Monday, February 28, 2011

A Look at the Atlas Shrugged Movie

One of the exciting privileges awaiting students who attended the International Students for Liberty Conference (recap here) a week ago, was a private screening of about fifteen minutes from the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie, set to premiere on April 15th -tax day in the United States.

I couldn't help but squirm in my seat along with five hundred other TGFLs (total geeks for liberty... just made that up) as we viewed footage that only one other audience had seen before us. I sighed with satisfaction as I considered the many thousands of audiences who would see it after us, along with the rest of a movie that I believe might have the potential to change the world, just like the book that inspired it. It was no wonder that I saw Students for Liberty's executive director, Alexander McCobin, an objectivist pursuing his Ph.D. in philosophy, positively beaming before and after the event.

Then again, I've never seen him not smiling and projecting genuine warmth and joy into a room. Anyone who thinks of Ayn Rand's objectivism as angry, cold, or adolescent should meet McCobin, who quite perfectly exemplifies the joy and love for life that should jump out of the page at anyone who reads Ayn Rand's novels without a preconceived bias against her (or the tendency of adolescents who encounter Rand for the first time as teenagers to selectively interpret everything they read through an angry adolescent filter).

If you haven't seen it already, below is the trailer for the Atlas Shrugged movie:



And here is just one of the exclusive sneak peaks the libertarian students got that night at ISFLC, which was released a few short days later. In it, metals magnate Henry Rearden returns home to an insufferably rude and ungrateful family:



Though it's an independent film, you can see from the two examples above that the Atlas Shrugged movie seems to have pretty excellent production value, and listening to its producer speak at ISFLC, I am hopeful that it will faithfully render the plot, message, and meaning of Ayn Rand's novel on the big screen. My prediction is: look for Atlas Shrugged to be a runaway hit, driven by demand and word of mouth (much like Ayn Rand's novels), and fueled by a Tea Party movement hungry for artful depictions and explorations of its limited-government agenda.

Thanks to Students for Liberty for whetting my appetite in advance of this momentous achievement in political philosophy and cinema.


Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
Articles | Author's Page

#MusicMonday - Bush Was Right

So while spending time in DC this month, I decided to swing by the office of Young Americans for Liberty where I interned last summer to visit old friends and pick up a tax form. While there I was unexpectedly treated to the best example of unintentional comedy I have experienced so far in 2011, a song entitled "Bush Was Right" by The Right Brothers.

It all started as we joked about turning traditional Christian hymns into songs glorifying war, occupation, and the military-industrial complex. The idea would be to show how silly it is that so many evangelical Christians who worship "The Prince of Peace" also supported the Bush policies of preemption, invasion, and open-ended occupation of other countries, resulting in the deaths of literally tens of thousands of civilians (including many Christians who live in the Middle East).

The problem, we quickly determined, was that people might actually take the music seriously! We just imagined pitching the idea to an altogether enthusiastic executive at the David Horowitz Freedom Center: "Yeah! That's an excellent idea. Too many young people these days don't seem to realize that Jesus wants us to invade other countries."

Just then someone started playing a little gem called "Bush Was Right" from their laptop and it took a lot of convincing to persuade me that the song was meant to be taken seriously. I still can't help but feel like it's a Stephen Colbert-style parody of neoconservative thought. Oh well. Here it is. You can make up your own mind. Embedding is disabled, so you'll have to click the link to listen.


Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
Articles | Author's Page

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Are The Specifics?


Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly radical movement in America. It grasps the problems of society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is revolutionary in every sense.

Because so many of its people, however, have come from the right there remains about it at least an aura or, perhaps, miasma of defensiveness, as though its interests really center in, for instance, defending private property. The truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend, willy nilly, all property which now is called private.

Much of that property is stolen. Much is of dubious title. All of it is deeply intertwined with an immoral, coercive state system which has condoned, built on, and profited from slavery

Read the rest of Karl Hess' article


James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Smarter Copyright Shills, Please


In a Feb. 15 op-ed for the New York Times, three representatives of the Authors Guild — Scott Turow, Paul Aiken and James Shapiro — raise the question “Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?”

In my opinion they have it just about backward. They’d have been better off asking whether the Bard would have survived copyright.

