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Liberty and Power

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  • 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.

  • Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War

    by Sheldon Richman

    From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps’s highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine.  He published a short book with the now-famous title War Is a Racket, for which he is best known today. Butler opened the book with these words:

    War is a racket. It always has been.

  • Lawrence Veiller: Progressive Tenement Reformer and Eugenicist

    by David T. Beito

    As part of my research on another topic, I happened across some rather provocative correspondence from Lawrence Veiller. After the turn of the century,Veiller was the most significant national leader in the progressive tenement reform. New York’s Tenement Law of 1901 was largely his brainchild and became a model of similar legislation nationwide. He often worked closely with such luminaries as Jane Addams, Jacob Riis, and Theodore Roosevelt. Through groups such as the National Housing Association (which he headed) and the National Conference on Planning (in which he served as an officer), Veiller was relentless in pushing for tougher building courts, limits on density, zoning, and other housing regulation.

    As the correspondence shows, he was also a zealous advocate of sterilization laws. Veiller felt emboldened to act in his own state after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Buck v. Bell (1927 upholding the constitutionality of sterilization laws In 1929, he persuaded the Committee on Criminal Courts of the Charity Organization Society of New York to endorse state legislation “providing for the sexual sterilization of insane, idiotic imbecilic, epileptic and feeble-minded inmates of certain state institutions.” As part of this effort he called for a “united front” of social workers to assemble in Albany to press for enactment. Apparently, however, Veiller was never able to persuade the Charity Organize Society as a whole to back a law and it was never enacted. One obstacle was Lawrence Purdy, a fellow official in the COS, who expressed his reluctance to Veiller: “Even if the law were so stringent that it would result in operations on a considerable number of people, the number would still be very small and I should myself have grave doubts concerning a law that was strong enough to be at all effective.”

  • Surowiecki on Intellectual Piracy 

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    James Surowiecki had an excellent article in the June 9 issue of the New Yorker about countries committing intellectual piracy. It includes a nice summary of how "stealing" patented ideas played a major role in the early economic development of the United States. In the process, it surveys some of the considerable historical evidence debunking the widespread myth that intellectual property is necessary for, or even makes a contribution to, economic growth.

  • My REASON review on the Panic of 1837

    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

    My review of Jessica Lepler'sThe Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics, and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis appears in the July issue of Reason. It has now been posted online.

  • Confessions of a reformed activist

    by Phillip Magness

    When advising politically-inclined students – and working at a DC based academic research institute and Public Policy department ensures I have many of these – I often counsel them to eschew electoral politics entirely, to  approach policy careers with managed and severely constrained expectations about the results they can expect to achieve, and to generally shed the instinctual habits of activism. To the politically enthused and – more so – the idealist who seeks to better the world in which he or she lives, this message is both exceedingly difficult to receive and counter-intuitive to almost everything they've been brought up to believe about democracy, participatory government, and attaining social change.

  • Immigration and Mindless Partisanship

    by Anthony Gregory

    About two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Obama’s immigration policies. The polling reveals extreme partisanship: 60% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans approve of the president’s approach.

  • The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit

    by Sheldon Richman

    The wall-to-wall coverage of the disintegration of Iraq ought to carry this credit: This bloodshed was made possible by the generosity of British and French imperialists.

  • Abraham Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment

    by Phillip Magness

    Most serious historical overviews of the Civil War contain at least a brief mention of the Corwin Amendment, the last-ditch compromise effort to protect slavery where it existed by enshrining it in the Constitution. They also do so tepidly and seldom acknowledge it as anything more than a historical footnote.

  • Thaddeus Stevens and Colonization

    by Phillip Magness

    Did Rep. Thaddeus Stevens pledge to support the revival of the colonization office during Lincoln’s second term? That is the direct insinuation of an unsent letter from 1865 bearing the Radical Republican leader’s endorsement.

  • Stop the Surveillance State

    by Anthony Gregory

    After 9/11, the Bush administration unveiled plans to create an integrated, comprehensive surveillance state unprecedented in human history. The public rebelled against “total information awareness,” but the NSA and other government agencies continued constructing a spying infrastructure of previously unimaginable proportions. Despite the administration’s promise that all war on terror surveillance satisfied traditional warrant requirements, the NSA circumvented even FISA’s loose restrictions to spy on American telecommunications.

  • Enemies of Enemies

    by Anthony Gregory

    The Obama administration is considering working with the Iranian government to deal with the full-blown horrors currently plaguing Iraq. As a non-interventionist, I’m committed to opposing such an approach. If I were a pragmatic realist or a utilitarian I’d be tempted to agree that such an alliance would be the lesser of evils, although as clear as that might seem today, I’d still have my reservations.
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