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Headlines vs Data: What Does the Jobs Report Actually Say?

The Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) released new jobs data on Friday. According to the report, seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs rose 339,000 jobs in May, well above forecasts. The unemployment rate rose slightly from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent (month over month).

Headlines in the mainstream media declared the headline employment data to be evidence of very strong job growth and economic success. According to Politico, the latest jobs numbers are evidence of a “remarkable resilience of President Joe Biden’s economy” and NPR declared the job market to be “sizzling hot.”

Yet, May appears to be yet another month in which it seems nearly every economic indicator except the payroll jobs data points to an economic slowdown. The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index is in recession territory. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey is, too. The Leading Indicators index keeps looking worse. The yield curve points to recession. Even Federal Reserve staffers, who generally take an implausibly rosy view of the economy, predict recession in 2023. Individual bankruptcy filings were up 23 percent in May. Temp jobs were down, year-over-year, which often indicates approaching recession.

So how do we square all this with yet another jobs report that claims to tell us that the job market is the best it’s been in decades?

Well, a lot of the jobs data isn’t actually very good. The headlines have focused on the so-called Establishment Survey which is a survey of employers and shows only the number of positions, not the number of employed persons. The Household survey, on the other hand, surveys people.

The Household survey over the past two years has not shown nearly as much job growth as the Establishment Survey.

Specifically, we find that since 2022, the Establishment Survey and the Household Survey have ceased to follow a similar trend, with a sizable gap forming between the two surveys. In fact, over the past two years, the two surveys show a gap of 2.2 million:


Moreover, in May, while the Establishment Survey showed a gain of 339,000 jobs month-over-month, the Household Survey showed a loss of 310,000 employed persons. That’s a gap of more than 600,000. Looking at month-to-month changes, we can also see how the two surveys have diverged since April 2022.


Part of this growing gap may be due to the fact that the number of responses to the Establishment survey has dropped off in recent years, suggesting that the survey is waning in its reliability as an indicator of the overall economy. The Household Survey, meanwhile, has not seen as large a drop off in responses.

Another factor is the fact that the Establishment Survey does not track self-employed workers, and self-employment has been a significant factor in employment trends over the past three years. Self-employment collapsed in April 2020, but surged by April 2021 to historic highs. It is unknown, of course, how many of these workers were actually replacing lost income from covid-related job losses in this period. By 2023, however, self-employment had collapsed again, and year-over-year self-employment growth dropped by 6.5 percent in May. Excluding the covid lockdown period, that’s the largest year-over-year percentage drop since December 2007, when the Great Recession officially began.


We might also note that overall, the total number of payroll jobs, as shown in the Establishment Survey, is now up by 3.7 million jobs since the previous peak in March 2020 peak. The Household survey, on the other hand, shows total employed persons up by only 1.9 million persons over the same period. That’s a gap of 1.7 million.

The fact that the two different employment reports tell two different stories has led some economists to wonder about the media’s rosy jobs narrative. As reported by Yahoo Finance last week, economist Ian Shepherdson noted:

“This is the strangest employment report for some time… [R]ight now the data suggest that economic growth is stronger than is indicated by most other monthly data. The downward trend in job growth since the summer of 2021 now appears to have flattened-off, though that could change with revisions.”

And economist Paul Ashworth pointed out:

“The bigger-than-expected 339,000 increase in non-farm payroll employment in May will dominate the headlines, but the employment report was not all positive — with a big drop in the household survey measure of employment driving the unemployment rate up to a seven-month high of 3.7% and average weekly hours worked edging down to a three-year low.”

We might also note that the year-over-year gain in average hourly earnings in May (according to the Household Survey) fell to a 25-month low. If the Cleveland Fed’s “Nowcast” is right about inflation for May, then May will have been another month of falling real wages.

Part of the confusion and contradictory date no doubt arises from the fact that “jobs” are not at all homogeneous and employment trends can differ greatly across different industries and regions. This is the natural outcome of fact that monetary inflation is not at all neutral as it enters the economy—as the Austrian School has long pointed out. The current trend of rapidly decelerating monetary growth will have sizably different effects across the economy. The Establishment Survey is especially inept at capturing these trends in real time.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

They Called Him America’s First ‘Right Wing Domestic Terrorist,’ But What’s the Real Story?

