Consent of the Governed?

Consent of the Governed?

What gives some people the right to rule others? At least since John Locke’s time, the most common and seemingly compelling answer has been “the consent of the governed.” When the North American revolutionaries set out to justify their secession from the British Empire, they declared, among other things: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” This sounds good, especially if one doesn’t think about it very hard or very long, but the harder and longer one thinks about it, the more problematic it becomes. One question after another...

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Pressure-Release Valves in Participatory Fascism

Pressure-Release Valves in Participatory Fascism

Almost every nation in the world has adopted a system of participatory fascism, whereby nominally representative governments can abridge and restrict someone’s nominally recognized private-property rights. Participatory fascism may enjoy the appearance of popular legitimacy, but its formal procedures for relief from government abuses are too slow, cumbersome, costly, and ineffective to do anything reliably except to give those who lack much political clout the short end of the stick. Nearly every country in the world currently has an economic system I have long called “participatory fascism”...

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Nationalism, the Ideological Delusion at the Heart of Protectionism

Nationalism, the Ideological Delusion at the Heart of Protectionism

Every economic entity, whether it be an individual, a family, or a firm, faces a constant choice with regard to how it will secure the goods and services it desires in order to carry out its economic plans: make or buy? Most individuals and families give little conscious thought to their making this choice. Yet they make it all the same. Many individuals do many things for themselves, such as house cleaning, home maintenance, personal care of various sorts, meal preparation, and so forth. They do not pause often to consider whether they would be better off to purchase these things, although...

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The Tangled Web of Anti-immigration Argumentation

The Tangled Web of Anti-immigration Argumentation

Probably the most often voiced objection to open immigration of all peaceful people is that “you can’t have open immigration and a welfare state.” (Even people as smart as Milton Friedman have made this objection.) But why can’t you? Well, people claim, if you have a welfare state, the masses of the world will flood into the USA just to collect the welfare state’s “free stuff.” But why let them? Even under currently existing rules, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for nearly all welfare-state benefits. If a flood of immigrants will break the welfare-state bank, why not simply make...

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Two-way Trade in the “Same” Commodity

Sunday, when my grocery guy Lucio came to my gate, his truck contained, along with the usual variety of produce and other foodstuffs, a box of beautiful strawberries, which I snatched up along with my other purchases. As often in the past, these berries came from Driscoll’s in Watsonville, California, where—interestingly enough—they were almost certainly harvested by Mexican and Central American workers. Out of curiosity, I looked up more information about this firm and found it to be even more interesting and entrepreneurial than I had previously imagined. My access to this product, here at...

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The Balance of International Payments Is Economic Nonsense

Let us define the set of all human beings whose height is greater than 170 cm and less than 180 cm. Call this set A. Now let us collect data on all the dealings between members of set A and members of set B, which consists of all human beings whose height is less than or greater than those in set A. What economic significance can we ascribe to the aggregate of monetary flows between members of set A and members of set B? Correct answer: none. This aggregation of persons who trade with persons in the complementary set has no economic meaning; the sets are arbitrary so far as economic...

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Roving Bandit, Stationary Bandit, and Income Tax

Many libertarians have embraced the slogan “taxation is theft.” I myself think it is more precise to say that taxation is extortion. But even saying that fails to capture how egregious taxation really is, especially income taxation. When a mugger or a home invader accosts you, he points a gun at you or waves a knife in your face and demands your wallet or some other property. In most cases, if you surrender your property to him as he demands, he takes it and flees, and you will most likely never see him again. He is, in the classic phrase, the roving bandit. In contrast, the state is, in...

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No More Great Presidents

Originally published in the March 1997 issue of The Free Market, Volume 15, Number 3 My idea of a great president is one who acts in accordance with his oath of office to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Not since the presidency of Grover Cleveland has any president achieved greatness by this standard. Worse, the most admired have been those who failed most miserably. Evidently my standard differs from that employed by others who judge presidential greatness. In the New York Times Magazine for December 15, 1996, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., presented the...

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Last Rights: The Death of American Liberty

Last Rights: The Death of American Liberty

Americans today have “freedom” to be fleeced, groped, injected, harassed, surveilled, vilified, disarmed, beaten, detained, and maybe shot by federal agents. From hapless homeowners hit by SWAT raids to pandemic lockdowns pointlessly paralyzing lives, government...

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