Liberty and Power

  • Spencer, Hodgskin, and Land Rights

    by Liberty and Power

    As “everyone knows,” Herbert Spencer was a reactionary defender of capitalism and an opponent of socialism, while Thomas sHodgskin was a proto-Marxian defender of socialism and an opponent of capitalism; so what should one expect from Hodgskin’s review (now online) of Spencer’s Social Statics?

    The right answer, it turns out, is almost total agreement: “there are very few conclusions or remarks to which we are disposed to object.” And the one point for which Hodgskin does take Spencer to task is Spencer’s rejection of private ownership of land.

    It’s almost as though traditional political categories are mistaken somehow ….

    Herbert Spencer

  • Screw the Vote

    by Liberty and Power


    So the people get to vote on who may marry? And this pleases conservatives? I thought they disliked mobocracy.

  • Want to Rip Off Your Neighbor? Form a Government

    by Liberty and Power

    Facts of the case: My wife and I live in an area with one neighbor nearby. One day, I knock on my neighbor’s door and demand that he give me $10,000. He wants to know what the devil I am talking about.

    I explain that the people—most of them, in any event—in our area have seceded from St. Tammany Parish, the state of Louisiana, and the United States of America and formed a new government whose territory comprises his property and ours. We have also written and ratified, with our own votes of approval, a constitution for the new country, which we have decided to call Southland. We have also conducted elections in which a 2/3 majority of the eligible voters elected Elizabeth and me to fill all of the new government’s offices, including tax collector (I won this vote myself).

    My neighbor protests that he has never heard of any of these developments and wants nothing to do with them, to which I reply that he has no choice in the matter because the constitution of Southland gives its government the power to tax, I am the duly elected tax collector, and he is at fault for not following the news more closely and not participating in public affairs.

  • The Systematic Organization of Hatreds

    by Liberty and Power


    In the mid-1970s, I began to do consulting work in addition to my academic work. By that time, I had become familiar with how economists generally analyze cooperation and competition, in both the economy and the political realm. Economists put great weight on gains from trade. Nobody, they like to say, walks past a $20 bill he sees lying on the sidewalk. If a situation contains the potential for a trade or other arrangement that will bring gain to a decision-maker, he will embrace that trade or arrangement. This market process leads, in the theoretical extreme, to the happy condition known as the Pareto Optimum—the situation in which all potential gains from trade have been captured.

    Notice that this view of mankind causes us think of people as self-interested, but not as vicious. Individuals are seen as, in effect, indifferent to the welfare of their trading or cooperating partners, but intent on making themselves as well-off as possible. They do not seek to harm others, but only to benefit themselves (and those about whom they happen to care).

    As I launched into my consulting work, which involved various efforts by Washington state and the U.S.

  • The Question of Value

    by Liberty and Power

    Labor (including mental labor) does not bestow utility on an automobile; consumers do that. Rather, labor bestows utility on the disparate factors of production by transforming them into an automobile.

  • Can Mutually Beneficial Exchanges Be Exploitative?

    by Liberty and Power

    The great thing about competitive markets is not that marginal utility sets prices, but that rivalry among sellers drives prices below the level that approximates many people’s marginal utility. This produces a consumer surplus. (How far below is governed by producers’ subjective opportunity costs, including workers’ preference for leisure.) We all have bought things at a price below that which we were prepared to pay. . . . In a manner of speaking, competition socializes consumer surplus.
    On the other hand, in the absence of competition a coercive monopolist is able to charge more than in a freed market, capturing some of the surplus that would have gone to consumers. That’s a form of exploitation via government privilege.

    Read the rest of TGIF here.  

  • Fellow Anarchists – Prepare to Be Stabbed, Shot, and Bataranged

    by Liberty and Power

     I always start by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business. Every aspect of [our] lives is directly impacted by global events. The security of our cities is connected to the security of small hamlets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

  • The Old Rugged Cross

    by Liberty and Power


    Genius.  Billionaire.  Playboy.  Philanthropist.

    Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist.

    For some reason I’m on the mailing list of an outfit called “Conservative Action Alerts.” (They seem more libertarian than the conservative mainstream, so that’s probably the connection.) Their latest missive complains that the word “individualism” has been “poisoned by deceptive propaganda that disparaged it as ‘rugged.’”

  • Tornado Recovery: How Joplin Is Beating Tuscaloosa (My Wall Street Journal Article)

    by Liberty and Power

     Last April 27, one of the worst tornadoes in American history tore through Tuscaloosa, Ala., killing 52 people and damaging or destroying 2,000 buildings. In six minutes, it put nearly one-tenth of the city's population into the unemployment line. A month later, Joplin, Mo., suffered an even more devastating blow. In a city with half the population of Tuscaloosa, a tornado killed 161 and damaged or destroyed more than 6,000 buildings.

    More than 100,000 volunteers mobilized to help the stricken cities recover. A "can-do" spirit took hold, with churches, college fraternities and talk-radio stations leading the way. But a year after the tragedies, that spirit lives on far more in Joplin than in Tuscaloosa. Joplin is enjoying a renaissance while Tuscaloosa's recovery has stalled.

    In Joplin, eight of 10 affected businesses have reopened, according to the city's Chamber of Commerce, while less than half in Tuscaloosa have even applied for building permits, according to city data we reviewed. Walgreens revived its Joplin store in what it calls a "record-setting" three months. In Tuscaloosa, a destroyed CVS still festers, undemolished.

  • Was Trayvon Martin Standing HIS Ground?

    by Liberty and Power

     Trayvon Martin's champions should be careful what they say about the "stand your ground" law. It's possible that Martin felt threatened by George Zimmerman and, in fear for his life, countered the threat rather than retreat.  Of course Martin had no gun, but what if he had managed to kill Zimmerman by, say, slamming his head on the pavement? He might have reasonably invoked "stand your ground."

    Be careful.

  • Deir Yassin Day

    by Liberty and Power

    Today is Deir Yassin Day. Anyone who seeks understanding about the unending conflict in Palestine/Israel ought to know about this massacre of 254 innocent Palestinians by the Zionist paramilitary forces Irgun (headed by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang in 1948, a month before the Jewish state declared independence. Deir Yassin was among the worst incidents of the Nakba, the ethnic-cleansing catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in the creation of the state of Israel. Some 750,000 people were driven from their homes (which were then destroyed or expropriated) and were not allowed to return.

    The best brief introduction to the Nakba is Jeremy Hammond’s The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination.

  • Trademarking Trayvon, Manufacturing racism

    by Liberty and Power

    [First published at the highly recommended Future of Freedom Foundation site. Visit in order to access the many links embedded in the original article.]

    On February 26, a 17-year-old black youth named Trayvon Martin was walking at night in an area where he had every right to be. A self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch named George Zimmerman found the unarmed Trayvon “suspicious” even though the youth was not engaged in criminal activity and none has since been alleged.

    Zimmerman tailed Trayvon, calling the 911 operator as he did. The operator advised him to stop following the youth. From this point, versions differ but two facts remain constant: Minutes later Trayvon lay on the pavement, dead from a gun shot wound; and Zimmerman admits to shooting him.

    Was it self-defense? Confusion and contradictory accounts obscure the answer. Zimmerman was taken into custody by the police but not arrested, even though the lead investigator reportedly wanted to charge him with manslaughter. Instead, he was released after the state attorney's office found insufficient evidence to proceed.