Forty years ago, the FBI and U.S. Marshals were encircling fugitive Gordon Kahl in rural Lawrence County, Arkansas.

A tax protestor who killed two U.S. Marshals in a shootout, Kahl would purportedly be classified as America’s first right-wing domestic terrorist by the FBI. The bureau certainly treated him as such on June 3, 1983, when agents poured thousands of rounds of ammunition into Kahl’s “safe house” before burning it to the ground with him inside.

But records and witnesses in the Kahl case tell a story that runs counter to the U.S. government’s narrative. Far from being a legitimate counterterrorism operation, a closer examination of the Kahl case reveals evidence suggesting that overzealous federal agents targeted the farmer over a paperwork issue, and then murdered and mutilated him after he defended himself and his family.

As the U.S. government views right-wing dissidents increasingly as terrorist threats 40 years later, Headline USA examines how Kahl started it all.

The Saga of Gordon Kahl

Born in North Dakota in 1920, Kahl served in the Pacific theater of World War II and was highly decorated—participating in 57 bombing missions and earning four Bronze Stars, a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Gordon Kahl
WW2 hero Gordon Kahl. PHOTO: Screenshot from the documentary “Death and Taxes.”

But upon his return to civilian life as a farmer in North Dakota, Kahl became concerned with what he perceived to be a country drifting into communism. He was particularly alarmed that federal tax dollars were funding abortions.

In 1969, Kahl wrote a letter to the IRS, informing agents that he would no longer be making payments to “the tithe collectors of the synagogue of Satan.”

The IRS ignored Kahl at first—the farmer didn’t “owe” any taxes—but took notice when he began appearing on public access television in the mid-1970s, urging others to follow him in resisting the income tax.

Kahl was convicted of willful failure to file federal income tax returns in 1976, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment in Midland, Texas. There, he suffered two heart attacks, while his fellow tax protestor, W.M. Rinehart, had a fatal heart attack in another jail.

Believing that the U.S. government purposely poisoned him and Rinehart, Kahl vowed to never again return to prison.

Kahl had a warrant issued for his arrest for a parole violation soon after his release from prison. But law enforcement agencies sat on the warrant for about two years, until February 1983.

It’s still not clear why the government decided to enforce the warrant when it did. Some have suggested that overzealous U.S. Marshals wanted to make a high-profile arrest, while the more conspiratorial-minded think there was a plan at the highest levels of the DOJ to make an example out of Kahl.

Author Pat Shannan, who wrote extensively about the Kahl case, told Headline USA he thinks the decision to enforce the warrant was a combination of the two.

Shannan explained that the government had been spying on Kahl for more than a year prior to 1983. But he said the presence of an ambitious new U.S. Marshal—the prior Marshal got along well with Kahl, and declined to arrest him over what amounted to a paperwork issue—was likely the impetus for what came next.

And what came next was a shootout that captured national attention.

On Feb. 12, 1983, Kahl and several family members and friends were leaving a community meeting about the farming crisis—about three farms per day were closing in North Dakota at the time, due in large part to skyrocketing interest rates that left farmers unable to obtain loans.

Exiting the sleepy town of Medina, North Dakota, the Kahls spotted flashing lights from a police road block about a mile ahead. They tried turning around to find another route, but an unmarked Dodge Ram pulled up behind them to prevent their escape.

Gordon Kahl, his son Yorie Kahl and their friend Scott Faul left their vehicles with Ruger Mini-14 rifles in hand, while wife Joan Kahl hunkered down inside one of the cars. Several U.S. Marshals and local police arrived on the scene, and a standoff ensued.

Footage of the aftermath of the infamous February 1983 shootout between tax protestors and U.S. Marshals. PHOTO: Screenshot from the documentary “Death and Taxes.”

After several minutes, what sounded like a gunshot sounded through the North Dakota plains, sparking a gunfight. Who shot first is still in dispute—though, as former Medina Police Chief Darrell Graf pointed out, this question is legally a moot point, as law enforcement had the right to fire once the Kahls pointed their rifles at the officers.

In any event, Yorie was hit twice. Gordon claimed credit for killing two U.S. Marshals in return, and for wounding Medina police officer Steve Schnabel.

After fleeing the scene and dropping his son, Yorie, off at the hospital, the elder Kahl and Faul were on the lam. Hiding that night inside an abandoned barn, Kahl planned to make way for Arkansas, while Faul stayed behind and decided to surrender to authorities.

