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Liberty and Power

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  • Review of Claire Conner’s Wrapped in the Flag

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    I recently posted a review at Amazon of Claire Conner’s Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right. (The paperback edition changed the subtitle to What I Learned Growing Up in America’s Radical Right, How I Escaped, and Why My Story Matters Today.) The review begins below and continues under the fold. The review unfortunately is buried within a stack of over a hundred favorable reviews. But anyone who wants to read it at Amazon can go here. Then if you find it worthy, you can click the button that says the review is helpful and move it up in the queue:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite myself. The author, Claire Conner, entertainingly interweaves a personal story of her growing up with parents who were avid and prominent members of the John Birch Society with a history of the Birch Society itself. I am only four years younger than Conner, and my own story has many intriguing parallels to hers. My parents never joined “the Society,” as its members referred to it, but they (particularly my mother) became what could be called Birch Society “fellow travelers,” involved in right-wing politics after the election of 1960. Many of their friends were Society members. I therefore imbibed much of the same literature as Conner, listened to similar public lectures, and was taken to and participated in similar events. She and I both, for example, were peripherally involved in the 1964 Goldwater campaign.


  • Obama Wants to Close the Oceans. Privatize Instead!

    by Wendy McElroy

    In June, President Obama made a video announcement at the Our Ocean 2014 Conference, sponsored by the Department of State. He declared, “Like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as President to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes just as we do for our mountains and rivers and forests.… [T]he United States is leading the fight to protect the world’s oceans.”
    The statement foreshadowed a new executive order which would place a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean under control of the U.S. federal government. According to the Washington Post, the aggressive program is scheduled to begin later this year “after a comment period.” It “could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected.” Other executive measures would address related issues, some of which would be domestic in scope.
    Obama’s stated purpose is to protect the ocean from threats such as pollution, climate change, oil drilling, and overfishing. His executive order will achieve the opposite. Anyone who wishes to protect the ocean should move to privatize it as extensively and as quickly as possible.

  • Voluntaryist Anthropology

    by Wendy McElroy

    Libertarians believe a better world is possible. Libertarian anarchists believe the best world is a stateless one; it consists of voluntary societies which would include institutions or customs to prevent and deal with occasional crime. The practical application of voluntaryism – an insistence that all human interaction be voluntary – is the way to get there because it creates the innovations, institutions and lifestyles upon which anarchism can build. But one practical approach has been largely ignored: voluntaryist anthropology.

  • Why a bill against medical experimentation on minors is necessary

    by Wendy McElroy

    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) explained the motivation behind H.R. 4989, known as Justina's Law. "Sixteen months ago, Justina was a [competitive] figure skater. Today, she cannot stand, sit or walk on her own." The bipartisan legislation aims to chop federal funds to "research in which a ward of the State is subjected to greater than minimal risk to the individual's health with no or minimal prospect of direct benefit." 
    The proximate cause is the tragic saga of now-16-year-old Justina Pelletier. Both officials in Massachusetts and medical staff at Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) are accused of sanctioning and conducting experimental research on Justina after removing her from parental custody. Justina's ordeal occurred over the vigorous objections of both parents.

  • Let the Immigrants Stay

    by Sheldon Richman

    Virtually all commentary about the influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the United States, which some say could rise to 90,000 this year, misses the point: no government has the moral authority to capture these kids and send them back to the miserable situations they have escaped.

  • Speaking to Nonlibertarians

    by Sheldon Richman

    If libertarians want to change how nonlibertarians’ think about government, they will need to understand how nonlibertarians think about government. By “nonlibertarians,” I mean the majority of people who spend little if any time pondering political theory, or what Murray Rothbard called political ethics. They may focus at times on particular government programs and actions, or on proposals for new programs, but rarely about government as an institution.

  • War, Peace, and Murray Rothbard

    by Sheldon Richman

    With wars raging in the Middle East, it seems like a good time to revisit a classic work by Murray Rothbard (1926–1995), the economist, historian, and political philosopher who had a lot to do with the birth and evolution of the modern libertarian movement. His “War, Peace, and the State” is something that all peace advocates — not just self-conscious libertarians — ought to be familiar with.

  • Again, the Isolationist Smear

    by Sheldon Richman

    It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appears to be running for president again, and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie, and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. Let’s be clear: Someone who simply doesn’t want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. 

