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Do You Hate the State?

27 Apr

Originally published in The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 1977.

I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don’t really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman’s amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between non-libertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State – any State – is a predatory gang of criminals.

The same impression shines through the writing, say, of political philosopher Eric Mack. Mack is an anarcho-capitalist who believes in individual rights; but there is no sense in his writings of any passionate hatred of the State, or, a fortiori, of any sense that the State is a plundering and bestial enemy.

Perhaps the word that best defines our distinction is “radical.” Radical in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and anti-statism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul.

Furthermore, in contrast to what seems to be true nowadays, you don’t have to be an anarchist to be radical in our sense, just as you can be an anarchist while missing the radical spark. I can think of hardly a single limited governmentalist of the present day who is radical – a truly amazing phenomenon, when we think of our classical liberal forbears who were genuinely radical, who hated statism and the States of their day with a beautifully integrated passion: the Levellers, Patrick Henry, Tom Paine, Joseph Priestley, the Jacksonians, Richard Cobden, and on and on, a veritable roll call of the greats of the past. Tom Paine’s radical hatred of the State and statism was and is far more important to the cause of liberty than the fact that he never crossed the divide between laissez-faire and anarchism.

And closer to our own day, such early influences on me as Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, and Frank Chodorov were magnificently and superbly radical. Hatred of “Our Enemy, the State” (Nock’s title) and all of its works shone through all of their writings like a beacon star. So what if they never quite made it all the way to explicit anarchism? Far better one Albert Nock than a hundred anarcho-capitalists who are all too comfortable with the existing status quo.

Where are the Paines and Cobdens and Nocks of today? Why are almost all of our laissez-faire limited governmentalists plonky conservatives and patriots? If the opposite of “radical” is “conservative,” where are our radical laissez-fairists? If our limited statists were truly radical, there would be virtually no splits between us. What divides the movement now, the true division, is not anarchist vs. minarchist, but radical vs. conservative. Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.

To carry our analysis further, radical anti-statists are extremely valuable even if they could scarcely be considered libertarians in any comprehensive sense. Thus, many people admire the work of columnists Mike Royko and Nick von Hoffman because they consider these men libertarian sympathizers and fellow-travelers. That they are, but this does not begin to comprehend their true importance. For throughout the writings of Royko and von Hoffman, as inconsistent as they undoubtedly are, there runs an all-pervasive hatred of the State, of all politicians, bureaucrats, and their clients which, in its genuine radicalism, is far truer to the underlying spirit of liberty than someone who will coolly go along with the letter of every syllogism and every lemma down to the “model” of competing courts.

Taking the concept of radical vs. conservative in our new sense, let us analyze the now famous “abolitionism” vs. “gradualism” debate. The latter jab comes in the August issue of Reason (a magazine every fiber of whose being exudes “conservatism”), in which editor Bob Poole asks Milton Friedman where he stands on this debate. Freidman takes the opportunity of denouncing the “intellectual cowardice” of failing to set forth “feasible” methods of getting “from here to there.” Poole and Friedman have between them managed to obfuscate the true issues. There is not a single abolitionist who would not grab a feasible method, or a gradual gain, if it came his way. The difference is that the abolitionist always holds high the banner of his ultimate goal, never hides his basic principles, and wishes to get to his goal as fast as humanly possible. Hence, while the abolitionist will accept a gradual step in the right direction if that is all that he can achieve, he always accepts it grudgingly, as merely a first step toward a goal which he always keeps blazingly clear. The abolitionist is a “button pusher” who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed. But the abolitionist also knows that alas, such a button does not exist, and that he will take a bit of the loaf if necessary – while always preferring the whole loaf if he can achieve it.

It should be noted here that many of Milton’s most famous “gradual” programs such as the voucher plan, the negative income tax, the withholding tax, fiat paper money – are gradual (or even not so gradual) steps in the wrong direction, away from liberty, and hence the militance of much libertarian opposition to these schemes.

His button-pushing position stems from the abolitionist’s deep and abiding hatred of the State and its vast engine of crime and oppression. With such an integrated world-view, the radical libertarian could never dream of confronting either a magic button or any real-life problem with some arid cost-benefit calculation. He knows that the State must be diminished as fast and as completely as possible. Period.

And that is why the radical libertarian is not only an abolitionist, but also refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical – whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire – cannot think in such terms as, e.g.: Well, the first year, we’ll cut the income tax by 2%, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we’ll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2%, and reduce welfare payments by 3%, etc. The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or – for minarchists – dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.

Many people have wondered: Why should there be any important political disputes between anarcho-capitalists and minarchists now? In this world of statism, where there is so much common ground, why can’t the two groups work in complete harmony until we shall have reached a Cobdenite world, after which we can air our disagreements? Why quarrel over courts, etc. now? The answer to this excellent question is that we could and would march hand-in-hand in this way if the minarchists were radicals, as they were from the birth of classical liberalism down to the 1940s. Give us back the antistatist radicals, and harmony would indeed reign triumphant within the movement.


Good Citizen

20 Apr

A friend of mine emailed me an article titled “Home Schoolers make good citizens”.The first thing that ran through my mind was, “If home schoolers make good citizens, those parents are doing it wrong.”

Is being a good citizen even something we should strive to achieve? Should we teach our kids to be one? Or should we be and teach our children to be “good people”?

What is a good citizen?

One of the definitions of “citizen” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is: “ a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it”.

You can be a good citizen and not follow the non-aggression principle. In fact, a good citizen supports his government in aggressing against his own neighbor, and teaches his children this is good.

You can be a good citizen, and support the immoral wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and actually, we are told you are a bad citizen if you don’t support every war or invasion the government decides it wants.

A good citizen will submit to a cop beating him and not show even the least bit of resistance. A good citizen knows that it is his duty to take the beating and, if he really doesn’t think he earned this form of protection, the good citizen can plead his case against the beating before a court, if he survives the beating.

A good citizen turns a blind eye to another good citizen getting beaten by a cop, knowing that the good citizen must have done something to earn this act of protection. To be a good citizen one must give every penny the government says he owes in taxation, and he must be happy about it, and about where the money is spent. The good citizen doesn’t “cheat” the government on his tax returns, knowing the government needs that money in order to pay for cops to beat him and his neighbor, and to fight the wars it wants.

A good citizen votes in every election he can, and accepts the choices the government gives him to vote for and on. A good citizen pledges allegiance to his government and doesn’t question anything it does, period.

No thanks.

A good person, on the other hand, knows it is wrong to initiate violence against his neighbor, whether his neighbor lives next door to him or in another country, and whether he does it himself or has his government do it for him.

A good person not only is against wars of aggression, but he speaks out against them, and teaches his children to live in peace.

A good person knows he has the right to defend himself, and that a badge and a costume does not give anyone the right to violate him, or his neighbor.

A good person does not happily pay the extortion money the government demands from him, and uses every loophole and opportunity he can to keep his property for himself.

A good person does not pledge himself to a government, but pledges to live in peace with his fellow man, and follows the golden rule.

To you Christians, the Bible says you are not even citizens of this world (Philippians 3:19), so why do you think it honorable to be good earthly citizens?

My wife and I homeschool our 8 children (this year they are using the Ron Paul curriculum), and I will not teach them to be good citizens; rather, I will continue to teach them to be good people.

We have to decide for ourselves if we would rather be a good citizen, or a good person. I don’t want to be a good citizen, in fact, I want to be a bad citizen.

Let us be good people. That should be our goal. That is what we should strive to be.

Joshua Bennett is a Father of 8 homeschooled children, Anarcho-Capitalist, Owner of Bighorn Enterprises trucking company, author and editor of Patriot’s Lament blog and host of the Patriot’s Lament radio program in Fairbanks, Alaska.


20 Apr

By Michael Rivero


“Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The Bankers own the Earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create deposits, and with the flick of a pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, for this world would be a happier and better world to live in. But if you wish to remain slaves of the Bankers and pay for the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create deposits.” — Sir Josiah Stamp, President of the Bank of England in the 1920s, the second richest man in Britain

I know many people have a great deal of difficulty comprehending just how many wars are started for no other purpose than to force private central banks onto nations, so let me share a few examples, so that you understand why the US Government is mired in so many wars against so many foreign nations. There is ample precedent for this.

The United States fought the American Revolution primarily over King George III’s Currency act, which forced the colonists to conduct their business only using printed bank notes borrowed from the Bank of England at interest.


“The bank hath benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.” — William Paterson, founder of the Bank of England in 1694

After the revolution, the new United States adopted a radically different economic system in which the government issued its own value-based money, so that private banks like the Bank of England were not siphoning off the wealth of the people through interest-bearing bank notes.

“The refusal of King George 3rd to allow the colonies to operate an honest money system, which freed the ordinary man from the clutches of the money manipulators, was probably the prime cause of the revolution.” — Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

Following the revolution, the US Government actually took steps to keep the bankers out of the new government!


“Any person holding any office or any stock in any institution in the nature of a bank for issuing or discounting bills or notes payable to bearer or order, cannot be a member of the House whilst he holds such office or stock.” — Third Congress of the United States Senate, 23rd of December, 1793, signed by the President, George Washington

But bankers are nothing if not dedicated to their schemes to acquire your wealth, and know full well how easy it is to corrupt a nation’s leaders. Just one year after Mayer Amschel Rothschild had uttered his infamous “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws”, the bankers succeeded in setting up a new Private Central Bank called the First Bank of the United States, largely through the efforts of the Rothschild’s chief US supporter, Alexander Hamilton. Founded in 1791, by the end of its twenty year charter the First Bank of the United States had almost ruined the nation’s economy, while enriching the bankers. Congress refused to renew the charter and signaled their intention to go back to a state issued value based currency on which the people paid no interest at all to any banker. This resulted in a threat from Nathan Mayer Rothschild against the US Government, “Either the application for renewal of the charter is granted, or the United States will find itself involved in a most disastrous war.” Congress still refused to renew the charter for the First Bank of the United States, whereupon Nathan Mayer Rothschild railed, “Teach those impudent Americans a lesson! Bring them back to colonial status!” The British Prime Minister at the time, Spencer Perceval was adamently opposed to war with the United States, primarily because the majority of England’s military might was occupied with the ongoing Napoleonic wars. Spencer Perceval was concerned that Britain might not prevail in a new American war, a concern shared by many in the British government. Then, Spencer Perceval was assassinated (the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated in office) and replaced by Robert Banks Jenkinson, the 2nd Earl of Liverpool, who was fully supportive of a war to recapture the colonies.

Click for larger image of the Geneva Gazette for July 1, 1912, reporting on the assassination of Spencer Perceval together with the declaration of the War of 1812.



“If my sons did not want wars, there would be none.” — Gutle Schnaper, wife of Mayer Amschel Rothschild and mother of his five sons

Financed at virtually no interest by the Rothschild controlled Bank of England, Britain then provoked the war of 1812 to recolonize the United States and force them back into the slavery of the Bank of England, or to plunge the United States into so much debt they would be forced to accept a new private central bank. And the plan worked. Even though the War of 1812 was won by the United States, Congress was forced to grant a new charter for yet another private bank issuing the public currency as loans at interest, the Second Bank of the United States. Once again, private bankers were in control of the nation’s money supply and cared not who made the laws or how many British and American soldiers had to die for it.

Once again the nation was plunged into debt, unemployment, and poverty by the predations of the private central bank, and in 1832 Andrew Jackson successfully campaigned for his second term as President under the slogan, “Jackson And No Bank!” True to his word, Jackson succeeds in blocking the renewal of the charter for the Second Bank of the United States.

“Gentlemen! I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out, and by the Eternal, (bringing his fist down on the table) I will rout you out!” — Andrew Jackson, shortly before ending the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. From the original minutes of the Philadelphia committee of citizens sent to meet with President Jackson (February 1834), according to Andrew Jackson and the Bank of the United States (1928) by Stan V. Henkels

Shortly after President Jackson (the only American President to actually pay off the National Debt) ended the Second Bank of the United States, there was an attempted assassination which failed when both pistols used by the assassin, Richard Lawrence, failed to fire. Lawrence later said that with Jackson dead, “Money would be more plenty.”

President Zachary Taylor opposed the creation of a new Private Central Bank, owing to the historical abuses of the First and Second Banks of the United States.

“The idea of a national bank is dead, and will not be revived in my time.” — Zachary Taylor

Taylor died on July 9, 1850 after eating a bowl of cherries and milk rumored to have been poisoned. The symptoms h displayed are consistent with acute arsenic poisoning.

President James Buchanan also opposed a private central bank. During the panic of 1857 he attempted to set limits on banks issuing more loans than they had actual funds, and to require all issued bank notes to be backed by Federal Government assets. He was poisoned with arsenic and survived, although 38 other people at the dinner died.

Of course, the public school system is as subservient to the bankers’ wishes to keep certain history from you, just as the corporate media is subservient to Monsanto’s wishes to keep the dangers of GMOs from you, and the global warming cult’s wishes to conceal from you that the Earth has actually been cooling for the last 16 years. Thus is should come as little surprise that much of the real reasons for the events of the Civil War are not well known to the average American.


“The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” — The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863

When the Confederacy seceded from the United States, the bankers once again saw the opportunity for a rich harvest of debt, and offered to fund Lincoln’s efforts to bring the south back into the union, but at 30% interest. Lincoln remarked that he would not free the black man by enslaving the white man to the bankers and using his authority as President, issued a new government currency, the greenback. This was a direct threat to the wealth and power of the central bankers, who quickly responded.

“If this mischievous financial policy, which has its origin in North America, shall become endurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous without precedent in the history of the world. The brains, and wealth of all countries will go to North America. That country must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe.” — The London Times responding to Lincoln’s decision to issue government Greenbacks to finance the Civil War,rather than agree to private banker’s loans at 30% interest.

In 1872 New York bankers sent a letter to every bank in the United States, urging them to fund newspapers that opposed government-issued money (Lincoln’s greenbacks).

“Dear Sir: It is advisable to do all in your power to sustain such prominent daily and weekly newspapers… as will oppose the issuing of greenback paper money, and that you also withhold patronage or favors from all applicants who are not willing to oppose the Government issue of money. Let the Government issue the coin and the banks issue the paper money of the country… [T]o restore to circulation the Government issue of money, will be to provide the people with money, and will therefore seriously affect your individual profit as bankers and lenders.” — Triumphant plutocracy; the story of American public life from 1870 to 1920, by Lynn Wheeler

“It will not do to allow the greenback, as it is called, to circulate as money any length of time, as we cannot control that.” — Triumphant plutocracy; the story of American public life from 1870 to 1920, by Lynn Wheeler

“Slavery is likely to be abolished by the war power, and chattel slavery destroyed. This, I and my European friends are in favor of, for slavery is but the owning of labor and carries with it the care for the laborer, while the European plan, led on by England, is for capital to control labor by controlling the wages. THIS CAN BE DONE BY CONTROLLING THE MONEY.” — Triumphant plutocracy; the story of American public life from 1870 to 1920, by Lynn Wheeler

Goaded by the private bankers, much of Europe supported the Confederacy against the Union, with the expectation that victory over Lincoln would mean the end of the Greenback. France and Britain considered an outright attack on the United States to aid the confederacy, but were held at bay by Russia, which had just ended the serfdom system and had a state central bank similar to the system the United States had been founded on. Left free of European intervention, the Union won the war, and Lincoln announced his intention to go on issuing greenbacks. Following Lincoln’s assassination, the Greenbacks were pulled from circulation and the American people forced to go back to an economy based on bank notes borrowed at interest from the private bankers. Tsar Alexander II, who authorized Russian militarey assistance to Lincoln, was subsequently the victim of multiple attempts on his life in 1866, 1879, and 1880, until his assassination in 1881.

