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Dr. Obama: Heal Thyself!

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on January 29, 2011 09:20 AM

On the White House Blog, Obama comments on the Egypt situation, stating “all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion.”

Interesting idea. I wish the federal government would try that approach. Michael Moore and Barbra Streisand might still pay their taxes then, but not me. I don’t consent. To borrow from Bertrand Russell, the only reason to abide by artificial state law is to keep out of prison.

Re: We Are Not Amused

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on January 28, 2011 10:14 AM

Lew, it’s indeed sad to see libertarians using the power of the state’s intellectual property “laws” (arbitrary statutes, diktats by the “law maker” state) to censor free speech–the group Public Citizen, quoted in the NY Times piece, is correct that such lawsuits have a “chilling effect on free speech.” Just another example of how copyright and patent are not the only bad types of state IP; trademark law, when defined and enforced by the state, also leads to unlibertarian outrages (trade secret too; the state corrupts everything). And not surprisingly, most of these type of libertarians support all types of IP law on “pragmatic” (self-interested) grounds.

Battle Hymn of the Libertarian-Montessori Father

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on January 20, 2011 02:00 PM

The recent book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Yale law professor Amy Chua, has provoked a firestorm of controversy and discussion, much to the publisher’s glee, no doubt. (See Ayelet Waldman, In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom; Ann Hulbert, Hear the Tiger Mother Roar; Dana Stevens’s Battle Hymn of the Sloth Mother; Wendy Sachs’s Chinese Moms vs. Jewish Moms: Who Is Mother Superior?; WSJ, ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’: Review Revue.) In an excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal, Chua writes:

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

I find myself fairly ambivalent about Chua’s ideas and those of her critics. From my superficial look at it, Chua has some good criticisms, but neither she, nor her critics, are approaching the issue of child rearing and education from any systematic, well thought out perspective. I say this as a Montessori parent who admires that systematic and logical approach, and related disciplinary techniques such as those in Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Positive Discipline, and Parenting With Love And Logic. But I think diversity in parenting styles is fine. To each his own.

But Chua’s list above led me to ponder what a similar list might be for a state-hating libertarian parent. Here’s what I came up with:

Here are some things I will never allow to happen to my son: he will not:

  • be forced to say the pledge of allegiance or attend a school that requires this;
  • be punished for not getting an A;
  • be conscripted by the state to fight in its wars;
  • be subjected to pro-state, pro-environmentalist propaganda without his dad giving him regular anti-propaganda inoculations at home;
  • be forced to recycle at home;
  • be lied to by his parents;
  • be spanked or otherwise punished;
  • be required to vote (in fact he will be told that it’s a waste of time);
  • be taught that it’s his duty to pay taxes;
  • be taught that aggression in any form, private or public, is okay;
  • be made to feel he has an obligation to “give something back” to “society”;
  • be forced to attend a government school if at all possible;
  • be talked down to just because he’s a child;
  • ever have to pay for his own books;
  • be unaware of the Austrian and libertarian intellectual traditions;
  • be made to feel his parents can’t wait for him to grow up and get out of the house;
  • be made to feel like he is unwanted or a burden;
  • be allowed to object to at least 10 kisses a day from Mommy and Daddy;
  • be treated like less than a full human with rights and dignity just because he is “under age.”

To clarify on a few of the above: the kissing item is not serious; it’s based on something Walter Block told me. He attended my son’s baptism reception 7 years ago and told me to kiss him as much as I can now, since as kids get older they make you stop. So I try to get in as many kisses a day as possible.

Re the spanking/punishment line: this is explained in more detail in the 3 books linked above. According to this view the best way to discipline children is with positive discipline, not viewing their behavior that is natural to their age and stage of development as “bad” and in need of punishment, but as in need of development and direction. So in this approach, even non-corporal punishment is avoided; “time out”, which is usually a punishment, is not okay (in this approach) just because it is not corporal; instead, something like “the calm down spot” is used instead, and it is specifically done non-punitively.

