Power & Market

What Should Politically Vanquished People Do?

06/19/2018Jeff Deist

What should politically vanquished people do? Should they resist the political status quo no matter what, or accept it in the spirit of civil comity and bide their time for the next election? What if their political fortunes are waning, and they are ever less likely to prevail politically? What rights and power do seemingly permanent political minorities (e.g. libertarians) possess? At what point is open rebellion permitted in a supposed democracy, and how do we judge principled resistance as opposed to sour grapes from political losers?

Furthermore, what can political majorities rightfully do-- in spite of a minority's strident opposition-- and what policies cannot be altered regardless of majority consensus? What spoils rightfully belong to political victors, and what longstanding rules should not be upended?

These are uneasy questions in the Age of Trump, especially since western governments long ago abandoned constitutional restraints and the cliched "rule of law" in favor or administrative governance by bureaucratic managers. Democracy, at least the mass variety practiced in modern western welfare states, provides no satisfactory answers. Are those unelected managers bound by popular will, or much of anything? What restrains the state?     

Ludwig von Mises, a robust social theorist in addition to his staggering work in economics, saw these issues clearly. Despite--or perhaps because-- he witnessed the ravages of actual combat in the Great War, he chose to use the language of warfare in describing the plight of political minorities: 

It was liberalism that created the legal form by which the desire of the people to belong or not to belong to a certain state could gain expression, viz., the plebiscite. The state to which the inhabitants of a certain territory wish to belong is to be ascertained by means of an election. But even if all the necessary economic and political conditions (e.g., those involving the national policy in regard to education) were fulfilled in order to prevent the plebiscite from being reduced to a farce, even if it were possible simply to take a poll of the inhabitants of every community in order to determine to which state they wished to attach themselves, and to repeat such an election whenever circumstances changed, some unresolved problems would certainly still remain as possible sources of friction between the different nationalities. The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest... To be a member of a national  minority always means that one is a second-class citizen.  (italics added)

The almost unbelievable rancor surrounding the Trump administration demonstrates precisely how little even rich westerners really revere democracy when they don't like its results. Anti-Trump forces indeed consider themselves conquered, feeling suddenly like second-class citizens in a country they thought they knew (one where an inevitable "progressive" arc would of course elect Ms. Clinton). They don't accept Trump any more than they would accept the head of a hostile and occupying foreign power. But rejecting the outcome of elections is strange position for Clinton supporters, a candidate who frequently gushed about "our sacred democracy."

The same can be said for the Brexit referendum in the UK and rising anti-immigration sentiment across continental Europe-- both pilloried as sinister and ill-intentioned populism as opposed to noble expressions of "the people" exercising their democratic rights. But populism is just democracy delivered good and hard, and technocratic administrators are correctly portrayed as gross hypocrites who use the veneer of democratic support only when it bolsters what they plan to do anyway. 

Democracy, far from yielding compromise and harmony, pits Americans against each other while creating a permanent bureaucratic class. All of this is understandable and predictable from a libertarian perspective. Only libertarians make the consistent case against democratic mechanisms, and consider freedom from state power as far more important than majority consensus. Freedom isn't up for a vote, as the hopeful saying goes. Liberty-- properly understood as nothing more and nothing less than freedom from the state-- is the highest political end.

But we don't live in a free world, and most people are not ideological libertarians. Most people, though far less thoughtful, are (small d) democrats like Mises himself. In the interwar years, following the collapse of European monarchies and the rise of Nazism in Germany, Mises saw democracy as nothing short of the societal mechanism for avoiding further wars and bloodshed:

Democracy is that form of political constitution which makes possible the adaptation of the government to the wishes of the governed without violent struggles. If in a democratic state the government is no longer being conducted as the majority of the population would have it, no civil war is necessary to put into office those who are willing to work to suit the majority. By means of elections and parliamentary arrangements, the change of government is executed smoothly and without friction, violence, or bloodshed. 

Nearly 100 years later we might wonder if he would still write those words today, having seen the 20th and now 21st centuries unfold. In hindsight they seem unduly optimistic. We'll never know, of course. and even the most doctrinaire anarchist can admit democracy played a part in the success of America and the West.

But there have been both literal and figurative casualties along the way, and more will become apparent in the coming decades. The elite western consensus, favoring globalism, a vague "neoliberalism," and social democracy will butt up against nationalist and breakaway impulses. Whether "democracy" will be permitted when it goes against elite sentiment is very much an open question, and people are not so easily fooled that globalist projects are in any way democratic.  

