Liberty & Power: Group Blog
From huge hydrants of money
Credit freeze thaws now
Fed heats pipes until they steam
Winter is lovely
Consumers feel fine
Ready to mortgage their souls
John Maynard Keynes smiles
Saving’s so passé
Capital may be assumed
Let K be the stock
Giant debt you bet
Chinese will serve fine dinner
Children cannot vote
Like rose in springtime
Welfare state blossoms anew
Laughter heard in hell
David T. Beito
The media and others have shamelessly taken Limbaugh's statement that he wants Obama to fail (see above) out of context. Rush may be a defender of perpetual war and an enemy of civil liberties but on this issue he is right.
His essential point was that he hopes Obama will fail in his policy goal to expand governmental control over the economy. To interpret this, as some have done, as claiming that Limbaugh wants the" country" to fail is simply wrong.
Aeon J. Skoble
Now that President Obama has ordered the closing of the prison at Guantatmo Bay, we should take a moment to consider how we stepped into the constitutional anomaly that created Gitmo. The story upsets some progressive-liberal iconography.
The judge most responsible for the Gitmo situation was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., prominent in the pantheon of civil libertarians. Shortly after the Spanish-American War, President Theodore Roosevelt was concerned that the Supreme Court might insist that all constitutional guarantees extended to our newly-acquired empire—in popular parlance, that “the Constitution follows the flag.” With a Court seat open in 1902, TR sought and obtained a pledge from Holmes that he would not apply this standard. Holmes then lied to the press about his secret meeting with the President. He dutifully voted with the majority in the so-called Insular Cases, which held, for example that the right to a jury trial did not extend to Filipinos or Hawaiians.
Thus we carved out special exceptions where the guarantees that the Constitution imposes on the federal government do not apply.
Holmes became a hero to progressives and liberals first for his 1880 book, The Common Law. His approach to the law here stressed its evolutionary, developmental, adaptability. Later theories of the “living constitution” often derive from Holmes. His most celebrated opinion came in 1905, when he dissented in Lochner v. New York. Here the Supreme Court overturned a state law that limited the hours that bakers could work, long regarded as the apex of “laissez-faire jurisprudence.” “This case is decided upon an economic theory which a large part of the country does not entertain,” Holmes quipped. “The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics,” referring to a prominent Social Darwinist of the day. But even more amusing was the fact that Holmes himself was the only real Darwinist on the Court.
In his superb recent biography, Al Alschuler concluded, “The real Holmes was savage, harsh, and cruel, a bitter and lifelong pessimist who saw in the course of human life nothing but a continuing struggle in which the rich and powerful impose their will on the poor and weak.” “Holmes had a brutal worldview and was indifferent to the welfare of others.” He “sneered at all political and moral causes except eugenics, which he supported in an especially chilling form by advocating the execution of ‘everyone below standard.’”
In 1927, Holmes wrote the opinion in Buck v. Bell, which upheld the compulsory sterilization laws of the states, which ultimately resulted in the sterilization of about sixty thousand Americans. “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives,” wrote the thrice-wounded Civil War veteran. “It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” In another pithy aphorism, he concluded, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” As cruel as this opinion was, it was toned down from an even harsher version at the behest of Chief Justice Taft.
For most of his career, Holmes really didn’t believe that there were any constitutional limits at all to government power. He advocated the complete separation of law and morality, writing, “I often doubt whether it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether,” he wrote, “and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.” He continued, “Manifestly… nothing but confusion of thought can result from assuming that the rights of man in a moral sense are equally rights in the sense of the Constitution and the law.” Essentially, he thought that the majority had the power to impose its will on the minority, for good or ill. Holmes himself confessed in 1919 that he had come “devilish near to believing that ‘might makes right.’” After the Second World War had shown the danger of such theories of unlimited governmental power, one law professor entitled an article “Hobbes, Holmes, and Hitler.”
Near the end of his judicial tenure, after the First World War, under the influence of Justice Louis Brandeis, Holmes discovered some regard for free speech as a constitutional value. In a 1919 dissent he wrote, “when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas...that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.” But Holmes never explained just why the Constitution compelled the free-market model for speech, but not for labor. And the standard that he developed—that Congress could suppress speech or writing if it posed “a clear and present danger” that they will bring about substantive evils—was one that proved remarkably flexible.
As the nation faces the challenge of protecting civil liberties in wartime, and of individual freedom in economic crisis, let’s hope that our judges don’t look to Holmes as a model.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
Ive found another review of Isabel Patersons The Shadow Riders this one by Wilson Follett in the October 1916 Atlantic Monthly. (See my discussion of a previous review.) Follett says absolutely nothing of any interest in the review, but Ive posted it anyway.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
One reason power corrupts is that it puts people in a position to choose options with which they would ordinarily never be faced. Our new President has just passed a significant milestone on the road to hell, one that he would be unlikely to have passed in ordinary life: he is now a murderer. (Conical hat tip to Manuel Lora and Lew Rockwell.)