Judas Priest on the Surveillance State

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on January 15, 2011 10:29 AM

Listening the other day to one of my favorite rock bands from the 80s, Judas Priest, I was struck by the prescience of the lyrics to their great song Electric Eye, from their 1982 Album Screaming for Vengeance. Released almost 30 years ago, it eerily describes the Bush-Obama PATRIOT-act surveillance state:

Up here in space
I’m looking down on you
My lasers trace
Everything you do

You think youve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
I’m protected electric eye

Always in focus
You cant feel my stare
I zoom into you
You dont know Im there

I take a pride in probing all your secret moves
My tearless retina takes pictures that can prove

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
I’m protected electric eye

Electric eye, in the sky
Feel my stare, always there
Theres nothing you can do about it
Develop and expose
I feed upon your every thought
And so my power grows

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
Im protected electric eye

Protected. detective. electric eye

According to Wikipedia, ““Electric Eye” is an allusion to the book Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, in the use of the name of the pseudo-omniscient satellite that watches over the community at all times. In this dystopia, the form of government, Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism), is utterly totalitarian, and if citizens are caught rebelling in any manner, they “disappear.”” So Judas Priest’s prescience is due to Orwell’s own prescience.

Here’s the song from YouTube:

I was also listening recently to another of my favorite groups, the under-appreciated Riot. Their 1982 song CIA (lyrics) provides a realistically cynical description of the murderous state and its agents, including lines like:

You won’t believe what I’m after
I play this game for keeps
Amidst of blood and disaster
I’ll drop you down on your knees

… I got a licence to murder
the perpetrators must die
.. I don’t have much to regret baby
you see me on the tv
The politicians I protect
they’re filled with hate and disease

I’m in the C.I.A.
I stand around like a stallion
you know I think I’m too cool
… My venom sprays from my magnum
try to escape and you’re shot
I signed a contract with satan
so I don’t worry at all
… I fight my way out of trouble
in god we trust is my clout

… I’m in the C.I.A.
And I’ll blow your face away …

Not that it’s Riot’s best song. Its best songs include Outlaw, Altar of the King, and 49er—and the absolutely wild and crazy Hot for Love (and explicit—their first great singer, the late Guy Speranza, reportedly quit the band because of his Christian beliefs).

Liberal Economies and War

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 30, 2010 09:01 AM

Tom, you’re right that military spending should not be based on GDP. Unfortunately, and somewhat paradoxically, as Hoppe has argued, countries (especially larger countries) that have relatively liberal internal economic policies tend to be richer, and thus their states tend to be more militarily powerful, and thus more aggressive, than states of developing or smaller countries. Only the US, with a $14 trillion GDP that could only result from a large, relatively free internal market, could afford to squander $3 trillion on the Iraq war (on top of untold trillions for the recent bailouts), for example. This doesn’t mean we should hope the state destroys the economy, though I suppose its ensuing reduced ability to wage war would be a silver lining; but it does provide another reason why decentralization is good: it leads to smaller states, with a reduced ability to wage war.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 14, 2010 05:07 PM

I’m getting this new book, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, for my 7-year old for Christmas. What’s interesting is how we are approaching some of the horrid aspects of communist Czechoslovakia. From the Publisher’s Weekly review:

Starred Review. Born out of a question posed to Sís (Play, Mozart, Play!) by his children (Are you a settler, Dad?), the author pairs his remarkable artistry with journal entries, historical context and period photography to create a powerful account of his childhood in Cold War–era Prague. Dense, finely crosshatched black-and-white drawings of parades and red-flagged houses bear stark captions: Public displays of loyalty—compulsory.

Like the Pledge of Allegiance many kids are forced to recite. Like the oath of loyalty to the Constitution lawyers have to give to get admission to practice law. Like the obligation to put your hand over your heart at sporting events when they sing the Star Spangled Banner. Like the way the glassy-eyed brainwashed masses Proudly Stand Up! when the cloying, horrible Lee Greenwood song God Bless the USA is played on the 4th of July in the South.

Children are encouraged to report on their families and fellow students.

As now: environmentalism, terrorism, and so on.

Parents learn to keep their opinions to themselves.

As too many feel compelled to do now.

Text along the bottom margin reveals young Sís’s own experience: He didn’t question what he was being told.

Ever talk to a kid today about democracy, voting, welfare, public education, environmentalism, or global warming?

Then he found out there were things he wasn’t told.

Hello, WikiLeaks!

The secret police, with tidy suits and pig faces, intrude into every drawing, watching and listening.

Hello, PATRIOT Act!

As Sís grows to manhood, Eastern Europe discovers the Beatles, and the Prague Spring of 1968 promises liberation and freedom.

Like Bush’s promises of limited government! Like Obama’s promises of a new start!

Instead, Soviet tanks roll in,

Like Bush’s wars and medicare welfare increases; like Obama’s tax increases and Obamacare socialized medicine and continued and escalated Bush wars.

Returning the city to its previous restrictive climate.

