SCOTUS Is Right to Not Overturn California's Gun Waiting Period

SCOTUS Is Right to Not Overturn California's Gun Waiting Period

02/20/2018Ryan McMaken

The Hill today reports that the US Supreme Court is refusing to hear a case challenging a California law prescribing a waiting period for gun purchases. In other words, the SCOTUS is allowing the California law to stand:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a challenge to a California law that requires there be a 10-day waiting period after all gun sales, even if the person is already a registered gun owner.

California’s "cooling off period" is the second longest in the country, according to court documents, and was enacted to give state authorities time to run a background check and give individuals who might want the firearm to harm themselves or others an opportunity to calm down.

Only eight other states and the District of Columbia have any kind of waiting period.

Two California residents, Jeff Silvester and Brandon Combs, who already own guns legally, challenged the application of law along with two nonprofits: The Calguns Foundation Inc. and The Second Amendment Foundation Inc.

They argued the waiting period is unconstitutional when it’s applied to "subsequent purchasers" — individuals who already own a firearm according to California’s AFS database or have a valid concealed-carry license and individuals who clear a background check in less than 10 days.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It said the 10-day waiting period is a reasonable safety precaution for all purchasers of firearms and need not be suspended once a purchaser has been approved.

Now, I am not supporter of laws such as these. On the other hand, I also am opposed to the federal government stepping in to overturn state laws. 

State autonomy in this matter is important from a decentralist and pro-federalism position. But it is also important from a legal position, because as Brion McClanahan has made clear in his work on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment does not apply to the states. 

Many gun-ownership advocates wrongly claim that the Second Amendment applies to the states, but this is not the case. In other words, they accept the legal doctrine of "incorporation" invented in the late 19th century which applies the Bill of Rights to state governments.

McClanahan notes, however, that not only is "incorporation" a faulty legal doctrine, but it was never applied to the Second Amendment until very recently. 

In this podcast [beginning around12:00] with McClanahon, he examines the historical realities surrounding the adoption of the Bill of Rights, and it is clear that the provisions of the Bill of Rights were intended as "restricting clauses on the general government" and that "these amendments were to apply only to the general government." 

There is a reason, after all, that nerly all state constitutions contain some provisions guaranteeing a right to bear arms. This was seen as the domain of the state governments. 

Federalism, properly understood, puts gun regulation in the hands of the state government. And while I am generally laissez faire on this issue, I agree with McClanahan that the federal government ought not to be the agency to which gun advocates appeal for protections of gun-ownership rights. 

More: Decentralize the Gun Laws by Ryan McMaken

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You'll Soon Be 3-D Printing Guns at Home

07/26/2018Ryan McMaken

Remember Cody Wilson? In 2013, he's the guy who successfully tested a fully-3-D-printed gun. Shortly thereafter, he posted information on how to make the guns online.

Shortly after that, as many predicted, the federal government took steps to shut the whole thing down.

Recent developments, however, mean that the guns and plans on how to make them, will soon be seeing the light of day again.

Last week, Wired reported:

Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government . Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.

The Department of Justice's surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument. It promises to change the export control rules surrounding any firearm below .50 caliber—with a few exceptions like fully automatic weapons and rare gun designs that use caseless ammunition—and move their regulation to the Commerce Department, which won't try to police technical data about the guns posted on the public internet. In the meantime, it gives Wilson a unique license to publish data about those weapons anywhere he chooses.

This isn't exactly a total victory for laissez-faire, of course. The federal government is hardly abandoning any attempts to regulate firearms — including those created by Wilson. But, the recent court settlement does signal the political and legal realities that make it difficult for the federal government to arbitrarily decide what sort of information is legal to share.

The effect of the settlement will soon be felt, it seems:

Now Wilson is making up for lost time. Later this month, he and the nonprofit he founded, Defense Distributed, are relaunching their website as a repository of firearm blueprints they've been privately creating and collecting, from the original one-shot 3-D-printable pistol he fired in 2013 to AR-15 frames and more exotic DIY semi-automatic weapons. The relaunched site will be open to user contributions, too; Wilson hopes it will soon serve as a searchable, user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.