It's vitally important to understand that Mises saw self-determination as the highest political end, and thus strongly argued against universalism and in favor of political subdivision wherever needed and feasible. Reordering political arrangements by creating smaller units, or abandoning them altogether via secession, was Mises's answer to the question of how political minorities could be protected. Breakaway movements were the safety valve in Mises's conception of democracy:

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars. 

At some point Americans of all ideological stripes have to ask themselves a question: if one really believes 30 or 40 or 50 percent of the population is beyond redemption, utterly immoral, stupid, fascist, racist, or communist, what should be done? Should they be killed? Deported? Herded into camps? Re-educated against their will until they vote correctly? Forced into low-caste status, politically, socially, and economically? Tolerated, but punished in future elections? 

Or should we listen to Mises, and elevate political separation, federalism, and localism to the highest political principles?

Top-down rule from DC isn't working, and in fact it's making people miserable and ready to think unthinkable thoughts about civil war. Pro-Trump and anti-Trump sentiment is destroying social cohesion, the real "law" in any society. And for what? Miniscule policy differences between two parties that will never lift a finger against war, state power, entitlements, or the Fed? 

It takes 70 million votes to control the White House, and the (deep) administrative state may be beyond the reach of even an overwhelming political majority. No matter where you sit ideologically, the risk of becoming a marginalized political minority grows as state power grows. It is time to stop trying to capture DC and start talking about realistic breakaway or federalist solutions, even under the umbrella of an ongoing federal state. The elections of 2018 and 2020 won't settle our problems, but only make them worse. At least 50 or 60 million Americans, a group far larger than most countries, will be politically disenfranchised and ruled by a perceived hostile government no matter what candidates or parties prevail.

If breaking up seems unthinkable, so does civil war. Is it written in stone that 330 million people must live under one far-flung federal jurisdiction, no matter what, forever?

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Why Can't We Sue the TSA For Assault?

06/18/2018Ron Paul

When I was in Congress and had to regularly fly between DC and Texas, I was routinely subjected to invasive “pat-downs” (physical assaults) by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). One time, exasperated with the constant insults to my privacy and dignity, I asked a TSA agent if he was proud to assault innocent Americans for a living.

I thought of this incident after learning that the TSA has been compiling a “troublesome passengers” list. The list includes those who have engaged in conduct judged to be “offensive and without legal justification” or disruptive of the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Libertarian journalist James Bovard recently pointed out that any woman who pushed a screener’s hands away from her breasts could be accused of disrupting the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Passengers like me who have expressed offense at TSA screeners are likely on the troublesome passengers list.

Perhaps airline passengers should start keeping a list of troublesome TSA agents. The list could include those who forced nursing mothers to drink their own breast milk, those who forced sick passengers to dispose of cough medicine, and those who forced women they found attractive to go through a body scanner multiple times. The list would certainly include the agents who confiscated a wheelchair-bound three-year-old’s beloved stuffed lamb at an airport and threatened to subject her to a pat-down. The girl, who was at the airport with her family to take a trip to Disney World, was filmed crying that she no longer wanted to go to Disney World.

The TSA is effective at violating our liberty, but it is ineffective at protecting our security. Last year, the TSA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducted undercover tests of the TSA’s ability or detect security threats at airports across the country. The results showed the TSA staff and equipment failed to uncover threats 80 percent of the time. This is not the first time the TSA has been revealed to be incompetent. An earlier DHS study fund TSA screenings and even the invasive pat-downs were utterly ineffective at finding hidden weapons.

The TSA’s “security theater” of treating every passenger as a criminal suspect while doing nothing to stop real threats is a rational response to the incentives the TSA faces as a government agency. If the TSA puts up an appearance of diligently working to prevent another 9/11 by inconveniencing and even assaulting as many travelers as possible, Congress will assume the agency is doing its job and keep increasing the TSA’s budget. Because the TSA gets its revenue from Congress, not from airline passengers, the agency has no reason to concern itself with customer satisfaction and feels free to harass and assault people, as well as to make lists of people who stand up for their rights.

Congress should end the TSA’s monopoly on security by abolishing the agency and returning responsibility for security to the airlines. The airline companies can contract with private firms that provide real security without treating every passenger as a criminal suspect. A private security firm that assaults its customers while failing to detect real dangers would soon go out of business, whereas the TSA would likely have its budget and power increased if there was another attack on the US.