Kahl’s escape to added to his legend.

A heavy fog settled on the Medina area as Kahl travelled on backroads to evade detection, which prompted some in the Patriot Movement to believe Kahl had help from the Big Man upstairs.

“It was not unlike the divine protection George Washington experienced in New York in 1776, when his surrounded troops escaped across the East River,” Shannan, who spoke to Headline USA for this story, said of Kahl’s escape.

Kahl made it to Arkansas, receiving shelter in the homes of various patriot compadres throughout the state.

But aided by its shadowy network of informants, the FBI’s dragnet was closing in on him.

On June 3, 1983, the FBI finally tracked down Kahl to a “safe house” owned by Leonard and Norma Ginter in rural Lawrence County.

Accounts vary about what happened that day.

According to the U.S. government, a local sheriff and a U.S. Marshal entered the home to arrest Kahl. Another shootout ensued, with Kahl and the sheriff hitting each other simultaneously.

After that, the sheriff allegedly stumbled out of the house and notified the other agents and officers that he shot Kahl. Worried that Kahl may have survived, FBI agents and U.S. Marshals fired thousands of rounds into the house, poured diesel fuel down its chimney and ignited a fire—supposedly out of fear that Kahl could have been hiding in a non-existent labyrinth of tunnels beneath the structure.

Forensic evidence and witnesses tell a story that runs counter to government’s narrative.

For starters, then-Medina Police Chief Darrel Graf said he overheard U.S. Marshals and FBI agents arguing the day after the shootout about who would get the privilege of killing Kahl once they found him.

“The Marshal argued, ‘He killed two of ours, so we get to kill him.’ The FBI agent replied, ‘If you kill him, the public won’t go for it. It will look like revenge. If we kill him, it will look like another gun battle,’” Graf wrote in his book, It’s All About Power: A True and Accurate Eyewitness Account of the Shootout Between Gordon Kahl and U.S. Marshals.

“I stood up from behind my desk and told them to calm down and think about what they were saying. It got very quiet in the room at that point. It was obvious to me that Gordon Kahl was a dead man! Simply arresting Gordon was not part of the Fed’s game plan.”

Leonard Ginter, who was present at the June 3 siege of Kahl’s safe house, also thought federal agents murdered Kahl, as well as the local sheriff. Ginter said he heard a single shot from within the home, followed by five or six others in rapid succession.

An autopsy showed that Kahl was shot a single time, from a downward angle in the back of the skull. Some skin on his charred body remained intact, suggesting that he was in a prone position when he was shot.

This led Ginter and others to believe that the U.S. Marshal murdered Kahl execution-style, killed the local sheriff to eliminate any witnesses, and then conflagrated the home to destroy the remaining evidence.

Yet more evidence of this was discovered weeks later, when Kahl supporters were walking through the concrete shell of the burnt-out home. While doing this, someone discovered Kahl’s severed foot—contradicting the U.S. government’s claims that Kahl’s hands and feet were disintegrated in the fire.

Shannan told Headline USA that he believes the U.S. Marshal initially thought he had killed the wrong person—and cut off the person’s limbs to get rid of fingerprints and other identifying markers. Supporting this theory is the fact that a nearby neighbor, Bill Wade, who closely resembled Kahl, was initially reported to be dead after the siege.

Regardless of whether the U.S. government purposely murdered Kahl, his supporters certainly thought that to be the case.


Kahl’s death sparked a right-wing backlash that spiraled out of control.

A legitimately terroristic group known as The Order was formed later in 1983, going on to assassinate a Jewish radio host and rob millions of dollars from banks with the goal of funding a right-wing insurgency. The group’s leader, Bob Matthews—whom the FBI also killed and conflagrated in December 1984—cited Kahl’s murder in a declaration of war he drafted against the federal government.

The Order, in turn, served to bolster the FBI’s domestic terrorism resources. The bureau eventually launched an undercover operation called Patriot Conspiracy, or PATCON, which was involved in Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing.

And today, the same counterterrorism apparatus is used to target militias, election protestors, activist parents and other right-wing or libertarian dissidents.

All this began with Kahl. According to former Medina Police Chief Darrel Graf, the FBI classified the tax-protesting farmer’s case as the first ever instance of right-wing domestic terrorism.

