wrong, and it can only lead to more bombings, more interventions, and more crackdowns on liberties, at home and abroad. Indeed, terrorism can only play into the hands of the government because it seems to validate everything the Clinton administration is saying.

There’s a better way. The American people do not revere their leaders as they once did. In every way that is permitted, and some that are not, the American people are systematically withdrawing their consent from the powers that be. As we saw in Eastern Europe ten years ago, in Iran under the Shah and India under Gandhi, or in the American colonies in the 1770s, no government can continue to hold power once the people withdraw their consent.

So be patient. The U.S. military dominance of the world will not last forever. Give it some time; we’ll curb the power of the Leviathan. In the meantime, refrain from blaming the American people for the actions of our government, and from the violence that can only aid the empire.

While the chances for a peaceful overthrow of Clinton-style governance may seem fantastical in our current cynical age, it is worth revisiting the landscape of 90’s America. The disillusionment of the public for Washington, fueled by the lingering remnants of the lies of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and tyrannical agenda of the Clinton Administration helped fuel the rise of widespread distrust of Washington.

Crackdowns on gun rights fueled anti-DC militia groups around the nation. The sinister characters of the Clinton administration and their capture of the corporate press fueled the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and the alternative media of talk radio. The X-Files, whose ratings in the 90’s trump almost all non-sports television programming in 2023, offered Americans regular programming of how the highest levels of government we capable of the greatest evils imaginable. 

Paul Cantor, an acclaimed media critic and student of Ludwig von Mises, noted in a journal article “This Is Not Your Father’s FBI: The X-Files and the Delegitimation of the Nation-State” just how subversive the message of this pop cultural phenomenon truly was:

The X-Files strongly suggests that our public officials are just figureheads, manipulated from behind the scenes by mysterious power brokers. It is remarkable how small a role prominent officials such as the president or central institutions such as Congress have to play in The X-Files. It is obscure government agencies that have the real power, such as the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), which, according to one conspiracy theorist in the X-Files movie, forms “the secret government” of the United States and will take over openly once the planned alien invasion finally begins. Arguably the most extraordinary message The X-Files has for its audience is that the public figures they see in Washington, who seem to represent the nation-state in all its flag-waving glory, are in fact inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. According to The X-Files, it is people whose faces we do not know who in effect govern our lives, and they do not do so in the name of the nation-state...History made by unknown men standing in the shadows—that is the governing vision of The X-Files and its ultimate subversion of the ideology of the nation-state.

In 2023, 1990’s politics seems to have far more in common with current political discourse than the age when Bill O’Reilly dominated cable news. The top terrorist concern of Washington is once again an organized political right, from parents upset with public school officials and those skeptical of “fortified” elections.

It is the tools created by Bush-era Republicans, applauded for their use against possible Islamic terrorists in our borders, now being wielded against Republican voters. As Rockwell predicted, the expansion of the regime’s power is weaponized against what will always be its greatest threat: domestic forces in conflict with the prevailing ideology of the political elite. 9/11 was the perfect catalyst for not just the neoconservative vision overseas, but the domestic agenda of the professional unelected class Fox Mulder and Dana Scully regularly sought to foil.

This would hardly shock fans of the work of The X-Files universe, whose writers ended up being just as prophetic as Rockwell. In the pilot of its spinoff program The Lone Gunmen, aired just months before 9/11, the show’s protagonists thwart a government conspiracy to run a plane into one of the World Trade Center towers to justify a new war serving the financial interests of the military-industrial complex.

Abolish Sedition Laws

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., sentenced Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, to 22 years in jail for the crime of “sedition” arising out of the January 6 protests at the Capitol. It wasn’t the first time that the judge, Timothy Kelly, meted out a high jail sentence for the sedition offense. Last week, he handed out an 18-year sentence to Ethan Nordean, one of Tarrio’s co-defendants. Last May, another D.C. federal judge, Amit P. Mehta, sentenced leader of the Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, to 18 years for the federal crime of “sedition.”