All of that will be available to anyone anywhere in the world with an uncensored internet connection, to download, alter, remix, and fabricate into lethal weapons with tools like 3-D printers and computer-controlled milling machines. “We’re doing the encyclopedic work of collecting this data and putting it into the commons,” Wilson says. “What’s about to happen is a Cambrian explosion of the digital content related to firearms.” He intends that database, and the inexorable evolution of homemade weapons it helps make possible, to serve as a kind of bulwark against all future gun control, demonstrating its futility by making access to weapons as ubiquitous as the internet.

The triumphalist response to all this, voiced by some libertarians is that gun control will "end" as soon as Wilson's operation goes online. They're not totally wrong, although history suggests we're really just about to head down a long road of quasi-legality and court battles over these sorts of weapons. 

After all, the US government has not said it has no role in regulating guns. It still says it can prohibit publication of information on how to make fully automatic weapons, for example.

Nevertheless, the court settlement does suggest the federal government, for now, has been forced to admit that it is at least somewhat constrained in just how much it can prohibit the spread of information — even if that information involves the manufacture of firearms.

Over the next decade as this issue further works its way through the courts and legislatures — as is sure to happen — we will nevertheless see here a true decentralization of both the information and the tools necessary to make guns.

Historically, this has always posed a threat to states, and decentralized distribution and ownership of weapons has long been a hallmark of guerrilla warfare.

RELATED: When Guerrilla Warfare Can Succeed — And When It Will Fail by Ryan McMaken

The US state, of course, is as well aware as any state that the ability to manufacture guns at home — at relatively low cost — does indeed change the landscape.

But what will the state do in response? States, to be successful, must be able to maintain a monopoly on the means of coercion. The US state is no different, and it will be interesting to see what steps the US government takes to restrict the ability to crank out guns with a 3-D printer. Will the US government simply tell itself that it can easily overpower any challenge to its monopoly that might arise from the proliferation of homemade guns? After all, it's still not possible to churn out tanks or rocket launchers or Apache helicopters with any equipment one might have in one's basement.

To some extent, this strategy of relying on better firepower will depend partially on just how much gun ownership might proliferate in an age of DIY guns. After all, it's easy enough the deal with a small number of angry gunmen with superior firepower. This advantage becomes smaller, however, the more gun owners there are. Even today, when many types of guns can still be easily bought, only 42 percent of Americans say they live in a home with guns. I happen to be of the opinion that these numbers tend to understate the probable real ownership rate. But by how much? Even if the 42-percent figure gets it wrong by 10 percent, we're still talking about only half the population with an apparent interest in having guns. And even fewer of these are likely skilled in the usage of firearms. Ownership rates, are important, though, because someone who owns guns is less likely to support efforts to confiscate them. 

The fact that guns are easy to come by,however, doesn't mean every one will want one. Of course, things could change substantially in a crisis situation that would significantly undermine public opinions of the state. This could arise from a serious economic crisis or from a surge in crime and civil unrest. Or all of the above. Then we might see a lot more interest in private gun ownership.

And Cody Wilson's gun operation might make it much harder for governments to assert control in such a situation.

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Block in NY Times: Trump's Tariffs a "Fake Fix"

07/26/2018Ryan McMaken

In today's New York Times, Walter Block employs some excellently Rothbardian logic in exposing just how absurd is the argument that protectionism increases wealth. In this case, Block notes that if protectionism helps to increase the living standards of people in American states who import from other states, then New York would surely benefit from slapping tariffs on imports from Iowa:

As an illustration, assume Mr. Trump is the governor of New York. He is devoted to making the Empire State “great again.” Right now, both New Yorkers and Iowans raise pigs — but Iowa produces far more than New York. So Governor Trump sets up a protective tariff against the importation of Iowa-raised pork. Will this make New York great again?

Hardly. There is a very good reason the Empire State does not produce a huge amount of this product: economic efficiency, the true path toward economic greatness. Of course, pork product jobs will increase in New York thanks to the Trump tariffs. But this is the way to ruin the state’s economy.

Surely, New Yorkers would be far better off continuing to produce goods and services in which they have a comparative advantage (Broadway shows, dairy products, financial services, jewelry, maybe even newspapers) and trading them for pork, rather than trying to grow more of it locally. Ditto for the Iowans. They, too, would be well advised to stick to what they do best and trade for what they want.