“I happened to be in a fire-fighting school in Nevada [in 2004], and part of the class entailed putting out oil fires set by terrorists. We’re talking about groups like the Earth Liberation Front,” Graf said on a podcast several years ago.

“Well, at any rate, they gave us a handout. In this handout, according to the FBI, the first right-wing terrorist act on the United States was in 1983 in Medina, North Dakota.

“And I about came unhooked.”

Meanwhile, Kahl’s son Yorie and friend Scott Faul are still imprisoned.

Yorie Kahl
Yorie Kahl is still in prison over the 1983 shootout with U.S. Marshals. PHOTO: Screenshot from the documentary “Death and Taxes.”

Yorie’s presumptive release date was February of this year, but he has continuously been denied parole—apparently because he hasn’t shown remorse. Faul faces a similar situation, though he recently filed a writ of habeas corpus over the matter.

Shannan said he unfortunately believes that the U.S. government will keep Yorie and Scott imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

“It’s a Satanic sacrifice,” he said. “It’s absolutely Satanic.”

This article was originally featured at Headline USA and is republished with permission.

With These Solutions, Can We Save the Idea of a Market Economy?

When I first learned the basics of libertarianism and Austrian economic theory, I knew that these provided a more practical, moral, and satisfactory answer to major political and economic questions than any other ideology. For example, the premise of profitability in the Austro-libertarian point of view is that profits are the result of bringing unrealized value to the market. Those who receive profits have contributed more value than they have taken, and so they have a strong moral claim to whatever economic inequality might result from profits.

Austro-libertarian answers are great, but over time I began to feel that many of them are incomplete. Property rights are strongly defined by the homesteading principle and derived from our right to bodily autonomy. It was less clear, however, how far this principle extended into high abstractions of property, where the owner really isn’t doing any labor at all.

The answer would be that the right to property includes the right to sell it, transferring the right, and by argumentation ethics, there is no room for a subjective interpretation of property use that can qualify the objective property right. Maybe the idle landlord’s bodily autonomy has nothing to do with the rent he charges, but to infringe on his property rights would be to deny an objective and consistent interpretation of law. Either the law is absolute, or otherwise political authority is free to ignore it, which means they could also ignore your right to bodily autonomy. This answer is good, but the moral clarity of the homesteading principle becomes muddled.

Another example is how Austrian economics addresses Marx’s crisis of overproduction. In the Austrian concept of real deflation, an oversupply of goods will lower their price, and free up surplus wealth to expand other areas of the economy. The 1880s are an example of when this happened, and quality of life skyrocketed. During today’s various economic crises, capitalism is blamed and Marx is invoked. Certainly, the Austro-libertarian concept invalidates Marx, however, Austrian economics doesn’t provide a clear banking reform that could accommodate deflation.

Eventually, I began to encounter more complete answers to these questions. In studying war and peace, I looked into Murray Rothbard’s incomplete “Praxeology of Force.” I realized that violence is an extension of economics which follows unique rules. The property right is defended with force, at cost, and defense costs relate to property value. In an environment with a strong division of labor, the unique escalatory rules of violence impose prohibitive costs. Instead, law is used to settle disputes. A critical mass of economic participants gain more by following the rule of law than what they might gain even through piracy and anarchy.

Understanding property rights in the context of economics and the cost of violence adds nuance to the fundamental moral question about bodily autonomy. While the moral right to property isn’t disparaged by the pragmatic economic question of how to establish it, the economic question does qualify some legal interpretations of property. For example, the Lockean, Anglo-American concept of property uses the moral right of property to rationalize the wealth and social status of powerful elites. Where the market cannot bear the costs of defending large property holdings for the very wealthy, in turn, the wealthy establish strong states with the power to tax and issue debt. These states protect and preserve established wealth, using the moral right to property as a rationalization for a redistribution of power from the local to the national, to protect the abstract wealth of a few.

Meanwhile, I began to understand that there is a similar relationship between the failure of markets to represent value correctly and the need to create and protect a denomination of wealth that preserves wealth for the state and for the wealthy. Modern capitalism is not a free market, by any means. Uncomfortably, it can be argued that modern capitalism does produce unfair results, which unfortunately gives ammunition to critics of the free market. More importantly, it is less productive than it could be. It inhibits the proper flow of information needed for people to plan and organize the correct response to changing conditions.