If shutting down the TSA is too “radical” a step, Congress should at least allow individuals to sue TSA agents for assault. Anyone who has suffered unfair treatment by the TSA as a result of being put on the “troublesome passengers” list should also be able to seek redress in court. Making TSA agents subject to the rule of law is an important step toward protecting our liberty and security.

Reprinted with permission.

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Weighted Voting Not a Cure for Democracy

06/06/2018Gary Galles

The meat-grinder politics beginning with the 2016 campaign has triggered proposals to rescue us from a crisis of democracy. At least two authors — Jason Brennan, in Against Democracy and Dambisa Moyo, in Edge of Chaos — have suggested that letting more knowledgeable citizens’ votes count more might be a useful reform.

Both trace democracy’s problems to voter ignorance. However, its cause is largely that an individual casting a better-informed vote will not change the political outcome, providing them essentially no such payoff for such efforts. And weighted voting would do little to improve that problem, while imposing severe implementation issues.

Allocations of extra voting power would not escape political calculation and control. That omni-interventionist government would be able and willing to do that even-handedly is beyond belief. Further, it doesn’t fix voters’ incentives.

Say you got a double vote. There is still an insignificant chance it vote would swing an important election. It still offers no payoff. Little would change even if some got 100 votes. And any expansion of “informed” voting power further dilutes the incentives of other voters.

Weighted vote advocates also misidentify voter knowledge as the crucial question. More political knowledge does not eliminate bad government policies. That can just as easily be used to advance one’s own interests at others’ expense (experts promoting a wrong answer in the “right” direction) as to advance the “general welfare.” Given how frequently “experts” have driven policy failures, giving them more votes could easily worsen results.

Read more at the Orange Country Register 
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Who Killed the 10th Amendment?

05/24/2018Ilana Mercer

Not a day goes by when the liberal media don’t telegraph to the world that a “Trumpocracy” is destroying American democracy. Conspicuous by its absence is a pesky fact: Ours was never a country conceived as a democracy.

To arrive at a democracy, we Americans destroyed a republic.

One of the ways in which the republic was destroyed was through the slow sundering of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The 10th was meant to guarantee constitutional devolution of power.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The de facto demise of the 10th has resulted in "constitutional" consolidation.

Fair enough, but is that enough? A perceptive Townhall.com reader was having none of it.

In response to “Whodunit? Who ‘Meddled’ With Our American Democracy” (Part 1), the reader upbraided this writer:

“Anyone who quotes the 10th Amendment, but not the 14th Amendment that supplanted it cannot be taken seriously.”

In other words, to advance the erosion of the 10th in explaining who did our republic in, without mentioning the 14th: this was an omission on the writer’s part.

The reader is admirably correct about Incorporation-Doctrine centralization.

Not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to concede that the 14th Amendment and the attendant Incorporation Doctrine have obliterated the Constitution's federal scheme, as expressed in the once-impregnable 10th Amendment.

What does this mean?

You know the drill but are always surprised anew by it. Voters pass a law under which a plurality wishes to live in a locality. Along comes a U.S. district judge and voids the law, citing a violation of the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.

For example: Voters elect to prohibit local government from sanctioning gay marriage. A U.S. district judge voids voter-approved law for violating the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.

These periodical contretemps around gay marriage, or the legal duty of private property owners to cater these events, are perfectly proper judicial activism. It flows from the 14th Amendment.

If the Bill of Rights was intended to place strict limits on federal power and protect individual and locality from the national government—the 14th Amendment effectively defeated that purpose by placing the power to enforce the Bill of Rights in federal hands, where it was never intended to be.

Put differently, matters previously subject to state jurisdiction have been pulled into the orbit of a judiciary. Yet not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to cop to this constitutional fait accompli.

The gist of it: Jeffersonian constitutional thought is no longer in the Constitution; its revival unlikely.

A Court System Centralized

For another example of the endemic usurpation of The People, rendering the original Constitutional scheme obsolete, take the work of the generic jury. With his description of the relationship between jury and people, American scholar of liberty Lysander Spooner conjures evocative imagery.

A jury is akin to the "body of the people." Trial by jury is the closest thing to a trial by the whole country. Yet courts in the nation’s centralized court system, the Supreme Court included, are in the business of harmonizing law across the nation, rather than allowing communities to live under laws they author, as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

States’ Rights All But Obliterated

Like juries, states had been entrusted with the power to beat back the federal government and void unconstitutional federal laws.