There are good reasons the United States is such a prosperous country, one of which is this: The country is a gigantic free-trade zone among the states. Yes, every once in a while a state legislature will get in the way. Wisconsin may try to reduce the importation of wine from California. But this only interferes with the specialization and the division of labor that maximizes output. Happily, the Supreme Court has typically given the back of its collective hand to all such attempted interferences with interstate economic freedom. ... Maybe we should be happy that the president hasn’t yet kicked Hawaii out of the union and imposed a tariff on pineapples to strengthen the weak pineapple industry in other states. Absurd, yes, but hardly less bizarre than thinking tariffs on foreign goods will make the American economy great again.

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Tariffs are Bad — Not Because Trump Is Good or Bad — But Because Tariffs Are Always Bad.

07/26/2018Matthew Noyes

[Originally published by the Albany Student Press.]

The Trump Administration levied tariffs on steel and aluminum last month through an executive order. Imported steel is subject to a 25 percent tariff and aluminum to a 10 percent tariff. A tariff is a tax on the American people. The money is paid for out of citizen’s pockets and does more harm to Americans than it does to their trading partners.

There are several arguments President Trump and his supporters use to defend the tariffs. Economist Walter Williams says that one of these arguments are that they help domestic steel and aluminum industries. Increasing the price of foreign steel and aluminum reduces the supply and makes it easier for domestic firms to compete. Williams then debunks this claim by arguing the increased profit of domestic firms comes at an aggregate cost to Americans. Artificially higher costs on steel and aluminum make the prices of other goods go up that use them. The argument that it helps steel and aluminum producers in the U.S. is true, but it ends up hurting the economy overall.

Another point that deserves rebutting is one made by Trump. NPR quoted Trump saying, “A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security.” Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “Military demand for steel and aluminum can be met with just 3 percent of domestic production.” The notion of autarky, that the U.S. needs to produce all of what it needs instead of trading, greatly limits the economy’s potential and as a result may limit future defense capabilities.

The New York Times reported that Trump also claims that shifts in trade policies are necessary to make countries like China engage in fair trading. However, there is no such thing as fair trade, only free trade. Free trade is the voluntary exchange of goods and services between people in different countries. It allows one region or firm’s comparative advantage to create more of something at a lower cost, benefiting everyone. Free trade produces mutual benefits to all parties involved. Trade isn’t a zero-sum game that has losers and winners. A great quote that summarizes this concept is one by sociologist Franz Oppenheimer , “The first method [of acquiring wealth] is by producing a good or a service and voluntarily exchanging that good for the product of somebody else,” aka: the free market. The other method being stealing taking someone else’s property.

The Trump Administration wants you to artificially pay more for certain goods. Cans of soda, construction, and countless other things we pay for everyday are going to be more expensive. Free trade is a part of capitalism. Trump’s campaign was full of protectionist rhetoric, so it isn’t surprising that he followed through with it. What is disheartening is the hypocrisy of the media and politicians. President Obama’s tariff on tires did not see the same scrutiny from the mainstream media as Trump’s tariffs have. On the flip side, some from the right-wing media have not been critical about the tariffs simply because they’re Trump’s. Many in the Republican Party who claim to be capitalists and conservatives have supported the tariffs as well. Trump’s tariffs are bad, not because Trump is good or bad, but because tariffs are always bad. Government interference in consensual interactions between people is wrong whether it’s by Republicans or Democrats.

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Reminder that Bill Kristol and the Neocons are Always Wrong About Everything

07/25/2018Andrew Syrios

Neocons are a group that virtually no one likes. Indeed, I've never met a single person who identified as one. In fact, I've never met a single person who knew what neocon was and didn't outright hate them. Part of that is probably because they are a bunch of warmongers who are always wrong about everything. But they do, unfortunately, have a wildly disproportionate amount of influence in Washington.