In the course of this piece, the authors manage to recycle just about every pro-copyright cliche and strawman known to humankind.

Read the rest of Kevin Carson's article


James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Saturday, February 26, 2011

CONFISCATION AND THE HOMESTEAD PRINCIPLE


Karl Hess's brilliant and challenging article in this issue raises a problem of specifics that ranges further than the libertarian movement. For example, there must be hundreds of thousands of "professional" anti-Communists in this country. Yet not one of these gentry, in the course of their fulminations, has come up with a specific plan for de-Communization. Suppose, for example, that Messers. Brezhnev and Co. become converted to the principles of a free society; they than [sic] ask our anti-Communists, all right, how do we go about de-socializing? What could our anti-Communists offer them?

The homesteading principle means that the way that unowned property gets into private ownership is by the principle that this property justly belongs to the person who finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. This is clear in the case of the pioneer and virgin land. But what of the case of stolen property?

Read the rest of Murray Rothbard's article


James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Rothbard's "Left and Right": Forty Years Later


Tonight I want to talk about an essay that Rothbard wrote just over forty years ago, an essay that had an enormous impact on my own intellectual development. In 1965 Rothbard published "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty," the keynote editorial in the first issue of a magazine he'd just founded, also called Left & Right — the forerunner of his later Libertarian Forum.[1] (By the way, the complete runs of both Left & Right and Libertarian Forum are available in all their fascinating glory on Mises.org.)[2] Written during the early years of the Vietnam War, as the New Left was emerging and the old coalition between libertarians and conservatives was beginning to fray, Rothbard's article placed the libertarian movement in a historical context, tracing its past and possible future, and called on libertarians to gain a better self-understanding, and consequently to rethink their political affiliations and alliances.

Read the rest of Roderick T. Long's article


James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Friday, February 25, 2011

Krugman’s Ideas on Deflation & Why He’s Really not a Knucklehead


"Far be it for me to argue economics with Paul Krugman. The man is extremely well-credentialed and has been published widely. Even if I don’t see eye to eye with him I don’t think he’s a knucklehead like many libertarians assert. Moreover, once we’re working inside of monopoly capitalism like we are now he very well may be right about how to manage its wackiness and the imperative of doing so. After all, the Keynesian foundational position is one which acknowledges the inherent instability of state capitalism as it needs the state’s anti-market power to substantially interfere in order to keep the system afloat.
The Austrian or libertarian position we hold though isn’t purely about the follies of central planning or maintaining state capitalism but also the injustice of doing so. We aren’t as concerned with how to keep state capitalism/corporatism afloat because its existence is an insult to a free people. We should be able to legally choose our own tender without threat of punishment for which currency we peacefully use. This true federation and competition between monies would go very far in protecting us from the volatility of the currency market, meddlesome bureaucrats and political whim."
Read the rest of the article at
Silver Underground.

Ross Kenyon,
Assistant Editor, THL
Articles | Author's Page

Those Who Control the Past Control the Future

There’s a popular historical legend that goes like this: Once upon a time (for this is how stories of this kind should begin), back in the 19th century, the United States economy was almost completely unregulated and laissez-faire. But then there arose a movement to subject business to regulatory restraint in the interests of workers and consumers, a movement that culminated in the presidencies of Wilson and the two Roosevelts.

This story comes in both left-wing and right-wing versions, depending on whether the government is seen as heroically rescuing the poor and weak from the rapacious clutches of unrestrained corporate power, or as unfairly imposing burdensome socialistic fetters on peaceful and productive enterprise. But both versions agree on the central narrative: a century of laissez-faire, followed by a flurry of anti-business legislation.

Every part of this story is false.

Read the rest of Roderick T. Long's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

The Wobblies and Free Market Labor Struggle

At first glance, the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) might strike you as an odd subject for a consideration by libertarians. Most self-described free market libertarians and market anarchists are more likely to condemn unions than to praise them.

But in a stateless society, or at least in a society where labor relations are unregulated by the state, the Wobblies’ model of labor struggle is likely to be the most viable alternative to the kinds of state-certified and state-regulated unions we’re familiar with.

