Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Trump and Netanyahu first tried to bribe the Palestinians into capitulating to the Israeli imposition. But the two men failed. So now they are executing Plan B: bribing the Arab states’ rulers to give up even the pretense of championing the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel. In that, the two are succeeding.

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Complying with Mandates

It’s utterly conceivable that the government might mandate that we do (or not do) what we already ought (or ought not) to do, seeing as how social animals owe things to each other. In such cases, refusing to engage (or abstaining from engaging) in the mandated (or forbidden) behavior because the government has mandated (or forbidden) it is just wrong, edgy individualist rationalizations notwithstanding. Needless to say, I should have started this post with “Needless to say….”

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

The Choice We Don’t Face

Despite what some people suggest, our choice today is not between black lives and private property. Quite the contrary: respect for black lives logically entails respect for all persons, their possessions, and their peaceful projects. The first property right is self-ownership: one’s property in oneself. (The abolitionists called slave traders and owners man-stealers. Get it?) Do the rioters not know that black people also own shops and other businesses? Or are those owners considered acceptable casualties in the struggle? And have those owners been asked to consent to that demeaning status?

Further, no one has spelled out the practical connection between rioting and looting on the one hand and the achievement of respect for black people by the police on the other. Far from an obvious connection, the disconnect is clear. If society faces a choice between civil unrest and Hobbes’s Leviathan, I have no doubt which one most people, including most black people, will choose. That situation will hardly usher in a blissful time of respect for black people’s or anyone else’s lives by the police.

Unpleasant Times

Unpleasant Times

If Ludwig von Mises were alive today he would be viewing our current predicament with alarm but not surprise. He lived through something similar about a century ago.

In response to inexcusable police brutality, some outraged people who’ve taken to the streets have crossed the sacred line between peaceful protest and violence. Recent months have brought vandalism, arson, and injury in Kenosha, WI, and Portland, OR, and now intimidation of innocent bystanders in Portland and Washington, D.C. Now comes the ominous response.

This escalation by people who pose as friends of social justice (I don’t doubt the sincerity of the nonviolent others in the streets) is both immoral and dangerous, both in its own right and also because it feeds those, like Trump, who might like nothing better than to bash a few heads before election day. Those among the protesters who perpetrate street violence are playing with fire, and they well know it, hoping that the state’s reaction will serve their cause. But they are wrong. Whatever their cause, unless it’s violence for its own sake, the result will be a strengthening of the worst aspects of the state–with the support of most people in the country.

Mises would have recognized what is going on because he’d seen it before. Have a look at chapter 10 of his book Liberalism, “The Argument of Fascism,” for his observations in 1927 on what had taken place in Italy from about 1919 to 1922, when Mussolini took power and established a one-party dictatorship. That something even remotely similar to those events is now happening in America would have horrified and saddened him.

In that chapter Mises discussed the extended violent confrontation between communists/socialists and fascists in the streets of Italy. As the foremost champion of peace, freedom, and social cooperation (including economic exchange) of his day, Mises was horrified by the events. He noted that previously the antiliberal Italian right-wing nevertheless had reluctantly paid some slight homage to liberalism and its restraints on power, which it despised, because it was so central to Western civilization. But when the Italian Socialist Party began to achieve political success and make Bolshevik-type demands for fundamental social change, and when communists and socialist–emboldened by the state terror and mass murder in Russia–violently clashed in the streets with the right-wing “black shirts,” Mussolini’s budding fascist movement found their excuse to do what they had wanted to do all along: abandon token deference to liberalism, which it condemned as pacifist and weak, and embrace the so-called glory of violence without restraint. Mises wrote:

One must not fail to recognize that the conversion of the Rightist parties to the tactics of Fascism shows that the battle against liberalism has resulted in successes that, only a short time ago, would have been considered completely unthinkable. Many people approve of the methods of Fascism, even though its economic program is altogether antiliberal and its policy completely interventionist, because it is far from practicing the senseless and unrestrained destructionism that has stamped the Communists as the arch-enemies of civilization. Still others, in full knowledge of the evil that Fascist economic policy brings with it, view Fascism, in comparison with Bolshevism and Sovietism, as at least the lesser evil. [Emphasis added.]