We will jail you if you leak information, if you cheat on taxes, if you eat fatty foods, if you smoke marijuana, if you refuse to be groped by TSA goons, if you challenge us! If you protest. If you disagree.

Sís rebels when possible, and in the book’s final spreads, depicts himself in a bicycle, born aloft by wings made from his artwork, flying toward America and freedom, as the Berlin Wall crumbles below. Although some of Sís’s other books have their source in his family’s history, this one gives the adage write what you know biting significance. Younger readers have not yet had a graphic memoir with the power of Maus or Persepolis to call their own, but they do now. Ages 8–up. (Aug.)

The Soviet Union finally disintegrated and Czechoslovakia separated into smaller parts and liberalized. What is the direction of modern-day America?

Is TSA Profiling ‘Reason’able?

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 10, 2010 02:06 PM

In The Case for Profiling Air Travelers, Reason’s Robert Poole makes the case for expanded “profiling” by the TSA thugs:

In short, profiling is a legitimate technique for deciding how to allocate security resources. Catching terrorists is tough. Making the TSA pat-down or body-scan every single person on every single U.S. flight (which the current policy calls for by the end of 2011) does not increase the chances they’ll find a terrorist (TSA has never found one).

Pretending that everyone is equally likely to attack us wastes precious resources on low-risk travelers, which just makes us more vulnerable. Unless, and until, we adopt a risk-based airport screening system (i.e., forms of profiling), the TSA will continue to treat everyone as a potential suicide bomber and Americans will continue to be harassed and groped by TSA’s out-of-control screeners.

While private profiling may be justified in some contexts, letting the grope-ocracy have even more discretion doesn’t sound libertarian to me. Poole recognizes the problem is that Americans are currently “harassed and groped by TSA’s out-of-control screeners”; but the solution to this problem is not to give the TSA more discretion to inflict harassment and groping on a vilified subset of the population. (Note that in an LRC post last year, I noted that Poole called on the TSA to increase its use of scanning machines.)

Maybe if we just let fellow libertarians run the TSA, we wouldn’t have these problems.

Followup on Thoughts on iPad From a Slightly Disappointed Fanboi

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 10, 2010 04:45 AM

Earlier in the year, I posted Thoughts on iPad From a Slightly Disappointed Fanboi. Having had most of the year to use it, I’ve got some updated thoughts.

I still like the iPad. But my use of my iPad has declined, for reasons given below. I think it is beautifully designed. As for hardware, I can only think of a few improvements that could be made, none of them essential: reduce weight (maybe by changing from aluminum to come carbon-fiber body) and perhaps thickness; add a front camera for video chat; and increase screen resolution. The iOS is good, and continues to improve over time. The addition of multitasking and app icon folders was an improvement. There are a few snags still in the OS—limitations on handling files, etc., but these should improve over time.

As I noted in my original post, “I was hoping I might be able to use it as a laptop replacement. And I think—probably, it can’t be. The basic reason? It has no (real) keyboard.” This is still the primary limitation of this form factor. At present, the iOS is also a limitation: even if you have a keyboard connected to it, iOS does not let you create content as easily as a real computer does. I do a lot of blogging, document editing in Word, and so on; tons of cut-and-paste, formatting, PowerPoint presentations, things like this. You just can’t do this kind of heavy processing on the iPad. I expect iOS to improve over time so that you’ll be able to do these things more and more easily—so long as a keyboard is attached. When that happens, then even for people who do a lot of editing, blogging, and document manipulation like me, the iPad may be able to start to replace a laptop/notebook. But given the current state of iOS and the iPad’s A4 processor—which is great for current iOS but limited in power on purpose, for battery life and robustness—I don’t see the iPad being able to handle these tasks well for at least a few years.

I have some friends for whom the iPad has almost replaced their laptops/notebooks. One of them uses it almost exclusively in his business. He has it linked in with his company’s computer systems, and he can check status reports, emails, etc., all with his iPad. It’s great for him. For a specialized use like this that does not require a lot of document editing, I can see this replacing a laptop. Another is a lawyer who takes it on business trips and vacations instead of a laptop—he uses it to surf, watch media, check emails, and display/read documents. He never likes to do a lot of heavy document editing on the road, so it does not bug him not to have a laptop. For people who are light computer users—say, my parents—I could see the iPad being their only or main computer too. If you are one of these types of users, where the iPad can replace or mostly replace a laptop, this is great because it’s robust, easy to use, light, small, and has great battery life.

