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Liberty and Power

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  • Trademarking Trayvon, Manufacturing racism

    by Wendy McElroy

    [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.

  • Cordial and Sanguine, Part 21: War Among the Bleeding Hearts

    by Roderick T. Long

    Greetings from Las Vegas! Our two panels went well, and I’ve been having a great time hanging out with my Molinari/C4SS/ALL comrades. This is the first Vegas conference where I’ve actually stayed at the conference hotel (I got a special deal, half the conference rate) rather than my usual venue, three miles up the strip at the Mohamed Atta EconoLodge; that’s certainly an improvement.

  • Response to The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World

    by Wendy McElroy

    Friend and blog reader Robert M. gives an excellent response to a third party who queried him about an anti-Rand article written by Gary Weiss entitled "The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World." Excerpt: "In an Objectivist world, roads would go unplowed in the snows of winter, and bridges would fall as the government withdrew from the business of maintaining them. Public parks and land, from the tiniest vest-pocket patch of green to vast expanses of the West, would be sold off to the newly liberated megacorporations. Airplane traffic would be grounded unless a profit-making capitalist found it in his own selfish interests to fund the air traffic control system. If it could be made profitable, fine. If not, tough luck. The market had spoken. Fires would rage in the remnants of silent forests, vegetation and wildlife no longer protected by rangers and coercive environmental laws, swept clean of timber, their streams polluted in a rational, self-interested manner by bold, imaginative entrepreneurs." The third party asked, "The author of this article below seems to think her thought has gone into Libertarian beliefs. Has it?"

    Robert's response...

  • Three Felonies a Day by Harvey A. Silverglate, a Review

    by Wendy McElroy

    If you are an average American, then you are a repeat felon. In his stunning book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (2009), civil-liberties attorney Harvey A. Silverglate estimates that the average person unknowingly breaks at least three criminal laws each and every day. Federal statutes and regulations have become so voluminous and vague that over-reaching prosecutors can target anyone at any time. They may think you are guilty, they could want leverage to force your co-operation, they may be vengeful, or they could be building their own careers; the motives are secondary. What's primary is the clout and, in this, the federal bureacracy of the United States now rivals the Soviet Union at the zenith of its power.

    Even if you are ultimately proven innocent, the 'vindication' will come after years of abusive prosecution during which your assets will be frozen, your family interrogated and, perhaps, threatened, your reputation smeared, your life left in shambles.

    How did this happen in the Land of the Free? How did America drift so far from common law roots that preserved peace and property?Step by step.

  • Selgin on Bernanke

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    Some of you have probably already seen Roger Lowenstein's overly laudatory, but still useful and interesting, article on Ben Bernanke in the March 2012 Atlantic. As a good antidote, you should check out George Selgin's thorough and informed critique of Bernanke's first of four lectures on the Federal Reserve. Bernake seemingly unreflectively repeats many gross myths about the history of banking. Although these myths are widely believed by mainstream economists who who are abysmally ignorant of history, Bernanke has specialized in monetary history and should really know better.

  • Understanding Your Ground

    by Roderick T. Long

    Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz. Rachel Maddow, et hoc genus omne are desperately trying to have it both ways.

    On the one hand, they want it to be the case that George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin was unlawful, so that they can blame the authorities for not arresting and prosecuting him.

    Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

    On the other hand, they want it to be the case that the shooting was lawful, so that they can blame the law (specifically, Florida’s stand-your-ground law) for allowing the shooting.

    So the establishment lapdogs at MSNBC are inconsistent; no surprise there. But which way should they resolve this inconsistency?

    Well, here’s the actual text of the stand-your-ground provision, which actually seems pretty reasonable to me:

  • "The Current Models Have Nothing to Say"

    by Robert Higgs

    In the 2011 annual report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’s Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute, we find a report on the 10th annual Advances in Econometrics Conference, sponsored jointly by the institute and the department of economics at Southern Methodist University. This conference focused on dynamic stochastic general-equilibrium (DSGE) modeling.

    As the report notes,

    DSGE models have become an essential part of economists’ empirical toolkit in recent years. These models have their origins in the seminal contributions of Kydland and Prescott (1982) and Long and Plosser (1983), which revolutionized empirical econometrics. . . . Subsequent work by Christiano, Eichenbaum and Evans (2005) and Smets and Wouters (2007) laid the foundations for these models to become the workhorse frameworks for policy analysis in most central banks.

    After describing the papers presented at the conference, the report concludes:

    The conference confirmed that New Keynesian DSGE models are useful tools for understanding business fluctuations in closed and open economies and also for thinking about important monetary policy questions.

  • Santorum Converts to Anarchism!

    by Roderick T. Long

    Rick Santorum has been selling himself as the candidate who’s reliable and consistent, in contrast with Romney’s flop-flipping. But here’s what Santorum has said in the past:

  • The Specter of Centrally Planned Economic Fascism Continues to Hover over the United States

    by Robert Higgs

    During World War II, the U.S. government created and operated a system of fascist central planning. (I have described this system in my books Crisis and Leviathan and Depression, War, and Cold War.) After the war, much of this system was abandoned, but it was revived in large part during the Korean War, and it was retained afterward in the form of statutory authority for its reinstatement whenever the president might so order under the authority of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended. As I wrote in Crisis and Leviathan (p. 246), after the Korean War “[t]he wartime wage-price and production controls lapsed, although the authority to reinstate the production controls remained”—that is, the Defense Production Act was never repealed, and it has been in force continuously since its initial passage, though amended from time to time. Under this statute, the president has lawful authority to control virtually the whole of the U.S.

