Politics

Liberty and Slavery

Liberty and Slavery

Among the common beliefs of libertarians, opposition to slavery is one of the least controversial. Yet, the moral argument against slavery is one of libertarian philosophy’s most enlightening topics. Considering the “why” of libertarian opposition to slavery is profoundly instructive. Libertarianism approaches the question of individual rights in a unique way. 

In my opinion, the cornerstone of libertarian philosophy lies with its answer to the is-ought dichotomy presented in David Hume’s skepticism. From the far right, idealism is an absolute that tramples upon those who are different. From the far left, anti-idealism destroys morality, community and tradition – leaving behind an unprincipled bureaucracy that tramples in the name of expediency and arbitrary intellectual fashions. The best course lies with a balance, where absolute idealism and subjectivity exist only in context with one another. This context can only be found within the individual mind.  Morality, therefore, is a product of individuals reconciling the rational and emotional within themselves, and then confronting the consequent social reality. Libertarianism proposes a social environment where personal morality is respected and reconciling the individual right to moral self-determination between people with different beliefs and ideas is the core principle of politics.

The reconciliation of is and ought was a project of the Scottish Enlightenment, in the school of Common Sense (Thomas Reid). This school was heavily influential among the French liberals who later influenced both Bastiat and eventually the Austrian school of economics. The Common Sense school also served as the intellectual and religious foundation of New England’s revolutionary liberty movement. 

The American revolution must be seen as an alliance between Virginia old England aristocrats, seeking to maintain ancient yeoman rights, and New English Christian anarchists who possessed a religious ideal of human liberty. The former felt that society’s rights were protected in its Anglo-Saxon traditions and were to be defended existing, enlightened aristocratic social structures. They conceived of the US Constitution’s form without perceiving a need for enumerated rights. The State was the political society – the tobacco lords and their custom of mutual political equality. Jefferson broadened the notion by conceiving of a yeoman farmer class related to a romanticized vision of England’s past and Virginia’s present. 

New England, on the other hand, saw individual rights as derivative of holy truths discerned by the heights of enlightenment and Christian thought. They demanded the Bill of Rights.

The school of Common Sense led to a short-lived tradition within British liberal Christianity which held that science and religion must, according to the nature of each, exist in perfect harmony. If science and religion stood in contradiction, it meant that the interpretation of evidence or scripture must somehow be flawed. Out of this thinking, the Common Sense school developed a sophisticated moral science with an extensive vocabulary describing a person’s moral duties in the context of unalienable rights given by God. As science and religion ultimately diverged in the late 19th century, this philosophy fell out of favor.

Common Sense philosophy and the moral ‘science’ of the so-called Christian Enlightenment should be more widely appreciated within libertarian community. The content of this ‘science’ applies to modern questions, so long as one possesses a key to interpret the religious concepts in secular terms. This isn’t very difficult to accomplish, since the Christian Enlightenment was already quite ameliorable to science.

The question of is-ought is simply a question of mind and soul. Reason and emotion. The answers of the Common Sense school are self-evidently superior, and the reason for its decline in popularity is clear.  The question of soul and mind is one philosophy grappled with, using great energy, for two hundred years before the question was finally swept aside by the great and terrible intellectual winds that accompanied imperialism.  Imperialism, the systemization of pure war, the categorization of all into a utilitarian, all-consuming whole; a system of mortal contest between powers, a race to the bottom, a fiendish quest to consume, destroy, repeat. This gave us the atomic bomb and the Holocaust, among other outcomes.

In contrast to 20th century’s outcomes, the spirit of 1776 was fueled by a philosophy of freedom. The people learned from New England preachers teaching of the unity of mind and soul within the individual, who stands as a moral self-sovereign. The importance of liberty was self-evident to them, as real as the green grass and God above.

The philosophical spirit of 1776 is the same spirit that abolished slavery. This does not refer to the American Civil War. While it’s true that the Civil War was fought in the context of slavery, it was a war over tariffs and power. Its concern with slavery was related to the treadmill of empire building, as a more efficient, modern version of empire overthrew an earlier less efficient system of slavery and exploitation. 

In this political environment, it was the moral philosophy of the anti-slavery movement which made ending slavery an absolute condition of the Empire’s progress. We can disdain empire, but we ought to respect the manner in which it was compelled to extend rights to freed slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation freed few slaves, as those areas under federal control were not subject to emancipation. It was the 13th Amendment which freed the slaves, and it was the moral stubbornness of the anti-slavery movement that mandated the necessity of the 13th Amendment.

Whether in the American anti-slavery movement, or in the efforts of William Wilberforce in the UK, it was the moral and philosophical foundation of the British Christian Enlightenment which made slavery morally and politically anathema. Never before in history had an absolute moral argument against slavery been made. Even the New Testament apostles didn’t condemn the practice utterly. The basic foundations of anti-slavery, democracy and human rights are found in the Christian Enlightenment of British Liberalism. 

Although the world today couldn’t care less about liberty, the so-called ‘liberal world order’, pretentious as it is, derives from the Christian Enlightenment. The moral science derived from Common Sense more or less conquered the world. While Locke might speak of civil and property rights, John Stuart Mill of personal liberty, it is Common Sense that speaks of the moral worth and essential spiritual equality of man. 

William Ellery Channing was a New England preacher from the early 19th century. He was a Unitarian, and was trained in the moral science of the Common Sense school of philosophy – the staple teaching at Harvard University before the arrival of continental (Prussian) influence. He was the key figure of his movement in the age just prior to Unitarianism’s digression into bizarre Transcendentalism. He took the moral science of the Common Sense school and the liberal interpretation of Christianity to their absolute heights. Naturally, he had things to say about slavery.

Channing’s thoughts about slavery, penned somewhat early than any major political tensions emerged surrounding the issue (outside of Massachusetts high society), were recorded in a sermon treatise released in 1833 simply titled, Slavery.

Channing’s argument against the practice of slavery invokes some of the core principles of his moral philosophy. I will review what he wrote and relate it to modern day society. Although the subject is slavery, which is non-controversially bad, the arguments against it serve to defend against modern day political ideas which are sometimes quite popular. By understanding the moral argument against slavery which was used by Common Sense school philosophers, one can have a deeper comprehension of the philosophy of individual rights.

Lofty and Pure Sentiment

As Channing begins his treatise on slavery, he frames the core belief behind his argument: the central importance of human morality, it being derivative of a power greater than any which can be constructed by man.

There is but one unfailing good; and that is, fidelity to the Everlasting Law written on the heart, and rewritten and republished in God’s Word.

Whoever places this faith in the everlasting law of rectitude must of course regard the question of slavery first and chiefly as a moral question.

There are times when the assertion of great principles is the best service a man can render society.

A community can suffer no greater calamity than the loss of its principles. Lofty and pure sentiment is the life and hope of a people.

Such ought to remember that to espouse a good cause is not enough. We must maintain it in a spirit answering to its dignity.

Although the introductory portion of Channing’s argument invokes religion, the philosophical point he hopes to convey is central to his entire critique of slavery. His religious belief equates that which is written on the heart to that which is recorded in religious scripture. In Unitarian moral philosophy, the conscience is the center of all moral decision making. The conscience represents the union of rational thought with sentiment. It combines the oughts of life – our desire for happiness – with the logically deduced principles and rights which support happiness. Devotion to morality, or “the Everlasting Law,” is nothing more or less than a principled commitment to the rational pursuit of that which motivates us as individuals, including that which we have in common between us as human beings.

Channing claims that a community can suffer no greater, “…calamity…,” than the loss of its principles. Later in his sermon, he exalts the moral worth of a society above its material and economic worth. He argues that wealth serves a higher cause, and that it has no inherent value beyond the cause which it serves. While for some the cause of life might pertain to a higher supernatural plane, in Channing’s moral science the principles and aspirational sentiments associated with what we call heaven can be expressed and achieved also on Earth (not meaning to build heaven on Earth, but to strive to be nearer to worthiness of heaven while on Earth). This comports to an easy secular interpretation.

Life’s value is ineffable. We can’t scientific prove why it matters or not. However, most of us place value on living life. We aspire and experience longing. Though the object of our longing differs in form from person to person, the essence of longing is the same. We live life in search of something which is valuable to of us. That thing, that value, and the longing for it in the form of sentiment, represent the lofty and pure heights to which we aspire. Channing’s moral argument is that if a society cannot resolve to devote itself with clear mind and conscience to whatever it is we long for, then our life is a waste.

Only societies which prioritize moral principles as bedrock values will be worthy of obtaining the object of their longing. By stating this, Channing sets out stakes. If slavery cannot be considered moral, it cannot be permitted by a society which hopes to thrive.

Why Humans Can’t Be Property

Channing’s first substantive topic is about property. Here he argues that a human cannot be property. He presents the notion as a fallacy, reviewing many reasons why the concept of ownership of humans is morally and logically incorrect.

His first argument proposes that slavery depends upon a contradictory principle, relying on a notion of inequality which is not present in the Lockean philosophy of property rights.

It is plain, that, if one man may be held as property, then every other man may be so held.

If there be nothing in human nature, in our common nature, which excludes and forbids the conversion of him who possesses it into an article of property; if the right of the free to liberty is founded, not on their essential attributes as rational and moral beings, but on certain adventitious, accidental circumstances, into which they have been thrown; then every human being, by a change of circumstances, may justly be held and treated by another as property.

The consciousness of indestructible rights is a part of our moral being. The consciousness of our humanity involves the persuasion, that we cannot be owned as a tree or a brute. As men we cannot justly be made slaves. Then no man can be rightfully enslaved.”

This argument applies especially to Americans, who had in living memory defended their natural rights against a tyrant (the treatise was written in 1833). The American assertion to liberty invalidates the logic of slavery. If some men can be enslaved, then any man could be; in an environment that permits slavery, American claims to liberty and rights are invalid.

The natural rights associated with American liberty come from the philosophies of British Liberalism, which has all but died out among governments and academics and is dying out among Western professional organizations. However, the formal world order is ironically grounded in these same principles as the foundation of the premise of universal human rights. 

The flaw of modern political trends lies with their overreliance on experts wielding power, which contradicts the premise of universal human rights. Any technocratic order which seeks to deny rights to people via removing their privacy, taxing them without recourse, denying them the right to self-defense and so forth, must nevertheless be led by a class of experts. Human rights, in this environment, must be gifted by the experts. The clear implication is that human rights can be modified if the experts deem it necessary. 

The depravities of communist regimes give plentiful examples of the principle of conditional rights. If American society will go towards a direction where more and more elements of society are managed by technical experts, then it must do so while preserving individual self-determination. If experts aren’t managing at the pleasure of the managed, then human rights can’t exist. Human rights assume a fundamental moral equality between humans, and the concept of expert rule flies in the face of that assumption.

Channing’s next argument references rights. It is a bit archaic. In Southern slavery, slaves were considered nevertheless to be men who held rights. For instance, it was illegal to murder slaves. Channing takes for granted that his audience has already conceded some rights to slaves.

A man cannot be seized and held as property, because he has Rights.

Now, I say a being having rights cannot justly be made property; for this claim over him virtually annuls all his rights. It strips him of all power to assert them. It makes it a crime to assert them. The very essence of slavery is, to put a man defenceless into the hands of another. The right claimed by the master, to task, to force, to imprison, to whip, and to punish the slave, at discretion, and especially to prevent the least resistance to his will, is a virtual denial and subversion of all the rights of the victim of his power.

This argument is more profound than it first appears. Generalized, the argument says that if some rights are possessed by a man, then he must possess all the rights which are natural to all men. Later, Channing discusses rights in greater detail, devoting an entire chapter to them. He includes a deeper discussion of where rights come from. Suffice it to say that rights are purposeful. Rights are not entitlements, being only a stronger version of privileges. In Channing’s moral worldview, rights are instruments or tools which pertain to the purpose of man’s being. Rights exist to provide man a means to carry out that purpose. If one ounce of that purpose is acknowledged, if any means to accomplish that purpose are permitted, then one must permit them all, or else invalidate the both the man’s purpose and existence.

If a man doesn’t exist to fulfill his own happiness within his means, then his life is null. To enslave a man is to murder a man, from the perspective of the moral guilt of the perpetrator. It is to deem the fulfillment of happiness of one person to be irrelevant, while simultaneously pursuing one’s own fulfillment of happiness. It is a moral contradiction that can only persist in an environment of unmoderated lusts and unlimited violence. While slavery in its heyday purported to be within a moral framework, the abundant rape and violence committed by slavers against slaves, without punishment, is proof of the harms stemming from slavery’s contradiction of moral principles.

The principle of moral consistency supports the notion of the equality of man. There is no scientific proof that life matters. Consequently, the value of life exists only as a subjective assertion on the part of any individual human. Logically, morally and legally, the assertion of life’s value from one man to the next is inherently equal. Human inequality cannot be supported morally, and systems that assert moral inequality can only be sustained through perpetual violence.

Channing explains why even outward differences between men, in ability and birth, do not abolish the fundamental moral equality of men.

Another argument against property is to be found in the Essential Equality of men.

All men have the same rational nature, and the same power of conscience, and all are equally made for indefinite improvement of these divine faculties, and for the happiness to be found in their virtuous use. Who, that comprehends these gifts, does not see that the diversities of the race vanish before them? Let it be added, that the natural advantages, which distinguish one man from another, are so bestowed as to counterbalance one another, and bestowed without regard to rank or condition in life. Whoever surpasses in one endowment is inferior in others. Even genius, the greatest gift, is found in union with strange infirmities, and often places its possessors below ordinary men in the conduct of life. Great learning is often put to shame by the mother-wit and keen good sense of uneducated men. Nature, indeed, pays no heed to birth or condition in bestowing her favors. The noblest spirits sometimes grow up in the obscurest spheres. Thus equal are men; and among these equals, who can substantiate his claim to make others his property, his tools, the mere instruments of his private interest and gratification? Let this claim begin, and where will it stop? If one may assert it, why not all?

Who of us has no superior in one or the other of these endowments: Is it sure that the slave or the slave’s child may not surpass his master in intellectual energy or in moral worth? Has nature conferred distinctions which tell us plainly, who shall be owner? and who be owned? Who of us can unblushingly lift his head and say that God has written ‘Master’ there? or who can show the word ‘Slave’ engraven on his brother’s brow?”

The equality of man, taken together with Channing’s point about rights, proves that government must serve at the mercy of the people. Government cannot legitimately defend a vision of society that it synthetically imposes upon that same society. The progressive notion of shaping society in a better direction (coercively) is immoral. It establishes an inequality, where one class of intellectual superiors arbitrarily designates those with whom they disagree as lesser, who only exist to serve the aspirations of their betters. Even when the aspirations of the betters purportedly include the betterment of the lessers, the principle still holds. 

One may not keep a man in slavery simply because one asserts it is for the slave’s own good. Likewise, a coercive progressive state has no right to impose whichever intellectual fashion of the age upon the masses. This notion is morally indefensible, and again the progressive state truly realized will always collapse into violence and tyranny.

The foibles of the ‘uneducated’ must be tolerated by a moral society. They have a moral right to their ignorance. The harm that ignorance causes to society must be addressed in non-coercive ways. The experts also, from the perspective of the future, are themselves perfectly ignorant. There is no moral proof that the latter may rule over the former. We are all striving to do our best, and all of us are failing, though some of us may be ahead of others. Mutual betterment can only occur cooperatively.

Persuasion, rights-respecting boundaries and assertion of rights all serve as tools with which the more enlightened can interact with the less endowed. Both parties have rights, and within the scope of those rights, both are free to act how they choose.

Channing’s next argument relates to the theory of property itself.

That a human being cannot be justly held and used as property is apparent from the very nature of property. Property is an exclusive, single right. It shuts out all claim but that of the possessor, What one man owns cannot belong to another. What, then, is the consequence of holding a human being as property? Plainly this. He can have no right to himself. His limbs are, in truth, not morally his own. He has not a right to his own strength. It belongs to another. His will, intellect, and muscles, all the powers of body and mind which are exercised in labor, he is bound to regard as another’s. Now, if there be property in any thing, it is that of a man in his own person, mind, and strength. All other rights are weak, unmeaning, compared with this, and in denying this all right is denied.

This argument speaks for itself in a straightforward manner. A man and his body already belong to himself, his very birth the act of homesteading. No system which respects property rights can infringe upon this self-ownership and be taken seriously.

Even so, Channing exposits the principle beautiful. In his explanation, there are foreshadowed hints of Ayn Rand’s better angels, among parallels to the ideas of libertarian property theorists. Channing’s argument, though, adds a moral dimension. Property exists to serve man’s moral purpose, which is higher than his economic purpose. His moral purpose is the ultimate aim of his life as he sees it, the purpose for which he lives. By placing economic rights into the greater moral context, Channing shows that the greater right – moral self-determination – trumps any property right.  Property in context only serves moral purpose.

Contextualizing property rights within moral self-determination represents an interesting argument that is not usually discussed in libertarian philosophy. Most property theory derives from the pure logic which results from examining a conflict situation. Property is simply the outcome of applying logic consistently to the nature economic behavior and conflict resolution. We must take an extra step, however, to ask why we care about pure logic. It’s true, the answers come easy: we want a peaceful, orderly society, among other arguments. Still, Channing’s answer is also very compelling.

Channing presents economic activity – what Austrian Economics calls human action – as an outcome of moral purpose. Channing presumes a longing – an ineffable ought – behind human action. The Austrians are somewhat ambivalent here. They admit that there must be some force behind human action, plainly acknowledge it, but they are neutral about what it must be. Channing’s worldview is at least substantively neutral. We are permitted to long for what we choose to long for. Yet, Channing introduces his own sentiments, assuming that there is some common feeling which can be observed as common between people. It is a sense of universal love and aspiration towards personal betterment. Regardless, even he would admit that he himself only wishes for this to be the outcome of society. It was his aspiration to establish a common sense of universal love in the human heart. His pursuit of this aim was through persuasion, not force.

Irrespective of the object of human longing, the presence of a greater, moral impetus behind human action slightly modifies libertarian thought. We can’t just take human purpose for granted and evaluate human action neutrally. Instead, we can observe the consequences of human action, and evaluate whether these consequences are consistent with whatever moral purposes were behind the action. It is a more holistic approach. 

In politics and law, we establish systems to achieve ends. Political thought is rife with discussions of means and ends. However, rarely do we hear about motives. Channing’s worldview focuses first and last on motive, not neglecting means or ends.

Isn’t the slave motivated by the same feelings as the slave master? Do not both aspire to personal happiness as they see fit?

In libertarianism, our belief in freedom of the markets, in combination with the materialistic emphasis of our focus on rational thought, cause most of us to place great weight on the value of material wealth. We shouldn’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that it is material well-being which primarily motivates us as libertarians. 

The values which motivate us as libertarians – or ought to: the commitment to moral self-determination – are why we support free markets and rational thought. The importance of wealth is derivative of economic freedom and reason. 

If wealth must conflict with permitting moral self-determination, we must remain true to our principles. Moral freedom trumps. This is true for an obviously controversial practice such as slavery, but also true for subtler practices. Perhaps there are times when the landlords’ rights might not always trump the squatters’, or at least times when the landlord might discover a heart full of charity.

Libertarianism is odd among economic philosophies in that it values the principle of wealth more than wealth itself. Certainly, this attitude does always not contribute well to the movement’s influence in society.

Slavery in antebellum America existed in a context where the slave trade was considered immoral and abhorrent. There were self-serving reasons why the Southern slavers banned new slave imports (it increased the value of domestic slaves). Even so, the official moral position of the slaver society was that the creation of new slaves was illegal and immoral. Many defenders of slavery insisted that theirs was an inherited, unwanted stewardship over a lesser, unruly people. Even those who saw Africans as essentially equal to Europeans still concluded that the conditions of being raised in slavery would prevent a population from safely integrating into the American system of personal liberty. The slavers argued that they were ultimately guilty of no crime, and the only guilt lay with the original perpetrators who first engaged in the slave trade. Channing addresses this argument.

We have a plain recognition of the principle now laid down, in the universal indignation excited towards a man who makes another his slave. Our laws know no higher crime than that of reducing a man to slavery. To steal or to buy an African on his own shores is piracy. In this act the greatest wrong is inflicted, the most sacred right violated. But if a human being cannot without infinite injustice be seized as property, then he cannot without equal wrong be held and used as such. The wrong in the first seizure lies in the destination of a human being to future bondage, to the criminal use of him as a chattel or brute. Can that very use, which makes the original seizure an enormous wrong, become gradually innocent?

The principle of moral philosophy espoused above deals with chains of guilt. It is an anti-conservative argument. If a situation derives from a crime, some restitution of the original crime, in proportion to that crime, must be undertaken.

In my opinion, calls for federal cash to be doled out as slavery reparations is absurd. However, a more aggressive level of social assistance to impoverished black communities is morally appropriate. From a moral point of view, American society was guilty of coercively immigrating black slaves, then perpetually reaffirming the minority status of their descendants on the basis of skin tone. That deserves a moral redress. It should occur or should have occurred in the form of more engagement. The current strategy for reconciling cultural differences within America takes the form of welfare checks and long-term prison internment, along with various forms of discrimination, nasty and subtle, combined with probably ineffectual academic support.