But, for me, it can’t. I need a laptop/notebook too often. And my iPad usage has declined, too. One reason for this is that I got an iPhone 4, whose high resolution and A4 processor make it able to do almost everything the iPad can (the iPhone’s processor even has more RAM than the iPad’s does). And it’s already connected by 3G all the time. The main things the iPhone can’t do as well as the iPad are cases where the iPad’s larger size is an advantage: mainly games, books, and video. But I don’t play games much (though sometimes I do play the board game recreations like Scrabble with family on vacations). And in a pinch, you can read books or watch movies on the iPhone, though the iPad is much better for this—and its battery life is much longer too. The other reason my iPad use has declined is that I purchased the new 11? MacBook Air. This has become my favorite computer ever. Just over 2 lbs, it’s almost the same weight and size as the iPad, just a bit wider because it’s widescreen format unlike iPad.; so it’s about as portable as the iPad and much more useful for my typical use case. I had been using the iPad a lot on short trips—taking it with me to lunch, etc. If I were a lighter user, and mainly checked email and surfed and consumed media, that would be fine; but as I said, I do a lot of document editing, writing, etc., so I would often be frustrated when I had the iPad. Say, at lunch, I wanted to edit a blogpost, reply at length to an email, and so on—I found myself having to put off tasks until I was at a real computer. Now, where I used to bring the iPad, I will bring the Air, and use my iPhone to tether it. The Air is sufficiently powered for my typical uses, has a full size keyboard, and great battery life. It’s an amazing machine.

I also still have my 15? MacBook Pro, which is my “main” machine. I use it around the house. But when I travel, either around the city or longer distance travel, I usually take the Air. (I use a wonderful service called SugarSync to synchronize files and folders across the Air, the Pro, and an iMac; Xmarks to synchronize bookmarks across Chrome, Safari, and FireFox on all 3 machines; and Carbonite.com for online backup). On trips out of town, I tend to bring my iPad and the Air. On planes, say, unless I want to edit documents, which is rare for me, I’ll use the iPad for movies or books.

So, bottom line: I look at the iPad as a book reader plus. And I love reading e-books. I almost never buy a paper book any more if the e-book is available. I never buy from iBooks; always from Amazon’s kindle store, using the kindle app on iPad (and iPhone). I put free epubs (say, those from Mises.org) on iBooks. I much prefer the iPad to the actual Kindle device to reading books, as does my wife, who has one of each; her Kindle hasn’t been used in months. I prefer it because it has a built in light, and touch controls—and browser, apps, movies, etc. So I view the iPad as a book reader with great extras like movies, browsing, email, apps (like NetFlix), and games. For some, it can replace or almost replace a notebook computer; for others, it augments it.

As for the competition—as with iPods, I don’t see other devices been able to compete for some time with the iPad. Now, granted, in the past three or so years, since I switched to Macs, I’ve become something of an Apple fanboi, but as I said, the hardware is fine and doesn’t need much change, so at most a competitor can match the hardware aspects of the iPad. And for software: more powerful software can be put on a tablet, but that will reduce battery life and add complexity; and it’s hard to imagine any competing tablet OS surpassing the elegance and ease of use of the iPad’s iOS. But—time will tell.

Re: Should We Boycott Amazon.com?

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 2, 2010 11:48 AM

Lew, I agree completely with you (and Rozeff). As detailed in posts by S.M. Oliva and Glenn Greenwald, it seems clear Amazon is just a victim of the state, and as a libertarian I make it a policy never to blame the victim. And who can blame them for capitulating any more than taxpayers are to be blamed for coughing up the dough? Amazon is  skating on thin ice as it is in heroically helping people avoid sales tax. Of course it’s rational to fear the state. Thus I disagree with condemnations of Amazon by libertarians and calls for a boycott.

Further, Amazon’s managers have an obligation to the shareholders; they have no right to risk or waste shareholder money for political grandstanding. It’s not their money they would be risking. I also think that in addition to the anti-war libertarian activists who are up in arms about Amazon’s pursuit of profits instead of activism, a number of left-libertarians are using this as an excuse to pile on Amazon because it’s big, a corporation, and profitable.

And I, like you, have always disliked boycotts. That said, libertarians can disagree on this tactical issue; this is just my approach.

