Thursday, August 15, 2013

Revisiting the Classics: First Edition

Today, dear readers, I will decide to revisit the classics on libertarianism by some of our best voices in the liberty movement, from past to present.

I will be doing this every Thursday, and I will be collecting them from old reprints, old magazines, and other sources. This edition will even include excerpts from books on libertarianism.

And not only that, this edition will contain some instant modern-day classics, including from our very own year: 2013.

Today's edition to revisiting classic articles on libertarianism is here:

"Myth and Truth About Libertarianism" by Murray N. Rothbard: Originally a 1979 paper presented at the national meeting of the Philadelphia Society in Chicago, and then a 1980 article in Modern Age, this classic article is vitally important for those who want to understand the whole idea of libertarianism, the myths surrounding it, and the defenses given by libertarians.

"Why Be Libertarian?" by Murray N. Rothbard: Originally published in the Autumn 1966 issue of Left and Right, this classic article explains the true purpose of libertarianism in today's world: a commitment to the abolition of injustice through radical means.

"The Miraculous Market" by Leonard E. Read: A classic defense of free-market capitalism from one of the twentieth century's greatest minds, Leonard E. Read. It was originally published in The Free Market and Its Enemies. It is an excellent companion article to the masterpiece that is "I, Pencil." The Mises Institute has compiled many of Leonard Read's books for free download.

"Freedom of the Press" by Ludwig von Mises: An excerpt from his book The Anti-Capitalist Mentality (which is available for free PDF download at, Mises defends the freedom of the press as a fundamental freedom and as a fundamental program of classical liberalism.

"Is Libertarianism Compatible with Religion?" by Laurence M. Vance: Based on a lecture Laurence Vance gave at the 2011 Austrian Scholars Conference (ASC) at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, this is a riveting defense of libertarianism from a religious perspective, particularly from the Christian worldview.

"How to Advance Liberty" by Leonard E. Read: Based on a lecture from the 1960s, Read gives us the proper strategy to advance the libertarian cause. That strategy is education.

"Locking Out the Immigrant" by Jacob G. Hornberger: The classic 1991 article makes the case for free immigration from a libertarian perspective, showing how immigration not only fits into libertarianism but also into the traditional classical-liberal system that dominated America in the nineteenth century (for the most part).

"Neo-Conned" by Ron Paul: The classic speech by Ron Paul on the nefarious group known as the neoconservatives.

"A Wise Consistency" by Ron Paul: A classic 2004 speech on liberty and how the principle of consistency is abused by statists.

"Just War" by Murray N. Rothbard: An article based on a 1994 lecture for the seminar The Costs of War. Rothbard argues that there were two, and only two, just wars in America's history: the American Revolution and the War for Southern Independence. Rothbard not only focuses on these two wars, but shows them as a framework for what a truly just war is.

"Killers-in-Chief" by John V. Denson: an excerpt from chapter 5 of Denson's book A Century of War.

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki" by Ralph Raico: Ralph Raico, in a modern classic, exposes the war criminal Harry Truman and opposes the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

"The Obligatory Post on Romans 13" by C. Jay Engel: This post deals with the issue of Romans 13 that is brought up by non-libertarian Christians seeking to smear libertarianism.

Capitalism vs. Imperialism

Professor Stephen Davies at the Institute for Humane Studies gives us a lesson on how to distinguish between capitalism and imperialism. The former is based on voluntary exchange while the latter is based on exploitation. The conflict is seen as capitalism vs. imperialism, liberty vs. power, productive classes vs. exploitative classes. This was the conflict that animated the classical-liberal theory of class conflict.

Here is the video. Enjoy

Who Is A "Racist?"

"Who Is A 'Racist?': Food for Thought that We've Never Tried" by Jack Kerwick

This is an excerpt from an article at Jack Kerwick's blog at Beliefnet.

If, as Eric Holder claims to want, we have ourselves an honest discussion of race, then we should determine, or at least try to determine, what it means for one to be a “racist.”

Is a “racist” one who has certain kinds of thoughts?    
“Thoughts” aren’t necessarily beliefs.  Fantasies, sensations, emotions—in short, perceptions of all kinds, are thoughts. To experience thoughts isn’t automatically to believe in those thoughts.

That a person’s thoughts are an insufficient basis for judging his character can easily be gotten from an infinite number of examples from everyday life.  A person who fantasizes about being a hero is no hero until he actually acts heroically—and even then, as Aristotle would be quick to note, the true hero isn’t just one who acts heroically; the hero is he who habitually acts heroically.  In any case, there is all of the difference between imagining oneself a hero and acting like one. Conversely, one who only thinks about ripping off the head of the person who cuts him off on the highway, or, say, imagines himself killing the lowlife who raped and murdered one of his loved ones is no killer until he actually kills.

