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Ryan McMaken Sells Secessionism in ‘Indispensable’ New Book

Ryan McMaken Sells Secessionism in ‘Indispensable’ New Book

Breaking Away: The Case for Secession, Radical Decentralization, and Smaller Polities by Ryan McMaken Mises Institute, 2022, 230 pp. Those of us who think that there should be no state at all, or at most a very limited one, must view all existing states with dissatisfaction, though some are better than others. In assessing how good or bad a state is, does the extent of the territory it controls matter? Offhand, you might think it doesn’t. Isn’t the only relevant dimension by which to judge states the nature and degree of control they have over their people? The United States in the...

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Either You Support Secession or Colonialism

Either You Support Secession or Colonialism

Grant defeated Lee, the Confederacy crumbled, and the idea of secession disappeared forever, or at least that's what the conventional wisdom says. Secession is no historical irrelevance. Quite the contrary, the topic is integral to classical liberalism. Indeed, the right of secession follows at once from the basic rights defended by classical liberalism. As even Macaulay's schoolboy knows, classical liberalism begins with the principle of self-ownership: each person is the rightful owner of his or her own body. Together with this right, according to classical liberals from Locke to Rothbard,...

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Here’s What Fernando Tesón Misunderstands About Murray Rothbard

Here’s What Fernando Tesón Misunderstands About Murray Rothbard

In his valuable article “War and Humanitarian Intervention,” in The Routledge Companion to Libertarianism (pp. 441–56), Fernando R. Tesón raises some interesting criticisms of Murray Rothbard’s views on war as part of a more general discussion of the topic, and I’d like to devote this week’s article to these. It has to be said, though, that a number of these criticisms are based on misreadings of Rothbard, which isn’t to say Tesón would like the true Rothbardian position better than the one to which he pays attention. Tesón thinks that libertarians have rightly viewed war with misgiving, and...

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Correcting the Record: Ludwig von Mises’ Anti-Imperialism

The historian Quinn Slobodian presents us in his article “Perfect Capitalism, Imperfect Humans: Race, Migration, and the Limits of Ludwig von Mises’s Globalism,” Contemporary European History (2018), with a surprising interpretation of Ludwig von Mises. According to Slobodian, Mises was a racist who favored colonial wars of subjugation to open the world to trade. In this week’s article, I’d like to look at how Slobodian reaches this conclusion. The article begins with a quotation from Omnipotent Government: “How can we expect that the Hindus, the worshippers of the cow, should grasp the...

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Yes, Taxation Is Theft

Yes, Taxation Is Theft

Libertarians think that taxation is theft. The government takes away part of your income and property by force. Your payments aren’t voluntary. If you think they are, try to withhold payment and see what happens. An influential book by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership, tries to show that this view of taxation is wrong. Many people, they say, foolishly resent taxes. By what right does the government take away part of what we own? Isn’t this legalized theft? The government may claim that it needs the funds to provide essential social services: are the poor to be left to...

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Mises and Rothbard on Catalan Secession

Mises and Rothbard on Catalan Secession

Many people in Catalonia wish to secede from Spain and form their own country, but the Spanish government has used force to block them from doing so. What should libertarians think of this conflict? In trying to answer this question, it is useful to seek guidance from Mises and Rothbard. Not that these two thinkers are always right, but it is a safe bet that these two giants of twentieth-century social science will have something illuminating to say. Mises addresses the issue directly. In Omnipotent Government, he criticizes the eminent Spanish liberal Salvador de Madariaga for his...

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Alan Greenspan, Sellout

Sebastian Mallaby is the Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economic Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. One can be sure, then, that his new comprehensive book, The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan, reflects an Establishment point of view. As if this were not enough to tell us where the book is coming from, Mallaby informs us that he had Greenspan’s full cooperation in writing it. “This book is based on almost unlimited access to Alan Greenspan, his papers, and his colleagues and friends, all of whom were generous in their collaboration. Though the...

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