The Evil, Statist Ben Stein

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on November 17, 2010 11:52 AM

A lot of conservatives and even libertarians think highly of Ben Stein. (He was a keynote speaker at FEE before, for goodness’ sake.) He’s smart, he “sounds conservative,” he’s got a weirdly “successful” and varied career—he’s the Clear Eyes shill and “the guy from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  But he’s always been bad, and he’s getting worse. As for the past—he’s notorious for his anti-capitalist attacks on Michael Milken (see Lew Rockwell’s The Free Market vs. the Managerial Elite from 1989, and Rothbard’s defense of Milken).

As for now: he was on the abysmal CNN Parker-Spitzer show last night explicitly calling for higher taxes. Of the 90+% marginal income tax rates in the 1940s–50s, he says “we had the most vivacious growth in the 1950s” despite 90% marginal tax rates. Therefore, as for the Bush tax cuts set to expire soon: they should be stayed for 3 years, but then—raise taxes on the wealthy. After all, a guy making $5m: “he can pay a couple million more.” Raise them on billionaires, people making $2 to 3M. After all, “there are so many rich people,” he gushes, that “it’s insane.” Of course, since he has only reached mediocre levels of success with his Clear Eyes commercials and copyright royalties from Bueller, he doesn’t mind if the top 0.5% are taxed more: $250k is “rich,” he exclaims? What a joke! Don’t tax me. Tax my “friend” Warren Buffet!

He also says we should means test social security and Medicare, and that it’s “ridiculous” that wealthy people get these benefits—after all, we “simply can’t afford it.” But “one thing I would never cut is defense. …I would not cut a one penny.” How fiscally conservative!

How evil. Shun this guy. He is not one of us.

Laugh at the State, Mock the Regime

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on November 11, 2010 11:31 AM

Kathryn Muratore, James Ostrowski, and I were recently discussing over email one proposal some people are bandying about as a response to the TSA naked scanner abomination (see Kathryn’s blog Stop TSA Scanners). The proposal is to serve the TSA by filing some kind of “Show Cause Order” in federal court, to demand the TSA “give a reason for them to continue to do these searches which are clearly unconstitutional”—thus you bury the TSA in paperwork and back them into a corner using this “Show Causes” maneuver. Now this sounds a little desperate and crankish to me, sort of like all these “common law court” nuisance liens the gold-fringe-on-the-“admiralty”-flag crowd like to file (which may be heroic, though futile, since the states just criminalize it).

But I don’t know; I’m not a litigator. Ostrowski’s view was: “I’m a big believer in direct action and not litigation. The best way to stop this is through a boycott and/or street theater–make fun of this odious practice.”

He has a good point. Earlier this year I was on a panel (discussed here) with Hoppe and DiLorenzo. In response to a question about the prospects for liberty, I noted the importance of economic literacy, in part to deflate the mistaken belief on the part of decent people that the state is necessary and legitimate. Without the tacit support of the state’s legitimacy, it could not exist. And this is why it is important to laugh at the state.  Hoppe agreed, saying he has actually considered featuring a libertarian comedian at an upcoming  event, and DiLorenzo explained that one reason he often mocks the state and its media cheerleaders is for this very purpose—he gave the example of ridiculing Rachel Maddow in a recent LRC post where he referred to her getting her “panties in a knot.” We need to show these people as buffoons and clowns and to make people take them less seriously. (See also the Mises Daily article Laughing at the Regime.)

So: laugh at them, mock them, ridicule them, jeer them, scoff. Do not take them seriously.

Why Is Jonah Goldberg Still Here?

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on November 2, 2010 06:54 AM

Karen Kwiatkowski’s LRC article today, Why Is Jonah Goldberg Still Here?, reminded me of my 2001 LRC article On Jonah Goldberg’s Youthful Phase. Kwiatkowski pointed out Goldberg’s wickedness and dishonesty; my article noted his abysmal ignorance—or dishonesty—about libertarianism and his wicked statism—his sneering objection to the idea that libertarians oppose state violence. As Kwiatkowski observes, he’s not only in favor of state violence but apparently private violence too—namely, assassination of people who don’t go along with his pro-state violence bluster. What a vile person. Why is he still here?

Re: Good for the Cato Institute

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 25, 2010 09:57 AM

Lew, your post contains a depressingly good summary of the primary unlibertarian and un-Austrian positions propounded by Cato: as you note, the policies they push expand the State:

massive money printing (for the big banks and big companies), school vouchers (to deliver private schools into the hands of government), the Ownership Society (every person a homeowner through Greenspan’s housing bubble), Social Security Privatization (a new layer of forced savings on top of the present SS taxes, to benefit Wall Street), etc.

