Liberty and Power

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  • Beware of Kafkatrapping

    by Wendy McElroy

    The term "kafkatrapping" describes a logical fallacy that is popular within gender feminism, racial politics and other ideologies of victimhood. It occurs when you are accused of a thought crime such as sexism, racism or homophobia. You respond with an honest denial, which is then used as further confirmation of your guilt. You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of kafkatrapping precludes that possibility.
    The term derives from Franz Kafka's novel The Trial in which a nondescript bank clerk named Josef K. is arrested; no charges are ever revealed to the character or to the reader. Josef is prosecuted by a bizarre and tyrannical court of unknown authority and he is doomed by impenetrable red tape. In the end, Josef is abducted by two strange men and inexplicably executed by being stabbed through the heart. The Trial is Kafka's comment on totalitarian governments, like the Soviet Union, in which justice is twisted into a bitter, horrifying parody of itself and serves only those in charge

  • Out of Iraq, Etc.!

    by Sheldon Richman

    Nearly a century ago, after four bloody years of World War I, British colonialists created the state of Iraq, complete with their hand-picked monarch. Britain and France were authorized — or, more precisely, authorized themselves — to create states in the Arab world, despite the prior British promise of independence in return for the Arabs’ revolt against the Ottoman Turks, which helped the Allied powers defeat the Central powers. And so European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations....
    History alone does not tell us what, if anything, outside powers should do now; there’s no going back in time. But we can say that without foreign interference, even a violent evolution of the region might have been far less violent than it has been during the last century. At least, the violent factions would not be seeking revenge against Americans.

  • The 100th Anniversary of the Great State Crime

    by Sheldon Richman

         Last week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the four-year bloody nightmare that claimed 16 million lives — 7 million of them noncombatants — and wounded over 20 million people.
        That would have been bad enough, but the conflict was merely Act One in a much bigger war. The “peace” settlement vindictively branded Germany uniquely culpable and imposed border adjustments that made Act Two a virtual certainty. The so-called Second World War, which began after the 21-year intermission from 1918 to 1939, claimed at least 60 million lives, at least 19 million of which were noncombatants.

  • The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba

    by Sheldon Richman

    When I saw the headline about the U.S. government and Cuba in my newspaper the other day, I thought I’d awoken in 1961. It was a Twilight Zone moment for sure: “U.S. program aimed to stir dissent in Cuba.” I expected Rod Serling to welcome me to “another dimension." 
    But it was 2014. The AP news report said President Barack Obama and presumably then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton had plotted to incite a popular uprising — to “gin up opposition” — against the Cuban government by sending in young Latin Americans masquerading as tourists and health workers.

  • I Can't Help if I'm a Libertarian

    by Sheldon Richman

    It’s not easy being a libertarian. I am not looking for sympathy when I say that. I just mean to point out that rejecting the conventional wisdom on virtually (do I really need this adverb?) every political question, current and historical, can be wearying. Life could be so much simpler if it were otherwise. No doubt about that. I really don’t like conflict, especially when it can quickly turn personal, as it so often does. (I embrace the advice that one can disagree without being disagreeable.) But for a libertarian, disagreement with most people is not an option. We can’t help it.

  • Borderlands: What's Happening to America?

    by Sheldon Richman

    The U.S. government regards a large part of the country as close enough to a border or coast to justify treating individuals — citizens or not — as though they have no rights whatsoever. People have been beaten and had their personal belongings seized — without warrant or charge — just because they resented being treated like criminals. This should alarm anyone who thinks America is the “land of the free.”

  • Central Bank Theater

    by Wendy McElroy

     As the curtain rose on the economic stage, it revealed politicians and central bankers hand-in-hand, ready to act out a farce. A June 23rd article in Bloomberg constituted the first review. It opened, “Germany has decided its gold is safe in American hands.” The gold in question is the massive German reserve that is allegedly stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (NY Fed). On January 16, 2013 Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank – or BuBa to its critics -- announced an intention to repatriate a sizable portion of its gold from the NY Fed by 2020. But, now, the government's budget spokesman Norbert Barthle declared, “The Americans are taking good care of our gold. Objectively, there’s absolutely no reason for mistrust.” Objectively, there's no reason for trust. 

  • National monuments, about land or territory?

    by Wendy McElroy

    The Improved National Monument Designation Process Act (H.R. 1459) passed the House on March 26 by a vote of 222 to 201. It is currently before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. S. 2608's purpose is "to provide for congressional approval of national monuments" and of restrictions on their use. It would limit President Obama's ability to designate national monuments at his own discretion through executive orders.  But why are they trying to limit the president discretion?  What lies at the root of this proposed law?  

  • The Economics of Marriage and Divorce: Those who get hitched are more likely to get rich

    by Wendy McElroy

    Why are married people richer and divorced people poorer?    Two factors contribute heavily to the financial decline surrounding divorce: losing the inherent wealth-creation aspects of marriage, and State-imposed costs such as alimony and “the divorce industry.”  It is therefore not surprising to find out that it is government's control over marriage that is the culprit.

  • The NSA Nation Moves to the Next Level

    by Wendy McElroy

    Data collection moves to the next level as DoD looks to computer programs to asses risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest.  One such project is called the Minerva Initiative after the Roman goddess of war. 