James A. Garfield was elected President in 1880 on a platform of government control of the money supply.


“The chief duty of the National Government in connection with the currency of the country is to coin money and declare its value. Grave doubts have been entertained whether Congress is authorized by the Constitution to make any form of paper money legal tender. The present issue of United States notes has been sustained by the necessities of war; but such paper should depend for its value and currency upon its convenience in use and its prompt redemption in coin at the will of the holder, and not upon its compulsory circulation. These notes are not money, but promises to pay money. If the holders demand it, the promise should be kept. — James Garfield


“By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which will secure the general use of both metals. Congress should provide that the compulsory coinage of silver now required by law may not disturb our monetary system by driving either metal out of circulation. If possible, such an adjustment should be made that the purchasing power of every coined dollar will be exactly equal to its debt-paying power in all the markets of the world. –James Garfield


“He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation. — James Garfield

Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881 and died of his wounds several weeks later. Chester A. Arthur succeeded Garfield as President.

In 1896, William McKinley was elected President in the middle of a depression-driven debate over gold-backed government currency versus bank notes borrowed at interest from private banks. McKinley favored gold-backed currencies and a balanced government budget which would free the public from accumulating debt.


“Our financial system needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not further be threatened. It should all be put upon an enduring basis, not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. Our currency should continue under the supervision of the Government. The several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant embarrassment to the Government and a safe balance in the Treasury.” — William McKinley

McKinley was shot by an out-of-work anarchist on September 14, 1901, in Buffalo, NY, succumbing to his wounds a few days later. He was suceeded in office by Theodore Roosevelt.

Finally, in 1913, the Private Central Bankers of Europe, in particular the Rothschilds of Great Britain and the Warburgs of Germany, met with their American financial collaborators on Jekyll Island, Georgia to form a new banking cartel with the express purpose of forming the Third Bank of the United States, with the aim of placing complete control of the United States money supply once again under the control of private bankers. Owing to hostility over the previous banks, the name was changed to “The Federal Reserve” system in order to grant the new bank a quasi-governmental image, but in fact it is a privately owned bank, no more “Federal” than Federal Express. Indeed, in 2012, the Federal Reserve attempted to rebuff a Freedom of Information Lawsuit by Bloomberg News on the grounds that as a private banking corporation and not actually a part of the government, the Freedom of Information Act did not apply to the “trade secret” operations of the Federal Reserve.


“When you or I write a check, there must be sufficient funds in our account to cover the check; but when the Federal Reserve writes a check, there is no bank deposit on which that check is drawn. When the Federal Reserve writes a check, it is creating money.” — From the Boston Federal Reserve Bank pamphlet, “Putting it Simply.”


“Neither paper currency nor deposits have value as commodities. Intrinsically, a ‘dollar’ bill is just a piece of paper. Deposits are merely book entries.” — “Modern Money Mechanics Workbook” � Federal Reserve of Chicago, 1975


“I am afraid the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can and do create money. And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of Governments and hold in the hollow of their hand the destiny of the people.” — Reginald McKenna, as Chairman of the Midland Bank, addressing stockholders in 1924


“States, most especially the large hegemonic ones, such as the United States and Great Britain, are controlled by the international central banking system, working through secret agreements at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and operating through national central banks (such as the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve)… The same international banking cartel that controls the United States today previously controlled Great Britain and held it up as the international hegemon. When the British order faded, and was replaced by the United States, the US ran the global economy. However, the same interests are served. States will be used and discarded at will by the international banking cartel; they are simply tools.” — Andrew Gavin Marshall

1913 proved to be a transformative year for the nation’s economy, first with the passage of the 16th “income tax” Amendment and the false claim that it had been ratified.

“I think if you were to go back and and try to find and review the ratification of the 16th amendment, which was the internal revenue, the income tax, I think if you went back and examined that carefully, you would find that a sufficient number of states never ratified that amendment.” – U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox, Sullivan Vs. United States, 2003.

Later that same year, and apparently unwilling to risk another questionable amendment, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act over Christmas holiday 1913, while members of Congress opposed to the measure were at home. This was a very underhanded deal, as the Constitution explicitly vests Congress with the authority to issue the public currency, does not authorize its delegation, and thus should have required a new Amendment to transfer that authority to a private bank. But pass it Congress did, and President Woodrow Wilson signed it as he promised the bankers he would in exchange for generous campaign contributions. Wilson later regretted that decision.


“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is now controlled by its system of credit. We are no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” — Woodrow Wilson 1919

The next year, World War One started, and it is important to remember that prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve, there was no such thing as a world war.


World War One started between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, but quickly shifted to focus on Germany, whose industrial capacity was seen as an economic threat to Great Britain, who saw the decline of the British Pound as a result of too much emphasis on financial activity to the neglect of agriculture, industrial development, and infrastructure (not unlike the present day United States). Although pre-war Germany had a private central bank, it was heavily restricted and inflation kept to reasonable levels. Under government control, investment was guaranteed to internal economic development, and Germany was seen as a major power. So, in the media of the day, Germany was portrayed as the prime opponent of World War One, and not just defeated, but its industrial base flattened. Following the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was ordered to pay the war costs of all the participating nations, even though Germany had not actually started the war. This amounted to three times the value of all of Germany itself. Germany’s private central bank, to whom Germany had gone deeply into debt to pay the costs of the war, broke free of government control, and massive inflation followed (mostly triggered by currency speculators) , permanently trapping the German people in endless debt.

When the Weimar Republic collapsed economically, it opened the door for the National Socialists to take power. Their first financial move was to issue their own state currency which was not borrowed from private central bankers. Freed from having to pay interest on the money in circulation, Germany blossomed and quickly began to rebuild its industry. The media called it “The German Miracle”. TIME magazine lionized Hitler for the amazing improvement in life for the German people and the explosion of German industry, and even named him TIME Magazine’s Man Of The Year in 1938.



Once again, Germany’s industrial output became a threat to Great Britain.

“Should Germany merchandise (do business) again in the next 50 years we have led this war (WW1) in vain.” – Winston Churchill in The Times (1919) 

“We will force this war upon Hitler, if he wants it or not.” – Winston Churchill (1936 broadcast)

“Germany becomes too powerful. We have to crush it.” – Winston Churchill (November 1936 speaking to US – General Robert E. Wood)

“This war is an English war and its goal is the destruction of Germany.” – Winston Churchill (- Autumn 1939 broadcast)


Germany’s state-issued value based currency was also a direct threat to the wealth and power of the private central banks, and as early as 1933 they started to organize a global boycott against Germany to strangle this upstart ruler who thought he could break free of private central bankers!


Click for larger image

As had been the case in World War One, Great Britain and other nations threatened by Germany’s economic power looked for an excuse to go to war, and as public anger in Germany grew over the boycott, Hitler foolishly gave them that excuse. Years later, in a spirit of candor, the real reasons for that war were made clear.

“The war wasn’t only about abolishing fascism, but to conquer sales markets. We could have, if we had intended so, prevented this war from breaking out without doing one shot, but we didn’t want to.”– Winston Churchill to Truman (Fultun, USA March 1946) 


“Germany’s unforgivable crime before WW2 was its attempt to loosen its economy out of the world trade system and to build up an independent exchange system from which the world-finance couldn’t profit anymore. …We butchered the wrong pig.” -Winston Churchill (The Second World War – Bern, 1960)

As a side note, we need to step back before WW2 and recall Marine Major General Smedley Butler. In 1933, Wall Street bankers and financiers had bankrolled the successful coups by both Hitler and Mussolini. Brown Brothers Harriman in New York was financing Hitler right up to the day war was declared with Germany. And they decided that a fascist dictatorship in the United States based on the one on Italy would be far better for their business interests than Roosevelt’s “New Deal” which threatened massive wealth re-distribution to recapitalize the working and middle class of America. So the Wall Street tycoons recruited General Butler to lead theoverthrow of the US Government and install a “Secretary of General Affairs” who would be answerable to Wall Street and not the people, would crush social unrest and shut down all labor unions. General Butler pretended to go along with the scheme but then exposed the plot to Congress. Congress, then as now in the pocket of the Wall Street bankers, refused to act. When Roosevelt learned of the planned coup he demanded the arrest of the plotters, but the plotters simply reminded Roosevelt that if any one of them were sent to prison, their friends on Wall Street would deliberatly collapse the still-fragile economy and blame Roosevelt for it. Roosevelt was thus unable to act until the start of WW2, at which time he prosecuted many of the plotters under the Trading With The Enemy act. The Congressional minutes into the coup were finally released in 1967 and became the inspiration for the movie, “Seven Days in May” but with the true financial villains erased from the script.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent more of my time being a high–class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. “I suspected I was just a part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. I operated on three continents.” — General Smedley Butler, former US Marine Corps Commandant,1935


As President, John F. Kennedy understood the predatory nature of private central banking. He understood why Andrew Jackson fought so hard to end the Second Bank of the United States. So Kennedy wrote and signed Executive Order 11110 which ordered the US Treasury to issue a new public currency, the United States Note.


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Kennedy’s United States Notes were not borrowed form the Federal Reserve but created by the US Government and backed by the silver stockpiles held by the US Government. It represented a return to the system of economics the United States had been founded on, and was perfectly legal for Kennedy to do. All told, some four and one half billion dollars went into public circulation, eroding interest payments to the Federal Reserve and loosening their control over the nation. Five months later John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas, and the United States Notes pulled from circulation and destroyed (except for samples held by collectors). John J. McCloy, President of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and President of the World Bank, was named to the Warren Commission, presumably to make certain the banking dimensions behind the assassination were concealed from the public.

As we enter the eleventh year of what future history will most certainly describe as World War Three, we need to examine the financial dimensions behind the wars.

Towards the end of World War Two, when it became obvious that the allies were going to win and dictate the post war environment, the major world economic powers met at Bretton Woods, a luxury resort in New Hampshire in July of 1944, and hammered out the Bretton Woods agreement for international finance. The British Pound lost its position as the global trade and reserve currency to the US dollar (part of the price demanded by Roosevelt in exchange for the US entry into the war). Absent the economic advantages of being the world’s “go-to” currency, Britain was forced to nationalize the Bank of England in 1946. The Bretton Woods agreement, ratified in 1945, in addition to making the dollar the global reserve and trade currency, obligated the signatory nations to tie their currencies to the dollar. The nations that ratified Bretton Woods did so on two conditions. The first was that the Federal Reserve would refrain from over-printing the dollar as a means to loot real products and produce from other nations in exchange for ink and paper; basically an imperial tax. That assurance was backed up by the second requirement, which was that the US dollar would always be convertible to gold at $35 per ounce.

Of course, the Federal Reserve, being a private bank and not answerable to the US Government, did start overprinting paper dollars, and much of the perceived prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was the result of foreign nations’ obligations to accept the paper notes as being worth gold at the rate of $35 an ounce. Then in 1970, France looked at the huge pile of paper notes sitting in their vaults, for which real French products like wine and cheese had been traded, and notified the United States government that they would exercise their option under Bretton Woods to return the paper notes for gold at the $35 per ounce exchange rate. Of course, the United States had nowhere near the gold to redeem the paper notes, so on August 15th, 1971, Richard Nixon “temporarily” suspended the gold convertibility of the US Federal Reserve Notes. This “Nixon shock” effectively ended Bretton Woods and many global currencies started to delink from the US dollar. Worse, since the United States had collateralized their loans with the nation’s gold reserves, it quickly became apparent that the US Government did not in fact have enough gold to cover the outstanding debts. Foreign nations began to get very nervous about their loans to the US and understandably were reluctant to loan any additional money to the United States without some form of collateral. So Richard Nixon started the environmental movement, with the EPA and its various programs such as “wilderness zones”, Roadless areas”, Heritage rivers”, “Wetlands”, all of which took vast areas of public lands and made them off limits to the American people who were technically the owners of those lands. But Nixon had little concern for the environment and the real purpose of this land grab under the guise of the environment was to pledge those pristine lands and their vast mineral resources as collateral on the national debt. The plethora of different programs was simply to conceal the true scale of how much American land was being pledged to foreign lenders as collateral on the government’s debts; eventually almost 25% of the nation itself.


click for full size imageWith open lands for collateral already in short supply, the US Government embarked on a new program to shore up sagging international demand for the dollar. The United States approached the world’s oil producing nations, mostly in the Middle East, and offered them a deal. In exchange for only selling their oil for dollars, the United States would guarantee the military safety of those oil-rich nations. The oil rich nations would agree to spend and invest their US paper dollars inside the United States, in particular in US Treasury Bonds, redeemable through future generations of US taxpayers. The concept was labeled the “petrodollar”. In effect, the US, no longer able to back the dollar with gold, was now backing it with oil. Other peoples’ oil. And that necessity to keep control over those oil nations to prop up the dollar has shaped America’s foreign policy in the region ever since.

But as America’s manufacturing and agriculture has declined, the oil producing nations faced a dilemma. Those piles of US Federal Reserve notes were not able to purchase much from the United States because the United States had little (other than real estate) anyone wanted to buy. Europe’s cars and aircraft were superior and less costly, while experiments with GMO food crops led to nations refusing to buy US food exports. Israel’s constant belligerence against its neighbors caused them to wonder if the US could actually keep their end of the petrodollar arrangement. Oil producing nations started to talk of selling their oil for whatever currency the purchasers chose to use. Iraq, already hostile to the United States following Desert Storm, demanded the right to sell their oil for Euros in 2000 and in 2002, the United Nations agreed to allow it under the “Oil for food” program instituted following Desert Storm. One year later the United States re-invaded Iraq, lynched Saddam Hussein, and placed Iraq’s oil back on the world market only for US dollars.

The clear US policy shift following 9-11, away from being an impartial broker of peace in the Mideast to one of unquestioned support for Israel’s aggressions only further eroded confidence in the Petrodollar deal and even more oil producing nations started openly talking of oil trade for other global currencies.

Over in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi had instituted a state-owned central bank and a value based trade currency, the Gold Dinar. Gaddafi announced that Libya’s oil was for sale, but only for the Gold Dinar. Other African nations, seeing the rise of the Gold Dinar and the Euro, even as the US dollar continued its inflation-driven decline, flocked to the new Libyan currency for trade. This move had the potential to seriously undermine the global hegemony of the dollar. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly went so far as to call Libya a “threat” to the financial security of the world. So, the United States invaded Libya, brutally murdered Qaddafi ( the object lesson of Saddam’s lynching not being enough of a message, apparently), imposed a private central bank, and returned Libya’s oil output to dollars only. The gold that was to have been made into the Gold Dinars is, as of last report, unaccounted for.

