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Benjamin Tucker, Libertarian

Often claimed by modern socialist anarchists, Benjamin Tucker fits better in the libertarian tradition. There existed, for a time, an alignment between labor reform and socialism on the one hand and individualism and free-market libertarianism on the other. Benjamin Tucker famously called socialists and anarchists “armies that overlap.” Today, however, the idea that anti-statism and socialism are somehow related is likely to strike most readers as deeply confused, for government ownership and management seem to be at the heart of socialism. We have examined Tucker’s voluntary or libertarian...

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Robert Anton Wilson: Mildly Puzzled All The Time

Robert Anton Wilson: Mildly Puzzled All The Time

Robert Anton Wilson was born Robert Edward Wilson on January 18, 1932, in Brooklyn. That distinctive middle name, Anton, was the first name of his maternal grandfather, who left Trieste — today Italy, then the Austrian Empire — to escape military conscription, which Wilson considered a courageous and heroic act. When he took Anton as his middle name, Wilson believed he would return to his given name when he had one day amassed the prestige necessary to write serious literature. Thank goodness Wilson never became quite so serious.1 In the Brooklyn of his youth, Wilson was raised in a kind of...

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Wartime Tyranny Against Eugene Debs

Wartime Tyranny Against Eugene Debs

Civil rights do not fare well in wartime, tested against the feverish jingoism of the martial spirit. As the old adage goes, inter armas silent leges — in war the law is silent. In the United States, liberty has too often been sacrificed (without hesitation, we might add) to the gods of wars, forced to prostrate herself before them, accede to their demands. But never completely is liberty’s light extinguished; undaunted and filled with righteous indignation — and, perhaps, naivety — a few idealists always stand as her partisans, prepared to sacrifice their own liberty in their own kind of...

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Why Mislabeling Keeps us Stuck in Partisan Politics

Why Mislabeling Keeps us Stuck in Partisan Politics

The biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote that “[c]ategories often exert a tyranny over our perceptions and judgments,” adding that “[w]e do not ponder the bases of our classifications with sufficient scrutiny.” Popular political debates have yet to fully appreciate this vital insight. Our political categorizations facilely conflate questions of fundamentally different kinds, leading to a conceptual confusion that hobbles constructive discourse. Clarity in this discourse requires a separation between two kinds of questions, those about means and those about ends. Debates about the goals...

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The Legal Doctrine of the State Secrets Doctrine

The Legal Doctrine of the State Secrets Doctrine

In the United States, a citizen may sue the government. It is fortunate that it should be so, because, as libertarians like to point out, government is society’s single worst offender. The ability to hold it to account in the courts helps safeguard the rights of the individual, the consistent protection of which is the meaning of a free society. Robust judicial review of government actions is an expression of the idea that no one should be above the law, that ours is a country of laws not men, a principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution’s three-branch...

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The danger of our left-right political divide

For years a consistent refrain in American politics has bewailed an increasingly polarized political atmosphere. As the Pew Research Center observes, for the first time in almost 25 years, “majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but veryunfavorable views of the other party.” Americans, the Pew study shows, now look across the aisle with fear, anger, and contempt, committed more strongly than ever to their respective teams. On college campuses, disagreements that might have been thoughtful, even friendly debates have erupted into violent melees, ending in injury and damaged...

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Dismantling America’s Destructive ‘Fourth Branch’ of Government

Every American learns in grade school of the three-part structure of the U.S. government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In The Federalist Papers, No. 47, James Madison, called by many the “father of the Constitution,” remarked the accumulation of these powers in the hands of one party “may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The Constitution -- at least, in theory -- forbids any one of the three branches from delegating its powers or duties to another branch. But the Constitution has effectively been amended, albeit quite outside of the prescribed...

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Laurance Labadie, Gloomy Keeper of the Flame

Laurance Labadie was the last true exponent of nineteenth-century Tuckerite anarchism. Laurance Labadie was born in Detroit, in the summer of 1898, the son of the famously affable anarchist Joseph A. Labadie. Jo, as he was called, neither pressed anarchism on his children nor seems to have done very much pressing or parenting at all, preferring to allow the Labadie brood space to learn and grow on their own terms. That they, to his disappointment, never found much happiness or success suggests, perhaps, that the anarchist’s aversion to hierarchical relationships is ill-suited to the business...

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