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Liberty and Power

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  • 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.

  • The Noninterventionists Told You So

    by Sheldon Richman

    Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, “I told you so.” This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one’s stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father’s war on Iraq in 1991 and the sanctions enforced through the administration of Bill Clinton — were right.

  • Do You Really Want to Be Correct?

    by Wendy McElroy

    Evidence that something is wrong with a theory is rarely as obvious as a trout in the milk. This is particularly true when a belief is deeply-held or invested with emotion.

  • Is the NDAA Notification Requirement Unconstitutional?

    by Anthony Gregory

    If Obama is right about the NDAA, he should start releasing far more prisoners from Guantánamo. A firestorm has erupted over the Obama administration’s release of five Guantánamo captives in exchange for the Taliban’s release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Putting aside all the rest of the strategic, moral, and practical arguments, I want to focus on the legal side. Many of Obama’s critics say that his move violated the NDAA notification requirement, signed by Obama (who issued a signing statement suggesting he thought it was unconstitutional). The requirement mandates that the president inform Congress of Guantánamo releases.

  • Are Some Groups More Equal Than Others?

    by Jonathan J. Bean

    In the recent Schuette v. BAMN decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of voters to amend the Michigan Constitution by guaranteeing Equal Protection to individuals in state university admission. The Court’s 6-2 majority split in its reasoning, with several justices citing recent decisions upholding “permissible” racial discrimination when the Court deems it acceptable. There is, however, no such “permissibility” language in the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

  • Press TV Interview

    by Sheldon Richman

    Press TV interviewed me about U.S. policy toward Ukraine. You can listen here

  • The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy

    by Sheldon Richman

    We live in angry times. For evidence, turn on any news program. An awful lot of people, led by right-wing politicians and radio and TV entertainers, are angry at Barack Obama for trading five Taliban officials, who have been held for years without charge in the Guantánamo prison, for an American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who apparently walked away from his outpost after having a change of heart about the Afghan war. The Right is apoplectic.

  • A Soviet Devil in the Capitalist Details

    by Phillip Magness

    The other day I began scrutinizing Thomas Piketty’s data on capital to national income ratios and particularly the twice-published Figure 5.8/12.4. This graph provides an important piece of evidence for Piketty’s theoretical argument in Capital in the 21st Century, and particularly his contention that “a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock of capital (relative to its income), which can in turn have a significant effect on the social structure and distribution of wealth.” This “law” of capital accumulation, along with Piketty’s much quoted formula r>g, is supposed to demonstrate the central argument of his book wherein returns on capital outpace income, leading to sustained wealth disparity.

  • Politics, Not Economics, Driving Minimum Wage

    by Wendy McElroy

    On April 30, the Senate voted 54-42 to end debate on the Minimum Wage Fairness Act and effectively shelved it for the foreseeable future. The act would have raised the minimum wage of federal workers to $10.10 by 2016 and indexed it to inflation thereafter. Championed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, minimum wage will be a flash point in the November elections. But does minimum wage genuinely help the workers that Democrats claim it benefits: the young, the poor, immigrants and women?

  • Data Problems with Piketty’s Capital/Income Ratios

    by Phillip Magness

    The post that follows is a bit more technical than my other posts on the data problems with Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. It also involves a more complex piece of his data, though one with significant implications to his general theory about a hypothesized inherent tendency of capital returns to outpace other earnings.

  • The Achilles Heel of Libertarian War Theory: Who Decides?

    by Wendy McElroy

    Can a libertarian support or engage in war? Some libertarians point to the right of self-defense to justify going to war. An individual has the right to defend himself with deadly force, if necessary, against an aggressor. If you multiply the justified individual by hundreds of thousands, they argue, then you create an army of people who can collectively and rightfully exercise their self-defense. From this point, debate on the propriety of a libertarian war usually revolves around issues such as the inevitable harm inflicted on non-aggressors, on civilians. One fundamental issue rarely crops up.

  • Why the U.S. is Stuck With a Subpar Economy

    by Robert Higgs

    Making sense of economic fluctuations can be a daunting task. The economy comprises a gigantic set of interrelated assets, inputs, processes, transactions, and outputs, and its dimensions can be and have been measured in countless ways.

  • Remember the War Revenue Act of 1898!

    by Phillip Magness

    The federal revenue situation of the late 19th century United States presents a somewhat case study in constitutional political economy, owing to a fairly restrictive constitutional restraint on the means of raising revenue for the federal government. The U.S. Constitution provided Congress with the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises” as its primary means of taxation, yet it also provided that “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

  • Matthews Demagogues Climate Change ... Again

    by Sheldon Richman

      Chris Matthews does it again: Yesterday's show featured a discussion of the latest report on climate change with a climate scientist who believes that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) is happening (Michael Mann) and ... a Republican consultant (who kept saying, "I'm not a scientist."). Matthews's mission is to make sure his viewers never have to encounter a credentialed climate scientist with evidence against CAGW -- there are such -- so he can maintain the pretense that anyone who denies CAGW must be an anti-science religious fanatic.

  • It is Never Your Decision

    by Keith Halderman

    I read an article once that argued there were two types of people in the world those who were oriented towards the future while others gave the past more importance. I put myself firmly in the latter category. I find historical fiction much more interesting than science fiction because we can learn from the past but we can only speculate about the future. That is why I am a devoted follower of the television program “Mad Men” you may legitimately argue with their interpretation of the history of advertising. However, one thing you absolutely cannot fault the show for is not putting their story in historical context. Many of the last season’s shows contained a real sales pitch for Johnny Walker Scotch featuring the exceedingly beautiful cast member actress Christina Hendricks walking slowly towards the camera in a very attractive black dress. While doing so she makes her case for the superiority Johnny Walker then she stops looks squarely at the audience says “and you ordered it.”

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