According to General Wesley Clark, the master plan for the “dollarification” of the world’s oil nations included seven targets, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran (Venezuela, which dared to sell their oil to China for the Yuan, is a late addition). What is notable about the original seven nations originally targeted by the US is that none of them are members of the Bank for International Settlements, the private central bankers private central bank, located in Switzerland. This meant that these nations were deciding for themselves how to run their nations’ economies, rather than submit to the international private banks.

Now the bankers’ gun sights are on Iran, which dares to have a government central bank and sell their oil for whatever currency they choose. The war agenda is, as always, to force Iran’s oil to be sold only for dollars and to force them to accept a privately owned central bank. Malaysia, one of the new nations without a Rothschild central bank, is now being invaded by a force claimed to be “Al Qaeda”, and with the death of President Hugo Chavez, plans to impose a US and banker friendly regime on Venezuela are clearly being implemented.

The German government recently asked for the return of some of their gold bullion from the Bank of France and the New York Federal Reserve. France has said it will take 5 years to return Germany’s gold. The United States has said they will need 8 years to return Germany’s gold. This suggests strongly that the Bank of France and the NY Federal Reserve have used the deposited gold for other purposes, most likely to cover gold futures contracts used to artificially suppress the price of gold to keep investors in the equities markets, and the Central Banks are scrambling to find new gold to cover the shortfall and prevent a gold run. So it is inevitable that suddenly France invades Mali, ostensibly to combat Al Qaeda, with the US joining in. Mali just happens to be one of the world’s largest gold producers with gold accounting for 80% of Mali exports. War for the bankers does not get more obvious than that!

Mexico has demanded a physical audit of their gold bullion stored at the Bank of England, and along with Venezuela’s vast oil reserves (larger than Saudi Arabia), Venezuela’s gold mines are a prize lusted after by all the Central Banks that played fast and loose with other peoples’ gold bullion. So we can expect regime change if not outright invasion soon.

You have been raised by a public school system and media that constantly assures you that the reasons for all these wars and assassinations are many and varied. The US claims to bring democracy to the conquered lands (they haven’t; the usual result of a US overthrow is the imposition of a dictatorship, such as the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and the imposition of the Shah, or the 1973 CIA overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende, and the imposition of Augusto Pinochet), or to save a people from a cruel oppressor, revenge for 9-11, or that tired worn-out catch all excuse for invasion, weapons of mass destruction. Assassinations are always passed off as “crazed lone nuts” to obscure the real agenda.

The real agenda is simple. It is enslavement of the people by creation of a false sense of obligation. That obligation is false because the Private Central Banking system, by design, always creates more debt than money with which to pay that debt. Private Central Banking is not science, it is a religion; a set of arbitrary rules created to benefit the priesthood, meaning the owners of the Private Central Bank. The fraud persists, with often lethal results, because the people are tricked into believing that this is the way life is suppoed to be and no alternative exists or should be dreamt of. The same was true of two earlier systems of enslavement, Rule by Divine Right and Slavery, both systems built to trick people into obedience, and both now recognized by modern civilizatyion as illegitimate. Now we are entering a time in human history where we will recognize that rule by debt, or rule by Private Central Bankers issuing the public currency as a loan at interest, is equally illegitimate. It only works as long as people allow themselves to believe that this is the way life is supposed to be.


But understand this above all; Private Central Banks do not exist to serve the people, the community, or the nation. Private Central Banks exist to serve their owners, to make them rich beyond the dreams of Midas and all for the cost of ink, paper, and the right bribe to the right official.

Behind all these wars, all these assassinations, the hundred million horrible deaths from all the wars lies a single policy of dictatorship. The private central bankers allow rulers to rule only on the condition that the people of a nation be enslaved to the private central banks. Failing that, said ruler will be killed, and their nation invaded by those other nations enslaved to private central banks.

The so-called “clash of civilizations” we read about on the corporate media is really a war between banking systems, with the private central bankers forcing themselves onto the rest of the world, no matter how many millions must die for it. Indeed the constant hatemongering against Muslims lies in a simple fact. Like the ancient Christians (prior to the Knights Templars private banking system) , Muslims forbid usury, or the lending of money at interest. And that is the reason our government and media insist they must be killed or converted. They refuse to submit to currencies issued at interest. They refuse to be debt slaves.

So off to war your children must go, to spill their blood for the money-junkies’ gold. We barely survived the last two world wars. In the nuclear/bioweapon age, are the private central bankers willing to risk incinerating the whole planet just to feed their greed?

Apparently so.

This brings us to the current situation in the Ukraine.

The European Union had been courting the government of the Ukraine to merge with the EU, and more to the point, entangle their economy with the private-owned European Central Bank. The government of the Ukraine was considering the move, but had made no commitments. Part of their concern lay with the conditions in other EU nations enslaved to the ECB, notably Cyprus, Greece, Spain, and Italy. So they were properly cautious. Then Russia stepped in with a better deal and the Ukraine, exercising the basic choice all consumers have to choose the best product at the best price, dropped the EU and announced they were going to go with Russia’s offer. It was at that point that agents provocateurs flooded into the Ukraine, covertly funded by intelligence agency fronts like CANVAS and USAID, stirring up trouble, while the western media proclaimed this was a popular revolution. Snipers shot at people and this violence was blamed on then-President Yanukovich. However a leaked recording of a phone call between the EU’s Catherine Ashton and Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet confirmed the snipers were working for the overthrow plotters, not the Ukrainian government. Urmas Paet has confirmed the authenticity of that phone call.

This is a classic pattern of covert overthrow we have seen many times before. Since the end of WW2, the US has covertly tried to overthrow the governments of 56 nations, succeeding 25 times. Examples include the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and the imposition of the Shah, the 1973 overthrow of Chile’s elected government of Salvador Allende and the imposition of the Pinochet dictatorship, and of course, the current overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government of Yanukovich and the imposition of the current unelected government, which is already gutting the Ukraine’s wealth to hand to the western bankers.


Flag waving and propaganda aside, all modern wars are wars by and for the private bankers, fought and bled for by third parties unaware of the true reason they are expected to gracefully be killed and croppled for. The process is quite simple. As soon as the Private Central Bank issues its currency as a loan at interest, the public is forced deeper and deeper into debt. When the people are reluctant to borrow any more, that is when the Keynesian economists demand the government borrow more to keep the pyramid scheme working. When both the people and government refuse to borrow any more, that is when wars are started, to plunge everyone even deeper into debt to pay for the war, then after the war to borrow more to rebuild. When the war is over, the people have about the same as they did before the war, except the graveyards are far larger and everyone is in debt to the private bankers for the next century. This is why Brown Brothers Harriman in New York was funding the rise of Adolf Hitler.

As long as Private Central Banks are allowed to exist, inevitably as the night follows day there will be poverty, hopelessness, and millions of deaths in endless World Wars, until the Earth itself is sacrificed in flames to Mammon.

The path to true peace on Earth lies in the abolishment of all private central banking everywhere, and a return to the state-issued value-based currencies that allow nations and people to become prosperous.


“Banks do not have an obligation to promote the public good.” — Alexander Dielius, CEO, Germany, Austrian, Eastern Europe Goldman Sachs, 2010


“I am just a banker doing God’s work.” — Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs, 2009




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Other articles by Michael Rivero on the fraud of Private Central Banking. 



Awaken slaves! – How The Private Central Bank Ponzi Scheme Trapped And Destroyed America 



Ron Paul, Richard Cobden, and the Risks of Opposing War

6 Apr

Since at least as early as the eighteen century, classical liberalism, and its modern variant libertarianism, have opposed warfare except in cases of obvious self-defense. We see this anti-war position clearly among the anti-federalists of eighteenth-century America (who opposed all standing armies) and more famously within George Washington’s Farewell Address. Thomas Jefferson frequently inveighed against war, although in moves typical for Jefferson, he acted against his own professed ideology on a number of occasions.

On the other side of the Atlantic, liberalism finally made significant gains in Britain with the rise of the Anti-Corn Law League in the late 1830s. The head of the league, a radical liberal named Richard Cobden, rose to prominence throughout the 1840s and is notable today for his active defense of laissez-faire capitalism as a member of the House of Commons, and also for his staunch anti-interventionism in foreign affairs.

For a time, his political star rose quickly, but by the time the Crimean War ended, Cobden, had been cast aside by both a ruling class and a public enthusiastic for both empire and war.

Prior to the war Cobden traveled Europe as an honored guest at international peace conferences while advocating for free markets, civil liberties, and libertarianism everywhere he traveled. But in the end, as has been so often the case, his political career was ended by his opposition to war, and his refusal to buy into nationalistic propaganda.

Like the Crimean crisis of today, the Crimean crises of the early 1850s were caused by little more than the efforts of various so-called great powers to tip the global balance of power in their favor. Foremost among those grasping for global power was the British Empire.

But even as early as the 1830s, the British were seized by a series of national hysterias whipped up by a variety of anti-Russian pundits who were obsessed with increasing British military spending and strength in the name of “defense” from the Russians.

As is so often the case in securing the case for war, the pro-militarist argument among the Brits rested on perpetuating and augmenting the public’s nationalistic feelings that the Russians were uncommonly aggressive and sinister. Cobden, obviously far better informed on the matter than the typical Brit, published a pamphlet on Russia in 1836 actually considering the facts of Russian foreign policy, which he often compared favorably to the hyper-aggressive foreign policy employed by the British Empire.

Cobden began by comparing Russian expansion to British expansion, noting that “during the last hundred years, England has, for every square league of territory annexed to Russia, by force, violence, or fraud, appropriated to herself three.” And that among the self-professed opponents of conquest, the British failed to recognize that “If the English writer calls down indignation upon the conquerors of the Ukraine, Finland, and the Crimea, may not Russian historians conjure up equally painful reminiscences upon the subjects of Gibraltar, the Cape, and Hindostan?”

In an interesting parallel to the modern Crimean crisis, much of the opposition to the Russian among British militarists was based on the assertion that the Russians had annexed portions of Poland in aggressive moves that were deemed by the British as completely unwarranted. Cobden, however, understanding the history of the region to be much more murky than the neat little scenarios painted by militarists, recognized that neither side was angelic and blameless and that many of the “annexed” territories were in fact populated by Russians that had earlier been conquered and annexed by the Poles.

The Russians, while themselves no doubt hostile toward neighbors, were surrounded by hostile neighbors themselves, with the origins of conflicts going back decades or even centuries. The puerile and simplistic arguments of the British militarists, who advocated for what would become a global, despotic, and racist British Empire, added little of value to any actual public knowledge of the realities in Eastern Europe.

For his efforts in gaining a true understanding of global conflicts, and for seeking a policy of negotiation and anti-nationalism, Cobden was declared to be un-patriotic and a friend to the great enemy Russia during the Crimean war. Cobden, who had perhaps done more to consistently advance the cause of liberty than anyone else in Europe of his day, was declared to be a friend of despots.

The similarities to today’s situation are of course striking. The Crimea, an area of highly ambiguous ethnic and national allegiance is declared by the West to be a perpetual territory of anti-Russian forces much like the Eastern Polish provinces of old, in spite of the presence of a population highly sympathetic to Russian rule.

Moreover, the successor to the British Empire, the United States, with its global system of client states and puppet dictatorships and occupied territories declares itself fit to rule on a Russian “invasion” that, quite unlike the American invasion of Iraq, resulted in exactly one reported casualty.

As was the case with Cobden in the nineteenth century, however, merely pointing out these facts today earns one the label of “anti-American” or “pro-Russian” as in the obvious case of Ron Paul.

Like Cobden, Paul spent decades denouncing oppressive regimes domestically and internationally, only to now be declared “pro-Putin,” “pacifist,” “unpatriotic,” and “anti-American” by a host of ideologues utterly uninterested in familiarizing themselves with Paul’s actual record, including his denunciations, while in Congress, of Communist regimes and his warnings about Putin’s desire to expand Russian influence in Afghanistan.

Of course, Russia has not been the only target. For those who can remember the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003, this should all feel like déjà vu since many at that time, including some libertarians, claimed that opponents of invasion were “pro-Saddam Hussein” for pointing out that Iraq clearly had no weapons of mass destruction, and that his secular regime was probably preferable to the murderous Islamist oligarchy that has replaced it.

Paul remains in good company with the likes of Cobden, H.L. Mencken, William Graham Sumner, and virtually the entire membership of the American Anti-Imperialist League, including Edward Atkinson who encouraged American soldiers in the Philippines to mutiny. These were radical principled opponents of militarism who opposed government violence at great risk to themselves and their reputations. Some modern American libertarians, on the other hand, well out of reach of the Russian state, would rather spend their time stating what everyone already knows: Russia is not a libertarian paradise.

Reply to the Scurrilous, Libelous, Venomous, Scandalous New York Times Smear Campaign

1 Feb


January 30, 2014


 The “Rand Paul problem” from the point of view of the New York Times and other such “progressives” is that he is far too clean. He does not shut down traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. He has no mistresses nor any love children. He has not stolen vast amounts of money; heck no money at all. He has not put his foot in his mouth regarding witches or rape or “read my lips” or anything else for that matter.

These people greatly fear a Rand versus Hillary confrontation in 2015. The former could “out-left” the latter on war, imperialism, victimless crimes, and “out-right” her on economic liberty, the second amendment and private property rights. Rand has a better shot at beating Hillary than any other plausible Republican candidate, and, it would appear, the time to grease the skids is now upon us.

What is to be done, then? Why, defame Rand directly of course, but also besmirch him not for anything he has done, but line up a bunch of people who could in any way be associated with him, attack them, and imply that Rand is somehow responsible for their actions. The not so hidden agenda here is that, really, Rand agrees with all of them, although he is too sneaky to come out and say this. The candidates for this operation? Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, Hans Sennholz, Ayn Rand, Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods, Jack Hunter, Gary North, Alex Jones, and me. My only surprise is that Tanenhaus and Rutenberg, the authors of this disgraceful hit piece did not dig deeper. I am sure that if they had, they could have come up with some dirt on Rand’s plumber, or baby sitter, or gardener, or grocer, etc. Surely, one of them, or a family member or a friend of theirs, did something reprehensible that can be pinned on Rand, with just a little body English, for which the New York Times is justly famous.

Tanenhaus and Rutenberg have delivered themselves of an outrageous attack on Rand Paul, the Mises Institute, and several Austro-libertarian scholars associated with both. In this response, I shall focus only on the injustice perpetrated on me; the other (living) targets are fully able to reply, if they wish to do so, on their own. (For Lew Rockwell’s incisive response in behalf of the Mises Institute, go here. Bob Wenzel’s response is also excellent.)

If I had to summarize their essay in the form of a syllogism, at least as it refers to my small part in it, it would be this:

a. Rand Paul is a libertarian

b. Walter Block is a libertarian

c. Walter Block says that slavery was “not so bad.”


d. Rand Paul believes that slavery was “not so bad.”

This attempt to smear Rand Paul’s possible campaign for the presidency of the U.S., to say the least, is an invalid form of argument. It is worse than silly, no? And, yet, it would appear, that is the conclusion the New York Times is attempting to draw. To see the invalidity of this mode of argument, try this one on for size:

a. Rand Paul is a libertarian

b. Walter Block is a libertarian

c. Walter Block says that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist.


d. Rand Paul believes that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist.