In a previous LRC post, What Kind of Libertarian Are You?, I assembled some links to cases where Cato unfortunately strays from the troika of basic libertarian principles of free markets, non-interventionism, and civil liberties, in particular where various Catoites:

Re: TED vs. Tax-Funded U.

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 21, 2010 09:34 AM

Lew, you are so right. Another low-tech resource I learned about recently is Khan Academy–a free series of hundreds of short, digestible YouTube videos that explain various aspects of math, from basic algebra to calculus, and other topics. Homeschooled students or non-schooled government school inmates can pick the video of interest and re-watch it until they get it. They are all produced by Salman Khan, an MIT engineer and Harvard MBA, who in 2004 “began tutoring his cousin in mathematics using Yahoo!‘s Doodle notepad. When other relatives and friends sought his tutorage, he decided it would be more practical to distribute the tutorials on YouTube. Their popularity there and the testimonials of appreciative students prompted Khan to quit his job in finance in 2009 and focus on the Academy full-time. As of December 2009, Khan’s YouTube-hosted tutorials receive a total of more than 35,000 views per day.

Things like this–and the rise of iTunes U and Mises Academy–are so exciting. (See Doug French, “The Intellectual Revolution Is in Process,” Jeff Tucker, “A Theory of Open” and “Up with iTunes U,” and Gary North, “A Free Week-Long Economics Seminar.”)

Update: A friend remarked on my description of Khan Academy’s use of YouTube as “low-tech”–it is funny that this amazing technology is now seen as mundane! But what I meant was the Khan Academy videos are no-frills, simple, produced by one guy on his computer, using a simple whiteboard app, and saved in short videos.

Black Armbands for ‘Constitution Day’

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 17, 2010 03:14 PM

Today is the 223rd anniversary of the adoption of the modern American Constitution, on Sept. 17, 1787. Most Americans are too ignorant to even realize that this followed in the wake of the 1776 Declaration of Independence (on July 2, not July 4, 1776), and the Articles of Confederation adopted in 1781. Or to understand that the Bill of Rights was not adopted until 1791, two years after the Constitution was ratified (in their hysterical devotion to the flaccid Bill of Rights (see The Bad Bill of Rights) and ignorance about the limited powers scheme of the federal government, they would have to believe there were no rights in the two-year period between 1789 and 1791).

Flag-waving yahoos grin like idiots.

Yet, adopting the Official History and hagiography of our constructivist, utopian Founders, they worship the Constitution anyway, even though it was a coup d’état, even though slavery was permitted, even though it was an illegal, unnecessary, centralizing power play by politicians (see Rockwell on Hoppe on the Constitution as Expansion of Government Power), even though it arguably led to the Civil War, WWI, the collapse of western monarchies and the regressive replacement of traditionalist limited monarchy with socialized democracy, WWII, Naziism, Communism, the Holocaust, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the Cold War (see my When Did the Trouble Start?).

Ironically, today is officially decreed to be “Constitution Day” by the Congress, in an act that is itself unconstitutional since the Constitution does not authorize the Congress to establish any such quasi-religious institutions or observances. The very act of official worship of the Constitution is unconstitutional. How fitting.

Down with the Constitution. What a socialist, centralizing, utopian mistake. It is time for libertarians to stop glorifying early America, the Founders, the Constitution, etc., as proto-libertarian. All states are illegitimate, including America’s. As Lew Rockwell observed in stirring words in his article The Enemy Is Always the State:

Let me state this as plainly as possible. The enemy is the state. There are other enemies too, but none so fearsome, destructive, dangerous, or culturally and economically debilitating. No matter what other proximate enemy you can name — big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, or even bankers and arms merchants — none are as horrible as the hydra known as the leviathan state. If you understand this point — and only this point — you can understand the core of libertarian strategy.

More info:

The Latest Objectivism Schism: Peikoff vs. McCaskey

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 8, 2010 12:13 AM

Every few years we get to witness another entertaining Objectivist purge or publicly announced “breaking” (see my previous LRC posts Breaking, Broken, Broke: Silly Objectivist Tendencies; I break for Randians; Re: I Break for Randians; More Randian than Thou).