With more nuanced answers, I wanted to think about what sort of direction Austro-libertarian thinking should lead. Its core conceit is freedom, primarily freedom of soul and thought. It would be inappropriate to suggest a specific cultural or moral direction. Political directions are dangerous since they exist to make cultural and moral judgments and otherwise restrict freedom. Ultimately, the obvious course would be to consider the economic direction. Taking the free market for granted, what sort of mechanical changes, improvements to business processes, would make markets function more appropriately? Then I considered the social and political implications of these changes.

I cover my thoughts about the mechanics of an improved free market in a series of short essays I have written. I recently graduated from business school and applied the results of my graduate research into business and game theory toward this project.

In the first essay, I summarize the problems with modern capitalism, and define a mechanical approach to fixing it. The apparent freedom of modern capitalism has come along with concessions to the left-wing prerogatives of the state in creating a uniform society that’s easy to govern and tax, and simultaneously where it is easy to sell to at scale. An improvement could come through innovations to our process of business, specifically learning how to balance private economic cooperation and competition with agility, using market signals. The lack of this agility leaves room for the state to enter.

The second essay summarizes economic principles and considers the moral picture. Participation in society is a compromise that comes with privileges and responsibilities, but one which can be made willingly, in an environment where there ought to be many choices.

The third essay covers how capitalist economics, when functioning properly, are more than anything else a machine for discovering and applying valuable knowledge. The need for freedom to engage in entrepreneurship makes room for wasteful competition which can suppress disruptive innovation. This can be addressed through advanced business processes, but American capitalism has solved it through state intervention instead, creating difficulty in determining the most valuable uses for resources.

The fourth essay looks at how the market expresses demand, and how localist, mutual-aid style social arrangements could move past the state’s uniform consumer class. Better managed demand can assert a preference for putting value into product quality over quantity and price, addressing a common criticism of capitalism. Well managed communities can realize more value out of products and maintain them better than individual households can.

The penultimate essay is a lesson in game theory, including details about the vitally important cooperative game theory. Business strategy is already a mixed game, where the company is a cooperative solution over employees, a competitive solution against rivals, and a cooperative solution among value added supply chain partners. Businesses which frame cooperative and competitive modes more consciously could perform better. The mix of strategies does not need to follow a traditional corporate model.

Finally, the last essay presents the most extreme version of a mixed-game economy based on decentralized financing and blockchain facilitated supply chain management. This science fiction economic model reduces economic functions into core competencies, local workshops which can interact dynamically with many different partners, and the need for monopolistic competition evaporates under the decentralized structure.

A bonus essay to the series speculates about alternative forms of money and banking. In this case, all money is tied to real assets and the relative value of different economic sectors can adjust dynamically, creating local ecosystems. Instead of debt-based money, growth is represented by an unending race for pole position, where changes in the relative value of a currency against another captures the amount of growth. Here, wealth requires financial skill, is never permanent, and massive wealth would be quite difficult to accrue.

There are two conclusions from this series I’d like to highlight.

The first is that the American system of capitalism might be more left-wing than we typically acknowledge. Specifically, in the way that capitalism commodifies life and demands uniformity, assaults family and tradition, and has an interdependency with the state. Some mid-century libertarians have imagined an ideal society that looks like a clean and prosperous New York, albeit one with private law enforcement, minimal regulations and no taxation. This neglects the degree to which American life, epitomized by New York City, has required participation in structured rat race, and created uniform mass culture via a carefully curated set of professional and academic institutions which are well integrated with functions of the state.

Maybe the twentieth century is just not very libertarian. In my opinion, Stalinism is the apotheosis of twentieth century capitalism, and American capitalism is merely less further along. The difference is that American freedom has allowed the market to retard these effects of capitalism due to the influence of middle class wealth, decentralized politics, and strong traditions in some quarters.

Second, if there’s an Austro-libertarian dream, it’s probably one where wealth lies in communities, within large family groups. Where there’s room for different cultures, and even—if you can afford it—an atomized, urban, cosmopolitan life. Where economics are oriented toward family, in holding community equity and tying labor to family rights and responsibilities. Where politics is local, and people focus mainly on defining what sort of boundaries allow for us to live and let live. Where geopolitics is libertarian, because war isn’t affordable, and wouldn’t be worth it. An environment dominated by diplomacy, letters of marque, and decentralized legal norms.