Then Mises added, just so there would be no mistaking his meaning: “For the majority of its public and secret supporters and admirers, however, [Fascism’s] appeal consists precisely in the violence of its methods.” Fascism was antiliberal in every respect, Mises noted, including its nationalist and militarist foreign policy, which “cannot fail to give rise to an endless series of wars that must destroy all of modern civilization.”

Mises pointed out that liberalism was not opposed to the use of violence when it was necessary to thwart violence. But again, to make sure he was understood, he quickly added:

What distinguishes liberal from Fascist political tactics is not a difference of opinion in regard to the necessity of using armed force to resist armed attackers, but a difference in the fundamental estimation of the role of violence in a struggle for power. The great danger threatening domestic policy from the side of Fascism lies in its complete faith in the decisive power of violence.

For Mises, the use of violence for the propagation of ideas was both wrong and counterproductive. Stifling the ideas of opponents gives them a credibility they might not otherwise earn: “Resort to naked force—that is, without justification in terms of intellectual arguments accepted by public opinion—merely gains new friends for those whom one is thereby trying to combat. In a battle between force and an idea, the latter always prevails.”

He continued:

Fascism can triumph today because universal indignation at the infamies committed by the socialists and communists has obtained for it the sympathies of wide circles. But when the fresh impression of the crimes of the Bolsheviks has paled, the socialist program will once again exercise its power of attraction on the masses. For Fascism does nothing to combat it except to suppress socialist ideas and to persecute the people who spread them. If it wanted really to combat socialism, it would have to oppose it with ideas. There is, however, only one idea that can be effectively opposed to socialism, viz., that of liberalism.

I will next reproduce the controversial conclusion to Mises’s chapter; if I don’t, someone else will:

It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.

No liberal–libertarian, that is to say–can read this with joy, but it would be unfair to interpret Mises, as some have tried, as harboring even a speck of illiberal sentiment. (See his 1944 book Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War for his view of, among others, Nazi Germany. Mises, whose heritage was Jewish, had to flee Austria and then Europe altogether because of Hitler.) Look at things from Mises’s vantage point: he saw horrendous violent clashes in the streets and the looming threat of a Bolshevik state in western Europe draped in the garb of universalism and egalitarianism. (In contrast, militant Italian nationalism hardly had universal appeal.) Liberalism, unfortunately, was not on the agenda. So he had to decide which was the greater threat to Western civilization–which side if triumphant would have a smaller chance of surviving beyond the short run. Let’s not forget who was on the socialist side: people who were inspired by Lenin and Trotsky, architects of the 20th century’s first one-party terror state. So who can say Mises was wrong? I can’t.

Of course we’re not living in analogous circumstances. Notwithstanding increasing hyperbole from both wings of the establishment, we don’t face a choice between Bolshevism and fascism, although I am aware of Trump’s authoritarian disposition and Biden’s devotion to the all-service state. Still, it’s too close for comfort. We now are now seeing violent street confrontations–and the potential for bystander casualties–between two sides each with a predilection for violence, even if neither one has a fleshed-out program. (Apparently, the clashes are an all-white affair.) If things get further out of hand, the public will likely and reasonably demand a restoration of order, and many in power will be only too happy to comply–and then some. What will come next?

I don’t want to exaggerate–the worst incidents have been confined to a few cities–but I fear for the future.

A Question of Motives

A Question of Motives

People who regard themselves as members of the ideological environmental movement may or may not have good science on their side in any particular matter, but they do themselves no service when they speculate wildly about the motives of their opponents.

I frequently hear such environmentalists characterize their opponents as people who want to make the planet uninhabitable for human beings and other living things. I suspect I’m not alone in finding that motivation highly implausible, and I’m surprised that those who traffic in such accusations don’t realize that they undermine their own cause when they try to sell that implausible story to the public. It may explain why they have yet to close the sale after all these years.

Note what I am not saying. I am not saying that those environmentalists accuse their targets of being in denial or of being ignorant about the alleged dangers of their policy preferences. No, they accuse them of wishing to destroy the planet. If you don’t believe me, watch this video in which Noam Chomsky, a bright guy who has made many important intellectual contributions, does just that. (In this video Chomsky says that Trump is more dangerous than Hitler was because Trump seeks an end to life on earth.)

Are we really to believe that the individuals named as public enemies seek an end to life or just don’t care if human life becomes impossible in the near or distant future? Do these people have no children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or friends with such? Even in the unlikely case that the answer is no, what motive could they possibly have for not caring about what happens to humanity after they die? Greed? Don’t many of them think they have enough money–or are we to believe they’re all Scrooge McDucks?