And for those of us in the libertarian movement who don’t think “God” is spelled B-O-S-S, or instinctively identify with employers and gripe about how hard it is to get good help these days, the question of how labor might negotiate for better terms is probably of direct personal interest.

Read the rest of Kevin Carson's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Equality (of Authority): The Unknown Ideal

All men are created equal.

When Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, set out to enunciate the philosophical principles underlying the American Revolution—the principles of '76, as later generations would call them—that's the one he put down first, as the foundation and justification of all the rest. Equality—not, as one might expect, liberty.

Read the rest of Roderick T. Long's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Monopoly: A Nice Trick If You Can Do It

One question that’s frequently raised about market anarchism: How would you prevent the economy from being taken over by monopolies, if we didn’t have anti-trust regulations and other restrictions on corporate abuses of power? Without anti-trust laws, the firms in an oligopoly or cartel could simply lower prices when a competitor tried to enter the market, and then raise them again when the competitor went out of business.

Oligopoly firms could also, it’s argued, use their market power to restrict competition in other ways, like making exclusivity contracts to prevent a would-be entrant to the same industry from obtaining the suppliers and outlets it needed to function.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes a great deal of what it needs to prove.

Read the rest of Kevin Carson's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty

The Conservative has long been marked, whether he knows it or not, by long-run pessimism: by the belief that the long-run trend, and therefore Time itself, is against him, and hence the inevitable trend runs toward left-wing statism at home and Communism abroad. It is this long-run despair that accounts for the Conservative's rather bizarre short-run optimism; for since the long run is given up as hopeless, the Conservative feels that his only hope of success rests in the current moment. In foreign affairs, this point of view leads the Conservative to call for desperate showdowns with Communism, for he feels that the longer he waits the worse things will ineluctably become; at home, it leads him to total concentration on the very next election, where he is always hoping for victory and never achieving it. The quintessence of the Practical Man, and beset by long-run despair, the Conservative refuses to think or plan beyond the election of the day.

Pessimism, however, both short-run and long-run, is precisely what the prognosis of Conservatism deserves; for Conservatism is a dying remnant of the ancien régime of the preindustrial era, and, as such, it has no future.

Read the rest of Murray Rothbard's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Economic Calculation in the Corporate Commonwealth

The general lines of Ludwig von Mises’s rational-calculation argument are well known. A market in factors of production is necessary for pricing production inputs so that a planner may allocate them rationally. The problem has nothing to do either with the volume of data or with agency problems. The question, rather, as Peter Klein put it, is “[h]ow does the principal know what to tell the agent to do?”

This calculation argument can be applied not only to a state-planned economy, but also to the internal planning of the large corporation under interventionism, or state capitalism.

Read the rest of Kevin carson's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

The System Needs Us – We Don’t Need the System

Uprisings against notably authoritarian regimes, and resistance to attacks on labor power in Wisconsin show that the general public has power when they choose to use it. How powerful they can become and how beneficial their power will be rests on how much they continue to believe in authority.

A conscious populace can discard a system that does not work for them. The current political system solidly maintains the power of politicians and their supporters over the general populace. Office-holders and their corporate partners make deals with each other to keep their faction in charge – and the maintenance of a stable power structure is essential to enabling them to rule. Fortunately the system is composed of people, and those people are bound by the political necessities of good appearances, by rivalries among rulers, and by the consciences of the enforcers. All the weapons money can buy are only as effective as the individuals operating them.
Read the rest of Darian Worden's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

The Consequences of Libertarian Paternalism


Many of you are probably familiar with Thaler and Sunstein's breakthrough book, "Nudge", a behavioral economics book that caught fire a couple of years back with a philosophy they coined, "Libertarian Paternalism".

Yeah, that philosophy didn't come across too well in the libertarian community. But, not all of their recommendations are as creepy as they sound. And from a behavioral economics standpoint, it's simply fascinating material.

For instance, economists recently tried to determine why certain countries had such high rates of organ donation, and some had such small rates? Especially when the countries with such disparate ratios seemed to have so many other similarities?

The answer? If, when renewing your driver's license, your form says "check this box if you would like to opt-in to your state's organ donation program." Most people don't.

But when your form says, "check this box if you would like to opt-OUT of your state's organ donation program." Most people also don't.