While I have no problem with premises (a) and (b) above, here is what I actually published about slavery not being “so bad,” and precisely what I was trying to convey to Mr. Tanenhaus in the several hours of interviews I did with him in an effort to explain libertarianism to him:

“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.”

The point is that free association, one of the bedrocks of the entire libertarian edifice, is a bulwark against slavery. On the other hand, the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1964 undermines free association. It forces Woolworths to associate with people against their will. Thus, very paradoxically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supports slavery. It does so by undermining free association, the violation of which allows slavery. Our friends on the left, amongst whom we must include writers for the New York Times, are thus placed in a bit of a logical quandary. They, of course, as do all men of good will, oppose slavery. But, in their support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they attack the law of free association. Logically, they cannot have it both ways. When it comes to slavery, they defend the law of free association, which would allow the slave to quit or not be enslaved in the first place; all well and good. But, when racial discrimination is under discussion, they reject the right of the Woolworths of the world to invoke that self-same right of free association, which would allow discriminators of that ilk to refuse service (decline to associate with) people with whom they do not wish to interact. It would appear that New York Times editors and journalists do not appreciate or even comprehend sarcasm.

But is it not unfair, and harmful, to racial minority groups to allow bigots to discriminate against them in lunch counters, or in employment, or in any other way? No, no and no. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have done more than any other two scholars to demonstrate the falsity of this sort of reasoning. If white owned restaurants do not wish to serve black people, the latter will be more desperate, willing to pay more than otherwise, to be able to purchase meals. Thus, profits in doing precisely that will rise, and other entrepreneurs, both white and black, will have more of an incentive to provide such services. If employers discriminate against black workers, this will drive down their wages to lower levels than would otherwise obtain. This, too, sets up enhanced profit opportunities for yet other firms, to hire these people. If some transportation companies insist that African-Americans ride only in the back of the bus, others will spring up to attract such customers; they will earn higher profits, at least initially.  Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” works all throughout the economy. Racial discrimination is impotent to really harm its targets. Why, then, did this aspect of laissez faire capitalism not actually function in the south in the early part of the last century? ‘Twas not due to any “market failure.” Rather, the free enterprise system was not allowed to function, due to Jim Crow laws. For example, in order to set up a competing bus company, one that would allow black people to sit in any section of their vehicles, permission had to be obtained from state(ist) authorities, the very people responsible for the Jim Crow back of the bus law in the first place. Nor must it be thought that initially black people would have to suffer from higher lunch prices, lower salaries, sitting in the back of the bus, etc. These are only theoretical possibilities, if entrepreneurs do not take advantage of profit opportunities. But we have a name for businessmen of that type: bankrupt. For a more detailed explication of the economics of discrimination along these lines see my 2010 book on this topic, herehere or here.

I spent more than just several hours with Mr. Tanenhaus trying to explain to him how central to libertarianism is the non-aggression principle (NAP).  I told him that the essence of this philosophy is that it is illegitimate to threaten or actually use violence against innocent people. I gave him all sorts of examples. I tried to make the point as dramatically as I could to him. I went so far as to say that the only thing horrid about actual slavery was that it violated the NAP. Otherwise, apart from that one thing, slavery was innocuous: you could pick cotton in the healthy outdoors, sing songs, they would give you gruel, etc. This of course was a hypothetical. A point made to dramatize exactly why slavery was wrong. Not because of cotton, gruel, singing, etc., but due to the vicious violation of the NAP against innocent black people.

And what does that intrepid New York Times reporter make of all this? He turned this into a supposed claim of mine that actual slavery was not so bad.  Specifically, he reported my views in this manner: “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as ‘not so bad,’ is also critical of the Civil Rights Act. ‘Woolworth’s had lunchroom counters, and no blacks were allowed,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did. No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.’”

Minor problem. I never in a million years would have said “No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.” This is an obvious falsity, what with affirmative action and other anti discrimination laws. Rather, my view is, “No one should be compelled to associate with people against their will.” (Don’t they have tape recorders at the New York Times?) And this applies to Woolworths, to those forced into slavery, to victims of rape, to all those forced to associate, or interact with, or to have anything to do with, others under compulsion.

Major problem. In actual point of fact, I along with pretty much all other men of good will think that this institution was vicious, depraved and monstrous. Why? Again, because of NAP violations, not anything else, certainly not anything as peripheral as singing songs and eating gruel.  I think that the movie “Django Unchained,” and the television series, “Roots,” accurately depicted this system. It would be impossible for any fair minded person to turn what I said into support for such a despicable system.  Surely, no good-hearted person, such as I consider myself, let alone a libertarian for whom NAP violations are at the core of his philosophy, could think that actual slavery was “not so bad.” It is one of the worst things that man has ever perpetuated against man. The only thing I can think of that is worse is mass murder.

Was this stupidity or maliciousness on the part of Mr. Tanenhaus to so twist my words? I cannot be sure, but my assessment is that for this modern reincarnation of Walter Duranty there was a bit of both involved, with the latter surely predominating, since he didn’t appear particularly stupid to me during our long interviews.

Do I regret I did a series of interviews with Mr. Tanenhaus?  Should I resolve never again to deal with a journalist from the New York Times? I would gladly do it again. For one thing, there is always the outside chance of converting such a person to the freedom philosophy.  For another, there is the possibility, admittedly unlikely, that a mainstream journalist would at least be fair.  I go further. My aim is to convert the entire world to the one true faith, libertarianism. I will sit down and talk to the very devil himself in this effort, or, to Communists, Nazis, New York Times reporters, it is all in a day’s work for me.

I once gave a speech after which two young kids who said they were Nazis approached me. As is my wont, I moved immediately into conversion mode. I said that we libertarians would give members of their group a better deal than any other political philosophy. They could deny the Holocaust, sing Nazi songs, wear big black leather boots, salute swastika flags, build ovens, do the goose step, etc. (I am nothing if not a bit tent libertarian.) You could even place Jews, blacks, gays, Romany, and all other non-Aryans in these ovens, provided, only, they went there voluntarily. The only thing we libertarians would not allow them to do, so important do we think it is, is violate the NAP. They may not initiate or threaten violence against any innocent person. Force may properly be used only in defense against initiatory attack.  That is the sine qua non of libertarianism.

Did I think I had a real chance of converting these two kids? Not really. Nazism is perhaps too far off the libertarian path, although you never know about things like that: maybe they were ripe for conversion; they did come to hear my formal speech, after all. My main goal in this and other such episodes it to tell the truth about libertarianism (it opposes by law only the threat or actual use of violence against innocent people and their property), and does not see swastikas, ovens, Nazi salutes, goose stepping, as a per se violation of the NAP. This is a crucially important point, and I will not be deterred from making it out of fear of possible misunderstanding of it by people with an IQ hovering around comfortable room temperature or by evil people who support barbarism (e.g., denigrate the NAP) such as Mr. Tanenhaus. Secondly, there were other audience members who were listening in to my conversation with the two Nazis. I wanted to demonstrate to them, too, the proper libertarian analysis of that uncivilized political philosophy.

Were I to have told Mr. Tanenhaus this Nazi story of mine, I have no doubt he would have reported to his readers that “Block is a Nazi,” or “Block embraces Nazism,” or “Block thinks that Nazis killing Jews and others in ovens wasn’t really so bad.”

So, should I not try to promote libertarianism in terms of extreme cases, such as slavery, Nazism, on the ground that such examples can easily be twisted to the very opposite of the plain meaning of what I said? Not a bit of it. My motto is, Full steam ahead, go right at ‘em, and the devil take the hindmost. The illegitimi are going to misinform gullible people, such as most readers of the New York Times, no matter what is said. Nothing can be done to change that, except of course for a mass conversion to libertarianism, or, at least, decency.  Why allow their possible (well, very likely) misinterpretations to deflect me, us, from making the libertarian case in the most powerful way possible?

It is easy to see how a journalist at the New York Times could so seriously misconstrue libertarianism. Less so, far less so, can this be understood in the case of Reason. These people are supposed libertarians themselves. What had they to say about Mr. Tanenhaus’ smear of me as supportive of slavery as it actually functioned? Here is the reaction of Reason editor Nick Gillespie: “One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was ‘not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs.’” Now, these people full well know who the “one economist” is, namely me. Mr. Mr. Tanenhaus, after all, does mention me by name, and spells it correctly. Mr. Gillespie is fully cognizant of the fact that I am a libertarian. At least he should have known this, since I have contributed to this movement over many years and have published in his own Reason Magazine and Reason Papers on numerous occasions. Did it not seem jarring to him that I would support slavery as not being “so bad?” Am I amiss in thinking that as a fellow libertarian he would have checked things out with me before piling on? I am not at all that disappointed with Mr. Tanenhaus. I expected little better from him; after all, what does he know? He works for the New York Times, for goodness sakes! But I am truly amazed, and appalled, that a supposed libertarian such as Mr. Gillespie would be so vile.

A postscript on voluntary slavery. I am on record on numerous occasions in support of voluntary slavery; some other libertarians support me on this issue as well. See Andersson, 2007; Block, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007A, 2007B, 2009A, 2009B; Lester, 2000; Nozick, 1974, pp. 58, 283, 331; Philmore, 1982; Steiner, 1994, pp. 232. I want now to anticipate and obviate possible objections emanating from “libertarians” such as Mr. Gillespie that my stance here implies that I favor, however slightly, coercive slavery as it actually existed in history, and even nowadays, in some places.

What is voluntary slavery? Consider the following. My child is sick with a dread disease. It will kill him unless he has an operation. The operation costs $5 million, and I, a poor man, just do not have anything like that amount of money. But you, gentle reader, are a rich person, who has long wanted me to be your slave. So, we make a deal. I agree to become enslaved by you, for $5 million. You give me that amount of money, I turn it over to my child’s doctors, and then I come to your plantation to serve you.  We both gain in the ex ante sense from this commercial interaction, as is always the case. You value my servitude more than the $5 million you pay for it; I regard my child’s life more highly than my own freedom. Forget about the niceties of this example. Ignore the political incorrectness here. Do not consider libertarian objections along the lines of not being able to alienate the will. Focus on just one issue: Does this contract, or does it not, violate the NAP? I say it does not, and would hence be legitimate in the libertarian society.

This is not the time nor the place to try, once again, to refute those libertarians who disagree with me on this issue (I am in a distinct minority in the libertarian community).  My aim here is more limited. It is to distinguish the hypothetical case of voluntary slavery from the operation of real world coercive slavery. I claim that the latter is a paradigm case of NAP violation, and ought to be opposed to the utmost, while the former is not. I have little doubt that Mr. Tanenhaus will seize upon this example in a “gotcha!” moment. He will aver that this is but further evidence that I support real slavery, and that since I do, Rand Paul, another libertarian, must as well.

One last word. I allege that it is libelous to claim I maintain that (real world) slavery wasn’t really so bad. Shall I sue Mr. Tanenhaus and his employer? The latter certainly has deep pockets. I am rather ambivalent about this. On the one hand, libel is not a per se violation of the NAP.  Under libertarian law, Mr. Tanenhaus and the New York Times have a legal right to besmirch my good name with allegations of this sort.  Yes, they have attempted to ruin my reputation. Probably, they have succeeded, at least with a goodly number of people. But, I do not own my own reputation. Rather, it consists of the thoughts of other people, and I cannot own those.  For more on this, see my book Defending I. On the other hand, the NAP only requires that libertarians refrain from using violence (lawsuits ultimately constitute the use of invasive force) against innocent people. The New York Times hardly fits this bill. Rather, that organization is a major mouthpiece for the state. As Lew Rockwell pithily put it, and as reported in this very article, they are “part of the regime.” Therefore, they would not be off bounds for a libel suit launched by a libertarian.

I am content with the fact that thanks to this vicious smear, more people than would otherwise be the case have now at least heard of libertarianism. Not in a good light, to be sure. But, perhaps, a significant number of them will do some research on the subject. A good place to start would be with the web of the Mises Institute,, and/or with Auburn, AL is the center of the Austro-libertarian movement; long may it prosper.


Andersson, Anna-Karin. 2007. “An alleged contradiction in Nozick’s entitlement theory” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, Fall: 43–63;

Block, Walter E. 2008 [1976]. Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; available for free here:

Block, Walter E. 1999. “Market Inalienability Once Again: Reply to Radin,” Thomas Jefferson Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall, pp. 37-88;

Block, Walter E. 2001. “Alienability, Inalienability, Paternalism and the Law: Reply to Kronman,” American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 28, No. 3, Summer, pp. 351-371;

Block, Walter E. 2002.  “A Libertarian Theory of Secession and Slavery,” June 10;

Block, Walter E. 2003. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Gordon, Smith, Kinsella and Epstein,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol.17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 39-85;

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1.

Block, Walter E. 2005. “Ayn Rand and Austrian Economics: Two Peas in a Pod.” The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring, pp. 259-269

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Epstein on alienation: a rejoinder” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 33, Nos. 3-4, pp. 241-260

Block, Walter E. 2007A. “Secession,” Dialogue. No. 4; pp. 1-14;

Block, Walter E. 2007B. “Alienability: Reply to Kuflik.” Humanomics Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 117-136;;jsessionid=0685BBB744173274A5E7CE3803132413?contentType=Article&contentId=1626605

Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Yes, Sell Rivers! And Make Legal Some Slave Contracts” The Tyee. July 25;

Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Privatizing Rivers and Voluntary Slave Contracts” July 27;

Block, Walter E. 2010. The Case for Discrimination. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute;;; available for free here:

Block, Walter E. 2013. “Chris Selley Is a Pussy Libertarian; I’m Not.” February 25;

Gillespie, Nick. 2014. “Will Rand Paul Mainstream Libertarianism on the Way to White House?” January 26;

Lester, Jan Clifford. 2000. Escape from Leviathan. St. Martin’s Press.

Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic Books,

Philmore, J. 1982. “The Libertarian Case for Slavery: A Note on Nozick” Philosophical Forum, XIV (Fall): 43-58;;

Rockwell, Lew. 2014. “We Win the NY Times Prize.” January 27;

Steiner, Hillel. 1994. An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers;

Tanenhaus, Sam and Jim Rutenberg.  2014. “ Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance.” January 26;

Wenzel, Robert. 2014. “In Defense of the Mises Institute.” January 27;


This is a missive I sent on 1/28/14 to the letters editor of the New York Times:

I published these exact words on 2/25/13 ( long before being interviewed for your story “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance,” on 1/26/14:

“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.”

I tried to explain my views to your journalist on the basis of precisely these words. His translation: “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans … described slavery as ‘not so bad…’”

This is shameful. You owe me a written apology.

The New York Times declined to publish this letter of mine to the editor. Here is the actual correspondence that led to their decision (they impose a maximum of 175 words):

1. To: Louis Lucero II

Assistant to the Senior Editor for Standards

The New York Times

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Walter Block <> wrote:

Dear Editor:

Please consider publishing this in your letters to the editor page (it is 173 words):

I published these exact words on 2/25/13 ( long before being interviewed for your story “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance,” 1/26/14:  “Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.” How did your journalists report this views that I clearly explained? They said “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans … described slavery as ‘not so bad…’” This is shameful. You owe me a written apology.