States' rights are "an essential Americanism,” wrote Old Rightist Frank Chodorov. The Founding Fathers as well as the opponents of the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists, agreed on the principle of divided authority as a safeguard to the rights of the individual.

Duly, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison perfected a certain doctrine in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. "The Virginia Resolutions,” explains historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “spoke of the states' rights to 'interpose' between the federal government and the people of the states; the Kentucky Resolutions used the term nullification—the states, they said, could nullify federal laws that they believed to be unconstitutional."

“Jefferson," emphasized Woods, "considered states' rights a much more important and effective safeguard of people's liberties than the 'checks and balances' among the three branches of the federal government."

And for good reason. While judicial review was intended to curb Congress and restrain the Executive, in reality, the judicial, legislative and executive unholy federal trinity has simply colluded, over time, in an alliance that has helped abolish the 10th Amendment.

Founding Faith Expunged

And how well has First Amendment jurisprudence served constitutionalists?

Establishment-clause cases are a confusing and capricious legal penumbra. Sometimes displays of the Hebraic Decalogue or manger scene are taken to constitute the establishment of a state religion. Other times not.

This body of law forever teeters on conflating the injunction against the establishment of a state religion with an injunction against the expression of faith—especially discriminating against the founding faith in taxpayer-supported spaces.

The end result has been the expulsion of religion from the public square and the suppression therein of freedom of religion.

On the topic of religious freedom, Jefferson was prolific, too. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was a crowning achievement for which he wished to be remembered, along with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia.

Jefferson interpreted "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof"—as confirms by David N. Meyer, author of Jefferson's Constitutional Thought—to guarantee both "an absolute free exercise of religion and an absolute prohibition of an establishment of religion."

Yet somehow, the kind of constitutional thought that carries legal sway today prohibits expressions of faith or displays of a civilizing moral code in government-controlled spheres. Given my libertarian view of government’s immoral modus operandi, I find this amusingly apropos. Still, this is not what Jefferson had in mind for early Americans.

Indeed, why would anyone, bar Nancy Pelosi and her party, object to "thou shall not kill" or "thou shall not commit adultery, steal or covet?" The Ten Commandments can hardly be perceived as an instrument for state proselytization.

Nevertheless, the law often takes displays of the Decalogue or the nativity scene on tax-payer funded property as an establishment of a state religion.

"I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercise," Jefferson expatiated.

He then gets to the soul of the subject: "This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise of religion but also from the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states [or to the people] the powers not delegated to the U.S."

So, dear reader, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the Russians didn’t deep-six our republic of private property rights and radical decentralization—we did.

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When Hayek was Harassed by the IRS

(The photo below) Friedrich A. Hayek arriving for one of the morning sessions at the second Austrian Economics conference at the University of Hartford in June 1975. The conference was sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies, with Don Armentano as the conference director.

Toward the end of the week, Hayek was called away for a phone call during one of the sessions. When he returned and the session ended, Hayek said that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had tracked him down at the conference, and told him he would not be allowed to leave the country later in the summer before he documented all income he earned while in the United States and had paid all required taxes owed! Friedrich Hayek potential prisoner of the Tax State.

32149163_1667146593339222_2442063914255515648_n (1).jpg

(Originally shared on Facebook.)
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What the New York Times Gets "Right" About Marx

05/01/2018Tho Bishop

A New York Times article praising Karl Marx for being "right" has been spreading on social media. This is an interesting article, and not for the reason the author intended.

The author notes that

"The key factor in Marx’s intellectual legacy in our present-day society is not “philosophy” but “critique,” or what he described in 1843 as “the ruthless criticism of all that exists."

This is actually the exact problem of Marxism, it's simply a criticism of perceived wrongs that exist—without offering any reasonable solution to a problem. It's easy to shout "EXPLOITATION!", it's quite another to empower those "exploited" to enjoy a better life. Unsurprisingly, there are few great Marxist entrepreneurs—but there are a lot of academics who get paid to teach kids all the reasons why they are oppressed. As Mises frequently noted, what makes this Marxist narrative of exploitation all the more toxic is that its concept of class consciousness simply dismissed any intellectual opponents as simply pawns of bourgeoisie.

As he wrote in Human Action:

The essence of Marxian philosophy is this: We are right because we are the spokesmen of the rising proletarian class. Discursive reasoning cannot invalidate our teachings, for they are inspired by the supreme power that determines the destiny of mankind. Our adversaries are wrong because they lack the intuition that guides our minds. 