  • Relationship of Politics to Morality

    by Wendy McElroy

    In a much circulated article entitled "Against Libertarian Brutalism," the libertarian luminary Jeffrey Tucker divided the movement into two camps--Brutalists and Humanitarians-- that sparked massive infighting.  Brutalist vs Humanitarian libertarians? What is the difference? Wendy McElroy weighs in on the debates.


  • Open Source, Sexist? Spare Me.

    by Wendy McElroy

    I think few statements have struck me, lately, as more annoyingly ignorant, than the comment that open-source software is "sexist." Women, it seems, are underrepresented in the open-source developer community. Women are "excluded" from the community, because it's "unappealing." It's another bastion of male "privilege."

  • Classifying America: Government’s Power to Define Is the Power to Discriminate

    by Jonathan J. Bean

    Frederick Douglass’s colorblind self-definition epitomized that element of the classical liberal tradition of civil rights—one that even the NAACP held to as late as the 1960s when it rejected all government racial classifications as a step backward toward discrimination.
    Yet here we are today with racial classifications that conceal the divisions within the so-called “races.” To define a group as eligible for benefits or preferences is to exclude those outside the group of the same treatment. Equal protection of the law goes out the window as individuals or business in government-defined preferential groups benefit from “affirmative discrimination” while those not-so-defined suffer.

  • Triumph and Trashing of the Civil Rights Act

    by Jonathan J. Bean

    July 2 marked the 50th anniversary of the most famous Civil Rights Act in U.S. history. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 promised justice for all, regardless of race, color, creed, sex or national origin. The plain meaning of the act: “Nondiscrimination. Period.” The law was a triumph of colorblind individualism over group-based discrimination. Tragically, policymakers have spent the past 50 years trashing the act’s meaning by reviving group discrimination.

  • Robert Higgs Discusses Effects of WWI on Tom Woods Show

    by Robert Higgs

    Robert Higgs appeared on the Tom Woods radio show. Higgs discusses the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I and its devastating effects on people and government.  A recording of the show is inside.

  • A Hundred Years of War

    by Anthony Gregory

    The worst regimes and cataclysms of the first half of the twentieth century had roots in the international war that began a hundred years ago today. It was the beginning of three decades of unspeakable suffering, what some scholars collectively call the hemocylsm—World War I, the Soviet atrocities, World War II and its atrocities from the Holocaust to the atomic bombings. These terrors of course gave way to the Cold War, the fears of MAD, the mutually reinforcing cycle of violence between Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism.

  • Historical Revision and the alleged “myth” of an exploitable Phillips Curve

    by Phillip Magness

    The history of thought is an inherently tricky evidentiary exercise, as it typically involves a need to discern intention from written words left by the subjects in question. Its better practitioners attempt to understand the parameters of a particular decision or argument by weighing the available evidence around it and interpreting it in light of the context in which it was made. Typically implicit is a willingness to follow that evidence where it leads, even when the implication is unexpected or, in cases involving thinkers of prominence, an unwelcome mark on their reputation. 
    But when the historical enterprise itself begins with an act of simply casting about for bullet points to get around a past figure’s shortcomings, the whole enterprise quickly devolves into counter-historical territory – into exercises in exonerative history that attempt to parse a past figure away from something embarrassing, or something that simply “went wrong” in ways that defied his intentions or expectations. Such seems to be the case with a relatively new and unusual approach to the contributions of economist Paul A. Samuelson as they pertain to the Phillips Curve. 

  • Ernst Friedrich’s “War against War” (1924)

    by David Hart

    Ernst Friedrich (1894-1967), the German socialist anarchist and ardent anti-war advocate, put together a shocking collection of photographs of the death and destruction which took place on an unprecedented scale during WW1 – Krieg dem Kriege! Guerre a la Guerre! War against War! Oorlog aan den Oorlog! (Berlin : “Freie Jugend”, (1924). The photographs and illustrations highlight the destructive nature of the industrialization of war with the hopes that future generations would be hesitant to waste human lives on such a massive scale; however, I show that despite Friedrich's attempt nothing has been learned.

  • The History of Paul Krugman’s own Alarmist “Inflation Addiction”

    by Phillip Magness

    Frequenters of the Krug-o-sphere will recognize a familiar theme of lambasting what he sees as inflationary alarmism. Krugman usually employs this critique to dismiss criticisms of either deficit finance or expansionary monetary policies, both of which comport well with his Keynesian economic outlook and his own political preferences on matters such as federal spending.  From a historical perspective however, Krugman’s position derives from an unusual source.

  • Flee Rather Than Stand Your Ground

    by Wendy McElroy

    The Italian Marxist and philosopher Paolo Virno was imprisoned in 1979 for his affiliation with the Red Brigades. The organization attempted to create a revolutionary state through acts of violent destabilization such as bank robbery. While in prison, Virno had a political epiphany which he later expressed as, "Nothing is less passive than the act of fleeing, of exiting." Although little else about Virno may be politically admirable, his strategic insight is intriguing.

    "Fleeing" as a political act sounds paradoxical to North American ears, which are used to hearing of resistance in terms of "stand your ground" and confrontation. By fleeing, however, Virno means an "engaged withdrawal or exit."

    Perhaps the best way to understand what Virno means is to consider the problem to which he believed "fleeing" was the best solution.

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