What's going on here? Laziness. And that's the idea behind "Nudge". The government making the default choice the subjective "best" one. Knowing that your laziness will default you into the "best" choice. For instance, they theorize that 10% of your salary should automatically go into your savings account. Unless you opt-out of course. Their theory is that most people are too lazy to do so. And so they get to experience the effectual benefits of saving.

As a libertarian, you should rightly be concerned with the possible extents of this philosophy. But "Nudge" led me to a thought the other day, that someone quickly characterized as paternalistic. And I wanted your feedback.

I have alcoholics on both sides of my family. I see the devastating effects firsthand. These people who, in their best moments, deeply desire to be free from this burden.

Here was my idea. A recovering alcoholic could willingly go to the DMV, and have a small stamp put on their license. A "do not serve me alcohol" stamp.

My friend called this "big brother". I defended it by claiming this was a willing process. There would be no mandate. And he countered that I was depending on state law that requires establishments to card people.

And at that point, I turn to you. How often is pragmatism un-libertarian?


Eric Olsen,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lessons From the Ever-Independent Orwell

It is an uncommonly known fact that Eric Blair, better known by the pen name of George Orwell, was a socialist. This is seems astonishing in light of his extensive literature that seems to tear apart the myth of the socialist paradise.

But you see that is precisely the point- he was a socialist, but Orwell never hesitated to burn bridges if he thought that his movement was going astray. His most famous works, Animal Farm and 1984 are his refutations of what he called the "stupid cult of Russia" and totalitarian socialism. Orwell was a democratic-socialist and so he detested the Marxist Bolsheviks. And the rest of the "cult of Russia" and the larger part of the left during his time detested him. History has shown Orwell to be quite correct, and his opponents "led into the Marsh" most ironically by Lenin himself.

So what is the point? What bearing does this have for the modern Liberty movement? Orwell teaches us an important lesson about individualism and mass movements. We should never be afraid to speak truth to power- even at the risk of offending and enraging our friends and allies.

As a movement of individualists, as opposed to one of collectivists, we are naturally less inclined to group-think. But it would be a mistake to consider it a trait of our breed to be immune from pressures to conform!

So as we go forward on our march to change the course of history, right the wrongs, to reduce the State, to restore the Constitution, and rebuild the Republic remember this-

Always keep your independence of mind.

(Also posted to Young Americans for Liberty)

Eric Sharp,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles Author's Page


Toward a Libertarian Theory of Class

Libertarianism needs a theory of class.

This claim may meet with resistance among some libertarians. A few will say: "The analysis of society in terms of classes and class struggles is a specifically Marxist approach, resting on assumptions that libertarians reject. Why should we care about class?" A greater number will say: "We recognize that class theory is important, but libertarianism doesn't need such a theory, because it already has a perfectly good one."

The first objection is simply mistaken. While the prominence of the Marxist theory of classes may have left rival approaches obscured in its shadow, class analysis is thousands of years older than Marx; and in Marx's own day the Marxist version of class analysis was only one of a number of competing and very different theories, including several far more congenial to libertarianism. The problem of class is one that faces any serious political theory, Marxist or otherwise.
Read the rest of Roderick T. Long's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

It's Ten Thirty On Thursday Morning, Do You Know Where Your Teacher Is?

Younger readers may not remember the TV ad of the 50's and 60's which asked a similar question to encourage parents to keep track of their kids. The ad was a reminder that 10:30 pm was the curfew time on a school night.

If you are a parent in Wisconsin, perhaps you think the ad should be revived with the above question instead. Particularly if you were wondering why your children's school was closed. It seems there was an illness that was widespread among teachers in Milwaukee, Madison and Janesville. So many called in sick that the schools were locked up. The epidemic was confined to those cities and thankfully the children didn't seem to have the same malady.

All kidding aside, there is a serious problem afoot in America's dairy land and many other states as well. And I have been asked to write about it, so I will. I try to avoid pontificating on these well covered stories in favor of letting the more well informed and more talented writers and commentators do it because... well because... Ok, I'll admit it, because I stink by comparison. But I promised so I will make two quick points instead of pontificating.

No matter what your opinion is on the issues there or which "side" you are on politically, there are points worth making in my opinion.