Much can and should be said about academic affirmative action. The political state of academia is miserable. Affirmative action in education is meant to improve the socio-economic conditions of an underserved community. Instead, young minority students have their resentments intellectually entrenched, while they receive expensive training that is unlikely to improve their future economic condition.

The majority community in America fails both to show mercy and penance adequately, while simultaneously lacking the ability to be tough. Persistent racism clashes with overly agreeable idealistic denial of endogenous problems facing minority communities. Even so, Channing’s appraisal of slavery’s moral status provides us with a moral solution this conundrum.

Morally, most of the problems within black communities have to be solved by black communities. However, it is appropriate to argue that it is impossible to morally disentangle black endogenous guilt from the moral history of the majority community which effectively created the condition of black society within America. It might be easy to say that enough time has passed, that it is now appropriate to leave the black community to solve its own challenges. Yet, the creation of black American society itself is the product of never addressed moral guilt. If immorality was ignored in the past, it cannot also be ignored in the future. Irrespective of the policy questions, the majority culture in America has a special moral obligation to not turn a blind eye to minority struggles.

Generalized, libertarians should not invoke individual rights as a moral absolution of the responsibility to be concerned with the condition of other people. We may not legally owe money or property to redress past social injustices, however, we do owe our concern and effort to help other humans. The spirit of charity should be morally inherent in libertarian philosophy. The reason is simply that justice is imperfect. While we would never go as far as John Rawls does, demanding legal institution of perfect justice, we can acknowledge that history and life are full of messy moral guilt. Therefore, in general, it is good to be charitable to one another. Rawls is partly correct.

The reason why Rawls is wrong lies embedded in Channing’s logic. Past guilt must be redressed in proportion. If modern day practices are just, and we argue that the injustice of past circumstances is the cause for reparations, then we can just as easily argue the reverse. Some portion of past actions may indeed have been perfectly just, and so the existence of some past injustices should not be license for present injustice. Rawls’ logic supports the morality of a general spirit of voluntary charity, as an important personal principle. It doesn’t support coercive reparations.

To reiterate, coercive charity is against libertarian principles, but a spirit of charity as a personal moral impetus ought to be a fundamental aspect of libertarian morality. Again, the reason is that the past is far too messy for anyone to make any absolute claims about justice. There will have been injustices, and will continue to be injustices, and that proposes a moral obligation on all members of society to do what they can to redress what they can.

Rights

Another argument against the right of property in man may be drawn from a very obvious principle of moral science. It is a plain truth, universally received, that every right supposes or involves a corresponding Obligation. If, then, a man has a right to another’s person or powers, the latter is under obligation to give himself up as a chattel to the former. This is his Duty.

He is bound to be a slave; … because another has a right of Ownership, has a Moral claim to him, so that he would be guilty of dishonesty, of robbery, in withdrawing himself from this other’s service. … Ought he not, if he can, to place himself and his family under the guardianship of equal laws? Should we blame him for leaving his yoke? Do we not feel, that, in the same condition, a sense of duty would quicken our flying steps? Where, then, is the obligation which would necessarily be imposed, if the right existed which the master claims? The absence of obligation proves the want of the right. The claim is groundless. It is a cruel wrong.”

If a man must be whipped and chained so that he remains a slave, doing what his master commands, then one cannot say that these commands represent the slave’s duty. The way Common Sense philosophy conceives of duty, it is intrinsic and related to rights as a natural foil. If people possess rights themselves, then intrinsically they have an attendant duty to respect the rights of others. 

In libertarian philosophy we focus on that which is coercive. If so-called duty has to be enforced through coercion, then rights can’t exist. In short, no government can claim a moral right to tell anyone what their purpose is, or what they must do to be happy. Progressives claim a moral high ground, believing expert-run government to have a moral impetus to improve society. The unspoken implication is that humans must, by way of moral duty, support and sustain the government’s efforts to create the common good. However, if government doesn’t respect the moral self-determination of its citizens, then citizens have no conceivable obligation to sustain the moral authority of the government. It’s a matter of simply consistency and equality.

Channing, in a later chapter on rights, dismantles the government’s pretense at moral authority. Specifically, he discusses whether claims at improving the common good can supplant rights.

Rights are made to depend on circumstances, so that pretences may easily be made or created for violating them successively, till none shall remain. Human rights have been represented as so modified and circumscribed by men’s entrance into the social state, that only the shadows of them are left. They have been spoken of as absorbed in the public good; so that a man may be innocently enslaved, if the public good shall so require.

Still the question will be asked, ‘Is not the General Good the supreme law of the state? Are not all restraints on the individual just, which this demands? When the rights of the individual clash with this, must they not yield? Do they not, indeed, cease to be rights? Must not every thing give place to the General Good?’ I have started this question in various forms, because I deem it worthy of particular examination. Public and private morality, the freedom and safety of our national institutions, are greatly concerned in settling the claims of the ‘General Good.’ In monarchies, the Divine Right of kings swallowed up all others. In republics the General Good threatens the same evil.

What, then, are the consequences of making the building of the “General Good” the supreme law of the land?

It is a shelter for the abuses and usurpations of government, for the profligacies of statesmen, for the vices of parties, for the wrongs of slavery. In considering this subject, I take the hazard of repeating principles already laid down; but this will be justified by the importance of reaching and determining the truth. Is the General Good, then, the supreme law to which every thing must bow?

Yet, if the common good is not to be the supreme aim of the state, what ought to be?

The supreme law of a state is not its safety, its power, its prosperity, its affluence, the flourishing state of agriculture, commerce, and the arts. These objects, constituting what is commonly called the Public Good, are, indeed, proposed, and ought to be proposed, in the constitution and administration of states. But there is a higher law, even Virtue, Rectitude, the Voice of Conscience, the Will of God. Justice is a greater good than property, not greater in degree, but in kind. Universal benevolence is infinitely superior to prosperity. Religion, the love of God, is worth incomparably more than all his outward gifts. A community, to secure or aggrandize itself, must never forsake the Right, the Holy, the Just.

Moral Good, Rectitude in all its branches, is the Supreme Good; by which I do not intend that it is the surest means to the security and prosperity of the state. Such, indeed, it is, but this is too low a view. It must not be looked upon as a Means, an Instrument. It is the Supreme End, and states are bound to subject to it all their legislation, be the apparent loss of prosperity ever so great.

Channing boldly asserts what might be called the deontological argument over the consequentalist view of libertarianism. Yet, I believe he transcends the debate. By framing morality as an end, not a means, naturally Channing’s view opposed consequentialism. Yet, in Channing’s perspective moral rectitude is almost an economic product. It is not material, and yet, it is the outcome of a life dedicated to laboring for self-improvement. A society must labor, through education, endurance, mutual support and amidst material activity, to uphold moral principles. In this light, his argument is partly consequentialist. Since morals are the desired product and outcome of society, then moral consistency is the means to produce them. Moral rectitude is a consequence of moral self-improvement. 

This argument may appear pedantic, even tautological to committed philosophical skeptics. Even so, the aim of Common Sense philosophy is to harmonize is and ought and consider them together. Morality is not merely perfecting our obedience to an arbitrary set of rules, to Common Sense thinkers, morality is harmonizing natural laws with inborne desires, and self-derived aspirations. Morality is inclusive of material ends, contextualizing them with human motives that inspire, incentivize and produce material ends.

If we exalt morality as the great End of human action, we are merely exalting our motivation for pursuing material ends along with the ends themselves.

My questions for all communists who wish to build heaven on Earth is: and then what, for what purpose, and, how do you know? The same can be said concerning the frailty of the consequentialist position.

Channing continues his discussion of society’s purpose and why the state’s infringement of rights cannot be justified by appeals to the common good. He addresses the idea of the state using its power to support national economic well-being.

“National wealth is not the End. It derives all its worth from national virtue. If accumulated by rapacity, conquest, or any degrading means, or if concentrated in the hands of the few, whom it strengthens to crush the many, it is a curse. National wealth is a blessing, only when it springs from and represents the intelligence and virtue of the community, when it is a fruit and expression of good habits, of respect for the rights of all, of impartial and beneficent legislation, when it gives impulse to the higher faculties, and occasion and incitement to justice and beneficence. No greater calamity can befall a people than to prosper by crime. No success can be a compensation for the wound inflicted on a nation’s mind by renouncing Right as its Supreme Law.”

It is interesting that Channing’s frame of the moral background to national wealth so closely refers to early 21st century economic malaise in America. Wealth which has accumulated contrary to the virtue of the nation, via empire, exploitation and greed, leads to negative outcomes. In other words, exploitative systems are fragile, unsustainable, and only benefit a few. So-called virtuous wealth is gained when a system is anti-fragile. Channing correlates his notion of virtuous wealth to a well-developed level of human capital, balanced institutions, a healthy distribution of wealth, and so forth. Even a consequentialist or a minarchist libertarian would agree that de-centralized economies with strong human capital are more likely to produce a better standard of living.

In Common Sense morality, virtue and consequence are harmonious concepts. That which is good is that which is natural and vice versa. Channing doesn’t propose a list of arbitrary moral precepts which must be followed. His morality requires that moral precepts must be continually adjusted to remain in harmony with natural consequences. Morality is the great End, but it is meant as a product of what is naturally right, and should contribute to what is naturally good.

After discussing the importance of putting morals before money, Channing discusses the dangers of doing the opposite. In doing so, he offers a stunning rebuke of policy wonkery and state economic intervention – over a century before public choice theory, and a half-century before laissez-faire economic theory.

Let a people exalt Prosperity above Rectitude, and a more dangerous end cannot be proposed. Public Prosperity, General Good, regarded by itself, or apart from the moral law, is something vague, unsettled, and uncertain, and will infallibly be so construed by the selfish and grasping as to secure their own aggrandizement. It may be made to wear a thousand forms according to men’s interests and passions. This is illustrated by every day’s history. Not a party springs up, which does not sanctify all its projects for monopolizing power by the plea of General Good. Not a measure, however ruinous, can be proposed, which cannot be shown to favor one or another national interest. The truth is, that, in the uncertainty of human affairs, an uncertainty growing out of the infinite and very subtile causes which are acting on communities, the consequences of no measure can be foretold with certainty. The best concerted schemes of policy often fail; whilst a rash and profligate administration may, by unexpected concurrences of events, seem to advance a nation’s glory. In regard to the means of national prosperity the wisest are weak judges. For example, the present rapid growth of this country, carrying, as it does, vast multitudes beyond the institutions of religion and education, may be working ruin, whilst the people exult in it as a pledge of greatness. We are too short-sighted to find our law in outward interests. To states, as to individuals, Rectitude is the Supreme Law. It was never designed that the Public Good, as disjoined from this, as distinct from justice and reverence for all rights, should be comprehended and made our end. Statesmen work in the dark, until the idea of Right towers above expediency or wealth. Wo to that people which would found its prosperity in wrong! It is time that the low maxims of policy, which have ruled for ages, should fall. It is time that Public Interest should no longer hallow injustice, and fortify government in making the weak their prey.

In summary, Channing says that people are stupid and planners never get it right. To base a government off of planning for the public good is to see plans fail, and in this vacuum, special interest assert itself. For this reason, governments are only really equipped to protect rights, and let the people use them to create the common good on their own. For Channing, morality is that which is common and clear.

What about pragmatism?

Perhaps it will be replied to all which has now been said, that there is an argument from experience, which invalidates the doctrines of this section. It may be said, that human rights, notwithstanding what has been said of their sacredness, do and must yield to the exigencies of real life, that there is often a stern necessity in human affairs to which they bow. [During a crisis] All rights are involved in the safety of the state; and hence, in the cases referred to, the safety of the state becomes the supreme law.”

If rights are conceded to the state, then the state’s self-preservation and self-serving interest are made supreme. If a crisis becomes too big for society to solve, it’s unlikely the state itself – with its coercive power – would be any better at solving it. When civil society faces a crisis, it seeks to save itself. If it fails to do so, it may turn to the state. However, the state would react in the same way – it will act to save itself. The state will not save civil society, if civil society itself gives up.

After his discussion of property, including how rights relate to humans-as-property, Channing devotes an entire chapter to rights themselves. This section is the most instructive of his treatise.

First, Channing defines rights as intrinsic to man’s nature as a moral being. As previously discussed, rights are not meant to be thought of as entitlements, but rather as instruments or abilities. He connects rights and duties as unified, co-dependent concepts. A basic conception of general rights can be used to deduce specific rights.

Man’s rights belong to him as a Moral Being, as capable of perceiving moral distinctions, as a subject of moral obligation. As soon as he becomes conscious of Duty, a kindred consciousness springs up, that he has a Right to do what the sense of duty enjoins, and that no foreign will or power can obstruct his moral action without crime.

The sense of duty is the fountain of human rights. In other words, the same inward principle, which teaches the former, bears witness to the latter. Duties and Rights must stand or fall together. It has been too common to oppose them to one another; but they are indissolubly joined together. That same inward principle, which teaches a man what he is bound to do to others, teaches equally, and at the same instant, what others are bound to do to him. That same voice, which forbids him to injure a single fellow-creature, forbids every fellow-creature to do him harm. His conscience, in revealing the moral law, does not reveal a law for himself only, but speaks as a Universal Legislator. He has an intuitive conviction, that the obligations of this divine code press on others as truly as on himself. … Accordingly there is no deeper principle in human nature than the consciousness of rights. So profound, so ineradicable is this sentiment, that the oppressions of ages have no where wholly stifled it.”

I have always felt that individualism is less selfish than collectivism. Individualism is not egoism. It, instead, perceives humans in general as having an individual existence. The implications of individualism to the self pertain also to all other human beings. An individualist who demands certain rights would also intrinsically accede those same rights to all others. Collectivists on the other hand, are quick to harm and hurt individuals in the name of a common good. The collective good is meant to benefit individuals, and yet, great harm to individuals is a frequent product of efforts to establish the collective good. Anecdotally, collectivist societies tend to be more superficial and face oriented. Charity is a phenomenon that applies when others are looking. Individualist societies tend to express charity even when no one is watching.

 

What are our rights? Channing offers an answer.

Volumes could not do justice to them; and yet perhaps they may be comprehended in one sentence. They may all be comprised in the Right, which belongs to every rational being, to exercise his powers for the promotion of his own and others’ Happiness and Virtue. As every human being is bound to employ his faculties for his own and others’ good, there is an obligation on each to leave all free for the accomplishment of this end; and whoever respects this obligation, whoever uses his own, without invading others’ powers, or obstructing others’ duties, has a sacred, indefeasible right to be unassailed, unobstructed, unharmed by all with whom he may be connected. Here is the grand, all-comprehending right of human nature. Every man should revere it, should assert it for himself and for all, and should bear solemn testimony against every infraction of it, by whomsoever made or endured.

Rights are related to the non-aggression principle. As stated at the beginning of this article, the value of human life is a product of an individual subjective assertion. Logically, all subjective assertion is equal, and so the value of all human life must also be equal. Our own promotion of our own and others’ happiness is a choice that is equally valid between all humans, thus we have a right to it, and also a duty to honor others’ right to it.

Channing also explains how this principle can lead to the derivation of specific rights, concluding with a condemnation of slavery for violating them.

Having considered the great fundamental right of human nature, particular rights may easily be deduced. Every man has a right to exercise and invigorate his intellect or the power of knowledge, for knowledge is the essential condition of successful effort for every good; and whoever obstructs or quenches the intellectual life in another inflicts a grievous and irreparable wrong. Every man has a right to inquire into his duty, and to conform himself to what he learns of it. Every man has a right to use the means, given by God and sanctioned by virtue, for bettering his condition. He has a right to be respected according to his moral worth; a right to be regarded as a member of the community to which he belongs, and to be protected by impartial laws; and a right to be exempted from coercion, stripes, and punishment, as long as he respects the rights of others. He has a right to an equivalent for his labor. He has a right to sustain domestic relations, to discharge their duties, and to enjoy the happiness which flows from fidelity in these and other domestic relations. Such are a few of human rights; and if so, what a grievous wrong is slavery!

A government or system which does not leave man free to pursue his own happiness has no moral justification. Moreover, not only must man be free, but specifically he must be permitted broad and particular freedoms which relate directly to that pursuit. The implication of freedom to pursue own’s own happiness is a set of uncountable shackles on government.

Channing describes the ideal government.

That government is most perfect, in which Policy is most entirely subjected to Justice, or in which the supreme and constant aim is to secure the rights of every human being. This is the beautiful idea of a free government, and no government is free but in proportion as it realizes this. Liberty must not be confounded with popular institutions. A representative government may be as despotic as an absolute monarchy. In as far as it tramples on the rights, whether of many or one, it is a despotism. The sovereign power, whether wielded by a single hand or several hands, by a king or a congress, which spoils one human being of the immunities and privileges bestowed on him by God, is so far a tyranny.

Democracy is not inherently good, and Channing explains why representative government even matters at all from the perspective of liberty – something American liberty lovers, and liberty lovers around the world ought not forget.

The great argument in favor of representative institutions is, that a people’s rights are safest in their own hands, and should never be surrendered to an irresponsible power. Rights, Rights, lie at the foundation of a popular government; and when this betrays them, the wrong is more aggravated than when they are crushed by despotism.”

If a people lose the ability to withdraw consent from a governmental system, then that system is not consistent with liberty. The degree to which a government relies on voluntary consent rather than coercion, is the degree to which it is consistent with liberty. Wherever one stands on the spectrum of support for state power, this principle is true. A government can always be either more free or less free than it presently is simply by becoming less or more coercive in achieving its ends.

Conclusion

Channing concludes with his most powerful argument against the holding of men as property. He assumes, as always, the equality of men in determining for themselves what is right. However, he also injects his own aspirational hopes for how men should use their moral agency, as part of his subjective interpretation of what men are by nature. In contrast to modern day progressive politics, Channing’s desire for society to improve is based on hopeful aspiration combined with persuasion, through appealing to a common hope in equally morally sovereign fellow human beings. By emphasizing the moral sovereignty of human beings – himself counted among them – he obliterates any possible argument that defends slavery.

I come now to what is to my own mind the great argument against seizing and using a man as property. He cannot be property in the sight of God and justice, because he is a Rational, Moral, Immortal Being; because [he is] created in God’s image, and therefore in the highest sense his child; because created to unfold Godlike faculties, and to govern himself by a Divine Law written on his heart, and republished in God’s Word.

Into every human being God has breathed an immortal spirit more precious than the whole outward creation. No earthly or celestial language can exaggerate the worth of a human being. No matter how obscure his condition. Thought, Reason, Conscience, the capacity of Virtue, the capacity of Christian Love, an Immortal Destiny, an intimate moral connexion with God,—here are attributes of our common humanity which reduce to insignificance all outward distinctions, and make every human being unspeakably dear to his Maker.

The capacity of Improvement allies him to the more instructed of his race, and places within his reach the knowledge and happiness of higher worlds. Every human being has in him the germ of the greatest Idea in the universe, the Idea of God; and to unfold this is the end of his existence. Every human being has in his breast the elements of that Divine, Everlasting Law, which the highest orders of the creation obey. He has the Idea of Duty; and to unfold, revere, obey this is the very purpose for which life was given. Every human being has the Idea of what is meant by that word, Truth; that is, he sees, however dimly, the great object of Divine and created intelligence, and is capable of ever-enlarging perceptions of Truth. Every human being has affections, which may be purified and expanded into a Sublime Love. He has, too, the Idea of Happiness, and a thirst for it which cannot be appeased. Such is our nature. Wherever we see a man, we see the possessor of these great capacities. Did God make such a being to be owned as a tree or a brute? How plainly was he made to exercise, unfold, improve his highest powers, made for a moral, spiritual good! and how is he wronged, and his Creator opposed, when he is forced and broken into a tool to another’s physical enjoyment!

Such a being was plainly made for an End in Himself. He is a Person, not a Thing. He is an End, not a mere Instrument or Means. He was made for his own virtue and happiness. Is this end reconcilable with his being held and used as a chattel? The sacrifice of such a being to another’s will, to another’s present, outward, ill-comprehended good, is the greatest violence which can be offered to any creature of God. It is to degrade him from his rank in the universe, to make him a means, not an end, to cast him out from God’s spiritual family into the brutal herd.”

Channing exalts man’s consciousness of morality and hope, invoking what in my opinion is actually a double-edged sword of moral consciousness. A tree or rock has no happiness, no sense of purpose, no agency and consequently no rights. There is no inherent moral crime in chopping a tree or smashing a rock, nor do either protest. Humans, on the other hand, are quite upset when their lives are threatened, and tend to act aggressively to protect their own existence. Humans perceive a meaning to life, and the possibility of happiness. Nevertheless, the human desire to live and the human sense of happiness only exist within the human mind as a subjective assertion, and only matter because human will self-asserts the importance of human life. Take away the subjective human agent, and human life has no meaning. In other words, human life is meaningless until humans assert life’s meaning.

