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Liberty and Power

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  • The Specter of Centrally Planned Economic Fascism Continues to Hover over the United States

    by Robert Higgs

    During World War II, the U.S. government created and operated a system of fascist central planning. (I have described this system in my books Crisis and Leviathan and Depression, War, and Cold War.) After the war, much of this system was abandoned, but it was revived in large part during the Korean War, and it was retained afterward in the form of statutory authority for its reinstatement whenever the president might so order under the authority of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended. As I wrote in Crisis and Leviathan (p. 246), after the Korean War “[t]he wartime wage-price and production controls lapsed, although the authority to reinstate the production controls remained”—that is, the Defense Production Act was never repealed, and it has been in force continuously since its initial passage, though amended from time to time. Under this statute, the president has lawful authority to control virtually the whole of the U.S.


  • The War on Gaza

    by Sheldon Richman

    Israel and its apologists will blame Palestinian militants for the latest flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip, but no one disputes that relative quiet was broken when an IDF airstrike last Friday killed Zuheir al-Qaisi and Mahmoud Al-Hannani of the Popular Resistance Committees. Palestinians, though reportedly not Hamas, responded with rockets into southern Israel. At least 18 Palestinians have been killed so far by Israeli airstrikes, including a 12-year-old boy. The Israeli military said three Israelis were wounded in the more than 90 assaults from rockets and mortars.

    The Israeli military said it targeted the men because they had plotted an attack in Israel that took place in August and were planning another attack. The first claim can't be true, casting doubt on the credibility of the second.


  • Rick Santorum Versus James Madison

    by David T. Beito

    Over at the Washington Post, Kevin Gutzman systematically demolishes Rick Santorum's claim that Madison would have shared his philosophy of church and state:

    When the question was put to him by George Stephanopoulos (son of a very prominent Orthodox priest), Santorum replied: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.” One wishes that Stephanopoulos had asked Santorum how he knew that. Where does Santorum get his idea of “the objectives and vision of our country?” Certainly not from study of James Madison. The chief craftsman of America’s tradition of church-state separation, Madison, disagreed with Santorum. He developed at great length over more than 50 years his belief in religious freedom. Never again in America should Virginia whip Baptists or Massachusetts hang Quakers. The church should form no part of the state.

  • Dixie Street Cred

    by Roderick T. Long

    “I had catfish for the second time. It was delicious, just like the first time.” – Mitt Romney

    “And I’m really enjoying this so called … ‘iced cream.’” – Montgomery Burns 


  • Likely Fiscal and Monetary Legacies of the Current Crisis

    by Robert Higgs

    I am not a prophet, nor do I play one on TV. Nevertheless, I will hazard some conjectures here about certain likely legacies of the current crisis. I focus on fiscal and monetary matters. In a future post, I will deal with regulatory and ideological matters. I will try to avoid mere guesses or hunches about what the future will bring. Instead, I will try to proceed in the spirit that Joseph Schumpeter expressed seventy years ago:

    What counts in any attempt at social prognosis is not the Yes or No that sums up the facts and arguments which lead up to it but those facts and arguments themselves. . . . Analysis, whether economic or other, never yields more than a statement about the tendencies present in an observable pattern. And these never tell us what will happen to the pattern but only what would happen if they continued to act as they have been acting in the time interval covered by our observation and if no other factors intruded. (Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, p. 61)


  • Cessation of Labor Force Growth since 2008

    by Robert Higgs

    The United States has a long history of population growth and concomitant labor force growth. As the chart below shows, the number of men in the civilian labor force (men either working in paid employment or actively seeking work) increased fairly steadily over the past half-century—at least, until the onset of the current recession.

    For the past five years, however, the number of men in the labor force has fluctuated around a fairly level trend line at approximately 82 million. This cessation of growth came on the heels of a 6-million-man increase during the previous seven years.

    In the post-World War II era, the number of women in labor force grew even faster than the number of men, and also tended to grow fairly steadily. When the current recession began, the female labor force continued to grow, increasing by about a million women between the officially designated beginning and end of the recession (December 2007 - June 2009).