The apparently declining numbers of the true believers might make one fear these antics will soon fade out. But not yet. The latest is the resignation from the Ayn Rand Institute‘s Board of Directors of John McCaskey, preempting a purge that was being threatened by Peikoff. Despite being on the Board and being an ardent Objectivist and supporter of ARI, McCaskey committed the unforgivable sin of disagreeing (in private) with a book Peikoff liked–David Harriman’s The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics. Pope Peikoff generously acknowledges McCaskey’s previous fundraising for ARI might “raise[] him one rung in Hell,” but it doesn’t stop damnation. Since his resignation, McCaskey has posted a review of Harriman’s book explaining his disagreements.

The Objectisphere is naturally abuzz with these latest hijinks: see Does A Leonard Ever Change Its Spots? and New Developments re Harriman Induction book. Expect to see previous positive references to McCaskey by True Believers go down the Memory Hole soon–such as this one by Peikoffian Diana Hsieh and his inclusion on the faculty of Objectivist Conferences.

Re: Is Nullification a Waste of Time?

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on July 9, 2010 05:42 PM

Huebert, I agree completely with your post.

On Napolitano’s Freedom Watch, Professor Randy Barnett says he favors the constitutional amendment allowing two-thirds of the States to veto federal law (he also commented on Volokh). This would be good, but it is is not enough. Two-thirds of the States should not have to agree (as I noted in “Taking the Ninth Amendment Seriously: Review of Calvin R. Massey, Silent Rights: The Ninth Amendment and the Constitution’s Unenumerated Rights,”a better amendment would be that proposed by Marshall DeRosa in The Ninth Amendment and the Politics of Creative Jurisprudence: “When a national majority of each State’s chief judicial official declares a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to be inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, the said decision shall thereby be negated and precedent restored. The States’ designated chief judicial officers shall convey their declarations to the U.S. Solicitor General, who in turn will notify the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to take appropriate measures consistent with this amendment.”; I survey other possible structural limitations on federal law in this review and in “Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society”).

But any State should be free to refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws—or, in my view, any federal law it doesn’t like—for any reason—even a constitutional law. If the Feds or the other States don’t like it that, say, California refuses to enforce federal drug law (or to permit federal agents to enforce it), or even to enforce “constitutional” federal laws, they are free to boot California out of the union. (Please, please, kick Texas out. Call us names, spit at us, hate us. Kick us out.)

The Constitution and the federal judicial appeal process is not the end-all be-all, or the only way to challenge the leviathan’s evil laws. A political argument need not be merely a legal one. The Fourteenth Amendment was illegally ratified but now is de facto part of the Constitution. The Constitution itself arose out of an illegal Constitutional Convention; it was a coup d’etat (see Rockwell on Hoppe on the Constitution as Expansion of Government Power). The nation’s size owes to the illegal Louisiana Purchase. Sometimes political reality becomes legal reality. And so here. Why can’t nullification be used to appeal to people’s moral and political sensibilities? If you persuade people the states should have the right to nullify—they will.

In fact the States and State officers are duty bound to uphold the Constitution, are they not? They are bound to nullify—refuse to enforce—federal laws they view are unconstitutional. The argument against this is the notion that the Supreme Court is the final word and final interpreter of the Constitution. Where is that specified in the Constitution? Professor Barnett asked where nullification is specified as a power in the Constitution (even though the Constitution was an enumeration of federal powers, not State powers; why should any state power have to be “found” in the Constitution? The States pre-existed the federal government as sovereign states with plenary legislative power; by contrast the federal government does not have complete or plenary power—it is not authorized to outlaw murder or rape, say; for more on this see The Unique American Federal Government). Well where is federal judicial supremacy specified? In fact the very idea that the Supreme Court can strike down—i.e., NULLIFY—unconstitutional federal laws rests on the notion that it is an equal and independent branch of the federal government, and it has an obligation, just like the executive and legislative branches, not to violate the Constitution. The very idea of judicial review rests recognizing an independent judicial obligation not to violate the Constitution. But this does not imply judicial supremacy. It implies that the three branches of the federal government have independent obligation to refuse to enact or enforce or condone a federal law or policy or action that they believe to be unconstitutional. In effect, any of the three branches can “veto”—nullify—actions of the other two. The Courts can refuse to grant an unconstitutional law the status of legality. A Congressman can—and should—refuse to vote for an unconstitutional law, or to fund an unconstitutional war. And the Executive can refuse to execute and enforce unconstitutional laws; as President Andrew Jackson said when he ignored a Supreme Court ruling that Georgia had stolen certain Cherokee lands in the early 1830s, “They have made their decision, now let them enforce it.” This is just the Jeffersonian idea of concurrent review.