As far as being wrong about everything goes, Bill Kristol is the all-time champion. Here's a very short list . But they include; Obama didn't stand a chance in the 2008 election, echoing that the insurgency was in its last throes, that Iraq wasn't in a civil war, that Trump would pick Christie as his running mate and on and on and on. But this one from before the Iraq war started is truly legendary:

Unfortunately, the Twitter handle "Kristol in History" is now inactive. But if you're looking for a good chuckle, it's worth reading through a few:

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Police Abuse Hate Crime Laws to Enhance Their Own Power

07/25/2018Tate Fegley

Previously I wrote about efforts in the US Congress to pass legislation that would make police officers an even more protected class by allowing federal prosecutors to charge individuals with committing "hate crimes" against them. While that legislation has not yet passed in the Senate and will hopefully die, some police officers have found other ways to use hate crimes legislation to their benefit.

The state of Pennsylvania has a hate crime statute known as "ethnic intimidation," applying to a person committing an offense "with malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual or group of individuals..." The effect of the statute is to enhance the grading of the actual criminal offense committed by one degree, potentially turning a 1st degree misdemeanor into a 3rd degree felony.

The statute was used against Robbie Sanderson , a 52-year-old black man, who was arrested for stealing around $100 worth of merchandise from a CVS Pharmacy. According to the affidavit filed by the Crafton Borough police, during the arrest, he called the officers "Nazis," "skinheads" and "Gestapo," and told one officer that he would find that officer's wife and have sex with her. Sanderson was charged with "felony ethnic intimidation" and "misdemeanor terroristic threats" for these comments.

Pennsylvania law enforcement has used this statute in a number of cases to punish those who insult them: Sannetta Amoroso, a 43-year-old black woman, was charged with felony ethnic intimidation for saying "I'm going to kill all you white b****es" and "death to all you white b****es" while attempting to report a crime to the McKees Rocks Police. Steven Ray Oller was charged with misdemeanor ethnic intimidation for threatening officers and using a racial slur directed at a Latino officer during an arrest for DUI. Anthony Payne was also charged with misdemeanor ethnic intimidation for calling an officer "Gandhi mother****er" during a welfare check at Payne's home.

All of these charges were later dropped and rightfully so, as the text of the statute states that ethnic intimidation cannot be a standalone offense, but rather applies when another crime is motivated by malicious intention toward race, color, religion, or national origin. The officers in these cases blatantly misapplied the law, but faced no adverse consequences for doing so. This should come as no surprise; despite the assurances of apologists for hate crime legislation that it "only appl[ies] when there is an underlying crime to prosecute," this is clearly not the case in practice.

Furthermore, police apply it for ideological reasons outside of the stated intentions of the law. For example, two teenagers in Baltimore were charged with a hate crime for setting fire to a Trump campaign sign. We are on the slippery slope we were assured wouldn't occur.

What's very strange about the whole issue is that those organizations that claim to hold civil liberties in the highest regard, including the 1st Amendment and due process, are those that tend to be most in favor of such sentencing enhancements. They also tend to deny the utility of harsher prison sentences for reducing most other types of crime; as such, they are either inconsistent in their views about harsher sentencing or view the purpose of hate crimes legislation as purely symbolic. Neither alternative reflects well upon them. What is indisputable, however, is that such legislation gives police officers greater discretion and power over individuals. This is something about which those calling themselves civil libertarians need to think carefully.

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Trump's Road to Socialism

07/24/2018Tho Bishop

Today the Trump administration is announcing a $12 billion bailout plan for farmers impacted by the response from the Trump administration’s tariffs. As Politico reports:

The administration's plan is expected to use two commodity support programs in the farm bill, as well as the Agriculture Department’s broad authority to stabilize the agricultural economy during times of turmoil by buying up excess supply. The plan is also expected to focus on providing aid to the dairy sector in particular, one of the sources said.

The plan has been in the works for months. It seeks to ensure that U.S. farmers and ranchers — a key constituency for President Donald Trump and Republicans — don’t bear the brunt of an escalating trade fight with China, the European Union and other major economies as the administration pursues an aggressive course to rebalance America's trade relationships.

Trump's moves to slap tariffs on imports from some of America‘s largest foreign buyers have prompted retaliation against U.S. farm goods like pork, beef, soybeans, sorghum and a range of fruits. The administration's trade aid plan is also a bid to shore up support among a slice of the rural electorate ahead of the midterm elections.

