Liberty and Power

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  • Latter-Day Acceptance (and Pushback)

    by David T. Beito

    Jesse Walker, one of my favorite historians, provides a thoughtful and informative overview of the history, and increasing respectability, of Mormonism in the United States:

    For many Americans Mormons are scary, or weird, or at least not the sort of folk you'd want marrying your first lady. Last year a Gallup poll found that 22 percent of the country would not support a Mormon candidate for president. MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell claimed in early April that Mormonism "was created by a guy in upstate New York in 1830 when he got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it." Jacob Weisberg, generally a reliable barometer of center-left conventional wisdom, wrote during the run-up to the last presidential campaign that he "wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism."

  • How Corporate Liberals Win, Part II.

    by Roderick T. Long


    Extremely sound reasoning, followed by an absolutely insane conclusion.

    Inferring from “Ideologically, the Republican establishment doesn’t appreciate the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business” to “Romney is eminently qualified to make the pro-market case” makes about as much sense as saying “Every time I eat a polka-dot mushroom I get sick. Therefore, this giant polka-dot mushroom over here is eminently qualified to cure me.”

    “Ergo, presto!” as Benjamin Tucker would say.

  • Yitzhak Shamir Is Dead

    by Sheldon Richman

      The terrorist and once-prime minister of Israel, who called Palestinians "grasshoppers," is gone. Read about his monstrous career, which included a massacre at a Palestinian village and the assassination of a UN peace envoy, here. The only thing missing from the linked article is Shamir's efforts to collaborate with the Nazis against the British, who were running Palestine in those days.

    Also see this.  

  • My Vent on the SCOTUS Ruling (AHA Blog)

    by David T. Beito

    Follow the link for my lamentations.  The  two other historians who comment are still celebrating.

  • An Insight on the SCOTUS Obamacare Decision

    by Wendy McElroy

    Michael B. wrote to comment, If you're looking for some good news, the SCOTUS blog just noted:


    "The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause [as the Constitutional basis for Obamacare] should be understood as a major blow to Congress's authority to pass social welfare laws. Using the tax code -- especially in the current political environment -- to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition."

    Meanwhile, Ryan W. McMaken has a different take on the site.


    SCOTUS voted 5-4 to uphold Obamacare and have concluded that the Constitution actually empowers the government to force people to buy things.

  • Anna Jacobson Schwartz (November 11, 1915–June 21, 2012)

    by Robert Higgs


    Anna Schwartz was one of the best economic historians of the past century. With Milton Friedman, she wrote (among many other works) that century’s most influential economic history book, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963). Although not an economic theorist of Friedman’s caliber, she was a fine economist in her own right. Friedman’s statement that “Anna did all of the work, and I got most of the recognition” was not a mere expression of false modesty, but an honest confession that the immense body of historical evidence meticulously collected, compiled, annotated, and displayed in their landmark books was overwhelmingly the product of Anna’s efforts.

    Although I never knew Anna personally, I felt as if I did because I knew so many people who knew her well and because she was always friendly and helpful when our paths intersected.

  • Happy Flag Day

    by Sheldon Richman

    If you're not convinced that nationalism is cultish, look up the rules for the proper handling of an American flag. My favorites:

    The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

  • Social Science 101: Three Ways to Relate to Other People

    by Robert Higgs

     Many years ago, in a book I’ve lost along the way (I believe it was A Primer on Social Dynamics), Kenneth Boulding described three basic ways in which a person, in the quest to get what he seeks, can approach other people. He can, as it were, say to them:

    (1) Do something nice for me, and I’ll do something nice for you.

    (2) Do something nice for me, or I’ll do something nasty to you.

    (3) Do something nice for me because of who I am.

    The first approach is that of peaceful, mutually beneficial exchange, of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” of positive reciprocity. It is the method by which we conduct the bulk of our economic affairs.

    The second approach is that of coercion, of threats to harm others unless they do as we wish, regardless of their own preferences. This is, among other things, the realm of government as we know it.

  • Politics and Markets: A Highly Misleading Analogy

    by Robert Higgs

    Proposition: Putative “public demand,” especially as expressed by voting, drives the political-governmental system. Elected officials and hence the bureaucracy subordinate to them may be viewed as perfect agents of the electorate.

    Adherence to this proposition characterizes the bulk of all analysis dealing with the growth of government in the West, regardless of analytical tradition or ideological leaning. (Specific citations seem unnecessary, but see virtually any issue of Public Choice, as well as the widely cited articles by Meltzer and Richard [1978, 1981, 1983], Peltzman [1980, 1984, 1985], Becker [1983, 1985], and Borcherding [1977, 1985]. The most recent and most extreme contribution along these lines is by Wittman [1989].)

  • Axioms of Political Geometry

    by Robert Higgs

    1. Straight talk cannot get a politician from a current point A to the point B at which he really wishes to arrive.

    2. To extend a growth-of-government line, project it indefinitely in a line straight to hell.

    3. To describe how politicians approach the real solution to a social or economic problem, trace the circle described by a fixed radius of substantial length from the solution point.

    4. All right and left angles are morally equal to one another.

    5. Politics and morality are parallel lines and never meet.

    6. Democratic and Republican policies that are essentially equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.

    7. If equal amounts are added to the government’s debt by Republicans and Democrats, the increases in the debt are equally inconsistent with the general public interest (if any exists).

    8. If equal amounts of economic rationality are subtracted from economic policy, then the number of incumbents reelected to Congress is equal to the number reelected in the previous election.

    9. Politicians who coincide with one another, such as Republicans and Democrats who support “bipartisan” measures, are equally dishonorable.

    10. The whole of society is greater than the part that government officials can comprehend, and much greater than the part that they can manage for the attainment of a desirable end.

  • Peace, Not War

    by Sheldon Richman

     "We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices." --Paddy Chayefsky, The Americanization of Emily  

  • Spencer, Hodgskin, and Land Rights

    by Roderick T. Long

    As “everyone knows,” Herbert Spencer was a reactionary defender of capitalism and an opponent of socialism, while Thomas sHodgskin was a proto-Marxian defender of socialism and an opponent of capitalism; so what should one expect from Hodgskin’s review (now online) of Spencer’s Social Statics?

    The right answer, it turns out, is almost total agreement: “there are very few conclusions or remarks to which we are disposed to object.” And the one point for which Hodgskin does take Spencer to task is Spencer’s rejection of private ownership of land.

    It’s almost as though traditional political categories are mistaken somehow ….

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