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Wendy McElroy


  • Originally published 10/03/2013

    Why The Right Fights

    Ross Douthat

    Movement conservatives actually want smaller government.

  • Originally published 09/29/2013

    Review of Reza Aslan's "Zealot"

    Jim Cullen

    A notorious FOX interview can't obscure the value of a book whose utility outstrips its limits.

  • Originally published 09/25/2013

    Surveillance and the FISA Court

    Bruce Ackerman

    Proposed reforms, such as making public all opinions on important legal issues and creating a civil liberties advocate, would help.

  • Originally published 09/24/2013

    American Bile

    Robert B. Reich

    Rampant inequality drives the "paranoid style" in American politics.

  • Originally published 11/02/2014

    The Free Market Kicks It Some Ebola Ass

    Liberty and Power

    The Ebola hysteria raises questions about how a free society would handle contagious diseases. Critics of freedom argue: libertarian principles, like the right against involuntary confinement, means that half the people on the planet could literally die from a lack of centralized state control. Left to their own devices, average people cannot solve their own problems.

  • Originally published 08/31/2014

    Democrats are part of the problem in Ferguson, too

    Liberty and Power

    The halls of an adjourned Congress are ringing with passionate calls to address the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., which resulted from the lethal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police. The response of militarized law enforcement who view protesters as "the enemy" and the city as a war zone has become a particular focus. But, even if the cries are sincere, every congressional word or movement until November will reflect election maneuvering.Democrats quickly staked a claim to the moral high ground. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are prominent members of both the House Judiciary Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus. Along with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), they initiated a call for a congressional hearing on the use of excessive force by American law enforcement. The Republicans will almost certainly cooperate, if only because it would be impolitic not to do so. Moreover, the hearing would be post-election and not necessarily lead to a change in law or policy.

  • Originally published 08/14/2014

    Devil is in the Details of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act

    Liberty and Power

    On Aug. 7, Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, reported on one. CASA regulates how universities must approach sexual assault, including producing an annual survey of students' experiences, which will be published online. The penalties for non-compliance are massive: an initial penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution's operating budget and a potential $150,000 fine for each additional violation or misrepresentation — $150,000 per month if surveys are not completed to the standard required. Bader observed, "that [initial offense] would be a whopping $42 million for Harvard alone, since its budget is $4.2 billion."Even worse, "a provision ... lets the money be kept by the agency imposing the fine, the Education Department's (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR)." This creates a huge incentive for OCR to be aggressively punitive or to accuse innocent universities of misrepresentation or substandard compliance. Even an inability to comply would not exempt institutions from fines. For example, they are required to enter into a "memorandum of understanding" with local law enforcement. If the latter refuses, then "[t]he Secretary of Education will then have the discretion to grant the waiver." Not the obligation but the discretion.

  • Originally published 08/14/2014

    Beware of Kafkatrapping

    Liberty and Power

    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

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    Central Bank Theater

    Liberty and Power

     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. 

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    National monuments, about land or territory?

    Liberty and Power

    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?  

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

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

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    The NSA Nation Moves to the Next Level

    Liberty and Power

    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. 

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    Relationship of Politics to Morality

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    Open Source, Sexist? Spare Me.

    Liberty and Power

    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."

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    Flee Rather Than Stand Your Ground

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Obama Wants to Close the Oceans. Privatize Instead!

    Liberty and Power

    In June, President Obama made a video announcement at the Our Ocean 2014 Conference, sponsored by the Department of State. He declared, “Like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as President to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes just as we do for our mountains and rivers and forests.… [T]he United States is leading the fight to protect the world’s oceans.”The statement foreshadowed a new executive order which would place a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean under control of the U.S. federal government. According to the Washington Post, the aggressive program is scheduled to begin later this year “after a comment period.” It “could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected.” Other executive measures would address related issues, some of which would be domestic in scope.Obama’s stated purpose is to protect the ocean from threats such as pollution, climate change, oil drilling, and overfishing. His executive order will achieve the opposite. Anyone who wishes to protect the ocean should move to privatize it as extensively and as quickly as possible.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Voluntaryist Anthropology

    Liberty and Power

    Libertarians believe a better world is possible. Libertarian anarchists believe the best world is a stateless one; it consists of voluntary societies which would include institutions or customs to prevent and deal with occasional crime. The practical application of voluntaryism – an insistence that all human interaction be voluntary – is the way to get there because it creates the innovations, institutions and lifestyles upon which anarchism can build. But one practical approach has been largely ignored: voluntaryist anthropology.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Why a bill against medical experimentation on minors is necessary

    Liberty and Power

    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) explained the motivation behind H.R. 4989, known as Justina's Law. "Sixteen months ago, Justina was a [competitive] figure skater. Today, she cannot stand, sit or walk on her own." The bipartisan legislation aims to chop federal funds to "research in which a ward of the State is subjected to greater than minimal risk to the individual's health with no or minimal prospect of direct benefit."  The proximate cause is the tragic saga of now-16-year-old Justina Pelletier. Both officials in Massachusetts and medical staff at Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) are accused of sanctioning and conducting experimental research on Justina after removing her from parental custody. Justina's ordeal occurred over the vigorous objections of both parents.

  • Originally published 07/03/2014

    The Power of the Powerless

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/28/2014

    A Federal Schizophrenia About Marijuana

    Liberty and Power

    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?

  • Originally published 06/14/2014

    Do You Really Want to Be Correct?

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/08/2014

    Politics, Not Economics, Driving Minimum Wage

    Liberty and Power

    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?

  • Originally published 06/07/2014

    The Achilles Heel of Libertarian War Theory: Who Decides?

    Liberty and Power

    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.