In spite of the President’s claim that tariffs are “the greatest,” and trade wars are “easy to win,” the economic backlash was easy to foresee. In fact, as the political success Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have brought “democratic socialism” into the mainstream of the Democratic Party, Trump’s economic nationalism threatens to pave a road to the same destination.

After all, Trump’s tariffs are not only a new tax for Americans, but a policy of directly picking winners and losers in the economy. The interests of steel workers, for example, are being placed above the interest of consumers and farmers. This leads to the government using tax dollars to prop up farmers. Of course this spending means that tax-paying consumers are hit yet again, with their tax dollars being used for this new welfare program.

Government interventionism doesn’t simply stop there. The natural result of these new government barriers is for businesses to seek ways around them, such as Harley’s decision to move some manufacturing to Europe. This, of course, sparked backlash from President Trump, threatening further retaliation for such a move. As we've seen time and time again, the more Trump digs in to his support for protectionism, the more he will seek to interfere with the actions of individual companies.

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises wrote:

Present-day protectionism is a necessary corollary of the domestic policy of government interference with business.

The opposite is also true: The domestic policy of government interference with business is a necessary corollary of present-day protectionism.

The result is an economy that increasingly replaces the market with state control. This is precisely why Mises wrote extensively about how escalating economic interventionism led to socialism. As he wrote in Human Action:

All varieties of interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters, but bring about a state of affairs which-from the point of view of their authors' and advocates' valuations—is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter. If one wants to correct their manifest unsuitableness and preposterousness by supplementing the first acts of intervention with more and more of such acts, one must go farther and farther until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it.

Of course defenders of the President will argue that Trump’s tariffs are simply meant as a negotiating ploy designed to give America “better trade deals.” The future is impossible to predict, perhaps that will be the end result. Memes about 4d chess, however, are of little help to those Americans hurt by Trump’s tariff policy. And increasingly the Trump administration has signaled its willingness to embrace a prolonged trade war.

Such policies are, in the long run, as great a threat to the American economy as that posed by the Sanderistas.

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You May Run From It, But Disruption Is Going to Occur All the Same

07/24/2018Per Bylund

Elon Musk has a reputation for blazing trails. Whether it's electric cars, a cave rescue or space travel, the billionaire business mogul has no problem doing things his own way.

Education is no exception. Since 2014, Musk has operated Ad Astra, a nonprofit school at SpaceX headquarters. Students explore everything from AI to robotics without any set class structures or grades. They can even opt out of subjects they don't enjoy.

This sort of innovation is, sadly, absent from many areas of our education system. Education technology companies have transformed classroom experiences, but layers of bureaucracy have made it a challenge to explore truly new and innovative methods of teaching students. As is the case in most industries, it’s easier to rely on the way we’ve always done things than to try to reinvent the wheel.

When entrepreneurs observe this sort of static situation, they begin to dream up ways they might be able to disrupt a marketplace. A lack of innovation presents an incredible opportunity for individuals who are able to see things differently.

Entrepreneurs will find ways to disrupt every industry -- it’s simply a matter of time. The lingering question is whether organizations will embrace the evolution or fight tooth and nail to avoid change. Disruption might be an inevitability, but industries that stubbornly stick to the old way of doing things are only making the process more painful.

Read the full article at Entrepreneur.
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Inflation Ruined a Chocolate Bar — But Is the Dark Age Now Over?

07/23/2018Ryan McMaken

Chocolate company Toblerone announced this week that it will be returning its chocolate bars to the pre-2016 shape — at least in the British market. Back in 2016, the company had decided to put less chocolate in its chocolate bars by changing the shape. It was, the company said, part of an effort to deal with rising production costs. Here's what the two different versions of the bars looked like:


Source: The Telegraph

Among chocolate lovers, this change was rather scandalous. Most people, of course, didn't exactly make an issue of it in social media, but the change constituted one of many efforts to deal with price inflation at the time — known as "shrink-flation."