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fax: (504) 864-7970
Twitter Account:

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

2. To Walter Block

From: NYTimes, Senioreditor [mailto:senioreditor@nytimes.comSent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 6:06 PMTo: Walter BlockSubject: Re: letter to the editor

Dear Dr. Block,

Thank you for your email. While illuminating, your previously published remarks are not necessarily material to the comments you made to our reporter in a telephone interview. In our story, we write:

Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as “not so bad,” is also highly critical of the Civil Rights Act. “Woolworth’s had lunchroom counters, and no blacks were allowed,” he said in a telephone interview. “Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did. No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.”

The time and spatial constraints of journalism often preclude our giving as much detail or context as we would like, but not including the full text of a nearly year-old blog post in our article does not constitute a factual error. Because we are only able to address factual errors, and not mere omissions, we don’t believe a correction is warranted in this case.

We know you’re unlikely to agree with our decision, but we hope you can understand it all the same.


3.To: Louis Lucero II

Louis Lucero IIAssistant to the Senior Editor for StandardsThe New York Times

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 7:17 PM, Walter Block <> wrote:

Dear Mr. Lucero:

Of course my published remarks are quite irrelevant, per se. I certainly don’t expect a journalist to reprint them in their entirety. But they convey exactly what I told your Mr. Tanenhaus in my several interviews with him. Clearly, there was a bit of sarcasm in my statement. I was talking hypotheticals. Yet your Mr. Tanenhaus made it appear as if I thought that actual slavery was not “so bad.” You don’t agree that this is a total perversion of my views? Of course actual slavery was horrid and despicable. But why? Because of picking cotton and singing songs etc? No, of course not. Because it was compulsory.

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fax: (504) 864-7970
Twitter Account:

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

4. To Walter Block

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Walter Block <> wrote:

From: NYTimes, Senioreditor [] Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 6:42 PMTo: Walter BlockSubject: Re: letter to the editor

Dr. Block,Thank you for your reply, but we are comfortable with our characterization of your views.Regards,

5. to Mr. Lucero

Dear Mr. Lucero:

I have a one word response for you: wow!

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fax: (504) 864-7970
Twitter Account:

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

 Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the UndefendableThe Case for Discrimination,Labor Economics From A Free Market PerspectiveBuilding Blocks for LibertyDiffering Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.

Copyright © 2014 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

Previous article by Walter E. BlockThe Korean War in Queens

Much Confusion Around Both Stand-Your-Ground & Castle Doctrine

1 Feb


January 29, 2014


USA – -( This is a great question because there is so much confusion around both these terms.

Much of the confusion stems from the fact that although both of these terms have a narrow, technically-correct meaning they have also been commonly used to refer to other aspects of self-defense law beyond these core meanings.

(In addition, of course, Stand-Your-Ground has been deliberately mischaracterized throughout the media by political activists for their own purposes.)

The Historical Context of Stand-Your-Ground and the Castle Doctrine

First, let’s talk about the core definitions of the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground in terms of how they are similar. To provide necessary context, we’ll begin with some history.

America was, of course, a British colony prior to our Revolution, and operated under principles of British law, much of which was based on common law (that is, law developed by practice in courts rather then formed by statutes). Given the length of British history, much of that common law finds its foundations hundreds of years in the past. And it is in that distant past that we encounter the generalized duty to retreat.

The Pre-Gun Era: The Generalized Duty to Retreat

In the days before firearms a defender was likely to be faced only with contact weapons (projectile weapons such as bows were the tools of a highly trained few, and crossbows were essentially the equivalent of today’s SAWs—not in common hands). At the same time, British law tended to see its citizens as subjects of the Crown—in a way, property of the Crown—rather than through the individualistic lens we Americans are familiar with through our own history and culture.

The combination of these two factors led to the common law rule of the generalized rule of retreat—before a defender could use deadly force in self-defense against an attacker, he was required to first take advantage of any safe avenue of retreat available. This became a generalized duty to retreat, and a breach of this duty —the failure to take advantage of a safe avenue of retreat before using deadly force in self-defense—stripped you of any justification for your use of “defensive” force in self-defense.

This rule follows naturally from the weapons of the day and the perspective of the Crown. If it was possible for a defender to move himself even 20 or so feet distant from an attacker, he’s could essentially make himself safe from that attacker’s impact weapons. Further, by doing so he prevented a violent affray in which one of the Crown’s subjects —either defender or attacker— might be mortally wounded and no longer capable of paying taxes, serving the Crown’s military, etc.

Guns Changed Everything

The advent of firearms, of course, change this dynamic considerably. Even if the attacker is armed with a “mere” single-shot flint-ignition arm, the defender moving a small distance away from brings him little additional safety. Combined with the rapidity that an attacker can be brought to bear, the generalized duty to retreat made little sense in this context.

Britain never really changed its common law in this regard. America, on the other hand, was a whole new kettle of fish. We have effectively always had firearms as part of our culture and day-to-day life, and so gun-wielding attackers have always been a part of our self-defense context. As a result, historically in America there was no generalized duty to retreat—and absent any such legal duty, one could stand his ground and face deadly-force attack with deadly-force defense, with no obligation to first consider whether retreat was safely possible. Most commonly, these no-duty-to-retreat provisions of the law were referred to as “True Man” laws.

Urbanized America Begins to Impose Generalized Duty to Retreat

As the decades passed, however, America became more urbanized, with larger population centers beginning to offer such amenities as professionalized law enforcement capabilities. With these in hand, American courts in various —and, later, legislatures— began to reconsider the issue of retreat. They looked back favorably on the old English generalized duty of retreat, and began to adopt it into American law in their own jurisdictions.

In these jurisdictions, it became the law that one had a legal duty to first take advantage of a safe avenue of retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, and the failure to do so stripped the defender of any legal justification for that use of “defensive” force.

The Pendulum Swings Back: Stand-Your-Ground Returns

Over the last 20 years, however, many of these states began to reconsider the wisdom of imposing a duty to retreat on innocent defenders. Over time, and with the encouragement of gun owners —both individually and through various organizations like the NRA— they began to do away with the duty to retreat. In the modern era this has been done through statute, and most commonly these statutes have used some form of the phrase “stand your ground”—hence, high profile of the phrase in today’s self-defense lexicon.

So, what’s happened then is largely a return of the pendulum. America had been entirely stand-your-ground as a matter of our own common law, a number of states had adopted a generalized duty to retreat, and now many of those that did so have reverted back to the stand-your-ground norm.

“Stand-Your-Ground” Is the Majority Position in the United States

Today, 34 states —a considerable majority— are effectively stand-your-ground states in that they do not impose a duty to retreat. About half of these have done so through stand-your-ground legislation, but the other half have simply always been stand-your-ground states.

It is an interesting historical artifact, for example, that politically deep-blue California has always been a stand-your-ground state—indeed, it is arguably the most aggressive stand-your-ground state in the country. In California not only may you stand your ground, you are even explicitly permitted to pursue your attacker if necessary for safety. All this despite the fact that California has no Stand-Your-Ground statute—the rule derives from a long history of case decisions and is captured in the state’s jury instructions (see CALCRIM 505 Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another.)

Now that we’ve laid the proper context for Stand-Your-Ground, let’s talk about the Castle Doctrine.

The Castle Doctrine: Exempting the Home from the Duty to Retreat

Obviously, in Stand-Your-Ground states that impose no generalized duty to retreat, there is also no such duty to retreat in your own home. But what about states that do impose a generalized duty to retreat? Does it apply everywhere, even in your own home?

The answer is, no. Even in states that provide for a very broad generalized duty to retreat, an exemption is made for one’s home. The basis of this is the notion that any duty to retreat is supposed to be a retreat to a greater position of safety, and if you cannot expect safety in your own home, to where then would you retreat?

This exception to the generalized duty to retreat became commonly known as the Castle Doctrine, drawn from the expression that “a man’s home is his Castle,” one’s ultimate place of refuge from violence.

Interestingly, the Castle Doctrine was not always an undisputed principle. In my home state of Massachusetts, for example, our supreme court ruled in 1975 that residents of the Commonwealth enjoyed no such exemption from the generalized duty to retreat [see Commonwealth v. Shaffer, 326 N.E.2d 880 (MA Supreme Court 1975)].  The facts of the case are quite horrific. Shaffer and her two small children had retreated from her abusive fiance all the way to the basement of her home. She had received numerous beatings from him in the past.  The fiance, standing at the top of the basement stairs, told her: “If you don’t come up these stairs, I’ll come down and kill you and the kids.” When contrary to the woman’s pleas and warnings he began coming down the steps, she shot him once with a .22 rifle.  The wound was mortal.  Shaffer was indicted for murder, and was tried on manslaughter.  She was convicted at trial, the conviction was affirmed by the appellate court, and then again by the state Supreme Court (in the case cited above), on the basis that she failed to take advantage of a safe avenue of retreat.

The public response to this decision was immediate and overwhelmingly negative, and the MA legislature promptly passed Massachusetts General Law Ch. 278 §8A. Killing or injuring a person unlawfully in a dwelling; defense, creating a statutory Castle Doctrine.  Even today, however, the Massachusetts Castle Doctrine is among the most restrictive in the country, applying only to the space within the four walls of your home—step one foot outside, and the generalized duty to retreat is once again imposed. (Most other states’ Castle Doctrines also apply it to what is known as the curtilage, the area around your home that is part of the ordinary use of the home–so, the porch, the driveway, the front yard, etc.)

The Castle Doctrine: Important Limitations

While few states have as restrictive a Castle Doctrine as does Massachusetts, many do limit it in a wide variety of ways. Some, for example, allow for the exemption only when the homeowner is using force against someone not legally present—an intruder, of course, but it also exempts somebody with some legal authority to be present such as a landlord or inspector–or even to an invited guest (and not just one who was invited by you personally, assuming several people live in your home).

Others apply the Castle Doctrine to every attacker in the world—except the attacker who is also a co-dweller in the “castle”. So if your attacker is a family member living in the household—say, an abusive spouse—or a housemate of some sort, the Castle Doctrine exemption to the duty to retreat is lost in those states.

Needless to say, if you do not know the constraints of the Castle Doctrine in your state, I urge you to learn them.

Tying Together Stand-Your-Ground and the Castle Doctrine

Now, the tie in between the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground is essentially this—many folks living in duty-to-retreat states, and enjoying the benefits of the Castle Doctrine in the context of their homes, began to wonder why the doctrine should be limited to just their homes.

If it applies to my home, they wondered, why not to my place of business? With the advent of carjackings in the 1980s and 1990s, many began to wonder why it didn’t apply in their vehicles—for those of us living in highly congested cities, it often feels like we spend more of our life in our cars than in our homes. Finally, if the generalized duty to retreat was going to be waived for homes, businesses, and cars, why impose it anywhere at all? Why not just say that if a defender is the innocent party acting in otherwise lawful self-defense, they simply have no duty to retreat . . . and can stand their ground. And that is how we arrive at the modern adoptions of Stand-Your-Ground statutes, with about 17 states adopting such statutes in the past 20 or so years. (Alaska is the most recent state to adopt Stand-Your-Ground legislation, this past fall, and Ohio is looking like a good candidate to become the next). Keep in mind, again, that roughly 17 states have always were effectively stand-your-ground states, as they never imposed a generalized duty to retreat in the first place.

Now that we’ve, hopefully, brought some clarity to Stand-Your-Ground and the Castle Doctrine, it might be worth a few minutes to highlight some of the areas that cause the greatest confusion.

Areas of Confusion around “Stand-Your-Ground”First of all, Stand-Your-Ground deals only with the issue of retreat in the context of lawful self-defense. It does not authorize any greater degree of force, nor does it allow you to use force under any lesser degree of threat. You must still meet every other qualification for lawful self-defense—innocence, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness. If you are the aggressor in the fight, for example, you don’t qualify for self-defense in the first place, and Stand-Your-Ground has no application. In particular, Stand-Your-Ground in no way authorizes a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to self-defense, despite what so many political activists have claimed.

Second, “Stand-Your-Ground” is also not a provision of immunity from criminal prosecution or civil suit. Immunity is a completely separate legal concept from the duty to retreat, and proper legal analysis demands it be kept separate. Florida causes a great deal of confusion here because they provide both statutory Stand-Your-Ground and statutory self-defense immunity, and both provisions were adopted by the legislature at the same time.

As an artifact of this even Florida judges and prosecutors tend to incorrectly use the phrase “Stand-Your-Ground” to reference self-defense immunity. The commonly referenced “Stand-Your-Ground hearing” in Florida, for example, is nothing of the sort—it is a pre-trial hearing to determine self-defense immunity, and is properly referred to as a “self-defense immunity hearing”. Issues of retreat may be considered in such a hearing just as would any other facet of self-defense law—such as whether you were the aggressor, used excessive force, or acted unreasonably—but the hearing has nothing to do with Stand-Your-Ground, per se.

Third, because the purpose of Stand-Your-Ground is to relieve you of an otherwise existing duty to retreat, it can only have application where such a duty to retreat would otherwise exist. Even in the toughest duty to retreat states, the duty is imposed only where it is reasonably possible to retreat safely. If retreat is not reasonably and safely possible, even duty to retreat states impose no legal duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.

This means that an act of defensive force can only be properly deemed a “Stand-Your-Ground” case where a safe avenue of retreat safely exists. If it does not, there is no duty to retreat, and absent a duty there is no role for Stand-Your-Ground.

To put it another way, if you are being beaten into a sidewalk by an attacker astride you, and your numerous efforts to escape have proven in vain, there is no role for Stand-Your-Ground in your use of defensive force—retreat is impossible, therefore not required, therefore no application exists for Stand-Your-Ground. Similarly if you are in the middle of a crowded movie theater where rapid retreat from an attack is effectively impossible—all of us know how difficult it is to move from your seat to the aisle in a crowded theater–then there is no application for Stand-Your-ground to relieve you of a duty that does not exist in the first place.

Areas of Confusion Around the Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine is properly thought of as relieving the homeowner from any legal duty to retreat when defending himself in his home.

The home, however, is also frequently given numerous other advantages in the context of self-defense, relative to other locations. For example, many states have statutes that provide for a “presumption of reasonableness” that the defender’s use of deadly force was reasonable if committed against someone intruding, or attempting to intrude, into the home. Similarly, many states effectively treat a breach into the home as a de jure deadly force attack upon the residents inside the home, thus relieving the need for the evidence to show that an actual deadly force threat against the defender existed.

These and similar provisions, however, are distinct from the issue of retreat, and proper legal analysis requires that we consider them as separate and discrete legal concepts.

As always, if you do not know the limits around these self-defense legal doctrines in your state, I strongly encourage you to learn them.

Reprinted with permission from

American Fascism

26 Jan

January 20, 2014

This talk was delivered at the 2014 Mises Circle in Houston, Texas.

We know about the transformation of the American police, with their paramilitary equipment, their SWAT team raids, and incentive to terrorize people over drug offenses rather than pursue crimes against person and property. We know about the National Security Agency, which can access every American’s e-mails, phone calls, or text messages. And yet too many average Americans have greeted all this with indifference.

This indifference, I suggest, derives from the widespread public acceptance of the myth of the state that Americans are taught from the moment they step into a government classroom. The myth is this: the state is a public-service institution established to provide you with security, both personal and economic. And after years of indoctrination into this myth, it is little wonder that so many Americans are prepared to give the state the benefit of the doubt, and to look upon dissidents as incorrigible troublemakers. The police and the military, the most celebrated public faces of the state, are to be questioned least of all.