Philosophically, asserting meaning for life when that meaning is found only from within (and not out in nature), is an act of creation. In this sense, even a secular mind can appreciate the metaphor that man is in God’s image. Human action itself is an assertion of meaning, the creation of meaning – taking internal truth and attempting to externalize it. Human action is therefore sacred. 

If human action is not sacred, then nothing on Earth can be sacred. Therefore, to take a man who is capable of divine action – the conception and pursuit of meaning – and deny him his own path to that meaning is a nullification of meaning itself. To say that a man cannot create meaning, is to admit that you yourself must also not be so able. To say that man creates meaning, but to deny him that right, is ugly sin.

The deeply religious should understand the meaning of man being in God’s image. Nature – creation – was born and will die, it is temporal, dust, and must fade. The goal of the religious is to seek both eternal life and union with God’s presence, and this goal is nothing short of aspiring to higher meaning that transcends that which is temporal or arbitrary. In philosophy, it is simply a quest to justify the idea that life is at least something more that totally meaningless.

Channing’s emphasis on religious, lofty sentiments is appropriate to his task. In arguing against slavery, he saves his best argument for last. Channing connects the lowest aspects of human nature to its highest. He proves that the conditions which might justify moral coercion cannot exist. Though many humans are brutish, ignorant, low and so forth, they possess a spark of awareness that objects and creatures do not. 

Humans perceive meaning to life and seek out the fulfillment of life’s purpose. This connects them automatically to the highest possible aspirations any mere man could conceive. While the ignorant might not consider lofty philosophy in their daily choices, nevertheless, there is nothing that the greatest philosopher or sermonizer could invoke that is outside of the scope of what the lowest man can connect with. The implications to morality are clear. Men are equal.

The simple way of summarizing Channing’s argument is to say that human life is sacred. Life includes the individual perception and pursuit of life’s meaning, since it is individuals who self-endow their lives with a sacred character. The desire to live is all it takes. Likewise, the desire to be free is all that is required for a man or creature to deserve freedom. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for anyone who asserts their own freedom. 

Any slaver or government which denies the human desire for freedom and moral independence, denies the fundamental value of human life. Human life becomes arbitrary. That’s no way to go.

It is interesting that Channing, in arguing against slavery by invoking moral principles, so often digresses through the same reasoning to rebuke what is now called progressive politics. Libertarians should come to understand that the same moral reasoning which argues against slavery also argues against progressivism. By the same logic, progressive morality ultimately could justify slavery. The progressive opposition to slavery lies entirely with an inconsistent and logically detached appeal to empathy, focusing on the subjective pain and distress felt as part of the experience of being a slave. If, then, slavery could facilitate the comfort and pleasure of the slaves, would progressives support it?  The answer must be yes.

Progressivism is slavery exactly, if we imagine a non-existent world where slaves, by having their material needs taken care of, were consequently happy. Yet, there’s a reason why slaves experienced physical pains and emotional distress, which is intimately connected to the moral nature of slavery. As discussed at length in this article, moral self-sovereignty is the right to pursue happiness no more nor less. Abandon that principle, and power inequality will, through violence and accidental outcomes, develop systems of exploitation where happiness is crushed. Whether we observe this in systems of slavery or within communist states, it is the same. Progressivism is merely the first step on the path.

In understanding rights, libertarians perceive an important truth. With is and ought reconciled inside the individual, the common truth of society is clear. Economic action services moral action. Moral action is sacred, inviolable. This is should be the basis of libertarian thought, and the guiding principle of human society.

 

Outraged at Thomas Massie?  You Shouldn’t Be

Outraged at Thomas Massie? You Shouldn’t Be

Thomas Massie, U.S. House of Representative from Kentucky’s 4th District, took a lot of heat for trying to force a voice vote on the House floor to pass the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  In a glorious show of bipartisanship, both sides of the aisle poured out their vitriol on the double-degreed MIT graduate. 

Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y.) said in a tweet Friday morning: “Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House. Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible.” 

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told the NY Post, “It was not cool, not cool at all.  We’ve all got to wait 14 days to see what happens. Hopefully, none of us get ill. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have had to come [back]. He put people in jeopardy, there’s no question about it.”

John Kerry said, “Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an ass*&@#.  He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He’s given new meaning to the term #Masshole.” 

Never one to pass up a Tweet-able moment, President Trump tweeted, “throw Massie out of [the] Republican Party!” Later, he supported, via Twitter, a the Kerry authored tweet aimed at Massive when he said, “Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed!”

For his actions, Massie stands on pretty sure constitutional grounds.  Article 1, Section 5, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution says: “Each House shall be the Judge of Elections, Returns, and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.”  

In defense of his actions Massie said the following on Twitter:

I  swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously.  In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing “yes” or “no” or “present.”

The Constitution requires that a quorum of members be present to conduct business in the House. Right now, millions of essential, working-class Americans are still required to go to work during this pandemic such as manufacturing line workers, healthcare professionals, pilots, grocery clerks, cooks/chefs, delivery drivers, auto mechanics, and janitors (to name just a few). Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?

Massie went on to say:

I am not delaying the bill like Nancy Pelosi did last week.  The bill that was worked on in the Senate late last week was much better before Speaker Pelosi showed up to destroy it and add days and days to the process.

This bill should have been voted on much sooner in both the Senate and House and it shouldn’t be stuffed full of Nancy Pelosi’s pork- including $25 million for the Kennedy Center, grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Arts, and millions more other measures that have no direct relation to the Coronavirus Pandemic. That $25 million, for example, should go directly to purchasing test kits. The number one priority of this bill should have been to expand testing availability and creation of tests so that every American, not just the wealthy and privileged, have access to testing. We have shut down the world’s economy without adequate data. Everyone, even those with no symptoms, needs immediate access to a test.

This brings us to the crux of the matter and why you, as an American citizen, should direct your outrage at everyone but Rep. Massie.  The CARES act is, on its face, unconstitutional. Where in the U.S. Constitution does it authorize Congress to conjure up $2.2 trillion dollars, then hand it out to the American people?  Notice the response that politicians (or more accurately) statesmen gave in response to calls for aid during an earlier part of the country’s history.  

1794: Congress undertook to appropriate $15,000 ($352,740 in today’s dollars) to assist French refugees.  In response, James Madison, one of this country’s founding fathers, said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”  

1796: U.S. Representative William Giles of Virginia was not in favor of extending relief to fire victims saying that Congress didn’t have a right to “attend to what generosity and humanity require, but what the Constitution and their duty require.”  

1854: President Franklin Pierce vetoed an appropriation bill to assist the mentally ill saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity.”  

1887: President Grover Cleveland said, “I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and the duty of the General Government ought to extend to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”  Cleveland said this as part of his vetoing of a bill appropriating money to aid farmers in Texas who were suffering from a severe drought.  

What the House and Senate did in passing the CARES Act is bad enough.  President Trump invoked something called the Defense Production Act.  

Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators.  Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and- take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.  GM was wasting time.  Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives. (emphasis added)

Enacted by the 81st Congress on September 8, 1950 in response to the Korean War, the act was put in place to: establish a system of priorities and allocations for materials and facilities, authorize the requisitioning thereof, provide financial assistance for expansion of productive capacity and supply, provide for price and wage stabilization, provide for the settlement of labor disputes, strengthen controls over credit, and by these measures facilitate the production of goods and services necessary for the national security, and for other purposes.  The act basically gives the president broad and sweeping control of the economy for the purposes of national defense (i.e. during war time). He can compel, with the full force and weight of the federal government, private companies to do as he says (in the name of national defense) in direct violation of said companies’ property rights. And I have yet to mention the fact that the government will need to create trillions of dollars out of thin air and borrow trillions more to fund CARES Act relief. The money creation and government borrowing will ultimately decrease American citizens’ standard of living through ballooning price inflation and a diversion of resources from businessmen and women.

For the umpteenth time, unscrupulous, unprincipled, and downright deceitful politicians managed to manufacture an overreaction to the coronavirus using it to justify harming the country by their passage of unconstitutional legislation.  Our so-called “public servants” truly never let a crisis go to waste.  

As an American citizen you ought to be outraged.  However, your outrage should be directed at Trump, his administration, and Congress, not Thomas Massie.  

The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy

The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy

“Thank God for the Deep State,” declared former acting CIA chief John McLaughlin while appearing on a panel at the National Press Club last October. In 2018, the New York Times asserted that Trump’s use of the term “Deep State” and similar rhetoric “fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media.”

But barely a year later, the Deep State had gone from a figment of paranoid right-wingers’ imagination to the great hope for the salvation of American democracy. Much of the media is now conferring the same exulted status on the Deep State that was previously bestowed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington.

The Deep State commonly refers to officials who secretly wield power permanently in Washington, often in federal agencies with vast sway and little accountability. A New York Times article in October gushed that “over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present … and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower” on Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. New York Times columnist James Stewart declared, “There is a Deep State, there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law…. They work for the American people.” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well” and hailed it as “a collection of patriotic public servants.” They were echoing earlier declarations by Washington Post columnist Eugene Roberts and former top Justice Department official Preet Bharar: “God bless the ‘Deep State.’”

Former CIA Director John Brennan, appearing on the same panel as McLaughlin in October, declared, “The reason why Mr. Trump has this very contentious relationship with CIA and FBI and the deep state people is because they tell the truth.” Much of the media coverage of the Trump impeachment is following that dubious storyline.

“We lied, we cheated, we stole.”

Five years ago, John Brennan’s CIA ignited what should have been a constitutional crisis when it was caught illegally spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was compiling a massive report on the CIA torture program. After 9/11, the CIA constructed an interrogation regime by “consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods,” the New York Times reported in 2007. Secret Bush administration torture memos “set the C.I.A. loose to slam suspects’ heads into walls up to 30 times in a row, to deprive suspects of sleep for more than a week straight, to confine them to small dark boxes for hours at a time … and to suffocate them with water to induce the perception that they are drowning,” Georgetown University law professor David Cole noted. But the only official who went to prison was John Kirakou, a former CIA analyst who publicly admitted that the CIA was waterboarding.

Is the Deep State more trustworthy when it is killing than when it is torturing? Brennan declared in 2016 that “the president requires near-certainty of no collateral damage” before approving a drone strike. Confidential CIA documents revealed that the CIA had little or no idea whom it was killing most of the time with its drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other nations. Salon.com summarized an NBC News report: “Even while admitting that the identities of many killed by drones were not known, the CIA documents asserted that all those dead were enemy combatants. The logic is twisted: If we kill you, then you were an enemy combatant.” Lying about drone killings quickly became institutionalized throughout the Deep State. The New York Times reported in 2015, “Every independent investigation of the [drone] strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit.”

The Deep State is practically designed to destroy privacy while enabling government officials to deny sweeping abuses. Former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden declared in 2014, “There’s definitely a deep state. Trust me, I’ve been there.” The NSA’s credibility was obliterated in 2013 when Snowden revealed the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, access anyone’s email and web-browsing history, and crack the vast majority of computer encryption. But the NSA’s definition of “terrorist suspect” was ludicrously broad, including “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” Snowden also revealed that each day phone companies turned over tens of millions of phone records of average Americans to the feds. A few months before Snowden’s revelations, National Intelligence director James Clapper lied to Congress when he denied that the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans.” The fact that Clapper was not charged with perjury did nothing to burnish the credibility of the Justice Department.

Impeachment proceedings have been spurred in large part by disputes over Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian-born officer who listened in to the call while serving on the National Security Council. Vindman was “deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy,” the Washington Post reported. Which provision of the Constitution gives junior military officers sway over foreign policy? Because Vindman objected to Trump’s efforts to decrease tension with Russia, the Washington establishment quickly hailed him and thus encouraged other military officers and government officials to pull strings to subvert policies of which the media disapprove.

It is naive to expect the Deep State to provide an antidote to the sordidness of American politics. The Friends of the Deep State talk of certain federal agencies as if they exist far above the sordid details of political life — or even of human nature. Former CIA boss McLaughlin declared, “This is the institution within the U.S. government that … is institutionally committed to objectivity and to telling the truth. It’s whole job is to speak the truth — it is engraved in marble in the lobby.” But historically, atrium engravings have proven a weak surety for bureaucratic candor. In reality, the CIA and other Deep State agencies are notorious for suppressing convicting truths about themselves. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently described the CIA’s modus operandi when he was director: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s like we had entire training courses.”

Power and truth

Promises that the chiefs of the CIA and other intelligence agencies will “speak truth to power” have become a Washington ritual in the years since the 9/11 attacks. No matter how brazenly political appointees lie, members of Congress assure the media and constituents that the next nominee will be as honest as George Washington. The “speak truth to power” bromide was recited after Trump nominated Gina Haspel as CIA chief. At her confirmation hearings, the public heard plenty about Haspel’s meeting with Mother Teresa but almost nothing about her key role in the CIA torture scandal — including the illegal destruction of recordings of torture sessions.

Another reason to distrust the Deep State is that its arch practitioners are honored regardless of their iniquities. Former CIA bosses McLaughlin and Brennan were speaking on a panel sponsored by the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, named after the former chief of the National Security Agency and the CIA. As Trevor Timm noted in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2017, “Hayden has a long history of making misleading and outright false statements, and by the estimation of many lawyers, likely committed countless felonies during the Bush administration.” Hayden set up the illegal, unconstitutional wiretapping program after 9/11 that the New York Times exposed in late 2005. When the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture in 2014, it included a 36-page appendix filled with Hayden’s “testimony to Congress, next to the actual facts showing statement after statement he made was inaccurate, misleading, false, or outright lies,” Timm noted.  At least George Mason University did not call it the Torquemada Institute, after the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. Naming that Center after Hayden simply reflects the prevailing Deep State aggrandizement in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area.

The Deep State has an appalling record of abusing the whistleblowers who are now being acclaimed. A draft Intelligence Community Inspector General report last year found that intelligence agencies refused to recognize retaliation against whistleblowers in 99 percent of cases. A 2017 report by Foreign Policy magazine concluded that “the intelligence community’s central watchdog is in danger of crumbling thanks to mismanagement, bureaucratic battles, clashes among big personalities, and sidelining of whistleblower outreach and training efforts.” After CIA Inspector General John Helgerson compiled a condemnatory report on the CIA’s post–9/11 interrogation program, CIA chief Michael Hayden launched a major investigation of Helgerson in 2007, provoking outrage on Capitol Hill. (The CIA managed to delay the release of Helgerson’s report for five years, thereby keeping both Congress and the American people in the dark regarding shocking abuses.)

The Trump–Deep State clash is a showdown between a presidency that is far too powerful versus federal agencies that have become fiefdoms that enjoy immunity for almost any and all abuses. Most of the partisans of the Deep State are not championing “government under the law.” Instead, this is a dispute over who will be permitted to break the law and dictate the policies to America and the world. Former CIA and NSA boss Hayden proudly proclaimed, “Espionage is not just compatible with American democracy, espionage is essential to American democracy.” And how can we know if the Deep State’s espionage is actually pro-democracy or subversive of democracy? If they told you, they would have to kill you. The Founding Fathers never intended for covert agencies to trumpet a right to correct voters’ verdicts.

Neither the White House nor the CIA, NSA, nor other Deep State agencies should enjoy immunity from the law or deserve blind trust from average Americans or the establishment media. A wayward president (especially a first-term president) can eventually be checked at the ballot box. But who or what can check the Deep State?

Reprinted from The Future of Freedom Foundation

Politicians Have Used This Crisis to Remind Us They’re Mostly Wannabe Dictators

Politicians Have Used This Crisis to Remind Us They’re Mostly Wannabe Dictators

The virus has unleashed petite tyrants to haunt their tiny jurisdictions, using the cover of crisis to arrogate powers belonging to the people.

Witness Robert J. Taylor, mayor of Ostrander, Ohio (population: 643 in the 2010 census), who just declared his village to be in a “state of emergency.” Along with this declaration, the self-righteous mayor instructed constituents to get their news from “trusted sources, which may not include social media in many cases.”

In addition, he admonished them to “Also, please look out for your neighbors and the elderly, in particular.”

Sure, petty nonsense from a petty man. But he also added this, “As warranted, additional measures may be taken until the threat from this virus has subsided.”

So, should our equally petty governor adopt enabling acts and deputize mayors, so to speak, Taylor will gleefully nail decrees on the telephone poles lining either side of main street (really, the only street in his village). And, should those decrees not be given the respect he deems sufficient, he will employ the full force of the apparatus of coercion and compulsion: the state. Measures must always be enforced.

As Hayek showed in his seminal work, Road to Serfdom, “the worst” rise to the top in centrally planned states. However, those trying to move up in a burgeoning centrally planned state can be as evil, given the chance. So, in many ways, the difference between the evil leader on top and those deeper in the nomenklatura is not one of degree, but of opportunity.

I have no idea what drives folks like Taylor—what is truly in their hearts. Nevertheless, the study of human action allows me to assess his actions as means to achieve desired ends. Folks like Taylor use politics as the means to their personal ends. What those ends are, I can only guess, although I do know that he is acting for a reason—a reason, I claim, that does not consider the best interests of his constituents.

Maybe, in an attempt to position himself for the next higher office, he is playing to the media, looking for a guest spot on some local news show—he is already getting local newspaper headlines. Maybe he has aspirations to be county commissioner or governor. Who knows? We do know that he acted, and acted for a reason.

You may object that Taylor really hasn’t instituted some quarantine lockdown or shuttered business, as Ohio governor DeWine has. Taylor is just a shout in the wind. Yet, I believe there is more here. And I fully expect a viral outbreak of similar declarations from other petite officials.

Taylor most certainly read pronouncements from big city mayors. And, if you are in the minors and want to play in the big leagues (should the big leagues ever be allowed to play again), you always need to hit to the fence. Home runs get you noticed, not the odd grounded single. And if each swing further annuls liberty, it’s the old eggs to omelets shrug. Nothing else.

Years ago, I was a petite (possibly petty as well) elected official. I witnessed “the worst” rise to higher office. I always wondered how my fellow school board members would have acted if provided a slightly longer leash. For some, I think, Taylor serves as an example.

Maybe I would have acted the same way with a longer leash, or, better yet, a longer leash and a “crisis” with panicked, loud voices crying for leadership and action.

Yes, Hayek was right, “the worst” rise to the top. However, I believe that there is a codicil as well. Many of “the worst” on their way up are constrained by their current office. Likely, they will not see the top. But that doesn’t mean that, given the opportunity, they would not mimic those who have made it all the way.

The solution, even in a time of “crisis,” is not a haunting state and its officials, petite or otherwise. It is liberty.

Reprinted from The Mises Institute

Populism for Peace

Populism for Peace

A populist pro-peace movement could end the empire without even trying.

The US foreign policy establishment has inflicted unspeakable horrors on the world. And it has done a remarkable job of rationalizing these horrors or — even more effectively — directing the American public’s attention away from them.

Foreign policy horrors are simply not an important issue for most American voters. Voters care about issues that directly impact their own lives.

But to overthrow an establishment you need a populist movement. None of the special interests within the establishment stand to benefit from radical changes that drastically reduce its power. Instead of reforming from within you need to attack from without. But to accomplish that you need the support of the masses.

So this seems to be an impossible situation: To end the US empire you need the support of the American public, but the American public doesn’t know enough or care enough about the millions of lives around the world that are ruined by that empire.

Sure, you can try to educate voters, plead with them, get them passionate about this issue, convince them that it is the morally right thing to do. Make them care.

Or you can try to appeal to their self-interest, pointing out the enormous costs of the empire and the risk of blowback.

But the institutions that are most influential in shaping the opinions of the American public — mainstream media, universities, think tanks, popular culture — are either very much part of the foreign policy establishment, or have also mostly simply ignored its horrors.

On the other hand, there have been successful examples of populist revolts in Western countries. Donald Trump, for example, came from outside of the political establishment and was widely loathed by them and their media allies. At least initially. But Trump appealed directly to the voters, breaking through the barriers the political and media elites put in his way.

How did he do it?

Most Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the establishment. Many loathe it. That’s what Trump tapped into.

Trump focused on the issues that voters cared about, in a way that voters care about. Issues such as immigration, corruption, national pride, and even wasteful wars had been ignored or made taboo by the elites. Sure, sometimes the elites would pay lip service to these concerns, but they were never really serious about addressing them in a way that would satisfy voters. And voters knew it. So Trump attacked the elites head-on.

Not by trying to persuade them, reasoning with them, working within the establishment. No, Trump launched a frontal assault on that establishment. He exposed them, ruthlessly mocked them and called them out.

Voters liked that. Some of them truly believed Trump was on their side, others just enjoyed the show. The establishment had never experienced anything like Trump. All their usual defenses failed.

And so Trump won.

Of course, Trump was never a serious person or politician. He had no principles to defend, other than himself. He had no organizational apparatus behind him. And he needed constant adoration. And so, once the Republican nominee, Trump was swiftly and comfortably absorbed by the establishment, or at least by certain influential factions within it.

