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Liberty and Power

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  • TGIF: Fearing Hayek

    by Sheldon Richman


    I’m sensing some panic in the air. Certain people seem mighty concerned that other people are . . . discovering Hayek. As a W. S. Gilbert character might say, Oh horror!

    Read the full TGIF here.

  • Why Do So Many People Automatically and Angrily Condemn Historical Revisionism?

    by Robert Higgs

    I surely do not consider myself immune to errors, of course. But if my facts are incorrect, the critic has an obligation to say why my facts are incorrect and to state, or at least to point toward, the correct facts. If my logic has run off the rails, the critic has an obligation to state how I fell into fallacious reasoning. More often than not, however, the critic resorts immediately to name-calling and to wild characterizations of my statements and my person.

  • What I Learned from Climategate

    by Lester Hunt

      I am still struck by how many intelligent people, some of whom I respect, say that the Climategate emails are a ho-hum matter. They apparently know a lot more about how "mainstream" climatologists work than I do. I actually learned four things that I did not know before. Apparently, they did know these things. At the risk of boring someone, and in the spirit of getting on the same page, let me list these things:   1. I had thought the the famous hockey stick graph and other global temperature information represented in some direct way readings of actual thermometers in the real world. In fact, these results do not directly report such raw data. Rather, climatologists nudge and tweak the raw data in various ways. This is understandable, in and of itself.

  • The Government Is Expropriating Private Wealth at a Rapid Rate

    by Robert Higgs

    About a month ago, I posted in regard to what I called “the euthanasia of the saver.” This comment had to do with the fact that nominal interest rates in the United States for financial investments such as bank certificates of deposit and bank savings accounts—the kinds of investments traditionally employed by retired persons and small savers, who wish to gain income without exposing their funds to great risk of capital loss—now fall considerably below the rate of inflation, and hence the real (or inflation-adjusted) yield on such investments is negative. That is, the nominal payoff is insufficient to offset the loss of purchasing power of the money invested.

    About a month before I wrote my commentary, my old friend Richard Rahn had, without my noticing, written on the same issue in a commentary article published in the Washington Times, but he had gone beyond the simple point I made.

  • The Myth of an Israel-Centered Jewish Vote

    by Sheldon Richman

    I highly recommend this article by Allan C. Brownfeld, editor of the American Council for Judaism’s publication Issues.  The gist:

    The fact is that there is no Jewish vote — only the votes of millions of individual Jewish Americans. These ballots are cast on the same basis as are those of Americans of other faiths. It is a dangerous challenge to our democracy to try to divide voters on the basis of religion, and to do so on the basis of a false picture of U.S. Middle East policy is harmful to all — to Israel, to the Palestinians, to American interests in the region and, perhaps most important, to the truth itself.

  • The Welfare State Neutralizes Potential Opponents by Making Them Dependent on Government Benefits

    by Robert Higgs

     From time immemorial—from Etienne de la Boitie to David Hume to Ludwig von Mises—political analysts have noted that because the number of those in the ruling elite amounts to only a small fraction of the number in the ruled masses, every regime lives or dies in accordance with “public opinion.” Unless the mass of the people, no matter how objectively abused and plundered they may appear to be, believe that the existing rulers are legitimate, the masses will not tolerate the regime’s continuation in power. Nor need they tolerate it, because they greatly outnumber the rulers, and hence whenever they become subjectively fed up, they have the power—which is to say, the overwhelming advantage of superior numbers—to oust the regime. Even if the regime possesses a great advantage of coercive power, its employment avails the rulers nothing if they must kill or imprison 90 percent of the population, because such massive violence would reduce them to the status of parasites without hosts.

    This consideration long seemed to make sense as a critical element of political analysis, and even today one often encounters it. Something akin to it seems to motivate the current Occupy Wall Street movement and its spin-offs in other venues when they represent themselves as members of the (exploited) 99 percent, in opposition to the (exploiting) 1 percent.

  • Bachmann Endangers the World with Her Lies

    by Sheldon Richman

    It’s way past time for Michele Bachmann to be ridiculed into the obscurity she so richly deserves. Nothing could be more irresponsible – indeed, pernicious – than her routine peddling of the lie that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that "if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America." (This is far from her only venture into idiocy.)

    Iran has said that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, and quarterly inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency support this claim. Moreover, two National Intelligence Estimates, compiled in 2007 and 2011 by America’s dozen and a half intelligence agencies, say Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003. Finally, according to Wikipedia:

  • Regarding that IAEA Report on Iran’s Alleged Nuclear Weapons Program

    by Sheldon Richman

    The war drums are getting louder in the wake the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But how significant is the report?

    This is from investigative reporter Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker:

    But how definitive, or transformative, were the findings? The I.A.E.A. said it had continued in recent years “to receive, collect and evaluate information relevant to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program” and, as a result, it has been able “to refine its analysis.” The net effect has been to create “more concern.” But Robert Kelley, a retired I.A.E.A. director and nuclear engineer who previously spent more than thirty years with the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, told me that he could find very little new information in the I.A.E.A. report. He noted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelley said, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.”