Those high jail sentences for what amounts to a protest gone awry are so ridiculous that they serve as an excellent advertisement for the abolition of sedition laws, which have no place in a genuinely free society.

The federal crime of “sedition” is akin to the local crime of “disorderly conduct.” It is designed to give federal authorities the ability to severely punish people who have committed no real crime to justify severe punishment.

The website of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University defines sedition as “language intended to incite insurrection against the governing authority.” The website points out:

Edward Jenks, in The Book of English Law, contends that sedition is “perhaps the very vaguest of all offences,” and attempted to define it as “the speaking or writing of words calculated to excite disaffection against the Constitution as by law established, to procure the alteration of it by other than lawful means, or to incite any person to commit a crime to the disturbance of the peace….

The federal statute under which Tarrio and Kelly were convicted and sentenced, 18 U.S.C. Section 2384, states as follows:

[i]f two or more persons in [the U.S.], conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

How did Kelly arrive at 22 years for Tarrio when the law expressly limits sentences to 20 years? He used some sort of enhancement provision relating to terrorism law, even though Tarrio was convicted of “sedition,” not “terrorism.” If that’s not strange legal reasoning, I don’t know what is.

The notion that the January 6 protests were an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government is laughable to the extreme. After all, everyone knows about AR-15s and other assault rifles. Everyone also knows about regular mass killings in the United States. If people are going to attempt a violent overthrow of the federal government, they are going to go into the Capitol with AR-15s or other assault rifles. They are immediately going to start shooting and killing people and taking hostages. Think Columbine. Think Uvalde. Think Las Vegas. Think White House Down. They are not going to settle for smashing a few doors and windows, forcing their way past security police, or damaging some desks.

In fact, it is ironic that that the only person who was killed on January 6 was an unarmed protestor. That was Ashli Babbitt, who was shot dead by a Capitol policeman who got scared during the protest. Notwithstanding the fact that he shot an unarmed woman in cold blood, that cop got away scot-free, unlike Tarrio and Nordean, who didn’t kill anyone.

Imagine if it had been the other way around. Imagine that Babbitt, or Tarrio, or Nordean had killed an unarmed Capitol policeman in cold blood. I will guarantee you that they would have been prosecuted for murder—and rightly so—and, upon conviction, would have been quickly sentenced to death by Judge Kelly.

There is no doubt that on January 6, people were filled with passionate emotions. Election disputes and other political controversies (such as deadly and destructive foreign wars like the Vietnam War or the conscription that comes with them) do that to people sometimes. There is also no doubt that given the heightened emotions, such protests oftentimes get out of hand. That certainly is what happened in the January 6 protests.

But to jump from that to the notion that the protestors were attempting to overthrow the U.S. government is so patently ridiculous that it defies credulity, especially since the protestors undoubtedly knew that the Pentagon is situated just a short distance away and, no doubt, was ready and able to quickly put down any violent takeover attempt of the Capitol with maximum military force.

Of course, there is also the possibility that Judge Kelly relied on the following provision of the federal sedition statute: “or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” But that little catch-all phrase could easily be employed against anyone who violates unjust federal laws, including drug laws, or even just engages in civil disobedience against such laws. Like I say, “sedition” is the federal equivalent to the local crime of “disorderly conduct.”

In 1735, the colonial governor of New York sought to prosecute a man named Peter Zinger of seditious libel. A jury of English colonists refused to convict him. Four decades later, in 1775, King George III ordered his minions to target colonists for sedition. The ridiculously high jail sentences meted out in the January 6 protests follow in that ignoble and tyrannical tradition.

It’s one thing to charge January 6 protestors who got out of control with such crimes as trespass, assault, or destruction of government propriety. It’s quite another thing to punish them for sedition, a hallmark crime of tyrannical regimes. The January 6 sedition convictions and punishments should be vacated and America should abolish all sedition laws and never enact them again. Such laws have no place in genuinely free society.

[Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.]