Politics forces us to adopt positions and reject others, out of solidarity with allies and in defense against enemies. I hope to not be interpreted through a political lens. I have been day-dreaming about freedom, and so if something in my day-dream appears useful, please use it freely.

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken Dismisses Calls for Ceasefire in Russo-Ukrainian War

The U.S. will focus its efforts on arming Ukraine and not attempting to bring the war to a negotiated settlement, America’s top diplomat said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out a plan to massively expand Kiev’s military before talks begin.

In a speech delivered in Finland on Friday, Blinken stated, “The United States—together with our allies and partners—is firmly committed to supporting Ukraine’s defense today, tomorrow, for as long as it takes.” He continued, “We believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine, capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression.”

Blinken dismissed the idea of even a temporary pause in the fighting. “Some countries will call for a ceasefire. And on the surface, that sounds sensible—attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?” He said. “But a ceasefire that simply freezes current lines in place and enables Putin to consolidate control over the territory he’s seized…It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim.”

The Secretary of State offered an ambitious vision of Kiev’s future military capabilities. “America and our allies are helping meet Ukraine’s needs on the current battlefield while developing a force that can deter and defend against aggression for years to come.” He added, “That means helping build a Ukrainian military of the future, with long-term funding, a strong air force centered on modern combat aircraft, an integrated air and missile defense network, advanced tanks and armored vehicles, national capacity to produce ammunition, and the training and support to keep forces and equipment combat-ready.”

It is unclear how long it would take to build the deterrence force envisioned by Blinken. American arms stockpiles are dwindling as Washington attempts to transfer Kiev enough military equipment to keep its army fighting. The U.S. additionally has plans to significantly increase arms transfers to Taiwan.

Blinken claimed, “Our support for Ukraine hasn’t weakened our capabilities to meet potential threats from China or anywhere else—it’s strengthened them.” In November, The Wall Street Journal reported, “U.S. government and congressional officials fear the conflict in Ukraine is exacerbating a nearly $19 billion backlog of weapons bound for Taiwan, further delaying efforts to arm the island.”

Additionally, the White House may not have the support it needs in the Capitol for such a massive military buildup in Ukraine. Blinken asserted that “in America, this support is bipartisan.” However, at the beginning of May, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said future support for Ukraine would be contingent on success in Kiev’s long-planned counteroffensive.

Since McCaul’s statement, Ukraine has slowly lost more territory to Russian forces, including Bakhmut. Zelensky committed endless resources to the city in a months-long battle despite the advice from his Western backers. The White House is now preparing for the counteroffensive to fail.

Washington’s strategy, as laid out by Blinken, calls for arming Ukraine and weakening Russia. “Russia is significantly worse off today than it was before its full-scale invasion of Ukraine—militarily, economically, geopolitically,” he stated, adding, “President Putin has diminished Russian influence on every continent.”

However, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. European Command, told Congress in April that Moscow’s ground forces are “bigger today” than before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last year.

While the White House has attempted to isolate the Kremlin, Moscow has weathered Western sanctions by developing relationships in the global south. On Friday, Russian officials met with prospective members of the BRICS coalition, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. In September, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said in a meeting with Putin, “The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the U.S., such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger.”

Blinken justified the Biden administration’s commitment to a militaristic approach by claiming the White House attempted to engage the Kremlin in meaningful diplomacy before the invasion of Ukraine. “President Biden told President Putin that we were prepared to discuss our mutual security concerns—a message that I reaffirmed repeatedly—including in person, with Foreign Minister Lavrov.” The Secretary of State continued, “We offered written proposals to reduce tensions. Together with our allies and partners, we used every forum to try to prevent war, from the NATO-Russia Council to the OSCE, from the UN to our direct channels.”

In April 2022, Biden administration official Derek Chollet admitted that the White House refused to negotiate with the Kremin on Putin’s core concern, Ukraine becoming a member of NATO. “We made clear to the Russians that we were willing to talk to them on issues that we thought were genuine concerns,” Chollet said, adding that the administration didn’t think that “the future of Ukraine” was one of those issues and that its potential NATO membership was a “non-issue.”

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

TGIF: Immigration and Liberty

Forbidding freedom of movement to aspiring migrants strikes at the liberty not only of those individuals but also of citizens and legal residents of the United States. That’s the way it is with immigration. Indeed, that’s the way it is with freedom. The government can’t violate the freedom of some peaceful people without also violating the freedom of others.