  • Gaza and Sderot

    by Sheldon Richman

     

    In Sunday’s speech to AIPAC, the main Israeli lobbying organization, President Obama said:

    I have visited with families who’ve known the terror of [Palestinian] rocket fire in Sderot. That’s why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes, hospitals, and schools in that town and others. Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles.  Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

    It is worth knowing something of Sderot’s history. Does Obama know this? From Wikipedia:


  • Short-term Employment Changes in Longer-term Perspective

    by Robert Higgs

    Many commentators have noted in recent years that Americans have been leaving the labor force. Their departure has made interpretation of unemployment statistics more difficult, and because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes six variants of the unemployment rate, considerable debate has occurred about the “real” rate of unemployment. Much of this confusion can be avoided by examining not data on unemployment, however measured, but data on employment, which are substantially less ambiguous.

    When we examine the ratio of employment to population (reported by the BLS for the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over), we find that indeed the overall employment ratio has fallen considerably since the onset of the current recession. In 2007, the ratio for both sexes combined was about 63 percent. In 2008, it fell steadily, and by December it had reached 61 percent. In 2009, it continued to fall steadily, and by December it had reached 58.2 percent. At that point, it more or less stabilized at its recession low point, and during the past two years it has remained in the range 58-59 percent.


  • Government Like Slavery is Evil

    by Keith Halderman

    Around 1830 the argument about American slavery profoundly changed. It went from one where those supporting it defended the institution by saying it was a necessary evil to one where those advocating it claimed it was a positive good. Events such as writings of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, petitions to Congress calling for its end, the Virginia legislature’s very narrow decision to retain it, and Nat Turner’s rebellion made it impossible to continue sustaining the latter viewpoint. The necessary part was always unconvincing because the food and textiles produced by slaves were always going to be made but the real question was who would get the benefit from them. Articles in periodicals such as The Southern Planter, The Southern Agriculturist, and The Tennessee Farmer, compiled in a book by historian James O.


  • Goverment Like slavery is Evil

    by Keith Halderman

    Around 1830 the argument about American slavery profoundly changed. It went from one where those supporting it defended the institution by saying it was a necessary evil to one where those advocating it claimed it was a positive good. Events such as writings of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, petitions to Congress calling for its end, the Virginia legislature’s very narrow decision to retain it, and Nat Turner’s rebellion made it impossible to continue sustaining the latter viewpoint. The necessary part was always unconvincing because the food and textiles produced by slaves were always going to be made but the real question was who would get the benefit from them. Articles in periodicals such as The Southern Planter, The Southern Agriculturist, and The Tennessee Farmer, compiled in a book by historian James O.


  • February 19, 1942: A Day that Will Live in Infamy

    by Sheldon Richman

    Four days ago was the 70th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the internment in "War Relocation Camps" (aka concentration camps) of some 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast.


  • LFS Hall of Fame Finalists Announced

    by Amy H. Sturgis

    The Libertarian Futurist Society has chosen four finalists for this year's Hall of Fame Award. The Award will be presented at the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. The nominees are as follows: Falling Free, a novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, first published in 1988. An exploration of the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering. "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," by Harlan Ellison, first published in 1965. A satirical dystopia set in an authoritarian society dedicated to punctuality, where a lone absurdist rebel attempts to disrupt everyone else's schedules. "The Machine Stops,” by E.M. Forster, first published in 1909. Described by the author as a reaction to H.G.

  • Obamacare, Contraception, and Ayn Rand

    by Sheldon Richman

     

    It will be little comfort to the advocates of state-mandated “free” contraception that Ayn Rand, who would have abhorred Obamacare and all its mandates, was as staunch an advocate of birth control and women’s right to abortion as one can imagine. Writing about the anti-contraception papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” Rand wrote in “Of Living Death” (1968):


  • The Contraception Mandate

    by Lester Hunt

    So the president has put forth a "compromise" version of the H & H S decree that health insuranceproviders, including Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities to pay for all female contraceptives, (including sterilization surgery and what some people regard as abortion-inducing drugs).
      According to the New York Times, the compromise is an attempt to "make the new rule more like that offered by the State of Hawaii, where employees of religiously affiliated institutions obtained contraceptives through a side benefit offered by insurance companies." However, they explain somewhat helpfully: "The result differs from Hawaii in that it shifts the cost to insurers, instead of employees.

  • The Contraception Mandate

    by Lester Hunt

    So the president has put forth a "compromise" version of the H & H S decree that health insuranceproviders, including Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities to pay for all female contraceptives, (including sterilization surgery and what some people regard as abortion-inducing drugs).

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