I recall a line from that terrific late-80s tv series Wiseguy: What good is a man who loves his own children but murders someone elses?
And while Im on the subject of great lines from Wiseguy heres another, from when Sonny (the mobster) finds out that Vinnie (his erstwhile right-hand man) is a federal agent:
Sonny: What do you get out of this, Vinnie, huh? I want to know. What do you get out of this another pin on your lapel? an upgrade on your pension? Why are you trying to destroy me, man?
Vinnie: It comes with your territory, Sonny. You want a recitation? How about drugs killing kids, and fraud destroying pensions?
Sonny: Oh my god, oh my god. Who do you think youre working for, man? You want to talk drugs? Lets talk Agent Orange. Lets talk LSD. Those are just two of the progressive efforts made on behalf of your friendly employer, Uncle Sam. Want to talk fraud? Lets talk fraud. Why dont you try explaining to a farmer why the federal guarantee loans are being recalled? Yeah, youre the mob youre the mob in this room, Vinnie. Im just your average entrepreneur.
Aeon J. Skoble
So, two questions. First, is Britain really that close to bankruptcy? Second, if so, what does that mean for the rest of the world--and for us in particular?
Aeon J. Skoble
Welcome to Libertarian Papers!
To Authors, Readers, and Potential Libertarians:
A new libertarian journal—a new type of libertarian journal—is born today. Libertarian Papers is an exclusively online peer-reviewed journal. Its home is this elegant, fast, easy-to-use website. Please feel free to browse around.
Publishing online has allowed us to break free of many of the constraints faced by paper-based journals. Scholars working in the libertarian tradition will find dealing with us to be a refreshing change. For instance, we publish articles consecutively, online, as soon as they are peer-reviewed and a final copy is submitted. No waiting for the next issue or printing delays. We have also done away with arbitrary space limits. And we don't care what citation style you use, as long as it is consistent, professional, and enables the reader to find the work referenced. Neither our time nor the author's need be wasted converting from one citation style to another, or wondering whether"2nd. ed." goes here or there, or whether it should be"2d. ed." instead. In a digital age, old forms must give way to new forms.
And as our publications are online and open, you won't find our authors furtively posting a scanned copy of their paper articles on their own sites, while their article is trapped in musty paper on a dark shelf—but if they want to, they are free to do so, since to the extent possible everything here is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Want to republish your piece in a book? No need to ask us for permission. We want to spread the ideas of liberty, not impose DRM on them.
And of course readers will love the ease of access. Subscription is by RSS feed, and free. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or other social media to come. And unlike other academic journals, we allow comments on our articles, via the blog posts announcing them. Libertarian Papers is completely free and open, because readers' being willing to devote time to studying the ideas of liberty is payment enough for us. It is the profit we seek. And we think having readers who love to use our site and read our articles is what authors want, too.
A few words of thanks are in order. The assistance and support of Jeff Tucker of the Mises Institute, web designer Aristotle Esguerra, and Lew Rockwell and the Ludwig von Mises Institute have been invaluable in getting the website set up and the first non-issue out. Libertarian Papers is also proud to have an outstanding Editorial Board, with world-class scholars working in the libertarian tradition. Their help and commitment was also indispensable in helping this project come to fruition. And various loyal and devoted friends in the libertarian cadre, such as Gil Guillory, Manuel Lora, and Anthony Gregory, helped in various ways behind the scenes. A hearty thanks to them all.
That brings us to our first issue—or non-issue, rather. We're very proud of our first set of published articles—the seven articles that are being published today, immediately after this post is published (and then rolling them out about one hour apart, consecutively, throughout the day). These pieces include articles by two eminent libertarian thinkers, Jan Narveson (writing on Nozick, justice, and restitution) and Robert Higgs (on depressions and war). Also being published today is a previously unpublished memo from Ludwig von Mises to F.A. Hayek, relaying Mises's concerns and advice about the then-nascent Mont Pèlerin Society, followed by a previously unpublished memo from Murray Rothbard to the Volker Fund, about libertarian tactics and strategy. The last three articles to be published today—about four hours from now—are a fascinating three-part exchange between Nicolás Maloberti and Joshua Katz about libertarianism, positive rights, and"Possibility of the Legitimate State."
Several more articles are in the works. We expect to publish throughout the year—and beyond. Stay tuned.
* * *
We welcome submissions of articles and other suitable materials—even in foreign languages, in some cases (more on our About page). And feel free to send feedback, suggestions, or questions to the Editor, via email or through the comments feature on our blog posts. We hope you—authors and readers—also profit from Libertarian Papers.