In Socialism, he identified Marx's unrealistic promises as the key to his philosophy's appeal:

The incomparable success of Marxism is due to the prospect it offers of fulfilling those dream-aspirations and dreams of vengeance which have been so deeply imbedded in the human soul from time immemorial. It promises a Paradise on earth, a Land of Heart’s Desire full of happiness and enjoyment, and — sweeter still to the losers in life’s game—humiliation of all who are stronger and better than the multitude. Logic and reasoning, which might show the absurdity of such dreams of bliss and revenge, are to be thrust aside.... It is against Logic, against Science and against the activity of thought itself. 

It's also worth noting that similar critiques can be made of Keynes. His recommendations outlined in The General Theory offered many recommendations on how to redistribute current wealth in order to stimulate a stalled economy, but had nothing to offer in terms of creating prosperity in the first place. As Roger Garrison noted at AERC this year:

"As Hayek said, to explain how things could go wrong—you have to explain how things could ever go right.

"Keynes could never do that."

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Was Mises a Neoliberal?

04/23/2018Jeff Deist

Does neoliberalism, the tired slogan of our time, have a precise definition? 

The short answer is no, it doesn't. At least not readily one readily at hand, if this New Republic article is any guide:

For the left, neoliberalism often connotes a form of liberal politics that has embraced market-based solutions to social problems: the exchanges of the Affordable Care Act, for instance, rather than a single-payer, universal program like Medicare. {Jonathan} Chait argues that leftists use the word to “bracket the center-left together with the right” and so present socialism as the only real alternative. But the term has its critics on the left, too: Political economist Bill Dunn finds it too insular, rarely adopted by the people it is said to describe. The historian Daniel Rodgers, meanwhile, argues that neoliberal means too many different things, and therefore not enough.

But is neoliberal a slur, as some contend, used to attack Democrats who are overly cozy with Wall Street and global corporations? Does it describe left-liberals who have given up the fight for full democratic socialism, and sold out their principles to enjoy the fruits of unjust capitalism?

English anthropologist and geographer David Harvey implies as much, though he does assign reasonably cohesive elements to the term:

An economy built on just-in-time production, the internationalization of capital, the deregulation of industry, insecure labor, and the entrepreneurial self. In the years since, these trends have only accelerated due to improvements in, and the spread of, information technologies. But few call this “post-Fordism” any longer. They mostly call it “neoliberalism.”

Harvey references Henry Ford, not Gerald Ford, in his identification of neoliberalism as the political devolution of western societies from democratic nation states into subdivisions of borderless mass production and mass consumption. And this materialism is at the core of why left-progressives view neoliberalism as a pejorative term; and perhaps not surprisingly label the New Republic itself a neoliberal outlet (notwithstanding protestations by Chait and others). To progressives, the Clintons, the Democratic National Committee, and traditional old guard liberal media outlets are merely center-right leaning mouthpieces for big business.  

As with most political (and politicized) terms, definitions vary wildly depending on who uses them. Murray Rothbard and Elizabeth Warren hardly mean the same thing when they say "capitalism," and we all suffer from the tendency to imbue words with meanings that suit our purposes. Interestingly, use of the term "neoconservative" similarly has been attacked as a slur, one designed as code for undue Zionism or overeagerness to unleash military forces. Helpfully, however, neoconservative Godfather Irving Kristol himself provided us with the broad parameters, and the expression has lost much of its bite in the post Bush 43/Cheney/Rumsfeld era.

Within the current zeitgeist we can offer a less inflammatory yet still loose definition of neoliberalism than Harvey: the basic program of late 20th century liberalism (social democracy, public education, civil rights, entitlements, welfare, feminism, and a degree of global governance), coupled with at least grudging if not open respect for the role of markets in improving human life. In other words, neoliberals are left-liberals who accept the role of markets and the need for economic development as part of the larger liberal program. Think Bono, who considers himself a progressive "citizen of the world" yet admires markets and globalism.

With this definition in mind, the New Republic article goes badly astray when it asserts that neoliberalism "emerged from the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early twentieth century." First and foremost, it's hard to consider any century-old framework of thought as neo anything. And it's difficult to trace meaningful connection between first and second generation Austrian economists, writing before World War II, before truly global trade, and before the triumphant ascension of central banks, with today's neoliberal political program of social democracy and political globalism. Menger, Mises, and Hayek, with their deep regard for specialization, comparative advantage, and global trade, all wrote within a basic framework of nation states.  