All social theory can be reduced to two categories: those that conceive of society as the result of peace, and those for which the indispensable ingredient is violence. This is the fundamental distinction between liberalism and fascism, a point I discuss further in a book I released earlier this year called Fascism vs. Capitalism.

There is some confusion surrounding terms here. When Ludwig von Mises published his book Liberalism in English translation, he changed the title to The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth. He did so because by the latter half of the twentieth century, the word “liberal” no longer carried the meaning it once had. It had come to mean centralization, the welfare state, and a substantial government presence in economic and social life.

The liberalism I have in mind, of course, is not the modern liberalism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but the classical liberalism of Thomas Jefferson and Frederic Bastiat. Classical liberalism, by contrast, believed in free markets, free trade, toleration, and civil liberties.

It represented a movement toward a theory of society in which human cooperation emerged spontaneously and without coercion, by means of the natural processes of the market economy. It recognized that society seemed to manage itself without the involvement of extraneous forces like kings, aristocracies, or parliaments, and that the intervention of those forces was more likely aimed at the enrichment of a favored group or of the state itself than of at the well-being of society at large.

The price system, a spontaneous product of the free-market economy, helped entrepreneurs arrange the factors of production in such a way as to produce those outputs most highly valued by society, and to produce them in a way that was least costly in terms of opportunities foregone. Individuals specialized in those areas in which they had the greatest skill or knowledge, and the resulting division of labor meant a vastly greater output of consumer goods for everyone to enjoy. None of this required the intervention of the state. To the contrary, the state could interject only white noise into this naturally occurring process: production and consumption, profit and loss, changing consumer demands and entrepreneurial adjustment to those demands.

For the classical liberal, the state was almost an afterthought. Some would have it provide a few basic services, while others conceived of it as nothing more than a night watchman. Beginning with Gustave de Molinari, the classical liberal tradition even groped toward the possibility that the state was a dangerous, parasitical, and ultimately unnecessary monopoly.

And, of course, it was against a backdrop of peace that the classical liberal described the progress of mankind.

Fascists looked at society and the state quite differently. The prosaic bourgeois virtues of commerce, of producing, trading, and earning profit, are viewed with contempt next to the code of the warrior, which is what the fascist truly respects. Greatness comes not through the ordinary pursuits of the market or the obedience to the duties of one’s state in life, but through struggle.

It is Benito Mussolini’s famous remark – “Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing above the state” – that truly sums up the essence of fascism. The good of the Nation, as defined by the fascist leader, surpasses all other concerns and allegiances. The fascist speaks of the Nation with a religious reverence. An Italian fascist youth movement in the 1920s composed the following creed:

I believe in Rome the Eternal, the mother of my country, and in Italy her eldest Daughter, who was born in her virginal bosom by the grace of God; who suffered through the barbarian invasions, was crucified and buried; who descended to the grave and was raised from the dead in the nineteenth century; who ascended into Heaven in her glory in 1918 and 1922; who is seated on the right hand of her mother Rome; and who for this reason shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the genius of Mussolini, in our Holy Father Fascism, in the communion of its martyrs, in the conversion of Italians, and in the resurrection of the Empire.

This devotion to the Nation is concentrated in allegiance to the charismatic leader. The untrammeled exercise of the leader’s will is a central ingredient in the realization of the Nation’s destiny. Moreover, the leader’s will must trump the array of activities that comprise the free market. The various companies, professions, unions, and government must work together with a conscious plan to ensure the best outcome for the Nation. This is why it is so preposterous to hear opponents of the market economy describe libertarians as “fascists.” No one could be more anti-fascist than a libertarian.

Political centralization was also central to fascism, for if the Nation is the embodiment of the people, and if it is through the Nation that every individual realizes his destiny, we cannot tolerate resistance by lesser jurisdictions within the Nation. As Adolf Hitler himself said:

National Socialism as a matter of principle, must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries… Certainly all the states in the world are moving toward a certain unification in their inner organization. And in this Germany will be no exception. Today it is an absurdity to speak of a “state sovereignty”‘ of individual provinces…. In particular we cannot grant to any individual state within the nation and the state representing it state sovereignty and sovereignty in point of political power.

To say that there are fascist trends and features in the United States of today is not to say that this country is just like interwar Italy or Germany. There are some features of fascism as traditionally understood that can be found only faintly in American society today, and others than can be found not at all.

But it would be foolish to pretend that America is the very opposite of the fascist dystopias. Whether it’s the emphasis on centralization, the glorification of the police and the military, the yearning for a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, the elevation of “public service” above the services we freely provide one another on the market, the creepy and incessant references to “my president” or “our president,” or the depiction of the state as a quasi-divine instrument, the commonalities are neither trivial nor few.

Americans no doubt recoil from or laugh at that passage from the Italian fascists I shared with you a few moments ago. But few Americans are in a position to render such a judgement. Most have absorbed the idea that their government, far from a merely utilitarian contrivance established to provide them with some basic services, as many early Americans doubtless conceived of it, is a redemptive force in the world.

John Winthrop appropriated a biblical image of the church when he spoke of his settlement of Puritans as resembling a “city on a hill.” By the time Ronald Reagan made that phrase a rhetorical commonplace in American politics, it had been fully secularized. Not the church but the American state would transform mankind as God’s instrument.

Americans, even (or perhaps especially) American Christians, are for that reason not scandalized at politicians’ appropriation of religious language to describe their government. It bothers them not at all to learn that the iconic Abraham Lincoln said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” America government ideals, or that when George W. Bush said “the light shined in darkness and the darkness did not overcome it,” by “light” he meant American government ideals.

In US history, presidents who avoided war, or who viewed the presidential office modestly and without messianic overtones, are neglected or even denounced by our official historians. You can guess at the views and activities of the presidents favored by the opinion molders. “Beware any politician who is ‘beloved,’” historian Ralph Raico once warned.

The bipartisan adulation of Theodore Roosevelt, the man Bill Clinton called his favorite Republican president, speaks volumes about the values of the regime. Roosevelt once told a friend that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the US got into a military conflict with Germany, because if New York and other cities on the East Coast were burned to the ground, it would remind Americans how badly they need a system of coastal defenses, and it would force German-Americans to make an ostentatious patriotic display against Germany.

The philosopher William James said of Roosevelt that “he gushes over war as the ideal condition of human society, for the manly strenuousness which it involves, and treats peace as a condition of blubberlike and swollen ignobility, fit only for huckstering weaklings.”

After leaving office, Roosevelt became an advocate of “universal obligatory military training,” and thought every young man needed to spend time in a US Army camp. Roosevelt said, “I believe that for every young man … to have six months in such a camp … [with] some field service, would be of incalculable benefit to him, and … to the nation…. [M]aking these camps permanent would be the greatest boon this nation could receive.”

In how many schools can a benign portrait of Theodore Roosevelt be found looking down at students from the wall? Meanwhile, Ron Paul – the man of peace and civil liberties – was ignored and mocked by the American media. This tells us something about the present regime and what it holds dear.

The cult of personality surrounding the US president has only grown since the age of TR, culminating in the creepy videos of schoolchildren pledging allegiance to Barack Obama and the YouTubes of Hollywood actors promising their eternal loyalty. But some of those who ridiculed these ridiculous displays had themselves been part of the cult of George W. Bush. During the Bush years, Christian neocons made a video about the president set to the tune of Johnny Cash’s classic “When the Man Comes Around.” That song had been written about Jesus Christ. Here are some of the words they set to a video about George W. Bush:

There’s a man goin’ ‘round takin’ names. An’ he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won’t be treated all the same. There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down. When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up. At the terror in each sip and in each sup. For you partake of that last offered cup, Or disappear into the potter’s ground. When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singin’. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices callin’, voices cryin’. Some are born an’ some are dyin’. It’s Alpha’s and Omega’s Kingdom come….

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom. Then the father hen will call his chickens home. The wise men will bow down before the throne. And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crown. When the man comes around.

That man, remember, was George W. Bush.

Americans are taught that they owe their freedoms to their government’s military. Whether it’s a country music concert, a sporting event, or even a restaurant chain, Americans are subjected to a ceaseless stream of reminders of what they allegedly owe to this particular class of government employees. (Let’s not forget the popular bumper sticker: “Only two defining forces have ever died for you: Jesus the Christ and the American soldier.”) How exactly their freedoms were threatened in any of the military conflicts in question is one of those impertinent questions one does not ask in polite society.

Even people who oppose the wars, and who know they’re animated by propaganda, cheer on airplanes for the returning troops who, the airline staff assures them, are “protecting our freedom.” Americans are taught to say “thank you for your service” only to government employees, and just to the regime’s military branch. They are not taught to ask questions of authority.

The propaganda has worked, to some extent at least. When Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which their government was spying on and lying to them, many listeners of right-wing radio demanded not that these activities cease, but that the leaker himself be silenced. The man who had embarrassed their rulers should be tried for treason and executed. I have heard this phenomenon described as a case of society-wide Stockholm Syndrome, and I don’t think that’s far from the mark.

Americans today give the police the benefit of the doubt, consenting to searches and tolerating behavior that would have elicited revolt in centuries past. For the fascist regime as for our own, the public must be overawed by the state’s shows of force. And although more people are beginning to stand up against police abuse, those who speak up for the rights of individuals against the tactics of a police state are widely thought of as the blameworthy parties. We must be united as one against the Enemy, we are told, for he lurks everywhere. Those who insist too strongly on their individual rights in times of danger do not properly appreciate the righteous cause on which their righteous government is embarked.

If some of the superstitions of fascism have made their way into American life, it could be because both fascism and whatever it is that America has become share a superstition in common – namely, the state itself. The state has been cloaked in all manner of flattering but obfuscating rhetoric. The state looks after the general welfare, provides economic stability, protects us from the bad guys, prevents inequality, and binds us together in a common cause greater than ourselves.

It’s time we viewed the state for what it really is: a mechanism by which rulers enrich themselves at the expense of the ruled. Everything else is a smokescreen.

For the proof of that statement, I refer you to the library of books and articles we make available for free at I might also refer you to the daily headlines.

To be sure, the state continues to extend its reach, as the topics we’re covering at this event today make abundantly clear, but the intellectual opposition, spearheaded by the Mises Institute, is growing, and stronger than ever. Inspired by Ron Paul, throngs of students and young people understand the true nature of the state, and indeed the true nature of the police state. A group called Cop Block, started just a few years ago and consisting mostly of young people, sums up the libertarian response to the police state in the pithy maxim: “Badges don’t grant extra rights.”

The fascists, and the rest of the state’s adepts, manipulate the crowd with irrational appeals. Speaking of the political rivals to liberalism, Mises wrote: “Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.”

Support the Mises Institute as we strive to do exactly that.


The Best of Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

“Taxes are expropriation”

19 Jan

January 13, 2014

Below is an English translation of Professor Hoppe’s interview by “Wirtschaftswoche”, Germany’s leading business-weekly.

“Taxes are expropriation”

by Malte Fischer

The anarcho-libertarian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe argues for a state-free society. Where government has, for example, no right to compel the citizens to pay taxes to finance armed forces.

Business Week:

Professor Hoppe, We currently have booming state intervention in both the economy and in society again. Many citizens want more government and less market. How do you explain that?


History shows that crises promote the growth of the state. This is particularly evident in wars and terrorist attacks. Governments use such crises in order to pose as crisis-solvers. This also applies to the financial crisis. It has provided the governments and central banks with a welcome opportunity to intervene even more in the economy and society. Government representatives have managed to lay the blame for the crisis on capitalism, the markets and greed.

Without the intervention of central banks and governments in the form of liquidity injections and stimulus programs, wouldn’t the world have been thrown into a deep depression like in the 1930s? 

There is a misconception that governments and central banks can aid the economy with programs to help it bounce back. Even in the 1930s in the USA there were economic stimulus programs. But the Great Depression did not end until after the Second World War. In prior years, the U.S. unemployment never fell below 15 percent. The banks were hoarding the central bank money, instead of using it to lend.

The current circumstances are similar. The money is not getting into the goods markets, therefore the prices of commodities barely rise. But that does not mean that there is no inflation. You just have to look at how the stock markets are developing to identify where the money is going. Inflation is taking place on the asset markets.

The boom in the stock markets is also a consequence of negative real interest rates that make saving unattractive …

. .. and endanger our prosperity. An economy can only grow if people save more and consume less. Without savings, there are no viable investments.


I’ll give you a simple example. Imagine Robinson Crusoe and Friday on their desert island. If Robinson catches fish and consumes some of them, but not all, he can lend those to Friday who can eat them for a few days, and invest his time in the construction of a fishing net of his own. With this net he can catch so many fish that he can feed himself and to give Robinson the borrowed fish back. Both are doing even better than before. But what happens if Robinson does not save, but eats all the fish himself and gives Friday only a certificate that can be exchanged for this fish? If Friday wants to go to Robinson to redeem the certificate, he finds that no fish is there. Friday must therefore quickly obtain food himself and has no time to finish the net. It remains an abandoned project. The standard of living of Friday and Robinson drops.

What does that have to do with our present situation?

A similar thing is happening in our modern economies. The credit creation out of nothing pushes interest rates artificially down and triggers investments, for which no corresponding savings exist to cover. Given the low interest rates hardly anything is saved, and we consume all the more. Just as Robinson’s fish are not saved, but eaten by him. The increased consumption withdraws resources from investments, projects cannot be completed, the banks cut the loans, the projects are liquidated, the economy plunges into crisis.

Does that mean the next crash is coming soon?

The central banks are trying to end the crisis with even more credit and money, even though this was caused by too much money and credit. Therefore, the next crash will be even more severe than the previous.

The monetary authorities promise to dry-up liquidity in time, before the going gets tough.

Theoretically, this may be possible. Central banks could reduce the money supply by selling government bonds. Only that’s never happened in practice. Because it contradicts the strategy of the central banks to keep interest rates as low as possible …

… and to produce inflation?

The central banks are trying to save the paper money system by any means. I’m afraid the next step is to eliminate the remaining currency competition through a centralization of money and banking. At the end there might be a kind of global central bank, with a global single currency, into which the dollar, euro and yen are merged. Freed from competition with other currencies, this central bank would then have even more room for inflation. The crisis would not be over, but would return with a vengeance on the global level.

Some economists call for the gold standard in order to tie the hands of the central banks.

Governments and central banks will resist it. As a state monopoly money distributor, central banks have no interest in losing their power. I consider a voluntary return to the gold standard to be unrealistic.

What about China, the country wants to establish the yuan as a reserve currency.

For China, it would be a clever move to back the yuan by gold to push the dollar from the global dominance. With a gold-backed yuan, the days of America’s economic dominance and the dollar would be numbered. The West will therefore do everything possible to prevent China from doing this.

In Europe, governments and central bank have ignored the law and acted above the law, in the wake of the euro rescue. And there was no public outcry in Germany against this.

The Germans allow themselves to be dictated by America as to what they can do and what they must do. America has a vital interest in ensuring that the euro survives because for the dollar it’s a more convenient competitor than 17 national currencies. America only has to turn to one central bank, namely the ECB, in order to enforce its interests with political pressure.