First, the lawmakers who have fled their state and are hiding like common criminals to avoid doing the job they were elected to do are cowards. They should be impeached, arrested (what they are doing may be a crime) or just plain unelected next time up no matter where people stand on the budget arguments. They were sent to represent their fellow citizens and they have abdicated. Cowards, all of them.

Second, the education employees who called in sick are cowards as well. They have a job to do. They promised to educate the kids but they broke that promise so they could flex their political muscle at the expense of the kids and in violation of their legal and moral commitment. Even if you agree with them on the budget issues, you should be mad as hell. They should be sued for breach of contract, disciplined or simply not rehired next time up, the same way as any employee of any private company should be. It takes no courage to do what they are doing.

So if I lived in Wisconsin I would have one question for each of them at the next town hall meeting or teacher conference. Where were you at 10:30 am on Thursday Feb. 17, 2011?

This article was cross-posted to WhatWeThinkAndWhy


By Grant Davies,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Renegade History of the United States

"I admit it: I was looking forward to the release of Thaddeus Russell's new book, A Renegade History of the United States. After all, Russell came pretty highly recommended by no less an authority than our own Tom Woods, who wrote in a column for LewRockwell.com back in March of last year that "Thaddeus Russell is a progressive historian who is friendly with libertarians, and with whom I myself have had some valuable correspondence."

...In Russell's revisionist view of American history, you see, there is 'an enduring civil war' between these two factions — the 'renegades' and the 'moral guardians', whom he also calls the 'disciplinarians.' But it seems to me that to properly understand what these two factions represent and where they came from — how they came to be as they are — you need to understand some basic facts about the settlement of the British colonies in North America. Russell doesn't go into these facts, so I'll take the lead here and sketch the essential points myself, then return to talking about the uses Russell makes of this background material.

Two main kinds of people fled Europe to live in North America in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries: individualists who sought freedom from the political interference they were accustomed to dealing with in Europe; and religious zealots who sought to create and maintain a puritan theocracy on these shores without interference from the selfsame European political authorities who were interfering with the individualists. Some colonists wanted a society in which no one could impose his or her creed on anyone else; other colonists wanted a society in which they could impose their own creed on everyone else.

Both the individualists and the puritans can legitimately lay claim to an authentic American pedigree for their creeds. Individualism and puritanism originated in Europe, true, but they were never welcome there. They were exiled early on, and they caught on in their adopted country as they have never caught on anywhere else in the world. America proved remarkably hospitable to both creeds. Both creeds have thrived here, and both richly deserve to be called 'American.'

They are, however, fundamentally incompatible. In the sort of society an individualist would create, a society based on free choice, the puritan would have no way to impose his religious and moral views on others. In the sort of society a puritan would create, a society based on duty, the individualist would be reined in, prescribed, proscribed, told what to do, and told what not to do at every turn. From time to time, the puritans and the individualists do see eye to eye on a particular political issue — abolition of slavery in the years just prior to the US Civil War, for example — but, by and large, they are political antagonists."

Read the rest of this article by Jeff Riggenbach here at Mises.org.

Eric Sharp,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles Author's Page


Cowboy Capitalism and the State

Doug French, in an article for the Mises.org website — a site, named for the conservative Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, whose politics tend to fall on what’s conventionally regarded as the Right — makes some points about the current trend toward mergers and acquisitions that sound an awful lot like what the Marxists at Monthly Review have been saying for a long time. But they’re both right.

In “Merger Monday and the Destruction of Wealth” (Feb. 15), French argues that the uptick in mergers and acquisitions is occurring because corporations are loaded down with cash burning a hole in their balance sheets, with no productive outlet to invest it in.

That’s pretty much what the Monthly Review folks have been saying since the 1970s.

Read the rest of Kevin Carson's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

The Constitution, It's Critical to Understand It

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined," James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers. In fact, Congress has only 18 such powers, enumerated in Article I, section 8.

But since the New Deal, several of those provisions have been read as authorizing Congress to do far more than was ever imagined by those who wrote the Constitution. This has led to a government that’s effectively unlimited—and increasingly unaffordable. A new House rule requires members of the 112th Congress to cite specific constitutional authority when introducing any new legislation.