Why did four members of the council change their votes? The answer quite simply is that they were coerced. Ryan Grim writing on The Huffington Postreveals that “Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat who represents El Paso in Congress, lobbied each council member, making it clear that if the resolution calling for a debate passed, El Paso would risk losing money in the upcoming stimulus legislation. Five Texas House representatives made the same threat.”
Here is an opportunity for Barack Obama to prove that his promise of change has at least some substance. His administration should contact Rep. Reyes and the four state legislators for the purpose of finding out if anyone working in the federal bureaucracy indicated that funding would be cut off if the resolution passed. If any such persons are found then Obama must fire them immediately. He ought to also make a very public statement that discussing issues is not grounds for denial of stimulus or any other government funds. If he does not take these actions then we will know for sure that it is business as usual in the nation’s capital.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
In fact, it was the National Currency Act of 1864 that banned any branching whatsoever (interstate or intrastate) on the part of nationally chartered banks, except for a few grandfathered state-chartered banks who already had branches and who charter switched. The McFadden Act of 1927 was actually a relaxation of this restriction, granting nationally chartered banks the same intrastate branching authority enjoyed by state-chartered banks in whatever state they happened to reside.
I should add that none of these laws applied to state-chartered banks, who until the end of the twentieth century had never enjoyed interstate branching privileges, and whose intrastate branching was always governed by state law. Most of the state bans on branching emerged in the antebellum era, and many were part of state free-banking laws.
Aeon J. Skoble
The peaceful transition from the Bush to the Obama regime is indeed the occasion, but let’s focus on exactly what is being transferred. Despite the oratory about hope, change, and renewal, government — as someone, perhaps George Washington, said — “is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force.” If that is right — and I contend it is — then in the inauguration we have the irony of a peaceful transfer of something that is anything but peaceful: the legal power to use physical force.
This is something to celebrate?
I went out to tend the birds as I normally do. Released from the main henhouse, the birds burst forth creating their usual happy cacophony of liberation, only this time as the roosters crowed, the hens clucked, the ducks quacked, and the geese honked, they crowed, clucked, quacked, and honked with an ecstatic exhuberance I have never heard before. Something has changed.
In the distance, I spied a lone hawk. Of all the predators that menace the birds, especially the small ones as they range freely during the daytime, the hawks are the most fearsome. Over they years, they have taken a terrible toll. But today, notwithstanding the hundreds of yards that separated me from the raptor, I discerned for the first time a benign glint in his steely eyes. Something has changed.
As I went about my chores, I realized that despite my many criticisms of Keynesian economics over the years, Paul Krugman’s “depression economics” might actually bear fruit at last. If the hens and the roosters, the ducks and the drakes, the geese and the gander all pitch in and do their part, there can be a positive multiplier effect. Something has changed.
Not until I had completed my chores and returned to the kitchen did I realize that I, too, was no longer the same. The chronic aches and pains that plague me had disappeared. Moreover, the spiritual outlook that more than one phychiatrist had diagnosed as anxiety and depression (before Tom Szasz convinced me that I simply lack the gumption to cope with life’s workaday problems) had evaporated, and my heart was filled with gladness and newfound longing for the glorious future I am now convinced awaits me — as indeed it awaits all mankind, regardless of race, creed, sexual preference, or previous condition of servitude. Something has changed.
I do not follow the news closely. Years ago, I discovered that no matter what the news media reported, I could recall their having reported the same thing ten or twenty or thirty or forty years earlier, so it seemed pointless to waste time absorbing information about events that differ only in the specific names and dates that fill in the blanks today. Nevertheless, I am aware, as todo el mundo are, that today in the imperial capital, a new emperor is being crowned. The media report that he will be acknowledged as a new Sun King, only more splendid by far than the original Roi Soleil. Louis XIV, they say, looks like small potatoes in comparison with the new emperor. Obviously, something has changed.
And it’s not simply that the new emperor rules the entire world, whereas his pidling predecessor ruled only France and Navarre. It’s a more spiritual difference. Almost fifty years ago, we Americans crowned a king who assured us that a rising tide lifts all boats, but his youthful wit was no match for the assassins’ bullets. Old Louis knew how to deal with court intrigues, gathering the aristocrats in Versailles where he could keep a close watch on them. Unlike our new emperor, however, old Louis would never have made the cut as a male model. So, clearly, something has changed.
Le Roi Soleil had some enemies, too, whereas the new emperor basks in the glow of universal adoration. And why not? Has he not explained to us in words too simple and plain to be misunderstood that we are all in this together, whatever “this” may happen to be? And we might be wise to get ourselves ready for some mighty exciting times—stimulating times, you might say. Face it: we’re all in this stimulus together. Under the old emperor, Bush II, only the aristocrats and the hangers-on at the court got rich. Now, though, if the economy should faint from the stress of excessive stimulus, we may console ourselves that we are all in this together. Something has changed.