Right now, Trump is not much more than the populist figurehead for a thoroughly establishmentarian class. But he did beat them, at least initially. And that’s the lesson there. The establishment can be beat.

And if, unlike in the case of Trump, it is done by a candidate or movement that actually is principled and that does not need the institutional, financial and social support of the establishment, a movement that has its own ideas, its own organization, the long term outcome may well be much better than what we saw with Trump.

Where, though, does that leave those of us who want to end the empire? Sure, we loathe the establishment too, and we are more than willing to attack them head-on. But Trump campaigned on issues voters cared about and voters don’t care about the horrors of the empire.

The thing is: They don’t have to.

From the fact that voters don’t sufficiently care about foreign policy horrors it does not follow that they will not support a populist movement that wants to end those horrors. It’s just that ending those horrors will not be the primary reason for their support.

A pro-peace populist movement that focuses on issues voters care about and that are ignored or only paid lip service to by the existing parties, and a movement that is passionately anti-establishment, and willing and able to attack the elites head-on can succeed for those reasons alone.

If that same movement also happens to be pro-peace and anti-empire, then OK, good, so what?

After all, we just established that voters don’t care about foreign policy. But this works both ways: Voters don’t care enough about a pro-peace foreign policy for that pro-peace policy to be the deciding factor in who to support. But voters also don’t care enough about foreign policy for the pro-peace position to be a reason not to support that movement!

The situation is even better than that: It would be difficult to get voters to support a foreign policy that requires them to make sacrifices. If the core of that foreign policy is to actively do good in the world, by offering aid and other such things, that will be a hard sell. You have to convince voters to care about people far away, people they will never meet or even see on a screen.

But a pro-peace foreign policy is not a policy that wants to start doing good. It just wants to stop doing bad.

Peace does not require voters to make sacrifices. Voters were never benefiting from the aggressive foreign policy of the empire anyway. It costs voters nothing to end it.

In fact, the empire exists to exploit those very same voters. The empire takes massive amounts of the American public’s money and redistributes it among a wide variety of corporate special interests: Weapons producers, big energy, consulting companies and so on. What’s more, the empire gets tens of thousands of Americans killed or wounded or traumatized.

And here’s the beauty: A pro-peace movement that focuses on the issues voters care about and that is passionately anti-establishment reverses the burden of proof: If you want to campaign on peace and ending the empire you have to educate the voters and convince them the empire is not just morally wrong but also bad for them.

If instead you are pro-peace but you primarily campaign on the populist issues voters do care about, the empire can’t compete with you on the populist issues and now they would have to actually convince voters that it is in their best interest to support the empire that exploits them!

And that is an even more impossible situation to put the establishment in than the situation the pro-peace movement was in when it thought it had to make voters care about peace.

Peace, after all, was at least beneficial to the voters. That intellectual case was easy to make. The difficulty was in making voters care enough about it to change their votes.

But the empire doesn’t even have an intellectual case for its position. And now it also has the burden of proof.

So in short: A populist pro-peace movement can succeed. But it can only succeed by focusing on other issues that voters care about — issues the establishment actively ignores, trivializes or only pays lip service to — and by being passionately and proudly anti-establishment. The pro-peace position just comes along for the ride, and can and will be easily defended when attacked, and then implemented if we win.

Koen Swinkels

@koenswinkels

Can the Government Restrict Travel to Protect Public Health?

Can the Government Restrict Travel to Protect Public Health?

The issue of whether government in America can quarantine persons against their will, ostensibly for their own health and that of others with whom they may come in contact, requires a dual analysis — one of the powers of the federal government and the other of the powers of the states. For constitutional analysis purposes, since local and regional governments derive their powers from the states in which they are located, the analysis of state powers pertains to them as well.

We begin our analysis with the observation of the truism that freedom is the default position. The language of the Declaration of Independence, as well as various amendments in the Bill of Rights, unambiguously reflects the views that those who wrote, ratified and amended the Constitution recognized that our rights — to think, speak, publish, worship, defend ourselves, travel, own property, be left alone — are natural to our humanity.

These rights preexisted the government. Their source is our humanity. Government does not grant these rights. Rather, its primary purpose — as stated in the Declaration of Independence, its sole purpose — is to protect these rights.

Though the courts have interpreted the Constitution to possess lamentable exceptions, the framers and ratifiers arguably accepted the non-aggression principle — articulated in the modern era by the late Professor Murray Rothbard — which declares that all aggression against persons and property even by government is immoral.

In the case of the federal government, it is one of limited, delegated powers. Of course, 230 years of legislation and litigation have blown its powers outside the confines of the Constitution and, invariably, in the direction of expanding federal power at the expense of personal liberty and the states.

The states formed the federal government and not the other way around. Yet today, the feds stay in power by bribing the states with cash grants, the rich with bailouts, the middle class with tax breaks and the poor with transfer payments. Notwithstanding all this, the courts continue to recognize the concept of personal liberty in a free society.

All this is background to the issue lurking beneath the headlines this week. Can the government quarantine people without proof of contagion and imminent assault? The short answer is no.

We know that, under the Fifth Amendment, if any government — state or federal — wants to impair the life, liberty or property of any person, it must follow due process. Due process has two components — substantive and procedural. The substantive component asks if the impairment of liberty is proper to the government that seeks the impairment, and the procedural component asks if the impairment has come about fairly.

Now back to what the feds can do and what the states can do in a public health crisis. There are no emergency provisions or triggers in the Constitution; yet, Congress gave itself the power to regulate public health and safety under various pretexts. The pretexts exist because the nanny state urge of members of Congress to regulate is confronted by the reservation in the Tenth Amendment of health and safety to the states. Those pretexts are regulating commerce and all that affects commerce, and paying the states to do Congress’ will.

Stated differently, the Supreme Court has ruled that both the federal government and the states can confine a person who has not committed a crime, or one who has but has served one’s full sentence, in order to protect society from the person’s intentional or uncontrollable harmful tendencies.

It is contrary to the plain meaning of the Constitution for Congress to give itself powers that were not delegated to it by the Constitution, but the courts have permitted this. Yet, even in the case of a lunatic who has committed a crime and served his full sentence but remains dangerous, the courts have recognized constitutional safeguards to protect his natural rights.

Now back to our question of whether the government — state or federal — can confine persons against their will in order to protect public health. The short answer is yes, but the Constitution requires procedural due process. That means a trial for every person confined.

Thus, a government-ordered quarantine of all persons in a city block or a postal ZIP code or a telephone area code would be an egregious violation of due process, both substantive and procedural. Substantively, no government in America has the lawful power to curtail natural rights by decree.

Procedurally, notwithstanding the fear of disease contagion, the states and feds may only quarantine those who are actively contagious and will infect others imminently. And it must present evidence of both at a trial at which it bears the burden of proof.

While the non-aggression principle permits offensive aggression in self-defense when an attack is imminent and certain, that is a high standard for the government to meet, as it should be. Freedom — even the freedom of a madman or a dangerously sick and contagious person — is the default position. Infringing upon it without procedural due process is always constitutionally impermissible.

The Constitution was not written for the government to right every wrong. We know that government itself causes most wrongs — the theft of property by taxation, the impairment of economic liberty by regulation, the slaughter of innocents by war, the infringement of expressive liberties by majority vote. Yet, the Constitution still mandates an exacting due process for all whom the government would restrain.

That means a trial before any quarantine, no matter the public danger, and a fair trial, not one animated by mass hysteria or government-generated fear.

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

To summarize Rawls-

“So much of life is the result of circumstance that no person can be entitled to what they “earn”, therefore one group of people called government has the monopoly right to initiate violence against peaceful people”

Libertarian: “So congress has no real right to pass laws since they just happened to live in a time and geographical area where some registered voters happened to vote for them instead of another person? Do police have the right to arrest me for victimless crimes since they just happened to get hired by a group that happened to have recognized jurisdiction in a place the government happens to control? Does someone in Haiti have the right to take property by force from a ‘poor’ person in America who is wealthy compared to their standards?”

The Reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

The Reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

Exponential functions. Understand this, and you’ll grasp the reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus from China. I know math sucks, but if you can get this, you’ll lift the fog on just how bad this is.

With the Novel Coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), some speculate that the number of people infected by it can double in as little as 6 days.

If one single person starts off with the virus, then after 6 days, 2 people would have it. After 12 days, 4 people would have it. After one month, 32 people would have it. That doesn’t sound so bad does it? It almost seems like the virus problem will remain small for a long time and be easy to contain.

After one month and two weeks, there would be enough infected people to fill a large movie theatre. After two months, over 1000 would have it. Still, in a country of 350 million, what’s 1000 people?

After about four months, enough people would have the virus to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium (80,000+). That’s a lot of people, but again, it took four whole months to get here. 80,000 is only 0.002% of 350 million. Sure seems like there’s plenty of time to contain this.

After five months, 33 million would have it. That’s 10% of America. At 6 months, everyone in America would have it. That escalated quickly didn’t it? That’s the point.

If a virus can be completely traced and caught early, it can be stopped. SARS, for example, caused major symptoms that were easily noticeable with simple fever checks. You couldn’t infect others unless you also had a very hot forehead. What if you couldn’t find infected people so easily?

All over the world, cases of COVID-19 (what the World Health Organization calls the sickness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2) have appeared where the source of the infection is completely unknown. That means they caught it from the community, which implies that people are out there, infected, whom nobody knows about. I can’t scientifically prove that this virus spreads when people have no symptoms – currently the CDC says it barely can maybe it can’t at all, though others strongly disagree – but I can point to a hundred cases worldwide and prove that health officials are not able to nail down community infections.

Going back to the math, if you catch 4 out of 6 people with the virus, but 2 get away, the math starts again at 2. The government is only ever going to be able to catch a few people at a time, but for every 2 that get away, the race starts anew. These are called clusters and they’ll just keep growing. Once a cluster has 1000 people, the government will never catch even half of them.

In conclusion, this virus can’t be stopped without major draconian measures. By the end of this article, you can come to your own conclusions about what that means. The one part of this picture which is crystal clear is that this problem is not going to magically turn out to be nothing. Things will seem ominous, but under control, for possibly a few month. Then it will all explode, just like in Wuhan. That’s the math. Unless we’re very lucky and experience a miracle, crisis is inevitable.

Is the virus really going to be a crisis though? Isn’t it just the flu?

The libertarian community needs to get over the denialism many in the alternative and alt-conservative media have been touting. It’s ridiculous and validates that awful “ok boomer” meme about an out-of-touch generation of people who refuse to admit the existence of problems to which they themselves have helped contribute. Interestingly, on Reddit, a committed loony lefty said that Trump’s insistence to not worry, “Is the first thing he’s ever said which I agree with.” That ought to tell you something.

It might seem like the media and the left is hyping the virus. They’re not. They have been battling and censoring the people online who have been concerned about the virus from the very beginning. I have been among this small and resilient community which has been concerned about the virus from day one, and let me tell you: we’ve been right so far.

For instance:

February 5, 2020,

USA – 11 cases

South Korea – 0 cases

Italy – 2 cases

Iran – 0 cases

February 15, 2020,

USA – 15 cases

South Korea – 28 cases

Italy – 3 cases

Iran – 0 cases

March 4, 2020,

USA – 108 cases

South Korea – 5,328 cases

Italy – 2,502 cases

Iran – 2,336 cases

Source.

Please cut it out with this, “Oh it’s just the flu,” nonsense. 4 weeks ago we knew this was a problem, 2 weeks ago we knew it was a problem, and we still know it’s a problem – and I’ll explain why. Suffice it to say, both 4 weeks ago, 2 weeks ago, and even now we are told it’s low risk, it’s being contained, it’s just the flu and so forth. 2 weeks from now, 4 weeks from now, 2 months from now: it’s still not going to be contained and it’s going to be – at least – much much worse than it is today.

Conservatives and libertarians: this virus isn’t a Democratic Party or Deep State scam (that is, the threat from the virus itself is real, regardless of anything else). It’s not a government scam either, because the government is doing just about everything it can to make sure this thing is not being contained. From the libertarian perspective, one harmful thing being done is advising people that it’s okay to travel to certain places or participate in large groups when it has not been safe to do so. The US government has prevented the entire medical system, public and private, from testing people for COVID-19 even when doctors wanted to for weeks now. This is not an issue of the government hyping up a fake crisis. Likewise, with the media, they have consistently walked back and downplayed information that has been spreading on social media. The media is doing more to serve the government’s effort to convince people not to be proactive, than it is to create hype and fear where there is none. If you’re a boomer who only watches 24 hour cable news in between cigar breaks with your retired church buddies, maybe you wouldn’t realize that. Please, stop acting like this is some fake crisis.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the virus.

SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the virus which causes “COVID-19”, needs to be understood through three categories of questions.

1) How does the virus spread, and how can it be detected (and contained)?

2) How dangerous will this be, in the end?

3) How are governments and health systems reacting?

Finally, what are the political implications of this disease?

How does the virus spread?

SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that is almost impossible to track. It has long incubation times, produces mild symptoms which are easily missed, and doesn’t produce harmful symptoms until very late in the disease life cycle. It also seems to be highly infectious.

The infectiousness of a disease is represented by a calculation known as R0 (“r naught”). This represents the average number of people who will be infected by every new person who has a disease. The number isn’t based on the virus itself, but rather the virus and also the environment in which it spreads. Cultures with poor hygiene habits could spread the disease more than others and end up with a higher R0 value. R0 of greater than 2 is considered pretty bad because the outbreak is guaranteed to grow unless aggressive containment measures are used to statistically balance against the disease. For example, cutting the amount of people you meet daily in half would lower R0 of 2 to 1.

The R0 of COVID-19 is hard to calculate, because it’s a statistical value and the situation is new. However, mathematical modelers primarily from the Los Alamos laboratory have modeled that COVID-19 has R0 of 4.7-6.6. That’s very bad. Some diseases, such as the Measles, are much worse, but these diseases have vaccines stopping them.

The virus spreads in ways that aren’t scientifically certain yet. There were rumors of Chinese doctors who wore masks getting infected, so it was assumed to be airborne and infecting people through the eye membranes. SARS, a related virus, was known to infect people via sewage fumes coming up through their toilet. SARS-CoV-2 samples have been found to be high in feces and urine of patients, even when it was low in their blood. Even so, there’s debate about whether the virus is “airborne” in the sense of carrying on the wind and infecting through air conditioning systems such as what Anthrax can do.

The recent Diamond Princess cruise ship shows how infectious the disease is, although, it’s unclear if people were infected because of pathetically bad hygiene practices. It seems as if crew were not really changing gloves or washing hands well when preparing food for quarantined guests.

Regardless, the virus is clearly infectious, at least R0 greater than 2. The “worst case” of airborne, aerosol transmission is discussed here.

Another complication of the virus is that it seems almost impossible to trace. Incubation periods seem to be 5 days on average, but one reported case showed 24 days of incubation before symptoms started. Even once you get sick, it takes an average of 10 days before minor symptoms become serious enough to go to the hospital, according to the first few cases out of Wuhan. This means many people would likely “tough it out” and go to work with what seems to be a minor fever and small cough. In Japan, many cases have showed symptoms appearing then two weeks passing before the patient visited a hospital and was ultimately tested. It could be that the case numbers seen in the news today represent those infected 2-3 weeks ago. Governments and most of the public could be basing their assessments of the severity of the situation on how the situation was 2-3 weeks ago, in other words.

Diseases like SARS and MERS produce severe symptoms rather quickly. SARS is one reason why airports do fever checks. Generally, people who are spreading this disease also have fevers. For SARS-CoV-2, this is not the case. While asymptomatic transmission has been reported many times, it is not proven. However, it is known that symptoms remain mild for a long time in most cases. Also, it could be the case that most infected people only ever have mild symptoms.

In my opinion, based on this evidence, it seems impossible to reactively contain or contact trace COVID-19. You’d always be two weeks behind, while 10 times as many invisible cases are occurring underneath your nose, unseen. This is validated by the relatively high number of cases all over the world where the patient was infected from an unknown source – i.e.: the community at large.

The only containment measure is to test hundreds of thousands of people and engage in shutdowns of public society in affected areas. South Korea has actually tested 100,000+ people (as of 5 March, 2020). In contrast, the USA and Japan – for example – have tested significantly fewer. There could be a massive outbreak of 10,000+ infected in the US and we wouldn’t know.

Troublingly, there are many countries where people can’t even get tested even if they want to. Reports of insurance refusing to cover SARS-CoV-2 tests, and folks paying $3,000+ for them, have emerged (even though this seems to be very slowly changing). The reason for this lack of testing, previously, was because health authorities deny the possibility of an outbreak. We can speculate about corruption and conspiracy, but frankly, it’s classic government. They simply cannot see the unseen. I’m disheartened that libertarians lately have fallen for this same trap.

The viral outbreak in Wuhan began some time between mid-October and mid-November. Their hospitals didn’t notice a problem until mid-January. The major panic and crisis only began at the end of January. Conservatively, it takes two months from when the virus begins to spread, before the medical system would notice something amiss – if you aren’t testing massive numbers of people. This is consistent with a modest (actually, terrifying) doubling rate of one week (every week the number of infected doubles), as well as patients taking 7-21 days to show up sick at the hospital.

For the USA, the problem is beginning to become visible. However, it will be 4 weeks (into early April) before the hospital system would be overloaded – by this timetable. Assuming many health care workers could get infected due to lack of equipment, in 8-12 weeks you could actually see a collapse of the American medical system. Good luck with your diabetes then. Assuming supply lines to Chinese drug manufacturers are stable by then.

How bad is the virus?

According to the previously cited Lancet review of Wuhan clinical data from January, comorbidity rates for the virus were 33%, with 17% requiring mechanical ventilation. Imagine if half of America gets infected before anyone hardly notices or does anything to stop the spread. What’s 33% of 175 million people (it’s 55 million)? More than we have emergency room beds (100,000-500,000 critical care beds). If hospitals get overwhelmed with cases, where will you find your mechanical ventilator to stay alive?

In the Lancet data, among those requiring critical hospital care, 11% died. That’s 11% of 20%, or roughly 2%. WHO has presently upgraded this death rate to 3.4%. Others have guessed it’s 6%.

The silver lining is that, if the virus is as infectious as believed, it could be that many more people are catching it than we think. It could be that these 20% and 3.4% figures should be much lower. A lot of people are actually banking on this, including those who argue that only old people are at risk. Yeah, screw just the old people, I guess. Whatever doesn’t affect me isn’t allowed to be called a problem – great attitude.

Even so, consider two counterpoints to the, “It’s only a flu,” narrative.

When Wuhan was reporting a few thousand infected, a Hong Kong researcher estimated the number was over 70,000. During the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, there were videos of body bags in which the number of body bags you could count just in the few leaked videos was greater than the official death count (and two famous citizen journalists producing these videos were thereafter “quarantined” and disappeared). Add to that China’s practice of counting pneumonia deaths, if old people die in their apartment, as regular pneumonia – never even testing for the new virus. Add China’s general lack of transparency. There’s reason to think that the problem may have been much worse.

One interesting piece of evidence was that China’s data was fit to a mathematical model developed by a data analyst who posted his results on Twitter. The data fit the model with 99% fitness. Recently this same person determined that if China’s death rate matched what we are seeing in South Korea, there should be 400,000+ dead (suffice it to say this is just from a mathematical model, and would also imply that the number of infected in China would be much higher than what’s being reported).

The “official” WHO death rate is based largely on Chinese data.

The second point is that the virus takes a long time to marinate, for some reason. It may possibly have troubling features that make it more deadly but make the deaths lag significantly. I will provide an example later, but first consider that it takes weeks to die of slow, irreversible, incurable pneumonia once you’re on a ventilator. We won’t understand the threat this disease poses until at least mid-summer, when many of the cases infected large outside-of-China populations have had a chance to fully mature (6+ weeks in total). There is zero reason to place bets on complacency at the moment.

What does the virus actually do? It causes lung damage, by infecting lung cells. You get a fever, often mild, and a cough. If you have a severe case, you get pneumonia that infects both lobes and slowly inhibits breathing until you can barely breathe and end up dead or with permanent lung damage.

In some cases, particularly the severe cases in which recovery from pneumonia occurs, horrifying alternate symptoms occur. Myocardia and renal injury (heart and kidney failure) for one. Like SARS-CoV (the original SARS), SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has been shown in cases to infect the nervous system and cause encephalitis. The disease has also resulted in run-of-the-mill death by viral sepsis. Not to forget the immune system overreaction called a cytokine storm which killed many during the Spanish Flu and also many AIDS victims.

There are two questions associated with these symptoms. First, how many people get them? It’s unclear at the moment. Many of the outside-of-China’s internet firewall patients are currently in a many-weeks recovery. For all we know, a high percentage of infected do in fact have mild symptoms and temporary recoveries only for a dormant virus to flare up later with much more severe symptoms. This “recovered-but-then-infected-again” phenomenon has occurred in countries all over the world. It’s not clear why this happens and all the answers are troubling. All the answers suggest that severe symptoms aren’t a matter of quantity, but time as the virus spreads uninhibited.