That’s a start, but restoring limited constitutional government will require more than simply "checking a box." If legislators respond to that requirement by reflexively citing the Constitution’s three most widely misunderstood clauses—the General Welfare, Commerce, and Necessary and Proper clauses—they’ll violate the document they’ve sworn to uphold. Instead, to restore a constitutional culture and roll back intrusive government, it’s important that we understand those clauses as the Framers understood them:

THE GENERAL WELFARE CLAUSE
Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 1: Congress has the power to collect taxes "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States."

Contrary to modern readings, this clause doesn’t grant Congress an independent power to tax and spend for the "general welfare." If it did, there would be no need to enumerate any other powers.

Rather, it authorizes Congress to raise revenue in support of the specifically enumerated powers that follow it. And Congress’s power to tax for the "general welfare" precludes it from taxing to provide for special parties or interests.

THE COMMERCE CLAUSE
Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 3: "[Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce … among the several States."

Nor was the Commerce Power designed to provide Congress an open-ended mandate to regulate anything and everything that "affects commerce." Instead, the Framers aimed at creating a national "free-trade zone," putting an end to the interstate protectionism allowed under the Articles of Confederation. To ensure free trade among the states, Congress was given the power to regulate, or "make regular," such commerce—the main sense of "regulate" at the time. If the clause had been understood to grant Congress the boundless regulatory power it exercises today, the Constitution would never have been ratified.

THE NECESSARY AND PROPER CLAUSE
Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 18: "[Congress shall have Power] To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers."

This clause grants Congress the means to execute its enumerated powers or ends. It adds no new ends. And those means must be "necessary and proper."
That means they must respect the Constitution’s structure and spirit of limited government, they must respect federalist principles, and they must respect the rights retained by the people.

A word from Ed Crane - Founder and President of the Cato Institute.

"I thought you'd enjoy seeing the attached ad we've run in the Washington Post, Politico and a couple of other papers. It’s good that the GOP wants the House to cite the constitutional authority for new legislation, but there is a danger the response will be a casual reference to the Commerce Clause or the General Welfare Clause. This ad points out (for the benefit of Congress) the true intent of those clauses, including the Necessary and Proper Clause. The work of our excellent Center for Constitutional Studies. Hope you like it."


Filed by Grant Davies,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Largest Gathering of Pro-Liberty Students IN HISTORY Begins Today

The 2011 International Students For Liberty Conference is the biggest gathering of pro-liberty students in history. It is going to be an excellent weekend with some of the most respected libertarian thinkers and the biggest names in student activism. There will also be a live taping of John Stossel's show. This is absolutely HUGE for the student libertarian movement.

Read about the details here
at Silver Underground.

Ross Kenyon,
Assistant Editor, THL
Articles | Author's Page

The First Libertarian* (*Actually, the first "dialectical" libertarian!)

In his short review of The Political Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, Timothy Virkkala (May 1999) praises Tim S. Gray's discussion of the great classical liberal's methodology as a synthesis of 'individualist' and 'holist' approaches to social theory. But Virkkala remarks

"This method--I'm tempted to call it 'dialectical,' but Spencer's prose and position seem so far from Hegel's that the term is almost indecent--confuses many readers. But it is surely his strength. Gray is one of the few Spencer scholars to see this method as fundamental, and to present sophisticated analyses of Spencer's syntheses."

It is unfortunate that Virkkala refuses to give into his temptation, because crucially significant aspects of Herbert Spencer's work are, indeed, dialectical.

Read the rest of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's article

James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website

National Review stands beside History yelling "Go!"

While House Republicans’ repeal of Obamacare is laudable, the stark truth is that true repeal is still elusive. An alternative some have considered -- as opposed to waiting on the courts or a new government -- is to try nullification, the oft-maligned, seldom-employed tactic used by state governments where they refuse to enforce laws they deem unconstitutional.

Tom Woods of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has written not one but two recent books advocating nullification. In Nullification and Rollback Woods encourages the use of the tactic in a political landscape where choices between the two governing parties could hardly be worse.

No shortage of liberal writers have denounced Woods’ book or the idea of nullification. But when scholars in reputedly conservative journals join the dog-pile of their defense of the status quo, one has to wonder why these conservative intellectuals are so intent on letting unconstitutional legislation become more easily enshrined.