Similarly, whatever a “racist” thought might be, he who has such thoughts is no more a “racist” than is the person a killer who merely has thoughts of killing another.

Is a “racist” one who holds certain kinds of beliefs?
For the same reason that thoughts generally can’t establish character, neither can thoughts that are beliefs do so.  A person is what he does. The familiar objection that beliefs are the basis of actions can be met by one very simple reply: it simply ain’t so.

First, it is not at all uncommon for the average person to have any number of beliefs that he never acts upon. As even his star pupil Plato recognized, Socrates was wide of the mark when he sought to account for wrongdoing in terms of ignorance of the good.  All too frequently, we act wrongly in spite of knowing that we are acting wrongly.  We act contrary to our beliefs, for the old Enlightenment fiction notwithstanding, human beings are not logic-chopping machines.

Second, even if it was true that our beliefs are always the bases of our actions, any belief can lead to more than one possible kind of action.

For instance, the belief that animals are inferior to humans need not motivate its holder to treat animals unkindly.  It could—and, as we know from experience, it more frequently than not does—drive the believer to go to great lengths to make sure that animals are protected.  The believer in animal inferiority could be an “animal lover” or an “animal hater.” For that matter, his belief could lead him to be altogether indifferent toward animals.

Similarly, a white person who believes in, say, the inferiority of blacks could support or oppose “affirmative action,” Jim Crow, slavery, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, “historically” black colleges and universities, etc. Such a person could believe that while blacks are inferior to whites, it is precisely because of this that whites have a responsibility to care for blacks, to provide them with opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have left to their own resources.

Or a white person who believes in, for instance, the moral superiority of blacks may be moved to either a murderous envy or an admiration that propels him to seek out the company of blacks for instruction (or redemption).

But notice, in all of these examples, it is the actions that follow from the beliefs, not the beliefs themselves, that elicit opprobrium or approval.  Actions are praiseworthy or blameworthy, while beliefs are true or false.  If one is immoral for holding a false belief, then all of us are immoral, for there isn’t one among us who hasn’t entertained false beliefs. But if all of us are immoral for holding false beliefs, then we are still left wondering what is so distinctively objectionable about false beliefs that are “racist.”

Of course, one may contend that only some false beliefs, say, those beliefs of a moral nature, are immoral.  “Racist” beliefs could fall into this category.  And one could further argue that such false beliefs are the function of a corrupt character.

This, sadly, will not do.

In fact, it even proves the point that it is not beliefs, but actions, that are moral or immoral, for a corrupt character is nothing other than a vicious character, i.e., a character that is the product of acting viciously.

Rothbard and the Libertarian Populists

Rothbard and the Libertarian Populists—Mises Daily

David S. D'Amato

Recent weeks have seen much speculation by pundits about the nature of “libertarian populism.” For those who regard all of libertarianism as an ideological whitewash for plutocracy, libertarian populism is clearly a matter of pulling the wool over the eyes of the common man. To those on the other side of the debate, who are no less chronically obsessed with electoral politics, libertarian populism is the GOP’s pathway back to relevance and viability. Here, however, I would like to offer a compendious introduction to a libertarian populism very different from both of these variants, and one informed instead by the insights of Austrian School libertarians such as Murray Rothbard.
The pivot point of libertarian populism is its hostility toward the cronyism that presently characterizes the political economy of the United States. Relationships between powerful elites in government and industry have, libertarian populists argue, cemented into an immovable and perennial force that creates privilege for the few at the expense of the many — hence, libertarianpopulism. This populism addresses itself to everything from lobbyists to bailouts and to the Federal Reserve System. In point of fact, the “End the Fed” movement, the germ of which was Ron Paul’s stout emphasis on the issue, was arguably among the prime movers and mainsprings of the particular moment of libertarian populism that we’re witnessing right now. Those influenced by the Austrian School and Rothbardian libertarians, contrary to the empty jeremiads of our critics, have always called attention to the often-incestuous relationships between all things big, irrespective of whether they are found in the “public” or the “private” sector. We have been on the forefront of demonstrating the causal link that connects misallocation to corporate welfare in all of its myriad embodiments that show why government intervention in the economic sphere is profoundly harmful, particularly for ordinary working people. The seeming fixation on the Federal Reserve then, is not a randomly chosen fetish of libertarians, but a recognition of the sweeping, harmful implications of Fed policy. Were more Americans to understand the Fed’s role in, for instance, American wars and economic instability, they might see that real libertarian populism is anything but a calculated political rebranding. Rather, libertarian populism simply is genuine, radical libertarianism, the kind that takes the state for what it is — a small criminal class that has successfully institutionalized economic spoliation.