Ilya Somin, who teaches law at George Mason University and is a constitutional scholar with the Cato Institute, makes this point in “Three Constitutional Issues Libertarians Should Make Their Own.” (The other two issues his title refers to are zoning and racial profiling.) Somin also wrote the book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom.

“Immigration restrictions,” he writes, “massively restrict liberty and degrade human welfare. By barring entry to hundreds of thousands of people who seek freedom and opportunity in the United States, the federal government massively restricts the liberty of would‐​be immigrants and American citizens alike.”

The harm to aspiring migrants is obvious. People seeking to escape crushing poverty and/or oppression are denied the freedom to move to a safer and more productive place. They are condemned to deprivation, misery, and pain at the hands of the government and gangs. (The U.S. war on drug makers and merchants in Latin America is the big reason for this.) By what right are they condemned? “Legal” immigration is more of a theoretical fiction than a real thing. Somin writes:

In theory, they can join the “line” and wait to enter legally. But for most, that line is either decades‐​long or nonexistent. And for the most part, these exclusions are based on arbitrary circumstances of parentage and place of birth, of a kind libertarians and others in the liberal political tradition consistently reject in other contexts.

He goes on: “Less widely appreciated, even by many libertarians, is the massive negative effect of immigration restrictions on the liberty of current American citizens.” We don’t usually think of immigration this way. (Political philosopher Chandran Kukathas does.) But every person represents an American’s opportunity for gains from trade, friendship, and more intimate relationships, all the things that promote flourishing. Immigration controls control Americans too. As Somin writes:

Immigration restrictions bar millions of Americans from engaging in economic and social transactions with potential immigrants. It closes off Americans from hiring immigrant workers, getting jobs at businesses founded by immigrants (who establish such enterprises at higher rates than native-born citizens), renting property to immigrants, and benefiting from scientific and economic innovations to which immigrants also contribute at higher rates than natives.

Those who lament the government-made mess at the border have never understood that constructive responses to the new potential employees, buyers, tenants, etc. would privately and spontaneously arise if border crossing was legal.

Somin adds that “No other current U.S. government policy restricts liberty more than immigration exclusion does—and that’s true even if we focus solely on the liberty of native‐​born citizens, especially economic freedoms.”

The prevention of gains from trade has profound and negative consequences for the production of wealth. Somin: “Economists estimate that free migration throughout the world would double global domestic product. That’s an enormous chunk of lost wealth for immigrants and native‐​born citizens alike.”

Think of the abundance of goods, the new things, and the low prices that we’re all missing out on! (See Bryan Caplan’s Open Borders for details.)

Somin also sees constitutional problems with the restrictions that he laments has been neglected by even most libertarian legal scholars (including himself), not to mention others, such as conservatives, who claim to be staunch constitutionalists. “It’s far from clear,” he writes, “that the original meaning of the Constitution even gives the federal government a general power to restrict immigration in the first place.”

Nothing in the text specifically grants Congress or the president such authority, and leading Founding Fathers—including James Madison—argued that no such power existed. It took more than a century for the Supreme Court to rule—in the 1889 Chinese Exclusion Case—that the federal government does in fact have this unenumerated power. And that decision is based on highly dubious reasoning and tinged with racism.

Somin does not foresee an imminent overturning of the ruling, but he would like to see assaults on “extensions of that ruling that have largely immunized immigration restrictions from constitutional constraints that apply to virtually every type of government policy.” For example:

Immigration detention and deportation proceed with far weaker due process protections than other severe deprivations of liberty. Due process is so lacking in the system that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies have detained and sometimes even deported thousands of American citizens before they figured out their error. Such detention with little or no due process would not be tolerated elsewhere.

But do “illegal” immigrants have rights supposedly protected by the Constitution? Somin replies: “A few constitutional rights are explicitly confined to U.S. citizens. But the vast majority are phrased as general constraints on government power, and protect citizens and noncitizens alike.” Thus, “[t]he exemption of immigration restrictions from many normal constitutional constraints on government power has no basis in the text or original meaning of the Constitution.”

So he wants an end to the many double standards. That “would curtail many of the worst abuses of the current migration regime, and perhaps set the stage for further progress. Even incremental improvement could make the difference between freedom and oppression for many thousands of people.”

Hear, hear!


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