Back in 2016, Christopher Westley reported on this, and how the Toblerone "scandal" was part of a larger inflation-created problem:

[Toblerone] widened the gaps between the segments of its iconic chocolate bar, reducing its total volume by some 10 percent. Although the reaction has something of an Old Coke-New Coke air to it, one can easily see it as a sign of the inflationary times, an effect of worldwide money creation coordinated by the leading central banks, with Toblerone being just one of many victims.

The economics of the decision shouldn’t surprise an actual student of economics. Since inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, and since the world’s central banks have been pumping new money into the global economy at unprecedented rates for several years, we should expect an upward pressure on prices. In a Facebook post, Toblerone explained that it was forced into changing its product in response to “higher cost of numerous ingredients,” adding that

...we had to make a decision between changing the shape of the bar, and raising the price. We chose to change the shape to keep the product affordable for our customers, and it enables us to keep offering a great value product.

Statements such as this cause Toblerone to become, unwittingly, a case study for how firms in competitive markets respond when monetary inflation raises their costs of production. When that happens, firms are less able to pass the cost on to consumers in the form of higher prices because if they do, they face a strong likelihood of losing market share and revenues. Instead, these firms cut back in terms of volume, size, and portions.

We see this all the time. Have you been to a restaurant lately where the menu prices haven’t seemed to change but the portions of food on your plate has? Or opened a bag of chips that hasn’t fallen in size while the volume of chips inside has? Or consumed a product of lower quality than you remembered in less inflationary times because its producer was obligated to change ingredients to break even?

The fact is, Toblerone can’t raise its prices willy-nilly due to the many substitutes available to consumers. Critics claiming otherwise ignore this common side effect of inflation in competitive industries, a phenomenon that especially has applied to candy markets in recent years.

It remains unclear, however, if the company is just reverting to the old shape and size, or just the old shape? If it's going back to the old shape and size, this would suggest that the company has found a way to produce candy bars less expensively, or that it can raise the price of the bars without driving down demand to the point it will hurt the company.

It's a safe bet, though, that we shouldn't expect a general reversal of the shrink-flation trend. A "pound" of coffee now seems to be 10 or twelve ounces of coffee in the US.

On the other hand, median income growth has in recent years finally begun to significantly exceed old pre-2008 levels, so it may be food companies are now using the current income gains as an opportunity to re-adjust prices upward before the next recession, when sensitivity to price increases will be far more significant.

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Memories of Rothbard at UNLV

07/17/2018Joseph Becker

Returning today to Mises University 2018, it’s difficult and even a little scary for me to accept that thirty summers have gone by since my first Mises University in 1988 on the Stanford campus. And it's been twenty five years since I graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) with a master's degree in economics, earned under Dr. Murray Rothbard and Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

My "informal" instruction at UNLV is what I remember most. In the early 1990s we had an incredible group of Rothbardian and proto-Rothbardian graduate students, all gathered at one of the few Austrian-friendly economics programs in the country. Sadly, Rothbard died and Hoppe left UNLV before a PhD in economics was established. But for those few brief years the Nevada desert was home to an outstanding cadre of Austrian thinkers.

Both Rothbard and Hoppe were incredibly accessible, friendly, and willing to engage ideas. Office hours were opportunities to learn and grapple with issues, not the kind of rote meetings most students have with professors. Our ideas were considered important, and even debated, despite the tremendous disparity in knowledge between us and our interlocutors. We were never made to feel like stenographers receiving one-directional knowledge from authority figures.

Best of all, Professor Hoppe frequently joined our gang at the "Stake-Out," a downscale burger and video poker joint well off the Las Vegas strip (still in business!). Those evening sessions remain among my best memories of those years.

Rothbard's affability, however, did not mean he held low expectations for us or demanded little academic rigor. Just the opposite was true. Both as an instructor and thesis chair, he turned out to be as academically demanding as he was generous with his time.

I still recall the unanticipated sting of long hours spent charting out the timeline of such thinkers as the Spanish Scholastics and Turgot on large poster boards, attempting to fully synthesize each theorist’s contribution and the chronology of their work for an upcoming exam in Rothbard's History of Economic Thought class. Clearly (and fortunately), this was not a class wedded to Heilbroner’s Worldly Philosophers, the text foisted upon most students by most departments. We quickly set it aside, ready for return to the university bookstore. No, our instruction came from a stack of handwritten notes scribbled on unbound and disheveled pages torn seemingly eons ago from a yellow legal pad, yet magically transcribed in perfect order by Rothbard onto the chalkboard before us.