But why does concurrent review work only horizontally? Vertically, the feds can already “veto” “bad” State laws—as libertarian centralists (2) and proponents of the Fourteenth Amendment and federal judicial review of state laws are too eager to remind us. Why should this be one-way? Horizontally, there are checks and balances: each branch can basically veto the other two branches actions. Why should the federal government—an agency of limited powers created by the state for limited purposes—be able to veto laws of the States, and the States not be able to veto laws of their own creation, this pipsqueak little limited-powers agency that has metastasized and gotten too big for its britches? Imagine if NAFTA started vetoing state or federal laws and arrogated to itself the right to be the final interpreter of its own charter of limited powers.

Just as the three branches of the federal government have an obligation to abide by the Constitution, the States have a similar obligation—and they are not beholden to the federal government’s or the Supreme Court’s interpretation of what is or is not constitutional, since judicial (or even federal!) supremacy is not specified in the Constitution. By the way, in Telluride recently I saw some interesting artwork on buildings saying things like “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” “We get our brains washed daily with CNN and Fox News,” and, best of all, “Your Civil Liberties are Safe in Telluride,” above a copy of Telluride Resolution No. 9, enacted in 2003 in the wake of the abominable Patriot Act, stating, for example, “when the Town of Telluride engages in public safety intelligence gathering as a part of law enforcement and of national security, the Town of Telluride intends that such intelligence gathering comply with the following policy: No information about political, religious or social views, associations, or activities may be collected.” This is quasi-nullification, I believe—and good for them!

Update: On Huebert’s blog, a commenter asked me about my comment that “states … are not beholden to the federal government’s, or the Supreme Court’s, interpretation, since judicial (or even federal!) supremacy is not specified in the Constitution.” An edited version of my reply:

The Supremacy Clause says only that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land–not that the federal government, or its court system, is the final interpreter of it. Nor that the States may not secede from the Union, or nullify unconstitutional laws. In particular, what I said was: “judicial (or even federal!) supremacy is not specified in the Constitution.” And I stand by this. Judicial supremacy is the idea that the federal Supreme Court’s interpretation is final. Nonsense. Initially even the idea of judicial review itself was controversial; but in the end, I do believe judicial review is implied by the judiciary’s independent status and independent obligation to abide by the Constitution. But it is only as an aspect of the Jeffersonian idea of concurrent review, that judicial review makes sense: each of the three federal branches has the right and obligation to refuse to enforce an unconstitutional law.

So: the federal judiciary, Congress, and executive, each have an independent obligation to abide by the Constitution. But: so do the States. The federal government is not supreme over the states. In fact, in my view, the best interpretation is that the federal government is not even party to the compact; only the 50 States are. It is like a treaty between 50 international persons that creates a limited-purpose agency, similar to NATO or ANZUS (or even the UN), or in other ways to the Coast Guard or the Post Office or the Department of Commerce.

The problem here is the assumption that nullificaiton is only “legitimate” if the Supreme Court would agree. But this is question-begging since the idea of nullification is that it comes into play precisely when the entire federal government, including its court, is wrong. Constitutional law experts like the idea of a nice written framework to refer to, a neat potential solution to disputes. This is the legalistic and positivistic way of looking at it. It is the lawyers’ way. It is the way the central state likes to frame it. They want to say, oh, you have the right to protest–just file the an appeal. Let the system work! Meanwhile the implicit presumption is their dominance and supremacy. (Just like the marriage penalty they’ve been promising to eliminate for over ten years; yet I’m still paying it. It’s just a carrot to distract the serfs.)

But the idea that the federal government is supreme over the states is pure nonsense. The States should assert nullification as their right, regardless of Supreme Court approval. They should defy the feds. They should state clearly their right of sovereignty over their soil and their reserved, plenary power to protect their citizens from the actions of a rogue, pissant, limited-powers agency gone wild. If thirteen States formed a united dog-catcher’s agency, or piracy-stopping agency, they have the right to cut the legs out from under this upstart agency if it starts to go beyond its authorized powers (that is, if it acts ultra vires). It is the same with the pisher federal government. It has arrogated to itself supreme, overlord status over the States that created it by compact, even though unlike every other normal sovereign state in the world it does not even have the power to outlaw murder, rape, trespass, or robbery. It is not a state, really–it is just an emaciated shell of a state; a partial state that rests on the power granted to it by the 50 sovereign States. It is just a limited-powers, special-purpose agency formed by compact of 13 (now 50) sovereign States. It should be roped in as it has acted ultra vires.

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