As is often the case, critics of markets and private property mistake means with ends, and assume a lack of concern for "human" considerations is necessarily bound up with rigorous concern for material considerations. Hence author Patrick Iber travels a winding path of cherry-picking Misesian and Hayekian thought, the effect of which is deeply misguided though not malevolent. Not much is new here; Iber simply repeats the standard progressive arguments: they favored capital over labor. They supported democracy only as a means of reducing violent people's uprisings. They supported government, but only in service to wealth and property. And so forth. Yet by New Republic standards he treats both men somewhat fairly, far better than, say, The New York Times or Washington Post would and have. There is only one out-of-context cheap shot directed at Mises ("he was pleased when an anti-fascist uprising was violently suppressed in 1927"); meanwhile the article at least recognizes Hayek's moral concerns over apartheid in South Africa and Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile.

But the author errs badly in assuring the reader that Mises (the democrat) preferred capital to labor in service of the bourgeoisie, and that Hayek thought markets took priority over "human rights and social justice." This is especially interesting given Hayek's own perspective on the latter term, and the typically vague manner in which the author employs both.

For our purposes we can neatly distinguish "real" liberalism, or classical liberalism for lack of a better historical term, from neoliberalism. Liberalism in Mises's conception is fundamentally concerned with private property. In this view the means of production — capital — are in private hands. They are not owned by the state, by society, by "the people," or collectively. Full stop. No amount of regulated semi-capitalism or semi-socialism can evade this foundation, because both individual and economic freedom hinge on the free use and control of private property. Control over one's property, meaning the ability to use, alter, alienate, encumber, or sell it, is the essence of true property ownership—albeit always subject to tort liability for harms caused to others. Any amount of taxation, regulation, or outright confiscation necessarily erodes this control, which Mises acknowledged even within his framework of utilitarian democracy as a protector of property rights.

This insistence on property rights at the core of any liberal program is scarcely to be found in today's neoliberalism, yet again it remains at the heart of left-progressive antipathy to the term. They are suspicious of any introduction, or re-introduction, of markets and property into what ought to be a worldview of economic planning by the state.

We should note that Mises also appended his program of liberalism with two important corollaries that were "neo" for the time, specifically the interwar years: freedom and peace. In contrast with what he saw as the "old" 19th century perspective, a "present-day" liberalism had "outgrown" the old version through "deeper and better insights into interrelationships." Meaningful liberalism required political freedom for the individual, especially freedom from involuntary servitude. And peace was the foundation for all true economic activity, inescapably tied to civilization. Undoubtedly New Republic readers would benefit from understanding just how progressive Mises really was when Liberalism first appeared in 1927!

Meaningful argumentation, as opposed to politics and outright war, requires words and precise definitions. This is why, unfortunately, almost all political talk devolves into what Orwell accurately described as "meaningless words." Meaningless words attempt to impugn or attack the "other," rather than convey specific information or create understanding and consensus. Politics is not a science, but we would all benefit from insisting on rigor in definitions from political pundits just as we once did from social scientists. Imprecise meanings and shifting semantics generate more heat than light, and leave us all talking past one another.

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What Will Weapons Inspectors Find in Syria — And Does it Matter?

04/23/2018Ron Paul

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have finally arrived in Douma, Syria, to assess whether a gas attack took place earlier this month. It has taken a week for the inspectors to begin their work, as charges were thrown back and forth about who was causing the delay.

Proponents of the US and UK position that Assad used gas in Douma have argued that the Syrian and Russian governments are preventing the OPCW inspectors from doing their work. That, they claim, is all the evidence needed to demonstrate that Assad and Putin have something to hide. But it seems strange that if Syria and Russia wanted to prevent an OPCW inspection of the alleged sites they would have been the ones to request the inspection in the first place.

The dispute was solved just days ago, as the OPCW Director-General released a statement explaining that the delay was due to UN security office concerns for the safety of the inspectors.

We are told that even after the OPCW inspectors collect samples from the alleged attack sites, it will take weeks to determine whether there was any gas or other chemicals released. That means there is very little chance President Trump had “slam dunk” evidence that Assad used gas in Douma earlier this month when he decided to launch a military attack on Syria. To date, the US has presented no evidence of who was responsible or even whether an attack took place at all. Even right up to the US missile strike, Defense Secretary Mattis said he was still looking for evidence.