Second, how does the virus cause all these symptoms? SARS-CoV-2 seems to have some relationship to certain special cell receptors in the lungs, which are also in the heart, kidney, and other places. Yet, how does it infect the nervous system, and why does it happen in some patients and not others? The disease known as Chickenpox remains dormant in the nervous system until later when it reawakens as the disease called “Shingles.”

Imagine all the unknowns of a virus which has already shown such a tremendous ability to interfere with so many body systems.

There is more than enough evidence to be very afraid of this virus, even if we prove that it’s not as harmful as it first appeared. We have not proven that yet.

However, isn’t a vaccine being developed? First of all, vaccines take over a year to develop. One reason is that untested vaccines can cause more harm than good, sometimes with deadly side-effects.

Chinese scientists have unsuccessfully pursued a SARS vaccine for over a decade. In one study – at the Wuhan lab of all places – a major side effect to a SARS vaccine was observed. In this trial, mice who were infected with the vaccine were then re-infected with SARS. The result was worse symptoms and rapid death, a consequence of something called Antibody Dependent Enhancement, or ADE. This is a feature of viruses like the one which causes Dengue fever and HIV. With this feature, viruses exploit our own immune system. After a first infection, your body produces antibodies in your blood to help identify the same virus so it can be quickly destroyed, preventing future infections. However, with ADE, viruses identified by these antibodies use them to hitch a ride onto immune cells. In turn, the virus is spread throughout the body by the immune system itself – leading to a rapid, severe viral infection. Other studies have observed this feature of SARS. SARS-CoV-2 is “SARS like” but with additions. It’s unclear if it shares this feature, but I’d be skeptical of any prospect of a vaccine any time soon. It would be a big fat mistake to count on the vaccine to be our savior.

Reliance on a vaccine to magically solve the problem so that it never has to be a real problem seems like the sort of typical attitude common to the American Empire (and “boomers”). Meaningful preventative infrastructure is ignored because of high upfront costs, and the difficulties and lifestyle changes required. An actual viral outbreak is reactively addressed via a massive spending boondoggle of a vaccine that is then a massive industrial pork project and one-size-fits-all non-solution. Unfortunately, not all viruses can be cured with a vaccine.

In any event, if ADE is truly a feature of SARS-CoV-2, we’re screwed. It means that people are getting mild first infections that go unnoticed, and then after a few weeks the “second wave” gets you (which is not the same as a typical second wave as seen in the Spanish flu, which is a mutation that comes much later). ADE is not a joke, and if a massive number of people in a community have been infected once, an ADE assisted second wave would probably have a massive casualty rate. Even so, there’s no proof yet that this feature exists for COVID-19.

Another “nightmare” feature of SARS-CoV-2 is the possibility that, like Shingles virus, it remains dormant in your system. Or, similar to HIV, it can never be completely cured. You’d have to take harsh medicines for the rest of your life to suppress it and prevent the onset of drowning in your own lung fluids the second your immune system is compromised for some other reason. Again, no proof of this, but something is causing long periods between infection and onset, and very long recovery times. Something is causing seemingly negative testing patients, and seemingly recovered patients, to test positive later and/or get sick again.

Why are we playing footsie with this virus again, without understanding it yet, knowing what we do know?

Finally, how did this virus come into being? The status quo opinion is that because the virus has genetic similarities to viruses which live in bats, that it must have come from a bat somehow. This is tied to the story that the virus originated at Wuhan’s wet market (now thought to likely be false). The virus actually preexisted the cases at the wet market and the wet market cluster was a convenient scape goat for a source of “animal origins.” That said, completely new virus can’t just appear out of the blue among humans. The conventional thinking is that a novel virus has to originate in nature somehow, meaning it has to come from animals who have been breeding it in the wild prior to it ever coming into contact with humans. However, now humans can create new viruses using technology like CRISPR by combining RNA in novel and unnatural ways. Unless there’s specific and clear evidence that a new virus has come from nature, it easily could have come from a lab.

There has been controversy lately about something called gain of function research at biolabs. This is where researchers take existing deadly pathogens and add features to them. One application of this, unrelated to weapons development, is to make viruses enter into cells more quickly to speed up research. For example, the Wuhan lab was researching SARS vaccine. They could have modified their test viruses, possibly with minor HIV genes that affect cell entry, to make the virus infect the test animals more quickly. The speed of entry isn’t meant to affect the ultimate effects of the virus, it simply increases how quickly research can be done by allowing the effects of a virus to appear more quickly in animals. However, if such a virus escaped into the world it would spread very very quickly, since the natural environment (human bodies) has no existing relationship with this kind of feature.

In my opinion, SARS-CoV-2 is probably a vaccine research, bio-engineered variant of new SARS-like viruses discovered in Chinese bats. I suspect they were researching with this virus and it escaped because of poor lab protocol. Someone just didn’t wash their hands right, because they were overworked and tired. Convoluted theories of selling test bats to markets are unnecessary and besides the point. Though, the Washington Post has said this lab theory is totally debunked so take that for what you will.

It doesn’t really matter where the virus came from, except in one sense. If the virus was lab engineered, even if not for purposes of weapons development, then it means it could possibly do things that no virus has ever done before. I don’t know why the hell governments don’t get this. They are fighting this war with the last war’s weapons – typical.

How is government reacting?

The reaction of governments to this crisis is a disgrace. Government has long since inserted itself into public health as an authority and can coerce activity related to public health – both among public and private institutions. This creates information stovepipes, centralizes medical opinion and also medical practice. Even with no coercive authority over your life, government has poisoned the well and created conditions where your neighbors will behave in a way that will harm you, that you can’t control.

From the beginning, the main focus of governments seems to have been on political correctness. When Chinese individuals had leaked videos of body bags, overwhelmed hospitals, panicking citizens and brutal lockdowns, the rest of the world was more concerned with not being racist. While Wuhan was being ravaged by this disease, and half of its population (5 million people, many of whom would have been infected) escaped quarantine to other places in China and all over the world, other nations did next to nothing. Again and again the WHO insisted that travel bans were unnecessary. Meager, imperfect fever checks and polite questionnaires were the only response.

For weeks authorities said, “Human-to-human spread outside China hasn’t been confirmed”. To this day the CDC still says that the ability for this virus to spread when a person has mild or no symptoms is very low (are they sure, how do they know?).

The CDC has completely fumbled the test kit situation, letting 6 weeks go by. States have begun producing their own tests, but the CDC insists that cases can only be called presumptively confirmed until the CDC can test them itself. The University of Washington has now produced its own test kits in spite of the CDC.

Just like in the US, for weeks in Japan, for example, they will not test people even when the doctor insists, simply because patients have not traveled to Hubei, China in the last two weeks. Many local health departments took 4 weeks to update their testing criteria from what it was on day one of the crisis. What a monstrous failure. Japan has a notoriously low number of cases (only about 300, ignoring the cruise ship, which is now fewer than Italy, South Korea, Iran, Germany and soon the USA). Japan also has the highest number of Chinese travelers and the largest, densest metropolis on Earth. Tokyo supposedly only has fewer than 50 cases. Yeah right.

Next week Japan will enact emergency powers allowing for forced quarantine, forcing businesses to pay workers who have to stay home and allowing for the confiscation of property towards fighting the disease. Seems like a great recipe for disaster. I am suspicious that the government is willingly delaying their identification of cases until these powers are in effect. Presently, 300 some odd cases are confirmed in Japan. There are over 5,000 in South Korea. It makes no sense, even accounting for hygiene and weird cults. The cases in Japan are all over geographically, everywhere, and many have no known source. There’s obviously an unidentified major outbreak in Japan. Pay attention to how Japan looks after March 15, it has stayed under the radar because of its pathetically unrealistic numbers.

In the US, the CDC guidance on this virus and the repeating chorus you’ll hear all the time that, “The risk to Americans is low,” will get us killed. As I said, now is not the time to go to that regional volleyball tournament with your daughter’s high school team.

There’s a naïve, unscientific belief that just because we haven’t proven that this virus can harm us, that it won’t. Trump thinks he can talk the stock market out of its now inevitable decline with his “hunches.”

This is it.

Supply chains will never recover. In the next few months, multiple national economies will shut down due to quarantine measures. People living paycheck to paycheck won’t make it, so expect WWII style economic policies for better or worse. Medical martial law is likely, since no other solution other than staying away from other people will be possible for a while. Prepare for that, both in terms of keeping yourself fed and safe, but also in terms of preparing for the political fallout.

This is 9/11 all over again. A failure of the imagination because the unimaginative are in charge. The most easily predictable crisis taking authorities completely by surprise. Health officials are saying it can’t spread asymptomatically, that it can be contained by identifying symptoms and contact tracing and that the risk is low. I have personally seen a mountain of solid evidence to contradict all of those sentiments. Taking in the rumors and anecdotes, the picture is much worse. Off hand reports, rumors and text messages from nurses and doctors in Texas, in Washington State, in NYC and Buffalo, NY all indicate the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in all these places since weeks ago. None of it on the CDC’s public radar. The CDC continues to decline to be transparent about the numbers being tested and why the response has been lackluster. The amount of obfuscation is terrifying.

Think about where we are. Imagine if travel from China was banned the minute Wuhan itself locked down? By the whole world, on WHO’s recommendation. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of tests were prepared as soon as possible, and presumptive cases of the virus were treated as possibly airborne deadly threats from the beginning? Imagine if countries all helped each other be able to do this? That seems harsh and extreme, but if it had been done the virus threat in the USA would be completely over by now. Very few people would ever have been infected. Yes, the scenario is unlikely, but in the coming weeks think about this: it could have all been over by now.

If 60% of America gets infected (likely), and 20% need a hospital bed to live (somewhat possible), you’re looking at 40 million dead Americans. This is not inconceivable.

We can complain, as libertarians, about the government throwing its weight around and banning travel and so forth. My response is the same I give to those who worry about panic. It’s going to happen one way or another, so I’d prefer it to happen sooner, with less fallout.

If the hospital system gets overwhelmed and people are dying and not getting care, that will cause a major panic. The only thing to ameliorate it would be if a greater number of people ‘panicked’ earlier and are more prepared later. Shelves will empty, fights will start, many will be on their own and left high and dry.

Likewise, a travel ban on China would have been extreme, but the martial law and forced vaccinations which are coming are infinitely more terrifying.

I personally don’t believe that war is moral, but what if the front lines of a battle crossed your house? What if you had to leave, or get shelled? What if leaving meant you had to shoot and kill to make it past the battle lines, to safety? War is immoral because it’s something civilization has to proactively do – build and train armies, prepare battle plans, mobilize. When civilization breaks down, the rules change. Morality says you have to always try to establish moral conditions, and civilized law, even when you risk personal harm and have to make sacrifices. Even so, there are reasonable limits. If there’s no reasonable prospect of establishing law, and an obstinate, immoral person is taking actions threatening your family, there is reasonable cause to act in ways that are less than civilized.

In the coming crisis, libertarians have to be very careful about how they respond. Libertarian purity is gone, but so is the pragmatic need to abide the rules of the statist system.

Regardless, do I think it will get that bad? Given the math I presented at the beginning of this article, and the seeming ability of this virus to hide easily while spreading, it’s very possible for an extremely large population of people to become infected. New diseases against which humans have no immunity are very threatening. There are reasons why the human population on Earth never exceeded a few hundred million for so many centuries. The Smallpox epidemic that wiped out Native Americans is a good example of what happens when a new pathogen is introduced to a population. That said, there is not evidence yet that this new SARS-CoV-2 is nearly as deadly as smallpox. Nevertheless, the fact that in many cases it produces mild symptoms is what makes it so hard to track. In modern society, a disease as visibly bad as smallpox would get noticed. That’s why COVID-19 is so insidious.

If major containment measures and travel restrictions such as those undertaken by China are not enacted, it’s theoretically possible that over half of humanity could contract this disease. Using similar logic, some experts have stated that in theory 60% of the world could become infected. There is another data point which is far from confirmed and will most likely go down as we know more, which says that perhaps as high as 20% of those infected will need to go to the hospital because of severe pneumonia. The napkin math is simple: this would mean hundred of millions of deaths as medical systems are overwhelmed. That said, containment measures, scientific discoveries and plain good luck could easily make the situation turn out to be far less dire. It’s worth mentioning and acknowledging the napkin math nonetheless. This puts gives the situation’s proportions, even if this horrific outcome never occurs.

The prospect of an apocalyptic number of people dying from this disease is not the main issue. As regional outbreaks grow, they will be combated. It’s doubtful that – beyond this early phase – people will do nothing if a true crisis emerges. Once people really start fighting the virus, the ultimate severity becomes a matter of fate. What really matters, more than predicting how bad the medical problem will be, is preparing for the economic and political fallout.

In an environment where it appears as if many lives are at risk, people will panic, and they won’t be economically productive (as staying home could be one of the few very effective measures). Supply lines and Chinese production will be threatened. Production elsewhere like SE Asia and India are likely similarly at risk. Travel companies are doomed. The economy, being as fragile as it is, will probably collapse. Debt default is unlikely, given the government’s ability to create liquidity, but the storied hyperinflation seems like a strong possibility. You can’t pump up real economic disruptions, that’s the problem.

Today, many people are living paycheck to paycheck. It’s possible that laws will be passed where people don’t have to pay rent or mortgages for a time, but what a real economic nightmare that will be. I am highly skeptical of the government’s (read: military) ability to manage supply lines and keep people fed in a martial law environment. Normal medical problems will go untreated. Even law enforcement might get sick.

The government itself will be affected. Iran’s parliament is infected, and a couple of senior leaders have died. Apparently there have been a couple cases from people who attended AIPAC, which 2/3 of Congress and Mike Pence attended. Canada’s military is planning for absentee rates as high as 25% in the military due to the virus. You think local cops will be immune?

There was major chaos and a breakdown of public order after hurricane Katrina. I would expect that this sort of environment will probably emerge in more than a few places worldwide.

As libertarians, we understand that the government’s power is sort of a façade. There’s a reason why the FBI has to constantly infiltrate and honeypot do-nothing loser groups of weirdos. If the image of government legitimacy or power falters, the costs of maintaining power rise exponentially. This is the truly concerning black swan. The general loss of legitimacy of government, and the consequent social effects.

The next 10 years have the potential to be very bad.

Will the virus be this bad? There is hope. It could turn out to be less bad then we think. Hospitals will be overcrowded to a degree, and hundreds of thousands worldwide will die. The economy will probably enter into a depression. In spite of this inevitability, the virus may turn out to be no worse than that. Maybe people could become immune to it after catching it. Maybe a treatment will be discovered. As much as things could go wrong, they could go right.

Even so, if things do go reasonably wrong, this would be a 500-year event in mankind’s history – bigger than WWII. I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of war between nation states as a consequence of the breakdown of society. As Nietzsche said, man has killed God. Yet, our system is still based on certain pretenses carried over from the last 1500 years. Comfort and safety have been band-aids which have prevented a true reckoning with the new world and new millennium. Industry saved the peasant from the life of the Middle Ages. Industry led to empire and modernism, which never fully lived out its natural lifespan. America, protected by geography and luck, crushed modernist politics with force, imposing a global system based on the pretense of safety experienced by American society. The comfort of the last 20 years, in America, exists because of Chinese slave labor. The effects of that are now blowing back directly. The last 500 years have been the slow move away from blood, soil and church, towards something else. The next 500 years will be about discovering what that something else is, and I believe this event now is the catalyst marking the change.

What is the political fallout, if this gets bad?

First and foremost, all people whether libertarian or not need to remember one thing about this crisis: never ever ever ever, ever, ever ever forget or forgive the government for screwing this up. They screwed up the economy, society, the medical system; never forget. They also wasted two critical months dicking around, denying the problem, preventing those who saw the problem from acting, censoring, contradicting and belittling the voices who saw this.

The WHO has prevented dozens of countries from reacting more seriously to the virus, and only now that China is off the media radar are they beginning to hype up the threat. This is criminal negligence, in the plainest sense. Even so, the spiritual, moral and historical implications of this crisis and its possible magnitude suggest that WHO deserves much more serious scrutiny and scorn than what a mere manslaughter trial could produce. The global institutions, the UN etc., may try to insert themselves into this crisis and gain power from it. They helped cause this. They are politicized, corrupt and often ideological. They should never ever ever have power, or even credibility, ever again.

Globalization and the financialized economy should die. This crisis exists because “quarantine” is no longer possible in modern society. A quarantine is a 40-day isolation, the word derived from the Venetian/Italian word for 40. Our society can hardly afford to allow people to take 2 whole weeks off of work, and can’t afford even a one day stop to cross-border traffic and trade. This system sucks. Debt-fueled finance creates a treadmill that can never stop, and despite its ability to produce, it leaves no time to breathe and reassess the value of what’s actually being produced.

I used to think globalization was great because of comparative advantage. Yes, the economics of free markets and free trade suggest that they produce more efficiency and higher standards of living. Yes, capitalism has brought China out of poverty Milton Friedman. Still, 20+ years later look at the effects. The economy is more efficient, but traditional society is totally displaced and the family is dying. Not only have “economic animals” found that they cannot remain in the home, the local community, the nest – tossed from city to city, concentrating in ugly, overpriced, rundown metropolises chasing jobs – most of the developing world is struggling to afford to have even one child. People are living paycheck to paycheck. China has tasted prosperity, and yet has no desire for freedom. Look at what bringing the civilized technological world into China has given us: COVID-19.

The Mises Institute’s latest tack is the right one, in my opinion. Libertarianism has to focus on strengthening local communities against outside pressures. Whether they are rural, religious towns or urban syndicalist communes. If the power is to be decentralized, the economy and social structures have to be too.

Sadly, total individual freedom seems to require an “empire of liberty.” It requires centralized financial system which can reach its tentacles into all communities so that anyone anywhere can abandon local social systems and experience personal freedom. That empire of liberty has been killing people all over the world to secure its resources and markets, to keep itself afloat and fund the patchwork social programs which paper over the destruction of local social structures. All so we can trot around drinking and smoking with nary a care. That lifestyle isn’t possible without a monolithic system of law and social programs. Constraints come from nature and they have to be realized somehow. More and more I’m convinced that what is called personal freedom is synonymous with left-wing statism.

The libertarian future has to be decentralization. Yes, it’s inefficient at times, and restricts personal freedom at times, but it’s the only system capable of stability and dynamism at the same time. Personal freedom will result from finding the right community to join and building good fences to make good neighbors. All of this will require compromises, but compromise is a necessary part of living in a world with natural constraints.

The virus has strongly solidified my support of localism. No matter how the situation unfolds politically, I believe that the public must finally put its foot down in favor of decentralization by the time it’s through.

The job treadmill will collapse. The debt treadmill will collapse. The welfare and medical system will collapse. For goodness’ sake don’t rebuild it again when it’s all said and done! When you and your neighbors successfully get through this on your own, don’t cede the power back, even if you have to fight.

This virus is both the proof and the chance for the people of Earth to put their foot down and keep their natural rights and powers next time the government comes to collect them.

No matter what happens, that’s the key.

Even if this crisis becomes unimaginably bad, as the economic and political effects follow the medical, humanity has a leg up. Even if the entire system falls flat on its face, mankind has accumulated vastly more useful knowledge today than it had even 100, even 50, or even 20 years ago. Even if we face 10 years of hell, as long as the old constraints are removed and people adjust, we have enough knowledge to very quickly recover.

Keeping in mind that rapid recovery is possible, our goal during any potential crisis is to prepare for the next stage. We need to sharpen up our moral, economic, and political theories. It’s the perfect time to preach Rothbard and Mises. Even so, we’re going to need something better than Rothbard. Libertarians need to innovate, to take the foundations and build higher.

An Unspoken Fear of the Coronavirus

An Unspoken Fear of the Coronavirus

You’d think people would be used to it by now. Every couple of years the world is thrust into hysteria by the latest virus that is threatening to wipe out a significant portion of the population. Whether it’s SARS, Dengue, Ebola, Swine Flu or the Coronavirus, fear becomes the default emotion while States and their confederate agencies appear do everything they can to stoke them. The press appears to almost celebrate such panics because the population flocks to their reports in anticipation they will deliver them the information they need to survive. One wonders why people still trust the media with their history of getting stories wrong. 

It is common among individuals to see the reports of a “super-flu” spreading and default to the most debilitating of emotions — especially when it comes to liberty — that being fear. But most people don’t go further and ask the question; “What exactly are people afraid of?” Is it death? Of course, that Is mankind’s greatest anxiety, especially for those who have children. Is it civil unrest? Could the threat of mass illnesses shutting down industries, thereby making certain items of necessity scarce, cause people to loot not only stores, but their neighbor? Or could it be another fear? 

Most Americans feel the dread in knowing that getting sick and not being able to work for an extended period of time can put them out on the street. There are a couple stats that should be looked at, as well as a factor that some people don’t know about, and one most don’t want to hear. 