The Euro-bailout and the increasing shift of powers to Brussels cause unease in the population. Have the political elites overstrained the preparedness of citizens for further integration?

States generally have the tendency to centralize their power. In Europe, powers are transferred to Brussels to eliminate competition among countries. The dream of the statists is a world state with uniform taxes and regulations, which robs the citizens of any opportunity to improve their lives by emigrating. Citizens recognize that basically the European Union is a huge redistribution apparatus. This fuels discontent and incites the envy of nations among themselves.

What can we do about it?  

For the cause of freedom it would be best if Europe were to fall apart into as many micro-states as possible. This applies to Germany as well. The smaller the spatial extent of a State, the easier it is to emigrate and the nicer the state must be to its citizens in order to retain the productive people.


Homosexuality, Feminism and Libertarianism

11 Jan

January 10, 2014


I have a publication program at Loyola University in which I co author articles with students. This material starts out as term papers for my courses and ends up in refereed journals. I agree with the theses of all these papers, otherwise I couldn’t co author this material with them. I am proud of all of my student co authors, but, in a bout of shameless self-promotion, I am most pleased with myself when I help a student publish a term paper in a scholarly periodical which takes a position very much at variance with my own views.  Naturally, I can’t co author an attack on my position, but I can improve its wording, add footnotes and supply encouragement.  I am very delighted with these students since they had the courage to engage in a frontal attack on their teacher, that is, me. This might sound perverse to some, but I enjoy helping all of my students, even those who are highly critical of libertarianism as I understand this philosophy.  Maybe, even, especially so. However, often, I publish rejoinders to these student essays. Aiding and abetting students of all persuasions is one thing, but promoting the truth is even more important to me.

I mention this background since I am about to embark on a similar journey in the present paper. It is a response to a critique of an essay of mine. It is written by an undergraduate student, although at another university, not Loyola. I greatly appreciate the courage of this student also, since it takes a lot of that quality to take on someone such as me with a long track record in libertarianism.

On December 24, 2013 I wrote the first version of an essay on the topic of homosexuality, feminism and libertarianism.  Allison Oldak pointed out to me some inaccuracies in it, whereupon I thanked her for this constructive criticism, apologized for these errors on my part, edited the piece, and published this second version of it. I followed this up with a third iteration of it, on a different blog

I had quite a few over the transom criticisms of the first problematic expression of my analysis of this situation from initial readers of this first error-filled blog. But when I offered the second and third renditions of it, they were satisfied with the changes, and congratulated me for correcting my mistakes.

Not so for a piece published on the Students for Liberty blog, written by Cory Massimino and entitled “Some Feminists and Gays are Libertarian”. Although Mr. Massimino was kind enough to take me to task not for my admittedly erroneous first foray into these philosophical waters, he was not at all satisfied that even my later efforts were compatible with libertarianism, the viewpoint we both ostensibly share.

Let me begin this second foray of mine by first summarizing what I said, initially, and then responding to this publication of Mr. Massimino’s.  In my article, I wanted to make two points of clarification about libertarianism. First, against the feminists. While rape is of course a violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP), “leering” at women certainly is not. For the feminists in India to offer a video objecting to the latter, in the context of the former, was an outrage in my opinion. Second, against the gays. At the time of the Stonewall riots of 1969, homosexuals who participated in it were acting in a manner fully compatible with the NAP. They were defending their right to engage in consenting adult behavior. But nowadays, all too many members of the gay community are insisting that other people tolerate their lifestyle, interact with them against their will, something they have no right to do. The Libertarian Republican blog, in a republication of my initial essay put it this way, very appropriately: “Gays have gone from sexual libertarians to anti-choice, sexual lifestyle totalitarians in less than 4 decades.”

Ordinarily, I would not respond publicly to a student other than my own, certainly not in the intensive highly critical and painstaking way I now intend. I usually reserve that treatment for my own students, and advanced scholars. I herein deviate from my usual practice, and do so for two reasons. First, his critique of my views appeared on the web of the Students for Liberty, an important group in the libertarian movement; one with which Iam associated. I don’t much like to see the spread of misunderstandings of libertarianism percolate through that community of mine. Second, in the comments section of this blog, two older members of the libertarian movement, Tom Palmer and James Peron, warmly supported the efforts in this regard of Cory Massimino. The latter is an undergraduate student. Judging from his picture, he is a very young man. The same cannot be said for Palmer and Peron. These are men of mature years. They have been active in the libertarian movement for decades. They really should have known better. They should have been better acquainted with libertarian theory than this in some ways very promising newcomer.

Let us now consider Massimino’s contribution to libertarian theory. Before I discuss its difficulties, let me note, and thank him for, the tone of this article. It is scholarly. It is measured. It is polite. All of these things are important if we are to have a civil discussion, and without that, it is difficult to see how we can make much progress. However, substantively, he starts off on the wrong foot. He says: “His post claiming ‘feminists are not libertarians; neither are gays’ quickly caused a social media uproar in libertarian circles. The wave of animosity towards Block and his article prompted him to take it down and post an edited version.” Au contraire, this “uproar” did not “prompt” me to do any such thing. I received one very constructively critical e mail from Allison Oldak, and I quickly amended what I saw to be my mistakes. I was not aware at that time of any “uproar.” Massimino attributes to me motivations that are simply not true. He could have contacted me to ask me about this, but he did not. Motive mongering is a difficult task, and leads us away from the substance of the argument.

Next, Massimino avers: “Block … links (to) a video about men leering at women. He explains, ‘at best, this video just muddies the waters; it takes time, effort, treasure, away from the only proper task, the elimination of rape.’ While this might be true, it does not mean feminists who oppose leering are wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t libertarians. A woman’s personal preference to not be leered at because she thinks of it as objectifying her like a piece of meat doesn’t prevent her from embracing the NAP and being a libertarian. After all, she isn’t holding a gun to a guy’s head telling him not to leer at her. It is perfectly legitimate and compatible with libertarianism for women to request not to be leered at.

One serious problem I have with this critique of his is the word “request.” Try as I might, I find no evidence of the use of any such word in this video. Nor is this an accident, an oversight, a slip of the tongue (well, keyboard) or a typographical error, since Massimino doubles down, no, triples down, on this word choice. To wit, he employs this language two more times: “It’s simply a request for respect. Just like when I request people I debate with to not call me names, it doesn’t mean I think I have a right not to be called names. People have every right to insult me, but I prefer they treat with me with respect (emphasis added by present author).”

No fair-minded person who carefully views this video can interpret as a request for anything or a mere “preference.”  Nor does this word, or anything else like it, appear in the material accompanying this video. I now quote that material in full:

“One year after the horrific New Delhi gang rape that garnered international attention, an Indian film school is trying to get men to think twice before treating women as objects to be leered at.

In the 90-second video, the filmmakers take a unique angle at combating the sexualization of women in public spaces — by using strategically placed mirrors to show leering men just how creepy they really look.

“The ad shows men leering at women’s breasts and thighs in public places, such as on city streets, public transit and restaurants. As the women notice their glance, they place a mirror strategically on the body part the men are looking at, obscuring the view of the women’s bodies and reflecting the men’s gazes instead. Many of the men, noticeably unsettled by their own stares, shift their gaze away as they realize how uncomfortable their leering is.

“The lyrics to the Hindi song playing in the background reportedly translate to: “Look how you look when you’re looking at me.”

“The school, Whistling Woods International, released the ad on Dec. 16 to mark the anniversary of the New Delhi gang rape that occurred on a public bus just one year ago. The victim, a 23-year-old student whom the public have taken to calling ‘Nirbhaya,’ or ‘fearless one’ (the real name of the victim was not released at the time, as per Indian law), died two weeks after the attack, causing uproar among women’s rights activists in the country.

“‘The horrific incident of Nirbhaya’s rape case not only shattered Nirbhaya’s family but every single Indian,’ the video’s YouTube description reads. ‘This incident did trigger a sense of solidarity to stand up, fight against and do our best to eradicate such atrocities and gender inequality.’

“Since the video was posted to YouTube, it has been viewed close to one million times and received more than 1,000 comments.

“Watch the video below to see how New Delhi has changed since the Nirbhaya rape case.”

Getting men to “think twice” about something sounds far more like a threat than a request.  Telling men they are “creepy” seems to me like a claim that they are engaging in assault, if not threatened assault and battery. Rape is very properly described as “horrific” and as an “atrocity.”  Someone may request that another person pass him the butter or the salt. Requests are never made in the context of horrendous activities such as rape. Nor are mere “preferences.”

The creators of this video of course are not literally “holding a gun to a guy’s head telling him not to leer at her.” But figuratively, they are at least threatening this. Do you think these people do not favor passing a law against “leering?” No one can say for certain, but that would appear to be entirely compatible with the tenor of this film. And, when and if such a law comes into being, it most certainly will “hold a gun” to men, telling them that if they violate the enactment, they face a fine or jail, and if they refuse to pay or come quietly, well, then, yes, a gun will be employed against them by the government.

But it gets worse for Massimino’s interpretation. He completely ignores the context in which all this is taking place. The context, let me remind him and those who support him in this defense of that video, is a series of rapes some of which ended up in the torture-death of the victims. It does not get much more awful than that. Ayn Rand emphasized the importance of context. She stated:

“Whenever you tear an idea from its context and treat it as though it were a self-sufficient, independent item, you invalidate the thought process involved. If you omit the context, or even a crucial aspect of it, then no matter what you say it will not be valid . . . .

“A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, “I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.” In fact, everything is interconnected. That one element involves a whole context, and to assess a change in one element, you must see what it means in the whole context.”

Massimino completely drops the context of despicable rape. He sees these very properly angry women as merely making a “request.” He puts words into their mouths. Well, this one word, in any case. Nonsense. Nonsense on stilts.

Another difficulty I have with this author’s rendition concerns “piece of meat.” According to the old aphorism, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Translating this to the present context, and employing the Austrian emphasis on subjectivism, we can say that “meat” is in the eye of the beholder. Just because a man looks at a woman does not mean he is denigrating her.  For many heterosexual men, that is precisely the way a (loving) relationship begins.

Can lesbians “leer” at women?  Can females look upon others of their gender as pieces of meat? Of course they can, unless they are blind. That is to say, they can check out other women. Why did this video not warn us of this “danger?” I have no doubt that in the entire history of the universe, there has been rape perpetrated by a female heterosexual. But males are wildly, disproportionately, responsible for this disgusting behavior. But that is precisely the point. In a video ostensibly concerned with male on female rape, it is a distraction to even discuss leering.

Let us now suppose, arguendo, that our author is correct, the better to follow the “logic” he employs. Massimino continues his critique:

“Furthermore, the idea that leering doesn’t deserve consideration because there are worse problems in the world is misguided. Block wrote a fantastic book on the privatization of roads and highways, but he would hardly say this is the most pressing issue facing society. We all can’t spend all of our time railing against the very worst ills of society. Sometimes we focus on lesser, but still important, issues and that’s okay.”

Again, we have a serious case of context dropping. Of course, I agree we need not always object to the most serious problems society faces. But why bring up “leering” when the subject is the appalling one of rape, and rape-murder. In such a context, to do so is to take attention away from the real problem. It is thus to diminish the importance of this crucial challenge. It is to cheapen rape. It is as if during a protest against the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, someone were to object to the color of the American flag.  It is as if in the midst of opposition to Nazi mass murder a protester were focus on beer or sauerkraut or wiener-schnitzel. And the same goes for “gender inequality.”  What in bloody blue blazes is that doing in a video ostensibly dedicated to combating rape? Of course there is “gender inequality.” Men and women are different in many, many ways, more than a few of them biologically driven. Why do these harridans seek to water down the opposition to rape with such distractions?

Is “leering” even a problem? This may not be politically correct (ok, ok, I full well know that it is not), but one man’s leer is another’s interested glance. According to the old aphorism, “I’m firm, you’re stubborn, he’s a pig-headed fool.” In similar manner, I fondly gaze at a lady, you appreciate the view of that woman, he leers at her.” Emotively, these are very different; cognitively, not so much, if there is any difference at all. (I greatly regret that my book Defending the Undefendable II has just recently been published. Had it not been, I certainly would have included in it the “leerer.” Well, I will just have to wait until Defending the Undefendable III for inclusion of a chapter on that topic.)

Who gains, qui bono, if men are precluded by law, or by custom, from gazing appraisingly, or appreciatively, at women? Who gains, qui bono, if women are precluded by law, or by custom, from dressing in such a manner as to attract male attention? It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the losers would be heterosexuals, of both persuasions.  Hey, I told you this would not be politically correct, but as an economist, a social scientist unafraid of the truth, it is difficult to avoid this conclusion.

Massimino agrees that I am “right in saying leering doesn’t actually violate any rights. No one has a right to not be looked at. However, this claim misses the mark since just because women prefer not to be leered at, doesn’t mean they view not being leered at as their right.” Yes, yes, of course. But, here we go once again with the context-dropping. In the context in which rape is discussed by anti libertarian feminists, where no one denies that women have a right not to be treated in such a barbaric manner, to focus on this issue is tantamount to saying females also have a right not to be leered at. I concede they nowhere make this claim explicit. But it is clearly an implicit one, readily seen by anyone who appreciates the context in which this is all taking place.

Massimino’s anti leering sentiments fit in, moreover, with the “war against boys” and men orchestrated by radical anti-libertarian feminists. The two best critics of this injustice are Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers. What Massimino does not seem to realize, but that these female writers do, is that men are different than women. One of the things they do differently, at least this applies to male heterosexuals (and lesbians), is scope out women, check them out, in a word, leer at them. And women, at least those of the heterosexual persuasion, apart from checking out men, often appreciate this, particularly if the leer comes from a man in whom they are interested. It is often said of a women who dresses provocatively, “She is asking for it.” But what, precisely, is she asking for? To be raped? Of course not. Rather, to be noticed, by a man to whom she is attracted. Why do men disproportionately leer at women and not the other way around? Because, for sociobiological reasons, men are typically more attracted to female physicality, while what more often interests women is the ability of a male to financially support her and her progeny. One bit of evidence for this claim is that female beauty is more highly correlated with greater income or wealth than that of males, while richer men are able to attract prettier women.  To call for an end to leering is thus tantamount to a call for a termination of this type of male-female heterosexual interaction. Is this something we really want to promote, and in the name, of all things, of libertarianism?

Our author’s next objection is as follows: “While I, and most libertarians, agree with Block that private firms should be allowed to discriminate all they want, he, again, misses the mark and makes faulty conclusions.

“While it’s true that many homosexuals support laws preventing companies from discriminating, it is also true that most Americans support such laws as well. There is no reason to use the claim that because homosexuals support anti-discrimination laws they can’t be libertarians and not acknowledge that this applies to Americans as a whole. It is incorrect to single out gay people in this regard since most Americans also support anti-libertarian laws.”