In a Tweet just days ago, Rep. Thomas Massie expressed frustration that in a briefing to Congress last week the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense “provided zero real evidence” that Assad carried out the attack. Either they have it and won’t share it with Congress, he wrote, or they have nothing. Either way, he added, it’s not good.

We should share Rep. Massie's concerns.

US and French authorities have suggested that videos shared on the Internet by the US-funded White Helmets organization were sufficient proof of the attack. If social media postings are these days considered definitive intelligence, why are we still spending $100 billion a year on our massive intelligence community? Maybe it would be cheaper to just hire a few teenagers to scour YouTube?

Even if Assad had gassed his people earlier this month there still would have been no legal justification for the US to fire 100 or so missiles into the country. Of course such a deed would deserve condemnation from all civilized people, but Washington’s outrage is very selective and often politically motivated. Where is the outrage over Saudi Arabia’s horrific three-year war against Yemen? Those horrors are ignored because Saudi Arabia is considered an ally and thus above reproach.

We are not the policemen of the world. Bad leaders do bad things to their people all the time. That’s true even in the US, where our own government steadily chips away at our Constitution by setting up a surveillance state.

We have neither the money nor the authority to launch bombs when we suspect someone has done something wrong overseas. A hasty decision to use force is foolish and dangerous. As Western journalists reporting from Douma are raising big questions about the official US story of the so-called gas attack, Trump’s inclination to shoot first and ask questions later may prove to be his downfall.

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Reprinted with permission. 

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Waco: 25 Years Later

04/19/2018James Bovard

25 years ago this morning, FBI tanks were busy collapsing the home of the Branch Davidians atop their heads. FBI was also gassing the children, women, and men - leading to a conflagration that left 76 people dead. Waco shows that it is not an atrocity if the U.S. govt. does it - that federal aggression against Americans will often be ignored by the media - and that Congress cannot be trusted to expose federal outrages.

Read more from Jim Bovard at The Hill: Bitter lessons 25 years after Waco, Texas, siege

 

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Why Tucker Carlson's Monologue About Syria is So Important

04/10/2018Tho Bishop

Tucker Carlson's monologue last night was one of the most powerful moments in cable news history. What makes Carlson's - and Thomas Massie's - opposition of bombing Syria so important is that they not only point out that war is not in America's interest, but openly questioning the "official" narrative about what is going on in that country. Considering he's been a voice for military restraint since joining Fox's line up, and proven to be a devastating foil to neocons like Max Boot, Carlson's stand wasn't surprising, but it's still courageous. As Ron Paul and other principled anti-war voices know, nothing outrages the powers at be more than questioning the narrative. 

Compare this strategy to others. Congressman Justin Amash has preferred to make Constitutional arguments against White House military. Unfortunately, as we've seen repeatedly in the last 50 years, they don't work. As Tom Woods has noted, the Constitution has become so badly distorted that the executive branch has completely hijacked war making power. Even the Vietnam-era War Powers Act, seen as a Congressional attempt to limit the executive branch, actually served to strengthen the power of the Oval Office to declare war. 

Similarly, simply questioning the pro's and con's of such an action is unlikely to spark the appropriate public outrage. Every day the government pushes us further and further in debt, engaging in all sorts of policies that diminishes our quality of life. With the right spokesmen, a large section of the public will buy into just about anything.

So instead of debating the merits of Syrian action as if both sides have good intentions, an effective anti-war message must call out the warfare state for what it is: a parasitic institution with a long history of lying to the American public in order to use the American flag to bring death and destruction abroad. As Tucker noted, the same advocates for war today were wrong about Syria a year ago. They were wrong about WMDs in Iraq. They wrong about rebuilding Iraq. They were wrong about moderate rebels in Libya and Syria. The foreign policy of the post-9/11 world has been little more than a string of lies, the culmination of which has been millions dead, trillions wasted, America less safe, and the Middle East less stable. 

The brightest silver lining of Donald Trump's political movement has always been feeding the public's skepticism of the Federal government - from Congress, to the FBI, to the CIA and the rest of the "Deep State." Questioning these once sacred institutions has become mainstream orthodoxy for a major political party.

Now that America's most prominent war skeptic is a Fox News primetime host, perhaps that skepticism will seep into foreign policy as well. 

Tucker Carlson's Most Important Monologue Ever

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