The Ratio of Work to ‘Thriving’ 

A formula often overlooked when examing your personal economy is the ratio of “work to thriving.” How many weeks of the year do you need to work to pay for the basics? In a February 27, 2020 CBS article, Aimee Picchi writes, “The typical male worker must now work 53 weeks — or more than a year — to make enough to cover what American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass calls the annual “cost of thriving,” the earnings required to pay of a basket of essentials such as health care and housing. By comparison, in 1985 that same typical employee needed to work 30 weeks to cover those same costs, found a recent analysis from American Compass, a newly formed conservative economic think tank.” 

When it comes to female workers the number is even more alarming, “Women these days need about 66 weeks — or 13 more weeks than men — to afford the same basket of basics, given that they on average earn less than men. But like the typical male worker, they’ve also lost ground since 1985, when the average female employee could cover her basics after 45 weeks of income.” 

Many people are familiar with the term “cost of living,” but the “cost of thriving” would be a better gauge to follow considering American culture. Cass explains,” “The cost of living is the standard measure that gets talked about a lot, but there is a difference between living and thriving… thriving implies a richer conception of what we believe we are achieving, rather than just living.”  

Picchi notes, “The Consumer Price Index — a standard measure of inflation — focuses on the cost of food, clothing, housing and other basics that families require. But that doesn’t necessarily reflect the challenges of paying for things you need to flourish in American society today, such as the ever-rising cost of keeping a roof over your head or going to college.” Picchi explains the criteria for the cost of thriving index, “Instead of using a broad range of basics, the Cost of Thriving Index focuses on four components: the cost of a three-bedroom house, health insurance for a family, one semester at a public college and the expense of operating a car.” 

“Those costs have become “difficult for a household budget to accommodate,” Cass said.” 

One Paycheck Away 

When you take into consideration that most people are one paycheck away from homelessness, it’s easy to understand why many Americans have taken to advocating for an expansive Scandinavian-style welfare State. In January of 2019, Forbes writer Zack Friedman wrote, “according to a 2017 survey, CareerBuilder, a leading job site, found some startling statistics related to debt, budgeting and making ends meet; 

  • Nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000+ live paycheck to paycheck 
  • More than 1 in 4 workers do not set aside any savings each month 
  • Nearly 3 in 4 workers say they are in debt – and more than half think they always will be 
  • More than half of minimum wage workers say they have to work more than one job to make ends meet 
  • 28% of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 70% are in debt 

The survey also found that 32% of the nearly 3,500 full-time workers surveyed use a budget and only 56% save $100 or less a month.

At this point some may assume that this article is only about looking to external factors to find fault with. Yes, they exist, but this is specifically about two factors: one that the individual has control of, and another that no president or politician has been able to solve in the last century even if they wanted to. 

The Dreaded Federal Reserve System 

The negative implications of having a government controlled central bank are too numerous to list in an article, but one of them is that your spending power is diminished. As Henry Hazlitt explained in his 1951 Newsweek column (reprinted at Mises.org), Inflation for Beginners

“When the supply of money is increased, people have more money to offer for goods. If the supply of goods does not increase—or does not increase as much as the supply of money—then the prices of goods will go up. Each individual dollar becomes less valuable because there are more dollars. Therefore, more of them will be offered against, say, a pair of shoes or a hundred bushels of wheat than before. A “price” is an exchange ratio between a dollar and a unit of goods. When people have more dollars, they value each dollar less. Goods then rise in price, not because goods are scarcer than before, but because dollars are more abundant.” 

Since 1991 the supply of U.S. dollars has grown beyond what most people realize. According to the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis, in January of 1991 there were approximately 283 billion dollars in circulation. As the 90s progressed and the government instituted the blockade in Iraq, the Kosovo conflicts and various skirmishes, by November 2000, that number climbs to 576 billion, more than doubling.  

Now we come to post 9/11. On September 12, 2001, the money supply was at 613 billion. On March 19th, 2003, dollars in circulation were at 683 billion. Jumping to the start of the Iraqi surge in January 2007, we are now at 801 billion. 

Fast forward to soon after the 2008 financial crisis and the picture gets bleaker. What has come to be known as QE1 was started on 11/26/08. It began with the Federal Reserve (FED) buying 600 billion in mortgage backed securities. By its end in June of 2010, the FED raised the money supply from just under a trillion dollars to 2.1 trillion. QE2 lasted seven months between November 2010 and June 2011. Starting with 2 trillion in circulation, it was raised to 2.6 trillion. Less than QE1, but still a bigger jump than was seen all through the 1990s and most of the way through the 2000s. QE3 was implemented in September of 2012. By the end of 2013 the money supply had been increased to 3.6 trillion dollars. On 9/11/01 the money supply was at 613 billion dollars. Twelve years later, because of preemptive wars and government interference in the market, the money supply was increased by 250%. 

What does this look like in the real-world using home prices as an example? In 2017, CNBC reported, “If you want to buy a house this year, you may well be paying around $199,200, the median price for a home in the U.S., according to Zillow.” Compare that coming forward from the start of World War 2, “In 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was just $2,938. In 1980, it was $47,200, and by 2000, it had risen to $119,600. Even adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars, according to data from the U.S. Census.” 

No one would argue that homes have in fact increased in value. Atlanta added 75,000 to their population in 2018 alone. If the supply of housing stays static, or doesn’t keep up with the added numbers, prices will increase. This is common in most major metro areas. But the increase in the money supply has caused prices to skyrocket beyond what the law of “supply and demand” would dictate. 

Take Some Responsibility 

When it comes to this part of the discussion the reader may start to bristle. Setting aside for a moment the facts laid out about the Federal Reserve System, everyone knows someone who is more prepared than most. Many people know the “prepper” who has 6-months’ worth of food stashed. How many people know the person who has 6-months’ worth of income put aside to cover their bills in case of emergency? 

Sure, the Federal Reserve can be blamed for causing the increase in prices in essentials due to their policies, but is that really an excuse? In 2016, the average American was carrying $16,061 in credit card debt alone. Assuming an 18.9% interest rate, paying $640 per month, it would take 15 years and 4 months to pay off that debt. And that’s taking into account no further charges being made. 

The simple fact is that most people, even libertarians who know the system is rigged, live beyond their means. When you add up a mortgage or rental payment, a couple car payments, money shelled out for the 2.4 kids and the aforementioned credit card payments and even smart people are a couple paychecks from disaster. 

Using the scare of the Coronavirus an example, it is easy to see that not only is the fear of death a motivating factor when it comes to the inevitable panic associated with a potential “pandemic,” but even the fear of losing a few weeks at work can have people on edge. As discussed, there are barriers to keep one from being secure in their possessions that are beyond their control, but there are also common-sense ways to combat obstacles even as great as a government-rigged money system. Hopefully people will see fit to prepare for such setbacks in the future as history has shown that this will not be the last impending “catastrophe” to derail us from our lives. 

The “F” Word

The “F” Word

There’s a four letter word beginning with ‘f’ that’s on a lot of people’s lips these days.

I’m talking about “free.”

Free just might be the most powerful word in the English language. It drastically alters people’s behaviors and can short-circuit mental reasoning like few other words can.

I can vividly remember many years ago when I worked events for a major league baseball franchise. The team would occasionally have “giveaway” nights in which the first 1,000 or 5,000 fans would receive a free souvenir gift.

Mind you, these gifts were typically low-quality, cheap trinkets that most folks would otherwise either never buy or not pay more than a couple bucks for. Valuable memorabilia autographed by star players these most definitely were not.

But because they were advertised as “free,” people lined up an hour or more before games to ensure their spot in line to get one. And the panicked and outraged looks on people’s faces after we ran out of the souvenirs struck me as completely irrational. Why do people get so worked up over something so cheap, just because it’s “free”?

It’s this experience that sticks with me as I see the groundswell of support for politicians like Bernie Sanders promising voters “free” stuff like healthcare, college and daycare. If people got that excited over a cheap souvenir given away for free at a baseball game, just imagine how downright hysterical people will get over the thought of getting such vital and expensive services like healthcare and college for “free.”

 There’s just something about the idea of getting something for free that makes people lose their minds.

And don’t dare try to convince the average Bernie supporter that nothing in life is free. Just like the lottery player wouldn’t care how his winnings would be paid for, Bernie bros can’t be bothered with the notion that all this “free” stuff actually comes with a cost.

And when pressed for a price tag, Bernie himself can’t seem to be bothered to come up with an answer.

Witness his February 60 Minutes appearance, when Sanders unapologetically answered, “No, I don’t” when directly asked if he had a price tag for all his programs. 

Nothing in life is free

As the old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

When politicians promise free stuff, what they really mean is that it would be free at the point of exchange for the user.

But University lecture halls don’t organically sprout from the ground, they need to be constructed. Hospitals and day cares need to be built. Doctors, nurses, daycare providers and professors need to get paid. 

When the government provides goods and services for “free,” it really means they are shifting their costs onto others, by force.

A Yahoo News headline was quickly seized on by social media and made into a meme exposing the reality of supposed “free” government programs.

It’s always amusing when the mask slips.

Third party payments make goods and services more costly

When a third party is paying the bill for something, that’s when costs explode. Because it’s free at the point of service, demand will rise. In a free market, when demand rises, prices will typically rise and both tamp down demand and encourage more supply. Market forces would push the price for this product toward equilibrium.

When the government is paying, however, the market forces are absent. Prices won’t rise, because they remain free at the point of service. Demand will continue to climb. 

But because payment is made by the government, and reimbursements paid to providers do not increase along with demand, there is no incentive in place to encourage supply to increase. Moreover, because the consumer is not the one actually paying, there’s little incentive for providers to compete for customers. Producers will have virtually no incentive to economize production in order to offer their product at a lower price, or improve quality to capture a larger share of the market. 

Non-price factors become more influential in the rationing of the goods and services. Costs in the form of shortages, long wait times and lower quality are forced upon consumers in lieu of prices. 

Meanwhile, demand for the “free” goods and services remains unchecked, so the amount of goods and services being consumed rises beyond government bureaucrats’ expectations. This process then mainly serves as an excuse for government to dig deeper into taxpayer wallets forcing them to subsidize more and more people desiring to acquire goods at someone else’s expense.

Why politicians love the F word

Politicians exploit the power of the F word to gain votes and power. Their political calculus is this: “If I can convince enough voters that they will get free stuff paid for by a small group of ‘rich’ others, I’ll secure enough votes to win the election.”

And because their time horizon of concern is the next election, any long-term consequences don’t concern them. When the bill comes due and the system begins to collapse, they’ll be out of office and the current officeholders will get the blame while they enjoy a cushy retirement or lobbying career.

The siren song of “free” is incredibly alluring, especially to the young. Voting is such a small price to pay for the potential of free college or healthcare. 

But “free” comes with a steep price. Society must choose: free stuff, or free people.

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics.

Follow him on twitter: Bradley Thomas @erasestate

What is Libertarianism?

What is Libertarianism?

“The Libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: That no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else…..Libertarians make no exceptions to the golden rule and provide no moral loophole for ‘government’.” – For a New Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard, 1973

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s spy program failed miserably, but some spooks want to expand it

The US National Security Agency spent $100 million over three years on illegally collecting millions of American phone records – all for two reports with unique counterterrorism intelligence, according to a declassified report from an NSA oversight body.

So naturally, intelligence officials and lawmakers want the NSA’s records collection program reauthorized, and some even want it expanded to include more modern forms of communications such as encrypted chat apps.

The NSA’s failed spying scheme is detailed in a report released Wednesday by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Congress faces a March 15 deadline to decide whether to renew the NSA’s program.

According to the PCLOB report, the latest iteration of the NSA’s data collection scheme – which was “reformed” by the Freedom Act in 2015 – was not abused or intentionally misused. Nevertheless, the program resulted in the collection of some 1 billion records on more than 18 million phones.

Much of the metadata was illegally collected due to human error, PCLOB said.

In a particularly illuminating example, the NSA used outdated and misleading intelligence information in a FISA application – due to an FBI agent being on vacation.

According to the report, a “foreign partner” provided additional information to an FBI analyst that would have called into question certain facts included in the FISA application. Because the analyst was on vacation, the additional information was not conveyed to the NSA until the agency already used the FISA order to vacuum records.

And despite collecting more than 1 billion phone records – whether legally or otherwise – the NSA only produced 15 intelligence reports, and only two with information the FBI didn’t already have, according to PCLOB. Moreover, of the two relevant reports, one led to a dead end and the details of the other were redacted by PCLOB.

“The low volume of intelligence reporting produced by the program — 15 reports over several years — is particularly informative, especially when coupled with NSA’s assessment that it would expect a program of this scale and expense to generate hundreds or thousands,” the report said.

But like so many other government programs, US spooks now argue that the NSA’s authority should not only be renewed, but expanded, too. You see: the NSA has been limited to collecting metadata from traditional phone services, and needs to also be able to collect the same from chat applications, social media, emails, and other sources.

Two PCLOB members made this case in Wednesday’s report.

“The [Freedom] Act did not provide … authority for the myriad other ways in which terrorists may communicate, from emails to encrypted messaging. That proved to be a problem,” PCLOB members Aditya Bamzai and Jane Nitze said in the oversight report. “Thus, in the future, for surveillance authorities to be useful in a world of rapidly advancing technology, they should be neutral as to communications methods.”

It’s also noting that despite the instances of improper data collection identified in the report, PCLOB still argued that overall the program is constitutional.

“We first consider whether the collection of telephony metadata under the [records collection] program constituted a ‘search’ or ‘seizure’ under the Amendment’s text as interpreted by relevant Supreme Court cases,” PCLOB said. “We believe it did not, and that the program was constitutional for this reason alone.”

Take PCLOB with a grain of salt, however: The body was created by the Bush administration in 2004, and allowed rampant abuses to go unchecked for years. Somehow, the board found that even the NSA’s original bulk data collection program – exposed by Edward Snowden – was constitutional, too.

To their credit, two board members, Ed Felten and Travis LeBlanc, released their own dissenting statement, calling for the unconstitutional program to be permanently shuttered.

“This large-scale CDR program surely sweeps in the CDRs of protestors, journalists, political activists, whistleblowers, and ordinary people,” Felten and LeBlanc said. “In the end, whether for concerns over constitutional implications or for policy reasons, we concur with NSA’s decision to end the program and believe the program should remain shuttered.”

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Check out this graph, data for which were drawn from the USDA and CDC:

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With a correlation coefficient of about -0.94, these data indicate that for the decade 2000-2009 there was a strong inverse relationship between per capita consumption of beef and the number of suicides by handgun. That is, this correlation seems to imply that the decline in total beef consumed per person over the course of the decade was linked to the number of suicides by handgun, which rose at virtually the same rate.

This proves that there’s a relationship between an individual’s meat consumption and his likelihood to commit suicide, right?

Of course not; this correlation is spurious. These data were not the result of a study that tracked the mental health and dietary habits of individuals over a decade. Rather, to demonstrate this idea of spurious correlation, the graph‘s maker, Tyler Vigen, took data from the CDC and USDA and laid them on top of one another. That they correlate for so long–and so closely–is entirely coincidental.

Absent some theoretical framework with which to interpret data–that is, if we let the data “speak for themselves”–data correlations can seem to deny true principles. For instance, roughly 87,000 flights occur daily in the United States, ostensibly defying the laws of gravity. But the laws of gravity aren’t contravened by the flight of giant metal birds with fixed wings. Rather, the interaction between airspeed, air pressure, wing shape, and direction creates the lift that allows aircraft to soar thousands of feet above the earth. The laws of gravity are entirely satisfied, and anyone claiming that these flights are evidence that the laws of gravity have been overturned would be ridiculed mercilessly by his peers.

This principle is just as true in economics as it is in physics. For example, economic theory tells us that demand curves are downward sloping–i.e. as price increases, fewer units of a good are consumed–but some studies purport to find that raising the cost of labor by means of a minimum wage causes no change in employers’ demand for labor. If the relationship between labor and the law of demand isn’t being disproved, what’s going on? 

At first glance, the law of demand would seem to imply that an increase in the cost of labor would induce employers to decrease the number of workers they hire. But if the minimum wage is only binding on certain individuals, and if employers don’t hire any such individuals, then employers won’t be impacted by the change. Likewise, for those making more than a proposed wage floor, a rise in the minimum wage won’t constitute a “raise” because, at best, their incomes will remain unaffected.

For example, according to PayScale the estimated average yearly earnings of someone who throws freight at WinCo Foods in Boise, ID, is $17,000. Assuming full-time status (2,080 working-hours annually), that amounts to a wage of roughly $8.17/hour. Idaho’s minimum wage reflects the national minimum wage of $7.25/hour, so any increase in their wage floor of up to $0.92/hour won’t be binding on any of WinCo’s Boise-based freight throwers, and, all things equal, WinCo’s employment level won’t be impacted.

But such a lack of response in employment isn’t evidence that minimum wage laws have no disemployment effects, or that the law of demand is irrelevant to labor. All it would demonstrate is that we must be more careful in determining the impacts of minimum wage hikes. Indeed, including workers who make more than the amount of a given proposal to raise the minimum wage is distortive of a study’s results, at best. At worst, their inclusion is highly disingenuous. 

Fortunately, the minimum wage is among the most studied policies in economics, so a great deal of work on its disemployment effects has already been done with low wage-earners in mind. A study out of Denmark [pdf], for example, assessed the impact of minimum wage increases on teenagers, for whom, by law, the minimum wage rises nearly 40 percent at age 18. 

The authors found that while those who keep their jobs see a significant increase in take-home pay, labor as a proportion of total input falls by nearly half. Furthermore, the overall employment rate for teens falls by a third as 18-year-old workers find themselves jobless. The upshot of these effects, taken together, is that the level of total wages paid by employers remains virtually unchanged—a result completely in line with the law of demand.

But there are other ways that employment is distorted by the institution of a new wage floor. Quite often, in fact, the law of demand is satisfied in ways that are less immediately visible. 

Recent studies from Seattle, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [pdf], and New York University [pdf] provide good examples. In the Seattle study, workers saw declines in hours that completely offset their gains in hourly pay, leaving them with less take-home pay. The NYU study found that higher productivity workers were substituted for lower productivity workers. In addition to such findings, the UIUC study also found that in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage resulted in an increase of more than 24 percent in spending on capital, in line with concerns that minimum wage hikes lead to faster automation.

Other impacts from minimum wage hikes that aren’t immediately obvious include reductions in non-wage benefits for workers both at and just above the wage floor, higher consumer prices [pdf], substituting increased customer responsibility for unskilled labor [pdf], higher credential requirements for would-be employees [pdf], delayed teen and minority entry into the job market, and slower job growth for as long as eight years after the increase.

In spite of (methodologically questionable) recent challenges, the decades-old consensus remains on solid empirical ground. In a review of more than 100 studies of the minimum wage in countries across the globe, less than 8 percent found that increasing the minimum wage had the kind of positive impact on employment found in studies that challenge the consensus view. About two-thirds of the studies, by contrast, found negative employment effects. 

When the authors narrowed their evaluation to the best-quality evidence, 85 percent of studies found the expected disemployment effects, while “very few–if any–cases [were found in which] a study provide[d] convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages” on those most susceptible to employment displacement. 

In other words, despite donning a scientific veneer, the claims of those who hold that labor is not subject to the law of demand are nearly as baseless as those who might argue that the flight of airplanes disproves the law of gravity. Given the weight of evidence, we should be immediately skeptical upon hearing of studies that purport to find net-zero (or net-positive) impacts resulting from minimum wage hikes. 

But even if the literature were murkier on the empirical relationship between wage floors and employment, such skepticism would still be warranted. Intuitively, we know that if the price of a good rises, we respond to that change by reducing our consumption of that good. While the response depends on the individual consumer’s capacity and desire to consume at a given price level (that is, their demand elasticity), at some point the next increase in price causes everyone* to consume less. Interpreting data within this theoretical framework allows one to forego the mockery of anyone possessed of passing familiarity with economic principles.

In the end, economist David Henderson’s First Pillar of Economic Wisdom remains a true guiding principle: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And, indeed, in the immortal words of Wesley, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

*The exception is in goods for which demand is perfectly inelastic, but, given the ease with which unskilled laborers can be found in the labor market, one would be hard-pressed to argue convincingly that unskilled labor constitutes such a good.

Reprinted from Ignore This.

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

“I was just following orders” is the mantra of everyone who has found themselves on the wrong side of history – who is called into account for their actions as an order taker. How is it possible that everyone from corrupt mayors, to murderous tyrants have been able to get so many people to obey them and march in lockstep? When you take into account there are people who are willing to defend them, it’s easy to understand how these organs of the State are allowed to get away with everything from ticketing people for non-violent crimes, to the worst atrocities one could ever imagine. When you have cheerleaders, as athletes do, you are often looked at as a hero. Why else would other people be championing you and your profession? 

From the day they’re born, the overwhelming majority of people are raised in environments that teach them to obey “authority” and never question it.  

A perfect example is unquestioning nationalism. A quote on nationalism by Albert Einstein which he spoke before the rise of Hitler was, “nationalism is an infantile disease, it is the measles of mankind.” That makes sense especially when you consider that people who are unquestioning nationalists are generally taught it from a young age.  