Austrian Economics vs. CBDC, ESG, UBI, and Other Newfangled Socioeconomic Gimmicks

The Austrian school – on account of the logical, deductive character of its theories and their realistic applicability to the actual economy – is the only economic tradition that consciously aspires to the discovery of timeless, universally relevant truths that govern the realm of human action. Thus, it should come as no surprise that its analytical apparatus is naturally suitable for the evaluation of all the recent newfangled socioeconomic phenomena.

For example, in view of its reflection about the logical essence of the sound means of exchange, the Austrian school sends serious warning signals regarding the notorious concept of CBDCs (central bank digital currencies). More specifically, it points out that CBDC is nothing else but fiat money on steroids, which allows for an unprecedented redistribution of monetary purchasing power in the direction of special interest groups, as well as for immediate monetization of public debt. Worse still, the establishment of a global CBDC platform would be a major step in the direction of eliminating currency competition, which, as the Austrians suggest, is the best among imperfect anti-inflationary buffers in a world deprived of market-chosen money.

Successful implementation of CBCDs would lethally infect the lifeblood of the global economy, causing unprecedentedly ruinous business cycles, endlessly distorted monetary calculation, and eventually a worldwide disintegration of indirect exchange. Nothing should be less surprising, especially to the Austrians, since the abovementioned situation would be the exact opposite of the monetary stability and predictability afforded by the classical gold standard.

Similarly, in light of its considerations on the crucial role of economic calculation in the process of rational allocation of resources, the Austrians are naturally wary of the aggressively pushed “ESG standards”. This is because these standards, while parading around in the costume of “good business practices” are a major factor that disrupts business calculation with arbitrary, ideologically charged obstructions manufactured by the global bureaucratic-corporate oligarchy. As such, far from being a form of genuine social capital that builds trust on the part of customers, they are a potent source of ideological confusion and bureaucratic uniformization that hamper the process of generating authentic goodwill by socially proactive companies.

Nevertheless, the ubiquity of such arbitrary pseudo-market standards can plunge the economy into an abyss of legal uncertainty, especially if some political regimes decide to enforce them as part of their “sustainable development” agenda. And it is precisely in such scenarios, as the Austrian school stresses repeatedly, that the entrepreneurial capacity for long-term planning becomes particularly hobbled.

Finally, so-called UBI (“universal basic income”) is easily identified by the Austrians as the most comprehensive and audacious form of Frederic Bastiat’s “great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody” - i.e., the ultimate incarnation of universal parasitism. More specifically, given their sound reflection on the logic of human action and the resulting incentive structure, the Austrians realize full well that large-scale introduction of UBI would result in immediate capital consumption and catapult the global economy back to at least the preindustrial stage.

In other words, the Austrian school is uniquely positioned to point out that UBI-ism would be a singularly destructive form of communism, since classical Soviet-style communism, even though supremely wasteful, was at least committed to diligence rather than idleness. Thus, it unwittingly nourished the spirit of dedication which, when combined with the spirit of defiance, brought about its eventual collapse. However, nothing similar can be said about UBI-ism, which eliminates the spirit of defiance by promoting universal shiftlessness and indolence.

In view of all the preceding remarks, it becomes obvious that the convergence of all the abovementioned phenomena would be particularly capable of sealing the fate of the world economy. More specifically, what I mean here is a situation in which UBI would be paid out in CBDC to those who qualify in virtue of their total acceptance of the ESG agenda. Or, to put matters somewhat differently, a situation in which universal parasitism converges with completely cashless monetary totalitarianism and complete submission to contrived ideological whims.

It goes without saying that such a scenario would be utterly dysfunctional on so many levels and in so many aspects that it would descend into total economic and social chaos in a very short time. However, even if we can rightly regard it as a highly unrealistic or indeed outright absurd contingency, we might at the same time treat it as a hypothetical anti-ideal against which all conceivable forces of resistance – conceptual and practical, academic, and entrepreneurial, and individual and collective – should be proactively rallied. And when it comes to coordinating such forces of resistance and serving as their fail-safe intellectual guide, there is no better candidate than the scholarly edifice of the Austrian school.