Despite his physical stature, Murray was an intellectual giant, a bigger than life character, and huge icon for certain writers with the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper. One of the few big city newspapers with a slight libertarian bent, the Review Journal ran a front page caricature of him as a dragon slayer. His labeling of Clintonomics as “sort of psychotic” in that that same paper is forever etched in my mind.  

Not surprisingly, Murray went greatly underappreciated by his UNLV economics department “peers.” It may have been envy on his colleague’s part (no students were flocking to UNLV from anywhere to study under them), or his colleagues’ devotion to mathematical modeling. But it's safe to say they didn't much appreciate the genius in their midst.

In many ways Rothbard was the prototypical eccentric university professor. Murray, a night owl who eschewed early mornings, would awaken just in time to teach his night classes. As a Manhattanite he had never bothered to drive a car, making him dependent on one particular student to drive him to campus in his early-model-yet-still-somehow-running-vehicle (an experiment in hyphenation that perhaps only Murray would truly appreciate). After being returned home, Murray would commence writing all night long on a manual typewriter before turning in at sunup.

One of my task as a graduate assistant was serving as an unassuming communications conduit between the Austrians and the rest of the professors in the department, who despite working together in a relatively small office space seldom spoke to one another (and especially not about economics). Luckily for me, when I would bring an empiricist’s refutation of something “Austrian” to Murray he always patiently explained their error-- and taught me a lesson in the process.

Twenty five years later I still treasure Murray's devotion of his time to improve my understanding of economics.

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The Mueller Indictments and The Trump-Putin Summit: Triumph of the Deep State?

07/17/2018Ron Paul

The term “deep state” has been so over-used in the past few years that it may seem meaningless. It has become standard practice to label one’s political adversaries as representing the “deep state” as a way of avoiding the defense of one’s positions. President Trump has often blamed the “deep state” for his political troubles. Trump supporters have created big conspiracies involving the “deep state” to explain why the president places neocons in key positions or fails to fulfill his campaign promises.

But the “deep state” is no vast and secret conspiracy theory. The deep state is real, it operates out in the open, and it is far from monolithic. The deep state is simply the permanent, unelected government that continues to expand its power regardless of how Americans vote.

There are factions of the deep state that are pleased with President Trump’s policies, and in fact we might say that President Trump represents some factions of the deep state.

Other factions of the deep state are determined to undermine any of President Trump’s actions they perceive as threatening. Any move toward peace with Russia is surely something they feel to be threatening. There are hundreds of billions of reasons – otherwise known as dollars – why the Beltway military-industrial complex is terrified of peace breaking out with Russia and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

That is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s indictment on Friday of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US presidential election should immediately raise some very serious questions.

First the obvious: after more than a year of investigations which have publicly revealed zero collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, why drop this bombshell of an allegation at the end of the news cycle on the last business day before the historic Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki? The indictment could not have been announced a month ago or in two weeks? Is it not suspicious that now no one is talking about reducing tensions with Russia but is all of a sudden – thanks to Special Counsel Robert Mueller – talking about increasing tensions?

Unfortunately most Americans don't seem to understand that indictments are not evidence. In fact they are often evidence-free, as is this indictment.

Did the Russian government seek to interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections? It’s certainly possible, however we don’t know. None of the Justice Department’s assertions have been tested in a court of law, as is thankfully required by our legal system. It is not enough to make an allegation, as Mueller has done. You have to prove it.

That is why we should be very suspicious of these new indictments. Mueller knows he will never have to defend his assertions in a court of law so he can make any allegation he wants.

It is interesting that one of the Russian companies indicted by Mueller earlier this year surprised the world by actually entering a “not guilty” plea and demanding to see Mueller’s evidence. The Special Counsel proceeded to file several motions to delay the hand-over of his evidence. What does Mueller have to hide?

Meanwhile, why is no one talking about the estimated 100 elections the US government has meddled in since World War II? Maybe we need to get our own house in order?

Reprinted with permission.

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