Nationalism doesn’t have to be a negative. To the contrary, many people who identify as such can articulate the difference between having an affection for the people and the society into which they were born, or chose, and their radical distrust of the government they live under. But those who can’t (or won’t) separate the State from their neighbor, have been shown in history to be the ones who either become the order-follower, or blindly worship and make excuses for them. 

The much rarer trait is to see someone raised as a radical individualist. Homeschooling numbers from 1990- 2019 have grown from 275,000 to 2,300,000. Reasons for wanting to keep your children out of government schools can vary. Some of the earliest started out for religious reasons. Today, many people who call themselves libertarians/anarchist/voluntaryists do it because they don’t want their children to grow up in an environment which fosters and actively promotes obedience to the State apparatus.  

Law Enforcement Worship 

From a young age, many parents teach their kids that law enforcement are the good guys and if they ask you a question, you better answer and be respectful. You can be respectful and still understand the nature of the job of the police in this country. They are evidence gatherers. That is their main task since they rarely show up in time to stop a crime. They have rightfully been referred to as “historians.” If a statute has been broken, it is their job to figure out who did it and they do this by detaining or arresting people and asking them questions. 

Any lawyer worth their salt will tell you to never answer questions unless they, or another attorney is present, even if you know you are not guilty. In the must-read book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” James Duane details by citing case upon case how innocent people have talked their way into losing decades of their lives even though they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted. He explains how police can ask you 100 questions, and while you may have answered 98 of them correctly, even proving your innocence, the 2 that you answer in a wishy-washy way can be used to convict you while the other 98 (ones that prove your innocence) will be thrown away and declared inadmissible in court. 

This continues to be a blight on the criminal “justice” system and police officers are aware that this happens. Yet they continue to do their job as they always have with no regard for whether they are contributing to the jailing of an innocent person. They, and their defenders, will often blame it on the prosecutors. Yes, they will pass the buck so to speak. And what is their excuse? It’s just part of the job and we are “just following orders.” “We’re just doing our jobs!” 

Military Members are Beyond Reproach 

At this point in the “War on Terror” it’s impossible to argue that those fighting it are expected to be held up as heroes by the government and general public, even to the point of excusing the worst atrocities and war crimes imaginable. 

Recently, president Trump granted clemency to war criminal, special operations chief Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher, a Navy Seal and platoon leader, is described as, “a “toxic” character who was “OK with killing anything that moved”, according to fellow Iraq veterans who reported his conduct to military investigators.” “In the interviews, conducted by navy investigators looking into Gallagher’s conduct during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2017, fellow platoon members told of a ruthless leader who stabbed a captive to death for no reason then forced his troops to pose for a photograph with the corpse.”  

At his court martial Gallagher was acquitted of murder but lost rank because of the pictures posing with the dead body. “In a lengthy criminal investigation report, the navy detectives laid out other allegations against Gallagher, including shooting a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper’s roost. Members of Alpha Platoon’s Seal Team 7 alarmed by their leader’s conduct said they were initially shut down by military chiefs when they first spoke up, and told their own careers would suffer if they continued to talk about it” 

“The guy is freaking evil,” special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the platoon’s most experienced members, told investigators in sometimes tearful testimony. “I think Eddie was proud of it, and that was, like, part of it for him.” 

This is the man Trump gave clemency from any future charges to. And when he did, Gallagher’s defenders came out of the woodwork to defend him from anyone who dared make the claim that this man not only deserves to be locked up, but that his sanity should be called into question. Trump went so far as to hint that he would take Gallagher out on the campaign trail with him. 

Eddie Gallagher was the platoon leader, the one who gave the orders. But he also took them. Testimony shows that these military chiefs did everything they could to protect Gallagher. Even threatening those under his command if they spoke of this. It’s hard to judge from afar whether those men who posed with the dead body wanted to, or they were just following orders and feared retribution. When you see that Gallagher’s bosses actively sought to protect him, is it unreasonable to ask whether Gallagher was “just following orders” when he committed these atrocities? 

As was stated at the start, “order-followers” have found themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to decency, not to mention liberty. Their defenders are vocal and can rarely be reasoned with. They see people in these positions as heroes and will make any excuse for actions that could be stood right next to the worst atrocities committed by Pol Pot. As we progress into a future where it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people intend to grow the size and scope of government, those who value individual liberty and justice may have to decide whether they will stick it out and attempt to change this culture, or look for alternate solutions lest they wake up in a State in which their every deed and word is under the purview of the unthinking automaton. 

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities


As if the national debt and federal entitlement liabilities weren’t enough. Now we get word that state governments have racked up more than a trillion dollars in unfunded healthcare benefits for state government workers. That’s trillion – with a ‘T’.

In a report released earlier this month, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) revealed the total, adding “That’s an average of $3,107 of unfunded OPEB liabilities for every resident of the United States.” 

The financial liabilities, labeled “Other post-employment benefits,” or OPEB for short, calculate the present value of health insurance coverage benefits promised to state government employees when they retire.

Virtually every state government promises fully- or partially- paid health insurance coverage to their employees in retirement.  

More than 40 percent of the benefit plans, according to the ALEC report, operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning there has been no money set aside. And the states that do set aside some funds to help pay for the benefits typically don’t set aside much. Indeed, the ALEC report notes “The average funding ratio for state OPEB plans is 9.4%.”

States with the highest OPEB liabilities per capita are Alaska at $18,500 followed by New Jersey at $14,500 and Hawaii at $12,200.

The liability totals disclosed in the ALEC report differ from the “official” figures produced by most state governments, however. This is because ALEC uses a more realistic discount rate to calculate the present value of the liabilities. State governments are notorious for using impractical discount rates in order to make liabilities look less daunting.

This latest trillion-dollar revelation of yet more irresponsible government promises turning into taxpayer-crushing liabilities illustrates a key point made by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his 2001 book “Democracy: The God That Failed.”

Because a politician’s top priority is getting re-elected, they have a high time preference. That is, they place a high priority on spending now with little regard for future consequences, because several years down the road they will no longer be in office and the mounting debt and liabilities will become someone else’s problem.

Referring to elected officials in a democracy as “temporary caretakers” of government assets and finances, Hoppe wrote that such caretakers are “not held liable for debts incurred during his tenure of office. Rather, his debts are considered ‘public,’ to be repaid by future (equally nonreliable) governments.”

There is no incentive for elected politicians in a democracy to concern themselves with the long-term value of the government’s financial condition. “A democratic ruler can use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it,” wrote Hoppe. Because there is no ownership, politicians are incentivized to use the resources temporarily at their disposal for their own personal gain, which often results in long-term financial pain.

Which brings us back to the OPEB liabilities faced by state governments. For decades, state politicians have promised generous retirement benefits to state employees to curry favor (and donations) from state employees, and to access the deep pockets of state government unions.

Such retiree health benefits for state government employees are far more generous than the private sector, where owners need to be more conscious of long-term financial implications.

According to this recently-released report by the Manhattan Institute, the growing OPEB liabilities have “also revealed the extent of the gulf between the public and the private sectors. Larger private-sector firms began to offer retiree health-care coverage in the 1940s, but new accounting rules issued in the 1980s drove most firms to halt the practice.”

The report continues, “The portion of large and midsize firms offering retiree health benefits fell from 45% in 1988 to 24% in 2017. Smaller companies were less likely to offer such benefits. Today, only 15% of private-sector workers have access to employer-provided retiree health benefits. In contrast, 70% of state and local workers are eligible for employer-provided retiree health benefits.”

Naturally, politicians who are merely temporary caretakers of money taken from citizens by force will be quite willing to exchange generous benefits for better odds of winning re-election. 

Leftists accuse capitalists of being greedy and self-interested. But the latest revelation of another trillion-dollar government liability underscores the greed and self-interest of the political class. Short-sighted desire to win the next election and maintain power is the driving force behind mounting government debt and liabilities. Not some altruistic desire to take care of others.

A free society based on private property would not only be morally preferable but would enjoy a far better preservation and accumulation of wealth. Private ownership incentivizes the increase of asset values, while democratic government incentivizes elected officials to use up resources in the short-term for personal gain at the expense of impoverishing future generations through crushing debt.  

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics.

Follow him on twitter: Bradley Thomas @erasestate

The Establishment Feels the Bern

The Establishment Feels the Bern

With the rise of Bernie Sanders in the polls, the establishment is worried. The prospect of a two-way race between Trump and Sanders in the general election has the powers-that-be out in full force.

The problem is that they don’t want to make it look too obvious with their opposition to Bernie. Many people, particularly Bernie supporters, already feel that the DNC rigged the primaries against Bernie in 2016.

Hillary Clinton obviously sought to take the nomination in 2016 (and would take it in 2020 if given the chance) because her goal is political power. But the issue is a little more complex regarding why the establishment fears a Bernie presidency.

Bernie is disliked by the establishment for similar reasons as Trump. They both sometimes tell the truth, particularly in regards to U.S. foreign policy.

There is a difference between the average person on the street who is a Trump hater and those within the power network of Washington DC. Someone may hate Trump because of his brashness, his rude Tweets, and his overall arrogant demeanor.

This does not get to the core hatred from the establishment. They don’t like Trump mostly because of his inconsistent views on foreign policy. They want someone consistent, but not consistent in the views of someone like Ron Paul. They want someone who will uphold the aims of the U.S. empire and military-industrial complex.

Trump sometimes tells the truth. He sometimes makes gestures towards peace, at least rhetorically. But even when he is siding with the regime, his truth telling can still be damaging.

For instance, he said that U.S. troops would stay in Syria to control the oil. This is no different from previous administrations, but Trump bluntly told the truth, which the establishment doesn’t like because it can de-legitimize U.S. foreign interventions.

And this may be the greatest thing Trump has done on behalf of liberty. His policies have been mostly horrible (continuing the tradition), but he is helping to de-legitimize the U.S. empire. Sometimes it is inadvertent, but we should take what we can get.

Of course, Trump has had some good things to say on foreign policy, particularly when he was campaigning. He said that we were lied into war in Iraq. He said he wanted to get along with Russia. This most likely explains why the establishment doesn’t like him. They are afraid that he may follow through on some of his rhetoric and that it will be persuasive to the American public.

Trump Over Bernie

The establishment doesn’t hate Bernie because he has described himself as a socialist. I doubt that Wall Street is even that worried. If stocks begin falling prior to the election, Trump will try to blame it on the prospect of a Bernie Sanders presidency. But if stocks do fall, it will be because we are in a massive bubble (which Trump described in 2016 before the bubble got bigger).

Bernie’s domestic policies do seem scary, but they are likely no bigger a threat than any of the other presidential contenders. We already have a disastrous healthcare system. It’s possible Bernie could get his universal healthcare system (i.e., government healthcare), but that is still somewhat of a long shot.

In terms of spending, it really can’t get any worse than it already is. We have one trillion dollar deficits, and this is during a supposedly prosperous period. If anything, the Republicans in Congress may actually start caring about federal spending again if Bernie is in the White House.

The reason the establishment is against Bernie is mainly due to foreign policy. They are afraid he might disrupt the military-industrial complex.

I don’t have a great degree of confidence that a Bernie presidency will lead to a significant change in U.S. foreign policy, but it’s certainly more likely than with a Biden or Buttigieg presidency. But we shouldn’t be fooled.

Bernie is rather weak. After having the DNC snatch the nomination from him in 2016, he endorsed the bloodthirsty Hillary Clinton, who never met a war she didn’t like. That alone should tell you how strong Bernie will be in office.

It is also important to consider that Bernie puts little emphasis on foreign policy. He tends to be good on the issue (relatively speaking) when asked, but he is more obsessed about taxing the top 1% than he is about stopping the bombing of innocent people in foreign countries.

Even though we don’t know for sure how a Sanders presidency would turn out, it is certain that the establishment media and the rest of the cesspool in Washington DC are trying to prevent his nomination because of the uncertainty. He may actually follow through with some of the things he says, and they can’t take that risk.

If Bernie actually gets the nomination, I think the establishment may quietly side with Trump. They would rather the devil (from their perspective) they know. Trump has been in office for over 3 years, and while he has done some damage rhetorically to the establishment, foreign policy has not changed much up to this point. The wars go on.

With Bernie, there is more uncertainty. Therefore, the military-industrial complex and the rest of the establishment may prefer Trump over Sanders. It would not be surprising if they put someone up like Michael Bloomberg to run as an independent in the general election in order to take votes away from Sanders. It would split the anti-Trump votes.

It will largely depend on how Bernie acts if he gets the nomination. I think he will moderate his views in the general election. He won’t call himself a socialist when he is up on stage debating Trump. He will come across as more reasonable, at least on domestic issues.

The big question will be his views on foreign policy. The establishment will try to get close to him in order to control him. If Bernie starts hiring foreign policy advisers who have been pro war in the past, then they will feel reasonably comfortable that they can control him.

It will be a different story if Bernie keeps speaking against U.S. wars and interventions. If he suggests having someone like Tulsi Gabbard as Secretary of State, then the establishment will really flip out. They will prefer Trump at that point. You will see the establishment media change its tune on Trump. They won’t be outright nice to him, but they will quietly change the narrative to make Bernie look like more of a crazy person.

The good news in all of this is that we have reached a point where the deep state is not in full control. We could have a general election with two candidates who are not approved by the establishment. Regardless of how bad they may govern, this is still a positive sign for liberty.

Compulsory Education – The Bane of Learning and Freedom

Compulsory Education – The Bane of Learning and Freedom

Approximately 50-million students, bound by state compulsory attendance laws, are trapped in what is essentially a prison of their bodies and minds.

Most Americans never question school compulsory attendance laws itself but instead focus on what occurs inside the classroom. Public schools, which can also be called government schools, are notorious for a wide array of problems. From class size to the controversy over testing to disruptive student behavior, the demand that more taxpayer money be used to correct the poor performance is touted as the answer. This completely disregards two points: 1. The benefit-cost ratio of government education of children is often a losing deal. (Private schools are frequently smaller, religious affiliated, and in many cases cost less to educate each student than the public counterparts.) 2. More important, compulsory education violates the liberty of all citizens – taxpayers and students alike, not only by forcing parents to subject their children to a state education but also with the coercive funding (i.e., taxation) used to force children’s attendance.

My principal objection to compulsory education is that it violates the freedom of the individual. No one should be required to give up personal sovereignty to comply with a state or federal government mandate — not through military conscription and not through compulsory education.

From its earliest days, our nation functioned well without compulsory education laws, and the minimal involvement of government enabled youth to choose trade/vocational training, religious study, or higher education relevant to the individual’s personal choice. As the idea of compulsory attendance began to develop in society, it became increasingly repressive, decade by decade. Parochial schools and family home-schooling were replaced by laws forcing attendance for most students at government schools.

Government-run schools and compulsory attendance to any school are the antitheses of freedom, liberty, and learning. Forced to attend a school, most will go to government schools. Students are treated as prisoners sentenced to serve 12 years (or less in some states). Years of children’s precious lives and vulnerable minds are spent in forced confinement, often subjected to aimless busywork to meet the demands of teachers. The individual is not valued in many government schools, as all focus is on becoming an upstanding member of the collective. Leftist indoctrination has become ubiquitous. Independent thinking is discouraged while group-think pervades nearly every aspect of the politicized curriculum. All of this in the name of bettering children’s lives.

The oppression is accepted by the majority who learn quickly how to gain approval from their masters, with students who rebel sadly turning to personally and socially destructive behaviors. While many passively accept this oppression, the individuals who would be better suited to pursue unique aptitudes suffer.

With rare religious exceptions recognized, the vast majority of American youth must obey by attending such schools or face various penalties and punishments, as well as sometimes the possibility of fines and jail time for parents. Gone are the days where educational choices were up to the young person and his family.

The result of youth being exposed to years of socialist ideas explains the rampant decline of basic knowledge and generation upon generation of graduating seniors with minimal ability to do much of anything aside from obeying orders. All too many high-school graduates display poor writing skills and an inadequate ability to engage in critical thinking on simple matters.

The collective is placed above the individual. From rewards for just showing up to ribbons for all, disallowing students to give one another a card or a simple gift unless all are given one, to situational ethics role-playing scenarios, students are continuously subjected to an agenda that discourages independent thought. High achievement is discouraged as competition is rejected while poor performers are made to feel equal to all. Critical thinking and actual substantive course work are replaced by leftist revisionism of history, identity politics, and advocacy of politically correct perceptions of life.

Free speech, a fundamental of our nation, is not only not valued, but it is also suppressed. Subtle and patent discrimination of those not conforming to the frequently liberal agenda pervades government education. After years of this beginning when very young, the mental and emotional development is stunted, and the socialist mindset is placed — exactly what an all-powerful government wants — an easily controlled and manipulated unquestioning populous.

All of this occurs simply because the American people have never questioned the premise of compulsory education.

While conservatives work to offer alternatives such as vouchers/home-schooling/economic methods to provide choice, those who value liberty realize compulsory education is not an area for mere reform, it is a clear violation of the rights of the individual and as such should be eliminated.

The rights of millions of young Americans are violated daily by forcing children to attend schools. Likewise, the rights of Americans who are forced to fund state schools are violated.

Education should be a personal responsibility, not a public one. Like so many other important aspects of life that the government now controls, the education of children should be left entirely up to the parents and the private sector with its charitable and private enterprises, with attendance voluntary.

A fundamental rejection of any government involvement in education, including all laws requiring compulsory attendance, must be the focus. It is not enough to try and end the government monopoly in education, the link between government and any educational opportunity should be ended.

Just as compulsory attendance began with one state mandating it and the idea spreading nationwide, our country could begin to end this tyranny if one state legislature courageously challenged and eliminated compulsory attendance.

America needs educational freedom – freedom from all government intervention. Let’s begin it with an end to compulsory attendance.

Reprinted from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Democrats Ignore Trump’s Real Violations

Democrats Ignore Trump’s Real Violations

This week the latest Democratic Party attempt to remove President Trump from office – impeachment over Trump allegedly holding up an arms deal to Ukraine – flopped. Just like “Russiagate” and the Mueller investigation, and a number of other attempts to overturn the 2016 election.

We’ve had three years of accusations and investigations with untold millions of dollars spent in a never-ending Democratic Party effort to remove President Trump from office.

Why do the Democrats keep swinging and missing at Trump? They can’t make a good case for abuse of power because they don’t really oppose Trump’s most egregious abuses of power. Congress, with a few exceptions, strongly supports the President flouting the Constitution when it comes to overseas aggression and shoveling more money into the military-industrial complex.

In April, 2018, President Trump fired 100 Tomahawk missiles into Syria allegedly as punishment for a Syrian government chemical attack in Douma. Though the US was not under imminent threat of attack from Syria, Trump didn’t wait for a Congressional declaration of war on Syria or even an authorization for a missile strike. In fact, he didn’t even wait for an investigation of the event to find out what actually happened! He just decided to send a hundred missiles – at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars – into Syria.

We are now finding out from whistleblowers on the UN team that investigated the alleged attack that the report blaming the Syrian government was falsified and that the whole “attack” was nothing but a false flag operation.

Is such unauthorized aggression against a country with which we are not at war not worth investigating as a potential “high crime” or “misdemeanor”?

Last month, President Trump authorized the assassination of a top Iranian General, Qassim Soleimani, and a top Iraqi military officer inside Iraqi territory while Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission. Trump and his Administration tried to claim that the attack was essential because of an “imminent threat” of a Soleimani attack on US troops in the region.

We found out shortly afterward that they lied about the “imminent threat.” The assassination was not “urgent” – it was planned back in June. Trump then claimed it didn’t matter whether there was an imminent threat: Soleimani was a bad guy so he deserved to be assassinated.

But the attack was an act of war on Iran without Congressional declaration or authorization for war. Is that not perhaps a “high crime” or “misdemeanor”?

We are finding out that, contrary to Trump claims, Soleimani was not even behind the December attack on US troops in Iraq. New evidence suggests it was actually an ISIS operation attempting to goad the US into moving against Iraq’s Shia militias.

Fantasies about Trump being an agent of Putin or trying to get Ukraine to help him win the election are presented as urgent reasons Trump must be removed from office. Real-life violations of the Constitution and reckless militarism that may get us embroiled in another Middle East war are shrugged off as “business as usual” by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

Democrats won’t move against Trump for what may be real “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” because they support his overseas aggression. They just wish they were the ones pulling the trigger.

Reprinted from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

The Louisville Metro Police Department Child Sex Scandal

The Louisville Metro Police Department Child Sex Scandal

Civil libertarians and police corruption watchdogs have much to celebrate these days. The fact that most people are walking around with high definition video cameras in their pockets has done much to shine a light on what these groups have been talking about for decades; that the “occupation” of law enforcement in the United States ceased being about protecting and serving, and has morphed into intimidating and subjugating.  