  • The Constitutional Havoc of the Income Tax Amendment

    by Phillip Magness

    Some days back I offered an interpretation of the motives and political economy behind the adoption of the 16th Amendment, noting at the time that it also caused extreme constitutional havoc by altering the relationship between the tariff system and the generation of federal tax revenue. While it is certainly possible to read this as a statement of political aversion to the modern income tax system, my characterization was actually an intended reference to certain very specific constitutional consequences of the income tax amendment that actually have little to do with any personal preferences regarding the validity of progressive income taxation.

  • Tabarrok on "Bernanke vs. Friedman"

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    Alex Tabarrok has a very flattering post at Marginal Revolution about my 2011 article,  “Ben Bernanke versus Milton Friedman: The Federal Reserve’s Emergence as the U.S. Economy’s Central Planner." It seems that the President of the Richmond Fed has independently just made a similar argument. (Update: broken link fixed.)

  • Israel and Due Process

    by Sheldon Richman

    The murders of the Israeli teens were atrocities, of course, but they can in no way justify, retroactively or prospectively, the systematic violence perpetrated against Palestinians that the state of Israel constitutes at its core.

  • Burgeoning Regulations Threaten Our Humanity

    by Robert Higgs

    Insofar as mainstream economics may be said to make moral-philosophical assumptions, it rests overwhelmingly on a consequentialist-utilitarian foundation. When mainstream economists say that an action is worthwhile, they mean that it is expected to give rise to benefits whose total value exceeds its total cost (that is, the most valued benefit necessarily forgone by virtue of this particular action’s being taken). But nearly always the economists make no attempt to evaluate as part of their benefit-cost calculus any costs that might be incurred as a result of how and by whom the action is taken.

  • The Power of the Powerless

    by Wendy McElroy

    The Power of the Powerless was written in the wake of the "Prague Spring" (1968) during which Czechoslovakia liberalized freedom of speech and freedom of travel. The Soviet Union responded with brutal force that crushed the flicker of liberty. Havel was targeted for his prominent role in the reach for Czech independence. Arrested and imprisoned, he achieved an epiphany: the most powerful weapon against guns was the truth. The Power of the Powerless was a blistering attack on the communist regime. It was also a call for individuals to understand their own power not merely when they dissent but also when they comply with a system that is a lie.

  • Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short

    by Sheldon Richman

    As far as it went, the Supreme Court generally got it right in the Hobby Lobby-Obamacare-contraception case. Unfortunately it didn’t go nearly far enough.

  • Ed Lazear's WSJ op-ed on California's water problems

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    Ed Lazear had an outstanding op-ed, "Government Dries Up California's Water Supply," in the June 26 Wall Street Journal. It brings me back to 1982, when I first moved to California from Texas. Less Antman had the California Libertarian Party hire me as research director, and one of the biggest political issues at the time was water. The fight was over a ballot initiative authorizing construction of a Peripheral Canal around the San Joaquin-Sacramento River delta to divert more water to Central Valley farmers and southern California. It would have been an enormous, expensive boondoggle that united environmentalist and libertarians in opposition. I ended up not only writing but speaking before all sorts of audiences about the issue. My studies made me quite familiar with the socialist bureaucracy, much of unelected with taxing power, which manages California's feudalistic water system, severely mispricing and misallocating water.

  • A Federal Schizophrenia About Marijuana

    by Wendy McElroy

    There is supposed to be bipartisan support for amending the federal criminal code so that tens of thousands of non-violent criminals do not rot in prison at taxpayers' expense. Among the "criminals" often mentioned are those convicted of possessing or selling marijuana, which is widely viewed as less harmful than legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco.

    Is the Obama administration sincere in its stated intention to ease draconian drug sentences? Or is the rhetoric just that?

  • 50 Years of Mischief: The Triumph and Trashing of the Civil Rights Act

    by Jonathan J. Bean

    July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the most famous Civil Rights Act in U.S history. Passed after the longest debate in congressional history, the Civil Rights Act (CRA) promised to secure justice for all regardless of race, color, creed, sex, or national origin. As I wrote in Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader, the law “was understood to mean ‘colorblindness’ by nearly every observer at the time.” The plain meaning of the act might be summed up as: “Nondiscrimination. Period.”

  • U.S.-Egyptian “Historic Partnership” Reeks with Hypocrisy

    by Sheldon Richman

    Largely overshadowed by events in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration is dropping its pretense at displeasure with the military junta in Egypt and restoring full support for the regime that so recently quashed the country’s faltering attempt at democracy.
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