  • The War on Gaza

    by Sheldon Richman

    Israel and its apologists will blame Palestinian militants for the latest flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip, but no one disputes that relative quiet was broken when an IDF airstrike last Friday killed Zuheir al-Qaisi and Mahmoud Al-Hannani of the Popular Resistance Committees. Palestinians, though reportedly not Hamas, responded with rockets into southern Israel. At least 18 Palestinians have been killed so far by Israeli airstrikes, including a 12-year-old boy. The Israeli military said three Israelis were wounded in the more than 90 assaults from rockets and mortars.

    The Israeli military said it targeted the men because they had plotted an attack in Israel that took place in August and were planning another attack. The first claim can't be true, casting doubt on the credibility of the second.

  • Rick Santorum Versus James Madison

    by David T. Beito

    Over at the Washington Post, Kevin Gutzman systematically demolishes Rick Santorum's claim that Madison would have shared his philosophy of church and state:

    When the question was put to him by George Stephanopoulos (son of a very prominent Orthodox priest), Santorum replied: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.” One wishes that Stephanopoulos had asked Santorum how he knew that. Where does Santorum get his idea of “the objectives and vision of our country?” Certainly not from study of James Madison. The chief craftsman of America’s tradition of church-state separation, Madison, disagreed with Santorum. He developed at great length over more than 50 years his belief in religious freedom. Never again in America should Virginia whip Baptists or Massachusetts hang Quakers. The church should form no part of the state.

  • Dixie Street Cred

    by Roderick T. Long

    “I had catfish for the second time. It was delicious, just like the first time.” – Mitt Romney

    “And I’m really enjoying this so called … ‘iced cream.’” – Montgomery Burns 

  • Likely Fiscal and Monetary Legacies of the Current Crisis

    by Robert Higgs

    I am not a prophet, nor do I play one on TV. Nevertheless, I will hazard some conjectures here about certain likely legacies of the current crisis. I focus on fiscal and monetary matters. In a future post, I will deal with regulatory and ideological matters. I will try to avoid mere guesses or hunches about what the future will bring. Instead, I will try to proceed in the spirit that Joseph Schumpeter expressed seventy years ago:

    What counts in any attempt at social prognosis is not the Yes or No that sums up the facts and arguments which lead up to it but those facts and arguments themselves. . . . Analysis, whether economic or other, never yields more than a statement about the tendencies present in an observable pattern. And these never tell us what will happen to the pattern but only what would happen if they continued to act as they have been acting in the time interval covered by our observation and if no other factors intruded. (Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, p. 61)

  • Cessation of Labor Force Growth since 2008

    by Robert Higgs

    The United States has a long history of population growth and concomitant labor force growth. As the chart below shows, the number of men in the civilian labor force (men either working in paid employment or actively seeking work) increased fairly steadily over the past half-century—at least, until the onset of the current recession.

    For the past five years, however, the number of men in the labor force has fluctuated around a fairly level trend line at approximately 82 million. This cessation of growth came on the heels of a 6-million-man increase during the previous seven years.

    In the post-World War II era, the number of women in labor force grew even faster than the number of men, and also tended to grow fairly steadily. When the current recession began, the female labor force continued to grow, increasing by about a million women between the officially designated beginning and end of the recession (December 2007 - June 2009).

  • Gaza and Sderot

    by Sheldon Richman


    In Sunday’s speech to AIPAC, the main Israeli lobbying organization, President Obama said:

    I have visited with families who’ve known the terror of [Palestinian] rocket fire in Sderot. That’s why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes, hospitals, and schools in that town and others. Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles.  Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

    It is worth knowing something of Sderot’s history. Does Obama know this? From Wikipedia:

  • Short-term Employment Changes in Longer-term Perspective

    by Robert Higgs

    Many commentators have noted in recent years that Americans have been leaving the labor force. Their departure has made interpretation of unemployment statistics more difficult, and because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes six variants of the unemployment rate, considerable debate has occurred about the “real” rate of unemployment. Much of this confusion can be avoided by examining not data on unemployment, however measured, but data on employment, which are substantially less ambiguous.

    When we examine the ratio of employment to population (reported by the BLS for the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over), we find that indeed the overall employment ratio has fallen considerably since the onset of the current recession. In 2007, the ratio for both sexes combined was about 63 percent. In 2008, it fell steadily, and by December it had reached 61 percent. In 2009, it continued to fall steadily, and by December it had reached 58.2 percent. At that point, it more or less stabilized at its recession low point, and during the past two years it has remained in the range 58-59 percent.

  • Government Like Slavery is Evil

    by Keith Halderman

    Around 1830 the argument about American slavery profoundly changed. It went from one where those supporting it defended the institution by saying it was a necessary evil to one where those advocating it claimed it was a positive good. Events such as writings of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, petitions to Congress calling for its end, the Virginia legislature’s very narrow decision to retain it, and Nat Turner’s rebellion made it impossible to continue sustaining the latter viewpoint. The necessary part was always unconvincing because the food and textiles produced by slaves were always going to be made but the real question was who would get the benefit from them. Articles in periodicals such as The Southern Planter, The Southern Agriculturist, and The Tennessee Farmer, compiled in a book by historian James O.

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