My point is not to take the side of the alleged public enemies in this or that matter. It is only to insist that the environmentalists need a more plausible story for their opponents’ policy preferences. But I’ve yet to encounter one offered by the environmental movement. Simply portraying the enemy as nihilist is inexcusable, not to say (as a friend put it) lazy. I have a hard time believing that anyone on the fence would find the standard claim convincing.

I suspect that the reason for this ridiculous tack is that to assume good-faith disagreement would violate the environmentalists’ take-no-prisoners attitude. If they allowed for good faith in their opponents, they might then have to acknowledge that much of the environmentalists’ apocalyptic claims are disputed by reputable and well-credentialed scientists–which is something ideological environmentalists are loathe to do. They’d much rather portray their adversaries as greed-crazed or religiously fundamentalist or ideological monsters, if not all three, however incompatible those things might be. Or nihilistic.

The principle of charity holds that you should take on your opponents’ strongest case, even if no opponent makes that case himself. Lazily conjuring up the most malevolent case will fail to convince any decent listener. All it will do is reinforce the feelings of those already convinced. If the goal is to actually effect beneficial change, where’s the gain in that?

That question may answer itself. Perhaps the goal is not to effect change but rather merely to engage in holier-than-thou self-pleasuring.

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Word from the Wise

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

–H. L. Mencken

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Who Becomes a Cop?

If a major police mission is to catch us in forbidden consensual transactions, you may not like the kind of people who become cops.

Regarding Seth Rogen: Some Feelings Ought to Be Hurt

Regarding Seth Rogen: Some Feelings Ought to Be Hurt

When actor Seth Rogen, an atheist of Jewish heritage, announced that he no longer supports Israel — “I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life” — he was criticized for his apostasy. (Being an atheist does not constitute Jewish heresy, but breaking with Israel does.)

Then, during a call with Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, Rogen learned that “many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist.” Herzog says Rogen apologized, explaining that his comments were meant to be humorous.

But Rogen has “distanced himself from a statement from the Jewish Agency that claimed [he] had ‘apologized,'” the Times of Israel reports. That must mean he wasn’t just trying to be funny.

I stand with Rogen. His comments about Israel were spot on. I too was told lies about Israel growing up (“a land without a people for a people without a land”) — but I hasten to add that the people close to me did not know they were lies. I’d bet Rogen would say the same thing.

I am also happy to hear that he did not apologize for his comments. Why should he? The State of Israel came into being through the systematic dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians. Many Jews know this and criticize Israel for it. Not only that: many Jews would have been uncomfortable with the idea of an exclusivist Jewish state even if Palestine really had been a land without a people. (Rogen expressed the same view.) Reform Judaism was explicitly founded in the 19th century in opposition to the ideas of Jewish exile, diaspora, and separatism.

But what I most want to focus on here is Herzog’s statement that Rogen had “personally hurt” Jews and Israelis. I assume he meant that Rogen had hurt their feelings. My question is: if someone’s feelings are hurt by condemnations of injustice, why should anyone care? Are some people’s feelings more important than other people’s very right to live free and dignified lives? I don’t think so. Some feelings ought to be — need to be — hurt.

This preoccupation with not hurting feelings is at the root of the ominous cancel culture and the burgeoning informal PC constraints on free thought and free speech. If you look hard enough you will find that these unfortunate things originated in attempts to inhibit good-faith criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinians by stigmatizing the speakers as anti-Semites.

As long as we’re talking about feelings, let’s do a full accounting. Yes, I’m sure Rogen hurt some people’s feelings. But I’m also confident his courage to speak also made Palestinians, anti-Zionist Jews, and other champions of justice feel more hopeful. Why don’t their feelings count?

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Oh, the Irony!

People on the big-government left who are distraught over the condition of black lives in America are logically committed to opposing the police and teachers unions — whether or not they realize it. That is because the first indispensable steps in the direction of justice and decency lie in changing the poisonous dynamic between cops and communities on the one hand and bringing competition, entrepreneurship, and parental choice to education on the other. The police and teachers unions, which make it exceedingly hard to fire bad cops and bad teachers, inevitably oppose changing those practices or supporting those key reforms out of sheer institutional self-preservation.