Whether it be turning a traffic stop for a burned-out brake light into a drug search, or it actually becoming a “head stomping” opportunity for a Gwinnett County sheriff, even people who formerly considered police to be heroes, are starting to question why as individual violent crime is decreasing, police violence is increasing.  Of course, many have become accustomed to these stories as sites such as The Free Thought Project chronicle them daily, but the scandal that has come out of Louisville, Kentucky involving two police officers’ sexual abuse of children in their Explorer Program should sound alarms and question whether policing in its modern form is an anachronism. 

Allegations of Sexually Abusing Children  

Former Louisville Metro Police officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood were accused of criminal charges “in Jefferson Circuit Court stemming from their alleged sexual abuse of teens under their supervision as part of a program for young people interested in law enforcement careers.” The allegations against Betts stretched from his first year in the department, 2006, through 2016. Federally, he was charged with sending pictures of his penis to someone under the age of 16 and attempting to have sex with males and females who were not yet 18. 

In U.S. District Court in Louisville on December 6, 2018, Betts pleaded “guilty to charges of knowingly distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, transferring obscene material to a minor, enticement and attempted enticement, among other charges.” 

In addition, the State of Kentucky charged Betts with two counts of sodomy involving two alleged victims. The indictment in state court alleged Betts engaged in “deviate sexual intercourse” with one of the victims through the use of “forcible compulsion” over a five-month period in 2007. Betts was also accused of committing sodomy on July 26, 2013 with a minor “he came into contact with as a result” of his position as a police officer. Betts pleaded guilty to these charges on July 8, 2019 and received “five years for two counts of sodomy in the third degree. That sentence is on top of the 16 years he was handed down by a federal judge. The five-year sentences will run concurrent to the time he’ll serve in his federal sentence.” 

Officer Brandon Wood was charged, and pleaded guilty to attempted enticement, United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman said on January 28, 2019. “According to a plea agreement, between 2011 and 2012, Wood attempted to entice John Doe 1, who had not reached 18 years of age, to engage in sexual activity. Wood met Doe through the LMPD Explorer Program during a camp held in Bullitt County – where Wood was a counselor and sworn LMPD officer.” 

“A federal judge sentenced Brandon Wood, 33, to 70 months in prison on a felony attempted enticement charge on May 28, 2019.” 

“When he pleaded guilty in January, Wood reached an agreement with federal prosecutors for a 60-month sentence, but U.S. District Judge David Hale rejected that agreement Tuesday morning saying it was too lenient.” He was sentenced to 70 months in jail.  

Civil suits against the two officers are ongoing. 

The ‘Bombshell’ 

In the case of Kenneth Betts, as if his actions against minors wasn’t enough, in November of 2019, a fellow officer identifying himself as “Darryl,” came forward on a FOX-WDRB podcast to make the claim that he had been raped by Betts.  

“It was almost like a super power came over (Betts),” an accuser, identified only as Darryl in the podcast, told FOX News Reporter Andrew Keiper. “He had a hold of my ear, and he was still exposed in the front of his pants. We’ll just say he, yeah, he forced me, yeah.” 

Darryl describes himself as older and bigger than Betts but he has decided to not pursue a lawsuit. He hopes that by coming forward it will help others to do so. 

The interview took place in the first of a four-part podcast called “Derby City Betrayal.” The series details the investigation into the sexual abuse case against Betts and former LMPD officer Brandon Wood, as well as their subsequent arrests. 

In the same podcast series, one of the victims from the Explorers identified as C.F., now an adult, went into detail about what he experienced: 

“It was on a regular basis. (Betts) would ask for nude photos, ask for me to come over, all sorts of things,” C.F. said. “Some messed up things happened.” 

Considering the depravity involved in this story it’s easy to write it off as an anomaly but that doesn’t answer the question that if these two “bad apples” can find themselves in the same department (and a third officer to help them cover it up as well as a fourth accused of sexual abuse), how rampant is this activity amongst those that are seen as authority figures and our “protectors?” And how many of these go unreported due to fear of reprisal by “good guys” with guns? 

The argument has been made that to hand mortal men the kind of power that comes along with the profession of law enforcement officer will certainly attract those with evil intent. What better way for a sociopath or deviant to hide his crimes than behind a badge? As long as the government holds a monopoly on violence and force expect this to become more rampant, but as the information age progresses, anticipate that these malefactors will be exposed for who they really are. Looking at the damage being currently done by this vocation, we can only hope that people awaken to the realization that they are a danger to us all. 

The Red Flag Flying Over the Second Amendment

The Red Flag Flying Over the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment is the provision in the Bill of Rights that seems to scare people the most. Why?

The Second Amendment lays down the groundwork for the right to keep and bear arms. Specifically, it asserts that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the only thing that can preserve a regulated militia, which is necessary to preserve liberty. And it cannot be infringed by other laws or federal officials.

In other words, the Second Amendment is based on the fact that a free state, in order to be ensured with security, must trust a militia formed by the people and, obviously, their guns.

However, this very amendment scares people the most, mainly because government authorities don’t know how to take it into account when it comes to gun control.

Contradictory Arguments

Gun control operates against the Second Amendment – and, as we all know, amendments cannot be easily broken.

For example, if a witness takes the Fifth in the Court of Law, no one can persuade them to answer any questions. Lawyers and jurors can suspect an answer, but the witness has the full right not to answer.

The same applies to the Second Amendment. It is a thing that is ensured to the American people, by law. It cannot be taken away – but how does gun control interfere with this?

  • If you carefully read the Second Amendment, you’d understand, as most people have, that the phrase the right of the people to keep and bear Arms asserts an individual right for all people in the United States.
  • As a result, the legislative bodies of the U.S can’t come up with laws that would prohibit firearm possession.
  • On the other hand, certain scholars believe that the Second Amendment was meant to restrict Congress from passing a law that would deny the state its right to self-defense. This is the so-called collective rights theory – it asserts that the individuals don’t actually have an individual right to possess firearms and that the federal government has the authority to regulate firearms without having to take an individual right into account.

The Double-Edged Sword

It goes without saying why there’s currently a red flag flying above gun control – and why the Second Amendment scares people the most. It’s because this very amendment can affect, solely, both parties of this debate.

Depending on how the higher authorities decide to rule in terms of gun control, they have to take the Second Amendment into account. Naturally, the worst part is that it can be seen from two different points of view – one that can establish gun control and one that makes it void.

The Historical Militia

On the other hand, we also have to take into account that the American people are kind of trying to make an 18th-century law fit our modern times. The truth is that, given the current state of the country, a militia may not be the right answer.

This is because, in the 18th century, it was believed that the citizens should all be part-time soldiers. Both Federalists and anti-Federalists, despite their disagreements, were devoted to this idea.

However, having a standing army was the ideal way to subvert the ideas of that time – namely, the ideas of the American Revolution that people had on their minds.

The Standing Army

Moreover, the Second Amendment was also meant to prevent the US from establishing a professional, standing army. Obviously, we couldn’t imagine the country not having the army it has today but, if we’re honest, the 18th century didn’t actually need this type of army.

According to the old times, a society that had a standing army couldn’t actually become free, mainly because the leaders of that army could turn their back to the society. Instead, as mentioned above, it was believed that a well-regulated militia was more fit to keep the state safe, secure, and free.

The Second Amendment Was Based on Gun Control

Even though the militia was very important and those who wrote the Bill of Rights wanted all of the citizens to be in it, they still left room for those that wouldn’t be part of the militia.

As history states, if an individual was not allowed to participate in the militia, then the leaders in the founding generation wouldn’t allow him access to weapons. Therefore, there were classes of people that could not bear arms – the fact that everybody used to own a gun back then doesn’t quite stand true.

Now versus Then

The Second Amendment scares people the most because of two very important reasons.

First, if the nation was to return to the old meaning of the amendment, there wouldn’t be any professional soldiers nor any army. Instead, every citizen had to be a part of the militia and, if need be, fight for their country.

Then, if we are to adapt the amendment to today’s circumstances, we’d come to the conclusion that it does not, in fact, prevent gun control laws – or stricter laws, at least. This is because the amendment stands for the safety and security of a free state and not for the right of an individual to self-defense.

Naturally, it is not implied that there shouldn’t be self-defense rights. It is only implied that they should come after gun control laws and, paired with the 2nd amendment, they must keep this free country safe.

The Bottom Line

In the end, the 2nd amendment can be considered a red flag on gun control. It’s a red flag mainly because the misinterpretation of the 2nd amendment could lead to a state with no gun control laws, where everyone has the personal right to bear arms.

Overall, it depends on how people understand the amendment first, and then the entire gun control thing. However, given the current situation of the state, it goes without saying that all people should fight for a better future, for both them and their children – and this means making the right choice!

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Ice and Fire

Ice and Fire

The relationship between conservatism and libertarianism is a tenuous one. However, such was not always the case. Fellow travelers of both groups were united in opposing Roosevelt’s New Deal. The work of the late economist Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) on the “Old Right” is indispensable here. After World War II, the political right was generally opposed, not only to “domestic statism,” but also to war, foreign intervention, and “American statism in the international arena.” But after the death of the political and intellectual leaders of the Old Right, the conservative movement — which “was basically classical liberal and libertarian” in the 1930s and 1940s — suffered a “power vacuum in both the political and the intellectual areas,” and was taken over and transformed “beyond recognition” by William Buckley (1925–2008) and those associated with him at National Review magazine. The “modern conservative movement” — after the departure of its libertarian element and the purging of “embarrassing extremists like the John Birch Society” — “combined a traditionalist and theocratic approach to ‘moral values,’ occasional lip service to free-market economics, and an imperialist and global interventionist foreign policy dedicated to the glorification of the American state and the extirpation of world Communism. Classical liberalism remained only as rhetoric, useful in attracting business support, and most of all as a fig leaf for the grotesque realities of the New Right.”

“At the heart of the dispute between the traditionalists and the libertarians,” says Rothbard, “is the question of freedom and virtue: Should virtuous action (however we define it) be compelled, or should it be left up to the free and voluntary choice of the individual?”

The disagreements between conservatism and libertarianism — the “uneasy cousins,” in the words of the conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet — were made public in the early 1960s in the pages of National Review and other lesser-known publications. No resolution was forthcoming, in spite of the “fusionist” efforts of Frank S. Meyer. Ronald Reagan, apparently, never got the memo.

In between his time as the governor of California and the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) was interviewed by Reason magazine in 1975 about his political philosophy. The first question he was asked was about conservatism and libertarianism: “Governor Reagan, you have been quoted in the press as saying that you’re doing a lot of speaking now on behalf of the philosophy of conservatism and libertarianism. Is there a difference between the two?” Here is his response: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

When asked to give “some examples” of what he “would consider to be proper functions of government,” Reagan replied, somewhat libertarianishly, “Well, the first and most important thing is that government exists to protect us from each other.” He maintained that he didn’t “believe in a government that protects us from ourselves.” He recognized that “government’s only weapons are force and coercion and that’s why we shouldn’t let it get out of hand.” Although Reagan acknowledged that “the government has legitimate functions,” he also thought that “our greatest threat today comes from government’s involvement in things that are not government’s proper province.”

Yet when asked about the issue of “laws against gambling,” Reagan quickly abandoned any pretense of libertarianism and showed that he, like modern conservatives, had no firm philosophical foundation: “You’ve named an issue that is one of the most difficult for me to reconcile. I know this gets into the whole area of the sin laws and here again I think you’re in one of the grey areas. There’s one side of me that says I know this is protecting us from ourselves; there’s another side of me, however, that says you can make the case that it does get into an area in which we are protecting us from each other.”

The issue of “laws against gambling” is one of the least difficult for libertarians to reconcile. No government at any level should ever, for any reason, enact any laws against gambling. It’s that simple. This straightforward question shows that libertarianism and conservatism are not traveling “the same path” as Reagan said in his Reason interview. Their paths are going in opposite directions.

A contemporary and admirer of Reagan, conservative icon Russell Kirk (1918–1994), saw things differently. Although conservatives and libertarians “share a detestation of collectivism” and “set their faces against the totalist state and the heavy hand of bureaucracy,”

In the nature of things, conservatives and libertarians can conclude no friendly pact. Adversity sometimes makes strange bedfellows, but the present successes of conservatives disincline them to lie down, lamblike, with the libertarian lions.

When heaven and earth have passed away, perhaps the conservative mind and the libertarian mind may be joined in synthesis, but not until then.

I venture to suggest that libertarianism, properly understood, is as alien to real American conservatives as is communism.

Conservatives have no intention of compromising with socialists; but even such an alliance, ridiculous though it would be, is more nearly conceivable than the coalition of conservatives and libertarians. The socialists at least declare the existence of some sort of moral order; the libertarians are quite bottomless.

What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common? The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. To talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire.

Why, then, do some people have the idea that conservatism and libertarianism are cousins, or at least compatible? Before answering this question, it is first necessary to take a closer look at conservatism and libertarianism.

Conservatism

What is conservatism? I will let conservatives explain it.

In his book The Conservative Mind (1953), Kirk listed and described “six canons of conservative thought” that he considered to be a summary of themes common to conservative thinkers:

  1. Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.
  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life.
  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes.
  4. Persuasion that property and freedom are inexorably connected.
  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters and calculators.”
  6. Recognition that change and reform are not identical.

In the introduction to his anthology The Portable Conservative Reader (Penguin, 1982), which includes essays, poetry, and fiction from writers that he identified as conservatives, Kirk offered a variation on his six canons, which he termed “first principles.” Kirk’s “canons” were revised and expanded in subsequent editions of The Conservative Mind.

In his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Conservatism (1957), Kirk listed ten of “the chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought”:

  1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws.
  2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization.
  3. Justice means that all men and women have the right to what is their own.
  4. Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress.
  5. Power is full of danger; therefore the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs.
  6. The past is a great storehouse of wisdom.
  7. Modern society urgently needs true community; and true community is a world away from collectivism.
  8. In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image.
  9. Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions.
  10. Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial.

In his book The Politics of Prudence (1993), Kirk returned again to “principles,” presenting “a summary of conservative assumptions differing somewhat” from the “canons” and “principles” found in his earlier books. In introducing his new “ten articles of belief,” he said that they “reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.”

Next is George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America (1996, second ed.):

What is conservatism? For those who have examined the subject, this is a perennial question; many are the writers who have searched for the elusive answer. Such an a priori effort, I have concluded, is misdirected. I doubt that there is any single, satisfactory, all-encompassing definition of the complex phenomenon called conservatism, the content of which varies enormously with time and place. It may even be true that conservatism is inherently resistant to precise definition. Many right-wingers, in fact, have argued that conservatism by its very nature is not an elaborate ideology at all.

So I offer here no compact definition of conservatism. In fact, American conservatives themselves have had no such agreed-upon definition. Instead, the very quest for self-definition has been one of the most notable motifs of their thought since World War II.

And then there is Bruce Frohnen, writing in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (2006):

Conservatism is a philosophy that seeks to maintain and enrich societies characterized by respect for inherited institutions, beliefs and practices, in which individuals develop good character by cooperating with one another in primary, local associations such as families, churches and social groups aimed at furthering the common good in a manner pleasing to God.

Conservatives are attached, not so much to any particular regime or form of government, as to what they believe are the requirements for a good life for all peoples. In the American context, conservatives defend the ordered liberty established by the Constitution and the traditions and practices on which that constitution was built.

Conservatives believe that there is a natural order to the universe, governed by a natural law that gives mankind general rules concerning how to shape their lives in common as individuals.

Nathan W. Schlueter, coauthor of Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives? The Foundations of the Libertarian-Conservative Debate (2017), has a hard time defining conservatism, since it “is not a specific philosophy of government but a generic term that can have a wide range of specific meanings, depending on context.” Nevertheless, he does say,

Conservatism seeks to “conserve” the best elements of that [Western philosophical and political] tradition.

Conservatism rests on a recognition of the mutual interdependence of liberty, tradition, and reason.

American conservatism is committed to conserving the principles of the American founding, and to renewing the models of political leadership that gave those principles life.

It seems as though the only thing that conservatives can say with absolutely certainty is that they don’t exactly know what conservatism is. But it is no wonder that conservatism suffers from not having any clear, concise, coherent, and consistent definition. Contrary to its name, conservatism changes with convictions, circumstances, country, and consensus. Conservative godfather Kirk readily acknowledges that:

Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time.

The diversity of ways in which conservative views may find expression is itself proof that conservatism is no fixed ideology. What particular principles conservatives emphasize during any given time will vary with the circumstances and necessities of that era.

Although certain general principles held by most conservatives may be described, there exists wide variety in application of these ideas from age to age and country to country.

Conservatism amounts to the consensus of the leading conservative thinkers and actors over the past two centuries.

Concludes Kirk, “Conservatism offers no universal pattern of politics for adoption everywhere.”

Libertarianism

In contrast to the confusion and contradictions of conservatism, there is the simplicity and consistency of libertarianism. For a compact definition of libertarianism, here is Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds that a person should be free to do whatever he wants in life, as long as his conduct is peaceful. Thus, as long a person doesn’t murder, rape, burglarize, defraud, trespass, steal, or inflict any other act of violence against another person’s life, liberty, or property, libertarians hold that the government should leave him alone. In fact, libertarians believe that a primary purpose of government is to prosecute and punish anti-social individuals who initiate force against others.”

Libertarianism is the philosophy of nonaggression, whether that aggression be theft, fraud, the initiation of nonconsensual violence against person or property, or the threat of nonconsensual violence. The initiation or threat of aggression against the person or property of others is always wrong, even when done by government. Aggression is justified only in defense of one’s person or property or in retaliation in response to aggression against him. Violence is justified only against violence. Force must be proportional, but is neither essential nor required.

There is nothing inherent in libertarianism that stands in opposition to custom, convention, tradition, natural law, Christian humanism, prudence, the natural order, religion, civilized society, moral laws, patriotism, the natural world, family values, community, civic pride, ordered liberty, an enduring moral order, cooperation, local associations, or the common good. And contrary to the smears of some conservatives, libertarianism has nothing to do with libertinism, greed, selfishness, antinomianism, hedonism, utopianism, materialism, atheism, anarchy, licentiousness, relativism, or nihilism. Likewise, libertarians qua libertarians don’t fetishize change, delight in eccentricity, sacrifice order on the altar of liberty, reduce everything to economics, deify efficiency, romanticize a fictional past, or celebrate alternative lifestyles.

Libertarianism celebrates individual liberty, personal and financial privacy, private property, free markets, free enterprise, free exchange, individual responsibility, personal freedom, free association, free assembly, voluntary interaction, freedom of conscience, free speech, and free expression — as long as one’s conduct is peaceful and doesn’t violate the personal or property rights of others.

The nature of conservatism

Beneath the conservative façade of tradition, culture, community, and prudence lies an authoritarian ideology. Conservatism is the philosophy of state-coerced morality and virtue. Conservatism is more interested in order, conformity, control, and orthodoxy than tradition, culture, community, and prudence. Conservatives are statists when the state does its bidding. They deem it just, right, and necessary for government at some level — (1) to arrest, fine, imprison, or otherwise punish people for engaging in entirely private, peaceful, voluntary, and consensual actions that do not aggress against the person or property of others; (2) to regulate, license, or prohibit commercial activity between willing buyers and willing sellers; and (3) to take people’s resources against their will, by force if necessary, and transfer or redistribute them to other citizens or foreigners as the government sees fit.

Conservatism is an authoritarian philosophy that looks to the state to arrest people and then fine them, appropriate their property, or lock them in cages for engaging in private consensual behavior or peaceful activity that doesn’t violate the personal or property rights of anyone.

Why?

Why, then, do some conservatives and libertarians, and many liberals, progressives, and socialists, have the idea that conservatism and libertarianism are cousins, or at least compatible? Consider these statements from the Conservative Review news site and the Heritage Foundation think tank: “Principle[s] such as limited government, free markets, traditional family values, individual freedom, rule of law, and a strong national defense are at the core of Conservative Review’s principles.” The Heritage Foundation promotes “conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

Conservative organizations also regularly include in their mantra adherence to the Constitution, federalism and States’ Rights, free trade, and private property.

The reason people think that conservatism and libertarianism are related, allies, or two sides of the same coin is that libertarians regularly talk about those very things. There is one major difference, however. Libertarians actually believe them, although they don’t confound the idea of national defense with national offense, as most conservatives do. Conservatives only selectively believe their own mantra. They don’t follow the Constitution in many areas. They reject federalism when it comes to things such as the drug war. The only limited government they desire is a government limited to control by conservatives. They don’t accept the freedom of individuals to do anything that’s peaceful as long as they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others. They don’t believe in the sanctity of private property. They think traditional values should be legislated by government. They confound free trade with managed trade. They don’t yearn for free enterprise and a free market in every area.

When conservative politicians want votes, and especially the votes of “libertarian-leaning” conservatives, they don’t talk about tradition, culture, community, and prudence. They instead use libertarian rhetoric to portray themselves as advocates of libertarian principles.

So Russell Kirk was right. There is no real affinity between conservatism and libertarianism. Conservatives and libertarians have about as much in common as ice and fire.This article was originally published in the January 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Reprinted from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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