In the February 21, 2011 dead-tree issue of National Review (not online), Gettysburg College professor Allen C. Guelzo discards nullification and reaches a nearly identical conclusion as the liberal Princeton professor Sean Wilentz does in The New Republic.*

The subtitle of Guelzo’s “Nullification Temptation” is “Let’s stop Obamacare without blowing up the constitutional order.” In case Guelzo didn’t choose the title or subtitle himself, he immediate clarifies that there is no hyperbole when he refers to nullification as a “nuclear option” and declares “Its danger lies in how easily it could destroy not just Obamacare but the entire Constitution.”

Guelzo proceeds to list all the major events in the history of nullification: the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799, South Carolina’s attempt to nullify the 1832 “Tariff of Abominations,” and Wisconsin’s efforts to avoid enforcing the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Guelzo finishes this section by saying, “At no point, however, did nullification prevail.”

So if Professor Guelzo admits that nullification never prevailed against the comparatively minuscule federal government of the 19th Century, why is he saying that nullification today could “destroy . . . the entire Constitution” when Americans now live under a far more consolidated, bureaucratic, and intrusive state? Does Guelzo expect his readers to believe that an America where cameras adorn nearly every intersection, IRS agents harass citizens for not relinquishing enough of their money to the state, and has a federal capitol employing more than 2 million, that even one state’s refusal to enforce Obamacare is enough to upend the whole edifice? A high school student wouldn’t get away with that sort of nonsense.

By opposing the very theory of nullification, liberal Wilentz and conservative Guelzo both endorse the criminalization of speech against the president (the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions contra the Alien and Sedition Acts) and that slaves, even if they escaped to a free state like Wisconsin, had to be returned to their masters.

So why does Guelzo go to the trouble to discredit nullification? It makes sense for a liberal like Wilentz to recoil at any idea of resistance to the Washington leviathan. But why does someone posing as a proponent of limited government accept such a broad interpretation of the Constitution that would justify any and every expansive big government scheme?

One might assume that Guelzo might like to see nullification employed to frustrate Democratic health care legislation but that position forces him to confront what he cannot bear: What if someday Republicans pass legislation Democratic state governments find constitutionally wanting? Republican nullification would set the precedent that state governments can slow down or halt Washington’s machinations. To ensure that Republican monstrosities can govern the land Guelzo has to let Democratic fiascos remain too.

It’s the same reason Democrats haven’t repealed the Patriot Act and Republicans have never taken a scalpel to the welfare state. Both sides scream at each other but they always end up preserving each others’ programs. When the minority party becomes the majority they realize they can use their adversaries’ initiatives for their own gain.

If this is the state of the conservative opposition leading up to 2012 it’s no wonder a state-run health care operative like Mitt Romney is considered a serious contender to unseat a state-run health care operative like President Barack Obama.

*The title of Wilentz’s blog is “States of Anarchy.” In Guelzo’s, he calls nullification “the spirit of anarchy.” When historians who are supposed to represent two different sides of the spectrum end up with arguments and rhetoric so similar that one could almost charge the other with plagiarism, it is hard to refute the claim that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.


Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles Author's Page Website

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin (More than just statist coercion?)

To what extent should libertarians concern themselves with social commitments, practices, projects, or movements that seek social outcomes beyond, or other than, the standard libertarian commitment to expanding the scope of freedom from government coercion?

Clearly, a consistent and principled libertarian cannot support efforts or beliefs that are contrary to libertarian principles—such as efforts to engineer social outcomes by means of government intervention. But if coercive laws have been taken off the table, then what should libertarians say about other religious, philosophical, social, or cultural commitments that pursue their ends through noncoercive means, such as targeted moral agitation, mass education, artistic or literary propaganda, charity, mutual aid, public praise, ridicule, social ostracism, targeted boycotts, social investing, slowdowns and strikes in a particular shop, general strikes, or other forms of solidarity and coordinated action? Which social movements should they oppose, which should they support, and toward which should they counsel indifference? And how do we tell the difference?

Read the rest of Charles Johnson's article


James Tuttle,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles | Author's Page | Website