I cannot see my way clear to agreeing with Massimino on this point either. Why is it incorrect to single out anyone? Surely, the truth should be our criterion in terms of “reason,” or propriety. Even if there were no particular justification for singling out homosexuals, there is still nothing wrong with so doing. It is not illicit to single out any group for analysis. But there is a justification for doing just that in this specific case. As I quote above, “Gays have gone from sexual libertarians to anti-choice, sexual lifestyle totalitarians in less than 4 decades.” I doubt there is any other group of whom it could be said that their political philosophy took such a 180 degree turn. I do not mean to say that in 1969 during the Stonewall era that all gays were libertarian. Rather, that is what they were widely known as: victims. All men of good will saw them in that context, as did they themselves. Nowadays, however, with their high profile demands that others respect them, deal with them, not discriminate against them, they are fast becoming rights violators. If that is not a good reason to “single them out,” then nothing is.

Let me point out another very serious error in Massimino’s analysis. He states: “Libertarianism is unique in that it is one of the few political ideologies that recognizes and stresses the fact that only individuals act. It identifies that groups, societies and states do not act; only the individuals that make them up act. It is bizarre and un-libertarian for Block to criticize entire groups of people and entire social movements as un-libertarian.”

Our author fails to distinguish between methodological individualism (for more on this see hereherehere and here) and political individualism; between fact and value; between positive and normative economic analysis. Methodological individualism is one of the basic building blocks of the entire edifice of the Austrian school of economics, and is absolutely and apodictically valid. An aspect of praxeology, it states that there is no such thing as a group, apart from the individuals who comprise it. Only the latter can act, not the former. It cannot of course be denied that clubs, countries, groups, etc., engage in behavior, but all we can properly mean by these shortcuts is that certain specific individuals undertook a specific activity. Thus, methodological collectivism is fallacious. It maintains, falsely, that there is something more to the group than the individuals who comprise it. Take away each and every member of the group, and the group still exists? All rational men must of course reject such sheer nonsense.

Methodological individualism lies entirely within the field of positive economics; that is, it is a matter of fact, of cause and effect, and it completely eschews values. In very sharp contrast, political individualism is totally within the realm of normative economics; it concerns values, not facts, or causal relations. And, as such, it is a fallacy, I contend, at least as far as libertarianism is concerned. What political individualism means it that there is something about the individual that we must prefer, as libertarians, vis a vis the group. Stuff and nonsense. If this balderdash were true, then individual sports such as swimming, track, singles tennis, would be more highly valued than team sports, such as baseball, football, basketball, since the former are conducted by individuals and the latter by, horrors!, groups of individuals. It would mean that whenever there is a dispute between an individual and a group, that is, between a single person and a group of people, the libertarian must be inclined in support of the former. This is just plain silly. To be sure methodological collectivism violates the laws of logic, but libertarians must be indifferent between political collectivism and political individualism. That is, we see no relevant difference between a team and an individual sport. When a single person is in a legal dispute with a group of people, libertarians can infer absolutely nothing from this: it all depends, rather, on the specifics of the case. It implies that for the libertarian, collectivist groups such as nunnery, convent, kibbutz, commune, collective, syndicalists, cooperatives, monastery, abbey, priory, friary, religious community, family, corporation are every bit as legitimate as individual efforts such as single proprietorships.

And what is Massimino’s take on all of this? He states: “Block’s charges are rife with collectivism and ignore that the feminist and gay movements are filled with unique individuals, all with their own views and opinions. This is the kind of groupthink the libertarian movement needs to reject.”

Although to be sure there are many libertarians who have rejected all types of collectivism, and I can thus see why Massimino has been taken in on this; but they, and he, are in error here. Of course my writings are “rife with collectivism” and there is not a single thing wrong with that, provided, only, that my collectivism is of the political, not the economic-methodological variety. And it is, it is. Sociologists speak in terms, practically, of nothing but groups (families, genders, income classes, races). Are they all wrong, and necessarily so? Of course not. And the same goes for political scientists who discuss countries and political parties, biologists who study genus, species, family, and chemists who concern themselves with grouping chemicals into the periodic table of elements. There is nothing intellectually wrong with “groupthink” and anyone who thinks there is does not fully understand science and the systematic study of reality. Nor is there anything anti libertarian whatsoever about such an undertaking.  The essence of libertarianism is making deductions from the NAP and private property rights, and applying that to real world events. It has nothing at all to do with thinking in terms of categories. And as for me not realizing “that the feminist and gay movements are filled with unique individuals, all with their own views and opinions,” Massimino has overlooked the following statements of mine, from the article of which he is so critical (emphasis now added): “Do the feminists there come out against rape? Well, of course, some of them do, quite properly, as rape is a per se violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP). But, many of them also oppose “leering…” “But, nowadays, many gays do not limit themselves to upholding their (and by extension, everyone else’s) rights. Now, of late, many in the homosexual community have been insisting that other people, who do not appreciate their lifestyle, and who wish to have nothing to do with them, be forced, against their will, to engage in commercial activities with them.” “In my assessment, the majority of gays have gone from a group defending the NAP to one attacking it.” Thanks to Massimino, I now have yet another new entry for Defending the Undefendable III: the group-thinker. “Group thinking” is not a violation of liberty. It is not incompatible with libertarianism, Massimino to the contrary notwithstanding. And yet it is despised by libertarians such as this author. I thank him for providing me with more grist for the mill of my Undefendable series.

There are all sorts of reasons why libertarians should think in terms of groups. How do we best tailor our message to the left? To the right? (They are both very different from us). To women? To men? To the different racial, religious and ethnic groups? To young and old people? To Americans and foreigners? To gays and straights? Should we tailor our message to any group, or not? Why, pray tell, is this “the kind of groupthink the libertarian movement needs to reject?”

Let me take another hack at opposition to collectivism, groupthink, categorization, stereotyping, etc., since this fallacy seems rife within certain (beltway) elements of our libertarian movement. For the ancients, reality was divided up into air, water, fire and land. These are categories. If categorization is anti-libertarian, then so are these distinctions and those early philosophers. Obvious nonsense.  Modern chemists divide physical reality into scores of elements. This collectivism would have to be seen as somehow incompatible with the freedom philosophy according to Massimino.  Here are some stereotypes: On average, men are taller, stronger and heavier than women.  The typical white man cannot jump as high as the typical black man, nor run as fast either in the sprints or the marathon.  Of course is it a fallacy to say every man is bigger, heavier, stronger, than every woman. Nor is it correct to affirm that every black male is a better athlete than every white male. But still, these stereotypical generalizations are correct, despite the fact that they will likely offend the Massiminos, the Palmers and the Perons of the world. There is nothing wrong with thinking in stereotypical terms. This is part and parcel of the scientific method, e.g., induction. Much less is it somehow incompatible with libertarianism. To think it is bespeaks a profound misunderstanding of the libertarian philosophy. To repeat, this perspective is based on the two bedrock principles of the NAP and private property rights based on homesteading. Racists, bigots, Nazis, Communists, sexists, homophobes, can all act compatibly with libertarianism, provided, only, that they keep their mitts to themselves; that they do not initiate any violence, or threat thereof, against the groups of people they hate and despise. They can stereotype to their heart’s content and still remain libertarians in good standing. Admittedly, these are not nice people. But niceness and libertarianism are not at all the same thing, and those who conflate the two only confuse matters. They reveal that their understanding of this philosophy needs much improvement.

How could Massimino have strayed so far from the libertarianism of the NAP and private property rights so as to see this philosophy, instead, as inclusive of opposition to of all things groupthink, collectivization and categorization?  I really don’t blame him for this. He is, after all, just at the beginning of his career as an exponent of freedom. He is still an undergraduate, mislead, perhaps by beltway “libertarians,” by bleeding heart “libertarians” – people who nowadays are attempting to highjack the good ship libertarian, which has recently been changed from almost a curse word to something more popular, thanks likely to the Ron Paul phenomenon. That is one possibility.

Another is the bad reputation of the “collectivized” farms of the bad old Soviet Union. But these agricultural areas were collectivized at the point of a Red Army gun. Their problem from a libertarian point of view was not their collectivization, but rather the threat of, and the actual use of violence so as to bring this about. If the collectivization were instead done in a voluntary manner, under the aegis of free enterprise (think of a business merger), it would not have been problematic from a libertarian point of view. From the perspective of economic efficiency, entirely a different matter, it might well not have passed muster. Collectivism, then, on a voluntary basis that is, sometime works and sometimes it does not. The free market sorts these things out. But there are cases when “collectivization” is economically efficient. For example, Henry Ford’s assembly line a century ago was a collectivism what was very profitable.  Ford in effect amalgamated, replaced, collectivized, dozens of auto companies producing a half dozen cars per year into a gigantic group enterprise. Walmart and other supermarkets played a similar role vis a vis hundreds, not thousands, of mom and pop grocery stores. Then there are other collectives that lost ground. At one time in the early history of Israel, the kibbutz accounting for far more of that countries agricultural production than at present. But this is neither here nor there in terms of libertarianism. The enemy of libertarianism is not collectivism, or groupthink; it is violations of the NAP.

Walter Williams tells the following story. You go to a college campus. You re to select one student who can dunk a basketball, and another who can solve a quadratic equation. If you succeed you are paid $1000 for each success, and the two students who fill each of these bills receive the same amount of money. Who do you choose. You cannot ask any students if they have the requisite skills. You cannot go to the university math lab or to its recreational center. You must choose based solely on student appearance, as they walk by on the quad.

If you are a mental midget and want to exclude group think, collectivism, common sense, induction, you may only choose at random. But if you have even the slightest scintilla of rationality, if you are not a recent immigrant from Mars with no experience of earthlings whatsoever, you will choose a black kid for the basketball dunk and an Oriental kid from glasses as thick as the bottoms of coke bottles for the math test. If so, you will be relying on induction, on experience, on group think, on collectivism, on the scientific method, all of which is looked upon with horror by certain so called “libertarians.” If this is libertarianism, I want no part of it.

These previous words of mine will strike some as not politically correct. Others will see it as racist or sexist (note, we did not choose a female for either of these tasks.)  Massimino will likely interpret this as anti libertarian. But since when did it become a requirement of libertarianism that one take leave of his common sense – that one has to lie about reality? Only in the beltway.

Why am I going on and on about collectivism? It is because if we are to make any progress as libertarians, if Students for Liberty is not to be mislead concerning what we are supposedly about, then we must be clear, crystal clear, as to what this philosophy really means. If the leaders of this movement are confused, mistaken, as to what it really is, how can they possibly promote it? They cannot.

This very courageous essay uses categories, stereotypes, collectivism, groupthink, induction, etc. According to politically correct beltway types, to those who write for bleeding heart “libertarians,” to the Massiminos, the Palmers and the Perons of the world, it would be anathema, racist, and hence non-libertarian. It is too bad they call themselves libertarians, and yet haven’t a clue as to what this philosophy is all about.

One last point. Here is a reductio ad absurdum of opposition to collectivism, categorization, groupthink, etc., at least when offered by a libertarian. Libertarianism is itself a category, a collective. We libertarians as a group are distinct from liberalsconservativesfascistscommunists, communalists and other animals in the political menagerie. But it shares with all of them the fact that we and they are all groups.So, if Massimino is to be logically consistent and retain his opposition to collectivism, categorization, groupthink, he is precluded from even being considered a libertarian. That would mean, also, that he would have to reject being categorized as a young male, a student, an intelligent person, because he is a member of those groups as well. This is just plain silly.

I wish to thank Angela Keaton and J. Buzz Webb for feedback on this article. Reading their remarks on an earlier draft of this essay was very helpful to me.


The Best of Walter E. Block

The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem

11 Jan

December 25, 2013


At the heart of the Christmas story rests some important lessons concerning free enterprise, government, and the role of wealth in society.

Let’s begin with one of the most famous phrases: “There’s no room at the inn.” This phrase is often invoked as if it were a cruel and heartless dismissal of the tired travelers Joseph and Mary. Many renditions of the story conjure up images of the couple going from inn to inn only to have the owner barking at them to go away and slamming the door.

In fact, the inns were full to overflowing in the entire Holy Land because of the Roman emperor’s decree that everyone be counted and taxed. Inns are private businesses, and customers are their lifeblood. There would have been no reason to turn away this man of royal lineage and his beautiful, expecting bride.

In any case, the second chapter of St. Luke doesn’t say that they were continually rejected at place after place. It tells of the charity of a single inn owner, perhaps the first person they encountered, who, after all, was a businessman. His inn was full, but he offered them what he had: the stable. There is no mention that the innkeeper charged the couple even one copper coin, though given his rights as a property owner, he certainly could have.

And yet we don’t even know the innkeeper’s name. In two thousand years of celebrating Christmas, tributes today to the owner of the inn are absent. Such is the fate of the merchant throughout all history: doing well, doing good, and forgotten for his service to humanity. It’s remarkable, then, to think that when the Word was made flesh with the birth of Jesus, it was through the intercessory work of a private businessman. Without his assistance, the story would have been very different indeed. People complain about the “commercialization” of Christmas, but clearly commerce was there from the beginning, playing an essential and laudable role.

Clearly, if there was a room shortage, it was an unusual event and brought about through some sort of market distortion. After all, if there had been frequent shortages of rooms in Bethlehem, entrepreneurs would have noticed that there were profits to be made by addressing this systematic problem, and built more inns.

Moving on in the story, we come to Three Kings, also called Wise Men. Talk about a historical anomaly for both to go together! Most kings behaved like the Roman Emperor’s local enforcer, Herod. Not only did he order people to leave their homes and foot the bill for travel so that they could be taxed. Herod was also a liar: he told the Wise Men that he wanted to find Jesus so that he could “come and adore Him.” In fact, Herod wanted to kill Him. Hence, another lesson: you can’t trust a political hack to tell the truth. It was because of a government decree that Mary and Joseph, and so many others like them, were traveling in the first place. They had to be uprooted for fear of the emperor’s census workers and tax collectors. And consider the costs of slogging all the way “from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David,” not to speak of the opportunity costs Joseph endured having to leave his own business. Thus we have another lesson: government’s use of coercive dictates distort the market.

Once having found the Holy Family, what gifts did the Wise Men bring? Not soup and sandwiches, but “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These were the most rare items obtainable in that world in those times, and they must have commanded a very high market price.

Far from rejecting them as extravagant, the Holy Family accepted them as gifts worthy of the Divine Messiah. Neither is there a record that suggests that the Holy Family paid any capital gains tax on them, though such gifts vastly increased their net wealth. Hence, another lesson: there is nothing immoral about wealth; wealth is something to be valued, owned privately, given and exchanged.

When the Wise Men and the Holy Family got word of Herod’s plans to kill the newborn Son of God, did they submit? Not at all. The Wise Men, being wise, snubbed Herod and “went back another way” – taking their lives in their hands (Herod conducted a furious search for them later). As for Mary and Joseph, an angel advised Joseph to “take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt.” In short, they resisted. Lesson number four: the angels are on the side of those who resist government.

In the Gospel narratives, the role of private enterprise, and the evil of government power, only begin there. Jesus used commercial examples in his parables (e.g., laborers in the vineyard, the parable of the talents) and made it clear that he had come to save even such reviled sinners as tax collectors.

And just as His birth was facilitated by the owner of an “inn,” the same Greek word “kataluma” is employed to describe the location of the Last Supper before Jesus was crucified by the government. Thus, private enterprise was there from birth, through life, and to death, providing a refuge of safety and productivity, just as it has in our time.


The Best of Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of See his books.

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