Thus activists, who typically sympathize with government-employee unions, are in fundamental conflict with two of the most powerful government-employee unions in America, again, whether or not those activists get it.

Someone’s in for a rude awakening.

Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

How to Care about the Disadvantaged

You may be in the presence of mere virtue-signalers if they:

  • wring their hands about police brutality without ever calling for repeal of all victimless-crime laws, which create a poisonous dynamic between police and public precisely because the conduct being policed is consensual for each party to the illegal transactions;
  • bemoan the lack of growing black-family wealth without calling for the elimination of Social Security, which imposes a regressive tax to confiscate savings that would otherwise be heritable by the savers’ children;
  • lament the inadequate economic mobility of people in minority communities without condemning occupational licensing, which prohibitively raises the cost of entry into many kinds of work;
  • condemn the inadequate economic mobility of people in minority communities without opposing zoning and other land-use controls, which inflate the price of housing in areas with superior economic opportunities;
  • decry the sad state of education for minority children without demanding parental choice in an entrepreneurial free market in schools;
  • denounce minority unemployment without acknowledging that the legislated minimum wage kills jobs for people with the least skills and makes the surviving jobs more onerous than before.
Trump and Netanyahu’s Plan B

Prophetic Jewish Anti-Zionists

When Peter Beinart, a self-described liberal Zionist, abandoned the two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict and embraced one state with equal rights for all, he quickly drew the ire of orthodox Zionists, some of whom went so far as to describe Beinart as a “Nazi” who favors a single state as the “Final Solution” for the more-than-century-old problem. By this, Beinart’s critics mean that equal rights in the unified land between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River would surely bring the extinction of Jews.

It’s a repulsive smear, of course, one that well confirms what Beinart wrote in his Jewish Currents article. What gets overlooked, however, is that the early Jewish anti-Zionists, especially the founders of American Reform Judaism, warned that the incipient movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine would nourish the anti-Semite  potentially endangering Jews everywhere, including the United States, where they enjoyed unprecedented freedom.This view was no better articulated than by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), founder of American Reform Judaism.

Wise insisted that Jews did not constitute a single people, nation, or race but rather a worldwide religious community embracing many cultures and nationalities. Embracing one of the traditions of Judaism (which for much of its history was unified on little if anything), he preached a universalist, against a separatist, conception of his religion. This entailed the view that the human race was one people deserving of equal individual rights and freedom. For Wise, Judaism and Americanism were cut from the same cloth. (Ironically, in our time Israeli geneticists frantically and futilely search for the Jewish gene, which the Nazis also believed existed.)

As he watched the Zionist movement develop, Wise was horrified at what the future held. Writing in the final years of his life, he said: “The only class that will derive any advantage from the [1898 second Basel Zionist] Congress will be the anti-Semites, whose strongest argument that the Jews the world over are mere sojourners in countries, not a constituent part of their peoples, will receive expected support from the public acts and declarations of the Jews themselves.”

He was not stretching the point. Theodor Herzl and his Zionist colleagues appealed for the support of European rulers by vocally assuming the anti-Semitic slur that Jews were a parasitic alien presence in the nations of the world and that the “Jewish Question” could be answered only by establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. All Jews could then be concentrated there and away from the gentiles. (I use the word concentrated advisedly.) Whether the Zionists believed what they said or were just lied strategically, they made a consequential move.

A year before Wise made his statement, a committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform organization Wise founded, stated: “Such attempts [to establish a Jewish state] infinitely harm our Jewish brethren where they are still persecuted [Russia and Romania, for example], by confirming the assertion of their enemies that the Jews are foreigners in the countries in which they are at home, and of which they are everywhere the most loyal and patriotic citizens.”

This point has been a staple of the anti-Zionist case ever since. It was so widely known that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which expressed official British approval of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, lamely tried to address it by stating that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” How’d that work out, Zionists?

When Zionists today cite Hitler’s attempted Judeocide as proof that the Zionist movement should have been listened to in 1897, one can reasonably ask, in light of what the anti-Zionists foresaw: is it unreasonable to view the horrors of 20th century as resembling a self-fulfilling prophecy? In other words, notwithstanding the tentativeness of counterfactual history, might things have been different had prominent and well-connected European Jews not adopted the anti-Semites’ smear that Jews were indeed parasitic aliens who could never belong to their societies and had instead joined forces with the world’s liberals to promote equal rights for all?

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