  • Journalist Suspended from National Press Club after Questioning Saudi Regime’s Legitimacy

    by Sheldon Richman

    Journalist Sam Husseini has been suspended from the National Press Club for allegedly violating its rule against “boisterous and unseemly conduct or language.” What did he do?

    He asked the following of Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia:

    There's been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have—other than billions of dollars and weapons?

    [Moderator Peter] Hickman: Sam, let him answer. 

    Unidentified speaker: What was the question?  

    Turki: [motioning Husseini to the podium] Would you like to come and speak here? Would you like to come and speak here? 

    Husseini: I'd like you to try to answer that question. 

  • Anti-Government or Pro-Goverment? Make Up Your Mind!

    by Lester Hunt

    Here you you see conservative reporter reporter Michelle Fields being shoved to the ground by NYC police. (Hat-tip to Ray Sawhill.) (Earlier this year we at "E pur si murove!" enjoyed her capturing Matt Damon's curious claim about the "shitty salaries" that government school teachers get.)I'm sure her tears at the end were more a matter of shock and anger than physical pain. But what is she shocked about? Doesn't she know what police do?

  • Robert Higgs’s Tocqueville Award Acceptance Speech (November 15, 2011)

    by Robert Higgs

    Distinguished honorees , co-chairs, and honorary co-chairs, Mr. and Mrs. Theroux, ladies and gentlemen.

    It is a great honor to have been selected to receive the Alexis de Tocqueville Award on this occasion. For many years, I have been working with David Theroux, the founder of the Independent Institute, and Mary Theroux, the Institute’s senior vice president, striving to make the world a freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous place. I wish to pay the highest possible tribute to them for everything they have done―and it is much more than any of you is likely to know―to promote greater scholarly and public understanding of the values and institutions that undergird a truly free, peaceful, and prosperous society. They have fought the good fight, never flagging, never yielding to despair, never hesitating to take the next step, and the next and next, toward the goal of a world in which every human being is accorded the freedom and dignity to which each is justly entitled.

    Over the years, as a teacher and scholar, I have striven to uphold high standards of honesty, accuracy, and professional competence in my efforts to enlighten my students, professional colleagues, and members of the public. However, I have disdained many of the beliefs and practices common in the ranks of professors and commentators on public affairs.

  • Defending the Oxford Comma

    by Lester Hunt

    I just got involved in an internet freeforall on this issue, which I've wondered about over the years. Do you say "eggs, toast, and orange juice" or "eggs, toast and orange juice"? I have always put in the "extra" comma, as did Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State,[sic] and Utopia.

    One commenter spoke of being surprised when the last comma "came into use." Actually, I'm pretty sure The Oxford comma was the original system, gradually it has been disappearing. Take a look at any eighteenth century author, such as David Hume or Dr. Johnson. It's commas all the way down!

  • Americhristian Exegesis

    by Roderick T. Long

    Oh, and one more. This was published in The Daily Tar Heel (the student newspaper of UNC Chapel Hill) on 28 January 1994:

    To the Editor:

    Matt Osman’s Jan. 20 letter (“Columnist Obviously Doesn’t Understand Ways of Baptists”) offers two defenses of Christian intolerance of homosexuality.

    Mr. Osman’s first defense is the claim that “this country is founded on Christian principles,” and America’s founding documents are cited as evidence. But Mr. Osman’s memory of those documents seems a bit shaky. The Constitution of the United States contains no reference to God or Christianity. The Declaration of Independence contains a passing reference to God, but nothing distinctively Christian. (This is hardly surprising, since its author, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist, not a Christian.)

    Mr. Osman mentions the Pledge of Allegiance. This hardly qualifies as a founding document, since it was written in 1892, and the words “under God” were not added until 1954.

  • Iran, Israel, and Rice

    by Sheldon Richman

      The U.S. government says it expects Iran to fulfill its IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) obligations. And what about Israel? Oh, that's right. It has no IAEA obligations -- unlike Iran, it never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is not subject to inspections, despite its possession of a few hundred nukes.

    Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the very fact people are discussing Israel's rumblings about attacking Iran shows how dangerous ... Iran is. She really said that.  

  • U.S. Economic Recovery Remains Anemic, at Best

    by Robert Higgs

    How goes the recovery? Not well, it seems. Indeed, according to the most recent official estimates, it is anemic, at best.

    As the chart shows, real GDP has recovered its losses during the recent contraction and is now running at about the same rate as it was at its pre-recession peak in late 2007. So, the rate at which the U.S. economy produces total output has gained nothing during the past four years, and its present rate of growth, even if it continues, is too slow to bring back into employment many of the would-be workers now without work, including a disturbing number who have been without employment for years.

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