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Sheldon Richman


  • Originally published 10/03/2013

    The Italian Job

    David Vine

    How the Pentagon is using your tax dollars to turn Italy into a launching pad for the wars of today and tomorrow.

  • Originally published 10/02/2013

    Collateral Damage -- Agent Orange on Okinawa

    Jon Mitchell

    Recently-unearthed barrels lift the lid on one of the Pentagon’s best-kept Vietnam War secrets -- the storage of military defoliants in Japan.

  • Originally published 09/29/2013

    American Martial Virtue?

    William J. Astore

    America is not exceptional when we commit to martial virtues; America is exceptional when we commit ourselves to liberty.

  • Originally published 09/29/2013

    A Plea for Political Moderation

    Vaughn Davis Bornet

    Moderates are a depressingly vanishing breed... and in the absence of moderates, extremism, anger, and shrillness rule the day.

  • Originally published 08/14/2014

    Out of Iraq, Etc.!

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    The 100th Anniversary of the Great State Crime

    Liberty and Power

         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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    I Can't Help if I'm a Libertarian

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    Borderlands: What's Happening to America?

    Liberty and Power

    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.”

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    Jane Cobden: Carrying on Her Father's Work

    Liberty and Power

    Among libertarians and classical liberals, the name Richard Cobden (1804–1865) evokes admiration and applause. His activities — and successes — on behalf of freedom, free markets, and government retrenchment are legendary. Most famously, he cofounded — with John Bright — the Anti–Corn Law League, which successfully campaigned for repeal of the import tariffs on grain. Those trade restrictions had made food expensive for England’s working class while enriching the landed aristocracy....Cobden’s legacy is much appreciated by libertarians, but one aspect of it is largely unknown. (I only just learned of it, thanks to my alert friend Gary Chartier.) Cobden’s third daughter and fourth child, Emma Jane Catherine Cobden (later Unwin after she married publisher Thomas Fisher Unwin), carried on his work. Born in 1851, she was a liberal activist worthy of her distinguished father.

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything is the Thing to Do

    Liberty and Power

    The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here’s one Americans shouldn’t miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it,things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    John Blundell, RIP

    Liberty and Power

    John Blundell, 61, who led influential classical-liberal organizations and published several books, died on July 22 of cancer. I worked for John at the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), 1985 through 1990, and observed up close his deep dedication to liberty and free markets.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Let the Immigrants Stay

    Liberty and Power

    Virtually all commentary about the influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the United States, which some say could rise to 90,000 this year, misses the point: no government has the moral authority to capture these kids and send them back to the miserable situations they have escaped.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Speaking to Nonlibertarians

    Liberty and Power

    If libertarians want to change how nonlibertarians’ think about government, they will need to understand how nonlibertarians think about government. By “nonlibertarians,” I mean the majority of people who spend little if any time pondering political theory, or what Murray Rothbard called political ethics. They may focus at times on particular government programs and actions, or on proposals for new programs, but rarely about government as an institution.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    War, Peace, and Murray Rothbard

    Liberty and Power

    With wars raging in the Middle East, it seems like a good time to revisit a classic work by Murray Rothbard (1926–1995), the economist, historian, and political philosopher who had a lot to do with the birth and evolution of the modern libertarian movement. His “War, Peace, and the State” is something that all peace advocates — not just self-conscious libertarians — ought to be familiar with.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    Again, the Isolationist Smear

    Liberty and Power

    It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appears to be running for president again, and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie, and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. Let’s be clear: Someone who simply doesn’t want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. 

  • Originally published 07/09/2014

    Israel and Due Process

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 07/03/2014

    Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/28/2014

    U.S.-Egyptian “Historic Partnership” Reeks with Hypocrisy

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/28/2014

    Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/24/2014

    The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/18/2014

    The Noninterventionists Told You So

    Liberty and Power

    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.

  • Originally published 06/14/2014

    Press TV Interview

    Liberty and Power

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

  • Originally published 06/14/2014

    The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy

    Liberty and Power

    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.